Pixel Scroll 9/3/19 The Scrolls of Doctor Pixel And Other Files

(1) MAKES CENTS. The SFWA Blog reminds everyone that the “SFWA Minimum Pro Rate Now in Effect”. The new rate of eight cents a word, announced in January, became effective September 1.

Writers applying for SFWA membership qualify on the basis of the per-word rate on the date of contract. For example, short fiction sold before September 1, 2019 at six cents per word continue to qualify a writer for SFWA membership, etc.

This change to the SFWA pro rate is the result of market analyses conducted by SFWA Board members, along with a review of the effects of inflation on author compensation. The SFWA pro rate was last changed in 2014, rising from five to six cents per word, and from three to five cents per word in 2004.

(2) AURORA VOTING DEADLINE. Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association members have until September 14 to vote in the Aurora Awards.

You must be logged in to the website with an active CSFFA membership in order to download the voter’s packages or to vote. 

Vote results will be announced at Can-Con October 18 – 20, 2019 in Ottawa (http://can-con.org/) and will be available on the website soon after.

(3) DRAGON COUNT. Yesterday’s Dragon Con press release, “Dragon Awards Recognize Fans’ Favorites in Fiction, Games and Other Entertainment”, cites this number of participants:

More than 10,000 fans cast ballots for Dragon Award winners, selected from among 91 properties in 15 categories covering the full range of fiction, comics, television, movies, video gaming, and tabletop gaming. 

(4) BOOKER PRIZE SHORTLIST. A couple of familiar names here: “Booker Prize 2019: Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie both make shortlist”.

Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie are among the six authors shortlisted for this year’s Booker Prize.

Atwood is in contention again with The Testaments, her eagerly awaited follow-up to The Handmaid’s Tale, while Sir Salman makes the cut with Quichotte.

Bernardine Evaristo, Chigozie Obioma, Elif Shafak and US author Lucy Ellmann are also up for the prize.

Both Atwood and Rushdie have won the coveted prize before, in 2000 and 1981 respectively.

Atwood also made the shortlist with The Handmaid’s Tale in 1986….

The winner, whittled down from 151 submissions and a longlist of 13, will be announced on 14 October.

(5) KGB. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Sarah Beth Durst & Sarah Pinsker on Wednesday, September 18, 2019, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar.

Sarah Beth Durst

Sarah Beth Durst is the author of nineteen fantasy books for adults, teens, and kids, including The Queens of Renthia series, Drink Slay Love, and The Girl Who Could Not Dream. She won an ALA Alex Award and a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and has been a finalist for SFWA’s Andre Norton Award three times. She hopes to one day have her own telepathic dragon.

Sarah Pinsker

Sarah Pinsker is the author of over fifty stories as well as the collection Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea and the novel A Song For A New Day, both out in 2019. Her fiction has won the Nebula and Sturgeon awards, and been a finalist for the Hugo, Eugie Foster, Locus, and World Fantasy Awards.

The address of the KGB Bar is 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs), New York, NY.

(6) YOU COULD LOOK IT UP. Kenneth R. Johnson says he has “posted a mildly updated version of one of my on-line indexes” — “FANTASY GOTHICS”, subtitled, “A comprehensive bibliography of modern Gothics with genuine fantasy elements.”

About forty years ago I visited a fellow Science Fiction collector who introduced me to the concept of collecting “on the fringes.”  I thought I was fairly knowledgeable about the Science Fiction and Fantasy books that had been in published in paperback, but when I examined his collection I saw a large number of books that I had not known about because they had not been marketed as Fantasy.  I was especially drawn to the books that had been issued in other genres, such as Mysteries and Romances. 

I was particularly struck by the large number of Gothics that were spread throughout his collection.  I began looking for these particular crossovers in my visits to second-hand bookstores.   Within a few years I had amassed a couple hundred books, but by the early 1980s the Gothic craze had waned and most publishers had dropped the category.  The existing books gradually disappeared from the second-hand market. …

Scope of Index

 This bibliography is restricted to mass-market paperback books published in the U.S. between the 1960’s and the 1980’s.  The deciding factor in whether a book appears here, besides a genuine fantasy element, is how the book was labeled when published.  If a particular book had several editions from a given publisher and at least one of them was marketed as a Gothic, then all of that publisher’s editions are listed.  Any editions from a publisher who never labeled it as a Gothic are omitted.   

(7) BOK WAS ALSO A VERBAL ARTIST. Robert T. Garcia has launched a Kickstarter appeal to fund publication of “The Fantastic Fiction of Hannes Bok: Three Fantasies by Bok” with Hannes Bok’s three published solo novels: Starstone World, The Sorcerer’s Ship, and Beyond The Golden Stair (the unedited version of the novel Blue Flamingo). Includes an all-new introduction for this collection by Charles de Lint.

For two years I’ve been working on a project that got more interesting the further I got into it.  Hannes Bok was one of the 20th Century’s best sf-fantasy-weird fiction artists.  He was a painter with an eye for beautiful colors and flowing compositions in a time when sf art was very literal and staid. His paintings featured stylized figures, colors by Parrish, and a creative imagination that could only be Bok’s. And he could not be confined to one discipline in his creativity, there were paintings and line work, poetry and sculpture, intricate wood carvings and—of special interest here—fantasy novels: The Sorcerer’s Ship, Beyond the Golden Stair and Starstone World.

These aren’t your conventional fantasies, although all the trappings are there. They have a sly humor with plots full of twists and turns, stories which take the reader on strange metaphysical paths, and glorious descriptions that could only come from someone with a painter’s eye.  Certainly not the most smoothly told tales, but as Lester Del Rey wrote about Beyond the Golden Stair: “in spite of its faults, it has the sense of enchantment so rarely found in most market fantasy. And since our world needs the glamor at least as much as it ever did, let us lose no chance.”

Here’s your chance to experience that glamor. All three of these books have been out-of-print for at least 48 years. That’s too long. They have been left behind, and should be part of the legacy of Hannes Bok, and part of the discussion of early 20th Century fantastic fiction.

At this writing, Garcia has raised $6,623 of the $11,999 goal.

(8) TALKING ABOUT MY REGENERATION. SYFY Wire travels back to 1979 to celebrate one of the show’s charming inconsistencies: “40 years ago Doctor Who changed regeneration canon forever”.

The reason Romana’s regeneration was so unique is that the new actress, Lalla Ward, had already played a different role on the series. In the Season 16 serial “The Armageddon Factor,” the first Romana (Mary Tamm) and the Doctor encountered a character named Princess Astra, who also happened to have been played by Ward. So, when Ward was later cast as the new version of Romana in Season 17, it required an onscreen explanation.

In the scene, the Doctor is freaked out that Romana suddenly looks like someone they both had recently met. “But you can’t wear that body!” he protests. “You can’t go around wearing copies of bodies!” The newly regenerated Romana insists it didn’t matter. She likes the way Princess Astra looks and says they probably aren’t going back to the princess’s home planet of Atrios anyway.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 3, 1953 — The 3-D movie Cat-Women of the Moon premiered.  It starred Marie Windsor and Victor Jory who on a scientific expedition to the Moon encounters a race of cat-women. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 3, 1810 Theodor von Holst. He was the first artist to illustrate Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus in 1831. The interior illustrations consist of a frontispiece and title page engraved illustrations. (Died 1844.)
  • Born September 3, 1943 Mick Farren. Punk musician was the singer with the proto-punk band the Deviants who wrote also  lyrics for Hawkwind. His most well-known genre work was the The Renquist Quartet about an immortal vampire. (Died 2013.)
  • Born September 3, 1943 Valerie Perrine, 76. She has uncredited role as Shady Tree’s sidekick is Diamonds Are Forever in her first film appearance. Her first credited film role is as Montana Wildhack in Sluaughterhouse-Five. She’s Eve Teschmacher in Superman and Superman II. 
  • Born September 3, 1954 Stephen Gregg. Editor and publisher of Eternity Science Fiction which  ran 1972 to 1975 and 1979 to 1980. It had early work by Glen Cook, Ed Bryant, Barry N Malzberg, Andrew J Offutt and Roger Zelazny. (Died 2005.)
  • Born September 3, 1959 Merritt Butrick. He played Kirk’s son, David, in The Wrath of Khan and again in The Search for Spock. Note the very young death. He died of AIDS. Well, he died of toxoplasmosis, complicated by AIDS to be precise. (Did 1989.)
  • Born September 3, 1969 John Picacio, 50. Illustrator who in 2005 won both the World Fantasy Award for Best Artist and the Chesley Award for Best Paperback Cover for James Tiptree Jr.’s Her Smoke Rose Up Forever. He won the Hugo for Best Artist in 2012. 
  • Born September 3, 1971 D. Harlan Wilson, 48. Author of Modern Masters of Science Fiction: J.G. BallardCultographies: They Live (a study of John Carpenter) and Technologized Desire: Selfhood & the Body in Postcapitalist Science Fiction. No, I’ve no idea what the last book is about.
  • Born September 3, 1974 Clare Kramer, 45. She had the recurring role of Glory, a god from a hell dimension that was the main antagonist of the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She’s been a lot of horror films including The Skulls III, The GravedancersThe ThirstRoad to HellRoad to Hell, Big Ass Spider! and Tales of Halloween.

Plus this “Happy Book Birthday” – Congratulations to Ellen Datlow!

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brewster Rockit treats us to more “famous parting words from defeated aliens.” Ook ook!
  • Half Full delivers sff’s answer to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

(12) MOONWALKING. It isn’t easy anywhere to get local government to fix the streets,  

Indian actor Poornachandra Mysore joined artist Baadal Nanjundaswamy to document the conditions of the roads in Bengaluru, India. In a creative way and wearing a spacesuit, the man decided to walk on these crater-like potholes as if he was walking on the moon.

(13) MOUNTAINTOP EXPERIENCE. Gabino Iglesias expresses appreciation for the stylish grimness of Laird Barron’s prose in his LA Review of Books review, “Cosmic Horror and Pulpy Noir: On Laird Barron’s “Black Mountain””.

Black Mountain is a crime-horror hybrid that takes the most entertaining elements of both genres and mixes them into something new that pushes the boundaries of contemporary crime fiction. From horror Barron grabs the fear of death, the tensions of knowing there is a killer out there and on the hunt, the gore of mutilated bodies and serrated knives digging into soft flesh. From crime he pulls mobsters, the existence of secrets that, if revealed, would lead to many murders. He also works with a level of violence that is rarely found in crime novels from big publishers.

With those elements on the table, Barron uses his elegant prose as glue. There is brutish behavior, but the words describing it are beautiful, mercilessly obliterating the imagined line between genre and literary fiction on almost every page…

(14) MUSHROOM (CLOUD) HUNTING. File this under “No damn way!” Digital Trends reports “Experts think America should consider giving A.I. control of the nuclear button”.

In news to file under “What could possibly go wrong,” two U.S. deterrence experts have penned an article suggesting that it might be time to hand control of the launch button for America’s nuclear weapons over to artificial intelligence. You know, that thing which can mistake a 3D-printed turtle for a rifle!

In an article titled “America Needs a ‘Dead Hand,’” Dr. Adam Lowther and Curtis McGiffin suggest that “an automated strategic response system based on artificial intelligence” may be called for due to the speed with which a nuclear attack could be leveled against the United States. Specifically, they are worried about two weapons — hypersonic glide vehicles and hypersonic cruise missiles — which reduce response times to mere minutes from when an attack is launched until it strikes.

They acknowledge that such a suggestion is likely to “generate comparisons to Dr. Strangelove’s doomsday machine, War Games’ War Operation Plan Response, and The Terminator’s Skynet. But they also argue that “the prophetic imagery of these science fiction films is quickly becoming reality.” As a result of the compressed response time frame from modern weapons of war, the two experts think that an A.I. system “with predetermined response decisions, that detects, decides, and directs strategic forces” could be the way to go.

(15) LEDGE OF TOMORROW. The Atlantic: “Coming Soon to a Battlefield: Robots That Can Kill”. Tagline: “Tomorrow’s wars will be faster, more high-tech, and less human than ever before. Welcome to a new era of machine-driven warfare.”

Wallops Island—a remote, marshy spit of land along the eastern shore of Virginia, near a famed national refuge for horses—is mostly known as a launch site for government and private rockets. But it also makes for a perfect, quiet spot to test a revolutionary weapons technology.

If a fishing vessel had steamed past the area last October, the crew might have glimpsed half a dozen or so 35-foot-long inflatable boats darting through the shallows, and thought little of it. But if crew members had looked closer, they would have seen that no one was aboard: The engine throttle levers were shifting up and down as if controlled by ghosts. The boats were using high-tech gear to sense their surroundings, communicate with one another, and automatically position themselves so, in theory, .50-caliber machine guns that can be strapped to their bows could fire a steady stream of bullets to protect troops landing on a beach.

(16) LEND A … HAND? NPR tells how “Submarine Hobbyists Help Researchers On Montana’s Flathead Lake”. (Maybe you never knew there were “submarine hobbyists”?)

Something odd was bubbling beneath the surface of northwest Montana’s Flathead Lake this summer. It wasn’t lake monsters, but submarines. The subs’ pilots were there to help cash-strapped researchers explore the depths of Flathead Lake for free.

It can be hard for research divers to see what’s at the bottom of deep bodies of water like Flathead Lake without special equipment and experience. So, having a couple of submarines around this summer was helpful to the University of Montana’s Flathead Lake Biological Research Station.

…Riders met British Columbia resident Hank Pronk, who was standing on his two-man submarine bobbing on the lake’s crystal-clear surface.

A useful hobby

Pronk and his fellow enthusiasts build their subs mostly by hand. Pronk’s sub, named the Nekton Gamma, is smaller than a compact car; climbing in is a squeeze.

(17) DIY-NET. Staying off the internet: “Hong Kong protesters using Bluetooth Bridgefy app”.

Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong have been turning to a new app to communicate – one that does not use the internet and is therefore harder for the Chinese authorities to trace.

