Pixel Scroll 4/29/20 The Voyage Of The Space Pixel

(1) RECOGNIZING THE TROUBLE. Yoon Ha Lee’s Phoenix Extravagant is set for an October release. Learn more about the author’s experience writing it in “Comma-Shaped Jades And Other Curiosities: An Article By Yoon Ha Lee” at SciFiNow.uk.

One of the things people warned me about when it comes to writing novels is that no matter how smoothly novel N goes, there’s no guarantee that novel N+1 will also go smoothly. I learned this the hard way in writing Phoenix Extravagant.

I thought I had the plot all planned out, and I knew my protagonist was going to be a painter, and that there would be a mecha dragon. As for the worldbuilding, well, I’d make that up on the fly.  That’s what I did with the hexarchate and it more or less worked then; why not now?

You’re probably thinking that making things up on the fly is where I went wrong, and that’s not quite true. If I try to linearize worldbuilding down a checklist, it kills the world flat dead for me. No: the issue was a bigger one. I picked the wrong setting….

(2) WHERE’S THE BEEF? What’s the first thing New Zealanders wanted to do when the government eased lockdown restrictions from level four to level three? Not what I’d guess. “New Zealanders are so eager to eat burgers after the coronavirus lockdown that police are having to enforce crowd control”.

Police in New Zealand have been required to enforce crowd control measures at a popular fast food outlet after large numbers of people rushed to buy burgers following a relaxing of the country’s lockdown measures on Tuesday.

New Zealand, which has reported 1,474 confirmed and probable coronavirus cases and 19 deaths, spent almost five weeks under a strict, level four lockdown. The country eased into level three restrictions on Tuesday, meaning some children could go back to school and 400,000 people were able to go back to work.

But for many, it was a chance to finally eat the fast food they had been craving. Under level three restrictions, a limited number of restaurants and cafes have been permitted to reopen. According to TVNZ, that resulted in long queues of cars at KFC and McDonald’s drive-thrus outlets throughout Auckland, the country’s biggest city.

(3) ROBOT CENTENARY NEARS.  Jaroslav Olsa Jr. has a plan for celebrating Capek’s famous robot story when its hundredth birthday rolls around. If you can help, email him at olsa-jr (at) post (dot) cz

One hundred years ago, in November 1920, drama “R. U. R. Rossum´s Universal Robots” by Czech writer Karel Capek (1890-1938) saw its first edition. Story about a rebellion of artificial people ending with an extinction of humanity saw the first use of the word “robot”.

Though Isaac Asimov didn´t like the play, he rightly commented that R. U. R. is “immortal for that one word. It contributed the word ‘robot’ not only to English but, through English, to all the languages in which science fiction is now written.”

This year we will have an anthology of original science fiction stories set and connected to Capek´s world of R.U.R. But we are also thinking about an international anthology of the best robotic stories from all over the world… as another homage to maybe the most famous Czech – ROBOT. If you know such excellent piece from the East or West, South or North, send me a copy of the story…

(4) PRATCHETT’S FUTURE ON THE SMALL SCREEN. Media adaptations of favorite writers’ work can be chancy, but Variety makes this sound like a great idea: “Terry Pratchett’s ‘Discworld’ Series to Be Adapted by Endeavor Content, Motive Pictures”.

Narrativia, the production company launched by Pratchett in 2012, has struck an exclusive development deal with Motive Pictures and Endeavor Content for a series of TV adaptations. It is not yet known which of the “Discworld” books will be adapted initially….

Rhianna Pratchett, co-director of Narrativia and Pratchett’s daughter, said: “Discworld teems with unique characters, witty narrative and incredible literary tropes, and we feel these should be realised on screen in a form that my father would be proud of. It’s wonderful to embark on this journey with Motive and Endeavor Content, who both perfectly share our vision to make this a reality.”

Rob Wilkins, managing director of Narrativia, added: “The Discworld books are a huge source of joy to millions of readers, and rightly so; every paragraph, phrase and footnote was crafted with brilliance and flair and we are committed to bringing Terry’s world to the screen with the respect and care it deserves. With this partnership, we are delighted to say that Discworld has finally found its home.”

(5) FLYING SOLO. Cinema’s hottest pilot is in trouble again. “Harrison Ford plane incident under investigation by FAA” reports PageSix. He did the Kessel run in thirteen parsecs, but he screws up crossing a runway at a Southern California airport.

Harrison Ford says an airport runway incident now under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration came about because he “misheard a radio instruction.”

The 77-year-old star, who is an avid pilot, was operating a plane at California’s Hawthorne Airport on April 24 when he crossed a runway while another aircraft was landing.

“Mr. Ford crossed the airport’s only runway in his aircraft after he misheard a radio instruction from [air traffic control],” Ford’s rep told Page Six in a statement Wednesday. “He immediately acknowledged the mistake and apologized to ATC for the error. The purpose of the flight was to maintain currency and proficiency in the aircraft.”

His rep added that no one was injured in the incident and “there was never any danger of a collision.”

The FAA confirmed that the two aircraft were approximately 3,600 feet away from each other at the time….

(6) WRITE IF YOU GET WORK. The good news is — “Harrison Ford Reportedly Being Eyed For Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 Role”. Let WeGotThisCovered tell you all about it.

…According to our sources – the same ones who told us that the Guardians will cameo in Thor: Love and Thunder and Now You See Me 3 is in development, both of which have since been confirmed – Harrison Ford is reportedly wanted for a villainous part in the film. It’s unclear exactly which one it could be at the moment, but one possibility is the High Evolutionary, a role that his former Star Wars co-star Mark Hamill has been linked to in the past. In certain canon, the character has a hand in the creation and subsequent experiments on Rocket, which ties into the vague plot details that we know so far.

(7) ANDERS INTERVIEW. At Black Gate, Brandon Crilly introduces his “Interview with Charlie Jane Anders, Recorded Live at Can*Con 2019”.

At Can*Con 2019 in Ottawa, Ontario, Author Guest of Honour Charlie Jane Anders sits down for a one-on-one with programming lead and author Brandon Crilly, discussing her latest novels, short fiction, and her work in fandom and the SFF community.

Which made me curious what’s the latest subject Charlie Jane Anders and Annalee Newitz are discussing on the Our Opinions Are Correct podcast. The answer — “Episode 55: 9 New Shows You Should Be Watching Right Now”.

In these tough times, we need great TV shows more than ever. We have lots of opinions about nine new series that are making us happy because they’re smart, fun, and — best of all — colorful! Plus, we’ve got recommendations for over a dozen more not-so-new shows that are worth digging up from last year, or last century. Stay safe at home and plunge your mind into dazzling new worlds. 

(8) OSCARS AFFECTED. NPR publicizes a “Academy Awards Eligibility Rules Change Due To COVID-19”.

With movie theaters shuttered and film festivals canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic, films once slated for the big screen are now premiering in people’s homes, streaming on digital platforms or showing as video on demand. In an unprecedented move, the board governing the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will allow movies that originally had theatrical release dates but are now being screened online to be eligible to be considered for awards.

“The historically tragic COVID-19 pandemic necessitates this temporary exception to our awards eligibility rules,” Academy president David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson wrote in a statement. Until now, to qualify for awards, a film had to run at least seven consecutive days in a commercial theater in Los Angeles County. Under the new rules, when theaters reopen, films may qualify for awards if they have theatrical runs in L.A., New York, California’s Bay Area, Chicago, Miami or Atlanta.

(9) WHERE TO HEAR FROM DOCTOROW. The Essence of Wonder livestream will offer “Cory Doctorow Being Civil With Security Experts” on May 9.

Cory Doctorow will join Gadi [Evron] on Saturday (9 May) to talk on DRM, Right to Repair, and COVID-19/Med-Tech, read from “Unauthorized Bread”, and moderate a panel discussion featuring Steve Crocker, Martin Roesch, Keren Elazari, Ron Gula, Dmitri Alperovich, and Caleb Sima, discussing the challenges of digital policy when facing security and privacy realities.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 29, 1950 Dimension X’s “No Contact” aired. The copy at the time described the episode such, “It was in the year 1982 that space men first discovered the great galactic barrier… 5 exploratory ships went out and none came back each disappearing mysteriously at the same vanishing point an invisible wall somewhere in the vast outer reaches that became known as the wrecker of spaceships.” Mel Brandt as usual was the announcer and  with George Lefferts being the writer, and the cast being Donald Buka, Matt Crowley and  Cameron Prudhomme. You can hear it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 29, 1887 H. Bedford-Jones. Pulp writer of whom only maybe ten percent of his twelve hundred stories could be considered genre, but some such as the Jack Solomon novels, say John Solomon, Argonaut and John Solomon’s Biggest Gam,e are definitely genre. Like many of the early pulp writers, he used a number of pen names, to wit Michael Gallister, Allan Hawkwood, Gordon Keyne, H. E. Twinells and L. B. Williams. Wildside Press published in 2006 a collection of his short stories, The House of Skulls and Other Tales from the Pulps. (Died 1949.)
  • Born April 29, 1908 Jack Williamson. I’ll frankly admit that he’s one of those authors that I know I’ve read a fair amount by can’t recall any specific titles as I didn’t collect him. A quick research study suggests the Legion of Space series was what I liked best. What did y’all like by him? (Died 2006.)
  • Born April 29, 1923 Irvin Kershner. Director and producer of such genre works as the Amazing Stories and seaQuest DSV series, Never Say Never Again, RoboCop 2 and The Empire Strikes Back. By the way several of the sources I used in compiling this Birthday claimed that was the best Star Wars film. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 29, 1943 Russell M. Griffin. Author of but four novels as he died far too young of a heart attack. The Makeshift God, his first novel, I remember as being a rather decent dystopian affair, and Century’s End was even bleaker. He wrote but nine stories. He alas has not made it into the digital realm yet. (Died 1986.)
  • Born April 29, 1946 Humphrey Carpenter. Biographer whose notable output of biographies includes J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography; he also edited The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien. He is responsible for The Inklings: CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Charles Williams and their Friends. He also wrote the engaging Mr. Majeika children’s series which was decidedly genre. (Died 2005.)
  • Born April 29, 1960 Robert J. Sawyer, 60. Hominids won the Hugo for Best Novel at Torcon 3, and The Terminal Experiment won a Nebula as well. Completing a hat trick, he won a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Mindscan too. Very impressive.  And then there’s the FlashForward series which lasted for thirteen episodes that was based on his novel of that name.  Interesting series that ended far too soon. 
  • Born April 29, 1958 Michelle Pfeiffer, 62. Selina Kyle aka Catwoman in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns. She was also in the much better The Witches of Eastwick as Sukie Ridgemont and was Brenda Landers in the “Hospital” segment of Amazon Women on the Moon. She played Laura Alden in Wolf, voiced Tsipp?r?hin The Prince of Egypt, was Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, voiced Eris in Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, was Lamia in Stardust and is playing The Wasp (Janet van Dyne) in Ant-Man and the Wasp
  • Born April 29, 1970 Uma Thurman, 50. Venus / Rose in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (Kage’s favorite film), Maid Marian in the Robin Hood starring Patrick Bergin which I highly recommend, Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin (bad, bad film) which she will follow by being Emma Peel in The Avengers, an even worse stinker of a film. 

(12) MORE ABOUT KERSHNER. [Item by John King Tarpinian.] Today being Irvin Kershner’s celebration of what would have been his 97th birthday, here is a little photo and story. “Kersh” is the older gentleman in the blue shirt and black jacket holding court with the line, (The hat in the lower right belongs to George Clayton Johnson.)  This was the premiere of Roger Lay Jr’s graduate thesis film, Chrysalis, based on Ray Bradbury’s story. Ray was sitting to George’s left, out of picture.  They held court before the screening.

Kersh kind of snuck into the theater, unbeknownst to Roger, so he was not introduced.  Once the screening was over and thank yous expressed people in attendance were getting up and heading for the door or giving a final good-bye to Ray.  I realized that most of the people in the audience were “future” directors.  I shouted out how many liked The Empire Strikes Back?  All hands were raised.  I pointed out Kersh, introduced him and the fact that he directed it.  A line quickly formed.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range depends on a little inside joke. Robert Bloch would have understood it.
  • The Argyle Sweater returns with another batch of “not-so-famous second careers” – three are genre.

(14) A PAIR TO DRAW TO. Two Chairs Talking, the podcast where past Australian Worldcon chairs Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg “talk about books, movies and other stuff,” is celebrating its one-year anniversary! Grigg says Episode-26: “Now We Are One” is “a special episode in which Perry and I each pick our five favourite books/series of all time and explain why we love them so much.”

For the record, the books discussed are: The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin, The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester, The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, The Tango Briefing by Adam Hall, The Lymond Chronicles by Dorothy Dunnett, Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, The Path Between the Seas by David McCullough, and The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles, and Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

(15) CATCHING UP. Wil Wheaton admits it was news to him — “Radio Free Burrito Presents: A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift”. Hear him read it on Soundcloud.

A Modest Proposal is brilliant, biting, hilarious satire, that is as horrifyingly relevant in 2020 as it was in 1729. This reads like one of those brilliant editorials from The Onion, or a Hannity monologue.

… By the time I was in middle school, I was struggling to deal with my abusive father, and I just did what I had to in school to keep my grades up and not fail. My teachers were fantastic, but the curriculum was very narrow, and there was little appreciation for art and literature in it. When I got into high school, I was working full time on Star Trek. I had a magnificent on-set tutor who took me all the way from grade 9 to grade 12, who encouraged me to do all the things my previous educators had not, but by that time it was just too late for me. I have regretted all of this, from the moment I became aware of it in my 30s, and I’ve been working hard to educate myself in the middle of my life, since I was not educated fully at the beginning of my life.

I am so embarrassed and disappointed that my education is a mile wide and half an inch deep. I realized this years ago, and I’ve been doing what I can to educate myself, using college lectures that are online, and by reading as much as I can, to expose myself to the great works of art and literature that my parents didn’t care about, and my educators didn’t teach me about….

(16) PROMISE MORE THAN FULFILLED. Tsana Dolichva reviews The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz”:

The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz is a time-travelling science fiction novel. I picked it up based on the promise that there would be both time travel and lesbians, though it turned out to be more diverse than just that description implies….

…But the overarching story is about fighting for rights and the methods by which history is made/changed. An ongoing debate in the book concerns the efficacy of collective action vs the Great Man theory; whether history can be changed incrementally and/or whether killing Hitler actually does anyone any good. But this is more a book about the characters, mostly women, looking out for each other, no matter the time period. If that’s your jam, then this may well be the book for you.

(17) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter says tonight a Jeopardy! contestant’s genre answer was mistaken.

The category: 19th Century novels.

The answer: “It’s first line ends, ‘the period was so far like the present period…for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.'”

Wrong question: “What is ‘The Time Machine’?”

Correct question: “What is ‘A Tale of Two Cities’?”

(18) LIKE FANTASIA’S HIPPOS. BBC reports“Dancing gargantuan black holes perform on cue”.

Astronomers have been able to test key consequences of Einstein’s theories by studying the way a couple of black holes move around each other.

One of these objects is a true colossus – a hole weighing 18 billion times the mass of our Sun; the other not quite so big at “only” 150 million Sun masses.

Scientists managed to predict their interactions very precisely.

They did so by including their warping effects on space-time and by assuming the larger hole had a smooth “surface”.

The black hole pairing, known as OJ 287, exists about 3.5 billion light-years from Earth.

Scientists have long recognised a sudden brightening from this system that occurs twice every 12 years. The outburst of energy is equivalent to a trillion suns turning on at once in the holes’ host galaxy.

The best explanation for this extraordinary behaviour is that the smaller object is routinely crashing through a disc of gas and dust that’s accreting on to its larger companion, heating the inspiraling material to extremely high temperatures in the process.

But this flaring is somewhat irregular. Sometimes the brightening episodes in the 12-year period occur as little as one year apart; other times, as much as 10 years apart.

It speaks to the complexity of the path the small hole takes around its partner – a complexity the research team has now built into a highly sophisticated model.

