Pixel Scroll 8/3/18 That’s The Pixel Scroll Eraser Button, You Fool!

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman serves up a Sunday brunch with JY Yang in Episode 73 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

JY Yang is the author of the Tensorate series of novellas from Tor.Com Publishing, which so far includes The Red Threads of Fortune, The Black Tides of Heaven, and The Descent of Monsters, with a fourth still to come. Their short fiction has been published in more than a dozen venues, including Uncanny Magazine, Lightspeed, and Clarkesworld. And not only had The Black Tides of Heaven been on the Nebula Awards ballot that weekend, but it’s also on this year’s Hugo Awards and World Fantasy Awards ballots as well.

In previous incarnations, they’ve been a molecular biologist; a writer for animation, comics and games; a journalist for one of Singapore’s major papers, and a science communicator with Singapore’s Agency for Science, Technology and Research.

We met for Sunday brunch that weekend at Casbah, which offered a Mediterranean-inspired menu filled with comfort food. I’d heard good things about those Sunday brunches, and what I’d heard turned out to be true, because that morning’s braised lamb and eggs was the most umami-filled meal I had all weekend, and probably my favorite dish while in Pittsburgh.

We discussed why they consider themselves “a master of hermitry,” the catalyst that gave birth to their award-nominated Tensorate Universe, why they think of themselves as terrible at world-building, how their dislike of the Matt Damon movie The Great Wall gave them an idea for a novel, the surprising results after they polled fans on which of their works was most award-worthy, their beginnings writing Star Trek and Star Wars fan fiction, why they never played video games until their 30s, the Samuel R. Delany writing advice they hesitated to share, and much more.

(2) UNTOLD AI. At Medium.com there’s an interview with Chris Noessel, creator of the “What Stories aren’t we Telling Ourselves About AI” info graphic, which analyzed the themes of a large number of movies and shows about AI — “Untold AI?—?A conversation with Chris Noessel of SciFi Interfaces”

It goes quite a bit into the process behind creating the poster, “Untold AI: Poster”.

The AP: This was a pretty massive project, what was the scope and parameters of what you were going to look at?

CN: Oh my yes it was. It took nights and weekends for several months after Juvet. (And it’s still going!)

The scope was big by design. I wanted it to be pretty comprehensive. My authority and expertise in this domain is built on screen sci-fi, since you need to see a thing in use before you can evaluate it. That means movies and TV shows. There’s a lot of sci-fi literature that investigates AI (for instance, I’m reading the Culture series right now by Ian Banks, and it’s got AI baked deep into its worldbuilding), but I just don’t have authority in that domain. But still, screen sci-fi is massive, and I like to be as comprehensive as possible. So I looked back through all the movies and TV shows I could find that had an AI component: A robot, a spaceship AI, a disembodied one. I looked at lists people had collected online. I looked for keywords on IMDb. I don’t think I got them all, but I think I got most.

I’d have liked to include more narrow AI, but that would have expanded the survey of shows by an order of magnitude, and ultimately, the purpose of the project is to help guide sci-fi to be in-line with the science so we hedge our bets in the right way. Narrow AI is already here in the world around us (and less of an existential threat) so there’s not as much need to address it at scope.

(3) CREWED TALK. On Twitter, Karen James, a biologist, points out that instead of saying space missions are manned, one should say “crewed”, as outlined in NASA’s actual style guide: “All references referring to the space program should be non-gender specific (e.g. human, piloted, un-piloted, robotic).”

Unsurprisingly, she gets a lot of pushback in the comments. She does have Phil Plait and Elizabeth Moon weighing in on her side. The thread starts here.

The Planetary Society wrote about non-gendered nomenclature in 2015: “Finding new language for space missions that fly without humans”:

Historically, human spaceflight was described using the words “manned” and “unmanned,” but NASA has shifted to using gender-neutral words to describe human space exploration. Since 2006, the NASA History Program Office Style Guide has stated:

All references referring to the space program should be non-gender specific (e.g. human, piloted, un-piloted, robotic). The exception to the rule is when referring to the Manned Spacecraft Center, the predecessor to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, or any other official program name or title that included “manned” (e.g. Associate Administrator for Manned Spaceflight).

