Pixel Scroll 10/13/20 The Credential’s Door Into Summer

(1) NUANCES ERASED IN MARKETING DUNE. “In Dune, Paul Atreides led a jihad, not a crusade” – why that matters is the focus of Ali Karjoo-Ravary’s opinion piece at Al Jazeera.

….But fans familiar with the books noticed a major omission in its promotional materials: any reference to the Islam-inspired framing of the novel. In fact, the trailer uses the words, “a crusade is coming”, using the Christian term for holy war – something that occurs a mere three times in the six books of the original series. The word they were looking for was “jihad”, a foundational term and an essential concept in the series. But jihad is bad branding, and in Hollywood, Islam does not sell unless it is being shot at.

Dune is the second film adaptation of the popular 1965 science fiction novel by Frank Herbert. Set approximately 20,000 years in the future on the desert planet Arrakis, it tells the story of a war for control of its major export: the mind-altering spice melange that allows for instantaneous space travel. The Indigenous people of this planet, the Fremen, are oppressed for access to this spice. The story begins when a new aristocratic house takes over the planet, centring the narrative on the Duke’s son Paul.

The trailer’s use of “crusade” obscures the fact that the series is full of vocabularies of Islam, drawn from Arabic, Persian, and Turkish. Words like “Mahdi”, “Shai-Hulud”, “noukker”, and “ya hya chouhada” are commonly used throughout the story. To quote Herbert himself, from an unpublished 1978 interview with Tim O’Reilly, he used this vocabulary, partly derived from “colloquial Arabic”, to signal to the reader that they are “not here and now, but that something of here and now has been carried to that faraway place and time”. Language, he remarks, “is mind-shaping as well as used by mind”, mediating our experience of place and time. And he uses the language of Dune to show how, 20,000 years in the future, when all religion and language has fundamentally changed, there are still threads of continuity with the Arabic and Islam of our world because they are inextricable from humanity’s past, present, and future….

(2) LEARNING HORROR. Sarah Gailey adds to her Personal Canons “Wayside School”, a tribute to Louis Sachar’s Wayside School series.

…In addition to tapping into the deep, gut-level instability of growing up, Sachar wrote some truly choice moments of horror into these books. It’s horror for children, in that it’s a little gross and a little ridiculous, but that doesn’t make it ineffective. …

These are all presented as genuinely frightening, and they land beautifully. When I read these books as a child, I was aware that they were funny and unrealistic — but I also felt a lingering sense of unease. The school was not a safe place, and the teachers were not safe or trustworthy people. The rules rarely made sense, but the consequences to breaking them were very real. Everything constantly seemed to be teetering on the brink of collapse.

These are the books that taught me to love being unsettled….

(3) STOP AND SMELL THE ROSES. Congratulations to the Strange Horizons’ reviews section which celebrated a milestone anniversary. Their twentieth-anniversary round table of reviewers past and present, featuring Rachel Cordasco, Erin Horáková, ML Kejera, Samira Nadkarni, Abigail Nussbaum, Charles Payseur, Nisi Shawl, Aishwarya Subramanian, and Bogi Takács, discusses “what reviewing is, why it matters—and why they bother with it.”

Abigail Nussbaum: I see my reviewing as an offshoot of fandom. In the late 90s and early 00s I was active in a few fandoms—X-Files and Harry Potter, mostly—but gravitated almost exclusively to what would now be described as “meta,” analysis and reviewing rather than fanfic. Around the mid-00s I was active on a message board called Readerville, dedicated to discussions of books, which helped me both to expand my reading and explore my impulse to talk about the things I’d read. I started a blog in 2005 basically because I had a lot to say and nowhere to say it—certainly not at the length I wanted. A few months later, Niall Harrison got in touch and asked if I’d be interested in writing for Strange Horizons, and the rest is history.

(4) TECH AND MORALITY. “Cory Doctorow: ‘Technologists have failed to listen to non-technologists’” – a Q&A conducted by The Guardian’s Ian Tucker about Doctorow’s new book, Attack Surface.

The protagonist in your new novel tries to offset her job at a tech company where she is working for a repressive regime by helping some of its targets evade detection. Do you think many Silicon Valley employees feel uneasy about their work?
Anyone who has ever fallen in love with technology knows the amount of control that it gives you. If you can express yourself well to a computer it will do exactly what you tell it to do perfectly, as many times as you want. Across the tech sector, there are a bunch of workers who are waking up and going: “How did I end up rationalising my love for technology and all the power it gives me to take away that power from other people?”

As a society, we have a great fallacy, the fallacy of the ledger, which is that if you do some bad things, and then you do some good things, you can talk them up. And if your balance is positive, then you’re a good person. And if the balance is negative, you’re a bad person. But no amount of goodness cancels out the badness, they coexist – the people you hurt will still be hurt, irrespective of the other things you do to make amends. We’re flawed vessels, and we need a better moral discourse. That’s one of the things this book is trying to establish.

(5) CONSEQUENCES OF IMAGINING THE WORST? Doctorow is also on tap at Future Tense in a first-person piece about “The Dangers of Cynical Sci-Fi Disaster Stories”.

When I moved to California from Toronto (by way of London), I was shocked by the prevalence of gun stores and, by their implication, that so many of my reasonable-seeming neighbors were doubtless in possession of lethal weapons. Gradually the shock wore off—until the plague struck. When the lockdown went into effect, the mysterious gun stores on the main street near my house sprouted around-the-block lines of poorly distanced people lining up to buy handguns. I used to joke that they were planning to shoot the virus and that their marksmanship was not likely to be up to the task, but I knew what it was all about. They were buying guns because they’d told themselves a story: As soon as things went wrong, order would collapse, and their neighbors would turn on them.

Somehow, I couldn’t help but feel responsible. I’m a science-fiction writer, and I write a lot of disaster stories. Made-up stories, even stories of impossible things, are ways for us to mentally rehearse our responses to different social outcomes. Philosopher Daniel Dennett’s conception of an intuition pump—“a thought experiment structured to allow the thinker to use their intuition to develop an answer to a problem”—suggests that fiction (which is, after all, an elaborate thought experiment) isn’t merely entertainment.*

That’s true. And it’s a problem….

(6) UNFORGOTTEN. Never mentioned by the actress, but Glorious Trash remembers Diana Rigg’s work in “Minikillers (1969)”.

German producers H.G. Lückel and D. Nettemann had an entrepreneurial idea: to provide entertainment for people getting their cars refilled at gas stations in Germany. The idea was to place TV sets by the pumps, so customers could watch a short film while their car was filled (this was before the days of self-service.)  They envisioned an espionage thriller to capitalize on the James Bond/Eurospy genre. Casting about for a famous lead, they eventually settled on Diana Rigg — fresh from her biggest role in the Bond film On Her Majestys Secret Service. After negotiating, Rigg agreed to appear in these films. 

Minikillers is a series of four short films, tied together into a coherent storyline: the idea was that customers would keep coming back to that particular gas station to see the conclusion. The series was shot on 8 millimeter and without dialog; sound effects and music were added later. In a way the project comes off like a silent film; all is relayed via movement, gestures, and facial expressions. 

Rigg apparently did not realize the uber-low budget of these films until the camera(s) started to roll. However true to her contract she shot each of them…and never mentioned them again. 

As they are up on YouTube: 

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 2010 — Terry Pratchett won the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement from the Mythopoeic Society. It was his second Award from them as five years earlier he’d won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature for A Hat Full of Sky, the second of the novels involving the young witch Tiffany Aching. That novel would also garner the Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book. The series as a whole would later be nominated for a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature but the Award went to Ursula Vernon’s Castle Hangnail.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born October 13, 1872 – Boris Zvorykin.  Designer and illustrator; illustrated books, decorated churches, worked for Tsar Nicholas II.  Left at the Revolution, eventually went to Paris, in 1930 translated & illustrated four Russian fairy tales, also did porcelain for Porzella later incorporated in Villeroy & Boch.  In 1978 Jacqueline Onassis found and produced his book, The Firebird (in English).  Here is a print illustrating Boris Godounov.  Here is one for Tsar Saltan.  Here is “The Snow Maiden”.  Here is a set of his V&B plates.  (Died 1942) [JH]
  • Born October 13, 1906 – William Morrison.  Four novels, eighty shorter stories; “The Science Stage” in F&SF; memoir in Greenberg, Olander & Pohl’s 1980 thirty-year Galaxy anthology; posthumous collection The Sly Bungerhop (2017).  Ph.D. research chemist under another name.  Comics, credited with creating J’Onn J’Onzz the Manhunter from Mars.  Wrote about archeology, ballet, opera, theater, Rome.  (Died 1980)  [JH]
  • Born October 13, 1923 – Iona Opie, C.B.E.  Folklorist, anthologist, with her husband Peter; their collection of children’s books and ephemera 16th-20th Centuries is in the Bodleian Lib’y (20,000 pieces; two-year public appeal raised the £500,000 cost); audiotapes of children’s games & songs in the British Lib’y.  Oxford Dictionary of Nursery RhymesLore & Language of Schoolchildren; two dozen stories for us in The Classic Fairy Tales; two dozen more books.  Coote Lake Medal jointly.  Iona made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born October 13, 1926 Lenny Bruce. Yes, the foul-mouthed stand-up comic. ISFDB lists him as having co-authored three essays with Harlan Ellison in Rouge magazine in 1959 all called “Bruce Here”. Rogue also printed SF stories as well from Fritz Leiber, Robert Bloch, Mack Reynolds and Harlan Ellison to name some of their writers. It lasted but six issues. (Died 1966.) (CE) 
  • Born October 13, 1956 Chris Carter, 64. Best known for the X-Files and Millennium which I think is far better than X-Files was, but also responsible for Harsh Realm which lasted three episodes before being cancelled. The Lone Gunmen managed to last thirteen episodes before poor ratings made them bite the bullet. (CE) 
  • Born October 13, 1959 Wayne Pygram, 61. His most SFish role was as Scorpius on Farscape and he has a cameo as Grand Moff Tarkin in Revenge of the Sith because he’s a close facial resemblance to Peter Cushing. He’s likely best recognized as himself for his appearance on Lost as a faith healer named Isaac of Uluru. (CE) 
  • Born October 13, 1967 Kate Walsh, 53. She has the recurring role of The Handler in The Umbrella Academy series. Walsh starred as Sandra Anderson in the biblical horror film Legion, and was a sexy waitress in the Bewitched film. She was Amal Colb in Scary Movie 5, the fifth and final installment in the Scary Movie franchise. (CE)
  • Born October 13, 1967 – Petri Hiltunen, 53.  Cartoonist and illustrator.  Puupäähattu award.  His Praedor comics led to a role-playing game of the same name.  In his comic strip The Return of Väinämöinen, the Eternal Sage of Kalevala ends his self-imposed exile to find he might have been gone too long, e.g. these newfangled “potatoes” are now considered a traditional food.  PH contributes to the SF magazine Tähtivaeltaja (“Star Wanderer”); he’s well known in Finnish fandom e.g. at Finncon.  Here is an illustration for Knight of the Cursed Land.  Here is the cover for his graphic-novel version of Macbeth.  Here is an illustration for the board-game Aegemonia.  [JH]
  • Born October 13, 1969 Aaron Rosenberg, 51. He’s written novels for Star Trek, StarCraft, Warcraft, Exalted, Stargate Atlantis, and Warhammer, as well as other franchises. He’s even written a novel set In the Eureka ‘verse, Eureka: Roads Less Traveled, under the house name of Cris Ramsay. Eureka novels sound fascinating but this is the only one that I found so far. (CE)
  • Born October 13, 1975 – Jana Bauer, 45.  Her Witch Vanisher is available in English; the publisher says she has a deviously humorous narrative style.  She edits Exchanges, short prose from different countries, and Forget-me-nots in Slovenian and English for the children of Slovene emigrants (I’ve left out the Slovenian titles because of software character trouble).  In the Land of Gingerbread was the first Forget-me-not (see p. 2 of this newsletter).  For Scary Fairy in the Fearful Forest see here.  A dozen other books.  [JH]
  • Born October 13, 1976 Jennifer Sky, 44. Lead character conveniently named Cleopatra in Sam Raimi’s Cleopatra 2525 series. (Opening theme “In the Year 2525” is performed by Gina Torres who’s also a cast member.) She’s had guest roles on Seaquest DSVXenaCharmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And she was Lola in The Helix…Loaded, a parody of The Matrix which scored 14% at Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers. (CE)
  • Born October 12, 1983 – Lesley Nneka Arimah, 37.  Nat’l Magazine Award, O. Henry Award, Commonwealth Short Story Prize.  “Skinned” (Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy Stories, Machado ed. 2019) and four more for us in her collection What Does It Mean When a Man Falls from the Sky?, Kirkus Prize and don’t miss its last review at her Website, where also she says she is working on a novel about you.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) CEL GROWTH. Vulture has “The 100 Sequences That Shaped Animation From Bugs Bunny to Spike Spiegel to Miles Morales, the history of an art form that continues to draw us in”, which provides a deep dive into animation history for people who want to know more about animation.

(11) GETTING INTO THE SPIRIT. Cat Rambo reads a story for Halloween.

This short urban fantasy story originally appeared in Stamps, Tramps, and Vamps, edited by Shannon Robinson. It takes place in Durham, North Carolina, and involves a tattoo artist who’s got a different purpose in mind than her latest client does. It seemed like it would be a fun Halloween story to share!

(12) STATE OF THE NATION. There’s a lot more to think about than I expected in Zippia’s “Map Of Each State’s Favorite Halloween Candy (Spoiler: Some States Have Really Bad Taste)”. Here are first three of nine bullet points.

  • Starburst is a favorite with 6 states loving the fruity squares above all else
  • The winner is in, and between chocolate and non-chocolate candy it’s a…toss-up.
  • 25 states prefer chocolates candies while 25 prefer gummies, fruit-flavored candies, and other non-chocolate candies.

(13) TUNING UP. Genre adjacent, at least. “Delia Derbyshire Documentary Gets New Trailer: Watch” at Pitchfork.

…Derbyshire, an early electronic music pioneer, worked at the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop in the 1960s, where she composed the theme for the long-running science fiction series Doctor Who. Written and directed by Caroline Catz, the film features archival materials, interviews with Derbyshire’s colleagues and collaborators, and dramatizations starring Catz herself as the composer. Derbyshire’s original compositions are featured alongside a soundtrack by Cosey Fanni Tutti, constructed from samples Derbyshire’s posthumously released “Attic Tapes.”

