Pixel Scroll 8/21/21 Marvel’s Pixels Of S.C.R.O.L.L.

(1) NEW SOLUTION FOR X. Louisiana convention CONtraflow X has been cancelled for 2021 due to the pandemic, and been rescheduled to 2022.

Some unfortunate news to pass on- CONtraflow Faithful, Friends, and Fen- with the recent Delta-Variant COVID-19 surge not yet peaking in our region and after working with/looking at all of our options with our host hotel and city/parish/state leadership, the board of directors of CONtraflow has come to the following conclusion. We must once again postpone/reschedule CONtraflow X. Pandemic conditions and restrictions, as they currently are and will be for the foreseeable future, make it next to impossible to host the convention in even a close approximation to what you all expect from a CONtraflow. Our only responsible, reasonable, and possible choice is to reschedule CONtraflow X….

(2) UK PROZINE LAUNCHES. ParSec Digital Magazine – Issue 1 has been released by PS Publishing, which announced plans for the new title after failing to acquire Interzone. See the table of contents at the link.

(3) FOURTH DOCTOR CONFESSES. “Tom Baker: ‘I didn’t know what to do with Doctor Who’” he tells Radio Times.

Tom Baker first played the Doctor almost 50 years ago – and to hear the acting legend tell it, he’s never really stopped.

“I got it right out of the blue,” he tells RadioTimes.com of his 1974 casting as Jon Pertwee’s Doctor Who replacement. “There we were, and I thought… I didn’t know what to do with it. And I still don’t know what to do with it! Because of course, the problem is it’s not really an acting part. In fact, I don’t really do acting parts, because they just embarrass me.

“I try to inhabit these kind of crackpot people who I play, and find a crackpot niche in my crackpot brain… I slot them in and off we go!”

…From storytelling structure to music and sound design, these new stories – adapted from Hinchcliffe’s initial ideas by writer Marc Platt – seek to recapture the flavour and feel of Doctor Who’s Hammer Horror-influenced TV outings from the 1970s. Recapturing his performance wasn’t a problem for Baker, chiefly because he claims playing the Doctor wasn’t for him a performance at all.

(4) HORROR POET. “Life Between This World and the Next: An Interview with Poet Corrine De Winter” at the Horror Writers Association Blog.

On the latest HWA Horror Poetry Blog, Bram Stoker winning author Corrine De Winter shares thoughts on the craft of poetry, being mentored by William Packard and discusses an upcoming new volume of verse “Awakening Persephone.”

(5) ON THE RADIO. A short audio SF play that filers might like, recommended by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie: BBC Radio 4 – Angst!, Gaia

Gaia.  It’s a job, cleaning the fusty man’s laboratory.
But a job that could hold the fate of humanity in the balance….

In today’s ‘zeit’, the ‘geist’ is everywhere – environmental catastrophe, conspiracy theories, populism, fake news, the age of the algorithm, nationalism, racism, social exclusion. Not to mention pandemics.

As the world teeters on the edge of various self-made apocalypses, Angst! takes a satirical sideways look at our own naked fears. Five separate but connected half-hour ‘what if?’ stories all told under the watchful eye of the enigmatic Timor Greer.

What if the planet is, in reality, a single sentient organism, intent on ridding itself of the poisonous human parasites living on its surface? And what if a way is found to communicate with this ‘intelligence’? And what if the person put in charge of negotiations is a refugee cleaner from Darfur?

(6) TORRID TOURISM. [Item by Darrah Chavey.] Clearly an SF poster, and should have been a book cover! This really was produced by NASA, but I had no idea they had an “Exoplanet Travel Bureau”. “55 Cancri e: Skies Sparkle Above a Never-Ending Ocean of Lava”. This poster from the NASA Exoplanets Exploration Program’s Exoplanet Travel Bureau was recently Wikipedia’s Picture of the Day.

A global ocean of lava under sparkling, silicate skies reflecting the lava below: what better choice for an extreme vacation? Planet Janssen, or 55 Cancri e, orbits a star called Copernicus only 41 light years away. The molten surface is completely uninhabitable, but you’ll ride safely above, taking in breathtaking views: the burning horizon, Janssen’s sister planet Galileo hanging in a dark sky, and curtains of glowing particles as you glide across the terminator to Janssen’s dark side. Book your travel now to the hottest vacation spot in the galaxy, 55 Cancri e.

(7) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1982 – Thirty-nine years ago, the animated film Flash Gordon: The Greatest Adventure of All premiered on NBC as produced by Filmation who did The New Adventures of Superman and Star Trek: The Animated Series. It was written by Samuel A. Peeples whose first season script, “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, was actually the one that sold Paramount on that series. It was produced by Don R. Christensen who did illustrations for such comic book titles as Donald Duck, MagnusRobot Fighter, and Uncle Scrooge. Critics consider this movie one of the most faithful adaptations of the original Flash Gordon material. IMDB reviewers give an excellent seventy seven percent rating. Oddly there’s no rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 21, 1872 Aubrey Beardsley. Best remembered for his often highly erotic art, ISFDB lists him as having a genre novel, The Story of Venus and Tannhäuser, which bear one of the longest subtitles I’ve encountered (“The story of Venus and Tannhäuser in which is set forth an exact account of the manner of State held by Madam Venus, Goddess and Meretrix under the famous Hörselberg, and containing the Adventures of Tannhäuser in that Place, his Repentance, his Journeying to Rome, and Return to the Loving Mountain”). He has two genre novellas as well, “Catullus: Carmen Cl.“ and “Under the Hill”.  And yes, he was just twenty-five when he died of tuberculosis. (Died 1898.)
  • Born August 21, 1888 Miriam Allen deFord. Almost all of her genre fiction was published at Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction under the editorship of Anthony Boucher. It can be found in two collections, Xenogenesis and Elsewhere, Elsewhen, Elsehow. Her “A Death in the Family” story was adapted in Night Gallery‘s second season. Other than scattered short stories, nothing’s available at the usual suspects. (Died 1975.)
  • Born August 21, 1911 Anthony Boucher. Rocket to the Morgue is of course a really great read. If you can find a copy, The Compleat Boucher: The Complete Short Science Fiction and Fantasy of Anthony Boucher is a most excellent read. Fortunately The Compleat Werewolf and Other Stories of Fantasy and Science Fiction is available at the usual suspects and it’s quite delicious. Award-wise, he would win Hugos at Solacon (1958) and the next year at Detention for Best Professional Magazine for his editing of F&SF. (Died 1968.)
  • Born August 21, 1943 Lucius Shepard. Astounding Award for a Best New Writer winner of 1985. His Life During Wartime  is one seriously weird novel. And his World Fantasy Award winning The Jaguar Hunter is freaking amazing as are all his short collections. I don’t remember reading “Barnacle Bill the Spacer” which won a Best Novella Hugo at ConFrancisco. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 21, 1953 Rev Ivan Stang, 68. Best known as the author and publisher of the first writings of the Church of the SubGenius. He’s credited with founding the Church with friend Philo Drummond in 1979. ISFDB only lists “The Scepter of Praetorious” as genre but really isn’t the entire Church genre? (Ducks really quickly to avoid anything thrown at him.)
  • Born August 21, 1956 Kim Cattrall, 65. Gracie Law in John Carpenter’s amazing Big Trouble in Little China. She also played Justine de Winter in The Return of the Musketeers, Paige Katz in Wild Palms, Lieutenant Valeris in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and Linday Isley in Good v. Evil. Series wise, she was one offs in Tales of the Gold MonkeyLogan’s RunThe Incredible Hulk and The Outer Limits
  • Born August 21, 1968 Carrie-Anne Moss, 53. I first saw her as Tara McDonald in the Dark Justice series. Not genre, just her first video I think. She later played Monica Howard in the “Feeding the Beast” episode of Forever Knight as her first genre role. Oddly enough her next role was as Liz Teel in the Canadian series called Matrix which has nothing to do with the Matrix film franchise where she’s Trinity. Her latest genre role was playing Jeryn Hogarth in the now defunct Netflix based Marvel Universe, most notably Jessica Jones. She reprising her Trinity role in the forthcoming Matrix 4 film.
  • Born August 21, 1975 Alicia Witt, 46. Her first role was at age eight as Alia Atreides in David Lynch’s Dune. She next, genre wise at least, voices Caitlin Fairchild in the animated Gen¹³ film which I’ve not seen but want to. She has series one-offs in Twilight ZonePerson of InterestElementaryThe MentalistWalking DeadSupernatural and The Librarians. She showed up in an episode of the original Twin Peaks and reprised that role nearly thirty years later in Twin Peaks: A Limited Event Series. She had a recurring role in The Exorcist series as Nikki Kim.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) THE CAPTAIN WHO FELL TO EARTH. “Capt. Janeway” is joining the cast of the remake of The Man Who Fell to Earth.  No, she will not be playing the David Bowie role. Gizmodo has the story.

…Mulgrew is just the latest in an increasingly impressive list of additions to the cast of the adaptation of Walter Tevis novel and inspired by the iconic 1976 film adaptation by Nicolas Roeg. The movie starred the legendary and dearly missed David Bowie as Thomas Jerome Newton, an alien being who comes to Earth from his devastated homeworld, Anthea, in search of water supplies that could save the planet from a deadly drought. Mulgrew joins Chiwetel Ejiofor, who will play the new alien being who has fallen to earth in a time of great upheaval for humanity, and Naomie Harris in the main cast, alongside Sonya CassidyClarke Peters, and Jimmi Simpson. All this goes a long way to saying we’re not quite sure it can live up to Bowie’s turn, but even then, it’s clear Showtime’s taking a big swing at attempting to follow up on Roeg’s and the music icon’s take on Tevis’ work….

(11) METAVERSE TRAITOR! Alexandra Petri thinks it’s a bad idea to tell office workers they’re characters in the metaverse! “Do you ever think … that Facebook’s virtual-reality office is stupid?” in the Washington Post.

… “Do you ever think …” a voice said from what sounded like Greg’s right. Greg turned his cartoon avatar to look in the direction of the voice, “ … that maybe the Metaverse is a stupid waste of everyone’s time?

The voice was coming from a cartoon avatar of a bald man in small, 2000s-era sunglasses and a trench coat, although the trench coat only extended to his waist because everyone’s avatars stopped there, so it looked more like a trench jacket….

(12) ‘SHIPS AHOY. Sarah Z does a very thorough investigation of the “Proshippers” and “Antishippers” in a wide variety of fandoms:

…All of these is an undercurrent of something… more. Something beyond just the basic aspect of pairing two characters together. Because no matter how simple a fictional character pairing may seem, the truth is that it is almost never that simple. There is almost always going to be discourse of some kind, be it because people find the ship offensive, because they find it unappealing, or because they don’t like the people doing  the ship itself. And soon what happens is that the very basic concept of shipping two characters becomes the breeding ground for something deeper and darker and messier. It brings you into the world of proshippers and antis….

(13) BOMBADIL AWAY! And an older vid of Dominic Noble’s:”The coolest character in LOTR that didn’t make it into the movies” — and it’s not Tom Bombadil.

The Lord of the Rings adaptations were amazing, but no film can include EVERY character from the book. In this video we take a look at five creations of J. R. R. Tolkien that didn’t make the cut, including the coolest one of all.

(14) TIME DILATION. “Vacation Warp Speed, Mr. Sulu!” “Let’s Get the Hell Out of Here!” In “Why Time Slows Down When We’re Afraid, Speeds Up as We Age, and Gets Warped on Vacation” we revisit a 2013 Brain Pickings post. (Just how old does that feel to you?)

…Among the most intriguing illustrations of “mind time” is the incredible elasticity of how we experience time. (“Where is it, this present?,” William James famously wondered“It has melted in our grasp, fled ere we could touch it, gone in the instant of becoming.”) For instance, Hammond points out, we slow time down when gripped by mortal fear — the cliche about the slow-motion car crash is, in fact, a cognitive reality. This plays out even in situations that aren’t life-or-death per se but are still associated with strong feelings of fear. Hammond points to a study in which people with arachnophobia were asked to look at spiders — the very object of their intense fear — for 45 seconds and they overestimated the elapsed time. The same pattern was observed in novice skydivers, who estimated the duration of their peers’ falls as short, whereas their own, from the same altitude, were deemed longer.

Inversely, time seems to speed up as we get older — a phenomenon of which competing theories have attempted to make light. One, known as the “proportionality theory,” uses pure mathematics, holding that a year feels faster when you’re 40 than when you’re 8 because it only constitutes one fortieth of your life rather than a whole eighth. Among its famous proponents are Vladimir Nabokov and William James. But Hammond remains unconvinced…

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “The Stunt Man Tutorial” at Screen Rant, written by Ryan George. Samuel Brisson plays stunt man Chuck Fluster, who’s trying to be Tom Cruise’s stunt double and knows he’ll hear from Tom soon because whoever runs tomcruise at gmail.com asked for his Social Security number!  And if you need a stunt man to wrestle in a Planet of the Apes movie, Chuck’s ready!

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Jennifer Hawthorne, Darrah Chavey, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]

Pixel Scroll 6/30/21 Imagine There’s No Pixels

(1) HELICOPTER OVERVIEW. In “How Twitter can ruin a life: Isabel Fall’s complicated story” at Vox, Emily VanDer Werff’s interview with author Fall is threaded throughout a wide-ranging commentary about the ways “Isabel Fall’s sci-fi story ‘I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter’ drew the ire of the internet” and what happened next. The article begins —

“In a war zone, it is not safe to be unknown. Unknown travelers are shot on sight,” says Isabel Fall. “The fact that Isabel Fall was an unknown led to her death.”

Isabel Fall isn’t dead. There is a person who wrote under that name alive on the planet right now, someone who published a critically acclaimed, award-nominated short story. If she wanted to publish again, she surely could.

Isabel Fall is a ghost nonetheless.

In January 2020, not long after her short story “I Sexually Identify as an Attack Helicopter” was published in the online science fiction magazine Clarkesworld, Fall asked her editor to take the story down, and then checked into a psychiatric ward for thoughts of self-harm and suicide.

The story — and especially its title, which co-opts a transphobic meme — had provoked days of contentious debate online within the science fiction community, the trans community, and the community of people who worry that cancel culture has run amok. Because there was little biographical information available about its author, the debate hinged on one question: Who was Isabel Fall? And that question ate her alive. When she emerged from the hospital a few weeks later, the world had moved on, but she was still scarred by what had happened. She decided on something drastic: She would no longer be Isabel Fall….

(2) AND THE WINNER IS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The public has selected “Commander Moonikin Campos” as the official name of the manikin to be launched on Artemis I, the uncrewed flight test of the Space Launch System rocket and Orion spacecraft around the Moon. The launch is currently scheduled for later this year. The namesake of the moonikin is Arturo Campos — electrical power subsystem manager for the Apollo 13 lunar module — who was a key player in bringing that mission safely back to Earth. ”Public Names ‘Moonikin’ Flying Around Moon on NASA’s Artemis Mission” at NASA.

The final bracket challenge was between Campos and Delos, a reference to the island where Apollo and Artemis were born, according to Greek mythology. 

… The other six names under consideration were:

  • ACE, for “Artemis Crew Explorer.”
  • DUHART, a dedication to Irene Duhart Long, chief medical officer at Kennedy Space Center from 2000 to 2010.
  • MONTGOMERY, dedication to Julius Montgomery, first African American to work as a technical professional at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, now known as Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
  • RIGEL, a giant superstar in the Orion constellation.
  • SHACKLETON, a crater on the Moon’s South Pole, which is named after famous Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton.
  • WARGO, a dedication to Michael Wargo, NASA’s first chief exploration scientist.

The Moonikin is a male-bodied manikin previously used in Orion vibration tests. Campos will occupy the commander’s seat inside and wear an Orion Crew Survival System suit– the same spacesuit that Artemis astronauts will use during launch, entry, and other dynamic phases of their missions.

Campos will be equipped with two radiation sensors and have additional sensors under its headrest and behind its seat to record acceleration and vibration data throughout the mission. Data from the Moonikin’s experience will help NASA protect astronauts during Artemis II, the first mission in more than 50 years that will send crew around the Moon….

(3) MORE OMENS. Good Omens has been renewed For Season 2 at Amazon reports Deadline. Neil Gaiman fills in the details at his blog in “Really Bloody Excellent Omens…”

It’s been thirty-one years since Good Omens was published, which means it’s thirty-two years since Terry Pratchett and I lay in our respective beds in a Seattle hotel room at a World Fantasy Convention, and plotted the sequel. (I got to use bits of the sequel in the TV series version of Good Omens — that’s where our angels came from.)

Terry was clear on what he wanted from Good Omens on the telly. He wanted the story told, and if that worked, he wanted the rest of the story told.

So in September 2017 I sat down in St James’ Park, beside the director, Douglas Mackinnon, on a chair with my name on it, as Showrunner of Good Omens. The chair slowly and elegantly lowered itself to the ground underneath me and fell apart, and I thought, that’s not really a good omen. Fortunately, under Douglas’s leadership, that chair was the only thing that collapsed. 

… So that’s the plan. We’ve been keeping it secret for a long time (mostly because otherwise my mail and Twitter feeds would have turned into gushing torrents of What Can You Tell Us About It? long ago) but we are now at the point where sets are being built in Scotland (which is where we’re shooting, and more about filming things in Scotland soon), and we can’t really keep it secret any longer.

There are so many questions people have asked about what happened next (and also, what happened before) to our favourite Angel and Demon. Here are, perhaps, some of the answers you’ve been hoping for. 

As Good Omens continues, we will be back in Soho, and all through time and space, solving a mystery which starts with one of the angels wandering through a Soho street market with no memory of who they might be, on their way to Aziraphale’s bookshop. 

(Although our story actually begins about five minutes before anyone had got around to saying “Let there be Light”.)

(4) KNOWN UNKNOWNS. Asimov’s does a “Q&A with Ursula Whitcher”, whose poem “Ansibles” appears in the current issue. The intro says Whitcher “is ready to fight for the honor of being the second-most-famous SF author named Ursula” – something definitely to aspire to, but I think at the moment that space is already filled.

Asimov’s Editor: The first line of your poem is, “I can’t explain gravity without using gravity.” Have you ever actually tried to explain gravity?

UW: I have! As well as being a poet, I’m a mathematician. My research is inspired by the physical theory of string theory, which offers one way to unify quantum physics and general relativity. I took more classical courses in general relativity as a graduate student, so I’ve spent quite a bit of energy working out equations for possible shapes of spacetime.

(5) THE BRADBURY LEGACY. The American Writers Museum in Chicago is hosting an exhibit called “Ray Bradbury: Inextinguishable” through May 2022.

Ray Bradbury is perhaps best-known for writing Fahrenheit 451The Martian Chronicles, and The Illustrated Man. He was much more than those stories though: a screenplay writer, a friend to Walt Disney, and an amateur painter, just to name a few.

From a young age, Ray was obsessed with finding a way to live forever. He will certainly be remembered for his writing, but his influence elsewhere may surprise you.

To explore the virtual exhibit, click on the link. To visit in person, see the information about Chicago Museum Tickets & Hours.

[Visit] the American Writers Museum in Chicago, your ticket into the interactive, inspirational, and surprising world of American writing of all genres. Learn about the history of writing in the United States and how it has shaped our lives through exhibits that stretch your imaginations and appeal to all 5 senses.. Then, explore the intricacies of language through games and try writing something for yourself on a vintage typewriter!

(6) LESS CURSE, MORE FILLING. The New York Times says “‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’ to Slim Down Before Broadway Return”.

