Pixel Scroll 9/29/20 The Three-Tribble Problem

(1) TREK THE VOTE. Trek fans are called on to volunteer their time to help protect election integrity in this YouTube clip featuring many stars from all of the shows, including Gates McFadden, Wil Wheaton, and Armin Shimmerman.

(2) R.U.R. EXHIBIT. Radio Prague International posted on its English language page “Karel Capek’s ‘robots’ at 100 – new exhibition highlights foreign productions of R.U.R.” (although, of course, they used the proper character to begin the author’s last name, for which we have substituted “C” because WordPress turns the other into a question mark.)

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the publication of R.U.R., the dystopian theatre play by Karel Capek that introduced the word ‘robot’ into English – and to science fiction as a whole. A new exhibition called A Journey into the Depths of the Robot’s Soul focuses on how Capek’s ground-breaking play was received and staged abroad.

R.U.R. (or ‘Rossum’s Universal Robots’) was Karel ?apek’s most popular work during his lifetime, both in Czechoslovakia and abroad. By 1923, a couple of years after its premiere in Prague, the dystopian play had been translated into 30 languages and been staged in major theatres in Europe and across the Atlantic.

Exhibition curator Zdenek Vacek is director of the Karel Capek Memorial, a museum housed in the writer’s summer residence in Stará Hu?, south of Prague. For the centennial anniversary, he says, they decided to focus on the history of R.U.R.’s early foreign performances and influence on writers around the world.

(3) BOLDLY GOING? A comic con in LA in December? Don’t count on it: “L.A. Comic Con announces in-person event, but conventions are still banned in the state” – the LA Times has the story.

L.A. Comic Con says it is moving forward with its plan to hold an in-person convention in December at the L.A. Convention Center, but large gatherings — such as conventions and conferences — are currently not permitted anywhere in California amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The event’s organizers explained in a Sunday announcement on the L.A. Comic Con website that they have been working with the convention center and taking guidance from state and local officials to plan an event they think will “be both safe and fun” for attendees and exhibitors.

But Doane Liu, the executive director of the Los Angeles Department of Convention and Tourism Development, told The Times on Monday that this announcement came as a surprise and is premature.

“Under current state health guidelines, conventions are not allowed,” Liu said. “It’s not known when they will be allowed.”

…In a video posted to YouTube on Tuesday, the chief executive of L.A. Comic Con parent company Comikaze Entertainment, Chris DeMoulin, clarified that L.A. Comic Con is currently “a potential show.”

(4) DISNEY RETRENCHING. In fact, here’s more of the news we’re really expecting to see: “Disney to lay off 28,000 workers at domestic theme parks” reports the LA Times.

The Burbank-based company said Tuesday that it would lay off 28,000 employees at its domestic parks division, which includes Disneyland Resort in Anaheim and Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

The company’s once-mighty parks division has been severely hobbled by the coronavirus health crisis. In March, Disney announced it was furloughing more than 100,000 workers after the pandemic forced the company to shut down its lucrative theme parks.

Walt Disney World has been operating with strict capacity limits and social distancing requirements. California has not yet allowed theme parks including Disneyland to resume business.

(5) TRAILER PARK. SciFiNow alerted viewers to “Cognition: Trailer Revealed For Sci-Fi Short”.

COGNITION is a short dystopian sci-fi drama / thriller about a son confronting his past trauma. Journeying through the symbolic landscape of the subconscious mind, the story follows an unbreakable bond between father and son…. A bond that transcends SPACE AND TIME…..

(6) ASHKIN DIES. Nobel laureate Arthur Ashkin, who the New York Times styles as having invented a ‘Tractor Beam’, died September 21 at the age of 98.

Arthur Ashkin, a physicist who was awarded a 2018 Nobel Prize for figuring out how to harness the power of light to trap microscopic objects for closer study, calling his invention optical tweezers, died on Sept. 21 at his home in Rumson, N.J. He was 98.

Optical tweezers — or optical traps, as they are more properly known — use the pressure from a highly focused laser beam to manipulate microscopic objects, from atoms to living organisms, like viruses and bacteria.

As the Nobel committee wrote, Dr. Ashkin had “invented optical tweezers that grab particles, atoms, molecules, and living cells with their laser beam fingers.”

Trapping biological material proved to have groundbreaking practical applications in research and in understanding the behavior of the basic building blocks of life, like DNA, and other biological systems. Today, optical tweezers are widely manufactured and sold to researchers.

Dr. Ashkin’s “tweezer” is created by shining a laser — a beam of coherent monochromatic light — through a tiny magnifying lens. The lens creates a focal point for the laser, and, by a strange twist of nature, particles are drawn near that focal point and trapped there, unable to move up or down or backward or forward.

Steven M. Block, a professor of biology and applied physics at Stanford University, compared optical tweezers to the kind of immobilizing technology postulated in “Star Trek” and “Star Wars,” calling them “the closest thing to a tractor beam that humans have ever produced.”…

(7) MEDIA ANNIVESARY.

  • Fifty years ago, Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness won the Hugo Award for Best Novel at Heicon ’70. (It would win the Nebula Award as well.) (The  runner-ups for the Hugo were Robert Silverberg’s Up the Line, Piers Anthony‘s Macroscope, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.‘s  Slaughterhouse-Five and Norman Spinrad’s Bug Jack Barron.)  It was published first by Ace Books in their paperback Ace SF Special, Series 1 in 1969, and has had at least thirty editions in eleven languages though not Finnish. The first edition of The Left Hand of Darkness did not contain an introduction though later editions do. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 29, 1942 Ian McShane, 78. Setting aside Deadwood which is the favorite series of Emma Bull and Will Shetterly where he’s Al Swearengen, he portrays Mr. Wednesday in American Gods.and it turns out, though I don’t remember it, he was Dr. Robert Bryson in Babylon 5: The River of Souls film. And he’s Blackbeard in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Now you tell me what your favorite genre role is by him. (CE)
  • Born September 29, 1944 Isla Blair, 76. Her first credited film appearance was in Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors as an art gallery assistant.  She was Isabella in The King’s Demons, a Fifth Doctor story. She’s in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as the wife of her real-life husband Julian Glover, and credited as Mrs. Glover. Finally, she has played a starring role as Sally in the BBC’s alternate history An Englishman’s Castle series. (CE)
  • Born September 29, 1949 – Joêlle Wintrebert, 71.  Nine novels, three dozen shorter stories; three years editing Univers; essays, reviews in Alerte!FictionFuturs; edited Petite anthologie de la science-fiction (all in French).  [JH]
  • Born September 29, 1952 – Lou Stathis.  Fan and pro.  Part of the SF Forum that gave birth to ICON.  Wrote for FantasticMississippi ReviewSF EyeThrustVertigo (i.e. DC Comics’). One novel.  Here is a Jeff Schalles photo from the mid-1980s.  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born September 29, 1959 Scott MacDonald, 61. He’s been on four Trek shows:  Next Gen, VoyagerDeep Space Nine, and  Enterprise. He’s also on Space Above and BeyondBabylon 5X-FilesStargate: SG-1Carnivale and Threshold.. (CE) 
  • Born September 29, 1961 Nicholas Briggs, 59. A Whovian among Whoians who started out writing Who fanfic. First off, he’s the voice of the Daleks and the Cybermen in the new series of shows. Second he’s the Executive Producer of Big Finish Productions, the audio drama company that has produced more Doctor WhoTorchwood and other related works that you’d think possible. Third he’s appeared as himself in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. (CE) 
  • Born September 29, 1961 Dale Dickey, 59. She was Martha Bozeman in a recurring role on True Blood. She’s also been on Them: CovenantThe X-Files and Bones, and in two genre films, Changeling and Iron Man 3. (CE) 
  • Born September 29, 1961 – John O’Halloran, 59.  Long active at SF cons.  Webmaster for the Int’l Costumers Guild, 1989.  “Gerard” in the Best of Show “Trumps of Amber”, Torcon 3 (61st Worldcon) Masquerade, see here (at right) and here; judge, LoneStarCon 3 Masquerade (71st).  Official Photographer of Events, Loncon 3 (72nd); Official Photographer for Candid Shots, Sasquan (73rd) – see his Sasquan album here.  Fan Guest of Honor (with wife Chris), Baycon 2013.  Taiko drummer (as Chris is too).  [JH]
  • Born September 29, 1978 – Aislinn Batstone, 42.  (Forename is Irish, pronounced like “Aish-lin”.)  “What the Witch Wants” in Stupefying, “Instructions in My Absence” in Timeless Tales, a dozen more.  Master’s degree in Philosophy, taught philosophy, married a philosopher.  So there.  [JH, B.A. in Philosophy]
  • Born September 29, 1983 – Elisa McCausland, 37.  Half a dozen books (some collaborative).  Ignotus award for Wonder Woman about feminism as a superpower; later, with Diego Salgado, Supernovas, a feminist history of audiovisual SF; McC also does “Postheroic Transmutations”, about the subversive power of superheroines, on the Rock & Comics podcast (all in Spanish, i.e. her section of R&C is «Transmutaciones Postheroicas»).  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) STOCKING UP. Virgin Galactic SPCE stock recorded big gains after more financial firms recommended it to investors: “Virgin Galactic jumps 25% in its second best day ever after getting Wall Street’s full endorsement”.

Shares of Virgin Galactic surged nearly 25% in trading Monday after Wall Street firms continued to set higher expectations for the space tourism stock.

The stock jump came after Bank of America and Susquehanna began coverage of Virgin Galactic. Notably, the two firms join six others in recommending Virgin Galactic’s stock to investors, giving the company the eight Wall Street buy ratings – and zero to hold or sell.

“No company in our coverage universe has anywhere near comparable growth potential,” Bank of America analyst Ron Epstein said.

Virgin Galactic’s 24.8% jump, with shares closing at $20.51, was its second-biggest in a trading day since its public debut last year. Including Monday’s climb, the stock is up about 78% this year.

(11) ALWAYS THOSE DARNED MUGGLES. “Scots Harry Potter fans slammed for cramming station to see Hogwarts Express” reports the UK’s Daly Record.

Scots Harry Potter fans have been slammed as ‘idiotic’ after scores of people crammed onto a railway platform to watch a train from the iconic film franchise pass by.

The steam train, made famous by the blockbuster movie series, travelled from its winter base in Carnforth in Lancashire on Monday.

The ‘Hogwarts Express’ route had several stops at a number of Scots stations, including Dalmuir in West Dunbartonshire.

The locomotive chuntered past the gathered Potter fanatics at around 5.45pm.

But photos that emerged of the fleeting moment sparked fury on social media.

Locals slammed Dalmuir residents for ignoring social distancing guidelines.

Some claimed that many among the large crowd on the platform were not wearing face masks or coverings and were also not staying two metres away from each other.

Many took to Facebook to vent their anger after the image was shared online.

One wrote: “Yes, it’s a train from Harry Potter, but I think there are much more important things going on.

“Covid-19 is so strong right now, Christmas is under threat.

“We are meant to be social distancing and none of this is happening whatsoever for a train.

“This is shameful, disgusting and very disappointing.”

Another added: “Where is the social distance there?”

A third commented: “I cannot believe the stupidity of these people all for the sake of a Harry Potter train….

(12) ABOUT YOUR STAR WARS KNOWLEDGE. Ranker contends there are “25 Things You Didn’t Know About The Original ‘Star Wars’ Trilogy”. (If I didn’t know that many answers on my driver’s exam, I’d be walking!) Here’s Number One —

1. James Earl Jones Wasn’t Credited By Request

James Earl Jones’ long career is filled with exceptional roles, but he’s probably best known for providing the voice of Darth Vader. David Prowse spoke all the dialogue as the movie was filmed, but his British West Country accent wasn’t working for George Lucas.

It’s unclear whether Lucas always planned to dub over Prowse’s dialogue, but in the end, that’s what he did, using Jones’ dialogue instead. Jones, however, asked that he not be given credit for his work in the film’s credit reel, and in the original, he wasn’t. 

Jones felt that his contribution to the film was minimal and he didn’t deserve credit. Over time, he realized the significance his voice gave to the character and reprised the role in subsequent movies, television series, and video games.

(13) BUSINESS OUTREACH. “How do you know you’ve arrived at the Uncommon Open Air weekend? You see the bookshop with a sea monster coming out of the windows,” the owners said on Facebook.  This landmark is the River Bookstore in Amherstburg, Ontario.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Screen Junkies, in “Firefly Honest Trailer” on YouTube, invite viewers to “suit up in their dustiest browns and beiges” to watch Firefly, the show with so much “quippy dialogue” that “if the ship goes under 50 quips an hour, it’s primed to explode!”

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

Pixel Scroll 9/27/20 The Pixel And Scroll Reunion Is Only A File Away

(1) EXCELSIOR! Cass R. Sunstein reviews Liel Liebovitz’s biography Stan Lee: A Life in Comics at the LA Review of Books: “Marvelous Belief”.

…DC was Dwight Eisenhower; Marvel was John F. Kennedy. DC was Bing Crosby; Marvel was the Rolling Stones. DC was Apollo; Marvel was Dionysus.

Marvel’s guiding spirit, and its most important writer, was Stan Lee, who died in 2018 at the age of 95. Lee helped create many of the company’s iconic figures — not only Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, and the X-Men, but also the Black Panther, the Avengers, Thor, Daredevil (Daredevil!), Doctor Strange, the Silver Surfer, and Ant-Man. There were many others. Lee defined the Marvel brand. He gave readers a sense that they were in the cool kids’ club — knowing, winking, rebellious, with their own private language: “Face Forward!” “Excelsior!” “’Nuff said!”

Aside from their superpowers, Lee’s characters were vulnerable. One of them was blind; another was confined to a wheelchair. By creating superheroes who faced real-world problems (romantic and otherwise), Lee channeled the insecurities of his young readers. As he put it: “The idea I had, the underlying theme, was that just because somebody is different doesn’t make them better.” He gave that theme a political twist: “That seems to be the worst thing in human nature: We tend to dislike people who are different than we are.” DC felt like the past, and Marvel felt like the future, above all because of Marvel’s exuberance, sense of fun, and subversive energy….

(2) BALONEY! [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Abraham Riesman, author of a forthcoming biography of Stan Lee, offers five myths about him, including that “Lee created the Marvel Universe” (“there is actually zero evidence that Lee had any of the initial ideas” for the classic Marvel characters) and “Lee loved comics and superheroes” (he repeatedly pitched non-superhero ideas to publishers, and they were all rejected): “Five myths about Stan Lee”.

