Pixel Scroll 2/2/19 Apologies To Voltaire

(1) THE BETTER BATTLE ANGELS OF OUR NATURE. The Hollywood Reporter’s Stephen Dalton makes it sound like the promotional beer (linked here the other day) is better than the movie — “‘Alita: Battle Angel’: Film Review”

…Twenty years in gestation, James Cameron’s long-cherished manga adaptation Alita: Battle Angel finally reaches the big screen with help from director Robert Rodriguez and Peter Jackson’s digital effects team. With that kind of cinematic pedigree, backed by a reported $200 million budget, this kick-ass cyberpunk adventure seems to be aiming for the same blockbusting box office heights as the Hunger Games franchise. But a lumpy script, muddled plot, stock characters and tired genre tropes may dampen its commercial breakout potential beyond its core sci-fi action-fantasy demographic. While not exactly a misfire, Rodriguez and Cameron’s joint effort lacks the zing and originality of their best individual work. Fox is releasing it across much of Europe next week, with a U.S. launch to follow Feb. 14.

(2) GOFUNDME AND CHARITY ANTHOLOGIES BENEFIT ROPES. Splatterpunk writer Christopher Ropes has a serious health problem with his teeth, and the horror-writing community is rallying to make the funds available. First, there’s Ropes’ GoFundMe, “Get Christopher’s Teeth Fixed” with photos that illustrate the problem.

My name is Christopher Ropes. I was born with ameleogenesis imperfecta, a condition that has caused more pain and suffering in my life than any other source, even my fibromyalgia. Essentially, I have teeth that rot and break much more easily than normal because they lack proper enamel protection. I’ve suffered through countless infections that swell up the entirety of my face. And all of this doesn’t even begin to describe the fact that my teeth just make me feel
ugly and unloveable.

I have no dental insurance because I’m on Disability and Medicare doesn’t cover any dental work, no matter how medically necessary.

My problems with my teeth have gotten so bad, I can hardly even chew anything anymore. I got an estimate from the dentist and all the work is going to come to approximately $14,000. I added a little bit to the total to cover any GoFundMe fees, as well as medications and special dietary needs while the work is being done, and the possibility that the estimate is shy of what the actual total will be.

On the same day his GoFundMe launched, two charity anthologies were released, the profits to benefit Christopher Ropes.

Planet X Publications is proud to present this charity anthology, benefitting our friend, horror writer Christopher Ropes. It features stories & poems generously donated from members of the weird fiction & horror communities.

Tables of Contents: Introduction by Nadia Bulkin / 1) Blue Broken Mind by Farah Rose Smith / 2) An Incident on a Cold Winter’s Afternoon by Matthew A. St. Cyr / 3) Fishing Boots by Douglas Draa / 4) Chindi & Night of the Skinwalker by Frank Coffman / 5) How to Live Without Meds? by Norbert Góra / 6) Nothing Else Matters by Calvin Demmer / 7) The Denturist by Jo-Anne Russell / 8) The Tooth by Russell Smeaton / 9) To Anne by Paula Ashe / 10) I Can’t See the Bottom by James Fallweather / 11) Forbidden Knowledge by K.A. Opperman / 12) Outlaws by Bob Pastorella / 13) Project AZAZEL by Christopher Slatsky / 14) Prototype by E.O. Daniels / 15) Eton’s Last Will and Testament by Maxwell Ian Gold / 16) Last Call at the Overlook by Kathleen Kaufman / 17) Reflection in Blood by Scott J. Couturier / 18) Four Ropes by Shayne Keen / 19 Vore by Brian O’Connell / 20) “Hotel California” is the Devil by John Claude Smith / 21) Spare Parts by Jill Hand / 22) Salten by John Boden / 23) The Fever River by Matthew M. Bartlett / 24) Verdure by Brandon Barrows / 25) “INK” by Sarah Walker / 26) Twitching and Chirping by Robert S. Wilson / 27) Denizens of Mortuun by C.P. Dunphey / 28) Hungery by John Linwood Grant / 29) Chrysalises by Jeffrey Thomas / 30) I Keep It in a Little Box by S. L. Edwards / 31) Trace of Presence by Jason A. Wyckoff / 32) Thirty-Two by Donald Armfield / Wisdom Tooth ~ Insanity’s Steed by Frederick J. Mayer / Afterword by Christopher Ropes

