Pixel Scroll 8/20/21 Curse You, Pixel Scroll, For Your Sudden But Inevitable Betrayal

(1) HOW DRAGON CON IS HANDLING COVID. Atlanta’s Dragon Con, being held September 2-6, devotes an entire webpage to the COVID-related attendance rules at “Updates – Dragon Con”.

Today they also sent members an informational email which says they’re considering offering onside testing (for a fee, see below) to facilitate compliance with their entry requirements.

All 2021 attendees will need to provide proof of full vaccination – OR – a negative Covid-19 test that has been administered within 72 hours of badge pickup. 

Please see our updates page at https://www.dragoncon.org/updates/ for additional details on all health and safety guidelines including the indoor mask mandate.

We are currently working with an outside vendor to potentially offer onsite testing to attendees for a fee of $25 – $40 collected directly by the provider…. 

(2) SHATNER Q&A. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna has a chat with Shat, because William Shatner is going to be a guest at Awesome Con (the Washington, D.C. media con) this weekend. Shatner shares news on his latest projects, including his new album Bill and spending five days with StoryFile “for interactive conversational-video technology” so fans can ask questions of the William Shatner hologram! “William Shatner, at 90, keeps seeking that next personal frontier”.

…Shatner, a veteran performer of spoken-word tunes, has an album due out next month simply called “Bill.” Some of the songs are inspired by events in his life, and his collaborators included They Might Be Giants songwriter-musician Dan Miller.

He also enjoyed teaming with the L.A.-based company StoryFile to spend five days recording answers for interactive conversational-video technology. He was filmed with 3-D cameras so his words can be delivered via hologram.

The idea, he says, is that people will be able to push a button and ask questions of a virtual celebrity — like “asking Grandpa questions at his gravestone,” but with technologically advanced replies.

(3) JOB APPLICANT. “Babylon 5 boss has ‘contacted’ BBC over Doctor Who showrunner job” reports Radio Times.

Last month, Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski threw his hat into the ring to become the new Doctor Who showrunner, tweeting his interest in replacing Chris Chibnall when the latter steps down in 2022.

And now Straczynski has issued an update on the situation, revealing that contact has been made with the BBC about the soon-to-be vacancy for Doctor Who showrunner.

Replying to a fan who asked what the situation was on Twitter, he wrote, “Contact with the BBC has been made. They’re going through their own process, which began before my tweet, and that has to run its course, but if those don’t pan out and there’s a discussion to be had, they will reach out.”…

(4) OUT OF JEOPARDY! Meanwhile, Jeopardy! jettisoned Mike Richards as the replacement host after some troubling quotes from his old podcast were publicized. The Hollywood Reporter has the story: “Mike Richards Out as ‘Jeopardy!’ Host After Podcast Comments”. Whether this reopens LeVar Burton’s candidacy remains to be seen.

…Sony released the following statement which confirmed that Richards will continue on as the show’s executive producer, if not as Alex Trebek’s successor: “We support Mike’s decision to step down as host. We were surprised this week to learn of Mike’s 2013/2014 podcast and the offensive language he used in the past. We have spoken with him about our concerns and our expectations moving forward. Mike has been with us for the last two years and has led the Jeopardy! team through the most challenging time the show has ever experienced. It is our hope that as EP he will continue to do so with professionalism and respect.”

Sony also confirmed the episodes Richards shot on Thursday will still air during the upcoming season as scheduled, followed by a rotation of guest hosts until a new permanent host is selected….

(5) MAGAZINE DEBUTS. The first issue of Witch House, a new magazine of cosmic and gothic horror, is now available.

Witch House Issue 1 is now available. You can download it here. This issue includes several great stories and poems. Thanks to Chase Folmar (Associate Editor), Luke E. Dodd (Associate Editor), and all our great contributors for helping us release this issue. We hope you enjoy it!

(6) SCHASCARYZADE. Netflix dropped a trailer for Nightbooks, with Krysten Ritter.

Scary story fan Alex must tell a spine-tingling tale every night — or stay trapped with his new friend in a wicked witch’s magical apartment forever.

(7) BUTLER BIO. “Octavia E. Butler Biography Reveal: Star Child by Ibi Zoboi”Gizmodo previews the cover at the link. The book will be released January 25; it’s available for preorder now.

An author as distinctive as Science Fiction Hall of Fame member Octavia E. Butler (KindredThe Parable of the Sowerdeserves an equally distinctive biography—which is exactly why Ibi Zoboi’s Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler is so exciting. Described as “a poignant biography in verse and prose,” the book, which is aimed at middle-grade readers but is truly universal, explores Butler’s childhood and how it informed her award-winning, influential literary career.

Zoboi—a National Book Award finalist for her YA novel American Street—actually studied with Butler at the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop before Butler passed away in 2006. Star Child showcases Butler’s “own words and photos of documents from her childhood,” bolstered by Zoboi’s research on Butler’s papers at Los Angeles’ Huntington Library. 

(8) LISTEN IN. Stephen Graham Jones, who’s already won several awards this year, will do an author talk about his book My Heart is a Chainsaw on August 31 at 7:00 p.m. Mountain time. Free livestream, register here.

(9) MURPHY OBIT. Jill Murphy, author of the Worst Witch series of children’s books, died August 18. The Guardian has a profile: “Jill Murphy, children’s author and illustrator, dies aged 72”.

… Murphy started writing The Worst Witch while still at school, completing her first manuscript at the age of 18. Her mother once commented that Murphy and her two friends looked like witches in their dark school uniforms, which gave the author the idea for her first book.

Murphy initially struggled to publish her first novel, as many publishers at the time worried that children would find the book about witches too frightening. But the tale of clumsy young witch Mildred Hubble and her adventures at Miss Cackle’s Academy stole the hearts of generations of children, selling more than 3m copies and becoming one of the most successful Young Puffin titles.

Murphy’s books went on to win many major awards, including the Smarties prize for The Last Noo-Noo. Peace at Last and All in One Piece were both commended for the Kate Greenaway Medal. She was also an honorary fellow of Falmouth University….

