Pixel Scroll 5/19/19 Pixelvision: Dare to Scroll

(1) FINE DESIGN. The Nebula Award is truly a thing of beauty! (As was the winner’s dress.)

(2) SPOILER OF THRONES. Daniel Dern says, “I guarantee that, alas, this WON’T Be the closing scene in the Game of Thrones finale.”

WE SEE JON SNOW IN BED.

NEXT TO HIM, WE SEE THE BACK OF A WOMAN WITH LONG WHITE HAIR WITH LOTS OF FANCY BRAIDED HAIR ON THE BACK OF HER HEAD.

JON REACHES OVER AND TAPS HER ON THE SHOULDER. “Daeny, wake um. You won’t believe the dream I just had.”

SHE ROLLS OVER.

Vg’f Fhmnaar Cyrfurggr.

(And a tip of the hat to this classic.)

(3) BANNED BOOKS. Die Kasseler Liste/The Kassel List is a huge database of banned books which grew out of an art project exhibited at the documenta 14

Die Kasseler Liste is a growing database that presently comprises 125,000 data sets. It documents the global scale of censorship. Book bans persist across the world, on all continents, with varying reach and intensity, depending on political and social contexts.

Die Kasseler Liste covers vast territories and a large time frame. The earliest entries are taken from the „Index Librorum Prohibitorum,” which the catholic church first published in 1559 and which is represented in the database in its final version from 1948. It is but one example for censorship originating not only from government institutions. Civil and religious institutions similarly have their own history of systematically infringing on the right to freedom of expression. The Catholic lay organization Opus Dei, also featured in Die Kasseler Liste, is another case in point, where rigid and coercive reading directions provide the members with a tiered index. On the other hand, school districts and school libraries in the United States of America also have a record of systematically banning books from their collections.

(3) BREAKING THE STEREOTYPE. Cora Buhlert recently took on the Retro Hugo novelette finalists and concluded that “The Golden Age Was More Diverse Than You Think”.

…But even taking the known problems with the Retro Hugos into consideration, the breadth and variety of stories on the 1944 Retro Hugo ballot is astounding (pun fully intended), as is the fact that quite a few of them don’t really fit into the prevailing image image of what Golden Age science fiction was like. And this doesn’t just apply to left-field finalists such as Das Glasperlenspiel by Hermann Hesse in the novel category or Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry and The Magic Bed-Knob by Mary Norton in the novella category, neither of whom I would have expected to make the Hugo ballot in 1944, if only because US science fiction fans wouldn’t have been familiar with them. No, there also is a lot of variety in the stories which originated in US science fiction magazines.

So let’s take a look at the novelette category at the 1944 Retro Hugos….

(4) HISTORY OF TOXICITY. In “‘The Phantom Menace’ at 20: How the first episode of the ‘Star Wars’ saga created toxic fandom” on Yahoo! Entertainment, Ethan Alter interviews Simon Pegg as part of an article about how the reaction to Star Wars: The Phantom Menace in 1999 was the first sign of “toxic fandom.”

…The message of The Phantom Menace is that even the most stable of societies can topple with the smallest push — in this case a minor trade dispute that sets the stage for the rise of a previously obscure senator with imperial ambitions. As he did with A New Hope, Lucas cloaked that larger lesson in a PG-rated adventure that’s made with children in mind … but not the children who saw Star Wars in theaters in the ’70s. And so — unhappy with a Star Wars movie that wasn’t the Star Wars they remembered — a sizable segment of the fanbase made their displeasure known, embracing an image of themselves as the keepers of the flame, which meant that their opinion of Star Wars was the only correct opinion of Star Wars.

They found an outlet on the still-young medium the internet, where like-minded critics could congregate and launch their arguments or personal attacks anonymously out on the franchise’s creator and other fans as the prequel series continued…

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY.

One of these movies did not feature Jar Jar Binks. I hope it isn’t too toxic of me to point that out.

  • May 19, 1966 The Navy Vs. The Night Monsters premiered in theaters.
  • May 19, 1999Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace was released theatrically.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 19, 1944 Peter Mayhew. Chewbacca from the beginning to The Force Awakens, before his retirement from the role. The same year he first did Chewy, he had an uncredited role as the Minotaur in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. He also shows in the Dark Towers series as The Tall Knight. (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 19, 1946 Andre the Giant. Fezzik in The Princess Bride, one of all-time favourite films. Also an uncredited role as Dagoth In Conan the Destroyer. He’s actually did a number of genre roles such as The Greatest American Hero and The Six Million Dollar Man. (Died 1993.)
  • Born May 19, 1948 Grace Jones, 71. First genre appearance was as Stryx in Rumstryx, an Italian TV series. Her next was Zulu in Conan the Destroyer followed by being May Day in A View to Kill and Katrina in Vamp. She was Masako Yokohama in Cyber Bandits which also starred Adam Ant. Her last genre role to date was Christoph/Christine in Wolf Girl
  • Born May 19, 1948 Paul Steven Williams. Editor, Complete Stories of Theodore Sturgeon and the PKDS Newsletter. Writer, The Only Apparently Real: The World of Philip K. Dick of Philip K. Dick and Theodore Sturgeon, Storyteller. (Died 2013.)
  • Born May 19, 1966 Polly Walker, 53. She’s performed on Caprica as Clarice Willow and on Warehouse 13  in the recurring role of Charlotte Dupres, as well as performing the voice work for Sarkoja in John Carter. And she was in Clash of the Titans as Cassiopeia.
  • Born May 19, 1966 Jodi Picoult, 53. Her Wonder Women work is exemplary (collected in Wonder Women, Volume 3 and Wonder Woman: Love and Murder).

(7) TO THE MOON. Oliver Morton connects sff with the ambitious efforts to reach the Moon in “Lunacy: how science fiction is powering the new moon rush” at the Guardian.

…The robot vanguard has already set forth. Later this year India will attempt to become the fourth nation to land a probe on the moon; an Israeli attempt to get there failed in April, but its backers plan to try again. China has landed two robot rovers on the moon’s surface in the past five years. One visited the near side, the familiar pockmarked face seen from Earth; the other went to the overflown-but-never-before-visited far side. The Chinese space agency has talked of sending humans in their wake, perhaps in the early 2030s.

They may be beaten to it. Last year Yusaku Maezawa, a Japanese fashion entrepreneur and art collector, signed a contract with SpaceX, the rocket firm founded by Elon Musk, for a flight around the moon. He intends to take a crew of as-yet-unspecified artists with him…

(8) TOUGH TOWN. Today’s celebrity accident:

(9) REMEMBER ME TO HAROLD SQUARED. Andrew Liptak tells readers of The Verge that “A Memory Called Empire is a brilliant blend of cyberpunk, space opera, and political thriller”.

…That setup is the start to a stunning story that impressively blends together Martine’s fantastic and immersive world, a combination political thriller, cyberpunk yarn, and epic space opera that together make up a gripping read. Mahit’s situation is the perfect introduction to an unfamiliar world, as Martine moves her through the gilded halls of the Teixcalaanli capitol, meeting the politicians she’s been sent to interact with, the fantastical technologies installed in the city, and the poetry that represents the pinnacle of high culture for the empire.

(10) WOMEN IN SFF. Library of America publicizes editor Lisa Yaszek’s collection “The Future Is Female! 25 Classic Science Fiction Stories by Women, from Pulp Pioneers to Ursula K. Le Guin”.

Bending and stretching its conventions to imagine new, more feminist futures and new ways of experiencing gender, visionary women writers have been from the beginning an essential if often overlooked force in American science fiction. Two hundred years after Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, SF-expert Lisa Yaszek presents the best of this female tradition, from the pioneers of the Pulp Era to the radical innovators of the 1960s New Wave, in a landmark anthology that upends the common notion that SF was conceived by and for men….

Visit the companion website for more on these stories and writers, including author biographies, appreciations by contemporary writers, original pulp covers and illustrations, adaptations into other media, press coverage, and more.

(11) WHEN IN CRETE. Israeli author Yakov Merkin is not impressed. I recognize his name as someone JDA interviewed for his YouTube show.

(12) CRUMB CONTROVERSY, In “Cancel Culture Comes for Counterculture Comics” in Reason, Brian Doherty looks at pioneering underground comics artist R. Crumb and the vigorous debate about whether he should still be read or is so irretreivably racist and sexist that he should be “cancelled.”

…The brief against Crumb is both specific to his famous idiosyncrasies and generally familiar to our modern culture of outrage archeology. His art has trafficked in crude racial and anti-Semitic stereotypes, expressed an open sense of misogyny, and included depictions of incest and rape. Crumb’s comics are “seriously problematic because of the pain and harm caused by perpetuating images of racial stereotypes and sexual violence,” the Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo (MICE) explained last year when removing Crumb’s name from one of its exhibit rooms.

Such talk alarms Gary Groth, co-founder of Fantagraphics, the premiere American publisher of quality adult comics, including a 17-volume series of The Complete Crumb Comics. “The spontaneity and vehemence” of the backlash, Groth says, “surprised me—and I guess what also disheartened me was, I’m pretty sure the vast majority of people booing Crumb are not familiar with his work.…This visceral dislike of him has no basis in understanding who Crumb is, his place in comics history, his contribution to the form.”

(13) END OF A THEORY. Yahoo! Entertainment carried many articles about The Big Bang Theory series ending, several linked in the opening paragraphs of “Sarah Michelle Gellar’s ‘Big Bang’ Finale Cameo: Here’s How It Came Together”.

In the end, Big Bang Theory‘s unluckiest lovebird lost his girlfriend but gained a Buffy the Vampire Slayer, staking claim to one of the series finale’s biggest moments in the process.

As previously, lightly teased, Sarah Michelle Gellar made a surprise cameo in Thursday’s swan song (read full recap here) as Raj’s date to Sheldon and Amy’s Nobel Prize ceremony….

(14) TRIVIAL TRIVIA. Walter Lantz, Woody Woodpecker’s creator, did the opening sequence animation along with the animation of Bella Lugosi’s Dracula turning into a bat for Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein. 

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

Pixel Scroll 5/18/19 The Filer Who Went Up A Scroll But Came Down A Pixel

(1) NEBULA LIVESTREAM. You can see it on SFWA’s YouTube channel at 8:00 p.m. Pacific.

The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America are presenting the 2018 Nebula Awards for excellence in science fiction and fantasy writing, live from the Warner Center Marriott in Woodland Hills, CA.

(2) NEW OWNERSHIP. Have you ever rescued something a neighbor put out in the yard? The Toronto Globe and Mail has a story to share: “Starship Enterprise replica seeks new life, new civilization with new Toronto owner”.

The Starship Enterprise has travelled far and wide throughout the galaxy, encountering countless civilizations — and now it is sitting in a garage in eastern Toronto.

…Bill Doern, a 51-year-old who runs a boutique public relations and marketing firm in Toronto, watched reruns of the original Star Trek television series as a boy. His favourite character is Spock. His favourite captain is Picard. When his wife was pregnant with their first child, he hoped to name the boy Mr. Sulu (they ended up naming him Elijah).

Mr. Doern is, in other words, about as much of a Trekkie as a Trekkie can be.

The Saturday before Mother’s Day, he was driving home from doing some grocery shopping when he saw a scale replica of the Enterprise NCC-1701-A, last seen in the movie Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, released in 1991, on a neighbour’s front lawn.

Mr. Doern stopped to get a picture of the ship, which is about as big as a small car. As he was snapping a pic, the homeowner came out with a “For sale” sign.

(3) ARTIFICIAL OBSTREPOROUSNESS. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson has a lot of fun foretelling “The Coming of the Fanbots”.

…It should come as no surprise then that a joint team comprised of members of MIT’s Media Lab (Artificial Intelligence Division) and Hanson Robotics was recently formed to address the need for Fanbots – electronic replacements for geeks and nerds.

“This project actually began in Hollywood”, said Dr. Calvin, Chief Administrator for the project.  “Studio heads approached us a few years ago and asked us to blue-sky a response to the negativity that was surrounding, among other things, Disney’s evisceration of the Star Wars extended universe, not to mention Paramount’s problems with Star Trek fan films, the on-going complaints about Fox’s cancellation of Firefly, the regular eruption of re-make hysteria, the encroachment of real world politics into entertainment.”

Calvin went on to explain that the studios were expressing grave concern over the reliability of fans, and concern over the increasing sense of “ownership” fans were expressing regarding favored properties.  One director stated that he was “sick and tired of being told what prior works he had stolen his ideas from; another expressed dismay over fan’s insistence that some degree of logicality accompany the plots of entirely fictional characters; marketing division heads complained about the complete and utter unreliability of fan audiences who seemed to select favorites and stinkers in an entirely arbitrary and fickle manner.”…

(4) FIRST UNMEN IN THE MOON. Print covers the release of “Robert Grossman’s Moon Walk”.

Three years before he died last year, the brilliant caricaturist, illustrator, animator and comic strip artist, Robert Grossman completed his as-of-then unpublished magnum opus, a decade long passion titled Life On The Moon: A Completely Illustrated Novel (Yoe Books). Grossman prided himself on illustrating “the un-illustratable” — an historical graphic novel based on the “Great Moon Hoax,” the most successful  fake news story ever published.

Robert Grossman and the Moon

In 1835, The New York Sun published a series of six articles declaring the discovery of life–and advanced civilization–on the moon, which the newspaper attributed to the famous contemporary astronomer Sir John Herschel. According to the Sun, the lunar inhabitants included unicorns, bison, bipedal tail-less beavers, and intelligent humanoids with bat-like wings.

(5) SCOFFER. Karen Yossman gives a right-wing take on the various controversies in YA publishing at Spectator: “Writers blocked: Even fantasy fiction is now offensive”.

…Nor is the contagion confined to American authors. Last month John Boyne, best known for the Holocaust novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, received such a barrage of abuse prior to the publication of his latest book, My Brother’s Name Is Jessica, which features a transgender central character, that he was briefly forced off Twitter. Critics labelled the book ‘transphobic’, suggesting that because Boyne is not transgender the story ‘lacked authenticity’ and its title ‘misgendered’ the fictional protagonist.