(19) NO PET ROCKS. The court extends a fannish rule: “AI cannot be recognised as an inventor, US rules”.

An artificial intelligence system has been refused the right to two patents in the US, after a ruling only “natural persons” could be inventors.

The US Patent and Trademark Office rejected two patents where the AI system Dabus was listed as the inventor, in a ruling on Monday.

US patent law had previously only specified eligible inventors had to be “individuals”.

It follows a similar ruling from the UK Intellectual Property Office.

(20) CHECKING UP ON THE OTHER DOCTOR. “Dr Chuck Tingle is the glue holding this fragile and crumbling existence together,” says Jake Dowzell. The current crisis has inspired these two topical tinglers.

Meanwhile, a Tingle fan has found a way to show love through Animal Crossing.

(21) SEEDING TIME. Nothing to do with sff, but I found it a relaxing report.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/14/20 Requires Much More Work Before It Can Be Submitted

(1) VOTE ON BOOK SUPER LIST. A bit of genre seasons the stew: “British Book Awards 2020: Nibbies unveils #30from30 super list” at The Bookseller. [Via Locus Online.]

Books by J K Rowling, E L James, Peter Kay, Stephenie Meyer, Philip Pullman and Zadie Smith will battle it out to be crowned the overall book of the past 30 years at this year’s British Book Awards (a.k.a. the Nibbies), as part of a unique celebration of the three decades of publishing championed at the annual awards, which were founded in 1990.

The longlist of titles—from Brick Lane to Longitude to Dreams From My Father—is made up of past winners at the British Book Awards, the book and trade awards founded in 1990 by Publishing News, and run since 2017 by The Bookseller. The longlist makes for a compelling history of the book trade and 30 years of successful publishing, with books such as Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by Rowling, The Gruffalo’s Child by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, Northern Lights by Pullman, and The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown going on to become huge backlist bestsellers, and spawning many imitators.

See the full list and ballot here.  The winner will be announced May 18, 2020.

The Bookseller now invites readers and the trade to share their memories of these books, make the case for titles to make it through to the next round, and suggest wildcard entries. A shortlist of ten will be announced in March. The winning author will be invited to the British Book Awards on 18th May to pick up their prize.

Which 10 books would make up your shortlist?

Vote below, tweet using #30from30 or email 30from30@thebookseller.com and share your memories of the longlist.      

(2) IT JUST GOT STRANGER. Netflix has dropped a trailer for Season 4 of Stranger Things.

(3) WHEN GREEN KNIGHTHOOD WAS IN FLOWER. [Item by Dann.] Corey Olsen is an English professor with at PH.D. in medieval literature. His classes cover a broad range of medieval mythologies; including Arthurian legends and faerie stories. His course offerings include the obvious children of those mythos; J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. He has adopted the sobriquet of The Tolkien Professor.

In addition to his work in academia, Professor Olsen has also participated in many cons and symposiums (symposia?) focused on LOTR and medieval literature. He currently serves as the president of Signum University; an online university.

Back in 2011, Professor Olsen recorded a series of classes at Washington University on the original Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It may be useful to listen to some of his earlier classes on faerie in medieval literature to acquire a broader context of faeries within that period.

There are one, two, three, four episodes covering the Green Knight story.

(4) SLF TAKING GRANT APPLICATIONS. The Speculative Literature Foundation is accepting applications for the 2020 Older Writers Grant and A.C. Bose Grant for South Asian Speculative Literature through March 31st, 2020.

The $1,000 Older Writers Grant is awarded annually to a writer who is fifty years of age or older at the time of grant application, and is intended to assist such writers who are just starting to work at a professional level. Grant funds can be used as each writer determines will best assist his or her work. For more information about the Older Writers Grant, or how to apply, click here.

The $1,000 A.C. Bose Grant for South Asian Speculative Literature, co-sponsored by the SLF and DesiLit, is awarded to a South Asian or South Asian diaspora writer developing speculative fiction. The grant is named in memory of Ashim Chandra Bose, a lover of books, especially science fiction and fantasy, and was founded by his children, Rupa Bose and Gautam Bose. For more information about the A.C. Bose Grant, or to how to apply, click here.

The SLF is also currently accepting applications for the 2019 Working Class Grant until February 29, 2020.  For more information, or how to apply, click here

(5) SLF HONORS ART. Sofiia Melnyk’s “Sir Spacediver 3020” is the Speculative Literature Foundation’s 2020 Illustration of the Year.

The Speculative Literature Foundation has chosen its 2020 Illustration of the Year, for a piece of artwork that combines elements of science fiction and fantasy as well as incorporating the SLF’s literary focus. The 2020 Illustration of the Year, entitled “Sir Spacediver 3020, is by artist and animator Sofiia Melnyk. Melnyk has a degree in animation from the Animationsinstitut of the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg. Melnyk’s winning piece is now featured n the Speculative Literature Foundation’s website and will be on its social media and marketing material throughout 2020. 

(6) FANDOM IN THE SHADE. The Rite Gud podcast has posted Part 2 of their discussion — “The Dark Side of Fandom Part 2: Friendship Simulator”. It’s all about parasocial relationships.

Why do people love the Disney corporation? Why do people watch other people play video games? Can fans influence creatives’ work for the worse? Does the mainstreaming of geek culture represent a triumph for social outcasts, or is it all just a capitalist plot?

In part two of our discussion on the dark side of fandom, RS Benedict talks to Tim Heiderich about parasocial relationships, Twitch streamers, Nazis, Pink Floyd’s The Wall and fans who want to watch their idols burn.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 14, 1963 The Day Mars Invaded Earth premiered. Directed by produced and directed by Maury Dexter, it stars Kent Taylor, Marie Windsor, and William Mims. Dexter named the film in hopes it’d remind film goers of The Day The Earth Stood Still. The storyline is merging of the story lines in The War of the Worlds and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Strangely enough, it was the bottom half of a double feature with the Elvis Presley‘s Kissin’ Cousins. The NYT critic at the time  called it a “pallid, pint-sized exercise” and the audience score at Rotten Tomatoes is a rather poor 18%.  You can see the film here.
  • February 14, 1986 Terrorvision premiered. It was directed by Ted Nicolaou, produced and written by Albert and Charles Band. It starred  Diane Franklin, Gerrit Graham, Mary Woronov, Chad Allen and Jonathan Gries. Wiki notes that “several songs (including the movie’s theme) were contributed by Los Angeles art rock band The Fibonaccis. TerrorVision was hoped to bring more attention to the group, but the movie (and ultimately the soundtrack) failed.” Pop Matters called TerrorVision “a truly wretched movie.”  It holds a decent 43% audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Of course you can judge the film by seeing it here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 14, 1919 David A. Kyle. He chaired the 1956 Worldcon, was a leader in First Fandom, and wrote innumerable fanhistorical articles for Mimosa. Along with Martin Greenberg, he founded Gnome Press in the late Forties. He also penned two illustrated SF histories, A Pictorial History of Science Fiction and The Illustrated Book of Science Fiction Ideas and Dreams. He wrote three novels set in the Lensman universe: The Dragon Lensman, Lensman from Rigel and Z-Lensman. So has anybody read these? (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 14, 1925 J. T. McIntosh. Scottish writer at his best according to Clute in his early work such as World Out of Mind and One in Three Hundred. He’s deeply stocked at the usual digital sources at very reasonable rates. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 14, 1942 Andrew Robinson, 78. Elim Garak on Deep Space Nine. He wrote a novel based on his character, A Stitch in Time, and a novella, “The Calling,” which can be found in Prophecy and Change, a DS9 anthology edited by Marco Palmieri. Other genre credits include Larry Cotton in Hellraiser, appearing in The Puppet Masters as Hawthorne and playing John F. Kennedy on the The New Twilight Zone.
  • Born February 14, 1951 John Vornholt, 69. I was musing on the difference between fanfic and profic (if such a word exists) when I ran across this writer. He’s written in a number of media properties with the most extensive being the Trek ‘verse where he’s written several dozen works, but he’s penned works also in the Babylon 5, Buffyverse, Dinotopia, Earth 2, Marvel metaverse… Well you get the idea. All authorized, but really no different than fanfic on the end, are they? Other than they pay a lot better. 
  • Born February 14, 1952 Gwyneth Jones, 68. Interesting person the she is, let’s start with her thoughts on chestnuts. Just because I can. Now regarding her fiction, I’d strongly recommend her Bold As Love series of a Britain that went to pieces as it now certainly is, and her twenty year-old Deconstructing the Starships: Science, Fiction and Reality polemic is still worth reading.
  • Born February 14, 1963 Enrico Colantoni, 57. Any excuse to mention Galaxy Quest is one I’ll gladly take. He played a delightful Mathesar on that film and that was his first genre role, lucky bastard. Up next for him was A.I. Artificial Intelligence as The Murderer followed by appearing in the most excellent animated Justice League Dark as the voice of Felix Faust where his fate was very, very bad. He had an amazing role on Person of Interest as Charlie Burton / Carl Elias. Not genre, but his acting as Sgt. Gregory Parker on Flashpointa Canadian police drama television series is worth noting.
  • Born February 14, 1970 Simon Pegg, 50. Best known for playing Montgomery Scott in the new Star Trek franchiseHis first foray into the genre was Shaun of the Dead which he co-wrote and had an acting role in. Late genre roles include Land of the Dead where he’s a Photo Booth Zombie, Diary of the Dead where he has a cameo as a Newsreader, and he portrays Benji Dunn in the ongoing Mission: Impossible franchise.
  • Born February 14, 1975 M. Darusha Wehm, 45. New Zealand resident writer who was nominated for the Nebula Award and won the New Zealand Sir Julius Vogel Award for The Martian Job novel. She says it’s interactive fiction. You can read the standalone prequel novella, Retaking Elysium, on her website which can be found here.

(9) DEMONSTRATING APPLIANCES. That doesn’t mean what it used to. “Why ‘Star Trek’ Star Jeri Ryan Had a Tough Time Returning for ‘Picard'”The Hollywood Reporter found out. BEWARE SPOILERS, dammit.

“The scale of the show. The scale of these sets, the costumes, it’s crazy. It’s like you’re doing a feature film every week.” Ryan says with a big smile. What impressed her most was the advances in set design and tech from her days on Voyager

“In one of my scenes, where I had to go in and work a console, we go in for the first rehearsal and I had to touch buttons and the screen actually does something! And I totally flipped out, like: ‘Oh my god, actually having buttons that work!” 

There was another change from working on Voyager that surprised her.

“What’s funny is that they actually added time to my ready time. They made [Seven’s] prosthetics more complicated to put on. So now I actually do have prosthetic makeup to add, outside of the full Borg suit and makeup, that I didn’t have on the old show.” (And yes, fans, she still has Seven’s original facial appliances somewhere in her house. “Though it’s pretty crunchy at this point,” she says. She also got to keep her first new set of appliances from Picard.)

(10) UNMAKING BOOK. Publishers Weekly reports “In 2021 Budget Proposal, Trump Once Again Seeks to End Federal Library Funding”.

For a fourth straight year, the Trump administration has once again proposed the permanent elimination of the federal Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), and with it virtually all federal funding for libraries.

…In a statement, IMLS officials confirmed the Trump Administration will once again propose the elimination of the agency, with $23 million reportedly proposed in the 2021 budget proposal to wind the agency down.

The good news for library supporters: for the last three years, the library community has not only successfully countered the administration’s proposal to axe the IMLS—the agency through which most federal library funding is distributed in the form of grants to states— but IMLS has actually seen increases in each of the last three years. The FY2020 budget, which Trump signed in January, included a $10 million increase to the IMLS budget, including $6.2 million for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA), the largest increase in LSTA funding in over a decade.

(11) FAKIN’ BACON. FastCompany tells how they’re doing it: “This bacon looks like the real thing as it sizzles—but it’s made from fungus”.

Most fake meat products get protein from a small group of plants. In the case of the Beyond Burger or Nestle’s Awesome Burger, the main ingredient is pea protein; the Impossible Burger gets protein from soy and potatoes. Kellogg’s “Incogmeato” line is made with soy. But one new Bay Area startup relies on fungus instead—specifically, koji, the fungus used to make sake.

The startup, called Prime Roots, launched limited sales of its first product—a fungi-based bacon—online today. Bacon “is a very underserved meat alternative,” says Prime Roots cofounder Kimberly Le. “There’s a lot of ground beef out there. But there isn’t as much in the way of whole-muscle meat or a more formed product like bacon or chicken breast, which is something that koji does really well at replicating.”

(12) ALONG CAME JONES. Harrison Ford is making the rounds to promote the next Indy film. The Hollywood Reporter got an article out of his appearance on Ellen: “‘Indiana Jones 5’ Will Begin Filming This Summer, Harrison Ford Says”.

The 77-year-old actor told host DeGeneres that filming would begin late this summer. 

“it’s going to be fun,” Ford said. “They are great fun to make.” 

The upcoming film’s title has yet to be revealed. 

Ford has a TV interview about the production that will air on Sunday – here’s a teaser.

In this preview of a conversation with correspondent Lee Cowan to be broadcast on “CBS Sunday Morning” on February 16, Harrison Ford, the actor who has played iconic characters in the “Star Wars” and Indiana Jones franchises, talks about returning to familiar roles.

(13) I’VE BEEN THINKING. Maltin on Movies visited with Craig Ferguson.

Craig Ferguson is one of the funniest men on the planet, as he proves yet again in his multi-episode web series Hobo Fabulous, a hybrid of stand-up comedy and documentary on the Comedy Dynamics network. It’s no surprise that the former late-night host is a master of conversation, leaving Leonard and Jessie to marvel at his rapid-fire mind. He has significant film credits, as well, not the least being his voice-over work in the How to Train Your Dragon animated features. Be sure to listen if you’re in need of cathartic laughter.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Hair Love–Oscar Winning Short Film” on YouTube is the animated feature by Matthew A. Cherry that won this year’s Oscar for best short animated film.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, JJ Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to PJ Evans with an assist from Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 2/4/20 You Always Snark the One You Love, the One You Shouldn’t Snark At All

(1) OUT OF THE FRIDGE. Tom Nicholson, in “Harrison Ford In ‘Indiana Jones 5’ Is The Tragedy America Needs Right Now” in Esquire, says that Harrison Ford has agreed to be in another Indiana Jones movie, and speculates on what sort of Indiana Jones film that would be given that given Ford’s age (77). This film would take place in 1970.

…Let’s take a step back. At 77, Ford apparently hasn’t quite completed the valedictory tour of his most beloved roles which began back in 2008 with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, continued with Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015 and rounded off with Blade Runner 2049 in 2017. During that run it felt like Ford was being very savvy in using Rick Dekkard, Han Solo and Indy to cement his legacy and remind younger audiences that he wasn’t always a man badly CGI’d into the fight scene in Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.

(2) RAGTIME GAL. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Finally saw The Rise of Skywalker.

Scenes we hadn’t expected to see included:

  • Jar-Jar Binks’ daughter showing as the new Darth Vader. (Helmet problems, of course, ears ended up dangling out from visor, tssk!)
  • The Force Ghost of Yoda does a comedy song routine, including some action riffs from Singing in the Rain and Make ‘Em Laugh. Using lightsaber as a cane/umbrella was inspired!

What were your (non-spoiler) favorites?

(3) SPACE UNICORNS SOUND OFF. You have until February 6 to make your voice heard: “Uncanny Celebrates Reader Favorites of 2019!”.

We’ve set up a poll for Uncanny readers to vote for their top three favorite original short stories from 2019. (You can find links to all of the stories here.)

The poll will be open from January 9 to February 6, after which we’ll announce the results. We’re excited for you to share which Uncanny stories made you feel!

snazzy certificate will be given to the creator whose work comes out on top of  the poll!

So please spread the word! And don’t forget, EVERY VOTE COUNTS!

(4) IT’S IN THE RNA. Romantic Novelists’ Association released the shortlists for the 2020 Romantic Novel Awards on February 3. [Via Locus Online.]

