Schrödinger’s Vox

Schrödinger’s Vox is a thought experiment that illustrates an apparent paradox of social media access. In the thought experiment, a hypothetical Vox Day may be considered simultaneously both active with and banned from his YouTube account.

Vox Day/Theodore Beale was expelled by SFWA in 2013 and followers of his blog supplied the numbers that allowed his Rabid Puppies slates to dominate the Hugo Awards ballots of 2015 and 2016. He identifies himself as an original Gamergater. His blog appeals to the many causes of the alt-right, and to followers of “the God Emperor Trump.”

On January 25 Vox Day posted “Google Wants To Fight” [Internet Archive link] displaying a copy of a notice Google sent him saying his channel has been removed from YouTube.

Hi Vox Day,

We have reviewed your content and found severe or repeated violations of our Community Guidelines. Because of this, we have removed your channel from YouTube.

We know this is probably very upsetting news, but it’s our job to make sure that YouTube is a safe place for all. If we think a channel severely violates our policies, we take it down to protect other users on the platform – but if you believe we’ve made the wrong call, you can appeal this decision. You’ll find more information about the policy in question and how to submit an appeal below.

What our policy says

 Spam, scams or commercially deceptive content are not allowed on YouTube.

We have permanently removed your channel from YouTube. Going forward, you won’t be able to access, possess, or create any other YouTube channels. …

And yet his Darkstream YouTube channel and his videos are still available to view, as several mystified readers helpfully pointed out.

Today he posted that his appeal has been rejected — “Google doubles down” [Internet Archive link]  

Hello,

Thank you for your account suspension appeal. We have decided to keep your account suspended based on our Community Guidelines and Terms of Service.

And by now Vox is exasperated that people from the far corners of the world keep telling him they can see his content the same as before:

UPDATE: Please to stop with the retardery. I am completely aware that the channels are still up. That is not the point. It is the account access to them has been blocked by YouTube due to its false and defamatory accusation of “spam, scams or commercially deceptive content” having been previously broadcast. I am fairly confident that I know their grounds for the accusation, which is too monstrously stupid to even mention publicly because you would probably not believe it, but which you should be able to ascertain if you watch the most recent video.

So don’t you understand? He’s banned from accessing his account, not us.

But should we have to suffer, too? Remember what Rorschach said —

None of you seem to understand. I’m not locked in here with you. You’re locked in here with *ME*!

Pixel Scroll 1/22/21 Enzyme Summer

(1) KEEP YOUR EYE ON THAT PALANTIR. An insurrectionist wants a federal District Court to force the U.S. to adopt an interim government from the history of Middle-Earth: “Paul Davis Cites ‘Lord of the Rings’ in Lawsuit, Declares ‘Gondor Has No King’” – the case is briefed by Law and Crime.

Paul M. Davis, the Texas lawyer who was fired from his in-house counsel job after he recorded himself among a mob at the U.S. Capitol Complex on Jan. 6, has filed legal documents which set a new floor for legal embarrassment in U.S. jurisprudence. The documents employ a series of awkward references to — and ideas from — the temporary government of the Kingdom of Gondor in The Lord of the Rings.

Davis’s lawsuit bombastically attempts to assert that Joe Biden is not a legitimate president and that a rightful heir to that office will someday return. Until then, the case foolishly argues that a federal judge might be able to appoint a group of “stewards” from the cabinet of former President Donald Trump to run most of the government from the White House. That should occur, the lawsuit lawlessly speculates, after the Secret Service escorts Biden and his wife out of the executive residence at the order of a federal judge.

…After a few lines of formalities, a six-page Amended Motion filed Thursday argued yet again for a restraining order.

“Gondor has no King,” the document says in its second paragraph, “to invoke a very appropriate quote from the J.R.R. Tolkien epic classic, ‘Lord of the Rings.’”

A footnote explains the analogy:

During the course of the epic trilogy, the rightful King of Gondor had abandoned the throne. Since only the rightful king could sit on the throne of Gondor, a steward was appointed to manage Gondor until the return of the King, known as “Aragorn,” occurred at the end of the story. This analogy is applicable since there is now in Washington, D.C., a group of individuals calling themselves the President, Vice President, and Congress who have no rightful claim to govern the American People. Accordingly, as set forth in the Proposed Temporary Restraining Order, as a remedy the Court should appoint a group of special masters (the “Stewards”) to provide a check the power of the illegitimate President until this Constitutional Crisis can be resolved through a peaceful legal process of a Preliminary Injunction Hearing and a jury trial on the merits.

(2) INAUGURATION DAY PRESENTS. More examples of the Bernie Sanders meme. First, where he’s dropped into fine art: “Bernie Sanders Stars in Art History’s Greatest Works in New Viral Meme” at ARTnews.

…A cascade of similar images soon followed. The art historian Michael Lobel made a version in which Sanders inside a moody café from Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks—itself the subject of one of the more memorable Covid-era memes—and others placed the senator within iconic works by Sandro Botticelli, Vincent van Gogh, ASCO, Joseph Beuys, and Georges Seurat. (A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of Grand Jatte with Bernie, anyone?) There was even a version where Sanders appeared seated atop a stylite column that appeared first in a 5th century Byzantine manuscript.

But no version of the newest Sanders joke proved more memorable than one created by the writer R. Eric Thomas, who inset him facing Marina Abramovi? for one famous performance that appeared at the Museum of Modern Art in 2010. MoMA picked it up, tweeting, “Bernie is present.” Something about Thomas’s rendition may help explain its charm. In most pictures of The Artist Is Present, Abramovi?’s steely eyes meet her viewer, almost daring anyone who sits before to look away. But in the meme version, Sanders looks away from her, his eyes cast toward the floor. In this meme, there seems to be a willful disregard of something that was construed by many as being great—an anti-establishment spirit that befits Sanders’s own views.

Then, StarTrek.com also ginned up some silly ones: “#BernieBeams into the Captain’s Chair”.

(3) COURT DECIDES AGAINST PARLER. “Amazon can keep Parler offline, judge rules” – the Seattle Times has the story.

… On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein said that forcing Amazon to get Parler back online goes against the public interest, given “the kind of abusive, violent content at issue in this case, particularly in light of the recent riots at the U.S. Capitol.”

“That event was a tragic reminder that inflammatory rhetoric can — more swiftly and easily than many of us would have hoped — turn a lawful protest into a violent insurrection,” she wrote. “The Court rejects any suggestion that the public interest favors requiring AWS to host the incendiary speech that the record shows some of Parler’s users have engaged in.”

Amazon welcomed the judge’s ruling. In a statement, the company issued a rejoinder to critics who have said Amazon infringed on Parler’s First Amendment rights when it suspended Parler’s account.

“This was not a case about free speech,” the statement said. “It was about a customer that consistently violated our terms of service by allowing content to be published on their website that actively encouraged violence (and without an effective plan to moderate it).” …

(4) WILL GOOGLE GO? “Google threatens to leave Australia because of new media law” reports the Washington Post.

… The threat is the latest and most intense in a long-running battle that has pitted Australian lawmakers and news organizations against U.S.-based tech giants Google and Facebook. For years, news organizations in Australia have argued they should be paid when Internet companies aggregate news stories on their websites. Google and Facebook say their sites help people find news, and the resulting traffic to news websites is valuable on its own.The proposed media law would force the tech companies to negotiate with media companies on payments for previewing and linking to their content. If they can’t reach a deal, a government regulator would step in to set the rates. That arrangement is untenable, Mel Silva, the head of Google in Australia and New Zealand, said in prepared testimony released ahead of the hearing Friday. …The idea that Google should pay for showing news in its search results is not new. In Spain, Google shut down its news aggregation website in 2014 after the country passed a law requiring online platforms that profit off news links to share their revenue with media companies. Just this week, Google agreed to negotiate payments to French publishers.

In the United States, Google is facing multiple federal and state antitrust lawsuits that allege the company has used its domination of online search to benefit its other businesses and push out competitors.

“It seems very peculiar to me that effectively Google wants to blackmail Australian consumers and policymakers with threats to go ahead and leave this jurisdiction when these discussions are happening all around the world, including in the U.S. itself,” Australian Sen. Andrew Bragg said during the Senate hearing, which was broadcast remotely.

(5) WOTC LITIGATION ENDS. The lawsuit creators Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman filed against Wizards of the Coast last fall was settled without trial in December. “Dragonlance Writers End Lawsuit Against Dungeons & Dragons Maker” reported Comicbook.com.

A surprising lawsuit involving the seminal writers of the Dragonlance novels and the parent company of Dungeons & Dragons has seemingly ended. Last week, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, the primary authors behind the popular Dragonlance novels, filed to voluntarily dismiss their lawsuit against Wizards of the CoastWeis and Hickman filed the lawsuit in US District Court earlier this year, alleging that Wizards of the Coast breached a licensing contract to write a trilogy of new Dragonlance books by informing the pair’s publisher that they were no longer moving forward with the books without explanation. The duo, who claimed that a Dragonlance novel was already completed and that substantial work had begun on a second book, sought up to $10 million in damages in the initial lawsuit.

The filing noted that Wizards of the Coast had not formally answered their lawsuit, nor had they filed for a summary judgement. As Weis and Hickman filed for a dismissal without prejudice, the duo could hypothetically re-file their lawsuit at a later date.

(6) QUESTION TIME. Octothorpe is a podcast from John Coxon, Alison Scott, and Liz Batty about science fiction and SF fandom. In episode 23, “A Lot of Foreshadowing”, the three “discuss the recent debate over the Hugo Awards and DisCon III’s approach to the same, before touching on some upcoming fannish events.” One segment is provocatively titled, “Are the Hugos a massive cankerous boil on the Worldcon that just needs to be completely purged?”

(7) FURLAN OBIT. Actress Mira Furlan, who gained fame playing Delenn on Babylon 5 and Danielle Rousseau on Lost, died January 20 at the age of 65. The Variety tribute is here.

Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski gave a deeply emotional eulogy:  

… We’ve known for some time now that Mira’s health was failing…I’m not sure that this is the right time or place to discuss the sheer randomness of what happened…and have all been dreading this day. We kept hoping that she would improve. In a group email sent to the cast a while back, I heard that she might be improving.

Then came the call from Peter Jurasik. “I wanted you to know that Goran’s bringing Mira home,” he said.

“Do you mean, he’s bringing her home as in she’s better now, or is he bringing her home as in he’s bringing her home?”

“He’s bringing her home, Joe,” Peter said, and I could hear the catch in his voice as he said it.

And as a family, we held our counsel, and began the long wait, which has now ended.

Mira was a good and kind woman, a stunningly talented performer, and a friend to everyone in the cast and crew of Babylon 5, and we are all devastated by the news. The cast members with whom she was especially close since the show’s end will need room to process this moment, so please be gentle if they are unresponsive for a time. We have been down this road too often, and it only gets harder.

Bruce Boxleitner also mourned on Facebook:

…We have lost a light in our galaxy, but another has gained one. I will miss our talks, our laughs, our deep discussions about Hollywood and life. I will miss our dinners and trips abroad. I will miss the way her eyes sparkled when she smiled. I will miss her captivating voice and contagious laughter. I will miss sharing with her one of the most gratifying experiences of my life: the relationship between Sheridan and Delenn.

(8) SAUNDERS APPRECIATION. The New York Times obituary of the famous fantasy writer has appeared: “A Black Literary Trailblazer’s Solitary Death: Charles Saunders, 73”. He died last May, and as reported here on January 1, had been buried in an unmarked grave until friends raised money for a headstone. The Times has an extensive obituary with photos and book covers.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • January 22, 1984 Airwolf premiered on CBS where it would run for three seasons before moving to USA for a fourth season. Airwolf was created by Donald P. Bellisario who also created Quantum Leap and Tales of The Golden Monkey, two other great genre series. It starred Jan-Michael Vincent, Jean Bruce Scott. Ernest Borgnine, Alex Cord and Jean Bruce Scott. It airs sporadically in syndication and apparently has not developed enough of a following to get a Rotten Tomatoes rating.
  • January 22, 2000 Cleopatra 2525 first aired in syndication. It was created by R.J. Stewart and Robert G. Tapert. Many who aired it do so as part of the Back2Back Action Hour, along with Jack of All Trades. The primary cast of this SF with chicks not wearing much series was Gina Torres of later Firefly fame, Victoria Pratt and Jennifer Sky. (A sexist statement? We think you should take a look at the show.)  it would last two seasons and twenty episodes, six episodes longer than Jack of All Trades. (Chicks rule?) it gets a 100% rating by its audience reviewers at a Rotten Tomatoes though the aggregate critics score is a much lower 40%. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 22, 1788 – George Gordon, 6th Baron Byron.  Mad, bad, and dangerous to know; but, as George Szell said of Glenn Gould, “that nut is a genius”.  Wrote fantasy among much else, e.g. “Darkness”The Giaour, Manfred.  It could be said that his rhymes were fantastic – “And sell you, mixed with western sentimentalism, / Some samples of the finest Orientalism” (Beppo, Stanza LI).  (Died 1824) [JH]
  • Born January 22, 1906 Robert E. Howard. He’s best remembered for his characters Conan the Barbarian and Solomon Kane, less so for Kull, and is widely regarded as the father of the sword and sorcery subgenre. His Cthulhu mythos stories are quite good. I believe all of these were published in Weird Tales.  If you’re interested in reading him on your slate, you’re in luck as all the usual suspects are deep stockers of him at very reasonable prices. (Died 1936.) (CE) 
  • Born January 22, 1925 – Katherine MacLean.  Five novels, fifty shorter stories.  One Nebula.  Guest of Honor at WisCon 1. Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award.  Interviewed in NY Review of SF.  (Died 2019) [JH] 
  • Born January 22, 1934 Bill Bixby. Principal casting in several genre series, first in My Favorite Martian as Tim O’Hara, a young newspaper reporter for the LA Sun who discovers that alien, and then as Dr. David Banner in The Incredible Hulk seriesand in both The Incredible Hulk Returns and The Death of the Incredible Hulk films.  He shows up in a number of other genre series including Fantasy IslandTales of the UnexpectedNight GalleryThe Ghost & Mrs. Muir and The Twilight Zone (original version). He also had the lead as Anthony Blake / Anthony Dorian in The Magician series but as he was a stage illusionist, I couldn’t count it as genre… (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born January 22, 1940 John Hurt.  I rarely grieve over the death of one individual but his death really hurt. I liked him. It’s rare that someone comes along like Hurt who is both talented and is genuinely good person that’s easy to like.  If we count his role as Tom Rawlings in The Ghoul, Hurt had an almost fifty year span in genre films and series. He next did voice work in Watership Down where he voiced Hazel and The Lord of the Rings as the voice of Aragon before appearing as Kane, the first victim, in Alien. Though not genre, I must comment his role as Joseph Merrick in The Elephant Man — simply remarkable. He had the lead as Winston Smith in Nineteen Eighty-Four and had a cameo as that character in Spaceballs. He narrates Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound and will later be one of two of the narrators of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller. That role is simply magnificent. Ok, I’m just at 1994. He’s about to be S.R. Hadden in Contact. Did you remember he played Garrick Ollivander In Harry Potter films? You certainly remember him as Trevor Bruttenholm in the Hellboy films, all four of them in total. He’s in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull as Dr. Harold Oxley, one of the few decent things about that film. Series wise, he’s been around. I’ve got him in Spectre, a Roddenberry occult detective pilot that I’ve not seen. On the Merlin live action series, he provides the voice of the Great Dragon. It’s an amazing role for him. And fitting that he’s a dragon, isn’t it? And of course he played The War Doctor. It, despite the brevity of the screen time, was a role that he seemed destined to play. Oh for an entire series of stories about His Doctor! Big Finish, the audiobook company, had the singular honor of having him flesh out his character in a series of stories that he did with them just before his death. I’ve heard some, they’re quite remarkable. If I’ve missed anything about him that you feel I should’ve touched upon, do tell me. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born January 22, 1951 – Donna Ball, age 70.  Eight novels for us as D. Boyd, Rebecca Flanders; ninety all told, with other pen names too.  Award-winning dog trainer.  [JH]
  • Born January 22, 1962 – Alison Spedding, Ph.D., age 59.  Author and anthropologist.  Three historical-fantasy novels; one science fiction in Spanish; three other novels in Spanish; shorter stories, a play, nonfiction.  While living in Bolivia criticized the government; imprisoned, many fellow academics thinking it political; released on a surety.  [JH]
  • Born January 22, 1972 – Stephen Graham Jones, Ph.D., age 49.  Nine novels for us (about The Only Good Indians last year, which caught the attention of the NY Times Book Review, note that SGJ is himself Blackfeet), a dozen others; ninety shorter stories for us, two hundred others.  Texas Institute of Letters Award.  Stoker Award.  Professor of English at Univ. Colorado, Boulder.  See this from the ReaderCon 30 Program Book.  Special Guest at World Fantasy Con 2020.  [JH]
  • Born January 22, 1982 – Janci Patterson, age 39.  A dozen novels for us, a score of others; some with co-authors including Brandon Sanderson.  Customizes Barbie dolls, watches “reality” television.  [JH]

(11) SUPER AUCTION ITEM. You have until January 28 to bid on a “Fantastic 1941 Letter Signed by Jerry Siegel, Thanking Sheldon Mayer for Promoting ’Superman’’’. Current bid is $783.

Excellent letter by Jerry Siegel, creator of ”Superman”, thanking comic pioneer Sheldon Mayer for promoting the comic before it was published in ”Action Comics #1” in 1938. Dated 18 September 1941, letter reads in part, ”Dear Sheldon: I may be coming to New York inside a few weeks and I hope we can get together at that time and curse the comic business to our heart’s content.

Again I want to thank you for all you’ve done to help make SUPERMAN what it is. I’m very much afraid that if it weren’t for a chap named Sheldon Mayer, as far as syndication is concerned SUPERMAN might still be gathering dust, and Joe [Shuster] and I would be working for a living…[signed] Jerry”.

Sheldon Mayer was one of the first employees of the McClure Syndicate, headed by comics pioneer Maxwell Gaines. Although many have taken credit for discovering ”Superman”, this letter serves as ultimate confirmation that it was Mayer’s championing of the comic which led to its inclusion in ”Action Comics #1”.

(12) GUNN APPRECIATION. John Kessel has posted some of his correspondence with the late sf author and scholar James Gunn from 2018 on Facebook: showing the advice he gave about a recently published novella.

In the wake of sf writer James Gunn’s death in December, I’ve been thinking of him and what he meant to me. The publication of my novella “The Dark Ride” in this month’s F&SF reminded me that I had sent him a draft of the story and we had this correspondence about it, which helped me to shape the final version.

I thought I’d post these emails just to show how generous and engaged he was even in his late 90s. I’m so glad that I knew him….

(13) CHUCKED OUT THE AIRLOCK.  [Item by James Davis Nicoll.] “The queen’s rep in Canada calls it quits after probe into toxic workplace” in Politico. If the Queen is not in Canada, the Governor General is our head of state. Not SFnal in itself but what makes this SF-adjacent is Payette is getting the heave ho over permitting a culture of harassment that included —

Allegations [dating] to the earliest days of her tenure when she would reportedly put staff on the spot to quiz them on outer space, demanding they name every planet or correctly state the distance between the sun and the moon….

Payette was an astronaut before being appointed GG.

…And last year, CBC News reported that Trudeau’s office failed to check with Payette’s former employees during its vetting process. As it turned out, Payette had resigned from the Montreal Science Centre in 2016 following complaints of mistreatment of employees, according to the news outlet. She also left the Canadian Olympic Committee in 2017, the year she became governor general, after two internal probes into claims she had verbally harassed staff members.

