Charlie Jane Anders Interviewed by Carl Slaughter

Charlie Jane Anders’ “The Minnesota Diet” is one of 14 stories in Future Tense Fiction: Stories of Tomorrow, to be published by Unnamed Press October 2.

Future Tense is a partnership of Slate, New America and Arizona State University that explores emerging technologies, public policy, and society. Beginning in 2016, Future Tense commissioned a series of stories from leading writers that imagined what life might be like in a variety of possible futures. Future Tense is a selection of those pieces.

Preorder your copy now from Amazon or Unnamed Press.

Carl Slaughter had sent Charlie Jane Anders these interview questions a couple of weeks before he died in an automobile accident on August 11 (see Carl’s obituary here). We are very grateful to the author for helping Carl complete his final project.


Charlie Jane Anders at the 2017 Worldcon in Helsinki. Photo by Daniel Dern.

CARL SLAUGHTER: Let’s start with a recap of io9.  What was the vision?  Did it achieve its goals?  What was the attraction?  What was your contribution?

CHARLIE JANE ANDERS: io9 feels like a very long time ago for me now. I can’t really speak to the vision behind it, because that was all Annalee Newitz, and they were the real founder. I was incredibly grateful to be brought on board to help bring their vision to life. I think the most exciting thing about io9 was that we were combining science and science fiction, and we were trying really hard to have credible science coverage alongside geeking out about movies, books, television, comics, etc. We talked a lot about finding ways to explore the idea that science fiction had become mainstream culture, because we were living in a science-fictional time. For me, the most fun part was getting paid to obsess about storytelling by interviewing creators, writing reviews and critical essays, and doing stuff like my writing “how to” articles. This felt like I was getting paid to go to grad school, and I’m still intensely grateful for the opportunity.

CS: Is your work these days primarily fiction or nonfiction?

CJA: I’m mostly doing fiction lately, which is the luckiest thing ever. I can’t believe I get to make up stuff for a living. I still do the occasional feature or piece of criticism here and there, and of course Annalee and I are doing our podcast, Our Opinions Are Correct. But I’ve been fortunate enough to get into a position where I’m getting to soak my brain in made-up worlds and weird stories.

CS: I’m quoting Wikipedia:  “…but it was not until her science fiction novelette “Six Months, Three Days” won her a Hugo, that she realized what readers were after…”  What are readers after?

CJA: Wow… I wish I knew. I think what that’s referring to is maybe that “Six Months, Three Days” was a legit creative turning point for me. It was the first time I felt like I got really close to capturing actual emotion and the complexities of relationships in my fiction. I had written a lot of stuff along those lines before, but always felt like I was just kind of poking at the surface of the emotional stuff, instead of really inhabiting it. “Six Months” was something that very easily could have been a cerebral puzzle box, about two different kinds of clairvoyance. I felt like I had a “whoa” moment where I somehow coaxed myself to burrow into the emotional substrate a bit more, and I was overjoyed when the story got such a positive response. It did feel as though I had unlocked another level, or something. But then of course, the next time you try to repeat that or access that level of emotion in the next story, it’s always harder than you expect — writing is often a matter of starting from scratch and trying to rediscover something that you previously got at.

CS: What’s your strategy for character development?

CJA: I think that for me, as a writer, I need to be curious about a character. It’s not that different from being a reader, honestly. I need to find something about a character that makes me interested in them and want to know more about them, and I have to be invested in what happens next for them. It’s all about connecting emotionally with the character. I also think that a lot of writing is actually acting. You have to “get into character” when you’re writing about someone, and you have to try to imagine how it feels to be them, and what’s going through their head as they go through a particular situation. I also think a lot of what I wrote in this io9 essay still applies.

CS: Describe your story for Future Tense.

CJA: In “The Minnesota Diet,” New Lincoln is a brand new smart city that is entirely green and high-tech, with a lot of shiny virtual spaces and vertical farms and stuff. And New Lincoln’s residents aren’t even aware of how dependent they are on external food sources, to the point where the city begins to starve pretty quickly when the self-driving trucks stop showing up. I came up with this idea because I was obsessing a lot about famine, as both a present and future problem. There are huge food crises happening in East Africa, Yemen and Sudan right now, and unlike in the 1980s with Ethiopia, it’s really difficult to get people in the United States to pay attention. So I thought it might be helpful to depict famine and food-insecurity happening to middle-class professionals in an advanced metropolis. Once I started researching the story, and especially after I heard from ASU’s Christopher Wharton, I started to realize this story’s scenario was even closer to reality than I had imagined. 

CS: What’s your approach at Our Opinions are Correct?

CJA: I’m so incredibly lucky to be working on this podcast with Annalee, and so grateful to everyone who’s listened to the podcast and supported us. We do a ton of prep before every episode, assembling a whole list of books and other works that are relevant to the episode topic, and making audio clips that we can feature in each episode. We seldom get to talk about everything on our list, but it’s good to know what the important works are, so we don’t inadvertently skip over something really huge. We try to keep the episodes very conversational and unscripted, but between the reading lists and the clips we know we’re going to include, there’s always some built-in structure. The fun part is that we often think of stuff as we’re talking, and the episodes are usually more spontaneous than what we’ve prepared for, because it’s such a fun conversation. 

CS: What projects are you actively involved in?

CJA: I have a bunch of stuff going on right now, but the most important thing by far is the untitled young-adult space opera trilogy that I sold to Tor a while back. This is one of the most complex projects I’ve ever done, in part because there’s a whole bunch of alien races and a whole layered backstory to keep track of, and in part because I have to make sure all three volumes form a satisfying adventure story that goes somewhere. The good news is, the first book of the trilogy is finished and has already gone through a lot of editing, and I’m about halfway through writing the second volume. It’s a lot of fun, and unlike anything I’ve ever written before.

CS: What projects are in the works?

CJA: I’m turning one of the unpublished novels that I wrote and shopped around before All the Birds in the Sky into a novella right now. That worked out quite well for Rock Manning Goes For Broke, which was originally a novel I tried to publish in around 2009ish, and then got cut down to around 23,000 words. I find some of these older novels of mine suddenly seem a lot stronger when they’ve lost all of their extraneous subplots and meandering middle sections. This time around, my unpublished novel (an urban fantasy in the mold of Richard Kadrey or Jim Butcher) is requiring a lot of revision to fix some structural problems that became apparent once I stripped away some of the extra junk. But I think it’s going to be super fun when it’s finished.

CS: Any feelers from Hollywood?

CJA: Absolutely, but nothing I can talk about right now. There’s definitely some interest in adapting some of my stuff for the screen, but most of the time I try to stay chill about it. The best part of having something optioned is that you get to go back and rethink something you wrote ages ago, in conversations with some really smart, experience writers and producers, and it’s fun to visualize how the story could be told in a different way. If anything actually gets made, THEN I’ll freak out about it. 

CS: Are you on the convention circuit?

CJA: Sort of… I do Worldcon and Wiscon every year, and then I seem to get invited to be guest of honor at the occasional con as well. I seem to do Comic-Con every other year these days, which is just about perfect for that exercise in sensory overload. I’m  discovering that smaller local conventions are often the most fun, because you can actually hang out with people and have real conversations. I miss Dragon*Con, and really want to get back there.

CS: What does the future hold for Charlie Jane Anders?

CJA: Hopefully? Uploading my brain into a giant mecha and building a space elevator to a LaGrange point where we can have outrageous spoken word events and parties all the time. 

Pixel Scroll 8/24/19 Do You Come From A File Down Under, Where Pixels Scroll And Men Chunder

(1) EUROCON NEWS. Eurocon 2021 will be in Fiuggi, Italy from March 18-21. It will be run concurrently with the annual Italcon, and Deepcon, hosted by the Italian cultural association DeepSpaceOne.

Future Eurocon bids include

  • 2022 in Esch, the southern region of Luxembourg.
  • 2023 in Uppsala, Sweden

(2) MORE DUBLIN 2019 PHOTOS. Dan Ofer has posted two sets of Worldcon photos on Facebook (set to public):

(3) DUBLIN MEETUP ISSUE. Wanda Kurtcu said on Facebook there are two people who should not have attended the meetup for PoC of African descent at Dublin 2019:

I had the opportunity to co-facilitate an POC of African Descent meetup at WorldCon. The description of the meetup was that it was ONLY for POC of African Descent. NOTE the PEOPLE OF COLOR (POC) requirement for this meeting.

There were two white men already in the room when I arrived. At no point did they request to be allowed to be part of our meeting. One said he was the editor of a spec sci-fi magazine and the other said he was there because his adopted son was Ethiopian and he wanted to see what the meetup was about. His son was not at WorldCon.

Neither I nor my co-facilitator asked them to leave because I didn’t want to cause any problems. In fact, I waited a few days to write this post to make sure I was coming from a place of mindfulness and not anger….

(4) LEIA. At D23 J.J. Abrams teased Carrie Fisher’s role in the final movie of this trilogy: “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker reveals poster, epic new footage at D23”.

Director Abrams said of adding Leia into the film: “Of course, we can’t talk about the cast without talking about Carrie Fisher. And the character of Leia is really in a way the heart of this story. We could not tell the end of these 9 films without Leia. And we realized that we had footage from episode 7 that we realized we could use in a new way. So Carrie, as Leia, gets to be in the film.”

Continued Abrams: “But the crazy part is we started to work on this movie and I wasn’t supposed to be directing this movie [as Colin Trevorrow was originally tapped as director]. Then we lost Carrie. And I was hired on this film and began working. And I remember this thing that I had read that I actually thought I was mistaken. I looked in her last book, The Princess Diarist, and she had written, ‘Special thanks to J.J. Abrams for putting up with me twice.’ Now I had never worked with her before Force Awakens and I wasn’t supposed to do this movie. So it was a classic Carrie thing to sort of write something like that that could only mean one thing for me. We couldn’t be more excited to have you see her in her final performance as Leia.”

(5) FUTURE TENSE. This month’s Future Tense Fiction short story is out, part of a series Slate and ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination“What the Dead Man Said” by Nigerian author Chinelo Onwualu. Tagline: “Read a new short story about climate change, migration, and family secrets.”

I suppose you could say that it started with the storm.

I hadn’t seen one like it in 30 years. Not since I moved to Tkaronto, in the Northern Indigenous Zone of Turtle Island—what settler-colonialists still insisted on calling North America. I’d forgotten its raw power: angry thunderclouds that blot out the sun, taking you from noon to evening in an instant, then the water that comes down like fury—like the sky itself wants to hurt you.

Read a response essay “The Scars of Being Uprooted” by Valeria Fernández, a journalist who reports on immigration.

Immigrants know what is like to deal with restless ghosts from the past. Some of us are haunted for the rest of our lives by the inability to have closure. But when the opportunity presents itself to face our demons, it’s never like what we imagined in our heads.

Chinelo Onwualu’s short story “What the Dead Man Said” speaks to and delves deeper than that universal theme. The reader enters a futuristic society suffering from climate change–induced disaster and migration, a place where human bodies of those once enslaved are treated as a commodity and where unhealed trauma lies beneath the surface….

(6) JOURNALING ADVISED. Fran Wilde ran a “Creativity & Journaling” online today. Cat Rambo tweeted some notes. A portion of the thread starts here.

(7) LITIGATON OVER HOTEL HIDDEN FEES. The New York Times reports “Marriott and Hilton Sued Over ‘Resort Fees,’ Long a Bane for Travelers”.

The hotel charges known as resort fees are again under scrutiny — this time, from state attorneys general.

Travelers loathe the mandatory — and consumer watchdogs say, confusing — fees, which vary by location and by the services they purport to cover. Some hotels charge the fees for Wi-Fi and gym access, while others may use them to cover in-room safes, newspapers or bottled water — whether guests use them or not.

The attorneys general in Washington, D.C., and Nebraska filed separate but similar lawsuits this summer against two big hotel chains, accusing them of deceiving travelers by failing to include the resort fees in their published room rates, making it hard for consumers to compare rates when booking online. The suits allege that the hotels’ “deceptive and misleading” pricing practices violate consumer protection laws.

The suits, brought against the Marriott and Hilton chains, follow an investigation of hotel industry pricing practices by the attorneys general in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to the attorneys general in Washington, D.C., and Nebraska.

Travelers searching for lodging, whether on hotel websites or on separate travel websites, typically are not made aware of the resort fees until after they have clicked past the initial search results page and have started booking, according to a complaint filed in July against Marriott International by the attorney general in Washington….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • August 24, 1966 Fantastic Voyage with Raquel Welch opened in theatres. It was based on a story by Otto Klement and Jerome Bixby. Bixby was a script writer for Star Trek writing four episodes: “Mirror, Mirror”, “Day of the Dove”, “Requiem for Methuselah”, and “By Any Other Name”.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 24, 1896 Stanton Arthur Coblentz. A very prolific genre writer whose  first published genre work was The Sunken World, a satire about Atlantis, serialized in Hugo Gernsback’s Amazing Stories Quarterly starting  in July, 1928. Scattered tales by him are available in digital form from iBooks and Kindle but it looks no one has actually systematically digitized him yet. (Died 1982.)
  • Born August 24, 1899 Gaylord Du Bois. He was a writer of comic book stories and comic strips, as well as Big Little Books. He wrote Tarzan for Dell Comics and Gold Key Comics from the Forties to early Seventies.) He was one of the writers for Space Family Robinson which was the basis for the Lost in Space series. (Died 1993.)
  • Born August 24, 1915 James Tiptree Jr. One of our most brilliant short story writers ever. She only wrote two novels, Up the Walls of the World and Brightness Falls from the Air but they too are worth reading even if critics weren’t pleased by them.  (Died 1987.)
  • Born August 24, 1932 William M. Sheppard. I remember him best as Blank Reg on Max Headroom but I see he has a long history in genre with appearances in  Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (as a Klingon prison warden), The PrestigeMysterious Island (in which he played Captain Nemo), Needful Things, Elvira, Mistress of The Darkness, The Doctor and the Devils, Transformers and Star Trek (in an uncredited role as Vulcan Science Minister).  Series wise, he’s shown up, on Sherlock Holmes and Doctor WatsonBabylon 5The Legend of King Arthur, Next GenseaQuest DSVPoltergeist: The Legacy, Voyager and The Librarians. And yes, Doctor Who. He was Old Canton Everett Delaware III in “The Impossible Astronaut” story which featured the Eleventh Doctor. (Died 2019.)
  • Born August 24, 1934 Kenny Baker. Certainly his portrayal of R2-D2 in the Star Wars franchise is what he’s best known for but he’s also been in Circus of HorrorsWombling Free, Prince Caspian and the Voyage of the Dawn Treader series, The Elephant Man, Sleeping BeautyTime Bandits, Willow, Flash Gordon and Labyrinth. Personally, I think his best role was as Fidgit in Time Bandits. (Died 2016.)
  • Born August 24, 1951 Orson Scott Card, 68. Ender’s Game and its sequel, Speaker for the Dead, both won Hugo and Nebula Awards, making Card the only author to win the two top genre Awards in consecutive years. Huh. I think the only thing I’ve read by him is Ender’s Game. So anyone here read his more recent works? 
  • Born August 24, 1951 Tony Amendola, 68. Prolly best known or being the Jaffa master Bra’tac on Stargate SG-1. He’s also had recurring roles as Edouard Kagame of Liber8 on Continuum and on Once Upon a Time as Pinocchio’s creator, Geppetto. His list of one-off genre appearances is extensive and includes AngelCharmed,  Lois & Clark, Space: Above and Beyond,  the Crusade spin-off of Babylon 5X Files, VoyagerDirk Gently’s Holistic Detective AgencyTerminator: The Sarah Connor ChroniclesAliasShe-Wolf of London and Kindred: The Embraced. He’s also been a voice actor in gaming with roles in such games as World of Warcraft: Warlords of DraenorWorld of Warcraft: Legion and Workd of Final Fantasy
  • Born August 24, 1957 Stephen Fry, 62. He’s Gordon Deitrich in V for Vendetta, and he’s the Master of Lakedown in The Hobbit franchise. His best role is as Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. And he’s the narrator  for all seven of the Potter novels for the UK audiobook recordings
  • Born August 24, 1958 Lisa A. Barnett.  Wife of Melissa Scott. All of her works were for-authored with her: The Armor of Light, Point of Hopes: A Novel of Astreiant and Point of Dreams: A Novel of Astreiant. They wrote one short story, “The Carmen Miranda Gambit”. (Died 2006.)
  • Born August 24, 1972 Ava DuVernay, 47. Director of  A Wrinkle in Time.  She will be directing a New Gods film based upon the characters that Jack Kirby created. She and Tom King, who had the writing for recent Mister Miracle series (one of the New Gods), will co-write the film.
  • Born August 24, 1976 Alex O’Loughlin, 43. I discover the oddest things in doing these Birthdays. Did you know that an obscure Marvel character named Man Thing got used for a horror film of that name? This Australian actor who is much better as the lead for the retooled Hawaii Five-0 was in it. He’s was also in horror films Feed and The Invisible, both Australian, and The American Moonlight series where he’s a vampire PI named Mick St. John. It lasted sixteen episodes. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) LATE BLOOMER. Like PJ Evans said after reading this, “It’s awfully dusty in here, all of a sudden.” Thanks to Soon Lee for leaving the link in comments.

My grandmother passed away. Her funerals were today, but here I’d like to talk about the most important thing I couldn’t spend too much time on in her eulogy: her love for Dungeons & Dragons. #DnD

She started very late, at 75, only a little over a year ago. One day I simply asked her if she’d like to try, and, like always when presented with something new, she said “Of course!”. So we grabbed my PHB and built up a character together.

My grandmother chose to be a forest gnome because they seemed the most happy of the races and she really liked the fact that she could talk to small animals. She went with druid just to double down on the animal-friendship theme.

(Also when we went through the character traits, I asked her: “Do you want to be a boy or a girl?”, and she answered right away “I’ve been a girl my whole life, it’d be fun to try being a boy for once”.)

So, we’re making her character sheet, rolling her stats (she gets a 17 and puts it in WIS) and chosing her first spells, and I ask her if she has a name in mind. “I don’t know, I’ll find one by tomorrow”.