(10) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1974 – Forty seven years ago at Discon II where andrew j. offutt was Toastmaster, Arthur C. Clarke won the Hugo for Best Novel for Rendezvous with Rama. Other nominated works that year were Robert A. Heinlein’s Time Enough for Love, Larry Niven’s Protector, Poul Anderson‘s The People of the Wind and David Gerrold‘s The Man Who Folded Himself. It was a popular choice as it would also win a BSFA, John W. Campbell Memorial Award, a Locus Best Novel Award and a Nebula Award. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 20, 1883 Austin Tappan Wright. Did you know that Islandia wasn’t published when he was alive? His widow edited his fifteen hundred page manuscript for publication, and following her own death in 1937 their daughter Sylvia further edited and cut the text yet more; the resulting novel, shorn of Wright’s appendices, was published in 1942, along with a pamphlet by Basil Davenport, An introduction to Islandia; its history, customs, laws, language, and geography, based on the original supplementary material. Is there a full, unedited version? (Died 1931.)
  • Born August 20, 1932 Anthony Ainley. He was the fourth actor to play the role of the Master, and the first actor to portray the Master as a recurring role since the death of Roger Delgado in 1973. He appeared in eleven stories with the Fourth through Seventh Doctors.  It is noted that enjoyed the role so much that sources note he even stayed in character when not portraying The Master by using both the voice and laugh in social situations. (Died 2004.)
  • Born August 20, 1943 Sylvester McCoy, 78. The Seventh Doctor and the last canon Doctor until the modern era of the official BBC Doctors when they revised canon. He also played Radagast in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films, he’s The Old Man of Hoy in Sense8 and he voices Aezethril the Wizard in the “Endgame” episode of Thunderbirds Are Go
  • Born August 20, 1951 Greg Bear, 70. Blood Music which won a Nebula Award, and a Hugo Award at L.A. Con II in its original novelette form is a amazing read. His novels Moving Mars and Darwin’s Radio are also Nebula winners, and he has other short fiction award winners. I’m also very fond of the Songs of Earth and Power duology, The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage, and found his Queen of Angels a fascinating mystery. He’s deeply stocked at the usual suspects. 
  • Born August 20, 1961 Greg Egan, 60. Australian writer who does exist though he does his damnedest to avoid a digital footprint. His excellent  Permutation City won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award  and “Oceanic” garnered a Best Novella Hugo at Ausiecon Three. And he’s won a lot of Ditmar Awards.
  • Born August 20, 1962 Sophie Aldred, 59. She’s Ace, the Seventh Doctor’s Companion. (By the way Doctor Who Magazine: Costume Design: Dressing the Doctor from William Hartnell to Jodie Whittaker is a brilliant read and has a nice look at her costuming.) She’s reprised the role in the Big Finish audio adventures, and she’s recently written Doctor Who: At Childhood’s End where Ace meets the Thirteenth Doctor. 
  • Born August 20, 1963 Justina Vail Evans, 58. Olga Vukavitch in Seven Days, a series I thought was extremely well-crafted. She shows up in other genre undertakings such as Super ForceConanJourney to The Center of The EarthThe Adventures of SuperboyThe X-FilesCarnosaur 3: Primal SpeciesConan and Highlander: The Series

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Onion is dead on about the intersection between climate change and space travel! But didn’t someone already write Garbage Planet?
  • The Oatmeal did this comic to commemorate Gene Roddenberry’s 100th birthday yesterday.

(13) TURNING THE CAMERA AROUND. After reading The Oatmeal linked above, you realize there’s a lot more material to work with than just his career in TV: “Gene Roddenberry Biopic In Works With ‘You Don’t Know Jack’ Scribe Adam Mazer” – details at Deadline.

Roddenberry Entertainment has been working quietly on a feature biopic of the sci-fi TV icon, and there is a script by Adam Mazer, whose credits include the Emmy-winning script for the 2010 HBO movie You Don’t Know Jack which starred Al Pacino as Dr. Jack Kevorkian.

Producers include Star Trek caretakers Rod Roddenberry and Trevor Roth, who executive produce all current franchise series including Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard. Next up the development will be finding a director and actors.

… There’s no shortage of subject matter surrounding Roddenberry, the fighter pilot-turned-LAPD cop-turned-TV writer who survived two plane crashes and the rough waters of Hollywood to create Star Trek, one of the world’s most enduring sci-fi franchises, with the original 1966-69 TV series eventually spawning spinoffs, movies, books and a legion of hard-core fans.

(14) THE THREE BLAHS OF ROBOTICS. [Item by Michael Kennedy.] Not satisfied with developing cars that can drive themselves (HINT: not there yet), Elon Musk is now saying he intends to develop humanoid robots to do dangerous and boring tasks. So far he seems to have this mission statement, a slide deck, plus someone dressed in a skintight suit and wearing a helmet. “Tesla Bot: Elon Musk Unveils Humanoid Robot to do ‘Boring’ work” at Bloomberg.

… The Tesla Bot, a prototype of which should be available next year, is designed to eliminate “dangerous, repetitive and boring tasks,” like bending over to pick something up, or go to the store for groceries, Musk said. “Essentially, in the future, physical work will be a choice.”…

(15) THE CLOCK IS RUNNING. Filers might find today’s New Yorker “Name Drop” puzzle of interest.

(16) INSIDE A PERRIN GAME. James Davis Nicoll tells how “Steve Perrin’s Worlds of Wonder Changed the Game for RPGs” at Tor.com.

Emmet Asher-Perrin’s worthy obit for Steve Perrin mentions such Perrin-related projects as StormbringerCall of CthulhuThieves’ WorldElfquestRobot Warriors, and (of course!) Superworld. One fascinating Perrin work that often goes unmentioned, probably due to the fact that it has become a comparatively obscure work, is 1982’s groundbreaking Worlds of Wonder. You may not have encountered it, but odds are that you’ve seen and played later games that it inspired or influenced.

The 9½ x 12 x 1 inch box for this game contained four 16-page booklets: Basic Role-PlayingMagic WorldSuperworld, and Future World.  Assisting Steve Perrin were Steve Henderson, Gordon Monson, Greg Stafford, Lynn Willis and others. Roleplaying game design tends to be a team effort….

(17) IT IS THE END, MY FRIEND. This week’s PBS Space Time looks at the end of everything, including beyond File 770… The universe is going to end. But of all the possible ends of the universe vacuum decay would have to be the most thorough – because it could totally rewrite the laws of physics. How terrified should you be….? 

(18) MOONING PEOPLE. The Old Farmer’s Almanac encourages us to look: “Full Moon August Appears to Shine All Weekend”.

On all three nights, the Moon will be tangled together with the planets Jupiter and Saturn. Very close to Saturn on Friday night, right amidst both brilliant Jupiter and less-bright Saturn on Saturday, and forming a line with them when it’s full on Sunday. Read about super-bright Jupiter which is at its best right now….

And there are more reasons at the link.

(19) A PERTINENT PEW POLL. Pew on belief in space aliens. Graphs at the link. “Religious Americans less likely to believe intelligent life exists beyond Earth” at Pew Research Center.

….This is evidenced by a variety of measures of religious engagement. For example, U.S. Christians are far less likely than religiously unaffiliated Americans to say that their “best guess” is that intelligent life exists on other planets (57% vs. 80%). And U.S. adults who attend religious services on at least a weekly basis are considerably less likely than those who seldom or never attend services to say that intelligent life exists elsewhere (44% vs. 75%).

Similarly, around half of Americans who say religion is very important to them (49%) say their best guess is that intelligent life exists on other planets. By comparison, roughly three-quarters of those who say that religion is less important in their lives (76%) say that intelligent life exists elsewhere. …

(20) HOW DOGS THINK. So far, it appears that no dog has learned how to cheat at their version of the Kobayashi Maru test. ”How dogs think, learn, communicate and problem-solve” in the Washington Post.

…By way of example, he talked about dogs he has worked with for the U.S. Marine Corps, compared with dogs he has worked with for Canine Companions for Independence in California. The Marines needed dogs in places like Afghanistan to help sniff out incendiary devices, while the companions agency needed dogs that were good at helping people with disabilities.