Table of Contents: Introduction to Volume Two by Michael Wehunt / 1) “Alouette A La Blanc” by Bob Freville / 2) A Plague Of The Most Beautiful Finery by Kurt Fawver / 3) Believe Me by Ashley Dioses / 4) New Moon in November by K.A. Opperman / 5) That What Was Under The Surface by Norbert Góra / 6) My Valentine’s Day Ball by Donna Marie West / 7) The Last to Die by Jayaprakash Satyamurthy / 8) Hammer Dulcimer by T.M. Morgan / 9) The Ballad Stone by Adam Bolivar / 10) Lost on the Road to Nowhere by Pete Rawlik / 11) The City of Xees by Scott J. Couturier / 12) The View by Philip Fracassi / 13) The Figurehead by A.P Sessler / 14) The Triumph of the Skies by Eric Ruppert / 15) Growth; or, The Transubstantiation of Apartment 3C by Ross T. Byers / 16) Fertility by Brooke Warra / 17) Zugzwang by K. H. Vaughan / 18) On a Bed of Bone by Can Wiggins / 19) Yellow Voices by Luis G. Abbadie / 20) The Outsider by John Paul Fitch / 21) Mutinous Facial Abstractions by John Claude Smith / 22) Of Blood, Oil & Tin by Michael Brueggeman / 23) Cold by Sean M. Thompson / 24) Umbriel is The Darkest Moon by Marguerite Reed / 25) Humlin by Farah Rose Smith / 26) 32 White Horses by Justin Burnett / 27) Convince Me Not to Put a Bell on You by Andrew M. Reichart / 28) A Little Delta of Filth by Jon Padgett / 29) 2.0 by Aaron Besson / 30) We All Make Sacrifices by Jonathan Maberry / 31) Insect Queen by Roy K. Phelps / 32) Last Wraps by Duane Pesice / Afterword by Christopher Ropes

(3) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present F. Brett Cox and Peng Shepherd on Wednesday, February 20 at the KGB Bar in New York.

F. Brett Cox

F. Brett Cox’s debut collection, The End of All Our Exploring: Stories, was published by Fairwood Press in 2018.  His fiction, poetry, plays, articles, and reviews have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies.  With Andy Duncan, he co-edited the anthology Crossroads: Tales of the Southern Literary Fantastic.  He is a co-founder of the Shirley Jackson Awards and currently serves as Vice-President of the SJA Board of Directors.  A native of North Carolina, Brett is Charles A. Dana Professor of English at Norwich University and lives in Vermont with his wife, playwright Jeanne Beckwith.

Peng Shepherd

Peng Shepherd was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, where she rode horses and trained in classical ballet, and has lived in Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, London, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and New York. Her debut novel, The Book of M, was chosen as an Amazon “Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of the Year,” and has been featured on The Today ShowNPR On Point, and in The Guardianio9, GizmodoSYFY Wire, and Elle Canada. Find her at www.pengshepherd.com or on Twitter @pengshepherd.

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

(4) GOING FOR BROKE. Locus Online reports the results of a new “Author Income Survey”.

The Authors Guild has released their 2018 Author Income Survey. 5,067 authors participated, and the Guild says the results point to a “crisis of epic proportions for American authors, particularly literary writers.” The median income from writing was $6,080, a decline of 3% from their 2013 survey, and 42% from 2009, a drop the Guild ascribes to declining royalties, “blockbuster mentality” at publishing companies, and the sales practices of Amazon.com.

The Guild’s conclusions, and a PDF with lots of data (and anecdata) is available at the Authors Guild website.

(6) VARIANT HEINLEIN NOVEL “SIX-SIX-SIX” ON THE WAY. Phoenix Pick has announced “A New Robert A. Heinlein Book to be Published Based on Newly Recovered Manuscript”:

Phoenix Pick recently announced that, working with the Heinlein Prize Trust, they have been able to reconstruct the complete text of an unpublished novel written by Robert A. Heinlein in the early eighties.

Heinlein wrote this as an alternate text for “The Number of the Beast.” This text of approximately 185,000 words largely mirrors the first one-third of the published version, but then deviates completely with an entirely different story-line and ending.

