Pixel Scroll 4/24/20 Fillie And The Poor Gods Are Stalkin’, Bring A Pixel, Scroll Your Feet

(1) MURDERBOT SPEAKS. Tor.com readies us for the May 5 release of Martha Wells’ next Murderbot book by hosting a dialog between two important characters: “Feelings REDACTED: What Happens When Murderbot and ART Talk to Instagram”.

The pair talked love, hate, fanfiction, feelings, quarantine tips, lemon cake, human flesh, dogs, robot babies, and, of course, Sanctuary Moon….

What really happened on episode 231 of Sanctuary Moon?
MB: It was clearly a dream.
ART: You’re wrong.
MB: So when the Mech Pilot was attacked by his evil duplicate who tried to hit him with a giant hammer and then disappeared, you think that was supposed to be real?
ART: It was an artistic choice.

(2) TRAVIS MCCREA APOLOGIZES. In the aftermath of John Van Stry’s court victory over book pirate Travis McCrea, McCrea has tweeted an apology. Take it for what it’s worth. Thread starts here.

(3) FANFICTION ETIQUETTE. The Mary Sue built a good story around the author’s recent Twitter thread: “N.K. Jemisin Reminds Us of the First Rule of Fanfiction”.

No, the first rule of fanfiction is not “we don’t talk about fanfiction.” Many writers happily discuss reading and writing fic—as evidenced by N.K. Jemisin, the three-time Hugo Award-winning novelist, describing how she still writes and reads it herself. The first rule of fanfiction is “you do not try and get the original creator to read your fanfiction.” How quickly we forget our Internet history.

… In explaining how these things are, Jemisin is not discouraging fans from making their own fanworks centered around her creations. She just cannot be personally involved, and it’s a serious breach of fandom etiquette to ask.

(4) BRUCE PELZ WOULD HAVE LOVED THIS. Bob Byrne is passing the time with this inventive tribute to Rex Stout’s famous sleuth: “Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay at Home – Days 5, 6, and 7”. Which means seeing everything from Archie Goodwin’s viewpoint. For example —

DAY SIX – 2020 Stay at Home (SaH)

It was a pleasant spring morning, so I took my delayed walk today. It was good to stretch the legs and breathe the freshest air I’ve inhaled since moving here many years ago. I was out for two hours, enjoying open space – and the absence of Nero Wolfe. I saw other people walking and jogging, mostly keeping the required distance. It’s going to take some time for me to get used to the lack of noise. The buzz of conversation and the traffic ruckus just aren’t there. It’s not bad – just different.

I wasn’t in the office when Wolfe got down from the plant rooms at 11, but he didn’t seem to mind. He was at his desk, reading a thick book about Huey P. Long. He acknowledged my arrival and resumed reading. That was fine with me. I let him know I would be in the basement for a while and departed.

We keep a small file cabinet down there, which contains files related to unsolved cases. I’ve never written one up, but yes, there were occasions when the great Nero Wolfe didn’t get the bad guy. Or at least, couldn’t prove the issue. I’ll admit, his batting average was much better than Ty Cobb’s, but still, it did happen. And it rankled me at least as much as it did him. I’m the one who gathers the clues. I can’t help thinking, on some of them, that if I’d gotten one more piece of something, it might have made all the difference….

(Heading explained: It was from Bruce Pelz I first heard of Nero Wolfe.)

(5) WHO WAS THAT MASKED FAN? The New Yorker chronicles “The Superfans Springing Into Mask-Making Action”.

In the pandemic economy, face masks are like bars of gold. Hoarders are hoarding them. Governors are bartering for them. Hospital workers desperately need them. New Yorkers, ordered by Governor Cuomo last week to cover their faces in public, are repurposing bandannas and boxer shorts. In Rosie the Riveter fashion, Americans with crafting skills—among them quilters, Broadway seamstresses, sportswear manufacturers, origami artists, and grandmothers—have sprung into action. But one group has special mask-making powers: cosplayers, the superfans who specialize in making and wearing costumes. Never has the ability to whip up a Spider-Man mask or a Stormtrooper helmet been so useful.

“Cosplayers have big hearts,” Monica Paprocki, a thirty-five-year-old accountant in Chicago, said. Paprocki, who runs the fandom site Geeks A Gogo, started cosplaying in 2014 and taught herself how to sew by watching YouTube videos. She dressed as Princess Jasmine at Wizard World Chicago in 2019, the year after her Phoenix Monster costume, from the board game Rising Sun, won the Golden Needle Award at a gaming convention in Indianapolis. “It had articulated wings that I controlled with a remote control,” she said. This June, she was going to dress as Buzz Lightyear at the Origins Game Fair, in Ohio, but it had been postponed until October. When she saw a Facebook group requesting homemade medical supplies, she recruited fellow-cosplayers. “Before everything closed down, I had a stash of cotton fabric and materials here in my house,” she said. “I work my regular nine-to-five job in accounting. Right after that, I start sewing.”

(6) BESTSELLERS TALK AMONG THEMSELVES. Via Shelf Awareness comes word that Stephen King and John Grisham will hold a free online conversation discussing their new books on Wednesday, April 29 at 7:00 PM Eastern.

“In lieu of admission, the authors hope attendees will consider donating to the Bookseller Industry Charitable Foundation. You can register at grishamking.eventbrite.com or watch on Stephen King’s YouTube channel. Questions for the authors can go use #AskKingandGrisham

(7) VALUE ADDED. “The Stockbrokers Of Magic: The Gathering Play for Keeps”WIRED tells how.

…A whimsical experiment in bartering kickstarted that evolution in 2010: A few years after the viral “one red paperclip” experiment—a Craigslister traded a single red paperclip for a series of increasingly valuable items until he managed to trade up for a house—a Magic player named Jonathan Medina embarked on a similar quest. Medina would trade from one random $4 pack of booster cards and keep trading up until he acquired one of the game’s legendary Power Nine cards— phenomenally rare cards widely considered very, very good. A pavement-pounding card trader, Medina blogged his experience in a widely read series of articles called “Pack to Power.” He would spend no money and, using just his wits, research, and networking skills, maneuver his $4 pack of cards into Magic wealth.

After opening his pack, Medina, in his words, began “hitting the streets to flip my cardboard.” By the time he’d traded with fellow players at gaming conventions and stores a total of 98 times, he had assembled an impressive binder stacked with valuable cards. It was at Gen Con, on a Saturday four months later, when Medina, groggy from playing Magic until five in the morning the previous night, handed over his binder in exchange for the $359.99 Mox Pearl card—a Power Nine.

“At the time, people were still trading based on nonmonetary metrics,” Medina says. “So when people read the small stories of the trades and looked at the math, they realized that they could be getting more out of their cards. This collective rise in awareness led to an interest in the financial side of the game. 

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 24, 1955 — The X Minus One radio program aired on NBC for the first time. Written by Ray Bradbury, “And The Moon Be Still As Bright” is the tale of Mars expedition which finds the Martians extinct due to chickenpox brought to them by previous expeditions. The crew save one decide to destroy all Martian artefacts. Ernest Kinoy wrote the script from the story by Bradbury, and the cast included John Larkin and Nelson Olmstead.  The show would run from now until January 8, 1958 with many of coming from well-known SF authors including Anderson, Pohl, Asimov, Blish, Leiber, Heinlein and Simak to name just a few. You can hear this episode here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 24, 1930 Richard Donner, 90. He’s credited in directing Superman which Is considered by many to be the first modern superhero film. H’h. Well I’m instead going to celebrate him for ScroogedThe Goonies and Ladyhawke. Not to mention the horror he did — Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight and Bordello of Blood. Oh, and the first X-Men film which was superb. 
  • Born April 24, 1936 Jill Ireland. For her short life, she chalked up in an amazing number of genre show roles. She was on Star Trek romancing Spock as Leila Kalomi In “This Side of Paradise” episode. She had five appearances on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well as being on Night Gallery,  My Favorite MartianVoyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Voodoo Factor and the SF film The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything based on the 1962 novel of the same name by John D. MacDonald. (Died 1990.)
  • Born April 24, 1946 Donald D’Ammassa, 74. Considered to be one of the best and fairest long-form reviewers ever. His Encyclopedia of Science Fiction covered some five hundred writers and as can two newer volumes, Encyclopedia of Fantasy and Horror Fiction and Encyclopedia of Adventure Fiction are equally exhaustive. I can’t comment on his fiction as I’ve only ever encountered him as a reviewer.
  • Born April 24, 1947 Michael Butterworth, 73. Author of, with Michael Moorcock naturally, two Time of the Hawklords novels, Time of the Hawklords and Queens of Deliria. He also wrote a number of Space 1999 Year 2 novels, too numerous to list here. He also edited Corridor magazine from 1971 to 1974. He also wrote a number of short fiction pieces including one whose title amuses me for reasons I’m not sure, “Circularisation of Condensed Conventional Straight-Line Word-Image Structures“. 
  • Born April 24, 1950 Michael Patrick Hearn, 70. Academic who has some of the best annotated works I’ve had the pleasure to encounter. I wholeheartedly recommend both The Annotated Wizard of Oz and The Annotated Christmas Carol, not to overlook Victorian Fairy Tales which is simply the best collection of those tales.
  • Born April 24, 1953 Gregory Luce, 67. Editor and publisher of both the Science Fiction Gems and the Horror Gems anthology series, plus such other anthologies as Citadel of the Star Lords / Voyage to Eternity and Old Spacemen Never Die! / Return to Earth. For a delightful look at him and these works, go here. Warning: really cute canine involved! 
  • Born April 24, 1955 Wendy S. Delmater, 65. She was nominated at Sasquan for a Best Semiprozine Hugo for editing the exemplary Abyss & Apex webzine. It’s particularly strong in the areas of speculative poetry and small press genre reviews. She herself has written a lot of genre centered essays, plus a handful of genre stories and poems. 
  • Born April 24, 1983 Madeline Ashby, 37. California-born Canadian resident writer whose Company Town novel created an entire city in an oil rig. Interestingly In 2013, she was a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer but recused herself on the grounds that her pro  career started with her ‘09 publication of a short story in Nature, so  her eligibility period had expired in ‘11. And her Machine Dynasties series is simply brilliant, and resonates with the later Murderbot series.

(10) HAPPY BIRTHDAY HUBBLE. “Hubble telescope delivers stunning 30th birthday picture”

It’s 30 years ago to the day that the Hubble telescope was launched – and to celebrate its birthday, the veteran observatory has produced another astonishing image of the cosmos.

This one is of a star-forming region close to our Milky Way Galaxy, about 163,000 light-years from Earth.

The larger object is the nebula NGC 2014; its companion is called NGC 2020.

But astronomers have nicknamed the scene the “Cosmic Reef” because it resembles an undersea world.

(11) AND IN MOTION. Hubble’s 30th anniversary image has been turned into a 3D “spaceflight” experience.

Experts created this visualisation showing the Giant Red Nebula and its smaller blue neighbour, which lie in a satellite-galaxy of the Milky Way.

(12) IN ONE SITTING. “The chairs of Blake’s 7” is a vast collage of furniture and show highlights assembled by the author of the Watching Blake’s 7 blog:

…So, here is a compilation all the identifiable seating seen in Blake’s 7.  In addition, I have thrown in a handful of tables, desks, lamps and other things that showcase how bloomin’ stylish Blake’s 7 was, and how the BBC props store contained a wealth of magnificent design artefacts.

First on the list —

Folding chair
Fred Scott, for Hille International
1960’s
Seen in ‘Animals’

Let’s start with one of the most beautiful moments in Blake’s 7, and a reminder of the sheer effort to get the series broadcast on time and on budget.  Sure, Avon slips at the end of this shot, and there’s no time for a retake, but let’s not forget the attitude in which he knocks the chair over.   I’m delighted to report that Fred Scott designed something robust enough to withstand the dirtiest ‘Dirty Harry’ kicking seen on screen up to that point.  Chair vandalism, or quality control?  You decide.

(13) SACRILEGE! The Chewie Millennial System: “Library books rearranged in size order by cleaner”.

A well-meaning cleaner who took the opportunity to give a locked-down library a thorough clean re-shelved all of its books – in size order.

Staff at Newmarket Library, Suffolk, discovered the sloping tomes after the building underwent a deep clean.

James Powell, of Suffolk Libraries, said staff “saw the funny side” but it would take a “bit of time” to correct.

“It looks like libraries will be closed for a while so we’ll have plenty of time to sort the books out”, he said.

“The cleaner is lovely and does a great job in the library. It was an honest mistake and just one of those things so we would never want her to feel bad about it,” he added.

(14) RIGHTFUL PREY. Let Atlas Obscura show you the elusive “Fremont Troll”.

AN 18-FT. tall troll made of cement clutches an old VW car underneath an overpass in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. The car is an actual Volkswagen Beetle encased in concrete, which used to be red and bear a California license plate.

The Troll was constructed in 1990 after winning a Fremont Arts Council competition for designs to improve the freeway underpass, which then was a dumping ground….

(15) A MOBY FILE. “Oregon Park Rangers Decided to Bury a Perfectly Dead Whale Instead of Blowing It Up” grumps the Willamette Week. Tagline: “Do we really want to live in a state that won’t explode giant animal carcasses when given the chance?”

… On Saturday, the carcass of a 40-foot grey whale washed up on the shore of the Sand Lake Recreation Area north of Pacific City. For longtime Oregonians, news of a dead whale appearing on a local beach should ring a few alarm bells…

… In case you don’t know the story, in November 1970, a sperm whale of roughly the same size washed up on the beach in Florence, Ore. Local officials considered several methods of disposing the body, like dragging it out to sea. Ultimately, they went with the most exciting option available—blowin’ it up real good.

It was a bit of a disaster. The dynamite blew chunks of whale flesh 800 feet in the air, raining viscera down on bystanders and destroying a car in the adjacent parking lot. 

Which gives everyone on the internet an excuse to repost one of the most viral videos of all time:

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “No Maps For These Territories:  A William Gibson Docufilm” on YouTube is a 2000 documentary, directed by Mark Neale, of conversations held with Gibson during his book tour for All Tomorrow’s Parties.  It includes interviews with Bruce Sterling and Jack Womack and Gibson remembering that when he read “Burning Chrome,” one of the first cyberpunk stories, at Denvention II in 1981, he had an audience of four.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/20/20 Scrollcial Distancing

(1) TOWER OF FABLE. Mark Lawrence promoted a new book release by challenging his readers to make towers of their books and send him photos — “The Girl And The Stars – contest!”. He has posted the entries — it’s an amazing gallery.

(2) ON THE FRONT OF F&SF. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s May/June 2020 cover. The art by Maurizio Manzieri is for “Who Carries the World” by Robert Reed.

(3) ASIMOV RESEARCH SPARKS SUSPICION. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Australian SF fan Steven Cooper caught the interest of the security folks at Australia’s National Emergency Library due to his unusual borrowing habits. The software engineer had been checking out books ten at a time for several years, which made the organization wonder if something was amiss. In an interesting blog post on Archive.org, Wendy Hanamura (@whanamura) explains how a research project about Isaac Asimov put Cooper in the hot seat for a few minutes. “Suspicious Activity in the National Emergency Library? No, just the best kind of activity…” 

This software engineer with an obsession for Asimov never expected his passion project would be seen by the public, let alone a constellation of science fiction devotees. He did it for himself, to explore the many dimensions of Asimov’s thinking, where the writer’s curiosity would lead him, the clarity with which he would explain the world.

…The fruits of Steven Cooper’s labor are now available for anyone to use. His list is 676 pages long, at the moment. Yet, this software engineer with an obsession for Asimov never expected his passion project would be seen by the public, let alone a constellation of science fiction devotees. He did it for himself, to explore the many dimensions of Asimov’s thinking, where the writer’s curiosity would lead him, the clarity with which he would explain the world. “He is known as possibly the most wide-ranging writer of the 20th Century,” Cooper ruminated. “I was just interested to see how wide ranging that was. I don’t think anyone has ever read everything he wrote.”

Here’s the link to Steven Cooper’s “An Annotated Asimov Bibliography”.

(4) YOUR SPOILER MILEAGE MAY VARY. [Item by Daniel Dern.] As part of research for an article I’m writing, I’m (re)reading Asimov’s The Caves Of Steel. I’d gotten a copy through interlibrary loan (via The Robot Novels, also includes The Naked Sun)… and, ~2/3rd of the way through the story, encountered this (see pic) reader annotation. So far, having finished tCoS, and, flipping through the pages (easy to do, since it’s paper), I don’t see said “solution” scribbled elsewhere.

Unless it was on the flip side of the very next page, which has ~1/3″ torn off at the bottom (thankfully, below the book text proper).

So, the spoiler spoiled?

It’s a decent re-read… yes, it has its share of oatmeal/porridge info-lumps throughout, many not plot-essential, but back then (early 50’s) that’s part of what many (of us) were reading sf for, no?

And it’s a plays-fair-with-the-reader detective story. The clues are there, all along. (Hardly surprising, given Asimov’s interest and writing in that sibling genre.)

(5) CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS. SF2 Concatenation wants to give some folk in lock-down some distraction and also wave the flag for con-going fandom. “SF convention-goers wanted”.