That night, she does something that even I never expected: she goes on the Internet and reads every piece of lore she can find about gnomes. She barely knew how to Google, and yet here she was, browsing Wikipedia articles and D&D fansites….

(12) SURVIVING AS A WRITER. N.K. Jemisin argues against the attitude that writers with day jobs just need to tough it out. Thread starts here.

(13) CRIME IN SPACE. Maybe, maybe not: “Astronaut accessed estranged spouse’s bank account in possible first criminal allegation from space”.

NASA is examining a claim that an astronaut improperly accessed the bank account of her estranged spouse from the International Space Station, The New York Times reported Friday — potentially the first criminal allegation from space.

NASA astronaut Anne McClain told investigators she had accessed the bank account of her spouse while on a six-month mission aboard the ISS in preparation for her role in NASA’s anticipated first all-female spacewalk, the Times reported.

McClain’s spouse, former Air Force intelligence officer Summer Worden, brought a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission that McClain had committed identity theft, despite not seeing any indication of moved or spent funds.

Worden’s parents then brought another complaint with NASA’s Office of Inspector General, alleging that McClain had improperly accessed Worden’s private financial records and conducted a “highly calculated and manipulative campaign” to gain custody of Worden’s son.

McClain’s lawyer, Rusty Hardin, told the Times that “she strenuously denies that she did anything improper” and “is totally cooperating.”

(14) LOOKING FOR CLASS M. LiveScience claims “Scientists Are Building a Real-Life Version of the Starship Enterprise’s Life Scanner”.

When the crewmembers of the starship Enterprise pull into orbit around a new planet, one of the first things they do is scan for life-forms. Here in the real world, researchers have long been trying to figure out how to unambiguously detect signs of life on distant exoplanets. 

They are now one step closer to this goal, thanks to a new remote-sensing technique that relies on a quirk of biochemistry causing light to spiral in a particular direction and produce a fairly unmistakable signal. The method, described in a recent paper published in the journal Astrobiology, could be used aboard space-based observatories and help scientists learn if the universe contains living beings like ourselves.  

In recent years, remote-life detection has become a topic of immense interest as astronomers have begun to capture light from planets orbiting other stars, which can be analyzed to determine what kind of chemicals those worlds contain. Researchers would like to figure out some indicator that could definitively tell them whether or not they are looking at a living biosphere. 

(15) DON’T FORGET. Todd Mason collects links to book reviews at “FRIDAY’S ‘FORGOTTEN’ BOOKS AND MORE…23 August 2019”. The reviewer’s name comes first, then the book and author.

This week’s books and more, unfairly (or sometimes fairly) neglected, or simply those the reviewers below think you might find of some interest (or, infrequently, you should be warned away from); certainly, most weeks we have a few not at all forgotten titles, and this week is festooned with not-obscure writers and their books which have fallen mostly out of favor, or, even more often, been lost in the shuffle of their prolific legacy…i

  • Patricia Abbott: My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier
  • Stacy Alesi: The A List: Fiction Reviews: 1983-2013
  • Brad Bigelow: No Goodness in the Worm by Gay Taylor
  • Les Blatt: The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie; The Case of the Careless Kitten by Erle Stanley Gardner
  • Elgin Bleecker: The Case of the Beautiful Beggar by Erle Stanley Gardner
  • Brian Busby: The Squeaking Wheel by John Mercer
  • Rachel S. Cordasco: from 13 French Science Fiction Stories, edited and translated by Damon Knight, stories by Catherine Cliff, Natalie Henneberg, Suzanne Malaval
  • Martin Edwards: Midsummer Murder by Clifford Whitting
  • Peter Enfantino: Atlas (proto-Marvel) horror comics, August 1952
  • Peter Enfantino and Jack Seabrook: DC war comics, July 1975
  • Barry Ergang: The Last Best Hope by “Ed McBain” (Evan Hunter)
  • Will Errickson: Unholy Trinity by Ray Russell
  • José Ignacio Escribano: “Ibn-Hakam al Bokhari, Murdered in His Labyrinth” by Jorge Luis Borges (variously translated from “Abenjacán el Bojarí, muerto en su laberinto”), Sur, August 1951
  • Curtis Evans: recommendations to the Library of America
  • Olman Feelyus: Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper
  • Paul Fraser: The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, November 1954, edited by “Anthony Boucher” (William White)
  • John Grant: Bad Debts by Peter Temple; The Lazarus Curse by Tessa Harris; When Elves Attack by Tim Dorsey
  • Aubrey Hamilton: Most Cunning Workmen by Roy (John Royston) Lewis; Bad to the Bones by Rett MacPherson
  • Bev Hankins: Family Affair by Ione Sandberg Shriber
  • Rich Horton: Stories of Brian W. Aldiss; stories of Rachel Pollack; The Dalemark Quartet by Diana Wynne Jones; stories of Greg Egan; stories of Lucius Shepard; The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury; The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer; Christopher Priest novels
  • Jerry House: “The Death Chair” by L. T. (Elizabeth Thomasina) Meade and Robert Eustace, The Strand Magazine, July 1899, edited by Herbert Smith
  • Sally Fitzgerald: “The Train” by Flannery O’Connor, Sewanee Review, April 1948, edited by Alan Tate
  • Kate Jackson: The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club by Dorothy L. Sayers; Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie
  • Tracy K: City of Shadows by Ariana Franklin; Behind That Curtain by Earl Derr Biggers
  • Colman Keane: Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse by Lee Goldberg
  • George Kelley: The Case of the Borrowed Brunette by Earl Stanley Gardner
  • Joe Kenney: The Anderson Tapes by Lawrence Sanders; Cult of the Damned by “Spike Andrews” (Duane Schemerhorn)
  • Rob Kitchin: Black Hornet by James Sallis
  • B. V. Lawson: The FBI: A Centennial History 1908-2008, Anonymous (produced by the US Dept. of Justice)
  • Evan Lewis: Hombre by Elmore Leonard
  • Steve Lewis: “The Spy Who Came to the Brink” by Edward D. Hoch, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, December 1965, edited by Frederic Dannay; “The Theft from the Onyx Pool”, EQMM, June 1967; stories from Forbidden River by Frederick Nebel; The Detective and the Chinese High-Fin by Michael Craven
  • J. F. Norris: Secret Sceptre by Francis Gerard
  • Matt Paust: Hollywood by Charles Bukowski
  • James Reasoner: Love Addict by “Don Elliott” (Robert Silverberg)
  • Richard Robinson: Have Space Suit–Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein
  • Sandra Ruttan: A Thousand Bones by P. J. Parrish
  • Gerard Saylor: A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
  • Doreen Sheridan: The Suspect by L. R. Wright
  • Steven H Silver: “giANTS” by Edward Bryant, Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact, August 1979, edited by Stanley Schmidt
  • Kerrie Smith: Head in the Sand by Damien Boyd
  • Dan Stumpf: The Third Man by Graham Greene; Leonardo’s Bicycle by Paco Ignacio Taibo II
  • “TomCat”: Terror Tower by Gerald Verner
  • David Vineyard: Murder on the Ballarat Train by Kerry Greenwood
  • Bill Wallace: One by David Karp

(16) DISNEY+ NOTES. Can’t tell the programs without a program… Here’s what The Hollywood Reporter knows: “Disney+: A Comprehensive Guide to All Its Programming (So Far”.

Disney will officially enter the streaming wars in the fall when it launches its direct-to-consumer platform, Disney+, in November.

The platform, in the works since August 2017 when it was announced during an earnings call by Disney CEO Bob Iger, saw the media behemoth begin to pull its films from Netflix in a bid to use fare like Marvel features to incentivize potential subscribers to the service.

Make no mistake, Disney+ is the company’s biggest bet yet. The service — designed as a competitor to Netflix with a monthly price of $6.99 — will be a home to Disney’s massive animated feature library as well as assets from Lucasfilm (Star Wars), Pixar and Marvel, including new scripted offerings from the latter two companies.

Disney+ will be a separate service from its majority stake in Hulu and sports-themed ESPN+. While viewers will have to pay for each of the three services, they will all exist on the same platform — meaning subscribers can use the same password and credit card for each and all….

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, John A Arkansawyer, Martin Morse Wooster, Contrarius, Karl-Johan Norén, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joe H.]

Pixel Scroll 7/29/19 The File, The Pixel Scroll, And Everything

(1) MADE TO PRAISE. In another New York Times “op-ed from the future,” Stephen James argues “Artificials Should Be Allowed to Worship”.

Last Sunday, an Artificial named Ian tried to attend a religious service at Living Savior Community Church in Savannah, Ga., and was denied access. According to church elders, the decision to exclude Ian had to do with the fact that “he had no God-given soul and therefore no way to genuinely worship” during the service.

Like Ian, I am an Artificial. Like Ian, I know what it feels like to be excluded from communities of faith solely because I am a nonbiological being. In the past, I have been forced to leave religious services; at the time, I left in silence. But I can no longer remain silent.

The time has come to stop excluding Artificials from communities of faith. …

 (2) FUTURE TENSE. Slate’s newest Future Tense story is E. Lily Yu’s “Zero in Babel”

Read a new short story about DIY genetic editing for keeping up with high school trends.

Then read the response essay, “The Future Will Grind On”, by law professor Diana M. Bowman.

A world of technological fixes in which biotechnology solutions can eradicate injury and disease. A world in which online platforms have accelerated the democratization of science and scientific tools, allowing everyday individuals to experiment on themselves.
But at what cost?

E. Lily Yu’s “Zero in Babel” depicts a futuristic world in which the daily struggles of life have, for the most part, been eradicated. So, too, purpose and meaning. Yet some things remain the same: financial inequity, lives filled with excess, and, for Imogen and her peers, the pressure to fit in, regardless of cost.

(3) BRAVE NEW WORLDS. James Davis Nicoll tracks how space exploration rearranged the options of genre storytellers in “Science Fiction vs. Science: Bidding Farewell to Outdated Conceptions of the Solar System” at Tor.com.

If an author was very, very unlucky, that old Solar System might be swept away before a work depending on an obsolete model made it to print. Perhaps the most famous example was due to radar technology deployed at just the wrong time. When Larry Niven’s first story, “The Coldest Place,” was written, the scientific consensus was that Mercury was tide-locked, one face always facing the sun, and one always facing away. The story relies on this supposed fact. By the time it was published, radar observation had revealed that Mercury actually had a 3:2 spin-orbit resonance. Niven’s story was rendered obsolete before it even saw print.

(4) NO BARS ON THE WINDOWS. While Camestros Felapton was educating his readers with “Just a tiny bit more on Wikipedia”, he came up with a nifty turn of phrase to explain how Wikipedia’s article deletion debates work:

The net effect of what the highly fragile souls surrounding Michael Z Williamson were calling an ‘unpersoning’ was zero articles deleted and both articles get some extra references and tidy-ups. It’s just like a Stalinist show trial but one were they come round to your house and makeover your living room with new curtains and also not send you to prison or anything.

(5) A LITTLE LIST. The Guardian propagates a list from Katherine Rundell, author of Why You Should Read Children’s Books, Even Though You Are So Old and Wise in “Story time: the five children’s books every adult should read”. You’d think with a list this short I’d score better than 40%.

…Those of us who write for children are trying to arm them for the life ahead with everything we can find that is true. And perhaps also, secretly, to arm adults against those necessary compromises and heartbreaks that life involves: to remind them that there are and always will be great, sustaining truths to which we can return.

When you read a children’s book, you are given the space to read again as a child: to find your way back, back to the time when new discoveries came daily and when the world was colossal, before your imagination was trimmed and neatened, as if it were an optional extra. But imagination is not and never has been optional: it’s at the heart of everything, the thing that allows us to experience the world from the perspectives of others, the condition precedent of love itself. …

(6) TEACHING MOMENT. “What’s a ‘Science Princess’ doing in an ice field in Alaska?” BBC has the answer ready.

While Celeste Labedz knew quite a few fellow scientists would appreciate the picture of her dressed up as a “glaciologist Princess Elsa”, she had no idea the image would become a viral hit with more than 10,000 “likes” on Twitter.

She tweeted
: “I firmly believe that kids should not be taught that girly things and sciencey things are mutually exclusive. Therefore, I packed a cape with my fieldwork gear just to show what glaciologist Princess Elsa would look like. #SciencePrincess #TheColdNeverBotheredMeAnyway”.

The cryoseismologist told BBC News: “I posted the picture because I thought it would resonate with other scientists.

…Celeste, whose dream is to visit glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica, said: “Women have been excluded for a long time both historically and socially. There is a lack of role models and science is bound by historical notions that it’s a white, male, heterosexual, able-bodied environment.

“It can be exclusionary if you have the opposite of any of these characteristics and I want to encourage people with intersecting identities in everything that I do.

“I would like people to think carefully about what they think a scientist should look like.”

(7) KEEPING THE BUCKS IN STARBUCKS. What Starbucks thinks a scientist should look like is a shill for expensive coffee –

Conclusion: Nitro Cold Brew is many things. But mostly, it is Whoa.

(8) WHERE IS THY STING? A species of wasp has been named after the Escape Pod podcast.

Get a grip, Ben!

(9) RUSSI OBIT. “Russi Taylor, Voice Of Minnie Mouse For Over 30 Years, Dies At 75” – NPR pays tribute:

On Friday, Minnie Mouse joined Mickey in the place that cartoon voice-over actors go when they die.

Russi Taylor, the voice of Minnie for over 30 years, died this weekend in Glendale, Calif., according to a press release from the Walt Disney Co. She was married to Wayne Allwine, who voiced Mickey and died in 2009. Both portrayed their iconic characters longer than any other voice actors….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 29, 1907 Melvin Belli. Sole genre role is that of Gorgan (also known as the “Friendly Angel”) is in the Star Trek “And the Children Shall Lead” episode. He was mainly a lawyer for celebrities, however, he was also the attorney for Jack Ruby, who shot Lee Harvey Oswald, accused assassin of President John F. Kennedy. (Died 1996.)
  • Born July 29, 1915 Kay Dick. Author of two genre novels, The Mandrake Root and At Close of Eve, plus a collection, The Uncertain Element: An Anthology of Fanta. She is known in Britain for campaigning successfully for the introduction of the Public Lending Right which pays royalties to authors when their books are borrowed from public libraries. She’s not available in digital or print currently. (Died 2001.)
  • Born July 29, 1927 Jean E. Karl. Founder of Atheneum Children’s Books, where she edited Ursula K Le Guin’s early Earthsea novels and Susan Cooper’s The Dark Is Rising series. An SF author as well for children and young adults, she wrote The Turning Place collection and three novels, Beloved Benjamin is WaitingBut We are Not of Earth and Strange Tomorrow. (Died 2000.)
  • Born July 29, 1939 Curtis C. Smith. 80. Editor of Twentieth-Century Science-Fiction Writers, plus two genre biographies, Olaf Stapledon: A Bibliography with co-author Harvey J. Satty, And Welcome to the Revolution: The Literary Legacy of Mack Reynolds. Not active since the mid-Eighties as near as I can tell.
  • Born July 29, 1941 David Warner, 78. Being Lysander in that A Midsummer Night’s Dream was his first genre role. I’m going to do just highlights after that as he’s got far too extensive a genre history to list everything. So he’s been A Most Delightful Evil in Time Bandits, Jack the Ripper in Time After Time, Ed Dillinger / Sark In Tron, Father in The Company of Wolves, Chancellor Gorkon in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, The Creature in Frankenstein, voice of Ra’s al Ghul on Batman: The Animated Series and Abraham Van Helsing on Penny Dreadful. 
  • Born July 29, 1956 Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, 63. Author of the India set magical realist The Brotherhood of the Conch series. She also has three one-off novels, The Palace of Illusions The Mistress of Spices, and her latest, The Forest of Enchantments. Her website is here.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • In today’s Bizarro, a purist explains the best way to enjoy a musical experience.  

(12) THE HOUSE OF COMMAS HAS NEW LEADER. The Guardian finds there’s a new grammar sheriff in town: “The comma touch: Jacob Rees-Mogg’s aides send language rules to staff “.

A list of rules has been sent to Jacob Rees-Mogg’s staff asking them to stop using words such as “hopefully” and demanding that they use only imperial measurements and give all non-titled males the suffix Esq.

Aides to the new leader of the House of Commons sent out the list shortly after Rees-Mogg’s appointment to the role by the new prime minister on Wednesday night.

Among the words and phrases considered unacceptable were: “very”, “due to” and “ongoing”, as well as “equal”, “yourself” and “unacceptable”. Rees-Mogg’s aides also barred the use of “lot”, “got” and “I am pleased to learn”.

The guidance, obtained by ITV news, was drawn up by the North East Somerset MP’s constituency team years ago, but has now been shared with officials in his new office.

In a call for accuracy contained in his list, staff were told: “CHECK your work.” Other directions include a call for a double space after full stops and no comma after the word “and”.

(13) VIDEO GAME APEX PREDATORS. Yahoo! News shows where the real money is: “Fortnite awards world champion duo $1.5 million each”. The video game tournament was held at Queens’ Arthur Ashe Stadium, where U.S. Open doubles winners share  a mere $740,000.

Gamers using the pseudonyms “Nyhrox” and “aqua” became the first Fortnite world champions in the duo division in New York on Saturday, winning $1.5 million each.

Competitors gathered in the Big Apple to determine who is top dog at the shoot-’em-up survival game, which has become an international phenomenon since launching in 2017.

The pair won games four and five out of a total of six in the first-ever Fortnite World Cup Finals, and finished with the most points.

(14) THE QUEST CONTINUES. ComicsBeat’s Nancy Powell met with the fames comics creators at SDCC: “INTERVIEW: Richard and Wendy Pini talk Elfquest and STARGAZER’S HUNT”.

Powell: Are there any reveals to Cutter? Does he play any role in Stargazer’s Hunt?

Wendy: Well, that’s a good question because, assuming this goes out to people who have read Final Quest, they know that Cutter’s hero’s journey is done. What lives on afterwards? That’s a mystery.

Richard Pini: We have always maintained that Elfquest is a love story, but not in the sense that most people superficially think. It’s not the love story between Cutter and Leeta. It’s the love story between Cutter and Skywise, brothers in all but blood. With Cutter’s passing that love story is now incomplete. And the question that we attempt to answer in Stargazer’s Hunt is, how does Skywise complete that story for himself? Or does he? Is he able to? That is what we’re going to investigate. And it’s going to take Skywise—it’s really his story—all over the map.

