Pixel Scroll 6/11/20 How Do You Turn The Duck Off?

(1) COMIC-CON ONLINE. More information has been released about the replacement for the annual San Diego event: “Comic-Con@Home Sets July Dates”. As Greg Weir joked on Facebook, “The virtual lines will be enormous.”

Comic-Con@Home was first teased in early May with a short video announcement and a promise of details to come. Pop culture enthusiasts will note that this initiative joins the Comic-Con Museum’s virtual endeavor, Comic-Con Museum@Home, already ongoing.

Although conditions prevent celebrating in person, the show, as they say, must go on. With Comic-Con@Home, SDCC hopes to deliver the best of the Comic-Con experience and a sense of its community to anyone with an internet connection and an interest in all aspects of pop culture. Plans for Comic-Con@Home include an online Exhibit Hall complete with everyone’s favorite exhibitors offering promotions, specials, and limited-edition products unique to the celebration. As well, Comic-Con@Home promises exclusive panels and presentations about comics, gaming, television, film, and a wide variety of topics from publishers, studios, and more. As if that weren’t enough, Comic-Con@Home will also have a Masquerade, gaming, and many other activities in which fans can participate from their own homes.

Although Comic-Con@Home will provide badges for fans to print and wear proudly, all aspects of the initiative are free and there are no limits to how many can attend…. Comic-Con@Home will be held on the same dates as the previously canceled Comic-Con, July 22-26, 2020, and online attendees are encouraged to use the official #ComicConAtHome hashtag to be included in the virtual activities. …Interested fans are encouraged to check Toucan, the official Comic-Con and WonderCon blog, SDCC’s website and social channels, and the official channels of their favorite pop culture creators in the weeks to come.

Follow us on social media at: Facebook: Facebook.com/comiccon; Twitter: @Comic_Con; Instagram: @comic_con

(2) ORIGINS ONLINE CANCELLED. Kotaku summarized a social media controversy surrounding the Game Manufacturers Association and the Origins Online event that was planned for this month: “Board Gaming’s Industry Body Refuses To Say A Word About Black Lives Mattering”.

An increasing number of prominent board game industry and community members have pulled out of an upcoming show over The Game Manufacturers Association’s (GAMA) inability (or refusal) to make a statement about Black Lives Matter.

GAMA owns and operates Origins Online, a big virtual show running later this month that was intended to replace the usual Origins Games Fair (a physical event that has been postponed to October). It was supposed to feature panels, video and support appearances by notable board games people like Wingspan designer Elizabeth Hargrave, Blood Rage creator Eric Lang, Geek & Sundry’s Ruel Gaviola, Boardgamegeek and Man vs Meeple.

Instead those listed, and loads more, have withdrawn from the show over GAMA’s inability, when even the least sanctimonious corporations and sporting leagues on the planet have managed some kind of message, to make even the most basic statement of support for the Black Lives Matter protests that have been sweeping the United States since the beginning of the month.

GAMA now has made a pro-Black Lives Matter statement, but also cancelled the online event.

The Game Manufacturers Association believes that Black Lives Matter. We unequivocally condemn racism and violence against people of color. We have been too late in making that statement with force, and we apologize. The injustices of today demand that every person of good conscience make clear where they stand and we wish we had been more proactive, more strident, and more effective with our voices. Innocent people of color are being killed in the streets of the communities where we live, and it is not acceptable.

We cannot responsibly hold our virtual convention, Origins Online, in this setting. Even if it were possible to hold it, it would not be appropriate to do so. So, we are announcing here that Origins Online is cancelled.

However, GAMA’s apology is flawed say some critics, including Patrick Leder of Leder Games:

Late last night, GAMA made an official statement to cancel Origins Online. Though this statement answered some concerns, it too contains several notable omissions that highlight some of the challenges facing any effort to make the hobby more inclusive. Specifically: 

  1. Their apology has no mention of the BIPOC members of the industry who stood up to them. It also fails to note that those voices were the catalyst for their decision to cancel Origins Online. 
  2. Their plan to make amends by asking attendees and publishers to forfeit their Origins Online payments shows a lack of initiative and imagination. As our industry’s governing body, we expect GAMA to take the lead without waiting for the initiation of others.
  3. There is no actionable statement on how they can work on uplifting the BIPOC community or an attempt to broaden their board or staff, nor does it recognize the board’s failures in this regard.

(3) ROLLING OVER. Loscon 47, which the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society planned to hold this Thanksgiving Weekend, has been postponed to 2021. Chair Scott Beckstead wrote:

With the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic being felt in many sectors, we are not immune I’m sorry to say. The fallout of these effects sadly means that we will be postponing Loscon 47 until next year. We are rescheduling Loscon 47 for Thanksgiving weekend (November 26th through November 28th 2021). We will be rolling Guests, members, and dealer room participants over to next yea

Writer Guest Dr. Gregory Benford, our Artist Guest Jeff Sturgeon and Fan Guests of Honor Dennis and Kristine Cherry have all agreed to be there and are looking forward to being there next year. There will be more info as we re-assemble our teams to bring this to fruition in November of 2021. As always you may ask questions at info@loscon.org and I look forward to seeing you all Thanksgiving weekend 2021

(4) RED SOFA LITIGATION. Publishers Lunch reports in “Briefs” that lawyers are getting involved in the Red Sofa Literary meltdown.

Agents Beth Phelan and Kelly Van Sant and author Isabel Sterling received cease & desist letters from an attorney representing agent Dawn Frederick at Red Sofa Literary after speaking out about Frederick’s response to protestors in St. Paul.

The trio’s response, “An Open Letter to Dawn Frederick in Response to Threats of Litigation”, begins –

On June 8, 2020, we received cease and desist letters from a lawyer on behalf of Dawn Frederick, literary agent and founder of Red Sofa Literary. The letters demanded that we delete our respective posts regarding Dawn’s actions and further, publish retractions stating that “she did not make any racist or other improper statements,” validating the behaviors that we had previously condemned. Failing this, we were told Dawn will pursue legal action against us for defamation. We interpret these demands as an attempt to not only silence us, but to compel us to lie for her. We refuse.

After we and others spoke out against her tweets, Dawn posted a public apology on her website owning up to her wrongdoing, but then turned around to privately send threatening letters to people who spoke up. In that apology, Dawn admitted that her actions were “careless,” that “[t]he authors and agents who may now question whether or not we share the same ideals have every right to feel this way,” and that her “actions were tone-deaf and the product of [her] own privilege.” That she is now threatening to sue people for agreeing with her apology makes it impossible to interpret the apology as anything but insincere. So, which is it, Dawn? You said in your apology that you would “work to be better.” Is this what “better” looks like?…

They are  asking for donations to their legal defense fund, which has raised $12,177 as of today.

(5) HE DIDN’T COME BACK TO THE FUTURE. Ranker refreshes our recollection about an old lawsuit with a contemporary vibe: “When ‘Back To The Future II’ Recreated Crispin Glover’s Face, He Took The Studio To Court”.

In 1985, Universal Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, director Robert Zemeckis, and writer/producer Bob Gale gave the world an all-time classic motion picture, Back to the Future. Four years later, they tried to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes. Back to the Future Part II had a little secret, one the participants tried to keep from being discovered. It was slightly easier in that pre-internet time. As it turned out, a key actor from the original, Crispin Glover, decided not to return for the sequel. Since the character of George McFly was fairly prominent in the follow-up, that presented a rather large problem. 

Their solution was unique, but it also got them entangled in some unpleasant legal action. Essentially, the filmmakers recreated Glover’s face with prosthetics, then put it on another actor. They wanted to make it seem as though Glover was in the sequel when, in fact, he was not. Glover was none too happy about this, so he sued everyone involved. 

That’s the short version. The more detailed version is a fascinating tale of an actor desperate to protect his image, filmmakers desperate to protect their franchise, and the clash these dueling desires created. It’s also an account of a watershed moment in cinema history, when it became clear that modern technology was making it easier to “steal” someone’s likeness. The impact of Crispin Glover’s Back to the Future Part II case continues to reverberate today….

(6) PINSKER STORY POSTED. The latest story for the Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project launched today: “Notice,” a story about unexpected mail and the limits of self-reliance by Sarah Pinsker.

Malachi happened to be mowing down by the gates when the mail carrier arrived in her ancient truck. He wasn’t supposed to talk to Outsiders until he turned twenty-five, another six years, but he couldn’t help trying on the rare occasions an opportunity presented itself….

On Monday, 6/15 at 4 p.m. Eastern, they’ll have another virtual event on Zoom with Sarah in conversation with Punya Mishra, an expert in integrating arts, creativity, design, and technology into learning. Registration required.

(7) HOMAGE OR FROMAGE? Bloody Disgusting applauds: “These Horror Fans Remade the Key Moments from ‘Alien’ With No Budget During the Quarantine”.

A group of creative horror fans just put together a 5-minute, zero-budget remake of Ridley Scott’s Alien while stuck at home!

Described as a “low-budget, high-cardboard remake of Alien,” the video comes courtesy of YouTube channel Cardboard Movie Co, which specializes in this sort of thing. 

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 11, 1982E.T. – The Extraterrestrial premiered. It was directed by Steven Spielberg. Production credit was shared by Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall. It was  written by Melissa Mathison and starred Dee Wallace, Peter Coyote, and Henry Thomas. Special effects were by Carlo Rambaldi and Dennis Muren. Critics universally loved it, the box office was phenomenal and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 99% rating. 
  • June 11, 1993 — Eleven years after E.T. came out, Jurassic Park premiered. Directed by Steven Spielberg, and produced by Kathleen Kennedy and Gerald R. Molen. It’s  based on the novel of the same name by Michael Crichton. It starred Samuel L. Jackson, Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough. Like E.T., It was an overwhelming hit with the critics and the box office was quite stellar. The audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give a 91% rating. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 11, 1572 – Ben Jonson.  Among much else he and Inigo Jones (1573-1672) composed masques, a theatrical artform now long asleep through abandonment of its circumstances.  At the court of a monarch, or some lesser court, elaborate scenery was built, in and around which elaborately costumed actors played, sometimes in mime, with music and dance, sometimes including courtiers.  Jonson wrote and acted, Jones designed and built.  We can claim at least Oberon, the Faery PrinceThe Lady of the Lake with Merlin and Arthur, The Devil Is an Ass.  We can and should read and imagine them (you can look at this Website to see text); if they were filmed and you saw them it would not be the same as if twenty or thirty people performed for you and your friends at one of your palaces.  (Died 1637) [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1815 – Julia Cameron.  Pioneer photographer, started at age 48, made portraits and allegories.  She said “My aspirations are to ennoble Photography and to secure for it the character and uses of High Art by combining the real and Ideal and sacrificing nothing of the Truth by all possible devotion to Poetry and beauty.”  Do find her portraits; but this is an SF Weblog, so here are The South-West WindProspero (from Shakespeare’s Tempest), and The Parting of Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere which Bloomsbury used for its 1999 printing of The Princess Bride.  (Died 1879) [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1927 Kit Pedler. In the Sixties, he became the unofficial scientific adviser to the Doctor Who production team. One of his creation was the Cybermen. He also wrote three scripts —  “The Tenth Planet” (co-writtenwith Gerry Davis),  “The Moonbase” and “The Tomb of the Cybermen“. Pedler and Davis went in to create and co-write the Doomwatch Series. He wrote a number of genre novels including Mutant 59: The Plastic Eaters (co-written with Gerry Davis) and Doomwatch: The World in Danger. (Died 1981.) (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1929 Charles Beaumont. He is remembered as a writer of Twilight Zone episodes such as “Miniature”,  “Person or Persons Unknown”, “Printer’s Devil” and “The Howling Man” but also wrote the screenplays for several films among them 7 Faces of Dr. Lao and The Masque of the Red Death. He also wrote a lot of short stories, so let’s see if there’s digital collections available…. Yes, I’m pleased to say, including several ones by legit publishers. Yea! (Died 1967.) (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1933 Gene Wilder. The first role I saw him play was The Waco Kid in Blazing Saddles. Of course, he has more genre roles than that, starting out with Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory followed by Blazing Saddles and then Dr. Frederick Frankenstein in Young Frankenstein. He was Sigerson Holmes in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, a brilliantly weird film whose cast included Marty Feldman, Madeline Kahn, Dom DeLuise, Roy Kinnear and Leo McKern!  I’ve also got him playing Lord Ravensbane/The Scarecrow in The Scarecrow, a 1972 TV film based based on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, “Feathertop”. (Died 2016.) (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1934 – Jerry Uelsmann.  Used photomontage long before Adobe Photoshop.  Guggenheim and Nat’l Endowment for the Arts fellowships.  Lucie Award.  Here is a Boat and Moon.  Here is a Tree Goddess.  Here is his Website.  [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1945 Adrienne Barbeau, 75. She’s memorably in Swamp Thing. She’s also in the Carnivale series, a very weird affair. She provided the voice of Catwoman on Batman: The Animated Series. And she was in both Creepshow and The Fog. Oh, and ISFDB lists her as writing two novels, Vampyres of Hollywood (with Michael Scott) and presumably another vampire novel, Love Bites. (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1946 – Barry Levin.  For thirty-five years his antiquarian bookshop in Santa Monica was a pearl beyond price.  Here is an interview with Scott Laming of AbeBooks.  Here is an appreciation by Scott Haffner of Haffner Press – scroll down; BL is third from top.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1959 – Galen Tripp.  Active fan in Los Angeles, organizing the LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Society) 50th Anniversary banquet, 1984; given the Evans-Freehafer, our service award, 1986; moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he is BASFS (Bay Area SF Soc.) sergeant-at-arms, a position they take about as seriously as we take ours.  [JH]
  • Born June 11, 1968 Justina Robson, 52. Author of the excellent Quantum Gravity series which I loved. I’ve not started her Natural History series but have not added it to my digital To Be Read list, so would be interested in hearing from anyone here who has. (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1971 P. Djèlí Clark, 49. Ok, I want a novel from this brilliant author whose The Haunting of Tram Car 015 is in the running for a Best Novella Hugo this year. (A Dead Djinn in Cairo is set in the same alternate universe.) The Black God’s Drums was a finalist for the same award last year. And yes, he has a novel coming out — Ring Shout, a take on the KKK with a supernatural twist. (CE)
  • Born June 11, 1993 – Anna Dittmann.  Digital illustrator, once of San Francisco, now of Scotland.  Here is her cover for Patricia Ward’s Skinner Luce.  Here is her May 2018 cover for Apex magazine.  This March 2020 interview with Affinity Spotlight has images and comment.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) JEOPARDY! It was a great night on Jeopardy! if you like bad answers. Andrew Porter took notes.

First—

Category: TV Catch-Phrases

Answer: “Nanu-Nanu”

Wrong questions: “What is Star Trek?”; “What is Alf?”

Correct question: “What is Mork & Mindy?”

Second –

Also, no one could link “Bazinga!” to “The Big Bang Theory.”

Third –

Final Jeopardy: Medical History

Answer: One of the first recorded autopsies was performed on this man & revealed 23 puncture marks.

Wrong question: “Who is Bram Stoker?”

Correct question: “Who was Julius Caesar?”

(12) RUBE GOLDBERG WINNER. CBC says “Toronto family ‘thrilled and a little bit surprised’ to win Rube Goldberg Challenge”.

Tony Round says he was “stunned into silence” the first time he watched his family’s elaborate Rube Goldberg machine wind its way through their house and successfully drop a bar of soap into his daughter’s hands.That’s because it took the Toronto family more than 50 failed attempts and three weeks to make the machine work.

(13) FOLLOWING SUIT. “Amazon Halts Police Use Of Its Facial Recognition Technology”

Amazon announced on Wednesday a one-year moratorium on police use of its facial-recognition technology, yielding to pressure from police-reform advocates and civil rights groups.

It is unclear how many law enforcement agencies in the U.S. deploy Amazon’s artificial intelligence tool, but an official with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon confirmed that it will be suspending its use of Amazon’s facial recognition technology.

Researchers have long criticized the technology for producing inaccurate results for people with darker skin. Studies have also shown that the technology can be biased against women and younger people.

IBM said earlier this week that it would quit the facial-recognition business altogether. In a letter to Congress, chief executive Arvind Krishna condemned software that is used “for mass surveillance, racial profiling, violations of basic human rights and freedoms.”

And Microsoft President Brad Smith told The Washington Post during a livestream Thursday morning that his company has not been selling its technology to law enforcement. Smith said he has no plans to until there is a national law.

(14) RUN TO DINNER. The ancestor of crocodile boots? BBC says they’ve found “Fossil tracks left by an ancient crocodile that ‘ran like an ostrich'”.

Scientists have been stunned to find that some ancient crocodiles might have moved around on two feet.

The evidence comes from beautifully preserved fossil tracks in South Korea.

Nearly a hundred of these 18-24cm-long indentations were left in what were likely the muddy sediments that surrounded a lake in the Early Cretaceous, 110-120 million years ago.

The international team behind the discovery says it will probably challenge our perception of crocodiles.

“People tend to think of crocodiles as animals that don’t do very much; that they just laze around all day on the banks of the Nile or next to rivers in Costa Rica. Nobody automatically thinks I wonder what this [creature] would be like if it was bipedal and could run like an ostrich or a T. rex,” Martin Lockley, an emeritus professor at the University of Colorado, US, told BBC News.

The study is sure to provoke a lively debate. Not all researchers will necessarily accept the team’s interpretation.

(15) JOHN ON THE DOTTED LINE. It’s never too late to study a historic document: Phyllis Irene Radford is in the middle of “Blogging the Magna Carta #12” at Book View Café. Today’s section is about administering the estates of the deceased.

…Those catalogs of chattels tell historians a lot about how people lived during the period and what they considered valuable, due to purchase price or import costs, or how labor intense to make.  Historians love these.

I was fortunate enough to see one of the original copies when it was displayed in LA in the Seventies.

(16) LUNAR LIVING. Joe Sherry calls it “hopeful science fiction” in “Microreview [book]: The Relentless Moon, by Mary Robinette Kowal” at Nerds of a Feather.

…There’s a lot going on in The Relentless Moon and Kowal keeps everything moving and flowing together with remarkable deftness and an underlying compassion that smooths the edges off even the harshest aspects of the novel – including Nicole’s eating disorder, racial issues, domestic terrorism, and a desperate fight for survival on the Moon. Everything is handled with sensitivity, though Kowal does not shy away from the emotion of the worst moments – it’s more that Kowal is such a smooth writer that the reader is in safe hands. The novel leans into the pain, but with a light touch.

(17) YOUNG PEOPLE. In the new installment of James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF, the panel encounters “’The Deer Park’ by Maria Russell”.

This is Maria Russell’s only known published story.

… Still, her low profile does mean my Young Readers won’t have heard of her and won’t have expecations going in. What will they make of ?“Deer Park”?

(18) AN AUTHOR OF DRAGONS. Here is the first of “6 Books with Aliette de Bodard”, Paul Weimer’s Q&A with the author at Nerds of a Feather.

1. What book are you currently reading?

I’m currently doing comfort reads, which means I’ve embarked again on a reread of Alexandre Dumas The Count of Monte Cristo--Gothic quest for revenge is the best.

(19) BAIT FOR CLICKS. Clare Spellberg, in the Decider story “‘Paw Patrol’ Under Fire for Depiction of Police: Is ‘Paw Patrol’ Being Canceled?” says there is a Twitter campaign to cancel Paw Patrol for its depiction of cops, but it’s not clear that the campaign is real or satire.

… Have the anti-racism protests come for Paw Patrol? According to Amanda Hess of the New York Times Paw Patrol fans have (albeit jokingly) called for the popular Nickelodeon show to be canceled as protests against police brutality continue to sweep the globe and shows like Cops and Live PD are cancelled by networks. While the Paw Patrol protests may not be totally real, Eric Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz seem to think fans are serious: both tweeted that the protests for Paw Patrol are “truly insane,” and they blasted the left for “targeting” cartoons.

…This is a long story with a short answer: as of now, Paw Patrol is not being cancelled despite the fake “protests” against it. In fact, Nickelodeon just renewed the series for an eighth season in February, and a theatrical film Paw Patrol: The Movie is currently scheduled for an August 2021 release.

(20) STAYING IN PRACTICE. The Screen Junkies, having no new summer blockbusters, decided to take on The Fifth Element in a trailer that’s two days old.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, John Hertz, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Joey Eschrich, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rose Embolism, with an assist by Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 6/2/20 The Pixel-Hinged File

(1) WOULD YOU BUY IT FOR A QUARTER? “Royal Mint launches first-ever augmented reality dinosaur coins”.

Royal Mint have released some very special dino coins.

Not only do they have amazing pictures of dinosaurs on them but they also are the first-ever to use augmented reality (AR).

Royal Mint, which makes most of the the UK’s coins, used the latest colour printing techniques to vividly show the megalosaurus, iguanodon and hylaeosaurus on the coins.

It worked closely with experts at the Natural History Museum to try to bring the prehistoric creatures to life.

The coins feature the dinosaurs and show where and when the first fossil was discovered.

After receiving the coin, collectors can use AR to scan the packaging to unearth facts, clips and images about the prehistoric beasts.

(2) FUTURE TENSE. The May 2020 entry in the Center for Science and the Imagination’s Future Tense Fiction series is “Scar Tissue” by Tobias S. Buckell.

