Pixel Scroll 7/23/21 The Pixel Scroll Preservation Society

(1) TWITTER SUSPENDS CHUCK TINGLE. Chuck Tingle’s Twitter account has been suspended for reasons he explains on Facebook. He used music with some of his tweets, believing it was fair use, but the rights holder served Twitter with “many” DMCA takedown notices and his entire account was locked. Since this morning Tingle has been trying to get social media users to pressure the rights holder to withdraw the takedown notices. Getting paid for use of the music is what the rights holder would want, one expects.

(2) LEVAR BURTON’S TURN IS HERE. “LeVar Burton Shares His Excitement Over Finally Hosting ‘Jeopardy!’” at TV Insider. Includes some great tweets.

From Emmy-nominated actor to children’s television host to movie director to Grammy-winning Spoken Word artist, LeVar Burton has nearly done it all in his career. However, one dream has alluded him until now, and that is to host Jeopardy! But that is about to change.

The Star Trek: The Next Generation actor — and self-confessed Jeopardy! superfan — finally gets his go at hosting the long-running quiz show Monday, July 26 to Friday, July 30, as the conveyor belt of guest hosts keeps moving. Burton and his fans have actively been campaigning for the Reading Rainbow host to permanently take over from the late Alex Trebek.

(3) WHEEL OF TIME SERIES. Lots of media stuff from today’s Comic-Con@Home, like this Deadline item: “Amazon Debuts ‘The Wheel Of Time’ S1 Teaser Poster, Previews Premiere Date”.

During its Comic-con gig on Friday, the streamer unveiled the teaser poster which features Pike’s Moiraine. The series adaptation of Robert Jordan’s books, is set in a sprawling, epic world where magic exists, but only women can use it. The Wheel of Time is co-produced by Amazon Studios and Sony Pictures Television and comes from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and Chuck writer Rafe Judkins, who is showrunner and exec producer.

(4) SPARE CLIMATE CHANGE? Last night The Late Show with Stephen Colbert started off with a local St. Louis weather report: “And Now For Your Weather Update… Everything’s On Fire Or Underwater”.

(5) MANGA’S OLYMPIC AMBASSADORS. In the Washington Post, Kyle Melnick says customers at Purple Narwhal Music and Manga in Rockville, Maryland are buying lots of Olympics-related manga and anime. “Anime and manga take center stage at the Olympics”. Nine Japanese anime characters are ambassadors for the Tokyo Olympics.

…Many anime — an umbrella term for animation produced in Japan — are adapted from manga, similar to how American comics are shaped into movies. The Olympics ambassadors, who are featured on official Olympics merchandise, are Son Goku (from the Dragon Ball series), Usagi Tsukino (“Sailor Moon”), Naruto Uzumaki (“Naruto”), Monkey D. Luffy (“One Piece”), Astro Boy (“Astro Boy”), Cure Miracle and Cure Magical (“Pretty Cure”), Shin-chan (“Crayon Shin-chan”) and Jibanyan (“Yo-kai Watch”).

Goku is perhaps the most well-known of the group. He’s a naive but determined warrior who is the main character of “Dragon Ball Z,” which was one of the first popular anime in the United States in the 1990s and introduced many fans to the genre. Usagi Tsukino, whose alter ego is Sailor Moon, is the star of another popular 1990s anime, and she welcomed many women into what had previously been a predominantly male fan base.

(6) RICK BOATRIGHT (1955-2021). Rick Boatright, stalwart supporter of and contributor to the 1632 series, died Thursday July 22 of pancreatic cancer at the age of 66. Eric Flint mourned him on Facebook:

My old friend Rick Boatright died today. It wasn’t exactly unexpected, because he’d been diagnosed with state four pancreatic cancer, but it came quicker than anyone had expected. I talked to him on the phone just a few days ago and he was in pretty good spirits and thought he still had at least a few weeks left and possibly even a few months. But… he didn’t.

I don’t have anything more to say about it right now. I’ll be writing encomiums about him in the future. But today… Today just sucks.

His ISFDB bio notes Boatright had been a software developer since the early 1970s for not-for-profit social service agencies. Since 2001 he’d been a writer and editor, as well as the Head Geek, for Eric Flint’s 1632 alternate history world. (He also held the Head Geek title for Jim Baen’s Universe magazine.) He also was famous for providing tech support for other authors at Baen Books. Boatright taught high school physics and chemistry in his home town of Topeka, Kansas.

Boatright said in 2014 that despite his fiction credits his real gift was, “… explaining science fiction from the inside. What are the limits and potentials of a slower-than-light multi-stellar civilization? What happens to radio in a time travel story to the 17th century? How do you make records in the 17th century? What is the likely social impact and the biological effect of the English War Unicorn on 21st century warfare?”

(7) ANDERSSON OBIT. Horror/fantasy writer C. Dean Andersson, who also wrote as Asa Drake, passed away July 5 after a long illness. He published 8 novels, the first in 1981 co-authored with Nina Romberg. His short fiction “The Death Wagon Rolls On By”  received a Bram Stoker Award nomination in 2008.  G.W. Thomas did an in-depth interview with him for Dark Worlds Quarterly.

(8) MEMORY LANE.

  • 2002 – Nineteen years ago, Jo Walton wins the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. She had finished second in the balloting for that award the previous year. It was her first major award. A year later, she would win the World Fantasy Award for her ever so tasteful Tooth and Claw.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 23, 1888 Raymond Chandler. He of the hardboiled detective genre who I hold in very high esteem is listed by ISFDB as doing some stories of a genre nature, to be exact ”The Bronze Door”, “The King In Yellow”, “Professor Bingo’s Snuff” and “English Summer: A Gothic Romance”. I’ve neither heard it nor read these. So who here has read them? (Died 1959.)
  • Born July 23, 1914 Virgil Finlay. Castle of Frankenstein calls him “part of the pulp magazine history … one of the foremost contributors of original and imaginative art work for the most memorable science fiction and fantasy publications of our time.”  His best known covers are for Amazing Stories and Weird Tales. “Roads”, a novella by Seabury Quinn, published in the January 1938 Weird Tales, and featuring a cover and interior illustrations by him, was originally published in extremely limited numbers by Arkham House in 1948. It’s now available from the usual suspects. (Died 1971.)
  • Born July 23, 1923 Cyril M. Kornbluth. I certainly read and really liked The Space Merchants and The Syndic which are the two I remember reading these years on.  His only Hugo was at Torcon II (1973) for “The Meeting” which he wrote with Frederik Pohl (the co-winner was “Eurema’s Dam” by R. A. Lafferty). He later was awarded a Retro Hugo for “The Little Black Bag” at Millennium Philcon, and was inducted into the First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 1958.)
  • Born July 23, 1938 Ronny Cox, 83. His first genre role was in RoboCop as OCP President Dick Jones who comes to a very bad end. Later roles Gen. Balentine  in Amazon Women on the Moon in “The Unknown Soldier” episode, Martians Go Home as the President, Total Recall  as Vilos Cohaagen, Captain America as Tom Kimball and a recurring role for a decade on Stargate SG-1 as Senator Robert Kinsey/Vice President Robert Kinsey. 
  • Born July 23, 1956 Kate Thompson, 65. Author of the New Policeman trilogy which I highly recommend. Though written for children, you’ll find it quite readable. And her Down Among the Gods is a unique take on a Greek myths made intimate. She got nominations for the Hal Clement (Golden Duck) Award and Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Children’s Literature. 
  • Born July 23, 1947 Gardner Dozois. He was founding editor of The Year’s Best Science Fiction anthology and was editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine for twenty years. He won fifteen Hugos for his editing and was nominated for even more. He also won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story twice, once for “The Peacemaker” and once for “Morning Child”. Stories selected by him for his annual best-of-year volumes have won, as of six years ago, 44 Hugos, 32 Locus, 41 Nebulas, 18 Sturgeon Awards and 10 World Fantasy. Very impressive! (Died 2018.)
  • Born July 23, 1982 Tom Mison, 39. He is best known as Ichabod Crane on Sleepy Hollow which has a cross-over into Bones. He’s Mr. Phillips in The Watchmen. It’s barely (if at all) genre adjacent but I’m going to note that he’s Young Blood in A Waste of Shame: The Mystery of Shakespeare and His Sonnets. Currently he’s got a main role in second season the See SF series on Apple TV which has yet to come out.
  • Born July 23, 1989 Daniel Radcliffe, 32. Harry Potter of course. (Loved the films, didn’t read the novels.) Also Victor Frankenstein’s assistant Igor in Victor Frankenstein, Ignatius Perrish in Horns, a horror film, and Rosencrantz in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead at the Old Vic in London.  

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Mother Goose and Grimm show how you break the fourth wall of a comic strip.
  • Ziggy encounters a strange example of truth in advertising.
  • xkcd has a guide to commonly mispronounced equations. I know you’ll find it as helpful as I did. Daniel Dern says it reminds him of this equation from Fritz Leiber’s “Nice Girl With 5 Husbands” in the April 1951 issue of Galaxy

(11) MEET PUERTO RICO’S SUPERHERO. Publishers Weekly’s Brigid Alverson spotlights “La Borinqueña: A Puerto Rican Superhero for Our Time”.

In Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez’s comics series La Borinqueña, the eponymous superhero swoops down to Puerto Rico to solve problems that range from guiding lost turtles to rescuing people from a hurricane. Turns out the Puerto Rican superwoman comes to the rescue in real life, too.

Miranda-Rodriguez created La Borinqueña five years ago as a superhero who would entertain readers with her superpowered adventures, express Puerto Rican pride, and make more people aware of the island’s economic problems. Just like in the comics, though, there have been unexpected twists, and La Borinqueña and her creator are not only raising awareness of Puerto Rico and its dilemmas, but is also raising cold, hard cash to help Puerto Ricans recover from Hurricane Maria, fend off the pandemic, and move toward self-determination.

The third volume of La Borinqueña (with artist Will Rosado) will come out this month, and Miranda-Rodriguez plans to do a book tour in the fall. He will be bringing chocolate: He contracted with the 92-year-old chocolate maker Chocolate Cortés P.R., to include an original, four-episode La Borinqueña story on the inner wrappers of its bars. Proceeds from the sale of the limited-edition chocolate bars will go to the Fundación Cortés as part of the La Borinqueña Grants Program, which distributes grants to local nonprofits….

(12) JOHN NO LAST NAME. Stephen Haffner previewed some of the beautiful work on The Complete John the Balladeer by Manly Wade Wellman, which can be preordered from Haffner Press.

(13) PRODIGY. This teaser trailer for the new animated Nickelodeon series, Star Trek: Prodigy debuted during the “Star Trek Universe” panel at Comic-Con@Home 2021.

Developed by Emmy® Award-winners Kevin and Dan Hageman (“Trollhunters” and “Ninjago”) the CG-animated series STAR TREK: PRODIGY is the first “Star Trek” series aimed at younger audiences and will follow a motley crew of young aliens who must figure out how to work together while navigating a greater galaxy, in search for a better future. These six young outcasts know nothing about the ship they have commandeered – a first in the history of the Star Trek Franchise – but over the course of their adventures together, they will each be introduced to Starfleet and the ideals it represents

(14) CHEAPER THAN BEZOS: THIS, SURELY, IS A NO-SMOKING FLIGHT. “You can ride a hydrogen balloon to outer space for $125K” reports the New York Post.

Space flight company Space Perspective has debuted a $125,000 package that brings travelers to the edge of our atmosphere on a space-age hot air balloon.

The Florida-based firm aims to usher in a “new era in luxury travel experiences” with their groundbreaking — or air-breaking, if you will — tour aboard the Spaceship Neptune, a massive, hydrogen-supported balloon with a passenger capsule in tow that can float atop Earth’s atmosphere. There, amateur astronauts can soak up the splendor of our home planet, thanks to panoramic windows and reclining seats.

(15) DINO DRIVE-BY. Jurassic Quest has returned to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena from July 23-August 1. The concept kind of reminds me of the Lion Country Safari that used to be in Orange County.

The new Jurassic Quest Drive Thru version of the show features over 70 life-like dinosaurs including the very popular T. Rex, Spinosaurus and Triceratops. Jurassic Quest’s herd of animatronic dinos are displayed in realistic scenes that allow guests to experience them roaring and moving from their own vehicles  as they drive their way through the tour. Baby dinosaurs greet guests and bring big smiles to explorers of all ages. During the drive-thru experience, guests are guided by an engaging and informative digital audio tour featuring show entertainers and dino wranglers that lasts about an hour. Guests stay in their cars throughout the tour with limited contact, if any, with staff who wear masks, social distance, and follow all state and local guidelines regarding health and safety. To further ensure the safety of patrons and staff, all equipment and workstations undergo regular sanitization throughout the show. All attendees receive a free, safari-style family photo in their vehicles set against a dinosaur backdrop as a memento of their experience.

(16) FRANK. Here’s an alarming item you can squeeze into that empty space on your bookshelf. (As if any Filer would have that!) “Peeping On The Bookshelf Booknook” at Souamer.

(17) THANK GOD IT’S FRIDAY. Wait, we’re not talking about just the end of the week — the End of the World is coming! But when and how? Isaac Arthur explores all the options from manmade to natural, tomorrow to a trillion years in the future.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY.  [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In a spoiler-filled “Space Jam 2:  A New Legacy Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says the writer at the pitch meeting’s goal is to make a film that will convince children to tell their parents, “You know, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. really is my favorite multi-media and mass entertainment conglomerate.”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Paul Weimer, David K.M. Klaus, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, Michael J. Lowrey, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Jack Lint (suggested in June 2019).]

Pixel Scroll 2/20/21 (I’m Picking Up) Good Vibraniums

(1) A CELEBRATION. N. K. Jemisin and Walter Mosley will be among the participants in “A Celebration of Octavia E. Butler”, a live virtual event at Symphony Space on February 24 starting at 7 p.m. (Eastern). Tickets sold at the link.

Actors and authors come together for an evening of readings and conversation to celebrate the work of the visionary author whose Afrofuturistic feminist novels and short fiction have become even more poignant since her death. Her award-winning novels, including Parable of the SowerKindredDawn, and Wild Seed, have influenced a generation of writers. Playwright Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (An Octoroon) will lead a discussion with authors N. K. Jemisin (How Long ’til Black Future Month?), Walter Mosley (The Awkward Black Man), and Imani Perry (Breathe: A Letter to My Sons); and actors Yetide Badaki (American Gods) and Adepero Oduye (When They See Us) will read selections from Butler’s prolific body of work.

Audience members will be invited to join the conversation with questions for the panelists.

(2) RED PLANET CLOSEUP. EiderFox Documentaries takes the NASA footage and gives you “Mars In 4K”.

