Pixel Scroll 1/18/20 The Previous Title Appears to Be Accurate

(1) THE FOREVER FRANCHISE. Dave Itzkoff wonders “Can ‘Star Trek’ Chart a Way Forward?” in New York Times Magazine.

Michael Chabon’s job used to consist of writing novels, earning literary acclaim and receiving the occasional prestigious award. But this past June he was racing around the soundstages here at “Star Trek: Picard,” where he was working as an executive producer.

Chabon, a 56-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner, strode through hallways decorated with timelines that chronicled the fictional histories of alien empires and stepped onto the set of a futuristic spacecraft. He giggled to himself as he toyed with some of the fake technology, occasionally exclaiming “Engage!,” and flashed a thumbs-up across the room to the “Picard” star Patrick Stewart as he rehearsed a scene.

These were all welcome perks in Chabon’s new line of work. But what drew him to “Star Trek” as a fan in his teens and kept him invested as a producer, he said, was an underlying message about humanity that was hopeful within reason.

“It’s not saying human beings are basically wonderful and if we just learn to agree, all our problems will go away,” he explained. “It takes work. It takes effort.”

…“If you feel that each piece is handcrafted with care, then I think people really appreciate it,” said Alex Kurtzman, an executive producer of the many new “Star Trek” series. “If you feel like a universe is being shoved down your throat for speed and dollars, there’s no faster way to lose an audience.”

(2) OPENING THE DOOR TO BOOK BANNING. PEN America protests that “Proposed Book Banning Bill in Missouri Could Imprison Librarians”.

 … The bill — the Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act or House Bill 2044 — aims to add several provisions to the state’s funding law for public libraries. These new provisions establish “parental library review boards” that would evaluate whether any library materials constitute “age-inappropriate sexual material.” Members of these five-member boards, who would be elected at a town meeting by a simple majority of voters, are empowered to determine whether material is appropriate, including by evaluating its literary merit. Public librarians are explicitly barred by the statute from serving on such review boards, even if they are from the community.

“This is a shockingly transparent attempt to legalize book banning in the state of Missouri,” said James Tager, deputy director of Free Expression Research and Policy at PEN America. “This act is clearly aimed at empowering small groups of parents to appoint themselves as censors over their state’s public libraries. Books wrestling with sexual themes, books uplifting LGBTQIA+ characters, books addressing issues such as sexual assault—all of these books are potentially on the chopping block if this bill is passed.”

Under the act, the boards would hold public hearings to receive suggestions as to possible inappropriate books, and would have the authority to order the library to remove any such material from access by minors. Any public library who allows minors access to such “age-inappropriate materials” would have their funding stripped, and librarians who refuse to comply with the act can be fined and imprisoned for up to one year.

(3) KGB. Ellen Datlow posted her photos from the January 15 KGB readings where Richard Kadrey read from his new novel The Grand Dark and Cassandra Khaw read from her forthcoming novella Nothing But Blackened Teeth.

Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey 1
Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey

(4) PANTSER. At Whatever, “The Big Idea: Simon Jimenez” begins with a confession:

I wrote no encyclopedia and I drew no map before I began writing The Vanished Birds. I laid the track as the train chugged forward and hoped I wouldn’t be outpaced and run over. Of course I was. I wince now as I think back on all the soft resets and double-backs and total rethinks and rewrites I had to do. I’d blame this all on the fact that it was my first book and I didn’t know what I was doing, but that wouldn’t be the truth. This is how I tend to go about all things. Without a plan and screaming in freefall.

(5) WITCHER APPECIATION SOCIETY. On YouTube, Paste’s Allison Keene and Josh Jackson celebrate the new fantasy series from Netflix.

(6) COP ON THE CORNER. “Nine years later, Detroit’s RoboCop statue is finally ready for installation”Curbed Detroit has the story.

It started with a successful Kickstarter campaign. A mere nine years later, the RoboCop statue is nearly done.

The campaign, launched by the community arts nonprofit Imagination Station in March 2011, received $67,436 in donations.

In an update from December 31, 2019, the team showcased photos to scores of eager backers of the enormous, bronze, nearly finished statue. “Here are a last few teaser pics of Robo in the positioning and welding process before his final form is unveiled later this winter, with installation details to follow,” wrote Brandon Walley of the Imagination Station.

The last touches include installing its head and adding a gray patina, now only visible on a breastplate. Once finished around March, the recreation of the original Peter Weller costume will stand 11 feet tall.

(7) RETRO RESEARCH. Cora Buhlert has posted two more reviews of 1945 Retro Hugo eligible works, namely “The Big and the Little” a.k.a. “The Merchant Princes” by Isaac Asimov, which is the second Foundation story of 1944, and “Guard in the Dark”, a horror story by Allison V. Harding.

She’s also posted a roundup of links to other reviews of eligible 1944 works, including several reviews by Steve J. Wright:  “Retro Review Links for January 15, 2020”.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 18, 1952 Tales of Tomorrow’s Frankenstein first aired on ABC. It would be the sixteenth episode of the first season of the series. It was directed by Don Medford. The episode starred Lon Chaney, Jr. in the role of Frankenstein’s monster and John Newland in the role of Victor Frankenstein. Lon Chaney, Jr. Is credited here as Lon Chaney as he was in all his later work. He’s no stranger to playing the Monster as he played the role of the monster in the Universal Pictures Ghost of Frankenstein a decade earlier. You can watch it here.
  • January 18, 1959 Cage of Doom premiered in the United Kingdom. (It would be called Terror from the Year 5000 in the States.) it’s credits were long, so have patience when we say that it was by produced by Robert J. Gurney Jr., Samuel Z. Arkoff, James H. Nicholson, and Gene Searchinger. It was directed by Robert J. Gurney Jr., and starred Ward Costello, Joyce Holden, John Stratton, Salome Jens, and Fred Herrick. The story was actually based on an actually SFF story that ran in in the April 1957 issue of Fantastic, Henry Slesar’s “Bottle Baby”. It is not credited as such however. It’s not a great film and hence it got featured in the eighth season of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are sure it’s not good giving it a Zero percent approval rating though we caution only a little over a hundred cared enough to express a view. You can watch it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 18, 1882 A.A. Milne. Talking fat bears obsessed with honey. Bouncing tigers, err, tiggers. Morose, well, what is he? It’s certainly genre. And though it isn’t remotely genre, I wholeheartedly recommend Milne’s The Red House Mystery, a Country House Mystery that’s most excellent! (Died 1956.)
  • Born January 18, 1920 Constance Moore. She gets Birthday Honors for being in the 1939 movie serial Buck Rogers in which she was Wilma Deering, the only female character in the serial.  Were there ever other female main cast characters in Buck Rogers?(Died 2005.)
  • Born January 18, 1932 Robert Anton Wilson. Conspiracy nut or SF writer? Or both. I think I first encountered him in something Geis wrote about him in SFR in the Eighties. Schrödinger’s Cat Trilogy is just weird and might or might not be a sequel to The Illuminatus! Trilogy. But the absolutely weirdest thing he did I think is an interview titled Robert Anton Wilson On Finnegans Wake and Joseph Campbell. Yes, he frothed at the mouth on Campbell and Joyce! (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 18, 1933 John Boorman, 87. Director who’s responsible for one of the best SFF films ever done, Excalibur with Sean Connery, and one of the worst with that also starred Sean Connery, Zardoz. He also directed the rather nifty The Emerald Forest which Holdstock did a far better than merely good job of novelising.
  • Born January 18, 1937 Dick Durock. He was best known for playing Swamp Thing in Swamp Thing and The Return of Swamp Thing and the following television series which ran for three seasons. His only other genre appearances were in The Nude Bomb (also known as The Return of Maxwell Smart) and “The First” of The Incredible Hulk. He shows up in Die Hard with a Vengeance in a subway scene. No, it’s not genre, I just like that film. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 18, 1943 Paul Freeman, 77. Best remembered I’d say for being the evil René Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark. He also played Professor Moriarty in Without a Clue which had Michael Caine as Holmes and Kingsley as Watson.
  • Born January 18, 1953 Pamela Dean Dyer-Bennett, 67. Her best novel is I think Tam Lin though one could make an argument for Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary which Windling claims is her favorite fantasy novel. Her Secret Country trilogy is also a great deal of fun to read. Much of her short stories are set in the Liavek shared universe created by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. Alll of the Liavek anthologies are now available on all major digital platforms. According to the files sitting in my Dropbox folder, there’s eight volumes to the series. They’re wonderful reading. End of plug. 
  • Born January 18, 1964 Jane Horrocks, 56. Her first SFF video role was Pattern in The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, scripted off the Joan Aiken novel. A year later, she showed up in The Witches, scripted off the Roald Dahl novel playing Miss Susan Irvine. She voices Black Widow / Mrs. Plum in Tim Burton’s The Corpse Bride, and voiced Hannah in the late Ninties Watership Down.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) JUGGLING THE BOOKS. “Majipoor – Les Objets Volants” took inspiration from a Robert Silverberg novel to create this stage act.

Majipoor is a fantastic journey through juggling and object manipulation, an exploration of objects and bodies, individuals and community.

The show is freely inspired from Robert Silverberg’s 1980 novel «Lord Valentine’s Castle». This is the story of an identity winning back, a route surrounded by exotic landscapes on giant planet Majipoor, along with a juggling company of intelligent four-handed being called Skandars.

(12) WATER LOSS ON MARS GREATER THAN THOUGHT. Science reports that water is easily transported high into the atmosphere during storms and lost. This takes place even during the dusty season. “Stormy water on Mars: The distribution and saturation of atmospheric water during the dusty season”.

Mars once hosted abundant water on its surface but subsequently lost most of it to space. Small amounts of water vapor are still present in the atmosphere, which can escape if they reach sufficiently high altitudes. Fedorova et al. used data from the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter spacecraft to determine the distribution of water in Mars’ atmosphere and investigate how it varies over seasons. Water vapor is sometimes heavily saturated, and its distribution is affected by the planet’s large dust storms. Water can efficiently reach the upper atmosphere when Mars is in the warmest part of its orbit, and this behavior may have controlled the overall rate at which Mars lost its water.

(13) VERY OLD BIRDS OF A FEATHER. SYFY Wire also reports on the distant past: “This new dinosaur just called it: even feathered dinos were nothing like birds”.

Some dinosaurs looked like birds. Some prehistoric birds looked like dinosaurs, and some birds that are still around echo dinosaurs. That doesn’t mean feathers and wings always make a bird—or a dinosaur.

Wulong bohaiensis was a small feathered therapod that lived 120 million years ago in what is now China, going twice as far back as T. rex. The dinosaur species this creature is most closely related to is (another star of Jurassic Park) the Velociraptor. “Wulong” translates to “dancing dragon,” and the fantastic specimen, which is preserved so well that even some of its feathers are frozen in time, is not only dragon-like, but also birdlike. The thing is that the bones and feathers revealed this newly unearthed dino to be a juvenile who went through different growing pains than birds….

(14) TIS MANY A SLIP. Popsugar thinks “Disney’s New Space Mountain Mug Is Light Years Ahead of Everything Else in My Kitchen Cabinet”.

Official blog Oh My Disney recently announced the upcoming arrival of Space Mountain mugs at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World in honor of the high-speed roller coaster’s 45th anniversary.

(15) RELATIVELY WRONG. This week Andrew Porter saw another wrong question on Jeopardy! Can you believe it?

Final Jeopardy: Children’s Literature

Answer: Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Max Planck’s Quantum Theory inspired this book that won a 1963 Newberry Medal.

Wrong question: “What is ‘The Fault in Our Stars’?”

Correct question: “What is ‘A Wrinkle in Time’?”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Terry Pratchett: Back in Black” on Vimeo is a 2018 documentary about Sir Terry’s life from BBC Scotland. (Vimeo setting requires it be watched at their site.)

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Contrarius, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, N., Cora Buhlert, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 12/19/19 A Rising Scroll Files All Pixels

(1) RINGING UP FANDOM. io9’s Katharine Trendacostasays this was “The Decade Fandom Went Corporate”. Quite a bit to think about here.

In the last twenty years, fandom and mass culture have basically merged. Fans and fandom spent the 2000s fighting for legitimacy and proving their combined worth. And corporations? Well, they spent the 2010s learning how to co-opt fandom to silence critics, manipulate press, and make even more money.

For decades and decades, fandom wasn’t something you talked about. Not really. Fanfic, fanart, and cosplay—those were things shared at conventions and in zines and, later, in usenet groups. Even the outwardly facing form of fandom—the manboy fan with his collectibles and endless trivia debates—was usually presented as something to be ashamed of.

… Transformative fandom’s road was much rockier. The split between curatorial and transformative fandom—with one more accepted than the other—has been historically viewed as gendered. Transformative fandom is where fans don’t just consume the media, they make it their own. This is where you get cosplay, fan films, and so on. Transformative fandom got you in trouble. Being threatened with legal action for writing fanfic was a very real danger.

I’d argue that transformative fandom calls to marginalized groups in general because it is the realm of people who see something compelling in a piece of media and then reinterpret it in a new way, to make it easier to identify with. Hollywood—and comics, and book writers, and so on—has been so white, so straight, and so male for so long. Transformative fandom lets people participate in mainstream culture and still get to see themselves in it.

… In the same way people these days use things like GoFundMe to raise money for basic necessities, fanwork creators have started taking commissions for their work. This is another expression of the hellscape of 2019, where people can’t afford rent, food, or healthcare and are mobilizing their skills and their communities to survive. This is depressing but understandable. There is also the rise of sites Redbubble (founded 2006) and Etsy (founded in 2006), where fans can sell their work to other fans. Where selling any of this thing in any sort of public forum used to be terrifying, it’s now fairly normal.

There are legal concerns, of course. It’s just that, these days, between the work of groups like OTW and the Electronic Frontier Foundations (which, full disclosure, I work at), there’s more understanding and legal precedent showing that fanworks are transformative and not copyright infringement. Creators and companies also have figured out that this kind of fan creation is the result of a love for their show, movie, etc. and that going after fans—in the way Anne Rice was famous for—can only serve to alienate your base….

(2) FOUR ON THE FLOOR. Tor.com’s Leah Schnelbach, Christina Orlando, Natalie Zutter and Renata Sweeney dialogue about “2010-2019: A Decade of Change in Science Fiction & Fantasy”. About halfway through the conversation they get into —

SELF-REFLEXIVE NERDERY

Zutter: The other 2012 book I wanted to mention was Redshirts by John Scalzi. I feel like it tapped into this era of self-reflexive, meta sci-fi. Riffing on Star Trek, in sort of the Galaxy Quest realm.

Orlando: I was going to bring up Space Opera by Cat Valente, that element of taking the trope and just running with it, even to the extent of calling the book “space opera”. It’s a commentary on tropey stuff, where I think for a long time tropes were something to be avoided, but we see more and more, especially from people who came up through fanfiction, the love of tropes, and the idea of leaning into “there’s only one bed” or those kinds of things, cause it’s the stuff that we find comforting. It does get tongue-in-cheek, and creates layers of commentary on genre itself—

Zutter: This shared language.

Sweeney: The previous year’s Ready Player One was sort of nerd nostalgia, so it’s Redshirts-adjacent. Armada and Ready Player One are steeped in nostalgia in a way that I don’t think Redshirts is, in that self-referential, “This is a joke that you only get if you understand nerd culture” way….

(3) TIME RUNS OUT. The trailer for Christopher Nolan’s TENET.

(4) HAMMERING ON HIS TYPEWRITER. This column by Galactic Journey’s Victoria Silverwolf includes a capsule description of an author I found very entertaining when I originally discovered sff: “[December 19, 1964] December Galactoscope #2”.

The Anvil Chorus

Christopher Anvil is the pseudonym of Harry C. Crosby, who published a couple of stories under his real name in the early 1950’s. After remaining silent for a few years, he came back with a bang in the late 1950’s, and has since given readers about fifty tales under his new name. His work most often appears in Astounding/Analog.

A typical Anvil yarn is a lightly comic tale about clever humans defeating technologically advanced but naive aliens. Perhaps his best-known story is Pandora’s Planet (Astounding, September 1956), the first of a series of humorous accounts of the misadventures of lion-like aliens trying to deal with the chaos caused by those unpredictable humans.

(5) KGB. Ellen Datlow has posted her photos from “Fantastic Fiction at KGB December 2019”.

Paul Tremblay (R) read a powerful excerpt from his next novel coming out next year and Nathan Ballingrud (L) read from a story he just finished writing a few days ago.