The evening before you sign and take delivery of your son, you call Charlie and tell him you think you’ve made a huge mistake.

“Let me come on over and split a few with you,” he says. “I haven’t seen the fire pit yet.”

It was published along with a response essay, “When the Robot You Consider Family Tries to Sell You Something” by John Frank Weaver, an attorney who works on AI law, and author of the book Robots Are People Too

… That’s the part that worries me, as artificial intelligence applications may be able to leverage the data to manipulate Cory and other people—just as technology, PR, and marketing companies try to do in our lives today.

(3) A BRAND NEW ENDING. OH BOY. “Missing The Jackpot: William Gibson’s Slow-Cooked Apocalypse” – Robert Barry interviews the author for The Quietus.

“There’s never been a culture that had a mythos of apocalypse in which the apocalypse was a multi-causal, longterm event.” William Gibson speaks in the whisper-soft drawl of a man who for a long time now has never had to speak up in order to be heard. Though a certain edge had crept into our conversation by this point, watching him stretch out on the leather chaise longue of this hotel library (“my second home,” he calls it, as we make our way up from the lobby), it struck me that few people are able to seem at once so apprehensive and yet so intensely relaxed about the prospect of the end of the world as we know it.

“But if we are in fact facing an apocalypse,” he continues, getting now into the swing of this particular riff, “that’s the sort we’re facing. And I think that that may be what makes it so difficult for us to get our heads around what’s happening to us.”

(4) X MAGNIFICATION. In his column for CrimeReads, “Chris Claremont And The Making of an X-Men Icon”, Alex Segura interviews Claremont on his creation of Jean Grey, the Dark Phoenix, and her role in the X-Men saga.

…Though Claremont accepts the thesis that Dark Phoenix is, in many ways, in tune with the femme fatale trope, he’s not sure it’s totally apt.

“I’m not sure I would consider her a femme fatale. That actually is more Mystique’s side of the ledger,” Claremont said, referring to the blue-skinned, shape-changing mutant villain he’d introduce a bit later in his run. But the writer cannot deny the influence he and initial X-Men series artist Dave Cockrum had in reshaping Jean Grey—moving her from soft-spoken B-list heroine to full-on goddess.

“The fun with Jean for example was that when I first took over X-Men, Jean was a relatively two-and-a-half-dimensional character,” Claremont said. “What you had there was essentially unchanged from what [X-Men co-creator] Stan Lee had introduced years before. And we wanted to, I think, rough things up a tad but in the process, explore her more.”

(5) SAY CHEESE. In the Washington Post, Lela Nargi reports on the U.S. Geological Survey’s Unified Geologic Map Of The Moon, in which the survey combined maps made during the Apollo missions with subsequent satellite photo missions to create “the definitive blueprint of the moon’s surface geology.” “A new map shows the moon as it’s never been seen”.

…The USGS, which released the map in April, makes a lot of maps of Earth. It is also the “only institution in the world that creates standardized maps for surfaces that are not on Earth,” says USGS research geologist James Skinner. That includes Mars and other planets and moons in our solar system.

The new moon map took more than 50 years to make. It started with six original maps collected from the Apollo missions to the moon in the 1960s and ’70s. The maps did a good job of showing the basic layout of the moon.

New technology has made it possible to create an updated map and “turn it into information scientists can use,” says Skinner.

(6) I WAS BORN UNDER A WANDERING STAR. James Davis Nicoll introduces us to lots of characters who can make that claim in “Planets on the Move: SF Stories Featuring World-Ships” at Tor.com.

Recently, we discussed science fiction stories about naturally occurring rogue worlds; there is, of course, another sort of wandering planet. That would be the deliberately-impelled variety, featured in stories in which ambitious travellers take an entire world along with them. This approach has many obvious advantages, not the least of which is that it greatly simplifies pre-flight packing….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 2, 1950 Rocketship X-M premiered. The film was produced and directed by Kurt Neumann. The screenplay was by Orville H. Hampton, Kurt Neumann and Dalton Trumbo (of Johnny Got His Gun fame). It starred Lloyd Bridges, Osa Massen, John Emery, Noah Beery, Jr., Hugh O’Brian, and Morris Ankrum. It was shot on a budget of ninety-four thousand dollars. It was nominated for the 1951 Retro Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at the Millennium Philcon when Destination Moon won that Award. Fandom holds it in higher esteem than audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes do who give it a 16% rating! Oh, and it was the first SF film to use a theremin in the soundtrack. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 2, 1857 – Karl Gjellerup.  In The Pilgrim Kamanita, the Pilgrimmeets a strange monk who he does not know is Gautama Buddha.  In The World-Roamers, characters re-experience happenings of former eons.  In The Holiest Animal, the snake that killed Cleopatra, Odysseus’ dog, Jesus’ donkey, and others, meeting after death, choose as the holiest animal the Buddha’s horse – but he has vanished without a trace, to Nirvana.  Nobel Prize in Literature.  Translated into Dutch, English, German, Polish, Swedish, Thai.  (Died 1919) [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1899 – Lotte Reiniger.  Pioneer of silhouette animation.  Animated intertitles and wooden rats for Paul Wegener’s Pied Piper of Hamelin (1918); a falcon for Fritz Lang’s Nibelungen (Part 1 – Siegfried, 1924).  Her own Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) is the oldest known surviving feature-length animated film.  Doctor Dolittle and His Animals, 1928.  Her early version of a mutiplane camera preceded Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks by a decade.  Great Cross of the Order of Merit of the Fed’l Republic of Germany, 1979.  (Died 1981) [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1915 – Lester del Rey.  Fan, pro, short-order cook.  Used many names, not least of which was Ramon Felipe San Juan Mario Silvio Enrico Smith Heathcourt-Brace Sierra y Alvarez-del-Rey de los Verdes.  Two dozen novels alone and with others; a hundred shorter stories (see the 2-vol. Selected Short Stories); half a dozen non-fiction books; Skylark Award, SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) Grand Master; translated into Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish; reviews for Analog, features editor for Galaxy; SF editor for Ballantine; with Judy-Lynn del Rey and after her death, Del Rey Books.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1920 Robert A. Madle, 100. File 770 celebrates Bob’s big day in a separate post about his fannish career. And fanhistory website Fanac.org dedicated its splash page to a collection of pointers to the audio and video they have of Bob, such as a recording of his 1977 Worldcon Guest of Honor speech, as well as links to the fanzines he edited in the 1930s. (OGH)
  • Born June 2, 1921 Virginia Kidd. Literary agent, writer and editor, who worked mostly in SF and related fields. She represented R.A. Lafferty, Ursula K. Le Guin, Anne McCaffrey, Judith Merril, and Gene Wolfe. She was married to James Blish, and she published a handful of genre short fiction.  Wolfe modeled Ann Schindler, a character in Castleview, in large part on Kidd. (Died 2003.) (CE)
  • Born June 2, 1929 Norton Juster, 91. Author of The Phantom Tollbooth, he met Jules Feiffer who illustrates when he was taking his trash out. There is of course the superb film that followed. And let’s not forget The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics, a work well worth an evening spent reading. (CE)
  • Born June 2, 1937 Sally Kellerman, 83. She makes the list for being Dr. Elizabeth Dehner in the superb episode of Trek “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. She also had one-offs on the Alfred Hitchcock HourThe Twilight ZoneThe Outer LimitsThe Invaders, and The Ray Bradbury Theater. She played Natasha Fatale in Boris and Natasha: The Movie. (CE)
  • Born June 2, 1948 – Leigh Edmonds.  Founder of ANZAPA (Australia – New Zealand Amateur Press Ass’n).  Melbourne SF Club Achievement Award.  First DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate, published Emu Tracks Over America.  First A-NZ Administrator of GUFF (Get-Up-and-over Fan Fund, or Going Under Fan Fund, in alternate years).  Helped organize 10th Australian natcon (i.e. national convention); Fan Guest of Honour (with Valma Brown) at 30th.  Two Ditmars for Best Fanzine, three for Best Fanwriter.  [JH] 
  • Born June 2, 1959 – Lloyd Penney.  Thirty years on Ad Astra con committees (Toronto); Chair 1993 & 1994. “Royal Canadian Mounted Starfleet” (with Yvonne Penney & others – and song) in Chicon IV Masquerade (40th Worldcon).  Also with Yvonne, Chairs of SMOFcon VI (Secret Masters Of Fandom, as Bruce Pelz said “a joke-nonjoke-joke”; con-runners’ con); CUFF (Canadian Unity Fan Fund) delegates, published Penneys Up the River; Fan Guests of Honor, Loscon XXXIV.  Prolific loccer (loc or LoC = letter of comment, the blood of fanzines); 5 FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards.  [JH]
  • Born June 2, 1963 – Katsuya Kondô.  Manga artist, character designer, animator, animation director.  His character designs are considered the epitome of the Studio Ghibli style.  Known for Kiki’s Delivery ServiceOcean Waves (both Ghibli); Jade Cocoon (PlayStation game); D’arc (2-vol. manga about Joan of Arc; with Ken’ichi Sakemi).  Recently, character design for Ronya, the Robber’s Daughter (Ghibli, 2014).  [JH]
  •  Born June 2, 1972 Wentworth Miller, 48. I’m including him here today as he plays Captain Cold on the Legends of Tomorrow which might one of the best SF series currently being aired. His first genre role was on Buffy and other than a stint on the Dinotopia miniseries, this role is his entire genre undertaking along with being on Flash. (CE) 
  • Born June 2, 1973 – Carlos Acosta.  Cuban director of Birmingham Royal Ballet; before that, 17 years at The Royal Ballet, many other companies.  Prix Benois de la Danse.  Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to ballet.   Besides dancing in many fantasies (Afternoon of a FaunApolloThe NutcrackerSwan Lake) – and finding time for a wife and three children – he’s written a magic-realism novel, Pig’s Foot.  Memoir, No Way Home.  [JH]

(9) A POEM FOR THE DAY. By John Hertz:

May didn’t do it.
A month whose name’s almost young
Dealt him out to us.
Lively-minded, he connects
Energizing give and take.

 __________

An acrostic (read down the first letters) in 5-7-5-7-7-syllable lines.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump has a joke about dragon housekeeping.
  • Cul de Sac tries to imagine what makes up the universe.
  • Frazz tells us how to recognize “literature” when we read it. 

(11) CLASSIC SFF ART. The host of Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations creatd a thread about the careers of artists Leo and Diane Dillon. It starts here.

(12) IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA. Lois McMaster Bujold has posted about her experiences at the online SFWA Nebula Conference, including the text of her Grandmaster award acceptance remarks which end —

… And, throughout it all, I have been endlessly supported by my agent, Eleanor Wood of Spectrum Literary Agency. We first met face-to-face at the Nebula weekend in New York City in 1989. The morning after _Falling Free_ won my first Nebula Award, we shook hands over a hotel breakfast in a deal I trust neither of us has had cause to regret. Though I don’t think either of us realized how long it would last, three decades and counting.

(13) HARE GROWTH. A new collection of shorts on HBO Max, Looney Tunes Cartoons, captures the look and feel of the originals. The New York Times article may be paywalled; here are the key points and cartoon link.

In “Dynamite Dance,” Elmer Fudd comes at Bugs Bunny with a scythe, prompting the hare to jam a stick of lit dynamite in Elmer’s mouth.

Over the course of the short animated video, the explosives get bigger and more plentiful, as Bugs jams dynamite in Elmer’s ears, atop his bald head, and down his pants. The relentless assault moves from rowboat to unicycle to biplane, each blast timed to the spirited melody of Ponchielli’s “Dance of the Hours.”

The short has the look, feel and unabashed mayhem of a classic “Looney Tunes” cartoon, circa the early 1940s. But “Dynamite Dance” is of much more recent vintage, one of scores of episodes created by a new crop of WarnerBros. animators over the past two years.

…“I always thought, ‘What if Warner Bros. had never stopped making “Looney Tunes” cartoons?’” said Peter Browngardt, the series executive producer and showrunner. “As much as we possibly could, we treated the production in that way.”

…The creators of the new series hope to do justice to the directors, animators and voice artists of the so-called Termite Terrace, a pest-ridden animation facility on Sunset Boulevard where many of the franchise’s most beloved characters were born.

“There was something about the energy of those early cartoons,” Browngardt said. “And those five directors: Frank Tashlin, Bob Clampett, Tex Avery before he left for MGM, Chuck Jones, and Friz Freleng. They literally invented a language of cinema.”

(14) EMPLOYEES ABOUT FACE AT FACEBOOK. NPR reports “Facebook Employees Revolt Over Zuckerberg’s Hands-Off Approach To Trump”.

Facebook is facing an unusually public backlash from its employees over the company’s handling of President Trump’s inflammatory posts about protests in the police killing of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis.

At least a dozen employees, some in senior positions, have openly condemned Facebook’s lack of action on the president’s posts and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s defense of that decision. Some employees staged a virtual walkout Monday.

“Mark is wrong, and I will endeavor in the loudest possible way to change his mind,” tweeted Ryan Freitas, director of product design for Facebook’s news feed.

“I work at Facebook and I am not proud of how we’re showing up,” tweeted Jason Toff, director of product management. “The majority of coworkers I’ve spoken to feel the same way. We are making our voice heard.”

(15) GOING DOWN. NPR presents excerpts of the resetting of Orpheus and Eurydice (and Tony winner for Best Musical of 2019): “Hadestown: Tiny Desk Concert” — long audio/video.

You can probably guess that we recorded the original Broadway cast of Hadestown before the coronavirus pandemic made live theater (live anything) an untenable risk. The reminders are everywhere — in the way 16 performers bunch up behind the desk, singing formidably in close proximity as a large crowd gathers just off camera — that this took place in the Before-Times. To be specific, on March 2.

We’d actually been trying to put this show together since the spring of 2019, when Hadestown was a freshly Tony-nominated hit musical. We hit several delays along the way due to scheduling issues, only to end up rushing in an attempt to record while playwright Anaïs Mitchell — who wrote both the musical and the 2010 folk opera on which it’s based — was eight months pregnant.

Thankfully, we captured something truly glorious — a five-song distillation of a robust and impeccably staged Broadway production. A raucous full-cast tone-setter, “Way Down Hadestown” lets Hermes (André De Shields, in a role that won him a Tony) and Persephone (Kimberly Marable, filling in for Amber Gray) set the scene before a medley of “Come Home With Me” and “Wedding Song” finds Orpheus (Reeve Carney) and Eurydice (Eva Noblezada) meeting and falling in love. “When the Chips Are Down” showcases the three Fates — spirits who often drive the characters’ motivations — as played by Jewelle Blackman, Yvette Gonzalez-Nacer and Kay Trinidad. And in “Flowers,” Eurydice looks back with regret and resignation on her decision to leave Orpheus for the promise of Hadestown.

(16) NO NOSE IS BAD NOSE. From the Harvard Gazette: “Loss of taste and smell is best indicator of COVID-19, study shows”.

MGH, King’s College London researchers use crowdsourced data from app to monitor symptoms in 2.6 million, study how the disease spreads

Though fever, cough, and shortness of breath are the symptoms most commonly associated with COVID-19 infection, a recent study in which 2.6 million people used a smartphone app to log their symptoms daily showed that the most oddball pair of indicators — loss of smell and taste — was also the best predictor, and one that scientists said should be included in screening guidelines.

…The scientists adapted a smartphone app that had been created by corporate partner ZOE, a health science company, for research on how to personalize diet to address chronic disease. The new program, a free download from the Apple or Google app stores, collects demographic and health background information and then asks how the participant is feeling. If they’re feeling well, that’s the end of the daily entry. If they’re not it asks further questions about symptoms.

(17) BLIT FOR ANDROID? BBC asks “Why this photo is bricking some phones”.

Dozens of Android phone owners are reporting on social media that a picture featuring a lake, a cloudy sunset and a green shoreline is crashing their handsets when used as wallpaper.

Several brands seem to be affected, including Samsung and Google’s Pixel.

The bug makes the screen turn on and off continuously. In some cases a factory reset is required.

The BBC does not recommend trying it out.

Samsung is due to roll out out a maintenance update on 11 June. The BBC has contacted Google for comment but not yet had a response.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. At Axios “Science fiction writers tell us how they see the coronavirus pandemic”.

  • Neil Gaiman, author of “Coraline”: “I think this period of time is going to be a fertile time for storytellers for decades and, I hope, centuries to come.
  • Lois Lowry, author of “The Giver”: “We’re at the part of the book where the reader is feeling a terrible sense of suspense.”
  • Nnedi Okorafor, author of “The Shadow Speaker”: “One thing I’ve felt since all of this has happened, is this idea of … oh my gosh, it’s finally happening.”
  • Max Brooks, author of “World War Z”: “Those big crises that affect us all have to be solved by all of us … it may not be some alpha male with a big gun or some clairvoyant wizard or someone with magical powers.”

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

Pixel Scroll 5/20/20 Don’t Wait To Get Filed, There Are Pixels To Scroll And Boxes To Tick

(1) TAP INTO THE COMMUNITY. Cat Rambo gives writers a list of tips about “How to Ask for Things” at the SFWA Blog.

One thing that can really boost a writer in their early career is getting help from a more experienced writer. The fantasy and science fiction genre has a long and valued tradition of “paying things forward,” mentoring and assisting newer writers to pay back the way they themselves were helped when they first came onto the scene….

Accordingly, I join others telling new writers not to be afraid to draw on this tradition and ask for things. But I do have some tips for making those asks more successful.

Above all: be specific, and do as much of the work for the other person as you can. The reference letter where I have the URL to submit it, the applicant’s statement of purpose, and their notes of stuff I might want to hit are more likely to get written than the one where I have to ask or search online for the information…

(2) NOT USING WESTERN UNION. NPR’s Annalisa Quinn finds that “‘The Ballad Of Songbirds And Snakes’ Is A Lackluster Prequel To ‘The Hunger Games'”.

With her Hunger Games novels, Suzanne Collins harnessed a combination of twisty plots, teen romance, dystopian worldbuilding and subtle intimations of cannibalism to sell more than 100 million books around the world.

The premise was unbeatable: Authoritarian regime forces children to fight to the death on live TV; rebellion ensues. But much of the series’ appeal came from the spiky charisma of protagonist Katniss Everdeen, the sharpshooting teenager who wins the games and starts a revolution while choosing between two boys who are as alike in cuteness as they are different in Weltanschauung.

Collins’ new novel, The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, is a baggy, meandering prequel to the events of The Hunger Games that tells the story of Katniss’ nemesis and Panem’s authoritarian ruler, Coriolanus Snow. With his Roman tyrant’s name, surgically altered face and breath smelling of blood and roses, Coriolanus appeared as a distant villain throughout most of The Hunger Games series. It’s only the last installment that gives him a touch of mystery — in its final pages, sentenced to public execution, he instead dies laughing, choked on his own blood.

…The question of how much of character is innate, how much formed, becomes a more explicit — OK, painfully obvious — theme in The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. The novel is a plinth for two opposing worldviews. The cruel Hobbesian Gamemaster tells Coriolanus that the hunger games are a reminder that people are monsters kept only in check by strong rule: “What happened in the arena? That’s humanity undressed. … That’s mankind in its natural state.” Meanwhile, in spite of the cruelty she suffers in the arena, Lucy Gray believes that there is “a natural goodness built into human beings.” The debate matters, the Gamemaster says, “[b]ecause who we are determines the type of governing we need” — a republic or a tyranny.

(3) ICONIC ACTRESS DEPARTS BATWOMAN. “Ruby Rose leaves Batwoman – and other stars who exited major roles” – BBC has an overview.

The Australian actress Ruby Rose is to leave her role as comic book superhero Batwoman after just one series.

Rose said it had been a “very difficult decision” not to return to the show, which is shown in the UK on E4.

Batwoman, which began on the CW network last year, is the first superhero show to have an openly gay lead character.

Its producers said they were “firmly committed” to the show’s “long-term” future and would re-cast the role with another member of the LGBTQ community.

Rose, who is openly gay, said she was “truly grateful… to everyone who made season one a success”.

The 34-year-old said she had “the utmost respect” for everyone involved and that the decision to leave had not been “made lightly”.

(4) GETTING EVEN. Even if you’re working at home that presence is probably lurking in Zoom. Does James Davis Nicoll suspect what might happen after you read “Five Revenge Tales Featuring Treacherous Bosses and Evil Overlords”?

…David Drake’s mercenary troupe, Hammer’s Slammers (commanded by Friesland’s Colonel Alois Hammer), was formed to suppress an uprising on Friesland’s colony-world Melpomone. The foreign mercenaries were offered settlement on wealthy Friesland in exchange for their services, as well as a chunk of cash. But after the mercenaries crushed the rebellion, Friesland’s government decided that it wasn’t such a great idea to settle battle-hardened mercenaries in their midst. Nor did it seem like a good idea to let the mercenaries sell their skills to other employers, since said employers could well be Friesland’s enemies. Best idea: kill off the now-superfluous soldiers. Friesland expects that their own Colonel Hammer will acquiesce. They are wrong. Hammer sides with his soldiers. Forewarned, the Slammers obliterate their would-be assassins and become the very destabilizing force that Friesland had feared.

(5) FULFILLING A ROLL. In “A City Locks Down to Fight Coronavirus, but Robots Come and Go”, the New York Times studies the success of an emerging technology.