This newly reconstructed text also pays extensive homage to two authors Heinlein himself admired: Edgar Rice Burroughs and E. E. “Doc” Smith, who became a good friend. Heinlein dedicated his book “Methuselah’s Children” to Smith, and partially dedicated “Friday” to Smith’s daughter, Verna.

The alternate text, especially the ending, is much more in line with more traditional Heinlein books, and moves away from many of the controversial aspects of the published version.

There has been speculation over the years about a possible alternate text, and the reason it was written, particularly since one version is not just a redo of the other ? these are two completely different books.

It is possible that Heinlein was having fun with the text as “The Number of the Beast” and the new book both deal with parallel universes. Given his sense of humor, it would not be surprising for Heinlein to have written two parallel texts for a book about parallel universes.

The new book was pieced together from notes and typed manuscript pages left behind by the author. It is currently under editorial review by award-winning editor, Patrick LoBrutto .

Phoenix Pick expects to publish both The Number of the Beast and the new book, tentatively titled ”Six-Six-Six,” just ahead of this year’s holiday season.

(7) UMBRELLA UMBRAGE. Alexander Lu reviews Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy:

…So on the one hand, I’m overjoyed to say that Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy adaptation has all the absurdity and chaos of the source material. On the other hand, I’m bummed because it feels like some of the comic’s inherent joy was lost in the jump between the page and the screen…

In contrast, Alex Abad-Santos likes Umbrella Academy—at least mostly so (Vox: “Netflix’s Umbrella Academy is as good as it is weird. It’s very weird.”) The article is subtitled, “The show weaves a brutal family portrait into a save-the-world adventure. It also has Mary J. Blige as a time-traveling assassin named Cha-Cha.”

…Portraying the rough parts of being a superhero has been a little bit harder, mainly because it’s so hard to believe that superhero lives could ever be that terrible. 

[…] Making the rotten part of being a superhero as essential as the good parts is where Netflix’s The Umbrella Academy begins. The stylish and crackling new series — written by Steve Blackman and developed by Jeremy Slater — is based on the Eisner Award-winning comic book by Gerard Way (who is also the frontman for the band My Chemical Romance, and serves as the Netflix show’s co-executive producer) and artist Gabriel Ba (also a co-executive producer).

[…] The basic premise revolves around the parasol protégés: seven kids born to different mothers who are brought together as young children a man named Sir Reginald Hargreeves (Colm Feore) who becomes their adopted “dad.” He assembles them into a makeshift family, helps them hone their powers, and turns them into an efficient and successful teenage superhero squad known as the Umbrella Academy. 

[…] Style and doomsday aside, it’s in these pockets of emotion that The Umbrella Academy flashes its true beauty and intent. The show may be wrapped in superheroics and action, but it’s really about a group of people who have to work through their painful pasts and realize that forgiving one another is far tougher than the bigger task (saving the world, I guess) at hand. 

(8) BATTU? NOT MUCH, WHAT’ BATTU WITH YOU? The new Star Wars parks to be part of Disneyland and Disney World are being tied in to the SW novels (StarWars.com: “Step into Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge with new books, comics, and fables”). Six titles of the new series have been announced.

As we prepare to make our first pilgrimage to the fringes of Wild Space and journey to the planet of Batuu, when Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort later this year, there’s a galaxy of books and comics coming to shelves featuring stories that intersect with the inhabitants of the far-flung world.

Meet Dok-Ondar, the infamous Ithorian who deals in rare antiquities, find out why General Leia Organa takes an interest in Black Spire Outpost, and indulge in myths and fables from a galaxy far, far away, plus other stories set on the Outer Rim locale.

