Pixel Scroll 4/24/19 The Scroll Of The File King From Pixel Gynt

(1) AO3’S HUGO PACKET ENTRY. Archive of Our Own has publicly released its Hugo Voter Packet Submission. The two-page writeup is here [PDF file]. The following intro comes from Firenze to Therum:

AO3 was nominated for a Hugo Award this year for Best Related Work! This is an amazing achievement and we’re overjoyed that Hugo voters have recognised the incredible collaborative work that is the Archive.

Here’s some information about AO3, including its origins, some key features, and the team that makes it all possible. You can also check out the shiny PDF we submitted for the 2019 Hugo packet!

(2) AVENGING ECONOMIST. Behind the Financial Times paywall, economics columnist Tim Harford offers his thoughts on Avengers: Endgame.

Thanos fascinates me not only because he’s the best bad guy since Darth Vader–but because the muscular utilitarian is an economist on steroids.

Thanos’s claim to the economists’ hall of fame lies in his interest in scarce resources, his faith in the power of logical analysis, and a strong commitment to policy action–specifically, to eliminate half of all life in the universe, chosen at random…

…Thanos has convinced himself that he’s seen something nobody else can quite understand.  The truth is that he sorely needs peer review.  Like many powerful people, he regards himself as above his critics, not to mention every sapient being in the universe.  He views humans less as free-willed spirits capable of solving their own problems, and more like overbreeding rabbits, needing a cull for their own good.

(3) ENDGAME REVIEW. NPR’s Glen Weldon tells us “Mourning Has Broken Them: ‘Avengers: Endgame'”.

Going into Avengers: Endgame, one would be well-advised to manage both one’s expectations, and — given its three-hour-plus, intermissionless runtime — one’s fluid intake.

…The Russos’ decision to stick close to the experiences of the remaining Avengers proves a rewarding one, as they’ve expressly constructed the film as an extended victory lap for the Marvel Cinematic Universe writ large. Got a favorite character from any Marvel movie over the past decade, no matter how obscure? Prepare to get serviced, fan. Because the film’s third and final hour contains extended references to every single Marvel film that has led up to this one – yes! even Thor: The Dark World! I’m as surprised as you are! – and part of the delight Endgame provides to the patient audience member is gauging the size of the cheer that greets the entrance of any given hero, locale or – in at least once instance – item of super-hardware.

Make no mistake: There will be cheers. And boos. And gasps. The final, climactic battle (come on, you knew there’d be one) is legitimately thrilling, because every one of its manifold delights is fueled by (a cynic would say coasting on) the warm familiarity that spending a decade with these characters has engendered….

(4) GLEN WELDON HAS COMPANY. BBC does a roundup of the immediate reaction — “Avengers: Endgame ‘satisfying’ and ‘glorious’, say critics”.

Critics have been left dazzled by the latest Avengers film, describing it as “glorious”, “irresistible”, “intensely satisfying” and “masterful”….

(5) DON’T MISS THIS OPPORTUNITY. Clarke Award director Tom Hunter, seeing how few award submissions are by writers of color, says “Diversity in science fiction needs action now”.

…Many authors and industry spokespeople have talked more eloquently about the need to address this disparity in publishing than I will ever be able to. But I also suspect more than a few publishers will quietly check their new submissions piles or log into BookScan after reading this, and suggest that in order to affect any real change they need to submit more books by writers of colour.

They may argue, of course, that there needs to be more evidence of sales potential first to get those books past gatekeepers in marketing, finance and other departments. They might (just) have a short-term point, but to me this sounds more like using data to justify a current position – and I think it also misses the bigger publishing opportunity.

Here are four cultural tipping point trends that show what I mean.

  • From the SF&F bookshelves: N.K. Jemisin wins a record-setting third consecutive Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel with the final part of her Broken Earth trilogy (parts one and two having taken the prize in their own respective years).
  • From the ‘respectable’ bookshelves: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad wins the Pulitzer, the National Book Award and the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction literature.
  • From the Box Office: The Marvel Universe film Black Panther makes over a billion dollars at the box office in record time and gets nominated for seven Oscars including Best Picture (it doesn’t win that one though, of course).
  • From an adjacent cultural sector: The Musée d’Orsay in Paris opens their major exhibition Black Models: From Gericault to Matisse, challenging our historic perceptions of French masterpieces by reframing and renaming them to foreground attention on their black subjects, gaining both critical acclaim and a big upswing in first time visits from new audiences (new readers to you and me) along the way.

(6) HOPEPUNK AND HUGOS. Yes! takes a look “Inside Science Fiction’s Compassionate Revolution”.

…In 2018, almost every category of the Hugos were won by women, including N.K. Jemisin, who became the first person ever to win the Hugo for Best Novel three years in a row. Before Jemisin, no Black person of either gender had ever won the top award.

Then came this year’s historic collection of nominees, which are notable not just for the elevation of a more diverse field of storytellers, but for the specific type of story that many of them represent.

Rowland coined the term “hopepunk” on a whim in a 2017 Tumblr post, having no idea that it would catch on so strongly within the community. She defined it initially as “the opposite of grimdark,” referring to a popular dystopian subgenre characterized by nihilism, amorality, and a negative view of human nature. Hopepunk, in contrast, is optimistic about humanity and sees kindness as “an act of rebellion” against a power structure that benefits from people giving up on compassion.

In an essay for the Winter 2019 issue of The Stellar Beacon zine, Rowland expanded on hopepunk, emphasizing the resistance element. Unlike another subgenre dubbed “noblebright”—characterized by the belief that righteous heroes can and will prevail over wicked villains—hopepunk does not deny the inherent injustices of the real world. However, it also recognizes the potential for justice within humanity. Compassion and empathy are weapons in the eternal fight between good and evil within the human heart. Hopepunk acknowledges that that fight will never be won, but insists on fighting anyway, because, as Rowland wrote, “the fight itself is the point.”

(7) BIZARROCON PERSPECTIVE. Brian Keene interviewed Jeff Burk on a recent episode of The Horror Show With Brian Keene (“Jeff Burk Unchained – The Horror Show with Brian Keene – Ep 215”.)  Part of the discussion centered on the events at BizzaroCon where Chandler Morrison performed a section of one of his works; complete with a dead (toy) baby covered in blood (ketchup) — events covered in File 770 posts “A Reckoning for BizarroCon” and “Changes in Store for Bizarrocon”.

Dann listened to the podcast and sent along these notes —

During the interview, Burk categorically denied having anything to do with abusive/predatory behavior that had been an issue at past cons.  He was incensed at the post-con attempts to tie abusive behavior with himself or Morrison.    Burk suggested that the tone/perspective of comments that he received at the con were decidedly different from what was seen on the Internet in the days that followed.  The people complaining most loudly online had appeared to have substantially different perspectives while at the con.  He also denied that Morrison ever exposed himself during his performance.  A prosthetic/prop was used during the performance.

Burk acknowledged that he had made the mistake of thinking that BizarroCon was an appropriate venue for Morrison’s performance.  Similar (and perhaps more gross) performances have been a long tradition at KillerCon.