A world first. New footage from Mars rendered in stunning 4K resolution. We also talk about the cameras on board the Martian rovers and how we made the video. The cameras on board the rovers were the height of technology when the respective missions launched. A question often asked is: ‘Why don’t we actually have live video from Mars?’ Although the cameras are high quality, the rate at which the rovers can send data back to earth is the biggest challenge. Curiosity can only send data directly back to earth at 32 kilo-bits per second. Instead, when the rover can connect to the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, we get more favourable speeds of 2 Megabytes per second. However, this link is only available for about 8 minutes each Sol, or Martian day. As you would expect, sending HD video at these speeds would take a long long time. As nothing really moves on Mars, it makes more sense to take and send back images.

(3) WORLDCON FOLKS. Ty Schalter says he doesn’t know anything about the Worldcon, but his questions are good: “Worldcon vs. The World”. (Just the same it brings to mind a line from Field of Dreams: “Oh! You’re from the Sixties! There’s no room for you here in the future!”)

…How many of the people reading, writing, editing and publishing the state of the art in genre fiction also fly out to Worldcon every year? How many of the people who go to Worldcon every year are reading, say, FIYAH Magazine— the kind of bold, original, cutting-edge fantastic literature that’s currently earning Hugo Award nominations and wins?

I’m genuinely asking, because remember: I don’t know what I’m talking about. But from the outside, it sure looks like The SFF Community and Worldcon Folks are two pretty disparate groups of people, who don’t necessarily care for or value each other a whole lot.

I see it when SFF Twitter explodes with shock and outrage every time Worldcon steps on another rake— how did it happen again?! I see it every time Worldcon Folks are mystified that doing things the way they’ve always done them is now not just insufficient but immoral— and who are these people yelling at us, anyway?!

I see it every time I go to church.

Wait, church? Yes, at church — and in family businesses, and on non-profit boards. In Chambers of Commerce and Kiwanis clubs. In all the gray-haired, tuxedoed, former cultural revolutionaries of the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame harrumphing about letting N.W.A. in their storied institution. In every walk of life, everywhere, there are cultural and social organizations caught in an existential battle of whether to preserve their traditions or their values.

As a white guy turning 40 this year, I have an appreciation for the SFF of the 20th century and its associated Baby Boomer fans, slans, SMOFs, etc. In many ways, they’re who I grew up aspiring to be. But now that I’m grown, I can see the cultural blind spots and moral holes in the kind of let’s-just-us-smart-people-get-on-a-rocket-and-let-all-the-dumb-people-die Visions of A Better Future that still entice prominent members of the middle-aged-and-up set….

(4) HUGO DYNAMICS. Eric Flint’s Facebook comments in a discussion about Baen’s Bar include his views about the Hugo Awards and the Sad Puppies slates.

(5) AURORA AWARDS ELIGIBILITY. The Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association is compiling its eligibility lists. Do you know of  work that belongs there? More information at their website.

Just a quick reminder that the Aurora Award Eligibility Lists for works done by Canadians in 2020 are open and awaiting your submissions. The Eligibility Lists will close on February 28th at 11:59 EST.  If you have created, published, read, or know of works or activities that should be on our lists please assist us and submit them. Help us find all the fantastic work done by Canadians in 2020! All works should be submitted to the eligibility lists on our website at www.prixaurorawards.ca 

(6) BE LARRY’S GOOGLE MONKEY. Larry Correia is crowdsourcing the next step in his retaliation against the Worldcon for DisCon III disinviting Toni Weisskopf as a guest of honor. Camestros Felapton has the screencap in his post “More Larry Nonsense”. Correia’s public call says in part —

… I need examples of writers/editors/fans who WorldCon is perfectly comfortable with, and their shitty posts, tweets, memes, of things that aren’t “inclusive”. (advocating violence, shooting cops, killing Trump, celebrating Rush’s death, putting us in reeducation camps, whatever. If it makes you feel not included, I’d like to know)
If you don’t have a screen cap but are going from memory, that’s fine…. 

(7) HORRIBLE FAN BEHAVIOR. Examples of bad behavior in the sff community aren’t hard to come by. Harlan Ellison’s recitation of fannish awfulness, “Xenogenesis,” was probably written off the top of his head. It originated as his 1984 Westercon GoH speech. The Internet Archive has a copy in the transcript of an Asimov’s issue — https://archive.org/stream/Asimovs_v14n08_1990-08/Asimovs_v14n08_1990-08_djvu.txt

Ellison precedes his dossier of criminal acts and psychopathic behavior with this introduction:

… In biology there is a phenomenon known as xenogenesis. It is a pathological state in which the child does not resemble the parent. You may remember a fairly grisly 1975 film by my pal Larry Cohen titled It’s Alive! in which a fanged and taloned baby gnaws its way out of its mother’s womb and slaughters the attending nurses and gynecologist in the delivery room and then leaps straight up through a skylight, smashes out, and for the duration of the film crawls in and out of the frame ripping people’s throats.

Its natural father is a CPA or something similar. Most CPA’s do not, other than symbolically, have fangs and talons. Xenogenesis.

In the subculture of science fiction literature and its umbilically attached aficionados, we have the manifestation of a symbiotic relationship in which the behavior of the children, that is, the fans, does not resemble the noble ideals set forth in the writings and pronouncements of the parents, the writers. For all its apocalyptic doomsaying, its frequent pointing with alarm, its gardyloos of caution, the literature of imagination has ever and always promoted an ethic of good manners and kindness via its viewpoint characters.

The ones we are asked to relate to, in sf and fantasy, the ones we are urged to see as the Good Folks, are usually the ones who say excuse me and thank you, ma’am.

The most efficient narrative shorthand to explain why a particular character is the one struck by cosmic lightning or masticated by some nameless Lovecraftian horror is to paint that character as rude, insensitive, paralogical or slovenly.

Through this free-floating auctorial trope, the canon has promulgated as salutary an image of mannerliness, rectitude and humanism. The smart alecks, slugs, slimeworts and snipers of the universe in these fables unfailingly reap a terrible comeuppance.

That is the attitude of the parents, for the most part.

Yet the children of this ongoing education, the fans who incorporate the canon as a significant part of their world-view, frequently demonstrate a cruelty that would, in the fiction, bring them a reward of Job-like awfulness….

(8) WHO KNEW? Science Sensei regales fans with “40 Times Science Fiction Was Wrong About Predicted Future Events”. Connie Willis’ emcee routines about sf predictions are much funnier, admittedly.

… No matter how accurate some writers are about the future, they are victims of the time they live in. It’s not Verne’s fault that he wrote his books in the 1800s and lacked the knowledge we have today. Yet this is what happens when you write about the future. Those future people can look back to see how accurate you were. Verne is one of many amazing writers who were both right and wrong about his future predictions. Yet some were completely wrong, and this involves far more than books. That is what our article is about, the science fiction out there that ended up getting the future very wrong. Enjoy!

25. Back to the Future Part II (Food Hydrators In 2015)

The original Back to the Future, starring Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox came out in 1985. The movies were all released within 5 years in real-time but they had to always return to the year of the original film, 1985. Instead of the past, the second film focused on the future

In this film, we see a Future 2015, where they have an entire world we almost wish was real. One of the impressive futuristic inventions in the film was a Food Hydrator by Black & Decker. Any food you wanted could be made with it, cooked quickly and ready to go in seconds. We never saw this in 2015, and we’re still upset about it!

(9) THAT JOB IS HELLA HARD. David Gerrold comments on “What Would It Take to Actually Settle an Alien World?” and his writing generally in a new installment of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast at WIRED.

David Gerrold is the author of dozens of science fiction books, including The Martian Child and The Man Who Folded Himself. His new novel Hella, about a low-gravity planet inhabited by dinosaur-like aliens, was inspired by the 2011 TV series Terra Nova.

“The worldbuilding that they did was very interesting, very exciting, but because I was frustrated that they didn’t go in the direction I wanted to go, I was thinking, ‘Let me do a story where I can actually tackle the worldbuilding problems,’” Gerrold says in Episode 454 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.

Hella goes into enormous detail about the logistics of settling an alien world, and grapples with questions like: Would it be safe for us to eat alien proteins? Would it be safe for us to breathe alien germs? What effect would plants and animals from Earth have on an alien ecology? It’s a far cry from many science fiction stories which assume that alien planets would be pretty much like Earth. “My theory is that there are no Earthlike planets, there’s just lazy writers,” Gerrold says….

(10) THE WORLD SF MAKES. Sherryl Vint’s Science Fiction is being released by MIT Press this month.

Summary

How science fiction has been a tool for understanding and living through rapid technological change.

…After a brief overview of the genre’s origins, science fiction authority Sherryl Vint considers how and why contemporary science fiction is changing. She explores anxieties in current science fiction over such key sites of technological innovation as artificial intelligence, genomic research and commodified biomedicine, and climate change. Connecting science fiction with speculative design and futurology in the corporate world, she argues that science fiction does not merely reflect these trends, but has a role in directing them.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 20, 1955  — On this day in 1955, Tarantula premiered. It was produced by William Alland, directed by Jack Arnold. It stars John Agar, Mara Corday, and Leo G. Carroll. The screenplay by Robert M. Fresco and Martin Berkeley was based on a story by Arnold, which was in turn was based on by Fresco’s script for the Science Fiction Theatre “No Food for Thought” episode  which was also directed by Arnold.  It was a box office success earning more than a million dollars in its first month of release. Critics at the time liked it and even current audiences at Rotten Tomatoes gives at a sterling 92% rating. You can watch it here. (CE)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 20, 1925 Robert Altman. I’m going to argue that his very first film in 1947, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, based off the James Thurber short story of the same name, is genre given its premise. Some twenty five years later Images was a full-blown horror film. And of course Popeye is pure comic literature at its very best. (Died 2006.) (CE)
  • Born February 20, 1926 Richard  Matheson. Best known for I Am Legend which has been adapted for the screen four times, as well as the film Somewhere In Time for which he wrote the screenplay based on his novel Bid Time Return. Seven of his novels have been adapted into films. In addition, he  wrote sixteen episodes of The Twilight Zone including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Steel”. The former episode of course has William Shatner in it. (Died 2013.)  (CE) 
  • Born February 20, 1926 – Pierre Boulle.  For us, Planet of the Apes and eight more novels, thirty shorter stories; famous for The Bridge on the River Kwai; a dozen other novels.  Knight of the Legion of Honor, Croix de GuerreMédaille de la Resistance, earned during World War II.   (Died 1994) [JH]
  • Born February 20, 1926 – Ed Clinton.  A score of short stories (some as Anthony More).  “Idea Man” essay in the Jan 44 Diablerie.  Review & Comments Editor for Rhodomagnetic Digest.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born February 20, 1943 – Dan Goodman.  Active fan in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Minneapolis.  Literate, articulate, wry.  Edited and I believe named the Minn-StF clubzine Einblatt.  For a while in The Cult, to which the Fancyclopedia III article hardly does justice, but see Hamlet Act II scene 2 (Folger Shakespeare line 555).  In Lofgeornost at least as recently as 2014.  A story in Tales of the Unanticipated.  A note by me here.  (Died 2020) [JH]
  • Born February 20, 1943 – Suford Lewis, F.N., age 78.  Active in the LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Soc.); then NESFA (New England SF Ass’n): a Founding Fellow (service; first year’s Fellow of NESFA awards, 1976), President, chaired Boskone 10, co-chaired B44, edited six Bujold books for NESFA Press, also the excellent Noreascon Two Memory Book (post-con; 38th Worldcon).  Ran the Retrospective-Hugo ceremony for L.A.con III (42nd), the Masquerade (our on-stage costume competition) for Noreascon Three (47th).  Co-ordinated and actually brought into being Bruce Pelz’ Fantasy Showcase Tarot Deck, herself drawing Strength (! – Major Arcana VIII; a dozen-year project; see all the images and BP’s introduction here, PDF), and exhibiting all the original artwork at N2.  Fan Guest of Honor at Windycon VI (with husband Tony Lewis).  That ain’t the half of it.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  [JH]
  • Born February 20, 1943 Diana Paxson, 78. Did you know she’s a founder of the Society for Creative Anachronism? Well she is. Genre wise, she’s best known for her Westria novels, and the later books in the Avalon series, which she first co-wrote with Marion Zimmer Bradley, then – after Bradley’s death, took over sole authorship of. All of her novels are heavily colored with paganism — sometimes it works for me, sometimes it doesn’t. I like her Wodan’s Children series more than the Avalon material. (CE)
  • Born February 20, 1954 Anthony Head, 67. Perhaps best known as as Librarian and Watcher Rupert Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he also made an impressive Uther Pendragon in Merlin. He also shows up in Repo! The Genetic Operaas Nathan Wallace aka the Repo Man, in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance as Benedict, and in the awesomely great Batman: Gotham by Gaslight voicing Alfred Pennyworth. (CE)
  • Born February 20, 1964 – Tracey Rolfe, age 57.  Half a dozen novels, as many shorter stories.  Clarion South 2004 (see her among other graduates in Andromeda Spaceways 10).  “How do you deal with writer’s block?” ‘I usually take my dog out for a walk.’ [JH]
  • Born February 20, 1979 Brian James Freeman, 42. Horror author. Novels to date are Blue November StormsThis Painted Darkness and Black Fire (as James Kidman). He’s also done The Illustrated Stephen King Trivia Book (superbly done) which he co-authored with Bev Vincent and which is illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne. He publishes limited edition books here. (CE) 
  • Born February 20, 1989 – Nathália Suellen, age 32.  Digital artist and commercial illustrator.  A score of covers for us, but certainty is elusive at borders.  Here is Above.  Here is Unhinged.  Here is The Gathering Dark (U.K. title).  Here is Henry, the Gaoler.  Here is a self-portrait.  [JH]

(13) EMOTIONAL ROBOTS. On March 10, Writers Bloc presents “Nobel Laureate Kazuo Ishiguro with Westworld’s Lisa Joy”. Book purchase required for access to the livestream.

Kazuo Ishiguro, winner of the 2017 Nobel Prize in Literature, seduces us with his storytelling. His novels (The Remains of the DayNever Let Me Go; and others) draw us in and we are powerless to leave the page. His novels are deceptive–while he lulls us into his gorgeous and straightforward prose, he presents us with profound observations of human behavior, and explorations of love, duty, and identity. In his new novel, Klara and the Sun, Ishiguro introduces us to Klara, an artificial object who watches the world from her perch in a shop. She watches the comings and goings of those who enter the shop, and those who merely pass by. She hopes that someone will choose her. and that she can be loved. Magnificent.

In conversation with Lisa Joy. Lisa Joy is one of the creators and writers of the acclaimed HBO series, Westworld. A dystopic genre-bending series, Westworld explores the fraught relationship between humans and human-looking robots at an amusement park. What happens when artificial intelligence interferes with the people who employ them? What happens when artificial intelligence breaks its own boundaries and those robots start to feel, to love, to cause harm? Westworld has won countless prestigious awards.