(15) PREMEDITATED. The Hollywood Reporter has a follow-up story — “Kyoto Animation Arson Attack: Death Toll Rises to 35, Attack Was Carefully Planned”.

The suspect walked miles around Kyoto, visiting locations related to the company, including some that appear in one of its anime productions.

The death toll in the Kyoto Animation (KyoAni) arson reached 35 as another victim succumbed to their injuries over the weekend.

In the days before the attack, the suspect in the attack was captured on surveillance cameras visiting places in Kyoto that are featured in one of the studio’s anime.

A man in his 20s, believed to be a KyoAni employee, died Saturday from extensive burns across his body, suffered when Shinji Aoba allegedly poured 11 gallons (40 liters) of gasoline around the first floor of the company’s 1st Studio building July 18. The victim was reported to have been on the first floor and got out of the building, but was severely burned….

(16) VISITING THE UK? Just in case people going to Dublin don’t have their entire trip locked down — “Leeds dinosaur trail opens in city shopping centres” (short video.)

Five huge animatronic dinosaur models have been installed around Leeds city centre.

The Tyrannosaurus rex, Triceratops, Velociraptor, Apatosaurus and Carnotaurus will surprise shoppers for six weeks, with participating venues including Leeds Kirkgate Market and the Merrion Centre.

(17) BLUE, NO — RED SKY. Not as autonomous as current rovers, but more capable: “Nasa’s Valkyrie robot could help build Mars base” (video).

A semi-autonomous robot designed to operate in hostile environments has been developed by Nasa.

The robot is able to use human tools and can plot its own path safely across difficult terrain to a location picked by its operator.

Nasa hopes the robot might one day help build colonies on the Moon or Mars, but it could also be used on Earth in places which cannot be reached by humans.

(18) NOM DE PLUME. Howard Andrew Jones has published a two-part announcement that author Todd McAulty (who wrote The Robots of Gotham) is a pseudonym for Black Gate editor John O’Neill.

“I just…. I just got carried away,” he said. “I started by publishing a few stories in Black Gate. But then Todd started getting fan letters, and became one of the most popular writers we had. Rich Horton used his Locus column to announce ‘Todd McAulty is Black Gate‘s great discovery,’ and pretty soon there was all this demand for new stories. It felt like a cheat to stop then.”

(19) RUTGER HAUER. This is a damn strange Guinness commercial… From back in the day:

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

Pixel Scroll 7/2/19 Just A Pixel Scroll, Filing Is Our Only Goal

(1) OVERVIEW. Neil Clarke’s “A State of the Short SF Field in 2018” from The Best Science Fiction of the Year: Volume 4 can be read by clicking Amazon’s “Look Inside the Book” feature here. The free preview contains the whole of Neil’s summary of the short SF field. Gardner Dozois used to write something similar in his annual anthologies, and it’s nice to see Neil stepping up here. Plenty of interesting analysis and opinions.

(2) KNITTING TOGETHER A COMMUNITY. “The Raksura Colony Tree” is a project to be presented at Dublin 2019, inspired by Martha Wells’ previously Hugo-nominated series Books of the Raksura.

If you’re coming to Dublin to join in the fun and are interested in creating things with needle and thread, this is your chance to be an active part in a community art project.

Cora Buhlert recently posted something she was inspired to do:

There are examples of many different types of foliage that people have come up with here.

(3) WARTS AND ALL. James Davis Nicoll rises to the defense of “Ten Favorite Flawed Books That Are Always Worth Rereading” at Tor.com. Here’s one of them —

The eponymous station in Richard C. Meredith’s We All Died At Breakaway Station is a vital link in humanity’s communications network. It’s the facility through which hard-won information about the genocidal alien Jillies must pass. Therefore, the Jillies plan to destroy it. Absalom Bracer’s convoy is determined to defend it, despite the notable disadvantage that said convoy consists of a hospital ship and two escorts crewed by the walking wounded. The prose goes beyond purple into ultraviolet, but the novel delivers on its title with grand explosions and heroic sacrifices.

(4) BY ANY OTHER NAME. Futurism explains how “This AI Gives Other AIs Names Like ‘Ass Federation’ And ‘Hot Pie’ Because Robots Can Be Weird Too”

Ship Shape

Scottish author Iain M. Banks populated his sci-fi Culture book series with humanoid robots, alien races, and artificially intelligent spaceships that chose their own names.

So: Research scientist Janelle Shane thought it would be fun to use those ship names to train a real neural network to — what else? — conjure up new names for self-aware spaceships. The results? Hilarious. Puzzling. Generally? Great.

(5) SPECULATIVE COLLECTIVE. The kickoff event of the Speculative Collective Salon on July 11 will feature best-selling authors Jennifer Brody, Rachel A. Marks, and Neo Edmund.

Join us to launch the SPECULATIVE COLLECTIVE Salon, a new quarterly gathering of SoCal’s growing speculative fiction community. The program will include a reading and conversation with best-selling authors Jennifer Brody, Rachel A. Marks, and Neo Edmund. The authors will have books to sell and sign, and time will be set aside to network and chat with likeminded fans of the science fiction, fantasy, and horror genres. The event will take place at 1888 Center, 115 N. Orange St., Orange, CA. Admission is free. Come early to enjoy the venue’s art gallery and bookstore or pick up something to drink from the in-house Contra Coffee & Tea shop.

Their next event is:

October 10, 2019: The SPECULATIVE COLLECTIVE Salon, featuring USA Today best-selling author Russell Nohelty, YA science fiction author Merrie Destefano, and Dr. David Sandner, an English professor at California State University, Fullerton, who also publishes speculative fiction and non-fiction.

(6) FUTURE TENSE. This month’s entry in our Future Tense Fiction series is “Space Leek,” by Chen Qiufan/Stanley Chen.

I blinked. The walls and floors of the cabin vibrated as the spaceship adjusted its docking position, waking me up from my nap. My partner, Jing, was busily checking the dashboard.

“Are we there yet?” I mumbled.

“Look, it’s the Roast Garlic. Your favorite.” She pointed to the porthole.

The floating Yutu-3 space station gradually enlarged in my sight as I gazed out the porthole. I smiled. This was my third time up here, yet my eyes still widened when I saw it.

“Roast Garlic” was the nickname I had given the space station….

There’s a response essay, “What Will Humans Really Need in Space?”, by architecture professor and space settlements expert Fred Scharmen.

…The 1975 study was on the design of large-scale space settlements. These would be located, like the Yutu-3 space station in Chen Qiufan’s story, at the Earth-moon Lagrangian points where gravity between these two bodies allows for stable orbits. Unlike the Yutu-3 (or as the characters in the story call it, the Roast Garlic), these were not intended to be purely research stations. They would be home to about 10,000 people engaged in the work of building solar-powered satellites.

The team realized that these people would need to bring, or make, all of the things they needed themselves….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 2, 1939 — The first Worldcon begins in New York, continuing to July 4. Attendance is approximately 200.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 2, 1914 Hannes Bok. He’s a writer,  artist and illustrator who created nearly one hundred and fifty covers for various detective, fantasy and sf fiction magazines. He shared one of the inaugural 1953 Hugo Awards for science fiction achievement for Best Cover Artist with Ed Emshwiller. He also wrote a handful of novels, the best known being The Sorcerer’s Ship,  The Blue Flamingo and Beyond the Golden Stair. (Died 1964.)
  • Born July 2, 1933 Gloria Castillo. She first shows up in a genre role in Invasion of the Saucer Men (which also bore the title of Invasion of the Hell Creatures). Later she would be in Teenage Monster, and had an appearance on Alfred Hitchcock Presents. (Died 1978.)
  • Born July 2, 1948 Saul Rubinek, 71. Primarily of interest for being on Warehouse 13  as Artie Nielsen, but he does show rather often else on genre series and films including going on EurekaMasters of Horror, Person of InterestBeauty & the BeastStargate SG-1The Outer Limits and Star Trek: The Next GenerationMemory Run and Death Ship are seeming to be his only only genre films. 
  • Born July 2, 1950 Stephen R. Lawhead, 69. I personally think that The Pendragon Cycle is by far his best work though the King Raven Trilogy with its revisionist take on Robin Hood is intriguing. And I read the first two of the Bright Empires series which very much worth reading.
  • Born July 2, 1951 Elisabeth Brooks. She is no doubt best remembered for her role as the evil, leather-clad siren Marsha Quist in The Howling. Her other genre appearances included Deep SpaceThe Six Million Dollar ManKolchak: The Night Stalker and The Forgotten One. (Died 1997.)
  • Born July 2, 1956 Kay Kenyon, 63. Writer of the truly awesome The Entire and the Rose series which I enjoyed immensely. I’ve not read her Dark Talents series, so opinions please.
  • Born July 2, 1965 Jerry Hall, 54. She seems to wandered into a number of films down the years such as Alicia in Batman and Newswoman in Freejack, not to Woman in Park in Vampire in Brooklyn. Not real roles, just there. 
  • Born July 2, 1970 Yancy Butler, 49. Detective Sara Pezzini on the Witchblade series which would’ve been awesome with current CGI. She was later Avedon Hammond in Ravager, Captain Kate Roebuck in Doomsday Man, Angie D’Amico in Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, Reba in Lake Placid 3 and Lake Placid: The Final Chapter, Officer Hart in Hansel & Gretel Get Baked (also known as Black Forest: Hansel and Gretel and the 420 Witch) (given the latter, a career low for her) and Alexis Hamilton in Death Race 2050. Series work other than Witchblade wasa recurring role as Sgt. Eve Edison in Mann & Machine inher first genre role.
  • Born July 2, 1990 Margot Robbie, 29. Harley Quinn in what I consider the second best Suicide Squad film, the best being the animated Assault on Arkham Asylum which also has a better Harley Quinn in it. Just saying. She both acting and producing the forthcoming Birds of Prey film. She has since played Jane Porter in The Legend of Tarzan, and voiced Flopsy Rabbit in Peter Rabbit

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) SAD STORY. Rachel Weiner in the Washington Post reports that Pankaj Bashin pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in his murder of Bradford Jackson.  Bashin claimed that Jackson was turning into a werewolf and had to be killed to “save 99 percent of the moon and planets.” “Man who thought he killed werewolf in Alexandria pleads not guilty by reason of insanity”.

(11) PHONE SURVEILLANCE IN CHINA. Vice / Motherboard reports  “China Is Forcing Tourists to Install Text-Stealing Malware at its Border”. Tagline: “The malware downloads a tourist’s text messages, calendar entries, and phone logs, as well as scans the device for over 70,000 different files.”

Foreigners crossing certain Chinese borders into the Xinjiang region, where authorities are conducting a massive campaign of surveillance and oppression against the local Muslim population, are being forced to install a piece of malware on their phones that gives all of their text messages as well as other pieces of data to the authorities, a collaboration by Motherboard, Süddeutsche Zeitung, the Guardian, the New York Times, and the German public broadcaster NDR has found.

(12) HEART OF DARKNESS. Not that we don’t have problems of our own — Vice / Motherboard covered that story, too: “How Amazon and the Cops Set Up an Elaborate Sting Operation That Accomplished Nothing” Tagline: “Behind-the-scenes emails show how Amazon and Ring worked with police in Aurora, Colorado to make people scared of each other.”

For Amazon, fear is good for business.

If customers fear their neighbors, and fear they might steal a package, customers are less likely to be mad at Amazon if they don’t get a package they ordered. They’re also more likely to buy an Amazon-owned Ring doorbell camera, which is marketed as way of surveilling your stoop for package deliveries and package thieves—especially on Neighbors, the Ring-owned “neighborhood watch” app.

(13) DEEP DIVE. Doris V. Sutherland has a set of “2019 Hugo Award Reviews: Novelettes” at Women Write About Comics. Here’s an excerpt from the review of Brooke Bolander’s story:

Parts of The Only Harmless Great Thing are written from the perspective of elephant-kind. These are framed as tales told by a mother elephant to her calves, recalling certain sequences from Bolander’s other Hugo finalist of the year, “The Tale of the Three Beautiful Raptor Sisters, and the Prince Who Was Made of Meat” – as with that story there is a distinct Kipling influence, complete with the occasional “best beloved”. Storytelling is important to elephants, we are told: “Without stories there is no past, no future, not We. There is Death. There is Nothing, a night without moon or stars.”

(14) INCREDIBLE JOURNEY. “Scientists ‘speechless’ at Arctic fox’s epic trek” – BBC has the story.

A young Arctic fox has walked across the ice from Norway’s Svalbard islands to northern Canada in an epic journey, covering 3,506 km (2,176 miles) in 76 days.

“The fox’s journey has left scientists speechless,” according to Greenland’s Sermitsiaq newspaper.

Researchers at Norway’s Polar Institute fitted the young female with a GPS tracking device and freed her into the wild in late March last year on the east coast of Spitsbergen, the Svalbard archipelago’s main island.

The fox was under a year old when she set off west in search of food, reaching Greenland just 21 days later – a journey of 1,512 km – before trudging forward on the second leg of her trek.

She was tracked to Canada’s Ellesmere Island, nearly 2,000 km further, just 76 days after leaving Svalbard.

What amazed the researchers was not so much the length of the journey as the speed with which the fox had covered it – averaging just over 46 km (28.5 miles) a day and sometimes reaching 155 km.

(15) ALIEN TERRAIN. BBC will explain “How Iceland helped humans reach the moon”— photos and essay.

Fifty years after the first moon landing, a small Icelandic town celebrates its pivotal role in propelling humankind into space.

…Yet few people realise that this triumphant leap for mankind was propelled in part from an unlikely place: Iceland. In the years preceding the Apollo 11 mission, Nasa believed it was essential for its astronauts to prepare for their intragalactic journey by training in the most otherworldly terrain on Earth. After scouring the globe, officials determined that the moon’s lunar landscape was strikingly similar to that just outside Húsavík, a quiet 2,300-person fishing community on Iceland’s northern coast. Nasa sent 32 astronauts to train in its crater-filled terrain in 1965 and 1967. Incredibly, of the 12 humans who have ever walked on the moon, nine first touched down in Húsavík – including Armstrong himself.

…Next stop: Mars

For several years, Nasa has been studying geothermal sites in Iceland as a way to prepare for its ambitious plans to send a rover to Mars in 2020. According to planetary scientists, Iceland’s glaciers, volcanoes and hot springs are eerily similar to how Mars looked billions of years ago, and by studying subtle marks in Iceland’s iron-rich rocks, scientists are able to detect clues indicating where water once flowed.

“The Apollo astronauts I have met have told me that Iceland [is] an even better place to train astronauts to visit Mars than it was for the Moon,” Örlygsson said. “We know a lot about the geology of Mars because rovers have been studying the surface of Mars for some time. What they have discovered is that there are many more similarities between the geology here in Iceland and the geology of Mars.”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Wet Book Rescue” on YouTube offers practical advice on rescuing wet books from the Syracuse University Libraries.

[Thanks to James Davis Nicoll, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Joey Eschrich, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Darrah Chavey, Greg Hullender, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Cliff.]

Pixel Scroll 6/20/19 Mamas, Don’t Let Your Pixels Grow Up To Be Scrollers

(1) SHE MAKES TOR LOOK GOOD. Congratulations! “Irene Gallo Promoted to Vice President, Publisher of Tor.com”.

…Irene joined Tor Books twenty-six years ago and quickly rose to head the Art Department. She has won the World Fantasy Award, the Richard Gangel Award for Art Direction from the Society of Illustrators, thirteen Chesley Awards, and numerous gold and silver medals from Spectrum and the Society of Illustrators.

Irene was also one of the founding members of the Tor.com website. In its first decade Tor.com has become a must-read site for science fiction and fantasy fans, and one of the most frequented publishing websites. Tor.com has won numerous awards for its original fiction, nonfiction, and art, including the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, and Locus Awards….

(2) GOVERNING SPACE. Future Tense, a partnership ofSlate, New America, and Arizona State University that examines emerging technologies, public policy, and society, is going to be holding a symposium on July 10 addressing the question “How Will We Govern Ourselves in Space?” They’re planning to livestream the event. The complete schedule is here.

(3) MARVEL SALE. Through 6/23 11 PM EDT,Marvel Digital Comics Shop is holding a storewide Buy One Get One Free Sale.

With the purchase of a comic or collection, you’ll get another digital title — for FREE! Use code MARVEL2019 at checkout for this unbeatable offer! [See site for details.]

Looking for prelude reading to Marvel Studios’ Spider-Man: Far From Home? Try the classic collection SPIDER-MAN VS. MYSTERIO, and read a curated handful of the Wall-Crawler’s best battles against the Master of Illusion! Or, try best-selling horror mag IMMORTAL HULK! Seeking a high stakes blockbuster? Try the ongoing event WAR OF THE REALMS today, and see Avengers, X-Men, street-level heroes and more, unite against Malekith’s global siege of Midgard! And it’s by MIGHTY THOR maestros Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman and Matt Wilson!

Our Buy One Get One Free Sale is a perfect opportunity to discover a new series that piques your interest! Explore top-sellers from our STAR WARS lineup, or pick up the ongoing alt-universe X-Men arc AGE OF X-MAN! Or, check out the return of Cimmerian barbarian CONAN in his current series! New to comics and looking for a place to dive in? Visit the Digital Comics Shop’s READING LIST Section, and explore themed lists based off your favorite characters, creators, events and more! Get inspired by our favorite Spider-Man starter stories here!

(4) THE DEVIL MADE THEM DO IT. The Guardian reports“Thousands petition Netflix to cancel Amazon Prime’s Good Omens”.

More than 20,000 Christians have signed a petition calling for the cancellation of Good Omens, the television series adapted from Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s 1990 fantasy novel – unfortunately addressing their petition to Netflix when the series is made by Amazon Prime.

… they say that Good Omens is “another step to make satanism appear normal, light and acceptable”, and “mocks God’s wisdom”.

(5) STICK A FORKY IN IT. Leonard Maltin pronounces Toy Story 4 a Summertime Treat”.