Brian Keene indicated that he had acted as a consultant/mediator after the BizarroCon performance, but he had no direct input on Deadite Press’ decision to fire Burk.

Burk indicated that he disagreed with the decision by Eraserhead Press’ decision to terminate him.  But he also said that he is still on good terms with the executives in charge and has a positive opinion of them.

He also discussed his new imprint “Section 31 Productions”.  Star Trek fans will recognize the homage in the company’s name.

(8) DRAGON CHOW. Eater’s article “How Much Do the ‘Game of Thrones’ Dragons Actually Need to Eat? An Investigation” kind of reminds me of the Lilliputians trying to feed Gulliver.

In the Season 8 premiere, Winterfell leather goth Sansa Stark questions her brother Jon Snow’s decision to bring his pushy new girlfriend (and aunt!) Daenerys and her two dragons to the north, wondering out loud what precisely the dragons are going to eat. The Mother of Dragons smugly replies, “Whatever they want.” (Which, judging from past episodes, includes a lot of animal herds and the occasional shepherd boy.)

Later in the episode, two of Dany’s Dothraki footmen inform her that her dragons only ate only “18 goats and 11 sheep” for lunch, a sign that they are losing their appetite as a result of the move up north. Considering that Game of Thrones scribes D.B. Weiss and David Benioff love foreshadowing, we couldn’t help but wonder if the dragon’s dietary needs will play some key role in the upcoming Battle of Winterfell. To better understand the dragon hunger situation and how it could impact the impending war with the Night King, Eater got in touch with a bona fide expert on large reptiles and flying animals, and asked her a few questions about how these aerial beasts might act during the epic battle ahead.

(9) CONNOR TRIBUTE. Graham Connor (1957-2018) co-founded SF² Concatenation at the 1987 Eastercon and remained one of its co-editors until his death in December 2018. Jonathan Cowie and other friends have assembled an illustrated profile of his life in SF and space communications in “A life in SF and space”, an advance post ahead of SF² Concatenation’s summer edition.

Graham was born in the Cumbrian, coastal town of Workington, in the shadow of Windscale (now Sellafield).  1957 was the year of the Windscale nuclear disaster.  And so the scene was set for Graham to potentially have been bitten by a radioactive spider and become a superhero. But, alas, that did not happen….

He did make it to several Worldcons — Brighton (1979), Brighton (1987), The Hague (1990) – he subsequently worked a couple of years for ESA nearby, and Glasgow (1995).  Sadly, chronic illness prevented further attendance beyond the mid-2000s.

(10) BARNES OBIT. From BBC: “Dick Barnes, pioneer behind oldest working computer, dies”. The 98-year-old died April 8.

One of the co-designers of a machine later recognised as the world’s oldest working digital computer has died.

Richard “Dick” Barnes helped to create the Harwell Dekatron, which was first put to use in 1951 by Britain’s fledgling nuclear research establishment.

He was also involved in the 2.5-tonne machine’s restoration, which saw it switched back on in 2012.

…He and two colleagues, Ted Cooke-Yarborough and Gurney Thomas, began their work on the Harwell Dekatron in 1949.

It was initially used by the Atomic Energy Research Establishment in Oxfordshire, where its tasks involved solving equations used to design the structure supporting the world’s first commercial nuclear reactor at Calder Hall.

…In November 2012 the machine was successfully switched back on after a three-year restoration project.

The revived machine functioned as planned, which is to say, very slowly.

It could take up to 10 seconds to multiply two numbers – but Mr Barnes and his co-designers had wanted a machine that could run continuously, not necessarily quickly, in order to be useful.

Indeed, it was known to calculate continuously for periods of up to 80 hours.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 24, 1930 Richard Donner, 89. Oh, now he’s credited in directing Superman as making the modern superhero film. H’h. Well I’m going to celebrate him instead for ScroogedThe Goonies (really not genre but fun) and Ladyhawke. Not to mention the horror he did — Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight and Bordello of Blood. Oh and the first X-Men film which was superb.
  • Born April 24, 1936 Jill Ireland. For her short life, she was in an amazing number of genre shows. She was on Star Trek romancing Spock as Leila Kalomi In “This Side of Paradise”. She had five appearances on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well as being on Night Gallery,  My Favorite Martian, Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Voodoo Factor and the SF film The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything based on the 1962 novel of the same name by John D. MacDonald. (Died 1990.)
  • Born April 24, 1946 Donald D’Ammassa, 73. Considered to be one of the best and fairest long-form reviewers ever. His Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2005) covers some five hundred writers and as can two newer volumes, Encyclopedia of Fantasy and Horror Fiction (2006) and Encyclopedia of Adventure Fiction (2009) are equally exhaustive. I can’t comment on his fiction as I’ve only ever encountered as a reviewer.
  • Born April 24, 1947 Michael Butterworth, 72. Author with Michael Moorcock of, naturally, two Time of the Hawklords novels, Time of the Hawklords and Queens of Deliria. He also wrote a number of Space 1999 Year 2 novels, too numerous to list here. He also edited Corridor magazine from 1971 to 1974. He also wrote a number of short fiction pieces including one whose title amuses me for reasons I’m not sure, “Circularisation of Condensed Conventional Straight-Line Word-Image Structures“. 
  • Born April 24, 1953 Gregory Luce, 66. Editor and publisher of both the Science Fiction Gems and the Horror Gems anthology series, plus such other anthologies as Citadel of the Star Lords / Voyage to Eternity and Old Spacemen Never Die! / Return to Earth. For a delightful look at him and these works, go here. Warning: cute canine involved! 

(12) WILSON FUNDRAISING UPDATE. The “Help Gahan Wilson find his way” GoFundMe is now up to 1300 contributors and just over $60,000 raised. Gahan Wilson is suffering from severe dementia, and the goal is to pay for his memory care.

Gahan and my mother had been residing in an assisted living facility in Arizona. With my mother’s passing, he must move to a memory care unit.

…Gahan will be in our care at the casita, and we will also find him a memory care unit in Santa Fe since he also needs daily medical care.

Memory care is wildly expensive. More so than assisted living. If we could cover the cost ourselves, we would. We can’t, and Gahan and my mother did not save for anything like this. We are asking his fans to help us, help Gahan.

That’s what this is all about. Making the rest of Gahan’s days as wonderful as they can be.

(13) OVERLOOKED. In its review of a new sff collection, The Hugo Award Book Club faults “A People’s Future Without Labour”.

…Any author or editor attempting to claim the mantle of [Howard] Zinn’s work has an unenviable task ahead of them. But when SF luminaries John Joseph Adams and Victor LaValle — both of whom have produced top-quality works — announced a short story collection whose title is an homage to Zinn, we were very excited. 

Given the provocative and timely premise of A People’s Future Of The United States, we approached the collection of stories with enthusiasm. Unfortunately, the collection as a whole failed to live up to the grand ideas described by the editors.

…Questions of race, class and gender are important to explore and have all-too-often been ignored in science fiction. 

We would argue that because science fiction is an inherently political genre, it is of paramount importance to create inclusive futures we can believe in. Some of the stories in this volume do indeed ably tackle topics of race, class and gender. But the topic of labour is almost entirely neglected. 