Nathan Ballingrud and Paul Tremblay 1

(6) STAR WARS: A NEW HOPI DESIGN. “‘The Force Is With Our People’ Connects Indigenous Culture To A Galaxy Far Away”.

Artist Duane Koyawena is piloting a custom R2D2 unit in front of the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, Ariz. It’s life-size and has all the signature bleeps and squawks of the original. But its appearance has a unique Southwestern spin.

“When I was thinking about it, I was like … wouldn’t it be cool to see an R2 that’s decked out [and] looks actually like a pottery?” he says. “So along with that comes the designs, and so the tans and the reddish burn marks from when they fire their pottery.”

At first glance the traditional Hopi maroon-and-tan patterns are a surprising look for the famous droid. But Koyawena says it makes total sense for R2.

“A lot of elders, or our uncles or friends, always tell us in ceremony or something going on ‘nahongvitah,’ which means to give it your all, or just to be strong and to persevere. So, I feel like the Hopi R2 kind of fits in that same line,” he says.

Koyawena is one of 25 artists from more than a dozen Southwestern tribes taking part in the art exhibit “The Force Is With Our People.” The pieces reflect Star Wars themes, such as endurance and rebellion, that have resonated powerfully with the franchise’s devotees for decades. As it turns out though, Star Wars also speaks strongly to the historical experiences of many in the Southwest’s Indigenous communities.

“I think there’s clearly some parallels … between Native stories — things like the Hero Twins, [a] very prominent story in Navajo culture — parallels between that and Star Wars, of course Luke and Leia being basically Hero Twins in that story,” says Museum of Northern Arizona curator and ethnographer Tony Thibodeau.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 19, 1902 Sir Ralph Richardson. God in Time Bandits but also Earl of Greystoke in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes and Chief Rabbit In Watership Down. Also, the Head Librarian in Rollerball which I’ll admit I’ve never seenAnd a caterpillar in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. And Satan in the Tales from the Crypt film. Oh, my he had an interesting genre film career! (Died 1983.)
  • Born December 19, 1922 Harry Warner Jr. Fan historian and legendary letterhack. Dubbed The Hermit of Hagerstown, he did nearly all his fanac on paper. He’s known now for the many LOCs he wrote and his two books on fanhistory, All Our Yesterdays, (1969), and A Wealth of Fable which won a Hugo in 1993 for Best Related Book. (Died 2003.)
  • Born December 19, 1952 Linda Woolverton, 67. She’s the first woman to have written a Disney animated feature, Beauty and the Beast, which was the first animated film ever to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. She also co-wrote The Lion King screenplay (along with Irene Mecchi and Jonathan Roberts).
  • Born December 19, 1960 Dave Hutchinson, 59. Best known for his Fractured Europe series. Great reading! I’ve listened to the first two and will be  listening to the third after the first of the year. He’s got a lot of other genre fiction as well but I’ve not delved into that yet.
  • Born December 19, 1961 Matthew Waterhouse, 58. He’s best known as Adric, companion to the Fourth and Fifth Doctors. He was the youngest actor in that role at the time. And yes, he too shows up in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
  • Born December 19, 1969 Kristy Swanson, 50. Her first starring genre  film role was in Wes Craven’s Deadly Friend, but no doubt her best known genre role was as the original Buffy. She also shows up in Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Phantom, Highway to HellNot Quite Human and The Black Hole. For the record, I really, really like her version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer! 
  • Born December 19, 1972 Alyssa Milano, 47. Phoebe Halliwell in the long running original Charmed series. Other genre appearances include on Outer Limits, the second Fantasy Island series, Embrace of the Vampire, Double Dragon, the Young Justice animated series as the voice of Poison Ivy and more voice work in DC’s The Spectre excellent animated short as a spoiled rich young thing with a murderous vent.
  • Born December 19, 1975 Brandon Sanderson, 44. Best known for the Mistborn series. He is also known for finishing Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. OK I’m going to freely admit I’ve not read either of this series. Opinions please. 
  • Born December 19, 1979 Robin Sloan, 40. Author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore which definitely has fantasy elements in it and is a damn fine read. His second novel which he sent me to me consider reviewing, Sourdough or, Lois and Her Adventures in the Underground Market, is also probably genre adjacent but is also weirdly about food as well. And he’s a really nice person as well. 
  • Born December 19, 1980 Jake Gyllenhaal, 39. The lead in Donnie Darko, a strange film indeed; he’s also to be seen as Sam Hall in The Day After Tomorrow, a splendid SF disaster film. Of course, he was Mysterio in Spider-Man: Far From Home.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • There is no excuse for the awful joke in this Frank and Ernest except that it requires familiarity with star names. Well, one of them, anyway. One more fact I can’t say I had no use for once I graduated.

(9) LET THE BARISTA WIN. “You Can Order A Chewbacca Frappuccino From Starbucks And It’s Out Of This World”Delish told us how to find it.

To get this chocolatey treat, you’re going to start by ordering a Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino, but ask your barista to add caramel drizzle in the cup. Top that with whipped cream and cookie crumbles and you’ve got yourself a delicious treat.

(10) WAKANDA DELISTED. “US officials remove Black Panther’s Wakanda from list of trading partners” reports The Guardian. Is it an administration attempt to divert attention from the impeachment proceedings? For a change, no.

Trade talks between Captain America and Black Panther didn’t quite pan out, it seems. Wakanda, the fictional home of the Marvel superhero, is no longer listed as a free trade partner of the US.

Until Wednesday, the made-up east African country was listed on the drop-down menu for the agriculture department’s foreign agricultural service’s tariff tracker along with Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and Peru.

The department (USDA) said the comic book country was added to its systems while it conducted testing.

“Over the past few weeks, the foreign agricultural service staff who maintain the tariff tracker have been using test files to ensure that the system is running properly,” Mike Illenberg, a USDA spokesman, told NBC. “The Wakanda information should have been removed after testing and has now been taken down.”

(11) CRUSHED. Claxton’s Twitter thread is filled with expressions of disillusionment by one-time fans of Rowling, Orson Scott Card, MZB, even Ray Bradbury.

(12) BUMP AND GRIND. Nature says “‘Marsquakes’ reveal red planet’s hidden geology”.

Since arriving on Mars just over a year ago, InSight has detected 322 marsquakes. They are the first quakes ever detected on Mars, and the first on any body other than Earth or the Moon. Scientists aim to use them to probe the Martian interior, including deciphering the planet’s guts into layers of crust, mantle, and core.

Currently the marsquakes are coming fast and furious. From its landing site near the Martian equator, NASA’s InSight mission is detecting about two quakes per day — and the rate is going up.

(13) THEY KNOW WHERE THE BODIES ARE. From Nature: “A statistical solution to the chaotic, non-hierarchical three-body problem”. Cixin Liu might worry…

The three-body problem is arguably the oldest open question in astrophysics and has resisted a general analytic solution for centuries. Various implementations of perturbation theory provide solutions in portions of parameter space, but only where hierarchies of masses or separations exist….

(14) AURAL HISTORY. “‘Star Wars,’ The Trilogy That NPR Turned Into Radio Drama”.

The ninth episode of Star Wars blasts into theaters this weekend, more than 40 years since the release of George Lucas’ original hit movie. Back then, NPR got in on Star Wars saga action, creating a radio drama of that original episode.

In 1981, George Lucas sold the radio rights for $1, and the network partnered with the University of Southern California theater program to produce it. The production was an overwhelming success, and NPR went on to do radio versions of all the movies in the original trilogy.

This week, the latest installment in the Star Wars film saga is posting record numbers around the world. In 1981, NPR hoped the interstellar fable would do the same for its audience numbers. That’s right: Some of you may have forgotten (and some might not even know) that the network created three radio dramas based on George Lucas’ original three movies.

NPR figured it could maybe get more listeners by reviving the radio drama, which had been out of fashion for some 30 years. So the network called Richard Toscan, then-head of the theater program at the University of Southern California. He remembers asking a colleague for advice on what story to dramatize: “There’s this long pause, and he says, ‘Create a scandal.’ “

Toscan was at a loss. Then he mentioned the problem to a student. “And he said, ‘Oh, why don’t you do Star Wars?’ ” Toscan recalls. “There was the scandal.”

(15) HARRY MINION? HARRY MOLESWORTH? NPR’s Juanita Giles has an alternative: “Don’t Like Harry Potter? Come To The ‘Dork’ Side”

…Not to tell you how old I am, but Harry Potter first made his appearance when I was already an adult, so it wasn’t as if I were devastated that my kids poo-pooed books that were formative for me, but I did worry that it might be difficult to find chapter books that caught their interest. Harry Potter’s success has spawned almost an entirely new genre, and sometimes it seems there’s not a chapter book that doesn’t involve magic or spells or curses in some way. I had almost zero experience with this, as popular chapter books for girls when I was a kid involved babysitters, teenagers with terrible diseases, or Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield.

But durn it, I couldn’t give up. How could my kids have a fulfilling childhood if Harry Potter didn’t ever factor in? Would it even be possible? I wasn’t convinced it was, so I set out on a mission to prepare them for their reintroduction to Harry Potter, and I ended up somewhere else entirely.

Enter the Dork Lord, son of the Dark Lord, and heir to the throne of the Grim World.

…My son keeps a basket on the end of his bed filled with whatever books with which he is currently obsessed: Wings of Fire, Calvin and Hobbes, Dog Man, Klawde, and always a Star Wars book or two. So, what did I do, sneak that I am? I shoved Confessions of a Dork Lord right into his basket when he wasn’t looking.

Cut to the next morning: “Mom, this kid is called ‘the Dork Lord,’ can you believe it? And get this — his favorite spell is the ‘Fart Revealer,’ and he can’t even do that right!”

If there were ever a sure way to grab a nine-year-old’s attention, flatulence would be it.

(16) SHIVER ME TIMBERS. BBC finds “World’s oldest fossil trees uncovered in New York”.

The earliest fossilised trees, dating back 386 million years, have been found at an abandoned quarry in New York.

Scientists believe the forest they belonged to was so vast it originally stretched beyond Pennsylvania.

This discovery in Cairo, New York, is thought to be two or three million years older than what was previously the world’s oldest forest at Gilboa, also in New York State.

The findings throw new light on the evolution of trees.

What did they find?

It was more than 10 years ago that experts from Cardiff University, UK, Binghamton University in the US and the New York State Museum began looking at the site in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains in the Hudson Valley.

Since then, they have mapped over 3,000 square metres of the forest and concluded the forest was home to at least two types of trees: Cladoxylopsids and Archaeopteris.

…Researchers say they also discovered very long, woody roots that transformed the way plants and soils gather water.

“It’s a very ancient forest from the beginnings of the time where the planet was turning green and forests were becoming a normal part of the Earth’s system,” said Dr Berry.

(17) HOLDOUTS. BBC discusses the evidence:“Homo erectus: Ancient humans survived longer than we thought”

An ancient relative of modern humans survived into comparatively recent times in South East Asia, a new study has revealed.

Homo erectus evolved around two million years ago, and was the first known human species to walk fully upright.

New dating evidence shows that it survived until just over 100,000 years ago on the Indonesian island of Java – long after it had vanished elsewhere.

This means it was still around when our own species was walking the Earth.

Details of the result are described in the journal Nature.

In the 1930s, 12 Homo erectus skull caps and two lower leg bones were found in a bone bed 20m above the Solo River at Ngandong in central Java.

In subsequent decades, researchers have attempted to date the fossils. But this proved difficult because the surrounding geology is complex and details of the original excavations became confused.

…Now, researchers led by Prof Russell Ciochon of the University of Iowa in Iowa City opened up new excavations on the terraces beside the Solo River, reanalysing the site and its surroundings.

They have provided what they describe as a definitive age for the bone bed of between 117,000 and 108,000 years old. This represents the most recent known record of Homo erectus anywhere in the world.

“I don’t know what you could date at the site to give you more precise dates than what we’ve been able to produce,” Prof Ciochon told BBC News.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Use Cups” on Vimeo is a message from Adult Swim explaining what bad things will happen to you if you don’t use cups!

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, N., Ellen Datlow, James Davis Nicoll, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Olav Rokne, Chip Hitchcock, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, Hampus Eckerman, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]

Pixel Scroll 12/2/19 There’s A Long, Long Scroll A-Winding Into The Land Of My Pixels

(1) LISTEN UP. Here are works of genre interest picked for AudioFile’s Best Audiobooks of 2019 beyond the Best Science Fiction Fantasy & Horror category announced at File 770.

YOUNG ADULT

  • Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor
  • The Secret Commonwealth (Book of Dust volume 2) by Philip Pullman

FICTION, POETRY & DRAMA

  • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

BIOGRAPHY & HISTORY

  • American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race by Douglas Brinkley
  • Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham

(2) TUNE IN DOCTOR WHO. ScienceFiction.com knows the airtime, and also how to see the two-parter on the big screen via Fathom Events: “New ‘Doctor Who’ Trailer Delivers The Release Date/Time For Season 12”.

The January 1 episode is part one of a two-part story called “Spyfall,” with part two arriving on Sunday, January 5, presumably also at 8 pm.  That will be ‘Doctor Who’s regular time slot going forward.

If you’re a ‘Doctor Who’ superfan, BBC and BBC America are teaming up with Fathom Events for a one-time-only screening of both parts of “Spyfall” on the big screen, followed by a LIVE Q&A with Whittaker, Cole, and Gill from the Paley Center for Media in New York.  These showings will be held at 600 theaters in the US on January 5.  (Tickets go on sale on Friday at FathomEvents.com.)

(3) SMILE FOR THE CAMERA. Kevin Standlee promoted the Tonopah 2021 Westercon at this weekend’s Loscon.

Team Tonopah welcomed 19 new attending members while we were at Loscon 46 at the LAX Airport Marriott, and talked to many more people to tell them all about our plans for Westercon in Tonopah, Nevada.

(4) KGB READINGS. TheFantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Paul Tremblay and Nathan Ballingrud on Wednesday, December 18 at the KGB Bar. Event starts at 7 p.m. (KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, 2nd Floor, New York, NY.)

Paul Tremblay

Paul Tremblay has won the Bram Stoker, British Fantasy, and Massachusetts Book awards and is the author of The Cabin at the End of the WorldA Head Full of Ghosts, and most recently the short story collection Growing Things and Other Stories. His essays and short fiction have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly online, and numerous year’s-best anthologies. 

Nathan Ballingrud

Nathan Ballingrud is the author of North American Lake Monsters and Wounds: Six Stories from the Border of Hell. He’s twice won the Shirley Jackson Award, and has been shortlisted for the World Fantasy, British Fantasy, and Bram Stoker Awards. His stories have appeared in numerous Best of the Year anthologies. Wounds, a film based on his novella “The Visible Filth,” has recently been released. North American Lake Monsters is in development as an anthology series at Hulu.

(5) RIGOROUS ARTWORK. James Davis Nicoll compliments “Five ’70s SF Cover Artists Who Stay True to the Story” in a post for Tor.com.

The Doppelgänger Gambit by Leigh Killough, 1979, cover by Michael Herring

Herring’s cover captures two key elements of this gripping 21st-century police procedural. The first: the two police officers don’t get along. The second: clothing fashions in this future are somehow even more hideous than real-world 1970s fashions. The cover is true to the work. Detective Janna Brill thinks Maxwell takes unconscionable risks, and these are the clothes described in the novel. (Though I suspect the cops in the novel used holsters.)

(6) MARTIAN FURNITURE. FastCompany reports “Now that Ikea has colonized Earth, it’s going after Mars”.

Two years ago, Ikea sent designers to the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), which created a habitat in the Utah desert that mimics the conditions on the Red Planet. Ikea interior designer Christina Levenborn stayed in the habitat, ultimately creating an Ikea line for small spaces inspired by her stay. But more recently, she used her experience living in the habitat to help researchers outfit the space. She just returned from redecorating the habitat, which now looks brightly lit and neatly organized. In fact, it looks a lot like what you’d see in an Ikea catalog—which is impressive, because the space is exceptionally small and stark.

Sff writer David Levine did a cycle with the MDRS in 2010 and File 770 ran several posts based on his updates, including “Levine Reaches Mars”.

(7) MORE BLOWBACK. “Two Nobel literature prize committee members quit” – BBC tells how the membership continues to churn.

Two external members of the Nobel literature prize committee have quit after criticising the Swedish Academy.

