Strangest of All, A Free Read

Strangest of All, an anthology of astrobiological science fiction, edited by Julie Nováková, is now available as a free download. The book was created for the European Astrobiology Institute’s BEACON 2020 conference, cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The collected stories take readers on a journey to encounter life in the universe. The original nonfiction essays following each story consider our chances of finding life outside of the Earth, detecting it remotely, and learning its limits.

The stories are reprints by G. David Nordley, Geoffrey Landis, Gregory Benford, Tobias S. Buckell, Peter Watts and D. A. Xiaolin Spires, plus a bonus story by the editor.

DOWNLOAD. The anthology can be downloaded as a .pdf file here. It is also available as a .mobi and .epub file.

EUROPEAN ASTROBIOLOGY INSTITUTE. By fostering interdisciplinary and international research in astrobiology and bringing together scientists, industry and the general public, the EAI aims to educate and to present the exciting and relevant field of astrobiology.

One of the ways to introduce astrobiology to people of various ages, backgrounds, nations or interests is through popular fiction. Science fiction has long served as means to showcase new ideas, has always been inspired by science and vice versa. That’s why EAI developed a project team “Science Fiction as a tool for Astrobiology Outreach and Education”, whose first major project is the educational and outreach astrobiological SF anthology Strangest of All.

Do you have a passion for science, outreach/education and science fiction and would like to be involved in similar projects? Get in touch with the editor at julie.novakova@gmail.com.

ABOUT THE STORIES. Nordley’s “War, Ice, Egg, Universe” takes readers to an aquatic civilization inhabiting a Europalike world with an ice-covered ocean, and the accompanying essay focuses on what we know about conditions for life on Europa, Enceladus, Ganymede and other ocean worlds.

In “Into The Blue Abyss” by Landis, the protagonist dives into an entirely different ocean – the high-pressure liquid water layer on Uranus, where chemistry signifying possible life had been observed. Could life really exist in such conditions – and could high-pressure environments actually be one of the most common habitats in the universe?

Continuing the journey outward of the Sun, “Backscatter” by Benford finds life in an improbable place: an icy asteroid in the Kuiper Belt. The follow-up essay provides background on the possibility of life in asteroids and comets, and dives into the topic of exotic silicon-based life in such cold places with no liquid water.

In Buckell’s “A Jar of Goodwill”, we leave solar system and environments similar to it entirely, visiting a strange exoplanet where plants metabolize chlorine – but the main problem the hero faces is whether its ant-like inhabitants are intelligent creatures. Halogen-based photosynthesis was actually proposed in theory – so we can look at where we could expect such exotic life.

Even more exotic is the titular creature in Watts’ novelette “The Island”: a live Dyson sphere. In the essay, we look at how we can search for Dyson spheres, what the surveys yielded up-to-date, and whether we could presume anything about the origin and thought processes of a nigh impossible being like the Island.

Benford returns with a microstory “SETI for Profit”, an interesting take on how to revive interest in SETI. What efforts to listen to potential extra-terrestrial messages have been taken so far, and what can we expect in the future?

The topic of SETI is inextricably linked with the Fermi Paradox, one of the themes of Spires’ “But, Still, I Smile”. How can we explain the paradox with what we know so far, and how does the explanation in the story relate to our world?

Finally, in the bonus story by Nováková, “Martian Fever”, we look at Mars exploration gone awry – and the risks of interplanetary biological contamination and the question of planetary protection.

Each story is followed not only by the science essay complete with references for readers craving more, but also a couple of ideas for classroom discussions or tasks (best-suited for higher high school grades or undergraduate university students), such as thinking of how to devise a message for a potentially listening alien civilization, bearing in mind what we know of sensory and cognitive differences between species here on Earth. For most of the questions, there is no definitive answer – but all the more curiosity should they elicit.

[Thanks to Gregory Benford and Nina Shepardson for the story. Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 2/25/20 I Don’t Know, Batman. Why *Is* A Pixel Like A Writing Desk?

(1) HWA SERIES. The Horror Writers Association Blog continues its Women in Horror Month series of interviews with “Females of Fright: Linda Addison”.

3) Who were/are your biggest influences?
That is a long list of people. The first person that influenced me to write is my mother. She was a fantastic storyteller and would entertain the nine of us with fables she made up. This made it feel very natural to create stories for me. Also, two strong female characters from the Star Trek television series were huge influences: Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) as the first Black female officer in a SF series and Christine Chapel (Majel Barrett) whose character said more with a look than words.

When I was in high school, I loved Maya Angelou, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, James Baldwin, Eudora Welty, and Langston Hughes because of the music in their writing. In college, I discovered genre writers Isaac Asimov, Anne McCaffrey, Robert Heinlein, Octavia Butler, Nancy Kress, and Connie Willis. In horror, some of my female influences were Anne Rice, L. A. Banks, Elizabeth Massie, Marge Simon, and Charlee Jacob. Looking back, I see that I read more male SF and horror writers than female because the field didn’t have as many in print as they do now and even fewer Black female writers.

When my story was published in Sheree R. Thomas’ Dark Matter anthology in 2000, it gave me so much exposure and made a huge difference in my career. Others lifted me up with their belief in my writing early on: Jack Ketchum, Terry Bisson, Nancy Kress, Straub, L. A. Banks, Douglas Clegg, and so many more…

(2) CHANGING OF TH GUARD AT DISNEY. “Bob Iger steps down at Disney, Bob Chapek named new CEO” – the LA Times has details:

In a stunning move that marks the end of an era for one of the entertainment industry’s great corporate success stories, Bob Iger on Tuesday stepped down as chief executive of Walt Disney Co. after 15 years in the job.

Bob Chapek, a 27-year Disney veteran who most recently led the company’s massively important parks and consumer products business, was named Iger’s successor, effective immediately.

Iger, 69, has assumed the role of executive chairman, the company said. In that role, he will direct the Burbank entertainment giant’s creative endeavors and help guide the company’s board through the leadership transition until the end of his contract on Dec. 31, 2021, Disney said in statement.

Disney’s CEO succession plan was the subject of speculation for years as Iger delayed plans to leave the company. Disney’s board last extended Iger’s contract was in December 2017, when Disney announced that it was buying much of 21st Century Fox from Rupert Murdoch. As part of those negotiations, Murdoch requested that Iger stay on to run the company rather than leave when he’d planned….

(3) RETRO DRAMA. Mark Leeper has finished his complete overview of all feature-length dramatic presentations eligible for the Retro Hugo. Originally done in three installments, the full article now is available here — “Comments on the 1945 Retro Hugo Nominations in the Dramatic Presentation Category”.

Members of the 2020 World Science Fiction Convention will be given an opportunity to vote retroactively for Hugo Awards for 1945, for works from 1944. I am not actually old enough to have been around in 1944. The year 1944 was roughly a flowering when fantastic media was seen by much of the public. I am not sure when I started seeing fantastic media from the year 1944 until about 1960, but I do remember the early general public availability of some of the films nominated for a 1944 Retroactive Hugo. They had science fiction and fantasy for which the fiction was absurdly bad (but fun) and the “science” contained no science at all. It can still be fun to be misinformed by science from someone who knows less science than you do and by fiction that is just written. There is a certain charm to science fiction written by someone with no obvious understanding of science trying their best to make it sound credible

Many true fans of science fiction and fantasy still retain an interest in the fantasy fiction from 80 years earlier. Reading it creates an atmosphere from a writing style of decades ago. Few fans delude themselves into believing that this prose eight decades old is true artistry.

Personally I see only one or two titles among the nominees that say to me “classic.” By the time I finish this article you will probably have very little doubt which two are the ones that I consider the true classics. In the meantime I will hint for the reader think about which would the real classic be. Evelyn and I will both be viewing the choice of nominees and independently recording our opinions.

Enjoy your sojourn to the fun films of 1944. I know I will.

(4) SEES RIGHT THROUGH IT. “‘The Invisible Man’: Film Review” in The Hollywood Reporter.

This is not your father’s or, for that matter, grandfather’s The Invisible Man, even though it marks the launch of Universal’s revived attempt to seriously refresh and refashion its 1930s/’40s horror lineup for the modern age. Rather, enterprising writer-director Leigh Whannell (writer of Saw and Insidious and director of Insidious: Chapter 3) has imaginatively gone in a different direction by meeting the requirements of the title both literally and figuratively. At the same time, the movie stakes a claim for new mystery-horror territory worthy of a talent like Elisabeth Moss, who amplifies the qualities of the script with a top-shelf woman-in-severe-jeopardy performance…. 

(5) DON’T OPEN THE BOX! Last night on PBS’ Antiques Roadshow:

Caution: this appraisal may melt your face off! Watch as James Supp appraises a prototype Ark of the Covenant from the 1981 Indiana Jones film “Raiders of the Lost Ark” at Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, CA.

(6) A STEP ON THE WAY TO MARS. The LA Times reports “SpaceX gets approval to build its Mars spaceship at Port of L.A.”

The Los Angeles City Council approved a permit Tuesday that allows the Elon Musk-led company to use a site on Terminal Island at the port to build aerospace parts.

With the vote, SpaceX is now cleared to start work at the site; last week, the L.A. Board of Harbor Commissioners green-lighted the permit.

SpaceX representatives told L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino’s office that the company was interested in the port site because it needed additional manufacturing capacity for its Starship spaceship and rocket booster. A SpaceX representative at last week’s harbor commissioners meeting did not mention Starship by name during his presentation of the project, but he said the company would use the port site to further its goal of creating an interplanetary society that includes Mars.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 25, 1999 Escape from Mars premiered on UPN. It was directed by Neill Fearnley and produced  by Peter Lhotka. It was written by im Henshaw, Peter Mohan. It starred Lia Poirier, Allison Hossack , Peter Outerbridge, Allison Hossack and Michael Shanks. There are no critical reviews of it but the reviews at IMDB and Amazon make it clear that this is a horrible film.  And the audience numbers at Rotten Tomatoes are simpatico withose opinions at 27%. You can see it here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 25, 1906 Mary Chase. Journalist, playwright and children’s novelist. She’s best remembered for the Broadway playwright who penned Harvey which was later adapted for the film that starred James Stewart. Her only other genre work was the children’s story, “The Wicked, Wicked Ladies In the Haunted House”. The latter is available at the usual digital publishers but Harvey isn’t. You can get Harvey as an audiobook. (Died 1981.)
  • Born February 25, 1909 Edgar Pangborn. For the first twenty years of his career, he wrote myriad stories for the pulp magazines, but always under pseudonyms. It wasn’t until the Fifties that he published in his own name in Galaxy Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. His Tales of a Darkening World work is certainly well-crafted and entertaining. He’s deeply stocked at reasonable prices at the usual digital publishers. (Died 1976.)
  • Born February 25, 1913 Gert Fröbe. Goldfinger in the Bond film of that name. He also the Baron Bomburst in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Professor Van Bulow in Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon and Colonel Manfred von Holstein in Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, a film that’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 1988.)
  • Born February 25, 1917 Anthony Burgess. I know I’ve seen and read A Clockwork Orange many, many years ago. I think I even took a University class on it as well. Scary book, weird film.  I’ll admit that I’m not familiar with the Enderby series having not encountered them before now. Opinions please. (Died 1993.)
  • Born February 25, 1922 Robert Bonfils. Illustrator, known for his covers for pulp paperback covers, many of an erotic nature. I’ve not heard of him but ISFDB lists quite a few genre works that are, errr, graced by his work. Sex is certainly his dominant theme as can be seen in the covers of Go-Go SADISTO, Orgy of the Dead and Roburta the Conqueress. I’ve included the cover of From Rapture with Love, an obvious rip-off a Bond film, as an example of his work. (Died 2018.)
  • Born February 25, 1938 Diane Baker, 82. She starred in Journey to the Center of the Earth with James Mason,  and shortly thereafter, she’s Princess Yasmin in The Wizard of Baghdad.  She’s Kathy Adams in the “Beachhead” episode of The Invaders, and Fran Woods in the “Saturday’s Child” episode of the original Fantasy Island. I think her last genre role was as Dolores Petersen in the “Water, Water Everywhere” episode of Mann and Machine.
  • Born February 25, 1938 Malcolm Tierney. He’s Lt. Shann Childsen, the Imperial Prison Officer who questions Skywalker and Solo on what they are doing with Chewbacca in Star Wars, he’s in the Sixth Doctor story, “The Trial of a Time Lord” as Doland. (Died 2014.)
  • Born February 25, 1944 Mary Hughes. Solely here because she was a bikini-clad robot in Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, a too obvious Bond ripoff made entertaining by Vincent Price in the lead role. Her career spanned but three years. Another film she was in was The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini where she played, errr, a bikini clad Mary, and Boris Karloff played The Corpse.
  • Born February 25, 1968 A. M. Dellamonica, 52. A Canadian writer who has published over forty rather brilliant short works since the Eighties. Her first novel, Indigo Springs, came out just a decade ago but she now has five novels published with her latest being The Nature of a Pirate. Her story, “Cooking Creole” can be heard here at Pod Castle 562. It was in  Mojo: Conjure Stories, edited by Nalo Hopkinson.
  • Born February 25, 1971 Sean Astin, 49. His genre roles include Samwise Gamgee in the Rings trilogy, Mikey Walsh in The Goonies, and Bob Newby in the second season of Stranger Things. He also shows up in Justice League: War and in Justice League: Throne of Atlantis filmsvoicing both aspects of Shazam, a difficult role to pull off. He reprises that role on the Justice League Action series. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio finds one size does not fit all when it comes to being abducted by aliens.

(10) SQUOOBS AND COMPANY. When Mysterious Galaxy bookstore reopened in San Diego this month, representatives of the Mandalorian Mercs and Imperial Sands Garrison were on hand: “Mercs ‘Haran’galaar – Mysterious Galaxy Grand Opening’ Event Report”.

Event location: San Diego, CA
Date: February 08, 2020
Clan(s) Involved: Haran’galaar Clan
Mission Objective: Photo ops
Event Report: Mysterious Galaxy book store opened its doors again and Haran’galaar member Squoobs Jaro was there to show support. Guests were treated to photo ops with Squoobs along with members of the Imperial Sands Garrison.

(11) LAW LAW LAND. In “Useful Laws of the Land” on the Collaborative Fund website, Morgan Heusel discusses “Benford’s law of controversye:  “Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available,” which Gregory Benford promulgated in Timescape.

8. Benford’s law of controversy: “Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available.”

The line appeared in science fiction author Gregory Benford’s book Timescape.

Data has a way of keeping excitement in check, whereas if you have to take a leap of faith on something you’re likely to leap as far as your mind allows.

The median income of the people of another state: data I can confirm and everyone can agree on.