It is disappointing that an anthology that so explicitly aims to address cultural blindspots has reproduced one itself. 

In comparison, the index to Zinn’s classic history book includes a full page of references to organized labour movements. At a rough estimate, 30 per cent of the book deals with the struggles of traditional union movement organizing, and workers rights are integral to much of the rest of the text…. 

(14) ROBOTS LIKE ME. James Wallace Harris reviews Ian McEwan’s Machines Like Me in “Why Should Robots Look Like Us?” at Auxiliary Memory.

McEwan’s story often digresses into infodumps and intellectual musings which are common pitfalls of writing science fiction. And the trouble is he goes over the same well-worn territory. The theme of androids is often used to explore: What does it mean to be human? McEwan uses his literary skills to go into psychological details that most science fiction writers don’t, but the results are the same.

I’ve been reading these stories for decades, and they’ve been explored in the movies and television for many years too, from Blade Runner to Ex Machina. Why can’t we go deeper into the theme? Partly I think it’s because we assume AI robots will look identical to us. That’s just nuts. Are we so egocentric that we can’t imagine our replacements looking different? Are we so vain as a species as to believe we’re the ideal form in nature?

…Instead of writing stories about our problems of dealing with facsimiles of ourselves, we should be thinking about a world where glittery metallic creatures build a civilization on top of ours, and we’re the chimpanzees of their world.

(15) POWER VOCABULARY. BBC’s science news “‘Exhilarating’ implant turns thoughts to speech” includes recorded sample.

Scientists have developed a brain implant that can read people’s minds and turn their thoughts to speech.

The team at the University of California, San Francisco says the technology is “exhilarating”.

They add that their findings, published in the journal Nature, could help people when disease robs them of their ability to talk.

Experts said the findings were compelling and offered hope of restoring speech.

The mind-reading technology works in two stages.

First an electrode is implanted in the brain to pick up the electrical signals that manoeuvre the lips, tongue, voice box and jaw.

Then powerful computing is used to simulate how the movements in the mouth and throat would form different sounds.

(16) KRUGMAN’S WORLDCON TALK. At Anticipation, the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman spoke and then took questions. Scott Edelman has posted an audio recording on YouTube.

(17) PROP MAKER. Kenneth Spivey is “The Swordsmith to the Stars”. Great Big Story has a video (just over 3 minutes) about this artist and prop maker who is “working on Hollywood films like the ones he’s always loved—and likely inspiring the next generation.” Chevy trucks are featured prominently since they are the corporate sponsor.

(18) GEMINI MAN. The Hollywood Reporter asks “Can ‘Gemini Man’ Revive the Golden Age of ’90s Sci-Fi?” That is, can it be “an event unto itself?” Will Smith stars opposite a CGI-ed 23-year-old version of himself in Ang Lee’s Gemini Man—a property with a long history of previous stars being attached. The movie opens October 11.

This morning Paramount had us seeing double with the first trailer for the Ang Lee-directed sci-fi/action film Gemini Man, starring not one, but two Will Smiths. The long-gestating film, which began development as a Tony Scott feature in 1997, centers on assassin on the verge of retirement Henry Brogen (Smith), who is forced to combat a younger clone of himself (Smith) in the not-too-distant future. Since the film’s inception in the late ’90s, a number of big names have been attached to star, including Harrison Ford, Nicolas Cage, Clint Eastwood and Sean Connery. When Ang Lee took over the project in 2017, he cast Smith in the lead role, giving the actor the unique opportunity to play both his current 50-year-old self and his 23-year-old self, who, thanks to the film’s revolutionary technology, looks like he just stepped right off the set of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. If the trailer for the film, which also stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen and Benedict Wong, is any indication, Gemini Man may be just what the science fiction genre needs.

[…] Big-budget original science fiction needs a win, and hopefully Gemini Man can recapture the spirit of the ’90s where a big-name director, producer and actor were an event unto themselves, regardless of preexisting material. Gemini Man looks appealing not simply because of its concept and slick action sequences, but because it looks to simultaneously tap into our nostalgia with a sunglasses-wearing Smith, and also our desire for an original, high-concept property that doesn’t require any prior knowledge. It’s a double threat.

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

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 3/17/19 To Say Nothing Of The Cat

(1) DANK DAIRY. Nature gets into the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day in its own idiocyncratic way with publication of this research: “Four millennia of dairy surplus and deposition revealed through compound-specific stable isotope analysis and radiocarbon dating of Irish bog butters”.

Bog butters are large, white to yellow waxy deposits regularly recovered from the peat bogs of Ireland and Scotland, often found in wooden containers or wrapped in bark or animal membranes (Fig. 1). With recorded weights of up to 23?kg (and several examples that may be larger), bog butters were first documented in the 17th century; the total number recovered to date may approach 500 specimens1,2. Published radiocarbon determinations on Irish bog butters show activity spanning the Iron Age to the post-medieval period3,4 with folk accounts indicating survival into the 19th century5,6. While the reasons behind their deposition continue to be debated1,2, the remarkable preservative properties of peat bogs are well known7 and several post-medieval accounts mention the practice of storing butter in bogs to be consumed at a later date, whether by necessity or as a delicacy8,9,10. Early medieval Irish law tracts list butter as one of the products payable as food rents11, which may have needed to be stockpiled or stored. Parallels have also been drawn with the widespread deposition of metal and other objects in wetlands during the Bronze Age and Iron Age, often assumed to be votive or ritual acts….

(2) CLOSE GUESSES. The New York Times Book Review has two articles on world-building in speculative fiction this week:

“Ours is a world of laws—and given available evidence, so are all other worlds.

As they build their wild what ifs, the authors of speculative fiction draft legislation: They draw up regulations and establish cabinet agencies and sub-agencies, often employing a diction eerily reminiscent of real-life government and politics—the eeriness being very much the point.”

Maybe because we’re living in a dystopia, it feels as if we’ve become obsessed with prophecy as of late. Protest signs at the 2017 Women’s March read “Make Margaret Atwood Fiction Again!” and “Octavia Warned Us”…

In “The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of: How Science Fiction Conquered The World,” Thomas Disch calls this relay between fiction and reality “creative visualization.”

(3) FIRE IN THE WHOLE. Steven Zeitchik says in the Washington Post that tensions are rising between the Writers Guild of America (East) & Writers Guild of America (West) and the Association of Talent Agents because the writers think the agents are forming production companies and not being fair to the writers.  He says if the agents and writers don’t negotiate a new “artists manager basic agreement” about fee sharing by April 6, the result could be a mass firing by the 20,000 WGA members of their agents. “Hollywood agents and writers meet, but impasse remains”.

…The writers say they do not wish to renew the franchise agreement without significant revisions. They want new units that the agencies created to function as production companies to instead be formally carved out as separate entities. At present those units exist more as extensions of the agencies, which the writers say ups the possibility for conflicts of interest.

The also want to overhaul the main ways agents collect money on writers’ work. At the moment those revenue are dominated not by standard commissions from clients but by packaging fees, in which studios pay the agents for putting together the creative elements of a show. Those fees, the writers say, encourage agents to act against their own clients’ interests and also allow them to dip into a pool of revenue that should go to creators.

