Pixel Scroll 5/18/20 “Look, Gracious Host! A Scroll In A Pixel!” “Fan Mail From Some Filer?”

(1) MISKATONIC SCHOLARSHIP. Scott Gray is the 2020 winner of George R. R. Martin’s Miskatonic Scholarship, which supports a promising new writer of Lovecraftian cosmic horror attending the Odyssey Writing Workshop.

As a boy, Martin came across his first story by H. P. Lovecraft. He says, “I had never read a story that scared me more . . . so of course I sought out more Lovecraft wherever I could find it.” Martin’s love of weird fiction grew, and he found that “No werewolf, no vampire, no thing going bump in the night could give me chills to equal those provided by the cosmic horrors that Lovecraft evoked.”

With the annual Miskatonic Scholarship, Martin hopes to provide “encouragement and inspiration to a new generation of writers.” And to one special scholarship candidate, Martin wants to offer the opportunity to learn and improve at the Odyssey Writing Workshop, one of the top programs in the world for writers of the fantastic. The scholarship covers full tuition and housing at the workshop.

Scott Gray lives in New Hampshire.

…He developed a love of stories as a young boy, especially those that transported him to other worlds.

…Jeanne Cavelos, one of the scholarship judges and director of the Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust, says, “The other judges and I loved the unique way that Scott’s story brought heart and a deep sense of humanity to this tale of cosmic horror. It evoked not only fear but also hope and joy.”

Click here to read about the other scholarship winners: “Special Announcement: 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop Scholarship Winners”.

(2) FEELING DISCONNECTED. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Michael Cavna has a piece in the Washington Post about how comedians miss people getting together in groups and laughing.  Among the people Cavna talks to are Pixar head Pete Docter, who says that Soul is being edited in hundreds of homes of Pixar employees, and Patton Oswalt, who says that when he performs, “each crowd is its own separate sentient living thing” and without an audience, “you lose a check-in with humanity.  You lose a reminder that ‘OK, I’m connected with the planet–I’m connected with the present.” “Without movie theaters, we’re missing communal laughter: ‘You lose a check-in with humanity’’.

…Docter, the chief creative officer of Pixar, says that early filmmakers, in both animation and live-action, understood how their movies were made to be seen with an audience.

“Strange pauses and gaps in Bugs Bunny cartoons suddenly made sense when I saw them with a live audience — those blank areas were filled with audience laughter,” Docter says while self-quarantining in his Bay Area home. “The same was true of Laurel and Hardy and [Buster] Keaton films — they were timed to allow space for the audience to respond.”

(3) STILL IN THE WORKS. Locus Online adds items to its post about COVID-19 cancellations every few days. Locus Award Weekend, on the calendar for next month, has not been cancelled as of today’s update.

Locus Awards Weekend, June 26-28, 2020 in Seattle WA

We are keeping a close eye on the COVID-19 status, and will be diligent about canceling as needed. At this time it seems likely we will not have a physical event, but we are exploring virtual alternatives. We are in a holding pattern and have suspended general ticket sales.

(4) DISNEY WORLD MEETS FLORIDA MAN. Really, you’d think it would have happened before now. From behind a paywall at The Week:

A Florida man has been caught trying to self-isolate on a private island in Disney World.  Richard McGuire, 42, insisted that he hadn’t seen the numerous ‘no trespassing signs’ on the island, or heard the loudspeaker warnings from Disney officials who became aware of his presence.  He claimed to be ‘unaware’ of the police helicopter that hovered overhead because he was asleep on an abandoned building on Discovery Island.  When he was arrested, McGuire told police it felt as if he’d discovered a ‘tropical paradise.’

(5) CLOCKING IN. In “Here’s How Time Works Now” at McSweeney’s, Eli Grober has the 411 about the changing nature of time. For example —

A Day

You may remember that a day used to take place over the course of 24 hours. We felt this was too much. A day is now over the moment you first ask yourself, “What time is it?”

It does not matter what time it actually is when you do this. As soon as you ask or think, “What time is it” for the first time that day, even if it is still ten in the morning, it will suddenly be eight at night. Does that make sense?

(6) THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS. And it feels appropriate to follow with The Lewis Carroll Society of North America’s post “If you knew Time …”, a collection of links to resources about the author.

“Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her, and to wonder what was going to happen next.”

For so many of us, this topsy-turvy world of shelter-in-place has left us with time on our hands. Our president, Linda Cassady, has some suggestions for some fine online Carrollian resources. And who knows? You might discover some unknown or little-known item or a fresh perspective that we can tell the world about!

(7) TAKE THE CHALLENGE. “Antidepressants or Tolkien”— it’s a quiz. The Filer who sent the link says, “It’s more difficult than you would expect.”  I racked up a score of 17/24.

(8) A PIONEER. In this video the late D.C. Fontana being interviewed by Rob Word from the A Word On Westerns podcast.  Her comments are mostly regarding the shows for which she wrote episodes and bounced from westerns to sci-fi and back.

(9) ALIENATED ABDUCTION. The Hollywood Reporter thought he mght have something to say: “Bill Pullman Responds to Donald Trump’s Altered ‘Independence Day’ Clip”.

President Donald Trump on Saturday shared a heavily altered video clip from the 1996 film Independence Day in which it appears that he gives the iconic speech from the President of the United States. 

Not only is Trump superimposed, but so are others in the crowd, including Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, Jr., as well as Fox News’ personalities Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity.

As of 8:30 p.m., the president’s post had been retweeted 50,000 times and had more than 153,000 “likes.”

Actor Bill Pullman, who played President Thomas J. Whitmore in Independence Day, was among those who saw the clip. And he responded.

“My voice belongs to no one but me, and I’m not running for president — this year,” Pullman told The Hollywood Reporter

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 18, 1962They make a fairly convincing pitch here. It doesn’t seem possible, though, to find a woman who must be ten times better than mother in order to seem half as good, except, of course, in the Twilight Zone. — Intro narration. On this date The Twilight Zone aired “I Sing The Body Electric,” an episode based on a story by Ray Bradbury. Although Bradbury contributed several scripts to the series, this was the only one produced. The script was written by Bradbury himself. An large ensemble cast was needed, hence Josephine Hutchinson, David White, Vaughn Taylor, Doris Packer, Veronica Cartwright, Susan Crane and Charles Herbert all being performers.  This was the year that the entire season of the series won Best Dramatic Presentation at Chicon III.  

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz. Typoed by Mike Glyer.]

  • Born May 16, 1918 Sam Dann. Scriptwriter who wrote 311 episodes of the CBS Radio Mystery Theater between 1974 and 1982. The show despite its name broadcast a lot of horror and science fiction stories as well. Much of his work was adaptations such as A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and Murder on the Space Shuttle (Holmes meets Rogers!), the SF content was largely his. (Died 2004.) (CE)
  • Born May 18, 1919 – Margot Fonteyn.  Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire; named prima ballerina assoluta of the Royal Ballet by Elizabeth II.  Danced many fantasies e.g. The FirebirdGiselleRaymondaSwan Lake.  (Died 1991) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1930 Fred Saberhagen. I’m reasonably sure I’ve read the entirety of his Berserker series though not in the order they were intended to be read. Some are outstanding, some less so. I’d recommend Berserker Man, Shiva in Steel and the original Berserker collection. Of his Dracula sequence, the only one I think I read is The Holmes-Dracula File which is superb. And I know I’ve read most of the Swords tales as they came out. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born May 18, 1931 – Don Martin.  Album covers for Prestige Records (Miles Davis, Art Farmer, Stan Getz).  A cover and thirty interiors for Galaxy.  Mad’s Maddest Artist, of hinged feet, onomatopoeia – his car license plate was SHTOINK – and National Gorilla Suit Day.  Fourteen collections.  Ignatz Award, Nat’l Cartoonists Society’s Special Features Award, Will Eisner Hall of Fame.  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born May 18, 1948 – R-Laurraine Tutihasi.  Active in fanzines, the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n; won its Kaymar and Franson awards), and otherwise.  Loccer (“loc” also “LoC” = letter of comment, the blood of fanzines) at least as far back as Algol and The Diversifier, also JanusTightbeamBroken Toys.  Her own fanzine is Purrsonal Mewsings.  [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1952 Diane Duane, 68. She’s known for the Young Wizards YA series though I’d like to single her out for her lesser known Feline Wizards series where SJW creds maintain the gates that wizards use for travel throughout the multiverse. A most wonderful thing for felines to do! (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1958 Jonathan Maberry, 62. The only thing I’ve read by him is the first five novels in the Joe Ledger Series which has a high body count and an even higher improbability index. Popcorn reading with Sriracha sauce. I see that he’s done scripts for Dark Horse, IDW and Marvel early on. And that he’s responsible for Captain America: Hail Hydra which I remember as quite excellent. (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1958 Toyah Willcox, 62. English actress who’s done quite a bit of genre work starting with being in The Quatermass Conclusion as Sal and then again in the Quatermass series. She shows up on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as Janet, and as Dog in the superb Ink Thief series. She plays Dialta Downes in Tomorrow Calling based off Gibson’s “The Gernsback Continuum“ with the screenplay by Tim Leandro. (CE)
  • Born May 18, 1959 – Debbie Dadey.  A hundred sixty books, of which six dozen are (with Marcia Jones) short Bailey School Kids, also Ghostville ElementaryThe Keyholders.  Int’l Reading Ass’n Children’s Choice, Young Adults’ Choice awards; ABC Best Book for Children; Sunshine State Young Reader’s Awards.  [JH]
  • Born May 18, 1959 – Sophie Masson.  Member of the Order of Australia.  Forty novels, twenty shorter stories.  Aurealis Award for The Hand of Glory.  [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1963 – Greg Beatty.  Ph.D. in English.  Rhysling Award.  Stories, poems, articles, essays, reviews, interviews, in Abyss & ApexAeonAsimov’sAudiofileHeliosIndependent ScholarInternet Review of SFN.Y. Review of SFPhilological QuarterlySF StudiesStarlineStrange HorizonsTangent Online.  Children’s picture books too.  [JH] 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) WRAPPED UP. She-Ra Said Gay Rights! A Spoiler-Filled Chat with Creator Noelle Stevenson on the Final Season” at Paste Magazine.

…With the rainbow-solid queer credentials brought to the table by creator Noelle Stevenson (LumberjanesNimonaThe Fire Never Goes Out) and her team, and with the equally sparkling queer representation present in the series from the very beginning (Bow’s nerdy dads, thirtysomething Princess couple Spinerella and Netossa, Scorpia’s whole Scorpianess), fans needn’t have worried that their favorite friends-to-enemies lesbian ‘ship would right itself in the end. Still, when the frenemies’ long-awaited admission of love gave Adora enough strength to stop that apocalyptic countdown in the final minutes of “Heart Part 2,” you could almost feel the internet breathe a collective sigh of relieved joy.

(14) LOVE THAT DIRTY WATER. “Mud flows on Red Planet behave like ‘boiling toothpaste”. There’s an analogy for you – if you’re lucky, you’ve never experienced this at home or have any idea what that looks like.

Scientists have made a surprising discovery about Mars by playing with muck in the laboratory.

An international team of researchers wondered how volcanoes that spew mud instead of molten rock might look on the Red Planet compared with their counterparts here on Earth.

In chamber experiments, simulated Martian mud flows were seen to behave a bit like boiling toothpaste.

Under certain conditions, the fluid even began to bounce.

The mucky gunge resembled a certain type of lava referred to as “pahoehoe”, which is observed at Hawaii’s famous K?lauea volcano.

The research results could now complicate some investigations at the Red Planet, believes study lead Dr Petr Brož from the Czech Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Geophysics.

“You’ll look at some features [from space] and you won’t know for sure whether they are the result of lava flows or mud flows.

“Without a geologist on the ground to hit them with a hammer, it will be hard to tell,” he told BBC News.

(15) I WALK TO THE TREES. BBC invites you to “Meet the baby orangutans learning to climb trees”.

While much of the world is in lockdown, youngsters in one very unusual classroom are still having lessons.

At a forest school in Borneo, baby orangutans learn tree-climbing skills from their human surrogate parents.

The orphans spend 12 hours a day in the forest, preparing for a new life in the wild.

The orangutans were filmed and photographed before coronavirus struck, for the TV series Primates, on BBC One.

With human contact routinely kept to a minimum, life goes on much as before for the animals, says Dr Signe Preuschoft, leader of ape programmes for the charity Four Paws, which runs the rehabilitation centre in East Kalimantan.

As a precaution, the staff now have temperature checks, wear facemasks and change into uniforms on site.

…The young orphaned apes climb high into the treetops with their caregivers to help them acquire the skills they would have learned from their mothers in the wild.

They would otherwise spend more time on the ground than is natural for a species that feeds, lives and sleeps in the canopies of trees.

Baby orangutans have a huge advantage when it comes to climbing, as they can hold on “like an octopus”, says Dr Preuschoft.

“I think the orangutans were really completely thrilled when they realised that they could actually be in a canopy together with one of their moms,” she adds.

(16) VACCINE NEWS. “Coronavirus vaccine: First evidence jab can train immune system”.

The first hints that a vaccine can train people’s immune system to fight coronavirus have been reported by a company in the US.

Moderna said neutralising antibodies were found in the first eight people who took part in their safety trials.

It also said the immune response was similar to people infected with the actual virus.

Larger trials to see whether the jab actually protects against infection are expected to start in July.