The feelings and political beliefs of the people of another state: no way for me to easily tell. But I can guess and draw conclusions, some of which are wrong and missing content, and might anger me, which angers them, and so on.

Former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale once said, “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”

He wasn’t serious, but it seriously explains a lot of things.

(12) IT’S A BABY! In the Washington Post, David Betancourt, reporting from the Toy Fair New York, says the market is about to be flooded with Baby Yoda merchandise, including a doll that makes baby noises if you hold his left hand and the theme from “The Mandalorian” if you hold the right.  He interviews “Mandalorian” producer Dave Piloni, who says that one reason why Baby Yoda merchandise is becoming available now is that they wanted to surprise people with the character and couldn’t start production of Baby Yoda stuff until after the show was launched: “Baby Yoda toys are finally arriving. Sure, they missed the holidays — but at least that prevented spoilers.”

And on Thursday at the Dream Hotel in Manhattan, the Child was everywhere. Legos, action figures, costumes, backpacks, hats, shirts, wallets and socks were all on display. An image of the now-classic moment in “The Mandalorian” when a young Baby Yoda reaches out of a capsule and extends the cutest finger in the universe for the first time? Framed and ready for your wall. The capsule itself? Also available, and featuring an animatronic Baby Yoda that blinks, coos and will melt your heart, for $60.

(13) YOU’RE INVITED TO GO APE. Fathom Events is selling tickets to a theatrical screening of King Kong on March 15.

In the classic adventure that made her a star, Fay Wray plays the beautiful woman who conquers the savage heart of a giant ape.

(14) FROM DA VINCI TO DA CAPO. Dan Brown’s next project is for young children. Wild Symphony, a hybrid picture book and album, featuring a mouse conductor who recruits other animals to join his orchestra.

Before he became a best-selling writer, Dan Brown was an aspiring musician. In 1989, he self-produced an album of children’s music he arranged on synthesizers, titled “Musica Animalia.” It sold around 500 copies, and Brown soon forgot about it.

He had better luck as a novelist, with page-turners like “The Da Vinci Code,” “The Lost Symbol” and other thrillers that collectively have more than 220 million copies in print.

Now, three decades later, Brown is reviving his musical career with a hybrid children’s album and picture book that grew out of the music and poems he wrote for “Musica Animalia.”

(15) STEALING COMEDY GOLD. James Davis Nicoll acquaints Tor.com readers with a Donald Westlake series in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Heist”.

…Just as Parker was the perfect lead for noir crime novels, hapless, likeable Dortmunder was the perfect lead for a comic heist series. There’s always stuff that needs stealing in New York; there are no end of unanticipated complications that can transform what was on paper a simple plan into a hilariously inconvenient maze of stumbling blocks for Dortmunder and his crew. It’s no surprise, therefore, that Westlake wrote fourteen novels and eleven or so short stories about John Dortmunder, Kelp, Murch, Tiny, and the rest of the crew before the author’s death put an end to the series.

(16) TEAMING WITH A ROBOT. “What do we look for in a ‘good’ robot colleague?” BBC devotes a long article to answering the question, with field observations as well as speculation.

How can we make our robot colleagues feel more at home? Teams of psychologists, roboticists and managers are trying to find out.

With a tank-like continuous track and an angular arm reminiscent of the Pixar lamp, the lightweight PackBot robot was designed to seek out, defuse and dispose of the improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, that killed and injured thousands of coalition soldiers during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bomb disposal was and is highly dangerous work, but the robot could take on the riskiest parts while its human team controlled it remotely from a safer distance.

US Army explosive ordinance disposal technician Phillip Herndon was assigned a PackBot during his first tour in Iraq. Herndon’s team named their robot Duncan, after a mission when the robot glitched and began spinning in circles, or doughnuts (doughnuts led to Dunkin Donuts, hence Duncan). His fellow bomb disposal techs named theirs too, and snapped photos of themselves next to robots holding Xbox controllers, dressed in improvised costumes or posing with a drink in their claws.

A PackBot was a piece of lifesaving kit, but it also felt like a comrade. No other equipment evoked the same kind of emotional pull, said Herndon, who retired from the army in 2016 as a first sergeant. Duncan’s final mission came one night when an enemy combatant fired on the robot as it worked to defuse a bomb. The strike disabled the IED, potentially saving lives, but destroyed the robot. “It was actually kind of a sad day for all of us,” says Herndon. “You do wind up in this situation where you have this robot for a tremendous amount of your operations, and all of a sudden you’re without a robot… There’s this emotional and operational missing link.”

Herndon was hardly alone in his attachment. Bomb-disposal robots have proven to be highly effective both at clearing explosives and at eliciting affection from their human handlers, some of whom have held robot funerals and award ceremonies for favoured bots.

These relationships offer illuminating insights into the experience of working with a robotic teammate, something an increasing number of workers in fields from healthcare to retail will be called on to do.

…‘Helping, not taking jobs’

“You need to think from the beginning of how you’re going to put these teams together, and give the robot [or] AI the job that the robot or AI does best and that the human doesn’t want to do, or that’s too boring or dangerous for the human,” says Nancy Cooke, a professor of cognitive science and director of Arizona State University’s Center for Human, Artificial Intelligence, and Robot Teaming.

(17) WHERE DID THE VIRUS COME FROM. “Coronavirus: The race to find the source in wildlife” – BBC has the story.

…Somewhere in China, a bat flits across the sky, leaving a trace of coronavirus in its droppings, which fall to the forest floor. A wild animal, possibly a pangolin snuffling for insects among the leaves, picks up the infection from the excrement.

The novel virus circulates in wildlife. Eventually an infected animal is captured, and a person somehow catches the disease, then passes it on to workers at a wildlife market. A global outbreak is born.

Scientists are attempting to prove the truth of this scenario as they work to find wild animals harbouring the virus. Finding the sequence of events is “a bit of a detective story”, says Prof Andrew Cunningham of Zoological Society London (ZSL). A range of wild animal species could be the host, he says, in particular bats, which harbour a large number of different coronaviruses.

So how much do we know about the “spillover event”, as it’s known in the trade? When scientists cracked the code of the new virus, taken from the body of a patient, bats in China were implicated.

The mammals gather in large colonies, fly long distances and are present on every continent. They rarely get sick themselves, but have the opportunity to spread pathogens far and wide. According to Prof Kate Jones of University College London, there is some evidence bats have adapted to the energetic demands of flight and are better at repairing DNA damage. “This might enable them to cope with a higher burden of viruses before getting sick – but this is just an idea at present.”

…The second part of the puzzle, then, is the identity of the mystery animal that incubated the virus in its body and possibly ended up in the market at Wuhan. One suspect for the smoking gun is the pangolin.

(18) COMPUTERIZED INCOMPETENCE. BBC reports “Pets ‘go hungry’ after smart feeder goes offline”.

Owners of a device designed to release food for pets say their animals were left hungry during a week-long system failure.

Petnet allows owners to schedule and control feeding via a smartphone app.

When the BBC contacted Petnet on its advertised email address, the email bounced back with a delivery failure notice.

One pet owner tweeted: “My cat starved for over a week”, while others complained about other hardware issues.

“My three Gen2 feeders constantly jam and won’t dispense food,” wrote another.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Evelyn Leeper, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Michael Toman, James Davis Nicoll, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Acoustic Rob.]

Pixel Scroll 2/24/20 You Make Me Vote Like A Natural Person…

(1) WORLDCON AMBITIONS. Tammy Coxen wants to remedy the problem of groups bidding for Worldcons without having any knowledge of the norms and customs of the convention they want to run. With input from many others, she has created an introduction — “So You Want to Bid for a Worldcon”.

Have you ever thought about running a Worldcon? Because Worldcon has been going on for so long (over 80 years!) there are a lot of expectations, traditions, norms and customes about how to do that, and if you don’t know about them, it’s really hard to win your bid! We haven’t necessarily done a great job of communicating that to people, so (with a lot of help from friends) I put together this intro guide. This is not a how-to document with details – this is more big picture. I think it’s useful to all bidders, but it should be especially useful to people who are new(er) to Worldcons. Please feel free to share.

(2) AURORA AWARDS NEWS. The Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association reminded people today that the Aurora Awards Eligibility lists close February 29, 2020. And the announcement comes with a warning —

This means that if there are any works you wish to nominate for an award which are not found on the public eligibility lists you will need to submit them before 11:59PM EST February 29, 2020.

Nominations will open March 1, 2020.  

Unlike in previous years, works that are not on the Eligibility lists prior to the opening of Nominations will NOT be able to be added.  

(3) BENFORD Q&A. At Buzzy Mag, Jean Marie Ward conducts the “Gregory Benford Interview – The future is all we have left”.

Jean: We’re so glad to have you. Your most recent published books are both alternate history. “The Berlin Project” looks at the world that might have been if the U.S. had the A bomb before D-day. “Rewrite” offers a sequel to your classic timescape with a Groundhog Day twist. What occasioned this desire to remake recent history?

Gregory: Because it’s so tempting. There are so many pivot points, particularly in World War II and I as a physicist was very close to the issue of, how do you get the Uranium-235 to make bombs? You have to separate it out from the heavier 238 isotope. And the decision of how to do that, I had two choices and General Groves was forced to make the choice because the scientists were divided and he chose the wrong one and it cost us a year in the Second World War. It’s generally agreed by historians that had we suggested or made happen centrifically a separation, spinning cylinders, we would have chopped a year off the gaseous diffusion that Oak Ridge used and spent $1 billion doing. So, how would that change the war? You would have the bomb at D-day, well, how would you use it? And I use this title, “The Berlin Project” because that’s what the scientists in the project called it the first few years because the target was Berlin. Groves said that was too obvious.

So he called it the Manhattan Project and opened an office in Manhattan to give the excuse of, well, of course it was near Columbia University where all his work was done, but still they were always focused on Berlin. So, that was just too tempting because I was a postdoc for Edward Teller at Livermore for two years and then a staff member. He offered me a staff position which I took before I went to UC Irvine. And Teller told me all these delicious stories about the Manhattan Project. And I knew so many of them. The woman who helped me to do physics at UC San Diego, Maria Kepert Mayor, when I was working on problems with her and did a bunch of nuclear physics, again for my thesis, she won the Nobel Prize. And she told me all kinds of delicious stories about the Manhattan Project….

(4) GIBSON BAFFLED. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Behind a paywall in the February 15 Financial Times, John Thornhill interviews William Gibson.

Gibson knew the late (John Perry) Barlow well, but he says he is ‘absolutely baffled by the naive utopianism of the early Internet pioneers, who enthused about disruption.  Barlow professed to love Neuromancer — according to Gibson — but appeared to have missed the central idea that cyberspace also had its downsides.  Even today Gibson says he is puzzled by older readers who approach him at book signings to thank him for inspiring them to pursue a career in tech.

“They’d read a book in which there didn’t appear to be any middle class left and in which no characters had employment.  They were all criminal freelancers of one sort or another. So, it was always quite mysterious to me.”

(5) BRINGING DIVERSITY TO SPACE. “Black in Space: Breaking the Color Barrier” is airing this week on the Smithsonian Channel. It also can be viewed on YouTube.

America’s experiences during the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race are well documented. However, few know about the moment these two worlds collided, when the White House and NASA scrambled to put the first black astronaut into orbit. This is the untold story of the decades-long battle between the U.S. and the Soviet Union to be the first superpower to bring diversity to the skies, told by the black astronauts and their families, who were part of this little known chapter of the Cold War.

…On Aug. 30, 1983, the astronaut Guion Bluford embarked as a crew member of the Space Shuttle Challenger, making him the first African-American in space. This documentary features him alongside Edward Dwight, an Air Force pilot edged out of a position with NASA, and Frederick Gregory, the first African-American to command a NASA mission, to examine the complications of sending a black man into space during the Cold War. 

Also included are Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez, the first Cuban astronaut sent into space by the Soviet Union, and Ronald McNair, an African-American pilot who died in the Challenger disaster in 1986.

(6) JOHNSON OBIT. Fame came late in Katherine Johnson’s life for her contributions to the early space program. “Smithsonian Curators Remember Katherine Johnson, NASA Mathematician Highlighted in ‘Hidden Figures,’ Who Died at 101”.

…Striking out during “a time when computers wore skirts,” she once said, Johnson quickly proved her incomparable worth. So trusted were her calculations that astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, considered them an integral part of his preflight checklist—even after the equations had been transferred over to modern electronic machines. “When he got ready to go,” Johnson said of Glenn, “he said, ‘Call her. And if she says the computer is right, I’ll take it.”

Her work fueled innumerable feats of aeronautics, several of which were outlined in the 26 research papers Johnson published over her decades-long career. The earliest of these publications made Johnson one of the first women at NASA to become a named author or co-author on an agency report, according to Margalit Fox at the New York Times.

…Though Johnson’s landmark contributions went mostly unheralded by mainstream media throughout her tenure at Langley, the 2010s finally brought her name into the public eye. In 2015, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama, who described Johnson as “a pioneer who broke the barriers of race and gender, showing generations of young people that everyone can excel in math and science, and reach for the stars,” reports Russell Lewis for NPR. The next year, Margot Lee Shetterly’s book Hidden Figures, as well as a movie adaptation by the same name, highlighted the accomplishments of Johnson and her colleagues.

The film was nominated for three Oscars. When Johnson took the stage at the 2017 Academy Awards ceremony, the mathematician—then 98 years old and the only one of the movie’s central characters still alive at the time of its release—received a thunderous standing ovation. That fall, NASA dedicated a new Langley building in her honor, the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility….

The Washington Post obituary also includes many details of her personal life and early career at NACA and its successor, NASA.

…Mrs. Johnson had a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and spent her early career studying data from plane crashes, helping devise air safety standards at a time when the agency’s central concern was aviation….

Chris Garcia wrote her bio when the Bay Area’s Computer History Museum made her a Fellow last year:

… NACA was renamed National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) in 1958, and Johnson became an aerospace technologist within NASA’s Spacecraft Controls branch. In 1960 she coauthored Determination of Azimuth Angle at Burnout for Placing a Satellite Over a Selected Earth Position, an important report that laid out the equations for determining landing position for orbital spaceflight. In 1961 she calculated the trajectory for Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 Earth orbital mission….

(7) MORE ABOUT BARBARA REMINGTON, In “Blast from ye past”, DB follows this intro with some intriguing comments and insights about the late artist:

Barbara Remington has died, at 90. Really old-time Tolkienists will remember her name as that of the artist who created the covers for the first issue of the Ballantine paperbacks of The Lord of the Rings, which may be seen pictured in her obituary here. (Note they’re all actually one painting split into three parts, which was also issued as a single poster without overprinting.)