Gun-Britt Sundstrom said the choice of Peter Handke as this year’s winner had been interpreted as if literature stood above politics and she did not agree.

The choice of Handke was criticised because of his vocal support for the Serbs during the 1990s Yugoslav war.

Kristoffer Leandoer said he’d left due to Academy reforms taking too long following a sexual assault scandal.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 2, 1979 Star Trek comics premiered in syndicated form in the U.S. From 1979 to 1983, the Los Angeles Times Mirror Syndicate produced a daily and Sunday comic strip based upon this series. Larry Niven was among the many writers who did scripts for it. IDW has reprinted them in two volumes, The Newspaper Comics, Volume 1 and The Newspaper Comics, Volume 2.
  • December 2, 2005 Aeon Flux premiered.  Produced by Gale Hurd, it stars Charlize Theron in the title role. It’s based on the animated Aeon Flux series of the same name created by Peter Chung. It bombed at the box office, was poorly received by critics, and currently has a 9% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • December 2, 2017 – First pizza party in space took place on the International Space Station.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 2, 1913 Jerry Sohl. Scriptwriter and genre writer who did work for The Twilight Zone (ghostwriting for Charles Beaumont who was seriously ill at the time), Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Outer Limits and Star Trek. One of his three Trek scripts was the superb “Corbomite Maneuver” episode. (Died 2002.)
  • Born December 2, 1914 Ray Walston. Best known of course for playing the lead in My Favorite Martian from 1963 to 1966, alongside co-star Bill Bixby. His later genre appearances would include The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, Six Million Dollar Man, Galaxy of Terror, Amazing Stories,  Popeye, Friday the 13th: The Series and Addams Family Reunion.   He would appear in The Incredible Hulk (in which David Banner was played by Bill Bixby) as Jasper the Magician in an episode called “My Favorite Magician”. (Died 2001.)
  • Born December 2, 1937 Brian Lumley, 81. Horror writer who came to distinction in the Seventies writing in the Cthulhu Mythos and  by creating his own character Titus Crow. In the Eighties, he created the Necroscope series, which first centered on Speaker to the Dead Harry Keogh. He has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association, and a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
  • Born December 2, 1946 Josepha Sherman. Writer and folklorist who was a Compton Crook Award winner for The Shining Falcon, which was based on the Russian fairy tale “The Feather of Finist the Falcon”. She was a prolific writer both on her own and in collaboration authors such as Mecedes Lackey (A Cast of Corbies), and Laura Anne Gilman (two Buffyverse novels).  I knew her personally as a folklorist first and she was without peer writing such works as Rachel the Clever: And Other Jewish Folktales and Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood that she wrote with T K F Weisskopf.  Neat lady who died far too soon. Let me leave you with an essay she wrote on Winter for Green Man twenty years ago. (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 2, 1946 David Macaulay, 73. British-born American illustrator and writer. Genre adjacent I’d say. Creator of such cool works as Cathedral, The New Way Things Work which has he updated for the computer technology age, and his latest, Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World.
  • Born December 2, 1952 OR Melling, 67. One of her favorite authors is Alan Garner whose The Owl Service is a frequent read of hers she tells me. As for novels by her that I’d recommend, the Chronicles of Faerie series is quite excellent. For more adult fare, her People of the Great Journey is quite good.
  • Born December 2, 1968 Lucy Liu, 51. She was Joan Watson on Elementary in its impressive seven-year run. Her other genre role, and it’s been long running, has been voicing Tinkermist in the Disney Fairies animated franchise. I kid you not. She’s had a few genre one-offs on The X-Files, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and the Rise: Blood Hunter film, but not much overall.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio tells Santa what he wants.
  • At Existential Comics, leading philosophers brawl over the implications of “I am no man!”

The original intentions or ideas of the author aren’t necessarily more valid than those of any other interpreter.

Gasp!

(11) WRITER’S WRATH. “HG Wells builds time machine so he can punch whoever was responsible for that adaptation of War of the Worlds”NewsThump has the story,

Popular Edwardian novelist and inventor of the concept of Time Travel Herbert George Wells has appeared in central London this morning, intending to punch whoever made the BBC adaptation of War of the Worlds squarely on the nose.

Wells, who believed the chances of anyone making a boring adaptation of his masterpiece were a million to one, said ‘but still, it’s done’.

“There was a great disturbance in the… oh, I’m sure you’ll come up with a word for it”, said Wells. “As if millions of my fans voices cried out ‘what the heck’.”

(12) AS OTHERS SEE US. Liberty Island’s Tamara Willhite uncovers a rich vein of fantasy in “An Interview with Author Louis Antonelli”.

Tamara Wilhite: What are you currently working on?

Louis Antonelli: Well, kind of following up the previous question, since the Sad Puppies in 2015 there’s been a pretty ironclad blacklist in the major science fiction magazine and publishers against anyone who isn’t an intolerant doctrinaire left-wing asshole. Nobody denies it anymore, because such assertions only gets the horse laugh.

The only major book publisher that judges authors impartially is Baen; Analog is the one major magazine that seems to pick stories based on merit and not the author’s politics and lifestyle….

(13) POACHING SCIENCE. “Dinosaurs: Restoring Mongolia’s fossil heritage”.

Eighty million years ago, during the Cretaceous Period, Mongolia’s Gobi Desert was a dinosaur’s paradise of vast valleys, freshwater lakes and a humid climate.

Mammal-eating velociraptors, lizard-hipped sauropods and spike-armoured ankylosaurs could have been spotted roaming in what are now the Martian red sandstone spires of Bayanzag’s Flaming Cliffs.

These prehistorically favourable conditions make the Gobi Desert the largest dinosaur fossil reservoir in the world.

Over almost 100 years of palaeontological research in the Gobi, more than 80 genera have been found. But for many people living there, this scientific heritage remains unknown.

“Putting a fence up is not protection; protection is people’s knowledge,” Mongolian palaeontologist Bolortsetseg Minjin explains as we wind through the Flaming Cliffs in search of signs of fossil poaching.

(14) CAN’T DANCE TO IT. “Amazon’s AI musical keyboard ‘sounds terrible'”.

Amazon has unveiled a musical keyboard with a built-in artificial intelligence (AI) composer.

The AWS DeepComposer is a two-octave, 32-key keyboard that can connect to computers via a USB cable.

Users can play a short tune, or use a pre-recorded one, ask the keyboard to embellish it in one of four styles – jazz, classical, rock or pop – and then publish it on Soundcloud.

But one expert said the audio demo provided by Amazon was “terrible”.

(15) INCREDIBLE JOURNEY. BBC follows“India tiger on ‘longest walk ever’ for mate and prey”.

A tiger has undertaken the longest walk ever recorded in India, travelling some 1,300km (807 miles) in five months.

Experts believe the two-and-a-half-year-old male is possibly in search of prey, territory or a mate.

The tiger, which is fitted with a radio collar, left its home in a wildlife sanctuary in the western state of Maharashtra in June.

It was then tracked travelling back and forth over farms, water and highways, and into a neighbouring state.

So far, the tiger has come into conflict with humans only once, when it “accidentally injured” one person who was part of a group that entered a thicket under which it was resting.

(16) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter watched tonight’s Jeopardy! with wrapped attention….

Category: Literary Works of the 1920s.

Answer: “Jane Webb Loudon wrote the 1st novel about one of these creatures, including the line, ‘Weak, feeble worm! Exclaimed Cheops.'”

Wrong question: “What is a Sphinx?”

Correct question: “What is a Mummy?”

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Mushroom Hunters” on YouTube is a poem by Neil Gaiman read by Amanda Palmer, with music by Jherek Bischoff.

[Thanks to Camestros Felapton (Felapton Towers, Bortsworth, Bortsworthshire), John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Olav Rokne, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day StephenfromOttawa.]

Pixel Scroll 11/28/19 I Cannot Tell A Lie, Officer Opie, I Put That Envelope At The Bottom of The Death Star Trash Compactor

(1) TOP 30. Yesterday Ellen Datlow did a cover reveal for Edited By:

(2) OWL AIR BNB. Real Simple is excited — “You Can Stay in Harry Potter’s Childhood Home on Airbnb—and We’re Heading for the Floo Network Right Now”.

Other than the Hogwarts acceptance letter we’ve been stubbornly awaiting for the past 20-something years, this is the best possible news a grown-up Harry Potter fan could hope for. The cottage where Harry Potter was born is now available to rent on Airbnb.

De Vere House appeared in the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows as the home where Lily and James Potter raised baby Harry, until (obvious spoiler alert) Lord Voldemort killed Harry’s parents and left him with the badass scar (which Prince William also has). After the attack, he was forced to live in a closet under the stairs at the Dursleys’ house.

The village of Lavenham in Suffolk, in which De Vere House is located, also appeared in the movie as the fictional town of Godric’s Hollow.

(3) FORTRESS UNHIDDEN. The Guardian reports that the inevitable adaptation will be performed November 28: “Japanese theatre to stage kabuki version of Star Wars”.

The classical Japanese theatre, which combines highly stylised movement and unusual vocalisation, will swap samurai swords for lightsabers and replace feudal warriors with the forces of light and darkness.

Star Wars Kabuki-Rennosuke and the Three Light Sabers, which are being staged in Tokyo, will combine plots from each of the franchise’s latest trilogy, substituting plots drawn from the days of feudal clan rivalry with drama from a galaxy far, far away.

Ichikawa Ebizo XI, Japan’s pre-eminent kabuki actor, will take to the stage as Kylo Ren, the conflicted son of Han Solo and Princess Leia, in front of 50 winners of an online lottery.

A livestream will be accessible on YouTube:

(4) LIVE, FROM 1964! Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus will be all over the Southern California map in December.

  • Loscon, Los Angeles, Dec. 1, 1:00 PM

Crest of a New Wave“, discussing 1964 in science fact and fiction

Talking about “What Science Fiction got wrong…and right!

The First Moon Race“, talking about the troubles and ultimate triumph of Project Ranger.

Once more, talking about the Women Pioneers of Space Science at another great dark sky site.

(5) DRAFT OF EMPIRE. “See an original Star Wars script and more at ‘Fahrenheit 451’ author’s IUPUI center” — the IndyStar tells the unexpected reason why Ray Bradbury had a copy.

The second movie in the original trilogy is the one Bradbury almost co-wrote. 

In the early 1940s, the writer studied with Leigh Brackett, a pioneer for women and the melodramatic space opera in science fiction. That gave way to a collaboration with “Lorelei of the Red Mist,” a novella about a powerful, siren-like woman who controls the strong, barbarian body that a convict has recently been transplanted in.

Brackett went on to become a screenwriter and was a co-writer with Larry Kasdan on the “Empire” script. But she was in failing health, so the producer asked Bradbury whether he was familiar enough with her work to finish it if she couldn’t.

“Ray Bradbury said, ‘Yes, I do. But I want her to have credit,’ ” center director Jon Eller said.

As it turned out, Brackett completed her draft before she died in 1978, so Bradbury never had to work on it.

But the script — a fourth revision that doesn’t even contain Darth Vader’s big reveal to Luke because that detail was so secretive — remains part of Bradbury’s collection

(6) IN THE MOMENT. Barbara Ashford tells five ways to “Make Your Big Moments Sing!” on the Odyssey Writing Workshop blog.

3) Use your own experiences to help you create emotional resonance on the page.

This is another acting technique that can help you get closer to a character. If you’re writing a scene of grief, go back to a moment where you lost someone or when you first learned of this person’s passing. Write down as many specific details as you can recall.

* Your physiological responses (e.g., shaking, goose bumps, pulse racing, face/skin flushing);

* Your physical responses (e.g., recoiling, fleeing, turning your face away);

* Your emotional reactions (which could be conveyed via action, dialogue or inner monologue);

* The small details that intruded on the moment, like the laughter of children playing a game or the scent of your mother’s gardenia bush outside her bedroom window. Choose details that will show readers what the POV character is feeling. Does the laughter make the character angry because it reminds her of her loss? Or comfort her because she realizes life goes on?

(7) DEVELOPMENT HEAVEN AND HELL. Tor.com’s own Stubby the Rocket has compiled a vast list of “(Almost) Every Sci-Fi/Fantasy TV or Movie Adaptation in the Works Right Now”. For example —

Adapted from: The Eternals by Jack Kirby / Eternals by Neil Gaiman (writer) and John Romita (artist)
Originally published:
1976, Marvel Comics / 2006, Marvel Comics
Optioned for: Film (Marvel Studios)
What it’s about: The Eternals are a race of humans created through experimentation by the alien Celestials, intended to be defenders of Earth against the unstable Deviants (also experiments). Plot details for the film are unclear, but there is some suggestion it may follow the Gaiman miniseries.
Status: Chloe Zhao (The Rider) will direct a cast including Angelina Jolie, Kumail Nanjiani, Richard Madden, Salma Hayek, Lia McHugh, Lauren Ridloff, Brian Tyree Henry, Don Lee, Barry Keoghan, Gemma Chan and Kit Harington.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 28, 1987 — Next Generation’s “Haven” aired in which Deanna Troi’s mother Lwaxana Troi was performed by Majel Barrett. She would go on to have a role in every Trek series produced up to her death. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 28, 1911 Carmen D’Antonio. In the Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe Thirties reel, she was Ming’s Dancing Girl, she’ll show up in the soon to be released Arabian Nights as a harem girl. And her last genre performance was in The Twilight Zone. (Died 1986.)
  • Born November 28, 1946 Joe Dante, 73. Warning, this is a personal list of Dante’s works that I’ve really, really enjoyed starting off with The Howling then adding in Innnerspace, both of the Gremlins films though I think only the first is a masterpiece, Small Soldiers and The Hole. For television work, the only one I can say I recall and was impressed by was his Legends of Tomorrow “Night of the Hawk” episode.  That’s his work as Director. As Producer, I see he’s responsible for The Phantom proving everyone has a horrible day. 
  • Born November 28, 1952 S. Epatha Merkerson, 67. Both of her major SF roles involve Robos. The first was in Terminator 2: Judgment Day as Tarissa Dyson; a year later, she had a recurring role as Capt. Margaret Claghorn in Mann & Machine. And she had a recurring role as Reba on Pee-wee’s Playhouse which I can’t remember if the consensus here was that it was genre or genre adjacent.
  • Born November 28, 1962 Mark Hodder, 57. Best known for his Burton & Swinburne Alternate Victorian steampunk novels starting off with The Strange Affair of Spring-Heeled Jack that deservedly garnered a Philip K. Dick Award. He also wrote A Red Sun Also Rises which recreates sort of Victorian London on a far distant alien world. Emphasis on sort of. And then there’s Consulting Detective Macalister Fogg which appears to be his riff off of Sherlock Holmes only decidedly weirder.
  • Born November 28, 1981 Louise Bourgoin, 38. Her main SFF film is as the title character in The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec, directed by Luc Besson. Anybody know if it got released in a subtitled English version? She also played Audrey in Black Heaven (L’Autre monde), and she’s the voice heard in the Angélique’s Day for Night animation short.
  • Born November 28, 1984 Mary Elizabeth Winstead, 35. She was in the 2011 version of The Thing. She was in Sky High which is a lot of fun followed by a series of horror films such as the cheerful holiday charmer Black Christmas that earned her a rep as a Scream Queen. And she’s Huntress (Helena Bertinelli) in the forthcoming Birds of Prey film.
  • Born November 28, 1987 Karen Gillan, 32. Amy Pond, companion to the Eleventh Doctor. Nebula in the Guardians of The Galaxy and in later MCU films, Ruby Roundhouse in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Two episodes of Who she was in did win Hugos, “The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang” and “The Doctor’s Wife”. 
  • Born November 28, 1988 Scarlett Pomers, 31. The young Naomi Wildman on Voyager, a role she played an amazing seventeen times. Retired from acting, one of her last roles was in A Ring of Endless Light which at least genre adjacent as it’s written by Madeleine L’Engle. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

Grant Snider (Incidental Comics) did this for a magazine with stories and comics for kids.

(11) THAT’S COZY, NOT CRAZY. Sarah A. Hoyt continues her Mad Genius Club series about writing cozy mysteries with “Meet Interesting Strangers”. Tons of advice here about the need for colorful supporting characters.

REMEMBER — this is important — eccentricities in fiction must be larger than in real life to be perceived as such.  In real life Stephanie Plum and half the cozy heroines, including my own Dyce Dare would be locked up in the madhouse. (So would half the characters in sitcoms) BUT on paper there is a tendency to see things as less extreme than in real life. So exaggerate all the interesting bits, or your character will come across as very very boring.