(14) FINN DE SIECLE. MEL Magazine joins its voice to the continuing uproar: “Finn Deserved Better — And So Did Black ‘Star Wars’ Fans”.

…Later on, in perhaps the most exciting shot of the trailer (at least for me), we see Finn standing in a frozen forest. His eyes are steely, determined. He looks every inch the hero — defiant, ready. He turns on his lightsaber. Its blue glow leaps to life just as we see the villain Kylo Ren and his red lightsaber spitting hot energy from its hilt. All of that tension, all of that conflict, absolutely crackling with dramatic potential. Only for all of it to fizzle away in the three films that followed.

We started with a Black stormtrooper who becomes a conscientious objector, follows his moral compass and joins the rebels to risk his life in order to save the galaxy. Somewhere along the way, though, the filmmakers made that character boring. That’s why Star Wars fans are still so pissed at the great betrayal of Finn. It’s why his name was trending on Twitter on Tuesday, a full year after the final film of the newest trilogy was released in theaters.

That last point is key: Finn deserved better. Hell, we all deserved better. The “we” in this instance is Black sci-fi fans. We’ve had to live on some thin soup from Hollywood for far too long. (Although we do have to give a shout out to Star Trek for Capt. Sisko.) For Blerds like me, we held out a small hope that it might be different this time. That Star Wars might finally move on from its Victorian-Nazi melodrama past and embrace the diversity of our moment. Specifically, by creating a credible Black hero.

The first time Star Wars added a Black character, we got a space pimp. Lando Calrissian felt like he’d escaped from a Blaxploitation film or a 1970s malt liquor commercial. But at least he was cool — paper thin, but undeniably cool….

(15) DRAGON APATHY. Declan Finn complains that no one wants to talk about the Dragon Awards on his blog, in “Emerging Dragons”.  

…But I am no longer going to ask for more suggestions. I’m not even going to try for a discussion this year. Why? Because every time I’ve done this, no one WANTS a discussion. Almost everyone who comes by drops a link in the comments going ME ME ME, and disappears.

With the exception of three or four people who are genuinely trying to have a conversation, the authors don’t even read the post. Literally. Two years ago, when I last tried this, I had people who came by, asking me to to add them to the list … and they didn’t realize they were already on it.

It was worse last year when I said “We’re not playing this game,” and people made the same request– proving that they didn’t bother to read the post.

(16) BENEFIT FROM EXPERIENCE. More encouragement to get the vaccine from the Governator. Followed on FB by comments from a legion of anti-vaxxers, naturally.  

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. The monologue on last night’s The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, starting around the 10:15 mark, has Colbert telling disillusioned Q-anon conspiracy theorists how to fill the void by taking up his own enthusiasm for the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

(18) VIDEO OF A MUCH EARLIER DAY. “Steve Martin and Kermit The Frog In Dueling Banjos” on YouTube is a Funny or Die sketch from 2013, and come on, who doesn’t like Kermit The Frog or Steve Martin?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chris Rose, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Jennifer Hawthorne, James Davis Nicoll, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 10/28/20 No Mr. Bond, I Expect You To Scroll Pixels!

(1) FRENCH LOCKDOWN. Utopiales, the International Science Fiction Festival of Nantes (France), scheduled for this weekend, was cancelled following today’s announcement by the French president of a new nationwide lockdown.

BBC explains:

French President Emmanuel Macron has announced a second national lockdown until at least the end of November.

Mr Macron said that under the new measures, starting on Friday, people would only be allowed to leave home for essential work or medical reasons.

Non-essential businesses, such as restaurants and bars, will close, but schools and factories will remain open.

Covid daily deaths in France are at the highest level since April. On Tuesday, 33,000 new cases were confirmed.

Mr Macron said the country risked being “overwhelmed by a second wave that no doubt will be harder than the first”.

The Utopiales committee said:

…Maintaining a cultural offering is essential. That’s why we made a commitment to the end and if we had it do over we would do it again. However, everyone’s health is at the moment a top priority we must implement the decisions of the authorities.

(2) EXPLICATE!  Camestros Felapton created a photo gallery of “Some buildings that look like Daleks”

…So is it worth pointing out that the NZ parliament building has a distinct resemblance to a Dalek and surely that tells you a lot about that nation? 

(3) REVERSE THE POLARITY. Fast Company explains how “This incredible Google experiment lets you time travel to your hometown 200 years ago” – always assuming there was a there there two hundred years ago. Quite likely in 1820 there was nothing but bushes in my California neighborhood.

In the 20 years he’d lived in New York, Raimondas Kiveris had seen the city change immensely. “It was a completely different place, a different town,” says Kiveris, a software engineer at Google Research. This got him wondering what his neighborhood looked like even before that—before he’d lived there, before he’d even been born. “There’s really no easy way to find that information in any organized way,” he says. “So I was starting to think, can we somehow enable this kind of virtual time travel?”

Three years later, his attempt at virtual time travel is taking shape as an open-source map that can show, in both a bird’s-eye view and a pedestrian-level view, the changes that happen to city streetscapes over time. With a slider to control the year, the map displays a historically accurate representation of development in almost any U.S. city dating back to 1800. Automatically generated 3D models of buildings rise from the landscape as the slider moves forward through time. It can even show a rough estimation of what a city would have looked like from the pedestrian’s view, like a low-res Google Street View.

… The map was created using historical fire insurance maps, a rich source of information for the built environment that includes precise information about building ages, sizes, heights, roof shapes, and even materials. The map creates simplified 3D models of these buildings, and the time slider allows a user to see, for example, Washington, D.C.’s Dupont Circle nearly devoid of buildings in the 1870s and almost fully developed in the 1920s….

(4) CAMPAIGNING IN A SWING SHIRE. At McSweeney’s, Keith Rubin serves up a stack of “Political Fundraising Emails From Middle-Earth”.

Hi Bungo,

Have you heard the good news??? Will Whitfoot is SURGING in the latest polls! This is our chance to FINALLY elect a hobbit who TRULY loves banquets as Mayor of the Shire…. 

(5) HORROR TO TAKE YOUR MIND OFF THE ELECTION. The Washington Post’s Michael Dirda suggests some things to read over the next few days: “For Halloween: a critic’s pick of macabre treats for your library” .

…Consider, for example, “British Weird: Selected Short Fiction, 1893-1937,” edited by James Machin, which features not only classic stories — including Algernon Blackwood’s “The Willows” and E.F. Benson “Caterpillars”— but also less familiar ones such as Mary Butts’s “Mappa Mundi.” As an extra treat Machin reprints Butts’s four-part 1933 essay, “Ghosties and Ghoulies: Uses of the Supernatural in English Fiction,” likening it to H.P. Lovecraft’s pioneering monograph, “Supernatural Horror in Literature.”

(6) DEATH WILL NOT RELEASE YOU. Despite the title, “Richard Lupoff: A Remembrance”, Ted White’s piece for the Comics Journal is mainly about his own place in fanhistory, and a chance to rehearse his unhealed wounds.

… Dick had typed up the stencils for the first issue of his new fanzine, Xero. At his request, I took the subway to Pacific Avenue in Brooklyn, to a warehouse business called Pace Paper, and bought the required reams of mimeo paper for Xero. The first issue of Xero was thin, compared to subsequent issues, and memory tells me that the Lupoffs wrote most of it. Certainly the centerpiece of the issue was Dick’s piece of comic-book nostalgia about “The Big Red Cheese,” the original Captain Marvel.

No one then realized the subsequent impact of that piece. It didn’t create comics fandom – which already existed – but it helped galvanize it. It sparked a wave of nostalgic interest in comics, mostly as relics of childhood, now fondly remembered, in SF fandom. SF fans had broad interests. Music was one, and comics turned out to be another.

In 1960, some of us had been comics fans for years. My friend Bhob Stewart created EC fandom with his fanzine, The EC Fan Bulletin. Bhob joined forces with Larry Stark and me to publish Potrzebie during the latter days of EC. EC fandom overlapped a lot with SF fandom, with some EC fans like Mike May becoming SF fans. Don and Maggie Thompson were SF fans who became comics fans around 1960.

This was the pot that Dick Lupoff stirred up.

I wrote the comics piece for Xero #2, “The Spawn of M.C. Gaines,” an overly broad overview of the creation of comic books and superheroes. (I totally rewrote it for its book publication, focusing only on Superman and Batman.) The comics pieces in Xero were published under the running head, “All In Color For a Dime” and the series took off, with many fans clamoring to write pieces about their childhood favorite comics. One of them was Harlan Ellison, who was living just up my block at the time.

I mimeographed at least the first three issues of Xero, and had at Dick’s request purchased the paper for the next issue when Dick did something I have never understood. Covertly, secretly, he arranged with friends living on Staten Island to mimeograph that and subsequent issues. I found out only when presented with a copy of the new issue.…

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

October 28, 1994 Stargate premiered. It’d be a runner-up at Intersection to Star Trek: The Next Generation’s  “All Good Things…” which won the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form. It was directed by Roland Emmerich and produced by Dean Devlin, Oliver Eberle and Joel B. Michaels. It was written by Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin.  Principal cast was Kurt Russell, James Spader, Jaye Davidson and Viveca Lindfors.  It was a box office success despite the critics generally not being overly fond of it. Currently it holds a rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes of an excellent 73%. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge ad John Hertz]

  • Born October 28, 1818 – Ivan Turgenev.  This great Russian master (most noted for Fathers and Sons) left a dozen short stories for us.  Even Tolstoy – who once challenged IT to a duel, but withdrew – left five.  See e.g. The Mysterious Tales of IT (R. Dessaix tr. 1979).  (Died 1883) [JH]
  • Born October 28, 1903 – Evelyn Waugh.  Two novels, a dozen shorter stories for us, by another author famous otherwise, possibly great.  Here is his own cover for Vile Bodies.  Here is his cover for a chapbook of “Love Among the Ruins”.  Was his best the biographies of Helena (248-330) and Ronald Knox (1888-1957)?  (Died 1966) [JH]
  • Born October 28, 1939 Jane Alexander, 81. She’s resistance fighter Virginia in Terminator Salvation, and has shown up in a number of genre series including playing C. on Elementary, Nora Morgan in an episode of Forever, and a recurring role as Klara on the intriguing sounding Tales from the Loop web series. She has several horror creds to her name as well, including Dr. Grasnik in The Ring and Sofi Kozma in The Unborn. (CE) 
  • Born October 28, 1951 Joe Lansdale, 69. Writer and screenwriter whose DCU Jonah Hex animated screenplays are far superior to the live action Hex film. Bubba Ho-Tep, an American comedy horror film starring Bruce Campbell, is his best known genre work though he has done a number of another works including The God of The Razor and Reverend Jedidiah Mercer series which are definitely Weird Westerns.  (CE)
  • Born October 28, 1952 Anne Potts, 68. Janine Melnitz in the still best Ghostbusters and in Ghostbusters II as well. She has a cameo as Vanessa the hotel clerk in the Ghostbusters reboot. She listed as reprising her original role in the forthcoming Ghostbusters Afterlife which I’ll freely admit I know nothing about but which apparently has most of the original cast. (CE) 
  • Born October 28, 1958 Amy Thomson, 62. Writer of four novels over a decade some twenty years ago including Virtual Girl. She won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. She published one piece of short fiction, “The Ransom of Princess Starshine”, in 2017 in Stupefying Stories edited by Bruce Bethke. (CE)
  • Born October 28, 1962 – Jean-Jacques Chaubin, 58.  Jewelry stylist with Van Cleef & Arpels; then comics, video games (including the 1992 Dune), computer graphics; fifty book covers.  Here is The End of Time, and After.  Here is A Hint of Nothingness.  Here is Galaxies 5.  Here is The Armies of Daylight.  [JH]
  • Born October 28, 1967 – Christopher Ecker, 53.  Author, translator, teacher, critic.  For us two novels, ninety shorter stories, a hundred sixty poems.  Friedrich Hebbel Prize, Saarland Art Prize.  His thousand-page novel Fahlmann (not “the pale man”, it’s the protagonist’s name) is “one of the most excessive reading adventures that contemporary German literature has to offer” – the Hebbel jury really said exzessivsten, I can’t help it.  Ulrich Commerçon, Saarland Minister of Education & Culture, said Ecker wonderfully combines fantasy and a philosophical world view, not forgetting wit.  [JH]
  • Born October 28, 1967 Julia Roberts, 53. How can I resist giving Birthday Honors to Tinker Bell in Hook? Not to mention she was in the seriously weird Flatliners that I saw at a virtually empty theater. Of course, there’s the ever weirder Mary Reilly with her in the title role. For something more charming, she voiced Charlotte the Spider in Charlotte‘s Web. I’m going to skip her as a Smurf I think… (CE)
  • Born October 28, 1974 – Ruth Ann Nordin, 46.  Almost a hundred books by now.  “One day, while browsing through the library, it suddenly occurred to me that if I wanted to read the book I had in mind, I was going to have to write it.  I’ve been writing ever since.”  Mostly romances, Western, Regency, modern.  Ann’s Quest to Be Queen and sequels (she becomes queen of the distant planet Raz), and five others, are ours.  When RAN apologized “I did not do as thorough a job of editing as I do today with my editor and three proofreaders.  I can’t go back and edit those books … I lost control of them,” she drew a comment “As always, you underestimate your talent.”  [JH]
  • Born October 28, 1982 Matt Smith, 38. The Eleventh Doctor, my third favorite of the modern Doctors, and he’s also Alex in Terminator Genisys, a film I’ve not seen. He’s also Jim in the quite excellent Sally Lockhart Mysteries: The Ruby in the Smoke based off the Philip Pullman novels.(CE) 
  • Born October 28, 1989 – Heather Frost, 31.  Her Seers and two sequels are for us, plus a prequel in her collection Asides.  She owns two typewriters and holds Lord of the Rings movie marathons.  Mansfield Park and Harold and the Purple Crayon are two of her favorite books, so we agree there (not meaning the typewriters).  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Far Side witnesses an alien spacecraft’s distress call.

(10) WHO’D HAVE THOUGHT? Leading off AbeBooks’ “Most Expensive Sales from July to September 2020” is a copy of Michael Crichton’s The Lost World – which went for $25,000!

An unread, as new first edition complete with its dust jacket. The book is signed by Steven Spielberg, special effects director Stan Winston, and 10 actors from the film adaption of this novel – Jeff Goldblum, Julianne Moore, Vince Vaughn, Pete Postlethwaite, Peter Stormare, Harvey Jason, Richard Schiff, Arliss Howard, Vanessa Chester, and Thomas F. Duffy. Published in 1995, the novel was the sequel to Crichton’s 1990 bestseller Jurassic Park. The Lost World was adapted for cinema in 1997.

(11) WINNING THE PLANET SERIES. I’m a lifelong Dodger fan (I remember hearing “We’re going to Milwaukee!” on TV in 1959) yet I never knew ‘til this morning that pitcher Clayton Kershaw’s Uncle Clyde discovered Pluto: “Clayton Kershaw Still Isn’t As Cool As His Great-Uncle” at Central Track.

…It was a hell of a moment for sure — a coronation fit for a king, and an accomplishment Kershaw’s extended family will surely brag on for generations to come.

On the other hand: Kershaw’s great-uncle Clyde Tombaugh is the astronomer who discovered Pluto in 1930, so maybe a World Series win isn’t such a huge deal in the great scheme of things for the Kershaw family tree?

For his part, and to his credit, Kershaw is quite proud of his ancestor’s achievement. After Tombaugh passed in 1997, Kershaw has used his considerable platform to celebrate his great-uncle’s discovery — and to keep championing Pluto’s designation as a full-on planet despite its 2006 downgrading to a “dwarf planet.”

Kershaw first publicly touted his familial connection to Pluto — and his dedication to its former status — in a 2009 online fan Q&A with ESPNLosAngeles. Then, in 2015, he discussed it during an interview on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, doubling down on his stance and even sharing a little insight into his family’s thoughts on the matter.

“It’s something that’s been a huge problem in the Kershaw/Tombaugh family for a couple of years now,” he said when Kimmel broached the subject. “My great uncle discovered Pluto. I know that sounds like a joke when it comes out, but it’s true. Clyde Tombaugh, [my] great uncle, discovered Pluto. And they took it away from us — said it’s a dwarf planet now. What scientists just decide to just get in a room one day and say, ‘Oh, you know, we’re out with Pluto’?”

(12) AIN’T EASY BEING MRS. GREEN. The Nerdist shows examples as “Artist Turns THE MUPPETS Into Famous Horror Movie Characters”.

The collection includes:

–Gonzo as Jason Voorhees, with Camilla as Mrs. Voorhees
–Fozzie as Freddy Krueger
–Miss Piggy as Carrie White
–Kermit as Norman Bates
–Beaker as Michael Myers, with Dr. Bunson Honeydew as Dr. Loomis
–Swedish Chef as Leatherface
–Animal as Buffalo Bill
–Rowlf as Hannibal Lecter
–Sam the Eagle as Pinhead
–Scooter as Chucky
–Electric Mayhem as Capt. Spaulding and the Firefly Family
–Statler and Waldorf as The Grady Twins

(13) GROAN UPS. Polygon’s Emily Heller knows what these books are about: “A Series of Unfortunate Events and the horror of adults being absolute dummies”.

…A Series of Unfortunate Events is often described as surreal and absurdist. Handler has listed Roald Dahl, another children’s author with a darkly whimsical style, as an influence on his work. But while the novels’ world is certainly weird, it’s important that it makes sense within kid logic.

When I was a kid, there were plenty of things that mattered so much to me, but adults just didn’t get it. There were also things that adults seemed to understand implicitly, but didn’t make any sense to me. I was fortunate to grow up in a comfortable, loving home, so those things were very low stakes, but they were very real — and frustrating and anxiety-inducing — in the moment.

A Series of Unfortunate Events reflects that dichotomy back to its young readers. The Baudelaires don’t understand why Justice Strauss can’t just adopt them and are frustrated when no one else seems to recognize Count Olaf under his obvious disguises. It’s an exaggerated version of the truth that every child eventually starts to suspect: adults may not always know what they’re doing.

Lemony Snicket lets children feel like they’re in on a secret. That allows A Series of Unfortunate Events to do what so much good horror fiction does — explore and validate our deepest fears. It also gives readers the tools to deal with that horrifying reality….

(14) UNSATISFIED CUSTOMER. “Kellogg’s Minecraft Creeper Crunch Cereal, Reviewed” at Serious Eats.

…For today’s video, I tried Kellogg’s Minecraft Creeper Crunch cereal. Not only am I old enough to have never played Minecraft, but I had no idea there was this much Minecraft merchandise and branded content. It appears, however, that kids are still crazy about the property, enough so that they’ll want to have a little Minecraft iconography with their breakfast.

The problem is that this cereal, cinnamon-flavored with marshmallows, is not good. It barely tastes like cinnamon, and the marshmallows are flavorless. If Minecraft is a video game about building with digital blocks, then this cereal is like eating those blocks except, I imagine, far less satisfying. These aren’t good as a snack, and the milk isn’t particularly good either. They are, as far as cereal goes, a total failure.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Rich Lynch, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ, N., Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Contrarius, Michael J. Walsh, and John Hertz for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Olav Rokne.]