The agencies, particularly the Big Four — CAA, WME, UTA and ICM — that are leading the fight, say that the writers are working under false assumptions. Packaging fees and new entities offer riches to both parties, they say, especially as the media companies with which they are negotiating are growing larger and more vertical.

(4) FOR MEMORY CARE. The GoFundMe for Gahan Wilson has raised $52,175 of its $100,000 goal in the first 14 days. More than a thousand people have donated.

(5) NOT SAFE FOR WHATEVER. [Item by Dann.] Netflix recently released their series of sci-fi/fantasy/horror animated short files under the title Love, Death + Robots.  The collection features 10-20 minute long films based on genre stories.  Original story authors include John Scalzi, Marko Kloos, Joe Lansdale, and Ken Liu.

The collection is billed as an “NSFW anthology”.  It generally lives up to that appellation.  The films range from mildly questionable language to full-on body dismemberment to sexually explicit content (voluntary and otherwise).  The use of felines periodically borders on being questionable.

Tim Miller, director of Deadpool, leads the effort.  He is also an executive producer.  Miller and David Fincher have been credited with developing the anthology as a sort of modern version of Heavy Metal magazine.

The collection is part of Netflix’s effort to create unique content.  Many recently released titles feature genre based stories.  Not unlike Amazon’s influence on the increasing number of sub-novel length works, might this development be a signal of technology changing markets to allow a range of video productions other than long format movies or shorter format TV series?

Is there a Hugo worthy animated short in this anthology?  Only people living in 2020 know for certain.

(6) RYAN OBIT. In “Tom K. Ryan, R.I.P.”, Mark Evanier pays tribute to the Tumbleweeds cartoonist who died on March 7.

Cartoonist Tom K. Ryan, who gave us the syndicated strip Tumbleweeds has passed at the age of 92…actually, about 92.8. His popular western-themed comic made its debut in September of 1965 and lasted until the end of 2007 when Ryan decided he was getting too old to continue it. A run of 42+ years is pretty impressive in any industry. Like most cartoonists, Ryan was aided by occasional assistants, one of whom — a fellow named Jim Davis — did okay for himself when he struck out on his own and created Garfield.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 17, 1846 Kate Greenaway. Victorian artist and writer, largely known today for her children’s book illustrations. So popular was she and her work that the very popular Kate Greenaway Almanacks appeared every year from 1883 to 1895. Among her best-known works was her edition of Robert Browning’s The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Rosa Mulholland’s Puck and Blossom and Bret Harte’s Pirate Isle. (Died 1901.)
  • Born March 17, 1906 Brigitte Helm. German actress, Metropolis. Her first role a an actress, she played two roles, Maria and her double, the Maschinenmensch. Oddly enough I’ve not seen it, so do render your opinions on it please. She’s got some other genre credits including L’Atlantide (The Mistress of Atlantis) and Alraune (Unholy Love). Her later films would be strictly in keeping with the policies of the Nazis with all films being fiercely anti-capitalist and  in particular attacking Jewish financial speculators. (Died 1996.)
  • Born March 17, 1945 Tania Lemani, 74. She played Kara in the Trek episode “Wolf in the Fold”. She first met Shatner when she was offered her a role in the pilot for Alexander the Great, starring him in the title role (although the pilot failed to be picked up as a series). She had parts in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Bionic Woman and she shows up in the fanfic video Star Trek: Of Gods and Men. I assume as Kara, though IMDb lists her as herself. 
  • Born March 17, 1947 James K. Morrow, 72. I’m very fond of the Godhead trilogy in which God is Dead and very, very present. Shambling Towards Hiroshima is a lot of satisfying satirical fun as is The Madonna and the Starship which is also is a wonderful homage to pulp writers.
  • Born March 17, 1948 William Gibson, 71. I’ve read the Sprawl trilogy more times than I can remember and likewise the Bridge trilogy and The Difference Engine. The works I struggled with are Pattern Recognition, Spook Country and Zero History. I’ve tried all of them, none were appealing. Eh? 
  • Born March 17, 1949 Patrick Duffy, 70. Surely you’ve seen him on Man from Atlantis? No?  Oh, you missed a strange, short-lived show. His other genre credits are a delightfully mixed bag of such things as voicing a Goat on Alice in Wonderland, appearing on The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne as Duke Angelo Rimini  in the “Rockets of the Dead” episode and voicing  Steve Trevor in the incredibly excellent “The Savage Time” three-parter on Justice League. 
  • Born March 17, 1951 Kurt Russell, 68. I know I saw Escape from New York on a rainy summer night in a now century-old Art Deco theatre which wasn’t the one I later saw Blade Runner in. I think it’s much better than Escape from L.A. was. Of course there’s Big Trouble in Little China, my favorite film with him in it. And let’s not forget Tombstone. Not genre, you say. Maybe not, but it’s damn good. 
  • Born March 17, 1958 Christian Clemenson, 61. Though I’m reasonably sure his first genre appearance was on the Beauty and The Beast series, his first memorable appearance was on the BtVS episode “Bad Girls” as a obscenely obese demon named Balthazar. Lots of practical effects were used. His other significant genre role was on The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. as fish way out of the water Eastern lawyer Socrates Poole. And yes, I loved that series! 
  • Born March 17, 1962 Clare Grogan, 57. On the Red Dwarf series as the first incarnation of Kristine Kochanski. Anyone here watch it? One truly weird series!  She really doesn’t have much of any acting career and her genre career is quite short otherwise, a stint in an episode on Sea of Souls, a Scots ghost chasing series, is it. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom the Dancing Bug finds humor in explaining why some time travelers hold no terrors for Americans of the 1950s.

(9) FRANSON AWARDS. National Fantasy Fan Federation (N3F) President George Phillies has picked three recipients for this year’s Franson Awards, named for the late Donald Franson, and given as a show of appreciation:

As your President, it is my privilege and honor to bestow the N3F President’s Award on our three art-ists, who have been doing so much to beautify our N3F zines. Please join me in thanking Angela K Scott, Jose Sanchez, and Cedar Sanderson for what they have done for our Federation.

(10) BEEP BEEP. MovieWeb is there when “Revenge of the Sith Deleted Scene of Anakin Speaking Droid Goes Viral”.

An old deleted scene from Revenge of the Sith where Anakin speaks droid has started to gain popularity online. Some Star Wars fans are having a hard time believing that the scene is real, which makes sense in an age where deleted scenes are practically a thing of the past. Over the years, the prequels have been looked at in a better light by a younger generation that grew up with those three installments being the first Star Wars movies that they saw.

…While it is a bit of a silly scene, it does probably point Obi-Wan in the direction to learn droid. In A New Hope, he can understand R2D2, so the scene could have served a purpose had it been left in. But it’s a little on the silly side because these are powerful Jedi that we’re talking about here. They should, at the very least, know how to talk to a droid before levitating rocks and using Jedi mind tricks. Whatever the case may be, the scene was left on the cutting room floor and thrown on the DVD.