Work on a coronavirus vaccine has been taking place at unprecedented speed, with around 80 groups around the world working on them.

Moderna was the first to test an experimental vaccine, called mRNA-1273, in people.

The vaccine is a small snippet of the coronavirus’s genetic code, which is injected into the patient.

It is not capable of causing an infection or the symptoms of Covid-19, but is enough to provoke a response from the immune system.

(17) THEY NEEDED TO PULL THE PLUG. BBC reports “Europe’s supercomputers hijacked by attackers for crypto mining”.

At least a dozen supercomputers across Europe have shut down after cyber-attacks tried to take control of them.

A pan-European supercomputing group says they seem to have tried to use the machines to mine cryptocurrency.

“A security exploitation” disabled access to the Archer supercomputer, at the University of Edinburgh, on 11 May.

Staff said they were working with the National Cyber Security Centre to restore the system, which had recently installed a pandemic modelling tool.

“We now believe this to be a major issue across the academic community as several computers have been compromised in the UK and elsewhere in Europe,” the team said.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “At Home With Roz Chast” on Vimeo is a portrait of the New Yorker cartoonist.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, N., Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Andrew Porter, Lise Andreasen, Olav Rokne, Dann, Michael Toman, JJ, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jeff Smith.]

Pixel Scroll 5/16/20 The Diversity Of Pixels Prove That Scrolls Evolved From Files

(1) BEFORE GENESIS. Kim Huett begins a deep dive into Hugo history in “A Different View of the Early Hugo Awards (Part 1.)” at Doctor Strangemind.

…First of all the Eleventh World Science Fiction Convention committee called them the First Annual Science Fiction Achievement Awards and not the Hugo Awards. Officially they continued to be called the Annual Science Fiction Achievement Awards for many decades. It wasn’t until 1993 that they were officially renamed the Hugo Awards. Exactly when fans began giving the awards the nickname of Hugo I can’t be entirely sure. However, the earliest mention of the practise I’m aware of appeared in the 1955 Clevention’s Progress Report #4. In an article about the physical aspects of the award appears the following comment:

A great deal of hard work, money and time went into the project of making this “Hugo”, as some people have already dubbed the trophy.

Just who was using the term and how widespread the practise was by this point isn’t made clear in this article. It could be that committee members were aware of the nickname being used elsewhere but I suspect such usage was confined to the committee itself. After all, given that at this point the awards had only been given once and then were seemingly discontinued it seems a bit unlikely that fandom at large had decided to give something they couldn’t be certain would ever be seen again a nickname. Moreover, given that the awards are then continually referred as Hugos in the rest of the article I rather suspect some or all of the committee had not only adopted the term but also wanted to push the idea of calling it that as one way to put their stamp on the awards idea. All speculation of course but it does make for an interesting theory.

(2) BEFORE NUMBERS. And Galactic Journey’s Hugo headline deals with news that’s only a tad more recent — “The 1965 Hugo Ballot Is Out!” They also invite fans to join them for an online discussion on May 23.

… Since the Journey has covered virtually everything on the list, we’ve created a little crib sheet so you can vote in an educated fashion.

Also, we’ll be talking about this ballot on May 23rd at 1PM PDT on a special broadcast of KGJ Channel 9 — so please tune in and join us in the discussion!

(3) AN EPISODE RECAP – SPOILERS? I’M NOT SURE. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] In the May 10 episode of Supergirl, Kara Zor-El and her friends were trying to track down bad guys who called themselves Leviathan.  They went to the “United States Congressional Library” which eerily resembles a Canadian public library to talk to a librarian who was a “symbologist”–you know, like the guy in The Da Vinci Code.  The symbologist explained that he tried to search for “leviathan”–but all of searches were blocked!  Scary! 

So they decided to visit “special collections,” which of course was the vault in the basement where The Good Stuff is kept and can only be seen by people with the secret passcode,  But just as our hero punches the buttons, the bad guys start shooting at them.  How these guntoters managed to get past the security guards is not explained, possibly because the “United States Congressional Library” doesn’t have any security guards.

Any resemblance between the “United States Congressional Library” and the Library of Congress is nonexistent.

(4) YOU ARE NUMBER SIX. Den of Geek boasts the cover reveal for the next installment in Martha Wells’ series: “The Murderbot Diaries: Fugitive Telemetry Cover Reveal”.

…While Fugitive Telemetry may be the sixth installment in the series, it is something new for this world: a murder mystery. The novella follows Murderbot as it discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, and sets about assisting station security to determine who the body was and how they were killed. Fugitive Telemetry takes place after the events of novella Exit Strategy and before the events of novel Network Effect, and is slated for an April 2021 release.

(5) WHO SUPPORTS THEM. The Doctor Who Companion points fans to a fundraising video: “Peter Capaldi Reads Story By Frank Cottrell Boyce For National Brain Appeal’s Emergency Care Fund”.

Actor Peter Capaldi, shows his support for The National Brain Appeal’s Emergency Care Fund – set up in response to the Covid-19 crisis. We’re raising money for staff on the frontline at The National Hospital – and those patients who are most in need at this time. He reads from The Runaway Robot by Frank Cottrell Boyce.

(6) SOUND ADVICE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Katherine A. Powers, who reviews audiobooks in the Washington Post, has a piece about the problems of bad audiobooks. “Don’t let a bad reader ruin your audiobook experience. Here are recordings to savor — and to avoid.”  She writes:

Any devoted audiobook listener can attest:  Spending nine hours (or more) in the company of a terrible reader–a shrieker, mumber, droner, tooth whistler, or overzealous thespian–is an experience that can truly ruin a book.  A narrator’s voice is not merely a delivery system, an element extraneous to the text, but an integral one–fulfilling, enriching, injuring, or sinking a book.”

She explains this is particularly true with books in the public domain.  She notes that Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd comes in a dozen versions. including a superb one by John Lee and readings by Nathaniel Parker and Joe Jameson “are excellent if a little fast.” But “excruciating performers” of hardy’s novel include “a drawling old fogy; a governess on an elocution bender; a sprinter whose words tear along in a blur; and a man who seems to be recording inside a tin can.

This doesn’t have much to do with sf except that she says that Neil Gaiman is a very good reader of his own fiction (I agree).  But I thought she made some good points.

(7) PEOPLE WHO KNEW PKD. “The Penultimate Truth About Philip K. Dick” on YouTube is a 2007 Argentine documentary, directed by Emiliano Larre, that includes with Dick’s ex-wives Kleo Mini, Anne Dick, and Tessa Dick, his stepdaughter Tandie Ford, and authors K.W. Jeter, Ray Nelson, and Tim Powers.

(8) WILLARD OBIT. Comedic star Fred Willard, who appears in the forthcoming show Space Force, died May 15 at the age of 86. He gained fame in a long career that included roles in Best in Show, This Is Spinal Tap, Everybody Loves Raymond and Modern Family. More details at People.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 16, 1891 Mikhail Bulgakov. Russian writer whose fantasy novel The Master and Margarita, published posthumously, has been called one of the masterpieces of the 20th century. The novel also carries the recommendation of no less than Gary Kasparov. If you’ve not read it, a decent translation is available at the usual digital sources for less than a cup of coffee. (Died 1940.) (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1917 – Juan Rulfo.  Author, photographer.  In Pedro Páramo a man going to his recently deceased mother’s home town finds it is populated by ghosts; translated into 30 languages, sold a million copies in English.  A score of shorter stories; another dozen outside our field.  Here are some photographs and comment.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1918 – Colleen Browning.  Set designer, illustrator, lithographer, painter.  A Realist in the face of Abstract Realism and Abstract Expressionism, she later turned to magic realism blurring the real and imaginary. See here (Union Mixer, 1975), here (Mindscape, 1973), here (Computer Cosmology, 1980s), and here (The Dream, 1996).  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1920 – Patricia Marriott.  Cover artist and illustrator, particularly for Joan Aiken (1924-2004); 21 covers, 18 interiors.  See here and here.  (Died 2002) [JH] 
  • Born May 16, 1925 – Pierre Barbet.  French SF author and (under his own name; PB is a pen name) pharmacist.  Towards a Lost FutureBabel 3805; space opera, heroic fantasy, alternative history.  In The Empire of Baphomet (translated into Czech, Dutch, English, Hungarian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish) an alien tries to manipulate the Knights Templar; in Stellar Crusade the knights go into Space after him; 72 novels, plus shorter stories, essays.  (Died 1995) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1928 – Burschi Gruder.  Romanian pioneer and prolific illustrator of children’s books, textbooks, comic books; cover artist; reprinted in East Germany, Moldova, Poland, U.S.S.R., Yugoslavia.  See here and here.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1937 Yvonne Craig. Batgirl on Batman, and that green skinned Orion slave girl Marta on “Whom Gods Destroy”. She also appeared in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Wild Wild WestVoyage to The Bottom of the SeaThe Ghost & Mrs. MuirLand of the GiantsFantasy Island and Holmes and Yo-Yo. (Died 2015.) (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1942 – Alf van der Poorten.  Number theorist (180 publications; founded Australian Mathematical Society Gazette; Georges Szekeres Medal, 2002) and active fan.  One of “Sydney’s terrible twins”.  Reviewer for SF Commentary.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1944 Danny Trejo, 76. Trejo is perhaps most known as the character Machete, originally developed by Rodriguez for the Spy Kids films. He’s also been on The X-FilesFrom Dusk till DawnLe JaguarDoppelgangerThe Evil WithinFrom Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood MoneyMuppets Most Wanted and more horror films that I care to list here. Seriously, he’s really done a lot of low-budget horror films. In LA he’s even better known for donuts – i.e., he owns a shop with his name on it. (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1953 – Lee MacLeod.  Four dozen covers, plus interiors, among us.  Lee MacLeod SF Art Trading Cards.  BatmanHoward the DuckPocahontas (i.e. Disney’s).  Air Force Art Program.  Here are two covers for The Mote in God’s Eye from 1993 and 2000.  For his fine art e.g. plein air, see here.  
  • Born May 16, 1962 Ulrika O’Brien, 58. A Seattle-area fanzine fan, fanartist, con-running fan, and past TAFF winner. Her list of pubished fanzines according to Fancyclopedia 3 is quite amazing — FringeWidening Gyre and Demi-TAFF Americaine (TAFF Newsletter). Her APAzines include Mutatis Mutandis, and APAs include APA-LLASFAPAMyriad and Turbo-APA. (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1968 Stephen Mangan, 52. Dirk Gently in that series after the pilot episode which saw a major reset. He played Arthur Conan Doyle in the Houdini & Doyle series which I’ve heard good things about but haven’t seen. He did various voices for the 1999 Watership Down, and appeared in Hamlet as Laertes at the Norwich Theatre Royal. (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1969 David Boreanaz, 51. Am I the only one that thought Angel was for the most part a better series than Buffy? And the perfect episode was I think “Smile Time” when Angel gets turned into a puppet. It even spawned its own rather great toy line. (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) DISNEY’S NEXT PLANS FOR THE STAGE. The Washington Post’s Peter Marks not only reports the demise of Frozen on Broadway, but that Disney Theatrical Productions president Michael Schumacher announced several musicals in development, including The Princess Bride, Jungle Book, and Hercules. “Citing the pandemic, Disney puts Broadway’s ‘Frozen’ permanently on ice”.

Schumacher also used the letter to detail other projects in the works — notably, a stage musical version of the 1987 cult movie favorite “The Princess Bride,” with a book by Bob Martin and Rick Elice and a score by David Yazbek, and an expanded stage version of the “Hercules” that debuted last summer in Central Park. Book writer Robert Horn, a Tony winner for “Tootsie,” will be added to the songwriting team of Alan Menken and David Zippel.

(12) PRINCEJVSTN’S FINEST. Best Fan Writer Hugo finalist Paul Weimer’s “Hugo Packet 2020” is available from an unlocked post on his Patreon page. (I have the right URL here but can’t get it to open from the Scroll, which is why I am also including Paul’s tweet).

(13) WIGTOWN FLIPS. Hey, I read it right here — “Wigtown book festival makes online switch”.

Scotland’s national book town has decided to take its annual festival online.

The Wigtown event will still run from 25 September to 4 October with the themes of resilience and connection.

Creative director Adrian Turpin said a key aim would be to raise the town’s profile while looking forward to a time when the region could welcome visitors.

He said nobody had wanted the situation but it might help the event to reach new audiences.

A number of link-ups with other book towns around the world will feature as part of the festival.

As well as live online speaker events, the 2020 festival will feature its usual mix of art exhibitions, film events, music and performance.

The Magnusson lecture – in honour of Magnus Magnusson – will also go digital for the first time and be delivered by historian Rosemary Goring.

(14) VASCO II. BBC reports “Facebook to build internet cable ‘circumference of Earth'”.

Facebook is teaming up with telecoms companies to build a 37,000km (23,000-mile) undersea cable to supply faster internet to 16 countries in Africa.

Its length – almost equal to the circumference of the Earth – will make it one of the longest, it said.

It is part of a long-running bid by Facebook to take its social media platform to Africa’s young population.

Ready for use by 2024, it will deliver three times the capacity of all current undersea cables serving Africa.

“When completed, this new route will deliver much-needed internet capacity, redundancy, and reliability across Africa, supplement a rapidly increasing demand for capacity in the Middle East, and support further growth of 4G, 5G, and broadband access for hundreds of millions of people,” said Facebook in a blog.