Pixel Scroll 9/20/20 I Have Come Here To Chew Bubblegum And Scroll Pixels… And I’m All Out Of Bubblegum

(1) UP AND COMERS. In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport surveys the new class of astronauts (chosen from 18,000 applicants) and says while some traditions haven’t changed (the process of picking an astronaut remains mysterious) the new astronauts will now have the option of going to the International Space Station via two commercial spacecraft and possibly may fly back to the Moon in a few years. “As the possibility of going to space grows, U.S. astronauts still don’t know how they get picked to fly”.

…Now there is an array of flying options coming to fruition, all launching from Cape Canaveral, that could provide astronauts a variety of flight opportunities not seen in decades. There’s SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft, which in May became the first spacecraft to launch NASA astronauts from United States soil in nearly a decade. Boeing is also working to get its Starliner capsule ready, with a first crewed flight set for sometime next year. And NASA hopes Lockheed Martin’s Orion spacecraft will fly astronauts on a trip around the moon by 2023.

All of which means it’s an exciting time to be an astronaut, especially as the highly coveted assignments for the 48-member NASA astronaut corps in Houston are being handed out. It’s also a chance for NASA to showcase its astronauts and attempt to rekindle the national enthusiasm they once inspired. In the decades since Apollo, when astronauts were household names and revered as heroes, they are now largely anonymous.

(2) IN THE NEXT ROW. At LitHub: “Walter Mosley: When I’m Telling a Story I Imagine the Eavesdropper Over My Shoulder”.

Who do you most wish would read your book?
I once explained my audience by saying that I imagined being on a train or a bus sitting side by side with my favorite older cousin, Alberta Jackson. I’d be telling her stories about Easy Rawlins or his murderous friend Mouse. She’d be all excited and worried about Easy.

Sitting behind us is some person we don’t know and aren’t thinking about. That unknown person is my audience. They’re eavesdropping on my story and responding in ways I have no idea of. That way my writing, storytelling cannot be swayed by opinions external to the world I’m talking about.

(3) COMPARING VIRTUAL CONS ACROSS GENRES. Cora Buhlert has written a con report about the virtual Bloody Scotland crime fiction festival and how different it was from the SFF cons she’s attended: “Notes on the Virtual Bloody Scotland Festival and the Differences Between SFF and Crime Fiction Cons”

… Part of the reason for the lack of Discord chats, kaffeeklatsches and a dealers room may be that crime fiction festivals seem to be more focussed on listening to well-known writers speak and read than on interacting with fellow members. And indeed, there were fewer themed panels and a lot more of “See these cool authors talking about their writing and life”. It reminds more of literary festivals than SFF cons. Crime fiction cons also seem to be geared towards writers – the various British ones are often called “crime writing festivals”, hence the masterclasses. It’s simply a different con culture.

(4) IF YOU CAN MAKE IT THERE. Publishers Weekly examines how industry giant ReedPop is overcoming the learning curve to present virtual events in “New York Comic Con Goes Metaverse”.

…ReedPop has been “pivoting into what all of this stuff will look like digitally,” Armstrong says. “The Metaverse was our attempt to bring some content to fans, but also to figure this whole thing out a little bit. I don’t think anybody has perfected it.”

ReedPop event director and NYCC Metaverse showrunner Kristina Rogers agrees. She says the August event was a chance to see what worked and what would allow fans to get the most out of the event. “We said, ‘Let’s figure out how to get our content out there and see what the fans are really passionate about.’ It feels like needs are all changing constantly, because everything moves very quickly.”

One of the most popular features of the August Metaverse was live chat, Rogers says, noting that some of the panels were presented with live feedback on YouTube. “Fans told us they love being able to catch up with each other, and talking about a panel as it’s happening and right after.” Metaverse even included a “professional online con,” an online meeting between publishers and retailers, which was hailed as a huge success by participants.

NYCC Metaverse will have much of the traditional content of NYCC’s IRL editions, including media panels from CBS, FX, Hulu, and Star Trek and a significant amount of anime programming via anime distributor Funimation and manga publisher Viz Media. Traditional book publishers will be represented as usual, including Disney, Macmillan and its graphic novel imprint First Second Books, and Penguin Random House, with an emphasis on providing sneak peeks at trailers and covers, exclusive content, and author workshops, which are very popular with fans.

Looking to avoid still more talking heads on a computer screen, Rogers is searching for ways to offer conversations on fresh topics by dynamic participants. “We’ve seen a lot of iterations, and we’re still trying to figure out what’s actually going break through the noise,” she says.

(5) MAN UNDERBOARD. A veteran stunt man and stunt coordinator, “Ernie Orsatti, Stuntman Who Took Quite the Fall in ‘The Poseidon Adventure,’ Dies at 80”. The Hollywood Reporter profiled his most famous stunt.

…Ernie Orsatti portrayed Terry, the boyfriend of Pamela Sue Martin’s character, in The Poseidon Adventure, produced by “Master of Disaster” Irwin Allen and directed by Ronald Neame.

On the day before the stunt was scheduled, Orsatti was informed that Allen “wanted him to do the fall. The actor replied, “‘I’m not a stuntman. You want me to do that fall?'” he recalled in the 2006 video short The Poseidon Adventure: Falling Up With Ernie.

The stunt called for someone to cling to the edge of an upside-down table, let go and plunge 32 feet to land on his back onto a skylight in the doomed ocean liner’s inverted ballroom. After some apprehension, Orsatti agreed to do it.

Stunt coordinator Paul Stader told him, “‘Do not lean your head back, you’ll break your neck. Pick a point, look at it and let go,'” he remembered. “I picked my feet up into what you call an ‘L’ so I would be falling straight away from the camera with my hands out — and then it knocked me colder than a cucumber.”

They got the shot in one take. “They wanted me to register terror, and they surely must have gotten it,” he once said. “I was scared to death.

“The actors who were off that day, like Gene Hackman and Ernie Borgnine, showed up with their families to watch the shooting. I asked Gene what he was doing here and he smiled and said, ‘We’ve all come to watch you die.’ He took pictures and everything.”

(6) TODAY’S EASTER EGG.

Go to Google

Search for WIZARD OF OZ

Click on the ruby slippers to the right.

Then click on the tornado.

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • September 1996 — The BBC Books edition of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere was published. It was based off the BBC Neverwhere series, and it would be nominated for both the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature and the Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in a Novel but would win neither. It would not be on the Hugo ballot for either the series or the novel. It would be the only version of the novel until William Morrow published Neverwhere: The Author’s Preferred Text in 2015. This version was supposed to have been first published by Hill House who did other Gaiman works such as the Good Omens screenplay and American Gods: Author’s Preferred Text  but they went out of business before doing so. Neverwhere has been done in as least two audio dramas, a comic books series, several theater productions and one delightfully illustrated edition of the novel. The Jim Henson Company optioned Neverwhere but never exercised that option.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 20, 1886 – Charles Williams.   His seven novels, many of his plays and poems, having essentially spiritual elements, are in our realm.  David Bratman edited the three Masques of Amen House in 2000.  Note also CW’s two books of Arthurian poetry, Taliessin through Logres and The Region of the Summer Stars.  Moving to Oxford during World War II he became an Inkling.  Dorothy L. Sayers called him the Master of the Images (in Dante’s Divine Comedy).  (Died 1945) [JH]
  • Born September 20, 1888 – Margery Stocking.  By 1914, writing and illustrating her own feature column in syndicated newspapers; in 1922, first woman to receive the Beaux Arts Medal from the Yale School of Architecture.  Fourteen years illustrating for Blue Book.  One of only four women who did pulp-magazine covers; Margaret Brundage was another.  MS’ forty-five covers for the best-selling Ranch Romances are beyond us, but here is a mermaid; here is hunting a saber-tooth tiger; here are some nymphs, here a satyr; here is “Moonlight Fantasy”.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born September 20, 1935 Keith Roberts. Author of Pavane, an amazing novel. I’ll admit that I’ve not read anything else by him, so do tell me about other works please. I’ve just downloaded his collection of ghost stories, Winterwood and Other Hauntings, with an introduction by Robert Holdstock, from one of the usual digital suspects where he’s very well stocked.  (Died 2000.) (CE)
  • Born September 20, 1940 Jonathan Hardy. He was the voice of Dominar Rygel XVI, called simply Rygel, once the royal ruler of the Hynerian Empire, on Farscape.  He was also Police Commissioner Labatouche in Mad Max, and he had a one-off in the Mission: Impossible series that was produced in his native Australia in the “Submarine” episode as Etienne Reynard. (Died 2012.) (CE) 
  • Born September 20, 1948 – George R.R. Martin, 72.  First Hugo 1975, four more; two Nebulas; one Stoker; one coveted Balrog (the only kind that can be coveted, aiee); Skylark; two Geffens (Israel), four Ignotuses (Spain); Phantastik Preis (Germany); Seiun (Japan); World Fantasy Award for lifetime achievement.  His multi-author, multi-volume Wild Cards, and his Song of Ice and Fire, were well under way when he was Pro Guest of Honour at Torcon 3 the 61st Worldcon (and there was a fine “Winter is Coming” in the Masquerade), but no one dreamed of Ice and Fire’s fantastic success on television.  Now that he has pleased millions a misdeed looses lightnings.  [JH]
  • Born September 20, 1955 David Haig, 65. He played Pangol in “The Leisure Hive” a Fourth Doctor story. He also showed up on Blake’s 7  in “Rumours of Death” as Forres, and was Colonel Bonnet in The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones: Tales of Innocence. He’s also General Vandenberg in the 2006 film remake of A for Andromeda. Finally I should note he’s The Player in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead done at The Old Vic a few years back. (CE)
  • Born September 20, 1950 James Blaylock, 70. One of my favorite writers. I’d recommend the the Ghosts trilogy, the Christian trilogy and The Adventures of Langdon St. Ives whichcollects all of the Langdon St. Ives adventures together as his best writing, but anything by him is worth reading. (CE) 
  • Born September 20, 1963 – Elise Broach, 57.  Two E.B. White Read Aloud Awards, two Amer. Lib’y Ass’n Notable Children’s Books.  When Dinosaurs Came With Everything was a Time #1 Children’s Book of the Year; Masterpiece a New York Times Best Seller, five sequels.  Six more novels, nine more picture books. Yale alumna, three degrees including M.Phil. History.  “I can draw most animals, and I can tell the color of an M&M by its taste….  We had to drive a rental truck 3,000 miles across country….  I had an excellent record on greens and browns.”
  • Born September 20, 1974 Owen Sheers, 46. His first novel, Resistance, tells the story of the inhabitants of a valley near Abergavenny in Wales in the Forties shortly after the failure of Operation Overlord and a successful German takeover of Britain. It’s been made into a film.  He also wrote the “White Ravens”, a contemporary take off the myth of Branwen Daughter of Llyr, found in the New Stories from the Mabinogion series. (CE) 
  • Born September 20, 1978 – Tiphanie Yanique, 42.  Nat’l Book Foundation “5 Under 35” honoree, 2010.  Distinguished Teaching Award at the New School, 2015.  Now at Emory.  Amer. Acad. Poets Prize, Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection.  Boston Review Fiction Prize, Kore Press Short Fiction Award, Pushcart Prize, Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature (fiction).  Land of Love and Drowning, which is ours, won the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and the Phyllis Wheatley Award.  [JH]
  • Born September 20, 1982 – Emilia Dziubak, 38.  Here is her cover for A Tale Magnolious.  Here is The House of Lost and Found.  Here is Where Are You, Mama? (in Polish).  Here is Gogi’s Gambit.  Here is Two Options (in Polish).  [JH]
  • Born September 20, 1986 Aldis Hodge, 34. He played Alec Hardison on the Leverage series. Ok, I know it’s not precisely genre but if there’s a spiritual descendant of Mission: Impossible, this series is it. Both the cast and their use are technology of that series are keeping with the MI spirit. He’s also had one-offs on CharmedBuffy the Vampire SlayerSupernaturalThe Walking DeadStar Trek Discovery’s Short Takes and Bones (which given that it crossed over with Sleepy Hollow…) (CE) 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Incidental Comics’ Grant Snider offers this advice:

(10) ANIMATION AHOY. “Sailor Moon’s impact on modern American animation remains undeniable” asserts A.V.Club.

Twenty-five years after its U.S. television premiere, the impact of Sailor Moon on Japanese and Western animation remains undeniable. With its distinct visual vocabulary, story structure, and defined character archetypes, the series not only served as the blueprint for the many Japanese magical girl anime series that would follow it, but also established a visual aesthetic so iconic, we see references, parodies, and direct homages to the series throughout various Western television series—including transformation sequences in Teen Titans Go! and Star Vs. The Forces of EvilLisa Simpson dressed as Sailor Moon in The Simpsonsand even an episode of South Park, where Kenny receives a Sailor Moon brooch from the CEO of Sony that turns him into “Princess Kenny,” a play on Princess Serenity. Cartoon Network has even posted a video compiling multiple Sailor Moon references that have appeared across the various series that air on the network. The tropes established by Sailor Moon soon became common features of the magical girl genre: cute, talking guide animals, everyday objects that secretly double as magical transformation amulets, and a tight-knit group of friends represented by different colors and elements….

(11) CAN’T DRAG HIM OUT OF THE DUNGEON. “This game of Dungeons & Dragons has been going on for 38 years” reports CNN.

Stay-at-home orders due to the ongoing pandemic have upended a lot of plans—weddings have been postponed, concerts have been canceled, vacations have been pushed aside. But one thing that can’t be kept down? Robert Wardhaugh’s game of Dungeons & Dragons.

For the past 38 years, Wardhaugh has been playing the same game of Dungeons & Dragons in Canada. Dungeons & Dragons is a fantasy tabletop role-playing game that usually involves lots of miniatures, lots of imaginary worlds, and lots of high adventure. Starting in 1982, that might make it the longest continuously running Dungeons & Dragons campaign, ever. Or, at least the longest Wardhaugh has ever heard of….

(12) HE HUFFED AND HE PUFFED. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson—who has been cast to play DC villain Black Adam—apparently got a little peeved when his front gate wouldn’t open during a power outage. He was late to work, so he did what any super-strong villain would do. He ripped the gate off the brick columns & threw it aside: “The Rock Goes Full ‘Black Adam’ On Gate During Power Outage, ROCK SMASH!”

“I pushed, pulled and ripped the gate completely off myself,” Johnson said.

“Ripped it completely out of the brick wall, severed the steel hydraulics and threw it on the grass.”

“My security team was able to meet the gate technician and welders about an hour later — and they were apparently, ‘in disbelief and equally scared’ as to how I ripped it off”

(13) MAGIC METAL. “Metalhead’s Mulligan: Seven Heavy Records Inspired By ‘Magic: The Gathering” at Bandcamp.

…Of course, like most forms of geekery and high fantasy, the game’s spurred some pretty kick-ass metal, largely thanks to the art, which presents an abundance of aesthetic comfort food: zombies, skeletons, demons, blood sacrifice, and the like. “Fantasy literature, swords and sorcery/barbaric pulp and films, and tabletop/role-playing games have had a strong impact on metal music’s aesthetic direction since the genre’s nascent stages, so it only makes sense that someone fascinated with metal album covers would be interested in immersive gaming experiences that provide a similar art direction, and vice versa,” says Jake Rogers, lead singer of Visigoth and lifelong Magic player. “If you’re someone who grew up playing games such as Magic: The Gathering, Dungeons & Dragons, or Warhammer, and then discover Michael Whelan’s art adorning a Cirith Ungol album, or happen across Omen’s Battle Cry—the art for which looks like it could have been taken from an early Magic: The Gathering set—it only makes sense that your interest in the music would be piqued.” With that in mind, here are seven metal albums that pay homage, both directly and indirectly, to the first and best trading card game ever made.

(14) CATCHING UP WITH THE DINOSAURS. Although this Smasher--made Jurassic World 3: Dominion trailer dropped in June, I don’t seem to have linked to it yet. The film is now scheduled for release in June 2021.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Write Your Story on Vimeo, Willy Hajli and William Kirn explain what happens when an employee rebels against her AI overlords.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Contrarius, N., Rob Thornton, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories.  Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Pixel Scroll 6/25/20 You Scroll My Pixel Round Baby Right Round

(1) THE BOOKSELLER FROM UNCLE. Laurie Hertzel of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune has assembled readers’ “Fond memories of Uncle Hugo’s and Uncle Edgar’s, and hope for the future”.

Elaine K. Murray, Minneapolis: It was my mother’s bookstore. All the years she worked at Sears across the street she could go there and get her beloved vintage mysteries at a price she could afford. After she retired I would drive her there and buy her books for a Christmas or birthday present.

She has been gone more than five years, but I could still go there, find books from some of her favorite authors, and feel like she was still near me.

Now that’s gone forever and I can’t seem to stop crying.

(2) WRITER INDEPENDENCE DAY. Cat Rambo is teaching two online courses on the Fourth of July. Registration and cost information at the links.

The next class date is Saturday, July 4, 2020, 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific time.

The question isn’t how to tell a good idea from a bad one; it’s how to learn to turn any idea into a story. Come with a story idea, no matter how vague. We’ll discuss multiple ways of plotting a story based on its unique inspiration, as well as engaging in class exercises designed to hone your plotting skills. Learn how to build a roadmap for your story that will help you complete it in a class that combines discussion, lecture, and in-class writing exercises.

Next class date is Saturday, July 4, 2020, 1:00-3:00 PM Pacific Time.

Learn how to create interesting, rounded characters that your readers can identify with, whether hero or villain. We’ll cover how to write convincing interesting dialogue as well as how to flesh out a character so they come alive and help you move the story along. A combination of lecture, discussion, and in-class writing exercises will help you apply new technique immediately to your own stories.

The Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers is offering plenty more classes in the weeks to come. Here are two examples.

Saturday, July 11

Values are not universal across all cultures, and thus what a satisfying story looks like is not limited to one model either. This course examines East Asian storytelling forms and themes, including the four-act kish?tenketsu structure, which is not based on conflict, tension, and resolution. The course will use case studies from books, films, and other mediums, and in-class exercises and games to demonstrate that elements that we consider staples of European/Western storytelling, such as the Hero’s Journey story structure, the empowerment arc, and individual heroism, are not universal across all cultures. Students will complete the course with tools to analyze the European/Western forms and themes in the stories they have written as well as templates from East Asian storytelling to explore and apply to their work.

Sunday, July 12 

Are you a novelist with a fascinating world? Have you thought about turning your novel into an RPG? In this class, gaming industry veteran will walk you through the ins and outs of adapting your novel to fit a gaming world. This class is customized for authors who have published at least one original novel or novella. It is not designed for adaptations of someone else’s work.

(3) MURDOCH MYSTERIES. [Item by Daniel Dern.] We are on the home stretch of, via Acorn.tv, watching the Murdoch Mysteries [1], and, sans spoilers, I thought I’d drop a brief note on one of the episodes we saw earlier this week, Season 13 Episode 11, “Staring Blindly into the Future”

In addition to the use of (then) new scientific techniques to solve crimes — fingerprinting, blood typing, ultraviolet to reveal bloodstains, surveillance cameras — and various legitimized/finessed tech, like a prototype hyperloop, a (larger) roomba, and more — another of the sf/fan-adjacent aspects of the show is the use of historical figures (e.g., Mark Twain, played by William Shatner).

This episode features a dozen — most of whom (all but 3, IIRC) have appeared on previous episodes throughout the season:

  • Nikola Tesla
  • Svetlana Tsiolkofsky (a fictional daughter of rocketry’s Konstantin T.)
  • Thomas Edison
  • Alexander Graham Bell
  • Emma Goldman
  • Albert Einstein (previous name-dropped but not shown)
  • Marie Curie
  • Ernest Rutherford
  • Henry Ford
  • Andrew Carnegie
  • Harry Houdini
  • H.G. Wells

Fun stuff!