At almost the same moment that Boyne was deleting his Twitter account, Lincolnshire-based Zoe Marriott, a prolific writer of YA fiction, was also being hounded on the site over her new fantasy novel, The Hand, the Eye and the Heart, because it’s set in ‘fairy-tale China’. One prominent YA blogger warned: ‘White authors need to stay the hell away from the stories of people of color.’ Curiously, said blogger’s day job involves manning the tills at Foyles, one of London’s most revered bookshops — pity the poor sod who dares trouble her for a copy of Othello, or Tolkien for that matter.  The father of fantasy fiction has come in for criticism for his portrayal of orcs in The Lord of the Rings. Some feel his work is ‘racialized’. And what’s a sensitive young bookseller to do if a young customer requests a C.S. Lewis, whose Narnia books were branded ‘blatantly racist’ and misogynistic by fellow fantasy author Philip Pullman? Pullman has since been labelled ‘transphobic’ himself after tweeting in October that he was ‘finding the trans argument impossible to follow’.

(6) FELDGRAU DISCOURAGED. Unsurprisingly, Bounding Into Comics needles this new policy: “Anime NYC Institutes Ban on Cosplays of ‘Fictitious Nazis or Nazi-Like Organizations’”

…Though the rule in question specifically targets the promotion or display of “fictitious Nazis or Nazi-like organizations,” Anime NYC has been highly inconsistent in its application of the rule. Tanya the Evil, a series specifically noted in the rules, features allusions to aspects of World War II (such as the appearance of the World War II-era MP40 submachine guns or a character based on Werner Von Braun) but is entirely set in a fictional country based heavily on World War I-era Europe.

Furthermore, in a move deemed hypocritical by some fans, the close professional partnership between LeftField Media and Crunchyroll led to Anime NYC promoting a special screening of The Saga of Tanya the Evil – the Movie:…

(7) THE SCIENTIFIC ANSWER. Readers can discover “The Real Reason Fans Hate the Last Season of Game of Thrones” at Scientific American.

… The show did indeed take a turn for the worse, but the reasons for that downturn goes way deeper than the usual suspects that have been identified (new and inferior writers, shortened season, too many plot holes). It’s not that these are incorrect, but they’re just superficial shifts. In fact, the souring of Game of Thrones exposes a fundamental shortcoming of our storytelling culture in general: we don’t really know how to tell sociological stories.

At its best, GOT was a beast as rare as a friendly dragon in King’s Landing: it was sociological and institutional storytelling in a medium dominated by the psychological and the individual. This structural storytelling era of the show lasted through the seasons when it was based on the novels by George R. R. Martin, who seemed to specialize in having characters evolve in response to the broader institutional settings, incentives and norms that surround them.

After the show ran ahead of the novels, however, it was taken over by powerful Hollywood showrunners David Benioff and D. B. Weiss. Some fans and critics have been assuming that the duo changed the narrative to fit Hollywood tropes or to speed things up, but that’s unlikely. In fact, they probably stuck to the narrative points that were given to them, if only in outline form, by the original author. What they did is something different, but in many ways more fundamental: Benioff and Weiss steer the narrative lane away from the sociological and shifted to the psychological. That’s the main, and often only, way Hollywood and most television writers tell stories….

(8) SJWS CAN WALK. Kevin Standlee and Lisa Hayes thought there was good news for the Tonopah in 2021 Westercon bid – that Streamliner Lines is inaugurating bus service to the city:

We’re pleased to see that an inter-city bus carrier has begun to sell tickets for intercity bus service Reno-Tonopah-Las Vegas-Phoenix, starting July 3, 2019. This should give people traveling to Tonopah by air to Reno or Las Vegas an additional way of getting to Tonopah without having to rent a vehicle or group with other people doing so.

The good feeling only lasted until Lenore Jones told Filers what she read in Streamliner’s “contract of carriage”, a document with many remarkable restrictions, such as:  

Prohibition of Social Justice Warriors

Due to attempted vandalism, Social Justice Warriors may not travel on Streamliner. Social Justice Warriors include:

  • Persons self-proclaiming to be “Social Justice Warriors” or “SJWs”.
  • Persons supporting California regulations prohibiting or restricting Streamliner operations.
  • Persons supporting boycotts, sabotage, agitation, protests, and terrorism against Streamliner.

(9) SMITH OBIT. Artist Dennis Neal Smith, chair of the first WesterCon in San Diego in 1966, has died reports Greg Bear.

Fond farewell to Dennis Neal Smith, famous for many things, and scholar of many things, who inspired Harlan Ellison’s “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream,” with his richly textured illustrations, and who illustrated my first story collection for Arkham House, as well as Joanna Russ’ collection.

Jackie Estrada says Smith died of cancer:

But his biggest claim to fame was his artwork. Harlan Ellison based several of his short stories on drawings by Dennis, including “Bright Eyes,” “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream,” and “Delusions for a Dragonslayer.” He also did the art for the first progress report for the 1972 San Diego Comic-Con and served on the committee back then.

The 1966 San Diego Westercon hotel inspired Poul Anderson to write the immortal filk “Bouncing Potatoes”.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

May 18, 1962The Twilight Zone aired “I Sing The Body Electric,” based on a story by Ray Bradbury.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 18, 1930 Fred Saberhagen. I’m reasonably sure I’ve read the entirety of his Berserker series. Some are outstanding, some less so. Of his Dracula sequence, the only one I think read is The Holmes-Dracula File which is superb. And I know I’ve read most of the Swords tales as they came out. (Died 2007.)
  • Born May 18, 1934 Elizabeth Rogers. Trek geeking time. She had two roles in the series. She provided the uncredited voice for “The Companion” in the “Metamorphosis” episode. She also portrayed Lt. Palmer, a communications officer who took the place of Uhura, in “The Doomsday Machine”, “The Way to Eden”, and the very last episode of the series, “Turnabout Intruder”. She also had appearances on Time Tunnel, Land of The Giants, Bewitched, The Swarm and Something Evil. (Died 2004.)
  • Born May 18, 1946 Andreas Katsulas. I knew him as Ambassador G’Kar on Babylon 5 but had forgottenhe played played the Romulan Commander Tomalak on Star Trek: The Next Generation. His first genre role on television was playing Snout in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and he had a recurring role in Max Headroom as Mr. Bartlett. He alsohad appearances on Alien NationThe Death of the Incredible HulkMillenniumStar Trek: Enterprise and The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 18, 1948 R-Laurraine Tutihasi, 71. She’s a member of LASFS and the N3F. She publishes Feline Mewsings for FAPA. Not surprisingly, she’s had a number of SJW credentials in her life and her website gives honour to them here.
  • Born May 18, 1949 Rick Wakeman, 70. English musician who did a number of genre themed recordings including Journey to the Centre of the EarthThe Myths and Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and Nineteen Eighty-four
  • Born May 18, 1952 Diane Duane, 67. She’s known for the the Young Wizards YA series though I’d like to single her out for her lesser known Feline Wizards series where SJW creds maintain the gates that wizards use for travel throughout the multiverse. 
  • Born May 18, 1958 Jonathan Maberry, 61. The only thing I’ve read by him is a number of works in the Joe Ledger Series which has a high body count and an even higher improbability index. I see that he’s done scripts for Dark Horse, IDW and Marvel early on. And that he’s responsible for Captain America: Hail Hydra. 
  • Born May 18, 1969 Ty Franck, 50. Half of the writing team along with Daniel Abraham that s James Corey, author of the Expanse series. I’ll admit that I’ve fallen behind by a volume or two as there’s just too many good series out there too keep up with all of them, damn it!

(12) SCARES THAT CARE. [Item by Dann.] Episode 219 of The Horror Show with Brian Keene included an announcement of the 3rd Horror Show telethon to benefit the Scares That Care charity. The first telethon in 2017 raised over $10,000, last year’s telethon raised over $20,000.  Both events took place in Pennsylvania and heavily featured guests living on the east coast of the United States.

This year’s event will take place on September 27-28 at Dark Delicacies located at 822 N. Hollywood Way located in Burbank, CA.  This is a new location for the bookstore that bills itself as the “Home of Horror”.

One feature of holding this year’s event in California is the ability to draw on the talented people in the horror genre that live and work on the west coast of the United States.

Unlike the first two telethons, this year’s event will take place in a location with less room for live viewing.  It is hoped that attendees will circulate in and out of the viewing area that patrons of the store will still be able to shop.

The telethon will be broadcast live via one of the streaming services.  Online fundraising will be performed via the Scares That Care website.

Fans wanting to participate in a Scares That Care event on the east coast can attend the “Scares That Care Weekend from August 1 to August 4 in Williamsburg, VA.

(13) GEOGRAPHY OF FANTASY. At Fantasy Literature, Brad Hawley reviews “God Country: A Sentient Sword Comes to Texas”.

…The sword, Valofax, is a giant sentient blade that is the embodiment of all swords and knives throughout the universe. It changes the life of a small family: Grandfather Emmett Quinlan, his son, and his son’s wife and young daughter. The story takes us from Texas to Hell and finally to the far-off home of Valofax, whose creator wants the sword back even as his planet dies all around him….

Does that mean it’s supposed to be a long distance between Texas and Hell?

(15) AT THE KGB. Ellen Datlow posted her photos from the KGB Readings on May 15.

Kai Ashante Wilson and Simon Strantzas read from their short work and they were riveting

(16) THOSE DARNED HUGOS. Galactic Journey’s Traveler notes with asperity that almost none of the Hugo nominees this year (that being 1964) were good enough to be shortlisted for his own Galactic Stars. “[May 18, 1964] Aspirations (June 1964 Fantasy and Science Fiction)”. (The Traveler needs to buy a bigger hat.)

If you plunked down your $2 for a Worldcon membership (Pacificon II in San Francisco this year), then you probably sent in your nominations for the Hugo Awards, honoring the best works of 1963. Last month, you got the finalists ballot. Maybe, like me, you were surprised….

(17) ANDERS ANSWERS. “Bay Area sci-fi author Charlie Jane Anders dishes on planets, books” in the Mercury News.

What do you think accounts for the recent boom in speculative fiction?

There’s been a trend over the last 20 years of “mainstream” literary authors dipping into speculative fiction — Margaret Atwood, John Updike. (But) we’re living in a time where everything is a little more science fictional. Technology has transformed lives in a short time, things like smartphones, medical technologies. A third thing is that speculative fiction is finally opening out and including authors who had previously been kept out of the genre: people of color, women, queer people, transgendered people, disabled people. That, I think, leads to an explosion of creativity and a ton of really interesting stories.

(18) NEBULA CONFERENCE VIDEOS. SFWA has posted several panel discussions from this weekend’s event.

  • Shifting To Games. With Phoebe Barton, Kate Dollarhyde, Darusha Wehm, Natalia Theodoridou, and Kate Heartfield.
  • Now What? Emerging writers discuss life after their debut. With Rebecca Roanhorse, Peng Shepherd, Mike Chen, R.R. Virdi and R.F. Kuang
  • How do the writers of 2019 incorporate modern themes while writing in past settings? With Susan Forest, Connie Willis, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Kate Heartfield

(19) STAR WARS PITCH. ScreenRant lets you step inside the pitch meeting that led to Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope!

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

Pixel Scroll 5/16/19 Pixelate a Spherical Chicken

(1) FRAZETTA SALE BREAKS RECORD. Heritage Auctions reports that Frank Frazetta’s 1969 Egyptian Queen just sold for $5.4 million during the ongoing Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction (Chicago; 16–18 May). This is said to be a world record for comic book art, besting a record also held by Frazetta for Death Dealer 6 (1990; also sold by Heritage in May 2018) at a “mere” $1.79 million: “Egyptian Queen by Artist Frank Frazetta Sets $5.4 Million World Record at Heritage Auctions”

…The winning bidder does not wish to be identified at this time.

The painting has been in the possession of Frazetta’s family ever since it was created 50 years ago, and Thursday was the first time it was made available for private ownership in Heritage Auctions’ Comics & Comic Art Auction. In addition to a world record, the painting also set a house record as the most expensive item ever sold by Heritage Auctions, surpassing a luxury Dallas estate, which closed for $4.95 million in 2016.

(2) IN THE BEGINNING. At CrimeReads, Michael Gonzales, in “The Groundbreaking Art of Jim Steranko”, profiles the artist, whose crime novel Chandler has a claim to be the first graphic novel.

For a moment I just stared at him, as the man himself flashed me one of his trademark Kodak smiles. With his jet black perfect hair, G.Q. wardrobe, sunglasses and spit-shined boots, he was iceberg smooth. “How you doing over there,” Steranko said in his world’s greatest showman voice. I shyly glanced at him and back at the Chandler cover when I suddenly realized that the picture of that mean streets private dick was actually a self-portrait.

(3) ON THE IRON HOT SEAT. The Ringer’s Brian Phillips finds that George R.R. Martin makes an excellent vehicle for exploring all kinds of problems with the way writers are underrated, even now in the so-called Golden Age of Television: “Funny Hats and Lonely Rooms: Give George R.R. Martin Some Respect”.

…He’s become a tragicomic figure, a man whose story got away from him creatively and outgrew him culturally at the same time.

Got all that? Good. Now, can we take a minute to give him some damn respect?

If the relentless mediocrity of Game of Thrones’ final season has clarified anything, it’s how desperately this show has always needed Martin’s imagination. (God knows it hasn’t clarified character motives or the workings of fantasy elements or the rate-distance equations for determining travel time over continent-sized landmasses.) Without Martin’s storytelling gifts to guide the series—without his understanding of the characters he created and the world into which he set them loose—Game of Thrones has lost its way, and more than that, it’s lost its way without evidently knowing or caring that it has. The show still looks great, at least when you can see it, and it’s still full of hugely talented actors. Narratively, though, it comes across as a tourist wandering through its own story, pressed for time and always a little confused about what’s happening.

(4) FOOD OF ICE AND FIRE. Meanwhile, Delish ponders the less weighty question of “What Would Happen If Your Favorite Fast Food Chains Actually Did Exist In The ‘Game Of Thrones’ Universe”. “Starbucks in Westeros was just the beginning.”

Did you notice that while HBO said it was a craft services coffee cup chilling in the middle of episode four‘s most pivotal scene, Starbucks didn’t refute the internet’s insistence that it was a classic Bux cup? I did. That’s why I’m doubling down on my theory that there’s been fast food in Westeros all along. A lot of it.

(5) NEW EARWORM. Emperor Stardust plans to set everyone humming again at this weekend’s Nebula Conference.

(6) RUNNING AN AUTHOR KICKSTARTER. Kristine Kathryn Rusch devotes a Business Musings post to “Kickstarter Stress”.

… let me tell you our procedure for running a Kickstarter.

1. Pick a project that will work on Kickstarter

By work, I mean two things. Make sure that it’s something that people will want. And make sure it’s something you can do.