Ballantine’s goal was to get the books in the shops quickly, to compete with the unauthorized Ace paperbacks, so they gave Remington very little time to work….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 24, 1952Aladdin And His Lamp premiered. It was directed by Lew Landers, and starred Johnny Sands and Patricia Medina. Filming was finished in less than a week. It was originally produced for a television audience, then Allied Artists picked up the film and added additional footage for a theatrical release. You can see this short film here.
  • February 24, 1960 The Amazing Transparent Man premiered. It was directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, and starred Marguerite Chapman and Douglas Kennedy. It and Beyond the Time Barrier were film in Dallas in two weeks. Critics in general liked it, but the audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes is a lousy 16%. You can see the film here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 24, 1909 August Derleth. He’s best known as the first book publisher of H. P. Lovecraft, and for his own fictional contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos (a term that S. T. Joshi does not like). Let not to overlook him being the founder of Arkham House which alas is now defunct. I’m rather fond of his detective fiction with Solar Pons of Praed Street being a rather inspired riff off the Great Detective. (Died 1971.)
  • Born February 24, 1933 Verlyn Flieger, 87. Well-known Tolkien specialist. Her best-known books are Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien’s WorldA Question of Time: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Road to Faerie, which won a Mythopoeic Award, Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth (her second Mythopoeic Award) and Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien (her third Mythopoeic Award). She has written a YA fantasy, Pig Tale, and some short stories.
  • Born February 24, 1945 Barry Bostwick, 75. Best remembered for being Brad Majors in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. His first genre undertaking was the English language narration of Fantastic Planet. He voices the Mayor in The Incredibles 2
  • Born February 24, 1947 Edward James Olmos, 73. Reasonably sure the first thing I saw him in was as Detective Gaff in Blade Runner, but I see he was Eddie Holt in Wolfen a year earlier which was his genre debut. Though I didn’t realize it as I skipped watching the entire film, he was in The Green Hornet as Michael Axford. (I did try watching it, I gave up after maybe fifteen minutes. Shudder.) He has a cameo as Gaff in the new Blade Runner film. And he’s William Adama on the rebooted  Battlestar Galactica. He made appearances on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Eureka
  • Born February 24, 1951 Helen Shaver, 69. Her SFF debut was as Betsy Duncan in Starship Invasions aka Project Genocide in the U.K. though you’ve likely not heard of her there, you might have seen her as Carolyn in The Amityville Horror.  She’s Littlefoot’s mother in The Land Before Time, and Kate ‘White’ Reilly in the second Tremors film. She’s got one-offs in The Outer Limits, Amazing Stories, Ray Bradbury Theater and Outer Limits to name but a few. And she was Dr. Rachel Corrigan in Poltergeist: The Legacy, a super series indeed.
  • Born February 24, 1966 Billy Zane, 54. His genre roles include Match in Back to the Future and Back to the Future Part II, Hughie Warriner in Dead Calm, John Justice Wheeler in Twin Peaks, The Collector in Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight and the title role in The Phantom.
  • Born February 24, 1966 Ben Miller, 54. He first shows up in our corner of things on The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones in the “Daredevils of the Desert” episode as an unnamed French Officer. His main genre role was on Primeval, a series I highly recommend as a lot of fun, as James Lester.  He later shows up as the Sheriff of Nottingham in a Twelfth Doctor episode entitled “Robot of Sherwood”. 
  • Born February 24, 1968 Martin Day, 52. I don’t usually deal with writers of licensed works but he’s a good reminder that shows such as Doctor Who spawn vast secondary fiction universes. He’s been writing such novels first for Virgin Books and now for BBC Books for over twenty years. The Hollow Men, a Seven Doctor novel he co-wrote wrote with Keith Topping, is quite excellent. In addition, he’s doing Doctor Who audiobooks for Big Finish Productions and other companies as well. He’s also written several unofficial books to television series such as the X Files, the Next Generation and the Avengers

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Today’s Bizarro is a look-twice.
  • The Argyle Sweater has a silly twist on a common parents-with-a-teenager line.
  • And the brilliant Tom Gauld again –

(11) MARTIAN HOPS. “Hunting for ‘marsquakes,’ NASA lander finds a surprisingly active red planet” reports the LA Times.

…The lander, which touched down on the red planet 15 months ago, has detected plenty of seismic activity, an unexpectedly strong local magnetic field and around 10,000 whirlwinds passing over the Martian surface.

The findings, published Monday in a suite of six papers in the journals Nature Geoscience and Nature Communications, will help scientists unlock the secrets of Mars’ interior and understand why it looks so different from Earth.

“What these results really are showing us is that Mars is an active planet today,” said Bruce Banerdt, the mission’s principal investigator, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada-Flintridge, and a co-author of the new studies.

InSight is situated in a roughly 27-yard-wide impact crater in western Elysium Planitia, a volcanic plain whose surface material ranges in age from 3.7 billion to just 2.5 million years old. About 1,000 miles away lies Cerberus Fossae, a volcanic region full of faults, evidence of old lava flows and signs that liquid water once ran on the surface.

(12) HITCH YOUR WAGON TO A STAR. In the Washington Post, Homer Hickam argues that it’s time for a “moon rush” and “once electricians, plumbers, miners, and construction workers start going to the moon, and the middle class starts using products made with materials from Luna, the United States will turn into a true spacefaring nation.” “Let the moon rush begin”.

As these efforts get going, however, it’s important to avoid the thinking of a half-century ago and look at the moon in a different way. This is, after all, not your grandfather’s moon. After the Apollo moon-landing program of the 1960s and ’70s, a series of robotic missions discovered that Luna was a lot more interesting than many had previously thought. It has abundant water and oxygen, as well as helium, platinum, thorium, rare earth metals and other minerals that may well be worth digging up and transporting back for use in thousands of products. Last year, a gigantic blob of metal, as yet unidentified but significantly larger than the Big Island of Hawaii, was discovered beneath the lunar south pole. Whatever it is, it has value. The quiet far side of the moon could also provide a location for interstellar observatories, and tourists who would pay a lot to have a lunar vacation are inevitable. In other words, a real business case can be made for the moon, a case that could not only put dollars back into the pockets of taxpayers but also open up jobs for skilled workers on the lunar surface.

(13) FEEL THE HEAT. Own the “Darth Vader Helmet BBQ Grill” for a mere $724.97! Yahoo! Lifestyle adds:

In addition to the Darth Vader version, Burned by Design LTD makes a R2D2 fire pit, a Storm Trooper fire pit, a Death Star fire pit, and a Boba Fett fire pit. So find your favorite character and enjoy one of those long, outdoor summer nights.

(14) FEEL THE BEAT. “Earth Harp: The man behind the unique instruments ‘epic’ sound” – BBC video.

William Close is the inventor behind the Earth Harp – the world’s longest string instrument which uses architecture and landscapes to create a unique sound.

Mr Close, who has performed the giant harp all over the world, says the audiences are often left feeling like they are “inside the instrument” during his performances.

(15) SET AN EXAMPLE. “Marvel’s Black Panther film costumes to star in new Ipswich exhibition”.

Costumes from Marvel’s Black Panther film will feature in an exhibition designed to help “young black people shape their sense of identity”.

Three costumes from the big-screen hit will be on show at Unmasked: The Power of Stories in Ipswich.

Organisers were inspired by the film’s message about the capacity of storytelling to unite or divide people.

Contributor Phanuel Mutumburi said the exhibition would provide opportunities for people to join in.

Ipswich’s communities were “at the heart” of the exhibition, which would highlight important issues for different communities within the Suffolk town, said organisers.

(16) MAKING DEW. BBC traces “The ethereal art of fog-catching”.

In chronically dry regions around the world, communities are finding ways to live from the water suspended in the air – creating valuable drinking water from mist.

When Abel Cruz was just a boy, near the Peruvian region of Cusco, he had to walk for more than an hour every day to collect water from the nearest source and take it back home. Then he realised that, during the rainy season, drops accumulated in the banana leaves.

“When we saw that, my father and I built natural canals with the leaves to collect the water,” he says. “The first drops were a bit dirty and dusty, yet it was useful to wash dishes.”

The leaves, however, only lasted for around two weeks. “So we cut bamboo in half and we replaced the canal pipes with them, which lasted a lot longer,” explains Cruz. “That is how I got involved with collecting water.”

Today Cruz is collecting water in a very different way – he catches fog.

With large sheets of mesh strung up on hillsides, it is possible to harvest the thick mists that drift across the arid Peruvian landscape. Tiny droplets condense on the netting and dribble down into pipes that carry the water into containers where it can be used to irrigate crops or even as drinking water.

Each net can capture between 200-400 litres of fresh water every day, providing a new source of water for communities that have had no easy access to regular supplies. Cruz has helped to install more than 2,000 of these fog catching nets in eight rural communities across Peru as well as in Bolivia, Colombia and Mexico. The impact has been dramatic.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mitigation of Shock from Superflux on Vimeo is about an installation by Superflux displaying the gloomy world of 2050 after climate change and economic collapse.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/11/19 Doc Pixel, Scroll Of Bronze

(1) I WAS A FAN FOR THE FBI. Rob Hansen’s THEN documents the FBI informant who joined the LASFS and enjoyed fandom so much he stuck around — Samuel D. Russell. I heard the story from Milt Stevens, who made sure the legend was handed down to future club members, but I never had the opportunity to read these articles before.

…The name of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society was brought into the proceedings of the trial of eleven local communist leaders, currently taking place in this city. The eleven men and women being tried for the alleged act of advocating the use of violence for overthrowing the government of the United States.

The prosecution introduced various witnesses who had joined the communist party as informers for the FBI. One of these witness was the once well-known fan, Samuel D. Russell. Among many other activities, Russell was co-editor and publisher, with Francis T. Laney, of THE ACOLYTE, which was for many years one of the leading fan mags of the nation.

(2) MISSING IN ACTION. Joseph Loconte, author of A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War, says the new biopic fails to present a key moment of Tolkien’s life in “Tolkien Film Fails to Capture the Majesty of His Achievement” at National Review.

…Yet the film devotes more time to idle bantering and boozing than it does to the group’s literary and moral purposes. It also overlooks a crucial exchange: a meeting in December 1914, dubbed “the Council of London,” which was transformative for Tolkien. “In fact it was a council of life,” writes John Garth, author of the magisterial Tolkien and the Great War. The prospect of the trenches had a sobering effect. Late into the night they talked and debated — about love, literature, patriotism, and religion. It was at this moment, and among this fellowship, that Tolkien began to sense his literary calling. “For Tolkien, the weekend was a revelation,” Garth concludes, “and he came to regard it as a turning point in his creative life.”

If the film’s writers wanted to depict such a revelatory scene — which they don’t — it would have required familiarity with an ancient source of wisdom. We no longer appreciate how the educated classes of Tolkien’s generation were schooled in the classical and medieval literary traditions….

(3) DET. PIKACHU. The BBC’s Ali Plumb also likes Detective Pikachu — even if it doesn’t make sense: “Ali Plumb reviews Detective Pikachu”.

21-year-old insurance salesman Tim hasn’t seen his police detective dad for years, but when news arrives that his old man has mysteriously disappeared, he heads to the Pokemon paradise of Ryme City – where humans and Pokemon live side by side – to look into what’s happened.

Poking around his father’s flat, he discovers his dad’s Pokemon partner, “Detective Pikachu”, wandering around with no memory of what has occurred.

Together, Tim and Pikachu must solve the case and save the world, meeting a whole host of different Pokemon along the way, battling the occasional Charizard and negotiating with Mr. Mimes. As you do.

(4) ROAD TRIP. The BBC asks, “How do you learn to drive on Mars?” I don’t know, but Ray Bradbury had a license!

Ray Bradbury’s Martian driver license

Time is of the essence. It’s now little more than a year until the Rosalind Franklin rover is sent to Mars.

Engineers across Europe and Russia are busy assembling this scientific vehicle. and the hardware that will both carry it to the Red Planet and put it down safely on the surface.

In parallel to all this are the ongoing rehearsals.

These needed to ensure controllers can easily and efficiently operate the robot from back here on Earth.

The videos on this page show the latest locomotion verification tests that have been conducted at the RUAG company in Switzerland.

Not at the above link: debarkation, on video.

(5) BOLGEO MEDICAL UPDATE. Marcia Kelly Illingworth alerts friends of Tim Bolgeo that he has entered hospice care:

I am getting damned sick and tired of having to write to you about things like this. My dear, old friend, Tim “Uncle Timmy” Bolgeo, a well-known, Southern fan, founder of LibertyCon, in Chattanooga, TN, is in the hospital in Chattanooga TN, and has been placed in Hospice care.

I know that a lot of old school fans have problems with Timmy, due to his Conservative political views, and his old school, unconscious, presumed racist jokes. Be that as it may, I am here to say that he is a good man, a caring man, and a better friend anyone would be hard pressed to find. He’s been active in Southern fandom for more years than I can say. His electronic fanzine, The Revenge of Humpday, was nominated for a Hugo.

Timmy has been fighting health issues for years. He started having heart trouble back in the nineties. I remember when his first heart surgery had to be postponed, because his cardiologist had a heart attack that morning and had to have heart surgery himself that day. Some guys just can’t get a break! He has been battling congestive heart failure for some time now, with ever increasing medication. He was hospitalized last Friday, and today the family has advised us that he has been placed in Hospice care. They are asking prayers for a peaceful passing. We were so hoping that he would make it to one last LibertyCon.

(For anyone who needs more background, File 770 reported when Bolgeo’s fanzine made news in 2014.)

(6) LEWIS OBIT. The Reverend Allen L. Lewis, 77, of Sioux Falls, SD passed away on Monday, April 29 at the age of 77. The family obituary is here.

…Over the course of several decades Father Al amassed one of the largest private collections of Science Fiction and Fantasy hard bound first edition books in the world. The bulk of his collection was donated to the University of Iowa in 2015.