[1] From the CBC URL:  “Set in Toronto at the dawn of the 20th century, Murdoch Mysteries is a one-hour drama series that explores the intriguing world of William Murdoch (Yannick Bisson), a methodical and dashing detective who pioneers innovative forensic techniques to solve some of the city’s most gruesome murders.”

(4) JUDGING A BOOK BY ITS BACK COVER. The Guardian reports a practice adopted by some newly reopened UK bookstores to minimize COVID-19 contamination  — “Flipping hell: book designers lament Waterstones’ back-to-front displays”.

It was understandable but slightly “heartbreaking”, designer Anna Morrison said of the news that Waterstones is asking shoppers to judge a book by its back cover.

The retailer has offered its apologies to book designers after some newly reopened branches began displaying books back to front so browsers could read the blurb without picking it up.

…People can pick up a book in Waterstones but if they do not buy, it is quarantined for 72 hours. A branch in Swansea was first to post on Twitter that they were turning books round where possible. 

(5) SOME AMENDS. John Scalzi reacted to news about the misconduct of several sff writers he knows (named in the piece): “When Friends Fuck Up, and So Do I”.

… I have some friends who have fucked up in how they’ve been treating women.

… I’m angry at my friends right now. I’m sad for my friends right now. I’m even more angry about and sad for the women who they have made feel unsafe, and who they have harassed, or groomed, or otherwise harmed, because it is unacceptable. I want to be a friend to my friends and I also want to chuck them off the side of the fucking boat and be done with them. I want to think there’s a way back for some of them, for the same reason there was a way back for me when I’ve fucked up before. That’s on them, and right now I don’t know how much, if any, of my personal time and credibility I want to put into helping them. I’m frustrated and I’m tired that we keep having to do this, and I’m ashamed that some of the reason we keep having to do this rests on me. I understand and accept why I need to write this piece and I also fucking resent having to, and that resentment rests solely on my friends, and me….

(6) GAMING FIGURES ACCUSED. The New York Times covered last weekend’s outpouring: “Dozens of Women in Gaming Speak Out About Sexism and Harassment”. Tagline: “After more than 70 allegations surfaced on Twitter this weekend, gaming companies and streamers responded with action. Some say it’s the beginning of real change in the industry.”

More than 70 people in the gaming industry, most of them women, have come forward with allegations of gender-based discrimination, harassment and sexual assault since Friday. They have shared their stories in statements posted to Twitter, YouTube, Twitch and the blogging platform TwitLonger.

The outpouring of stories from competitive gamers and streamers, who broadcast their gameplay on platforms like Twitch for money, led to the resignation of the C.E.O. of a prominent talent management company for streamers and a moment of reflection for an industry that has often contended with sexism, bullying and allegations of abuse.

Already, the response has been a far cry from Gamergate in 2014, when women faced threats of death and sexual assault for critiquing the industry’s male-dominated, sexist culture. Now, some are optimistic that real change could come.

Gamers began sharing their stories after a Twitter user who posts as Hollowtide tweeted about an unnamed “top” player of the online game Destiny on Friday night, referring to the person as a “scum lord.” Three female streamers, JewelsVerne, SheSnaps and SchviftyFive, saw the post and decided to come forward about their experiences with the gamer in question, who is known online both as Lono and SayNoToRage. The women posted their allegations, including nonconsensual touching, propositioning for sex and harassment, on Twitter using their streamer handles. (The streamers did not provide their legal names to The New York Times. In years past, women gamers who have spoken out against the industry using their legal names have been subjected to further harassment, hacking and doxxing.)

In interviews with The Times, when asked to describe their experiences with Lono, the streamers asked a reporter to refer to their public statements on Twitter, TwitLonger and Twitch.

Lono responded to their Twitter accusations in a YouTube video posted on Saturday. “There is no excuse for my behavior. There is no way to gloss over it. The things I did were unacceptable,” he said in the video. “Being inappropriate with these people robbed them of their sense of safety and security and it broke trust, and I am deeply sorry.” (He declined to speak to a reporter from The Times on Monday, and would not share his last name.)

(7) BRAVE NEW SHOW. “You are an essential part of a perfect social body.” Brave New World  begins streaming July 15 on Peacock. Let SYFY Wire set the frame: “It’s A ‘Brave New World’ In First Full Trailer For Peacock’s Sci-Fi Dystopia Series”.

…Based on the highly-conditioned, controlled, and warped population in Huxley’s 1932 novel, this society is a tragic one in need of resistance. So why not John? And, as the new posters for the series declare, “everybody happy now.” The grammar might be a little strange but the sentiment is clear: this dystopia thinks emotional problems have been solved thanks to some handy pharmaceuticals.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 25, 1903 – George Orwell. His other work is admirable but he compels our attention with Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four.  Naturally people on both the Left and the Right have claimed them and attacked them.  Translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Serbian, Spanish, Thai.  (Died 1950) [JH]
  • Born June 25, 1935 – Charles Sheffield.  Physicist and SF author. “Georgia on My Mind” won both the Hugo and the Nebula.  Thirty novels, a hundred shorter stories, some with co-authors.  Translated into Croatian, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Polish.  Toastmaster at BucConeer the 56th Worldcon.  Pro Guest of Honor at Lunacon 44 the year I was Fan Guest of Honor.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born June 25, 1944 – Rick Gellman, age 76.  Art Shows and Dealers’ Rooms at various conventions.  Helped start a Gordy Dickson Memorial Scholarship Fund for sending writers to Clarion.  Founded the Minnesota Munchie Movement.  [JH]
  • Born June 25, 1958 – Pat Sayre McCoy, age 62.  She chaired WindyCon 33 and 34; ran the Green Room at Chicon 2000, the 58th Worldcon; contributed an essay to the wrestling with “SF conventions and Gender Equity” in Journey Planet 13, as did Our Gracious Host. [JH]
  • Born June 25, 1963 – Yann Martel, age 57.  Famous for The Life of Pi, second of three SF novels (besides writing Beatrice and Virgil, which is not about those two historical persons, nor a book-length treatment of The Divine Comedy, but – well, read it for yourself).  A theatrical adaptation of Pi with puppets (no, not hand puppets) was a great success and was scheduled to open in London this month, naturally postponed.  [JH]
  • Born June 25, 1980 – Amanda Arista, age 40.  Third novel about Merci Lenard, who always gets her story but doesn’t always get the truth she wants, just released in January.  Three novels about an urban panther.  AA herself likes bowling, croquet, and the SMU (Southern Methodist University) Creative Writing Program in which she once studied and now teaches.  [JH]

(9) US IN FLUX. The latest story for the Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project launched today: “A Cyber-Cuscuta Manifesto,” a story about big data, emerging life forms, and a plea for coexistence by Regina Kanyu Wang.

 It was a public hearing held online. Billions of people crowded into the meeting room, in suits, in pajamas, on treadmills, on sofas, in groups in front of large screens suspended above busy streets, alone at home with VR headsets on. The host called for silence and their words were translated into myriad languages, in both sound and text. The audience held its collective breath and waited for the special guest to show. A face appeared, vague in detail, like billions of faces merged into one. The face began to talk, in an equally vague voice, in thousands of languages at the same time, alien but also familiar to everyone…

On Monday, June 29 at 4 p.m. Eastern, they’ll have another virtual event on Zoom with Regina in conversation with Athena Aktipis, a psychology researcher who studies cooperation across systems, from human sharing to cancer. Registration required.

(10) TONI WEISSKOPF Q&A. Author Robert E. Hampson interviewed Baen Books publisher Toni Weisskopf for his Wake Forest University class.

(11) BOUNTY PAID. “Rare ‘Star Wars’ Toys Attract Big Money At Auction”Forbes reported some high sales figures in March – but also that one rare item failed to attract its minimum bid.

One of the most sought after Star Wars collectibles has sold for $93,750 at auction.

Bidding on the Rocket-Firing Boba Fett started at $30,000 but had already exceeded the $60,000 lower estimate before the auction began thanks to several absentee bids. The final sale price includes the buyer’s premium.

The unpainted promotional item, made of blue plastic, is a prototype that utilized an L-Slot design named after the shape of the backpack mechanism to allow the rocket to fire. It was created by toymaker Kenner to promote the second film in the franchise, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. It is one of the few prototypes known to exist. The launcher design was amended to a J-Slot mechanism and eventually replaced by a non-firing version. None of the firing toys were ever made available to the general public.

This item is the latest to be available on the market. A similar item sold at auction through Hakes in July 2019 for $112,926. Another, one that had been painted and had a J-Slot design in the backpack, sold for $185,850 in November 2019. Both prices include the buyer’s premium.

(12) LUNAR LOO. “NASA and HeroX Launch Lunar Loo Challenge to Find Way for Astronauts to Poop on the Moon”. So, will this be an outhouse with a crescent Earth on the door?

HeroX, the social network for innovation and the world’s leading platform for crowdsourced solutions, today launched the crowdsourcing competition “Lunar Loo” on behalf of the NASA Tournament Lab (NTL) and NASA’s Human Landing System (HLS) Program. NASA is preparing to return to the Moon by 2024 and needs to develop a new way for astronauts to urinate and defecate in microgravity and lunar gravity. The crowdsourcing challenge calls on the global community of innovators to provide innovative design concepts for fully capable, low mass toilets that can be used both in space and on the moon.

Competitive toilet designs will align with NASA’s overall goals of reduced mass and volume, lower power consumption, and easy maintenance. Selected designs may be modified for integration into Artemis lunar landers. This effort is all part of NASA’s Artemis program to return astronauts to the moon in 2024.

HeroX says this is the payoff:

This Lunar Toilet Challenge has a total prize purse of $35,000 that will be shared among the teams submitting the top three designs in the Technical category.  The top three participants in the Junior category will each receive public recognition and an item of official NASA-logoed merchandise.

(13) ABOUT THE WEATHER. I’ll bet they were.

(14) FROM HIDDEN FIGURE TO MARQUEE NAME. BBC reports “Nasa to name HQ after first black female engineer”.

Nasa is to name its headquarters in Washington DC after its first black female engineer, Mary Jackson.

Nasa administrator Jim Bridenstine said Jackson had helped to break down barriers for African Americans and women in engineering and technology.

The story of Mary Jackson was told in the 2016 film Hidden Figures. Born in Hampton, Virginia, she died in 2005.

Last year, Nasa renamed the street outside its headquarters as Hidden Figures Way.

“Hidden no more, we will continue to recognise the contributions of women, African Americans, and people of all backgrounds who have made Nasa’s successful history of exploration possible,” Mr Bridenstine said in a statement.

“Mary W Jackson was part of a group of very important women who helped Nasa succeed in getting American astronauts into space,” Mr Bridenstine added.

“Mary never accepted the status quo, she helped break barriers and open opportunities for African Americans and women in the field of engineering and technology.”

(15) LISTEN TO THE RHYTHM OF THE FALLING RAIN. “The Science Behind That Fresh Rain Smell”.

Scientists have known for decades that one of the main causes of the smell of fresh rain is geosmin: a chemical compound produced by soil-dwelling bacteria. But why do the bacteria make it in the first place? It was a bacteria-based mystery… until now! Maddie gets some answers from reporter Emily Vaughn, former Short Wave intern.

Transcript here

(16) FORK OVER. Snippet good! “Google to pay for ‘high quality’ news in three countries”.

Google says it will pay some news outlets for “high-quality” stories that it uses amid pressure from publishers.

Part of the initiative will require Google to pay for its users to access news stories otherwise locked behind a so-called paywall on certain websites.

The first sites to join are in Australia, Brazil, and Germany, with a product launch set for later this year.

It comes as authorities in some countries investigate how tech firms use news content without paying for it.

Australia has put forward plans to force Google and Facebook to pay news publishers under competition rules.

France has already issued Google with an order to do so.

It is the latest development in a long-standing row with news publishers over whether tech giants should pay them to include “snippets” of news articles in search results or on social media.

(17) YOUTH’S A STUFF WILL NOT ENDURE. “Parties — Not Protests — Are Causing Spikes In Coronavirus”, according to NPR.

As the U.S. begins to open back up, coronavirus clusters — where multiple people contract COVID-19 at the same event or location — are popping up all over the country. And despite drawing massive crowds, protests against police violence and racial injustice in Washington state weren’t among those clusters.

“We did have a rally in Bellingham, which is our county seat, and there was also a protest, and we have not been able to connect a single case to that rally or to the protest, and what we’re finding is in large part that’s due to the use of masks,” Erika Lautenbach, the director of the Whatcom County Health Department in Washington State, tells NPR’s All Things Considered. “Almost everyone at the rally was wearing a mask, and it’s really a testament to how effective masks are in preventing the spread of this disease.”

For the clusters that have popped up, Lautenbach says the state has been using contact tracing to learn more about how they’re contributing to the spread of the virus. For instance, it found that 14 cases were associated with a party of 100 to 150 people in early June. Subsequently, 15 more cases were associated with the original 14.

“So that one event spread to 29 people and 31 related employers,” Lautenbach says. “Our challenge is to continue to trace as it moves through families, as it moves through workplaces and as it moves through social events as well.”

But protests just aren’t spreading the disease in the same way, Lautenbach says.

“We’re finding that the social events and gatherings, these parties where people aren’t wearing masks, are our primary source of infection,” Lautenbach says. “And then the secondary source of infection is workplace settings. There were 31 related employers just associated with that one party because of the number of people that brought that to their workplace. So for us, for a community our size, that’s a pretty massive spread.”

And much of that spread, Lautenbach says, is affecting young people.

“We have seen almost a near flip in the cases that we’re experiencing,” Lautenbach says. “So in April of this year, we were really struggling with long-term-care outbreaks. And so about 3 out of 4 people were over the age of 30 and really pretty heavily skewed to 60-plus. And by contrast, in June, we’re seeing that now 2 out of 3 people that have contracted this disease are under 29.”

(18) SPLICING EDGE. NPR reports,“A Year In, 1st Patient To Get Gene Editing For Sickle Cell Disease Is Thriving”.

Like millions of other Americans, Victoria Gray has been sheltering at home with her children as the U.S. struggles through a deadly pandemic, and as protests over police violence have erupted across the country.

But Gray is not like any other American. She’s the first person with a genetic disorder to get treated in the United States with the revolutionary gene-editing technique called CRISPR.

And as the one-year anniversary of her landmark treatment approaches, Gray has just received good news: The billions of genetically modified cells doctors infused into her body clearly appear to be alleviating virtually all the complications of her disorder, sickle cell disease.

(19) DON’T LESNERIZE. Dean Koontz, in the course of telling fans his new book Devoted is available, filled them in about his experience dining out in newly-reopened California.

Wow, after months of having to eat at home every night, we here in Koontzland were excited when our favorite restaurants began to do business again this past week. We went with Ms. Elsa on opening day. The patio tables were ten or twelve feet apart, the waiters wore masks and gloves, the busboys wore full-face plastic shields, and the mood-music guitarist kept alternating between “Eve of Destruction” and “Saint James Infirmary.” It was sooooo romantic!

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

Pixel Scroll 2/29/20 Pixel, Dixel, File, My Scroll John, Did His Reading With His Sockses On, One Flew Off, One Stayed On, Does The Book Get A Hugo Nom?

(1) STÅLENHAG ARRIVES ON SMALL SCREEN. Amazon Prime dropped a trailer for Tales from the Loop.

Inspired by the wondrous paintings of Simon Stålenhag, Tales from the Loop explores the mind-bending adventures of the people who live above the Loop, a machine built to unlock and explore the mysteries of the universe – making things previously relegated to science fiction, possible.

(2) HUGO DEADLINE APPROACHING. CoNZealand sent members a reminder that the end of the Hugo nomination period is March 13, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. Pacific Daylight Time (2:59 am Eastern Daylight Time, 06:59 Irish time, and 8:59 pm March 14, 2020 New Zealand time.)

(3) IRISH COMICS AWARDS. The “Irish Comic News Awards Winners 2019” are out. Unfortunately Dublin 2019, nominated for Best Irish Comic-Related Event, did not win.  

BEST ARTIST (SMALL PRESS)

  • Kevin Keane (Nazferatu)

BEST WRITER (SMALL PRESS)

  • Wayne Talbot (Nazferatu)

BEST IRISH ARTIST (MAJOR PUBLISHER)

  • Will Sliney (Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge)

BEST IRISH WRITER (MAJOR PUBLISHER)

  • Michael Carroll (2000AD)

BEST COLOURIST (SMALL PRESS)

  • Rebecca Reynolds (Plexus)

BEST COLOURIST (MAJOR PUBLISHER)

  • Ellie Wright

BEST LETTERER

  • John Cullen (NHOJ)

BEST WEBCOMIC

  • Twisted Doodles

BEST IRISH CREATOR COMIC (SMALL PRESS)

  • Nazferatu

BEST IRISH CREATOR COMIC (MAJOR PUBLISHER)

  • 2000AD

BEST NEWCOMER / BREAKTHROUGH 

  • Cian Tormey

BEST IRISH COMIC RELATED EVENT

  • Enniskillen Comic Fest

BEST IRISH COMIC SHOP

  • Comic Book Guys

BEST IRISH ANTHOLOGY

  • Sector 13

OVERALL BEST IRISH COMIC

  • Nazferatu

BEST IRISH COMIC COVER

  • Nazferatu (Kevin Keane)

BEST PUBLISHER

  • Rogue Comics Ireland

BEST COMIC RELATED/FEATURED ONLINE CONTENT

  • Dublin City Comics Weekly Update

BEST IRISH WRITER (NON-FICTION)

  • Michael Carroll (Rusty Staples)

(4) FUTURE TENSE. The latest free read in the Future Tense series is Max Barry’s “It Came From Cruden Farm” a short story about humanity’s first encounter with a very disturbing alien.

And, as always, there’s a response essay – this time by Sarah Scoles, author of “Why Would the Government Lie About Aliens?”.

If you think the government has more information about UFOs than it’s letting on, you’re not alone. In fact, you’re in the majority. A 2019 Gallup poll revealed 68 percent of people feel that way. Thirty-three percent of all respondents said that they believe UFOs were built by aliens from outer space.

The Venn diagram center of those two groups clings to one of the most enduring conspiracy theories: The Government (it’s always with a capital G for believers) is squirreling away information about alien spacecraft. This idea appears, and has for years, on internet forums, social media, TV shows, memes, movies, and, of course, fiction, like Max Barry’s “It Came From Cruden Farm.”

(5) FLAT PACK. NPR’s Amal El-Mohtar tells us that “‘Finna’ Warns: Beware Of The Fuzzy Chairs”.

There isn’t a word wasted in Nino Cipri’s Finna. For a book about travelling through nightmarish labyrinths that cut and twist between worlds, it’s remarkably straightforward.

Ava works at LitenVärld, an IKEA-like giant box store where “the showrooms sat together uneasily, like habitats at a hyper-condensed zoo.” Her day begins with relatively minor inconveniences — being forced to come in on her day off, worrying about having to work with Jules, her ex as of a week ago — but these escalate significantly when a young woman reports that her elderly grandmother’s gone missing. It turns out that something about the haphazardly organized chaos of LitenVärld makes it an especially likely place for wormholes to open up between dimensions — to the point where there are corporate instructions (on VHS) on what to do when that happens. But corporations being what they are, the in-house division for wormhole-patrol was cut a decade ago as a cost-saving measure, so it falls to the two most junior members of staff — barely able to speak to each other, the wound of their breakup still raw — to venture into the other worlds themselves and retrieve the lost grandmother.