(14) ELUSIVE APPOINTMENTS. “How some frustrated COVID-19 vaccine hunters are trying to fix a broken system”The Seattle Times has the story.

That pretty much said it all, the other day, when a 90-year-old remarked in a Seattle Times story that the easy part of navigating our COVID-19 vaccine system was when she had to walk 6 miles through the snow to get the shot.

George Hu is only 52, but he can sympathize. When the former Microsoft developer tried to find appointments online for his 80-year-old in-laws, he was dumbfounded how primitive it all was.

“All tech people who see this setup are horrified,” Hu says.

That was my experience trying to nab a slot for my 91-year-old father. As everyone discovers, there isn’t one or a couple of places to hunt vaccine, but rather … hundreds, many with their own interfaces. I ran into one vaccine provider that was using Doodle for its vaccine appointment scheduling, another using Sign-Up Genius, another with a “don’t call us, we’ll text you back sometime” online form.

Rather than a global health emergency, it felt more like when the PTA is signing parents up for a bake sale.

“It’s whack-a-mole, except there are 300 holes,” Hu says. “And also you have no clue if the mole is ever going to pop up in any of them.”

(15) WHAT A BUNCH OF SCHIST. The headline made me click – “The missing continent it took 375 years to find” at BBC Future. Maybe your power to resist will be greater!

It took scientists 375 years to discover the eighth continent of the world, which has been hiding in plain sight all along. But mysteries still remain….

Zealandia was originally part of the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, which was formed about 550 million years ago and essentially lumped together all the land in the southern hemisphere. It occupied a corner on the eastern side, where it bordered several others, including half of West Antarctica and all of eastern Australia.

Then around 105 million years ago, “due to a process which we don’t completely understand yet, Zealandia started to be pulled away”, says Tulloch.

Continental crust is usually around 40km deep – significantly thicker than oceanic crust, which tends to be around 10km. As it was strained, Zealandia ended up being stretched so much that its crust now only extends 20km (12.4 miles) down. Eventually, the wafter-thin continent sank – though not quite to the level of normal oceanic crust – and disappeared under the sea.

Despite being thin and submerged, geologists know that Zealandia is a continent because of the kinds of rocks found there. Continental crust tends to be made up of igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary rocks – like granite, schist and limestone, while the ocean floor is usually just made of igneous ones such as basalt.

But there are still many unknowns. The unusual origins of the eighth continent make it particularly intriguing to geologists, and more than a little baffling. For example, it’s still not clear how Zealandia managed to stay together when it’s so thin and not disintegrate into tiny micro-continents.

Another mystery is exactly when Zealandia ended up underwater – and whether it has ever, in fact, consisted of dry land. The parts that are currently above sea level are ridges that formed as the Pacific and Australian tectonic plates crumpled together. Tulloch says opinion is split as to whether it was always submerged apart from a few small islands, or once entirely dry land….

(16) THE BUZZ. Mental Floss assures us that Wasps Are Ridding Anne Boleyn’s Birthplace of Moth Infestation”.

…Now, however, it’s home to common clothes moths that could wreak havoc on rugs, clothing, and other vulnerable artifacts—including a rare 18th-century canopy bed and a tapestry that Catherine the Great bestowed upon the household in the 1760s. The moths have had much freer rein throughout Blickling Hall in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and periodic pest counts have proved that the population has grown considerably over the past year.

“There’s no doubt lockdown suited our resident bugs,” assistant national conservator Hilary Jarvis said in a press release. “The relative quiet, darkness, and absence of disruption from visitors and staff provided perfect conditions for larvae and adults alike from March onwards.”

To curb further spawning, the National Trust has enlisted the help of an unlikely ally: microscopic parasitoid wasps (Trichogramma evanescens). In 11 especially moth-ridden locations within the hall, staff members will plant dispensers that hold around 2400 wasps each, which will destroy moth eggs by laying their own eggs inside them. Though it seems like Blickling Hall will have simply swapped out one infestation for another, the wasps pose no threat to the upholstery or anything else—they’ll eventually die and “disappear inconspicuously into house dust,” if all goes according to plan….

(17) TENET COMMENTARY. CinemaWins tells you “Everything GREAT About Tenet!” There must have been more good stuff in there than I suspected.

  • Everything GREAT About Tenet! PART 0 (Plot Breakdown):
  • Everything GREAT About Tenet! PART 1: 
  • Everything GREAT About Tenet! PART 2: 

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Jim Henson Introduces Kermit The Frog to Dick” on YouTube is a November 1971 clip from The Dick Cavett Show with both Jim Henson and Kermit as guests where you can clearly see how Henson changed his voice to be Kermit.

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

Walt Boyes on the Consequences of Taking Down Baen’s Bar

[Editor’s Introduction: Walt Boyes, Editor, the Grantville Gazette and Editor in Chief, Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire Press, emailed this letter of comment on February 17. I did not realize it was intended for publication until I saw his comment on Eric Flint’s Facebook page. Here it is:]   


Walt Boyes: I regret that Jason Sanford says he is being harassed. Nobody should do that, under any provocation.

However, one thing I believe that Jason Sanford did wrong is to lump all the conferences on Baen’s Bar together.

As Eric Flint noted, the conferences he oversees (oversaw) are heavily moderated (I am one of them, though not a Bar Moderator) and we do not allow the kinds of behavior that Mr. Sanford reports. I don’t go to Politics or Blazes because I know what’s there. Do not want to do that.

But since Mr. Sanford decided to throw the baby out with the bath water, Science Fiction has (at least temporarily,I hope) lost a very important resource. The1632Tech and 1632Slush conferences and the UniverseSlush conferences have provided a great resource to beginning (or otherwise) writers. We have been doing this for over 20 years. We critique and workshop beginning writers’ work, and at the end of the process, often buy the stories for the Grantville Gazette (www.Grantvillegazette.com). These stories can be in the 1632Universe, or just really good science fiction or fantasy, because we kept the Baen’s Universe crit group going, and we publish one or two stories from there every issue.

These conferences have produced millions of published words, paid at SFWA professional rates (currently $0.08/word) and at least one Nebula nominated author (Kari English). Over 150 authors have made their first professional sale through those conferences. Several have become NYT and Amazon Best Sellers.

There is no politics in these conferences. There is no violence or discussion of violence other than as it relates to the 1632 series.

So, because Mr Sanford didn’t do all the research that an investigative reporter should (I too am a member of SPJ and have done investigative reporting for decades), our writers who were working on their stories, as they have done for 20 years, are now out in the cold.  We have even, at least temporarily, lost the archives of the conferences, which are irreplaceable. Instead of editing the 94th issue of the Gazette, I am now trying to save the conferences we have used to create it.

I am not saying that Mr. Sanford did the right thing, or the wrong thing. But actions have consequences, and what he has done has challenged the careers of many beginning writers, because he didn’t ask anybody who knew anything what was going on.

Best regards,

Walt Boyes, Editor, the Grantville Gazette; Editor in Chief, Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire Press


Pixel Scroll 2/18/21 I’d Gladly Scroll On Tuesday, For A Pixel Today

(1) MORE REACTIONS TO JASON SANFORD’S REPORT ABOUT BAEN’S BAR AND RELATED ISSUES.

Cat Rambo draws on her decades of experience moderating online forums, including SFWA’s private discussion forum, in “Opinion: On Baen Books, Moderating Discussion Boards, & Political Expression”. Also part of her background –

…In the interest of full disclosure, I’m technically a Baen author. I have a story in a couple of Baen anthologies and another in an upcoming one. I also was the main decider in the choice to give Toni Weisskopf a Kate Wilhelm Solstice award in 2016 in acknowledgment of how much she has shaped the field. I have never been on their discussion boards, as far as I can remember….

She covers a half dozen subtopics before concluding —

…Online harassment is used by a number of folks to silence other people and it includes tactics like SWATting, contacting one’s employer, doxxing, and worse. Jason Sanford is experiencing some of this right now, to the point where he’s had to take his Twitter and Patreon private, but he’s not the first, nor will he be the last. It is shitty and invasive, and it’s something that can constantly ambush you.

Moreover, stochastic terrorism is a thing, and it’s one that some of the “my wishing you were dead wasn’t really a death threat because I didn’t say I’d do it personally” yahoos are hoping for. That hope that someone will be hurt as a result of their rhetoric flickers dimly in the depths of their creepy little souls, even when they claim otherwise, because here in America, it’s a possibility every time they stir up an audience to think of their opponents as NPCs rather than people. And it’s something that is particularly hard on the vulnerable. If you’re a white male experiencing harassment, know that if you were a woman of color, you’d be getting it a hundred times worse, whether you acknowledge that or not.

So… I don’t know what will happen with Baen’s discussion boards. I hope that they’ll do what sometimes happens as a result of these challenges: emerge as something better and more useful, something that creates more community ties than eroding them. Because it’s a time and place when we need more kind, brave words and less hateful, thoughtless rhetoric, and I feel any efforts to establish that is where true heroism lies. Thank you for issuing the challenge, Jason. I hope people rise to meet it.

Sheree Renée Thomas, who is set to co-host the 2021 Hugo ceremony, gives extended commentary about the implications for the Worldcon in a 16-tweet thread. Thread starts here.

Malka Older, the other 2021 Hugo co-host, aired her views in a thread that starts here.

Leona Wisoker does an overview of the Jason Sanford and Eric Flint essays and where they fit into the immediate present day in “Baen’s Bar Fight”.

… The boundaries of free speech and individual liberty in the wild world of genre fiction is, as I’ve said already, not a new battle. However, right here, right now, today, we’re dealing with a new twist on the old situation: the critical flash point of people spreading and believing dangerous lies for years. This started before Trump came into office. Before Obama’s first inauguration. Over the last ten years, the rise of groups like the channers, Gamergate, Reddit, Parler, Fox News, OANN, and QAnon has boosted those lies into explosive territory.

We’re no longer simply talking about malcontents complaining in a chat room. We’re now dealing with a series of connected, systemically based incidents that are driving credulous people into increasingly violent actions, in groups that are steadily expanding in size. We’re talking about bad faith actors — some in government and law enforcement — who are in it for the money and power, who have and will continue to use that misguided passion to their own benefit, and who don’t care who gets hurt along the way. To wave away the bitter speeches and threats of randos in internet forums is to entirely ignore the escalating situation that led to the Capitol insurrection in the first place….

Simon McNeil surveys posts by Jason Sanford and others as a preliminary to his thesis that those who believe there is an overall sff community are mistaken, and that prospects for the 2021 Worldcon have been irreparably damaged.  “The vexatiousness of the culture wars in SFF – Baen’s Bar and the fantasy of total community”.

…And here we return to two central questions that have been at the heart of genre fiction’s long-running culture war, just who is this community and what, if anything are its standards?

We have here a situation where the genre fiction “communty” consists of several disparate actual groups of people. These people have mutually exclusive definitions of the ideal present notwithstanding what they may want to see in fiction about the future, the past or other worlds. The attempts of mass conventions like DisCon III to serve these vastly disparate communities means it’s ultimately impossible to serve any.

Now I’m honestly quite shocked that there is going to be an in-person WorldCon this year. Between international travel restrictions and the clear and present danger of mass gatherings, it really feels like a live convention in 2021 is unsafe quite regardless of who the editor guest of honour is. With this said, while I do believe that Sandford turning over this particular rock exposed the peril lying under the surface of science fiction I don’t think de-platforming Weiskopf is going to make the convention any less dangerous for anyone unwilling to tow the American conservative line. Frankly, Toni Weiskopf isn’t the problem, she’s merely a symptom of it. Baen, and its stable of Trumpist malcontents is in fact only a symptom of the systemic problem that is the faulty assumption at the core of the SFF communities that there is some overarching and totalizing community for all to contribute to.

It was never true.

All that has changed is that those people who once hadn’t enough power to speak out about John Campbell’s racismOrson Scott Card’s homophobia or Harlan Ellison’s busy hands have achieved enough power through adoption of new technology, changes in social understanding and various civil rights movements to fight back against the people who once kept them silent….

Camestros Felapton saves a thousand words by giving us a picture of his rebuttal to Eric Flint’s defense of Baen’s Bar in “Today’s Infographic: moderating comments”.

Chuck Gannon defended Toni Weisskopf’s statement about the temporary takedown of Baen’s Bar in the midst of a Facebook discussion by dissatisfied Baen supporters. He says in conclusion:

3) Lastly her statement was formulated so that it both showed a willingness to seriously engage the accusations, but without ceding ANY authority or agency over her rights and freedoms as the owner of a business. She did not stonewall the dertractors, did not counterattack, and did not cave, none of which are good strategies NO MATTER what politics are involved. That is smart business. And her tone was so measured and reasonable and *civil* that anyone who takes offense at it is essentially identifying their real motivation: to use this complaint as a weapon in the service of their deeper motive–cripple or kill Baen.

My assessment: she handled this as well as anyone could, and far, far better than most do.

(2) NEW ADDRESS. Perseverance made a successful landing on Mars today. The mission website is here: Mars 2020 Perseverance Rover.

(3) PRO TIP. You’ve been placed on notice!

(4) LET GO OF YOUR AGENDA. Once NPR’s Jason Heller took Sarah Gailey’s latest book on its own terms, he had good things to say about it: “Review: ‘The Echo Wife,’ By Sarah Gailey”.

…I went into Gailey’s new novel, The Echo Wife, with a big expectation for yet another immersive, wonderfully detailed, fictional setting. I was not catered to. There isn’t any real world-building in The Echo Wife because, well, there’s no world to build. It already exists. It’s our own. The book takes place, more or less, in the here and now, and even the rich concept behind its science-fictional premise — namely cloning — keeps a fuzzy distance. Once I got over my initial bout of pouting, though, I gave myself over to Gailey’s latest exercise in character-driven speculation. And I was happy I did…

(5) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • February 18, 2005 — On this day in 2005, Constantine premiered. Based off DC’s Hellblazer series, it starred dark haired Keanu Reeves as blonder haired John Constantine. It was, to put it  mildly, produced by committee. The screenplay by Kevin Brodbin and Frank Cappello off a story by Kevin Brodbin. Its impressive cast included  Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf, Tilda Swinton, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Djimon Hounsou, Gavin Rossdale, and Peter Stormare. Over the years, its rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes has steadily climbed now standing at an excellent seventy four percent. Huh. 