(7) A MID-CENTURY COLLECTION. Bruce D Arthurs found another list of books I haven’t read many of: “Blast From The Past: 102 Great Novels, as of 1962-63”. My score is 16 out of 102. (There are a few more I bought at some point and tried to read without success.)

Among the papers of our friend Anne Braude, who passed away in 2009, I found a small pamphlet, a single folded sheet yellowed and brittle with age, that listed “102 Great Novels”. The pamphlet was distributed by the Scottsdale Public Library, and its list “COMPILED BY NELLENE SMITH, DIRECTOR”. Ms. Smith’s name dates the list to 1962 or 63 (thanks, Google!).

So, nearly sixty years ago, these were the books thought listing as “Great”.

(8) DONBAVAND OBIT. The writer Tommy Donbavand has died at the age of 52.

Tommy Donbavand was an authour and entertainer who wrote over 100 books for young readers, including the Scream Street series. He wrote the Doctor Who book Shroud of Sorrow featuring the Eleventh Doctor.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 16, 1891 Mikhail Bulgakov. Russian writer whose fantasy novel The Master and Margarita, published posthumously, has been called one of the masterpieces of the 20th century. The novel also carries the recommendation of no less than Gary Kasparov. (Died 1940.)
  • Born May 16, 1918 Barry Atwater. Surak in “The Savage Curtain” episode. He did a lot of other genre work from Night Stalker where he played the vampire Janos Skorzeny to The Man From U.N.C.L.E.The Alfred Hitchcock HourVoyage to the Bottom of the SeaNight Gallery, The Wild Wild West and The Outer Limits. (Died 1978.)
  • Born May 16, 1937 Yvonne Craig. Batgirl on Batman, and that green skinned Orion slave girl Marta on “Whom Gods Destroy”. She also appeared in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Wild Wild West, Voyage to The Bottom of the SeaThe Ghost & Mrs. MuirLand of the Giants, Six Million Dollar Man and, err, Mars Needs Women. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 16, 1942 Judith Clute, 77. Illustrator, painter and etcher. Artwork can be found on such publications as Polder: A Festschrift for John Clute and Judith Clute and The Entropy Exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the British ‘New Wave’ in Science Fiction
  • Born May 16, 1944 Danny Trejo, 75. Trejo is perhaps most known as the character Machete, originally developed by Rodriguez for the Spy Kids films. He’s also been on The X-FilesFrom Dusk till DawnLe JaguarDoppelganger: The Evil WithinFrom Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money, Muppets Most Wanted and more horror films that I care to list here. Seriously he’s really done a lot of low-budget horror films.
  • Born May 16, 1950 Bruce Coville, 69. He’s an author of young adult fiction. He has a number of series including Coville’s ShakespeareCamp Haunted Hills and Bruce Coville’s Chamber of Horror / Spirit World. He’s is also the co-founder of Full Cast Audio, a company devoted to recording full-cast, unabridged copies of YA literature.
  • Born May 16, 1953 Pierce Brosnan, 66. James Bond in a remarkably undistinguished series of films. Dr. Lawrence Angelo in The Lawnmower Man, lunch, errr, Professor Donald Kessler in Mars Attacks! and Mike Noonanin Bag of Bones.
  • Born May 16, 1962 Ulrika O’Brien, 57. A Seattle-area fanzine fan, fanartist, con-running fan, and past TAFF winner. Her APA list according to Fancyclopedia 3 is quite amazing —  Fringe, Widening Gyre, and Demi-TAFF Americaine (TAFF Newsletter). Her APAzines include Mutatis Mutandis, and APAs include APA-L, LASFAPA, Myriad and Turbo-APA.
  • Born May 16, 1968 Stephen Mangan, 51. Dirk Gently in that series after the pilot episode. He played Arthur Conan Doyle in the Houdini & Doyle series, did various voices for the 1999 Watership Down, and appeared in Hamlet as Laertes at the Norwich Theatre Royal.
  • Born May 16, 1969 David Boreanaz, 50. Am I the only one that thought Angel was for the most part a better series than Buffy

(10) OWNING IT. BBC quotes “Guardians director James Gunn: Disney ‘had right’ to fire me”.

Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn says Disney “totally had the right” to fire him over decade-old tweets that joked about rape and abuse.

He was rehired to direct the third instalment of the Marvel franchise in March, after the film’s stars signed an open letter asking for his return.

Gunn says he “feels bad” about some of the ways he’s spoken in public in the past and “some of the jokes I made”.

“I feel bad for that and take full responsibility,” he told Deadline.

(11) CRACK TO THE FUTURE. Let James Davis Nicoll explain why “The Luddites Were Right: SF Works That Show the Downside to New Technology”.

…Let’s examine the contrarian position: newer isn’t always best. And let’s take our examples from science fiction, which is dedicated to exploring the new…and, sometimes inadvertently, showing that the newest thing may not work as intended.

(12) SFF FROM A FILER. Joy V. Smith, a regular contributor to the letter column in File 770’s paper days, is out with her latest book, Taboo Tech.

Taboo Tech is a science fiction adventure; it begins with Lacie Leigh Collier saying good-bye to her parents, who leave her in her Uncle Sterling’s care. However, this family has secrets and is fascinated with discovering caches of ancient technology, most of which is forbidden and protected zealously by the Interstellar Guard. So when her uncle gets impatient–he’s supposed to be taking care of Lacie until she comes of age–and takes her with him while on an venture of his own and is pursued by the IG, he sends Lacie on her way, and she must make her way back home, with her own AI, the young Embers, and continue her education at the space academy and points beyond while wondering where her parents are…

(13) THIS TIME FOR SURE! Ehhh…. “Medieval manuscript code ‘unlocked’ by Bristol academic”

An academic claims to have deciphered a medieval manuscript which countless scholars including Alan Turing had been unable to decode.

The Voynich manuscript is a handwritten and illustrated text carbon-dated to the mid-15th Century.

The document is housed in the Beinecke Library at Yale University in the USA.

Dr Gerard Cheshire said: “I experienced a series of ‘eureka’ moments whilst deciphering the code, followed by a sense of disbelief and excitement.”

The manuscript is named after Wilfrid M Voynich, a Polish book dealer and antiquarian, who purchased it in 1912.

The script’s codex also baffled the FBI, which studied it during the Cold War apparently thinking it may have been Communist propaganda.

Dr Cheshire, a research assistant at the University of Bristol, said: “The manuscript was compiled by Dominican nuns as a source of reference for Maria of Castile, Queen of Aragon, who happens to have been great-aunt to Catherine of Aragon.

“It is also no exaggeration to say this work represents one of the most important developments to date in Romance linguistics.”

(14) RAWHIDE AND GO SEEK. Yesterday Ursula Vernon was on the road at an unholy hour to go help a friend “acquire a calf so that her cow will not be sad.”  (Thread starts here.) We also learned something new about sheep —

(15) SURVIVOR. Cockroaches surviving a holocaust is a staple of speculative fiction, but we know for sure “Bedbugs survived the dinosaur extinction event”.

A study that began as an investigation into the “utterly bizarre” way in which bedbugs reproduce has revealed they have existed for far longer than humans.

DNA samples from 30 species of bedbug revealed the insects had been around for at least 115 million years.

The blood-sucking parasites predate their earliest known hosts – bats – by more than 50 million years.

The surprising finding is published in the journal Current Biology.

(16) HUGO REVIEWS. Garik16 joins the throng of reviewers sharing their opinions of the finalists with “Reviewing the 2019 Hugo Nominees: Best Novel”.

I’d actually read all six Hugo Nominees when they were announced, though none made my nominating ballot (you can find that HERE).  Still, three of the nominees came close to making my ballot, so I’m not really dissatisfied with the results, even if my favorites didn’t make it.  There’s definitely some works I don’t really think are Hugo Worthy, though I can see how others might enjoy some of those more than I did.  But there’s a few clearly worthy potential winners here as well.

(17) TO THE LAST DROP. Quanta Magazine discusses the research that suggests “Black, Hot Ice May Be Nature’s Most Common Form of Water”. (Which reminds Daniel Dern of Jane Curtin’s Airplane coffee.)

Recently at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics in Brighton, New York, one of the world’s most powerful lasers blasted a droplet of water, creating a shock wave that raised the water’s pressure to millions of atmospheres and its temperature to thousands of degrees. X-rays that beamed through the droplet in the same fraction of a second offered humanity’s first glimpse of water under those extreme conditions.

The X-rays revealed that the water inside the shock wave didn’t become a superheated liquid or gas. Paradoxically — but just as physicists squinting at screens in an adjacent room had expected — the atoms froze solid, forming crystalline ic

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge Chip Hitchcock, Bruce D. Arthurs, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, James Davis Nicoll, Daniel Dern, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 5/15/19 These Groots Are Made For Walking, Ent That’s Just What They’ll Do

(1) HOGWASH, POPPYCOCK & BALONEY. George R.R. Martin quashed a current rumor in his post “Idiocy on the Internet”.

…All of a sudden this crazy story about my finishing THE WINDS OF WINTER and A DREAM OF SPRING years ago is popping up everywhere. No, I am not going to provide links. I don’t want to reward purveyors of misinformation with hits.

I will, however, say for the record — no, THE WINDS OF WINTER and A DREAM OF SPRING are not finished. DREAM is not even begun; I am not going to start writing volume seven until I finish volume six

It seems absurd to me that I need to state this. The world is round, the Earth revolves around the sun, water is wet… do I need to say that too? It boggles me that anyone would believe this story, even for an instant. It makes not a whit of sense. Why would I sit for years on completed novels? Why would my publishers — not just here in the US, but all around the world — ever consent to this? They make millions and millions of dollars every time a new Ice & Fire book comes out, as do I. Delaying makes no sense. Why would HBO want the books delayed? The books help create interest in the show, just as the show creates interest in the books.

So… no, the books are not done. HBO did not ask me to delay them. Nor did David & Dan. There is no “deal” to hold back on the books. I assure you, HBO and David & Dan would both have been thrilled and delighted if THE WINDS OF WINTER had been delivered and published four or five years ago… and NO ONE would have been more delighted than me.

(2) BUT THIS STORY IS TRUE. Martin confirmed a different report quoting his opinion of two characters created by Tolkien and Rowling:

At the Q&A following the premiere of the new TOLKIEN film in Los Angeles last week, I did indeed say that Gandalf could kick Dumbledore’s ass.

Gandalf COULD kick Dumbledore’s ass. I mean, duh. He’s a maia, folks. Next best thing to a demigod. Gandalf dies and come back. Dumbledore dies and stays dead.

But if it will calm down all the Potterites out there, let me say that Gandalf could kick Melisandre’s ass too.

(3) HORRORMENTARY. The new drama Years and Years, which follows a British family over the next 15 years began Tuesday night on BBC1 in the UK, and will be screened on HBO in the US later in the year. BBC contemplates: “How the near future became our greatest horror”.

…But if [J.G.] Ballard’s thinking was subversive at the time, now we’re beset by the nearest of ‘near future’ narratives. They are intent on imagining not what will become of us in thousands of millennia, or even in a few decades’ time – à la dystopian works like Blade Runner and Soylent Green, previously understood as ‘near future’ – but in as little as the next few years. In doing so, these near-near-future stories create realities that feel immediately recognisable to us, but invariably with a pretty unpleasant twist or three. In literature, these have gone hand in hand with the rise of the ‘mundane science fiction’ movement – which began in the mid-noughties and was built on “not wanting to imagine shiny, hard futures [but give a] sense of sliding from one version of our present into something slightly alienated”, says Roger Luckhurst, a professor in Modern and Contemporary Literature at London’s Birkbeck College and an expert in science fiction.

And, at the moment, such stories are particularly prevalent on the small-screen….

(4) BLACK MIRROR. The show returns to Netflix on June 5:

(5) BEAUMONT REMEMBERED. Pulpfest’s Mike Chomko profiles “THE TWILIGHT ZONE’S Magic Man — Charles Beaumont”, who died too soon —

…At the height of his writing career, Beaumont began to suffer from a mysterious ailment. “By 1964, he could no longer write. Meetings with producers turned disastrous. His speech became slower, more deliberate. His concentration worsened. . . . after a battery of tests at UCLA, Beaumont was diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s Disease; he faced premature senility, aging, and an early death.” He died on February 21, 1967 at the age of thirty-eight.

(6) STORIES REBORN. Paula Guran’s anthology Mythic Journeys: Retold Myths and Legends was released yesterday by Night Shade Books.

The Native American trickster Coyote . . . the snake-haired Greek Gorgon Medusa, whose gaze turned men to stone . . . Kaggen, creator of the San peoples of Africa . . . the Holy Grail of Arthurian legend . . . Freyja, the Norse goddess of love and beauty . . . Ys, the mythical sunken city once built on the coast of France . . . Ragnarok, the myth of a world destroyed and reborn . . . Jason and the Argonauts, sailing in search of the Golden Fleece . . .

Myths and legends are the oldest of stories, part of our collective consciousness, and the source from which all fiction flows. Full of magic, supernatural powers, monsters, heroes, epic journeys, strange worlds, and vast imagination, they are fantasies so compelling we want to believe them true.

(7) FRIEDMAN OBIT. “Stanton Friedman, famed UFO researcher, dead at 84”CBC has the story.

A nuclear physicist by training, Friedman had devoted his life to researching and investigating UFOs since the late 1960s.

He was credited with bringing the 1947 Roswell Incident — the famous incident that gave rise to theories about UFOs and a U.S. military coverup — back into the mainstream conversation.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

Apparently a big day in the history of B-movies.