(12) VAST MACHINERY. “How a cake company pioneered the first office computer” – a BBC video takes you back.

In the early 1950s the British catering firm J Lyons & Co, pioneered the world’s first automated office system.

It was called LEO – Lyons Electronic Office – and was used in stock-taking, food ordering and payrolls for the company.

Soon it was being hired out to UK government ministries and other British businesses.

Mary Coombs worked on the first LEO computer and was the first woman to become a commercial computer programmer.

(13) IS YOUR FAVORITE THERE? Entertainment Weekly brings you “The droids of the Star Wars universe, ranked”. The one I went looking for isn’t ranked – could be those Roomba-style things that dodge underfoot don’t have enough IQ to qualify as droids.

In honor of the upcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which will introduce a tiny wheeled green droid named D-O, EW has put together an extremely serious and extremely scientific ranking of the best droids in the galaxy. From tiny cameos to starring roles, these are the finest and most memorable droids depicted on the big screen. (A note: We’re limiting this list to the Star Wars films, so our apologies to Chopper from Star Wars Rebels and IG-11 from The Mandalorian.)

(14) WATCH YOUR WALLET. Over the summer, SYFY Wire ranked “The 12 biggest genre box office bombs of all time”.

The movies are ranked by their estimated loss (per BoxOfficeMojo). Where that is given as a range, SYFY Wire has generously used the lower end of the range as the ranking criterion.

Aaaaaand the winner among losers is Mortal Engines, with an estimated loss of $175 million.

(15) SECURITY BREACH. Whose side is Poe on, really? “Star Wars: How did John Boyega’s script end up on eBay?”

It’s one of the most hotly anticipated films of the year, shrouded in secrecy. Yet that didn’t stop the script for the new Star Wars sequel ending up on eBay.

And it was all because Britain’s John Boyega left it under his bed.

Speaking on US TV, Boyega said his Rise of Skywalker script had been found by a cleaner and that it was subsequently offered for sale online “for £65”.

“So the person didn’t know the true value,” he continued, admitting the situation had been “scary”.

“Even Mickey Mouse called me up [saying] ‘what did you do?'” the actor joked – a reference to the Walt Disney Company which now owns the Star Wars franchise.

(16) TIKTOK ACCOUNT RESTORED. BBC reports “TikTok apologises and reinstates banned US teen”.

Chinese-owned social network TikTok has apologised to a US teenager who was blocked from the service after she posted a viral clip criticising China’s treatment of the Uighur Muslims.

The firm said it had now lifted the ban, maintaining it was due to 17-year-old Feroza Aziz’s prior conduct on the app – and unrelated to Chinese politics.

Additionally, the firm said “human moderation error” was to blame for the video being taken down on Thursday for almost an hour.

TIkTok, owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, has insisted it does not apply Chinese moderation principles to its product outside of mainland China.

Ms Aziz posted on Twitter that she did not accept the firm’s explanation.

“Do I believe they took it away because of a unrelated satirical video that was deleted on a previous deleted account of mine? Right after I finished posting a three-part video about the Uighurs? No.”

(17) DOG YEARS. “Siberia: 18,000-year-old frozen ‘dog’ stumps scientists” – BBC has the story.

Researchers are trying to determine whether an 18,000-year-old puppy found in Siberia is a dog or a wolf.

The canine – which was two months old when it died – has been remarkably preserved in the permafrost of the Russian region, with its fur, nose and teeth all intact.

DNA sequencing has been unable to determine the species.

Scientists say that could mean the specimen represents an evolutionary link between wolves and modern dogs.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Let’s revisit this 2015 video of a Sasquan GoH showing his musical range.

NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren plays Amazing Grace on the bagpipes from the International Space Station.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/24/19 And It Glows So You Can Read It In The Dark

(1) SCIENCE THROUGH ANOTHER EYE. Jenny Uglow, in “Beauty in Ingenuity: The Art of Science”, leads readers through “The Art of Innovation: From Enlightenment to Dark Matter” exhibit on view at London’s Science Museum through January 26, 2020.

… Across the room, the quest for new materials continues, with a wafting terylene dress from 1941, and a screening of the exuberant 1951 Ealing comedy The Man in the White Suit, with Alec Guinness as the naïve inventor of an indestructible textile fleeing from angry industrialists and workers, saved only when his magic material disintegrates around him. There’s a lot of fun, as well as science, in this show—and some joyous artistic accidents, like David Hockney’s encounter with a polaroid camera, which he used for the dazzling grid of Sun on the Pool, Los Angeles (1982). “Drawing with a camera,” he called it.

In the next section, “Human Machines,” the note of fear enters fully with the trauma of mechanized carnage in World War I. A case holds pioneering artificial limbs from the 1920s, and in Otto Dix’s Card Players (1920), three disfigured soldiers sit round a table, their torn limbs and missing jaws replaced by fantastical prosthetics. The destructive technology of warfare and the constructive skill of limb-makers have turned Dix’s men into monsters. Have they, perhaps, become machines themselves?…

(2) KGB. Ellen Datlow has posted photos from the November 20 Fantastic Fiction at KGB event where David Mack and Max Gladstone read from their novels, entertaining a full house.

Ellen David Mack and Max Gladstone 2

(3) TOOLBOX 2020. Applications for Taos Toolbox will be taken beginning December 1. The two-week Master Class in Science Fiction and Fantasy will be taught by Walter Jon Williams and Nancy Kress, with special guest George R.R. Martin and special lecturer E.M. Tippetts. The class runs June 7-20, 2020.

The Terran Award full attending Scholarship is available again this year, sponsored by George R.R. Martin, to bring an aspiring SF writer from a non-English-speaking country to the Taos Toolbox. The award covers all tuition and fees  to the Toolbox (but not meals or travel).  Applicants will need to speak and write in English, but must be from from a country where English is not the primary language.   WJW and the Toolbox staff will select the winner.

(4) SHELF SHRINKAGE. Brenda Clough tells how she downsized in “Curating the Bookshelves” at Book View Café.

Seven years ago, my house had 20 floor-to-ceiling bookcases, and about the same number of half-sized bookcases — about 5000 books, excluding the comics. The house was essentially full of books and comic books. Today I have ten tall bookcases, and a couple short ones. What follows is the road map from here to there — halving the number of books in my life. I have been hearing of many friends having to smallify their space, and maybe this will help!…

(5) ROAR OF THE GREASEPAINT. It’s The Joker vs Pennywise in the latest round of Epic Rap Battles Of History.

The Joker and Pennywise clown around in the eighth battle of ERB Season 6! Who won? Who’s next? You decide!

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 24, 1958 Devil Girl From Mars premiered in Swedish theaters.  It starred Patricia Laffan and Hazel Court, reviewers called this UK film delightfully bad. It however is considered just bad at Rotten Tomatoes with a 23% rating.
  • November 24, 1985 Ewoks: The Battle for Endor premieredon ABC. Starring Wilford Brimley, Warwick Davis, Aubree Miller, Paul Gleason and Carel Struycken, the critics found it mostly harmless.  It holds a 51% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 24, 1882 E. R. Eddison. Writer whose most well-known work by far is The Worm Ouroboros. It’s slightly connected to his much lesser known later Zimiamvian Trilogy.  I’m reasonably that sure I’ve read The Worm Ouroboros but way too long ago to remember anything about it. Silverberg in the Millenium Fantasy Masterworks Series edition of this novel said he considered it to be “the greatest high fantasy of them all”. (Died 1945.)
  • Born November 24, 1907 Evangeline Walton. Her best-known work, the Mabinogion tetralogy, was written during the late 1930s and early 1940s, and her Theseus trilogy was produced during the late 1940s. It’s worth stressing Walton is best known for her four novels retelling the Welsh Mabinogi. She published her first volume in 1936 under the publisher’s title of The Virgin and the Swine which is inarguably a terrible title. Although receiving glowing praise from John Cowper Powys, the book sold quite awfully and none of the other novels in the series were published at that time. Granted a second chance by Ballantine’s Adult Fantasy series in 1970, it was reissued with a much better title of The Island of the Mighty. The other three volumes followed quickly. Witch House is an occult horror story set in New England and She Walks in Darkness which came out on Tachyon Press is genre as well. I think that is the extent of her genre work but I’d be delighted to be corrected. She has won a number of Awards including the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature, Best Novel along with The Fritz Leiber Fantasy Award,  World Fantasy Award, Convention Award and the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 1996.)
  • Born November 24, 1916 Forrest J. Ackerman. It’s no wonder that he got a a Hugo forfor  #1 Fan Personality in 1953 and equally telling that when he was handed the trophy at Philcon II (by Asimov), he physically declined saying it should go to Ken Slater to whom the trophy was later given by the con committee. That’s a nice summation of him. You want more? As a literary agent, he represented some two hundred writers, and he served as agent of record for many long-lost authors, thereby allowing their work to be reprinted. Hell. he represented Ed Wood! He was a prolific writer, more than fifty stories to his credit, and he named Vampirella and wrote the origin story for her. Speaking of things pulp which she assuredly is, He appeared in several hundred films which I’ll not list here and even wrote lesbian erotica. Eclectic doesn’t begin to describe him. His non-fiction writings are wonderful as well. I’ll just single out Forrest J Ackerman’s Worlds of Science FictionA Reference Guide to American Science Fiction Films and a work he did with Brad Linaweaver, Worlds of Tomorrow: The Amazing Universe of Science Fiction Art. Did I mention he collected everything? Well he did. Just one location of his collection contained some three hundred thousand books, film, SF material objects and writings. The other was eighteen rooms in extent. Damn if anyone needed their own TARDIS, it was him. In his later years, he was a board member of the Seattle Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame who now have possession of many items of his collection. (Died 2008.)
  • Born November 24, 1948 Spider Robinson, 71. His first story, “The Guy with the Eyes,” was published in Analog (February 1973). It was set in a bar called Callahan’s Place, a setting for much of his later fiction.  His first published novel, Telempath in 1976 was an expansion of his Hugo award-winning novella “By Any Other Name”. The Stardance trilogywas co-written with his wife  Jeanne Robinson. In 2004, he began working on a seven-page 1955 novel outline by the late Heinlein to expand it into a novel. The resulting novel would be called Variable Star. Who’s read it? Oh, he’s certainly won Awards. More than can be comfortably listed here. 
  • Born November 24, 1957 Denise Crosby, 62. Tasha Yar on Next Gen who got a meaningful death in “Yesterday’s Enterprise”. In other genre work, she was on The X-Files as a doctor who examined Agent Scully’s baby. And I really like it that she was in two Pink Panther films, Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther, as Denise, Bruno’s Moll. And she’s yet another Trek performer who’s done what I call Trek video fanfic. She’s Dr. Jenna Yar in “Blood and Fire: Part 2”, an episode of the only season of Star Trek: New Voyages.
  • Born November 24, 1957 John Zakour, 62. For sheer pulp pleasure, I wholeheartedly recommend his Zachary Nixon Johnson PI series which he co-wrote with Larry Ganem. Popcorn reading at its very best. It’s the only series of his I’ve read, anyone else read his other books? 
  • Born November 24, 1957 Jeff Noon, 62. Novelist and playwright. Prior to his relocation in 2000 to Brighton, his stories reflected in some way his native though not birth city of Manchester. The Vurt sequence is a very odd riff off Alice in Wonderland that Noon describes as a sequel to those works.
  • Born November 24, 1965 Shirley Henderson, 54. She was Moaning Myrtle in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. She was Ursula Blake in “ Love & Monsters!”, a Tenth Doctor story, and played Susannah in Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, a film that’s if because of the metanarrative aspect. 

(8) GAHAN WILSON IN HIS PRIME. Andrew Porter shared three photos of cartoonist Gahan Wilson from the Eighties and Nineties.

  • Color photo of Gahan Wilson in 1992. Photo by & copyright © Andrew Porter.
  • Wilson enjoying his tea in 1989.Photo by & copyright © Andrew Porter
  • Gahan Wilson with Ellen Datlow, center, and agent Merilee Heifetz, 1980s – Photo by & copyright © Andrew Porter.

(9) IDEA TRIPPING. And John Hertz would like to direct you to his favorite cartoon by Gahan Wilson (1930-2019).

If you’re hip to fanziner jokes – maybe I should’ve said hep, many of them started in the 1940s and 1950s – and the Cosmic Joker just now led me to mistype started with a instead of the second – you know we send poctsarcds.  If you don’t, you can look it up here.  Or it’s a good occasion to consult A Wealth of Fable (H. Warner, Jr., rev. 1992; see here).

Once in my fanzine Vanamonde I sleepily let stand the mistyping – or mis-mistyping – “poctsacrd”.  Jack Speer promptly sent a letter of comment “Nothing is sacrd.”

(10) WISHLIST DESTINATIONS. Paul Weimer got a huge response to his tweet – here are two examples.

(11) DOUBLE FEATURE. Abigail Nussbaum starts in the Guardian — “The Rosewater Redemption by Tade Thompson review – stunning conclusion” – and finishes in a post at her blog Asking the Wrong Questions.

Since I have more space (and fewer limitations on things like spoilers) on my own blog, I’d like to elaborate a little on the review, and particularly the sense I got that the Wormwood trilogy changed as it expanded from a standalone to a series.  When I first read Rosewater (and even more so when I reread it last month, in preparation for writing this review) I was struck by how clearly it belonged to the subgenre of “zone” science fiction.  Originating with the Strugatsky brothers’ 1972 novel Roadside Picnic (and the 1979 Tarkovsky film, Stalker, inspired by it), “zone” novels imagine that some segment of normal space has erupted into strangeness, a zone where the normal rules of physics, biology, and causality no longer apply, and whose residents–or anyone who wanders in–are irretrievably altered in some fundamental way.  The zone also represents a disruption to existing power structures, and the plots of zone novels often revolve around characters who have been dispatched by the state to infiltrate the zone in an attempt to control or at least understand it–an effort that is doomed to failure.  Recent examples of zone novels include Jeff VanderMeer’s Area X trilogy and M. John Harrison’s Kefahuchi Tract trilogy (and particularly the middle volume, Nova Swing).  I’ve even seen a persuasive argument that the HBO miniseries Chernobyl can be read as zone science fiction, because of its unreal, heightened depiction of the region around the exploded reactor, and because the effects that the unseen radiation it spews have on people, animals, and plant life in the surrounding areas track so closely with the subgenre’s central trope of cellular-level change.

(12) CRYSTAL CLEAR. Nussbaum also dives deep beneath the ice in “Make the Next Wrong Choice – Some Spoilery Frozen II Thoughts” on Tumblr.

I saw Frozen II last night.  It’s an OK movie – I didn’t love the first one very much, but I do appreciate the attempt to expand the story into a broader fantasy epic (even if it seems to borrow shamelessly from Avatar: The Last Airbender with barely even a fraction of that show’s skill at constructing plot and themes).  But I’ve been thinking about the film’s handling of the theme of ancestral wrongs and making reparations for them, and the more I do the angrier I get, so here are some spoilery observations.

(13) NO THANKS. I was wrong – better for CNN to run more impeachment coverage than this news: “Pringles unveils turducken-flavored chips for an even crispier Thanksgiving feast”.

Pringles has unveiled a seasonal food-flavored chip feast, and it’s poised to replace the whole Thanksgiving spread.

Two words: Turducken. Pringles.

No, no, it isn’t a chicken chip stuffed inside of a duck chip crammed inside of a turkey chip. There are three individual flavors, so it’s up to the snacker to determine the order.

(14) ORIGIN STORY. “Copy of First Marvel Comic Ever Made Sells for a Record $1.26M: ‘This Is the Granddaddy'”Yahoo! Entertainment has the story.

An extremely rare and nearly perfect copy of the first comic book to feature the now-iconic “Marvel Comics” name was sold for a record amount at a Texas auction on Thursday.

The issue, Marvel Comics No. 1 — published in October 1939 by Timely Comics, which would later become Marvel in the 1960s — sold for $1.26 million, the highest price ever at public auction for a comic made by the company, according to a Heritage Auctions press release.

The comic was given a 9.4 rating out of 10 by Certified Guaranty Company, and is the highest-rated copy of the issue in existence.

(15) THE ENEMY OF MY ENEMY. BBC reports “Bacterial allies make dengue fever cases dive”.

Recruiting a bacterial ally that infects mosquitoes has led to huge reductions in cases of dengue fever, trials around the world show.