The Fantasy Romantic Novel Award:

  • The Girl at the Window, Rowan Coleman, Ebury Press, Penguin Random House
  • The Ghost Garden, Catherine Curzon and Eleanor Harkstead, Totally Bound
  • Queenie Malone’s Paradise Hotel, Ruth Hogan, Two Roads
  • The Hotel Where We Met, Belinda Jones, Independently published
  • The Stone’s Heart, Jessica Thorne, Bookouture

The awards will be presented in London on March 2.

(5) WIKIPEDIA SPOTLIGHTS FALL’S ‘HELICOPTER’ STORY. Rhetorical question Do very many short stories have their own Wiki article? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Sexually_Identify_as_an_Attack_Helicopter

This seems to have popped up in a hurry, and was promptly featured on Wikipedia’s front page (see last item):

(6) I.D.O.U. Brian Keene weighs in about “The Only Thing An Author Owes”.

…As a public figure, the contract between an author and a reader is as follows:

Author writes the book. Reader purchases and reads the book.

That’s it. That’s the sum total. Purchasing a book or wanting to be an aspiring author doesn’t entitle you access to an author’s social media any more than it entitles you to sleep in their bedroom at night. Social media is necessary marketing for authors, but that doesn’t mean they have to engage with unpleasantness. Some do. In the past, I often have. But I’m older, and hypertension is a thing, and quite frankly, I don’t need the bullshit. If I invite you into my living room, am I expected to sit there and let you call me an “arrogant egotistical asshole with sycophants surrounding” me simply because you shared a link to my podcast a few days ago, or because you bought a book by me at some point?

Hell no.

I don’t block people for politics. I don’t block them for what they like or dislike, or for who they follow. But if I feel someone is being purposely antagonistic or ignorant, or if I think they’re the latest in a very, very, very, very long line of geniuses whose beginning and ending marketing plan is, “I’ll pick a fight with Brian Keene/Nick Mamatas/Wrath James White/insert other name here and that will get me noticed” (a ploy so old, by the way, that Maurice Broaddus wrote about it way back in 2005), or if I think they have the potential to join in on those shenanigans, then yeah, I block them. It’s better for my mental health, and it’s definitely better for my blood pressure.

(7) THE ZINES OF ’44. Fanac.org’s Joe Siclari helps voters decide for themselves what deserves  Retro-Hugo this year. http://www.fanac.org/fanzines/Retro_Hugos1944.html

In support of the Retro Hugos project for CoNZealand, we’ve added an alphabetical list of 1944 fanzines. It is the largest list of 1944 fanzines that we could compile. We have linked, both from our site and others, all the zines we can find to give you the ability to read what was going on in 1944. We will link to additional zines as we find them, and are also still scanning more ourselves. If you know of appropriate materials not on the list, please let us know. We hope this will give you some ability to judge the 1944 materials first hand. Much of it may not seem of significant quality to us today, but it gives context and the ability to compare the writers and editors of 1944, rather than just relying on their later reputations.”…Joe Siclari 

(8) CLI-FI FICTION CONTEST. The Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative launched their third global climate fiction writing contest yesterday. The Everything Change Climate Fiction Contest 2020 is taking submissions until April 15. Full guidelines at the link. 

Inspired by the incredible international response to our climate fiction contests in 2016 and 2018, we are proud to announce our third contest in 2020—a momentous year for climate action, and an unprecedented opportunity to reimagine how humans will live on this planet in the future.

Work will be selected and judged by Claire Vaye Watkins, a Guggenheim Fellow, winner of The Story Prize, and the New York Public Library Young Lions Fiction Award, and author of Gold Fame Citrus, a climate fiction novel that was named a best book of 2015 by The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and NPR. Claire will join an interdisciplinary group of judges with expertise in climate science, sustainability, creative writing, and environmental literature.

All genres are welcome. The author of the winning story will receive a $1000 prize, and nine finalists will receive $100 prizes. The winning story and finalists will be published in an anthology by the Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative at Arizona State University.  

(9) HEMMING AWARD NOMINEES SOUGHT. The Australian Science Fiction Foundation (ASFF) is taking entries in the Norma K Hemming Award for works published in 2019. Submit items here through February 29.

Designed to recognise excellence in the exploration of themes of race, gender, sexuality, class or disability in a published speculative fiction work, the Norma K Hemming Award is now open for entries.

The award is open to short fiction, novellas, novels, anthologies, collections, graphic novels and stage plays, and makes allowances for serialised work. Entry is free for all works, and entries may be provided to the judges in print or digital format.

Two prizes will be given, one for short fiction (up to 17,500 words) and one award for long work (novellas, novels, collections, anthologies, graphic novels and play scripts), with a cash prize and citation awarded.

Nominations are open to all eligible work produced in 2019.

“We encourage publishers and creators to carefully consider their work from the eligible period,” said award administrator Tehani Croft. “It is our goal to see all eligible material considered by the jurors. It is important to us that every person has the opportunity to see themselves reflected in fiction, and we hope that the Norma can have some part to play in making works dealing in themes of race, gender, sexuality, class or disability in speculative fiction more visible.”

(10) CLARK OBIT. Bestselling thriller author Mary Higgins Clark died January 31 at 92. The LA Times notice ends —

Married since 1996 to former Merrill Lynch Futures Chief Executive John J. Conheeney, she remembered well the day she said goodbye to hard times. It was in April of 1977, and her agent had told her that Simon & Schuster was offering $500,000 for the hardcover to her third novel, “A Stranger Is Watching,” and that the publisher Dell was paying $1 million for the paperback. She had been running her own script production company during the day and studying for a philosophy degree at Fordham University at night, returning home to New Jersey in an old car with more than 100,000 miles on it.

“As I drove onto the Henry Hudson Parkway, the tailpipe and muffler came loose and began dragging on the ground. For the next 21 miles, I kur-plunked, kur-plunked, all the way home,” she wrote in her memoir. “People in other cars kept honking and beeping, obviously sure that I was either too stupid or too deaf to hear the racket.

“The next day I bought a Cadillac!”

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 4, 1983 Videodrome premiered. It was written and directed by David Cronenberg, with a cast of James Woods, Sonja Smits, and Debbie Harry. It was the first film by Cronenberg to get Hollywood backing and it bombed earning back only two million dollars of its nearly six million budget. In spite of that, critics and audience goers alike found it to a good film. Today it is considered his best film by many, and it holds a sterling 80% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 4, 1922 William Phipps. He started off his genre career by being in both The War of The Worlds and Invaders from Mars. He’d later be in Cat-Women of the Moon, The Snow Creature, The Evil of Frankenstein, and the Dune series. He’d have one-offs in Batman, Green Hornet, The Munsters, Wild Wild West and a lead role in the Time Express series which would last four episodes according IMDB. (Died 2018.)
  • Born February 4, 1925 Russell Hoban. Author of a number of genre novel of which the best by far is Riddley Walker. Indeed, ISFDB lists some fifteen such novels by him, so I’m curious how he is as a genre writer beyond Riddley Walker. (Died 2011.)
  • Born February 4, 1936 Gary Conway, 84. Best remembered I’d say for starring in Irwin Allen‘s Land of the Giants. You can see the opening episode here. He was also in How to Make a Monster, a late Fifties horror film which I’m delighted to say that you can watch here. He’s the Young Frankenstein in it. 
  • Born February 4, 1940 George A. Romero. He’s got an impressive listing form the Dead films, I count seven of them, to Knightriders, which is truly genre adjacent at best, and one of my favorites of his, Tales from the Darkside: The Movie. Oh, and he wasn’t quite as ubiquitous as Stan Lee, but he did show up in at least seven of his films.  (Died 2017.)
  • Born February 4, 1940 John Schuck, 80. My favorite SF role by him is as the second Draal, Keeper of the Great Machine, on the Babylon 5 series. I know it was only two episodes but it was a fun role. He’s also played the role of Klingon ambassador Kamarag in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.  He guest starred in Deep Space Nine as Legate Parn in “The Maquis: Part II”, on Star Trek: Voyager as Chorus #3 in the “Muse” episode, and on Enterprise as Antaak in the “Divergence” and “Affliction” episodes.  Oh, and he was Herman Munster in The Munsters Today.  Now that was a silly role! Did you know his makeup was the Universal International Frankenstein-monster makeup format whose copyright NBCUniversal still owns? 
  • Born February 4, 1959 Pamelyn Ferdin, 60. She was in the “And the Children Shall Lead” episode of Trek. She’ll show up in The Flying Nun (as two different characters), voicing a role in The Cat in The Hat short, Night Gallery, Sealab 2020 (another voice acting gig), Shazam! and Project UFO. She’d have a main role in Space Academy, the Jonathan Harris failed series as well. 
  • Born February 4, 1961 Neal Asher, 59. I’ve been reading and enjoying his Polity series since he started it nearly twenty years ago. Listing all of his works here would drive OGH to a nervous tick as I think there’s now close to thirty works in total. I’m listening to The Line War right now and it’s typically filled with a mix of outrageous SF concepts (Dyson spheres in the middle of a hundred thousand year construction cycles) and humans who might not be human (Ian Cormac is back again). As I said last year, h the sort of writer that I think drives our Puppies to madness — literate pulp SF pumped out fast that readers like. 
  • Born February 4, 1962 Thomas Scott Winnett. Locus magazine editorial assistant and reviewer from 1989 to 1994. He worked on Locus looks at books and Books received as well. In addition, he wrote well over a hundred review reviews for Locus. He died of AIDS-related pneumonia. (Died 2004.)

 (13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Farcus shows the origins of empire building.

(14) WADE IN. Find out what’s behind the new novel Mazes of Power in “The Big Idea: Juliette Wade” at Whatever.

This is the story of a very old, and very big idea. When I first had it, I was thirteen years old, and the idea was so big that I couldn’t even wrap my mind around it. It was the idea for a world of cavern cities, where families were restricted in their professions, and about conflicts of power… but until I’d turned this idea over hundreds of times, over years, it always seemed out of my grasp. I learned about anthropology, and added a new social awareness to my idea, and realized it was for a work of sociological science fiction. I studied linguistics, and added that, too. I tried to write a story about it, knew it was wrong, and learned more, and wrote it again. I concentrated hard on learning how language and the world around us reflect our concepts of our social selves, and wrote it again.

Until it stopped being wrong, and became the world of Varin….

(15) TRUE GRIT. Dune and The Martian are two of the recommendations on Penguin Random House’s “Books to Read on a Desert Island”, which makes an unintentionally humorous kind of sense….

So you found yourself stranded on a desert island, what book do you wish you had with you? More realistically, you’re sitting on a long plane flight or waiting for an appointment, but the question still applies! We’ve suggested a few fiction and nonfiction books below that will have you contemplating life or forgetting reality.

(16) DO NOT COLLECT $200. Vanity Fair replays the crime – and no, the culprit wasn’t the Hamburglar: McMillions: The Stranger-Than-Fiction Story of the $24-Million McDonald’s Monopoly Theft”

…But in 2000, the FBI got an anonymous tip about an “Uncle Jerry” rigging the McDonald’s competition. The organization launched an investigation that would uncover the fact that many of the winners—despite the out-of-state addresses they listed—actually lived within a 25-mile radius of the lakefront home Jacobson owned. According to the Daily Beast, “25 agents across the country…tracked 20,000 phone numbers, and recorded 235 cassette tapes of telephone calls.” McDonald’s even sent an employee undercover to help the FBI stage a fake TV commercial campaign—Argo–style—to get the fraudulent winners to incriminate themselves on camera. There were raids. And in 2001, in a scene tailor-made for the third act of an action thriller, McDonald’s launched another Monopoly game—knowing that their game had been compromised—because the FBI needed more evidence.

(17) EXTRAORDINARY. Adler #1 will be released in comic shops tomorrow. “Irene Adler is on a mission to take down Sherlock’s greatest nemesis, Moriarty!”

It’s the League of Extraordinary Gentlewomen, as Adler teams up with a host of famous female faces from history and literature to defeat the greatest criminal mastermind of all time!

Written by World Fantasy Award Winner Lavie Tidhar, with art by Paul McCaffrey (TMNT).

(18) VAMPIRE PAPERWORK. The AP reports “Tulane acquires archive of “Vampire” author Anne Rice”.

Tulane University has acquired the complete archives of bestselling author Anne Rice, who was born and raised in New Orleans and whose books, including “Interview with the Vampire,” often drew inspiration from her hometown.

The collection was a gift from Stuart Rose and the Stuart Rose Family Foundation to the university’s Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, the university said in a statement.

“That Tulane has provided a home for my papers is exciting and comforting,” Rice said in the statement. “All my novels — in a career spanning more than 40 years — have been profoundly influenced by the history and beauty of New Orleans, and by its unique ambience in which my imagination flourished even in early childhood.”

Rice has written 30 novels. She moved to California to attend university and has spent much of her life since then in California, according to her biography. But New Orleans has played a central role in much of her fiction.

(19) AUTISM RESEARCH. “Researchers Link Autism To A System That Insulates Brain Wiring”.

Scientists have found a clue to how autism spectrum disorder disrupts the brain’s information highways.

The problem involves cells that help keep the traffic of signals moving smoothly through brain circuits, a team reported Monday in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

The team found that in both mouse and human brains affected by autism, there’s an abnormality in cells that produce a substance called myelin.

That’s a problem because myelin provides the “insulation” for brain circuits, allowing them to quickly and reliably carry electrical signals from one area to another. And having either too little or too much of this myelin coating can result in a wide range of neurological problems.

For example, multiple sclerosis occurs when the myelin around nerve fibers is damaged. The results, which vary from person to person, can affect not only the signals that control muscles, but also the ones involved in learning and thinking.

The finding could help explain why autism spectrum disorders include such a wide range of social and behavioral features, says Brady Maher, a lead investigator at the Lieber Institute for Brain Development and an associate professor in the psychiatry department at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

“Myelination could be a problem that ties all of these autism spectrum disorders together,” Maher says. And if that’s true, he says, it might be possible to prevent or even reverse the symptoms using drugs that affect myelination.

“If we get to these kids really early, we might be able to change their developmental trajectory and improve their outcomes,” Maher says.

(20) SOMEONE’S KNOCKING AT MISTER ROGERS’ DOOR. “’Exploding meteor’ drops out of night sky in Derby” — short video.

A man’s doorbell camera has captured a celestial light show as what is thought to be a meteor dropped through the night sky in Derby.

Gary Rogers, 52, who captured the footage about 23:30 GMT on Monday, said he was amazed and felt lucky to have seen it.

Experts at the National Space Centre in Leicester said they believe it was a bolide – a bright meteor that explodes in the atmosphere.

Rob Dawes, chairman of nearby Sherwood Observatory, said the brightness suggested it was larger than a normal meteor.

He said: “[Mr Rogers] was very lucky to get such a nice bright one. But you’d be surprised how many of these do come into the atmosphere at any time of year.”

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

Pixel Scroll 12/29/19 Who Sawed Courtney Milan’s Boat?

(1) STABBY VOTING. Reddit’s r/Fantasy forum hasopened voting for the Stabby Awards. They’ve suffered voting shenanigans in the past, too, and here’s what they’ve done to stop them —

It’s now time to vote for the /r/Fantasy Best of 2019 Stabby Awards. Due to the sub’s growth over the past year (from the time that the nomination thread went live to now, we’ve grown by over 8,000 subscribers!) and to issues we experienced with vote gaming last year, voting will be taking place off Reddit.

We’re using a Google Form (same as we’ve used for our demographic census for years) and in order to vote you’ll need to include a link to your own user profile. Profiles will need to be at least 1 month old for their votes to count – we chose this cutoff to ensure that folks who created accounts solely to nominate and thus aren’t really part of our community aren’t going to affect the results.

Voting will end January 4, 2019 at 9 p.m. PST. Results should be live by January 6, 2019 by 1 p.m. PST.

(2) SPARKS TOO MUCH JOY? In The Guardian‘s “It’s ‘Day of the Triffids’ for today’s Britain, but with antidepressants as the monster”, critic Vanessa Thorpe analyzes the filmmaker’s challenge:

…An award-winning science-fiction thriller billed by critics as a modern Day of the Triffids takes a provocative approach to Britain’s growing dependence on mood-lifting chemicals and antidepressants.