(14) UNCLE WALT. Defunctland is “the show about the past…of the future!” Here are two of its episodes devoted to Walt Disney’s landmarks Disneyland and EPCOT.

In this episode, Kevin finally reaches the opening of Disneyland, focusing on the development and history of Tomorrowland 1955, the first, hastily-made version of the famous theme park land, including attractions such famous attractions as Rocket to the Moon, Autopia, Space Station X-1, the Matterhorn, the Skyway, Submarine Voyage, and the Monorail.

Walt Disney made ambitious plans for a City of Tomorrow named E.P.C.O.T. just before his death in 1966, but the plans were soon abandoned. What were Walt’s ideas for his city of the future, what happened to the project, and would it have worked?

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Twilight:  Eclipse Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George says the third Twilight movie has a very strange title, because “Why would you spend two hours looking at an eclipse?”

[Thanks to Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, JJ, N., Cat Eldridge, Alan Baumler, Will R., John Hertz, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credt goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 6/26/20 Memory, All Alone In The Bookstore, Has The Store Lost My Authors, Oh, Wait, Here They All Are

(1) PUBLISHER CUTS TIES WITH MYKE COLE. Angry Robot, which published their first Myke Cole book, Sixteenth Watch, in March, says they won’t be bringing out any more.

Cole previously had a trilogy published by Tor, and another series by Ace.

Cole also has been dropped by his agent.

Vault Comics canceled Hundred Wolves, where Myke Cole was the writer. The series was set to begin in September.

Cole apologized for his behavior, and reiterated an apology from 2018 — and then said he was “exiting…the public square…for the foreseeable future.”

(2) THE ROOM WHERE IT SHOULDN’T HAPPEN. Foz Meadows suggests ways to understand and navigate the sff social scene. Thread is compiled at Threadreader.

Foz kicks off with this tweet –

— but spends more time on issues like these:

(3) THE PROMISE OF ANGER IS AN ILLUSION. Alexandra Erin also discusses ethical ideas that may be helpful in deciding how to handle social situations: “More In Sorrow Than In Anger”. Tagline: “On what we choose to do when all our sins are remembered.”

This is not the piece I had planned on writing this week. While I cannot ignore national politics or world events, the professional community of which I am a part – that of the science fiction and fantasy literary profession – has been imbroiled with a wave of revelations of misconduct by some of the big fish in our small ponds of convention circuits, mentor programs, and what passes for royalty and nobility in our petty fiefdoms.

… At some points in our lives, all of us will find ourselves in a situation where the next thing we do will either make others very sad or very angry.

Sometimes this will be entirely outside your control. Sometimes you are placed in a situation through no fault of your own where nothing you do will make others happy, and in fact anything you do will likely leave them unhappy.

This is not about those times.

This is about the times when you do something, or are party to something, or fail to prevent something that is hurtful and harmful to others. Maybe you didn’t see it that way. Maybe you didn’t intend to do anything wrong.

But it’s true nonetheless that you’ve caused damage and now the question is what to do about it. What to say about it. Where to go next.

(4) WORD PICTURE. Catherynne M. Valente offered a way of looking at recent developments.

(5) ROUNDUP. At Multiversity Comics Christopher Chiu-Tabet has assembled “A Timeline of Recent Allegations in the Comic Book Industry”.

Since June 15, 2020, when artist/writer Cameron Stewart was widely accused of abusing his clout to prey on aspiring teenage comic book creators, the industry has continued to be rocked by allegations of other prominent figures sexually harassing, assaulting, or coercing their colleagues. Other creators have also begun to speak out about general sexism in the industry.

This list of recent allegations will continue to be updated….

(6) KEENE’S COMMENTS. In last night’s episode of The Horror Show With Brian Keene, he said the show’s team was aware of 10 cases of allegations involving everything from sexual coercion to sexual assault that have been made “against ten different individuals in the comic book, horror, science fiction, book-selling, convention organizer, and cosplay sectors of our industry — all of which had publicly come to light in the last 7 days.”

When Keene followed up the podcast today with a public Patreon post, “Behind Closed Doors”, he said the number is up to 17.

…When we started out, we were lifted up by those who came before us. Now, we spend a good part of each day lifting up those who are following our trail. But while we may be able to speak with some authority on the quality of that person’s writing or art or directorial abilities, and while we may speak to them via email or phone or social media — at the end of the day, we don’t always know what’s going on behind closed doors.

…Ignorance is not an excuse. But I do believe that we as creators, in the process of lifting up others and celebrating others, must always remember that we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors. And if those doors are opened and we see what goes on, and it is harmful to individuals or to our greater community, then we have a duty to speak out about it and our association with that person going forward, as I did with Chandler.

I believe we can separate the art from the artist. I also believe we can separate the artist from their associations. I believe that once their associations come to light, we should take a moment — just a moment — and look at it with some nuance. If the artist was associated with something like Stormfront, and was secretly posting hate-screeds, okay, yeah, fuck that person right in the ear. But there’s a big difference between that and Tweeting, “Hey, check out this other author’s book.”

We as creators have a responsibility when it comes to our platforms and our reach. If we’ve lifted up an artist who is later alleged to have done something harmful to individuals in our community, or to the community itself, I think it is our absolute duty to speak on that candidly and honestly and urgently. And that can be difficult. I think the most heartbreaking thing about Kelly Sue DeConnick’s two videos regarding the Warren Ellis allegations is not what she says — but what she doesn’t say. The hurt and bewilderment that is there in her expression. The pain left unvoiced. I can only imagine how hard it was for her to speak out like that, but she was right to do so. To not address it, after years of Ellis lifting her up to his audience and she (in all fairness) lifting him up to her audience, would have been a disservice to the larger community.

In my opinion, she did the right thing….

(7) MWA ACTION. The Mystery Writers of America have issued a statement about the suspension of an unnamed member: “A Message from the MWA National Board of Directors”.

Due to allegations made against one of our members, on Wednesday evening, June 24, 2020, the Board of Directors of Mystery Writers of America (MWA) voted to suspend the membership of the accused member, pending the outcome of our investigation. Mystery Writers of America takes the safety of our members at industry events, whether sponsored by MWA or not, very seriously and will continue to work towards a goal of making every event safe for everyone who attends. We are currently working with our legal advisors on developing a more comprehensive code of conduct, which will be completed and made public shortly.

(8) INTERNATIONAL THRILLER WRITERS BOARD EXODUS. Hillel Italie, in an Associated Press story entitled “Board members resign from thriller writers association after harassment, racial criticisms” says that eight of the 10 board members of the International Thriller Writers Association resigned amid criticisms of the organization’s response to Black Lives Matter and some sexual harassment charges. (The resigning board members statement is on Facebook here.)

 Eight of 10 board members and the executive director have resigned from International Thriller Writers, a professional association which has faced widespread criticism for its responses to the Black Lives Matters protests and an author’s allegations she was harassed during a writers conference. 

Criticism of the ITW emerged last week when novelist Laurie Chandlar announced on Twitter that she had stepped down from her position as Debut Author Chair. 

“I and another female author brought serious concerns to the ITW board regarding a male author’s behavior at an industry event. They were summarily and callously dismissed,” Chandlar wrote. “For years I’ve heard of women being harassed, groped, and cornered at industry events. And even with serious complaints involving a police report, it seems some leaders have preferred over the years to just sweep it all under the rug.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 26, 1905 – Lynd Ward.  His striking Gods’ Man, a novel in woodcuts, has no words; an artist sells his soul for a magic paintbrush, which seemed a good idea, but ha ha; there’s a Dover edition; the title alludes to Plautus’ Bacchides Act IV sc. 2, “Whom the gods favor, dies young”.  LW did a fine illustrated edition of Frankenstein; won the Caldecott Medal; with wife May McNeer, other notable work, e.g. Prince Bantam about Yoshitsune and Benkei who although historical people are also the stuff of legend.  Here is another LW image.  (Died 1985) [JH]
  • Born June 26, 1910 – Elsie Wollheim.  One of the original Futurians.  Wife and then widow of Donald A. Wollheim, co-founded DAW Books with him and succeeded him at his death.  Guest of Honor at WisCon 5, Lunacon 26, DeepSouthCon 33, L.A.con III the 54th Worldcon (some use Roman numerals, some don’t) chaired by Our Gracious Host.  (Died 1996) [JH]
  • Born June 26, 1929 – Milton Glaser, 91.  Graphic designer.  Made the logograph for DC Comics; also I [heart] NY which, since I’ve lived there, I invite you to consider as possible fantasy, but I loved it, anyway.  Two dozen covers for us.  Here is A Canticle for Leibowitz.  Here is The Man Who Called Himself Poe.  Here is a Bob Dylan poster.  [JH]
  • Born June 26, 1929 – Wally Weber, 91.  Of Seattle and Huntsville.  Co-edited Cry of the Nameless when it won the Hugo for Best Fanzine; chaired the 19th Worldcon; TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate.  [JH]
  • Born June 26, 1936 – Nancy Willard, Ph.D.  Wrote Things Invisible to See, four more; four shorter stories; poetry; two or three score other things of which we might claim many; Pish, Posh, said Hieronymous Bosch and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice illustrated by the Dillons; Newbery Medal for A Visit to William Blake’s Inn.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born June 26, 1987 – Zoraida Córdova, 33.  Eight novels, of which one is Star Wars and so is a shorter story (in From a Certain Point of View).  Having been reared in Queens she naturally writes about Brooklyn Brujas.  Co-hosts a podcast Deadline City.  [JH]

(10) MUPPETS NOW. The forthcoming Disney+ Muppets show starts July 31.

(11) WHAT’S THAT SMELL? Yes, today seems like the right day to discover this is happening.  “Grateful Dead Launches Deodorant Brand”. From NPR:

So the Grateful Dead are launching a deodorant brand, which is not particularly on-brand. It’s true – when you think of the Dead, you don’t right away think fresh scent. But the line is handmade, small-batch and vegan. The fragrances have names like skull and roses and sunshine, overtones of lavender and rose and blood orange and bergamot, respectively. All this meaning your armpits can now glow with the gold of sunshine.

Umm, doubtful.

(12) LOOK OUT FOR THAT JUGGERNAUT! Smithsonian Magazine tells readers how “You Can Help Teach the Curiosity Rover to Drive on Mars”.

You could help the Curiosity rover navigate Mars by flipping through photos of the red planet’s rocky landscape and labeling what you see.

NASA is asking volunteers to help sort through and label thousands of photographs taken by the rover. The labels, gathered through the AI4MARS program, will help the rover pick a path to reach its next scientific target. The labels will contribute to a machine learning project to help the rover’s path planners pick smooth routes, after years of sharp terrain wore down the rover’s treads, Elizabeth Howell reports for Space.

… Curiosity landed on the Red Planet in 2012. In theory, choosing clear, smooth paths could help extend Curiosity’s useful time on Mars. But by 2017, there was damage on the rover’s zigzagged treads, threatening their ability to carry its four-ton mass. That’s after only driving about 14 miles throughout its mission so far. According to a statement, it can take four to five hours for a team of rover planners to figure out where Curiosity should drive and how it should get there.

(13) HOLMES ON THE RANGE. The Verge’s Adi Robertson clearly has an opinion: “Arthur Conan Doyle’s estate sues Netflix for giving Sherlock Holmes too many feelings”.

The estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has sued Netflix over its upcoming film Enola Holmes, arguing that the movie’s depiction of public domain character Sherlock Holmes having emotions and respecting women violates Doyle’s copyright.

Enola Holmes is based on a series of novels by Nancy Springer starring a newly created teenage sister of the famous detective. They feature many elements from Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, and most of these elements aren’t covered by copyright, thanks to a series of court rulings in the early 2010s. Details from 10 stories, however, are still owned by Doyle’s estate. The estate argues that Springer’s books — and by extension Netflix’s adaptation — draw key elements from those stories. It’s suing not only Netflix, but Springer, her publisher Penguin Random House, and the film’s production company for unspecified financial damages.

(14) MARKET REPORT. Publishers Weekly has put out a call for “Feature: SF, Fantasy & Horror”

Issue: Sept. 7
Deadline: July 15

We’re interested in works of genre fiction (adult and YA crossover only) whose themes include race, gender, and building an equitable society; illness, pandemics, and the post-apocalypse; superheroes and supervillains outside of comics and graphic novels; and witchy dark fantasy. Pitches on other SFF trends are welcome, as is information on series openers/finales. New titles only, please; no reprints. Pub dates: Sept. 2020–Feb. 2021. 

Please send pitches to <features@publishersweekly.com> by July 15 and put “Call for Info: SFF” in the subject line.

(15) FACEBOOK. BBC reports “Facebook to tag ‘harmful’ posts as boycott widens”

Facebook has said it will start to label potentially harmful posts that it leaves up because of their news value.

The more hands-on approach comes as the social media firm is under pressure to improve how it moderates the content on its platform, including posts by US President Donald Trump.

More than 90 advertisers have joined a boycott of the site.

Consumer goods giant Unilever on Friday added its name to the list, citing a “polarized election period” in the US.

The maker of Dove soap and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream said it would halt Twitter, Facebook and Instagram advertising in the US “at least” through 2020.

“Continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society,” it said. “We will revisit our current position if necessary.”

(16) SPLASH MOUNTAIN MAKEOVER. “Disney Parks’ Splash Mountain Ride to Remove ‘Song of the South’ References”Variety has the story.

… The Walt Disney Co. on Thursday announced that its classic ride Splash Mountain would be “completely reimagined,” amid scrutiny over the ride’s roots in the racist 1946 film “Song of the South.”

The ride will be redesigned to draw from the 2009 film “The Princess and the Frog,” the first Disney animated movie to feature a Black princess. According to Disney, the redesign has been in the works for over a year, though no concrete timeline for its construction and relaunch has been announced. The new ride’s storyline will pick up after Princess Tiana and Louis’ final kiss in the film, and feature music from the movie as the pair prepare for a Mardi Gras performance….

(17) WINDING UP PRODUCTION. The Hollywood Reporter says “A.I. Robot Cast in Lead Role of $70M Sci-Fi Film”.

As the industry grapples with how to reopen for production safely, one movie is proceeding with a lead actress who is immune to COVID-19 — because she’s a robot named Erica.

Bondit Capital Media, which financed titles such as To the Bone and the Oscar nominated Loving Vincent, Belgium-based Happy Moon Productions and New York’s Ten Ten Global Media have committed to back b, a $70 million science fiction film which producers say will be the first to rely on an artificially intelligent actor.

