The Horror Writers Association announced the winners of three service awards on March 31. Ordinarily these awards would have been presented at the annual Stokercon, but this year’s event in the UK has been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
RICHARD LAYMON PRESIDENT’S AWARD. The Richard Laymon President’s Award is named in honor of Richard Laymon, who died in 2001 while serving as the HWA’s President. As the name implies, it is given by the HWA’s sitting President. The award is presented to a volunteer who has served HWA in an especially exemplary manner and has shown extraordinary dedication to the organization.
The 2019 Richard Laymon President’s Award winner is Rena Mason.
Rena Mason is an American author of horror fiction and a three-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award . Her literary debut, The Evolutionist, won the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Novel in 2013, while her novella East End Girls was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Best Long Fiction. She has also been awarded HWA’s Silver Hammer Award.
SILVER HAMMER AWARD. The HWA presents the Silver Hammer Award in recognition of extraordinary volunteerism by a member who dedicates valuable time and effort to the organization. The award is determined by HWA’s Board of Trustees.
Leslie S. Klinger is the New York Times-best-selling editor of the Edgar®-winning New Annotated Sherlock Holmes and the critically-acclaimed New Annotated Dracula and New Annotated Frankenstein, as well as numerous other books and articles on Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, horror, vampires, and the Victorian age. He also edited or co-edited eight anthologies of mysteries, horror, and vampire fiction. His books include the Bram Stoker Award®-nominated four-volume The Annotated Sandman with Neil Gaiman (Vertigo) and The New Annotated H. P. Lovecraft, as well as the highly-regarded Watchmen: The Annotated Edition. Klinger currently serves as Treasurer of the Horror Writers Association.
MENTOR OF THE YEAR AWARD. Lee Murray is HWA’s Mentor of the Year Award recipient for 2019. HWA presents the award “in recognition of a member who distinguishes herself in helping mentees, while serving in the HWA’s Mentor Program.”
Lee Murray is a multi-award-winning writer and editor of science fiction, fantasy, and horror (Sir Julius Vogel, Australian Shadows) and a two-time Bram Stoker Award® nominee. Her works include the Taine McKenna military thrillers, and supernatural crime-noir series The Path of Ra, co-written with Dan Rabarts, as well as several books for children. She is proud to have edited thirteen speculative works, including award-winning titles Baby Teeth: Bite Sized Tales of Terror and At the Edge (with Dan Rabarts), Te K?rero Ahi K? (with Grace Bridges and Aaron Compton) and Hellhole: An Anthology of Subterranean Terror. She is the co-founder of Young New Zealand Writers, an organisation providing development and publishing opportunities for New Zealand school students, and co-founder of the Wright-Murray Residency for Speculative Fiction Writers. In February 2020, Lee was made an Honorary Literary Fellow in the New Zealand Society of Authors Waitangi Day Honours. Lee lives over the hill from Hobbiton in New Zealand’s sunny Bay of Plenty where she dreams up stories from her office overlooking a cow paddock. Read more at www.leemurray.info. She tweets @leemurraywriter
Upon being informed of the award, Lee commented:
“I’m so grateful for this unexpected honour from my friends at the Horror Writers Association. To be included on a list with previous Mentor of the Year winners such as Tim Waggoner, Linda Addison, and Greg Faherty, people I admire and adore, well, as the kids say, ‘I can’t even!’ Special thanks must go to my own writing mentors—Jenny Argante, Graeme Lay, Jonathan Maberry, my dad—folk whose quiet belief in me has been both uplifting and humbling. But the truth is, I’ve never escaped a mentorship without learning something, so I’m thankful for the wonderful lessons my HWA colleagues have offered me, for giving me a sneak-peek into their writing processes and the deliciously dark stories they’re conjuring in the twisted shadows of their minds. Mostly, I’m grateful for their fellowship and the lifelong friendships forged through our mentoring partnerships. Because, ultimately, we all get by with a little help from our friends.”
We are currently working on an online event to replace it — a WisCOnline, if you will. More details will be coming in a second blog post by next Monday (March 30).
WisCon 45, in May 2021, will be a banger, with all the elements of WisCon 44 that we are unable to carry off online, as well as all of the normal elements of WisCon 45! More details will be coming soon on W45 as we confirm them; watch this space!
The live streaming event will take place on Discord, a wonderful service for audio and text chatting – a free account will be needed to participate. The link you will need for the event is https://discord.gg/ZJfh7xD if you want to participate in the live text chat or want to be a reader. If you just want to listen, the live stream should be available on YouTube, thanks to the excellent support of the German Tolkien Society (Deutsche Tolkien Gessellshaft e.V.) – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCerbg8qXXeiQEvxq7u6Kz6w
You are welcome to join in at any time, though there will not be any scheduled readings until March 25th. If you would like to schedule a time to read something, please contact me through private message and we will work it out. Open mic readings will take place all day long as well if you just want to drop in.
Some of the guest readers will be: Marcel Aubron-Bülles, Dr. Luke Shelton, John Garth, Carl Hostetter, Dr. Andrew Higgins, Jason Fisher, Brian Sibley, Chica Chubb (Japan), Dr. Sara Brown, Stephen Hunter (“Bombur” in The Hobbit movies), Bruce Hopkins (“Gamling” in The Lord of the Rings movies), Ted Nasmith, Verlyn Flieger, and Dr. Una McCormack
(5) KAYMAR. Fan artist Jose Sanchez is the winner of the
2020 Kaymar Award, given by the National Fantasy Fan Federation.
Jose’s artistic contributions have added brilliance to the covers of the N3F’s magazines, including N’APA, Tightbeam, and Eldritch Science. Three cheers for Jose’s contributions! And may they long continue!
Jemisin cites the recent debates over the World Fantasy Award (which has traditionally been shaped as a bust of H.P. Lovecraft despite the “Call of Cthulhu” author’s public record of vile racism) as one of the main inspirations for The City We Became. That aforementioned “otherworldly threat” facing New York resembles both Lovecraft’s work and his life. The Enemy, as the characters refer to their many-headed foe, sometimes appears in the form of strange tentacled monsters (very reminiscent of Lovecraft’s signature Great Old Ones), but other times disguise themselves in human form as white gentrifiers and alt-right racists. Lovecraft himself lived in New York for a time, and documented in letters how repellent he found the city’s signature mix of people from all ethnicities and walks of life.
“It’s basically me mentally and spiritually engaging with the whole idea of how so much fantasy owes itself to Lovecraft, while overlooking his glaring flaws,” Jemisin says. “I also read some of his letters where you can see him just being horrifically racist, using the same language to refer to people in New York City the same way he refers to the Great Old Ones and Nyarlathotep and all the other creations of his. It’s kind of a deep dive into how pathological racists think. You cannot read Lovecraft without understanding that this is what’s in Stephen Miller’s head. There are all these people out there who sadly and horrifyingly now have positions of power, and they think of their fellow human beings this way.”
(7) UDERZO OBIT. Albert Uderzo
(co-creator of Asterix) has died at 92 according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Astérix,which has a cult following, particularly in Europe, has also becomea major film franchise, both in animated and live-action form. The property has spawned a number of cinematic adaptations, most notably 1999’s Asterix & Obelix Take on Caesar, starring Gerard Depardieu and Roberto Benigni.
Asterix debuted in October 1959 in the French magazine Pilote, created by René Goscinny and Uderzo. Two years later, the first stand-alone effort, Astérix the Gaul, was released. Since then, the series has gone on to sell more than 380 million copies, translated into more than 100 languages internationally. The duo collaborated on the comic until the death of Goscinny in 1977. Uderzo then took over the writing until 2009.
March 24, 1946 — The Shadow’s“The Walking Corpse” first aired. Like most of The Shadow stories aired after the brief glorious run of Orson Welles as The Shadow in the Thirties, little is known about who was involved it in though it is known that Eric Walker was the writer. We were unable to pin down who were the actors involved, nor who the sponsors were. If you listen to the episode, do tell us what you find out!
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born March 24, 1834 — William Morris. Credited with creating the modern fantasy literature genre, he certainly wrote some of its earlier works, to note his epic poem The Earthly Paradise, The Wood Beyond the World and The Well at the World’s End, plus his entire artistic motif fits nearly within a fantasy literature and artistic design that looks as if it was created by the Fey Themselves. All of his works can be found at the usual digital suspects, often at no cost. (Died 1896.)
Born March 24, 1874 — Harry Houdini. His literary career intersects the genre world in interesting ways. Though it’s not known which, many of his works were written by his close friend Walter B. Gibson who as you know is the creator of The Shadow. And one famous story of his, “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs”, was actually ghost-written by Lovecraft! ISFDB lists another piece of genre fiction for him, “The Spirit Fakers of Hermannstad.” (Died 1926.)
Born March 24, 1897 — Theodora Kroeber. Mother of Ursula K. Le Guin. Anthropologist. Ishi in Two Worlds is the work she’s most remembered for. ISFDB lists her as having but one genre work, a children book titled Carrousel with illustrations by Douglas Tait. (Died 1979.)
Born March 24, 1924 — Peter George. Welsh author, most remembered for the late Fifties Red Alert novel, published first as Two Hours To Doom and written under the name of Peter Bryant. The book was the basis of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. (Died 1966.)
Born March 24, 1930 — Steve McQueen. He got his big break by being the lead, Steve Andrews, in The Blob. Setting aside the two different roles on Alfred Hitchcock Presents he had which are at least genre adjacent, The Blob is his only genre appearance in his brief life. (Died 1980.)