…There is actually zero evidence that Lee had the initial ideas for any of these characters, other than his own claims. In his 2002 memoir, for instance, he said of Ditko: “I really think I’m being very generous in giving him ‘co-creator’ credit, because I’m the guy who dreamed up the title, the concept, and the characters.” The world has generally accepted that Lee had the initial notions for the characters, only then passing them off to Kirby or Ditko. But over the course of legal cases, painstaking historical debate and my own archival research, nothing has ever been turned up that proves — or even suggests — that Lee was the driving creative force. No presentation boards, no contemporary notes, no diary entries, no supporting accounts from anyone other than his wife. Nothing.

Meanwhile, Kirby and his defenders have asserted that Kirby was the characters’ sole creator, accurately pointing out that he had a far longer history of creating successful characters on his own. Same goes for Ditko. Because of the fly-by-night record-keeping practices of the mid-century comic-book industry, it’s unlikely that we’ll ever have a firm answer. But companies, journalists and historians can’t say with any certainty that Lee created (or even co-created) Marvel’s dramatis personae.

(3) KEN LIU STORY TO TV. “FilmNation Entertainment Acquires Ken Liu’s Sci-Fi Story ‘The Hidden Girl’ for Series Adaptation”Variety has the story.

Fresh off its first Emmy win for “I Know This Much Is True,” FilmNation Entertainment is continuing to drive into the TV space. 

The company has acquired Ken Liu’s sci-fi short story “The Hidden Girl,” with the intention of adapting it into a series. Liu is attached to executive produce the project, which sources say is already in discussions with potential directors and showrunners.

News of the acquisition comes less than a month after Liu was announced as a consulting producer on David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, and Alexander Woo’s buzzy Netflix adaptation of “The Three-Body Problem.”

“The Hidden Girl” blends sci-fi and historical reality into a story set in a never-before-seen fantasy world derived from the cosmopolitan realities of Tang Dynasty China. In the story, a diverse group of women assassins travel through the fourth-dimension traversing space and time to kill their opponents, honor their professional code, and face down ethical dilemmas only too relevant for our conflict- and doubt-driven modern world.  

(4) IN CHARACTER. The Spectator’s Daisy Dunn profiles “The gentle genius of Mervyn Peake”.

To be a good illustrator, said Mervyn Peake, it is necessary to do two things. The first is to subordinate yourself entirely to the book. The second is ‘to slide into another man’s soul’.

In 1933, at the age of 22, Peake did precisely that. Relinquishing his studies at the Royal Academy Schools to move to Sark, in the Channel Islands, he co-founded an artists’ colony and took to sketching fishermen and romantic, ripple-lapped coves. He put a gold hoop in his right ear, a red-lined cape over his shoulders, and grew his hair long, like Israel Hands or Long John Silver.

The incredible thing was that he had yet to receive his commission to illustrate Treasure Island. By the time the job came through, in the late 1940s, he had been sliding into more piratical souls for more than 20 years.

Peake, by all accounts a gentle man, is probably best known today as the creator of Titus Groan and the dastardly Steerpike in his brilliant Gormenghast trilogy. He was also, however, an adroit and often unsettling draughtsman, producing the most brooding and memorable illustrations for Treasure Island and Lewis Carroll’s Alice books of the 20th century.

(5) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

September 27, 2002 — Joss Whedon’s Firefly premiered on Fox. Starring a cast of Nathan Fillion, Summer Glau, Gina Torres, Jewel Staite, Alan Tudyk, Morena Baccarin, Adam Baldwin, Sean Maher and Ron Glass, it would last but a single season of fourteen episodes (shown out of order the first time and with three episodes unaired as well ) and a film, Serenity. The pilot, “Serenity”, would be nominated for a Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Firm at Torcon 3 but would lose out decisively to Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s “Conversations with Dead People”. Both comic books and original novels have been released since the series ended. 

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 27, 1792 – George Cruikshank.  Brilliant harsh caricaturist.  His Tom and Jerry for Pierce Egan’s Life in London were the eponyms of a Christmastime drink and a Hanna-Barbera cartoon series.  GC more kindly illustrated the first English ed’n of Grimms’ Fairy TalesThe Brownies; Dickens.  (Died 1878) [JH] 
  • Born September 27, 1927 Martin Caidin.  His best-known novel is Cyborg which was the basis for The Six Million Dollar Man franchise. He wrote two novels in the Indiana Jones franchise and one in the Buck Rogers one as well. He wrote myriad other sf novels as well. The Six Million Dollar Man film was a finalist for Best Dramatic Presentation at DisCon II which Woody Allen’s Sleeper won. (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born September 27, 1932 Roger Charles Carmel. The original Harcourt Fenton “Harry” Mudd as he appeared in two episodes of the original Star Trek, “Mudd’s Women” and “I, Mudd”” and one episode of the animated series as well, “Mudd’s Passion”. I say original because Discovery has decided that they have a Harry Mudd too. He also had one-offs on I-SpyMunstersThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Batman. It is rumored but cannot be confirmed that he was going to reprise his role as Harry Mudd in a first-season episode of Next Gen but died before filming could start. (Died 1986.) (CE)
  • Born September 27, 1947 Meat Loaf, 73. He has a tasty role as Eddie in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  He also has film roles in Wishcraft (horror), Stage Fright (horror) and Urban Decay (yes, more horror). He’s also in BloodRayne which is yes, horror. He’s had one-offs on Tales from the CryptThe Outer LimitsMonstersMasters of Horror and was Doug Rennie, a main cast member of Ghost Wars. I think one of his songs, particularly the video version, “I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That)” qualifies as genre. (CE) 
  • Born September 27, 1948 – Pauline Fisk.  Half a dozen novels.  I sometimes wonder who shall guard The Guardian (you may know Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? from this book), but here’s what The Guardian said of her.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born September 27, 1950 – Maggie Secara.  In the Queen’s Court with me at the original Renaissance Pleasure Faire, she was superb.  Five novels for us, as many shorter stories.  Her Website is still here.  (Died 2019) [JH]
  • Born September 27, 1952 – Steven Schindler, 68.  Illustrator; children’s books, many ours either explicitly or by treatment.  First book, The First Tulips in Holland.  Here is his cover for The Tower at the End of the World.  Here is Catwings.  Here is Spike and Ike Take a Hike.  Here is his Website.  [JH]
  • Born September 27, 1956 Sheila Williams, 64. Editor, Asimov’s Science Fiction for the past fifteen years. She won the Hugo Award for Best Short Form Editor in 2011 and 2012. With the late Gardner Dozois, she co-edited a bonnie bunch of anthologies such as Isaac Asimov’s RobotsIsaac Asimov’s Christmas and Isaac Asimov’s Cyberdreams. She was also responsible for the Isaac Asimov Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy writing being renamed the Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing. (CE) 
  • Born September 27, 1959 – Mark Richards, 61.  Active fan and occasional Filer.  Diligent in Empiricons, Lunacons, HELIOspheres; Corflu 7; also Balticons, Boskones, Philcons, Worldcons.  Having known and worked with various Bowens, Hellingers, Richardses, I wish them all well here and hereafter.  [JH]
  • Born September 27, 1966 David Bishop, 54. In the Nineties, he edited the UK Judge Dredd Megazine (1991–2002) and 2000 AD (1995–2000). He wrote a number of Dredd, Warhammer and Who novels including the Who novel Who Killed Kennedy which is a popular Third Doctor story.  He’s written Big Finish stories in the DreddSarah Jane and Who lines. Dredd audio dramas. (CE) 
  • Born September 27, 1969 – Tanja Kinkel, Ph.D., 51.  Dissertation on Lion Feuchtwanger; while in Los Angeles, founding member of the Int’l Feuchtwanger Society.  Founded “Bread and Books” toward educating children in Africa, India – and Germany.  Known for historical fiction e.g. Madness That Eats Up the Heart (1990; Byron), Manduchai (2014).  For us e.g. The King of Fools (Ende’s Neverending Story), Grimms’ MurdersThe Problem Child(Perry Rhodan), in German. [JH]
  • Born September 27, 1970 Tamara Taylor, 50. Best remembered I’d say as Camille Saroyan in Bones. Genre wise, she was in season seven of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as the primary antagonist, Sibyl. She also appeared in Lost, as the former girlfriend of Michael and mother of Walt, Susan Lloyd. And she has a brief appearance in the Serenity film just listed as Teacher. (CE) 

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) BATWOMAN NEWS. Javecia Leslie sent a photo of herself in her batsuit on Instagram.

(9) GET ON BOARD. Gameinformer promises these are “Seven Out-Of-This-World Sci-Fi Board Games”. In the mix —

Dune
Publisher: Gale Force Nine

I can’t resist the chance to resurface this awesome revival of Dune, which was also named in our Best Tabletop Games of 2019. The original game was one of the early classics in the thematic strategy board game scene when it released in 1979. The new version features lovely new art and some rule changes, but largely maintains the cutthroat and sometimes painfully crushing turnarounds that the original was known for. Not for the faint of heart, Dune’s unfolding gameplay can see a single decision that completely changes the course of the game, echoing some of the same life-and-death dynamics present in the celebrated novel. With the Villeneuve-helmed movie adaptation about to arrive, it’s fair to expect a surge in enthusiasm around this game. It can make for a brutal game night, but it’s also a great time. Don’t be scared away; fear is the mind-killer.  

(10) RUBE GOLDBERG CONTEST. CBS urges, “Rube Goldberg contraptions: Do try this at home!”

This year the annual Rube Goldberg Machine Contest offered families under coronavirus lockdown a way to make good use of their time, by building contraptions that are utterly useless, except to accomplish mundane tasks in the time-honored fashion of the legendary cartoonist. Correspondent Mo Rocca witnesses some of the craziest devices.

(11) BILL THE GERIATRIC HERO. “Star Trek Movies Deepfake Trailer Puts William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy Into the Reboot Series”Comicbook.com admires the result.

Classic Star Trek stars William ShatnerLeonard Nimoy, and DeForest Kelley join the reboot movies in a new deepfake fan trailer. Fans have used deepfake technology to pull off some impressive Star Trek swaps in the past, but this trailer from Futuring Machine may be the most impressive yet. Presented as the trailer for a film titled Star Trek: The First Generation, it uses footage from the Star Trek: The Original Series movies to show James T. Kirk retelling a story from his youth. The video then deepfakes Shatner’s Kirk onto Chris Pine’s and Nimoy’s Spock onto Zachary Quinto‘s to show the characters’ younger years with scenes from Star TrekStar Trek Into Darkness, and Star Trek Beyond. You can watch the fan trailer above.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/8/20 That’s Only A Bit More Than Thirty Books A Day

(1) EXPELLIARMUS. No wands, no dragon? Who snitched? “Community board says no to ‘Harry Potter’ dragon landing in Flatiron District” reports Crain’s New York Business.

The enchanted world of Harry Potter has crashed broomstick-first into the less magical world of New York City land-use review. 

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that members of Manhattan’s Community Board 5 are objecting to parts of the plan from Warner Bros. to open a Harry Potter–themed exhibit and store in a landmarked building in the Flatiron District. The studio has proposed opening a roughly 20,000-square-foot store called Wizarding World at 935 Broadway, the former home of upscale furniture brand Restoration Hardware. 

Crain’s first reported in September that Warner Bros. had reached a deal with the building’s landlord, Shefa Land Corp., for the store. 

Design firm Studio Superette unveiled plans for the store at the hearing Tuesday. The design calls for adding a fiberglass dragon with a clock, two backlit Harry Potter signs and six flagpoles, designed to look like wands, to the building’s facade, the Journal reported. 

The changes require approval from the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, which refers such requests to community boards for a recommendation before making a decision. 

Members of the community board’s landmarks committee said the design ideas represent “inappropriate signage,” according to the Journal, and voted unanimously to recommend against approval. 

The full community board will vote on the proposal later this month before sending its recommendation to the city landmarks commission, according to the report. 

(2) A SHOCK. Steve Stiles, one of fandom’s all-time most popular artists, revealed sad news on Facebook saying, “So the word is: I’ve got a few months, more or less.”

(3) ANLAB. Analog invites readers to name their favorites by filling out the Analytical Laboratory Readers’ Award Ballot by February 1, 2020.

(4) NO MORE FEUDIN’, FUSSIN’, AND FIGHTIN’. David Gerrold’s explanation why he didn’t write a rant is certainly no less interesting than if he’d indulged the impulse. He begins —

I was going to write a rant about how writers should be supportive of each other.

Then I realized …

I’m naive. ….

(5) KGB. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Richard Kadrey and Cassandra Khaw on Wednesday, January 15, 7:00 p.m.at the KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street, 2nd Floor, New York).

Richard Kadrey

Richard Kadrey is the New York Times bestselling author of the Sandman Slim dark urban fantasy series. Sandman Slim was included in Amazon’s “100 Science Fiction & Fantasy Books to Read in a Lifetime,” and is in production as a feature film. Some of Kadrey’s other books include The Grand Dark, The Everything Box, Hollywood Dead, and Butcher Bird. In comics, he’s written for Heavy Metal, Lucifer, and Hellblazer. He’s currently partnered with Winterlight Productions for his original horror screenplay, Dark West

Cassandra Khaw

Cassandra Khaw is a scriptwriter at Ubisoft Montreal. Her fiction has been nominated for the Locus Award and the British Fantasy Award, and her game writing has won a German Game Award. You can find her short stories in places like F&SF, Lightspeed, and Tor.com. Her novella Nothing But Blackened Teeth is coming out from Nightfire, the new Tor horror imprint in 2021.

(6) CANADA READS. The Canada Reads 2020 The longlist has a few genre entries. The listed books speak to the theme: “One book to bring Canada into focus.”

We’re looking at Canada’s 2020 vision. How do we move forward together? These books inspire readers to think twice about the lens through which they see themselves and Canada.

