Pixel Scroll 8/16/20 I Holler As I Overturn Mike’s BBQ And Turn The Pixel Of Scroll Into, Uh, Something Something

(1) THE POSTMAN RINGS FIRST. David Brin can be good at thinking things up – and he’s put his creative powers to work to support the US Postal Service: “Going Postal? And the ‘TOC’ you want… the book no one has read.”

Below, find the TOC you’ll want to tick… the Table of Contents of a book that might help…. but first… yes, there are countless times I’d prefer to be wrong!  Especially when it comes to the predictions made in THE POSTMAN!

TIME Magazines called EARTH one of “8 best predictive novels,” and there have been many other hits. But I always figured that my portrayal of lying-betraying-prepper “Holnists” in THE POSTMAN would prove to be artistic exaggeration — not a how-to manual for evil and treason.

Just as Adolf Hitler described his approach in Mein Kampf — and no one took him at his word — Nathan Holn is recalled having laid it all in the open… but Americans didn’t believe anyone would so baldly offer such a despicable program. The warning went unheeded till it was too late. 

Likewise, Donald Trump has said publicly that his attack on the U.S. Postal Service is intended directly to interfere in the election. Of course crashing USPS also undermines rural America, a major part of the GOP base. So how is this supposed to benefit Republicans? The answer is… it’s not. Chaos and dysfunction are the goal. To Trump’s puppeteers, it doesn’t matter if he loses, so long as America dissolves into bitterness and pain. 

Already it’s clear we need to start a mass movement akin to BLM to support Postal Workers!

(2) NOT EVERYTHING NEEDS TO BE COMIC-CON. Robert J. Sawyer challenges some assumptions about Canadian sff award voters in a Facebook post.

Yesterday, I attended the annual general meeting of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association, which was held by Zoom, due to the COVID pandemic.

The first issue the chair raised was what he considered to be a precipitous drop in the number of voters over the years. Years ago, he said, the number was in the mid-two-hundreds and he cited year-by-year figures showing a steady decline down to the current tally of 140 or so. Much discussion ensued about how to beef up the number.

My feeling is two-fold. First, it’s NOT an Aurora-specific issue, and, second, it’s NOT even a problem….

When people talk about bringing in vast new swaths of fans to beef up Aurora voting numbers, they usually mean finding a way to get young fans involved. But young fans, by and large, AREN’T SF&F readers, and have their own fandom traditions — they expect, for instance, their events to be high-cost and run to professional standards (even if mostly staffed by volunteers).

These are the fine folk who enjoy the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo; Fan Expo in Toronto; Anime North, also in Toronto; OtakuThon in Montreal; and so-called “comic-cons” across the country. They want to see actors and comic-book artists. Politely, they don’t need us — AND WE DON’T NEED THEM.

If traditional fandom is shrinking — and it IS, mostly through attrition as people get old and finally go on to that great hucksters’ room in the sky — then so be it. But is that hurting the Aurora Awards?

I say no. I had no horse in the race this year — I was not even eligible in any category except for related work (for my bimonthly columns in GALAXY’S EDGE magazine) and wasn’t nominated. But I studied the ballot and, even more important for posterity, the actual winners this year, and my verdict is this: the Auroras are doing just fine.

… In the past, we’ve also seen ballots with conspicuous omissions and even more conspicuous inclusions. When a Canadian work is nominated for the Hugo, the Nebula, or the World Fantasy Award, it SHOULD raise eyebrows when it has been squeezed off the Aurora ballot by lesser creations.

This year, though, the best short-form Aurora went to the most-generally-lauded Canadian-authored (or, at least, co-authored) work on the ballot: THIS IS HOW YOU LOSE THE TIME WAR by Amal el-Mohtar and Max Gladstone, which had already won the Hugo AND the Nebula Awards.

In the past, we’ve seen huge numbers of votes of dubious pedigree: people who have no known connection to fandom but a personal connection to one of the nominees nominating and voting en masse, propelling dubious works onto the ballot and sometimes shamefully even winning the award.

Thankfully, those days of hustling seem to have fallen by the wayside….

(3) NASFIC 2020. The virtual Columbus 2020 NASFiC Opening Ceremonies start 3:00 p.m. on Friday, August 21. Here’s =“How To Attend”:

Attending the North American Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention will now be easy as everything will be online!

On the day the convention begins, the page you are viewing now will provide you with a virtual “log book”. When you have signed it, this website will provide you access to several more pages, with embedded chat channels and streaming video.

It will be free, but we will still accept donations.

(4) SFF AROUND THE GLOBE. FutureCon, a new virtual international sff convention, will launch September 17-20. Cheryl Morgan gives an overview in “Introducing FutureCon”. (See the schedule here.)

While we might all be stuck at home wishing that we could sit in a bar with our friends, one of the benefits of the new virtual world in which we find ourselves is that travel is instantaneous and free. This means that we can have conventions that are genuinely global, and very cheap or free to attend.

Into this space comes FutureCon. It is being organised primarily by folks in Brazil, but with a lot of help from Francesco Verso in Italy, and also a bunch more people around the world. It will take place from September 17th-20th, and will be free to all on YouTube. All of the programming will be in English. Confirmed guests include Ann Vandermeer, Aliette de Bodard, Chen Qiufan, Ian McDonald, Lavie Tidhar and Nisi Shawl. But more importantly there will be speakers from over 20 different countries including Argentina, Croatia, India, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkey & Uganda.

… Francesco can read in many different langauges, and he said something today in a launch meeting for the event that really struck a chord. I’m paraphrasing slightly, but the gist was, “the quality of science fiction is evenly distributed around the world, but it is unevenly visible.” I hope that FutureCon can be an important step along the road to changing that.

(5) IN THE ZOOM WHERE IT HAPPENS. Cora Buhlert has written up everything else at CoNZealand that was not the Hugo ceremony: “Cora’s Adventures at CoNZealand, the Virtual 2020 Worldcon, and Some Thoughts on Virtual Conventions in General”.

… After the 1960s SF panel, I had only ten minutes to get to my next panel “Translation: The Key to Open Doors to Cultural Diversity in SFF”. I was moderating again and the panelists were Libia Benda from Mexico, Luis F. Silva from Portugal, Wataru Ishigame, speaking from the POV of a publisher publishing translated SFF in Japan, and Neil Clarke of Clarkesworld Magazine as the token American. Though that would be mean, because Neil Clarke has done more than pretty much any other magazine editor to bring translated SFF to English speaking readers.

Again, we had a lively e-mail debate before the panel and just as lively a debate during the panel, complete with an audio zoombombing by a Mexican street vendor. I had also asked all panelists to recommend some SFF books or stories from their country that had been translated into English (and Neil Clarke generally recommended SFF in translation), so there were book recommendations as well.

The translation panel also overran by almost half an hour, because once the Zoom recording  was stopped, the Zoom meeting just remained open. After ascertaining that the audience could still hear us, we just continued talking about SFF in translation for another twenty five minutes or so, until the Zoom host shut down the room.  Now that’s something that could never have happened at a physical con, unless you were the last panel of the day and the room wasn’t needed again…. 

(6) RUNNING THE NUMBERS. Steve Mollman studies the “No Award” tea leaves in “The 2020 Hugo Awards: Interesting Statistics” at Science’s Less Accurate Grandmother. Lots of graphs.

I called my post from last week “Results and Final Thoughts“… but after it went up, I had another thought. So that title was a lie! Many people out there analyze various aspects of the results, but I want to look at two things: how many people vote in each category, and how many people vote No Award.

… Voting No Award in first place usually means one of two things, I would claim. First, it could mean that you find the concept of the category invalid. Every year, I vote No Award for Best Series, Best Editor, and a couple other categories, for example, and leave the rest of my ballot blank. I have some fundamental disagreements with the premises of those categories, and do not think they should be awarded. (Very few Hugo voters agree with me, though, clearly.) It could also mean that you just found everything in that category subpar: this year I voted No Award for Best Short Story, but still ranked finalists below it.

How well does Mollman’s interpretation hold up? And what is there to learn in the voting pattern from Jeannette Ng’s acceptance speech for the 2019 Campbell Award?

(7) BEYOND THE GREEN BOOK. NPR’s Glen Weldon chimes in: “‘Lovecraft Country’: Facing Monsters—And A Monstrous History”.

Here is a list of things that the HBO series Lovecraft Country, premiering Sunday, August 16th, has in common with the 2018 film Green Book:

1. Setting: Jim Crow-era America

2. Acting: Subtle, nuanced performances (Viggo Mortenen’s dese-and-dose Green Book gangster notwithstanding).

3. Subject: Story features a road trip involving a travel guidebook written to inform Black people where they can safely eat and stay. (Green Book: Entire film; Lovecraft Country: Opening episodes only.)

And here is a brief, incomplete list of the things that Lovecraft Country prominently features that Green Book emphatically does not:

1. A story centered on the lives of Black characters.

2. Black characters with agency, absent any White Savior narrative

3. Shoggoths.

Shoggoths, of course, are creatures imagined by writer H.P. Lovecraft — blobs covered with eyes that continuously arise and dissolve back into their putrid, pulsating flesh. (The Shoggoths of Lovecraft Country are shaped more like Pit-bulls than protoplasm, though they’ve got that whole creepy-eyes thing covered.)

Lovecraft Country is only the latest in a series of movies, television series and novels to engage with America’s greatest moral, economic, social and psychological wound — the legacy of slavery — by way of the fantastic. Creators like Jordan Peele, Damon Lindelof, Toni Morrison and Colson Whitehead didn’t avail themselves of, respectively, body-swapping, superheroes, an angry ghost and an entirely literal subterranean mass-transit system as a means to distract from, or to trivialize, racial injustice. No: They knew that when grappling with a foundational truth so huge and ugly and painful, utilizing the metaphorical imagery of science-fiction and horror offered them a fresh way in — an opportunity to get their audiences to re-examine, to re-feel, the enduring impact of that evil.

…Though it’s sure to be compared to Watchmen, given both its prominent HBO Sunday night berth and its determination to view race in America through the prism of science fiction, Lovecraft Country is lighter in tone, and far pulpier in sensibility, than Lindelof’s comparatively grand, sweeping epic. It’s much more apt to go looser and loopier, sprinkling magic spells, sacred codexes, secret passages and the occasional light tomb-raiding into the mix. It’s also far more eager to serve up the satisfyingly grisly thrills of pulp horror — bad guys getting their bloody, cosmic comeuppance, for example.

But for every fun, if wildly anachronistic, element — needle-drops like Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money,” say, or abdominal muscles like Majors’ — Lovecraft Country is always careful to re-center itself on its characters, and their hemmed-in status as Black women and men in 1950s America. Between every narrow escape and exposition dump about “finding the missing pages from the forbidden tome” or whatever, it gives its characters and their relationships breathing room. Case in point: Letitia’s contentious bond with her sardonic, disapproving sister Ruby (the quietly astonishing Wunmi Mosaku, in a warm, deeply compelling performance) gets a chance to grow and complicate. And in a later episodes (only the first five were screened for press), Ruby happily manages to step off the sidelines and mix it up with the series’ deep, abiding weirdness.

(8) YS REVIEW. NPR’s Etelka Lehoczky offers “Feeling Deluged By News? Let ‘The Daughters Of Ys’ Wash Over You”.

Though M. T. Anderson couldn’t possibly have planned it, his new book The Daughters of Ys feels like it was created for just this moment. The story’s driving force and key image — a torrential flood of natural and unnatural origin that sweeps away a city — is the perfect symbol for our era. If you’ve felt your brimming anxiety about the coronavirus overflow as you’ve tried to keep up with the never-ending tide of news about it, you’ll sympathize with Anderson’s characters.

This book is an excellent read right now for other reasons, too. Trying to keep abreast of your daily news feed may have made you impatient of any pleasure reading that isn’t perfectly absorbing (OK, that’s the last flood pun, I swear). A graphic novel, The Daughters of Ys is fun and easy to read. Anderson’s story, a reinterpretation of a Breton folktale, is effortlessly page-turning and actually feels a bit like a young adult title — not surprisingly, considering YA is Anderson’s preferred genre. But like Anderson’s National Book Award-winning The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, this book is both accessible to a wide age range and rich with ideas that will intrigue adults. (Note, however, that due to dark themes, some gore and the fact that the characters have sex, it may be best kept away from immature readers.)

Best of all, Daughters of Ys is a terrific respite for eyes weary of scanning headlines. Artist Jo Rioux isn’t as well-known as her coauthor — as is often the fate of illustrators who focus on children’s books — but she should be. Her drawings here aren’t just beautiful, with their deep, layered colors and elegant compositions; they’re also smart. Nodding to the original tale’s 5th-century setting, Rioux uses the style and motifs of Anglo-Saxon art (think of the Bayeux Tapestry and the metalwork of Sutton Hoo). But she doesn’t just replicate the style, she uses it to explore the evocative possibilities of minimalist cartooning. The characters’ faces have flat-looking eyes and minimal features, but they express intense, ambiguous emotions. Rioux also borrows the glowing lights and velvety shadows of Maxfield Parrish’s work for certain scenes, including a wonderful interlude set inside a circle of standing stones. The reader is encouraged to recall Parrish’s turn-of-the-20th-century America, when astonishing and alarming technological advances triggered a yearning for the romantic past, and to compare it with our own time.

(9) CHECK OUT COUNTER. WorldCat’s Library100 – I’ve read 41 of these.

What makes a novel “great”? At OCLC, we believe literary greatness can be measured by how many libraries have a copy on their shelves.

Yes, libraries offer access to trendy and popular books. But, they don’t keep them on the shelf if they’re not repeatedly requested by their communities over the years. We’ve identified 100 timeless, top novels—those found in thousands of libraries around the world—using WorldCat, the world’s largest database of library materials.

So, check out The Library 100, head to your nearest library, and enjoy the read!

(10) GOLDENBERG OBIT. American music composer, conductor and arranger Billy Goldenberg (William Leon Goldenberg) died on August 3, aged 84 reports Stephen Jones.

His many credits include Fear No Evil, Silent Night Lonely Night, Ritual Of Evil, Steven Spielberg’s Duel, Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark (1973), The Legend Of Lizzie Borden, The Ufo Incident, Metamorphoses, This House Possessed, Massarati And The Brain, Prototype, Frankenstein (1986), 18 Again! and Sherlock Holmes And The Leading Lady. On TV Goldenberg composed music for the pilots of Night Gallery (again for Spielberg), Future Cop and Gemini Man, plus episodes of The Name Of The Game (Spielberg’s ‘LA 2017’), The Sixth Sense and Circle Of Fear (along with the theme music for both shows), Amazing Stories and the 1989 mini-series Around The World In 80 Days. He also composed one of the themes to the Universal logo.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 16, 1951 Dimension X’s “The Vital Factor” was first broadcast. The story is that a ruthless millionaire is determined to be the first man to conquer space…no matter what the cost. The script was used later on X Minus One. It was written by Nelson Bond who is the holder of a Nebula Author Emeritus award for lifetime achievement. He’s also the recipient of First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. His Meg the Priestess stories gave us one of the first powerful female characters in the genre. Daniel Ocko and Guy Repp are the actors here.  You can listen to it here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 16, 1884 Hugo Gernsback. Publisher of the first SF magazines, Amazing Stories in 1926, and Wonder Stories in 1929. He  also played a key role in creating fandom through the Science Fiction League. Writer of the Ralph 124C 41+ novel which most critics think is utterly dreadful but Westfahl considers “essential text for all studies of science fiction.” And of course he’s who the Hugos were named after back in 1953. (Died 1967.) (CE) 
  • Born August 16, 1913 – Will Sykora.  Active at least as early as Jan 30 letter in Science Wonder Stories.  With Sam Moskowitz, thought the true fannish spirit meant promotion of science.  President of ISA (Int’l Scientific Ass’n) which sought to include amateur scientists, maybe the first fan club, unless disqualified in retrospect for insufficient frivolity – or insufficient leftism, which the Futurians were charged with excess of.  Charter member of FAPA (Fantasy Amateur Press Ass’n).  (Died 1994) [JH]
  • Born August 16, 1930 – Paul Lehr.  Three hundred covers, fifty interiors.  Here is his beginning, Satellite E One.  Here is his famous Nineteen Eighty-four (no mustache on Big Brother!).  Here is Spectrum 4.  Here is The Ringworld Engineers.  Here is the Mar 81 Analog.  Here is the Aug 96 Tomorrow.  What a giant.  (Died 1998) [JH]
  • Born August 16, 1930 Robert Culp. He’d make the Birthday Honors solely for being the lead in the Outer Limits episode “Demon with a Glass Hand” which Ellison wrote specifically with him in mind. He would do two more appearances on the show, “Corpus Earthling” and “The Architects of Fear”. Around this time, he makes one-offs on Get Smart! and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. before being Special FBI Agent Bill Maxwell in The Greatest American Hero. Did you know there was a Conan the Adventurer series in the Nineties in which he was King Vog in one episode?  (Died 2010.) (CE)
  • Born August 16, 1931 – Walt Lee.  Monumental if only for his 20,000-entry Reference Guide to Fantastic Films (with Bill Warren) – which, allowing for differences in scale, is like saying Cheops (or Khnum Khufu if you prefer) is monumental if only for the Great Pyramid of Giza.  OGH’s appreciation here.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born August 16, 1933 Julie Newmar, 87. Catwoman in Batman. Her recent voice work includes the animated Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders and Batman vs. Two-Face, both done in the style of the Sixties show. They feature the last voice work by Adam West. Shatner btw plays Harvey Dent aka Two Face.  She was on the original Trek in the “Friday’s Child” episode as Eileen. She also has one-offs on Get Smart!Twilight ZoneFantasy IslandBionic WomanBuck Rogers in the 25th CenturyBewitched and Monster Squad. (CE) 
  • Born August 16, 1934 Andrew J. Offutt. I know him through his work in the Thieves’ World anthologies though I also enjoyed the Swords Against Darkness anthologies that he edited. I don’t think I’ve read any of his novels. And I’m not Robert E. Howard fan so I’ve not read any of his Cormac mac Art or Conan novels but his short fiction is superb. (Died 2013.) (CE) 
  • Born August 16, 1934 Diana Wynne Jones. If there’s essential reading for her, it’d be The Tough Guide to Fantasyland with a playful look at the genre. Then I’d toss in Deep Secret for its setting, and Fire and Hemlock for her artful merging of the Scottish ballads Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer. Now what’s the name of the exemplary short story collection she did late in life? Ahhh it was Unexpected Magic: Collected Stories with the great cover by artist Dan Craig. (Died 2011.) (CE)
  • Born August 16, 1952 – Edie Stern, F.N., 68. “Andre Norton’s Diamond Celebration” (with husband Joe Siclari) in Fantasy Review.  “Fancy Jack” (Jack Speer; with Siclari) in Noreascon 4 Souvenir Book, hello Guy Lillian III (62nd Worldcon).  Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; service award).  Introduction (with Siclari) to Virgil Finlay Centennial book for 2014 World Fantasy Convention.  “LeeH” (Lee Hoffman, or for some of us, Hoffwoman), Journey Planet 27.  “Wheels of IF” (Irish fandom; with Siclari) for 77th Worldcon Souvenir Book.  Noted SF art collector (with Siclari), very helpful with SF con Art Shows.  Fan Guest of Honor, Loscon 46.  Big Heart (our highest service award; with Siclari).  Since 2016, Webmaster of the FANAC Fanhistory Project (fanac = fan activity; Florida Ass’n for Nucleation And Conventions was originally formed for MagiCon the 50th Worldcon, Orlando).  [JH]
  • Born August 16, 1958 Rachael Talalay, 62. She made her directorial debut with Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, and she also worked on the first four of the Nightmare on Elm Street films. Moving from horror to SF, she directed Tank Girl next. A long time Who fan, she directed all three of Twelfth Doctor’s series finales: series 8’s “Dark Water” and “Death in Heaven”,  along with series 9’s “Heaven Sent” and “Hell Bent” before directing series 10’s “World Enough and Time” and “The Doctor Falls”. She capped who Who work with “Twice Upon a Time”, the last Twelfth Doctor story. (CE) 
  • Born August 16, 1967 – Betsy Dornbusch, 53. Five novels, fifteen shorter stories. Co-editor Electric Spec 2006-2015.  Essays & interviews there.  Likes writing, reading, snowboarding, punk rock, the Denver Broncos, and how are you, Mr. Wilson?  [JH]
  • Born August 16, 1969 – Michael Buckley, 51.  A score of novels, some about the Nat’l Espionage, Rescue, & Defense Society (which spells –  ), NY Times Best Sellers; some about the Sisters Grimm (yes).  Robotomy for the Cartoon Network.  Finn and the Intergalactic Lunchbox just released (April).  Used to be in a punk rock band called Danger, Will Robinson.  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) MALTINS TALK ANIMATION. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Leonard and Jessie Maltin’s latest Maltin on Movies podcast, which dropped on the 14th, is with animation expert Jerry Beck

Beck runs two websites: animationscoop.com for news and cartoonresearch.com for longer articles.  One recent article on cartoonresearch.com by Keith Scott lists all the voice actors on Tex Avery’s cartoons, which did not give credits for voice work.