If any place was prepared for quarantine, it was Milton Keynes. Two years before the pandemic, a start-up called Starship Technologies deployed a fleet of rolling delivery robots in the small city about 50 miles northwest of London.

The squat six-wheeled robots shuttled groceries and dinner orders to homes and offices. As the coronavirus spread, Starship shifted the fleet even further into grocery deliveries. Locals like Emma Maslin could buy from the corner store with no human contact.

“There’s no social interaction with a robot,” Ms. Maslin said.

The sudden usefulness of the robots to people staying in their homes is a tantalizing hint of what the machines could one day accomplish — at least under ideal conditions. Milton Keynes, with a population of 270,000 and a vast network of bicycle paths, is perfectly suited to rolling robots. Demand has been so high in recent weeks, some residents have spent days trying to schedule a delivery.

(6) THOMAS OBIT. German film composer Peter Thomas, who died May 19, aged 94. Cora Buhlert says that since she couldn’t find an English language obituary, she wrote one herself: “In Memoriam: Peter Thomas”. Thomas provided the soundtracks for a lot of SFF works, including the legendary SF TV series Raumpatrouille Orion as well as the 1959 science fiction film Moonwolf and a lost TV adaptation of G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday. A lot of the Edgar Wallace thrillers, for which he composed the music, are borderline SFF as well.

(7) LIPPINCOTT OBIT. Charles Lippincott (1939-2020), whose work marketing Star Wars changed the way movies are publicized, died May 19 following a heart attack last week. He was 80. The Hollywood Reporter traced his beginnings:

Lippincott worked on campaigns for a number of groundbreaking films, including Michael Crichton’s Westworld (1973); Alfred Hitchcock’s final film, Family Plot (1976); Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979); and Flash Gordon (1980). But it was his work on Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) that left the biggest mark, and he helped reshape how movies are marketed.

Craig Miller, in his recent book Star Wars Memories, notes that Lippincott went to USC Film School at the same time as George Lucas. At the Star Wars Corporation —

Charley was responsible for a lot. He made sure every character, every name, every image was properly copyrighted and trademarked. He made the licensing deals (along with Marc Pevers, an attorney who was Vice President of Licensing at 20th Century Fox) for the merchandise that, despite the enormous box office gross, was the real profit center for Lucasfilm. He was even part of the pitches to the 20th Century-Fox Board, to help convince them to make the movie.

Charles Lippincott

Lippincott’s other film publicity and advertising credits include Judge Dredd (which he also produced) and Comic Book Confidential (which he wrote and produced), which starred Star Wars’ Mark Hammill.

I’ve always been grateful to him for the chance to bask in the reflected glory of Star Wars when, in my first meeting as LASFS president, held at the 1976 Westercon, I introduced his promotional pre-release Star Wars slide show.

You can find many posts about marketing and Star Wars industry history at his blog From the Desk of Charles Lippincott.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 20, 1950 Dimension X’s “The Lost Race” was playing on NBC stations nationwide. Ernest Kinoy adapted the story from Murray Leinster’s “The Lost,” first published in the April 1949 of Thrilling Wonder Stories. A space crew find themselves shipwrecked on a world where the ruins of a long dead spacefaring civilization hide a deadly secret that has much power to destroy the present as it did the past.  Matt Crowley, Kermit Murdock and Joseph Julian were the cast. You can listen to it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 20, 1799 – Honoré de Balzac.  His complete works total 20,000 pages.  We can claim six novels, three dozen shorter stories, translated into English, German, Romanian, sometimes more than once.  What of The Quest for the Absolute, whose alchemist hero at the end cries Eureka! [Greek, “I have found it”] and dies: is it fantasy?  (Died 1850) [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1911 Gardner Francis Fox. Writer for DC comics and other companies as well. He was prolific enough that historians of the field estimate he wrote more than four thousand comics stories, including 1,500 for just DC Comics. For DC, he created The Flash, Adam Strange and The Atom, plus the Justice Society of America. His first SF novel was Escape Across the Cosmos though he wrote a tie-in novel, Jules Verne’s Five Weeks in a Balloon, previously. (Died 1986.) (CE)
  • Born May 20, 1911 – Annie Schmidt.  Mother of the Dutch theatrical song, queen of Dutch children’s literature.  Hans Christian Andersen Medal.  Poetry, songs, plays, musicals, radio and television for adults.  Two fantasies for us, Minoes (tr. as The Cat Who Came In Off the Roof), Pluk van de Petteflet (tr. as Tow-Truck Pluck).  One of fifty in the Dutch Canon with Erasmus, Rembrandt, Spinoza, Van Gogh, Anne Frank; see here.  (Died 1995) [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1925 – Roy Tackett.  “HORT” (Horrible Old Roy Tackett, so named by Bruce Pelz; while RT was alive, anyone hearing this responded “Oh, I know Roy, and he’s not that old!”) is credited with introducing SF to Japan.  Active since 1936, drifted away in the late 1950s, returned upon finding the Coulsons’ fanzine Yandro, published a hundred issues of his fanzine Dynatron.   Co-founded the Albuquerque (New Mexico) SF Society and Bubonicon.  Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate, 1976; report, Tackett’s Travels in Taffland.  Fan Guest of Honor at Westercon XXI and the 55th Worldcon.  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1928 Shirley Rousseau Murphy, 92. Author of the Joe Grey series of mysteries. Its narrator is a feline who speaks and who solves mysteries. Surely that’s genre. Excellent series which gets better in characterization as it goes along. She also did some more traditional genre, none of which I’ve encountered, the Children of Ynell series and the Dragonbard trilogy. (CE)
  • Born May 20, 1940 Joan Staley. She showed up twice as Okie Annie on Batman in “It’s How You Play the Game” and “Come Back, Shame“. She played Ginny in Mission Impossible’s two-parter, “The Council”, and she was in Prehistoric Valley (Dinosaurs! Caveman! Playboy mates in bikinis!) (Died 2019) (CE)
  • Born May 20, 1946 – Mike Glicksohn.  A great loccer (“loc” also “LoC” = letter of comment, the blood of fanzines) comparable to Harry Warner; three Fan Activity Achievement awards.  Founding member of Ontario (Canada) SF Club.  With Susan Wood published the superb fanzine Energumen, Hugo winner 1973; with her, Fan Guests of Honour at the 33rd Worldcon; his trip report, The Hat Goes Home (he famously wore an Australian bush hat).  Co-founded the fanziners’ con Ditto (named for a brand of spirit-duplicator machine).  One of our best auctioneers at Art Shows, at fund-raisers for cons and for traveling-fan funds.  (Died 2011) [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1949 – Mary Pope Osborne.  Children’s and young-adults’ book author best known for the Magic Tree House series, sixty of them so far; 164 million copies sold; animé film grossed $5.7 million, donated to educational projects.  Iliad and Odyssey retelling books, also myths e.g. Echo, Atalanta, Ceres; Thor, Baldur.  Thirty chapbooks.  Camped six weeks in a cave on Crete.  Two separate terms president of the Authors Guild.  Says she tries to be as simple and direct as Hemingway.  Honorary Doctorate of Letters, U. North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1951 Steve Jackson, 69. With Ian Livingstone, he founded Games Workshop and  also the Fighting Fantasy gamebooks, the two most dominant aspects of the UK games industry before it came to be essentially wiped by the advent of videogames. I’m fairly sure the only one of his works that I’ve played is Starship Traveller which I’d been playing around the same time as Traveller. (CE)
  • Born May 20, 1954 – Pat Morrissey.  Thirty covers, a hundred twenty interiors; Magic, the Gathering cards; limited-edition prints; tattoos; Einstein Planetarium at Smithsonian Institute; Philadelphia Museum of Science; sometimes as Pat Lewis, Pat Morrissey-Lewis.  See herehere.  [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1954 – Luis Royo.  Prolific Spanish artist; covers in and out of our field, comics, a Tarot deck, CDs, video games; a domed-ceiling fresco in Moscow (with his son Romulo Royo).  Spectrum silver award, Inkpot award.  See hereherehere.  [JH]
  • Born May 20, 1961 Owen Teale, 59. Best known role is as Alliser Thorne on the just concluded Game of Thrones. He also was Will Scarlet in the superb Robin Hood where the lead role was performed by Patrick Bergin, he played the theologian Pelagius in 2004 King Arthur, was Vatrenus in yet another riff on Arthurian myth called The Last Legion, was Maldak in the “Vengeance on Varos” episode in the Era of the Sixth Doctor, and was Evan Sherman in the “Countrycide” episode of Torchwood. He’s currently playing Peter Knox in A Discovery of Witches based on the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness, named after the first book in the trilogy. (CE)
  • Born May 20, 1968 Timothy Olyphant, 52. He’s been cast in the next season of The Mandalorian where he might be Sheriff Cobb Vanth which in turn means he’d be wearing Bobo Fett’s salvaged armor. And he was Sheriff Seth Bullock in the Deadwood franchise which must at least genre adjacent given the great love of it by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly.  (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) A KINDER CUT. Apparently, we’ll get to find out. “What if the Snyder Cut of Justice League is actually great?” Jeffrey Lyles of Lyles Movie Files has hope.

…All of which to say is I’m actually very interested in the HBO Max launch 2021 reveal of the Snyder cut of Justice League. I’m surprised it needs to wait another year to debut unless Warner Bros. is throwing out some more cash for some post production elements. If anything the Snyder cut will be a win because it shouldn’t feature a digitally removed mustache version of Cavill’s Superman with the odd lip CGI.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Snyder said while he’s never watched the version Joss Whedon completed, fans “probably saw one-fourth of what I did.” Snyder added, “It will be an entirely new thing, and, especially talking to those who have seen the released movie, a new experience apart from that movie.

(12) SPACEX MISSION. “Astronauts arrive at Kennedy for historic launch” – BBC has the story.

Nasa astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken have arrived at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to prepare for their historic mission next week.

The pair’s flight to the International Space Station (ISS) will be made in a rocket and capsule system provided by a commercial company, SpaceX.

Nasa has traditionally always owned and operated its space vehicles.

But that is a capability it gave up in 2011 when it retired the last of the space shuttles.

The agency now intends to contract out all future crew transportation to low-Earth orbit.

Hurley and Behnken flew into Florida from the agency’s human spaceflight headquarters in Texas where they have been in quarantine.

They’ll continue protecting their health at Kennedy as they get ready for Wednesday’s planned lift-off.

Their rocket, a Falcon-9, and capsule, known as Dragon, will be wheeled out to the spaceport’s famous launch pad – complex 39A – in the next few days for its static fire test.

This will see the Falcon ignite briefly all nine of its first-stage engines to check they are fit to go.

(13) TURNOVER AT NASA. But why did you resign? NASA doesn’t usually remind me of The Prisoner, “Nasa: Doug Loverro steps down days before crewed launch”.

The head of Nasa’s human spaceflight programme has stepped down just days before a “historic” launch.

Doug Loverro resigned on Monday, Nasa announced, less than a year after his appointment.

…No official reason for Mr Loverro’s departure has been announced, but a leaked copy of an email sent to Nasa employees mentioned a risk taken earlier in the year “because I judged it necessary to fulfil our mission”.

“Now, over the balance of time, it is clear that I made a mistake in that choice for which I alone must bear the consequences,” the message continued.

While Mr Loverro offered no further explanation, he told the Axios news website that his decision to leave the agency was unrelated to the upcoming launch. “I have 100% faith in the success of that mission,” he said.

Mr Loverro was appointed in October last year. His deputy, Ken Bowersox, will become the acting head of human spaceflight.

(15) BIG BIRD. And BBC has the word: “Megaraptor: Fossils of 10m-long dinosaur found in Argentina”.

Palaeontologists have found the fossils of a new megaraptor in Patagonia, in the south of Argentina.

Megaraptors were large carnivorous dinosaurs with long arms and claws measuring up to 35cm (14in) in length.

They also had powerful legs and long tails which made them more agile than the Tyrannosaurus rex and allowed them to catch smaller herbivorous dinosaurs.

The new megaraptor is one of the last of its group, before dinosaurs became extinct, the scientific team says.

(16) TAKE ONE TABLET AND CALL ME IN THE MORNING. “Gilgamesh tablet: Bid to confiscate artefact from Museum of the Bible reports the BBC.

US prosecutors are seeking to confiscate a rare ancient tablet from a Christian museum co-founded by the president of retailer Hobby Lobby.

The 3,500-year-old artefact, from what is now Iraq, bears text from the Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the world’s oldest works of literature.

Prosecutors allege that an auction house deliberately withheld information about its origins.

Hobby Lobby said it was co-operating with government investigations.

It bought the tablet from the auction house in a private sale in 2014 for $1.67m (£1.36m) for display at the Museum of the Bible in Washington.

The office of the US attorney for the Eastern District of New York says the tablet was illegally imported into the US.

(17) JEOPARDY! Last night’s Jeopardy! contestants struggled with this one, says Andrew Porter.

Category: Adventure Novels.

Answer: In this novel the surname of a pastor, his wife & 4 sons is not given in the text; the title was meant to evoke a 1719 novel.

Wrong questions: “What is Gulliver’s Travels?” and “What is 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea?”

Correct question: “What is Swiss Family Robinson?”

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “This is What The Matrix Really Looks Like Without CGI!!!–Special Effects Breakdown” on YouTube, Fame Focus looks at how the special effects crew of the matrix used a combination of CGI, wire work, rear projection, and miniatures to acheive the spectacular special effects of The Matrix.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/13/20 You Can’t Sleep ’Cause The World’s On Fire, Don’t Read Me If You’d Prefer The Shire, Techno Thriller

(1) FLIP THE SCRIPT. “James McAvoy to Lead ‘Sandman’ Audible Drama” says The Hollywood Reporter. Wait a second – Michael Sheen is going to be Lucifer?

James McAvoy is stepping into a dream role. The actor will voice star as Dream in Audible’s adaptation of The Sandman, the classic DC/Vertigo comic book written by Neil Gaiman.

McAvoy, known for playing Prof. X in four X-Men films, will lead a cast that also includes Riz Ahmed, Justin Vivian Bond as Desire, Arthur Darvill, Kat Dennings as Death, Taron Egerton, William Hope, Josie Lawrence, Miriam Margolyes as Despair, Samantha Morton, Bebe Neuwirth, Andy Serkis and Michael Sheen as Lucifer.

(2) NO MIDWESTCON IN 2020. Joel Zakem, who has attended 52 straight Midwestcons, nevertheless considers this a wise decision:  

After being held annually since 1950, Midwestcon 71, scheduled for June 25-28, 2020, in Cincinnati, OH., has unsurprisingly been cancelled. Everyone who has a hotel reservation should receive a cancellation notice with verification number from the hotel – no need to call them. Checks for pre-registrations (the only way to pre-reg fir Midwestcon) have not been cashed.

(3) DOOMSDAY BOOKS. The LA Times’ Martin Wolk tapped Emily St. John Mandel and other writers for their recommendations: “Essential end-of-the-world reading list offers a glimpse of the abyss”.

 …“I would not recommend reading ‘Station Eleven’ in the middle of a pandemic,” Mandel told the L.A. Times in an interview.

Yet many people are doing just that: The book is selling briskly just as Mandel’s new novel of financial disaster, “The Glass Hotel,” settles into the Los Angeles Times bestseller list. Mandel joins the L.A. Times Book Club on May 19 for a virtual discussion of these two eerily timely novels….

If you go: Book Club

Emily St. John Mandeljoins the L.A. Times Book Club in conversation with reporter Carolina A. Miranda.

When: 7 p.m. May 19

Where: Free virtual event livestreaming on the Los Angeles Times Facebook Page and YouTube.

More info: latimes.com/bookclub

(3.5) SFF JUSTIFIED. If it needs it. Esther Jones at The Conversation says “Science fiction builds mental resiliency in young readers”.  

Young people who are “hooked” on watching fantasy or reading science fiction may be on to something. Contrary to a common misperception that reading this genre is an unworthy practice, reading science fiction and fantasy may help young people cope, especially with the stress and anxiety of living through the COVID-19 pandemic.

I am a professor with research interests in the social, ethical and political messages in science fiction. In my book “Medicine and Ethics in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction,” I explore the ways science fiction promotes understanding of human differences and ethical thinking.

While many people may not consider science fiction, fantasy or speculative fiction to be “literary,” research shows that all fiction can generate critical thinking skills and emotional intelligence for young readers. Science fiction may have a power all its own….

(4) FROZEN AT HOME. The Walt Disney Animation Studios today released “I Am With You” — At Home With Olaf.

Wherever you may be, here’s a special message from Olaf’s home to yours. “I Am With You” Music and Lyrics Written at Home by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. Performed at Home by Josh Gad. Directed at Home by Dan Abraham.

(5) THE ROAD TO FURY. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Five years after the fourth Mad Max movie took audiences by storm, the New York Times film critic Kyle Buchanan (@kylebuchanan) interviewed dozens of crew members, producers, writers and stars to weave together a compelling picture of how Fury Road came to be. In “’Mad Max: Fury Road’: The Oral History of a Modern Action Classic”,  he charts the course of its production through quotes from Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, and writer/director George Miller.

…CHARLIZE THERON (Furiosa) I grew up on all the “Mad Max” movies — they’re very popular in South Africa. I remember being 12 and my dad letting me watch it with him. So I was like, “Oh yeah, I wanna be in a ‘Mad Max’ movie. Are you kidding me?”

[GEORGE] MILLER When someone is directing a film, they’re thinking about it every waking hour, and even processing it in their dreams. The problem is, if you’re a studio executive, you tend to think about it for 10 minutes on a Wednesday.

[GEORGE] MILLER When the ideas that you start off with are then comprehended by an audience at large out there, that’s ultimately what redeems the process for you. The Swahili storytellers have this quote: “The story has been told. If it was bad, it was my fault, because I am the storyteller. But if it was good, it belongs to everybody.” And that feeling of the story belonging to everybody is really the reward.

(6) FROM THE BATCAVE. Zach Baron, in “Robert Pattinson: A Dispatch From Isolation” in GQ, caught up with Pattinson last month as he stayed isolated in a London hotel room.  Pattinson says he’s living on food supplied by The Batman production until shooting resumes but isn’t doing any exercise.  He also says although he is in Christopher Nolan’s film Tenet, he can’t give anything away because he doesn’t understand the plot except that it doesn’t involve time travel.

…It’s possible that you couldn’t build a person more suited to this experience. Pattinson, who turned 34 in May, has spent his adult life separating himself from the rest of the world. He was 21 when he was cast in the first Twilight, as the lead vampire in what would become five increasingly popular movies about teen lust in the Pacific Northwest. The final installment of the franchise, which turned Pattinson and his costar, Kristen Stewart, into two of the more famous people in the world, came out in 2012 and grossed over $800 million worldwide. But by that time, he was already mostly gone.

(7) GOING FOR THE KO? It’s Reader Request time at John Scalzi’s Whatever. In “Reader Request Week 2020 #6: Pulling Punches in Criticism”, the reader’s question begins:

Do you ever hold back in your criticism of other artistic endeavors (movies for instance) out of fear or apprehension that it will open your own work to hostile/non constructive criticism and exclude you from future opportunities?

We already know what the answer is, but that doesn’t mean it’s not interesting to see Scalzi work it out.

(8) CAFFEINATED CARTOON. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Financial Times Reader.] In the May 8 Financial Times, behind a paywall, Neville Hawcock reviews Rick and Morty.

It could easily be so sweet, charming, whimsical.  An eccentric old scientist zips around the galaxy in his home-made flying saucer, accompanied by his grandson sidekick. Each cartoon episode brings a new alien peril and a new chance to prevail through pluck and ingenuity, You could be forgiven for imagining a cross between a Werther’s Original commercial and Star Trek.

Rick and Morty, however is anything but…

…That doesn’t mean it’s weary; it is consistently energetic, inventive, and witty, both in script and animation. To borrow a phrase from the late sci-fi writer Gardner Dozois, each 30-minute episode has a high bit-rate. Whereas some bingeable TV is like the unlimited cups of coffee you get in American diners, and endless warm wash, an evening with Rick and Morty has the jolting quality of an espresso spree.

(9) DOCTOR WHO FACTOID. Martin Morse Wooster also found this data point in Horatio Clare’s essay-review in the May 9 Financial Times.