The donation was noted in Pixel Scroll (item 4) on July 28, 2015:

After 20 years of collecting, he is donating his one-of-a-kind collection of 17,500 books worth an estimated three quarters of a million dollars.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 11, 1899 E.  B. White. He’s a co-author with William Strunk Jr.of The Elements of Style. In addition, he wrote Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web. (Died 1985.)
  • Born May 11, 1916 Maurice Nahum. ISFDB credits him with being Editior in the Fifties of the Futuristic Science StoriesOut of This World MagazineSupernatural Stories and several other publications. Langford at the usual source says of them that ‘All were juvenile, undated and of poor quality.’ (Died 1994.)
  • Born May 11, 1920 Denver Pyle. His first genre performance is in The Flying Saucer way back in 1950 where he was a character named Turner. Escape to Witch Mountain as Uncle Bené is his best known genre role. He’s also showed up on the Fifties Adventures of SupermanCommando Cody: Sky Marshal of the UniverseMen Into Space, Twilight Zone and his final role was apparently in How Bugs Bunny Won the West as the Narrator. (Died 1997.)
  • Born May 11, 1918 Richard Feynman. Ok, not genre as such but certainly genre adjacent. I wholeheartedly recommend Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman by James Gleick for an entertaining look at his life. (Died 1988.)
  • Born May 11, 1936 Gordon  Benson Jr. Publisher and bibliographer who released the first of his many SF bibliographies around the early Eighties. Writers such as Anderson, Lieber and Wellman were covered. Early bibliographies written solo were revised for the Galactic Central Bibliographies for the Avid Reader series, are listed jointly with Phil Stephensen-Payne as later ones. (Died 1996.)
  • Born May 11, 1952 Frances Fisher, 67. Angie on Strange Luck and a recurring role as Eva Thorne on Eureka. Have I mentioned how I love the latter series? Well I do! She’s also shown up on Medium, X-Files, Outer Limits, Resurrection, The Expanse and has some role in the forthcoming Watchmen series. 
  • Born May 11, 1976 Alter S. Reiss, 43. He’s a scientific editor and field archaeologist. He lives in Jerusalem, he’s written two novels, Sunset Mantel and Recalled to Service. He’s also written an impressive amount of short fiction in the past ten years, most published in places that I’ve never heard of. 
  • Born May 11, 1997 Lana Connor, 22. Jubilation “Jubilee” Lee in X-Men: Apocalypse, Koyomi in Alita: Battle Angel which is based on the manga series Gunnm, and she voices Kaoru in the Netfix series Rilakkuma and Kaoru.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro depicts state-of-the-art medicine for robots.

(9) YEAR’S BEST. Congratulations to Jim C. Hines for scoring a first –

(10) FANAC.ORG UPDATE. The award-winning resource site, Fanac.org, is continuing to put up classic old fanzines. All the zines listed, except Innuendo, were provided by Rob Jackson from Paul Skelton’s collection and scanned at Corflu 2019. Innuendo was provided by Joe Siclari and scanned at Corflu 2019.

  • Innuendo, 1956-1958. Edited by Terry Carr and Dave Rike (later by Terry Carr alone). 5 issues with contributors like Terry Carr, Robert Bloch, Carl Brandon, Harry Warner Jr., Bjo Wells (Trimble?), Bill Rotsler, Ray Nelson, Jack Speer, and Marion Zimmer Bradley. Outstanding stuff.
  • Tomorrow, issue 4, Winter 1938. Edited by Douglas Mayer. Published by the Science Fiction Association.
  • Umbra, 1955-1956, edited by John Hitchcock. 3 issues with contributors like Larry Stark, Ron Bennett, and Greg Benford.
  • Voice of the Imagi-Nation, edited by Forry Ackerman and Morojo. Issues 24, 27 and 33 from 1942-1944.  Letters from fandom, with correspondence from folks like Bob Tucker, Tigrina, Walt Leibscher, Harry Warner, C.S. Youd, Francis Towner Laney, Jimmy Kepner, Vol Molesworth, Robert Bloch, Milt Rothman and more.
  • Vulcan, edited by Pete Graham and Terry Carr. Issue (August 1952). Features, Fan humor, serious constructive stories, and serious constructive poems. Lots of Terry Carr content.

Also from Corflu, a recording of the Saturday panel, “The Void Boys Speak!” Thanks Rob Jackson, and thanks Bill!

VOID was a focal point fanzine of the 1950s, and launched the science fiction careers of Jim and Greg Benford. This panel, held at the 2019 Corflu, covers the history of VOID. With original editors Jim and Greg Benford, co-editor Ted White, and with Luis Ortiz (who is publishing a book on the topic) , the panel covers all aspects of VOID. If you are familiar only with the professional careers of Jim and Greg Benford, and Ted White, this video will give you perspective on their fannish careers. The video ends with a rousing rendition of the Void Boys song! Note that the video was streamed live, and there are slides in use showing the VOID covers that are not visible in the video. If you are interested in seeing the covers, or reading Void, check out http://fanac.org/fanzines/VOID.

(11) HELPING AN SJWCC. Florida Man does something nice for a change — “Bobcat coaxed down from Florida power pole”.

A wild bobcat perched high on a post by a busy road in the US state of Florida was encouraged down by workers in a cherry picker truck who used an extendable tool to tap it continuously on the head.

The cat, which was sat atop the pole used to support power cables in Collier County, eventually climbed down before leaving the scene in a hurry.

The power had been switched off to prevent electrocution, local media reported.

(12) ADVANCED CREDENTIAL. Science challenges academics — “Cats rival dogs on many tests of social smarts. But is anyone brave enough to study them?”

Toddlers pass this test easily. They know that when we point at something, we’re telling them to look at it—an insight into the intentions of others that will become essential as children learn to interact with people around them. Most other animals, including our closest living relative, chimpanzees, fail the experiment. But about 20 years ago, researchers discovered something surprising: Dogs pass the test with flying colors. The finding shook the scientific community and led to an explosion of studies into the canine mind.

Cats like Carl were supposed to be a contrast. Like dogs, cats have lived with us in close quarters for thousands of years. But unlike our canine pals, cats descend from antisocial ancestors, and humans have spent far less time aggressively molding them into companions. So researchers thought cats couldn’t possibly share our brain waves the way dogs do.

Yet, as cats are apt to do, Carl defies the best-laid plans of Homo sapiens. He trots right over to the bowl Vitale is pointing at, passing the test as easily as his canine rivals. “Good boy!” Vitale coos.

(13) DOG AND PONY TIME. BBC is there when “Jeff Bezos unveils Moon lander concept”.

Amazon entrepreneur Jeff Bezos has unveiled a mock-up of a new lunar lander spacecraft that aims to take equipment and humans to the Moon by 2024.

The reusable Blue Moon vehicle will carry scientific instruments, satellites and rovers.

It will feature a new rocket engine called BE-7 that can blast 10,000lb (4,535kg) of thrust.

“It’s time to go back to the Moon, this time to stay,” said Mr Bezos.

Mr Bezos presented the Moon goals of his space exploration company Blue Origin at the Washington Convention Center in Washington DC, to an audience consisting of potential customers and officials from Nasa.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. After School on Vimeo is a cartoon by Hanna Kim about the adventures of a girl coming home from school.

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

Corflu FIAWOL Report

Corflu 36 FIAWOL (Rockville, Maryland, May 1-4, 2019)

“They toiled over their crude mimeographs, turning out their magazines.  These magazines have long since crumbled into dust, but who amongst us can ever forget the names?  Grue and Hyphen; Amazing and Astounding; Galaxy and Quandry and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science FictionStartling, Confidential, Infinity, Dimensions—these names will never die!”

                                                                     Robert Bloch, “A Way of Life” (1956)

By Martin Morse Wooster: One of the advantages of living in Washington is that eventually all the branches of fandom you’re interested in will come to you.  I’ve been to three previous Corflus—two held in the Washington suburbs in 1986 and 1994, and the one held in Annapolis, Maryland in 2002.  I always am happy to go to conventions I can get to on the bus, so when I heard Corflu was coming to the Maryland suburbs, I signed up.  I had a good time.

Michael Dobson, with Curt Phillips as second-in-command, organized Corflu 36.  Phillips, among other things, ran a very well stocked con suite, including three kinds of orange marmalade for breakfast.

Members got quite a lot of stuff.  Dobson edited a 163-page fanthology of members’ writings, which is also available on Efanzines.  Some mossbacks grumbled that Dobson used CreateSpace as his publisher, but I thought the book was well done.  Also included in the members’ packet was Thy Life’s A Miracle:  Selected Writings of Randy Byers, a 135-page anthology edited by Luke McGuff.

But that wasn’t all!  We also got a framed print by Dan Steffan, in a limited edition of 90, which showed a nude Japanese woman with creatures on her back that resembled those of British artist Arthur Thomson.  It was a very handsome piece of art, and I will put it on my shelf next to the Star Wars thingie I got at Nationals Park.

The attendance was around 55, with half a dozen fans from the United Kingdom, Murray and Mary-Ellen Moore from Canada, and 10-12 fans from the West Coast.  You could spot the Californians because they were most of the attendees at the wine tasting organized by Spike.

Younger fans allergic to grey hair would not have enjoyed themselves.  Four of the fans attending—Greg Benford, Jim Benford, Steve Stiles, and Ted White—began their fan activity before 1960.  Most attendees began to be fans in the 1970s and 1980s.  No one surveyed became a fan after 1990.

I spent much of the time in the con suite listening to stories about 20th century fan legends.  I heard about the Scottish fan who, after losing a feud with everyone else in his club, dropped out only to appear in the pages of a tabloid completely nude except for a hand coyly placed over his manhood.  The headline of the piece about the fan was ‘IT’S ORGYTASTIC.”

“Do you mean this guy discovered orgy fandom?” I asked.

“No, it was more like orgy con-dom,” said my source, who added that the fan liked showing up at the orgies he organized in a gorilla suit, because women liked sitting on his lap and stroking his fur.

But the story too good to check was whether two Arab sheiks offered to buy Baltimore fan Lee Smoire at Discon II in 1974 for two camels.  This claim would be absurd and ridiculous about any other fan than Lee Smoire, who stories cluster around like gaudy barnacles.  I cite it to add to Lee Smoire’s legend[1].

The first day of Corflu had the opening ceremony, where a sacred box is unearthed that included a crusty bottle of correction fluid or “corflu.”  The convention chooses a guest of honor by pulling a name from the box, but you can opt out of the honor with a $20 donation.  The winner was Jim Benford, who got all the donation money, which he reportedly spent at the fanzine auction on Saturday.  His other prize was a pillow, designed by Alison Scott, which says “Dave Kyle Says You Can’t Sit Here” and has the badge of the Science Fiction League of the 1930s.

Saturday’s program included three panels and I went to two.  A panel on archives featured Non-Stop Press publisher Luis Ortiz, who has just published an anthology of fanzine writings from 1930-1960, Michael Dobson, University of Maryland (Baltimore County) archivist Susan Graham, and Joe Siclari, head of fanac.org.

Susan Graham said that her library bought the fanzine collection of Walter Coslet in 1973 and subsequently acquired the fanzines of Peggy Rae Sapienza, who was graduated from the school.  These fanzines included many of Sapienza’s first husband, Bob Pavlat, a famed collector.  They’ve also gotten some Frank Kelly Freas art and some papers, including manuscripts by Isaac Asimov, Roger Zelazny, and Lawrence Watt-Evans.  They’re still organizing their zines, but their website https://lib.guides.umbc.edu/fanzines has a finding aid and essays on feminist fanzines of the 1970s, fanzines’ role in society, and the Atlanta Science-Fiction Organization fanzine Cosmag.

Fanac.org scanned 2,000 pages of fanzines at Corflu.  Siclari said that he had gotten research requests from unexpected places.  They helped out the recent documentary on Ursula K. Le Guin, for example.  And when the family of fan H.F. Koenig asked for copies of Koenig’s fanzines, they donated a copy of the family genealogy to Fanac.org.

There are also reports of what happened to Harry Warner, Jr.’s fanzine collection.  It is apparently in one piece and is being stored at Heritage Auctions in Dallas.  No one knows what Heritage plans to do with Warner’s collection.

The second panel was on Void, which included the zine’s editors, Greg Benford, Jim Benford, and Ted White, and Luis Ortiz, who is working on an anthology of pieces from the zine.  Void began in 1955, with teenage fans Greg and Jim Benford as editors.  When the Benford brothers moved from Germany to Dallas, Tom Reamy became an editor.

The Benfords put out 13 issues of Void between 1955-58.  But Jim Benford decided to give up fanac for college.  Another catalyst for change was when Kent Moomaw, a columnist for the zine, killed himself on his 18th birthday rather than be drafted.  In 1958 America was at peace, so there was about a 20 percent chance he would be drafted.

Void then moved its headquarters to New York City, and continued with editors including Greg Benford, Ted White, Pete Graham, and Terry Carr.  It lasted another 14 issues through 1962 with a final issue published in 1967.

Both Greg Benford and Ted White said that writing for Void inspired their professional careers.  Greg Benford said that his fan writing prepared him to win a contest sponsored by Fantasy and Science Fiction that launched his career as a novelist.

“All of our fanac was fun because of the challenges we met,” White said.  “I thought Terry (Carr) was a better writer than me, and it was a daily challenge to write to his level.”

Void even had a song, with the music being whatever you’d like.  Here is the first verse.

“We are the Void boys
We make a lot of noise!
We sing songs of fandom
Hitting out at random
Because we are all co-editors of Void.”

Saturday night had two panels.  “Just a Minac,” organized by Sandra Bond, was the fannish version of the British game show “Just a Minute.”  The idea is that the contestants—John D. Berry, Rich Coad, Rob Jackson, and Nigel Rowe—would give one-minute speeches, delivered “without hesitation, repetition, or deviation”—on topics such as “The Nine Billion Names of God” or “My Favorite Beer.”  This was not as easy as its sounds, and I thought it was agreeably silly.  Nigel Rowe seemed the most creative contestant to me, but Rich Coad was the winner.

“The Time Chunnel” was a play by Andy Hooper that described two worlds, one where sf dominated and one where fandom ruled.  In the fannish world, mimeos were much better but leaf blowers didn’t work.  It had plenty of in jokes about fanzines, but also weird popular culture references; if you are excited by references to comedian Durward Kirby, best known as a host of Candid Camera in the early 1960s, “The Time Chunnel” is a play for you.  I didn’t think it worked.  

Since the FAAN Awards have already been covered, I’ll skip them, but I should write about Jim Benford’s guest of honor speech, which was very good.

If Greg Benford’s day job was as a physicist at the University of California (Irvine), his brother worked in technology.  He said that fanzine writing prepared him to write proposals.  “I had the best proposals,” Benford said, saying that fan writing ensured his proposals were better organized than other physicists with less writing experience.

Jim Benford has spent most of his career developing particle beams and other energy weapons.  But three years ago he was given a ten-year contract by billionaire Yuri Milner to design starships.  He now works on solar sails that could guide a future mission to Proxima Centauri.

The problem with solar sails, Jim Benford said, was “The Fearless Fosdick problem.”  Li’l Abner fans will recall that Fearless Fosdick valiantly fought the bad guys until they blasted him full of holes.  How do you create a solar sail that wouldn’t tear apart?  Benford showed how a spherical shape would produce the best outcome.

He said that if someone in 1959 told him that 60 years in the future “I’d be talking to a bunch of fans about starships, I’d be a very happy man.”