…The show will continue to run in two parts in London; Melbourne, Australia; and Hamburg, Germany, but will be a single part in New York, San Francisco and Toronto. It was not immediately clear how long that single part would be; the two parts have a total running time of about 5 hours and 15 minutes.

Structured essentially as a stage sequel to J.K. Rowling’s seven wildly popular “Harry Potter” novels, the show was the most expensive nonmusical play ever to land on Broadway, costing $35.5 million to mount, and another estimated $33 million to redo Broadway’s Lyric Theater. Before the pandemic, the play was routinely grossing around $1 million a week on Broadway — an enviable number for most plays, but not enough for this one, with its large company and the expensive technical elements that undergird its stage magic.

The play, a high-stakes magical adventure story with thematic through lines about growing up and raising children, was written by Jack Thorne and directed by John Tiffany, based on a story credited to Rowling, Thorne and Tiffany. Thorne and Tiffany said they had been working on a new version of the show during the pandemic, which, they said, “has given us a unique opportunity to look at the play with fresh eyes.”

The writers did not say what kind of changes they would make, but the production promised that the new version would still deliver “all the amazing magic, illusions, stagecraft and storytelling set around the same powerful narrative.”

“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” began its stage life in London, opening in the summer of 2016, and winning nine Olivier awards — the most of any play — in 2017. It arrived on Broadway in 2018, picked up six Tony Awards, and initially sold very strongly, grossing about $2 million a week. But the sales softened over time, as average ticket prices fell, apparently because of a combination of the lengthy time commitment and the need to buy two tickets to see the whole story, which made it particularly expensive for families….

(7) GAMING CONS ISSUE BANS. There are two different companies using the TSR name. The one known as TSR™ on Twitter is associated with Ernest Gygax as Vice President, who made news with some transphobic comments (which are discussed in GeekNative’s post “The new TSR Games clarify position as key names appeared to distance themselves”.) Two major gaming cons have now said they are closed to Gygax’s company.

The GenCon gaming convention made with this statement:

The Origins Game Fair has said the Gygax-connected TSR company is also unwelcome at their event.

(8) BOUCHARD OBIT. Detroit area fan and fanzine publisher Alexander Bouchard was killed yesterday in an automobile accident. Al produced a fanzine called The Lightning Round. He also liked to post political comment videos on his YouTube Channel AlexanderFilmWorks — the last two in January criticizing the attack on the Capitol. He is survived by his widow, Megan. A GoFundMe appeal has been opened by their friends Kimberly and Miki Ivey: “Al Bouchard’s burial and help for his wife Megan”.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 30, 1971 – On this date fifty years ago, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory premiered. It was directed by Mel Stuart and produced by Stan Margulies and David L. Wolper. It was based off Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. The exemplary cast consisted of Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, Peter Ostrum, Roy Kinnear, Julie Dawn Cole, Leonard Stone, Denise Nickerson, Dodo Denney and Paris Themmen. Some critics really didn’t like it, some kind of liked it and most were very fond of it. It really didn’t do well at the box office though not even making back production and marketing costs. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a very superb rating of eighty-seven percent. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 30, 1902 — Lovat Dickson. Australian-born publisher and author who was half-brother of Gordon R Dickson. He wrote a biography of H G Wells, H G Wells: His Turbulent Life and Times. (Died 1987.)
  • Born June 30, 1905 — Nestor Paiva. Sometimes it only takes one film or series  for a performer to get a Birthday write-up from me. Paiva makes it for Lucas the boat captain in The Creature from the Black Lagoon and its oft-forgotten sequel Revenge of the Creature. Though that was hardly his only genre role as his first role was in the early Forties as an uncredited prison guard in Tarzan’s Desert Mystery and he’d be in many a genre film and series over the decades as Prof. Etienne Lafarge in The Mole People, as the saloon owner in (I kid you not!) Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter, Felicity’s Father in The Spirit Is Willing, Captain Grimby in “The Great Treasure Hunt” of The Addams Family and a Doorman in the “Our Man in Leotards” episode of Get Smart. (Died 1966.)
  • Born June 30, 1920 — Sam Moskowitz. SF writer, critic, and historian. Chair of the very first World Science Fiction Convention held in NYC in 1939. He barred several Futurians from the con in what was later called the Great Exclusion Act. In the Fifties, he edited Science-Fiction Plus, a short-lived genre magazine owned by Hugo Gernsback, and would edit several dozen anthologies, and a few single-author collections, most published in the Sixties and early Seventies. His most enduring legacy was as a historian of the genre with such works as Under the Moons of Mars: A History and Anthology of “The Scientific Romance” in the Munsey Magazines, 1912–1920 and Hugo Gernsback: Father of Science Fiction. First Fandom named its award for collecting after him. (Died 1997.)
  • Born June 30, 1959 — Vincent D’Onofrio, 62. His long running-role is Dective  Goren on Law and Order: Criminal Intent which is in no way genre. He was Kingpin in the Daredevil film, Edgar the Bug in the only truly great Men in Black film to date and Vic Hoskins in Jurassic World. He also was Jason Whitney / Jerry Ashton in The Thirteenth Floor, loosely based upon Simulacron-3, a early Sixties novel by Daniel F. Galouye.
  • Born June 30, 1961 — Diane Purkiss, 60. I’ve not read her Corydon Trilogy she wrote with Michael Dowling, her son, but I can say that At the Bottom of the Garden: A Dark History of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Nymphs, and Other Troublesome Things is as splendid as the title suggests it is. She’s also written Fairies and Fairy Stories: A History
  • Born June 30, 1963 — Rupert S. Graves, 58. Here because he played Inspector G. Lestrade on that Sherlock series. He also appeared on Doctor Who as Riddell in the Eleventh Doctor story, “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”. He had one-offs in The Nightmare Worlds of H. G. Wells: The MothTwelve MonkeysKrypton and Return of the Saint
  • Born June 30, 1966 — Peter Outerbridge, 55. Dr. David Sandström in what I think is the underrated ReGenesis series as well being Henrik “Hank” Johanssen in Orphan Black anda recurring role on Millennium as Special Agent Barry Baldwin. He’s currently in two series, The Umbrella Academy with a recurring role as The Conductor, and as Calix Niklosin in V-Wars, yet another Netflix SF series. 
  • Born June 30, 1972 — Molly Parker, 49. Maureen Robinson on the current Lost in Space series. One-offs in Nightmare Cafe, The Outer Limits, The SentinelHighlander: The SeriesPoltergeist: The Legacy,  Human Target and she appeared in The Wicker Man asSister Rose / Sister Thorn. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz tries to for maximum reading efficiency.

(12) LOOK OUT BELOW. [Item by Jennifer Hawthorne.] Third Planet Sci-Fi and Fantasy Superstore in Houston is suing the hotel next door to them because guests at the hotel keep dropping junk on top of the bookstore’s roof, and recently caused a lot of damage.  The suit is being presented in an unusually nifty format though!  To see the entire comic, skip down to page six of the Plaintiff’s Petition. (Screencaps from Above the Law’s post “Comic Store Includes Graphic Novel Of Allegations In Filing”.)

(13) CLARION CALL. The Clarion West Write-A-Thon is under weigh, but you can still get on board.

Here’s part of the FAQ:

2. How does the Write-a-thon work?

Participating writers sign up beginning June 7. They set writing goals, put up excerpts of their work, and use social media to let people know that they’re writing for a good cause. There are all kinds of writing goals—from the manageable “write for five minutes a day” to the ambitious “finish a novel” or “finish six short stories.” Every writer in the Write-a-thon chooses a goal that works for them.

This summer, writers may participate in additional online events, including affinity groups, writing sprints, (recorded) craft talks, and more. See [page] for the full list of perks.

After the Write-a-thon kicks off on June 20, friends and family can visit the Write-a-thon site, choose a writer or writers they would like to support, and use the button on each writer’s page to sponsor them. Every week, writers get a report on who’s donated to them, allowing them to communicate with their supporters. Many writers send their supporters updates on their progress, or show off their completed work at the end of the Write-a-thon, but it’s not required.

3. Am I too late to join?

The 2021 Clarion West Write-a-thon runs from June 20 to July 31. But no worries if you got here midway through; there’s no last day to sign up as a participant, and you can donate until August 31. 

(14) YOUR FIRST. Clarion West is also doing a panel about “Releasing Your First Book” on July 5 at 6:30 p.m. Pacific. “Releasing your first book is tough any time. Hear from four Clarion West alumni who did it last year and learn what their journey was like.” Register here.  The panel features Elly Bangs, Lauren Dixon, Emily Skaftun, and E. Lily Yu. 

On Monday, July 5, we’re hosting our first live panel: Releasing Your First Book. Learn what the journey was like from four Clarion West alumni — Elly Bangs (CW, ’17, author of Unity, Tachyon Publications), Emily Skaftun (CW ’09, author of Living Forever & Other Terrible Ideas, Fairwood Press), Lauren Dixon (CW ’10, author of Welcome to the Bitch Bubble, Hydra House Books), and E. Lily Yu (CW ’13, author of On Fragile Waves, Erewhon Books) — who released their books last year.

(15) NOT DEAD YET. This one is airplane hijackers v. vampires–and it’s in French! Blood Red Sky on Netflix.

Nadja and her ten-year-old son are on an overnight flight from Germany to New York when a group of terrorists violently take control of the plane and threaten the lives of the passengers. Suddenly Nadja faces an impossible choice – should she reveal her dark side and the inner monster she has kept hidden from her son for years in order to save him? The hunters become the hunted in this action-horror from director Peter Thorwarth.

(16) STAR HEIST. James Davis Nicoll recommends “Five SFF Characters To Help You Execute the Perfect Caper” at Tor.com.

…The core members of such a team might include a mastermind (to plan the heist), a thief (to get past any security devices), the driver (to orchestrate exfiltration), the muscle (in case something goes horribly wrong), and of course, the distraction (because it is much easier to get away with stuff if everyone is looking in the wrong direction). Speculative fiction offers numerous candidates who would combine the required expertise with the necessary moral flexibility. Here are the five SFF characters I’d pick for my retrieval team.

The Driver: McGill Feighan (The Journeys of McGill Feighan series by Kevin O’Donnell, Jr.)

McGill Feighan is a “flinger,” a teleporter whose reach spans the Milky Way. He is also one of the very few flingers to escape the Flinger Network’s methodical conditioning, which prevents flingers from doing anything untoward. Although he is not criminally inclined, he is at the centre of a compelling mystery—why did the terribly mysterious Far Being Retzglaran orchestrate McGill’s kidnapping as a baby?—and if you can convince him the job will somehow get him closer to answering that question, he may turn a blind eye to certain legal niceties. With him by your side, the entire galaxy is within reach.

Note: The vast criminal gang known as the Organization would also like an answer to McGill’s question. They play rough, so try not to attract their attention. Or the attention of the Far Being Retzglaran, for that matter.

(17) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter witnessed these stumbles on tonight’s episode of Jeopardy!

Final Jeopardy: 20th Century Novels

Answer: British biochemist J.B.S. Haldane’s essay on ectogenesis, birth outside the womb, helped inspire this 1932 novel.

Wrong questions: “What is ‘Metamorphosis’?” and “What is ‘Steppenwolf’?”

Right question: “What Is ‘Brave New World’?.”

(18) WE SEE EXOPLANETS. HOW DO THEY SEE US? [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] One of the best ways we currently detect exoplanets is when their orbit intersects our line of sight with their host star: these exoplanets transit their star. As said, this only works when observer, planet and star are all aligned. However, just as we can this way detect exoplanets, so exoplanets about stars in the plane of our Earth orbiting the Sun can similarly detect the Earth!

Assuming aliens have at least the same technology as us, how many of these are there?

Two US astronomers, using data from the Gaia mission that takes into account the movement of stars, have worked out how many stars could detect an Earth transit of the Sun.

It turns out that over the past 5,000 years there were some 1,715 stars within 100 parsecs (~350 light years) of the Earth that could detect us using the transit method. Currently, today, there are 1,402 stars that could detect the Earth using the transit method with our level of technology. Of these 128 are G type stars like our Sun.

The astronomers also estimate, taking a pessimistic view of our current exoplanet catalogue, and applying a probability based on that, that there 508 rocky planets in the habitable zone of these stars.

Finally, assuming that we have been generating significant radio waves for about a century, they calculate 29 of these potentially habitable rocky planets could, were there aliens there listening, be in a position to also detect our radio signals.

(See Kaltenegger, L. & Faherty, J. K. (2021) “Past, present and future stars that can see Earth as a transiting exoplanet” Nature, vol. 594, p505-7.)


(19) MARTIAN HOPS. Also from open access articles in Nature: “Mars Helicopter Kicks Up Dust Clouds – And Unexpected Science”.

Ingenuity, NASA’s pint-sized Mars helicopter, has kicked up some surprising science on its flights over the red planet. When whizzing through the Martian air, its blades sometimes stir up a dust cloud that envelops and travels along with the tiny chopper. In several videos of Ingenuity’s flights, planetary scientists have seen dust whirling beneath the helicopter’s rotors — even when Ingenuity is flying as high as 5 metres above the Martian surface. That suggests that dust can get lifted and transported in the thin Martian air more easily than researchers had suspected….

(20) VIDEOS OF THE DAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan, actors who played hobbits in The Lord of the Rings movies (Pippin Took and Merry Brandybuck), appeared on The Late Show to promote their podcast “The Friendship Onion.” Host Stephen Colbert referred to it as completing his set of Hobbits as he has previously interviewed Elijah Wood and Sean Astin—as well as many other LotR actors. There was singing, trivia, and banter plus a video appearance by Peter Jackson.

Dominic Monaghan and Billy Boyd share stories from the set of the “Lord of the Rings” movies and get our host to join them in singing a Hobbit drinking song. You can hear more from them in their new Lord of the Rings podcast, “The Friendship Onion.”

Dominic Monaghan, Billy Boyd, and special guest Peter Jackson try to find a “Lord of the Rings” trivia question that will stump our host. And to up the stakes, they have a special LOTR prize for Stephen if he can get it right.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Justin Busch, Lloyd Penney, Robin A. Reid, Jennifer Hawthorne, Daniel Dern, David K.M. Klaus, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day microtherion.]

Pixel Scroll 12/14/20 Vader Di, Vader Da, Life Goes On, Hey

(1) TOP SHELF. The Odyssey Writing Workshop Blog shares some interesting insights: “Interview: Guest Lecturer David Farland”.

You write under Dave Wolverton for science fiction stories and David Farland for fantasy stories. How did you decide on using two names for your fiction? When would you advise writers to use pseudonyms?

“Wolverton” is a cool enough name for a writer, but so often my books ended up on the bottom shelf. I thought only garden gnomes walking through the store were likely to find them. In fact, research done by Campbell’s Soups showed that 92% of people won’t stoop over to get their favorite soup from the bottom shelf. So think about it. Does that mean that 92% of my readers were being lost?

Maybe I wasn’t losing quite that many, but I think it makes a difference.

So, why change your name?

Change it if it is too close to another famous author’s name. For example, if you’re named Steve King, change your name.

Change it if it’s unpronounceable or offensive. I used to have a good friend whose last name was Shnitz. I’d change it.

Change it if it’s too long to fit on a cover. My real name, at nine letters, was a tad too long.

Change it if you’re writing to vastly different audiences. I used to know a writer who wrote erotica under one name but wrote for Christian audiences under another. He actually used more than twenty pseudonyms since he wrote for a lot of different magazines.

Basically, I try to put pride in my work, not my name. My writer’s name is just a marketing tool, not my identity.

(2) OUR ONLY HOPE. Eric Gansworth may or may not spoil The Mandalorian in “Mute Force: Why #NativeTwitter Couldn’t Stop Talking About Baby Yoda” at Literary Hub – read at your own risk!

…  Several generations later, my family prefers social media. Even members who hate technology have Twitter accounts and they share. Because traditional Indian arts rely on the supply and demand of in-person sales, our forms often include fresh subjects. Nephews send me links to Pacific Northwest superheroes and Star Wars, dubbed into Dine (Navajo). If Tuscarora or Onondaga did this, I’d be all over the effort. I’ve memorized an inappropriate percentage of Star Wars dialogue, and I spoke Tuscarora decently as a kid. The infrastructure is there in my head. I have a kid’s love for Star Wars, less embarrassed than a lot of middle-aged men. I’ve owned a beaded Batman belt-buckle for over half my life. The adult half.

Star Wars is a lens Indians have readily adopted. I love the weird visual pun of a white Rez Dog rocking an orange Stormtrooper pauldron. I also understand the brilliance of the Dine language dub. We recently lost our last Tuscarora continuous fluent speaker, in his nineties. Younger people long studied with him, but now that door is closed. We understand Princess Leia seeking Obi-Wan Kenobi. Her Only Hope was an elder’s endurance. Now that ours is gone, our language fragments float in space like Alderaan, destroyed by the Empire’s weapon, the oo-nih-SEH`rheh Gih-heh. Is it too late to reassemble and master those fragments? If someone started scrolling through my phone pics, could I tell them in Tuscarora that it’s not the droid they’re looking for? Could we laugh?

I love that Twitter doesn’t require an account. Lurking, I stumbled upon #NativeTwitter. Like many Rez gatherings, it has undercurrents of just deadly grousing and gossip, sick burns and sometimes out and out raw belligerence and trolling people who should know better. But as often, it’s an auger for indigenous sweet spots. I’ve regularly seen beginning beadwork artists ask for and receive help. It gives me hope, but not enough to create an account. I know my limitations, or some of them, anyway….

(3) THE MCKELLEN CONNECTION. We linked to David Steffen’s introductory “Universal Transitive Headcanon (UTH)” which explains the concept. Today he put up the first post applying the concept: “UTH #1: The Story of Gandalf and Magneto” at Diabolical Plots. Steffen says, “I could not be more delighted with how it turned out.”

… It is no wonder, then, that even after saving most of the then-known world from the evil power of Sauron yet again, that Gandalf would become embittered and, not only take on an entirely new persona of Eric Lensherr/Magneto (X-MenX2: X-Men United, etc), but turn his back on his prior methods and many of the people he had fought to protect….

(4) READ MORE ABOUT PHYLLIS EISENSTEIN. Bill Higgins notes, “Phyllis and her husband Alex have been good friends to me for over forty years.  I wrote a little over at Making Light. She had friends everywhere across the SF world, I believe, and she leaves behind a large empty space in Chicago fandom.”