(9) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Things Used To Be Hidden” on Vimeo, Tara Mercedes Wood looks at what happens if people could see -everything- other people were trying to hide.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 2, 1905 Ayn Rand.  Best known for The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged which is ISFDB lists as genre though I personally think they’re just pieces of badly written political shit. Her works have made into films many times starting with The Night of January 16th based on a play by her in the early Forties to an animated series based off her Anthem novella. No, I really don’t care who John Galt is. (Died 1982.)
  • Born February 2, 1933 Tony Jay. Ok I most remember him as Paracelcus in the superb Beauty and the Beast series even it turns out he was only in for a handful of episodes. Other genre endeavours include, and this is lest OGH strangle me only the Choice Bits, included voicing The Supreme Being In Time Bandits, an appearance on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Third Minister Campio In “Cost of Living”, being in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (and yes I loved the series) as Judge Silot Gato in “Brisco for the Defense” and Dougie Milford In Twin Peaks. (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 2, 1940 Thomas Disch.  Camp Concentration, The Genocides, 334 and On Wings of Song are among the best New Wave novels ever done. He was a superb poet as well though I don’t think any of it was germane to our community. He won the Nonfiction Hugo for The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of, a critical but loving look on the impact of SF on our culture. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 2, 1949 Brent Spiner, 70.  Data on more Trek shows and films than I’ll bother listing here. I’ll leave it up to all of you to list your favorite moments of him as Data. He also played Dr. Brackish Okun in Independence Day, a role he reprised in Independence Day: Resurgence, a film I’ve not seen. He also played Dr. Arik Soong/Lt. Commander Data in four episodes of Enterprise. Over the years, he’s had roles in Twilight Zone, Outer LimitsTales from the DarksideGargoylesYoung JusticeThe Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest HeroesWarehouse 13 and had a lead role in the thirteen-episode run of Threshold
  • Born February 2, 1949 Jack McGee, 70. Ok so how many of us remember him as Doc Kreuger on the Space Rangers series? Six episodes all told. Not as short as The Nightmare Cafe I grant you but pretty short. I’ve also got him as Bronto Crane Examiner in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, as a Deputy in Stardust, Mike Lutz in seaQuest, Doug Perren in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a Police Officer Person of Interest, to name some of his genre roles.
  • Born February 2, 1986 Gemma Arterton, 33. She’s best known for playing Io in Clash of the Titans, Princess Tamina In Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Strawberry Fields in Quantum of Solace, and as Gretel in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. She also voiced Clover in the current Watership Down series. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) DISCOVERY RECAP. Camestros Felapton enthuses about “Star Trek Discovery: A Point of Light (S2:E3)”.

Old-style Discovery comes roaring back with a vengeance and a bloody bat’leth. Spore drive, parasites, Klingon man-buns, Ash Tyler, black-ops Star Fleet, hallucinating Tilly, grimdark space-opera — its a week for the weird and wacky on Discovery and I love it.

It’s all story arc this week. Michael is looking for Spock and in a twist so is Spock’s mum. Meanwhile, Ash Tyler is starring in Game of Thrones: The Klingon Years as he struggles with his new reality and seeks to support L’rell as she attempts to unite the now much hairier Klingons. Meanwhile, meanwhile, Tilly is being harassed by the annoying ghost of a former school mate.

(13) COLLECTIBLES AUCTION. Prop Store (offices in London & LA) has an upcoming auction of vintage toys & collectables. Dozens of TV series and movies/series are represented, with the large majority of them genre. The full catalog is online as a PDF. A quick perusal of that reveals pre-auction estimates ranging from $100 (US) to at least $20,000.

Prop Store is pleased to announce its first Toys & Collectibles auction, to be held as a live-auction on Thursday February 28, and Friday March 1, 2019. The auction will include high-quality production toys, preproduction items, international collectables, store displays & marketing materials, bootlegs, posters, press kits, cast and crew items, and more.

(14) VERSE OF THE DAY. From John Hertz:

Each day we scroll up every pixel.
Their coruscant electronic tricks’ll
Make the Filers smile.
If we miss some, those five or six’ll
Set off commenters, whose kicks’ll
Busy us for a while;
Call OGH: he in the mix’ll
Let things run, unless a nix’ll
Scatter a dog-pile.
And never fear for Oz.  Your clicks’ll
Safely mispronounce “Pyrzqxgl”,
Not in dangerous style.

(15) LEARN FROM GAIMAN ONLINE. Just like Margaret Atwood, linked here the other day, Neil Gaiman also has a course available through Masterclass:

Award-winning author Neil Gaiman has spent more than a quarter of a century crafting vivid, absorbing fiction. Now, the author of Stardust, Coraline, and The Sandman teaches his approach to imaginative storytelling. Learn how to find your unique voice, develop original ideas, and breathe life into your characters. Discover Neil’s philosophy on what drives a story—and open new windows to the stories inside you.

(16) TRANSFORMERS. Will our future homes build themselves? A BBC video shows how it could be done — mostly blue-sky and simulations at this point, but some interesting ideas.