Born March 24, 1941 — Henry Glassie, 79. Folklorist who’s the author of one of my all-time fav Christmas books, All Silver and No Brass: An Irish Christmas Mumming. I was delighted to see that ISFDB say he has two works of genre fiction, “Coals on the Devil’s Hearth“ and “John Brodison and the Policeman”. Both are to be found in the Jane Yolen anthology, Favorite Folktales from Around the World which is available at all the usual digital suspects.
Born March 24, 1946 — Gary K. Wolfe, 74. Monthly reviewer for Locus for twenty-seven years now and yes, I enjoy his column a lot. His brief marriage to Ellen R. Weil which ended with her tragic early death resulted in them co-writing Harlan Ellison: The Edge of Forever. Old Earth Books has reprinted many of his reviews done between 1992 and 2006 in Soundings: Reviews 1992-1996. He’s also written several critical looks at the genre, Critical Terms for Science Fiction and Fantasy and The Known and the Unknown: The Iconography of Science Fiction.
Born March 24, 1946 — Andrew I. Porter, 74. Editor, publisher, fan. Major member of NYC regional fandom starting in the early Sixties. APA publisher and edition in mind boggling numbers with Algol: The Magazine About Science Fiction which became Starship. He won a Hugo for Best Fanzine in 1974, in a tie with Richard E. Geis. who was doing SFR. He sold Science Fiction Chronicle which he founded in May 1980 to DNA Publications in May 2000 and was fired in 2002. Algol/Starship lasted less than five years despite the exceedingly superb reading it was. He has won myriad awards, including the Big Heart Award at a recent Worldcon. He has attended hundreds of science fiction conventions and nearly forty Worldcons since his first in ‘63. He was Fan Guest of Honor at several conventions, including the 1990 Worldcon.
Born March 24, 1949 — Tabitha King, 71. Wife of Stephen, mother of that writing brood. I met her but once on the lot of the original Pet Sematary a very long time ago. ISFDB to my surprise lists only two novels she’s written solely by herself, Small World and Wolves at the Door, and one with Michael McDowell, Candles Burning. None of her books are with her husband which surprised me.
(10) COMICS SECTION.
Lio explains to us why some aliens might wish to visit our planet:
Half Full, using a Batman reference, proves again that English is a funny language.
Grant Snider’s cartoon is not genre, but is apropos to the times.
(11) CALLING SHORT ORDER COOKS. The editorial team of Journey
Planet is looking for articles, artwork, creative writing, or anything
printable for their upcoming issue dedicated to DC’s Swamp Thing.
Anything related to that character in comics, film, and television — live
action or animated — is all good. They’ve received great submissions
already. They’d like yours as well. Send entries to Chuck Serface
at firstname.lastname@example.org by April 1, 2020. The issue will appear
(12) FREE BOOK OFFER. To encourage folks to STAY AT HOME, Black Coat Press is now offering one free book to anyone who will write
to them and request one! You have a choice between four titles:
Send them an email at email@example.com telling (1) which title you desire, and (2) if you want to receive it as a PDF or an EPUB file. That’s all! No strings! No archiving of email addresses! Please stay home!
The Horror Writers Association (HWA) and Poisoned Pen Press, an imprint of SourceBooks, present the Haunted Library of Horror Classics, a line of reissued classic horror literature books from over the past 250 years. These books are recognized as literary masterpieces of their era and are either remembered today only through distorted theatrical or movie versions, have been relegated to academic study, or have otherwise been nearly forgotten entirely.
…”Simply put, we are running out of fish,” says Daniel Pauly, a professor of fisheries at the Institute of Oceans and Fisheries at the University of British Columbia. “And the situation, the trend line, is getting worse every year.”
“Maybe centuries ago we could live off hunting for our food but we can’t live off hunting today and fishing is hunting. The notion of hunting in the 21st century to feed 10 billion people is absurd.”
A handful of start-up firms think they might have the answer. They are experimenting with growing fish “meat” in the lab.
Mainly based in Silicon Valley with a couple in Europe and Asia, they have developed techniques to extract fish stem cells and grow them into commercial quantities of edible flesh.
Stem cells are a type of cell, found in embryos or adult creatures – which can grow into a number of different specialised cells. They can grow into the muscle cells which make up most the parts of fish people like to eat.
They’ve also released “The Jedi Went Down to Tattooine” –
What happens when you mix The Phantom Menace with Charlie Daniels? An outer rim ho-down, ya’ll. Strap in and enjoy this before the mouse yeets it.
(18) JIM BUTCHER DOUBLE PLAY. A new trailer for Peace Talks (the next Dresden) just
came out — and at about the 1:49 mark of the trailer comes the announcement that
another new Dresden, called Battle Ground, will be coming out in
September of this year.
PEACE TALKS by Jim Butcher, Book 16 of the five-time #1 NYT Bestselling Dresden Files book series. Coming July 14th in hardcover, ebook, and audio formats from Penguin Random House.
[Thanks to Cora Buhlert, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Dann, Martin
Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Olav Rokne, Chuck
Serface, Nina Shepardson, Darrah Chavey, Daniel Dern, Danny Sichel, Paul Di Filippo,
Contrarius, and birthday boy Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title
credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]
Things escalated quickly after A03’s takedown. Enraged by Xiao fans’ censorship plot, millions of free speech activists began boycotting the dozens of brands Xiao campaigns for, including Estée Lauder, Piaget and Qeelin. But they’ve gone further than the usual boycott by promoting competitors of Xiao-promoted brands, crashing Xiao-sponsored brands’ customer service lines, and pressuring those brands to end their collaborations with Xiao. So far, the Chinese Weibo hashtag #BoycottXiaoZhan has exceeded 3,450,000 posts and 260 million views.
.. But the idol economy has a sinister side. In the Chinese model of idol adoration, fans are the ones in control of the idol’s reputation and commercial worth – not the idol. And since fan communities are so actively involved in their idol’s brand sponsorships, it also falls on them to attack brands that they perceive to be opposing their idol’s interests.
Save the Girl and Save Me From Having to Toss Her Out of the Airlock
Organised by Captain C. Barton
Started on August 4, 2178, 08:48 Category: Accidents and emergencies
My name is Barton and I’m the pilot of an EDS (Emergency Dispatch Ship) currently en route to the frontier world of Woden to deliver some desperately needed medical supplies.
I have a problem, because I just discovered a stowaway aboard my ship, an eighteen-year-old girl named Marilyn Lee Cross. Upon questioning, Marilyn explained that her brother Gerry works on Woden as part of the government survey crew. She wants to visit him and since there is no regular passenger traffic to Woden because of the current medical crisis, she snuck aboard my ship…..
On March 16, 2020, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker mandated that social gatherings of 50 or more people be cancelled for the next eight weeks. Given other recent developments in the Covid-19 crisis, we anticipated that some sort of ban might be imposed that would make it impossible to hold our convention at its scheduled time in April, 2020. Out of concern for the health of our extended family of attendees, dealers and staff, for the past week we had been working with our hotel — the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center in Lombard, Illinois — to attempt to reschedule our convention.
We can now announce that we’ve just reached an agreement to postpone the convention to September 11-13, 2020. The location of the convention remains the same, and we thank the fine folks at the Westin Lombard for working with us to make this change….
More information about memberships and hotel reservations at the
(5) EDGAR AWARDS. Mystery Writers of America have cancelled
the Edgar Awards event planned for April 30: “Edgar Week
Events – Update”. How the awards will be announced is under
It is with heavy heart that we have to let you know we are cancelling both the Edgar Awards banquet and the symposium.
All bars and restaurants have been closed in New York City due to the pandemic (other than for delivery and pick-up), and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a statement on Sunday urging people to cancel or postpone all events bringing together 50 or more people for the next eight weeks, including weddings. “Large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities,” the CDC said on their website. “Examples of large events and mass gatherings include conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, and other types of assemblies.
This year is the 75th anniversary of MWA; our Edgar week festivities were to be a celebration of that anniversary.
But the health, safety, and well-being of our nominees, guests, members and the hotel staff have to be paramount, and it is not in anyone’s best interest that we go forward with the festivities.
LepreCon has had some participant cancellations, most notably our Author Guest of Honor, Robert McCammon, who lives in Alabama. He stated: “I’ve gone back and forth on this, and back and forth again, and unfortunately I feel the need to cancel my appearance at LepreCon. I hate to do this because I’d been looking forward to the con and also because never before in my life have I said I would be somewhere and not shown up… but in all honesty I just don’t feel confident in traveling right now and am uncertain of what another month may bring.”
We are restricted in our decision to postpone or cancel Leprecon 46 by our contract with the hotel. We must work in conjunction with them to come up with a solution, since Governor Ducey & ADHS haven’t yet prohibited all public gatherings. We will speak with them Monday to begin the process of determining whether the convention can be postponed or canceled. A decision will be announced by the end of the week.
(7) NO LAST DANCE IN LOUISVILLE. It was going to be the
last con in a series that started a decade ago, but now ConGlomeration won’t be taking place.
The Louisville, Kentucky fan event was planned for April 10-12.
All good things, as they say, must come to an end. And so it comes to ConGlomeration.
In accordance with current COVID-19 safety recommendations, as well as local, state, and federal mandates, and to ensure the health and well-being of our membership, the Convention Committee has elected to cancel our final ConGlomeration.