(5) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • December 14, 1984 — On his day in 1984, Dune premiered. It was directed by David Lynch and produced by  Raffaella De Laurentiis, the screenplay was by David Lynch from the Hugo Award winning novel by Frank Herbert.  It starred Francesca Annis, Linda Hunt, Sting, Kyle MacLachlan and a cast of thousands. It did spectacularly poorly at the box office and was treated rather badly by critics. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes however give a quite spectacular sixty six percent rating. It would place in fourth in Hugo voting at AussieCon Two (1985) with 2010: Odyssey Two winning that year.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 14, 1869 – Elphinstone Dayrell.  His Folk Stories from Southern Nigeria (1910; he was then District Commissioner) published forty tales, many fantastic; the text, with its introduction by Andrew Lang, is here; most reprinted 2019 with much else in African Myths & Tales.  (Died 1917) [JH]
  • Born December 14, 1916 Shirley Jackson. First gained public attention for her short story “The Lottery, or, The Adventures of James Harris” but it was her The Haunting of Hill House novel which has been made her legendary as a horror novelist as it’s truly a chilling ghost story which recently was made into a series.  I see that’s she’s written quite a bit of genre short fiction — has anyone here read it? (Died 1965.) (CE)
  • Born December 14, 1920 Rosemary Sutcliff. English novelist whose best known for children’s books particularly her historical fiction which  involved retellings of myths and legends, Arthurian and otherwise. Digging into my memory, I remember reading The Chronicles of Robin Hood which was her first published novel and rather good; The Eagle of the Ninth is set in Roman Britain and was an equally fine read. (Died 1992.) (CE) 
  • Born December 14, 1939 – John Baxter, age 83.  Four novels, a dozen shorter stories; two Pacific Book of SF anthologies; film (including SF in the Cinema and biographies of e.g. Luis Buñuel, Federico Fellini), television; four volumes of memoirs; letters, essays in Australian SF ReviewRelapse (which I wish had kept the title Prolapse, but what do I know?), Riverside QuarterlySF CommentaryTrap DoorXero.  [JH]
  • Born December 14, 1946 – Jenny Sullivan, Ph.D., age 74.  A score of books for us, a dozen others, with Welsh themes, some in both Welsh and English.  Chilton Bursary.  Two Tir na n-Og Awards.  Returns to visit Wales from her current home in Brittany.  Would you like to know about a Magic Apostrophe?  Do you think a girl your age named Astarte Perkins might make a good friend?  [JH]
  • Born December 14, 1959 Debbie Lee Carrington. Actress who was an ardent advocate for performers with disabilities. She was the performer inside the Howard the Duck costume, a Martian rebel named Thumbelina in Total Recall, an Ewok in Return of the Jedi (and in the TV movies that followed, a Drone in Invaders from Mars, Little Bigfoot in Harry and the Hendersons, an Emperor Penguin in Batman Returns and a Chucky double in Curse of Chucky. (Died 2018.) (CE)
  • Born December 14, 1960 Don Franklin, 60. He’s best known for his roles in seaQuest DSV as Commander Jonathan Ford, Seven Days as Captain Craig Donovan, and as one of The Young Riders as Noah Dixon). No, the last isn’t remotely genre but it was a great role. (CE) 
  • Born December 14, 1964 Rebecca Gibney, 56. She was of Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, and was also in King’s Nightmares and Dreamscapes mini-series. She also had one- offs in Time TraxFarscape and The Lost World, all of which were produced either in Australia or New Zealand, convenient as she’s  New Zealand born and resident. (CE) 
  • Born December 14, 1966 Sarah Zettel, 54. Her first novel, Reclamation, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award in 1996, and in 1997 tied for the Locus Award for the Best First Novel. Writing under the alias of C. L. Anderson, her novel Bitter Angels won the 2010 Philip K. Dick award for best paperback original novel. If you’ve not read her, I’d recommend her YA American Fairy Trilogy as a good place to start. (CE) 
  • Born December 14, 1967 – Ewa Bialolecka, age 53.  (The software won’t show some characters in her name; it should have a kreska ukosna “stroke” through each – so they’re like English – and an ogonek “little tail” on the – so it’s nasal; the is like English v, the is like English ts.)  Two novels, a dozen shorter stories.  Two Zajdel Awards.  Also stuffed creatures, stained glass, drawings, jewelry; see her at DeviantArt.  [JH]
  • Born December 14, 1979 – Samit Basu, age 41.  A dozen novels, a few shorter stories; comics; film.  Turbulence and sequel Resistance much applauded e.g. in Wired.  Here is a 2017 interview.  [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1980 – Ma Boyong, age 40.  A dozen novels; also a columnist and blogger.  The First Emperor’s Games is about the first Emperor of China: what if he could play video games like Risk (yes, based on the board game) or Angry Birds?  It, The City of Silence, and The Mark Twain Robots are available in English.  People’s Literature Prize (2010).  [JH]

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Not Pulp Covers hosts an artist’s conception of an accident between Santa and a UFO.

(8) INDIE GONE WILD. This is the kind of thing I’d expect to see at Mad Genius Club.

(9) MAKER. Here is a Swede who built his own Warhammer space marine 2.7 meters tall – see the video at SVT Nyheter (and read about him if you know Swedish.)

He previously built a panzerbear from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials – video and a full report in Swedish here.

(10) ELIGIBILITY BUNDLE. When I checked this “Round-up of Awards Posts by F&SF Writers, Editors, and Publishers for 2020” there were almost 150 author links.

(11) EXOCOMPLEXO. Tickets are available for “Cool Worlds: The Search for Exoplanets Livestream” on December 18 hosted by the American Museum of Natural History.

Can rocky planets around small stars hold onto their atmospheres? Are super-Earths habitable?

Laura Kreidberg, exoplanet atmosphere specialist and director of the APEx Department at the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, reviews the latest controversies and recent discoveries of exoplanet research.

Exoplanet detection may be old news—over 4,000 have been discovered to date—but the new frontier lies in unraveling the composition of exoplanet atmospheres, their number of moons, and whether they hold the potential for life. In this month’s Frontiers Lecture, investigate how researchers approach these questions and the scientific processes and evidence supporting their hypotheses.

(12) DAILY DISASTER. And at Tor.com, James Davis Nicoll’s equation is “More Planets, More Problems: The Pessimist’s Guide to Galactic Expansion”.

Suppose for the sake of argument the Kepler data is correct when it suggests there are as many as three hundred million (300,000,000!) potentially life-bearing worlds orbiting sunlike stars in our Milky Way. Suppose we win the jackpot and they are all Earthlike enough for us to occupy. Suppose further some grand unified polity spans the whole of the Milky Way, in the manner of Asimov’s Galactic Empire. Among the many implications is the fact that the Ministry of Oh Crap What Now would have to deal with rare natural events relatively frequently. No doubt stressful for our overworked functionaries, but a godsend for SF authors with an appetite for thrilling peril….

(13) AUNT MAN. Gizmodo’s James Whitbrook knows why they look familiar: “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina: ABC’s Zelda and Hilda Return”.

Sabrina’s aunts are back! But…they’re not the aunts that this Sabrina is familiar with.

Netflix has just dropped a majorly tease-y clip from the upcoming final season of Chilling Adventures, in which Sabrina, unsure of just where she actually seems to be, finds herself meeting her “new” Aunts…except, well, they’re her old aunts.

(14) PSA. The Monster Movie Music blog has created another text-and-stills post from an old film: “DON’T BE AFRAID / Growing Up In the Early Fifties”.

Strangely enough, I found this one on Something Weird’s MONSTERS CRASH THE PAJAMA PARTY Spook Show Madness compilation DVD. 

It’s about kids and their fears, and how to conquer them, a public service short produced by Encyclopedia Britannia Films that was probably shown to 4th graders back in the day….

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY.  It’s from 2018, but Whitney Avalon’s Aladdin “Friend Like Me” Mary Poppins style is news to me.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, David Steffen, Hampus Eckerman, Mike Kennedy, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Daniel Dern, Bill Higgins, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus inspired by Bill with an assist from OGH.]

Pixel Scroll 11/11/20 Guess Who’s Coming For Elevenses

(1) TARDIS TAKES OFF FOR SHORTENED SEASON. “‘Doctor Who’ Season 13 begins filming under strict COVID-19 safety measures” reports UPI.

The producers of long-running British sci-fi series Doctor Who announced filming has commenced on the 13th season of the show’s 2005 revival.

BBC America, which airs Doctor Who in the United States, said Jodie Whittaker is returning as the 13th incarnation of the Doctor for Season 13, which is being filmed “under strict industry and U.K. government guidelines to ensure the safety of all cast and crew.”

“In this strangest of years, the Doctor Who production team have worked wonders to get the show back into production,” showrunner Chris Chibnall said. “We’re thrilled to be back making the show.”

Chibnall said the extra time required to follow the COVID-19 safety protocols led to the decision to do an eight-episode season instead of the usual 11 episodes.

(2) GOLDSMITHS PRIZE. M. John Harrison’s novel The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again has won the Goldsmiths Prize 2020 worth £10,000.

Harrison is an acclaimed genre writer, winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award and Philip K. Dick Award for Nova Swing (2007), and the Tiptree Award for Light (2003), and with many other major awards nominations to his credit. Whether The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again is genre was not evident from the three reviews I consulted, but since one of them was in Locus Online perhaps that should count for something.

The Goldsmiths Prize, established in 2013, rewards “fiction that breaks the mould or extends the possibilities of the novel form.” Works must be written in English by authors from the UK or the Republic of Ireland, and be published by a publisher based in one of those countries.  

The award judges were Will Eaves, Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Chris Power, and Frances Wilson (chair). [Via the estimable Locus Online.]

(3) ELUSIVE TIMES. Cat Rambo discusses “Shooting at a Rolling Hoop: Predicting the Near Future” on the SFWA Blog, about the challenge of writing her contribution to And The Last Trump Shall Sound (which features a cover with a take on Grant Wood’s American Gothic, using Trump and Pence as the iconic couple.)

… Over and over, something was brought home to me in this: when we write science fiction, we are writing about our own times, simply seen through a lens that changes how it is perceived, in a way that adds meaning. Paradoxically, the closer the time in which you’re trying, the harder this is to do. The far future is easy; so much can be hidden in those intervening, ample swathes of time. In the near future, the fabric is stretched out tighter, to the point where every imperfection catches your eye, and yet that gives it a reality, an immediacy, perhaps even an earnestness sometimes lacking in works more removed in chronological terms.

(4) SEARCHING FOR HARDING. Cora Buhlert takes a look at the elusive golden age fantasy and horror writer Allison V. Harding and wonders why some folks insist that Harding must have been a man despite evidence to the contrary: “The Elusive Allison V. Harding and How to Suppress Women’s Writing… Again”.

…Allison V. Harding is also a mystery, because we almost nothing about her. Of course, there are plenty of pulp authors about whom we know next to nothing, but most of them are one or two story wonders, not one of the top ten most prolific contributors to Weird Tales. Furthermore, Allison V. Harding was clearly popular in her day, as the letter columns and reader polls in Weird Tales indicate.

So why do we know so little about her, even though the history of Weird Tales is fairly well documented? Part of the reason is that early Weird Tales scholars like Robert Weinberg didn’t much care for Allison V. Harding’s stories and dismissed them as forgettable fillers and therefore never even bothered to research the author….

(5) MULTI-TASKING. Stacey Abrams, Democratic politician from Georgia and also a fan, has written several romantic suspense novels under the pen name Selena Montgomery: “Stacey Abrams: Georgia’s political heroine … and romance author” in The Guardian.

….Abrams wrote her first novel during her third year at Yale Law School, inspired after reading her ex-boyfriend’s PhD dissertation in chemical physics. She had wanted to write a spy novel: “For me, for other young black girls, I wanted to write books that showed them to be as adventurous and attractive as any white woman,” she wrote in her memoir Minority Leader. But after being told repeatedly by editors that women don’t read spy novels, and that men don’t read spy novels by women, she made her spies fall in love. Rules of Engagement, her debut, was published in 2001, and sees temperatures flare as covert operative Raleigh partners with the handsome Adam Grayson to infiltrate a terrorist group that has stolen deadly environmental technology.

(6) BAD TO THE BONE. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] At the crime fiction site Criminal Element thriller writer Chris Mooney tells what makes a great villain. All examples are SFF and Mooney’s latest novel is borderline SF as well: “The Ultimate Villain Creates the Ultimate Hero”.

… The best, most memorable villains are, to paraphrase screenwriter John Truby (who has consulted on more than 1,000 films), exceptionally good at attacking the hero’s greatest weakness, or weaknesses.  Truby calls such a villain “the ultimate antagonist.” The crisis points in the story force the hero to make incredibly difficult decisions that not only reveal the hero’s true nature but also force the hero to face his or her true self. And more often than not, the hero and the antagonist are competing for the same goal.

But how do you accomplish such a feat in an established pop culture behemoth franchise like Star Trek, where beloved and iconic heroes have already been through dozens of life-and-death scenarios by dozens of villains? How can you elevate the story, make it more meaningful and dramatic, when a book or comics reader or audience of a film or TV show knows from the very beginning that the hero and main supporting characters won’t die or get physically harmed in any serious way?

You create the ultimate antagonist.

The second Star Trek movie brought back a well-known villain from one of its classic episodes—Khan Noonien Singh, the genetically-engineered superhuman from “Space Seed.” The movie could have followed a simple connect-the-dots story about revenge, but the writers turned Khan into an antagonist who not only has the upper hand but is also much smarter than Kirk, more prepared…. 

(7) LIKE A TROLLING STONE. “The Dissident Act of Taking a Walk at Night” — Matthew Beaumont unpacks Ray Bradbury’s “The Pedestrian” for Literary Hub.

…Crossing and re-crossing the city at night on foot, aimlessly reclaiming the freedom of its streets from automobiles, Bradbury’s Pedestrian is identifiable as the scion of a distinct tradition of urban rebellion or resistance, the dissident tradition of the nightwalker.

The distant origins of the so-called “common night-walker” lie in late 13th-century England, when Edward I introduced the Statute of Winchester as a means of enforcing the curfew that prevailed at that time throughout the nation’s towns and cities. This “nightwalker statute,” as it was known, then became central to the colonial law instituted in North America in the late 17th century.

In 1660, colonial law stipulated that the state’s night watchmen should “examine all Night Walkers, after ten of the clock at Night (unless they be known peaceable inhabitants) to enquire whither they are going, and what their business is.” If the individual accosted could not “give Reasonable Satisfaction to the Watchman or constable” making this enquiry, they were liable to be arrested and taken before the magistrate, who would ask them “to give satisfaction, for being abroad at that time of night.” In urban settlements throughout North America there was in the early modern period no right to the night, particularly for plebeians. Almost by definition, the poor could not “give satisfaction for being abroad” after dark. In the streets at night the itinerant were an inherent threat to society. Today, as in the 1950s, residues of this situation persist. Indeed, in some places in the United States, the term “common nightwalker” remains on the statute books, where it indicates a vagrant as well as a streetwalker or sex worker.

“An idle or dissolute person who roams about at late or unusual hours and is unable to account for his presence” is the definition of a nightwalker offered by two legal commentators who summarized a number of relevant statutes in the 1960s. The ordinance against vagrants in Jacksonville, Florida, for instance, includes a reference to nightwalkers. The state, in its infinite leniency, doesn’t construe a single night’s wandering as necessarily criminal. “Only ‘habitual’ wanderers, or ‘common night walkers,’” the authors of a legal textbook explain, “are criminalized.” “We know, however, from experience,” they rather drily add, “that sleepless people often walk at night.” The sleepless, the homeless and the hopeless, then, are all susceptible to this archaic charge.

It is against this legal background—and in view of the persistent suspicion about solitary people who inhabit the streets at night that, historically, it has sponsored—that Bradbury’s portrait of a nocturnal pedestrian trapped in a dystopian cityscape demands to be interpreted. Despite the passage of more than 300 years since the origins of colonial law in North America, nightwalking remains a socially transgressive activity.

For Bradbury, writing in the 1950s, it potentially also has political implications. “The Pedestrian” is an affirmation of the heterodox politics of the night, which “has always been the time for daylight’s dispossessed,” as Bryan Palmer writes, “—the deviant, the dissident, the different.” The Pedestrian’s footsteps, echoing on empty, darkened pavements, interrupt the ominous silence of the totalitarian city, which insists that its inhabitants remain visible but inaudible at all times.

(8) TURKEY TIME. HBO Max dropped a trailer for the new Melissa McCarthy film Superintelligence.

When an all-powerful AI (James Corden) chooses to study the most average person on Earth, Carol Peters (Melissa McCarthy), it’s the perfect recipe for a Thanksgiving movie.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • Twenty-five years ago,  Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Forgiveness Day” as published in the November 1994 Asimov’s Science Fiction wins the 1995 Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for the best short SF story published in English in the previous calendar year. There were fourteen other nominated stories so they won’t be listed here. Only John Kessel and Michael Swanwick who have each won once out of seven nominations have been nominated more than Ursula K. Le Guin who is tied at one win out of six with Nancy Kress and Ian McDonald. It would win a Locus Award for Best Novella and be nominated for the Hugo, Nebula and Otherwise Awards. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 11, 1916 – Don Franson.  Active in the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n): three terms as President; club historian; three terms editing The Nat’l Fantasy FanKaymar Award (service; can only be received once); two President’s Awards (later named for him).  Also LASFS (L.A. Science Fantasy Society).  With Howard DeVore, Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards (most recently, 3rd ed. 1998).  Also SF Title Changes (with Michael Viggiano); 1945-1964 vol. of N3F’s Author Index to “Astounding” / “Analog”A Key to the Terminology of SF Fandom (1962).  A dozen short stories.  Fanzine Trash Barrel excelled at thumbnail-size fanzine reviews.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born November 11, 1922 Kurt Vonnegut Jr. The Sirens of Titan was his first SF novel followed by Cat’s Cradle which, after turning down his original thesis in 1947, the University of Chicago awarded him his master’s degree in anthropology in 1971 for this novel.  Next was Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death which is one weird book and an even stranger film. It was nominated for best novel Nebula and Hugo Awards but lost both to Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness.I’m fairly sure Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Mondayis his last genre novel there’s a lot of short fiction where something of a genre nature might have occurred. (Died 2007.) (CE) 
  • Born November 11, 1925 Jonathan Winters. I thought he was in Get Smart! which was why I was going to list him here but he wasn’t… Huh. However he’s in a number of genre series and films including Twilight ZoneWild Wild West as Albert Paradine II, Mork & Mindy where he was Mearth, the animated Smurfs series and The Animaniacs. And that’s a very selective list to say the least. (Died 2013.) (CE) 
  • Born November 11, 1927 Mack Reynolds. He’d make Birthday Honors just for his first novel, The Case of the Little Green Men, published in 1951, which as you likely know is a murder mystery set at a Con.  He gets Serious Geek Credits for writing the first original authorized classic Trek novel Mission to Horatius.  And I’ve seriously enjoyed his short fiction. He’s been nominated for six Hugos but never won. Wildside Press has seriously big volumes of his fiction up at the usual digital suspects for very cheap prices. (Died 1983.) (CE) 
  • Born November 11, 1945 – Delphyne Joan Hanke-Woods.  One Best-Fanartist Hugo, two FAAn (Fan Activity Achievement) Awards.  Also worked as a pro.  Guest of Honor at ConClave V, Archon 5 (which I keep saying should be pronounced “Arch on”, but what do I know?), Windycon XI, Xanadu III, Capricon 7, Bubonicon19.  Here is her cover for Mike Resnick’s Weird Chicago (part of successful bid to hold 70th Worldcon).  Here is Journey Planet 17.  Here is a Doctor Who image.  Here is an interior from the Minicon 17 Program Book (at left; for “gafiate” in image at right, see here).  Here is an interior from The Drink Tank 300.  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born November 11, 1946 – Ian Miller, 74.  A hundred covers, as many interiors; games; two Ralph Bakshi films; sculpture.  Four years art editor for Interzone.  The Art of Ian Miller; three earlier artbooks.  Here is R is for Rocket.  Here is Kai Lung’s Golden Hours.  Here is The Difference Engine.  Here is Seven Stars.  Elaborate Wikipedia entry.  [JH]
  • Born November 11, 1948 – Kathy Sanders, 72.  Among our finest costumers; has also served as judge, and Masquerade Director (the on-stage costume competition at SF cons we call the Masquerade evolved from dress-up parties).  Here is “The King and Queen of Wands”.  Here is “The Court of the Peacock King”.  Here is “Fantasy and Science Fiction”.  Here is “Treasures of the Earth”.  Int’l Costumers Guild Life Achievement Award.  [JH]
  • Born November 11, 1960 Stanley Tucci, 60. He was Puck in that film version of A Midsummer Night’s DreamHowever, his first role was asDr. John Wiseman in Monkey Shines. (Shudder.) he shows as in forgettable The Core, and was amazing as Stanley Kubrick in The Life and Death of Peter Sellers. And I’m fond of his voicing Boldo in The Tale of Despereaux. (CE)
  • Born November 11, 1962 Demi Moore, 58. Ghost of course gets her the Birthday Honors. And yes I did see it. Sniff. But she got also  her genre creds with her second film Parasite which is good as she didn’t do much after that of a genre nature that she is Piper Griffin in the forthcoming Songbird based off our Pandemic. (CE)
  • Born November 11, 1973 – Brett Savory, 47.  Four novels, thirty shorter stories.  Three anthologies.  British Fantasy Award; Bram Stoker Award for Editing; World Fantasy Award.  Likes “drumming, writing, editing, and drinking Bumbu rum, which is the world’s best…. Go try some.  Tell me I’m wrong.  I’ll wait.”  [JH]
  • Born November 11, 1994 – Ellie Simmonds, 26.  Four novels from Ellie’s Magical Bakery.  Outside our field, five gold medals, starting at age 13, in the Paralympics (she has achondroplasia), setting two world swimming records; ten World Championship titles.  Active in the Scout Association (U.K.) and Girlguiding.  [JH]

(11) MANDALORIAN GROG. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] You can drink a Baby Yoda cocktail at a bar in Banbridge, Northern Ireland: “Jennifer Aniston makes restaurant’s adorable Baby Yoda cocktail go viral” (Entertainment Weekly.) I did pass through Banbridge last year while travelling from Worldcon in Dublin to Eurocon in Belfast, but I didn’t visit this bar nor did I have a Baby Yoda cocktail.