Next year’s Corflu will be run by John Purcell in College Station, Texas, in a date to be determined.



[1] The best story I know about Lee Smoire is that, after John Lennon was assassinated in 1980, Yoko Ono asked for a moment of silence to honor him.  Smoire was escorting people around the Baltimore Convention Center and when the designated minute occurred spent the time shouting, “DON’T YOU KNOW YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE QUIET?”

After Smoire left Baltimore for Perth, Australia, packed panels at the next two Disclaves told stories about her.

Pixel Scroll 3/27/19 One Singularity Sensation

Tardy Scroll today because I logged a lot of time on the road attending my sister-in-law’s sumptuous birthday dinner.

(1) THE NOSTROMO LANDS IN NEW JERSEY. New York Times theater reporter Dave Itzkoff tells why “High School ‘Alien’ Production Wins Internet Raves”.

There are those perennial stage works that are perfectly suited to be performed in high schools across the country every year: say, “Our Town,” “The Crucible,” “Annie” or “The Wizard of Oz.”

And now, to this canon, you might add “Alien.”

A New Jersey high school has found itself the unexpected recipient of online acclaim and viral attention for its recent stage production of “Alien,” the 1979 science-fiction thriller.

“Alien: The Play,” presented last weekend by the drama club of North Bergen High School, starred a cast of eight students in the film roles originally played by Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt and Ian Holm.

(2) SWING AND MISS. BBC samples critical reaction: “Tim Burton’s Dumbo remake fails to fly with many film critics”.

Tim Burton’s reimagining of Disney’s 1941 animated classic Dumbo has failed to dazzle many film critics ahead of its release on Friday.

The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw gave the film one star, calling it “pointlessly complicated and drawn out”.

In his two-star review, The Daily Telegraph’s Robbie Collin said it “has to be counted as a failure”.

…The Hollywood Reporter’s David Rooney declared his new version of Dumbo a “frustratingly uneven picture” that “holds the attention but too seldom tugs at the heartstrings”.

Variety’s Owen Gleiberman said it “transforms a miraculous tale into a routine story by weighing it down with a lot of nuts and bolts it didn’t need”.

Other critics found it more endearing. Empire’s Ben Travis awarded it four stars, calling it “an enchanting blend of Disney twinkle and Tim Burton’s dark whimsy”.

(3) VINTAGE PAPERBACK SHOW. Gregory Benford added this photo of Alice and Marty Massoglia to our coverage of Sunday’s LA Vintage Paperback Show.

(4) THE HOLE TRUTH. Remember when the space shuttle Endeavour cruised past this place on its way to the California Science Center? LAist says its now part of a growing chain: “Randy’s Donuts Is About To Get A Hole Lot Bigger”

In October 2014, Mark Kelegian got lucky. Really lucky.

He was browsing BizBuySell.com, a public business sales website, when he stumbled across a listing for an unnamed restaurant. There were no details except that it was well-known and originally built in the 1960s.

Kelegian, a retired lawyer, assumed it was one of L.A.’s old school Jewish deli’s, maybe Canter’s or Langer’s. He dialed the number on the listing and a young broker picked up. She said the mystery restaurant was Randy’s, the 24-hour drive-through donut shop that also happens to be one of the most recognizable landmarks in Los Angeles.

He bought it on the spot. At $2 million, it was a steal.

For the next three months, Kelegian says his office received over 100 phone calls from angry investors.

“Everyone in L.A. wanted to buy Randy’s first,” he says. “Most of the calls went something like, ‘Son of a bitch!'”

(5) MORE ON HOLLYN. The LA Times obituary “Norman Hollyn, USC professor, film editor who worked on ‘Sophie’s Choice,’ dies at 66”, published March 21, includes a statement from his wife, Janet Conn, and more details about his recent speaking trip.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 27, 1914 Richard Denning, He made appearances in such Fifties genre films as Creature From The Black Lagoon, Creature With The Atom BrainThe Black Scorpion and The Day the World Ended. (Died 1998.)
  • Born March 27, 1942 Michael York, 77. I remember him in the Babylon 5 episode “A Late Delivery from Avalon” as a man who believed himself to be King Arthur returned. Very chilling. I also enjoyed him as D’Artagnan in the Musketeers films and remember him as Logan 5 in Logan’s Run. So what in his genre list really impresses you?
  • Born March 27, 1969 Pauley Perrette, 50. Though she’s best known for playing Abby Sciuto on NCIS, she does have some genre roles. She was Ramona in The Singularity Is Near, a film based off Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology. Next up is the most excellent Superman vs. The Elite in which she voices Lois Lane. Let’s see… she had a recurring role on Special Unit 2 as Alice Cramer but I never watched that series so I’ve no I idea what it was. 
  • Born March 27, 1971 Nathan Fillion, 48. Certainly best known for being Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds in Firefly verse. An interesting case of just how much of a character comes from the actor. In his case, I’d say most of it. He portrayed Green Lantern/Hal Jordan in Justice League: Doom, Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and Justice League: Throne of AtlantisThe Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen. Oh and he appeared in a recurring role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer as Caleb
  • Born March 27, 1953 Patricia Wrede, 66. She is a founding member of The Scribblies, along with Pamela Dean, Emma Bull, Will Shetterly, Steven Brust and Nate Bucklin. Not to be confused with the Pre-Joycean Fellowship which overlaps in membership. Outside of her work for the the Liavek shared-world anthology created and edited by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, there are several series she has running including Lyra (Shadow Magic)Enchanted Forest Chronicles and Cecelia and Kate (co-written with Caroline Stevermer). She’s also written the novelizations of several Star Wars films including  Star Wars, Episode I – The Phantom Menace and Star Wars, Episode II – Attack of the Clones  in what are  listed  as  ‘Jr. Novelizations’. 
  • Born March 27, 1950 John Edward Allen. One of the forgotten dwarfs of Hollywood, he stood but three feet and ten inches tall. English by birth and English in death as he went back there after an impressive career in Hollywood to die on his native soil. How impressive? Well given how hard it was for dwarfs to find work, pretty good as he appeared in Snow White LiveBuck Rogers in the 25th CenturySide Show (circus horror film), Under the Rainbow (see Iimdb link here), Tales from the Darkside (as a goblin), Swamp Thing series (love that series), Superboy (as a carnival dwarf) and Snow White: A Tale of Terror. (Died 1999.)

(7) ATTENTION CAT-OWNING WRITERS. Lifehacker advises: “Get a Decoy Keyboard for Your Cat to Enjoy”.

This maneuver—which I saw on my mom’s clinic’s Facebook page (she’s a veterinarian)—is quite clever. Old keyboards are super cheap—find them at Goodwill or any thrift store with an electronic section—and having one on hand lets your cat do what it enjoys (be super in the way) without actually being in the way. Heck, I might buy a couple to place in various locations around my apartment, just to see what sticks.

Of course, this presumes you writers aren’t secretly hoping for feline work interruptions.

(8) SPACE RACE REDUX. Veep associates himself with manned Moon mission idea: “US aims for humans on Moon in five years”.

US Vice-President Mike Pence has said he wants Nasa to return astronauts to the Moon within five years.

Referencing China’s recent successful robotic mission to the far side, he said: “We’re in a space race today, just as we were in the 1960s.”

Nasa had already been planning to return to the Moon, but Mr Pence’s announcement accelerates the timeline.

He was speaking at a meeting of the National Space Council in Huntsville, Alabama.

“It is the stated policy of this administration and the United States of America to return American astronauts to the Moon within the next five years,” Mr Pence told the audience.

“Just as the United States was the first nation to reach the Moon in the 20th Century, so too, we will be the first nation to return astronauts to the Moon in the 21st Century.”

(9) CLUES.  “Three-unique-words ‘map’ used to rescue mother and child” – discover how. Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a note, “Good tech details further down. Not covered: whether there are non-English wordmaps for non-English speakers — who are a major part of the intended beneficiaries.”

Three seemingly unconnected words have helped rescue a mother and daughter after a car crash in remote rural Somerset.

The “coordinates” – “weekend”, “foggy” and “earphones” – allowed police to exactly pinpoint their location.

An algorithm developed by start-up what3words divides the world into 57 trillion nine-sq-m (97-sq-ft) areas and gives each a unique three-word address.

The technology has been adopted by a number of emergency services in the UK.

It was originally devised to help the millions of people in remote and impoverished areas who do not have a postcode gain an address for the first time. In turn that would allow them to apply for services and goods.

But the location system has also gained the attention of emergency services and has recently been adopted by Avon and Somerset, Humberside and West Yorkshire police services, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire fire and rescue services and the British Transport Police.

(10) DON’T BE EVIL REDUX. “Google announces AI ethics panel” – BBC has the story.

Google has launched a global advisory council to offer guidance on ethical issues relating to artificial intelligence, automation and related technologies.

The panel consists of eight people and includes former US deputy secretary of state, and a University of Bath associate professor.

The group will “consider some of Google’s most complex challenges”, the firm said.

The panel was announced at MIT Technology Review’s EmTech Digital, a conference organised the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Google has come under intense criticism – internally and externally – over how it plans to use emerging technologies.

In June 2018 the company said it would not renew a contract it had with the Pentagon to develop AI technology to control drones. Project Maven, as it was known, was unpopular among Google’s staff, and prompted some resignations.

In response, Google published a set of AI “principles” it said it would abide by. They included pledges to be “socially beneficial’ and “accountable to people”.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/25/19 The Filer That Shouted Scroll At The Heart Of The Pixel

(1) CLARKE CENTER. Here are two of the most interesting videos posted by
The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination in the past several months.

  • Freeman Dyson and Gregory Benford: Forseeing the Next 35 Years—Where Will We Be in 2054?

35 years after George Orwell wrote the prescient novel 1984, Isaac Asimov looked ahead another 35 years to 2019 to predict the future of nuclear war, computerization, and the utilization of space. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination and the Division of Physical Sciences at UC San Diego were honored to welcome two living luminaries in the fields of physics and futurism—Freeman Dyson and Gregory Benford (Ph.D. ’67)—to peer ahead another 35 years, to 2054, and share their insights into what may be in store for us.

  • An Evening with Cixin Liu and John Scalzi at the Clarke Center

Cixin Liu, China’s most beloved science fiction writer—and one of the most important voices of the 21st century—joins celebrated American science fiction writer John Scalzi at the Clarke Center to discuss their work and the power of speculative worldbuilding.

(2) COOKIE MONSTERS? Food & Wine squees “‘Game of Thrones’ Oreos Are Coming…”

If Game of Thrones Oreos are just normal Oreos in a GoT package, hopefully it’s not a sign of things to come. The final season of Game of Thrones is one of the most highly-anticipated seasons of television ever, not just because it’s the final season, but also because it’s slated to reveal details of the sixth book in the series which fans have been waiting for nearly eight years. Expectations are ridiculously high — meaning HBO better deliver something better than the television equivalent of regular Oreos, even if regular Oreos are delicious.

View this post on Instagram

Cookies are coming.

A post shared by OREO (@oreo) on

(3) REASONS TO ATTEND THE NEBULAS. SFWA gives you ten of them. Thread starts here.

(4) APOLOGY. FIYAH Magazine of Black Speculative Fiction’s Executive Editors Troy Wiggins and DaVaun Sanders have issued “An Apology” for publishing two collections of stories from FIYAH without first obtaining the rights to reprint them.

We messed up.

Earlier in the month, we released two collected volumes of fiction and poetry: our FIYAH Year One collection and our FIYAH Year Two collection. We were very excited to get these collected editions out to the public, and in our haste, we did not secure the rights to collect or republish those stories. By doing this, we have disrespected our authors and their work, and not acted in service to our stated mission of empowering Black writers.

We deeply apologize to our contributors and to our readers for this oversight. Unfortunately, several copies of the collected volumes have already been purchased before we were informed about our mistake. We can’t take those purchased issues back, so here’s what we will do instead:

* We have removed the collected issues from Amazon

* We sent an apology to contributors taking full responsibility for our error

* We are splitting the proceeds from the already purchased copies of the collection among all of our Year One and Year Two contributors.

We know that this doesn’t begin to cover the damage we’ve done to authors, but we will continue to improve our accountability measures and internal processes. We are also going to be seeking legal counsel to help us make sure that our contracts are fair to both us and our contributors.

Again, we are so sorry that this happened. We promise to do much better going forth.

(5) WONDERFUL COPENHAGEN. Denmark’s Fantasticon 2019 has adopted Afrofuturism as its theme. They’ve got some great guests. The convention’s publicity poster is shown below:

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 25, 1909 Edgar Pangborn. For the first twenty years of his career, he wrote myriad stories for the pulp magazines, but always under pseudonyms. It wasn’t until the Fifties that he published in his own name in Galaxy Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Ursula Le Guin has credited him with her is was possible to write humanly emotional stories in an SF setting. (Died 1976.)
  • Born February 25, 1917 Anthony Burgess. I know I’ve seen and read A Clockwork Orange many, many years ago. I think I even took a University class on it as well. Scary book, weird film.  I’ll admit that I’m not familiar with the Enderby series having not encountered them before now. Opinions please. (Died 1993.)
  • Born February 25, 1964 Lee Evans, 55. He’s in The History of Mr Polly as Alfred Polly which is based on a 1910 comic novel by H. G. Wells. No, not genre, but sort of adjacent genre as some of you are fondly saying.
  • Born February 25, 1968 A. M. Dellamonica, 51. A Canadian writer who has published over forty rather brilliant short since the Eighties. Her first novel, Indigo Springs, came out just a decade ago but she now has five novels published with her latest being The Nature of a Pirate. Her story, “Cooking Creole” can be heard here at Podcastle 562. It was in Mojo: Conjure Stories, edited by Nalo Hopkinson.
  • Born February 25, 1971 Sean Astin,48. His genre roles include Samwise Gamgee in Rings trilogy (, Mikey Walsh in The Goonies, and Bob Newby in the second season of Stranger Things. He also  shows up in Justice League: War and in Justice League: Throne of Atlantis filmsvoicing both aspects of Shazam, a difficult role to pull off. He prises that role on the Justice League Action series. 
  • Born February 25, 1973 Anson Mount, 46. He was Black Bolt in Marvel’s Inhumans series. He now has a recurring role as Captain Christopher Pike on the current season of Discovery.  I see he was in Visions, a horror film, and has had appearances on LostDollhouse and Smallville.
  • Born February 25, 1994 Urvashi Rautela, 25. An Indian film actress and model who appears in Bollywood films. She has a Birthday here because she appears in Porobashinee, the first SF film in Bangladesh. Here’s an archived link to the film’s home page.