Bridgefy is based on Bluetooth and allows protesters to communicate with each other without internet connection.

Downloads are up almost 4,000% in the past two months, according to measurement firm Apptopia.

Texts, email and messaging app WeChat are all monitored by the Chinese state.

Bridgefy uses a mesh network, which links together users’ devices allowing people to chat with others even if they are in a different part of the city, by hopping on other users’ phones until the message reaches the intended person.

The range from phone to phone is within 100m (330ft).

The app was designed by a start-up based in San Francisco and has previously been used in places where wi-fi or traditional networks struggle to work, such as large music or sporting events.

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

2019 Dragon Award Winners

The 2019 Dragon Awards ceremony was held September 1 – here are the winners.

Best Science Fiction Novel

  • A Star-Wheeled Sky by Brad R. Torgersen

Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)

  • House of Assassins by Larry Correia

Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel

  • Bloodwitch by Susan Dennard

Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel

  • Uncompromising Honor by David Weber

Best Alternate History Novel

  • Black Chamber by S.M. Stirling

Best Media Tie-In Novel

  • Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn

Best Horror Novel

  • Little Darlings by Melanie Golding

Best Comic Book

  • Saga by Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples

Best Graphic Novel

  • X-Men: Grand Design – Second Genesis by Ed Piskor

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series

  • Good Omens, Amazon Prime

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie

  • Avengers: Endgame by Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC / Console Game

  • Red Dead Redemption 2 by Rockstar Games

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Mobile Game

  • Harry Potter: Wizards Unite by Niantic, WB Games San Francisco

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game

  • Betrayal Legacy by Avalon Hill Games

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures / Collectible Card / Role-Playing Game

  • Call of Cthulhu: Masks of Nyarlathotep Slipcase Set by Chaosium Inc.

OTHER AWARDS

These other awards were also announced during the ceremony.

EUGIE FOSTER AWARD

THE HANK REINHARDT FANDOM AWARD

  • Edward deGruy

(Spelling of name may not be correct – it was not shown on screen.) The Hank Reinhardt Georgia Fandom Award is presented for outstanding contributions to the genre by a Georgia writer, artist, or fan.

THE JULIE AWARD

  • George Perez

In 1998, Dragon Con established the Julie Award presented annually in tribute to the legendary Julie Schwartz. The Julie Award is bestowed for universal achievement spanning multiple genres, selected each year by our esteemed panel of industry professionals.

Thanks to Red Panda Fraction and Ray Radlein for livetweeting the results.

Pixel Scroll 8/31/19 A Scroll Title Named Desire

(1) TIPTREE AWARD CONTROVERSY. While I can’t say I located the ultimate roots of the discussion, I found Carrie Cuinn’s thread, which starts here.

There are more comments in Natalie Luhrs’ thread, starting here.

Today Sweden’s John-Henri Holmberg countered challenges raised about continuing the James Tiptree Award under its existing name in his review of the history of the award and its namesake on Facebook. He asks in conclusion:

…What has changed in the last few months? As far as I know, nothing. The award given not even in her own name, but in the name of her pseudonym, celebrates work of imaginative fiction exploring the territory she made her own over her twenty-years long writing career. She explored it more deeply, searchingly, critically and imaginatively than anyone before her had ever come close to doing, and her work remains startlingly fresh, moving, and thoughtful. We owe it to her to celebrate her heritage, not to obliterate it. Her death, as that of her husband, was a tragedy, but not by any reasonable standard an erasure of her life or her literary heritage.

(2) CARRYING THE BANNER. Travis Corcoran’s Prometheus Award acceptance speech has been posted on the Libertarian Futurist Society blog:

Here is the acceptance speech by Travis Corcoran for 2019 Prometheus Award for Best Novel for Causes of Separation.  (Corcoran could not attend the Dublin Worldcon but wrote this acceptance speech to be read there at the ceremony.)

…Chapman’s essay and Pournelle’s and Conquest’s laws are three observations of a single underlying phenomena: the collectivists always worm their way in and take over. We know THAT this happens, but WHY does it happen? How can we model it and understand it?

(3) WHAT, IT’S NOT CHEESE? Space.com reports “China’s Lunar Rover Has Found Something Weird on the Far Side of the Moon”.  

China’s Chang’e-4 lunar rover has discovered an unusually colored, ‘gel-like’ substance during its exploration activities on the far side of the moon.

The mission’s rover, Yutu-2, stumbled on that surprise during lunar day 8. The discovery prompted scientists on the mission to postpone other driving plans for the rover, and instead focus its instruments on trying to figure out what the strange material is.

…So far, mission scientists haven’t offered any indication as to the nature of the colored substance and have said only that it is “gel-like” and has an “unusual color.” One possible explanation, outside researchers suggested, is that the substance is melt glass created from meteorites striking the surface of the moon. 

(4) EL-MOHTAR REVIEW. NPR’s Amal El-Mohtar says “‘Palestine + 100’ Explores Contested Territory, Past And Future”

A few years ago I reviewed Iraq + 100, a project which invited its contributors to write stories set 100 years in Iraq’s future. It was conceived as an imaginative springboard for Iraqi writers to potentially launch themselves beyond the enduring trauma of waves of invasion and devastation — but because science fiction stories set in the future are always in some way about our present, the collection became a multi-voiced testament to the fact that you can’t project a future without first reckoning with the past.

Comma Press has followed that collection up with Palestine + 100, an anthology edited by Basma Ghalayini in which twelve Palestinian authors write stories set 100 years after the Nakba — Arabic for “catastrophe” — during which, as Ghalayini writes in her moving, thoughtful introduction, “Israel declared itself a new-born state on the rubble of Palestinian lives.” Thus where Iraq + 100 looked towards the year 2103, the stories in Palestine + 100 look towards 2048, and the bulk of the work isn’t about extrapolating a future so much as recognizing, fighting, and establishing narratives about the past. The choice of subtitle — “stories from a century after the Nakba” — exemplifies this, drawing attention to the fact that for Palestinians (and many Israelis), May 15, 1948 is not a date to celebrate, but to grieve.

In Palestine + 100, memory and imagination are contested territories. Samir El-Youssef’s “The Association,” translated by Raph Cormack, kicks off with the murder of a historian; the narrator observes that “Since the 2028 Agreement, the people of the country — all the different sects and religions, Muslim, Christian and Jewish — had decided that forgetting was the best way to live in peace.” In Saleem Haddad’s “Song of the Birds,” a young girl lives in a beautiful simulation haunted by the vicious, broken reality it obscures. In Ahmed Masoud’s “Application 39,” two young men imagine a Palestinian bid for the Olympics as a joke — and find themselves in the tormented midst of trying to make that a reality, with all the consequences it entails. In Tasnim Abutabikh’s “Vengeance” the plot is evenly divided between one man’s elaborate pursuit of revenge against a neighbor he thinks has wronged him — and that neighbor’s heartbroken revelation that the man had the past all wrong. In almost all these stories there is a doubled, troubled vision, that never resolves so much as it fractures further.

(5) MICHAELS OBIT. Melisa Michaels (1946-2019) died August 30 of complications amid efforts to treat her lung cancer. (Condolences to filer Xtifr, her nephew.)

Michaels was known for her series about Skyrider, a woman space combat pilot. She also wrote urban fantasies including “Sister to the Rain” and “Cold Iron.” Her novel Skirmish was nominated for a Locus Award for Best First Novel in 1986. SFWA presented her with a Service Award in 2008.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 31, 1914 Richard Basehart. He’s best remembered as Admiral Harriman Nelson in  Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. He also portrayed Wilton Knight in the later Knight Rider series. And he appeared in “Probe 7, Over and Out”, an episode of The Twilight Zone. (Died 1984)
  • Born August 31, 1933 Robert Adams. He’s best remembered for the Horseclans series which became his overall best-known works though he wrote other works.  While he never completed the series, he wrote 18 novels in the Horseclans series before his death. (Died 1990.)
  • Born August 31, 1949 Richard Gere, 70. Lancelot in First Knight starring Sean Connery as King Arthur. And was Joe Klein in The Mothman Prophecies. That’s it. First Knight for me is more than enough to get Birthday Honours!  
  • Born August 31, 1958 Julie Brown, 61. Starred with Geena Davis in the cult SF comedy, Earth Girls Are Easy. She’s actually been in genre films such as The Incredible Shrinking Woman, Bloody Birthday (a slasher film), Timebomb and Wakko’s Wish. She’s had one-offs in TV’s Quantum Leap and The Addams Family. She’s voiced a lot of animated characters included a memorable run doing the ever so sexy Minerva Mink on The Animaniacs. She reprised that role on Pinky and The Brain under the odd character name of Danette Spoonabello Minerva Mink. 
  • Born August 31, 1969 Jonathan LaPaglia, 50. The lead in Seven Days which I’ve noted before is one of my favourite SF series. Other than playing Prince Seth of Delphi in a really bad film called Gryphon which aired on the Sci-fi channel, that’s his entire genre history.
  • Born August 31, 1971 Chris Tucker, 48. The way over the top Ruby Rhod in Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element, a film I really, really like. His only other genre credit is as a MC in the Hall in The Meteor Man.
  • Born August 31, 1982 G. Willow Wilson, 37. A true genius. There’s her amazing work on the Hugo Award winning Ms. Marvel series starring Kamala Khan which I recommend strongly, and that’s not to say that her superb Air series shouldn’t be on your reading list. Oh, and the Cairo graphic novel with its duplicitous djinn is quite the read. The only thing I’ve by her that I’ve not quite liked is her World Fantasy Award winning Alif the Unseen novel.  I’ve not yet read her Wonder Women story but will soon.
  • Born August 31, 1992 Holly Earl, 27. She’s been in a number of British genre shows such as playing Kela in Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands, Agnes in Humans, and yes, Doctor Who in the “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe”, an Eleventh Doctor story in she was Lily Arwell.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro lives up to its name with this idea about collaborative effort.

(8) ONE TO BEAM UP. Camestros Felapton’s incredible “tweetfilk” of Star Trek and Bowie, featuring science officer Ziggy!! Thread starts here.

(9) PLEASE DON’T JOKE ABOUT THIS. Variety: “‘Joker’ Reviews: What the Critics Are Saying”.

Critics are raving for Warner Bros. latest comic book installment.

Todd Phillip’s “Joker” opened Saturday at the Venice Film Festival to effervescent reviews, with many critics highlighting an Oscar-worthy appearance from star Joaquin PhoenixVariety‘s own Owen Gleiberman praised Phoenix’s performance, emphasizing his physical acting and emotional control:

“He appears to have lost weight for the role, so that his ribs and shoulder blades protrude, and the leanness burns his face down to its expressive essence: black eyebrows, sallow cheeks sunk in gloom, a mouth so rubbery it seems to be snarking at the very notion of expression, all set off by a greasy mop of hair,” he wrote. “Phoenix is playing a geek with an unhinged mind, yet he’s so controlled that he’s mesmerizing. He stays true to the desperate logic of Arthur’s unhappiness.”

(10) VERY LEAKY ESTABLISHMENT. NPR asks “Have You Seen Any Nazi Uranium? These Researchers Want To Know”. (The photo makes it look like a Borg spaceship.)

Timothy Koeth’s office is crammed with radioactive relics – old watches with glowing radium dials, pieces of melted glass from beneath the test of the world’s first nuclear weapon.

But there is one artifact that stands apart from the rest: a dense, charcoal-black cube, two-inches on a side. The cube is made of pure uranium metal. It was forged more than 70 years ago by the Nazis, and it tells the little-known story of Germany’s nuclear efforts during World War II.

“From a historical perspective this cube weighs a lot more than five pounds,” Koeth, a physicist at the University of Maryland, says as he holds it in his hand.

…At the time of Hitler’s rise, Germany was actually at the cutting edge of nuclear technology. “Nuclear fission was discovered in Berlin in late 1938,” says Alex Wellerstein is a historian of science at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. “They were the first team of people who figured out how to split the atom, and figured out that when you split the atom, a lot of energy was going to be released.”

That basic idea of splitting atoms to release energy is what’s at the heart of all of today’s nuclear power plants and all the world’s nuclear weapons.

But back during World War II, it was all theoretical. To find out how it could work, the Germans devised strange looking experiment. Scientists strung together 664 cubes of uranium with aircraft cables and suspended them. The result looked “kind of like a very strange modernist chandelier of cubes,” Wellerstein says.

The chandelier was dipped into a cylindrical tank of heavy water, which contains special isotopes of hydrogen that make it more conducive to nuclear reactions.

The setup was known as the B-VIII reactor. The Germans were experimenting with it inside a cave in the southern town of Haigerloch. They were still trying to get it to work when the allied invasion began. As Allied forces approached, the German scientists disassembled the reactor and buried the cubes in a field.

The first wave of Allied troops to arrive included a task force known as Alsos, which was seeking to seize as much of the Nazi program as they could.

The Nazi scientists quickly disclosed the location of the buried cubes to the Allies, Wellerstein says. The Alsos team boxed up the cubes, to send them back to America, but what happened after that is not entirely clear.

(12) UK BIOBANK. “Geneticists To Cooperate, Not Compete”NPR has the story.

There’s an astonishing outpouring of new information linking genes and health, thanks to the efforts of humble Englishmen and women such as Chritopeher Fletcher. The 70-year-old man recently drove 90 miles from his home in Nottingham to a radiology clinic outside the city of Manchester.

He is one of half a million Brits who have donated time, blood and access to their medical records to a remarkable resource called UK Biobank. The biobank, in turn, has become a resource for more than a thousand scientists around the world who are interested in delving into the link between genes, behaviors and health.

Popularity of the resource is snowballing. Just this week, a major study using the data explored the genetics of same-sex sexual behavior. And as researchers discover the biobank’s value, there’s a strong incentive to add to the database to make it even richer.

…What makes UK Biobank valuable is not only the half-million volunteers, whose health will be followed for decades, but also its community-spirited scientific strategy. Chief scientist Dr. Cathie Sudlow says the organizers, in a break from their usual ways, aren’t out to answer their own scientific questions, but to serve their colleagues.