I tore through this book in knuckle-biting delight. The contrast between the wacky extra-dimensional (and often terrifying) hijinks and LitenVärld’s soul-depleting mundanity is fresh and lovely, and you’re never quite able to forget the fact that person-eating chairs and blood-drinking Hive Mothers are more enjoyable to spend time with than the grinding misery of minimum-wage work in our late capitalist modernity. But the shenanigans are not the point; they function best as a sly, winking backdrop to the deeply moving character work.

(6) MORE UNSEEN KUDOS. NPR’s Scott Tobias reports on “‘The Invisible Man’: When Danger Is Present — And Clear”.

Of the Universal classic monsters — Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, et al. — The Invisible Man is by far the most destructive, the most psychotic, and, not coincidentally, the most recognizably human of them all. (As played by Claude Rains, he’s also the wittiest.) When a man doesn’t have to look at himself in the mirror, he divorces himself from the moral accountability that curbs his worst instincts. Arrogance and contempt are his defining character traits, and invisibility has the effect of weaponizing them, because his scientific genius has both isolated him from other people and heightened his superiority complex.

With his ingenious updating of The Invisible Man, writer-director Leigh Whannell changes perspective from the mad scientist to the terrified victim he’s stalking, which effectively turns the film into Gaslight with a horror twist. And with an actress of Elisabeth Moss’ caliber in the lead role, the film has a psychological realism that’s unusual for the genre, with Moss playing a woman who’s withstanding a form of domestic abuse that may have a supernatural component, but feels sickeningly familiar in many respects. Invisibility has the effect of elevating a person’s worst instincts, so it follows that the manipulation and torment she experiences is just a more extreme version of common behaviors.

…As Cecelia gets pushed to the brink of madness — as much by not be believed as being stalked — Whannell gives the suspense set pieces plenty of room to breathe and take on a paranoid flavor. Moss and the camera are co-conspirators in horror: She imagines Adrian watching her silently from some empty corner of a room and the camera seems to affirm her worst fears, suggesting a presence through odd angles and pans across the space. Where another actor might look foolish swatting and wrestling thin air, Moss sells it as part of the overall choreography between an immensely powerful, destructive husband and a wife struggling to leverage control over a desperate situation.

(7) MORE ABOUT DYSON. Freeman Dyson, who passed away yesterday, gave a TED Talk in 2003 which can be viewed here — “Let’s look for life in the outer solar system”.

Physicist Freeman Dyson suggests that we start looking for life on the moons of Jupiter and out past Neptune, in the Kuiper belt and the Oort cloud. He talks about what such life would be like — and how we might find it.

And Axios Future Issue #2 carried this information about him:

Dyson never won a Nobel Prize for his work. He never even bothered to earn a PhD. 

Instead, he spent the rest of his career pursuing whatever caught his interest, migrating from atomic reactor design to nuclear bomb-powered space exploration to the mathematics of baseball

He achieved popular renown as a gifted scientific writer, publishing his final book in 2018 at the age of 95.

A dedicated contrarian, later in his career he came under fire for doubting the danger of human-made climate change.

The bottom line: Few scientists can be said to have played as important a role in the making of our present than Dyson — and even fewer could so brilliantly envision the future.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 29, 1952 Tales Of Tomorrow first aired “The Children’s Room”.  A secret Children’s Room at a college attracts the attention of intellectual advanced youths. A professor uncovers that his son and other children are mutants being groomed to assist an alien race in a distant part of the galaxy. It was written by Mel Goldberg by a story by Raymond F. Jones who you’ll know as the author of This Island Earth novel. It starred Claire Luce, Una O’Connor and John Boruff. You can see it here.
  • February 29, 2000— Episode three, “Crunchy Munchy” of The Strangerers would air. This SF comedy about two plant beings who assume human form on Earth to accomplish their mission. The series was by Rob Grant, the creator of Red Dwarf. It would last nine episodes and unsurprisingly ends on a cliffhanger as it was canceled. Jack Docherty and Mark Williams played Cadet Flynn and Cadet Niven. You can see this episode here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 29, 1920 Arthur Franz. He played Dr. Stuart Kelston in the early Fifties Invaders from Mars. He was also Jim Barker in Flight to Mars, and, on a much lighter note, Tommy Nelson in Bud Abbott and Lou Costello Meet the Invisible Man. He’ll have six appearances on Science Fiction Theater in six roles, play a hideous monster in Monster on the Campus, and have one-offs on The Invaders, Voyage to the Bottom of The Sea, Land of The Giants, Mission: Impossible and The Six-Million Dollar Man. (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 29, 1928 Joss Ackland, 92. A very long history of genre involvement starting with Ghost Ship, an early Fifties horror film. He’d soon after play Peter Quince in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and makes a stop on The Avengers. (I’m skipping over a lot of horror he did.) he’s Sapten in Royal Flash but I’ll bet you won’t consider that genre though Kage loved that scoundrel. He shows up in Brett’s Sherlock Holmes, and he he’s in a Jekyll and Hyde film in that time period as well. I think I’ll stop with him voicing Black Rabbit in the Watership Down film…
  • Born February 29, 1948 Patricia A. McKillip, 72. If I was to recommend a short list of essential readings of her, I’d start with The Riddle-Master trilogy which is absolutely amazing, toss in the Cygnet series, and add in the linked novels of Winter Rose and Solstice. (The latter has the most cool stitching circle you’ll ever encounter.)  For her tasty short stories, there’s Harrowing the Dragon, Wonders of the Invisible World and Dreams of Distant Shores.
  • Born February 29, 1948 Yanti Somer, 72. Finnish-born actress who appeared in a spate of French and Italian genre films in the late Seventies: Star Odyssey, Battle of the Stars, War of the Robots and Cosmos: War of the Planets. She retired from acting in the early Eighties. 
  • Born February 29, 1952 Tim Powers, 68. He’s won the World Fantasy Award twice for Last Call and Declare, the latter of which I think is awesome. I’m also fond of The Anubis Gates and On Stranger Tides.
  • Born February 29, 1952 Albert Welling, 68. He played Adolph Hitler in the Eleventh Doctor story, “ Let’s Kill Hitler”. It’s one of the stranger stories they told for that Doctor. He had one-offs on Tales of The Unexpected and Outlander.
  • Born February 29, 1984 Rakhee Thakrar, 36. She also plays the Eighth Doctor’s companion, Bliss, in Big Finish’s Doctor Who: The Time War audio dramas. Have I ever noted that what I admire about the Whoverse is how expansive the the definition of accepted storytelling is? Big Finish has done hundreds of hours of new stories, all adding to the original mythos. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) JOHN SCHOENHERR MASTERPIECE. One of the most iconic magazine covers in sff history is on the new – in 1965 – issue of Analog. Tweeted by Galactic Journey:

(12) CONTINUOUS UPROAR. “Telescopes detect ‘biggest explosion since Big Bang'” reports the BBC.

Scientists have detected evidence of a colossal explosion in space – five times bigger than anything observed before.

The huge release of energy is thought to have emanated from a supermassive black hole some 390 million light years from Earth.

The eruption is said to have left a giant dent in the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster.

Researchers reported their findings in The Astrophysical Journal.

“I’ve tried to put this explosion into human terms and it’s really, really difficult,” co-author Melanie Johnston-Hollitt told BBC News.

“The best I can do is tell you that if this explosion continued to occur over the 240 million years of the outburst – which it probably didn’t, but anyway – it’d be like setting off 20 billion, billion megaton TNT explosions every thousandth of a second for the entire 240 million years. So that’s incomprehensibly big. Huge.”

(13) THEY’RE BACK. But under wraps ‘til the official unveiling next month: “Rocky And Bullwinkle Statue Returns To Its Home On The Sunset Strip”.

The WEHO TIMES reported the statute’s return today, capturing its image in a brief moment during installation before it was covered. An official unveiling is planned for the end of March, but no date has been set.

The spinning statue depicts Bullwinkle holding his friend Rocky. It stands on the corner where Sunset Boulevard splits into Holloway Drive. The statue was removed in 2013 for restoration work.

Today, a giant crane placed the 14-foot, 700-pound statue on its pedestal. The statue dates to 1961, but the original creator is not known. The statue was restored by Ric Scozzari with funding by Twentieth Century Fox and Dreamworks, and donated by the Jay Ward family for the City of West Hollywood’s Urban Art Collection. It was last seen at the Paley Center’s Jay Ward Legacy Exhibit in 2014.

(14) DEEP BLUE NOISE. BBC looks into the possibility of “Protecting whales from the noise people make in the ocean”.

There is a rising din in the oceans – and whales are having to struggle to compete with it.

“They’re spending more time or energy trying to communicate… by essentially screaming at each other – what we would have to do at a nightclub,” explains says Mark Jessopp at University College Cork.

Dr Jessopp was recently involved in a research project to study the effects of marine seismic surveys on animals such as whales and dolphins.

He and his colleagues found a “huge decrease” in sightings of such species when the work was going on, even when accounting for other factors such as weather.

Seismic surveys are carried out by a range of organisations, including oil and gas companies, as a means of mapping what lies beneath the seafloor.

Shockwaves fired from an air gun – like a very powerful speaker – are blasted down towards the seabed. The waves bounce off features below and are detected again at the surface. The signal that returns reveals whether there is, for instance, oil locked in the rock beneath.

The process creates a tremendous racket. “It’s like an explosion,” says Lindy Weilgart at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. She says that there is now plenty of evidence to show that many marine animals are negatively affected by the clamour.

…And yet a technology exists that could be far less harmful. It is called marine vibroseis and is a low-energy alternative to air guns. Instead of explosive blasts, vibroseis uses smaller vibrations to transmit waves down to the seabed. It actually emits a similar amount of energy overall but spreads it over a longer period, meaning the survey has a less “shocking” impact.

(15) BY THE NUMBERS. “Google asked to justify Toronto ‘digital-city’ plan” – maybe it’s not just the cats that need to be wary of this much curiosity.

The “appropriateness” of Google’s sister company’s plan for a “digital city” in Toronto has been questioned.

A panel set up to scrutinise Sidewalk Labs’s plan has asked it to explain what the benefits would be for citizens in collecting large amounts of data.

The company wants to build a sensor-laden, eco-friendly neighbourhood with all the latest technology innovations.

But it has faced opposition locally. A final decision on whether it can proceed is due next month.

Public asset

Sidewalk Labs’s plans for a “city… built from the internet up” include sensors to monitor traffic, noise, weather, energy use and even rubbish collection.

But now, the Waterfront Toronto’s digital strategy advisory panel has questioned the “appropriateness and necessity” of some of its innovations and asked whether “sufficient benefits had been identified to justify the proposed collection or use of data”.

(16) THERE’S ALWAYS SOMEONE. “Coronavirus: Amazon removes overpriced goods and fake cures”.

Amazon has banned more than one million products which claim to protect against the coronavirus – or even cure it.

The online retailer told Reuters it had also removed “tens of thousands” of overpriced health products from unscrupulous sellers.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) expressed concern about some misleading Amazon listings earlier this month, including fake treatments.

The virus, which causes Covid-19, has killed about 2,800 people worldwide.

The WHO said fake coronavirus claims online were causing mass confusion, and urged tech giants to combat the spread of misinformation.

A search for “coronavirus” on Amazon brought up results for face masks, disinfectant wipes and newly-published books on viral infections, revealing how some sellers are cashing in on the health crisis.

It also offered results for vitamin C boosters – a fake cure for the virus that has been widely disseminated online.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Charles M. Schulz Interview on Peanuts (1997)” on YouTube is an interview Charles  Schulz did on The Charlie Rose Show.

[Thanks to Christian Brunschen, JJ, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Brian Z., Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Tolan, John A Arkansawyer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew. Will this be the first time the title is longer than the Scroll?]

Pixel Scroll 2/22/20 Come And See The Filers Inherent In The Pixel

(1) YOU’VE SEEN HIM EXPLAIN HUGO VOTING, SO YOU KNOW HE’S GOT THIS. Kevin Standlee, a volunteer in Nevada’s Democratic Caucuses, appeared on CNN Newsroom with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto to answer questions about the assistive technology being used there (not the one that sparked controversy in Iowa). See the video here.

Kevin added, responding to a File 770 email:

My specific role was “Precinct Chair,” meaning that I conducted the caucus for my own precinct (Lyon County precinct 40), conducting the votes and certifying the results to the site lead. (Seven precincts caucused at our site.) The Site Lead then took the official paper records, reported them to the party headquarters by telephone and by texting pictures of the records to the party, then he took custody of the paper records and returned them to the party headquarters in Reno.

And before I finished today’s Scroll Kevin had written a complete account (with photos) on his blog — “3 1/2 Minutes of Fame”. Plus, his photos of the CNN appearance start here, and photos of the Nevada Caucus start here.

(2) AXE FALLS AT DC. Dan DiDio was ousted as co-publisher of DC Comics yesterday, says The Hollywood Reporter: “DC’s Dan DiDio Out as Co-Publisher”.

…Since stepping into an executive role at the company, DiDio has served as DC’s public face at conventions and public events, and has worked to champion not only the company as a whole but specifically the comic book division — and comic book specialty market — as being integral to DC’s success on an ongoing basis. DiDio was also part of the push to expand DC’s publishing reach into Walmart and Target via exclusive 100-Page Giant issues, an initiative that proved so successful that the issues were expanded to the comic store market.

…With DiDio’s departure, Jim Lee becomes sole publisher at DC, in addition to his role as the company’s chief creative officer, a position he’s held since June 2018.

Why is he out? The Hollywood Reporter didn’t address the question. Bleeding Cool received an answer from unnamed sources: “So Why Did Dan DiDio Leave DC Comics Anyway?”

Bleeding Cool now understands that yes, DiDio was fired this morning by Warner Bros at 10.30am PT in their Burbank offices and he left the building straight away. I am told by sources close to the situation that he was fired, for cause, for ‘fostering a poor work environment’ – as evidenced, as we previously stated, by significant departures at the publisher by editors. Dan DiDio has a reputation of being a micro-manager from some, for being very involved in projects from others. And DC Comics was heading towards a big change in its publishing programme – one aspect of which was the much-rumoured 5G – or Generation Five. Which would have seen DC’s major figures Bruce Wayne, Clark Kent, Diana and more aged out and replaced with new characters taking the roles of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman as part of the new DC Timeline. And some folk at DC Comics were very much against this. But opposition never worried Dan, after all he was at constant odds with the direction the company line was pushed for pretty much his entire career as Publisher, and was always was striving to put comics first, as he saw it….

(3) FIRING THE IMAGINATION. At Boston Review, John Crowley interviews Elizabeth Hand: “Elizabeth Hand’s Curious Toys”

JC: Historical fictions are designed largely as a sort of medley: true details of time and place, actual persons of the period treated as fictional characters with their own point of view, invented persons who interact with the historical ones, real events that will form memories for the real people and for the fictional ones. You’ve long been drawn to this kind of fiction and its possibilities. What do you think its power is, for writer and reader?

EH: Well, as you know yourself, history is an immense sandbox for a writer to play in. I would add “fulfilling,” but can a sandbox be fulfilling? I love research, searching for and delving into primary sources in hopes of discovering some nugget of information that’s somehow gone unnoticed, that I can then use in a story. And while I always try to create as authentic and absorbing a portrait of a period as I can, I love playing with all the what ifs of history. Darger and Chaplin and Hollywood screenwriter Ben Hecht and others were all in Chicago at the same time: what if their paths crossed in some way?

JC: A theme of Curious Toys is how people in that period were fascinated with human oddities (fake or real), and you explore how, as much as that was about fear and wonder over the bodies of differently-abled people, it was also connected with the period’s gender rules and expectations. How much of this background psychology do you expect readers will sense?

EH: I never know what readers will “get” or not. To me, some things in a narrative seem perfectly obvious, yet are completely overlooked by readers (and critics). But I hope that my depiction of that period and its fears and bigotries is realistic enough that readers grasp how similar it was to our own time, even though many things have changed for the better. I came across an anti-immigrant government screed from around 1915 that could have been written yesterday by a member of the current administration. Gender expectations have changed since 1915; I suspect Pin would have very similar experiences were she to pull the same gender reversals today, though they’d be updated for the twenty-first-century workplace. I guess my real concern should be that some readers will think my historical depiction of an earlier era’s prejudices is fake news.

(4) AS SEEN ON TV. Nerds of a Feather’s Andrea Johnson poses the questions in “Interview: Myke Cole, author of Sixteenth Watch”.

NOAF: You’re also on TV! While us viewers only see the polished, edited version, you literally get to see what happens behind the scenes. Any funny or surprising stories from your experiences filming the Contact and Hunted TV shows? Is television something you hope to do more of?

MC: I love doing TV. For one thing, I love attention. I used to think of this as a character flaw (we’re all raised to be self-effacing and taught that seeking the spotlight is a sign of egomania), but I’ve come to accept that for better or worse, it’s who I am. TV is so much easier than writing. It’s grueling work (12-15 days when you’re shooting), but it’s compressed into a tight period (Hunted was two month’s work. Contact was one month’s work). I get paid more to do a single TV show than I do in a year of writing, and a book takes me 1-2 years to write.

But just like writing, just because you’re doing it at a professional level is absolutely no guarantee you will get to keep doing it. I thought that starring on two major network shows and having an agent at CAA (it’s really hard to get in there) meant my TV career was set. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The only real benefit of having done two shows is that I now have a gorgeous, professional “reel” (clips of me on TV) that I can show to other shows I am trying to get to book me. Otherwise, I’m basically at square one. So, I’m currently hustling for my next show and there’s no guarantee that I’ll get it.

(5) MAKE IT SO MUCH. ComicBook.com says the floodgates have opened: “Star Trek: New Movie, Two New Series, and More Confirmed in the Works”.

A lot more Star Trek is on the way. ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish confirmed during the company’s 2019 earnings call that two more Star Trek television shows are in the works. These are on top of Star Trek: Discovery, Star Trek: Picard, and the already announced Star Trek: Lower Decks, Star Trek: Section 31, and the untitled Nickelodeon Star Trek animated series. Bakish also confirmed that the next installment of the Star Trek film series is being developed by Paramount Pictures. This was the first earnings call since ViacomCBS formed out of the merger of Viacom and CBS in 2019. The merger brought the Star Trek film and television rights under the same roof for the first time since the two companies split in 2006.

Bakish says that the reunited ViacomCBS plans “take the Star Trek franchise and extend it across the house.”

To that end, Bakish confirmed that a new line of Star Trek novels is on the way from VIacomCBS subsidiary Simon & Shuster. This line will include prequels tying into Star Trek: Picard. The first Picard tie-in novel, The Last Best Hope by Una McCormack, was released in February.

Bakish also confirmed that more Star Trek comics are on the way…

.(6) DARK MATTERS. “Chasing Einstein: The Dark Universe Event” will be hosted by The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination on March 2. A screening of the feature documentary Chasing Einstein will be followed by a panel discussion and Q & A.

Could Einstein have been wrong about the true nature of gravity? Does his general theory of relativity and the Standard Model need an update? Unprecedented advances in experimental particle physics, astronomy and cosmology are uncovering mysteries of cosmic consequence. Among the most challenging is the realization that 80% of the universe consists of something unknown that exerts galactic forces pulling the universe apart. The search for Dark Matter extends from the worlds most powerful particle accelerators to the most sensitive telescopes, to deep under the earth. Nobel worthy discoveries await. Scientists at UC San Diego are at the epicenter of the search for Dark Matter leading efforts to build the next generation of instruments and experiments to uncover its secrets.