Just looking at both types of purpose-bred dogs, most people would think they’re the same — to the naked eye, they all look like Labrador retrievers, and on paper, they would all be considered Labrador retrievers. But behaviorally and cognitively, because of their breeding for specific program purposes, Hare said, they were different in many ways.

Hare devised a test that could tell them apart in two or three minutes. It’s a test that’s intentionally impossible for the dog to solve — what Star Trek fans would recognize as the Kobayashi Maru. In Hare’s version, the dog was at first able to get a reward from inside a container whose lid was loosely secured and easy to dislodge; then, the reward was placed inside the same container with the lid locked and unable to be opened. Just as Starfleet was trying to figure out what a captain’s character would lead him to do in a no-win situation, Hare’s team was watching whether the dog kept trying to solve the test indefinitely, or looked to a human for help.

“What we found is that the dogs that ask for help are fantastic at the assistance-dog training, and the dogs that persevere and try to solve the problem no matter what are ideal for the detector training,” Hare said. “It’s not testing to see which dog is smart or dumb. What we’ve been able to show is that some of these measures tell you what jobs these dogs would be good at.”…

(21) SMASHING DISCOVERY. Nature reports “Exotic Four-Quark Particle Spotted At Large Hadron Collider”.

Rare tetraquark could help physicists to test theories about strong nuclear force.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is also a big hadron discoverer. The atom smasher near Geneva, Switzerland, is famous for demonstrating the existence of the Higgs boson in 2012, a discovery that slotted into place the final keystone of the current classification of elementary particles. But the LHC has also netted dozens of the non-elementary particles called hadrons — those that, like protons and neutrons, are made of quarks.

The latest hadron made its debut at the virtual meeting of the European Physical Society on 29 July, when particle physicist Ivan Polyakov at Syracuse University in New York unveiled a previously unknown exotic hadron made of four quarks. This brought the LHC’s hadron bounty up to 62, according to a tally kept by Patrick Koppenburg, a particle physicist. Tetraquarks are extremely unusual: most known hadrons are made up of either two or three quarks. The first tetraquark was spotted at the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK) in Tsukuba, Japan, in 2003, and LHCb has seen several more. But the new one is an oddity. Previous tetraquarks were likely to be pairs of ordinary quark doublets attached to each other like atoms in a molecule, but theoretical physicist Marek Karliner thinks that the latest one could be a genuine, tightly bound quadruplet. “It’s the first of its kind,” says Karliner, who is at Tel Aviv University in Israel and helped to predict the existence of a particle with the same properties as Tcc in 2017.

(22) REFERENCE DIRECTOR. Today’s Scroll title was inspired by this Firefly clip. Which doesn’t mean we’re going to start explaining the titles, it is just a good excuse to include a moment from the series.

(23) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the spoiler-filled “Honest Trailers: The Suicide Squad” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say the one thing that every character in the film has “traumatic parent issues,” that director James Gunn replaced the overlong character introductions in Suicide Squad with no introductions at all, and Viola Davis has “way too much talent and elegance to be in a film with Pete Davidson in it.”

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Cora Buhlert, John A Arkansawyer, James Davis Nicoll, David K.M. Klaus, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, JJ, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day JJ.]

Pixel Scroll 12/15/20 All These Pixels Are Yours. Except Europa. Attempt No Scrolling There

(1) INTRODUCING BUTLER TO NEW READERS. Elizabeth Connor describes the work of “repackaging the Patternist Series for the Mother of Afrofuturism” in “How to Give Octavia Butler the Covers She Deserves” at Literary Hub.

…After some back and forth—and plenty of discussion with the editor acting as mediator—we determined that by elegant, they likely meant more stylized human forms in more sophisticated poses, as well as a textural or brushy quality to the art (as there had been on the Parable books), that lent an air of being hand-drawn rather than machine-made. As for dynamic, we soon understood that the symmetry of the earliest comps was what the agent and estate were reacting against. By simply breaking the vertical axis and giving each cover a certain degree of asymmetry—even as the figures revolved around a central “moon” shape that remained static—they felt much more alive. The designer came back with revisions and, in relatively quick succession, Wild Seed and Mind of My Mind had approved covers…

(2) DIFFERENT WISDOM. At the SFWA Blog, Sunny Moraine says “Explicit Sex Scenes and the Work of Stories” are far from mutually exclusive.

The origins of this piece lie in an annoyed Twitter thread I posted, in response to a tweet (possibly joking, I don’t know) to the effect of “movies shouldn’t have sex scenes in them, we’re past that now”. 

The origins of my annoyance go back a lot further. 

I’ve been writing explicit sex pretty much since I began writing. Like many of us, I got my start in fanfiction, and while fanfiction’s reputation for being heavily smut-focused isn’t entirely deserved, it isn’t entirely undeserved, either. Which is rather the point, because given that I started out writing a lot of explicit sex, I learned quite early just how much story-work one can do with a well-written sex scene. Especially a very explicit one, without a judicious fade-to-black or Vaseline on the camera lens. 

I want to be clear about something: I am not claiming ultimate authority over what a “good” sex scene consists of. Sex scenes, like sex itself, are highly subjective and personal, and different people will find that different things resonate. 

That said, my opinion is that a good sex scene is usually sexy, and one of the best ways to be sexy is to go deep into not only the physical descriptions of what’s happening, but also what’s going through these characters’ heads as they’re doing the sex. 

Which is one of the places where we get into the work explicit sex can do in a story, and in a way really no other kind of scene can manage in precisely this way….

(3) GETTING THE WORD OUT AND THE DOLLARS IN. James Van Pelt shares “The Frustrations (and the Surprising Successes) of Marketing Your Book” at Black Gate.

…Marketing is easy. Effective marketing that actually sells books, however, is hard. My son works for Facebook, so he helped me with an advertising campaign on the platform. We had a $250 budget for one of my collections, The Experience Arcade and Other Stories. One of the ads reached 1,900 readers. 103 people clicked on it. We did sell books, but not enough to pay back our investment. We found the same pattern to be true on the other books we promoted on Facebook….

(4) ON THE PINNACLE. The Hugo Book Club Blog surveys the top sff awards and why they are in “The Award For Best Award”.

… There are in fact enough award systems to warrant the effort of analysis to help decide which awards are worth paying attention to. Of course, dichotomous and divisive “success or failure” judgments are less useful than comparing how they’re organized and speculating about what might contribute to a robust and respected award. Examining the growing pains of recently created awards and thinking about why several smaller awards have managed to establish long-term relevance can also be helpful….

(5) SFRA. The Fall 2020 issue of the Science Fiction Research Association’s SFRA Review is available to download. Many articles and reviews, including an update from Rachel Cordasco about SF in Translation.

(6) WITH OR WITHOUT CHIPS. “’Scenarios of disruption’: Sci-fi writers asked to help guard France” – Australia’s The Age has the story,

Attacks from floating pirate states and hackers on soldiers with neural implants are just two scenarios dreamed up by a “Red Team” of 10 leading science fiction writers tasked with helping the French army anticipate future threats to national security.