(4) POOH CRACKDOWN. Winnie’s a controversial bear there: “Disney’s ‘Christopher Robin’ Won’t Get China Release Amid Pooh Crackdown”.

For only the second time this year, a Disney movie has been denied release in China. Christopher Robin, a live-action/CGI family film that stars Ewan McGregor, received a no-go from the country’s film authorities.

No reason was given for the denial, but a source pinned the blame on China’s crackdown on images of the Winnie the Pooh character, which is featured in a central role in Christopher Robin. Last summer, authorities began blocking pictures of Winnie the Pooh on social media given that the character has become a symbol of the resistance in China with foes of the ruling Communist Party, namely Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Bloggers have drawn comparisons between the pudgy bear and Xi, which has put the country’s censors in overdrive. In June, Chinese authorities blocked HBO after Last Week Tonight host John Oliver mocked Xi’s sensitivity over being compared to Winnie the Pooh.

But an insider counters that the decision likely has to do with the size and scope of the film given the foreign film quota and the fact that there are several new Hollywood tentpoles in the Chinese market right now.

The New York Times explains the political significance of Pooh in this February 2018 article — “China’s Censors Ban Winnie the Pooh and the Letter ‘N’ After Xi’s Power Grab”.

…But the move to abolish term limits, announced on Sunday, has resurrected deeper fears in Chinese society, where memories remain of the personality cult of China’s founding father, Mao Zedong, and the fevered emotions and chaos that it conjured.

Anxious to suppress criticism, and maintain an appearance of mass support, the Communist Party’s censors have scoured the internet and social media for content deemed subversive. The sanitizing has included many images of Winnie the Pooh — Mr. Xi is sometimes likened to the cartoon bear — and search terms like “my emperor,” “lifelong” and “shameless.”

For a short time, even the English letter “N” was censored, according to Victor Mair, a University of Pennsylvania professor, apparently to pre-empt social scientists from expressing dissent mathematically: N > 2, with “N” being the number of Mr. Xi’s terms in office.

(5) CON MARKETING. Savan Gupta can’t stand it anymore [Facebook link].

Okay. I am going to give away some advice that I usually charge HARD CASH for, as part of my consulting services, as I need to stop seeing such mediocrity glut my feed….

Branding – This is key. There are certain universal standards, of clean design. Your branding should reflect your event, your values, and your overall identity. It’s so much more than ‘just grab a font you like’. And yes, all of us have had a learning curve with this. Hell, I keep copies of my older foibles in my wallet, to remind me of where I’ve been, and the constant quest for improvement. The Key here is, you have to LOVE it. You and your team. Not ‘like’ it, LOVE it. To pine and suffer and STRIVE to bear that standard through thick and thin, and hold it above the dirt-and-water line, brandishing it. Without that, you WILL be surpassed by some upstart that simply CARES more about these things, and is willing to learn faster. Clean design be damned, speaking as that upstart that has repeatedly surpassed my contemporaries. Hell, we’ve seen “Fuzzy McDumpTruck” and his five-ring-Latrine fire parade march some EGREGIOUS HORSE SHIT, that disrespected his endeavors, his performers, and his vendors. To the point of getting names and web URLs wrong (having skipped and skimped on hiring the usual professionals who prevented him from looking *quite* like a bag of ass). And yet, the band played on, and he continued to fail upwards, due to some reject OSHO grade Cult-Leadership skills, and being zealously in love with every derpy idea his pop-rocks-and-soda brain excreted. Because yes, you can actually polish a turd with Heat and Pressure. It won’t be a diamond. But it will not longer be a turd.

I don’t know how much of this will be new to you, but it’s very lively writing….