Africa lags behind the rest of the world when it comes to internet access, with four in 10 people across the continent having access to the web, compared with a global average of six in 10.

(15) NEEDED ONE MORE GHOST. Yahoo! Movies UK quotes the actor from a TV interview: “Bill Murray missed Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis on ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife'”.

Bill Murray really missed working alongside Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis while filming the upcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

The legendary comedian admitted as much during his recent interview with Ellen DeGeneres, saying that the pair were “greatly missed for so many reasons,” adding, “They were so much a part of the creation of [Ghostbusters] and the fun of it.”

(16) TOASTS OF THE TOWN. At the #OrbitTavern on Instagram, Creative Director Lauren Panepinto interviews an author about their upcoming book Ann Leckie and Laura Lam in one session) —and teaches viewers how to make the perfect cocktail to pair it with! Replays of their live shows are also available on Orbit’s website.

For example, a couple of days ago they celebrated World Cocktail Day with Alix Harrow.

(17) NESFA PRESS SALE. NESFA Press has announced a 20% discount good through June 14, 2020  on all NESFA Press physical books — with some exceptions. This does not include E-Books, ISFiC books (including the Seanan McGuire Velveteen books), and the following limited-edition books: Stan’s Kitchen by Kim Stanley Robinson and A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison (limited, boxed edition).

To take advantage of this discount, go to the NESFA Press online store: http://nesfapress.org/, select the titles you wish to purchase, and during checkout enter “COVID-19” in the coupon text field. The 20% will be automatically deducted from the book price.

(18) LIFESIZED ORRERY. “What It Would Look Like If All The Planets Orbited Between The Earth And The Moon” – this video has been out for awhile but it was news to me – a very exotic view!

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

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.]

I Am Going To Mouse My Shot: Hamilton Flick Comes to Disney+ on July 3

By Daniel Dern: “‘Hamilton’ Coming To Disney+ On July 3, Bypassing 2021 Theatrical Release”NPR spreads the news —

Cue the Hamilton quotes: Soon the room where it happens will be your living room! Shout it to the rooftops that the Broadway sensation Hamilton will be available for home viewing this summer! Look around, look around to see how lucky we are to be alive in a world where Hamilton is coming to Disney+ on July 3, more than 15 months ahead of schedule!

What will be the effects when Hamilton joins the Disneyverse?

1, Does this mean Alex H has a chance to be a Jedi, and use the force to avoid being shot to death?

2, Will Hawkeye miss his shot?

3, Will the Avengers, or at least Spider-Man, get involved in the Rev War? Will Tony Stark pal around with Ben Franklin?

4, Will Paul Revere ride on Dumbo instead of his horse?

5, Will the Schuyler sisters get Frozen freeze-powers?

Is this enough to justify signing up for Disney+?

Good question — but realistically, either the free trial or a month’s worth should do it. It’s not like Hamilton is going to be a 12-episode season…unless they do the Hamilton/Star Wars/Avengers Crossover, where Luke gets to sing about not missing his shot, etc. Or Force Ghosts doing “What’d I Miss?”

Or Darth Vr doing a rousing “You’ll Be Back.”

(Dern shifts to his web browser briefly…)

Hmmm, having just written the above, I web-searched (I use DuckDuckGo) on “Hamilton Star Wars Parody” and, no surprise, the Internet has been on top of this for several years, e.g. “The Hamilton/Star Wars Parody You Knew Was Coming is Here (Sept 2018)” at Making Star Wars and “Happy ‘Star Wars’ Day! Watch this amazing ‘Hamilton’ parody about a galaxy far, far away” at the Washington Post includes a video with Lin-Manuel Miranda and J.J. Abrams live doing Miranda’s “Jabba” Cantina song:

“Luke the Son of Anakin,” whose lyrics were written by comedian Nick Jack Pappas, tells the Skywalker saga to a tune from the smash musical about the ten-dollar founding father. It parodies the show’s opening number with a spoiler-heavy summary of Luke’s journey from space farm boy to Jedi knight and finally to lost recluse in the latest installment of the series.

Hux [Hamilton Parody] (Aug 2016)

Luke Skywalker Hamilton (Dec 2015)

Darth Vader sings You’ll Be Back [Hamilton Parody] (Feb 2017)

Star Wars / Hamilton Awakens – The Musical (Sept 2016)

And, I’m sure, there’s more.

Pixel Scroll 5/8/20 A Logic
Named Mjølnir

(1) ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS. Newsweek is “Talking Murderbot With ‘Network Effect’ Author Martha Wells”.

The series is from Murderbot’s perspective, who doesn’t care much about the wider galaxy (outside of its favorite media), but I assume there’s a lot of worldbuilding you have to juggle. We learn a bit about regions of space like the Corporation Rim, but would you tell me a little more about the state of the larger galaxy?

The Corporation Rim does control a lot of territory, but there are a lot of independent worlds and places outside it and also a lot of unexplored space, basically. In my head, what I see is that there was a whole society—pre-Corporation Rim—that went out and explored and colonized and developed terraformed worlds and all these different places. The Corporation Rim then grew and took over a large section of that. There was a disruption when that happened and so a lot of the pre-Corporation Rim colonies were either destroyed or have been lost. There are a lot of unknown territories out there. I like to do that in my books, I don’t like to define rigidly what the world is, or what the boundaries of the world are. When I’m reading books where that’s done I feel like that limits the reader’s imagination.

I’m kind of a seat-of-the-pants writer, so I don’t plan out a lot ahead of time. I also like to explore the world along with the reader, so I don’t talk about how the world works in general, partly because I want to get the reader concentrated in the plot, but also because I don’t want to set up things so that, later, when I come up with a different idea for the next book, I have to contradict myself or come up with a way around it. I’m just exploring the world. I tend to develop a lot of stuff I need for each story in particular, and then for the next story I realize, “Oh, well, there’s places to go from there. I need to explore this idea.” So I’m kind of making it up as I go along, though I do have ideas about how the world came to be and what caused the society to develop this way, but I don’t usually get into those, because it’s not important for the story that’s being told in that moment (but it might be important later).

(2) FOR THOSE BARD FROM THE CLASSROOM. UK’s Standard says help is on the way — “David Tennant, Patrick Stewart and Tamsin Greig to offer Shakespeare homework help to children during lockdown”.

Schoolchildren struggling to understand Shakespeare during the lockdown are to get tips and insights from leading actors to perform in his plays.

David Tennant, Sir Patrick Stewart and Tamsin Greig are among the big names joining the Homework Help initiative being run by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Students with questions can email them to homeworkhelp@rsc.org.uk or share them using the hashtag #RSCHomeworkHelp on Twitter or Instagram by Sunday.

The first round of answers will be released from Monday in the form of videos and recorded messages from actors.

(3) CLOSER LOOK NEEDED? Someone on Reddit posted this link today to a site that contains links to the text of most of the Hugo-Award-winning short stories — http://scifi-hugo.herokuapp.com/.

Greg Hullender of Rocket Stack Rank, who sent the item, says “I spot checked them, and at least some of them are unimpeachable—i.e. they link to the author’s own web site—but for others I’m unsure whether the sites hosting them really have permission from the copyright owners to do so. It might be a public service to call attention to the site so anyone who cares can track the links and authors.”

(4) THE TOP OF THE POP. Alasdair Stuart has posted The Full Lid for 8th May 2020:

This week on The Full Lid, I take a look at the state of the Star Wars universe and find it richer, more interesting and wider than it often seems to be. I also strap in for the magnificent pulpy roller coaster of Netflix’s Into the Night and review Carlos Hernandez’s fantastic Sal and Gabi Fix The Universe. This week’s interstitial pieces are isolation fight scenes, proving that every now and then these violent delights have hilarious ends.

The Full Lid publishes weekly at 5 p.m. GMT on Fridays. Signup is free and the last six months are archived here.

The Clone Wars finished and Rise of Skywalker arrived on Disney Plus this week with the exact combination of joy for the former and ‘oh… hi…’ for the latter you’d expect. Rise is far more the traditional Star Wars movie than Rian Johnson’s defiantly, flamboyantly good space noir predecessor. In some ways — nearly all of them in the last twenty minutes — that’s good. In other ways — in all of which Kelly Marie Tran is reduced to an extra — that borders on unforgivable. It’s Star Wars playing Hotel California and honestly it coasts on the charm of the conceit. Despite that, the emotional beats were solid – I laughed and cried in all the intended spots. It’s a good time, for most. But Star Wars, now more than ever, is bigger than the Skywalker Saga….

(5) IN THE BADLANDS. James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers where they can find “Five Truly Inhospitable Fictional Planets”.

…I must admit that not every science fiction author adopts this buoyant stance. Some of them have taken a contrary point of view, in fact, positing that there are some circumstances that will defeat humans, no matter how smart and persevering they are. Circumstances like alien worlds that cannot be terraformed into human-friendly resort planets. Here are five worlds that steadfastly resist meddling…

(6) VIRTUALLY AMAZING. Steve Davidson’s “AmazingCon UpDates” adds details about his event to be hosted on Zoom from June 12 thru June 14, 2020. Registration required—free or make a donation as you choose. Details at the link.

Over forty authors will present readings from their current and up-coming works, including several soon-to-be-released novels. His current lineup of “Guest Stars” is —

Mike Alexander Anderson, Adam-Troy Castro, Marie Bilodeau, Ricky L Brown, James Cambias, Patty Carvacho, Noah Chinn, Jack Clemons, Carolyn Clink, David L Clink, Dave Creek, Jennifer Crow, Julie Czerneda, Steve Davidson, Vincent Di Fate, Steve Fahnestalk, Sally McBride, Jen Frankel, JM Frey, JF Garrard, David Gerrold, Sean Grigsby, Jerri Hardesty, Chip Houser, G. Scott Huggins, Elizabeth Hirst, Rebecca Inch-Partridge, MD Jackson, Paula Johanson, H Kauderer, Daniel M Kimmel, Kathy Kitts, Judy Mccrosky, Jack McDevitt, Ron Miller, Petrea Mitchell, MJ Moores, Will Murray, Ira Nayman, Wendy Nikel, Julie Novakova, Paul Levinson, Loyd Penney, Brad Preslar, Dan Ritter, David Ritter, Rhea Rose, Amber Royer, Russ Scarola, Veronica Scott, Alex Shvartsman, Steven H Silver, Dan Simon, Rosemary Claire Smith, Bud Sparhawk, Hugh Spencer, Richard Dean Starr, Allen Steele, SP Somtow, Kimberly Unger, Liz Westbrook-Trenholm, Leslie Wicke, Erin Wilcox, Matt Wolfendon, Kermit Woodall, Brianna Wu, Frank Wu

(7) HERD IMMUNITY. At McSweeney’s, an executive reassures us, “Sure, The Velociraptors Are Still On The Loose, But That’s No Reason Not To Reopen Jurassic Park” in Carlos Greaves satirical article.

Hello, Peter Ludlow here, CEO of InGen, the company behind the wildly successful dinosaur-themed amusement park, Jurassic Park. As you’re all aware, after an unprecedented storm hit the park, we lost power and the velociraptors escaped their enclosure and killed hundreds of park visitors, prompting a two-month shutdown of the park. Well, I’m pleased to announce that, even though the velociraptors are still on the loose, we will be opening Jurassic Park back up to the public!

(8) THE MOUSE HOUSE. Because it’s not like these guys aren’t thinking about it. In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik reports that while Walt Disney CEO Bob Chapek said the Shanghai DIsney Resort will reopen soon, he can not make a similar commitment for American parks, in part because it’s not clear that people would want to come to Disney World or Disneyland, even if attendance is limited to 25 percent of capacity, while the coronavirus rages. “Disney is about to reopen its Shanghai theme park. It could be a lot longer before that happens in the U.S.”

…Disney parks are so crucial to California’s economy that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) called Disney “a nation-state,” to some controversy, when he exempted it from closure requirements at the start of the pandemic.

Theme parks are also vital to Disney’s bottom line. The parks division (it also includes hotels and cruise ships) generated $6.76 billion in profit for Disney last year, three times what its film studio did.

All of this makes reopening a no-brainer.

If only….

(9) SOME LIKE IT BOT. ReedPop is exercising its option to take a couple of its major events to Facebook: “BookExpo and BookCon Go Virtual This Month”.

After initially postponing BookExpo and BookCon 2020 from their original May 27–31 dates to July 22–26, conference organizer Reedpop subsequently canceled both events. Today, Reedpop has announced the events will be replaced by new virtual events taking place this month: BookExpo Online, from May 26-29, and BookCon Online, May 30 and 31.

All programming for both BookExpo Online and BookConline 2020 will be presented on the BookExpo Facebook pages and BookCon Facebook page and, will be free and open to the public. Organizers said an additional day will be added in July, with programming focused on booksellers.

(10) PERSISTENCE OF VISION. Stokercon UK is soldiering on with plans for its new dates – Thursday through Sunday, August 6-9 (subject to further restrictions) in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. The Horror Writers Association’s annual conference, with luck being held for the first to be held outside of North America, has even added a Special Guest: author and screenwriter M.R. (Mike) Carey.

