Pixel Scroll 2/23/20 Old Possum’s Scroll Of Practically Universal Robotic Cats

(1) DITMAR NOMINATIONS OPEN. Nominations for the 2020 Australian SF (“Ditmar”) awards are open until one minute before midnight Perth time on Sunday, March 1, 2020 (ie. 11.59 p.m., GMT+8). The current rules, including Award categories can be found at: here.

You must include your name with any nomination. Nominations will be accepted only from natural persons active in fandom, or from full or supporting members of Swancon 2020, the 2020 Australian National SF Convention.

A partial and unofficial eligibility list, to which everyone is encouraged to add, can be found here.

(2) NAACP IMAGE AWARDS. Genre triumphed: “Jordan Peele and Lupita Nyong’o Win Big for Us at NAACP Image Awards”ComicBook.com has the story.

After many thought Lupita Nyongo’o and Jordan Peele were snubbed from Oscar nominations this year for their work on Us, the duo ended up winning big at the NAACP Image Awards. By the time the annual gala was over Saturday night, Peele had won Outstanding Writing In A Motion Picture while Nyong’o won Outstanding Actress In A Motion Picture.

…Despite receiving zero nominations at the 92nd Academy Awards, the Peele-directed horror flick also managed to win big elsewhere this awards season. Peele won Best Director at this summer’s Saturn Awards while Nyong’o won Best Actress with the Hollywood Critics Association and more. As a whole, the movie’s biggest award came during the Critics’ Choice Awards, where it won Best Sci-fi/Horror movie.

(3) ORIGINAL COMICS ART ON THE BLOCK. Heritage Auctions is in the internet bidding phase of its 2020 March 5 – 8 Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction – Dallas #7224. This Spider-Man cover has already been bid up to $135,000.

John Romita Sr. Amazing Spider-Man #51 Cover Kingpin Original Art (Marvel, 1967). One of the finest Amazing Spider-Man covers we have ever had! It was the Kingpin’s very first cover appearance, and it set the image of the character in many fan’s heads for decades to come….

(4) SEND THE TARDIS TO DUBLIN. Nicholas Whyte wishes Doctor Who spent more time in Ireland – like any at all. He has written a rundown on the Irishness of the TV show, book adaptations, audio dramas, and comics. You might say there is more green in Tom Baker’s trademark scarf than the rest of the show combined.

It is a sad fact that up to the present day (choosing my words *very* carefully here), not a single second of TV screen time on the show, or any of its spinoffs, has been set in Ireland. Indeed, hitherto the Doctor spent more televised time in Hungary than on the Emerald Isle (special prize if you know what story I am referring to). A couple of confused characters do wonder if Gallifrey, the home planet of the Time Lords, may be in Ireland, but that’s as close as we get.

However, the real life relationship between Doctor Who and Ireland is much stronger. Tenth Doctor David Tennant’s grandmother was from Northern Ireland – his grandfather was a professional footballer, whose record of 57 goals for Derry City in a single season still stands. Lalla Ward, who played the second incarnation of Romana and was briefly married to Fourth Doctor Tom Baker, is the daughter of the 7th Viscount Bangor; their family home was Castle Ward in County Down, better known to Game of Thrones fans as Winterfell.

And lucky kids in Belfast and Derry were thrilled one day in 1978 when the Fourth Doctor himself turned up at their school…

(5) CHEWHACKA. ComicBook.com points readers to a video that teaches how “Disneyland Guests Unlock Secret ‘Chewbacca Mode’ on Millenium Falcon Ride, and You Can Too”.

…The hack has to be done like an old video game cheat code. You need to make certain inputs by a certain time in order to bring “Chewie mode” online. Here is a video and written instruction from the FreshBaked YouTube Channel, which specializes in Disneyland tips and tricks:

(6) TRIBBLES BY THE NUMBERS. Although now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall, that wasn’t enough. Ars Technica learned that scientists wanted the answer to yet another question: “Physics undergrads crunched numbers for Star Trek’s tribble problem”.

Chalk this one up to fun scientific papers we inexplicably missed last year. A group of undergraduates at the University of Leicester in the UK calculated the growth rate of the fictional Star Trek critters known as tribbles. They published their results in a short paper in the university’s undergraduate-centric Journal of Physics Special Topics, estimating just how long it would take for there to be enough tribbles to fill up the USS Enterprise….

(7) VENUSIAN ROVER DESIGN CHALLENGE. NASA is summoning the public to help create new technology for a mission to a “hellish” planet: “Exploring Hell: Avoiding Obstacles on a Clockwork Rover”.

…Imagine a world hot enough to turn lead into a puddle, where the atmospheric pressure can crush a nuclear-powered submarine. Now imagine sending a rover to explore that world. 

Venus, ancient sister of Earth with a planetary environment just this side of hellish, has been visited by a handful of probes since the early days of space flight.  Of the many missions to our celestial neighbor, only about a dozen have made contact with the surface of the planet. The longest-lived landers only managed to function for a couple of hours before succumbing to the relentlessly oppressive heat and pressure.

… Current, state-of-the-art, military-grade electronics fail at approximately 125°C, so mission scientists at JPL have taken their design cues from a different source: automatons and clockwork operations. Powered by wind, the AREE mission concept is intended to spend months, not minutes, exploring the landscape of our sister world. Built of advanced alloys, AREE will be able to collect valuable long-term longitudinal scientific data utilizing both indirect and direct sensors.

As the rover explores the surface of Venus, collecting and relaying data to an orbiter overhead, it must also detect obstacles in its path like rocks, crevices, and steep terrain. To assist AREE on its groundbreaking mission concept, JPL needs an equally groundbreaking obstacle avoidance sensor, one that does not rely on vulnerable electronic systems. For that reason, JPL is turning to the global community of innovators and inventors to design this novel avoidance sensor for AREE. JPL is interested in all approaches, regardless of technical maturity.

This sensor will be the primary mechanism by which the potential rover would detect and navigates through dangerous situations during its operational life. By sensing obstacles such as rocks, crevices, and inclines, the rover would then navigate around the obstruction, enabling the rover to continue to explore the surface of Venus and collect more observational data.

CNN assures everyone:

Don’t have an engineering degree? Doesn’t matter. Never seen a spacecraft in real life? No problem.

“JPL is interested in all approaches, regardless of technical maturity,” NASA said.

The 1st-place winner of the design contest will get up to $15,000, the 2nd-place winner will get up to $10,000, and the 3rd-place winner will get $5,000.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 23, 1935 The Phantom Empire premiered.  It was a Western serial film with elements of SF and musical theater as well. It was directed by Otto Brower and B. Reeves Eason. It starred the singing cowboy himself Gene Autry along with Frankie Darro and Betsy King Ross. In 1940, a feature film edited from the serial was released as either Radio Ranch or Men with Steel Faces. It was a box office success earning back its seventy-five thousand dollar budget.  The very few audience members who gave it a rating at Rotten Tomatoes didn’t like it hence the 27% rating there. You can see the first chapter here.
  • February 23, 1954 Rocky Jones, Space Ranger premiered. This was the first science fiction television show to be entirely pre-filmed (instead of being televised live as was the case with Captain Video, Buck Rogers and Tom Corbett.) It was also the first to use sets of unusual good quality, live location shoots, and rather decent special effects. Rocky Jones was played by Richard Crane. It was created by Roland D. Reed and written by Warren Wilson, Arthur Hoerl and Marianne Mosner, with Hollingsworth Morse being the director. It lasted but two seasons as it never really caught on with the public. Story wise, it actually had a great deal of continuity built into it, unlike almost all of the other series at the time. Its thirty-nine episodes, each twenty-five minutes in length, aired originally between February 23rd and November 16th, 1954. You can see the first episode here.
  • February 23, 1978 Quark was slotted in on NBC as a mid-season replacement series. Yes, the pilot aired on May 7, 1977, so technically that it’s birthday but let’s skip past that please. It was created by Buck Henry, co-creator of Get Smart. The series starred Richard Benjamin, Tim Thomerson, Richard Kelton, Tricia Barnstable and Cyb Barnstable. It specialized in satirizing popular SF series and films — the Wiki article states that three episodes were based upon actualTrek episodes, though that can’t be confirmed. It lasted but eight episodes beating Space Rangers by two episodes in longevity. You can see the first episode here. here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 23, 1564 Christopher Marlowe. Author of Doctor Faustus (or The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus.  Elizabeth Bear made him a character in her Stratford Man series which is Ink and Steel and Hell and Earth novels which I highly recommend. If you’ve not read them, the Green Man review is here. (Died 1593.)
  • Born February 23, 1915 Jon Hall. Frank Raymond in Invisible Agent and The Invisible Man’s Revenge. He was also the creator and star of the Ramar of the Jungle series. And he directed and starred in The Beach Girls and the Monster and The Navy vs. the Night Monsters. (Died 1979.)
  • Born February 23, 1930 Gerry Davis. Mid-Sixties story editor on Doctor Who where he created companion Jamie McCrimmon and co-created the Cybermen along with unofficial scientific adviser Dr. Kit Pedler. They would create the Doomwatch series that ran in the Sixties on BBC. Davis briefly returned to writing for the series, penning the first script for Revenge of the Cybermen, though his script was largely abandoned by editor Robert Holmes. In 1989 he and Terry Nation, who created the Daleks, made a failed bid to take over production of the series and reformat it for the American market. (Died 1991.)
  • Born February 23, 1932 Majel Barrett. No doubt best remembered for being  Nurse Christine Chapel and Lwaxana Troi as well as for being the voice of most of the ship computer interfaces throughout the series. I’ll note that she was originally cast as Number One in the unused Pilot but the male studio heads hated the idea of a female in that role. Early Puppies obviously. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 23, 1965 Jacob Weisman, 55. Founder, Tachyon Publications, which you really should go look at as they’ve published every great author I’d care to read. Seriously Tidhar, Beagle and Yolen are among their newest releases! He also edited (with Beagle) The New Voices of Fantasy which I highly recommend as most excellent reading.
  • Born February 23, 1983 Emily Blunt, 37. Her most direct connection to the genre is as Elise Sellas in the Adjustment Bureau film based off Dick’s “Adjustment Team” story. Mind, she’s been in quite a number of other genre films including The WolfmanGulliver’s Travels, Gnomeo & Juliet, The Muppets, Looper, Edge of Tomorrow, Into the Woods, The Huntsman: Winter’s WarThe Strange Case of Sherlock Holmes & Arthur Conan Doyle, and Mary Poppins Returns.
  • Born February 23, 2002 Emilia Jones, 18. I’m reasonably sure this is the youngest Birthday individual that I’ve done.  She shows up on Doctor Who as Merry Gejelh, The Queen of Years, in the “The Rings of Akhaten”, an Eleventh Doctor story. At nine years of age, she’s made her acting debut in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides as an unnamed English Girl. She’s Young Beth in the horror film Ghostland. She’s currently in Residue, an SF horror series you can find on Netflix. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • And let’s catch up with Tom Gauld –

(11) LEAP BEER. On February 29 Ology Brewing Company in Tallahassee, Florida will combine the debut of their Tropical Habitat beer – “inspired by the Southern Reach trilogy” – with a book signing by Jeff VanderMeer.

To honor our friendship with Jeff VanderMeer, Tallahassee resident and author of the Southern Reach Trilogy, we are releasing Tropical Habitat, a tropical, otherworldly Hazy Double IPA at a special Book Signing and Meet & Greet event alongside the release of three other beers (Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout, Barrel-Aged American Sour, and Fruit Beer).

A portion of Tropical Habitat sales (both cans and tap pours) will benefit the Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge (The Salamander Project) and honor the setting of the trilogy book series and one of our team’s favorite places – the North Florida Coast.

(12) BEHIND THE VEIL. Cora Buhlert put up another evaluation of a Retro-eligible work: “Retro Review: ‘The Veil of Astellar’ by Leigh Brackett”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

Uncommon for Leigh Brackett, “The Veil of Astellar” begins with a framing story about a manuscript found inside a message rocket sent to the Interworld Space Authority headquarters on Mars. This manuscript offers an explanation of the space phenomenon called “the Veil” which comes out of nowhere and swallows spaceships in the asteroid belt. The space police officers are initially sceptical about the account, but eventually manage to determine that it is authentic. Furthermore, the much feared Veil has vanished and the message inside the rocket explains why….

(13) HEARTFIELD CLASS. Cat Rambo shared “Highlights from Writing Interactive Fiction,” taught online by Kate Heartfield.  Thread starts here.

(14) QUINN AGAIN, BEGIN AGAIN. A.V.Club: “DC Universe’s Harley Quinn is coming back for another season in April”.

We’re going through a Harley Quinnaissance at the moment, even if Birds Of Preydidn’t light up the box office, and it looks like DC Universe is eager to keep it going. As announced on Twitter, the streaming service (which still exists and has yet to be swallowed up by HBO Max!) will already be getting a new season of the Harley Quinn animated series in April. The first season just premiered at the end of 2019, so this will be a surprisingly short wait for a chance to hear more DC comic book characters say “fuck” and get beat up in surprisingly violent ways. Also, maybe this time Harley and Poison Ivy will end up together? Or maybe they won’t and that’s okay too? Either way, DC Universe has to hold onto something that fans want to see, or else HBO Max will just quietly roll up and take over. Then Harley Quinn’s going to have to hang out with the Friendsinstead of Poison Ivy, and nobody wants that.

(15) IF YOU DON’T SLING THE LINGO. BBC asks: “Dubs or subs? Parasite renews debate on how to watch foreign films”.

The South Korean dark comedy film Parasite had a historic awards season sweep – and in the process, reignited the debate over whether subtitles or dubbing is the best way to watch a movie that isn’t in your native language.

As director Bong Joon Ho accepted the first-ever best foreign language picture Golden Globe for a South Korean film, he said: “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”

Fast forward a month, and he was making history again, accepting the best picture award once more at the Oscars. Parasite’s Oscar win introduced it to a broad US audience – but not everyone was in favour of watching the award winner in its original language.

Dubbing takes the stress out of enjoying a foreign film, some argued, and performances are meant to be heard, not read. The angered response from subtitle fans ranged from accusations of racism to pointing out the needs of deaf viewers.

How you watch a foreign film is a clearly personal matter, tangled in pet peeves and accessibility. But as foreign flicks are gaining more screen time before American audiences, here’s a deeper dive into how we got here, and where the industry is headed.

In the early days of film, on-screen text was far from a “one-inch barrier” – it was the only way to express dialogue. Title cards were the precursor to subtitles, and they, too, were controversial in a way that mirrors the modern debate.

Stage actors would try to hide their work in silent film as many felt the lack of sound diminished the quality of the performance, Professor Marsha McKeever, academic director of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, told the BBC.

(16) THE CALL OF THE UNWILD. Yours truly used to live a few blocks from where this happened: “Wild bear roams streets of California neighbourhood” (video). The bears didn’t come down to our block, but coyotes, skunks, and possums did.

A wild bear has been sedated and captured after it was seen roaming in a residential area in Monrovia, California.

The 28.3 stone (180kg) elderly female walked through residential areas close to Angeles National Forest.

A mild California winter could be a possible reason for the sighting, as warmer weather causes bears to leave their dens in search of food.

(17) HOMEMADE ASTRONAUT AND ROUND EARTH SKEPTIC DIES. The earth may not be flat, but now he is: “‘Mad’ Mike Hughes dies after crash-landing homemade rocket”.

A US daredevil pilot has been killed during an attempted launch of a homemade rocket in the Californian desert.

“Mad” Mike Hughes, 64, crash-landed his steam-powered rocket shortly after take-off near Barstow on Saturday.

A video on social media shows a rocket being fired into the sky before plummeting to the ground nearby.

Hughes was well-known for his belief that the Earth was flat. He hoped to prove his theory by going to space.

Video at TMZ.

(18) SEEKER. BrainPickings’ Maria Popova delves into Brian Greene’s book Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe: “Until the End of Time: Physicist Brian Greene on the Poetry of Existence and the Wellspring of Meaning in Our Ephemeral Lives Amid an Impartial Universe”.

…Although science is Greene’s raw material in this fathoming — its histories, its theories, its triumphs, its blind spots — he emerges, as one inevitably does in contemplating these colossal questions, a testament to Einstein’s conviction that “every true theorist is a kind of tamed metaphysicist.”

(19) TRANSFORMATIVE EXPERIENCE. Jeffrey Lyles succumbs to the Hasbro advertising — “Check out the incredible trailer for Transformers: War For Cybertron Trilogy: Siege” – at Lyles Movie Files.

I’ve been impressed with my ability to not get sucked into Hasbro’s Transformers’ Siege line. Those figures really look impressive, but I’m trying to keep my Transformers purchases to the Masterpiece line. But now with the release of Netflix’s Transformers: War for Cybertron Trilogy trailer, I’m thinking my resolve is about to crumble especially given how good this series looks.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/13/20 Doctor Pixelstein’s Scrollster – or The Filing Prometheus

(1) PSYCHICHISTORY. I can’t read minds, but I can read blogs. Camestros Felapton took up the literary question of “How to be psychic”.

Are psychic powers a trojan horse from the world of magic that have snuck into science fiction? Psychic powers are almost indistinguishable from wish fulfilment in aggregate and only take on a resemblance of speculation about reality when codified into subtypes with Graeco-Latin names with sciency connotations.

But psychic powers aren’t going to vanish from science fiction any time soon. Doctor Who has psychic paper and telepathic circuits in their TARDIS, Star Trek has empaths and telepathic Vulcans, and Star Wars has a conflict between psychic factions as its core mythology. Firefly and Babylon 5 had psychics. Dune, Stranger in a Strange Land, Le Guin’s Ekumen universe, Asimov’s Foundation series, multiple Philip K Dick works, each contain various beings with mental powers. Science Fiction has a permission note for amazing mental abilities had has used that licence freely….