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born February 18, 1894 – Marjorie Hope Nicolson, Ph.D.  First woman to receive Yale’s Porter Prize (for her dissertation), Cross Medal (as a distinguished alumna).  First woman President of Phi Beta Kappa.  Crawshay Prize (for Newton Demands the Muse).  Voyages to the Moon reviewed by Willy Ley.  Pilgrim Award.  Festschrift in her memory, Zephyr & Boreas (works of Le Guin).  More here.  (Died 1981) [JH]  
  • Born February 18, 1904 – Rafael DeSoto.  A score of covers, a dozen interiors for us; also Westerns, thrillers, adventure.  See R. Lesser ed., Pulp Art; D. Saunders, The Art of Rafael DeSoto.  Here is the Feb 39 Eerie Mysteries.  Here is the Apr 43 Argosy.  Here is the Nov 50 Fantastic Novels.  Yes, descended from Hernando de Soto.  This site says it will be available again soon.  (Died 1992) [JH]
  • Born February 18, 1908 Angelo Rossitto. A dwarf actor and voice artist with his first genre role being in 1929’s The Mysterious Island as an uncredited Underwater Creature. His last major role was as  The Master in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. He showed up in GalaxinaThe Incredible HulkJason of Star Command, Bakshi’s Lord of The RingsAdult FairytalesClonesDracula v. Frankenstein and a lot more. (Died 1991.) (CE)
  • Born February 18, 1919 Jack Palance. His first SF film is H. G. Wells’ The Shape of Things to Come which bears little resemblance to that novel. (He plays Omus.) Next up he’s Voltan in Hawk the Slayer followed by being Xenos in two Gor films. (Oh, the horror!) He played Carl Grissom in Burton’s Batman, and Travis in Solar Crisis along with being Mercy in Cyborg 2. ABC in the Sixties did The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in which he played the lead dual roles, and He had a nice turn as Louis Strago in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. which is worth seeing. (Died 2006.) (CE)
  • Born February 18, 1929 Len Deighton, 92. Author of possibly the most brilliant alternative novels in which Germany won the Second World War, SS-GB. Itdeals with the occupation of Britain. A BBC One series based off the novel was broadcast several years back.(CE) 
  • Born February 18, 1930 Gahan Wilson. Author, cartoonist and illustrator known for his cartoons depicting horror-fantasy situations. Though the world at large might know him for his Playboy illustrations which are gathered in a superb two volume collection, I’m going to single him out for his brilliant and possibly insane work with Zelazny on  A Night in the Lonesome October which is their delightful take on All Hallows’ Eve. (Died 2019.) (CE)
  • Born February 18, 1931 – Toni Morrison.  A score of novels – Beloved (Pulitzer Prize) and God Help the Child are ours – poetry, two plays (one about Desdemona), libretto for Margaret Garner, nonfiction.  Jefferson Lecture.  PEN/Bellow Award (PEN is Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, Novelists).  Medal of Freedom.  Nobel Prize.  Oprah Winfrey: “I say with certainty there would have been no Oprah’s Book Club if this woman had not chosen to share her love of words with the world.”  Today is TM’s 90th birth-anniversary; see this from the Toni Morrison Society.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born February 18, 1933 – Ray Capella.  A score of short stories for us; twoscore covers, five dozen interiors.  Here is Star Quest 4.  Here is the Oct 75 Amra.  Here is the Nov 81 Fantasy Newsletter.  Here is the Apr 01 Alien Worlds.  Here is an illustration for John Carter of Mars.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born February 18, 1936 – Jean Auel, age 85.  The Clan of the Cave Bear, five more; 45 million copies sold.  Studied how to make an ice cave, build fire, tan leather, knap stones, with Jim Riggs.  “The Real Fahrenheit 451” in Omni (with Bradbury, Clarke, Ellison).  Officer of the Order of Arts and Letters (France).  [JH]
  • Born February 18, 1943 – Jill Bauman, age 78.  One short story, a score of poems, a hundred thirty covers, ninety interiors for us; many others.  An appreciation in Wrzos’ Hannes Bok.  Here is Melancholy Elephants.  Here is the Apr 89 F&SF.  Here is the Aug 92 Amazing.  Here is Thumbprints.  Guest Artist at the 1994 World Fantasy Convention, Philcon 1999, Chattacon XXVI.  Website.  [JH]
  • Born February 18, 1968 Molly Ringwald, 53. One of her was first acting roles was Nikki in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone. She’ll later have the lead role of Frannie Goldsmith in Stephen King’ The Stand series. And does the Riverdale series count at least as genre adjacent? If so, she’s got the recurring role of Mary Andrews there. (CE)
  • Born February 18, 1979 – Shannon Dittemore, age 42.   Four novels.  Blogs for Go Teen Writers.  Website says “Coffee Fangirl”.  Has read The Importance of Being EarnestGreat ExpectationsThe Screwtape LettersLes Misèrables, two by Shakespeare, a Complete Stories & Poems of Poe, Peter PanThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and four by Jane Austen including Pride & Prejudice in the German translation by Karin von Schwab (1892-1940; alas, Stolz & Vorurteil doesn’t alliterate).  [JH] 

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark peers over a vampire’s shoulder as he gets shocking news about his online meal order.
  • Randall Munroe got a hold of Perseverance’s schedule.

(8) OVERCOMING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Entrepreneur interviews physicist & author Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein about her new book, The Disordered Cosmos: A Journey into Dark Matter, Spacetime, and Dreams Deferred and about sexism and racism in science. They also ask her about her interest in science fiction and about speaking at conventions, even if their fact checkers did allow the proofreaders to get away with calling them “Khans.” (Khen Moore would have been so proud.) “This Theoretical Physicist Boldly Goes Where Few Black Women Have Gone Before” at Entrepreneur.

Professor Prescod-Weinstein, an important theme running through your book is the sexism and racism inherent in science. Crucially, you take time to namecheck those who — like you — did make it through, such as Dr. Willie Hobbs MooreDr. Edward A. BouchetDr. Elmer ImesProfessor Arlie Oswald PettersDr. Shirley Ann Jackson and Dr. Marcelle Soares-Santos. It is only through seeing people like oneself that one can imagine being up there too, right?
Yes, that’s valuable when you have the opportunity. But I also know that sometimes we don’t get examples like us. As far as I know, none of those people are queer, for example. It’s important then to be the person who is like yourself. I know that sounds silly, but I encourage students to get people to take pictures of themselves doing physics, so that they can see that they are indeed what a physicist looks like….

(9) OCTOTHORPE. The latest episode of Octothorpe is now available! John Coxon has cats, Alison Scott has a milkman, and Liz Batty has a gecko. They plug Picocon, discuss Boskone and Eastercon, and talk more about their Hugo reading/watching/experiencing. “Ep. 25: Some of the Rocks Are Going to Be More Interesting Than Others”.

(10) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter forwarded his favorite wrong answers from tonight’s episode of Jeopardy!

Category: Types of Narrative Literature

Answer: You can bet “The Lottery” is a good example of this genre of brief narratives, usually under 10,000 words.

Wrong question: What is a novella?

Right question: What is a short story?

*

Category: All Fairs

Answer: A 1939 New York World’s Fair diorama predicting the look of the city in 1960 was called this, later a long-running animated TV series.

Wrong question: What is The Jetsons?

Right question: What is Futurama?

*

Category: Pulitzer Prizes

Answer: Bruce Catton took the 1954 history prize for his book titled “A Stillness at” this fateful place.

Dumb question: What is the OK Corral?

No one got, What is Appomattox?

(11) IT HAD TO BE SNAKES. Leonard Maltin’s Movie Crazy makes “A Mel Blanc Discovery”.

Sometimes a gem can be hiding in plain sight—or within hearing distance. A few weeks ago I turned on Turner Classic Movies (my go-to channel) and watched part of Alexander Korda’s 1942 production The Jungle Book, starring Sabu. I hadn’t seen it in a while and it’s very entertaining. But when Mowgli encountered the giant snake Kaa, I listened carefully to the voice and realized it belonged to Mel Blanc. It had never occurred to me before; he’s speaking in a very low register so it isn’t immediately apparent. Then I thought of him performing his parody of a popular radio commercial in a Warner Bros. cartoon, saying, “Beee-Ohhh” and I was certain….

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

Pixel Scroll 12/29/20 A Mime
In A Tesseract Still Has Ways To Get Out

(1) BRADBURY’S CHAMPION. The Los Angeles Review of Books hosts “Ray Bradbury at 100: A Conversation Between Sam Weller and Dana Gioia”.

COMMEMORATING THE CENTENNIAL of the great Ray Bradbury, biographer Sam Weller sat down with former California poet laureate and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts Dana Gioia for a wide-ranging conversation on Bradbury’s imprint on arts and culture.

SAM WELLER: The first time I met you was at the White House ceremony for Ray Bradbury in November 2004. You were such a champion for Ray’s legacy — his advocate for both the National Medal of Arts and Pulitzer Prize. As we look at his 100th birthday, I want to ask: Why is Bradbury important in literary terms?

DANA GIOIA: Ray Bradbury is one of the most important American writers of the mid-20th century. He transformed science fiction’s position in American literature during the 1950s. There were other fine sci-fi writers, but Ray was the one who first engaged the mainstream audience. He had a huge impact on both American literature and popular culture. He was also one of the most significant California writers of the last century. When one talks about Bradbury, one needs to choose a perspective. His career looks different from each angle….

(2) TUCKER ON BRADBURY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is from “Beard Mumblings,” a column by Bob Tucker that appears in the recently published Outworlds 71, but which was written in 1986 and is about the 1986 Worldcon.

There were some very pleasant memories of the con.  One of them was when Ray Bradbury recognized me in the huge 10th floor consuite and came over to shake and talk.  Mind you, we had not met each other for 40 years.  Our last meeting was the 1946 Worldcon in Los Angeles, yet he recognized and remembered.  I was very pleased to see him again, and equally pleased to get his autograph across the page of his chapter in Harry Warner’s All Our Yesterdays.  Judging the way he examined that page and that chapter, he doesn’t have a copy.

(3) WHEN HOKEY RELIGIONS AND ANCIENT WEAPONS ARE A MATCH. Professor Louise A. Hitchcock makes a connection in “The Mandalorian and Ancient Mediterranean Societies: The Way of The Force?” at Neon Kosmos. BEWARE SPOILERS.

…Thus, like both Achilles and Gilgamesh of early epic, baby Grogu has semi-divine aspects paired with Din Djarin’s stoic sense of duty and discipline. The pairing both calls to mind Patroclus who becomes a role model to the younger Achilles as well as Enkidu who becomes humanised through his friendship with Gilgamesh. In each epic tale the pair are changed by their bond of affection which is forged through shared experience. In all of these epics, the friends are also tragically separated, our ancients by death, and Grogu by Din Djarin’s quest to return him to the Jedi to finish his training. An element of danger is added by the fact that the Empire is seeking to capture or buy Grogu to increase its power through acquiring his force sensitive blood.

The weekly quest for survival as Din and Grogu, pursue their goal operates on the basis of pre-monetary economy that is reminiscent of maritime trade in the ancient Mediterranean. Food and drink are sometimes obtained through a shared code of hospitality, exchanging mercenary acts for information or needed supplies, transporting individuals from one port to another, providing Beskar ingots in exchange for ship repairs, and even trading spices. In other words, things haven’t changed a lot since the Silk Road brought needed goods from Asia to Mesopotamia or ships transported copper from Cyprus to Crete.

(4) OWN THOSE LITTLE BLACK BOOKS. [Item by Rob Thornton.] Games Designers Workshop is doing two Bundles of Holding that together will contain all of legendary science fiction roleplaying game Traveller’s Little Black Books (LBBs). Currently, “Traveller LBBs 1” and “Traveller LBBs 2” are available. Both bundles together comprise the complete LBB collection.

Traveller! We’ve resurrected both of our 2015 offers of the classic “Little Black Books” from the Golden Age of Traveller, the original science fiction tabletop roleplaying game. Together these two bargain-priced offers give you DRM-free .PDF ebooks of all 50+ rulebooks, supplements, and adventures published as half-size manuals (with elegant black covers) by Game Designers’ Workshop, 1977-1982.

(5) BROKEN HEARTS OF A WRITING LIFE. Stephen R. Donaldson mourns the response to his latest draft.

11/12/20
“The Killing God”: progress report

                I’ve finally finished my first-pass revision of Book Three of THE GREAT GOD’S WAR, “The Killing God” (formerly known as “The Last Repository”). The text is now ready to deliver to my agent and editor. In its current form, it stands at 1100 pages, a bit more than 283,000 words. What happens next? My agent will read the book much faster than my editor will; but I won’t start on the next revision until I’ve received what are politely called “comments” from both of them. At that point, no doubt, Berkley (and Gollancz in the UK) will schedule publication. Sometimes this requires me to do my next revision in a hurry. But not always.

12/6/20 
“The Killing God”: bad news

                My agent has submitted the book to my editor at Berkley. Without reading it (!), my editor informed me that Berkley will not consider publishing the book until I cut 100,000 words. Roughly 35% of the text. On the assumption that I will not do such violence to my own work, Berkley has removed the book from their publication schedule.
Their assumption is correct. At this stage, I routinely prune my manuscripts by 10%. I may conceivably be able to go as far as 15%. But whether or not anyone likes my characters and how I handle them, my stories are very tightly plotted. Each piece relies on–and is implied by–what came before it. I can’t mutilate Book Three without making the entire trilogy incoherent.
My agent believes that where we stand now is not the end of “The Killing God.” (Never mind of my career.) He has persuaded my editor to go ahead and read the book. He hopes that seeing how strongly Book Three caps Books One and Two (which she loved) will persuade her to rethink her position. I have my doubts. I suspect that her position is corporate rather than editorial: my books no longer earn enough to make them worth publishing regardless of their intrinsic merits. Naturally, I hope I’m wrong.

When I have more news, I’ll post it here. I don’t expect to hear anything until sometime in January.

(6) NEXT NYRSF READING. Sam J. Miller will be featured on the virtual New York Review of Science Fiction reading, Tuesday, January 5, 2021 at 7:00 PM EST.

Now that the Dystopia Year of 2020 is over, we will begin 2021 with the wonderful writer Sam J. Miller to make sure we stay on our toes.

Sam J. Miller is the Nebula Award-winning author of The Art of Starving (an NPR best of the year) and Blackfish City (a “Must Read” in Entertainment Weekly and O: The Oprah Winfrey Magazine). Sam’s short stories have been nominated for the World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon, and Locus Awards, and reprinted in dozens of anthologies. He is the last in a long line of butchers, and he has also been a film critic, a grocery bagger, a community organizer, a secretary, a painter’s assistant and model, and the guitarist in a punk rock band. He lives in New York City, and at samjmiller.com

After the reading general series dogsbody Amy Goldschlager will interview the author, and then we’ll open up the discussion to general questions from our virtual audience. Barbara Krasnoff will be the Audience Wrangler.

Please help us keep the series going by donating to NYRSF Reading Series producer Jim Freund at PayPal.me/HourWolf.