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 3, 1904 – Clifford D. Simak
  • Born August 3 — Martin Sheen, 78. Uncle Ben in both the of The Amazing Spider-Man films. Roles also in Total Recall 2070Babylon 5: The River of Souls, The Outer Limits, The Dead ZoneBeyond the Stars (another riff on the Apollo mission), Spawn and voice work in the animated Captain Planet and the Planeteers series.
  • Born August 3 — John Landis, 68. Extensive genre work as producer or executive producer including the Michael Jackson ‘Thriller’ video, Twilight Zone: The Movie, some episodes of the Honey, I Shrunk the KidsWeird Science and Sliders series, a one-off Munsters Christmas special, The Lost Worldgilm and series which are not related to each other and the forthcoming An American Werewolf in London. Oh and Clue which I adore even if it’s not genre.
  • Born August 3 — John C. McGinley, 59. Extensive voice work in such animated productions as Spider-Man, Justice League UnlimitedSuperman/Batman: Public Enemies and Justice League; live work in Highlander II: The QuickeningIt’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie and the current demon hunting entered Stan Against Evil.
  • Born August 3 — Michael Ealy, 45. Dorian, an android police officer, in the short-lived Almost Human series, Leo the equally short-lived FlashForward series and the Underworld Awakening film in which vampires and werewolves team up to destroy humanity.
  • Born August 3 — Evangeline Lilly, 39. MCU films such as Ant-Man and the Wasp as The Wasp, two of the Hobbit films as Tauriel, and in the Lost series as Katherine ‘Kate’ Austen. Also in Freddy vs. Jason and in multiple nameless roles in the Smallville series.
  • Born August 3 — Hannah Simone, 38. A role in the film remake of The Greatest American Hero, The H+ series in which humanity is nearly wiped and addicted to the internet and host for several seasons of the WCG Ultimate Gamer series.
  • Born August 3 — Max Landis, 33. Son of Joe Landis. Wrote a run of Superman comics called ‘Superman: American Alien’, writer of the Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency series.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) THIRTEENTH DOCTOR LOOT. The Time Ladies will tell you about it: “Merchandise of the Thirteenth Doctor”. For example –

Titan Kawaii Thirteenth Doctor

If the adventure doll isn’t quite for you, then how about a cutesy, kawaii version of our first female Doctor? The Kawaii Thirteenth Doctor Titan figure is ADORABLE and brightens any shelf. With her huge painted eyes and exaggerated features, we couldn’t help but pop her straight into our basket. The 6” figure launched at SDCC a few weeks ago but is available to order from Forbidden Planet now.

Order Titan’s Kawaii Thirteenth Doctor figure here

(9) BEDROCK CONFIDENTIAL. NPR’s Mallory Yu reviews a comic-book reboot: “Yabbadabba-What? These Aren’t The Flintstones You Remember”.

…But before he could tackle that dark comedy, Russell says, he “really wanted to start with the characters and make them relatable and sympathetic, because they’re basically just living their lives.” He credits artist Steve Pugh with bringing humanity to his characters: “You can see the personalities, really, in their design. Fred’s a big beefy guy, looks like he played football in high school and has kind of let himself go since then, but he’s got a lot of love and sadness in his face.”

Fred’s an Everyman in Russell’s Bedrock, a veteran who’s haunted by his actions during the “Paleolithic Wars.” And remember his famous “Yabbadabbadoo?” Russell “sort of turned it into a nonsense mantra to help them deal with PTSD and stress of everyday life.”

Russell says he was able to bend and twist the Flintstones’ world because he didn’t have a lot of childhood nostalgia for the cartoons. “Nothing was sacred, in fact, that was kind of my mission. This was not going to be some reverential homage to The Flintstones.” So Fred works for a terrible boss at a terrible job, trying to make just enough money to afford the latest household appliance. Or, as Russell calls it, “the exploitation of animals as free labor, which to me it’s like they’re the interns of the prehistoric world.”

(10) HEAD SPACE. “Asgardia: the problems in building a space society” — liberal and not-so-liberal rules.

…The constitution also contains some other red flags for utopians:

“To ensure information security, the Government regulates the circulation of certain types of information”.