For those asking why we are cancelling, rather than merely postponing, we simply have no idea if or when a suitable replacement date and venue would become available. We cannot hold our guests, staff, or resources in limbo for an indeterminate amount of time. And, as this was our final convention, we have no “next year” to simply “roll over” this year’s plans and people into.
So, rather than “see you later,” we must instead say “goodbye.”
(8) COMIC RELIEF. Courtesy of George Takei.
(9) BACK TO THE BAD NEWS. Mark George R.R. Martin’s Jean
Cocteau Cinema closed, too. The Santa Fe, NM theater posted this “Important
To our Jean Cocteau & Beastly Books Supporters:
We like to keep our community as informed as we can. We regret to say that we have decided to close the Jean Cocteau Cinema for a month starting 03/17 and hope to reopen on 04/15. TBD. The Jean Cocteau Cinema is fortunate enough to continue to pay our employees for the interim….
(11) WHITMAN OBIT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Actor
Stuart Whitman has died at the age of 92. Whitman was probably best known for his work in action,
war, and western films, but did have some genre roles, the first
being an uncredited appearance in When Worlds Collide (1951).
Perhaps most notable were 10 episodes
as Jonathan Kent scattered across 4 seasons of the 80s/90s TV series Superboy
Other genre and adjacent TV work included seven episodes of Fantasy
Island (as different characters), plus episodes on more than a half-dozen
other shows including Night Gallery and Tales from the Dark Side.
He appeared in sf and horror movies
such as Omega Cop, Deadly Intruder, Vultures, Invaders of the Lost Gold, The
Monster Club, Demonoid, The Cat Creature, and City Beneath the Sea.
(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born March 17, 1846 — Kate Greenaway. Victorian artist and writer, largely known today for her children’s book illustrations. So popular was she and her work that the very popular Kate Greenaway Almanacks appeared every year from 1883 to 1895. Among her best-known works was her edition of Robert Browning’s The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Rosa Mulholland’s Puck and Blossom and Bret Harte’s Pirate Isle. She’s readily available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1901.)
Born March 17, 1906 — Brigitte Helm. German actress, Metropolis. Her first role as an actress, she played two roles, Maria and her double, the Maschinenmensch, plus several uncredited roles as well. She’s got some other genre credits including L’Atlantide (The Mistress of Atlantis) and Alraune (Unholy Love). Her later films would be strictly in keeping with the policies of the Nazis with all films being fiercely anti-capitalist and in particular attacking Jewish financial speculators. (Died 1996.)
Born March 17, 1945 — Tania Lemani, 75. She played Kara in the Trek episode “Wolf in the Fold”. She first met Shatner when she was offered her a role in the pilot for Alexander the Great which starred him in the title role (although the pilot failed to be picked up as a series). She had parts in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Bionic Woman and she shows up in the fanfic video Star Trek: Of Gods and Men. I assume as Kara, though IMDb lists her as herself.
Born March 17, 1947 — James K. Morrow, 73. I’m very fond of the Godhead trilogy in which God is Dead and very, very present. Shambling Towards Hiroshima is a lot of satisfying satirical fun as is The Madonna and the Starship which is also is a wonderful homage to pulp writers.
Born March 17, 1948 — William Gibson, 72. I’ve read the Sprawl trilogy more times than I can remember and likewise the Bridge trilogy and The Difference Engine. The works I struggled with are Pattern Recognition, Spook Country and Zero History. I’ve tried all of them, none were appealing. Eh?
Born March 17, 1949 — Patrick Duffy, 71. Surely you’ve seen him on Man from Atlantis? No? Oh, you missed a strange, short-lived show. His other genre credits are a delightfully mixed bag of such things as voicing a Goat on Alice in Wonderland, appearing on The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne as Duke Angelo Rimini in the “Rockets of the Dead” episode and voicing Steve Trevor in the incredibly excellent “The Savage Time” three-parter on Justice League.
Born March 17, 1951 — Kurt Russell, 69. I know I saw Escape from New York on a rainy summer night in a now century-old Art Deco theatre which wasn’t the one I later saw Blade Runner in. I think it’s much better than Escape from L.A. was. Of course, there’s Big Trouble in Little China, my favorite film with him in it. And let’s not forget Tombstone. Not genre, you say. Maybe not, but it’s damn good and he’s fantastic in it.
About today’s Wallace the Brave Rich Horton commented, “I’m just surprised he didn’t wear a propeller beanie!”
If we’re reading things correctly, Greg Daniels‘ (The Office, Space Force) new comedy series Upload for Amazon Prime Video makes the case that the future of your afterlife may depend on how strong your Wi-Fi signal is. At least that’s the premise vibe were getting from the 10-episode series, which includes an ensemble cast fronted by The Flash alum Robbie Amell and Andy Allo (Pitch Perfect 3, The Hero) and a debut date of May 1 for the streaming service….
(15) SPACE COLLECTIBLE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Kickstarter: “DeskSpace: Lunar Surface“. Inspired
by the Apollo 11 lunar landing, this Kickstarter project is selling a detailed
replica landscape of part of the Moon’s surface.
Made from “jewelry grade concrete,“ they plan to make it available in two sizes — roughly 7” (180 mm) square & roughly 4“ (100 mm) square. Introductory pledge levels – which are about to run out – are about 75 & 99 US dollars respectively. (Actual pledges appear to be in HK$.)
For a bit more, they’ll sell you the entire solar system.
Because the Japanese school year ends in March and begins in April, for many students this closing period means that they will miss their graduation ceremonies. Whether they’re leaving elementary school, middle school, or high school, it’s a sad feeling for them to go out with a whimper instead of a bang.
But some creative elementary school graduates in Japan came up with a great workaround. If they couldn’t have a graduation ceremony at school, then why not have one digitally in a place they all meet often anyway… in Minecraft!
Need something wholesome for a time like this? Investigation found no reason to fear that people might catch COVID-19 from dogs. That’s good for me and my chihuahua child. No more worry about going “aww” for little sneezes!
(18) COMBAT NEWS AFFECTED DISORDER. Kristine Kathryn Rusch
is running a “March
Sadness Special” which includes the offer of a couple free books to people
signing up for a newsletter.
The last week has been…well, a year in stress and changes and everything else. I’ve been blogging about it to help people through the changes. Those blogs are currently on Patreon, but will hit here, starting tomorrow night.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that people worldwide are staying home. Inside. With computers and streaming and books to keep them occupied.
[Thanks to Doug Ellis, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Cat
Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, Camestros
Felapton, Brian Z., Patch O’Furr, Dann, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these
stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]
StokerCon UK announced today they
are attempting to pospone the event to later in the year due to the rapidly
evolving travel restrictions to limit the spread of coronavirus. The Horror Writers Association’s annual event,
where the Bram Stoker Awards are presented, was scheduled to be held in Scarborough,
U.K. from April 16-19. Here is their statement:
AN IMPORTANT STATEMENT FROM STOKERCON UK ABOUT CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19)
As per our last communication, like all of you we have been closely monitoring the NHS and UK Government guidelines as they have evolved over the past week. As we are all seeing, the situation with regard to COVID-19 changes on an hourly basis.
We have done everything we can to try to continue with StokerCon UK but, unfortunately, this is a fast-changing situation and, even though the UK still has one of the lowest rates of infection in the world, with other countries closing or restricting their borders and, understandably, an increasing number of cancellations, we are left with no choice but to radically reappraise the situation as it now stands.
We are now actively exploring all options to postpone the convention until later in the year and putting together the best plan for everyone who has already signed-up to attend. We understand how disappointing this will be to many of you, but even though the UK Government has not banned gatherings such as ours yet, it is most probably only a matter of time until they do, and we will be seeking advice on the implications for our convention members. The situation is unprecedented and for an event like ours, there is no simple answer.
As a result, this could have huge financial impact upon the convention—one, that at this stage we are not even certain we can survive without the agreement and co-operation of both the hotels involved—but we also want to assure you that the safety and well-being of all our attendees, guests and staff has to be our primary concern at all times.
For those who have booked flights to the UK, you should contact the airline, your insurance provider or your credit card supplier for a refund. For those travelling by train who have already bought tickets, LNER is offering refunds directly online by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 03457 225 333. They just ask that you apply for your refund before April 30, 2020.
With the convention just a month away, we have already invested much of the money received in membership fees with third-party services. As you can imagine, this is going to take some time to sort out, and we will make further announcements when we have more news.
In the meantime, the advice remains as per the Public Health England website: Try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean. Wash hands frequently and use a hand-sanitiser or antiseptic hand-wipes and observe basic hygiene by coughing or sneezing into a tissue and then throwing it away and washing your hands. If you have a fever or a new and persistent cough, then self-isolate for at least 14 days and if your condition persists or gets worse, then call 111 in the UK or your local health emergency numbers in other countries. Together we can reduce the spread.
Stay safe out there, look after the elderly and infirm and, if we are able to reach agreements with our suppliers, then we hope to see you at a possibly scaled-down StokerCon UK event later this year. We appreciate your patience and understanding as the situation evolves.
(1) BUTTIGIEG INTERVIEWS SIR PAT. “Recently unemployed”
Mayor Pete Buttigieg guest-hosted The Jimmy Kimmel Show. Due to public
health concerns over the coronavirus, they cancelled their studio audience. Sir
Patrick Stewart was a guest on the show.