(2) MAG*C HAPPENS. At Disneyland, “’Magic Happens’ Parade – Debuts February 28”.

Starting February 28, Disneyland Park will welcome Magic Happens, the park’s first new daytime parade in nearly a decade—and one that reminds us wings aren’t needed to fly, shooting stars were created for wishes and magic doesn’t end at midnight!

With a wave of his wand, Mickey Mouse leads a cavalcade of fabulous floats, whimsically costumed performers and popular Disney pals like Anna, Elsa and Olaf around the park and into your hearts—all while moving to a high-energy musical score that puts a contemporary spin on classic Disney hits. In addition, a brand-new song co-composed by singer-songwriter Todrick Hall helps bring some of your favorite Disney tales to life like never before.

(3) ENOUGH ALREADY. Cat Rambo is bidding Facebook farewell:

I’m tired of logging onto here and seeing nothing but propaganda and talking points freshly harvested from the meme farms. I feel that the company has helped shred the American political system, that it divides us more than it connects, that it profits off our private data while selling us out to foreign powers, and that it is a major component of a system that continues to facilitate active class warfare being waged by the current kleptocracy on the poor and middle-class in our country.

If you are being asked to hate certain people or groups, whether liberal or conservative — ask yourself for a moment, who benefits from you hating them? What’s getting slipped past you while the rhetorical smoke and mirrors are dazzling you? I can tell you: it’s your country and all the things that we own in common that’s getting dismantled so rich people can shove more money in their already bulging pockets….

(4) APPEAL CONTINUES. The ”Help Mike Resnick’s widow pay off medical bills” GoFundMe asked people to share the link again, which File 770 is glad to do.

Update on 2/13/2020: Carol and Laura Resnick would dearly love to thank everyone who has donated to Mike’s fundraiser. As you can imagine, this has been an incredibly hard month for them both and all the kind words and support they have received has been so valued and treasured. Unfortunately, with Mike’s passing, the bills did not stop coming in. Carol has literally been swamped with bills, and there is no longer any regular income coming into the house to cover the mortgage, utilities or daily necessities (she has some very tough decisions ahead). We understand many of you have donated before, so even if you could just re-share the fundraiser link again, we would be so very thankful. Carol has been so incredibly touched by all the kindness shown to her and she knows Mike would be so proud of the SF&F field he loved so much for helping to support his family in their time of need. As every book dedication said “To Carol, as always.” She was his world.

(5) ALL FLOCKED UP. In Leonard Maltin’s opinion, “‘Birds’ Preys On Civilized Moviemaking”.

What price girl-power? Does the positive energy of a female-centric comic book movie—made by women—compensate for the nihilistic, super-violent nature of its content? Is this really a step forward for women, behind the camera and in the audience? That’s the conundrum presented by Birds of Prey (full title Birds of Prey And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)….now re-titled Harley Quinn: Birds of Prey.

(6) THEY COME OUT AT NIGHT. In “Worldbuilding: Crime and Fantasy Books Have More in Common Than You Might Think at CrimeReads, Kelly Braffet makes a case.

… Take, for example, this passage from the second chapter of Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. Sam Spade is on his way to a crime scene, and he stops at an overpass nearby to check out a few looky-loos interested in the murderous goings-on…

There’s nothing in this paragraph that relates to the murder he’s about to investigate or the case he’s working; the fleeing car doesn’t have any important characters in it, and the looky-loo never shows up again. This is pure worldbuilding. Spade’s world is one of cars and ads and fumes and concrete and people so bored and aimless that they’re willing to contort themselves to catch a glimpse of a dead body….

(7) GREEN TEASER. David Lowery’s upcoming movie The Green Knight stars Dev Patel alongside Alicia Vikander and Joel Edgerton. The fantasy is based on Arthurian legend and will hit screens in Summer 2020. The story is based on the poem of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Native English speakers unconsciously organize adjectives in a particular order that is rarely deviated from, even in informal speech. The order is: opinion, size, age, shape, color, origin, material, purpose. For example, it’s more common to hear “silly old fool,” rather than “old silly fool.” One notable exception, however, is the Big Bad Wolf. Source: The Guardian

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 13, 1954 Tom Corbett, Space Cadet first aired “The Space Projectile”. Frankie Thomas played the lead role in the series which was one of the rare series which aired on all four networks of the time. Joseph Greene of Grosset & Dunlap publishing house developed the series off of Heinlein’s late Forties Space Cadet novel but also based of his own prior work. Both a newspaper strip and radio show were intended but never went forward. You can watch this episode here.
  • February 13, 2000 — The last original Peanuts comic strip ran in newspapers

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 13, 1908 Patrick Barr. He appeared in Doctor Who as Hobson in the Second Doctor story, “The Moonbase”, in the Seventies Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) “You Can Always Find a Fall Guy” episode, and appeared once in The Avengers as Stonehouse in the “Take me to Your Leader” episode. His last genre role was as the British Ambassador in Octopussy. (Died 1985.)
  • Born February 13, 1932 Susan Oliver. She shows up in the original Trek pilot, “The Cage” as Vina, the Orion slave girl. She had a number of one-offs in genre television including Wild Wild West, Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Tarzan, The Invaders, Night Gallery and Freddy’s Nightmares. (Died 1990.)
  • Born February 13, 1933 Patrick Godfrey, 87. His very first acting was as Tor in a First Doctor story, “The Savages. He’d be in a Third Doctor story, “Mind of Evil”, as Major Cotsworth. His last two acting roles have both been genre — one being the voice of a Wolf Elder in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle; the other Butler in His Dark Materials.
  • Born February 13, 1938 Oliver Reed. He first shows up in a genre film uncredited in The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll, with his first credited role being Leon in The Curse of the Werewolf. He was King in The Damned, an SF despite its title, and Z.P.G. saw him cast as Russ McNeil. Next up was him as Athos in the very charming Three Musketeers, a role he reprised in Four Musketeers and Return of the Musketeers. And can we skip past him as Sarm in Gor please? Does Royal Flash count as genre? Kage Baker loved that rogue. Kage also loved The Adventures of Baron Munchausen in which he played Vulcan. Orpheus & Eurydice has him as Narrator, his final film role. (Died 1999.)
  • Born February 13, 1943 Leo Frankowski. Probably best known for his Conrad Stargard series featuring the Polish time travelling engineer Conrad Schwartz, but I’m more fond of his stand-alone novels Fata Morgana and Copernick’s Rebellion. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 13, 1954 Mary GrandPré, 66. She’s best known for her cover and chapter illustrations of the Potter books in the Scholastic editions. She’s the author and illustrator of A Dragon’s Guide series which is definitely genre of aimed at children. 
  • Born February 13, 1959 Maureen F. McHugh, 61. Her first novel, China Mountain Zhang, was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula Award, and won the Otherwise Award, impressive indeed. Her other novels are Half the Day Is NightMission Child and Nekropolis. She has an impressive collective of short stories. Both her novel and short story collections are readily available at the usual digital sources. 
  • Born February 13, 1960 Matt Salinger, 60. Captain America in the 1990 Yugoslavian film of that name which was directed by Albert Pyun as written by Stephen Tolkin and Lawrence J. Block. It’s got a 16% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes which matches what critics thought of it. As near as I can tell this is only genre role. You can watch the film here.

(11) A FILER’S PICKS. Ziv Witie’s (aka Standback) annual F&SF appreciation/recommendation thread is up. Thread starts here.

(12) NEW WAVICLE. At Eight Miles Higher, Andrew Darlington’s “New Wave SF: Graham Charnock’s ‘First And Last Words'” is a profile of the massive pro career of someone I think of as a legendary UK fan. Which he is, of course.

…Beyond stories in ‘New Writings In SF’, Damon Knight’s ‘Orbit’ and the ‘Other Edens’ anthologies, the ‘New Worlds’ connection continues, into its later reincarnation as a thick paperback series edited by David Garnett. The teasing conundrum “On The Shores Of A Fractal Sea” (in ‘New Worlds no.3’) draws on Graham’s close encounters with Rock music, via his contributions to Michael Moorcock’s Deep Fix. The fictional deceased Rock-star narrator persists in a virtual Lagoona where ‘the beach goes on forever’, and where he works on his concept-cycle triple-album. Maybe being dead means he’s unaware that Hawkwind’s seventh studio album is also called ‘Quark, Strangeness And Charm’ (Charisma, June 1977)! He talks to shape-changing French, to whom his reality exists as ‘a fragment of cloned tissue… awash with oxy-infused saline.’…

(13) READ WITHOUT CEASING. In “5 things I learned from binge-reading a 50-book crime series in 5 months”, Sophia Rosenbaum says she read 50 novels by “J.D. Robb” (a pseudonym of Nora Roberts) in five months and talks about what she learned from reading so many books in a series in so short a time. This is a series that the Internet Science Fiction Database classifies as “futuristic mystery.”

J.D. Robb is the pen name for the prolific romance writer Nora Roberts, who started writing the series in 1995 and releases at least two new titles a year.

In the very first book, “Naked in Death,” we are introduced to a slew of what become recurring characters: Eve’s former partner and trainer, who becomes a father figure; the esteemed police commander; the maternal staff psychiatrist; Eve’s criminal-turned-singer bestie; and most importantly, Roarke.

(14) MADAM I’M. In an article in The Believer that begins “Palindrome, Palindrome” and then has an obscenity, Colin Dickey reprints Dan Hoey’s 543-word expansion of the palindrome “a man, a plan, a canal—Panama.”  Hoey was a Washington DC-area fan who died in 2011. 

Sometime in the mid-1940s, Leigh Mercer rescued from the trash several thousand index cards that his employer, Rawlplug, had thrown out. Mercer may not have yet had a plan, but he had an idea. He’d grown up in a family that cherished word games and had lived through the birth of the modern crossword puzzle craze, but he’d noticed that no one had seriously set their minds to the problem of palindromes. Though Mercer wasn’t interested in crosswords, he’d acquired a used copy of a book for crossworders that contained lists of words—no definitions—grouped alphabetically and according to length. Using this book and his new stash of recovered index cards, he began copying out possible palindrome centers—any word or snippet of a phrase that might be reversible. In 1946, he came up with one construction: “Plan a canal p.” It was, he himself later admitted, “not very hopeful looking,” but all great plans have to start somewhere.

It took him two years to find Panama.

…This kind of nonsense quickly spins out of control. Using a computer that trawled the dictionary, Dan Hoey created this monstrosity in 1984….

It technically works, but it relies on gibberish (“a bater,” “an em,” and “a say”), and it is long enough that all sense is lost and the palindrome topples into meaninglessness. The program used here was rudimentary enough that even Hoey knew his effort could be easily bested, and sure enough, Peter Norvig assembled a 21,012-word variation to commemorate the palindromic date of 6-10-2016, and it is absolutely as unbearable and unreadable as it sounds. And yet, even as everything falls apart, you reach the end—“a canal, Panama!”—and it’s like all is forgiven, like everything is somehow right once more.

(15) DINO CASH. “British dinosaurs to feature on UK money for the first time” – the Natural History Museum has the story.

The Royal Mint is releasing three new dinosaur-themed coins – the first ever in the UK.

The series of 50p coins is a collaboration with palaeoartist Bob Nicholls and experts at the Museum.

The coins will honour the first three dinosaurs ever named – Megalosaurus, Iguanodon and Hylaeosaurus – although at the time they were named, ‘dinosaurs’ as a group didn’t exist. In fact, it was these three animals that made Sir Richard Owen realise that there was something different enough about them that they warranted being placed in a new group, which he named Dinosauria.

The three species will be featured on five series of collectors’ coins. Although they will be legal tender, they won’t go into circulation. Instead members of the public will be able to buy the coins, either individually or in sets.

(16) RESTORED TO THE THRONE. “Rise of Skywalker: How we brought Carrie Fisher back” — and other details of the effects are discussed by filmmakers in this BBC video.

Actress Carrie Fisher, who was best known for her role as Princess Leia in the Star Wars series, died in 2016.

She recently appeared in the 2019 film Rise of Skywalker, but how was this possible?

BBC Click speaks to the visual effects supervisor, Roger Guyett and animation supervisor, Paul Kavanagh of ILM to find out more.

(17) I’M MELTING! “Antarctica logs highest temperature on record of 18.3C”

A record high temperature of 18.3C (64.9F) has been logged on the continent of Antarctica.

The reading, taken on Thursday by Argentine research base Esperanza, is 0.8C hotter than the previous peak temperature of 17.5C, in March 2015.

The temperature was recorded in the Antarctic Peninsula, on the continent’s north-west tip – one of the fastest-warming regions on earth.

It is being verified by the UN World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

“[This] is not a figure you would normally associate with Antarctica, even in the summertime,” WMO spokeswoman Clare Nullis told reporters in Geneva.

(18) EIGHT MILES HIGH. That was quick: “British Airways Sets Record, Crossing The Atlantic In Under 5 Hours In Strong Winds”.

Kubilay Kahveci’s flight was supposed to be in the air for more than six hours — an overnight voyage from New York City to London. But British Airways Flight 112 made the trek in under five hours, setting a new record for the fastest subsonic commercial flight across the Atlantic Ocean.

(19) LEAST HYPOTHESIS. Nothing acute about this: “Wreck’s Identification 95 Years After Ship’s Disappearance Puts Theories To Rest”.

Lore had it that the SS Cotopaxi was swallowed by the infamous Bermuda Triangle after the steamship, and all 32 crew members on board, inexplicably vanished in 1925.

In the sci-fi film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, aliens are responsible for the ship’s disappearance.

But a team of divers has identified the ship and debunked the fictions, theories and conspiracies that emerged over the years. And unlike in Close Encounters, the ship wasn’t found in the Gobi desert, but rather 35 miles off St. Augustine in Florida.

The Cotopaxi had set off on its normal route between Charleston, S.C., and Havana, carrying a cargo of coal, when it was caught in a powerful storm, Michael Barnette discovered.

The wreck isn’t located within the boundaries of the Bermuda Triangle — a region in the Atlantic Ocean with its corners at South Florida, Bermuda and Puerto Rico that has been blamed for unexplained disappearances.

(20) BACK TO THE BASICS. How it all got started — “Tom and Jerry: 80 years of cat v mouse”.

A cartoon cat, sick of the annoying mouse living in his home, devises a plot to take him out with a trap loaded with cheese. The mouse, wise to his plan, safely removes the snack and saunters away with a full belly.

You can probably guess what happens next. The story ends as it almost always does: with the cat yelling out in pain as yet another plan backfires.

The plot may be familiar, but the story behind it may not be. From Academy Award wins to secret production behind the Cold War’s Iron Curtain – this is how Tom and Jerry, who turn 80 this week, became one of the world’s best known double-acts.

The duo was dreamt up from a place of desperation. MGM’s animation department, where creators Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera worked, had struggled to emulate the success of other studios who had hit characters like Porky Pig and Mickey Mouse.

Out of boredom, the animators, both aged under 30, began thinking up their own ideas. Barbera said he loved the simple concept of a cat and mouse cartoon, with conflict and chase, even though it had been done countless times before….

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

Pixel Scroll 2/10/20 Universe Error: Not Enough SF Resources Found. Reboot Universe? Y/N

(1) BUSIEK TALKS ABOUT NEW SERIES, THE MARVELS. “Anyone. Anywhere. Anytime.” That’s how acclaimed writer Kurt Busiek describes his new ongoing series, The Marvels. Busiek said in an interview with Marvel.com

The whole idea of The Marvels is to be able to use the whole Marvel Universe — not just all the characters in it, but all the history of it. The sweeping scope of the whole thing. Big stuff can happen in the Marvel Universe, but we usually see it confined largely to the Avengers in Avengers, to the FF in Fantastic Four, and so on. The Marvels is intended as a freewheeling book that can go anywhere, do anything, use anyone. It’s a smorgasbord of Marvel heroes and history. It’s not a team. It’s a concept, or a universe, depending on how you look at it. The Marvels features the marvels — all the many and varied characters of the Marvel Universe. The heroes, the villains, the oddities — all of it. There’ll be popular characters of today, there’ll be obscure characters from long ago — heck, there’ll be story threads that take place in the past, or possibly the future. We’re not limited to just the present. And there’ll be new characters, too, from the street-level to the cosmic. There are three new marvels in the first issue, although a couple of them are only seen for a panel or so. But we’ll get back to them. I’d say “’the sky’s the limit,’ except in the Marvel Universe, there’s a lot going on beyond that sky. And it’s all open to us.

See the full interview and get a first look at the debut issue at the link The first issue hits the stand in May.

THE MARVELS #1. Written by KURT BUSIEK . Art by YILDIRAY CINAR. Cover by ALEX ROSS.

(2) UNCANNY FAVORITE. The winner of the Uncanny Magazine 2019 Favorite Fiction Reader Poll is “Away With the Wolves” by Sarah Gailey!

The rest of the Top Five are:
2- IS A TIE!!!
“The Dead, In Their Uncontrollable Power” by Karen Osborne!
“A Mindreader’s Guide to Surviving Your First Year at the All-Girls Superhero Academy” by Jenn Reese!
3- “A Catalog of Storms” by Fran Wilde!
4- “How the Trick Is Done” by A.C. Wise!
5- “This Is Not My Adventure” by Karlo Yeager Rodríguez!

(3) RUSSIAN AROUND. “A US House candidate says she was hacked — now she’s warning others” — Brianna Wu gave the story to TechCrunch.

“I cannot think of a reason not to share this with the public,” Brianna Wu tweeted.

“Two of my non-campaign Google accounts were compromised by someone in Russia,” she said.

Wu isn’t just any other target. As a Democratic candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Massachusetts’ 8th District, she has a larger target on her back for hackers than the average constituent. And as a former software engineer, she knows all too well the cybersecurity risks that come along with running for political office.