(12) ANYTHING FUNNY IS SUSPECT. Literary Hub looks back at the “The First Reviews of Slaughterhouse-Five, including one by Michael Crichton:

A little over a half century ago, Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five—a darkly comic, throughly batshit, semi-autobiographical anti-war novel about a fatalistic young American soldier who survives the firebombing of Dresden and becomes “unstuck in time”—exploded onto the literary scene. A bestseller upon its release, the book has gone on to become one of the most beloved and influential (not to mention challenged) works of contemporary American fiction. It has also enjoyed a storied pop culture life, appearing or being namechecked in everything from The Wonder Years to The SimpsonsFootloose to Varsity Blues. There was even a 90s folk-rock duo called Billy Pilgrim who weren’t half bad.

Before it joined the ranks of the immortals, though, Slaughterhouse-Five had to run the book review gauntlet just like any other novel. Today, on what would have been the Vonnegut’s ninety-eight birthday, we look back at five of the earliest critical takes….

(13) EXO MARKS THE SPOT. “Looking for Another Earth? Here Are 300 Million, Maybe” – the New York Times says the real estate is out there.

…“It’s not E.T., but it’s E.T.’s home,” said William Borucki when the mission was launched in March 2009. It was Dr. Borucki, an astronomer now retired from NASA’s Ames Research Center, who dreamed up the project and spent two decades convincing NASA to do it.

Before the spacecraft finally gave out in 2018, it had discovered more than 4,000 candidate worlds among those stars. So far, none have shown any sign of life or habitation. (Granted, they are very far away and hard to study.) Extrapolated, that figure suggests that there are billions of exoplanets in the Milky Way galaxy. But how many of those are potentially habitable?

After crunching Kepler’s data for two years, a team of 44 astronomers led by Steve Bryson of NASA Ames has landed on what they say is the definitive answer, at least for now. Their paper has been accepted for publication in the Astronomical Journal.

Kepler’s formal goal was to measure a number called eta-Earth: the fraction of sunlike stars that have an Earth-size object orbiting them in the “goldilocks” or habitable zone, where it is warm enough for the surface to retain liquid water.

The team calculated that at least one-third, and perhaps as many as 90 percent, of stars similar in mass and brightness to our sun have rocks like Earth in their habitable zones, with the range reflecting the researchers’ confidence in their various methods and assumptions. That is no small bonanza, however you look at it….

(14) YIPES! Pretty much the whole story is in CNN’s headline: “That ‘murder hornet’ nest scientists found and destroyed had nearly 200 queens. They say they got there ‘just in the nick of time'”

Researchers approximate nearly 200 queens were produced from that single nest, which is a significant uptick over the two queens they originally found.

Entomologists from the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) eradicated and cleared out the nest found inside of the cavity of a tree near Blaine, Washington on October 24.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/18/19 Like A Pixel Lesnerized Upon A Table

(1) YA’S OWN STORY ARC. Slate’s “The Decade in Young Adult Fiction” is not specifically about sff, but a lot of the books they talk about (Twilight, The Hunger Games, etc.) are genre.

As a book publishing phenomenon, young adult literature entered the decade like a lion. At the beginning of the 2010s, a generation that had grown up obsessed with Harry Potter and other middle-grade fantasy series decided it wasn’t that interested in adult literary fiction, with its often lackadaisical plotting and downbeat endings. YA stood ready to supply them with plenty of action, cliffhangers, supernatural beings, mustache-twirling bad guys, and true love. But now, at decade’s end, YA seems to be eating itself alive….

…The impulse that led to these and other worthy enterprises, however, is vulnerable to being twisted to less salutary ends on platforms that foster cliques, vendettas, and self-righteous posturing. In the past two years, online networks of YA authors and readers—mostly female adults—have been convulsed with assorted scandals and controversies that have left many outside observers with the impression that “YA Twitter” is hopelessly “toxic.” Bloggers and Twitter pundits pilloried 2017’s The Black Witch, a debut young-adult fantasy novel by Laurie Forest, for its purported “racism.” That criticism proved unconvincing—even to teen readers, who made the book a success and reviewed it enthusiastically on Amazon—but few of those weighing in on the controversy bothered to point out instead how listlessly predictable The Black Witch is, with the usual high-born heroine confronting an unjust world while embroiled in the usual bad boy/good boy love triangle. It didn’t quite seem worthy of the energy adult readers devoted to fighting over it….

(2) ADD TO YOUR CINEMA TBR STACK. Leonard Maltin weighs in about a flock of books out this month: “New and Notable Film Books – December 2019”. Here are two of his comments:

THE SHOW WON’T GO ON: THE MOST SHOCKING, BIZARRE, AND HISTORIC DEATHS OF PERFORMERS ONSTAGE by Jeff Abraham and Burt Kearns (Chicago Review Press)

Abraham and Kearns surely aren’t the only show-biz aficionados who have harbored a keen interest in the stories of entertainers who actually died in front of an audience… but they’re the only ones who have had the gumption to research every urban legend surrounding this topic and separate fact from fiction.

RICK BAKER: METAMORPHOSIS by J.W. Rinzler; foreword by John Landis, preface by Peter Jackson, introduction by Rick Baker. (Cameron & Co.)

This massive two-volume tribute to seven-time Academy Award winner Rick Baker is a definitive study of his life and career in the world of makeup. Lavishly illustrated and beautifully produced in a slipcase edition, its quality and thoroughness justify its hefty price. Every page offers wonders and delights, including young Rick’s first correspondence with his hero, makeup genius Dick Smith, and his earliest experiments.

(3) EARLY RETURNS. NPR’s Glen Weldon finds that “‘The Rise Of Skywalker’ Makes For An Exciting, Exhaustive, Effortful Ending”.

The thing about the act of plate-spinning is: It’s not about the plates. Not really.

…If we happen to notice one plate starting to wobble, after all, the first thing we do is look away from it, to see if the plate-spinner sees it, too.

We want them to succeed. The whole cheesy novelty act is predicated on this. The sheer skill it takes to keep the plates from falling — the eye, the timing, the light touch — that’s what we’re drawn to, really. The work of the thing.

J.J. Abrams is spinning a great many plates in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the final chapter in the third and final trilogy of what we are now apparently supposed to call “The Skywalker Saga.” He’s not simply called upon to end the trilogy he began in 2015 with The Force Awakens, but the whole space-operatic, science-fiction-with-generous-helpings-of-fantasy, embrace-your-destiny, Joseph-Campbell, daddy-issues megillah. He has to land a Corellian light freighter that has been loaded down with everything that got kicked off in 1977…

He nails that 42-year-old recipe dutifully — effortfully, it must be said — but the flavoring’s off. The story doesn’t require him to toss in as many ingredients from earlier films in the saga as he does here, but he dumps them all (callbacks, references, echoes, events, characters) into the mix anyway. The result leaves you feeling not so much bloated — the film moves too quickly and is too much fun for that — but certainly overstuffed….

(4) TWO-MINUTE WARNING. And the Baby Yoda backlash follows right behind as Rolling Stone demands: “It’s Almost 2020, Why Hasn’t the Baby Yoda Meme Died?”.

The Mandalorian, as a whole, is an interesting litmus test of just how successful a giant entertainment conglomerate can be when it comes to wringing a piece of previously existing IP for all its worth. One might measure success in Disney+ views/subscriptions or award nominations — but, in 2019, maybe the measure is whether or not you can proffer up a bit of fan service and hope the Internet latches onto it, turns it into a meme and does all your best viral marketing for you, free of charge.

(5) ECONOMICS IN SPACE. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Nobel-prize winning economist, science fiction fan and 2009 Worldcon guest Paul Krugman unpacked the macroeconomic themes of The Expanse in his New York Times column on Wednesday. In specific, he highlights how the story of the Martian economy is a parable about the need for public spending during downturns: 

The emergence of high unemployment on Mars after demobilization and the end of terraforming makes it seem as if the real problem wasn’t technology, it was secular stagnation — a situation in which private spending is consistently too weak to employ the economy’s resources, except during unsustainable asset or debt bubbles.

(6) WE CAME, WE SAW, WE KICKED ITS ASS. Close to the occasion of Ghostbusters’ 35th anniversary, YouTuber and video essayist Ryan Hollinger has published a video analyzing the film’s full legacy and its effect on mainstream belief in the paranormal — “The Real Meaning of GHOSTBUSTERS… Apparently.”

(7) A BORROWER AND A LENDER BE. “Here Are The Most Popular NYC Library Books Of 2019, By Borough” presented by The Gothamist.

Number 1 Titles By Genre
(Manhattan, Staten Island & The Bronx, from the New York Public Library)

  • Classics: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Comics and Graphic Novels: Saga by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan
  • Fantasy: Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
  • Horror: The Shining by Stephen King
  • Mystery and Detective: The Chef by James Patterson
  • Romance: Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks
  • Science Fiction: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 18, 1913 Alfred Bester. He’s best remembered perhaps for The Demolished Man, which won the very first Hugo Award. I remember experiencing it as an audiobook — a very spooky affair!  The Stars My Destination is equally impressive with Foyle both likeable and unlikable at the same time. Psychoshop which Zelazny finished is in my library but has escaped reading so far. I’ve run across references to Golem100 but I’ve never seen a copy anywhere. Has anyone read It? (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 18, 1939 Michael Moorcock, 81. Summing up the career of Moorcock isn’t possible so I won’t. His Elric of Melniboné series is just plain awesome and I’m quite fond of the Dorian Hawkmoon series of novels as well.  Particular books that I’d like to note as enjoyable for me include The Metatemporal Detective collection and Mother London. 
  • Born December 18, 1941 Jack C. Haldeman II. He’d get Birthday Honors if only for On the Planet of Zombie Vampires, book five of the adventures of Bill the Galactic Hero, co-written with Harry Harrison. He’d also get these honors for chairing Disclave 10 through Disclave 17, and a Worldcon as well, Discon II. He was a prolific short story writer, penning at least seventy-five such tales, but alas none of these, nor his novels, are available in digital form. (Died 2002.) 
  • Born December 18, 1946 Steven Spielberg, 73. Are we counting Jaws as genre? I believe we are per an earlier discussion here. If so, that’s his first such followed immediately by Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Between 1981 and 1984, he put out Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Twilight Zone: The Movie and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Ok, so the quality of the last film wasn’t great…  He’d repeat that feat between ‘89 and ‘93 when he put out Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Hook (YEA!) which I both love, followed by Jurassic Park which I don’t. The Lost World: Jurassic Park followed, starting a string of so-so to piss poor films,  A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Minority Report, War of the Worlds and one decided stinker, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.   The BFG is simply wonderful. 
  • Born December 18, 1953 Jeff Kober, 66. Actor who’s been in myriad genre series and films including V, The Twilight Zone, Alien Nation, the Poltergeist series,the X-Files series, Tank Girl as one of the kangaroos naturally, Supernatural, Voyager, Star Enterprise, Kindred: The Embraced and The Walking Dead
  • Born December 18, 1954 J.M. Dillard, 65. Yes I know this is a pen name but I’m interested only in her Trek output tonight. She’s written at least fifteen tie-ins starting with Star Trek: Mindshadow in the mid-Eighties And her last seemingly being Star Trek: The Next Generation: Resistance in the late Oughts. She also wrote one of the many, many non-fiction works that came out on Trek, Star Trek: ‘Where No One Has Gone Before’: A History in Pictures, which was actually largely written by Roddenberry’s assistant on a work-for-hire contract as a another book that didn’t get published, a woman named Susan Sackett. Memory Alpha has the story here.
  • Born December 18, 1954 Ray Liotta, 65. We could just stop at him being Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams, don’t you think that’s an exemplary genre cred? Well I will.
  • Born December 18, 1968 Casper Van Dien, 51. Yes, Johnny Rico in that Starship Troopers. Not learning his lesson, he’d go on to film Starship Troopers 3: Marauder and the animated Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars. Do not go read the descriptions of these films! He’d also star as Tarzan in Tarzan and the Lost City, show up as Brom Van Brunt In Sleepy Hollow, be Captain Abraham Van Helsing In Dracula 3000, James K. Polk in, oh really Casper, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter sequels, Rumpelstiltskin In Avengers Grimm and Saber Raine In Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine. That’s a lot of really bad films. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio meets an Alien in a snowman.  

(10) UNRAVELING THE GRINCH’S DNA. CrimeReads investigates “How Dr. Seuss Gave Us One of the Most Complex, Socially Important Heist Stories Ever”. You need to go waaaay back….

…Geisel, though, had a long history of mixed feelings about Christmas. According to biographer Charles D. Cohen, as a student at Dartmouth College in the 1920s and a writer and cartoonist for the campus humor magazine the Jack-O-Lantern, Geisel lampooned the whole affair, specifically citing the greed and materialism he saw in the season in an essay called “Santy Claus be Hanged,” which was mostly about how Christmas mornings are ruined because no one receives the items they truly want. He bemoaned, “Sister wanted silk unmentionables and she gets burlap unpronouncibles. Brother wanted a case of scotch and he gets a case of goldfish.” A few years later, in 1930, he published a humorous essay suggesting that parents should combine Santa Claus, his reindeer, the Bogeyman, the Sand-Man, and the Stork into one home-invasive figure—simplifying the number of flying and/or magical creatures that kids would have to count on entering their homes. And then he drew many cartoons representing classic Christmas hallmarks in weird or comically unpleasant versions.

(11) WHO BLABBED? The Royal Aeronautical Society spills the beans about “The secret history of Santa interceptions”.

For the past 70 plus years, nations around the world have attempted to intercept a mysterious hypersonic, high-flying intruder from the North Pole and learn its aeronautical secrets. Our Lapland aerospace Correspondent CHRIS TINGLE reports on the secret effort to counter these annual airspace intrusions. 

(12) OLD TECH. Some Filers will have read Dava Sobel’s Longitude; the BBC describes a spinoff, “The invention that inspired a New York tradition”.

When the final hours of 2019 arrive, a million celebrants will crowd Times Square in New York. Elsewhere, an estimated billion more will tune in to watch the annual spectacle celebrated across the globe.

…But few will acknowledge the man who really deserves their praise, a deeply religious British Royal Navy officer named Robert Wauchope.

…Wauchope’s goal was to make shipping safer. In the early 19th Century, having the exact time was crucial knowledge for mariners. It was only by keeping a ship’s clock precisely calibrated that sailors could calculate their longitude and accurately travel across oceans.

His ball, first demonstrated in Portsmouth, England, in 1829, was a crude broadcast system, a way to relay time to anyone who could see the signal. Typically, at 12:55, a creaky piece of machinery would raise a large painted orb halfway to the top of a pole or flagstaff; at 12:58, it would proceed to the top; and precisely at 13:00, a worker would release it to drop down the pole.

“It is a clear signal,” said Andrew Jacob, a curator who operates the time ball at the Sydney Observatory in Australia. “It’s easy to see the sudden movement as it begins to drop.”

Before the time ball’s invention, a ship’s master would typically come ashore and physically visit an observatory to check his watch against an official clock. Then he would quite literally bring time back to the ship. Wauchope’s invention let sailors calibrate their shipboard timepiece, called a chronometer, without leaving their boat.

“We’re so used to time being here and available, and that wasn’t always the case,” said Emily Akkermans, who has the enviable title, Curator of Time, at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London. The museum and historic site houses the world’s oldest operating time ball, which since 1833 has dropped daily, barring blustery weather, war or mechanical breakdown.

(13) CHEOPS AHOY. The space-pharoahing probe is on the way: “Europe’s Cheops telescope launches to study far-off worlds”.

The European Cheops space telescope has launched to study planets outside our Solar System.

The observatory will follow up the discoveries of previous missions, endeavouring to reveal fresh insights on the nature of distant worlds: What are they made of? How did they form? And how have they changed through time?

The telescope was taken into orbit on a Russian Soyuz rocket that set off from French Guiana at 08:54 GMT.

The ride to 700km lasted 145 minutes.

Cheops (short for CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite) is a joint endeavour of 11 member states of the European Space Agency (Esa), with Switzerland in the lead.

What’s significant about this mission?

Some 4,500 planets have been discovered since the late 1990s using a variety of techniques. But there is a feeling now that the science has to move beyond just detection; beyond just counting planets. We need to profile the objects in a more sophisticated way. Do they have atmospheres and how thick are they? What kind of clouds? Do they possess oceans on their surface? Do they have rings and moons? Cheops ought to be able to address such questions just from looking for these tiny dips in light during a transit.

(14) GENTLEMEN, DON’T BE SEATED. BBC reports “Social media awash with scorn for ‘sloping toilet'”.

A toilet designed to slope downwards slightly, making it uncomfortable to sit on for more than a few minutes, has been pooh-poohed on social media.

The toilet design has an upper surface that slopes downwards at a 13-degree angle.

…The BBC spoke to Mr Gill about the toilet, which has been branded “StandardToilet”.

“It came from my personal experience where I stopped off at the motorway to go to the loo and realised there’s a huge queue,” he explained.

“I wondered what people were doing in there, some were coming out with their mobile phones.”

(15) MAKE UP YOUR OWN FACTS. Discover “The Incalculable Joy of Fermi Questions” at Math With Bad Drawings. Numerous examples in the post.

 … Since Fermi questions are so fun and useful, why aren’t they more widely taught? Why isn’t every middle school student doing one of these per week all year long?

I suspect a prosaic reason: they’re hard to grade fairly. Math education is accustomed to cut-and-dry answers. Fermi work is more like an essay, where there are many plausible answers, and reasoning trumps conclusions.

All the more reason to embrace them, I say!

(16) TRACING ANIMATION HISTORY. Alan Baumler recommends Daisy Yan Du’s Animated Encounters: Transnational Movements of Chinese Animation, 1940s–1970s (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2019) in “Princess Iron Fan and the origins of Asian animation”.

… One of the reasons the film is so famous is that Tezuka Osamu the “God of Manga”saw it in Japan as a kid and was profoundly influenced by it. In discussing his version of the Sun Wukong story he said

However, what really opened my eyes , impressed me deeply, and sparked my desire to create today was Princess Iron Fan, the first Chinese animated feature film., which premiered in Japan in 1942. (pg. 58)

… Du gives the background on inspiration for the film (Disney’s Snow White) , but most interestingly, for me at least, deals with how it ended up being shown in Japan and becoming, in some respects, the origin story of Asian animated film. It was the direct inspiration for Momotar?’s Sea Eagles (p.52), Japan’s first almost feature length animated film.