Based on a story by visual effects supervisor Eric Pham, Tarek Zohdy, and Sam Khoze, who also produces through Life Entertainment, b follows a scientist who discovers dangers associated with a program he created to perfect human DNA and helps the artificially intelligent woman he designed (Erica) escape.

Japanese scientists Hiroshi Ishiguro and Kohei Ogawa, who created Erica in real life as part of their study of robotics, also taught her to act, applying the principles of method acting to artificial intelligence, according to Khoze….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Howard The Duck Pitch Meeting” on YouTube, Ryan George explains why Howard The Duck made no sense.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/17/20 Quit Airing Those Gripping Hands Through The Zoom

(1) TIME TO BOW OUT. Bruce Sterling’s blog at WIRED, which he’s been writing since 2003, is ending: “Farewell to Beyond the Beyond”.

…If there are no big events due to pandemic, and nobody’s shopping much, either, then it’s mighty hard to keep a magazine empire afloat in midair. Instead, you’ve gotta fire staffers, shut down software, hunt new business models, re-organize and remove loose ends. There is probably no looser-end in the entire WIRED domain than this weblog.

…Although I wrote tons of “original content” elsewhere, long text-form essays like this were vanishingly rare on “Beyond the Beyond.” The blog never trolled for any viral hits, or tried to please any patrons. Also, I never got paid anything for my blogging, which was probably the key to the blog’s longevity. This blog persisted with such ease, because there was so much that I didn’t have to do.

…Also, the ideal “Beyond the Beyond” reader was never any fan of mine, or even a steady reader of the blog itself. I envisioned him or her as some nameless, unlikely character who darted in orthogonally, saw a link to some odd phenomenon unheard-of to him or her, and then careened off at a new angle, having made that novelty part of his life. They didn’t have to read the byline, or admire the writer’s literary skill, or pony up any money for enlightenment or entertainment. Maybe they would discover some small yet glimmering birthday-candle to set their life alight.

(2) ANTICLICK BAIT, BUT DON’T BLAME THE PARK SERVICE. Does Gizmodo think putting the President’s name in this headline generates more clicks? If so, they’re wrong . I only looked because Daniel Dern recommended the link. “These Social Distancing Posters Are the Best Thing the Trump Administration Has Done for Parks”. Very clever stuff! Then I went to the National Park Service’s Twitter feed and found the source art.

The posters have an important mission: promote social distancing in parks during the covid-19 pandemic, reduce the spread of disease in parks, and promote virtual opportunities and experiences at parks. To be fair, the posters have been around for a few weeks now, but these gems clearly haven’t received the attention they deserve….

And that’s not the only clever thing with a genre twist that they’ve posted. Another is:

(3) RESOURCES FOR THE SUMMER SCARES PROGRAM. The Summer Scares 2020 reading list has been augmented by an array of videos:

A playlist of videos about the Summer Scares program, including resources for libraries to use to promote horror at their own libraries. Summer Scares is brought to you by the Horror Writers Association, Book Riot, Library Journal/School Library Journal, and United for Libraries.

Here’s the one from Stephen Graham Jones:

(4) VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. SF Geeks go where only two men have gone before: “Thirty-six Thousand Feet”, in The New Yorker.

…Most submarines go down several hundred metres, then across; this one was designed to sink like a stone. It was the shape of a bulging briefcase, with a protruding bulb at the bottom. This was the pressure hull—a titanium sphere, five feet in diameter, which was sealed off from the rest of the submersible and housed the pilot and all his controls. Under the passenger seat was a tuna-fish sandwich, the pilot’s lunch. He gazed out of one of the viewports, into the blue. It would take nearly four hours to reach the bottom.

…The submarine touched the silty bottom, and the pilot, a fifty-three-year-old Texan named Victor Vescovo, became the first living creature with blood and bones to reach the deepest point in the Tonga Trench. He was piloting the only submersible that can bring a human to that depth: his own.

For the next hour, he explored the featureless beige sediment, and tried to find and collect a rock sample. Then the lights flickered, and an alarm went off. Vescovo checked his systems—there was a catastrophic failure in battery one. Water had seeped into the electronics, bringing about a less welcome superlative: the deepest-ever artificial explosion was taking place a few feet from his head.

If there were oxygen at that depth, there could have been a raging fire. Instead, a battery junction box melted, burning a hole through its external shell without ever showing a flame. Any instinct to panic was suppressed by the impossibility of rescue. Vescovo would have to come up on his own.

(5) MCWHORTER OBIT. Noted Burroughs collector George McWhorter (1931-2020), whose work in the sff field came after a long and fruitful career in music, died April 25. Legacy has details of both careers, as well as his family history.

…George’s most celebrated collection is the Edgar Rice Burroughs Memorial Collection, which he developed as a tribute to his mother Nell Dismukes McWhorter, who taught him to read when he was just five years old. “She tried everything,” George recalls, “Dickens, Dumas… but when she got to Burroughs, I was hooked!” The largest institutional collection of Burroughs in the world, this vast and comprehensive collection of rare editions, toys, posters, games, photographs, and film has attracted scholars and fans to the University of Louisville for more than thirty years.

In 1986 George was named Curator of the Edgar Rice Burroughs Collection, a fitting title for a man who has furthered scholarship, preserved unique treasures, and brought worldwide attention to Burroughs. Looking toward the future, George has established an endowment to provide continuous support for the Edgar Rice Burroughs Memorial Collection. In 2008, he designated a bequest for an endowed chair and curatorship. He also has been working with Burroughs Bibliophiles on their own gifts and bequests.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 17, 1987 The Return Of The Six Million Dollar Man And The Bionic Woman first aired. The series were loosely based off on Cyborg by Martin Caidin and The Bionic Woman by Kenneth Johnson. Michael Sloan wrote the screenplay which was based on the story he and Bruce Lansbury wrote. Lee Majors co-stars here with Lindsay Wagner. Martin Landau, Lee Major II  and Gary Lockwood guest star. It was the fourth highest rate show of genre week, and holds a 82% approval rating among the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 17, 1913 Peter B. Germano. Though neither of his SF novels was of great distinction, The Interplanetary Adventures and  The Pyramids from Space (written as Jack Berlin), his scriptwriter duties are as he did work on The Time TunnelVoyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Land of the Lost, Battle of the Planets and the revival version of The Next Step Beyond, do warrant his being noted here. (Died 1983.) (CE)
  • Born May 17, 1918 – Darrell Richardson.  Baptist minister, authority on Frederick Faust (who wrote as “Max Brand”) and Edgar Burroughs, collector (30,000 books, 20,000 pulps).  Early member of Cincinnati Fantasy Group.  Co-founded Memphis SF Ass’n, who named their Darrell Award for Mid-South regional work after him.  Served as a director of the Nat’l Fantasy Fan Federation; compiled An Index of the Works of Various Fantasy Authors 1947-1948 and An Index of Various Fantasy Publications 1947-1948.  Member of First Fandom.  Big Heart, Lamont, Phoenix awards.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1919 – Ronald Cassill.  Lieutenant in U.S. Army; two exhibits of his artwork in Chicago; two stories reprinted in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  Atlantic Monthly “first” prize, O. Henry short-story prize, American Academy of Arts & Letters Award for Literature; Fulbright, Guggenheim fellowships; Rockefeller grant; Professor of English, Brown University.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1926 – Ludvík Soucek.  Probably still the best-known Czech SF author.  Wrote also about puppet theater, photography, book printing.  A dozen books, as many collections.  (Died 1978) [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1946 – F. Paul Wilson.  Sold to Analog while still in medical school, now an osteopath.  Medical thrillers, interactive scripts e.g. FTL Newsfeed.  Urban mercenary Repairman Jack first appeared in N.Y. Times best-seller The Tomb.  Three Prometheus Awards, including the first (1979), most recently Lifetime Achievement (2015).  Fifty novels in our field, sixty shorter stories, letters & reviews in JanusSF ReviewN.Y. Review of SF.  [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1948 – Amanda Cockrell.  Professor at Hollins University.  Historical and other fiction for adults, young adults, children, under her own name and pseudonyms.  Among us, novels about deer dancers (Daughter of the Sky, two more), goddesses (Persephone, Aphrodite, Athena), horse catchers (When the Horses Came, two more); six others; What We Keep Is Not Always What Will Stay named one of the best children’s books of 2011 by The Boston Globe.  [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1954 Colin Greenland, 66. His partner is the Susanna Clarke, with whom he has lived since 1996. The Entropy Exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the British ‘New Wave’ in Science Fiction study is based on his PhD thesis. His most successful fictional work is the Plenty series that starts with Take Back Plenty and continues with Seasons of PlentyThe Plenty Principle and wraps up with Mother of Plenty. In the Eighties and Ninties, he was involved in the editorial work ofFoundation: The Review of Science Fiction and Interzone. (CE)
  • Born May 17, 1958 – Dave Sim.  Perpetrator of Cerebus the Aardvark.  Twenty covers and interiors for Phantasy DigestDark FantasyBorealis.  Harvey Award; Canadian Comic Book Creator Hall of Fame.  [JH]

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) ANOTHER ENTRY FOR YOUR HVP. Cora Buhlert, 2020 Best Fan Writer Hugo finalist, has put her Hugo Voter Packet online as well. Here is a link where you can download it in the e-book format of your choice here.

(10) MORE LAUGHS. NPR takes notes as “Greg Daniels Moves His Comedic Spotlight To Absurdity In The Afterlife”.

For more than 30 years, Emmy Award-winning television writer, director and producer Greg Daniels has spun comedy from the threads of ordinary life, turning its frustrations and awkward moments into such hit shows as The Office, Parks And Recreation, and King of the Hill.

Now he’s reflecting on these notions again in Upload, a futuristic comedy on Amazon Prime — but this time they play out in the afterlife too. He’s also behind the upcoming Netflix satire Space Force, launching May 29, starring Steve Carell.

Greg Daniels’ humor has all the makings of the British comedies he reveres, including Fawlty Towers and the original, British version of The Office.

“There’s something wonderful about the awkwardness of it and their kind of enjoyment of a pathetic situation that always appealed to me,” Daniels says.

…The problems in Daniels’ upcoming Netflix show Space Force include a military leader who doesn’t listen to the scientists around him. His new sci-fi comedy Upload explores the inequalities — and inhumanity — that emerges as advanced, expensive, digital technologies hit the market.

“These technologies are introduced and they all seem great. And then, you know, the law of unintended consequences kicks in and they are kind of flawed or sometimes outright evil when they’re actually executed,” Daniels says.

In Upload, only the wealthy get to experience an idyllic afterlife in the expensive, leafy resort called “Lakeview.” Even the commercial for Lakeview feels eerily familiar.

(11) LIGHT OF OTHER DAYS. Disney Parks posted a video flashback to Halloween 2019: “Jack Skellington reigns at Disney’s Not-So-Spooky Spectacular!”

Because we are halfway to Halloween, we are traveling back in time to last fall when Magic Kingdom Park was in the skeletal hands of the Pumpkin King. Join him in front of Cinderella Castle for a frightfully mischievous night of fireworks and creeps during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party.

(12) HER REAL CHILDREN. NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro interviews author Curtis Sittenfield: “Hillary Without Bill? ‘Rodham’ Imagines What Could Have Been”.

A young Hillary Rodham, madly in love with the man she met at Yale Law School, abandons her own path and heads to Arkansas. Slowly she starts to uncover Bill Clinton’s many infidelities and makes a choice.

What would have happened if Hillary Rodham had never married Bill Clinton?

“So in real life, Bill Clinton proposed to Hillary Rodham twice and she said no. Both times. And then he proposed a third time and she said yes,” says author Curtis Sittenfeld. “And in my version, she says no. The third time, too. And she goes her own way.” Sittenfeld’s new book Rodham follows Hillary as she goes on to become a law professor, and then a politician.

Interview Highlights

On wanting to write speculative fiction about someone who’s been written about so much already

Well, doesn’t everyone? Isn’t it a totally natural impulse? So actually, it’s funny because I agree with you that so much has been written about Hillary. And it was sort of in reaction to that that I think I wrote this book. So in the lead-up to the 2016 election, I was invited to write essays about Hillary, and I would decline because I felt like every possible thing there was to say about Hillary had been said. She had been analyzed from every angle.

And then an editor at Esquire magazine invited me to write a short story from Hillary’s perspective. And I accepted, and writing that story was this kind of strange exercise where I realized that the question was not, what do the American people think of Hillary Clinton, but what does Hillary Clinton think of the American people? And it turned out that that I had 400 pages worth of thoughts to say on that. So it was actually trying to sort of flip the narrative, and instead of making her the one who’s scrutinized, like giving her a voice — which, of course, is a totally fictionalized voice, like she did not write this book. I wrote this book.

(13) HE’S A CRITIC. [Item by Daniel Dern.] And I’ll say it in case nobody else will (although I’m sure they will), “This robot really sucks.” “An R2-D2 Robot Vacuum Is Exactly the Chore Droid I’m Looking For”. Be sure to watch the video!

(14) THEY’RE CRITICS TOO. “Coronavirus: Author Neil Gaiman’s 11,000-mile lockdown trip to Scottish isle” – BBC says a local politician is outraged.

The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford, who is the MP for the island, told the Sunday Times the author’s journey was unacceptable.

He said: “What is it about people, when they know we are in the middle of lockdown that they think they can come here from the other side of the planet, in turn endangering local people from exposure to this infection that they could have picked up at any step of the way?”

Mr Gaiman – whose main family home is in Woodstock in the USA – has owned the house on Skye for more than 10 years.

(15) THE MASTER SPACE. The Iron Sky “Dictator’s Cut” is online.

(16) BACK TO THE FUTURE REUNION. Josh Gad’s stay-at-home show Reunited Apart summons Christopher Lloyd, Michael J. Fox, Lea Thompson and even Huey Lewis to reminisce about the 1985 movie.

Great Scott! Things get heavy during Episode Two of “Reunited Apart” as Josh is joined by the creative geniuses behind the Back to the Future trilogy.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Something sure to please that little bit of pyromania in everyone.

Match Chain Reaction – Space Rocket built with Matches TAKES OFF 1 Million matches is a lot of matches, which means lighting them all together is a lot of fire. The way it burns is crazy to watch. It took me a lot of hard work and time to make this rocket.

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

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.]

Pixel Scroll 4/6/20 Distraction Is Great

(1) SHOUT OUTS FOR SHUT INS. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Mask-makers and other Good News shout-outs. (You’ll want to stick with this through to minute 11, trust me — at which point you WILL want to keep watching, I bet.)