Beck in the interview discusses many aspects of his career, including his providing the commentary for DVDs of Fritz Freleng cartoons to running a popular panel at Comic-Con called “Worst Cartoons Ever” so that fans can howl at a smorgasbord of stinkers.  Beck also has written several histories of animation.  But he was also one of the first Americans to understand the importance of anime.  He recalled that when Hayao Miyazaki’s Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind was released in the mid-1980s, Roger Corman controlled the rights and released it in a heavily-cut, badly dubbed version.  Beck realized Miyazaki’s importance and was the first to distribute Miyazaki’s films uncut to theaters.

As part of his anime distribution, Beck talked to the producers of Akira, who explained that they were shutting down their studio and offered Beck the contents.  Eight months later, Beck got a call from the Port of Los Angeles (“and I’ve never gotten a call from a port before”) with eight giant containers of cels and other stuff, which Beck sold to the delight of serious collectors.

Also in the podcast, Maltin revealed that he learned Roman numerals from Popeye cartoons, which taught him that MCMXXXVI meant “1936”.

(14) BRING ME THE HEAD OF ADMIRAL ACKBAR. Coming right up! The Nerdist says it will be one of the lots available for bid in a Star Wars prop auction happening August 26-27.

For sci-fi movie prop collectors, items from the Star Wars saga are the Holy Grail. Now, fans who have wanted to get their hands on authentic items from a galaxy far, far away are in for a treat. Several props and costumes from the saga are going up for auction by The Prop Store of Los Angeles and London. Some very coveted pieces are among the items, including a full Darth Vader costume from 1977.

These Star Wars items are part of a much larger sci-fi/horror movie auction, being held on August 26th and 27th. One lucky fan will have a chance to get their hands on one of the great heroes of the Rebel Alliance: this Admiral Ackbar sculpt. Made after Return of the Jedi, from the original mold, it will set you back at least $3,000 to $5,000.

(15) BLESSED EVENT. Queen Elizabeth II has revealed her favourite film and it’s an SF movie, namely the 1980 Flash Gordon – The Guardian has the story: “Brian Blessed: Flash Gordon is the Queen’s favourite film”.

Brian Blessed has claimed that the Queen revealed to him that her favourite film is Flash Gordon, the 1980 sci-fi in which he stars as Prince Vultan.

Speaking about the film’s 40th anniversary to Edith Bowman on Yahoo Movies, the actor said that whenever he goes, people demand he recite his character’s catchphrase.

“Everywhere I go, they all want me to say ‘Gordon’s alive!’,” said Blessed. “The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, horses and queens, and prime ministers, they all want me to say ‘Gordon’s alive!’, it’s their favourite film.”

He continued: “The Queen, it’s her favourite film, she watches it with her grandchildren every Christmas.”

The actor then assumed the Queen’s accent, quoting her as saying: “You know, we watch Flash Gordon all the time, me and the grandchildren. And if you don’t mind, I’ve got the grandchildren here, would you mind saying ‘Gordon’s alive’?”

(16) STAR TREK, THE NEXT GAG. ScreenRant is sure they know: “The 10 Funniest Star Trek Episodes, Ranked”.

6. TNG: Qpid

From this fourth season episode of The Next Generation comes one of Worf’s most famous quotes. Transported to Sherwood Forest by Q and adorned in the costume of Will Scarlett, one of Robin Hood’s Merry Men,  Worf exclaims, “I am not a merry man.”

“Qpid” has one of the series lightest touches, to the point it feels like an old Errol Flynn film. While Picard plays Robin Hood, the rest of his Merry Men try to get used to their temporary roles. One of the funniest parts is during the fight between Robin’s friends and Nottingham’s guards. Both Doctor Crusher and Counselor Troi knock two of the bad guys out by bashing large vases over their heads.

(17) STOP-AND-POP. Ethan Alter, in “How Netflix’s new Black superhero movie ‘Project Power’ addresses real-life policing and ‘how police should be held accountable'” on Yahoo! Entertainment, interviews writer Matthew Tomlin (whose next project is co-writer of The Batman) and co-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt about Project Power, which dropped on Netflix this week.

When screenwriter Mattson Tomlin sat down to write Project Power in 2016, he knew that he wanted to create a superhero universe that put Black heroes front and center. The film that arrives on Netflix on Aug. 14 stays true to that vision, with Jamie Foxx and Dominique Fishback portraying the dynamic duo of Art and Robin, who take on a top-secret government agency that’s dispensing ability-enhancing pills on the streets of New Orleans. But there’s also a third superhero in the mix: a white police officer named Frank (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who is the kind of “plays by his own rules” cop that’s been a popular Hollywood protagonist for decades.

As the film begins, Frank’s personal rules include popping those contraband pills to get a super-powered boost for daring busts. But after Art and Robin awaken him to the sordid story behind those drugs — a story that includes the exploitation of Black research subjects — he opts to join their cause. “Ultimately, the character goes through the movie trying to do the right thing,” Tomlin says. “Sometimes he goes about it in a messy way, but that’s where his heart is.”

(18) ROBOTIC VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA. “Robot boat completes three-week Atlantic mission”.

A UK boat has just provided an impressive demonstration of the future of robotic maritime operations.

The 12m Uncrewed Surface Vessel (USV) Maxlimer has completed a 22-day-long mission to map an area of seafloor in the Atlantic.

SEA-KIT International, which developed the craft, “skippered” the entire outing via satellite from its base in Tollesbury in eastern England.

The mission was part-funded by the European Space Agency.

Robot boats promise a dramatic change in the way we work at sea.

Already, many of the big survey companies that run traditional crewed vessels have started to invest heavily in the new, remotely operated technologies. Freight companies are also acknowledging the cost advantages that will come from running robot ships.

But “over-the-horizon” control has to show it’s practical and safe if it’s to gain wide acceptance. Hence, the demonstration from Maxlimer.

(19) LIKE YOU DO. “How Do You Solve a Moon Mystery? Fire a Laser at It” – the New York Times explains. Tagline: “Researchers have used reflective prisms left on the moon’s surface for decades, but had increasingly seen problems with their effectiveness.”

…One obvious culprit is lunar dust that has built up on the retroreflectors. Dust can be kicked up by meteorites striking the moon’s surface. It coated the astronauts’ moon suits during their visits, and it is expected to be a significant problem if humans ever colonize the moon.

While it has been nearly 50 years since a retroreflector was placed on the moon’s surface, a NASA spacecraft launched in 2009 carries a retroreflector roughly the size of a paperback book. That spacecraft, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, circles the moon once every two hours, and it has beamed home millions of high-resolution images of the lunar surface.

The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter “provides a pristine target,” said Erwan Mazarico, a planetary scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center who, along with his colleagues, tested the hypothesis that lunar dust might be affecting the moon’s retroreflectors.

(20) MARGE SIMPSON FIRES BACK. The New York Daily News urges you to “SEE IT: Marge Simpson ‘p—ed off’ at Kamala Harris comparison”.

On Wednesday, senior Trump adviser Jenna Ellis compared Democratic vice presidential contender Kamala Harris to Marge Simpson, who’s voiced by actress Julie Kavner.

“Kamala sounds like Marge Simpson,” [Ellis] tweeted.

Marge responded on “The Simpsons” Twitter account with a 27-second clip in which she says the matter makes her uncomfortable.

“I usually don’t get into politics,” Marge said Friday, adding that her show-daughter Lisa informed her the comparison wasn’t meant as a compliment to either woman.

“As an ordinary suburban housewife I’m starting to feel a little disrespected,” the cartoon mom said. “I teach my children not to name-call, Jenna.”

? [Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, JJ, Cora Buhlert, Cheryl Morgan, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Nicholas Whyte, Michael Toman, Daniel Dern, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jake.]

Pixel Scroll 8/6/20 The Scroll With The Twisted Pixel

(1) SHARKE SIGHTING.  Nina Allan has been doing an interesting series of posts on both Hugo nominees and Clarke Award nominees; she wrote one on all of the Hugo-nominated novellas, for example. Her most recent is on Kameron Hurley’s The Light Brigade. “Weird Wednesdays #9/Clarke Award #3: The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley”.

…What a ride, what a charge. Kameron Hurley was last shortlisted for the Clarke Award back in 2014, for her debut novel God’s War. I enjoyed and admired God’s War, but had fallen somewhat out of touch with Hurley’s work since, so I was pleased to have the opportunity to read her latest within the context of the Clarke. What a delight it is to see a writer fulfilling her potential. What I loved most about God’s War and the short fiction from Hurley that I’d read in the interim was its densely textured language, and The Light Brigade is immediately, thrillingly identifiable as by the same hand. Time (and increasing fame) has done nothing to slow or flatten the vividness and immediacy of Hurley’s approach, nor compromise its intelligence or conceptual ambition.

… Although The Light Brigade works perfectly well as a standalone novel – you don’t need to have read any of Hurley’s other work or even any science fiction to get on board – it is important to note the many and clever ways in which it is directly in conversation with older works of SF. …

(2) SUBSCRIBE TO ASTROLABE. Aidan Moher will launch a new newsletter— Astrolabe — on Friday

Aidan Moher

Astrolabe covers all the stuff I love—from science fiction and fantasy, to retro gaming, parenting, and personal news about my work. It’s about talking my stuff and professional news, but also building a community of readers, and sharing the love by highlighting and sharing all the other great work and books I come across.

Why wait? Here’s the link to subscribe.

Aidan Moher, who won a Best Fanzine Hugo in 2014 for A Dribble of Ink, which really was a beautiful publication, has gone on to author  “On the Phone with Goblins” and “The Dinosaur Graveyard,” and write for KotakuVentureBeatEGMUncanny MagazineCast of WondersBarnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy BlogTor.com, and various other places. 

But Aidan has not forgotten my teasing from back in 2014. He ended his email:

I see your absolute glee that I’m starting a issue-based fanzine, Mike Glyer. I SEE YOU.

(3) NUMBER NINTH, NUMBER NINTH. NPR’s Jason Sheehan warns us that “Whatever You’re Expecting, ‘Harrow The Ninth’ Is Not That Kind Of Book”.

You know how sometimes people say, Oh, it’s okay. You don’t have to read the first book in this series to dive right into the second.

This is not that kind of book

You know how sometimes people say, It’s like everything you loved about the first book, only MORE.

This is not that kind of book.

Last year, Tamsyn Muir absolutely owned the lesbian-necromancers-in-space genre. She created a crumbly, dusty, deeply haunted and wonderfully goopy horror-universe with Gideon the Ninth, peopled it with creepy, sepulchral wizards, dipped it all in the reverential tones of quasi-Catholic religious fanaticism, wrote it like a science-fantasy parlor romance full of murder and then gave it to us, still warm and dripping, like a cat bringing home a particularly juicy mouse.

…I loved Gideon. Loved everything about it. It was just so much of a book — so strange, so full, so lush, so double-bats*** crazy and so unerringly cool — that I didn’t think anything could top it.

And Harrow the Ninth, second in the series, doesn’t.

Because it is not that kind of book.

Gideon was the perfect surrogate through which to experience Muir’s creation — a brash, foul-mouthed, anarchic guide who was just as wonderstruck as we were by the gory weirdness happening at every other breath, but never so serious about it that any piece of the story felt logy with funereal detail.

Harrow, though? Harrow is all black crepe and rosaries. She’s that one goth girl from high school gone full dark supernova with her sacramental face paint and unfathomable necromantic powers. A bone witch (and don’t think Muir doesn’t have some fun with that), she can construct a skeleton from a chip of tibia and have it tear your arms and legs clean off. She vacillates wildly between breathless (though exceptionally prudish) teenage passion for a corpse (that would take pages to explain), fervent prayer and drear musings on death — her own and everyone else’s. At one point, she carefully (and explosively) poisons someone with a soup made from her own bone marrow and it’s passed off like, Oh, that’s just Harry, exploding one of God’s own hit men at the dinner table, the kooky kid!

(4) FAN PIPES UP. Speaking of Tamsyn Muir, she did an Ask Me Anything on Reddit yesterday: “I’m Tamsyn Muir, author of HARROW THE NINTH, second book of the Locked Tomb trilogy. AMA!”

[Question] … I have been telling all my friends that Alecto the Ninth is going to be a heist novel. Can you please confirm this, and if so, also confirm that there will be many heart crimes. Thank you for writing these books, they are fantastic….

tazmuir

AMA Author Tamsyn Muir

I had to go back and look to see if I’d ever mentioned that I wanted a heist in Alecto, because otherwise you are 1. psychic or 2. hiding in my drywall — there IS actually a heist in Alecto. It’s not the world’s greatest heist, and is undertaken by idiots, but there’s a heist. If you’re in my house, can you tell me if turning off the boiler at night has helped the pipes? I assume you’re between the walls.

(5) OPENING A FRESH DECK. NPR’s Glen Weldon reports that “With ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks,’ A Venerable Franchise Loosens Up”.

The prospect of spoofing Star Trek represents nothing new under the (binary) sun(s). The franchise has become an institution, and mocking institutions remains a thriving American cottage industry. Saturday Night Live started taking whacks at Trek way back in the ’70s, as did MAD magazine, and the short-lived sitcom Quark. As a piece of cultural furniture, Star Trek’s ubiquity, driven by multiple television series, movies, books, games, comics and fan-fiction, means its tropes have entered the collective consciousness, and have thus become easy to recognize — and to make fun of.

Why, one could even construct an entire, very-good movie just by riffing on Trek (1999’s Galaxy Quest), as well as an entire, not-very-good television series (FOX’s mystifying The Orville).

The difference between all these previous efforts and the one represented by Star Trek: Lower Decks, premiering Thursday August 6th on CBS All Access, is a simple one:

This time, the comm signal is coming from inside the house.

True, the franchise has poked the gentlest of fun at itself, over the years — a throwaway line here, a winking reference to previous Trek series there. But Star Trek: Lower Decks is an official Trek property, its yuks are both nerdily meta and rigorously in-canon, and they go — more broadly than boldly, it must be said — where no Trek has gone before.

The premise is such stuff as comedy sketches are made on: Starships are huge, and staffed by hundreds of officers and crew members, so why does every Trek story need to revolve around the bridge, and the same 7 or so characters? Why not focus instead on the grunts doing the tedious, everyday work?

Creator/showrunner Mike McMahan made his bones on the animated series Drawn Together and Rick and Morty — shows whose darker, more cutting humorous sensibilities would seem to clash with Trek’s traditional commitment to ennobling, optimistic uplift. But that disconnect turns out to work for the new series, in most respects. For the nerds, in-jokes and easter eggs abound, testifying to the creators’ fondness for the source material, while viewers who don’t know a nacelle from a Jeffries Tube will likely appreciate the show’s sheer joke-density — and the fact that, as an animated series, it comes outfitted with an unlimited special effects budget.

That’s important, because despite its bright, broad, cartoony look, the planets of Lower Decks can appear legitimately otherworldly, instead of all looking like the Vasquez Rocks outside of Santa Clarita, California. Alien races can look alien — obviating previous series’ need to, as one wag (me) once put it, “Grab a dayplayer, slap a hunk of spirit gum between their eyebrows, paint ’em Prussian blue and shove ’em in front of the camera”.

(6) I WRITE THE WORDS. NPR reveals how “A New Documentary Shines A Spotlight On The Lyricist Behind The Disney Renaissance”.

Alan Menken composed the song “Prince Ali,” memorably sung by Robin Williams in Disney’s 1992 animated feature Aladdin, while sitting at the lyricist’s hospital bed. His friend, Howard Ashman, was dying.

“His life was pitifully cut short, unfortunately, as were many at that time,” says Menken. “But Howard’s [death], for me, is the most personally difficult and his spirit remains very, very present still; there’s something about Howard that is not just a statistic in the battle against AIDS. But as an artist, he’s extremely vital — even now.”

Howard, a documentary about Ashman and his work as an award-winning lyricist, is coming to streaming August 7 on Disney+. It also shows the friendship between Ashman and Menken, who met in New York City in the 1970s, where Ashman was the artistic director of a black box theater, the WPA, near Union Square. Menken had been working as an accompanist for singers and writing songs for Sesame Street, and they immediately gelled like Rodgers and Hammerstein. Together they wrote the musicals Kurt Vonnegut’s God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater and the unlikely hit, Little Shop of Horrors — a monster mash parody of American musical comedies, which won several Drama Desk Awards and was adapted into a film in 1986 – before going on to work for Disney.

The documentary tracks Ashman’s rise from a theater-obsessed kid in Baltimore, to his musical highs and lows (including the ill-fated Broadway show Smile with composer Marvin Hamlisch), and to his untimely death. It’s told through archival photos, song demos, new interviews with family and friends and a filmed recording session from Beauty and the Beast — a Disney-lover’s treasure trove….

(7) ABOUT ASIMOV. In the comments on LitHub’s article “What to Make of Isaac Asimov, Sci-Fi Giant and Dirty Old Man?”, posted in May, former SFWA President Marta Randall told about the time Isaac Asimov assaulted her:

“In general,” writes Nevala-Lee, “Asimov chose targets who were unlikely to protest directly, such as fans and secretaries, and spared women whom he saw as professionally useful.”

I have to take exception to this. In the mid-1980s I was serving my first term as president of the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA), the first woman to hold that office, and attended the Boskone convention, as did Dr. Asimov. He showed up in the organization’s suite and I thought it proper to introduce myself, so at a suitable break in the conversation, I held out my hand for a shake and tried to say, “Dr. Asimov, I’m Marta Randall, the president of SFWA.” I didn’t make it to the second syllable of his title before he grabbed my hand, jerked me to him, and tried to stick his tongue down my throat. We were in a suite run by our professional organization, but apparently it never occurred to him that his actions might be inappropriate. Luckily a number of members who knew me pried him off of me before I tried to deck him.

We met again years later, when I was protected by carrying a baby on my back. He was perfectly cordial, but never apologized, if he even remembered the assault.

The man was a pig.

(8) VIRTUAL OXONMOOT. The UK’s Tolkien Society will hold “Oxonmoot Online” from September 18-20. Full details at the link.

…Clearly Oxonmoot Online will be a very different event from a normal Oxonmoot, but our aim is to bring you a busy and engaging weekend of Tolkien related activities. In addition, the online nature of the event offers new opportunities for international members who are normally unable to travel to Oxford to take part….

…Thanks to the actions of Ar-Pharazôn at the end of the Second Age, we find ourselves living on a round world – which means we have to deal with the complexities of time zones. To make the event as accessible as possible to as many of our members as we can, the “core” time for the keynote events and larger activities will be 18:00-22:00 UK time.

Outside these hours, we will run an engaging programme of talks, papers, activities and social gatherings – the exact timing of which will depend on the offers we get from you, our members. We intend to record talks and papers so that delegates can watch the presentations which are delivered at a time which is difficult in their time zone…

(9) THE GOAL IS MONEY. Trailer for the Korean sff movie Space Sweepers. “Are lots of trash worth a fortune?”

