Pixel Scroll 1/12/21 Our Operators Are Standing By. On Three Legs

(1) 55 ISN’T JUST A GOOD IDEA. Cora Buhlert, in her new series “Fanzine Spotlight,” interviews Hugo eligible fanzines and fansites and the people behind them. The first post features Gideon Marcus discussing one of my favorites: “Fanzine Spotlight: Galactic Journey”.

Tell us about your site or zine.

Galactic Journey is more than a site or a zine. It’s a time machine.

The 20+ writers for the Journey produce an article every other day from the context of SF fans (and professionals) living exactly 55 years ago.  Thus, when it turned January 1, 2021 in your world, we rang in the new year of 1966.

When we started eight years ago, in “1958”, we were just covering the three big American SF mags: Fantasy and Science FictionGalaxy, and Analog, as well as the space shots — Pioneer 1 had just gone halfway to the moon.  Very quickly, as more people became associated with the Journey, we expanded our coverage to all the SF mags, current SF movies and TV shows (we’ve reviewed every episode of Twilight Zone, the Outer Limits, and Doctor Who), comicsfashionartmusic, politics, counter-culture…you name it!

(2) SWORD AND ADVOCACY. In “Bran Mak Morn: Social Justice Warrior” at Black Gate, Jason Ray Carney contends Robert E. Howard’s character was an SJW long before the phrase was invented.

…Weird Tales, November 1933, containing “Worms of the Earth”
by Robert E. Howard. Cover by J. Allen St. John

Despite Howard’s pulpster credentials, the young writer demonstrates intellectual ambition in this story. Readers are introduced to a historical framework philosophically anchored in the ideas of “Rome” and “Pictdom,” i.e. “civilization” and “barbarism.” Make no mistake: philosophy aside, this is a fantasy story, a sword and sorcery tale delicately painted with a gossamer-thin layer of history. Howard’s Picts are not the historical Picts, and Howard’s Romans are not the historical Romans. Without question, both tribes are unreal, fictionalized in this story, and fictionalized tendentiously: the Romans are rendered as irredeemable oppressors and the Picts are rendered as the brutally oppressed victims. Artful and strategic distortions allow Howard to bring into focus his troubling theme: the hatred of an oppressed race for their brutal oppressors and the evil consequences of that hatred.

Despite the story’s fantastic nature, it nevertheless engages with the actual, with real oppression, oppressors, and oppressed. Real racism was prevalent in the early 1930s in Howard’s rural Texas, a racially-mixed frontier where the elderly and the descendants of settlers and displaced first tribes remembered (and witnessed) the bloody battle, civil war, banditry, and rapine that characterized what has been mythologized as “the wild west.” Indeed, this earnest engagement with actual racism can be gleaned by contextualizing the “Worms of the Earth” with Howard’s correspondence…

(3) A WRITER’S RELICS. You might also be interested in a guided “Tour of the Robert E. Howard Home” in Cross Plains, Texas conducted by Howard scholar Rusty Burke. Includes a chart based on a map by Catherine Crook de Camp!

(4) HUGOS THERE. John Picacio is among those who posted a very favorable response to DisCon III’s U-turn (see “DisCon III Abandons Previously Announced Hugo Policy”) —

(5) WAREHOUSE £2. Is there anything not wrong with this coin? The Guardian reports “War of the words: HG Wells coin also features false quote”.

…Intended to mark 75 years since the death of the author, the coin has already been criticised for depicting the “monstrous tripod” featured in The War of the Worlds with a fourth leg, and for giving his Invisible Man a top hat, which the character never wore. Then the Wells expert Prof Simon James spotted the quote chosen for the edge of the coin: “Good books are warehouses of ideas.” James and his fellow academic Adam Roberts, a vice-president of the Wells Society, could source no such quote in Wells’s writing – although it is credited to him on various inspirational quote websites.

…Author Eleanor Fitzsimons solved the mystery. She tried searching Wells’s writing for a quote with “warehouses” in it, and found an approximation in his obscure work Select Conversations With an Uncle (Now Extinct) and Two Other Reminiscences. That quote, however, is not what appears on the coin: it reads, “Good books are the warehouses of ideals.”

(6) INFINITE WORLDS. [Item by rcade.] There’s a full-page ad in the new issue of the Previews catalog for Infinite Worlds magazine, a science fiction magazine that has its seventh issue coming out in March.

The magazine is published by Winston Ward and was launched by a Kickstarter campaign that raised around $3,500. Infinite Worlds is described as an “independent magazine” and does not take any advertising.

Issue 7 has stories by Adele Gardner, Daniel Kozuh and Emily Martha Sorensen and an interview with Stu Mackenzie of the Australian rock band King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard.

Infinite Worlds has an Instagram audience of 105,000 followers featuring illustration-heavy posts such as this collection of the first six covers.

(7) IT WOULD BE CRIMINAL NOT TO LAUGH. In ‘”Funny, How?’ Why Comedy is Crucial in Crime Writing” on CrimeReads, Christopher Fowler (who also writes fantasy and sf) discusses why comedy is important in his Bryant and May mysteries.

…Creating a funny character is one thing, but consciously setting out to write a witty crime novel is another matter altogether. Humour must emerge organically; you can’t simply parachute characters into a funny situation. It also requires a moral viewpoint, if only so that morality can then be flung aside. The tragedy of sudden death and its investigation needs to be treated with gravity, the humour confined to those who have no idea that they’re amusing. People are at their most ridiculous when they’re desperately serious.

(8) SUPER LIST. If superhero movies are your cup of tea, this list will tell you when all the tealeaves are scheduled for harvest: “Here’s the New Schedule For Every Superhero Movie Coming Out For the Foreseeable Future” at Yahoo!

…The rigmarole of last year really changed the shape of what Black Panther will look like moving forward. There’s also still quite a lag when it comes to seeing any iteration of Black Adam or a second Shazam film, but there is a lot of hope when it comes to films that were shelved last year. Black Widow? Still slated to come your way in May. The Eternals and Shang-Chi? Also making a 2021 debut. All of this is to say, while there’s still some bad news, there’s also a lot to look forward to in the coming year so get that bag of popcorn ready. We got some blockbusters on the horizon.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • January 12, 1966 — The Batman series premiered on ABC. It ran for three seasons and one hundred twenty twenty-five minute episodes.  Starring Adam West as Bruce Wayne/Batman and Burt Ward as Dick Grayson/Robin, Alan Napier was Alfred, Neil Hamilton was Commissioner James Gordon and Yvonne Craig was Barbara Gordon / Batgirl. Its villains were many and featured many a famous performer. It enjoys a 62 rating among audience members at Rotten Tomatoes.
A poster for the British release of Leslie H. Martinson’s 1966 superhero comedy, ‘Batman The Movie’, starring (left to right) Cesar Romero, Frank Gorshin, Adam West, Burt Ward, Lee Meriwether and Burgess Meredith. (Photo by Movie Poster Image Art/Getty Images)
  • January 12, 1967 – Star Trek’s  “The Squire of Gothos” first aired on CBS. Starring William Campbell as Trelane, it was written by Paul Schneider, and directed by Don McDougall. Trelane Is considered by many Trekkies to be a possible Q. Critics loved it giving such comments as “one of TOS’s most deservedly iconic hours” and voting the William Campbell performance as Trelane, as the fifth best guest star of the Trek series. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 12, 1937 Shirley Eaton, 84. Bond Girl Jill Masterson in Goldfinger, and yes, she got painted gold in it. She was not nude as is thought but was wearing monokini. She also shows up as the title character in The Million Eyes of Sumuru, the Sax Rohmer based film we just discussed. Her other significant role would be as Dr. Margaret E. ‘Maggie’ Hanford in Around the World Under the Sea. She retired from acting in 1969. (CE)
  • Born January 12, 1937 – Joyce Jumper.  Just as David McDaniel and Ted Johnstone lived in the same body, likewise David’s wife Joyce McDaniel and Ted’s wife Lin Johnstone.  David, a pro author, published eight novels, three shorter stories; Ted was a leading Los Angeles fan.  I knew Ted but hardly saw David; I knew Joyce but hardly saw Lin.  When David and Ted died, Lin gafiated; after a while Joyce married L.A. fan George Jumper; following his death (2001) she grew less active.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born January 12, 1940 – Tomas Endrey.  Escaped from Hungary 1956.  Often attended Boskone, Lunacon.  Active in APA:NESFA.  Assistant editor of SF Chronicle.  See Andrew Porter’s appreciation here.  (Died 2017) [JH] 
  • Born January 12, 1952 Rockne S. O’Bannon, 69. He’s the genius behind the rejuvenated Twilight ZoneAmazing StoriesFarscapeSeaQuest 2032, the Alien Nation series and Defiance. Only the latter I couldn’t get interested in though I did try. (CE)
  • Born January 12, 1952 Walter Mosley, 69. An odd one as I  have read his most excellent Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins series but hadn’t  been aware that he wrote SF of which he has four novels to date, Blue LightFutureland: Nine Stories of an Imminent FutureThe Wave, and 47. There’s a Jack Kirby art book called Maximum Fantastic Four that was conceived of and orchestrated by him.  Interestingly enough, he’s got a writing credit for episode of Masters of Science Fiction called “Little Brother” where Stephen Hawking is the Host according to IMdB. (CE) 
  • Born January 12, 1954 – Seth Breidbart, Ph.D., age 67.  Chaired Lunacon 1988, 1999 (alas for pattern-lovers, not in 2000 or 2011).  Served a term as President of the Lunarians.  Guest of Honor at Albacon IV.  Often found in responsible positions at SF cons, e.g. he was House Manager in the Events Division of MidAmeriCon II the 74th Worldcon.  Annoyingly successful in fannish auctions and lotteries.  Two Harvard and two Yale degrees, which is like him.  [JH]
  • Born January 12, 1954 – Bill Higgins, age 67.  Radiation-safety physicist, thus seen here and elsewhere as Bill Higgins, Beam Jockey.  Plays baritone ukulele.  Guest of Honor at ConClave 15, Windycon XX, DucKon 2 & 22, Congenial 9, Capricon 10; Hal Clement Science Speaker at Boskone 51.  [JH]
  • Born January 12, 1954 – Paula Lieberman, age 67.  Thoughtful and vigorous in Boston fandom, e.g. at Noreascon 3 the 47th Worldcon she was Creative Consultant in the Program Division, in the Extravaganzas Division was part of the Brains Trust and ran the Anniversary Party.  Does some filking.  [JH]
  • Born January 12, 1964 Jeff Bezos, 57. He actually does have a genre credit for having played a Starfleet official on Star Trek Beyond. (CE) 
  • Born January 12, 1980 Kameron Hurley, 41. Winner of a Best Related Work Hugo at London 3 for We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative. Fiction wise, her most excellent God’s War won a BFA and a Kitschie, whereas her The Geek Feminist Revolution won her a BFA fir non-fiction. Very impressive indeed. Oh, and she won a Hugo for Best Fan Writer as well. Nice. (CE) 
  • Born January 12, 1980 – Ameriie, age 41.  Recording artist; three golds, one silver; two Soul Train Awards; Club Banger of the Year; one Rolling Stone Best Album of the Year.  Edited one anthology for us, a short story of her own in it.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) SPOTLIGHT ON BLACK CREATORS. The Detroit Free Press features the story behind “Invisible Men, the Trailblazing Black Artists of Comic Books” by Michigan resident Ken Quattro in “Chronicling the forgotten Black artists of early comic book industry”.

…The idea for “Invisible Men” started 20 years ago, when Quattro was writing an article about Matt Baker, the Black artist who in 1945 created Voodah, a character that is considered the first Black hero in a comic book aimed at white audiences.

Quattro was having a hard time tracking down information about Baker until someone suggested he reach out to Samuel Joyner, an influential cartoonist, teacher and illustrator from Philadelphia who died last year at age 96. 

He wrote me a beautiful four-page letter about not only Matt Baker, but about all these other Black cartoonists, and it stunned me at the time,” recalls Quattro, who wasn’t familiar with the other names that were included.

Quattro began reading what he describes as thousands of past issues of publications written by and for African Americans. “There was nothing in the white media, in newspapers or magazines at all, about Black comic book artists. I started going to Black newspapers of the 1930s and ’40s and ’50s, and there was a lot of information on these guys.”

(13) GAME TIME. [Item by Cath.] I spent a couple of enjoyable hours recently playing the text game ”Stay?” It incorporates Groundhog Day-style loops. WARNING: The link as I entered shows spoilers for how to “get the good ending.”

Welcome to Elaia, a magical city nestled in a high valley. It’s the end of your first year at university & time to choose your major. 

Find yourself among potential friends or lovers– young people with secrets, dreams, fears, and tragedies. Learn about the history & breadth of Elaia’s world, and decide what kind of mark you want to leave on it. 

WHAT IS “STAY? ” ?

  • An interactive fiction story. 
  • A dating sim wrapped up in a fantasy adventure puzzle.
  • A quest to find your own happy ending in a world where you always get a second chance.

(14) DOING SCIENCE. Vox tells how “Citizen science is booming during the Covid-19 pandemic”.

… Early in the pandemic, a fire hose of data started gushing forth on citizen science platforms like Zooniverse and SciStarter, where scientists ask the public to analyze their data online. It’s a form of crowdsourcing that has the added bonus of giving volunteers a real sense of community; each project has a discussion forum where participants can pose questions to each other (and often to the scientists behind the projects) and forge friendly connections.

“There’s a wonderful project called Rainfall Rescue that’s transcribing historical weather records. It’s a climate change project to understand how weather has changed over the past few centuries,” Laura Trouille, vice president of citizen science at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago and co-lead of Zooniverse, told me. “They uploaded a dataset of 10,000 weather logs that needed transcribing — and that was completed in one day!”

Some Zooniverse projects, like Snapshot Safari, ask participants to classify animals in images from wildlife cameras. That project saw daily classifications go from 25,000 to 200,000 per day in the initial days of lockdown. And across all its projects, Zooniverse reported that 200,000 participants contributed more than 5 million classifications of images in one week alone — the equivalent of 48 years of research. Although participation has slowed a bit since the spring, it’s still four times what it was pre-pandemic….

(15) THE SUN IS ALWAYS RISING. Not well done, not medium, but a “Rare Planet With Three Suns Has a Super Weird Orbit” is chronicled at Gizmodo.

… KOI-5Ab is likely a gas giant, similar to Neptune in terms of its size. It resides within a triple-star system, and while its orbit is a bit strange, it’s overall environment is less chaotic than it may sound.

Despite having three stellar companions, KOI-5Ab orbits a single star, KOI-5A, once every five days. This host star is caught in a mutual orbit with a nearby star called KOI-5B, and the two twirl around each other once every 30 years. A more distant star, KOI-5C orbits this pair once every 400 years.

(16) THE HYDROPONICS THAT FALL ON YOU FROM NOWHERE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Washington Post today had a piece about CES.  The gadget that seemed pretty futuristic to me is “Gardyn,” a portable hydroponic garden that’s about five feet tall.  Seeds are inserted via pods like coffee pods.  All you do is add water occasionally and the device says it grows enough veggies to feed a family of four. Video at the link: “Gardyn, the AI-driven indoor, leafy green growing machine”.

(17) NEANDERTHALS. BBC Future takes a long look at “How did the last Neanderthals live?”

…There is even evidence they caught birds of prey, including golden eagles and vultures. We don’t know if they laid out meat and then waited for the right opportunity to go in for the kill, or whether they actively hunted birds, a much more difficult task.  What we do know is that they didn’t necessarily eat all the birds they were hunting, especially not the birds of prey like vultures – which are full of acid.

“Most of the cut marks are on the wing bones with little flesh. It seems they were catching these to wear the feathers,” says Clive Finlayson. They seem to have preferred birds with black feathers. This indicates they may have used them for decorative purposes such as jewellery.

To show me exactly what he meant, Clive and his team reconstructed some intriguing Neanderthal habits. A dead vulture, carefully kept frozen, was brought out and dissected in front of me, to show how Neanderthals might have done so thousands of years earlier.

They carefully removed the bird’s body tissue. What was left appeared to be a stunning and elaborate black-feathered decorative cape, extending, of course, the length of the vulture’s wing span. They may have wrapped this around their shoulders, Clive says.

This all points to one thing: that Neanderthals had a sophisticated understanding and appreciation of cultural symbols.The fact that Neanderthals could, and would, take these steps – including the creativity and abstract reasoning required to turn a flying animal into a decorative cape – shows that their cognitive skills could have been on par with ours. And regardless of exactly how intelligent they were, their creation of these kinds of cultural artefacts is one of the defining traits of humanity.

(18) THE MOUSE NEVER PREDICTED THIS. “Disneyland to Become Covid-19 Mass-Vaccination Site”Deadline has the story.

Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, the bulk of which has been closed since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March, will serve as the first super Point-of-Dispensing (POD) site for Covid-19 vaccines in Orange County.

The site is expected to become operational later this week, county officials announced Monday. Also on Monday, Los Angeles County announced that its mass Covid-19 testing operation at Dodger Stadium will be phased out this week so the sports arena can be turned into a large-scale vaccination location….

(19) BEHIND THE LITTLE GREEN DOOR. “U.S. Intelligence Agencies to Share Everything They Know About UFOs” notes Mental Floss.

…According to Snopes, the Office for the Director of National Intelligence has confirmed that the omnibus bill includes a 180-day window for the U.S. director of national intelligence and the secretary of defense to prepare a report for senators and armed services committees on the potential existence of UFOs and any potential they may have to pose a threat.

The data would be sourced from FBI reports as well as the Office of Naval Intelligence and the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force. The language comes from the bill’s Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers:  Wonder Woman 1984” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies say that the story arc of Steve Trevor in this movie make WONDER WOMAN 1984 “more problematic than a Rob Schneider movie” and the film explains you “shouldn’t cat-call women because they’ll turn into a cat and fight you!”

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John Hertz, Mlex, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, rcade, Michael Toman, Martin Morse Wooster, Cath, Daniel Dern, Joyce Scrivner, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 1/9/21 Magnetic Monopology: Do Not Exceed C, Do Not Collect 200 Zorkmids

(1) NOT MY FAULT. The designer of the coin that shows H.G. Wells’ Martian tripods with four legs, Chris Costello, is passing the buck to the unknown artist of an old paperback cover which he displays as part of the following statement:

It appears that I have once again drawn ire from the sci-fi community. First it was the Papyrus/AVATAR thing, and now this. No disrespect to H.G. Wells or any of you. To give more context, I will share about this specific coin design challenge and my creative process on a permanent page next month, but for now…

The characters in War of the Worlds have been depicted many times, and I wanted to create something original and contemporary. My design takes inspiration from a variety of machines featured in the book—including tripods and the handling machines which have five jointed legs and multiple appendages.