“I’ll freely admit that when I first started out in the biobank I couldn’t really believe that we were all going to work really hard to make data available for other people,” she says. “And that is because I came from this traditional, kind of slightly paranoid, somewhat territorial, academic background.”

The scramble for research funds creates competitive incentives in much of academic science today. This biobank is different.

(13) JUST A FEW MORE HOURS. Readers of Camestros’ Felapton’s blog have entertained each other today with some last-minute speculation about the winners: “Just for fun, some Dragon Award predictions”.

Best Science Fiction Novel: A Star-Wheeled Sky by Brad Torgersen is a plausible winner. If it does then we can assume other works in the Brad Puppies list got lots of votes. I think Tiamat’s Wrath is a likely winner given the popularity of The Expanse TV series and the Dragon Con audience. However, Becky Chambers has a wide and devoted set of fans and I wouldn’t be astonished if Record of a Spaceborn Few won. If any of the others won, that would be interesting but I don’t know what it would mean.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/29/19 Come A Little Bit Closer, You’re My Kind of Pixel And The Scroll Title Is So Long

(1) FAREWELL. Martin Hoare’s funeral was held today. Pete Young shared a photo of the casket (posted here with permission.)

Yes, it was used for Martin. He was inside, then Martin + Tardis were cremated. I could not get any closer but I believe the Tardis was painted on it; I think it was Hazel Langford who told me it was Martin’s girlfriend’s idea. Needless to say the coffin was bigger on the inside…

(2) SURVIVABILITY OF SHORT SFF. Neil Clarke speaks again about the problems with the current economic model of short fiction in the sff field. Thread starts here.

(3) STRETCHING…THE IMAGINATION. The Irish Times’ Karlin Lillington kicks off a multi-installment report about Dublin 2019 in “Net Results: Sci-fi, spandex and the wonders of WorldCon”. Yes, there is a paragraph about Spandex, but there is much more…

…I hadn’t realised how apparently old-school I was until I discovered that one panel at WorldCon was entitled Continuing Relevance of older SF, which questioned whether 20th-century writing was still relevant in the 21st (answer: yes). Among the writers it listed as older and of a past era were Isaac Asimov, Octavia Butler and Margaret Atwood – yikes, really?

 The discussion was lively and intense and intelligent – and this was the real joy, for me, of this entire colossal event, alongside the surprising (and vast) range of the hundreds upon hundreds of sessions over five days.

My assumptions were immediately and happily demolished. I’d looked forward to learning about some new writers and had thought there might also be some intriguing overlap with technology. But the science element was just as high-profile as the fiction….

(4) LOTS MORE WORLDCON REPORTS.

(5) RESNICK. The GoFundMe to “Help Mike Resnick pay off a near-death experience” surpassed its $15,000 goal overnight — and a new goal of $30,000 has been set. Contribute at the link.

Mike and Carol Rensick are at a loss for words about how successful this GoFundMe campaign has become. (Which says a lot, since as a storyteller Mike is well known for his words.) They cannot thank everyone enough–there are not the words to say how much all of you have changed a very bad year for the better.

Many people have asked them why, with so many weeks in ICU and bills much surpassing any modest number, we had only set the fundraiser goal to $15;000. But in Mike’s mind, $100 is a lot to ask for, let alone $15,000. He had not realised how beloved in the field he is, and how much we all love the opportunity to “pay it back” for all he has given to the science fiction and fantasy community.

Mike is composing and thank you message as we speak–once he can pick up his jaw up from the ground and find the words–but in the meantime we have been encouraged to increase the GoFundMe goal, and so we have! We have doubled the number to $30,000.

(6) LIBRARIES AND DIGITAL BOOKS. Tom Mercer, Senior Vice President of cloudLibrary, has written an email about the many changes impacting libraries and their ability to offer high-quality digital lending services to library users. He discusses why these shifts are happening, how libraries can respond, and what bibliotheca is doing to support libraries — “bibliotheca leadership responds to publisher model changes”.

…Now, fast-forward to the digital library lending market today, where we’re seeing a shift from several of the major publishing companies. Blackstone Audio is embargoing audiobook titles for 90 days, Hachette has changed from perpetual access to two-year expirations (also implemented by Penguin Random House last October), and Macmillan will limit the quantity of frontlist titles effective November 1. It’s unlikely that all of these publishers would be changing their terms without external pressures. So, where is the pressure coming from? ?There is evidence to suggest that in recent years, authors and agents have come to feel that the library market is eroding their revenue. I think it’s telling that Macmillan CEO John Sargent addressed his letter about the library model change to “Macmillan Authors, Macmillan Illustrators and Agents.” 

This begs the next question: if authors and agents are voicing concerns about library lending, where are they getting their data from? I doubt it’s publishers, since a report on library lending is not part of an author’s royalty statement. There is only one company that has access to readers’ digital retail purchases as well as users’ digital library borrowing habits, and that is Amazon.

In 2009, Amazon created a publishing division, Amazon Publishing, which doesn’t sell any of its eBooks or audiobooks to libraries. They have teams of people talking with authors and agents trying to secure rights and make them as exclusive as possible to the Amazon ecosystem. It’s highly probable that they use the data provided by library users to argue that library lending is undercutting retail sales. This is a major concern that we need to understand and to face together as an industry.

(7) MARVEL 1000 ISSUE HAS AN ISSUE. “Marvel Revises Comic in Which Captain America Called U.S. ‘Deeply Flawed’” – the New York Times has the story.

…Captain America reflects on the symbolism of his costume in a newly published essay by Mark Waid, which was changed from an earlier version in which he called his country “deeply flawed.”Marvel Entertainment

Marvel Comics No. 1000, a special issue in honor of 80 years of storytelling, was supposed to be a cause for celebration. But revisions to one page of the comic, which came out Wednesday, are casting a pall over the festivities.

The page, written by Mark Waid and drawn by John Cassady, is narrated by Captain America. In earlier versions of the page that comic-book retailers received in July, the star-spangled hero opened with: “I’m asked how it is possible to love a country that’s deeply flawed. It’s hard sometimes. The system isn’t just. We’ve treated some of our own abominably.”

He went on to say that fixing America’s system is “hard and bloody work” but that it could be done when enough people take to the streets, call for revolution and say, “Injustice will not stand.”

Captain America concludes: “That’s what you can love about America.”

The version that arrived in stores and online, however, has new text, also written by Waid, in which Captain America ruminates on his own image, not the United States: “Captain America isn’t a man. It’s an idea. It’s a commitment to fight every day for justice, for acceptance and equality, for the rights of everyone in this nation.” The hero says that those qualities — “not hatred, not bigotry, not exclusion” — are the values of true patriotism.

Marvel and Waid declined to say why the page was changed. But in an email message, Waid expressed frustration at how his original text was being presented. “I’m disappointed that the cherry-picked quotes circulated by the media severely mischaracterize what was actually written,” he wrote. While the essay was critical, he added, “As written, Cap is supportive of America as a whole.”

(8) A WORD FROM OUR WILDLIFE. The Red Panda Fraction asks that I remind everyone there is only a little more than 24 hours remaining to vote in the Dragon Awards. Request a ballot at the link.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 29, 1854 Joseph Jacobs. Australian folklorist, translator, literary critic and historian who became a notable collector and publisher of English folklore. Many of our genre writers have use of his material. “Jack the Giant Killer” becomes Charles de Lint’s Jack Of Kinrowan series!  Jack the Giant Killer and Drink Down the Moon to give an example. (Lecture mode off.) Excellent books by the way. (Died 1916.)
  • Born August 29, 1904 Leslyn M. Heinlein. She was born Leslyn MacDonald. She was married to Robert A. Heinlein between 1932 and 1947. Her only genre writing on ISFDB is “Rocket’s Red Glare“ which was published in The Nonfiction of Robert Heinlein: Volume I.  There’s an interesting article on her and Heinlein here. (Died 1981.)
  • Born August 29, 1939 Joel Schumacher, 80. Director of The Lost Boys and Flatliners, not mention Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. Ok, so those might not be the highlights of his career… However his Blood Creek vampirefilm starring Michael Fassbender is said to be very good. Oh, and his The Incredible Shrinking Woman is a very funny riff the original The Incredible Shrinking Man
  • Born August 29, 1942 Dian Crayne. A member of LASFS, when she and Bruce Pelz divorced the party they threw inspired Larry Niven’s “What Can You Say about Chocolate-Covered Manhole Covers?” She published mystery novels under the name J.D. Crayne. A full rememberence post is here. (Died 2017.)
  • Born August 29, 1942 Gottfried John. He’s likely best known as General Arkady Orumov on GoldenEye but I actually best remember him as Colonel Erich Weiss on the short-lived Space Rangers. He was Josef Heim in the “The Hand of Saint Sebastian” episode of the Millennium series, and played König Gustav in the German version of Rumpelstilzchen as written as collected by the Brothers Grimm. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 29, 1945 Robert Weinberg. Author, editor, publisher, and collector of science fiction. At Chicon 7, he received a Special Committee Award for his service to science fiction, fantasy, and horror. During the Seventies, he was the genius behind Pulp which featured interviews with pulp writers such as Walter B. Gibson and Frederick C. Davis. (Died 2016.)
  • Born August 29, 1951 Janeen Webb, 68. Dreaming Down-Under which she co-edited with Jack Dann is an amazing anthology of Australian genre fiction, winner of a World Fantasy Award. If you’ve not read it, go do so. The Silken Road to Samarkand by her isa wonderful novel that I do also wholeheartedly recommend. Death at the Blue Elephant, the first collection of her short stories, is available at iBooks and Kindle. 
  • Born August 29, 1953 Nancy Holder,  66. She’s an impressive four-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award. I’m not a horror fan so I can’t judge her horror novels for you, but I’ve read a number of her Buffyverse novels and I must say that she’s captured the feel of the series quite well. If you are to read but one, make it Halloween Rain

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Today’s pop culture figure, tomorrow’s museum exhibit — Bizarro.
  • Grimmy makes a monstrous theological pun.

(11) NG IN NYT. The New York Times found the name change newsworthy: “John W. Campbell Award Is Renamed After Winner Criticizes Him”.

…[Jeannette] Ng, who wrote the fantasy novel “Under the Pendulum Sun,” said in an interview on Wednesday that she was delighted by the decision. “It’s a good move away from honoring a completely obnoxious man who kept a lot of people out of the genre, who kept a lot of people from writing, who shaped the genre to his own image.” Thanks to the change, she added, “we’re now celebrating a little more neutrally a piece of history that’s not attached to his name.”

(12) ABOUT THOSE EDITORIALS. A tweet highlights one problematic view – the Wikipedia article covers this one and many more.

(13) FRESHER TOMATOES. Or is that a contradiction? “Rotten Tomatoes Adds 600 Critics After Initiative to Increase Inclusion”: Variety has the story.

A year after Rotten Tomatoes announced plans to boost diversity among its approved critics, the review aggregation site revealed it has added 600 new film commentators.

In an effort to increase representation and inclusion across the industry, the company also renewed $100,000 in grants for 2020 to assist critics from underrepresented groups to attend film festivals and industry events. In 2018 and 2019, Rotten Tomatoes has helped over 160 journalists attend film festivals by donating grant money to festivals like Toronto, Sundance and SXSW.

Last August, Rotten Tomatoes refurbished its criteria to look at an individual’s qualifications, rather than just their employer when it comes to verifying critics. The initiative also expanded its pool to newer media platforms like digital videos or podcasts. Of the new critics added this year, 55% are women, 60% are freelancers and 10% publish reviews on more modern platforms like YouTube.

(14) JEDI DRINK TRICK. TSA will treat this as a “no fly” souvenir: “Disney Coke Bottles From Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Banned by TSA”.

The containers look too much like hand grenades, it seems.

Visitors to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resort will not be able to take one unique item sold in the land on an airplane.

It was recently discovered that the TSA told one fan that the “thermal detonator” Coke and Sprite bottles would not be allowed in any luggage.

(15) OH NOES! A File 770 field reporter has discovered White Pumpkin M&Ms are back!

(16) RIGHT TO ASSEMBLE. BBC is there when the “James Webb Space Telescope comes together”

The successor to the Hubble observatory has reached a key milestone in its construction.

All the elements that make up the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) have been brought together for the first time.

It sets the stage for some critical tests that will hopefully lead to a launch to orbit sometime in 2021.

JWST will use a colossal mirror and state-of-the-art instruments to try to see the glow from the very first stars to shine in the Universe.

It will also have the power to resolve the atmospheres of many of the new planets now being discovered beyond our Solar System, and to analyse their atmospheres for the potential for life.

(17) AIRBORNE ON MARS. CNN reports “NASA is sending a helicopter to Mars. It’ll be the first aircraft to fly on another planet”.

Before humans make it to Mars, NASA will send a helicopter to scope out the terrain.

Engineers attached a helicopter to the Mars 2020 rover ahead of its launch next summer. And if it flies successfully, it’ll be the first aircraft to fly on another planet, NASA said.

The solar-powered Mars Helicopter will be safely stowed underneath the rover until it lands at the Jezero Crater, where scientists believe water once flowed. The craft will detach from the rover and explore Mars from the air while the rover collects samples on the ground, NASA said.

If the helicopter flies, it can provide a unique vantage point for scientists to observe Mars.

If all goes well, the autonomous aircraft will snapshot aerial views of Martian cliffs, caves and craters that the land-bound rover can’t explore. And even if it doesn’t take flight, the rover can still gather important data from the surface.

(18) TECH SOLUTION. Viable strategy? BBC tells how it works: “Anti-groping stamp lets victims mark assailants”.

An anti-groping device aimed at tackling sexual harassment on public transport has been launched in Japan.

It allows victims to mark their assailants with an invisible ink stamp in the shape of a hand.

People can then use the device’s black light to identify those who have been marked.

The firm involved says it wants to help tackle the crime. But one sex abuse charity is concerned that the tech could place an added burden on victims.

Japanese firm Shachihata says it developed the stamp to help deter groping on trains in the country.