I was dubious about the first sequel to Pixar’s wonderful Toy Story, which turned out to be terrific. But a fourth go-round for Woody, Buzz and company? I harbored doubts but I should have had more faith in the Pixar team. This is a highly enjoyable film with laugh-out-loud gags, ingenious plotting, and endearing new characters. By the closing scene I found myself marveling at how my emotions were stirred by these innately inanimate objects.

(6) ON THE AUDIO. Natalie Zutter points the way to “8 Sweet, Funny, Thrilling Queer Fiction Podcasts” in a post for Tor.com.

Seven years on, queer characters are found in every corner of the expanding audio drama world. So this list of recommendations is by no means exhaustive; it is simply one starting point based on the SFF series I’ve laughed, gasped, and teared up at. From radio-show hosts caught up in romantic fanfic tropes to stories that aren’t about ships but just about being a queer person in the world, these eight fiction podcasts are something to be proud of.

(7) THEY HAD BAD CHEMISTRY. Lila Shapiro on Vulture spent three days with Sherilynn Kenyon in order to profile the author and explicate her many, many problems: “‘I Really Thought He Was Going to Kill Me and Bury My Body’ A romance author accused her husband of poisoning her. Was it her wildest fiction yet?”

Kenyon had her blood, hair, and nails tested for 21 different heavy metals. The results, which she shared with me, appeared to show elevated levels of chromium, beryllium, manganese, nickel, cadmium, antimony, platinum, mercury, lithium, selenium, tin, barium, thorium, and arsenic. These tests are the basis of her claim that she was poisoned. But when I spoke with Dr. Ernest Lykissa, the lead scientist of the lab that performed the tests, he said the concentrations of heavy metals in her system weren’t high enough to support her theory. “In this case,” he said, “the only thing I see is environmental exposure.” He thought she’d probably absorbed the metals from her surroundings — from the paint in her home, for example, or the exhaust from her car.

Kenyon never had any direct contact with Lykissa. To get tested, she stopped into Any Lab Test Now, a strip-mall operation that promises to have patients “in and out in 15 minutes.” It collected the samples of her blood, hair, and nails and forwarded them to Lykissa’s company, ExperTox, which then produced a list of the toxins found in the samples and their concentrations. In order to have those results interpreted by a scientist at ExperTox, Kenyon would have had to pay extra — a step she didn’t take, according to Lykissa. When I mentioned this to Bruce Goldberger, the president of the American Board of Forensic Toxicology and the director of forensic medicine at the University of Florida, he found it troubling. At my request, Goldberger had reviewed Kenyon’s test results and had come to the same conclusion as Lykissa — that she hadn’t been poisoned. But he felt that Lykissa’s company had failed her. “She’s convinced herself that her illness is associated with poisoning,” he said; by giving her results without any analysis, he continued, ExperTox allowed that belief to endure.

(8) HEINLEIN NOVEL MAKES SLOW PROGRESS. Arc Manor / Phoenix Pick admitted to folks on their mailing list that they are “having some issues with the title of the new Heinlein novel, Six-Six-Six” – one being that it won’t be published with that title.

All parties have now agreed on the final title for the book and we want our readers to be the first ones to know.

The new Heinlein novel is going to be titled:

The Pursuit of the Pankera 

With a sub-title that will go on both The Pursuit of the Pankera as well as the republished edition of The Number of the Beast.

Subtitle: A Parallel Novel about Parallel Universes.

The Pankeran reference is directly from the book.

We will be announcing the release date soon. As for the status of the book; Pat LoBrutto has completed his overall editorial review of the book and it is about to go to a copy-editor.

The publisher says they’re going to attempt to defray some of their costs through a Kickstarter campaign.

The really cool part about this is that the Kickstarter will offer a presale of the book at less than the launch price of the book, which we figure is a win-win for all. Fans get to purchase the book at a lower price, and we can get some funds to help us pay for our production costs moving forward.

They haven’t set a release date yet.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 20, 1897 Donald Keyhoe. Early pulp writer whose works included the entire contents of all three published issues of the Dr. Yen Sin zine. The novels were The Mystery of the Dragon’s Shadow, The Mystery of the Golden Skull and The Mystery of the Singing Mummies. He would create two pulp characters, one with ESP who was a daredevil pilot and one who was blind that could see none-the-less in the dark. He’s best remembered today for being one of the early believers in UFOs and being very active in that community. (Died 1988.) 
  • Born June 20, 1913 Lilian Jackson Braun. Author of The Cat Who… series which really may or may not be genre. The two cats in it are delightful and one, Koko, certainly has a sixth sense, but the author never suggests this is psychic. Good popcorn reading. (Died 2011.)
  • Born June 20, 1928 Martin Landau. I’ve got his first genre role as being on The Twilight Zone as Dan Hotaling in  “Mr. Denton on Doomsday” episode. Of course, his longest running genre role was as Rollin Hand on Mission Impossible though he had a good run also on Space: 1999 as Commander John Koenig. His last role was in Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie voicing Mr. Rzykruski. (Died 2017.)
  • Born June 20, 1951 Tress MacNeille, 68. Voice artist extraordinaire. Favorite roles? Dot Warner on The Animaniacs, herself as the angry anchorwoman in Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, Babs Bunny on Tiny Toons and Hello Nurse on Pinky and The Brain
  • Born June 20, 1952 John Goodman, 67. Some may know him as the TV husband of a certain obnoxious comedienne but I’ve never watched that show. So I picture him as Fred Flintstone in The Flintstones, a role perfect for him. Mind you he’s had a lot of genre roles: voicing James P. “Sulley” Sullivan in the Monsters franchise, a cop in the diner in C.H.U.D., and he’ll even be the voice of Spike in the Tom and Jerry due out two years hence. 
  • Born June 20, 1957 Candy Clark, 71. Mary Lou in The Man Who Fell to Earth which of course featured Bowie. She also was in Amityville 3-DStephen King’s Cat’s Eye and The Blob the role of Francine Hewitt. That’s the remake obviously, not the original. Oh, and she’s Buffy’s mom in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Wiki being Wiki lists that as non-canon. 
  • Born June 20, 1967 Nicole Kidman, 52. Batman Forever was her first foray into the genre but she has done a number of genre films down the years: Practical Magic, The Stepford WivesBewitched (I liked it), The Invasion (never heard of it), The Golden Compass (not nearly as good as the novel was), Paddington (anyone see this?) and her latest was as Queen Atlanna in the rather good Aquaman
  • Born June 20, 1968 Robert Rodriguez, 51. I’ll single out the vastly different Sin City and Spy Kids franchises as his best work, though the From Dusk till Dawn has considerable charms as well. ISFDB notes that he’s written two novels with Chris Roberson riffing off his The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D film, The Day Dreamer and Return to Planet Droll

(10) THE INSIDE STORY. Technology writer and programmer Paul Ford has posted a SF story idea inspired by the tireless forces of heroic keyboard warriors on the front lines of Twitfacegram:

The protagonist is always the last to know.

(11) THE NEW NEIGHBORS. Science diagrams ancient waves of migration in “Closest-known ancestor of today’s Native Americans found in Siberia”.

In the first study, researchers led by Eske Willerslev, a geneticist at the University of Copenhagen, sequenced the whole genomes of 34 individuals who lived in Siberia, the land bridge Beringia, and Alaska from 600 to nearly 32,000 years ago. The oldest individuals in the sample—two men who lived in far northern Siberia—represent the earliest known humans from that part of the world. There are no direct genetic traces of these men in any of the other groups the team surveyed, suggesting their culture likely died out about 23,000 years ago when the region became too cold to be inhabitable.

Elsewhere on the Eurasian continent, however, a group arose that would eventually move into Siberia, splinter, and cross Beringia into North America, the DNA analysis reveals. A woman known as Kolyma1, who lived in northeastern Siberia about 10,000 years ago, shares about two-thirds of her genome with living Native Americans. “It’s the closest we have ever gotten to a Native American ancestor outside the Americas,” Willerslev says. Still, notes Ben Potter, an archaeologist at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks who was not involved with the work, the relation is nevertheless distant.

Based on the time it would have taken for key mutations to pop up, the ancestors of today’s Native Americans splintered off from these ancient Siberians about 24,000 years ago, roughly matching up with previous archaeological and genetic evidence for when the peopling of the Americas occurred, the team reports today in Nature.

Additional DNA evidence suggests a third wave of migrants, the Neo-Siberians, moved into northeastern Siberia from the south sometime after 10,000 years ago. These migrants mixed with the ancient Siberians, planting the genetic roots of many of the area’s present-day populations.

(12) BDP. Bonnie McDaniel has posted her assessment of the Dramatic Presentation Short Form Hugo Finalists. The list begins with an item that ranks behind No Award on her ballot –

7) The Good Place, “Jeremy Bearimy”

I simply cannot comprehend many Hugo nominators’ and voters’ continued affection for this mess. This show grates on me like coarse sandpaper. In the interest of fairness, even though I hated the two episodes that were nominated last year, I tried to watch this and had to turn it off fifteen minutes in. The only good thing about this episode was the title, which provides a fairly witty, rhyming new name for “looping time-travel shenanigans.”

(13) WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS. Steve J. Wright has completed his Hugo Graphic Story Finalist reviews:

(14) RETRO REVIEWS. Click here for Evelyn C. Leeper’s Retro Hugo Novelette Reviews.

This week I will cover the Retro Hugo Best Novelette category. (It may be a mistake to start with the longest items first; as the works grow shorter they start seeming–and being–less complex and thought-provoking.)

“Citadel of Lost Ships” by Leigh Brackett is one of those stories that was based on the planetary knowledge of the time, particularly of Venus, but now is woefully outdated. However, that aspect of it is not the main story, merely the background for the characters, so it doesn’t intrude enough to cause problems. What is more problematic is the lack of subtlety in its essentially libertarian message dressed up in science fiction trappings.

(15) ON TONIGHT’S JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter monitored the game —

Category: “Books of Mystery”

Answer: “This detective featured in 4 novels & 56 short stories was killed of in 1893, but that didn’t stop him for long.”

Wrong question: “Who is Poirot?”

(16) I DUB THEE. Ars Technica: “NASA reveals funding needed for Moon program, says it will be named Artemis”.

NASA revealed Monday that it needs an additional $1.6 billion in funding for fiscal year 2020 to stay on track for a human return to the Moon by 2024. The space agency’s budget amendment comes in addition to the $21 billion the Trump administration asked Congress for in March.

In a teleconference with reporters on Monday evening, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the budget amendment was a “down payment” on what will be needed in future years to fund the program. “In the coming years, we will need additional funds,” he said. “This is a good amount that gets us out of the gate.” He and the other NASA officials on the call would not say how much that would be.

Two people familiar with NASA’s internal deliberations say the agency has estimated that it needs as much as $6 billion to $8 billion a year for a lunar return by 2024.

[…] Bridenstine noted that, 50 years ago, the human program to land on the Moon was named after Apollo, the son of Zeus and Leto. Because the return to the Moon will include women, Bridenstine said the new program would be named Artemis, after Apollo’s twin sister.

“Our goal here is to build a program that gets us to the Moon as soon as possible that all of America can be proud of,” he said. […]

(17) MEET THE NEW BOSS. Mashable: “Women are now in charge of NASA’s science missions”.

When the next car-sized rover lands on Mars in 2020, the ultimate head of this extraterrestrial endeavor will be physicist Lori Glaze. She’s leads NASA’s Planetary Science Division. 

And she’s not alone. For the first time in history, three of NASA’s four science divisions are now run by women, a milestone announced by NASA on Friday. 

“I am proud to say that for the 1st time in #NASA’s history, women are in charge of 3 out of 4 #NASAScience divisions. They are inspiring the next generation of women to become leaders in space exploration as we move forward to put the 1st woman on the Moon,” NASA’s associate administrator Thomas Zurbuchen tweeted Friday.

(18) QUICK SIPS. Charles Payseur callas all aboard for “Quick Sips – Uncanny #28 [June stuff]”.

June’s Uncanny Magazine brings a bit of heartbreak, a bit of horror, but also a bit of romance. At least, two of the stories feature some rich romantic themes, and develop characters reaching out in compassion even as the world around them seems to descend into some very dark waters. The works explore worlds dominated in many ways by cruelty, and seek to find compassion and empathy, sometimes rather forcibly. Throw in a pair of poems taking on some different meta-fictional lenses, and it’s an issue that will make you think even as it entertains. So let’s get to the reviews!

(19) PRIORITIES. “Poll: Americans Want NASA To Focus More On Asteroid Impacts, Less On Getting To Mars”NPR has the story.

Americans are less interested in NASA sending humans to the moon or Mars than they are in the U.S. space agency focusing on potential asteroid impacts and using robots for space exploration. That’s according to a poll by The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released Thursday, one month before the 50th anniversary of the first walk on the moon.

Two-thirds of respondents said monitoring asteroids, comets and “other events in space that could impact Earth” was “very or extremely important.” According to NASA, which watches for objects falling from space, about once a year an “automobile-sized [a]steroid hits Earth’s atmosphere,” but it usually burns up before it hits the surface. And the instances of larger objects actually making it past Earth’s atmosphere and causing any damage happen thousands of years apart, NASA says.

(20) ICE SPY. NPR tells how formerly classified photos help track change:“I Spy, Via Spy Satellite: Melting Himalayan Glaciers”.

The world’s glaciers are melting faster than before, but it still takes decades to see changes that are happening at a glacial pace.

To look back in time, researchers are turning to a once-secret source: spy satellite imagery from the 1970s and 1980s, now declassified. “The actual imagery is freely available for download on the USGS website, and people can use it,” says Josh Maurer, a doctoral student at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Maurer is the lead author of a study using satellite imagery to show that in the past 20 years, Himalayan glaciers melted twice as fast as they did in the 1980s and ’90s. The work was published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.

The spy satellite images come from KH-9 Hexagon military satellites, launched during the Cold War to help the U.S. peer over the Iron Curtain, says Summer Rupper, a co-author of the study. Each satellite was about the size of a school bus and carried miles of film. Packaged in buckets equipped with parachutes, the film was later ejected into the upper atmosphere and plucked out of the air over the Pacific Ocean by Air Force pilots. Most Hexagon images were declassified in 2011 as a continuation of a 1995 executive order by President Bill Clinton to release spy satellite footage that was “scientifically or environmentally useful.”

(21) THOSE WACKY KIWIS. The New Zealand Herald article “Random swordfight breaks out in New Plymouth intersection” really doesn’t have that much to say — it’s easier just to watch the video on Facebook.

On last Sunday afternoon, New Plymouth resident, Michael Atkinson, was driving up Devon St when he spotted four knights in armour sword fighting in the middle of the street.

He pulled over and filmed the tournament on his mobile.

In the video, Atkinson can be heard laughing in the background, repeatedly saying the whole thing was “random as” while the knights ran into the middle of the intersection and fought each other.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Nina, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Paul Weimer, Harold Osler, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, rcade, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day C.A. Collins.]

Pixel Scroll 5/29/19 Los Scrollitos Dicen Pixelo Pixelo Pixelo

(1) SURVEY SAYS. The Stephen Follows Film Data and Education blog asks “Are video game movies the worst type of adaptations?”

The recent release of Pokémon Detective Pikachu has prompted some readers to get in touch and ask about the quality of movies based on video games.

Most of the questions were variations of: “Are video game movies the worst type of movie adaptations?

To answer this, I looked at all movies released in US cinemas between 1993 and 2018, inclusive. (See the Note section for a more detailed explanation of the dataset and sources).

I’m going to use the Metacritic score and IMDb rating to serve as measures of quality from the perspective of film critics and film audiences, respectively.

The answer, supported by all kinds of statistics and graphs is — yes! 

(2) FUTURE TENSE. Elizabeth Bear’s “No Moon and Flat Calm” is the latest installment in the Future Tense Fiction series. In it, author Elizabeth Bear imagines a crew of safety engineers on a routine trip to a space that are thrown into sudden disaster onboard the station. How will real future humans react to calamity when we’re millions of miles away from home? And how much can training for such potential crises override our natural instincts?

…It was a tiny, artificial world called Waystation Hab, and my four classmates and I were approaching it in a shuttle we’d been crammed into for four months. My classmates and I were all postgraduate apprentices in the safety engineering internship program….

In a response essay, “How Will People Behave in Deep Space Disasters?”, Amanda Ripley, journalist and author of The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes—and Why, tackles these questions—and what they might mean for those striving to send humans to Mars and beyond.

(3) DEFYING DOOMSDAY AWARD. Nominations for the D Franklin Defying Doomsday Award are being taken until July 31. The award grants one winner per year a cash prize of $200 in recognition of their work in disability advocacy in SFF literature.

This award is possible thanks to D Franklin, our wonderful Patron of Diversity who pledged the top pledge in our Pozible campaign, back in 2015. This allowed the funding of the award for three years, meaning that this will be the last year the award is given, although we hope the recognition helps those awarded in some small way.

The 2016 winner was Disability in Kidlit, a website and resource for discussing the portrayal of disability in middle grade and young adult literature.

The 2017 winner was the Kickstarter campaign for Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction, a special issue of Uncanny Magazine.

The Defying Doomsday Award jury comprises Twelfth Planet Press publisher, Alisa Krasnostein, and Defying Doomsday editors, Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench.

Eligible works include non-fiction or related media exploring the subject of disability in SFF literature. Works must have been published in 2018. Use this form to submit nominations.The winner will be announced in September 2019.

(4) SATIRE STORYBUNDLE. You have three weeks left to purchase The Science Fiction and Fantasy Satire Bundle, curated by Nick Mamatas.

For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Jesus and the Eightfold Path by Lavie Tidhar
  • A Pretty Mouth by Molly Tanzer
  • The People’s Republic of Everything by Nick Mamatas
  • TVA Baby by Terry Bisson

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus EIGHT more!