(11) NOW, VOYAGER. Slate tells why “It Was a Big Week in Politics for Star Trek: Voyager Fans”.

When it comes to ‘90s-era Star Trek series, Voyager doesn’t always get its due, maybe because it couldn’t quite live up to the high standard set by The Next Generation or because it lacked the gravitas and daring of Deep Space Nine. (Or maybe it’s just because we’re all trying to avoid thinking too hard about the events of “Threshold.”) Still, Voyager stayed true to Star Trek’s overarching spirit of exploration and cooperation, forcing two very different groups of people to work together to survive and testing the characters’ utopian ideals by stranding them far from the safety of the Federation. Plus, the series was the first in the franchise to be led by a female captain, Kathryn Janeway, played by the dynamic Kate Mulgrew.

The show’s lasting influence can be felt in two stories from this week about prominent Democratic politicians, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Stacey Abrams, both of whom are fans of Voyager and, in particular, its lead character. The first surprise nod to Trek in the political sphere came from the Daily Mail’s unexpectedly wholesome interview with Blanca Ocasio-Cortez, who described how Voyager became a portent of her daughter’s future success.

[…] The other Voyager shoutout appeared in the New York Times on Thursday in a story with the headline “Stacey Abrams, Star Trek Nerd, Is Traveling at Warp Speed.” In quotes from a previously unpublished interview from last summer, the former Georgia gubernatorial candidate says that while The Next Generation is her favorite series, she “reveres Admiral Janeway.” She also shows off her good taste in Trek by picking a Voyager episode, “Shattered,” as a favorite. […]

(12) A LORD AND LADY. PopSugar already knows our answer is “Yes!” — “Tell Me Something, Droid . . . Are You Ready For a Star Wars “Shallow” Parody?”

A Star Wars Is Born . . . How did I not see this coming? The Star Wars and A Star Is Born universes finally collided to pay tribute to two fan-favorite ships in a Nerdist parody music video. If Ally and Jackson were transported to a galaxy far, far, away, perhaps their version of “Shallow” would’ve ended up a little like Kylo Ren and Rey’s. 

(13) HARLEY QUINN. SYFY Wire eavesdrops as “Kaley Cuoco shares new glimpse of Harley Quinn animated series”.

When DC first announced its new service, it treated fans with an influx of announcements. Not only would they be able to stream classics like Batman: The Animated Series, but they received a plethora of original programming. […] Coming soon to the network will be Harley Quinn, an animated series featuring the voices of Kaley Cuoco (The Big Bang Theory) as Harley and Alan Tudyk (Firefly) as the Joker

Other than the trailer released at NYCC, we’ve haven’t seen much else in regard to everyone’s favorite psychopath with a heart of gold. That is until Cuoco took to Instagram and posted some shots from her voice sessions.

(14) ORCISH LAWYERS. “Fearing a trademark lawsuit, Bucksport’s ‘Hobbit Hill’ farm agrees to change name” – the Bangor Daily News has the story.

When Kevin and Mandy Wheaton opened their farm off Ledgewood Drive last April, they couldn’t see anybody having a problem with the name they gave it:

Hobbit Hill Homestead.

“I thought a Hobbit was a small, woodland creature with giant hairy feet, and they were fun-loving and liked to smoke their little pipes,” Mandy Wheaton said, “like a gnome or a leprechaun.”

Well, it turns out that somebody did have a problem with the Wheatons using the name Hobbit — Middle-earth Enterprises.

That’s the California company that owns worldwide rights to trademarked terms within British author J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy world, including “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit.” It’s an arm of The Saul Zaentz Co., which produced the animated 1978 “Lord of the Rings” film.

(15) NO BADGES HERE. Not even B. Traven could save this issue? Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus pans the latest (in 1964) issue of F&SF, which includes a story by the writer:“[March 17, 1964] It’s all Downhill(April 1964 Fantasy and Science Fiction)”. (Traven wrote the novel that The Treasure of the Sierra Madre is based on.)

A friend of mine inquired about an obscure science fiction story the other day.  She expressed surprise that I had, in fact, read it, and wondered what my criteria were for choosing my reading material.  I had to explain that I didn’t have any: I read everything published as science fiction and/or fantasy. 

My friend found this refrain from judgment admirable.  I think it’s just a form of insanity, particularly as it subjects me to frequent painful slogs.  For instance, this month’s Fantasy and Science Fiction continues the magazine’s (occasionally abated) slide into the kaka.  With the exception of a couple of pieces, it’s bad.  Beyond bad — dull….

FLING THAT THING. Comic Books vs The World calls them “giant death frisbees” in “Every MCU Captain America Shield Explained.”

He may not have been in action in the Marvel Cinematic Universe all that much, but Captain America’s had a bunch of different shields over the years. Let’s look over the timeline of the MCU and see what all he’s used so far!

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

Pixel Scroll 3/3/19 My File Went So Pix’ly, I Went Lickety-Split, Scrollin’ My Old ‘55

(1) NAME THAT ROCK. In the Washington Post, Sarah Kaplan profiles the “byzantine and marvelously nerdy naming guidelines” of the International Astronomical Union (“The bizarre and brilliant rules for naming new stuff in space”). Among them:  the mountains and plains of Titan have to be named according to references in Dune or Lord of the Rings, Names for asteroids have relatively few rules, but one of them is not to name an asteroid after your cat, as James Gibson found out when he named an asteroid after his cat, Mr. Spock, and was told that while his asteroid remains “2309 Mr. Spock,” he really shouldn’t do it twice.

[Names for the moons of Jupter] must come from a character in Greek or Roman mythology who was either a descendant or lover of the god known as Zeus (in Greek) or Jupiter (Latin). It must be 16 characters or fewer, preferably one word. It can’t be offensive, too commercial, or closely tied to any political, military or religious activities of the past 100 years. It can’t belong to a living person and can’t be too similar to the name of any existing moons or asteroids. If the moon in question is prograde (it circles in the same direction as its planet rotates) the name must end in an “a.” If it is retrograde (circling in the opposite direction), the name must end in an “e.”

(2) TEMPORARILY CUTE. Sooner or later they’re going to need a new naming convention for these things (Popular Science: “FarFarOut dethrones FarOut for farthest object in the solar system”).

Most people don’t kill time by finding the most distant object ever discovered in the solar system, but most people aren’t Scott Sheppard.

Last week, the Carnegie Institution for Science astronomer announced he had just discovered an object that sits about 140 astronomical units away. One AU equals the 93 million miles between Earth and the sun, so that means this object is 140 times the distance of Earth from the sun, or 3.5 times farther away than Pluto.

This is just a mere couple months after he and his team discovered 2018 VG18, nicknamed “Farout,” which sits 120 AU away, and for a brief moment was the farthest known object in the solar system. Sheppard and his team have already given a pretty apt tongue-in-cheek nickname to the usurper: “FarFarOut.”

(3) SAN DIEGO 2049 SPEAKER SERIES. Annalee Newitz, author of Autonomous and co-founder, io9, will give a talk “San Diego 2049: Your Dystopia Has Been Canceled” on April 4 at UCSD. Free and open to the public; RSVP required.