Wolbachia bacteria make it harder for the insects to spread the virus, rather than kill them off.

Researchers say the findings are a “big deal” with cases falling by more than 70% in field trials.

New ways of controlling dengue are urgently needed as cases have exploded worldwide in the past 50 years.

See also NPR’s “Infecting Mosquitoes With Bacteria Could Have A Big Payoff”.

(16) RAINBOW CONNECTION. “Cinema Classics: The Wizard of Oz” on Saturday Night Live provides an alternate ending to the 1938 film.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/11/19 The Wendig from a Burning Pixel

(1) ANOTHER TESTIMONY ABOUT HARASSMENT AT CZP. Kelsi Morris, who rose from intern to managing editor of ChiZine Publications – all unpaid – shared a painful account of the chronic sexual harassment she endured from its owners and authors on Facebook. (Much more at the link.)

…I think we can all agree there is a clear pattern of financial mismanagement and ill treatment of authors. What has only just started to be touched on is the deeply rooted culture of bullying, emotional abuse, sexual harassment, and the silencing of victims. And this is why I think it’s important I finally say something.

I started with ChiZine in 2012, when I was 22 years old and less than a week out of publishing school…

…I did move up quickly. I started as an intern (unpaid, of course), then became the head of marketing & publicity (also unpaid), then at 23 years old, became the managing editor for the biggest indie speculative fiction publisher in Canada (still unpaid). And more than that, I had somewhere I *belonged*.

…I was considered cool enough to hang, which meant I got to go to the exclusive parties, all the cons and events (at my own expense, of course), was invited to the casual pool nights, and fancy family dinners. I loved being included, and I was still young enough to be starstruck around so many amazing authors I admired.

Being cool, and eventually becoming friends with the “inner circle”, also meant that everyone talked freely around me. I heard the cruel ways they talked about their friends who weren’t around. I heard them plan out ways of breaking up couples. I attended family dinners where folks brought short stories written by their peers to read dramatically aloud and laugh. I heard the boundless misogyny, the mockery of women who spoke out about harassment at cons & the snowflakes who found comfort in content warnings, and the resentment they held towards their authors who had the audacity to expect to be paid. I sat, and listened, and internalized the implicit threat of what could happen to me.

And so I continued to just sit, and listen, with an uncomfortable smile pasted on my face, when I was hit on by male authors more than 15 years my senior. I smiled when hanging out with the inner circle and they made jokes about my body. I grimaced when one of the authors caressed my ass in full view of all my colleagues in the crowded con suite, but didn’t move away. I dressed accordingly at events when Sandra told me the only thing that mattered was “tits and teeth”. I nervously laughed along with everyone else when I was the only woman in a room full of men, and one of them started making rape jokes about me. …

…There are so many people who were complicit in, or at the very least enabled, what has accurately been described as the cult-like culture of bullying, abuse, harassment, and silencing. This will continue to be a problem long after ChiZine is gone, if it’s not something we start talking about now….

(2) FIREBELL IN THE NIGHT. Silvia Moreno-Garcia has quit the professional organization SF Canada over its lack of support for the ChiZine authors who have voiced grievances. The thread here.

(3) AMAZON MAKES ITS INVENTORY PROBLEM EVERYBODY’S PROBLEM. Publisher Weekly reports “Amazon Reducing Orders to Publishers”. Just in time for Christmas.

In order to deal with congestion issues at its warehouses,Amazon has been cutting book orders to publishers over the last several weeks. It isn’t clear how widespread the reduction in orders is, but several independent publishers contacted by PW reported cuts in their weekly orders since late October. One publisher reported that an order placed last week was about 75% lower than an order placed last year at this time. “It’s a nightmare,” the head of one independent publisher said.

…The head of yet another company said if Amazon orders don’t rise to what has been typical ordering patterns in past years within two weeks, “we [could] lose the entire holiday season.” He added that if problems with Amazon persist and orders continue to be low, it is possible that some online book sales could move to BN.com and other retailers such as Walmart, which has invested heavily in its online operations. If Amazon starts running out of stock, he added, “maybe they’ll lose some market share to their competitors.”

(4) SEEN AT WFC 2019. Ellen Datlow has shared photos she took at World Fantasy Con and afterward on Flickr.

(5) WRITING ABOUT A DIFFERENT RACE. In “Who Gave You The Right To Tell That Story?” on Vulture, novelists discuss how they wrote about characters who were a different race than they are.  Among the writers who contribute short essays are N.K. Jemisin, Victor LaValle, and Ben H. Winters.

Scouring Tumblr

N. K. Jemisin, The Broken Earth Trilogy

I’ve learned to not fear obviousness when I’m describing race or topics related to oppression. With an American audience, you have to be as in your face about it as possible because our society encourages delicate euphemism. I’d rather be accused of being obvious than allow people to get away with thinking all of my characters are white people. The truth is, when you walk into a room and you see a bunch of strangers, the first thing you notice is their appearance, their race and gender. When I first describe a character, I sometimes hang a lampshade on race. My narrator will immediately think: ‘She might be Latino, oh maybe not, she might be Indian.’ I render that mental process.

You’re not going to be perfect. In The Broken Kingdoms, my protagonist was a blind woman, and she had a superpower associated with her blindness. As I now know, disability as a superpower is a trope. I didn’t read enough literature featuring blind people to really understand it’s a thing that gets done over and over again. Ehiru, a character from The Killing Moon, is asexual, and I don’t think I explored that well. If I were writing it now, I would have made him more clearly ace. I figured this out by reading Tumblr. I am on Tumblr quietly — I have a pseudonym, and nobody knows who I am. Because lots of young people hang out there and talk about identity and the way our society works, it’s basically a media-criticism lab. It’s an interesting place to talk about identity, and I did not understand until I saw these conversations that asexuality was an identity. I thought about it as a broken sexuality. My story reflected my lack of understanding of how that worked.

(6) NEUKOM SEEKS SFF AWARD ENTRIES. The Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth College is now “Accepting Submissions for 2020 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards”.

The Neukom Awards, now in its third year, offers prizes in three categories of speculative fiction. Each category will receive an honorarium of $5,000 at a Dartmouth-sponsored event related to speculative fiction.

The speculative fiction awards are offered for playwriting, established author and first-time author.

The deadline for all submissions is December 31, 2019. The awards will be announced in the spring of 2020.

(7) TOP DOLLAR. “Joker: How it became the most profitable comic book film ever” – let BBC tell you.

Joker has become the most profitable comic book movie of all time, having made more than $950 million (£738m) at the worldwide box office.

It tells the story of how Arthur Fleck (played by Joaquin Phoenix) becomes the Joker, Batman’s nemesis and one of the most infamous comic book villains ever.

Joker has now made more than 15 times what it cost to make, reports Forbes.

Director Todd Phillips made the movie on a budget of $62.5m (£49m), a fraction of the budget of many comic book adaptations.

Avengers: Endgame, the highest grossing movie of all time, has earned close to $2.8 billion (£2.2bn) but had a budget of $356 million (£276m).

Endgame has made more at the box office overall, but Joker has made more in relation to what was spent to make it.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 11, 1951 Flight to Mars premiered. It was produced by Walter Mirisch for Monogram Pictures, and directed by Lesley Selander. It starred Marguerite Chapman, Cameron Mitchell and Arthur Franz. Most of the interiors are from the Rocketship X-M shooting. It currently has a 21% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 11, 1917 Mack Reynolds. He’d make Birthday Honors just for his first novel, The Case of the Little Green Men, published in 1951, which as you likely know is a murder mystery set at a Con.  He gets Serious Geek Credits for writing the first original authorized classic Trek novel Mission to Horatius.  And I’ve seriously enjoyed his short fiction. Wildside Press has seriously big volumes of his fiction up at Apple Books and Kindle for very cheap prices. (Died 1983.)
  • Born November 11, 1922 Kurt Vonnegut Jr. The Sirens of Titan was his first SF novel followed by Cat’s Cradle which after turning down his original thesis in 1947, the University of Chicago awarded him his master’s degree in anthropology in 1971 for this novel. Next was Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death which is one weird book and an even stranger film. It was nominated for best novel Nebula and Hugo Awards but lost both to Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. I’m fairly sure Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday is his last genre novel there’s a lot of short fiction where something of a genre nature might have occurred. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 11, 1925 ?Jonathan Winters. He’s in a number of genre series and films including Twilight Zone, Wild Wild West, Mork & Mindy where he was Mearth, the animated Smurfs series and The Animaniacs.  And that’s a very selective list. (Died 2013.)
  • Born November 11, 1926 Donald Franson. Longtime fan who lived most of his life in LA. Was active in the N3F and LASFS including serving as the secretary for years and was a member of Neffer Amateur Press Alliance.  Author of A Key to the Terminology of Science-Fiction Fandom. Also wrote A History of the Hugo, Nebula, and International Fantasy Awards, Listing Nominees & Winners, 1951-1970 and An Author Index to Astounding/Analog: Part II—Vol. 36, #1, September, 1945 to Vol. 73 #3, May, 1964, the first with Howard DeVore. (Died 2003.)
  • Born November 11, 1960 Stanley Tucci, 59. He was Puck in that film version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. However, his first role was asDr. John Wiseman in Monkey Shines. (Shudder.) he shows as in forgettable The Core, and was amazing as Stanley Kubrick in The Life and Death of Peter Seller. And I’m fond of his voicing Boldo in The Tale of Despereaux.
  • Born November 11, 1962 Demi Moore, 57. Ghost, of course, getting her Birthday Honors. And yes, I did see it. Sniff. But she got her genre creds with her second film Parasite which is good as she didn’t do much after that of a genre nature.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Grimmy shows why it can be disillusioning – but funny – to meet your heroes.
  • Bizarro fractures a fairy tale.

(11) DISNEY DROPS SONG FROM REMAKE. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “The Controversial Scene That’s Not In The Live-Action of The Lady and the Tramp says that in The Lady and the Tramp remake, streaming on Disney+ on November 12, Disney decided to keep the scene where the Lady and the Tramp bond over a plate of spaghetti but decided to cut “The Siamese Cat Song” because it reflects a  “50s-era Orientalism” considered out of place today.

Interestingly, Disney+ subscribers will have the chance to watch both the the 2019 version of Lady and the Tramp and the 1955 version on the studio’s new streaming service, allowing families to compare and contrast the two films, and discuss moments like “The Siamese Cat Song.”

(12) YOUNG PEOPLE WEIGH IN. James Davis Nicoll connects the Young People Read Old SFF panel with Judith Merril’s “Wish Upon A Star”.

Judith Merril was a founding member of the Futurians, an editor, founder of what is now the Merril library and of course a science fiction writer. 

“Wish Upon a Star” is a generation ship story. By their nature, the need for a stable society able to keep a small community functioning for decades in total isolation, generation ships are forced to make some striking adaptations. In most cases, those adaptations included mutiny, cultural amnesia, barbarism and eventual extinction. 

Merril’s characters made very different choices. Let’s see what the Young People made of them.

(13) AN EARLIER STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND. Jeff Kingston’s “Exhuming Lafcadio Hearn” at the LA Review of Books surveys the Japanese Tales of Lafcadio Hearn, edited by Andrei Codrescu, the author’s Japanese Ghost Stories, and Monique Truong’s “mesmerizing” novel The Sweetest Fruits.

In 1890, Hearn moved to Japan, where he was to spend the last 14 years of his life, initially teaching English in remote Matsue, in Shimane Prefecture, and subsequently at Waseda University and the University of Tokyo. He also had stints in journalism and became an influential and popular interpreter for a Western audience of what was regarded at the time as an inscrutable culture and society. He is now best remembered for his traditional Japanese stories about supernatural monsters, spirits, and demons. Hearn died from heart failure at age 54, yet he was a prolific writer, despite poor health in his final years. His insights into turn-of-the-century Japan attest to his powers of observation and interpretation. Glimpses of an Unfamiliar Japan (1894) is a classic, conveying his rapturous appreciation for all things Japanese, especially traditions, customs, and ways of living unsullied by foreign accretions.

(14) ONE TRUE WAY. The Cut discovered this is a controversial question: “What Is the Correct Way to Eat a Cinnamon Roll?” What do you say?

Madeleine Aggeler, writer: No, you unroll and tear it apart with your fingers.

Izzy Grinspan, deputy style editor: There’s no wrong way to eat a cinnamon roll.

Rachel: Incorrect, Mrs. Switzerland, only one can survive.

(15) PRESS THE BUTTON, MAX. “The switch that saved a Moon mission from disaster”.

Just a few months after the triumph of Apollo 11, Nasa sent another mission to the lunar surface. But it came chillingly close to disaster.

In November 1969, just four months after men first set foot on the Moon, Nasa was ready to do it again. Basking in the success of Apollo 11, the agency decided that Apollo 12’s mission to the Ocean of Storms would be even more ambitious.

Unlike Neil Armstrong, who had been forced to overshoot his planned landing site because it was strewn with boulders, Apollo 12 Commander Pete Conrad was aiming for a precision touchdown, within moonwalking distance of an unmanned Surveyor probe. Conrad and landing module pilot, Al Bean, would then spend longer on the surface – with two excursions planned – while beaming back the first colour television from the Moon.

On 14 November, Conrad, Bean and Command Module Pilot Dick Gordon settled into their couches at the top of the 111-metre-high Saturn 5 rocket at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Meanwhile, in mission control Houston, flight director Gerry Griffin took his seat behind his console – his first time leading a mission.

At the launchpad, the ground was wet from storms that recently passed through the area and the sky is overcast. But with the rocket and crew ready to go, and US President Richard Nixon watching (for the first time) from the VIP stands, all systems were green for launch.

At 11.22, the giant white rocket slowly lifted off the pad and accelerated into the clouds.

“This baby’s really going,” shouts Conrad to his crewmates as the launcher cleared the tower and Houston takes over control. “It’s a lovely lift-off.”

Then, 36 seconds into the flight, Conrad sees a flash. All the fuel cells supplying power to the capsule fell offline and the entire alarm panel lit up….

(16) RAISING THE SUB STANDARD. The Brooklyn Paper tells how it happened: “A rough knight: Medieval fighter slashed in subway”.

Some wacko slashed a modern-day knight in the face aboard an L train in Williamsburg on Nov. 8, after the chivalrous straphanger prevented him from assaulting another man.

The victim — who dons plate armor to engage in armed duals as part of the Society for Creative Anachronisms and New York City Armored Combat League — sustained a seven-inch gash amid the attack, and said Medieval warfare has nothing on the city’s transit system. 

“My sport involves swords and axes, but the only thing I’ve gotten from that is a torn ACL and a couple broken bones, and here I finally get a scar,” said Zorikh Lequidre…. 

(17) BACK OFF. “Bird of the Year: Rare anti-social penguin wins New Zealand poll” – BBC has the story.

An endangered yellow-eyed penguin has won New Zealand’s coveted Bird of the Year competition after two weeks of intense campaigning.

The hoiho saw off more than five rivals to become the first penguin to win the annual honour in its 14-year history.

(18) RUH ROH! SCOOB! is a Scooby-Doo remake which Warner Bros. will release in the summer of 2020.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/20/19 Recommended To All To Whom This Sounds Like A Recommendation

(1) NOW IT’S AN APOCALYPSE. The row started by Martin Scorsese’s remarks isn’t likely to subside anytime soon now that Francis Ford Coppola has been even more extreme in his supporting comments: “Coppola backs Scorsese in row over Marvel films”.

Francis Ford Coppola jumped into a controversy over the Marvel superhero movies Saturday, not just backing fellow director Martin Scorsese’s critique of the films but denouncing them as “despicable”…

“When Martin Scorsese says that the Marvel pictures are not cinema, he’s right because we expect to learn something from cinema, we expect to gain something, some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration.

“I don’t know that anyone gets anything out of seeing the same movie over and over again,” the 80-year-old filmmaker said.

“Martin was kind when he said it’s not cinema. He didn’t say it’s despicable, which I just say it is.”

(2) CINEMA AND THE MCU. David Gerrold challenges those two notable filmmakers’ opinion:

I disagree with Scorsese. I disagree with Coppola. They are wrong to dismiss the Marvel Cinematic Universe as “not cinema.”

The final battle in Avengers Endgame was a masterpiece of cinema, ranking with the final battle in Seven Samurai.

Why do I say this?

Because we got to see people we had fallen in love with rise to the most courageous moments of their lives — and when that whole group of women warriors showed up, that was one of the most emotional moments I’ve ever seen in a movie. I cheered.