…So here’s the thing. Given the next few months many of us are going to be largely housebound, how about those of you who regularly go to a particular series of conventions give a shout out to that convention series?

There are a number of articles you could write and we’d be delighted to post.

Possibilities include, but not restricted to, writing an outline history (or recent history) of the series of conventions you wish to share.  Alternatively, if you are feeling creative, you could write a convention review of a convention that has been cancelled this year.  If you have been to two or three previous conventions in the series you can mine events that took place at those earlier cons paraphrasing them. You can check out the Guests of Honour that would have appeared at this year’s event and write a short paragraph on each….

(6) HUBBLE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] In honor of the Hubble Space Telescope‘s 30th birthday, NASA would like to show you a great image shot on your birthday… Or any other day of the year that’s particularly special to you.

Just follow the link — “What Did Hubble See on Your Birthday?” — select & confirm the date, et voilà, a sure-to be spectacular image will be provided. 

(7) ROLL VS. ROLE. At Unusual Things, Max Florschutz unpacks the problems with a trendy solution for creating characters: “Being a Better Writer: Tools VS Actions”. An interesting diagnosis.

… There were several discussions I’d seen in the last few weeks across writing sites and discussions about so-called “gamification” of characters. Or, to put it another way, writing characters whose abilities felt like they were out of a video game….

…See, this writer had gone ahead and written out a character sheet, as writers often do. No problems there. But when it came to the section on their characters skills, rather than be general with what their character was good at, they had written—you guessed it—a named list of “actions” they could take.

Like a role-playing game. Or an anime. There was the name of the skill, and how it worked, and what they did with it. All in a neat little list.

But seeing that list made all these complaints I’d been reading “click” in my head and I immediately saw how and why so many were complaining about this type of writing, and how people were getting there.

Because in making lists like this, these authors had restricted themselves. Fallen into a trap of their own making wherein they were becoming too specific and limiting what they (and their characters) could do.

What it came down to, ultimately, was what I immediately made notes of as “Tools VS Actions.” Which ended up being the title of this post.

Okay, let me explain a little further by giving you a simple example. Suppose you are writing a character that is a thief. They break into places and steal stuff. Now, you sit down to create a character sheet, but have you ever considered that how you write the character sheet determine how you’ll see them in the story?…

(8) ROWE OBIT. The death of D.J. Rowe was announced by Michael Moorcock on Facebook.

Very sorry to hear of the natural death at 83 of D..J. Rowe, who ran my first fan club. He was a sweet, unassuming man and continued to be the hub of the Nomads of the Time Streams. He will be very sadly missed.

(9) DEITCH OBIT. Winner of the Winsor McCay Award (2004) for his lifelong contribution to animation, Gene Deitch has died at the age of 95. The Hollywood Reporter fills in his resume:

…Deitch’s movie Munro won the Academy Award for best animated short film in 1960. He also was nominated for the same award twice in 1964 for Here’s Nudnik and How to Avoid Friendship.

Earlier, Deitch had created the Tom Terrific series, while the short Sidney’s Family Tree, which he co-produced, was nominated for an Academy Award in 1958.

Born on Aug. 8, 1924, in Chicago, Deitch arrived in Prague in 1959, intending to stay for 10 days, but fell in love with his future wife, Zdenka, and stayed in the Czechoslovakian capital.

Working from behind the Iron Curtain, he directed 13 episodes of Tom and Jerry and also some of the Popeye the Sailor series….

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • April 20, 1950 Dimension X’s “Report On The Barnhouse Effect” first aired on NBC. A mild college professor discovers the secret of telekinesis and becomes a most potent weapon. It was the first short story written and published by Kurt Vonnegut, and would be in the February 11, 1950 issue of Collier’s Weekly. In 1952, the story would be in Heinlein’s Tomorrow, the Stars anthology. Here the cast was Santos Ortega and William Quinn with direction by Edward King from a script by Charles Ross. Bob Warren was the announcer. You can hear it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 20, 1908 Donald Wandrei. Writer who had sixteen stories in Astounding Stories and fourteen stories in Weird Tales, plus a smattering elsewhere, all in the Twenties and Thirties. The Web of Easter Island is his only novel. He was the co-founder with August Derleth of Arkham House. He has World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement, and he’s a member of First Fandom Hall of Fame. Only his “Raiders of The Universe“ short story and his story in  Famous Fantastic Mysteries (October 1939 issue) are available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1987.)
  • Born April 20, 1937 George Takei, 83. Hikaru Sulu on the original Trek. And yes, I know that Vonda McIntyre wouldn’t coin the first name until a decade later in her Entropy Effect novel.  Post-Trek, he would write Mirror Friend, Mirror Foe with Robert Asprin. By the way, his first genre roles were actually dubbing the English voices of Professor Kashiwagi of Rodan! The Flying Monster and the same of the Commander of Landing Craft of Godzilla Raids Again. He also was Kaito Nakamura on Heroes. And later he got to play his character once again on one of those video fanfics, Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II.
  • Born April 20, 1939 Peter S. Beagle, 81. I’ve known him for about fifteen years now, met him but once in that time. He’s quite charming. (I had dinner with him here once several years back.)  My favorite works? TamsinSummerlong and In Calabria. He won the Novelette Hugo at L.A. Con IV for “Two Hearts”. And he has World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
  • Born April 20, 1943 Ian Watson, 77. He’s won the BSFA Award twice, first for his novel, The Jonah Kit, and recently for for his short story, “The Beloved Time of Their Lives“. He also got a BSFA nomination for the charmingly titled “The World Science Fiction Convention of 2080”. 
  • Born April 20, 1949 John Ostrander, 71. Writer of comic books, including GrimjackSuicide Squad and Star Wars: Legacy. Well those are the titles he most frequently gets noted for but I’ll add in The Spectre,  Martian Manhunter and the late Eighties Manhunter as well. His run on the Suicide Squad isavailable on the DC Universe app as his amazing work on The Spectre.
  • Born April 20, 1949 Jessica Lange, 71. Her very first role was Dwan in the remake of King Kong. Later genre roles are modest, Sandra Bloom Sr. in Big Fish and Constance Langdon / Elsa Mars / Fiona Goode / Sister Jude Martin in American Horror Story
  • Born April 20, 1951 Louise Jameson, 69. Leela of the Sevateem, companion to the Fourth Doctor. Appeared in nine stories of which my favorite was “The Talons of Weng Chiang” which I reviewed here. She segued from Dr. Who to The Omega Factor where she was the regular cast as Dr. Anne Reynolds. These appear to her only meaningful genre roles. And she like so many Who performers has reprised her tole for Big Finish productions. 
  • Born April 20, 1959 Clint Howard, 61. So the most interesting connection that he has to the genre is playing Balok, the strange childlike alien, in “The Corbomite Maneuver” which I remember clearly decades after last seeing it. He’s also John Dexter in Cocoon, and Mark in The Rocketeer as well as Jason Ritter in the Austin Powers franchise. He’s got a minor role in Solo: A Star Wars Story as a character named Ralakili. 
  • Born April 20, 1959 Carole E. Barrowman, 61. Sister of John Barrowman. John and Carole co-wrote a Torchwood comic strip, featuring Jack Harkness, entitled Captain Jack and the Selkie. They’ve also written the Torchwood: Exodus Code audiobook. In addition, they’ve written Hollow Earth, a horror novel. She contributed an essay about her brother to the Chicks Dig Time Lords anthology which is lot of fun to read. 
  • Born April 20, 1964 Crispin Glover, 56. Actor in such roles as George McFly in Back to the Future, Ilosovic Stayne aka The Knave of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, Grendel in Beowulf and Mr. World, the god of globalization, in American Gods
  • Born April 20, 1964 Andy Serkis, 56. I will freely admit that the list of characters that he has helped create is amazing: Gollum in The Lord of the Rings films and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, King Kong in that film, Caesar in the Planet of the Apes reboot series. Captain Haddock / Sir Francis Haddock in The Adventures of Tintin (great film that was), and even Supreme Leader Snoke in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. Last year, he portrayed the character of Baloo in his self-directed film, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • At The Far Side, a palm reader’s advice is right on the mark.
  • This Pearls Before Swine has the word “moon” in it – that makes it science fiction, right?
  • Bizarro gets into type.
  • F-Minus shows a way to shrink monsters.
  • Non Sequitur quotes what one dinosaur was saying right before the meteor hit.

(13) PAINTING WITH WORDS. Bizarro’s Dan Piraro does a blog accompaniment to his week’s cartoons in “Senses”.

…The above cartoon, a satire of the ancient Japanese maxim, “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil,” attempts to illustrate how on the Internet, seeing, hearing, and speaking evil has become the preferred norm. And not just in ways that authoritarian conspiracy nuts use it to mislead people, but in the way we all use it to eavesdrop, spy, gossip, argue, insult, and otherwise exercise our insecure egos in ways that seem delicious and satisfying at the first, but which darken our outlook and mood over time.

This is the primary reason I don’t read or respond to comments on the Interwebs. To be clear, I read all comments left on my cartoon posts and occasionally will respond once to an attack (succinctly, in an adult manner, without insult or profanity) but it ends there. I won’t argue with people online. I may as well be arguing with the radio in my car.

I find that this approach leads to a more peaceful daily existence. If I read a rant by someone who thinks Donald Trump was sent by God to give Amurica back to white people, it aggravates me for days. As pointless as it is, I can’t stop arguing with them in my head. It’s like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. I know the world is full of gullible idiots—there’s no need to keep proving it to myself by spending time on Facebook….

(14) NO HARD FEELINGS. [Item by Rob Thornton.] According to IndieWire, a site that covers the world of independent movies, David Lynch is not interested in Denis Villeneuve’s upcoming two-part cinematic adaptation of Dune. Lynch is known to be unhappy with his own adaptation of Dune in the mid-80s: “It Should Surprise No One That David Lynch Has ‘Zero Interest’ in Villeneuve’s ‘Dune’”.

Lynch has been a vocal detractor of his own “Dune” film since its release in 1985, going so far as wanting to remove his name off the final theatrical cut. Some longer cuts of the film that feature an extended introduction with still illustrations even replace Lynch’s name in the end credits with that of Alan Smithee, the industry pseudonym used by filmmakers who wish not to be associated with their films. Lynch spent three years making “Dune,” only for producers and financiers to get in the way of his creative vision. As cast member Brad Dourif once said, Lynch had to cut some of the “most gorgeous” sequences from his script because producers refused to give Lynch the money to film them. The tightening of the budget also forced Lynch to be complacent with shoddy visual effects and a more cheap-looking production.

(15) SONG FOR THE TIMES. “‘Toy Story’ composer Randy Newman shares social-distancing song ‘Stay Away'”ABC News has the story.

Some of the lyrics of “Stay Away” include: “Stay away from me. Baby, keep your distance, please. Stay away from me. Words of love in times like these. I’m gonna be with you 24 hours a day. A lot of people couldn’t stand that. But you can. You’ll be with me 24 hours a day. What a lucky man I am.”

(16) REFERENCE DIRECTOR! A bit of Tolkienesque humor. And the man below NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is Dr Ashley Bloomfield, the Director-general of Health. He often gives the daily COVID-19 press conference.

(17) WHAT’S THAT SMELL? “‘Alien comet’ visitor has weird composition” – BBC has the story.

The first known comet to visit us from another star system has an unusual make-up, according to new research.

The interstellar comet 2I/Borisov was detected in our Solar System last year.

This mysterious visitor from the depths of space has provided astronomers with an unprecedented opportunity to compare it to comets that formed around the Sun.

New data suggests it contains large amounts of carbon monoxide – a possible clue to where it was “born”.

The findings appear in two separate scientific papers published by Nature Astronomy.

…The teams identified two molecules in the gas ejected by the comet: hydrogen cyanide (HCN) and carbon monoxide (CO).

HCN has already been detected in this interstellar vistor, and is present at similar amounts to those found in Solar System comets.

However, they were surprised to see large amounts of CO. The researchers using Alma for their observations estimated that 2I/Borisov’s CO concentration was between nine and 26 times higher than that of an average Solar System comet.

(18) SIGN OF THE TIMES. Seen in The Week.

A man wearing a Batman costume and driving a custom-made replica Batmobile has been patrolling the streets of Monterrey, Mexico, earning reisdents to stay indoors and observe government-ordered social-distancing measures.  ‘Hey, you! Stay home,’ urges the recorded message blasting from the faux-Batmobile as the anonymous caped crusader drives through the city.  ‘Join us superheroes, stay home.’

(19) RETURN TO NATURE. “Australia coronavirus lockdown: Kangaroo hops through empty Adelaide streets” – video.

South Australia Police have captured the moment a kangaroo hopped through the heart of downtown Adelaide during coronavirus lockdown.

(20) APOCALYPSE AHEAD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is from “Sydney Diary” by Geraldine Brooks in the January 11 Financial Times.

“When I was in my early teens, I read John Wyndham’s post-apocalypse novel The Chrysalids.  In it, one of the characters keens for her devastated planet:  ‘What did they do here?  What can they have done to create such a frightful place?…There was the power of gods in the hands of children, we know; but were all of them mad children, all of them quite mad?…

…”I am a novelist, so in my mind I create a character like Wyndham’s in the aftermath of the climate apocalypse, looking back at the devastation, trying to fathom the madness that allowed it.  The country was burning, but they gave the go-ahead to the vast Adani coal mine.  Their rivers were dying, but they flushed their toilets with drinking water.  They used the fossil fuels that were poisoning their planet to make plastic things they used just once then threw in the oceans.  And yes, because I too am among this moment’s mad and guilty, they thought it was OK to fly around the planet, willy-nilly, just because they wanted to.”

(21) MUSIC VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Gimme Love” — Genius explains:

The themes of space travel seen in the videos of Nectar’s first two singles, “Sanctuary” and “Run,” are continued in the video for “Gimme Love.” The video features a montage of clips showing Joji’s journey in becoming an astronaut, finishing as Joji rebelliously launches to space inside a rocket.

[Thanks to Olav Rokne, JJ, N., Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Gordon Van Gelder, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Errolwi, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Rob Thornton, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Olav Rokne.]

Pixel Scroll 4/7/20 Files In My Pocket Like Pixels Of Scrolls

(1) S.P. SOMTOW RETURNS TO SFF. Somtow Sucharitkul celebrated the appearance of his new novel with these retrospective thoughts —

My first novel was published in 1981 by Simon and Schuster. It cost $2.50 and I got 20¢ a copy. To earn out my $5,000 advance, I would have had to sell 25,000 books. I don’t know if it sold that many, but it did get reprinted by S&S, and then republished by Del Rey. Later, my advances, and presumably the number of books they sold, increased quite a bit.

Twenty years ago, I kind of vanished from publishing except for the odd (very) Star Trek novel. But anyway the bottom fell out of the market for us mid-list types.

Now forty years have gone by since my first novel came out. I have just put out my first new science fiction novel since 1997 (unless you count that “very” odd Star Trek novel. Today, I’m not even imagining selling 100,000 copies of Vampire Junction or 25,000 copies of a space opera. Today, putting the whole thing on amazon all by myself, I’m thinking boy, if I sell 100 copies, I’ll have made a whole lot of old-time fans, most of whom I know personally, happy. And enjoy a lot of very nice meals.

But here’s the thing … it was REALLY satisfying to finish a science fiction novel. I might have to do some more.

Homeworld of the Heart — the 5th novel in the Inquestor series and my first science fiction book since 1997. Here are the links to the trade paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

It’s about the childhood of Sajit, who was to become the poet of the entire galactic empire. It’s chock-full of childsoldiers, people bins, tachyon bubbles, utopia hunters, beauty and depravity and the other expected features of the series, but also speaks about the chaos that ensues when the Inquestors’ games misfire, about the subtleties of music in the Inquestral age, and the stone-age taboos of a high-tech civilization.

(2) BAEN SERIES ENDS. I inquired of Baen Books’ Christopher Ruocchio and learned there won’t be a volume of The Year’s Best Military & Adventure SF in 2020. He said, “Toni and [editor] David Afsharirad decided that five volumes was going to do it for the military sf anthology series and wrapped it up. Last year’s was the last for the present.” The series will be missed.

(3) MEDICAL UPDATE. Juanita Coulson, 87, was taken to Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio, for tests and treatment. It was suspected she’d had a stroke, however, Bruce Coulson told Facebook readers today in a public post: “Further news on Mom. It turns out she did NOT have a stroke (probably), but does have a UTI and will be off work for a while. On the plus side, she might be going back home in a couple of days.”

Coulson is a sff author, winner of the Big Heart Award (2012), and past DUFF delegate.

(4) CANADA PERFORMS. Margaret Atwood kicks off a streaming series for Canadian writers whose tours have been derailed. “It doesn’t replace the fun of an audience, mass audience response, but it’s better than nothing,” she said. “I think we’re in the better-than-nothing era.” The New York Times reports: “At Margaret Atwood’s Prompting, Canada Launches Virtual Book Tours”.

Margaret Atwood is launching an online series that she hopes will help Canada’s writers sell books to a nation of shut-ins. But even she has not been immune to the headaches plaguing many people as they attempt to communicate during the global pandemic.

One came half an hour into a conversation about upcoming books with Adrienne Clarkson, a friend and fellow author, hosted by the National Arts Centre on Facebook Live. Atwood’s image froze.