Realistic worldbuilding requires that we get out of the dystopia/utopia binary and imagine futures that are a diverse mix of worlds. To imagine a plausible future world, we need to look critically at our own history, where progress is uneven and resistance is not futile. Annalee Newitz, journalist, co-founder of the website io9, and author of the acclaimed science fiction novel Autonomous joins us to share her insights into worldbuilding as part of the San Diego 2049 series of programs.

(4) SALAM AWARD JUDGES. The 2019 jury for the Salam Award will be Jeffrey Ford, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Maha Khan Phillips, John Joseph Adams, and Saba Sulaiman. The award promotes imaginative fiction in Pakistan. (Via Locus Online.)

Last year’s winner was Akbar Shahzad for his story Influence

(5) HUGO PICKS. Abigail Nussbaum comments on 20 stories that either made her ballot, or came close, in “The 2019 Hugo Awards: My Hugo Ballot, Short Fiction Categories” at Asking the Wrong Question.

From what I’ve seen–and the effects of the last decade in the genre short fiction scene have been to render it even more diffuse than it already was, so I really can’t say that I’ve had a comprehensive view–2018 was a strong year for SF short fiction, with venues including Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, and Uncanny delivering strong slates of stories.  I was interested to observe how easy it is to discern an editorial voice, and a preoccupation with certain topics, when reading through a magazine’s yearly output.  Uncanny, for example, had a strong focus on disabled protagonists in 2018, with stories that often turn on their struggles to achieve necessary accommodation, with which they can participate and contribute to society.

One topic that I expected to see a great deal more of in my reading was climate change.  Only a few of the pieces I’ve highlighted here turn on this increasingly important topic, and very few stories I read dealt with it even obliquely.  Given how much climate change has been in the public conversation recently (and not a moment too soon) it’s possible that next year’s award nominees will deal with it more strongly, but I was a bit disappointed not to see SF writers and editors placing an emphasis on it already.

(6) WOULD YOU LIKE TO PLAY A GAME? This Kickstarter will fund a table top game, “Necronomicon by Abdul Alhazred with Cthulhu pawns & Idol”.

The Necronomicon is undoubtedly the most emblematic book in the mythology of H.P. Lovecraft. In this game you will assume the role of Abdul Alhazred with the aim of completing all sections of the aberrant book. It is a game for 2 to 4 players with game modes for 20 or 60 minutes.

(7) PLAYING IN THE FIELDS OF D.C. John Kelly in the Washington Post went on the press tour for Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, a Ubisoft video game in which Washington, wiped out by a pandemic, has turned the National Air and Space Museum into an armory and the Lincoln Memorial into a graffiti-covered headquarters for paramilitary groups. (“A new video game invites players to wallow in a dystopian Washington”.)  But Ubisoft couldn’t use the World War II Memorial for copyright reasons and decided not to have shooters blast away at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial because “the gamemakers thought it would be disrespectful to have players shooting at each other around the statue of the famous pacifist.”

The game is set in the months after a deadly pandemic has swept the country and transformed the area around the Tidal Basin into a flooded wasteland, the National Air and Space Museum into a heavily guarded armory and the Lincoln Memorial into the smoke-blackened, kudzu-shrouded headquarters of a paramilitary group.

On the plus side, rush hour traffic is pretty light.

The challenge facing anyone designing a video game set in an actual place is making it realistic. The purpose of this junket — events were spread over two days, with a shuttle bus squiring the group from site to site — was to explain that process.

(8) COSPLAY IN CLEVELAND. The Cleveland Plain Dealer) highlighted cosplay in an article about an upcoming convention: “Wizard World shines light on cosplay and the art of transforming (photos)”.

Four years ago, Stephanie Lauren looked into a painting and had an epiphany… “I could do this.”

No, she wasn’t imagining herself as a painter. She already was one, and the painting she was looking at was hers – a colorful portrait of a cute, furry kitty cat.

Rather, she started to imagine herself as one of her works come to life – a character, an expression of childhood and innocence. A new reality, purely of her own making. 

Stitch by stitch, using cloth and Ethylene-vinyl acetate foam and beads, a cosplay character was born…. 

(9) WYNDHAM MEMORIAL. Triffid Alley is a website intended to become a memorial to the author John Wyndham, author of Day of the Triffids, who died in 1969.

It takes its name from Triffid Alley in Hampstead, London, which is the only known existing memorial to John Wyndham in the United Kingdom.

The website reports there will be a 50th Anniversary Commemoration of Wyndham’s death in London on March 11.

It will consist of a talk by David Ketterer and Ken Smith on Wyndham and the Penn Club where he lived from 1924 to 1943 and from 1946 to 1963 followed by drinks and food at a pub on the nearby Store Street, a street which figures on page 98 of the Penguin edition of The Day of the Triffids.

David Ketterer has more or less completed a full scale critical biography entitled TROUBLE WITH TRIFFIDS: THE LIFE AND FICTION OF JOHN WYNDHAM…

Anyone who is interested is invited to gather outside the Penn Club at 21-23 Bedford Place, London W.C.1 (near the British Museum) at 6.00 pm on Monday, 11 March 2019.  We shall move to seating in the Penn Club lounge around 6.15 pm for the talk and questions.  Around 7.00 pm we shall walk to The College Arms at 18 Store Street (near Senate House).

(10) HUGH LAMB OBIT. British anthologist Hugh Lamb, editor of many paperback collections of vintage horror, died March 2. His son, Richard, tells more in a “Tribute to My Father”.

On the night of 2nd March 2019, Hugh Lamb passed away. He died peacefully, in his sleep, after a long illness that had left him frail and weak. At the end he chose to move on, rather than suffer long months of treatment with no guarantees. We, his family, chose to honour his wishes and were with him at the end.