Little Joe, released in UK cinemas in February, and starring Ben Whishaw, Emily Beecham and Kerry Fox, has divided reviewers with its odd, disturbing story of a newly bred plant designed to spread joy.

On set in a vast greenhouse laboratory, the acclaimed Austrian director Jessica Hausner first told her actors to forget about finding “the truth” of their characters.

Little Joe looks at the question of how do you perceive whether someone has changed or not,” Hausner told the Observer. “That was the big issue when I talked to the actors. And so even when we were shooting, we were shooting different versions of each scene.”

(3) ENDANGERED BY IDEAS. Maria Popova tells “How Kepler Invented Science Fiction and Defended His Mother in a Witchcraft Trial While Revolutionizing Our Understanding of the Universe” at Brain Pickings.

…In the anxious winter of 1617, unfigurative wheels are turning beneath Johannes Kepler as he hastens to his mother’s witchcraft trial. For this long journey by horse and carriage, Kepler has packed a battered copy of Dialogue on Ancient and Modern Music by Vincenzo Galilei, his sometime friend Galileo’s father — one of the era’s most influential treatises on music, a subject that always enchanted Kepler as much as mathematics, perhaps because he never saw the two as separate. Three years later, he would draw on it in composing his own groundbreaking book The Harmony of the World, in which he would formulate his third and final law of planetary motion, known as the harmonic law — his exquisite discovery, twenty-two years in the making, of the proportional link between a planet’s orbital period and the length of the axis of its orbit. It would help compute, for the first time, the distance of the planets from the sun — the measure of the heavens in an era when the Solar System was thought to be all there was.

As Kepler is galloping through the German countryside to prevent his mother’s execution, the Inquisition in Rome is about to declare the claim of Earth’s motion heretical — a heresy punishable by death….

(4) NOT MUSED. “And it occurs to me that this is disrespectful to the Nine” at It’s Always More Complicated, (a post inspired by Anne Bilson’s piece for The Guardian, “Anna Karina, Catherine Deneuve: how movies malign women by calling them muses”.)

…But is this view of the Muse, who is after all a goddess, a being at whose feet the artist is supposed to lay the offering of the art created in order that she may judge it worthy, not very disrespectful? In assuming that the muse is just some empty thing to fill up with M. L’Artiste’s (and it is M., is it not) geeenyus?

François Truffaut once said of Catherine Deneuve: “I wouldn’t compare her to a flower or a bouquet, since there is a certain neutrality in her that leads me to compare her to the vase in which all the flowers are placed.” He meant that her reserve and air of mystery enabled spectators to “fill the vase” themselves; but the history of male film directors and their female muses is also a history of vase-filling: men translating their erotic fantasies into cinematic terms while failing to get to grips with the women themselves, who are invariably depicted as quixotic and inscrutable, even dangerous.

Not that I am sure which of the Nine would be the muse of movies – or would it vary by specific genre?

(5) BLUE GENES. Cora Buhlert presents “The 2019 Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents”.

… Let’s have a bit of background: I have been informally awarding the Darth Vader Parenthood Award since sometime in the 1980s with the earliest awards being retroactive. Over the years, the list of winners migrated from a handwritten page via various computer file formats, updated every year. Last year, I finally decided to make the winners public on the Internet, because what’s an award without some publicity and a ceremony? The list of previous winners (in PDF format) up to 2017 may be found here, BTW, and the 2018 winner was announced here.

In 2017 and 2018, a clear frontrunner emerged early on. 2019 was different, because there were several likely and unlikely candidates.

Warning: Spoilers for several of things including The Rise of Skywalker behind the cut…

(6) THE MOST OF BABY YODA. You wouldn’t want to miss this! (Well, some of you would, but your loss!)

BABY YODA from The Mandalorian season 1. Best of Baby Yoda taken from episodes 1 to 8 of The Mandalorian….

(7) GRAY OBIT. Scots author Alasdair Gray died December 29 at the age of 85. His publisher, Canongate, posted this retrospective:

A renowned polymath, Alasdair Gray was beloved equally for his writing and art. His debut, Lanark, which Canongate published in 1981, is widely regarded as being one of the masterpieces of twentieth century fiction. It was followed by more than thirty further books, all of which he designed and illustrated, ranging from novels, short story collections, plays, volumes of poetry, works of non-fiction and translations – most recently, his interpretation of Dante’s Divine Trilogy.

The Guardian’s tribute said he “blazed a trail for contemporary Scottish fiction with his experimental novels.”

In 1954, Gray began writing the novel that would occupy him on and off throughout the 1960s and 70s. Lanark divides the story of a life into four books, alternating between Glasgow and a shadowy version of the city called Unthank. The novel opens with book three, in which a young man finds himself in a dark metropolis filled with strange diseases, and then jumps back to fill in the story of Duncan Thaw, who grows up in Glasgow just before the second world war. The Guardian called it “fluent, imaginative”, a novel “of undeniable quality, but rare, and not for all tastes, like an oyster, or a truffle”.

He made an indelible impression on both the literary and fannish worlds. Alasdair Gray and Russell Hoban were the guests of honor at the first Mexicon (1984) in the UK. As David Langford recalls, he made ink sketches of various fans there, and his “[John] Brosnan drawing is inscribed: ‘The Author of Slimer, a seminal work which has influenced everything I have ever written.”

(8) WOLLEN OBIT. Peter Wollen (1938-2019), author of the influential film theory book Signs and Meaning in the Cinema, who also directed films and wrote screenplays, died December 17. The New York Times appreciation notes:  

Mr. Wollen didn’t just talk and write about cinema; in the 1970s and ’80s he was actively involved in making it. Perhaps his best-known film, which he both wrote and directed, was “Friendship’s Death” (1987), an unusual science-fiction film about an extraterrestrial robot who is on a peace mission but takes a wrong turn and winds up in Amman, Jordan, in 1970, a time of conflict there.

Tilda Swinton, in one of her first film roles, played the robot. In a tribute to Mr. Wollen published by the film website IndieWire, she said “Signs and Meaning” was “the first seminal book I read about film that actually made sense while bopping you to bits with its braininess and taking the engine of cinema completely apart in front of you while making you even more excited to jump in and go racing about in it just as soon as you possibly could.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 29, 1967 — “The Trouble with Tribbles” first aired. Written by David Gerrold and directed by Joseph Pevney, with some of the guest cast being Stanley Adams as Cyrano Jones, Whit Bissell as Station Manager and Michael Pataki as Korax. Memory Alpha says ”Wah Chang designed the original tribbles. Hundreds were sewn together during production, using pieces of extra-long rolls of carpet. Some of them had mechanical toys placed in them so they could walk around.” It would come in second in the Hugo balloting to “The City on the Edge of Forever” written by Harlan Ellison. All five final Hugo nominees at Baycon (1968) were Trek episodes.
  • December 29, 2009 Princess of Mars premiered. This film from Asylum had Traci Lords as Dejah Thoris and Antonio Sabàto Jr. as John Carter. Rather loosely based on A Princess of Mars by Burroughs, the film was released in Europe as The Martian Colony Wars. Currently this film has a 10% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 29, 1901 William H Ritt. US cartoonist and author, whose best known strip, Brick Bradford, was SF. Two of the early Thirties strips, Brick Bradford and the City Beneath the Sea and Brick Bradford with Brocco the Mountain Buccaneer, became Big Little books. in 1947, Brick Bradford, a 15-chapter serial film starring Kane Richmond, was produced by Columbia Pictures. (Died 1972.)
  • Born December 29, 1912 Ward Hawkins. Alternative universes! Lizard men as sidekicks! He wrote the Borg and Guss series (Red Flaming BurningSword of Fire, Blaze of Wrath and Torch of Fear) which as it features these I really would like to hear as audiobooks. Not that it’s likely as I see he’s not made it even to the digital book realm yet. (Died 1990.)
  • Born December 29, 1928 Bernard Cribbins, 91. He has the odd distinction of first showing up on Doctor Who in the non-canon Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. film (with Peter Cushing movie as The Doctor.) He would make it into canon when he appeared as Wilfred Mott in the Tenth Doctor story, “Voyage of the Damned”, and he‘s a Tenth Doctor companion himself in “The End of Time”, the two-part 2009–10 Christmas and New Year special.
  • Born December 29, 1949 Ian Livingstone, 70. Co-founder of Game Workshop whose flagship products are are Warhammer Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40,000. (Have I mentioned that Game Workshop has local shops where fans can buy their unpainted miniatures and other goodies?) He was the first Editor of White Dwarf whichyes, I read a long time ago. 
  • Born December 29, 1963 Dave McKean, 56. If you read nothing else involving him, do read the work done by him and Gaiman called The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr Punch: A Romance. Brilliant, violent, horrifying. Well, and Signal to Noise by them is worth chasing down as well. 
  • Born December 29, 1966 Alexandra Kamp, 53. Did you know Sax Rohmer’s novels were made into a film? I didn’t. Well, she was the lead in Sax Rohmer’s Sumuru which Michael Shanks also shows up in. She’d also be in 2001: A Space Travesty with Leslie Neilsen, and Dracula 3000 with Caspar van Dien. Neither will be mistaken for quality films. 
  • Born December 29, 1972 Jude Law, 47. I think his first SF role was as Jerome Eugene Morrow In Gattaca followed by playing Gigolo Joe in A.I., with my fav role for him being the title role in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He was Lemony Snicket In Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Tony in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Dr. John Watson in Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Remy In Repo Man and he voiced Pitch Black in one of my favorite animated films, Rise of the Guardians

(11) FIRST IMPRESSIONS. ComicBook.com invites us to “Star Wars: Watch Mark Hamill’s Perfect Harrison Ford Impression”, rendered during an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers.

(12) TEN YEARS FROM NOW. New York Magazine did a future-themed issue in November included a batch of predictions about 2029 based on the newsmaking events of 2019: “The Weirdness Is Coming A glimpse of the near future as seen through the recent past.”.

Today In 2029…This odd future came into view…

We Will Never Know If a Movie Is a Hit

All of the entertainment we used to consume in more independently quantifiable ways — via TV ratings, box office, album sales — has moved to streaming, where we just have to trust Netflix or Spotify or Apple to tell us how popular it is, and they will almost certainly lie. Netflix occasionally releases random stats about how many people watched something, and they usually strain credibility. In June, it claimed 30.9 million watched a new Adam Sandler movie in its first three days, which would have made it one of the biggest openings in history if it had been released in theaters. And we never know how successful any movie is when it’s released on for-pay VOD (via iTunes, Amazon, or your cable box) because nobody shares any numbers at all, which is strange because streaming is how plenty of non-superhero movies make most of their money now. Obviously, they will know — the producers and stars who benefit. But the public will be living entirely in the dark, never knowing if something is actually a hit or just totally Astroturfed. This will be really disorienting; today, at least, the popularity of an artist accounts for like half of the way we feel about them. And hard audience figures were, for a generation of barroom debaters about pop culture, the closest thing anyone actually ever got to a “fact.” —Lane Brown

(13) OBAMA’S 2019 PICKS. “Barack Obama Lists His Favorite Films And Television Shows For 2019”Deadline has the story.

Former President Barack Obama is making a list, and checking it twice. A day after he released the list of his favorite books of 2019, he’s issued a film/TV faves ledger, including one of his own creations….

(14) NOT BEWITCHED. Eneasz Brodski pans a new show in “The Witcher, Episode 1: A Festivus Airing of Greivances” at Death Is Bad.

I saw the first episode of The Witcher on Festivus, and boy did that unintentionally fit the holiday theme. tldr is that the writers are just phoning this in, and hoping the strength of the fight choreography will keep people watching.

Full Spoilers below.

(15) ROVER COME OVER. LAist reveals, “We Got A Sneak Peek At JPL’s Mars 2020 Rover Before It Heads To Its Launch Site, And It’s Rad”. Photos at the link.

… On Friday, JPL gave a rare media tour to show off the interplanetary robotic vehicle to reporters inside a meticulous dust, hair and oil-free “clean room.” It’s the last time it will be viewed before it’s shipped off to Florida for its July liftoff.

That meant this reporter had to don a full body “bunny” suit and take an air bath with jets to blow away any wayward dust or hair left on the suit.

It took a lot of time and trouble, but NASA’s Dave Gruel said it’s crucial to keep the rover from getting contaminated.

“It’ll be a real bad day for us in the future if those samples come back from Mars and guess what? They’ve got my whisker in that sample,” Gruel said. “That’ll be bad.”

(16) WITH GREAT POWER COMES MINOR LEAGUE HOCKEY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] ComicBook.com: “Minor League Hockey Team Suits Up in Spider-Man Uniforms on Stan Lee’s Birthday”.

Today, Saturday December 28, would have been the legendary Stan Lee‘s 97th birthday. To mark the occasion fans all around the world are taking a moment to reflect on and honor the prolific and influential comics figure who was responsible for helping to create many of the most iconic characters in comics history — The X-Men, The Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Dr. Doom, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and more. It’s one of those characters that a minor league hockey team is using to help honor Lee on his birthday with special Spider-Man uniforms.

On Twitter on Saturday, the Indy Fuel hockey team shared a photo of their uniforms for the evening’s game against the Kansas City Mavericks. The special jerseys are part of the Fuel’s Marvel Super Hero Night event, which just so happens to land on Lee’s birthday. The team also posted thanking the creator for “creating a pretty awesome universe.” You can check out both posts below.

(17) BIZARRE TOY. Nerdbot wants us to know “Monty Python Black Knight Figure Talks & Has Removable Arms”. If they also make one like this for Gandalf, imagine posing them opposite one another yelling, ”None shall pass, none shall pass!”

 [Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Andrew Porter, Dann, Martin Morse Wooster, David Langford, John Hertz, and Rich Lynch for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Dennis Howard – classic faanish reference explained here.]

Pixel Scroll 5/3/19 Who You Gonna Scroll? Ghostpixels!

(1) CLEANUP ON SPACE AISLE ONE. Daniel Dern gives NASA’s news a sff perspective: “In Space, Nobody Picks Up Your Trash: NASA Recycling in Space Award Winners” at Earth911.

…According to NASA, “The three winners brought a variety of approaches to the table for the challenge. Zabciu’s submission proposed incorporating space savings features and camera-actuated ejectors to move trash through the system, before bringing it to another mechanism to complete the feed into the reactor. McFall’s submission indicated it would use a hopper for solid waste and managed air streams for liquids and gaseous waste. Hamdallah proposed using air jets to compress the trash and cycle it through the system instead of gravity.”

Mary Robinette Kowal, a three-time Hugo Award winning science fiction author whose recent novels, The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky, include a lot of space mission planning and action, says, “As space missions get longer in duration — and farther from Earth — recycling and repurposing will be even more important.”

I asked Kowal in her capacity as both a science fiction writer and reader if she had any observations or suggestions for the creators inventing new space tech — and the people who will be using it on-site.

“There is a difference between policy and the way people actually live,” says Kowal. “For long-duration missions, you have to look at the latter. One way to get some real-world insights is by looking at communities like Iceland and other island nations where people have a fixed set of resources to draw upon.”

(2) POKEMANIACS ASSEMBLE. Michael Rechstaffen gives one thumb up in his “‘Pokemon Detective Pikachu’: Film Review” at The Hollywood Reporter.

Those anticipating another Golden Raspberry-worthy contender like last year’s The Happytime Murders, another spoof of classic pulp fiction, can park their preconceived notions at the door.

It turns out Pokemon Detective Pikachu isn’t half bad.

Set in Ryme City, a neon-soaked experimental world in which humans and Pokemon co-exist in relative harmony, the truly trippy production has its fitfully entertaining charms. There were a couple of telling clues that pointed in that direction, primarily the welcome presence of Ryan Reynolds, who has brought a generous sampling of his sardonic Deadpool sensibility to the voicing of the title role.

(3) BEST SERIES. Steve J. Wright has completed his Best Series Hugo Finalist reviews:

(4) COLBERT AND TOLKIEN TOGETHER. Forbes details Fathom Events’ special showing for the forthcoming biopic: “The Late Show Meets Middle-Earth: Stephen Colbert Hosts National In-Cinemas Preview Of ‘Tolkien'”.