(2) WHAT YOU’D EXPECT AT BAEN. Tom Kratman is coaching the next stage of the insurrection in the storefront window. Here’s an excerpt from a comment made in his Baen’s Bar author forum.

So where do Trump and the nation go from here?

He needs to do three things; start his own news channel, start his own party, and start his own well-armed militia as part of the party.

The militia – again, a _well_armed_ militia – is necessary to present a threat in being to the powers that be such that, should they use extra-, pseudo-, and quasi-legal means to try to suppress the party, the price presented will be far too high.  The militia will be heavily infiltrated; this is a given.  No matter; it will not be there for any purpose but to present a serious threat of major combat, and the shame of defeat, and the reality of death, to the tactical elements, police and military, that may be used against the party.

It ought to be made clear that, “I can start the civil war with a stamp of my foot.  I’ve refrained, so far, but you cannot count on that restraint under all circumstances.  And if I am infiltrated, you are even more so.”

The militia should probably be neatly but simply uniformed, nothing flashy.  Solid colors, no camo.  Haircuts and facial hair trimmed.  A simple shirt and bluejeans for non-firearms related activities / head busting….

(3) WHEN AUTHORS DON’T GET PAID. Sff critic Paul Kincaid shares an email he has written to the publisher that has announced a book containing his essay which they didn’t buy the rights to. It begins — 

Following my ongoing posts relating to the unexpected appearance of my essay in Science Fiction published by Routledge, I have just sent the following email to Taylor & Francis. Let us see what sort of response this brings….

(4) TA-NEHISI COATES’ BLACK PANTHER FINALE. The Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda Saga continues next month in Black Panther #23, which hits the stands on February 24. Featuring art by Daniel Acuña and Ryan Bodenheim, the issue marks the beginning of the epic conclusion of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ redefining work on Black Panther that began in 2016.

Deep in space, T’Challa has discovered an alternate Wakandan society. Known as the Intergalactic Empire of Wakanda, these ruthless warriors present a dark reflection of T’Challa’s kingdom. Having abandoned their peaceful ways, this powerful empire looks to conquer the cosmos… and Earth’s Wakanda is their next target. This daring, thought-provoking take on the Black Panther mythology also features surprising developments for supporting characters such as Shuri, Storm, and Black Panther’s greatest foe, Erik Killmonger.

(5) JEWISH SF. Jewish Museum of Maryland will host a panel discussion “People of the (Futuristic) Book” on March 4 at 7:00 Eastern about Jewish science fiction with Steven H Silver, Valerie Estelle Frankel and Michael A. Burstein.

What makes a science fiction story Jewish? Jewish writers have worked in the science fiction genre since the very beginning, thought you might not always know it from reading their work. But some stories are clearly Jewish, whether through tone and theme or explicitly based on Jewish ideas and culture. Join us for an exploration of Jewish sci-fi and fantasy – and a discussion of what makes them Jewish stories.

This Zoom event is presented by the museum in relation to the special exhibit Jews in Space: Members of the Tribe in Orbit, on view through April 11, 2021. 

(6) COMING ATTRACTIONS. Leah Schnelbach lines up “The Most Anticipated Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books of 2021” at Book Marks, including Andy Weir’s next novel.

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
(Ballantine Books, May 4)

The author of The Martian and Artemis is back with another interstellar thriller! When Ryland Grace wakes up in a small makeshift spacecraft, he can’t remember his own name—but that’s not even his biggest problem. Why is he on this ship? And should he know the two corpses who are on the ship with him?

As his memories return, he realizes that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. His ship was thrown together by dozens of different governments. And, unfortunately, his mission is to stop a terrifying threat which, if it reaches Earth, will mean the destruction of the human race. If only he had any idea how to do that.

(7) REDISCOVERING THE WRITER IN AMERICA. On Todd Mason’s Sweet Freedom blog he collects links to the 1963 KQED documentary Take This Hammer with James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison, Janet Flanner and “Ross Macdonald” and others on The Writer In America, and producer/director/editor/interviewer Richard O. Moore. Mason says, “With luck, I might find some more of these. I’d hope this would be the kind of thing World Channel would be dusting off, along with Take This Hammer.” About the link to the Toni Morrison episode of The Writer In America he says, “These old film or video source copies certainly mangle their fine musical soundtracks, but Morrison’s voice particularly manages to retain its musicality.” 

KQED’s mobile film unit follows author and activist James Baldwin in the spring of 1963, as he’s driven around San Francisco to meet with members of the local African-American community. He is escorted by Youth For Service’s Executive Director Orville Luster and intent on discovering: “The real situation of Negroes in the city, as opposed to the image San Francisco would like to present.” He declares: “There is no moral distance … between the facts of life in San Francisco and the facts of life in Birmingham. There is no moral distance … between President Kennedy and Bull Connor because the same machine put them both in power. Someone’s got to tell it like it is. And that’s where it’s at.” Includes frank exchanges with local people on the street, meetings with community leaders and extended point-of-view sequences shot from a moving vehicle, featuring the Bayview Hunters Point and Western Addition neighborhoods. Baldwin reflects on the racial inequality that African-Americans are forced to confront and at one point tries to lift the morale of a young man by expressing his conviction that: “There will be a Negro president of this country but it will not be the country that we are sitting in now.”

(8) INSIDE HOLLYWOOD. Interesting discussion about making Terry Gilliam’s classic film. “The oral history of 12 Monkeys, Terry Gilliam’s time travel masterpiece” at Inverse.

Charles Roven (producer): I was given the short film La Jetée by Chris Marker by a gentleman by the name of Robert Kosberg. I then gave that to Dave and Jan [Peoples].

David Peoples (screenwriter): We had missed seeing La Jetée in the ‘60s when we should have seen it. They sent us a terrible video of it, but in spite of the fact that it was an awful video, it really was such a wonderful movie. We said, “We’ll spend a weekend on it and see if there’s anything we can come up with that would be interesting.” It did come to us that people hadn’t been doing a lot of stuff with the threat of germs – man-made germs or germs from nature. We had an image of a city with no people and just animals roaming around, totally out of place. Chris [Marker] hadn’t said it was OK to make a movie out of his movie. He hated all Hollywood movies except Vertigo.

Janet Peoples (screenwriter): We bumped into a friend of ours from Berkeley: Tom Luddy. Tom laughed and said, “Oh, I know Chris. You know, Chris loves Francis Coppola. And Francis is in town.” So we all met at a Chinese restaurant – writers and a couple of directors; no producers, no suits – and Chris Marker at one end of the table and Francis at the other. Francis looks up and says, “Chris!?” and Chris says, “Yes, Francis?” and Francis says, “Jan and Dave want to make this movie. They’re good people; I think you oughta let them do it.” And Chris says, “Oh, OK, Francis.”…

(9) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1991 — Thirty years ago, Ellen Kushner’s Thomas the Rhymer wins both the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and the World Fantasy Award. (It was the last single Award given out before it was split into into Adult and Children’s Awards.) Based off Thomas the Rhymer myth who was carried off by the Queen of Elfland and returned having gained the gift of prophecy.  

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 9, 1886 – Walter Brooks.  Two hundred stories; ours are two dozen about Mister Ed, a talking horse (these got onto television), and two dozen novels about Freddy the Pig and more talking animals on the upstate New York farm of a man named Bean.  The Freddy books have some science fiction; Uncle Ben, Mr. Bean’s brother, is an inventor, and beside that some Martians show up (Freddy and the Baseball Team from Mars).  As with much good art, what matters is less the so-called contents than the manner of telling, at which Freddy is deft and enough fun to please both The NY Times and The Imaginative Conservative.  (Died 1958) [JH]
  • Born January 9, 1890 – Karel Capek.  (The software won’t allow a caron over the C, a diacritical mark like a showing the has the sound of ch in English chat.)  Three novels for us, as many others; thirty shorter stories for us, as many others; timeless for the play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots) introducing the word robot (although, being chemical not mechanical, they’re what we’d later call androids) and portraying the fundamental unease about them.  (Died 1938) [JH]
  • Born January 9, 1906 – Barbara Sleigh.  Five novels, four anthologies for us; two other novels, shorter stories, radio scripts, film criticism, picture books, memoirs.  Best known for books about Carbonel the King of Cats.  (Died 1982) [JH]
  • Born January 9, 1925 Lee Van Cleef. The Warden of the Prison in Escape from New York but he was best known for acting in Spaghetti Westerns. Genre wise, he was also Col. Stone in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, and Dr. Tom Anderson in Corman’s It Conquered the World. (Died 1989.) (CE) 
  • Born January 9, 1931 Algis Budrys. I am trying to remember what I read by him and I think it was Some Will Not Die which I remember because of the 1979 Starblaze edition cover. I’ve also read and enjoyed his Rogue Moon. Setting aside his work as a writer which was exemplary, he was considered one of our best genre reviewers ever reviewing for GalaxyMagazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and wrote genre reviews even in the more mainstream Playboy. He edited a number of the L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future anthologies which I’ll admit I’ve not read any. I should note his Tomorrow Speculative Fiction prozine was quite excellent.(Died 2008.)  (CE) 
  • Born January 9, 1950 David Johansen, 71. He’s the wisecracking Ghost of Christmas Past in the oh-so-perfect Scrooged, he played Halston in Tales from the Darkside: The Movie in “The Cat from Hell” episode, and he appeared as a character named Brad in Freejack. I think the brief Ghost of Christmas Past riff in the aforementioned Scrooged is enough to earn him as Birthday Honors here. (CE) 
  • Born January 9, 1955  J. K. Simmons, 66. You may know him as J. Jonah Jameson in the various Spider-Man films but I find his more interesting genre role to be as Howard Silk in the Counterpart series where he plays two versions of himself in two versions of parallel Berlins in a spy service that may or may not exist. He also portrayed Commissioner James Gordon in Justice League. (CE) 
  • Born January 9, 1957  — Greg Ketter, 64.  Leading Minneapolis fan and bookseller; chaired Minicon 40-41 and the 1993 & 2003 World Fantasy Conventions; Guest of Honor at DucKon 16; has written for Rune and Minneapa; published the DreamHaven Fortieth Anniversary Scrapbook having earned his way there with a press so named and a shop, which last year suffered but is thankfully recovering from a disaster.  [JH]
  • Born January 9, 1954 – Philippa Gregory, Ph.D., age 67.  Half a dozen novels for us; thirty others (half about Plantagenets and Tudors), also picture books.  Outside our field The Other Boleyn Girl won the Romantic Novel of the Year Award; it and successors are also bemoaned as failing the historical accuracy they’re promoted for.  PG’s charity Gardens for the Gambia has dug two hundred low-budget wells, teaches bee-keeping, and funds batik and pottery workshops.  [JH]
  • Born January 9, 1975 – Gunnhild Øyehaug, age 46.  Two dozen of her short stories for us available in English, see the collection Knots.  Also poetry, teaching, criticism.  Co-edits literary journal Kraftsentrum (in Norwegian).  Dobloug Prize.  [JH]
  • Born January 9, 1976 Jenna Felice. Tor Books Editor. She suffered what the doctors are called a massive allergic reaction compounded by asthma. She died having never emerged from her coma. There’s a memorial page for her here. (Died 2001.) (CE)
  • Born January 9, 1981 Julia Dietze, 41. She’s Renate Richter in Iron Sky: The Coming Race, a Finnish-German film in which the Nazis are occupying the moon after a nuclear war. (It garnered a 31% rating by reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. And yes critics were really, really hostile.) It wasn’t her first bad film as she was Princess Herzelinde in 2  Knights: In Search of the Ravishing Princess Herzelinde (1+ 1 / 2  Ritter – Auf der Suche nach der hinreißenden Herzelinde) which it won’t surprise you  didn’t exactly make the German reviewers gush over it. (CE)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) TAKING TO THE LIFEPODS. Alexandra Petri provides some much-needed comic relief in “I see no choice but to resign from this Death Star as it begins to explode” at the Washington Post.

It is with a heavy heart and a deep sense of responsibility that I must submit my resignation, effective immediately, from my post on this Death Star. However, I see no other choice.

Now is the time for all of us to stand up from our posts and do what is right.It’s been an honor to work on this Death Star. I love the aesthetic. I love how I’ve been able to pursue my greatest passion: destroying planets and pressing buttons. I love my little hat that is a sunshade for no reason!

(13) GOTHAM’S SISTER CITY, ISTANBUL. Take a look at “Turkey’s legacy with sci-fi and superheroes in film” at Daily Sabah.

Last week marked the start of Turkey’s first-ever science fiction television series, “Ak?nc?,” which tells the story of an Ottoman superhero tasked with guarding over the Istanbul of Sultan Mehmed II, also known as Mehmed the Conqueror, in contemporary times.

A teacher by day and a superhero by night, the handsome Ak?nc?, whose name refers to the advanced troops of the Ottoman Empire, is tasked with stopping terrorism while being followed by an equally attractive female journalist who has been on his trail for the past three years. An enthralling and entertaining watch, the highly anticipated Ak?nc? premiered on Jan. 1 and will continue to air on Friday evenings at 8 p.m. on ATV.

In light of this exciting addition to Turkish primetime television, which is also the first of its kind within the genre of science fiction and superhero television series, it might be an opportune time to reflect back on Turkey’s famous legacy of its films in these genres….

(14) SF2 CONCATENATION HERALDS SPRING WITH NEW ISSUE. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] The latest edition of SF2 Concatenation is now up. The spring season sees the return of a full news-page and the return of its forthcoming SF and fantasy books listings.

SF2 Concatenation is about the only place on the net with a forthcoming books listing from several genre imprints and major UK publishers.

As done every January, SF2 Concatenation has its choices as to the Best SF books and Best SF films of the previous year.  Just a bit of fun, yes, but over the years every year, one of either their choices of books or films, often both, subsequently go on to be short-listed for a major award (Hugo, Nebula, BSFA, Locus etc.) some even win.  See their track record (scroll down).

Also in the mix are half a dozen articles covering conrunning, publishing, fanzines, convention reviews and an SF diary, as well as another in the series of articles by SF author scientists on their science heroes. Plus there’s over 30 standalone fiction reviews. Hopefully something for everyone.

v31(1) 2021.1.15 — New Columns & Articles for the Spring 2021

v31(1) 2021.1.15 — Science Fiction & Fantasy Book Reviews

v31(1) 2021.1.15 — Non-Fiction SF & Science Fact Book Reviews

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. What will NASA be doing this year?

Sending the first Artemis mission to the Moon in preparation for human missions, landing a new rover on Mars, and launching the James Webb Space Telescope into space, expanding our ability to see deep into the universe, are just a few of the things NASA has planned for 2021.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Steven H Silver, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, JJ, Mlex, Todd Mason, Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 1/5/21 Guilty Pixels Got No Rhythm

(1) GO BACK AND TRI AGAIN. “HG Wells fans spot numerous errors on Royal Mint’s new £2 coin” — Adam Roberts and Stephen Baxter explained the gaffes to Guardian readers.

Observant fans of HG Wells have questioned how a new coin from the Royal Mint commemorating The War of the Worlds author could be released with multiple errors, including giving his “monstrous tripod” four legs.

The £2 coin is intended to mark 75 years since the death of Wells, and includes imagery inspired by The War of the Worlds and The Invisible Man.

…Science fiction novelist and professor of 19th-century literature Adam Roberts, who is author of a biography of Wells and vice president of the HG Wells Society, also criticised the depiction of the Invisible Man, shown in a top hat; in the book he arrives at Iping under a “wide-brimmed hat”.

“It’s nice to see Wells memorialised, but it would have been nicer for them to get things right,” Roberts said. “A tripod with four legs is hard to comprehend (tri: the clue is in the name), and Wells’s (distinctly ungentlemanly) invisible man, Griffin, never wore a top hat … I’d say Wells would be annoyed by this carelessness: he took immense pains to get things right in his own work – inviting translators of his book to stay with him to help the process and minimise errors and so on.”

Stephen Baxter, vice president of the Wells Society and author of The Massacre of Mankind, an official sequel to The War of the Worlds , said he thought Wells would have been “very flattered by the coin, but infuriated by that non-tripod! It’s not just the extra leg but the stiffness of it. In the book itself, he has a sideswipe at the ‘stiff, stilted tripods’ depicted in an early ‘pamphlet’ on the war – in fact he was talking about clumsy illustrations in the newspaper serialisation of the book, its first publication. ‘They were no more like the Martians I saw than a Dutch doll is like a human being.’ Take that!”

(2) BEWARE DOCTOR WHO SPOILER. For the rest of you – “Doctor Who star Jodie Whittaker quits after three years as Time Lord” reports Mirror Online (among other sources). Showrunner Chris Chibnall is to remain. (Here’s the Guardian link.)

Jodie Whittaker is quitting at the end of the next Doctor Who series, when she will regenerate into the 14th Time Lord.

The 38-year-old has told bosses she intends to stick to the traditional rule of leaving after three stints in the TARDIS, like the majority of her predecessors.

One insider said: “It’s all very hush-hush but it is known on set that Jodie is leaving and they are gearing up for a regeneration.

“Her departure is top secret but at some point over the coming months the arrival of the 14th Doctor will need to be filmed. It’s very exciting.”

Insiders claim Whittaker is keen to take on other roles.

(3) DAVID WEBER UPDATE. Posted by Regina Kirby on SouthernFandomClassic listserv and forwarded by Andrew Porter:

Here is the latest from David Weber’s Facebook on his condition:

They seem to have the temp totally under control now. BP is still a little ping-pongy, but trending MUCH lower. I think they’re still worried a bit about my heart (remembering I was scheduled for a heart cath last week before all this blew up) and about clotting. 

Still coughing up wet phlegm. Not as many blood draw sticks, thank goodness! Breathing is a lot better, at least when not moving. I’ve been limited to sort of shooting out half-dozen word bursts and then gasping for breath. I’m up to whole sentences (well, phrases) now between breaths. Soon as I move, the panting and dizziness starts in, but I think even that is better. Not sure if we’re completely through the antibiotics yet, but I do think everything they’ve pumped into me has helped a lot.

Then, tonight on David Weber the Author on Facebook:

I am now officially off the heart monitor!

Tah-DAH!

O2 absorption still too low and they’re still watching for clotting, but the situation is clearly improving.

(4) ERIC FLINT & COMPANY. Ring of Fire’s first Open House event of the new year will be held Saturday, January 9, beginning at 1:00 Central time.

 Join us for a discussion of the upcoming Colony High series with special guests Dr. David Brin and Steve Ruskin.

Use the Zoom link below to join in on the fun. We’ll see you there!

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/6057032055

(5) GONE VIRTUAL. The Popular Culture Association will take its annual conference online in 2021 – the vaccine rollout won’t be completed in time to save the day: “A Message From Our President”.