But the breach of two of her non-campaign Google accounts was still a wake-up call.

Wu said she recently discovered that the two accounts had been breached. One of the accounts was connected to her Nest camera system at home, and the other was her Gmail account she used during the Gamergate controversy, during which Wu was a frequent target of vitriol and death threats. TechCrunch agreed to keep the details of the breach off the record as to not give any potential attackers an advantage. Attribution in cyberattacks, however, can be notoriously difficult because hackers can mask their tracks using proxies and other anonymity tools.

“I don’t believe anyone in Russia is targeting me specifically. I think it’s more likely they target everyone running for office,” she tweeted….

(4) RETRO DRAMA. Mark Leeper is writing a three-part overview of all (he hopes) feature-length dramatic presentations eligible for the Retro Hugo. The installments will be available in the February 7, February 14, and February 21 issues of MT VOID. The first is here if you want to check it out.

The full article will be published on Mark’s web page (http://leepers.us) after the last one runs.

And the Leepers are asking for help to find a copy of Ghost Catchers (a.k.a. High Spirits) even if it’s not one of the main contenders.

(5) DOES WHATEVER A SPIDER CAN. The Disney Parks Blog watches as “Spider-Man Swings into Action Above Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure Park”.

Guests visiting Disney California Adventure park prior to the opening of the Avengers Campus this summer can still encounter Spider-Man daily in Hollywood Land between his visits to Avengers Campus. As previously announced, Spider-Man can be seen in his exclusive, new suit designed by Ryan Meinerding, Head of Visual Development at Marvel Studios.

When Avengers Campus opens this summer, guests will be recruited to become the next generation of Super Heroes. The campus will be home to a variety of new experiences giving guests the chance to feel the power, adventure and exhilaration of teaming up with some of their favorite Super Heroes including:

  • The Worldwide Engineering Brigade – also known as “WEB” – which will house the new Spider-Man attraction where guests can sling webs alongside Spider-Man himself.
  • Pym Test Kitchen, an all-new eatery, where Pym Technologies Researchers are using Ant-Man and the Wasp’s growing and shrinking technology to create super-sized and super small foods.
  • Heroic encounters throughout the campus where guests can team up with some of their favorite Super Heroes including Spider-Man, Black Widow, Doctor Strange, the Guardians of the Galaxy, Black Panther and the Dora Milaje, Thor and Loki, Iron Man and for the first time, Ant-Man and The Wasp.
  • Avengers Headquarters where guests may witness Earth’s Mightiest Heroes springing into action at a moment’s notice all over the building.

(6) DAYS BEFORE OUR LIVES. Screenwriting award at Sundance goes to genre film Nine Days.

Keep an eye out for this one. Here’s the plot description from IMDb:

A reclusive man conducts a series of interviews with human souls for a chance to be born.

(7) SON WITH A SWORD. “Mandy Patinkin on ‘The Princess Bride’” – video at Yahoo!

One of actor Mandy Patinkin’s most popular roles was the 1987 fantasy, “The Princess Bride,” in which he played a man bent on revenge (“Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die”). In this web exclusive he talked with correspondent Holly Williams about the legacy of his character.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 10, 1957 Attack of the Crab Monsters premiered. It was produced and directed by Roger Corman, and it starred Richard Garland, Pamela Duncan, and Russell Johnson, the latter much better know for his Gillgan’s Island role. It was written by Charles B. Griffith who would later write The Little Shop of Horrors. It was profitable, the best showing by a Corman film to that date, earned the respect of critics for the way it was produced and scripted but currently has a lousy 30% rating among the 1.625 reviewers who gave an opinion at Rotten Tomatoes. Should you be inclined, you can watch it here.
  • February 10, 1957 Not Of This Earth premiered. It shared a double bill with Attack of the Crab Monsters. It like the other film was produced and directed by Roger Corman,  It stars Paul Birch, Beverly Garland, Morgan Jones, William Roerick, and Anna Lee Carroll. The film was written by Charles B. Griffith and Mark Hanna. Critics liked even better than its Attack of the Crab Monsters with one saying that it was “Corman’s most enjoyable science fiction film”.  Notes for this film note that the double bill made back four times what it cost to produce both films in the first week. So how does it currently rate at Rotten Tomatoes? Even worse than Attack of the Crab Monsters as it garners a pitiful 21% rating there from the roughly 400 reviewers. Like Attack of the Crab Monsters, it’s only roughly only an hour long and you can watch it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 10, 1906 Lon Chaney Jr. I certainly best remember him playing Larry Talbot in The Wolf Man but he has a lot of other roles as well: The Ghost of Frankenstein as The Monster (look, correct billing!), The Mummy’s Tomb as The Mummy Kharis or Son of Dracula as Count Dracula, he played all the great monsters, often multiple times. (Died 1973.)
  • Born February 10, 1910 Douglas Spencer. His most memorable role As an actor was as The Monitor on This Island Earth. As far I can call tell, he only had two other genre roles, one  as the First Martian in the “Mr. Dingle, the Strong” episode of Twilight Zone, two other as Ned Scott on The Thing from Another World, a Fifties horror film. (Died 1960.)
  • Born February 10, 1926 Hazel Court. She did The Devil Girl from Mars which has been noted previously in File 770,  The Curse of Frankenstein, a Hammer Film, and Doctor Blood’s Coffin. She did five different roles on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and had one-offs on The Invisible Man, Danger Man, (at genre adjacent, isn’t it?), Thriller, Twilight Zone and Mission: Impossible. Her final role, uncredited, was in Omen III: The Final Conflict. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 10, 1930 Robert Wagner, 90. He played the lead in the early Fifties Prince Valiant based off the Hal Foster strip. Next up is being George Lytton in The Pink Panther followed by the same in Curse of the Pink Panther. He’s Number Two in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, and the same in Austin Powers in Goldmember. He shows up as President James Garfield in Netherbeast Incorporated, a film that rated better at Rotten Tomatoes than I expected. His latest role is as Charles Benning in What Happened to Monday
  • Born February 10, 1958 Rupert Vansittart, 62. He was portrayed General Asquith in the two Ninth Doctor stories, “Aliens of London” and “World War Three”. He was Wyatt in The Saint: The Brazilian Connection, and Brian Babbacombe on Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). Lastly, he had he recurring role on Game of Thrones as Yohn Royce. 
  • Born February 10, 1970 Robert Shearman, 50. He wrote the episode of Who called “Dalek” which was nominated for the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form in 2006 at L.A. Con IV. (There were three Who entries that year and “The Empty Child”/”The Doctor Dances” won.) His first book, a collection of short stories called Tiny Deaths was a World Fantasy Award winner. He’s written a lot of short fiction since then, collected helpfully into two collections, displayed. Remember Why You Fear Me: The Best Dark Fiction of Robert Shearman and They Do the Same Things Different There: The Best Weird Fantasy of Robert Shearman.
  • Born February 10, 1976 Keeley Hawes 44. Ms Delphox/Madame Karabraxos In the most excellent Twelfth Doctor story “Time Heist”.  It wasn’t her first genre role as that would’ve been Tamara in that awful Avengers film. She also played Zoe Reynolds which is at least genre adjacent given where the story went. 
  • Born February 10, 1988 Jade and Nakita Ramsey, 32. Their longest running role was on The House of Anubis series with Jade as Patricia Williamson who in it for the entire run of one hundred and forty five episodes with  Nakita showing up for just six episodes. They’d later both be on A Haunting at Silver Falls: The Return playing Heather and Holly Dahl. They play twins frequently, even appearing once in a film with Cassandra Peterson, All About Evil.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Have a lot of books? Frazz has a question about that.

(11) KEEP PREYING. “Box Office Analyst Explains Why Birds of Prey Disappointed in its Opening Weekend” at Comicbook.com.

Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) opened over the weekend to $33 million, marking the lowest opening for any film set in the DC Extended Universe and the lowest start for any DC film since Jonah Hex in 2010. According to Exhibitor Relations box office analyst Jeff Bock, the R-rated Birds of Prey is a “niche comic book movie” whose failings began with its title: not naming the Cathy Yan-directed film Harley Quinn after its starring character (portrayed by returning Suicide Squad star Margot Robbie) was a “huge misfire” for Warner Bros., who months earlier scored a billion-plus box office with the R-rated Joker.

(12) VALUABLE WILD CARD. Joker has gained acclaim, but also an equal amount of skepticism. YouTuber CinemaWins looks into the aspects of the film done well in his easily digestible format. (Spoilers)

Joker! Another one of those movies where everyone agrees and I can’t even imagine a single person getting upset! Here’s everything right with Joker!

Part I

Part II

(13) NO LONGER ON THE FORCE. Maltin on Movies interviews Peter Weller.

Actor, musician, director, renaissance man: Peter Weller is all of these, but he’s best remembered as the star of RoboCop. He’s also a fascinating conversationalist, as Leonard and Jessie were delighted to learn, with stories about such luminaries as Mike Nichols and Otto Preminger.

(14) TRAILER TIME. The full trailer for Minions: The Rise of Gru dropped.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Another cheap umbella.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/9/20 Once Pixels Scroll Up Who Cares Where They Scroll Down

(1) WRONG PRESCRIPTION? The Guardian covers a paradoxically different set of unhappy fans: “Too woke? Nope – Doctor Who is more offensive than ever”. Beware spoilers for the season opening episode (not quoted here).

… Now, though, a different group of fans are railing against Doctor Who. Far from being too liberal, many believe this iteration has actually lost the morality that made the character so unique, and become problematic on social issues – engaging with them to an often offensive degree.

… Another episode focused on Kerblam, an Amazon-a-like delivery company. The story reflected real-world mistreatment of workers, but while many viewers expected a satire of exploitative capitalism, the real villain was revealed to be a maintenance man, who was killing in protest at poor working conditions. This led the Doctor to claim that “systems aren’t the problem”, just people who “use and exploit the system” – thus refusing to engage with real-world suffering.

(2) HARLEY QUINN. New trailer for Birds of Prey. In theaters February 7, 2020

(3) STRANGE IDEA OF FUN. James Davis Nicoll invites Tor.com readers to contemplate “Five Planetary Catastrophes We’ll Probably Never Get to Enjoy”.

Supervolcano

We live on a tectonically active planet. Past eruptions have been impressive. Not piddling little booms like Mount St. Helens (which ejected about 3 km3 worth of material) or Tambora (more than 40 km3), but truly impressive eruptions that covered entire continents in volcanic debris. Lake Toba’s eruption of 74,000 years ago ejected 2,800 cubic kilometres, while the Yellowstone eruption of 620,000 years ago ejected 1,000 cubic kilometres. Supervolcano eruptions can throw a spanner into the works across a continent (and they probably have significant short-term global climate effects as well). It’s not surprising they’re featured in novels like Harry Turtledove’s Supervolcano series….

(4) RED LIGHT SPECIAL. In “Did HAL Commit Murder?” on the MIT Press website, Tufts University philosopher Daniel C. Dennett, in an article excerpted from the forthcoming book Hal’s Legacy, argues that HAL was indeed a murderer and should be judged accordingly.

…The legal concept has no requirement that the agent be capable of feeling guilt or remorse or any other emotion; so-called cold-blooded murderers are not in the slightest degree exculpated by their flat affective state. Star Trek’s Spock would fully satisfy the mens rea requirement in spite of his fabled lack of emotions. Drab, colorless — but oh so effective — “motivational states of purpose” and “cognitive states of belief” are enough to get the fictional Spock through the day quite handily. And they are well-established features of many existing computer programs.

(5) POLES APART. “Roberto Quaglia: Multipolarity and science fiction – The future of the Chinese” – this commentary by independent Italian scholar, Roberto Quaglia, is critical of US unipolarity and Anglo-Saxon domination of science fiction literature.

(6) LOCKE & KEY TRAILER. Locke & Key Season 1 is coming to Netflix on February 7.

Based on the best-selling graphic novels, Locke & Key follows 3 siblings who, after the murder of their father, move to their ancestral home only to find the house has magical keys that give them a vast array of powers and abilities.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 9, 1984 — In the U.K., Chocky first aired. It wasa children’s six-part series  based on the 1968 novel by John Wyndham. Two sequels, Chocky’s Children and Chocky’s Challenge, were later aired. All three series were written by Anthony Read, directed by Vic Hughes and produced by Thames Television. The cast was Anabel Worrell, James Hazeldine, Carol Drinkwater, Andrew Ellams, Zoe Hart, Prentis Hancock and Glynis Brooks. And yes, you can see the first episode here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 9, 1890 Karel Capek. Author of the 1936 novel War with the Newts and 1920 play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), which introduced the word robot. R.U.R.was a dystopian work about a really bad day at a factory populated with sentient androids. ISFDB shows two additional works by him, Krakatit: An Atomic Fantasy and The Absolute at Large which I’ve not heard of. (Died 1938.) [Note: Latin ‘C’ used in surname because WordPress doesn’t support the correct character.]
  • Born January 9, 1908 Simone de Beauvoir. You know who she is but likely don’t know she wrote All Men Are Mortal (Les Hommes Sont Mortels in its original French)in 1946 which tells the story of Raimon Fosca, a man cursed to live forever. It’d be published in English in the States a decade later and was adapted into a 1995 film of the same name. (Died 1986.)
  • Born January 9, 1925 Lee Van Cleef. The Warden of the Prison in Escape from New York, 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.)
  • Born January 9, 1931 Algis Budrys. I’m 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 Galaxy, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and even in the more mainstream Playboy. He edited a number of the L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future anthologieswhich I’ll admit I’ve not read any of. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 9, 1950 David Johansen, 70. 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” segment, and he appeared as a character named Brad in Freejack. I think the brief Ghost of Christmas Past riff in Scrooged is enough to earn him as Birthday Honors here.
  • Born January 9, 1955 J. K. Simmons, 65. 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.
  • Born January 9, 1957 Greg Ketter, 63. A Minneapolis SF Bookstore owner, Dreamhaven to be precise, a huckster, and con-running fan as well. He is a member of MN-Stf. He’s been involved in myriad regionals and Worldcons. He‘s chaired Minicons and World Fantasy Conventions alike.
  • Born January 9, 1961 Al Jean, 59. Producer of ALF which is definitely genre and The Simpsons too which must be genre, isn’t it? He was the Executive Producer of Homeboys in Outer Space as well. 
  • Born January 9, 1981 Julia Dietze, 39. 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. 

(9) REUSE. “Tokyo 2020: Recycled cardboard used for beds at Olympics and Paralympics”. Talk about sleep numbers…

The bed frames for athletes at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be made from recyclable cardboard.

The mattresses for the beds will be formed of polyethylene materials that will be reused for plastic products after the events.

There will be 18,000 beds needed for the Olympics, and 8,000 for the Paralympics.

Medals for the Tokyo 2020 Games are made entirely from recycled consumer devices.

The beds will be 2.10 metres long and the manufacturers say they will be able to support a weight of about 200kg, which is more than any athlete weighed at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

(10) I SPY WITH MY LITTLE EYE. They were canned: “Amazon Ring workers fired for accessing user video”.

The Amazon-owned company Ring, which makes home-security devices, has admitted firing four employees for accessing users’ videos.

It was revealed in a letter sent to US senators, in response to questions about the company’s security practices.

In each case, the employees were authorised to view videos but access “exceeded what was necessary for their job functions”.

Ring faces questions about the security and privacy of its devices.

In November, five Democratic senators sent a letter to Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos with a range of questions about security, including why employees in Ring’s Ukrainian office, where it conducts research and development, had access to customer video data.

(11) AWWW. “Australia fires: Orphaned baby bats wrapped with love” – BBC video. (Another report says people as far away as Boston are also helping.)

Thousands of baby animals left orphaned by Australia’s bushfires are in need of constant care.

Volunteers around the world have been helping by knitting and sewing special pouches and wraps. They are collected by animal rescue organisations which then distribute them to carers.

One Australian mum and her daughter who live in Singapore are among the volunteers doing their part to keep orphaned baby bats warm.

(12) BIRD BRAINS. “Polly Share A Cracker? Parrots Can Practice Acts Of Kindness, Study Finds”, and NPR has the story.

Parrots can perform impressive feats of intelligence, and a new study suggests that some of these “feathered apes” may also practice acts of kindness.

African grey parrots voluntarily helped a partner get a food reward by giving the other bird a valuable metal token that could be exchanged for a walnut, according to a newly published report in the journal Current Biology.

“This was really surprising that they did this so spontaneously and so readily,” says Désirée Brucks, a biologist at ETH Zürich in Switzerland who is interested in the evolution of altruism.

(13) LAST CHANCE TO SEE? “SpaceX Starlink mega-constellation: ‘Limited time’ to fix brightness issue”.

California’s SpaceX company says it will work constructively with the scientific community to fix the brightness of its satellites.

The firm has come under fire for the brilliance of its Starlink spacecraft, which are being launched to deliver broadband to every corner of the globe.

One hundred and eighty of the platforms have already been sent to orbit with thousands more to follow.

Astronomers fear they will interfere with telescope observations.

Pictures of the night sky showing long streaks as the Starlinks cross the field of view have now become a heightened complaint.

But a SpaceX executive told the American Astronomical Society conference in Hawaii on Wednesday that the company was seeking ways to make the platforms much less intrusive.

Patricia Cooper, the firm’s vice president of satellite government affairs, told a specially convened session that delegates’ science was valued and there was no desire to impede it.

(14) ROLLING ON THE RIVER. “Nasa Moon rocket core leaves for testing” — lots of great pictures.

The first core stage for Nasa’s “mega-rocket”, the SLS, has left its factory in New Orleans for crucial tests to assess its readiness for launch.

The Space Launch System (SLS) is a critical part of the space agency’s Artemis programme, which aims to return Americans to the Moon by 2024.