  • May 15, 1953 Phantom From Space premiered in theaters.
  • May 15, 1959Invisible Invaders debuted in movie houses.
  • May 15, 1969 Witchfinder General, starring Vincent Price, screened for the first time.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 15, 1856 L. Frank Baum. I adore The Wizard of Oz film and I’m betting you know that it only covers about half of the novel which is a splendid read indeed. I’ll confess that I never read the numerous latter volumes in the Oz series, nor have I read anything by him. What’s the rest of his fiction like? (Died 1919.)
  • Born May 15, 1877 William Bowen. His most notable work was The Old Tobacco Shop, a fantasy novel that was one runner-up for the inaugural Newbery Medal in 1922. He also had a long running children’s series with a young girl named Merrimeg whom a narrator told her adventures with all sorts of folkloric beings. (Died 1937.)
  • Born May 15, 1926 Anthony Shaffer. His genre screenplays were the Hitchcock’s Frenzy and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man. Though definitely not genre, he wrote the screenplays for a number of most excellent mysteries including Death on the NileMurder on the Orient Express and Sleuth. (Died 2001.)
  • Born May 15, 1955 Lee Horsley, 64. A performer who’s spent a lot of his career in genre undertakings starting with The Sword and the Sorcerer (and its 2010 sequel Tales of an Ancient Empire), horror films Nightmare ManThe Corpse Had a Familiar Face and Dismembered and even a bit of SF in Showdown at Area 51. Not sure where The Face of Fear falls has a it has a cop with psychic powers and a serial killer. 
  • Born May 15, 1960 Rob Bowman, 59. Producer of such series as Alien Nation, M.A.N.T.I.S.Quantum LeapNext Generation, and The X-Files. He has directed these films: The X-Files, Reign of Fire and Elektra. He directed one or several episodes of far too many genres series to list here.  
  • Born May 15, 1966 Greg Wise, 53. I’m including him solely as he’s in Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story. It is a film-within-a-film, featuring Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon playing themselves as egotistical actors during the making of a screen adaptation of Laurence Sterne’s 18th century metafictional novel Tristram Shandy. Not genre (possibly) but damn fun. 

(10) VIRGIN GALACTIC. The company’s press release, “Sir Richard Branson Announces Virgin Galactic Move to Spaceport America this Summer, as Company Readies for Commercial Service”, does not state when service will commence.

At a press conference [on May 10] at the New Mexico State Capitol Building in Santa Fe, hosted by New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, Virgin Founder Sir Richard Branson announced that Virgin Galactic’s development and testing program had advanced sufficiently to move the spaceline staff and space vehicles from Mojave, California to their commercial operations headquarters at Spaceport America, New Mexico. The move, which involves more than 100 staff, will commence immediately and continue through the summer, to minimise schooling disruption for families.

Virgin Galactic partnered with New Mexico in an agreement which saw the state complete construction of Spaceport America, the world’s first, purpose-built commercial spaceport, and Virgin Galactic committing to center its commercial spaceflight activities at the facilities once its vehicles and operations were ready for service.

(11) ZUBRIN’S CASE. The Space Review hosts Jeff Foust’s coverage of Robert Zubrin’s new book The Case for Space: How the Revolution in Spaceflight Opens Up a Future of Limitless Possibility.

…The second part of the book tackles the question of why humanity should move out in the universe. The reasons are familiar ones, from scientific discoveries to new technologies to the survival of humanity itself. For example, Zubrin reiterates a belief, dating back to his The Case for Mars book more than 20 years ago, that a human settlement on Mars will require ingenuity to survive, stimulating new technologies from robotics to fusion power that might not be developed on Earth.

Zubrin offers a comprehensive plan, one rich in technical detail—perhaps too rich at times, with some passages filled with equations describing chemical processes needed to extract resources on Mars or other worlds or discussing the physics of advanced propulsion technologies. But it seems a little fanciful to talk about concepts for interstellar travel like antimatter and magnetic sails when we find it so difficult today simply to get to low Earth orbit reliably and inexpensively.

(12) DAGGERS. The longlists for the The Crime Writers Association Dagger Awards have been posted.

Lavie Tidhar’s “Bag Man”, in The Outcast Hours anthology, edited by Mahvesh Murad and Jared Shurin, is one of the works longlisted for the CWA Short Story Dagger Award.

(13) REBELS WITH A CAUSE. Marie Kondo really struck a nerve.The Independent had no trouble finding people who have no plans to winnow their book stacks: “Going against the decluttering craze: the book hoarers who defy Marie Kondo”. For one example —  

Jane Green, bestselling author who traded England for New England

I’ve run out of space. Books are starting to get stacked up on the floor, underneath tables, underneath chairs, on top of tables. They’re everywhere. With no more room on the bookshelves, I’ve been eyeing this gorgeous French armoire that takes up an entire wall. That wall is just perfect for shelves and would make the room warmer. I know, however, that my husband really likes the armoire. He sees: storage, storage, storage. I see: books, books, books. We’ll see who wins. 

For years, I couldn’t get rid of anything. I have had to learn to manage the flow. Paperbacks I tend not to keep unless I love them and know I’m going to reread them. Hardcovers are really hard for me to get rid of. They all signify a time in my life. They all have stories around the stories. I will sometimes just stand there and look at my books and remember.

(14) ANOTHER BRICK IN THE PAYWALL. Digiday elaborates on a trend that has made it more challenging for me to research Scroll items at sites that think I should pay for their material (the noive!): “Incognito no more: Publishers close loopholes as paywall blockers emerge”.

Subscription publishers have tightened their paywalls, plugging leaks and reducing the number of articles readers access before subscribing. But as reader revenue becomes more of a focus, more sophisticated ways of dodging paying have emerged.

There have always been a number of low-tech ways to circumvent cookie-based metered paywalls, where the same content is freely available in some but not all cases. For instance deleting cookies, using multiple browsers and copying the URL are go-to methods, and are near impossible to mitigate against. However, over the last 18 months, publishers have started plugging these gaps.

In February, The New York Times started tightening its paywall so readers couldn’t access paywalled content by switching their device to incognito mode. A New York Times spokesperson said it’s too early to glean the impacts of these tests.

(15) MORE INFORMATION ABOUT THE NOMMOS. The announcement of the 2019 Nommo Awards shortlist was followed by a press release with additional details:

The 2019 Nommo Awards for Speculative Fiction by Africans announce the shortlists for the Nommo Awards in all four categories – novel, novella, short story and comics/graphic novels.

The roughly 170 members of the African Speculative Fiction Society (ASFS) nominated works for the Awards long list and short lists.  They will now have a three-month period to read the works and vote for the winners of the Awards. 

The short-listed works must be speculative fiction created by Africans and published in calendar year 2018. The winners of the Ilube Nommo Award and the Comic/Graphic Novel award receive UD$ 1000.00.  The winners of the novella and short story awards receive US$ 500.00.  The ASFS thanks its patron Tom Ilube, CBE for his generosity.

The ASFS was founded in 2015. The creation of the Nommo Awards was announced at the Ake Festival in Abeokuta in November 2016.  The winners will be announced at the Ake Festival in Lagos Nigeria in November.

(16) DOES WHATEVER A SPIDER CAN. BBC:“Spider Uses Web As Slingshot To Ensnare Prey, Scientists Find”.

This high-velocity maneuver is a nightmare if you’re a fly.

There’s a type of spider that can slowly stretch its web taut and then release it, causing the web to catapult forward and ensnare unsuspecting prey in its strands.

Triangle-weaver spiders use their own web the way humans might use a slingshot or a crossbow. Scientists from the University of Akron say this is a process called “power amplification,” and they published their research in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week.

(17) WWW. Cute name: “Wood wide web: Trees’ social networks are mapped”.

Research has shown that beneath every forest and wood there is a complex underground web of roots, fungi and bacteria helping to connect trees and plants to one another.

This subterranean social network, nearly 500 million years old, has become known as the “wood wide web”.

Now, an international study has produced the first global map of the “mycorrhizal fungi networks” dominating this secretive world.

Details appear in Nature journal.

Using machine-learning, researchers from the Crowther Lab at ETH Zurich, Switzerland, and Stanford University in the US used the database of the Global Forest Initiative, which covers 1.2 million forest tree plots with 28,000 species, from more than 70 countries.

(18) ANCIENT PUNCH. “Chang’e-4: Chinese rover ‘confirms’ Moon crater theory” says the BBC.

The Chinese Chang’e-4 rover may have confirmed a longstanding idea about the origin of a vast crater on the Moon’s far side.

The rover’s landing site lies within a vast impact depression created by an asteroid strike billions of years ago.

Now, mission scientists have found evidence that impact was so powerful it punched through the Moon’s crust and into the layer below called the mantle.

Chang’e-4 has identified what appear to be mantle rocks on the surface.

It’s something the rover was sent to the far side to find out.

Chunlai Li, from the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, and colleagues have presented their findings in the journal Nature.

(19) GAME OF PYTHONS. Funny or Die shows why “Cersei isn’t the only hard-nosed negotiator Tyrion’s ever faced.”

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

Pixel Scroll 5/7/19 What The Pixel Saw, It Was Against The Law

(1) IT’S GONE, MAN. Those who view the episode on streaming services won’t be seeing it — “HBO Edits ‘Game of Thrones’ Episode to Remove Errant Coffee Cup” reports Variety.

HBO has quietly scrubbed the misplaced coffee cup out of the “Game of Thrones” episode that aired Sunday night.

The premium cabler acknowledged the gaffe Monday after fans spotted the takeout cup on a table in front of Daenerys Targaryen (Emilia Clarke) in a scene in episode 4 of season 8 just before the 17:40 mark. It resembled a Starbucks cup but in fact came from the production’s craft services — and where someone left it behind in Winterfell.

“The latte that appeared in the episode was a mistake. Daenerys had ordered an herbal tea,” HBO said in a statement.

As of Tuesday morning, the streaming version of the “GOT” episode available on HBO Now and HBO Go had removed the offending cup from the scene. A rep for HBO confirmed the coffee cup was deleted and that future airings of the episode, “The Last of the Starks,” would be of the updated version

(2) CHIANG COLLECTION. Joyce Carol Oates says “Science Fiction Doesn’t Have to Be Dystopian” in a brilliant review of Ted Chiang’s new collection Exhalation for The New Yorker.

…Indeed, irony is sparse in Ted Chiang’s cosmology. It is both a surprise and a relief to encounter fiction that explores counterfactual worlds like these with something of the ardor and earnestness of much young-adult fiction, asking anew philosophical questions that have been posed repeatedly through millennia to no avail. Chiang’s materialist universe is a secular place, in which God, if there is one, belongs to the phenomenal realm of scientific investigation and usually has no particular interest in humankind. But it is also a place in which the natural inquisitiveness of our species leads us to ever more astonishing truths, and an alliance with technological advances is likely to enhance us, not diminish us. Human curiosity, for Chiang, is a nearly divine engine of progress….

(3) MILES TO GO. Rudy Rucker’s entry for Whatever’s The Big Idea is really big!

Real-life road trips end before you want them to. You run into a coastline. The road stops. I wanted a road trip that goes on and on, with ever new adventures, and with opportunities to reach terrain never tread upon before. But how to do that in a car?

I peeled Earth like a grape, snipped out the oceans, shaped the flattened skin into a disk, and put a mountain range around it. Then I laid down a bunch more of these planetary rinds, arranging them like hexagonal tiles on a very wide-ranging floor. All set for a Million Mile Road Trip.

(4) CURRENCY EVENTS. The New York Times tells about an unexpected comics publisher in “Splat! Bam! It’s the Federal Reserve to the Rescue”.  The basic info is that the New York Federal Reserve bank produces comics as teaching tools, and all three have a scifi bent.

…In one scene, a group of itinerant monetary experts lands on Alpha-Numerica (“voted 3,675,927th best place to live”), where a severe recession is underway. Residents of the planet look like pencil erasers, gumdrops and other forms of geometrically sculpted goop. Unemployment is soaring, businesses are failing, and retirees are struggling to survive.

“This is not where I wanted to be at this point in my life,” says one resident, an old purple jelly bean who is sweeping a public square. “Tell me about it,” a younger resident says to itself. This individual, a green egg, wears a cap and gown. In one hand, it holds a diploma; in the other, a sign saying, “HIRE ME?”

The situation is dire but can be solved. What is needed is “expansionary monetary policy,” declares Glix, a green, lizardlike creature who likes to sing and wear capes.

Here is a link to the New York Fed’s download site for its comic books. 

The New York Fed’s Educational Comic Book Series teaches students about basic economic principles and the Federal Reserve’s role in the financial system.

Created for students at the middle school, high school, and introductory college levels, the series can help stimulate their curiosity and raise their awareness of careers in economics and finance. In addition, lesson plans created for each comic book meet national and state standards for New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

The New York Fed has published comic books since the 1950s and is reintroducing this popular series with a modern spin. While the comic books are intended for a student audience, they are also available to the public.

(5) AGAINST THE HOUSE. ScienceFiction.com brings word that “Maisie Williams Is Currently Shooting Comic-Based Thriller ‘The Owners’”.

Filming of a new comic book adaptation, ‘The Owners’ has begun outside of London, in an isolated Victorian mansion in Kent.  Based on a Belgian comic book by award-winning artist Hermann (last name Huppen), and written by his son Yves H. ‘The Owners’ is being directed by Julius Berg (‘La forêt’), with a screenplay by Berg and Mathieu Gompel (‘The Dream Kids’).  The film’s producers, XYZ Films, are currently shopping the picture around at the Cannes Film Festival.

Heading up the cast is ‘Game of Thrones’ alum Maisie Williams.  Joining her are Sylvester McCoy, Rita Tushingham, Ian Kenny, Jake Curran, Andrew Ellis, and Stacha Hicks….

(6) HELP IS ON THE WAY. I bet readers of the Scroll can’t wait til I get this — “Microsoft Word AI ‘to improve writing'”. On the other hand, Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a skeptical comment, “I’ll believe it when the spellchecker starts handling context well enough to not make dumb corrections.”

A new feature in Microsoft’s Word aims to help improve writing beyond the usual grammar fixes.

Using artificial intelligence, Ideas will suggest rewrites for clunky sentences as well as changes to make sure language is gender inclusive.

It will help users lay out different parts of a document, including tables, and suggest synonyms and alternative phrases to make writing more concise.

It will be cloud-based and initially available to users of Word Online only.