Happy 2021 to all PCA members! I wish you a brighter, better year. The PCA Governing Board met today and made the difficult decision to hold a fully virtual conference in June 2021. We have been monitoring the rollout of the vaccine and have determined that not enough of our members will be vaccinated in time to meet face to face in Boston or have a hybrid conference. We also learned, via a survey last month to our area chairs, that many academic institutions have withdrawn travel support for this year and that members overwhelmingly support going forward with a remote conference if we cannot meet in person. Thus, virtual is the way to go! 

(6) SFSFC LEADERSHIP ELECTION. At the November 2020 meeting of the Board of Directors of San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc. (SFSFC), Kevin Roche was elected President of the Board effective January 1. Says Roche, “Dave Gallaher, whose many years of hard work and service as SFSFC President are greatly appreciated, remains as a regular Director.”

Kevin Roche was Conference Chair of Worldcon 76 in San Jose.

(7) FREE READ. A Turtledove book is Arc Manor’s free ebook for January: Over The Wine-Dark Sea. A publisher’s note says “The cart will show the suggested price of $1.99. You may change it to any price including $0.00.”

The first book in the highly acclaimed ‘historicals’ by the Master of Alternate History, Harry Turtledove. 

?No one recreates historical settings like Turtledove who has that special knack for being both historically accurate and highly entertaining.

?Menedemos, the young dashing sea captain, and his helper, the scholarly Sostratos, are sea-traders from the Greek island of Rhodes. Fearless sailors, they will travel any distance to make a profit or to search for rich treasures.

?While they trade in fineries such as wine and silk (and even, to the chagrin of many, peacocks), they live in dangerous times with pirates, thieves and barbarians. As if avoiding death by the hands of these miscreants isn’t enough (particularly the barbarians from an obscure town called Rome), they are also caught between the political intrigues of Alexander’s former generals.

(8) ROBERTS OBIT. Actress Tanya Roberts died January 4 reports People.

Tanya Roberts died from a urinary tract infection, her representative tells PEOPLE. She was 65.

Roberts was first erroneously reported dead on Monday morning before her publicist corrected the news. She later died Monday night.

Her genre roles included the Bond movie A View To A Kill, films The Beastmaster, and Sheena.

(9) SMITH OBIT. Horror writer (among other things) Guy N. Smith died on Christmas Eve aged 81. Here is a touching tribute by Thomas McNulty: “Remembering Guy N. Smith”.

…While GNS is best known as a “horror writer,” his oeuvre includes much more; stories for young readers, thrillers and police procedurals, and several years writing for The Countryman’s Weekly. In fact, his output of countryside living articles and books is exemplary. Of this work I include Gamekeeping and Shooting for Amateurs (1976), Midland Gun Company: A Short History (2016), and Managing and Shooting Under Ten Acres (2017) as ideal representations. Guy Smith is much more than a horror writer, and yet the spooky tales have made him famous. Guy’s solitary Western, The Pony Riders, published in 1997 by Pinnacle, is widely considered a Western classic and among Guy’s best novels. 

GNS is to my way of thinking the embodiment of what a writer should be. His various interests, devotion to the countryside lifestyle, dedication to his craft, friendliness and generosity with his fans have distinguished him from all others. Of his novels, I offer five as the scariest books written, and I list them for readers to examine at their own risk: The Slime Beast (1975), The Sucking Pit (1975), Doomflight (1981) The Wood (1985) and The Island (1988)….

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • January 5, 1974Starlost came to an end. It came on the the air on the air on September 22 of the previous year and was executive produced by William Davidson, Gerry Rochon, Douglas Trumbull and Jerome M. Zeitman. It was, as you know, written in part by Harlan Ellison (as Cordwainer Bird) though there were other writers as well — George Ghent, Norman Klenman and Martin Lager. Of Canadian production, it would last but one season of sixteen episodes. Though Ellison received a Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay for the original script, this is not what was filmed, nor representative of the experience science advisor Ben Bova had with the series. It is generally considered one of the worst genre series of all time.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born January 5, 1914 George Reeves. Best known obviously for being Clark Kent and Superman in the Adventures of Superman which ran for six seasons. It was preceded by two films, Superman and the Mole Men and the now public domain Stamp Day for Superman. Reeves had one log running SFF series prior to this series, Adventures of Sir Galahad, a fifteen part serial in which he played the lead. This clip is the only English one I found of him in that role. Yes, he was just forty five when he apparently committed suicide. (Died 1959.) (CE) 
  • Born January 5, 1926 – Bob Abbett.  Fifty covers for us, thirty others.  Here is The Third “Galaxy” Reader.  Here is Dolphin Boy.  Here is A Fighting Man of Mars.  Later known for paintings of wildlife, fishing, dogs; see A Season for Painting.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born January 5, 1928 – Raylyn Moore.  Newspaper reporter, teacher, poet, motorcyclist.  Co-founded Monterey Peninsula (California) Dickens Fellowship.  First woman to publish a story in Esquire.  A novel and thirty short stories for us, in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, also EdgesOrbitShadows.  (Died 2005) [JH]
  • Born January 5, 1940 – Tom Digby, age 81.  It seems incongruous to consider the birth or death of this consummately yet mildly strange being.  Larry Niven put the best known theory in “What Can You Say About Chocolate-Covered Manhole Covers?”  While TD lived in Los Angeles he had a clock that ran backwards, a machine you could set to sound rhythms you invented, a sign that said in big letters Important not ice (as you’ll see in a moment, I can’t reproduce it properly) and when you went much closer you could read text beginning It’s important that you understand this sign is not ice.  Worked hard enough for LASFS to earn its Evans-Freehafer Award.  Later moved to San Francisco Bay.  For his songs, see here.  Fan Guest of Honor at Minicon 15, MileHiCon 13, and ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon, for which you can see his Guest of Honor book here (revised 2014).  Here is his analemma page.  [JH]
  • Born January 5, 1940 Jennifer Westwood. Folklorist who I’m including on the Birthday Honors List (if the Queen can have such a list, I can too) for one of her works in particular, Albion: Guide to Legendary Britain as it has a genre connection that will take some explaining. Ever hear of the band from Minnesota called Boiled in Lead? Well they took their name from a local legend in that tome about a man that was wrapped in lead and plunged in a vat of scalding oil so that he now stands forever in a circle of stones. Among the genre folk that have had a role in the band are Emma Bull, Steven Brust, Adam Stemple, Jane Yolen and Will Shetterly. (Died 2008.) (CE) 
  • Born January 5, 1941 – Miyazaki Hayao, age 80.  (Personal name last, Japanese style.)  Author, animator, director, producer, manga artist, screenwriter.  Co-founded Studio Ghibli.  My Neighbor Totoro, the first Princess Mononoke story, the Nausicaä in the Valley of the Winds and Kiki’s Delivery Service picture books are available in English.  Academy Award for Spirited Away.  Nebula for Howl’s Moving Castle. Academy Honorary Award for contributions to animation and cinema.  Chesley and World Fantasy awards for life achievement.  SF Hall of Fame.  Person of Cultural Merit.  [JH]
  • Born January 5, 1943 – Awa Naoko.  (Personal name last.)  The Fox’s Window collects thirty of her stories in English.  Twoscore more.  Seven collections in Japanese.  Fantasy in a folktale style; later works sometimes said to be conscious of the world after her death.  Five Japanese awards.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born January 5, 1959 Clancy Brown, 62. I first encountered him as the voice of Lex Luthor In the DC animated universe. All of voice roles are far too extensive too list here, but I’ll single out  as voicing as Savage Opress, Count Dooku’s new apprentice and Darth Maul’s brother, in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  Very selected live roles include Rawhide in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, The Kurgan In Highlander, Sheriff Gus Gilbert in Pet Sematary Two, Captain Byron Hadley in The Shawshank Redemption, Sgt. Charles Zim In Starship Troopers and, one of my best loved weird series, the truly strange Brother Justin Crowe in Carnivàle (CE)
  • Born January 5, 1966 Tananarive Due, 55. I’m particularly fond of her short fiction which you can find in her BFA winning Ghost Summer collection which also won the Carl Brandon Kindred Award. The Good House and The Between are novels are worth reading for having strong African-American characters. (CE) 
  • Born January 5, 1975 Bradley Cooper, 46. He’d be here just for voicing Rocket Raccoon in the MCU. In fact he is here just for that role. Mind you he’ll have voiced him five time by that Guardians of The Galaxy Vol 3 comes out, so I’d say he’s got him spot perfect. (CE) 
  • Born January 5, 1978 Seanan McGuire, 43. Ahhhh, one of my favorite writers. I just finished re-listening to her Sparrow Hill Road storieswhich was are excellent and earlier I’d read her InCryptid series, both of her Indexing books which are beyond amazing and, God what else?, the Wayward Children series which I’ve mixed feelings about. (CE)
  • Born January 5, 1989 – Heather Fawcett, age 32.  Four novels; The Language of Ghosts just published.  “Before becoming a writer I worked … as an archaeologist, a technical writer, and a backstage assistant for a Shakespearean theatre [she’s Canadian] company….  I have a Master’s degree in English Literature and briefly considered becoming a professor, before I realized it involved more than reading books, drinking excessive amounts of tea, and wearing colourful elbow patches.”  [JH]

(12) COMICS SECTION.

Versions of this have been floating around for over six months, I saw it for the first time today.

(13) BEYOND CLAY. Available at BBC Sounds, In The Studio’s episode“The Big Fix Up: A new, digital venture for Wallace and Gromit”

Wallace and Gromit – the eccentric inventor and his loyal dog – are one of Britain’s best-loved comedy duos. Created in plasticine clay by Nick Park of Aardman Animations, their stop motion adventures have won three Academy Awards and a BAFTA.

Now, Wallace and his faithful hound are heading into exciting new territory. The pair’s new business venture, Spick & Spanners, needs employees to help them ‘Fix Up’ the British city of Bristol. This interactive story, which takes place on smart phones and uses augmented and mixed reality, is a daring departure from their traditional claymation films. For the first time ever, fans can step directly into the world of Wallace and Gromit.

In The Studio goes behind-the-scenes of the production’s final stage, as the technical team grapple with bugs and the directors shoot final takes with their first ever real human character.

Eliza Lomas talks to Wallace and Gromit creator Nick Park about his own childhood dreams of being an inventor, and he opens up his sketchbooks to reveal some very recent, very silly Wallace and Gromit doodles.

(14) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter watched tonight’s episode of Jeopardy! where the contestants whiffed on a pop culture landmark. (Porter adds this was one of the last episodes presided over by Alex Trebeck – three more to come.)

Category: Possession is 9/10

Answer: There is no Sigourney Weaver, only Zuul, & what a lovely singing voice Zuul must have in this 1984 movie.

Wrong question: What is Aliens?

No one got, What is Ghostbusters?

Incidentally, Ryan Reynolds appeared virtually on January 4’s Jeopardy!‘ for a clue related to his movie Free Guy, which will feature Alex Trebek’s last film cameo: “Ryan Reynolds says working with Alex Trebek ‘one last time’ for Jeopardy! clue was ‘heartbreaking’”.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Matrix — Never-Before-Seen Cold Open”. A Peacock extra on YouTube.

Watch an exclusive, never-before-seen cold open from The Office’s ninth season to celebrate The Office US coming to Peacock! In loving memory of Hugh Dane, Hank the security guard.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/7/20 They Probably Still Use Feet and Inches

(1) FIRST FIFTH. Camestros Felapton’s fifth anniversary celebration is in progress and he’s rolling out the party favors, like today’s “Book Launch: How To Science Fictionally, “a new collection of posts spanning the nearly two-thousand day history of the blog.”

We answer all the important topics! How can you make your space ship travel faster than light? How can you make your teleporter work? How are you going to send a message home and how are you going to style your beard?

(2) ESTATE SALE. Doug Ellis alerted Facebook readers to the availability of a catalog for the Spike MacPhee estate sale of original art, books and other material.

From 1977 to 1989, the Science Fantasy Bookstore operated in Harvard Square in Cambridge. Deb and I hung out there when we were in law school and became friends with the owner, Spike MacPhee. Spike was a member of NESFA and also founded the small press, Paratime Press, which published several checklists in the 1970’s. He was also GoH at the first Arisia convention in 1990.

Besides reading SF, Spike was a devoted science art collector. From the late 1960’s into the 1990’s, Spike attended several SF conventions – among them Boskone, Lunacon, Nycon III, Noreascon, Discon, Torcon and Disclave – where he would often buy art at the art show auction. He also became friends with many SF artists of the 1970’s and bought art directly from them as well. Spike remained a passionate fan until he passed away on November 13, 2019.

The second catalog is now available, and can be downloaded until May 10 as a 30 MB pdf file here.

If you’d like to download actual jpgs of the images, those can be downloaded in a zip file until May 10 directly here.

(3) WHAT KEEPS HIM READING. In “Cosmic Horror: The Worst Possible Discoveries A Detective Could Make”, CrimeReads’ Scott Kenemore ponders why, even if the face of the author and his characters’ failings, he finds Lovecraft’s stories so compelling.

….The answer—I eventually decided—was that Lovecraft’s unlikable, stuffy, racist neuters have a way of stumbling onto things that hint at some of the most dramatic and gripping revelations one could bring to light.

Namely, Lovecraft’s protagonists tend to encounter clues that point to the fact that humans—their hopes and dreams, their institutions and religions, and most certainly their accomplishments—don’t, for lack of a better word, matter. That the universe doesn’t give a damn what we do, and that our opinion of ourselves is a case of vast overestimation.

Crime fiction is full of stories in which a detective seeks to solve one mystery, but his or her digging unintentionally unearths other, deeper, more disturbing secrets. So it is with Lovecraft. . . just to the nth degree….

(4) MR. SMITH GOES TO LAKE-TOWN. Not quite as handsome as Jimmy Stewart, but his heart is in the trim:“Gollum actor Serkis to raise cash by reading entire Hobbit live online”.

Andy Serkis will give a continuous live reading of The Hobbit online, to raise money for charity.

The Gollum actor will read JRR Tolkien’s 1937 novel from start to end, breaking only to nip to the loo.

Money raised from the 56-year-old’s expected 12-hour performance will be split between NHS Charities Together and Best Beginnings.

Serkis played the corrupted character, originally known as Smeagol, in the The Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films.

“So many of us are struggling in isolation during the lockdown,” he said.

“While times are tough, I want to take you on one of the greatest fantasy adventures ever written, a 12-hour armchair marathon across Middle Earth whilst raising money for two amazing charities which are doing extraordinary work right now to help those most in need.”

,,,His reading will take place from 10:00 BST on bank holiday Friday, with streaming details to follow via his Hobbitathon Covid-19 Go Fund Me Page.

(5) REMOTE TOUR. BBC tells what it’s like when “Sir Quentin Blake does ‘The Robot'”.

The cartoonist and illustrator Sir Quentin Blake is famous for his collaborations with the writers Roald Dahl and David Walliams.

But now he has stumbled on a story of his own involving a mysterious taxi driver and a robot.

Sir Quentin has created a massive new artwork following a “bizarre” encounter with a taxi driver two years ago.

“We live in worrying times,” the driver had told Sir Quentin, when he picked him up from his home.

“He [the taxi driver] went on to say that he’d seen Picasso’s Guernica a couple of times in Spain. And then he said, ‘what we need is a picture like that for our time and you are the person to do it.'”

Sir Quentin could not resist the challenge and felt: “I must try something.”

…He completed the “narrative picture” in a day. It forms the centrepiece of a new exhibition called We Live in Worrying Times, which was due to open at Hastings Contemporary last month.

But the coronavirus pandemic put paid to that.

At the age of 87, Sir Quentin is self-isolating. And the Museum has been closed to the public since March.

That, though, is where the robot comes in.

A camera, mounted on a thin black pole attached to wheels, is able to tour the gallery and stream pictures back to viewers watching on their computers at home.

Up to five people at a time, plus an operator, can join the tour and explore and examine Sir Quentin’s new work.

(6) EIZO KAIME OBIT. Special effects modeler Eizo Kaime, who worked on the original Godzilla movie, died of leukemia on April 24. He was 90.

In the 1954 film “Godzilla”, he was in charge of the modeling of special effects costumes based on the prototype created by the sculptor Sadazo Toshimitsu.
Japanese paper and cloth were piled up on the mold made of wire, wire mesh, and bamboo, and the raw material synthetic latex of rubber was used for the hull. It took about two months to make the production. 

He then contributed to Godzilla Raids Again (aka Gigantis The Fire Monster), King Kong Vs. Godzilla, Godzilla Vs. The Thing, Ghidorah The Three-Headed Monster and Invasion Of The Astro-Monster, and many other such movies. In 1966 he formed his own company, Kaimai Productions, where he continued working on TV shows, including the Ultra Q and Ultraman, until the early 1980s.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 7, 1895 — H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine is first published in book edition by Henry Holt & Co. (after having been serialized.)
  • May 7, 1966 — BBC first aired Doctor Who‘s “Don’t Shoot The Pianist”.  A First Doctor Story, It involved the TARDIS landing at Tombstone as the Doctor needs a dentist, which results in the Clantons believing the Doctor to be Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp taking him into protective custody while the Companions of course get in danger. It is one of the surviving episodes of that Doctor and despite the fan myth is not the lowest rated story of all time.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge, with an assist from John Hertz.]