Sir Patrick talks about Mayor Pete’s huge “Star Trek” fandom, civil disobedience, Sir Ian McKellen performing the multiple marriage ceremonies he had to his wife, and he surprises Mayor Pete with one of his original scripts from “Star Trek.”
They also did a sketch about “a Star Trek trivia game show for the
ages called ‘Who’s the Captain Now?’” hosted by LeVar Burton.
(2) HELIOSPHERE CANCELLED. Heliosphere, which was to have
been held April 3-5 in Tarrytown, NY has
been called off. The committee has not yet decides whether to try and hold
it later this year.
Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus, HELIOsphere 2020 will not be running as scheduled for April 3-5. At this time, we don’t know whether we will be postponing or simply cancelling for this year. We will keep you posted as we work out the details with the hotel.
(3) STOKERCON STATUS. The Horror Writers Association’s annual StokerCon is scheduled
to be held in the U.K. next month. HWA President John Palisano gave
this update to Facebook readers today:
At this time, more than two-thirds of attendees are based in the U.K., you should all be aware that the political situation has been changing by the hour. Only in the last 24 hours has travel in Europe (with the exception of the U.K.) been generally banned. The U.K. may take a similar step, or the U.S. may prohibit travel to and from there. So it’s a very real possibility that in the next few days, the decision of whether to hold the Con may be taken out of our hands. We don’t want to cancel the event unnecessarily, because that could cause severe financial hardship to many of our attendees and volunteers. On the other hand, we want to be respectful of individual decisions about whether or not to travel. We ask for you to be patient for a few more days while we try to sort out various options, including streaming the Bram Stoker Awards ceremony.
Meanwhile, our Librarians Day event, scheduled for May 7th of this year in Chicago, is still a go at this point. The organizers are also carefully watching this pandemic and are working on contingencies should the issues stretch that far into the future. They will have an announcement tomorrow.
Know that heading my first StokerCon as President of the HWA carries no small weight, and that my main priority is and will remain our members’ safety and well-being as we navigate these treacherous and unmapped waters.
UP IN THE AIR. Fans inquiring about the status of Minicon 55, planned
for April 10-12 in Minneapolis, have been told there’s a committee
meeting this weekend and an announcement one way or the other may follow.
Those events include major science fiction, fantasy, and gaming conventions, as well as adjacent events like conferences. We’ve compiled a list of major and regional events that have been postponed, canceled, or which are as of now still running.
Culture connoisseurs, rejoice: The Smithsonian Institution is inviting the world to engage with its vast repository of resources like never before.
For the first time in its 174-year history, the Smithsonian has released 2.8 million high-resolution two- and three-dimensional images from across its collections onto an open access online platform for patrons to peruse and download free of charge. Featuring data and material from all 19 Smithsonian museums, nine research centers, libraries, archives and the National Zoo, the new digital depot encourages the public to not just view its contents, but use, reuse and transform them into just about anything they choose—be it a postcard, a beer koozie or apair of bootie shorts.
And this gargantuan data dump is just the beginning. Throughout the rest of 2020, the Smithsonian will be rolling out another 200,000 or so images, with more to come as the Institution continues to digitize its collection of 155 million items and counting.
When I searched “science fiction” lots more photogenic things came
up – from lunch boxes to C3PO – but I was intrigued by this 1951 Astounding advertising
(7) SCIENCE IN THE HOUSE. That’s candidate Brianna Wu’s
Media has focused on the dangers of Coronavirus. Brianna Wu speaks with Geneticist Frank Wu about the possible treatments and vaccines being developed by the biotech industry
WHAT WOULD THE WORLD BE LIKE IF EVERYONE WERE LIKE YOU? I used to play a game and ask people what the world would be like if everyone were like you. Here are some features of my world. 1. Restaurants would be filled with constant people traffic as everyone went to wash their hands after touching the menu and after touching cash. 2. Doorknobs, elevator buttons, light switches, hotel TV remotes, and ATM interfaces would all be redesigned for elbows. 3. There’d be no shoes in the house and people would bow instead of shaking hands. 4. Everyone would be at home on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights happily writing, making music, reading, or playing Nintendo. 5. No one would get a cold more than once every ten years. 6. Extroverts and free-spirited folks would be miserable.
Exercise is good. You may not be able to get to the gym — I’m currently avoiding it, myself — but you will be happier and healthier if you are doing something. For me, that’s walking, because I’m lucky enough to live in a great area for it. I also have a standing desk that I got from Ikea years back. Your mileage may (literally) vary, but at least stretch when you can and be mindful of your back.
(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.
March 13, 1927 — Metropolis premiered in Germany. It was directed by Fritz Lang. It was written by Thea von Harbou in collaboration with Lang. It stars Gustav Fröhlich, Alfred Abel, Rudolf Klein-Rogge and Brigitte Helm. The film’s message is encapsulated in the final inter-title of “The Mediator Between the Head and the Hands Must Be the Heart.” In 2001 the film was placed upon UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register, the first film so distinguished. It is considered one of the greatest films ever made, and has a 92% rating among audience members at Rotten Tomatoes. You can see it here.
(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born March 13, 1911 — L. Ron Hubbard. Ok I’ll admit that I tried reading Battlefield Earth and really didn’t like it. Some of his early pulp fiction is actually quite good. So what do y’all think of him as a genre writer? (Died 1986.)
Born March 13, 1928 — Douglas Rain. Though most of his work was as a stage actor, he was the voice of the HAL 9000 for 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequel. He’s in Sleeper a few years later as the voices of the Evil Computer and Various Robot Butlers. (Died 2018.)
Born March 13, 1932 — Richard Lawrence Purtill. He’s here because EoSF list him as the author of Murdercon, a1982 novel where a murder is discovered at a SF Convention. I’ve not heard of it but was wondering if y’all had heard of this work. (Died 2016.)
Born March 13, 1938 — David McKail, 82. He was Sergeant Kyle in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”. He also was Sir Henry Roscoe in Beatrix: The Early Life of Beatrix Potter, and was in the adaptation of Iain Banks’ The Crow Road which I know is neither genre or genre adjacent but it had Peter Capaldi in it.
Born March 13, 1950 — William H. Macy Jr., 70. I’ll start his Birthday note by noting that he was in the superb Pleasantville as George Parker. He’s shown up in a lot of genre works including but limited to Somewhere in Time, Evolver, The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue, The Night of the Headless Horseman, Jurassic Park III, Sahara and The Tale of Despereaux.
Born March 13, 1956 — Dana Delany, 63. I’ve come today to praise her work as a voice actress. She was in a number of DCU animated films, first as Andrea Beaumont in Batman: The Mask of The Phantasm, then as Lois Lane in Superman: The Animated Series, Superman: Brainiac Attacks and Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. (That’s not a complete listing.) Remember that Wing Commander film? Well there was an animated series, Wing Commander Academy, in which she was Gwen Archer Bowman.
Born March 13, 1966 — Alastair Reynolds, 54. As depressing as they are given what they lead up to, The Prefect Dreyfus novels are my favorite novels by him. That said, Chasm City was fascinating. The only ones by him that I absolutely failed to get any enthusiasm for is his Revenger Universe series.
Born March 13, 1967 — Lou Anders, 53. Hugo-winning Editor. He’s has been editorial director of Prometheus Books’ SF imprint Pyr since its launch fifteen years ago. He’s a crack editor of anthologies. I’ve very fond of his Live Without a Net, Sideways in Time and FutureShocks anthologies. I note that he has a fantasy trilogy, Thrones and Bones, but I’ve not heard of it til now.
Born March 13, 1968 — Jen Gunnels, 52. Writer and genre theater critic, the latter a rare thing indeed. She does her reviews for Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, Foundation: The Review of Science Fiction and New York Review of Science Fiction. With Erin Underwood, she has edited Geek Theater: Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy Plays.
(12) KGB TO STREAM. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading
series with Daniel Braum and Robert Levy has been converted to a livestream.
Hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel invite everyone to see it here on
YouTube on March 18 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.
We will, for the first time in our history, be live-streaming readings from both of our authors on YouTube. We hope you will join us for this historic event.
UPDATE March 13, 2020: For the safety and well-being of our readers and guests, we have decided to cancel this month’s in-person Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading with guests Daniel Braum & Robert Levy.
Instead, we will be hosting a YouTube Live event with both authors, who will be reading their work. Anyone with YouTube access can watch.
… Of course, there’ve been calls for CBS to move ahead with such a spinoff for the past couple of years. EP Alex Kurtzman has addressed the possibility in the past, refusing to rule it out and commenting that they’re trying to find ways to bring these characters back. True, they did all appear in a few episodes of the Short Treks anthology series, but this didn’t fully satiate our appetite to see more of Pike and his crew.
As Discovery itself addressed, Pike is fated to meet a tragic end. As detailed in an episode of TOS, he’s eventually left paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair after rescuing Starfleet cadets from a delta ray radiation leak. Our intel says that this spinoff show will build up to that fate, properly filling the gap between TOS‘ pilot, “The Cage,” and his return in “The Menagerie.”
The big news, previously rumored, is that Amazing and its stablemate Fantastic are to change hands. The April Science Fiction Times just arrived, with the big headline “ ‘AMAZING STORIES’ AND ‘FANTASTIC’ SOLD TO SOL COHEN.” Cohen is the publisher of Galaxy, If, and Worlds of Tomorrow, but will resign at the end of next month to take up his new occupation.