At the touch of a button, these incredible homes of the future can self-deploy and build themselves in less than 10 minutes, transforming from a box into a building eight to ten times its original size. Ten Fold Engineering’s David Martyn explains the surprisingly simple design concept that makes this possible.

(17) BABY, IT’S (REALLY) COLD OUTSIDE. Wake up sleepy head! The Chinese lander on the back side of the Moon is once again in daylight and has been back in touch with Earth after a 2-week slumber (Wired:China’s Moon Lander Wakes Up From Its Long, Ultra-Cold Night; partial paywall”).

We already know it’s chilly on the moon. A lunar night lasts 14 Earth days, and its temperatures can dip into a cold so punishing it makes the polar vortex look like a hot tub. But yesterday, China’s space agency announced that the frigidity of the lunar night is even more intense than we’d thought: The country’s Chang’e 4 spacecraft recorded an icy low of –310 degrees Fahrenheit (–190 degrees Celsius).

Consisting of a stationary lander and a six-wheeled rover named Yutu-2, Chang’e 4 landed on the far side of the moon earlier this [year]—a first for any spacecraft. During its first lunar night, Chang’e 4 went into hibernation, relying on internal heat sources to survive.

[…] With both the lander and rover awake, the rover should soon begin its task of exploring and analyzing the 115-mile-wide Von Kármán crater. Exploring the moon’s far side comes with many challenges: The lunar surface is exposed to more impacts from cosmic debris, so the rover will need to carefully watch the terrain (it has already beamed backed a panorama of its surroundings). […]

(18) READY FOR YOUR CLOSE-UP? The subject line “Press Release: Former TAFF delegate found brutally murdered (NSFW?)” was pretty scary ‘til I found out the email press release was about Steve Green’s appearance in a horror movie:

British science fiction fan Steve Green, former editor of the newszine Critical Wave and European TAFF delegate to the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal, has been found brutally murdered in the isolated English village Bell’s End… or at least, his character has, in a pastiche movie trailer currently in production from indie team Vamporama Films.

Terror at Bell’s End is an homage to the 1980s giallo slashers directed by the likes of Lucio Fulci (The Black Cat), Riccardo Freda (Iguana in a Woman’s Skin) and Luciano Ercoli (Forbidden Photos of a Woman Under Suspicion — the new Blu-ray release of which includes a 44-minute documentary from Vamporama Films among the extras). Steve, who’s producing the short, was persuaded by writer-director Chrissie Harper to make a grisly cameo as the mysterious killer’s first on-screen victim.

“It’s very tongue-in-cheek,” Steve explains, “only we’re not quite sure where the tongue came from and precisely whose cheek it’s been left in. My character gets murdered with his own pipe, which I guess underlines the health risks of smoking.”

Meanwhile, Vamporama Films is also seeking festivals and conventions interested in screening its latest horror short Monsters, described by former Giallo Pages editor John Martin as “a chilling glimpse into our future that looks like it was shot by the ghost of Mario Bava”.

(19) DO YOU WANT TO PLAY  GAME? The robots are taking to another human game, though this time not (yet) up to a championship level (TechCrunch: “MIT researchers are training a robot arm to play Jenga”).

Turns out training a robotic arm to play Jenga is a surprisingly complex task. There are, so to speak, a lot of moving parts. Researchers at MIT are putting a modified ABB IRB 120 to work with the familiar tabletop game, utilizing a soft gripper, force-sensing wrist joint and external camera to design a bot that can remove a block without toppling the tower. 

[…] “Unlike in more purely cognitive tasks or games such as chess or Go, playing the game of Jenga also requires mastery of physical skills such as probing, pushing, pulling, placing and aligning pieces. It requires interactive perception and manipulation, where you have to go and touch the tower to learn how and when to move blocks,” says MIT assistant professor Alberto Rodriguez. “This is very difficult to simulate, so the robot has to learn in the real world, by interacting with the real Jenga tower. The key challenge is to learn from a relatively small number of experiments by exploiting common sense about objects and physics.”

(20) SIL RETURNS. An old and much-missed Doctor Who villain is returning — but not in the current iteration of “NuWHO”. The original creator of the evil alien Sil, Philip Martin, and the original actor, Nabil Shaban, are reuniting in Devil Seeds of Arodor, which is being produced independently of the BBC. The DVD’s due out in November. Full details here.