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • August 6, 1955 Science Fiction Theater’s “The Stones Began to Move” first aired. Starring Truman Bradley, Basil Rathbone, and Jean Willie, a discovery inside the just-opened tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh may hold a clue as to the construction of the pyramids, but a murder is committed to keep that secret from being revealed. You can watch it here,

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 6, 1809 – Alfred, Lord Tennyson.  (His name was Alfred Tennyson; he was later made 1st Baron Tennyson.)  Poet whose engagement with quest and fantasy point us to him (“To follow knowledge like a sinking star, beyond the utmost bound of human thought” – speaking of which, don’t neglect the highly strange Frank Belknap Long story “To Follow Knowledge”, 1942).  See “Ulysses”, “Tithonus”, Idylls of the King (the Matter of Arthur).  (Died 1892) [JH]
  • Born August 6, 1874 Charles Fort. Writer and researcher who specialized in anomalous phenomena. The term fortean is sometimes used to characterize such phenomena. No, not genre as such, but certainly an influence on many a writer. The Dover publication, The Complete Books of Charles Fort, that collects together The Book of The Damned Lo!Wild Talents and New Lands has a foreword by Damon Knight. L. Sprague de Camp reviewed it in Astounding Science-Fiction in the August 1941 issue when it was originally published as The Books of Charles Fort. (Died 1932.) (CE)
  • Born August 6, 1877 John Ulrich Giesy. He was one of the early writers in the Sword and Planet genre, with his Jason Croft series  He collaborated with Junius B. Smith on many of his stories though not these which others would call them scientific romances. He wrote a large number of stories featuring the occult detective Abdul Omar aka Semi-Dual and those were written with Smith. I see iBooks has at least all of the former and one of the latter available. Kindle has just the latter. (Died 1947.) (CE)
  • Born August 6, 1911 Lucille Ball. She became the first woman to run a major television studio, Desilu Productions, which is where Star Trek was produced. Her support of the series kept it from being terminated by the financial backers even after it went way over budget in the first pilot. (Died 1989.) (CE) 
  • Born August 6, 1917 – Barbara Cooney.  Author and illustrator of a hundred children’s books, some fantastic.  Two Caldecott Medals.  National Book Award.  Here is a picture that might simply be entitled “Fantasy”.  Here is a cover for Snow White and Rose Red.  Here is Where Have You Been?  Here is “The Owl and the Pussycat” (note the runcible spoon).  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born August 6, 1955 – Judith Bemis, 65.  Co-chair (with husband Tony Parker), Tropicon 8-9.  Fan Guest of Honor (with Parker), Concave 16.  Treasurer of MagiCon (50th Worldcon), Noreascon 4 (62nd).  Active getting fanzines into FANAC.org database. [JH]
  • Born August 6, 1955 –Eva Whitley, 65.  Chaired Paracon 1, Disclaves 26 & 34.  Widow of Jack Chalker; says  ”Possibly the only person in fandom to meet spouse by making him GoH (Paracon 1)”.  Fan Guest of Honor at Balticon 17 (with Chalker) & 21, Norwescon XXII (with Chalker).  Active in WSFA (Washington [D.C.] SF Ass’n) and BSFS (Baltimore SF Ass’n).  [JH]
  • Born August 6, 1962 Michelle Yeoh, 58. Ok, I have to give her full name of Yang Berbahagia Tan Sri Dato’ Seri Michelle Yeoh Choo-Kheng. Wow. Her first meaningful genre roles were as Wai Lin in Tomorrow Never Dies and Yu Shu Lien in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I actually remember her as Zi Yuan in The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, the first film of a since cancelled franchise. And then there’s her dual roles in the Trek universe where she’s Captain Philippa Georgiou and Emperor Philippa Georgiou. The forthcoming Section 31 series will involve one of them but I’m not sure which one… (CE)
  • Born August 6, 1969 – Álvaro Enrigue, 51.  Novel Sudden Death for us, Herralde Prize.  Six novels, three collections of shorter stories and one of essays.  Mortiz Prize.  Carlos Fuentes said E’s novel Perpendicular Lives “belongs to Max Planck’s quantum universe rather than the relativistic universe of Albert Einstein, a world of co-existing fields … whose particles are created or destroyed in the same act.”  Translated into Chinese, Czech, French, German.  [JH]
  • Born August 6, 1972 – Paolo Bacigalupi, 48.  Six novels, a score of shorter stories, translated into French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Romanian, Spanish.  Interviewed in Electric VelocipedeIntergalactic Medicine ShowInterzoneLightspeedLocusNY Review of SFSF Research Ass’n Review.  First novel The Windup Girl won Hugo, Nebula, Campbell (as it then was) Memorial, Compton Crook, Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire, Ignotus, Laßwitz, Prix Planète, Seiun; also a Printz, a Sturgeon, another Seiun.  Toastmaster at MileHiCon 42; Guest of Honor at ArmadilloCon 33, Capclave 2014.  Williamson Lectureship, 2014.  [CE and I found two different dates for his birthday; since he’s done and won much, we decided to let both notes stand – JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Truer cartoon words were never spoken — Ziggy.

(13) US IN FLUX. The latest story from the Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project is “Tomorrow Is Another Daze,” a story of Aztlán, creative reuse, and making technology work for you by Ernest Hogan (an Arizona-based writer, often called the father of Chicanx science fiction).

Lalo was in the middle of making Huevos Rancheros Microöndas when the doorbell rattled. The microwave buzzed less than a second after. Yet another quarantine for yet another virus was going on, so he wasn’t eager to answer the door. For all he knew it could be a terminal case, long past the early stages that are said to be similar to what they used to call future shock: the disorientation and hallucinations, the convulsions, foaming at the mouth, about to drop dead on his porch under the decorations his wife insisted on putting up, requiring the services of a hazmat team….

On Monday, August 10 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, they will have another virtual event on Zoom, with Ernest and scholar, author, and editor Frederick Luis Aldama. Register at the link.

(14) EAR TO THE GROUND. Michelle Nijhuis, in “Buzz Buzz Buzz” at New York Review of Books, discusses four recent works about human responsibilities towards animals.

…The scholarly emphasis on negative rights, along with the work of animal-rights and animal-welfare activists, has arguably improved the treatment of domesticated animals in North America and Europe. Public opposition to animal cruelty is now widespread, and recent laws and policies have banned animal blood sports. The insights of advocates such as Temple Grandin have helped us imagine how other species experience the world, and begin to curb some of the most brutal factory-farming practices.

None of these advances, however, has changed our fundamental relationship with animals—which is hardly sustainable, ethically or otherwise. In Slime, when one of the translators finally succeeds in communicating with a bump-nosed parrotfish from the Pacific Ocean, the message is stark, delivered in dramatic terms: “Youare helping Slime to kill us You You You Land Monsters!!! Why? Stop? Why? Change your swimming! Change your swimming! Change your swimming!!!!” Were Slime written today, it might include a line from a pangolin or a bat, warning that our heedless exploitation of animals carries deadly risks for all.

… That animals are in this sense political actors is an underrecognized and, to my mind, potentially powerful point of convergence between the animal-rights and ecological-protection movements: both traditions hold that animals have needs and wants that humans are more than capable of understanding, and should attend to.

(15) BE CAREFUL OUT THERE AMONG THEM ENGLISH. James Davis Nicoll was pleased to get some egoboo from the letters to the editors in the August 4 Sydney Morning Herald:

Hold the phonics

Each of your “o’s”, Kevin Harris, represents different sounds because of the consonants in each word that have individual phonetic sounds; always have and always will (Letters, August 5). Otherwise, we’d all be speaking French, where half the letters aren’t ever pronounced. John Kingsmill, Fairlight

Thirty years ago, one James Nicoll observed that “English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and riffle their pockets for new vocabulary”. With that has come disparate rules of pronunciation, to the annoyance of Kevin Harris’ five-year-old and countless others. For English, basic phonics works for about 40 per cent of words, enough to make it a useful tool. For the rest, plenty of guided reading will make up most of the deficit. Richard Murnane, Hornsby

(16) SURPRISE! – NOT. “Hollywood censors films to appease China, report suggests” – BBC has details.

Hollywood bosses have been censoring films to placate the film market in China, a report has suggested.

The lengthy report says US film companies want to avoid losing access to China’s lucrative box office market.

It said casting, content, dialogue and plotlines were increasingly being tailored to appease censors in Beijing.

The report, compiled by the free speech charity PEN America, claimed China was therefore influencing movies released in cinemas around the world.

China holds the world’s second largest box office market behind the US.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, American films earned $2.6bn (£2bn) in China last year, with Disney’s Avengers finale, Endgame, making $614m (£466m).

PEN is a non-profit organisation that campaigns on free speech and it sponsors the Pinter Prize for literature.

The report said that Marvel’s 2016 superhero film Dr Strange whitewashed a major Tibetan character for fear of jeopardising the title’s chances of success in China.

The forthcoming Top Gun sequel, Maverick, was also criticised for the “mysterious disappearance of the Taiwanese flag” in a 2019 trailer.

“Our biggest concern is that Hollywood is increasingly normalising pre-emptive self-censorship in anticipation of what the Beijing censor is looking for,” said James Tager, author of the report.

(17) HEISENBIRDS. “Attaching Small Weights To Pigeons Helps Them Shoot Up In The Social Hierarchy”NPR transcript:

Scientists found that attaching small weights to pigeons causes them to shoot up in the social hierarchy. The finding is important because scientists often attach trackers to pigeons.

STACEY VANEK SMITH, HOST:

It turns out there is a social hierarchy among pigeons, and it definitely pays to be the big bird on campus.

STEVE PORTUGAL: Being top of the dominance hierarchy basically gives you preferential access to everything. It means you get priority access to food, priority access to mates.

SHAPIRO: That’s Steve Portugal, a zoologist and biologist at Royal Holloway, University of London. And contrary to what you may have heard about the early bird getting the worm, in the case of pigeons, it is heavier birds that get all the perks.

VANEK SMITH: So Portugal and his colleagues wondered what would happen if you made lighter pigeons feel heavier. If you beefed them up, would they punch above their weight?

SHAPIRO: They tested their theory in a captive flock of homing pigeons. They identified the birds in the bottom half of the hierarchy and loaded them up with tiny weights – little bird backpacks, actually.

PORTUGAL: And sure enough, when I did that, they became much more aggressive, started much more fights and won many more fights as well.

(18) EVRYBODY MUST BE STONE. ScreenRant luckily didn’t run out of fingers while counting the cast: “All 9 Star Trek Actors In Gargoyles The Animated Series”.

A number of Star Trek actors lent their voices to the animated series Gargoyles. The show followed the adventures of gargoyles, nocturnal creatures who turned into stone during the day. After being transported from their home in Scotland to New York City, the clan were awoken from their 1000-year-long magical slumber and took on the responsibility of protecting the city. The children’s series originally ran from 1994 until 1997, but has been finding new audiences thanks to Disney+.

… Like Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis was a main character on both Star Trek: TNG as well as GargoylesSirtis played Deanna Troi, the empathetic, chocolate-loving counsellor onboard the USS-Enterprise. Troi is half-Betazoid, which grants her empath abilities — which often came in handy in dealings with other alien races. Also like Frakes, Sirtis played a villainous role on Gargoyles: her character Demona despised humans, and is possibly the most dangerous of all remaining gargoyles. She aligned herself with David Xanatos, and was largely responsible for him resurrecting the Wyvern clan, whom she had hoped would join her on her quest for vengeance.

(19) BEEB TRIVIA. Nicholas Whyte told the SMOFs list where they could see this Hugo-related feat:

The UK quiz show University Challenge had three questions about the Hugo Awards for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form last night, all correctly answered by the team from Strathclyde University – which, as it happens, is in Glasgow.

[Thanks to PhilRM, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John Hertz, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Peer Sylvester, Martin Morse Wooster, Joey Eschrich, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day, verified, blue check Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 6/12/20 The Scrolling
Of Pixel 123

(1) THE CITY WITH TWO NAMES TWICE. N. K. Jemisin will join W. Kamau Bell, host of CNN series United Shades of America (and her cousin) on June 16 for a discussion of sci-fi, Afrofuturism, and her most recent novel The City We Became. The event is hosted by the New York Public Library. Hyperallergic has the story: “A POC-Centered Vision of NYC From NK Jemisin, Celebrated Sci-Fi Author”.

…Next Tuesday (June 16), Jemisin will join comedian W. Kamau Bell for a discussion of sci-fi, Afrofuturism, and her most recent novel, The City We Became, presented by the New York Public Library. The novel, which brings her unique brand of speculative fiction a little closer to earth, is set in a version of New York City where the future is threatened by an ancient evil that seeks to divide and destroy its community by capitalizing on its differences (sound familiar?). The City We Became imagines cities as living, sentient organisms that take shape as individual human avatars. New York and its five boroughs are embodied as mainly Black and brown folks (Staten Island and the nefarious Enemy that threatens the city are not insignificantly imagined as white women).

At a moment when New York City is slowly beginning to reopen amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, while simultaneously considering numerous pieces of legislation that could combat pervasive police brutality against Black people, Jemisin’s POC-centered speculations about the future of this city feel especially timely.

Where: Online, via NYPL
When: June 16, 8–9pm EDT

See the NYPL event page for more information.

(2) FREE READS. John Joseph Adams has made three of Lightspeed’s People Of Colo(U)R Destroy Special Issues available as free downloads.

(3) THE HEART OF YOUR WEEKEND. Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron will host several of the “Hugo Finalists for Best Novella and Best Novelette 2020” on its June 13 program, including Seanan McGuire, Sarah Gailey, Sarah Pinsker, Siobhan Carroll, and Amal El-Mohtar. Facilitating the discussions will be Vincent Docherty and Karen Castelletti. 

The episode will also feature a Sara Felix Tiara Giveaway and “Tammy Coxen’s Mixology Show Corner.”

(4) STOKERCON UK: STRIKE TWO. StokerCon UK has postponed again, having decided its new August dates are no longer tenable. New dates forthcoming.

As per previous communications, like all of you we have been closely monitoring the NHS and UK Government guidelines as they have evolved over the past weeks and months, and the situation with regard to COVID-19 is still extremely changeable.

We have done everything we can to try to continue with StokerCon UK in August but, unfortunately, this is still a fast-changing situation and, with the worldwide situation and the current government guidelines as they stand now, we are left with no choice but to postpone the convention once again as we feel it would be irresponsible to push ahead and put anyone’s health at risk, apart from the obvious issues with social distancing, travel etc. Safety has to be the paramount concern for all involved.

We will advise new dates in the next week, as we’re currently finalising details of this with the hotels and will advise plans moving forward for everyone who has already signed-up to attend. We understand how disappointing this will be to many of you, and share that disappointment, but we want to make sure our members are safe, and postponing will be the best way to try and achieve that.

(5) THE SUN GIVES ABUSER PAGE ONE. Right after J.K. Rowling published an essay defending her views on gender and sex, in which she revealed she is the survivor of domestic abuse in her first marriage, UK tabloid The Sun tracked down her former husband for a front-page interview. The Guardian covered the response: “JK Rowling: UK domestic abuse adviser writes to Sun editor”.

The government’s lead adviser on domestic abuse has written to the editor of the Sun to condemn the newspaper’s decision to publish a front page interview with JK Rowling’s first husband, under the headline: “I slapped JK and I’m not sorry.”

In the letter seen by the Guardian, Nicole Jacobs, the independent domestic abuse commissioner, said it was “unacceptable that the Sun has chosen to repeat and magnify the voice of someone who openly admits to violence against a partner”.

Jacobs joined a chorus of voices speaking out against the newspaper, which described the remarks by Rowling’s ex as a “sick taunt” against the Harry Potter creator.

“The media can play a vital role in shining a light on this issue and bringing it out of the shadows, but articles such as this one instead feed the shame that so many survivors will feel every day, minimising their experiences and allowing perpetrators to continue to abuse without fear of consequence,” Jacobs wrote to Victoria Newton, who was appointed the Sun’s editor in February.

(6) WRITERS OFFERED INSURANCE PROGRAM. The Book Industry Health Insurance Partnership, a coalition of 10 organizations that includes SFWA, has partnered with Lighthouse Insurance Group Solutions to “provide its members with a choice of health insurance options, including ACA-compliant major medical, Medicare/supplements, short-term policies, vision, dental, critical care, supplemental coverage, as well as small group/Health Reimbursement Arrangements.”

The Authors Guild noted in a recent press release that the coalition also includes the American Booksellers Association, American Society for Indexing, Book Industry Study Group, Graphic Artists Guild, Independent Book Publishers Association, Novelists Inc., and Western Writers of America.

(7) ANIMATED, BUT NOT REANIMATED. NPR’s Glen Weldon finds light in an apocalypse: “‘Kipo And The Age Of Wonderbeasts’ Returns, Weirder And Warmer Than Ever”.

No, I hear you: Now doesn’t seem the ideal moment to Netflix-and-chill with an animated series about the last vestiges of humanity struggling to survive.

I mean, imagine the pitch meeting:

“The future.

“Cities lie in ruin.

“The surface of the earth is overgrown with plant life — and with overgrown animals: mutated beasts, 300 feet tall, that stomp across the land hunting for prey.

“Which is to say: for humans, who, now firmly at the bottom of the food chain, have retreated to vast underground burrows to protect themselves.”

It all sounds … pretty bleak, I get that. Depressing, even. Like if you mashed up The Walking Dead with the popular anime series Attack on Titan, in which gruesome giants gobble up humanity’s last survivors like so many chocolate-covered cherries.

And I haven’t even mentioned the violent gangs of mutant, human-sized animals who’ve staked out their own territories, making the Earth’s surface a deadly place for the few humans who still live there.

And yet?

Netflix’s Kipo and the Age of the Wonderbeasts, which returns for a second season Friday, June 12, manages to be anything but bleak and depressing. It’s bright and sunny, colorful and funny, and … then, there are those tunes.

(8) O’NEIL OBIT. Comic book writer Denny O’Neil died June 11 at the age of 81. Games Radar’s tribute is  here.