  • Born May 7, 1912 Clyde Beck. Fan and critic who wrote what Clute says in EoSF is the first work of criticism devoted to American SF: Hammer and Tongs which waspublished in 1937 by Futile Press. It was assembled from four essays and the reviews Beck wrote for The Science Fiction Critic, a fanzine by his brother Claire P. Beck with a newly written author’s preface by Clyde. He wrote four pieces of genre fiction between the Thirties and Fifties. None of what he wrote is in-print. (Died 1986.)
  • Born May 7, 1918 – Walt Liebscher.  His fanzine Chanticleer was a finalist for the 1946 Retro-Hugo; Harry Warner said “Liebscher did incredible things with typewriter art.  He specialized in little faces with subtle expressions…. the contents page was frequently a dazzling display of inventive borders and separating lines.”  His later pro writing was collected in Alien Carnival (1974).  He was given the Big Heart, our highest service award, in 1981.  (Died 1985)
  • Born May 7, 1922 Darren McGavin. Oh, I loved him being Carl Kolchak on Kolchak: The Night Stalker — How many times have seen it? I’ve lost count. Yes, it was corny, yes, the monsters were low rent, but it was damn fun. And no, I did not watch a minute of the reboot. By the way, I’m reasonably sure that his first genre role was in the Tales of Tomorrow series as Bruce Calvin in “The Duplicates“ episode which you can watch here.
  • Born May 7, 1923 Anne Baxter. The Batman series had a way of attracting the most interesting performers and she was no exception as she ended playing two roles there, first Zelda and then Olga, Queen of the Cossacks. Other genre roles were limited I think to an appearance as Irene Adler in the Peter Cushing Sherlock Holmes film The Masks of Death. (Died 1985.)
  • Born May 7, 1931 Gene Wolfe. He’s best known for his Book of the New Sun series. My list of recommended novels would include Pirate FreedomThe Sorcerer’s House and the Book of the New Sun. He’s won BFA, Nebula, Skylark, BSFA and World Fantasy Awards but to my surprise has never won a Hugo. (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 7, 1940 Angela Carter. She’s best remembered for The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories where she took fairy tales and made them very adult in tone. Personally, I’d recommend The Curious Room insteadas it contains her original screenplays for The Company of Wolves which starred Angela Lansbury and The Magic Toyshop films, both of which were based on her own original stories. (Died 1992.)
  • Born May 7, 1951 Gary Westfahl, 69. SF reviewer for the LA Times, the unfortunately defunct Internet Review of Science Fiction, and Locus Online. Editor of The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Themes, Works, and Wonders; author of  Immortal Engines: Life Extension and Immortality in Science Fiction and Fantasy (with George Slusser) and A Sense-of-Wonderful Century: Explorations of Science Fiction and Fantasy Films.
  • Born May 7, 1964 Craig Hinton. He’s best remembered  for his work on various spin-offs from Doctor Who. He wrote six novels set in the Whoverse plus two more in Tomorrow People audio series as produced by Big Finish. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 7, 1968 Traci Lords, 52. Yes she did a number of reasonably legit genre appearances after her, errr, long adult acting career. She was for example in The Tommyknockers series along with the first Blade film. She’s also in the the SF comedy Plughead Rewired: Circuitry Man II (I know, weird title that.) And finally, I should note she was Dejah Thoris in Princess of Mars.  By the way her first post-adult film was a genre undertaking and that was Not of This Earth. Yes, it is a remake of Roger Corman’s 1957 film of the same name.
  • Born May 7, 1972 Jennifer Yuh Nelson, 48. She is the director of Kung Fu Panda 2Kung Fu Panda 3, and The Darkest Minds. Yuh is the first woman to solely direct an animated feature from a major Hollywood studio. The Darkest Minds is a dystopian SF film which Rotten Tomatoes gives a rating of 17% to. Ouch. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Danish artist Striber’s political cartoon translates: “And the award for best Representation of Bats in media this year goes to…”

(10) CAP. “Finding Space for Art in Dark Times” at LitHub is about “Megan Margulies on Her Grandfather [Joe Simon], Captain America, and the Purpose of Creation.”

…My grandfather worked for Fox Publications at the time, but he and fellow artist Jack Kirby rented an art studio where they worked after-hours. Hunched over their desks all night, they brainstormed new character ideas and worked on freelance assignments that offered needed extra income. It was here in this studio, their own bubble of imagination, that Captain America was created. While the newspapers reported the horrors overseas, as the city buzzed with fear and heated debate over whether the United States should enter the war, my grandfather put his pencil to paper.

While writing, there are moments when I stop typing, my eyes lose focus, and I’m gone. It’s as though I’ve entered another dimension where I take pieces of the world, rearrange and jostle, until I can understand what it is I’m trying to put on the page. I’m grateful for the escape, even if it’s only for a few minutes. I picture my grandfather in this dimension, leaving the buzz of the city, the photos of war in the newspapers, his hand frozen over the blank sheet of paper.

I often study his artwork that hangs on my walls. If you look closely enough, you can see the ghost of an erased line where his hand worked, moving—rearranging and jostling—the shapes and movements of a character. Sometimes it’s the letters that were erased, the words that he reconsidered. He was a writer as well, his mind always spinning tales of adventure and humor.

(11) JAILBREAK. Matt Patches, in “The post-disaster artist” on Polygon, has a profile of Josh Trank, whose new film Capone is the first effort of his since his widely-panned Fantastic Four film in 2015. Trank says he was offered a Boba Fett film what was never made, but which eventually became The Mandalorian.

…“If Josh Trank is not in Movie Jail,” one critic tweeted after the announcement of Capone, “does Movie Jail even exist anymore?” Trank doesn’t believe it does. Hollywood has sentenced directors to careers in TV or general obscurity, but to Trank, escaping the metaphorical lockup is about writing and directing one’s way out of it, doing the work. There’s undeniable privilege to the perspective, considering the struggle marginalized groups face in breaking into the industry, yet little to argue with, logically — the best way to get a movie made, if all you want to do in the world is make movies, is to write a movie to make and go get it made.

I spoke to Trank off and on for four years as he reeled from Fantastic Four and set out to make Capone. And while he sidestepped Movie Jail, there may be no escape from the larger requirements of the industry and his own personal hang-ups. There are costs to every step of the process, and some personalities are more susceptible than others.

“Whatever I’m sacrificing just has to be sacrificed,” he said. “It’s worth it for me […] I’m just here to do this.”

(12) RIVERDALE EPISODE RECAP – BEWARE SPOILERS. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] Last night on Riverdale Archie and the gang were getting their acceptances to college, and Jughead Jones was admitted to the Iowa Writer’s Workshop — a highly unusual move, because while the workshop has undergraduate courses, nearly everyone there is working on their M.F.A.’s.  But Jughead has to write an additional story to be admitted, so he spends much of the episode writing a story about killing their enemy, Mr. Honey the principal. and the fantasy of Mr. Honey’s death is dramatized along with what really happened to Mr. Honey.

Also, a character named Chuck is introduced just so a character can say, “What’s up, Chuck?”

(13) A MARTIAN ODYSSEY. The American Museum of Natural History in New York City invites you to come along for “Field Trip Mars” this Friday, May 8 at 1:30 pm ET on YouTube.

Are volcanoes still active on Mars? What does Mars smell like? Where did the water that was once on Mars go? Get answers to these questions—and ask your own! Join the Museum’s Director of Astrovisualization Carter Emmart and astrophysicist Jackie Faherty during a real-time flyover across the Martian landscape on the Museum’s YouTube channel

(14) PLANTING A FIELD OF DREAMS. Todd Zaleski, in “Harper joins Phillie Phanatic for bedtime story” on MLB.com, says that Phillies slugger Bryce Harper decided to read The Phillie Phanatic’s Bedtime Story on Instagram, a tale that turns out to be sf, because the notorious green blob dons a virtual reality helmet and time-travels to the Colonial era, where he flies a kite with Ben Franklin and cracks the Liberty Bell!

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Lise Andreasen, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus who was inspired by Xtifr’s comment.]

Pixel Scroll 4/1/20 When I Was Babel-17, It Was A Very Good Scroll

(1) NO FOOLING. One of the most famous warships that never was – but what kind was it? “HMS Thunderchild – A bad day to be a Tripod,” at Drachinifel. (Here’s a portfolio of related designs by Baron-Engel, “HMS Thunderchild”, at DeviantArt.)

My attempt to answer the question, just what exactly was HMS Thunderchild?

(2) BUDRYS ASSEMBLED. David Langford’s Ansible Editions has released Beyond the Outposts: Essays on SF and Fantasy 1955-1996, a collection of Algis Budrys’s standalone essays, reviews, appreciations, state-of-the-art reports, personal memoirs and thoughts on the mechanics of writing.

As noted in the latest Ansible, the Lulu coupon code LULU20 gives 20% off the paperback today and tomorrow (1 and 2 April). Published: April 2020 at $22.50. Ebook edition April 2020 at £5.50 . Approximately 211,000 words with index.

Among the major pieces here are “Paradise Charted”, a tour-de-force potted history of the science fiction genre that filled some seventy pages of the special SF issue of TriQuarterly magazine; “Literatures of Milieux”, a highly individual attack on the problem of defining our genre; the long series of “On Writing” columns written for Locus magazine; “Non-Literary Influences on Science Fiction”, exploring in disquieting depth how magazine stories were routinely cut, padded or rearranged for production reasons beyond the control of author or editor; and “Obstacles and Ironies in Science-Fiction Criticism”, casting a cold eye on the very thing that Budrys did best. Lighter notes are struck by mordant book and film reviews plus touches of sheer personal fun.

Here is Budrys’s 1980 “Diagram of All SF” which accompanied his potted history of the genre for TriQuarterly magazine.

(3) STOKERCON UK. The Horror Writers Association’s annual event, planned for the UK this year, has been postponed to August 6-9. More information here:

Further to our announcement last week, we wanted to inform the membership that, following further negotiations with the two convention hotels, they have finally agreed to issue refunds on the reservations of those who cannot make the proposed new dates of August 6–9, 2020 for STOKERCON UK. Unfortunately, as the hotels are closed at the moment due to the Government’s restrictions, this cannot happen immediately.

(4) PHANTOM ZONE. Wil Wheaton provides isolation entertainment: “Radio Free Burrito Presents: The Ghost of Harrowby Hall”. (The recording is on Soundcloud here.)

While I listen to medical professionals and practice self-quarantine at home, I’m making an effort to create and release free audio book shorts every few days. It’s a good way for me to stay connected to my creative self, when my everything else self is so anxious and scared, all it wants to do is hide under the blankets and play video games.

…Today’s reading is a satirical Victorian ghost story from the 1890s.

(5) HOLD THE DOOR! “Exploring the Four Types of Portal Narratives” by James Davis Nicoll at Tor.com.

Andre Norton understood the potential in doorways. A door could lead you from post-War Europe to the Witchworld, from a world where one is but an unwanted double to one where one can be a savior, from the world we know to ones where history played out very, very differently. In fact, portals and doorways are so common (see Judith Tarr’s ongoing Norton Reread series) that it’s odd none of her interstellar empires ever seemed to make use of them.

(6) DEVEREAUX OBIT. Cat Devereaux, the International Costumers’ Guild 2005 Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient, died today. Active in costume fandom since the early 1980’s, when she reached a time in life where traveling to conventions far away became tougher, she created one of the largest free informational and costume-supportive websites on the Internet, Alley Cat Scratch Costume, with resources for costume design and sewing.

(7) JACK OBIT. BBC reports “Star Wars actor Andrew Jack dies aged 76”.

An actor and dialect coach who appeared in Star Wars and worked with A-list celebrities has died after contracting Covid-19, his agent has said.

Andrew Jack, 76, died in a Surrey hospital on Tuesday.

Agent Jill McCullough said she had been inundated with tributes to one of the acting world’s “brightest and clearest voices”.

She said Jack was unable to see his wife in his final days because she was quarantined in Australia.

His acting credits included The Last Jedi and the Force Awakens.

(8) TODAY’S DAY.

  • April 1 — The term “All Fools,” was probably meant as a deliberate stab at All Saints (November 1) and All Souls (November 2) Day. Although the origin of playing practical jokes and pranks on this day is hazy, many folklorists believe it may go back to 16th-century France. At that time, New Year’s Day was March 25, with a full week of partying and exchanging gifts until April 1. In 1582, the Gregorian calendar moved New Year’s Day to January 1. Those who forgot or refused to honor the new calendar were teasingly called, “April Fool!” Weather folklore states, “If it thunders on All Fools Day, it brings good crops of corn and hay.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 1, 1957 Kronos premiered. It was produced by Irving Block, Louis DeWitt, Kurt Neumann, and Jack Rabin, and directed by Kurt Neumann. It starred Jeff Morrow and Barbara Lawrence. It was shown as a double feature with She Devil. Critics were mixed on it with the Variety reviewer finding much to like in it. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 44% rating.  Despite it being on both Youtube and the Internet Archive, it is still under copyright having been renewed by legal rights holders,  so a link for viewing it will not be provided as those are pirated copies.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 1, 1875 Edgar Wallace. Creator of King Kong, he also wrote SF including Planetoid 127, one of the first parallel Earth stories, and The Green Rust, a bioterrorism novel which was made into a silent film called The Green Terror. Critics as diverse as Orwell, Sayers and Penzler have expressed their rather vehement distaste for him.  Kindle has an impressive number of works available. (Died 1932.)
  • Born April 1, 1916 Mary, Lady Stewart (born Mary Florence Elinor Rainbow, lovely name that). Yes, you know her better as just Mary Stewart. Genre wise, she’s probably best known for her Merlin series which walks along the boundary between the historical novel and fantasy. Explicitly fantasy is her children’s novel A Walk in Wolf Wood: A Tale of Fantasy and Magic. (Died 2014.)
  • Born April 1, 1926 Anne McCaffrey. I read both the original trilogy and what’s called the Harper Hall trilogy oh so many years ago. Enjoyed them immensely. No interest in the later works she set there. And I confess that I had no idea she’d written so much other genre fiction! (Died 2011.)
  • Born April 1, 1930 Grace Lee Whitney. Yeoman Janice Rand on Star Trek. She would reach the rank of Lt. Commander in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Folks, I just noticed that IMDB says she was only on eight episodes of Trek. It seemed like a lot more at the time. Oh, and she was in two video fanfics, Star Trek: New Voyages and Star Trek: Of Gods and Men. (Died 2015.)
  • Born April 1, 1942 Samuel R. Delany, 78. There’s no short list of recommenced works for him as everything he’s done is brilliant. That said I think I’d start off suggesting a reading of Babel- 17 and Dhalgren followed by the Return to Nevèrÿon series. I think his only Hugo win was in the Short Story category at Heicon ’70  for “Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones”  as published  in New Worlds, December 1968.
  • Born April 1, 1953 Barry Sonnenfeld, 67. Director of The Addams Family and its sequel Addams Family Values  (both of which I really like), the Men in Black trilogy (well, one out of three ain’t bad) and Wild Wild West. He also executive produced Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events which I’ve not seen, and did the same for Men in Black: International, the recent not terribly well-received continuation of that franchise. 
  • Born April 1, 1960 Michael Praed, 60. Robin of Loxley on Robin of Sherwood which no doubt is one of the finest genre series ever done of a fantasy nature. He also played Phileas Fogg on The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne, an amazing series that I think ever got released on DVD. 
  • Born April 1, 1963 James Robinson, 57. Writer, both comics and film. Some of his best-known comics are the series centered on the Justice Society of America, in particular the Starman character he co-created with Tony Harris. His Starman series is without doubt some of the finest work ever done in the comics field. His screenwriting not so much. Remember The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? Well that’s him. 
  • Born April 1, 1970 Brad Meltzer, 50. I’m singling him for his work as a writer at DC including the still controversial Identity Crisis miniseries and his superb story in the Green Arrow series from issues 16 to 21 starting in 2002.  He and artist Gene Ha received an Eisner Award for Best Single Issue (or One-Shot) for their work on issue #11 of Justice League of America series. 

(11) KYLE REMEMBERED. The First Fandom Annual, 2019 David A. Kyle: A Life Of Science Fiction Ideas And Dreams is available.  A centenary tribute to David A. Kyle, the annual is edited by John L. Coker III and Jon D. Swartz. Includes:

  • Foreword by Forrest J Ackerman
  • Introduction by Frederik Pohl
  • Afterword by Robert A. Madle
  • Bibliography by Christopher M. O’Brien

(128) pages in two volumes. Limited to 26 lettered copies. Laser-printed on 28 # paper. Photos and illustrations, 8½ x 11. Gloss color covers, booklet-stapled. Each set has a label signed by Kyle. To reserve a copy: jlcoker3@bellsouth.net. Order your set by sending check or M.O. for $60 (includes packing, priority postage and insurance) payable to John L. Coker III at 4813 Lighthouse Road, Orlando, FL – 32808.

(12) ABOVE THE SKY. Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus has a book out. His Journey Press has released Kitra — a YA Space Adventure.

Nineteen-year-old Kitra Yilmaz dreams of traveling the galaxy like her Ambassador mother. But soaring in her glider is the closest she can get to touching the stars — until she stakes her inheritance on a salvage Navy spaceship.

On its shakedown cruise, Kitra’s ship plunges into hyperspace, stranding Kitra and her crew light years away. Tensions rise between Kitra and her shipmates: the handsome programmer, Fareedh; Marta, biologist and Kitra’s ex-girlfriend; Peter, the panicking engineer; and the oddball alien navigator, Pinky.

Now, running low on air and food, it’ll take all of them working together to get back home.

Journey Press has also published the well-received collection Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1958-1963).

(13) TOUGH NEIGHBORHOOD. Hey, I thought my high school was dangerous. But compared to Gotham High?

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Alex and Eliza and The Witches of East End comes a reimagining of Gotham for a new generation of readers. Before they became Batman, Catwoman, and The Joker, Bruce, Selina, and Jack were high schoolers who would do whatever it took–even destroy the ones they love–to satisfy their own motives. After being kicked out of his boarding school, 16-year-old Bruce Wayne returns to Gotham City to find that nothing is as he left it. What once was his family home is now an empty husk, lonely but haunted by the memory of his parents’ murder. Selina Kyle, once the innocent girl next door, now rules over Gotham High School with a dangerous flair, aided by the class clown, Jack Napier. When a kidnapping rattles the school, Bruce seeks answers as the dark and troubled knight–but is he actually the pawn? Nothing is ever as it seems, especially at Gotham High, where the parties and romances are of the highest stakes … and where everyone is a suspect.

(14) RIPPED TO SHREDS. Bad Astronomy’s Phil Plait tells SYFY Wire readers: “It Looks Like A Star 750 Million Light Years Away *Was* Torn Apart By A Mid-Sized Black Hole”.

In 2006, the light from a ridiculously violent event reached Earth. Hugely diminished by the time it reached us, it started out as an extremely powerful blast of X-rays… but unlike events such as a typical supernova or other high-energy processes which come and go rather quickly, this one faded slowly, visibly dropping in brightness over the course of more than ten years.

Not too many things can behave this way, and the most common is also one of the scariest: An entire star being ripped to shreds by the gravity of a black hole.

(15) HOSPITAL SETUP. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] The process will look familiar to anyone who has done large-convention setup, but the purpose is more essential: “Transforming London’s ExCeL centre into Nightingale hospital”.

Timelapse footage has captured the transformation of London’s ExCeL centre into a temporary hospital for coronavirus patients.

The Nightingale Hospital is expected to be operational by the end of the week.

Five hundred beds are already in place and there is space for another 3,500.

(16) THEY WERE EVERYWHERE. Maybe not through walls, but “‘Dinosaurs walked through Antarctic rainforests'”.

Scientists drilling off the coast of West Antarctica have found the fossil remains of forests that grew in the region 90 million years ago – in the time of the dinosaurs.

Their analysis of the material indicates the continent back then would have been as warm as parts of Europe are today but that global sea levels would have been over 100m higher than at present.

The research, led from the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) in Germany, is published in the journal Nature.