The company first announced it was developing the stamp in May after a video showing a pair of Japanese schoolgirls chasing down a suspected groper on a station platform went viral.

(19) A VISIT TO HMS TERROR. A short video on BBC about the ill-fated Franklin expedition (1845) to chart the NW Passage.  The ship, HMS Terror was found in Terror Bay, near King William Island. Video: “Franklin Expedition: New footage of wreck of HMS Terror”. (Wikipedia entry: HMS Terror (1813).)

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “I Wrote A Song Using Only Hate Comments” on YouTube, Madilyn Bailey provides a song where all the lyrics come from comments made by trolls.

[Thanks to Standback, John King Tarpinain, JJ, Lis Carey, James Bacon, mlex, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, StephenfromOttawa, Hampus Eckerman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Trey.]

Pixel Scroll 8/7/19 The Files Of Master Scroll And Number Ten Pixel

(1) WHITE AWARD LONGLIST. The James White Award’s 2019 longlisted stories have been posted – titles only, not author names yet: “judging is still going on and we want to preserve anonymity as part of the selection process.” They received 355 submissions.

The James White Award Short Story Competition was established in 2000. It is open only to non-professional writers and offers them the opportunity to have their work published in Interzone,

(2) SF IN CHINA. Derek Künsken’s news-filled “SF in Beijing Report” for Locus Online tells about his visit to Another Planet Science Fiction Convention this past May.

It’s interesting to try to understand where Chinese science fiction conferences are coming from and why this one in particular is being led by a multi-media SF company. I chatted with Ji Shaoting, the CEO of FAA. She’s a former journalist at the Xinhua news Agency who later co-founded Guokr, a massive Chinese-language pop-science website with a few stories, and pop-culture blog, and a fan club called Future Affairs Administration. Her work with FAA and Guokr caught the attention of an investor who wanted to create a repository of IP that could be developed into movies, TV, games, etc., because he “believes in the imagination industry.” FAA transitioned from a fan club into a company whose business goals are publishing SF and developing new Chinese writers.

(3) GOOD NEIGHBOR POLICY. The Addams Family animated movie comes to theaters October 11.

Get ready to snap your fingers! The first family of Halloween, the Addams Family, is back on the big screen in the first animated comedy about the kookiest family on the block. Funny, outlandish, and completely iconic, the Addams Family redefines what it means to be a good neighbor.

(4)NEW ZEALAND ENTRANCE CHANGES. The CoNZealand (2020 Worldcon) blog has notified readers there will be “New entrance requirements for New Zealand from 1 October”.

Entrance requirements to New Zealand (NZ) are changing on 1 October 2019. Please read these instructions carefully, even if you have travelled to NZ before.

The key change is that New Zealand is introducing a pre-travel electronic authorisation process, called an NZeTA (New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority). This authorisation must be obtained in advance of travel, and will apply to many citizens of countries included in the Visa Waiver programme, including the United States of America, the UK and most European countries (full list here)….

There is additional information in the full post.

(5) DON’T WASTE A MOMENT. Heritage Auctions’ Intelligent Collector interviews sff art collector Glynn Crain in  “Amazing Sci-Fi Story”. The Glynn and Suzanne Crain Science-Fiction Collection goes under the hammer August 13-14.

If Glynn Crain has a tip, it is don’t ignore late-night phone calls. Especially if you are a collector.

Crain vividly recalls the evening several years ago that he and his wife came home from the movies. “It was about 10 o’clock and a friend of mine had left a message. ‘Hey Glynn, give me a call when you get a chance.’ I didn’t call him back until the next evening. I didn’t think there was any urgency. Well, there was urgency and when he couldn’t get ahold of me, he picked up the phone and called someone else and the painting sold instantly.”

The friend’s find was a painting by famed illustrator Stanley Meltzoff, who in the 1950s created dozens of covers for novels by science-fiction author Robert Heinlein and others. “[Meltzoff] influenced a host of illustrators that came later,” Crain says, “people like Paul Lehr, Vincent Di Fate, and on and on. He’s revered. It was a painting I would dearly love to have, a fantastic example.

“It’s in a good home now,” says Crain, 63, who knows the collector who acquired the painting. “But that was definitely the one that got away. There’s a saying: ‘You don’t regret the art you buy. You regret the art that you don’t buy.’ For some reason, you thought it was too expensive or you just couldn’t come to terms with the person who had it or the timing wasn’t right or maybe you didn’t have the money. It’s always the things you pass on that you really regret. That was something I learned quickly.”

(6) HOGGING THE LIMELIGHT. Let Alexandra Erin sing it for you —

(7) RED INK. Fortunately, Disney’s been recording billion dollar ticket sales from several hits, because the company took a bath on Dark Phoenix. Yahoo! Finance reports“‘Dark Phoenix’ was a giant bomb that hurt Disney earnings”

And yet, “These improvements were partially offset” by a loss from the 21st Century Fox (21CF) business. And the loss at 21CF was “driven by the performance of ‘Dark Phoenix,’ for which we also recorded a film cost impairment.”

(8) NUTTALL OBIT. Early UK fan Stanley Nuttall (1926-2019) died April 26. He was a former Chairman of the Liverpool Science Fiction Society and the British Interplanetary Society. He was made a Knight of St. Fantony at Cytricon III (1957). Dave Kyle quoted Nuttall quite extensively in his Mimosa article “The Noble and Illustrious Order of St. Fantony”.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • August 7, 1942 Invisible Agent premiered.
  • August 7, 1953 Spaceways debuted.
  • August 7, 2012 — The Curiosity Rover landed on Mars at Bradbury Landing.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 7, 1933 Jerry Pournelle. Yes, I read his Byte column. And much of his Janissaries series and more than a bit of his CoDominium work as well but I’ll hold that his best work was The Mote in God’s Eye that he co-authored with Niven. The follow-up, The Gripping Hand, wasn’t nearly as good unfortunately. (Died 2017.)
  • Born August 7, 1936 Richard L. Tierney, 83. A Lovecraftian scholar. Coauthored with David C. Smith, a series of Red Sonja novels which have Boris Vallejo cover art . Some of his standalone novels riff off the Cthulhu Mythos. Unless you read German, he’s not available digitally on either iBooks or Kindle. 
  • Born August 7, 1957 Paul Dini, 62. First, he’s largely responsible for the existence  of Batman: The Animated Series, Superman: The Animated Series, The New Batman/Superman Adventures, Batman BeyondJustice Leagueand yes, Duck Dodgers And Tiny Toons as well which are superb, too. He’s recently been writing for the Ultimate Spider-Man series which is quite good. He co-authored with Pat Cadigan Harley Quinn: Mad Love.
  • Born August 7, 1960 David Duchovny, 59. Obviously, Fox Mulder on X-Files. Now, has he done any other genre? Well he was Dr. Ira Kane in Evolution, a comic SF film, and then there’s Denise Bryson, formerly Dennis Bryson, played by him, who’s a transgender DEA agent on the Twin Peaks series. He also voices Ethan Cole in Area 51, a first person video game shooter. 
  • Born August 7, 1960 Melissa Scott, 59. I think the first work I read by her was Trouble and Her Friends which holds up well even now. I’m also fond of Night Sky Mine and The Jazz. I see she has an entire series set in the Stargate Atlantis universe. 
  • Born August 7, 1964 A. J. Hartley, 55. His Steeplejack is not only really well-written but has an interesting conception as he tells here. Though written for the Tor Teen line, I recommend it as it’s a fun series. Well fun as dystopias go. 
  • Born August 7, 1975Charlize Theron, 44. She surprised me by being in a number of genre films including 2008), Snow White and the Huntsman and The Huntsman: Winter’s War (which are both quite superb), Prometheus, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Addams Family as Mortica Adams, The Devil’s Advocate, Æon Flux in  Æon Flux, the narrator of Astro Boy and her first film, Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest, a horror film I suspect she’d prefer everyone forget. She played Pria Lavesque on The Orville in the episode called, errr, “Pria”.
  • Born August 7, 1978 Cirroc Lofton, 41. Jake Sisko on Deep Space Nine which I still consider the best Trek series to date, though Discovery is now my second favorite series. Lofton btw, like many performers on all of the series, has shown up in the fan-made video series. He’s played Jacob, no last name, on two part “Requiem” of Star Trek: Renegades. Presumably the name change was because he didn’t have permission to appear as his Trek character. And he played Sevar on Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, another such endeavor.  
  • Born August 7, 1979 Eric Johnson, 40. Scifi’s Flash Gordon on the series of that name that they aired from August 10, 2007 to February 8, 2008. Look, I’m used to Flash Gordon series that are nearly a century old so I had no idea no one had been done recently. Anyone see this?

(11) THE DRAGONS HATCH. Fast work! Mere hours after the ballot went live Cora Buhlert posted an epic analysis of the Dragon Awards nominees in “The 2019 Dragon Award Finalists: Mainstream Respectability at Last?”

So the Dragon Awards finally seem to be moving towards what they were supposed to do, namely reward broadly popular works in a variety of genres. Indies and eager self-promoters can still grab slots in the less popular down ballot categories, but except for military science fiction they no longer dominate any one category. Chris Kennedy still managed to grab a few slots for his publishing outfit, but then maybe he is one of the few who still care. Meanwhile, the 20Booksto50K/LMBPN Publishing folks are notable by their complete absence. There are a few puppy/puppy adjacent authors, but most of them have fanbases beyond the puppy bubble. And indeed, Camestros Felapton dug up Brad Torgersen’s reaction to the ballot and a list of which finalists he considers the relevant ones. It’s about the names you’d expect except for Philip Ligon, who’s notable by his absence.

(12) THE ORIGINAL CRASHLANDERS. Meanwhile, could tardigrades be hibernating on the Moon for however long it takes for us to get up there and terraform it? The Guardian speculates “Tardigrades may have survived spacecraft crashing on moon”.

The odds of finding life on the moon have suddenly rocketed skywards. But rather than elusive alien moonlings, the beings in question came from Earth and were spilled across the landscape when a spacecraft crashed into the surface.

The Israeli Beresheet probe was meant to be the first private lander to touch down on the moon. And all was going smoothly until mission controllers lost contact in April as the robotic craft made its way down. Beyond all the technology that was lost in the crash, Beresheet had an unusual cargo: a few thousand tiny tardigrades, the toughest animals on Earth.

(13) LIKE FOSSILIZED SPACESHIPS. In last week’s Science — “Fossils show large predator prowled Cambrian sediments”.

In the summer of 2018, palaeontologists hammering away at 500-million-year-old rocks high in the Canadian Rockies turned up hundreds of specimens of an unknown but evidently hyperabundant creature. With a hand-size carapace that looks like it was sketched out in science fiction concept art,the diggers nicknamed it “the spaceship.” Now, they’ve given the creature its first scientific description and a name: Cambroraster falcatus—after the famed Millennium Falcon starship from Star Wars

(14) DINNER IS SERVED. Contrary to popular belief, carnivorous cats and canines probably didn’t hunt the same limited pool of prey — “Fossils Reveal Why Coyotes Outlived Saber-Toothed Cats” in the Smithsonian.

…Per CNN’s Ashley Strickland, the scientists’ research pinpoints a different explanation for S. fatalis and other giant cats’ demise, positing that factors, including climate change and an uptick in nearby human populations, precipitated the species’ eventual extinction. (The team is collaborating on a second study with experts across six institutions to further refine these causes, Chrissy Sexton notes for Earth.com.)

Smaller predators such as coyotes and grey wolves, on the other hand, weathered harsh conditions by adapting to the times. As DeSantis tells National Geographic’s John Pickrell, “When the large predators and prey go extinct, not only do [the smaller animals] shrink, but they fundamentally change their diet and start scavenging to become the opportunists we know today.”

(15) NOVEL: ENDORSEMENT. Here’s the plug on the cover of JDA’s next book: “’Could be the most dangerous sci-fi novel of my lifetime. Read it before it’s banned.’ – MIlo Yiannopoulos.” Jon is sure I’ll want to pick that up the first day.

(16) GREASED LIGHTNING. “Stonehenge: Neolithic People Moved Enormous Rocks Using Pig Fat for Lubrication, Archaeologist Says”Newsweek has the story.

In a study published in February, researchers examined how the stones were quarried. They suggested the Neolithic people may have constructed a platform to excavate the rocks, then used wooden levers to lower the rocks onto a wooden sledge that could then have been “hauled away with ropes.”

The largest of the stones, known as the sarsen trilithons, are over 25 feet in height and weigh over 30 tons. These were moved from a site 18 miles away.

Researchers have also previously suggested these sledges were greased to help move them along—past experiments show the most efficient way to transport them would be a greased timber slipway. However, physical evidence to back this up was lacking—the logs used for the sledges are unlikely to have been preserved.

In a study published in Antiquity, Shillito, from the U.K.’s Newcastle University, has said fat residues found on pottery near Stonehenge may help back the greased sled theory….

(17) ALL RISE. Surprisingly, it worked: “The ancient Egyptian yeasts being used to bake modern bread”.

The yeast microbes had been asleep for more than 5,000 years, buried deep in the pores of Egyptian ceramics, by the time Seamus Blackley came along and used them to bake a loaf of bread.

An amateur Egyptologist and one of the inventors of the Xbox game console, he’s also a keen hobby baker who routinely posts pictures of his breadmaking projects on social media.

He has, he admits, made his fair share of “horrible, rock-like loaves”. But this experiment was in a different league altogether.

The first step was to extract the yeast without destroying the vessels where it was held. With the help of archaeologist Dr Serena Love, Mr Blackley gained access to the collections of Egyptian beer- and bread-making vessels held in two museums in the US city of Boston.

(18) POLLY WANNA KLINGON? It could have eaten them for snacks: “Ancient parrot in New Zealand was 1m tall, study says”.

A giant parrot that roamed New Zealand about 19 million years ago had a height of 1m (3ft 2in) – more than half the average height of a human, a new study has found.

The remains of the parrot were found near St Bathans in New Zealand’s southern Otago region.