The National Trust reports that while 30 percent of eight-to-11 year olds could not identify a magpie, 90 percent could spot a Dalek.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 13, 1994 The Crow premiered. It was directed by Alex Proyas, written by David J. Schow and John Shirley. It was produced by Jeff Most, Edward R. Pressman and Grant Hill.  It starred Brandon Lee in his final film appearance as he was killed in a tragic accident during filming. It’s based on James O’Barr’s The Crow comic book, and tells the story of Eric Draven (Lee), a rock musician who is revived to avenge the rape and murder of his fiancée, as well as his own death. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 13, 1876 – Harold De Lay.  Illustrated W.E.B. DuBois’ Quest of the Silver Fleece, pretty good since De Lay later did covers and interiors for Golden Fleece.  Five interiors for Frank Baum’s early Daughters of Destiny.  Four covers and thirty-eight interiors for Weird Tales, of Robert Bloch, Edmond Hamilton, Robert E. Howard, Henry Kuttner, Manly Wade Wellman, Jack Williamson; here’s one.  Blue Bolt and The Human Torch for Marvel while it was under Funnies, Inc.; Treasure Island for Target Comics.  (Died 1950) [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1937 Roger Zelazny. Where do I start? The Amber Chronicles are a favorite as is the Isle of The Dead, To Die in Italbar, and well, 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. I understand that John’s going to have a choice remembrance of him for us. (Died 1995.) [CE]
  • Born May 13, 1937 – Rudolf Zengerle.  Pioneer of the Risszeichner (German, “crack markers”) for Perry Rhodan – illustrators who draw schematics of robots, ships, weapons.  Zengerle did six dozen; here’s a Grand Battleship of the Blues.  Speaking of series, PR has sold over two billion copies worldwide.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1941 – John Vermeulen.  Flemish author; also sailor, diver, glider, horseman.  First SF novel at age 15.  Historical novels of Hieronymus Bosch, Peter Brueghel the Elder, Mercator, Nostradamus, da Vinci, translated into German, Japanese.  A dozen SF novels, as many each of thrillers, plays, books for children & young adults, shorter stories.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1946 – Marv Wolfman. Comics, novelizations, animation, for Dark Horse, DC, Disney, Eclipse, Image, Marvel (Editor-in-Chief 1975-1976), many more.  Pioneered writing credits when the Comics Code Authority said “No wolfmen; remove” (as was the rule at the time), DC said “But the writer’s name is Wolfman”, CCA said “Let’s see the name credit, then”, after which everybody got one.  Inkpot Award, 1979; Jack Kirby Awards, 1985-1986 (for Crisis on Infinite Earths, with George Pérez); named in Fifty Who Made DC Great,1985; National Jewish Book Award, 2007 (for Homeland); Scribe Award, 2007 (for novel based on Superman Returns).  Recently, see Man and Superman (2019, with Claudio Castellini).  [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1949 Zoë Wanamaker, 71. She’s been Elle in amazing Raggedy Rawney which was a far better fantasy than Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone where she was Madame Hooch. And she was Cassandra in two Ninth Doctor stories,” The End of the World” and “New Earth”. [CE]
  • Born May 13, 1951 Gregory Frost, 69. His retelling of The Tain is marvelous. Pair it with Ciaran Carson and China Miéville’s takes on the same existing legend and remaking it through modern fiction writing. Fitcher’s Brides, his Bluebeard and Fitcher’s Bird fairy tales, is a fantastic novel though quite horrific

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) THINK OF SFF CONFINED TO A HAMSTER BALL. Is it possible that James Davis Nicoll found “Classic SF With Absolutely No Agenda Whatsoever…”? Uh, you’ve read his Tor.com posts before, haven’t you?

As happens from time to time, I recently noticed an author being subjected to complaints that their fiction has an “agenda,” that there are “political elements” in their story, that it touches on society, class, race, culture, gender, and history. As it happens, the calumniated author is one of those younger authors, someone who’s probably never owned a slide-rule or an IBM Selectric. Probably never had ink-well holes in their school desks. Undoubtedly, they may be missing context that I, a person of somewhat more advanced years, can provide…

(14) GOOD TO GO. “Inflatable e-scooter that fits in backpack unveiled”.

An inflatable e-scooter compact enough to be stored inside a commuter’s backpack has been unveiled in Japan.

The Poimo, developed by the University of Tokyo, can be inflated in just over a minute, using an electric pump.

The creators said they wanted to create a vehicle that minimised the potential for injury in the event of an accident.

However, experts say e-scooter rules still need to be clarified by the government before such modes of transport can be considered safe.

(15) I’LL BE MACK. “Scientists Make the World’s First Liquid Metal Lattice’. Tagline: “It’s like the Terminator, only much less murdery.”

Scientists from SUNY-Binghamton are developing new Terminator-like liquefying metals made from Field’s alloy. And in a fun twist, the lead researcher behind the study—which appears in the journal Additive Manufacturinghasn’t seen any films in the Terminator franchise.

“To be honest, I’ve never watched that movie!” Pu Zhang, a mechanical engineering professor, said in a statement. (It’s safe to assume he also missed out on The Secret World of Alex Mack.)

The term “additive manufacturing” refers broadly to technology like 3D printing, where you add material in order to build an item. That contrasts with subtractive manufacturing, like using a lathe and removing metal or wood in order to sculpt a final shape. But in this case, the liquid metal is used in a more complex process where a “shell skeleton” is 3D printed from rubber and metal and then filled with liquid metal lattice….

(16) HAZARD PAY. Casualties on the front lines of the culture war will get help: “In Settlement, Facebook To Pay $52 Million To Content Moderators With PTSD.

Facebook will pay $52 million to thousands of current and former contract workers who viewed and removed graphic and disturbing posts on the social media platform for a living, and consequently suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a settlement agreement announced on Tuesday between the tech giant and lawyers for the moderators.

Under the terms of the deal, more than 10,000 content moderators who worked for Facebook from sites in four states will each be eligible for $1,000 in cash. In addition, those diagnosed with psychological conditions related to their work as Facebook moderators can have medical treatment covered, as well as additional damages of up to $50,000 per person.

(17) HINTS FROM OUR AI OVERLORDS. A Harvard researcher finds “Predictive text systems change what we write”.

Study explores the effects of autocomplete features on human writing

When a human and an artificial intelligence system work together, who rubs off on whom? It’s long been thought that the more AI interacts with and learns from humans, the more human-like those systems become. But what if the reverse is happening? What if some AI systems are making humans more machine-like?

In a recent paper, researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) explored how predictive text systems — the programs on our phones and computers that suggest words or phrases in our text messages and email — change how we write. The researchers found that when people use these systems, their writing becomes more succinct, more predictable and less colorful (literally).

…“We’ve known for a while that these systems change how we write, in terms of speed and accuracy, but relatively little was known about how these systems change what we write,” said Kenneth Arnold, a PhD candidate at SEAS and first author of the paper.

Arnold, with co-authors Krysta Chauncey, of Charles River Analytics, and Krzysztof Gajos, the Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science at SEAS, ran experiments asking participants to write descriptive captions for photographs.

…“While, for the most part, people wrote more efficiently with predictive text systems, this may have come at the cost of thoughtfulness. These kinds of effects would never have been noticed by traditional ways of evaluating text entry system, which treat people like transcribing machines and ignore human thoughtfulness. Designers need to evaluate the systems that they make in a way that treats users more like whole people.”

(18) IT WASN’T CASABLANCA THEN. “Scientists Might’ve Found the Most Dangerous Place in Earth’s History” claims Yahoo! News.

100 million years ago, Earth was a terrifying place. That’s according to a new paper in ZooKeys, which analyzed fossils from an area in southeastern Morocco also known as the Kem Kem beds. It was here that prehistoric animals such as “cartilaginous and bony fishes, turtles, crocodyliforms, pterosaurs, and dinosaurs” used to freely roam and hunt….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. ScreenRant’s headline is the best reason to watch the video: “Blade Runner 2049 Honest Trailer Can’t Explain Why Dune Was Greenlit After This”.

Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve is due to return with another highly ambitious and cerebral – not to mention, expensive – sci-fi epic later this year in the form of Dune, the first of a planned two-part adaptation of Frank Herbert’s touchstone 1965 novel. It’s a peculiar move for Warner Bros. purely from a business perspective, considering how much money they lost on Villeneuve’s last costly, thought-provoking, sci-fi feature. So naturally, as you’d expect, Screen Junkies points that out in their latest video.

With marketing for Dune now underway ahead of its release in December (assuming it’s not delayed to 2021), Screen Junkies has gone and released an Honest Trailer for Blade Runner 2049

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Joel Zakem, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Rich Lynch, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

Pixel Scroll 4/30/20 A File And Scroll Reunion Is Only A Pixel Away

(1) CATS TRIUMPHANT. Naomi Kritzer has had a big week. Her YA novel Catfishing on Catnet won an Edgar Award today, and won a  Minnesota Book Award on Tuesday. Here’s an excerpt of the Q&A she did for the St. Paul Library:

How does it feel to be a Minnesota Book Award finalist?

It is a huge honor and feels amazing!

Tell us something about your finalist book that you want readers to know?

It is loosely based on my (Hugo Award-winning) short story Cat Pictures Please, which you can still find online:

Share something about your writing process and preferences. For instance, where is your favorite place to write?

When I’m outlining or brainstorming, I use a notebook of unlined paper, like a sketch diary. I like to write in my sunny living room but discovered at some point that the ergonomics of a couch, hassock, and lap desk will lead quickly to back problems, so I usually write at a desk in my home office.

(2) BOOKSTORE LOVE. LitHub tells the world “Now you can use your favorite indie bookstore as your Zoom background.” Like this shot of Vroman’s – where John King Tarpinian and I got John Scalzi to sign our copies of The Collapsing Empire a few years ago. The complete list of bookstores with notes on each one can be found on the Lookout + Ecotone blog.

(3) INGENIOUS. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand blog gives a good rundown of Alison Scott’s plans for “The Virtual GUFF Tour”, since she can’t travel there in person this year. It’s an effort completely worthy of a former editor of the fanzine Plokta, “The journal of superfluous technology.” 

Alison Scott is the recently elected European GUFF delegate. The plan was for the winning delegate to travel down under to meet local fans and addend the 2020 Worldcon – CoNZealand. Of course because of you-know-what the borders are closed and CoNZealand has gone virtual. But Alison appears undaunted – she now plans to take a virtual tour of Australasia visiting Australian and New Zealand places and fans before attending the virtual worldcon. There will be a proper itinerary mimicking a physical journey and Alison even plans to adhere to the local timezones (yay jetlag!). You can read more about her plans and follow her progress over on the facebook group dedicated to the trip.

(4) RAMPING UP TO THE APOCALYPSE. The Baltimore Science Fiction Society has completed the ADA compliant ramp in front of their building. The January 20 Pixel Scroll ran details about the permits coming through. Club President Dale S. Arnold said today –

Although the COVID-19 emergency and related closures caused some delays, eventually the weather and logistics worked to allow completion. Many years ago when the plan for renovations to the BSFS Building was announced the author Jack Chalker commented that if a bunch of SF Fans were able to pull off that complex of a plan it would be a sign of the coming apocalypse.  With the completion of this ramp (except final painting the door which was altered in the ramp design) we have now realized the dream from 1991 having completed everything planned when we bought the building.

And BSFS didn’t finish a moment too soon, because the apocalypse appears to be just around the corner.

(5) NOT GENTEEL. Errolwi points out how well today’s Merriam-Webster tweet complements James Davis Nicoll’s famous quote about the English language:

(6) AIMLESS, IF NOT LOST, IN SPACE. And by no coincidence whatsoever, the next item is about James Davis Nicoll’s latest Tor.com post, “Far From Any Star: Five Stories About Rogue Worlds”.

It’s been weeks since you last socialized (in the flesh) with anyone outside your household…or with anyone, if you live alone. Loneliness is tough. But things could be worse: you could be a rogue world, ejected from your home system billions of years ago. You could be a pitiful world formed far from any star. Such worlds are commonplace in our galaxy. They are not quite so common in science fiction. Still, a few of them feature in books that you may have read…

(7) JEMISIN AND GAIMAN. The Fisher Center will present “UPSTREAMING: Neil Gaiman in Conversation with N. K. Jemisin” on May 2 at 7:30 p.m. EST. However, the website says, “Tickets are not currently on sale. Call the box office for more information, 845-758-7900.” So if you’re interested, call.

Join Professor in the Arts Neil Gaiman for a remote, live streamed conversation with Hugo Award-winning author N. K. Jemisin (Broken Earth trilogy), whose new work The City We Became was released in March to great acclaim. The conversation is part of an ongoing Fisher Center series in which Gaiman discusses the creative process with another artist.

(8) LE GUIN IN ’75. Fanac.org has posted a video recording of an Aussiecon (1975) Worldcon panel with Ursula K. Le Guin, Susan Wood and others, “Worlds I Have Discovered.”

AussieCon, the 33rd Worldcon, was held in Melbourne, Australia in 1975. This panel centers on questions to Guest of Honor Ursula Le Guin’s on her writing for young adults (or at least classified as for young adults). The panelists, moderated by Fan Guest of Honor Susan Wood, are Ursula herself, Stella Leeds, Peter Nicholls, Anna Shepherd, and Ann Sydhom. The video quality leaves a lot to be desired, but the discussion on Le Guin’s process of writing, the panel’s views on children’s literature, and children’s literature as a literary ghetto remain interesting and very pertinent. Remember, this was decades before the phenomena of Harry Potter.

Andrew Porter sent the link with this reminder that the same year his Algol Press published Dreams Must Explain Themselves, a 36-page chapbook whose title essay is about how Le Guin got ideas for books.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 30, 1955  — Science Fiction Theatre’s Y.O.R.D. episode first aired. Directed by Leon Benson from a screenplay by him and George Van Marter as based on a story written by Marter and Ivan Tors. Truman Bradley Was The Host and the cast included Walter Kingsford, Edna Miner Louis,  Jean Heydt and DeForest Kelley. The latter would be playing Captain Hall, M.D.  You can watch it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge. Bonus typos provided by OGH.]

  • Born April 30, 1913 Jane Rice. Her first story “The Dream” was published  in the July 1940 issue of Unknown. Amazingly, she’d publish ten stories there during the War. Her only novel Lucy remains lost due to somewhat mysterious circumstances. Much of her short stories are collected in The Idol of the Flies and Other Stories which is not available in digital form. (Died 2003.)
  • Born April 30, 1920 E. F. Bleiler. An editor, bibliographer and scholar of both sff and detective fiction. He’s responsible in the Forties for co-editing the Best SF Stories with T.E. Dikty. They later edited Best Science-Fiction Stories. He also did such valuable reference guides like The Checklist of Fantastic Literature and The Guide to Supernatural Fiction. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 30, 1926 Edmund Cooper. Pulpish writer of space opera not for the easily offended. His The Uncertain Midnight has an interesting take on androids but most of his work is frankly misogynistic. And he was quite prolific with over twenty-four novels and a dozen story collections. A lot of his work is available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1982.)
  • Born April 30, 1934 William Baird Searles. Author and critic. He‘s best remembered  for his long running review work for Asimov’s  where he reviewed books, and Amazing Stories and F&SF where he did film and tv reviews. I’m not familiar with his writings but I’d be interested to know who here has read Reader’s Guide to Science Fiction and Reader’s Guide to Fantasy which he did, as they might be useful to own. (Died 1993.)
  • Born April 30, 1938 Larry Niven, 82. One of my favorite authors to read, be it Ringworld, The Mote in God’s Eye with Jerry Pournelle, or the Rainbow Mars stories which I love in the audiobook version. What’s your favorite Niven story? And yes, I did look up his Hugos. “Neutron Star” was his first at NyCon 3 followed by Ringworld at Noreascon 1 followed by “Inconstant Moon” (lovely story) the following year at L.A. Con I,  “The Hole Man” (which I don’t remember reading) at Aussiecon 1 and finally “The Borderland of Sol” novelette at MidAmericaCon. He’s not won a Hugo since 1976. 
  • Born April 30, 1973 Naomi Novik, 47. She wrote the Temeraire series which runs to nine novels so far. Her first book, His Majesty’s Dragon, won the Astounding Award. She most deservedly won the Nebula Award for Best Novel for Uprooted which is a most excellent read. I’ve not yet her Spinning Silver, so opinions are welcome.
  • Born April 30, Gal Gadot, 34. Wonder Woman of course in the DC film universe. Other genre work, well, other than voicing Shank on Ralph Breaks the Internet, there really isn’t any. She did play Linnet Ridgeway Doyle in the Kenneth Branagh production of Murder on the Orient Express which is quite lovely but hardly genre or even genre adjacent. 

(11) SOUNDTRACK. Steve Vertlieb would like to introduce the world to French film composer, Thibaut Vuillermet.

(12) REVENGE OF THE GRINDHOUSE. SYFY Wire reports ”Trolls World Tour Rocks $100 Million On Vod”.

The decision to skip a theatrical release in the age of coronavirus was a wise move that led to big returns for DreamWorks’ Trolls World Tour

According to The Wall Street Journal, the animated movie has racked up nearly $100 million in the three short weeks since it arrived on VOD and digital platforms Friday, April 10. With approximately 5 million rentals at $19.99 a pop, Universal has generated over $77 million from a digital release model that allows studios to keep an estimated 80 percent of profits. Since the traditional theatrical model relies on a 50-50 kind of split, a film playing in a physical venue has to make a lot more money in order for a studio to turn a profit. 

The real point here is that Trolls Would Tour has brought in more tangible revenue during its first 19 days on demand than the first movie did during five months in theaters.

However, one theater chain intends to punish Universal for their plans to reproduce the success by simultaneously releasing movies in theaters and through video-on-demand, presumably trimming their revenue. The Hollywood Reporter covered the announcement: “AMC Theatres Refuses to Play Universal Films in Wake of ‘Trolls: World Tour'”.

AMC Theatres on Tuesday delivered a blistering message to Universal Pictures, saying the world’s largest cinema chain will no longer play any of the studio’s films in the wake of comments made by NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell regarding the on-demand success of Trolls World Tour and what it means for the future of moviegoing post-coronavirus pandemic….

“The results for Trolls World Tour have exceeded our expectations and demonstrated the viability of PVOD,” Shell told The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the numbers. “As soon as theaters reopen, we expect to release movies on both formats.”

In a strongly worded letter to Universal Filmed Entertainment Group chairman Donna Langley, AMC Theatres chairman and-CEO Adam Aron said Shell’s comments were unacceptable. AMC is the largest circuit in the world.

“It is disappointing to us, but Jeff’s comments as to Universal’s unilateral actions and intentions have left us with no choice. Therefore, effectively immediately AMC will no longer play any Universal movies in any of our theaters in the United States, Europe or the Middle East,” Aron wrote.

“This policy affects any and all Universal movies per se, goes into effect today and as our theaters reopen, and is not some hollow or ill-considered threat,” he continued. “Incidentally, this policy is not aimed solely at Universal out of pique or to be punitive in any way, it also extends to any movie maker who unilaterally abandons current windowing practices absent good faith negotiations between us, so that they as distributor and we as exhibitor both benefit and neither are hurt from such changes….” 

(13) CHICKEN EATER OF THE SEA. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] From the Harvard Gazette: “Water Beast: New paper argues the Spinosaurus was aquatic, and powered by predatory tail”.

New paper argues the Spinosaurus was aquatic, and powered by predatory tail

Back in the Cretaceous period, 145 to 66 million years ago, dinosaurs dominated the land and sky. They also, a new paper argues, terrorized the aquatic realm. Recent fossil evidence has revealed that Spinosaurus aegyptiacus, among the largest of all known carnivorous dinosaurs, was a creature of the water, with a center of gravity and a giant tail fin perfect for swimming. The same paper shares robotic modeling by two Harvard scientists that shows how that large, flexible tail fin — unique among dinosaurs — would have given the giant predator a deadly propulsive thrust in the water, similar to a salamander or crocodile tail.

The paper, “Tail-Propelled Aquatic Propulsion in a Theropod Dinosaur,” in the April 29 issue of Nature, uses new fossil evidence and robotically controlled models created by Harvard co-authors Stephanie E. Pierce and George V. Lauder, professors of organismic and evolutionary biology, to show its power.

Pierce said the new fossils were necessary to make their argument, as much of the fossil evidence of Spinosaurus, unearthed by German paleontologist Ernst Stromer, had been destroyed in World War II. University of Detroit paleontologist Nizar Ibrahim, the Nature paper’s lead author, had located more traces of the dinosaur in Morocco in 2014, and in 2018 he went back, successfully excavating extensive Spinosaurus remains. The fossils included tail vertebrae with meter-long spines that seemed to form an expanded paddle, raising questions as to what the tail was used for.

“The working hypothesis was that Spinosaurus used its tail to swim through water,” said Pierce, Thomas D. Cabot Associate Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology. Ibrahim and his team reached out to Pierce, curator of vertebrate paleontology at the Museum of Comparative Zoology, to test their idea. She was immediately intrigued by the 5-plus-meter-long tail.

Yes, Dave, “Predatory Tail” would be a great name for a band.

(14) YOUR MISSION… “Nasa names companies to develop Moon landers for human missions”

Nasa has chosen the companies that will develop landers to send astronauts to the Moon’s surface in the 2020s.

The White House wants to send the next man and the first woman to the Moon in 2024, to be followed by other missions.

Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Alabama-based Dynetics were selected to work on landers under the space agency’s Artemis programme.

The 2024 mission will see astronauts walk on the Moon’s surface for the first time since 1972.

Combined, the contracts are worth $967m (£763m; €877m) and will run for a “base period” of 10 months.

“With these contract awards, America is moving forward with the final step needed to land astronauts on the Moon by 2024, including the incredible moment when we will see the first woman set foot on the lunar surface,” said Nasa’s administrator Jim Bridenstine.

“This is the first time since the Apollo era that Nasa has direct funding for a human landing system, and now we have companies on contract to do the work for the Artemis programme.”

(15) RECIPES WITH CHARACTERS. “Need new recipes for quarantine? Pixar’s YouTube channel is here to help”. Entertainment Weekly shares some examples.

As Pixar taught us, anyone can cook… and now the animation studio is giving you something to cook.

The Pixar YouTube channel features a series called “Cooking With Pixar,” a collection of recipes inspired by the studio’s films. At the moment, the series only has three videos, but they should provide some inspiration if you’re in need of something new to cook — which, it’s fair to say, most of us probably are at this point.