The core stage is the centrepiece of the new rocket and will undergo comprehensive testing in Mississippi.

On Wednesday, it was placed on a barge which will sail it to its destination.

The rocket, which will be taller than a 30-storey building, is being built for Nasa by Boeing.

…The core is the largest stage Nasa has ever had built at the Louisiana factory, including the Saturn V rocket stages for the Apollo programme.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/6/19 Sometimes Ups Outnumber The Downs, But Not In Pixlingsham

(1) THREE AI’S AND A BABY. Carolyn Giardina’s story in The Hollywood Reporter, “Why Jon Favreau Chose Baby Yoda: ‘”We Don’t Know a Lot of Details About His Species’”, is a lengthy interview with Favreau, where he talks about all his projects, including his cooking show, his direction of The Lion King, and of course, why he created Baby Yoda.

Let’s start with your virtual production process for The Mandalorian. How did it grow out of work that you did for The Lion King?

In The Lion King, we built a tool set, basically a “multiplayer VR filmmaking game,” using the Unity game engine. We built a bunch of tools working with [lead VFX house] MPC and [tech developer] Magnopus and Unity, and we developed a way by which you could actually create environments and set up cameras and shots within VR. In The Mandalorian, we used a lot of the same tools to plan the entire production, working with the Unreal engine [from Epic Games]. But Lion King was a much different production because there was no actual photography. For Mandalorian, we take that cut, and instead of going right to animation and render like we did on Lion King, we build sets and a digital environment that we project onto a video wall. We partnered with Unreal and [VFX house] ILM and put together this system for The Mandalorian. All the people that we worked with then took that technology, and they’re doing their versions of it. They’re all slightly different, but basically we did research and development for The Mandalorian, and now everybody is building on the innovation that we collectively did and making that available to other people who might be curious about this process as well.

(2) CONTINUED NOBEL BLOWBACK. [Item by Karl-Johan Norén.] Member of the Swedish Academy and former permanent secretary Peter Englund will not participate in any of the Nobel festivities or activities this week, due to the 2019 Nobel Prize in literature being awarded to Peter Handke. He writes on Instagram (my translation):

As previously reported I will not participate in this year’s Nobel Week. To celebrate Peter Handke’s Nobel Prize would be deeply hypocritical from my part. Can add that this will not be a surprise for my friends and colleagues in the Academy. Also I will be present in the usual way at the Academy’s celebratory meeting on December 20. The white tie will rest until then.

The image used is of the Stockholm City Hall, where the Nobel Prize banquet is traditionally held.

Peter Englund is a historian, and during the Yugoslavian Civil War he made several trips to the country as a journalist. He is without a doubt the member of the Swedish Academy with the strongest relation to and knowledge of the Yugoslavian Civil War and its consequences.

(3) MORE FUNDS NEEDED FOR ROBYN SURGERY. Amazing Stories has reblogged Shahid Mahmud’s announcement of a new fundraising goal: “Arc Manor Sets Up Go Fund Me for Lezli Robyn”.

Many of you know that Arc Manor is, essentially, a two-person company: Myself and Lezli Robyn. Some of you are also aware that we had a GoFundMe for a couple of years ago for treating her eyes–for Keratoconus, a rare disease that effectively leads to blindness by causing blurriness and multiple images.

…Unfortunately, Lezli’s other illnesses intervened and she had to postpone her eye surgery twice (the second time needing to be in another country for urgent abdominal surgery). She was misdiagnosed for about two years (until very recently) for her hyperthyroid condition, which led her to have a Thyroid Storm. At the point of her diagnosis, she was in the hospital in a touch-and-go situation with her life.

Since her diagnosis, she has been put on the right meds (she may need an additional surgery, but the meds may be sufficient) and has recovered significantly. However, one side effect of her untreated condition has been a significant worsening of her eye-sight. She was legally blind even before this, but now it is gotten to the point where she has needed to get a blind cane. She now sees 40 duplications, instead of the original 7.

In an update by Lezli on the “Help Lezli See (Eye Surgery)” GoFundMe page, she supplies a lot more diagnostic detail following this introduction —

Shahid, his wife, and other close friends have been arguing that I need to raise the level on my fundraiser so it can also cover the procedure to CORRECT my eye condition as well as HALT my Keratoconus (giving me normal eyesight again!). People are very confronted by how bad my eyesight is now—especially after seeing me get around in person. I can no longer hide it and they say it’s not a matter of wanting to get it done, but NEEDING to get it done, because they argue my quality of life is severely compromised. I have also had to be honest and let my boss (also Shahid) know what I cannot do for work now, because I literally cannot see well enough to do certain publishing tasks.

Her delayed eye surgery is now scheduled for March 2020, and for reasons explained in these two posts, more funds are needed,

(4) ANOTHER KIND OF TUBE MAP. Abigail Nussbaum delivers an extended critique of some new shows in “Notes From the Streamapocalypse “ at Asking the Wrong Questions.

Until last month, 2019 felt like a year in which popular culture was winding itself down.  What seems like an abnormal number of shows, including juggernauts like Game of Thrones, wrapped up their stories, while others were cancelled.  Collaborations like the Netflix MCU were brought to an abrupt end.  Everywhere there was a feeling of holding one’s breath, clearing the decks in preparation for the coming onslaught.  And then, a few weeks ago, that deluge arrived with the launch of Apple TV+ and Disney+, two new streaming platforms seeking to directly challenge Netflix and Amazon for primacy in a field that already feels hopelessly crowded and balkanized.  Scripted TV is only one front in that fight (Disney+, for example, can afford to launch with only one original scripted series because it has such an enormous back-catalog to boast of, whereas Apple+ is scrambling to measure up with four new scripted series, and more to come).  But it’s the one I find most interesting.  Overall, my verdict is that all of these shows are ambitious, and a few are interesting, but none of them are truly great (and all suffer from the besetting flaw of streaming TV, of working better at a binge, which obscures annoying tics and makes the plot seem to flow better, than in weekly installments).  If this is the future of television, my reaction to it is decidedly qualified, with a few sprinklings of hope.

(5) NOT QUITE IN THE BEGINNING. James Davis Nicoll advises against “Creating Gods Through Science and Magic” – and illustrates his warning with characters from well-known sff works.

To (mis)quote Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, “I looked and looked but I didn’t see God.” Humans are cunning little monkeys, though, so even if at present we assume there are no gods as such, it’s within the realm of possibility that we might someday build something (or somethings) functionally equivalent to gods.

We could even turn ourselves into gods (via tech assist or magic). Would this be an unmixed blessing? Um, not really. We already know that humans can be monumental dicks; deified humans could be just as nasty….

(6) HELP WANTED. There is an opening for a new Jay Kay Klein and Doris Klein Librarian for Science Fiction at UC Riverside. Full requirements at the link: Assistant Librarian – Associate Librarian – Librarian – Potential Career

THE UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, RIVERSIDE


Position Title:


Rank and Salary Scale
Assistant Librarian/Associate Librarian/Librarian – Potential Career $61,201 – $82, 045

The Jay Kay Klein and Doris Klein Librarian for Science Fiction is responsible for the development, stewardship, and promotion of the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy and associated collections of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other forms of speculative fiction housed in the University of California, Riverside Library’s Special Collections & University Archives Department….

(7) SKYWALKER TRIGGER WARNING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] This may not be the type of trigger warning you were expecting… The Hollywood Reporter: “’Star Wars’: Disney Warns of Flashing Lights, Seizure Concerns for ‘Rise of Skywalker’”.

Disney has issued an uncommon warning to cinema owners around the globe asking them to notify customers that certain visuals and sustained flashing lights sequences in J.J. Abrams’ upcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker could affect those with photosensitive epilepsy.

The studio has also notified the Epilepsy Foundation, which posted a similar advisory Friday morning, saying it was working in concert with Disney to provide information to its constituents.

[Disney’s letter to exhibitors stated,] “Out of an abundance of caution, we recommend that you provide at your venue box office and online, and at other appropriate places where your customers will see it, a notice containing the following information: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker contains several sequences with imagery and sustained flashing lights that may affect those who are susceptible to photosensitive epilepsy or have other photosensitivities.” […]

(8) WALKER OBIT. Robert Walker Jr., who played Charlie X on Star Trek, died today in Malibu: “Robert Walker Jr., ‘Star Trek’ Actor and Son of Hollywood Superstars, Dies at 79”.

…On the second aired episode of Star Trek, “Charlie X,” the slender, blue-eyed Walker portrayed Charles “Charlie” Evans, the sole survivor of a transport-ship crash who possesses strange powers. Walker was actually 26 when he played the 17-year-old Charlie during filming in 1966.

He starred in Jack Lemmon’s role as the title character in Ensign Pulver (1964), a sequel to the 1955 classic comedy Mister Roberts, and portrayed a kid sharpshooter opposite Robert Mitchum in Young Billy Young (1969).

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 6, 1991 Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country premiered. It will be the last film with the entire cast of the original series. Screenplay by Nicholas Meyer, who also directed as he did previously with the Wrath of Khan film. It was a very spectacular financial success and bless them the critics treated it very well. Currently it scores in the low eighties among critics and viewers alike at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 6, 1893 Sylvia Townsend Warner. Do yourself a favor and look up a bio of her as she’s a fascinating person. This site  is a good place to do so. Her first novel, Lolly Willowes or, The Loving Huntsman, is definitely genre. ISFDB lists four genre collections by her. Kingdoms of Elfin is available on Kindle, Lolly Willowes is available everywhere. (Died 1973.)
  • Born December 6, 1900 Agnes Moorehead. I’m assuming that the statute of limitations for spoilers has long passed on this particular show. I’m referring to the Twilight Zone episode “The Invaders” in which she never spoke a word as she fought off the tiny Invaders, human astronauts, and she a giant alien. Written especially for her by Richard Matheson. (Died 1974.)
  • Born December 6, 1918 William P. McGivern. Once in a while, I run across an author I’ve never heard of. So it is with McGivern. He was a prolific writer of SFF stories for twenty years starting from the early Forties. ISFDB only lists one genre novel by him, The Seeing, that he wrote with his wife Maureen McGivern. The digital has been good for him with both Apple Books and Kindle having pretty much everything by him that he did except the long out of print The Seeing. (Died 1982.)
  • Born December 6, 1941 Wende Wagner. She is no doubt best remembered as Lenore Case on the Green Hornet series. Other genre roles include being Rosemary’s Girl Friend in Rosemary’s Baby, and Sandra Welles in Destination Inner Space, a horror film drawing the not coveted 0% rating at Rotten Tomatoes among viewers. (Died 1997.)
  • Born December 6, 1941 Leon Russom, 78. He portrayed Admiral Toddman In Deep Space Nine‘s “The Die is Cast” episode and the Starfleet Chief in Command in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. He’s had one offs in the classic Mission Impossible, Strange World, X-Files, Jericho and Paranormal Burbank.
  • Born December 6, 1957 Arabella Weir, 62. A performer with two Who appearences, the first being as Billis in “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe”, a superb Eleventh Doctor story, before being The Doctor Herself in “Exile”, a Big Audio production. She’s had one-offs on genre and genre adjacent series such as Shades of Darkness, Genie in the House, Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and Midsomer Murders.
  • Born December 6, 1962 Colin Salmon, 57. Definitely best known for his role as Charles Robinson in the Bond films Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day. He played Dr. Moon in “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead”, Tenth Doctor stories. He has, alas, been in some clunkers, Mortal Engines certainly come to mind.
  • Born December 6, 1969 Torri Higginson, 50. I had forgotten that she had a role in the TekWar movies and series as Beth Kittridge. I like that series a lot. Of course, she portrayed Dr. Elizabeth Weir in Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis. Her most recent genre role was as Dr. Michelle Kessler in Inhuman Condition, where she plays a therapist who focuses on supernatural patients.

(11) MAZE RUINERS. “Researchers Release Teeny Little Minotaur Into Maze To Test Mice’s Capacity To Use Enchanted String”The Onion covers this scientific breakthrough…

In an effort to study the rodents’ ability to manipulate simple magical objects, researchers at the University of Chicago reportedly released a teeny little minotaur into a maze Thursday to test mice’s capacity to use enchanted string….

(12) HARLEY QUINN. You had to be there… “Colorful New ‘Birds of Prey’ Footage Unveiled for Fans in Brazil”.

Fans of Harley Quinn got a new look at the movie Thursday at Comic Con Experience, the Brazilian convention in São Paulo, where Margot Robbie and the cast of next year’s Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) debuted all-new footage, including the opening sequence of the movie itself.

Two convention-only clips were screened for the audience, including a new trailer that focused more on Black Canary and Huntress than the first — as Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) put it, Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has “anger issues,” despite her shouted assertions to the contrary, while Canary herself has a broken heart and feels empathy for a Harley who’s learning to be alone after the Joker dumped her. Don’t worry; there was also plenty of explosions, and Harley’s two beloved hyenas, Wayne and Bruce. (Just wait a second, it’ll come to you.)

(13) STAR CORK. Bleeding Cool’s Gavin Sheehan liked the bottle even more than the wine: “Review: Star Trek United Federation Of Planets Old Vine Zinfandel”.

…So first and foremost, this bottle is a work of art unto itself. Rarely do I ever have wine in a square container such as this, but it’s a standard 750 ml. The design caught me off-guard but also made me smile because this is very much a Trek thing. Whenever you look at bottles of liquor in Ten Forward or Quark’s, the prop masters always went out of their way to create futuristic glasses and containers that you normally wouldn’t keep booze in during this point in time. But maybe wine is stored differently in the future, so you get this rectangle-shaped design that slims down the lower it goes.

(14) COLONEL’S LOG. The recipe? First, steal one fireplace….“KFC Brings Back Fried Chicken-Scented Fire Log for the Holidays”.

“Last year, we captured the hearts, noses and fireplaces of our fans, but thousands more were clamoring to get their hands on our limited firelogs. So, we brought our 11 Herbs & Spices Firelogs back with an exclusive partnership with Walmart to spread the finger-lickin’ good cheer,” Andrea Zahumensky, KFC U.S. CMO said in a statement to the company’s website. “We hope you’ll cuddle up with your family or friends with a bucket of our world-famous fried chicken and a warm fried chicken-scented fire this holiday season.”

Also available right now, the anime-themed “I Love You, Colonel Sanders! A Finger Lickin’ Good Dating Simulator”

Do you have what it takes to date the most famous chicken salesman of all time? Find out now in the most delicious dating simulator ever created. Play now on Steam for free! http://bit.ly/2m9MaQu

(15) HINT FROM THE MASTER? “How to conquer work paralysis like Ernest Hemingway” – BBC remembers his advice.

The author wasn’t all about literary masterpieces, dry martinis and rakish charm – he also invented a technique that can beat procrastination and boost productivity.

He was famous for his constant womanising, his achingly cool moustache and his affection for six-toed cats. Legend has it that he could drink 17 daiquiris in an afternoon, he was recruited by the KGB as a spy codenamed “Argo” and he once slept with a bear. Oh, and he wrote some of the most highly acclaimed works of all time.

I’m talking about Ernest Hemingway, of course. But it turns out that the author had more than novels and macho anecdotes up his rugged, intellectual sleeves. He was also the inventor of a clever psychological trick: the “useful interruption”.

According to a 1935 article Hemingway penned for Esquire magazine, when asked “How much should you write in a day?” by a young writer, he replied: “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel, you will never be stuck.” He urged the nascent writer to remember this – and even went so far as to say that it was the most valuable advice he could give.

(16) PSYCH OUT. Isn’t this what Majel Barrett’s computer voice was doing on the original Star Trek? “Why progress bars can make you feel better”

We are all familiar with the spinning wheels and download indicators that signify when our electronic devices are “working”, but are they making us fall for the “labour illusion”?

…But there is a good chance that you have been misled online at least once already today, probably without you even realising it. If you downloaded some software, tried to stream a video or even conducted an internet search, you’ve more than likely been taken in by one of the most widespread fibs of our modern age.

The spinning wheels, rotating egg timers and moving progress bars we regularly see on our screens when using our electronic devices are often misleading. Rather than offering an accurate representation of work being done, they are more often than not simply there to give the impression that something is happening behind the scenes. They provide us with a sense that we are not waiting in vain for something to happen.

And there is a fundamental reason for this: we like to see real work being done. In fact, we value it more, even when the end result is the same.

Ryan Buell, an associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, studies how we value the work we see being done. Perhaps this is most clearly illustrated in restaurants where customers can see chefs working in the kitchen. Diners rated the quality of food from those restaurants as 22% higher than the same food when they could not see it being prepared.

(17) BUY-BUY! NPR’s Elizabeth Metzger reviews “‘In Fabric’: Darkly Comic Horror About A (Literally) Killer Dress”.

As Black Friday/Cyber Monday impulse-buys start piling up on our doorsteps, Peter Strickland’s new film In Fabric hits a nerve: Everyone loves a great sale, after all, just as everyone rankles at overly strict return policies.

Especially if the item in question is a dress that’s out to kill you.

Sheila, played by Marianne Jean-Baptiste, falls prey to a great winter sales rack. It’s a pity that the flowy A-line red dress she purchases is haunted by a coven of macabre sales clerks led by Miss Luckmoore (Fatma Mohamed) — but what can one expect of a dress purchased at 60% off retail? That said, it does come in ‘Artery Red.’

…What, you may ask, prompts the purchase of a killer dress, beyond a love for a great deal? The recently divorced Sheila is putting herself back out there, going on a first date with Adonis (Anthony Adjekum) — who is not all what his name implies. Bad luck follows Sheila: a mysterious rash, an imploding washing machine, and constant undermining from both her superiors at the bank and her son’s girlfriend, played by Gwendoline Christie in a harsh black wig. Jean-Baptiste grounds the movie in a world filled with the farcical, the gory and the hypersexualized.