(This was even cooler than when Click’n’Clack got a call from the Space Shuttle – io9 “The time an astronaut called into Car Talk from the Space Shuttle” for the story, and YouTube for the actual call )

(2) NO FINNCON THIS YEAR. Finncon 2020 in Tampere, Finland has been pushed back due to COVID-19. The announcement in Finnish and English is here.

We regret to announce that Finncon 2020 will have to be postponed until summer 2021. This is due to the current situation with the Corona virus around the world. Finncon in the capital region, which was originally going to happen in 2021, will also be postponed to summer 2022.

We will be organising a small-scale Virtual Finncon on July 10-12, 2020. The program for this Virtual Finncon will be organized during summer 2020.

(3) ANALYZING STORY. Ziv Wittes takes Knives Out and uses it as a case study for MICE – an approach to story structure that’s pretty popular among genre writers. “Knives Out: A MICE Case Study by Ziv Wities” — on Cat Rambo’s blog. BEWARE SPOILERS.

Here’s our question: What kind of story is Knives Out?
Obviously, every story has many elements. But which feels most central? Is this story exploring a Milieu; investigating an Idea; following a Character’s development; or struggling against a threatening Event?

(4) IF THERE’S TERRAFORMING, THERE MUST BE DISNEYLANDING. Josh Gorin, a creative development executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, invites people to “Enjoy a One-of-a-Kind Learning Experience from Disney Imagineers”. His post on the Disney Parks blog explains —  

Imagineering in a Box is a series of interactive lessons in theme park design and engineering, designed to give a behind-the-scenes peek into Imagineering’s development process. It combines 32 videos of actual Imagineers, real-world case studies, and lots of interactive activities to give you the opportunity to dream and design your very own theme park experience!

Here’s an excerpt from the introduction to the first lesson of Imagineering in a Box, hosted on the Khan Academy website.

Welcome to Imagineering in a Box!

Imagineering in a Box is designed to pull back the curtain to show you how artists, designers and engineers work together to create theme parks. Go behind the scenes with Disney Imagineers and complete project-based exercises to design a theme park of your very own.

Lesson 1: Build your own world

This lesson addresses the question: where do you want to go? It introduces the idea of experiential storytelling and the difference between an amusement park and a theme park. We’ll explore how storytelling and theme impact every decision made in the design of a land and how they engage all senses.

(5) IT’S BUMPY UP THERE. Camestros Felapton’s deconstruction of these Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes is both amusing and (comparatively) gentle: “Trek Tuesday: Unification Parts 1 & 2”.

…Patrick Stewart naturally makes a great Romulan. Starfleet’s Romulan disguises are top-notch because, of course, Romulans are actually just humans in theatrical make-up but it is a look that really suits both Stewart and Spiner. He also has an additional advantage. The Romulans are Space Romans obviously but they are Space Hollywood Romans and years of Hollywood epics (and BBC historicals) have created the association of British classical actors with the Roman Empire. It is practically type-casting.

However, it is Picard’s affinity with Vulcans that provides the initial hook for the story. Ambassador Spock has gone missing and intelligence suggests he is on Romulus. Alarmed by the apparent defection, Starfleet despatches Picard to speak to Spock’s father, Sarek who is dying from a degenerative disease. Picard has not only met Sarek before but in an earlier episode had mind-melded with him.

In this initial phase of the story there are repeated shots that follow the dramatic-soap-opera scene convention of having two characters talk to each other with both facing the camera but with one person standing behind the other.

(6) ZOOMJAM. “How USC students turned Zoom into a video game platform for coronavirus life” at the LA Times.

…Shortly after California Gov. Gavin Newsom placed restrictions on social gatherings, the USC Game School sprang into action. Jeff Watson, an assistant professor of Interactive Media & Games at the university, put out a call for students to create games using Zoom, keying in on the idea that many would now to be utilizing the platform to connect and in need of ways to use it for its full potential — that is, to play, of course.

…Watson, who is curating the submissions — he will reject no games for quality, he says, but will maintain a certain level of family-friendly decency — has begun posting the offerings on the site Zoomjam.org. More than half the submissions are from USC students. And while open to all, the Watson-led ZoomJam is gaining steam in academic circles. He’s has been in touch with professors and universities in Texas, Australia and elsewhere….

Some highlights from the submitted games:

“Kitty, You’re a Star.” Any of us who have used Zoom, either for a business or social call, have likely seen it interrupted by a pet. “Kitty, You’re a Star” is designed for those moments, to take advantage of what everyone is instantly now doing: paying attention to the kitty or puppy. Participants are called to immediately begin narrating a story about the pet’s thoughts or life.

“Kitty, You’re a Star” was created by Lark under the name Social Distance Warriors. “I think people are pretty good at making games on any platform or with any constraints they find themselves in,” he says.

The rules are direct: “During a call, if a player’s pet enters the frame, they must immediately move and give their pet center stage. The pet is now the protagonist of a story that the other players will narrate.” To make sure no one talks over the other, the story of the pet shall unfold one sentence and one person at a time….

(7) MPFREE. Lots of genre here: “1,000 Free Audio Books: Download Great Books for Free” on Open Culture.

Download hundreds of free audio books, mostly classics, to your MP3 player or computer. Below, you’ll find great works of fictionpoetry and non-fiction, by such authors as Twain, Tolstoy, Hemingway, Orwell, Vonnegut, Nietzsche, Austen, Shakespeare, Asimov, HG Wells & more. 

(8) HONOR BLACKMAN OBIT. Actress Honor Blackman (1925-2020) died April 6 at the age of 94. She gained fame playing Cathy Gale in television’s The Avengers opposite Patrick Macnee, and as Pussy Galore in the James Bond movie Goldfinger opposite Sean Connery. Blackman and Macnee also had a novelty hit with 1964’s “Kinky Boots,” which reached the Top 10 in 1990. She was in Doctor Who’s “Trial of a Time Lord” (1986) as Professor Lasky. She also had genre movie roles as Hera in Jason and the Argonauts (1963), and Peggy in Cockneys v. Zombies (2013).  

(9) TIM WHITE OBIT. British sff artist Tim White (1952-2020) died April 5. Bob Eggleton announced his death, saying, “He was an icon in the 1970s and early 80s with many bookcovers.” White was nominated six consecutive times for the British Science Fiction Association Award for Best Artist, receiving the honor in 1983. More information at the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction.

(10) JAMES DRURY OBIT. Actor James Drury, primarily known as the lead in The Virginian tv series, died April 6. He was 85. In what might be his only sff role, he played a crewman in Forbidden Planet.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • Born April 6, 1936 — The Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers serial premiered on theatre screens in the States. It was directed by Frederick Stephani and Ray Taylor from a screenplay by Frederick Stephani  based on the comic strip by Alex Raymond. It of course starred Buster Crabbe as Flash Gordon and Jean Rogers as Dale Arden. It ran for thirteen episodes and the studio was quite unhappy at the three hundred and sixty thousand dollar budget. It’s in the public domain now and you can watch the first four episodes here.
  • April 6, 1967 Star Trek’s “City of the Edge of Forever” first aired on NBC. Though Harlan Ellison wrote the original script, the episode had several writers contribute to it including Steven W. Carabatsos, D. C. Fontana and Gene L. Coon with Gene Roddenberry making the final script re-write. Roddenberry and Fontana both consider it one of their favorite episodes, the latter ranking it up with “The Trouble with Tribbles”. Critics in general consider it one of the best Trek episodes done and many consider it one of the best SF series episodes ever.
  • April 6, 1968 2001: A Space Odyssey premiered. It was produced and directed by Stanley Kubrick. The screenplay was written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, and was inspired by Clarke’s “The Sentinel” story. It starred Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood. It would win the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at St. Louiscon in 1969 over Yellow SubmarineCharlyRosemary’s Baby and The Prisoner’s “Fallout” episode. Critical reception was decidedly mixed at the time though it’s now considered a classic film, but the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a superlative 90% rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 6, 1924 Sonya Dorman. Her best-known work of SF is “When I Was Miss Dow” which received an Otherwise retrospective award nomination. Her “Corruption of Metals” received won the Rhysling Award of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. She also appeared in Dangerous Visions with the “Go, Go, Go, Said the Bird” story. (Died 2005.)
  • Born April 6, 1926 Gil Kane. Artist who created the modern look and feel of Green Lantern and the Atom for DC, and co-created Iron Fist with Roy Thomas for Marvel. I’m going to single him out for his work on the House of Mystery and the House of Secrets in the Sixties and Seventies which you can find on the DC Universe app. (Died 2000.)
  • Born April 6, 1937 Billy Dee Williams, 83. He is best known for his role as Lando Calrissian in the Star Wars franchise, first appearing in The Empire Strikes Back. Other genre appearances include being Harvey Dent in Batman and voicing Two Face In The Lego Batman Movie. He also co-wrote with Rob MacGregor two SF novels, PSI/ Net and Just/In Time
  • Born April 6, 1938 Roy Thinnes, 82. Best remembered for his role of David Vincent in The Invaders. He was also in The Horror at 37,000 FeetThe Norliss TapesSatan’s School for GirlsBattlestar GalacticaDark Shadows (recurring role as Roger Colins) and Poltergeist: The Legacy.
  • Born April 6, 1938 Anita Pallenberg. It’s not a long genre resume but she was in Barbarella as, I kid you not, Black Queen, Great Tyrant of Sogo, the chief villainess. Over forty years later, she’d have a minor role as Diana in Grade B film 4:44 Last Day on Earth. (Died 2017.)
  • Born April 6, 1948 Sherry Gottlieb, 72. Best remembered and loved as owner of the Change of Hobbit bookstore which her memoir lists as the oldest sf bookstore in the States. She’s written two horror novels Love Bites and Worse Than Death
  • Born April 6, 1948 Larry Todd, 72. Writer and cartoonist, best known for the decidedly adult Dr. Atomic strips that originally appeared in the underground newspaper The Sunday Paper and his other work in underground comics, often with a SF bent. In our circles, Galaxy Science FictionAmazing Science Fiction and Imagination were three of his venues. He also did some writing for If. He also did, and it’s really weird art, the cover art and interior illustrations for Harlan Ellison’s Chocolate Alphabet.
  • Born April 6, 1956 Mark Askwith, 64. Did you know there was an authorized Prisoner sequel? Well there was. The Prisoner: Shattered Visage is a four-issue comic book series written by him and Dean Motter who was also the artist. Askwith also wrote for DC Comics, specifically Batman: Gotham Knights
  • Born April 6, 1959 Mark Strickson, 61. Turlough, companion to the Fourth and Fifth Doctors. He didn’t do much genre but he was a young Scrooge in an Eighties film version of A Christmas Carol. and like many Who performers, he’d reprise his character on Big Finish audio dramas. 
  • Born April 6, 1977 Karin Tidbeck, 43. Her first work in English, Jagannath, a short story collection, made the shortlist for the Otherwise Award and was nominated for the World Fantasy Award. The short story “Augusta Prima”, originally written by her in Swedish, was translated into English by her which won her a Science Fiction & Fantasy Translation Award in the Short Form category.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur tells of a lost discovery.
  • Poorly Drawn Lines has a weird one –

(14) PYTHON INSPIRATION. See the trailer for The Bug Trainer (view on demand on Vimeo ), a 2018 documentary on the life and art of pioneering Polish-Russian stop-motion animator Ladislas Starevich, who Terry Gilliam has described as a major influence on his work.

(15) DON’T BE DISCONTENTED. James Davis Nicoll says not everyone needs be doomed to disappointment: “Imaginary Space Programs Are Always Better Than Reality (But Reality Is Pretty Amazing)” at Tor.com.

Yuri’s Night approaches. With it comes the inevitable cloud-shouting from persons my age about all the space habitats and Moon colonies we were promised and currently don’t have. Hold on, guys…some of this discontent might go away if we adopted a different perspective….

(16) OLD ENOUGH TO DRINK. “Whale sharks: Atomic tests solve age puzzle of world’s largest fish”. Just in case you’d like to know.

Data from atomic bomb tests conducted during the Cold War have helped scientists accurately age the world’s biggest fish.

Whale sharks are large, slow moving and docile creatures that mainly inhabit tropical waters.

They are long-lived but scientists have struggled to work out the exact ages of these endangered creatures.

But using the world’s radioactive legacy they now have a workable method that can help the species survival.

Whale sharks are both the biggest fish and the biggest sharks in existence.

Growing up to 18m in length, and weighing on average of about 20 tonnes, their distinctive white spotted colouration makes them easily recognisable.

(17) NOT A VERY TALL TAIL. Russom’s Universal Headless Credential! “Video Friday: Qoobo the Headless Robot Cat Is Back” – a collection of entertaining robot-themed videos at the IEEE Spectrum website. Here’s the commercial from which the post takes its name —

(18) SLEEPLESS IN COLUMBUS. A surprising Le Guin reference in the introduction to this week’s (very funny) James Thurber story, “The Night the Bed Fell” (from Library of America’s “Story of the Week” series).

…James, the middle Thurber son, had just published My Life and Hard Times, a fictionalized memoir of growing up in a family home where “there was a three-ring circus in progress all the time,” as one visitor described it. The episodes first appeared in The New Yorker in eight installments during the summer of 1933 and then as a book in November. Without notifying James in advance, his father and brother drove to Manhattan, showed up at the offices of the magazine, wandered uninvited through the halls of the editorial department, and ended up outside the door of fiction editor Katharine White. James had not yet arrived for work, and White was perplexed as to what to do with two men she knew only from Thurber’s stories. “We felt as if we’d been caught robbing the place,” Robert later told biographer Harrison Kinney. “It occurred to me later maybe she thought we’d sneaked in to blow up the place for revenge.”

(19) LET THERE BE LIGHT. Via Slashdot:“Black Hole Photo May Also Have Captured Light From Around the Universe”

“When you point a telescope at a black hole, it turns out you don’t just see the swirling sizzling doughnut of doom formed by matter falling in,” reports the New York Times. “You can also see the whole universe.”

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Sandford Police using a Dalek to order people to stay inside. (Gently thieved from comments on Camestros Felapton’s blog.)

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Jeff Smith, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, Edmund Schluessel, Lise Andreasen, Standback, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob_Matic with an assist from Anna Nimmaus.]

Pixel Scroll 3/11/20 Hold Seven: Pixel Scroll Sanitizers, Second Class

(1) CORONAVIRUS IMPACT. Eric Flint told Facebook readers today he has cancelled his upcoming trip to Los Angeles for the annual Writers of the Future award ceremony due to the coronavirus threat.