Hugh Lamb was, to many, one of the country’s foremost authorities on Victorian supernatural literature and a respected anthologist of those stories. To me, however, he was just dad. Certainly, I inherited a great love of ghost stories, as well as the cinema of the macabre, from my father. We would recommend movies to each other and enjoy critiquing them. As a child I used to thrill at tales of the supernatural, both real and fictional, all because of my father’s influence. When I wrote a series of screenplays, two of which were optioned by producers, they were all either ghost stories or stories with a supernatural flavour. And when one of my screenplays won the 2008 Rocliffe/BAFTA New Writers award, it was my father who positively glowed with pride. The screenplay was a father and son story, and he recognised himself in the pages with a mischievous delight.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 3, 1863 Arthur Machen. His novella “The Great God Pan” published in 1890 has garnered a reputation as a classic of horror, with Stephen King describing it as “Maybe the best horror story in the English language.” His The Three Impostors; or, The Transmutations 1895 novel is considered a precursor to Lovecraft and was reprinted in paperback by Ballantine Books in the Seventies. (Died 1947.)
  • Born March 3, 1920 James Doohan. Montgomery “Scotty” Scott on Trek of course. His first genre appearance was in Outer Limits as Police Lt. Branch followed by being a SDI Agent at Gas Station in The Satan Bug film before getting the Trek gig. He filmed a Man from U.N.C.L.E.film, One of Our Spies Is Missing, in which in played Phillip Bainbridge, during 5he first season of Trek.  Doohan did nothing of genre nature post-Trek. (Died 2005.)
  • Born March 3, 1945 George Miller, 74. Best known for his Mad Max franchise, The Road WarriorMad Max 2Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome andFury Road.  He also directed The Nightmare at 20,000 Feet segment of the Twilight Zone film, The Witches of Eastwick, Babe and 40,000 Years of Dreaming
  • Born March 3, 1948 Max Collins, 71. Best known for writing the Dick Tracy comic strip from 1977 to 1993 giving The it a SF flavor. He also did a lot of writing in various media series such as Dark Angel, The Mummy, Waterworld, The War of The Worlds and Batman.  
  • Born March 3, 1955 Gregory Feeley, 64. Reviewer and essayist who Clute says of that “Sometimes adversarial, unfailingly intelligent, they represent a cold-eyed view of a genre he loves by a critic immersed in its material.” Writer of two SF novels, The Oxygen Barons and Arabian Wine, plus the Kentauros essay and novella.
  • Born March 3, 1970 John Carter Cash, 49. He is the only child of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. To date, he’s written two fantasies, Lupus Rex which oddly enough despite the title concerns a murder of crows selecting their new leader, and a children’s book, The Cat in the Rhinestone Suit, which I think Seuss would be grin at. 
  • Born March 3, 1982 Jessica Biel, 37. A number of interesting genre films including The Texas Chainsaw MassacreBlade: Trinity, StealthThe Illusionist, the remake of Total Recall which I confess I’ve not seen, and the animated Spark: A Space Tail.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Rich Horton, quite rightly, calls this a “very Eganesque” Dilbert.

(13) VARIANT COVERS. Brian Hibbs in his Tilting at Windmills column for Comics Beat “Heroes in (Sales) Crisis” says variant covers are helping to break the market:

Again, the new Marvel catalog leads with a mini-series called “War of the Realms” that has seventeen different covers attached to it. For one single issue worth of release. Even if you try to “ignore variants” they take up catalog and “eye” space, they increase the amount of time it takes to order (let alone find) the comics you want to stock; they also consume distributor resources, ultimately increasing overages, shortages and damages, hurting everyone as a result.

The January 2019 order form features 1106 solicited periodical comic books. Of those, only 454 of those SKUs are new items – the other 652 are variant covers. That means a staggering fifty-nine percent of all solicited comics are actually variants. That’s completely and entirely absurd! It is deluded, it is dangerous, and it actively works against the best interests of the market.

(14) RUH-ROH! The former last man on Earth is among those getting animated (The Hollywood Reporter: “Will Forte, Gina Rodriguez and Tracy Morgan to Star in Animated Scooby-Doo Movie (Exclusive)“).

Last Man on Earth star Will Forte voicing Shaggy, Jane the Virgin star Gina Rodriguez [Velma], Tracy Morgan [Captain Caveman] and Frank Welker [Scooby-Doo] are going for a ride in the Mystery Machine.

The actors have closed deals to voice star in the untitled Scooby-Doo animated movie being made by Warner Bros. and its Warner Animation Group division.

Tony Cervone is directing the feature, which counts Chris Columbus, Charles Roven and Allison Abbate [as] producers.

[…] The story sees the Mystery Inc. gang join forces with other heroes of the Hanna-Barbera universe to save the world from Dick Dastardly and his evil plans…and this time, we are told, the threat is real. The movie is slated for a May 2020 release.

(15) WHERE NO WOMAN HAS GONE BEFORE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Sure, some Star Trek projects—going back to Next Gen—have been directed by a woman; but none have taken the helm for the first episode in a series. And certainly no woman of color has been the leadoff batter. Until now. Deadline has the story—”‘Star Trek’: Hanelle Culpepper Will Direct Picard Pilot, First Woman To Launch Starfleet Series“.

Star Trek is boldly going on a new mission where only men have gone before. Hanelle Culpepper will direct the first two episodes of the upcoming untitled Star Trek Jean-Luc Picard series, making her the first woman to direct a pilot or debut episode of a Starfleet series in the franchise’s 53-year history. All 13 feature films in the Trek universe have also been directed by men.

Culpepper has directed two episodes of Star Trek Discovery on CBS All-Access. She helmed the episode titled Vaulting Ambition in Season One as well as an upcoming episode in Season Two, now underway on the subscription streaming site.

Culpepper’s other genre credits include various episodes of CounterpartSupergirlThe CrossingThe FlashLuciferGothamGrimm, and Sleepy Hollow.

(16) THE LOST CAUSE. Yudhanjaya Wijeratne’s post “’Incidentally, there is support for Wijeratne’s story’: a response to file770 and a record of the Nebula Award madness” has attracted notice and comments from people who assume after his experience he should to be ready to lend a sympathetic ear to their propaganda justifying past awards slates.

There’s a comment signed Francis T., which judging from the Gravatar is the Francis Turner who in 2006 tried to convince people not only to vote Baen the Best Editor (Long Form) Hugo the following year but to visualize “A Baen Sweep of the Hugos”.

Also, Sad Puppies 3 leader Brad Torgersen left a lengthy comment touting himself as the hero of an ahistorical version of 2015’s events.

On Torgersen’s own blog he’s worked hard to couch the immediate controversy in cleverly Orwellian terms: “When the Inner and Outer Parties of SFWA attack”.

…Try as they will to style themselves international, the Inner and Outer Party members of American literary SF/F are hopelessly provincial, sharing a painful overlap in ideology, as well as a kind of homogeneous, mushy globalist-liberal outlook. Which, being “woke”, puts a premium on demographics over individualism. Fetishizing ethnicities and sexualities. While remaining borderline-militant about a single-track monorchrome political platform.

So, certain Inner and Outer Party folks proceeded to step all over their own unmentionables in an effort to “call out” the “slate” of the indie Proles from the dirty ghettos of indie publishing. And now the Inner and Outer Parties are in damage control mode (yet again!) trying to re-write events, submerge evidence, gaslight the actual victims of the literary pogrom, blame all evils on Emmanuel Goldstein (cough, Sad Puppies, cough) and crown themselves the Good People once more. Who would never, of course, do anything pernicious, because how could they? They are Good! They tell themselves they are Good all the time! They go out of their way to virtue-signal this Goodness on social media! It cannot be possible that they have done anything wrong!

Rabid Puppies packmaster Vox Day not only reprinted Torgersen’s post at Vox Popoli (“Puppies redux: Nebula edition” [Internet Archive link]), he appropriated to himself others’ credit for indie authors being in SFWA:  

It was funny to read this in my inbox, as it was the first time I’ve had any reason to give a thought to SFWA in a long, long time. Possibly the most amusing thing about this latest SFWA kerfluffle is that it is a direct consequence of SFWA adopting my original campaign proposal to admit independent authors to the membership. Sad Puppy leader Brad Torgersen observes, with no little irony, the 2019 version of Sad Puppies…

(17) DIAL 451. The New Indian Express’ Gautam Chintamani uses a famous Bradbury novel as the starting point to comment on news coverage of the recent Pakistan-India incident in “White Noise”.