(18) APOSTROPHE CATASTROPHE. “Apostrophe society shuts down because ‘ignorance and laziness have won'” – the Evening Standard has the story.

A society dedicated to preserving the correct use of the apostrophe has shut down because “ignorance has won”. 

Retired journalist John Richards, 96, started the Apostrophe Protection Society in 2001 to make sure the “much-abused” punctuation mark was being used correctly.

But Mr Richards has now announced: “With regret I have to announce that, after some 18 years, I have decided to close the Apostrophe Protection Society.

“There are two reasons for this. One is that at 96 I am cutting back on my commitments and the second is that fewer organisations and individuals are now caring about the correct use of the apostrophe in the English Language.”

…His website lists three simple rules for the correct use of the apostrophe.

The rules Mr Richards gave for apostrophes are: They are used to denote a missing letter or letters, they are used to denote possession and apostrophes are never ever used to denote plurals.

(19) TAKING A BITE OUT OF THE SCENERY. The Ringer puts together a commentary on “The Best TV Episodes of 2019”. Some of them are genre.

8. “The Trial,” What We Do in the Shadows

Much like Taika Waititi’s eponymous film, FX’s What We Do in the Shadows gleefully leans into mundanity. This simple idea—that being an immortal, centuries-old vampire could lead to a meandering existence—is elevated by the show’s largely anonymous cast and the fact our vamps are based in Staten Island. (No disrespect to the Staten Islanders out there, but it’s usually not the borough tourists head for when they visit New York.) But in “The Trial,” What We Do in the Shadows pulls out all the stops, providing what could be the greatest on-screen vampire reunion … ever?

When our protagonists Nandor, Laszlo, and Nadja go before an international tribunal of vampires to answer for the death of the “Baron,” they’re greeted not just by the stars of the original movie, but some of the most famous actors who’ve played vampires in other projects: Tilda Swinton (Only Lovers Left Alive), Evan Rachel Wood (True Blood), Paul Reubens (the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie), Danny Trejo (From Dusk Till Dawn), and even Wesley Snipes (the Blade trilogy) via glitchy Skype. Absentees Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Robert Pattinson, and Kiefer Sutherland are all name-dropped, as well, turning “The Trial” into the Avengers for pop-culture vampires and, more importantly, a clever inversion of the show’s banal storytelling. The flex of having all these stars show up is commendable in and of itself, but “The Trial” is a series highlight for its excellent banter and the subtle implication that Swinton and Co. are also still themselves—and that they play vampires on screen in order to hide in plain sight. Like the humans they feast on, the vampiric world of What We Do in the Shadows remains an absolute treat. —Surrey

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

Pixel Scroll 10/5/19 I Don’t Want A Pixel, I Just Wanna File On My Scrollercixel

(1) THE EXPANSE. The Season 4 trailer debuted today at New York Comic Con.

The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds. Behold what awaits the pioneers of Ilus. Full Season Coming December 13, 2019.

(2) LOST ON THE GROUND, TOO. Netflix also dropped the trailer for the second season of Lost in Space.

Have you seen our Robot? Lost in Space Season 2 returns December 24th. Only on Netflix.

(3) BOOK TARIFFS. Shelf Awareness surveys the damage to various markets in “Newest Tariffs, on the E.U., to Include Books”.

The newest tariffs to be imposed by the Trump administration, against the European Union and amounting to $7.5 billion on a range of goods, will include books, the Bookseller reported.

…Last year, the Bookseller wrote, U.K. publishers exported printed books worth £128 million ($158 million) in invoiced value to North America.

The new tariffs follow the World Trade Organization’s decision on Wednesday that the U.S. could tax $7.5 billion of E.U. goods to recoup damages after the WTO had determined in May that the E.U. illegally subsidized Airbus. The tariffs cover all kinds of goods, which the New York Times described as, in part, “a gourmet shopping list, with the administration planning to place a 25% tax on imports of Parmesan cheese, mussels, coffee, single malt whiskeys and other agricultural goods from Europe.” Oddly the tariff on airplanes will be only 10%.

The Times noted that the WTO is considering a parallel case brought by the E.U. against the U.S. for subsidizing Boeing, for which the E.U. has a list of $20 billion of U.S. products it might impose tariffs on. That case should be decided early next year.

(4) TRADEMARK TROUBLE NORTH OF THE BORDER. “CN Tower’s management company claims that any picture of the landmark building is a trademark violation” – let Boing Boing tell you how not impressed they are with the argument.

…James Bow is a Canadian fantasy writer whose small-press fantasy novel The Night Girl features a cover-art collage that includes a Creative Commons-licensed image of the CN Tower. Bow was getting ready for his book launch when the CN Tower’s management company wrote to him to insist that he not publish the book with the cover, on the grounds that people who encountered his novel might mistakenly believe that it was commercially affiliated with the CN Tower.

The Canadian Parliament has actually taken up the question of whether the owners of buildings can control the reproduction of their likenesses: Section 32.2(1) of the Copyright Act states that “It is not an infringement of copyright… for any person to reproduce, in a painting, drawing, engraving, photograph or cinematographic work…an architectural work, provided the copy is not in the nature of an architectural drawing or plan.”

In other words, you can’t stop people from reproducing the likeness of your building.

The CN Tower’s management clearly knew about this, so their threat to Bow invoked trademark law, advancing the bizarre theory that any commercial reproduction of the Tower’s likeness is intrinsically deceptive, since anyone who sees such a reproduction would automatically assume that the CN Tower endorsed the product that bore the reproduction (that is, people who encountered Bow’s book would immediately leap to the conclusion that the CN Tower had launched a line of fantasy novels).

(5) TREK VINO VERITAS. Never mind pictures of the bottles, how does the wine actually taste? Ars Technica says “Definitely better than synthehol.” “Boldly going where no palate has gone before: A Star Trek wine tasting”.

But arguably the most anticipated Trek happening of 2019 involved the announcement of a new series—Star Trek: Picard. Slated to debut in early 2020, the show picks up with the beloved captain retired to his vineyards before life intervenes. So naturally, in honor of the series and Picard’s true passion, we now have Star Trek Wines, a collaboration between CBS Consumer Products and Wines That Rock.

Obviously, Ars had to sample these wines—for you, our readers, because we’re selfless like that. We recently ordered a bottle each of the two featured wines, even snagging the last of the sold-out limited edition Collector’s Pack. From there, we put out some cheeses and charcuterie, and the Los Angeles-based Ars Technica contingent set about putting our palates to work.

(6) NEW PULLMAN FANTASY. NPR’s Jessica P. Wick’s review tells how “Philip Pullman Pushes The Limits Of His World In ‘The Secret Commonwealth'”.

Philip Pullman’s The Secret Commonwealth is a big novel full of big ideas, big characters and big sorrows. It is a tale of spies and philosophies and wit, of factions vying for control of the truth — or the public’s opinion of the truth. It’s an adventure, global in scope and epic in shape, but it’s also a story about being unsettled in one’s life, about living with consequences, of what happens to us when we are estranged from ourselves. I was fascinated, occasionally contemptuous as the story had me siding with one character over another, and always curious to know more about the world and what would happen and always in awe of Pullman. This book feels like a response to the darkness in our time as Lord of the Rings feels like a response to the darkness in J. R. R. Tolkien’s. (Though Pullman might find that comparison paltry.)

Yes, the story is big. But The Secret Commonwealth’s greatest strength is the care it takes to center the story in the individual; the importance it grants to what’s in our heroes’ hearts….

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 5, 1990 Super Force debuted. Intended it was designed to be a companion series to Superboy, it ran for two seasons. It featured G. Gordon Liddy as villain and had Timothy Leary and former porn stars Traci Lords and Ginger Lynn as guest stars. 
  • October 5, 2002 — In Japan, Mobile Suit Gundam Seed aired “False Peace”, the first episode of this anime. It ran for five years and fifty episodes.  The series spawned three compilations films and was adapted into a manga as well as light novels. A sequel series, Mobile Suit Gundam SEED Destiny followed in 2004. It later was released in an English dubbed version. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 5, 1902 Larry Fine. Yes, he’s known as a member of the comedy act The Three Stooges. And they did a lot of genre films including Have Rocket – Will Travel, a 1959 film in which the Stooges, including him, are janitors working at a space center who accidentally blast off to Venus. (Died 1975.)
  • Born October 5, 1905 John Hoyt. He was cast as Dr. Philip Boyce in the original pilot episode of Star Trek (“The Cage”) and he appeared twice during the second season of The Twilight Zone in the episodes “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?” and “The Lateness of the Hour”.  He would also be the KAOS agent Conrad Bunny in the Get Smart episode “Our Man in Toyland”, and show up as General Beeker in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’s episode “Hail to the Chief,” (Died 1991.)
  • Born October 5, 1919 Donald Pleasence. He was Doctor Samuel Loomis in the Halloween franchise and the President in Escape from New York. He also had a plethora of parts in other genre properties, a few of which include the main role in the movie Fantastic Voyage which was novelized by Isaac Asimov, roles in episodes of the The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, and The Ray Bradbury Theater, a part in George Lucas’ first foray into filmmaking, THX 1138, John Carpenter’s The Prince of Darkness, and the role of Merlin in the TV movie Guinivere. My favourite film title for a work he was in? Frankenstein’s Great Aunt Tillie in which he played the dual roles of Victor Frankenstein  and Old Baron Frankenstein.  (Died 1995.)
  • Born October 5, 1930 Skip Homeier. He appeared on Trek twice, once as Melakon in “Patterns of Force”, and as Dr. Sevrin in “The Way to Eden”.  I’ll single out two other genre roles, the first being his Dr. Clinton role in The Outer Limits episode “Expanding Human”; the other being of his last roles which was a one-liner in The Wild Wild West Revisited as a senior Secret Service official. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 5, 1949 Peter Ackroyd, 70. His best known genre work is likely Hawksmoor which tells the tale of a London architect building a church and a contemporary detective investigating horrific murderers involving that church. Highly recommended. The House of Doctor Dee is genre fiction as is The Limehouse Golem and The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein.  I thought Hawksmoor had been turned into a film but it has not but he has a credit for The Limehouse Golem which is his film work. 
  • Born October 5, 1952 Karen Allen, 67. She’s best known for being Marion Ravenwood in Raiders of the Lost Ark, a role she reprised for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. She also co-starred in Starman and Scrooged. She shows on Alfred Hitchcock Presents as Jackie in “The Creeper” episode. 
  • Born October 5, 1952 Clive Barker, 67. Horror writer, series include the Hellraiser and the Book of Art which isnot to overlook The Abarat Quintet which is quite superb. Though not recent, The Essential Clive Barker: Selected Fiction published some twenty years ago contains more than seventy excerpts from novels and plays and four full-length short stories. His Imaginer series collects his decidedly strange art.  There has been a multitude of comic books, both by him and by others based on his his ideas.  My personal fave work by him is the Weaveworld novel.
  • Born October 5, 1959 Rich Horton, 60. Editor of three anthology series — Fantasy: Best of The Year and Science Fiction: Best of The Year both now longer being published, and The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy which is ongoing since 2009. He has been a reviewer for Locus for over a decade.
  • Born October 5, 1975 Marshall Lancaster, 44. He‘s best known for playing DC Chris Skelton in the superb BBC time-travel police series, Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes. He played Buzzer in “The Rebel Flesh” and “The Almost People”, both Eleventh Doctor stories. 
  • Born October 5, 1975 Kate Winslet, 44. A longer and deeper genre record than I thought starting with being Prince Sarah in A Kid in King Arthur’s Court before playing Ophelia in Branagh’s Hamlet a few years later. She shows next as Clementine Kruczynski in the superb Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and was Sylvia Llewelyn Davies in the equally superb Finding Neverland. She’s Jeanine Matthewsin Divergent and Insurgent, and is slated to be Ronal in the forthcoming Avatar 2. She’s the voice of Miss Fillyjonk in the English dub of the Swedish Moominvalley series. Finally I’d like to note she narrated the audiobook version of Roald Dahl’s Matilda.

(9) TROPE TIME. James Davis Nicoll knows all the “SF Stories in Which Earth Is Liberated by an Alien Empire” but is willing to confine himself to the best at Tor.com.

In fact, I find myself wondering if it isn’t suspicious that Borisov is so remarkably unremarkable. How likely is it that one of the objects spotted tumbling in from deepest space would be arriving more or less where we’d expect it, with more or less the composition we would expect of a natural object? Isn’t that exactly how some inquisitive galactic civilization would cloak a probe, so as not to attract undue attention from locals? Perhaps the reason we’re suddenly seeing what seem to be mere space-rocks, comets, whatever, is not thanks to tech improvements on our side, but is because something is carefully looking us over.

(10) THE UNCONSIDERED SLIGHT. Nerdist observes that Disney is giving Avengers: Endgame a big “for your consideration” push in 13 different categories, including Best Picture and Best Director, while surprisingly skipping fan favorites:

The biggest shock here is that they aren’t putting forward any of the cast for acting nods. Audiences were sure that Robert Downey Jr. and possibly Chris Evans would be in the running for Best Actor at next year’s competition. From this line-up, it’s clear that Disney is more focused on technical awards.

(11) THE BIG BANG OF CRIME. Engadget adds it to the calendar: “‘Harley Quinn’ series debuts on DC Universe November 29th”.

The Harley Quinn animated series DC promised way back in 2017 finally has a premiere date for DC Universe — as the character said in the show’s trailer, “Unlike that Deadpool cartoon, it’s actually coming out.” Harley Quinn will land on DC’s streaming service on November 29th, the comic book giant has announced at New York Comic Con. The Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco will voice the newly single “criminal Queenpin,” who’s out to make it on her own in Gotham City.

(12) LUNCH AT MR. FOX. Scott Edelman lunches in Dublin with Cheryl Morgan in Episode 106 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Cheryl Morgan

This time around, you’re invited to lunch with Cheryl Morgan, who’s a four-time Hugo Award-winning science fiction critic and publisher — first as the editor of Emerald City, which won for Best Fanzine in 2004, followed by another for Best Fan Writer in 2009. She has also been the non-fiction editor of Clarkesworld magazine, for which she won her third and fourth Hugo Awards in 2010 and 2011. She is a director of San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions Inc., and a founder of the short-lived Association for the Recognition of Excellence in SF & F Translation. She is a co-chair of Out Stories Bristol and lectures regularly on both trans history and science fiction and fantasy literature. She’s also a Director of The Diversity Trust for whom she run trans awareness courses. She’s the owner of Wizard’s Tower Press.

(13) CUT AND PASTE. NPR learns the way “Ancient Greek Scroll’s Hidden Contents Revealed Through Infrared Imaging”.

More than 200 years ago, scholars glued the remains of an ancient papyrus scroll onto cardboard to preserve it. But the scroll, a history of Plato’s Academy, also had writing on the back. Now scholars have deployed imaging technology to read what’s been concealed.

This scroll came from a library in Herculaneum, near Mount Vesuvius. And it was caught in the famous eruption of that volcano nearly 2,000 years ago — the same eruption that buried the city of Pompeii.

The scroll doesn’t look like much now. It’s blackened and in tatters. In fact, it looks like what you’d find at the bottom of your barbecue.

But the same processes that charred the scroll and the rest of that library also preserved it, according to papyrus scholar Graziano Ranocchia from the Italian National Research Council.

…Ranocchia said the huge spectrum range allowed them to penetrate the layers of the papyrus. “So with a huge penetration capacity, this is why we are able to read what our predecessors weren’t able to read through conventional multispectral imaging or infrared photography.”

What they found are bits of text that Philodemus wanted to insert into his book, such as quotes from other sources he was considering using in the history. Classicist Kilian Fleischer from the University of Würzburg, who is putting together a new edition of Philodemus’ history using these images, says it provides a unique view of an ancient philosopher’s writing process.

“We have here more or less the only case where we can really see how an ancient author worked and composed his book,” Fleischer says.

(14) SOMEONE IS WRONG ON THE INTERNET. BBC knows the reason why “China and Taiwan clash over Wikipedia edits”.

Ask Google or Siri: “What is Taiwan?”

“A state”, they will answer, “in East Asia”.

But earlier in September, it would have been a “province in the People’s Republic of China”.

For questions of fact, many search engines, digital assistants and phones all point to one place: Wikipedia. And Wikipedia had suddenly changed.

The edit was reversed, but soon made again. And again. It became an editorial tug of war that – as far as the encyclopedia was concerned – caused the state of Taiwan to constantly blink in and out of existence over the course of a single day.

“This year is a very crazy year,” sighed Jamie Lin, a board member of Wikimedia Taiwan.

“A lot of Taiwanese Wikipedians have been attacked.”

(15) THEY’RE STILL HERE. And so are we… “Pagers, faxes and cheques: Things that might seem obsolete, but aren’t”.

The roughly one thousand people who still used pagers in Japan might have shed a tear this week when they were finally discontinued. Wait, you may say… pagers are still a thing?

Even though you won’t find them in Japan any more, pagers are still used elsewhere. And they’re not the only “outdated” item still being employed around the world.

(16) DRESS FOR EXCESS. Isaac Arthur’s latest is on “Spacesuits & Extreme Environment Gear.”

There’s many dangerous places on Earth, and everywhere off Earth is downright lethal, from the emptiness of space to the airless and radiation soaked Moon to the smoldering inferno of Venus, humanity can’t visit them without protection. We’ll see what options for spacesuits are under works and what options might emerge for even better ones in the distant future.

(17) BAR FIGHT. Yahoo! News is handy with a link as “Regular Clowns Fight Joker And Pennywise In Brutally Funny Bozo Brawl With James Corden”.