A test version of Ideas will go live in June, becoming more widely available in the autumn.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 7, 1922 Darren McGavin. Carl Kolchak on Kolchak: The Night Stalker — How many times have seen it? I’ve lost count. Yes it was corny, yes, the monsters were low rent, but it was damn fun. And no, I did not watch a minute of the reboot. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 7, 1923 Anne Baxter. The Batman series had a way of attracting the most interesting performers and she was no exception as she ended playing two roles there, first Zelda and then Olga, Queen of the Cossacks. Other genre roles were limited I think to an appearance as Irene Adler in the Peter Cushing Sherlock Holmes film The Masks of Death. (Died 1985)
  • Born May 7, 1931 Gene Wolfe. He’s best known for his Book of the New Sun series. My list of recommended novels would include Pirate FreedomThe Sorcerer’s House and the Book of the New Sun series. (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 7, 1940 Angela Carter. She’s often said to be best known for The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories where she took took fairy tales and made them very adult in tone. Personally I’d recommend The Curious Room as contains her original screenplays for the films The Company of Wolves and The Magic Toyshop, both of which were based on her own original stories. (Died 1992.)
  • Born May 7, 1951 Gary Westfahl, 68. SF reviewer for the LA Times, Internet Review of Science Fiction and Locus Online. Editor of The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works, and Wonders; author of  Immortal Engines: Life Extension and Immortality in Science Fiction and Fantasy (with George Slusser) and A Sense-of-Wonderful Century: Explorations of Science Fiction and Fantasy Films.
  • Born May 7, 1968 Traci Lords, 51. Yes, she did a number of reasonably legit genre appearances after her, errr, long adult acting career. She was for example in The Tommyknockers series along with the first Blade film. She’s also in the SF comedy Plughead Rewired: Circuitry Man II (I know, weird title that.) And finally, I should note she was Dejah Thoris in Princess of Mars which later re-released as John Carter of Mars. But the way her first post-adult film was a genre undertaking and that was Not of This Earth. Yes, it is a remake of Roger Corman’s 1957 film of the same name.
  • Born May 7, 1972 Jennifer Yuh Nelson, 46. She is the director of Kung Fu Panda 2, Kung Fu Panda 3, and The Darkest Minds. Yuh is the first woman to solely direct an animated feature from a major Hollywood studio. The Darkest Minds is a dystopian SF film which RT gives a rating of 17% to. Ouch. 

(8) DRAGON AWARDS SEASON. Vox Day kicks off a “Dragon Awards discussion” [Internet Archive link] with his ideas about what comics published by his Arkhaven imprint ought to win Best Comic and Best Graphic Novel. Declan Finn jumps in to tell people which of his and his friends’ books should win the other categories, but meets resistance from a commenter who says he’d rather vote for Brian Neimeier (another Sad Puppy). There might not be enough kibble to go around!

(9) POP CULTURAL APPROPRIATION. “Viggo Mortensen: Vox ‘ridiculous’ to use Aragorn image” – BBC has the story.

Viggo Mortensen has denounced far right Spanish political party Vox after it tweeted a meme featuring the actor playing Aragorn in Lord of the Rings.

The meme, shared by the nationalist party’s official Twitter account in April, showed Aragorn lining up to face off against the assembled hordes of Vox’s apparent enemies, including the media, Catalan separatists and a small ghost wearing the colours of the rainbow flag typically used to represent LGBT pride.

“Let the battle begin,” the party tweeted.

In a letter to the editor of Spanish newspaper El Pais, published on Tuesday, Mortensen said Vox’s use of his image was “absurd”.

“Not only is it absurd that I, the actor who embodied this character for [Lord of the Rings director] Peter Jackson, and a person interested in the rich variety of cultures and languages that exist in Spain and the world, is linked to an ultra-nationalist and neo-fascist political party,” the actor wrote, “it is even more ridiculous to use the character of Aragorn, a polyglot statesman who advocates knowledge and inclusion of the diverse races, customs and languages of Middle Earth, to legitimise an anti-immigrant, anti-feminist and Islamophobic political group.”

(10) GO OUT, YOUNG HUMAN! The Washington Post: “Buzz Aldrin: It’s time to focus on the great migration of humankind to Mars”. In a WaPo oped, Buzz Aldrin advocates for not just returning to the Moon, but going to Mars. And sooner rather than later. He also calls for international cooperation with other countries to make it happen.

Last month, Vice President Pence announced that we are headed back to the moon. I am with him, in spirit and aspiration. Having been there, I can say it is high time we returned. When Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and I went to the moon 50 years ago this July, we did so with a mission. Apollo 11 aimed to prove America’s can-do commitment to space exploration, as well as its national security and technological superiority. We did all that. We also “Came in Peace for all Mankind.” More of that is needed now.

Today, many nations have eyes for the moon, from China and Russia to friends in Europe and Middle East. That is all good. The United States should cooperate — and offer itself as a willing team leader — in exploring every aspect of the moon, from its geology and topography to its hydrology and cosmic history. In doing so, we can take “low-Earth orbit” cooperation to the moon, openly, eagerly and collegially.

[…] As matter of orbital mechanics, missions from Earth to Mars for migration are complex. That said, human nature — and potentially the ultimate survival of our species — demands humanity’s continued outward reach into the universe. Call it curiosity or calculation, strategic planning or destiny. Put simply: We explore, or we expire. That is why we must get on with it.

In a world of division and distraction, this mission is unifying — for all Americans and for all humankind. So, I am personally glad we are headed back to the moon — and I thank President Trump and the vice p

(11) DECOROUS THEATERS. According to The Week:

The Roxy 8 multiplex in Dickson, Tennessee, is defending its decision to call the new HELLBOY movie HECKBOY in signs outside the theater.  Manager Belinda Daniel explained that the theater does not use ‘profanity’ on signs.  ‘We are located next to an elementary school and across from a church,’ she said.

(12) A DIFFERENT KIND OF GOOD TASTE. BBC introduces you to“The man who discovered umami”, long before it made news in the West.

For centuries, humanity lived with the concept of sweet, salty, bitter and sour – but another flavour was hiding on the sidelines

Kikunae Ikeda had been thinking a lot about soup.

The Japanese chemist had been studying a broth made from seaweed and dried fish flakes, called dashi. Dashi has a very specific flavour – warm, tasty, savoury – and through laborious, lengthy separations in a chemistry lab, Ikeda had been trying to isolate the molecules behind its distinctive taste. He felt sure that there was some connection between a molecule’s shape and the flavor perception it produced in humans.

But as it was just a few years past the turn of the 19th Century, there was not yet a great deal of evidence to support the idea.

Eventually, Ikeda did manage to isolate an important taste molecule from the seaweed in dashi: the amino acid glutamate, a key building block of proteins. In a 1909 paper, the Tokyo Imperial University professor suggested that the savoury sensation triggered by glutamate should be one of the basic tastes that give something flavour, on a par with sweet, sour, bitter, and salt. He called it “umami”, riffing on a Japanese word meaning “delicious”.

(13) LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR KIWI TOUR. Good news! Natural heated swimming hole available to visit on your CoNZealand2020 trip!

Bad News! May contain a staple of SciFi — The Brain-Eating Amoebas of Kerosene Creek

Kerosene Creek is a natural hot spring near Rotorua, on the North Island of New Zealand. And there have been official warnings for years: don’t put your head under water. It turns out that “brain-eating amoebas”, naegleria fowleri, are a real, if rare, thing.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/6/19 Who Knows What Pixels Lurk In The Hearts Of Scrolls? The Filer Knows!

(1) A LITTLE GAFFE. Yahoo! Entertainment covers the internet uproar of the day — “Latest ‘Game of Thrones’ Episode Reveals There’s a Starbucks in Winterfell”. Mistake or product placement? You decide!

Somehow, a disposable coffee cup found its way into last night’s episode of Game of Thrones. In Winterfell’s main hall, Tormund sloppily toasts Jon as Daenerys watches nervously in the background, concerned that her lover-slash-nephew could challenge her for the Iron Throne. It’s a stressful time for the Khaleesi, and apparently, she prefers to calm her nerves with lattés instead of wine.

Yes, instead of a metal chalice — maybe something bejeweled, she is the Queen after all — the Mother of Dragons had what looked suspiciously like a Starbucks coffee cup sitting in front of her at a banquet celebrating the victory of the living in the Battle of Winterfell. It’s a big, obvious goof that made it into one of the most widely and closely watched shows in television history. Yikes.

(2) KNIT UP THE RAVELED SLEAVE OF CARE. Game of Thrones actors may need caffeine but the fans have a different problem says the Huffington Post: “‘Game Of Thrones’ Fans Are Turning To CBD For Episode Stress”.

…Hardcore fans have become consumed by the need to replay episodes in their heads and contemplate theories as they toss and turn in bed after the credits wrap, leaving many to say “not today” to episode anxiety by reaching for CBD products to calm themselves. So much so that the folks at Lord Jones, which specializes in luxury CBD products, have begun to notice a spike in Instagram tags for their brand on Sunday nights.

CBD, aka cannabidiol, is the nonpsychoactive ingredient in the marijuana plant, and folks today turn to CBD-infused lotions, oils, gummies, pills and other products to help with their stress and anxiety.

(3) SPOILER-MAN. New trailer for Spider-Man: Far from Home. Joe H. cautions: “Note that it contains some pretty major spoilers for events from Avengers: Endgame, so calibrate your watching decision accordingly.”

(4) JURY VERDICT. The Aurealis Awards have published the “2018 Judging Comments” from the panelists who decided this year’s winners. Here’s one example —

Best Science Fiction Novel

Panel Members: Dianne De Bellis, Astrid Edwards, Lorraine Cormack. Cathie Tasker (Convenor)

Number of Entries: 43

Judging criteria:

The Best Science Fiction novel panel judged the entries against several criteria. Of utmost importance was the literary merit of the work. Originality, especially for SF themes, was also valued, along with strong characterisation and interesting world building. Another important factor was the extent to which science fiction themes were integral to the novel and the story being told.

Overview of nominations:

The competition for the top spots on the shortlist is tough this year.

The themes represented are varied, with several surreal works, space operas and genetic manipulation stories. Social issues are strong in fiction this year. The best of these avoid clichè and show strong understanding of how to present such issues in narratives that are compelling and challenging but in the end tell a good story.

The quality of the editing made a big difference and those on the shortlist show tight and accurate editing. Publishers and self-publishers should understand that typographical and spelling errors as well as superfluous and irrelevant prose throw the reader out of the story and work against some otherwise good ideas.

A number of excellent novels failed to reach the shortlist as they either were not genre novels at all, or had science fiction references that were incidental at best to the story being told. In others, genre elements were cliched or weak. It was positive to see many sub-genres represented, including surreal works, space operas, and hard science fiction. Many novels were strongly concerned with contemporary issues.

Cat Sparks’ photos from the Aurealis Awards event are on Flickr.  

(5) AUTOPSY FOR THE REVOLUTION. Lewis Shiner supplies “The Big Idea” today at Whatever, explaining the genesis of his novel Outside the Gates of Eden.

…I’d never written a book by starting with a high concept. My previous novels were inspired by historical incidents or particular obsessions of mine, and they usually announced themselves with dialog playing out in my head. Specifics first, generalities later. In this case the idea had such a grip on me that the specifics came tumbling along after it–the main characters, the first scenes, various milestones along the course of what I immediately knew was going to be at least a thousand-page manuscript.

What I didn’t know was why. What happened to our Revolution? To all our revolutions? How did the rich come to own the moral high ground along with all the banks and houses? I hoped the answers would come with the writing.

And if Outside the Gates of Eden does answer those questions, it’s in a novelistic way. Which is to say, I don’t expect readers to extract simple answers and match them to numbered questions printed in the back. Instead I hope that the experience of (re)living those years in the controlled environment of a novel will leave them feeling like maybe they understand something in a visceral way that they didn’t understand before….

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 6, 1915 Orson Welles. Certainly the broadcast of “The War of the Worlds” in 1938 was his pinnacle of genre success but he also for the Federal Theatre Project, did a 1936 adaptation of Macbeth with an entirely African American cast. That is was known as the Voodoo Macbeth might give you an idea of what he did to it. He would later do a more straightforward film of Macbeth. (Died 1985.)
  • Born May 6, 1932 Jack Sharkey. Author of several humorous SF novels,  It’s Magic, You Dope! and The Secret Martians. He also wrote an Addams Family franchise novel, The Addams Family. His two novels are in print at iBooks and Kindle though his short fiction is not so easily found. (Died 1991.)
  • Born May 6, 1946 Nancy Kilpatrick, 73. Fangoria called her “Canada’s answer to Anne Rice”. I know that I’ve read something of her fiction but I’ll be damned if I remember what it was. I do recommend the anthology she edited Danse Macabre: Close Encounters with the Reaper as it’s a most excellent horror collection. 
  • Born May 6, 1952 Michael O’Hare. He was best known for playing Commander Jeffrey Sinclair on Babylon 5.  Other genre appearances were limited — he played Fuller in the 1984 film C.H.U.D, was Jimmy in the “ Heretic” episode of Tales from the Darkside and appeared as a thug on the subway train in The Trial of the Incredible Hulk. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 6, 1961 George Clooney,  58. In From Dusk till Dawn, he was Seth Gecko.  His first genre film was Return of the Killer Tomatoes where he was Matt Stevens. Of course, he was was Batman in Batman & Robin, a grand mess of a film. Later, he’s Devlin in Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over, and voices the lead role in Fantastic Mr. Fox. He’s Lieutenant Matt Kowalski in Gravity, and his last genre film to date is Tomorrowland where he’s Frank Walker, an inventor who breaches other dimensions. 

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) FULL LID. Alasdair Stuart says in his Full Lid for May 3 he “takes a detailed look at the fantastic new science fiction comedy podcast Oblivity, the Hugo spotlight returns with the brilliant Elsa Sjunneson-Henry and I take a vastly spoiler-y look at why I like the final scene of Avengers: Endgame so much.”

No spoilers in this excerpt —

[Best Fan Writer finalist Elsa Sjunneson-Henry’s] writing, wherever it appears and in whatever form it takes always has focus and eloquence. She always unpacks its central ideas with absolute precision, the intensely complex emotional, psychological and sociological algebra of communicating with her audience always successfully landed. Much of Elsa’s work has centered on raising the visibility of disabled people and through that, increasing their inclusion in the speculative genre field. It’s yielded and will continue to yield, impressive results. She can be found on twitter at @snarkbat and online at http://snarkbat.com 

(9) PEEWEE T.REX. Gizmodo’s post“Newly Discovered Cousin of T. Rex Was a Pint-Sized Killer”, about “a previously unknown relative of T. rex that stood just below 3 feet at the hip,” gifts us with this classic explication —

All tyrannosaurids are tyrannosauroids, but not all tyrannosauroids are tyrannosaurids; the tyrannosaurid group of dinosaurs sits within the larger tyrannosauroid group. Gigantic tyrannosauroids such as T. rex and Albertosaurus are tyrannosaurids.

If only Danny Kaye were still alive to record those lines…

(10) SHOW-STEALER. BBC tells how “Catwalk gatecrasher becomes surprise fashion star”.

An unlikely model made an appearance at a fashion event in Marrakesh this week.

Purr-rading on the runway, the grey and white cat stole the show as it dodged models heading the other way.

There’s a video, with a lot of puns worse than that one.

(11) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Continued on Vimeo, Tomin offers six very short cartoons in less than 90 seconds!