…O’Neil was best known for his work on Batman, which included writing Batman, Detective Comics, and Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, as well as editing DC’s Batman titles from 1986 to 2000. He, editor Julius Schwartz, and artist Neal Adams are credited for guiding the Dark Knight back to his darker roots after a period of campiness brought on by the success of the 1960s Batman TV series….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 12, 1956 X Minus One’s “If You Was A Moklin” was aired for the first time. Written by Murray Leinster (published in Galaxy, September 1951) who would win a number of Hugos in his career (L.A. Con III awarded him a Retro Hugo Novelette for “First Contact”, published in Astounding May 1945; NY Con II would give him Best Novelette for “Exploration Team”, published in Astounding March 1956; and he’s up this year for a Retro Hugo Novella  for “Trog”, published in Astounding Science Fiction, June 1944.) This story is about a planet that has a strange imitative trait it shows in producing its offspring.  Or so it seems.  Adapted as usual by Ernest Kinoy.  The cast was Joe Julian, Patricia Weil, Karl Weber and Ralph Camargo.   You can listen to hear it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 12, 1856 – Georges Le Faure.  Among a dozen popular swashbuckling novels, War Under Water against Germany; The Extraordinary Adventures of a Russian Scientist (with Henry de Graffigny, 4 vols.; tr. in 2 vols. 2009) with an explosive that could destroy the world, a Space-ship faster than light, visits to other planets, aliens.  Verne was first but not alone.  (Died 1953) [JH]
  • Born June 12, 1914 – Frank Kelly.  Two novels, half a dozen shorter stories, from this pioneer.  “Light Bender” was in the June 1931 Wonder Stories – he was 15!  Later a speechwriter for Harry Truman; vice-president, Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions.  “My Interplanetary Teens” in the June 1947 Atlantic.  Fiction outside our field in The New Yorker and Esquire.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born June 12, 1914 William Lundigan. Col. Edward McCauley in the Fifties serial Men into Space which lasted for thirty-eight episodes. He really didn’t do any other SF acting other than showIng up once on Science Fiction Theater. (Died 1975.) (CE)
  • Born June 12, 1927 Henry Slesar. He had but one genre novel,Twenty Million Miles to Earth, but starting in the Fifties and for nearly a half century, he would write one hundred sixty short stories of a genre nature, with his first short story, “The Brat” being published in Imaginative Tales in September 1955. He also wrote scripts for television — CBS Radio Mystery Theater (which, yes, did SF), Tales Of The Unexpected, the revival version of the Twilight ZoneBatmanThe Man from U.N.C.L.E., and genre adjacent, lots of scripts for Alfred Hitchcock Presents. (Died 2002.) (CE) 
  • Born June 12, 1940 Mary A. Turzillo, 80. She won the Nebula Award for Best Novelette for her “Mars is No Place for Children” story, published in Science Fiction Age. Her first novel, An Old Fashioned Martian Girl was serialized in Analog, and a revised version, Mars Girls was released. Her first collection to polish her SWJ creds is named Your cat & other space aliens. Mars Girls which I highly recommend is available from the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born June 12, 1945 James Stevens-Arce, 75. Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says that “James Stevens-Arce, is perhaps the first Puerto Rican to publish sf, and the most prolific.“  He has but one novel, Soulsaver which won thePremio UPC de Ciencia Ficción, and a double handful of short stories which do appear to have made to the digital realm.(CE)
  • Born June 12, 1946 – Sue Anderson.  Fannish musicals with Mark Keller, performed at 1970s Boskones: RivetsRivets ReduxMik Ado about Nothing (note Gilbert & Sullivan allusion), The Decomposers.  George Flynn, Anne McCaffrey, Elliot Shorter are gone, but Chip Hitchcock was in some or all and I’m counting on him to explain what really happened.  Three short stories (one posthumously in Dark Horizons 50), and this cover with Stevan Arnold for Vertex.  (Died 2004) [JH]
  • Born June 12, 1948 – Etienne Sándorfi.  Hungarian hyperrealist painter.  It was said that he painted like an assassin; also that, working at night, he went to bed each day later than the day before, puzzling his daughters.  Ten interiors for Omni.  The Wayback Machine has this interview; see some of his paintings here (Madeleine), here (nature morte organes).  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born June 12, 1948 Len Wein. Writer and editor best known for co-creating (with Bernie Wrightson) Swamp Thing and co-creating Wolverine (with Roy Thomas and John Romita Sr.) and for helping revive the the X-Men. He edited Watchmen which must have been interesting. He’s a member of the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born June 12, 1955 Stephen Pagel, 65. Editor with Nicola Griffith of the genre anthologies, Bending the Landscape: Science FictionBending the Landscape: Fantasy, and Bending the Landscape: Horror. (CE)
  • Born June 12, 1963 – Franz Miklis.  Austrian artist active for decades in fanart (see here and here) and otherwise (see here and here).  His Website is here. [JH]
  • Born June 12, 1970 – Claudia Gray.  A score of novels, some in the Star Wars universe; a few shorter stories; translated into Dutch, French, German, Portuguese.  Her Website is here (“Bianca, Tess, Nadia, Skye, Marguerite, and Noemi aren’t that much like me.  For example, they all have better hair”; also “Read as much as you can….  Read the stuff you love.  Read the stuff you never thought you’d love”).  [JH]

(11) LEND ME YOUR EARS. This item went under the hammer today at Heritage Auctions: “The Mouse Factory ‘The Mystery of Mickey’s Ears Revealed’”. It was bid up to $800 when I looked.

The Mouse Factory “The Mystery of Mickey’s Ears Revealed” Illustration by Ward Kimball Original Art (Walt Disney, c. 1970s). Walt Disney like to say, “I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.” Mickey’s trademark ears have been a source of conversation since the famous mouse was born in 1928. Created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, Mickey is characterized as a cheerful and mischievous “little guy” with ears that move strangely. In the early 1970s, Disney Legend Inductee and one of “Walt’s Nine Old Men”, Ward Kimball (1914 – 2002) attempted to clear up the matter and explain the mystery of Mickey’s ears on the television show, The Mouse Factory. In this lot is a rare illustration by Kimball showing Mickey in front and side views with an explanation on how his ears move independently as he moves his head.

(12) BE SEATED. In “Episode 29: Omphalistic Hugosity” of Two Chairs Talking (no relation to Arthur “Two Sheds” Jackson), former Aussiecon chairs David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss talk about the shorter fiction nominees for the 2020 Hugo Awards, and then take the Hugo Time Machine back to 1962, when Stranger in a Strange Land won Best Novel.

(13) PIED-À-TERRE. If people don’t feel so much like squeeing over Harry Potter this week, who can blame them? This is still a remarkable place, as the photos show: “You can stay in a massive ‘Harry Potter’-themed Airbnb with 8 bedrooms that’ll transport you right to Hogwarts”.

Loma Homes translated the magic of “Harry Potter” into an epic new rental just 30 minutes away from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando.

The Wizard’s Way villa has eight themed bedrooms with 10 beds, five bathrooms, and dozens of book and movie Easter eggs that fans of the franchise will love.

(14) AVATAR. [Item by Cliff.] This video demonstrates a digital avatar created by the company founded by an ex-colleague of mine.

This demo showcases a cutting edge end-to-end virtual assistant prototy[e developed by Pinscreen. The entire Avatar runs on the cloud and is streamed directly onto a web browser. This demo highlights a real-time facial AI-synthesis technology based on paGAN II, cutting edge NLP, voice recognition, and speech synthesis. None of the conversation is scripted.

(15) MURDER(BOT) SHE WROTE. Camestros Felapton has many kind (but non-spoilery) words to say about Martha Wells’ new novel: “Murderbot: Network Effect”.

I sort of gave up reviewing Murderbot a few novellas ago. There is a sense that actually the plot really doesn’t matter and the simplest explanation of an instalment is that its a Murderbot story and the reader either knows the formula or doesn’t and if they don’t then see earlier reviews. However, that belies how much I enjoy each and every one of Martha Wells’s brilliant episodes of Murderbot’s continuing adventures.

The essence of the formula is the juxtaposition of this incredibly vulnerable highly competent killing machine. Murderbot has been shot and blasted and zapped but the struggles with their own sense of self and connections with other people pulls you in….

(16) BOSE-EINSTEIN CONDENSATE, THE NEW CHILL SMOOTHIE. Slashdot reports “Scientists Have Made Bose-Einstein Condensates in Space for the First Time”. And what the heck is that, you ask…

On board the International Space Station since May 2018 is a mini-fridge-size facility called the Cold Atom Lab (CAL), capable of chilling atoms in a vacuum down to temperatures one ten billionth of a degree above absolute zero. It is, for all intents and purposes, one of the coldest spots in the known universe. And according to a new study published in Nature, scientists have just used it to create a rare state of matter for the first time ever in space. From a report:

Bose-Einstein condensates, sometimes called the fifth state of matter, are gaseous clouds of atoms that stop behaving like individual atoms and start to behave like a collective. BECs, as they’re often called, were first predicted by Albert Einstein and Satyendra Nath Bose over 95 years ago, but they were first observed in the lab by scientists just 25 years ago. The general idea when making a BEC is to inject atoms (in the case of CAL, rubidium and potassium) into an ultra-cold chamber to slow them down. A magnetic trap is then created in the chamber with an electrified coil, which is used along with lasers and other tools to move the atoms into a dense cloud. At this point the atoms “kind of blur into one another,” says David Aveline, a physicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the lead author of the new study.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Creative Writing Advice From Neil Gaiman” on YouTube is a 2015 compiilation by Nicola Monaghan of excerpts from speeches Gaiman has given on writing.

[Thanks to Cliff, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Bill.]

Pixel Scroll 3/6/20 Heavy Water, Holy Water, And Flit

(1) AMAZING STORIES BUS STOP AD. Seen in New York City. Photo courtesy of von DImpleheimer.

(2) ON THE AIR. And the show is now with us. Steve Davidson’s post “Amazing Stories TV Show Debuts” (BEWARE SPOILERS) delivers this assessment:

…All in all – production values are what you would expect, the story is in line with the target the show has always sought (families watching and sharing together) and the theme is marginally SFnal, (though time travel afficianados will have plenty to talk about) and my overall conclusions are: time was not wasted watching this episode and we ought to stick with the show to see how it develops.

(3) IAFA SAYS IT MUST MEET TO SURVIVE. International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts 41 will be held March 18-21, however, the organizers are making some new options available: “ICFA 41: COVID-19, Cancellations, and Credits/Refunds”.

As a result of the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the news about COVID-19, the IAFA board would like to take this opportunity to issue an update on ICFA 41.

The conference will meet.

We have to meet certain guaranteed minimums for room occupancy, food and beverage expenditures, etc., specified in our contract with the hotel, or pay out of pocket. It is not an exaggeration to say that cancellation would jeopardize the very existence of the IAFA.

The first concern of the board members is members’ safety and well-being. We urge IAFA members to proactively research COVID-19 and consult status reports through reputable sources such as the World Health Organization (https://www.who.int/), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (https://www.cdc.gov/), and the Florida department of health (http://www.floridahealth.gov/), whose websites are continually updated. We would also advise checking for updates with your travel provider and travel insurer.

…Because of the extraordinary circumstances, we are crediting registration for those who cancel as a result of the outbreak. This credit must be used within 2 years. We will provide refunds to people from countries under travel restrictions. Because we are required to have final numbers for rooms and meals to the hotel a week before the conference, we will provide credits or refunds only to people who cancel by 5p EST on March 9, 2020.

…The board is discussing a number of ways to make it possible for people not able to attend physically but who wish to have their work included in some way to do so. We will make an official announcement before the March 9 deadline.

More details at the link.

(4) FRANK HERBERT ON CORONAVIRUS. Or so the people tweeting it around have captioned this rewritten chart —

(5) PIXAR’S LATEST. Leonard Maltin applauds a new release: “Pixar Scores With Heartfelt ‘Onward’”.

Like the best Pixar and Disney animated films, this one supplies rooting interest in its heroes from the very start. We want them to succeed because we care about them and their quest. Who wouldn’t want to be reunited with a loved one, especially when his absence has left a void in their lives?

(6) SLOW START. NPR’s Glen Weldon reviews “‘Onward’: Timid Teen On A Mythic Quest For Elf-Assurance”.

In the opening minutes of Disney/Pixar’s Onward, we are met with various manifestations of loss.

There’s the film’s setting, a world where magic once flourished, and with it, pixies, unicorns, pegasi, elves, ogres, centaurs, mermaids — your standard-issue high-fantasy mythofaunic biome. But even here, in a gimmick the film leans into juuuuust enough, the Industrial Revolution arrived. As automation increased, magic faded. Elves still live in giant toadstools, but said toadstools are now rigidly apportioned into vast, Spielberg-suburban subdivisions and cul-de-sacs. Once-splendid unicorns have gone feral, raiding raid trash cans and hissing at passers-by like peculiarly horsey raccoons. If Middle-Earth had more strip-malls, it’d look something like this.

There’s also the loss experienced by the elf-family at the film’s center: mom Laurel (voiced by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and her two sons — the younger, anxious Ian (voiced by Tom Holland) and his older, buff, RPG-obsessed brother Barley (Chris Pratt, squarely back in Andy Dwyer mode). It’s Ian’s 16th birthday, and he’s given a gift left to him by his late father, who passed away when Ian was too young to remember him: A wizard’s staff.

Finally, in these opening minutes, there’s still another feeling of loss that manifests in the viewer — that of lost opportunity.

The jokes are glib and smarmy, the family dynamics achingly familiar, and as we follow Ian to high school, his every encounter and interaction feels less Disney/Pixar and more Disney Channel — which is to say, too sweet, too cornball, too affected, too faux-contemporary. The average very young child in the audience won’t notice; the average parent will start checking the theater’s exits.

But!

On or about the 20-minute mark — not coincidentally, upon the arrival of a manticore called Corey, voiced by Octavia Spencer — the film seems to discover what it is: A testament to the remarkable degree of emotional expressiveness that Pixar’s character-animators can imbue into a story….

NPR hosts a 4-way discussion (audio, no transcript yet) here.

(7) PERSEVERANCE PLANS. BBC reports “Nasa 2020 robot rover to target Jezero ‘lake’ crater”.

The American space agency (Nasa) says it will send its 2020 Mars rover to a location known as Jezero Crater.

Nasa believes the rocks in this nearly 50km-wide bowl could conceivably hold a record of ancient life on the planet.

Satellite images of Jezero point to river water having once cut through its rim and flowed via a delta system into a big lake.

It is the kind of environment that might just have supported microbes some 3.5-3.9 billion years ago.

This was a period when Mars was much warmer and wetter than it is today.

What is so special about Jezero?

Evidence for the past presence of a lake is obviously a draw, but Ken Farley, the Nasa project scientist on the mission, said the delta traces were also a major attraction.

“A delta is extremely good at preserving bio-signatures – any evidence of life that might have existed in the lake water, or at the interface of the sediment and the lake water, or possibly things that lived in the headwaters region that were swept in by the river and deposited in the delta,” he told reporters.

Jezero’s multiple rock types, including clays and carbonates, have high potential to preserve the organic molecules that would hint at life’s bygone existence.

Narrated flythrough of planned route here.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 6, 1936 — The “Income from Immigrants” episode of the Green Hornet radio show originated from WXYZ in Detroit. (It is also called “Ligget’s Citizenship Racket”.) The show was created by Fran Striker & George W. Trendle, and starred Al Hodge as the Green Hornet at this point, and Tokutaro Hayashi who had renamed Raymond Toyo by initial series director James Jewell. You can download the episode here.
  • March 6, 1938 — RKO first aired “The Bride of Death” with Orson Welles as  The Shadow. Welles prior to his War of The Worlds broadcast would play the role for thirty three episodes in 1937 and 1938 with Blue Coal being the sponsor. You can download it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 6, 1918 Marjii Ellers. Longtime L.A. fan active in the LASFS. Her offices in the LASFS included Registrar and Scribe. She is known as well for her costumes at cons. Indeed, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990 from the International Costumers Guild. An avid fanzine publisher and writer, some of the fanzines she edited were Masqueraders’ Guide, More Lives Than One, Nexterday, One Equal Temper, Thousands of Thursdays, and Judges’ Guide. (Died 1999.)
  • Born March 6, 1928 William F. Nolan, 92. Author of the long running Logan’s Run series (only the first was written with George Clayton Johnson). He started out in fandom in the Fifties publishing several zines including one dedicated to Bradbury. In May 2014, Nolan was presented with another Bram Stoker Award, for Superior Achievement in Nonfiction; this was for his collection about his late friend Ray Bradbury, called Nolan on Bradbury: Sixty Years of Writing about the Master of Science Fiction. He’s done far too much writing-wise for me to sum it him up. 
  • Born March 6, 1930 Allison Hayes. She was Nancy Fowler Archer, the lead role, in The Attack of The 50 Foot Woman. Her first SF role was the year as Grace Thomas in The Unearthly. She’d be Donna in The Crawling Hand shortly thereafter. She died at age forty-seven from the result of injuries sustained from early on Foxfire, a mid Fifties Western that’s she’s actually in. That she made three SF films while in severe pain is amazing. (Died 1977.)
  • Born March 6, 1937 Edward L. Ferman, 83. Editor and publisher who’s best known as the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction from 1966 to 1991.  He also edited a zine I’ve not heard of, Venture Science Fiction Magazine, for two years 1969 – 1970). And, of course, he’s edited myriad anthologies that were assembled from F&SF
  • Born March 6, 1942 Dorothy Hoobler, 78. Author with her husband, Thomas Hoobler, of the Samurai Detective series which is at least genre adjacent. More interestingly, they wrote a biography of Mary Shelley and her family called The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein which sounds absolutely fascinating. Note to ISFDB: no, it’s not a novel. Kindle has everything by them, alas Apple Books has only the biography.
  • Born March 6, 1957 Ann VanderMeer, 63. Publisher and editor, and the second female editor of Weird Tales. As Fiction Editor of Weird Tales, she won a Hugo Award. In 2009 Weird Tales, edited by her and Stephen H. Segal, won a Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine. She is also the founder of The Silver Web magazine, a periodical devoted to experimental and avant-garde fantasy literature.
  • Born March 6, 1972 K. J. Bishop, 48. Her first book, The Etched City, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. It won the Ditmar Award.  She is a recipient of the Aurealis Award for best collection, That Book Your Mad Ancestor Wrote. Both works are available from the usual digital sources. 
  • Born March 6, 1979 Rufus Hound, 41, Ok, I’ll admit it was his name that got him here. He also on the good fortune to appear as Sam Swift in “The Woman Who Lived”, easily one of the best Twelfth Doctor stories. He’s also played Toad in the world premiere of the musical, The Wind In The Willows in Plymouth, Salford and Southampton, as written by Julian Fellowes. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) BIERYOGA. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] If Worldcon, SMOFcon, etc. are looking for a new way to encourage fans to exercise at the con… well, it seems like a good fit for much of fandom. That said, notice the source of the article. — Funny or Die claims “‘Beer Yoga’ Is A Real Thing That Exists, Namaste”.

Although it’s impossible to predict exactly what the future holds, there are a couple things that are pretty much guaranteed to happen with each new year. First, we’re all going to make resolutions. Second, we’re all going to abandon those resolutions.

One of the most common goals we make for ourselves when January rolls around is hitting the gym more often, and that’s also one of the toughest things to stick with for more than a few months. Life gets in the way, gyms are far or expensive, and let’s be honest — working out sucks. Yeah, yeah, you get a rush of endorphins and you feel good afterward, but actually dragging your butt there and the entire process of exercising leave much to be desired. However, this year might be the year things change.

If you’re like everyone else on earth and struggle to hold fast to your New-Year-New-Me resolutions, look no further than Bieryoga….

(12) THE BINDING THAT TIES. NPR praises a documentary: “‘The Booksellers’ Speaks Volumes About Old Books And Those Who Love Them”.

As we hurtle closer to a time when little kids will look up from their tablets to inquire, “What was a book, Mommy?” much as they now ask, “What’s a record player?,” it may cheer you to learn, from a charming new documentary about bookselling, that while the middle-aged tend to play on Kindles these days, millennials are to be seen in droves reading print books on the New York subway. They’re probably also the ones ordering “vintage” turntables, and they may be driving the encouraging current renaissance of independent bookstores serving cappuccino on the side, to lure us back from Amazon.

The books being bought, sold and read there, though, are unlikely to be the kind found at the New York Book Fair in a gorgeous old building on the city’s Upper East Side: ancient tomes, some with curled and peeling pages, others gorgeously illuminated. The handlers of those books are the subject of D.W. Young’s beguiling film, The Booksellers, about the world of New York antiquarian book dealers. They’re a vanishing breed who, with some exceptions, regard their work more as consuming passion than as career.

(13) CREDENTIAL CAPTURE. Here’s a bizarre GIF – “Cat UFO Abduction”.

(14) FROZEN TWO. “Destination Uranus! Rare chance to reach ice giants excites scientists”. Tagline: A planetary alignment provides a window to visit Uranus and Neptune — but time is tight.

Momentum is building among planetary scientists to send a major mission to Uranus or Neptune — the most distant and least explored planets in the Solar System. Huge gaps remain in scientists’ knowledge of the blueish planets, known as the ice giants, which have been visited only once by a space probe. But the pressure is on to organize a mission in the next decade, because scientists want to take advantage of an approaching planetary alignment that would cut travel time.

(15) DON’T PANIC, I’LL BE BACK. Science Alert “Japan Is Sending a Lander to a Martian Moon, And It’ll Be Back by 2030”.

Sending a mission to moons of Mars has been on the wish list for mission planners and space enthusiasts for quite some time. For the past few years, however, a team of Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) engineers and scientists have been working on putting such a mission together.

Now, JAXA announced this week that the Martian Moon eXploration (MMX) mission has been greenlighted to move forward, with the goal of launching an orbiter, lander — and possibly a rover — with sample return capability in 2024.