(7) EXPANDING THE HONORVERSE. Eric Flint did a title reveal on Facebook today.

Well, it’s official. After much wrangling and soul-searching, we’ve settled on the title To End In Fire for the upcoming Honorverse novel David Weber and I are writing. It’s tentatively scheduled for publication in October.

I tried to hold out for the more exciting title of The Cabal In The Luyten 726-8b (UV Ceti) System, but David overruled me. He thinks that title is too obscure. I find that hard to believe, given that the star system is clearly identified in the Gliese Catalog of Nearby Stars, which I’m sure can be found on every literate person’s bookshelves. But, he’s got the final sayso on account of he’s the one who created this whole setting.

Titles are just window dressing, anyway. What matters is the story — which in this case is shaping up to be a dandy. If I say so myself as shouldn’t, if I subscribed to Samwise Gamgee notions of modesty. Which (clears the throat), I don’t, on account of I’m a shameless scribbler and he’s, well, a hobbit when you get right down to it.

(8) MOSS OBIT. Actor Basil Moss (1935-2020) died November 28. There’s an overview of his career in The Guardian.

Basil Moss, who has died aged 85, was a perennial character actor often popping up in popular series as authority figures, but he found his best parts in two BBC soaps.

He became a familiar face on television as the librarian Alan Drew in Compact, set in the offices of a glossy women’s magazine… 

After Compact, Moss’s other TV roles included … a doctor with the hi-tech military agency Shado, defending the Earth against aliens, in UFO (1970-71), the puppet master Gerry Anderson’s first full live-action series; and Robert Atkinson in the political thriller series First Among Equals (1986).

Uncredited, Moss was also seen as a Navy submarine officer in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice (1967).

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • December 29, 1967 — “The Trouble with Tribbles” first aired as written by David Gerrold and directed by Joseph Pevney,  with some of the guest cast being Stanley Adams as Cyrano Jones, Whit Bissell as Station Manager and Michael Pataki  as Korax. Memory Alpha says ”Wah Chang designed the original tribbles. Hundreds were sewn together during production, using pieces of extra-long rolls of carpet. Some of them had mechanical toys placed in them so they could walk around.” Memory Alpha also notes Heinlein had Martian flat cats in The Rolling Stones that were similar to these and Roddenberry called to apologize for these being so similar. Who remembers these?  It would come in second in the Hugo balloting to “The City on the Edge of Forever” written by Harlan Ellison. All five final Hugo nominees at Baycon were Trek episodes written by Jerome Bixby, Norman Spinrad and Theodore Sturgeon.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 29, 1843 – Carmen Sylva.  Keyboardist (piano, organ), singer, graphic artist (painting, illuminating), poet, writer in English, French, German, Romanian, she left us particularly a dozen tales published in English as Pilgrim Sorrow, one in The Ruby Fairy Book and more recently in the VanderMeers’ Big Book of Classic Fantasy (2019).  CS was a pen name, she was the Queen of Romania.  (Died 1916) [JH]
  • Born December 29, 1915 – Charles L. Harness.  A dozen novels, five dozen shorter stories; appreciation of Van Vogt in Nebula Awards 31; interview “I Did It for the Money” in Locus (but, as has often been said, fiction-writers are liars).  SFWA (Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America) Author of Distinction.  Best known for “The Rose” and The Paradox Men.  Three NESFA (New England SF Ass’n) Press books; here is Jane Dennis’ cover for Cybele, with Bluebonnets.  Patent lawyer.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born December 29, 1916 John D. MacDonald. He wrote three genre novels of which I think the best by far is The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything. He also wrote some sixty genre short stories, many of the genre are collected in End of The Tiger which is available from the usual digital suspects (Died 1986.) (CE)
  • Born December 29, 1924 – Art Rapp.  At his home in Michigan he welcomed fans and published Spacewarp; after two years’ Army service in Korea he married Nancy Share and moved to Pennsylvania.  Two N3F Laureate Awards (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n), later a term as N3F President.  To him was revealed the fannish ghod (naturally opinions differ on what this is for; it may indicate the shape of a cheek with a tongue in itRoscoe.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born December 29, 1928 Bernard Cribbins, 92. He has the odd distinction of first showing up on Doctor Who in the Peter Cushing as The Doctor non-canon Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. film. He would show up in the canon when he appeared as Wilfred Mott in the Tenth Doctor story, “Voyage of the Damned”, and he‘s a Tenth Doctor companion himself in “The End of Time”, the two-part 2009–10 Christmas and New Year special. (CE)
  • Born December 29, 1945 – Sam Long, age 75.  First noted in Fred Hemmings’ Viewpoint reporting Eastercon 23, he notably published (with Ned Brooks) the Mae Strelkov Trip Report (as you can see here; PDF) after friends brought the fine fanartist MS from Argentina.  SL still appears e.g. in The MT Void (pronounce it M-T, not as an abbreviation for mountain).  [JH]
  • Born December 29, 1950 – Gitte Spee, age 70.  This Dutch artist born in (on?) Java has done lots of illustrations for us.  Here is Detective Gordon’s first case in English and in Polish.  Here is Rosalinde on the Moon(in French).  [JH]
  • Born December 29, 1961 – Kenneth Chiacchia, Ph.D., age 59.  Medical science writer at Univ. Pittsburgh, and since he is ours too, member of both SFWA and the Nat’l Ass’n of Science Writers.  A dozen stories; poems (the 2007 Rhysling anthology has this one).  Carnegie Science Center Journalism Award.  [JH]
  • Born December 29, 1966 Alexandra Kamp, 53. Did you know Sax Rohmer’s noels were made into a film? I didn’t. Well she was the lead in Sax Rohmer’s Sumuru which Michael Shanks also shows up in. She’s also in 2001: A Space Travesty with Leslie Neilsen, and Dracula 3000 with Caspar van Dien. Quality films neither will be mistaken for, each warranting a fifteen percent rating  among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.. (CE) 
  • Born December 29, 1963 Dave McKean, 57. If you read nothing else involving him, do read the work done by him on and Gaiman called The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr Punch: A Romance. Brilliant, violent, horrifying. Well and Signal to Noise by them is worth chasing down as well. (CE) 
  • Born December 29, 1969 Ingrid Torrance, 51. A very busy performer who’s had one- offs in Poltergeist: The Legacy, The Sentinel, Viper, First Wave, The Outer Limits, Seven Days, Smallville, Stargate: SG-1, The 4400, Blade: The Series, Fringe, The Tomorrow People, and Supernatural.
  • Born December 29, 1972 Jude Law, 48. I think his first SF role was as Jerome Eugene Morrow in Gattaca followed by playing Gigolo Joe in A.I. with my fav role for him being the title role in  Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He was Lemony Snicket In Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Tony in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Dr. John Watson in Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Remy In Repo Man and he voiced Pitch Black in one of my favorite animated films, Rise of the Guardians. (CE)

(11) KAL-EL AND LL. SYFY Wire is there when “The CW’s Superman & Lois drops first heroic trailer for new DC series”.

… While the teaser isn’t very long (or footage-heavy for that matter), it does give us our first look at the Kent family unit, while Clark talks about how the stress of life can strengthen a person beneath the surface. His use of the phrase “forged liked steel” is a nice little nod to one of Superman’s monickers: the Man of Steel.

(12) SPDIEY’S NEW THREADS. Spider-Man’s hideous new costume that looks like he tore it off a New England Patriots cornerback is revealed in Amazing Spider-Man’ #61.

Over the years, Spider-Man has donned a host of iconic costumes, from his classics digs to the black suit to the Iron Spider. Now in 2021, everyone’s favorite Wall-Crawler will get a brand-new costume to add to his legendary wardrobe! Designed by superstar artist Dustin Weaver, this vibrant new look is unlike any that Peter Parker has worn before. The mysterious look can be seen on Weaver’s incredible variant covers for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #62 and April’s AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #63.

…  Peter Parker will wear this new suit for his face-off against Kingpin in the next arc of writer Nick Spencer’s hit run. Discover the mystery behind this top-secret costume when AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #61 and AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #62 swing into shops this March!

(13) SUPERHERO LIFTS THEATER CHAINS. Deadline reports “’Wonder Woman 1984’ Opening Boosts Movie Theater Stocks, But AMC Loses More Ground”.

The better-than-expected Christmas-weekend opening of Wonder Woman 1984 is giving most exhibition stocks a welcome boost as the misery of 2020 gives way to hope for a brighter 2021.

Shares in Cinemark, Imax, Marcus Corp. and National CineMedia rose between 3% and 7% apiece after the sequel took in $16.7 million domestically, the best bow by any film during the coronavirus pandemic.

AMC, the world’s largest theater circuit, was a notable exception to the rally. Its stock dropped 5% on ongoing investor concern about its liquidity and a potential bankruptcy filing…. 

(14) BOOGLY WOOGLY STUFF. This is great — Boston Dynamics sets its robots dancing in “Do You Love Me?” on YouTube.

(15) SPLINTERS ARE BETTER. “Japan developing wooden satellites to cut space junk” – BBC News has the story. [Via Slashdot.]

…The partnership will begin experimenting with different types of wood in extreme environments on Earth.

Space junk is becoming an increasing problem as more satellites are launched into the atmosphere.

Wooden satellites would burn up without releasing harmful substances into the atmosphere or raining debris on the ground when they plunge back to Earth….

Does this train of thought wind up with Captain Harlock’s spaceship?

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] “Batman:  The Animated Series/The Heart of Batman” on YouTube is a 2018 documentary, directed by Alexander Gray, on the 1990s “Batman: The Animated Series” which many critics, such as Glen Weldon, say is the best version of Batman.  The film shows that the immediate inspiration for the series was Tim Burton’s Batman and Steven Spielberg’s desire to build an animation at Warner Bros., including giving the budget to have a full orchestra record Shirley Walker’s imaginative score.  Creators Bruce Timm and Eric Radomski give many influences, including film noir, German expressionist films, Citizen Kane, Max Fleischer’s Superman cartoons, and the art of Alex Toth.  But Andrea Romano gets a lot of credit for coming up with superb voices, including Mark Hamill as the Joker and Kevin Conroy as Batman.  The series also turned Harley Quinn into a full-fledged, interesting character and led to Margot Robbie playing her in three big-budget movies.

As an aside, Batman:  The Animated Series discusses how earlier animated shows of the 1980s had stifling restrictions imposed by network censors.  One writer (who wasn’t identified) worked on Super Friends.  One episode had the Justice League shrunk to midgets leading to Robin fighting a spider.  The censors said the cartoon had to include a scene where the spider is seen crawling away because Robin couldn’t hurt the spider.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/15/20 There Was An Old Black Hole Who Swallowed A Jovian Gas Giant, I Don’t Know Why It Swallowed A Jovian Gas Giant, Perhaps It Will Implode

(1) TANTALIZING TITLES. Eric Flint says he and Griff Barber are closing in on finishing 1637: The Peacock Throne, the sequel to 1636: Mission To The Mughals. What next?

…1637: THE PEACOCK THRONE is a hell of a good novel, if I say so myself. All we have left to do is write a few chapters to conclude the story arc. THIS story arc, I should say.

Yes, there will be a sequel. I’m already pondering titles. Possibilities are:

1638: A PREGNANT PAUSE

1638: THE HAJJ IS TRICKIER THAN IT LOOKS

1638: WHAT TO DO, WHAT TO DO…

1638: GIRL, YOU ARE IN SOOOOOOO MUCH TROUBLE

1638: YOU DID WHAT?????

Muahahahahaha….

(2) ABOUT FACE. “Stranger Than Something That Is Already Strange: A Conversation with Namwali Serpell” at the LA Review of Books.

That leads right into one of my other questions. The central claim of the book is that, rather than being all that interested in the Ideal Face, we actually “love to play with faces, to make them into art.” Why do you think it is so important to emphasize art and play when thinking about the face?

I think that, when you have a very dominant model of something, like the face, you have to undo it not just through examples of things that contravene it — not just through counterexamples — but you have to actually build a positive model. In thinking about what playing with the face gives to us, I needed to present it not just as a kind of denigration or a sacrilegious desecration because we have this deification of the ideal face. So, I started thinking about what playing with faces actually grants us. And I thought, well, it actually starts shifting us to entirely different models of aesthetics and ethics and emotion.

(3) MEDICAL UPDATE. Heather Rose Jones tweeted today —

And later –

Hope she’s getting great care, and our wishes for a speedy return to health.

(4) LEND ME YOUR EARS. Elisabeth Moore pushes the canonical envelope at Sarah Gailey’s site — “Personal Canons: Dragon Rider”.

The idea that a personal literary canon is devised out of only literature has been disproven over and over again in this series of essays. Some people see comics as a key part of their development; others count anime and folktales. The very fact that the personal canon is multifaceted and multi-genre is key to the canon. And so, I want to add a key cornerstone of my canon: the audiobook for Cornelia Funke’s The Dragon Rider, Part 1.

Yes. Only Part 1….

(5) CRAIG MILLER WINS ANIMATION WRITING AWARD. Writers Guild of America gives an award, through its Animation Writers Caucus, that the Guild’s website calls the Animation Writing Award, informally a life-career award. Congratulations to Craig Miller, this year’s winner.

The official description says it’s “given to that member of the Animation Writers Caucus and/or the Guild who, in the opinion of the Board of Directors, has advanced the literature of animation in film and/or television through the years and who has made outstanding contributions to the profession of the animation writer”.

And this year, in an act of madness, they decided the recipient will be me.

I’m truly honored to get this award and hope I have and can continue to live up to it.

(6) TOOT TOOT. Inspired by the Star Trek train set, the O Gauge Railroad Online Forum asks “What kind of bell and horn sounds would be authentic for a Star Ship?”.

“How would you hear it in space? Do you blast the horn 4 times for warp speed? Is the bell for Impulse power?”

(7) A NOISE WITHIN. Meanwhile, “Doctor Who’s sonic pioneers to turn internet into giant musical instrument” says The Guardian. “The performance comes the day before 23 November, the anniversary of the first transmission of Doctor Who in 1963 which is also Delia Derbyshire Day, in honour of the Radiophonic Workshop’s leading light, who created the sound of the show’s famous theme tune.”

The Radiophonic Workshop has always broken new sonic ground, from the Doctor Who theme to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Now they’re at it again – this time using the internet as a musical instrument.

A performance of Latency will take place at a special online event on 22 November using a technique inspired by lockdown Zoom calls. The band includes composers from the original BBC Radiophonic Workshop, which created soundtracks for most BBC shows from the 60s to the 90s and influenced generations of musicians from Paul McCartney, Pink Floyd and Mike Oldfield to Aphex Twin, Orbital and Mary Epworth.