The panelists will be —

  • Professor, and Founder of the XENON Dark Matter Project, Elena Aprile
  • Chancellor’s Distinguished Professor of Physics Brian Keating
  • Kaixuan Ni, Ph.D, Ni Group at UC San Diego. Dr. Ni leads the development of liquid xenon detectors for the search of dark matter.
  • Patrick de Perio, postdoctoral research scientist, Columbia Univerity
  • Steve Brown, producer, Chasing Einstein

(7) THE TAIL OF BO. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson tells what his dog was like: “Bo Davidson 2003 – 2020”.

…Bo used his body.  He developed specific stances and specific locations, along with a variety of sounds.   One such was to come running up to you, circle once, face you straight on and chuff.  We quickly learned that this meant “I’m trying to tell you something and you are too stupid to figure it out.”  So we’d guess, and here’s the cool thing:  we’d know if the guess was right or wrong by what Bo did.  We’d offer (something like “do you need to go out”?) and if we were wrong, he’d look at whatever it was, but not move, then look back at us.  “Nope, that’s not it.”

Finally, if we were unable to come up with an answer, we’d say “show me”, and off Bo would go.  He’d walk right to the immediate vicinity of whatever it was (oh, I left food in the microwave – Bo standing, facing the microwave on the counter, or oh, your toy is way under the jelly cabinet – Bo standing facing the cabinet, then looking up at us, then back down at the floor).

Once he learned that attempts at communicating would be rewarded, he never stopped.

Steve still needs to pay some on-going expenses for Bo’s treatment and has a GoFundMe campaign here.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 22, 1918 — In Denmark, A Trip to Mars (Himmelskibet in Danish), premiered. It is a 1918 Danish film about a trip to Mars. In 2006, the film was restored and released on DVD by the Danish Film Institute. Phil Hardy, the late English film critic, in The Overlook Film Encyclopedia: Science Fiction claims it is “the film that marked the beginning of the space opera subgenre of science fiction”.  You can watch it here.
  • February 22, 1956 The Mole People premiered. It was produced by William Alland, and directed by Virgil W. Vogel. It stars John Agar, Hugh Beaumont, and Cynthia Patrick. (Beaumont is best remembered for his portrayal of Ward Cleaver.)  The story is written by László Görög who also scripted The Land Unknown and Earth v. The Spider,  two other late Fifties SF films. Though I can’t find any contemporary critical reviews, currently audiences at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 28% rating. Oddly enough, the only video of it on YouTube is the Mystery Science Theatre 3000 airing which you can see here. That video alludes to the changed end which may have been done to placate the studio and their sensitivities to Fifties social mores.  

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 22, 1899 Dwight Frye. He’s  the villain in classic Universal Thirties horror films such as Renfield in Dracula, Fritz in Frankenstein and Karl in The Bride of Frankenstein. You might also know him as Wilmer Cook in The Maltese Falcon. He’s uncredited as a Reporter in The Invisible Man. (Died 1943.)
  • Born February 22, 1917 Reed Crandall. Illustrator and penciller best known for the Forties Quality Comics’ Blackhawk (a DC property later) and for stories in myriad EC Comics during the 1950s.  In the late Sixties, he did the illustration work on King Features Syndicate’s King Comics comic-book version of the syndicate’s Flash Gordon strip. He’s been inducted into Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame.  (Died 1982.)
  • Born February 22, 1925 Edward Gorey. I’m reasonably sure that his animated introduction to the PBS series Mystery! was my first encounter with him. I will recommend Gorey CatsThe Haunted Tea-Cosy: A Dispirited and Distasteful Diversion for Christmas and The Doubtful Guest. Ok if he’s not genre but he’s still fun and delightfully weird. Oh, and do go read Elephant House: Or, the Home of Edward Gorey, with superb photographs and text by Kevin McDermott. (Died 2000.)
  • Born February 22, 1929 James Hong, 91. Though not quite genre, he became known to audiences through starring in The New Adventures of Charlie Chan in the late Fifties. Genre wise, his first role was in Godzilla, King of the Monsters! voicing Ogata/Serizawa. He then pops up in The Satan Bug as Dr. Yang and next is seen playing Ho Lee in Destination Inner Space. You’ll no doubt recognize Colossus: The Forbin Project wherehe’s Dr. Chin but I’ll bet you’ve never heard of, oh wait you have, Blade Runner in which he’s Hannibal Chew and Big Trouble In Little China which I love in which he’s wizard David Lo Pan. It’s back to obscure films after that with next up being Shadowzone where he’s Dr. Van Fleet and Dragonfight where he’s Asawa. He’s next in The Shadow as Li Peng but I’ll be damned if I can remember his role and the same holds true for him as Che’tsai In Tank Girl too.  He’s Mr. Wu in the very loose adaption of the classic The Day the Earth Stood Still
  • Born February 22, 1933 Sheila Hancock, 87. Helen A. In the Seventh Doctor story, “The Happiness Patrol”.  Other than voicing The White Witch in an animated version of The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, that’s it for her genre work as far as I can tell but it’s a role worth seeing if you’ve not seen it! 
  • Born February 22, 1937 Joanna Russ. Is it fair to say she’s known as much for her feminist literary criticism as her SF writings? That The Female Man is her best known work suggest my question really isn’t relevant as there may be no difference between the two. She was for a long time a influential reviewer for Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction where I think it would fair to say that you knew clearly what she thought of a given work. (Died 2011.)
  • Born February 22, 1953 Genny Dazzo, 67. She attended the first Star Trek Convention in New York. She has since been involved in the local SF con, Lunacon. Moving out to LA, she was on the committee for all of the LA WorldCons as well as the Westercons, Loscons, and AmineLA. 
  • Born February 22, 1959 Kyle MacLachlan, 61. Genre wise known for his role as Dale Cooper in Twin Peaks  and its weird film prequel Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, Paul Atreides in Dune, Lloyd Gallagher in The Hidden, Clifford Vandercave In The Flintstones, Calvin Zabo in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Jeffrey Beaumont in Blue Velvet (OK not genre, just weird).

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • At Family Circus, the kids ask their Mom a challenging genre question.

(11) BOOK FU. This seems like something no one should miss.

(12) WEASLEY SQUIRREL REVIVAL. Four Weasleys will reunite at a Dallas con happening at the end of March: “Harry Potter: Weasley reunion coming at Fan Expo Dallas 2020”. (John Cleese will be there too…!)

If you need a Weasley reunion, look no further than Fan Expo Dallas 2020. Four Harry Potter actors are getting together for some exciting times.

That’s right. You’ll get four of the Weasley siblings. And these aren’t the ones that you didn’t see enough off on screen. Fan Expo Dallas 2020 has managed to get the four Weasley siblings who spent most of their time on screen; the ones you cried over and rooted for.

Rupert Grint, Bonnie Wright, and Oliver and James Phelps will all attend the multi-fandom convention….

(13) FUTURE VISION. At CNBC’s Make It, “Elon Musk shares the science fiction book series that inspired him to start SpaceX”.

As a teenage boy, Elon Musk felt a “personal obligation” for the fate of mankind, according to the book “Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future” by Ashlee Vance.

Musk’s love of books and the lessons he took from them inspired him to create “cleaner energy technology or [build] spaceships to extend the human species’s reach” in the future, according to Vance.

One set of those books Musk still recommends today: the seven-book “Foundation” science fiction series by scientist and author Isaac Asimov.

(14) 1968 ASIMOV AUDIO. Fanac.org presents a recording of Isaac Asimov’s talk at the 1968 Boskone.

In this audio recording (illustrated with more than 50 images), Isaac Asimov spends an hour talking about everything and anything. He is speaking to his extended family – a roomful of science fiction fans. 

Isaac speaks with great good humor about his writing (both science fiction and science fact), ribs his fellow writers, especially Lester Del Rey and others who were in the room, and tells stories about Harlan Ellison and John W. Campbell.  

He is charming and arrogant, explaining his view of women, why he doesn’t write for TV, his experiences on late night TV and more. 

This is an opportunity to get to know one of science fiction’s greats as his contemporaries did. 

Thanks to the New England Science Fiction Society (NESFA) and Rick Kovalcik for providing the recording. Brought to you here by FANAC.org , the Fanhistory Project. For more fan history, visit FANAC.org and Fancyclopedia.org .

(15) THEY, ROBOT. Plagiarism Today discusses “Why Web Scraping/Spinning is Back” and blames Google.

The big question is “What changed?” Why is it that, after nearly a decade, these antiquated approaches to web spamming are back?

The real answer is that web scraping never really went away. The nature of spamming is that, even after a technique is defeated, people will continue to try it. The reason is fairly simple: Spam is a numbers game and, if you stop a technique 99.9% of the time, a spammer just has to try 1,000 times to have one success (on average).

But that doesn’t explain why many people are noticing more of these sites in their search results, especially when looking for certain kinds of news.

Part of the answer may come from a September announcement by Richard Gingras, Google’s VP for News. There, he talked about efforts they were making to elevate “original reporting” in search results. According to the announcement, Google strongly favored the latest or most comprehensive reporting on a topic. They were going to try and change that algorithm to show more preference to original reporting, keeping those stories toward the top for longer.

Whether that change has materialized is up for debate. I, personally, regularly see duplicative articles rank well both in Google and Google News even today. That said, some of the sites I was monitoring last month when I started researching this topic have disappeared from Google News.

(16) FROM POWERED ARMOR TO CRAB SHELL. “Anytime you think I’m being too rough, anytime you think I’m being too tough, anytime you miss-your-mommy, QUIT! You sign your 1240-A, you get your gear, and you take a stroll down washout lane. Do you get me?”  He’s had quite a career since playing Sgt. Zim in Starship Troopers – the Maltin on Movies podcast interviews Clancy Brown.

With films ranging from The Shawshank Redemption to Starship Troopers and recent TV appearances on The Mandalorian, Emergence, Billions, and The Crown (as LBJ), Clancy Brown is the living definition of a “working actor.” He’s also been the voice of Mr. Krabs on Spongebob Squarepants for more than twenty years! Leonard and Jessie have been after him for many months to appear on the podcast and finally found a day he wasn’t on a soundstage; it was well worth the wait.

(17) AND THE JUDGES SAY. Paul Weimer assesses the end of a trilogy at Nerds of a Feather: “Microreview [book]: The Poet King by Ilana C Myer”.

In The Poet King, Ilana C Myer sticks the landing, in completing the Harp and the Blade trilogy, a poetical and lyrically rich fantasy of the tumultuous return of magic to a fantasy land, and the poet central to the mythically infused events.

(18) EL SEGUNDO. Paul Weimer also reviews a second book in a series — “Microreview [book]: The Hanged Man, by K D Edwards” at Nerds of a Feather.

The Last Sun introduced us to a fascinating world of Atlanteans, their world gone, living on the occupied island of Nantucket. A world where the most powerful Atlanteans carried terrible magical power, Rune, last heir of fallen House Sun, became wrapped up in the machinations of other, great Houses, and slowly coming into his own power in the process. An unusual sort of urban fantasy, The Last Sun was notable for its invention, its strong character focus, and the queer friendliness of Atlantean society.

Now in The Hanged Man, K.C. Edwards continues the story of Rune, and Brand, his bonded Companion, and their slowly accumulating set of friends, lover, and allies.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/12/20 The Tickbox Shops Of Isher

(1) BLACK HISTORY MONTH. At the PowellsBooks.Blog: “Black History Month: What’s New in Sci-Fi and Fantasy”.

One of the more exciting publishing developments of recent years has been the increased support for science fiction and fantasy books written by authors of color and featuring diverse protagonists and world-building based on non-Western mythology and history. Writers like N. K. Jemisin, Nnedi Okorafor, and Cadwell Turnbull have been expanding the ways traditional tropes can be extended or subverted to address issues like marginalization, colonialism, and sexual violence, while delivering thrilling stories steeped in magic. Here are eight of our favorite recent sci-fi and fantasy novels by Black authors; for a more exhaustive list of reading suggestions, visit our Black History Month page.

(2) RIOT BABY AUTHOR. On The Daily Show with Trevor Noah,  see a video clip of “Tochi Onyebuchi – ‘Riot Baby’ and Using Sci-Fi to Dive Into Real-Life Issues”. “What’s dystopian for some is just reality for us.”

Author Tochi Onyebuchi discusses the themes of his novel “Riot Baby” and reflects on the sci-fi genre’s history as a powerful means of tackling social and political issues.

(3) BEWARE THE FRUMIOUS MAGISTRATE. “Netflix Loses Bid to Dismiss $25 Million Lawsuit Over ‘Black Mirror: Bandersnatch'”The Hollywood Reporter explains how.

A Vermont federal judge is taking Netflix on a journey where the First Amendment won’t immediately protect the streamer. On Tuesday, Netflix failed in its first efforts to escape a lawsuit brought by the trademark owner of “Choose Your Own Adventure” over the 2018 immersive film Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.

Chooseco LLC, a children’s book publisher, filed its complaint in January 2019. According to the plaintiff, it has been using the mark since the 1980s and has sold more than 265 million copies of its Choose Your Own Adventure books. 20th Century Fox holds options for movie versions, and Chooseco alleges that Netflix actively pursued a license. Instead of getting one, Netflix released Bandersnatch, which allows audiences to select the direction of the plot. Claiming $25 million in damages, Chooseco suggested that Bandersnatch viewers have been confused about association with its famous brand, particularly because of marketing around the movie as well as a scene where the main character — a video game developer — tells his father that the work he’s developing is based on a Choose Your Own Adventure book….

(4) FRESH TOWELS. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Back in 1979 at the Brighton Worldcon Christopher Reeve said that while he was appreciative of people voting overall and Superman winning the Hugo for Best Dramatic presentation, clearly those here in the hall wanted Hitch-hikers’ Guide to the Galaxy

Now, nearly 42 years on, back where it all started on BBC Radio 4, they are re-broadcasting the final season.

If you have not yet downloaded as .mp3 then now’s your chance. The first episode is online and the rest will follow weekly and available for a month.

(5) NOT COMING TO A THEATER NEAR YOU. Unless you’re going to be in the UK on April 10. But there’s also supposed to be a digital release. AVClub: “Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jackie Chan, and a big-ass dragon star in the wacky trailer for The Iron Mask.

As far as we can tell, and based on this trailer, The Iron Mask has nothing to do with that Leonardo DiCaprio movie from the ’90s. It is, however, the kind of movie that has something for everyone—and a whole lot of it. Arnold Schwarzenegger is a mustachioed bad guy of vague European descent (Russia…?). Jackie Chan has long, glorious silver hair and ridicules Schwarzenegger, who yells things like “IT’S THE TOWAH!” and we’re supposed to understand that this tower is very important. Also Jason Flemyng is there, and he’s a cartographer, or so the official synopsis tells us. Charles Dance is involved because this is a movie that checks all his boxes: period, British, wacky fantasy with dragons and shit, and Schwarzenegger. (Wait. Is this actually one of the movies from Last Action Hero?)… 

(6) MATCHING FOR DOLLARS. Cory Doctorow contends “Our Neophobic, Conservative AI Overlords Want Everything to Stay the Same” at the LA Review of Books.

… This conservativeness permeates every system of algorithmic inference: search for a refrigerator or a pair of shoes and they will follow you around the web as machine learning systems “re-target” you while you move from place to place, even after you’ve bought the fridge or the shoes. Spend some time researching white nationalism or flat earth conspiracies and all your YouTube recommendations will try to reinforce your “interest.” Follow a person on Twitter and you will be inundated with similar people to follow. Machine learning can produce very good accounts of correlation (“this person has that person’s address in their address-book and most of the time that means these people are friends”) but not causation (which is why Facebook constantly suggests that survivors of stalking follow their tormentors who, naturally, have their targets’ addresses in their address books).

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 12, 1940 The Adventures Of Superman radio serial first aired with “The Baby From Krypton” episode. It first started on WOR in New York on this date and the radio serial would air on various networks though 1951. In all, 2,088 original episodes of the show aired on American radio.  Bud Collyer played Clark Kent and of course Superman with Joan Alexander being Lois Lane, Batman even appeared when Bud Collyer needed vacation time and he was performed by Stacy Harris. It was sponsored by  Kellogg’s Pep Cereal. It finished fourth in the Retro Hugo voting For Short Form video Hugo presented at MidAmeriCon II at Kansas City. You can listen to this episode here.
  • February 12, 1981 Escape from Galaxy 3 (original title Giochi erotici nella terza galassia also known as Starcrash II, keep that in mind for a minute please) premiered. Directed by Ben Norman and produced by Dino Mangogno, this Italian film starred Sherry Buchanan, Fausto Di Bella, Don Powell, Chris Avram, Attilio Dottesio and Max Turilli. The film is infamous for using stock footage from Starcrash for all its model scenes. No, it didn’t get a great reception. Creature Feature said that it was  “chintzy, had unconvincing, anemic acting and silly sound effects.” The reviewers over at Rotten Tomatoes haven’t bothered to rate it yet, but most of the Amazon reviewers who bought the VHS tape give it just one star. You of course can watch it for free here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 12, 1920 Louis Russell Chauvenet. Member of First Fandom, and a founder of the Boston’s Strangers Club which ran the first Boskones.  He’s credited with coining the term “fanzine” and may have also coined “prozine” as well. He published a number of zines from the later Thirties to the early Sixties. (Died 2003.)
  • Born February 12, 1929 Donald Kingsbury, 91. He’s written three novels (Courtship Rite, The Moon Goddess and the Son and Psychohistorical Crisis) that could be akin to the Asimov’s Foundation novels. Clute at EOSF says that the Asimov estate explicitly refused him permission to set Psychohistorical Crisis in the Foundation universe. 
  • Born February 12, 1933 Juanita Ruth Coulson, 87. She’s best known for her Children of the Stars series. She was a longtime co-editor of the Yandro fanzine, and she’s a filker of quite some renown. Yandro won Best Hugo at Loncon II in 1965.
  • Born February 12, 1942 Terry  Bisson, 78. He’s best known for his short stories including “Bears Discover Fire,” which won the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award and “They’re Made Out of Meat”. His genre novels includes Talking ManWyrldmaker and a rather cool expansion of Galaxy Quest into novel form. 
  • Born February 12, 1945 Maud Adams, 75. Best remembered for being two different Bond girls, first for being in The Man with the Golden Gun where she was Andrea Anders, and as the title character in Octopussy. She shows up a few years later uncredited in a third Bond film, A View to Kill, as A Woman in Fisherman’s Wharf Crowd. 
  • Born February 12, 1945 Gareth Daniel Thomas. His best known genre role was as of Roj Blake on Blake’s 7 for the first two series of that British show. He also had a minor role in Quatermass and the Pit, and had one-offs in The Avengers, Star Maidens, Hammer House of Horror, The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes, Tales of the Unexpected, Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and Torchwood. (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 12, 1954 Stu Shiffman. To quote Mike in his post, he was “The renowned fan artist, who generously shared his talents in fanzines, apas and convention publications, received the Best Fan Artist Hugo Award in 1990 and the Rotsler Award in 2010.” You can read Mikes’ gracious full post on him here. (Died 2014.)
  • Born February 12, 1960 Laura Miller, 60. Author of an essay whose title tickles me to the end: “It’s Philip Dick’s World, We Only Live In It“. Originally appearing in the New York Times, 24 November 2002, it was reprinted in PKD Otaku, #9 which you can download here.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) THE PERSON IN THE GRAY FLANNEL POWER SUIT. An infographic video answers the question, “How do exoskeletons impact the workplace?”