Mike Carey…initially worked mainly in the medium of comic books. After writing for several UK and American indie publishers, he got his big break when he was commissioned by DC Comics’ Vertigo division to write Lucifer. Spinning off from Neil Gaiman’s ground-breaking Sandman series, Lucifer told the story of the devil’s exploits after resigning from Hell to run a piano bar in Los Angeles: Mike wrote the book for the whole of its initial seven-year run, during which he was nominated for four Eisner awards and won the Ninth Art and UK National Comics awards. More recently he has written Barbarella, Highest House and The Dollhouse Family, which will be released in September of this year as a hardcover collection.

Mike’s first foray into prose fiction came with the Felix Castor novels, supernatural crime thrillers whose exorcist protagonist consorts with demons, zombies and ghosts in an alternate London. These were followed by two collaborations with his wife Linda and their daughter Louise, The City of Silk and Steel and The House of War and Witness. Subsequently, under the transparent pseudonym of M.R.Carey, he wrote The Girl With All the Gifts and its prequel The Boy On the Bridge. He also wrote the screenplay for the movie adaptation of The Girl With All the Gifts, for which – at the age of 59! – he received a British Screenwriting award for best newcomer.

The Book of Koli is the start of a new post-apocalyptic trilogy, with the remaining books to be published in September 2020 and April 2021.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 8, 1955 X Minus One’s “Mars is Heaven“ first aired on radio stations. It’s based on the Bradbury story of that name which was originally published in 1948 in Planet Stories. It later appears as the sixth chapter of The Martian Chronicles, retitled “The Third Expedition.”  The premise is that this expedition discovers on Mars a small town spookily akin to that which they left behind on Earth. The people in the town believe it is 1926. Crew members soon discover there are old friends and deceased relatives there. The cast includes Wendell Holmes, Peter Kapell, Bill Zuckert, Bill Lipton, Margaret Curlen, Bill Griffis, Ken Williams, Ethel Everett and Edwin Jerome. You can hear it here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 8, 1928 John Bennett. His very long involvement in genre fiction started with The Curse of the Werewolf in the early Sixties and ended forty years later with a role on the Minority Report series. Being a Brit, naturally he appeared on Doctor Who in the prime role of Li H’sen Chang as part of a Fourth Doctor story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”. He had roles in Blake’s 7, Watership DownTales of The UnexpectedThe Plague DogsDark MythSherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (as Dr. Sigmund Freud!), Merlin of The Crystal Cave and The Infinite Worlds of H.G. Wells. (Died 2005.)
  • Born May 8, 1938 Jean Giraud. Better known to y’all as Moebius. He contributed storyboards and concept designs to myriad science fiction and fantasy films including AlienThe Fifth Element, The Abyss and the original Tron film. He also collaborated with avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky for an unproduced adaptation of Dune. Oh, I would’ve loved to have seen that!  And no, I’m not forgetting his work on both Heavy Metal and Marvel Comics but I’ll let you detail those endeavors. And let’s not forget his Michael Moorcock comics. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 8, 1940 Peter Benchley. He’s known for writing Jaws and he co-wrote the film script with Carl Gottlieb. His novel Beast is genre and was adapted into a film as was White Shark which has absolutely nothing to do with  sharks. Another novel, The Island, was also turned into a film and it’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 8, 1947 Susan Casper. Editor and author, married to Gardner Dozois until her death. She published over thirty short stories and essays, including collaborations with Dozois and Jack M. Dann, starting off with “Spring-Fingered Jack”. Her fiction is first collected in Slow Dancing through Time which includes one collaboration with Dozois and one with Jack M Dann. Rainbow: The Complete Short Fiction of Susan Casper which was edited just after her death by her husband is as its title states a complete collection of her short fiction. She was co-editor with him of the Ripper! and Jack the Ripper anthologies She was a much-loved figure at cons. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 8, 1954 Stephen Furst. The saddest part of doing these Birthdays is discovering how many folks have died that I reasonably expected were still living. He died of complications from diabetes at a far too young age. You know him most likely as Centauri diplomatic attaché Vir Cotto on Babylon 5, a decent being way over his head in a job he was ill prepared for. He also directed three low-budget movies for the Sci Fi Channel: Dragon StormPath of Destruction, and Basilisk: The Serpent King; he additionally co-starred in the last two films. And he produced Atomic Shark which aired during Sharknado Week on Syfy. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 8, 1955 Della Van Hise, 65. Author was a prolific Trek fanwriter who later published an official Trek novel, Killing Time which in its first printing implied a sexual relationship between Spock and Kirk. Later printings didn’t include this passage. It’s available on all the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born May 8, 1967 John Hicklenton. British illustrator also known as John Deadstock. He worked on 2000 AD characters like Judge Dredd (especially the Heavy Metal Dredd series) and Nemesis the Warlock during the Eighties and Nineties. He also dipped into the Warhammer universe with “Cycles of Chaos” (with writer Andy Jones) in Warhammer Monthly No. 9.
  • Born May 8, 1981 Stephen Amell, 39. He’s known for portraying Oliver Queen / Green Arrow In Arrowverse. Ok, I have a confession. I can either read or watch series like these. I did watch the first few season of the Arrow and Flash series. How the Hell does anybody keep up with these and set aside a reasonable amount of time to do any reading?  Seriously, the amount of genre on tv has exploded. I’m watching Midsomer MurdersDiscoveryYoung Justice and Doom Patrol which is quite enough thank you.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) GAULD CALLED. Shelf Awareness did a Q&A with the popular cartoonist: “Reading with… Tom Gauld”.

On your nightstand now:

I’ve just finished The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks. With the world in such a difficult place right now, it’s been very nice to escape into a completely different universe of spaceships and new planets. I’ve also been reading Angela Carter’s book of fairy tales The Bloody Chamber, which is exquisitely dark and beautifully written.

(15) ROUTE MARCH. Apparently Adri Joy took the road less traveled by. Did that make all the difference? Find out in this game review at Nerds of a Feather — “Diverging Paths and Cinnamon Rolls: Adri plays Fire Emblem: Three Houses”.

My first playthrough of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the latest edition in the long-running tactical JRPG saga, involved what,  it seems to be agreed, is the most boring route of this complicated branching story. I started off following my gut instincts in the game’s initial choices, and quickly realised I was on the most complicated moral pathway. Trying to keep myself as unspoiled as possible while also figuring out how to avoid locking myself into 40 hours of lawful evil misery, when faced with an (admittedly extremely signposted) choice to that effect, I took a deep breath and broke away from the character who asked me. When you do so, the game switches into a narrative that takes you away from the tried-and-tested Fire Emblem strategy of being the silent strategist to a protagonist Lord and into something else…. 

(16) HOW’S YOUR BIRD? Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum has had to cancel Lilac day, but it still has people taking care of nature; Gardener Brendan Keegan reports on “Life in the Landscape: Great Horned Owls”. Lots of photographs, with detailed explanations.

In November 2018, arborist Ben Kirby and I mounted a half dozen artificial nests throughout the Arboretum landscape. Made from old tree planting baskets and landscape fabric and filled with twigs and wood shavings, the nests were created with a goal to increase nest availability for great horned owls. Incapable of building their own nests, this species typically utilizes nests constructed by other large birds or relies on natural cavities in large trees.

After a season of vacancies, we were lucky when a mating pair of owls moved into one of our artificial nests in late January 2020. Due to the location, we were able to observe and collect data on the entire nesting process while remaining on the ground, a rare opportunity. Since the Arboretum is a Chapter of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s NestWatch program, our submitted data will help ornithologists better understand great horned owl breeding behavior and population trends.

The photos below chronicle this season’s nesting process, from egg laying in early February to fledging in late April. Since posting photos of active owl nests on social media typically results in increased human disturbance (which can endanger the female and her young), these photos were purposefully withheld until the young had already fledged. The photos were taken from over 150 feet away, with care to limit the time and frequency of each visit in order to minimize disruption.

(17) EGYPTIAN NEWS. In the Washington Post, Sudarsan Raghavan and Steve Hendrix say that the Egyptian show “El Nehaya” or “The End” is that nation’s first big-budget sf television show, but it has proven controversial because it foresees that in 2120 (when the drama set) the state of Israel is destroyed and Jews have fled the Middle East.“An Egyptian television drama depicts Israel’s destruction. Israel isn’t happy.”

“This goes back to a narrative from before the peace treaty and everything we’ve done with the Egyptians,” said Itzhak Levanon, Israel’s former ambassador to Egypt. “This sees that Israel will be annihilated. It is very disturbing.”

In a highly unusual statement, Israel’s Foreign Ministry decried the show as “unfortunate and unacceptable, especially between countries who have had a peace agreement for 41 years.”

It is notable that Synergy, the production company that made the show, has strong ties to the government of President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi and its general intelligence agency. “The End” airs on a network that is owned by a pro-government firm. 

(18) ANOTHER BARN DOOR. You know that place on the internet everybody’s moved to, where it’s hard to maintain your privacy?NPR reports “Zoom To Crack Down on Zoombombing, In Deal With NY Attorney General”.

Zoom has agreed to do more to prevent hackers from disrupting video conferencing sessions and to protect users’ data, according to a deal announced on Thursday by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

The coronavirus pandemic has unleashed incredible growth for Zoom. Daily use of the remote-meeting service ballooned to 300 million from about 10 million in a matter of months. As more people logged on, Zoom’s security and privacy flaws became evident.

Hackers began disrupting online school classes, government meetings, cocktail hours and other events in a trend that became known as Zoombombing.

Federal law enforcement and state investigators across the country started paying attention.

“Our lives have inexorably changed over the past two months, and while Zoom has provided an invaluable service, it unacceptably did so without critical security protections,” James said in a statement released by her office. “This agreement puts protections in place so that Zoom users have control over their privacy and security, and so that workplaces, schools, religious institutions, and consumers don’t have to worry while participating in a video call.”

Zoom has pledged to take more steps to block hackers from gaining access to chat sessions and user accounts. It must now run a “vulnerability management program” to identify and avert breaches into livestreaming conversations on the video platform, New York regulators wrote in the deal.

(19) READY FOR ITS CLOSEUP. “Scientists obtain ‘lucky’ image of Jupiter” – BBC story includes photo.

Astronomers have produced a remarkable new image of Jupiter, tracing the glowing regions of warmth that lurk beneath the gas giant’s cloud tops.

The picture was captured in infared by the Gemini North Telescope in Hawaii, and is one of the sharpest observations of the planet ever made from the ground.

To achieve the resolution, scientists used a technique called “lucky imaging” which scrubs out the blurring effect of looking through Earth’s turbulent atmosphere.

This method involves acquiring multiple exposures of the target and only keeping those segments of an image where that turbulence is at a minimum.

When all the “lucky shots” are put together in a mosaic, a clarity emerges that’s beyond just the single exposure.

(20) WE’RE PRACTICALLY CIRCLING THE DRAIN! “‘Nearest black hole to Earth discovered'”—BBC tells where.

Astronomers have a new candidate in their search for the nearest black hole to Earth.

It’s about 1,000 light-years away, or roughly 9.5 thousand, million, million km, in the Constellation Telescopium.

That might not sound very close, but on the scale of the Universe, it’s actually right next door.

Scientists discovered the black hole from the way it interacts with two stars – one that orbits the hole, and the other that orbits this inner pair.

Normally, black holes are discovered from the way they interact violently with an accreting disc of gas and dust. As they shred this material, copious X-rays are emitted. It’s this high-energy signal that telescopes detect, not the black hole itself.

So this is an unusual case, in that it’s the motions of the stars, together known as HR 6819, that have given the game away.

“This is what you might call a ‘dark black hole’; it’s truly black in that sense,” said Dietrich Baade, emeritus astronomer at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) organisation in Garching, Germany.

“We think this may be the first such case where a black hole has been found this way. And not only that – it’s also the most nearby of all black holes, including the accreting ones,” he told BBC News

(21) FRANK HERBERT RELIC. “Frank Herbert–NBC Interview” on YouTube is an interview done by NBC’s Bryant Gumbel in 1982, probably for the Today Show, where Herbert talks about David Lynch’s Dune movie being released in December 1983, a year before it actually appeared.

(22) LINE UP FOR THE MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR. Gizmodo’s Cheryl Eddy is ready to go: “10 Aliens That Can Just Go Ahead and Abduct Us Right Now”. Number four on her list —

4) Heptapods, Arrival

Traveling with Arrival’s time-fluid, squid-like creatures might be a little logistically complicated, but at least Amy Adams’ linguist character has already figured out the nuts and bolts of communicating with them. They are obviously very wise and highly evolved, and they travel around in their sleek ships encouraging the inhabitants of other planets to be better communicators. That is definitely a cause we’d be willing to ditch Earth to support.

(23) SPACE FARCE. SYFY Wire passes along “Real Space Force chief’s one piece of advice for Netflix’s Steve Carell: ‘Get a haircut'”.

Netflix’s out-of-this-world workplace comedy Space Force hasn’t even launched yet, but now the silly show that accidentally mirrored real developments in the government has already gotten something wrong from its real-life source material. Or, at least, that’s what the real head of the U.S. Space Force says. And “head” is the operative word here, because U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations Jay Raymond’s primary note for Steve Carell, who plays his doppelganger Mark R. Naird, is that he isn’t bald enough.

Raymond spoke during a Space Foundation webinar, according to Space.com, and addressed the comedic riff on his entire military branch by pointing out that while he is very bald, Carell is boasting a silvery head of hair.