(16) YOU’RE MELTING! “Nasa space lasers track melting of Earth’s ice sheets” – BBC has the story.

Scientists have released a new analysis of how the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have changed, from 2003 to 2019.

The study shows that ice losses from melting have outpaced increases in snowfall, resulting in a 14mm rise in global sea-levels over the period.

We’ve had a number of very similar reports to this recently.

What makes this one of interest is that it uses data from the highest-resolution satellite system dedicated to studying the poles – IceSat.

This system flies space lasers over glaciers and other ice fields to track their constantly shifting shape.

The US space agency (Nasa) has now launched two of these altimeter instruments.

The first, IceSat, operated between 2003 and 2009; the second, IceSat-2, was put up in 2018.

Thursday’s report is a first attempt to tie both satellites’ observations together.

(17) BROTHER GUY’S AIR. “Antarctic meteorites yield global bombardment rate”

A team of UK scientists has provided a new estimate for the amount of space rock falling to Earth each year.

It’s in excess of 16,000kg. This is for meteorite material above 50g in mass.

It doesn’t take account of the dust that’s continuously settling on the planet, and of course just occasionally we’ll be hit by a real whopper of an asteroid that will skew the numbers.

But the estimate is said to give a good sense of the general quantity of rocky debris raining down from space.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Horizon on Vimeo is a short film by Armond Dijcks based on images taken by the International Space Station.

[Thanks to Joyce Scrivner, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Errolwi, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

Pixel Scroll 4/28/20 A Scroll As Small As A Footnote Is Rising From The Pixels

(1) WHAT’S THAT YOU SAY? “Majority of authors ‘hear’ their characters speak, finds study”. Details in The Guardian.

Some writers have always claimed they can hear their characters speaking, with Enid Blyton suggesting she could “watch and hear everything” and Alice Walker describing how her characters would “come for a visit … and talk”. But a new study has shown this uncanny experience is very widespread, with almost two-thirds of authors reporting that they hear their characters’ voices while they work.

Researchers at Durham University teamed up with the Guardian and the Edinburgh international book festival to survey 181 authors appearing at the 2014 and 2018 festivals. Sixty-three per cent said they heard their characters speak while writing, with 61% reporting characters were capable of acting independently….

(2) DISCOVERING ANIME. Mark Merlino, co-founder of the first furry con, has written “A brief history of the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization, America’s first anime fan club” at Dogpatch Press.

… At some point (in 1977), we had managed to add material to our screenings, thanks to Marc Kausler, an animator and film collector. People with contacts in Japan began trading tapes with other fans. By that time I had my own VCR (a Sanyo V-Cord II, because it had still frame and slow-motion features, which no other consumer VCR had), and I began making copies for our (my) own video library. In May (I believe) Wendall, Judy, Robin, Fred and I met in a park near Judy’s house and decided to become the Cartoon/Fantasy Organization. I remember the weird name was Fred’s idea (but he later denied it). The reason it was called “cartoon-fantasy” is because they (not me) believed that the term “animation” was too “insider” for typical fans, though everyone knew about “cartoons”. The “fantasy” part was because we were also getting live-action adventure shows from Japan (like Ultraman, Spiderman (Jp), Tiger Mask and many 5 member “transforming ninja” team shows), which were also popular at our screenings. 

(3) BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE. The April 2020 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Daffodil’s Baby,” by Alyssa Virker. Tagline: “What if you could have a baby using an egg from your favorite celebrity?”

It was published along with a response essay, “What’s Missing From Conversations About Designer Babies” by David Plotz, former CEO of Atlas Obscura and author of the book The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank.  

The modern eugenics movement was born when Francis Galton mapped the close genetic connections between the most “eminent” men of England for his 1869 book Hereditary Genius. Ever since then, eugenicists have been scheming up ways to save society by getting the “best” among us to have more children.

And ever since then, those same eugenicists have been fretting that the rest of us—the pig-brained masses—have the wrong idea of who the “best” people are. In the 1930s, one Nobel laureate was certain that mass artificial insemination could ensure that every baby would be a Newton or Leonardo, but worried that, left to their own whims, women would pick celebrities as their sperm donors, leaving us with a trivial society of “Valentinos, Jack Dempseys, Babe Ruths, and even Al Capones.” Hello, Daffodil and Breadbowl!

(4) THE MOUSE THAT ROARED. “Disney sparks backlash with #MayThe4th tweet” – the greedy rats!

Disney has been accused of trying to claim media ownership of popular hashtag “MayThe4th” on Twitter.

The company’s streaming service, Disney Plus, encouraged fans to share their favourite Star Wars memories using the hashtag on Monday.

It followed up with a legal warning suggesting any user who tweeted the hashtag was agreeing to Disney’s terms and letting it use their content.

It backtracked after a huge protest by fans and widespread mockery.

The hashtag – a play on the franchise’s phrase, “May the force be with you,” has been used for years to coincide with the made-up fan holiday.

“Reply with your favourite #Star Wars memory and you may see it somewhere special #MayThe4th,” the company said in a tweet.

“By sharing your message with us during #MayThe4th, you agree to our use of the message and your account name in all media and our terms of use.”

Many fans rushed to share their confusion over Disney’s tweet.

“You can’t just scream a terms of service agreement into the void and then assume anyone who does something falling in line has seen it and agreed,” replied one user.

(5) BOMBS AWAY. DoItYourselfRV takes you on a photo tour of the “Rocket Inspired Atomic Camper For The Astronaut In All Of Us”.

When you just have to get “back to the future” this retro inspired, steampunk-esque “Rocket Camper” may be just the inspiration you’re looking for. Exquisitely handcrafted by instructables user longwinters, this fine piece of machinery is built almost entirely of wood.

Here are two of the photos:

(6) LAST TIME. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 7, premieres May 27.

In the seventh and final season of the Marvel hit, Coulson and the Agents of SHIELD are thrust backward in time and stranded in 1931 New York City. With the all-new Zephyr set to time-jump at any moment, the team must hurry to find out exactly what happened. If they fail, it would mean disaster for the past, present and future of the world.

(7) SHAWL ON DIALECT AND REPRESENTATION. “Odyssey Podcast #128: Nisi Shawl on Dialect & Representation (Part 2)” from Odyssey Writing Workshop.

Nisi Shawl, the Jeff Pert Memorial Lecturer at Odyssey 2019, lectured on dialect and representation. In this excerpt, the second of two parts, Nisi explains techniques to reveal that a character speaks in dialect without using phoneticization. Word omission and word order (syntax) can show non-standard speech patterns and evoke the feeling of dialect while using standard spellings. Nisi discusses examples from her story “Black Betty.” Word choice is another technique that can reveal a person’s experience, cultural background, and expectations. It can also undercut stereotypes and reveal power differentials between characters. The rhythm of a word, sentence, or passage can also show non-standard speech patterns. Copying a poem or transcribing speech from someone native to the pattern you want to mimic can reveal rhythmic patterns. Cultural references can also help reveal a character’s non-standard speech. Nisi discusses several examples. But she wants writers to remember that difference is not monolithic.

(8) SEND ME IN COACH. Shannon Liao, in the CNN story “They lost their jobs because of the pandemic. Now they’re full-time video game coaches” profiles people who lost their jobs because of the coronavirus but have picked up additional income teaching video gamers how to improve their skills.

Trevor Andrews is a concert violist and music teacher who found his symphony performances canceled in late March as Covid-19 decimated the US economy. The private lessons he gave dried up as his clients cut back on their spending.

The 30-year-old resident of South Portland, Maine, is an avid gamer who considers himself an expert at the shooter game “Apex Legends,” in which squads of three battle to be the last team standing. So he decided to pivot from classical music to teaching online customers how to survive the virtual shoot-outs that have made the game an online hit.

“I’m good at explaining things,” he said. “Just like when I’m practicing the viola…You’re always self critiquing, and you’re always figuring out what you’re doing wrong and how to get better.”

Tech-savvy game enthusiasts are becoming full-time video game coaches as the ongoing pandemic has eradicated millions of jobs. While it may sound unusual, the job of teaching others how to improve their video game skills has been around for years and is now growing more popular as people shelter in place and spend more time online.

Like coaches in any endeavor, video game coaches teach players how to be more strategic and how to interact in team-based games like “League of Legends” and “Overwatch.” Some have their own awards for past gaming competitions and others simply have positive reputations bolstered by word of mouth….

(9) IF YOU’VE ACQUIRED THE TASTE. Grimdark Magazine’s CT Phipps provides “Ten Indie Grimdark Novel Recommendations”.

6. Seraphina’s Lament by Sarah Chorn

Mini-Review: Seraphina’s Lament is a truly dark and terrifying story based on the famines during the reign of Joseph Stalin. Taking place in a fantasy world where the old monarchy has been overthrown only to be replaced by something worse, starvation ravages the land. However, the population have more to deal with than their tyrannical overlord and his incompetence, the gods have decided to punish the land by unleashing a plague of hungry dead that will wipe the living from the face of the globe. The tight connections between the various characters sometimes stretches credulity but this is a solid piece of dark fantasy.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 28, 1946 The Shadow’s “Dreams of Death” episode first aired. It starred Lloyd Lamble (Quatermass 2) as Lamont Cranston and The Shadow with Lyndall Barbour as Margot Lane and Lloyd Berrill as The Announcer. The Shadow in the radio series was quite different from the printed version as he was given the power to “cloud men’s minds so they cannot see him”. This was at odds with the pulp novel character who relied solely on stealth and his guns to get the job done. Likewise Margo Lane was a radio creation that would later be added to the pulps. You can hear this episode here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 28, 1840 Palmer Cox. He was known for The Brownies, his series of humorous books and comic strips about the troublesome but generally well-meaning sprites. The cartoons were published in several books, such as The Brownies, Their Book for some forty years starting in the 1870s. Due to the immense popularity of his Brownies, one of the first popular handheld cameras was named after them, the Eastman Kodak Brownie camera. (Died 1924.)
  • Born April 28, 1910 Sam Merwin Jr. He was most influential in the Forties  and Fifties as the editor of Startling Stories,  Fantastic Story QuarterlyWonder Stories AnnualThrilling Wonder Stories and Fantastic Universe. He wrote a few stories for DC’s Strange Adventures and Mystery in Space but otherwise wasn’t known as a genre writer. (Died 1996.)
  • Born April 28, 1911 Lee Falk. He’s best remembered for creating and scripting both Mandrake the Magician (first published June 11th, 1934) and The Phantom (first published February 17, 1936). He would be inducted into Will Eisner Hall of Fame for his work on these strips. (Died 1999.)
  • Born April 28, 1917 Robert Cornthwaite. Actor in such Fifties films as The Thing From Another WorldThe War of the WorldsMen Into Space and Destination Space. He would be active throughout the late Twentieth Century in such productions as The Twilight ZoneVoyage to the Bottom of the SeaColossus: The Forbin Project The Six Million Dollar ManBuck Rogers in the 25th Century and White Dwarf. (Died 2006.)
  • Born April 28, 1930 Carolyn Jones. She played the role of Morticia Addams (as well as her sister Ophelia and the feminine counterpart of Thing, Lady Fingers) in The Addams Family. She had an uncredited role in the original The War of the Worlds, her first genre role, as a Blonde Party Guest, and she was Theodora ‘Teddy’ Belicec in the Invasion of the Body Snatchers. She had a recurring role as Marsha, Queen of Diamonds on Batman. (Died 1983.)
  • Born April 28, 1948 Terry Pratchett. Did you know that Steeleye Span did a superb job of turning his Wintersmith novel into a recording? You can read the Green Man review here as reviewed by Kage’s sister Kathleen. My favorite Pratchett? Well pretty much any of the Watch novels will do for a read for a night when I want something English and really fantastic. (Died 2015.)
  • Born April 28, 1953 William Murray, 67. He’s been the literary executor for the estate of Lester Dent for the past forty years, and has written fifteen Doc Savage novels from Dent’s outlines using Dent’s pseudonym, Kenneth Robeson. His Doc Savage: Skull Island, teams him up with King Kong, and, I kid you not, he recently wrote Tarzan, Conqueror of Mars in which John Carter oF Mars was revived.
  • Born April 28, 1971 Chris Young, 49. Bryce Lynch in the Max Headroom series which I still hold is the best SF series ever done. The only other genre I think he’s in are two horror films, The Runestone and Warlock: The Armageddon. Unless you call voice roles in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars and The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue genre…
  • Born April 28, 1982 Samantha Lockwood, 38. Daughter of Gary Lockwood of 2001: A Space Odyssey fame. And she apparently was in yet another video Trek fanfic though this may not have ever gotten done before Paramount squashed them, Star Trek Equinox: The Night Of Time. There’s a trailer but no actual episode that I can find, so her role in Sci-Fighters which as Girlfriend that it is is her only genre role.

(12) TRUE VALUE. Emmett Asher-Perrin proclaims “The Character of the Doctor Is More Important to Me Than Doctor Who Will Ever Be” in an essay at Tor.com.

…But what I’m really trying to say is, it doesn’t matter if Doctor Who is good. It has never mattered if Doctor Who is good because the only thing that matters about Doctor Who is that it gave us the Doctor. If a piece of fiction is the beholden to what it leaves behind, then that is what the show bequeaths to us.

And what a beautiful inheritance that has become over the decades.

(13) NEW WORLDS, AT THE TIME ANYWAY. Galactic Journey’s Mark Yon reviews the latest issues – in 1965 – of British prozines: “[APRIL 28, 1965] Mermaids, Persian Gods And Time Travel New Worlds And Science Fantasy, April/May 1965″.

This month’s ‘arty’ cover is by the prolific Keith Roberts, who seems to be everywhere at the moment. His colour artwork was last seen on the cover of the January issue, this one to my mind is just as odd. Are British magazine covers meant to look like they are painted by a child? I despair, especially when I see the covers for the US magazines, which by comparison are so much more than what we get here. The best that can be said here though is that they reflect the changes in the magazines at the moment. They are determined to be different.

The Editorial this month mentions the up-coming British Worldcon later this year – now less than four months away! – and how to apply to attend. It also enquires about letters on the idea of genre and also mentions that there will be a letters page – soon! However, before readers get their hopes up that Science Fantasy will take on other New Worlds staples like the Ratings list – it’s not going to happen.

To the stories themselves….

(14) CURRENT EVENTS. Nicola Alter at Thoughts on Fantasy changes pace with a look back at the many people influenced by a 19th century scientist — “Idols, Friends and Mentors: Alexander von Humboldt’s Influence on Writing and Science”.

…First I should probably explain who Humboldt himself was: a scientist, explorer, mountaineer, nature writer and science writer who invented isobars and was the first to propose the idea of climate zones. He published the popular book series Cosmos along with many other volumes on science, nature and politics, and was at one point the most famous scientists of his time.

He also expressed very progressive ideas for a European in the early 1800s – he pointed out that human activity could damage the environment and change the climate; was vehemently anti-slavery, anti-colonialism and pro-democracy; and held positive views of indigenous people, even referring to the European colonists as the real “savages”. If you want to know more about him you can read my review on Goodreads… or better yet, read the book!

(15) FAVORITES OF FORTY-FOUR. Cora Buhlert continues working her way through the Retro Hugo finalists: “Retro Review: ‘Far Centaurus’ by A.E. van Vogt”. BEWARE SPOILERS beyond this introduction:

… “Far Centaurus”, a science fiction short story by A.E. van Vogt that was published in the January 1944 issue of Astounding Science Fiction and is a finalist for the 1945 Retro Hugo Award. The story may be read online here

(16) TIME SINK. In Vice’s opinion “This 51,300-Piece Puzzle Will Either Chill You Out or Ruin Your Quarantine”.

The first wave of stimulus checks from the federal government’s coronavirus relief package have started to appear in some Americans’ bank accounts and, unsurprisingly, a not-insignificant percentage of that money has already been spent on groceries, gas, utility bills and video games, because eventually Tom Nook comes for all of us.

But if you happen to have an extra $599.95 that you aren’t blowing on black market sourdough starter, then Kodak would like you to buy its 51,300 piece jigsaw puzzle. The company says that this is the “world’s largest commercially available puzzle,” and it will arrive at your doorstep in one 40-pound box that contains 27 individually wrapped bags of anxiety….

Here’s a video of someone assembling a slightly smaller puzzle.

(17) LOST WORLD OF THE 21ST CENTURY. “Guillermo del Toro: What Allowed ‘Hellboy’ Films to Be Made No Longer Exists” – as he explains to Yahoo! Entertainment.

“What allowed the two films to exist, it’s gone,” del Toro wrote. “The Blu-ray DVD performance of the first ‘Hellboy’ was massive. So big that Ben Feingold, at Columbia, went full-on on the sequel development. Ben was so impressed by those numbers that he made ‘Hellboy’ one of the very first Blu-rays from Columbia Pictures. Far as I can recall, the number for home video surpassed theatrical.”

Del Toro had plans to direct a third “Hellboy,” but the box office performance of “The Golden Army” killed the franchise. The director pitched “Hellboy” creator Mike Mignola on an idea to turn the third movie into a comic book, but the plan was rejected as to not mixup the different mediums and confuse fans.

(18) A LOST SATELLITE OF THE 20TH CENTURY. “Long-Lost U.S. Military Satellite Found By Amateur Radio Operator”NPR talked to him.

…In 2018, he found a signal from a NASA probe called IMAGE that the space agency had lost track of in 2005. With Tilley’s help, NASA was able to reestablish contact.

But he has tracked down zombies even older than IMAGE.

“The oldest one I’ve seen is Transit 5B-5. And it launched in 1965,” he says, referring to a nuclear-powered U.S. Navy navigation satellite that still circles the Earth in a polar orbit, long forgotten by all but a few amateurs interested in hearing it “sing” as it passes overhead.

Recently, Tilley got interested in a communications satellite he thought might still be alive — or at least among the living dead. LES-5, built by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory, was launched in 1967.

Tilley was inspired by another amateur who in 2016 had found LES-1, an earlier satellite built by the same lab. What was intriguing to him about LES-5 was that if it was still working, it might be the oldest functioning satellite still in geostationary orbit.

(19) THE SOOT(LER) DID IT. Smithsonian reports that “After the Dinosaur-Killing Impact, Soot Played a Remarkable Role in Extinction”. No shit, Sherlock.

The famous impact 66 million years ago kicked up soot into the atmosphere that played an even bigger role in blocking sunlight than experts had realized

…When the impactor plowed into the Earth and created the Chicxulub crater in Mexico, it vaporized the crust and created a planet-wide plume of debris that emitted radiation at a rate about 20 times stronger than the sun. It ignited plants and animals in its path. Later, lightning from impact-generated storms ignited more fires, maintaining an atmosphere rich in soot.

“Soot is very good at absorbing sunlight,” Tabor says. “As soot gets into the stratosphere, some of it heats the atmosphere and self-lofts higher, increasing its atmospheric residence time.”

…”Soot blocked sunlight, greatly reducing if not shutting down photosynthesis on both the land and in the sea,” says Chicxulub expert David Kring of the Lunar and Planetary Institute in Texas. “Without photosynthesis, the base of the food chain would have collapsed. While fires may have demolished vegetation on land in large areas of the world, globally distributed soot may have ravaged vegetation elsewhere.”

…Tabor and his colleagues hoped to sort out the soot by modeling its impact separate from that of sulfates and dust. The new study started by modeling the topography, vegetation and greenhouse gases of the Cretaceous Period. The team also simulated the thermosphere and allowed the sizes of impact aerosols to change over time. Previous models had struggled to quantify these effects. “The impact and fire-generated pollutants were so voluminous that they caused previous computer models to crash,” Kring says. “The current study seems to have succeeded where past attempts failed.”

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “2001: A Space Odyssey: A Look Behind The Future” on YouTube is a 1967 promotional video, prepared by Look magazine for potential advertisers, for 2001: A Space Odyssey, that includes interviews with actor Keir Dullea, the film’s principal science advisor, Frederic I. Ordway III, and Sir Arthur C. Clarke visiting the lunar excursion module under construction at the time by Grumman in Long Island.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Kathy Sullivan, Dann, Michael J. Walsh, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]

Pixel Scroll 4/1/20 When I Was Babel-17, It Was A Very Good Scroll

(1) NO FOOLING. One of the most famous warships that never was – but what kind was it? “HMS Thunderchild – A bad day to be a Tripod,” at Drachinifel. (Here’s a portfolio of related designs by Baron-Engel, “HMS Thunderchild”, at DeviantArt.)

My attempt to answer the question, just what exactly was HMS Thunderchild?

(2) BUDRYS ASSEMBLED. David Langford’s Ansible Editions has released Beyond the Outposts: Essays on SF and Fantasy 1955-1996, a collection of Algis Budrys’s standalone essays, reviews, appreciations, state-of-the-art reports, personal memoirs and thoughts on the mechanics of writing.

As noted in the latest Ansible, the Lulu coupon code LULU20 gives 20% off the paperback today and tomorrow (1 and 2 April). Published: April 2020 at $22.50. Ebook edition April 2020 at £5.50 . Approximately 211,000 words with index.

Among the major pieces here are “Paradise Charted”, a tour-de-force potted history of the science fiction genre that filled some seventy pages of the special SF issue of TriQuarterly magazine; “Literatures of Milieux”, a highly individual attack on the problem of defining our genre; the long series of “On Writing” columns written for Locus magazine; “Non-Literary Influences on Science Fiction”, exploring in disquieting depth how magazine stories were routinely cut, padded or rearranged for production reasons beyond the control of author or editor; and “Obstacles and Ironies in Science-Fiction Criticism”, casting a cold eye on the very thing that Budrys did best. Lighter notes are struck by mordant book and film reviews plus touches of sheer personal fun.