It’s emerged from an expedition in 2017 to recover marine sediments in Pine Island Bay.

AWI and its partners, including the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), used a novel cassette drill-mechanism called MeBo to extract core material some 30m under the seafloor.

When the team examined the sediments in the lab, it found traces of ancient soils and pollen and even tree roots.

…Seeing the White Continent as we do today with its kilometres-thick ice covering, it’s a challenge to the imagination to think of such productive conditions. But BAS director, Prof Jane Francis, says there have been several periods in Earth history when Antarctica’s great glaciers were absent.

This study, she says, represents the first evidence for Cretaceous forests so close to the South Pole – just 900km away, at what would have been about 81-82 degrees South latitude.

“And, yes, there probably were dinosaurs in the forests,” she explained. “If you go to the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, you’ll find a whole range of fossils – things like hadrosaurs and sauropods, and primitive bird-like dinosaurs. The whole range of dinosaurs that lived in the rest of the world managed to get down to Antarctica during the Cretaceous.”

(17) KISS YOUR ASTERISK GOODBYE. The Root is sure “Samuel L. Jackson’s Spirited Reading of ‘Stay The F**k’ At Home’ Should Brighten Your Day”. The heavily-bleeped Jimmy Kimmel Show video reading starts at 6:10.

Jackson presented a new poem written by Adam Mansbach, the author of the Amazon bestseller Go the F**k to Sleep, titled “Stay the F**k At Home.” Jackson recorded the audiobook for Mansbach’s 2011 hit, a perfect choice given his frequent use of the cuss word throughout both his prolific film career and in his personal life. The original book served as an exasperated way to get Mansbach’s then two-year-old daughter to fall asleep, sparked in response to a Facebook post alluding to writing a book about his frustrations.

(18) TODAY’S OTHER PSA. Curb yourself already.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/3/19 The Three Things Fans Collected Most, The Pixel, File And Holy Scroll

(1) NAVIGATING THE MAZES. Clarkesworld’s Arley Sorg interviews Juliette Wade — “Caste in Blood”.

The Mazes of Power copy calls it “sociological science fiction.” What does this mean exactly, and how does this term apply to Mazes? What are a few of your favorite sociological science fiction novels and how are they similar or different from Mazes?

Sociological science fiction, sometimes also called social science fiction, is science fiction that sets its major focus on society and its impact rather than on other elements like gadgets, technologies, or frontiers. This is not to say that those other things are not involved! The term definitely applies to Mazes of Power, which features a complex caste system with seven different levels, each of which has its own vocation, ideals, manners, and culture. Members of the castes struggle to cope with the expectations of their caste identities just as people in our world struggle with the identities that are placed on them. My favorite past work of sociological science fiction is Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, which was one of the works that inspired me to explore characters’ culturally grounded judgments and flout readers’ underlying expectations. (The other major work that had the same effect was not science fiction, but the diary of Sei Shonagon, The Pillow Book.) I also consider Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch series an example of sociological science fiction, though it’s more typically categorized as space opera. I love how Leckie keeps her focus tight and examines characters’ social and cultural expectations even as she works with the larger politics of the Radchaai Empire.

(2) UNCOMMON SENSES. Ad Age made me want to see it – perhaps you will too: “This adorable Star Wars-themed ad has an ending we didn’t see coming”.

The spot, created by Wunderman Thompson Philippines, depicts a pair of kids working on a mysterious building project. We see them going around town collecting items such as a tire, cardboard, plastic toys and tinsel, as well as a whole bunch of mobile phones, but it isn’t clear exactly what they are doing. (One thing is for sure — these kids are more creative and enterprising than the pair in the Apple holiday ad and their parents, rather than trying to keep them quiet with an iPad, are quite happy for them to wander on railway lines by themselves.) 

Finally, they invite a friend into their home to watch “Star Wars” in the special 4D viewing experience they’ve rigged up — and there’s an even more heartwarming twist that we definitely weren’t expecting. The final reveal is that the friend is actually deaf and they’ve created the whole thing just for her to be able to experience the movie without sound.

(3) GETTING SQUEEZED. In a guest post for According to Hoyt, Leigh Kimmel says dealer’s think it doesn’t look that good from ground level — “The Economy Seen from the Dealers’ Room Floor by Leigh Kimmel”.

…Overall, the figures show a troubling picture that squares with reports I’m hearing from a number of other convention dealers. Some of the decline in sales and profitability can be ascribed to a saturation of the convention market as more and more promoters, especially for-profit companies who have the financial reach to rent large venues and sign large numbers of high-ticket media guests, move into the business. Whereas a decade ago there might be only one or two conventions each year in a region, now there are often a dozen or more. Furthermore, very few of these conventions are old-school fan-run science fiction conventions where the membership can hang out with the guests of honor at the con suite. Instead, more and more of them are focused primarily on media celebrities and formal encounters with them, to the point that attendees (a significant difference in terminology) spend as much or more time and money on getting autographs and photo-ops with the celebrities as they do on buying things from the dealers and artists in the vendor hall.

Because these extremely celebrity-focused shows (often referred to as “autograph mills”) draw such large crowds, they can sound like great possibilities to a dealer accustomed to lower-key shows. However, they often prove to be a double whammy to the unsuspecting dealer’s bottom line: not only are the large crowds not spending on the dealers’ wares, but the large crowds are also used to justify much higher booth costs to vendors, leaving the vendor with a much higher break-even point….

(4) GOING TO THE WELLS AGAIN. Steve J. Wright reviews The War of the Worlds, the three-part TV adaptation recently shown on the BBC in “Martians Go Home”.

…Harness takes that time to create and expand on the characters, who are mostly just names in the novel – in fact, the narrator and his wife aren’t even named.  The domestic situation of George (Rafe Spall) and Amy (Eleanor Tomlinson) is drawn from H.G. Wells’s own turbulent personal life; the adaptation also codes astronomer Ogilvy (barely more than a name in the book) as gay, which attracted some criticism from the usual suspects…. One twerp apparently complained that the story was being made “too political”, which, since the book was written as a massive up-yours to colonial imperialism by one of the twentieth century’s foremost socialist pundits, makes me wonder what he was expecting.  (Again, because contemporary Victorian-Edwardian political references aren’t necessarily accessible to the modern audience, the adaptation takes the time to make the anti-colonial message explicit.)

(5) MCU LIVES ON. Marvel dropped the Black Widow teaser trailer yesterday.

(6) IN MEDIA RES. The BBC says origins are just short flashbacks in “Black Widow: Seven talking points from the new trailer”.

The character first appeared in 2010’s Iron Man 2, and has since then been a significant figure in the Marvel cinematic universe.

The new film, starring Scarlett Johansson, isn’t an origin story, but it does come before the events of the last two Avengers movies, Infinity War and Endgame.

It may not be out until May, but while we wait here’s seven talking points from Tuesday’s new trailer.

1) Just like Budapest!

The opening shot of the Hungarian capital Budapest teases that we’ll finally uncover more about an event briefly mentioned in the first Avengers movie back in 2012.

In that film, during the intensity of the battle of New York, Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow – firing off gun shots – casually says to Hawkeye: “Just like Budapest, all over again.”

Hawkeye responds: “You and I remember Budapest very differently!”

It’s a reference that has intrigued and excited fans ever since. But there is a complicating factor. This movie is set after, not before The Avengers. It actually follows the events of Captain America: Civil War. So is Budapest here a flashback, or is Black Widow revisiting it after traumatic events in the past?

(6) DEVISING LANGUAGE. Juliette Wade’s Dive into Worldbuilding recently featured “S. Qiouyi Lu and As Dark as Hunger”. View the video or read the synopsis – or both! Toward the end they also discuss whether there should be a Hugo award for translations.

… In “As Dark as Hunger,” the main character lives a simple humble life fishing, but then her former lover comes to the village. Her lover wants to hunt mermaids, because people pay handsomely for them, but to find a humane way of doing it that won’t kill them. S. told us that part of this conflict came from the conflicted feelings they have about shark fin soup. It’s a celebratory dish, but cruel because it kills sharks.

S. told us that they struggle with xenophobia in the US, where there is an anti-China climate. They want to be able to defend their personhood without feeling obligated to defend Chinese politics they don’t approve of.

In the story, there is a contrast between the village and the city. The village is downstream from the city, which pollutes its water. Talented people seek opportunity in the city, and children and the elderly are left behind. The city drains away the village’s people. The main character has an ethical objection to hunting mermaids, but she does want a better life than the stinking river.

One of the major themes of the story is diaspora, of being removed from the motherland. While, in this story world, foxes can shapeshift back and forth many times, mermaids can only shapeshift from tail to legs once, and then can’t change back. Their children are human. This is a metaphor for immigration and assimilation. One of the main character’s ancestors made this change in order to keep her descendants from being hunted, but in so doing, closed a door that could not be re-opened.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 3, 2000Frank Herbert’s Dune three-part series premiered on the SciFi Channel. Directed by John Harrison, its cast starred Alec Newman as Paul Atreides, William Hurt as Duke Leto, and Saskia Reeves as Jessica. The first Dune miniseries and this sequel are two of the three highest-rated programs ever to be broadcast on the Sci Fi Channel. Weirdly, it has no viewer rating at Rotten Tomatoes, but has a very healthy 71% rating among critics there. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 3, 1918 Polly Freas. Fan and wife of SFF artist Frank Kelly Freas with whom she had 3 children. She was much loved in fandom. She and Kelly co-edited Wonderworks: Science Fiction and Fantasy Art by Michael Whalen, which was a Hugo finalist for Best Nonfiction Book. She was Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, and was given a Special Award by Southern Fandom. (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 3, 1922 Donald Tuck. Australian fan and writer of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy through 1968 which he revised twice. SFE in the form of a lure says “among the most extensive produced since the pioneering work of Everett F. Bleiler.” It earned him A Special Hugo at Chicon III. Back in time, he found other fans in Hobart where he lived and they produced the first Tasmanian fanzine, Profan which had just three issues between April and September 1941. Bertram Chandler who visited the couple frequently honored Hobart by naming one of the spaceship bases in his novels after it. (Died 2010.)
  • Born December 3, 1937 Morgan Llewelyn, 82. Ok, so what have I read by her… The Horse Goddess is wonderful as is Grania: She-King of the Irish Seas and Lion of Ireland which I read a long time ago because the now closed Brian Born Pub had just opened here and I was interested in his story. I later booked uilleann piper Paddy Keenan there…
  • Born December 3, 1948 Ozzy Osbourne, 71. Yes, he has a history in SFF films — most of it is in voicing characters though he did show up as himself in the recent Ghostbusters film. His first appearance in our genre was as himself (“Famous Rock Star“) along with Simmons in Trick or Treat (also known as Ragman and Death at 33 RPM. He’s the voice of The Vicar in Robbie the Reindeer in Close Encounters Of The Herd Kind, and Fawn in Gnomeo & Juliet and Sherlock Gnomes
  • Born December 3, 1958 Terri Windling, 61. Author of The Wood Wife, winner of the Mythopoeic Award for Novel of the Year, she has deservedly won has won nine World Fantasy Awards, the Bram Stoker Award, and The Armless Maiden collection was on the short-list for the then named James Tiptree, Jr. Award. Along with Ellen Datlow, Windling edited sixteen volumes of the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror  from 1986–2003. (Yes, the first volume is actually called Year’s Best Fantasy. I do have a full set here so I know that.) She is one of the core creative forces behind the mythic fiction emergence that began in the early Eighties through her work as an  editor for the Ace and Tor Books fantasy lines, and they also edited a number of anthologies such as the superb Snow White, Blood Red series which collected the very best in contemporary fantasy. I’m very fond of her work with Illustrator Wendy Froud, wife of Brian Froud, on the Old Oak Wood series about faeries living in the Old Oak Wood.  She interviewed one of them, Sneezlewort Rootmuster Rowanberry Boggs the Seventh, for Green Man here.
  • Born December 3, 1960 Daryl Hannah, 59. She made her genre debut in Brian De Palma’s The Fury, though she’s better known as Pris in Blade Runner. And she was the mermaid Madison in Splash. In a decidedly unfashionable role, she was Ayala in The Clan of The Cave Bear which by being Mary Plunkett Brogan in High Spirits where she was nominated  for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress. Was she that bad in it? Last latest genre role I think was in the Sense8 series as Angelica Turing. 
  • Born December 3, 1968 Brendan Fraser, 51. The Mummy and The Mummy Returns are enough to get him Birthday Honors. Though he’s been in Monkeybone based on Kaja Blackley’s graphic novel Dark TownSinbad: Beyond the Veil of MistsLooney Tunes: Back in ActionJourney to the Center of the EarthG.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and being Robotman on the Doom Patrol  series that that airs on DC Universe.
  • Born December 3, 1969 John Kenneth Muir, 50. I really adore niche non-fiction writers with genre focus. He did write a novel, Space: 1999: The Forsaken, but horror is his passion as he’s written Horror Films of the 1970s, Horror Films of the 1980s and Horror Films of the 1990s, all on Macfarland. He’s also authored A Critical History of Doctor Who on Television which covers the classic Who and yet more horror in Horror Films of the 1990s.
  • Born December 3, 1980 Jenna Lee Dewan, 39. She portrayed Freya Beauchamp on the Witches of East End and played Lucy Lane in The CW version of Supergirl. She’s Tamara, complete with bloody axe, in the horror film Tamara. She’s Sophia Loomis in the unsold Dark Shadows pilot. It was commissioned by The WB and produced in 2004, but not picked up for a series. You can see that pilot here.
  • Born December 3, 1985 Amanda Seyfried, 34. She plays Zoe, the lead Megan’s best friend in Solstice, a horror film. Another horror film, Jennifer’s Body, shortly thereafter, finds here playing Anita “Needy” Lesnicki. Red Riding Hood, yes, another horror film, had her cast has as Valerie. She plays Sylvia Weis in In Time in a dystopian SF film next and voices Mary Katherine, Professor Bomba’s 17-year-old daughter in Epic which is at genre adjacent. She’s living Mary in an animated Pan, a prequel to Peter Pan which sounds delightful. Lastly, she has a recurring role as Becky Burnett on Twin Peaks. And did we decide Veronica Mars was at least genre adjacent? If so, she has a recurring role as Mary on it. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • xkcd helps you figure out if it’s Christmas yet.

(10) MORE BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS. NPR’s Book Concierge filters the year’s titles into many categories, such as the Best Geek Books of the Year and Best Genre Books of the Year. Chip Hitchcock tried out the links and forwarded them with a note on his experience: “Thanks to recommendations from Filers and others, I’ve read 13/63 of the genre books, including 1 I’d disrecommend and 2 I’d recommend only with serious caveats. I’ve read only 1 of the 15 geek books not on the genre list — I know I should read more nonfiction….”

(11) CHINESE SF. Alexandra Alter tells New York Times Magazine readers “Why Is Chinese Sci-Fi Everywhere Now? Ken Liu Knows”. The profile extensively covers Liu’s work as a translator and curator as well as his own fiction, and repeatedly probes the constraints on Chinese sff at home.

…“The political climate inside China has shifted drastically from when I first started doing this,” Liu says. “It’s gotten much harder for me to talk about the work of Chinese authors without putting them in an awkward position or causing them trouble.” Liu usually travels to China at least once a year to network and meet new writers, and has attended the Chinese Nebula and Galaxy Awards, the country’s most well known science-fiction prizes. But this year he was denied a long-term visa, without explanation, prompting him to cancel his planned trip.

In another alarming setback, when his American publisher tried to send copies of his recent translations to writers in China, the shipments failed to arrive. It was unclear whether the books were seized or simply disappeared into a bureaucratic black hole. Liu finally managed to get copies distributed through visiting Chinese friends, each of whom carried a few copies back in their suitcases. In April, when I met Liu at the Museum of Chinese in America, he seemed irritated by the cumbersome workaround, which he called “preposterous.”

But later, when I asked if he felt he was being blacklisted by the Chinese government because of his translation work, Liu deflected and declined to speculate. “I don’t want to magnify the problem,” Liu told me, as we sat in a cafe a few blocks from the museum. “If the authors want to say something daring, then I will honor that, but I’m not going to impose my own politics on them. There’s a lot of room to say what you want to say if you leave things ambiguous.”

 (12) HELP THE PKD AWARD. Gordon Van Gelder says to raise money for the award there is an annual Philip K. Dick Award auction at World Fantasy Convention. This year, they had too many books to put all of them up for bids at the con, so the’re holding a score of auctions on eBay. Many signed books.

(13) UNKISSED TOADS ASSEMBLE. Amanda S. Green, who also writes under the name Sam Schall, says her friend Sarah A. Hoyt used her larger platform to recommend one of Schall’s works – an imprimatur which still didn’t deter some negative comments left by people who hadn’t even read the book: “A Cyber-Monday Promo and a Few Thoughts”.

…No matter how hard you try to write the best book possible, find the best cover you can and present your work in the best shape, someone is always going to hate. I learned long ago from a dear friend the dangers of reading reviews on Amazon, etc. All too often the person writing it never read the book or only read far enough to be offended. I was reminded of that this morning.

That same friend shared a link to the book. I made the mistake of checking the comments. Let’s say my first response was to beat my head against the desk. One person said not to read it because it was a book about a woman written by a male. Yep. I suddenly have a penis. You see, this person never bothered to look beyond the cover. They didn’t follow the link to Amazon and see not only the pen name listed but my real name as well. But, because they read the blurb on the page where the link was listed and saw “Sam Schall”, they just knew it had to be bad — and probably written by a white male deep into the patriarchy (okay, they didn’t quite say that last part but it was pretty clear).

Others hated the cover. That’s fine. That’s their right. The thing is, it does cue the genre and that is the important thing.

Then there was the one (or maybe two) who had a few words to say about how it is basically stupid to think there will be women in the military in fighting roles. Yep, they went there.

And here’s the thing. Each and every one of them were condemning the book without reading it. They were making judgments based solely on what they saw in the blurb and on the cover. Again, that’s their right. But it is also my right to point and laugh (or beat my head against the table).

(14) GENRE AND GENDER FLUID. The Lily’s Lena Felton says we should not be surprised: “A ‘Star Wars’ actor came out as ‘gender fluid.’ Women have been using sci-fi to explore gender and sexuality for centuries.”

Lisa Yaszek, a professor of science fiction studies at Georgia Tech, describes the feminist appeal of science fiction like this: “We can imagine spaces that radically break from our own world and from what we know or at least believe to be scientifically or socially true about sex and gender.”

The conversation around science fiction and gender recently broke out on the national stage, when Esquire published an interview with 82-year-old Billy Dee Williams, who’s best known for his role as Lando Calrissian in “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” (1980). He’ll be reprising the role for the first time since 1983 in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” which comes out Dec. 20.