The final five books will be revealed on January 22.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 8, 1958Teenage Monster premiered and you can see the trailer here. It was produced and directed by Jacques R. Marquette, and starred Anne Gwynne (who was a scream queen in the Forties but past her prime now) and Stuart Wade. It played as double bill with The Brain from Planet Arous which is a story unto Itself.If you saw it on television, It was called Meteor Monster. We can find reviews of it at the time (not unusual) and It has no ratings at Rotten Tomatoes. The Fifties is littered with similar films. 
  • January 8, 1967 It’s About Time aired “To Catch A Thief.”  It’s here today because we’ve never heard of this series before. It was created by Sherwood Schwartz, and used sets, props and the music bits from his other television series shooting at the time, Gilligan’s Island. Its cast was Frank Aletter, Jack Mullaney, Imogene Coca, Joe E. Ross, Cliff Norton and Mike Mazurki.  It lasted but one season and twenty six episodes, considerably shorter than his other show did. This futuristic spaceman meet cavemen comedy bombed  in the ratings after the first few episodes. 
  • January 8, 2006 – The BBC’s Hyperdrive enjoyed its premiere. The series  was written by Kevin Cecil and Andy Riley, directed by John Henderson and produced by Alex Walsh-Taylor. The cast was Nick Frost, Kevin Eldon,  Miranda Hart, Stephen Evans, Dan Antopolski and Petra Massey. BBC ran it for two seasons and twelve episode. It’s a comedy with a decidedly scatological and crude sexual bent.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 8, 1908 William Hartnell. The very first Doctor who first appeared when Doctor Who firstaired on November 23, 1963. He would be the Doctor for three years leaving when a new showrunner came on. He played The Doctor once more during the tenth anniversary story The Three Doctors (aired 1972–73) which was the last thing he filmed before his death. I scanned through the usual sources but didn’t find any other genre listing for him. Is that correct? (Died 1975.)
  • Born January 8, 1925 Steve Holland. Did you know there was a short lived Flash Gordon series, thirty-one episodes in 1954 – 1955 to be precise? I didn’t until I discovered the Birthday for the lead in this show today. Except for four minor roles, this was his entire tv career. Biography in “Flash Gordon: Journey to Greatness” would devote an entire show to him and this series. And yes you can see him here as Flash Gordon. (Died 1997.)
  • Born January 8, 1941 Boris Vallejo, 79. Illustrator whose artwork has appeared on myriad genre publications. Subjects of his paintings were gods, hideous monsters, well-muscled male swordsmen and scantily clad females. Early illustrations of Tarzan, Conan the Barbarian and Doc Savage established him as an illustrator.
  • Born January 8, 1942 Stephen Hawking. Y’all know who he is, but did you know that Nimoy was responsible for his appearance as a holographic representation of himself in the “Descent” episode?  He also guest starred in Futurama and had  a recurring role on The Big Bang Theory. Just before his death, he was the voice of The Book on the new version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio series. (Died 2018.)
  • Born January 8, 1947 David Bowie. First SF role was as Thomas Jerome Newton in The Man Who Fell to Earth. He next shows up in The Hunger, an erotic and kinky film worth seeing. He plays The Shark in Yellowbeard, a film that Monty Python could have produced but didn’t. Next up is the superb Labyrinth where he was Jareth the Goblin King, a role perfect for him. From that role, he went on to being Pontius Pilate in The Last Temptation of Christ, an amazing role by the way. He was in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me as FBI AgentPhillip Jeffries, which was his last role when he appeared later in the Twin Peaks series.  He also played Nikola Tesla in The Prestige from Christopher Priest’s novel. Ok, what did I am leaving y’all to mention? (Died 2016.)
  • Born January 8, 1956 Jack Womack, 64. Ok, I was trying to remember what I’d read by him. I realized it was his excellent Ambient novel when it first came out and that I hadn’t kept up with his later writings. So what do y’all think of his later novels? I know, he stopped witting essentially a generation ago except for his Flying Saucers Are Real! non-fiction release. Non-fiction?
  • Born January 8, 1977 Amber Benson, 43. Best known for her role as Tara Maclay on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Her post-BtVS genre credits are scant with a bit of work on Supernatural, a Sci-fi Channel film called Gryphon, a web series called The Morganville Vampires and, I kid you not, a film called One-Eyed Monster which is about an adult film crew encountering monsters. She is by the way a rather good writer. She’s written a number of books, some with Christopher Golden such as the Ghosts of Albion series and The Seven Whistlers novel which I read when Subterranean Press sent it to Green Man for review. Her Calliope Reaper-Jones series is quite excellent too.
  • Born January 8, 1979 Sarah Polley, 41. H’h what did I first see her in? Ahhhh, she was in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen! Let’s see what else she’s done… She’s been in the animated Babar: The MovieExistenzNo Such Thing (which is based very loosely on Beowulf), Dawn of the DeadBeowulf & Grendel (well sort of based on the poem but, errr, artistic license was taken) and Mr. Nobody.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range jokes about studying fantastic beasts in Oz.

(10) ROBOCOP ISN’T WHAT HE USED TO BE. Metro (U.K.) says this happened in the Los Angeles area — “Police robot told woman to go away after she tried to report crime – then sang a song”.

…Cogo Guebara rushed over to the motorized police officer and pushed its emergency alert button on seeing the brawl break out in Salt Lake Park, Los Angeles, last month. But instead of offering assistance, the egg-shaped robot, whose official name is HP RoboCop, barked at Guebara to ‘Step out of the way’. To add insult to injury, the high-tech device then rolled away while humming an ‘intergalactic tune’, pausing periodically to say ‘Please keep the park clean.’

The explanation turned out to be disgustingly simple:

Local Police Chief Cosme Lozano says the robots, which cost between $60,000 and $70,000 a year to lease, are still in a trial phase and that their alert buttons have not yet been activated.

(11) GHOSTLY ACCOMODATIONS. Kevin Standlee of the 2021 Westercon in Tonopah wants you to know —  

This is neither the closest hotel to the Tonopah Convention Center nor the largest of the hotels in Tonopah, but for some reason it seems to get a lot of interest.

Read more about it here: “A Haunted Clown Themed Hotel Next To a Graveyard, Would You Stay?”

(12) FANTASTIC NATURE. “Natural History Museum will showcase ‘fantastic beasts'” – BBC shows how the museum will complement and compete with Rowling. The show will run for seven months before heading out on an international tour.

It’s one of the more remarkable specimens taken into London’s Natural History Museum. It’s certainly one of the most “fantastic”.

The horn comes from an Erumpent, a fictional beast created in the mind of author JK Rowling.

It’s going to feature in a major new exhibition at the South Kensington institution this spring, in which the extraordinary creatures of the Harry Potter universe are used to shine a light on some of the “magical” animals that exist in the real world.

The NHM is describing the show as its most ambitious to date.

…The exhibition will put 50 specimens from the museum’s world famous collections next to props from the Potter movies. Interactive displays will compare and contrast different animals.

“You’ll recall the Erumpent’s mating dance from Fantastic Beasts. We’ll be making comparisons with the peacock spider, which has its own extraordinary movements that it uses to attract a mate,” explained the NHM executive.

(13) ROBOTS ON DISPLAY. Through February 9, the Dundee branch of the Victoria and Albert Museum is having an exhibit called “Hello, Robot:  Design Between Human and Machine”, which has many, many robots. 

From the robots we know and love, to the robot in your pocket, explore the fascinating future of robots at work, at home and in the blurring boundaries between human and machine.

With new technological developments being made every day, it has never been more important to explore our relationships with robotics.

Explore the influence of robots through four galleries that draw you into a conversation with simple but thought-provoking questions.

Trace our fascination with the science and fiction of robots before delving into an evolving world of industry and work. Consider the role of robots as companions and helpers and explore what the future may hold as we find new ways to tackle social and environmental problems. Would you live in a robot? And can they make us better than nature intended?

(14) DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH. Accordnig to NME, “Fox is considering a revival of Joss Whedon’s ‘Firefly’”.

Michael Thorn, Fox’s president of entertainment, shared his thoughts on the matter with The Wrap. “Any time we look at one of our classic titles, if there’s a way to reinvent it for today so it’s as resonant now as the original was, and is, to the fans, we’re wide open,” he said.

“I loved ‘Firefly,’ personally, and I watched every episode. I didn’t work on it, but I loved the show. It had come up before, but we had ‘The Orville’ on the air and it didn’t make sense for us to have, as a broadcast network who is very targeted, to have two space franchises on our air.”

The Orville now airs on Hulu, but [Firefly executive producer Tim Minnear] is allegedly currently tied up with a number of other projects.

(15) BABY, IT’S OLD OUTSIDE. “Vast ‘star nursery’ region found in our galaxy” – BBC has the story.

Astronomers have discovered a vast structure in our galaxy, made up of many interconnected “nurseries” where stars are born.

The long, thin filament of gas is a whopping 9,000 light-years long and 400 light-years wide.

It lies around 500 light-years from our Sun, which is relatively close by in astronomical distances.

…An international team analysed data from the European Gaia space telescope, which was launched in 2013.

The monolithic structure has been dubbed the Radcliffe Wave, in honour of Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“What we’ve observed is the largest coherent gas structure we know of in the galaxy, organized not in a ring but in a massive, undulating filament,” said co-author Joao Alves, from the University of Vienna, Austria, and Harvard.

…Co-author Prof Alyssa Goodman, from Harvard, commented: “We were completely shocked when we first realised how long and straight the Radcliffe Wave is, looking down on it from above in 3D.”

(16) FIGURES. “Batman, Wonder Woman, Paddington and Bugs Bunny Join New Statues in London’s Leicester Square” – photos and more info at Bleeding Cool.

‘Scenes in the Square’ is a new installation at London’s Leicester Square next month that will include eight dynamic statues – which means they will be integrated into the existing landscape of the Square, rather than actually move or anything. Regarded as the home of cinema in Britain, Leicester Square has had a statue of Charlie Chaplin for many years. From February 27th, he will be joined by statues of Laurel and Hardy, Bugs Bunny, Gene Kelly, Mary Poppins, Batman, Mr Bean, Paddington and Wonder Woman, sculpted by David Field.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/24/19 For Work Or For Pleasure, It’s A Triumph, It’s A Treasure, Oh, There’s Nothing That A Pixel Cannot Do

(1) COSPLAY. SYFY Wire shares a photo gallery: “Pokémon and Spider-Verse cosplay highlight Day 1 at C2E2 2019”.

Video games were well represented with Halo and Detective Pikachu complimenting the various Mario Bros. sticking up for the nostalgic. Various superheroines ran around with plenty of well-costumed anime heroes and it was all as exciting (and packed) as an Avengers film.

(2) FEAR ITSELF. Ethan Mills reveals his “Non-Spoilery Impressions of Jordan Peele’s Us” at Examined Worlds.

Is Us scary?  Sure, but not as much in a straightforward horror sense as you might think. There aren’t a lot of jump scares.  There are no scary clowns or zombies or vampires or ghosts or whatever.  But it’s horror in a deeper sense.  It’s supposed to communicate directly with something deep inside the viewer and stay there, lurking in both your conscious and unconscious mind.  It’s a mirror that allows you to see that you’ve been there staring at yourself the whole time.

(3) SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT. Ellen Datlow responded to S.T. Joshi on Facebook.

This is very tiresome. I know I should let sleeping dogs lie, but I don’t like being called a liar, especially in print, and even more especially by someone who seems ignorant of how things actually work.

S. T. Joshi claims I was the “prime mover” behind the change in the WFA bust. I was not. I was/am a member of the Awards Administration that decided it was time for a change.

He further claims he was told by “a member of the committee” that there was no vote taken to change the award.

#1 there is no such thing as the World Fantasy Committee. There is a World Fantasy Convention Board and there is an Awards Administration. Perhaps he is confusing the two.

#2 I am a member of the Awards Administration and a voting member–only of the AA. At the time there were six of us.

#3 I am on the overall WFC board board itself as a non-voting member.

#4 The entire WFC board under David Hartwell voted unanimously to change the award. There were no nays and as far as I can remember there were no abstentions.

I would be happy to know who the person is that claims there was no vote taken because there is likely a record recording (or at least acknowledging) the vote.

(4) GRAVITY INDUSTRIES DEMO. The Chicago Tribune posted video of “Jet suit flight at Museum of Science and Industry”.

In the future, we have been promised, there will be jet packs. Usually this is said with disappointment. But on the front steps and lawn of Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry this week, there actually was a working jet suit, and a man brave enough to get in and buzz around. Inventor Richard Browning, a British former oil trader, was showing off his invention to promote the museum show, “Wired to Wear,” that features the suit from his Gravity Industries and scores of other examples of cutting-edge wearable tech.

(5) FIREFLY. More on the Disney/Fox merger’s princess implications for the women in Firefly.

(6) A HEAP OF GLORY. Gizmodo has discovered “Where Movies Get Their Vintage Electronics”.

Have you ever watched a show like Mad Men and wondered where they found those early Xerox machines? Or where The Americans got their hands on all the Reagan-era IBMs that you thought would be piled in a landfill? Well, there’s a good chance these historically-accurate gadgets came from a massive warehouse in Brooklyn with a specific mission: to preserve some of the world’s oldest, most cherished electronics.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 24, 1834 William Morris. Credited with creating the modern fantasy literature genre, he certainly wrote some of it its earlier works, to note his epic poem The Earthly ParadiseThe Wood Beyond the World and The Well at the World’s End, plus his entire artistic motif fits nearly within a fantasy literature as it looks as if it was created by the Fey Themselves. (Died 1896.)
  • Born March 24, 1874 Harry Houdini. Yes, him. He wrote “The Spirit Fakers of Hermannstadt” which had its first half published in March 1924 issue of Weird Tales. An issue of that sold at an auction aimed at Houdini collectors for $2,500 on eBay fetching 43 bids. (Died 1926.)
  • Born March 24, 1897 Theodora Kroeber. Another one of those women with an amazing full name, to wit Theodora Covel Kracaw Kroeber Quinn, she’s the mother of Ursula Kroeber Le Guin. She’s here because ISFDB insists that she wrote a genre novel by the name of Carrousel. Well it’s a novella actually at ninety-one pages and might or might not be genre. If anyone’s read it, they can tell me what it is. (Died 1979.)
  • Born March 24, 1946 Gary K. Wolfe, 73. Monthly reviewer for Locus for 27 years now and, yes, I enjoy his column a lot. His brief marriage to Ellen R. Weil which ended with her tragic early death resulted in them co-writing Harlan Ellison: The Edge of Forever.  Old Earth Books has reprinted many of his reviews done between 1992 and 2006. He’s also written several critical looks at the genre, Critical Terms for Science Fiction and Fantasy and The Known and the Unknown: The Iconography of Science Fiction.
  • Born March 24, 1949 Tabitha King, 70. Wife of Stephen, mother of that writing brood. I met her but once on the lot of the original Pet Sematary a very long time ago. ISFDB to my surprise lists only two novels she’s written solely by herself, Small World and Wolves at the Door, and one with Michael McDowell, Candles Burning. None with her husband.

(8) COMIC SECTION.

  • Pearls Before Swine today has a questionable solution to our country’s problems.
  • Evidently JDA spent the most recent St. Patrick’s Day communing with The Little People. He hopes they’ll give him lots of green.

(9) FOLLOW THE YELLOWING PAGE ROAD. That pulp fiction we’ve all been talking about? Open Culture says you can find a lot of it here: “Enter the Pulp Magazine Archive, Featuring Over 11,000 Digitized Issues of Classic Sci-Fi, Fantasy & Detective Fiction”.

There’s great science fiction, no small amount of creepy teen boy wish-fulfillment, and lots of lurid, noir appeals to fantasies of sex and violence. Swords and sorcery, guns and trussed-up pin-ups, and plenty of creature features. The pulps were once mass culture’s id, we might say, and they have now become its ego.