See, the thing about movies — yes, they’re art. There is true artistry in The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. Goodfellas is riveting, so is Casino.

But … I did not cheer any moment in any of those pictures. Was I emotionally involved? Yes. When the door closes on Kate’s realization that Michael has lied to her, that’s a powerful cinematic moment that resonates forever.

But do I come out of Scorsese and Coppola’s movies feeling cheered? No. Enlightened? Maybe a little. But never cheered.

And I think that’s part of their resistance to the Marvel films. A Marvel film is a good time. You experience a challenge, a triumph, a few laughs, and you end up feeling emotionally gratified, even exhilarated…

(3) KGB. Ellen Datlow has posted her pictures of the reading: “Fantastic fiction at KGB October 16 photos”.

A nice crowd showed up to hear Barbara Krasnoff and Nicole Kornher-Stace read from their new novels, despite a lot of rain.

Nicole Kornher-Stace and Barbara Krasnoff

(4) UNWONTED PERFECTION. You don’t remember typing that word? You thought you wrote another one? In fact, you’re sure of it? Granola Rolla, a Facebook friend, takes that sort of thing in stride:

Autocorrect is a poet, effortlessly, without pretense, never feeling like it should explain itself. I envy the confidence with which it edits poetry into my day. Also, I have disreputable gloves on my shopping list. I doubt they’ll be as useful for the housework as the disposable gloves I’d thought I wanted, but such a fun thing to ponder.

(5) IT’S TAKING A KIP. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The Phone Call Isn’t Dead, It’s Evolving”.

Talking was the most popular way to communicate via cellphone in the fall of 2012, with 94% of survey respondents having done so in the prior week, according to consumer-research firm MRI-Simmons. By the spring of 2019, talking had fallen to least popular, behind texting, emailing, posting to social media and using chat apps, with just 45% reporting doing it in the prior week. In other words, less than half had used their phone for an actual phone call.

Multiple people I interviewed said when the phone rings unexpectedly, they assume someone has died….

(6) CUT TO THE CHASE. Carlye Wisel, in “Disney Finally Released Details on Rise of the Resistance — and It’s Going to Be the Best Star Wars Ride Yet” in Travel and Leisure, says that Disney’s new Star Wars ride, which will open on December 5 at Disney World, will last 15 minutes, includes trackless technology, and promises to have humor in the grim battle between the Resistance and the First Order. (Article warns where the spoilers begin.)

With multiple ride systems — four to be exact — that guests will experience while traveling on this intergalactic journey, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance will be one of the longest Disney rides in existence, as guests find themselves being chased by Kylo Ren for 15 minutes.

The latest Star Wars ride will also function like all your favorite Disney attractions combined into one, channeling The Haunted Mansion, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and famed overseas attractions like Mystic Manor for a thematic experience likely to exceed expectations, even for those who have already tried out other Star Wars rides. Paired with its special effects, projections, and blaster gunfire, Rise of the Resistance is shaping up to be a cinematic attraction so over the top, you won’t even be able to imagine what will come next.

(7) ESCAPING OBSCURITY. Slashfilm says tickets are available: “‘Roundtable’ Live Read: Brian K. Vaughan’s Unproduced Script to Be Read Aloud in Hollywood”. The show is November 2.

In the summer of 2008, Eisner and Harvey Award-winning comic writer Brian K. Vaughan (Lost, Y: The Last Man) sold a high-concept screenplay to DreamWorks called Roundtable. The movie never went into production, the script sat on a shelf collecting dust, and Vaughan went on to become the showrunner of the CBS TV series Under the Dome and continue his career in comics by writing things like the sci-fi/fantasy epic Saga. But now, eleven years later, Vaughan’s Roundtable script will finally see the light of day.

Sort of.

The Black List, the organization that publishes an annual list of the best unproduced screenplays in the industry, is sponsoring a live reading of the script for one night only in Los Angeles, and this sounds like a cool opportunity to experience a story that may otherwise languish in obscurity forever. Read on for the synopsis of Roundtable, and to find out how to get tickets to the show.

(8) CAN’T GET OUT. CBS Sunday Morning devoted a segment today to “Playing an escape room” (video).

Correspondents David Pogue, Martha Teichner and Nancy Giles, along with “Sunday Morning” intern Cory Peeler, face a difficult challenge: Find their way out of a room before a bomb goes off! It’s just one of many examples of the big business in escape rooms – immersive adventures in which people must solve puzzles in order to extricate themselves. Air Date: Oct 20, 2019

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 20, 1965 Village Of The Giants premiered.  It starred Tommy Kirk and Beau Bridges, and is very loosely based on Wells’s book The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth. It scores 20% at Rotten Tomatoes.
  • October 20, 1987 The Hidden premiered. Starring Kyle McLachlan with Claudia Christian in an interesting cameo as well, reviewers (76%) and audience.(72%) alike loved it at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 20, 1882 Bela Lugosi. He’s best remembered for portraying Count Dracula in the 1931 film franchise Drácula. Now tell me what’s your favorite film character that he played? (Died 1956.)
  • Born October 20, 1905 Frederic Dannay. Creator and writer, along with Manfred Bennington Lee, of Ellery Queen. Now I wasn’t going to say was he was genre but ESF does say he was because such genre authors such as Sturgeon penned Queen novels such as The Player on the Other Side. (Died 1982.)
  • Born October 20, 1916 Anton Diffring. A long career with many genre roles which I’ll note but a few of here. He was Fabian in Fahrenheit 451, Graf Udo Von Felseck of Purbridge Manor in The Masks of Deaths (a rather well-crafted Holmes film) and he played De Flores, a neo-Nazi in “Silver Nemesis”, a most excellent Seventh Doctor story. (Died 1989.)
  • Born October 20, 1934 Michael Dunn. He’s best known for his recurring role on the Wild Wild West as Dr. Miguelito Loveless, attempting to defeat our heroes over and over, but he has had another appearances in genre television. He would be Alexander, a court jester, in the Trek “Plato’s Stepchildren” episode and a killer clown in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea “The Wax Men” episode. (Died 1973.)
  • Born October 20, 1943 Peter Weston. He made uncountable contributions  in fan writing and editing, conrunning and in local clubs. He was nominated for a number of Hugo Awards but never won, including one nomination for his autobiography, Stars in My Eyes: My Adventures in British Fandom. Beginning in 1984 and for many years after, those Awards were cast by the car-parts factory which Weston owned and managed until he retired. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 20, 1935 Leg Mailer, 85. He showed up in Trek twice first playing Bilar in “The Return of the Archons” and then being an Ekosian SS lieutenant in the “Patterns of Force” episode. And he Imperial Guard Number One in The Star Wars Holiday Special.  He had one-offs on The Greatest American Hero and the original Mission:Impossible, and he did voice work for An American Tail: Fievel Goes West. Note: until 1970, he used his birth name of Ralph Medina. 
  • Born October 20, 1937 Emma Tennant. To the Manor born and a lifelong supporter of Labour, ISFDB lists nine of her novels as being as SFF. As the Literary Encyclopedia  says “Her work is feminist, magical and wicked, and uses the fantastic and the Gothic to interpret and explore everyday women’s roles.“ I’ve not read her, so do tell me about her pleased if you’ve read her! (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 20, 1941 Anneke Wills, 78. In 1966, she took the role of Polly, a companion to both the First and Second Doctors. She was herself in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. She was also in Doctor Who: Devious, a fan film in development since 1991. You can see the first part here. 
  • Born October 20, 1946 Thomas Wylde, 73. He’s here because he’s got two stories in the Alien Speedway franchise, Roger Zelazny’s Alien Speedway #2: Pitfall and Roger Zelazny’s Alien Speedway #3: The Web. I’ve never heard of these. Anyone read them?  He’s also got two stories in L. Sprague de Camp’s Doctor Bones series as well. 
  • Born October 20, 1958 Lynn Flewelling, 61. The lead characters of her Nightrunner series are both bisexual, and she has stated this is so was because of “the near-absence of LGBT characters in the genre and marginalization of existing ones.” (Strange Horizon, September 2001) The Tamír Triad series is her companion series to this affair

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) UP ALL NIGHT. In the Washington Post Magazine, Mikaela Lefrak profiles Andrew Aydin, whose day job is working for Rep. John Lewis and whose night-time job was helping Rep. Lewis write the Eisner Award-winning March. “He’s a Hill staffer for Rep. John Lewis by day — and an award-winning graphic novelist by night”.

…While they were writing “March,” they would spend hours on the phone combing through Lewis’s memories of sit-ins at whites-only lunch counters and the Bloody Sunday attacks during the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery march. Occasionally they’d even fall asleep while still on the phone. “It reminded me of when sometimes Martin Luther King Jr. would call me late at night and he would fall asleep, and then I would fall asleep,” Lewis told me. “We’d talk and talk.”

Both men drew inspiration for the project from the 1957 “Montgomery Story” comic book that Lewis read as a teen. (It sold for 10 cents a copy.) They also looked to successful graphic memoirs like Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home” and Art Spiegelman’s “Maus.”

(13) WATCHMEN. The New York Times James Poniewozik says Lindelof’s TV adaptation delivers “a mystifying world you want to spend time in.” — “Review: ‘Watchmen’ Is an Audacious Rorschach Test”.

Damon Lindelof’s entertaining comic-book rethink takes on the Big Bad of white supremacy, explosively and sometimes unsteadily.

Many a superhero origin story involves exposure to a volatile substance — something dangerous, radioactive, caustic — that can be powerful if mastered, ruinous if uncontrolled.

In HBO’s “Watchmen,” beginning Sunday, that fissile storytelling material is history: specifically, America’s legacy of white supremacy. The first episode begins with the 1921 riot in Tulsa, Okla., in which white mobs rampaged in the prosperous “Black Wall Street,” massacring African-Americans in the street and strafing them from above with airplanes. A small boy’s parents pack him onto a car that’s fleeing the mayhem, like Kal-El being sent from Krypton. But there is no Superman flying to the rescue.

With that opening, Damon Lindelof (“Lost,” “The Leftovers”) reframes the universe that the writer Alan Moore and the artist Dave Gibbons created in the 1980s comics series. Where Moore wrote an alternative history of Cold War America — a pre-apocalyptic dystopia in which masked vigilantes have been outlawed — Lindelof reaches back and forward in time to root his caped-crusaders story in a brutal American tragedy.

The choice invests this breathtaking spectacle with urgency. “Watchmen” is a first-class entertainment out of the box, immediately creating a sad and wondrous retro-futuristic world. It takes longer, though, to get a handle on the complicated and all-too-real material it uses as its nuclear fuel….

(14) TOPIC OF CONVERSATION. Also in the Washington Post Magazine, in the Date Lab column, Neil Drumming explained what happened when the Post arranged for Piotr Gregowski and Claire Wilhelm to go on a blind date. “Date Lab: He worried that he sounded a little too excited about a fantasy novel”.

Things picked up when Claire mentioned that she’d been reading The Name of the Wind. a fantasy novel from The Kingfisher Chronicles series by Patrick Rothfuss.  Piotr is, as he puts it, ‘a huge fantasy nerd.’ ‘He was very excited to talk about that,’ said Claire.  He taught her how to pronounce the name of the novel’s main character, Kvothe.  (It’s Ka-Voth-ee.)  Piotr loosened up considerably on the topic of fantasy fiction. ‘Probably too much for a first date,’ he told me.  He needn’t have been concerned; a self-proclaimed fantasy nerd herself, Claire described him as ‘just the right amount of nerd.’  ‘We had a lot in common,’ she said.

However…

“Claire told me she didn’t feel much of an attraction, either, but ‘I would maybe have gone out with him if he had asked.’  In the end, she  considers the date a success because ‘I got to talk about books I like.’

But they didn’t go out again.

(15) AFTER A DNA TEST. Severance recommends, “If you want to comfort someone who’s had a DNA surprise, avoid making these 10 comments.”

Until recently, most people likely haven’t encountered someone who’s been knocked off balance by a DNA test result, so it’s understandable they might not appreciate the magnitude of the impact. But it’s just a matter of time. Mind-blowing DNA revelations are becoming so common that some DNA testing companies have trained their customer service staff representatives to respond empathetically. While those employees may know the right thing to say, here in the real world the people around us often haven’t got a clue how it feels — like a punch to the gut.

If you’ve become untethered from your genetic family, you might get a second surprise: some of your friends and loved ones may be remarkably unsympathetic, often infuriatingly judgmental, and sometimes even hostile. It’s clear that although DNA surprises have become ubiquitous, social attitudes haven’t kept pace, and a stigma remains….

3. Blood doesn’t make family.

This tries to mollify us and discount our feelings at the same time. Blood is exactly what makes family, consanguinity being the first definition of kinship. Certainly there are also families of affinity, but the familial love we feel for them doesn’t alter the fact that our blood relatives exist and they matter to us.

(16) SOCIABLE SLIME. “‘The Blob,’ A Smart Yet Brainless Organism Fit For Sci-Fi, Gets Its Own Exhibit”NPR has the story.

A brainless, bright-yellow organism that can solve mazes and heal itself is making its debut at a Paris zoo this weekend.

At least so far, “the blob” is more benevolent than the ravenous star of its 1950s sci-fi film classic namesake.

Time-lapsed videos of the blob show a slimy organism rapidly multiplying in size. How fast exactly? The blob can sprint about four centimeters per hour, according to the Paris Zoological Park

The blob is neither animal, nor plant. And although Physarum polycephalum — Latin for “many-headed slime” — is classified as a type of slime mold, scientists now consider the creature unrelated to fungi.

…The slime mold, which lacks a nervous system, is capable of advanced decision-making, learning and long-term memory storage, according to Audrey Dussutour, who studies unicellular organisms with the French National Center for Scientific Research.

“It can find its way through a maze, it can construct efficient transport networks, sometimes better than us, actually,” Dussutour said in an interview with NPR’s Weekend Edition.

(17) THE LONG HAUL. “Qantas completes test of longest non-stop passenger flight” — note change in approach to jet lag.

Australian carrier Qantas has completed a test of the longest non-stop commercial passenger flight as part of research on how the journey could affect pilots, crew and passengers.

The Boeing 787-9 with 49 people on board took 19 hours and 16 minutes to fly from New York to Sydney, a 16,200-km (10,066-mile) route.

Next month, the company plans to test a non-stop flight from London to Sydney.

Qantas expects to decide on whether to start the routes by the end of 2019.

If it goes ahead with them, the services would start operating in 2022 or 2023.

…Passengers set their watches to Sydney time after boarding and were kept awake until night fell in eastern Australia to reduce their jetlag.

Six hours later, they were served a high-carbohydrate meal and the lights were dimmed to encourage them to sleep.

On-board tests included monitoring pilot brain waves, melatonin levels and alertness as well as exercise classes for passengers and analysis of the impact of crossing so many time zones on people’s bodies.

(18) USEFUL SJWC? BBC has video of “Mr London Meow: The therapy cat visiting hospitals”. Much better company than The Blob.

Mr London Meow is a therapy cat who goes into some of London’s hospitals to offer therapeutic care to patients.

At the Royal London in Whitechapel he is loved not just by the patients, but by the staff as well.

(19) ANOTHER POTTERVERSE INSIGHT NOBODY ASKED FOR. Don’t read this Clickhole post if you’re sensitive to insults against Italians. “Big Step Backward: J.K. Rowling Has Revealed That Dementors Are The Wizarding World’s Version Of Italians”.

Buckle up, Harry Potter fans, because J.K. Rowling’s latest bombshell about the series definitely isn’t doing anything for inclusivity: The bestselling author has revealed that Dementors are the wizarding world’s version of Italians.

(20) FOR YOUR VIEWING TERROR. Vogue nominates “The 40 Best Spooky Movies to Watch for Halloween”. Three of them are —

Halloweentown

A Disney Channel original movie from the era before they were all about tweens becoming pop stars. (Stream it on Hulu and Amazon.)

Sabrina the Teenage Witch

If you’ve been into the sexy new Sabrina show, revisit the quirky original. You won’t be disappointed. (Stream it on Amazon.)

Practical Magic

You’ll want to become a witch after watching this ’90s cinematic staple. Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman star as witchy sisters navigating love, death, and magic. (Stream it on Amazon.)

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Olav Rokne, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller with an assist from Anna NImmhaus.]