She also deals with what to make of Iron Fan, which was a big issue for the film at the time. It was made by the Wan brothers and a team of 250 artists starting on April 25, 1940. The film opened on Nov 19, 1941, in Shanghai. As you can see below, it was still running on Dec 8, 1941, when Japanese troops marched into the International Settlement and French Concession….

(17) BAD RAP. Who even thinks of stuff like this? “Thanos vs J Robert Oppenheimer” — Epic Rap Battles of History does.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/10/19 We’ve Secretly Replaced The Pixels In Mike’s Scroll With (Qvqa’g Jr Whfg Gryy Lbh, Vg’f N *FRPERG*?)

(1) THE GAME OF THE NAME. John D. Berry renders his verdict about their usefulness and design in “A tale of three nametags”.

In the course of less than a month this summer, I attended three major events, each of which had a nametag that attendees were supposed to wear. The first, in Dublin, was this year’s World Science Fiction Convention, which was being held in Ireland for the first time. The second, a week later in Belfast, was the Eurocon, or European Science Fiction Convention, which moves around among European countries and was hosted by the organizers of Titancon, an annual Belfast science fiction convention; holding it in Northern Ireland the week after the worldcon made it easy for people visiting from other countries to attend both conventions on their trip. The third event was ATypI 2019, the annual conference of the Association Typographique Internationale, in Tokyo – ATypI’s second time in Asia, as it happens….

(2) WBAI STAFF STILL FIGHTING. The Brooklyn Eagle heard it from Jim Freund, host of a sff radio show at the station: “WBAI radio staffers, still barred from air, ramp up fight”.

“It ain’t over,” radio host Jim Freund told the Brooklyn Eagle on Tuesday.

Freund, 65, hosts a science fiction and fantasy talk show called “Hour of the Wolf” on 99.5 WBAI FM — the decades-old, listener-sponsored radio station currently taking its parent nonprofit, the Pacifica Foundation, to court.

On Monday, Pacifica — which owns a slate of other independently operated radio stations — abruptly shut down local programming at WBAI and shuttered its Atlantic Avenue workspace, citing millions of dollars of debt and the desire to rebuild the station around national, syndicated content.

By Tuesday morning, the staff — which consists largely of unpaid volunteers — was granted a temporary restraining order by the Manhattan Supreme Court, barring Pacifica from terminating any WBAI employees or impeding on its local programming in any way until Oct. 18, when both parties must appear in court.

But as of Wednesday, producers said local programming was still being kept off the air.

“This isn’t the first time something like this has happened,” said Freund, who has hosted “Hour of the Wolf” on WBAI for nearly half a century. “In 1977, there was an incident so huge that Pacifica took us off the air for three months. There was static.”…

(3) DON’T CALL HIM LATE FOR DINNER. Columbia News caught up with Jeremy Dauber, the Atran Professor of Yiddish Language, Literature and Culture, to chat about his first children’s book Mayhem and Madness: Chronicles of a Teenaged Supervillain, what he read as a child and whom he would invite to a dinner party — “Releasing His Inner Teenager”

Q. You’re organizing a dinner party. Which three scholars or academics, dead or alive, do you invite?

A. The first guest would have to be Tolkien, Oxford’s Merton Professor of English Language and Literature. Then Gregory Benford, the noted science fiction writer and the University of California at Irvine’s Professor Emeritus of Physics and Astronomy. There have always been rumors that Elena Ferrante is actually an Italian professor; if whoever it was accepted the invitation, we’d find out for sure!

(4) NEW SYSTEMS. Nature advance posts a look back nearly a quarter of a century to the detection of the “First exoplanet found around a Sun-like star”.

Anyone over the age of 35 will remember growing up in a world in which only one planetary system was known — our own. We remember proudly reciting the names of the nine planets (eight before Pluto’s discovery in 1930, and again today with its reclassification as a dwarf planet in 2006) and wondering what other planets might exist around the stars in the night sky. Contemplating life beyond the Solar System was relegated to science fiction. This all changed in 1995 when Mayor and Queloz1 reported the detection of the first exoplanet around a Sun-like star…

(5) FLOP OR ‘FLIX? Is this the new market reality? “Studio Dilemma: Risk a Box Office Flop, or Sell to Netflix?” – seek the answer along withThe Hollywood Reporter.

…Call it Tom’s Choice. Like all the major studios, Sony Pictures is questing for new franchises — and after years of development, it might have one with the He-Man movie Masters of the Universe.

But while the picture is on the calendar for release in March 2021, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that studio chairman Tom Rothman is exploring the prospect of getting risk-free cash for the pricey project by making it for Netflix instead. A studio source says talks are preliminary, but such a deal would make Sony the next studio after Paramount to start making movies belonging exclusively or almost exclusively to the streamer.

So there’s the dilemma: seek a studio or financier to partner on the project, holding on to various rights and territories, or make the safe deal with Netflix (which would not seem quite so safe if the film were a huge hit and it already was sold).

(6) LESSING CENTENNIAL. Nature looks at Doris Lessing’s science fiction in what would have been her 100th year. “Doris Lessing at 100: roving time and space”

Her lifelong interest in science and societal upheaval is embodied in fascinating ways in Canopus in Argos, a series of five books published from 1979 to 1983. (She came up with the title a few weeks after seeing, and loving, George Lucas’s film Star Wars, in 1978. The inspiration might have been the ‘crawl text’ at the film’s start.)…

 Novelist Anthony Burgess, author of the dystopian novel A Clockwork Orange (1962), complained of her “fanciful cosmic viewpoint”. Although science-fiction doyenne Ursula K. Le Guin praised some character sketches in Shikasta as “immortal diamond”, she found the whole at times “little more than a pulp-Galactic Empire with the Goodies fighting the Baddies”. Undeterred, Lessing worked her way through the series, declaring bloodymindedly that “space fiction, with science fiction, makes up the most original branch of literature now”. She had friends among sci­fi authors, including Brian Aldiss, and happily attended meetings of the International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts. She championed the genre as influential in mainstream literature, whose pundits nevertheless “are much to blame for patronising or ignoring it”. 

(7) THE FACTS OF SFF LIFE. Andrew Liptak, in “Two New Books Examine the Lost History of Speculative Fiction”, gives readers of the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog persuasive reasons to read two works of genre history.

Science fiction, fantasy, and horror are genres with a long history behind them, and historians and writers have spilled plenty of ink covering the authors, events, franchises, and works that form their bedrock. Recently, two books have hit stores that are well worth picking up if you’re a fan of genre history: Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror & Speculative Fiction, by Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson, and Lost Transmissions: The Secret History of Science Fiction and Fantasy, by Desirina Boskovich. Both offer excellent examinations of the genres while shedding a bit of light on parts of their history that aren’t often illuminated.

(8) THE MAGIC NUMBER. Nick Kolakowski picks “5 Classics of Cyberpunk Noir” at CrimeReads.

From its inception, cyberpunk has shared quite a bit of DNA with crime fiction. Your archetypical (some might say stereotypical) cyberpunk anti-hero, hacking into the mainframe of a highly militarized mega-corporation, could easily trade some tips about life on the street with a grizzled safecracker from a Richard Stark novel or Michael Mann film. Both cyberpunk and crime fiction often focus on those who live on the edge of society, trying to scratch out a living while wrestling with some degree of existential ennui.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 10, 2008 City of Ember enjoyed its theatrical release.  The film starred Saoirse Ronan and Toby Jones, currently The Librarian in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. It’s based on the series by Jeanne DuPrau. Rotten Tomatoes gave it rating of 53%. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 10, 1924 Edward Wood Jr. Though known for Plan 9 from Outer Space, he did a lot of bad genre films including Night of the Monster and Bride of The Ghouls. (Died 1978.)
  • Born October 10, 1927 Dana Elcar. Most of you will remember him as Peter Thornton on MacGyver, but he has a long genre history including Russ in Condorman which was inspired by Robert Sheckley’s The Game of X. He also played Sheriff George Paterson in Dark Shadows, and showed up in 2010 as Dimitri Moisevitch. (Died 2005.)
  • Born October 10, 1929 Robin Hardy. Wicker Man is the film he’s known for though he followed that up with The Wicker Tree, an adaptation of his Cowboys for Christ novel. Anyone seen it? (Died 2016.)
  • Born October 10, 1931 Victor Pemberton. Writer of the script for the the “Fury from the Deep”, a Second Doctor story in which he created the Doctor’s sonic screwdriver. He had appeared as an actor in the series, in a non-speaking role as a scientist in “The Moonbase” story. In 1976, he wrote the BBC audio drama Doctor Who and the Pescatons which I remember hearing. Quite good it was. (Died 2007.)
  • Born October 10, 1931 Jack Jardine. A long-time L.A. fan who was present at many West Coast cons and who shared the dais on panels with some of the major names in SF. He attended his last convention, in a wheelchair, assisted by his daughter Sabra, after a debilitating stroke at the age of 70. His health continued to get worse until he died from heart failure. File 770 has more here. (Died 2009.)
  • Born October 10, 1941 Peter Coyote, 78. He actually did two genre films in 1982 with the first being Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann in which he appeared as Porter Reese and  the second being E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial which he’s Keys, the Agent hunting E.T. down. Sphere in which he’s Captain Harold C. Barnes is his next SF outing followed by The 4400 and FlashForward series being his next major genre involvements.
  • Born October 10, 1947 Laura Brodian Freas Beraha, 72. While married to Kelly Freas, she wrote Frank Kelly Freas: As He Sees It with him along with quite a few essays such as “ On the Painting of Beautiful Women or Ayesha, She Who Must Be Obeyed” and “ Some of My Best Critics are Friends – or Vice Versa“. She’s credited solely for the cover art for the 1993 Easton Press interior art for The Left Hand of Darkness according to ISFDB. 
  • Born October 10, 1966 Bai Ling, 53. She’s Miss West in Wild West West and the Mysterious Woman in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, she has a major role as  Guanyin in The Monkey King which aired on Syfy.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) PRANK. The Hollywood Reporter has the story: “‘Joker’: Student Banned From AMC Theaters for ‘No Singles Policy’ Prank”.  

Given the mild cultural panic surrounding the Oct. 4 release of Todd Phillips’ Joker, it’s fair to speculate that theater security and guest services departments have had a rough couple weeks and were on edge going into last weekend. A student at Cal State Long Beach decided to test their patience anyhow, and got hit with a lifetime ban for his efforts.

On the night of Oct. 3, Twitter user @jinpayn — who declined to share his first name with The Hollywood Reporter but whose last name is Payne — posted a photo of a flyer taped to a ticket kiosk outside the AMC Orange 30 cinema in Orange, California, that read, “Please note: We are enforcing a strict NO SINGLES POLICY for tonight’s showings of JOKER due to safety precautions. We will not be admitting anyone without an additional partner.” “Great, I can’t see @jokermovie because I’m here alone. Wtf @amctheaters?” he tweeted

(13) COSPLAY FINALIST OUSTED FROM COMPETTION. “Comic Con bans cosplay champion’s ‘blackface’ entry” and the organizers say they are reviewing all their terms and conditions to prevent this from happening again.

French cosplay champion Alice Livanart has been removed from the EuroCosplay finals by organisers after she was accused of “blackface.”

The EuroCosplay Championships, to be held at MCM Comic Con in London later this month, pit together the winners of individual competitions in 25 European countries.

Alice Livanart won the France Cosplay Cup in September 2019 with her cosplay of League of Legends character Pyke.

However, she has now been banned from the European finals after allegations on social media that her costume was insensitive.

(14) ACCIO, TREASURE! BBC reveals which “Harry Potter first edition sells for £46,000 at auction”.

A rare copy of the first Harry Potter book has sold for £46,000 at auction after it was kept in a briefcase for safekeeping for more than 20 years.

The Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone hardback edition was given to a Lancashire family who planned to keep it as an heirloom.

They decided to sell it after hearing about another book fetching £28,500.

The 1997 edition is the “Holy Grail” for collectors, a spokesman for the auction house said.

…Only 500 copies were published in the book’s first print run, with 300 of those sent to libraries.

(15) GRAPHIC EXAMPLES. You’ve heard of the comics censorship that happened in the Fifties, and after you read the examples CrimeReads offers in “A History of EC Comics in 7 Tales of Murder & Horror” you’ll know what it was about.

“Split Personality”—The Vault of Horror 29

Ed King is one of EC’s long line a smooth-talking, pencil-mustached con men. He sees dollar signs after learning of rich twin-sister agoraphobes. Both sisters fall for the oily eel, but if he marries only one of them, he’ll only get half their fortune. So the snake decides to play his own twin. It only makes sense, right? Eventually the dames catch on, and with EC’s classic I’ve-gone-mad signifiers (Little Orphan Annie eyes, frozen grins, sweat beads), the sisters split Ed down the middle so they can each enjoy half. As our host, the Vault-Keeper says, Ed made “a BIGAMISTake!” (Note: Another tale, “How Green Was My Alley” is the same story, but with the addition of bowling/golf, and the two-timer getting his head/eye used as balls.)

(16) UNEXPECTEDLY PLANNING AHEAD. “Israel cave bones: Early humans ‘conserved food to eat later'”.

Scientists in Israel say they have found evidence that early humans deliberately stored bones from animals to eat the fatty marrow later.

It is the earliest evidence that humans living between 200,000 and 420,000 years ago had the foresight to anticipate future needs, they say.

Early humans had not previously been thought capable of such dietary planning.

Researchers analysed bone specimens at Qesem cave near Tel Aviv.

They identified cut marks on most of the bone surfaces – consistent with preservation and delayed consumption.

(17) DOING WHAT A NINJA’S GOTTA DO. BBC tells why “Japan ninja student gets top marks for writing essay in invisible ink”.

A Japanese student of ninja history who handed in a blank paper was given top marks – after her professor realised the essay was written in invisible ink.

Eimi Haga followed the ninja technique of “aburidashi”, spending hours soaking and crushing soybeans to make the ink.

The words appeared when her professor heated the paper over his gas stove.

“It is something I learned through a book when I was little,” Ms Haga told the BBC. “I just hoped that no-one would come up with the same idea.”

…”When the professor said in class that he would give a high mark for creativity, I decided that I would make my essay stand out from others,” she said.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/14/19 I Pixel Things That Never Were; And I Scroll, ‘Why not?’

(1) DUBLIN 2019 PARAPHERNALIA. A Filers shows what she received upon checking in at the Worldcon:

(2) DUELING SFF. Crooked Timber takes Fred Hoyle’s novel “Ossian’s Ride” as the jumping-off point for a discussion of modern Ireland.  

…Hoyle was really responding to the Christian apologist C.S. Lewis, who regularly denounced Hoyle as a secular atheist on radio and had written his own science fiction novel, That Hideous Strength, a decade before. The villain of Lewis’s book was a sinister institute called NICE, which Satanic aliens wanted to impose contraception, lesbianism, secularism and surrealist art on an unsuspecting Britain. Lewis wanted to preserve old Britain against the filthy tide of modernity.

Hoyle riposted with a novel where rational and benevolently ruthless aliens used an organization called ICE to pull the priest ridden republic next door into the technological age. His satirical portrait of Ireland told British readers that the world was being transformed around them, and that even their most backwards seeming neighbor would outstrip them if they didn’t embrace modernity.

The irony of history is that Hoyle’s parody is now the truth….

(3) THEY’RE SMOKIN’. NASA’s Universe Unplugged teaches about exoplanets with the help of a couple of familiar actors: “The Habitable Zone: Scorched Earth Enigma”. If you like it, there are several previous installments in the series.

This new episode follows explorers Cas Anvar & Cara Gee (“The Expanse”) into a planetary danger zone in their quest for another Earth. Can their computer (Parry Shen of “General Hospital”) save them from a nasty fate?

(4) SCORING SHORT FICTION. Rocket Stack Rank’s monthly ratings for August 2019 have been posted with 10 RSR-recommended stories out of 45 reviewed. 

Here are some quick observations from pivoting the list on story length, new writers, and authors. (Click links to see the different views.)

  • Length: 4 novellas (2 recommended), 11 novelettes (4 recommended, 3 free online), 30 short stories (4 recommended, 1 free online).
  • New Writers: 4 stories by Campbell-eligible writers (none recommended).
  • Authors: 45 writers, none with more than one story in the list this month.

(5) SPIDER-GWEN. “Seanan McGuire talks Spider-Gwen’s name change, evil Peter Parker, and representation in the Spider-Verse” in an interview at AiPT!

AiPT!: Gwen has really blown up in the time since you have started writing her, too, with Into The Spider-Verse‘s massive success and Oscar win. Did you see the movie? Did it impact how you felt about the character or how you might approach her at all?

McGuire: I hadn’t seen the movie when I got the job, and I chose not to after I got the job, because that’s a different version of Gwen.  I didn’t want her seeping in where she didn’t belong.  But wow, is it nice seeing all the cosplayers.  I keep wanting to tell them “You’re dressed as my girl!” and have to hold myself back from getting creepy.

AiPT!: What do you think sets Gwen apart from Peter or Miles or any of the other Spiders?

McGuire: Death loves Gwen Stacy.  She lacks the “with great power…” motivator; hers is “only the right hands.”  She has a calling, but it’s not the same as the calling most of the others have shared.  She’s also better on the drums than they are.

(6) SF DIDN’T FORESEE THIS EITHER. A lot of stories involve faking just one but “Biostar security software ‘leaked a million fingerprints'” – BBC has the story.

More than a million fingerprints and other sensitive data have been exposed online by a biometric security firm, researchers say.

Researchers working with cyber-security firm VPNMentor say they accessed data from a security tool called Biostar 2.

It is used by thousands of companies worldwide, including the UK’s Metropolitan Police, to control access to specific parts of secure facilities.

Suprema, the firm that offers Biostar 2, said it was addressing the issue.

“If there has been any definite threat on our products and/or services, we will take immediate actions and make appropriate announcements to protect our customers’ valuable businesses and assets,” a company spokesman told the Guardian.

According to VPNMentor, the exposed data, discovered on 5 August, was made private on 13 August.

It is not clear how long it was accessible.

(7) STICK A FORK IN IT. SYFY WIRE says this series is done: “Star Wars Resistance will end with Season 2: Watch the new trailer featuring Kylo Ren”

The journey to Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker makes a stop on the Disney Channel this October. Lucasfilm has announced that the upcoming second season of Star Wars Resistance will be its last, and we now have our first trailer.