Moviegoers looking to venture to Middle-earth will be able to see the highly anticipated new film, Tolkien, in cinemas three days prior to its national release with a special screening hosted by The Late Show’s Stephen Colbert. The event, which takes place on May 7, three days ahead of the national release of the film on May 10, is presented by Fathom Events and Fox Searchlight Pictures. Tolkien superfan Colbert will host an exclusive live Q&A with stars Nicholas Hoult, Lily Collins and director Dome Karukoski from the Montclair Film Festival.

(5) ROANHORSE CONVERSATION. Brandon Crilly conducts a ”Wordsmiths: Interview with Award-Winning Author Rebecca Roanhorse” at Black Gate.

Everything that I’ve read of yours — this story, “Indian Experience(TM)”, Trail of Lightning — carries undertones about a variety of indigenous issues. Why discuss these topics through fantasy as opposed to contemporary literature?

I’m a nerd. I’ve always been a Science Fiction and Fantasy (SFF) reader and writer from my earliest memories of reading Susan Cooper and Lloyd Alexander as a kid and then Eddings and Jordan and Herbert as I got into high school, and as an adult Butler and Le Guin, among many, many others. I’ve always written SFF, too, from my very first stories in middle school. It’s what I love. What else would I write?

I’ve spoken with other indigenous authors who worry about being pigeonholed into only writing about those kinds of indigenous-centric topics. Does that sort of thing ever worry you?

Not really. I am going to write what speaks to me as a creative. I’m lucky enough to have editors that support that. And I do have a couple of projects coming out over the next year or so, one of they pretty big, that are not Indigenous-centric. Although being Indigenous, my sensibility and approach will always be influenced by my heritage. That’s just who I am; it’s a part of my worldview and, like any other author, that will always show through.

(6) DRAMATIC WHEELS. A 308-picture gallery accompanies Motor Trend’s post “Your Favorite Sci-Fi Movie Cars Are Coming to Life at the Petersen Museum”.

The Petersen Automotive Museum goes Back to the Future and beyond its new “Hollywood Dream Machines: Vehicles of Science Fiction and Fantasy” exhibit opening on May 5. We’ve seen some truly amazing vehicles at the L.A. car museum in the past but this new show is literally out of this world. Here are just some of the more than 40 cars and motorcycles from classic movies and video games that will be on display.

(7) KUBRICK AND DESIGN. Behind the Financial Times paywall, an architecture critic reviews a show about Stanley Kubrick at the Design Museum in London.

This is not a new show.  But placing it in a design museum, rather than a film-focused or art gallery, shifts the angle and allows us to see how architectural Kubrick’s work was, and how obsessive he was about design, from landscapes to graphics, products to technology.

The opening is stunning, a layered series of screens like stage flats displaying some of Kubrick’s best-known scenes, all using his characteristic single-point perspective.  Little Danny pedaling his tricycle down the hotel corridor in THE SHINING, the Rococo/disco mish-mash of the final room (presumably created by a superior intelligence) in 2001:  A SPACE ODYSSEY, the dolly ride through the French trenches in PATHS OF GLORY. It is wonderfully immersive, propelling us into an obsessional world which is unsettilngly strange yet weirdly familiar.

The website for the show, which runs through September 15, is designmuseum.org,

(8) VALE, CHEWBACCA. The Hollywood Reporter did a roundup of celebrity goodbyes to the actor played Star Wars’ Chewbacca: “Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, George Lucas and More Remember Peter Mayhew”.

And they focused on the reaction of the actor who worked most closely with him: “Harrison Ford Remembers ‘Star Wars’ Co-Star Peter Mayhew: ‘I Loved Him'”

Harrison Ford, like the rest of the Star Wars fans across the globe, was devastated when he learned on Thursday that his friend and Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew had died at the age of 74.

The two men made up the iconic duo of Han Solo and Chewbacca, which they played together in four films since 1977. 

Ford said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter that he loved his dear friend. 

“Peter Mayhew was a kind and gentle man, possessed of great dignity and noble character,” said the actor. “These aspects of his own personality, plus his wit and grace, he brought to Chewbacca. We were partners in film and friends in life for over 30 years and I loved him. He invested his soul in the character and brought great pleasure to the Star Wars audience.”

Anthony Breznican, in “Peter Mayhew remembered: How he said goodbye to playing Chewbacca” in Entertainment Weekly, takes the occasion of Mayhew’s death to reprint a 2015 interview with Mayhew on the occasion of his last appearance as Chewbacca in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

I guess it’s fair to say that that relationship between Han and Chewie is like a brotherhood, right? It’s something that will never go away — no matter the years?
Peter: As Han — I mean, Harrison— was quoted: It’s an old married couple. [Laughs.] Yes, Chewie is older; he is also a character that is going to last and has lasted for 40 years, almost. When you think about it, Star Wars was in ’77, and we have stayed with each other in a long, great relationship. People don’t have many relationships like that. It’s kind of like Laurel and Hardy!

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 3, 1939 Dennis O’Neil, 80. Writer and editor, mostly for Marvel Comics and DC Comics from the Sixties through the late Nineties, and the Group Editor for the Batman family of titles until his retirement. He has written Wonder Woman and Green Arrow in both cases introducing some rather controversial storytelling ideas.
  • Born May 3, 1951 W. H. Pugmire.  S. T. Joshi has described Pugmire as “perhaps the leading Lovecraftian author writing today.” Let the debate begin. (Died 2019.)
  • Born May 3, 1958 Bill Sienkiewicz, 61. Comic artist especially known for his work for Marvel Comics’ Elektra, Moon Knight and New Mutants. He worked on Elektra: Assassin!, a six-issue series which written by Frank Miller and it was amazing. He both wrote and illustrated the 1988 miniseries Stray Toasters, an delightfully weird work published by Epic Comics, and collaborated with writer Andy Helfer on the first six issues of DC Comics’ The Shadow series.
  • Born May 3, 1974 Joseph Kosinski, 45. He made his directorial debut with Tron: Legacy, the sequel to the original Tron. His second film was Oblivion based on his unpublished graphic novel of the same name. Interestingly he got his start doing CGI adverts for the Halo 3 and Gears of War games. 
  • Born May 3, 1975 Christina Hendricks, 44. Not long genre credits but she voiced Lois Lane and Super Women in All-Star Superman, did more voice work work as Zarina in Tinker Bell and the Pirate Fairy and yet more voice work as Gabby in Toy Story 4. Which brings me to her live work on Firefly as she’s a con artist in two episodes under various names of Bridget / Yolanda / Saffron. Oh and she was a Bar Maid on Angel once.
  • Born May 3, 1982 Rebecca Hall, 37. Lots of genre work — first role was Sarah Borden in The Prestige followed by being Emily Wotton in Dorian Gray and Florence Cathcart in The Awakening which in turn led to her being Maya Hansen in Iron 3. Next up? Mary in Roald Dahl’s The BFG. Is she done yet? No as next is the English dub of the voice of Mother of Mirai no Mirai. She might’ve wanted to have stopped there as her most recent role is Dr. Grace Hart in Holmes & Watson which won four Golden Raspberries! 

(10) DUCK! SYFY Wire warns “There’s an asteroid coming Deep Impact-levels of close to Earth”. Or is “warns” the right word – they sound a little too cheerful.

If you look up at the sky on April 13, 2029, you’ll see a streak of light that looks like cinematic special effects, except this won’t be a sci-fi movie.

What that blaze in the cosmos really will be is the asteroid 99942 Apophis. You could almost legit call it a shooting star, since it’s expected to shine as bright as some of the stars that twinkle in the Little Dipper and to zoom across the full moon. This thing will also be a shocking 19,000 miles above the surface. That is as close as some of the spacecraft orbiting our planet, except a 340-meter-wide space rock is going to make people nervous. It even made NASA nervous. And thrilled.

(11) END OF DAY. Is sunset on Mars just as dark as a night outside Winterfell? You decide! “Incredible photograph shows sunset on Martian horizon” on Australia’s 9News.

NASA’s stationary InSight lander is spending two years on Mars learning everything it can about the deep interior of the Red Planet.

But it’s also providing Earth with details such as a daily Martian weather report and, now, a glimpse of what it looks like when the sun rises and sets on Mars.

The lander used the camera on its robotic arm to take photos on April 24 and 25, capturing sunrise at the equivalent of 5.30am and 6.30pm local time.

(12) ONE FOR ORWELL. Some places Big Brother really is watching… Just up on Beeb Beeb Ceeb, “Russia tightens grip on its national net”.

Russia has formally adopted a law that gives its government more control over its domestic internet.

The law means the systems that exchange data between the networks forming the Russian internet must share more information with government regulators.

It also lets regulators exert direct control over what Russians can post, see and talk about online when national security is threatened.

Russian net firms have until 1 November to comply with the law.

Widespread protests were mounted in a bid to stop the law being passed.

(13) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to float away with Annalee Flower Horne in episode 94 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

…At Annalee’s suggestion, we met at Mark’s Kitchen, which has been serving customers in Old Town Takoma Park since 1990. It had a comfortable family feel, and an extensive menu, one which seemed suitable for all tastes and dietary sensitivities.

We discussed the incident at their first con which was a catalyst for wanting to become a writer, the way a glare from Mary Robinette Kowal caused them to submit — and then sell — their first short story, how the intricacies of game design can teach fiction writers to write better, why writers shouldn’t complain when editors reject stories too quickly, the first story they wrote while angry (and what was learned from the experience), the cuss word they wish they’d thought of in time to get into their first published story, the novel-in-progress that’s a feminist take on The Demolished Man, how codes of conduct can (and should) help make fandom better, and much more.

(14) THEY’RE JUST DRAWN THAT WAY.Inverse: “Superhero Study Explains the Sexy Reason We’re Drawn to Marvel Characters”.

The bulging muscles of Captain America and the va-va-voom curves of Black Widow are no surprise to fans of comic books and action films. People have known since Superman’s debut in 1938 that superheroes are exactly that — they’re super. However, a recent study applies a new analysis the idealized bodies of heroes. They aren’t just super strong and super fast — they’re also “supernormal sexual stimuli.” 

In other words, the outrageous features of superheroes are exaggerations of what humans have long found attractive. Researchers explain in the April edition of Evolutionary Biological Sciences that hyper-masculine and hyper-feminine features — think cut jawlines and low waist-to-hip ratios — signal primal, powerful associations in the human brain. These are traits we’ve evolved to pay attention to and we pay extra attention to superheroes because their traits are beyond what humans are capable of.

[…] These hyper-masculine and hyper-feminine forms are exaggerated reflections of endocrine markers that we interpret as signals for youth, health, and fertility. […]

“I was surprised at how exaggerated the drawings were, but not about what parts of the bodies were being exaggerated,” [co-author Dr. Rebecca] Burch says. “We expected they would be exaggerated according to testosterone and estrogen markets.”

(15) BAY AREA FANS, DON’T MISS OUT. Gizmodo/io9 reports an sf art exhibit will be in San Francisco this weekend for two days only:  “Sci-Fi Art Gets Quirky Cool With ‘A Match Made in Space’”.

Argentinian artist Max Dalton has a style that’s instantly recognizable, simplistic, and quirky. Those words may not scream “science fiction,” but that’s exactly why his style works so well in that genre.

Dalton’s latest exhibit, “A Match Made in Space,” opens May 4 at Spoke Art in San Francisco, CA. The artwork fuses Dalton’s playful style with science fiction properties—with pieces ranging from sleek and futuristic to gritty and lived-in, and it all looks damned adorable in his style. […]

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit belongs the File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 9/16/18 Mother, Please! I’d Rather Scroll It Myself!

(1) VISUALIZING LE GUIN. Andrew Liptak interviews artist David Lupton, who is responsible for the art in The Folio Society’s new edition of The Left Hand of Darkness“Behind the gorgeous new illustrated edition of Ursula K Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness”.

Tell me a little about adapting the scenes from the novel with your art. How did you go about capturing the characters?

My process for adapting scenes for a Folio Society edition always begins in the same way. I start by reading the book from beginning to end. Then I go back and re-read the book whilst making notes of the scenes that I’d like to illustrate. I also have to keep in mind that the illustrations need to be paced throughout the book and depending on the length it usually works out that an illustration is needed every 20 pages or so. Therefore I go through the book and note what occurs around these page numbers and begin to formulate ideas on how to interpret the imagery described.

For The Left Hand of Darkness, I initially chose approximately 20 scenes that I thought could help tell the story visually and then I worked with Sheri Gee (art director at Folio Society) and Ursula to whittle down what imagery would work and what wouldn’t. I also wanted to draw a variety of compositions from extreme close-ups of faces, to wider drawings of snowy mountains, and so had to balance that imagery throughout the whole sequence. In terms of the characters, I simply read the descriptions in the text, which are quite succinct and open for interpretation, and then talked with Ursula personally to get an understanding of what she wanted.

(2) MEXICANX SAGA. Hector Gonzalez takes the opening step on “My Road to Worldcon 76. Part 1: The Mexicanx Initiative” at Medium.

…I remember pedaling like crazy to get to La Casa de los Sabores (aka home) in time to talk to John. I made it back with 18 minutes to spare, which I invested in taking a quick shower and cutting some vegetables for dinner. I dialed at 7:01 PM and I heard John [Picacio]’s voice. He wanted to know more about myself, why me, as a fan, wanted to attend Worldcon and be part of this Mexicanx Initiative. I shared how sci-fi and comics were a big part of my history while growing up. How friends and family usually gave me books for my birthday as a child and how I devoured those stories. How my favorite encyclopedia was about a humanoid robot that was part comic and part in-depth information about different topics, from astronomy to biology.

“Who is a current creator that you admire?” John asked. Alejandro Jodorowski was my answer. I shared how his movies, books, and comics had influenced me….

(3) BOUND FOR MARS. Already showing on Hulu – The First.

Sean Penn leads an ensemble cast in this near-future drama about a crew of astronauts attempting to become the first humans on Mars. Under the direction of visionary aerospace magnate Laz Ingram (Natascha McElhone), the crew contends with peril and personal sacrifice as they undertake the greatest pioneering feat in human history.

 

(4) HOW BEER WILL HELP COLONIZE MARS. On Food & Wine, Mike Pomranz opines that “Beer Might Be the Key to Surviving on Mars, But Not for the Reasons You Think”. It seems that beer wort is being used as feedstock for bacteria that in turn create something that could be useful on Mars or other harsh environments:

“[We have] developed a super-insulating, ultra-light, and ultra-transparent aerogel film,” Ivan Smalyukh, a professor in the [University of Colorado] Department of Physics, explained to Digital Trends. “Aerogels are extremely porous solid objects that are made mostly from air, and are about 100 times less dense than glass panes. Our aerogel is made from nanocellulose, which is grown by bacteria that eat waste beer wort, a waste byproduct of the beer industry.”

…“Extraterrestrial habitats will face extreme temperature fluctuations which must be eliminated inside the habitat,” Smalyukh continued. “We see our aerogel product as a prime way to accomplish this, additionally allowing for the harvesting and storage of solar energy inside of habitats because these aerogels are transparent to sunlight. Because our aerogel can be made from waste, space colonizers wouldn’t necessarily have to bring the aerogel with them from Earth, which would be expensive. Instead, they could grow, from waste, [and] with the help of bacteria, aerogels to be used in habitats.”

Needless to say, Food & Wine is thrilled that culinary science could play a role in colonizing other planets. Not that at least some of the colonists would object to having beer available with or without the aerogel byproducts.

(5) INDIANA IS FROM ILLINOIS? You can buy the house where Indiana Jones and Han Solo grew up, in a manner of speaking – Harrison Ford’s boyhood home is for sale.

A Long Time Ago, in a Town Close to Chicago was a Storybook Tudor. Restore Harrison Ford’s Childhood Home to its Former Glory. 1st Time on the Market Since 1970.