Here is Budrys’s 1980 “Diagram of All SF” which accompanied his potted history of the genre for TriQuarterly magazine.

(3) STOKERCON UK. The Horror Writers Association’s annual event, planned for the UK this year, has been postponed to August 6-9. More information here:

Further to our announcement last week, we wanted to inform the membership that, following further negotiations with the two convention hotels, they have finally agreed to issue refunds on the reservations of those who cannot make the proposed new dates of August 6–9, 2020 for STOKERCON UK. Unfortunately, as the hotels are closed at the moment due to the Government’s restrictions, this cannot happen immediately.

(4) PHANTOM ZONE. Wil Wheaton provides isolation entertainment: “Radio Free Burrito Presents: The Ghost of Harrowby Hall”. (The recording is on Soundcloud here.)

While I listen to medical professionals and practice self-quarantine at home, I’m making an effort to create and release free audio book shorts every few days. It’s a good way for me to stay connected to my creative self, when my everything else self is so anxious and scared, all it wants to do is hide under the blankets and play video games.

…Today’s reading is a satirical Victorian ghost story from the 1890s.

(5) HOLD THE DOOR! “Exploring the Four Types of Portal Narratives” by James Davis Nicoll at Tor.com.

Andre Norton understood the potential in doorways. A door could lead you from post-War Europe to the Witchworld, from a world where one is but an unwanted double to one where one can be a savior, from the world we know to ones where history played out very, very differently. In fact, portals and doorways are so common (see Judith Tarr’s ongoing Norton Reread series) that it’s odd none of her interstellar empires ever seemed to make use of them.

(6) DEVEREAUX OBIT. Cat Devereaux, the International Costumers’ Guild 2005 Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient, died today. Active in costume fandom since the early 1980’s, when she reached a time in life where traveling to conventions far away became tougher, she created one of the largest free informational and costume-supportive websites on the Internet, Alley Cat Scratch Costume, with resources for costume design and sewing.

(7) JACK OBIT. BBC reports “Star Wars actor Andrew Jack dies aged 76”.

An actor and dialect coach who appeared in Star Wars and worked with A-list celebrities has died after contracting Covid-19, his agent has said.

Andrew Jack, 76, died in a Surrey hospital on Tuesday.

Agent Jill McCullough said she had been inundated with tributes to one of the acting world’s “brightest and clearest voices”.

She said Jack was unable to see his wife in his final days because she was quarantined in Australia.

His acting credits included The Last Jedi and the Force Awakens.

(8) TODAY’S DAY.

  • April 1 — The term “All Fools,” was probably meant as a deliberate stab at All Saints (November 1) and All Souls (November 2) Day. Although the origin of playing practical jokes and pranks on this day is hazy, many folklorists believe it may go back to 16th-century France. At that time, New Year’s Day was March 25, with a full week of partying and exchanging gifts until April 1. In 1582, the Gregorian calendar moved New Year’s Day to January 1. Those who forgot or refused to honor the new calendar were teasingly called, “April Fool!” Weather folklore states, “If it thunders on All Fools Day, it brings good crops of corn and hay.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 1, 1957 Kronos premiered. It was produced by Irving Block, Louis DeWitt, Kurt Neumann, and Jack Rabin, and directed by Kurt Neumann. It starred Jeff Morrow and Barbara Lawrence. It was shown as a double feature with She Devil. Critics were mixed on it with the Variety reviewer finding much to like in it. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 44% rating.  Despite it being on both Youtube and the Internet Archive, it is still under copyright having been renewed by legal rights holders,  so a link for viewing it will not be provided as those are pirated copies.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 1, 1875 Edgar Wallace. Creator of King Kong, he also wrote SF including Planetoid 127, one of the first parallel Earth stories, and The Green Rust, a bioterrorism novel which was made into a silent film called The Green Terror. Critics as diverse as Orwell, Sayers and Penzler have expressed their rather vehement distaste for him.  Kindle has an impressive number of works available. (Died 1932.)
  • Born April 1, 1916 Mary, Lady Stewart (born Mary Florence Elinor Rainbow, lovely name that). Yes, you know her better as just Mary Stewart. Genre wise, she’s probably best known for her Merlin series which walks along the boundary between the historical novel and fantasy. Explicitly fantasy is her children’s novel A Walk in Wolf Wood: A Tale of Fantasy and Magic. (Died 2014.)
  • Born April 1, 1926 Anne McCaffrey. I read both the original trilogy and what’s called the Harper Hall trilogy oh so many years ago. Enjoyed them immensely. No interest in the later works she set there. And I confess that I had no idea she’d written so much other genre fiction! (Died 2011.)
  • Born April 1, 1930 Grace Lee Whitney. Yeoman Janice Rand on Star Trek. She would reach the rank of Lt. Commander in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Folks, I just noticed that IMDB says she was only on eight episodes of Trek. It seemed like a lot more at the time. Oh, and she was in two video fanfics, Star Trek: New Voyages and Star Trek: Of Gods and Men. (Died 2015.)
  • Born April 1, 1942 Samuel R. Delany, 78. There’s no short list of recommenced works for him as everything he’s done is brilliant. That said I think I’d start off suggesting a reading of Babel- 17 and Dhalgren followed by the Return to Nevèrÿon series. I think his only Hugo win was in the Short Story category at Heicon ’70  for “Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones”  as published  in New Worlds, December 1968.
  • Born April 1, 1953 Barry Sonnenfeld, 67. Director of The Addams Family and its sequel Addams Family Values  (both of which I really like), the Men in Black trilogy (well, one out of three ain’t bad) and Wild Wild West. He also executive produced Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events which I’ve not seen, and did the same for Men in Black: International, the recent not terribly well-received continuation of that franchise. 
  • Born April 1, 1960 Michael Praed, 60. Robin of Loxley on Robin of Sherwood which no doubt is one of the finest genre series ever done of a fantasy nature. He also played Phileas Fogg on The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne, an amazing series that I think ever got released on DVD. 
  • Born April 1, 1963 James Robinson, 57. Writer, both comics and film. Some of his best-known comics are the series centered on the Justice Society of America, in particular the Starman character he co-created with Tony Harris. His Starman series is without doubt some of the finest work ever done in the comics field. His screenwriting not so much. Remember The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? Well that’s him. 
  • Born April 1, 1970 Brad Meltzer, 50. I’m singling him for his work as a writer at DC including the still controversial Identity Crisis miniseries and his superb story in the Green Arrow series from issues 16 to 21 starting in 2002.  He and artist Gene Ha received an Eisner Award for Best Single Issue (or One-Shot) for their work on issue #11 of Justice League of America series. 

(11) KYLE REMEMBERED. The First Fandom Annual, 2019 David A. Kyle: A Life Of Science Fiction Ideas And Dreams is available.  A centenary tribute to David A. Kyle, the annual is edited by John L. Coker III and Jon D. Swartz. Includes:

  • Foreword by Forrest J Ackerman
  • Introduction by Frederik Pohl
  • Afterword by Robert A. Madle
  • Bibliography by Christopher M. O’Brien

(128) pages in two volumes. Limited to 26 lettered copies. Laser-printed on 28 # paper. Photos and illustrations, 8½ x 11. Gloss color covers, booklet-stapled. Each set has a label signed by Kyle. To reserve a copy: jlcoker3@bellsouth.net. Order your set by sending check or M.O. for $60 (includes packing, priority postage and insurance) payable to John L. Coker III at 4813 Lighthouse Road, Orlando, FL – 32808.

(12) ABOVE THE SKY. Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus has a book out. His Journey Press has released Kitra — a YA Space Adventure.

Nineteen-year-old Kitra Yilmaz dreams of traveling the galaxy like her Ambassador mother. But soaring in her glider is the closest she can get to touching the stars — until she stakes her inheritance on a salvage Navy spaceship.

On its shakedown cruise, Kitra’s ship plunges into hyperspace, stranding Kitra and her crew light years away. Tensions rise between Kitra and her shipmates: the handsome programmer, Fareedh; Marta, biologist and Kitra’s ex-girlfriend; Peter, the panicking engineer; and the oddball alien navigator, Pinky.

Now, running low on air and food, it’ll take all of them working together to get back home.

Journey Press has also published the well-received collection Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1958-1963).

(13) TOUGH NEIGHBORHOOD. Hey, I thought my high school was dangerous. But compared to Gotham High?

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Alex and Eliza and The Witches of East End comes a reimagining of Gotham for a new generation of readers. Before they became Batman, Catwoman, and The Joker, Bruce, Selina, and Jack were high schoolers who would do whatever it took–even destroy the ones they love–to satisfy their own motives. After being kicked out of his boarding school, 16-year-old Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham City to find that nothing is as he left it. What once was his family home is now an empty husk, lonely but haunted by the memory of his parents’ murder. Selina Kyle, once the innocent girl next door, now rules over Gotham High School with a dangerous flair, aided by the class clown, Jack Napier. When a kidnapping rattles the school, Bruce seeks answers as the dark and troubled knight–but is he actually the pawn? Nothing is ever as it seems, especially at Gotham High, where the parties and romances are of the highest stakes … and where everyone is a suspect.

(14) RIPPED TO SHREDS. Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait tells SYFY Wire readers: “It Looks Like A Star 750 Million Light Years Away *Was* Torn Apart By A Mid-Sized Black Hole”.

In 2006, the light from a ridiculously violent event reached Earth. Hugely diminished by the time it reached us, it started out as an extremely powerful blast of X-rays… but unlike events such as a typical supernova or other high-energy processes which come and go rather quickly, this one faded slowly, visibly dropping in brightness over the course of more than ten years.

Not too many things can behave this way, and the most common is also one of the scariest: An entire star being ripped to shreds by the gravity of a black hole.

(15) HOSPITAL SETUP. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] The process will look familiar to anyone who has done large-convention setup, but the purpose is more essential: “Transforming London’s ExCeL centre into Nightingale hospital”.

Timelapse footage has captured the transformation of London’s ExCeL centre into a temporary hospital for coronavirus patients.

The Nightingale Hospital is expected to be operational by the end of the week.

Five hundred beds are already in place and there is space for another 3,500.

(16) THEY WERE EVERYWHERE. Maybe not through walls, but “‘Dinosaurs walked through Antarctic rainforests'”.

Scientists drilling off the coast of West Antarctica have found the fossil remains of forests that grew in the region 90 million years ago – in the time of the dinosaurs.

Their analysis of the material indicates the continent back then would have been as warm as parts of Europe are today but that global sea levels would have been over 100m higher than at present.

The research, led from the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) in Germany, is published in the journal Nature.

It’s emerged from an expedition in 2017 to recover marine sediments in Pine Island Bay.

AWI and its partners, including the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), used a novel cassette drill-mechanism called MeBo to extract core material some 30m under the seafloor.

When the team examined the sediments in the lab, it found traces of ancient soils and pollen and even tree roots.

…Seeing the White Continent as we do today with its kilometres-thick ice covering, it’s a challenge to the imagination to think of such productive conditions. But BAS director, Prof Jane Francis, says there have been several periods in Earth history when Antarctica’s great glaciers were absent.

This study, she says, represents the first evidence for Cretaceous forests so close to the South Pole – just 900km away, at what would have been about 81-82 degrees South latitude.

“And, yes, there probably were dinosaurs in the forests,” she explained. “If you go to the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, you’ll find a whole range of fossils – things like hadrosaurs and sauropods, and primitive bird-like dinosaurs. The whole range of dinosaurs that lived in the rest of the world managed to get down to Antarctica during the Cretaceous.”

(17) KISS YOUR ASTERISK GOODBYE. The Root is sure “Samuel L. Jackson’s Spirited Reading of ‘Stay The F**k’ At Home’ Should Brighten Your Day”. The heavily-bleeped Jimmy Kimmel Show video reading starts at 6:10.

Jackson presented a new poem written by Adam Mansbach, the author of the Amazon bestseller Go the F**k to Sleep, titled “Stay the F**k At Home.” Jackson recorded the audiobook for Mansbach’s 2011 hit, a perfect choice given his frequent use of the cuss word throughout both his prolific film career and in his personal life. The original book served as an exasperated way to get Mansbach’s then two-year-old daughter to fall asleep, sparked in response to a Facebook post alluding to writing a book about his frustrations.

(18) TODAY’S OTHER PSA. Curb yourself already.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/18/20 How Many Files To Babylon? Fifth Score Files And Ten

(1) BELATED RECOGNITION. BBC explores “Why Octavia E. Butler’s novels are so relevant today”.

The visionary sci-fi author envisaged an alternate future that foresaw many aspects of life today, from big pharma to Trumpism. Now she has a cult following, writes Hephzibah Anderson.

It’s campaign season in the US, and a charismatic dark horse is running with the slogan ‘make America great again’. According to his opponent, he’s a demagogue; a rabble-rouser; a hypocrite. When his supporters form mobs and burn people to death, he condemns their violence “in such mild language that his people are free to hear what they want to hear”. He accuses, without grounds, whole groups of people of being rapists and drug dealers. How much of this rhetoric he actually believes and how much he spouts “just because he knows the value of dividing in order to conquer and to rule” is at once debatable, and increasingly beside the point, as he strives to return the country to a “simpler” bygone era that never actually existed.

You might think he sounds familiar – but the character in question is Texas Senator Andrew Steele Jarret, the fictional presidential candidate who storms to victory in a dystopian science-fiction novel titled Parable of the Talents. Written by Octavia E Butler, it was published in 1998, two decades before the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States.

…Fourteen years after her early death, Butler’s reputation is soaring. Her predictions about the direction that US politics would take, and the slogan that would help speed it there, are certainly uncanny. But that wasn’t all she foresaw. She challenged traditional gender identity, telling a story about a pregnant man in Bloodchild and envisaging shape-shifting, sex-changing characters in Wild Seed. Her interest in hybridity and the adaptation of the human race, which she explored in her Xenogenesis trilogy, anticipated non-fiction works by the likes of Yuval Noah Harari. Concerns about topics including climate change and the pharmaceutical industry resonate even more powerfully now than when she wove them into her work.

And of course, by virtue of her gender and ethnicity, she was striving to smash genre assumptions about writers – and readers – so ingrained that in 1987, her publisher still insisted on putting two white women on the jacket of her novel Dawn, whose main character is black. She also helped reshape fantasy and sci-fi, bringing to them naturalism as well as characters like herself. And when she won the prestigious MacArthur ‘genius’ grant in 1995, it was a first for any science-fiction writer.

(2) HOT WORDS ABOUT A COLD CLASSIC. The report in yesterday’s Scroll about Cora Buhlert’s takeoff on a classic, “The Cold Crowdfunding Campaign”, prompted Filers to remember Richard Harter’s epic analysis “The Cold Equations – A Critical Study” (thanks to Andrew for finding the Usenet link.)

… Science fiction has been described as a literature of ideas, a literary arena in which the idea is hero. This may well be true. Too often, however, it is a flawed literature of ideas, marked by shoddy treatments received with uncritical enthusiasm. The Cold Equations has been cited an instance of the “literature of ideas” at its best.

In the original article I argued that the story is no such thing but rather that it is an example of systemic blindness to morally obtuse assumptions. This argument is considered in detail below. Given that, one asks: Why is the story so ardently defended – and attacked? Why has the story made such an impression?…

(3) HITLER BACK ON SALE. Amazon admits it simply makes criticism-driven decisions – “Amazon Bans, Then Reinstates, Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’” – the New York Times has the story.

Amazon quietly banned Adolf Hitler’s manifesto “Mein Kampf” late last week, part of its accelerating efforts to remove Nazi and other hate-filled material from its bookstore, before quickly reversing itself.

The retailer, which controls the majority of the book market in the United States, is caught between two demands that cannot be reconciled. Amazon is under pressure to keep hate literature off its vast platform at a moment when extremist impulses seem on the rise. But the company does not want to be seen as the arbiter of what people are allowed to read, which is traditionally the hallmark of repressive regimes.

Booksellers that sell on Amazon say the retailer has no coherent philosophy about what it decides to prohibit, and seems largely guided by public complaints.

Over the last 18 months, it has dropped books by Nazis, the Nation of Islam and the American neo-Nazis David Duke and George Lincoln Rockwell. But it has also allowed many equally offensive books to continue to be sold.

(4) IN LIKE FINN. Camestros Felapton calls it “Perhaps the most significant story from a former Sad Puppy ever” – Declan Finn’s account of touring Italy with his wife when the coronavirus outbreak shut down the country. Camestros ends his I-read-it-so-you-don’t-have-to summary:

The short version therefore of how right wing blogs are reacting plays out in a personal level in Declan’s story. Initial scepticism and eagerness to carry on as if it is all a fuss over nothing which then collides with an escalating reality and blaming the government.

Not that you really ought to deny yourselves – Finn fits quite an epic in between requests for money and Dragon Award nominations.

…We went to the Al Italia counter and the moderately long line. It was processed quickly. We came to the counter.

“Americans?”

I showed her the passports. 

“No,” she said.

No? What do you mean no? Are you going to cancel our flight again? Am I going to have to leap across your sad, pathetic Corona rope line and throttle you into giving us a boarding pass out of this Hell hole? How much more ransom do we have to pay to get us out of here!

She took an abnormally long breath, thought about what she had to say next, and continued, “Other check in, around the corner.”

Whew. No manslaughter charges for me today…. 

While trying to get to their flight they stepped through the wrong door at the airport, ended up on the tarmac, and were corralled by security. Talk about the cold equations — for that violation Italian authorities slapped them with a 4000 euro fine, which is 4497.00 in US dollars. A friend has started a GoFundMe to try and help them recoup some of the money.

(5) WORKING AT HOME, LIKE USUAL. George R.R. Martin began his post “Strange Days” telling about how his theater and other ventures in Santa Fe are closed by the coronavirus outbreak, then gave his personal status:

For those of you who may be concerned for me personally… yes, I am aware that I am very much in the most vulnerable population, given my age and physical condition.   But I feel fine at the moment, and we are taking all sensible precautions.  I am off by myself in a remote isolated location, attended by one of my staff, and I’m not going in to town or seeing anyone.   Truth be told, I am spending more time in Westeros than in the real world, writing every day.   Things are pretty grim in the Seven Kingdoms… but maybe not as grim as they may become here.

Inverse took this to mean “Winds of Winter release finally back on track for one unexpected reason”.

 For now, we’re just excited to hear that George is back at work on The Winds of Winter (of course, it’s possible he’s referencing the script for the upcoming HBO prequel House of the Dragon, but that seems unlikely given the phrasing here).

Winds of Winter was originally scheduled for release in November 2018, but the book got delayed so Martin could focus on Fire & Blood, a “historical” account of House Targaryen that serves as the basis for House of the Dragon. Back in May 2019, he joked in a blog post that if he hadn’t finished the book by 2020 Worldcon New Zealand, he should be locked up on New Zealand’s White Island until he finished it.

In other words, Martin really wants to be done with Winds of Winter by the end of July when the annual conference takes place.

(6) HYPERFEASANCE. The Balticon committee was surprised when the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel started sending out room cancellation notices before they could make an announcement.  On March 12, the Governor of Maryland established a ban, of indeterminate duration, on all gatherings of more than 250 people in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The con had been scheduled for May 22-24. The committee told Facebook readers:

After we shut down online registration over the weekend pending a conversation with the hotel, continuing developments with COVID-19 and discussions with the convention committee had convinced the Baltimore Science Fiction Society Board of Directors we likely needed to cancel the convention. However, we had not yet identified a process for doing that with minimal confusion, nor had we had a conversation with the hotel discussing the process. Today we learned that the hotel had started canceling registrations. We were as surprised as everyone else to hear about the canceled reservations and see that our reservations were getting canceled.

(7) NO ÅCON. Finland’s Acon 11 has been postponed:

…We could have waited, made the decision closer the convention, but honestly, having spent some weeks following the evolving situation, listening to epidemiologists and public officials in both Finland and Sweden, our conclusion is that the chances of the situation having stabilised in May seem very slim indeed. It’s not just a question of whether we would be legally permitted to hold the con in May, but whether we could do it in a responsible manner.

We need to spare everyone involved the unnecessary work and costs. Adlon, our hotel, will take a financial hit. We need to let them know and plan. We want to avoid our members paying for non-refundable travel at a time when the committee don’t believe it will be possible to arrange a convention.

Fortunately, we have few costs we can’t recoup. …

The con was to have been held May 21-24 in Mariehamn.

(8) A DREAMER ROLE. Trans actress Nicole Maines, who plays Nia Nal, aka Dreamer, on Supergirl, was interviewed by SYFY Wire. “Supergirl’s Nicole Maines tells us why Dreamer is more than just a trans character”.

Supergirl is not known for its subtlety. Aliens in the show are a thinly veiled metaphor for immigrants, LGBTQ people, and “others.” The current story arc is coming to a head with the Agent Liberty storyline, in which a TV personality rises through the ranks of government thanks to his anti-alien rhetoric — which sounds familiar, even his real-world equivalent doesn’t have Lex Luthor providing him with fancy gear.