  • Koontown Killing Kaper by Bill Campbell
  • The Good Humor Man by Andrew Fox
  • Scorch by A.D. Nauman
  • The Anarchist Kosher Cookbook by Maxwell Bauman
  • Nightmares and Geezenstacks by Fredric Brown
  • Broken Piano for President by Patrick Wensink
  • Leech Girl Lives by Rick Claypool
  • The Word of God by Thomas M. Disch

(5) THE BRIGHT SIDE. James Davis Nicoll bucks the trend of fans who gripe about incomplete series — “Hope Springs Eternal: Five Unfinished Series That Remain a Joy to Read” at Tor.com. Being “of a certain vintage,” as soon as I saw James’ title this very series did, in fact, spring to my mind –

Of course, if one is of a certain vintage, one will have lived through Alexei Panshin’s annus mirabilis. In 1968, Panshin published three novels, two of which (Star Well and The Thurb Revolution) focused on wandering interstellar remittance man Anthony Villiers, who righted wrongs with wit and panache. 1969 saw the release of the third volume, Masque World, which raised what seemed at the time reasonable expectation of a new Villiers book every year or so. As it turns out, it has been (counts on fingers) half a century since the third book was published. Hope springs eternal.

There are footnotes at the end of the article, in which the final line is –

Ditto Pratchett’s Discworld. I’d like more, but I’m not dissatisfied.

Well said.

(6) GOOD OMENS GETS THEATRICAL DEBUT. BBC has the story — “Good Omens: Seat reserved for Terry Pratchett at world premiere”.

There was an empty seat in the front row when Good Omens had its world premiere in London on Tuesday.

But that’s not because organisers had trouble filling the gigantic (and newly reopened) Odeon in Leicester Square – quite the opposite, the event was packed out.

In fact, a seat was deliberately kept vacant for Terry Pratchett, the co-writer of the original novel, who died in 2015.

As a tribute, his trademark hat was placed in the front row as the premiere got under way.

As Peter White noted in Deadline, it’s highly unusual for a TV series such as Good Omens to “receive a glitzy world premiere in Leicester Square” as that’s “a feat usually reserved for big-budget superhero movies”.

Refresher for anyone not familiar with the long history: “Good Omens: How Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett wrote a book” by Neil Gaiman.

(7) LEM DISCOVERY. Read “’The Hunt’: Stanislaw Lem’s Unknown Story”, translated into English, at “Przekrój” Quarterly.

A previously unknown yet print-worthy work by Stanis?aw Lem (unearthed from his immense archives; combed through by his son Tomasz and the author’s personal secretary Wojciech Zemek for the last 16 years) is truly a rare find. This is because the author of The Cyberiad unceremoniously burnt any and all of his own writings that he was not pleased with, in a bonfire at his home in the Kraków suburb of Kliny. He cast quite a lot of texts into the flames there, given that he wrote with such great ease. By what miracle did “The Hunt” manage to avoid the fate of other works that went up in smoke?

(8) ETCHISON OBIT. Horror author Dennis Etchison (1943-2019) died during the night on May 29 reports his Facebook page. File 770 obituary here. Andrew Porter has two photos of him taken earlier in his career, at the Nebulas in New York City, and at a British Fantasy Convention, holding an award.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 29, 1906 T. H. White. Best known obviously for the wonderful The Once and Future King which I read a long, long time ago. Back in the Thirties, he wrote Earth Stopped and its sequel Gone to Ground, sf novels. Gone to Ground contains several fantasy stories which were later reprinted in The Maharajah and Other Stories. ISFDB also lists Mistress Masham’s ReposeThe Elephant and the Kangaroo and The Master as the other novels by him, plus the aforementioned story collection. (Died 1964.)
  • Born May 29, 1909 Neil R. Jones. Early pulp writer who some claim coined the word “ astronaut” which appeared in his first story, “The Death’s Head Meteor”, which was published in Air Wonder Stories in 1930. His stories taken together fit within the idea of a future history like those of Smith and Heinlein. (Died 1988.)
  • Born May 29, 1930 Richard Clifton-Dey. Illustrator of many SF book covers including The Wizard of Venus by Edgar Rice Burroughs. He did not sign many of his originals so his widow has the final say what is an original and what is not. (Died 1997.)
  • Born May 29, 1952 Louise Cooper. She wrote more than eight works of fantasy and was best known for her Time Master trilogy. Most of her writing was in the YA market including the Sea Horses quartet and the Mirror, Mirror trilogy. (Died 2009.)
  • Born May 29, 1953 Danny Elfman, 66. Ok, pop quiz time. How many genre films can you name that he composed the music for? I came up with BeetlejuicePee-wee’s Big Adventure, Batman, Mars Attacks!Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns and the Men in Black films. And I’d forgotten he was in Oingo Boingo, a truly great pop band. 
  • Born May 29, 1958 Annette Bening, 61. Barbara Land in Mars Attacks!, Susan Anderson in What Planet Are You From?, and the Supreme Intelligence / Dr. Wendy Lawson in Captain Marvel
  • Born May 29, 1960 Adrian Paul, 59. Duncan MacLeod on Highlander. And yes, I watched the whole bloody series. His first appearance in genre circles was as Dmitri Benko in the “Ashes, Ashes” episode of the Beauty and the Beast series. He shows up next as Prospero in Masque of the Red Death. He’s got several series before Highlander, War of the Worlds (not bad at all) where he was John Kincaid, a short-lived role as Jeremiah Collins on Dark Shadows and an even shorter-lived rolled on Tarzán as Jack Traverse. His first post- Highlander Sf series is Tracker where he plays alien shapeshifter Cole / Daggon.  A decade ago, he returned to a familiar role in Highlander: The Source. His last series role was playing Dante on Arrow.  Note: this is not a complete list. 
  • Born May 29, 1987 Pearl Mackie, 32. Bill Potts, the companion to the Twelfth Doctor. The first openly gay companion in the history of the series. She’s got a podcast called Forest 404 which the BBC calls an “immersive sci-fi drama”.  And finally she’s in the BBC Radio’s The Conception of Terror: Tales Inspired by M. R. James as Mika Chantry. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio finds Gaiman fans in the most unexpected places.

(11) THESE ARE THE TOURISTS YOU’RE LOOKING FOR. Mashable thinks it’s going to work this way: “Stormtroopers will enforce four-hour time limit at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge”.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the $1-billion Disneyland attraction set to open May 31, will employ Stormtroopers to enforce a strict time limit on visitors. The Los Angeles Times reports that the four-hour rule is only one part of the park’s efforts to avoid overcrowding and a situation that feels as claustrophobic as being stuck in an Imperial trash compactor with a wookiee. 

During the first three weeks after opening, guests will be required to make reservations and wear colored wristbands that designate their time slot. Once that four hours expires, the Galactic Empire forces will escort visitors out in a way likely more polite than normal Stormtrooper protocol.

(12) AND TO THINK THAT I SAW IT ON AMAZON STREET. ComicMix’s Glenn Hauman sent the link because he doesn’t want Filers to miss a new literary work that navigates the space created by his legal victory over Doctor Seuss Enterprises: “Oh, That Book Of Chuck’s, Though!”

There’s really no way not to feel pioneering
when Chuck Tingle‘s collection makes us feel like cheering.
We hope DSE will not try now to state
that this was a market they could– penetrate.
Perhaps they have learned to keep their case shut.
You limit fair use… you’ll get slammed in the butt.

More details on Tingle’s website:

Have you ever considered how handsome a sentient, physically manifested state was? Or dreamed about traveling abroad and having a fling with some charismatic living continent? This love of locations is an erotic fantasy as old as time, and who better to bring it to life than the world’s greatest author, two-time Hugo Award finalist Dr. Chuck Tingle. 

(13) TECH TESTIMONY. Fast Company has assembled “An oral history of USB, the port that changed everything”: “Ajay Bhatt was struggling to upgrade his computer when he began to see the need for one plug to rule them all.”

AB: I didn’t get any positive response, so I decided to make a lateral move within the company to a sister group, and that’s when I started working for a gentleman named Fred Pollock. At that time, there were a handful of Intel Fellows in the company. These are the topmost technical folks at Intel. He’s an incredibly smart person and one of the top computer scientists. I spoke to him, and his view was, “I don’t know. You know what? Go convince yourself.” That’s all I needed. I needed somebody who would be open-minded enough to allow me to take this risk.

I didn’t just rely on him. I started socializing this idea with other groups at Intel. I talked to business guys, and I talked to other technologists, and eventually, I even went out and talked to Microsoft. And we spoke to other people who ultimately became our partners, like Compaq, DEC, IBM, NEC, and others.

Basically, I had to not only build a life inside the company, but we had to ally with people outside, and obviously, each company or each person that I spoke to had their own perspective on what it ought to be. One thing that was common was that everybody agreed that PCs were too hard to use and even hard to design around. Something had to be done, and that’s where it all began.

(14) MANHATTANHENGE. Wow, this is news to me! From the New York Times: “Manhattanhenge 2019: When and Where to Watch, If It’s Not Too Stormy”.

New Yorkers, get ready for another chance to marvel at Manhattanhenge.

For two days every spring and summer, the sunset lines up with Manhattan’s street grid, creating a gorgeous celestial spectacle. For a brief moment, the sun’s golden rays illuminate the city’s buildings and traffic with a breathtaking glow.

“It’s the best sunset picture of the year that you will have in this beautiful city,” Jackie Faherty, an astrophysicist at the American Museum of Natural History said to The Times in a 2017 interview. “Sometimes they call it the Instagram holiday.”

Manhattanhenge’s name is a homage to Stonehenge, the monument in England believed to have been constructed by prehistoric people and used in rituals related to the sun. During the summer solstice, the sunrise there is perfectly framed by its stone slabs.

… Some 200 years ago, the architects who created the plan for modern Manhattan decided to build it using a grid system with avenues that run north and south and streets east and west. That choice inadvertently set the stage for Manhattanhenge, according to Dr. Faherty.

(15) ONLY YOU CAN OUTRUN FOREST FIRES. Science Alert reports “Wild New Study Links Humans Walking Upright to Exploding Stars Millions of Years Ago “

It’s not as crazy as it sounds. According to a hypothesis astronomers have laid out in a new paper, the exploding stars at the end of their lives – supernovae – could have bathed Earth in cosmic radiation, beginning around 8 million years ago, and peaking around 2.6 million years ago.

This radiation would have ionised the lower atmosphere, likely resulting in an increase in cloud-to-ground lightning strikes. This, in turn, could have increased forest fires – eradicating the forests of Africa, where early humans are thought to have originated, and allowing the savannah to take their place.

You see, bipedal locomotion confers a number of advantages to human species, especially in the African savannah where height increases visibility.…

“Not as crazy as it sounds” – but maybe “not as convincing as you’d like,” too.

(16) HUGO FINALISTS. Garik16 continues with “Reviewing the 2019 Hugo Nominees: Best Novelette”.

In this post, I’ll be going over the nominees for Best Novelette.  Novellettes are defined by the Hugos as works between 7,500 and 17,500 words, so these are stories that can be read in a single sitting, although, they still require a little bit of time to do that (for the longer end stories).  I’m generally not the biggest reader of shorter fiction, so most of the nominees here were new to me (I’d only read 2 of the 6 nominated stories prior to the packet being released).  Still, I really enjoyed pretty much all of the nominees – so I think all of these six are award worthy, and choosing how to rank them was not particularly easy….

(17) BOOKSTORE BLUES. “WH Smith ‘worst’ retailer in UK, says Which? survey”.

WH Smith has been ranked the UK’s worst High Street retailer for the second year in a row, according to a Which? survey of 7,700 shoppers.

…The poll, which covered 100 retailers, rated the chain “very poor” for value for money and in-store experience.

Last week, outgoing boss Steve Clarke admitted it was an issue, telling the BBC it was the “most painful aspect of my job”.

He said for some stores, there was a trade-off between being profitable or redecorating.

(18) NOT ALL IN YOUR HEAD. BBC investigates “Why you shouldn’t trust your food cravings”.

…Most of us know what it feels like to experience food cravings. We usually crave higher calorie foods, which is why cravings are associated with weight gain and increased body mass index (BMI). But the story we tell ourselves about where these cravings come from could determine how easily we give into them.

It’s widely believed that cravings are our body’s way of signalling to us that we’re deficient in a certain nutrient – and for pregnant women, their cravings signal what their baby needs. But is this really true?

Much of the research into cravings has instead found that there are probably several causes for cravings – and they’re mostly psychological.

…There is evidence suggesting that the trillions of bacteria in our guts can manipulate us to crave, and eat, what they need – which isn’t always what our body needs.

This is because microbes are looking out for their own interests, says Athena Aktipis, assistant professor at Arizona State University’s department of psychology. And they’re good at doing this.

“The gut microbes that are best at surviving inside us end up being more frequent in the next generation. They have the evolutionary advantage of being better at affecting us in ways that get us to preferentially feed them,” she says.

(19) MOOD RING FOR MILLENNIALS? BGR: “Amazon reportedly developing a wearable that recognizes human emotions”. Mike Kennedy says, “I don’t think anything needs to be said past, ‘Gee, what could go wrong with that?’”

In its latest effort to be involved in every aspect of our lives, Amazon is reportedly working on a new voice-activated wearable device that is capable of recognizing human emotions. According to Bloomberg, the wearable will be worn on the wrist, like a watch, and is described as a health and wellness product in internal documents. Lab126, the team behind the Echo and Fire Phone, is working on the device alongside the Alexa voice team…

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In The Quintet of the Sunset on Vimeo, Jie Weng looks at how five cats, including Business Cat, Workout Cat, and Race Car Cat, view their owner.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/1/19 The Pixel That Can Be Scrolled Is Not The True Pixel

(1) FUTURE TENSE. This month’s entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “The Song Between Worlds” by Indra Das, author of the award-winning novel The Devourers.

Each month, Future Tense Fiction—a series of short stories from Future Tense and ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination about how technology and science will change our lives—publishes a story on a theme. The theme for April–June 2019: space settlement.

It was published along with a response essay “What Would Sound Be Like on Mars?” by the astronomer Lucianne Walkowicz of the Adler Planetarium.)

… Sound is a relatively simple physical phenomenon, but the way our minds shape it can be complex. It’s a wave, but not the same kind of wave one might see in the ocean, where the medium (water, in the case of the ocean) travels toward or away from us. If sound waves were like ocean waves, we would not be able to speak to one another without blowing a constant breeze toward the listener, which is (generally speaking) not what happens. Rather, sound waves travel by creating collisions between the molecules of air between us and the origin of the sound….

(2) SURVEILLANCE STATE. In The Atlantic, Lily Meyer reviews “Two ambitious new novels build techno-futures in which surveillance offers disturbing new threats” — “Science Fiction’s Preoccupation With Privacy”.

…The only character in Dark Constellations not interested in controlling others is Piera, a disaffected Stromatoliton biologist whose alienation from her male co-workers and from the overreach of her company leads her to cut herself off—from people, and from broader systems. She privately refers to her employer as “the animal of the state unleashed,” but remains at Stromatoliton, satisfying her voyeuristic curiosity even as the future of Argentine privacy is in question. With Piera, Oloixarac seems to underscore the impossibility of stepping away from power in a world in which science overrides ethics. Piera may consider herself an observer rather than a participant, but she remains complicit in the global expansion of surveillance….

(3) BRIANNA WU. Media people covering last weekend’s synagogue shooting in San Diego tapped Brianna Wu for comment about the shooter’s 8chan connection.

…Whether the Internet is creating hate groups or just serving as a gathering place, one thing has become clear: What happens online doesn’t stay there.

Brianna Wu is a software engineer who lives in Massachusetts. In 2014, she was targeted in something called Gamergate, in which men threatened female video game players and developers. The harassment started mainly on 8chan.

“They threw bricks through my windows. They sent me hundreds upon hundreds of death threats, rape threats,” Wu says. “I’ve had people from 8chan follow me around just to let me know, ‘I’m near you and could hurt you if I wanted to.’ “

Wu, who is running for Congress, says the solution is simple. “We need dedicated FBI agents that understand online culture to look at these kinds of extreme crimes and prosecute them,” she says.

…The message is trickling to the campaign trail. Brianna Wu, a software engineer who is running as a Democrat for a House seat in Massachusetts, told me she is “angry” that law enforcement has not done more to rein in 8chan, which has also been connected to the circulation of child pornography and is a place where people are frequently doxxed. 

After Wu herself was targeted on the website in 2014 with death threats during the Internet culture war known as Gamergate, she says she says she documented “tons of illegal activity” on 8chan and shared her findings with the FBI. She believes it’s possible the recent shootings could have been avoided if law enforcement took greater action, she said, and wants to increase funding for the FBI to investigate online crime if elected to Congress. 

“We need to fund a specific task force within the FBI that is very tech literate and tasked to prosecute these types of online crimes,” she said. More from Wu:

(4) CAMERAS ROLL ON PICARD. They’ve begun to “Make it so” — “Star Trek: Patrick Stewart’s Picard TV Show Starts Filming” at ScreenRant.

With a mix of old and newcomer talent on both sides of the camera, the Picard series looks to follow in Discovery‘s footsteps and blend old-fashioned Star Trek tropes with fresh sci-fi ideas and a more modern tone. Of course, this show has an advantage over CBS All Access’ first Star Trek series in that it’s not a prequel and has more freedom to play around with its storytelling, as opposed to having to work around classic lore and mythology. Something like the Star Wars sequel trilogy has certainly gotten a passionate fan response by bringing back old characters for new adventures, so it’ll be very interesting to see how Trekkies take to Picard’s story continuing by comparison.

(5) CARL BRANDON ORIGIN STORY. The Jeanne Gomoll-edited Carl Brandon, by and about the hoax fan Terry Carr co-created long ago, is available for order from Lulu ($16.00).

Terry Carr recounts the invention of an imaginary black science fiction fan named Carl Brandon, one of the field’s most (in)famous hoaxes. In addition to Carl Brandon’s complete history, this volume includes his J.D. Salinger parody, “The Cacher of the Rye;” a more current parody by Carl Brandon 2.0, “The Kvetcher on the Racists;” and an essay by Samuel R. Delany, “Racism and Science Fiction.” To quote Carr: “In the late fifties, several of the fans of the Bay Area…presented fandom with a new fanwriter who was quickly acclaimed as one of the best writers around and who was, not incidentally, the first prominent fan who was black.” Read the book for more of this fascinating tale. All proceeds go to the Carl Brandon Society, which promotes discussions on race at conventions and conferences, and through its support of the Parallax and Kindred literary awards, and the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship Fund.

(6) JOHN SLADEK. The paperback edition of New Maps: The Uncollected John Sladek was informally launched at the UK Eastercon and the promised ebook is now available reports David Langford. Both can be ordered from Ansible Editions. Trade paperback 9″ x 6″, 255pp, ISBN 978-0-244-15877-4. $20 plus local postage from Lulu.com: click button below. Ebook in the usual formats at £5.50: again, click button below.