Asgardia’s “legal instruments” include not only “referendum decisions” and “Acts of Parliament”, but also “decrees of the head of nation”.

Also, Asgardia’s head of nation has the constitutional power to nominate his successor “on the basis of genealogy or on any other basis”. Candidates may also be nominated by the parliament and the Supreme Space Council”, but it’s the Head of Nation who appoints the Chairman of the Space Council, which “is a special governance body” that reports to, guess who, the Head of Nation.

The head of nation also “appoints and removes” the supreme justice of the court and the prosecutor general. Additionally, he or she “has the right to veto candidates” for other top positions, including the National Bank of Asgardia and justices of the court. And to “dissolve Parliament”.

(11) MORE FROM THE SHIRE. More from the Shire: “Small height evolved twice on ‘Hobbit’ island of Flores” – the island’s current short inhabitants are not descended from branch recently discovered.

Scientists decoded the DNA of modern-day “pygmy” people to find out if they might be partly descended from the extinct Hobbit species.

The remains of these Hobbits were found during an archaeological dig on Flores 15 years ago.

The new analysis, published in the journal Science, found no trace of the Hobbit’s DNA in the present-day people.

This is important because some scientists had wondered whether modern humans (Homo sapiens) could have mixed with the Hobbit population when they first arrived on the island thousands of years ago. In theory, this could have led to Hobbit genes being passed down into living people on the island.

(12) THUNDER TOES. Nature found a big foot, so to speak “A dinosaur that stomped the Jurassic scene on size XXXXL feet”.

Large reptile had bigger clodhoppers than any other dinosaur of its kind.

Enormous toe bones excavated in Wyoming belonged to a dinosaur whose feet were more than 1 metre wide — probably a record for dinosaur foot size.

The owner of the gargantuan feet was a sauropod, a group that includes the biggest known dinosaurs. No other known sauropod foot is bigger than the Wyoming animal’s, say Anthony Maltese at the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center in Woodland Park, Colorado, Emanuel Tschopp at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City and their colleagues. The fossils bear similarities to those of sauropods called brachiosaurs, which could measure 25 metres long.

The dinosaur, which lived roughly 150 million to 160 million years ago, walked on four legs, but the authors whimsically nicknamed it “the real Bigfoot”.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/30/17 There’s A Million Ways To Scroll, Ev’ry One’s A Pixel

(1) AND ALL THAT ROT. Omnivorcious interviews “Mira Grant” and M.R. Carey in “The Scientific Case for Zombies”.

It turns out the idea of living dead—depending how you define both “living” and “dead”—may not be as far-fetched as it might seem. Some science fiction writers have found inspiration—and trepidation—in real-life parasites. We talked to two of them, Mira Grant and M.R. Carey, about their newest books and the concept of scientific zombies.

…Carey searched for a pathogen that met his criteria for the cause of the hungry epidemic, and realized that Cordyceps fit perfectly. It was also a unique choice. “At the time nobody had ever used a fungus as the vector for a zombie plague,” he says, though the creators of a console game called The Last of Us came up with the same idea independently, around the same time.

… Besides reading, Grant also “spent a lot of time on the phone with the CDC, which was an incredible amount of fun.” Grant savored the information she gleaned that way, but her friends “had to make new rules about what I was allowed to discuss over food,” so they didn’t lose their appetites.

(2) MITHER TONGUE. I don’t suppose the Scots laugh when they read this, do they, but my God… “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone finally arrives in Scots translation”.

Though still working on the translation, Fitt and his publisher released the opening paragraph, which reads: “Mr and Mrs Dursley, o nummer fower, Privet Loan, were prood tae say that they were gey normal, thank ye awfie muckle. They were the lest fowk ye wid jalouse wid be taigled up wi onythin unco or ferlie, because they jist widnae hae onythin tae dae wi joukery packery like yon.”

In his first adventure, Harry leaves the cruel Dursley family to attend Hogwarts wizarding school, which has long been understood to be based somewhere in the Scottish Highlands, where Scots speakers exist in their highest numbers.