In his Esquire interview, Williams said he uses both “him” and “her” pronouns. “I say ‘himself’ and ‘herself,’ because I also see myself as feminine as well as masculine,” he said. “I’m a very soft person. I’m not afraid to show that side of myself.”

The moment was seized on by fans, with many applauding Williams’s “gender fluid” approach. But the discussion of gender in the context of “Star Wars” isn’t new; last year, Donald Glover, who played the same character in 2018’s “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” said he had a non-binary approach to his Lando, too.

(15) PICKING UP THE PIECES. Pixel-sized pieces at that — “Chandrayaan-2: Indian helps Nasa find Moon probe debris”.

Nasa says one of its satellites has found the debris of India’s Moon rover which crashed on the lunar surface in September.

The space agency released a picture showing the site of the rover’s impact and the “associated debris field”.

Nasa has credited an Indian engineer, Shanmuga Subramanian, with helping locate the site of the debris.

Mr Subramanian examined a Nasa picture and located the first debris about 750m north-west of the crash site.

…”We had the images from Nasa [of] the lander’s last location. We knew approximately where it crashed. So I searched pixel-by-pixel around that impact area,” the 33-year-old Chennai-based engineer told BBC Tamil.

Mr Subramanian said he had always “been interested in space” and had watched the July launch of the rocket.

(16) CRAWL OF THE WILD. “Raiders Of The Lost Crops: Scientists Race Against Time To Save Genetic Diversity”NPR has the story.

Call it a tale of science and derring-do. An international team of researchers has spent six years fanning across the globe, gathering thousands of samples of wild relatives of crops. Their goal: to preserve genetic diversity that could help key crops survive in the face of climate change. At times, the work put these scientists in some pretty extreme situations.

Just ask Hannes Dempewolf. Two years ago, the plant geneticist found himself in a rainforest in Nepal, at the foot of the Himalayas. He was riding on the back of an elephant to avoid snakes on the ground — and to scare away any tigers that might be lurking about. Then all of a sudden came an attack from above.

“There were leeches dropping on us from all directions,” Dempewolf recalls — “bloodsucking leeches.”

Now, this is far from where he thought he’d be when he got his Ph.D. But as a senior scientist and head of global initiatives at the Crop Trust, Dempewolf has been overseeing an ambitious international collaboration. More than 100 scientists in 25 countries have been venturing out to collect wild relatives of domesticated crops — like lentils, potatoes, chickpeas and rice — that people rely on around the world. The Crop Trust has just released a report detailing the results of this massive effort, which secured more than 4,600 seed samples of 371 wild relatives of key domesticated crops that the world relies on.

(17) THE TOK ISN’T CLICKING. More trouble for the PRC-based service: “TikTok suppressed disabled users’ videos”.

Videos made by disabled users were deliberately prevented from going viral on TikTok by the firm’s moderators, the app has acknowledged.

The social network said the policy was introduced to reduce the amount of cyber-bullying on its platform, but added that it now recognised the approach had been flawed.

The measure was exposed by the German digital rights news site Netzpolitik.

Disability rights campaigners said the strategy had been “bizarre”.

And the BBC adds: “TikTok sent US user data to China, lawsuit claims”.

Video-sharing app TikTok has been hit with a class action lawsuit in the US that claims it transferred “vast quantities” of user data to China.

The lawsuit accuses the company of “surreptitiously” taking content without user consent.

Owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, TikTok has built up a keen US fan base.

TikTok, which is thought to have about half a billion active users worldwide, has previously said it does not store US data on Chinese servers.

However, the platform is facing mounting pressure in North America over data collection and censorship concerns.

(18) TUNING IN. DJ Baby Yoda?

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

Pixel Scroll 12/2/19 There’s A Long, Long Scroll A-Winding Into The Land Of My Pixels

(1) LISTEN UP. Here are works of genre interest picked for AudioFile’s Best Audiobooks of 2019 beyond the Best Science Fiction Fantasy & Horror category announced at File 770.

YOUNG ADULT

  • Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor
  • The Secret Commonwealth (Book of Dust volume 2) by Philip Pullman

FICTION, POETRY & DRAMA

  • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

BIOGRAPHY & HISTORY

  • American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race by Douglas Brinkley
  • Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham

(2) TUNE IN DOCTOR WHO. ScienceFiction.com knows the airtime, and also how to see the two-parter on the big screen via Fathom Events: “New ‘Doctor Who’ Trailer Delivers The Release Date/Time For Season 12”.

The January 1 episode is part one of a two-part story called “Spyfall,” with part two arriving on Sunday, January 5, presumably also at 8 pm.  That will be ‘Doctor Who’s regular time slot going forward.

If you’re a ‘Doctor Who’ superfan, BBC and BBC America are teaming up with Fathom Events for a one-time-only screening of both parts of “Spyfall” on the big screen, followed by a LIVE Q&A with Whittaker, Cole, and Gill from the Paley Center for Media in New York.  These showings will be held at 600 theaters in the US on January 5.  (Tickets go on sale on Friday at FathomEvents.com.)

(3) SMILE FOR THE CAMERA. Kevin Standlee promoted the Tonopah 2021 Westercon at this weekend’s Loscon.

Team Tonopah welcomed 19 new attending members while we were at Loscon 46 at the LAX Airport Marriott, and talked to many more people to tell them all about our plans for Westercon in Tonopah, Nevada.

(4) KGB READINGS. TheFantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Paul Tremblay and Nathan Ballingrud on Wednesday, December 18 at the KGB Bar. Event starts at 7 p.m. (KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, 2nd Floor, New York, NY.)

Paul Tremblay

Paul Tremblay has won the Bram Stoker, British Fantasy, and Massachusetts Book awards and is the author of The Cabin at the End of the WorldA Head Full of Ghosts, and most recently the short story collection Growing Things and Other Stories. His essays and short fiction have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly online, and numerous year’s-best anthologies. 

Nathan Ballingrud

Nathan Ballingrud is the author of North American Lake Monsters and Wounds: Six Stories from the Border of Hell. He’s twice won the Shirley Jackson Award, and has been shortlisted for the World Fantasy, British Fantasy, and Bram Stoker Awards. His stories have appeared in numerous Best of the Year anthologies. Wounds, a film based on his novella “The Visible Filth,” has recently been released. North American Lake Monsters is in development as an anthology series at Hulu.

(5) RIGOROUS ARTWORK. James Davis Nicoll compliments “Five ’70s SF Cover Artists Who Stay True to the Story” in a post for Tor.com.

The Doppelgänger Gambit by Leigh Killough, 1979, cover by Michael Herring

Herring’s cover captures two key elements of this gripping 21st-century police procedural. The first: the two police officers don’t get along. The second: clothing fashions in this future are somehow even more hideous than real-world 1970s fashions. The cover is true to the work. Detective Janna Brill thinks Maxwell takes unconscionable risks, and these are the clothes described in the novel. (Though I suspect the cops in the novel used holsters.)

(6) MARTIAN FURNITURE. FastCompany reports “Now that Ikea has colonized Earth, it’s going after Mars”.

Two years ago, Ikea sent designers to the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), which created a habitat in the Utah desert that mimics the conditions on the Red Planet. Ikea interior designer Christina Levenborn stayed in the habitat, ultimately creating an Ikea line for small spaces inspired by her stay. But more recently, she used her experience living in the habitat to help researchers outfit the space. She just returned from redecorating the habitat, which now looks brightly lit and neatly organized. In fact, it looks a lot like what you’d see in an Ikea catalog—which is impressive, because the space is exceptionally small and stark.

Sff writer David Levine did a cycle with the MDRS in 2010 and File 770 ran several posts based on his updates, including “Levine Reaches Mars”.

(7) MORE BLOWBACK. “Two Nobel literature prize committee members quit” – BBC tells how the membership continues to churn.

Two external members of the Nobel literature prize committee have quit after criticising the Swedish Academy.

Gun-Britt Sundstrom said the choice of Peter Handke as this year’s winner had been interpreted as if literature stood above politics and she did not agree.

The choice of Handke was criticised because of his vocal support for the Serbs during the 1990s Yugoslav war.

Kristoffer Leandoer said he’d left due to Academy reforms taking too long following a sexual assault scandal.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 2, 1979 Star Trek comics premiered in syndicated form in the U.S. From 1979 to 1983, the Los Angeles Times Mirror Syndicate produced a daily and Sunday comic strip based upon this series. Larry Niven was among the many writers who did scripts for it. IDW has reprinted them in two volumes, The Newspaper Comics, Volume 1 and The Newspaper Comics, Volume 2.
  • December 2, 2005 Aeon Flux premiered.  Produced by Gale Hurd, it stars Charlize Theron in the title role. It’s based on the animated Aeon Flux series of the same name created by Peter Chung. It bombed at the box office, was poorly received by critics, and currently has a 9% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • December 2, 2017 – First pizza party in space took place on the International Space Station.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 2, 1913 Jerry Sohl. Scriptwriter and genre writer who did work for The Twilight Zone (ghostwriting for Charles Beaumont who was seriously ill at the time), Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Outer Limits and Star Trek. One of his three Trek scripts was the superb “Corbomite Maneuver” episode. (Died 2002.)
  • Born December 2, 1914 Ray Walston. Best known of course for playing the lead in My Favorite Martian from 1963 to 1966, alongside co-star Bill Bixby. His later genre appearances would include The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, Six Million Dollar Man, Galaxy of Terror, Amazing Stories,  Popeye, Friday the 13th: The Series and Addams Family Reunion.   He would appear in The Incredible Hulk (in which David Banner was played by Bill Bixby) as Jasper the Magician in an episode called “My Favorite Magician”. (Died 2001.)
  • Born December 2, 1937 Brian Lumley, 81. Horror writer who came to distinction in the Seventies writing in the Cthulhu Mythos and  by creating his own character Titus Crow. In the Eighties, he created the Necroscope series, which first centered on Speaker to the Dead Harry Keogh. He has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association, and a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
  • Born December 2, 1946 Josepha Sherman. Writer and folklorist who was a Compton Crook Award winner for The Shining Falcon, which was based on the Russian fairy tale “The Feather of Finist the Falcon”. She was a prolific writer both on her own and in collaboration authors such as Mecedes Lackey (A Cast of Corbies), and Laura Anne Gilman (two Buffyverse novels).  I knew her personally as a folklorist first and she was without peer writing such works as Rachel the Clever: And Other Jewish Folktales and Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood that she wrote with T K F Weisskopf.  Neat lady who died far too soon. Let me leave you with an essay she wrote on Winter for Green Man twenty years ago. (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 2, 1946 David Macaulay, 73. British-born American illustrator and writer. Genre adjacent I’d say. Creator of such cool works as Cathedral, The New Way Things Work which has he updated for the computer technology age, and his latest, Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World.
  • Born December 2, 1952 OR Melling, 67. One of her favorite authors is Alan Garner whose The Owl Service is a frequent read of hers she tells me. As for novels by her that I’d recommend, the Chronicles of Faerie series is quite excellent. For more adult fare, her People of the Great Journey is quite good.
  • Born December 2, 1968 Lucy Liu, 51. She was Joan Watson on Elementary in its impressive seven-year run. Her other genre role, and it’s been long running, has been voicing Tinkermist in the Disney Fairies animated franchise. I kid you not. She’s had a few genre one-offs on The X-Files, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and the Rise: Blood Hunter film, but not much overall.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio tells Santa what he wants.
  • At Existential Comics, leading philosophers brawl over the implications of “I am no man!”

The original intentions or ideas of the author aren’t necessarily more valid than those of any other interpreter.

Gasp!

(11) WRITER’S WRATH. “HG Wells builds time machine so he can punch whoever was responsible for that adaptation of War of the Worlds”NewsThump has the story,

Popular Edwardian novelist and inventor of the concept of Time Travel Herbert George Wells has appeared in central London this morning, intending to punch whoever made the BBC adaptation of War of the Worlds squarely on the nose.

Wells, who believed the chances of anyone making a boring adaptation of his masterpiece were a million to one, said ‘but still, it’s done’.

“There was a great disturbance in the… oh, I’m sure you’ll come up with a word for it”, said Wells. “As if millions of my fans voices cried out ‘what the heck’.”

(12) AS OTHERS SEE US. Liberty Island’s Tamara Willhite uncovers a rich vein of fantasy in “An Interview with Author Louis Antonelli”.

Tamara Wilhite: What are you currently working on?

Louis Antonelli: Well, kind of following up the previous question, since the Sad Puppies in 2015 there’s been a pretty ironclad blacklist in the major science fiction magazine and publishers against anyone who isn’t an intolerant doctrinaire left-wing asshole. Nobody denies it anymore, because such assertions only gets the horse laugh.

The only major book publisher that judges authors impartially is Baen; Analog is the one major magazine that seems to pick stories based on merit and not the author’s politics and lifestyle….

(13) POACHING SCIENCE. “Dinosaurs: Restoring Mongolia’s fossil heritage”.

Eighty million years ago, during the Cretaceous Period, Mongolia’s Gobi Desert was a dinosaur’s paradise of vast valleys, freshwater lakes and a humid climate.

Mammal-eating velociraptors, lizard-hipped sauropods and spike-armoured ankylosaurs could have been spotted roaming in what are now the Martian red sandstone spires of Bayanzag’s Flaming Cliffs.

These prehistorically favourable conditions make the Gobi Desert the largest dinosaur fossil reservoir in the world.

Over almost 100 years of palaeontological research in the Gobi, more than 80 genera have been found. But for many people living there, this scientific heritage remains unknown.

“Putting a fence up is not protection; protection is people’s knowledge,” Mongolian palaeontologist Bolortsetseg Minjin explains as we wind through the Flaming Cliffs in search of signs of fossil poaching.

(14) CAN’T DANCE TO IT. “Amazon’s AI musical keyboard ‘sounds terrible'”.

Amazon has unveiled a musical keyboard with a built-in artificial intelligence (AI) composer.

The AWS DeepComposer is a two-octave, 32-key keyboard that can connect to computers via a USB cable.

Users can play a short tune, or use a pre-recorded one, ask the keyboard to embellish it in one of four styles – jazz, classical, rock or pop – and then publish it on Soundcloud.

But one expert said the audio demo provided by Amazon was “terrible”.

(15) INCREDIBLE JOURNEY. BBC follows“India tiger on ‘longest walk ever’ for mate and prey”.

A tiger has undertaken the longest walk ever recorded in India, travelling some 1,300km (807 miles) in five months.

Experts believe the two-and-a-half-year-old male is possibly in search of prey, territory or a mate.

The tiger, which is fitted with a radio collar, left its home in a wildlife sanctuary in the western state of Maharashtra in June.

It was then tracked travelling back and forth over farms, water and highways, and into a neighbouring state.

So far, the tiger has come into conflict with humans only once, when it “accidentally injured” one person who was part of a group that entered a thicket under which it was resting.

(16) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter watched tonight’s Jeopardy! with wrapped attention….

Category: Literary Works of the 1920s.

Answer: “Jane Webb Loudon wrote the 1st novel about one of these creatures, including the line, ‘Weak, feeble worm! Exclaimed Cheops.'”

Wrong question: “What is a Sphinx?”

Correct question: “What is a Mummy?”

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Mushroom Hunters” on YouTube is a poem by Neil Gaiman read by Amanda Palmer, with music by Jherek Bischoff.

[Thanks to Camestros Felapton (Felapton Towers, Bortsworth, Bortsworthshire), John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Olav Rokne, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day StephenfromOttawa.]

Pixel Scroll 11/20/19 Scroll The Size Of A Planet And They Ask Me To File Up A Piece Of Pixel

(1) LOTS OF PLOTS. Vanity Fair’s Anthony Breznican gets Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely to share secrets about how the biggest film in history was assembled—including alternate and abandoned story lines that might have been: “How the Avengers: Endgame Writers Made Life-and-Death Decisions”.

Was Marvel ever like, “There are too many dollar signs in this scene?”

Markus: No, it was, “You better damn well have a good story for us!”

McFeely: You actually try not to leave the five-dollar-signs on the sidelines.

So you’re popping those cards on there, drawing a timeline for the story. How does it look?

McFeely: In the beginning stages it’s a, Oh, wouldn’t it be interesting if Groot and Rocket and Thor went on a journey together? What kind of chemistry could you get from that? But also, we took this job because it scared the hell out of us, because that first movie has 23 [main] characters in it.

First movie meaning Infinity War?

McFeely: If you know that movie, and you know how we ended it, it was in large part just so the second movie would have fewer characters. And we could work with that! [Laughs] We started with 65 characters. I mean, it’s just everyone who was vaguely alive. And when we narrowed it down, you don’t want 23 people in a scene—ever. So that’s what the cards were for, to sort of—

(2) BESTSELLER STATS. [Item by Dann Todd.] I found this analysis/graphic of the 300 top NY Times bestselling novels from 2011 to 2018 and you might find it to be of interest. The chart shows the novels by genre, whether they were stand-alone works or part of a series, and the respective Goodreads ratings.

Of those 300 books, 11 were science fiction, 12 were fantasy and 10 were horror.

  • The science fiction works spent a cumulative 72 weeks on the NYTimes bestsellers list. Four of the eleven works were from a series.  The Goodreads ratings ranged from roughly 3.2 to 4.3.
  • The fantasy works spent a cumulative 93 weeks on the list.  Eleven of the twelve works were from a series.  The Goodreads ratings ranged from 3.3 to 4.4.
  • The horror works spent 69 weeks on the list.  Only two of the ten books were from a series.  The Goodreads ratings ranged from 3.8 to 4.8.

(3) FOURTHCOMING TREK FILM. Inverse seems pleased: “Noah Hawley’s ‘Star Trek 4’ promises to boldly go to trippy new worlds”.

Fans of the 2009 Star Trek cinematic reboot universe were let down last year, when news broke that the planned fourth film in the franchise would not be moving forward. Initially rumored to feature the return of Thor actor Chris Hemsworth as Captain Kirk’s father, negotiations reportedly broke down between the studio and Hemsworth (as well as series star Chris Pine). After box office for the reboot’s third installment, Star Trek: Beyond, fell short of expectations, it seemed the new Trek universe was dead, despite being a box office juggernaut just a few years prior.

That all changed today when news broke that not only will there be a fourth Trek film, but that it will be helmed by visionary TV director Noah Hawley, who’s responsible for both Legion and Fargo on FX.

(4) FIRST STEPS. The Writer offers “Pro tips for writing and publishing speculative fiction” of a rather general nature.

Science fiction versus fantasy

…“There is a little bit of a gray area there,” says [Daniel José] Older, “but I think of science fiction as generally and mostly focused on the technological aspect and fantasy focused on the magical aspect.” Yet he notes that this separation is a “little too easy.”