Given its size, the parrot is believed to have been flightless and carnivorous, unlike most birds today.

…”There are no other giant parrots in the world,” Professor Trevor Worthy, a palaeontologist at Flinders University in Australia and lead author of the study, told the BBC. “Finding one is very significant.”

The Smithsonian calls it “Squawkzilla”.

(19) END OF THE TRIAL. BBC tells how “Franz Kafka papers lost in Europe but reunited in Jerusalem”.

The National Library [Israel] unveiled the documents after years of international searches and legal disputes.

It was left the collection in 1968 by Max Brod, the friend who Kafka had trusted to burn his writings after his death in the 1920s

But Brod refused, later going on to publish them instead.

Brod then left the papers to the National Library of Israel in his will.

However, after he died in 1968 they disappeared – eventually sparking a hunt which led investigators to Germany, Switzerland, and bank vaults in Israel.

It was, the National Library’s spokeswoman Vered Lion-Yerushalmi said, a story which was in itself “Kafkaesque”.

The final batch, which has just been sent to Jerusalem, had spent decades stored in vaults at the headquarters in Zurich of Swiss bank UBS.

(20) COLLATERAL DAMAGE. NPR explains why it’s crackers to slip a wild wasp the dropsy in snide: “New Evidence Shows Popular Pesticides Could Cause Unintended Harm To Insects”.

Consider, for a moment, the circuitous journey of the insecticide called thiamethoxam, on its way to killing a wild wasp.

Alejandro Tena, a researcher at the Valencia Institute of Agricultural Research, in Spain, mixed the chemical into water used to irrigate clementine trees. This is a common practice among citrus farmers. As intended, the tree roots absorbed the insecticide, and it spread throughout the trees’ branches and leaves.

A mealybug landed on the clementine tree, bit through the bark, and began feeding on tree sap underneath. The bug ingested traces of the insecticide. This, in fact, is how thiamethoxam is supposed to work.

Unfortunately, though, the pesticide’s journey wasn’t over. Traces of it showed up in a sticky, sugary, substance called honeydew that the mealybugs excrete. Honeydew is an important food for other insects, such as wasps and hoverflies. In Tena’s experiments, wasps and hoverflies that fed on this contaminated honeydew died in large numbers. Wasps and hoverflies are a fruit grower’s friends, because they help to fight harmful insects.

Tena’s study, published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, is just the latest evidence that a family of pesticides called neonicotinoids, sometimes just called “neonics,” can pose risks to the insect world that are not fully understood.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Retrobites:  Hanna Barbera (1961) CBC” on YouTube is an excerpt from a 1961 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation documentary in which Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera explained how an episode of “The Flintstones” was made.

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

Rating the 2019 Dragon Ballot

The 2019 Dragon Award Ballot came out today, and it’s interesting to see that the nominees collectively have become more organic, even while the award instructions encourage writers to campaign (i.e., “it is perfectly acceptable for you to encourage your fans to vote for you.”)

One way to test “who has actually read this nominee?” is to look at the Goodreads ratings. Every category on the 2019 ballot except Best Fantasy Novel has at least one nominee with less than a hundred Goodreads ratings, however, those are generally books with release dates in June and July 2019. The five exceptions to that general rule are the nominees by Brad Torgersen, Jason Cordova, Chris Kennedy, David Mack, and David Guenther.

The Dragon Awards have 7 novel categories, with a total of 43 nominees. All three 2019 Hugo finalists published within the Dragon eligibility period (July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019) are also up for a Dragon Award.  And Hugo finalist Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver has, by far, the highest number of Goodreads ratings of any book up for a Dragon Award.

Here is a list the 2019 Dragon Awards nominees with their date of publication and the number of Goodreads ratings in parentheses to the right:

Best Science Fiction Novel

A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine (pub. 3/19) (2,631)
A Star-Wheeled Sky by Brad R. Torgersen (pub 12/18) (58)
Europe at Dawn by Dave Hutchinson (pub 11/18) (249)
Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers (pub. 7/18) (12,209)
Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson (pub. 10/18) (2,019)
Tiamat’s Wrath by James S.A. Corey (pub. 3/19) (14,392)

Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)

Deep Roots by Ruthanna Emrys (pub. 7/18) (520)
Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett (pub 8/18) (10,237)
House of Assassins by Larry Correia (pub. 2/19) (1,382)
Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch (pub. 11/18) (9,805)
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik (pub. 7/18) (42,885)
The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie (pub. 2/19) (5,433)

Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel

Archenemies by Marissa Meyer (pub. 11/18) (15,480)
Armageddon Girls by Aaron Michael Ritchey (pub. 6/19) (3)
Bloodwitch by Susan Dennard (pub. 2/19) (4,249)
Imposters by Scott Westerfeld (pub. 9/18) (4,186)
Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand (pub. 10/18) (5,977)
The King’s Regret by Philip Ligon (pub. 6/19) (2)
The Pioneer by Bridget Tyler (pub. 3/19) (222)

Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel

A Pale Dawn by Chris Kennedy, Mark Wandrey (pub. 1/19) (153)
Order of the Centurion by Jason Anspach, Nick Cole (pub. 9/8) (425)
Marine by Joshua Dalzelle (pub. 12/18) (1,229)
Sons of the Lion by Jason Cordova (pub. 5/19) (87)
The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley (pub. 3/19) (2,023)
Uncompromising Honor by David Weber (pub. 10/18) (2,664)

Best Alternate History Novel

Black Chamber by S.M. Stirling (pub. 7/18) (403)
Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan (pub. 4/19) (5,852)
The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal (pub. 7/18) (8,975)
The Iron Codex by David Mack (pub. 1/19) (78)
The World Asunder by Kacey Ezell (pub. 6/19) (14)
Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar (pub. 10/18) (461)

Best Media Tie-In Novel

Big Damn Hero by James Lovegrove, Nancy Holder (pub. 11/18) (1,455)
Darkness on the Edge of Town by Adam Christopher (pub. 5/19) (459)
Master & Apprentice by Claudia Gray (pub. 4/19) (2,778)
The Replicant War by Chris Kennedy (pub. 7/18) (37)
The Way to the Stars by Una McCormack (pub. 1/19) (348)
Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn (pub. 7/18) (7,962)

Best Horror Novel

Cardinal Black by Robert McCammon (pub. 4/19) (398)
Little Darlings by Melanie Golding (pub. 4/19) (3,350)
Riddance by Shelley Jackson (pub. 10/18) (152)
We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix (pub. 11/19) (3,429)
Zombie Airman by David Guenther (pub. 7/18) (40)
100 Fathoms Below by Steven L. Kent, Nicholas Kaufmann (pub. 10/18) (193)

LEAST GOODREADS RATINGS BY CATEGORY

  • Best Science Fiction Novel: A Star-Wheeled Sky by Brad R. Torgersen (pub 12/18) (58)
  • Best Fantasy Novel: Deep Roots by Ruthanna Emrys (pub. 7/18) (520)
  • Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel: Armageddon Girls by Aaron Michael Ritchey (pub. 6/19) (3); and The King’s Regret by Philip Ligon (pub. 6/19) (2)
  • Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel : Sons of the Lion by Jason Cordova (pub. 5/19) (87)
  • Best Alternate History Novel: The World Asunder by Kacey Ezell (pub. 6/19) (14)
  • Best Media Tie-In Novel: The Replicant War by Chris Kennedy (pub. 7/18) (37)
  • Best Horror Novel: Zombie Airman by David Guenther (pub. 7/18) (40)

ENDNOTE. Publication date of 2019 Hugo nominees for Best Novel:

  • The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal (Tor) (7/18)
  • Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers (Hodder & Stoughton / Harper Voyager) (7/18)
  • Revenant Gun, by Yoon Ha Lee (Solaris) (6/18)
  • Space Opera, by Catherynne M. Valente (Saga) (4/18)
  • Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik (Del Rey / Macmillan) (7/18)
  • Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse (Saga) (6/18)

2019 Dragon Award Nominations

The 2019 Dragon Award Ballot was posted on August 7.

Best Science Fiction Novel

  • A Memory Called Empire by Arkady Martine
  • A Star-Wheeled Sky by Brad R. Torgersen
  • Europe at Dawn by Dave Hutchinson
  • Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers
  • Red Moon by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • Tiamat’s Wrath by James S.A. Corey

Best Fantasy Novel (Including Paranormal)

  • Deep Roots by Ruthanna Emrys
  • Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
  • House of Assassins by Larry Correia
  • Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch
  • Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik
  • The Raven Tower by Ann Leckie

Best Young Adult / Middle Grade Novel

  • Archenemies by Marissa Meyer
  • Armageddon Girls by Aaron Michael Ritchey
  • Bloodwitch by Susan Dennard
  • Imposters by Scott Westerfeld
  • Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand
  • The King’s Regret by Philip Ligon
  • The Pioneer by Bridget Tyler

Best Military Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel

  • A Pale Dawn by Chris Kennedy, Mark Wandrey
  • Order of the Centurion by Jason Anspach, Nick Cole
  • Marine by Joshua Dalzelle
  • Sons of the Lion by Jason Cordova
  • The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley
  • Uncompromising Honor by David Weber

Best Alternate History Novel

  • Black Chamber by S.M. Stirling
  • Machines Like Me by Ian McEwan
  • The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal
  • The Iron Codex by David Mack
  • The World Asunder by Kacey Ezell
  • Unholy Land by Lavie Tidhar

Best Media Tie-In Novel

  • Big Damn Hero by James Lovegrove, Nancy Holder
  • Darkness on the Edge of Town by Adam Christopher
  • Master & Apprentice by Claudia Gray
  • The Replicant War by Chris Kennedy
  • The Way to the Stars by Una McCormack
  • Thrawn: Alliances by Timothy Zahn

Best Horror Novel

  • Cardinal Black by Robert McCammon
  • Little Darlings by Melanie Golding
  • Riddance by Shelley Jackson
  • We Sold Our Souls by Grady Hendrix
  • Zombie Airman by David Guenther
  • 100 Fathoms Below by Steven L. Kent, Nicholas Kaufmann

Best Comic Book

  • Batman by Tom King, Tony S. Daniel
  • Black Hammer by Jeff Lemire, Dean Ormston, Dave Stewart
  • Mister Miracle by Tom King, Tony Daniel
  • Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man by Chip Zdarsky, Adam Kubert
  • Saga by Brian K. Vaughan, Fiona Staples
  • The Batman Who Laughs by Scott Snyder, Mark Simpson

Best Graphic Novel

  • Berlin by Jason Lutes
  • Hey, Kiddo by Jarret J. Krosoczka
  • I Am Young by M. Dean
  • Monstress Vol. 3 by Marjorie Liu, Sana Takeda
  • On a Sunbeam by Tillie Walden
  • X-Men: Grand Design – Second Genesis by Ed Piskor

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy TV Series

  • Game of Thrones, HBO
  • Good Omens, Amazon Prime
  • Lucifer, Netflix
  • The Orville, Fox
  • The Umbrella Academy, Netflix
  • Star Trek: Discovery, CBS All Access

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Movie

  • Alita: Battle Angel by Robert Rodriguez
  • Aquaman by James Wan
  • Avengers: Endgame by Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
  • Captain Marvel by Anna Boden, Ryan Fleck
  • Spider-Man: Far From Home by Jon Watts
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy PC / Console Game

  • Apex Legends by Electronic Arts
  • Assassin’s Creed: Odysssey by Ubisoft
  • Life is Strange 2 by Dontnod Entertainment
  • Red Dead Redemption 2 by Rockstar Games
  • Outer Wilds by Mobius Digital
  • World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth by Blizzard

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Mobile Game

  • Cyber Hunter by NetEase
  • Elder Scrolls: Blades by Bethesda Softworks
  • Grimvalor by Direlight
  • Harry Potter: Wizards Unite by Niantic, WB Games San Francisco
  • Reigns: Game of Thrones by Nerial
  • Sega Heroes: Puzzle RPG Quest by SEGA

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Board Game

  • Architects of the West Kingdom by Garphill Games
  • Betrayal Legacy by Avalon Hill Games
  • Cryptid by Osprey Games
  • Everdell by Starling Games (II)
  • Nemesis by Awaken Realms
  • Root by Leder Games

Best Science Fiction or Fantasy Miniatures / Collectible Card / Role-Playing Game

  • Call of Cthulhu: Masks of Nyarlathotep Slipcase Set by Chaosium Inc.
  • Fallout: Wasteland Warfare by Modiphius Entertainment
  • Keyforge: Call of the Archons by Fantasy Flight Games
  • Magic: The Gathering Ravnica Allegiance by Wizards of the Coast
  • Magic: The Gathering War of The Spark by Wizards of the Coast
  • Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team by Games Workshop

Pixel Scroll 7/15/19 There Are More Scrolls In Heaven And Earth, Horatio, Than Are Dreamt Of In Your Pixelology

(1) OLD HOME PLANET WEEK. ScienceFiction.com reports “LeVar Burton Expects Geordi La Forge To Pop Up On ‘Star Trek: Picard’”.

LeVar Burton says that he expects to be invited to appear as Geordi La Forge on the upcoming CBS All Access series ‘Star Trek: Picard’ starring his old ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ captain Patrick Stewart.  Furthermore, Burton expects other cast members to return as well.  But not all at the same time.

“Each of us, I would say certainly, right?  It is unreasonable to assume that he doesn’t know those people anymore, or that he stopped talking to them. And if he did there’s good storytelling in why.  Are you gonna see all of us together, again, in a scene or episode? I don’t know.  There’s a lot of paper that needs to be papered, before we get there.”

(2) GENTLEMEN, BE SEATED. The latest Two Chairs Talking podcast with Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg is a discussion of fanzines highlighted by an interview with Bruce Richard Gillespie: “Episode 7: All this I speak in print, for in print I found it”.

(3) FOLLOW THE MONEY. The Bank of England reveals the new face on its £50 note: “Alan Turing to feature on new £50 note”

Alan Turing, the scientist known for helping crack the Enigma code during the second world war and pioneering the modern computer, has been chosen to appear on the new £50 note.