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

Pixel Scroll 5/5/19 Endgamesters Of TriPixelion

(1) CALL FOR CLEANUP ON CHANNEL 3. TechCrunch has an eye-opening story — “Walmart’s Vudu shows off original content and shoppable ads, hints at interactive shows”.

…[Vudu Senior Director Julian] Franco had more details to share when it came to Vudu’s plans for non-interactive, original content. He announced that the service is producing (in partnership with eOne and Bell Canada) “Albedo,” a science fiction detective series from “Rampage” director Brad Peyton that will premiere next year, and will mark “Lost” star Evangeline Lilly’s return to TV. In addition, the first three episodes of Nickelodeon’s remake “Blues Clues & You” will premiere on Vudu before they air on linear TV.

Also in the works are unscripted shows like “Turning Point with Randy Jackson” and “Friends in Strange Places,” a travel show with Queen Latifah.

In total, the service will be premiering around a dozen original movies and TV shows later this year, Franco said.

As for those shoppable ads, Vudu Chief Operating Officer and Head of Product Scott Blanksteen said the service is already testing them. These are ads that allow you to purchase the featured products through a pop-up window. He added that these ads are dynamic, changing based on viewer preferences.

(2) WESTEROS SPINOFFS. Although Game of Thrones writer Bryan Cogman told The Hollywood Reporter in April that his time with the franchise is over for now—because the spinoff series he was attached to is officially scrubbed, George R.R.Martin had this to say on his blog

Oh, and speaking of television, don’t believe everything you read.   Internet reports are notoriously unreliable.  We have had five different GAME OF THRONES successor shows in development (I mislike the term “spinoffs”) at HBO, and three of them are still moving forward nicely.   The one I am not supposed to call THE LONG NIGHT will be shooting later this year, and two other shows remain in the script stage, but are edging closer.   What are they about?  I cannot say.   But maybe some of you should pick up a copy of FIRE & BLOOD and come up with your own theories.

(3) WILDE MOVES INTO ACADEME. Western Colorado University’s “Graduate Program in Creative Writing” has appointed writer Fran Wilde as Director of their Genre Fiction MA / MFA Program.

View this post on Instagram

We have one more piece of exciting news to share this week. We're thrilled to announce the appointment of acclaimed writer Fran Wilde as Director of our Genre Fiction MA / MFA Program! Fran is an award-winning author of books for adults and children – including Riverland (Abrams, 2019), The Bone Universe series (Tor 2015-2017), The Gemworld series (Tor.com 2016-2019) – and numerous short stories and poems that have appeared in publications including Asimov’s, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Shimmer, Uncanny Magazine, Tor.com, Fireside, multiple anthologies and The Best Dark Fantasy of 2017. Her work has won the Nebula Award, the Eugie Foster Memorial Award, and the Compton-Crook Award, and has been a finalist for three additional Nebulas, two Hugo Awards, two Locus Awards, a Rhysling Award, and the World Fantasy Award. Her non-fiction appears in publications including The Washington Post, Tor.com, iO9.com, and Clarkesworld. Fran succeeds outgoing Genre Fiction Concentration Director Russell Davis. Russell guided the Genre Fiction program for 9 years and has decided to step down to pursue other projects. Of Fran, Russell says "As I step away, I'm very excited for the future of the program, knowing that it's in Fran Wilde's more-than-capable hands, and that she'll bring a new energy and excitement to the role." Fran will work with Russell in the coming months and into the first half of the summer residency to ensure a smooth transition. We're excited to welcome Fran to the program and agree with Russell: "She's going to be amazing!" Please join us in welcoming Fran! To learn more about Fran and her groundbreaking work, visit her website: http://www.franwilde.net/. To learn more about our program and to apply, visit our website.

A post shared by Western State CO MFA/MA CW (@western_creative_writing) on

(4) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 5, 1908 Pat Frank. Author of Alas, Babylon. also wrote a 160-page non-fiction book, How To Survive the H Bomb And Why (1962). (Insert irony here.) Forbidden Area, another novel, he wrote, was adapted by Rod Serling for the 1957 debut episode of Playhouse 90. (Died 1964.)
  • Born May 5, 1926 Richard Cowper, penname of John Middleton Murry Jr. Christopher Priest in his obit says ‘His best SF is found in the novel The Twilight of Briareus and the books in the White Bird of Kinship series, but most of his short stories were also remarkable. His work always stood out in the SF genre: he was anachronistic, but he dazzled with his elegant, precise, bountiful prose.’ (Died 2002.)
  • Born May 5, 1942 Marc Alaimo, 77. Best known for his role as recurring villain Gul Dukat on Deep Space Nine. He was also a security officer in Total Recall named Captain Everett, and the human form of an alien in The Last Starfighter
  • Born May 5, 1942 Lee Killough, 77. Author of two series, the Brill and Maxwell series which I read a very long time ago and remember enjoying, and the Bloodwalk series which doesn’t ring even a faint bell. I see she’s written a number of stand-alone novels as well – who’s read deeply of her? 
  • Born May 5, 1943 Michael Palin, 76. Monty Python of course. I’ll single him out for writing Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life and co-writing Time Bandits with Terry Gilliam. Though decidedly not genre, I going to single him out for being in A Fish Called Wanda for which he won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
  • Born May 5, 1944 John Rhys-Davies, 75. Known for his portrayal of Gimli and the voice of Treebeard in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, General Leonid Pushkin in The Living Daylights, King Richard I in Robin of Sherwood,  Professor Maximillian Arturo in Sliders, Macbeth in Gargoyles, Hades in Justice League and Sallah in the Indiana Jones films. 
  • Born May 5, 1979 Catherynne M. Valente, 40. The list thing I read by her was The Refrigerator Monologues which is a lot of fun. Space Opera is in by TBR pile and I’d like to know what y’all thought of it. My favorite work by her? Oh, by far that’d be the two volumes of The Orphan’s Tales which I go back to fairly often — stunning writing. If you’ve not read them yet, here’s her telling “The Tea Maid And The Tailor” as excerpted from In the Night Garden which is from Green Man
  • Born May 5, 1983 Henry Cavill, 46. Best known portraying Superman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice  and Justice League. He appears next in Mission: Impossible – Fallout. He did early in his career as Mike in Hellraiser: Hellworld and was The Hunter In Red Riding Hood, an interesting musical. 

(5) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range tells a story about Noah that was left out of Genesis.
  • Frank and Ernest have questionable advice for scientists searching for extraterrestrial life.

(6) STARFLEET CREDENTIALS. SYFY Wire introduces the new recruits: “Felines join Starfleet in Chronicle Collectibles’ cool new line of Star Trek Cats”.

“To Boldly Go Where No Cat Has Gone Before” is a motto that Texas-based Chronicle Collectibles has taken to heart with its wonderfully whiskered new line, the Star Trek Cats Collection, which is based on the whimsical feline artwork of Jenny Parks.

(7) YODA, HOW YOU’VE GROWN! Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia dressed up as Yoda on Star Wars Day and helped give out bobbleheads at the park before the game.

(8) FAN MAIL FROM A FLOUNDER? Galactic Journey has reached the publication date of a fan letter by one of its contributors — [May 2, 1964] The Big Time (May 1964 Analog).

Many people harbor a desire for fame — their face on the screen, their star on a boulevard, their name in print.  That’s why it’s been so gratifying to have been given plaudits by no less a personage than Rod Serling, as well as the folks who vote for the Hugos. 

But it wasn’t until this month that one of us finally made the big time.  Check out this month’s issue of Analog, for in the very back is a letter whose sardonic commentary makes the author evident even before one gets to the byline.  Yes, it’s our very own John Boston, Traveler extraordinaire.

Bravo, Mr. Boston.  You’ve got a bright future.

As for Analog… there the outlook isn’t so clear….

(9) WHEN THE TRAINS RUN ON TIME. John Scalzi weighs in with his (spoiler free) “Review: Avengers: Endgame”.

With that said, “watchable” and “entertaining in the moment” are not precisely the same thing to me as “fun” and “enjoyable.” Watching Endgame to me felt like being on a forced march through a checklist of plot points and character moments, and after a (very short) time I began to be rather conscious of all the scenes that existed not to be an organic moment of story but to be fanservice for a particular character (or set of characters), or to make sure some barely-remembered loose end was tucked in. By the third act and its climactic and overstuffed battle scene, it stopped being clever and started being exhausting. I felt like a kid on vacation being dragged to all the sights on a tour, with no time to really enjoy any of them because look, we’re on a schedule here.

(10) HEAVY METAL. Camestros Felapton returns from his mountaintop experience with a series of Hugo nominee reviews, such as — “Hugo 2019 Novels: Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik”.

Spinning Silver is not “Uprooted 2” but it shares common features: based on folk tale tropes and using a (sort of) Eastern European setting to tell an original story with familiar aspects. Instead, we get a story of multiple characters navigating a world of promises, oaths and bargains and the consequences of ambiguous terms.

(11) GETTING READY TO LAUNCH. Astronaut Scott Kelly advised a New York Times reporter about “How to Prepare Yourself for Space”.

“You’ve been trying not to pee in your pants your whole life,” says the retired astronaut Scott Kelly, who wore a diaper for liftoff and landing on all four of his space missions. Going into orbit will require you to confront your body in ways you don’t have to on Earth. Get over decades of conditioning by rehearsing basic bodily functions on land: Put on a diaper, lie on the floor with your legs up on the couch, and practice urinating without shame or gravity’s assistance. (Don’t, and you’ll risk damaging your bladder when your body won’t relieve itself in space.)

Leaving Earth is dangerous; you might die, and you should acknowledge and grapple with that before you go. Kelly has spent a total of 520 days in space. Before departing, he always wrote letters to his loved ones to be opened only in the case of his death. Seek help beforehand. Don’t step foot in a spacecraft without some counseling….

(12) AN APPEAL FOR MORE MASSIVE MEDIA. The opening of BBC’s article “Why David Cameron set Tina Fey a secret mission to change British TV” is followed by interesting nitty-gritty discussion of differences in approach and economics.

It’s not unusual for TV fans to wish that their favourite shows would carry on (Fleabag anyone?). But it seems viewers who long for more have an unlikely ally – former UK Prime Minister David Cameron.

Speaking on David Tennant’s podcast, US writer and actress Tina Fey revealed that, while leader, Mr Cameron implored her to lobby the British TV industry to churn out as many episodes as US shows do.

“Come and convince our showrunners that they can’t just make six episodes of things. Like you guys, they should make 200 episodes,” she recalled him saying.

Fey rejected the request, however, explaining that US writers were, in fact, jealous of the less-is-more British approach.

(13) FUSSIN’ & FEUDIN’. The cold opening of last night’s Saturday Night Live is a Family Feud episode pitting the Game of Thrones against the Avengers.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/4/19 Pixellation Of The Scroll Nation

(1) MAY THE FOURTH BE WITH YOU. John Stratman posted a 16-bit “Super Nintendo inspired version of the trailer for Star Wars Episode 9.” SYFY Wire explains

His awesome contribution to May The 4th is a sly homage to old-school 16-bit video games of yore applied to the official trailer for Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker.  Stratman is notorious for his slick remastered trailers in 8-bit and 16-bit style,

(2) HE DIDN’T MEAN IT. WIRED’s “Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy” podcast hastens to reassure us that “Ian McEwan Doesn’t Hate Science Fiction”. In case you care.

In a recent interview British novelist Ian McEwan seemed to suggest that science fiction is only about “traveling at 10 times the speed of light in anti-gravity boots,” in contrast to his own novel Machines Like Me, which he says explores the “human dilemmas” involved with artificial intelligence. Science fiction fans bristled, questioning whether McEwan had ever actually read any science fiction, but McEwan now insists that he’s been misunderstood.

“I was a little taken aback at how some rather offhand remarks of mine should cause such a storm,” McEwan says in Episode 359 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “And actually I’ve read a fair amount of science fiction over a lifetime.” …

“I actually put a nod towards Blade Runner in Adam’s final speeches, after he’s been attacked by Charlie,” McEwan says. “There’s a very self-conscious nod to that famous farewell in the rain.”

And while science fiction works like Blade Runner are a definite influence on Machines Like Me, McEwan notes that there are many other influences as well. “I’d be very happy for my novel to be called science fiction, but it’s also a counterfactual novel, it’s also a historical novel, it’s also a moral dilemma novel, in a well-established traditional form within the literary novel,” he says. “I’m very happy if they want to call my novel science fiction, even honored. But it’s much else, that’s all I’m trying to say.”

(3) MARVEL CONTENT FOR LIBRARIES AND SCHOOLS. Rakuten OverDrive now offers Marvel Digital Graphic Novels to public libraries and schools.

Marvel Entertainment has teamed up with Rakuten OverDrive, the leading digital reading platform for libraries and schools, to offer 600 graphic novel and comic collection titles to public libraries and schools worldwide. Library patrons and students of participating public libraries and schools can borrow digital versions of renowned titles including Avengers, Black Panther, Amazing Spider-Man, X-Men and more. Visit overdrive.com to find a library or school near you.

Marvel Entertainment joins OverDrive’s catalog of millions of ebooks and audiobooks including over 31,000 graphic novels and comics from prominent publishers such as DC Comics, Image Comics, IDW, Valiant, Izneo and Titan Comics. Libraries and schools can select from this catalog to build their individual digital collections.

…Readers can embark on the Marvel adventure in a variety of ways. Public library patrons may download Libby or choose to read on a computer browser. Libby provides an easy, user-friendly experience and is compatible with all major devices, including iPhone®, iPad®, Android™, Windows® and “send to Kindle®” [US only]. Students of participating schools can use Sora, the student reading app, or enjoy via computer browser. Through the Sora app, students have easy access to both the school’s and local public library’s digital collections anytime, anywhere. In both cases, the title will automatically expire at the end of the lending period and there are no late fees.

Daniel Dern notes/adds:

1, Good news, free!

2, Takes a little patience. It looks like each library has a finite # of concurrent per-item licenses, so you may have to search other library systems, and hope that your credentials will let you borrow from it.

3, The price is right.

4, Like all digital comic reading, works best on a big-enough display, either your desktop, or an iPad Pro 12.9. Probably good ’nuff on slightly smaller tablets, but (I suspect) often frustrating in terms of any tiny print, etc.

(4) CINEMATOGRAPHY AS GENRE. NPR’s Mark Jenkins reviews “‘Shadow’: An Epic Tale Of Feudal China That Gradually Shades Into Fantasy”.