(7) THE POWER OF COMMUNITY. A sweet story in the Washington Post: “A bookstore owner was in the hospital. So his competitors came and kept his shop open.”

Hearing that your husband needs immediate open-heart surgery is terrifying, especially when he’s been healthy his whole life.

When Jennifer Powell heard the sudden news about her husband, Seth Marko, 43, she spun into action. First, she found care for their 3-year-old daughter, Josephine, so she could be at the hospital for her husband’s 10-hour surgery.

Then Powell’s mind went to their “second kid” — the Book Catapult — the small independent bookstore the couple owns and runs in San Diego. Their only employee had the swine flu and would be out for at least a week.

Powell, 40, closed the store to be with her husband in the hospital. She didn’t know for how long….

(8) BATTING AVERAGE. This bookstore had a little visitor. Thread starts here.

(9) SFF IN TRANSLATION. In the Washington Post, Paul Di Filippo reviews Roberto Bolaño’s The Spirit of Science Fiction, which was translated by Natasha Wimmer: “Roberto Bolaño’s popularity surged after his death. What does a ‘new’ book do for his legacy?”

Alternately confused and clearsighted, utopian and nihilistic, Jan and Remo live the archetypal bohemian life in Mexico City, occupying squalid digs and barely getting by.  Jan is 17 and more visionary and less practical than Remo, 21.  Jan seldom leaves their apartment, preferring to spend his time writing letters to American science-fiction authors:  James Tiptree, Jr., Ursula K. Le Guin, Robert Silverberg, Philip Jose Farmer. Remo brings in some paltry cash as a journalist…

…Jan’s passion for pulp is front and center, bringing to mind Kurt Vonnegut’s SF-loving protagonist Eliot Rosewater.  Jan’s letters to his sf heroes are basically a plea to be recognized, a demand that this medium–at the time seen, rightly or wrongly, as a quintessentially Anglo domain–open its gates to other cultures, other countries. Jan’s solidarity with his distant American mentors and their visions is al one-way.  He adores them, but they do not know he exists, The ache to remedy this unrequited love affair is palpable.

(10) ABOUT THOSE NEBULAS. At Nerds of a Feather “Adri and Joe Talk About Books: 2018 Nebula Award Finalists”, and shed light on the new Best Game Writing category.

[Joe Sherry]: The point of that is that I look at the game writing category and think “I’ve heard of God of War, didn’t realize Bandersnatch was actually a *game* and have no idea what the three Choice of Games finalists are”. It turns out they are fully text based, 150,000+ word interactive adventures that can be played on browser or your phone. I’ll probably pick up one of them and see how I like it (likely the Kate Heartfied, because her Nebula finalist novella Alice Payne Arrives is bloody fantastic.)

I was surprised to see Bandersnatch a finalist for “game writing”, though. I don’t want to get sued, but I’ve thought of it more akin to the Choose Your Own Adventure books many of us grew up on. Despite the branching path narrative, those were books. Not games. Now, part of why I think of Bandersnatch just as a movie is the medium in which it is presented. Streaming on Netflix equals television or movie in my brain. Branching narrative paths doesn’t change that for me. I haven’t watched Bandersnatch, so I’m staying very high level with what I’m willing to read about it, but I know Abigail Nussbaum has compared Bandersnatch more to a game than a movie and obviously she’s not alone in that opinion if it’s up for the Game Writing Nebula. But much like the Choose Your Own Adventure books, you’re watching the movie and then occasionally making choices. You’re not “playing” the game.

(11) SIDEBAR. Jon Del Arroz, in “Despite The Alt-Left Trolling, My Lawsuit Against Worldcon is Going Forward” [Internet Archive link], says this is why Worldcon 76’s Anti-SLAPP motion failed.

The judge threw out their argument, because it was absurd. It also didn’t even address the “racist bully” defamatory claim they made. It’s sad to watch because anything, I’ve been the victim of racism from the extreme left science fiction establishment. It’s my opinion that this predominantly white group targets me in particular because I’m a minority that won’t toe the line. There’s a lot of psychology to this I’ll have to go into at another time, but a lot of the way the left acts treats minorities like we’re inferior (or, racism as it’s commonly referred to) and we can’t make decisions for ourselves. I oppose this and all forms of racism and it’s a large reason as to why I speak out.

Their entire case appears to be that I’m mean online (which doesn’t impact a convention at all), and therefore should be banned, which has nothing to do with their defamatory statement regarding racism. Our response on that front said there were plenty of extreme leftists who are mean online, they were invited, clearly showing the double standard they enacted against me because of right wing politics. When we reach The Unruh Act appeal process, this will be important.

The last line implies he plans to appeal one or more rulings that went against him. We’ll see.

(12) NEBULA NOMINEE REPLIES. 2019 Nebula nominee Amy (A.K.) DuBoff (A Light in the Dark) responded to Camestros Felapton’s post “Just an additional note on the 20booksto50K Nebula not-a-slate” in a comment:

…Jonathan Brazee cleared the posting of the reading list with SFWA beforehand, so there was nothing underhanded at play. It’s a reading list, and members nominated (or didn’t) the works they read and enjoyed.

Indies have been part of SFWA’s membership for several years now, so it’s not surprising that there is now more representation at awards. I’ve interacted with many SFWA members on the forums and at conventions, so I’m not an unknown in writerly circles. Many authors don’t go indie because we couldn’t get a trad deal; we chose to self-publish because of the flexibility and income potential it affords. I am very excited to be an author during this time with so many possibilities.

Thank you for the opportunity to chime in on the discussion! I’m going to go back to writing my next book now :-).

(13) HOW MANY BOOKS A MONTH. Sharon Lee has some interesting comments about the #CopyPasteCris kerfuffle on Facebook. The best ones follow this excerpt.

…Unfortunately, said “writer” was not very generous to her ghosts, and. . .well, with one thing and another, said “writer’s” books, in said “writer’s” own words were found to “have plagiarism.”

(I love, love, love this quote. It’s, like, her books caught the flu or some other disease that was Completely Outside of the said “writer’s” ability to foresee or prevent. Also, she apparently doesn’t even read her “own” books.)

Anyhow, the Internet of Authors and the Subinternet of Romance Authors went mildly nuts, as is right and proper, and since none of said “writer’s” books appear to “have plagiarism” from our/my work, I’ve merely been a viewer from the sidelines…

(14) PIRACY. Meanwhile, Jeremiah Tolbert received some demoralizing news about other shenanigans on Amazon.

(15) BLACK PANTHER HONORED. BBC reports: “Oscars 2019: Black Panther winners make Academy Awards history”.

Two Black Panther crew members made Oscar history by becoming the first black winners in their categories.

Ruth Carter scooped the costume design trophy, and Hannah Beachler shared the production design prize with Jay Hart.

“This has been a long time coming,” Carter said in her speech. “Marvel may have created the first black superhero but through costume design we turned him into an African king.”

Fellow Oscar winner Halle Berry was one of the first to congratulate her.

(16) PWNED. BBC revealed Trevor Noah’s Oscar night joke:

Trevor Noah used Sunday’s Oscars ceremony as a chance to poke fun at people who think Wakanda, the fictional African homeland of Black Panther, is a real place.

While presenting the film’s nomination for Best Picture, the South African comedian said solemnly:

“Growing up as a young boy in Wakanda, I would see T’Challa flying over our village, and he would remind me of a great Xhosa phrase.

“He says: ‘Abelungu abazi ubu ndiyaxoka’, which means: ‘In times like these, we are stronger when we fight together than when we try to fight apart.”

But that’s not what that phrase actually means.

The BBC’s Pumza Fihlani says the true translation into English is: “White people don’t know that I’m lying”. His joke, which was of course lost on the Academy Awards’ audience in Hollywood, tickled Xhosa speakers on social media.

(17) TO BE, OR NOT TO BE… [Item by Mike Kennedy.] …super, that is. In a clip from a new documentary, Stan Lee opines on what it take to be a superhero—but others disagree (SYFY Wire: “Exclusive: Stan Lee on Flash Gordon’s superhero status in Life After Flash documentary”).

The new documentary, Life After Flash, casts a wide net in terms of looking at the classic character of Flash Gordon, the 1980 big screen rendition, the questions about a sequel, and the life of its star, Sam J. Jones

When creator Alex Raymond first published Flash Gordon in 1937, his square-jawed hero was a star polo player. For the film, he was the quarterback of the New York Jets. But in every iteration of the character, he was just a man… with a man’s courage. 

In this new exclusive clip, the late Stan Lee discusses whether or not Flash Gordon counts as a ‘superhero,’ since he has no traditional superpowers.

(18) KNOCK IT OFF! Superheroes gotta stick together (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice notwithstanding). SYFY Wire has the story—”Shazam! star Zachary Levi fires back at internet trolls attacking Captain Marvel.” This is the kind of DC/Marvel crossover we could use more of.

Surprising no one in the history of anything ever, there’s an angry contingent of “fans” upset over a Marvel movie with a woman in the leading role coming out. Or, they’re upset that said star of that movie championed and pushed for more diversity in film journalism. 

Whatever the reason, these people are throwing a massive online hissy fit, taking to review aggregating site Rotten Tomatoes to make Captain Marvel’s “want to see” rating the lowest in the history of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.  

[…] Whatever the cause for the online trolling, one man (a hero, or quite possibly, a reasonable adult) is telling all these upset dudes: Knock it off! 

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Kitbull on Youtube is a Pixar film by Rosana Sullivan about the friendship between a feral cat and an abused pit bull.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Nancy Sauer, Gregory Benford, James Davis Nicoll, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]

Pixel Scroll 2/16/19 When You Wish Upon a Scroll

(1) “TOO LAZY TO FAIL.” WIRED Magazine interviewed Gregory Benford about his new book, in which a familiar sff figure is a character: “Sci-Fi Author Robert Heinlein Was Basically MacGyver”. Benford also talks about several other subjects, including Philip K. Dick. 

Robert Heinlein is the legendary author of such classic works as Starship Troopers, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, and Stranger in a Strange Land. His books have influenced generations of artists and scientists, including physicist and science fiction writer Gregory Benford.

“He was one of the people who propelled me forward to go into the sciences,” Benford says in Episode 348 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “Because his depiction of the prospect of the future of science, engineering—everything—was so enticing. He was my favorite science fiction writer.”

Heinlein appears as a character in Benford’s new novel, a time travel thriller called Rewrite. The novel depicts Heinlein as a MacGyver-esque man of action who dispatches his enemies with the aid of improvised traps. Benford, who met Heinlein in the late 1960s and knew him throughout his life, says this is an extremely accurate portrayal.

“He had a degree in engineering from Annapolis, and he liked doing things himself,” Benford says. “You can certainly see it in his novels, which are full of people rigging stuff up and making it work. He loved that kind of thing.”

(Note: The item’s subtitle references a Heinlein character in Time Enough for Love who also had some things in common with the author.)

(2) IT PAYS TO BE LAZY. Hey, there’s even research behind this – at CNBC, “Science: Lazy people are likely to be smarter, more successful, and better employees. Who knew?”

Are lazy people really smarter and more successful?

That certainly doesn’t add up. But part of the problem might have to do with how we view laziness itself; it’s very possible that the things we associate with laziness are actually not so indicative of laziness at all.

Bill Gates has often been quoted as saying, “I always choose a lazy person to do a hard job, because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” Whether Gates even said that in the first place is questionable, but the quote still gets repeated — and that’s because there’s some truth in it.

Many obsessively critical thinkers (a.k.a. people with a high “need for cognition”) are concerned with reducing wasteful actions, and instead prefer to use efficient processes….

(3) ZONE TRANSFERS TO WEST END. The Twilight Zone is coming to the West End at London’s Ambassadors Theatre March 4, 2019 after its initial run elsewhere. Poster photos by Steve Green.

The 1960s CBS series has been adapted for the stage by Anne Washburn (Mr. Burns: A Post Electric Play) as eight stories from original writers Rod Serling, Charles Beaumont, and Richard Matheson unfold. Richard Jones directs.

(4) SFF ROMANCE HONORED. The finalists of genre interest for the 2018 Australian Romance Readers Awards are:

Favourite Paranormal Romance

  • Clash of Storms by Bec McMaster
  • Hot and Badgered by Shelly Laurenston
  • Hunt: Red Riding Hood Retold by Demelza Carlton
  • Lionheart by Thea Harrison
  • Ocean Light by Nalini Singh
  • The Chosen by Thea Harrison
  • When Darkness Follows by Athena Daniels

Favourite Sci Fi, Fantasy or Futuristic Romance

  • Almost Perfect by Tamara Martin
  • Breakeven by Michelle Diener
  • Cursed by Keri Arthur
  • Diamond Fire by Ilona Andrews

(5) BERLIN FILM FESTIVAL. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The Berlin film festival ended tonight with various awards being handed out (and there are a lot of awards). The full list is here in a lengthy PDF document. Most of the winners are not genre.

Two winners are genre interest. The Teddy Award for the best LGBT feature film as well as the Teddy Readers Award, awarded by the readers of the website queer.de went to Breve Historia Del Planeta Verde (A Brief Story from the Green Planet), an Argentinian movie about a transwoman taking a road trip with a purple alien through rural Argentina, which sounds pretty fabulous. Here is the Teddy Award website and here is a bit more about the movie from the official Berlin film festival website.

And this year’s honorary Golden Bear was awarded to Charlotte Rampling, whose genre roles include Zardoz and the upcoming Dune adaptation by Denis Villeneuve. More here.

(6) THE GAME’S AFOOT. Cheryl Morgan tweeted photos of her walking tour of Dublin, especially the vicinity where the Worldcon will be held. The thread starts here.

(7) SMITH OBIT. Disney archivist Dave Smith died February 15. Disney Parks Blog profiles him in “Remembering Dave Smith” .

Walt Disney Archives founder Dave Smith passed away in Burbank, California, on February 15, 2019. He was 78. Dave dedicated his four-decade career at The Walt Disney Company to preserving Disney’s precious treasures from film, television, theme parks, and beyond. Named a Disney Legend in 2007, Dave was beloved by fans around the world for his wide knowledge of the Company’s rich history, which he shared in books and through his popular magazine column “Ask Dave.”

(8) GANZ OBIT. Swiss actor Bruno Ganz died today. Cora Buhlert recollects: “Genre roles include Werner Herzog’s take on Nosferatu, Wim Wenders’ Der Himmel über Berlin/Wings of Desire and its sequel Faraway, So Close, and The Boys From Brazil, which I’ve totally forgotten he was in. Oh, yes, and he gave the best ever portrayal of Adolf Hitler in Downfall, i.e. the movie all of those subtitled ranting Hitler videos on YouTube were taken from. My parents actually saw him on stage in the 1960s, when he played at the Bremen theatre early in his career.”