The mathematician was selected from a list of almost 1,000 scientists in a decision that recognised both his role in fending off the threat of German U-boats in the Battle of the Atlantic and the impact of his postwar persecution for homosexuality.

The announcement by the Bank of England governor, Mark Carney, completes the official rehabilitation of Turing, who played a pivotal role at the Bletchley Park code and cipher centre.

(4) FILLING THE INTELLECTUAL PANTRY. The latest Kittysneezes podcast episode concerns a topic that Filers might find very provocative. It’s called Reed Gud, Part 1, or Other Books Than ‘Harry Potter’ Exist:

In this week’s episode, R.S. Benedict is joined by Gareth and Langdon of Death Sentence, a podcast about books for people who hate books, podcasts and capitalism but like metal. And in order to Rite Gud, you’ve got to Reed Gud — in particular, why you need to read books other than Harry Potter

Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with reading and enjoying Harry Potter. But you also need to read other books. Cultural intake is like a diet. There’s nothing wrong with eating chicken fingers and fries sometimes, but to be healthy you really need a variety of foods, and as an adult you probably should develop a more refined palate than just eating the same tater tots and spaghettiOs you lived on as a kid.

(5) SHORT SFF RECS. Rocket Stack Rank’s Eric Wong says, “RSR’s monthly ratings for July 2019 has been posted with 10 RSR-recommended stories out of 70 reviewed.” — “July 2019 Ratings”.

Here are some quick highlights by pivoting the July Ratings by story length, new writers, and authors. (Click links to see the different views.)

  • Length: 4 novellas (2 recommended), 21 novelettes (5 recommended, 3 free online), 45 short stories (3 recommended).
  • New Writers: 9 stories by Campbell-eligible writers (1 recommended, free online).
  • Authors: 5 authors out of 65 had more than one story here: Leah Cypess, Tegan Moore, Dominica Phetteplace, Natalia Theodoridou, and Nick Wolven.

(6) LIU AND KOWAL IN NYT. [Item by Daniel Dern.] The Sunday July 15, 2019 NY Times dead-tree edition has a special section, The Next Leap — articles and photos on space exploration, including two by sf’ers:

Lots of pages of pix, not sure whether all will be online.

(7) DC IN 2021 DISSENT. Nick Larter, who identifies himself as a Dublin 2019 member, tweeted the following message about a  motion he may submit to the business meeting:

I am extremely disquieted by the idea that in a few weeks, we, the international science fiction community, will probably be rubber-stamping a Worldcon in the United States for 2021.

If the 2021 Worldcon goes ahead in Washington DC, then it is going to transpire that some science fiction fans who would like to attend are going to be prevented from doing so, because of their nationality, religion, or ethnicity, on account of the current immigration policies of the US.  More still will run the risk of intrusive personal inconvenience or other unacceptable disruption to their travel plans, during the immigration process.

As evidence of this I cite the recent news that last year, Star Wars actor Riz Ahmed, was prevented by the US authorities from attending a US event relating to the movie.  If this can happen to a public figure like Ahmed, how many ordinary fans are going to get caught up?

In all honesty, I don’t understand why the Washington DC bidders haven’t looked at the current situation in the US and said, “Y’know what, this won’t do, so we’re just going to put on plans on hold for a few years, until the open, welcoming America we once knew and loved, has come back again.”

For these reasons, I believe that our community, which has an excellent record of embracing diversity and inclusivity of all kinds, has a duty to reject Washington DC as the venue for the 2021 Worldcon.  It would be grossly delinquent of us to act in any other way.

The WSFS Constitution provides for what to do if members reject the eligible bids, but as I recall, it doesn’t authorize the business meeting to refuse to seat a bid picked by site selection voters. If I’m wrong, I’m sure someone will correct me in five… four… three…

(8) DRAGON AWARDS DEADLINE. The Red Panda Fraction reminds everyone that the deadline for the nominations for the 2019 Dragon Awards is this Friday, July 19. Here’s the link to the nominations page. The Pandas have also borrowed an idea from Renay and created an eligible works spreadsheet:

We also had many more people work on the Dragon Awards Google Docs spreadsheet (Dragon Awards Eligible Works 2019) this year since we got it up much earlier than last year. The anonymous contributors did a lot of work and even added extra information about possible nominees that I hadn’t thought of. It should make it easier for folks to find nominees. 

(9) SHECHTER OBIT. Andi Malala Shechter died this morning, at the end of a months-long battle with an aggressive cancer called a glioblastoma, stage 4, otherwise known as glioblastoma multiforme.

Andi Shechter

Shechter lived in the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston and Seattle over the years. Her time in fandom dates at least to the New York Star Trek conventions of the Seventies. Toward the end of that decade she married Alva Rogers (1923-1982), who had co-chaired the 1968 Worldcon. In the Eighties, she moved to Boston, was active in Boskones, and served as a division head for Noreascon 3, the 1989 Worldcon. In the Nineties, she moved to Seattle with her long-time partner, Stu Shiffman (1954-2014).

Shechter was a powerful force in both sff and mystery fandom. She wrote numerous mystery reviews, and twice chaired Left Coast Crime, in 1997 and again in 2007. She was named fan guest of honor of LCC in 2001.

In 2013 Andi and Stu, who had been together for 25 years, announced their engagement. At the time Stu was trying to recover from a stroke. On June 18, 2014 they married in a ceremony at University of Washington’s Burke Museum with nearly 100 in attendance. Very sadly, Stu passed away before the end of the year.

Many of Andi’s friends are leaving tributes on her Facebook page – some are set to public, others are set to closer accessibility.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 15, 1769 Clement C. Moore. I know it’s High Summer, but it’s His Birthday. Author of the Christmas poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, first published anonymously in 1823 which led to some bitter dispute over who wrote it. It later became much better known as “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” (Died 1863.)
  • Born July 15, 1796 Thomas Bulfinch. Author of Bullfinch’s Mythology, which I’m certain I had in at least several University courses taught by older white males. They are the classic myths without unnecessary violence, sex, or ethnographic background. And heterosexual of course as Bullfinch was an ardent anti-homosexual campaigner. Edith Hamilton’s Mythology would mercifully supersede it. (Died 1867.)
  • Born July 15, 1918 Dennis Feltham Jones. His first novel Colossus was made into Colossus: The Forbin Project. He went on to write two more novels in the series, The Fall of Colossus and Colossus and the Crab, which in my opinion became increasingly weird. iBooks and Kindle have the Colossus trilogy plus a smattering of his other works available. (Died 1981.)
  • Born July 15, 1927 Joe Turkel, 92. I first noticed him as Lloyd, the ghostly bartender in The Shining followed by his being Dr. Eldon Tyrell in Blade Runner. He’s the Sheriff in Village of the Giants based somewhat off on H.G. Wells’ The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth, Malcolm (uncredited) in Visit to a Small Planet and Paxton Warner in The Dark Side of the Moon. Series wise, he’s been on Fantasy Island, Tales from the Dark Side, Land of the Giants and One Step Beyond.
  • Born July 15, 1931 Clive Cussler, 88. Pulp author. If I had to pick his best novels, I’d say that would be Night Probe and Raise the Titantic, possibly also Vixen 03. His real-life National Underwater and Marine Agency, a private maritime archaeological group has found several important wrecks including the Manassas, the first ironclad of the civil war.
  • Born July 15, 1944 Jan-Michael Vincent. First Lieutenant Jake Tanner in the film version of Roger Zelazny’s Damnation Alley which somehow I’ve avoided seeing so far. Is it worth seeing? Commander in Alienator and Dr. Ron Shepherd in, and yes this is the name, Xtro II: The Second Encounter. Not to mention Zepp in Jurassic Women. (Don’t ask.) If Airwolf counts as genre, he was helicopter pilot and aviator Stringfellow Hawke in it. (Died 2019.)
  • Born July 15, 1957 Forest Whitaker, 62. His best known genre roles are such as in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as Saw Gerrera and in The Black Panther as Zuri. He’s had other genre appearances including Major Collins in Body Snatchers, Nate Pope in Phenomenon, Ker in Battlefield Earth for which he was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor, Ira in Where the Wild Things Are, Jake Freivald In Repo Men (anyone see this?) and he was, and though I’ve somehow managed not to see any of it, Host of Twilight Zone
  • Born July 15, 1963 Brigitte Nielsen, 56. Red Sonja! What’d a way to launch your film career. Mind you her next genre films were 976-Evil II and Galaxis
  • Born July 15, 1967 Christopher Golden, 52. Where to start? The Veil trilogy was excellent as was The Hidden Cities series co-authored with Tim Lebbon. The Menagerie series co-authored with Thomas E. Sniegoski annoyed me because it never got concluded. Straight On ‘Til Morning is one damn scary novel.
  • Born July 15, 1979 Laura Benanti, 40. Her foremost genre role was was a dual one as Alura Zor-El and Astra In-Ze on Supergirl. Interestingly she took on that role on CBS just before assuming the role as Melania Trump on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, another CBS property. She also has a long theatrical career including playing The Goddess in The Tempest and Cinderella in Into the Woods

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro researchers pursue the nuclear typo.

(12) YMMV. According to Food & Wine, “Twinkies Cereal Could Be Part of Your Balanced Hostess Snack Cake-Themed Breakfast”.  

The idea of turning a Hostess snack cake into cereal isn’t totally insane. That was proven by the first two Hostess products that were introduced in bowl-worthy form courtesy of Post last year: Honey Bun Cereal and Donettes Cereal. Both honey buns and mini-donuts can be breakfast. Are they the healthiest breakfasts? Obviously not. But probably most everyone reading this has eaten one of those things for breakfast in the past — and at the very least, if someone told you they ate a Hostess Honey Bun or a pack of Donettes for breakfast, you wouldn’t stare them down in disgust. However, if someone told you they ate a Twinkie for breakfast…

(13) TONIGHT’S JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter reports the game show’s latest stfnal reference. (Photo by Brett Cox.)

Final Jeopardy – Women Authors

Answer: An award for works of horror, dark fantasy & psychological suspense honors this author who came to fame with a 1948 short story.

Wrong question: “Who is Ayn Rand?”

Correct question: “Who is Shirley Jackson?”

(14) THE NEW NORMAL? NPR observes that “Climate Change Fuels Wetter Storms — Storms Like Barry”.

People across southern Louisiana are spending the weekend worried about flooding. The water is coming from every direction: the Mississippi River is swollen with rain that fell weeks ago farther north, and a storm called Barry is pushing ocean water onshore while it drops more rain from above.

It’s a situation driven by climate change, and one that Louisiana has never dealt with, at least in recorded history. And it’s raising questions about whether New Orleans and other communities are prepared for such an onslaught.

“It is noteworthy that we’re in our 260th day of a flood fight on the Mississippi River, the longest in history, and that this is the first time in history a hurricane will strike Louisiana while the Mississippi River has been at flood stage,” said Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards in response to a question about climate change at a Friday news conference.

(15) WORKS BEST WHEN YOU DON’T USE YOUR BIRTHDAY. “Computer password inventor dies aged 93” – BBC has the story.

Computer pioneer Fernando Corbato, who first used passwords to protect user accounts, has died aged 93.

…Dr Corbato reportedly died as a result of complications caused by diabetes.

…He joined MIT in 1950 to study for a doctorate in physics, but realised during those years that he was more interested in the machines that physicists used to do their calculations than in the subject itself.

Using computers during the 50s was an exercise in frustration because the huge, monolithic machines could only handle one processing job at a time.

In a bid to overcome this limitation, Dr Corbato developed an operating system for computers called the Compatible Time-Sharing System (CTSS).

…Passwords were introduced to CTSS as a way for users to hide away the files and programs they were working on from others on the same machine.

(16) BASTILLE STORMED BY FLYBOARD. BBC video shows “Bastille Day: Flyboard takes part in military display”.

The annual Bastille Day parade, marking the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789, has been taking place in Paris.

Over 4,000 military personnel and more than 100 aircraft took part in ceremonies, with crowds entertained by inventor Franky Zapata and his futuristic flyboard.

(17) DISTRACTED DRIVING. BBC is there for “Monsters and power-ups in new go-kart experience” (video).

An experience which allows go-kart drivers to race against each other while shooting virtual monsters and picking up power-ups has been developed.

Drivers wear a Magic Leap headset which allows them to see the augmented reality elements of the track.

(18) A HUNK OF BURNIN’ LOVE. NPR says the Feds have found another place to put a wall: “Federal Clampdown On Burning Man Imperils Festival’s Free Spirit Ethos, Say Burners”.

Burning Man started three decades ago as a low-key gathering of friends who celebrated summer solstice on a West Coast beach by setting a wooden man aflame.

Now, event organizers say the counterculture gathering of arts, music and communal living is eyeing attendance in the six figures, leading to a months-long struggle with federal regulators over whether its swelling size will cause long-term harm to the environment and even make the event vulnerable to a terrorist attack.

The battle is heating up as Burning Man officials attempt to secure a new 10-year permit to allow the August gathering in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to jump from its current capacity of 80,000 to 100,000. But the Bureau of Land Management is clamping down.

In a recent report assessing Burning Man’s environmental impact, the BLM capped the festival population at 80,000, citing an abundance of trash generated by the thousands of revelers and a host of safety concerns for eventgoers as well as for the federally protected land.

A preliminary report from the BLM called for new regulations, including an attendance cap, mandatory security screenings and a concrete barrier to encircle the perimeter. Federal officials have since eased those controls for now, except for the population cap.

Still, longtime participants say the government tightening its grip on the growing event threatens the anarchic principles that underpin the festival.

(19) AREA 51 WARNING. All those of you who never watch Fox News should shut your eyes at this point:

Officials warn public of dangers at secretive Nevada base and signal that the Air Force stands ready; national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin report from the Pentagon.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/24/19 Timeo Filers Et Dona Pixeles

(1) NIXING BREXIT. In a letter to The Guardian, “John le Carré and Neil Gaiman join writers warning Brexit is ‘choosing to lose'”.