Taking place during the events of The Last Jedi, and leading up to The Rise of Skywalker, Season 2 finds our Resistance characters still on the run from the First Order, much like their movie counterparts. But now Supreme Leader Kylo Ren is seemingly taking a hands-on approach in their capture. […]

Check out the new trailer below for a preview of what’s to come:

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 14, 1910 Herta Herzog. At the Radio Project, she was part of the team of that conducted the groundbreaking research on Orson Welles’ 1938 broadcast of The War of the Worlds in the study The Invasion from Mars. The Radio Research Project was founded in 1937 as a social research project and funded by the Rockefeller Foundation to look into the effects of mass media on society. (Died 2010.)
  • Born August 14, 1929 Richard Carpenter. Responsible for the simply superb Robin of Sherwood series. He also created Catweazle, the children’s series about an unfortunate wizard from the 11th century who is accidentally transported to the present day. And he was an actor who appeared in such shows as the Sixties Sherlock Holmes series, The Terrornauts film and the Out of the Unknown series as well. (Died 2012.)
  • Born August 14, 1932 Lee Hoffman. In the early Fifties, she edited and published the Quandry fanzine. At the same time, she began publication of Science-Fiction Five-Yearly which appeared regularly until ‘til 2006. The latter won the fanzine Hugo after her death. She wrote four novels and a handful of short fiction, none of which are in-print. (Died 2007.)
  • Born August 14, 1940 Alexei Panshin, 79. He has written multiple critical works along with several novels, including the Nebula Award-winning Rite of Passage and the Hugo Award-winning study of SF, The World Beyond the Hill which he co-wrote with his wife, Cory Panshin. He also wrote the first serious study of Heinlein, Heinlein in Dimension: A Critical Analysis.
  • Born August 14, 1953 James Roy Horner. Composer, conductor and orchestrator of film scores whose work on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is what he’s best remembered for. He also worked on Avatar, Alien, Field of Dreams and Cocoon. (Died 2015.)
  • Born August 14, 1962 Tim Earls, 57. Set designer who stated out at Babylonian Productions on Babylon 5 and Crusade. Later worked on the Voyager seriesandBrannon Braga’s short-lived Threshold series as well. Designed sets for the Serenity film, and worked on Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines
  • Born August 14, 1965 Brannon Braga, 54. Writer, producer and creator for the Next Gen, Voyager, Enterprise, as well as on the Star Trek Generations and Star Trek: First Contact films. He has written more episodes than anyone else has with one hundred and nine to date. He was responsible for the Next Gen series finale “All Good Things…” which won him a Hugo Award for excellence in SF writing, along with Ronald D. Moore. He’s one of the producers of The Orville
  • Born August 14, 1966 Halle Berry, 53. Her first genre was Sharon Stone in The Flintstones followed by being Storm in the X- Men franchiseand Giacinta “Jinx” Johnson in Die Another Day, the twentieth Bond film. She then shows up as the deservedly much maligned lead in Catwoman. She has myriad roles in Cloud Atlas

(9) JUST WONDERING. The tour of Christ Church Cathedral left certain questions unanswered:

(10) I’M STILL MAD. Retro Report has a mini-documentary on Al Jaffee, memorable for his contributions to Mad Magazine – particularly his “fold-in” work — “Legendary Cartoonist Al Jaffee Recalls Comic Book Censorship”.

(11) TUMBLR’S NEW LANDLORD. Vox speculates that “WordPress could give Tumblr the thing it needs most: stability”.

Automattic, the company behind the longstanding blog platform WordPress, just bought Tumblr from Verizon for a pittance — leaving many of the quirky, beloved social network’s users wondering what comes next.

Axios reported that Automattic purchased Tumblr, which launched in 2007, for “well below” $20 million; Axios business editor Dan Primack added in a tweet that the sale price was in fact below $3 million, and Recode’s Peter Kafka tells Vox that sources say the actual figure is closer to $2 million. That’s a very long way down from Yahoo’s infamous $1.1 billion purchase of the website in 2013. (Verizon subsumed Tumblr when it acquired Yahoo in 2017.)

… At the time that the Yahoo purchase of Tumblr from its CEO and founder David Karp was completed, it was clear that the ancient internet company was looking for something to revitalize it. Cue a community awash in GIFs, memes, fandom, and all other manners of contemporary online culture — a seemingly perfect answer to Yahoo’s question of how to combat its near-irrelevance. But reports soon began to emerge that Tumblr was floundering financially, as Yahoo tried and failed to wrangle the freewheeling blogging platform into a profitable, advertising-friendly brand….

(12) MONSTROUS ISSUES. A Noise Within theater in Pasadena, CA is producing Nick Dear’s adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

Dissect the story of Frankenstein with director Michael Michetti, as well as Michael Manuel (The Creature) and Kasey Mahaffy (Victor Frankenstein), as they talk about the characters of Mary Shelley’s most famous novel.

“The Creature represents anyone who feels like they have been disenfranchised… It’s a really compelling human story that people connect to in a way that is surprising to them.”

(13) THE FAILURE MODE OF CLEVER. Facebook gave Larry Correia a 24-hour time-out. Larry wants you to know how silly it was.  

So I just got a 24 hour ban from Facebook for Violating Community Standards, because I insulted the imaginary people of an imaginary country….  

My 24 hour Facebook ban is over. Luckily Big Brother was there to protect us from such dangerous violations of community standards as pretending to be one imaginary country while talking trash about another completely imaginary country….

(14) THE MAN WHO TRAVELED IN CAT PICTURES. BBC includes lots of pictures – just none with books: “Purrfect shots: The man who took 90,000 photos of cats”.

Long before cats ruled the internet, marketing student Walter Chandoha became a pioneer of feline photography. Not only did Chandoha’s images appear on over 300 magazine covers and thousands of adverts, he elevated feline portraiture to an art form.

In New York in 1949 young marketing student Walter Chandoha found a stray kitten in the snow. Tucking the cat into his coat, he brought it home to his wife. The cat’s wild antics earned it the name Loco, and Chandoha, who had been a combat photographer during the Second World War, began to take pictures of his new subject.

Rather than get a job in marketing Chandoha turned to freelance photography. He considered cats ideal subjects because they were “just naturally expressive”. His images of cats appeared on advertisements, greetings cards, jigsaw puzzles, T-shirts, posters, calendars and pet food packages. They even featured on the giant 18×60-foot Kodak Colorama display in New York’s Grand Central Terminal.

His images combine a genuine affection for the animals with flawless technique. They range from colour studio photography to black and white street photography, images from vintage cat shows and tender pictures of his children with cats.

He published several books, including Walter Chandoha’s Book of Kittens and Cats (1963) and the seminal text How to Shoot and Sell Animal Photos (1986). Before his death in January 2019 at the age of 98, Chandoha had been working on a retrospective book of 300 of his cat photographs.

(15) SIDE GIG. He doesn’t let his day job interfere with his show biz aspirations: “Astronaut Luca Parmitano plays DJ set from International Space Station” (short video).

Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano has become the first DJ in orbit, after playing a set from the International Space Station to a cruise ship of clubbers in the Mediterranean Sea.

(16) POWER TO BURN. NPR reports “U.S. Air Regulators Ban MacBook Pros With Recalled Batteries From Flights”.

“The FAA is aware of the recalled batteries that are used in some Apple MacBook Pro laptops. In early July, we alerted airlines about the recall, and we informed the public,” the FAA said in an emailed statement.

“We issued reminders to continue to follow instructions about recalls outlined in the 2016 FAA Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO) 16011, and provided information provided to the public on FAA’s Packsafe website: https://www.faa.gov/hazmat/packsafe/,” it added.

Apple announced in June “a voluntary recall of a limited number of older generation 15-inch MacBook Pro units which contain a battery that may overheat and pose a safety risk.”

The laptops were sold between September 2015 and February 2017 and can be identified by their product serial number, according to the company’s notice: https://support.apple.com/15-inch-macbook-pro-battery-recall

(17) THEY’RE EVERYWHERE. Don’t inhale: “Plastic particles falling out of sky with snow in Arctic”.

Even in the Arctic, microscopic particles of plastic are falling out of the sky with snow, a study has found.

The scientists said they were shocked by the sheer number of particles they found: more than 10,000 of them per litre in the Arctic.

It means that even there, people are likely to be breathing in microplastics from the air – though the health implications remain unclear.

The region is often seen as one of the world’s last pristine environments.

A German-Swiss team of researchers has published the work in the journal Science Advances.

The scientists also found rubber particles and fibres in the snow

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY.  “Date With Duke –1947” on Vimeo is a George Pal Puppetoon, restored by the UCLA Film and Television Archive, featuring Duke Ellington performing the “Perfume Suite.”

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Eric Wong, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Rich Lynch, Chip Hitchcock, Alan Baumler, Michael Toman, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 11/15/18 Pixel Longstalking

(1) STOP BREAKING THE RULES, DAMMIT. Thanks to Doctor Science, I discovered “Jonathan Franzen’s 10 Rules for Writing Novels” (at LitHub) and the mirth he’s inspired in many of our friends. (Links take you to the thread.)

The first time I meet him, I’m in an almost-empty laundromat. It’s the height of the August heatwave. I’m folding my towels when he comes in. His hair is tousled. He wears a rumpled, button-up shirt with a ten-year-old blazer that was already ten years old when he bought it from a Salvation Army.

I know this, because he tells me it. I haven’t asked. He tells me he’ll forgive me for not having asked, this once….

And while we’re on the subject, writers can learn a lot from this – “Ask a Triceratops: Susan’s 10 Rules for Novelists” at Camestros Felapton. Here are the first two:

  1. Ensure your primary narrator is comfortable. Remember the novel is an aural medium and your narrator should have a comfy nest of uprooted plants to stand or lie down on.
  2. Pay attention to the little things: how did the t-rex get drunk? What kind of tree is she trying to climb?

(2) TRANSLATED LITERATURE. Europa SF brings word that the winner of The 2018 National Book Award for Translated Literature is of genre interest – the dystopian novel The Emissary by Yoko Tawada (Japan/Germany), Translated by Margaret Mitsutani. Europa SF has a long post about the award and the winning writer.

(3) WFC ACCOUNTABILITY. Silvia Moreno-Garcia takes the 2019 World Fantasy Convention committee to task:

So I’ve been wondering if I should say something here because I am busy and tired and I don’t need the attention, but I think I must: the WFC guest of honor lineup for 2019 is sad. The con takes place in Los Angeles but all the GOHs are white. The theme is Fantasy Noir.

Los Angeles has a huge Latinx population. But the one mention of diversity on the website right now is about “culinary diversity,” making me think POC are only good for making tacos.

On top of that there’s the odd choice of having Robert Silverberg, who was recently the cause of much Internet talk due to some of his comments related to Jemisin, as the toastmaster.

(4) FROM EXPERIENCE. Rachel Swirsky has written a “Q&A on Being a Jewish & Disabled Author”.

…I think my interest in Jewish science fiction stems from my interest in Jewishness itself, which is probably related to my self-identification as Jewish. I’m not sure why I have a strong identification with Judaism — I didn’t have to. As the granddaughter of a secular Jew who tried to cut all connections, I could have just put it aside; my brothers have. Our father is from WASPy blood with deep roots in American history–we’re descended from one of the people who signed the Declaration of Independence–and I could have chosen to identify with that to the exclusion of my Jewish ancestry.

What are you writing about now?

I’m writing a lot about disability. As a disabled person, there’s a lot of rich material to mine–and I still have a lot of unreconciled thoughts about disability, and things I’m figuring out. I think a lot of good writing is produced when the author is still on the edge of revelations, instead of settled.

(5) AMC OPTIONS SF. Good news for Annalee Newitz.

(6) WHO SWITCHES HOLIDAYS. It takes a Time Lord to fix a problem like this – or to cause it in the first place. BBC announces “Doctor Who to skip Christmas Day for first time in 13 years”.

The festive edition of Doctor Who will be shown on New Year’s Day on BBC One instead of Christmas Day for the first time since the drama’s return in 2005.

It will be the first Doctor Who episode to debut on 1 January since the second part of David Tennant’s series exit aired on the first day of 2010.

(7) HAVE AN APPLE? Mythic Delirium has revealed Ruth Sanderson’s cover for Snow White Learns Witchcraft by Theodora Goss.

In these eight stories and twenty-three poems, Goss retells and recasts fairy tales by Charles Perrault, the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and Oscar Wilde. Sometimes harrowing, sometimes hilarious, always lyrical, the works gathered in Snow White Learns Witchcraft re-center and empower the women at the heart of these timeless narratives.

They also made sure we didn’t miss this —

Just yesterday, Variety broke the news that the CW is developing The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter for television. We want to sincerely congratulation Dora and wish her luck that this project comes to full fruition. Needless to say, we’re thrilled to be releasing her next book into the publishing wilds.

(8) FANZINES OF 1943. Dublin 2019 has announced that they will present Retro Hugos for works published in 1943. In order to provide material for those that would like to nominate fan materials for the awards, Fanac.org has assembled the list of fanzines published in 1943, with links to those available on line. Several hundred fanzines are already available, and they plan to add more as they become available, so keep checking back — http://fanac.org/fanzines/Retro_Hugos1943.html

(9) VALE, STAN. Stan Lee’s Twitter account (“The Real Stan Lee”) tweeted out a final statement from Lee as a short video.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 15, 1877 – William Hope Hodgson, Writer from England whose best known character by far is Thomas Carnacki, featured in several of his most famous stories, and at least partly based upon Algernon Blackwood’s occult detective John Silence. 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.)
  • Born November 15, 1929 – Ed Asner, 89, Actor and Producer whose genre work includes playing Santa Claus to Will Farrell’s Elf, and roles on episodes of TV shows spanning decades: The Outer Limits, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Invaders, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Tall Tales & Legends,The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., Mission: Impossible, The Wild Wild West, Hercules, The X-Files, The Dead Zone, Spider-Man, and the upcoming Dead to Me. He has lent his distinctive voice to the main character in the Oscar-winning and Hugo-nominated Pixar movie Up, as well as with a long list of other animated features, series, and videogames, most notably in Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Gargoyles, and as Jacob Marley in The Christmas Carol.
  • Born November 15, 1939 – Yaphet Kotto, 79, Actor, Writer, and Director who’s known mainly for playing gruff law enforcement officers, but whose short genre film resume nevertheless packs a punch. Assuming we count the Bond films as genre – and I do – his first genre performance was as Dr. Kananga aka Mr. Big in Live and Let Die, and roles in Dan O’Bannon’s Alien, Stephen King’s The Running Man, Robert A. Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters, and Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, as well as guest parts in Night Gallery and seaQuestDSV.
  • Born November 15, 1951 – Beverly D’Angelo, 67, Actor and Singer whose genre roles include appearing in The Sentinel, High Spirits, and episodes of TV series such as Tales from the Crypt and Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre and Tall Tales & Legends. She was also a primary cast member in The Man Who Fell to Earth, a 1987 pilot for a series that never got picked up for continuation, which was based on Walter Tevis’s 1963 novel and Nicolas Roeg’s 1976 film.
  • Born November 15, 1972 – Jonny Lee Miller, 46, Actor and Director from England who has been playing Sherlock Holmes in the Elementary series for the last seven years, but his first genre role was as a 9-year-old in an episode with Peter Davison, the Fifth Doctor Who. 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 2000, Dark Shadows, and Byzantium, the live-action Æon Flux movie, and the lead in the pseudo-fantasy TV series Eli Stone.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) WHITE WOLF ANSWERS. In Item #2 of the Pixel Scroll for November 8, Joseph D. Carriker identified a big problem with the next Camarilla book for Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition. The next day, publisher White Wolf replied:

White Wolf Community – We realize the way we have portrayed various topics in the recent Camarilla and Anarch setting books can be viewed as crude and insensitive. We appreciate this feedback and we are actively examining our choices in these books. Earlier this year, we made a pledge to you to meet certain standards and be more direct with the community regarding the World of Darkness and our games. That’s a pledge we failed to uphold, and we are deeply sorry.

White Wolf is currently undergoing some significant transitions, up to and including a change in leadership. The team needs a short time to understand what this means, so we ask for your patience as we figure out our next steps.

We thank you for your support, and for calling us out when it’s needed. Your thoughts and opinions are essential to the improvement of White Wolf.

(13) NOVEMBER BOOKS. Raise Mt. Tsundoku high! Andrew Liptak recommends “11 new sci-fi and fantasy books to check out in late November” at The Verge.

I wonder if my daughter will want to read this one –

Firefly: Big Damn Hero by James Lovegrove and Nancy Holder

Earlier this year, Titan Books announced that it was releasing a trilogy of Firefly novels, expanding the world of Joss Whedon’s short-lived TV show. With Whedon on board as a consulting editor, the first novel follows the crew of the Serenity as they’re hired to transport a cargo of explosives to a buyer. Things go sideways the Alliance takes an interest in the cargo and as a band of rebel Browncoat veterans begin to cause trouble. In the midst of it all, Captain Malcolm Reynolds goes missing, and his first mate, Zoë, has to make a choice between finding him and saving her crew.

And for the rest of you, there’s –

How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin

N.K. Jemisin recently won her third consecutive Hugo Award for The Stone Sky, the concluding volume of her phenomenal Broken Earth trilogy. She has another book in the works right now, but her next will be her first collection of short fiction, How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? The book features 22 of her fantastic, shorter works. Kirkus Reviews gave the book a starred review and said that the stories “demonstrate both the growth and active flourishing of one of speculative fiction’s most thoughtful and exciting writers.”

(14) SECOND OPINION. Answering Collins Dictionary’s choice of “single-use” (Pixeled recently), “’Toxic’ Is Oxford Dictionaries’ Word of 2018”.

(15) WHERE HE’S LEAST EXPECTED. BBC tells how “Lost Disney ‘Oswald’ film found in Japan”.

An anime historian had the cartoon for 70 years before he realised it was one of seven lost films.

The two-minute short features Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, a precursor to Mickey Mouse.

Yasushi Watanabe, 84, bought the film from a toy wholesaler in Osaka when he was a teenager, paying only ¥500 (£3.45 at current exchange rates).

Originally called Neck & Neck, the 16mm cartoon was tagged with the name Mickey Manga Spide (Mickey Cartoon Speedy), and remained in Mr Watanabe’s personal collection for 70 years.

(16) DUMBO. Here’s a recommendation for you – io9’s Beth Elderkin promises “The New Trailer for Disney’s Live-Action Dumbo Will Pretty Much Rip Your Heart to Shreds”. Not to mention, you’ll believe an elephant can fly…

(17) WORLDBUILDING. In this case, literally. Nature shares “A key piece in the exoplanet puzzle”.

The detection of a low-mass exoplanet on a relatively wide orbit has implications for models of planetary formation and evolution, and could open the door to a new era of exoplanet characterization.

The orbital distance of the reported planet is similar to that of Mercury from the Sun (Fig.). This places the planet close to the snow line of Barnard’s star — the region out from the star beyond which volatile elements can condense. The snow line is a key region of planetary systems. In particular, there are indications that the building blocks of planets are formed there.

(18) MORE ABOUT THAT EXOPLANET. Mike Kennedy notes, “The planet is, alas, probably outside the zone where liquid water could be expected to exist. Wikipedia has a partial list of stories taking place at or near Barnard’s Star. The earliest they note is Jack Williamson’s The Legion of Space.”

National Geographic notes:

[…] Barnard’s star is a small red dwarf that’s older than the sun and about a sixth its size. It’s invisible without a decent telescope—the close star wasn’t even discovered until 1916.

Still, Barnard’s Star has long been buttoned into the lore of science fiction, inspiring astronomers to propose the presence of orbiting worlds as far back as the 1960s, and prompting fiction authors to weave tales of adventure around the hidden pinprick of light.

[…] “We’re 99-percent sure this is a planetary signal—but 99 is not 100,” he says. “What if the Barnard Star planet is not really there? It will be shot many, many times and people will try to kill it, but that’s how science works.”

(19) ONE PAGE SF. Jonathan Cowie announces SF2 Concatenation just posted its penultimate Best of Nature  ‘Futures’ 1-page SF story of year.

(20) ORIGIN STORY. The Verge tells us that “YouTube’s tech-noir series Origin is Lost… in space (With a hefty dose of Alien and Dead Space on the side)”. The YouTube Originals show is on YouTube Premium, which is available in about 30 countries.

A man wakes up abruptly, gasping in shock. He’s alone in an unexpected place. Something has clearly gone wrong with the trip he was on, but he won’t know just how wrong until he finds his fellow passengers. They’ll have to work together to manage their basic needs and unravel the mystery of why they didn’t arrive safely at their destination. But can they trust each other, given their various unsavory backgrounds, which will largely be revealed by a series of flashbacks? On Lost, this man’s name is Jack Shephard. But in YouTube Premium’s new space series Origin, it’s Shun Kenzaki (Sen Mitsuji).