(7) FREE DOWNLOAD. Of more fannish interest, a free ebook reissue of Terry Carr’s 1986 collection Fandom Harvest has been posted on David Langford’s TAFF page as an incitement to give generously to the fund. He adds, “Many thanks to Bob Silverberg for allowing his 1986 introduction to be included and to the original publisher John-Henri Holmberg for his afterword and general approval. Carol Carr has given her blessing to this reissue.”

Langford further notes – “For anyone interested in acquiring the Sladek or the Brandon paperback: both are published via Lulu.com, which currently has a 15%-off discount code ONEFIVE that’s good until 2 May.”

(8) HARLEQUIN ART. The Bristol Board features nine pieces of Steranko art done for an edition of a Harlan Ellison story.

Repent Harlequin, said the Tick-Tock Man!, a portfolio of illustrations by Jim Steranko, done as an adaptation of a short story that was written by Harlan Ellison. the last plate is a 3-D pinup.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 1, 1905 Edna Mayne Hull. Wife of A.E. van Vogt. And yes, she too wrote genre fiction. Her initial sale, “The Flight That Failed”, appeared in the November 1942 issue of Astounding Science Fiction under chosen author credit of “E.M. Hull” though eventually she used her own name. She has but one novel of her own, Planets for Sale, and one with her husband, The Winged Man, and only a dozen stories, one with A.E. Van Vogt & James H. Schmitz. (Died 1975.)
  • Born May 1, 1924 Terry Southern. Screenwriter and author of greatest interest for the screenplay from Peter George’s original novel, Two Hours to Doom (as by Peter Bryant) of Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb directed (and in part written) by Stanley Kubrick. He was also involved in scripting Barbarella. (Died 1995.)
  • Born May 1, 1946 Joanna Lumley, 73. No, she was no Emma Peel, but she was definitely more than a bit appealing in the New Avengers as Purdey. All twenty-six episode are out on DVD. Her next genre out was Sapphire & Steel whichstarred David McCallum as Steel and her as Sapphire. Skip forward nearly near twenty years and find her playing The Thirteenth Doctor in The Curse of Fatal Death in Comic Relief special. 
  • Born May 1, 1948 Terry Goodkind, 71. You obviously know he is. I’ve read some of the Sword of Truth series. It’s ok, but not really my cup of Earl Grey Tea Hot. Epic fantasy isn’t something that I really read a lot of to be honest preferring epic sf instead. 
  • Born May 1, 1952 Andrew Sawyer, 67. Librarian by profession, critic and editor as well who an active part of fandom. He is the Reviews Editor for Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction. I’ve also got him doing Upon the Rack in Print, a book review column in Interzone and elsewhere and contributing likewise the Rust Never Sleeps column to Paperback Inferno as well. He hasn’t written much fiction, but there is some such as “The Mechanical Art” in the Digital Dreams anthology.
  • Born May 1, 1955 J. R. Pournelle, 64. That’s as in Jennifer, the daughter of the Jerry we know. She’s here because she wrote Outies (Mote Series Book 3) which I confess she sent me a digital galley of years ago but I still need to take a look at. The first novel in the series is great. 
  • Born May 1, 1956 Phil Foglio, 63. He won the Best Fan Artist Hugo Award in 1977 and 1978. He later did work for DC, First and Marvel Comics including the backup stories in Grimjack. He and his wife are responsible for the exemplary Girl Genius, a three-time Best Graphic Story Hugo winner.
  • Born May 1, 1957 Steve Meretzky, 62. He co-designed the early Eighties version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy video game with the full participation of Douglas Adams. SF Encyclopedia notes that he did also a space opera themed game, Planetfall and its sequel A Mind Forever Voyaging in the Eighties as well. He also did the definitely more erotic Leather Goddesses of Phobos as well. 

(10) DC WOULDN’T HAVE NEEDED A SEQUEL. On CBR.com, Vivian Achieng thinks MCU characters are relatively wimpy and there are at least “25 DC Characters That Are More Powerful Than Thanos.”

When we talk about the MCU blockbuster, Avengers: Infinity War, we cannot fail but mention the wrecking ball that was Thanos, and his infinity gauntlet of course. For the very first time, earth’s mightiest heroes, The Avengers, look to have met their match. All their powers, tech and a snarky Star-Lord were not powerful enough to stop Thanos’ crusade to save the universe. Fingers crossed for Captain Marvel. The superheroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe can appear to be underpowered compared to other superheroes. This isn’t a knock on Captain America or Iron Man or the rest, but they don’t compare characters from other franchises. If characters from other universes happened to show up in Infinity War, we think the fight against Thanos would have ended a tad differently. In fact, some wouldn’t even need the support of the Avengers and could take the Mad Titan out all on their own.

Granted, Thanos is not an easy walk over. Without the Infinity Gauntlet, he is as strong or stronger than Thor with fair speed to match, he is pretty much indestructible, and has scientific knowledge greater than anyone on Earth, which in turn makes him a master strategist. He also has access to cosmic power which he can use to release blasts from his hands and eyes. With the Infinity Gauntlet, however, he can manipulate all of reality, time, space and the minds and souls of others. He looks pretty unbeatable, right? Wrong! Here is a list of 25 characters from Marvel’s arch enemies, DC, which can very well handle the threat that is Thanos….

(11) RIPLEY! BELIEVE IT OR NOT. “Sigourney Weaver surprises high school cast of Alien: The Play”CNET has the story.

… “I’m so excited to be here,” Weaver told them. “I’m representing all the Alien fans from all over the universe … I think what you’re doing is so cool and so important.”

Another video shows one high school student yelling, “I love you, you’re my childhood hero! I can’t believe you’re here right now!” before hugging Weaver.

The whole play is online –

(12) SFF IN TRANSLATION. Rachel Cordasco’s “Love in the New Millennium [Why This Book Should Win]” is one in a series of thirty-five posts about every title longlisted for the 2019 Best Translated Book Awards

Love in the New Millennium by Can Xue, translated from the Chinese by Annelise Finegan Wasmoen (Yale University Press)

Love in the New Millennium is a work of operatic magical realism; a book with many layers, many shifting romantic relationships, and no clear plot. Like Frontier, one of Can Xue’s previous novels, Love invites us into the hazy, sometimes frustratingly-elusive worlds of a handful of characters, many of whom are desperately trying to find a “home.”…

(13) CHALLENGE FOR THE WIKIPEDIA. UnDark discusses “What a Deleted Profile Tells Us About Wikipedia’s Diversity Problem”

You’ve probably never heard of Clarice Phelps. If you were curious, you might enter her name into Google. And, if you had done so anytime between September of last year and February of this year, you would likely have found her Wikipedia entry. The nuclear scientist is thought to be the first African-American woman to help discover a chemical element; she was part of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory team that purified the radioactive sample of berkelium-249 from which the new element, tennessine, was created. But on February 11, 2019, in the middle of Black History Month and on the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Phelps’s page was deleted. The optics, as they say, weren’t good.

The deletion came after a brief but intense dispute between Wikipedia contributors over whether Phelps met the site’s criteria for notability. Ordinarily, such editorial spats are considered a feature of the crowdsourced encyclopedia, not a bug. If one of the site’s hundreds of thousands of active contributors mistakenly or purposely adds incorrect information, the wisdom of the crowd will ensure that truth prevails.

But in the case of Phelps, the crowd made the wrong call, and the site’s rules facilitated that. The entire spectacle revealed just how much work remains to be done to address the systemic biases that disproportionately keep women and people of color out of Wikipedia’s pages.

(14) UNLIKELY STEPS. Scoffers can’t believe the discovery, or that military authorities tweeted about it — “‘Yeti footprints’: Indian army mocked over claim”.

The Indian army has claimed to have found footprints of the yeti, sparking jokes and disbelief on social media.

The army tweeted to its nearly six million followers on Monday that it had discovered “mysterious footprints of mythical beast ‘Yeti’ at the Makalu Base Camp [in the Himalayas]”.

(15) IT BITES. CNN’s AJ Willingham says “The ‘Sonic the Hedgehog’ trailer is out and people are having visceral reactions to it”.

People are weird about teeth, and always have been. According to dental researcher Rosemary Wells, ancient cultures had a variety of ways of dealing with baby teeth, as described in her essay “The Making of an Icon: The Tooth Fairy in North American Folklore and Popular Culture:”

(1) the tooth was thrown into the sun; (2) thrown into the fire; (3) thrown between the legs; (4) thrown onto or over the roof of the house, often with an invocation to some animal or individual; (5) placed in a mouse hole near the stove or hearth or offered to some other animal; (6) buried; (7) hidden where animals could not get it; (8) placed in a tree or on a wall; and (9) swallowed by the mother, child or animal.

That’s right, people have historically been so freaked out by teeth they used to THROW THEM INTO THE SUN. Dental anxiety is real! You can’t just stick a full set of veneers in any old cartoon character and expect people to not be traumatized!

(16) PTERRY WEEPS. Chip Hitchcock advises a trigger warning should accompany BBC’s video: “Leuser rainforest: Baby orangutans rescued from Indonesia’s pet trade”.

Baby orangutans on the island of Sumatra are being captured and sold as pets, but charities are working to rescue the animals and confront the owners.

(17) HIGH-PRICED COLLECTIBLE. “Star Wars Bib Fortuna toy prototype sells for £36k” – BBC has the story.

A prototype of a Star Wars toy has sold for £36,000 at auction.

The 1980s master model of Bib Fortuna, a male Twi’lek who lived on Tatooine, had an estimate of £12,000.

It sold at Thornaby-based Vectis Auctions along with prototypes of an ewok called Logray which fetched £12,000, and an Emperor’s royal guard which reached £28,800.

Auctioneer Kathy Taylor said the three “relatively unknown” characters had “beaten all expectations”.

They had been made in America by Kenner for the production of the toys in Europe by Palitoy, which was based in Coalville, Leicestershire.

…Ms Taylor said the master models are larger and more detailed than the final figures sold in toy shops.

(18) RESISTANCE. Season 3 of The Handmaid’s Tale arrives June 5 on Hulu.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/26/19 R.U.P. – Rossum’s Unscrolled Pixels

(1) HORROR FAN. Tananarive Due was interviewed in the Washington Post in a story by Elahe Izadi about how people terrified by horror movies psychologically prepare themselves for seeing a quality horror film like A Quiet Place or Us. Due is the executive producer of Horror Noire and teaches a course at UCLA on Get Out. “Horror is a must-see genre again. What’s a scaredy-cat to do?”

Due loved horror as a child, when watching it was a fun way to be scared within a safe context; with age, it became a therapeutic method to deal with heavier anxieties. It’s a lesson she gleaned from her mother, the late civil rights activist Patricia Stephens Due, who was a horror fan; the genre served as an outlet for the racial trauma she endured.

“Headlines scare me. True crime stories scare me. .?.?. Real, human monstrosity is not fun for me to watch,” Due says. “When those people are supernatural or when there’s a fantasy element, when there’s a monster, now I’m ready to watch because the monster in a horror movie can be a stand-in for real-life monstrosity that lets me engage with it from a distance, but also leech out that trauma and expel it in a way that can feel fun.”

(2) WE LOST. New featurette from Marvel Studios’ Avengers Endgame, in theaters in one month.

(3) FUTURE TENSE. This month’s entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “The Arisen” by Louisa Hall, author of the novels Speak and Trinity.

“Once upon a time,” Jim said, “in a country called Acirema—”

“Acirema,” I said. “How imaginative, it’s—”

“Do you want me to tell this story or not?” Jim said. His tone was suddenly harsh.

It’s in Slate along with a response essay “What Are Facts Without Fiction?” by librarian Jim O’Donnell.

Yes, it’s true that there are no true stories. Human beings are story-making creatures, but no story can possibly be better that an edited, digested, spin-doctored version of events in we might still call the real world. The real story makers, the ones who give us our professed fictions, know that well and take full advantage of the techniques and the conveniences of their craft, the better to point us toward thoughts we would not come to so easily otherwise.

(4) HELP FUND NICHELLE NICHOLS’ FINAL ROLE. Marc Zicree has started a GoFundMe to pay for “Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols Space Command Scene!”. In the first 24 hours, fans have contributed $600 towards the $15,000 goal.

…Now I’m making a new science fiction pilot called Space Command and want to shoot a very special scene with Nichelle, which will be her last acting role and a wonderful gift to her fans. 

(You can watch the work in progress first hour of the Space Command pilot at https://youtu.be/zv-tx3DdKSg)

Total cost of the shoot, including cast and crew (I’m not taking any salary myself) will be $15,000.

Time is of the essence — we’d like to shoot as soon as possible — and it would mean so much for all of us to be able to make this happen. 

(5) WHEN YOU OUTGROW THE GOLDEN AGE OF SF. John Scalzi gave this example of how his perspective has changed over time:

He brought back my memory of Harlan Ellison standing in the lobby after a 1977 Star Wars pre-screening, verbally assailing the movie he had just seen. However, the main thrust of Harlan’s complaints were that the story, a throwback to the serials, didn’t represent state-of-the-art science fiction. Likewise, he when he wrote about the movie in Harlan Ellison’s Watching he continued the same theme – that it was superficial, “the human heart is never touched.”

(6) GUIDEPOSTS. E.D.E. Bell’s “Two Simple Rules of Editing” explains why these are the rules that guide her work in a post for the SFWA Blog.

So, there’s only two—let’s go!

Rule #1: Consider all edits with an open mind

It sounds simple, but it’s not. Sometimes it helps to glance through all the edits, then just close the file. Come back the next day, if you can. Then consider, why did the editor make this suggestion? Don’t dismiss anything, and don’t hold anything too sacred to be changed.

Rule #2: Only make changes you like

It sounds simple, but it’s not. If the editor’s version is smoother, or more correct, or whatever, but you don’t like it, then don’t do it. You’ll be the one answering to readers if it reads funny, but that’s your call. It’s your story. It’s your art. You’re the one who knows what you meant.

(7) GAHAN WILSON. The GoFundMe for Gahan Wilson has received contributions from 1,180 people amounting to $55,547 of its $100,000 goal after 23 days. The most recent update said:

Gahan was interviewed today for a newspaper piece that will probably go out nationwide. The people on the reporting team were very sweet and sensitive to Gahan.

Gahan was on his game…speaking about his life and other things.

(8) PUGMIRE OBIT. The horror writer W.H. “Wilum” Pugmire died today, aged 67. The major influence upon his writing was H P Lovecraft, of course, and S T Joshi described him in 2010 as “perhaps the leading Lovecraftian author writing today.” Scott Edelman tweeted the photo below – Pugmire’s on the right.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 26, 1850 Edward Bellamy. Looking Backward: 2000–1887 is really the only work that he’s remembered for today. He wrote two other largely forgotten works, Dr. Heidenhoff’s Process and Miss Ludington’s Sister: A Romance of Immortality. (Died 1898.)
  • Born March 26, 1931 Leonard Nimoy. I really don’t need to say who he played on Trek, do I? Did you know his first role was as a zombie in Zombies of the Stratosphere? Or that he did a a lot of Westerns ranging from Broken Arrow in which he played various Indians to The Tall Man in which at least his character had a name, Deputy Sheriff Johnny Swift. His other great genre role was on Mission: Impossible as The Great Paris, a character whose real name was never revealed, who was a retired magician. It was his first post-Trek series. He of course showed up on the usual other genre outings such as The Twilight ZoneThe Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Outer LimitsNight Gallery and Get Smart. And then there’s the matter of “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins”. (Died 2015.)
  • Born March 26, 1942 Erica Jong, 77. Witches, which was has amazing illustrations by Joseph A. Smiths, is still worth your time nearly forty years later. ISFDB also lists Shylock’s Daughter: A Novel of Love in Venice which is a time travel story but it soul does more like a romance novel to me. And Sappho’s Leap which they also list just seems soft core lesbian porn with a slight genre twist. 
  • Born March 26, 1950 K. W. Jeter, 69. Farewell Horizontal may or may be punk of any manner but it’s a great read. Though I generally loathe such things, Morlock Night, his sequel  to The Time Machine , is well-worth reading reading. I’ve heard good things about his Blade Runner sequels but haven’t read them. Opinions?
  • Born March 26, 1953 Christopher Fowler, 65. I started reading him when I encountered his Bryant & May series which though explicitly not genre does feature a couple of protagonists who are suspiciously old. Possibly a century or more now. The mysteries may or may not have genre aspects but are wonderfully weird. Other novels by him are I’d recommend are Roofworld and Rune which really are genre, and Hell Train which is quite delicious horror.
  • Born March 26, 1960 Brenda Strong, 59. First film genre appearance was on Spaceballs as Nurse Gretchen. The role you probably remember her was on Starship Troopers as Captain Deladier though post-death she shows up in Starship Troopers 2: Hero of the Federation as Sergeant Dede Rake. She showed up on Next Gen as a character named Rashella in the “When the Bough Breaks” episode and she’s been a regular on Supergirl as Lillian Luthor.
  • Born March 26, 1966 Michael Imperioli, 53. Detective Len Fenerman in Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones and Detective Ray Carling, the lead in Life on Mars and Rosencrantz in a recent Hamlet.
  • Born March 26, 1985 Keira Knightley, 34. To my surprise and this definitely shows I’m not a Star Wars geek, she was Sabé (Decoy Queen). Next up for her is Princess of Thieves, a loose adaptation of the Robin Hood legend. Now I didn’t see that but I did see her in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl as Elizabeth Swann though I’ll be damned if I remember her role. (She’s in several more of these films. Rinse. Lather. Repeat.) we saw Herve we saw as Guinevere, an odd Guinevere indeed, in King Arthur. Her last role I must note I must note is The Nutcracker and the Four Realms in which she was the Sugar Plum Fairy! 

(10) TO SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT. We got a pair of big things wrong in Andrew Porter’s birthday listing the other day.

Science Fiction Chronicle which he founded in May 1980…”

The first issue appeared Labor Day weekend, 1979, at the Louisville NASFiC, cover dated October 1979.

Algol now known as Starship lasted less than five years…”

Algol started in 1963; the last issue of Algol/Starship, #44, appeared in 1984.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

Candorville stands up for Star Trek: Discovery.