Dozens of writers have put their names to a letter to the Guardian that urges UK voters taking part in Thursday’s European parliament elections to use their franchise to support the European Union, “unless they know what they are choosing to lose, for themselves and everyone they know, and are happy with that”.

The authors, who also include Neil Gaiman, Nikesh Shukla, Kate Williams and Laurie Penny, go on to say: “It seems to us that the same question is facing every industry and every person in the UK: what will you choose to lose? Because we used to hear about advantages in Brexit. We used to hear about the bright future, the extra money, the opportunities. Now the advocates of Brexit just assure us that it won’t be as bad as the last world war.”

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Episode 96 of Scott Edelman’s podcast let you listen to him crunch into a crab cake sandwich with leading Aussie author Kaaron Warren.

Kaaron Warren

We met at the Freer Gallery, and then wandered over for lunch at the Capitol Hill branch of Hank’s Oyster Bar, which opened in 2012.

I first met Kaaron slightly less than 10 years ago, at the 2009 Montreal Worldcon, where her novel Slights was one of the inaugural titles from Angry Robot Books. The publisher even had a robot rolling around the launch party! (It was not angry, however.) She’s published many more novels and stories since then, with one novel, The Grief Hole, winning all three of Australia’s genre awards — the Aurealis Award, the Ditmar Award, and the Australian Shadows Award. Her most recent novel is Tide of Stone. She’s published seven short story collections, the most recent being A Primer to Kaaron Warren.

We discussed how her recent Rebecca reread totally changed her sympathies for its characters, the disturbing real-life crime related to the first time she ever saw The Shining, the catalyst that gave birth to her award-winning novel Tide of Stone, how she came up with new angles for tackling stories about such classic characters as Sherlock Holmes and Frankenstein, the way flea market bric-a-brac has led to some of her best ideas, the only correct method for preparing fairy bread, her go-to karaoke song, and much, much more.

(3) TAKING A BITE OUT OF SONIC’S SCHEDULE. ComicsBeat explains why “Character design changes push SONIC THE HEDGEHOG movie release date to 2020”.

…The first trailer for the upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog movie definitely got people talking…just probably not the way the studio intended. Reaction to Sonic’s design—his muscular legs, his regularly-proportioned head, his teeth—was swift, loud, and overwhelmingly negative. The filmmakers heard the cries of the masses, and they responded with action, as director Jeff Fowler tweeted a few days after the trailer’s release that they would be working to tweak the design of the character…

(4) DRAGON RECOMMENDATIONS. Red Panda has created a “Dragon Awards 2019 Eligible Work” based on Renay’s Hugo recommendation’s spreadsheet. She says, “We’re trying to get folks to pay attention to the Dragon Awards to prevent them from becoming puppy awards by default. Here is a spreadsheet of eligible works – and people are welcome to add to it as long as works fit the Dragon award rules.”

(5) AFTERMATH. Cora Buhlert wrote a blog post about the Nebula Awards kerfuffle involving 20Booksto50K: “Some Reactions to the 2018 Nebula Award Winners and a Post-mortem on the 20Booksto50K Issue”.

…Most of [Craig] Martelle’s post seems to be extolling the virtues of the 20Booksto50K group and the idea behind it which was developed by Martelle’s business partner and occasional collaborator Michael Anderle. For those who don’t know, the basic idea behind 20Booksto50K is  is basically “write fast, publish fast and create a ‘minimum viable product’ in highly commercial genres”. For more information, you can also read their manifesto or watch videos of their conferences. They also have a Wiki with more background information here.

Now I don’t have a problem with either the 20Booksto50K group or their system. I don’t doubt that the group or their conferences help a lot of indie writers. And while their approach to writing and publishing isn’t mine, there are a nuggets of useful information in there.

Alas, the rest of the Martelle’s post engages in same tired “indie versus traditional publishing” rheotric that we’ve been hearing since 2010. “Traditional publishing is slow” – yes, it is, because their model is different, but that doesn’t make it bad. “Awards don’t matter, but whether stories resonate with readers does” – okay, so why are you so desperate to win an award then?

(6) ROTTEN TOMATOES REVAMP. The movie ratings site makes changes in the wake of their experience with people who lowballed Captain Marvel’s pre-release score: “We’re Introducing Verified Ratings and Reviews To Help You Make Your Viewing Decsions”.

In February we ditched our pre-release “Want to See” percentage in favor of a more straightforward Want to See tally (kind of like the “likes” you see on social media). We also removed the function that allowed users to write comments about a movie prior to seeing it. You can read about these changes here.

What’s next? Today, we’re excited to introduce new features to our Audience Score and user reviews with the addition of Verified Ratings and Reviews.

So, let’s get to it.

Rotten Tomatoes now features an Audience Score made up of ratings from users we’ve confirmed bought tickets to the movie – we’re calling them “Verified Ratings.” We’re also tagging written reviews from users we can confirm purchased tickets to a movie as “Verified” reviews.

… The first Audience Score you see on a movie page – that’s it next to the popcorn bucket just to the right of the Tomatometer – will be the score made up of Verified Ratings. As with the current Audience Score, when the score is Fresh (that is, above 60%), you’ll see a red popcorn bucket; when it is Rotten (59% and below), the bucket will be green and tipped over (you can read more about that here). If you want to see a score that incorporates all included ratings – both verified and non-verified – simply click “more info” where you can toggle between the two….

(7) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson says “The trouble with streaming: It could fragment fandom”.

…All this is a reminder that genre tales now dominate the entertainment landscape. The people behind all these platforms are fighting to attract the attention of us, the SF, fantasy and horror fandom.

But they are also fighting for our wallets. And while is is technically possible for one household to receive all these services, it is unlikely that very many households could afford to.

Once, producers essentially had two ways of monetising their entertainment. They could charge for it – for movie tickets, videotapes or discs; or they could give it to us via free-to-air television and sell our eyeballs to advertisers.

Now, we have a new eco-system where the producers are charging us, not for individual works, but for whole bundles of content. So we can get the Netflix package, the HBO package or the Hulu package, but not everything….

What is this in contrast to? Sure, things are different than when all TV was free, however, not so different from periods when there were five or eight or ten printed prozines coming out that you could only get by subscription, unless you were lucky enough that your local library subscribed to some (never all) of them.

(8) KERR OBIT. British children’s book writer and illustrator Judith Kerr died May 22 aged 95. Cora Buhlert comments —

In spite of the title, her most famous work (at least in Germany) When Hitler Stole the Pink Rabbit is not genre, but about the Kerr family’s escape from the Nazis in the 1930s. The pink rabbit of the title was young Judith Kerr’s beloved toy, which she lost en route. But a lot of her children’s picture books are at least genre-adjacent and several feature SJW credentials. Besides, she was married to Nigel Kneale, British TV writer and creator of Professor Quatermass:

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 24, 1925 Carmine Infantino. Comics artist and editor, mostly for DC Comics, during the late 1950s know as the Silver Age of Comics. He created the Silver Age version of the Flash (with writer Robert Kanigher) and the Elongated Man (with John Broome). He also introduced Barbara Gordon as a new version of Batgirl. Infantino wrote or contributed to two books about his life and career: The Amazing World of Carmine Infantino and Carmine Infantino: Penciler, Publisher, Provocateur. (Died 2013.)
  • Born May 24, 1945 Graham Williams. Producer and script editor. He produced three seasons of Doctor Who during the era of the Fourth Doctor. He went to be one of the producers of Rould Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected. (Died 1990.)
  • Born May 24, 1946 Jeremy Treglown, 63. Author of Roald Dahl: A Biography and Roald Dahl: Collected Stories. Amateur actor who met his first wife while both were performing Romeo and Juliet at University. 
  • Born May 24, 1949 Jim Broadbent, 70. He played Horace Slughorn in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. He joined the cast of A Game of Thrones, playing a role of Archmaester Ebrose, in the seventh season. His genre credits include Time Bandits, BrazilSuperman IV: The Quest for PeaceThe BorrowersThe AvengersThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (well somebody had to be in it). 
  • Born May 24, 1952 Sybil Danning, 67. Her rise to fame began with her role in Roger Corman’s space opera cult classic, Battle Beyond the Stars. She went on to star in HerculesHowling II: Your Sister Is a Werewolf (which bears the charming alternative title of Howling II: Stirba – Werewolf Bitch), a faux trailer directed by Rob Zombie titled Werewolf Women of the SS for Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse (I couldn’t make this stuff up!), the Halloween remake and finally she as in a horror film called Virus X. Series, She  appeared in recurring roles of the The Lair as a vampire out for revenge.
  • Born May 24, 1953 Alfred Molina, 66. His film debut was on Raiders of The Lost Ark as Satipo. He was an amazing Doctor Octopus on Spider-Man 2, and he also provided the voice of the villain Ares on the  outstanding 2009 animated  Wonder Woman. Oh and he was a most excellent Hercule Poirot on Murder on the Orient Express. I know, not genre, but one of my favorite films no matter who’s playing the character.
  • Born May 24, 1960 Doug Jones, 59. Among his roles, I’ll single out as Abe Sapien in the Hellboy films, the Faun and the Pale Man in Pan’s Labyrinth, the ghosts of Edith’s Mother and Beatrice Sharpe in Crimson Peak, and the Amphibian Manin The Shape of Water. 
  • Born May 24, 1965 Michael Chabon, 54. Author of one of the great baseball novels ever, Summerland. Then there’s The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay which is the best look I know of at the comics industry during the Golden Age. And The Final Solution: A Story of Detection may be an awesome home to the Greatest Beekeeper Ever.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Wondermark takes fan disappointment about Game of Throne’s final season in a hilarious new direction.

(11) REVISITING THE ENCHANTED DUPLICATOR. The highlights from February’s two-day conference on The Art of the Mimeograph at the University of Westminster include an appearance by fanhistorian Rob Hansen beginning around the 8:54 mark.

(12) OVERFLOWING LID. Alasdair Stuart says his Full Lid for May 24 2019 “takes a look at DJ Kirkbride and team’s excellent SF/crime/comedy comic series Errand Boys. I’ve also got a breakdown of the 2014 Godzilla in the first of two briefings in the run up to Godzilla: King of the Monsters. There’s a look at the excellent documentary Knock Down The House and the one thing about its structure that bothered me. Finally, special guest Sarah Gailey drops by to do the Hugo Spotlight feature, which, this week, features me.”

…The creative team behind Errand Boys is a who’s who of people whose work I pick up, sight unseen. DJ Kirkbride and Adam P Knave are two of the best writers and editors in the business and Frank Cvetkovic is one of the best letterers. They’re joined by a raft of artists whose work is unfamiliar to me but is all massively impressive, kinetic and fun.

(13) RETRO REVIEWS. The link takes you to Evelyn C. Leeper’s Comments on the 1944 Retro Hugo Finalists and to her Retro Hugo Novel Reviews Part 1 and Part 2.

I am pretty sure this is the first time someone has been a finalist both in a fiction category and in an art category (Antoine de Saint-Exupery). It is also the first time a father and son appeared on the same ballot–well, sort of. Fritz Leiber, Jr., is a finalist for three works of fiction; Fritz Leiber, Sr., (the actor) appeared as Franz Liszt in PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1943), a Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) finalist.

(14) ALADDIN’S LAMP DOES NOT SHINE BRIGHTLY. NPR’s scott Tobias finds  “Aladdin to be A CGI World, Neither Whole Nor New”.

As Disney plunders its archives for live-action remakes of animated classics, the question of “Why?” continues to be less evident on the screen than it is on the company ledger. The one quiet exception was Pete’s Dragon, which succeeded because it had no fidelity to the second-rate slapstick and songcraft of the original, and could re-imagine the premise from the ground up. When the catalog titles get as massive as Aladdin, however, the mission becomes to replicate it as closely as possible, which inevitably leads to stilted facsimile. No matter how sophisticated CGI gets, the speed and fluidity of animation is hard to reproduce.

The new Aladdin mostly has the beat-for-beat quality of the live-action Beauty and the Beast, the current standard-bearer for pointlessness, but there are elements of it that really pop, even for being bizarre missteps. Foremost among them is Will Smith’s Genie, whose entire look is a Violet Beauregarde nightmare of bright blue and CGI-inflated swole, with a top-knot/goatee combination that suggests 10,000 years away from the fashion pages. Yet Smith is the only member of the cast who’s bothered to rethink the original character: He doesn’t bother to imitate Robin Williams’ manic schtick, but draws on his own ingratiating silliness and kid-friendly hip-hop flavor instead. If everyone else had followed suit, this Aladdin wouldn’t necessarily be any better, but at least it would be its own thing….

Chip Hitchcock notes: “My local paper wasn’t quite so harsh, but did give it just 2.5 stars.”

(15) EINSTEIN? NEVER HEARD OF HIM. BBC remembers “The man who made Einstein world-famous”.

It is hard to imagine a time when Albert Einstein’s name was not recognised around the world.

But even after he finished his theory of relativity in 1915, he was nearly unknown outside Germany – until British astronomer Arthur Stanley Eddington became involved.

Einstein’s ideas were trapped by the blockades of the Great War, and even more by the vicious nationalism that made “enemy” science unwelcome in the UK.

But Einstein, a socialist, and Eddington, a Quaker, both believed that science should transcend the divisions of the war.

It was their partnership that allowed relativity to leap the trenches and make Einstein one of the most famous people on the globe.

Einstein and Eddington did not meet during the war, or even send direct messages. Instead, a mutual friend in the neutral Netherlands decided to spread the new theory of relativity to Britain.

Einstein was very, very lucky that it was Eddington, the Plumian Professor at Cambridge and officer of the Royal Astronomical Society, who received that letter.

Not only did he understand the theory’s complicated mathematics, as a pacifist he was one of the few British scientists willing to even think about German science.

(16) FAKEBOOK. According to NPR, “Facebook Removed Nearly 3.4 Billion Fake Accounts In Last Six Months”. Over half a century ago, Clarke suggested what’s now become a truism: that the Internet would be a haven for porn. But he didn’t foresee the other abuses….