(10) BOOK VS. MOVIE. Steve Fahnestalk digs deep into the DVD bin for his “’Historic’ Film Review: King Solomon’s Mines (1937)” – at Amazing Stories.

Quatermain’s companions (Commander Good—Roland Young; and Sir Henry Curtis—John Loder), who have paid him to be a guide on their African hunting trip, tell him they want to pursue O’Brien; Umbopo tells them he knows the country because he was from there originally. They end up in a desert region and have to abandon the wagon because the oxen can drink up all their water in no time at all. So they head off, following the map, onto the “burning sands” on foot. (In the book, Quatermain, who’s been an elephant hunter for years, knows better, and they go only at night in the desert.) Umbopo sings them on their way (Robeson was, at this point, an international star—his “Old Man River” was the hit of the British version of Showboat—and he’s actually got the biggest credit; this film is a vehicle for him, rather than just an attempt to film Haggard’s book.)

(11) XO4K. BBC reports “Exoplanet tally set to pass 4,000 mark”.

The number of planets detected around other stars – or exoplanets – is set to hit the 4,000 mark.

The huge haul is a sign of the explosion of findings from searches with telescopes on the ground and in space over the last 25 years.

It’s also an indication of just how common planets are – with most stars in the Milky Way hosting at least one world in orbit around them.

That’s something astronomers couldn’t be certain of just 30 years ago.

(12) PRESERVED JELLIES. Rare finds near the Danshui river: “Huge fossil discovery made in China’s Hubei province”.

Scientists say they have discovered a “stunning” trove of thousands of fossils on a river bank in China.

The fossils are estimated to be about 518 million years old, and are particularly unusual because the soft body tissue of many creatures, including their skin, eyes, and internal organs, have been “exquisitely” well preserved.

Palaeontologists have called the findings “mind-blowing” – especially because more than half the fossils are previously undiscovered species.

The fossils, known as the Qingjiang biota, were collected near Danshui river in Hubei province.

(13) GOAL MODELS. “The greatest strong female characters of all time” is another list/opinion piece from SYFY Wire’s Fangrrls.

In the entirety of its existence, the majority of sci-fi, fantasy and horror works have centered men — usually straight, white ones. It is then perhaps all the more impressive that the most powerful, inspirational characters across genre are women. While there is still a long way to go to make genre less white, less cis and less able-bodied, we are grateful for the women who showed us that genre isn’t just for “boys” and that not all heroes are male. 

Jenna Busch picked –

Lessa

Lessa from Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern series embodies the true strong female character. Even better? It was written back in the late ’60s when SFCs were few and far between. Lessa survived in awful conditions as a child, was chosen as the last Dragonrider of a Queen, ensuring the survival of the creatures. She defied conventions and helped prepared for the return of the deadly Threadfall, traveled 400 years back in time to bring forward other Dragonriders to help and stood strong against the very male-dominated society she lived in. OK, maybe her time travel did sort of form a paradox that caused the deficit in Dragonriders to begin with, but hey, she couldn’t know that, could she? Lessa took no crap from anyone, was proud of her no bull policy and is the perfect example of someone defined by the Shakespeare quote, “And though she be but little, she is fierce.” –

(14) THINK UP, PLEASE! Around 75% accuracy is claimed: “Neuroscientists Have Converted Brain Waves Into Verbal Speech”Smithsonian has the story.

The team’s research, published in Scientific Reports, involves a somewhat unconventional approach. Rather than directly tracking thoughts to produce speech, the researchers recorded neurological patterns generated by test subjects listening to others speak. These brain waves were fed into a vocoder—an artificial intelligence algorithm that synthesizes speech—and then converted into comprehensible, albeit robotic-sounding, speech mirroring the phrases heard by participants.

(15) A KINGDOM OF ONE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] At the top level, life is divided into three domains  bacteria, archae, and eukaryotes—the latter having cells in which the genetic material is DNA in the form of chromosomes contained within a distinct nucleus. Eukaryotes are divided into several kingdoms, typically Animalia (animals), Plantae (plants), Fungi, and Protista—the latter of which is something of a catch-all category. (It should be noted that a number of other division schemes exist.)

A new DNA analysis of  creature called hemimastigotes—firmly in the domain of eukaryotes given their cellular structure—says they are so different from the four eukaryote kingdoms (even the catch-all Protista) that they should be their own kingdom (CBC News: “Rare microbes lead scientists to discover new branch on the tree of life”). The original source (Nature: “Hemimastigophora is a novel supra-kingdom-level lineage of eukaryotes”) is behind a paywall, but the CBC News article notes:

Two species of the microscopic organisms, called hemimastigotes, were found in dirt collected on a whim during a hike in Nova Scotia by Dalhousie University graduate student Yana Eglit.

A genetic analysis shows they’re more different from other organisms than animals and fungi (which are in different kingdoms) are from each other, representing a completely new part of the tree of life, Eglit and her colleagues report this week in the journal Nature.

“They represent a major branch… that we didn’t know we were missing,” said Dalhousie biology professor Alastair Simpson, Eglit’s supervisor and co-author of the new study. 

“There’s nothing we know that’s closely related to them.”

In fact, he estimates you’d have to go back a billion years — about 500 million years before the first animals arose — before you could find a common ancestor of hemimastigotes and any other known living things.

(16) ONCE AND FUTURE. VickyWhoReads praises this reworking of the Arthurian legend: “Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy: An Underhyped, Genderbent King Arthur Retelling in Space!”

I think something that I forget to think about with books is just how much they appeal to readers outside of pure entertainment. The cast of characters is so diverse—and in a futuristic space setting, it’s just a big bundle of inclusivity. (Except for the bad corporations, but even then, there’s not really discrimination based on sex/religion/race/etc., it’s “oh look people rebelling, let’s kill them.”)

And, frankly, it was a really refreshing read in the way that I didn’t have to watch people suffer based on who they were, we got to watch them suffer because they were fighting evil corporations. (Not to say that books that do show this are bad, but this was a nice moment where I could just bury myself under all the openly queer characters and accepting nature of everyone in the novel.)

Ari & Gwen are bi or pan, Lam is fluid, Merlin is gay, and Jordan is ace so we get to see a whole giant cast of queer characters, and no one suffering because of their queerness! It was wonderful and just really refreshing.

(17) ICONIC MOMENTS. About half the scenes in Vanity Fair’s collection of “The 25 Most Influential Movie Scenes of the Last 25 Years” are from genre/adjacent movies.

Sometimes, all it takes is a single scene to change moviemaking for good. (“Rosebud . . .” comes to mind.) And while many of the last quarter-century’s films have awed, inspired, and offered up iconic entries into the cultural canon, only some—and particularly, only a few individual moments—have genuinely influenced how future films were made. So, what makes that list? To mark the 25th edition of the Hollywood Issue, Vanity Fair’s film critics pinpointed 25 film scenes since 1995 that changed the industry, the art form, and even the culture, and our reporters spoke to the performers and filmmakers who made them happen.

  • Toy Story
  • Scream
  • The Matrix
  • The Blair Witch Project
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
  • Star Wars: Episode III—Revenge of the Sith
  • Children of Men
  • Iron Man
  • The Dark Knight
  • Twilight
  • Get Out

(18) SIBLINGS. Paul Weimer tells why he largely enjoyed this fantasy novel: “Microreview [book]: The Sisters Mederos by Patrice Sarath” at Nerds of a Feather.

House Mederos has seen better times. Much better times. After the sinking of a fleet, that may have been secretly the doing of the younger of the Mederos sisters, the family is impoverished and cast out of the society of Port Saint Frey. Yvienne and Tesara spent years in a horrid boarding school for the impoverished. But now they have returned, and now have the opportunity, as they try to help their family recover their fortunes. House Mederos has been reduced to near penury, but that status will not remain forever if the sisters have anything to do about it. Even if it takes questionable acts, in ballrooms and nightly doings alike, to accomplish the feat.

(19) THREE DIMENSIONS. The Weatherwax Report’s Esme, Coffee, and Kristen collaborate on areview of another indie fantasy work — “SPFBO Finalist: Ruthless Magic by Megan Crewe”. Esme begins —

The main characters are young, but they aren’t whiny or angsty which is why I think this one clicked. I liked seeing diversity in the characters with both an LGBT side character and a Hispanic main character – I don’t see either of those represented often in fantasy. This was a quick book that I read in a sitting, the writing was straight forward and sped the story along, so it earned high marks in pacing.

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

[Update 03/26/19: Removed Andrew Porter’s birthday listing.]

Pixel Scroll 11/20/18 Maybe The Real File Was The Pixels We Scrolled On The Way

(1) BACK TO BACK. The Hollywood Reporter asked, the fans answered: “Which Movie Franchise Should Return? ‘Back to the Future’ Tops New Poll”. They don’t care that director Robert Zemeckis declared three years ago that he would try to block a reboot of the franchise, “even after his death.”

Of the 2,201 adults surveyed between Nov. 8 and 11, 71 percent said that they’d be likely to watch another outing for Marty McFly and Doc Brown ahead of other franchises like Pixar’s Toy Story (69 percent), Lucasfilm’s Indiana Jones (68 percent) and Universal’s Jurassic Park (67 percent).

Back to the Future also polled well when it came to the question of which franchise has been most closely followed by the public. Fifty-four percent of those polled reported having watched the entirety of the series, compared with just 36 percent for the ever-growing Star Wars series. As with the earlier question, both Toy Story and Indiana Jones performed well, with 47 percent of those responding having followed each series faithfully.

(2) FIREFLY. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak tells Firefly fans where to find more of the good stuff: “Big Damn Hero is a familiar trip back to Joss Whedon’s Firefly universe”.

In December 2002, Fox gave the ax to a little-known science fiction show from Joss Whedon called Firefly. The series gained a cult status when it hit DVD the following year, and its story continued in the 2005 film Serenity and a handful of comic books — but a planned massively multiplayer game based on the series never materialized, and Firefly has been weirdly left out of the recent surge of rebooted TV shows. Now, for fans who have been missing the franchise, there’s a new glimmer of hope — or at least an opportunity to revisit the ‘Verse, with James Lovegrove and Nancy Holder’s new novel Big Damn Hero.

Big Damn Hero is the first of three novels being published by Titan Books in the coming months, under the guidance of Whedon, who serves as a “consulting editor.” Like Firefly, the book follows the crew of the spaceship Serenity, led by Captain Malcolm Reynolds, a veteran of a failed rebellion against the authoritarian Alliance government. The result is a new bona fide adventure in the story — one that could be an extended episode from the series, but which also fleshes out the characters and world just a bit more.

(3) WOKE ON A COLD HILL SIDE IN GALLIFREY. The Daily Mail (of course!) is all over this story: “Exterminate! Fans’ backlash over Doctor Who’s latest transformation- into TV’s most PC show”

One fan wrote: ‘There should be a clever story line, not a rehash of history. There’s also an underlying feeling the focus has been forcing inclusiveness by having such obviously diverse characters.’

Another said: ‘Please keep the PC stuff for documentaries and serious drama and let the Doctor help us escape to a fantasy world.’

(4) SAYS WHO? Stylist tells how “Jodie Whittaker brilliantly hits back at all those saying Doctor Who is “too PC””.

Now, Whittaker – who’s the first ever female Doctor – has addressed the backlash.

“What’s the point of making a show if it doesn’t reflect society today?,” Whittaker said while switching on the Christmas lights at London’s Regent Street on Monday 19 November. “We have the opportunity with this show like no other to dip to future, to past, to present, to new worlds and time zones. There is never going to be a drought in the stories you can tell.”

Whittaker continued: “It’s always topical. Chris is a very present-minded person who is very aware of the world he lives in and is passionate about storytelling. It would be wrong of him to not have used the past. He does it in a really beautiful way.”

(5) BOMBS AWAY. Those of you who don’t think Robin Hood is sff can skip this review, and those who do may want to skip this movie after reading what The Hollywood Reporter says about it in “‘Robin Hood’: Film Review”.

Taron Egerton, Jamie Foxx and Ben Mendelsohn lead the cast in the latest big-screen iteration of the classic adventure story.

Guy Ritchie’s idiotic, leathered-up, fancy-weaponed take on King Arthur worked out so wonderfully for all involved last year ($149 million worldwide box office on a $175 million budget) that someone still evidently thought it would be a good idea to apply the same preposterous modernized armaments, trendy wardrobe and machine-gun style to perennial screen favorite Robin Hood.

Well, it’s turned out even worse than anyone could have imagined in this all-time big-screen low for Robin, Marian, Friar Tuck, Guy of Gisbourne and the Sheriff of Nottingham, not to mention for Jamie Foxx as an angry man from the Middle East who’s gotten mixed up on the wrong side of a Crusade, or maybe just in the wrong movie. Leonardo DiCaprio can rest easy in the knowledge that this fiasco will come and go so quickly that few will remember that it even existed, much less that he produced it. In a just world, everyone involved in this mess would be required to perform some sort of public penance.

(6) RESOURCES FOR AN IRISH WORLDCON. Fanac.org’s Joe Siclari turns the site’s attention to Retro-Hugo-eligible zines and classic Irish fanwriting.

Retro Hugos: We have a guide to 1943 fannish publications online for your Retro Hugo nominating pleasure. We’re not done adding links to it, so there’ll be even more to read. The guide shows all the 1943 fanzines, including the ones we don’t have, and will let you know what’s eligible for best fanzine. Even if a fanzine had too few issues to be eligible, it can give insight for nominations in the Best Fan Writer and Best Fan Artist categories. In addition to FANAC.org hosted zines, there are links to materials on efanzines and the University of Iowa’s Rusty Hevelin collection. The printed fanzines are rare, not readily available, and physically frail, so we’re especially glad we can make them available to you online.

The Irish Project: As part of our effort to promote our fannish history, FANAC makes a priority of adding material that is pertinent to current fan events (like our push to make fan source material available for the Retro Hugo Awards). With the very first Irish Worldcon scheduled for 2019, we are making available classic Irish fan publications from such luminaries as Walt Willis, Bob Shaw, James White, and the Englishmen often identified with Irish Fandom (IF), John Berry, Chuck Harris, Arthur Thomson (Atom), etc.

The Wheels of IF had extensive interaction and influence in fandom, and so we are including English and American zines where that influence was often seen. There are publications included by Lee Hoffman (Quandry), Shelby Vick (Confusion), Vin¢ Clarke, Ken Bulmer (Steam), and others.