Since 1965, when the first exoskeleton was produced for military use, exoskeletons have been increasingly popular in the manufacturing world, supporting workers and improving the quality of their working hours.

In 2018 more than 7,000 units were sold in manufacturing (ABI Research data), but the potential market need would be 60,000 units for all types of exoskeleton, with an estimated growth rate of more than 50% from 2019 to 2024. A trend that, taking into account the increasing average age of population in industrialized countries, could grow again.

Although some of the work in factories is automated, human input is still crucial and remains at the heart of many operations, including value-added and repetitive ones, but which require a high level of precision: for example, a worker lifts his arm 4,600 times a day, almost a million times a year to perform some tasks.

For example, in wearable robotic technologies that support workers in their jobs, the MATE passive technology exoskeleton, which does not require batteries or motors, provides postural support that follows the movements of the arms without resistance or misalignment. This generates a 30% reduction in stress on the main shoulder muscles….

(11) EVERONE’S HAPPY. “Beer Waste Saves Montana Town $1 Million On Water Treatment”.

As America’s craft beer industry continues to boom, the waste it generates can pose challenges for sewer systems. But if it’s used in the right spot, in the right amount, it’s potentially beneficial and can actually save wastewater treatment plants money.

In Bozeman, Mont., the Water Reclamation Facility treats more than 6 million gallons of water every day from sinks, showers, toilets — really anything that goes down a drain. That includes liquid waste from more than 10 breweries in this city of nearly 50,000.

Because it’s rich in yeast, hops and sugar, brewery waste can throw off the microbes that wastewater plants rely on to remove nitrogen and phosphorus. The two nutrients can cause algae blooms in rivers and kill off fish.

“But if we can use [brewery waste] correctly and put it in the right spot, it’s very beneficial to the process,” engineering consultant Coralynn Revis says.

Revis led a pilot project here last summer to try to do just that. Bozeman worked with a local brewery to feed its beer waste to the treatment plant’s bacteria at just the right time in just the right dosage.

“This is super simplified, but like, if they’re eating their french fries, they need a little ketchup with it. So to get the nitrate out, you dose a little carbon, and the bugs are happier,” Revis explained.

The sidebar from 2018, “Beer Prices Could Double Because Of Climate Change, Study Says”, is also interesting.

(12) NOT BOATY. “Scots author Iain Banks celebrated by deep dives adventurer” – BBC has the story.

The late Scottish author Iain Banks has been remembered in a US adventurer’s expedition to visit the deepest points in every ocean.

Victor Vescovo is the first person to complete the feat, diving in a submarine named after a spaceship in Banks’ science-fiction stories.

The fan of Banks’ work called the sub Limiting Factor.

The vehicle was used to reach the floor of the Pacific, Indian, Southern and Atlantic oceans.

Other vessels in the Five Dives Expedition, including Limiting Factor’s support ship Pressure Drop, were also named after spaceships or drones in Banks’ books.

The deepest of the dives was a 10,924m drop to the bottom of the Marianna Trench in south east Asia. Mr Vescovo and his team are now preparing to use the vessels in setting new maritime records.

(13) TRUST US. Somebody blabbed! “Swiss machines ‘used to spy on governments for decades'”.

US and German intelligence services secretly gathered the classified communications of governments for decades through secret control of an encryption company, reports say.

Swiss firm Crypto AG supplied encoding devices to more than 120 governments from the Cold War era up to the 2000s.

But the spies reportedly rigged the devices so they could crack the codes and read the messages.

They harvested secrets from countries including Iran, India and Pakistan.

The highly-classified programme between the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Germany’s BND Federal Intelligence Service has been detailed in reports by US newspaper the Washington Post, German broadcaster ZDF and Swiss channel SRF.

The outlets gained access to a classified internal CIA history that called the operation the “intelligence coup of the century”.

(14) CLOUDS OF WITNESS. BBC finds “German man shocked to see marriage proposal on Google Maps”.

A German man’s marriage proposal has been captured in an aerial picture used by Google Maps, to the surprise of him and his fiancée.

Part-time farmer Steffen Schwarz spelled out the words “Will you marry me?” in German in a field of corn, according to local media reports.

The 32-year-old then got his girlfriend to fly a drone over the field last year, revealing the romantic message.

But his proposal got a bigger audience than he had planned.

Mr Schwarz told local media that he had no idea his proposal had appeared on the popular mapping service until he was alerted by an aunt in Canada who sent him a screenshot.

The proposal, which he spelled out using a seeding machine, extends across the entire width of the almost two-hectare (five-acre) field in Huettenberg, central Germany.

[Thanks to JJ, James Davis Nicoll, Michael Toman, Lise Andreasen, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 1/5/20 The Third Attempt Was With Canned Pumpkin

(1) FOUND IN SPACE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Lifehacker’s Brendan Hesse has figure out “How to Explore the Solar System in Google Maps via Hyperspace”. I’ve briefly tried this, and it works. I wonder if [we] can add tags etc. for sf story/video locations, etc…

Note, the article says, “You’ll only be able to use the space feature—and experience the hyperspace tunneling—on desktop versions of Chrome,” but I’m seeing something that seems to be that effect on my (Win 10 desktop) Firefox browser.

You’ll only be able to use the space feature—and experience the hyperspace tunneling—on desktop versions of Chrome, but it’s easy to find and use:

  1. Go to Google Maps.
  2. Click the “Satellite view” button at the lower-left of the screen.
  3. Click the super-tiny “Global view” button at the top of the navigation controls in your browser’s lower-right corner.
  4. Using either the “-” key, your mouse wheel, or the Google Maps zoom controls, zoom out until you’re in the planetary view of Earth.
  5. Select one of the various planets and moons from the list on the left, and you’ll blast through hyperspace to your new destination. Eligible destinations include Mars (to visit Dr. Manhattan), Europa (to recreate the journey of that 2013 sci-fi film), and the International Space Station (to say hello to everyone currently zooming around our planet).

(2) CROSSING THE STREAMS. “Netflix’s Dracula Easter Egg Sets It In The Same Universe As Doctor Who”ScreenRant noticed the hatchling immediately.

A throwaway line spoken early into the first episode of the newly released Dracula places the Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss-produced vampire series within the expansive Doctor Who universe.

…As an oblivious Jonathan rides a rickety carriage towards Dracula’s castle, he pours over a letter from his beloved fiancée, Mina. In it, she writes of life back in England. Whovians were quick to notice that among the details mentioned by Mina was one familiar to watchers of the Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi era of Doctor Who. Doctor Who as run by Steven Moffat has a history of being self-referential itself.

Mina writes to Jonathan of “the adorable barmaid at the Rose and Crown.” The 2012 Doctor Who Christmas special (re)-introduces audiences to Clara Oswin Oswald (Jenna Louise Coleman). Although the character eventually goes on to become the sharp companion to both Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi’s Doctors, in the 1892-set episode, she is a barmaid-cum-governess once earning her income at the Rose & Crown Inn.

(3) FUTURE TENSE. The December 2019 entry in Slate’s Future Tense Fiction series is “Actually Naneen,” by Malka Older, a new short story about robot nannies from the author of Infomocracy.

There’s also a response essay by Ed Finn on the role technology should play in childhood.

…The question of automating child care is political, economic, and ideological all at the same time. Despite decades of educational research, we still put most children through systems designed a century ago to train factory workers and farmhands. Mountains of psychological studies have done little to prevent me from making parenting mistakes—some of them, inevitably, recapitulating my childhood, while others are totally new mistakes I’m adopting into our family like so many holiday traditions. Parenting is the most intensely personal, long-haul project many humans ever take on. What other task averages so many hours over so many years, with such little external oversight or reliable feedback? There is no one correct way to parent because every parental situation is different, and navigating those differences requires all the intelligence, compassion, patience, and humanity we can throw at it.

But it also requires resources, and the idea of outsourcing parenting has always tempted those who could afford it….

(4) HE CAN TALK TO REPORTERS, TOO. In Parade, “Robert Downey Jr. Opens Up About Life After Iron Man, Kung Fu Fighting and Managing a Menagerie in Dolittle.

When Robert Downey Jr. was preparing for his new role in Dolittle, a movie in which he plays a doctor who lives with a house full of animals—and talks with them—he began to wonder, “How does anyone relate to this guy?” And then he looked out the window of his home in Malibu, Calif., and saw his alpaca Fuzzy looking back at him.

In addition to his wife of 14 years, Susan, and their two kids, son Exton, 7, and daughter Avri, 5, Downey lives with dozens of animals they’ve taken in over the past 10 years. There are pigs (kunekunes, a New Zealand breed), Oreo cows (with that distinctive white belt), pygmy goats, a larger rescue goat named Cutie Boots, a bunch of chickens and two cats, Montgomery and D’Artagnan. “I was like, ‘Oh, yeah,’” he says with a laugh. “‘You’re completely surrounded by animals!’”

(5) BLUE LIGHT SPECIAL. Aaron Bady is thumbs down on the series:“Dr. Manhattan is a Cop: “Watchmen” and Frantz Fanon” at the LA Review of Books.

… I’ve been thinking about why it’s disappointing. In the ’80s, it could seem plausible to “solve” the looming threat of nuclear war by creating the worldwide fear of an alien invader, “a force so dreadful it must be repelled, all enmities aside,” as Veidt declares. But this elegant twist — by which the savior of mankind is also a supervillain who kills millions of people, and gets away with it — was an elegant genre subversion because the antihero really was novel and subversive in the mid-’80s. By making the original Superman a Hitler-sympathizing vigilante literally clothed in KKK iconography, Moore and Gibbons were demonstrating the genre’s disavowed logic, and what Moore says so explicitly in that 2017 interview is pretty easy to find in the comic itself. There’s literally a comic within the comic, in which a shipwrecked sailor tries to save his family and town from pirates and ends up killing his family and town and then joining the pirates, all to hammer the point home: to save humanity from a nuclear holocaust, Veidt kills three million people; because he calculates the inevitability of The Event, he intervenes to bring it about; to be the hero, he becomes the villain. Since 1985, this once-novel idea has been absurdly generative and influential to the point of cliché: from the Watchmen-esque “The Killing Joke” through the Nolan Batman movie through the MCU up to Thanos, the superantihero has been at the heart of the modern post-9/11 revival of the superhero movie. What if the villain is the hero? What if the hero is the villain? “You know how you can tell the difference between a superhero and supervillain?” the comic asked, and then answers, “Me neither!”

(6) NOT EVERYONE CAN DO THIS. A New York Times interviewer found out “How Ursula K. Le Guin Fooled the Poet Robert Hass”.

What genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?

I tend to binge, so I have to try to avoid genre fiction, but I’m attracted to mysteries, detective novels partly because they come in a series — so I would find myself working through the 10 novels Simenon wrote in 1931 to see what that explosion was about. I had a Patrick O’Brian addiction at one point. When I read Ursula Le Guin, who grew up in Berkeley, I thought that I had discovered that I loved science fiction, and read a lot of it and discovered that I just loved Ursula Le Guin, unless Calvino and Borges count as science fiction.

(7) LESS THREAD, MORE FILLING. N.K. Jemisin will still be on Twitter, just not as much.

(8) MORE PLEASE. In The Hollywood Reporter, “‘Star Wars’ Star Dominic Monaghan Hopes for ‘Rise of Skywalker’ Director’s Cut”.

…Since the release of The Rise of Skywalker, viewers have been divided over their feelings about the film. This came to a head Thursday as an anonymous, unverified Reddit post suggested that the film was subject to a significant amount of studio meddling, prompting the hashtag #ReleaseTheJJCut to trend across social media. While Monaghan didn’t speak to these latest conspiracy theories, he does wish for the release of a director’s cut given the sheer volume of unused footage that Abrams shot.

“Like a lot of Star Wars fans, I’m hoping there will be a director’s cut so we’ll get to see more and more of the stuff that was filmed,” Monaghan tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I wasn’t there all the time, but even in the short time that I was there, there was so much stuff filmed that didn’t make it to the theatrical version…. Oh, man, there was so much stuff!”

(9) SHATNER’S CHRISTMAS SPECIAL. ComicBook.com tells how one Captain celebrated the holiday: “Star Trek’s William Shatner Surprised the LAPD on Christmas Day”.

Star Trek‘s William Shatner is famous for playing Captain James T. Kirk. In 2019, he took on the role of local Santa Claus for the Los Angeles Police Department. Sources within the organization tell TMZ that Shatner visited his local precinct’s police station. He didn’t show up empty-handed, reportedly coming with corned beef and pastrami sandwiches, bagels, lox, and cream cheese to help feed the officers on duty on Christmas Day. Shatner reportedly thanked the on-duty officers and left a holiday card behind as well as a few hundred dollars to help feed the officers throughout the remainder of the day.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 5, 1882 Bela Lugosi. He’s best remembered for portraying Count Dracula in the 1931 film Drácula, although Wolfman certainly helped make him famous as wellNow tell me what’s your favorite film character that he played? (Died 1956.)
  • Born January 5, 1914 George Reeves. Yes, he was just forty five when he apparently committed suicide. Best known obviously for being Clark Kent and Superman in the Adventures of Superman which ran for six seasons. It was preceded by two films, Superman and the Mole Men and the now public domain Stamp Day for Superman. Reeves had one long running SFF series prior to this series, Adventures of Sir Galahad, a fifteen-part serial in which he played the lead. This clip is the only English one I found of him in that role. (Died 1959.)
  • Born January 5, 1940 Jennifer Westwood. Folklorist who I’m including on the Birthday Honors List (if the Queen can have such a list, I can too) for one of her works in particular, Albion: Guide to Legendary Britain as it has a SFF connection that’s will take some explaining. Ever hear of the band from Minnesota called Boiled in Lead? Well they took their name from a local legend in that time about a man that was wrapped in lead and plunged in a vat of scalding oil so that he now stands forever in a circle of stones but barely nine to this day. Among the SFF folk that have had a role in the band are Steven Brust, Adam Stemple, Jane Yolen and Will Shetterly. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 5, 1959 Clancy Brown, 61. I first encountered him as the voice of Lex Luthor In the DC animated universe. All of his voice roles are far too extensive too list here, but I’ll single out his voice work as Savage Opress, Count Dooku’s new apprentice and Darth Maul’s brother, in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Very selected live roles include Rawhide in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, The Kurgan In Highlander, Sheriff Gus Gilbert in Pet Sematary Two, Captain Byron Hadley in The Shawshank Redemption, Sgt. Charles Zim In Starship Troopers and, one of My best loved weird series, the truly strange Brother Justin Crowe in Carnivàle.
  • Born January 5, 1975 Bradley Cooper, 45. He’d be here just for voicing Rocket Raccoon in the MCU. In fact, he is here just for that role.
  • Born January 5, 1978 Seanan McGuire, 42. Ahhhh, one of my favorite writers. I just finished listening to The Girl in the Green Silk Gown which was quite excellent and earlier I’d read her Chaos Choreography, both of her Indexing books which are beyond amazing and, God what else?, the Wayward Children series which I’ve mixed feelings about. I did read at a few of the first October Daye novelsbut they didn’t tickle my fancy. Not sure why though. 

(11) PICARD RECRUITS. ComicBook.com is keeping an eye open for new Picard promos — “Star Trek: Picard Teaser Spotlights Romulan Agent Narek”.

The latest features the new character Narek, played by Harry Treadaway. Narek is a Romulan agent who joins up with Jean-Luc Picard and his crew to investigate the Romulans’ new interest in Borg drones. You can watch the teaser above. And speaking of Borg drones, last week’s teaser featured Seven of Nine, again played by Star Trek: Voyager‘s Jeri Ryan.

(12) ON TARGET. The GoFundMe to help Virgil Finlay’s daughter met it $5,000 goal. She sent her thanks in an update.

I want to thank everyone who so kindly contributed to help me save my father’s artwork, letters, and poetry. We will continue to work on restoring them piece by piece.
My daughter and I both thank you for your kindness!
Sincerely,
Lail and Brien

(13) RETRO RESEARCH. SF Magazines’ Paul Fraser put together a page on his blog listing nearly all of the Retro-Hugo eligible stories from 1944, with hyperlinks to copies on archive.org, as well as one or two other bits and pieces.

The table below* contains the 1944 fiction eligible for the 1945 Retro Hugo Awards, and links to copies of the stories on archive.org. Please use the contact form below to inform me of any omissions.

(* The table includes the contents of Amazing Stories, Astounding Science-Fiction, Captain Future, Fantastic Adventures, Planet Stories, Startling Stories, Thrilling Wonder Stories, and Weird Tales magazine, plus miscellaneous others—e.g. Olaf Stapledon’s Sirius, Robert Graves’ The Golden Fleece. There was no original fiction in Famous Fantastic Mysteries during 1944.)

(14) GETTING THEIR GOAT. “California Cities Turn To Hired Hooves To Help Prevent Massive Wildfires”. In fact, there’s a place in the foothills a few miles from me where they brought in goats – I don’t know whether they still do.

California has gone through several difficult fire seasons in recent years. Now, some cities are investing in unconventional fire prevention methods, including goats.

Anaheim, a city southeast of Los Angeles, has recently re-upped its contract with the company Environmental Land Management to keep goats grazing on city hillsides nearly year-round.

The goats are stationed in places like Deer Canyon Park, a nature preserve with more than a hundred acres of steep hills. Beginning in July, roughly 400 goats worked through the park, eating invasive grasses and dried brush.

The company’s operations manager Johnny Gonzales says that Deer Canyon, with its peaks and valleys, is just the right kind of place to use goats for fire prevention.

“This is the topography that poses challenges during these wildfire events,” Gonzales says. “And we can go ahead and reduce the fuel loads and take out the invasive plants, and establish the native plants on these banks; you’re re-establishing the ecology.”

…What makes the goats important isn’t just their ability to climb steep hillsides. According to Hogue and Gonzales, the animals eat invasive plants and grasses while only minimally grazing on native plants.

(15) SPACE FORCE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Should the Vulcans choose this time to finally drop in on us here on Earth, the US Space Force has a new unit designation ready made for at least one of them. Air Force News press release: “14th Air Force redesignated as Space Operations Command”.

By order of Secretary of the Air Force Barbara M. Barrett, effective Dec. 20, Fourteenth Air Force was officially redesignated as Space Operations Command.

[…] The SPOC directly supports the U.S. Space Force’s mission to protect the interests of the United States in space; deter aggression in, from and to space; and conduct space operations.

[…] The SPOC provides space capabilities such as space domain awareness, space electronic warfare, satellite communications, missile warning, nuclear detonation detection, environmental monitoring, military intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, navigation warfare, command and control, and positioning, navigation and timing, on behalf of the USSF for USSPACECOM and other combatant commands.

[…] Additional details about SPOC will be available in early 2020 – highlighting Space Operations Command’s critical roles and responsibilities in support of national security objectives.

(16) THESE ARE THE JOKES. If you pooh-poohed this idea – well, the writers beat you to it. “‘Avenue 5’ review: Iannucci’s sci-fi sitcom is the funniest thing on HBO” promises Inverse.

…The best part of an Iannucci show is typically the insults. (I can’t remember the plot of Veep, but when I close my eyes I can still see and hear Julia Louis Dreyfus cursing out Jonah Ryan or calling him an “unstable piece of human scaffolding.”). Avenue 5 cares more about its plot than its barbs. There are twists, turns, big reveals, and cliffhanger endings that will have you impatiently waiting for next Sunday’s episode. It’s still funny, but don’t expect the mile-per-minute foul-mouthed humor that made Veep so great.