“Come back, come back,” Clarkson said. “Was it anything I said?”

After a few minutes, Atwood did reappear, in a different room of her house with a superior internet connection. The two women continued to go through a list of books they acknowledged that, for the most part, they hadn’t even seen, let alone read, but were written by authors whose earlier works they enjoyed.

Their chat, which veered into social distancing and gardening, among other subjects, was an extension of a program the arts center started two weeks ago, CanadaPerforms, to provide a paid venue for musicians, actors, comedians and other performers at a time when stages are dark around the world….

(5) BARBER OBIT. [Item by Joel Zakem.] Michigan fan Tom Barber (born 1949) passed away on April 4, 2020, from complications of COVID 19. Tom was a long time convention worker and occasional t-shirt dealer who, in the past, had chaired both Confusion and Conclave. He was a member of the Dorsai Irregulars and was Fan GOH at Confusion in 2001.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 7, 1933 King Kong was released nationwide I he U.S. It was directed and produced by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. The screenplay was written by James Ashmore Creelman and Ruth Rose was developed from an idea by Cooper and Edgar Wallace. It stars Fay Wray, Bruce Cabot and Robert Armstrong. Critics mostly loved it, the box office was quite amazing and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 97% approval rating. You can watch it here.
  • April 7, 1951 The Thing from Another World premiered. It was directed by Christian Nyby, and produced by Edward Lasker. It’s based on John W. Campbell ‘s “Who Goes There?” novella. The film stars Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey, Robert Cornthwaite, and Douglas Spencer. James Arness is The Thing, but he is almost impossible to recognize in makeup due to both the extremely low lighting and other steps used to hide his face. Critics at the time weren’t wild about it but audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes really like it and give it an 87% rating. You can watch it here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 7, 1915 Henry Kuttner. While he was working for the d’Orsay agency, he found Leigh Brackett’s early manuscripts in the slush pile; it was under his guidance that she sold her first story to Campbell at Astounding Stories. His own work was done in close collaboration with C. L. Moore, his wife, and much of what they published was under pseudonyms.  During the Forties, he also contributed numerous scripts to the Green Lantern series. (Died 1958.)
  • Born April 7, 1915 Stanley Adams. He’s best known for playing Cyrano Jones in “The Trouble with Tribbles” Trek episode. He reprised that role in the Star Trek: The Animated Series episode “More Tribbles, More Troubles” and archival footage of  him was later featured in the Deep Space Nine “Trials and Tribble-ations” episode. He also appeared in two episodes of the Batman series (“Catwoman Goes to College” and “Batman Displays his Knowledge”) as Captain Courageous. (Died 1977.)
  • Born April 7, 1928 James White. Certainly the Sector General series which ran to twelve novels and ran over thirty years of publication was his best known work. I’ve no idea how many I read but it was quite a few. I’m not sure what else by him I’ve read but I’m certain there was other novels down the years. He worked on the famed Irish fanzines Slant and Hyphen. He was a guest of honor at the 1996 Worldcon. (Died 1999.)
  • Born April 7, 1935 Marty Cantor, 85. He edited with his then wife Robbie Holier Than Thou, nominated for the 1984, 1985 and 1986 Hugo Awards for Best Fanzine — losing in the first two years to File 770 and in the last to Lan’s Lantern. He also published Who Knows What Ether Lurks in the Minds of Fen?, a rather nice play off The Shadow radio intro.
  • Born April 7, 1939 Francis Ford Coppola, 81. Director / Writer / Producer. THX 1138 was produced by him and directed by George Lucas in his feature film directorial debut in 1971. Saw it late at night after some serious drug ingestion with a red head into Morrison — strange experience that was. Other genre works of note include Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a episode of Faerie Tale Theatre entitled “Rip Van Winkle”, Twixt (a horror film that almost no one has heard of), Captain EO which featured Michael JacksonMary Shelley’s FrankensteinJeepers Creepers and Jeepers Creepers 2.
  • Born April 7, 1945 Susan Petrey. Only three of her stories were published during her lifetime. More of her work appeared in the Gifts of Blood collection published after her death. She was nominated, also posthumously, for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, and her story ”Spidersong” was nominated for the Hugo Award. Susan C. Petrey Clarion Scholarship Fund annually awards scholarships to both the Clarion & Clarion West workshops and also supports an instructor at Clarion West as a Petrey Fellow. (Died 1980.)
  • Born April 7, 1946 Stan Winston. He’s best known for his work in Aliens, the Terminator franchise, the first three Jurassic Park films, the first two Predator films, Batman Returns and Iron Man. He was unusual in having expertise in makeup, puppets and practical effects, and was just starting to get in digital effects as well upon the time of his passing. I think we sum up his talent by noting that he both an Oscars for Best Visual Effects and Best Makeup for his work on Terminator 2: Judgment Day. (Died 2008.)
  • Born April 7, 1951 Yvonne Gilbert, 69. Though best remembered for her controversial cover design of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s 1983 single ”Relax”, she did a number of great genre covers including Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea for Bantam in 1991 and Beagle’sA Dance for Emilia for Roc in 2000.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

Is coronavirus funny enough to fill the entire Comics Section? You be the judge!

  • xkcd tells why homemade masks are better than some other ideas for avoiding infection.
  • Pearls Before Swine’s creator is suspiciously unavailable — April 6 and April 7
  • Brewster Rockit goes for a pretty obvious punchline on the first day, and another one the next day.
  • Frank and Ernest certainly have their hearts in the right place.
  • Lio is about as funny as usual. (If you’ll pardon my saying so.)
  • Tank McNamara, on the other hand, is almost worth a laugh, which has never happened before. 

(9) AS LONG AS YOU HAVE SOME TIME ON YOUR HANDS: Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Barry Kibrick discuss the Universe from the Big Bang to Newton in a two-part special episode of Between the Lines: “Astrophysics: Part One, From the Big Bang to Newton” and “Astrophysics: Part Two, From Newton to Our Current Time”.

(10) SPIN CONTROL. “Event Horizon Telescope: Black hole produces twisting jet” – BBC has the story.

One year on from publishing the first ever image of a black hole, the team behind that historic breakthrough is back with a new picture.

This time we’re being shown the base of a colossal jet of excited gas, or plasma, screaming away from another black hole at near light-speed.

The scene was actually in the “background” of the original target.

The scientists who operate the Event Horizon Telescope describe the jet in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

They say their studies of the region of space known as 3C 279 will help them better understand the physics that drives behaviour in the vicinity of black holes.

(11) TIGER, TIGER. Details on the sick tigers: NPR asks “A Tiger Has Coronavirus. Should You Worry About Your Pets?”

Nadia is a four-year-old Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo. Last week, she started exhibiting one of the key symptoms of the novel coronavirus: a dry cough.

And it wasn’t just Nadia — her sister Azul, two Amur tigers, and three African lions were all experiencing the same thing. So the zoo got permission from local and state health departments and animal health authorities, and took a sample from Nadia to be tested for the SARS-CoV-2. The sample was analyzed at the University of Illinois and Cornell University, and the presumptive positive finding confirmed at a U.S. Department of Agriculture lab in Iowa.

That positive makes Nadia the first known infection case of an animal in the U.S., the CDC says.

That result raises a number of questions about the virus, and how it could affect the animals we spend time with. We’ll tackle those questions here.

How do you test a tiger for coronavirus?

The test involved an oral swab, a nasal swab, and procedure called a tracheal wash, which allows for sampling of the animal’s airways….

How did the tiger get tested when a lot of people still can’t?

The sample from Nadia was tested at veterinary diagnostic labs that aren’t approved to analyze human tests. The testing of the tiger “did not take a test or resources from human health efforts,” the zoo said.

Nadia and the other tigers and lions are doing well and improving, the zoo says, though some have a decrease in appetite.

(12) VIDEOS OF THE DAY. “2 Lizards:  Episode 3, 2020” completes a three-part series of short videos on Vimeo in which Oriem Barki and Meriem Bennani show that even lizards get antsy if they stay inside and watch coronavirus coverage on their laptops.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/18/20 How Many Files To Babylon? Fifth Score Files And Ten

(1) BELATED RECOGNITION. BBC explores “Why Octavia E. Butler’s novels are so relevant today”.

The visionary sci-fi author envisaged an alternate future that foresaw many aspects of life today, from big pharma to Trumpism. Now she has a cult following, writes Hephzibah Anderson.

It’s campaign season in the US, and a charismatic dark horse is running with the slogan ‘make America great again’. According to his opponent, he’s a demagogue; a rabble-rouser; a hypocrite. When his supporters form mobs and burn people to death, he condemns their violence “in such mild language that his people are free to hear what they want to hear”. He accuses, without grounds, whole groups of people of being rapists and drug dealers. How much of this rhetoric he actually believes and how much he spouts “just because he knows the value of dividing in order to conquer and to rule” is at once debatable, and increasingly beside the point, as he strives to return the country to a “simpler” bygone era that never actually existed.

You might think he sounds familiar – but the character in question is Texas Senator Andrew Steele Jarret, the fictional presidential candidate who storms to victory in a dystopian science-fiction novel titled Parable of the Talents. Written by Octavia E Butler, it was published in 1998, two decades before the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States.

…Fourteen years after her early death, Butler’s reputation is soaring. Her predictions about the direction that US politics would take, and the slogan that would help speed it there, are certainly uncanny. But that wasn’t all she foresaw. She challenged traditional gender identity, telling a story about a pregnant man in Bloodchild and envisaging shape-shifting, sex-changing characters in Wild Seed. Her interest in hybridity and the adaptation of the human race, which she explored in her Xenogenesis trilogy, anticipated non-fiction works by the likes of Yuval Noah Harari. Concerns about topics including climate change and the pharmaceutical industry resonate even more powerfully now than when she wove them into her work.

And of course, by virtue of her gender and ethnicity, she was striving to smash genre assumptions about writers – and readers – so ingrained that in 1987, her publisher still insisted on putting two white women on the jacket of her novel Dawn, whose main character is black. She also helped reshape fantasy and sci-fi, bringing to them naturalism as well as characters like herself. And when she won the prestigious MacArthur ‘genius’ grant in 1995, it was a first for any science-fiction writer.

(2) HOT WORDS ABOUT A COLD CLASSIC. The report in yesterday’s Scroll about Cora Buhlert’s takeoff on a classic, “The Cold Crowdfunding Campaign”, prompted Filers to remember Richard Harter’s epic analysis “The Cold Equations – A Critical Study” (thanks to Andrew for finding the Usenet link.)

… Science fiction has been described as a literature of ideas, a literary arena in which the idea is hero. This may well be true. Too often, however, it is a flawed literature of ideas, marked by shoddy treatments received with uncritical enthusiasm. The Cold Equations has been cited an instance of the “literature of ideas” at its best.

In the original article I argued that the story is no such thing but rather that it is an example of systemic blindness to morally obtuse assumptions. This argument is considered in detail below. Given that, one asks: Why is the story so ardently defended – and attacked? Why has the story made such an impression?…

(3) HITLER BACK ON SALE. Amazon admits it simply makes criticism-driven decisions – “Amazon Bans, Then Reinstates, Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’” – the New York Times has the story.

Amazon quietly banned Adolf Hitler’s manifesto “Mein Kampf” late last week, part of its accelerating efforts to remove Nazi and other hate-filled material from its bookstore, before quickly reversing itself.

The retailer, which controls the majority of the book market in the United States, is caught between two demands that cannot be reconciled. Amazon is under pressure to keep hate literature off its vast platform at a moment when extremist impulses seem on the rise. But the company does not want to be seen as the arbiter of what people are allowed to read, which is traditionally the hallmark of repressive regimes.

Booksellers that sell on Amazon say the retailer has no coherent philosophy about what it decides to prohibit, and seems largely guided by public complaints.

Over the last 18 months, it has dropped books by Nazis, the Nation of Islam and the American neo-Nazis David Duke and George Lincoln Rockwell. But it has also allowed many equally offensive books to continue to be sold.

(4) IN LIKE FINN. Camestros Felapton calls it “Perhaps the most significant story from a former Sad Puppy ever” – Declan Finn’s account of touring Italy with his wife when the coronavirus outbreak shut down the country. Camestros ends his I-read-it-so-you-don’t-have-to summary:

The short version therefore of how right wing blogs are reacting plays out in a personal level in Declan’s story. Initial scepticism and eagerness to carry on as if it is all a fuss over nothing which then collides with an escalating reality and blaming the government.

Not that you really ought to deny yourselves – Finn fits quite an epic in between requests for money and Dragon Award nominations.

…We went to the Al Italia counter and the moderately long line. It was processed quickly. We came to the counter.

“Americans?”

I showed her the passports. 

“No,” she said.

No? What do you mean no? Are you going to cancel our flight again? Am I going to have to leap across your sad, pathetic Corona rope line and throttle you into giving us a boarding pass out of this Hell hole? How much more ransom do we have to pay to get us out of here!

She took an abnormally long breath, thought about what she had to say next, and continued, “Other check in, around the corner.”

Whew. No manslaughter charges for me today…. 

While trying to get to their flight they stepped through the wrong door at the airport, ended up on the tarmac, and were corralled by security. Talk about the cold equations — for that violation Italian authorities slapped them with a 4000 euro fine, which is 4497.00 in US dollars. A friend has started a GoFundMe to try and help them recoup some of the money.

(5) WORKING AT HOME, LIKE USUAL. George R.R. Martin began his post “Strange Days” telling about how his theater and other ventures in Santa Fe are closed by the coronavirus outbreak, then gave his personal status:

For those of you who may be concerned for me personally… yes, I am aware that I am very much in the most vulnerable population, given my age and physical condition.   But I feel fine at the moment, and we are taking all sensible precautions.  I am off by myself in a remote isolated location, attended by one of my staff, and I’m not going in to town or seeing anyone.   Truth be told, I am spending more time in Westeros than in the real world, writing every day.   Things are pretty grim in the Seven Kingdoms… but maybe not as grim as they may become here.

Inverse took this to mean “Winds of Winter release finally back on track for one unexpected reason”.

 For now, we’re just excited to hear that George is back at work on The Winds of Winter (of course, it’s possible he’s referencing the script for the upcoming HBO prequel House of the Dragon, but that seems unlikely given the phrasing here).

Winds of Winter was originally scheduled for release in November 2018, but the book got delayed so Martin could focus on Fire & Blood, a “historical” account of House Targaryen that serves as the basis for House of the Dragon. Back in May 2019, he joked in a blog post that if he hadn’t finished the book by 2020 Worldcon New Zealand, he should be locked up on New Zealand’s White Island until he finished it.

In other words, Martin really wants to be done with Winds of Winter by the end of July when the annual conference takes place.

(6) HYPERFEASANCE. The Balticon committee was surprised when the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel started sending out room cancellation notices before they could make an announcement.  On March 12, the Governor of Maryland established a ban, of indeterminate duration, on all gatherings of more than 250 people in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The con had been scheduled for May 22-24. The committee told Facebook readers:

After we shut down online registration over the weekend pending a conversation with the hotel, continuing developments with COVID-19 and discussions with the convention committee had convinced the Baltimore Science Fiction Society Board of Directors we likely needed to cancel the convention. However, we had not yet identified a process for doing that with minimal confusion, nor had we had a conversation with the hotel discussing the process. Today we learned that the hotel had started canceling registrations. We were as surprised as everyone else to hear about the canceled reservations and see that our reservations were getting canceled.

(7) NO ÅCON. Finland’s Acon 11 has been postponed:

…We could have waited, made the decision closer the convention, but honestly, having spent some weeks following the evolving situation, listening to epidemiologists and public officials in both Finland and Sweden, our conclusion is that the chances of the situation having stabilised in May seem very slim indeed. It’s not just a question of whether we would be legally permitted to hold the con in May, but whether we could do it in a responsible manner.

We need to spare everyone involved the unnecessary work and costs. Adlon, our hotel, will take a financial hit. We need to let them know and plan. We want to avoid our members paying for non-refundable travel at a time when the committee don’t believe it will be possible to arrange a convention.

Fortunately, we have few costs we can’t recoup. …

The con was to have been held May 21-24 in Mariehamn.

(8) A DREAMER ROLE. Trans actress Nicole Maines, who plays Nia Nal, aka Dreamer, on Supergirl, was interviewed by SYFY Wire. “Supergirl’s Nicole Maines tells us why Dreamer is more than just a trans character”.

Supergirl is not known for its subtlety. Aliens in the show are a thinly veiled metaphor for immigrants, LGBTQ people, and “others.” The current story arc is coming to a head with the Agent Liberty storyline, in which a TV personality rises through the ranks of government thanks to his anti-alien rhetoric — which sounds familiar, even his real-world equivalent doesn’t have Lex Luthor providing him with fancy gear.

That said, the show is remarkably subtle about a milestone it reached last year: Supergirl features TV’s first openly transgender superhero, Dreamer. Rather than make Nia/Dreamer’s trans-ness a huge deal, after she came out as transgender, the other characters matter-of-factly accepted her, and it never became an issue….

(9) WORDEN OBIT. Astronaut Al Worden died March 17 at the age of 88 reports Florida Today.

“We remember this pioneer whose work expanded our horizons,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.