For the past three years, MMX has been in what JAXA calls a Pre-Project phase, which focuses on research and analysis for potential missions, such as simulating landings to improve spacecraft design. Now that the mission has been moved to the development phase, the focus will be on moving ahead with the development of mission hardware and software.

(16) TRAILER TIME. Dreamworks Animation dropped a trailer for Trolls World Tour. In theaters April 2020.

Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake return in an all-star sequel to DreamWorks Animation’s 2016 musical hit: Trolls World Tour. In an adventure that will take them well beyond what they’ve known before, Poppy (Kendrick) and Branch (Timberlake) discover that they are but one of six different Troll tribes scattered over six different lands and devoted to six different kinds of music: Funk, Country, Techno, Classical, Pop and Rock. Their world is about to get a lot bigger and a whole lot louder.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/18/19 Like A Pixel Lesnerized Upon A Table

(1) YA’S OWN STORY ARC. Slate’s “The Decade in Young Adult Fiction” is not specifically about sff, but a lot of the books they talk about (Twilight, The Hunger Games, etc.) are genre.

As a book publishing phenomenon, young adult literature entered the decade like a lion. At the beginning of the 2010s, a generation that had grown up obsessed with Harry Potter and other middle-grade fantasy series decided it wasn’t that interested in adult literary fiction, with its often lackadaisical plotting and downbeat endings. YA stood ready to supply them with plenty of action, cliffhangers, supernatural beings, mustache-twirling bad guys, and true love. But now, at decade’s end, YA seems to be eating itself alive….

…The impulse that led to these and other worthy enterprises, however, is vulnerable to being twisted to less salutary ends on platforms that foster cliques, vendettas, and self-righteous posturing. In the past two years, online networks of YA authors and readers—mostly female adults—have been convulsed with assorted scandals and controversies that have left many outside observers with the impression that “YA Twitter” is hopelessly “toxic.” Bloggers and Twitter pundits pilloried 2017’s The Black Witch, a debut young-adult fantasy novel by Laurie Forest, for its purported “racism.” That criticism proved unconvincing—even to teen readers, who made the book a success and reviewed it enthusiastically on Amazon—but few of those weighing in on the controversy bothered to point out instead how listlessly predictable The Black Witch is, with the usual high-born heroine confronting an unjust world while embroiled in the usual bad boy/good boy love triangle. It didn’t quite seem worthy of the energy adult readers devoted to fighting over it….

(2) ADD TO YOUR CINEMA TBR STACK. Leonard Maltin weighs in about a flock of books out this month: “New and Notable Film Books – December 2019”. Here are two of his comments:

THE SHOW WON’T GO ON: THE MOST SHOCKING, BIZARRE, AND HISTORIC DEATHS OF PERFORMERS ONSTAGE by Jeff Abraham and Burt Kearns (Chicago Review Press)

Abraham and Kearns surely aren’t the only show-biz aficionados who have harbored a keen interest in the stories of entertainers who actually died in front of an audience… but they’re the only ones who have had the gumption to research every urban legend surrounding this topic and separate fact from fiction.

RICK BAKER: METAMORPHOSIS by J.W. Rinzler; foreword by John Landis, preface by Peter Jackson, introduction by Rick Baker. (Cameron & Co.)

This massive two-volume tribute to seven-time Academy Award winner Rick Baker is a definitive study of his life and career in the world of makeup. Lavishly illustrated and beautifully produced in a slipcase edition, its quality and thoroughness justify its hefty price. Every page offers wonders and delights, including young Rick’s first correspondence with his hero, makeup genius Dick Smith, and his earliest experiments.

(3) EARLY RETURNS. NPR’s Glen Weldon finds that “‘The Rise Of Skywalker’ Makes For An Exciting, Exhaustive, Effortful Ending”.

The thing about the act of plate-spinning is: It’s not about the plates. Not really.

…If we happen to notice one plate starting to wobble, after all, the first thing we do is look away from it, to see if the plate-spinner sees it, too.

We want them to succeed. The whole cheesy novelty act is predicated on this. The sheer skill it takes to keep the plates from falling — the eye, the timing, the light touch — that’s what we’re drawn to, really. The work of the thing.

J.J. Abrams is spinning a great many plates in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the final chapter in the third and final trilogy of what we are now apparently supposed to call “The Skywalker Saga.” He’s not simply called upon to end the trilogy he began in 2015 with The Force Awakens, but the whole space-operatic, science-fiction-with-generous-helpings-of-fantasy, embrace-your-destiny, Joseph-Campbell, daddy-issues megillah. He has to land a Corellian light freighter that has been loaded down with everything that got kicked off in 1977…

He nails that 42-year-old recipe dutifully — effortfully, it must be said — but the flavoring’s off. The story doesn’t require him to toss in as many ingredients from earlier films in the saga as he does here, but he dumps them all (callbacks, references, echoes, events, characters) into the mix anyway. The result leaves you feeling not so much bloated — the film moves too quickly and is too much fun for that — but certainly overstuffed….

(4) TWO-MINUTE WARNING. And the Baby Yoda backlash follows right behind as Rolling Stone demands: “It’s Almost 2020, Why Hasn’t the Baby Yoda Meme Died?”.

The Mandalorian, as a whole, is an interesting litmus test of just how successful a giant entertainment conglomerate can be when it comes to wringing a piece of previously existing IP for all its worth. One might measure success in Disney+ views/subscriptions or award nominations — but, in 2019, maybe the measure is whether or not you can proffer up a bit of fan service and hope the Internet latches onto it, turns it into a meme and does all your best viral marketing for you, free of charge.

(5) ECONOMICS IN SPACE. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Nobel-prize winning economist, science fiction fan and 2009 Worldcon guest Paul Krugman unpacked the macroeconomic themes of The Expanse in his New York Times column on Wednesday. In specific, he highlights how the story of the Martian economy is a parable about the need for public spending during downturns: 

The emergence of high unemployment on Mars after demobilization and the end of terraforming makes it seem as if the real problem wasn’t technology, it was secular stagnation — a situation in which private spending is consistently too weak to employ the economy’s resources, except during unsustainable asset or debt bubbles.

(6) WE CAME, WE SAW, WE KICKED ITS ASS. Close to the occasion of Ghostbusters’ 35th anniversary, YouTuber and video essayist Ryan Hollinger has published a video analyzing the film’s full legacy and its effect on mainstream belief in the paranormal — “The Real Meaning of GHOSTBUSTERS… Apparently.”

(7) A BORROWER AND A LENDER BE. “Here Are The Most Popular NYC Library Books Of 2019, By Borough” presented by The Gothamist.

Number 1 Titles By Genre
(Manhattan, Staten Island & The Bronx, from the New York Public Library)

  • Classics: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Comics and Graphic Novels: Saga by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan
  • Fantasy: Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
  • Horror: The Shining by Stephen King
  • Mystery and Detective: The Chef by James Patterson
  • Romance: Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks
  • Science Fiction: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 18, 1913 Alfred Bester. He’s best remembered perhaps for The Demolished Man, which won the very first Hugo Award. I remember experiencing it as an audiobook — a very spooky affair!  The Stars My Destination is equally impressive with Foyle both likeable and unlikable at the same time. Psychoshop which Zelazny finished is in my library but has escaped reading so far. I’ve run across references to Golem100 but I’ve never seen a copy anywhere. Has anyone read It? (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 18, 1939 Michael Moorcock, 81. Summing up the career of Moorcock isn’t possible so I won’t. His Elric of Melniboné series is just plain awesome and I’m quite fond of the Dorian Hawkmoon series of novels as well.  Particular books that I’d like to note as enjoyable for me include The Metatemporal Detective collection and Mother London. 
  • Born December 18, 1941 Jack C. Haldeman II. He’d get Birthday Honors if only for On the Planet of Zombie Vampires, book five of the adventures of Bill the Galactic Hero, co-written with Harry Harrison. He’d also get these honors for chairing Disclave 10 through Disclave 17, and a Worldcon as well, Discon II. He was a prolific short story writer, penning at least seventy-five such tales, but alas none of these, nor his novels, are available in digital form. (Died 2002.) 
  • Born December 18, 1946 Steven Spielberg, 73. Are we counting Jaws as genre? I believe we are per an earlier discussion here. If so, that’s his first such followed immediately by Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Between 1981 and 1984, he put out Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Twilight Zone: The Movie and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Ok, so the quality of the last film wasn’t great…  He’d repeat that feat between ‘89 and ‘93 when he put out Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Hook (YEA!) which I both love, followed by Jurassic Park which I don’t. The Lost World: Jurassic Park followed, starting a string of so-so to piss poor films,  A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Minority Report, War of the Worlds and one decided stinker, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.   The BFG is simply wonderful. 
  • Born December 18, 1953 Jeff Kober, 66. Actor who’s been in myriad genre series and films including V, The Twilight Zone, Alien Nation, the Poltergeist series,the X-Files series, Tank Girl as one of the kangaroos naturally, Supernatural, Voyager, Star Enterprise, Kindred: The Embraced and The Walking Dead
  • Born December 18, 1954 J.M. Dillard, 65. Yes I know this is a pen name but I’m interested only in her Trek output tonight. She’s written at least fifteen tie-ins starting with Star Trek: Mindshadow in the mid-Eighties And her last seemingly being Star Trek: The Next Generation: Resistance in the late Oughts. She also wrote one of the many, many non-fiction works that came out on Trek, Star Trek: ‘Where No One Has Gone Before’: A History in Pictures, which was actually largely written by Roddenberry’s assistant on a work-for-hire contract as a another book that didn’t get published, a woman named Susan Sackett. Memory Alpha has the story here.
  • Born December 18, 1954 Ray Liotta, 65. We could just stop at him being Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams, don’t you think that’s an exemplary genre cred? Well I will.
  • Born December 18, 1968 Casper Van Dien, 51. Yes, Johnny Rico in that Starship Troopers. Not learning his lesson, he’d go on to film Starship Troopers 3: Marauder and the animated Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars. Do not go read the descriptions of these films! He’d also star as Tarzan in Tarzan and the Lost City, show up as Brom Van Brunt In Sleepy Hollow, be Captain Abraham Van Helsing In Dracula 3000, James K. Polk in, oh really Casper, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter sequels, Rumpelstiltskin In Avengers Grimm and Saber Raine In Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine. That’s a lot of really bad films. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio meets an Alien in a snowman.  

(10) UNRAVELING THE GRINCH’S DNA. CrimeReads investigates “How Dr. Seuss Gave Us One of the Most Complex, Socially Important Heist Stories Ever”. You need to go waaaay back….

…Geisel, though, had a long history of mixed feelings about Christmas. According to biographer Charles D. Cohen, as a student at Dartmouth College in the 1920s and a writer and cartoonist for the campus humor magazine the Jack-O-Lantern, Geisel lampooned the whole affair, specifically citing the greed and materialism he saw in the season in an essay called “Santy Claus be Hanged,” which was mostly about how Christmas mornings are ruined because no one receives the items they truly want. He bemoaned, “Sister wanted silk unmentionables and she gets burlap unpronouncibles. Brother wanted a case of scotch and he gets a case of goldfish.” A few years later, in 1930, he published a humorous essay suggesting that parents should combine Santa Claus, his reindeer, the Bogeyman, the Sand-Man, and the Stork into one home-invasive figure—simplifying the number of flying and/or magical creatures that kids would have to count on entering their homes. And then he drew many cartoons representing classic Christmas hallmarks in weird or comically unpleasant versions.

(11) WHO BLABBED? The Royal Aeronautical Society spills the beans about “The secret history of Santa interceptions”.

For the past 70 plus years, nations around the world have attempted to intercept a mysterious hypersonic, high-flying intruder from the North Pole and learn its aeronautical secrets. Our Lapland aerospace Correspondent CHRIS TINGLE reports on the secret effort to counter these annual airspace intrusions. 

(12) OLD TECH. Some Filers will have read Dava Sobel’s Longitude; the BBC describes a spinoff, “The invention that inspired a New York tradition”.

When the final hours of 2019 arrive, a million celebrants will crowd Times Square in New York. Elsewhere, an estimated billion more will tune in to watch the annual spectacle celebrated across the globe.

…But few will acknowledge the man who really deserves their praise, a deeply religious British Royal Navy officer named Robert Wauchope.

…Wauchope’s goal was to make shipping safer. In the early 19th Century, having the exact time was crucial knowledge for mariners. It was only by keeping a ship’s clock precisely calibrated that sailors could calculate their longitude and accurately travel across oceans.

His ball, first demonstrated in Portsmouth, England, in 1829, was a crude broadcast system, a way to relay time to anyone who could see the signal. Typically, at 12:55, a creaky piece of machinery would raise a large painted orb halfway to the top of a pole or flagstaff; at 12:58, it would proceed to the top; and precisely at 13:00, a worker would release it to drop down the pole.

“It is a clear signal,” said Andrew Jacob, a curator who operates the time ball at the Sydney Observatory in Australia. “It’s easy to see the sudden movement as it begins to drop.”

Before the time ball’s invention, a ship’s master would typically come ashore and physically visit an observatory to check his watch against an official clock. Then he would quite literally bring time back to the ship. Wauchope’s invention let sailors calibrate their shipboard timepiece, called a chronometer, without leaving their boat.

“We’re so used to time being here and available, and that wasn’t always the case,” said Emily Akkermans, who has the enviable title, Curator of Time, at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London. The museum and historic site houses the world’s oldest operating time ball, which since 1833 has dropped daily, barring blustery weather, war or mechanical breakdown.

(13) CHEOPS AHOY. The space-pharoahing probe is on the way: “Europe’s Cheops telescope launches to study far-off worlds”.

The European Cheops space telescope has launched to study planets outside our Solar System.

The observatory will follow up the discoveries of previous missions, endeavouring to reveal fresh insights on the nature of distant worlds: What are they made of? How did they form? And how have they changed through time?

The telescope was taken into orbit on a Russian Soyuz rocket that set off from French Guiana at 08:54 GMT.

The ride to 700km lasted 145 minutes.

Cheops (short for CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite) is a joint endeavour of 11 member states of the European Space Agency (Esa), with Switzerland in the lead.

What’s significant about this mission?

Some 4,500 planets have been discovered since the late 1990s using a variety of techniques. But there is a feeling now that the science has to move beyond just detection; beyond just counting planets. We need to profile the objects in a more sophisticated way. Do they have atmospheres and how thick are they? What kind of clouds? Do they possess oceans on their surface? Do they have rings and moons? Cheops ought to be able to address such questions just from looking for these tiny dips in light during a transit.

(14) GENTLEMEN, DON’T BE SEATED. BBC reports “Social media awash with scorn for ‘sloping toilet'”.

A toilet designed to slope downwards slightly, making it uncomfortable to sit on for more than a few minutes, has been pooh-poohed on social media.

The toilet design has an upper surface that slopes downwards at a 13-degree angle.

…The BBC spoke to Mr Gill about the toilet, which has been branded “StandardToilet”.

“It came from my personal experience where I stopped off at the motorway to go to the loo and realised there’s a huge queue,” he explained.

“I wondered what people were doing in there, some were coming out with their mobile phones.”

(15) MAKE UP YOUR OWN FACTS. Discover “The Incalculable Joy of Fermi Questions” at Math With Bad Drawings. Numerous examples in the post.

 … Since Fermi questions are so fun and useful, why aren’t they more widely taught? Why isn’t every middle school student doing one of these per week all year long?

I suspect a prosaic reason: they’re hard to grade fairly. Math education is accustomed to cut-and-dry answers. Fermi work is more like an essay, where there are many plausible answers, and reasoning trumps conclusions.

All the more reason to embrace them, I say!

(16) TRACING ANIMATION HISTORY. Alan Baumler recommends Daisy Yan Du’s Animated Encounters: Transnational Movements of Chinese Animation, 1940s–1970s (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2019) in “Princess Iron Fan and the origins of Asian animation”.

… One of the reasons the film is so famous is that Tezuka Osamu the “God of Manga”saw it in Japan as a kid and was profoundly influenced by it. In discussing his version of the Sun Wukong story he said

However, what really opened my eyes , impressed me deeply, and sparked my desire to create today was Princess Iron Fan, the first Chinese animated feature film., which premiered in Japan in 1942. (pg. 58)

… Du gives the background on inspiration for the film (Disney’s Snow White) , but most interestingly, for me at least, deals with how it ended up being shown in Japan and becoming, in some respects, the origin story of Asian animated film. It was the direct inspiration for Momotar?’s Sea Eagles (p.52), Japan’s first almost feature length animated film.

She also deals with what to make of Iron Fan, which was a big issue for the film at the time. It was made by the Wan brothers and a team of 250 artists starting on April 25, 1940. The film opened on Nov 19, 1941, in Shanghai. As you can see below, it was still running on Dec 8, 1941, when Japanese troops marched into the International Settlement and French Concession….

(17) BAD RAP. Who even thinks of stuff like this? “Thanos vs J Robert Oppenheimer” — Epic Rap Battles of History does.

[Thanks to Nina Shepardson, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Alan Baumler, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, JJ, N., John King Tarpinian, Darrah Chavey, John A Arkansawyer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 10/4/19 May The Pixel of Paradise Fly Up Your Scroll

(1) JUDGE DISMISSES MIGNOGNA SUIT. It’s over, unless there’s an appeal.

Sharon Grigsby’s commentary for the Dallas Morning News, “Anime voice actor Vic Mignogna loses big as judge drops final claims that Dallas-area studio and colleagues defamed him”, sums up:

…This sorry mess started in January, as Mignogna’s most recent film, Dragon Ball Super: Broly, soared to box office records. Its release also set off another round of allegations on social media about the 57-year-old actor’s aggressive kisses, hugs and unwanted sexual advances.

Mignogna repeatedly has denied all allegations of inappropriate actions, although he acknowledged in a June 26 deposition that people have commented negatively for years about his behavior.

As a columnist who writes regularly about these issues, I became interested in this case because of the voice actor’s decision to go on the offensive — digging in and fighting back against what he and his devoted fans have labeled lies, exaggerations and ploys for attention.

… The voice actor’s legal fight is apparently backed by a GoFundMe war chest, which has reached almost $250,000 since Minnesota lawyer Nick Rekieta opened it in February.

But even that large a sum may not cover all the plaintiff’s costs. Next up for the court is to sort out attorney’s fees — which could total up to half a million dollars given the multiple defendants and their legal representation — and mandatory sanctions.

Mignogna has provided the English-language voice for hundreds of animated shows, films and games created in Japan. He’s long been among the most popular actors at conventions across the nation that allow fans of the genre to meet their heroes.

His lawsuit named Funimation, voice actors Jamie Marchi and Monica Rial, and Rial’s fiancé, Ron Toye. The lawsuit painted the company and three individuals as a band of conspirators leading the charge to ruin Mignogna’s career. In response, those accused have maintained that the legal action is aimed at unjustly silencing them

Marchi, Rial and Toye were among the scores of anime talent and fans who, beginning early this year, tweeted critically about the actor’s behavior. Rial alleged that Mignogna grabbed her in a hotel room and forcibly kissed her without her consent at an anime convention in 2007. Marchi accused him of violently pulling her hair in a tense office encounter….

At Nerd & Tie, Trae Dorn’s “Vic Mignogna’s Case Against Monical Rial, Ronald Toye and Funimation Completely Dismissed” cut to the chase:

…the defendants challenged the suit under Texas’s Anti-SLAPP law (the TCPA), and a hearing was held on the matter about a month ago.

At that hearing, Judge John Chupp dismissed the case against Jamie Marchi entirely, along with most claims against the other defendants. A week and a half after that, Judge Chupp ordered both parties to attempt mediation to attempt to settle any remaining issues.

As that settlement resulted in an impasse, Judge Chupp has now issued his ruling on the TCPA motions. In it he has dismissed all remaining claims against the defendants under the TCPA. You can read the full dismissal here.

(2) “FORCEFUL” COOKWARE. How can we live without the ”Han Solo in Carbonite Signature Roaster”?