The setting of HBO’s new sci-fi comedy is as impressive as the comedy: A massive gleaming vessel — or, as one character describes it, a “giant dildo floating through space.” The interior sets are all curved, shiny white surfaces and huge windows revealing the infinite outer space all around them; this backfires after some unfortunate space debris ends up orbiting the ship, which is somehow large enough to create its own gravity field.

(17) UNINTENTIONAL WAR GAMES. “Pika-Who? How Pokémon Go Confused the Canadian Military” – the New York Times has the story.

Pokémon Go, the augmented-reality game, had soared to the top of the download charts. Within weeks, millions of people were chasing the digital animated creatures all over the world — and going places they should not go.

More than three years later, Canadian military officials have shared internal documents with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation News Network that show how the military, both curious and confused, reacted to the wildly popular app.

Maj. Jeff Monaghan, an official based in Kingston, Ontario, wrote in an email: “Plse advise the Commissionaires that apparently Fort Frontenac is both a Pokégym and a Pokéstop. I will be completely honest in that I have not idea what that is.”

At least three military police officers, stationed at different bases, were assigned to wander around with smartphones and notepads in hand to search for Pokémon, Pokéstops and Pokégyms, according to the documents. (Users can find Pokéballs at Pokéstops, use their Pokéballs to capture Pokémon, and train and join teams at Pokégyms.)

“We should almost hire a 12-year-old to help us out with this,” David Levenick, a security expert at a military base in Borden, Ontario, wrote in an email.

Weeks after the app became available, Canadian officials noticed an increase in suspicious activity.

One woman was found on a military base as three children with her climbed on tanks. She was playing Pokémon Go.

(18) THE BEGINNING. In the Washington Post, John Kelly discusses an exhibit at the University of Maryland about Jim Henson’s college years, including sketches and drawings Henson made at college and how Henson created a silk-screening business in school to make money and help perfect his art. “Jim Henson was born gifted. At U-Md., he became even more talented.”

…Though the single-room exhibit is composed of just a few cases, a few walls and a few TV screens, it gives a good sense of the breadth of Henson’s interests and his love of experimentation. In his short animated film “Drums West,” colored shapes dance across a black background in time with a percussive soundtrack. Yellow and orange rectangles make starburst patterns as the (unseen) drummer, Chico Hamilton, plays the high-hat; blue dots pop as he thumps the bass drum. It’s an abstract visual representation of the music.

How was it done? At the end, the camera pulls back to reveal Henson seated at a workbench. In front of him is a black surface about the size of an LP cover. It’s surrounded by bits of colored paper that Henson has been painstakingly arranging with tweezers, then filming a frame at a time.

As for those souvenir Wilkins and Wontkins Muppets, they’re there too, inside a glass case. In 1958 you could have had a pair by sending in $1 and the last inch of winding band from a can of Wilkins Coffee or a Wilkins Instant Coffee label. “Made of soft but durable vinyl,” a newspaper ad explained, “you only need to move your fingers inside to create 1,001 funny faces.”

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

Pixel Scroll 12/11/19 Electronic Sheep May Safely Graze, Thanks To Grounding Footware

(1) A WORD FROM OUR SPONSOR’S CAST MEMBER. Ed Green, fandom’s working actor, has made another commercial! This time Ed advertises Rebate Key. He’s the fellow in the blue shirt.

(2) BABY YODA GRAFFITI. Reddit says this street art is in the south of France. (Near Remulac?)

(3) MIKE RESNICK GOFUNDME. Mike Resnick, beset by new medical problems, has more bills to pay and his GoFundMe target has been raised to $50,000: “Help Mike Resnick pay off a near-death experience”.

UPDATE on 12/11/2019: Mike is now battling cancer on top of his previous major surgery, for which this fundraiser was created. The doctors are very optimistic and say he is responding to treatment incredibly well, but because of new surgery, radiation and chemo bills, he is in need of this fundraiser more than ever. As you can imagine, he is literally bleeding money at he moment. Every dollar helps. Thank you, again, for all the support you have given Mike! <3

(4) BLUEPRINTS. “How To Structure a Cozy Mystery” by Sarah A. Hoyt at Mad Genius Club – I found her exploration of a popular formula completely fascinating.

3- For some reason your character has special knowledge.

This could be as inside-baseball as knowing it was the wrong tropical fish (I know NOTHING about tropical fish, btw) or how fanatic tropical fish collectors get.  Or it could be as “generic” as she saw something she can’t tell the police, either because it’s not clear or because she wouldn’t want to rope in a person she’s sure is innocent.

So, she’s going to investigate.

BTW by now we should have already seen or heard of the murderer. No, you shouldn’t make it obvious. But it’s important, to avoid the elephant from the ceiling feeling.  If not, we should see her or meet her early in the investigation phase. (Yes, it can be a him too, do I need to tell you that?)

At this point it might become obvious to everyone but your protag that love interest is interested.

(5) GREAT EXPECTATIONS. [Item by Olav Rokne,] Prominent cultural critic Dave Itzkoff writing in The Gray Lady delves into the creative turmoil surrounding Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and J.J. Abrams’ attempts to live up to the mantle of the franchise. “A New Hype” is filled with interesting tidbits and observations about the creative process. It’s an example of why I think so highly of Itzkoff as a journalist. 

As [Abrams] slyly acknowledged, “Any great ending is a new beginning on some level.” But what the future of “Star Wars” might look like without its foundational narrative is something Abrams — who struck a lucrative overall deal with WarnerMedia in September — was in no hurry to envision. “I didn’t design that, so I don’t know,” he said.

(6) PICARD ALREADY IN REAR VIEW MIRROR. “Michael Chabon’s ‘Adventures of Kavalier and Clay’ Series Coming to Showtime”. The Hollywood Reporter says Chabon will exit Picard in 2020 to work with his wife on the series:

…The author, who serves as showrunner on the studio’s forthcoming Star Trek: Picard for CBS All Access, has, alongside his writer wife, Ayelet Waldman, signed an overall deal with the studio. Under the pact, Chabon and Waldman will adapt the former’s 2000 novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay as a limited series for CBS TV Studios’ corporate sibling Showtime.

The series, which earned Chabon the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for fiction, will be written and exec produced by the husband and wife duo and has received a series commitment from the premium cable network. Chabon and Waldman will serve as showrunners on Kavalier and Clay. Chabon will transition to the new series, an epic tale of love, war and the birth of America’s comic book superhero obsession in big band-era New York, in 2020 and exit Picard. The series is a co-production with Paramount Television, which controlled the rights to the book.

(7) LONG STRING OF SHOWS. Amazingly, after 56 years LA’s Bob Baker Marionette Theater still exists. The New York Times tells how that happened, with lots of pictures, in “Marionettes at Play”.

…But starting back in 2013, a series of calamities almost derailed these time-honored traditions. That was when Baker — a man who bubbled over with creativity, but when it came to business, was a car wreck — was forced to sell the building, and the troupe became tenants in their longtime home. When Baker died the following year at the age of 90, the company members dedicated themselves to preserving his legacy.

“At the end of the day, we’d still be doing shows, and there’d be a hundred happy kids,” said Alex Evans, a scruffy-bearded 34-year-old who arrived at the theater in 2006 from New York after Googling “Los Angeles” and “puppets.” He is now the theater’s executive director and head puppeteer. “So it was easy to look around and highlight this as a beautiful moment.”

After Baker’s death, the group learned the landlord intended to raze the theater and replace it with a mixed-use development, which would include a spot for them to perform. “Then we looked at the plan and it was like, ‘We are essentially going to be squeezed into a space otherwise allocated to a Starbucks,” Evans said. “We were, like, ‘This won’t work. We can’t do that.’ ”

They visited dozens of places before finding the two-story former Pyong Kang First Congregational Church on a bustling, tree-lined street, across from a children’s park. Not only was it bigger than their original home — at 10,000 square feet compared to about 5600 — it was also zoned for assembly. “We could just open the doors and just go,” Evans said.

(8) SHORT TREKS. SYFY Wire points the way as CBS All Access previews two new animated installments in the Short Treks series which will debut this week: “Star Trek shares whimsical peek at two new Short Treks animated tales”.

  • Star Trek: Short Treks | Ephraim & Dot Trailer

Ephraim, a humble tardigrade, is flying through the mycelial network when an unexpected encounter takes her on a bewildering adventure through space.

  • Star Trek: Short Treks | The Girl Who Made the Stars Trailer

When a lightning storm in space scares a young Michael Burnham, her father aims to ease her fears with a mythical story about a brave little girl who faced her own fears head on.

(9) CONSPIRATORS’ TOOLKIT. “‘The Illuminatus! Trilogy’: Hivemind & Brian Taylor Conspire On TV Adaptation” says Deadline. If only Sam Konkin III had lived to see this day!

The Illuminatus! Trilogy is coming to television and Hivemind is in on the conspiracy. Hivemind, the production company behind The Expanse and Witcher, is partnering with writer-director Brian Taylor (Crank, Happy!) and the European production company Kallisti to adapt The Illuminatus! Trilogy, the off-kilter bookshelf series by authors Robert Anton Wilson & Robert Shea.

Originally published in the 1970s, The Illuminatus! Trilogy defies simple descriptions but the surreal and satirical milestone introduced “the Illuminati” lore to a global audience and sparked much of the contemporary American fascination with conspiracy theories and their modern rhythms.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 11, 1929 — The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says that “Fandom begins in New York with the first meeting of the Scienceers, 1929.” Timebinders has a history of that Club here as it appeared in Joe Christoff’s Sphere fanzine.
  • December 11, 1982 Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann. Junk films are a great deal of fun (sometimes). Timerider is certainly junky. It’s directed by William Dear and starring Fred Ward as Lyle Swann, a cross country dirt bike racer. The film was scored, produced and co-written (with Dear) by Michael Nesmith of Monkees fame. There’s rating at Rotten Tomatoes but Amazon reviews really liked it as did some critics.
  • December 11, 1998 Star Trek: Insurrection premiered. Directed by Frakes who was widely praised for doing so, it starred the Next Gen cast. It did very well at the box office and critics mostly liked it. The story was by Rick Berman and Michael Piller. It currently has a rating of 44% by viewers over at Rotten Tomatoes where an amazing 62,772 have registered their opinion. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 11, 1922 —  Maila Syrjäniemi. She was Vampira, the first tv horror host as she hosted her own series, The Vampira Show, from 1954–55 in the LA market.  After it was canceled, she showed up on Plan 9 from Outer Space in one of the starring roles. (Died 2008.)
  • Born December 11, 1926 Dick Tufeld. His best known role, or at least best recognized, Is as the voice of the Robot on Lost in Space, a role he reprised for the feature film. The first words heard on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea are spoken by him: “This is the Seaview, the most extraordinary submarine in all the seven seas.” He’s been the opening announcer on Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Spider-Woman, Thundarr the Barbarian, Fantastic Four and the Time Tunnel. (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 11, 1937 Marshal Tymn, 82. Academic whose books I’ve actually read. (I find most of these sorts of works really boring, errr, too dry.) He’s written two works that I’ve enjoyed, one with Neil Barron, Fantasy and Horror, is a guide to those genres up to mid Nineties, and Science Fiction, Fantasy and Weird Fiction Magazines with Mike Ashley as his co-writer is a fascinating read indeed. A Research Guide to Science Fiction Studies: An Annotated Checklist of Primary and Secondary Sources for Fantasy and Science Fiction is the only work by him available in a digital form.
  • Born December 11, 1954 Katherine Lawrence. Short story writer and script writer for a number of animated SF series including Reboot, Stargate Infinity and Conan the Adventurer to which she contributed quite a number of stories. (Died 2004.)
  • Born December 11, 1957 William Joyce, 62. Author of the YA series Guardians of Childhood which is currently at twelve books and growing. Joyce and Guillermo del Toro turned them into in a rather splendid Rise of the Guardians film which I enjoyed quite a bit. The antagonist in it reminds me somewhat of a villain later on In Willingham’s Fables series called Mr. Dark. Michael Toman in an email says that “I’ve been watching for his books since reading Dinosaur Bob and His Adventures with the Family Lazardo back in 1988.”
  • Born December 11, 1959 M. Rickert, 60. Short story writer par excellence. She’s got three collections to date, Map of Dreams, Holiday and You Have Never Been Here. I’ve not read her novel, The Memory Garden, and would like your opinions on it. The latter and You Have Never Been Here are her only works available digitally. 
  • Born December 11, 1962 Ben Browder, 57. Actor best known, of course, for his roles as John Crichton in Farscape and Cameron Mitchell in Stargate SG-1.  One of my favorite roles by him was his voicing of  Bartholomew Aloysius “Bat” Lash in Justice League Unlimited “The Once and Future Thing, Part 1” episode.  He’d have an appearance in Doctor Who in “A town Called Mercy”,  a Weird Western of sorts. 
  • Born December 11, 1979 Rider Strong, 40. Making Birthday Honors for his voice work Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles as Pvt. Carl Jenkins. If you’ve not seen this series, go watch it. He’s done a lot of voice work including for Star vs. the Forces of Evil and his live work is mostly horror. 

(12) END OF MISSION. TMZ, in “William Shatner Files for Divorce, Prenup In The Stars”, reports that Shatner, 88, is divorcing from his fourth wife, Elizabeth, 61.

William Shatner wants Scotty the judge to beam him up and out of his marriage, ’cause he’s calling it quits after 18 years … TMZ has learned.

The ‘Star Trek’ actor just filed for divorce against his wife, Elizabeth, whom he got hitched with back in 2001. Sources familiar with the matter tell us Bill and Liz’s split should move along relatively smoothly, as we’re told the couple has a prenup.

…Elizabeth is Will’s fourth wife — he was previously married to Nerine Kidd, Marcy Lafferty and Gloria Rand … and only had children with Rand. It’s Elizabeth’s second go-around … she was married to Michael Glenn Martin before William. He’s 88 … she’s 61.

… According to William’s divorce docs — obtained by TMZ — he lists their date of separation as Feb. 1, 2019.

(13) LOOSED LIPS. “Vault of the Wordmonger” on The Dark Mountain Project is a short story by Nick Hunt about a future where words have become imprisoned and are only gradually being freed.

Our father bought words once a week. He was a big man in our town and fresh words gave him status. He paid for them in animal parts from the farm our family owned and sometimes in mineral parts from the mine beyond the hill. He did not own the mine but he had interests there. The animal parts and mineral parts he carried there in his hands and the words he carried back in his mouth. That is the way to carry words….

(14) NO FLIES ON THEM. One of the reasons for “The truth behind why zebras have stripes”.

Rudyard Kipling playfully wrote that zebras stripes were due to “the slippery-slidy shadows of the trees” falling on its body but are scientists getting closer to the truth?

In February 2019, at a horse livery yard in the UK, a fascinating experiment took place. A team of evolutionary biologists from the University of California, Davis, and their UK collaborators, investigated why zebras have stripes. In the name of science, they dressed several domestic horses at Hill Livery in zebra-striped coats, and studied them alongside actual zebras.

Owner Terri Hill keeps a herd of zebras which she has acquired from zoos across the UK – a collection which stems from Hill’s passion for the conservation of wild equids. Maintaining the herd, which live on a two acre paddock complete with sand pit and herb garden, is a way of maintaining breeding stock for zoos, and so helping to protect the animals against future extinction.

For Tim Caro, an ecologist from the University of St Andrews who has been studying zebra stripes for almost two decades, the livery yard’s relatively tame zebras provided a rare opportunity to stand within metres of them and observe them. “People have been talking about zebra stripes for over a hundred years, but it’s just a matter of really doing experiments and thinking clearly about the issue to understand it better,” he says.

How and why zebras evolved to sport black and white stripes are questions that have tested scientists for over a century. Scientists have put forward at least 18 reasons why, from camouflage or warning colours, to more creative explanations like unique markers that help to identify individuals like a human fingerprint. But, for a long time new theories were introduced without rigorous tests.

(15) LET US TELL YOU WHERE TO GO. BBC reports “Google: The most searched for questions and phrases of 2019 revealed”.

Game of Thrones, Caitlyn Jenner, the Rugby World Cup, what is Area 51, how to eat a pineapple and what is a dead ting?

These are some of the top phrases and questions you searched for on Google in 2019.

The Rugby World Cup – which South Africa won after beating England in the final – topped the list of overall trending searches in the UK, according to the search engine.

“What is Area 51?” and “How to pronounce psalm” were among the top questions you had this year.

(16) SCARECROW. “Bangalore: Dummies in police uniforms ‘control’ city traffic”.

One of India’s most gridlocked cities has come up with an unconventional solution to rein in errant drivers.

Mannequins dressed up as traffic police have been placed on roads in the southern city of Bangalore.

Dressed in police caps, white shirts and brown trousers, and wearing sunglasses, the mannequins are now on duty at congested junctions.

It’s hoped drivers will mistake them for real police and think twice about breaking the rules of the road.

Home to India’s IT industry, Bangalore has eight million registered vehicles on its streets. This number is expected to grow to more than 10 million by 2022.

At 18.7 km/h (11.61 mph) traffic speeds in the city are the second slowest in the country after Mumbai (18.5 km/h), according to a study by an office commute platform, MovinSync Technology Solutions. Cameras at traffic junctions have recorded more than 20,000 traffic violations every day.

But commuters have mixed feelings on whether mannequins can actually step in to help their real police counterparts.

(17) WORD OF THE YEAR. “Merriam-Webster Singles Out Nonbinary ‘They’ For Word Of The Year Honors”NPR has the story.

There are plenty of flashpoints for controversy littered among the grand pantheon of four-letter words. Plenty of examples probably come to mind immediately — from the relatively tame (“heck,” anyone?) to the kind of graphic profanity that may warrant an uncomfortable call from our ombudsman.

Still, one four-letter word has elicited more heated debate than most among grammarians lately. And it happens to be one that we’re free to print right here: they.

Merriam-Webster announced Tuesday that the personal pronoun was its 2019 Word of the Year, noting that the tiny, unassuming word had undergone a rather radical transformation in usage in recent years — and found itself at the heart of some wide-ranging cultural conversations in the process.

“English famously lacks a gender-neutral singular pronoun to correspond neatly with singular pronouns like everyone or someone, and as a consequence they has been used for this purpose for over 600 years,” the dictionary publisher explained in a statement.

“More recently, though, they has also been used to refer to one person whose gender identity is nonbinary, a sense that is increasingly common in published, edited text, as well as social media and in daily personal interactions between English speakers.”

(18) THINKING OUTSIDE THE CAN. Delish thinks these will be irresistible — “Pringles Is Making A Pickle Rick Flavor For ‘Rick And Morty’ Fans” – but I’ll give you share!

Do you ever just shove your hand all the way into the bottom of the Pringles can to get the just-out-of-reach last chip? Because same. And now I’ll be doing that even more willingly because Pringles is bringing back its Pickle Rick flavor.

The flavor is obviously an ode to Rick and Morty, the Adult Swim cartoon series with a super cult following. In a now-famous episode of the show, a scientist turns into a pickle to avoid going to family therapy…as one does? Thus, “Pickle Rick” was born.

(19) A BOUNTY FOR YOUR TABLE. N sent the link to Binging with Babish: Bone Broth from The Mandalorian with the recommendation, “Unconventional, but I’m watching this right now and everything he’s making with the broth is just too tasty looking.”

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