“Astonish us, shake us up, take us out of our habits and comfort zone,” Florence Parly, the French defence minister, told the writers at a Defence Innovation Forum this month.

Many of the “scenarios of disruption” that they have been asked to imagine to challenge military planners are to remain top secret to avoid giving ideas to potential enemies. They were asked to stick to potential threats between 2030 and 2060….

(7) SWATTING A NEW FIREFLY. [Item by Olav Rokne.] One for the “wishful thinking” file. Questionably sourced rumors are bouncing around the internet about a Disney+ Firefly reboot. As much as I would love to believe this, I gotta express significant skepticism.  Adam Whitehead does a pretty good job of analyzing why this rumour likely ain’t true at The Wertzone: “RUMOUR: FIREFLY reboot under consideration for Disney+”.

… I find this rumour dubious for multiple reasons. The first is that Firefly‘s fanbase remains, despite the passage of almost twenty years, both voluble and passionate. Rebooting the show from scratch and dropping the previous actors and continuity would go down very badly. The second is that Firefly‘s universe was designed from scratch to be slightly more morally murky and complex, and that’s part of the show’s appeal. Making it more PG (or PG-13, if you’re in the USA) seems pointless. …

(8) NEW ALLEGATION AGAINST FLEGAL. Artist Sovereign has attached a three-page statement to her tweet: “Trigger warning: Sexual harassment / 1FW. I am speaking up about the harassment I received from Sam Flegal of One Fantastic Week. I’ve been quiet long enough and there are too many that still deserve an apology.”

(9) SEPTEMBER SONG. The date for a Chicago pulp collectors’ event is sliding later in 2021: “Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention Announces Rescheduled 2021 Dates of September 9 – 12, 2021”. Full details at the link. Doug Ellis begins —

As 2020 draws to a close, we’re feeling pretty confident that we will be able to hold our show in 2021.  However, given the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic and the timing on the various vaccines, we became increasingly concerned that it would not be feasible or prudent to hold our show as originally scheduled from April 15-18, 2021.

We can now announce that we’ve reached an agreement with our hotel (the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center in Lombard, Illinois) to reschedule the convention to September 9-12, 2021. The location of the convention remains the same….

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY

1984 — The Winter 1984 issue of the Missouri Review which was undated had Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Trouble with the Cotton People”, the very first of her Kesh stories that would become part of her Always Coming Home novel which was first published by Harper & Row the following year. Nominated for the Mythopoetic Fantasy Award, it would lose out to Barry Hugart’s Bridge of Birds. Library of America published the Always Coming Home: Author’s Expanded Edition last year. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 15, 1923 Freeman Dyson. Physicist best known in genre circles for the concept he theorized of a Dyson Sphere which would be built by a sufficiently technologically advanced species around a sun to harvest all solar energy. He credited Olaf Stapledon in Star Maker (1937), in which he described “every solar system… surrounded by a gauze of light traps, which focused the escaping solar energy for intelligent use” with first coming up with the concept. (Died 2020.) (CE) 
  • Born December 15, 1935 – Alma Jo Williams.  Five dozen reviews in SF Review.  Raised horses; earned a washin-ryu black belt; forty years at Cornell in the Baker Institute for Animal Health.  Of the 1984 Dune movie she said “The photography is gorgeous, the music appropriate, the special effects … well integrated….  The metamorphosed Guild navigators are laughable….  the evil of the Harkonnens was caricatured…. Only Sting, as Feyd, projected … subtle nastiness”.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born December 15, 1937 John Sladek. Weird and ambitious would be ways to describe his work. The Complete Roderick Is quite amazing as is Tik-Tok which won a BSFA and Bugs as well. He did amazing amounts of short fiction, much of which is collected finally in the ironically named Maps: The Uncollected John Sladek. (Died 2000.) (CE) 
  • Born December 15, 1944 – Ru Emerson, age 76.  Two dozen novels, a dozen shorter stories.  Under another name she has two recipes in Serve It Forth.  Sings, plays guitar, flies stunt kites, a little Irish hardshoe.  [JH]
  • Born December 15, 1944 – John Guidry, age 76.  Chaired DeepSouthCon 9 & 11, Nolacon II the 46th Worldcon.  Founded ERB-apa (Edgar Rice Burroughs fans).  Rebel Award.  Fan Guest of Honor at DSC 53.  [JH]
  • Born December 15, 1945 – Steve Vertlieb, age 75.  Often seen here.  Mr. James H. Burns gave him this tribute on his 70th, with photos and links.  [JH]
  • Born December 15, 1951 David Bischoff. He actually started his career writing out for Perry Rhodan. His “Tin Woodman” which was written with Dennis Bailey and nominated for a Nebula would be adapted into a Next Generation story, and he’s continued the Bill the Galactic Hero story with Harry Harrison.  He’s also written a kickass excellent Farscape novel, Ship of Ghosts. (Died 2018.) (CE) 
  • Born December 15, 1953  Robert Charles Wilson, 67. He won the Hugo Award for Best Novel for Spin, a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for The Chronoliths, a Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award  for the novelette “The Cartesian Theater” and Prix Aurora Awards for the novels Blind Lake and Darwinia. Impressive indeed. He also garnered a Philip K. Dick Award for Mysterium. (CE) 
  • Born December 15, 1953 – J.M. DeMatteis, age 67.  Like many comics stars, has done substantial work for both DC and Marvel, including television.  Eisner Award.  Wrote Abadazad for CrossGen, then when Disney acquired it, three Abadazad books.  One novel.  One album from his years as a musician.  [JH]
  • Born December 15, 1954 Alex Cox, 66. Ahhh the Director who back in the early Eighties gave us Repo Man. And did you know that he got a co-writer credit for the screenplay of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas before it was completely rewritten by Gilliam? And as we know he directed a student film version of Harry Harrison’s Bill, the Galactic Hero at University of Colorado Boulder just a few years ago! (CE) 
  • Born December 15, 1958 – Leslie Smith, age 62.  Co-chaired Ditto 7 (fanziners’ con; named for a brand of spirit-duplicator machine).  Fanzine, Duprass (see Cat’s Cradle) with Linda Bushyager.  [JH]
  • Born December 15, 1981 Krysten Ritter, 39. She played Jessica Jones on the series of that name and was in The Defenders as well. She had a recurring role in the Veronica Mars series which a lot of a lot is us adore (it’s one of the series that Charles de Lint and his wife MaryAnn Hartis are avid followers of, and they contributed to the film Kickstarter) and I supposed it’s sort of genre adjacent, isn’t it? (Do not analyze that sentence.) She’s been in a number of horror flicks as well, but nothing I groked.  (CE)
  • Born December 15, 1982 Charlie Cox, 38. He played the role of Matt Murdock / Daredevil in Netflix’s Daredevil and The Defenders, was Tristan Thorn Thorn in Stardust based off the Gaiman novel and Dennis Bridger in the remake of A for Andromeda. (CE)

(12) SF AND WORKERS’ RIGHTS. FutureCon will stream a panel about “Capitalism and workers’ rights on Science Fiction” on Saturday, December 19 at 12 p.m. (noon US Eastern Time). Participants will be Alec Nevala-Lee (USA), Alexey Dodsworth, (Brazil) Fabio Fernandes (Brazil, host), Jorge Baradit (Chile), Marie Vibbert (USA), and Olav Rokne (Canada).