Worden was one of only 24 people to have flown to the moon. He was also the first astronaut to conduct a deep-space extravehicular activity, or EVA, during Apollo 15’s return to Earth in 1971.

During the mission, he orbited the moon dozens of times while astronauts David Scott and James Irwin explored the surface.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 18, 1981 The Greatest American Hero premiered on ABC. Created by producer Stephen J. Cannell, the series features William Katt, Robert Culp and Connie Sellecca.  It had  to fight off lawsuits from the owners of the Superman copyright who thought the concept and look of the suit was too close to their product.  After that, a real Mr. Hinckley tried on March 30th of that year to assassinate President Reagan, so scripts involving protagonist Ralph Hinkley had to be rewritten to be named Ralph Hanley (or sometimes just “Mr.H”).  You can see the pilot here. And yes, it’s up legally courtesy of the copyright holders.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 18, 1888 Alexander Leydenfrost. As an illustrator, he briefly worked for Planet Stories before being signed by Life magazine where the money was better. But his quite brief tenure at Planet Stories is credited with the creation of the enduring cliché Bug Eyed Monster as that’s what his illustrations showed. (Died 1961.)
  • Born March 18, 1926 Peter Graves. Star of Mission Impossible and the short lived Australian-based Mission Impossible which if you not seen it, you should as it’s damn good. I’m reasonably certain his first genre role was on Red Planet Mars playing Chris Cronyn. Later roles included Gavin Lewis on The Invaders, Major Noah Cooper on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Doug Paul Martin in Killers from Space and Paul Nelson on It Conquered the World. It’s worth noting that a number of his films are featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 series. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 18, 1932 John Updike. It might surprise you to learn that there are two Eastwick novels, The Witches of Eastwick and The Widows of Eastwick, the latter set some three decades after the first novel ended. He wrote a number of other genre friendly novels including The CentaurBrazil and Toward the End of Time. (Died 2009.)
  • Born March 18, 1950 J. G. Hertzler, 70. He’s best known for his role on Deep Space Nine as the Klingon General (and later Chancellor) Martok. He co-authored with Jeff Lang, Left Hand of Destiny, Book 1, and Left Hand of Destiny, Book 2, which chronicle the life of his character. His very TV first role was a genre one, to wit on Quantum Leap as Weathers Farrington in the “Sea Bride – June 3, 1954” episode. Setting aside DS9, he’s been in ZorroHighlanderThe Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanCharmedRoswell and Enterprise series;  for film genre work, I see The Redeemer: Son of SatanTreasure Island: The Adventure Begins and Prelude to Axanar (yet another piece of fanfic). In addition, he’s done a lot of video game voice acting, the obvious Trek work but such franchises as BioShock 2The Golden Compass and Injustice: Gods Among Us. 
  • Born March 18, 1959 Luc Besson, 61. Oh, The Fifth Element, one of my favorite genre films. There’s nothing about it that I don’t like. I’ve not seen Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and reviews leave me disinclined to do so. The Transporter is not genre but I recommend it as a great film none the less. 
  • Born March 18, 1960 Richard Biggs. He appeared as Dr. Stephen Franklin on Babylon 5, reprising the role in the final aired episode of Crusade, “Each Night I Dream of Home”. Other genre roles included playing Roger Garrett on Tremors, Hawkes In The Alien Within, An Unnamed Reporter on Beauty and the Beast,  Dr. Thomson on an episode of The Twilight Zone and a Process Server in an episode of The Magical World of Disney. (Died 2004.)
  • Born March 18, 1961 James Davis Nicoll, 59. A freelance game and genre reviewer. A first reader for SFBC as well. Currently he’s a blogger on Dreamwidth and Facebook, and an occasional columnist on Tor.com. In 2014, he started his website, jamesdavisnicoll.com, which is dedicated to his book reviews of works old and new; and which later added the highly entertaining Young People Read Old SFF, where that group read prior to Eighties SF and fantasy, and Nicoll and his collaborators comment on the their reactions.
  • Born March 18, 1973 Max Barry, 37. He’s written a number of novels of which I’ve read his superb dystopian Jennifer Government and Machine Man when it was online serial. His newest is Providence which sounds fascinating though his book tour in the US got canceled he notes on his blog. 

(12) CRUSADING FOR A CAPE. The Guardian’s “80 years of Robin: the forgotten history of the most iconic sidekick” is really a call for the character to be written as a woman again – and reminds fans that it wouldn’t be the first time.

….Why we’ve not had more female Robins – or better served ones – is a symptom of a much wider problem. Of the 11 writers announced as contributing to DC’s anniversary issue for Robin, only two are women: Devin Grayson and Amy Wolfram. Between January and March last year, women accounted for 16% of the credits on comics released by DC; of writers, only 13% were women. The studio celebrated 80 years of Batman last year, but in that time not a single woman has been at the helm of Batman or Detective Comics. Aside from Grayson’s work on Nightwing and Gotham Knights, no female writer has ever written a Batman series. Given how many women are working on Batgirl, Catwoman and Batwoman, it would seem they are restricted to writing female heroes.

(13) A VERY SERIOUS QUESTION. This will make some folks cranky. Tom Morton asks “Avenue 5: Why Is Sci-Fi Comedy So Unfunny?” at Frieze.

… Given the impregnable humourlessness of most sci-fi – from the rigorously logical ‘hard sf’ of the novelist Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy (1951–53) to the dreamy vision of Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Solaris (1972) – the genre’s tropes should be an open goal for the comic imagination. Why, then, do so many sci-fi themed comedies fail to raise a smile? Partly, it’s that parody, as a form, is hard to sustain – witness Seth Macfarlane’s television series The Orville (2017–20), a directionless send-up of Star Trek (1966–69), or Mel Brooks’s movie Spaceballs (1987), a staggering unfunny Star Wars (1977) take-off. Comparatively better were the first two seasons of British sitcom Red Dwarf (1988–2017). Drawing on the aesthetic of John Carpenter’s slackers-in-space movie, Dark Star (1974), the show centred initially on a classic odd-couple relationship between the last human in existence, a warm-hearted scouse wastrel, and his foil, an uptight, socially ambitious hologram. However, when Red Dwarf’s popularity and budget increased, it fell into two traps familiar to makers of ‘straight’ on-screen sci-fi: an overreliance on special effects and (fatally) a fan-servicing emphasis on the lore of its own fictional universe, which destroyed any tension that once existed between the show’s ‘situation’ and its ‘comedy’.

(14) CAN YOU DIG IT? Gizmodo says things are looking up for a NASA Mars probe: “And Now for Some Good News: The Mars InSight Heat Flow Probe Is Digging Again”.

…But the probe faced trouble on deployment. Impeded by an unexpectedly crusty soil texture that didn’t generate enough friction for the probe to dig, it only made it down to around a foot and a half. 

(15) JEOPARDY! Some of tonight’s Jeopardy! contestants didn’t get these sff references. (Honestly, I’d have missed all three myself.)

Category: Places in Fantasy

Answer: The name of this 2-word ancestral dwelling in Tolkien is a play on the translation of the French “cul-de-sac”.

Wrong question: “What is Middle Earth?”

Correct question: “What is Bag End?”


Answer: Much of the action in the “files” of this guy, the city’s resident practicing professional Wizard, takes place in Chicago.

No one could ask, “Who is Harry Dresden?”


Answer: In Bill Willingham’s graphic novels, Bigby, this foe of Rising Hood, is the sheriff of Fabletown.

Wrong question: “What is Nottingham?”

Correct question: “What is The Big Bad Wolf?”

(16) FUN WITH YOUR NEW HEAD. Will you be The One? An interview with the CEO of Valve: “Gabe Newell: ‘We’re way closer to The Matrix than people realize'”.

“The area that I’m spending a lot of time on has been growing out of a bunch of research that occurred a while ago on brain-computer interfaces,” Newell said. “I think that that’s kind of long lead stuff, so that’s kind of the background thread that I get pulled back into when other things aren’t demanding my attention.”

Human brains can already communicate with computers directly, though in very limited ways compared to the sci-fi systems of The Matrix or William Gibson’s Neuromancer, where physical reality can be totally replaced with a simulated, virtual one. But Newell doesn’t think that kind of sci-fi tech is as far off as it might seem.

“We’re way closer to The Matrix than people realize,” Newell said. “It’s not going to be The Matrix—The Matrix is a movie and it misses all the interesting technical subtleties and just how weird the post-brain-computer interface world is going to be. But it’s going to have a huge impact on the kinds of experiences we can create for people.”

(17) I CAN GET A WITNESS. A participant remembers “Launching the Hubble Space Telescope: ‘Our window into the Universe'” – video.

In 1990 the Hubble Space Telescope was launched, putting into orbit one of the most remarkable scientific instruments that has ever existed.

But initially the mission ran into problems, including a flawed mirror that meant the first images from Hubble were blurry.

Nasa astronaut Kathryn Sullivan was one of the five crew members who launched the Hubble.

(18) IT’S A BIRD. Free range dino — “Fossil ‘wonderchicken’ could be earliest known fowl”.

A newly discovered fossil bird could be the earliest known ancestor of every chicken on the planet.

Living just before the asteroid strike that wiped out giant dinosaurs, the unique fossil, from about 67 million years ago, gives a glimpse into the dawn of modern birds.

Birds are descended from dinosaurs, but precisely when they evolved into birds like the ones alive today has been difficult to answer.

This is due to a lack of fossil data.

The newly discovered – and well-preserved – fossil skull should help fill in some of the gaps.

“This is a unique specimen: we’ve been calling it the ‘wonderchicken’,” said Dr Daniel Field of the University of Cambridge.

“It’s the only nearly complete skull of a modern bird that we have, so far, from the age of dinosaurs and it’s able to tell us quite a lot about the early evolutionary history of birds.”

(19) TUB THUMPING. Don’t miss the Special “Social Distancing” Edition of The Late Show.

If you’re watching this from home right now, you’re doing the right thing. If you’re watching it from your bathtub bunker like our host, please remember to save some hot water for the rest of us. Either way, we’re glad you’re with us. So stay hunkered down and please enjoy this episode of The Lather Show with Scrubbin’ Colbath!

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

Pixel Scroll 4/28/19 Heck Has No Fury Like A Woman Scorned

(1) GOOGLE GAG. Google “Thanos.” There will be a Infinity Gauntlet image on the right side. Click on it. No spoilers involved.

(2) AVENGERS BREAKS THE BANK. Yahoo! Entertainment has the numbers as “World turns out for record ‘Avengers: Endgame’ movie debut”.

Fans around the globe packed movie theaters for the debut of “Avengers: Endgame” over the weekend, pushing total ticket sales for the Walt Disney Co superhero spectacle to a stunning $1.2 billion and crushing records in dozens of countries.

“Endgame” generated an unprecedented $350 million in the United States and Canada from Thursday night through Sunday, according to Disney estimates. The three-hour action spectacle that revealed the fates of Iron Man, Thor and other popular comic-book heroes also made history in China, Brazil, France, Egypt, South Africa and 38 other markets….

(3) LIFE OF TOLKIEN. Historian John Garth’s Daily Mail article has some spoilers for the Tolkien biopic — “The forbidden love that saved JRR Tolkien from the horrors of war: A controversial new film reveals the extraordinary true story behind The Lord Of The Rings”

…It was more than three weeks before he had a chance to think. Tolkien sat out at night in a Somme wood as dark and tangled as his thoughts, then wrote to the other two survivors. ‘Something has gone crack,’ he said. ‘I feel just the same to both of you – nearer if anything and very much in need of you. But I don’t feel a member of a little complete body now.’

The four had dreamed that with God’s help they would change the world through a grand creative collaboration. They must have been mistaken, Tolkien said.

Though none of them could know it, Gilson’s death had actually put Tolkien on the road to changing the world singlehandedly….

(4) CONTROVERSY STALKS CIA PRESENCE AT CON. “Awesome Con Opens With Fans Questioning CIA Involvement”ScienceFiction.com has extensive coverage.

Awesome Con opened the doors at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC, for its seventh year on Friday. Every year, Awesome Con gets bigger – more celebrities, more artists, more fans. Now, it seems like there’s also more controversy.

As first reported by the website ComicsBeat, the CIA has a large presence at this year’s con, from logos on various signage, to a large exhibit booth, to several CIA-inspired panels.

…At the convention, the CIA booth is in an area surrounded by other science, technology, and government bodies, including NASA. The messaging around the agency’s booth is clear – they are there to recruit those who are interested.

Talking to some of the attendees at the convention, the reactions to the CIA being there were mixed. Some who spoke about their displeasure would only provide their first names, citing fear of retribution.

“I think it’s just messed up, man,” said Peter, who would only say he lived somewhere ‘up north.’ “These are the same people who’ve killed and tortured innocent people, but you got them here recruiting? There are kids around here! I thought this show was supposed to be about the fans?”

“I’m not going anywhere near that area,” said Sara, who travelled with her young son from Pennsylvania. “It’s sad, too, because I wanted my son to see some of the space stuff over there. Maybe somebody will realize they made a mistake and not do this again.”

(5) BRADBURY STATUE. “Dedication planned for August as work starts on Waukegan’s Ray Bradbury statue” reports the Chicago Tribune.

Work on a Ray Bradbury statue in downtown Waukegan has begun as the final stretch of fundraising continues, a Waukegan Public Library official said.

The 12-foot-tall statue — which will feature the late Waukegan native, book in hand, on a rocket ship — will be placed outside the library once complete, with a dedication planned for Bradbury’s birthday on Aug. 22.

The statue, inspired by Bradbury’s poem “If Only We Had Taller Been,” is being created in stainless steel by acclaimed artist Zachary Oxman, who agreed to a contract a few months ago so he could start buying material and lining up a foundry, said Richard Lee, who saw the project begin as a conversation four years ago when he was the library’s executive director.

The Ray Bradbury Statue Committee is still $20,000 shy of the $125,000 needed to cover the statue’s cost, but the hope is that seeing the finished product will help spark the last fundraising push, library spokeswoman Amanda Civitello said.

(6) IN DEMAND. WorldCat’s The Library 100 lists the top novels available in libraries worldwide. Plenty of sff! I’ve read 41 of these, but lots of you can beat that score.

What makes a novel “great”? At OCLC, we believe literary greatness can be measured by how many libraries have a copy on their shelves.

Yes, libraries offer access to trendy and popular books. But, they don’t keep them on the shelf if they’re not repeatedly requested by their communities over the years. We’ve identified 100 timeless, top novels—those found in thousands of libraries around the world—using WorldCat, the world’s largest database of library materials.

So, check out The Library 100, head to your nearest library, and enjoy the read!

(7) TIME FOR A REFILL. In his latest The Full Lid, Alasdair Stuart says he “takes a look at the excellent narrative build of Discovery season 2 and what it shares with classic stage magic. I also listen to Monkeyman Productions’ remarkable Moonbase Theta, Out, find a lot to be optimistic about at Ytterbium and contrast that with one of my very few con horror stories. Thanks for reading.” Here’s a brief excerpt from the Eastercon report —

…Four years ago, volunteering at a convention, I had to explain to a decades-in-the-business, award winning creative you’ve probably heard of that a harassment policy was not a needless frippery but rather the equivalent of putting a roof on a house. Sooner or later, you always end up needing it. That wasn’t the only complaint we had about the policy, but it was the one that left the nastiest taste in my mouth. A taste, I notice four years later, has gone. Harassment policies are now the norm. The Overton Window of tradition has shifted and shifted, FOR ONCE, to the left.

That doesn’t just apply to cultural changes either. I’m seeing the ragged leading edge of the singularity hitting at multiple places across the industry and improving what came before it every time it does. Ten years ago I explained that I worked for a podcast and was greeted with the polite, confused expression of a relative who’s pretty certain they’ve been told a joke but have no idea whether or not to laugh. This year, I was part of the best podcast panel I’ve seen, or been on, at a convention to date….