Why is this happening? Probably because circulation, which had been increasing, started to decline again in 1962 (when I started reviewing it!). The SF Times article adds, tendentiously and questionably, that “the magazine showed what appeared to be a lack of interest by its editors.” Read their further comment and draw your own conclusions on that point.
At least when their authors avoid offering a thesis, novels acquire peculiar value in deranged times. They allow us to see cracks in our political and social foundations from another perspective, and as a result, open paths to conversation and thought that might otherwise remain closed. Lots of genres can unsettle us, but one peculiarity of science fiction is that its authors have the freedom to create worlds.
At the genre’s most stereotypical, this license to invent lends itself to both ham-fisted allegories and didacticism. But if the author happens to be coming from the “right” direction, so to speak, and has some real talent, it’s relatively easy to take an imaginative leap into their world. Reaching beyond one’s own tribe may present a challenge, however. It is difficult to read David Drake, Iain Banks, China Miéville, Robert Heinlein, or John Varley without observing how they view human nature, what they think family means, or the political order they endorse—and a lot more besides.
Critics often complain that such novels fail precisely because they think the author is stacking the deck in favor of their pet ideas. It’s easy for partisans to forgive this because such novels entertain while also fortifying our opinions against a hostile world. And it’s not surprising that sci-fi readership so often divides along partisan lines.
The Work of Sympathy
It is harder to name many great works of science fiction that offer a definitive point of view, while also presenting us with unresolvable tensions and latent anxieties that no attentive reader can quite escape. Neal Stephenson’s best work probably qualifies. Arguably Frank Herbert’s Dune or Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos also do this. We need the sympathy and broadening of horizons that such novels can cultivate more than ever, and for the present moment, the most compelling book of this kind remains Ursula Le Guin’s The Dispossessed.
Disney has promised to continue making films and TV shows with “an increased commitment” to diversity in its output, according to its boss Bob Chapek.
“We want to represent our audience,” he said at a meeting for the company’s shareholders this week.
“We want to tell stories that our audience wants to hear, that reflects their lives.”
He was responding to a question about LGBT characters in their films and pride events at theme parks.
There will be a transgender character in a future Marvel film, and upcoming superhero movie The Eternals will introduce Marvel’s first openly gay lead character to cinema screens.
…At the shareholder’s meeting, Disney CEO Bob Chapek was asked a question by Catholic campaigner Caroline Farrow, who represents conservative group Citizen Go.
As part of her question, she asked: “Is it perhaps time to reconsider what you can do to make Disney more family friendly, to make it safe for people around the world, not just one particular minority?”
She also claimed a petition which asks Disney not to hold gay pride events in its parks was signed by “almost 700,000 people”
Researcher Annabel Dorrestein set up a thermal imaging camera to study flying foxes, or bats, at night on Australia’s Christmas Island.
But when she returned one morning to collect the camera, she discovered it had been stolen – almost certainly by the island’s famous robber crabs.
[Thanks to Dann, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Olav Rokne, Andrew Liptak, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Brian Z.]
The Horror Writers Association and Adult Reading Round Table (ARRT) will present the “4th Annual HWA
Librarian’s Day” on May 7 at
the Naperville, IL Public Library, a day-long continuing
education event featuring authors, reviewers, publishers, and librarians from
all over the country.
The event schedule is now online, with tickets
on sale at Eventbrite ($65/HWA
or ARRT Member, $75/Nonmember). All attendees get lunch, swag and free books.
8:30-9am Registration, Coffee/Tea, Welcome
9-10am The Scary Truth About Horror Reviews: Featuring New York Times Book Review Horror Columnist Danielle Trussoni, Booklist and Library Journal Horror Reviewer Becky Spratford, Cemetery Dance reviewer and owner of Night Worms Sadie Hartmann, and authors Melissa Prusi and Steven Hopstaken. Moderated by Ashley Rayner from the Chicago Public Library
10:15-11:15am Horror and Libraries: A Not So Scary Partnership: Featuring authors J.H. Moncrieff and John Everson, academic librarians Gillian Cargile-King from Northern Illinois University and Christopher Clark from Southern Utah University, Konrad Stump from Springfield-Greene [MO] County Library, and a representative from NoveList. Moderated by Lila Denning from the St. Petersburg [FL] Public Library
11:30am-12:30pm Summer Scares 2020: How to Feature Horror for All Ages at Your Library: Featuring members of the Summer Scares Committee and authors of the selected titles including author Stephen Graham Jones, Andy Davidson, author of the 2020 Adult Selection In the Valley of the Sun, Summer Scares programming coordinator Konrad Stump, Summer Scares committee member and Library Director at Prairie State College Carolyn Ciesla, librarian Lila Denning, and more. Moderated by Summer Scares coordinator Becky Spratford
12:30pm-1:15pm Buffet Lunch
1:15-2pm One on One with the Business Man in Horror for All Aged Readers: Daniel Kraus and Becky Spratford in Conversation. Every attendee will go home with a copy of Kraus’s forthcoming collaboration with the late George Romero, The Living Dead
2:15-3:15pm Short Scares: Horror Novellas, Stories and Poetry: Featuring authors Stephen Graham Jones, J. G. Faherty, Cina Pelayo, and Sarah Read. Moderated by Christopher Clark
3:15-4:30pm Meet Flame Tree Press: Editor Don D’Auria and Flame Tree Press authors John Everson, J.G. Faherty, J.H. Moncrieff, Melissa Prusi and Steven Hopstaken in conversation with Emily Vinci of the Schaumburg Public Library. Discussion will include their work, their favorite authors and horror for a public library audience.
In general, speculative fiction in translation (SFT) accounts for a very small fraction of the fiction published in English each year. This past year was no exception: 50 books (novels, collections, and anthologies) and 80 short (standalone) works of SFT made their way to Anglophone readers. While this may not sound like much, it does signify a slow but steady increase in non-Anglophone speculative fiction since the turn of the century. Not since the 1960s and ’70s have we seen such an increase, and while I can’t point to any one factor as an explanation, I imagine that the unprecedented worldwide connectivity brought about by the internet at the end of the last century, coupled with the increase in small and micro-presses and magazines that regularly publish speculative fiction, may offer a partial answer. Perhaps another factor is the growing interest of speculative fiction fans in stories that are written from a non-Anglophone perspective…
(2) LONDON’S OFF THE HOOK. Yesterday, the London Book Fair planned
to carry on, even in the face of businesses dropping out because of coronavirus
fears. Today, The Guardian reports
it’s been cancelled.
One of the world’s biggest international literary events, the London book fair, has been cancelled over coronavirus fears, amid growing anger that the delay in calling it off was putting people’s health at risk and an unfair financial strain on publishers.
Organiser Reed Exhibitions announced on Wednesday that the escalation of the illness meant the fair, scheduled to run from 10 to 12 March, would be called off. Around 25,000 publishers, authors and agents from around the world had been due to attend the event, where deals for the hottest new books are struck.
But the event was already set to be a ghost town when it opened its doors, after publishers and rights agencies began withdrawing en masse over the last week. Some of the world’s biggest, including Penguin Random House, HarperCollins and Hachette had already pulled out, as had Amazon and a host of literary agencies including Curtis Brown.
(3) NO TIME TO DEBUT. Another British institution, Agent
007, has also been affected by fears of the spread
of the COVID-19 flu: “No
Time to Die’s Release Is Delayed Seven Months Because of Coronavirus”.
The 25th James Bond movie was
supposed to premiere in April, but GQ reports it now will open in
November. The date has been pushed back so the film can make money in Asian countries
whose movie theatres are currently in trouble because of the coronavirus.
Now there are reports that the spread of the illness—and subsequent quarantines and travel restrictions in China—will likely impact the arrival of Baby Yoda toys.
Hasbro, which has the license for several Star Wars toys, including some dolls and figures of The Mandalorian’s breakout star, is very concerned about the potential for the coronavirus to disrupt its toy-making supply chains. CNN Business spoke to toy-industry expert Jim Silver, who said that the first batch of Baby Yoda toys, which are supposed to arrive later this month, are mostly in the clear so far. However, if things don’t return to normal by the start of the summer, Silver predicts “shortages on a litany of toys.”
In a filing released on Thursday, Hasbro admitted that it was experiencing coronavirus-related production difficulties in China, where more than 80,000 people have been infected. The company added that the flu “could have a significant negative impact on our revenues, profitability, and business.”
(5) NEXT YEAR IN HORROR. The StokerCon 2021 website has gone live. Next
year’s Horror Writers Association gathering will take place in Denver, CO from May
20-23. Memberships go on sale April 20 for $150 (Early Bird Special). The next rate
hike is June 30, 2020.
(6) TURNOVER ON THE MASTHEAD. Sean Wallace, Publisher of The Dark Magazine, told
followers about some recent and upcoming personnel changes.
Just before the start of the new year, our reprint editor Michael Kelly stepped back from his duties to put more time and energy in his small press company, Undertow Publications, and we wish him all the best in his endeavours. And then in other somewhat-related sad news, Silvia Moreno-Garcia is also soon leaving The Dark Magazine to focus on her writing career, which is really taking off, and rightfully so. As such, her last month will be with the July 2020 issue, which we are putting together the original lineup as we type this out.
Beyond that, we have no immediate plans to hire a new co-editor, at least for the remainder of 2020, but I will be sending out a further update on this closer to the end of the year.