(12) VOICES DISSENT. Anime News Network speculates about the potential for litigation in its story “Kameha Con Responds to Recent Guest Cancellations”. Several guests bailed after the con added Vic Mignogna to its lineup. An unnamed lawyer consulted by ANN says they may be in violation of their contracts if they don’t attend.

The staff of the upcoming Kameha Con in Irving, Texas issued a statement via Facebook and Twitter on Monday regarding recent guest cancellations due to the addition of voice actor Vic Mignogna as a guest. Mignogna was added to the convention’s guest roster on March 22 following a previous cancellation by con staff on February 2. Since the announcement, five voice actors have announced they will no longer attend the convention along with multiple panelists.

One commenter neatly summed up the situation:

(13) REFERENCE DIRECTOR! The Wrap argues that “‘Captain Marvel’ and ‘Us’ Have Pushed ‘The Right Stuff’ Back Into the Spotlight”.

…“The Right Stuff” tells the true story of the seven military pilots who were selected for the NASA project to launch the first ever manned spaceflight. In a similar way, Carol, an Air Force test pilot, ends up soaring farther than she could have ever expected when she travels into space and becomes a member of the Kree and, later, one of Earth’s superheroes.

In “Us,” that same VHS tape is much easier to miss, and is used in a possibly more ironic and darker context. You can find “The Right Stuff” among the VHS tapes that flank the TV displaying the Hands Across America commercial in the opening scene.

(14) LIVE THEATER. Marjorie Prime, a 2015 Pulitzer Prize nominee, set in a future of “beneficial AI,” will be staged in Norwich, CT the next two weekends. The special feature of the first two performances — March 29 and 31 – will be post-performance discussions led by sff writers Carlos Hernandez and Paul Di Filippo.

Additional performances Saturday April 6 at 7:30 pm and Sunday April 7 at 3 pm

Tickets are $10 in advance or seniors; $12 at door Cash or Check only—no credit cards

Open Seating—limited to 70 attendees

House Opens at 7 pm Friday and Saturday; 2:30 pm Sunday

United Congregational Church Hall 87 Broadway, Norwich CT. (Note: This address brings you to the church’s main door—do NOT enter there. Make first right on Willow Street, right turn into lower level of covered parking deck. A few stairs here. Level entrance and handicapped permit parking available at 11-39 Chestnut Street)

Friday March 29, 7:30 pm

Featuring. . . .a talkback led by Carlos Hernandez. Carlos Hernandez is the author of the critically acclaimed short story collection The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria (Rosarium 2016) and most recently, as part of the Rick Riordan Presents imprint of Disney Hyperion, the novel Sal and Gabi Break the Universe (2019). By day, Carlos is a mild-manned reporter associate professor of English at the City University of New York, with appointments at BMCC and the Graduate Center, and a game designer and enthusiast. Catch him on Twitter @writeteachplay.

Sunday March 31, 3 pm

Featuring. . .a talkback led by Paul Di Filippo, who has been publishing professionally for over 40 years. He has continued to reside in Providence throughout his career, with over 200 stories published and many novels. Beginning with The Steampunk Trilogy: (1995), which remains his most widely known title, this shorter material has been assembled in twenty substantial collections. Di Filippo also reviews widely, online and in print.

(15) SUCK FAIRY. Someone noticed — “The Matrix’s male power fantasy has dated badly.”

Ahead of its time when it was released 20 years ago, The Matrix is a monument to Generation X self-pity that is out of step with today, writes Nicholas Barber.

The Matrix was way ahead of its time. The Wachowskis’ tech-noir mind-bender came out in 1999 – 20 years ago – which meant that it reinvented big-screen superhero action a year before X-Men was released and showcased Hong Kong-style ‘wire-fu’ fight choreography a year before Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Its ‘bullet-time’ effects have been copied by blockbusters ever since, and its thoughts about virtual reality and artificial intelligence have been mimicked just as often. Despite all this, though, in some crucial respects The Matrix has dated so badly that it now seems to be a relic. It is a film that, like the human race in the Wachowskis’ story, is trapped forever in the 1990s.

…It’s a fantastic premise, but it does have its flaws. Twenty years on, it’s embarrassing to see a white male saviour with two sidekicks – one black, one female – whose primary task is to assure him how gifted he is. The female sidekick, Trinity, even falls in love with him for no reason except, I suppose, that he looks like Keanu Reeves. And, in general, Anderson/Neo is one of those uninspiring heroes who do next to nothing to earn their hero status. He becomes an unbeatable martial artist not by training for years, but by being plugged into a teaching program for a few hours. And he becomes omnipotent in the Matrix not because he is particularly brave, noble or clever, but because, as Morpheus says, he is willing “to believe”.

(16) NIMBY. “A Battle Is Raging Over The Largest Solar Farm East Of The Rockies” – NPR has the story.

The largest solar farm east of the Rocky Mountains could soon be built in Virginia and, depending on whom you ask, it would be either a dangerous eyesore that will destroy the area’s rural character or a win-win, boosting the local economy and the environment. The solar panels would be spread across 10 square miles — 1.8 million panels soaking up the sun’s rays.

The project is planned for Spotsylvania County, about 60 miles south of Washington, D.C. Amid the county’s Civil War battlefields, farms and timberland, a fight is raging over the future of energy in Virginia, and in the Eastern U.S.

The heart of the solar resistance is in a gated community called Fawn Lake, built around a golf course and man-made lake.

“I mean we live at a resort, essentially,” says Dave Walsh, one of the many Fawn Lake residents organizing against the planned solar farm. One corner of the massive project would butt up against the back of the gated community. Walsh says he supports solar, in theory, but not here.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/2/19 Eating Soylent Green And Watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Now Don’t Tell Me I Can’t Go Back In Time

(1) TRASH TALKER. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Maybe Denver got jealous of the Stargate made of luggage at the San Antonio airport and wanted to one-up them.

San Antonio airport sculpture. Photo by Mike Kennedy.

More likely, it would seem, they just decided to lean in to the unfounded conspiracy theories surrounding DEN. To whatever end, they recently installed their own fully-interactive talking gargoyle (SYFY Wire:There’s now a gargoyle talking trash to guests at Denver’s airport”).

Ever since its opening in the mid-1990s, the Denver International Airport (DIA) has spawned countless conspiracy theories as to its dark and sinister nature. Now, there’s a gargoyle inside the terminal to confirm it’s all true. 

Yesterday, to celebrate its 24th birthday, DIA gave all of the air travelers who wander its halls a gift: a Chatty Gargoyle.[…]

This is part of a larger campaign by the Denver Airport, dubbed #TheDenFiles, that gleefully invites any and all talk of mysterious goings-on in the catacombs that lie beneath. Or in some cases — right in plain sight. 

(2) CHATTY SHATTY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Have you ever had a set of refrigerator poetry magnets? If so you may be ready for Shatoetry  which is free on the Apple iOS App Store as this is being typed. William Shatner recorded individual words, which you can put together in any order. Each word has three levels of emphasis available, and you can also add pauses of three different lengths. When you’re ready, click a button and you will create a video with a selectable still-frame Shatner background and audio of Shat “reading” your “poem.” Once you click, you can send the video by email or post it on any of several social media sites.

The basic app doesn’t have a huge selection of words available, but there are in-app purchases available for more bundles of words and those are also free as this is being typed. If you want the app, be sure to grab the extra word bundles before they start charging for them again—there’s no telling how long these free offers will last.

(3) FUTURE TENSE. This month’s entry in the Future Tense fiction series is “Mpendulo: The Answer,” by the South African film writer-director Nosipho Dumisa.

I know I’m right, but the class seems unhappy with my reasoning. How could these people create other humans with the sole purpose of killing them later for their organs? We all know people walking around with 3D-printed organs inside of them. We can’t conceive of one person letting themselves be sliced open and their organs given to another, let alone a whole government being party to it.

Well, I can conceive of things that the rest of them can’t. But I wouldn’t dare let them know that.

It was published along with a response essay, “Why Are We So Afraid of Each New Advance in Reproductive Technology?” by Sarah Elizabeth Richards, a journalist who covers genomics and reproductive technology.

(4) GETTING BETTER. Glad to hear Mike Resnick is out of the hospital and rehab after having a close call, as he explained in a public Facebook post:

OK, back home and working on being healthy again.

It was the strangest thing. I was having breakfast (3 PM, but breakfast time for me), I started to get up out of my chair, slipped, and while I was in no pain I couldn’t get up. After about 15 minutes Carol called an ambulance, they drove me 5 miles to the local hospital.

I was feeling no pain, but all the medics seemed concerned. They knocked me out, and when I woke up in the emergency room I had half a dozen catheters attached to me, draining what seemed like gallons of fluids out of me. When I’d seen the doctor for my regular check-up a month earlier I weighed 255, about 30 more than usual. When I arrived at the hospital I was 256. And three days later, after draining
all these fluids, I was 208 — which I am tonight, a month after this whole thing began.

Anyway, I did 9 days in the emergency room and 10 days in rehab. Been home for a few days, feeling pretty good, but sleeping about 12-15 hours a day while I get my strength back…which means I am not quite keeping up with the writing and editing (tho I’m getting closer), and I’m probably not keeping up with e-mails. I thank those of you who sent your best wishes, and if I didn’t reply it really wasn’t bad manners.

Almost certainly gonna miss Writers of the Future in 4 or 5 weeks, but we should make Midwestcon and DragonCon, where you can see the new improved skinny (well, skinnier) me.

(5) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Cedar Sanderson shares how pros evaluate opportunities to contribute work to an anthology in “Relationships and Anthologies” at Mad Genius Club.

Warning Flag #2: No transparency about payment or royalties. Not all anthologies will pay up front. Some will pay up front but no royalties, and some will only pay royalties. You should know what to expect going into it. You should not be told ‘we’ll pay royalties after our costs are met’ unless you are also given some idea of what those costs are, and an accounting (and no, anthologies that are proudly using public domain art for covers should not be costing much to produce). Yes, I realize this isn’t ‘how the publishing business works’ which is bullshit, and the inherent corruption it opens up by playing along will only end when the authors stop allowing themselves to be milked without feed. I’ve taken part in ‘paid up front’ and one ‘paid plus royalties’ anthology, and they left me feeling happy and like I’d do it again. My friends who were told ‘we’ll pay you when we meet our costs’ are still waiting, years later. They’ll never see money.

(6) DOC WEIR AWARD. Attention Eastercon members! Ytterbium’s Progress Report 3 has this note:

The Doc Weir Award

Regular Eastercon attendees will know that the members of the convention annually vote on who should receive the Doc Weir Award for making a significant but largely unsung contribution to fandom. Sadly, many of the earlier winners were so unsung that fans today know little or nothing about them or their fannish activities. To remind people of their contributions, a brief biography of the winners is being compiled. It will be available online but if you would like to request a printed copy then please email docweir@ytterbium.org.uk before Sunday, March 17th.

Bill Burns of eFanzines has more info on the Doc Weir Award, and a list of all winners from 1963 to 2018 here.

(7) PETER PORKER. SYFY Wire explores “Why Spider-Ham might be the most powerful Spider-Man of all (no, really)”.

When you were tasked with creating “Spider-Ham: Caught in a Ham,” was the original idea that it be a “backdoor prequel,” or was that something you decided to reverse engineer into a companion piece to Spider-Verse?

Miguel Jiron: From the beginning, we were like, we would love for this classic cartoon to open up our movie like how they used to do back in the day. And pretty early on we were like, if it’s going to screen in front of the movie, it would be cool to see Ham’s last moments in his world before he comes to the [Spider-Verse]. So pretty early on we brainstormed something we thought would be a perfect way to connect to the film and see them together.

(8) WORKS FOR ME. This was Sarah Gailey’s latest appeal for readers to sign up for their newsletter:

(9) SIGNED, YOUR CREDENTIAL. Tabitha King made a serious point, but the not-so-serious reply was clever:

(10) KRAMER UPDATE. Ed Kramer was in court on Thursday for his first appearance hearing since his arrest last Tuesday. Fox5 Atlanta covered the proceedings: “DragonCon co-founder appears in court following arrest”.

…Kramer was wheeled into his first appearance hearing with his breathing tank. He claimed he hasn’t been allowed to talk to his lawyer and said he wasn’t sure what was going on. 

At the hearing, the judge granted Kramer a $22,200 bond; however, even if he posts bond, he’ll remain behind bars because he’s also being held on a probation violation. As part of the probation violation, he’ll appear in court on March 22 at 8:30 a.m. 

… He was under monitored house arrest since late 2013 when he was convicted of child molestation.

Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter told FOX 5 News when house arrest ended in December of last year Kramer was put on probation.

One of the conditions was no contact with children.

“He’s being held without bond because there’s a probation warrant. That’s why he’s being held without bond,” said Porter.

Porter said Kramer is facing a misdemeanor charge of a sexual offender photographing a minor without consent.

The DA told FOX 5 News he’s moving forward with revocation of probation for Kramer which could mean a lengthy stay behind bars.

“We need to go back and revoke his first offender and incarcerate him. He faces up to 60 years in prison,” said Porter.

(11) ASIMOV OBIT. Janet Jeppson Asimov (1926-2019) died February 25. The SF Encyclopedia has her full genre biography. The New York Times obituary notes —

A psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, she was the beloved widow of Isaac Asimov, as well as the former director of training at the William Alanson White Institute, author of around two dozen books, and a former syndicated science columnist for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate.

Janet Jeppson Asimov and Isaac Asimov. Photo (c) Andrew Porter

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 1, 1933King Kong has its world premiere in New York.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 2, 1904 Theodor Seuss Geisel. Ahhh, Dr. Seuss. I confess that the only books I’ve read by him are How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and Green Eggs and Ham, an exercise that took maybe fifteen minutes. Did you know that Horton Hears a Who! was animatedat a running time of a half hour? Who thought it was a good idea to make a two-hour live film of The Grinch?  (Died 1991.)
  • Born March 2, 1939 jan howard finder. No, I’m not going to be do him justice here. He was a SF writer, filker, cosplayer, and of course fan. He was nicknamed The Wombat as a sign of affection and ConFrancisco (1993 Worldcon) was only one of at least eight cons that he was fan guest of honor at. Finder has even been tuckerized when Anne McCaffrey named a character for him. (Died 2013.)
  • Born March 2, 1943 Peter Straub, 76. Horror writer who won the World Fantasy Award for Koko and the August Derleth Award for Floating Dragon. He’s co-authored several novels with Stephen King, The Talisman which itself won a World Fantasy Award, and Black House. Both  The Throat and In the Night Roomwon Bram Stoker Awards as did 5 Stories, a short collection by him. Ok you know I’m impressed by Awards, but fuck this is impressed! 
  • Born March 2, 1949 Gates McFadden, 70. Best known obviously for playing Dr. Beverly Crusher in the Star Trek: The Next Generation and in the four films spawned out of the series. More interestingly for me is she was involved in the production of Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal as Henson’s choreographer which is her second profession under the name of Cheryl McFadden.
  • Born March 2, 1960 Peter F. Hamilton, 59. I read and quite enjoyed his Night’s Dawn Trilogy when it came out and I’m fairly sure that I’ve read Pandora’s Star and Judas Unchained as they sound familiar. (Too much genre fiction read over the years to remember everything…) What else have y’all read by him?
  • Born March 2, 1966 Ann Leckie, 53. Ancillary Justice won the Hugo Award for Best Novel and the Nebula Award, Kitschies Award Golden Tentacle, Locus Award for Best First Novel, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the BSFA Award. Shit man. Her sequels Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy did not win awards but are no less impressive. 
  • Born March 2, 1968 Daniel Craig, 51. Obviously Bond in the present-day series of films which I like a lot, but also  in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider as Alex West, Lord Asriel In the film adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, in SF horror film The Invasion as Ben Driscoll, in the very weird Cowboys & Aliens as Jake Lonergan, voicing Ivan Ivanovitch Sakharine / Red Rackham  in The Adventures of Tintin and an uncredited appearence as Stormtrooper FN-1824 in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
  • Born March 2, 1981 Bryce Dallas Howard, 38. Started her genre career in How the Grinch Stole Christmas as a Surprised Who. I’d like to stay it got better but her next two roles were in The Village as Ivy Elizabeth Walker and in Lady in the Water as Story. She finally scored a good role in Spider-Man 3 as Gwen Stacy before landing roles in The Twilight Saga franchise as Victoria and in the Jurassic World franchise as Claire Dearing. 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

(15) OHH, MOM! [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Really, what 7 year old hasn’t been embarrassed by their parents? People tells about a celebrity example as, “Jennifer Garner Embarrasses Her Son at His 7th Birthday Party By Dressing Up as Movie Character.” Given where you’re reading this, you can guess that the movie in question is genre.

The party may have been How to Train Your Dragon-themed, but Jennifer Garner is now learning how not to embarrass your child!

[…] In honor of [her son’s birthday] bash, Garner, 46, dressed up as Astrid from the animated film, wearing blue and orange face paint, a fur shawl, arm sleeves, a pointy, leather skirt with leggings underneath, and fur boots.

But as she went to present her son with a chocolate cake featuring the dragon Toothless’ eyes around the edges, Garner found out the hard way that her son was already becoming embarrassed.

“Well, guess what. It turns out 7 is the age my kid stops thinking it’s cool when I dress up for the party,” she captioned the happy photo.

The Instagram post in question is here.

(16) YARNSPINNER. The Raksura Colony Tree Project, a collective art/craft project will be displayed at WorldCon 77. Cora Buhlert says, “I already got out my crochet hooks and searched my yarn stash and it’s probably of interest to other Filers as well.”

If you’re coming to Dublin to join in the fun and are interested in creating things with needle and thread, this is your chance to be an active part in a community art project.

Martha Wells’ “Books of the Raksura”-Series was nominated for a Best Series Hugo in 2018. One of the things that drew me into the series was the world-building – a colony living in a giant mountain tree that’s studded with platforms all around that are used by the inhabitants for all kinds of different things – hunting, gardening, fishing, outlooks for the guards … a whole ecosystem – so how might that actually look like? I made a start, just to try things out…

(17) TRAPPED IN ASPIC. Andrew Porter copied this to his list: “Where do you get your weird ideas from (Cover artwork division).”