(6) PRINCESS OR ACTION HERO? Fan art by Artemii Myasnikov reimagines Disney royalty as action heroes. Myasnikov’s Instagram feed also mixes in a lot of other genre work, but it was his Disney oeuvre that caught the eye of SYFY Wire’s Josh Weiss (“This fan art by Artemii Myasnikov turns Disney royalty into Disney action heroes”).

For too long, Disney’s pantheon of princesses were depicted as feeble damsels in distress that required handsome, horse-riding/sword-wielding princes to get them out of sticky situations. In recent years, however, the company recognized just how archaic this was and began to create strong, independent women who don’t need no men.

…They can all fend for themselves, kick butt and take names, but thanks to artist Artemii Myasnikov, they’ve become even more badass in art that turns them in all-out warriors. In a way, it gives a second chance to those old school princesses (Snow White, Aurora, and Cinderella) that were nothing more than foibles for the “big strong” princes.

(7) CLICKBAIT FOR CAVEMEN. NPR says “Researchers Discover Ancient ‘Hashtag'” – the oldest-found drawing dates back ~73k years.

Scientists working in South Africa say they’ve found the earliest known drawing. It was dug up in a cave where early humans apparently lived for thousands of years and left behind numerous artifacts.

The drawing isn’t what you’d call elaborate; it’s a row of crosshatched lines along the smooth face of a rock that may have been a tool for making ocher. In fact, the red lines were made with red ocher. The pattern (with a little imagination) resembles a hashtag. What’s remarkable is that it was apparently made about 73,000 years ago. That’s tens of thousands of years older than similar drawings made in European caves.

The researchers, led by Christopher Henshilwood of the University of Bergen in Norway, have previously found a sort of toolkit for making ocher at the site, known as Blombos Cave, that dates back 100,000 years. That evidence shows that early Homo sapiens were clearly making ocher a long time ago, though for what purpose is unclear. And they’ve found a piece of ocher from about 70,000 years ago with engraved crosshatching on it….

(8) WASHINGTON WONDERS. Michon Boston, in the Washington City Paper piece “Wonder Woman’s Version of 1984 D.C. Versus the Real Thing” looks at how the set designers for Wonder Woman 1984 turned the clock back in its Washington scenes, including building old-school phone booths, turning the facade of the long-closed Georgetown Theatre into a twin showing a double bill of Footloose and Ghostbuster, and resurrecting the AIDS activist slogan SILENCE=DEATH in front of the Hirshhorn Museum.

…Later, crews built a Commander Salamander façade over the former Appalachian Spring American craft storefront next door to Reddz and across the street from the original Commander Salamander, now an M&T Bank. The secret was out. The ’80s and Wonder Woman had arrived.

Operating under the working title Magic Hour, Fleischer and counterpart Matthew Noonan approached D.C.’s Office of Cable, Television, Film, Music, and Entertainment (OCTFME) to set the groundwork for filming a live-action period film in D.C.

“They approached us because they heard about the incentive program,” says OCTFME Associate Director Herbert Niles, describing the agency’s Entertainment Rebate Fund. Since 2016, productions have been able to apply for a refund of up to 35 percent of qualified production expenditures provided they spend at least $250,000 in D.C. and hire residents to work on the crew. Warner Bros. Pictures’ Wonder Woman 1984 “represents the largest and most impactful production footprint in the District of Columbia since the film office was established [in 1979],” Niles says….

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 16, 1963The Outer Limits premiered on television

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 16, 1932 – Karen Anderson. Author with Poul Anderson, King of Ys series, also The Unicorn Trade likewise with him. She’s also cited as doing a lot of essays, short fiction and poetry, some with him, some not. She’s also cited as the author of Henry Kuttner: A Memorial Symposium. And I’d love to see the maps she’s credited with having done!
  • Born September 16 – Lisa Tuttle, 66. She won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, received Nebula Award for Best Short Story for “The Bone Flute” which she refused, and a BSFA Award for Short Fiction for “In Translation”.  For novels, I’ll single out The Mysteries, The Silver Bough and Catwitch, a YA novel she co-wrote with Una Woodruff. I highly recommend Stranger in the House: The Collected Short Supernatural Fiction, Volume One.
  • Born September 16 – Jan Siegel, 63. She’s best known for the Fern Capel series which consists of Prospero’s ChildrenThe Dragon-Charmer and The Witch’s Honour. She also did the YA Sangreal trilogy and a number of other works which may or may not be genre.
  • Born September 16 – Mike Mignola, 58. Illustrator and writer, best known for his long running Hellboy series. Two novels with Christopher Golden, Baltimore, or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire and Joe Golem and the Drowning City, another with Thomas E. Sniegoski, Grim Death and Bill, the Electrocuted Criminal. Extensive comics work as well including one of my favorite undertakings, Gotham by Gaslight.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • At Farcus two guys try to get their carcass on Noah’s Ark-us.
  • Get Fuzzy makes very, very, very bad use of CCGs.

(12) SCALZI BREAKOUT. I liked this series of groanworthy puns –

(13) I’M MELTING. “ICESat: Space will get unprecedented view of Earth’s ice” — ultraprecise measures of what we’ve lost.

The American space agency has launched a laser into orbit to measure the condition of Earth’s ice cover.

The satellite mission, called ICESat-2, should provide more precise information on how these frozen surfaces are being affected by global warming.

Antarctica, Greenland and the ice floating on the Arctic Ocean have all lost volume in recent decades….

(14) MORE ABOUT BEER. “‘World’s oldest brewery’ found in cave in Israel, say researchers” — pushes date from 5K to 13K years ago, and suggests beer may not have been a side-effect of making bread.

Researchers say they have found the world’s oldest brewery, with residue of 13,000-year-old beer, in a prehistoric cave near Haifa in Israel.

The discovery was made while they were studying a burial site for semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers.

Brewing beer was thought to go back 5,000 years, but the latest discovery may turn beer history on its head….

(15) COLD BALLOONS. Read about “The giant hangar built for an Arctic airship”:

In the photo, a huge silver airship floats over a large snowfield. On the sides of the airship are stamped in black capital letters, one word: ITALIA.

The machine itself is dwarfed by the snow-covered mountains that surround it on three sides. Their glaciers glisten in the spring sunshine. In front of it is the sea, full of floating chunks of ice.

Cables hang down from the sides of the craft like the antenna of an insect. A multitude of tiny stick-like figures await their orders below.

In front of the dirigible is a very large, strange-looking construction. It has no roof, but two sides that look like the giant wooden trestle bridges that you see in Westerns movies. It is clad in green canvas.

But what exactly is it?

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Escape (2018) a man realizes he is living in a simulation, in a short film narrated by Stephen Fry — “Stephen Fry Voices a New Dystopian Short Film About Artificial Intelligence & Simulation Theory”.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/23/17 Whenever We File Out, The Pixels Always Shout, ‘There Scrolls John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt!’

(1) TALKIN’ ABOUT MY REGENERATION. The Doctor Who Christmas Special 2017 trailer is online.

(2) A PREVIOUS GENERATION. Meanwhile, at Comic-Con, Harrison Ford still doesn’t know whether he was a replicant: “Blade Runner 2049: Harrison Ford responds to Deckard replicant mystery”.

Moderator Chris Hardwicke couldn’t help but ask Ford if Blade Runner 2049 would address the lingering questions about Deckard’s identity – human or replicant?

After a long pause, the star responded: “It doesn’t matter what I think.”

So that clears that up then.

(3) ACTUAL COMICS NEWS FROM COMIC-CON. NPR observes “Yes, Some Comics Are For Kids — And They’re Big Business”.

Before I left for San Diego Comic-Con this week, I checked in with Lucy Strother, a fourth grade teacher in Philadelphia whose students just love comics. “We have like a comics and graphic novels bin in the library and it’s perpetually empty because the kids are so obsessed with comics and graphic novels,” she says.

Strother says graphic novels are an important way to get kids used to reading longer chapter books with more mature ideas. And for her students, there’s one author who reigns supreme. “The queen of my classroom is Raina Telgemeier.”

“My name does mean queen,” Telgemeier laughs. She’s here at Comic-Con to talk comics and meet young readers; her latest graphic novel, Ghosts, is a gentle, lovely story for middle grade readers, about a girl coming to terms with her little sister’s serious illness.

(4) OPEN FOR CLICKS. The Westercon 72 (and aspiring 2019 NASFiC bid) website has gone live. The con will be in Layton, UT.

(5) OUT OF THE SHADOWS. Clarke Awards administrator Tom Hunter sent out the links himself:

Adrian Tchaikovsky has also been busy reviewing all six books on this year’s shortlist, splitting his reviews into three equal parts.

  • Part one: Faith In The Future covers A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers and Central Station by Lavie Tidhar.

I want to wave a flag for Chambers’ aliens?—?while there is a definite Trek-like philanthropic principle going on, the species are all well defined, and then the individuals are separately defined so that you don’t get the common problem of “all of X species are like this”, and furthermore “X species are basically humans with this hang up and a narrowed emotional range”. Like Planet, Orbit makes a virtue of telling the stories of ordinary people in a multispecies galactic community, with plenty of digressions and diversions that only add to the verisimilitude of the world and the characters.

  • Part two: The Evil That Men Do discusses The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and After Atlas by Emma Newman.

Where this book crosses from the historical into Clarkes territory is the railroad of the title. Now I have a confession here, because my knowledge of this period is limited and my first introduction to the phrase ‘underground railroad’ was in Babylon 5, which utterly baffled me because I thought they were talking about a literal one. And in Whitehead’s book, there is. Instead of the loose network of sympathisers and rescuers, white and black, there is a genuine railroad under the ground smuggling slaves from place to place, constantly in danger of being discovered by the slavers. In this way, Whitehead gives us the southern US as a series of “stations” (3) where different scenarios play out between black and white, slave and free.

Tricia Sullivan is a SF author of considerable repute, with Occupy Me her fourth visit to the Clarkes shortlist (having, I believe, won it in 1999 with Dreaming in Smoke). This is a book about time, space, energy and angels, and it’s going to be relatively difficult to talk about because finding out what is actually going on is one of the chief pleasures of the book. The plot effectively starts in the middle and then unfolds towards the beginning and the end simultaneously, and that is entirely appropriate for the sort of physics that is flying around in the plot. Flying, in fact, is a major theme.

(6) SURVIVING CHILDHOOD. Here are “9 dangerous toys that prove kids were just tougher before 1990”. John King Tarpinian says he had these —

Clackers

Clackers had a lot of fun nicknames: knockers, click-clacks, bangers, knocker bockers or knicker knackers. But by any name, these 1970s toys were dangerous as heck, especially if you got the original acrylic glass clackers that some kids were either strong enough or intent enough to shatter. It was enough to get the attention of the Society for Prevention of Blindness, who issued their own warning, before a 1973 Consumer Product Safety Commission arrived to deliver the country to the coddling culture that condemned toys like clackers (which are available today in safer wooden, plastic or metal varities) and birthed a generation of nervous parents today.

 

(7) CARLSON OBIT. SF Site News reports the death of Jeff Carlson:

Author Jeff Carlson (b.1969) died on July 17. Carlson published the short story “Exit” in 1994? and his next story, “Pressure,” appeared in 2001. His first novel, The Plague Year appeared in 2007 and opened a trilogy, including The Plague War and The Plague Zone….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 23, 1999 — Disney’s Tarzan became the first all-digital film
  • July 23, 1995 The Outer Limits reboot aired “I, Robot” with Leonard Nimoy

(9) WHETHER TO RATIFY. This year’s Hugo administrator Nicholas Whyte, writing as a private individual, gives his take on several rules changes pending at this year’s business meeting: “The 2017 WSFS Business Meeting: Deterring Slates”.

Three Stage Voting

I was one of a number of people last year who put our names to another proposal, Three Stage Voting, which is on the agenda as amendment C.4. This would introduce an extra voting stage. After nominations are made, and the top fifteen candidates identified, Hugo voters (members of that year’s Worldcon) would vote on whether or not to accept the top fifteen as acceptable finalists. Voters would choose “Reject”; “Accept; or “Abstain”. Those rejected by at least 60% of the combined total of “Accept” and “Reject” votes, if and only if the number of “Reject” votes is at least the higher of 600 or 20% of the number of eligible voters, would be barred from the final ballot, which would have the top five (or six) vote-getters from the nominations tally minus any that were rejected by the new process. This was passed by the 2016 Business Meeting and must now be ratified by the 2017 Business meeting to come into effect for next year.

I signed this last year, but I no longer support it, for the following reasons….

Whyte gives four reasons. When it comes to 3SV, Whyte and Dr. Mauser (quoted yesterday) have some common ground.

(10) PUMP UP THE VOLUME,  A different kind of Apple Music — “Sing Different: Steve Jobs’ Life Becomes An Opera”. Chip Hitchcock says, “It’s in an appropriately tech location; you can see the lights of Los Alamos from the theater site.”

Even Campbell was initially skeptical of the idea, which came from 40-year-old composer Mason Bates. Bates was convinced that in Jobs’ “complicated and messy” life, he’d found the right subject for his very first opera.

“He had a daughter he didn’t acknowledge for many years; he had cancer — you can’t control that,” Bates says. “He was, while a very charismatic figure, quite a hard-driving boss. And his collisions with the fact that he wanted to make everything sleek and controllable — yet life is not controllable — is a fascinating topic for an opera.”

The (R)evolution Of Steve Jobs shifts back and forth in time over the course of 18 scenes. Its fragmented, non-linear narrative was a deliberate choice by Campbell and Bates, who wanted to reflect Jobs’ personality and psyche. “Steve Jobs did have a mind that just jumped from idea to idea to idea — it was very quick,” Campbell says.

(11) WONDER WOMAN. Marcus Errico of Yahoo! Movies, reporting from Comic-Con, in “WONDER WOMAN II Offiicially Confirmed at Comic-Con, Script ‘In The Works Right Now”, writes DC “to the surprise of no one’ officially green-lit Wonder Woman II, but they’re still working on the script and Patty Jenkins is not yet attached to the project.

Every mention of the film, star Gal Gadot, or images of the Amazonian princess in action during Warners’ Saturday presentation in Hall H was an applause line. And when the simple Wonder Woman II graphic appeared at the end of a sizzle reel, the crowd went wild.

Gadot entered the Hall arm in arm with her Justice League co-star Ben Affleck, joining cast mates Jason MomoaEzra Miller, and Ray Fisher onstage to show off a new trailer for the Nov. 17 release.

(12) AND YOU THINK YOUR CON HAS TECH PROBLEMS. Pokemon Go event overloads: “Refunds as Pokemon fest beset by glitches”.

As many as 20,000 attendees at a Pokemon Go festival in Chicago are being offered refunds after technical glitches meant fans were mostly unable to catch anything – let alone “them all”.

Disappointed fans will also be offered $100 in the form of the app’s in-game currency, Pokecoins.

The event on Saturday had been touted as a chance for fans to come together and catch some of the rarest monsters on the hugely successful app.

But fans booed and chanted “fix our game!” and “we can’t play!” as executives from Niantic, the game’s creator, attempted to explain the problems.

At one point a bottle was thrown at a presenter on stage – it missed.

(13) FLORIDA MAN. The Orlando Sentinel reports a hometown fan (and File 770 reader) is headed for Helsinki.

Juan Sanmiguel’s affinity for intergalactic storytelling has taken him around the globe.

Next month he’ll check off a new country as he’s off to Finland for the annual Worldcon and Hugo Awards — which are known as the most prestigious for the science-fiction genre. The awards are scheduled for Aug. 11 in Helsinki.

For the past 25 years, he’s made the annual trek to the convention in countries such as Australia, Scotland, Canada and England.

“I haven’t missed one since [1992],” said Sanmiguel, who has attended the convention a total of 27 times. “It’s still prestigious … the biggest one so far was the one in London three years ago.”

Also president of the Orlando Area Science Fiction Society, Sanmiguel briefed members of the club Sunday on this year’s nominees, which include mainstream filmed works such as “Stranger Things,” “Deadpool,” “Ghostbusters” and two episodes of the acclaimed “Game of Thrones” series.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Nicholas Whyte, JJ, and Tom Hunter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Barrett.]