Facebook says it removed 3.39 billion fake accounts from October to March. That’s twice the number of fraudulent accounts deleted in the previous six-month period.

In the company’s latest Community Standards Enforcement Report, released Thursday, Facebook said nearly all of the fake accounts were caught by artificial intelligence and more human monitoring. They also attributed the skyrocketing number to “automated attacks by bad actors who attempt to create large volumes of accounts at one time.”

The fake accounts are roughly a billion more than the 2.4 billion actual people on Facebook worldwide, according to the company’s own count.

(17) SPIKING THE CANON. James Davis Nicoll diagnoses the waning popularity of once-beloved works in “The Sad But Inevitable Trend Toward Forgotten SF” at Tor.com.

Love your beloved classics now—because even now, few people read them, for the most part, and fewer still love them. In a century, they’ll probably be forgotten by all but a few eccentrics.

If it makes you feel any better, all fiction, even the books people love and rush to buy in droves, is subject to entropy. Consider, for example, the bestselling fiction novels of the week I was born, which was not so long ago. I’ve bolded the ones my local library currently has in stock.

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert, Daniel Dern, John King Tarpinian, JJ,. Mike Kennedy Cat Eldridge, Standback, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Rob Hansen, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 5/7/19 What The Pixel Saw, It Was Against The Law

(1) IT’S GONE, MAN. Those who view the episode on streaming services won’t be seeing it — “HBO Edits ‘Game of Thrones’ Episode to Remove Errant Coffee Cup” reports Variety.

HBO has quietly scrubbed the misplaced coffee cup out of the “Game of Thrones” episode that aired Sunday night.

The premium cabler acknowledged the gaffe Monday after fans spotted the takeout cup on a table in front of Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) in a scene in episode 4 of season 8 just before the 17:40 mark. It resembled a Starbucks cup but in fact came from the production’s craft services — and where someone left it behind in Winterfell.

“The latte that appeared in the episode was a mistake. Daenerys had ordered an herbal tea,” HBO said in a statement.

As of Tuesday morning, the streaming version of the “GOT” episode available on HBO Now and HBO Go had removed the offending cup from the scene. A rep for HBO confirmed the coffee cup was deleted and that future airings of the episode, “The Last of the Starks,” would be of the updated version

(2) CHIANG COLLECTION. Joyce Carol Oates says “Science Fiction Doesn’t Have to Be Dystopian” in a brilliant review of Ted Chiang’s new collection Exhalation for The New Yorker.

…Indeed, irony is sparse in Ted Chiang’s cosmology. It is both a surprise and a relief to encounter fiction that explores counterfactual worlds like these with something of the ardor and earnestness of much young-adult fiction, asking anew philosophical questions that have been posed repeatedly through millennia to no avail. Chiang’s materialist universe is a secular place, in which God, if there is one, belongs to the phenomenal realm of scientific investigation and usually has no particular interest in humankind. But it is also a place in which the natural inquisitiveness of our species leads us to ever more astonishing truths, and an alliance with technological advances is likely to enhance us, not diminish us. Human curiosity, for Chiang, is a nearly divine engine of progress….

(3) MILES TO GO. Rudy Rucker’s entry for Whatever’s The Big Idea is really big!

Real-life road trips end before you want them to. You run into a coastline. The road stops. I wanted a road trip that goes on and on, with ever new adventures, and with opportunities to reach terrain never tread upon before. But how to do that in a car?

I peeled Earth like a grape, snipped out the oceans, shaped the flattened skin into a disk, and put a mountain range around it. Then I laid down a bunch more of these planetary rinds, arranging them like hexagonal tiles on a very wide-ranging floor. All set for a Million Mile Road Trip.

(4) CURRENCY EVENTS. The New York Times tells about an unexpected comics publisher in “Splat! Bam! It’s the Federal Reserve to the Rescue”.  The basic info is that the New York Federal Reserve bank produces comics as teaching tools, and all three have a scifi bent.

…In one scene, a group of itinerant monetary experts lands on Alpha-Numerica (“voted 3,675,927th best place to live”), where a severe recession is underway. Residents of the planet look like pencil erasers, gumdrops and other forms of geometrically sculpted goop. Unemployment is soaring, businesses are failing, and retirees are struggling to survive.

“This is not where I wanted to be at this point in my life,” says one resident, an old purple jelly bean who is sweeping a public square. “Tell me about it,” a younger resident says to itself. This individual, a green egg, wears a cap and gown. In one hand, it holds a diploma; in the other, a sign saying, “HIRE ME?”

The situation is dire but can be solved. What is needed is “expansionary monetary policy,” declares Glix, a green, lizardlike creature who likes to sing and wear capes.

Here is a link to the New York Fed’s download site for its comic books. 

The New York Fed’s Educational Comic Book Series teaches students about basic economic principles and the Federal Reserve’s role in the financial system.

Created for students at the middle school, high school, and introductory college levels, the series can help stimulate their curiosity and raise their awareness of careers in economics and finance. In addition, lesson plans created for each comic book meet national and state standards for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

The New York Fed has published comic books since the 1950s and is reintroducing this popular series with a modern spin. While the comic books are intended for a student audience, they are also available to the public.

(5) AGAINST THE HOUSE. ScienceFiction.com brings word that “Maisie Williams Is Currently Shooting Comic-Based Thriller ‘The Owners’”.

Filming of a new comic book adaptation, ‘The Owners’ has begun outside of London, in an isolated Victorian mansion in Kent.  Based on a Belgian comic book by award-winning artist Hermann (last name Huppen), and written by his son Yves H. ‘The Owners’ is being directed by Julius Berg (‘La forêt’), with a screenplay by Berg and Mathieu Gompel (‘The Dream Kids’).  The film’s producers, XYZ Films, are currently shopping the picture around at the Cannes Film Festival.

Heading up the cast is ‘Game of Thrones’ alum Maisie Williams.  Joining her are Sylvester McCoy, Rita Tushingham, Ian Kenny, Jake Curran, Andrew Ellis, and Stacha Hicks….

(6) HELP IS ON THE WAY. I bet readers of the Scroll can’t wait til I get this — “Microsoft Word AI ‘to improve writing'”. On the other hand, Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a skeptical comment, “I’ll believe it when the spellchecker starts handling context well enough to not make dumb corrections.”

A new feature in Microsoft’s Word aims to help improve writing beyond the usual grammar fixes.

Using artificial intelligence, Ideas will suggest rewrites for clunky sentences as well as changes to make sure language is gender inclusive.

It will help users lay out different parts of a document, including tables, and suggest synonyms and alternative phrases to make writing more concise.

It will be cloud-based and initially available to users of Word Online only.

A test version of Ideas will go live in June, becoming more widely available in the autumn.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 7, 1922 Darren McGavin. Carl Kolchak on Kolchak: The Night Stalker — How many times have seen it? I’ve lost count. Yes it was corny, yes, the monsters were low rent, but it was damn fun. And no, I did not watch a minute of the reboot. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 7, 1923 Anne Baxter. The Batman series had a way of attracting the most interesting performers and she was no exception as she ended playing two roles there, first Zelda and then Olga, Queen of the Cossacks. Other genre roles were limited I think to an appearance as Irene Adler in the Peter Cushing Sherlock Holmes film The Masks of Death. (Died 1985)
  • Born May 7, 1931 Gene Wolfe. He’s best known for his Book of the New Sun series. My list of recommended novels would include Pirate FreedomThe Sorcerer’s House and the Book of the New Sun series. (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 7, 1940 Angela Carter. She’s often said to be best known for The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories where she took took fairy tales and made them very adult in tone. Personally I’d recommend The Curious Room as contains her original screenplays for the films The Company of Wolves and The Magic Toyshop, both of which were based on her own original stories. (Died 1992.)
  • Born May 7, 1951 Gary Westfahl, 68. SF reviewer for the LA Times, Internet Review of Science Fiction and Locus Online. Editor of The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works, and Wonders; author of  Immortal Engines: Life Extension and Immortality in Science Fiction and Fantasy (with George Slusser) and A Sense-of-Wonderful Century: Explorations of Science Fiction and Fantasy Films.
  • Born May 7, 1968 Traci Lords, 51. Yes, she did a number of reasonably legit genre appearances after her, errr, long adult acting career. She was for example in The Tommyknockers series along with the first Blade film. She’s also in the SF comedy Plughead Rewired: Circuitry Man II (I know, weird title that.) And finally, I should note she was Dejah Thoris in Princess of Mars which later re-released as John Carter of Mars. But the way her first post-adult film was a genre undertaking and that was Not of This Earth. Yes, it is a remake of Roger Corman’s 1957 film of the same name.
  • Born May 7, 1972 Jennifer Yuh Nelson, 46. She is the director of Kung Fu Panda 2, Kung Fu Panda 3, and The Darkest Minds. Yuh is the first woman to solely direct an animated feature from a major Hollywood studio. The Darkest Minds is a dystopian SF film which RT gives a rating of 17% to. Ouch. 

(8) DRAGON AWARDS SEASON. Vox Day kicks off a “Dragon Awards discussion” [Internet Archive link] with his ideas about what comics published by his Arkhaven imprint ought to win Best Comic and Best Graphic Novel. Declan Finn jumps in to tell people which of his and his friends’ books should win the other categories, but meets resistance from a commenter who says he’d rather vote for Brian Neimeier (another Sad Puppy). There might not be enough kibble to go around!

(9) POP CULTURAL APPROPRIATION. “Viggo Mortensen: Vox ‘ridiculous’ to use Aragorn image” – BBC has the story.

Viggo Mortensen has denounced far right Spanish political party Vox after it tweeted a meme featuring the actor playing Aragorn in Lord of the Rings.

The meme, shared by the nationalist party’s official Twitter account in April, showed Aragorn lining up to face off against the assembled hordes of Vox’s apparent enemies, including the media, Catalan separatists and a small ghost wearing the colours of the rainbow flag typically used to represent LGBT pride.

“Let the battle begin,” the party tweeted.

In a letter to the editor of Spanish newspaper El Pais, published on Tuesday, Mortensen said Vox’s use of his image was “absurd”.

“Not only is it absurd that I, the actor who embodied this character for [Lord of the Rings director] Peter Jackson, and a person interested in the rich variety of cultures and languages that exist in Spain and the world, is linked to an ultra-nationalist and neo-fascist political party,” the actor wrote, “it is even more ridiculous to use the character of Aragorn, a polyglot statesman who advocates knowledge and inclusion of the diverse races, customs and languages of Middle Earth, to legitimise an anti-immigrant, anti-feminist and Islamophobic political group.”

(10) GO OUT, YOUNG HUMAN! The Washington Post: “Buzz Aldrin: It’s time to focus on the great migration of humankind to Mars”. In a WaPo oped, Buzz Aldrin advocates for not just returning to the Moon, but going to Mars. And sooner rather than later. He also calls for international cooperation with other countries to make it happen.

Last month, Vice President Pence announced that we are headed back to the moon. I am with him, in spirit and aspiration. Having been there, I can say it is high time we returned. When Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and I went to the moon 50 years ago this July, we did so with a mission. Apollo 11 aimed to prove America’s can-do commitment to space exploration, as well as its national security and technological superiority. We did all that. We also “Came in Peace for all Mankind.” More of that is needed now.

Today, many nations have eyes for the moon, from China and Russia to friends in Europe and Middle East. That is all good. The United States should cooperate — and offer itself as a willing team leader — in exploring every aspect of the moon, from its geology and topography to its hydrology and cosmic history. In doing so, we can take “low-Earth orbit” cooperation to the moon, openly, eagerly and collegially.

[…] As matter of orbital mechanics, missions from Earth to Mars for migration are complex. That said, human nature — and potentially the ultimate survival of our species — demands humanity’s continued outward reach into the universe. Call it curiosity or calculation, strategic planning or destiny. Put simply: We explore, or we expire. That is why we must get on with it.

In a world of division and distraction, this mission is unifying — for all Americans and for all humankind. So, I am personally glad we are headed back to the moon — and I thank President Trump and the vice p

(11) DECOROUS THEATERS. According to The Week:

The Roxy 8 multiplex in Dickson, Tennessee, is defending its decision to call the new HELLBOY movie HECKBOY in signs outside the theater.  Manager Belinda Daniel explained that the theater does not use ‘profanity’ on signs.  ‘We are located next to an elementary school and across from a church,’ she said.

(12) A DIFFERENT KIND OF GOOD TASTE. BBC introduces you to“The man who discovered umami”, long before it made news in the West.

For centuries, humanity lived with the concept of sweet, salty, bitter and sour – but another flavour was hiding on the sidelines

Kikunae Ikeda had been thinking a lot about soup.

The Japanese chemist had been studying a broth made from seaweed and dried fish flakes, called dashi. Dashi has a very specific flavour – warm, tasty, savoury – and through laborious, lengthy separations in a chemistry lab, Ikeda had been trying to isolate the molecules behind its distinctive taste. He felt sure that there was some connection between a molecule’s shape and the flavor perception it produced in humans.

But as it was just a few years past the turn of the 19th Century, there was not yet a great deal of evidence to support the idea.

Eventually, Ikeda did manage to isolate an important taste molecule from the seaweed in dashi: the amino acid glutamate, a key building block of proteins. In a 1909 paper, the Tokyo Imperial University professor suggested that the savoury sensation triggered by glutamate should be one of the basic tastes that give something flavour, on a par with sweet, sour, bitter, and salt. He called it “umami”, riffing on a Japanese word meaning “delicious”.

(13) LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR KIWI TOUR. Good news! Natural heated swimming hole available to visit on your CoNZealand2020 trip!

Bad News! May contain a staple of SciFi — The Brain-Eating Amoebas of Kerosene Creek

Kerosene Creek is a natural hot spring near Rotorua, on the North Island of New Zealand. And there have been official warnings for years: don’t put your head under water. It turns out that “brain-eating amoebas”, naegleria fowleri, are a real, if rare, thing.

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