The idea [of playing the internet] reflected our time,” said workshop member Peter Howell. “We’re all subject to the internet now in a way that we never thought we would be. And Bob and Paddy came up with an idea that is literally using what we’re all relying on for a creative purpose, using something that we’ve all taken for granted but in an artistic way.”

(8) INSIDE STORY. Publishers Weekly, in “How ‘The Only Good Indians’ Got Made—And How It Hopes to Revive Horror”, covers the Authors Guild’s From Manuscript to Marketplace panel with Stephen Graham Jones and his team. including Saga editorial director Joe Monti, marketing and publicity manager Lauren Jackson, and his agent, B.J. Robbins.

The Only Good Indians, which received a starred review from PW and was recently named one of Time magazine’s 100 must-read books of 2020, tracks the lives of four young men who, during a hunt, commit a crime against an elk and their own Blackfeet Nation tribe. After walking away from the incident, they find themselves haunted by a mysterious entity bent on revenge, and realize that there are just some things one can’t take back.

What intrigued Monti about Jones’s novel was how it addressed reviving the horror genre. After seeing Jordan Peele’s Get Out, Monti said, he realized that “this is the way we’re gonna be able to talk about race and class and culture with a level of immediacy that other genres can’t”—and he believed Jones’s book nailed it. But Monti wasn’t the only one from Saga who saw the connection. Jackson was hooked from the prologue, going on to read the book in the course of a few days and immediately dubbing it “the Jordan Peele of Horror Literature.”

Johnson argues that Jones’s book is one of a number of recent releases to have proven that the horror genre isn’t as narrow as its reputation. Horror is a “statement about identity” in her view: “there are layers to these tropes, and if you really look deep, it’s saying a lot about who people are and what the world is like,” Johnson said, adding that “the tropes have a function [and] there’s something behind them.”…

(9) DIRECTORIAL DEBUT. Leonard Maltin reviews “Over The Moon: A Beautiful Journey”.

Over the Moon is, like any animated feature, the work of many people but everyone I interviewed took inspiration from its director, master animator Glen Keane.

Glen spent 37 years at the Disney studio and brought to life some of the modern era’s most indelible characters: Ariel in The Little Mermaid, the Beast in Beauty and the Beast, the young hero in Aladdin, the title characters in Pocahontas and Tarzan, and Rapunzel in Tangled, among others. Several years ago he won an Oscar for Best Animated Short Subject for Dear Basketball, a collaboration with the late Kobe Bryant.

This is officially his feature directing debut and as you would expect, he chose his team with care. That’s why Over the Moon looks so striking and its characters are so vivid….

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

1975 — Forty five years ago at Aussiecon One which had John Bangsund as Toastmaster, The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia by Ursula K. Le Guin wins the Best Novel Hugo. Runner-ups were Poul Anderson’s Fire Time, Philip K. Dick’s Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s The Mote in God’s Eye andChristopher Priest’s Inverted World. First published by Harper & Row the previous year with cover art by Fred Winkowski, it would also win the Locus and Nebula Awards for Best SF Novel and be nominated for the Campbell Memorial, Ditmar and multiple Prometheus Awards being eventually voted into the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 15, 1877 William Hope Hodgson. By far, his best known character is Thomas Carnacki, featured in several of his most famous stories and at least partly based upon Algernon Blackwood’s occult detective John Silence. (Simon R. Green will make use of him in his Ghost Finders series.)  Two of his later novels, The House on the Borderland and The Night Land would be lavishly praised by H.P. Lovecraft.  It is said that his horror writing influenced many later writers such as China Miéville, Tim Lebbon and Greg Bear but I cannot find a definitive source for that claim. (Died 1918.) (CE)
  • Born November 15, 1929 Ed Asner, 91. Genre work includes roles on Alfred Hitchcock PresentsThe Outer Limits,  Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Girl from U.N.C.L.E.The InvadersThe Wild Wild WestMission: ImpossibleShelley Duvall’s Tall Tales & LegendsBatman: The Animated Series and I’ll stop there as the list goes on for quite some while. (CE)
  • Born November 15, 1930 J. G. Ballard. I’ll frankly admit that I’ve not read enough of him to render a coherent opinion of him as writer. What I’ve read such as The Drowned World is more than a bit depressing. Well yes, but really depressing. So tell me what you think of him. (Died 2009.) (CE) 
  • Born November 15, 1939 Yaphet Kotto, 81. As we count the Bond films as genre and I do, his first genre performance was as Dr. Kananga / Mr. Big in Live and Let Die. Later performances included Parker in Alien, William Laughlin in The Running Man, Doc in Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Ressler in The Puppet Masters adapted from Heinlein’s 1951 novel of the same name and he played a character named Captain Jack Clayton on SeaQuest DSV. (CE) 
  • Born November 15, 1941 – Daniel Pinkwater, 79.  The Golux (in The Thirteen Clocks, J. Thurber 1950) wears an indescribable hat; DP is almost indescribable.  You may know he wrote The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death; seven dozen more; a dozen shorter stories.  Sometimes he draws his own covers.  He deserves fuller treatment – no – more rounded – no – expansive – anyhow, his Website is here (hint: if you want to know about the Semper admirare melongenum eggplant, find out about the talking pineapple: I can say no more).  [JH]
  • Born November 15, 1942 – Ruth Berman, 78.  Rhysling Award, Short Poem for “Potherb Gardening” (Asimov’s, Dec 02); Dwarf Stars Award for “Knowledge Of” (repr. 2008 Nebula Awards Showcase).  Minnesota Fantasy Award.  Two novels, thirty shorter stories, a hundred thirty poems.  Nonfiction Patterns of Unification in “Sylvie and Bruno” (Lewis Carroll’s last novel, 1893); Who’s Who in the Borderlands of Oz.  Guest of Honor at Minicon 6, MarsCon 2016.  More here.  Often seen in the letter column of Lofgeornost.  [JH]
  • Born November 15, 1952 – Catherine Wells, 68.  Five novels, a dozen shorter stories. “Builders of Leaf Houses” won the Analog 2015 AnLab award for Best Novella.  Outside our field a novel Stones of Destiny about Macbeth (re-issued as Macbeatha).  Plays in a jazz trio at church with her husband on drums, rides tandem bicycle with him.  Thirty in her high school (Robinson, North Dakota); she was top in a class of five; when asked “Are you in the top 20% of your class?” she answered “I am the top 20% of my class.”  Guest of Honor at TusCon 27.  [JH]
  • Born November 15, 1958 – Scott Lefton, 62.  Built the Hugo base for Noreascon 4 (62nd Worldcon).  For the Hugo presentation at Sasquan (73rd Worldcon) by Kjell Lindgren from the Int’l Space Station via videoconference, SL made the Hugo rocket.  SL’s Pitcher-Plant Lamp won Popular Choice – Best 3-Dimensional in the Arisia 2017 Art Show.  [JH]
  • Born November 15, 1972 – Vadim Panov, 48.  Aircraft radio engineer who started writing.  Losers Launch Wars began an urban-fantasy series “The Secret City”, fourteen so far; Club Moscow began a cyberpunk series “The Enclaves”, five so far.  [JH]
  • Born November 15, 1972 Jonny Lee Miller, 48. British actor and director who played Sherlock Holmes on the exemplary Elementary series, but his first genre role was as a nine year-old with the Fifth Doctor, “Kinda”. While he’s had a fairly steady stage, film, and TV career across the pond since then, it’s only in the last decade that he’s become well-known in the States – unless, like JJ, you remember that 23 years ago he appeared in a shoddy technothriller called Hackers, with another unknown young actor named Angelina Jolie (to whom he ended up married, until they separated 18 months later). Other genre appearances include a trio of vampire films, Dracula 2000Dark Shadows, and Byzantium, the live-action Æon Flux movie, and the lead in the pseudo-fantasy TV series Eli Stone. (CE) 
  • Born November 15, 1977 – Ashley Knight, 43.  Loves horses, has been a Rodeo Queen.  Thereafter she became the Mermaid Lady and properly wrote a Fins trilogy; three more novels.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) SHOW TIME. Disney Rewards challenges fans with a “Quiz: How Well Do You Know The Mandalorian?”

Since it premiered in 2019 on Disney+, the first ever live-action Star Wars TV series, The Mandalorian, has thrilled a galaxy of fans with its action-packed adventures. But how closely did you watch, and how well do you know the bounty of details? Strap on your jetpack and launch into our trivia quiz to test your knowledge and target an expert-level score.

(14) DINO TBR. Pocket’s “The Ultimate Dinosaur Reading List” is a collection of links to articles about dinosaurs.

If you ever want to put things in perspective, consider this: Less time separates human beings in history from Tyrannosaurus rex than T. rex from Stegosaurus. That’s right. While T. rex went extinct about 66 million years ago, at the end of the Cretaceous Period, the Jurassic Period’s stegosaurus roamed the Earth 83 million years before T. rex had even evolved. All told, dinosaurs ruled the planet for some 180 million years, while homo sapiens emerged a paltry 200,000 years ago.

That’s just one of many reasons our fascination with the terrible lizards is wholly justified. We’ve curated this Brachiosaurus-sized collection of 20 great articles all about dinosaurs and the people who obsess over them, including what dinosaurs looked like, what it’s like to be a paleontologist hunting for dinosaur fossils, and whether Jurassic Park could actually happen.

(15) TIME FOR A SITDOWN. In Episode 40 of Two Chairs Talking, “Lost in the labyrinth of words”, Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg discuss their recent reading across a variety of genres and spend quite a bit of time on Piranesi by Susanna Clarke, her first book in 14 years.

(16) CHILD SIZED. Sideshow takes you “Behind the Scenes with The Child Life-Size Figure on ESPN’s Monday Night Football”. Video at the link.

Recently, football audiences, Star Wars™ fans, and Sideshow collectors alike were treated to a surprise special appearance of The Child Life-Size Figure on a themed promotional spot about The Mandalorian™ on ESPN’s Monday Night Football.

Now take a look at a few adorable behind the scenes shots featuring The Child Life-Size Figure during the filming of the promo. In the charming video narrated by actor Giancarlo Esposito, the Child Life-Size Figure featured alongside a young boy with ambitions of becoming a hero like the Mandalorian.

(17) HOW TO ASTRONAUT. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination offers “How To Astronaut, With Terry Virts”, in a virtual conversation on November 24 at 6:00 p.m. Pacific. Register here.

On November 24 at 6:00 PM PDT join NASA astronaut and International Space Station commander Colonel Terry Virts in conversation with Dr. Erik Viirre of UCSD Departments of Neurosciences, Surgery and Cognitive Science and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination. How to Astronaut covers everything from training through launch, orbit, spacewalking, deep space, and re-entry. Colonel Virts and Dr. Viirre will discuss the science, emotions, and philosophies that an off-the-planet perspective can grant.

Colonel Terry Virts earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from the United States Air Force Academy in 1989, and a master of aeronautical science degree in aeronautics from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. Selected by NASA in 2000, he was the pilot of STS-130 mission aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour. In March 2015, Virts assumed command of the International Space Station, and spent over 200 days on it. Virts is one of the stars (and photographers) of the IMAX film, A Beautiful Planet, released in April 2016. He is also the author of View from Above. He lives near Houston.

Dr. Viirre has done research for the National Institutes of Health, the United States Navy’s Office of Naval Research, DARPA and NASA. He is a consultant for groups such as the National Academy of Science and a variety of Virtual Reality technology companies.

(18) HONEST GAME TRAILER. In “Honest Game Trailers:  Crash Bandicoot 4:  It’s About Time,” Fandom Games says Crash Bandicoot is “gaming’s equivalent of a C-list celebrity” and dusting off this “mutated marsupial” is like having an “HD remake” of a popular ’90s franchise.  The game features a Peter Lorre joke “that was ancient in the ’90s.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Episode 1

Body Horror

Episode 1 of 3

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

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

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

On your nightstand now: 

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

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

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

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

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

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(12) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

More Star Trek

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 2/20/20 Rotating PixelScrolls And The Possibility Of Global File Violation

(1) CON CANCELLED. MediaWest*Con 40 will not be held – the pioneering sf/media con in Lansing, MI declares it’s the “End of an Era”. The con had been scheduled for Memorial Day Weekend in May.

…Sadly, despite our best efforts to increase membership to a sustainable level, advance memberships are at an all-time low and show no sign of improving. Even with repeating the function space downsizing we instituted last year, this year it does not appear we would make the minimum number of hotel reservations needed to avoid thousands in hotel penalties. Therefore, we have no choice but to cancel MW*C 40 and notify attendees so that they can cancel their travel and hotel reservations in a timely fashion.

We hope people will understand that this is not an easy decision for us, and that it does NOT mean MediaWest*Con is dead. Rather, it gives us time to consider how MW*C may continue in some form.

Obviously, the myriad causes are nothing new — the graying of fandom, dwindling interest in fanzine culture, technology that makes face-to-face meetings seem superfluous, ever increasing travel expense and inconvenience, and SF/Media going mainstream, to name but a few. All have contributed to declining membership and participation in suggesting panel topics, Fan Q nominations, etc.. Nor are many of these issues unique to us, as other cons have suffered as well with no solution in sight.

(2) HAPPY BIRTHDAY, 1632. Eric Flint posted a 20-year retrospective of 1632 and the book series it proved to be a launching point for: “Tempus Fugit”.

…I’ve lost track of how many authors have been involved in the Ring of Fire universe, and how many words have been written in the series. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 authors, and we’re now well beyond 10,000,000 words—of which at least 5,000,000 have been produced in paper as well as electronic format. To put that in perspective, that’s more than twenty times as long as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and sixteen times as long as Tolstoy’s War and Peace. And—wait for it! wait for it!—it’s now much longer than the Bible. (Which comes in at 783,137 words, in the King James edition.)

There are now at least two million copies of the 1632 series books in print. And—this is where grubby scribblers chortle with glee—the royalties earned by the authors have just gone over the $2,000,000 mark. Yay for us!

(3) FOR YOUNG WOMEN COLLECTORS. “Announcing the fourth annual Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize”Literary Hub is taking submissions.

Literary Hub is pleased to announce that submissions are now open for the fourth annual Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize, which awards $1,000 to an outstanding book collection conceived and built by a young woman, aged 30 or younger, who lives in the United States.

According to the guidelines, “the winning collection must have been started by the contestant, and all items in the collection must be owned by her. A collection may include books, manuscripts, and ephemera; it may be organized by theme, author, illustrator, publisher, printing technique, binding style, or another clearly articulated principle. The winning collection will be more than a reading list of favorite texts: it will be a coherent group of printed or manuscript items, creatively put together. Collections will not be judged on their size or their market value, but on their originality and their success in illuminating their chosen subjects.”

…The deadline for submissions is June 1, 2020. You can see the full requirements and apply here. The winner will be announced in September. The prize is sponsored this year by BiblioSwann Galleries, and Ellen A. Michelson.