(13) PAWS IN THE ACTION. Sean D talks about a “gorgeous novella” at Nerds of a Feather: “Microreview [Book]: When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain by Nghi Vo”.

It’s hard to pen a story in which the lines are blurred but the narrative is always clear. Ambiguity and warring perspectives can hurricane into incomprehensible pandemonium. However, When the Tiger Came Down the Mountain manages to have characters who not only inhabit both the bodies of animals and humans, but have characters performing oral storytelling that’s just as fluid. What kept me engaged wasn’t rigidity and linearity, but a narrative voice that always had control with a grip greater than any rigidity….

(14) A SFF LOOK AT POLICING. No Police = Know Future edited by James Beamon is available in both print and electronic formats from publisher Amazing Stories and online book outlets.

When the concept of defunding the police (a concept we believe really means re-examining and reforming the concept of policing), arose during this year’s protests, we saw a perfect opportunity to put those beliefs into practice.

James Beamon, our editor, put it this way in his solicitation:

“After the brutal murder of George Floyd by the police, the world responded in righteous protest, with cries of “Black Lives Matter.” The police responded to these calls in large part with even more brutality, with video after video emerging that showed an assault on the public. And more cries came forth, with calls to defund the police.

But what’s that mean?

Science Fiction writers, this is your call to arms. Give us your potential (and hopefully positive) futures that involve alternatives to modern day policing. We want stories that replace the police entirely, dramatically reform them, or create parallel systems to refocus policing. We’re also seeking alternate concepts of rehabilitation and punishment as well, more emphasis on the carrot. In a world where police are perpetually brandishing their batons, I think we’ve all seen enough sticks.”

The stories collected in this volume –

  • Ryan Priest – Pro Bono Detectives
  • Lettie Prell – Justice Systems in Quantum Parallel Probabilities
  • Jared Oliver Adams – All the Mister Rogerses From Bethel A.M.E.
  • P.T. MacKim – Well Regulated
  • Minister Faust – Freeze Police
  • Stewart C. Baker – Maricourt’s Waters Quiet and Deep
  • Ira Naymen – When the Call Comes In
  • Holly Schofield – One Bad Apple
  • Brontë Christopher Wieland – Apogee, Effigy, Storm
  • Jewelle Gomez – A More Perfect Union
  • Anatoly Belilovsky – Tax Day

(15) IN GENERAL. Paul Weimer finds much to like here: “Microreview [book]: Machine by Elizabeth Bear” at Nerds of a Feather.

… Bear calls out in the acknowledgements the inspiration for Core General that was to me delightfully obvious but perhaps newer readers to SF might not be aware of. James White’s Sector General stories and novels describe the adventures of a hospital in space, and Bear’s Core General is clearly a spiritual successor and heir to White’s ideas. Bear of course brings her own sensibilities and ideas to a Hospital in Space but the bones of the homage are there, and the social mores and ideas of White’s novels are updated for modern sensibilities.  This is also done a bit explicitly within the novel itself, as corpsicles found on Big Rock Candy Mountain have some rather archaic, primitive, frankly offensive and un-Synarchy-like ideas about many things. There is a culture clash and some real conflict between Jens and the rest of the Synarchy with Helen, the AI of Big Rock Candy Mountain, and the crew of the ship that they manage to unfreeze and revive….

(16) THE NEXT RIGHT STUFF. “NASA Names Artemis Team of Astronauts Eligible for Early Moon Missions” – the names and brief bios are at the link.

NASA has selected 18 astronauts from its corps to form the Artemis Team and help pave the way for the next astronaut missions on and around the Moon as part of the Artemis program.

…The astronauts on the Artemis Team come from a diverse range of backgrounds, expertise, and experience. The agency’s modern lunar exploration program will land the first woman and next man on the Moon in 2024 and establish a sustainable human lunar presence by the end of the decade.

NASA will announce flight assignments for astronauts later, pulling from the Artemis Team. Additional Artemis Team members, including international partner astronauts, will join this group, as needed….

(17) ROCKING THE MARKET. In “Making A Point With Moon Rocks” on National Review Online, Texas Tech economist Alexander William Salter says that NASA’s contracts to acquire moon rocks (or what is technically “lunar regolith”) is “a clever strategy to nudge space policy in a pro-commerce direction” since the purchases would show that private property can be created on the Moon, a position left ambiguous in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967.

.. NASA’s purchase of moon dirt is a clever strategic move to nudge space policy in a pro-commerce direction. The United States government isn’t violating Article II [of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty], because it’s not appropriating real estate. And it’s not violating Article VI, since it’s up to Congress to determine the extent of monitoring and policing duties. What the NASA program does is create a test case for first harvesting, and then selling, outer-space resources. As David Henderson and I have argued, “Given the vagueness of international space law on property rights, the precedents created by national space law will have a decisive role in shaping the future space environment. Hence, NASA’s actions can support a pro-business turn not just for the United States, but also for the international community as a whole.” …

(18) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. From Fast Company: “What toys from the past can tell us about how we predict the future”.

… What if those predictions actually ended up affecting how the future unfolds, like self-fulfilling prophecies? It’s a question plaguing futurists, and now a project is trying to illustrate the problem by showing how things created in the past have colored the present. The simplest examples—items that truly shape the minds of our next generations—come in the form of children’s toys.

The Museum of Future History’s first exhibition, Toying With Tomorrow: Playthings That Anticipated the Here and Now, is curated by experimental philosopher Jonathon Keats and timed to debut at the UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) High-Level Futures Literacy Summit.

The idea was sparked by a growing concern among futurists, Keats says, that we have been “colonizing the future” with visions and predictions of what it will bring, and that those visions limit the opportunities or possibilities of those future generations. But this can be an abstract concept to grasp.

“What we needed was some way in which people could recognize the phenomenon in their own lives, and they could use that as a means by which to consider what sorts of predictions they make, what sort of impact those predictions might have going forward—individually as well as collectively in a society,” Keats explains. “Toys have a very direct way in which they influence the future through the children who play with them.”…

(19) WW84. “Gal Gadot, Patty Jenkins share Wonder Woman 1984 opening scene at red carpet” and SYFY Wire is there.

It’s one thing to watch Diana grow up slowly — something Wonder Woman fans delighting in witnessing as star Gal Gadot lassoed a new generation of hearts in director Patty Jenkins’ 2017 blockbuster. But it’s something else entirely to watch our Amazon hero surge from past to present at lightning speed — leaping out of her idyllic childhood and into the mean city streets — in the butt-kickin’ romp that welcomes viewers to the opening moments of Wonder Woman 1984….