(3) LITIGATION RESOLVED. Brianna Wu announced in a public Facebook post today:

I’ve just been notified by my legal counsel that Alex Jones will be removing me from his defamation lawsuit.

My thanks to William Moran for representing me and getting this resolved. I look forward to focusing on my congressional campaign for the people of Massachusetts.

(4) MIND MELD. Nerds of a Feather’s Paul Weimer renews the popular feature originated at SF Signal: “The Hugo Initiative: Mind Meld: Favorite Best Novel Hugo Winner”.

What is your favorite winner of the Hugo award for best novel? Why?

Participants include Charlie Jane Anders, Casey Blair, Cheryl Morgan, Elizabeth Bear, Michael J. Martinez, Beth Cato, Marguerite Kenner, Sara Megibow, and Jaime Lee Moyer.

Marguerite Kenner picked this book —

My favorite best novel Hugo winner is from 1982 — ‘Downbelow Station‘ by C. J. Cherryh. I still own my first copy of it, a dog-eared, well-loved paperback. Captain Signy Mallory was the first ‘unlikable woman’ protagonist I remember resonating with, and I think I still know all the words to the filk song…

(5) QUESTION AUTHORITY. In “This is Not a Review of The Joker”  at Nerds of a Feather, Dean E.S. Richard dares to ask whether there was really any point to making the movie.

…In the first place, why do we need to know the origin of the Joker? For all his iterations through film, television and comics, what bearing does who he is and where he came from matter in the slightest? He is a villain for the sake of being a villain, which is a luxury most people writing fiction aren’t allowed, despite it being allowed in real life 2019. It works for the Joker precisely because he is The Joker – insane, given to sadistic whimsy, crafting ornate plans while simultaneously not having one at all. He works because he doesn’t have an origin. His adversary, Better Elon Musk, is all backstory. Rooted in his childhood trauma, he puts on a mask to keep it all out. Joker is what he is, unapologetically, always in pursuit of his mercurial goals, but doing what it takes to achieve them – Bats will give up his to protect a life, never willing to make the sacrifices truly needed.

In short, Joker works narratively because he is the perfect antagonist for Batman…

(6) THE JOKER’S ON US. Variety: “Box Office: ‘Joker’ Scores Record $13.3 Million on Thursday Night”.

Joaquin Phoenix’s “Joker” scored a record $13.3 million on Thursday night in North America.

The figure is above the $10 million in previews that was earned a year ago by “Venom,” which posted an $80 million opening weekend — both records for October. It’s the biggest preview number since “The Lion King” pulled in $23 million in July and portends a potential record opening. “Joker” has been forecast for a similarly massive debut in the $80 million to $95 million range from 4,374 North American theaters for Warner Bros.

[…] “Joker” premiered on Aug. 31 at the Venice Film Festival, where it won the Golden Lion, the festival’s highest prize. The pic polarized critics — while Phoenix’s performance has been lauded, the comic-book adaptation’s dark tone and handling of violence have generated a divisive response. “Joker” currently has a 69% score from critics on Rotten Tomatoes.

(7) DOESN’T LIKE IT ANYWAY. Nevertheless, NPR’s Glen Weldon finds that “‘Joker’ Is Wild … ly Dull”

In the comics and cartoons — and on film, as played by Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger and (checks notes) Jared Leto — the Joker, Batman’s archenemy, is an agent of chaos.

…One of the many things Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight got right about the character is that we only think we want to know who he is and where he came from. The Joker works best, most purely, when unencumbered by the humdrum of the everyday. His motivations must and should remain mysterious, unknowable.

Director Todd Phillips’ new film seeks to strip all mystery from the character and make his motivations very knowable. And in that much at least, he succeeds.

…Certainly, Joker is tense, grimy and claustrophobic, and Phoenix’s performance is a big swing, and a risky one — the kind of big, risky swing that Oscar voters historically eat up with a big ol’ spoon.

But the film so desperately strives to reject comic book trappings — so aches to be seen as edgy, provocative, serious, adult — that it simply apes the tone, style and content of other, better, edgier and more provocative films like Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy and Fight Club.

(8) MELODIOUS REFERENCES. Fanac.org has posted video of filksinger Julia Ecklar’s 1989 concert at Tropicon.

Julia Ecklar was the special filk guest at Tropicon 8, held in Dania, Florida, in 1989. This recording captures her concert at the convention, and includes 10 songs (of which Julia wrote four). The last song is beautifully signed by Linda Melnick. In the 1980s and early 1990s, Julia was a sought-after filk performer at science-fiction conventions worldwide. As a published author, her skill with words is very evident in the songs she writes. Filk songs are often strong on narrative, and you’ll notice that a number of these are about science fiction novels that were popular at the time. If you’ve read the books, the impact of the songs is increased, but they are enjoyable even if you haven’t. Can you identify the novels? Because Tropicon didn’t officially sponsor filk guests, the local community raised money to bring in one filk guest for each Tropicon. Concerts like this were held as a benefit for those who had donated.

(9) CARROLL OBIT. Famed TV actress Diahann Carroll died October 4 at the age of 84. The two genre roles in her resume were The Man in the Moon, a musical fantasy from 1960 which features Andy Williams as an actual Man in the Moon who visits Earth and meets up with an array of human talent, including Carroll as a singer, and The Star Wars Holiday Special where she played Mermeia Holographic Wow.

(10) ZASLOVE OBIT. Animator, producer and director Alan Zaslove has died at the age of 92. Animation Magazine paid tribute:

Zaslove began his career in 1942 as an “office boy” at Leon Schlesinger’s Studios, and then went on to work on many UPA shorts and series, including Gerald McBoing-Boing and Mr. Magoo. During the 1960s and ‘70s, he worked as an animator on TV and feature projects such as Popeye the Sailor, Fractured Fairy Tales, Roger Ramjet, The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo, The Gumby Show, A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Phantom Tollbooth, A Chipmunk Christmas, Tom Thumb, The Night Before Christmas and Stanley the Ugly Duckling.

…He was nominated for Emmys for his work on DuckTales, Smurfs, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, Darkwing Duck and the Aladdin TV series.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 4, 1972 Night of the Lepus starring Janet Leigh appeared on movie screens. This horror film is based upon the science fiction novel The Year of the Angry Rabbit by Russell Braddon. It scores 27% at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • October 4, 1985 — The Misfits Of Science series debuted. starring Dean Paul Martin and Courteney Cox, it would last just sixteen episodes before be canceled due to low ratings. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 4, 1860 Sidney Edward Paget. British illustrator of the Victorian era,  he’s definitely known for his illustrations that accompanied Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories in The Strand. He also illustrated Arthur Morrison’s Martin Hewitt, Investigator, a series of short stories featuring the protagonist, Martin Hewitt, and written down by his good friend, the journalist Brett. These came out after Holmes was killed off, like many similar series. (Died 1908.)
  • Born October 4, 1904 Earl Binder. Under the pen name of Eando Binder, he and his brother Otto published SF stories. One series was about a robot named Adam Link. The first such story, published in 1939, is titled “I, Robot”. A collection by Asimov called I, Robot would be published in 1950. The name was selected by the publisher, despite Asimov’s wishes. As Eando Binder, they wrote three SF novels — Enslaved Brains, Dawn to Dusk and Lords of Creation. There’s lots of Eando Binder available on iBooks and Kindle. (Died 1966.)
  • Born October 4, 1923 Charlton Heston. Without doubt, best known for playing astronaut George Taylor in the Planet of the Apes. He retuned to the role Beneath the Planet of the Apes. He’s also Neville in The Omega Man. By the way, once at the LA Music Center he played Sherlock Holmes in The Crucifer of Blood, opposite Richard Johnson as Dr. Watson. His IMDB credits show him as being on SeaQuest DSV in the “Abalon” episode. (Died 2008.)
  • Born October 4, 1928 Alvin Toffler. Author of Future Shock and a number of other works that almost no one will recall now. John Brunner named a most excellent novel, The Shockwave Rider, after the premise of Future Shock. (Died 2016.)
  • Born October 4, 1929 Scotty Beckett. He costarred on Rocky Jones, Space Ranger which ran for thirty- four episodes from February to November 1954, lasting only two seasons. Because it was recorded on film rather than being broadcast live, it has survived.  You can the first episode of the series here.
  • Born October 4, 1932 Ann Thwaite, 87. Author of AA Milne: His Life which won the Whitbread Biography of the Year, as well as The Brilliant Career of Winnie-the Pooh, a scrapbook offshoot of the Milne biography. (And yes, Pooh is genre.) In 2017 she updated her 1990 biography of A.A Milne to coincide with Goodbye Christopher Robin for which she was a consultant. 
  • Born October 4, 1941 Anne Rice, 78. She‘s best known for The Vampire Chronicles. Confession time: I’ve not read them. So how are they? Same goes for Lives of the Mayfair Witches series which I’ve been told is excellent. It’s just that she’s too damn popular and I really don’t do popular all that well. 
  • Born October 4, 1946 Susan Sarandon, 73. She make Birthday Honors just for being Janet Weiss in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but she’s also been in Enchanted as Queen Narissa, The Witches of Eastwick as Jane Spofford, The Lovely Bones as Grandma Lynn and The Hunger as Sarah Roberts. An impressive genre list indeed! 
  • Born October 4, 1956 Christoph Waltz, 63. He portrayed James Bond’s nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld in Spectre , he is set to reprise the role in No Time to Die. Genre wise, he also portrayed Qohen Leth in The Zero Theorem,Benjamin Chudnofsky in The Green Hornet (I lasted ten minutes before giving up), Cardinal Richelieu in The Three Musketeers, himself in Muppets Most Wanted, Léon Rom in The Legend of Tarzan and Dr. Dyson Ido in Alita: Battle Angel
  • Born October 4, 1975 Saladin Ahmed, 44. Hi Throne of the Crescent Moon was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel and did win the Locus Award for Best First Novel. He has also written in Kamala Khan (The Magnificent Ms. Marvel), Black Bolt, Exiles and the Miles Morales (Spider-Man) series, all on Marvel Comics. Oddly only his Marvel is available on iBooks and Kindle. 

(13) INSIDE STORY. Heather Rose Jones launched a new blog, explaining: “I’ve decided to start developing a FAQ for the Alpennia series, one question at a time.” First question: “Alpennia FAQ: Are the Alpennia books romances?”

I thought I’d post the individual questions+answers here in the blog first–which gives a chance to get more feedback–and then migrate them to their own page once the series is finished. If you have a general-interest question about the series that you think might not occur to me, let me know in the comments! Or if you want more details or further explanation on a topic.

(14) UNHIDDEN. John DeNardo shows us where to learn “Everything You Wanted to Know About Science Fiction’s Lost History (Almost)” at Kirkus Reviews. That would be from the book Lost Transmissions: The Secret History of Science Fiction and Fantasy by Desirina Boskovich.

… This treasure trove of secrets, presented in a generously illustrated hardbound volume, is like a gateway into science fiction’s inner sanctum. Though it may seem squarely aimed at science fiction fans, the fact that SF so pervades our culture makes it an attractive coffee table book for anyone. Everyone will find something to relate to here, whether it’s reading about a favorite author, like Philip K. Dick or Angela Carter; or about the rock band The Who and their never-fully-materialized concept album follow-up to Tommy called Lifehouse, set in a near future where reality is experienced through a worldwide network called The Grid. The topics are simply too attractive for even the casual science fiction fan to ignore…

(15) ROANHORSE EXCERPT. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog invites readers to “Rejoin General Leia and Poe Dameron in an Exclusive Excerpt from Star Wars: Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse”.

To celebrate the lead-up to Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, today we’re all about exploring the next major novel in the Star Wars Expanded Universe: Star Wars: Resistance Reborn, written by Hugo and Nebula-winner Rebecca Roanhorse.

Set in-between the shocking climax of The Last Jedi—which saw the Resistance against Kylo Ren and the ruthless First Order nearly collapse, costing the life of an iconic character—and the opening scenes of the new film, Resistance Reborn serves as “Episode 8.5” (VIII.V?) of the saga, introducing crucial new characters and setting the stage for the a climactic clash more than four decades in the making.

(16) PORTMAN’S LATEST. Leonard Maltin is not a big fan of this one: Lucy in the Sky: Earthbound”.

Lucy in the Sky is an ideal vehicle for Natalie Portman, cast as an astronaut who finds outer space thrilling and life back on earth somewhat less so. Affecting a Southern accent and sporting a short haircut, she creates a character who is thoroughly relatable, at first. We understand her exhilaration during a spacewalk and her dissatisfaction at home, despite the fact that she has a loving husband (Dan Stevens), a salty grandmother (Ellen Burstyn) and congenial colleagues. As it unfolds, however, the story takes this character to extremes.

(17) BY ANY OTHER NAME. Nina Shepardson reviews In the Shadow of Spindrift House by Mira Grant” at Outside of a Dog.

…Seanan McGuire uses the Mira Grant pen name to write stories with a somewhat darker tone, but Spindrift House shares one major commonality with some of her best work as McGuire. As in the Wayward Children series, the theme of “found family” plays a major role here. Harlowe and her friends understand each other’s quirks, help each other through difficulties both major and minor, and generally act as siblings to each other.

(18) ONE SMALL STEP. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] “Paralysed man moves in mind-reading exoskeleton” — We’re a long way from A Spectre Is Haunting Texas — but this is a step. Includes video of walking.

A man has been able to move all four of his paralysed limbs with a mind-controlled exoskeleton suit, French researchers report.

Thibault, 30, said taking his first steps in the suit felt like being the “first man on the Moon”.

His movements, particularly walking, are far from perfect and the robo-suit is being used only in the lab.

But researchers say the approach could one day improve patients’ quality of life.

(19) SUPER POO FLINGING. The Guardian passes along one expert’s opinion: “Martin Scorsese says Marvel movies are ‘not cinema'”.

Martin Scorsese, one of cinema’s most venerated current directors, has decried superhero movies – the dominant force in today’s industry. The director of films such as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas told Empire magazine that his attempts to get up to speed with contemporary superhero films had failed.

“I tried, you know?” the director said when asked if he had seen Marvel’s movies. “But that’s not cinema.”

(20) ANIME CHARACTER PROMOTES CONDOM USE. “In The Name Of The Moon: Free Sailor Moon Condoms Distributed By The Japanese Government Will Protect You From STDs And Pregnancy!”ScienceFiction.com has the story.

In the name of the moon, I will protect you… from unwanted pregnancy and STDs!  Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has partnered with Naoko Takeuchi to distribute free Sailor Moon condoms!  These condoms, which come in cute heart-shaped wrappers, will be distributed for free at STD/STI prevention events throughout October.  The first takes place tomorrow, October 5 in Fukuoka, with another taking place in Hiroshima, on Monday, October 14 in Hiroshima.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Todd Mason, Olav Rokne, Martin Morse Wooster, Eric Franklin, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, StephenfromOttawa, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Joel Zakem.]

Pixel Scroll 7/26/19 Scroll-Fly Pie And Pixel-Pan Dowdy

(1) MARY SUE ORIGIN STORY. [Item by Jerry Kaufman.] This recent article from the London Review of Books is about fandom, or fandoms as the case may be, the woman who identified the “Mary Sue”, and her recent writing. (I am the real Jerry Kaufman – accept no other) – “On Sophie Collins”. (Registration required to read full article.)

A ‘Mary Sue’ is an implausibly skilful, attractive or successful protagonist who seems to be a stand-in for the author, especially in fanfiction. The term comes from Paula Smith’s parodic story ‘A Trekkie’s Tale’ (1973), originally published in a mimeographed journal for Star Trek fans. In mocking ‘Mary Sue’, Smith was not attacking fanfiction but trying to bolster its literary quality against fans who used it naively for wish fulfilment. Most of these fans were (like Smith) female. As the term, and the critique, became more common, some fans, and some feminist critics, pushed back. They saw fan communities, and the defiantly unprofessional cultural production that emerged from them, as a kind of safe space, where the rules imposed by a patriarchal outside world about what one can say, and who one can be, could be ignored.

(2) ON THE STREET WHERE YOU LIVE. “City Council Votes to Name Bronx Street ‘Stan Lee Way’ in Honor of Comic Book Genius, Spider-Man Creator” — New York TV station NBC-4 has the story.

Council Member Fernando Cabrera’s proposal aims to honor Stan Lee’s Bronx roots by co-naming a section of University Avenue between Brandt Place and West 176th Street after the comic book genius.

The city council voted Tuesday to approve the proposal.

… “Stan Lee was a Bronx native who grew up in my district,” said Cabrera. “Stan Lee was a creative genius who co-created iconic super heroes including Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Hulk, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Black Panther and more. Mr. Lee’s amazing talent brought joy and entertainment to countless children and adults and he deserves to be permanently memorialized in his home borough, the Bronx.”

(3) BUILDING A STORY WITH MAGIC. Juliette Wade’s new Dive Into Worldbuilding introduces readers to “Julie Czerneda and The Gossamer Mage. View the video interview, and/or read the summary notes at the link. 

…I asked her where the idea for the book started, and she said it started with a pen – and proceeded to show us the pen in question! She brought a lot of cool props to show us, so I encourage you all to check out the video if you’re curious about them.

One of the things that Julie explored while writing this was the history of ink. Battles were fought over areas of the world that provided good ink ingredients, and pirates stole ink as well as other things.

I’ve always found constrained magic systems very interesting, so I asked her to tell us about the magic system she used in The Gossamer Mage. Julie said she agreed with me that she liked constrained systems. She said she liked it when everyone knows how to use the magic, but wait, it’s not so simple. This particular magic system is constrained in part because it requires writing, which means it requires a particular type of scholarship. You have to be able to write words that are not human words, and to intend them. Further, this magic can only be done in the one place in the world where magic remains. One important ingredient here is that magic used to be in more of the world, but is no longer present except in one region, ringed with mountains.

Thus, magic is constrained physically, and it is constrained to scholars….

(4) BOOK MAKER. Shelf Awareness does a Q&A with Babylon-5 creator, who recently published his autobiography Becoming Superman: “Reading with… J. Michael Straczynski”.

On your nightstand now: 

Rereading A Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I believe that an appreciation of poetry is essential for any writer in any field. That economy of language reminds you of the importance of choosing exactly the right word, not the word next to the right one on the shelf. On a conceptual level, I admire Ferlinghetti’s writing which comes at you from a right angle with a huge impact, so I reread his work every couple of years to keep my brain flexible.

(5) HE WHO OVERCOMES. Then, Cory Doctorow does an epic review of “J Michael Straczynski’s “Becoming Superman”: a memoir of horrific abuse, war crimes, perseverance, trauma, triumph and doing what’s right” at BoingBoing.

And so, drip by drip, crumb by crumb, inch by inch, Straczynski manages to become a writer, and it turns out that not only can he write to deadline, he’s really good at it. Even projects that seem silly or trivial on their face, like writing for He-Man or The Real Ghostbusters, are treated with such intense seriousness that they just kill.

But this being Hollywood, where, famously, nobody knows anything, every success that Straczynski ekes out is eventually scuttled by venality, cowardice, grift, or all three, as greedy execs and bullshit-slinging consultants demand that he compromise on what he knows is right. And Straczynski being Straczynski — being the survivor of a campaign of terror visited upon him by a literal Nazi — refuses to back down, because despite the mountain of shit he’s climbed to get where he is, the prospect of falling down to the bottom is incapable of scaring him beyond his threshold of tolerability.

And, remarkably, despite industry concentration and a thousand variations of “you’ll never work in this town again,” Straczynski continues to work. His story is a beautiful parable about how luck is made: the way it’s told, it seems like Straczynski has a horseshoe up his ass, with opportunities dropping appearing over the horizon just a little faster than the burn-rate of the bridges he’s torched behind him, but when you look a little closer, you realize that the most improbable thing here isn’t the opportunities, but rather Straczynski’s relentless, singleminded determination to seize them, writing (for example) entire seasons of his TV shows when the studios’ dumb mistakes leave them shorthanded.