We have fanzines, apazines, trip reports and fabulous one-shots (like John Berry’s “This Goon For Hire”). Publication dates range from the 50s to the 90s, with more current pieces coming. Our

Wheels of IF directory (http://www.fanac.org/fanzines/Irish_Fandom/) now has nearly 200 zines available with dozens more in the pipeline.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • November 20, 1929 – Jerry Hardin, 89, Actor famous for his character roles, whom genre fans know as the informant Deep Throat in The X-Files, or perhaps as Samuel Clemens in the Star Trek: The Next Generation double episode “Times’s Arrow”. Other TV series guest appearences include Star Trek: Voyager, Sliders, Brimstone, Time Trax, Lois & Clark, Quantum Leap, Dark Justice, Starman, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The (new) Twilight Zone, and The Incredible Hulk, and he had roles in Big Trouble in Little China and Doomsday Virus (aka Pandora’s Clock).
  • November 20, 1932 – Richard Dawson, Actor, Comedian, and Game Show Host. I debated including him, as he really had but one meaty genre performance – but oh, was it oh so great: in the Saturn-nominated film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Running Man, as the self-referential, egotistical and evil game-show host Damon Killian who came to a deservedly bad end; he won a Saturn Award for his dead-on performance. Other genre appearances include Munster, Go Home!, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, and The Outer Limits. (Died 2012.)
  • November 20, 1923 – Len Moffatt, Writer, Editor, Conrunner, and Member of First Fandom. He became an SFF fan in his teens, and was a founder of the Western Pennsylvania Science Fictioneers. He produced numerous fanzines over the years, and was deeply involved in several fan associations, including the National Fantasy Fan Federation (N3F), for which he produced the Fan Directory. He and his wife June, who was also an ardent fan, organized many Bouchercons (mystery fandom conventions) and were recognized with that con’s Lifetime Achievement Award. A member of the LA Science Fantasy Society (LASFS) since 1946, he was honored with their Forry Award for Lifetime Achievement. The Moffatts were the TAFF delegates in 1973 to the UK Natcon, and Fan Guests of Honor at many conventions. (Died 2010.)
  • November 20, 1944 – Molly Gloss, 74, Writer and Teacher from the Pacific Northwest who is known for both science fiction and historical fiction. A close friend of Ursula K. Le Guin, many of her works touch on themes of feminism and gender. Her novel Wild Life won a Tiptree Award, her novelette “The Grinnell Method” won the Sturgeon Award, and her short story “Lambing Season” was a Hugo finalist.
  • November 20, 1963 – Ming-Na Wen, 55, Actor from Macau who is currently appearing as Agent Melinda May in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. She has also had main roles in the series Stargate Universe and the short-lived Vanished, and a recurring role in Eureka. Her breakthrough genre role was providing the voice for Disney’s Mulan, for which she won an Annie Award (awards which recognize voice actors in animated productions). This led to a lengthy career providing voices for animated features and series, including Spawn, The Batman, Adventure Time with Finn & Jake, Phineas and Ferb, Robot Chicken, and Guardians of the Galaxy, as well as a plethora of Mulan spinoffs, offshoots, tie-ins, and video games. Other genre appearances include the films The Darkness, Starquest (aka Terminal Voyage), Tempting Fate, and Rain Without Thunder.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) BOOK TWO. Camestros Felapton does a “Proper Review of the Consuming Fire”.

…There’s a lot of talking and plotting and counter-plotting that is important because this is supposed to be a world of plotting and counter-plotting. However, it feels inconsequential even at the time. Of course it is MEANT to be futile in the face of a systemic collapse of the hyperspace routes that hold the Empire together. Meanwhile, the story is plotting a new course and warming up its engines….

(10) IMPERIAL WALKER TOLD TO TAKE A HIKE. Some people just have no sensawunda. Officials in Devon have ordered a 14 foot replica of a Star Wars All-Terrain Scout Transport (AT-ST) be taken away from its spot near the A38 (Hollywood Reporter: “Officials Order Englishman to Remove ‘Star Wars’ AT-ST Replica”).

The 14-foot homage will no longer be on display. […]

Star Wars fan living in the southeast county of Devon, England, has been ordered by the local government to remove a 14-foot-tall AT-ST replica that he hoped would bring attention to his town.

The monstrous attack vehicle, which sits near a road, was initially built by Dean Harvey for his children.

“The reason why I built it was a den for my daughters,” he told the BBC. “It’s all made of out [steel] and weighs about two-and-a-half tons.”

After his kids outgrew the AT-ST, he gave it to a man named Paul Parker, who is now being ordered to get rid of it.

(11) SPACE HAWAIIAN STYLE. The side of Mauna Loa have been the home, these past few years, of a Mars habitat simulation. Now, after a major glitch in the sim, it’s being repurposed as a Moon habitat simulation. (The Atlantic: “Hawaii’s Mars Simulations Are Turning Into Moon Missions”)

For the last five years, a small Mars colony thrived in Hawaii, many miles away from civilization.

The Hawaii Space Exploration Analog and Simulation, or HI-SEAS, was carried out in a small white dome nestled along the slope of a massive volcano called Mauna Loa. The habitat usually housed six people at a time, for as long as eight months. […]
In February of this year, something went wrong. The latest and sixth mission was just four days in when one of the crew members was carried out on a stretcher and taken to a hospital, an Atlantic investigation revealed in June. There had been a power outage in the habitat, and some troubleshooting ended with one of the residents sustaining an electric shock. The rest of the crew was evacuated, too. There was some discussion of returning—the injured person was treated and released in the same day—but another crew member felt the conditions weren’t safe enough and decided to withdraw. The Mars simulation couldn’t continue with a crew as small as three, and the entire program was put on hold.

But the habitat on Mauna Loa was not abandoned. While officials at the University of Hawaii and NASA investigated the incident, the wealthy Dutch entrepreneur [Henk Rogers] who built the habitat was thinking about how the dome could be put to use.

[…] Under Rogers’s direction and funding, the HI-SEAS habitat will reopen this year—not as a Mars simulation, but a moon one.

(12) STAYIN’ ALIVE. “Elon Musk renames his BFR spacecraft Starship” Why? Your guess is as good as mine.

Elon Musk has changed the name of his forthcoming passenger spaceship from Big Falcon Rocket (BFR) to Starship.

The entrepreneur would not reveal why he had renamed the craft, which has not yet been built, but added its rocket booster will be called Super Heavy.

In September, Mr Musk’s SpaceX company announced that Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa had signed up to be the first passenger to travel on the ship.

The mission is planned for 2023 if the spaceship is built by that time.

It is the craft’s fourth name – it started out as Mars Colonial Transporter (MCT) and then became Interplanetary Transport System (ITS) before becoming BFR.

(13) SHARPER IMAGE. Japan is on the cutting edge of space technology: “A samurai swordsmith is designing a space probe”.

If you wanted to slice stuff up in space, what would you bring with you? ‘Samurai’ swords, which have been made in Japan for centuries, might be on your list because the tempered steel used in them is notoriously tough. There are plenty of videos online showing these Japanese swords, also called ‘katana’, cutting up everything from thick boards of wood to metal pipes.

Now, a trio of engineers have teamed up with a master Japanese swordsmith to design a rock-sampling device made with the same steel used in these blades – and the plan is to use it on an asteroid.

Japan’s Hayabusa missions have so far sent spacecraft, rovers and sampling tools to a one kilometre-wide asteroid called Ryugu, which orbits the sun between Earth and Mars. Hayabusa2’s rovers recently sent back stunning images of the asteroid’s black, rocky surface. But bringing fragments of Ryugu back to Earth is an enormously tricky task, which is why novel ideas are being suggested for how to do it

(14) SAY WHAT? Brenton Dickieson tells what a shock it is to go a lifetime assuming a word you’ve only seen in print would be pronounced a certain way – and then someone actually says it out loud another way… “C.S. Lewis’ ‘Dymer’… or is it Deemer? (or Can Someone from the Buffyverse be Wrong?)” (He has a lot more to say about the poem, of course.)

After five years of avoiding the book, I decided to reread Alister McGrath’s biography of Lewis. I am listening to it as an audiobook this time, and Robin Sachs pronounces Dymer as “Deemer.” It has shattered my vision of the entire piece. All along, I have been pronouncing Dymer as “Daimer,” so that “Dym” rhymes with “rhyme.” McGrath’s bio of Lewis is one of the last things that Sachs read in a long career of acting. Who am I to question someone who studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art? More than anything, Robin Sachs had a recurring role on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Clearly, I must be wrong. After all, Robin Sachs is British. How could he be wrong?

(15) DOOMED TO GO BOOM. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A new article in Nature (caution, paywall: “Anisotropic winds in a Wolf–Rayet binary identify a potential gamma-ray burst progenitor”) about a pinwheel-shaped star system that may go boom in a big way has received a good bit of notice in the press. (CNN: “First-known ‘pinwheel’ star system is beautiful, dangerous and doomed”; Popular Mechanics: “Two Young Stars On a Death Spiral Are Acting Very Strangely”)

The close binary star system has the stars in a death spiral of sorts creating an image that in the infrared looks startlingly like a child’s toy pinwheel. This one, though, would be no fun at all to any being close enough to really experience it. The PM story explains:

The stars, located about 7,800 light years away, are in what’s called a Wolf-Rayet stage. That’s when massive stars begin to shed their hydrogen, burning certain elements in their atmosphere like carbon and nitrogen. A sort of nebula that forms around the stars makes them easy to spot.

But something peculiar is happening here: These two Wolf-Rayet stars are causing the nebula to move a bit like a pinwheel in interactions that are also producing gamma ray bursts—high energy events usually generated by massive objects like black holes. By finding a source of the particular kinds of gamma ray bursts produced in these stars, astronomers have a laboratory right in our backyard to test long duration gamma ray bursts.

The system was named Apep after the Egyptian deity of chaos, often depicted as a snake. One of the co-author of the study, Dr. Peter Tuthill (University of Sydney), is quoted in the CNN article as saying, “The curved tail is formed by the orbiting binary stars at the center, which inject dust into the expanding wind creating a pattern like a rotating lawn sprinkler. Because the wind expands so much, it inflates the tiny coils of dust revealing the physics of the stars at the heart of the system.” Another co-author, Benjamin Pope (New York University), was quoted as saying, “The only way we get such a system to work is if the Wolf-Rayet star is spewing out gas at several speeds. One way for such different winds to happen is via critical rotation. One of the stars in Apep is rotating so fast that it is nearly ripping itself apart. On its equator, the rotational forces make the gas basically weightless, so it slowly floats off the equator.”

(16) SERIES INTERRUPTUS. The following tweet struck me as a poorly constructed defense.

The cultural impact of George R.R. Martin’s series is huge. Of course its fans are invested in seeing it finished. “Entitlement” doesn’t enter into it. And despite being kindly intended, Naruto’s idea that attention should instead be paid to authors who do finish their series is identical to the logic Dave Freer and Richard Paolinelli used when they attacked Martin to gain attention for themselves.

Anyway, we all know Martin is perfectly capable of speaking for himself, as he has done in several recent interviews to publicize his new Westeros history book Fire and Blood.  Here’s what he told Entertainment Weekly

Before we go, here’s a standard question I missed asking you at the start: What excites you most about Fire and Blood?
The book is a lot of fun. The people who are open to reading an imaginary history and not a novel — which I realize is not everybody — have enjoyed it so far. But honestly, the single thing that excites me most is that I finished it. I know there are a lot of people out there who are very angry with me that Winds of Winter isn’t finished. And I’m mad about that myself. I wished I finished it four years ago. I wished it was finished now. But it’s not. And I’ve had dark nights of the soul where I’ve pounded my head against the keyboard and said, “God, will I ever finish this? The show is going further and further forward and I’m falling further and further behind. What the hell is happening here? I’ve got to do this.” I just got the [Fire and Blood] copy and, holding it in my hand, it’s a beautiful book. The illustrations by Doug Wheatley are great. It’s been a long while since I had a new Westeros book and nobody knows that as well as I do. I know that just as much as the angriest of my hardcore fans. And I have continued to publish other things. It’s not like I’ve been on a seven-year vacation. I have Wild Cards books coming out every six months. But not like this, one that’s entirely my writing. So to finish a book that I’m proud of and excited by was emotionally a big lift for me.

And an hour-long video “In Conversation: George R. R. Martin with John Hodgman” was posted today on YouTube.

George R. R. Martin talks with John Hodgman about his new book FIRE & BLOOD, the first volume in a two-part history of the Targaryens in Westeros. Filmed at the Loews Theater in Jersey City, NJ.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 2/8/18 I’ve Got A Plan So Cunning You Could Put A Scroll On It And Call It A Pixel

(1) 4SJ. At the Classic Horror Film Board, the webmaster’s reminiscence about Forrest J Ackerman prompted a #MeToo response from Lucy Chase Williams, and since then “Forrest J Ackerman’s #MeToo Moment …” has generated 561 comments.

Speaking of “failures” (!), I guess this is the time to remind the boys here of #MeToo. I and other young women like me were subjected to a different kind of “Forry worship.” How differently would any of you have felt, when all you wanted was to talk about monsters with the “over eager editor” of your favorite monster magazine, if your Uncle Forry had forced wet kisses on you? If he had put his hands all over you, pinching your “naughty bottom” and squeezing your “boobies”? If he had enthusiastically related with a big grin how he wanted to strip off your clothes with everybody watching? And if, in the face of your total refusal of any of his attentions every single time you saw him in person, he never didn’t try again, and again, and again? And if for years, in between those times, he mailed you letters with pornographic photos, and original stories about how naughty you were, and how he wanted to hurt and abuse you, yet all the while make you weep and beg for more? And if he continued that behavior, despite written and verbal demands to cease, entirely unabashed for more than two decades? No, I can’t forget him either — or how he turned my childhood love of monsters into something adult and truly monstrous.

(2) STAUNCH PRIZE. Earl Grey Editing reports on an interesting new non-sff award:

Not strictly SFF or romance, but still within genre, The Staunch Prize has been created to honour crime thrillers where no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered. The shortlist will be announced in September and the winner will be announced on 25 November.

(3) STAR GORGE. Michael Cavna has a roundup of all the current Star Wars projects, with the news being that Disney is also planning a streaming Star Wars TV series for fans who just want more after Solo, Episode IX, the Rian Johnson trilogy, and the Benioff and Weiss trilogy: “A guide to every Star Wars movie and TV show that’s planned right now”.

  1. Potential spinoffs of other characters

Talk continues to swirl around Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda and Boba Fett getting their own films, according to such outlets as the Hollywood Reporter. At this point of galloping Disney expansion, who’s to say that each won’t one day get his own TV trilogy?

  1. The streaming TV series

Iger’s new announcement comes just several months after he first said a live-action Star Wars series would happen. Expect that TV menu to grow at a significant rate, as Disney gets set to launch its own entertainment streaming services by next year.