(20) SPACELANES. [Item by Daniel Dern.]  Via Slashdot: “Astronomers Discover Cosmic ‘Superhighways’ For Fast Travel Through the Solar System”. Not faster than light, more like “a faster lane on the service road” IMHO.

Invisible structures generated by gravitational interactions in the Solar System have created a “space superhighway” network, astronomers have discovered. ScienceAlert reports:By applying analyses to both observational and simulation data, a team of researchers led by Natasa Todorovic of Belgrade Astronomical Observatory in Serbia observed that these superhighways consist of a series of connected arches inside these invisible structures, called space manifolds — and each planet generates its own manifolds, together creating what the researchers have called “a true celestial autobahn.” This network can transport objects from Jupiter to Neptune in a matter of decades, rather than the much longer timescales, on the order of hundreds of thousands to millions of years, normally found in the Solar System….

(21) MORE ABOUT BEN BOVA. The New York Times ran Ben Bova’s obituary. To accompany that note, here are a couple of Andrew Porter’s photos of Bova (sent direct to 770, not from the NYT.)

…Ben Bova was a hard-science guy — and a passionate space program booster — and his visions of the future encompassed a dizzying array of technological advances (and resulting horrors or delights), including cloning, sex in space, climate change, the nuclear arms race, Martian colonies and the search for extraterrestrials. In newspaper articles, short stories and more than 100 books, he explored these and other knotty human problems….

(22) BOVA FINDS. And let Tor.com contributor James Davis Nicoll tell you about “Five SFF Authors Discovered by Ben Bova”. The second of these is —

John M. Ford’s first professionally published story was “This, Too, We Reconcile,” published in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, May 1976. In it, a telepath is hired to read the mind of a martyr to determine if the dead man saw anything of the afterlife as he died and if so, what that afterlife is like. Rather alarmingly, the telepath is the second person hired for the job, his predecessor having committed suicide immediately after reading the martyr’s mind. This has all the earmarks of a task from which one should flee posthaste, but unluckily for our protagonist, his diligence outweighs his prudence.

This is admittedly a minor Ford, which may explain why it was never collected in either of the two Ford collections, From the End of the Twentieth Century (1997), and Heat of Fusion and Other Stories (2004). Nor has it been included in any anthology of which I am aware. Still, Bova saw enough in the story to help launch a career that lasted until Ford’s untimely death in 2006.

(23) HONESTY IS THE FUNNIEST POLICY. [By Martin Morse Wooster.]In “Honest Game Trailers: Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales” on YouTube, Fandom Games says even though you’re not playing Peter Parker, you can still fly through a very well-detailed New York City and (virtually) cause billions in property damage!

Also dropping today: In “Honest Trailers: Lost” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies sum up the six-season series by saying the characters asked so many questions in the show “The creators got tired of answering them” and that there was so much psychodrama “the writers room needed therapy.”

Fun fact:  the reason why the flight that crashed in show was Oceanic Airlines Flight 646 was that was the flight in the action film Executive Decision.

[Thanks to Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Cat Eldridge, James Davis Nicoll, Michael J. Walsh, Daniel Dern, Olav Rokne, Steve Davidson, Doug Ellis, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Olav Rokne.]

Pixel Scroll 12/13/20 It’s The Pixel To Scroll When You’re Scrolling More Than One

(1) THE VALUE IN EXPERIMENTING. Nino Cipri offers some sff writing pointers. Thread starts here.

(2) BABY FOOD. Beware spoilers – but not spoilage: ‘The Mandalorian’ Season 2: A Baby Yoda food diary”) in the LA Times.

Babies have to eat — and Grogu is no different.

During the second season of “The Mandalorian,” Grogu, long referred to by fans as Baby Yoda, has been shown eating everything from a froglike alien’s eggs to fancy blue cookies. The popular Disney+ series could easily spawn a spinoff called “The Best Thing Baby Yoda Ever Ate.”

As of the seventh episode of Season 2, titled “The Believer,” Baby Yoda remains a captive of Moff Gideon and his Imperial forces. Hopefully, the Empire remembers to feed its prisoners, because Grogu is one hungry baby, if previous episodes are anything to go by.

Until Mando and Baby Yoda are reunited (and hopefully throw a celebratory feast), here’s a look back at everything Baby Yoda has been seen eating during the show so far.

(3) DINO TIMES. The Los Angeles Public Library did an “Interview With an Author: David Gerrold” about his new novel Hella.

How did the novel evolve and change as you wrote and revised it? Are there any characters or scenes that were lost in the process that you wish had made it to the published version?

I had a first draft that sat on my computer for a couple of years. It wasn’t bad, but it needed a polish. And the ending was unsatisfying. I offered it to Betsy Wollheim at DAW. I really admire her. She understands the genre better than most because she grew up in it. Her dad, Donald A. Wollheim, was one of the most underrated movers and shakers in the field. She suggested that I rethink the ending and I came up with a much stronger resolution, one that was a much better payoff. So I have to give her the credit for making Hella a better book.

(4) PRO TIP. In Isaac Asimov’s autobiography In Memory Yet Green he discusses how he continued to write letters in the pages of science fiction magazines even after he became a professional.

I began to enjoy less the writing of letters.  Yet I did write them, and often quarreled with writers who objected to something or other in one of my stories–until I received a letter from the writer Nelson S. Bond (whom I met briefly at the World Convention in 1939, and never again), saying that now that I was a professional, I should stop slugging it out in fan columns.  I took that seriously and from the moment I received that letter, I stopped writing letters to the magazines, except for very occasional ones that did not involve fannish comments.  I have always been grateful to Bond for this word in season.

(5) TWO FIFTHS. Thanks to Jim Henley for this fine example of a File 770 trope – double fifths!

(6) ANOTHER FIVE. Speaking of the magic number, James Davis Nicoll knows “Five Novels About the World After the End of the World”.

While nostalgia has had a place in tabletop roleplaying games ever since the field was old enough to have second editions—remember when tabletop roleplaying game nostalgia was new?—the recent Twilight 2000 Kickstarter is remarkable for the speed at which the project hit its funding goals: just seven minutes, a bit longer than it would take missiles launched from the Soviet Union to reach Britain.

First published in 1984, Twilight 2000 took as its background a mid-1990s Soviet-Chinese conflict that spiraled into a global war when East and West Germany tried to use Soviet distraction to reunify. By 2000 all sides are too exhausted to continue. Most campaigns begin as the war stumbles to a chaotic, exhausted halt.

T:2000 might seem to be an odd game to be nostalgic about. Perhaps it is a reflection of the Jason Mendoza principle: “Anytime I had a problem and I threw a Molotov cocktail, boom! Right away, I had a different problem.” …

(7) CHINA’S COSPLAY RESTRICTIONS. “China cracks down on cleavage at cosplay convention”CNN has the story.

Organizers of Asia’s largest digital entertainment expo — where scantily clad models usually dress up as characters from comic books, movies and video games — say they will levy a fine of $800 on women who reveal “more than two centimeters of cleavage.”

Men are not exempt from the crackdown on exposed flesh.