OBIT. Aly Parsons (1952-2020) died February 9, reports Locus
Online. With her husband Paul Parsons (d. 2008), she hosted the Potomac
River Science Fiction Society for 12 years, and worked on Unicons and the 2003
World Fantasy Convention. She cofounded a Washington DC writers’ group that met
for decades. Her pro sales included a short story published in Marion Zimmer
Bradley’s Darkover anthology Sword of Chaos (1982).
(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.
March 4, 1956 — The Atomic Man premiered. If you saw it in the U.K., it was Tinmeslip. It was directed by Ken Hughes, and produced by Alec C. Snowden from The Isotope Man by Charles Eric Maine, who also wrote the screenplay. It starred Gene Nelson and Faith Domergue. You’ll need to watch it for yourself here to see how it is as there’s no Rotten Tomatoes ratings for it.
March 4, 1958 — Cosmic Monsters (The Strange World of Planet X in the U.K.) premiered. It was produced by George Maynard and John Bash, directed by Gilbert Gunn. It starred Forrest Tucker and Gaby André. It was a double bill with The Crawling Eye. It bombed at the Box Office, critics at the time hated it and it currently has a 6% rating among the audience at Rotten Tomatoes. You can see it here.
March 4, 1977 — Man From Atlantis premiered. Created by Mayo Simon and Herbert Solow, the pilot was written by Leo Katzin. It starred Patrick Duffy, Belinda Montgomery, Alan Fudge and Victor Bruno. It ran for thirteen episodes that followed four films. It was not renewed for a full season. We cannot offer you a look at it as it’s behind a paywall at YouTube.
(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born March 4, 1905 — Frank Utpatel. Artist who may have done some interior illustrations for Weird Tales, he’s remembered for his Arkham House book covers that began with Lovecraft’s The Shadow over Innsmouth novel in 1936. He would do covers for Ashton, Howard, Derleth, and Lovecraft. (Died 1980.)
Born March 4, 1923 — Sir Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore CBE HonFRS FRAS. Astronomer who liked Trek and Who early on but said later that he stopped watching when “they went PC – making women commanders, that kind of thing of thing.” Despite that, he’s here because, he shows up in the debut Eleventh Doctor story, “The Eleventh Hour.“ And he was in the radio version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as well. (Died 2012.)
Born March 4, 1933 — Bernie Zuber. A fan artist who was the original vice president of the Mythopoeic Society. He was also a long-time member of LASFS who joined in the Fifties. He served as one of the first editors of Mythlore, but leftafter a falling out with the Mythopoeic Society, and became the founder and president of the Tolkien Fellowships. He published Butterbur’s Woodshed, Germinal and The Westmarch Chronicle. (Died 2005.)
Born March 4, 1938 — Paula Prentiss, 82. One of the wives of the original Stepford Wives, she also appears as Sonia Dracula in the second Mr. and Mrs. Dracula pilot in 1981 after the first pilot was deemed not workable by the network. That pilot was also not brought to series either.
Born March 4, 1958 — James Ellroy, 72. Ok Filers. ISFDB lists two novels by him as being genre, Blood Moon and American Tabloid. I’ve read neither but nothing that I can find on the web suggests that either is even remotely genre adjacent. Who’s read them?
Born March 4, 1965 — Paul W. S. Anderson, 55. If there be modern pulp films, he’s the director of them. He’s responsible for the Resident Evil franchise plus Event Horizon, Alien V. Predator, Pandorum and even the forthcoming Monster Hunter which no, isn’t based off the work of a certain Sad Puppy.
Born March 4, 1966 — Daniela Amavia, 54. She appeared as Alia Atreides in the Children of Dune series.usually I wouldn’t include a performer fir just one genre credit, but she made a most perfect Alia that I will make an exception and do so in her case.
…But sometimes, Doctor Who’s willingness to play fast and loose with things we previously knew to be true just makes its stories unnecessarily complicated without adding anything of value to them. (See also: Clara’s status as the Impossible Girl, Melody Pond growing up to be River Song or the Hybrid mystery.) It certainly feels like that’s the case in the Season 12 finale, an episode which gives the Doctor an entirely new origin story, destroys her race (again!) and creates what feels like an almost limitless number of incarnations of the character that we, as viewers, will likely never meet.
Because the question at the end of all this is: So what?
After promising a game-changing finale that would upend everything we, as viewers, understood about the show, “The Timeless Children” didn’t really live up to that promise. It actually changes very little. By the time the closing credits roll, the entire series’ universe is supposed to be different. The problem is, it’s not. Not really. There are new pieces to the story, sure. But largely those pieces exist in the same places the old ones did. So, it’s hard to tell precisely why this story matters….
Because you can’t have it both ways: Either existing Doctor Who lore is important enough that shaking it up and turning it inside out and fighting strangers on the internet about it matters, or it doesn’t. If we change the rules, those changes need to mean something, and the story that comes out of those has to be worth rewriting the things that have come before. (And you have to respect that there were rules that existed in the first place.) It’s not clear that this episode does that, regardless of whether we’re talking about the Master’s characterization, the Doctor’s past, or the apparent erasure of Rassilon from existence. If nothing is truly different in the aftermath of stories that supposedly change everything, then what’s the point of telling them? Sure, “The Timeless Children” dropped the bombshell that the Doctor is functionally immortal, but we all sort of knew that already, since she was given a new set of regenerations back when she was Eleven.
(12) FRAUD, HE SAYS. While Paste Magazine is dubious,
John C. Wright is absolutely outraged (as one might expect) and calls the season-ending
Death of Doctor Who”. Again, BEWARE SPOILERS.
…So the Doctor turns out to be, not an eccentric Time Lord who stole a broken TARDIS to flee into time and space for madcap adventures helping the helpless, nay.
He is in fact a foundling, a poor little black girl, who is the sole source of the regenerative ability of the Time Lords, hence the true founder of their society, not Rassilon.
…The point of message fiction is twofold.
The first, like Aesop, attempts to convey a moral maxim or lesson in a palatable fashion to influence young minds.
This can be done well or poorly, depending on whether the story rules the message, or the message rules the story.
The message itself, like any sermon, can also be well written or poorly written.
But if the message derails the story, that is fraud. The author who promises an entertainment, but delivers a lecture instead, is just as much a cheat as a bartender who charges for a mug of beer but puts a glass of buttermilk before you. Buttermilk may be better for your health, but, honestly, the bartender is not your mother, and he is not doing the job you paid him for.
Wright proceeds to condemn all of this in the strongest terms. I can only imagine how upset he might have been if he had actually watched the show, but he assures his readers —
I have not seen the episode, nor, indeed, the season, nor ever will I.
(13) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter watched tonight’s Jeopardy!
contestants strike out on this one:
Category: America’s Richest Self-Made Women
Answer: Part of this author’s nearly $400 million fortune came from books she wrote under the J.D. Robb pseudonym.
For the first time, scientists have used the gene-editing technique CRISPR to try to edit a gene while the DNA is still inside a person’s body.
The groundbreaking procedure involved injecting the microscopic gene-editing tool into the eye of a patient blinded by a rare genetic disorder, in hopes of enabling the volunteer to see. They hope to know within weeks whether the approach is working and, if so, to know within two or three months how much vision will be restored.
“We’re really excited about this,” Dr. Eric Pierce, a professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, who is leading a study that the procedure launched, tells NPR.
“We’re helping open, potentially, an era of gene-editing for therapeutic use that could have impact in many aspects of medicine,” Pierce says.
The CRISPR gene-editing technique has been revolutionizing scientific research by making it much easier to rewrite the genetic code. It’s also raising high hopes of curing many diseases.
Before this step, doctors had only used CRISPR to try to treat a small number of patients who have cancer, or the rare blood disorders sickle cell anemia or beta-thalassemia. While some of the initial results have been promising, it’s still too soon to know whether the strategy is working.
In those other cases, doctors removed cells from patients’ bodies, edited genes in the cells with CRISPR in the lab and then infused the modified cells back into the volunteers’ bodies to either attack their cancer or produce a protein their bodies are missing.
A filmmaker says social media rules to prevent extremist material going online are thwarting his attempts to tackle hatred and extremism.
Rizwan Wadan said algorithms used by Facebook and TikTok were making it hard to promote his films.
Mr Wadan, 38, of Luton, said automatic filtering of words such as “jihad” and “terror,” forced users underground to learn about and discuss the issues.
Facebook said his trailer broke its ban on “sensational content” in adverts.
Mr Wadan, based at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, developed camera stabilisation systems and has worked on films including Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
He set up a £1.2m project called The Error in Terror to “give Muslims a voice,” and made films intended to deter acts of terrorism and challenge people to rethink their views.
But he said trailers for his work have been “restricted” on Facebook and said TikTok removed the content because it was deemed to break its guidelines.
“If we have algorithms that pick up words like ‘terrorism’ and ‘jihad,’ if we’re not allowed to discuss these things on social media platforms, then people who need to learn about this get pushed underground,” he said.
“They might start to learn about these things from people abroad where jihad is applied very differently and it could encourage individuals to get into revenge and retaliation, and this is very dangerous for us.
“It’s the responsibility of social media platforms to allow this kind of discussion to take place.”
11-year-old Star Wars fan Isabella Tadlock was born with a nub on the end of her left arm and no fingers on her right hand. Actor Mark Hamill saw her story on Twitter and helped her get a R2-D2 bionic arm.
(18) BOOKSHOPPING LEADS TO BOOKHOPPING. Powell’s Books
Blog presents “Portrait
of a Bookseller: Dana P.”, who recommends V.E. Schwab and Neil Gaiman,
and confesses a habit that will probably sound familiar to some of you.