That said, the show is remarkably subtle about a milestone it reached last year: Supergirl features TV’s first openly transgender superhero, Dreamer. Rather than make Nia/Dreamer’s trans-ness a huge deal, after she came out as transgender, the other characters matter-of-factly accepted her, and it never became an issue….

(9) WORDEN OBIT. Astronaut Al Worden died March 17 at the age of 88 reports Florida Today.

“We remember this pioneer whose work expanded our horizons,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.

Worden was one of only 24 people to have flown to the moon. He was also the first astronaut to conduct a deep-space extravehicular activity, or EVA, during Apollo 15’s return to Earth in 1971.

During the mission, he orbited the moon dozens of times while astronauts David Scott and James Irwin explored the surface.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 18, 1981 The Greatest American Hero premiered on ABC. Created by producer Stephen J. Cannell, the series features William Katt, Robert Culp and Connie Sellecca.  It had  to fight off lawsuits from the owners of the Superman copyright who thought the concept and look of the suit was too close to their product.  After that, a real Mr. Hinckley tried on March 30th of that year to assassinate President Reagan, so scripts involving protagonist Ralph Hinkley had to be rewritten to be named Ralph Hanley (or sometimes just “Mr.H”).  You can see the pilot here. And yes, it’s up legally courtesy of the copyright holders.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 18, 1888 Alexander Leydenfrost. As an illustrator, he briefly worked for Planet Stories before being signed by Life magazine where the money was better. But his quite brief tenure at Planet Stories is credited with the creation of the enduring cliché Bug Eyed Monster as that’s what his illustrations showed. (Died 1961.)
  • Born March 18, 1926 Peter Graves. Star of Mission Impossible and the short lived Australian-based Mission Impossible which if you not seen it, you should as it’s damn good. I’m reasonably certain his first genre role was on Red Planet Mars playing Chris Cronyn. Later roles included Gavin Lewis on The Invaders, Major Noah Cooper on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Doug Paul Martin in Killers from Space and Paul Nelson on It Conquered the World. It’s worth noting that a number of his films are featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 series. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 18, 1932 John Updike. It might surprise you to learn that there are two Eastwick novels, The Witches of Eastwick and The Widows of Eastwick, the latter set some three decades after the first novel ended. He wrote a number of other genre friendly novels including The CentaurBrazil and Toward the End of Time. (Died 2009.)
  • Born March 18, 1950 J. G. Hertzler, 70. He’s best known for his role on Deep Space Nine as the Klingon General (and later Chancellor) Martok. He co-authored with Jeff Lang, Left Hand of Destiny, Book 1, and Left Hand of Destiny, Book 2, which chronicle the life of his character. His very TV first role was a genre one, to wit on Quantum Leap as Weathers Farrington in the “Sea Bride – June 3, 1954” episode. Setting aside DS9, he’s been in ZorroHighlanderThe Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanCharmedRoswell and Enterprise series;  for film genre work, I see The Redeemer: Son of SatanTreasure Island: The Adventure Begins and Prelude to Axanar (yet another piece of fanfic). In addition, he’s done a lot of video game voice acting, the obvious Trek work but such franchises as BioShock 2The Golden Compass and Injustice: Gods Among Us. 
  • Born March 18, 1959 Luc Besson, 61. Oh, The Fifth Element, one of my favorite genre films. There’s nothing about it that I don’t like. I’ve not seen Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and reviews leave me disinclined to do so. The Transporter is not genre but I recommend it as a great film none the less. 
  • Born March 18, 1960 Richard Biggs. He appeared as Dr. Stephen Franklin on Babylon 5, reprising the role in the final aired episode of Crusade, “Each Night I Dream of Home”. Other genre roles included playing Roger Garrett on Tremors, Hawkes In The Alien Within, An Unnamed Reporter on Beauty and the Beast,  Dr. Thomson on an episode of The Twilight Zone and a Process Server in an episode of The Magical World of Disney. (Died 2004.)
  • Born March 18, 1961 James Davis Nicoll, 59. A freelance game and genre reviewer. A first reader for SFBC as well. Currently he’s a blogger on Dreamwidth and Facebook, and an occasional columnist on Tor.com. In 2014, he started his website, jamesdavisnicoll.com, which is dedicated to his book reviews of works old and new; and which later added the highly entertaining Young People Read Old SFF, where that group read prior to Eighties SF and fantasy, and Nicoll and his collaborators comment on the their reactions.
  • Born March 18, 1973 Max Barry, 37. He’s written a number of novels of which I’ve read his superb dystopian Jennifer Government and Machine Man when it was online serial. His newest is Providence which sounds fascinating though his book tour in the US got canceled he notes on his blog. 

(12) CRUSADING FOR A CAPE. The Guardian’s “80 years of Robin: the forgotten history of the most iconic sidekick” is really a call for the character to be written as a woman again – and reminds fans that it wouldn’t be the first time.

….Why we’ve not had more female Robins – or better served ones – is a symptom of a much wider problem. Of the 11 writers announced as contributing to DC’s anniversary issue for Robin, only two are women: Devin Grayson and Amy Wolfram. Between January and March last year, women accounted for 16% of the credits on comics released by DC; of writers, only 13% were women. The studio celebrated 80 years of Batman last year, but in that time not a single woman has been at the helm of Batman or Detective Comics. Aside from Grayson’s work on Nightwing and Gotham Knights, no female writer has ever written a Batman series. Given how many women are working on Batgirl, Catwoman and Batwoman, it would seem they are restricted to writing female heroes.

(13) A VERY SERIOUS QUESTION. This will make some folks cranky. Tom Morton asks “Avenue 5: Why Is Sci-Fi Comedy So Unfunny?” at Frieze.

… Given the impregnable humourlessness of most sci-fi – from the rigorously logical ‘hard sf’ of the novelist Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy (1951–53) to the dreamy vision of Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Solaris (1972) – the genre’s tropes should be an open goal for the comic imagination. Why, then, do so many sci-fi themed comedies fail to raise a smile? Partly, it’s that parody, as a form, is hard to sustain – witness Seth Macfarlane’s television series The Orville (2017–20), a directionless send-up of Star Trek (1966–69), or Mel Brooks’s movie Spaceballs (1987), a staggering unfunny Star Wars (1977) take-off. Comparatively better were the first two seasons of British sitcom Red Dwarf (1988–2017). Drawing on the aesthetic of John Carpenter’s slackers-in-space movie, Dark Star (1974), the show centred initially on a classic odd-couple relationship between the last human in existence, a warm-hearted scouse wastrel, and his foil, an uptight, socially ambitious hologram. However, when Red Dwarf’s popularity and budget increased, it fell into two traps familiar to makers of ‘straight’ on-screen sci-fi: an overreliance on special effects and (fatally) a fan-servicing emphasis on the lore of its own fictional universe, which destroyed any tension that once existed between the show’s ‘situation’ and its ‘comedy’.

(14) CAN YOU DIG IT? Gizmodo says things are looking up for a NASA Mars probe: “And Now for Some Good News: The Mars InSight Heat Flow Probe Is Digging Again”.

…But the probe faced trouble on deployment. Impeded by an unexpectedly crusty soil texture that didn’t generate enough friction for the probe to dig, it only made it down to around a foot and a half. 

(15) JEOPARDY! Some of tonight’s Jeopardy! contestants didn’t get these sff references. (Honestly, I’d have missed all three myself.)

Category: Places in Fantasy

Answer: The name of this 2-word ancestral dwelling in Tolkien is a play on the translation of the French “cul-de-sac”.

Wrong question: “What is Middle Earth?”

Correct question: “What is Bag End?”


Answer: Much of the action in the “files” of this guy, the city’s resident practicing professional Wizard, takes place in Chicago.

No one could ask, “Who is Harry Dresden?”


Answer: In Bill Willingham’s graphic novels, Bigby, this foe of Rising Hood, is the sheriff of Fabletown.

Wrong question: “What is Nottingham?”

Correct question: “What is The Big Bad Wolf?”

(16) FUN WITH YOUR NEW HEAD. Will you be The One? An interview with the CEO of Valve: “Gabe Newell: ‘We’re way closer to The Matrix than people realize'”.

“The area that I’m spending a lot of time on has been growing out of a bunch of research that occurred a while ago on brain-computer interfaces,” Newell said. “I think that that’s kind of long lead stuff, so that’s kind of the background thread that I get pulled back into when other things aren’t demanding my attention.”

Human brains can already communicate with computers directly, though in very limited ways compared to the sci-fi systems of The Matrix or William Gibson’s Neuromancer, where physical reality can be totally replaced with a simulated, virtual one. But Newell doesn’t think that kind of sci-fi tech is as far off as it might seem.

“We’re way closer to The Matrix than people realize,” Newell said. “It’s not going to be The Matrix—The Matrix is a movie and it misses all the interesting technical subtleties and just how weird the post-brain-computer interface world is going to be. But it’s going to have a huge impact on the kinds of experiences we can create for people.”

(17) I CAN GET A WITNESS. A participant remembers “Launching the Hubble Space Telescope: ‘Our window into the Universe'” – video.

In 1990 the Hubble Space Telescope was launched, putting into orbit one of the most remarkable scientific instruments that has ever existed.

But initially the mission ran into problems, including a flawed mirror that meant the first images from Hubble were blurry.

Nasa astronaut Kathryn Sullivan was one of the five crew members who launched the Hubble.

(18) IT’S A BIRD. Free range dino — “Fossil ‘wonderchicken’ could be earliest known fowl”.

A newly discovered fossil bird could be the earliest known ancestor of every chicken on the planet.

Living just before the asteroid strike that wiped out giant dinosaurs, the unique fossil, from about 67 million years ago, gives a glimpse into the dawn of modern birds.

Birds are descended from dinosaurs, but precisely when they evolved into birds like the ones alive today has been difficult to answer.

This is due to a lack of fossil data.

The newly discovered – and well-preserved – fossil skull should help fill in some of the gaps.

“This is a unique specimen: we’ve been calling it the ‘wonderchicken’,” said Dr Daniel Field of the University of Cambridge.

“It’s the only nearly complete skull of a modern bird that we have, so far, from the age of dinosaurs and it’s able to tell us quite a lot about the early evolutionary history of birds.”

(19) TUB THUMPING. Don’t miss the Special “Social Distancing” Edition of The Late Show.

If you’re watching this from home right now, you’re doing the right thing. If you’re watching it from your bathtub bunker like our host, please remember to save some hot water for the rest of us. Either way, we’re glad you’re with us. So stay hunkered down and please enjoy this episode of The Lather Show with Scrubbin’ Colbath!

[Thanks to Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Iphinome, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Contrarius, and Michael J. Walsh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 3/14/20 In Dublin’s File City, Where The Scrolls Are So Pixely

(1) RSR ASSESSES STRAHAN’S NEW BEST TOC. Rocket Stack Rank has prepared an annotated list of the 28 stories in Jonathan Strahan’s new Year’s Best Science Fiction series (highlights are free online), along with the tweet by Saga Press that shows the stories. To see how the 28 stories ranked among the 2019 Best SF/F, click this link (JStrahan TOC highlighted).

(2) MIDSOUTHCON CANCELLED. MidSouthCon has been “postponed until 2021”, which is to say cancelled. The administrator of the Darrell Awards gave an update now that the presentation can’t take place there.

What About the 2020 Darrell Awards?

First, they will be given.

Second, the Winners and Runners-up and other Finalists will be announced here and on other social media.

Third, the details of how and when for the above will be decided by the Jury shortly.

(3) ANOTHER SHUTDOWN. Add Anime Boston (April 10-12) to the list of cancelled cons: “Anime Boston 2020 Cancellation Announcement”.

 As you may be aware, Governor Charlie Baker recently announced a ban on all gatherings of 250 people or more in Massachusetts. This ban is set with no current end date, until the governor announces otherwise. With Anime Boston 2020 scheduled for less than four weeks from now, it is highly likely this ban will still be in place. Given the uncertainty around these new circumstances, we have no choice but to cancel Anime Boston 2020….

(4) PLAN FOR LEFTY AWARDS. The Left Coast Crime mystery convention was brought to an abrupt end on Thursday when the coronavirus outbreak caused local San Diego health officials to restrict gatherings. The event’s Lefty Awards would have been voted on by members at the con. Now con committee member Stan Ulrich says they’re working on an alternative plan.  

As you may know, we vote with paper ballots, and of course the voting period was unexpectedly cut short within a 2-hour period, due to conflicting and poorly-worded San Diego edicts.

We told the assembled folks at the last event, where about 200 attendees were in the room, that we will not be counting the paper ballots that had been cast, but rather would conduct an online vote by all registrants to this convention.

I don’t know when that will take place, but I’d hope we can do it very soon. We have many issues to deal with, ones we don’t even know about yet, so it will depend on when I can find the time to concentrate on getting it done right. But for now, my intention is to get the e-ballots out in the next few days, after we get home to Santa Fe, and set the system up.

(5) VIRUS-FREE AUDIO. Scott Edelman invites listeners to chow down on crab cakes with Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic Michael Dirda in Episode 117 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Michael Dirda

Early this week, before it occurred to me that leaving the house to break bread might not be the wisest thing to do considering the times in which we live, I headed to Silver Spring, Maryland for lunch with Michael Dirda at All Set restaurant. Luckily, you won’t have to risk contagion from the coronavirus to take a seat at the table and eavesdrop on our conversation.

Michael is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post Book World with a special love for genre fiction. He’s the author of the memoir An Open Book, plus four collections of essays: Readings, Bound to Please, Book by Book and Classics for Pleasure. Since 2002, he’s been a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, and his book On Conan Doyle was awarded the 2012 Edgar Award in the Best Critical/Biographical category. He’s currently at work on The Great Age of Storytelling, an appreciation of British popular fiction of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

We discussed the convention at which he thought he was about to be punched out by Harlan Ellison, the book he wants to write but which he realizes he could probably never publish, how discovering E. F. Bleiler’s Guide to Supernatural Fiction opened a whole new world for him, whether he faced judgment from his peers for believing Georgette Heyer is as important as George Eliot, why he wants to be buried with a copy of The Count of Monte Cristo, how Beverly Cleary’s Henry Huggins is like a Proustian madeleine, the way he navigates the tricky act of reviewing the fiction of friends, the word he used which annoyed Gene Wolfe, and much more.

(6) HIS FACE MASK ISN’T ENOUGH. SoraNews24 reports “Jason calls off Friday the 13th activities due to coronavirus”.

Hockey-masked Jason has been creeping into everyone’s nightmares since making his killing debut in the ’80s, and later resurfacing for some more bloodshed in the early 21st century as well. While he’s been keeping a curiously low profile recently, this year Jason appeared in Japan in the lead-up to Friday the 13th, giving a surprise press conference to inform everyone that the coronavirus would be impinging on this year’s activities.

(7) GAMING THE SYSTEM. BBC finds “Minecraft ‘loophole’ library of banned journalism”.

It started out as a project in an online forum and turned into the best-selling video game of all time, but now Minecraft is being used for something even its creator would not have dreamt of.

The iconic game based around placing Lego-like blocks with more than 145 million players each month has been turned into a hub of free speech.

A virtual library has been meticulously created to host articles written by journalists which were censored online.

Work by Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist killed by Saudi agents in 2018, can be read among the plethora of books in the library.

Minecraft has declined to comment.

The project was created by non-profit organisation Reporters Without Borders, which seeks to defend the freedom of information worldwide, and the Minecraft library itself was built by design studio Blockworks.

Christian Mihr, executive director of Reporters Without Borders Germany, told the BBC that Minecraft was good for the project as he believes it is not seen as a threat by governments which censor their media.

“We chose Minecraft because of its reach,” he said. “It is available in every country. The game is not censored like some other games which are under suspicion of being political.

(8) WE DON’T NEED NO STINKIN’ BABIES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] GeekMom isn’t shy about sharing this opinion. My advice is to not click through to the article unless you’re prepared to read about several major bummer outcomes for these fictional tykes. “Stop With the Superhero Babies! It Never Works”.

This is going to sound callous, but I wish creators would stop adding superhero babies to their stories.

Because I hate it when the big two superhero comic companies introduce babies and young children into their stories.

When I saw the teaser panel of a pregnant Catwoman for the upcoming Batman/Catwoman series, I winced.

Do I have anything against little kids and babies? No.

Do I think good stories of superhero parents can be told? Yes.

Do I think that’s ever been done on a consistent basis at DC and Marvel?

Heck no.

There are only a few fates available for babies or little kids with superhero parents in comics.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 14, 1994 Robocop: The Series premiered. It stars Richard Eden as the title character. A Canadian produced and directed series, it lacks the graphic violence and intent of Robocop and Robocop 2 that preceded it, and adds a lot more humor. You can see the two-hour pilot episode here. It was adapted from the unused RoboCop 2 script, Corporate Wars which was from the writers of the first  RoboCop film, Edward and Michael Miner. 
  • March 14, 1995 Cyborg Cop II  premiered.  It’s directed by Sam Firstenberg as written by Jon Stevens and Firstenberg. It’s obviously the sequel to Cyborg Cop, and stars David Bradley, Morgan Hunter, Jill Pierce, and Victor Melleney. Needless to say, a Cyborg Cop IIII film followed. You can see it here. Unlike Robocop: The Series, it is R rated, so you’ll need to sign in to prove you of an an appropriate age.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 14, 1869 Algernon Blackwood. Writer of some of the best of the best horror and ghost stories ever done according to the research I just did. Most critics including Joshi say his two best stories are “The Willows” and “The Wendigo”. The novel that gets recommended is The Centaur. If you’re interested in reading him, he’s readily available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1951.)
  • Born March 14, 1918 Mildred Clingerman. Most of her stories were published in the Fifties in F&SF whenBoucher was Editor. Boucher included “The Wild Wood” by her in the seventh volume of The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction and dedicated the book to her, calling her the “most serendipitous of discoveries.”  A Cupful of Space and The Clingerman Files, neither available as a digital publication, contain all of her stories. (Died 1997.)
  • Born March 14, 1948 Valerie Martin, 72. Her novel Mary Reilly is the retelling of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from the point of view of a servant in the doctor’s house. It is a film of the same name with John Malkovich in the lead role. It was nominated for Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. 
  • Born March 14, 1957 Tad Williams, 63. Author of the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series, Otherland series, and Shadowmarch series as well as the most excellent Tailchaser’s Song and The War of the Flowers
  • Born March 14, 1964 Julia Ecklar, 56. She’s the Astounding Award–winning author for The Kobayashi Maru which is available in English and German ebook editions. She’s also a filk musician who recorded numerous albums in the Off Centaur label in the early 1980s, including Horse-Tamer’s Daughter, Minus Ten and Counting, and Genesis.
  • Born March 14, 1971 Rebecca Roanhorse, 49. Her “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™“ which was first published  in the August 2017 of Apex Magazine won both a Nebula and a Hugo as best short story. She also won the 2018 Astounding Award for Best New Writer. Her novel Trail of Lightning was also a Nebula and Hugo nominee.
  • Born March 14, 1974 Grace Park, 46. Boomer on the reboot of Battlestar Galactica. She’s been on a fair amount of genre over the years with her first acting role being the Virtual Avatar in the “Bits of Love” episode of Outer Limits. After that, she shows up on Secret Agent Man, This Immortal, The Outer Limits again, Star Gate SG-1, Andromeda, and oddly enough, Battlestar Galactica in a number roles other than her main one. I’m sure one of you can explain the latter. 
  • Born March 14, 1978 Butcher Billy, 42. Brazilian artist and graphic designer known for his art pieces and illustration series based on popular culture. Though ISFDB only lists his Strange Stars: David Bowie, Pop Music, and the Decade Sci-Fi Exploded and Jurassic Park piece, he’s active right to the present as he did artwork based on Black Mirrior which in turn led him to being commissioned to do work for the series by series creator Charlie Brooker. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) HIGH CAPACITY. Alasdair Stuart’s “The Full Lid 13th March 2020”  has a report from planet-forming vessel The Future about their recent…Dalek…unpleasantness. Plus —

We’ve also got a detailed look at new James Bond sourcebook Bond Vs Bond, an offer of help for anyone whose projects are marooned due to the ever receding tide of events, an update on where I’m at right now and my favorite Kids in the Hall sketches! Which may not be the ones you think…

Signal Boost this week covers Ginger Nuts of Horror and their series on horror and mental health. It also takes a look at Geek Syndicate‘s latest project, The Nugeroom and the most recent episode of always excellent comics podcast House to Astonish.

Over on the dark side of the street, The Lurking Transmission are one of my favorite new horror podcasts and Dread Singles, home of my favorite esoteric postal deliveries, is launching a newsletter!  We’ve also got the imminent end of season 3 of Flying In The Face of Fate, one of the Lid’s favorite shows. Get caught up here.

Elsewhere, Kat Kourbeti is one of my favorite people and she’s just started a writing/commentary/media newsletter. If you like The Lid you’ll love Honest to Blog
Finally, Liberty is a constellation of podcasts and comics. It’s one of my personal high watermarks for cyberpunk/urban SF and they’ve just lost some listeners due to a server migration. Treat yourself and go check them out.

(13) THE WAY OUT OF HELL. James Davis Nicoll picks out “Five SFF Characters Seeking Redemption and Trying to Do Better”. Here’s one of them:

Harry Connolly’s Twenty Palaces series protagonist Ray Lilly would have been right at home in a hardboiled crime novel. In the weird horror setting in which he lives, Ray’s combination of criminal smarts, blind loyalty, and diminished executive function led him to dabble in the Dark Arts. Unlike most fools who flirt with inadvertently letting extradimensional predators into our world, Ray is given a chance to make amends for his bad judgement. Indeed, he’s not given any choice: Ray will spend the rest of his life fighting the horrors he enabled.