(3) WU CAMPAIGN. Candidate for Congress Brianna Wu’s fundraising email says Our national tech policy is failing:

Something has to change. Our elections are being targeted by Russia, our shipping system was hijacked this week and congress continues to try to spy on you with your smartphone.  It doesn’t have to be this way. I have a plan

Just 15 people in the US House determine our nation’s tech policy on the Science and Technology Subcommittee.

Meaning just 8 votes control our policy on privacy, encryption, and net neutrality. The giant telecoms have a voice. Shouldn’t you?

Please contribute, so we can get Brianna Wu elected to US Congress in 2018, representing Massachusetts District 8!  Help fight for a braver, bolder Democratic party!

(4) DECLINE AND FALL OF THE GALACTIC EMPIRE. Will they succeed where others have failed? “Skydance Trying Asimov’s ‘Foundation’ As TV Series; David Goyer, Josh Friedman To Adapt”.

Isaac Asimov science fiction trilogy Foundation heavily informed Star Wars and many other sci-fi films and TV series, but for decades it has confounded Hollywood attempts at a straight adaptation. I’m hearing that Skydance, David S. Goyer and Josh Friedman are going to try to crack it. Skydance Television is closing a deal with the Asimov estate to try turning Foundation into a sprawling TV series.

… The biggest creative quandary, I’ve heard from those who tried to adapt Foundation, is that so many of Asimov’s themes found their way into George Lucas’s Star Wars that the challenge is to not appear to be ripping off one of Hollywood’s most successful film franchises, even though Asimov wrote his books 75 years ago. Considering that Lucasfilm continues to borrow from that mythology with myriad Star Wars sequels and spinoff films, perhaps a TV series is the best bet.

(5) QUALIFYING MARKET. Joe Stech, publisher/editor of Compelling Science Fiction, is delighted to report —

Compelling Science Fiction is now one of the few magazines worldwide that is considered a professional “Qualifying Market” by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America: Short fiction Qualifying Markets

SFWA is a wonderful organization that supports authors in a huge number of ways (our own publishing contract is adapted from SFWA’s model magazine contract). SFWA also hosts the annual Nebula Awards. While we have always paid professional rates, this recognition means that our published authors will find it much easier to use their publication in our magazine to meet SFWA membership requirements, because we have already been vetted.

(6) NOT JUST FOR COMPULSIVE READERS: Jason’s Featured Futures is back with another selection of stories (with links and comments) in the “Summation of Online Fiction June 2017”.

The twelve prozines of June produced thirty-eight stories and I read thirty-five of them at about 165K words. (Tor.com should have posted a fourth story on the 28th but didn’t. If it comes out today or tomorrow, I’ll update this post accordingly.) The random flukes of this month were a large number of honorable mentions (with not so many recommendations) which were mostly SF, half of which came from almost the entire issue of Compelling Science Fiction. Given that, I’ll basically do a mini-review of the whole issue after the lists.

(7) DEATH FROM ABOVE. Scientists have found what appears to be a 250-kilometer-wide crater near the Falkland Islands. Is it ground zero for Earth’s largest-ever extinction event? “Did a Planetary Society citizen scientist help find one of Earth’s biggest impact craters?”

About 66 million years ago, a 10-kilometer-wide hunk of rock smashed into Earth near what is now Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.

The impact created a global dust cloud that snuffed out the sunlight, leading to the demise of 80 percent of Earth’s plants and animals—including most of the dinosaurs. A 200-kilometer-wide crater buried near the city of Chicxulub is all that’s left. It’s ground zero for one of the world’s most notable extinction events.

But throughout Earth’s history, there have actually been five major extinction events. The largest of these occurred about 250 million years ago, when a whopping 96 percent of life on Earth died. Scientists aren’t sure what caused the event, known as “the Great Dying.” If it was a Chicxulub-sized impact; no one has ever found the crater.

Until possibly now.

A trio of scientists—one of whom is funded by The Planetary Society—thinks they may have found it. Off the coast of South America, near the Falkland Islands, there appears to be a 250-kilometer-wide crater buried under ocean sediment. An upcoming paper in the August edition of the peer-reviewed journal Terra Nova suggests it was formed by a massive asteroid or comet bigger than the one that hit Chicxulub.