Pixel Scroll 4/14/17 A Long Time Ago, When Pixels Scrolled The Earth, A Filer Was Climbing Mount Tsundoku

(1) SF IN CHINA. At Amazing Stories, Shaoyan Hu highlights the developing science fiction scene in China

Science fiction is a growing phenomenon in China: the various organizations are living evidence of that. It’s not just Star Wars or The Three-Body Problem now, but a substantial foundation quickly coming into shape. Although speculative fiction is still a small portion of the market, the large population in China suggests a considerable potential return for whoever ventures into this new area. As it happens, quite a few principal investors already have eyes on the genre, but this is perhaps a topic for another time. For now, suffice it to say that the unceasing efforts of all the people within the SF community have given the genre a positive outlook in China and a flourishing future is yet to come.

(2) FILLING THE MISS PIGGY BANK. The Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, NY has launched a Kickstarter appeal to fund conservation of its Muppet collection reports the Seattle Times.

A museum is asking fans of Jim Henson’s Muppets to help pay for an exhibition featuring original puppets of beloved characters like Elmo, Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog.

The Museum of the Moving Image launched a Kickstarter campaign on Tuesday seeking $40,000 to help preserve the puppets for posterity.

“Jim Henson’s work has meant so much to so many people, myself included,” actor Neil Patrick Harris says in a video on the Kickstarter page. “His humor and inventiveness have inspired people to find their own creative voices.”

The Queens museum owns hundreds of Henson puppets and other objects including costumes and props, all donated by Henson’s family in 2013. Henson died in 1990.

Museum staff members are working to conserve the items along with Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, which was founded by Henson in 1979 and carries on his work, and fine-arts conservators.

The Kickstarter campaign has already raised $66,416, far in excess of its goal, with 26 days remaining.

(3) JEDI CRITIC. USA Today’s Jesse Yomtov took a look at The Last Jedi teaser trailer and decided it was time to speak up: “Why the Jedi were actually the worst and really should ‘end’”.

At the end of the first trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi (aka Episode VIII), Luke Skywalker brings up an important issue.

“I only know one truth,” he says. “It’s time for the Jedi to end.”

That sounds ominous and bad, but Luke is 100% correct. It’s not even up for debate that a group like the Jedi would be the bad guys in any other movie.

The Jedi were nearly brought to extinction at the end of Episode III, and while yeah it was the result of Palpatine’s super-evil scheme, it only got to that point because of their own incompetence and self-destructiveness.

Here are some of the most off-putting things about the Jedi Order:

(contains information/spoilers from The Clone Wars animated show, which ended three years ago so that’s kind of on you)…

(4) FINAL WORD ON CARRIE FISHER’S FUTURE IN STAR WARS. VIII yes, IX nay. That’s the word from Kathleen Kennedy.

Carrie Fisher will not appear in Star Wars: Episode IX, Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy said on Friday.

The announcement came during an interview with ABC News and was something of a bombshell, as Todd Fisher, the late actress’ brother, previously said his sister would be in the planned ninth installment of the blockbuster franchise. Kennedy said he was “confused.”

“Sadly, Carrie will not be in nine,” said Kennedy. “But we will see a lot of Carrie in eight.”

(5) FAMILY PORTRAIT. On the first day of the Star Wars Celebration happening in Florida, Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford posed with Billie Lourd, Carrie Fisher’s daughter.

(6) ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED. Ken Liu was finally able to reveal he is at work on a Star Wars book.

So, the news is out: I’m writing a Star Wars book as part of the Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi project. Working with the team at Lucasfilm Publishing has been such a pleasure — they’re the best.

I can’t tell you much about the book yet, except that it’s called The Legends of Luke Skywalker, it’s going to go on sale on 10/31/2017, and it’s going to be awesome….

I think a writer’s job is to build a strong, welcoming house. Readers then move in and fill the rooms with their individual experience and understanding of the world. And only then, after they’ve settled in and begun to explore, do they discover its little nooks and crannies, its hidden passages and secret staircases, and following these, they find breathtaking vistas of other planets, rogues who prize friendship more than treasure, mystical sages full of wisdom, princesses leading grand armies, and farm boys dreaming of walking among the stars …

The Star Wars universe is grand and beautiful, and it is ever expanding. To be able to build a house in this universe after my fashion, to welcome fellow fans and readers into this house, and to see them get comfortable and discover its secrets … I don’t have the words for my joy.

(7) ZUCCHINIS VS. BEETS. On March 31, Margaret Atwood discussed 10 of her favorite speculative fiction novels at the website Omnivoracious: The Amazon Book Review. But as you might expect, she has a few things to say about defining the term first:

There is still some fuzziness around the terms “speculative fiction” and “science fiction.” Some say that “speculative fiction” includes such things as horror and reality-based dystopias and vampire stories, with “science fiction” being a subset. Others make a distinction between “science fiction” – hard and soft, but involving other planets and universes accessed by devices we do not currently have and cannot realistically expect to have – and “speculative fiction,” located on this earth and containing no devices that we cannot currently foresee. Let’s just say that there is a difference in nature between stories set in a universe far, far away – some call these “science fiction fantasy” — and those set on this planet, in a future we can plausibly describe, though not infallibly predict. (No predictions are infallible.) All fictions both entertain – otherwise nobody turns the pages – and also instruct – because stories will inevitably be given a moral interpretation by readers, language and people being what they are. But the far, far away galaxy kind – let us call them “zucchinis” – will inspire less immediate fear than the other kind – let us call them “beets.”

The list below is a list of “beets.”  There are many more, but these are some of the books I have read and enjoyed. They concern this earth and what is possible on it, given the knowledge available at the time of their writing. They are mostly dystopias – they describe a world we would rather not have. But some are utopias – they point to improvements.”

From the middle of her list –

Riddley Walker by Russell Hoban

A personal favourite. Written in the Future-English of a post-apocalyptic British teenager. The apocalypse has been atomic, as they once were. Young Riddley is on a quest, as his riddle-based first name and his ambulatory last one would suggest. A puppet show featuring Mister Clevver is his day job, insofar as he has one. Beware of Mister Clevver!

(8) TWEETS OF THE DAY. The investigation begins at SFWA.

(9) TAKE-OUT. Episode 34 of Scott Edelman’s Eating the Fantastic podcast takes place in the middle of Brian Keene’s live-streamed fundraising telethon. At first, Keene couldn’t find time in his schedule —

But when it came time for Brian to record the 100th episode of The Horror Show as a live 24-hour-long telethon to raise funds for the Scares That Care charity, he had a brainstorm—that I invade his event with a meal of some sort, and record my own show as part of his livestream.

So that’s what I did—show up at a conference room of a Hunt Valley hotel with a ton of takeout from Andy Nelson’s Barbecue, which has repeatedly been voted best BBQ by Baltimore Magazine—bringing enough to feed Brian, his co-hosts, and some of the live studio audience you’ll hear in this episode, too.

Brian’s published more than 40 novels, including the best-selling The Rising, and he’s the winner of the 2014 World Horror Grand Master Award. He’s also written comics, including the adventures of the Doom Patrol.

We discussed why the ending to The Rising isn’t as bewildering as some seem to think it is, whether new horror writers should try to replicate his career path, how Marvel Comics creator Steve Gerber is responsible for him becoming a writer, the shady way Brian amassed the largest comics collection in the sixth grade, if he’s a Scully who changed into a Mulder as he got older or if he’s been a Mulder all along, and more…

(10) GETTING AROUND HELSINKI. Going to Worldcon 75? Then this info is for you:

The Helsinki Regional Transit Authority (Helsingin Seudun Liikenne) has announced that as of June 19, 2017, tickets will no longer be sold on Helsinki commuter trains, and therefore must be purchased in advance from one of the available outlets: ticket machines (map of ticket machine locations), the HSL mobile phone application, or HSL Travel Cards.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 14, 1912 – The Titanic strikes the iceberg.

(12) A NIGHTMARE TO REMEMBER. As a child, Steve Vertlieb was haunted by the image of the Titanic:

One hundred five years ago tonight, at 11:40 PM, RMS Titanic fulfilled its terrifying date with history as innumerable heroic souls perished beneath the icy waters of The Atlantic. This horrifying remembrance remains among the most profoundly significant of my own 71 years. As a little boy, during the early-to-mid-1950s, I was tormented night after night by nightmares of finding myself upon the deck of a huge ocean liner cruising the darkened waters of the Atlantic. After a time, I’d find myself walking along the brooding ocean floor, enveloped in crushing darkness, when I sensed a horrifying presence behind me. I’d turn slowly each night with fear and encroaching trepidation. As I gazed up into the watery sky, I’d find myself next to the enormous hull of a wrecked and decaying ship. I awoke screaming on each of these nights. I’d never heard of Titanic in my early years, but I was tormented by these crippling dreams, night after suffocating night, for years. To this day, the very sight and sound of the name “Titanic” sends me into cold sweats and an ominous sense of dread, and foreboding. I’ve come to believe that I may have been aboard the doomed ocean liner that awful night, and that I’d been reincarnated three decades later. I fear the ocean still. Suffice to say, it is a chilling remembrance that will forever haunt my dreams. May God rest Her immortal soul, and all those who perished that terrible night.

(13) HOPE FOR THE WORLD. It’s Good Friday, but this is not about that. Rather, James Artimus Owen draws our attention to another epochal breakthrough:

I’m…feeling some very, very strong emotions that I don’t know how to process. I think I knew, somehow, but didn’t realize until just now – Burger King really does have Froot Loops shakes. They exist. And thus give me hope for the whole world. #apexofcivilization

We confirmed this with Fox News. (How often do you get to say that with a straight face?) Froot Loops shakes debut at participating Burger King stores nationwide on April 17, but will only be around for a limited time.

So what, exactly, is in a cereal milkshake?

According to a spokeswoman for Burger King, the drink features “velvety Vanilla-flavored Soft Serve, Froot Loops Cereal pieces and sweet sauce.”

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY SLAYER

  • Born April 14, 1977 – Sarah Michelle Gellar

(15) PUPPIES FOR PRESIDENT. Lou Antonelli ran a poll on his Facebook page asking people to vote for the sf writer they’d most like to see as President of the U.S.

In Antonelli’s case, that doesn’t necessarily mean he was looking for any great departure from the current tenant of the White House – and he certainly didn’t end up with one.

TRUMPETS!

DRUM ROLL!

THROAT CLEARING…

President… Larry Correia!

The clear winner with 18 votes.

It was very close for second place. John Ringo had nine votes and Tom Kratman had eight.

A strong fourth place showing goes to an author who would not be considered right-of-center by any definition, David Brin – which shows there is come diversity of political opinion among my Friends.

Dr. Jerry Pournelle received five votes, and Ursula LeGuin – also certainly not a right-winger – received four.

(16) TAD WILLIAMS. Patrick St-Denis of Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist interviewed Tad Williams about his return to the universe of Osten Ard in The Witchwood Crown.

Stephen R. Donaldson once said that he waited for so long to write The Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant because he wasn’t ready and needed to grow as an author before he felt comfortable tackling such a project. Would you say that, at least to a certain extent, this was one of the reasons why it took so long for you to finally decide to write the long-awaited sequel to Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn?

Yes, but not necessarily in the same way as Donaldson’s talking about. I said for years that I wouldn’t write a sequel to anything or even re-visit a world unless I had a story first, a story that cried out to be written. And for years Osten Ard was in that category, although I had thought a bit about the Chronicle project. Then, when I sat down one time to list off for Deborah (my wife and business partner) all the reasons I had no more stories about Simon and Miriamele and Binabik and the rest, I realized that I had left most of the main characters still very much in the bloom of their youth, and that after decades of life and growing responsibility — which I had undergone myself since I wrote it — they must all look at the world very differently. That set me to thinking, and within one night the first rudiments of the story for The Last King of Osten Ard (the title for the whole series) had begun to take real shape. So every moment I was aging, and moving from one country to another, and becoming a parent, and so on, I was actually creating a plot for new Osten Ard books without realizing it.

(17) YOUR SHADOW CLARKE JURY AT WORK. Racing to finish ahead of the shortlist announcement, scant weeks away —

This is the first novel I’ve read from my shortlist that feels like it belongs on the actual Clarke shortlist. Written by a genre outsider, but built definitively upon a classic sci-fi concept, and clearly aware of decades of science fiction fandom and inside jokes, it ticks a few those well-established Clarke-preferred boxes. It’s also quite enjoyable for those same reasons.

It follows the Toula/Tolliver family over four generations of delusions of grandeur beginning with Ottokar Toula: family patriarch, pickle cultivator, and mad scientist of the pre-Atomic Age. His “discovery” of the Lost Time Accidents is overshadowed by the work of “the patent clerk” in Switzerland, dooming the Toula name to forgotten history. That is, until his son, Waldemar, seizes upon Ottokar’s ideas and uses Nazi-era concentration camps to carry out his secret, malevolent time experiments…

We awaken in a contemporary alternate Finland, a country whose path diverged from its realworld twin’s shortly after World War One. We discover that Finland is now a eusistocracy – all for the best in the best of all possible worlds – separated technologically and politically from the ‘hedonistic democracies’ of the rest of Europe and forging its own path to racial purity, social stability and material content. In this new Finland, a systematic program of eugenics has been implemented in order to reinstitute traditional gender roles and relieve the increasing psychological and social tension that has been the inevitable result of female emancipation:

Nowadays, when people talk about science fiction being socially relevant, they often gesture towards Dave Hutchinson’s on-going Fractured Europe series and how the early books seemed to pre-empt not only the break-up of the European Union but also the brutal militarisation of European borders. Though dystopias will always have a role to play in helping us to prepare for unwanted futures, there is also something to be said for books that make a positive case for what it is that we are about to lose. Hutchinson’s books may be about the ugly, regressive, and nationalistic future we are going to get but Lavie Tidhar’s Central Station is about the beautiful, strange, and unapologetically multicultural future we need.

Science fiction is not and never has been about predicting the future. But it is about using satire, extrapolation, exaggeration, distortion and any other tools at its disposal to reflect and comment upon the present. Right now, Europe is in a parlous state. The enterprise of friendship and cooperation that began in the wake of the Second World War is under unprecedented threat from the emergence of just such nationalist movements that it was deliberately conceived to counter. There are currently populist movements whose avowed aims are directly counter to the European ideal active and prominent in the UK, France, Holland, Germany, Italy, Austria, Greece, Hungary, Poland and elsewhere. This is the world we live in. It is not the world we encounter in contemporary science fiction.

The Fractured Europe sequence may not be a perfect way of bringing this modern world into science fiction, but since it is the only way that anyone is currently attempting, it is de facto the best.

The last one is a roundup rather than a review:

…On which note, it seems only fair that I come clean regarding how I, personally, feel about my personal shortlist now that I’ve read it. Did the books I chose turn out to be as worthwhile, not to mention as Clarke-worthy, as I hoped they would be? The short answer, I suppose, would have to be partly, and no. Above a certain level, very few books are ever entirely a waste of reading time, and that certainly holds true here….

(18) BE YOUR OWN RORSCHACH. Who was that masked man? — “How what you wear can help you avoid surveillance”.

Imagine you’re living in a dystopian future. Surveillance cameras scan the streets to recognise and record the faces of passersby – but you’re wearing a HyperFace scarf. Amid a kinetic assortment of grid-like structures printed on the fabric, black squares suggest tiny eyes, noses and mouths. The cameras’ facial recognition algorithms are confused. Your identity is secure; your privacy, protected.

(19) FANTASTIC FICTION AT KGB. On April 19, Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Laura Anne Gilman & Seth Dickinson.

Laura Anne Gilman

Laura Anne Gilman is the author of the best-selling Devil’s West novels (Silver on the Road and The Cold Eye) which NPR described as “a true American myth being found,” the Nebula-nominated Vineart War trilogy, and the story collection Darkly Human. Her writing past encompasses a ten-book urban fantasy series, a quartet of cozy mysteries, three paranormal romances, and a middle-grade Arthurian adventure. A once and future New Yorker, she currently lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Seth Dickinson

Seth Dickinson’s short stories have been published in in ClarkesworldStrange HorizonsLightspeed and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and elsewhere. He also contributed writing to video games, including Destiny: The Taken King. His first novel the epic fantasy The Traitor Baru Cormorant was published in 2015 and he’s working on a sequel.