Two’s Crowds at the KGB Bar

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Wednesday, October 16th, as a nor’easter raged outside, the monthly Fantastic Fiction Readings Series hosted authors Barbara Krasnoff and Nicole Kornher-Stace at its longtime venue, the most sincerely Red Room of the second-floor (or third – there’s a major schism – but, either way, it’s a steep climb up stairs) KGB Bar in Manhattan’s East Village. (The Room seemed darker than usual.)

The event opened with Series co-host Matthew Kressel welcoming the crowd (who’d come out in the storm) and the standard exhortation to thank the Bar by buying drinks, hard or soft (readings are always free, and our patronage keeps it so) (somewhat smaller, likely due to the holidays) and reported on upcoming readings. The next months’ readers are:

November 20
David Mack
Glassner

December 18
Paul Tremblay
Nathan Ballingrud

January 15, 2020
Cassandra Khaw
Richard Kadrey

February 19
James Patrick Kelly
P. Djeli Clark

(Details are available at here.)  All dates are the third Wednesday of the month.

He concluded by introducing the first reader of the evening. Nicole Kornher-Stace is the author of the Norton Award finalist Archivist Wasp and its sequel, Latchkey. Her next novel, Firebreak, is due out from Saga in 2020, and it was from it that she read. Firebreak, she relayed, has been described as “if Saga Press and Black Mirror had a baby.” Set in the future, in an oppressive company town – notably, they’ve locked up the water supply – Mallory Parker leads a protest (the revolution is being broadcast online), and security, behind disruptor shields, is brutally disbanding the crowd. (Though, of course, not intended, it was hard not to think of what’s happening in Hong Kong.) When there is a rainfall, protestors grab red plastic cups to catch it, deemed illegally “poaching water.” Her offering was well-received, though Kornher-Stace did read a bit too fast.

After an intermission, the Series’ senior co-host, Ellen Datlow, introduced the evening’s second reader. Barbara Krasnoff is the author of over 35 short stories, including “Sabbath Wine,” which was a finalist for the Nebula Award, and recently published a mosaic novel (connected stories) titled The History of Soul 2065, a generational saga of two Jewish girls’ descendants, spanning from the eve of World War I to the second half of the 21st century, including “Sabbath Wine.” (She’s also responsible for a series of wryly captioned photos delving into the inner situations of street objects and urban wildlife that can be found under the hashtag #TheirBackstories.)

Her reading was of a story from The History of Soul 2065, “Stoop Ladies.” Set in 1983, in Brooklyn (of course), Julie Jacobson (not strictly speaking on either girl’s family tree), newly laid off from her office job (a PR representative) after 17 years, sighs and decides to join the crowd (a very different one from Firebreak) of mostly elderly women who congregate evenings in the yard outside her brownstone to schmooze and gossip, and with whom she occasionally sits. (My mother called the bunch who set up beach chairs outside our apartment house “Rogues Gallery,” with people passing by on the sidewalk or entering the building running the gauntlet of their scrutiny, though we dubbed them “Yenta Center.” Julie’s neighbors are more ethnically diverse.) Sharing her woes, she finds Chablis and sympathy, and perhaps a little magic. The story was quirky – like the ladies – and enchanting.

Prior to the reading, as usual, Datlow whirled through the audience, taking photos. (It looks like she’s also using a cameraphone these days.) Her photos of the event may be seen on her Flickr page.

Pixel Scroll 10/8/19 Clop, Clop, Clop Went The Pixel. Zing, Zing, Zing Went The Scroll

(1) ROBOTECH. Titan Comics launches its new Robotech comics on October 16.

A new Robotech saga starts now with Robotech: Remix, a gripping series that will take beloved characters and iconic mecha to places fans have never seen before! Featuring new writer Brenden Fletcher (Motorcrush, Isola) and anime ace Elmer Damaso (Robotech/Voltron).

(2) HOUR OF THE WOLF. Has Jim Freund’s legendary radio program clocked out for the last time? Andrew Liptak explains the crisis in “Science Fiction Talk Show ‘Hour of the Wolf’ Goes Offline Amidst Studio Dispute” at Tor.com.

Jim Freund’s radio talk show Hour of the Wolf has been a fixture within the New York science fiction community on WBAI 99.5 FM for nearly half a century. On Monday, the station’s parent company, Pacifica Across America, abruptly shut down the station and replaced its local programming with shows from its other holdings, citing “financial losses,” according to Gothamist and The New York Times. The move leaves the future of the long-running program in question.

…The turmoil is a blow to the show, which began in 1971, and has been continually hosted by Freund since 1974. “Hour of the Wolf” was an early-morning talk show that aired between 5AM and 7AM, Freund explained, telling Tor.com that the live, call-in show was a way for the general public to learn about the science fiction and fantasy community….

Here’s the New York Times article: “Layoffs and Canceled Shows at WBAI-FM, a New York Radio Original”. A left-leaning station can’t stay afloat in New York? Amazing.

…In an interview, Mr. Vernile said WBAI — which, like the network’s other stations, is listener supported — had fallen short of its fund-raising goals in recent years. He added that the station was unable to make payroll and other expenses, forcing the larger Pacifica Foundation network to bail it out.

“Listeners in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston and Washington, D.C., have been supporting the efforts in New York,” Mr. Vernile said. “It has gotten to a point where we can no longer do that.”

Liptak’s post also includes the information reflected by this update from The Indypendent:

N.Y. State Supreme Court Justice Frank Nervo has granted an injunction against the Pacifica Foundation’s attempt to close WBAI. Regular programming should resume today. Both parties are currently due to appear before Justice Nervo on Friday, Oct. 18. Just after 10:30 p.m. on Monday, the following statement was issued by Berthold Reimers, WBAI General Manager, to all producers and staff at the station:

WBAI managed to get an injunction to stay the takeover of the station. This means the station is legally back in the hands of WBAI’s personnel. All programs are back on and there is much to be done and we have no time to waste. The producers of WBAI have organized a meeting tomorrow night [Tuesday, Oct. 8] at 6:30 PM at 325 Hudson Street near Van Dam.

(3) NOBEL PRIZE. The LA Times has the story: “Nobel Prize in physics goes to three scientists for their work in understanding the cosmos “.

A Canadian American cosmologist and two Swiss scientists won this year’s Nobel Prize in physics on Tuesday for their work in understanding how the universe has evolved from the Big Bang and the blockbuster discovery of the first known planet outside our solar system.

Canadian-born James Peebles, 84, of Princeton University, was credited for “theoretical discoveries in physical cosmology” and Switzerland’s Michel Mayor, 77, and Didier Queloz, 53, both from the University of Geneva, were honored for discovering “an exoplanet orbiting a solar-type star,” said Prof. Goran Hansson, secretary general of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

Peebles, hailed as one of the most influential cosmologists of his time, will collect half of the $918,000 cash award, and the Swiss men will share the other half.

The Nobel committee said Peebles’ theoretical framework about the cosmos — and its billions of galaxies and galaxy clusters — amounted to “the foundation of our modern understanding of the universe’s history, from the Big Bang to the present day.”

The BBC adds this quote from one of the winners:

Reacting to the news, Prof Queloz told BBC News: “It’s unbelievable,” adding: “Since the discovery [of the first extrasolar planet] 25 years ago, everyone kept telling me: ‘It’s a Nobel Prize discovery’. And I say: ‘Oh yeah, yeah, maybe, whatever.'”

But in the intervening years, he more-or-less “forgot” about the discovery: “I don’t even think about it,” he said. “So frankly, yes, it came as a surprise to me. I understand the impact of the discovery, but there’s such great physics being done in the world, I thought, it’s not for us, we will never have it.

(4) DEFYING DOOMSDAY. The winners of the 2018 D Franklin Defying Doomsday Award were announced October 6. This award is for media that deserves recognition for work in disability advocacy in SFF literature.

  • R.B. Lemberg for “Sergeant Bothari and Disability Representation in the Early Vorkosiverse,” in Strange Horizons
  • Ace Ratcliff for “Staircases In Space: Why Are Places In Science Fiction Not Wheelchair-Accessible?” in io9.

The judges felt that R.B. Lemberg’s article was important because it noted how easy it is to veer away from criticising the representations that we do see throughout the Vorkosigan series because honestly, we’re just glad there’s something focusing on disability at all. But ignoring these issues means we risk having these continue, now and in the future. R.B acknowledges the importance and value of these books, but also encourages us to question them. In fact, the article encourages everyone to question books and the representations in them; this shouldn’t be something readers wish to avoid, simply because we have been desperate for visibility for so long.

(5) TOP HORROR. Rocket Stack Rank has posted itsannual “Outstanding SF/F Horror of 2018”, with 30 stories that were that were finalists for major SF/F awards, included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction.

Included are some observations obtained from highlighting specific recommenders and pivoting the table by publication, author, awards, year’s best anthologies, and reviewers.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 8, 1993 Demolition Man starring Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes premiered.  Two years ago, Stallone’s filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros. over the disbursement of profits from the film. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 66% score. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 8, 1920 Frank Herbert. I’ll confess that I enjoyed Dune and Dune Messiah that’s as far as I got in the series. The other Herbert novel I really liked was Under Pressure. (Died 1986.)
  • Born October 8, 1927 Dallas Mitchell. He played Lieutenant Tom Nellis on Star Trek in the “Charlie X” episode. He one-offs on The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Six Million Dollar Man, The Invaders, Voyage to The Bottom of the Sea and Mission: Impossible. (Died 2009.)
  • Born October 8, 1943 R.L.Stine, 75. He’s been called the “Stephen King of children’s literature” and is the author of hundreds of horror novels including works in the Goosebumps, Fear Street Mostly  Ghostly, and The Nightmare Room series. Library of Congress lists four hundred and twenty-three separate entries for him.
  • Born October 8, 1949 Sigourney Weaver, 70. I’m picking her greatest genre role as being the dual roles of Gwen DeMarco and  lieutenant Tawny Madison in Galaxy Quest. Chicon 2000 did give the film the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo after all and it is a loving homage to all that is good in the genre. 
  • Born October 8, 1949 Richard Hescox, 70. An illustrator who between the Seventies and early Nineties painted over one hundred and thirty covers for genre books,and is now working exclusively in the games industry and private commissions. His website is here. Here’s one of his covers. 
  • Born October 8, 1963 David Yates, 56. Director of Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows (both films), The Legend Of Tarzan, and Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them, and its sequel, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. So who’s seen the latter films? 
  • Born October 8, 1979 Kristanna Loken, 40. She’s best known for her roles in the films Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege TaleBloodRayne and the Painkiller Jane series.
  • Born October 8, 1993 Molly Quinn, 25. I first heard her voicing the dual role of Kara and Supergirl most excellently on Superman Unbound (John Noble voices Brainiac) and I see ventured in the MCU as well as Howard’s Date in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. She was also Jenny on the Avalon High film, and she’s contributing to the Welcome to Nightvale story podcast.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range shows how you can improve any tabletop game by adding Godzilla.
  • Frank and Ernest find that the Earth has a sense of wonder.
  • Bizarro shows how a candy bar got its name.

(9) WHAT GREAT EARS YOU HAVE. Kate Pacculia’s “A Gothic Education:  Or, How I Learned To Love The Dark” on CrimeReads is worth reading if only because of its description of “Bunnicula” which sounds like a classic kids’ book.  Most of the books she picks are supernatural.

The gateway text. The classic tale of a vegetable-draining vampire bunny adopted by the unwitting Monroe family and actively dealt with by their housepets, genial dog Harold and megalomaniacal cat Chester—the best feline in literature (fight me)—isn’t very scary, and isn’t trying to be. Harold’s first person narration is an outrageously clever and charming feat of point-of-view that generates real sympathy for the titular monster bun. This was something I absorbed rather than realized at the time: that the beats of a genre are made to be remixed.

(10) TAKING A READING. Paul Weimer hosts the Q&A feature “6 Books With K V Johansen” at Nerds of a Feather.

3. Is there a book you’re currently itching to re-read?

Re-reading is interesting. Sometimes it’s just a quiet impulse, or you pick up something because you’d like to enjoy that again or remind yourself of it in some way, but sometimes it’s an intense craving. When it’s the latter, it can be a need to escape into something familiar from some stress or worry or heavy weight on you, but often I find that the thing I felt such an urgent desire to re-read turns out to have something in it that resolves some quandary that I’ve been wrestling with in my current work — it’ll be something to do with the narrative approach, or how difficulties in a character are set up, or a way of touching the story, that reminds me of what I need to be doing or sparks off something that solves my problem, shines a bit of moonlight on the path I’ve been stumbling in the dark to find. It’s like some underlayer of my brain knows what’s missing or where I’ve gone wrong in the WiP but doesn’t have any words of its own, so it points me at something that will show it to me. I’ve had that experience with LeCarré and Bujold, though most often it will be Diana Wynne Jones or Cherryh. The thing I most recently had an intense desire to reread was McKillip’s Kingfisher, which I’ve read a couple of times, but this time I bought the audiobook because I felt like I needed to have it read to me. Aside from the sheer enjoyment of the work, which is one of her best, what I’m taking from it on this re-read is a reminder of her lightness of touch, something I’m trying to achieve in my current project.

(11) AO3. Archana Apte sets out reasons “Why This Fanfiction Site’s Prestigious Literary Honor Is a Win for LGBTQ Representation” at Newnownext. Tagline: “Archive of Our Own, a volunteer-run, queer-inclusive fanfiction repository, scored a Hugo Award earlier this year.”

When I was barely in fifth grade, I felt too nerdy, too disabled, too brown, and secretly too queer to be accepted by my white, homophobic town. I escaped this alienation by turning to books. But as much as I loved Harry Potter, The Lightning Thief, and the other novels I flicked through at my town library, I never saw myself in the protagonists, who were mostly white, heterosexual men.

I didn’t realize how deeply this affected me until I got an iPod Touch and stumbled upon fanfiction. Across the internet, fans of particular works were rewriting popular stories however they liked: coffeeshop romances between Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy, time travel re-do’s of Disney movies, what-if’s about the protagonist from Wicked having twins. I couldn’t be openly queer, but I could read about Luna Lovegood and Ginny Weasley falling in love.

I soon created accounts on fanfiction sites and talked to authors—many of whom were themselves queer—about the same-sex relationships they wrote about. I slowly accepted the parts of myself that made me feel alienated from my peers, and I carried that newfound self-acceptance throughout my high school years….

(12) RECORD ECLIPSED. “Saturn overtakes Jupiter as planet with most moons” – BBC has the count.

Saturn has overtaken Jupiter as the planet with the most moons, according to US researchers.

A team discovered a haul of 20 new moons orbiting the ringed planet, bringing its total to 82; Jupiter, by contrast, has 79 natural satellites.

The moons were discovered using the Subaru telescope on Maunakea, Hawaii.

(13) VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE BRINE. Yahoo! News tells how “NASA’s Curiosity rover found a weirdly salty ‘ancient oasis’ on Mars”.

“We went to Gale Crater because it preserves this unique record of a changing Mars,” William Rapin, of Caltech, the lead author of a study of their findings, published Monday in Nature Geoscience paper said in a statement.

(14) BEYOND POKEMON. “University of Northampton ‘virtual sculptures’ a UK first” – with photos — unfortunately no before/after comparisons.

A “virtual sculpture trail” at a university’s £330m campus is thought to be the first of its kind in the UK.

Visitors to the University of Northampton can use a mobile phone to view 3D sculptures created by students.

The six augmented reality pieces of art around the Waterside campus are visible through an app made by a media agency.

Iain Douglas, from the university, said: “This was a valuable opportunity to bring a real-life collaborative project to the students.”

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “James Bond Theme For Boomwhackers (Fall 2014)” was done at Harvard five years ago but it’s still fannish!

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

Pixel Scroll 9/27/19 Pixel, Pixel, In The Scroll, Who’s The Blogger That’s A Troll?

(1) CHANGES TO NY TIMES BESTSELLER LISTS. Publishers Weekly reports “‘NYT’ Shifts Its Lists Again”. Mass market paperbacks and graphic books will be tracked again, and middle grade paperback and YA paperback lists will debut.

The New York Times Book Review has announced a new slate of changes to its bestseller lists, both in print and online.

After cutting the mass market paperback and graphic novel/manga lists in 2017, the TimesBest Sellers team will again track mass market paperback sales, as well as debut a combined list for graphic books, which will include fiction, nonfiction, children’s, adults, and manga. Two new monthly children’s lists, middle grade paperback and young adult paperback, will debut as well. (The Times retired its middle grade e-book and young adult e-book lists in 2017.) In addition, the Times will cut its science and sports lists, explaining that “the titles on those lists are frequently represented on current nonfiction lists.” The changes are effective October 2 online and October 20 in print.