Bradbury wrote Fahrenheit 451 as a commentary on how mass media reduces interest in reading literature but considering the times we live in, it is doing more than that. Following the February 14 Jaish-e-Mohammed fidayeen attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama that left 44 Indian soldiers dead, most television news channels bayed for blood. There is no denying that the national emotions were running high and it was only natural for citizens of a nation that have been at the receiving end of a proxy war conducted by a neighbour that as a national policy believes in causing loss of life in India to ask for a befitting reply. Yet the fashion in which many news anchors assumed the mantle of judge, jury, and executioner was nothing less than appalling. The constant white noise emanating from most news debates, where everyone was urged to shout louder than the next person, offers a greater emotional bounty to the one who would teach Pakistan a lesson and this showed a committed effort from media to not allow the average citizen a moment to think. 

(18) GAHAN WILSON FUNDRAISER. A GoFundMe to “Help Gahan Wilson find his way” wants to raise $100,000 for the artist’s care. Neil Gaiman gave $1,000. Other donors include artist Charles Vess, editor Ellen Dtalow, and Andrew Porter.

Gahan Wilson is suffering from Dementia

Gahan is suffering from severe dementia. We have helped him through the stages of the disease and he is currently not doing very well.

His wife, Nancy Winters, just passed away

My mother, and his wife of fifty three years, Nancy Winters, passed away on March 2, 2019. She was his rock. His guide through the world. While we all helped with his care, it was my mother who grounded him. He is currently distraught and out of sorts with the world.

Memory care is needed immediately

Gahan and my mother had been residing in an assisted living facility in Arizona. With my mother’s passing, the facility is about to discharge him. We must find him a memory care facility immediately.

… Memory care is wildly expensive. More so than assisted living. If we could cover the cost ourselves, we would. We can’t, and Gahan and my mother did not save for anything like this. We are asking his fans to help us, help Gahan.

(19) CANADA SIGNS ON. Another international partner lends NASA a hand, well, a robotic arm, anyway: “Gateway Moon station: Canada joins Nasa space project”.

Canada will contribute US$1.4bn to a proposed Nasa space station that will orbit the Moon and act as a base to land astronauts on its surface.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the step would “push the boundaries of innovation”.

The space station, called Gateway, is a key element in Nasa’s plan to return to the Moon with humans in the 2020s.

As part of the 24-year commitment, Canada will build a next-generation robotic arm for the new lunar outpost.

“Canada is going to the Moon,” Mr Trudeau told a news conference at Canadian Space Agency’s headquarters near Montreal, according to AFP.

Nasa plans to build the small space station in lunar orbit by 2026. Astronauts will journey back and forth between Gateway and the lunar surface. It will also act as a habitat for conducting science experiments.

(20) SURE OBI-WAN, POINT-OF-VIEW BLAH BLAH BLAH. Gizmodo/io9 says that, “From a Certain Angle, It Looks Like the Dark Phoenix Trailer Takes a Subtle Jab at the Marvel Cinematic Universe.” Um, how is it, again, that you change your viewing angle for a non 3-D movie trailer? Oh, I see what you mean…

new Dark Phoenix trailer dropped in the dead of night this week and gave us another look at how Sophie Turner’s Jean Grey will transform into her darkest, most cosmically-empowered self on the big screen for the second time in the character’s cinematic history. But a fan also spotted something peculiar…

[…] At one point in the trailer, all of the film’s mutants (save for Jean) are being transported by armed officers on what appears to be an armored tank. Wired UK writer Matt Kamen spotted three very familiar letters on their uniforms. If you look closely they read “MCU” which, as Kamen pointed out, could stand for “mutant containment unit.” But it could also be a clever nod to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Disney’s recent acquisition of 20th Century Fox and the cinematic rights to the X-Men.

(21)  JAVA. Mashable’s post “Pierce Brosnan drinking a latte of his own face is extremely good” identifies him with James Bond, but he also has the lead in The King’s Daughter, based on Vonda McIntyre’s The Moon and the Sun, which is still awaiting its U.S. release (IMDB says sometime in 2019).

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Motion Makes a Masochist” on Vimeo, Dev warns that if you want to be a motion designer for movies, you should be prepared to suffer a lot for your art.

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

Call for New World Fantasy Award Design

The World Fantasy Convention has invited artists to submit designs for a new World Fantasy Award that will replace the traditional Lovecraft bust. The new design will not represent any historic or living person.

The Administration has decided that it is time to change the trophy for the World Fantasy Awards. We appreciate Gahan Wilson’s design in use for more than four decades and his contributions to the World Fantasy Convention and the Awards.

Between now and April 2, 2016 the World Fantasy Awards Administration will welcome submissions from artists within the arts community proficient in the three-dimensional form, for a new physical trophy for the World Fantasy Award. The ideal design will represent both fantasy and horror, without bearing any physical resemblance to any person, living or dead.

Interested artists should send inquiries to the WFA administration at: worldfantasyawarddesign@gmail.com.

Gahan Wilson Documentary at Music Hall 11/22

gahan wilson documentaryGahan Wilson: Born Dead, Still Weird, an award-winning documentary about the cartoonist noted for mingling horror with humor, opens at Laemmle’s Music Hall in Beverly Hills on November 22.

Chosen as Best Documentary at the San Diego Comic-Con Independent Film Festival and designated a Critic’s Pick by Daniel M. Gold of the New York Times, the film traces the 83-year-old Wilson’s inspirations, the inner workings of the cartoon world, and the legion of fans who love his quirky creations – including a long list of celebrities who appear on camera: Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher, Randy Newman, Guillermo Del Toro, Neil Gaiman, Stan Lee, Roz Chast, Lewis Black, Hugh M. Hefner, David Remnick, Peter Straub, and Nicholas Meyer.

 Gold’s review begins with examples of Wilson’s unforgettable images —

Escalators that eat people; a human sacrifice amid backyard barbeques. In any pantheon of cartoonists, Gahan Wilson and his uniquely mordant sense of humor fit somewhere between Charles Addams and Gary Larson. Armed with a perverse comedic view of the monsters behind every corner and an illustration style that hits with the thwack of a nightmare, Mr. Wilson has been reassuring his readers for more than 50 years that things really are as bad as they seem, probably worse.

Steven-Charles Jaffe tells why he made the movie in a self-interview on the film’s website.

I was ten years old when I saw my first Gahan Wilson cartoon. It rocked my pre-pubescent brain. It was eye candy for the demented. I became obsessed with his cartoons; the lurid colors, the dark and twisted point of view, and the asymmetrical way he drew people and the world they inhabited. I had no idea who this Wilson fellow was, or how to pronounce his first name, but I felt I had discovered a kindred spirit. Over the years, my love of Gahan’s work only increased.

After becoming a producer, I was obsessed with trying to meet the mysterious cartoonist to see if there was some way of bringing his work to the big screen. I finally met Gahan Wilson and we struck up a friendship that continues to this day. After seeing the documentary on cartoonist Robert Crumb, I decided I had to make a documentary about Gahan so that the rest of the world would realize what a national treasure and a truly inspiring artist he is.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian for the story.]