(4) MILSF KICKSTARTER. M. C. A. Hogarth says, “I stealth launched my newest Kickstarter yesterday to see if I could keep it from blowing past the goal, but it overfunded anyway. So I guess I’ll advertise it? laugh It’s fluffy first contact sf” — “Either Side of the Strand Print Edition”:

MilSF with an all female crew, in an “Old Star Trek” vein! Because we all love first contact stories, with octopuses.

Having already hit $1,241, when the original goal was $500, Hogarth is far into stretch goal territory —

So, some stretch goals! Just in case, even though this is only a week!

  • $750 – I do a bookmark, and everyone who gets a physical reward will receive it!
  • $1000 – the audiobook! This should open an audiobook reward level (details for that when/if it happens)
  • Over $1000 – I will wiggle a lot! And then tuck that money away to pay for the final Stardancer novel (currently in revision).

But Jaguar! You say. Why are your stretch goals so modest! Why don’t you do Alysha plushes! We would totally be on board with Alysha plushes! And Stardancer t-shirts!

Because, dear backers, I don’t want to fall down on this job for you, and that means humble goals. *bows*

I admit Alysha plushes would be adorbs though.

(5) NEW SFF PODCAST. MilSF Authors JR Handley and Chris Winder have unveiled they latest joint project; the Sci-Fi Shenanigans Podcast. JR and Chris are US veterans (US Army and USMC respectively) that focus on producing MilSF stories. They have released five episodes in the last 2 weeks:

(6) LEAVE THE WHISTLE UNBLOWN. Joe Sherry continues picking contenders in the “2018 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 4: Institutional Categories”. Although the criteria he gives below disregard the actual rules for the Best Fanzine category, most of his picks are eligible anyway – no harm, no foul.

This time we are looking at what are, for lack of a better term, the “nonfiction and institutional categories”: Best Related Work, Best Semiprozine, Best Fanzine and Best Fancast. Now, those who follow this blog know how cranky The G can get on the subject of certain categories and their bizarre eligibility guidelines–and we’ve got two of them today (Best Semiprozine and Best Fancast). Nevertheless, I will do my best to stay calm and stick to the rules, frustrating as they can be. I reserve the right, will, however, get a little snarky and passive-aggressive in the process.
There are, however, some sticky issues that made putting this list together a bit difficult. Knowing what does or does not constitute a “fanzine” in the era of blogs, for example–and given that we may already be on the downward slide of that era, it only promises to get more difficult as time passes. Nevertheless, we have tried to create clear and consistent guidelines for inclusion in this category. Thus, to qualify, a fanzine: (1) must be a fan venture (i.e. must not generate a significant amount of money, or pay professional rates for work); (2) must publish a lot of content in a given year; and (3) must publish “award worthy” content. We did not discount single-author blogs from consideration, but criterion #2 makes it difficult for most single-author blogs to  merit consideration. Consequently, while a couple made it, most did not–including some very good ones.

(7) SHADOW NOMINATIONS. The Australasian Horror Writers Association reminds that nominations are open for the Australian Shadow Awards until February 28. See eligibility and submission guidelines at the link.

The Australian Shadows Awards celebrate the finest in horror and dark fiction published by an Australasian within the calendar year. Works are judged on the overall effect of a work—the skill, delivery, and lasting resonance.

[Via Earl Grey Editing.]

(8) BARLOW OBIT. John Perry Barlow, co-founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), died February 7. NPR paid tribute:“Cyber-Libertarian And Pioneer John Perry Barlow Dies At Age 70”.

A founding member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and former lyricist for the Grateful Dead, John Perry Barlow, has died at the age of 70, according to a statement issued by the Foundation.

Barlow was a poet, essayist, Internet pioneer and prominent cyber-libertarian. He co-founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 1990 after realizing that the government was ill-equipped to understand what he called the “legal, technical, and metaphorical nature of datacrime.” He said believed that “everyone’s liberties would become at risk.”

Barlow described the founding of the EFF after receiving a visit from an FBI agent in April 1990 seeking to find out whether he was a member of “a dread band of info-terrorists.” Shortly thereafter, Barlow and Mitch Kapor, the creator of Lotus 1-2-3, organized a series of dinners with leaders of the computer industry for discussions that would lead to the creation of the EFF.

And the BBC remembers

In 1996, he wrote the widely quoted Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, which asked governments of the world to stop meddling in the affairs of net-centred communities.

“You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather,” he wrote.

(9) POLCHINSKI OBIT. Multiverse theorist Joseph Polchinski died February 2 reports the New York Times.

Joseph Polchinski, one of the most creative physicists of his generation, whose work helped lay the mathematical foundation for the controversial proposition that our universe is only one in an almost endless assemblage that cosmologists call the “multiverse,” died on Friday at his home in Santa Barbara, Calif. He was 63. He had been treated for brain cancer since late 2015.

Dr. Polchinski was a giant force in the development of string theory, the ambitious attempt to achieve a “theory of everything,” which envisions the fundamental particles of nature as tiny wriggling strings. The theory has brought forth ideas and calculations that have opened new fields of study and new visions of a universe that is weirder and richer than astronomers had dreamed.

…After months of treatment [for cancer], Dr. Polchinski put his energy into writing his memoir, which he posted on the internet.

“I have not achieved my early science-fiction goals, nor explained why there is something rather than nothing,” he wrote in an epilogue, “but I have had an impact on the most fundamental questions of science.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • February 8, 1958Teenage Monster premiered at your local drive-in.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born February 8, 1828 – Jules Verne
  • Born February 8, 1908 — William Hartnell, the first Doctor Who.
  • Born February 8, 1942 – Stephen Hawking
  • Born February 8, 1969 – Mary Robinette Kowal

(12) KOWAL CELEBRATES. As part of her celebration Kowal pointed to a free read short story, “The Worshipful Society of Glovers” that came out last year in Uncanny Magazine. And on her blog she told about how she developed that story:

To begin… When I was writing Without a Summer I was looking at historical guilds as models for the Coldmongers. In the process, I ran across the Worshipful Company of Glovers, which is a real livery company that has been in existence since 1349. Kinda awesome, right?

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian finds Yoda remains in character even in this mundane situation, in Off the Mark.

(14) RETRO COMICS. Edmonton’s Hugo Book Club took a deep dive into the comic books that were published in 1942 and are eligible for the Retro-Hugos this summer. They suggest that in terms of Best Graphic Story “Some of the most exemplary works are little-remembered by the modern reader,” and encourage Hugo voters to consider a wide range of lesser-known works.

In 1942, the modern American comic book was still in its infancy. Sequential art published on pulp paper with gaudy CMYK illustrations was hitting the shelves at a furious pace, led by the success of best-selling books like Captain Marvel, The Spirit, and Archie. But for every Mort Meskin, Basil Wolverton or Jack Cole working in 1942, there were dozens more, often filling pages with inflexible five- and six-panel layouts, stilted dialogue, and rigidly posed figures….

Prior to 2018, the only time there was a Retro Hugo for Best Graphic Story was in 2016, when the Retro Hugos for 1941 were awarded. That ceremony saw Batman #1 take the trophy ahead of Captain Marvel and The Spirt, both of which are superior comic books. Joe Simon’s superb first 12 issues of Blue Bolt didn’t even make the final ballot.

Batman as a character may have had more popular appeal in the long-term, but those early stories are not as dynamic or innovative as The Spirit. Batman may have some science fiction elements today, but in 1940 Blue Bolt told better science fiction stories. Batman may be more popular today, but in 1940 Captain Marvel was the leading comic book character….

(15) STACKS OF FUN. The G takes “Altered Carbon, Episodes 1-3” for a test drive at Nerds of a Feather.

Netflix’s new science fiction show, Altered Carbon, is based on a novel of the same name by Richard K. Morgan. It’s basically a mashup of neo-cyberpunk, detective noir, milSF and techno thriller. Since I have particular interests in the first two parts of that equation, Altered Carbon looked to be right up my alley. So I decided to commit to 3 episodes, after which point I’d take stock. Three episodes in and I like it enough to continue. It’s not quite as good as I’d hoped, however.

Takeshi Kovacs is, or rather was, a kind of super soldier known as an envoy. Envoys were part of an insurrection against the hegemonic polity, the Protectorate. The insurrection failed and the envoys were “put in ice.” However, in the future your mind, memories and soul are stored on a “stack”–a kind of hard drive that is surgically inserted into your body. As long as the stack isn’t damaged, it can be taken out of a dead body and inserted into a new “sleeve” (i.e. a body). Religious types refuse to be re-sleeved, believing that it prevents the soul from ascending to heaven. Pretty much everyone else who can afford to do it, does.

(16) BUNDLE TIME. The latest Storybundle is The Black Narratives Bundle, curated by Terah Edun:

This month is groundbreaking for many reasons, it represents a clarion call to support and uphold cultural heritage, but more than that Black History Month is a time to celebrate accomplishments of the past and the future. From the moment I was asked to curate the Black Narratives bundle, I knew this one was going to be special. I didn’t want to just reach out to authors who were the pillars of the diverse speculative fiction community, but also the ingénues who were becoming stars in their own right.

(17) CANON TO THE LEFT OF THEM, CANON TO THE RIGHT OF THEM. Entertainment Weekly says “Firefly canon to expand with series of original books”.

It may sound like something out of science-fiction, but it’s true: More Firefly stories are on the way.

EW can exclusively report that Titan Books and Twentieth Century Fox Consumer Products have teamed up to publish an original range of new fiction tying in to Joss Whedon’s beloved but short-lived TV series Firefly. The books will be official titles within the Firefly canon, with Whedon serving as consulting editor. The first book is due in the fall.

(18) DON’T YOU JUST TELESCOPE IT? At NPR, “How To Pack A Space Telescope” (text and time-lapse video).

As complicated as it as to launch and operate a telescope in space, it’s almost as complex to move a space telescope around here on Earth.

For the past 9 months or so, NASA has been testing the James Webb Space Telescope in a giant cryogenic chamber at Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. The $8.8 billion Webb telescope is the most powerful telescope NASA has ever built.

(19) SLICE OF LIFE. BBC tells about “Bodyhackers: Bold, inspiring and terrifying”.

Jesika Foxx has permanently purple eyeballs, and an elf-like ear. Her husband, Russ, has a pair of horns under his skin.

Stelarc, a 72-year-old Australian, has an ear on his arm. Soon he hopes to attach a small microphone to it so people can, via the internet, listen to whatever it hears.

Meow-Ludo Disco Gamma Meow-Meow – yes, that’s his legal name – has the chip from his Sydney travel card implanted into his hand.

I met all these people during BodyHacking Con, in Austin, Texas.

Over the past three years, the event has become something of a pilgrimage for those involved in the biohacking scene – a broad spectrum of technologists, trans-humanists and performance artists. This year it also attracted the presence of the US military.

(20) FAUX COMPETITION. There should be a contest to caption this photo. My entry: “John Scalzi about to make one of his famous frozen garbage burritos.”

(21) SHARKE’S SECOND BITE. Shadow Clarke juror Maureen Kincaid Speller continues her self-introduction.

I find it difficult to talk about how I write critically because it is a thing I’ve learned mostly by doing. There was never a moment when I actively decided that I would become a literary critic. Rather, my critical practice came into being over a long period of time. Even now it is a work in progress. I always feel I could do better, and I’m forever trying to work out how.

What do I do? I read. And then I write about what I’ve read. It is as simple and as complicated as that. In ‘Plato’s Pharmacy’, an exploration of meaning in Plato’s ‘Phaedrus’, Derrida focuses on the word ‘pharmakon’, paradoxical because it means both ‘remedy’ and ‘poison’. Plato sought to argue that speech was superior to writing because it required an act of memory, an act which was weakened by the use of writing. Derrida prompts us to ask whether writing is a remedy, in that it helps you remember things; or a poison in that it enables you to forget things? And I am going to argue that critical writing is both poison and remedy, depending on how you use it.

(22) VENOM. Marvel’s Venom teaser trailer:

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John King Tarpinian, M.C.A. Hogarth, Dann, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat  Eldridge, Olav Rokne, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day RedWombat.]

Pixel Scroll 12/27/17 A Very Modest Scroll

(1) SFWA IN TIMES TO COME. Cat Rambo’s yearly recap of all her activities includes a look ahead for SFWA —

  • SFWA’s excellent Executive Director Kate Baker said a few years back, “I want to make the Nebula weekend -the- premiere conference for professional F&SF writers” and I said, “Tell me what you need to do it.” This year’s Nebulas were fantastic; next year’s will be even more, including having Data Guy there to present on the industry, an effort that’s taken a couple of years to get in place.
  • The SFWA Storybundle had its first year and was wildly successful, as was the Nebula-focused HumbleBundle. The Storybundle program will grow 150% in size in 2017, which sounds really impressive but just means 3 bundles instead of 2. Plus – SFWA’s Self-Publishing Committee has taken that effort over, so no work for me! (Last year I read a bajillion books for it.)
  • A long, slow revamp of Emergency Medical Fund stuff driven by Jennifer Brozek, Oz Drummond, and Bud Sparhawk is coming to its final stages. I just saw the EMF stewards in action: they received an appeal, evaluated it within 24 hours, and within a week, if I am correct, funds had been disbursed. The Grants Committee just wrapped up its 2017 work; next year it’ll have even more money to play with, thanks to the aforementioned Nebula HumbleBundle.

(2) A BIT ICKY. A nine-year-old got a lovely note from the outgoing Doctor Who. BBC has the story: “Doctor Who: Peter Capaldi reassures fan over regeneration”

(3) SIPS. Charles Payseur is back with “Quick Sips – Beneath Ceaseless Skies #241”

With its last issue of the year, Beneath Ceaseless Skies delivers two very dark fantasy stories about expectations and rules, curses and sacrifices. In both characters find themselves playing out roles that have been laid out for them, having to find ways to exist in stifling situations. In both, the main characters must contend with the weight of tradition and expectation. In both, the main characters are faced with strong willed women who want to change things. Who want to break the Rules. And in both stories the main characters have to face what the world is like, what their life might be like, should those Rules shatter. It’s an interesting issue that asks some very difficult questions and reveals some visceral hurts. To the reviews! …

(4) DOG STAR. The Storm Trooper K-9 division –

(5) CURTIS OBIT. The actor who famously played a disfigured Star Wars cantina criminal has died reports Yahoo! Entertainment.

Alfie Curtis, the British actor who earned a place in the Star Wars pantheon for playing the menacing Mos Eisley Cantina scofflaw with the “death sentence on 12 systems,” has died, according to the BBC. He was 87. News of Curtis’s death was first reported by the fan site Elite Signatures.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 27, 1904 — J. M. Barrie’s play Peter Pan premiered in London
  • December 27, 1951Captain Video: Master of the Stratosphere premiered.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY STARGAZER

  • Born December 27, 1571 — Johannes Kepler

(8) YOUNG SETH MACFARLANE’S STAR TREK VIDEO. David Klaus sent this video and made these comments about it on Facebook:

I presume this is only an excerpt of a longer fan film Seth MacFarlane made as a teen, a far better film than I could have made when I had thoughts about trying to do when I was a teen many years before this.