Do you have any odd reading habits? I definitely have a bad habit of hoarding books and then starting too many of them at once. I love the feeling of just starting a book, when it holds so much potential, so I’ll often have about six books I’m in the middle of — but I’ll bounce back and forth between them so none of them feel neglected.
(19) THE INTERNET OF REBELLIOUS THINGS. Connected is about —
…an everyday family’s struggle to relate while technology rises up around the world! When nature-loving dad Rick… determines the whole family should drive Katie to school together and bond as a family one last time…. the Mitchells’ plans are interrupted by a tech uprising: all around the world, the electronic devices people love – from phones, to appliances, to an innovative new line of personal robots – decide it’s time to take over. With the help of two friendly malfunctioning robots, the Mitchells will have to get past their problems and work together to save each other and the world!
It arrives in theaters September 18.
[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ,
Mike Kennedy, Michal Tolan, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of
these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack
Horror Writers Association (HWA) has selected SST Publications (SST) as the
recipient of their 2019 Specialty Press Award.
really like to thank the HWA for awarding SST with this honor. I honestly can’t
believe that SST has won the HWA Specialty Press Award,” said publisher
Paul Fry. “It really means the world to me.”
Each year the HWA recognizes the accomplishments of a noteworthy small press.
The Specialty Press Award brings recognition to an outstanding publisher of
horror, dark fantasy, and weird fiction. This year’s Specialty Press Award will
be presented during StokerCon™ 2020 held from April 16-19 at the Royal and
Grand Hotels, Scarborough, United Kingdom.
“To be able to do something you love for a living and then to be given
this incredible award by people you respect and admire truly is an honor,”
Paul Fry explained. Short, Scary Tales Publications (SST) is a small UK
independent publisher with huge dreams when founded in 1999 by Paul Fry. In
2000, SST published its first title, Cold Storage, a horror collection
including an introduction by the legendary Graham Masterton.
SST has published some of the best authors in the business, including Stephen
King, Joe R. Lansdale, Clive Barker, Ray Garton, Ed Gorman, Simon Clark, Jack
Ketchum, Bentley Little, Steve Rasnic Tem, Peter Straub, Tom Piccirilli, Paul
Kane, Richard Chizmar, and many more. “Our aim is to produce the
highest-quality titles in several formats and genres,” Paul Fry said.
“But our top priority is to treat our customers like we’d like to be
treated. We think that’s extremely important in any business.”
3) Who were/are your biggest influences? That is a long list of people. The first person that influenced me to write is my mother. She was a fantastic storyteller and would entertain the nine of us with fables she made up. This made it feel very natural to create stories for me. Also, two strong female characters from the Star Trek television series were huge influences: Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) as the first Black female officer in a SF series and Christine Chapel (Majel Barrett) whose character said more with a look than words.
When I was in high school, I loved Maya Angelou, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, James Baldwin, Eudora Welty, and Langston Hughes because of the music in their writing. In college, I discovered genre writers Isaac Asimov, Anne McCaffrey, Robert Heinlein, Octavia Butler, Nancy Kress, and Connie Willis. In horror, some of my female influences were Anne Rice, L. A. Banks, Elizabeth Massie, Marge Simon, and Charlee Jacob. Looking back, I see that I read more male SF and horror writers than female because the field didn’t have as many in print as they do now and even fewer Black female writers.
When my story was published in Sheree R. Thomas’ Dark Matter anthology in 2000, it gave me so much exposure and made a huge difference in my career. Others lifted me up with their belief in my writing early on: Jack Ketchum, Terry Bisson, Nancy Kress, Straub, L. A. Banks, Douglas Clegg, and so many more…
In a stunning move that marks the end of an era for one of the entertainment industry’s great corporate success stories, Bob Iger on Tuesday stepped down as chief executive of Walt Disney Co. after 15 years in the job.
Bob Chapek, a 27-year Disney veteran who most recently led the company’s massively important parks and consumer products business, was named Iger’s successor, effective immediately.
Iger, 69, has assumed the role of executive chairman, the company said. In that role, he will direct the Burbank entertainment giant’s creative endeavors and help guide the company’s board through the leadership transition until the end of his contract on Dec. 31, 2021, Disney said in statement.
Disney’s CEO succession plan was the subject of speculation for years as Iger delayed plans to leave the company. Disney’s board last extended Iger’s contract was in December 2017, when Disney announced that it was buying much of 21st Century Fox from Rupert Murdoch. As part of those negotiations, Murdoch requested that Iger stay on to run the company rather than leave when he’d planned….
Members of the 2020 World Science Fiction Convention will be given an opportunity to vote retroactively for Hugo Awards for 1945, for works from 1944. I am not actually old enough to have been around in 1944. The year 1944 was roughly a flowering when fantastic media was seen by much of the public. I am not sure when I started seeing fantastic media from the year 1944 until about 1960, but I do remember the early general public availability of some of the films nominated for a 1944 Retroactive Hugo. They had science fiction and fantasy for which the fiction was absurdly bad (but fun) and the “science” contained no science at all. It can still be fun to be misinformed by science from someone who knows less science than you do and by fiction that is just written. There is a certain charm to science fiction written by someone with no obvious understanding of science trying their best to make it sound credible
Many true fans of science fiction and fantasy still retain an interest in the fantasy fiction from 80 years earlier. Reading it creates an atmosphere from a writing style of decades ago. Few fans delude themselves into believing that this prose eight decades old is true artistry.
Personally I see only one or two titles among the nominees that say to me “classic.” By the time I finish this article you will probably have very little doubt which two are the ones that I consider the true classics. In the meantime I will hint for the reader think about which would the real classic be. Evelyn and I will both be viewing the choice of nominees and independently recording our opinions.
Enjoy your sojourn to the fun films of 1944. I know I will.
This is not your father’s or, for that matter, grandfather’s The Invisible Man, even though it marks the launch of Universal’s revived attempt to seriously refresh and refashion its 1930s/’40s horror lineup for the modern age. Rather, enterprising writer-director Leigh Whannell (writer of Saw and Insidious and director of Insidious: Chapter 3) has imaginatively gone in a different direction by meeting the requirements of the title both literally and figuratively. At the same time, the movie stakes a claim for new mystery-horror territory worthy of a talent like Elisabeth Moss, who amplifies the qualities of the script with a top-shelf woman-in-severe-jeopardy performance….
OPEN THE BOX! Last night on PBS’ Antiques Roadshow:
Caution: this appraisal may melt your face off! Watch as James Supp appraises a prototype Ark of the Covenant from the 1981 Indiana Jones film “Raiders of the Lost Ark” at Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, CA.
SpaceX representatives told L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino’s office that the company was interested in the port site because it needed additional manufacturing capacity for its Starship spaceship and rocket booster. A SpaceX representative at last week’s harbor commissioners meeting did not mention Starship by name during his presentation of the project, but he said the company would use the port site to further its goal of creating an interplanetary society that includes Mars.
(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.
February 25, 1999 — Escape from Mars premiered on UPN. It was directed by Neill Fearnley and produced by Peter Lhotka. It was written by im Henshaw, Peter Mohan. It starred Lia Poirier, Allison Hossack , Peter Outerbridge, Allison Hossack and Michael Shanks. There are no critical reviews of it but the reviews at IMDB and Amazon make it clear that this is a horrible film. And the audience numbers at Rotten Tomatoes are simpatico withose opinions at 27%. You can see it here.
(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.
[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]
Born February 25, 1906 — Mary Chase. Journalist, playwright and children’s novelist. She’s best remembered for the Broadway playwright who penned Harvey which was later adapted for the film that starred James Stewart. Her only other genre work was the children’s story, “The Wicked, Wicked Ladies In the Haunted House”. The latter is available at the usual digital publishers but Harvey isn’t. You can get Harvey as an audiobook. (Died 1981.)
Born February 25, 1909 — Edgar Pangborn. For the first twenty years of his career, he wrote myriad stories for the pulp magazines, but always under pseudonyms. It wasn’t until the Fifties that he published in his own name in Galaxy Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. His Tales of a Darkening World work is certainly well-crafted and entertaining. He’s deeply stocked at reasonable prices at the usual digital publishers. (Died 1976.)
Born February 25, 1913 — Gert Fröbe. Goldfinger in the Bond film of that name. He also the Baron Bomburst in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Professor Van Bulow in Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon and Colonel Manfred von Holstein in Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, a film that’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 1988.)
Born February 25, 1917 — Anthony Burgess. I know I’ve seen and read A Clockwork Orange many, many years ago. I think I even took a University class on it as well. Scary book, weird film. I’ll admit that I’m not familiar with the Enderby series having not encountered them before now. Opinions please. (Died 1993.)
Born February 25, 1922 — Robert Bonfils. Illustrator, known for his covers for pulp paperback covers, many of an erotic nature. I’ve not heard of him but ISFDB lists quite a few genre works that are, errr, graced by his work. Sex is certainly his dominant theme as can be seen in the covers of Go-Go SADISTO, Orgy of the Dead and Roburta the Conqueress. I’ve included the cover of From Rapture with Love, an obvious rip-off a Bond film, as an example of his work. (Died 2018.)