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 28, 1840 Palmer Cox. He was known for The Brownies, his series of humorous books and comic strips about the troublesome but generally well-meaning sprites. The cartoons were published in several books, such as The Brownies, Their Book for some forty years starting in the 1870s. Due to the immense popularity of his Brownies, one of the first popular handheld cameras was named after them, the Eastman Kodak Brownie camera. (Died 1924.)
  • Born April 28, 1910 Sam Merwin Jr. He was most influential in the Forties  and Fifties as the editor of Startling Stories,  Fantastic Story Quarterly, Wonder Stories Annual, Thrilling Wonder Stories and Fantastic Universe. He wrote a few stories for DC’s Strange Adventures and Mystery in Space but otherwise wasn’t known as a genre writer. (Died 1996.)
  • Born April 28, 1914 Philip E. High. Made his name first in the Fifties by being published in Authentic Science Fiction, New Worlds Science Fiction and Nebula Science Fiction, and was voted “top discovery” in the Nebula readers’ poll for 1956.  A collection of his short stories, The Best of Philip E. High, was published in 2002. He wrote fourteen novels but I can’t remember that I’ve read any of them, so can y’all say how he was as a novelist? (Died 2006.)
  • Born April 28, 1917 Robert Cornthwaite. Actor in such Fifties films as The Thing From Another WorldThe War of the WorldsMen Into Space and Destination Space. He would be active well into the Twentieth Century in such productions as The Twilight Zone, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Colossus: The Forbin Project , The Six Million Dollar Man, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and White Dwarf. (Died 2006.)
  • Born April 28, 1929 Charles Bailey. Co-writer writer with Fletcher Knebel of Seven Days In May, a story of an attempted coup against the President.  Rod Serling wrote the screenplay for the film. ISFDB says it got one review in the trade, in Analog Science Fact & Science Fiction, February 1963 by P. Schuyler Miller. (Died 2012.)
  • Born April 28, 1930 Carolyn Jones. She began played the role of Morticia Addams (as well as her sister Ophelia and the feminine counterpart of Thing, Lady Fingers) in The Addams Family. Though she had an uncredited role in the original The War of the Worlds which be her first genre role as a Blonde Party Guest, and she was Theodora ‘Teddy’ Belicec in the Invasion of the Body Snatchers. She had a recurring role as Marsha, Queen of Diamonds on Batman. (Died 1983.)
  • Born April 28, 1948 Terry Pratchett. Did you know that Steeleye Span did a superb job of turning his Wintersmith novel into a recording? You can read the Green Man review here (Wintersmith) by Kage’s sister Kathleen. My favorite Pratchett? Well pretty much any of the Watch novels will do for a read for a night when I want something English and really fantastic. (Died 2015.)
  • Born April 28, 1953 Will Murray, 66. Obviously MMPs still live as he’s writing them currently in the Doc Savage Universe to the tune of eighteen under the house name of Kenneth Robeson since 1993. He’s also written in the King Kong, Julie de Grandin, Mars Attacks, Reanimator Universe, Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.,Tarzan, Destroyer and The Spider media franchises. So how many do you recognize? 
  • Born April 28, 1967 Kari Wuhrer, 52. Best known for her roles as Maggie Beckett in Sliders and as Sheriff Samantha Parker in Eight Legged Freaks. Her first genre role was as Jackie Trent in Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time. She also played Amy Klein in Hellraiser VII: Deader (There was that many films in that franchise? Really? Why?) She voiced Barbara Keane and Pamela Isley in the most excellent Batman: Gotham by Gaslight and earlier in her career she was Abigail in the first live action Swamp Thing series. 
  • Born April 28, 1971 Chris Young, 48. Bryce Lynch in the Max Headroom series which I still hold is of the best SF series ever done. The only other genre I think he’s are two horror films, The Runestone andWarlock: The Armageddon. Unless you call voice roles in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars and The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue genre…

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • With geometric logic, Candorville proves that Star Trek:Discovery is a big deal.
  • Speed Bump reveals something you didn’t know about those Little Libraries.
  • Speed Bump has a cute phone joke, too.

(10) ROUGH JUSTICE. Yahoo! Entertainment says “‘Avengers: Endgame’ Spoiler Man Beaten Outside Hong Kong Cinema”.

A man who obviously didn’t get the memo on Avengers: Endgame – or chose to ignore it – was beaten outside a Hong Kong cinema for shouting out spoilers to fans waiting in line to see the film.

(11) BACK IN TIME. Intercot documents EPCOT’s Spaceship Earth attraction, which was created with the help of Ray Bradbury and many others.

Spaceship Earth opened on October 1, 1982 and “celebrates communication as the key to human progress and survival.” (Walt Disney World – A Pictorial Souvenir © 1984 Disney) “For EPCOT’s signature structure, the Imagineers needed an image as unique as the Magic Kingdom’s castle. Something that would say, ‘Here’s a place that’s global in scope and futuristic in design.’ They made an inspired choice, Spaceship Earth.”

You can read and listen to recordings of the Spaceship Earth narrative, too.

Passing directly beneath the remarkable structure, we proceed up a short ramp passing two posters, a sign, and a large mural before entering the pavilion. The two posters on either side of the entrance queue show a painting of Spaceship Earth with stars in the distance behind it. Both say “Ride the Time Machine from the Dawn of Civilization to the Beginning of Our Tomorrow. SPACESHIP EARTH.” The sign which is along the right side of the ramp reads “Spaceship Earth is a slow moving attraction that explores the history of human communications. Since travelers will be transported to the furthest regions of our solar system, the attraction is not recommended for those who experience anxiety in dark, narrow or enclosed spaces.” The mural depicts astronauts working on a satellite with Earth in the distance. Surrounding them are smaller images of cavemen, the Egyptians, the Romans, Gutenburg and his printing press, and modern day people. These announcements are heard as we near the entranceway:

(12) YOUR MPH MAY VARY. According to Gizmodo, “Hubble Measurements Confirm There’s Something Weird About How the Universe Is Expanding”.

…But other measurements don’t agree. Scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope recalculated the Hubble constant with the help of a recent high-accuracy measurement of the distance to a nearby satellite galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud, as well as new observations of 70 Cepheid variables, a kind of pulsating star. Cepheids’ pulsation rate and brightness are closely enough related that their distance can be calculated. Combined with other improvements, they calculated the Universe’s expansion at 74 kilometers per second per megaparsec.

Basically—when scientists look farther away, the Universe seems to be expanding more slowly than when they look at the local Universe….

(13) STARBIRTH. Jonathan Cowie says of Gaia DR2 reveals a star formation burst in the disc 2–3 Gyr ago” – “It’s a bit technical for non-science types but they in Gaia DR2 data an imprint of a star formation burst 2–3 Gyr ago in the Galactic thin disc domain, and a present star formation rate.” Nature summarizes it thus:

…A burst of star formation that peaked two billion to three billion years ago spangled the Milky Way with a new generation of stars.

To understand how the Galaxy formed and evolved, astronomers need to know the rate at which its stars are born and how that rate has changed over time. But there is no way to measure the age of individual stars directly.

Roger Mor at the University of Barcelona in Spain and his colleagues turned to data from the Gaia satellite, which precisely measures the distance from Earth to millions of stars. These measurements allow researchers to calculate a star’s true brightness and size, which can be fed into models to infer its age.

The team simulated star formation in the Milky Way over time, and found it was in steady decline until roughly five billion years ago, when production suddenly ramped up. The researchers estimate that half the total mass of all the stars ever created in the Milky Way’s thin disk — which contains most of the Galaxy’s stars — was produced during this period.

(14) RADIO 4. FutureProofing episode “The Apocalypse” is a 40-minute programme on BBC Radio 4 which is not your usual prepper fare as it touches a number of SF tropes including the singularity, post humanism, AI as well as the basics such as asteroids.

Will 21st century technology avert or accelerate the Apocalypse? FutureProofing discovers the dangers and risks of existential disaster in the 21st century.

(15) COULDA BEEN A CONTENDER. Core Ideas explains how the Heroes TV show was on the verge of becoming classic sci fi and then didn’t.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/31/18 Three…(Click)…Two…(Click)….One…(Click)…Godstalk!

(1) DOCTOR WHO SPECIAL AIRS TOMORROW. And you can preview the New Year’s Day Special Doctor Who: Resolution.

The Doctor Who cast talk about what to expect in the New Years Day Special, Doctor Who: Resolution.

(2) THE YEAR’S MOST WTF. ScienceFiction.com is right – there were plenty: “The Most WTF Moments Of 2018”.

There were a lot of memorable moments in pop culture in 2018, including many highs, as well as a few lows.  But in addition to that, there were a few events that were just weird or shocking, to the point that some folks are still reeling months later.   Yes, there were many deaths.  There were also a large number of sexual misconduct accusations.  But omitting those, here are a few other moments that you may recall.

Their list begins with —

12. Netflix Dropped A Surprise Movie, ‘The Cloverfield Paradox’ After The Super Bowl

(3) 2018 MOST INFLUENTIAL SFF WOMEN. At SYFY Wire, the Fangrrls column lists their “2018’s most influential women in genre.”

This was a hard year. For many of us, 2018 was surreal, and for many more, it was deeply painful. But in the face of adversity, as always, it is the women who made us feel we can survive, thrive, and make a difference. 

In 2018, women like Christine Blasey Ford stood firm against a wave of screams attempting to silence, dismiss and discredit her. But firm she stood. For better or worse, and still experiencing attacks and threats, she and so many other women reminded us that we are strong. Often because the world has given us no choice. But it’s what these women do with that strength that is empowering, inspiring, and life-changing for those of us their lives touch. 

The genre world is no different. This year, we were still told, constantly and from people who should know better, that there is simply not room at the table for us, or, possibly worse, gaslit into believing there aren’t enough of us capable or even willing to do the work men are handed with far less experience

These women inspired us to say “f*ck that” and be everything the world says we can’t be. And we are eternally grateful.

Details are in the article for about each selectee. The list (along with an attempt to distill the roles for which each woman was selected) is:

* Eve Ewing (academic, author, visual artist)—selected by Sara Century

* Jody Houser (comic book author)—selected by Riley Silverman

* N.K. Jemisin (author, activist)—selected by S.E. Fleenor

* Jodie Whittaker (actor)—selected by Jenna Busch

* Laila Shabir (founder/CEO of Girls Make Games)—selected by Courtney Enlow

* Margot Robbie (actor, producer)—selected by Jenna Busch

* Janelle Monáe (musician)—selected by Clare McBride

* Ava DuVernay (director)—selected by Tricia Ennis

* Natalie Portman (actor, activist)—selected by Emma Fraser

* Tessa Thompson (actor, singer, songwriter)—selected by S.E. Fleenor

* Christina Hodson (screenwriter)—selected by Jenna Busch

* Brie Larson (actor, activist)—selected by Carly Lane

(4) GOING TO HAVE TO REFILL THE MIRROR. A.V. News says “Bandersnatch was so complex that season five of Black Mirror has been delayed”.

We never would’ve guessed this, but it turns out that developing an interactive movie with tons of branching paths and alternate endings is kind of difficult. Perhaps that’s why most movies only have the one narrative and end the same way no matter how many times you watch it?

…The movie has so many different variations based on what choices you make that Brooker (the creator of Black Mirror) says he has “forgotten” how many different endings there are, going so far as to reject producer Annabel Jones’ claim in a Hollywood Reporter interview that there are five “definitive” conclusions.

That Hollywood Reporter piece goes deep into how Bandersnatch was made and some of the behind-the-scenes magic that allows it to work, but the biggest reveal is that Bandersnatch required such an “enormous” amount of time and work that the fifth season of the oppressively dark sci-fi horror series has been delayed….

(5) NEW BUHLERT POSTS. Galactic Journey has published Cora Buhlert’s review of Andre Norton’s Ordeal in Otherwhere (her first Norton), as well her original 1960s recipe for spaceman’s punch, a New Year’s party favorite.

Cora also has a poem in Issue eleven of the poetry webzine Umbel & Panicle, out today, which also features photographs by Paul Weimer and Elizabeth Fitzgerald.

(6) EVOLVED GINGERBREAD. Aftonbladet reports how “Caroline’s gingerbread makes success”. Hampus Eckerman translated the first part of this Swedish-language article for Filers to enjoy:

In Caroline Eriksson’s family, it has always been a tradition to build gingerbread houses.

But over the years, Caroline began to get tired of “just” building houses.

This year she has built a 130×90 centimeter replica of Alien – made in gingerbread.

For three and a half weeks, Caroline Eriksson, 31, has worked with the gingerbread during evenings and weekends.

Building gingerbread houses always used to be a tradition in Caroline’s family during her childhood in Tyresö. But in recent years, the gingerbread cookies have become increasingly advanced.

– After a few years I got tired of doing houses and started to do more special things like boats and some movie creations, says Caroline.

For several years, Caroline has lived in Oslo. In 2013, she participated in a gingerbread competition in Norway and since then the gingerbread cookies have become more extreme.

– Then I built Optimus Prime, the transformer robot, in gingerbread. I won the competition which was super cool and after that, the tradition of making a gingerbread figure every year continued. I try to challenge myself and make more crazy creations every year, says Caroline.

(7) SIR JULIUS VOGEL AWARDS YEAR KICKS OFF. Nominations are now being accepted for the 2019 Sir Julius Vogel Awards, and will be taken until the window closes on March 30, 2019.

The awards recognise excellence and achievement in science fiction, fantasy, or horror works created by New Zealanders and New Zealand residents, and first published or released in the 2018 calendar year.

…Anyone can make a nomination and it is free! Get busy reading NZ authors and watching NZ movies to find work to nominate. The awards will be presented at Geysercon – the 2019 National SF&F Convention.

(8) AMONG THE RUINS. Harvard Gazette’s ‘Stepping inside a dead star” offers “A virtual reality experience of being inside an exploded star.” You’ll need the VR hardware to try this out.

Cassiopeia A, the youngest known supernova remnant in the Milky Way, is the remains of a star that exploded almost 400 years ago. The star was approximately 15 to 20 times the mass of our sun and sat in the Cassiopeia constellation, almost 11,000 light-years from earth.

Though stunningly distant, it’s now possible to step inside a virtual-reality (VR) depiction of what followed that explosion.

A team led by Kimberly Kowal Arcand from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) and the Center for Computation and Visualization at Brown University has made it possible for astronomers, astrophysicists, space enthusiasts, and the simply curious to experience what it’s like inside a dead star. Their efforts are described in a recent paper in Communicating Astronomy with the Public.

The VR project — believed to be the first of its kind, using X-ray data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory mission (which is headquartered at CfA), infrared data from the Spitzer Space Telescope, and optical data from other telescopes — adds new layers of understanding to one of the most famous and widely studied objects in the sky.

(9) ROMAN OBIT. NPR reports: “Nancy Grace Roman, ‘Mother Of Hubble’ Space Telescope, Has Died, At Age 93”. She defied a guidance counselor who asked “what lady would take math instead of Latin”; joined NASA when it was 6 months old.

When Nancy Grace Roman was a child, her favorite object to draw was the moon.

Her mother used to take her on walks under the nighttime sky and show her constellations, or point out the colorful swirls of the aurora. Roman loved to look up at the stars and imagine.

Eventually, her passion for stargazing blossomed into a career as a renowned astronomer. Roman was one of the first female executives at NASA, where she served as the agency’s first chief of astronomy.

Known as the “Mother of Hubble,” for her role in making the Hubble Space Telescope a reality, Roman worked at NASA for nearly two decades. She died on Dec. 25 at the age of 93.

(10) LUSK OBIT. SYFY Wire reports the death of classic Disney animator Don Lusk:

Don Lusk, longtime Disney animator and Hanna-Barbera director, has died. The multi-hyphenate artist behind dozens of iconic characters roaming throughout animation was 105. His longevity was only matched by his output, as Lusk’s six decade career saw him make the faces of Alice in Wonderland, Charlie Brown, Babar, Papa Smurf, and Goofy familiar to an entire culture.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 31, 1958 The Crawling Eye showed up at the drive-in.
  • December 31, 1958  — The Strange World Of Planet X made for a good double bill at the drive-in.
  • December 31, 1961The Phantom Planet appeared in theaters.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 31, 1937  — Anthony Hopkins, 80. I never know what I’ve going to find when I look these Birthday possibilities so imagine my surprise when I discover his first genre role was Ian McCandless in Freejack followed soon by playing Helsing in Bram Stoker’s Dracula! He went to have a number of genre roles including being C. S. Lewis in Shadowlands, the lead in The Mask of Zorro, the narrator of that stink, stank, stunk How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Odin in three Thor MCU films. 
  • Born December 31, 1943 Ben Kingsley, 75. First SF character he played was Avatar in Slipstream, later roles included Dr. John Watson in Without a Clue, Minister Templeton in Photographing Fairies, The Great Zamboni In Spooky House, Specialist in A.I., Man in the Yellow Suit in Tuck Everlasting,  Merenkahre in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb and that’s just a partial listing. God he’s had an impressive genre history! 
  • Born December 31, 1945Connie Willis, 73. She has won eleven Hugo Awards and seven Nebula Awards for her work, a feat that impresses even I who isn’t generally impressed as you know by Awards! Of her works, I’m most pleased by To Say Nothing of the DogDoomsday Book and Bellwether, an offbeat novel look at chaos theory. I’ve not read enough of her shorter work to give an informed opinion of it, so do tell me what’s good there.
  • Born December 31, 1949Ellen Datlow, 69. Let’s get start this Birthday note by saying I own a complete set of The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror which, yes , I know, it was titled The Year’s Best Fantasy for the first year. And I still read stories for them from time to time. If that was all she had done, she’d have been one of our all-time anthologists but she also, again with Terri Windling, did the Fairy Tale and Mythic Fiction series, both of which I highly recommend. On her own, she has the ongoing Best Horror of Year, now a decade old, and the Tor.com anthologies which I’ve not read but I assume collect the fiction from the site. Speaking of Tor.com, she’s an editor, something she’s also done at Nightmare MagazineOmni, the hard copy magazine and online, Sci Fiction webzine and Subterranean Magazine
  • Born December 31, 1958 Bebe Neuwirth, 60. Ok she’s had but one television SF credit to her name which is playing a character named Lanel in the “First Contact” episode of the Next Gen series during season four but I found a delightful genre credential for her. From April 2010 to December 2011, she was Morticia Addams in the Broadway production of The Addams Family musical! The show itself is apparently still ongoing. 
  • Born December 31, 1959Val Kilmer, 59. Lead role in Batman Forever where I fought he did a decent job, Madmartigan in Willow, Montgomery in The Island of Dr. Moreau, voiced both Moses and God in The Prince of Egypt, uncredited role as El Cabillo in George and the Dragon and voiced KITT in the reboot of Knight Rider.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • In this Brewster Rockit, Cliff Clewless may have the right idea—retroactive New Year resolutions.