His space background is an artist’s conception of gases spiraling into the event horizon of a black hole, pretty cool, along with what appears to be an AMT model of the refit Enterprise. His voice occasional verges into sounding like Shatner’s instead of his own, and he uses sound effects and music from the original series. I’d get a kick out of seeing the whole thing.

 

(9) NUKE HOBBYIST. He told NPR it’s not that hard, compared to what else is done today in manufacturing: “North Korea Designed A Nuke. So Did This Truck Driver”

To make his models, he drove 1,300 miles to Los Alamos, N.M., the birthplace of the atomic bombs. The museum there has accurate, full-scale replicas of Little Boy and Fat Man that he could work from. As he designed his models, he decided he’d write a brochure to go with them.

“The brochure turned into a 431-page book,” he says.

Coster-Mullen never sold a single model, but he has been adding to his bomb brochure ever since, building up what are basically complete specs for America’s first nuclear weapons. He has traveled the country, and the world, to glean all sorts of supposedly secret details.

“Nobody leaked anything to me,”he says. “I found all this information was hiding in plain sight.”

(10) SOI DISANT DISNEY PRINCESS. She’s willing to take the promotion!

(11) BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. Chris Nuttall argues the case for the original — “Classic Battlestar Galactica – The Review” at Amazing Stories.

Battlestar did it’s level best to depict a society that was different from ours, even though it had points in common. Everything from the ranks and uniforms to the games and terminology smacked of an alternate universe, not men and women who could have walked off a modern day aircraft carrier. It wasn’t that far from America, I admit, but it was different – again, unlike the remake. It’s really a pity they didn’t put quite so much thought into their FTL drive concepts, as the exact nature of ‘light-speed’ is never really addressed.

Like most other shows from that era, Battlestar needed a good cast – the special effects could not carry the show by themselves. And Battlestar had some very good characters – Commander Adama, Apollo, Starbuck, Tigh and Boomer … and, on the other side, Baltar and Count Iblis. (Notably, Baltar was originally executed by the Cylons after betraying the Twelve Colonies, but he was later brought back because they needed someone as the face of the enemy, a problem the remake sought to solve with ‘skin-jobs.’)

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, David K.M. Klaus, Will R. Cat Eldridge, and Chip Hitchcock. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]

Ron Glass (1945-2016)

By Steve Green: Ron Glass, American actor and director, died November 25, aged 71. Genre appearances include The Twilight Zone (“I of Newton,” 1985), Deep Space (1988), Teen Angel (17 episodes as God’s cousin Rod, 1997-98), Star Trek: Voyager (“Nightingale,” 2000), Firefly (14 episodes as Book, 2002-03) and its spin-off movie Serenity (2005), Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (two episodes, 2013-14).

The Variety obituary adds these details:

In 1975 Glass found his breakout role in “Barney Miller,” set in an NYPD station. His character was a dapper and ambitious intellectual, obsessed with launching his career as a writer. The role earned Glass a Primetime Emmy nomination in 1982 in the supporting actor category.

After “Barney Miller,” Glass would go on to star in 18 episodes of the 1982 “The Odd Couple” remake “The New Odd Couple” as well as making guest appearances on “The Twilight Zone,” “Family Matters” and “Murder, She Wrote,” among other shows. In the late 1999 he appeared on two episodes of “Friends” Ross Geller’s divorce lawyer, Russell.

In 2002 Glass joined Joss Whedon’s cult favorite “Firefly,” playing a spiritual figure with a mysterious past. Glass would also reprise the role in the 2005 movie “Serenity.”

Glass was still a regular face on American television as recently as 2014 when he appeared in an episode of “CSI.” That same year he appeared in “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” as Dr. Streiten.

Pixel Scroll 11/11/16 Some Say Scrolls, It Is A Pixel, That Leaves Your Eyes To Bleed

(1) RELIGHTING FIREFLY. CinemaBlend’s Nick Venable has been listening to actor Alan Tudyk, who says “Nathan Fillion Has an Awesome Idea for More Firefly”.

[Alan Tudyk] “I’m always hopeful that it’ll come back in some form or fashion. I think as long as you have Nathan Fillion – truly, if you have the captain – he can put the crew back together. Some new faces, some old faces, and get back in the air. I think Nathan pitched an idea once to me, and I think he actually got it from some fan fiction: Now, out in some shack on some forgotten moon somewhere, somebody comes and knocks on [Mal’s] door and says, ‘We need you.’ And he answers the call.”

I know that you guys might not have gotten goosebumps like I did when Alan Tudyk was saying it, but I’m sure everyone pictured that potential opening scene accordingly. It’s the perfect set-up for an action narrative, with the unpredictable hero getting picked out of reclusion to head back out for one last mission. One. Last. Mission. Not that anyone said this would have to be the final mission for Mal Reynolds, who may or may not still have his Captain status, since there should never be a last mission for him.

I’m picturing Nathan Fillion with a big giant beard, and he’s complaining about the “gorram WiFi never working” on his moon. There’s probably some kind of a booze still behind his shack. And something happened that was so foul that he vowed never to get back out into the cosmos again, for either fun or profit. But then maybe Jayne or Zoe is in trouble – take that, Jayne – and only Mal can be the one to bring him/her/them/all the gold back. Combine that with the masterfully wild shot that Joss Whedon never got to bring to Firefly, and it all starts to write itself, though that’s only helpful if the project can also order itself to series and air itself.

(2) KC DISCOVERS SUSHI. Scott Edelman of the Eating the Fantastic podcast invites you to “Take a break for sushi with Kathleen Ann Goonan” in Episode 22 of the series.

Kathleen Ann Goonan

Kathleen Ann Goonan

I may have given you the impression, based on the three previous episodes of Eating the Fantastic, that all I ate while I was in Kansas City for this year’s World Science Fiction Convention was BBQ. Not true! This episode’s guest requested sushi, which led us Bob Wasabi Kitchen, giving me some respite from the meat sweats.

And who’s the guest this time? Kathleen Ann Goonan, whose first novel, Queen City Jazz, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and who won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel for In War Times. And, I should add, who wrote the story, “The Bride of Elvis,” which I had the honor of publishing twenty years ago (yikes!), back when I was editing Science Fiction Age magazine.

(3) LIFE OF TOLKIEN. The Verge reports “J.R.R. Tolkien biopic Middle Earth will add new depth to Lord of the Rings”.

Earlier this week, Deadline revealed that New Line Cinema would be revisiting the worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien. Rather than adapting one of his many novels or stories, director James Strong will be helming a film about the author himself, which has the potential to give viewers an entirely new way of looking at the works that he’s most famous for.

Middle Earth is described as following Tolkien’s “early life and love affair with Edith Bratt,” as well as his service to the British Army during the First World War. The film, to be written by Angus Fletcher, is reportedly based on years of archival research on Tolkien’s life.

(4) VAUGHN OBIT. Actor Robert Vaughn (1932-2016) died November 11. His most famous role was Napoleon Solo in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. which aired from 1964-1968, and reprised in a 1983 reunion movie for television. When reruns of the late-1950s series Men Into Space began airing recently, Rich Lynch spotted a young Robert Vaughn in his first sf genre role, the episode “Moon Cloud.”  He appeared in episodes of dozens of TV series over the decades, and in several movies, notably Bullitt and The Magnificent Seven.

The late James H. Burns wrote several File 770 posts about Vaughn, whom he had interviewed for print articles.

When I chatted with Robert Vaughn a few weeks ago, there was a fascinating surprise…

…Vaughn had just spent, for the first time, I believe, a great deal of time watching “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”!

When the U.N.C.L.E. marathon was on, a few months ago (was it on the DECADES cable channel?), Vaughn found himself checking in, within the coziness of his Connecticut home.

He had never really seen the episodes, and was now watching a number of the excellent first season shows.

Now, this isn’t unusual for any actor. In the 1960s, the schedule on television shoots could be overwhelming. (That’s been true, really, in any era of filmmaking.) Vaughn was also busy with his private education, and of course, civic pursuits….

 

We were at a tribute to Vaughn at the Players Club in Manhattan, and were chatting amiably afterwards:

Vaughn was I think I bit surprised and happy that there was someone to talk with who knew a bit about various aspects of his career… (Plus, I had just explained the ending of Bullitt  to him, something which had apparently eluded the both of us, for years!)

…In the early ’70s. Vaughn had signed to star in The Protectors, a syndicated, half-hour action adventure series about international detectives, from ITC and producers Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. The Andersons, of course, are well known to TV buffs and science fiction fans of a certain age for Supercar, Fireball XL5, Thunderbirds and Captain Scarlet — all marionette shows, and the live-action series UFO, and Space: 1999.

The Protectors was a big deal for Anderson, his first major (and, as it turned out, last) mainstream–non-fantasy–endeavor.

The Andersons invited Vaughn and his then business partner to their London home for dinner, for a celebratory meal.

Vaughn and his business manager/pal had drinks in the living room, and then Gerry and Sylvia led them into the formal dining room…

It was only this small group, but the huge table was set for MANY:

And seated at each gilded chair was one of the Andersons’ famous Supermarionation figures!

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born November 11, 1922 – Kurt Vonnegut

(6) VERTLIEB ON FILM HISTORY PANELS AT PHILCON. Steve Vertlieb wants you to know you can find him at Philcon 2016 in Philadelphia discussing Ray Harryhausen and Hammer Films.

The Convention of The Philadelphia Science Fiction Society at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, on Saturday, November 19th, 2016, presents…

THE CLASSIC HAMMER FILMS: AN OVERVIEW

[Panelists: Steve Vertlieb (mod), Richard Stout, John Vaughan, Tony Finan, Mark Leeper, James Chambers]

Hammer Films released numerous productions from the 50’s through the 80’s. From Frankenstein and Dracula with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing to the astonishingly brilliant Quatermass films, these movies helped set up the future of Science Fiction media

Sat 5:00 PM in Crystal Ballroom Two (1 hour)

RAY HARRYHAUSEN: A LIFE

[Panelists: Steve Vertlieb (mod), Richard Stout]

An affectionate remembrance of a motion picture special effects pioneer, and a nearly fifty year admiration and friendship. Writer Steve Vertlieb recalls the Harryhausen legacy, and a profoundly moving personal relationship with a fantasy film legend

(7) SHATNER DRAMA. The Nate Sanders firm is auctioning a handwritten soliloquy “William Shatner Sincerely Wants to Know Why George Takei Doesn’t Like Him – ‘…Not so long after that very friendly time he began to say very mean things about me. – Why?’”

Fascinating account by William Shatner on his relationship with George Takei, where he seems to try to sincerely understand why Takei doesn’t like him, even perhaps using the account as a public question. Composed on Shatner’s personal stationery, autograph signed recollection reads in full, ”George Takei was living in a beautifully appointed apartment. I was there to interview him for a book I was writing. He was most gracious – kind, mannered even formal. He was the essence of an Asian gentleman. We talked memories of Star Trek, his very difficult childhood given that he and his family were put behind a wired fence – in effect a concentration camp. We were at war with Japan and American fears were such that the government put everybody with a Japanese background into those camps – what a terrible beginning of life. But George had overcome [by] working hard and with intelligence he had bettered himself – he had disciplined his body as a runner and he had done the same with his mind; he was running for office as well. His apartment showed all that discipline – it was ordered, it had character, it was immaculate and so was George. I had never really got to know him. He would come in every so often during the week while we were shooting Star Trek. I was busy learning lines and dealing with my life, so I really can’t remember a meaningful conversation – I’m sure that would be my fault – my lack of attention – Never the less when we all wrapped that last day of shooting it was all meaningfull [sic] – for all of us – Star Trek was cancelled. Until this moment in his apartment we had not spoken. Not so long after that very friendly time he began to say very mean things about me. – Why? / William Shatner”. Single page measures 7.25” x 10.25”. Near fine condition.

(8) BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! Also on the auction bloc: “William Shatner Defends His Decision Not To Attend His Friend Leonard Nimoy’s Funeral – ‘…we’ll mourn Leonard, say his name and then pledge your money….’”

Very interesting handwritten signed recollection by William Shatner on the death of his friend Leonard Nimoy, who served as Shatner’s best man at his 1997 wedding, but with whom he was no longer speaking to in 2015 when Nimoy died. Shatner famously did not attend Nimoy’s funeral, which he explains here: ”Leonard was very sick – he was in the hospital. His health was difficult – he was in fact dying – but nobody but his family knew – certainly I didn’t. A month or so prior to his going into the hospital, the American Red Cross asked me to do their largest fundraiser. It would be a huge event, thousands of potential donors, millions of dollars. I enthusiastically said yes. I was to leave on a Friday night for a Saturday performance when the news of Leonard’s death was delivered – the funeral was to be Sunday – what to do? My immediate thought given the blinding news of his death, my appearance or non appearance would not be noticed – also what about the people who had given good money with the expectation of seeing me – heartbroken dilemma – I chose to go the Red Cross and as I said to the people there – all is dust – your name, my name, Leonard’s name will soon be forgotten – but the good deeds you do tonight will be long remembered – I meant those emphatically. Helping others ever reverberates through time – we’ll mourn Leonard, say his name and then pledge your money. / William Shatner”. Single page composed on Shatner’s personal stationery measures 7.25” x 10.25”. Near fine condition.

(9) COMPARING HORNBLOWER AND KIRK. The Nate Sanders house also is auctioning this handwritten anecdote: “William Shatner Describes Captain Kirk: ‘…the gravity of each decision, the mastery of everybody on board…riding a stud horse bareback, loving the ladies – sound familiar?…’”

Fantastic handwritten signed recollection by William Shatner, reflecting on Captain Kirk, his famous alter ego from ”Star Trek”. Composed on Shatner’s personal stationery, he offers an unexpectedly frank and humorous account of Kirk: ”’Horatio Hornblower’ – Roddenberry said in answer to my question ‘who is he like’ – so I read Horatio Hornblower. Horatio is a captain of a British ship plowing the unknown oceans of America in the 1600’s – the loneliness of command, the gravity of each decision, the mastery of everybody on board – awesomeness of command. Yes, very good I got it- and that was the basis of the character of Kirk – I had just, the year before, shot a movie of Alexander the Great, this marvelous, historical character who was one of the great and noble characters of history – using a sword, riding a stud horse bareback, loving the ladies – sound familiar? And those tight costumes!! I had been lifting weights and put on some muscle, I was ready to play Capt. James Tiberius Kirk. Now all I had to do is remember ten pages of dialog – a lot of those words had no basis in English – Scientific goblygook that required head pounding memorization. Memorizing is difficult, some actors, like James Spader, have a photographic memory – they glance at a paper and it’s there forever – me? I have to go over and over and over – it’s a source of great tension – what’s the next word? The eternal actor’s question. / William Shatner”. Single page measures 7.25” x 10.25”. Near fine condition.