An original drama from the world of BBCtv’s DOCTOR WHO, featuring SIL, the ruthless alien entrepreneur from planet Thoros Beta, played by NABIL SHABAN.

SIL is worried, very worried, which doesn’t keep his reptilian skin in the best condition! Confined in a cold detention cell on the moon, awaiting a deportation hearing for trial on drugs offences on Earth, he faces a death sentence if the application is successful and he is found guilty.

And his employers at the Universal Monetary Fund aren’t pleased either. Not at all.

As time runs out and friends desert him, SIL must use all of his devious, vile, underhanded, ruthless, and amoral business acumen to survive.

Can he possibly slime his way out of this one?

(21) ANOTHER DOCTOR WHO REFERENCE. This tweet went viral yesterday —

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Andrew, Robert Adam Gilmour, Steve Green. Lise Andresen, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, James Davis Nicoll, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 9/16/16 Amok Pixel

(1) HE’S FROM THE FUTURE. Dennis Mathis tells how he learned to understand “the reader” in “The Future Began on a Tuesday” at the SFWA Blog.

The future was twenty-five years old and not getting any younger when I was accepted to the Iowa Writers Workshop, the legendary (even then) graduate program for writers. Kurt Vonnegut, who had taught there, said, “Picture Harvard Law School if only one out of ten graduates actually becomes a lawyer.” Dedicated to the principle that the last thing you’d want happening in a classroom is teaching, the Workshop strove to be the opposite of academic, and more or less succeeded. Zipping their lips about how writing should be done, the staff was restricted to role-modeling the lifestyle of a writer: mostly competitive drinking, womanizing, wrestling, and snorting at weaklings; the Viking concept of higher education. Despite being a weakling myself, I did the best writing of my life.

And then in my second year, a last-minute substitute on the Workshop staff. A guy named Frank Conroy, author of only one book, and it wasn’t even fiction — who writes a memoir in their twenties? — who’d taught creative writing only once before, at (get this) M.I.T.

He specified we were to read the worksheets (someone’s delicate work-in-progress cast into the lion’s den) pen-in-hand, poised to mark any point in the text where we felt a “bump,” no matter how vague. In class, we went through the worksheets sentence-by-sentence, hashing-out whether some reader’s bump was an idiosyncratic misreading or an actual problem. They always turned out to be problems. If a reader misreads, Conroy taught us, it’s always the writer’s fault…..

(2) CHINA’S SPACE PROGRAM. Motherboard has the story: ”China’s Newly Launched Space Station Will Receive Its First Crew Next Month” .

China successfully launched its second space station, Tiangong-2, into orbit on Thursday at 10:04 AM EDT, from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert. It will soon be an orbiting home to two taikonauts (the Chinese term for astronauts).

The mission is regarded as a key stepping stone towards the nation’s larger spaceflight ambitions, which include sending taikonauts to the Moon and eventually to Mars….

This second generation spacecraft, whose name translates to “Heavenly Palace” in Mandarin, will conduct some initial tests before boosting itself even higher to an altitude of 393 kilometers, roughly on par with the International Space Station (ISS).

If all goes according to plan, the tubular orbital laboratory will receive its first taikonauts in late October on a spacecraft called Shenzhou-11. Though the names of the two crew members have not been released, they are both men, and they are expected to spend 30 days aboard Tiangong-2, according to Xinhua News. If successful, it will be the longest manned Chinese space mission to date.

In terms of specs, the new station is almost identical to its precursor, Tiangong-1, which operated in space from September 2011 until March 2016, and is on track to deorbit and immolate in the atmosphere next year.

(3) COMIC ART EXPLORED. Superheroes have taken over the Huntsville Museum of Art in the Rocket City of Huntsville, Alabama.

“My Hero: Contemporary Art & Superhero Action” is the name of the show running through December 11.

For decades popular culture has been fascinated by superheroes — their superhuman capabilities, their desire for truth and justice, and their ability to save the day. Their storylines have captivated many, and their images have become contemporary idols throughout the world. My Hero presents a rich array of work by over 50 international artists, including painting, illustration, photography, sculpture, mixed media and video, that celebrates and re-envisions the lives of iconic superheroes.