“The one piece of advice I’d give to Steve Carell is to get a haircut,” Raymond said. “He’s looking a little too shaggy if he wants to play the Space Force chief.”…

(24) FOR THE STAY-AT-HOME CROWD. I never knew Tadao Tomomatsu did a Louis Armstrong impression. Here’s his rendition of “What a Wonderful World.”

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

Disney Masks – What A Bargain

Disney masks

“Disney launched new cloth character face masks—and $1 million of proceeds will go to charity” reports Yahoo! Life. There’s a quartet of designs for each major Disney franchise.

You can now rep some of your favorite Disney characters and movies while keeping yourself and others safe from the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). Disney just launched cloth face masks featuring Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars characters. Better yet, it’s all for a good cause.

Along with the launch of the face masks, Disney announced that it plans to donate up to $1 million from the sales of the masks to Medshare, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that delivers medical supplies and equipment to communities around the world. Disney is also donating one million cloth face masks to Medshare to be distributed to children and families in need across the U.S.

Would it be uncharitable to deliver the headline in my Alan Rickman voice? Perhaps – they’re only $19.99 for each set of four.

Available for pre-order, shopDisney masks.

PIXAR

STAR WARS

MARVEL

Pixel Scroll 4/13/20 Pixels, Get Ready, There’s A Scroll A’comin’

(1) PRESSING IN. Cat Rambo’s video “Why Small Press Books Don’t Almost Always Suck” challenges negativity about small presses with examples from her own career.

Cat talks about some of the small press books she’s appeared in or worked with, and what she likes about them

So far as I can tell she doesn’t identify any particular person as holding this opinion. But it might be more than a coincidence that a few weeks back Nick Mamatas wrote a column for LitReactor titled “Why Are Small Presses Almost Always So Awful?”

(2) IN CASE OF EMERGENCY. [Item by Dann.] Regarding Archive.org, Brian Keene has gone through the process of figuring out how to get his works removed from the National Emergency Library. To make it easier for other authors, he supplied the process in The Horror Show with Brian Keene – episode 259.

  • Authors need to send an email to info@archive.org.
  • The subject line should read “National Emergency Library Removal Request”
  • Authors need to include the URL(s) from within the National Emergency Library so they will know which work(s) they need to remove.

It’s kind of crappy to force authors to jump through hoops to prevent copyright infringement, but I guess it’s better to have hoops available than to just ignore the infringement and drive on as if nothing is wrong.

(3) IMPROVING SHORT FICTION. The Odyssey Writing Workshop interviews guest lecturer Sheila Williams, editor of Asimov’s.

…You’ve read quite a number of short stories over the years as an editor. For writers looking to improve their understanding of how short stories work, how would you suggest critically reading stories with an eye to improvement and understanding? Are there particular elements critical readers should look for?

This is a great question. Years ago I heard of an author who retyped a famous story to figure out what the author was doing. I don’t think the writer has to go that far, but critical reading is essential. Pick a favorite story that wowed you and read it a few times. Take notes. Look for the foreshadowing. Look for the metaphors and the similes. Pay attention to the arc. Pay attention to every clue. A professional author rarely wastes a word in a work of short fiction. It takes practice to pick up on most of the details the first time through a tale, but it’s a lot easier to see these details once you know what’s coming.

(4) NOT A DESIRABLE CHAPTER. Publishers Weekly reports on the troubles of a major book printer: “LSC Files Chapter 11”

LSC Communications announced this morning that it has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. The filing has been expected for several months as the country’s largest book printer—and one of its largest printers overall—has struggled under the weight of its failed merger with Quad Graphics and the outbreak of the new coronavirus. LSC’s subsidiaries in Mexico and Canada are not included in the filing, and will continue to operate normally.

LSC said it has received commitments for $100 million in debtor-in-possession financing from certain of its revolving lenders, subject to the satisfaction of certain closing conditions. If approved by the bankruptcy court, LSC said, the new financing, combined with cash on hand and generated through its ongoing operations, “is expected to be sufficient to support the company’s operational and restructuring needs.”

Since LSC’s deal with Quad was called off last summer following objections from the Justice Department, the company has worked to streamline its business, a process that has included closing eight facilities and signing new contracts, noted Thomas Quinlan III, LSC chairman, president, and CEO. Quinlan added that a review of its operations determined that the best way forward was to pursue a restructuring of its financial structure.

And Quad, LSC’s would-be merger partner, hit the wall two weeks ago: “Quad Closes Book Printing Operations”.

Publishers were dealt an unhappy surprise last week when Quad unexpectedly closed its book printing facilities, sending publishers scrambling to find a replacement. Quad did not respond to requests for comment from PW on whether it had plans to re-open the book plants.

The closure comes at a time when the loss of printing capacity is one of the many concerns publishers are facing because of the new coronavirus outbreak. Overall, most printers are printing, although on different schedules as they adjust to state policies, staffing, and types of books.

Quad put its book printing business up for sale last fall following the collapse of its proposed merger with the country’s largest book printer, LSC Communications, after the U.S. Department of Justice filed an antitrust suit. Quad has yet to respond to requests for comment from PW on whether it has found a buyer, but to date, none has been announced.

LSC, meanwhile, is continuing to operate, though it is dealing with its own financial challenges. 

(5) WORLD FANTASY AWARD NOMINATIONS OPEN. The World Fantasy Convention chairs still plan to hold their con in Salt Lake City from October 29-November 1.

WFC 2020 is still six months away. Every day brings new developments and, we sincerely hope, progress toward controlling and conquering the virus. We have every hope that the current crisis will be over long before 29 October. Besides our own continuing discussions and plans, we’re monitoring the efforts of other conferences and similar gatherings, and will adapt all measures that make sense to keep our membership safe. We know this is a difficult time, and everyone’s plans are in a state of flux. Be assured we have no plans to raise membership rates during this worldwide emergency.

Download Progress Report #2 from the website.

Members of the 2018, 2019, or 2020 World Fantasy Conventions may nominate books, stories, and individuals for the 2020 World Fantasy Award between how and May 31. Voting instructions here.

(6) THE LOOK OF DUNE. Vanity Fair posted on Instagram the first photos of Timothee Chalamet as Paul Atreides in Denis Villeneuve’s production of Dune.

(7) FERRELL OBIT. Former OMNI editor Henry Keith Ferrell (1953-2020) died of an apparent heart attack while fixing his roof, before the storm currently sweeping up the East Coast. He is survived by his wife, Martha, and son, Alec, who made the announcement on Ferrell’s website.

…Graduating from Raleigh’s Sanderson High in 1971, he attended the Residential College of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where he met Martha Sparrow — a woman of equal beauty and intellect — at a Halloween party in the basement of Guilford dormitory. His face covered in wax, she overheard him mentioning the name “Lawrence Talbot” and she got the reference, having no idea what Keith looked like. On their first date, they ditched a French play to go see King Kong instead. They fell in love, moved off campus, and started their lives together. They were married on July 20, 1974, and would remain together for almost 47 years.

…Now a family man, Keith set out on his career in publishing, first at Walnut Circle Press as a print salesman, then as editor of trade magazine The Professional Upholsterer, onward to feature writer of COMPUTE! Magazine, where he was at the forefront of reporting on the burgeoning home computing industry throughout its emergence as a household staple. All the while, he raised his son and loved his wife, planted many gardens, and wrote and wrote and wrote.

From 1983 through 1987, Keith published four critically-acclaimed biographies of legendary writers for young adults through M. Evans and Company: H.G. Wells: First Citizen of the Future; Ernest Hemingway: The Search for Courage; George Orwell: The Political Pen; and John Steinbeck: The Voice of the Land. These were the first of many printed works to bear his name in the byline.

In 1990, COMPUTE! was acquired by General Media out of New York City, and Keith was recruited and ultimately served as Editor-in-Chief of OMNI Magazine, the preeminent science and technology publication of the day — a career-defining accomplishment. During his tenure at OMNI, Keith worked with (and edited) many of the heroes of his youth and forged friendships across the fields of anthropology, gaming, evolutionary studies, telecommunications, and writers of all stripes. Keith stewarded OMNI as a vehicle for the vanguard of cutting-edge technology and futurism until its final issue…

He wrote until his dying day, which turned out to be April 11, 2020, at 2:32pm. His heart gave out after fixing a hole in his roof, but finished the job before doing so….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 13, 2012 Lockout premiered. Also known as MS One: Maximum Security, It directed by James Mather and Stephen Saint Leger, and written by Mather, Saint Leger, and Luc Besson. It was both Mather’s and Saint Leger’s feature directorial debuts. The film stars Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Vincent Regan, Joseph Gilgun, Lennie James, and Peter Stormare. It did poorly at the box and critics were not fond of it either; it holds a 46% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. So why write up here? Because John Carpenter successfully sued the film’s makers in the French courts for the film having plagiarized both Escape from New York and Escape from L.A.., a verdict held upon appeal. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 13, 1923 Mari Blanchard. Remembered best as B-movie femme fatale, she did a number of genre films including Abbott and Costello Go to Mars where she was Queen Allura, She Devil where she had the lead role of Kyra Zelas and Twice-Told Tales, a Vincent Price horror film where she had a not major role as Sylvia Ward. (Died 1970.)
  • Born April 13, 1931 Beverley Cross. English screenwriter responsible for an amazing trio of films, to wit namely Jason And The ArgonautsSinbad And The Eye Of The Tiger and Clash Of The Titans. He also wrote the screenplay for The Long Ships which is at genre adjacent. (Died 1998.)
  • Born April 13, 1949 Teddy Harvia, 71. Winner of the Hugo for Fan Artist an amazing four times starting in 1991 at Chicon IV, then in 1995 at Intersection, next in 2001 at the Millennium Philcon and last at in 2002 at ConJosé. He was honored with the Rebel Award by the Southern Fandom Confederation in 1997 at that year’s DeepSouthCon
  • Born April 13, 1951 Peter Davison, 69. The Fifth Doctor and one that I came to be very fond of unlike the one that followed him. And he put a lot of gravitas into the voice of Mole he did for The Wind in the Willows animated special Mole’s Christmas. For twenty years now, he has reprised his role as the Fifth Doctor in myriad Doctor Who audio dramas for Big Finish.
  • Born April 13, 1954 Michael Cassutt, 66. Producer, screenwriter, and author. His TV resume includes notable work for the animated Dungeons & DragonsMax HeadroomThe Outer LimitsBeauty and The BeastSeaQuestFarscape and The Twilight Zone. He’s also written a number of genre works including the Heaven’s Shadow series that was co-written with David S. Goyer.
  • Born April 13, 1959 Brian Thomsen. He was an American science fiction editor, author and anthologist. Founding editor of the Questar Science Fiction line for which he was a Nolacon II Hugo finalist in the Best Professional Editor category. I’ve read and will recommend The American Fantasy Tradition which he did, and likewise Masters of Fantasy which was co-edited with Bill Fawcett. I see he helped Julius Schwartz put together his autobiography,  Man of Two Worlds. (Died 2008.)
  • Born April 13, 1950 Ron Perlman, 70. Hellboy in a total of five films including three animated films (Hellboy: Sword of StormsHellboy: Blood and Iron and the Redcap short). Still by far the best Hellboy. He’s got a long association with the genre as his very first film was Quest for Fire in which he was Amoukar. The Ice Pirates as Zeno was followed quickly by the role of Captain Soames in Sleepwalkers and Angel  De La Guardia in the Mexican horror film Cronos. Several years later, I see he’s Boltar in Prince Valiant, Johnher in Alien Resurrection and Reman Viceroy in Star Trek: Nemesis. And I should note he was in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them as Gnarlack, a goblin gangster if I read the Cliff notes to that correctly. No, I’m not forgetting about his most amazing role of all, Vincent in Beauty and The Beast. (Having not rewatched for fear of the Suck Fairy having come down hard on it.) At the time, I thought it was the the most awesome practical makeup I’d ever seen. And the costume just made look him even still more amazing. 
  • Born April 13, 1960 Michel Faber, 60. Dutch born author of three genre novels, Under the SkinThe Book of Strange New Things and D: A Tale of Two Worlds. He was a finalist for the 2015 Arthur C. Clarke Award for The Book of Strange New Things.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) THERE’S NOTHING HALFWAY ABOUT THE IOWA WAY. Shaenon K. Garrity tweeted, “The Iowa Digital Library has a collection of sci-fi fanzines from the 1930s and 1940s, and my entertainment needs through the rest of the pandemic are taken care of.” Thread starts here.

(12) SECOND THOUGHTS. Cora Buhlert continues her assessment of this year’s finalists in “Some Thoughts on the Hugo Award Finalists, Part II: The 2020 Hugo Awards”.

…This year, however, I’m largely happy with the Best Related Work finalists. Joanna Russ by Gwyneth Jones, The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick by Mallory O’Meara and The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein, by Farah Mendlesohn are exactly the sort of finalists I want to see in this category. All three were also on my longlist, two of them were on my ballot.

Becoming Superman: My Journey from Poverty to Hollywood by J. Michael Straczynski was not on my ballot, but is a highly deserving finalist, since autobiographies of people of genre relevance have always been a part of Best Related Work – see also the recent nominations for Carrie Fisher’s and Zoe Quinn’s respective autobiographies….

(13) LOOKING FOR A JOB IN WASHINGTON. If Lou Antonelli doesn’t get voted in as SFWA director-at-large, he’s got a fallback position. Lou has declared himself a Libertarian candidate for Congress in Texas’ 4th District. Ballotpedia shows he’s up against a Republican incumbent.