(4) NEBULA ANALYSIS. Cora Buhlert delivers “Some Comments on the 2019 Nebula Award Finalists”.

Best novelette:

Again, we have a strong ballot in this category. G.V. Anderson is certainly one of the best short fiction writers to have emerged in recent years. Her novelette “A Strange Uncertain Light” is also the only Nebula finalist to have originated in the print magazines. “For He Can Creep” by Siobhan Carroll is a lovely little story and I’m happy that it made the ballot. Sarah Pinsker and Caroline M. Yoachim are both excellent writers of short fiction, though I haven’t read these particular stories. I also must have missed “His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light” by Mimi Mondal, even though I usually read the Tor.com stories. However, I have enjoyed other stories by Mimi Mondal that I read. Finally, I’m very happy to see Carpe Glitter by Cat Rambo on the Nebula ballot and not just because we featured it at the Speculative Fiction Showcase last year. This is the first Nebula finalist we’ve featured at the Speculative Fiction Showcase, by the way, though we have featured finalists and even winners of the Bram Stoker and Sir Julius Vogel Awards.

Diversity count: Six women, two international writers, two writers of colour

(5) SEE THE FRONT OF A BOOK YOU’LL WANT TO READ. Tor.com has done a cover reveal for The Hollow Places, Oor Wombat’s follow-up to The Twisted Ones: “Check Out the Cover for The Hollow Places, T. Kingfisher’s Folk Horror Follow-up to The Twisted Ones.

(6) SHRINKING FANDOM. And I don’t mean it’s getting smaller: Gavin Miller opines at The Conversation: “Fan of sci-fi? Psychologists have you in their sights”.

Science fiction has struggled to achieve the same credibility as highbrow literature. In 2019, the celebrated author Ian McEwan dismissed science fiction as the stuff of “anti-gravity boots” rather than “human dilemmas”. According to McEwan, his own book about intelligent robots, Machines Like Me, provided the latter by examining the ethics of artificial life – as if this were not a staple of science fiction from Isaac Asimov’s robot stories of the 1940s and 1950s to TV series such as Humans (2015-2018).

Psychology has often supported this dismissal of the genre. The most recent psychological accusation against science fiction is the “great fantasy migration hypothesis”. This supposes that the real world of unemployment and debt is too disappointing for a generation of entitled narcissists. They consequently migrate to a land of make-believe where they can live out their grandiose fantasies.

The authors of a 2015 study stress that, while they have found evidence to confirm this hypothesis, such psychological profiling of “geeks” is not intended to be stigmatizing. Fantasy migration is “adaptive” – dressing up as Princess Leia or Darth Vader makes science fiction fans happy and keeps them out of trouble.

But, while psychology may not exactly diagnose fans as mentally ill, the insinuation remains – science fiction evades, rather than confronts, disappointment with the real world….

(7) TRACING A SUBGENRE WITH AN ASSIST FROM SFF. In “The Girl in the Mansion: How Gothic Romances Became Domestic Noirs” at CrimeReads, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, who is about to publish her first crime novel, cites Joanna Russ and Terry Carr as she explains how the Gothic romance evolved into today’s domestic noir novel.

Whatever happened to that girl? You know the one I mean: long hair, old-fashioned dress, with a dark, looming house in the distance and a look of anxiety on her face. She’s most often running from said dark house.

The girl from the Gothic novels.

I’m talking about the mid-20th century Gothic novels, not the original crop of Gothic books, like The Castle of Otranto or The Mysteries of Udolpho. No, it’s that second wave of Gothics—termed Gothic romances—that were released in the 1960s in paperback form that I’m referring to. This was a category dominated by authors such as Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney, and their covers fixed in the minds of a couple of generations what ‘Gothic’ meant….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 20, 1955 Tarantula premiered. It was produced by William Alland, directed by Jack Arnold. It stars John Agar, Mara Corday, and Leo G. Carroll. The screenplay by Robert M. Fresco and Martin Berkeley was based on a story by Arnold, which was in turn was based on by Fresco’s script for the Science Fiction Theatre “No Food for Thought” episode  which was also directed by Arnold.  It was a box office success earning more than a million dollars in its first month of release. Critics at the time liked it and even current audiences at Rotten Tomatoes gives at a sterling 92% rating. You can watch it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 20, 1906 Theodore Roscoe. A mere tasting of his pulp stories, The Wonderful Lips of Thibong Linh, which are sort of based of a member of the French Foreign Legion, and was published by Donald M. Grant. The complete stories, The Complete Adventures of Thibaut Corday and the Foreign Legion, are available digitally in four volumes on Kindle. The Wonderful Lips of Thibong Linh only contains four of these stories. (Died 1992.)
  • Born February 20, 1912 Pierre Boulle. Best known for just two works, The Bridge over the River Kwai and Planet of the Apes. The latter was La planète des singes in French, translated in 1964 as Monkey Planet by Xan Fielding, and later re-issued under the name we know. (Died 1994.)
  • Born February 20, 1925 Robert Altman. I’m going to argue that his very first film in 1947, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, based off the James Thurber short story of the same name, is genre given its premise. Some twenty-five years later Images was a full blown horror film. And, of course, Popeye is pure comic literature at its very best. (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 20, 1926 Richard  Matheson. Best known for I Am Legend which has been adapted for the screen four times, as well as the film Somewhere In Time for which he wrote the screenplay based on his novel Bid Time Return. Seven of his novels have been adapted into films. In addition, he wrote sixteen episodes of The Twilight Zone including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Steel”. The former episode of course has William Shatner in it. (Died 2013.)
  • Born February 20, 1943 Diana  Paxson, 77. Did you know she’s a founder of the Society for Creative Anachronism? Well she is. Genre wise, she’s best known for her Westria novels, and the later books in the Avalon series, which she first co-wrote with Marion Zimmer Bradley, then – after Bradley’s death, took over sole authorship of. All of her novels are heavily colored with paganism — sometimes it works for me, sometimes it doesn’t. I like her Wodan’s Children series more than the Avalon material.
  • Born February 20, 1954 Anthony Head, 66. Perhaps best known as Librarian and Watcher Rupert Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he also made an impressive Uther Pendragon in Merlin. He also shows up in Repo! The Genetic Opera as Nathan Wallace aka the Repo Man, in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance as Benedict, and in the awesomely great Batman: Gotham by Gaslight voicing Alfred Pennyworth.
  • Born February 20, 1964 Rodney Rowland, 56. His best remembered roles to date are 1st Lieutenant Cooper Hawkes in Space: Above and Beyond and P. Wiley in The 6th Day. He’s also Corey Mahoney in Soulkeeper, a Sci Fi Pictures film that frankly sounds horrid. He’s got one-offs in X-Files, Welcome to Paradox, Dark Angel, Seven Days, Angel, Charmed and Twin Peaks.
  • Born February 20, 1967 Lili Taylor, 53. Her most recent role was as Captain Sandra Maldonado in the short lived Almost Human series, with her first genre role being in The Haunting off Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Incidental Comics by Grant Snider.

(11) ARE WE STILL ALLOWED TO LAUGH? Art Spiegelman reviews SCREWBALL!: The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny by Paul C. Tumey, and a museum exhibition of Rube Goldberg’s art, in  “Foolish Questions” at the New York Review of Books.

…Now that comics have put on long pants and started to strut around with the grownups by calling themselves graphic novels, it’s important to remember that comics have their roots in subversive joy and nonsense. For the first time in the history of the form, comics are beginning to have a history. Attractively designed collections of Little Nemo, Krazy Kat, Thimble Theater, Barnaby, Pogo, Peanuts, and so many more—all with intelligent historical appreciations—are finding their way into libraries.

Paul Tumey, the comics historian who co-edited The Art of Rube Goldberg book seven years ago, has recently put together a fascinating and eccentric addition to the expanding shelves of comics history.3 The future of comics is in the past, and Tumey does a heroic job of casting a fresh light on the hidden corners of that past in Screwball!: The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny. It’s a lavish picture book with over six hundred comics, drawings, and photos, many of which haven’t been seen since their twenty-four-hour life-spans in newspapers around a century ago. The book is a collection of well-researched short biographies of fifteen artists from the first half of the twentieth century, accompanied by generous helpings of their idiosyncratic cartoons. Goldberg—whose name schoolchildren learn when their STEM studies bump into chain reactions—is the perfect front man to beckon you toward the other less celebrated newspaper cartoonists who worked in the screwball vein that Tumey explores.

(12) TICKLE-ME YODA? CBR.com scopes out the product: “The Mandalorian’s Baby Yoda Comes to Life in Actual-Size Animatronic Toy”. (And, good lord, the photo at Lyle Movie Files shows a version that comes complete with Baby Yoda’s lunchpail – and a frog! Can that be legit?)

The Force is strong with Hasbro’s new animatronic Baby Yoda toy.

The actual-sized figure of The Mandalorian‘s The Child comes to life with animatronic motions and sounds taken directly from the hit Disney+ series. Arriving in Fall 2020, this lifelike recreation of The Asset will retail for $59.99 and is intended for ages four and up. He also comes with the Mandalorian’s pendant, as given to him by his mentor Din Djarin.

(13) NEEDED IN DC? BBC reports “Human brain seized in mail truck on US-Canada border”.

US customs officers made an unusual discovery when they carried out a spot check on a Canadian mail truck – a human brain inside a jar.

The brain was found at the Blue Water Bridge crossing, between Michigan and the Canadian province of Ontario, on 14 February, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said.

It was inside a shipment labelled “Antique Teaching Specimen”.

The shipment originated in Toronto and was destined for Kenosha, Wisconsin.

“Upon opening the shipment, CBP officers found the package to contain a human brain specimen inside of a clear glass mason jar without any paperwork or documentation in support of its lawful entry into the United States,” the agency said in a statement.

(14) CLIFFHANGERS. This week’s Nature includes a review of some key end-of-society books of recent years. “Panicking about societal collapse? Plunder the bookshelves”.

In case you missed it, the end is nigh. Ever since Jared Diamond published his hugely popular 2005 work Collapse, books on the same theme have been arriving with the frequency of palace coups in the late Roman Empire. Clearly, their authors are responding to a universal preoccupation with climate change, as well as to growing financial and political instability and a sense that civilization is lurching towards a cliff edge. Mention is also made of how big-data tools are shedding new light on historical questions. But do these books have anything useful to share?

The upside of societal collapse is that while it may be the end of the world for them, it can help with innovation and renewal, if not there then elsewhere.  Also, even if the end of the world cannot be prevented, learning from past societal collapses may help us soften the blow. 

(15) BE A SCIENCE REPORTER. Andrew Porter advises “Print it out, put it in your wallet! (Put your own name over the one that’s there.)” Was this what he used to get in and cover events for SF Chronicle?

(16) NOT TOYS. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] Not quite the scale of the rocket built at LoneStarCon 3, but more practical: “Woman solves wheelchair access problem – with Lego” – video.

Rita Ebel, 62, has come up with a novel way of helping wheelchair users like herself enjoy their shopping experiences in the western German town of Hanau.

Rita, who has been using a wheelchair since a serious car accident 25 years ago, has been building ramps from Lego and distributing them around town.

(17) SCIENTISTS GRASP THE OBVIOUS. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Horror films make you scared.  It’s official. Shock, horror, drama, probe!!!! Psychologists in Finland used functional magnetic resonance imaging on 37 subjects watching horror films to see their ‘hemodynamic brain activity’, which is a psychologist’s poncy way of what we biologists call ‘blood flow’. (Why use two words when you can use three longer ones).  Different parts of the brain were stimulated when another group was shown non-horror films.  Or in the psychologists’ words: “[Their] main finding was that acute fear elicited consistent activity in a distributed set of cortical, limbic, and cerebellar regions, most notably the prefrontal cortex, paracentral lobule, amygdala, cingulate cortex, insula, PAG, parrahippocampus, and thalamus.”

Their work is published in the journal Neurolmage: “Dissociable neural systems for unconditioned acute and sustained fear”

…Here we studied the brain basis of sustained and acute fear using naturalistic functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) enabling analysis of different time-scales of fear responses. Subjects (N ?= ?37) watched feature-length horror movies while their hemodynamic brain activity was measured with fMRI….

(18) JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR, PART N: “It’s ‘game over’ for Sony at PAX East 2020” — note, the Boston Globe story may be paywalled.

…Japanese consumer electronics giant Sony said Wednesday that it will not participate in next week’s PAX East gaming exposition at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, out of concern about the spread of the coronavirus epidemic.

Sony announced its decision in a post on its PlayStation blog:

“Today, Sony Interactive Entertainment made the decision to cancel its participation at PAX East in Boston this year due to increasing concerns related to COVID-19 (also known as “novel coronavirus”). We felt this was the safest option as the situation is changing daily. We are disappointed to cancel our participation in this event, but the health and safety of our global workforce is our highest concern.”

In response, PAX East organizers vowed that the show would go on, but with extra precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“We are working closely with the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and following local, state, and federal public health guidelines,” the organizers said on the PAX website. “While we are saddened that Sony will no longer have a presence at PAX East 2020, we look forward to welcoming our friends at Sony to future PAX events and are focused on making PAX East 2020 a successful and enjoyable event for all attendees and exhibitors.”

(19) FAKE VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Verge quivers and quails as “This disturbingly realistic deepfake puts Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk in a Star Trek episode”.

A new deepfake puts Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Tesla CEO Elon Musk in the pilot episode of the original Star Trek, “The Cage” — and I kind of love it. In this particular AI-powered face swap, Bezos plays a Talosian alien with a huge bald head, while Musk plays Captain Christopher Pike (who is the captain of the USS Enterprise before James T. Kirk).

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Nina Shepardson, Karl-Johan Norén, Bill Wagner, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, “Orange Mike” Lowrey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 12/21/19 This Could Involve Thiotimoline

(1) STABBY TIME. Reddit’s r/Fantasy is taking nominations for the Stabby Award until December 28. See the complete guidelines at the link.

Nominations will continue to take place here on /r/Fantasy. Nomination rules are below. Please read them and ask any questions under the comment pinned at the top of the thread.

The method for voting will be explained when the voting thread goes live. The nominations thread will close December 26 at 12:30 p.m. PST. The voting thread will go live no later than about 10 pm on Saturday, December 28.

(2) DIZZYLAND. For your maximum confusion, the Best Visual Illusion of the Year Contest presents its Top 10 Finalists. First prize goes to “Dual Axis Illusion.”

This spinning shape appears to defy logic by rotating around both the horizontal and vertical axis at the same time! To make things even more confusing, the direction of rotation is also ambiguous. Some visual cues in the video will help viewers change their perception.