I’m one of the judges for the contest and I’ve attended the ceremony every year since I became a judge (which is more than a decade, now.) I hated to do it, for a lot of reasons, one of them being that LA is my home town and I always visit friends and relatives (when possible — my relatives now all live in Ventura, and sometimes I don’t have time to get up there).

(2) CONVENTION UPDATE. Ace Comic Con Northeast (March 20-22), which previously announced they’d go on, has now cancelled.

(3) LETTING READERS KNOW. Sharon Lee shared an important personal medical update on her blog: “Whole New World”. Details at the link.

(4) STARGIRL. A teaser trailer for the new series. Comicbook.com sets the frame.

Stargirl is coming to both The CW and DC Universe in just a two more months and now, fans are getting another brief look at the young DC hero in action in a new teaser for the upcoming series. The brief teaser offers a glimpse of Brec Bassinger’s Courtney Whitmore in action as Stargirl with a voice over talking about how she finally knows who she really is offering a sense of optimism as she wields the Cosmic Staff against her adversary.

(5) IT’S A THEORY. Jalopnik claims “This Chart Will Tell You What Kind Of Space-Based Sci-Fi You’re About To Watch Just By Looking At The Main Ship”. Are they right?

…You could look at one ship and immediately know that, say, the show would take place in the relatively near future, and have a pretty good grounding in science, or look at another and immediately know nobody gave two shits about physics, but it’ll be a fun ride.

I compiled several thousand examples and fed them into the Jalopnik Mainframe (a cluster of over 400 Timex-Sinclair 1000 computers dumped into an abandoned hot tub in a bunker underneath Ed Begley Jr’s combined EV R&D lab/sex-lab) which ran an advanced AI that categorized the ships into eight distinct classes….

If you want to see the big version, or maybe print it out for your ceiling so you can lay in bed and contemplate it, click here!

(6) WORLDCON PREP. SF2Concatenation has released “Wellington – for visiting SF folk, Those going to CoNZealand, the 78th Worldcon”:

Wellington, New Zealand’s capital city, is built around a harbour on the southern tip of New Zealand. Although it’s a small city, with about 400,000 residents, visitors won’t have a shortage of things to do.

New Zealand has a strong creative and fan community.  Its National Science Fiction Convention has been running since 1979.  This year (2020), it will be hosted at the CoNZealand Worldcon, along with the Sir Julius Vogel Awards that recognise excellence in science fiction, fantasy, or horror works created by New Zealanders.

Those, participating in the CoNZealand Worldcon, choosing to extend their holiday to visit other parts of the country will find fantasy and science fiction-themed adventures in all corners: from the Hobbiton film set in the North Island, to Oamaru, steampunk capital of the world, in the South. Most fantastical of all are New Zealand’s landscapes, including beautiful beaches and snowy ski-fields….

(7) OR ARE THEY DANGEROUS VIBRATIONS? [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4 has the first of a new three-parter in their Dangerous Visions anthology series. Body Horror will be available to download from 12th march – i.e. shortly — for a month.

Episode 1

Body Horror

Episode 1 of 3

London, 2050. The transplant industry is in full swing. But can a new body ever fulfil the life-changing expectations of lowly mortician Caroline McAleese? A dystopian thriller by Lucy Catherine.

Developed through the Wellcome Trust Experimental stories scheme.  The Wellcome Trust is a charity based on a huge endowment whose investment profits fund biomedical research and biomedical communication.  To give you an idea of their size, they invest as much as the UK government in biomedical science research. They also do a little public engagement in science and arts and supporting this programme is part of that.

(8) OTHER PEOPLE’S TSUNDOKU. Learn about one writer’s favorite books in “Reading with… Cassandra Clare” at Shelf Awareness.

On your nightstand now: 

The Weird Tales of Tanith Lee by Tanith Lee.  She has always been one of my favorite writers. While I was growing up, I collected all her books. She was also a prolific writer of short stories. Since they were published in the days before the Internet, they weren’t always so easy to find. Now, posthumously, they are being reissued. This book is a collection of all the short stores that she ever published in Weird Tales magazine.

My mom lent me a book called Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. It’s the story of three women whose lives intersect at the Ravensbrück concentration camp. It’s a brutal story, but as someone who always searches for meaning in what happened to my family in the Holocaust, it feels necessary.

(9) IMAGINEERS. In “Disney Books Galore”, Leonard Maltin reviews a trove of books about the Magic Kingdom and its creators.

MARC DAVIS IN HIS OWN WORDS: IMAGINEERING THE DISNEY THEME PARKS by Pete Docter and Christopher Merritt (Disney Editions)

Walt Disney was stingy with compliments, but he called longtime animator Marc Davis his “renaissance man” and meant it. As the production of animated films wound down in the 1950s, Disneyland and the upcoming New York World’s Fair consumed much of Walt’s time and nearly all of his energy. His Midas touch intact, Disney reassigned many of his artists to his WED operation, later renamed Imagineering. Davis brought his artistic talent and whimsical imagination to the task of world-building and left his mark on such enduring attractions as the Jungle Cruise, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion, It’s a Small World, The Enchanted Tiki Room, and the Country Bear Jamboree, to name just a few.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 11, 1971 THX 1138 premiered. It was the first feature film from George Lucas. It was produced by Francis Ford Coppola and written by Lucas and Walter Murch.  It starred Robert Duvall and Donald Pleasence. A novelization by Ben Bova was published. The film was not a box office success though critics generally loved it and it developed a cult following after Star Wars released, and it holds a ninety percent rating among the audience at Rotten Tomatoes.  You can see THX 1138 here. We suspect that it’s a pirate copy, so watch it soon before it disappears.
  • March 11, 1974 Latitude Zero premiered. It was directed by Ishir? Honda. It was written by Ted Sherdeman from  his radio serial of the same name, with the screenplay by Ted Sherdeman. The film starred Joseph Cotten, Cesar Romero, Akira Takarada, Masumi Okada, Richard Jaeckel, Patricia Medina, and Akihiko Hirata. American producer Don Sharp sent the American cast to Japan just as his company went bankrupt so Toho, the Japanese company, picked up the entire budget. Most critics at the time like the campy SFX but said it lacked any coherent. It gets a middling audience rating of 50% at Rotten Tomatoes. You can see the English language version here.
  • March 11, 1998 Babylon 5‘s “Day of the Dead” first aired. Written by Neil Gaiman, it featured among its cast Penn & Teller as the comedians Rebo and Zooty visiting the station on The Brakiri Day of the Dead. Many think Teller speaks here but his voice is actually provided by Harlan Ellison. Dreamhaven sold an annotated script with an introduction by J. Michael Straczynski. You can find the episode on YouTube though it requires a fee. It’s available also on Amazon or iTunes.  

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 11, 1921 F. M. Busby. Together with his wife and others he published a fanzine named Cry of the Nameless which won the Hugo Award in 1960. Heinlein was a great fan of him and his wife with The Cat Who Walks Through Walls in part dedicated to Busby and Friday in part dedicated to his wife Elinor. He was a very busy writer from the early Seventies to the late Nineties writing some nineteen published novels and myriad short stories before he blamed the Thor Power Tools decision for forcing his retirement which is odd as he published a number of  novels after that decision became in effect. (Died 2005.)
  • Born March 11, 1925 Christopher Anvil. A Campbellian writer through and through, he was a staple of Astounding starting in 1956.  The Colonization series that he wrote there would run to some thirty stories. Short stories were certainly his favored length as he only wrote two novels, The Day the Machines Stopped andThe Steel, the Mist, and the Blazing Sun. He’s readily available at the usual digital sources. (Died 2009.)
  • Born March 11, 1928 Albert Salmi. Though he had virtually no major genre or genre adjacent roles, he showed up in quite a number of series starting of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and going on to be in The Twilight Zone in multiple roles, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Lost in Space (twice as Alonzo P. Tucker), Escape from the Planet of the Apes (as E-1), Empire of the Ants (in a starting role as Sheriff Art Kincade), Dragonslayer and Superstition. (Died 1990.)
  • Born March 11, 1935 Nancy Kovack, 85. She appeared as Nona in Trek’s “A Private Little War”. She also showed up in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Invaders, as Medea in Jason and the Argonauts, Batman (twice as Queenie), Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, I Dream of JeannieTarzan and the Valley of Gold,  Marooned, Get Smart! and The Invisible Man
  • Born March 11, 1947 Floyd Kemske, 73. I’m betting someone here can tell me the story of how he came to be the Editor of Galaxy magazine for exactly one issue — the July 1980 issue to be precise. I’ve not read either of his two novels, so I can’t comment on him as a writer, but the Galaxy editorship story sounds fascinating. 
  • Born March 11, 1952 Douglas Adams. I’ve have read and listen to the full cast production the BBC did of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but have absolutely no desire to see the film. Wait, wasn’t there a TV series as well? Yes, there was. Shudder! The Dirk Gently series is, errr, odd and escapes my understanding its charms. He and Mark Carwardine also wrote the most excellent Last Chance to See. It’s more silly than it sounds. (Died 2001.)
  • Born March 11, 1963 Alex Kingston,  57. River Song in Doctor Who. She’s in a number of different stories with a number of different Doctors and was the eventual wife of the Eleventh Doctor. She was in Ghost Phone: Phone Calls from the Dead, as Sheila, and she was Lady Macbeth in the National Theatre Live of Macbeth. Oh, and she’s in the Arrowverse as Dinah Lance, in FlashForward as Fiona Banks, and recently shows up as Sara Bishop on A Discovery of Witches, a series based off the Deborah Harkness novel of the same name. Great series, All Souls Trilogy, by the way. She’s been continuing her River Song character over at Big Finish. 
  • Born March 11, 1967 John Barrowman, 53. Best genre role without doubt is as Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who and Torchwood.  He reprised the role for Big Finish audiobooks and there’s one that I highly recommend which is the full cast Golden Age production with all the original cast. You’ll find a link to my review here. I see he’s been busy in the Arrowverse playing three different characters in the form  of Malcolm Merlyn / Dark Archer / Ra’s al Ghul.  He’s also had a long history in theatre, so he’s been in Beauty and the Beast as The Beast / The Prince, Jack and The Bean Stalk as Jack, Aladdinas, well, Aladdin and Cinderella as, errrr, Buttons.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) FRESH INTRO TO MALZBERG. D. Harlan Wilson has a new introduction for the upcoming reprint of Barry N. Malzberg’s Revelations (1972): He’s made it available on his website here.

With Galaxies, Beyond Apollo, and The Falling Astronauts, Revelations is part of a thematically linked group of Malzberg’s novels, all of which are now available from Anti-Oedipus Press. This special edition includes an introduction by D. Harlan Wilson, “Barry N. Malzberg and the Gravity of Science Fiction,” and two afterwords by the author, one from the second printing of Revelations in 1976, the other written in 2019 for this latest reprint.

(14) ADD SPACE SUIT PUN HERE. SYFY Wire tells “How Star Trek’s Prime Directive is influencing real-time space law”.

Michelle Hanlon moved around a lot while growing up. Her parents were part of the Foreign Service, the government agency that formulates and enacts U.S. policy abroad, so she found herself in new places all the time. Despite relocating often, one memory of her childhood remains constant. “We always had Star Trek,” Hanlon tells SYFY WIRE. “You know how families have dinner around the table? I remember eating meals in front of Star Trek, watching it no matter where we were.”

That connection to Star Trek, in part, inspired Hanlon to create For All Moonkind, a volunteer non-profit with the goal of preserving the Apollo landing sites on the Moon, alongside promoting the general preservation of history and heritage in outer space.

More Star Trek

Hanlon, who is a career attorney, has always had an interest in outer space. She didn’t study engineering or other sciences while at school, though, so she felt it couldn’t be more than a hobby. But after Johann-Dietrich Wörner, the head of the European Space Agency, made an offhand joke about how China may remove the United State’s flag from the Apollo moon landing site during a press conference, Hanlon started thinking about space preservation and what would eventually become For All Moonkind. She started the group in 2017 with her husband after returning to school to get a master’s degree in space law.

One point Hanlon and For All Moonkind stress is the idea that we can only preserve our history in space if we put the space race behind us and do it together — an ideal partially inspired by Star Trek. “I’ve never felt that I couldn’t do what I wanted because of my gender or race because I grew up with Star Trek,” Hanlon, who has a Chinese father and Polish mother, says. “The diversity of Star Trek was a reflection of my life; I was shocked to not see it when I came back to the U.S.”

(15) AVENGERS ASSEMBLE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Andrew Dalton, in the AP story “Avengers Campus to let Disneyland visitors sling like Spidey”, went on a press preview of the new Avengers Campus opening at Disney’s California Adventure in July, replacing the Bug’s Life ride.  The ride will include opportunities for patrons to “sling spider webs” like Spider-Man, and includes “warehouses” for the Avengers designed to look like old buildings. Food items include “Pym’s Test Kitchen,” which features a tiny brioche bun and a giant breaded chicken breast, and a “shwarma joint” similar to the one featured at the end of The Avengers.

…“We’ve been trying to figure out how do we bring this land to life not just where you get to see your favorite heroes or meet your favorite heroes, but where you actually get to become a hero,” Brent Strong, the executive creative director behind the new land for Walt Disney Imagineering, said at a media preview that revealed new details and provided a first look at the project that was first announced last year. “It’s about living out your superhero fantasies.”

Central to that aim is “WEB SLINGERS: A Spider-Man Adventure,” which uses a combination of physical and digital imagery to allow riders to play Peter Parker along with onscreen Spidey Tom Holland….

(16) PORTION PRESTIDIGITATION. Eater previews the food options at the new Avengers Campus in “A Ton of Marvel-Themed Foods Are Coming to Disneyland”.

At Pym Tasting Kitchen, the land’s main restaurant, a “Quantum Tunnel machine” and size-adjusting Pym particles experiment with food — and drinks at the adjacent Pym Tasting Lab — in a menu bolstered by Disney’s corporate partnerships with Coca-Cola and Impossible Foods plant-based meat.

The Quantum Pretzel, an oversized Bavarian twist pretzel, is Pym Tasting Kitchen’s most iconic item. It comes towering over a side of California IPA cheddar-mozzarella beer cheese. Similar to the park’s other large-scale pretzels at first glance, it clocks in at around 14 inches. Another ridiculously oversized dish, the Not So Little Chicken Sandwich, pairs a large chicken schnitzel with a small slider-sized potato bun, topped with Sriracha and teriyaki citrus mayos and pickled cabbage slaw. The gag, like the short skirt-long jacket of theme park cuisine, is executed brilliantly. (See also: the Caesar salad, served wedge-style with a head of baby romaine, vegan dressing, and a “colossal crouton.”)