(8) TODAY’S DAY

Asteroid Day

A global awareness event where people from around the world come together to learn about what we can do to protect Earth from an asteroid impact. Did you know that, as you’re reading this, there are likely one million near-Earth asteroids large enough to do severe damage if they hit Earth? We don’t have to go the way of the dinosaurs. Learn more about what we can do to reduce the threat:

 

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • June 30, 1971Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was released.
  • June 30, 1972 — The fourth film in the series — Conquest of the Planet of the Apes — premiered theatrically.

(10) COMIC SECTION. John King Tarpinian calls your attention to Bizarro for June 30.

(11) DISNEYLAND. When the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland is updated the bride auction scene will be going away. However, the iconic redhead will still be around – as a pirate helping to rob the townspeople. According to the Orange County Register:

The pirates will no longer be saying “We wants the Redhead” in Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland after the auction scene undergoes a modification in 2018.

The Walt Disney Company plans to make changes to the auction scene in the classic attraction at Disneyland, Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris in the coming year, according to Suzi Brown, spokeswoman for the Disneyland Resort.

While the scene has long been a favorite of many Disney fans, it has occasionally been the brunt of criticism for what some believed to be a “sexist” approach to women. Years ago, the scene that comes after the auction scene, which used to have pirates chasing women, was changed to pirates chasing women for food, and one where a woman was chasing a pirate.

When asked about the sexism Brown said, in a statement, “We believe the time is right to turn the page to a new story in this scene, consistent with the humorous, adventurous spirit of the attraction.”

In the auction scene, the Redhead will become a pirate, helping the Auctioneer gather valuables from the townspeople to auction off to the pirates.

The first version of the attraction to receive the new scene will be at Disneyland Paris next month, with the two domestic parks receiving it within the next year or so.

There was nothing amusing or cute about what real-life pirates did when they sacked a town, so in the midst of a musical horror fantasy about such an event it’s interesting where they think they need to redraw the line in 2017 to keep people from being reminded of that.

(12) URB APPEAL. Andrew Porter noticed you can now buy a condo in Detroit where the 1959 Worldcon (Detention) was held. If that idea appeals to you.

When the Fort Shelby became a Doubletree Hotel in 2008 on the first ten floors, the developers used tax credits to turn the 56 units above into apartments. Now that the time has passed for the credits, the apartments can be turned into condos, and a few of them have already listed.

They start at $280,000 for a one-bedroom and go up to $570,000 for a three-bedroom on a higher level. Six penthouses will also be available on the 21st floor, and those will run from $350,000 to $815,000.

According to the Loft Warehouse, the listing firm, four are ready now and another 19 are in the pipeline for the year as apartment leases run out.

(13) FRED AND WILMA SELL THEIR HOUSE. After dropping a million from the asking price, “‘Flintstones’-style house in California sells for $2.8M”.

A California house designed to resemble a home from the Flintstones cartoon sold for nearly $3 million after multiple price drops.

Judy Meuschke of Alain Pinel Realtors said the unique property sold for $2.8 million in May after arriving on the market for a price of $4.2 million in 2015.

The property features a rounded, stone-like exterior with grey and orange walls, closely resembling the cavelike homes in the Flinstones’ home of Bedrock City.

 

(14) ONE MILLION BC. More information about the forthcoming Marvel Legacy.

It all starts with MARVEL LEGACY #1.

Journey to the dawn of time, as Marvel introduces you to the first Avengers from 1,000,000 BC – when iconic torch-bearers such as Odin, Iron Fist, Starbrand, Ghost Rider, Phoenix, Agamotto, and Black Panther come together for the startling origin of the Marvel Universe, in MARVEL LEGACY #1 on sale this September in comic shops everywhere!