(14) ARE YOU SMURFING ME? Never let it be said they blue their opportunity: “‘It was the chance to say that we are alive’: France hosted a record-breaking Smurf festival amid the escalating coronavirus epidemic”.

The novel coronavirus has assailed more than 100 countries, infecting over 121,000 people and causing over 4,300 deaths. And while the outbreak sparked in China, Europe has not been spared: Italy is on lockdown, cases are escalating in Spain and France, and German leaders are bracing for nearly 70% of the country’s population to contract the illness. Tourist haunts, shops, universities, and entire towns are deserted.

But the mounting fear of this contagion didn’t stop people in western France from setting a Guinness World Record on March 7.

Some 3,500 people dressed up as Smurfs — in blue and white outfits, with painted faces, and toting the characters’ trademark pointed hats — gathered in the town of Landerneau. Their goal was to set a record for the largest-ever gathering of the blue, human-like Belgian comic characters. 

(15) TIMELY QUESTION. The BBC asks “How do you keep a space station clean?”

The astronauts and cosmonauts on board the International Space Station have brought with them a host of bacteria from Earth. How do they keep them from creating havoc?

By 1998, after 12 years in orbit, Russian space station Mir was showing its age. Power cuts were frequent, the computers unreliable and the climate control system was leaking. But when the crew began a study to assess the types of microbes they were sharing their living space with, even they were surprised at what they found.

Opening an inspection panel, they discovered several globules of murky water – each around the size of a football. Later analysis revealed the water was teeming with bacteria, fungi and mites. Even more concerning were the colonies of organisms attacking the rubberised seals around the space station windows and the acid-excreting bugs slowly eating the electrical cabling.

When each Mir module launched from Earth it was near-pristine, assembled in clean rooms by engineers wearing masks and protective clothing. All the unwanted life now living on the station had been carried into orbit by the multinational group of men and women who subsequently occupied the orbiting laboratory.

We share our lives, and bodies, with microbes. From the bacteria lining our gut, to the microscopic mites nibbling at our dead skin, it’s estimated that more than half the cells in our body aren’t human. Most of these microbes are not only harmless but essential, enabling us to digest food and fend off disease. Everywhere we go, we take our microbiome with us and – just like humans – it’s learning to adapt to life in space….

Her research is timely. By November this year, the ISS will have been occupied continuously for 20 years. After the experience of Mir, biologists have been concerned about what else might be living on board and particularly any microbes that might endanger the station, or worse, the astronauts.

(16) SOUL TRAILER. Disney and Pixar’s Soul, in theaters June 19.

Joe Gardner is a middle-school band teacher who gets the chance of a lifetime to play at the best jazz club in town. But one small misstep takes him from the streets of New York City to The Great Before – a fantastical place where new souls get their personalities, quirks and interests before they go to Earth. Determined to return to his life, Joe teams up with a precocious soul, 22, who has never understood the appeal of the human experience. As Joe desperately tries to show 22 what’s great about living, he may just discover the answers to some of life’s most important questions.

(17) THAT’S COOL. Lyles Movie Files praises the decision to speed up the release date: “Frozen 2 debuts on Disney+ tomorrow”.

With little in the way of excitement with the box office delay of Mulan and likely Black Widow, Disney decided to give fans something to be exciting about by releasing Frozen 2 to Disney+ three months ahead of schedule starting Sunday. It was originally set to release June 26.

The film will also arrive on Disney Plus in Canada, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand on Tuesday, March 17.

In a statement, new Disney CEO Bob Chapek said “the themes of perseverance and the importance of family are messages that are incredibly relevant during this time, and we are pleased to be able to share this heartwarming story early with our Disney+ subscribers to enjoy at home on any device.”

(18) MAN TROUBLE. Andrew Porter was tuned into Jeopardy! the other night when contestants collided with this topic:

Category: Male Writers

Answer: “Me, Alex. Him, this serial novelist who oldest WWII correspondent in South Pacific theatre at age 66”

Wrong question: “Who is Michener?”

Right question: “Who is Edgar Rice Burroughs?”

(19) BETTER THAN JURASSIC PARK. “Blood sucking insect stuck in amber with dinosaur DNA is nothing. Whole dinosaur skull preserved in Amber – now you’re talking.” — John Hammond.

In this week’s Nature: “Tiny fossil sheds light on miniaturization of birds”. Tagline “A tiny skull trapped in 99-million-year-old amber suggests that some of the earliest birds evolved to become miniature. The fossil illustrates how ancient amber can act as a window into the distant past.”

Dinosaurs were big, whereas birds — which evolved from dinosaurs — are small. This variation is of great importance, because body size affects lifespan, food requirements, sensory capabilities and many other fundamental aspects of biology. The smallest dinosaurs weighed hundreds of grams, but the smallest living bird, the bee hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae), weighs only 2 grams. How did this difference come about, and why? In a paper in Nature, Xing et al. describe the tiny, fossilized, bird-like skull of a previously unknown species, which they name Oculudentavis khaungraae. The discovery suggests that miniature body sizes in birds evolved earlier than previously recognized, and might provide insights into the evolutionary process of miniaturization.

Full research paper abstract (subscribers only for full paper).

(20) STARGIRL. Here’s the extended version of the Stargirl trailer. Stargirl debuts Monday, May 11 on DC Universe. It will debut on The CW the next day, Tuesday, May 12.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/13/20 Doctor Pixelstein’s Scrollster – or The Filing Prometheus

(1) PSYCHICHISTORY. I can’t read minds, but I can read blogs. Camestros Felapton took up the literary question of “How to be psychic”.

Are psychic powers a trojan horse from the world of magic that have snuck into science fiction? Psychic powers are almost indistinguishable from wish fulfilment in aggregate and only take on a resemblance of speculation about reality when codified into subtypes with Graeco-Latin names with sciency connotations.

But psychic powers aren’t going to vanish from science fiction any time soon. Doctor Who has psychic paper and telepathic circuits in their TARDIS, Star Trek has empaths and telepathic Vulcans, and Star Wars has a conflict between psychic factions as its core mythology. Firefly and Babylon 5 had psychics. Dune, Stranger in a Strange Land, Le Guin’s Ekumen universe, Asimov’s Foundation series, multiple Philip K Dick works, each contain various beings with mental powers. Science Fiction has a permission note for amazing mental abilities had has used that licence freely….

(2) MAG*C HAPPENS. At Disneyland, “’Magic Happens’ Parade – Debuts February 28”.

Starting February 28, Disneyland Park will welcome Magic Happens, the park’s first new daytime parade in nearly a decade—and one that reminds us wings aren’t needed to fly, shooting stars were created for wishes and magic doesn’t end at midnight!

With a wave of his wand, Mickey Mouse leads a cavalcade of fabulous floats, whimsically costumed performers and popular Disney pals like Anna, Elsa and Olaf around the park and into your hearts—all while moving to a high-energy musical score that puts a contemporary spin on classic Disney hits. In addition, a brand-new song co-composed by singer-songwriter Todrick Hall helps bring some of your favorite Disney tales to life like never before.

(3) ENOUGH ALREADY. Cat Rambo is bidding Facebook farewell:

I’m tired of logging onto here and seeing nothing but propaganda and talking points freshly harvested from the meme farms. I feel that the company has helped shred the American political system, that it divides us more than it connects, that it profits off our private data while selling us out to foreign powers, and that it is a major component of a system that continues to facilitate active class warfare being waged by the current kleptocracy on the poor and middle-class in our country.

If you are being asked to hate certain people or groups, whether liberal or conservative — ask yourself for a moment, who benefits from you hating them? What’s getting slipped past you while the rhetorical smoke and mirrors are dazzling you? I can tell you: it’s your country and all the things that we own in common that’s getting dismantled so rich people can shove more money in their already bulging pockets….

(4) APPEAL CONTINUES. The ”Help Mike Resnick’s widow pay off medical bills” GoFundMe asked people to share the link again, which File 770 is glad to do.

Update on 2/13/2020: Carol and Laura Resnick would dearly love to thank everyone who has donated to Mike’s fundraiser. As you can imagine, this has been an incredibly hard month for them both and all the kind words and support they have received has been so valued and treasured. Unfortunately, with Mike’s passing, the bills did not stop coming in. Carol has literally been swamped with bills, and there is no longer any regular income coming into the house to cover the mortgage, utilities or daily necessities (she has some very tough decisions ahead). We understand many of you have donated before, so even if you could just re-share the fundraiser link again, we would be so very thankful. Carol has been so incredibly touched by all the kindness shown to her and she knows Mike would be so proud of the SF&F field he loved so much for helping to support his family in their time of need. As every book dedication said “To Carol, as always.” She was his world.

(5) ALL FLOCKED UP. In Leonard Maltin’s opinion, “‘Birds’ Preys On Civilized Moviemaking”.

What price girl-power? Does the positive energy of a female-centric comic book movie—made by women—compensate for the nihilistic, super-violent nature of its content? Is this really a step forward for women, behind the camera and in the audience? That’s the conundrum presented by Birds of Prey (full title Birds of Prey And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)….now re-titled Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey.

(6) THEY COME OUT AT NIGHT. In “Worldbuilding: Crime and Fantasy Books Have More in Common Than You Might Think at CrimeReads, Kelly Braffet makes a case.

… Take, for example, this passage from the second chapter of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. Sam Spade is on his way to a crime scene, and he stops at an overpass nearby to check out a few looky-loos interested in the murderous goings-on…

There’s nothing in this paragraph that relates to the murder he’s about to investigate or the case he’s working; the fleeing car doesn’t have any important characters in it, and the looky-loo never shows up again. This is pure worldbuilding. Spade’s world is one of cars and ads and fumes and concrete and people so bored and aimless that they’re willing to contort themselves to catch a glimpse of a dead body….

(7) GREEN TEASER. David Lowery’s upcoming movie The Green Knight stars Dev Patel alongside Alicia Vikander and Joel Edgerton. The fantasy is based on Arthurian legend and will hit screens in Summer 2020. The story is based on the poem of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Native English speakers unconsciously organize adjectives in a particular order that is rarely deviated from, even in informal speech. The order is: opinion, size, age, shape, color, origin, material, purpose. For example, it’s more common to hear “silly old fool,” rather than “old silly fool.” One notable exception, however, is the Big Bad Wolf. Source: The Guardian

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 13, 1954 Tom Corbett, Space Cadet first aired “The Space Projectile”. Frankie Thomas played the lead role in the series which was one of the rare series which aired on all four networks of the time. Joseph Greene of Grosset & Dunlap publishing house developed the series off of Heinlein’s late Forties Space Cadet novel but also based of his own prior work. Both a newspaper strip and radio show were intended but never went forward. You can watch this episode here.
  • February 13, 2000 — The last original Peanuts comic strip ran in newspapers

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 13, 1908 Patrick Barr. He appeared in Doctor Who as Hobson in the Second Doctor story, “The Moonbase”, in the Seventies Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) “You Can Always Find a Fall Guy” episode, and appeared once in The Avengers as Stonehouse in the “Take me to Your Leader” episode. His last genre role was as the British Ambassador in Octopussy. (Died 1985.)
  • Born February 13, 1932 Susan Oliver. She shows up in the original Trek pilot, “The Cage” as Vina, the Orion slave girl. She had a number of one-offs in genre television including Wild Wild West, Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Tarzan, The Invaders, Night Gallery and Freddy’s Nightmares. (Died 1990.)
  • Born February 13, 1933 Patrick Godfrey, 87. His very first acting was as Tor in a First Doctor story, “The Savages. He’d be in a Third Doctor story, “Mind of Evil”, as Major Cotsworth. His last two acting roles have both been genre — one being the voice of a Wolf Elder in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle; the other Butler in His Dark Materials.
  • Born February 13, 1938 Oliver Reed. He first shows up in a genre film uncredited in The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll, with his first credited role being Leon in The Curse of the Werewolf. He was King in The Damned, an SF despite its title, and Z.P.G. saw him cast as Russ McNeil. Next up was him as Athos in the very charming Three Musketeers, a role he reprised in Four Musketeers and Return of the Musketeers. And can we skip past him as Sarm in Gor please? Does Royal Flash count as genre? Kage Baker loved that rogue. Kage also loved The Adventures of Baron Munchausen in which he played Vulcan. Orpheus & Eurydice has him as Narrator, his final film role. (Died 1999.)
  • Born February 13, 1943 Leo Frankowski. Probably best known for his Conrad Stargard series featuring the Polish time travelling engineer Conrad Schwartz, but I’m more fond of his stand-alone novels Fata Morgana and Copernick’s Rebellion. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 13, 1954 Mary GrandPré, 66. She’s best known for her cover and chapter illustrations of the Potter books in the Scholastic editions. She’s the author and illustrator of A Dragon’s Guide series which is definitely genre of aimed at children. 
  • Born February 13, 1959 Maureen F. McHugh, 61. Her first novel, China Mountain Zhang, was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula Award, and won the Otherwise Award, impressive indeed. Her other novels are Half the Day Is NightMission Child and Nekropolis. She has an impressive collective of short stories. Both her novel and short story collections are readily available at the usual digital sources. 
  • Born February 13, 1960 Matt Salinger, 60. Captain America in the 1990 Yugoslavian film of that name which was directed by Albert Pyun as written by Stephen Tolkin and Lawrence J. Block. It’s got a 16% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes which matches what critics thought of it. As near as I can tell this is only genre role. You can watch the film here.

(11) A FILER’S PICKS. Ziv Witie’s (aka Standback) annual F&SF appreciation/recommendation thread is up. Thread starts here.

(12) NEW WAVICLE. At Eight Miles Higher, Andrew Darlington’s “New Wave SF: Graham Charnock’s ‘First And Last Words'” is a profile of the massive pro career of someone I think of as a legendary UK fan. Which he is, of course.

…Beyond stories in ‘New Writings In SF’, Damon Knight’s ‘Orbit’ and the ‘Other Edens’ anthologies, the ‘New Worlds’ connection continues, into its later reincarnation as a thick paperback series edited by David Garnett. The teasing conundrum “On The Shores Of A Fractal Sea” (in ‘New Worlds no.3’) draws on Graham’s close encounters with Rock music, via his contributions to Michael Moorcock’s Deep Fix. The fictional deceased Rock-star narrator persists in a virtual Lagoona where ‘the beach goes on forever’, and where he works on his concept-cycle triple-album. Maybe being dead means he’s unaware that Hawkwind’s seventh studio album is also called ‘Quark, Strangeness And Charm’ (Charisma, June 1977)! He talks to shape-changing French, to whom his reality exists as ‘a fragment of cloned tissue… awash with oxy-infused saline.’…

(13) READ WITHOUT CEASING. In “5 things I learned from binge-reading a 50-book crime series in 5 months”, Sophia Rosenbaum says she read 50 novels by “J.D. Robb” (a pseudonym of Nora Roberts) in five months and talks about what she learned from reading so many books in a series in so short a time. This is a series that the Internet Science Fiction Database classifies as “futuristic mystery.”

J.D. Robb is the pen name for the prolific romance writer Nora Roberts, who started writing the series in 1995 and releases at least two new titles a year.

In the very first book, “Naked in Death,” we are introduced to a slew of what become recurring characters: Eve’s former partner and trainer, who becomes a father figure; the esteemed police commander; the maternal staff psychiatrist; Eve’s criminal-turned-singer bestie; and most importantly, Roarke.

(14) MADAM I’M. In an article in The Believer that begins “Palindrome, Palindrome” and then has an obscenity, Colin Dickey reprints Dan Hoey’s 543-word expansion of the palindrome “a man, a plan, a canal—Panama.”  Hoey was a Washington DC-area fan who died in 2011. 

Sometime in the mid-1940s, Leigh Mercer rescued from the trash several thousand index cards that his employer, Rawlplug, had thrown out. Mercer may not have yet had a plan, but he had an idea. He’d grown up in a family that cherished word games and had lived through the birth of the modern crossword puzzle craze, but he’d noticed that no one had seriously set their minds to the problem of palindromes. Though Mercer wasn’t interested in crosswords, he’d acquired a used copy of a book for crossworders that contained lists of words—no definitions—grouped alphabetically and according to length. Using this book and his new stash of recovered index cards, he began copying out possible palindrome centers—any word or snippet of a phrase that might be reversible. In 1946, he came up with one construction: “Plan a canal p.” It was, he himself later admitted, “not very hopeful looking,” but all great plans have to start somewhere.

It took him two years to find Panama.

…This kind of nonsense quickly spins out of control. Using a computer that trawled the dictionary, Dan Hoey created this monstrosity in 1984….

It technically works, but it relies on gibberish (“a bater,” “an em,” and “a say”), and it is long enough that all sense is lost and the palindrome topples into meaninglessness. The program used here was rudimentary enough that even Hoey knew his effort could be easily bested, and sure enough, Peter Norvig assembled a 21,012-word variation to commemorate the palindromic date of 6-10-2016, and it is absolutely as unbearable and unreadable as it sounds. And yet, even as everything falls apart, you reach the end—“a canal, Panama!”—and it’s like all is forgiven, like everything is somehow right once more.

(15) DINO CASH. “British dinosaurs to feature on UK money for the first time” – the Natural History Museum has the story.

The Royal Mint is releasing three new dinosaur-themed coins – the first ever in the UK.

The series of 50p coins is a collaboration with palaeoartist Bob Nicholls and experts at the Museum.

The coins will honour the first three dinosaurs ever named – Megalosaurus, Iguanodon and Hylaeosaurus – although at the time they were named, ‘dinosaurs’ as a group didn’t exist. In fact, it was these three animals that made Sir Richard Owen realise that there was something different enough about them that they warranted being placed in a new group, which he named Dinosauria.

The three species will be featured on five series of collectors’ coins. Although they will be legal tender, they won’t go into circulation. Instead members of the public will be able to buy the coins, either individually or in sets.

(16) RESTORED TO THE THRONE. “Rise of Skywalker: How we brought Carrie Fisher back” — and other details of the effects are discussed by filmmakers in this BBC video.

Actress Carrie Fisher, who was best known for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars series, died in 2016.

She recently appeared in the 2019 film Rise of Skywalker, but how was this possible?

BBC Click speaks to the visual effects supervisor, Roger Guyett and animation supervisor, Paul Kavanagh of ILM to find out more.

(17) I’M MELTING! “Antarctica logs highest temperature on record of 18.3C”

A record high temperature of 18.3C (64.9F) has been logged on the continent of Antarctica.

The reading, taken on Thursday by Argentine research base Esperanza, is 0.8C hotter than the previous peak temperature of 17.5C, in March 2015.

The temperature was recorded in the Antarctic Peninsula, on the continent’s north-west tip – one of the fastest-warming regions on earth.

It is being verified by the UN World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

“[This] is not a figure you would normally associate with Antarctica, even in the summertime,” WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis told reporters in Geneva.

(18) EIGHT MILES HIGH. That was quick: “British Airways Sets Record, Crossing The Atlantic In Under 5 Hours In Strong Winds”.

Kubilay Kahveci’s flight was supposed to be in the air for more than six hours — an overnight voyage from New York City to London. But British Airways Flight 112 made the trek in under five hours, setting a new record for the fastest subsonic commercial flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

(19) LEAST HYPOTHESIS. Nothing acute about this: “Wreck’s Identification 95 Years After Ship’s Disappearance Puts Theories To Rest”.

Lore had it that the SS Cotopaxi was swallowed by the infamous Bermuda Triangle after the steamship, and all 32 crew members on board, inexplicably vanished in 1925.

In the sci-fi film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, aliens are responsible for the ship’s disappearance.

But a team of divers has identified the ship and debunked the fictions, theories and conspiracies that emerged over the years. And unlike in Close Encounters, the ship wasn’t found in the Gobi desert, but rather 35 miles off St. Augustine in Florida.

The Cotopaxi had set off on its normal route between Charleston, S.C., and Havana, carrying a cargo of coal, when it was caught in a powerful storm, Michael Barnette discovered.

The wreck isn’t located within the boundaries of the Bermuda Triangle — a region in the Atlantic Ocean with its corners at South Florida, Bermuda and Puerto Rico that has been blamed for unexplained disappearances.

(20) BACK TO THE BASICS. How it all got started — “Tom and Jerry: 80 years of cat v mouse”.

A cartoon cat, sick of the annoying mouse living in his home, devises a plot to take him out with a trap loaded with cheese. The mouse, wise to his plan, safely removes the snack and saunters away with a full belly.

You can probably guess what happens next. The story ends as it almost always does: with the cat yelling out in pain as yet another plan backfires.

The plot may be familiar, but the story behind it may not be. From Academy Award wins to secret production behind the Cold War’s Iron Curtain – this is how Tom and Jerry, who turn 80 this week, became one of the world’s best known double-acts.

The duo was dreamt up from a place of desperation. MGM’s animation department, where creators Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera worked, had struggled to emulate the success of other studios who had hit characters like Porky Pig and Mickey Mouse.

Out of boredom, the animators, both aged under 30, began thinking up their own ideas. Barbera said he loved the simple concept of a cat and mouse cartoon, with conflict and chase, even though it had been done countless times before….

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