(17) BRIAR PATCH VISIT POSTPONED. BBC reports “Peter Rabbit 2 film release delayed by four months amid coronavirus fears”.

Peter Rabbit 2 has become the latest major film to have its release pushed back amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway, which features the voices of James Corden and Margot Robbie, was due in UK cinemas on 27 March, and the US a week later.

But with uncertainty over whether fans will avoid cinemas, that has now been put back to 7 August.

(18) HAL CLEMENT SITE. In a manner of speaking. “Wasp-76b: The exotic inferno planet where it ‘rains iron'”.

Astronomers have observed a distant planet where it probably rains iron.

It sounds like a science fiction movie, but this is the nature of some of the extreme worlds we’re now discovering.

Wasp-76b, as it’s known, orbits so close in to its host star, its dayside temperatures exceed 2,400C – hot enough to vaporise metals.

The planet’s nightside, on the other hand, is 1,000 degrees cooler, allowing those metals to condense and rain out.

It’s a bizarre environment, according to Dr David Ehrenreich from the University of Geneva.

“Imagine instead of a drizzle of water droplets, you have iron droplets splashing down,” he told BBC News.

The Swiss researcher and colleagues have just published their findings on this strange place in the journal Nature.

The team describes how it used the new Espresso instrument at the Very Large Telescope in Chile to study the chemistry of Wasp-76b in fine detail.

Nature link: “Nightside condensation of iron in an ultrahot giant exoplanet”.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Dvein vs. Flamingos on Vimeo, you learn what you shouldn’t mess with a pink flamingo.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/23/20 Old Possum’s Scroll Of Practically Universal Robotic Cats

(1) DITMAR NOMINATIONS OPEN. Nominations for the 2020 Australian SF (“Ditmar”) awards are open until one minute before midnight Perth time on Sunday, March 1, 2020 (ie. 11.59 p.m., GMT+8). The current rules, including Award categories can be found at: here.

You must include your name with any nomination. Nominations will be accepted only from natural persons active in fandom, or from full or supporting members of Swancon 2020, the 2020 Australian National SF Convention.

A partial and unofficial eligibility list, to which everyone is encouraged to add, can be found here.

(2) NAACP IMAGE AWARDS. Genre triumphed: “Jordan Peele and Lupita Nyong’o Win Big for Us at NAACP Image Awards”ComicBook.com has the story.

After many thought Lupita Nyongo’o and Jordan Peele were snubbed from Oscar nominations this year for their work on Us, the duo ended up winning big at the NAACP Image Awards. By the time the annual gala was over Saturday night, Peele had won Outstanding Writing In A Motion Picture while Nyong’o won Outstanding Actress In A Motion Picture.

…Despite receiving zero nominations at the 92nd Academy Awards, the Peele-directed horror flick also managed to win big elsewhere this awards season. Peele won Best Director at this summer’s Saturn Awards while Nyong’o won Best Actress with the Hollywood Critics Association and more. As a whole, the movie’s biggest award came during the Critics’ Choice Awards, where it won Best Sci-fi/Horror movie.

(3) ORIGINAL COMICS ART ON THE BLOCK. Heritage Auctions is in the internet bidding phase of its 2020 March 5 – 8 Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction – Dallas #7224. This Spider-Man cover has already been bid up to $135,000.

John Romita Sr. Amazing Spider-Man #51 Cover Kingpin Original Art (Marvel, 1967). One of the finest Amazing Spider-Man covers we have ever had! It was the Kingpin’s very first cover appearance, and it set the image of the character in many fan’s heads for decades to come….

(4) SEND THE TARDIS TO DUBLIN. Nicholas Whyte wishes Doctor Who spent more time in Ireland – like any at all. He has written a rundown on the Irishness of the TV show, book adaptations, audio dramas, and comics. You might say there is more green in Tom Baker’s trademark scarf than the rest of the show combined.

It is a sad fact that up to the present day (choosing my words *very* carefully here), not a single second of TV screen time on the show, or any of its spinoffs, has been set in Ireland. Indeed, hitherto the Doctor spent more televised time in Hungary than on the Emerald Isle (special prize if you know what story I am referring to). A couple of confused characters do wonder if Gallifrey, the home planet of the Time Lords, may be in Ireland, but that’s as close as we get.

However, the real life relationship between Doctor Who and Ireland is much stronger. Tenth Doctor David Tennant’s grandmother was from Northern Ireland – his grandfather was a professional footballer, whose record of 57 goals for Derry City in a single season still stands. Lalla Ward, who played the second incarnation of Romana and was briefly married to Fourth Doctor Tom Baker, is the daughter of the 7th Viscount Bangor; their family home was Castle Ward in County Down, better known to Game of Thrones fans as Winterfell.

And lucky kids in Belfast and Derry were thrilled one day in 1978 when the Fourth Doctor himself turned up at their school…

(5) CHEWHACKA. ComicBook.com points readers to a video that teaches how “Disneyland Guests Unlock Secret ‘Chewbacca Mode’ on Millenium Falcon Ride, and You Can Too”.

…The hack has to be done like an old video game cheat code. You need to make certain inputs by a certain time in order to bring “Chewie mode” online. Here is a video and written instruction from the FreshBaked YouTube Channel, which specializes in Disneyland tips and tricks:

(6) TRIBBLES BY THE NUMBERS. Although now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall, that wasn’t enough. Ars Technica learned that scientists wanted the answer to yet another question: “Physics undergrads crunched numbers for Star Trek’s tribble problem”.

Chalk this one up to fun scientific papers we inexplicably missed last year. A group of undergraduates at the University of Leicester in the UK calculated the growth rate of the fictional Star Trek critters known as tribbles. They published their results in a short paper in the university’s undergraduate-centric Journal of Physics Special Topics, estimating just how long it would take for there to be enough tribbles to fill up the USS Enterprise….

(7) VENUSIAN ROVER DESIGN CHALLENGE. NASA is summoning the public to help create new technology for a mission to a “hellish” planet: “Exploring Hell: Avoiding Obstacles on a Clockwork Rover”.

…Imagine a world hot enough to turn lead into a puddle, where the atmospheric pressure can crush a nuclear-powered submarine. Now imagine sending a rover to explore that world. 

Venus, ancient sister of Earth with a planetary environment just this side of hellish, has been visited by a handful of probes since the early days of space flight.  Of the many missions to our celestial neighbor, only about a dozen have made contact with the surface of the planet. The longest-lived landers only managed to function for a couple of hours before succumbing to the relentlessly oppressive heat and pressure.

… Current, state-of-the-art, military-grade electronics fail at approximately 125°C, so mission scientists at JPL have taken their design cues from a different source: automatons and clockwork operations. Powered by wind, the AREE mission concept is intended to spend months, not minutes, exploring the landscape of our sister world. Built of advanced alloys, AREE will be able to collect valuable long-term longitudinal scientific data utilizing both indirect and direct sensors.

As the rover explores the surface of Venus, collecting and relaying data to an orbiter overhead, it must also detect obstacles in its path like rocks, crevices, and steep terrain. To assist AREE on its groundbreaking mission concept, JPL needs an equally groundbreaking obstacle avoidance sensor, one that does not rely on vulnerable electronic systems. For that reason, JPL is turning to the global community of innovators and inventors to design this novel avoidance sensor for AREE. JPL is interested in all approaches, regardless of technical maturity.

This sensor will be the primary mechanism by which the potential rover would detect and navigates through dangerous situations during its operational life. By sensing obstacles such as rocks, crevices, and inclines, the rover would then navigate around the obstruction, enabling the rover to continue to explore the surface of Venus and collect more observational data.

CNN assures everyone:

Don’t have an engineering degree? Doesn’t matter. Never seen a spacecraft in real life? No problem.

“JPL is interested in all approaches, regardless of technical maturity,” NASA said.

The 1st-place winner of the design contest will get up to $15,000, the 2nd-place winner will get up to $10,000, and the 3rd-place winner will get $5,000.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 23, 1935 The Phantom Empire premiered.  It was a Western serial film with elements of SF and musical theater as well. It was directed by Otto Brower and B. Reeves Eason. It starred the singing cowboy himself Gene Autry along with Frankie Darro and Betsy King Ross. In 1940, a feature film edited from the serial was released as either Radio Ranch or Men with Steel Faces. It was a box office success earning back its seventy-five thousand dollar budget.  The very few audience members who gave it a rating at Rotten Tomatoes didn’t like it hence the 27% rating there. You can see the first chapter here.
  • February 23, 1954 Rocky Jones, Space Ranger premiered. This was the first science fiction television show to be entirely pre-filmed (instead of being televised live as was the case with Captain Video, Buck Rogers and Tom Corbett.) It was also the first to use sets of unusual good quality, live location shoots, and rather decent special effects. Rocky Jones was played by Richard Crane. It was created by Roland D. Reed and written by Warren Wilson, Arthur Hoerl and Marianne Mosner, with Hollingsworth Morse being the director. It lasted but two seasons as it never really caught on with the public. Story wise, it actually had a great deal of continuity built into it, unlike almost all of the other series at the time. Its thirty-nine episodes, each twenty-five minutes in length, aired originally between February 23rd and November 16th, 1954. You can see the first episode here.
  • February 23, 1978 Quark was slotted in on NBC as a mid-season replacement series. Yes, the pilot aired on May 7, 1977, so technically that it’s birthday but let’s skip past that please. It was created by Buck Henry, co-creator of Get Smart. The series starred Richard Benjamin, Tim Thomerson, Richard Kelton, Tricia Barnstable and Cyb Barnstable. It specialized in satirizing popular SF series and films — the Wiki article states that three episodes were based upon actualTrek episodes, though that can’t be confirmed. It lasted but eight episodes beating Space Rangers by two episodes in longevity. You can see the first episode here. here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 23, 1564 Christopher Marlowe. Author of Doctor Faustus (or The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus.  Elizabeth Bear made him a character in her Stratford Man series which is Ink and Steel and Hell and Earth novels which I highly recommend. If you’ve not read them, the Green Man review is here. (Died 1593.)
  • Born February 23, 1915 Jon Hall. Frank Raymond in Invisible Agent and The Invisible Man’s Revenge. He was also the creator and star of the Ramar of the Jungle series. And he directed and starred in The Beach Girls and the Monster and The Navy vs. the Night Monsters. (Died 1979.)
  • Born February 23, 1930 Gerry Davis. Mid-Sixties story editor on Doctor Who where he created companion Jamie McCrimmon and co-created the Cybermen along with unofficial scientific adviser Dr. Kit Pedler. They would create the Doomwatch series that ran in the Sixties on BBC. Davis briefly returned to writing for the series, penning the first script for Revenge of the Cybermen, though his script was largely abandoned by editor Robert Holmes. In 1989 he and Terry Nation, who created the Daleks, made a failed bid to take over production of the series and reformat it for the American market. (Died 1991.)
  • Born February 23, 1932 Majel Barrett. No doubt best remembered for being  Nurse Christine Chapel and Lwaxana Troi as well as for being the voice of most of the ship computer interfaces throughout the series. I’ll note that she was originally cast as Number One in the unused Pilot but the male studio heads hated the idea of a female in that role. Early Puppies obviously. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 23, 1965 Jacob Weisman, 55. Founder, Tachyon Publications, which you really should go look at as they’ve published every great author I’d care to read. Seriously Tidhar, Beagle and Yolen are among their newest releases! He also edited (with Beagle) The New Voices of Fantasy which I highly recommend as most excellent reading.
  • Born February 23, 1983 Emily Blunt, 37. Her most direct connection to the genre is as Elise Sellas in the Adjustment Bureau film based off Dick’s “Adjustment Team” story. Mind, she’s been in quite a number of other genre films including The WolfmanGulliver’s Travels, Gnomeo & Juliet, The Muppets, Looper, Edge of Tomorrow, Into the Woods, The Huntsman: Winter’s WarThe Strange Case of Sherlock Holmes & Arthur Conan Doyle, and Mary Poppins Returns.
  • Born February 23, 2002 Emilia Jones, 18. I’m reasonably sure this is the youngest Birthday individual that I’ve done.  She shows up on Doctor Who as Merry Gejelh, The Queen of Years, in the “The Rings of Akhaten”, an Eleventh Doctor story. At nine years of age, she’s made her acting debut in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides as an unnamed English Girl. She’s Young Beth in the horror film Ghostland. She’s currently in Residue, an SF horror series you can find on Netflix. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • And let’s catch up with Tom Gauld –

(11) LEAP BEER. On February 29 Ology Brewing Company in Tallahassee, Florida will combine the debut of their Tropical Habitat beer – “inspired by the Southern Reach trilogy” – with a book signing by Jeff VanderMeer.

To honor our friendship with Jeff VanderMeer, Tallahassee resident and author of the Southern Reach Trilogy, we are releasing Tropical Habitat, a tropical, otherworldly Hazy Double IPA at a special Book Signing and Meet & Greet event alongside the release of three other beers (Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout, Barrel-Aged American Sour, and Fruit Beer).

A portion of Tropical Habitat sales (both cans and tap pours) will benefit the Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge (The Salamander Project) and honor the setting of the trilogy book series and one of our team’s favorite places – the North Florida Coast.

(12) BEHIND THE VEIL. Cora Buhlert put up another evaluation of a Retro-eligible work: “Retro Review: ‘The Veil of Astellar’ by Leigh Brackett”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

Uncommon for Leigh Brackett, “The Veil of Astellar” begins with a framing story about a manuscript found inside a message rocket sent to the Interworld Space Authority headquarters on Mars. This manuscript offers an explanation of the space phenomenon called “the Veil” which comes out of nowhere and swallows spaceships in the asteroid belt. The space police officers are initially sceptical about the account, but eventually manage to determine that it is authentic. Furthermore, the much feared Veil has vanished and the message inside the rocket explains why….

(13) HEARTFIELD CLASS. Cat Rambo shared “Highlights from Writing Interactive Fiction,” taught online by Kate Heartfield.  Thread starts here.

(14) QUINN AGAIN, BEGIN AGAIN. A.V.Club: “DC Universe’s Harley Quinn is coming back for another season in April”.