… The bozos take their beef outside, into the streets. One regular clown (James Corden) threatens to shove his size 38 shoe up Joker’s rear end. Another (Cedric the Entertainer) tells the evil clowns: “Are you a scary clown or just a scared clown?”

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

Pixel Scroll 10/1/19 Attention, Slans! This Is a Porgrave Pixel-Broadcasting Scroll

(1) DEEP DISH READING SERIES. The Speculative Literature Foundation will be hosting the Deep Dish Reading Series Thursday, October 3 at 7pm at Volumes Bookcafe (1474 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60622).  This event is being done in partnership with the Plurality University Network as part of their Many Tomorrows Festival.

Transcending boundaries of space, time, and imagination, we will gather together in Chicago speculative fiction authors from various communities, each with their own unique vision of the world. This event is co-sponsored by SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) (www.sfwa.org) and Chicago Nerd Social Club (www.chicagonerds.org). 

The event’s Featured Readers will be Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Jane Rosenberg LaForge, and Scott Huggins, with Rapid-Fire Readers Sue Burke, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Jeremy John, and Anaea Lay. Deep Dish readings are open to the public and all are welcome, free of charge.

(2) COUPLE OF AMAZON TRIBUTARIES DRYING UP. The Digital Reader reports a pair of changes will soon be made to Amazon’s marketing strategies.

On September 27 they wrote: “Amazon is Shutting Down Amazon Giveaways on 30 November”.

Amazon is shutting down its nearly five-year-old giveaway service in two weeks.

The retailer sent out an email today, informing authors and others who have run contests that the service is being wound down over the next couple months. The option to start a new giveaway contest will end on 10 October, and Amazon will end all current contests on 17 October. 

A couple days later this item followed: “Amazon is Shutting Down Kindle Matchbook, Its Print+eBook Bundling Program”.

…Launched in 2013, Kindle Matchbook was a program where authors and publishers had the option of creating ebook+print bundles that combine a Kindle ebook with a print book sold by Amazon. The ebook could be given away for free, or sold for $1.99 or $0.99.

If you’ve never heard of this program, you’re not alone. Aside from the stories about the publishing industry losing its shit when Amazon launched Kindle Matchbook, it has gotten almost no media attention.

Most authors have never heard of it, and the ones that do have books in the program report that there was little interest from readers.

(3) BREAKING A RULE. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett assembles an entertaining array of authors reproving critics in “Taking Care When Biting the Bear”. Keith Roberts lights up a pseudonymous reviewer, while James Blish is racked by Anthony Boucher and Isaac Asimov.

It has often been said, and rightly so, that there is little value in an author complaining about what others say about their work. No matter how wrong-headed an author might think such opinions, in the normal course of events complaining about them rarely does the author much good. The problem for any author who feels slighted is that we all form opinions about everything we experience and few of us will happily accept being told our opinions are worthless. Thus when an author uses the argument ‘that X did not understand what I was trying to do’ most of us feel our hackles raise in empathy with the critic.

To argue about anything but clear errors of fact (as Jack Vance once did in response to James Blish) is risky business for this very reason….

(4) MARS BY WAY OF KENSINGTON. Forbes advises travelers, “From A Mars Exhibit To An Out-Of-This-World Tea Time, Here’s How To Have The Perfect Space-Themed London Day”. The itinerary begins here:

…On October 18, the London Design Museum will launch their “Moving to Mars” exhibition, which considers both the science and design behind what going to Mars will look like for humankind. The exhibit is divided into three aesthetically pleasing exhibitions – one on Mars in popular culture, one on what life and living conditions will be like on Mars, and one on what the future of Mars could look like. Guests are then invited to make their own conclusions about how and when humans should make the leap to the red planet. Because it’s a design museum, the curators have collected more than 150 Mars-related objects and commissioned an interior design firm to create a multi-sensory experience. Guests will be able to walk through a prototype of a Martian habitat and study the clothing that will need to blend style and functionality with heavy-duty protection and technical performance. The exhibit will run until February 23, 2020. It’s best to buy your tickets in advance and is recommended for children 8 and older.

(5) POLL CATS. At Tor.com, James Davis Nicoll comments on “Four Speculative Novels Featuring Important Elections”. (And has no trouble reaching that number even before mentioning Double Star.)

My nation (which may not be yours) is in the midst of another election. On the one hand, it’s a glorious celebration of our right to choose who runs the nation for the next four years. On the other hand, many of us view with dismay the endless election—thirty-six full days of bloviation and punditry!—and the sinking feeling that it is all an exercise in deciding which of our colourful array of parties  is least objectionable. Still, even if it feels like one is being asked to choose between the Spanish Influenza and Yersinia pestis, it is important to remember one take-home lesson from Herman Kahn’s On Thermonuclear War: even undesirable outcomes can be ranked in order of preference. The Spanish flu is bad. The Black Death is worse.

All of which led me to consider how elections have figured in speculative fiction novels.

(6) HARLEY QUINN. The first Birds of Prey trailer has dropped. In theaters February 7, 2020

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 1, 1957 The Brain From Planet Arous premiered. Starring John Agar, Joyce Meadows, and Robert Fuller, it was made on a budget of $ 58,000. It went into appeared in wide distribution in 1958 as a double feature with Teenage Monster.
  • October 1, 1998Futuresport aired on ABC. Starring Dean Cain, Vanessa Williams, and Wesley Snipes, it polled 23% at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • October 1, 2001 — The Mutant Xseries first aired. It lasted for three seasons and sixty episodes. John Shea who was Luthor in the 1990s Lois & Clark was a cast member. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 1, 1896 Abraham Sofaer. The Thasian in “The Charlie X” episode of the original Trek. He’s also been on  The Man from U.N.C.L.E in “The Brain-Killer Affair” as Mr. Gabhail Samoy, head of U.N.C.L.E. operations in Calcutta, and also had one-offs on Twilight Zone, Boris Karloff’s ThrillerTime Tunnel, I Dream of JeannieKolchak: The Night Stalker and Lost in Space. (Died 1988.)
  • Born October 1, 1914 Donald Wollheim. Founding member of the Futurians, Wollheim organized what was later deemed the first American science fiction convention, when a group from New York met with a group from Philadelphia on October 22, 1936 in Philadelphia. As an editor, he published Le Guin’s first two novels as an Ace Double. And would someone please explain to me how he published an unauthorized paperback edition of The Lord of the Rings? (Died 1990.)
  • Born October 1, 1930 Richard Harris. One of the Dumbledores in the Potter film franchise. He also played King Arthur in Camelot, Richard the Lion Hearted in Robin and Marian, Gulliver in Gulliver’s Travels, James Parker in Tarzan, the Ape Man and he voiced Opal in Kaena: The Prophecy. His acting in Tarzan, the Ape Man him a nominee for the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor. Anyone seen that film? (Died 2002.)
  • Born October 1, 1935 Dame Julie Andrews, DBE, 84. Mary Poppins! I could stop there but I won’t. (Hee.) she had a scene cut in which was a maid in The Return of the Pink Panther, and she’s uncredited as the singing voice of Ainsley Jarvis in The Pink Panther Strikes Again. Yet again she’s uncreated in a Panther film, this time as chairwoman in Trail of the Pink Panther. She voices Queen Lillian in Sherk 2Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After. And she’s the voice of Karathen in Aquaman.
  • Born October 1, 1944 Rick Katze, 75. A Boston fan and member of NESFA and MCFI. He’s chaired three Boskones, and worked many Worldcons. Quoting Fancyclopedia 3: “A lawyer professionally, he was counsel to the Connie Bailout Committee and negotiated the purchase of Connie’s unpaid non-fannish debt at about sixty cents on the dollar.” He’s an active editor for the NESFA Press, including the six-volume Best of Poul Anderson series.
  • Born October 1, 1948 Michael Ashley, 71. Way, way too prolific to cover in any detail so I’ll single out a few of his endeavours. The first, his magnificent The History of the Science Fiction Magazine, 1926 – 1965; the second being the companion series, The Time Machines: The Story of the Science-Fiction Pulp Magazines from the Beginning to 1990. This not to slight anything he is done such as The Gernsback Days: A Study in the Evolution of Modern Science Fiction from 1911 to 1936.
  • Born October 1, 1953 John Ridley, 66. Author of Those Who Walk in Darkness and What Fire Cannot Burn novels. Both excellent though high on the violence cringe scale. Writer on the Static Shock and Justice League series. Writer, The Authority : human on the inside graphic novel. And apparently the writer for Team Knight Rider, a female version of Knight Rider that last one season in the Nineties. 
  • Born October 1, 1989 Brie Larson, 30. Captain Marvel in the Marvel film universe. She’s also been in Kong: Skull Island as Mason Weaver, and plays Kit in the Unicorn Store which she also directed and produced. Her first genre role was Rachael in the “Into the Fire” of Touched by an Angel series; she also appeared as Krista Eisenburg in the “Slam” episode of Ghost Whisperer. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Where are they now? Grimmy answers the question for one rainbow vaulter.

(10) AT A GLANCE. Camestros Felapton in “Cat Psychology” provides a handy chart of facial expressions so you can tell what your cat is thinking – provided yours thinks the same way as Timothy the Talking Cat.

(11) WRONG ON JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter watch a contestant lose money with this response on tonight’s episode of Jeopardy!

Category: What’s that award for.

Answer: The Arthur C. Clarke Award.

Wrong question: What is tennis?

(12) NEW SFF. Victoria Sandbrook praises an author’s debut novel: “Review: THE LESSON by Cadwell Turnbull”.

…Turnbull’s narrative is measured, calm, until it isn’t, a thundercloud too easily written off until it looms above you. The central, external conflict remains taut and ever-present, even as Turnbull explores the deeply individual experiences of each character with an awareness and love of place rooted in his own history there.

(13) DON’T MISS THE APOCALYPSE. The Daily Mail’s article “Enter the Thunderdome: 4,000 Mad Max fans and their weaponry-festooned vehicles gather in the California desert for Wasteland Weekend – the ‘world’s largest post-apocalyptic festival'” comes with myriad photos.

Roughly 4,000 people have descended on to California‘s Mojave Desert for an annual post-apocalyptic festival called Wasteland Weekend. 

The festival, which was inspired by the Mad Max film series, celebrated its tenth anniversary this year and revelers flocked to the desert in their masses. 

Created in 2010 by Karol Bartoszynski, Jared Butler and James Howard, the festival sees its participants spend the entire weekend in post-apocalyptic costume. 

They proudly note:

The permanent festival site sits between the defunct Nevada nuclear test site, where from 1951 a total of 928 nuclear warheads were tested during the cold war, and Hollywood.

(14) BEAR ANCESTRY. Scientists are “Collecting polar bear footprints to map family trees”.

Scientists from Sweden are using DNA in the environment to track Alaskan polar bears.

The technique which uses DNA from traces of cells left behind by the bears has been described as game changing for polar bear research.

It’s less intrusive than other techniques and could help give a clearer picture of population sizes.

Environmental DNA (eDNA) comes from traces of biological tissue such as skin and mucus in the surroundings.

Scientists and now conservationists are increasingly using such samples to sequence genetic information and identify which species are present in a particular habitat.

It’s often used to test for invasive species or as evidence of which animals might need more protection.

In another application of the technique, geneticist Dr Micaela Hellström from the Aquabiota laboratory in Sweden worked with WWF Alaska and the Department of Wildlife Management in Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow) to collect snow from the pawprints of polar bears.

They tested the technique on polar bears in parks in Sweden and Finland.

“We realised that for the first time we could reach the nuclear DNA within the cells. The material outside the cell can tell what species you are and there are 1,000 or 2,000 copies. But the DNA in the nucleus which identifies an individual has only two copies, so it’s an enormous challenge to get out enough from these snowsteps,” she said.

(15) ONTOGENY RECAPITULATES PHYLOGENY.  “Babies in the womb have lizard-like hand muscles” – BBC has the story.

Babies in the womb have extra lizard-like muscles in their hands that most will lose before they are born, medical scans reveal.

They are probably one of the oldest, albeit fleeting, remnants of evolution seen in humans yet, biologists say, in the journal Development.

They date them as 250 million years old – a relic from when reptiles transitioned to mammals.

It is unclear why the human body makes and then deletes them before birth.

The biologists say the developmental step may be what makes thumbs dextrous. Thumbs, unlike other digits, retain an extra muscle.

(16) GOOD USE. BBC reports “Virtual reality PTSD treatment has ‘big impact’ for veterans”.

Virtual reality could be used to help military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who have struggled with mainstream treatment.

It involves patients walking on a treadmill in front of a screen which projects images depicting the type of trauma experienced.

A two-year trial found some patients could see almost a 40% improvement in their symptoms.

One veteran said it had given him the “biggest impact” out of any treatment.

(17) NOT IN HAWKINS ANYMORE? Netflix has greenlighted a fourth season of Stranger Things. The announcement took the form of this video:

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

Pixel Scroll 9/30/19 Come Friends, Who Scroll The Files! Truce To Pixelation, Take Another Station

(1) MARS WANTS A REMATCH. BBC’s The War of the Worlds premiered September 29.

This is the original alien invasion story. Staring Eleanor Tomlinson, Rafe Spall and Robert Carlyle, this tense and thrilling drama follows a young couple’s race for survival against escalating terror of an alien enemy beyond their comprehension. The War of the Worlds is a major adaptation by Peter Harness of H.G. Wells’ classic sci-fi title. This major new three-part drama is produced by Mammoth Screen for BBC One, and directed by award-winning director Craig Viveiros Set in Edwardian England, this new adaptation of H.G. Wells’ seminal tale – the first alien invasion story in literature – follows George (played by Rafe Spall) and his partner Amy (Eleanor Tomlinson) as they attempt to defy society and start a life together. Rupert Graves is Frederick, George’s elder brother, and Robert Carlyle plays Ogilvy, an astronomer and scientist. The War of the Worlds tells their story as they face the escalating terror of an alien invasion, fighting for their lives against an enemy beyond their comprehension.

(2) CRAFTS FOR CONS. Constanze Hofmann, who was head of display at WorldCon 77 and organized the Raksura Colony Tree project, muses about organizing community art and crafts project for future WorldCons in “What next?”

Worldcon has been over for more than a month now. I’ve had time to reflect on the things that we did in the run-up to Dublin 2019, and am still marveling at everything that happened at the convention itself. The Raksura Colony Tree turned out to be much better than I had imagined, and brought together a community of crafters. As the convention neared its end, I talked with a lot of people inside that community as well as others who enjoyed what we did. We discussed what it is that makes craft opportunities so important at a huge event like a Worldcon. There’s many good reasons I’ll discuss in a future post, but one thing we were all agreeing on is that we want projects like this to be part of future Worldcons as well.

(3) FIRST SNOWMAN OF THE FALL. The Hollywood Reporter declares “Box Office: ‘Abominable’ Scales the Chart With $21M”.

Marking the first studio animated pic of the fall season, DreamWorks Animation’s Abominable easily scaled the box office chart over the weekend with a winning $20.9 million from 4,242 theaters.

Abominable is from filmmaker Jill Culton, the first woman to be credited as the lead director and writer of an animated Hollywood studio pic (Todd Wilderman is credited as a co-director). It’s also the first co-production between DWA and China’s Pearl Studios. The movie is set to open Tuesday in China. 

(4) UNBIND THE HANDS OF THE CLOCK. Annalee Newitz’ “Yes, We’re in the Wrong Timeline” at Slate tells “How time-travel stories explain our uncanny era.”

Sometimes you find a profound political statement in the middle of a goofy adventure story. In Season 2 of the superhero show DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, our team of superpowered misfits use their badass time ship to correct historical “aberrations” during the Civil War. Jax, one of the team’s black characters, is shocked when he meets slaves for the first time. Not because of how horribly they are treated—he already knew about that—but because they still have so much hope for the future, even when they’ve been beaten and tied up for disobedience.

Jax is there to prevent a malicious time-traveler from changing the course of the war, but he decides to make his own unauthorized changes. Untying the slaves so they can escape, he realizes he’s creating new potential historical aberrations. But Jax welcomes this possibility. “Slavery is the aberration,” he says. With that one line, he explains both the lure of time-travel fiction and the reason why it feels so vital during periods of dramatic political instability like our own….

(5) GENDER INCLUSIVE DOLLS. “Mattel Launches Gender Inclusive Doll Line Inviting All Kids to Play”Business Wire has the story.

“Toys are a reflection of culture and as the world continues to celebrate the positive impact of inclusivity, we felt it was time to create a doll line free of labels,” said Kim Culmone, Senior Vice President of Mattel Fashion Doll Design. “Through research, we heard that kids don’t want their toys dictated by gender norms. This line allows all kids to express themselves freely which is why it resonates so strongly with them. We’re hopeful Creatable World will encourage people to think more broadly about how all kids can benefit from doll play.”

Mattel worked alongside a dedicated team of experts, parents, physicians and most importantly, kids, to create this one-of-a-kind play experience.

The Creatable World doll line consists of six different doll kits that are available in a variety of skin tones. Each kit includes one doll, two hairstyle options and endless styling possibilities.

(6) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

In 2012, British artist and engineer David Cramner turned a taxidermied badger into a working theremin, a musical instrument patented in the 1920s that makes sounds by waving one’s hand between two metal antennas. The result was the Badgermin, which was sold and used in a recording studio.