The New York Times has the story — “Bruno Ganz, Who Played an Angel and Hitler, Is Dead at 77”.

By many standards, the greatest honor Mr. Ganz received was possession of the Iffland-Ring, a diamond-studded piece of jewelry named for an 18th-century German actor and given to the “most significant and most worthy actor of the German-speaking theater.” When he received it in 1996, as a bequest from his predecessor, Josef Meinrad, he was only the fifth actor to have held it since the 1870s.

Mr. Ganz admitted that his convincing performances seemed to transcend reality for some fans. “People really seemed to think of me as a guardian angel” after “Wings of Desire,” he told The Irish Times in 2005. “People would bring their children before me for a blessing or something.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 16, 1909 George Gross. Pulp artist whose first cover work was for Mystery Novels Magazine starting with their March 1935 cover. He then had a very long association with Jungle Stories from 1941 to 1954. In the 70s, he illustrated The Avenger series of paperback books which were published by Warner Paperbacks. (Died 2003.)
  • Born February 16, 1953 Mike Glyer, 66. Happy Birthday! OGH has won the Hugo Award 11 times in two categories: File 770 won the Best Fanzine Hugo seven times. He himself has won the Best Fan Writer Hugo four times. Chicon IV, the 1982 Worldcon, presented him a special award for “Keeping the Fan in Fanzine Publishing.” It is even rumored that he might have written several pieces of genre short fiction. 
  • Born February 16, 1953 Roberta Williams, 66. Video game designer and writer, and considered to be the creator of the graphic adventure game genre. Her work include: King’s Quest, Phantasmagoria, and Mystery House. She and her husband founded Sierra Entertainment. Are video games genre? Depends on the story being told, and her stories were some of the best.
  • Born February 16, 1954 Iain M. Banks. I think I’ve read the entire Culture series even though I certainly didn’t read them in the order they were written. My favorites? Certainly The Hydrogen Sonata was bittersweet for being the last ever, Use of Weapons and the very first, Consider Phlebas are also my favs. And though not genre, I’m still going to make a plug for Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram. It’s about whisky, George Bush and the Iraq War. Oh and his love of sports cars. (Died 2013.)
  • Born February 16, 1957 LeVar Burton, 62. Well y’all know what series he was on and what character he played that he’s best known for so I can dispense with that. Other genre appearances include The Supernaturals, a zombie film, as Pvt. Michael Osgood, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies voicing Black Lightning and in another zombie film Rise of the Zombies as Dr. Dan Halpern. 
  • Born February 16, 1958 Ice-T, 61. Really how could I pass up an actor who played a kangaroo named T-Saint In Tank Girl? It’s not his only genre appearance as he did show up in Johnny Mnemonic as J-Bone. Remember the  Warwick Davis Leprechaun horror series I noted on his Birthday? Well he’s in The fifth one, Leprechaun in the Hood as Mack Daddy. And he’s in Bloodrunners as Chesterfield, the lead bloodsucker. He was also in Frankenpenis but frankly let’s not go that way..
  • Born February 16, 1964 Christopher Eccleston, 55. The Ninth Doctor and the first of the new series of Doctors who despite the all the controversy among fans actually only agreed to one season. Other genre work includes 28 Days LaterThe SeekerG.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (a truly shitty film), Thor: The Dark WorldThe LeftoversThe Second Coming and The Borrowers. He also played Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Barbican Theatre, both in London. 
  • Born February 16, 1968 Warren  Ellis, 51. English comic-book writer, novelist, and screenwriter. Ok I think Planetary is fucking brilliant as is Global Frequency and Transmetropolitan. His work on The Authority is not to sniffed either, nor should we overlook Iron Man: Extremis. He’s got two rather superb novels, Crooked Little Vein and Gun Machine, that are not genre but which if if you like hard boiled detective fiction, I strongly recommend.
  • Born February 16, 1972 Sarah Clarke, 57. Renée Dwyer In The Twilight Saga franchise and starred on The Tomorrow People series as Marla Jameson. She was also in The Booth at the End series as Sister Carmel
  • Born February 16, 1974 Mahershala Ali, 45. First shows up in the genre in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button ss Tizzy Weathers. He was. Obsessed in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay and voices  Aaron Davis / The Prowler In Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, a film on my short list to purchase from iTunes. He was on The 4400 as Richard Tyler, and was on Marvel’s Luke Cage as Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes. 

(10) HEARTS & RUBBISH. Valentine’s Day is past—thankfully so for some people. Now Tim Surette, writing for TV Guide, wants to serve up “10 Terrible TV Couples Who Will Remind You Valentine’s Day Is Trash.” Genre shows figure prominently.

Valentine’s Day is the perfect day to sit your special someone down, look deep into their eyes, and coo, “Why the hell did Rory ever go out with Dean?” Love is all over television, but sometimes television gets love W-R-O-N-G.

We’re looking at 10 instances of bad love from some of our favorite television shows. Some of these scarred us in the past, some are still going, but all of them are relationships that were doomed from the beginning despite the shows’ best efforts to make us swoon and ship. Nice try, TV!

While Surette has plenty to say about each couple, the list looks like this:

  • Ross and Rachel, Friends
  • Veronica and Duncan, Veronica Mars
  • Damon and Elena, The Vampire Diaries
  • Jon and Dany, Game of Thrones
  • Rory and Dean, Gilmore Girls
  • Ted and Robin, How I Met Your Mother
  • Sayid and Shannon, Lost
  • Olivia and Fitz, Scandal
  • Rosita and Father Gabriel, The Walking Dead
  • Dawson and Joey, Dawson’s Creek

(11) THE HERMITAGE. Fanzine fans may be interested to know that Harry Warner Jr.’s old home in Hagerstown, MD is up for sale. I sent many an issue of File 770 to the Hermit of Hagerstown at 423 Summit Ave., and looked forward to letters of comment with that return address.

(12) ICE PIRATES! BBC News: “Vodka firm loses valuable iceberg water in apparent heist”.

A Canadian vodka distiller has lost 30,000 litres of valuable iceberg water in what appears to be a heist.

Iceberg Vodka CEO David Meyers says he is mystified as to who – or why – someone would have stolen the water.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police say someone made away with the liquid – enough to fill a tractor-trailer tanker – from a warehouse in the historic community of Port Union, Newfoundland.

The water is valued at between C$9,000 ($6,775; £5,200) and C$12,000.

[…] The water is insured but the company is only able to harvest it in the spring from the ice giants that appear annually on Newfoundland and Labrador’s coast along the famed “iceberg alley”.

(13) STAY FROSTY. Paul Weimer has good things to say about this northern tale: “Microreview [book]: The Song of All, by Tina LeCount Myers”.

The Song of All uses Saami culture and mythology, as well as a crunchy set of characters and motivations to portray a frozen and bloody tale.

…This is a novel that reads much more like a saga than an epic fantasy novel, and a saga told to locals more than a secondary fantasy novel in typical fashion trying to build that out. One could imagine Irjan’s story, as written here, being presented for the benefit of the inhabitants of that world, who would already know what, for instance, a duollji is. The novel is far more interested in actions, and the consequences of those actions. So while the novel is light on traditional worldbuilding, it is very strong on plot. There is a rich tapestry of character stories and motivations here that, when the novel gets out of that early roughness, propels the narratives of the characters forward in a very readable fashion…

(14) A MONTH’S WORTH OF GOOD STUFF. Lady Business chronicles “Our Favourite Media of January 2019”. For example, Susan praises this book:

Witchmark by C. L. Polk — Oh no, I loved it. Miles Singer, an army doctor turned psychiatrist is treating returned soldiers with PTSD – until a dying man charges him with solving his murder. It’s so satisfying – the mystery is compelling, like full on “I just lost three days of my life and immediately started rereading the book to pick up the clues better” levels of compelling, and I may have raptor screeched about both the romance and the sibling relationships that we get to see here. The world-building is superb, and the way it gets revealed and built up made me so happy! … Plus, I spent most of the book viscerally angry at the secondary characters, and I was supposed to be! It’s been so long since I got to be angry at a book for the reasons that the author wanted me to be angry, and I’m so glad C. L. Polk brought that joy back to me. Basically, I adored it, and I am desperate for the sequel to come out now!

(15) WILL YOU SHELL OUT FOR THIS? Exciting is not the word I would choose. (GeekTyrant: “New Image Released For Batman vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”).

Earlier this week it was announced that DC Entertainment and Nickelodeon were teaming up to produce an animated film called Batman Vs. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Today we’ve got a new image from this exciting crossover film and it features the Ninja Turtles coming in contact with The Dark Knight.

The film is based on the Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comics miniseries by James Tynion IV and Freddie Williams II. The story “will see the turtles meeting Batman via a transdimensional encounter, and feature our heroes teaming up to face Batman’s deadly rogues gallery.” 

(16) IT BARS MY DESTINATION. The proposed route of the US border fence (or wall or whatever it’s currently called) with Mexico cuts right through a spaceport under construction (Bloomberg: SpaceX Texas Launch Site Risks Being Split in Two by Border Wall”), which seems to be an odd definition of “border.”

Elon Musk’s SpaceX has a big stake in the battle over border security being waged in Congress: a launchpad on the U.S.-Mexico border that it plans to use for rockets carrying humans around the world and eventually to Mars.

Democratic lawmakers have taken up the cause of Space Exploration Technologies Corp. and are trying to thwart the Trump administration’s efforts to build a border barrier that could cut across the company’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas, on the Gulf of Mexico coast near Brownsville.

[…] Representative Filemon Vela, a Democrat whose district includes the SpaceX facility, said the company isn’t happy about the plans, though it hasn’t publicly raised objections.

“They are way behind the scenes on this, they are lying pretty low,” said Vela, citing information he was given by local officials. “SpaceX doesn’t want to offend DHS.”

(17) DELVING INTO EARTH’S PAST. The “Dinosaur Pictures and Facts” site allows you to see the shape of the continents and oceans at many times in Earth’s past. You can enter an address to locate it on past landmasses (or ocean depths) from the present back to 750 million years ago. Each selection also comes with a blurb about the diversity of life at that time.

Here’s the entry for 240 million years ago.

Early Triassic. Oxygen levels are significantly lower due to the extinction of many land plants. Many corals went extinct, with reefs taking millions of years to re-form. Small ancestors to birds, mammals, and dinosaurs survive.

(18) FLYING STANDBY. Reuters: “NASA mulls buying new rides to space from Russia amid programme delays”.

NASA said on Friday it was weighing an option to buy two additional astronaut seats aboard a Russian rocket as a contingency plan against further delays in the launch systems being developed by Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Boeing Co. 

A possible purchase “provides flexibility and back-up capability” as the companies build rocket-and-capsule launch systems to return astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) from U.S. soil for the first time since NASA’s Space Shuttle program went dark in 2011. 

(19) TITLE TUNE. Anna Nimmhaus penned a verse to go along with today’s title —

When You Wish Upon a Scroll
 
* * *
When you wish upon a scroll,
Makes no difference who’s a troll;
When you wish upon a scroll,
As Filers do;
 
With your pixels in your dreams,
Ignore “Blameless me, it seems”;
When you wish upon a scroll,
Kind dreams come true.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/23/19 I Should Be Writing But I’m Sitting Home Watching Pixels Scroll

(1) PAGING MR. WIRE, MR. GUY WIRE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] SpaceX had a little oopsie when one of their rockets fall-down-go-boom. Well, not so much “boom” as “crunch.” The Verge has the story (“SpaceX’s new test rocket topples over thanks to strong Texas winds”).

A prototype of SpaceX’s next big rocket fell over and sustained damage in south Texas, thanks to high winds in the area. Images from SpaceX’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas show part of the vehicle sideways on the ground and slightly crumpled. The damage from the mishap will take a few weeks to repair, according to CEO Elon Musk.

Since the holidays, SpaceX engineers in south Texas have been building a prototype of the company’s new Starship rocket. Formerly known as the BFR, the Starship is the next-generation vehicle that SpaceX is developing to transport cargo and people to orbit, as well as to the Moon, Mars, and maybe even beyond. The full system actually consists of two big components: a large rocket booster, named Super Heavy, which will launch a crew-carrying spacecraft — the Starship — into space.

(2) BETTER WORLDS. Cadwell Turnbull’s “Monsters Come Howling in Their Season” is the latest story in the “Better Worlds” series from The Verge.

Listen to the audio adaptation of “Monsters Come Howling in Their Season” below or in Apple PodcastsPocket Casts, or Spotify.

(3) IN THE YEAR 2054. On January 30, The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination presents Freeman Dyson and Gregory Benford discussing the topic “Foreseeing the Next 35 Years–Where Will We Be in 2054?”

Gregory Benford and Freeman Dyson

Wednesday, January 30, 2019
4:00 – 5:30 p.m. 
Roth Auditorium, Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine 
UC San Diego

This event is free and open to the public; RSVP required.

35 years after George Orwell wrote the prescient novel 1984, Isaac Asimov looked ahead another 35 years to 2019 to predict the future of nuclear war, computerization, and the utilization of space. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination and the Division of Physical Sciences are honored to welcome two living luminaries in the fields of physics and futurism–Freeman Dyson and Gregory Benford (Ph.D. ’67)–to peer ahead another 35 years, to 2054, and share their insights into what may be in store for us.

Professor emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study, Freeman Dyson is an English-born American theoretical physicist and mathematician….

Gregory Benford is a physicist, educator, author, and UC San Diego alumnus (MS ’65, PhD ’67)…. A two-time winner of the Nebula Award, Benford has also won the John W. Campbell Award, the British Science Fiction Award, the Australian Ditmar Award, the 1990 United Nations Medal in Literature, and the Robert A. Heinlein Award.

(4) RSR ARTIST RESOURCE. Rocket Stack Rank has posted itsannual page that highlights work by over 100 professional artists who are eligible for the 2019 Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist. “2019 Professional Artists”. Eric Wong says —

It complements JJ’s Best Professional Artist Hugo: Eligible Works from 2018 page because only 19 artists overlap, meaning 24 are unique to JJ’s list and 83 are unique to RSR’s.

It takes about a minute to browse the thumbnails on the page, or 5-10 minutes to view all 300+ large images one by one with just a key press or screen tap each (no need to close tabs or hit the back key for the next one) thanks to the “lightbox” view. Creating a shortlist of ones you like is also easy by control-clicking or long pressing the artists’ name in the lightbox. Moreover, we’ve included links to the artists’ websites and search links to find artist interviews. If an image makes you curious about the book/magazine/story, there’s a link for that, too. 🙂

Performance-wise, the page is fine on phones and tablets because it’s a bit smaller and loads a bit faster than the File 770 home page (about 5 MB, under 2 seconds). If you view all 300+ large images in the lightbox, about 40 MB will be downloaded by the time you reach the end.