We’re going through a Harley Quinnaissance at the moment, even if Birds Of Preydidn’t light up the box office, and it looks like DC Universe is eager to keep it going. As announced on Twitter, the streaming service (which still exists and has yet to be swallowed up by HBO Max!) will already be getting a new season of the Harley Quinn animated series in April. The first season just premiered at the end of 2019, so this will be a surprisingly short wait for a chance to hear more DC comic book characters say “fuck” and get beat up in surprisingly violent ways. Also, maybe this time Harley and Poison Ivy will end up together? Or maybe they won’t and that’s okay too? Either way, DC Universe has to hold onto something that fans want to see, or else HBO Max will just quietly roll up and take over. Then Harley Quinn’s going to have to hang out with the Friendsinstead of Poison Ivy, and nobody wants that.

(15) IF YOU DON’T SLING THE LINGO. BBC asks: “Dubs or subs? Parasite renews debate on how to watch foreign films”.

The South Korean dark comedy film Parasite had a historic awards season sweep – and in the process, reignited the debate over whether subtitles or dubbing is the best way to watch a movie that isn’t in your native language.

As director Bong Joon Ho accepted the first-ever best foreign language picture Golden Globe for a South Korean film, he said: “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”

Fast forward a month, and he was making history again, accepting the best picture award once more at the Oscars. Parasite’s Oscar win introduced it to a broad US audience – but not everyone was in favour of watching the award winner in its original language.

Dubbing takes the stress out of enjoying a foreign film, some argued, and performances are meant to be heard, not read. The angered response from subtitle fans ranged from accusations of racism to pointing out the needs of deaf viewers.

How you watch a foreign film is a clearly personal matter, tangled in pet peeves and accessibility. But as foreign flicks are gaining more screen time before American audiences, here’s a deeper dive into how we got here, and where the industry is headed.

In the early days of film, on-screen text was far from a “one-inch barrier” – it was the only way to express dialogue. Title cards were the precursor to subtitles, and they, too, were controversial in a way that mirrors the modern debate.

Stage actors would try to hide their work in silent film as many felt the lack of sound diminished the quality of the performance, Professor Marsha McKeever, academic director of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, told the BBC.

(16) THE CALL OF THE UNWILD. Yours truly used to live a few blocks from where this happened: “Wild bear roams streets of California neighbourhood” (video). The bears didn’t come down to our block, but coyotes, skunks, and possums did.

A wild bear has been sedated and captured after it was seen roaming in a residential area in Monrovia, California.

The 28.3 stone (180kg) elderly female walked through residential areas close to Angeles National Forest.

A mild California winter could be a possible reason for the sighting, as warmer weather causes bears to leave their dens in search of food.

(17) HOMEMADE ASTRONAUT AND ROUND EARTH SKEPTIC DIES. The earth may not be flat, but now he is: “‘Mad’ Mike Hughes dies after crash-landing homemade rocket”.

A US daredevil pilot has been killed during an attempted launch of a homemade rocket in the Californian desert.

“Mad” Mike Hughes, 64, crash-landed his steam-powered rocket shortly after take-off near Barstow on Saturday.

A video on social media shows a rocket being fired into the sky before plummeting to the ground nearby.

Hughes was well-known for his belief that the Earth was flat. He hoped to prove his theory by going to space.

Video at TMZ.

(18) SEEKER. BrainPickings’ Maria Popova delves into Brian Greene’s book Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe: “Until the End of Time: Physicist Brian Greene on the Poetry of Existence and the Wellspring of Meaning in Our Ephemeral Lives Amid an Impartial Universe”.

…Although science is Greene’s raw material in this fathoming — its histories, its theories, its triumphs, its blind spots — he emerges, as one inevitably does in contemplating these colossal questions, a testament to Einstein’s conviction that “every true theorist is a kind of tamed metaphysicist.”

(19) TRANSFORMATIVE EXPERIENCE. Jeffrey Lyles succumbs to the Hasbro advertising — “Check out the incredible trailer for Transformers: War For Cybertron Trilogy: Siege” – at Lyles Movie Files.

I’ve been impressed with my ability to not get sucked into Hasbro’s Transformers’ Siege line. Those figures really look impressive, but I’m trying to keep my Transformers purchases to the Masterpiece line. But now with the release of Netflix’s Transformers: War for Cybertron Trilogy trailer, I’m thinking my resolve is about to crumble especially given how good this series looks.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

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

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It took him two years to find Panama.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 2/10/20 Universe Error: Not Enough SF Resources Found. Reboot Universe? Y/N

(1) BUSIEK TALKS ABOUT NEW SERIES, THE MARVELS. “Anyone. Anywhere. Anytime.” That’s how acclaimed writer Kurt Busiek describes his new ongoing series, The Marvels. Busiek said in an interview with Marvel.com

The whole idea of The Marvels is to be able to use the whole Marvel Universe — not just all the characters in it, but all the history of it. The sweeping scope of the whole thing. Big stuff can happen in the Marvel Universe, but we usually see it confined largely to the Avengers in Avengers, to the FF in Fantastic Four, and so on. The Marvels is intended as a freewheeling book that can go anywhere, do anything, use anyone. It’s a smorgasbord of Marvel heroes and history. It’s not a team. It’s a concept, or a universe, depending on how you look at it. The Marvels features the marvels — all the many and varied characters of the Marvel Universe. The heroes, the villains, the oddities — all of it. There’ll be popular characters of today, there’ll be obscure characters from long ago — heck, there’ll be story threads that take place in the past, or possibly the future. We’re not limited to just the present. And there’ll be new characters, too, from the street-level to the cosmic. There are three new marvels in the first issue, although a couple of them are only seen for a panel or so. But we’ll get back to them. I’d say “’the sky’s the limit,’ except in the Marvel Universe, there’s a lot going on beyond that sky. And it’s all open to us.

See the full interview and get a first look at the debut issue at the link The first issue hits the stand in May.

THE MARVELS #1. Written by KURT BUSIEK . Art by YILDIRAY CINAR. Cover by ALEX ROSS.

(2) UNCANNY FAVORITE. The winner of the Uncanny Magazine 2019 Favorite Fiction Reader Poll is “Away With the Wolves” by Sarah Gailey!

The rest of the Top Five are:
2- IS A TIE!!!
“The Dead, In Their Uncontrollable Power” by Karen Osborne!
“A Mindreader’s Guide to Surviving Your First Year at the All-Girls Superhero Academy” by Jenn Reese!
3- “A Catalog of Storms” by Fran Wilde!
4- “How the Trick Is Done” by A.C. Wise!
5- “This Is Not My Adventure” by Karlo Yeager Rodríguez!

(3) RUSSIAN AROUND. “A US House candidate says she was hacked — now she’s warning others” — Brianna Wu gave the story to TechCrunch.

“I cannot think of a reason not to share this with the public,” Brianna Wu tweeted.

“Two of my non-campaign Google accounts were compromised by someone in Russia,” she said.

Wu isn’t just any other target. As a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Massachusetts’ 8th District, she has a larger target on her back for hackers than the average constituent. And as a former software engineer, she knows all too well the cybersecurity risks that come along with running for political office.

But the breach of two of her non-campaign Google accounts was still a wake-up call.

Wu said she recently discovered that the two accounts had been breached. One of the accounts was connected to her Nest camera system at home, and the other was her Gmail account she used during the Gamergate controversy, during which Wu was a frequent target of vitriol and death threats. TechCrunch agreed to keep the details of the breach off the record as to not give any potential attackers an advantage. Attribution in cyberattacks, however, can be notoriously difficult because hackers can mask their tracks using proxies and other anonymity tools.

“I don’t believe anyone in Russia is targeting me specifically. I think it’s more likely they target everyone running for office,” she tweeted….

(4) RETRO DRAMA. Mark Leeper is writing a three-part overview of all (he hopes) feature-length dramatic presentations eligible for the Retro Hugo. The installments will be available in the February 7, February 14, and February 21 issues of MT VOID. The first is here if you want to check it out.

The full article will be published on Mark’s web page (http://leepers.us) after the last one runs.

And the Leepers are asking for help to find a copy of Ghost Catchers (a.k.a. High Spirits) even if it’s not one of the main contenders.

(5) DOES WHATEVER A SPIDER CAN. The Disney Parks Blog watches as “Spider-Man Swings into Action Above Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure Park”.

Guests visiting Disney California Adventure park prior to the opening of the Avengers Campus this summer can still encounter Spider-Man daily in Hollywood Land between his visits to Avengers Campus. As previously announced, Spider-Man can be seen in his exclusive, new suit designed by Ryan Meinerding, Head of Visual Development at Marvel Studios.

When Avengers Campus opens this summer, guests will be recruited to become the next generation of Super Heroes. The campus will be home to a variety of new experiences giving guests the chance to feel the power, adventure and exhilaration of teaming up with some of their favorite Super Heroes including:

  • The Worldwide Engineering Brigade – also known as “WEB” – which will house the new Spider-Man attraction where guests can sling webs alongside Spider-Man himself.
  • Pym Test Kitchen, an all-new eatery, where Pym Technologies Researchers are using Ant-Man and the Wasp’s growing and shrinking technology to create super-sized and super small foods.
  • Heroic encounters throughout the campus where guests can team up with some of their favorite Super Heroes including Spider-Man, Black Widow, Doctor Strange, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther and the Dora Milaje, Thor and Loki, Iron Man and for the first time, Ant-Man and The Wasp.
  • Avengers Headquarters where guests may witness Earth’s Mightiest Heroes springing into action at a moment’s notice all over the building.

(6) DAYS BEFORE OUR LIVES. Screenwriting award at Sundance goes to genre film Nine Days.

Keep an eye out for this one. Here’s the plot description from IMDb:

A reclusive man conducts a series of interviews with human souls for a chance to be born.

(7) SON WITH A SWORD. “Mandy Patinkin on ‘The Princess Bride’” – video at Yahoo!

One of actor Mandy Patinkin’s most popular roles was the 1987 fantasy, “The Princess Bride,” in which he played a man bent on revenge (“Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die”). In this web exclusive he talked with correspondent Holly Williams about the legacy of his character.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 10, 1957 Attack of the Crab Monsters premiered. It was produced and directed by Roger Corman, and it starred Richard Garland, Pamela Duncan, and Russell Johnson, the latter much better know for his Gillgan’s Island role. It was written by Charles B. Griffith who would later write The Little Shop of Horrors. It was profitable, the best showing by a Corman film to that date, earned the respect of critics for the way it was produced and scripted but currently has a lousy 30% rating among the 1.625 reviewers who gave an opinion at Rotten Tomatoes. Should you be inclined, you can watch it here.
  • February 10, 1957 Not Of This Earth premiered. It shared a double bill with Attack of the Crab Monsters. It like the other film was produced and directed by Roger Corman,  It stars Paul Birch, Beverly Garland, Morgan Jones, William Roerick, and Anna Lee Carroll. The film was written by Charles B. Griffith and Mark Hanna. Critics liked even better than its Attack of the Crab Monsters with one saying that it was “Corman’s most enjoyable science fiction film”.  Notes for this film note that the double bill made back four times what it cost to produce both films in the first week. So how does it currently rate at Rotten Tomatoes? Even worse than Attack of the Crab Monsters as it garners a pitiful 21% rating there from the roughly 400 reviewers. Like Attack of the Crab Monsters, it’s only roughly only an hour long and you can watch it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 10, 1906 Lon Chaney Jr. I certainly best remember him playing Larry Talbot in The Wolf Man but he has a lot of other roles as well: The Ghost of Frankenstein as The Monster (look, correct billing!), The Mummy’s Tomb as The Mummy Kharis or Son of Dracula as Count Dracula, he played all the great monsters, often multiple times. (Died 1973.)
  • Born February 10, 1910 Douglas Spencer. His most memorable role As an actor was as The Monitor on This Island Earth. As far I can call tell, he only had two other genre roles, one  as the First Martian in the “Mr. Dingle, the Strong” episode of Twilight Zone, two other as Ned Scott on The Thing from Another World, a Fifties horror film. (Died 1960.)
  • Born February 10, 1926 Hazel Court. She did The Devil Girl from Mars which has been noted previously in File 770,  The Curse of Frankenstein, a Hammer Film, and Doctor Blood’s Coffin. She did five different roles on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and had one-offs on The Invisible Man, Danger Man, (at genre adjacent, isn’t it?), Thriller, Twilight Zone and Mission: Impossible. Her final role, uncredited, was in Omen III: The Final Conflict. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 10, 1930 Robert Wagner, 90. He played the lead in the early Fifties Prince Valiant based off the Hal Foster strip. Next up is being George Lytton in The Pink Panther followed by the same in Curse of the Pink Panther. He’s Number Two in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, and the same in Austin Powers in Goldmember. He shows up as President James Garfield in Netherbeast Incorporated, a film that rated better at Rotten Tomatoes than I expected. His latest role is as Charles Benning in What Happened to Monday
  • Born February 10, 1958 Rupert Vansittart, 62. He was portrayed General Asquith in the two Ninth Doctor stories, “Aliens of London” and “World War Three”. He was Wyatt in The Saint: The Brazilian Connection, and Brian Babbacombe on Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). Lastly, he had he recurring role on Game of Thrones as Yohn Royce. 
  • Born February 10, 1970 Robert Shearman, 50. He wrote the episode of Who called “Dalek” which was nominated for the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form in 2006 at L.A. Con IV. (There were three Who entries that year and “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances” won.) His first book, a collection of short stories called Tiny Deaths was a World Fantasy Award winner. He’s written a lot of short fiction since then, collected helpfully into two collections, displayed. Remember Why You Fear Me: The Best Dark Fiction of Robert Shearman and They Do the Same Things Different There: The Best Weird Fantasy of Robert Shearman.
  • Born February 10, 1976 Keeley Hawes 44. Ms Delphox/Madame Karabraxos In the most excellent Twelfth Doctor story “Time Heist”.  It wasn’t her first genre role as that would’ve been Tamara in that awful Avengers film. She also played Zoe Reynolds which is at least genre adjacent given where the story went. 
  • Born February 10, 1988 Jade and Nakita Ramsey, 32. Their longest running role was on The House of Anubis series with Jade as Patricia Williamson who in it for the entire run of one hundred and forty five episodes with  Nakita showing up for just six episodes. They’d later both be on A Haunting at Silver Falls: The Return playing Heather and Holly Dahl. They play twins frequently, even appearing once in a film with Cassandra Peterson, All About Evil.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Have a lot of books? Frazz has a question about that.

(11) KEEP PREYING. “Box Office Analyst Explains Why Birds of Prey Disappointed in its Opening Weekend” at Comicbook.com.

Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) opened over the weekend to $33 million, marking the lowest opening for any film set in the DC Extended Universe and the lowest start for any DC film since Jonah Hex in 2010. According to Exhibitor Relations box office analyst Jeff Bock, the R-rated Birds of Prey is a “niche comic book movie” whose failings began with its title: not naming the Cathy Yan-directed film Harley Quinn after its starring character (portrayed by returning Suicide Squad star Margot Robbie) was a “huge misfire” for Warner Bros., who months earlier scored a billion-plus box office with the R-rated Joker.

(12) VALUABLE WILD CARD. Joker has gained acclaim, but also an equal amount of skepticism. YouTuber CinemaWins looks into the aspects of the film done well in his easily digestible format. (Spoilers)

Joker! Another one of those movies where everyone agrees and I can’t even imagine a single person getting upset! Here’s everything right with Joker!

Part I

Part II

(13) NO LONGER ON THE FORCE. Maltin on Movies interviews Peter Weller.

Actor, musician, director, renaissance man: Peter Weller is all of these, but he’s best remembered as the star of RoboCop. He’s also a fascinating conversationalist, as Leonard and Jessie were delighted to learn, with stories about such luminaries as Mike Nichols and Otto Preminger.

(14) TRAILER TIME. The full trailer for Minions: The Rise of Gru dropped.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Another cheap umbella.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/27/20 Say, Isn’t That The Scrolled Pixel Of Filothrace?

(1) BAD DOG. “No Doctor Who spoilers will adorn future Pixel Scrolls,” promised Mike Glyer, after spending the day being chastised by File 770 commenters.

(2) BAD IDEA THAT’S DESTINED TO HAPPEN? Alex Kurtzman says it’s crackers to slip a rozzer the dropsy in snide…or something like that: “The Future of ‘Star Trek’ and Why the ‘Doors Are Just Opening’ for a Film-TV Crossover” at The Wrap.

Now that “Star Trek” has beamed Jean-Luc Picard back up into its universe, the sci-fi franchise’s captain is already plotting its next course. And that may include mind-melding the film and TV universes after more than a decade apart.

When Viacom and CBS agreed to re-merge, after spending the past 14 years as separate companies, the film and TV rights to “Star Trek” once again came under the same corporate roof. CBS TV Studios controls the TV side, while Paramount has steered the Enterprise on the film part of the universe.

Alex Kurtzman, who oversees “Star Trek” for CBS TV Studios, believes it’s only a matter of time before the film and TV worlds of “Star Trek” collide.

 “The ink has just dried on the merger and the doors are just opening. So I think anything is possible at this point,” he told TheWrap. “I can’t imagine that CBS and Paramount, in their infinite wisdom, would say lets create two ‘Star Trek’s and have them be separate. That doesn’t seem like it would be a good strategy to me.”

(3) MONEY? GONE IN A FLASH! “DC Comics has its own super hero-themed credit cards” at CNET. The Justice League says, “Charge! it.”

If you’ve ever wanted to show off your love of DC Universe super heroes with a themed credit card, now’s your chance. DC Comics has teamed up with Visa to launch a series of credit cards with entertainment rewards. 

You can choose between seven different designs: animated Batman images for the character’s 80th anniversary; the Batman symbol; an animated Superman opening his shirt to the logo underneath; the Wonder Woman symbol; The Flash’s symbol; an animated Harley Quinn; and the whole Justice League in animated form. 

(4) LIST OF THINGS THAT WOULD BE BAD. CrowdScience asks “Could we survive an extinction event?” – available at BBC Sounds.

Super-sized volcanic eruptions and giant asteroids crashing in from outer space are the stuff of disaster movies. They have listener Santosh from South Africa slightly concerned. He’d like to know what’s being done in real life to prepare for this kind of event.

Although the chance of these events occurring is low, Santosh isn’t entirely wrong to be worried: Earth has a much longer history than humans do, and there’s evidence that several past extinction events millions of years ago wiped out the dominant species on the planet at the time, as we’ve heard before on CrowdScience. The kind of extraordinary geological and extra-terrestrial hazards thought to be responsible for the death of millions of lives do still exist. So is there really any way that humans could survive where the dinosaurs – and plenty of other species – have failed? 

Presenter Marnie Chesterton finds out by meeting experts who are already preparing for the remote but real possibility of the biggest disaster we could face. It turns out that in real life most things we can think of which could cause an extinction event are being watched closely by scientists and governmental agencies. 

How worried we should really be by the possibility of a sudden super-volcanic eruption at Yellowstone in the USA, or one of the other enormous volcanoes dotting our planet’s surface? Marnie heads into an underground bunker near the remote Scottish coast to find out if hiding out is a viable survival option. Now a museum, Scotland’s Secret Bunker, formerly RAF Troywood, is one of a network of nuclear shelters built by nation states during the Cold War. 

And she hears about one of the combined space agencies most ambitious projects yet: NASA and ESA’s Asteroid Impact and Deflection Assessment mission to crash an impactor into an asteroid’s moon to find out whether we could knock any potentially problematic collisions off-course well before Earth impact

(5) PAUSEWANG OBIT. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] Gudrun Pausewang, a German YA author who occasionally ventured into SFF, died on January 24 at the age of 91. Ms. Pausewang’s forays into science fiction were mainly dystopian such as the 1983 novel The Last Children of Schewenborn, a story about life and death (but mainly death) after a nuclear war, and the 1987 novel The Cloud about the fallout from a nuclear disaster, which sits on the reading list of many German schools. She also wrote less gloomy fare on occasion such as the 1972 modern fairytale “The Merman Behind the House”. I wasn’t a huge fan of her work – way too gloomy for my tastes – but she was certainly an important voice. Here is an English language obituary: “Anti-nuclear author Gudrun Pausewang dies”.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 27, 1980 Galactica 1980 premiered on ABC. A spin-off from the original Battlestar Galactica series, it was the result of a massive letter writing campaign in the days before email which made the network actually pay attention. Alas it performed quite poorly and was canceled after the initial order of ten episodes. I remember Lorne Greene as Commander Adama was the only major returning cast member, but I’ll freely admit I’ve not seen either series in decades so that could be inaccurate. The DVD release twenty seventy years later would be carry the tagline of “The Original Battlestar Galactica’s Final Season”. 
  • January 27, 1998 The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy premiered on UPN. Written by Caleb Carr, author of The Alienist, it was directed by Joe Dante. It starred  John Corbett, Carolyn McCormick, Rod Taylor, John Pyper-Ferguson, Elisabeth Harnois and J. Madison Wright. It was intended as a pilot for The Osiris Chronicles series but that never happened though similar concepts can be seen in Roddenberry’s Andromeda series. It is available for viewing here.
  • January 27, 2008 Attack of the Gryphon premiered on the Sci-Fi Channel. It was directed by Andrew Prowse, with a cast led by Amber Benson, Jonathan LaPaglia, and Larry Drake. It was one in a series that included a film called Mansquito. Really. Truly. Like most of the Sci-Fi Pictures original films series, neither critics or reviewers were impressed with the story, SFX or acting. It’s got no rating at Rotten Tomatoes and the scant number of Amazon ratings are all over the place.
  • January 27, 2008 Journey To The Center Of The Earth premiered. It was directed by Eric Brevin. It starred Brendan Fraser, Anita Briem, and Josh Hutcherson. Surprisingly, at least to me, it received positive reviews from critics, and was a huge box office success. It currently holds a 51% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 27, 1756 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. On the strength of The Magic Flute. (Died 1791.)
  • Born January 27, 1940 James Cromwell, 80. I think we best know him as Doctor Zefram Cochrane In Star Trek: First Contact , which was re-used in the Enterprise episode “In a Mirror, Darkly (Part I)”.  He’s been in other genre films including Species IIDeep ImpactThe Green MileSpace CowboysI, RobotSpider-Man 3 and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. He played characters on three Trek series, Prime Minister Nayrok on “The Hunted” episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Jaglom Shrek in the two part “Birthright” story, Hanok on the “Starship Down” episode of Deep Space Nine and Zefram Cochrane once again as noted before on Enterprise
  • Born January 27, 1950 Michaela Roessner, 70. She won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer for Walkabout Woman. Her The Stars Dispose duology is quite excellent. Alas, none of her fiction is available digitally. 
  • Born January 27, 1956 Mimi Rogers, 64. Her best known known SFF role is Professor Maureen Robinson in the Lost in Space film which I did see in a theatre I just realized. She’s also Mrs. Marie Kensington in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, and she’s Orianna Volkes in the Penny Dreadful hitchhiker horror film. She’s got one-offs in Tales from The Crypt, The X-Files, Where Are You Scooby Doo? and Ash v. Evil Dead.
  • Born January 27, 1957 Frank Miller, 63. He’s both an artist and writer so I’m not going to untangle which is which here. What’s good by him? Oh, I love The Dark Knight Returns, both the original comic series and the animated film, though the same not no true of Sin City where I prefer the original series much more. Hmmm… What else? His runs on Daredevil and Electra of course. That should do. 
  • Born January 27, 1958 Susanna Thompson, 62. She played Dr. Lenara Kahn in Deep Space Nine’s “Rejoined” episode and was the Borg Queen in three episodes of Voyager. Back here on Earth, she was Moira Queen on Arrow. She’s also had roles in Alien Nation: Dark Horizon, The LakeBermuda Triangle, Dragonfly, KingsThe Gathering and she had two different one-offs on Next Gen before being cast as the Borg Queen. 
  • Born January 27, 1963 Alan Cumming, 57. His film roles include his performances as Boris Grishenko in GoldenEye, Fegan Floop In the Spy Kids trilogy, Loki, god of Mischief in Son of the Mask (a really horrid film), Nightcrawler In X2 and Judas Caretaker in Riverworld
  • Born January 27, 1966 Tamlyn Tomita, 54. I’m fairly sure I first saw her in a genre role on the Babylon 5 film The Gathering as Lt. Cmdr. Laurel Takashima. Or it might have been on The Burning Zone as Dr. Kimberly Shiroma. And she had a recurring late on Eureka in Kate Anderson, and Ishi Nakamura on Heroes? She’s been in a number of SFF series in one-off roles including Highlander, Quantum Leap, The Sentinel, Seven Days, FreakyLinks, Stargate SG-1 and a recurring as late as Tamiko Watanabe in The Man in The High Castle.
  • Born January 27, 1969 Patton Oswalt, 51. He gets his Birthday Honors for voicing Remy in Ratatouille, a truly lovely and rather tasty film. He also played Eric, Billy, Sam and Thurston Koenig in a recurring and fascinating role on the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series. And let’s not overlook that he’s been Max for the part several years on Mystery Science Theater 3000. Damn, I almost forgot he voiced Space Cabbie on Justice league Action!

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • B.C. has an unlikely solution to arachnophobia.
  • Pearls Before Swine shows that space aliens can be part of really bad puns.

(9) HATCHET TO PRATCHETT. The Guardian’s Alison Flood thinks “Discworld fans are right to be nervous about the BBC’s ‘punk rock’ The Watch”.

We Terry Pratchett fans have been lucky in recent years. We were given Good Omens, which thanks to co-author Neil Gaiman’s shepherding and incredible performances from David Tennant and Michael Sheen, was a joy to watch. And we were told that BBC America was developing The Watch, a series based on Pratchett’s stories about Ankh Morpork’s City Watch. Yes, we were a little nervous to read that Pratchett’s fierce, dark, sardonic stories were to become a “startlingly reimagined … punk rock thriller” that was “inspired by” the books. But we stayed faithful, for it was promised that the show would “still cleav[e] to the humour, heart and ingenuity of Terry Pratchett’s incomparably original work”.

But nerves were jangling even more fiercely on Friday as the first glimpses of the forthcoming show were shared by the studio. They look … kind of cyberpunky? Is that electricity? Where is their ARMOUR? Should we have been more wary about that “inspired by”?

(10) A PLANET STORY. Cora Buhlert, in “Retro Review: ‘The Jewel of Bas’ by Leigh Brackett”, discusses another 1944 work eligible for CoNZealand’s Retro Hugos.

… “The Jewel of Bas” is a glorious pulpy adventure story that manages to offer up plenty of twists and turns,…

(11) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter sometimes finds the wrong questions more amusing than the right ones on this game show:  

Category: Novels by Chapter Title

Answer: From a Verne work: “Boldly down the crater”

Wrong Question: “What is ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’?”

(Right question: “What is ‘Journey to the Center of the Earth’?”)

And they weren’t finished —

Final Jeopardy: Poets.

Answer: A Dartmouth dropout, he received 2 honorary degrees from Dartmouth — in 1933 & 1955

Wrong questions: “Who is Whitman?” and “Who is Thoreau?”

Right question: Who is Robert Frost?

(12) PARENTAL SUPERVISION. On Facebook, Worst of Tumblr shows photos of kids who are crying, with parents’ explanation of what incited the tears.

(13) TRADITION. “Photographing One Of America’s Oldest Tofu Shops” on NPR.

Growing up in Portland, Ore., in the ’90s, tofu could be hard to find. It would be a long time before ramen joints spread across the city, before national chains like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods had their own store-brand tofu.

But like soba noodles, nori, rice and fish, tofu is a staple of Japanese home cooking. So my parents regularly made a 15-minute drive west, across the Willamette River, to stock up at Ota Tofu.

The old-school company still makes its tofu by hand in small batches, navigating a growing demand for plant-based foods. But what I didn’t realize then is that it’s also a cultural institution — the oldest tofu producer still operating in the country, Ota Tofu has fed Portland’s Japanese American community for more than 100 years.

Eileen Ota, a former owner of Ota Tofu, notes that other tofu producers existed earlier in the United States, but many ceased operations because of one event: the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

(14) MYTH FULFILLMENT OR METAL FATIGUE? As The Week put it: “A brawny visitor to Disneyland managed to pull a model of Excalibur out of a model stone, thus arguably revealing himself as the future king of England.  A friend fo the future king, whom he identified only as ‘Sam,’ says he’s ‘a pretty buff dude.” Also at CinemaBlend: “A Disneyland Guest Literally Pulled The Sword Excalibur From The Stone”.

A few days ago the sword, which sits in front of the carousel, went missing, and while it was believed to have something to do with an upcoming refurbishment of the attraction, it seems that’s not the case. WDWNT reports that the site has been told by somebody in the know, that the hilt of the sword was actually pulled, or more accurately, broken, by a guest who pulled on it so hard that it came out.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Obst” on Vimeo, Jan Eisner asks the question, “If fruit could move, what would they do?”

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