(14) ON TONIGHT’S JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter, Jeopardy! game show genre reference correspondent, spotted another:  

Double Jeopardy Answer, for $3,000: He wrote 1899’s “Father Goose”; he came up with a “Wonderful” adventure the following year.

Wrong question: “Who is [Upton] Sinclair?” [which cost the contestant $3 grand]

Correct question: Who is L. Frank Baum?

(15) POOP QUIZ. Meanwhile, Daniel Dern is proposing his own game show – “Today’s SF and SF-adjacent Pop Quiz.”

What (a) SF story, and (b) folk song (story, more precisely) do these articles make you think of:

“Maine woman who makes artwork out of moose poop might be getting a TV show”

which in turn refers back to —

“People love this Maine woman who makes artwork out of moose poop”

Stay tuned to ROT-13 for the answers —

a) Gur Ovt Cng Obbz ol Qnzba Xavtug

b) “Zbbfr Gheq Cvr,” ol gur yngr Oehpr “H. Hgnu” Cuvyyvcf, Gur Tbyqra Ibvpr bs gur Terng Fbhgujrfg naq “Nzrevpn’f Zbfg-Srnerq Sbyxfvatre,” bevtvanyyl ba uvf TBBQ GUBHTU nyohz — urer vg abj

<uggcf://jjj.lbhghor.pbz/jngpu?i=0mo1dfIdwjt>

Abgr, V ybir gung n jro frnepu gheaf hc uvgf yvxr:

    Fubc Zbbfr Gheq Cvr: Nznmba

Gur FS-nqwnprag nfcrpg: Cuvyyvcf jnf n thrfg (TbU, creuncf) ng ng yrnfg bar FS pbairagvba — ZvavPba?

And that’s the name of that tune!

(16) KSR’S LATEST. Vidvuds Veldavs totes up the pluses and minuses about Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Moon for readers at The Space Review.

[Note: the review contains spoilers regarding the novel.]

Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest novel, Red Moon, is set in 2047. China has become the dominant player on the Moon with large-scale operations at the South Pole. The US and other players have facilities at the North Pole. China achieved this position using the experience of massive infrastructure projects to mount an operation possibly larger and more intensive in scope than the U.S. Apollo project. According to the novel, President Xi Jinping secured the commitment of the Chinese Communist Party at the 20th People’s Congress in 2022 to the goal “… that the moon should be a place for Chinese development, as one part of the Chinese Dream.” Insofar as 2022 is still more than three years into the future, Robinson may be advocating for such a future. Xi Jinping is highly praised in the book for his Moon declaration as well as for the environmental cleanup that takes place on Earth. The hills surrounding Beijing in 2047 are green and the air is fresh and breathable as a result of the environmental policies of Xi.

(17) A DIFFERENT KIND OF YEAR IN NEWS. The BBC’s “2018 in news: The alternative end-of-the-year awards” features videos of masterfully-incompetent criminals, and of an attempt to stifle press questions that got shown up by a phone app.

(18) YOUNG JUSTICE. The final trailer of Young Justice Season 3: Outsiders has been released. The TV series will premiere January 4.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Rich Lynch, Hampus Eckerman, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]

Pixel Scroll 10/8/18 And We Are Her Sisters, And Her Cousins, And Her Ancillaries

(1) RECESS IS OVER. File 770 was down for approximately 7 hours today, for reasons never fully explained by customer support, except they were “actively working” on a server problem. Well, to quote Sam Gamgee, “I’m back.”

(2) WHO WATCHED. The Guardian has the numbers: “Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor Who debut is most watched launch for 10 years”.

Jodie Whittaker’s take on the Time Lord drew Doctor Who’s biggest series launch audience in more than a decade on Sunday night.

An average of 8.2m viewers watched Whittaker’s first outing as the Doctor, beating the ratings for political thriller sensation Bodyguard, which attracted 6.7m viewers when it debuted in August. With an audience share of 40.1%, Whittaker’s performance was the most-watched episode of the science fiction drama since the 2008 series.

The first female doctor bettered Matt Smith and David Tennant’s debut viewing figures of 7.7m and 8m respectively. While she drew a smaller audience than Christopher Eccleston’s first appearance, which was watched by 9.9m, he had the advantage of appearing in the show’s comeback episode in 2005.

(3) WHO LISTENED. But some claim the Doctor Who theme music has been defaced. “Yes,” says SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, “thought impossible but some consider true.”

The brand new theme for Doctor Who Series 11, composed by Segun Akinola, which premiered tonight during the closing credits of ‘The Woman Who Fell to Earth’

 

(4) IT’S ALREADY BEEN DONE! Alastair Reynolds apparently blazed the trail for Banksy“Artist shreds unique work of art”.

Alastair Reynolds destroys last english copy of his short-story “Pandora’s Box” at Finncon’09

 

(5) A VOLUNTEER FOR PICARD’S CREW. Wil Wheaton told a Baltimore Comic Con audience he’d say yes — “Star Trek: Wil Wheaton Wants to Return in New Picard Series” at Comicbook.

Of course, fans also want to know if he could appear as Wesley Crusher could appear in the new show. Wheaton says he thinks its unlikely he’ll be asked, but he’d definitely be up for it if asked.

“I think it is very unlikely they will ask me to participate in it,” Wheaton said. “I mean, I think it is just extraordinarily unlikely that will happen. If they did, I would say ‘yes,’ of course. I think all of us would say ‘yes.’ I think all of us if we were given the opportunity to put on the spacesuits again and go work together and bring those characters back, as they would be thirty years later, we would all say ‘yes.’ And I don’t think it’s because we want the work. I don’t think it’s because we need the money. I don’t think it’s because we don’t have other things to do. It’s because we love each other so much and an opportunity, even for a day, to return emotionally to some of the best times of our lives, I think that we would jump at that opportunity.”

(6) LONG LIST ANTHOLOGY. David Steffen’s Long List Anthology Volume 4 Kickstarter has fully funded, included the stretch goal — 204 backers pledged $4,754.

(7) BITE CLUB. Ron Charles in the Washington Post discusses how Fangoria, which died last year, has been revived “as a new quarterly journal with photos so high-gloss that the blood looks wet.”  But Charles notes many book reviews amid all the gory photos, as well as a short story by Chuck Pahlaniuk — “Fangoria, the fabled horror magazine, has risen from the dead”.

…There’s also a piece for die-hard fanatics about continuity problems among the various “Halloween” sequels and a true story about a young man in North Carolina who built a replica of the Myers house. “I have to carefully pick what I’m going to invest my time in,” he says without any apparent irony.

Handy advice abounds in these pages. Makeup artist Tate Steinsiek explains “how to slit your own throat,” and director Corin Hardy walks us through hideous visuals in his new movie “The Nun.” “Malignant Growths,” a piece about homemade horror films, should come with its own barf bag….

(8) RAH RAH RAH (RAH RAH).  In a piece for Tor.com, James Davis Nicoll says there are “Five Books That Improve Upon Heinlein’s Juveniles”. (How can that be possible?)

Nothing fills me with dread quite like a middle-aged male writer announcing that he plans to write a YA novel just like the ones Robert Heinlein used to write . I could explain why this is such a harbinger of disappointment…but Charles Stross has already beat me to it. Instead, allow me to offer some non-Heinlein novels that succeed in scratching some of the same itches that the RAH juvies once scratched. For me, that requires the intended audience to include teens, that the genre be science fiction in the narrow sense, that the protagonist be a young adult, and that they get to do something that actually matters in the course of the book .

(9) NYCC COSPLAY. Huffington Post’s photo gallery promises “Here Are The Best Costumes From 2018’s New York Comic Con”.

But aside from stars to see, artists to discover, and unique merchandise to buy, people go to Comic Con to see (and be seen in) costumes. There were probably as many people in costume as not this year, and as always it was a wonderful distraction when walking from one part of the convention center to another.

(10) NYCC PROGRAM VIDEOS. On the Penguin Random House YouTube channel you’ll find links to 12 full panels recorded at New York Comic Con. These include a Patrick Rothfuss panel, Pierce Brown’s Red Rising Panel, A Night with Author Andy Weir (The Martian), “How Writers Build Authenticity Into Diverse Worlds Panel,” Patrick Rothfuss and R.A. Salvatore Discuss Epic Fantasy, “Disney-Lucasfilm Publishing: Stories from a Galaxy Far, Far Away,” The World of Lore with Aaron Mahnke Panel, “Disney-Lucasfilm Presents: A Celebration of Female Writers in a Galaxy Far, Far Away.”

 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 8, 1916 – George Turner, Writer and Critic from Australia, who was a successful mainstream novelist but turned to writing SF fiction and criticism in his sixties. His novel Drowning Towers (also published as The Sea and Summer) was a near-future story about global warming and economic collapse, which won the Clarke Award and was a finalist for the Nebula, Campbell, and Ditmar Awards. His book In the Heart or In the Head: An Essay in Time Travel, a memoir in which he chronicles his chaotic growing-up in a family for whom fact and fantasy were equally acceptable and often indistinguishable, won the William J. Atheling Jr. Award and was a finalist for the Hugo for Best Nonfiction Book. He wrote a lot on the history of the genre, including John W. Campbell: Writer, Editor, Legend for an Australian symposium on Campbell in 1971. He was given an A. Bertram Chandler Award – Australia SFF fandom’s highest honor – and his other works, both SF and genre nonfiction, received many nominations and wins for Ditmar and Atheling Awards, all earned between the age of 60 and his death at age 80. He was to be Author Guest of Honor at Aussiecon 3, the 1999 Worldcon, but died prior to the convention. The interview “Judith Buckrich in Conversation with George Turner” can be found in SF Commentary #76.
  • Born October 8, 1920 – Frank Herbert, Writer well-known for his Dune series – the first of which won Hugo, Nebula, Seiun, and Locus Awards – which has been translated into more than a dozen languages and adapted to movies and videogames, including the Hugo-nominated version by David Lynch. Songs of Muad’Dib: Poems and Songs from Frank Herbert’s Dune was published posthumously, edited by his son Brian Herbert. Other work includes the ConSentiency universe novels, Under Pressure and Hellstrom’s Hive (which was awarded the Prix Apollo), and works in his Pandora and Jorj McKie universes. He was nominated for the 1956 Most Promising New Author Hugo, and was Author Guest of Honor at a number of conventions.
  • Born October 8, 1941 – Penny Frierson, 77, Writer, Editor, Conrunner, and Fan who chaired or co-chaired several conventions and Worldcon bids, and co-chaired the 1986 Worldcon. She was one of the founders of the Birmingham Science Fiction Club. She collaborated with her husband Meade in her fan writing; they were big H.P. Lovecraft fans, and their fanzines included Science Fiction on Radio, HPL, The HPL Tribute, The HPL Supplement, and the fannish play, Shattered Like a Clockwork Orange. She was a member of the APAs Myriad, RAPS, and SFPA, Guest of Honor at Coastcon in 1978, and in 1987 Southern Fandom recognized her with the Rebel Award.
  • Born October 8, 1943 – David Dvorkin, 75, Writer from England who emigrated to the U.S., and has written more than a dozen of his own speculative fiction novels, but is perhaps best known for three of the earliest novels written in the Star Trek Original Series and Next Generation universes for Pocket Books.
  • Born October 8, 1943 – R.L. Stine, 75, Writer, Editor, and Producer. Author of more than 300 novels, mostly young adult horror, most famously the Goosebumps series, which, along with some of his other works, has been made in TV series and videogames. He has written novelisations of the genre films Ghostbusters II and Spaceballs. He was recognized with a Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2013.
  • Born October 8, 1949 – Sigourney Weaver, 69, Oscar-nominated Screen and Stage Actor and Producer. Her most famous genre roles are in Hugo-winning movies the Alien series and the Star Trek homage Galaxy Quest, in addition to parts in both Hugo-nominated versions of Ghostbusters, Dave (an uncredited version of Robert Heinlein’s Double Star), the Hugo finalist Avatar and its upcoming sequels, The Village, Vamps, and Chappie. She has also provided voices for animated films including the Hugo-winning WALL-E, Happily N’Ever After, The Tale of Despereaux, and Finding Dory.
  • Born October 8, 1949 – Richard Hescox, 69, Artist and Illustrator who, between the years of 1976 and 1993, illustrated over 135 covers for genre books, but now works mostly in the games industry and for private commissions. He is also notable for producing advertising art for such movies as Escape from New York, Time Bandits, Swamp Thing, The Dark Crystal, The Neverending Story, and Conan the Barbarian. Some of his work has been gathered into two collections, The Fantasy Art of Richard Hescox and The Deceiving Eye: The Art of Richard Hescox, with text by Randy Dannenfelser. He has been nominated for a Chesley a half a dozen times, winning in 2003, named Artist Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, and received The Jack Gaughan Award for Best Emerging Artist in 1991.
  • Born October 8, 1956 – Stephanie Zimbalist, 62, Writer and Actor of Stage and Screen. While she is best known for the lead in the TV series Remington Steele, she has appeared in more than 60 stage plays and as many TV series, with her most notable genre appearances being the films Jericho Fever and a Saturn Award-nominated role in The Awakening, the film version of Bram Stoker’s The Jewel of Seven Stars. She appeared in the 2006 documentary Christa McAuliffe: Reach for the Stars, and also portrayed McAuliffe in the play Defying Gravity.
  • Born October 8, 1970 – Matt Damon, 48, Oscar-winning Writer, Actor, and Producer. His most famous genre roles involve having to be rescued in both the Hugo-winner The Martian and the Hugo finalist Interstellar. After starting his career with a role as an uncredited extra on the Hugo-nominated Field of Dreams, he later had parts in genre films The Adjustment Bureau (based on a Philip K. Dick story), The Brothers Grimm, Contagion, Elysium, The Zero Theorem, Downsizing, and he reprised his Dogma role playing Loki in a cameo in the Hugo-nominated Thor: Ragnarok.
  • Born October 8, 1979 – Kristanna Loken, 39, Actor and Producer, known to genre fans as the cyborg Terminatrix from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Her other genre appearances include the films Bloodrayne and In the Name of the King, and the TV series Mortal Kombat: Conquest and Painkiller Jane.

(12) HERBERT DAY. Steven H Silver finds a story to celebrate in a 1971 Analog – “Birthday Reviews: Frank Herbert’s ‘By the Book’” at Black Gate.

Originally published by John W. Campbell, Jr. in the October 1966 issue of Analog Science Fiction Science Fact, “By the Book” was reprinted in 1971 in The Worlds of Frank Herbert and again in The Best of Frank Herbert. It was also included in the Herbert collections Eye and The Collected Stories of Frank Herbert. The story was translated into Croatian in 1978 for inclusion in the Yugoslavian magazine Sirius and into French in 1987 for the Hebert collection Champ Mental.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) LOCAL TALENT. In LA on October 11 — “Dana Gould – A reading of Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space”. Here’s some names you don’t see all the time anymore.

Dana Gould presents A Live, Stage Reading of EdWood’s… Plan 9 from Outer Space

w/ Bobcat Goldthwait, David Koechner, Janet Varney , Laraine Newman, Kevin MacDonald, Dana Gould, Matt Braunger, Rob Zabrecky, Ron Lynch, Nate Mooney, DeborahBaker, Jr., Ken Daly, G CharlesWright, w/ Eban Schletter and other surprises!

(15) DADDY DATA? Variety reports — “TNT Orders Ridley Scott-Produced Sci-Fi Drama ‘Raised by Wolves’”.

TNT has given a straight-to-series order to a sci-fi drama project that hails from executive producer Ridley Scott.

Titled “Raised by Wolves,” the series centers on two androids tasked with raising human children on a mysterious virgin planet. As the burgeoning colony of humans threatens to be torn apart by religious differences, the androids learn that controlling the beliefs of humans is a treacherous and difficult task….

(16) SECOND NOVEL. Adri Joy has been looking forward to the continuation of this series – see “Microreview [Book]: The Phoenix Empress by K. Arsenault Rivera” at Nerds of a Feather.

…The Phoenix Empress pick up almost exactly where its predecessor leaves off, and while the “present” takes up more of the narrative in this volume, there’s still a substantial story-within-a-story as Shizuka fills Shefali in on the events that led to her becoming empress, not to mention developing an alcohol addiction and a severe phobia of water. Shefali has returned from her own travels even more changed, following events in that have led to her being contaminated by black blood but not succumbing to the usual progress of the illness, and now expects to die on her next birthday in four months’ time. A great deal of the book is therefore based on learning each others’ secrets and renewing their relationship, as well as working out what the wider implications of Shefali’s return are for the future of Hokkaro and the black- blood plague.

I suspect that the unusual structure of these novels is playing an important trope-subverting role as well as being a narrative choice….

(17) AGE BEFORE BEAUTY. Apparently D.B. Jackson couldn’t resist the challenge – at Whatever, “The Big Idea: D.B. Jackson”.