Brianna Wu is running for Congress as a Democrat in a Boston-area district once again. It would be an interesting coincidence if they were both on the floor of the House to start the 2021 term.

(14) SCARED STRAIGHT. “Indonesian village uses ‘ghosts’ for distancing patrols” according to the BBC.

A village in Indonesia has reportedly taken to using volunteers dressed as ghosts to try to scare people into social distancing over the coronavirus.

Kepuh village, on Java Island, started deploying the patrols at night last month.

In Indonesian folklore, ghostly figures known as “pocong” are said to represent the trapped souls of the dead.

Indonesia so far has about 4,500 cases and 400 confirmed virus deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

But there are fears, according to experts, that the true scale of the infection across the country is much worse.

According to Reuters news agency staff who travelled to see the pocong in action, the unusual tactic initially had the opposite effect to that intended – with people coming out to try to spot the volunteers.

But locals say matters have improved since the team began deploying unexpectedly.

“Since the pocong appeared, parents and children have not left their homes,” resident Karno Supadmo told Reuters. “And people will not gather or stay on the streets after evening prayers.”

(15) FLAT NOTES. Today’s thing to worry about — “Coronavirus: What’s happening to the beer left in pubs?”

Pubs, like other public venues, look set to stay shut for the foreseeable future. But what’s going to happen to the contents of their cellars?

Fifty million pints – give or take.

That’s the amount of beer expected to go unused in barrels if pubs remain closed into the summer because of coronavirus. Publicans are currently unable to sell their lagers, ales and ciders – save for takeaways and home deliveries.

“It’s a very sad waste of all the work and talent that goes into producing great beer,” says Tom Stainer, chief executive of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra). “People won’t get to drink it and all those resources have been used up for nothing.”

Mr Stainer estimates the UK’s 39,000 pubs have, on average, 15 barrels in their cellar at any given time. Most are kegs containing 11 gallons (88 pints) each – although many real ales come in nine-gallon (72-pint) casks. The best-before dates on pasteurised beer – including most lagers – are usually three to four months after delivery.

Those for real ales and other unpasteurised beer are usually set at six to nine weeks.

So most stock could go to waste if social distancing measures remain in place for several months.

(16) PLAYING POLITICS. My daughter used to play this game by the hour: “Animal Crossing removed from sale in China amid Hong Kong protests”.

The Nintendo Switch’s current best-selling game has been removed from Chinese online stores after activists used it to criticise the state.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons lets players customise their own island and invite others to visit.

Some players in Hong Kong have used the platform to stage protests.

Players in mainland China had previously been able to buy foreign editions of the title from online marketplaces.

The country’s censors strictly regulate video games and had yet to approve the title’s formal release in the country.

Now, even local sites which had advertised imported copies have removed the listings.

It is not clear, however, whether this is because there has been an intervention by the authorities or whether the stores are proactively removing the product.

(17) GROUNDHOG DAY. Bill Murray in another Jeep commercial.

Wake up. Wash hands. Miss groundhog. Repeat. Every day is probably starting to seem the same, but the more we all remember to stay inside, the sooner we can get back outside.

(18) HOUSTON, WE USED TO HAVE A PROBLEM. “Apollo 13: Enhanced images reveal life on stricken spacecraft” — many pictures at link.

Image enhancement techniques have been used to reveal life aboard Nasa’s stricken Apollo 13 spacecraft in unprecedented detail.

Fifty years ago, the craft suffered an explosion that jeopardised the lives of the three astronauts aboard.

Unsurprisingly, given they were locked in a fight for survival, relatively few onboard images were taken.

But imaging specialist Andy Saunders created sharp stills from low-quality 16mm film shot by the crew.

One of the techniques used by Mr Saunders is known as “stacking”, in which many frames are assembled on top of each other to improve the image’s detail.

(19) IT’S A GAS. In “‘Pinocchio’ at 80: 5 things you never knew about the Walt Disney classic” on Yahoo! Entertainment, Ethan Alter reports that if Disney followed Carlo Collodi’s story, Jiminy Cricket would have died in the film, and that Mel Blanc was originally cast as Gideon the cat but his lines were cut and replaced by burping.

Eighty years ago, moviegoers discovered exactly what happens when you wish upon a star when Walt Disney’s second animated feature, Pinocchio, premiered in theaters on Feb. 23, 1940. Flush with cash from the enormous success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Disney gambled his studio’s future on an adaptation of Italian author Corlo Collodi’s 19th century story of a walking, talking marionette who longs to be a real boy. At the time, the gamble didn’t entirely succeed: While Pinocchio received instant critical acclaim, it didn’t attract the same crowds that turned out in droves to see Snow White….

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Wong Ping’s Fables 2” on Vimeo tells the story of the cow who became rich and the rabbit who wanted to be a judge.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/23/20 So Tomorrow We Are Heading Up That Scrolly Road, Rocks And All. Got Any Dragons You Need Pixeled?

(1) WORTH YOUR WHILE. Having seen what shoppers are lined up for, James Davis Nicoll tracked down five highly time-absorbent novels — “Five Massive SFF Books to Read While You’re Social-Distancing” at Tor.com.

Ash: A Secret History by Mary Gentle

Clocking in at a streamlined 1120 pages, Ash tells the tale of 15th century mercenary Ash, a woman whose Europe is both very much like and very much different from our own. A natural soldier, she is drawn into the effort to defend a disunited Europe from the Visigoth army that threatens the continent. Visigoth-ruled Carthage has numbers and a seemingly magical technology the Europeans cannot match. Key to the invader’s success: the Faris, a woman guided by mysterious Voices…a woman who could be Ash’s twin.

(2) INSTANT TSUNDOKU. Paul Weimer presents “Mind Meld: The 101 and the 201 of SFF” at Nerds of a Feather. The feature involves asking people a genre-related question and sharing their responses. Answering this time are Marissa Lingen, Megan O’Keefe, Alix Harrow, Adri Joy, Marina Berlin, Lisa McCurrach, Melissa Caruso, Andrew Hiller, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, Keena Roberts, J Kathleen Cheney, Elizabeth Fitz, Camestros Felapton, Catherine Lundoff, Sophia McDougall, and Julie Czerneda. His question is:

Some readers are looking for entry points into fantasy and pointing them at a book rich in the conversation and assumed tropes can throw them right out of it again. Other readers want more than a basic experience but are frustrated with novels that retread the same basics over and over.

So I’d like for you to recommend me *two* books:

1. A 101 SFF book that someone who may have seen Lord of the Rings but never cracked open an SFF book might fruitfully read. 
2. A 201 SFF book for someone looking for a deeper, richer experience, rewarding their previous reading in genre. 

(3) NEW ZEALAND GOING TO TOP ALERT LEVEL. Of concern for those hoping the 2020 Worldcon might still be held this summer, New Zealand’s Prime Minister announced yesterday that the nation has gone to Level 3 status, and tomorrow they will be going to Level 4 status for at least 4 weeks.

A New Zealand Herald article explains: “Coronavirus: What Covid-19 alert levels 3 and 4 mean for you and your family”.

New Zealand has 102 confirmed cases of coronavirus and is now at alert level 3 – and will move to level four for likely at least four weeks from Wednesday.

Alert level 3 means the risk of the potentially deadly virus not being contained and there will either be community transmission of the virus or multiple clusters breaking out.

Level 4 means people are instructed to stay at home, schools and universities closed, as well as non-essential businesses, major reprioritisation of health services, and severely limited travel.

Essential services will be open at all alert levels, but level level 3 means limited travel in areas with clusters of Covid-19 cases, affected educational facilities closed, mass gatherings cancelled, public venues closed (such as libraries, museums, cinemas, food courts, gyms, pools, amusement parks), some non-essential businesses closed, and non face-to-face primary care consultations, with non-elective services and procedures in hospitals deferred.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has just told the nation “we are all now preparing as a nation to go into self-isolation in the same way we have seen other countries do. Staying at home is essential”.

That would give the health system a chance to cope, she said.

(4) LAFFERTY FANS DISAPPOINTED. Laffcon, a one-day event about the works of R.A. Lafferty that had been scheduled for June 8 in Lawenceville, New Jersey has been postponed until June 2021.

(5) HELP NEEDED. A GoFundMe to help the late Kate Hatcher’s family has been launched by Rick Kovalcik: “Help Ben (and Ireland) Hatcher”.

As you may know, Kate Hatcher passed away early in March after battling pneumonia (http://file770.com/kate-hatcher-1974-2020/). She left behind her partner, Ben Hatcher, and a daughter with health issues, Ireland. Various people have asked if there is anything we could do for Ben and Ireland. Well, John Hertz called me yesterday and said Ben and Ireland really could use some money, especially in the next month, while Ben tries to straighten out the finances and government payments to Ireland. Since John is not on the Internet, the suggestion was that I create a GoFundMe and send the money to Ben Hatcher. I am doing so. As I did for the Boskone ASL Fund, I will make up the GoFundMe fees (up to the asking amount) in addition to my personal contribution so that Ben and Ireland get the full amount that people are donating.  As suggested by John Hertz, I will send Ben a money order on about March 31st with what is raised to that point and then follow up with additional funds as appropriate (perhaps weekly). If anyone wants to check the veracity of this, please feel free to contact John Hertz; if you don’t have his phone number, I can give it to you.

(6) FAN FAVORITES. The nerd folk duo doubleclicks will livestream interviews with two sff authors this week. (Times shown are PDT.)

TUESDAY:
11am: Interview with Hugo Award-Winning author Becky Chambers, author of the Wayfarers Series, which we’ve read about 2 dozen times. The second book has an AI in it whose story makes me feel one million things. Becky’s latest book is To Be Taught, If Fortunate and is also completely lovely!!

THURSDAY:
11am: interview with Hugo Award-Winning author Martha Wells, author of the Murderbot Diaries, which we’ve also read about 2 dozen times. This series is about a “robot” who just wants to binge tv shows and protect people and the books are so funny and real and emotional.

(7) A CHAPTER IN GENRE HISTORY. Joel Cunningham, the person who started the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, tells the story of the site, which closed last December after five years. Thread starts here. He’s got a new job at Lifehacker. 

(8) NOSTALGIA AVAILABLE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] An Ontario guy set up a site with all sorts of old broadcasts and bits and pieces many locals grew up with. Did you know that in 1972, Dan Ackroyd voiced the call sign for a TV station? They also have Judith Merril’s post-show discussions of Doctor Who episodes from 1980, old commercials, stuff from the Buffalo TV stations … a lovely rabbit hole to slither down: Retrontario.com.

(9) PLAGUE INVADES THE LOCKED TOMB. Bad news for those awaiting the sequel to one of last year’s most talked about sff books. Tamsyn Muir told readers today —

(10) UNEVENLY DISTRIBUTED. “Not like the pictures”: “William Gibson Says Today’s Internet Is Nothing Like What He Envisioned”

William Gibson writes visionary stories — in his early work, he imagined an information superhighway long before the Web existed. But in a dozen novels over the last 35 years, Gibson has stalked closer and closer to the present.

His latest, Agency, has a complicated plot that jumps between the far future and the immediate present; Gibson says his favorite type of science fiction requires time and effort to understand. “My greatest pleasure in reading books by other people is to be dropped into a completely baffling scenario,” he says, “and to experience something very genuinely akin to culture shock when first visiting a new culture.”

Gibson imagined that sort of culture shock back in 1982 when he coined the word “cyberspace” in a short story. Two years later he popularized the term in his first novel, Neuromancer, about a washed up hacker hired for one last job.

…”He said once that he was wrong about cyberspace,” says author Lev Grossman, “and the internet when he first conceived it, he thought it was a place that we would all leave the world and go to. Whereas in fact, it came here.”

Grossman is a former book critic for Time magazine and author of the fantasy bestseller, The Magicians. “You have an artificial intelligence that is everywhere. It’s in all your devices. You’re looking through it as a lens to see the rest of the world. It’s an extraordinary vision of how computers will become aware, and become the thing that mediates between us and reality.”

But Gibson himself thinks the future of artificial intelligence will require human sensibility to take it to the next level. “Over the past few years, I’ve more and more frequently encountered people saying that the real change-bringer might not be something, an intelligence that we build from the ground up, but something like an uploaded healing consciousness that we then augment with the sort of artificial intelligence we already have.”

(11) WILD ABOUT HARRY. Marie Claire ran an article about nineandthreequartersco whose products we mentioned here the other day: “Harry Potter-inspired tea and coffee just launched in a whole range of magical flavours”. See more Harry Potter-themed beverages on the company’s Instagram page.

All the names take inspiration from J.K. Rowling’s fictional world; from ‘espresso patronum’, to ‘butter brew’, to ‘brew that must not be named’, there are flavours for every Potterhead.

The ‘espresso patronum’ coffee blend is, as you may have guessed, an espresso blend, promising to provide a smooth and chocolatey cup of coffee with a slightly fruity finish. The ‘butter brew’ coffee on the other hand, is a sweeter butterscotch flavour brew, taking inspiration from the beer the wizards drink at Hogsmede pub. More information about the other coffee flavours on their website.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 23, 1962 — The third season episode of Twilight Zone entitled “Person or Persons Unknown” first aired. Written by Charles Beaumont Who wrote a number of other classic episodes in this series such as “The Howling Man” and “Number 12 Looks Just Like You”, he also was the scriptwriter for such films as  7 Faces of Dr. Lao and Queen of Outer Space. The premise of his script is simple: upon awaking from a bender, his protagonist find no one recognises him. Richard Long is David Andrew Gurney and the supporting cast are quite fine in their roles as well.  