(10) GENE FOUGHT FOR THE EARS. The fourth item of Shatner holography being auctioned by the Nate Sanders firm is — “William Shatner Reflects on Gene Roddenberry & the ‘Star Trek’ Pilot – ‘….there was some objection to Spock’s ears. ‘Too devilish’ somebody said – Gene fought for the ears….”

 Fantastic handwritten signed recollection by William Shatner on Gene Roddenberry and getting the ”Star Trek” pilot made, as well as his relationship with Roddenberry as the show progressed. Composed on Shatner’s personal stationery, in full: ”I met Gene Roddenberry over the phone – he had called me in New York to ask me to come see a pilot film he had just made for N.B.C. He was calling it Star Trek. I flew to Los Angeles and went to see this pilot film that N.B.C. didn’t want to buy. I thought it was terrific – I sat in Gene’s office and made a few suggestions – I thought the pilot was a little slow, a little ponderous. It could use some lightness, some humor – He looked at me from across the desk and after a silence said ‘Let’s do it’ – We shot the pilot film for the second time and we were rewarded by a sell. He told me later there was some objection to Spock’s ears. ‘Too devilish’ somebody said – Gene fought for the ears and like in a really good bullfight, he was awarded the ears. Gene was on the set in these early shows and we looked to him for guidance and counsel – which he freely gave. I would frequently go to the office and talk to him about the script, some item of dialogue, some thought that I might have – in these early years he was open – that slowly changed as time went on. / William Shatner”. Single page measures 7.25” x 10.25”. Near fine condition.

(11) HEIRESSES OF RUSS. A.M. Dellamonica posts the “Heiresses of Russ 2015 ToC Announcement”.

I am so pleased to announce the finalized line-up for Heiresses of Russ 2016, from Lethe Press, edited by Steve Berman and myself. This is my editorial debut and it’s the sixth, I believe in the HoR series. As the Lethe Press site says, Heiresses of Russ reprints the prior year’s best lesbian-themed short works of the fantastical, the otherworldly, the strange and wondrous under one cover.

Here’s the line-up:

(12) SECOND FIFTH ELEMENT. Sciencefiction.com invites us to “Check Out The First Trailer For Luc Besson’s ‘Valerian’”

Although Luc Besson has only occasionally ventured into the realm of science fiction, with films like ‘Lucy‘ and of course ‘The Fifth Element’ to his credit, he has nonetheless made a substantial mark on the genre. And now he is poised to do so once again, with his upcoming film ‘Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets‘.

Based on the long-running French comic ‘Valerian and Laureline’, created by Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mezieres (who collaborated with Besson, a longtime fan, on ‘The Fifth Element), the film follows Valerian and his partner/love interest Laureline, a pair of government operatives tasked with investigating Alpha, a vast, alien metropolis that may harbor a grave danger to human civilization….

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 4/16/16 I’m Looking Over A Five-Leaf Clover

(1) HOLD ONTO YOUR KAIJU! Scified says Toho’s Godzilla Resurgence will not be released in North American cinemas.

As it stands currently, it doesn’t look like Toho’s Shin-Gojira (dubbed Godzilla Resurgence for us Westerners) will be making its way to the silver screen in North America this summer. With no mention of a US theater distribution company the chances of fans in the US and Canada seeing Godzilla Resurgence in a theater are extremely low.

The only semi-confirmed distribution company for Shin-Goji in North America seems to be a company called New World Cinemas. The downside is they’ve only listed home entertainment release on DvD for Godzilla Resurgence. The other downside is their projected release date is set in 2017… So, G-Fans over here will need to wait half a year to see Godzilla Resurgence… On DvD. We’re hoping Blu-Ray will also be available, but again, no confirmation.

(2) INKLINGS. John Garth reviews Charles Williams: The Third Inkling by Grevel Lindop in Oxford Today Trinity Term 2016.

“…By the time the narrative reaches the Inklings, we already know Williams as intimately as it is possible to know someone so secretive and strange…”

I review the latest biography of Charles Williams, whose shared times with CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien were only one facet of a fascinating and peculiar life.

(3) MARS EXPERIENCE BUS. Fulfilling the vision of Icarus Montgolfier Wright….

Lockheed Martin has launched Generation Beyond, a first of its kind, national educational program to bring the science of space into thousands of homes and classrooms across America. The Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program is designed to inspire the next generation of innovators, explorers, inventors and pioneers to pursue STEM careers.

Generation Beyond includes a real-life Mars Experience Bus that will travel the country providing student riders with an interactive experience simulating a drive along the red planet’s surface. The Lockheed Martin Mars Experience Bus is the first immersive virtual reality vehicle ever built and replicates 200 square miles of the Martian surface. The Mars Experience was built with the same software used in today’s most advanced video games.

 

(4) BACK UP THE TRUCK. Indianapolis’ Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library is asking his fans to contribute $775,000 to pay for its move to a larger location.

The Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library needs $750,000 to pay its first three years of rent at a downtown Indianapolis building which has four times more space than its current location.

Library founder and CEO Julia Whitehead says that money will also help pay to reconfigure that 5,400-square-foot building for expanded programming and to exhibit more of its large collection, much of which remains in storage.

Click here to make an online donation.

(5) THE MAGIC NUMBER FIVE. Cheryl Morgan, in “Some Awards Thoughts”, speculates about how the Hugo Awards’ 5% rule will come into play this year.

…The first thing to note is that the rule is 5% of ballots in that category, not 5% of ballots overall. 5% of 4000 ballots is 200 votes, and that will probably be required in Novel and the Dramatic Presentation categories, but participation in other categories tends to be much lower. In addition, there is a separate rule that says every category must have at least three finalists, regardless of the 5% rule. So no category is going to be wiped out by this…..

My guess is, therefore, that we’ll have a few categories with 3 or 4 finalists this year. We’ll be able to draw some pretty graphs showing how more participation means more variation. And that will be useful because a motion to remove the 5% Rule got first passage in Spokane last year. This data will inform the debate on final ratification….

(6) PRATCHETT MEMORIAL. A year after the writer’s death from Alzheimer’s, a tribute in London drew together fans and friends — “Terry Pratchett memorial: tears, laughter and tantalising new projects” in The Guardian.

…Sir Tony Robinson read Pratchett’s Dimbleby lecture on Alzheimer’s and assisted dying, while the author’s daughter, Rhianna, read the obituary she wrote for the Observer. Dr Patrick Harkin, whose collection of Pratchett ephemera includes an onion pickled by the man himself, appeared alongside Discworld sculptor Bernard Pearson, as well as Pratchett’s publisher, Larry Finlay, and agent, Colin Smythe.

Neil Gaiman flew in from the States to read his introduction to Pratchett’s 2014 non-fiction collection A Slip of the Keyboard, and found himself presented with his friend’s trademark hat. Gaiman, looking a tad thunderstruck, placed it for a moment on his head, but quickly took it off again, saying: “Oh, I don’t dare.”

(7) NEW WAVE IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR. C. Derick Varn and Dinesh Raghavendra conduct New Worlds: An Interview with M. John Harrison” at Former People.

Former People Speak: What do make of the direction Science Fiction has headed in since you edited New Worlds and New Wave of Science fiction began?

M. John Harrison: New Worlds and the New Wave were a reflection of the more general cultural changes which went on from the late 1950s to the late 1970s. I think science fiction headed in more than one direction as a response to those changes. Or perhaps better to say that it’s an elastic medium, it was heavily perturbed, and it’s been bouncing around inside its formal limits ever since. There was an immediate reaction against the New Wave in the shape of a Reaganistic “back to the future” movement, but that was soon swamped by the concomitant emergence of left wing, feminist and identity-political sf. Now we see an interesting transition into post-colonialism, intersectionality, and–at last–the recognition by western sf that rest of the world writes science fiction too. These are, like the New Wave, responses to changes in the general cultural context. I enjoyed my time at New Worlds, although by the time I got there all the important work had been done. I enjoyed the New Wave for its technical experiments–even in those, though, it was beginning to reflect the generalised cultural shift to postmodernism (while the science fiction Old Guard hunkered down and grimly dug in its heels against the demons of modernism, fighting the previous generation’s wars, as Old Guards will).

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • Born April 16, 1921 — Peter Ustinov, who was in lots of things, including Logan’s Run.

(9) THE 100 ANGERS LGBT FANS. Washington Post writer Bethonie Butler says after Lexa, an openly lesbian character (played by Alycia Debnam-Carey) died on an episode of The 100, a lot of fans of the show vented, although the venting led, among other things, to raising a large amount of money tor the Trevor Project, which runs a suicide hotline for LGBT teens — “TV keeps killing off lesbian characters. The fans of one show have revolted”.

Many fans have stopped watching the show and have redirected their energy to Twitter and Tumblr to vent their frustrations. During the episode following Lexa’s death, fans tweeted with the trending topic LGBT Fans Deserve Better, which has since become an international fan-led initiative. As the show returned Thursday after a two-week hiatus, fans tweeted with Bury Tropes Not Us, sending the topic trending nationally. A fundraising effort has raised more than $113,000 for The Trevor Project, an organization that provides a 24-hour toll-free national suicide hotline and other services for LGBT and questioning youths in crisis.

(10) ASK GANNON ANYTHING. Chuck Gannon announced on Facebook he will be taking questions in a live session on Reddit.

For folks who were among my earliest readers (i.e.; Analog folks), and saw the earliest beginnings of my Caine Riordan / Terran Republic over a decade ago (now thrice Nebula nominated), this is the chance to ask some questions about my stories or what’s to come.

I’ll be on Reddit’s Ask Me Anything. April 20, 2 PM, but u can start leaving questions ~ 11AM EDT. & yes, in addition to answering questions about the craft and biz of being an SF/F author, I will spill beans in re my various series. (And particularly Caine Riordan/ Terran Republic.) PLEASE SHARE! And u can enter ur questions as long as u join Reddit (no cost) for just one day. You’ll be able to drop in by going to the front page of /r/books: https://www.reddit.com/r/books/.

(11) FAAn AWARDS VOTING DEADLINE NEARS. There’s just one week left to vote for the FAAn awards for fanzine activity in 2015. The deadline is midnight on Saturday, April 23. Award administrator Claire Brialey reminds —

So if anyone interested in SF fanzines is looking for something else to occupy their time before the Hugo award shortlists are announced, information about categories and voting can still be found at: http://corflu.org/Corflu33/faan2015.html

People don’t need to be members of Corflu to vote. They just need to have enjoyed some fanzines from 2015 and want to express their opinions about that.

Votes should be sent to me at this address (faansfor2015 [at] gmail [dot] com).

(12) YOUR FELLOW PASSENGERS. Damien G. Walter’s genre overview “Reaching for the stars: a brief history of sci-fi space travel” in The Guardian references Stephen Hawking and David Brin – also Kim Stanley Robinson and some mournful canines:

And the psychology of the human species is so poorly understood that the idea that we might survive for generations together in a big tin can is simply insane. Aurora digs into many of the social and psychological issues of generation ships, but ultimately Robinson is an optimist; a believer in the powers of the rational, scientific mind to overcome all challenges. Meanwhile, the science-fiction writing community can’t even organise the Hugo awards without descending into factionalism worthy of revolutionary France. Think the Sad Puppies are annoying now? Wait until you’re trapped in a space-biome with them.

(13) ASTRONOMICAL PUNCHLINES. David Brin feels like cracking jokes today

Asteroids, gotta love the yummy things.  For example: asteroid 5748 Davebrin made its closest approach to Earth April 4. (1.7 AU). Hey! I can see my house from here! Come on guys, it’s mine so let’s go melt it down and get rich.

And yes, this means it is time for one of our “look up!” postings, here on Contrary Brin!

For example…

Many of you recall the thrilling sight of Jupiter getting whacked multiple times by the comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 in 1994. Now Phil Plait reveals some video taken this month by an amateur astronomer, which appears to reveal another one smacking the King World. And hints there may have been another collision some years ago. Yipe!  This’ll affect the statistics, for sure. No fluke, after all.  As Goldfinger said: “Three times, Mr. Bond, is enemy action.”

(14) PLEONASM INSTRUCTION MANUAL. At SFFWorld Mark Yon reviews the dictionary. But not just any dictionary — “Firefly: The Gorramn Shiniest Dictionary and Phrasebook in the ‘Verse by Monica Valentinelli”.

Nominally it’s as the title suggests – a dictionary/phrasebook of all those words created and amalgamated into the language of the TV series. For those who don’t know, Firefly is a future Western series set in the year 2517, where the language used by Joss Whedon’s characters is a mash-up of English and Mandarin Chinese.

So if you were wondering what words like ‘gorramn’ meant, then here’s the place to look them up. *

The writer, Monica Valentinelli , has a wealth of background that she draws on for this book. She worked on and became the lead developer and writer for the Firefly Role-Playing Game, and it is this that informs her work here. She has also had access to the original TV scripts.

(15) VERTLIEB ON JOINING RONDO HOF. Steve Vertlieb is thrilled to be voted into the Monster Kid Hall of Fame.

I awoke quite late last evening to a congratulatory telephone call from writer pal Jim Burns informing me of the astonishing news that I’d been inducted into The Monster Kid Hall Of Fame, the ultimate honor bestowed by voters in the annual Classic Horror Film Board competition for excellence in genre contribution. I am stunned, choked up, and deeply humbled by this wholly unexpected honor at the CHFB. I’ve been involved in organized fandom since September, 1965, when I attended Forry Ackerman’s very first Famous Monsters of Filmland convention in New York City, and have been a published writer since 1969 with my first published articles in England’s L’Incroyable Cinema Magazine. I dutifully voted this year for many deserving recipients of the “Rondo,” as I do each year, but I NEVER had ANY expectation of ever winning this most loving, prestigious award myself. I am profoundly moved by this wonderful recognition of my work for nearly than half a century, and want to thank everyone who helped behind the scenes to make it a reality. I’d also like to congratulate Mark Redfield and David Del Valle who happily share this distinct honor with me in the Hall Of Fame category, as well as Mark Maddox for his win in the Best Artist category, Gary Rhodes for Writer of the Year, and so many others whose artistic excellence has garnered them a well deserved commendation. I don’t know what else to say just now….except that I am utterly speechless and humbled by this wondrous honor, and most gracious kindness. Thank You all sincerely.

[Thanks to Will R., Martin Morse Wooster, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Will R.]