Anyone who has written a time travel novel knows that they can send an author ‘round the bend. Time travel is a plotting nightmare. It creates narrative holes big enough to accommodate a truck. It acts as a virtual eraser, a do-over generator, a distributor of endless mulligans. Even the most sound, well-considered plot point can be undermined by the simple question, “Well, why can’t one of our characters go back and prevent this?” Hermione Granger’s ill-advised flirtation with Time-Turners is just the tip of the iceberg. Time travel will make an author’s brain explode.

So, naturally, I have just published the first novel in a new time travel/epic fantasy series.

(18) PALACE INTRIGUE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Various sources are reporting that the China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO) has announced an intent to deorbit their Tiangong-2 (Celestial Palace 2) space laboratory during or after July 2019. You may recall that Tiangong-1 deorbited in an uncontrolled manner (though the Chinese claim otherwise) earlier this year. Fortunately,  the bits of Tiangong-1 that didn’t burn up on reentry happened to hit an unoccupied part of the Pacific Ocean. The plan for Tiangong-2 is to deliberately aim for such a spot.

Neither of the Celestial Palaces were intended to be permanent space stations, though China is planning a modular space station of a more permanent nature. Mooted dates for launching the various parts of that are currently 2020–2023.

(19) GOTHAM’S FIFTH. The trailer for the last season of Fox’s Gotham was played at the New York Comic Con.

(20) THE LAST GYRO. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] NASA has confirmed, via Twitter, that the Hubble Space Telescope has been put into “safe mode” following the failure of one of its gyroscopes (Space.com: “Hubble Space Telescope in ‘Safe Mode’ After Gyroscope Failure”). This leaves the iconic telescope with only two gyros operating, not enough to “ensure optimal efficiency” per the Hubble website. All six gyroscopes were last replaced during Servicing Mission 4 when Shuttle Atlantis visited in 2009 during mission STS-125. With the Shuttle fleet long retired now, further servicing is not an option.

Dr. Rachel Osten, Hubble Deputy Mission Head, has tweeted that the “[f]irst step is try to bring back the last gyro, which had been off, and is being problematic.” If that fails, there was quick speculation that a change in operational mode may emerge, Dr. Grant Tremblay, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, tweeted:

*IF* the third [gyroscope] doesn’t spin back up, I wouldn’t be surprised if they drop to 1 gyro mode, keeping the second as reserve. @rachelosten might know, but I imagine it’s a stressful, difficult decision. Let’s just hope the brilliant people at @STScI can recover the third. Stress.

That plan was confirmed shortly after, when Dr Osten replied:

It’s not a difficult decision, @astrogrant: the plan has always been to drop to 1-gyro mode when two remain. There isn’t much difference between 2- and 1, and it buys lots of extra observing time. Which the Astro community wants desperately.

In fact, the gyroscope that just failed lasted “about six months longer” than had been anticipated. This failure is one more confirmation that the Hubble is nearing the end of it’s life, though it is clearly still doing good science.

(21) RED HAT. Mlex says he’d wear one –

(22) STYLE POINTS IF YOU STICK THE LANDING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] There’s video of the first Vandenberg landing of a SpaceX Falcon 9 on The Verge (“SpaceX successfully landed its Falcon 9 rocket on the California coast for the first time”). The video includes launch, side-by-side views of the second stage burn and the first stage return to Vandenberg, and more. If you want to skip ahead to the final landing  burn, that starts just after the 29 minute mark of the video when the stage is still over 4 km in altitude. This is a night landing, so the burns are spectacular, but overall visibility is limited. The split screen for the last few moments of the landing has video from the side of the stage (looking down) and from a ground camera viewing from a safe distance.

(23) EPISODE RECAP. Martin Morse Wooster says, “My local public television station is showing the New Zealand series The Brokenwood Mysteries.  Last night they showed an episode which appeared in the show’s third season and was broadcast in New Zealand in 2016.” —

The premise is that a sleazy tour operator is offering “Lord of the Ringz” tours to the Brokenwood forest for Chinese tourists.  They’re shown a crappy matte painting of mountains.  Guys with pointy ears do some swordplay. The climax of the tour is when a giant plush toy spider descends on a woman wrapped up in spider webbing–but the unplanned but is that the woman is dead, and the detectives then find out who killed her.

A German guy complains that he isn’t seeing anything from The Lord of the Rings, and is told, “Oh, in New Zealand we spell things creatively.”  In another scene, a lawyer explains that as long as the customers aren’t told they’re seeing things from The Lord of the Rings–and every sign, for some reason, isn’t spelled correctly!–then it’s legal.  “We could be showing scenes from some direct-to DVD film,” he said.

I hope this lawyer never deals with the Tolkien estate…

(24) SHADOW OF VADER. Chuck Wendig will write a five-issue miniseries for Marvel Star Wars:

Chuck Wendig on Darth Vader and his newly-announced series, Shadow of Vader: “Vader is a character with a long shadow, literally and figuratively. His legacy is deep and unpleasant.” The world will not be bereft of Darth Vader in their comics for long, as Wendig announced that he will be writing a miniseries called Shadow of Vader, beginning in November. Each issue will feature a different set of characters: Issue #1 is a Friday the 13th homage, with Vader hunting down kids at summer camp; issue #2 stars the one-and-only Willrow Hood; issue #3 centers on a morgue attendant on the Death Star; issue #4 diverges to focus on the Acolytes of the Beyond; issue #5 follows a New Republic pilot — whose parents were killed by Vader — who joins the Resistance only to learn that Leia’s father is the Sith Lord.

(25) AMERICAN GODS TRAILER. The second season of American Gods is on the way.

A storm is coming. American Gods returns to STARZ in 2019. Starring Ricky Whittle, Ian McShane, Yetide Badaki, Orlando Jones, Omid Abtahi, Mousa Kraish, and more.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 4/21/18 If I Have Filed Further It Is Only By Scrolling On The Pixels Of Giants

(1) FIRST. Continuing the conversation about sff reviewing on his blog, Camestros Felapton offers this draft of “The Three Laws of Reviewbotics?”

…So here’s maybe a start for the hyper-critic oath (‘hyper’ because I’m overthinking this and ‘critic’ because ‘reviewer’ doesn’t work for the pun).

First, do no obvious harm. Don’t ever slander a writer. Avoid attacking them personally, even indirectly [that’s not always possible because writing is to varying degrees an extension of the self. In addition, some texts themselves are INTENDED to be harmful to others (I’ve reviewed many here over the years) BUT while we can all think of exceptions the norm should be to review texts, not people.] This does not mean treating all people the same – if you knew that somebody was currently in a vulnerable emotional state, then maybe reviewing their book isn’t a great idea. The flip side of that is you can’t reasonably tailor reviews around what a writer you don’t know might be feeling. And obviously don’t use slurs, stereotypes or language which we know to be harmful – such as overt racism, sexism etc. In an equitable society, some people are more vulnerable to others and if we KNOW that we have to be mindful of that while bearing in mind the points below as well.

(2) TO THE TUNE OF CORALINE. The opera based on Neil Gaiman’s Coraline is available on the BBC iPlayer for the next 29 days: “Mark-Anthony Turnage: Coraline”.

Kate Molleson presents the world premiere production of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Coraline – an operatic version of the dark fantasy tale by Neil Gaiman, directed by Aletta Collins with libretto by Rory Mullarkey. Soprano Mary Bevan sings the title-role with a cast including mezzo-soprano Kitty Whately and baritone Alexander Robin Baker who are making their Royal Opera debuts. Sian Edwards conducts the Britten Sinfonia.

During the interval, Kate is joined by guest Fiona Maddocks with contributions from Mark-Anthony Turnage and Mary Bevan.

Neil Gaiman has transformed the landscape of children’s literature with his highly inventive, atmospheric and otherworldly narratives. His prize-winning novella, Coraline is packed with astonishing imagery – a much-loved story about a girl who discovers a door in her parents’ house, leading to an entirely different place and family. For Mark-Anthony Turnage “the fundamental message beneath the story is that we shouldn’t be afraid to do what we believe is right. Coraline is brave, not because she doesn’t cry or get scared, but because despite these things she still tries her best and doesn’t give up. That’s why I wanted to write Coraline, because here’s a message well worth telling; through opera or in any other way.”

(3) FANTASTIC HOW MANY? A trailer advertising the Fantastic 4’s return to comics in August. But Carl Slaughter says, “Wait a minute.  Maybe I missed someone, but I saw only 3 members of the Fantastic 4 at the end of that teaser….” Actually, Carl, couldn’t that pillar of fire in the closing image be your missing fourth character?

(4) TRACK RECORD. A member of the Universal Fan Con committee – a con cancelled at the last minute — is alleged to have a problemactic past.

(5) SPOILER ALERT. Commentary on a recent Red Dwarf-themed word puzzle: “Inquisitor 1533: A Little Light Relief by Eclogue”.

There were enough clues that I could solve to get a firm foothold in the grid and start to see the message emerging.  It was the skeleton of the message that gave me the breakthrough.  I could see something like IT’S COLD OUTSIDE and THERE’S NO appearing and  those five words were enough to track down the theme to Red Dwarf, a cult television series which was still producing new episodes in late 2017

The theme tune can be found by by clicking here

The full message is IT’S COLD OUTSIDE THERE’S NO KIND OF ATMOSPHERE which are the opening lyrics to the show’s theme song.  The wording of the preamble was very precise when it stated ‘the correct letters from misprints in definitions provide the opening to the theme’.

I could see then that the unclued entries were going to be the characters from the show.  It was the one I didn’t really know that fell first – KOCHANSKI –  followed by HOLLY, LISTER, RIMMER, KRYTEN and CAT.  CAT came last because I nearly missed it.

(6) IT’S HUGE! In “Kickstarter Final Note”, Steve Davidson shares a bit of news about Amazing Stories’ next first print issue.

One thing of note:  we’ve gone way over our word count for the first issue and none of us have the heart to deny any of our authors and artists the opportunity to be in Amazing first new issue since 2005 (and not even that’s technically correct – we’ve published four issues since 2012 in point of fact), so, rather than disappointing a handful of authors and artists, we’ve chosen the high road and are biting the bullet on an extended page count – rather than our originally planned 192 pages, it looks like we’re going for 248…

Yes, it’s going to blow our budget out a little bit, but, well, we really want this first issue to be SPECTACULAR, AWESOME and REALLY GREAT!  And it’s going to be.  (Really Great Science Fiction magazine was rejected as a title….)

(7) HOW HARD CAN IT BE? Tough SF by “Matter Beam” says this is its mission:

… One genre defined by the struggle to create living settings in science fiction is Hard SF. ‘An emphasis on scientific or technical detail’ is a sure-fire way to create a realistic and functional universe, but often the need to adhere to realism slows creativity, stresses the narration, leads to improbable results or otherwise has negative effects. One of the biggest complaints is that it just isn’t ‘fun’….

…This blog therefore try to help authors, world-builders and game designers to create Tough Science Fiction. This is science fiction that is as resistant as Hard Science Fiction to criticism, review and general prodding and poking by the audience, but does not sacrifice the author’s vision or core concepts to pure, dry realism…

Here are a couple of illustrative posts:

Space Piracy is a common science fiction trope. It has been continuously derided in Hard Science Fiction as silly and a holdover of the ‘Space is an Ocean’ analogy.

But is it really that unrealistic to have space pirates? Let’s find out.

There’s more to piracy than just attacking a target and running away afterwards.

Put yourself in the shoes of a pirate, a merchant or the authorities. What would you do?

(8) BUNCH OF LUNCH. Why aren’t there more big mammals? We ate them.  “New Study Says Ancient Humans Hunted Big Mammals To Extinction”.

Over the past 125,000 years, the average size of mammals on the Earth has shrunk. And humans are to blame.

That’s the conclusion of a new study of the fossil record by paleo-biologist Felisa Smith of the University of New Mexico.

Smith studied fossils going back 65 million years, when dinosaurs died and mammals came into their own. Many of the early mammals went on to get big. Among the giant creatures: “Llamas and camels and sloths and five species of pronghorn [antelope] actually,” she says, “and certainly mammoths. And then lots of really cool predators, like Arctodus, the short faced bear.” The short-faced bear stood 11 feet tall, about the shoulder height of some species of ancient camel.

And that was just North America.

Being big was just as successful as being small, and had some advantages when it came to surviving big predators. “Taken as a whole, over 65 million years, being large did not increase mammals’ extinction risk. But it did when humans were involved,” Smith found.

Looking back over the most recent 125,000 years of the fossil record, Smith found that when humans arrived someplace, the rate of extinction for big mammals rose. She says it basically came down to hunger. “Certainly humans exploit large game,” she says, “probably because they are tasty”—and because a bigger animal makes for a bigger meal. …

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 21, 1997 — Ashes of Gene Roddenberry journeyed into space.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • John King Tarpinian shared this link with pun lovers in mind — Off the Mark.

(11) BRADBURY MUSEUM UPDATE. A proponent told the Chicago Tribune “Ray Bradbury Experience Museum planning start in smaller space, eventual move to old Carnegie Library”.

The multi-million dollar dream of renovating and redeveloping the childhood library of Ray Bradbury for a museum dedicated to the Waukegan author is still alive more than two years after a campaign was launched to make it happen.

But a team of Bradbury devotees, civic boosters and creative minds has decided it isn’t going to wait for that overall package to take shape at the historic but dormant Carnegie Library on Sheridan Road.

Instead, early next month, plans will be unveiled for a more modest Ray Bradbury Experience Museum (RBEM) with a goal of opening in a Genesee Street storefront in time for the 100th anniversary of the late author’s birthday in August 2020….

(12) WOTF. Kyle Aisteach posted a memoir about “My Writers of the Future Experience” in the 1990s. Aisteach was a paid add-on student of the workshop, not a contest finalist.

… The workshop itself was much like what others have described: A whirlwind of big names coming in to talk to us, intensely trying to churn out a complete short story in just a few days, a lot of theory, and a lot of making friends. I learned a tremendous amount, much of which I carry with me and still use to this day. The workshop was wonderful.

But the question everyone wants to ask is this: What about the Scientology?

Well, it was definitely there. The impression I had at the time was that L. Ron Hubbard founded Scientology and therefore Scientology loves L. Ron Hubbard and everything he was associated with, and therefore the Church of Scientology wanted to support us in any way it could. David Miscavige was there to welcome us all. L. Ron Hubbard’s name was not just mentioned frequently, it was extolled. We were clearly and obviously using Scientology property for both the workshop and the gala. I, personally, found it a little uncomfortable at times, but I’m always uncomfortable in someone else’s sacred space, so there was nothing weird about that to me. A couple of the texts we used were clearly Scientologist documents (the biography of Hubbard had him transcending instead of dying, and another essay – I don’t recall exactly what it was about – Budrys explained was written for Scientologists and he explained what terms like “clear” meant so we could follow it), but that didn’t faze me either, since texts that inform writing can come from anywhere and most of us pull from our own traditions when teaching.

Before anyone has a meltdown about any of this, remember that this was the 1990s. Scientology had some legal troubles as a young religion, but at this point the general feeling was that it had left them behind….

And former Writers of the Future winner J. W. Alden has written another thread – start here.

(13) BEWARE EVENTBRITE. Slashdot warns “Eventbrite Claims The Right To Film Your Events — And Keep the Copyright”.

But in addition, you’re also granting them permission to record and use footage of all your attendees and speakers, “in any manner, in any medium or context now known or hereafter developed, without further authorization from, or compensation to.” And after that Eventbrite “will own all rights of every nature whatsoever in and to all films and photographs taken and recordings made hereunder, including without limitation of all copyrights therein and renewals and extensions thereof, and the exclusive right to use and exploit the Recordings in any manner, in any medium or context now known or hereafter developed…”

(14) PERSISTENCE. At NPR, Genevieve Valentine analyzes Joanna Russ’ nonfiction classic: “‘How To Suppress Women’s Writing:’ 3 Decades Old And Still Sadly Relevant”:

…It’s hard not to get freshly angry at the status quo, reading this. But amid the statistics and the sort of historical pull quotes you’ll want to read out loud to horrified friends, Russ is also defying a literary tradition that, she points out again and again, wants to forget that women write. In so doing, she deliberately creates a legacy of women writers who came before. Well, white women. Russ mentions a few writers of color in the essay proper, and includes more in her Afterword, but this is a very white family tree. (It’s one of the ways the book shows its age; another is the way any genderqueerness is reduced to sexual preferences, which amid so much far-seeing commentary feels quaintly second-wave.)

And despite how much there is to be angry about, How to Suppress Women’s Writing is shot through with hope. There’s the energy of a secret shared in “the rocking and cracking of the book as the inadequate form strains or even collapses.” And beneath every denial of agency, there’s the obvious truth: For hundreds of years, despite those odds against them, the “wrong” writers still manage to write. Likely it won’t be remembered long enough or taken seriously enough, but to read this book is to admire this buried tradition, and realize how much there is to be discovered — and how there’s no time like the present to look at the marginalized writers you might be missing. “Only on the margins does growth occur,” Russ promises, like the guide in a story telling you how to defeat the dragon. Get angry; then get a reading list.

(15) MOVERS AND SHAKERS. In California, they’re “Betting On Artificial Intelligence To Guide Earthquake Response”.

A startup company in California is using machine learning and artificial intelligence to advise fire departments about how to plan for earthquakes and respond to them.