In Origin, the passengers wake up from stasis, en route to the distant planet Thea. They were supposed to reach the planet before being revived, but they’re still on board their transport ship, Origin. The Siren Corporation, which put them on the ship, offers its colonists a clean slate. Signing on for a colony means having all records of their history on Earth sealed — which gives the writers a perfect excuse to create crew members with particularly colorful pasts. “We’re five light-years from Earth. Who’s going to stop us?” one Siren spokesperson says in a promotional VR experience, channeling the sort of corporate hubris that always goes so well in science fiction stories.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 11/14/18 Ask Not For Whom The Files Scroll

Power was off here for 8 hours while they replaced a utility pole – fortunately the rest of you kept sending stuff!

(1) GRRM DEALS WILD CARDS TO TV. Tor.com says “George R.R. Martin’s Wild Cards Universe Finds a Home at Hulu”

The Hollywood Reporter dropped big news for GRRM fans yesterday; the Wild Cards series, helmed by Martin and Melinda Snodgrass, and featuring stories from many SFF luminaries, is coming to Hulu.

Hulu and Universal Cable Productions are near to a deal that would create a writers room for Wild Cards, helmed by Andrew Miller. The intent is to begin with two series and potentially expand to more, with Martin, Melinda Snodgrass, and Vince Gerardis executive producing the lot.

(2) ARISIA GOHS PUNISHED. Did you know Amazing Stories was sponsoring the 2019 NASFiC’s Fan Guests of Honor Bjo and John Trimble? Well, if you didn’t, never mind, they aren’t anymore — “Amazing Stories Withdraws Trimble’s NASFiC Sponsorship”. And why is that? Steve Davidson thinks it’s bad publicity for Amazing to be associated with people who are also going to be guests at Arisia 2019 — apparently, even worse publicity than Amazing will receive from making this announcement.

Today, November 14th, The Experimenter Publishing Company reluctantly announces that it has formally rescinded its NASFiC Fan GoH sponsorship of John and Bjo Trimble, following the Trimble’s decision to remain Guests of Honor of the Arisia 2019 convention.

In December of 2017 at the Boston SMOFcon, Steve Davidson (Experimenter Publisher) met Kate Hatcher, chair of the 2019 Utah NASFiC bid.  Utah won the bid and The Experimenter Publishing Company was approached as a potential sponsor for the as yet unnamed Fan GoH.  Following brief discussions, Experimenter agreed to cover the costs associated with the attendance and promotional efforts typically incurred.

… The Trimbles initially announced that they would be attending Arisia.  When I learned of this, I wrote to Kate Hatcher of the Utah NASFiC and subsequently to Bjo Trimble, explaining that The Experimenter Publishing Company and Amazing Stories could not be associated with nor support Arisia under the current circumstances and, since one purpose of their trip to the convention was to promote the NASFiC as sponsored by Amazing Stories, I felt that I had no choice but to withdraw their sponsorship should they choose to attend….

(3) HAZARDOUS SFF TOYS. W.A.T.C.H. (World Against Toys Causing Harm, Inc.) has released their 2018 list of “10 worst toys” for the holiday season (press release here and more about each toy starting here). Cited issues include choking, ingestion, cutting, blunt force, and eye damage hazards. A majority of the toys have sff or science themes. The full list is:

  • Nickelodeon Nella Princess Knight Pillow Pets Sleeptime Lites
  • Nerf Vortex VTX Praxis Blaster
  • Marvel Black Panther Slash Claw
  • Power Rangers Super Ninja Steel Superstar Blade
  • Cabbage Patch Kids Dance Time Doll
  • Zoo Jamz Xylophone
  • Nici Wonderland Doll: Miniclara The Ballerina
  • Stomp Rocket Ultra Rocket
  • Cutting Fruit
  • Chien Á Promener Pull Along Dog

(4) BEFORE LITTLE NEMO. Titan Comics is publishing McCay, an “invented biography” chronicling authentic — though only partially true — stories of the life of the “father of animation” Winsor McCay, in which “McCay’s life is enriched by an imaginary encounter with British mathematician and science fiction writer Charles Hinton…and glimpses of the fourth dimension.” Release date is November 20.

(5) KICKSTARTER SPRINT. Fireside Fiction has launched a short crowdfunding campaign for “Hope In This Timeline”, a collection of short spec fiction stories about finding hope in difficult times curated by Meg Frank.

This reality is bonkers, and keeping up, let alone keeping your spirits up is really hard. Team Fireside thought we’d insert a little hope into the mix. We collected stories by Lee S. Bruce, Beth Cato, Gillian Daniels at midnight EST and in addition to the collection we’ve got some rad backer rewards like an enamel pin designed by Team Fireside and original artwork by Sara Eileen Hames.

They have raised $3,845 of their $7,000 goal with two days to go.

(6) G. WILLOW WILSON INTERVIEW. She starts her run on the DC icon this month — “Ms. Marvel’s G. Willow Wilson reflects on the political side of Wonder Woman”.

Wonder Woman is unavoidably this icon of feminism and of diversity and, to an extent, any Wonder Woman story can’t escape the broader context of her as a fictional element in the wider world. You just look at her becoming a figurehead for the UN, and the backlash to that, and the weight that we place on her as a fictional character. And certainly there’s a lot of conversation about issues of feminism and diversity just in the comics world right now. Do you feel that the presence of that context when you’re writing her?

Yes, absolutely. I think those of us, especially in the United States, who grew up with these characters, tend to assume a kind of universality to them. We assume that the ideals that they represent are universal across time and space and culture; that everybody can relate to them the same way that we do; that the things that they say and they think, their costumes, all of this stuff — is a universal human expression of justice.

And it’s not always the case. That’s not always the case. And I think now that we are really interconnected across the globe, and in social media, to the press, through the globalization of pop culture, we’re asking much bigger questions about these characters then we might have before, when they were a uniquely American phenomenon. And so it’s something that I’m always conscious of.

And it does, I think, make one’s job as a storyteller more interesting, because we’re now dealing with these characters who have a much broader reach than they might have 60 years ago. Yet by that same token, they’re no longer as universal and that’s a very interesting paradox.

[That’s] part of why I wanted to start out my run on the series in the way that I do: asking, “What is justice in this very different context?” Is there such a thing as a just war in a time when war is no longer about two armies facing each other across the battlefield, and it’s more about proxy wars and asymmetrical warfare and civilian casualties? And all of these different warring perspectives where there is no clear, black-and-white good guy and bad guy? And not shy away from that stuff. It’s a tall order, but I think it’s never been more necessary to ask those questions

(7) PATTEN TRIBUTES. Lee Gold has assembled a LASFS memorial page for Fred Patten that includes this quote from David Gerrold:

Fred was a treasure. You could turn to him and say, “I remember a story about a … etc.” and he would not only identify it by title and author, but where it was published. He was an incredible resource. I admired his encyclopedic knowledge of the field. He was classic old-school fandom. I am so sorry to hear of his passing.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 14, 1883 — Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island is published as a one-volume book.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • November 14, 1907 Astrid Lindgren. Creator of the Pippi Longstocking series and, at least in the States, lesser known Emil i Lönneberga, Karlsson-on-the-Roof, and the Six Bullerby Children series as well. In January 2017, she was calculated to be the world’s 18th most translated author, and the fourth-most-translated children’s writer after Enid Blyton, H. C. Andersen and the Brothers Grimm. There have been at least forty video adaptations of her works over the decades mostly in Swedish but Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter (Sanzoku no Musume R?nya in English transliteration) was an animated series in Japan recently. (Died 2002.)
  • November 14, 1930 – Lt. Col. Ed White, Engineer, Pilot, and Astronaut who was the first American to walk in space during the Gemini 4 flight, for which he was awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. He and his crewmates Virgil “Gus” Grissom and Roger B. Chaffee died as a result of a catastrophic fire in the command module during a launch test for Apollo 1, which was to have been the first manned Apollo mission. (Died 1967.)
  • November 14, 1932Alex Ebel. He did the poster for the first Friday the 13th film, and his cover illustration for The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin published by Ace Books in 1975 is considered one of the best such illustrations done. I’m also very impressed with The Dispossessed cover he did as well as his Planet of Exile cover too. His work for magazines includes Heavy MetalSpace Science Fiction and Fantastic Story Magazine. (Died 2013.)
  • November 14, 1951 – Beth Meacham, 67, Writer, Editor, and Critic who is best known for the many award-nominated and winning authors and books she has brought to SFF fans in her decades as editor at Ace and Tor, including Tim Powers’ The Anubis Gates and Greg Bear’s Blood Music. She has been a finalist for the Best Editor Hugo numerous times – but what JJ found especially interesting are her Hugo nominations for Best Related Book, as a collaborator on A Reader’s Guide to Fantasy, and on Vincent Di Fate’s Catalog of Science Fiction Hardware. She has been Editor Guest of Honor at several conventions, including next year’s World Fantasy Convention.
  • November 14, 1951 – Sandahl Bergman, 67, Actor, Stuntperson, and Dancer who appeared in several Broadway shows and gained prominence when choreographer Bob Fosse cast her in Pippin and Dancin’, and then in his fantasy dance film All That Jazz. She played Valeria in Conan the Barbarian – for which she won a Saturn Award – and Queen Gedren in Red Sonja. She was one of the nine muses in the fantasy musical Xanadu, and starred in She, a post-apocalyptic movie based on H. Rider Haggard’s novel She: A History of Adventure. Other genre appearances include Hell Comes to Frogtown, Revenge on the Highway, TekWar: TekJustice, Ice Cream Man, and Sorceress II, and guest roles on Sliders and Hard Time on Planet Earth.
  • November 14, 1959 Paul McGann, 59. Yes he only did one film as the eighth incarnation of the Doctor in the 1996 Doctor Who television film, but that role he has reprised in more than seventy audio dramas and the 2013 short film entitled “The Night of the Doctor”. Other genre appearances include Alien 3FairyTale: A True StoryQueen of the Damned and Lesbian Vampire Killers.
  • November 14, 1963 – Cat Rambo, 55, Writer and Editor, who co-edited Fantasy Magazine from 2007 to 2011, which earned her a World Fantasy Special Award nomination. Her fantasy and science fiction works have been recognized with Nebula, Endeavour, and Compton Crook Award nominations. She has been an ardent gamer since the days of Pong and Chainmail, and was one of the developers of Armageddon (MUD). Her alter identity is as President, since 2015, of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA), which has enjoyed an unprecedented amount of visibility and transparency to fandom and non-members under her guidance; in addition to letting the rest of us get a better understanding of “how the sausage gets made”, the organization has continued its evolution by adding a mentorship program, Nebula voting rights for Associate Members, and a Gamewriting category to the Nebula Awards.
  • November 14, 1969 – Daniel J. Abraham, 49, Writer and Producer. He has published several fantasy series under his own name, as well as under M. L. N. Hanover and Daniel Hanover;  his solo works include the Long Price Quartet (about which Jo Walton has waxed enthusiastic), and the Black Sun’s Daughter and Dagger and the Coin quintologies, as well as numerous short works in GRRM’s Wild Cards universe. But let’s get to the leviathan in the room: he is one half of James S. A. Corey – a pen name which derives from his middle name and that of his collaborator, Ty (Corey) Franck, and his daughter’s initials – a team responsible for the bestselling Expanse novels and popular TV series. The first novel, Leviathan Wakes, was a Hugo finalist, and the episode of the same name won a Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation; the novel series itself was a finalist for the Best Series Hugo Award in the year of its inception. He has also collaborated on comic books for various GRRM properties, including Game of Thrones.
  • November 14, 1979 – Olga Kurylenko, 39, Actor born in the Ukraine who is probably best known for her genre-adjacent role in Quantum of Solace, which earned her a Saturn nomination. She’s had several roles in movies based on comic books: Hitman, Max Payne, the Belgian Largo Winch, and the regrettably plothole-ridden Oblivion. She played The Vampire in Paris, Je t’Aime, and had appearances in Tyranny, Vampire Academy, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, Mara, and the probably-never-to-be-released epic fantasy Empires of the Deep.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark is just kidding, but you’ll never look at your bookshelves quite the same way again.
  • This In the Bleachers shows the importance of correct spelling in horror.

(11) STEAM TO MARS. Online play will become an option for a top-rated board game says Ars Technica: “Review: Super-hot board game Terraforming Mars goes digital”.

Terraforming Mars is one of the most popular heavy strategy games of the last two years (read our 2016 review); it earned a nomination for the Kennerspiel des Jahres (expert’s “game of the year”), losing to the very good but much simpler Exit: The Game series. It’s currently ranked #4 on BoardGameGeek’s master ranking of all board games, a ranking that tends to skew towards complex games that eschew luck in favor of strategy and engine building.

Now, an adaptation from Asmodee Digital brings the game to Windows via Steam. (Android and iOS ports are coming soon.) The Windows port offers local play, online multiplayer, and a solo challenge mode that functions as a good learning tool in addition to providing a strong single-player experience.

(12) BABYLON BERLIN. The Berlin Sci-Fi FiImfest takes place November 16-17.

Last year we screened 66 films from 21 countries and had over 600 visitors. This year the festival will have 144 features as Berlin Sci-fi Filmfest takes over the Babylon Cinema.

Berlin Sci-fi Filmfest is pleased to announce the inclusion of the following:

Simon Lejeune aka Haedre, Berlin based Artist, painter, illustrator and comic author will take up residency and his exhibition will be featuring new works along with original comic pages.

Hans Hanfner, A Berlin based composer who wrote music for the award winning series Danni Lowinski and Allein gegen die Zeit will discuss the scoring workflow used in Babylon Berlin and discuss the tools and techniques used that made working with a team across the world possible.

Irrlicht e.V. is an association that supports fantastic culture, role-playing, tabletop and board games. They are committed players who meet regularly in Berlin and around the country and offer all those interested in the opportunity to experience fantastic culture and art and of course to play.

And as for Cosplay, we welcome back Anette Pohlke and the Film Fan Force team, who will be providing our guests with ample photo opportunity to pose with some of their favourite fan film characters from Star Wars to Star Trek to Guardians of the Galaxy.

(13) SHED A TEAR. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Artist Thomas Ollivier (aka Tom le French) has re-imagined modern technology as if it had been developed pre-internet. The Verge’s Ashley Carman was particular taken by them (“We’re charmed by these tech products, reimagined for a simpler time”) though there seems something quite sad about the perpetually blinking “No Likes” display on the Facebook-branded pager. For myself, I’m at least as taken by his Cosmo Kids portfolio of kids from around the world, all dressed as if for astronaut’s official photos. Of those, Ollivier says “These portraits depict kids as agents of change.  There’s no more powerful fuel on the planet than a kid’s imagination.”

(14) COP A PLEA. NPR reports “Man Who Made Fatal ‘Swatting’ Hoax Call Pleads Guilty To 51 Charges”.

Tyler Barriss, 26, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to making a false report resulting in a death, after he placed a hoax call late last year that resulted in police fatally shooting an unarmed man in Wichita, Kan.

Barriss pleaded guilty to a total of 51 charges as part of a plea deal. He will be sentenced in January, The Associated Press reports.

Prosecuting U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister told The Wichita Eagle he will recommend that Barriss be sentenced to 20 years in prison, providing he writes apology letters to police, dispatchers and the family of Andrew Finch, a 28-year-old father of two who was shot by police who responded to the hoax call in December.

(15) EXO MARKS THE SPOT. “Exoplanet discovered around neighbouring star” – the second-closest ever found. (If we leave right away we can get there in… never mind.)

The planet’s mass is thought to be more than three times that of our own, placing it in a category of world known as “super-Earths”.

It orbits Barnard’s star, which sits “just” six light-years away.

(16) JOURNEY TO THE SURFACE OF THE EARTH. “Greenland ice sheet hides huge ‘impact crater'” — scroll down for discussion of entanglement with current recent-extinction hypotheses.

If the impact was right at near-end of the age window then it will surely re-ignite interest in the so-called Younger Dryas impact hypothesis.

The Younger Dryas was a period of strong cooling in the middle of the climatic warming that occurred as the Earth emerged from the height of last ice age.

Some have argued that an asteroid impact could have been responsible for this cooling blip – and the accompanying extinction of many animal groups that occurred at the same time across North America.

Others, though, have been critical of the hypothesis, not least because no crater could be associated with such an event. The Hiawatha depression is likely now to fan the dying embers of this old debate

(17) POSTED TO ORBIT. “Rocket Lab’s Modest Launch Is Giant Leap for Small Rocket Business” – the New York Times has the story.

A small rocket from a little-known company lifted off Sunday from the east coast of New Zealand, carrying a clutch of tiny satellites. That modest event — the first commercial launch by a U.S.-New Zealand company known as Rocket Lab — could mark the beginning of a new era in the space business, where countless small rockets pop off from spaceports around the world. This miniaturization of rockets and spacecraft places outer space within reach of a broader swath of the economy.

The rocket, called the Electron, is a mere sliver compared to the giant rockets that Elon Musk, of SpaceX, and Jeffrey P. Bezos, of Blue Origin, envisage using to send people into the solar system. It is just 56 feet tall and can carry only 500 pounds into space.

…The Electron, Mr. Beck said, is capable of lifting more than 60 percent of the spacecraft that headed to orbit last year. By contrast, space analysts wonder how much of a market exists for a behemoth like SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, which had its first spectacular launch in February.

A Falcon Heavy can lift a payload 300 times heavier than a Rocket Lab Electron, but it costs $90 million compared to the Electron’s $5 million. Whereas SpaceX’s standard Falcon 9 rocket has no shortage of customers, the Heavy has only announced a half-dozen customers for the years to come.

(18) YOU’RE INVITED TO THE SHOWER. NPR tells you where to “Watch The Leonid Meteor Shower This Weekend”.

This year the shower of shooting stars is expected to peak late Saturday night and into Sunday morning.

Always occurring in mid-November, an average of about 15 meteors per hour streak across the night sky during the shower’s yearly peak, according to NASA.

The cascade will be competing with a waxing gibbous moon, so the best time to watch is after the moon has set but before dawn.

NASA suggests finding a viewing site far away from city or street lights and giving your eyes time to adjust to the darkness.

(19) TORUS TORUS TORUS. Vice claims “Apparently, Some People Believe the Earth Is Shaped Like a Donut” – which makes for some interesting astronomical GIF illustrations, like the one that explains the motion of the moon.

Yes, some people on the internet are arguing that Earth is neither flat, nor spherical, but torus-shaped, which is a fancy science word for something that looks like a donut. The idea first appeared on FlatEarthSociety.org in a 2008 thread started by a mysterious figure named Dr. Rosenpenis as a joke, but it was fleshed out in detail by FES trailblazer Varaug in 2012.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/3/18 I’ve Got Pixels To Scroll, And Pixels To LOL, And Pixels To Stir Up Yet More Strife

(1) CORDWAINER GENESIS. Ashley Stimpson and Jeffrey Irtenkauf trace the career of the man behind Cordwainer Smith in “Throngs of himself” for Johns Hopkins Magazine. “Paul Linebarger wrote science fiction as Cordwainer Smith. His multiple selves did not stop there.”

The notebook belonged to Paul Linebarger, who under his own name played many roles: U.S. Army colonel, CIA operative, psychological warfare expert, scholar of Asia, teacher, adviser to an American president. He was a husband twice and a father twice. His godfather was the first president of modern China, Sun Yat-sen. He may have been the central unhinged character in a famous psychiatric case study. But it was his science fiction—published as Cordwainer Smith—that gilds his legacy today.