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 23, 1882 Charles Montague Shaw. His most remembered role came in 1936 as Professor Norton in the quite popular Undersea Kingdom serial. It was done in response to the Flash Gordon serial then being played. Ironically, he would appear several year later in the Flash Gordon’s Trip To Mars serial as the Clay King. (Died 1968.)
  • Born March 23, 1904 H. Beam Piper. I am reasonably sure that the first thing I read and enjoyed by him was Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen followed by Little Fuzzy and related works which are damn fun reading. Has anyone here read Scalzi’s Fuzzy novel? (Died 1964.)
  • Born March 23, 1934 Neil Barron. Certainly best known for Anatomy of Wonder: A Critical Guide to Science Fiction which actually is still a damn fine read which is unusual for this sort of material. If memory thirty years on serves me right, his Fantasy Literature and Horror Literature guides were quite good too. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 23, 1937 Carl Yoke, 83. One of those academics that I stumbled upon when I was looking for information on Zelazny. His 1979 study of him, Roger Zelazny, is quite excellent, as is his essay, “Roger Zelazny’s Bold New Mythologies” which is to be in Tom Staicar’s Critical Encounters II: Writers and Themes in Science Fiction. He also wrote “What a Piece of Work is a Man: Mechanical Gods in the Fiction of Roger Zelazny” which you’ll find in Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy, one of those serious academic volumes no one really reads for the most part. Yoke does have two genre stories to his credit, they’re called The Michael Holland Stories.
  • Born March 23, 1952 Kim Stanley Robinson, 68. If the Mars trilogy was the only work that he’d written, he’d rank among the best genre writers ever. But then he went and wrote the outstanding Three Californias Trilogy. I won’t say everything he writes I consider top-flight, the Science in the Capital series just didn’t appeal to me. His best one-off novels I think are without argument (ha!) The Years of Rice and Salt and New York 2140.  I should note he has won myriad Awards including the Hugo Award for Best Novel, BSFA Award for Best Novel, the Nebula Award for Best Novel and the World Fantasy Award. And the Heinlein Society gave him their Robert A. Heinlein Award for his entire body of work! 
  • Born March 23, 1958 John Whitbourn, 62. Writer of a number novels and short stories focusing on an alternative history set in a Catholic universe. It reminds me a bit of Keith Robert’s Pavane but much more detailed. A Dangerous Energy in which Elizabeth I never ascends the throne leads off his series. If that’s not to your taste, Frankenstein’s Legion’s is a sheer delight of Steampunk riffing off Mary Shelley‘s tale. He’s available at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born March 23, 1959 Maureen Kincaid Speller, 61. British reviewer and essayist who has been nominated for Hugos for Best Semiprozine and Best Fan Writer. She’s had an extensive career with her writing showing up in MatrixSteam Engine TimeThe Gate and Vector (all of which she either edited or co-edited), Barbed Wire KissesFire & HemlockLocal FanomenaRed Shift, Interzone and The BSFA Review. Other than a brief collection by BSFA, And Another Thing … A Collection of Reviews and Criticism by Maureen Kincaid Speller, her work has not yet been collected. 
  • Born March 23, 1977 Joanna Page, 43. It’s not the longest of genre resumes but it’s an interesting one. First, she’s Ann Crook in From Hell from the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell. Next up is appearing in yet another version of The Lost World. (I think there’s there a legal contract requiring one be made every so often.) And finally she’s Queen Elizabeth I in The Day of The Doctor

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro answers the question, “What’s Heaven to a chicken?”
  • Bug-eyed aliens from Neptune invade Calvin & Hobbes.
  • Cul de Sac chronicles The Attack of the Monster Worm!  

(15) COMICS PIPELINE SHUT OFF. Bleeding Cool reports “Diamond Comic Distributors No Longer Taking In New Comics”.

Bleeding Cool has been informed by multiple senior industry figures that Diamond Comic Distributors is requesting that no more product be shipped to any of its warehouse until further notice. Product already in its warehouses will be distributed, such that it can, but after that they will be distributing no more comics, magazine, books, toys, games, or any other product until further notice….

The company’s reasons for the decision are chronicled at Adventures in Poor Taste: “Diamond Comics Distributor explains choice to halt shipping and marks March 25 as last slated shipment”.

… Our publishing partners are also faced with numerous issues in their supply chain, working with creators, printers, and increasing uncertainty when it comes to the production and delivery of products for us to distribute. Our freight networks are feeling the strain and are already experiencing delays, while our distribution centers in New York, California, and Pennsylvania were all closed late last week. Our own home office in Maryland instituted a work from home policy, and experts say that we can expect further closures. Therefore, my only logical conclusion is to cease the distribution of new weekly product until there is greater clarity on the progress made toward stemming the spread of this disease….

(16) CORONA CARTOONIST. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna profiles Chen Wang, who uses the name “Messycow” for her cartoons, who uses her background as someone born in Wuhan but who now lives in Seattle, whose comics deal with how she copes with the coronavirus. “Chinese American cartoonist finds satire in coronavirus crisis — with a perspective from both cultures”.

“People in the rest of the world might not have known much at the time, but it was all people cared about in China,” says the artist, who has family in Wuhan. “I followed the news closely and experienced a lot of emotions.”

To channel those emotions creatively, she took a humorous tone with the comic “Quarantine Makes Life Better,” which depicted a faux-news report of characters coping with stay-at-home life.

(17) PIXAR’S ONWARD ONLINE. Adweek reports “Disney’s Onward Available for Digital Purchase Tonight as Coronavirus Shutters Theaters”.

Disney’s latest Pixar film, Onward, opened in theaters just two weeks ago, but the company is already making it available for digital purchase tonight, making it the latest current release to quickly migrate to video-on-demand platforms as the novel coronavirus’ spread wipes out traditional movie theater attendance.

The film, which follows the adventures of two elf brothers voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, will be available to purchase on digital platforms for $19.99 beginning at 8 p.m. ET, Disney said this morning.

It will then be released on Disney’s streaming service Disney+ just two weeks from now, on April 3.

(18) BRITISH FAN HISTORY. The British Science Fiction Association has made its archive of its official journal Vector available on the Fanac.org website: “Early Vector now open access”.

The BSFA have partnered with FANAC.org to make sixty years’ worth of back issues available free online. This collection includes for the first time scans of all of the first seven issues (editors inclue E.C. Tubb, Terry Jeeves, Roberta Gray, and Michael Moorcock).

Most of what has been digitized is now available on Fanac: issues from the 1980s and 1990s should follow shortly.

(19) COMFORT READS. The New York Times features includes a couple of genre books (one of them by Harlan Ellison): “Celeste Ng, Ann Patchett, Min Jin Lee and Others on the Books That Bring Them Comfort”.

Celeste Ng – ‘The Princess Bride,’ by William Goldman

In 1987, my sister was halfway through reading me “The Princess Bride” when she went off to college. The day she left, I cried myself to sleep — and then, after I got my bearings again, I read the rest of the book on my own. So this has always been a comfort read for me: a fairy tale that acknowledges that life isn’t fair (“It’s just fairer than death, that’s all”) yet still manages to make you feel that the good guys might win, that justice will be served, that there’s a point to it all. If you only know the (fantastic) film, pick the book up, too — it’s just as much of a delight. —Celeste Ng’s most recent book is “Little Fires Everywhere.”

(20) DEPTH SHALL NOT RELEASE YOU. BBC has the bad news — “Climate change: Earth’s deepest ice canyon vulnerable to melting”.

East Antarctic’s Denman Canyon is the deepest land gorge on Earth, reaching 3,500m below sea-level.

It’s also filled top to bottom with ice, which US space agency (Nasa) scientists reveal in a new report has a significant vulnerability to melting.

Retreating and thinning sections of the glacier suggest it is being eroded by encroaching warm ocean water.

Denman is one to watch for the future. If its ice were hollowed out, it would raise the global sea surface by 1.5m.

…Most people recognise the shores around the Dead Sea in the Middle East to have the lowest visible land surface elevation on Earth, at some 430m below sea level. But the base of the gorge occupied by Denman Glacier on the edge of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS) actually reaches eight times as deep.

This was only recently established, and it has made Denman a location of renewed scientific interest.

(21) NOT BLASTS FROM THE PAST.  Got to love this title: “Not Rocket Science: SF Stories Involving Alternatives to Space Rocketry”, a Tor.com post by James Davis Nicoll:

…A cousin to the sling is the accelerator, a (presumably firmly bolted down) device which uses some force other than centripetal to accelerate payloads. Such devices have some obvious limits (namely, power supply, heat management, and the trade-off between accelerations low enough not to crush the payload and final velocities high enough to be useful). They also have advantages, not least of which is not having to haul a gigawatt-plus power supply off-planet and across space. Accelerators of various kinds go way back in science fiction, at least as far as Jules Vernes’ From the Earth to the Moon, whose Baltimore Gun Club delivers a living payload past the Moon using a very, very large gun. No, larger than that.

Various flavours of accelerators show up all through SF. One of the more striking examples is Michael Swanwick’s Vacuum Flowers, whose “transit rings” manipulate space-time to accelerate payloads to high speeds without the payloads feeling the forces involved. I wonder if this was inspired by Robert Forward’s Guidelines to Antigravity

(22) LET THE SUNSHINE IN. Oh, sure, if you’re going to count everything“Electric car emissions myth ‘busted'”

Fears that electric cars could actually increase carbon emissions are a damaging myth, new research shows.

Media reports have questioned if electric cars are really “greener” once emissions from manufacture and electricity generation are counted.

The research concludes that in most places electric cars produce fewer emissions overall – even if generation still involves fossil fuels.

Other studies warn that driving overall must be reduced to hit climate targets.

The new research from the universities of Exeter, Nijmegen – in The Netherlands – and Cambridge shows that in 95% of the world, driving an electric car is better for the climate than a petrol car.

The only exceptions are places like Poland, where electricity generation is still mostly based on coal.

(23) SEA FOR YOURSELF. SYFY Wire applauds a scientific development: “Creepy Extinct Fish With Fingers Unearths The Bizarre Truth Of How Hands Evolved”.

Humans may not be directly related to fish (except maybe Abe Sapien or that creature from The Shape of Water), but the fossil of an extinct fish known as Elpisostege watsoni was a breakthrough for a research team from Flinders University in Australia and Universite de Quebec a Rimouski in Canada. This literal fish out of water had fingers, as in actual finger bones, in its pectoral fins. Its 380-million-year-old skeleton revealed how vertebrate fingers evolved from fins — and how prehistoric fish morphed into tetrapods.

(24) ANCIENT PILOT. William Shatner was Archie Goodwin in this adaptation of Nero Wolfe.

An unsold, 1959 pilot for a proposed NERO WOLFE TV series starring Kurt Kasznar as Nero Wolfe and William Shatner as Archie Goodwin. The theme was composed by Alex North. Rumor has it there are two additional unsold pilots with this cast out there somewhere.

(25) VULCAN LIVES. John Prine’s “Lonesome Friends of Science” is news to me!

“This song here is an epic.  This tells you about the humiliation of the planet Pluto, when it was told it was no longer a planet, the romantic escapades of the Vulcan in Birmingham, Alabama, and the end of the world as we know it.  All in a little over four minutes.” 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Nancy Lebovitz, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, rcade, Joe Siclari, Mike Kennedy, Ben Bird Person, Darrah Chavey, Iphinome, Michael J. Walsh, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contirebiting editor of the day Brian Z.]

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 3/13/20 The Sun Comes Shining As I Was Scrolling, The Pixels Waving And The Dust Clouds Rolling

(1) BUTTIGIEG INTERVIEWS SIR PAT. “Recently unemployed” Mayor Pete Buttigieg guest-hosted The Jimmy Kimmel Show. Due to public health concerns over the coronavirus, they cancelled their studio audience. Sir Patrick Stewart was a guest on the show.

Sir Patrick talks about Mayor Pete’s huge “Star Trek” fandom, civil disobedience, Sir Ian McKellen performing the multiple marriage ceremonies he had to his wife, and he surprises Mayor Pete with one of his original scripts from “Star Trek.”

They also did a sketch about “a Star Trek trivia game show for the ages called ‘Who’s the Captain Now?’” hosted by LeVar Burton.

(2) HELIOSPHERE CANCELLED. Heliosphere, which was to have been held April 3-5 in Tarrytown, NY has been called off. The committee has not yet decides whether to try and hold it later this year.

Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus, HELIOsphere 2020 will not be running as scheduled for April 3-5. At this time, we don’t know whether we will be postponing or simply cancelling for this year. We will keep you posted as we work out the details with the hotel.

(3) STOKERCON STATUS. The Horror Writers Association’s annual StokerCon is scheduled to be held in the U.K. next month. HWA President John Palisano gave this update to Facebook readers today:

At this time, more than two-thirds of attendees are based in the U.K., you should all be aware that the political situation has been changing by the hour. Only in the last 24 hours has travel in Europe (with the exception of the U.K.) been generally banned. The U.K. may take a similar step, or the U.S. may prohibit travel to and from there. So it’s a very real possibility that in the next few days, the decision of whether to hold the Con may be taken out of our hands. We don’t want to cancel the event unnecessarily, because that could cause severe financial hardship to many of our attendees and volunteers. On the other hand, we want to be respectful of individual decisions about whether or not to travel. We ask for you to be patient for a few more days while we try to sort out various options, including streaming the Bram Stoker Awards ceremony.