They will face the same penalty if they wear low-hanging pants or expose their underwear. If models are caught dancing in cages or around a pole they will be fined a whopping $1,600, as will anyone caught striking vulgar poses.

It’s the latest example of what appears to be a government campaign for stricter morality in China.

A New York Times story on December 11 collected other examples in “Two soccer teams showed up to play. One lost because of hair dye” (repeated here by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel):

Under China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, the Communist Party’s creeping interference on the smallest details of Chinese life is being felt more and more. Censors have blurred the bejeweled earlobes of young male pop stars on television and the internet so that, in their mind, the piercings and jewelry don’t set a bad example for boys. Women in costumes at a video game convention were told to raise their necklines.

(8) BATMAN ’66 AND OTHER VINTAGE TV OPINIONS. [Item by Todd Mason.]  From 1966: “At Issue; 65; What’s Happening to Television?” This episode of the monthly series from National Educational Television makes its points, sometimes less tellingly than its creators think it does, but writer Morton Silverstein and some of those interviewed sure get their boots in on Batman, the ABC series, to a remarkable degree. Also, the blithe use of “drama” to refer only to anthology series that don’t have a slant toward one established program category or another beyond that concept. Interesting to those who are students of popular culture and news medium self-justification.

“What’s Happening to Television?” is the topic explored by no fewer than twenty-two top personalities allied to the television industry. This hour program in National Educational Television’s “At Issue” series presents timely and critical observations on daily programs, news, TV ratings, government regulations and the role of advertising. “What’s Happening to Television?” is analyzed by network executives, news commentators, advertising people, writers and critics. They comment on the growth of television, from its infant days to its present giant development, when more than 35 million Americans watch their sets for some 3 hours daily. “What’s Happening to Television?” looks back into TV history, analyzing some of the early successes, commenting on present programs, and giving the viewer a glimpse of next fall’s offerings. Some of the questions discussed include: Will television ever live up to its potential? What is the real purpose? Who determines which programs are dropped? What is the role of the program sponsors? Is the public interest being protected? Is educational television the answer to more worthy programs? What can the viewer do to control the quality of programs coming into the family living room? 

(9) GALANTER OBIT. Star Trek author Dave Galanter (1969-2020) died of cancer on December 12. Galanter has authored (or coauthored with collaborator Greg Brodeur) such Star Trek projects as Voyager: Battle Lines, the Next Generation duology Maximum WarpThe Original Series novels Crisis of Consciousness and Troublesome Minds, and numerous works of short Star Trek fiction.

(10) LE CARRE OBIT. The author of the George Smiley novels has fallen to pneumonia: “John le Carre, who probed murky world of spies, dies at 89” reports the AP News. He died December 12.

“John le Carre has passed at the age of 89. This terrible year has claimed a literary giant and a humanitarian spirit,” tweeted novelist Stephen King. Margaret Atwood said: “Very sorry to hear this. His Smiley novels are key to understanding the mid-20th century.”

…After university, which was interrupted by his father’s bankruptcy, he taught at the prestigious boarding school Eton before joining the foreign service.

Officially a diplomat, he was in fact a “lowly” operative with the domestic intelligence service MI5 —he’d started as a student at Oxford — and then its overseas counterpart MI6, serving in Germany, on the Cold War front line, under the cover of second secretary at the British Embassy.

His first three novels were written while he was a spy, and his employers required him to publish under a pseudonym. He remained “le Carre” for his entire career. He said he chose the name — square in French — simply because he liked the vaguely mysterious, European sound of it….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • December 13, 2002 — On this date in 2002, Star Trek: Nemesis premiered. It directed by Stuart Baird and produced by Rick Berman from the screenplay by John Logan as developed from the story by John Logan, Rick Berman and Brent Spiner. It was the fourth and final film to feature the Next Generation cast. It received decidedly mixed reviews, was a full-blown box disaster but currently has a decent fifty percent rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 13, 1909 – Alan Barclay.  Five novels, two dozen shorter stories; essays “Interplanetary Navigation” in New Worlds SF, “The Bow” in SF Adventures.  “The Scapegoat” is in New Worlds SF 105 which has this neato Sydney Jordan cover.  (Died 1991) [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1923 – Faith Jaques.  Six covers, eight interiors for us.  Here is Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and here is an interior.  Here is “The Flirtation of Two Mice”.  Outside our field I know her for this; and here are some Christmas Waits.  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1929 Christopher Plummer, 91. Let’s see… Does Rudyard Kipling in The Man Who Would Be King count? If not, The Return of the Pink Panther does. That was followed by Starcrash, a space opera I suspect hardly anyone saw which was also the case with Somewhere in Time.  Now Dreamscape was fun and well received.   Skipping now to General Chang in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country. Opinions everyone? I know I’ve mixed feelings on Chang.  I see he’s in Twelve Monkeys which I’m not a fan of and I’ve not seen The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus yet. (CE) 
  • Born December 13, 1940 – Ken Mitchell, age 80.  Co-founded the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild and the S Playwrights Center.  A novel, a shorter story, two covers for us (here is The Tomorrow Connection); six other novels, a dozen plays.  Retired from the Univ. Regina English Department, tours as a cowboy poet.  Order of Canada.  Saskatchewan Order of Merit.  [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1945 – Drew Mendelson, age 75.  Two novels, half a dozen shorter stories.  Maybe Cora Buhlert can explain why “Once I Built a Railroad” was translated as »Einst baute ich eine Eisenbahn« which means Once I built a railroad but Pilgrimage was translated as Die vergessenen Zonen der Stadt which isn’t a bad title for it but doesn’t mean Pilgrimage.  [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1949 R.A. MacAvoy, 71. Winner of the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. I’m very, very fond of her Black Dragon series, Tea with the Black Dragon and Twisting the Rope. The only other thing I’ve read of hers is The Book of Kells so, do tell me about her other works. (CE) 
  • Born December 13, 1954 Tamora Pierce, 66. Her first book series, The Song of the Lioness, took her character Alanna through the trials of training as a knight; it sold very well and was well received by readers. She would win in 2005 the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction, a rare honor indeed. (CE)
  • Born December 13, 1954 Emma Bull, 66. Writer of three of the best genre novels ever, Bone Dance: A Fantasy for TechnophilesFinder: A Novel of The Borderlands and War for The Oaks. Will Shetterly, her husband and author of a lot of really cool genre works, decided to make a trailer which you can download if you want. Just ask me.  She’s also been in in a number of neat bands, one that has genre significance that being Cat Laughing which has Stephen Brust, Adam Stemple, son of Jane Yolen, and John M. Ford either as musicians or lyricists. They came back together after a long hiatus at MiniCon 50. Again just ask me and I’ll make this music available along with that of Flash Girls which she was also in. (CE) 
  • Born December 13, 1960 – José Eduardo Agalusa Alves da Cunha, age 60.  (Agalusa the maternal, Alves da Cunha the paternal surname, Portuguese style.)  Two novels for us: The Society of Reluctant Dreamers just appeared in English, 2019; The Book of Chameleons won the Independent Foreign Fiction prize); a dozen others, shorter stories, plays, poetry, journalism, radio.  Int’l Dublin Literary Award.  [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1969 Tony Curran, 51. Vincent van Gogh in two Eleventh Doctor stories, “Vincent and the Doctor” and “The Pandorica Opens”, the latter as a cameo. He’s had vampire roles in Blade II as Priest and Underworld: Evolution as Markus, and was Lt. Delcourt in The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn to name but a few of his myriad genre roles. (CE) 
  • Born December 13, 1978 – Lee Isserow, age 42.  A score of novels, a dozen shorter stories for us; screenwriting; and the terrifying ABAM project, which means – yes – A Book A Month.  Has read not only Breakfast of Champions but The Master and Margarita.  [JH]
  • Born December 13, 1984 Amal El-Mohtar, 36. Canadian editor and writer. Winner of Hugo Awards for Best Short Story for “Seasons of Glass and Iron” at WorldCon 75 and  Best Novella for “This Is How You Lose the Time War” at CoNZealand (with Max Gladstone). (The latter got a BSFA and a Nebula as well.) She’s also garnered a Nebula Award  for “Madeleine“, a World Fantasy Award for “Pockets” and a World Fantasy Award for “Seasons of Glass and Iron”. Impressive. She has edited the fantastic poetry quarterly Goblin Fruit magazine for the past four years. (CE) 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • In The Far Side, it looks like the coroner’s office has already picked up this extra sized decedent.
  • And in another entry of The Far Side, they also walk dogs.