Smith published about 30 short stories, all of which take place over a 14,000-year future history that Linebarger labored over in a lifetime of notebooks. Smith’s work is startling and violent, remembered for its originality and its weighty subject matter. In a letter to his agent, Linebarger explained that his stories “intended to lay bare the human mind, to throw torches over the underground lakes of the human soul, to show the chambers wherein the ageless dramas of self-respect, God, courage, sex, love, hope, envy, decency, and power go on forever.” Pulpy tales of little green men these were not.

(2) DISNEY’S STREAMING STAR WARS SERIES. When Disney’s new streaming service launches, here’s what one of its offerings will be: “Jon Favreau’s streaming ‘Star Wars’ series is ‘The Mandalorian'” at Engadget.

We still don’t know the name of Disney’s subscription streaming service, but we do have some details for a live-action Star Wars show that will appear on it. Jon Favreau announced on Instagram that The Mandalorian is set “after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order,” with a “lone gunfighter” emerging in the tradition of Jango and Boba Fett on the outer reaches of the galaxy.

 

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(3) SAVING GRACES. James Davis Nicoll admires “Women Who Save Themselves (and Everyone Else)” for reasons explained in his post for Tor.com.

… Having accepted the burden of her late father’s Letter of Marque, Bodacious Space Pirates’ Marika Kato balances the demands of school work with the challenges of commanding a privateer starship. Although years of peacetime has reduced privateering to a tourist attraction, from time to time Kato’s Bentenmaru finds itself in action, including the time Kato and friends set out to rescue Jenny Doolittle from an arranged marriage.

The single flaw in their plan was assuming that Jenny would wait to be rescued, rather than taking matters into her own hands….

(4) ARTIFICIAL CHICKEN INTELLIGENCE. In what the ad writers must think is a hilarious (non-) deception, Burger King’s latest commercials are written by Artificial Intelligence. Well, actually not (The Verge: “Burger King’s ‘AI-written’ ads show we’re still very confused about artificial intelligence”).

Each of Burger King’s new ads starts with an anachronistic burst of noise from a dial-up modem and a solemn warning: “This ad was created by artificial intelligence.” Then, over shots of glistening burgers and balletic fries, a robotic-sounding narrator deploys exactly the sort of clunky grammar and conceptual malapropisms we expect from a dumb AI.

…They’re good ads! And, of course, they’re lies. In a press release, Burger King claims the videos are the work of a “new deep learning algorithm,” but an article from AdAge makes it clear that humans — not machines — are responsible for the funnies. “Artificial intelligence is not a substitute for a great creative idea coming from a real person,” Burger King’s global head of brand marketing, Marcelo Pascoa, told the publication.

Here’s an example –

(5) PARTY CRASHERS. Olga Polomoshnova studies the consequences of “Feasts Interrupted” at Middle-Earth Reflections.

…Tolkien used socially important intrusions into realms, and thus their societies, in The Silmarillion, but his approach was different from Beowulf’s poet’s with an important detail: the most meaningful intrusions were one-time rather than continuous actions, and they took place during prominent feasts, thus increasing their social impact and significance manifold….

(6) CLARION 2019 FACULTY. The Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop faculty for 2019 will be — Carmen Maria Machado, Maurice Broaddus, Karen Lord, Andy Duncan, Ann VanderMeer, Jeff VanderMeer, and Shelley Streeby (Faculty Director).

Applications for the 2019 Workshop reopens December 1.

The Workshop runs June 23, 2019 – August 3, 2019.

(7) OVER THE MOON. Astronomers at Columbia University think they have evidence of the first moon orbiting an exoplanet (The Verge: “Astronomers may have discovered the first moon ever found outside our Solar System”).

A pair of astronomers believes they’ve found a moon orbiting a planet outside our Solar System — something that has never before been confirmed to exist. Though they aren’t totally certain of their discovery yet, the find opens up the possibility that more distant moons are out there. And that could change our understanding of how the Universe is structured.

The astronomy team from Columbia University found this distant satellite, known as an exomoon, using two of NASA’s space telescopes. They first spotted a signal from the object in data collected by the planet-hunting telescope Kepler, and then they followed up with the Hubble Space Telescope, which is in orbit around Earth. Thanks to the observations from these two spacecraft, the team suspect this moon orbits around a Jupiter-sized planet located about 4,000 light-years from Earth. And this planet, dubbed Kepler-1625b, orbits around a star similar to our Sun.

(8) SLOWING DOWN. Mary Robinette Kowal discusses her health and a reduction in her schedule: “On why I’m cancelling some events…”

…I’ve been on the road more than I’ve been home. I was in the middle of twenty days of travel and hand been home for a single day before that, with only three days at home at the end. I was leading a workshop of 150 students.

He stopped me and said, “You have to slow down.”

So, I am. We’re canceling some events and nothing else goes on my calendar for next year. Because the show doesn’t actually have to go on.

And to reassure you, we caught the shingles early so it stayed pretty mild. I got the anti-virals. Yes, I’ll do the vaccine when this is cleared up to stave off a recurrence. If you see me, please don’t hug me. I’m in the super-sensitive skin phase right now, which means contact with my back feels somewhere between a sunburn and a cheesegrater….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 3, 1889 – William Elliott Dold, Jr., Artist. In the early years of SF right through the 70s, he did cover art for such magazines as Miracle Science and Fantasy Stories and Cosmic Stories. Between 1923 and 1975, he also contributed hundreds of interior art pieces to magazines and books, ranging from Harold Hersey’s poetry collection Night to work for the weekly British comic magazine 2000 A.D. I don’t see that his art has been collected yet.
  • Born October 3, 1927 – Donald R. Bensen, Writer and Editor. He is credited with a genre novel, And Having Writ…, which received an Honorable Mention for the Campbell Award, and created a couple of The Unknown anthologies for Pyramid Books, but his work as a consulting editor for Dell Books and The Dial Press from 1976 until 1981, where works by Spider and Jeanne Robinson, Gregory Benford, Joan Vinge and John Varley were published, is I think his true contribution to the genre. He also contributed editorially to Dell’s paperback science fiction and fantasy publications during those years.
  • Born October 3, 1931 – Ray Nelson, 87, Writer, Cartoonist, and Member of First Fandom who did many cartoons and articles for fanzines but is perhaps most known for his 1963 short story “Eight O’Clock in the Morning” which was used by John Carpenter as the basis for the 1988 film They Live. He also co-authored The Ganymede Takeover with Philip K. Dick. Blake’s Progress, in which the poet William Blake is a time traveler, is claimed by Clute to be his best work. His novel The Prometheus Man received a Philip K. Dick Special Citation, and he was a finalist for the 1951 Retro Hugo for Best Fan Artist in 2001, and the winner of the Rotsler Award in 2003. He is credited with the invention of the infamous SF fan propeller beanie.
  • Born October 3, 1944 – Katharine Kerr, 74, Writer best known for the 15 novels in her Deverry Cycle, and recipient of World Fantasy and BSFA Award nominations. Author of many series including Westlands, Dragon Mage and the Silver Wyrm. I’d be remiss not to note her Urban Fantasy series entitled Nola O’Grady which is a great deal of fun and which leads off with, I kid you not, License to Ensorcell. She’s done a number of essays, including one with the intriguing title of “The Hedgehog’s Lair”.
  • Born October 3, 1950 – Pamela Hensley, 68, Actor who played Princess Ardala in the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century movie and TV series, starred in the original Rollerball movie, and had guest roles in several episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man.
  • Born October 3, 1964 – Clive Owen, Actor from England who starred in the Oscar- and Hugo-nominated Children of Men, the not-so-acclaimed Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Sin City, and the upcoming time travel movie Gemini Man.
  • Born October 3, 1967 – Denis Villeneuve, 51, French-Canadian Writer and Director who turned Ted Chiang’s short “The Story of Your Life” into the Oscar- and Hugo-winning film Arrival, garnered more Oscar wins and a Hugo nomination with the sequel Blade Runner 2049, and is currently working on a remake of Frank Herbert’s Dune.
  • Born October 3, 1973 – Lena Headey, 45, British Actor and Producer who is well-known to genre fans as Cersei Lannister in the Hugo-winning series Game of Thrones. She also played the titular character in the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series, and had roles in The Brothers Grimm, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the 300 movies, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box, and one of JJ’s favorite so-bad-it’s-good horror films about subterranean scuba diving, The Cave.
  • Born October 3, 1975 – Jason Erik Lundberg, 43, Writer and Editor. He’s published several collections of his own short stories, edited several anthologies, and has edited Lontar: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction for the last 5 years. Writer of such critical essays as “The Old Switcheroo: A Study in Neil Gaiman’s Use of Character Reversal” and “Embedded Narrative in the Fiction of Kelly Link”; he also wrote the nonfiction work Embracing the Strange: The Transformative Impact of Speculative Fiction.
  • Born October 3, 1978 – Shannyn Sossamon, 40, Actor in the TV series Sleepy Hollow, Wayward Pines, Moonlight, and genre films One Missed Call, Catacombs, and Ghost Light.
  • Born October 3, 1983 – Tessa Thompson, 35, Actor, Singer, and Producer. She had an early guest role in 3 episodes of Heroes, and has played main roles in Thor: Ragnarok, Annihilation, and the TV series Westworld. She co-starred in Janelle Monáe’s 49-minute genre musical film Dirty Computer.
  • Born October 3, 1986 – Joonas Suotamo, 32, Actor from Finland who has played Chewbacca in the newest Star Wars trilogy and associated videogames.
  • Born October 3, 1988 – Alicia Vikander, 30, Swedish Actor and Producer who starred in Ex Machina, Seventh Son, and the newly-rebooted The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Tomb Raider films, as well as providing a character voice for Moomins and the Winter Wonderland.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Yoda’s SJW credential makes a confession: Half Full.

(11) EXOMOON. Yahoo! News reports “In a surprise, first alien moon discovered is big and gaseous”. (Wait a minute, didn’t I already report this item?)

Astronomers have pinpointed what appears to be the first moon detected outside our solar system, a large gaseous world the size of Neptune that is unlike any other known moon and orbits a gas planet much more massive than Jupiter.

The discovery, detailed by researchers on Wednesday, was a surprise, and not because it showed that moons exist elsewhere – they felt it was only a matter of time for one to be found in another star system. They were amazed instead by how different this moon was from the roughly 180 known in our solar system.

“It’s big and weird by solar system standards,” Columbia University astronomy professor David Kipping said of the moon, known as an exomoon because it is outside our solar system.

(12) ARPANET. Slate dubs it “The Very First Social Network”. And I think it’s entirely likely someone reading this blog is acquainted with whoever started this….

That is, until 1979.
That fall, [Vint] Cerf logged on to his workstation to find an unopened message from the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. It had been sent over the network using the recently developed “electronic mail” system. Because more than one person was using each computer on the network, the scientists had conceived of “e-mail” (now commonly styled email) so they could share information directly from one person to another, rather than just between computers. As with regular mail, they realized they needed a system of addresses to send and receive the messages. Thus the @ symbol was born: It served to separate the mailbox identifier from the serving host, and the single character saved typing time and scarce computer memory, an early version of what one might think of as a “hack.”
But the message sent to Cerf’s email wasn’t a technical request. And it hadn’t been sent just to him. Instead, an email with the subject line “SF-LOVERS” had been sent to Cerf and his colleagues scattered across the United States. The message asked all of them to respond with a list of their favorite science fiction authors. Because the message had gone out to the entire network, everybody’s answers could then be seen and responded to by everybody else. Users could also choose to send their replies to just one person or a subgroup, generating scores of smaller discussions that eventually fed back into the whole.
About 40 years later, Cerf still recalls this as the moment he realized that the internet would be something more than every other communications technology before it. “It was clear we had a social medium on our hands,” he said.

(13) IN ACTION. “Nobel Prize In Chemistry Honors Work That Demonstrates ‘The Power Of Evolution'” – “If I read the tables in Wikipedia correctly,” says Chip Hitchcock, “this is the first year that women have gotten even a piece of two of the three tech Nobels.”

American Frances H. Arnold has won half of the 2018 Nobel Prize in chemistry for her work in changing how chemists produce new enzymes, sharing the prize with another American, George Smith, and Sir Gregory Winter of the U.K. for research that has led to new pharmaceuticals and cancer treatments.

“This year’s prize is about harnessing the power of evolution,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in announcing the winners. This year’s laureates have “re-created the process in their test tubes … and make evolution many times faster.”

Arnold is only the fifth woman to win the prize in its 117-year history. She conducted the first directed evolution of enzymes, which are proteins that catalyze chemical reactions. Enzymes produced through “directed evolution” in laboratory settings are used to manufacture everything from renewable fuels to pharmaceuticals.

(14) ACROBOTIC. “Hayabusa 2: German-led lander drops to asteroid’s surface” — this one flips instead of bouncing like the Japanese-built rovers.

Japan’s space agency (Jaxa) has put another lander on the surface of asteroid 162173, or Ryugu.

The Hayabusa-2 probe ejected the German-French Mascot “rover” on Wednesday for its 20-minute journey down to the space rock.

Contact was confirmed in the early hours, Central European Summer Time.

Mascot is designed to move across the surface of Ryugu and analyse its surface properties, including its mineral composition and magnetic field.

… Mascot has a swing arm inside to generate a torque that will throw the lander to a new location.

(15) TAGGERS REJOICE. Another thing sff failed to predict — “Disney ‘graffiti drone’ tags walls”.

Disney is known for its clean and tidy theme parks so it may come as a surprise to see it has developed a graffiti-spraying drone.

Its research and development division has been working on a drone equipped with a spray-paint gun that can tag walls and even paint 3D objects.

The researchers hope the idea will result in drones that can paint walls quickly and accurately.

(16) CHOOSE-YOUR-OWN BLACK MIRROR. “Netflix Is Planning a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure ‘Black Mirror’”. Bloomberg has the story.

Netflix Inc. is about to let you decide how your favorite show will end.

The streaming service is developing a slate of specials that will let viewers choose the next storyline in a TV episode or movie, according to people familiar with the matter. The company expects to release the first of these projects before the end of this year, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans are still private.

Viewers will get to choose their own storylines in one episode of the upcoming season of “Black Mirror,” the Emmy-winning science-fiction anthology series. The show is famous for exploring the social implications of technology, including an episode where humans jockey to receive higher ratings from their peers. The fifth season of the show is expected to be released in December.

(17) PLANET NINE FROM OUTER SPACE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A newly discovered minor planet—nicknamed the Goblin—is one of only three known minor planets in certain extremely distant, highly elliptical orbits… and in some ways it’s the most extreme of the bunch (Smithsonian: “New Discovery Stirs Up Signs of the Elusive Planet 9”).

The new object, officially called 2015 TG387, orbits with a special class of celestial bodies known as Inner Oort Cloud objects, or extreme trans-Neptunian objects (ETNOs). The body of rock and ice, nicknamed “the Goblin” by the discovery team, is currently about 80 astronomical units (AU) from the sun, or about twice as far as Pluto’s average distance. However, the Goblin travels on a highly elongated orbit that takes it to the extreme outermost reaches of our solar system, looping out as far as 2,300 AU during its 40,000-year journey around the sun.

Like the other two objects in the class (Sedna and 2012 VP113), it does not come close enough to the outer planets to really be influenced by Jupiter and its lesser kin. But, if the mooted Planet 9 (aka Planet X) exists and is as massive as some astronomers believe, it could be an influence.

When considered together, these three objects start to produce a tantalizing picture of their distant realm. They are decoupled from the rest of the solar system, immune to its influence, and yet they all appear in the same part of the sky.

Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, who was on the team that discovered the Goblin, believes in Planet 9. Mostly. Others are more convinced.

How likely the existence of an undiscovered massive planet is, slowly circling the sun every tens of thousands of years at extreme distances, depends on who you ask. For his part, Sheppard, who has discovered dozens of minor planets, comets and moons, would place the odds of Planet 9 existing at about 80 or 85 percent—and he’s not even the most optimistic.

“My confidence is about 99.84 percent,” says Konstantin Batygin, a planetary astrophysicist and assistant professor at the California Institute of Technology. Batygin creates theoretical models of the outer solar system to search for hints of Planet 9, crunching the numbers on numerous minor planets that cluster into various groups and the influences of dozens of orbital factors. His 2016 paper with Caltech colleague Michael Brown laid out perhaps the strongest case for Planet 9 yet, concluding that there was only a fraction of one percent probability that the groupings of these objects occurred randomly.

Not everyone is convinced, of course, even those on the Goblin team/

“[…] There are conflicting lines of evidence,” says David Tholen, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii who was part of the team that discovered the Goblin. He points to the Cassini spacecraft, which orbited Saturn for more than 13 years, measuring the dynamics and forces of the outer solar system. “That serves as a very sensitive detector of other things out there, and the analysis of that data suggests that we don’t see any evidence for [Planet 9].”

Are there more objects like Goblin (and Sedna and 2012 VP113) out there? Well, if they aren’t near their closest approach to the Sun we probably couldn’t find them.

The only reason we have been able to find smaller distant objects like the Goblin is because they are near their closest approach, visible for just an instant of stellar time before they sling back out into the shadows.

“Ninety-nine percent of their orbit, we would not find them,” Sheppard says. “So, we just find the tip of the iceberg.”

And, if Planet 9 exists it may well be too far out and too dim for us to see.

If the minor planets are in a gravitational dance with Planet 9, however, it could mean that the big planet is far, far away—near the aphelion of its orbit roughly 1,000 AU from the sun. We have only a rough idea of Planet 9’s size—between two and four times that of Earth, if it exists—and no way to determine its how much light it reflects, which makes it incredibly difficult to search for.

(18) GIRL IN A LAKE DISTRIBUTING SWORDS. Courtesy of Hampus Eckerman, translated from the Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan, October 2. Headline: “Eight-year-old took a bath – found iron age sword.”

An eight-year-old girl made an unexpected find when she bathed this summer. A bit out into the water, she trampled on what proved to be an unusually well-preserved iron age sword.

“I thought, ok, so a sword, it could be anything, but then I got the pictures and then I got goose bumps,” says Archeologist Annie Rosén to TT [Newspapers Telegram Service].

The girl’s family contacted Annie Rosén at Jönköping County Museum. She found that the sword was surprisingly well-preserved with, among other things, a sheath in wood and leather. That so much organic material is preserved is very rare.

– It’s 1,000 years, maybe up to 1,500 years old. At the same place we found a dress ornament dating back to the 300’s or 400’s, says Annie Rosén.

The girl, aptly named Saga, found the sword at a half-meter depth at the bathing area in Lake Vidöstern, south of Värnamo, which SVT News Jönköping was the first to report.

…The sword is still at the conservator and they have as yet not been able to make a proper age determination. How it got into the lake is unknown to the archaeologists. It could be graves that eroded into the lake, sacrifices in water or that someone simply lost it. There are no known settlements nearby, but archaeologists are now looking for more objects in the lake.

“It would be cool to find something more that’s from the 4th century,” says Annie Rosén.”

(19) USE THE DELOREAN LUKE. Movieweb spots an “Amazing Empire Strikes Back to the Future Mashup Shared by Mark Hamill”.

The worlds of Star Wars and Back to the Future collide in a new mashup photo that Mark Hamill posted on social media, which he calls The Empire Strikes Back to the Future. Hamill uses social media often to engage with fans, and he’s pretty good at it. The Luke Skywalker actor often takes time out of his day to share things that he deems important or humorous, and even answers the burning questions of hardcore Star Wars fans pretty often.

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[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Susan de Guardiola, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]