(4) ROOTS OF THE GENRE. Atlas Obscura writes about Margaret Cavendish. “One of the Earliest Science Fiction Books Was Written in the 1600s by a Duchess”.

No one could get into philosophical argument with Lady Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, and walk away unchanged. Born in 1623, Cavendish was an outspoken aristocrat who traveled in circles of scientific thinkers, and broke ground on proto-feminism, natural philosophy (the 17th century term for science), and social politics.

In her lifetime, she published 20 books. But amid her poetry and essays, she also published one of the earliest examples of science fiction. In 1666. She named it The Description of a New World, Called the Blazing World.

In the story, a woman is kidnapped by a lovesick merchant sailor, and forced to join him at sea. After a windstorm sends the ship north and kills the men, the woman walks through a portal at the North Pole into a new world: one with stars so bright, midnight could be mistaken for midday. A parallel universe where creatures are sentient, and worm-men, ape-men, fish-men, bird-men and lice-men populate the planet. They speak one language, they worship one god, and they have no wars. She becomes their Empress, and with her otherworldly subjects, she explores natural wonders and questions their observations using science.

(5) MEMBERSHIP IN THE GUARDIAN. The Guardian is going through a financial squeeze.

According to the Huffington Post:

The Guardian is scaling back its U.S. operation through a staff reduction of 30 percent, according to a source with knowledge of the plans.

The Guardian, a 195-year-old British newspaper and global news site, has struggled financially as print revenue and circulation collapsed throughout the industry. Earlier this year, The Guardian announced plans to cut costs by 20 percent over three years, and nearly 270 employees in the U.K. operation took buyouts in June.

Now the U.S. operation, which was launched in 2011, is grappling with what Guardian Media Group CEO David Pemsel described Thursday in a staff meeting as a “course correction.” Guardian US chief Eamonn Store informed staff the company was facing a $4.4 million budget shortfall, thereby necessitating major cuts.

(6) PRIDE OF STARFLEET. Nalo Hopkinson went to her first sf convention in 1978 outfitted as Lt. Uhura.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 16, 1966  — Fahrenheit 451 premiered in theaters.

(8) THE BEST WAY TO ATTEND THE WORLDCON. Mike Headley reports on his first Worldcon – “Hugo Awards – a (Belated) Retrospective”. Many things underscored his feeling of being an outside until —

Things changed when I volunteered; I ended up hauling ice and stocking drinks for the hospitality suite. I was only there for a couple hours, but I got to glimpse this community at its best. I saw MIMO crew helping set up plates of vegetables, people who brought their whole family to volunteer. People who talked about how this was there 10th, 20th, or more convention. They weren’t writers, or publishers, they were just sincere fans. On top of that the con staff were so grateful I helped out in a pinch, and there sincerity stunned me. It made me feel like I had made a difference, however small, and I like that I got to give back, even a tiny bit.

That’s when I saw this wasn’t a community of writers talking about writerly things. This was a community of fans, of people pitching in to make sure that this worked. They helped each other, and they did it to make the best experience they could for everyone.

The second major turning point was during the Hugo ceremony itself. At one point they did a retrospective of all the members who had died in the previous year. And as I watched this somber stream of names scrolling up, I noticed that yes there were several creators, screen-writers, and editors. There was also plenty of people listed as just “fan” or “volunteer.” The fact that the organization took time to recognize these people, some of whom were just and only fans, showed just how deeply some people cared about this community.

(9) TWEETER’S DIGEST. It’s a commonplace that not everything people want to say will fit in a 140-character tweet. And yet here’s someone who has summarized every Stephen King novel in 140 characters or less.

(10) NOT ONLY A MESSAGE. Those who are allergic to political messages in sf may break out in hives by the time they’ve made it through “The G’s List of Mind-Bending/Expanding SF/F Novels” at Nerds of a Feather.