Perhaps a science fiction expert could give us a definitive answer.

“One answer, per science fiction scholar James Gunn, is that science fiction is about things that could happen or could have happened, and that fantasy could not happen, at least in our consensual understanding of what is possible,” Johnson says. But this definition is somewhat problematic, she states, since “this disregards a lot of things,” one being that “our understanding of what is possible changes regularly.”

(5) NEXT STEPS. Fortunately, more pro tips are on the way.

(6) ZINES AND MUSIC. Boo-Hooray profiles the “The Lenny Kaye Science Fiction Fanzine Library at the University of Miami”.

Lenny Kaye (b. 1946) is the guitarist for the Patti Smith Group and also a music historian and journalist. He compiled the 1960s garage rock compilation Nuggets in 1972, which had a profound impact on the development of Punk rock. Lenny’s early influences as a writer and enthusiast in music developed during his time in science fiction fandom. This collection of approximately 2100 fanzines is Lenny’s personal library.

Science fiction was one of the early subjects that spawned a substantial network of self- published magazines and newsletters, done primarily via mimeograph. Ranging from 1941 to 1971, the fanzines in this collection represent ground zero for the zine explosion that was to come years later in rock, punk, skate, fashion, and art. They are the origination of modern DIY publishing.

…Lenny’s own fanzines (Obelisk, Sadistic Sphinx, Hieroglyph, and Pharaoh) are a perfect example of how many SF editors transformed into music journalists and performers. The connection between SF and music fandom may seem an odd gap to bridge, but a number of big names in music journalism, such as Lester Bangs, Paul Williams, and Greg Shaw wrote for science fiction fanzines.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 20, 1964 — A U.K. adaptation of H.G. Wells’ First Men in the Moon was released into theatres, this one complete with special effects by Ray Harryhausen. Starring Edward Judd, Martha Hyer and Lionel Jeffries, the British press loved it, the American press not so much.  It’s got a 75% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • November 20, 2007 The Wizard of Oz Munchkins received a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 20, 1929 Jerry Hardin, 90. He’s best known for playing Deep Throat on The X-Files. He’s also been on Quantum Leap, Starman, Brimstone and Strange World, plus he was in the Doomsday Virus miniseries. And he made a rather good Samuel Clemens in the two part “Time’s Arrow” story on Next Gen.
  • Born November 20, 1932 Richard Dawson. Usually one appearance in a genre film or show isn’t enough to make the Birthday list but he was Damon Killian on The Running Man, a juicy enough role to ensure his making this list, and twenty years earlier he was Joey on Munster, Go Home! He’d voiceLong John Silver on an animated Treasure Island film in the Seventies as well. And he had a one-off on the classic Fantasy Island. (Died 2012.)
  • Born November 20, 1933 John Gardner. Grendel, the retelling of Beowulf from the monster’s viewpoint, is likely the only work he’s remembered for. Gudgekin The Thistle Girl (and Other Tales) are genre fairy tales as are The King of the Hummingbirds (and Other Tales)A Child’s Bestiary is, well, guess what it says it is. Mickelsson’s Ghosts, his final novel written before his untimely death, is a ghost story. (Died 1982.)
  • Born November 20, 1954 Richard Brooker. Actor and stuntman, likely best known for being in Friday the 13th Part III as Jason Voorhees. He certainly did some other genre films too, such as the Argentinian Deathstalker (Cazador de muerte) and being the lead in Deathstalker. (Died 2013.)
  • Born November 20, 1956 Bo Derek, 63. She makes the birthday list for being Jane Parker in Tarzan, the Ape Man. Ok, it’s a really bad film redeemed only by her showing lots of skin. There’s also Ghosts Can’t Do It and Horror 101 as wellas the two Sharknado films she just did. 
  • Born November 20, 1959 Sean Young, 60. Rachael and her clone in the original Blade Runner and the sequel. More intriguingly she played Chani in Dune. A bit old for the role, wasn’t she? She was the lead, Helen Hyde, in Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde. And she’s a Trekkie as she was in the Star Trek: Renegades video fanfic pilot as Dr. Lucien. 
  • Born November 20, 1963 Ming-Na Wen, 55. She‘s best known as Melinda May on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. but she was also Camile Wary on Stargate Universe, and had an intriguing role as Senator Michaela Wen on Eureka. I see she’s going to be Fennec Shand on the new Mandalorian series.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Foxtrot illustrates the ways a shape-shifting demon can help you study.
  • Cul de Sac shows how you know when a book series is coming to an end.

(10) COMIC RECOMMENDATION. [Item by N.] Der-shing Holmer’s webcomic Mare Internvm is about to end (5 pages left). Pre-orders are open for physical copies. I really do recommend it, it’s a fine read.

(11) SOMETHING TO SINK YOUR TEETH INTO. “The archaeology of plaque (yes, plaque)” at The Harvard Gazette.

Not many people can get excited about plaque, but Christina Warinner loves the stuff.

The recently appointed assistant professor of anthropology in [Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences] and Sally Starling Seaver Assistant Professor at the Radcliffe Institute, Warinner was among the first researchers to realize that calcified plaque, otherwise known as dental calculus, could shed new light on everything from ancient diet and disease to the spread of dairying and the roles of women in society.

“It’s like a time capsule,” she said. “It’s the single richest source of ancient DNA in the archaeological record. There are so many things we can learn from it — everything from pollution in the environment to people’s occupations to aspects of health. It’s all in there.”

And it was a discovery, Warinner said, that happened almost entirely by accident.

After receiving her Ph.D. from the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in the Anthropology Department’s archaeology program, the Kansas native took a postdoc at the University of Zurich in what was then the new Center for Evolutionary Medicine. There she set out to investigate whether it would be possible to identify pathogens in the archaeological record to study the evolution of diseases. She chose dental caries, or cavities, as a case study, because they are visible amid skeletal remains and abundant in the archaeological record. She set out to examine whether the bacteria that caused caries in ancient teeth could be identified genetically.

“I started to notice all this dental calculus, which is very common on teeth, and was always getting in the way,” she said. “Most people would just take it off and throw it away, but I thought it could be interesting, so I turned that thought around and looked at it from a different angle.

“As a side project, I started applying genomic and proteomic techniques to it, which hadn’t been done before,” she continued. “It’s not perfect, and not everything preserves … but it turns out we can say an awful lot about the past through calculus.”

Applying genomic tools has allowed Warinner to get the clearest picture yet of not only ancient genomes, but ancient microbiomes as well.

(12) HAVE YOU SEEN THE LIGHT. The Harvard Gazette also explains how “New laser paves way for better imaging, communications”.

The terahertz frequency range — which sits in the middle of the electromagnetic spectrum between microwaves and infrared light — offers the potential for high-bandwidth communications, ultrahigh-resolution imaging, precise long-range sensing for radio astronomy, and much more.

But this section of the electromagnetic spectrum has remained out of reach for most applications. That is because current sources of terahertz frequencies are bulky, inefficient, have limited tuning, or must operate at low temperature.

Now, researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the U.S. Army, have developed a compact, room-temperature, widely tunable terahertz laser.

…To understand what they did, let’s go over some basic physics of how a laser works.

In quantum physics, excited atoms or molecules sit at different energy levels — think of these as floors of a building. In a typical gas laser, a large number of molecules are trapped between two mirrors and brought to an excited energy level, aka a higher floor in the building. When they reach that floor, they decay, fall down one energy level, and emit a photon. These photons stimulate the decay of more molecules as they bounce back and forth, leading to amplification of light. To change the frequency of the emitted photons, you need to change the energy level of the excited molecules.

So, how do you change the energy level? One way is to use light. In a process called optical pumping, light raises molecules from a lower energy level to a higher one — like a quantum elevator. Previous terahertz molecular lasers used optical pumps, but they were limited in their tunability to just a few frequencies, meaning the elevator only went to a small number of floors….

Also see the Science report: “Widely tunable compact terahertz gas lasers”.

(13) BIG ROOMBA. BBC wants to know, “Would you rent a vacuum cleaner for $499 a month?”

Vacuum cleaning is a chore many people are happy to outsource, but one company is trying to persuade firms to swap an automated service for human cleaners.

Softbank, the Japanese firm behind WeWork and Uber, has launched a self-powered machine, dubbed The Whiz, at a hefty price tag of $499 (£381) a month.

Softbank says its robot is meant to replace “over-worked janitorial teams.”

The Whiz is not initially automatic, as a human has to lead it around until it can learn the cleaning route.

It has been developed by Softbank’s US robotics arm and Hong Kong-based firm Intelligent Cleaning Equipment.

The three-feet-tall (0.9 metres) vacuum was initially only offered for rent in Japan and Hong Kong.

The machine sends an alert if there is an issue, such as bumping into a wall. After three hours, it can cover 15,000 square feet (1,394 square metres) but then will need a battery change.

(14) BAUM’S AWAY. Andrew Porter tuned in last night to Jeopardy! and witnessed this:

Category: Authors’ Fictional Places

Answer: “Loompaland.”

Wrong Question: “Who is Baum?”

(15) LOSE RESPONSIBLY. BBC reports “UK gambling machines loaded with AI ‘cool off’ system”.

Every gambling machine in the UK’s betting shops is being updated with software designed to detect and prevent problematic behaviour in players.

The system locks gamblers out of machines for 30 seconds if erratic or excessive play is detected.

While the brief lockdown is in effect, warnings about safe gambling are displayed on the machines’ screens.

One expert said the enforced break was “probably not long enough to have a positive effect”.

…Among the behaviour patterns it tries to detect are chasing losses, spending too long on a single machine and playing a succession of games rapidly.

(16) NUMBER TWO. “50 Years Ago, Americans Made The 2nd Moon Landing… Why Doesn’t Anyone Remember?” asks NPR. Maybe it’s the crappy dialogue?

Fifty years ago, astronaut Pete Conrad stepped out of the lunar module onto the surface of the moon.

His first words were: “Whoopie! Man, that may have been a small one for Neil, but that’s a long one for me.”

…Conrad[‘s] first words as he stepped onto the surface were actually part of a bet with a journalist, Muir-Harmony says. She had asked Conrad whether the U.S. government had dictated Neil Armstrong’s first words. “And he made a bet (I think it’s about a $500 bet) saying, ‘No, we can say whatever we want. We’re not being told what to say by the government.'”

(17) VASTER THAN LIBRARIES. Atlas Obscura explores “The Uncertain Future of the World’s Largest Secondhand Book Market”.

At the College Street market in Kolkata, India, independent booksellers fear the arrival of a massive mall.

…College Street, known by locals as Boi Para (which roughly translates to “Book Town”), spans more than a mile and covers a million square feet. Bigwigs of Bengali publishing coexist with makeshift stalls hammered together from wood, bamboo, tin, and canvas, in a chaotic matrix that runs from Mahatma Gandhi Road to Ganesh Chandra Avenue.

College Street has every imaginable type of text, available in Bengali, English, Mandarin, Sanskrit, Dutch, and every dialect in between. Precious first editions and literary classics sit cheek by jowl with medical encyclopedias, religious texts, and pulp fiction, often precariously stacked in uneven piles that resemble jagged cliff faces. Wily booksellers peer from raised wooden stalls; bearded collectors rifle through stock; mothers drag first-year university students through the aisles to collect their required reading.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/31/19 The World of Scroll-A

(1) CUTTING CAPERS. The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures picked a highly suitable day to announce they have added an important item to their collection.

(2) KNIVES OUT AT JPL. No gourd is safe when “NASA-JPL Holds Its Annual Pumpkin-Carving Contest”.

In a dark conference room, a pumpkin gently landed on the Moon, its retrorockets smoldering, while across the room, a flying saucer pumpkin hovered above Area 51 as a pumpkin alien wreaked havoc.

Suffice to say that when the scientists and engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, compete in a pumpkin-carving contest, the solar system’s the limit. Now in its ninth year, the contest gives teams only one hour to carve (off the clock, on their lunch break), though they can prepare non-pumpkin materials – like backgrounds, sound effects and motorized parts – ahead of time….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to devour Cthulhu with World Horror Grandmaster Ramsey Campbell – serving is in progress in Episode 108 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Ramsey published his H. P. Lovecraft-inspired first book of stories The Inhabitant of the Lake and Less Welcome Tenants in 1964 when he was only 18, and hasn’t stopped since. He’s a two-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award, a four-time winner of the World Fantasy Award, and a TWELVE-time winner of the British Fantasy Award. He’s also received lifetime achievement World Fantasy and Bram Stoker Awards, and was named a World Horror Grandmaster. Previous guest of the podcast T. E. D. Klein called his collection Demons by Daylight “perhaps the most important book of horror fiction since Lovecraft’s The Outsider and Others.” High praise indeed!

We got together on the final day of Worldcon, long after the 4:30 p.m. closing ceremonies had ended. So instead of traipsing around to the usual dead dog parties, we had dinner at Rosa Madre, which I found via Eater’s list of the 38 Essential Dublin restaurants — where at one point as I looked across the table, it seemed as if he was nibbling on Cthulhu! (And sure, I know it was only baby octopus, and not the the Great Old One … but we horror writers like to dream.)

We discussed his early relationship with Arkham House editor and publisher August Derleth, who he might have been had he never discovered H. P. Lovecraft, how this master of unease is able to keep the sense of dread going for the length of a novel (hint: he’s not entirely sure himself), why he loves The Blair Witch Project, what it was like writing novels in the Universal monsters universe, how he felt when The Times listed The Doll That Ate its Mother as one of the silliest titles of 1987, how Twilight Zone editor T. E. D. Klein changed his life, our shared memories of the 1979 World Fantasy Convention, why he feels his attempts to write science fiction have been “clumsy,” the way he was made speechless on his first meeting with J. G. Ballard, why he admires Vladimir Nabokov, and much more.

(4) DO THE POSTER MASH. Space.com points to some free downloads: “‘Galaxy of Horrors!’ NASA Posters Highlight Spooky Alien Planets”.

This Halloween season, NASA wants to open your eyes to the glorious spookiness all around us in the Milky Way galaxy.

The space agency has just released two new “Galaxy of Horrors” posters, which highlight a few of the most bizarre and inhospitable alien planets that scientists have discovered. And NASA created a fun 2-minute video, styled like a trailer for a 1950s horror movie, to promote the posters. 

You can download the posters for free here.

(5) PAST TOMORROWS. Barbara Kiser’s book reviews for Nature touch on Sarah Cole’s study of H.G. Wells, Inventing Tomorrow.

H. G. Wells was, asserts scholar Sarah Cole, a pioneer adept at “rescaling the cosmos and humanity’s place in it”. He straddled the border between science and literature, but not all his complexities were benign: he both repudiated racism and for some time shamefully ascribed to ideas on eugenics. Cole adroitly captures Wells, from his mould-breaking books (such as the 1895 science-fiction classic The Time Machine and 1920 Outline of History) to his unlikely intellectual kinship with subtle modernists such as Virginia Woolf.

(6) GRADE INFLATION. Morning Consult attempts to answer the question: “Rotten Tomatoes Scores Continue to Freshen. What Does This Mean for Movies?”

In recent years, Rotten Tomatoes has been ripe for the picking by movie marketers that want to tout a film’s high critics score from the website in their advertising. But as the Tomatometer’s average score continues to increase, experts are divided on why this is happening and how the industry will harvest Rotten Tomatoes’ ratings going forward.

David A. Gross, a movie consultant that runs Franchise Entertainment Research Inc., found that scores for wide-release films have been fluctuating since 1998’s recorded average of 46. However, averages have been increasing every year since 2014, with this year’s average coming in at 59.3, as of Oct. 28, 1.4 points higher than 2018’s 57.9.

(7) MORE REACTIONS TO SCORSESE, COPPOLA. Michael Ordoña asks “If comic-book movies aren’t emotional and psychological cinema, why are we crying?” in the Los Angeles Times.

… The director of “The Godfather” and “Captain EO” added: “Martin was kind when he said it’s not cinema. He didn’t say it’s despicable, which I just say it is.”

Andrea Letamendi, associate director of mental health training, intervention and response at UCLA, sees more in the best of these films than these giants of cinema do.

“Superhero films are giving us a way to practice and explore really important emotional processes that we may not be able to examine in our everyday lives. In ‘Endgame,’ the more fantastical, the better, because that gives us the supportive safety net to be open and vulnerable and curious about these things,” she says.

“Not to pat ourselves on the back,” says Christopher Markus, co-writer (with Stephen McFeely) of six MCU movies including the three-hour “Endgame,” “but we snuck an hourlong movie about loss and grief into the [start of the] biggest movie of all time. That’s a lot of people who sat with that issue in their heads for an hour.”

He says of villain Thanos’ cataclysmic action, “We wanted the Snap to be as profound as we could make it. The way to do that was to have all the characters sit with the impact, the unfixability of it, rather than scrambling around. We were interested in seeing what happens to these people whose sole purpose in life is solving problems, faced with a problem they did not solve.”

… Clinical psychologist Letamendi agrees. ”It’s a truly sophisticated portrayal. … How different characters cope with that loss really matters in terms of how we relate to them and how we might relate to our own losses.