(18) REBUTTAL. Yudhanjaya Wijeratne’s post “’Incidentally, there is support for Wijeratne’s story’: a response to file770 and a record of the Nebula Award madness” tells how he would like readers to visualize the history of his Nebula Awards nominated story, and his confusion about fan and sff politics as a whole.

I’m going to tell you a story. This is about being nominated for the Nebula Awards [1], and accusations, and fury. I’m going to tell it slow and in much detail as I can, because I want to, and because context is important. I have seen much slinging of words but no context.

When I started writing this, it was 8PM. I had intended to use the writing of this piece as a piece of string, to re-order my own thoughts and try to figure out what the hell I’m doing here [2].  But in the writing of this I’ve gone from trying to figure out this madness to just being jaded. My inboxes are inundated with legions, my notifications toss up numbers like a slot machine, and I am absolutely done with explaining myself to random asshats on Twitter who demand answers under fake names and profile pictures.

So I’m going to chronicle this.

And at the end of it you may judge whether I have acted with the best information available to me, or not.

(19) THE GAMBLE. My friend who bought a Tesla in December should probably skip this item. “Tesla cuts price of Model 3 to $35,000 and moves sales online”.

Tesla has announced it will start selling a version of its Model 3 in the US at a price of $35,000 (£26,400), finally delivering on a promise it made more than two years ago.

To help lower the price the firm plans to close showrooms and is switching to an online-only sales model.

The electric car company announced the Model 3 car in 2016 as an alternative to its luxury offerings.

However, as recently as September, the average selling price exceeded $50,000.

Closing physical stores will allow the firm to cut costs by about 5%, savings it is using to reduce prices across its line-up of vehicles, chief executive Elon Musk said.

…In a blog post, Tesla said a test drive was not needed because you can return a car within seven days, or after driving 1,000 miles, and get a full refund.

“Quite literally, you could buy a Tesla, drive several hundred miles for a weekend road trip with friends and then return it for free,” the blog said.

(20) UP, UP, AND AWAY. Video of countdown, launch, and 1st-stage recovery at NPR: “SpaceX Launches Capsule Bound For International Space Station”. Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a comment, “I’m sure it’s happened before, but this is the first launch I remember where voice doing the countdown was female. Step by step….”

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon capsule blasted off from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on schedule at 2:49 a.m. Saturday.

It’s a test flight without crew aboard, designed to demonstrate the potential for carrying astronauts into orbit on a commercial spacecraft.

A crowd cheered as the rocket blasted off in a ball of fire and smoke and flash of light early Saturday, within minutes reaching speeds upwards of 4,000 mph as it gained altitude.

The rocket and capsule separated about 11 minutes after launch. Crew Dragon will go on to autonomously dock with the International Space Station at about 6 a.m. ET Sunday. Plans call for it to remain docked with the station for five days. On March 8, it will undock and re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere, splashing down in the Atlantic Ocean around 8:45 a.m. ET.

Incidentally, the test flight carried a passenger:

…For the latest test, another mannequin will be on board. This one is named Ripley, for the heroine in the Alien movies, and it will have all kinds of sensors to see how a real human would experience the trip. “We measure the responses on the human body, obviously, and measure the environment,” Koenigsmann says. “We want to make sure that everything is perfect.”

(21) GOING THEIR OWN WAY. “Warner Bros. boss confirms the DCEU is over as we know it, thanks to ‘Wonder Woman'”Yahoo! Entertainment has the story.

It’s official, the DCEU is dead, with Warner Bros’ chief Kevin Tsujihara confirming the studio has moved away from the idea of a connected universe for its DC superhero properties – otherwise known as the DC Extended Universe.

“The universe isn’t as connected as we thought it was going to be five years ago,” Tsujihara told The LA Times. “You’re seeing much more focus on individual experiences around individual characters. That’s not to say we won’t at some point come back to that notion of a more connected universe. But it feels like that’s the right strategy for us right now.”

And who’s responsible for the death of the interconnected DCEU? Wonder Woman.

“What Patty Jenkins did on Wonder Woman illustrated to us what you could do with these characters who are not Batman and Superman. Obviously, we want to get those two in the right place, and we want strong movies around Batman and Superman. But Aquaman is a perfect example of what we can do. They’re each unique and the tone’s different in each movie.”

(22) TICKING AWAY. Amazon Prime Video launches The Tick Season 2 on April 5.

Tick and Arthur have freed the City from The Terror — now they must defend it from new villains and old enemies. That is if they can convince AEGIS, the government agency in charge of superhero regulation, that they deserve the job. But now that the City is ‘safe enough to protect’ Tick and Arthur begin to see they’ve got competition…

(23) ON THE THRONE. These are some butt-ugly posters, but don’t take my word for it, see for yourself: “HBO Just Released New ‘Game of Thrones’ Posters and Your Fave Ended Up on the Iron Throne” at Cosmopolitan.

So far, HBO‘s posters have left basically everything to the imagination, and all we really know is that it’s about to be super cold in Westeros. Like, now would be the time for everyone to break out their Canada Goose jackets. But HBO just dropped all these posters of your faves on the Iron Throne, so we have to wonder if this means the underdogs actually have a shot at winning it all.

(24) THIS IS THE CITY. The second trailer for Pokémon Detective Pikachu dropped a few days ago —

The story begins when ace private eye Harry Goodman goes mysteriously missing, prompting his 21-year-old son Tim to find out what happened. Aiding in the investigation is Harry’s former Pokémon partner, Detective Pikachu: a hilariously wise-cracking, adorable super-sleuth who is a puzzlement even to himself. Finding that they are uniquely equipped to communicate with one another, Tim and Pikachu join forces on a thrilling adventure to unravel the tangled mystery. Chasing clues together through the neon-lit streets of Ryme City—a sprawling, modern metropolis where humans and Pokémon live side by side in a hyper-realistic live-action world—they encounter a diverse cast of Pokémon characters and uncover a shocking plot that could destroy this peaceful co-existence and threaten the whole Pokémon universe.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/28/19 Untitled Pixel Scroll Reboot

(1) FROM BOOKER TO GENRE. This week’s New Yorker article “Why Marlon James Decided to Write an African ‘Game of Thrones’” tells about Marlon James, who won the Booker prize and then decided to write “an African Game of Thrones.”   

A couple of weeks before we met for coffee, I went to hear James speak on a panel about diversity in sci-fi and fantasy, at New York Comic Con, a convention that annually converts the Javits Center into a maelstrom of geekery and cosplay. The audience for the panel was a mixture of black, white, and brown faces; a few rows from me, a Harley Quinn in hijab took furious notes. After a fellow-panelist, Tochi Onyebuchi, the author of a young-adult fantasy series influenced by Nigerian myth, urged the crowd to read Jemisin’s books, James joked that Jemisin would be coming for the Booker next. (He told the crowd they should also read Nalo Hopkinson, a Jamaican-born Canadian writer whose début, “Brown Girl in the Ring,” from 1998, is a dystopian horror-fantasy story animated by the West African spirit-magic tradition of Obeah.) Even as condescension toward genre fiction has gone out of style, the universes of literary and speculative fiction remain distinct, with their own awards, their own publishers, and their own separate, albeit overlapping, communities of readers. “There are a lot of literary-fiction authors whose heads are super stuck up their asses,” James said, telling the attendees that writers ought to read widely across genres.

(2) BETTER WORLDS STORY #5. The magic number! Here’s the latest Better Worlds short story from Rivers Solomon: “St. Juju”. Video by Allen Laseter.

Andrew Liptak did a Q&A with the author: “Rivers Solomon on colonialism, the apocalypse, and fascinating fungus”.

Rivers Solomon

What was the inspiration for this story, and what about fungus attracted you to this world, in particular?

Lately, I’ve been really intrigued by the idea of the end of the world — how it’s never really real, though it may feel like it is to us living in the midst of climate change as we are. Except on the scale of billions of years, according to the kind of timeline where suns birth and die and so on, worlds are quite adaptive creatures. Earth has had five or so ice ages. Dinosaurs have come and gone, many dying, others living on as birds. Mass extinction is par for the planet’s course.

(3) ATWOOD MASTER CLASS. Margaret Atwood Teaches Creative Writing is a 23-lesson video course from Masterclass. Cost, $90.

Called the “Prophet of Dystopia,” Margaret Atwood is one of the most influential literary voices of our generation. In her first-ever online class, the author of The Handmaid’s Tale teaches how she crafts compelling stories—from historical to speculative fiction—that remain timeless and relevant. Explore Margaret’s creative process for developing ideas into novels with strong structures and nuanced characters.

(4) PLUNK THOSE SILVER STRINGS. The Haffner Press will publish a very ambitious Manly Wade Wellman collection this year — The Complete John the Balladeer. The book will be released at the 2019 World Fantasy Convention in Los Angeles.

John, whose last name is never revealed, is a wandering singer who carries a guitar strung with strings of pure silver. He is a veteran of the Korean War and served in the U.S. Army as a sharpshooter (in the novel After Dark, he mentions that his highest rank was PFC). In his travels, he frequently encounters creatures and superstitions from the folk tales and superstitions of the mountain people. Though John has no formal education, he is self-taught, highly intelligent and widely read; it is implied that his knowledge of occult and folk legendarium is of Ph.D level. This knowledge has granted him competent use of white magic, which he has used on occasion to overcome enemies or obstacles, but it is primarily his courage, wit and essential goodness that always enables him to triumph over supernatural evils (although the silver strings of his guitar and his possession of a copy of The Long Lost Friend are also powerful tools in fighting evil magic), while basic Army training allows him to physically deal with human foes.

Stories:
“O Ugly Bird!”
“The Desrick on Yandro”
“Vandy, Vandy”
“One Other”
“Call Me from the Valley”
“The Little Black Train”
“Shiver in the Pines”
“Walk Like a Mountain”
“On the Hills and Everywhere”
“Old Devlins Was A-Waiting”
“Nine Yards of Other Cloth”
“Then I Wasn’t Alone”
“You Know the Tale of Hoph”
“Blue Monkey”
“The Stars Down There”
“Find the Place Yourself”
“I Can’t Claim That”
“Who Else Could I Count On”
“John’s My Name”
“Why They’re Named That”
“None Wiser for the Trip”
“Nary Spell”
“Trill Coster’s Burden”
“The Spring”
“Owls Hoot in the Daytime”
“Can These Bones Live?”
“Nobody Ever Goes There”
“Where Did She Wander?”

Novels
The Old Gods Waken (1979)
After Dark (1980)
The Lost and the Lurking (1981)
The Hanging Stones (1982)
The Voice of the Mountain (1984)

(5) BO PEEP. Disney’s new trailer for Toy Story 4.

(6) MEMORIAL. NASA Watch “Remembering” is a wrap-up of several memorials to lost astronauts and cosmonauts posted the day before the anniversary of the Challenger shuttle disaster. Mike Kennedy sent the link with a note: “In my long-time home of Huntsville AL, we name schools after these people. I live just a few blocks from Roger B. Chaffee Elementary School and maybe 2-3 miles from Virgil I. Grissom High School. The former Ed White Middle School name was sadly lost when it and another school were combined a few years ago. Those were, of course, the astronauts who died in the Apollo 1 fire. We also have Challenger Elementary/Middle school and Columbia High School. These wounds run deep around here, even after all the intervening years.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 28, 1929 Parke Godwin. I’ve read a number of his novels and I fondly remember in particular Sherwood and Robin and the King. If you’ve not read his excellent Firelord series, I do recommend you do so. So who has read his Beowulf series? (Died 2013.)
  • Born January 28, 1969 Kathryn Morris, 50. First played in Sleepstalker, a horror I’ll be gobsmacked if any of you have heard of. She has a small role as a teenage honey (IMDb description, not mine) in A.I. Artificial Intelligence. After that she was Lara Anderton in Minority Report. She played Najara on several episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess and was in Poltergeist: The Legacy series as Laura Davis in the “Silent Partner” episode.
  • Born January 28, 1973 Carrie Vaughn, 46. Author of the Kitty Norville series. She’s also been writing extensively in the Wild Cards as well. And she’s she’s got a new SF series, The Bannerless Saga which has two novels so far, Bannerless and The Wild Dead. Sounds interesting. 
  • Born January 28, 1981 Elijah Wood, 38. His first genre role was Video-Game Boy #2 in Back to the Future Part II. He next shows up as Nat Cooper in Forever Young followed by playing Leo Biederman In Deep Impact. Up next was his performance as Frodo Baggins In The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit films. Confession time: I watched the the very first of these. Wasn’t impressed. He’s done some other genre work as well including playing Todd Brotzman in the Beeb superb production of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.
  • Born January 28, 1985 Tom Hopper, 34. His principal genre role was on the BBC Merlin series as Sir Percival. He also shows up in Doctor Who playing Jeff during the “The Eleventh Hour” episode which would be during the time of the Eleventh Doctor. He’s been cast as Luther Hargreeves in the forthcoming The Umbrella Academy which is an adaptation of the comic book series of the same name, created by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá. Yes I’m looking forward to seeing this! 
  • Born January 28, 1993 Will Poulter, 26. First genre role was as Eustace Scrubb in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. He later appeared as Gally in The Maze Runner and Maze Runner: The Death Cure. He plays Colin Ritman In Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. Series wise, he’s been in The Fades, a BBC supernatural drama,playing Mac.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • This Get Fuzzy posits the best book ever: Harry da Vinci’s Rings.

(9) FUTURE TENSE. This month’s entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Thoughts and Prayers” by Ken Liu, which looks at how much worse trolling could get.

It was published along with a response essay by digital culture researcher Adrienne Massanari, “What’s in It for the Trolls?”

Ken Liu’s “Thoughts and Prayers” shows how the cruelest of online harassers convince themselves they’re doing the right thing….

When reading Liu’s piece, I was reminded again that the terms troll and trolling are maddeningly overused in popular culture. Trolling has come to mean everything from merely derailing a conversation with a purposefully nonsensical or impolite comment to actively harassing women with death and rape threats on Twitter. It’s a kind of linguistic shield that creates an easy way for abusers and harassers to dismiss their toxic behavior as “just trolling.”

(10) DOLLARS MISTER RICO, MILLIONS OF ‘EM! TVWeb says “Starship Troopers TV Show with Original Movie Cast Is Being Planned”.  

The Starship Troopers TV series would more than likely be pretty big, especially with the original cast and Ed Neumeier on board. One could easily see Netflix or Hulu jumping at the chance to put that out. However, it seems that they are in the early stages of talking about the project, and as Neumeier says, we don’t want to “jinx” it either. So for now, we’ll just think positive thoughts about the project actually happening.

Of course, you might have thoughts of your own about it.

(11) WIZARD OF OZ SETS RECORD. Cousin Judy’s film is still bringing ‘em into the theater — Variety: “Film News Roundup: ‘Wizard of Oz’ Sets Single-Day Record for Fathom”.

Fathom Events’ 80th anniversary of “The Wizard of Oz” took in $1.2 million at 408 North American sites on Sunday, setting a new Fathom record as the highest-grossing single-day classic film release.

“The Wizard of Oz” also had the highest per-screen average of any film in wide release on Sunday. The 1939 release is part of the TCM Big Screen Classics series, which will include “My Fair Lady,” “Field of Dreams,” “Glory,” “Alien” and “Lawrence of Arabia” this year.

(12) BAUM’S AWAY. Coming to Oakland in February, the California International Antiquarian Book Fair poster has an Oz theme.

(13) LET’S GET ROVING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A trio of articles give different impressions on the fate of the Opportunity rover on Mars—silent since the planetwide dust storm several months ago—at least according to the headlines. At Futurism, they say, “NASA’s Opportunity Rover Feared Dead: ‘An Honorable Death’,” which sounds decidedly pessimistic. Over on Gizmodo, they say, “Wake Up, Oppy! NASA Sends New Commands to Mars Opportunity Rover,” a somewhat more optimistic take. Meanwhile, The Jet Propulsion Laboratory itself simply says, “Rover Team Beaming New Commands to Opportunity on Mars.” That article doubtless gives the clearest story, coming as it does straight from NASA.

Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have begun transmitting a new set of commands to the Opportunity rover in an attempt to compel the 15-year-old Martian explorer to contact Earth. The new commands, which will be beamed to the rover during the next several weeks, address low-likelihood events that could have occurred aboard Opportunity, preventing it from transmitting. 

[…] “We have and will continue to use multiple techniques in our attempts to contact the rover,” said John Callas, project manager for Opportunity at JPL. “These new command strategies are in addition to the ‘sweep and beep’ commands we have been transmitting up to the rover since September.” With “sweep and beep,” instead of just listening for Opportunity, the project sends commands to the rover to respond back with a beep. 

[…] “Over the past seven months we have attempted to contact Opportunity over 600 times,” said Callas. “While we have not heard back from the rover and the probability that we ever will is decreasing each day, we plan to continue to pursue every logical solution that could put us back in touch.”

Time is of the essence for the Opportunity team. The “dust-clearing season” – the time of year on Mars when increased winds could clear the rover’s solar panels of dust that might be preventing it from charging its batteries – is drawing to a close. Meanwhile, Mars is heading into southern winter, which brings with it extremely low temperatures that are likely to cause irreparable harm to an unpowered rover’s batteries, internal wiring and/or computer systems. 

If either these additional transmission strategies or “sweep and beep” generates a response from the rover, engineers could attempt a recovery. If Opportunity does not respond, the project team would again consult with the Mars Program Office at JPL and NASA Headquarters to determine the path forward.

(14) MARGOT ROBBIE. Miss me? That’s what Margo Robbie’s asks while dressed as her DC alter ego in an Instagram post. Gizmodo/io9 has that story together with a short video clip showing off costumes for Quinn and several other Birds of Prey characters (“Harley Quinn Brings Fantabulous Fashion to Birds of Prey Video Introducing Black Canary, Black Mask, Huntress & More”).

While Warner Bros. upcoming Birds of Prey movie will introduce a number of DC’s formidable heroines like Huntress and Black Canary to the DCEU for the first time, it’ll also feature the return of one Harley Quinn who, judging from the film’s title, might embark upon some sort of redemptive arc. New year, new movie, new Harley—and Margot Robbie’s just revealed our first look at her.

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