(6) REVOLUTIONARY DATA. Can you imagine Brent Spiner playing John Adams in 1776? There’s a concept. He’s the guest on the latest Maltin on Movies podcast.

Forever to be remembered as Lt. Commander Data on Star Trek: the Next Generation and other treks to follow, Brent Spiner is a versatile actor and performer with notable Broadway credits—and two fervent fans in Leonard and Jessie, who saw him play John Adams in a masterful revival of 1776. He’s happy to discuss all facets of his career, from musical theater to his memorable role in Independence Day. Even longtime fans may learn things they didn’t already know about Brent in this delightful chat.

(7) THIS IS COOL. The earth seen from outer space —  here is a visualization of how Planet’s satellites assemble swatches of remote sensing tiles to complete a global observation in 24 hours:

In four years, Planet has flown on 18 successful launches and deployed 293 satellites successfully into low Earth orbit. With more than 150 satellites currently in orbit, Planet has the largest constellation of Earth imaging satellites in history.

As you may notice, the satellites are not always taking photos (or sending / “beaming” the data down to Earth). Parts of the landmass can also be missing due to complete cloud cover that day. See the Amazon, Central Africa, or Northern Australia for example.

A companion piece reveals more about the satellites themselves; the “doves”, “RapidEyes”, and “SkySats”. Explaining their sizes, the numbers out there already and the types of images they capture. Check out the story here!

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 26, 1883 Edwin Balmer. Together with author Philip Wylie, he penned When Worlds Collide and After Worlds Collide. The first was made into the 1951 movie by George Pal. He also wrote several detective novels and collaborated with William MacHarg on The Achievements of Luther Trant, an early collection of detective short stories. The latter are not genre, despite being listed as ISFDB as I’ve read them. (Died 1959.)
  • Born July 26, 1894 Aldous Huxley. Brave New World is fascinating. I knew I had it assigned and sort of discussed in a High School class and at least one Uni class decades ago. So what else is genre by him and worth reading? (Died 1963.)
  • Born July 26, 1919 James Lovelock, 99. Just shy of a century now in life, the Gaia theorist wrote a genre novel with Michael Allaby, The Greening of Mars, of the transformation of the red planet into a green one.  His newest work, Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence, thinks that hyperintelligent machines are coming into being by our own hand and that we better be prepared for their arrival. 
  • Born July 26, 1928 Stanley Kubrick. I’m reasonably sure 2001: A Space Odyssey was the first film I saw by him but Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was the one that impressed me the most. A Clockwork Orange was just damn depressing. And I’m not a horror fan as such so I never saw The ShiningBarry Lyndon is great but it’s not genre by any means. (Died 1999.)
  • Born July 26, 1945 M. John Harrison, 74. TheViriconium sequence, I hesitate to call it a series, starting with The Pastel City, is some of the most elegant fantasy I’ve read. And I see he’s a SJW as he’s written the Tag, the Cat series which I need to take a look at. He’s not published deep in digital form at this time.
  • Born July 26, 1945 Helen Mirren, 74. She first graces our presences as Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She next shows up in a genre role as Alice Rage in The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, Peter Sellers’ last film. She’s an ever so delicious Morgana in Excalibur and then leaps into the future as Tanya Kirbuk in 2010: The Year We Make Contact. She voices the evil lead role in The Snow Queen, and likewise is Deep Thought in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • Born July 26, 1957 Nana Visitor,62. Kira Nerys on Deep Space Nine which for my money is the best of the Trek series to date. After DS9 ended, Visitor had a recurring role as villain Dr. Elizabeth Renfro on Dark Angel. In 1987, Visitor appeared as Ellen Dolan in a never developed series pilot for Will Eisner’s The Spirit with Sam J. Jones as The Spirit.
  • Born July 26, 1971 Mary Anne Mohanraj, 48. Writer and editor. Founder of Strange Horizons, a genre fiction magazine. She has one genre novel, The Stars That Change, and two stories published in the Wild Cards Universe, “Low Chicago” and “Ties That Bind”. She also an anthology, Without A Map, co-edited with Nnedi Okorafor.
  • Born July 26, 1978 Eve Myles, 41. She’s a a Welsh actress from Ystradgynlais, convenient as she played Gwen Cooper on Torchwood which was set in and shot in Cardiff. She previously played the servant girl Gwyneth in the Doctor Who episode “The Unquiet Dead” during the Ninth Doctor’s time. She and the full Torchwood cast did an an BBC 4 Radio Play called  Golden Age in which they time travelled back to Imperial India. Highly recommended. 

(9) THE BOYS. According to NPR’s Glen Weldon, “Superhero Satire ‘The Boys’ Doesn’t Have Much New To Say, But Says It Loudly”.

…Amazon’s new 8-episode series The Boys – about a team of non-powered mercenaries determined to take down the world’s premier team of evil, corrupt, soulless-corporate-shill superheroes – chooses to play in a sandbox that’s seen its share of use. A sandbox that’s been sitting out in the sun and rain and wind for decades, filling up with cigarette butts and cat poop and old toys left by previous storytellers, who’ve hit precisely the same themes.

This is even more true today than it was in 2006, when the comics series The Boys, by writer Garth Ennis and artist Darick Robertson – from which the Amazon show has been adapted, freely – first debuted.

…What The Boys was, at the time — especially if you’d been reading comics for years — was tiresome, more than anything else: Really? We’re still doing … this?

I’m happy to report that the Amazon series improves on its source material. It does so by taking the comics’ lazy inciting incident – the accidental death-by-superhero of the girlfriend of its main character Hughie (Jack Quaid) – and treating it as something more than solely a plot trigger. The series gives Hughie time to absorb, to grieve, to soak in the brutal incident so – even though it is depicted, lovingly, in garish slow-motion – it becomes something more than another nihilistic gag.

That’s a hallmark of the show, as it turns out. Where the comic was content to steer headlong into bloody spectacle and smugly snicker, the show serves up the spectacle (on a budget) and then … takes the time to inspect it, examine it, unpack it. To legitimately honor it, in other words. In its way.

(10) NEW TENANT IN THE WHITE HOUSE. Zombieland: Double Tap comes to theaters October 18.

A decade after Zombieland became a hit film and a cult classic, the lead cast (Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, and Emma Stone) have reunited with director Ruben Fleischer (Venom) and the original writers Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick (Deadpool) for Zombieland 2: Double Tap. In the sequel, written by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick and Dave Callaham, through comic mayhem that stretches from the White House and through the heartland, these four slayers must face off against the many new kinds of zombies that have evolved since the first movie, as well as some new human survivors. But most of all, they have to face the growing pains of their own snarky, makeshift family.

(11) CHANNELING TRADER JOE. Fast Company appreciates why “The Trader Joe’s YouTube channel is unexpectedly amazing—and very weird”.

Although wackiness levels vary from video to video, the run times are all wisely kept brief. The only things that run longer than the time it takes to decide between regular avocados and organic ones are the cooking tutorials. Everything else—including charm-infused shorts like Christmas in Germany, produced by Condé Nast Traveler, which mixes traditional animation with stop-motion footage of Pfeffernüsse cookies and other German delicacies—runs at around the one-minute mark, making for a thoroughly undemanding watch.

This one’s very stfnal –

While this one’s just plain funky –

(12) NASFIC/WESTERCON IN UTAH. Rodford Edmiston has posted an album of photos from Spikecon at Flickr. Whether intentionally or not, the photographer showed a genius for standing at the back of a hall in which the only people were in the front row and on the platform.

(13) REUBEN AWARD. Stephan Pastis won the 2018 Reuben Award for Cartoonist of the Year given by the National Cartoonists Society. The award was announced during the NCS Annual Reuben Awards Weekend in May.

STEPHAN PASTIS is the creator of the daily comic strip Pearls Before Swine, syndicated by Andrews McMeel Syndication. Stephan practiced law in the San Fransisco Bay area before following his love of cartooning and eventually seeing syndication with Pearls, which was launched in newspapers beginning December 31, 2001. The National Cartoonists Society awarded Pearls Before Swine the Best Newspaper Comic Strip in 2003 and in 2006. Stephan is also the author of the children’s book series Timmy Failure. Stephan lives in northern California with his wife Staci and their two children.

(14) CHERNOBYL. BBC digs into “The true toll of the Chernobyl disaster” in a long meaty article. Here is a brief excerpt:

Covered up by a secretive Soviet Union at the time, the true number of deaths and illnesses caused by the nuclear accident are only now becoming clear.

Springtime was always the busiest time of year for the women working at the wool processing plant in Chernihiv, northern Ukraine. More than 21,000 tons of wool passed through the factory from farms all across the country during the annual sheep shearing period. The April and May of 1986 were no exception.

The workers pulled 12-hour shifts as they sorted the piles of raw fleece by hand before they were washed and baled. But then the women started getting sick.

Some suffered nosebleeds, others complained of dizziness and nausea. When the authorities were called to investigate, they found radiation levels in the factory of up to 180mSv/hr. Anyone exposed at these levels would exceed the total annual dose considered to be safe in many parts of the world today in less than a minute.

Fifty miles away was the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. On 26 April 1986 reactor number four at the power plant suffered a catastrophic explosion that exposed the core and threw clouds of radioactive material over the surrounding area as a fire burned uncontrollably.

But Chernihiv was regarded to be well outside the exclusion zone that was hastily thrown up around the stricken plant and readings elsewhere in the town had shown it to have comparatively low levels of radiation.

(15) HAUER’S MASTERPIECE. Bilge Ebiri explains why “Even Now, Rutger Hauer’s Performance in ‘Blade Runner’ Is a Marvel” in the New York Times.

…Had Hauer played Batty as another stone-faced Eurobaddie, “Blade Runner” itself might have been a more comfortably classifiable genre effort, the kind of movie that many viewers expected in 1982, the kind that promised to pit Ford, the star so familiar to us as Han Solo and Indiana Jones, against a new kind of futuristic nemesis. Instead, audiences were thrown off by the knotty neo-noir that Scott and the screenwriters Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples delivered, the film flopped, and a cult masterpiece was born.

Look no further than Batty’s extended final battle with Deckard to see both the evidence of the movie’s idiosyncratic tone and how Hauer’s remarkable performance enhances it, practically deconstructing the simple plot before our eyes. The replicant chases the beleaguered, frightened Deckard around an abandoned building, toying with the cop and playing singsong children’s games. But there’s still a catch in Batty’s words, slight pauses scattered in unusual places. Seeing that Deckard has killed his replicant lover, Pris (Daryl Hannah), Batty offers, “I thought you were good. Aren’t you the … good man?” The awkwardness of the words, combined with the pause before “good man” seems to question the film’s very moral universe…

(16) X MARKS THE PLOT. ScreenRant fires up another Pitch Meeting – this one for Dark Phoenix.

The X-Men franchise has been running for nearly two decades, and it all culminates with Dark Phoenix, a storyline that the movies already covered in 2006. Once again, Jean Grey goes absolutely bonkers with power, but this time Wolverine isn’t around to stab her. The movie has a pretty awful score on Rotten Tomatoes and definitely raises a lot of questions. Like what’s the deal with the aliens, are they bulletproof or not? Why was Quicksilver dismissed from the movie so quickly? What was up with that Phoenix moment in X-Men Apocalypse? Why do these movies keep jumping forward a decade each time? Is Magneto supposed to be 62 years old, and if so, why is a 42-year-old with no make-up playing him? Why did they show Mystique dying in the trailer?

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

Pixel Scroll 6/7/19 Saturday Night’s All Right For Scrolling, Get A Little Pixel In

(1) AWARDS AT AUSSIE NATCON. Opening night at Continuum 15, the Australian National Convention, saw Lucy Sussex and Julian Warner win a special prize for their services to the Nova Mob and Melbourne fandom generally. The committee also presented Bruce R. Gillespie with the Eternity Award for his long-time fannish achievements. (Still looking for a photo of the latter.)

(2) PRIDE OF 2018. Rocket Stack Rank assembled its annual “Outstanding LGBT Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2018 article”.

June is Pride Month, and here are 56 outstanding short stories with LGBT characters from 2018 that were finalists for major SF/F awards (9), included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies (5), or recommended by prolific reviewers. 37 are free online!

This list could be useful for making nominations for the 2019 Gaylactic Spectrum Awards for Best Short Fiction (published in 2010-2018). Anyone can nominate through June 30, 2019. Stories from 2018 are below.

(3) BY THE TIME I GET TO PHOENIX. NPR’s Glen Weldon reports that “‘Dark Phoenix’ Channels The Cosmic Power Of The Comics, Avoids Going Down In Flames”:

Thanks to a sure(ish) grip on Marvel’s mutants-as-metaphor approach to storytelling, the film brings a classic comics storyline to life. Sure, it’s melodramatic — but that’s the X-Men for you.

…Characters turn against one another in ways that the comics had ample time to lay plenty of track for, but that the film can’t and doesn’t. The dialogue is clunky, and at times it turns so deeply purple you expect it to break into “Smoke on the Water” — but hey, it’s X-Men. The closest thing we get to a joke is a scene in which McAvoy gets to call up the surprising smarminess he brought to the Xavier character in First Class, as he soaks up the adulation of a grateful nation at an event in the White House.

(4) FANHISTORY REMEMBERED. Usually when this happens it’s a hoax convention bid that decides it’s serious after all, however, Femizine was a fanzine created under a pseudonym that took on a serious life of its own. Now featuring on Rob Hansen’s UK fanhistory site THEN:

‘Joan Carr’ did not exist. She was created as a hoax to be played primarily on the Nor’west Science Fantasy Club (NSFC), who then met regularly in Manchester. Hiding behind that pseudonym was a man – H. P. ‘Sandy’ Sanderson. Though initially edited by him, FEMIZINE soon developed a life of its own, becoming a rallying point for female fans in the UK during the 1950s. This was the decade in which women first really began to assert themselves in the hitherto male-dominated SF fandom of these isles. In this context FEMIZINE is a fanzine that is both historically and culturally significant. FEMIZINE ran from 1954 to 1960 and saw fifteen issues in all, plus mini versions bound into a couple of combozines.

Note: As with most fanzines that are many decades old you will occasionally encounter words and attitudes that would be unacceptable today. Decades from now similar warnings may well be considered necessary for today’s fanzines as social attitudes continue to evolve.

Rob Hansen has two issues already scanned in and adds, “We are hoping to upload one issue per week.” He’s also assembled a contemporary photo gallery of many of those who contributed to ‘FEZ’.

(5) TALKING ABOUT TOLKIEN MOVIE. All About Jack: A C.S. Lewis Podcast hosted a “Discussion of Tolkien Biopic ([Diana]Glyer and [Brenton] Dickieson)”.

In May 2019 a biopic on J.R.R. Tolkien, simply entitled Tolkien was released. While there has been no shortage of opinions on the film, I wanted to add some thoughts on it for those who follow this podcast. Two guests join me to share a hopeful perspective about the movie while acknowledging its shortcomings. They are Dr. Diana Glyer, a respected scholar on Tolkien and Lewis, and Brenton Dickieson who is a Lewis scholar nearing his completion of Ph.D. studies on Lewis.

(6) THREE DEGREES OF RAY BRADBURY. The Zoot Suit Riots led to Edward James Olmos playing the lead in the play, Zoot Suit.  Edward James Olmos played Vamanos in Ray’s play and movie of the same name, The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit. Edward James Olmos has said his first paid acting job was in Ray’s first stage production, in Chicago. “The Zoot Suit Riots Happened This Week, 76 Years Ago. Here’s A Look Back At The Fashion Statement That Sparked A Racist Mob” at LAist.

(7) WHEN I’M IN ’64. At Galactic Journey, Kaye Dee reports on the test flight of Australia’s satellite launcher: [June 6, 1964] Going Up from Down Under (The launch of the Blue Streak rocket)

…At least yesterday’s first test launch of the Blue Streak was a success. Although there was a problem with sloshing of the propellant as the fuel tanks emptied which caused the rocket to roll about quite a bit in the last few seconds of its flight and to land short of its intended target zone, the instrumentation along the flight corridor acquired a huge amount of useful information about the rockets performance. I was so thrilled with the news of the Blue Streak flight that I even phoned my former supervisor Mary Whitehead last night to hear more about it (and I’m going to have to give my sister the money for that long-distance trunk call, which I’m sure will be expensive).

Mary was at the Range for the launch and she told me that the rocket looked spectacular as it rose up into the blue sky out of its cloud of orange exhaust. She’s especially proud of the fact that the zigzag pattern you can see on the Blue Streak was her idea. It enables the tracking cameras to make very accurate measurements as the rocket rolls after leaving the launchpad. Using the pattern, the cameras can easily measure if, and how far, the rocket rolls depending on where that diagonal was relative to the top and bottom stripes. I know she’s looking forward to seeing how well this worked.

I’m looking forward to the next test flight, and Australia’s further involvement in the Space Age!

(8) MORE HISTORIC HUGO STATS. Kevin Standlee announced “Hugo History Updates Posted” at The Hugo Awards.

We have now added the Full Nominating and Voting Statistics historical data for the 1943 Retro Hugo Awards (awarded in 2018), 1946 Retro Hugo Awards (awarded in 1996), and 1954 Retro Hugo Awards (awarded in 2004).

We continue to update historical data for past Hugo Awards as data becomes available to us. If you have historical Hugo Award data (such as nominating and voting statistics) that are not shown on the page for that year’s Awards, please contact us so we can add it.

(9) HAPPY BIRTHDAY TETRIS. NPR lights the candles: “Happy Birthday, Tetris. 35 Years Later You’re As Addictive And Tetromino-y As Ever”. Chip Hitchcock notes, “I remember when the mantra for Noreascon 2 concom was “Just Say No to Tetris”.

Thirty-five years ago in Moscow, working on what he says was “an ugly Russian” computer that was frankensteined together with spare parts, Alexey Pajitnov started a side project that has become the second-best-selling video game of all time: Tetris.

…Two years later, in 1986, it became the first computer game from the Soviet Union to be released in the West, Engadget reports. Since then it has sold more than 170 million copies around the world, adapting to a vast array of consoles and platforms over the years. In other words, it was and continues to be a commercial juggernaut that has touched lives of hundreds of millions of players.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 7, 1909 Jessica Tandy. Though her genre career came late in life, her films were certainly some of the most charming made —  CocoonBatteries Not Included for which she won a Saturn Award for Best Actress and Cocoon: The Return. Both of the Cocoon films saw her nominated for the same Award. Well one film isn’t charming — Still of the Night is a psychological horror thriller. (Died 1994.)
  • Born June 7, 1932 Kit Reed. Her first short story, “The Wait” (1958), was published by Anthony Boucher in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. She would write more stories than I care to count over her career for which she was nominated for the James Tiptree Jr. Award three times. I’m not at all familiar with her novels, so do tell me about them please. Amazon has very little by her, but iBooks has a generous amount of her fiction available. (Died 2017.)
  • Born June 7, 1944 Mildred Downey Broxon, 75. Author of three novels and some short stories, heavy on Nordic-German mythology.  The Demon of Scattery was co-written with Poul Anderson. There are no digital books available for her and her printed editions are out of print now. I see no sign that her short fiction has been collected into a volume to date.
  • Born June 7, 1952 Liam Neeson, 67. He first shows up in genre films as Gawain in Excalibur and as Kegan in Krull. He plays Martin Brogan In High Spirits, a film I enjoy immensely. Next up is the title role in Darkman, a film I’ve watched myriad times. He’s Dr. David Marrow in The Haunting which I’d contend is loosely off of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Now we get him as Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace. Followed unfortunately by his horrid take as Ra’s al Ghul in Batman Begins and as a cameo in the The Dark Knight Rises. Now he voiced Aslan with amazing dignity in The Chronicles of Narnia franchise and I hope voiced Zeus as well in the Titans franchise. 
  • Born June 7, 1954 Louise Erdrich, 65. Writer of novels, poetry, and children’s books featuring Native American characters and settings. She is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. Her genre work includes according to ISFDB the Ojibwe series of The Antelope Wife which won a World Fantasy Award and The Painted Drum, plus stand-alone novels of The Crown of Columbus (co-written with her husband Michael Dorris) and Future Home of the Living God.
  • Born June 7, 1954 Anthony Simcoe, 50. Ka D’Argo in  Farscape, one of the best SF series ever done. If you don’t watch anything else, just watch the finale, The Peacekeeper Wars as it’s fairly self contained. Farscape is the SF he did. If you can find a copy, Matt Bacon’s No Strings Attached: The Inside Story of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop is a wonderful look at the creation of the creatures on the show including D’Argo facial appendages. 
  • Born June 7, 1972 Karl Urban, 47. He’s in the second and third installments of The Lord of the Rings trilogy as Éomer. He has was McCoy in the Trek reboot franchise, Cupid on Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, John Kennex on Almost Human, Vaako in the Riddick film franchise, and Judge Dredd in Dredd. For the record, I liked  both Dredd films.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Half Full illustrates more benefits of printed books.