“The term for that is ‘parasocial relationships’ — non-delusional emotional connections with fictional characters. I know Tony Stark isn’t real, but I’ve formed a long-lasting relationship with his character, so when we see him go through these difficult changes: the adversity, his self-doubt and, ultimately, his death, this is, in our world, difficult to deal with. The grief, the confusion, sometimes the anger — those feelings are real. I think there’s some value to that.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 31, 1962 First Spaceship On Venus premiered In the Eastern Bloc. It’s a 1960 East German/Polish film based on the 1951 Stanis?aw Lem novel The Astronauts. Lem did not like it at all and ask his name to be removed as he hated the strident politicization of the story. IMDB still lists him as the story source. Mystery Science Theater 3000 would lampoon it in 2008. 
  • October 31, 1964 Doctor Who returned to BBC with the premiere of its second season.  The first arc was titled “Planet of Giants.” William Hartnell Was the First Doctor with three companions present: Carole Ann Ford (Susan Foreman), Jacqueline Hill (Barbara Wright) and William Russell (Ian Chesterton). Episodes 3 and 4 are for the most part missing in the Great BBC Purge. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 31, 1923 Arthur W. Saha. A member of the Futurians and First Fandom who was an editor at Wollheim’s DAW Books including editing the Annual World’s Best SF from 1972 to 1990 and Year’s Best Fantasy Stories from 1975 to 1988. And he’s credited with coming up with the term “Trekkie” in 1967. (Died 1999.)
  • Born October 31, 1936 Michael Landon. Tony Rivers inI Was a Teenage Werewolf. (That film made two million on an eighty thousand dollar budget. Nice.) That and playing the lead as Jonathan Smith in Highway to Heaven are I think his only genre roles. (Died 1991.)
  • Born October 31, 1946 Stephen Rea, 73. An extensive genre history including V for Vendetta, Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, Underworld Waking, The Werewolf Among Us and Counterpart.
  • Born October 31, 1950 John Candy. Best known in genre circles for playing Barf in Mel Brook’s Spaceballs but he also played Wink Wilkinson in Frank Oz’s  Little Shop of Horrors, Kalishak in Boris and Natasha: The Movie, and was the narrator of the “Blumpoe the Grumpoe Meets Arnold the Cat/Millions of Cats” of Shelley Duvall’s Bedtime Stories. (Died 1994.)
  • Born October 31, 1959 Neal Stephenson, 60. Some years back, one of the local bookstores had an sf book reading group. One of the staff who was a member of that group (as was I) took extreme dislike to The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer. I don’t remember now why but it made re-read that (which was good) and Snow Crash (equally good). My favorite novel by him is The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. 
  • Born October 31, 1961 Peter Jackson, 58. I’m going to confess that I watched and liked the first of the Lord of The Rings films but got no further than that. I was never fond of The Two Towers as a novel so it wasn’t something I wanted to see as a film, and I like The Hobbit just fine as a novel thank you much. Now the Adventures of Tintin is quite nice indeed. 
  • Born October 31, 1979 Erica Cerra, 40. Best known as Deputy Jo Lupo on Eureka, certainly one of the best SF series ever done. She had a brief recurring role as Maya in Battlestar Galactica, plus one-offs in pretty much anything you’d care to mention in roles such as Pretty Girl. 
  • Born October 31, 1993 Letitia Wright,  26. She co-starred in Black Panther playing Shuri, King T’Challa’s sister and princess of Wakanda.  (Yes, she is in both Avengers films.) Before that, she was Anahson in “Face the Raven”, a Twelfth Doctor story, and was in the Black Mirror’s “Black Museum” episode. 
  • Born October 31, 1999 Danielle Russell, 20. She played Hope Mikaelson in The Originals, a spin-off of The Vampire Dairies. In something I’ve never seen before, she went on to portray that character in Legacies, a spin-off of The Originals which makes it a spin-off of a spin-off!  

(10) FAN FICTION BLOSSOMS. The Washington Post’s Avi Selk profiles the horror fan fiction site Nosleep, whose alumni have sold novels and gotten writing gigs on the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House: “Inside the horror website that’s freaking out millions of people”.

…Druga is the top administrator on Nosleep, whose indistinguishable mixture of the real and merely realistic (weighed heavily toward the latter, most likely) has helped it grow into the Internet’s main source of amateur horror stories — with more than 13 million subscribers and hundreds of thousands of posts along the lines of “My neighbor has been mowing his lawn for 12 hours straight” and “My granddad used to come to my room at night wearing a mask. Now I know why.”

(11) MORE JEOPARDY! WRONGNESS. Andrew Porter would hate for you to miss another fabulously bad guess by a Jeopardy! contestant.

Category: Fictional Flags Flying.

Answer: After arriving by submarine, this character claims the South Pole with a black flag baring a gold “N”.

Wrong question: “Who is Bugs Bunny?”

Right question: “Who is Nemo?”

(12) THE DEATH OF FRANCHISES? [Item by Olav Rokne.] Dueling articles in today’s Guardian offer arguments against two major franchises, as Ben Child argues that it’s no longer possible to make a ‘good’ Star Wars movie, and Stuart Heritage proclaims bluntly that Game of Thrones should die. While each of them makes some good points about the flaws that seem to be plaguing the subjects of their respective ire, they might go a little far. 

Ben Child challenges: “Spent force: why is making a good Star Wars film so hard?”  

Star Wars’s directors must feel like the Hollywood equivalent of all those unfortunate Imperial admirals in the original trilogy. One misplaced Rebel fleet and it’s instant death by studio chokehold.

Stuart Heritage says “It’s time for the Game of Thrones universe to die”.  

Television is littered with the corpses of unnecessary spinoffs, from Caprica to AfterMASH, Baywatch Nights to Joey. … At this point, with a tainted brand, an irritated fanbase and a pilot that’s proved a colossal waste of effort,perhaps the sensible thing would be for HBO to ditch Game of Thrones altogether.

Overall, the articles do beg the question: under what circumstances should a franchise be left to die, or at least be abandoned to lie fallow before they can be rediscovered by a new generation? It’s a question that’s worth discussing in an era of nonstop franchise maintenance. 

(13) ION STORM AHEAD CAPTAIN. Nature tells of “A 100-kiloparsec wind feeding the circumgalactic medium of a massive compact galaxy”. From the abstract —

…Theory points to galactic winds as the primary source of the enriched and massive circumgalactic medium3,4,5,6. Winds from compact starbursts have been observed to flow to distances somewhat greater than ten kiloparsecs7,8,9,10, but the circumgalactic medium typically extends beyond a hundred kiloparsecs3,4. Here are observations of the massive but compact galaxy SDSS J211824.06+001729.4 of a 100-kiloparsec wind.

(14) JAVA IN WESTEROS. BBC delves into “Game of Thrones’ coffee cup and 6 other TV and film bloopers”.

Game of Thrones actress Emilia Clarke has revealed who was responsible for the show’s infamous coffee cup scene.

In one episode of the eighth season, eagle-eyed viewers spotted a coffee cup on the table in the great hall, as Mother of Dragons Daenerys Targaryen sat, more appropriately, with goblet in hand.

Now, Clarke has revealed her co-star Conleth Hill, who portrayed master of spies Lord Varys, admitted to being responsible for the error during a pre-awards show party in September.

(15) DEAD PERFECT. Google Nest was holding auditions for its Nest doorbell, you see….

She was born to die to play this role. Obvi. It wasn’t easy, but we found an actual ghost to record spooky, Halloween sounds for the Nest Hello doorbell.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/29/19 My Room In The Luna Hotel Had A Harsh Mattress

(1) ALL’S WELLS THAT ENDS WELLES. This meeting between H.G. Wells and Orson Welles was broadcast on Radio KTSA San Antonio on October 28, 1940.

(2) DIFFERENCE DECIDERS. Rochelle Spencer assesses “A New Hope: Ebony Elizabeth Thomas’s Vision for “The Dark Fantastic”” at LA Review of Books.

…Thomas’s investigation leads to one of the most radiant and thought-provoking descriptions of the potentials of fantastic literature. In particular, what Thomas terms “the dark fantastic” — fantasy that includes but hinders or stereotypes people of color — is problematic. Still, if we’re to write what Thomas terms “an emancipatory dark fantastic” — stories that break the cycle of the tragic, sacrificial Dark Girl, and instead, reveal her as complex, defiant, central, and vibrant — we may ultimately succeed in “decolonizing our fantasies and our dreams.” And, as Thomas suggests, the ability to reconsider and reinterpret “the crisis of race in our storied imagination has the potential to make our world anew.”

…Thomas wants us to consider difference as relative and circumscribed by power. Who has the power to label someone as different or monstrous?

(3) FINALLY RETURNING TO LONG FORM. Only her second, Susanna Clarke’s next novel will be sff and appear next fall.

Bloomsbury nabbed world English rights to the sophomore novel by the author of the 2004 bestseller Jonathan Strange & Mr. NorrellSusanna Clarke’s Piranesiis slated for a global laydown in September 2020. A Bloomsbury spokesperson said the novel is set in “a richly imagined, very unusual world.” The title character lives in a place called the House and is needed by his friend, the Other, to work on a scientific project. The publisher went on: “Piranesi records his findings in his journal. Then messages begin to appear; all is not what it seems. A terrible truth unravels as evidence emerges of another person and perhaps even another world outside the House’s walls.” Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell has, per Bloomsbury, sold more than four million copies worldwide. Clarke, who’s won both a Hugo Award and a World Fantasy Award, was represented by Jonny Geller at Curtis Brown.

(4) FATHOM EVENTS. “‘Twilight Zone’ Anniversary Show Set for Nov. 14”Variety has the story. The Fathom Events info is here.

Fathom Events and CBS Home Entertainment have scheduled a Nov. 14 showing for “The Twilight Zone: A 60th Anniversary Celebration” at more than 600 North American cinemas.

The shows will combine digitally restored versions of six episodes with an all-new documentary short titled “Remembering Rod Serling” about the life, imagination and creativity of the show’s creator. It’s the first time that original episodes of the series, which ran from 1959 to 1964, have been presented on the big screen.

Fathom Events CEO Ray Nutt said, “‘The Twilight Zone’ has inspired many filmmakers and storytellers, so it is a great honor to be able to bring these classic stories to the big screen, and to offer such an incisive look into the mind of the man who created them.”

(5) 2020 ACCESSIBILITY. CoNZealand asks those coming to the 2020 Worldcon: “Let us know if you have accessible accommodation needs”.

Do you have disability or accessibility requests for your accommodation in Wellington? We are busy confirming hotel information to share with our members later this year, and need to know your current accessibility requests as part of this planning by 15 October 2019.

If you have hotel accessibility needs, please email access-hotels@conzealand.nz with details of your hotel accessibility requests and an indication of the number of nights you think you will be staying as well.

(6) PRISING OFF THE LID. Alasdair Stuart previews this week’s Full Lid (27th September 2019). It opens with —

— the UK strand of Netflix’s new anthology show [Criminal UK] which is massively impressive and COLD in a way very little drama manages to be.  Then it’s a very welcome return for Warren Ellis, Jason Howard and co’s Trees from Image Comics. The third series is a Strugatskian deep dive into one of the oddest places in the scarred and painfully human world of the series and it’s off to a great start. Finally, I take a look at Ad Astra, equal parts towering spectacle, moments of surprising emotion and near total tonal misfire. 

(7) NELSON OBIT. VentriloquistJimmy Nelson, Jimmy Nelson – known for his Farfel and Danny O’Day characters – died September 24 at age 90.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 29, 1967 Trek aired the “The Changeling” episode. When Star Trek: The Motion Picture premiered in 1979, many fans suggested that the plot was simply a remake of this episode. 
  • September 29, 1967Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons first premiered into Supermarionation. This process was used extensively in the puppet series of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 29, 1873 Theodore Lorch. He might have the earliest birthdate in these Birthday Honors so far. He’s the High Priest in 1936’s Flash Gordon serial. He’s also shows up (uncredited originally) as Kane’s Council Member in the 1939 Buck Rogers serial as well. (Died 1947.)
  • Born September 29, 1930 Naura Hayden. Her best-known film appearance is a starring role in The Angry Red Planet where she was Dr. Iris “Irish” Ryan. Yes, she was a redhead. Unless you can her uncredited appearance as a harem girl in Son of Sinbad, this is her only film or series genre role. Though in 1955, she joined a Canadian musical cast of Li’l Abner. This was made possible by Sidney W. Pink who wrote the script for The Angry Red Planet. (Died 2013.)
  • Born September 29, 1942 Ian McShane, 77. Setting aside Deadwood, which is the favorite series of Emma Bull and Will Shetterly, where he’s Al Swearengen, he portrays Mr. Wednesday in American Gods.and it turns out, although I don’t remember it, he was Dr. Robert Bryson in Babylon 5: The River of Souls film. And he’s Blackbeard in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Now you tell me what your favorite genre role is by him. 
  • Born September 29, 1944 Isla Blair, 75. Her first credited film appearance was in Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors as an art gallery assistant.  She was Isabella in The King’s Demons, a Fifth Doctor story. She’s in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade as the wife of her real-life husband Julian Glover, and credited as Mrs. Glover. 
  • Born September 29, 1952 Lou Stathis. During the last four years of his life, he was an editor for Vertigo. He had a fascinating work history including collaborating with cartoonist Matt Howarth by co-writing the first few issues of Those Annoying Post Bros. (Kindle has them available.) He was also a columnist and editor for Heavy Metal and a columnist for Ted White’s Fantastic magazine during the late Seventies through early Eighties. His fanwriting included the “Urban Blitz” column for OGH’s Scientifriction (the first installment appearing in 1977, Issue 9, page 29). (Died 1997.)
  • Born September 29, 1959 Scott MacDonald, 60. He’s been on four Trek shows:  Next GenerationVoyager, Deep Space Nine, and Enterprise. He’s also up on Space Above and Beyond, Babylon 5X-Files, Stargate: SG-1, Carnivale and Threshold. He was also in Jack Frost 2: Revenge of the Mutant Killer Snowman, a film which you can guess the rating at Rotten Tomatoes is. 
  • Born September 29, 1961 Nicholas Briggs, 58. A Whovian among Whoians. First off he’s the voice of the Daleks and the Cybermen in the new series of shows. Second he’s the Executive Producer of Big Finish Productions, the audioworks company that has produced more Doctor Who, Torchwood and other related works that you’d think possible. Third he’s appeared as himself in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. 
  • Born September 29, 1969 Erika Eleniak, 50. Her film debut was a small part in E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial as one of Elliott’s classmates.  Her first film role as an adult was as Vicki De Soto, a victim of the creature in the 1988 horror remake The Blob. She’s Vice-Captain Aurora in Dracula 3000, a film that had to have a disclaimer that it wasn’t a sequel to Dracula 2000
  • Born September 29, 1981 Shay Astar, 38. At age eleven, she portrayed Isabella, the imaginary friend of a young girl aboard the Enterprise in the Next Generation episode “Imaginary Friend”. She’s best known for her work as August Leffler, a recurring character on 3rd Rock from the Sun. Her only other genre role is as Mary Elroy in the “A Tale of Two Sweeties (February 25, 1958)” episode of Quantum Leap.

(10) FUR CHRONICLES. The late Fred Patten’s nonfiction book Furry Tales: A Review of Essential Anthropomorphic Fiction is now available from McFarland.

Tales featuring anthropomorphic animals have been around as long as there have been storytellers to spin them, from Aesop’s Fables to Reynard the Fox to Alice in Wonderland. The genre really took off following the explosion of furry fandom in the 21st century, with talking animals featuring in everything from science fiction to fantasy to LGBTQ coming-out stories.

In his lifetime, Fred Patten (1940–2018)—one of the founders of furry fandom and a scholar of anthropomorphic animal literature—authored hundreds of book reviews that comprise a comprehensive critical survey of the genre. This selected compilation provides an overview from 1784 through the 2010s, covering such popular novels as Watership Down and Redwall, along with forgotten gems like The Stray Lamb and Where the Blue Begins, and science fiction works like Sundiver and Decision at Doona.

(11) EMSH EXHIBITION. “Dream Dance: The Art of Ed Emshwiller”, the first major monographic exhibition of the artist’s groundbreaking work in film, video, and visual art, will be presented at the Lightbox Film Center in Philadelphia from October 18-December 7. Full details and ticket information at the link. See Vimeo preview here.

With an immensely diverse body of creative work, Ed Emshwiller (1925-90) is perhaps one of the most significant yet under-recognized artists of the latter half of the 20th century. 

Emshwiller’s career spanned abstract expressionist painting, commercial illustration, film, video and computer art, and collaborations with dancers, choreographers, and composers.  Dream Dance includes the preservation of two of Emshwiller’s earliest films, Dance Chromatic (1959) and Lifelines (1960), which will be screened at Lightbox along with 19 of his other films—some of which have never been publicly presented in Philadelphia—as well as notable films by other filmmakers for which he served as cinematographer. 

A concurrent exhibition at the Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery highlights Emshwiller’s visual and fine art background, including video works, early paintings, notes, sketches, ephemera, and many early science fiction cover paintings. Dream Dance is a full scale investigation of the artist’s legacy, presenting his multidisciplinary oeuvre to a new generation of audiences.

(12) VOYAGE TO THE INDIES. Cora Buhlert signs in with the highlights of “Indie Speculative Fiction of the Month for September 2019”.

Once again, we have new releases covering the whole broad spectrum of speculative fiction. This month, we have epic fantasy, urban fantasy, military fantasy, dark fantasy, Arthurian fantasy, Asian fantasy, Wuxia, paranormal mystery, space opera, military science fiction, time travel romance, Steampunk, LitRPG, horror, ghosts, fae, pirates, space marines, conscientious objectors, traffickers, trailblazers, time travel, crime-busting witches, crime-busting werewolves, literary characters come to life, Arthur and Merlin, defiant empires and much more.

(13) THOSE DARN REPLICANTS. By the time you reach the end of this list — “Blade Runner: 10 Things That Make No Sense”ScreenRant will have you thinking the whole movie makes no sense. (Maybe it doesn’t?)

10 IDENTIFYING A REPLICANT

In the beginning of the film, it’s established that in order to retire a replicant, they must be subject to a VK test to determine their empathy levels. When Holden is sent to give the test to Leon, why doesn’t he recognize him? It’s established that all replicants have dossiers, because we see their mugshots lined up later on in the film. This proves there’s a unique database that exists of every replicant’s face on record.

Also, if it comes to identifying replicants in the streets, why can’t Deckard or other Blade Runners use an EMF reader to locate them? They have machine components under their synthetic flesh, so their electromagnetic impulses would assuredly register on such devices.

(14) STARSHIP NEWS.  “SpaceX knows what a rocket should look like!” says John King Tarpinian, who sent in this photo. Meanwhie,BBC reports “Elon Musk upbeat on Starship test flights”.

The American entrepreneur Elon Musk has given a further update on his Starship and Super Heavy rocket system.

He plans to use the new vehicles to send people to the Moon and Mars, and also to move them swiftly around the Earth.

The SpaceX CEO is in the process of building prototypes and plans to start flying them in the coming months.

…Both parts of the new rocket system, which together will stand 118m tall on the launch pad, are being designed to be fully reusable, making propulsive landings at the end of their mission.

Mr Musk is well known for his aggressive scheduling, which even has a name: “Elon time”.

The scheduling often slips, but eventually he does tend to deliver.

(15) MARS SOCIETY. The organization has posted the “2019 Mars Society Convention Schedule Online”.

The full itinerary for the 22nd Annual International Mars Society Convention is now available for viewing online. Please visit https://bit.ly/2kPIDqa to see the four-day conference schedule, running from October 17-20 at the University of Southern California (Los Angeles).

The Mars Society convention program includes a series of plenary talks, panel discussions and public debates on important issues related to planning for a human mission to the Red Planet and general space exploration.

Conference highlights will include an update about NASA’s Curiosity rover with Ashwin Vasavada, a talk about SpaceX and its mission to Mars by Paul Wooster, a debate about NASA’s proposed Lunar Gateway project, an update about the Mars InSight mission by Tom Hoffman, a review by Shannon Rupert of her experiences with Mars analog research, the finals of the Mars Colony Prize Contest involving student teams from around the world and, as always, an address by Mars Society President Robert Zubrin.

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