Source: Nervous Squirrel

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 30, 1959 Men Into Space premiered on television.
  • September 30, 1960 The Flintstones made its television debut.
  • September 30, 1965 Thunderbirds first aired in the U.K.  Created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, this Supermarionation based series ran for thirty episodes over two years before canceled. Gerry Anderson will later be responsible for Space: 1999
  • September 30, 1983 Manimal debuted. In case you’ve forgotten, the show centered on Dr. Chase, a shapeshifter who can turn himself into any animal he chooses. It lasted eight episodes. 
  • September 30, 2005 Serenity premiered. It was the big screen follow up to the Firefly series. It has an 83% rating over at Rotten Tomatoes. And It won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation—Long Form. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 30, 1932 — Antoinette Bower, 86. I’ll start off with her being Sylvia in the classic Trek episode of “Catspaw” written by Robert Bloch. She had a previous genre appearances in a Twilight Zone story, “Probe 7, Over and Out” in which she was Eva Nord. It’s a shaggy God story as so termed by Brian Aldiss. She also had one-offs in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Wild Wild WestMission: Impossible, Get Smart and The Six Million Dollar Man.
  • Born September 30, 1946 — Dan O’Bannon. Screenwriter, director, visual effects supervisor, and  actor.  He wrote the Alien script, directed The Return of the Living Dead, provided special computer effects on Star Wars, writer of two segments of Heavy MetalSoft Landing and B-17, co-writer with Ronald Shusett and  Gary Goldman of the first Total Recall. That’s not complete listing by any stretch! (Died 2009.)
  • Born September 30, 1950 — Laura Esquivel, 69. Mexican author of Como agua para chocolate, Like Water for Chocolate in English. Magic realism and cooking with more than a small soupçon of eroticism. Seriously the film is amazing as is the book. ISFDB says she’s also written La ley del amor (The Law of Love) which I’ve not read. 
  • Born September 30, 1953 — S. M. Stirling, 66. My favorite work by him is The Peshawar Lancers. Other than that, I’ll admit that I’ve not read deep on him beyond In the Courts of the Crimson Kings and The Sky Prople.
  • Born September 30, 1959 — Debrah Farentino, 60. She’s been in the cast of Earth 2 (never saw it — how was it?) and the recurring character of Dr. Beverly Barlowe on Eureka (superb, her character and the series). She was also in Son of the Pink Panther1994 Baker Street: Sherlock Holmes Returns, and the “Mind over Matter” episode of Outer Limits
  • Born September 30, 1972 — Sheree Thomas, 47. She’s the editor of the Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora anthology and Dark Matter: Reading the Bones, each winners of a World Fantasy Award for Year’s Best Anthology. I highly recommend her Lady Sherlock series which I’m pleased to note is available on iBooks and Kindle. Kindle has her short collections. 
  • Born September 30, 1982 — Lacey Chabert, 37. Penny Robinson on the Lost in Space film reboot. She’s done mostly voice acting and children’s features at that. She did voice Gwen Stacy on The Spectacular Spider-Man series and does likewise for Zatanna Zatara on the current Young Justice series. 
  • Born September 30, 1985 — Katrina Law, 34. She’s well-known for playing the roles of Mira  on Spartacus: Blood and Sand and Spartacus: Vengeance, and  Nyssa al Ghul on  Arrow. She co-starred in Darkness Rising, a film two critics noted for its “terminal dullness” and which got a rare rating of 0% at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) STAND BY TO BUY. IGN wants you to know “Every Star Wars Toy Announced for Force Friday”.

Lucasfilm has announced all the toys and products you’ll be able to purchase on Force Friday next week. Not only are there action figures and collectibles, but socks and underwear too for good measure. You know, for the true Star Wars fans.

(11) HAVE YE SEEN THE GREAT BLANK PAGE. I’m nearly always a sucker for another “making of Moby Dick“ article as long as it mentions Ray Bradbury. Nick Rowan’s “Reviving John Huston’s Moby Dick” for The Spectator qualifies. Tagline: “On Melville’s death day, reviewing the film reincarnations of a Leviathan that still threatens all who pursue him. Just ask Gregory Peck.”

… At an awards ceremony in 1983, where Huston was presented a lifetime achievement award in filmmaking, his longtime friend Orson Welles — whose brief appearance in the film as a preacher earned him enough money to stage his own theatrical production of Moby Dick — recalled the whale incidents and laughed, joking that Huston had always been “a Renaissance Prince, a Regency rake, a Mississippi gambler, an epicurean, and an amiable Count Dracula.”

(12) LIGHTS, CAMERA, ANNIHLATION. At Tor.com, James Davis Nicoll is ready to screen “5 Atomic War Films That Are Fun for the Whole Family”.

…Stanley Kramer’s adaptation of the 1957 Nevil Shute’s novel of the same title, 1959’s On the Beach features an all star cast (Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, and Anthony Perkins). Nuclear proliferation put an end to all conflict in the northern hemisphere: those spared immediate death by nuclear blast were treated to death by enhanced fallout, courtesy of cobalt bombs. Australia and the other nations of the Southern Hemisphere were too insignificant to die in the exchange. Unfortunately, fallout is spreading slowly, inexorably south. The question is not how can the characters survive but rather how they will face their inevitable demise in a world without hope.

(13) FROM THE JAWS OF DEFEAT. It depends on how you spin it: “Chandrayaan-2: Was India’s Moon mission actually a success?”

India’s Moon lander, which lost contact with scientists seconds before it was to touch down on the lunar surface, is yet to be located. But scientists tell BBC Hindi’s Imran Qureshi why the ambitious mission cannot be dismissed as a failure.

…Chandrayaan-2 was the most complex mission ever attempted by India’s space agency, Isro. Its chairman K Sivan – who had earlier described the final descent as “15 minutes of terror” – has since said the mission was “98% successful”, based on the findings of an official committee.

Mr Sivan’s remarks have been met with criticism from scientists who said it was too early for Isro to term the mission a success, especially since its most important goal – to land a rover on the Moon’s surface that can gather crucial data – remains unrealised.

…Some former and current Isro scientists have however, supported Dr Sivan, and said it is unfair to call the mission a failure.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, an Isro scientist told BBC Hindi that the success of a space mission has to be measured in terms of “the returns you get”.

“We had a precise launch, the orbiter was manoeuvred as anticipated which is a major part of the success and even the lander passed through all the three phases except that in the last phase it did not function as per our expectations,” he added.

He pointed out that they would now rely on data they received from the orbiter. “The life of the orbiter got enhanced from one year to seven years because a lot of fuel was not consumed. We were lucky. If you are getting data for seven years from orbiter, it means many technologies have worked.”

(14) A BITER BIT. He’s got the blarney going for him: “Limerick student tricks scammer to give him money”.

A student from County Kilkenny in the Republic of Ireland has managed to scam money out of an internet scammer.

The scammer transferred £25 to the student’s account, which he subsequently donated to charity.

This is the third time that Ross Walsh, a 22-year-old student at the University of Limerick, has extracted a small sum from online scammers for charity.

“I want to waste their time so they’re not wasting anyone else’s time,” he said.

(15) WORTH A LAUGH. If you were waiting to see Harley Quinn’s with one of her pet hyenas, let CinemaBlend show you the new Birds of Prey poster.

Harley Quinn debuted in Batman: The Animated Series, followed by a long tenure in comics. In most versions, the femme fatale has a pair of pet Hyenas named Bud and Lou. And it looks like they’ll make their live-action debut with Birds of Prey.

View this post on Instagram

About to show some teeth.

A post shared by Birds of Prey (@birdsofprey) on

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

Pixel Scroll 7/22/19 Scroll On, You Crazy Pixel

(1) FOR PARENTS OF TEENS AT WORLDON. A Facebook group has been created for parents who will have minors at Dublin 2019, to set up reciprocal chaperoning arrangements: Dublin2019parents.

This COMPLETELY UNOFFICIAL group is for parents of young people who will be attending Dublin2019, an Irish Worldcon, to discuss the logistics of Kids In The Space. We all want to have a great time, make sure our offspring are safe, and work within the rules set forth by the convention regarding unaccompanied children and responsible adults. Let’s collaborate!

(2) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series presents Paul Witcover & Lara Elena Donnelly on Wednesday, August 21, 2019, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar. Chandler Klang Smith & Mercurio D. Rivera will be subbing for hosts Ellen Datlow and Matt Kressel, who will be traveling.

Paul Witcover

Paul Witcover is the author of five novels, most recently The Watchman of Eternity. He has been a finalist for the Nebula, World Fantasy, and Shirley Jackson awards. He hopes one day to win something!

Lara Elena Donnelly

Lara Elena Donnelly is the author of the Nebula- Lambda, and Locus-nominated trilogy The Amberlough Dossier, as well as short fiction and poetry appearing in venues including Strange Horizons, Escape Pod, Nightmare, and Uncanny. Lara teaches at the Catapult Classes in New York City and is a thesis adviser in the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence College.

KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.) New York, NY.

(3) WATCHMEN COMIC-CON TRAILER. Watchmen debuts on HBO this October.

There is a vast and insidious conspiracy at play…. From Damon Lindelof and set in an alternate history where masked vigilantes are treated as outlaws, this drama series embraces the nostalgia of the original groundbreaking graphic novel of the same name while attempting to break new ground of its own. The cast includes Regina King, Jeremy Irons, Don Johnson, Jean Smart, Tim Blake Nelson, Louis Gossett Jr., Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Hong Chau, Andrew Howard, Tom Mison, Frances Fisher, Jacob Ming-Trent, Sara Vickers, Dylan Schombing, and James Wolk.

(4) BID MAD FAREWELL. The New York Times letters section is filled with expressions of sentiment offered “In Fond Remembrance of Mad Magazine”.

I wholly endorse Tim Kreider’s views and mourn Mad’s effective demise to the extent it ceases the publication of new material.

As the beneficiary of slightly distracted conservative parents, I subscribed to and have collected Mad since I was a preteenager. Bill Gaines’s “usual gang of idiots” offered intellectual freedom from the confining dictates of the 1950s, and that freedom continues to inform my thinking.

The art was as meticulous as the writing. Each artist’s style was perfectly attuned to the text of the particular piece. What can compare to George Woodbridge’s illustrations of hippies and beatniks?

In contrast to so many publications, those many issues of Mad reflect no typographical errors, misspellings, grammatical mistakes or instances of poor usage, unless intentional. At least I have never spotted any.

Literate, entertaining, enlightening and inspirational.

R.I.P., Mad!

Barbara Jaffe
New York
The writer is a New York State Supreme Court justice.

Tim Kreider’s opinion piece “The World According to Mad Magazine” appeared July 12.

(5) ALL YOUR COMIC-CON BELONG TO US. Writers and editors at The Hollywood Reporter have picked “Comic-Con Winners and Losers From Film, TV and Comics Panels.” Each entry includes a paragraph on why it was selected, but the roundup is:

  • Winner: Marvel Studios 
  • Loser: Veronica Mars (Hulu) 
  • Winner: Paramount
  • Winner: The Witcher (Netflix)
  • Winner: The Walking Dead (AMC)
  • Loser: The Eisner Awards 
  • Winner: It Chapter Two (New Line/Warner Bros.)
  • Loser: Game of Thrones (HBO) 
  • Winner: Westworld (HBO)
  • Winner: Watchmen (HBO) 
  • Loser: Ruby Rose 
  • Winner: Tom Hooper
  • Winner: Tom King 
  • Winner: The X-Men (Marvel)
  • Winner: Undiscovered Country (Image Comics)
  • Winner: Riverdale (The CW)
  • Loser: Agents of SHIELD (ABC)
  • Winner: Star Trek (CBS All Access)

Here’s one example:

Loser: Veronica Mars (Hulu) 
Surprise! All episodes of the highly anticipated revival are available to stream a week early! In what was designed as a reward for diehard fans of the Kristen Bell-led series from creator Rob Thomas, those packed into Ballroom 20 were delighted at the early arrival before likely realizing they’d be unable to stream it given that they already had weekend plans — at Comic-Con — and would likely be spoiled by that heartbreaking finale. The early drop was a regular topic on Friday but by Saturday, it had already been drowned out amid a glut of hundreds of other film, TV, video game and comic book panels and trailers.   

(6) MORE COMIC-CON COVERAGE. San Diego’s Fox 5 has a 45-photo gallery of “Best costumes of Comic-Con weekend”.

The Comic-Con Blood Drive was the most successful ever:

(7) FULL LID REFILLED. Blade Runners, alien invasions of several kinds and the retirement of an all-time great are all part of this week’s “The Full Lid 19th July 2019”. Alasadair Stuart outlines what’s inside —  

We open with a look at the first issue of Titan Comics’ Blade Runner 2019 featuring a new member of the division with some very new problems. Then we’re off to curdled suburban horror with Jeremy C. Shipp’s superbly unsettling Bedfellow. A house guest turns a family’s lives on their heads, but he’s always been there, hasn’t he? An uncle, a brother, a god, a monstrous cuckoo nesting in their lives. Marv is here to stay and a superbly unsettling villain.

Then we salute the comics career of Alan Moore, godfather of the UK scene, film-maker, actor, magic user and architect of an age. But for all his legendary skill and gravitas, Moore is a hell of a comedian and my favorite work of his falls in that field. Finally, with the recent and much deserved Clarke Award win, we re-run the review of Tade Thompson’s excellent Rosewater from last year. Rounded out with the latest work from Anne Fortune, Claire Rousseau and You Suck At Cooking, that’s the Full Lid for the week.

(8) LEGO’S APOLLO PROGRAM. The Verge: “A Lego designer talks about designing spaceships and collaborating with NASA”. Tagline: “More than 40 years of LEGO Space”

The Verge spoke with Lego designer Simon Kent recently, who explained that he and his colleagues recently visited with NASA engineers and personnel to compare their toys against the real spaceships, rovers, and space stations currently in operation today. “Across the company, space is such a big theme, that we can tap into it in many different ways, whether its a plaything like Lego City, or a display model that goes into the fine details of the spacecraft’s design,” like the recently-released Apollo 11 Lunar Lander [list price $99.99].

(9) THAT’S NOTABLE, NOT NOTORIOUS. Camestros Felapton fills everyone in about “Today’s right wing author meltdown…” which commenced when Michael Z. Williamson learned his Wikipedia entry was slated for deletion on grounds that he is not sufficiently notable. In fact, the page has been deleted and restored pending debate while this has been going on.

Last night Michael Z. Williamson’s blog was brought to my attention, who if you are unfamiliar with him, was (is) one of the pioneering fiction writers in the wild west of the early-mid 2010s who bucked the system of social justice-focused “woke” writing in order to focus on craft and excellent storytelling.

Now, years later, big tech is taking its revenge on Michael as they’ve deleted his wikipedia page.

(10) KRAFT OBIT. NASA pioneer Chris Kraft died July 22. The Houston Chronicle headline: “Legendary NASA flight director Chris Kraft has died at 95”.

Christopher C. Kraft Jr. — NASA’s first flight director and a legendary scientist who helped build the nation’s space program — died Monday, just two days after the world celebrated the historic Apollo 11 walk on the moon. He was 95.

“#RIP Dr. Christopher Kraft,” former astronaut Clayton Anderson posted on Twitter soon after. “You were a true leader for this nation and our world. So glad you were able to witness #Apollo50th…we felt your presence everywhere.

“Godspeed and thank you.”

Kraft’s name is emblazoned in bold letters on the side of the mission control building at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, home to the base of operations where Kraft guided astronauts from launch to landing as the organization grew to a full-blown agency that required multiple flight directors to oversee a mission.

…During an era with no calculators and only rudimentary computers, Kraft essentially built NASA’s mission control to manage human operations in space. As the agency’s sole flight director, with a simple black-and-white monitor and listening to eight different communications loops, he had the final say for NASA’s first five manned missions, including the Mercury flights of Alan Shepard and John Glenn.

(11) HEDISON OBIT. Actor David Hedison, best known for his role in Sixties sci-fi series Voyage To The Bottom of the Sea, hdied July 18 at the age of 92 reports Deadline.com. He also was in the original version of horror sci-fi classic The Fly.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 22, 1881 Margery Williams. The Velveteen Rabbit (or How Toys Become Real) is the work that is by far her best known work. Is it genre? Sure. And it has been adapted as video, audio and theatre myriad times. One audio version was narrated by Meryl Streep with music by George Winston. (Died 1944.)
  • Born July 22, 1912 Stephen Gilbert. His final novel, Ratman’s Notebooks was adapted as the Willard film. Thirty’s years later, it was made into a film yet again. Kindle has most of his books available, iBooks just Ratman’s Notebooks. (Died 2010.)
  • Born July 22, 1932 Tom Robbins, 87. Author of such novels as Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and Another Roadside Attraction. ISFDB lists everything he’s done as genre and who am I to argue with them? Now Jitterbug Perfume, that’s genre!
  • Born July 22, 1941 Vaughn Bodé. Perhaps best known for the Cheech Wizard character and his art depicting erotic women. For our purposes, he’s a contemporary of Ralph Bakshi and has been credited as a major influence on Bakshi’s The Lord of the Rings and Wizards. He’s been inducted into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 1975.)
  • Born July 22, 1944 Nick Brimble, 75. His first genre role was in Lust for a Vampire as the First Villager. He next shows up in Roger Corman’s Frankenstein Unbound as The Monster.  He’s Sir Ectot in A Knight’s Tale which I really be it genre or not. His lastest film genre role is as Dr. Zellaby in Soulmate, and he’s the voice of Owsla in the Watership series. 
  • Born July 22, 1959 Nigel  Findley. He was a game designer, editor, and an author of science fiction and fantasy novels and RPGs. He was also part of the original core group of Shadowrun RPG core group and has sole writing credit on both sourcebooks and Shadowrun world novels. Yes, I played Shadowrun, a most enjoyable experience. (Died 1995.)
  • Born July 22, 1972 Colin Ferguson, 47. Best known for being Sheriff Jack Carter on  Eureka. I miss that series. Did it win any Hugos? He’s also been in Are You Afraid of the Dark, The Hunger, The X-Files, The Outer Limits, the Eureka “Hide and Seek” webisodes (anyone seen these?) and The Vampire Diaries
  • Born July 22, 1976 Karen Cliche, 43. She’s known for her roles on Flash Gordon, Mutant XVampire High and Young Blades. She’s does two horror films, Pact with the Devil and Saw VI

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Cul de Sac shows how hard it can be to be a space flight dreamer.