(3) MEDICAL UPDATE. Eric Flint has posted on Facebook a fully detailed account of the medical problems that caused him to be hospitalized during NASFiC, and the course of treatment since, leading up to —

….Within a few weeks, my condition has improved drastically. My 02 saturation levels are back to normal and I’ve stopped having to use oxygen supplements. I spent the past weekend engaged in a long overdue cleansing of the basement – think “scouring of the shire” –which had me going up and down stairs for hours carrying heavy stuff without getting short of breath right away. Granted, after a few hours I’d get a little fatigued and need to rest a bit, but gimme a break. See “almost 73,” above. When I was a teenager, I spent a whole summer once digging ditches. Those days are behind me.
(Happily. It’s not like I enjoyed it at the time any more than I would today. It’s just that at the age of 17 I was ABLE to do it.).

Okay, enough. This turned into a very long post so I’ll wait a day or so before posting a progress report on how my work is coming along. The gist is: “Quite well, actually.” As I said earlier, as long as I was sitting on my butt or lying down I was able to keep working despite the hypoxemia – and, o joyous day! – my current (and hopefully last) profession involves sitting on my butt or lying down pretty much 100% of the time.

(4) MARRIAGE MASH. Comicbook.com points the way as “Funny or Die Mashes Up Marvel and Star Wars With Marriage Story”.

…The new clip from the site cuts up footage from Marriage Story as well as both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Star Wars sequel trilogy to tell a similar story, but with Black Widow and Kylo Ren trapped in a relationship that has since become poisoned.

While both Driver and Johansson are earning buzz for their portrayal of the estranged couple undergoing divorce proceedings in Marriage Story, many fans are interested in their roles in their respective franchises.

(5) BROOKER OBIT. Tony Brooker (1925-2019), mathematician and computer scientist who designed the programming language for the world’s first commercial computer, died on 20 November 2019 aged 94. See the New York Times tribute.

Mr. Brooker had been immersed in early computer research at the University of Cambridge when one day, on his way home from a mountain-climbing trip in North Wales, he stopped at the University of Manchester to tour its computer lab, which was among the first of its kind. Dropping in unannounced, he introduced himself to Alan Turing, a founding father of the computer age, who at the time was the lab’s deputy director.

When Mr. Brooker described his own research at the University of Cambridge, he later recalled, Mr. Turing said, “Well, we can always employ someone like you.” Soon they were colleagues….

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 21, 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater in Hollywood, California
  • December 21, 1963 — During Doctor Who’s first season, the first part of “The Daleks” aired. Written by Terry Nation and directed by Christopher Barry and Richard Martin. The Daleks which are created and co-owned by Terry Nation will make their first appearance in this story.  The below image is Dalek free so that I don’t spoil your appreciation of their first appearance.
  • December 21, 1979 C.H.O.M.P.S. premiered. Hoping to take bite out of the kid-friendly box office, it was produced by Burt Topper and Joseph Barbera (yes, that Barbera as it was a Hanna-Barbera film), and a cast headed by Wesley Eure, Valerie Bertinelli and Conrad Bain. Critics found it mediocre at best, and reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes really don’t like it as it has Currently a 32% rating there.  
  • December 21, 1979Disney’s The Black Hole premiered. Intended as The Mouse’s Reponse to Star Wars, it was directed by Gary Nelson.  A cast of Joseph Bottoms, Maximilian Schell, Yvette Mimieux, Anthony Perkins, Robert Forster, and Ernest Borgnine were to be found here, while the voices of the primary robot characters were provided by Roddy McDowall and Slim Pickens who both were uncredited. Special effects were developed in-house as apparently were most of the matte paintings used. Critics for the most part didn’t like it, and it holds a 40% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. And it bombed at the box office.
  • December 21, 2010 Mega Shark Versus Crocosaurus premiered. Robert Picardo was the sole performer of genre interest in it, and it was directed by Christopher Ray, son of noted exploitation director Fred Olen Ray. Is it genre? Is it sci-fi?  No one liked it, the critics gave it scathing reviews, and currently it has a 19% score among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. It has, alas, at least two sequels. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 21, 1929 James Cawthorn. An illustrator, comics artist and writer who worked predominantly with Michael Moorcock. He had met him through their involvement in fandom. They would co-write The Land that Time Forgot film, and he drew “The Sonic Assassins” strip which was based on Hawkwind that ran in Frendz. He also did interior and cover art for a number of publications from the Fifties onwards including (but not limited to) Vector 3, New Worlds SF, Science Fantasy and Yandro. (Died 2008.)
  • Born December 21, 1937 Jane Fonda, 82. Sure everyone here has seen her in Barbarella? Her only other genre appearances are apparently by voice work as Shuriki in the animated Elena of Avalor series, and in the Spirits of the Dead, 1968 anthology film based on the work of Poe. She was the Contessa Frederique de Metzengerstein in the “Metzengerstein” segment of the film. 
  • Born December 21, 1943 John Nance. Let’s just say he and David Lynch were rather connected. He’s Henry Spencer in Eraserhead, he had a small role as the Harkonnen Captain Iakin Nefud in Dune and he’s Pete Martell in Twin Peaks. He’s also a supporting role as Paul, a friend of Dennis Hopper’s villain character in Blue Velvet but even I couldn’t stretch that film to be even genre adjacent. (Died 1996.)
  • Born December 21, 1944 James Sallis, 75. He’d be getting a Birthday today if only for his SJW cred of giving up teaching at a college rather than sign a state-mandated loyalty oath that he regarded as unconstitutional. But he also does have a short SFF novel Renderings, more short fiction than I can count, a book review column in F&SF and he co-edited several issues of New Worlds Magazine with Michael Moorcock.  Worthy of a Birthday write-up! 
  • Born December 21, 1948 Samuel L. Jackson, 71. Where to start? Did you know that with his permission, his likeness was used for the Ultimates version of the Nick Fury? It’s a great series btw. He has also played Fury in the Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Avengers: Infinity War and showed up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. too! He voiced Lucius Best (a.k.a. Frozone)in the Incredibles franchise, Mace Windu in The Phantom Menace and The Clone Wars, the Afro Samurai character in the anime series of the same name and more other genre work than can be listed here comfortably so go ahead and add your favorite role by him. 
  • Born December 21, 1966 Kiefer Sutherland, 53. My he’s been in a lot of genre undertakings! I think that The Lost Boys was his first such of many to come including Flatliners, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, The Three Musketeers,  voice work in Armitage: Poly-Matrix, Dark City, more voice work in The Land Before Time X: The Great Longneck Migration,  Marmaduke and Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Mirrors, and yes, he’s in the second Flatliners as a new character. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) TOP COMICS. The Hollywood Reporter’s “Heat Vision” reporter Graeme McMillan names “Heat Vision’s Top 10 Comics Of the Decade”. Anchoring the list is — 

Smile (A Dental Drama) by Raina Telegmeier (Scholastic, 2010)
Telegmeier is, simply put, likely the most important figure in comics of the last decade; after a string of adaptations of the Babysitters Club novels for Scholastic, she’s spent the last ten years creating more comic readers than arguably any other creator with a series of graphic novels for publisher Graphix that mix autobiography with pure fiction, combining clear, easy to understand, visuals with writing that’s accessible and consistently smart and (perhaps most importantly) respectful of its target audience. Smile, Telegmeier’s first book this decade, remains perhaps the finest example of her work, with her story of dental problems as a kid able to win over any audience.

(10) GIFT IDEAS. If you have any last-minute shopping needs, then why not consider Brit Cit published SF/F? SF² Concatenation has a news page with the season’s science fiction and also fantasy book releases from the major UK genre imprints, not forgetting nonfiction SF and popular science. Titles available from large genre bookshops in N. America as well as some online peddlers.

(11) BEEN TO THE MOVIES. John Scalzi says the baker didn’t give the ingredients time enough to rise — “Review: The Rise of Skywalker”.

There are a lot of moments in Skywalker that, while affecting, could have been even more so if they hadn’t been so gosh darn rushed. The prequel trilogy had excellent actors who weren’t utilized fully because as a director Lucas didn’t know what to do with people; the Disney trilogy has excellent actors who aren’t utilized fully because they simply don’t have the time to process, onscreen, the overwhelming emotions they’re supposed to be having. Abrams the director steps on several of those moments because apparently he’s got another plot point he’s gonna cram in. It’s deeply rare, especially these days, that I say a film should be longer — Jesus, they really don’t need to be any longer — but Skywalker genuinely could have benefited from an extra ten or fifteen minutes, just to let its actors do their jobs.

(12) PUNCH PULLED. Leonard Maltin declined to throw his popcorn box at the screen – after all, says he, other people will like the excess: “Star Wars: Variations on a Theme”.

I had a good time watching J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, even though I felt sucker-punched more than once. The filmmaker knows that this is the last time he (or possibly anyone) will get to play with George Lucas’s original concept and characters and his giddiness gets the better of him. Without spoiling any surprises, let’s just say that elements of identity, the powers of the Force and matters of life and death are toyed with in the name of “gotcha” entertainment.

At the same time, Abrams knows that diehard fans share his sentimental longing to spend a little more time with the people who first won our hearts in the initial installments of the Star Wars saga. He milks this for all it’s worth, and if he errs on the side of excess I bet there are lots of folks who won’t mind.

(13) SALUTE TO THE SEVENTIES. Tim Kreider’s New York Times op-ed “What if ‘Star Wars’ Was Just a Movie?” is full of pronouncements about things that are obvious – if you agree with the analysis.

…Lots of critics pointed out that the coda of “Star Wars,” when three heroes march up a corridor between columns of massed soldiers, is a visual quote of the wreath-laying at Nuremberg in “Triumph of the Will,” but everyone seems to assume this is a random allusion, devoid of historical context. It’s not as if Lucas was oblivious of the source. His film is full of fascist iconography — all, up until this moment, associated with the Empire. Assuming this final image is deployed intentionally, it might be most hopefully interpreted as a warning: Don’t become the thing you’ve fought against. The intimation of a hidden kinship between our hero and his enemy was right there in Darth Vader’s name all along — the dark father.

(14) MORE DISSENT FROM ROWLING’S TWEET. “‘Harry Potter’ Helped Me Come Out as Trans, But J.K. Rowling Disappointed Me” is a New York Times op-ed. (Site limits free articles.)

… As a devoted Harry Potter fan who also happens to be transgender, it was like a punch in the gut.

For the past decade, I’ve been an active player in the Harry Potter fan community, serving as the spokesperson for an independent nonprofit inspired by the boy wizard, sitting on the brain trust for a prominent Harry Potter fan conference and making videos about the impact the series has had on my life. I’ve seen the mind-blowing creativity of fans — from wizard rock music to cosplay to fan fiction that will make you weep — as well as their unparalleled capacity for positive change. Fans have organized in Harry’s name to donate over 400,000 books around the world, campaign in support of marriage equality and even convince Warner Bros. to switch to ethical sourcing for its Harry Potter-branded chocolates.

It was this community of loving, passionate people who accepted me with open arms when I came out as transgender at the age of 25. While I was nervous about coming out to some relatives and acquaintances, I never doubted that the Harry Potter fan community would accept me for who I was. After all, we all adhered to the values we learned from the books about being yourself, loving those who are different from you and sticking up for the underdog….

(15) A PAIR OF SCIENCE ROUNDUPS. Science has just published its round-up of top science of the year. In the mix is the biological recovery at the dinosaur asteroid impact site, a look at the human precursor Denisovan species, quantum computing breakthroughs and new Horizons Kuiper belt object encounter.

Also, what went wrong for scientists in 2019, including the Amazon burning.

Forest fires consumed thousands of square kilometers of the Amazon this year, and many blame the policies of Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, for fanning the flames.

Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) estimates the number of fires in the Amazon increased by 44% compared with 2018. One factor was an increase in deforestation, to about 9700 square kilometers in the 12 months through July, the largest area since 2007–08, INPE reported in November. Ranchers and farmers cut down and sell valuable trees and then burn the forest to make space for planting crops or raising cattle. Remote sensing indicated that this year’s fires tended to be far away from where crops are grown, suggesting ranchers were probably responsible….

(16) MEOW MIX. A cat with representation! The Hollywood Reporter invites you to “Meet CAA’s Million-Dollar Cat Client”.

It’s been a tough year for viral cats. Grumpy Cat passed away May 14 at age 7 following a urinary tract infection, and, on Dec. 1, Lil Bub, a special-needs perma-kitten with an ever-dangling tongue, died in her sleep at age 8. Going strong, however, is Nala Cat, a Siamese-tabby mix with 4.3 million Instagram followers, who happens to be the sole feline client of powerhouse agency CAA….

(17) ANOTHER STAR ON THE HORIZON? “Bionic cat Vito becomes ‘superstar’ with his prosthetic legs” – BBC has the story. Photos at the link.

A six-year-old cat has become an internet “superstar” as the first in Italy to receive two prosthetic hind legs following a serious road accident.

Vito, or Vituzzo, had both rear legs amputated after they were crushed by a vehicle in Milan while his owners were away on their honeymoon.

The couple, former basketball player Silvia Gottardi and her wife Linda Ronzoni, returned home immediately.

Vito’s story has been widely shared with the hashtag #vituzzosuperstar.

His surgery to attach two prostheses by inserting them directly into his remaining upper leg bones has reportedly never before been achieved successfully in Italy.

(18) SEUSS-COOKED MEAL. What’s this wrapped up in breakfast-scented paper for you from Sam? Surprise reveal, there’s a second serving of Green Eggs & Ham on Netflix.

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

2018 Sidewise Awards

The winners of the 2018 Sidewise Awards for Alternate History were announced October 15.

Sidewise Award for Best Long Form Alternate History

  • Mary Robinette Kowal, The Calculating Stars (Tor Books)
Mary Robinette Kowal Lady Astronaut Calculating Stars Jamie Stafford-Hill using figures by Gregory Manchess
Mary Robinette Kowal Lady Astronaut Calculating Stars

Sidewise Award for Best Short Form Alternate History

  • Oscar (Xiu) Ramirez & Emmanuel Valtierra, Codex Valtierra

Special Achievement Sidewise Award

  • Eric Flint

for his ongoing encouragement of the genre of alternate history through his support of the community and writers developed around his 1632 series In 2000, Eric Flint published the novel 1632. Following the publication of the novel, Flint has encouraged an extensive on-line community to expand on his vision and explore the ramifications of alternate history through discussion and publication of fiction and non-fiction that builds off his original work, resulting in dozens of stories and novels and helping to launch the careers of many authors.

The judges for the 2018 awards included Karen Hellekson, Matt Mitrovich, Jim Rittenhouse, Kurt Sidaway, and Steven H Silver.

The Sidewise Awards for Alternate History were first given in 1996. The award takes its name from Murray Leinster’s 1934 short story “Sidewise in Time,” in which a strange storm causes portions of Earth to swap places with their analogs from other timelines.

[Thanks to Steven H Silver and Mark Hepworth for the story.]