(12) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman hopes you will “Bite into what USA Today dubbed the best burger in Michigan with award-winning horror writer John R. Little” and listen to his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

[Lunch was] with John R. Little at The Cottage Bar & Restaurant, a local institution which has been around since 1927.

USA Today says they serve the best burger in Michigan. But what did John and I think of it? Well, for that, you’ll have to give this episode a listen.

John’s a four-time finalist for the Bram Stoker Award, starting back with his first novel, The Memory Tree, in 2008. He won the following year in the category of Long Fiction for “Miranda,” for which he also won a Black Quill Award. His short fiction has been published in Cavalier (his first, in 1983), Twilight Zone, Weird Tales, Dark Discoveries, and other magazines, plus anthologies such as You, Human and Haunted Nights. His most recent novel is The Murder of Jesus Christ.

We discussed how seeing his sister’s portable typewriter for the first time changed his life forever, the way he launched his career by following in Stephen King’s men’s magazine footsteps, why he’s so fascinated by time and how he manages to come up with new ways of writing about that concept, which writer’s career he wanted when he grew up and how buying a copy of Carrie changed that, the reason a science major has ended up mostly writing horror, the most important thing he learned from a night school’s creative writing course, which of his new novel’s controversial aspects concerned him the most during creation, and much more.

(13) TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME. Cut4 has photos — “The Pirates represented nearly every comic/superhero universe with their road trip costumes”.

The mash-up provided by the Pirates as they headed to the airport for a road trip on Thursday afternoon is one of the biggest convergences of realms and universes we’ve seen in a long time — maybe ever. Here’s a preview, featuring the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Batman and Robin, Wolverine (in and out of costume) and … Jesus:

(14) BUGS, MISTER RICO! “Spotted: A Swarm Of Ladybugs So Huge, It Showed Up On National Weather Service Radar”NPR has the story.

“It was very strange because it was a relatively clear day and we weren’t really expecting any rain or thunderstorms,” Casey Oswant, a NWS meteorologist in San Diego, tells NPR. “But on our radar, we were seeing something that indicated there was something out there.”

So the meteorologists called a weather spotter in Wrightwood, Calif., near the blob’s location in San Bernardino County. Oswant says the spotter told them the mysterious cloud was actually a giant swarm of ladybugs.

The phenomenon is known as a ladybug “bloom,” and while this one appears particularly large, Oswant says it’s not the first time local meteorologists have spotted the beetles.

(15) WE KNEW THAT. BBC reports “Ultimate limit of human endurance found”. Wait, they didn’t already discover this when Freff stayed awake through nearly the entire 1972 Worldcon?

The ultimate limit of human endurance has been worked out by scientists analysing a 3,000 mile run, the Tour de France and other elite events.

They showed the cap was 2.5 times the body’s resting metabolic rate, or 4,000 calories a day for an average person.

Anything higher than that was not sustainable in the long term.

The research, by Duke University, also showed pregnant women were endurance specialists, living at nearly the limit of what the human body can cope with.

(16) …AND A PONY! Sounds like lovely work — “Prehistoric stone engraved with horses found in France”.

A stone believed to be about 12,000 years old and engraved with what appears to be a horse and other animals has been discovered in France.

The prehistoric find by archaeologists excavating a site in the south-western Angoulême district, north of Bordeaux, has been described as “exceptional”.

…According to the institute, the most visible engraving is that of a headless horse, which covers at least half of the stone’s surface on one side.

“Legs and hooves are very realistic,” Inrap said on its website (in French), adding: “Two other animals, smaller, are also slightly incised.”

(17) DERN MOMENTS. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Ted Chiang’s Exhalations collection. Not done reading it yet; they’re rich enough (or whatever the term is when it’s not denseness of prose but something else that, well, I can’t think of the right term for) that I’m finding I’d druther not read more than 0.5 – 1.5 per “session.”

Michael Swanwick’s The Iron Dragon’s Mother. Both via my public library. I don’t know if that makes these “Dern moments.” The library’s mobile app means that as soon as I learn about, or think of, a given book, e.g., reading about it in a scroll, or seeing it listed in Locus, etc., I can do a quick reserve. (If it’s sufficiently advanced news, and not yet in their system even as an “ordered but not yet here” I’ll suggest it as a purchase.)

(18) TWIN PLANETS. After President Trump shared his amazing understanding of the structure of the Solar System —

 — Camestros Felapton ran wild making animated graphics:

(19) FAN ART COMMANDS BIG TICKET PRICE. The owner is asking C$4,189.49 on eBay for Vaughn Bodé’s original drawing published as the cover of Ontario Science Fiction Club #2 in June 1968 – which makes it one of the items that appeared in the eligibility year before Bodé won the Best Fan Artist Hugo in 1969.

(20) A ROOM WITH A VIEW. They’ll leave the light on: “Nasa to open International Space Station to tourists”.

Nasa is to allow tourists to visit the International Space Station from 2020, priced at $35,000 (£27,500) per night.

The US space agency said it would open the orbiting station to tourism and other business ventures.

There will be up to two short private astronaut missions per year, said Robyn Gatens, the deputy director of the ISS.

Nasa said that private astronauts would be permitted to travel to the ISS for up to 30 days, travelling on US spacecraft.

…The new commercial opportunities announced on Friday are part of a trajectory towards full privatisation of the ISS. US President Donald Trump published a budget last year which called for the station to be defunded by the government by 2025.

(21) FIRST BUCK ROGERS FILM. This Buck Rogers film short was made for the 1934 Chicago World’s Fair by the owner of the comic strip.

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, rcade, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kaboobie, who’s may be wondering why I used this on a Friday.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dann listened to the podcast and sent along these notes —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The mind-reading technology works in two stages.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 4/4/19 But, Doctor, I Am Pixeliacci!

(1) MCINTYRE TRIBUTE BOOK PLANNED. At CaringBridge, Jeanne Gomoll invites people to participate in a “Vonda Memories” project.  

Stephanie Ann Smith and I are collecting memories of Vonda from folks who loved Vonda. We plan to collect the material into a book and would like to see it made available both as a free electronic document and as a print-on-demand physical book. We are looking for stories, poems, artwork, photos, tributes, ANYTHING you would like to contribute. Please send them to me at jg@unionstreetdesign.com or 2825 Union Street, Madison, WI 53704. I will keep you up-to-date on the publication here. Thank you!

(2) INTERPRETING THE AO3 LEAVES. Michael Schick’s article for Hypable philosophizes about the meaning of AO3’s Hugo nod:“Archive of Our Own’s Hugo Nomination is a win for marginalized fandom”.

In allowing for the nomination of AO3, the Hugo Awards are broadening what it means to contribute to the experience of fiction. This process, they have recognized, goes beyond interacting with a work of fiction as it is — it also encompasses interacting with what the work might be. The imaginations and creativity of fans also contribute to the story of that original story. Talking about art by working within it is not particularly different from talking about art from a remote perspective.

As any fanfiction writer will tell you, transformative works are constantly in dialogue with the original piece. That dialogue may take the form of a Coffee Shop AU rather than an essay, but it is equally as involved in the work of commentary and reflection. Far beyond the academic or critical space, fanfiction probes and challenges original works, bolstering themes and reworking flaws.

It just also happens to be done for fun.

Camestros Felapton also cheers the nomination: “Archive of Our Own is a work and its related and I’m really happy that it’s a Hugo finalist”.

As a thing in itself, AO3 is a monumental achievement and a huge expression of fan activity. It’s this last aspect that I think makes it a good fit for the Hugo Awards which are themselves derived from a similar drive of fannish self-organisation and expression.

(3) SHAZAM! NPR’s Glen Weldon gives context for his conclusion that “With ‘Shazam!’ DC Superhero Movies Bring The Thunder … And The Lightening Up”.

The cultural narrative that’s built around films starring DC Comics superheroes over the course of the past decade or so reads thusly: DC films are too dark and dour, and the company should take a cue from Marvel, whose films always leave room for the fun and whimsical elements so crucial to the superhero genre.

It’s a gross oversimplification, but there’s no denying the kryptonite-hard nugget of truth there: Years ago, Warners/DC executives looked at the runaway success of Christopher Nolan’s dark and dour The Dark Knight trilogy, and concluded that they’d cracked how to approach the superhero genre, once and for all.

…It would be easy to say that the latest DC superhero outing, Shazam!, represents DC/Warners finally learning how to pivot, how to come at a given hero in the mode that suits them best. It’s certainly true that the film’s stuffed to its gills with goofy gags and clever winks, and that the film’s resident good guy (his name’s “Shazam!” in the credits, but in the movie’s reality, it’s more an open-question kind of deal) is a puffed-up, square-jawed galoot in a tomato-red getup played by Zachary Levi. But it also frequently stops dead in its tracks to dutifully attend to more familiar, straight-ahead genre business…..

(4) YOACHIM TALKS. Lightspeed’s Laurel Amberdine gets the interview: “Author Spotlight: Caroline M. Yoachim”.

I know you write at a lot of different story lengths. Do you have a particular preference nowadays, and has that changed any over time?

I have less of a preference than I used to. For a long time, my natural length was flash, so I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to write things longer—adding threads, having more characters, sometimes playing with the structure to force myself to draw out the story more.

The two projects I’m currently working on are relatively longer lengths—I’m currently finishing up a trio of inter-related short stories (which in some ways is like a novelette in three parts), and when that’s done I have a novella that I drafted last year and need to go back and revise.

(5) MILSF COMPARISONS. Paul Weimer conducted an “Interview with Kameron Hurley” about her new book The Light Brigade for Nerds of a Feather.

I’ve seen comparisons to Starship Troopers–how do you feel that, for positive and negative, the novel has influenced this novel and other stories and novels of your work?

It’s more like the film than the book! In book form, I’d say it more closely resembles The Forever War in tone and approach, but really The Light Brigade is its own beast. I loved a lot about the film adaptation of Starship Troopers; it didn’t take itself too seriously while also being very serious. You can say important things about war, fascism, freedom, corporal punishment, and conscription while telling an exciting story. People who live in dystopias don’t always believe they’re living in one, especially when they’re young. They’re raised to believe it’s the only sane and rational way to be.

(6) MORE ABOUT MCINTYRE. The Guardian published its “Vonda N McIntyre obituary” today.

Vonda N McIntyre, who has died aged 70, was foremost among a legion of new female science-fiction authors in the early 1970s inspired by humanist writers such as Ursula K Le Guin, Joanna Russ and Samuel Delany. With Dreamsnake (1978), she became only the second woman to win the Nebula award and the third to win the Hugo award for best novel.

(7) SPIKECON GUEST. An introduction to Kitty Krell.

Masquerade, Hall Costuming Awards, and Cosplay are just the tip of the iceberg – meet Kitty Krell, cosplay Guest of Honor for Westercon 72. A wonderful Corset and Costume maker, cosplay advocate, artist and Kitty will be here in July!

(8) CAMPBELL HOLDING FORTH. On Fanac.org’s YouTube channel, hear Fred Lerner’s 1962 radio interview with John W. Campbell, Jr. I corresponded with Campbell but never met him, so this was a new experience for me.

John W. Campbell and his views on science fiction are showcased in this intriguing audio interview (presented with illustrative pictures) from 1962. Fred Lerner, noted librarian, bibliographer and historian, was just 17 when he interviewed John W. Campbell, the man that shaped much of science fiction for decades. Campbell was both a successful author and the long time editor of Astounding Science Fiction (later Analog). Topics discussed include Rudyard Kipling as a science fiction writer, the government’s interest in Cleve Cartmill’s fiction, and the nature and value of science fiction. If you like Golden Age science fiction, this is an opportunity to hear one of the giants of the field in his own voice

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 4, 1902 Stanley G. Weinbaum. His first story, “A Martian Odyssey”, was published to general accolades in July 1934, but he died from lung cancer less than a year-and-a-half later. ISFDB lists two novels, The New Adam and The Dark Other, plus several handfuls of short stories that I assume were out for consideration with various editors at the time of his death. (Died 1935.)
  • Born April 4, 1932 Anthony Perkins. Without doubt, he’s best known for playing Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and its three sequels. Three sequels?!? One sec.. H’h, I missed the third one in the Nineties. Genre wise, I don’t see a lot otherwise by him though he was in The Black Hole as Dr. Alex Durant and was in Daughter of Darkness as Prince Constantine. (Died 1992)
  • Born April 4, 1948 Dan Simmons, 71. He’s the author of the Hyperion Cantos and the Ilium/Olympos cycles. I’m reasonably sure that I’ve read some of the Hyperion Cantos but I’ll be damned if I remember it clearly now. 
  • Born April 4, 1952 Cherie Lunghi, 66. Her fame arise from her role as Guinevere in Excalibur. (I saw Excalibur in a 1920s theater on a warm summer night with hardly anyone there. Those there were very impressed by it.) She was also Baroness Frankenstien (Victor’s Mother) in Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. She was also in The Lady’s Not for Burning as Jennet Jourdemayne.
  • Born April 4, 1954 Bruce Sterling, 65. Islands in the Net is I think is his finest work as it’s where his characters are best developed and the near future setting is quietly impressive. Admittedly I’m also fond of The Difference Engine which he co-wrote with Gibson which is neither of these things.
  • Born April 4, 1958 Phil Morris, 61. His first acting role was on the “Miri” episode of Trek as simply Boy. He was the Sam the Kid on several episodes of Mr. Merlin before returning to Trek fold as Trainee Foster in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Next interesting role is voicing Vandal Savage on a three-part Justice League Unlimited story called “The Savage Time”, a role he reprised for Justice League: Doom. No, I’ve not forgotten that he was on Mission: Impossible as Grant Collier. He also played the Martian Manhunter (J’onn J’onzz) on Smallvillie. Currently He’s Silas Stone on Doom Patrol and no, I didn’t spot that was him in that role. 
  • Born April 4, 1960 Hugo Weaving, 59. He is known for playing Agent Smith in The Matrix franchise, Elrond in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, V in V for Vendetta  and Red Skull in Captain America: The First Avenger. He also voiced Megatron in the first three films of Transformers franchise.
  • Born April 4, 1965 Robert Downey Jr., 54. Iron Man in the Marvel Universe film franchise. Also a rather brilliant Holmes in Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Also voicing James Barris in an animated adaption of Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly. Charmingly enough, he’s playing the title role in the ‘20 release of The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle.
  • Born April 4, 1967 Xenia Seeberg, 52. She is perhaps best known for her role as Xev BeLexx in Lexx, a show’s that’s fantastic provided you can see in its uncensored form. I’ve also see her playing Muireann In Annihilation Earth, Noel in So, You’ve Downloaded a Demon, uncredited role in Lord of The Undead, and Sela In the “Assessment” episode of Total Recall 2070.
  • Born April 4, 1968 Gemma Files, 51. She’s a Canadian horror writer, journalist, and film critic. Her Hexslinger series now at three novels and a handful of stories is quite fun. It’s worth noting that she’s a prolific short story writer and four of them have been adapted as scripts for The Hunger horror series. 

(10) ORDER TODAY! Dr. Diana Pavlac Glyer’s Azusa Pacific University honors students will publish the fruit of their labors as a book: Warnings from Outer Space: Backdrops and Building Blocks of C. S. Lewis’s Science Fiction Trilogy.

My students were fortunate enough to collaborate with some of the best scholars around: Charlie Starr, Mike Glyer, Scott Key, and Sørina Higgins took an active role and read draft chapters and gave advice. It was wonderful to see these undergraduates joining the scholarly conversation. Did you order your copy?

(11) STAR POWER. The manicurist didn’t get the story quite right, but look how MRK celebrated her Hugo nomination:

(12) DEL TORO. Coming on July 2, a book will fill out the background of a popular movie: “Guillermo Del Toro Is Expanding The World Of ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ With A Novel”ScienceFiction.com has the story.

Thirteen years after it was released, Guillermo del Toro is fleshing out his iconic film ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ with a novel titled ‘Pan’s Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun.’ In its pages, you will find the full tale from the movie which was co-written with Cornelia Funke

(13) THE MAGIC GOES AWAY. Microsoft is getting out of ebook selling – and the books its customers bought will be going away too: “Books in Microsoft Store: FAQ”.

The books category is closing

Starting April 2, 2019, the books category in Microsoft Store will be closing. Unfortunately, this means that starting July 2019 your ebooks will no longer be available to read, but you’ll get a full refund for all book purchases. See below for details.

While you can no longer purchase or acquire additional books from the Microsoft Store, you can continue to read your books until July 2019 when refunds will be processed.

If that isn’t clear enough, let the BBC explain it: “Microsoft’s eBook store: When this closes, your books disappear too”.

…But just think about that for a moment. Isn’t it strange? If you’re a Microsoft customer, you paid for those books. They’re yours.

Except, I’m afraid, they’re not, and they never were – when you hand over money for your “book”, what you’re really paying for is access to the book. That access, per the terms and conditions of every major eBook store, can be taken away at any moment.

At BoingBoing, Cory Doctorow heaps contempt on the whole arrangement: “Microsoft announces it will shut down ebook program and confiscate its customers’ libraries”.

…People sometimes treat me like my decision not to sell my books through Amazon’s Audible is irrational (Audible will not let writers or publisher opt to sell their books without DRM), but if you think Amazon is immune to this kind of shenanigans, you are sadly mistaken. My books matter a lot to me. I just paid $8,000 to have a container full of books shipped from a storage locker in the UK to our home in LA so I can be closer to them. The idea that the books I buy can be relegated to some kind of fucking software license is the most grotesque and awful thing I can imagine: if the publishing industry deliberately set out to destroy any sense of intrinsic, civilization-supporting value in literary works, they could not have done a better job.

(14) ROWLING WINS IN COURT. BBC reports “JK Rowling assistant to pay back fraud money to Harry Potter author”.

A former personal assistant to JK Rowling has been ordered to pay almost £19,000 to the Harry Potter author after fraudulently using her credit card.

Amanda Donaldson, 35, from Coatbridge in North Lanarkshire, must pay £18,734 back with interest.

The author pursued damages in a civil case at Airdrie Sheriff Court under her married name Joanne Murray.

She said the money would be donated to her charity Lumos.

Donaldson was dismissed from her job in Ms Rowling’s Edinburgh office in 2017 over the incident.

(15) ANCIENT KINDLING. History illustrates a possible worst case — “Climate change: Warning from ‘Antarctica’s last forests'”.

Scramble across exposed rocks in the middle of Antarctica and it’s possible to find the mummified twigs of shrubs that grew on the continent some three to five million years ago.

This plant material isn’t much to look at, but scientists say it should serve as a warning to the world about where climate change could take us if carbon emissions go unchecked.

The time period is an epoch geologists call the Pliocene, 2.6-5.3 million years ago.

It was marked by temperatures that were significantly warmer than today, perhaps by 2-3 degrees globally.

These were conditions that permitted plant growth even in the middle of the White Continent.

(16) SEE SPOT RUN. For the first time, scientists studying Neptune have been able to track the blossoming of a ‘Great Dark Spot’ — an enormous, whirling storm in the planet’s atmosphere. The academic paper is a tad dry, so here’s a snap the Hubble took:

(17) FRESH GUNS. The Borderlands 3 game is coming in September.

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