…While Shadow is loosely based on historical events, the story’s mythic nature is announced not by the movie’s story but by its look. The ravishing costumes and sets are all in black, white, and watery shades of gray, as if they’d been conjured from Chinese calligraphy and ink paintings.

One of Zhang’s visual signatures is a billowing sheet of brightly colored cloth, a device that dates to 1990’s Ju Dou, set in a fabric dying plant. The closest equivalents in Shadow are seen in the king’s receiving chamber, outfitted with more than a dozen large banners. They’re emblazoned with black-on-white script, its loose penmanship as traditional as Lao Zai’s spare score, composed for venerable Chinese instruments.

In the film’s first half, the only bits of color are the characters’ pinkish skin and an occasional sprig of gray-green vegetation. Later, of course, there will be blood.

Shadow doesn’t rush to battle, unlike such earlier Zhang martial-arts spectaculars as Hero and House of Flying Daggers. The movie spends about an hour sketching the backstory and observing the machinations that will lead to war….

(5) CUMBERBATCH LENDS VOICE TO TOLKIEN PROJECT. The Express reports: “Benedict Cumberbatch waives £7m fee for charity film”.

The star stepped in at no cost – and at short notice – to narrate the film about the death of the great-grandson of Hobbit creator JRR Tolkien from the devastating disease. Cumberbatch, who starred in the film version of the classic fantasy novel, commands up to £7.5million a film. But after hearing from Royd Tolkien, whose brother Mike died aged 39, he waived his fee in a secret deal.

The film portrays Mike’s battle with the neurodegenerative disease and the bucket list he left for actor and film maker Royd, 49, which included a canyon swing tied to a chair.

“Benedict made the most noble, private and breathtaking tribute to my brother,” Royd said. “On his deathbed [Mike] told me he’d left a secret list with 50 challenges I had to complete around the world.

“We made a film of my journey and the detailed narration is a key part.

“The budget was finished and I was devastated. It needed a big name, but I felt Mike’s spirit and just rolled the dice.

“Benedict is my favourite actor so I simply emailed to ask a colossal and free favour.

“I was on urgent deadline and realistically expected nothing in return.”

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 4, 1858 E. Nesbit. She wrote or collaborated on more than 60 books, forty of which were children’s literature, at least some of which are fantasy or supernatural horror. I strongly recommend The Complete Book Of Dragons, the 1975 edition which collection previously unpublished material, and Man and Maid which collects most of her short story horror. (Died 1924.)
  • Born May 4, 1940 Robin Cook, 79. Well he is genre, isn’t he? Or at least genre adjacent? I’ve never actually read any of his best selling books so one of y’all that has will need tell to me how truly genre friendly he is. 
  • Born May 4, 1943 Erwin Strauss, 76. I’m not sure I can do him justice. Uberfan, noted member of the MITSFS, and filk musician. He frequently is known by the nickname “Filthy Pierre” which I’m sure is a story in itself. Created the Voodoo message board system used at a number of early cons and published an APA, the Connection, that ran for at least thirty years. Tell me about him. 
  • Born May 4, 1949 Kim Mohan, 70. Editor and author of the Cyborg Command RPG based on an outline by Gary Gygax. He was Editor of TSR’s The Dragon magazine for several years which led to his becoming editor of Amazing Stories from 1991 to 2000. 
  • Born May 4, 1974 James Bacon, 45. Editor along with more folk than I can possibly mention here of the Hugo-winning Journey Planet magazine from 2009 to the present. Also editor of Exhibition Hall, a Steampunk Zine he edited with Christopher J. Garcia and Ariane Wolfe for some years. 
  • Born May 4, 1977 Gail Carriger, 43. Ahhhh, lovely mannerpunk she writes! I think I first noticed her with the start of the Finishing School series which she started off with Etiquette & Espionage some six years ago. Moirai Cook does a delightful job of the audiobooks by the way. I also the two novellas in her Supernatural Society series as well. 
  • Born May 4, 1995 Shameik Moore, 24. He voices Miles Morales, the teen-ager who would become Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse which I review here.  It’s by far the best film I’ve seen this year and I urge you to go see it now. 

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark remembers that Star Wars speed record a little differently.

(8) ISS BECOMES A GAS STATION. “Nasa instrument heads to space station to map CO2” – BBC has the story.

Nasa has sent up an instrument to the International Space Station (ISS) to help track carbon dioxide on Earth.

OCO-3, as the observer is called, was launched on a Falcon rocket from Florida in the early hours of Saturday.

The instrument is made from the spare components left over after the assembly of a satellite, OCO-2, which was put in orbit to do the same job in 2014.

(9) LIGO. Apparently there’s an app for that — “Gravitational waves hunt now in overdrive”.

…The alert on Mansi Kasliwal’s phone went off at two in the morning. Shrugging off the sleep, she squinted at the message. It was from LIGO, the Nobel Prize-winning scientific collaboration that operates gravitational wave detectors.

A far-off violent event had sent ripples in space-time through the Universe, to be picked up by LIGO’s sensor in Louisiana, and it looked from the data like there should be visible “fireworks”, too.

Thanks to the smartphone revolution, she could react without leaving her bed. A few taps on the screen, and the Zwicky Transient Facility, a robotic telescope on Mount Palomar, was reprogrammed to start the hunt.

LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, and its European counterpart, VIRGO, have just completed upgrades that mean they should be spotting space-distorting events several times each week – collisions of black holes, of neutron stars, and even more exotic phenomena.

And since they started running again at the start of April, expectations are holding up: two in the second week; three last week.

(10) MONOLITH. “How Avengers put Disney at the top of the charts” – and Chip Hitchcock wants to know, “Will Endgame take the title for all-time inflation-adjusted gross from Gone With the Wind?”

Avengers: Endgame broke all box office records last weekend and has confirmed Disney’s dominance in global cinema.

More than 90% of the value of all tickets sold in UK cinemas last weekend was for Avengers: Endgame.

Within five days it had become the fastest film to break the $1bn sales barrier worldwide.

(11) EVERMORE. It may not be quite as hot a ticket as Avengers:Endgame, but the Utah theme park is making sales says David Doering: “While some suggested the park opening would be delayed, they are now selling tix for opening day on Saturday, May 25th. The show, called World of Mythos, sells regularly for $29/adult, $16/child )<14).on Saturdays,  $19 and $9 on Thursdays and Fridays. Mondays are discount day with $14/adults, $9 for kids.”

(12) SLOW HAND. Did he hurt the hand he painted with? Just which hand was that anyway? Analysts speculate that “Leonardo’s ‘claw hand’ stopped him painting”.

Leonardo da Vinci could have experienced nerve damage in a fall, impeding his ability to paint in later life, Italian doctors suggest.

They diagnosed ulnar palsy, or “claw hand”, by analysing the depiction of his right hand in two artworks.

It had been suggested that Leonardo’s hand impairment was caused by a stroke.

But in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, the doctors suggest it was nerve damage that meant he could no longer hold a palette and brush.

Leonardo da Vinci, who lived from 1452-1519, was an artist and inventor whose talents included architecture, anatomy, engineering and sculpture, as well as painting.

But art historians have debated which hand he used to draw and paint with.

Analysis of his drawing shows shading sloping from the upper left to lower right, suggesting left-handedness. But all historical biographical documents suggest Leonardo used his right hand when he was creating other kinds of works.

(13) SHOUT OUT/BLOT OUT. Vanity Fair: “Mike Pence Got an Insane Game of Thrones Shout-Out During the Battle of Winterfell”.

[…] co-creator/showrunner D.B. Weiss […] shared with Jimmy Kimmel some of the challenges of their extensive production [of “The Long Night” episode]. In particular, Weiss revealed the long hours and night-shoots took a toll on series star Jacob Anderson (Grey Worm), whose usual fluency with the “High Valyrian” language was reduced to improvising gibberish among his fellow Unsullied.

“At one point, Miguel [Sapochnik], the director, starts yelling at Jacob to improvise something in Valyrian … yell to your troops in Valyrian,” Weiss explained. “And Jacob was so tired and so delirious and so out of it that all he could think to yell was, ‘Mike Pence! Mike Pence! Mike Pence!’ So in one of those scenes when Jacob is yelling and pointing—whatever he was saying was dubbed over—but what he was actually saying was ‘Mike Pence! Mike Pence!’”

Not only were Anderson’s lines understandably dubbed in post, but Weiss noted the mask over Anderson’s mouth prevents any recognition of the “Mike Pence!” chant regardless. Probably for the best—Game of Thrones has a history of riling up Washington. […]

(14) COP ON A STICK. A new invention, still in development, promises to make the interaction between police and motorists they pull over safer for both sides. Gizmodo: “Imagine Getting Pulled Over By This Tablet on a Stick”.

Every year, millions of drivers are pulled over and during those stops thousands of assaults and physical altercations happen, resulting in injuries and even deaths to both police officers and suspects. On top of that, there’s also the risk from other vehicles when a stop is made on the side of a busy road. Reuben Brewer […] cobbled together [the first versions] in his garage, [but] he’s now developing his police robot for SRI International in the company’s Applied Technologies and Science Department.

[…] When officers pull over a vehicle,] the robot will help create a safe distance between suspects and the police while they both remain in their vehicles during testing. It’s a telepresence robot that extends on a long arm from a police cruiser to the suspect’s vehicle, facilitating two-way video and audio communications.

[… T]he robot is […] equipped with a barcode reader allowing a driver’s license to be quickly scanned, while a thermal printer can churn out tickets and citations that drivers can tear off like a receipt. As the robot moves alongside a vehicle it also subtly deploys a spike strip under the car, so should a suspect decide to flee, they’ll shred at least one tire in the process. […]

(15) KAMERON HURLEY. Paul Weimer considers the “genre conversation” that leads to Hurley’s new novel in “Microreview [book]: The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley” at Nerds of a Feather.

A future world where Corporations dominate the globe, have in effect become the superpowers that rule a rather tired Earth. For the lower classes, those who are not citizens, it’s a rather rough and precarious life. Dietz (who never gets a first name, and in a bit of ledgerdemain their gender is kept relatively unstated and understated) goes from a future and poor Sao Paulo, to fighting Martians on Mars, in what was once Canada, and far beyond. There’s just one problem: The lightspeed technology to move soldiers around has a strange effect on Dietz, and in short order starts to learn they are experiencing her future all out of order. Worse, thar futuie is a dark one in which the war they signed up for is far more terrible than they can imagine.

(16) GENRE IN NIGERIA. Charles Payseur visits a new frontier of sff in “Quick Sips – Strange Horizons 04/29/2019”.

It’s a special release from Strange Horizons to close out April, featuring two short stories and three poems celebrating Nigerian SFF. The works bring a fresh feel to fantasy that weaves magic and creation, persecution and resistance. It finds characters who just want to be free to live their lives being pulled into plots and intrigues that they want no part of but that threaten them all the same. And only through connecting to their power, their families, and the people they have chosen to surround themselves with can they fight back and perhaps fully embrace their potential. It’s a wonderful batch of short SFF, and a treat for readers hungry for more international SFF, so I’ll get right to the reviews!

(17) BEWARE SPOILERS. ScreenRant invites you to step inside the pitch meeting that led to Avengers: Endgame. (“Oh, it’s like Fanservice: The Movie!”) While amusing the viewers Ryan George pretty much gives everything away so BEWARE SPOILERS!

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

Pixel Scroll 5/2/19 Good Night, Scroll

(1) FRAZETTA ON THE BLOCK. Bids are being taken for another 13 days on Frank Frazettas’s Egyptian Queen painting (1969). The price is already up to $2.2M, and Heritage Auctions thinks it could ultimately go for $5M.

For a man known for his exquisite paintings, this is quite possibly his single most famous piece… the artist’s “Mona Lisa”… the enigmatic, beloved, and often imitated “Egyptian Queen” herself, a haunting image that legions of admirers have returned to time and time again…

(2) FREE COMIC BOOK DAY IS MAY 4. Free Comic Book Day is just around the corner, and Marvel is ready —

Free Comic Book Day 2019 is the perfect chance to dive deep into the Marvel Universe with new stories and exciting adventures alongside some of Marvel’s most acclaimed creators – and this year, Marvel is bringing you the biggest and boldest stories yet!

In FCBD Avengers #1, industry superstars Jason Aaron and Stefano Caselli spin in all-new tale for Marvel’s main Avengers series, while Savage Avengers, from Gerry Duggan and Mike Deodato, creates one of the most dynamic, and deadly versions of the Avengers ever!

In FCBD Spider-Man #1, creators Tom Taylor, Saladin Ahmed, and Cory Smith take the superstar heroes of the Spider-Verse in a shocking new direction, with a story that will build to one of Marvel’s most fantastic and epic tales! Meanwhile, Donny Cates and Ryan Stegman remind us that “everyone is a target” by bringing absolute terror to the pages of this year’s FCBD with a prelude to Absolute Carnage – the most fearsome event in the Marvel Universe!

Both FCBD Avengers #1 and FCBD Spider-Man #1 are available in comic stores everywhere on May 4th. In addition to the comic, select retailers will receive FREE Avengers promo buttons highlighting the dynamic and stunning cover art from FCBD Avengers #1 by Ed McGuinness, available while supplies last!

(3) POST-APOCALYPTIC OPS. Lorraine Berry, in “The Power and The Pain of Post-Apocalyptic Detective Fiction” on CrimeReads, looks at novels by Ben H. Winters, Hanna Jameson, and Tom Sweterlisch to see how detectives would function in a post-apocalpyptic world.

…While Winters and Jameson’s characters already know the cause of the apocalypse, such a search combined with a detective story is contained in Tom Sweterlitsch’s The Gone World. His detective is Shannon Moss, an investigator with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) who, in order to solve the 1997 murder of the entire family of a Navy SEAL, travels through time to find an answer. But what Moss and other time travelers discover, however, is that the earth will face complete destruction in several centuries. What becomes gradually worse is that with each trip into the future, the date of earth’s destruction moves closer in time until in 1997, that destruction has become imminent. Moss must solve the murders while also solving the problem of the encroaching apocalypse.

(4) VOCATIONAL TRAINING. BBC offers to teach you “How to make an Avengers film in 11 steps”.

…But Marvel’s Cinematic Universe will continue – with new instalments of Spider-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy already confirmed; and a new configuration of The Avengers almost a certainty.

If you somehow end up in the directors’ chair, how should you prepare? Here are 11 key lessons from the people who made the originals.