Wednesday, April 19th, 2017, 7pm at KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)

(20) CONCERN TROLL ON DUTY. Superversive SF’s “sciphi” (which I believe is editor Jason Rennie) is worried about the impact Monica Valentinelli’s decision to quit as Odyssey Con GoH will have on other women authors. Sure he is. — “Why doesn’t Monica Valentinelli want women as Guests of Honour?”

What I am wondering though is, has Monica considered the wider implications of this sort of diva behaviour? If you were organising a Con would you invite her as Guest of Honour? I wouldn’t given this is her idea of professional behaviour. More than that, this will likely cause any rational Con organiser, even if only unconsciously, to be less willing to invite any women as Guest of Honour. Who wants the headache of someone flaking at the last second because they have decided their feelings of “unsafeness” trump any consideration of professional behaviour or the enormous problems it will cause other people? Monica in her betrayal of the trust shown in her has made it harder for women everywhere. What if a guest you have invited and planned for decides to “Pull a Valentinelli” at the last second? I suppose it isn’t fair to generalise this to all female authors, as much as it would be more reasonable to generalise this to any sort of grievance peddling group instead.

The people I feel most sorry for are the Jagi Lamplighters, Sarah Hoyt’s and other female authors of the world who are actual professionals and would never engage in this sort of childish tantrum, but whose prospects are damaged by one ridiculous drama queen and idiots who are enabling her behaviour.

(21) SUPERVERSIVE SF’S RESPECT FOR WOMEN. Immediately preceding that post on the site is a reprint of one of their “more popular Superversive articles,” “The Bosom-Jiggle Factor”, which is indeed about what you were assuming. With illustrations. And the name of the author? Answer: L. Jagi Lamplighter Wright.

“The Needs of Drama vs. The Needs of Culture, as illustrated by the BJF Index:”…

The Needs of Drama—the qualities that make a story dramatic, eye-catching, intriguing. Sex, sizzle, bang, POW! Seduction! Explosions! LOTS OF CAPTIALS AND EXCAMATIONS!!!!!!

The Needs of Culture—the desire to use the story to teach lessons needed to participate in the culture, like an Asops Fable or a morality play. These stories include topics like: How to behave. How to treat friends. How to treat strangers. What is and is not moral. – the message of the work.

It is not my opinion that one of these forces is better than the other. Rather, I believe that there needs to be a harmonious marriage of the two of a work to be really great.

Too much drama leads to meaningless sex and bloodshed. Too much culture leads to boring message fiction….

(22) A WORD FROM THE SPONSOR. Because you don’t watch enough commercials already, click this link to watch Baby Groot and the GEICO gecko trying to sell you insurance.

(23) CIRQUE DU PIZZA. Hampus Eckerman is right – you shouldn’t miss this.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Rob Thornton, Steve Vertlieb, Mark-kitteh, and Hampus Eckerman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

Pixel Scroll 4/4/17 I Used To Be A Filer Like You, But Then I Took A Pixel In The Knee

(1) CATAPOSTROPHE. New Mexico fan Jack Speer’s relentless habit of correcting others’ fanwriting earned him the nickname “Grammar West of the Pecos.” Sounds like they’ve found his soul-mate in England — “’Banksy of punctuation’ puts full stop to bad grammar in Bristol”.

BBC tracks down self-styled ‘grammar vigilante’ on mission to rid city of rogue apostrophes

…He told the BBC he was a family man who worked in engineering. “I’m a grammar vigilante,” he said. “I do think it’s a cause worth pursuing.”

The man said he began by scratching out an extraneous apostrophe on a sign but had since become more sophisticated and has built an “apostrophiser” – a long-handled piece of kit that allows him to reach up to shop signs to add in, or cover up, offending punctuation marks. “This is a device that enables you to plant an apostrophe quite high up and get over any obstacles,” he said.

(2) PACK YOUR BOOKS. For years there have been stories that TOR will move out of the Flatiron Building and a new report from a real estate blog makes it sound like it could happen. Really. Maybe.

Another one of the book business’s “Big 5” publishers is seeking a new chapter in Lower Manhattan. Macmillan Publishers, the sole office tenant at the landmarked Flatiron Building, is weighing a move to Silverstein Properties’Equitable Life Building at 120 Broadway, sources tell The Real Deal.

…If the deal goes through, it would be the first time the Flatiron Building, owned by Sorgente Group of America, would be completely empty since it was built more than 100 years ago. Part of the reason Macmillan is relocating is the fact that the Flatiron District, the area named for the 22-story building, has become the epicenter of the city’s technology industry, driving up rents.

Sorgente could either lease the building to higher-paying tenants, or follow through on a plan it previously considered to convert it into a hotel.

(3) BOOK RECS WANTED. James Davis Nicoll will soon be writing two milestone reviews and is looking for book recommendations.

I have two notable reviews coming up for my Because My Tears Are Delicious To You reviews: the 150th one and the third anniversary one. Tears reviews are of books I read and liked as a teenager (between 1974 and 1981). I welcome suggestions for candidate books.

(4) JACK WILLIAMSON LECTURESHIP. The 41st Annual Jack Williamson Lectureship will be given by Melinda Snodgrass on April 7 at Eastern New Mexico University in Portales.

The 41st Annual Jack Williamson Lectureship, with events April 7, 2017, welcomes author and friend of the Lectureship, Melinda M. Snodgrass, with special guest author Michael Cassutt, and writers, friends and fans from across the region for this annual celebration of Jack Williamson and the genre to which he contributed so significantly.

This year’s theme is Wild Cards! – the shared universe anthologies by some of the best writers in science fiction, edited by George R.R. Martin and Melinda Snodgrass. First released in 1987, the series published its 23rd volume in 2016. Adapted to role-playing games and comics, the Wild Cards series is now slated for television by Universal Cable Production (UCP), executive producer Melinda Snodgrass, with SyFy Films’ Gregory Noveck….

(5) PREHISTORIC COMIC CON. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler ingeniously makes his visit to last weekend’s Wondercon look like it happened in 1962.

(6) BLACK HOLE BIRTHDAY PARTY. “Massive explosion from unknown source billions of light years away baffles astronomers” starts out as a news item, then delves deep into black holes. As so much news does these days….

This enabled a distance to the burst to be measured: about 12 billion light years. The universe has expanded to four times the size it was then, 12 billion years ago, the time it took the light to reach Earth.

GRB170202 was so far away, even its host galaxy was not visible, just darkness. Because the GRB was a transient, never to be seen again, it is like turning on a light in a dark room (the host galaxy) and trying to record the detail in the room before the light goes out.

Mystery of gamma ray burst

The flash of gamma radiation and subsequent optical transient is the telltale signature of a black hole birth from the cataclysmic collapse of a star. Such events are rare and require some special circumstances, including a very massive star up to tens of solar masses (the mass of our Sun) rotating rapidly with a strong magnetic field….

(7) ON TRACK. Yahoo!’s story “Cyborgs at work: employees getting implanted with microchips” comes from Stockholm.

The syringe slides in between the thumb and index finger. Then, with a click, a microchip is injected in the employee’s hand. Another “cyborg” is created.

What could pass for a dystopian vision of the workplace is almost routine at the Swedish startup hub Epicenter. The company offers to implant its workers and startup members with microchips the size of grains of rice that function as swipe cards: to open doors, operate printers, or buy smoothies with a wave of the hand.

The injections have become so popular that workers at Epicenter hold parties for those willing to get implanted.

(8) COMPETING NARRATIVES. David Gerrold ended his overview of the 2017 Hugo finalists with these comments:

My seat-of-the-pants analysis (I could be wrong) is that the Hugos are in the process of recovering from the 2015 assault, precisely because the Worldcon attendees and supporters see themselves as a community.

There’s a thought buried in that above paragraph — that communities unite to protect themselves when they perceive they are under attack. This works well when the attack is real, such as Pearl Harbor. But it can also have negative effects when hate-mongers such as Bryan Fischer and Pat Robertson (both of whom were in fine form this week) invent a scapegoat (LGBT people) for unwarranted attacks in an attempt to unite the community around their own agendas.

So while those who have a long history of participation in Worldcons will see this unity as a good thing — those who identify themselves as the aggrieved outsiders will see it as more evidence that the establishment is shutting them out.

Myself, I see it as a collision of two narratives — one that is based on 75 years of mostly healthy traditions, and one that is based on a fascist perception of how the world works.

Most important, however, is that most of this year’s ballot suggests that we are seeing a return to the previous traditions of nominations based on excellence. Most of the nominations are well-deserved, and my congratulations to the finalists.

(9) GLEE. The Book Smugglers were pleased with their Best Semiprozine nomination and that’s not all —

Now, the best thing about this year’s Hugos? Is that it feels GREAT to be a part of it again – it’s super easy to get excited and happy about the ballot with so many great people and works on it and with what seems to be like an almost canine-free ballot. We can’t wait to spend the next few months squeeing and discussing and agonising over who to vote for. Seriously, check out that Best Novel list – some of our favourites of 2016 are there!!

(10) NO WEISSKOPF. A lot of Finns are happy with the Hugo ballot. Not this one. Declan Finn covered the announcement: “Newsflash: Hugo Awards Swamped by Crap”.

Six nominees for best editor. See anything missing?

I’ll give you a hint: we were all told that This Person would have almost certainly have won the Hugo award for best editor, but she lost because she was a Puppy Pick.

If you said, “Who is Toni Weisskopf, Alex?” you’d be right.

But strangely enough, Toni isn’t here. But she’s not a Puppy Pick this year. We were all told that she would have won if she weren’t a Puppy Pick.

Guess what: she wouldn’t have even been NOMINATED if she weren’t a Puppy Pick.

They lied. Shocking, isn’t it?

He also did not approve of the Best Series finalists. Or anything else, really, except for Jeffro Johnson and the Castalia House blog.

(11) SCHADENFREUDE. Jon del Arroz is thrilled by the substantial dropoff in nominating ballots since a year ago.

Of course, in recent years, they’ve been telling anyone who’s a conservative or Christian that they’re not real fans, and not welcome at their conventions, certainly never allowed to speak.  And so the Sad Puppies were born, and had a good run for a few years before once again, just like their projecting meme, the establishment behind the Hugos said “these are not real fans” and changed the rules to make it impossible for anyone but their chosen to get noticed.

The Puppies pulled out. I promised you numbers, and here’s what we have.

Best Novel: 2,078 ballots in 2017 vs. 3,695 ballots in 2016, a 44% drop.

Best Novella:  1,410 ballots in 2017 vs. 2,416 ballots in 2016, a 42% drop.

Best Novelette: 1,097 ballots in 2017 vs. 1,975 ballots in 2016, a 45% drop.

Best Short Story: 1,275 ballots in 2017 vs. 2,451 ballots in 2016, a 52% drop.

I can keep going on with the numbers here, but that kind of pull out of an audience is staggering. If this were a TV show or a comic, it would be instantly cancelled. The execs would be using this as a case study as to what went wrong and why so that they could never do it again. Kinda like is beginning to happen in comics right now (but they’re still in the denial stage of grief).

You’re seeing about a thousand less votes across the board per category. That means a thousand less people with memberships than last year. Wow. Note to “real science fiction fandom”: you told about half your audience you hate them and you want them to go away. They did. This spells big trouble for you in the future.

(12) FROM A RETIREE. The world is filled with people who are pleased to pass along any piece of news they know will annoy the recipient. Larry Correia has a friend like that, and the upshot was “Don’t Forget to Nominate for the Dragon Awards”.

The reason for this post was that a friend of mine sent me a PM this morning, that they had announced the Hugo nominations, and gave me a link. Being retired from trying to cure Puppy Related Sadness, I only gave the list a brief cursory glance, saw the names of many proper goodthinkers, and counted like a dozen(+) nominations for Tor, so it appears that balance has been restored to their sainted halls of Trufans enjoying themselves in the proper approved manner. I’m sure many wooden buttholes will be sacrificed upon the altar of Social Justice.

(13) EYES RIGHT. The Castalia House blog had not posted an acknowledgement of its Best Fanzine nomination when I looked. They were just doing business as usual, showing how they earned that nomination with their two latest posts, “The Most Overrated Novel of the 20th Century by Alex Stump” (about Frank Herbert’s Dune) and “How Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman and Frank Miller Ruined Comics by Jon Del Arroz”.

(14) ON TOUR IN CLEVELAND. John Scalzi tweeted about the ballot several times. He may have been overlooked for awards, but there was good news about his latest novel.

And as Jerry Pournelle often says, “Money will get you through times of no Hugos better than Hugos will get you through times of no money.”

(15) STILL FLYING. Harrison Ford keeps license, escapes fine for piloting error after an FAA investigation into his taxiway landing:

After actor Harrison Ford landed his small plane on a taxiway, rather than a runway, at John Wayne Airport in Orange County, Calif., in February, the Federal Aviation Administration began looking into the incident….

The Federal Aviation Administration determined at the conclusion of its inquiry that “no administrative or enforcement action was warranted,” Ford’s lawyer, Stephen Hofer said in a statement. “Mr. Ford retains his pilot’s certificate without restriction.”

The actor, who played swashbuckling space smuggler and Millennium Falcon pilot Han Solo in the “Star Wars” film franchise, also was cited by the agency for his “long history of compliance” with FAA regulations and “his cooperative attitude during the investigation,” Hofer said.

Although Ford incurred no penalty, he agreed to undergo voluntary “airman counseling” before the FAA closed the matter, his lawyer said.

(The BBC used a more colorful metaphor: No fines for Ford for being a ‘schmuck’)

(16) WHAT IF THEY CHEAT BETTER? Web inventor slams US, UK attacks on net privacy.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee was speaking to the BBC following the news that he has been given the Turing Award.

It is sometimes known as the Nobel Prize of computing.

Sir Tim said moves to undermine encryption would be a “bad idea” and represent a massive security breach.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd has said there should be no safe space for terrorists to be able to communicate online. But Sir Tim said giving the authorities a key to unlock coded messages would have serious consequences.

“Now I know that if you’re trying to catch terrorists it’s really tempting to demand to be able to break all that encryption but if you break that encryption then guess what – so could other people and guess what – they may end up getting better at it than you are,” he said.

(17) WHAT IF THEY CHEAT A LOT BETTER? It depends on how much those cheaters have prospered. These guys made a lot: “Overwatch ‘cheat maker’ told to pay $8.6m to Blizzard”.

“The Bossland hacks destroy the integrity of the Blizzard games, thereby alienating and frustrating legitimate players and diverting revenue from Blizzard to defendants,” the US games developer had argued.

The tools included the ability to see other players’ positions, health scores and other information from a distance within games.

The Zwickau-based firm’s managing director said it did not accept the US court had jurisdiction over it, and that the judgement did not take into account that many of the licences it had sold had been “trials” at a fraction of the normal cost.

“We are discussing with our lawyers how to continue – if an appeal to the declined motion to dismiss is worth trying,” Zwetan Letschew told the BBC.

Bossland’s website remains active and continues to advertise cheats for several Blizzard games, insisting “botting is not against any law”.

(18) A WIZ OF A WIZ HE IS. “Ian McKellen Explains Why He Refused to Play Dumbledore in Harry Potter” at io9.

Anyway, McKellen is in good spirits about the whole thing. When host Stephen Sackur asked, “You mean you could have been Dumbledore?” McKellen responded, “Well sometimes, sometimes when I see the posters of [Harris’ eventual replacement] Mike Gambon, the actor who gloriously plays Dumbledore, I think sometimes it is me.”

(19) INVENTORY READY TO GO. I foolishly wasted my time writing news posts when I could have been preparing to monetize my nomination!

And The Mary Sue is so excited they turned the Hugo Award announcement into a Chuck Tingle promo with three of his book covers for art.  Love of money is real!

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, JJ, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Greg Hullender.]