(14) IMAGINARY GIFT SHOP. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Washington Post had a short feature where they asked writers to “dream up the presents that they’d love to parcel out this year but don’t exist.”  Ken Liu says he wants a phone-sized device he can point at tweeters to see whether they are arguing in good faith or just being a troll.  Ted Chiang says he wished the Web had evolved into a subscription-based servie where people paid for sites they visited with money instead of personal data. “A guide to gifts that don’t exist but should”.

(15) THE ANSWER IS BOOKS. Of more practical use, “A gift guide for the fans of science fiction, fantasy and horror books in your life” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar in the Washington Post.

It’s that time of the year when the nights grow long, the air grows cold, the festive lights go up and the year’s best books lists are sprouting like mushrooms after the rain. But will any of them help you find that perfect book-gift for your friends who love science fiction, fantasy and horror? If not, we’re here to help….

(16) THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY. Camestros Felapton is highly entertaining with “My new pointless Star Wars theory”.

The issue that had been bugging me was the inconsistent way of travelling between planets. In the films but also in The Mandalorian (less so in cartoons), characters fly in space ships between planets in two ways:

  • Using hyperspace as faster than light travel.
  • Using sub-light speed engines….

But now he has it all figured out!

(17) YES, VIRGINIA, THERE WAS A WRITER NAMED G. K. CHESTERTON? At CrimeReads, Olivia Rutigliano contends “Famed mystery writer G.K. Chesterton proudly, sincerely believed in Santa Claus”.

… Chesterton’s applied his penchant for logic in this article on “Santa Claus.” Along with providing a short history of the figure of Santa Claus in popular culture (particularly his origins, as the gift-wielding St. Nicholas of Bari in Medieval iconography), Chesterton offered a simple proposition: that a child’s ultimately ceasing to believe in Santa Claus, justified by the fact that Santa Claus is not real, is a precursor to that child’s ceasing to believe in God. And this, Chesterton explained, was a terrible phenomenon.

And then he admitted a surprising detail: “I startled some honest Protestants lately by telling them that, though I am (unfortunately) no longer a child, I do most definitely believe in Santa Claus.”

Elaborating on this decidedly ‘hot take,’ Chesterton stressed that he felt it was critical for children to believe in Santa Claus even after Santa Claus has been debunked as a real, flesh-and-blood man, because the Santa Claus that children know is ultimately a caricature of an actual saint; just because, Chesterton argued, he is not real to their eyes does not mean that he is not a genuine, spiritual entity….

(18) FIREFLY CHARACTER AS ILLUSTRATION OF PTSD. “SERENITY and Coping with Trauma” from Cinema Therapy on YouTube.

What happens when you’re kidnapped from your family, tortured, and conditioned into being an assassin? You get River Tam. And also Alan, apparently. Therapist Jonathan Decker and filmmaker Alan Seawright discuss what we can learn about coping with trauma from Summer Glau’s character River in Serenity and Firefly. They break down some of the symptoms of PTSD she exhibits, and some of the things that help her work through them and start healing. Even though most of us don’t live in a sci-fi future with space ships, space zombies, and space cowboys (along with psychics and lots of other fun), we can still learn a thing or two about how to heal from and deal with the trauma we do face in real life.

(19) ZOOMING THROUGH FANHISTORY. Fanac.org is planning a series of Zoom Interactive Fan History Sessions.

For our first session, Rob Hansen is going to give us an historic tour of fannish Holborn, London. Rob is probably the most accomplished fan historian writing these days. As most of you know, he has written the history of British fandom, Then and has put together a number of books covering various aspects of British fandom. Find many of them here. Reserve the date: Saturday, December 19, 2020 at 11AM EDT.

Despite the pandemic, Rob has done video recordings around London, and with historic photos and live description will give us a tour that covers some household fannish names and places. He has worked with Edie [Stern] over the past several months to provide an interesting and fairly detailed coverage of London’s fan heritage. This one-hour session is based on tours which Rob has given to individual fans and also developed as a group tour after the last London Worldcon. Even if you have been on one of these tours, you will find some fresh sights and insights. Of course, Rob will be live on Zoom with additional material and to answer questions.  Please send your RSVP to fanac@fanac.org as our Zoom service is limited to 100 participants.

(20) BEYOND INFINITY. Disney+ dropped a trailer for What if….? an alternate-universe animated series.

(21) MARTIANS AT THE NEW YORK TIMES. [Item by David Goldfarb.] The New York Times puzzle page has a game called “Letter Boxed”, in which you make words out of letters arranged around a square. The idea is to use all the letters with as few words as possible: there is always a two-word solution. The two-word solution for Saturday 12/12 was “Visualizing – Grok”.

(22) EDUCATE YOURSELF. Ursula Vernon ladles out more life experience. Thread starts here.

(23) RUN TO DAYLIGHT. SYFY Wire learned that “Spiders get thrown off spinning webs in zero-G…unless they have light”.

It’s one small step for insects, eight steps for spider-kind.

“Arachnauts” flown to the ISS have revealed their secret backup plan when they can’t use gravity to figure out where they are when spinning their webs. Earth’s gravity is what normally helps them make a web optimal for catching dinner—and position themselves in it. Lamps accidentally placed above the spider experiment showed that when the arachnids lose their orientation in microgravity, they use light to find their way again….  

(24) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Hulk (2003) Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George says that people who watched the 2003 Hulk expecting that Hulk would smash things will be disappointed by the first 45 minutes, which consist of nothing but brooding and that few people will be excited by the scenes where Hulk beats up a Hulkified French poodle.

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

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.]