(14) GRRM AND FORBIDDEN PLANET. The Irish Film Institute will start selling tickets to this event on Thursday:

(15) KEEPING THE R IN HARLEY. You’ve been warned. “Kaley Cuoco’s Harley Quinn Show Is A ‘Tad R-Rated,’ She Warns With New Trailer”CinemaBlend explains the rating:

There’s gratuitous swearing, Joker shooting someone at point-blank range, and he’s taking a shot to the groin courtesy of Harley? Yeah, I can see why Kaley Cuoco wanted to get the warning out on her Instagram, especially when the animation for Harley Quinn looks like something DC would run on Cartoon Network in primetime.

(16) THE UK’S OWN STORM. They made a big splash on social media – will they really try to do the same in the Loch? “RNLI warning over ‘Storm Loch Ness’ monster hunt”.

A suggestion for a mass search for the Loch Ness Monster later this year has gone viral on social media, and caused concern for the Royal National Lifeboat Institute.

On Facebook, about 18,000 people say they are going to a Storm Loch Ness event with 38,000 “interested”.

It has been inspired by Storm Area 51, an idea tens of thousands of people could storm a US Air Force base to uncover the truth to a UFO conspiracy.

But Loch Ness RNLI is warning of the dangers of the loch’s deep water.

Concerned that hundreds, or even thousands, of people head out on to the loch for Storm Loch Ness on 21 September, the volunteer crew said it could not match the resources being used by the US military to deal with Storm Area 51.

(17) BOILED IN LEAD. Lest you think James Davis Nicoll is being too negative about this idea, he explains how it could have been even worse: “Bad SF Ideas in Real Life: NASA’s Never-Realized Plans for Venus”.

Many readers may find the plots of some SF novels deeply implausible. “Who,” they ask, “would send astronauts off on an interstellar mission before verifying the Go Very Fast Now drive was faster than light and not merely as fast as light? Who would be silly enough to send colonists on a one-way mission to distant worlds on the basis of very limited data gathered by poorly programmed robots? Who would think threatening an alien race about whom little is known, save that they’ve been around for a million years, is a good idea?”

Some real people have bad ideas; we’re lucky that comparatively few of them become reality. Take, for example, a proposal to send humans to Venus. Not to land, but as a flyby.

(18) YA AWARD. Garik16’s Lodestar Award finalist reviews: “Reviewing the 2019 Hugo Nominees: The Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book”.

So yeah, there’s a lot of great works to be nominated for this award, and this year’s shortlist contains some pretty good works, including one book again that was one of my favorites from all of last year, one book that I really really liked, one I enjoyed a good bit which will probably win it all, and two other books that are at least solid – really only one nominee of the bunch do I think is unworthy, although I can understand why it’s nominated.  All in all, this award will give recognition to a work that definitely deserves it, which is the point of the matter.

(19) DOUBLE YOUR FUN. “Chandrayaan-2: India launches second Moon mission” – BBC has the story.

India has successfully launched its second lunar mission a week after it halted the scheduled blast-off due to a technical snag.

Chandrayaan-2 was launched at 14:43 local time (09:13 GMT) from the Sriharikota space station.

India’s space chief said his agency had “bounced back with flying colours” after the aborted first attempt.

India hopes the $145m (£116m) mission will be the first to land on the Moon’s south pole.

The spacecraft has entered the Earth’s orbit, where it will stay for 23 days before it begins a series of manoeuvres that will take it into lunar orbit.

If successful, India will become the fourth country to make a soft landing on the Moon’s surface. Only the former Soviet Union, the US and China have been able to do so.

(20) FASTER THAN TUNNELING? Most SF posits living under the surface of the moon, but there’s an alternative: “Why 3D printing could be key to a Moon base”.

The European Space Agency (Esa) is researching technologies based on 3D printing to see how materials found on the lunar surface could be made into products to help with habitation on the Moon.

Dusty powdered rock found on the Moon’s surface could be made into construction materials, explains the Esa’s James Carpenter.

(21) I SPY, WITH MY LITTLE APP. Pixels, please! “Kazakhstan’s new online safety tool raises eyebrows”.

Kazakhstan’s drive to obtain government access to everyone’s internet activity has raised concerns among privacy advocates.

Last week, telecoms operators in the former Soviet republic started informing users of the “need” to install a new security certificate.

Doing so opens up the risk that supposedly secure web traffic could be decrypted and analysed.

Some users say the move has significant privacy and security problems.

Much of the concern focuses on Kazakhstan’s human rights record, which is considered poor by international standards.

…A statement from the Ministry of Digital Development said telecoms operators in the capital, Nur-Sultan, were carrying out technical work to “enhance protection” from hackers, online fraud and other cyber-attacks.

It advised anyone who had trouble connecting to some websites to install the new security certificate, from an organisation called Quaznet Trust Network.

…One user filed a bug report with Mozilla, maker of the internet browser Firefox, characterising the move as a “man in the middle” cyber-attack and calling for the browser to completely ban the government certificate.

(22) REQUEST FOR ASSISTANCE. Frequent contributor Martin Morse Wooster says:

“I have a question I want to ask Filers but it’s guaranteed not to provoke a flame war. My question:

“I would like to eat more tomatoes.  What are the best recipes Filers have for using tomatoes from the farmers’ market?

“I am very serious about this.”

Your culinary advice is welcome in comments.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/28/19 Untitled Pixel Scroll Reboot

(1) FROM BOOKER TO GENRE. This week’s New Yorker article “Why Marlon James Decided to Write an African ‘Game of Thrones’” tells about Marlon James, who won the Booker prize and then decided to write “an African Game of Thrones.”   

A couple of weeks before we met for coffee, I went to hear James speak on a panel about diversity in sci-fi and fantasy, at New York Comic Con, a convention that annually converts the Javits Center into a maelstrom of geekery and cosplay. The audience for the panel was a mixture of black, white, and brown faces; a few rows from me, a Harley Quinn in hijab took furious notes. After a fellow-panelist, Tochi Onyebuchi, the author of a young-adult fantasy series influenced by Nigerian myth, urged the crowd to read Jemisin’s books, James joked that Jemisin would be coming for the Booker next. (He told the crowd they should also read Nalo Hopkinson, a Jamaican-born Canadian writer whose début, “Brown Girl in the Ring,” from 1998, is a dystopian horror-fantasy story animated by the West African spirit-magic tradition of Obeah.) Even as condescension toward genre fiction has gone out of style, the universes of literary and speculative fiction remain distinct, with their own awards, their own publishers, and their own separate, albeit overlapping, communities of readers. “There are a lot of literary-fiction authors whose heads are super stuck up their asses,” James said, telling the attendees that writers ought to read widely across genres.

(2) BETTER WORLDS STORY #5. The magic number! Here’s the latest Better Worlds short story from Rivers Solomon: “St. Juju”. Video by Allen Laseter.

Andrew Liptak did a Q&A with the author: “Rivers Solomon on colonialism, the apocalypse, and fascinating fungus”.

Rivers Solomon

What was the inspiration for this story, and what about fungus attracted you to this world, in particular?

Lately, I’ve been really intrigued by the idea of the end of the world — how it’s never really real, though it may feel like it is to us living in the midst of climate change as we are. Except on the scale of billions of years, according to the kind of timeline where suns birth and die and so on, worlds are quite adaptive creatures. Earth has had five or so ice ages. Dinosaurs have come and gone, many dying, others living on as birds. Mass extinction is par for the planet’s course.

(3) ATWOOD MASTER CLASS. Margaret Atwood Teaches Creative Writing is a 23-lesson video course from Masterclass. Cost, $90.

Called the “Prophet of Dystopia,” Margaret Atwood is one of the most influential literary voices of our generation. In her first-ever online class, the author of The Handmaid’s Tale teaches how she crafts compelling stories—from historical to speculative fiction—that remain timeless and relevant. Explore Margaret’s creative process for developing ideas into novels with strong structures and nuanced characters.

(4) PLUNK THOSE SILVER STRINGS. The Haffner Press will publish a very ambitious Manly Wade Wellman collection this year — The Complete John the Balladeer. The book will be released at the 2019 World Fantasy Convention in Los Angeles.

John, whose last name is never revealed, is a wandering singer who carries a guitar strung with strings of pure silver. He is a veteran of the Korean War and served in the U.S. Army as a sharpshooter (in the novel After Dark, he mentions that his highest rank was PFC). In his travels, he frequently encounters creatures and superstitions from the folk tales and superstitions of the mountain people. Though John has no formal education, he is self-taught, highly intelligent and widely read; it is implied that his knowledge of occult and folk legendarium is of Ph.D level. This knowledge has granted him competent use of white magic, which he has used on occasion to overcome enemies or obstacles, but it is primarily his courage, wit and essential goodness that always enables him to triumph over supernatural evils (although the silver strings of his guitar and his possession of a copy of The Long Lost Friend are also powerful tools in fighting evil magic), while basic Army training allows him to physically deal with human foes.

Stories:
“O Ugly Bird!”
“The Desrick on Yandro”
“Vandy, Vandy”
“One Other”
“Call Me from the Valley”
“The Little Black Train”
“Shiver in the Pines”
“Walk Like a Mountain”
“On the Hills and Everywhere”
“Old Devlins Was A-Waiting”
“Nine Yards of Other Cloth”
“Then I Wasn’t Alone”
“You Know the Tale of Hoph”
“Blue Monkey”
“The Stars Down There”
“Find the Place Yourself”
“I Can’t Claim That”
“Who Else Could I Count On”
“John’s My Name”
“Why They’re Named That”
“None Wiser for the Trip”
“Nary Spell”
“Trill Coster’s Burden”
“The Spring”
“Owls Hoot in the Daytime”
“Can These Bones Live?”
“Nobody Ever Goes There”
“Where Did She Wander?”

Novels
The Old Gods Waken (1979)
After Dark (1980)
The Lost and the Lurking (1981)
The Hanging Stones (1982)
The Voice of the Mountain (1984)

(5) BO PEEP. Disney’s new trailer for Toy Story 4.

(6) MEMORIAL. NASA Watch “Remembering” is a wrap-up of several memorials to lost astronauts and cosmonauts posted the day before the anniversary of the Challenger shuttle disaster. Mike Kennedy sent the link with a note: “In my long-time home of Huntsville AL, we name schools after these people. I live just a few blocks from Roger B. Chaffee Elementary School and maybe 2-3 miles from Virgil I. Grissom High School. The former Ed White Middle School name was sadly lost when it and another school were combined a few years ago. Those were, of course, the astronauts who died in the Apollo 1 fire. We also have Challenger Elementary/Middle school and Columbia High School. These wounds run deep around here, even after all the intervening years.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 28, 1929 Parke Godwin. I’ve read a number of his novels and I fondly remember in particular Sherwood and Robin and the King. If you’ve not read his excellent Firelord series, I do recommend you do so. So who has read his Beowulf series? (Died 2013.)
  • Born January 28, 1969 Kathryn Morris, 50. First played in Sleepstalker, a horror I’ll be gobsmacked if any of you have heard of. She has a small role as a teenage honey (IMDb description, not mine) in A.I. Artificial Intelligence. After that she was Lara Anderton in Minority Report. She played Najara on several episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess and was in Poltergeist: The Legacy series as Laura Davis in the “Silent Partner” episode.
  • Born January 28, 1973 Carrie Vaughn, 46. Author of the Kitty Norville series. She’s also been writing extensively in the Wild Cards as well. And she’s she’s got a new SF series, The Bannerless Saga which has two novels so far, Bannerless and The Wild Dead. Sounds interesting. 
  • Born January 28, 1981 Elijah Wood, 38. His first genre role was Video-Game Boy #2 in Back to the Future Part II. He next shows up as Nat Cooper in Forever Young followed by playing Leo Biederman In Deep Impact. Up next was his performance as Frodo Baggins In The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit films. Confession time: I watched the the very first of these. Wasn’t impressed. He’s done some other genre work as well including playing Todd Brotzman in the Beeb superb production of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.
  • Born January 28, 1985 Tom Hopper, 34. His principal genre role was on the BBC Merlin series as Sir Percival. He also shows up in Doctor Who playing Jeff during the “The Eleventh Hour” episode which would be during the time of the Eleventh Doctor. He’s been cast as Luther Hargreeves in the forthcoming The Umbrella Academy which is an adaptation of the comic book series of the same name, created by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá. Yes I’m looking forward to seeing this! 
  • Born January 28, 1993 Will Poulter, 26. First genre role was as Eustace Scrubb in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. He later appeared as Gally in The Maze Runner and Maze Runner: The Death Cure. He plays Colin Ritman In Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. Series wise, he’s been in The Fades, a BBC supernatural drama,playing Mac.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • This Get Fuzzy posits the best book ever: Harry da Vinci’s Rings.

(9) FUTURE TENSE. This month’s entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Thoughts and Prayers” by Ken Liu, which looks at how much worse trolling could get.

It was published along with a response essay by digital culture researcher Adrienne Massanari, “What’s in It for the Trolls?”

Ken Liu’s “Thoughts and Prayers” shows how the cruelest of online harassers convince themselves they’re doing the right thing….

When reading Liu’s piece, I was reminded again that the terms troll and trolling are maddeningly overused in popular culture. Trolling has come to mean everything from merely derailing a conversation with a purposefully nonsensical or impolite comment to actively harassing women with death and rape threats on Twitter. It’s a kind of linguistic shield that creates an easy way for abusers and harassers to dismiss their toxic behavior as “just trolling.”

(10) DOLLARS MISTER RICO, MILLIONS OF ‘EM! TVWeb says “Starship Troopers TV Show with Original Movie Cast Is Being Planned”.  

The Starship Troopers TV series would more than likely be pretty big, especially with the original cast and Ed Neumeier on board. One could easily see Netflix or Hulu jumping at the chance to put that out. However, it seems that they are in the early stages of talking about the project, and as Neumeier says, we don’t want to “jinx” it either. So for now, we’ll just think positive thoughts about the project actually happening.

Of course, you might have thoughts of your own about it.

(11) WIZARD OF OZ SETS RECORD. Cousin Judy’s film is still bringing ‘em into the theater — Variety: “Film News Roundup: ‘Wizard of Oz’ Sets Single-Day Record for Fathom”.

Fathom Events’ 80th anniversary of “The Wizard of Oz” took in $1.2 million at 408 North American sites on Sunday, setting a new Fathom record as the highest-grossing single-day classic film release.

“The Wizard of Oz” also had the highest per-screen average of any film in wide release on Sunday. The 1939 release is part of the TCM Big Screen Classics series, which will include “My Fair Lady,” “Field of Dreams,” “Glory,” “Alien” and “Lawrence of Arabia” this year.

(12) BAUM’S AWAY. Coming to Oakland in February, the California International Antiquarian Book Fair poster has an Oz theme.

(13) LET’S GET ROVING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A trio of articles give different impressions on the fate of the Opportunity rover on Mars—silent since the planetwide dust storm several months ago—at least according to the headlines. At Futurism, they say, “NASA’s Opportunity Rover Feared Dead: ‘An Honorable Death’,” which sounds decidedly pessimistic. Over on Gizmodo, they say, “Wake Up, Oppy! NASA Sends New Commands to Mars Opportunity Rover,” a somewhat more optimistic take. Meanwhile, The Jet Propulsion Laboratory itself simply says, “Rover Team Beaming New Commands to Opportunity on Mars.” That article doubtless gives the clearest story, coming as it does straight from NASA.

Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have begun transmitting a new set of commands to the Opportunity rover in an attempt to compel the 15-year-old Martian explorer to contact Earth. The new commands, which will be beamed to the rover during the next several weeks, address low-likelihood events that could have occurred aboard Opportunity, preventing it from transmitting. 

[…] “We have and will continue to use multiple techniques in our attempts to contact the rover,” said John Callas, project manager for Opportunity at JPL. “These new command strategies are in addition to the ‘sweep and beep’ commands we have been transmitting up to the rover since September.” With “sweep and beep,” instead of just listening for Opportunity, the project sends commands to the rover to respond back with a beep. 

[…] “Over the past seven months we have attempted to contact Opportunity over 600 times,” said Callas. “While we have not heard back from the rover and the probability that we ever will is decreasing each day, we plan to continue to pursue every logical solution that could put us back in touch.”

Time is of the essence for the Opportunity team. The “dust-clearing season” – the time of year on Mars when increased winds could clear the rover’s solar panels of dust that might be preventing it from charging its batteries – is drawing to a close. Meanwhile, Mars is heading into southern winter, which brings with it extremely low temperatures that are likely to cause irreparable harm to an unpowered rover’s batteries, internal wiring and/or computer systems. 

If either these additional transmission strategies or “sweep and beep” generates a response from the rover, engineers could attempt a recovery. If Opportunity does not respond, the project team would again consult with the Mars Program Office at JPL and NASA Headquarters to determine the path forward.

(14) MARGOT ROBBIE. Miss me? That’s what Margo Robbie’s asks while dressed as her DC alter ego in an Instagram post. Gizmodo/io9 has that story together with a short video clip showing off costumes for Quinn and several other Birds of Prey characters (“Harley Quinn Brings Fantabulous Fashion to Birds of Prey Video Introducing Black Canary, Black Mask, Huntress & More”).

While Warner Bros. upcoming Birds of Prey movie will introduce a number of DC’s formidable heroines like Huntress and Black Canary to the DCEU for the first time, it’ll also feature the return of one Harley Quinn who, judging from the film’s title, might embark upon some sort of redemptive arc. New year, new movie, new Harley—and Margot Robbie’s just revealed our first look at her.

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