MARVEL LEGACY #1 isn’t simply a history lesson,” says SVP and Executive Editor Tom Brevoort. “Rather, it’s the starting gun to a bevy of mysteries, secrets, and revelations that will reverberate across the Marvel Universe in the weeks and months to come! No character, no franchise will be untouched by the game-changing events that play out across its pages. Jason and Esad pulled out all the stops to fat-pack this colossal issue with as much intrigue, action, surprise, mystery, shock, and adventure as possible!”

(15) PULLMAN’S MATERIALS. Entertainment Weekly interviews the author: “Golden Compass’ Philip Pullman on returning to His Dark Materials”.

Golden Compass author Philip Pullman surprised millions of fans late last year when he announced that he would be returning to the world of the immensely popular His Dark Materials trilogy.

His three new books — the first set 10 years before the original trilogy and the next two coming after the events in those books — will once again transport readers to Lyra’s Oxford. The first volume in the companion Book of Dust trilogy is La Belle Sauvage (for which you can exclusively see the cover below), which centers on Malcolm Polstead and is in fact named for his canoe, which will become a central part of the story. But fans needn’t worry, as not only will Lord Asriel (and his daemon Stelmaria) definitely make an appearance in the book along with baby Lyra Belacqua (the main protagonist of the best-selling books), but careful readers of the previous books may remember that Malcolm himself had had a brief appearance in them….

This new trilogy has an interesting timeline. What inspired you to make the first book in this companion trilogy more of a prequel to the original trilogy, as opposed to a sequel like the two proceeding books?

The story I found myself telling had a beginning that closely involved Lyra, but it happened when she was about six months old. Then came an interval, during which some of the consequences of the first part were worked out in the story of His Dark Materials, when she was about 11 or 12. But other things were still lying in the ground, waiting to germinate. About 10 years after the events in His Dark Materials, the first shoots of those other things begin to emerge from the ground. But because they’re not really a consequence of His Dark Materials, I don’t want to call them a sequel; and because I don’t like the word “prequel,” I didn’t want to call the first book by that word. So I call The Book of Dust an “equel.”

(16) RESERVATIONS MADE. There is no end in sight for superhero movies. SyFy has the story: “Fox schedules 6 more Marvel movies from 2019-2021”.

If you thought Fox was slowing down on movies based on Marvel Comics properties, the 2018 slate, featuring New Mutants on April 13, 2018, Deadpool 2 on June 1, 2018, and X-Men: Dark Phoenix on November 2, 2018, probably put that thought to bed. If even that plan didn’t show you their dedication to the franchise, well, this should: 20th Century Fox has reserved release dates for 2019, 2020, and spring 2021 marking six Marvel movie releases in just 21 months.

New Fox/Marvel movies will hit theaters on June 7, 2019, November 22, 2019, March 13, 2020, June 26 2020, October 2, 2020, and March 5, 2021. The production house has not indicated at all whether those will be X-Men or Fantastic Four films, the two properties they currently own film rights to from Marvel Entertainment. This is a common practice in the blockbuster release category nowadays;

(17) FLYING CLOUD. “This enormous Chinese blimp could replace satellites”. The link leads to a BBC video.

There’s a new type of airship called the Cloud, and it has a silver lining. (It’s also a giant, floating communications hub.) Finn Aberdein goes to watch a nerve-wracking flight with its maker KuangChi Science.

(18) THE WONDER WOMAN WHO MARRIED A MAN. It’s cosplay. In “The ultimate fantasy wedding: Wonder Woman weds Deadpool at Awesome Con”, the Washington Post’s Megan McDonough talks about how Megan Mattingly and Adam Merica got married at Awesome Con, and how her Wonder Woman gown was stitched together by three female cosplayers in 48 hours.

They decided right away that a full cosplay wedding, right down to the dress, would suit them best. By that point, Megan had accumulated a following in the cosplay community (she has more than 45,000 followers on Instagram) and founded the local group DC CosGeeks. She also didn’t want a repeat of her first wedding, which was much more conventional.

(19) LIFE CYCLES. Artis Lives on Vimeo is a fun cartoon promoting the Amsterdam Royal Zoo.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Jason, JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]