Meanwhile, our Librarians Day event, scheduled for May 7th of this year in Chicago, is still a go at this point. The organizers are also carefully watching this pandemic and are working on contingencies should the issues stretch that far into the future. They will have an announcement tomorrow.

Know that heading my first StokerCon as President of the HWA carries no small weight, and that my main priority is and will remain our members’ safety and well-being as we navigate these treacherous and unmapped waters.

(4) UP IN THE AIR. Fans inquiring about the status of Minicon 55, planned for April 10-12 in Minneapolis, have been told there’s a committee meeting this weekend and an announcement one way or the other may follow.

(5) MORE COVERAGE. Tor.com’s Andrew Liptak is also tracking the status of sff events. “Coronavirus: The Sci-Fi/Fantasy Conventions Canceled So Far”.

Those events include major science fiction, fantasy, and gaming conventions, as well as adjacent events like conferences. We’ve compiled a list of major and regional events that have been postponed, canceled, or which are as of now still running.

(6) SMITHSONIAN’S OPEN ACCESS IMAGE COLLECTION. We ought to be able to do a lot with this: “Smithsonian Releases 2.8 Million Images Into Public Domain”.

Culture connoisseurs, rejoice: The Smithsonian Institution is inviting the world to engage with its vast repository of resources like never before.

For the first time in its 174-year history, the Smithsonian has released 2.8 million high-resolution two- and three-dimensional images from across its collections onto an open access online platform for patrons to peruse and download free of charge. Featuring data and material from all 19 Smithsonian museums, nine research centers, libraries, archives and the National Zoo, the new digital depot encourages the public to not just view its contents, but use, reuse and transform them into just about anything they choose—be it a postcard, a beer koozie or a pair of bootie shorts.

And this gargantuan data dump is just the beginning. Throughout the rest of 2020, the Smithsonian will be rolling out another 200,000 or so images, with more to come as the Institution continues to digitize its collection of 155 million items and counting.

When I searched “science fiction” lots more photogenic things came up – from lunch boxes to C3PO – but I was intrigued by this 1951 Astounding advertising rate card:

(7) SCIENCE IN THE HOUSE. That’s candidate Brianna Wu’s latest appeal:

Media has focused on the dangers of Coronavirus. Brianna Wu speaks with Geneticist Frank Wu about the possible treatments and vaccines being developed by the biotech industry

(8) ANOTHER WORLD. Henry Lien posted this thought experiment on Facebook.

WHAT WOULD THE WORLD BE LIKE IF EVERYONE WERE LIKE YOU?
I used to play a game and ask people what the world would be like if everyone were like you. Here are some features of my world.
1. Restaurants would be filled with constant people traffic as everyone went to wash their hands after touching the menu and after touching cash.
2. Doorknobs, elevator buttons, light switches, hotel TV remotes, and ATM interfaces would all be redesigned for elbows.
3. There’d be no shoes in the house and people would bow instead of shaking hands.
4. Everyone would be at home on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights happily writing, making music, reading, or playing Nintendo.
5. No one would get a cold more than once every ten years.
6. Extroverts and free-spirited folks would be miserable.

(9) SPEAKER IN THE HOUSE. Cat Rambo shares her experience in “How to Stay Sane and Productive While Working at Home”. One of her eight main headings is —

Exercise is good. You may not be able to get to the gym — I’m currently avoiding it, myself — but you will be happier and healthier if you are doing something. For me, that’s walking, because I’m lucky enough to live in a great area for it. I also have a standing desk that I got from Ikea years back. Your mileage may (literally) vary, but at least stretch when you can and be mindful of your back.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 13, 1927 Metropolis premiered in Germany. It was directed by Fritz Lang. It was written by Thea von Harbou in collaboration with Lang. It stars Gustav Fröhlich, Alfred Abel, Rudolf Klein-Rogge and Brigitte Helm. The film’s message is encapsulated in the final inter-title of “The Mediator Between the Head and the Hands Must Be the Heart.” In 2001 the film was placed upon UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, the first film so distinguished. It is considered one of the greatest films ever made, and has a 92% rating among audience members at Rotten Tomatoes. You can see it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 13, 1911 L. Ron Hubbard. Ok I’ll admit that I tried reading Battlefield Earth and really didn’t like it. Some of his early pulp fiction is actually quite good. So what do y’all think of him as a genre writer? (Died 1986.)
  • Born March 13, 1928 Douglas Rain. Though most of his work was as a stage actor, he was the voice of the HAL 9000 for 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequel. He’s in Sleeper a few years later as the voices of the Evil Computer and Various Robot Butlers. (Died 2018.)
  • Born March 13, 1932 Richard Lawrence Purtill. He’s here because EoSF list him as the author of  Murdercon, a1982 novel where a murder is discovered at a SF Convention. I’ve not heard of it but was wondering if y’all had heard of this work. (Died 2016.)
  • Born March 13, 1938 David McKail, 82. He was Sergeant Kyle in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”. He also was Sir Henry Roscoe in Beatrix: The Early Life of Beatrix Potter, and was in the adaptation of Iain Banks’ The Crow Road which I know is neither genre or genre adjacent but it had Peter Capaldi in it.  
  • Born March 13, 1950 William H. Macy Jr., 70. I’ll start his Birthday note by noting that he was in the superb Pleasantville as George Parker. He’s shown up in a lot of genre works including but limited to Somewhere in Time, Evolver, The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue, The Night of the Headless Horseman, Jurassic Park III, Sahara and The Tale of Despereaux.
  • Born March 13, 1956 Dana Delany, 63. I’ve come today to praise her work as a voice actress. She was in a number of DCU animated films, first as Andrea Beaumont in Batman: The Mask of The Phantasm, then as Lois Lane in Superman: The Animated Series, Superman: Brainiac Attacks and Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. (That’s not a complete listing.) Remember that Wing Commander film? Well there was an animated series, Wing Commander Academy, in which she was Gwen Archer Bowman. 
  • Born March 13, 1966 Alastair Reynolds, 54. As depressing as they are given what they lead up to, The Prefect Dreyfus novels are my favorite novels by him. That said, Chasm City was fascinating. The only ones by him that I absolutely failed to get any enthusiasm for is his Revenger Universe series.
  • Born March 13, 1967 Lou Anders, 53. Hugo-winning Editor. He’s has been editorial director of Prometheus Books’ SF  imprint Pyr since its launch fifteen years ago. He’s a crack editor of anthologies. I’ve very fond of his Live Without a Net, Sideways in Time and FutureShocks anthologies. I note that he has a fantasy trilogy, Thrones and Bones, but I’ve not heard of it til now.
  • Born March 13, 1968 Jen Gunnels, 52. Writer and genre theater critic, the latter a rare thing indeed. She does her reviews for Journal of the Fantastic in the ArtsFoundation: The Review of Science Fiction and New York Review of Science Fiction. With Erin Underwood, she has edited Geek Theater: Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy Plays

(12) KGB TO STREAM. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series with Daniel Braum and Robert Levy has been converted to a livestream. Hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel invite everyone to see it here on YouTube on March 18 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

We will, for the first time in our history, be live-streaming readings from both of our authors on YouTube. We hope you will join us for this historic event.

UPDATE March 13, 2020: For the safety and well-being of our readers and guests, we have decided to cancel this month’s in-person Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading with guests Daniel Braum & Robert Levy.

Instead, we will be hosting a YouTube Live event with both authors, who will be reading their work. Anyone with YouTube access can watch.

(13) PIKE PEEK. We Got This Covered confirmed “Captain Pike Star Trek Spinoff Series Reportedly In Development”.

… Of course, there’ve been calls for CBS to move ahead with such a spinoff for the past couple of years. EP Alex Kurtzman has addressed the possibility in the past, refusing to rule it out and commenting that they’re trying to find ways to bring these characters back. True, they did all appear in a few episodes of the Short Treks anthology series, but this didn’t fully satiate our appetite to see more of Pike and his crew.

As Discovery itself addressed, Pike is fated to meet a tragic end. As detailed in an episode of TOS, he’s eventually left paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair after rescuing Starfleet cadets from a delta ray radiation leak. Our intel says that this spinoff show will build up to that fate, properly filling the gap between TOS‘ pilot, “The Cage,” and his return in “The Menagerie.”

(14) WEEKEND NEWS BACKDATE. Galactic Journey’s John Boston has a 1965 news flash: “[March 12, 1965] Sic Transit (April 1965 Amazing]”.

The big news, previously rumored, is that Amazing and its stablemate Fantastic are to change hands.  The April Science Fiction Times just arrived, with the big headline “ ‘AMAZING STORIES’ AND ‘FANTASTIC’ SOLD TO SOL COHEN.” Cohen is the publisher of Galaxy, If, and Worlds of Tomorrow, but will resign at the end of next month to take up his new occupation. 

Why is this happening?  Probably because circulation, which had been increasing, started to decline again in 1962 (when I started reviewing it!).  The SF Times article adds, tendentiously and questionably, that “the magazine showed what appeared to be a lack of interest by its editors.” Read their further comment and draw your own conclusions on that point.

(15) ACROSS THE DIVIDE. Law & Liberty’s Brian A. Smith, in “Ursula Le Guin and the Persistence of Tragedy”, looks at The Dispossessed from the right.

At least when their authors avoid offering a thesis, novels acquire peculiar value in deranged times. They allow us to see cracks in our political and social foundations from another perspective, and as a result, open paths to conversation and thought that might otherwise remain closed. Lots of genres can unsettle us, but one peculiarity of science fiction is that its authors have the freedom to create worlds.

At the genre’s most stereotypical, this license to invent lends itself to both ham-fisted allegories and didacticism. But if the author happens to be coming from the “right” direction, so to speak, and has some real talent, it’s relatively easy to take an imaginative leap into their world. Reaching beyond one’s own tribe may present a challenge, however. It is difficult to read David Drake, Iain Banks, China Miéville, Robert Heinlein, or John Varley without observing how they view human nature, what they think family means, or the political order they endorse—and a lot more besides.

Critics often complain that such novels fail precisely because they think the author is stacking the deck in favor of their pet ideas. It’s easy for partisans to forgive this because such novels entertain while also fortifying our opinions against a hostile world. And it’s not surprising that sci-fi readership so often divides along partisan lines.

The Work of Sympathy

It is harder to name many great works of science fiction that offer a definitive point of view, while also presenting us with unresolvable tensions and latent anxieties that no attentive reader can quite escape. Neal Stephenson’s best work probably qualifies. Arguably Frank Herbert’s Dune or Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos also do this. We need the sympathy and broadening of horizons that such novels can cultivate more than ever, and for the present moment, the most compelling book of this kind remains Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed.

(16) STANDING UP. “Disney promises LGBT ‘commitment’: ‘We want to represent our audience'”.

Disney has promised to continue making films and TV shows with “an increased commitment” to diversity in its output, according to its boss Bob Chapek.

“We want to represent our audience,” he said at a meeting for the company’s shareholders this week.

“We want to tell stories that our audience wants to hear, that reflects their lives.”

He was responding to a question about LGBT characters in their films and pride events at theme parks.

There will be a transgender character in a future Marvel film, and upcoming superhero movie The Eternals will introduce Marvel’s first openly gay lead character to cinema screens.

…At the shareholder’s meeting, Disney CEO Bob Chapek was asked a question by Catholic campaigner Caroline Farrow, who represents conservative group Citizen Go.

As part of her question, she asked: “Is it perhaps time to reconsider what you can do to make Disney more family friendly, to make it safe for people around the world, not just one particular minority?”

She also claimed a petition which asks Disney not to hold gay pride events in its parks was signed by “almost 700,000 people”

(17) CLIMB EV’RY MOUNTAIN – NOT. From the BBC — “Mount Everest: Nepal’s government shuts off mountain amid virus outbreak”.

Mount Everest has shut down for the rest of the expedition season because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Nepal’s government announced that it would cancel all climbing permits from 14 March until 30 April.

China had already cancelled expeditions from the northern, Chinese-controlled, side of the mountain.

According to the Kathmandu Post, Nepal earns $4m (£3.1m) by issuing Everest climbing permits every year, aside from wider tourism revenue.

(18) THAT IS NOT DEAD… “Marine pollution: Russian fly spray and 1800s shoes among beach litter”.

Russian fly spray, US prohibition-era rum, shoes from the 1800s and a council bin have been among the stranger items to have washed up on British shores.

To highlight pollution, the National Trust has revealed the oddest objects to wash up on beaches it manages.

The 19th Century shoes, Russian insect spray and an aerosol from Saudi Arabia were all found at Orford Ness, Suffolk.

The National Trust saidit illustrated the “deluge” of marine litter and how long items such as plastic could last.

(19) NO PICTURES! They tore it out by the roots: “Christmas Island: ‘A giant robber crab stole my camera'” — video, including some impressively mangled equipment and a crab walking off with a coconut.

Researcher Annabel Dorrestein set up a thermal imaging camera to study flying foxes, or bats, at night on Australia’s Christmas Island.

But when she returned one morning to collect the camera, she discovered it had been stolen – almost certainly by the island’s famous robber crabs.

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