In my case I don’t have a political message to convey *with* my list, but rather have chosen a list of books that either have political messages or which made me think about the world in different terms. Even that was too big, so I decided to further limit myself to books that are either science fiction or transgress the boundaries between science fiction, fantasy, horror and mimetic fiction. It’s not an exhaustive list by any means–I probably could have done one with 50 entries or more. But 21 is a snazzy number, isn’t it? 1. Aldiss, Brian. Non-Stop [Faber and Faber, 1958]

Curiosity was discouraged in the Greene tribe. Its members lived out their lives in cramped Quarters, hacking away at the encroaching ponics. As to where they were – that was forgotten. Roy Complain decides to find out. With the renegade priest Marapper, he moves into unmapped territory, where they make a series of discoveries, which turn their universe upside-down… (GoodReads) The best #GenerationStarship novel I’ve ever read. Thought-provoking, with an ending that still manages to unsettle many years later. Also make rats utterly terrifying. (G)

(11) NERDCON APPROACHES. NerdCon: Stories will soon return, and several leading sf/f writers will be in the mix — Mary Robinette Kowal, Mikki Kendall, Wesley Chu, Patrick Rothfuss, Paolo Bacigaulpi, and Saladin Ahmed. (And who knows, maybe more if I’d kept scrolling…..)

(12) ORSINIA. The Paris Review has posted an excerpt from the introduction to Ursula K Le Guin’s Library of America editions — Ursula K. Le Guin: The Complete Orsinia (Library of America, 2016).

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Much as I loved my studies, their purpose was to make me able to earn a living as a teacher, so I could go on writing. And I worked hard at writing short stories. But here my European orientation was a problem. I wasn’t drawn to the topics and aims of contemporary American realism. I didn’t admire Ernest Hemingway, James Jones, Norman Mailer, or Edna Ferber. I did admire John Steinbeck, but knew I couldn’t write that way. In The New Yorker, I loved Thurber, but skipped over John O’Hara to read the Englishwoman Sylvia Townsend Warner. Most of the people I really wished I could write like were foreign, or dead, or both. Most of what I read drew me to write about Europe; but I knew it was foolhardy to write fiction set in Europe if I’d never been there.

At last it occurred to me that I might get away with it by writing about a part of Europe where nobody had been but me. I remember when this idea came: in our small co-op dorm at Radcliffe, Everett House, in the dining room, where you could study and typewrite late without disturbing sleepers. I was twenty years old, working at one of the dining tables about midnight, when I got the first glimpse of my other country. An unimportant country of middle Europe. One of those Hitler had trashed and Stalin was now trashing. (The Soviet takeover of Czechoslovakia in 1947–48 had been the first event to rouse the political spirit in me.) A land not too far from Czechoslovakia, or Poland, but let’s not worry about borders. Not one of the partly Islamized nations—more Western-oriented … Like Rumania, maybe, with a Slavic-influenced but Latin-descended language? Aha!

I begin to feel I’m coming close. I begin to hear the names. Orsenya—in Latin and English, Orsinia. I see the river, the Molsen, running through an open, sunny countryside to the old capital, Krasnoy (krasniy, Slavic, “beautiful”). Krasnoy on its three hills: the Palace, the University, the Cathedral. The Cathedral of Saint Theodora, an egregiously unsaintly saint, my mother’s name … I begin to find my way about, to feel myself at home, here in Orsenya, matrya miya, my motherland. I can live here, and find out who else lives here and what they do, and tell stories about it.

And so I did.

(13) THIS JUST IN 17 YEARS AGO. J. K. Rowling sounds a little exasperated here.

(14) DINNER BELL. Scott Edelman has released Episode 18 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast where you are invited to  “Dig into a lobster roll with F. Brett Cox”.

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Now it’s time to say farewell to Readercon with a visit to The Lobster Stop in Quincy, Massachusetts for (what else?) lobster rolls … and F. Brett Cox.

Brett co-edited (with former Eating the Fantastic guest Andy Duncan) Crossroads: Tales of the Southern Literary Fantastic (which featured a story about Randy Newman by yours truly!), and has had fiction, poetry, essays, and reviews appear in Eclipse Online, War Stories, Century, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Postscripts, and many other venues. He’s also hard at work on a book-length study of Roger Zelazny for the University of Illinois Press.

(15) MEMORABLE TV THEMES. Catherynne Valente asks:

I don’t know what she’d pick as the best theme for a dramatic series – for me it’s the theme from Hawaii 5-0. I’m also a fan of the Mission: Impossible theme, and have a real soft spot for the full rendition of The Virginian theme.

[Thanks to Steven H Silver, Marc Criley, Stuckinhistory, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]