The Times has already cut back its print lists on the combined print/e-book and print hardcover lists to 10 titles, from 15, although the online lists will continue to show 15 titles. A representative of the paper said that the change “was made for design reasons, specifically to improve the readability of the lists in print.”

(2) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Barbara Krasnoff and Nicole Kornher-Stace on Wednesday, October 16.

Barbara Krasnoff

Barbara Krasnoff is the author of over 35 short stories, including “Sabbath Wine,” which was a finalist for the Nebula Award, and recently published a mosaic novel titled The History of Soul 2065. She’s also responsible for a series of captioned photos that can be found under the hashtag #TheirBackstories.

Nicole Kornher-Stace

Nicole Kornher-Stace is the author of the Norton Award finalist Archivist Wasp and its sequel, Latchkey. Her next novel, Firebreak, is due out from Saga in 2020. She can be found online at nicolekornherstace.com or on Twitter @wirewalking.

The event begins 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)
New York, NY.

(3) SUNDAY IN THE PARK. Last Sunday at the Brooklyn Book Festival, Andrew Porter took this photo of the Dell Magazines booth which was hosted by Asimov’s editor Sheila Williams and her daughter.

(4) NEW AWARD PROMOTES DIVERSE SFF. Gollancz and author Ben Aaronovitch are launching a writing prize championing under-represented voices in science fiction, fantasy and horror after stats showed less than 1% of the genres’ books come from British BAME authors. (BAME is used in the UK to refer to black, Asian and minority ethnic people.)

Submissions for the Gollancz and Rivers of London BAME SFF Award will be taken from October 1, 2019 until January 31, 2020 — 5,000 to 10,000 words consisting of either a self-contained short story or the opening of a novel that fits into the scifi, fantasy or horror genres

The prizes include:

  • £4,000 for the overall winner alongside a critique and year-long mentoring programme with Gollancz commissioning editor Rachel Winterbottom.
  • Second place: £2,000 and a critique of their work
  • Five runners-up will receive £800 and a Gollancz goodie bag.

Gollancz publisher Anne Clarke said:

The current lack of representation in science fiction and fantasy is no secret and it has to change. As modern speculative fiction publishers, we at Gollancz have a responsibility not just to say our doors are open, but to actively seek out and support writers whose backgrounds and experience have historically been – and still are – under-represented in our genre. I hope this award will encourage writers who have perhaps not always felt welcome in the world of science fiction and fantasy publishing and I’m looking forward to discovering exciting new writing talent within the submissions.

[Via Locus Online.]

(5) CINEMA’S SPINOFF STINKERS. ScreenRant offers these titles as “10 Of The Worst Spin-Off Movies Of All Time According To IMDB”.  Most are sff.

It’s Hollywood logic to try bleed more money from a stone. Whenever there’s a successful franchise, it’s natural for studios to stay safe and invest in more of the same product and produce as many sequels, prequels, TV shows, and reboots of the property. However, every so often, Tinseltown fails to catch lighting in a bottle a second time. Not every movie deserves 815 more iterations of the same story.

In the middle of the list is —

5. CATWOMAN

Long before DCEU fans bemoaned the current DC movies, they were (rightfully) bailing on another one. Somehow, DC was able to zap all of the fun and sultriness out of Selina Kyle for the long-gestating Catwoman movie, which starred Oscar winner Halle Berry, Sharon Stone, and Benjamin Bratt. All in all, not a bad trio. So what went wrong?

First, the entire origins of a cat burglar/vixen are heaved out the window and replaced with an Egyptian Cat Mythology. That mythology would have worked if it was a little more thought out and the movie itself wasn’t just an excuse to feature the gorgeous Berry in as little clothing as possible.

(6) STEAMFEST. Cora Buhlert shares lots of photos in her report “Steampunk in East Frisia: Steamfest Papenburg 2019”. (Before I read Cora’s post, Papenburg was, for me, only an obscure reference in a Patrick O’Brien novel.)

…Steampunk is not exactly something you would associate with Papenburg, even though the steamship MV Liemba a.k.a. Graf Goetzen, which starred in The African Queen as the German gunboat Königin Luise, was built here in 1913. Therefore, I was very surprised to learn that Papenburg not only has an active Steampunk community, but also hosts Steamfest, a Steampunk festival which took place for the second time in 2019. And since Papenburg is only about 114 kilometres away, I of course decided to pay Steamfest a visit.

(7) SHORT SFF FOR YOUR TBR PILE. Alex Brown monthly picks are listed on Tor.com: “Must-Read Speculative Short Fiction: September 2019”.

Magic as revenge, retaliation, or retribution is the theme of many of September’s best short speculative fiction stories. There are some new authors on this list alongside some very well-known names, yet no matter where they are career-wise, the stories they’ve written have left a mark on this world. Here are some of the ten best science fiction, fantasy, and horror short stories I read in September.

(8) FUTURE TECH CRIMINALS. Editors Eric Bosarge and Joe McDermott have launched a Kickstarter to fund their The Way of the Laser: Future Crime Stories anthology from VernacularBooks.

The contributing authors include Kameron Hurley, Mur Lafferty Patrice Sarath, Wendy Wagner, Julie C Day, Paul Jessup, Jamie Mason, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Ross Lockhart, Karen Bovenmyer, with open submissions to new authors.

It used to be if someone wanted to mug you, they had to look you in the face and make a threat. Not anymore. Hackers can wipe a bank account without ever having to risk drawing blood. Bad people use technology for personal gain. Nothing’s new about that. What is new is the ways technology opens up opportunities for exploitation.

New technology is coming on-line all the time, creating new opportunities for creative criminals and dissidents. Stolen elections, companies held hostage by hackers, and acts of terror have all been committed with technology that didn’t exist a few short years ago. 

Join leading edge speculative fiction authors on an exciting walk into darkness where people and machines plunder, cheat, kill, and steal in ways we can’t even imagine with tools that may not even exist, yet. But, they’re coming. 

(9) SATIRE ON TWO WHEELS. Remember Knight Rider? Well, here’s David Hasselhoff in Moped Rider…

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 27, 1958 — In Italy, The Day the Sky Exploded (Italian: La morte viene dallo spazio, “Death Comes From Space”. It is known as the first Italian SF film, predating even the SF films of Antonio Margheriti.
  • September 27, 1979 Buck Rogers in the 25th Century began its regular first season (after the airing of the film) with an episode called “Planet of the Slave Girls”.
  • September 27, 2002 — Joss Whedon’s Firefly premiered on Fox TV. It was cancelled after eleven of the fourteen produced episodes were aired. Eventually it concluded in a film called Serenity which Will Shetterly reviewed here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 27, 1902 Henry Farrell. Novelist and screenwriter, best known as the author of the “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” story which was made into a film of the same name starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. (Died 2006.)
  • Born September 27, 1932 Roger Charles Carmel. The original Harcourt Fenton “Harry” Mudd as he appeared in two episodes of the original Star Trek, “Mudd’s Women” and “I, Mudd”” and one episode of the animated series as well, “Mudd’s Passion”. I say original because Discovery has decided that they have a Harry Mudd. He also had one-offs on I-Spy, Munsters, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Batman. It is rumored but not confirmed he was going to reprise his role as Harry Mudd in a first-season episode of Next Gen but died before filming could start. (Died 1986.)
  • Born September 27, 1934 Wilford Brimley, 85. His first genre role is as Dr. Blair in John Carpenter’s The Thing. He’s Benjamin ‘Ben’ Luckett in the Cacoon films, and Agency Director Harold Smith in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. He made a rather splendid President Grover Cleveland in The Wild Wild West Revisted. And finally I note that he was Noa in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor
  • Born September 27, 1947 Meat Loaf, 72. He has a tasty role as Eddie in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. And I’d argue some of his music videos are genre stories in their own right. He also has film roles in Wishcraft (horror), Stage Fright (horror) and Urban Decay (yes, more horror). He’s also in BloodRayne which is yes, horror. He’s had one-offs on Tales from the Crypt, The Outer Limits, Monsters, Masters of Horror and was Doug Rennie, a main cast member of Ghost Wars
  • Born September 27, 1950 Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, 69. He’d be on the Birthday Honors list if he’d only been Zylyn in Space Rangers which lasted only six episodes. Damn. But he’s also shown up on Babylon 5, the premier of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Superboy, Alien Nation, the Australian version of Mission: ImpossibleSabrina the Teenage WitchStargate SG-1Poltergeist: The LegacyThe Librarians, voicing characters on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Star Wars Rebels. He’s currently got two main roles going, the first being Nobusuke Tagomi in The Man in The High Castle, the other being Hiroki Watanabe in Lost in Space
  • Born September 27, 1956 Sheila Williams, 63. Editor, Asimov’s Science Fiction last fifteen years. She won the Hugo Award for Best Short Form Editor in 2011 and 2012. With the late Gardner Dozois, she co-edited a bonnie bunch of anthologies such as Isaac Asimov’s RobotsIsaac Asimov’s Christmas and Isaac Asimov’s Cyberdreams. She was also responsible for the Isaac Asimov Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy writing being renamed the Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing. 
  • Born September 27, 1972 Gwyneth Paltrow, 47. Yes, she is Pepper Potts in the Marvel Universe film franchise but her first genre role was as a young Wendy Darling in Hook. And she shows up in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow asPolly Perkins, a reporter for The Chronicle

(12) ROCKET ROYALTY. In Olav Rokne’s post “Many Princes; One Crown” at the Hugo Book Club Blog, readers are reminded of the challenges in voting on works translated to English, beginning with a recent Retro-Hugo winner.

…But the case of The Little Prince is more comparable to that of the first translated work to appear on a Hugo Ballot: the 1963 novel Sylva, which was written by French war hero Vercors (A.K.A. Jean Bruller). No translator is mentioned on the dust jacket of the book. And until this summer, when the record was updated at our request, the official Hugo Awards site did not list the name of the translator, Rita Barisse. The Wikipedia entry for the Hugo Awards, and several other publications continue to neglect Barisse’s contribution to the work….

(13) LAFFERTY AWARENESS. Shelf Awareness checks in with the author of Lies My Teacher Told Me in “Reading with… James W. Loewen”. R.A. Lafferty gets a big shout-out:  

Book you’re an evangelist for:

The only historical novel I recommend without reservation: Okla Hannali by R.A. Lafferty. Even though by a white author, I credit it as a Choctaw history of the 19th century, in the form of a biography of a fictional Choctaw leader who was born in Mississippi around 1801 and died in Oklahoma in 1900. I realize such a statement creates all sorts of problems for me–expropriation of Native knowledge, white arrogance, etc. My only defense is the work itself. I have no idea how Lafferty, otherwise known for science fiction, learned so much about Choctaws (and white folks), but every time I have checked out any fact in Okla Hannali, no matter how small, Lafferty got it right. And what a read! Only a little over 200 pages long, but an epic, nevertheless.

(14) ANOTHER WAY OF LOOKING AT THINGS. David Gerrold contends art and the artist should be regarded separately in his public Facebook post:

So let’s say that I point out that the owners of a specific fast-food chain have donated a lot of money to anti-LGBTQ+ causes.

This is not an invitation to say:

“The food is terrible.”

Let’s say that I point out that a particular actor has said some unsavory things about politics. This is not an invitation to say,

“She can’t act anyway.”

Or maybe a well-known author has said something egregiously stupid. That’s not an invitation to say,

“I never liked his writing in the first place.” …

(15) ETERNAL QUESTIONS. Meantime, Michael A. Burstein invited his FB friends to study a different moral dilemma:

You are on a runaway trolley. On one track are five people who have not yet seen The Good Place and don’t intend to, and who will die if you don’t move the lever. On the other track is one person who, like you, is caught up and can discuss the show with you. What do you do?

(16) PENN AND POURNELLE. There’s a pair of names you wouldn’t put in the same sentence – unless you’re Tedium’s Ernie Smith. In “All Penn, No Teller” he recalls when Penn Jillette was “a sometimes-rebellious big-name computer magazine columnist in the ’90s.”

…Now, tech writing of this era doesn’t have the pedigree of, say, good music journalism in the 1970s. Certainly, there were good tech writers during this time, particularly free-wheeling voices like fellow moonlighter Jerry Pournelle of Byte, hard-nosed insiders like journeyman scribe John C. Dvorak and the long-anonymous Robert X. Cringely, and well-considered newspaper voices of reason like syndicated columnist Kim Komando and the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg.

But Jillette was something different. He was already famous—certainly more famous than Pournelle, an established science-fiction author, thanks to being a regular fixture on television during much of his career and starring in a legendary Run-DMC music video—and he likely did not need a nationally distributed computer magazine column to make a living. Jillette simply liked computers and knew a lot about them, which meant that he could rant about the details of an Autoexec.bat file just as easily as he can about politics. He gave the tech writing form something of an edge, while maintaining the freewheeling nature established by fellow pre-blogging voices like Pournelle….

(17) EARLY WORMS. Science Daily reports “Otherworldly worms with three sexes discovered in Mono Lake”. The lede reads:

“Caltech scientists have discovered a new species of worm thriving in the extreme environment of Mono Lake. This new species, temporarily dubbed Auanema sp., has three different sexes, can survive 500 times the lethal human dose of arsenic, and carries its young inside its body like a kangaroo.”

Terry Hunt sent the link in with a note: “I was irresistibly reminded of Vonda N. McIntyre’s story ‘Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand’ and its novel expansion Dreamsnake.”

(18) LOOKING FOR ET IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD. The Beyond Center presented the 2019 Eugene Shoemaker Memorial Lecture with James Benford on September 5.

Abstract: A recently discovered group of nearby co-orbital objects is an attractive location for extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) to locate for observing Earth. Near-Earth objects provide an ideal way to watching our world from a secure natural object that provides resources an ETI might need: materials, a firm anchor, concealment. These co-orbital objects have been little studied by astronomy and not at all by SETI or planetary radar observations. I describe the objects found thus far and propose both passive and active observations of them by optical and radio listening, radar imaging and launching probes. We might also broadcast to them.

(19) SMACK DAB ON THE MOON. “Chandrayaan-2: India Moon probe made ‘hard landing’, says Nasa” – BBC has the story.

India’s Moon rover, which lost contact moments before it was to touch down on the lunar surface earlier this month, had a “hard landing”, Nasa has said.

New pictures from a Nasa spacecraft show the targeted landing site of the Vikram rover, but its precise location “has yet to be determined”.

The images were taken at dusk, and were not able to locate the lander.

India would have been the fourth nation to make a soft landing on the Moon.

Chandrayaan-2 was due to touch down at the lunar South Pole on 7 September, over a month after it first took off.

It approached the Moon as normal until an error occurred about 2.1km (1.3 miles) from the surface, Indian space officials said.

On Friday, Nasa tweeted the images of the targeted landing site of the Indian module.

(20) STAR WARS AT DISNEYLAND. Good Morning America shared an advance look at the “Rise of the Resistance” attraction that will be part of the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge area of the Disney parks,

(21) TITAN PROBE. According to the MIT Technology Review “NASA is testing a shape-shifting robot that could explore Saturn’s moon Titan”. NASA’s Shapeshifter would change its configuration to meet the demands of the mission.

The future: The fully realized version of Shapeshifter would be a “mothercraft” lander that carries a collection of 12 mini robots (“cobots”) to the surface, acts as the main power source, and uses a suite of scientific instruments that can directly analyze samples. The cobots could work together to carry and move the mothercraft to different areas. They would be able to operate individually or as one cohesive unit, in order to adapt to a variety of terrains and environments. 

For example, the cobots would be able to separate and fly out in different directions or together as a flock, link up together like a barrel of monkeys in order to explore narrow caves and caverns, or even float on or swim in liquid.

(22) SURVIVE BY A WHISKER. Gato Roboto is a video game designed to let you channel your inner feline.

Pounce inside of your cozy armored mech and set off on a dangerous trek through an alien underworld full of irritable creatures and treacherous obstacles in a valiant effort to save your stranded captain and his crashed spaceship. Tiptoe outside the friendly confines of your technological marvel and follow your feline instincts through tight tunnels and mysterious waterways to scavenge for new weapons and gear. Adventure awaits the most curious of cats in Gato Roboto!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Terry Hunt, Nina Shepardson,Cliff, Rob Thornton, Michael J. Walsh, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna NImmhaus.]