This article does not contain spoilers for Avengers: Endgame, but will discuss plot details from the preceding films.

1) Start out on a TV show

All three directors of The Avengers made their names in TV. Joss Whedon created Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Firefly; while the Russo brothers worked on cult comedies Community and Arrested Development.

Those experiences were invaluable when it came to wrangling a cast of more than 20 characters, “because they are all ensemble shows,” says Joe Russo.

“Those were shows that had to be executed in 21 minutes, they had to be funny, and they had to have a plot. And sometimes, like in an episode of Community, you’d have 30 speaking parts – so that’s an exercise that certainly trained you in trying to contain as many characters as we do in two hours.”

“We’re drawn to multiple points of view and group dynamics, because we grew up in a very large Italian-American family,” adds Anthony, “so we’ve always loved working with ensembles.”

(5) #OWNVOICES. Mary E. Roach relates the background that made it hard to answer an agent’s question, “Are You Gay Like Your Character?”.

…So now we come back to the issue of querying. In the publishing world, we’re eager to read stories with the #OwnVoices label—this means that these stories are written about marginalized people by a person who shares that marginalization. Because of the choices I made, I do specify that one of my characters is queer, but I do not claim that it is an #OwnVoices story.

This week, though, I got an email reply to one of my queries in a day. Here’s what it said:

“Hi,

Are you gay, like your character?”

And then his email signature.

Um.

I had actually never been asked that before, and I didn’t know how to respond. My queer characters are two preteens from the turn of the century in Ireland, so our experiences are definitely not the same. But the timespan from writing the first line of my book I’m querying to now has been a full 15 months, and I am ready to get out of the querying trenches. So instead of ignoring him, or telling him to go fly a kite, like I probably should have, I answered, taking a chance that he’d understand. I told him I was bisexual, and so was someone else in my life whom I really loved, and that seeing more LGBTQ+ characters in media, I believe would have really helped both of us growing up. I was honest about being married to a man. I told him that I’d had a sensitivity reader, an openly gay man, go though certain passages to make sure I wasn’t being unintentionally insensitive. Everything else I kept guarded, because I didn’t really want to recount my entire queer resume, nor answer for the choices I made almost a decade ago.

He responded in about an hour:

“Thanks for the clarification. Publishing culture is in such a PC time right now, so I really think this should be #ownvoices. Hope another agent feels differently.

His email signature again.

Cue up that existential crisis.

I’m very fortunate in that I have access to an incredible group of querying and agented authors to talk me through it, queer friends to be angry for me, and a book that I’m genuinely proud of. My first thought was in gratitude for these things: if this was going to happen to anyone, I figured, it might as well have happened to me. But then I realized: if the publishing world is policing my #ownvocies story (even though I don’t claim that label) they’re policing others, too.

There are many of us who walk the line between orientation, races, nationalities, religions, cultures, and more. You wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell just by looking at their (perfect!) website photos and reading a bio. I like #OwnVoices stories, and I pride myself on reading them and promoting them, but what if an unintended consequence of this label is stopping genuine stories from being read? Are unrepresented authors really supposed to parade around our pain just for the sake of getting published?

(6) POP TALENT. In “Castellucci to Publish Graphic Memoir ‘Girl on Film’ in November”, Publishers Weekly interviews Cecil Castellucci.

How did you move between theater, music, and writing?

For a long time I thought that I had to choose one. I even had people in my life say to me, you have to choose a direction. But after a while, I realized that they were all the same thing. They were all different modes of telling a story. I always felt a little jealous that visual artists could choose the tool, pencil, pastel, water color, oils, ink, etc, to draw their picture. But it struck me at some point in my thirties that a song, a comic, a play, a movie, a novel, a libretto are also tools. And whichever one you use to tell your story colors the way that it’s told.

Why do you find writing more satisfactory than the other things you have done?

Writing is more satisfying because it’s the spark that can billow out into any other art form. It’s the big bang….

(7) LAST WISH GRANTED. The Providence Journal has the story of a special request and how it was fulfilled (“‘Game of Thrones’ cast members send video greetings to R.I. woman in hospice care”).

The nurses attending to an 88-year-old hospice patient regarded her request as her last wish: she wanted to watch the third episode of the current season of “Game of Thrones,” on Sunday, and maybe even meet a character from the show.

Claire Walton’s caretakers at HopeHealth in Providence tapped their network to make contact with members of the cast, who sent thoughtful greetings and best wishes to the lifelong Rhode Island resident.

[…] A total of 10 actors, including Liam Cunningham, who plays a lead character, Ser Davos, sent along good tidings, according to a spokeswoman for HopeHealth, Victoria Vichroski.

The story was picked up by CNN affiliate WJAR (“‘Game of Thrones’ actors send 88-year-old RI hospice patient video messages”) and ultimately by CNN itself (“A hospice patient’s final request was to watch the Battle of Winterfell. The ‘Game of Thrones’ cast did her one better”). She did get to see the episode as well as the video greetings from the cast members. Ms Walton died the day after the episode aired.

(8) PETER MAYHEW OBIT. Actor Peter Mayhew, who gained fame playing Chewbacca in Star Wars movies, died April 30 at the age of 74. Jason Joiner of the Kurtz Joiner Archive paid tribute —

…Peter loved playing Chewbacca as he could put away his shyness and become a roaring Wookiee when he needed to be. Meeting fans and especially the children that were into Star Wars and seeing the magic in their eyes when they got to meet Peter was something that drove him to attend public events and Comic Cons across the globe, which he continued to do up until last week. As time went on Peter was finding it harder to take on the filming commitments of Chewbacca and even though you could never replace Peter he saw Chewie live on in the way that actor Ian Whyte played the character as Peter’s Stunt Double in The Force Awakens. Ian cared about how Peter portrayed Chewie and understood that Chewie was Peter and so he watched him and learned to become Peter as Chewie. Peter felt that the character was safe for future generations of Star Wars fans with Ian’s insight and care. At 74 Peter lived to a great age for someone of his stature and this was down to the people that loved and helped him so much day to day as he grew older. Peter married his wife Angie in 1999 and from that time Peter has had a partner in life that he could share his amazing adventures and travel with. Later on Katie and Ryan, his children, also helped to enable Peter to keep on the road and attend the events he so loved to visit. In 2016 Peter set up The Peter Mayhew Foundation, a non-profit organisation devoted to the alleviation of disease, pain, suffering and the financial toll brought on by lives traumatic events. By providing its available resources directly to deserving children and adults in need, the foundation assist numerous charitable organisations in order to promote and boost their effectiveness and provide support where needed. On a personal note Peter was a wonderful and kind hearted friend.

Joiner asks fans to “take a look at the wonderful work Peter and his family are doing to help others — http://petermayhewfoundation.org If you feel like saying goodbye to Peter then please don’t buy flowers or gifts but instead make a difference and donate something and go here: http://petermayhewfoundation.org/make-a-donation.php.”

(9) MARK GREYLAND OBIT. Mark Greyland, son of Marion Zimmer Bradley, died unexpectedly on May 1 reports Diana Paxson. He was a well-regarded artist who specialized in computer-generated fractal designs. He made news in 2014 when he corroborated his sister Moira’s account of their abuse by Bradley and her husband Walter Breen in an interview published by Starfire Studio.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 2, 2008Iron Man premiered on this day

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 2, 1890 E. E. “Doc” Smith. Best known for the Lensman and Skylark series. I note that multiple sources say he is called the father of space opera. Is he indeed that?  Another author I know I’ve read but would be hard pressed to say exactly what I’ve read of. (Died 1965.)
  • Born May 2, 1921 Satyajit Ray. His Professor Trilokeshwar Shonku stories , throughly throughly Hindi, is based on a character created by Arthur Conan Doyle,  Professor Challenger. You can find most of his fiction translated into English in Exploits of Professor Shonku: The Diary of a Space Traveller and Other Stories (Satyajit Ray and Gopa Majumdar). (Died 1992)
  • Born May 2, 1924 Theodore Bikel. He was on Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s fourth season in order to play the foster parent to Worf in the “Family” episode, as CPO Sergey Rozhenko, ret.. That and playing Lenonn in Babylon 5: In the Beginning are the roles I want to note. Well there is one minor other role he did — he voiced Aragon in a certain The Return of the King. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 2, 1925 John Neville. I’ve mentioned before that Kage considered Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen to be one of her favourite films and John Neville was one of the reasons that she did so. You can read her review here. Among his other genre roles, Neville had a prominent recurring role in The X-Files as The Well Manicured Man. And he showed up playing Sir Isaac Newton on The Next Generation in the “Descent” episode. (Died 2011.)
  • Born May 2, 1946 Leslie S. Klinger, 73. He is a noted literary editor and annotator of classic genre fiction. He is the editor of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, a three-volume edition of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes fiction with extensive annotations, and an introduction by John le Carré. I’d also like to single out him for his The Annotated Sandman, Vol. 1, The New Annotated Frankenstein and The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft
  • Born May 2, 1972 Dwayne Johnson, 47. Ok I wasn’t going to include him until stumbled across the the fact that he’d been on Star Trek: Voyager as The Champion in the “Tsunkatse” episode. Who saw him there? Of course, it’s not his only genre role as he was the Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns, played Agent 23 in Get Smart, voiced Captain Charles T. Baker In Planet 51, was the tooth fairy in, errr, the Tooth Fairy, was Hank Parsons in Journey 2: The Mysterious Island, was Roadblock in G.I. Joe: Retaliation (Anyone watch these?), was a very buff Hercules in Hercules, voiced Maui in Moana, was Dr. Smolder Bravestone in Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (not on my bucket list) and was one of the Executive Producers of Shazam! which gets a Huh from me.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio waters a garden of unearthly delights.

(13) TERMINAL TRAVAIL. Ursula Vernon tweets the last stages of her international travels. One thread starts here.

Another thread starts here.

(14) MORE ANCESTORS. They got there ahead of Ursula Vernon: “Denisovans, A Mysterious Kind Of Ancient Humans, Are Traced To Tibet”.

The jawbone of a little-known form of ancient human has been discovered in western China. Scientists say these people lived as long as 150,000 years ago, and they were part of a group called Denisovans.

The Denisovans are a mystery. Up until now, their only remains — a few bone fragments and teeth — came from a cave called Denisova in Siberia.

In 2010, scientists concluded from those fragments and their DNA that Denisovans were slightly different from us — Homo sapiens — and slightly different from Neanderthals, but that they lived contemporaneously. In short, they were a third kind of human.

What those researchers didn’t know in 2010 was that 30 years earlier, a Tibetan monk had found part of a jawbone in a cave on the Tibetan Plateau, home of the Himalayas. He gave it to the Sixth Living Buddha, a holy man there, who passed it on to scientists. They started studying the piece of bone nine years ago. Now they say that it, too, is Denisovan.

…So apparently, some early Denisovans lived on the Tibetan Plateau a long time ago; the jaw is 160,000 years old. They developed the low-oxygen trait, and then at some point passed it on to humans.

The BBC adds:

…Co-author Jean Jacques Hublin, from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, said finding evidence of an ancient – or archaic – species of human living at such high elevations was a surprise.

“When we deal with ‘archaic hominins’ – Neanderthals, Denisovans, early forms of Homo sapiens – it’s clear that these hominins were limited in their capabilities to dwell in extreme environments.

“If you look at the situation in Europe, we have a lot of Neanderthal sites and people have been studying these sites for a century-and-a-half now.

“The highest sites we have are at 2,000m altitude. There are not many, and they are clearly sites where these Neanderthals used to go in summer, probably for special hunts. But otherwise, we don’t have these types of sites.”

(15) NAMES OF THE GAME. People increasingly are giving their kids the names of Game of Thrones characters reports the New York Times: “Hello, Arya! ‘Game of Thrones’ Baby Names Are for Girls”.

…But the most popular baby name associated with “Game of Thrones” appears to be Arya. It’s not clear how much the show has to do with that; variations of Arya have been around long before the book came out (in India, Indonesia and Iran, for example). But Arya did not break into the top 1,000 names in the U.S. until 2010, and instances of the name before then appear to be mostly for boys. Since 2010, Arya has steadily risen in popularity to 135th place, with 2,156 babies born in 2017 taking the name.

…Also cropping up on birth certificates is Daenerys, which is less popular than Khaleesi despite the fact that it is that character’s given name. The year 2017 also saw the arrival of 20 Sansas, 11 Cerseis, 55 Tyrions and 23 Theons in the United States. Pet parents are joining the trend, too, with dogs named “Jorah Mormutt,” Asha and Tyrion, and cats called Lady and Drogo. 

(16) ELF DAHLIA, OLD NORSE LAGUAGE OF WITCHES. “Witch hunts, mystics and race cars: inside the weirdest village in Sweden”The Guardian has the story.

In 1926, the yearbook of the Swedish Tourism Association described the village of Älvdalen as “a community with a dark insular spirit” where locals were “shadowed by distrust and unease”. It was there in 1668 that the Swedish witch-hunts began, resulting in the execution of 19 girls and one man suspected of occult practices. 

Today, Älvdalen, in the west of Sweden, still has its own language, Elfdalian, which has been traced back to Old Norse, the tongue of the Vikings….

(17) GEEK RECOGNITION. Reporters are there when the “Big Bang Theory cements its place in history”.

The cast of The Big-Bang Theory ramped up their farewell celebrations by being immortalised in cement outside Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre.

It’s the first time in the 92-year history of the tradition that any inductees have been honoured in this way solely for TV achievements.

The show will come to an end later this month after 12 years and 279 episodes.

Jim Parsons, Johnny Galecki and Kaley Cuoco were on hand (and knee) on Wednesday for the ceremony.

They were joined by fellow stars Simon Helberg, Kunal Nayyar, Mayim Bialik and Melissa Rauch.

(18) WARD DISHES ON BATMAN. Burt Ward helps celebrate Batman 80 at SYFY Wire: “Watch: Batman stories from The Boy Wonder, Burt Ward”.

When Burt Ward landed the role of Robin, the Boy Wonder, on Batman back in 1965, he beat out more than 1100 other actors who’d tried out for the part. But as far as the producers were concerned, Ward, just being himself, was the Boy Wonder….

(19) OBSEQUIES. For no particular reason, this might be a good week to remember Saturday Night Live’s sketch “Superman’s Funeral.”

Jimmy Olsen (Rob Schneider) greets superheroes and super villains from DC and Marvel come to mourn Superman at his funeral. But obscure hero Black Lightning (Sinbad) is turned away when no one recognizes him. [Season 18, 1992]

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