Born February 25, 1938 — Diane Baker, 82. She starred in Journey to the Center of the Earth with James Mason, and shortly thereafter, she’s Princess Yasmin in The Wizard of Baghdad. She’s Kathy Adams in the “Beachhead” episode of The Invaders, and Fran Woods in the “Saturday’s Child” episode of the original Fantasy Island. I think her last genre role was as Dolores Petersen in the “Water, Water Everywhere” episode of Mann and Machine.
Born February 25, 1938 — Malcolm Tierney. He’s Lt. Shann Childsen, the Imperial Prison Officer who questions Skywalker and Solo on what they are doing with Chewbacca in Star Wars, he’s in the Sixth Doctor story, “The Trial of a Time Lord” as Doland. (Died 2014.)
Born February 25, 1944 — Mary Hughes. Solely here because she was a bikini-clad robot in Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, a too obvious Bond ripoff made entertaining by Vincent Price in the lead role. Her career spanned but three years. Another film she was in was The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini where she played, errr, a bikini clad Mary, and Boris Karloff played The Corpse.
Born February 25, 1968 — A. M. Dellamonica, 52. A Canadian writer who has published over forty rather brilliant short works since the Eighties. Her first novel, Indigo Springs, came out just a decade ago but she now has five novels published with her latest being The Nature of a Pirate. Her story, “Cooking Creole” can be heard here at Pod Castle 562. It was in Mojo: Conjure Stories, edited by Nalo Hopkinson.
Born February 25, 1971 — Sean Astin, 49. His genre roles include Samwise Gamgee in the Rings trilogy, Mikey Walsh in The Goonies, and Bob Newby in the second season of Stranger Things. He also shows up in Justice League: War and in Justice League: Throne of Atlantis filmsvoicing both aspects of Shazam, a difficult role to pull off. He reprises that role on the Justice League Action series.
(9) COMICS SECTION.
Lio finds one size does not fit all when it comes to being abducted by aliens.
Event location: San Diego, CA Date: February 08, 2020 Clan(s) Involved: Haran’galaar Clan Mission Objective: Photo ops Event Report: Mysterious Galaxy book store opened its doors again and Haran’galaar member Squoobs Jaro was there to show support. Guests were treated to photo ops with Squoobs along with members of the Imperial Sands Garrison.
(11) LAW LAW LAND. In “Useful
Laws of the Land” on the Collaborative
Fund website, Morgan Heusel discusses “Benford’s law of
controversye: “Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of
real information available,” which Gregory Benford promulgated in Timescape.
8. Benford’s law of controversy: “Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available.”
The line appeared in science fiction author Gregory Benford’s book Timescape.
Data has a way of keeping excitement in check, whereas if you have to take a leap of faith on something you’re likely to leap as far as your mind allows.
The median income of the people of another state: data I can confirm and everyone can agree on.
The feelings and political beliefs of the people of another state: no way for me to easily tell. But I can guess and draw conclusions, some of which are wrong and missing content, and might anger me, which angers them, and so on.
Former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale once said, “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”
He wasn’t serious, but it seriously explains a lot of things.
(12) IT’S A BABY! In the Washington Post, David Betancourt, reporting from the Toy Fair New York, says the market is about to be flooded with Baby Yoda merchandise, including a doll that makes baby noises if you hold his left hand and the theme from “The Mandalorian” if you hold the right. He interviews “Mandalorian” producer Dave Piloni, who says that one reason why Baby Yoda merchandise is becoming available now is that they wanted to surprise people with the character and couldn’t start production of Baby Yoda stuff until after the show was launched: “Baby Yoda toys are finally arriving. Sure, they missed the holidays — but at least that prevented spoilers.”
And on Thursday at the Dream Hotel in Manhattan, the Child was everywhere. Legos, action figures, costumes, backpacks, hats, shirts, wallets and socks were all on display. An image of the now-classic moment in “The Mandalorian” when a young Baby Yoda reaches out of a capsule and extends the cutest finger in the universe for the first time? Framed and ready for your wall. The capsule itself? Also available, and featuring an animatronic Baby Yoda that blinks, coos and will melt your heart, for $60.
(13) YOU’RE INVITED TO GO APE. Fathom Events is
selling tickets to a theatrical screening of King Kong on March 15.
In the classic adventure that made her a star, Fay Wray plays the beautiful woman who conquers the savage heart of a giant ape.
Before he became a best-selling writer, Dan Brown was an aspiring musician. In 1989, he self-produced an album of children’s music he arranged on synthesizers, titled “Musica Animalia.” It sold around 500 copies, and Brown soon forgot about it.
He had better luck as a novelist, with page-turners like “The Da Vinci Code,” “The Lost Symbol” and other thrillers that collectively have more than 220 million copies in print.
Now, three decades later, Brown is reviving his musical career with a hybrid children’s album and picture book that grew out of the music and poems he wrote for “Musica Animalia.”
…Just as Parker was the perfect lead for noir crime novels, hapless, likeable Dortmunder was the perfect lead for a comic heist series. There’s always stuff that needs stealing in New York; there are no end of unanticipated complications that can transform what was on paper a simple plan into a hilariously inconvenient maze of stumbling blocks for Dortmunder and his crew. It’s no surprise, therefore, that Westlake wrote fourteen novels and eleven or so short stories about John Dortmunder, Kelp, Murch, Tiny, and the rest of the crew before the author’s death put an end to the series.
How can we make our robot colleagues feel more at home? Teams of psychologists, roboticists and managers are trying to find out.
With a tank-like continuous track and an angular arm reminiscent of the Pixar lamp, the lightweight PackBot robot was designed to seek out, defuse and dispose of the improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, that killed and injured thousands of coalition soldiers during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bomb disposal was and is highly dangerous work, but the robot could take on the riskiest parts while its human team controlled it remotely from a safer distance.
US Army explosive ordinance disposal technician Phillip Herndon was assigned a PackBot during his first tour in Iraq. Herndon’s team named their robot Duncan, after a mission when the robot glitched and began spinning in circles, or doughnuts (doughnuts led to Dunkin Donuts, hence Duncan). His fellow bomb disposal techs named theirs too, and snapped photos of themselves next to robots holding Xbox controllers, dressed in improvised costumes or posing with a drink in their claws.
A PackBot was a piece of lifesaving kit, but it also felt like a comrade. No other equipment evoked the same kind of emotional pull, said Herndon, who retired from the army in 2016 as a first sergeant. Duncan’s final mission came one night when an enemy combatant fired on the robot as it worked to defuse a bomb. The strike disabled the IED, potentially saving lives, but destroyed the robot. “It was actually kind of a sad day for all of us,” says Herndon. “You do wind up in this situation where you have this robot for a tremendous amount of your operations, and all of a sudden you’re without a robot… There’s this emotional and operational missing link.”
Herndon was hardly alone in his attachment. Bomb-disposal robots have proven to be highly effective both at clearing explosives and at eliciting affection from their human handlers, some of whom have held robot funerals and award ceremonies for favoured bots.
These relationships offer illuminating insights into the experience of working with a robotic teammate, something an increasing number of workers in fields from healthcare to retail will be called on to do.
…‘Helping, not taking jobs’
“You need to think from the beginning of how you’re going to put these teams together, and give the robot [or] AI the job that the robot or AI does best and that the human doesn’t want to do, or that’s too boring or dangerous for the human,” says Nancy Cooke, a professor of cognitive science and director of Arizona State University’s Center for Human, Artificial Intelligence, and Robot Teaming.
…Somewhere in China, a bat flits across the sky, leaving a trace of coronavirus in its droppings, which fall to the forest floor. A wild animal, possibly a pangolin snuffling for insects among the leaves, picks up the infection from the excrement.
The novel virus circulates in wildlife. Eventually an infected animal is captured, and a person somehow catches the disease, then passes it on to workers at a wildlife market. A global outbreak is born.
Scientists are attempting to prove the truth of this scenario as they work to find wild animals harbouring the virus. Finding the sequence of events is “a bit of a detective story”, says Prof Andrew Cunningham of Zoological Society London (ZSL). A range of wild animal species could be the host, he says, in particular bats, which harbour a large number of different coronaviruses.
So how much do we know about the “spillover event”, as it’s known in the trade? When scientists cracked the code of the new virus, taken from the body of a patient, bats in China were implicated.
The mammals gather in large colonies, fly long distances and are present on every continent. They rarely get sick themselves, but have the opportunity to spread pathogens far and wide. According to Prof Kate Jones of University College London, there is some evidence bats have adapted to the energetic demands of flight and are better at repairing DNA damage. “This might enable them to cope with a higher burden of viruses before getting sick – but this is just an idea at present.”
…The second part of the puzzle, then, is the identity of the mystery animal that incubated the virus in its body and possibly ended up in the market at Wuhan. One suspect for the smoking gun is the pangolin.
Owners of a device designed to release food for pets say their animals were left hungry during a week-long system failure.
Petnet allows owners to schedule and control feeding via a smartphone app.
When the BBC contacted Petnet on its advertised email address, the email bounced back with a delivery failure notice.
One pet owner tweeted: “My cat starved for over a week”, while others complained about other hardware issues.
“My three Gen2 feeders constantly jam and won’t dispense food,” wrote another.
[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Evelyn Leeper, Cat Eldridge, Andrew
Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Michael Toman, James
Davis Nicoll, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to
File 770 contributing editor of the day Acoustic Rob.]
HWA members have until March 15 to submit their Bram Stoker Awards® final ballots.
The winners will be announced during the Annual Bram Stoker Awards Banquet®
held during the StokerCon™ 2020 in Scarborough, England.