(5) SFWA STORYBUNDLE. The SFWA Fantasy Bundle curated by Terry Mixon is available from Storybundle for about another three weeks. Bundle buyers have a chance to donate a portion of their proceeds to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

Pay what you want!

For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of five books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • The Twenty-Sided Sorceress – Books 1-3 by Annie Bellet
  • Ashwin by Kit Rocha
  • Blade & Rose by Miranda Honfleur
  • Amaskan’s Blood by Raven Oak
  • Genrenauts – The Complete Season One by Michael R. Underwood

You choose how much you want to pay for these awesome books. (Click on each book above to check them out.) You decide how much of your purchase goes to the author and how much goes to help keep StoryBundle running. If your purchase price is $15 or more, you get SEVEN more books: Radiance by Grace Draven, The Arrows of the Heart by Jeffe Kennedy, The Raven and the Reindeer by T. Kingfisher, Blood Dragon – Books 1-3 by Lindsay Buroker, Al-Kabar by Lee French, The Glass Gargoyle by Marie Andreas and Catching Echoes – Reconstructionist Series Book 1 by Meghan Ciana Doidge!

(6) LE GUIN ON SCREEN. Eileen Gunn has been to see the Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin documentary and paid it some compliments on Facebook:

“Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin,” a film by Arwen Curry, opened today in Seattle, exactly a year since Ursula died. John and I went to the first showing. It’s quite a wonderful film, lots of voiceovers by Ursula, lots of photos of Ursula, a few talking heads, and a number of interesting special effects. I was pleased to see Vonda N McIntyre there, in the film, and surprised to see a clip of Nisi Shawl and myself chatting with Ursula in an episode of our short-lived cable talk show, produced by Vonda. (I mean, we had all given our permission, but I had forgotten.) It was lovely to hear her voice again.

(7) WHAT I TELL YOU THREE TIMES IS TRUE. Andrew Liptak’s new Wordplay has as its anchor a segment titled, “Tolkien, Tolkien, Tolkien”.

…As I’ve been somewhat immersed in Tolkien’s lore, I’ve been thinking about what the future of Tolkien’s legacy might be. Clearly, there are huge Hollywood ambitious with it. Amazon is spinning up a fantastically expensive show that’s not *quite* an adaptation of LOTR, but which is said to follow Aragorn before the trilogy, which would be… interesting. It’s also supposedly set in Jackson’s particular vision of Middle-earth, which would make sense, given that that’s what the general public is most familiar with. After all, Guillermo del Toro apparently got the ax by deviating too much from Jackson’s world when he went to adapt The Hobbit.

Adapting Middle-earth is a huge challenge, and looking back on Jackson’s efforts on the first trilogy shows just how well they nailed it — Tolkien purists be damned — balancing the need for something accessible while getting the right tone of the world *right*.

(8) WHO LIVES UP TO YOUR EXPECTATIONS? [Item by Mike Kennedy.]Buzzfeed has a list of Twitter posts for “15 Times Meeting A Celeb Lived Up To Our Expectations,” and several of the named celebrities have genre ties. Carie Fisher appears on the list twice. Also on the list: Harrison Ford, Pierce Brosnan, George Takei, and Guillermo Del Toro.

Over the weekend, Twitter user Doug Tilley asked his followers to share stories about meeting their heroes and having the interaction live up to the hype: The thread quickly went viral, with people from all over sharing their heartwarming exchanges with celebs. The thread starts here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 23, 1939 Greg and Tim Hildebrandt. Greg is age 80, but Tim passed in 2006. I’d say best known for their very popular and ubiquitous Lord of the Rings calendar illustrations, also for illustrating comics for Marvel Comics and DC Comics. They also did a lot of genre covers so I went to ISFDB and checked to see if I recognized any. I certainly did. There was Zelazny’s cover of My Name is Legion, Tolkien’s Smith of Wootton Major and Farmer Giles of Ham and Poul Anderson’s A Knight of Ghosts and Shadows. Nice.
  • Born January 23, 1943 Gil Gerard, 76. Captain William “Buck” Rogers in Buck Rogers in the 25th Century which I fondly remember as a really a truly great SF series even if it really wasn’t that great. He also shows up in the very short lived E.A.R.T.H. Force as Dr. John Harding, and he’s General Morgenstern in Reptisaurus, a movie title that proves someone had a serious lack of imagination that day. In Bone Eater, a monster film that Bruce Boxleitner also shows up in as Sheriff Steve Evans, he plays Big Jim Burns, the Big Bad. Lastly, I’d like to note that he got to play Admiral Sheehan in the “Kitumba” episode of fan created Star Trek: New Voyages.
  • Born January 23, 1944 Rutger Hauer, 75. Roy Batty In Blade Runner of course but did you know he was Lothos In Buffy the Vampire Slayer? That I’d forgotten. He’s also William Earle in Batman Begins, Count Dracula himself in Dracula III: Legacy, Captain Etienne Navarre in Ladyhawke, the vey evil John Ryder in The Hitcher, Abraham Van Helsing in Dracula 3D, King Zakour in, and no I didn’t know they’d done this film, The Scorpion King 4: Quest for Power and finally let’s note his involvement in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets as President of the World State Federation.
  • Born January 23, 1950 Richard Dean Anderson, 69. Unless you count MacGyver as genre which I can say is open to debate, his main and rather enduring SF role was as Jack O’Neill in the many Stargate Universe series. Well Stargate SG-1 really as he only briefly showed up on Stargate Universe and Stargate Atlantis whereas he did one hundred and seventy-three episodes of SG-1. Wow. Now his only other SF role lasted, err, twelve episodes in which he played Enerst Pratt alias Nicodemus Legend in the most excellent Legend co-starring John de Lancie. Yeah, I really liked it.
  • Born January 23, 1964 Mariska Hargitay, 55. Did you know she’s the daughter of Jayne Mansfield? I certainly didn’t. Her first film appearance was as Donna in Ghoulies which is a seriously fun film. Later genre creds are limited but include playing Marsha Wildmon in the Freddy’s Nightmares – A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Series. She also plays Myra Okubo in the Lake Placid film and voices Tenar in the not very good, indeed truly awful, Tales from Earthsea.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) DR. DEMENTO. The LA Times interviews the Doctor about a huge tribute album that’s just been released: “Dr. Demento, comedic song hero and unsung punk rock legend, gets his due on new album”.

The punk connection takes center stage with “Dr. Demento Covered in Punk,” an exceedingly ambitious and densely packed double album — triple in the vinyl edition — being released Jan. 12.

The album comprises 64 tracks spread over a pair of CDs, pulling together new recordings of “mad music and crazy comedy” songs long associated with the quirky radio emcee. Participants include Yankovic, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, William Shatner, Adam West, the Vandals, Fred Schneider of the B-52’s, the Misfits, Japan’s Shonen Knife, Los Straitjackets, Missing Persons, the Dead Milkmen and at least a dozen more.

“I was always a fan of rock ‘n’ roll, and some of the early punk music of the ‘60s with groups like the Music Machine,” Hansen, 76, said in the cozy living room of his home in Lakewood, where he also records his shows that now reach listeners through subscriptions by way of his official website.

“So when the new punk rock showed up around 1976 and 1977, I played a few samples on my show,” he said. Hansen graduated as a classical music major from Reed College in Portland, Ore., and subsequently earned his master’s degree in folk music studies from UCLA.

“I got the Ramones’ first album and played several of those songs, including ‘Beat on the Brat,’ the song Weird Al did for this album,” said Hansen, who has been inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame, the Comedy Hall of Fame and the Oregon Music Hall of Fame.

(12) WORKAROUND. Now I Know calls it “A Fine Way to Encourage Reading”. Daniel Dern says, “I’d call ’em ‘BookBuster’.”

Imagine a bookstore that worked on a membership program — instead of buying books, you rented them. …Seems like a fancy Internetty startup? Nope. It’s your local library….

…And let’s face it, many kids with fines don’t have to have those conversations with their parents — they can avoid the fine simply by avoiding taking other books the library. (And at that point, the library is going to suspend their borrowing privileges anyway.) The result is a lose-lose situation: the kids read less and the library doesn’t get that $10 anyway.

So, the Los Angeles County library system fixed it. They call it the “Great Read Away.”

Cardholders under the age of 21 have a new way to pay their fines through the program, no money required. All they need to do is come to the library and read. For every hour of reading, the library system will forgive $5 worth of fines. And it needn’t be a book, either — magazines, newspapers, and comic books count. (Listening to audiobooks or watching movies based on novels does not, however.) Parents and caregivers can read to children to help the kids pay off the debt (but only the kids’ debt), and for those kids who don’t have the stamina to read for an hour, the librarians can give pro-rated credit.

(13) DOGGING IT. A federal worker I know spotted this clip while he was canvassing for jobs — Wienermobile drivers wanted:

Processed meats purveyor Oscar Meyer announced it is seeking a qualified “Hotdogger” to be the next driver of the famed Wienermobile.

The hot dog company said it is accepting applications until Jan. 31 to be the newest “Hotdogger,” Oscar Meyer’s term for Wienermobile drivers.

The job, which begins in June, would involve driving the iconic sausage across the United States, visiting locations including stores, military bases and charity events.

Did you know this job requires a four-year degree? Don’t ask me why.

(14) WELL-USED TECH.  “Facial recognition tool tackles illegal chimp trade”.

Wildlife criminals had better watch out! The same software that recognises you in a friend’s social media post is being adapted to tackle the illegal trade in chimpanzees.

The amber eyes in the image above belong to Manno, who was trafficked from Africa to Syria before being rescued.

Pictures of Mano are now being used to train the algorithm that could help save members of his endangered species from the same experience. It’s a first for chimpanzee conservation.

The algorithm will search through photo posts on social media looking for the faces of rescued apes.

If the technology recognises a trafficked animal, the owners of the accounts featuring the chimp can then be targeted by the authorities.

(15) BCS SIPS. Charles Payseur’s latest short fiction reviews — “Quick Sips – Beneath Ceaseless Skies #269”.

The latest issue of Beneath Ceaseless Skies has a lot to do with transformations, with the threat of revenge, and with the need for freedom. It finds characters who are caught in circumstances of waiting to be punished. To be found out. And trying to find a way free of the things hanging over them. Now, some of those things are no fault of their own and some of them…well, the characters aren’t always quite so innocent. But the piece looks at freedom and who can hope for it, and what it might cost. The stories deal with the weight of revenge and the feelings that can come when that weight is lifted and set down. To the reviews!

(16) DOES THAT BRAND NAME SOUND FAMILIAR? Eater reports “Furloughed Federal Workers Supposedly Surviving on Soylent Is So Very 2019”. I’m sure this is totally credible!  

It’s barely three-quarters of the way through January, and already a story has emerged that seems to perfectly encapsulate the early 2019 hellscape: According to a somewhat dubious Reddit post, two furloughed federal workers are subsisting solely on the Silicon Valley-born meal replacement known as Soylent so they can afford to feed their infant child.

Titling his post “Soylent has financially saved my family’s life amid the government shutdown,” the author thanks the company for offering a discount for affected federal employees, writing, “This has literally saved my family’s lives. I was in tears when I saw the [discount advertised] on their Instagram story.” Soylent is offering furloughed workers 35 percent off until the government resumes normal operations.

(17) IN JEOPARDY! Jeopardy! monitor Andrew Porter saw this come up on tonight’s show.

Answer: Dame Daphne Du Maurier’s works made into Hitchcock films include ‘Rebecca’ and this high-flying novelette.

Wrong question: What is “Vertigo”?

Correct question: What is “The Birds”?

(18) PERMISSION GRANTED. You know that thing about decluttering and how many books you should keep? Felipe Torres Medina of Points In Case says he heard it this way: “I’m Marie Fucking Kondo and You Can Keep All Your Fucking Books, You Ingrates”.

Hi, Marie Kondo here. Author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and host of the new Netflix show Tidying Up.

I know you guys are not used to listening to a small-framed Asian woman speak with authority, but I’m going to say this once and for all: You can keep all your fucking books, you ungrateful motherfuckers. All I wanted was to spark a little joy in your fucking miserable lives, which you’ve tried to make fulfilling by purchasing fucking stuff. But fuck me, I guess, for mentioning that I like to have only 30 books in my house.

See, the problem here is that some of you have interpreted my warm voice, bubbly attitude, and cheery disposition as a surefire sign that I will personally come to your home and build a bonfire out of your unread copies of those J. K. Rowling novels she wrote under a pseudonym that sounds like the name of a Hogwarts professor. Your ex-boyfriend gave you those for your anniversary three years ago. Had you ever mentioned wanting to read those books? Not really. But you did once tell your ex you were a Hufflepuff, so surely they must have some emotional value to you. What kind of fucking monster am I for suggesting you maybe consider donating those books to a local library or thrift shop? So yeah, go off. Enjoy the adventures of Cormoran Fucking Strike. Yeah, that’s the name of the main character. Buckle up, buddy…

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

Gregory Benford Wins 2019 Robert A. Heinlein Award

Gregory Benford, science fiction author and astrophysicist, is the 2019 winner of the Robert A. Heinlein Award. The award is bestowed for outstanding published works in science fiction and technical writings that inspire the human exploration of space. This award is in recognition of Benford’s body of work, including his 32 novels, over 218 short stories, and many non-fiction articles. 

Benford will receive the award on Friday, May 24 at opening ceremonies during Balticon 53, the 53rd Maryland Regional Science Fiction Convention. Balticon and the Robert A. Heinlein Award are both managed and sponsored by The Baltimore Science Fiction Society. A grant from the Heinlein Society funds half of the costs associated with the award and the family of the late author Dr. Yoji Kondo provides additional funding for the award.

The Robert A. Heinlein Award is a sterling silver medallion bearing the image of Robert A. Heinlein, as depicted by artist Arlin Robins. The medallion is matched with a red-white-blue lanyard. In addition, the winner receives two lapel pins for use when a large medallion is impractical, and a plaque describing the award, suitable for home or office wall display. 

The Robert A. Heinlein Award selection committee consists of science fiction writers and was founded by Dr. Yoji Kondo, a long-time friend of Robert and Virginia Heinlein. Members of the original committee were approved by Virginia Heinlein. The current Chairman of the Selection Committee is Michael F. Flynn.

Virginia Heinlein authorized multiple awards in memory of her husband, other awards include the Heinlein Prize, which is fully funded by Virginia Heinlein’s estate, and a National Space Society award for volunteer projects.

More information on the Robert A. Heinlein Award, including past winners, can be found here.