The company, One Concern, hopes its algorithms can take a lot of the guesswork out of the planning process for disaster response by making accurate predictions about earthquake damage. It’s one of a handful of companies rolling out artificial intelligence and machine learning systems that could help predict and respond to floods, cyber-attacks and other large-scale disasters.

(16) HAPPY BIRTHDAY HUBBLE. Great photo: “It’s The Hubble Space Telescope’s Birthday. Enjoy Amazing Images Of The Lagoon Nebula”.

The Hubble “has offered a new view of the universe and has reached and surpassed all expectations for a remarkable 28 years,” the agencies said in a statement, adding that the telescope has “revolutionized almost every area of observational astronomy.”

Hubble was launched on April 24, 1990, aboard the space shuttle Discovery as a joint project between NASA and the ESA. Each year, the telescope is diverted from important scientific observational duties to take an image of the cosmos in intense detail.

This year’s featured image, the Lagoon Nebula, is a colossal stellar nursery, 55 light-years wide and 20 light-years tall, that is about 4,000 light-years away from Earth.

 

(17) END GAME. Looper tries to explain the ending of Ready Player One. Watch out for spoilers, I assume!

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, David Langford, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Peter J, Mark Hepworth, Jim Meadows, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Niall McAuley.]

Pixel Scroll 4/13/18 Soylent Scroll is Pixels

(1) ARTEMIS IS NOT THE EXPANSE. Ioannis Kokkinidis gives an analysis of how realistic Andy Weir’s Artemis is in “The polis of Artemis on the Moon” at Centauri Dreams.

Over the years many rationales have been given to colonize the Moon. This is the only story I have read – granted I have not been able to read that much science fiction – where tourism is the primary driver of colonization. Andy Weir has said that he first created an economy of the town and then went on to write the novel. His description of a tourist dependent city though has several assumptions that, while mostly true for some American destinations, are quite odd for tourist destinations outside the US. This is an analysis by a person who comes from a country whose economy is highly dependent of tourism, has visited some 30 countries and lived in 5 of them. I am trying to keep this review as spoiler free as possible so as not to ruin the enjoyment of the book to anyone who has not read it, though I hope that those that have not read the book will be able to follow my arguments and form their own opinions.

Kokkinidis’ article includes the surprise that Andy Weir and James S.A. Corey (aka Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) have agreed that his stories are set in the same universe as The Expanse series.

Or not, says Greg Hullender, who sent the link along with his own research into the matter.

There was a tweet from Corey back in 2015 that said the stories were part of the same continuity —

But a few months ago, Weir denied it during a  Reddit AMA session:

I love The Expanse – fantastic stories. But no, The Martian and The Expanse are not in the same continuity. They just threw in the reference for fun. I’m honored.

And a month later, Daniel Abraham admitted it was just a joke:

It was a friendly joke at SDCC a few years back. Andy’s awesome, and we’re fans. I think we can keep the copyright lawyers in their cages for the time being.

Ah well. It was a pretty idea while it lasted.

(2) DOCTOR STRANGEMIND. Kim Huett of Doctor Strangemind takes the recent controversy over Terry Goodkind’s criticism of cover srt on his new book as a starting point for a dive into sff art history, “Author Vs Art”.

In 1973 Dennis Stocks organized a science fiction convention in Brisbane. At this convention there was a panel titled: “SF Illustration… A Dying Art?” In preparation for this panel he asked various authors their opinions. He received some fascinating answers:

….Perhaps we’ll have more luck with Robert Bloch:

About science fiction illustration being a dying art – I’d be more inclined to regard the patient as not dying but merely partially crippled. My diagnosis is as follows:

His skin – that is to say, cover illustrations in both magazines and paperbacks – has a good, healthy tone and radiates a high degree of vitality,

His insides – i.e. interior illustrations in the magazines are ailing. And have been for many a long year. Much black-and-white is crude, hastily-executed and poorly reproduced, and necessarily limited as to size by the digest format of the pages on which it appears.

(3) FELAPTON PIRATED! Camestros Felapton real life is far more exciting than mere fiction: “Avast! And Splice the Epub Me Hearties! Pirates Off the Starboard iBook!”

So 2018 has so far been a strange year for the Felapton brand, aside from a being a Hugo finalist, being reported to the Federal Police for running a blog and not forgetting being accused of secretly lecturing in philosophy in Aberdeen, I’ve now been pirated!

The Apple iBooks store has two version of The Felapton Digest available. One is the correct one distributed by Smashwords and is free. The other is…I’m not sure, I haven’t looked inside it because whoever is selling it is charging $39.99!

(4) NEW BAT CHANNEL. George R.R. Martin has moved his blog off of LiveJournal. Here’s the link to the new URL for Not A Blog.

(5) FREE COMICS. Free Comic Book Day is coming May 5.

(6) REAL LIFE PODCASTING. Cat Rambo shares a… pro tip? Confession?

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Cat Eldridge agrees with xkcd’s Narnian punchline about Turkish Delight.

(8) NIHIL NECCO? Meanwhile, the fate of another candy hangs in the balance — “Necco wafers may disappear forever due to candy factory shutdown”:

Still, Necco Wafers are not as flashy as more modern confections, like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or Baby Ruths. Naysayers have complained that Necco Wafers taste like drywall or chalk; time and again, the wafers have topped lists of America’s most hated candy.

Be that as it may, Necco Wafers are suddenly having a huge revival. Why? Because the candy factory — the New England Confectionary Company, or Necco — that makes these deliciously despised candies may shut down.

In March, Necco CEO Michael McGee told the Boston Globe that the failing company would be closing down — and laying off nearly 400 people — if it could not find a buyer.

(9) A REAL SPACE MUSEUM. The BBC tells about : “The ambitious proposal to create a space ‘museum’ in orbit” — preserving the Hubble as an exhibit now that there’s no shuttle to keep refurbishing it.

One of the most significant scientific endeavours of all time, Hubble is destined to burn apart as it re-enters the atmosphere in the early 2030s. It will go the same way as many other historic space objects – from the first satellite and Laika the space dog, to Skylab and the Mir space station.

But there may be an “impossible” alternative.

“It seems an ignominious end for such a celebrated object,” says Stuart Eves, chair of the Space Information Exchange – a UK government and industry forum for space security and infrastructure – who is a satellite engineer and expert on space debris. “Instead, in the same way we preserve historic ships, aircraft, cars and trains in museums,” he says, “we ought to look after Hubble and preserve it for posterity.”

Rather than bring it back to Earth – a costly and challenging mission (successfully attempted by the Space Shuttle in 1984 with two communications satellites) – Eves is urging the US to preserve the telescope in space.

(10) THE GOAL. Greg Hullender explains the reviewing philosophy of Rocket Stack Rank in “A Word for Authors”. “It tries to give authors some guidance on when they ought to engage with us about a review they had problems with,” he says. “The key thing is that it separates our reviews, which are matters of opinion, from our index, which should be a matter of fact. We have an adversarial relationship with authors regarding reviews, but we ought to be cooperative when it comes to the index. It’s the one place where we have the same goal: to attract readers to stories that might interest them.” Here’s an excerpt —

Honest Doesn’t Mean Cruel

Some authors can’t handle any amount of criticism of their work. One author complained about five negative words in thousand-word 5-star review which otherwise gushed over how great the story was. Another complained that a 5-star review praised their story for the wrong reasons. We can’t make everyone happy, and we aren’t going to try.

But there’s no reason to be cruel either. Nothing I post is ever meant to hurt an author’s feelings. If I’ve overstepped the line, anyone (readers, authors, editors, etc.) should feel free to let me know. In particular:

  • A review should never be personal. “This story suffers from a weak plot” is okay. “This author can’t plot his way out of a paper bag” is not.
  • A review should not pile on. Once I’ve cited enough reasons to explain why the story got a 2-star review, I should stop. There’s no point in trying to list 50 things that bothered me if 5 will do.
  • A review should never use the race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, religion, or disability of an author or the characters portrayed as factors for or against a story. (Unrealistic portrayal is a different story, of course. “But a Mainer would neverbe best friends with a New Yorker!”)

Beyond that, if an author believed I was unnecessarily harsh, he or she should feel free to let me know. If I somehow wrote “This was the most awful thing I’ve ever read,” I’d almost certainly be willing to soften that to “I didn’t enjoy this story at all.”

(11) YANG AT HIGH TIDE. Joe Sherry covers three books in “Nanoreviews: Good Guys, Penric’s Fox, The Black Tides of Heaven” at Nerds of a Feather.

He really likes this one –

Yang, JY. The Black Tides of Heaven [Tor.com Publishing]

Have you ever read a book and midway through you’re actively angry at yourself for not reading it sooner? That was me after maybe twenty pages of The Black Tides of Heaven. By the end of the book my jaw was on the floor in amazement at just how spectacular this novella is. Told over the course of more than thirty years, The Black Tides of Heaven is not quite the story of revolution, but it is more a story of politics, of family, of personal choice, with a bit of revolution in the mix. All of that, and more, is woven together to something that is far superior than any facile description I could possibly give. I’m not sure I am up to the task of properly reviewing thie novella. I can only give The Black Tides of Heaven my highest possible recommendation.
Score: 10/10 

(12) THE U.S. ARMY’S OWN MILSF. The IEEE Spectrum says “To Illustrate the Dangers of Cyberwarfare, the Army Is Turning to Sci-fi”.

Graphic novelettes issued by the U.S. Army Cyber Institute aim to educate soldiers about digital threats…

The books grew out of the ACI’s collaboration with the Threatcasting Lab at Arizona State University, in Tempe. Brian David Johnson is the director of the Threatcasting Lab and Intel’s former in-house futurist. He wrote the books—Dark Hammer, Silent Ruin, Engineering a Traitor, and 11/25/27—with Sandy Winkelman as creative director.

“We do two-day threatcasting events where we…model possible threats 10 years in the future,” Johnson says. “Threats to national security, threats to the economy, threats to civilization. And once we’ve established those, then we look backward and say, ‘How do we disrupt and mitigate those threats?’ ” he says.

The ACI decided they wanted more than just the lab’s traditional reports, Johnson says. “They wanted something that was much more visceral, that could be put in front of an 18-year-old cadet and also in front of a three-star general. They chose a process of mine called science fiction prototyping. You write science fiction stories based on science facts to explore possible futures. We used the threatcasting reports as the science facts, and we developed these four comic books as a way to illustrate these possible threats.”

(13) THE NEXT JOB FOR ROBOTS. Never mind hamburgers: “Could a robot pip people picking peppers?” [Video]

A pepper-picking robot named Harvey is being developed by Queensland University of Technology with the aim of reducing crop waste.

Moving between crop rows autonomously, the robot can detect when the fruit is ripe and picks the pepper with the aid of a suction grip and an electric saw.

(14) WINTER IS COMING. Europe could get colder: “Climate change dials down Atlantic Ocean heating system” — “the Atlantic Ocean circulation system is weaker now than it has been for more than 1,000 years – and has changed significantly in the past 150.”

The study, in the journal Nature, says it may be a response to increased melting ice and is likely to continue.

Researchers say that could have an impact on Atlantic ecosystems.

Scientists involved in the Atlas project – the largest study of deep Atlantic ecosystems ever undertaken – say the impact will not be of the order played out in the 2004 Hollywood blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow.

But they say changes to the conveyor-belt-like system – also known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (Amoc) – could cool the North Atlantic and north-west Europe and transform some deep-ocean ecosystems.

(15) PAY THE WRITER. The BBC article “Dealing with clients who expect you to work for free” is a collection of sleazy lines turned into cartoons — not specifically genre, but a common concern in the field. (Cartoons at the link.)

She calls this a “graphic survey” approach –  drawing illustrations that put a face with the crowd-sourced quote – that would create a space for creatives to share their experiences.

“It’s fun to create that in-joke where people have experienced these things,” she says. “But the other people [who aren’t in on the joke] are like, ‘What’s going on, am I getting made fun of?’ It creates awareness, and hopefully it gets shared.”

The goal of For Exposure, beyond creating a platform for frustrated creatives? It’s not only to arm them to be savvier – it’s also hold the people they work for accountable.

“I want artists to learn to recognise red flags,” Estrada says. “And I want clients to learn how not to be insulting.”

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

Pixel Scroll 1/16/18 You Were Scrolling As A Pixel In A Sci-Fi File When I Met You

(1) VAN GELDER AUCTION BENEFITS PKD AWARD. Norwescon announced that Gordon Van Gelder, administrator for the Philip K. Dick Award, has put 18 sff books up for auction on eBay, including several first editions and signed editions (and some signed first editions), as a benefit for the award’s administrative fees. The Philip K. Dick Award, is presented annually to distinguished science fiction books published for the first time in the United States as a paperback original. The award ceremony is held each year at Norwescon.

(2) SECOND TAKE. Strange Horizons got some pushback about sexism in Adam Roberts’ review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi and has now supplemented the original with an edited version —

Editor’s note: This review has been edited to remove sexist commentary about Carrie Fisher. The original version of this review can be read here. For additional background, please see this Twitter thread.

(3) TRUE GRIT. The BBC reports on “Transport Scotland’s fleet of gritters and their gritter tracker”. Contractors Bear Scotland ran competitions to name the various vehicles, and what roads they’re covering can be viewed online.

Thanks to social media, Transport Scotland’s fleet of light-flashing, salt-spraying kings of the road have become a bit of a sensation.

Followers have been glued to their screens following the roads authority’s Gritter Tracker.

They were surprised to find out the vehicles had humorous names like Sir Andy Flurry, Sir Salter Scott and Gritty Gritty Bang Bang….

The force was with the people of Ayrshire during Tuesday’s snow flurries, their roads were being protected by Luke Snowalker.

Along with strong snow-slaying names like the Ice Destroyer, Snow Queen and Ice Buster, more unassuming gritters like Fred, Jack and Frosty have also been out and about keeping the country moving.

Not forgetting Sprinkles, Sparkle and Ready Spready Go.

(4) ANOTHER HORRIFIC LESSON. Chloe N. Clark continues the excellent Horror 101 series with “Surrounded by Others–Anatomy of a Pod Person” at Nerds of a Feather.

As a child, two of my earliest film-related memories are watching the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and watching the John Carpenter version of The Thing. In both, what stuck with child me was the depiction of a monster who not only could be anyone, but also could be someone that you think you know so well: your crewmate, your friend, your lover. This early exposure to these two films led to a longtime obsession with pod people (which the Thing is not technically, but I’m extending my definition here to any monster who can appear in the exact visage of someone you know and trust). As a child, there was a visceral terror to the idea, because the world was one I trusted. As an adult, while I don’t think pod people are likely, they still strike a certain fear because the concept at the heart of pod people’s terror-making is very much real. In this edition of Horror 101, I’ll be diving into the anatomy of a monster (a thing I’ll do occasionally in this series).

(5) ABOUT THAT VENN DIAGRAM. Sarah at Bookworm Blues was caught up in a kerfuffle yesterday, and analyzes the underlying issues in “On Twitter and Representation”.

While most of the comments I received yesterday were displaying the righteous indignation I’m still feeling, there were a handful of others that made their way to me through various means that said something along the lines of, “I just love reading SciFi and Fantasy. I don’t pay attention to the gender of the author.” Or “Does the gender of the author even matter?”

Comments like that bother me about as much as, “I don’t see your disabilities.” Or “I don’t see color.”

As much as I don’t want to be defined by my chronic illness, or my disabilities, they absolutely are part of who I am, and by refusing to see them, you are, in a way, refusing to see me. You’re only seeing pieces of me. Not seeing my disability doesn’t make it go away. Putting me in a box will limit the reaches of my work, rather than expand it.

In another example, women tend to get paid less than men here in the good ol’ US of A, and not seeing the gender roles in that situation, is refusing to see the problem.

Representation matters. It matters for a hell of a lot of reasons. It is important to show young kids everywhere that they can be, do, accomplish whatever they set their minds to. Seeing disabled characters in literature normalizes disabilities in important ways. It provides education to those who might need it. It also gives me someone I can relate to in the books I read, and that right there is absolutely priceless.

This graphic that I posted yesterday doesn’t just have a dearth of female authors on it, but it also lacks any people of color, disabled authors, LGBTQ authors and basically any minority group at all. It’s a list of white male fantasy authors…

and Robin Hobb.

This is important because, I get pretty fed up with women authors putting out work that’s just as good, if not better, than their male counterparts and not getting equal recognition for it. This isn’t a Divide and Conquer thing, it’s a We’re all in it Together thing. Someone’s effort shouldn’t be seen or overlooked based on any of their minority or majority qualifiers. The fact that when asked for a list of fantasy authors the first ones someone gets are white male, says a whole lot. And the truth is, I think this inequality is so ingrained in our culture that it really isn’t even noticed until something like this happens. Maybe we don’t mean for this to happen, but in a way, the fact that this happens without malice or intent makes it just that much more insidious.

Women have basically cleaned the clock in the past few Hugo Awards, and where are they on charts like this? One of the most awarded, celebrated authors in our genre today is N.K. Jemisin, a black female fantasy author, and she deserves recognition for her accomplishments, but where is it in a list like this, and why in the world didn’t her name come up when someone was polling Twitter for fantasy authors? Nnedi Okorafor is getting her book Who Fears Death turned into a television show, and I’ve seen her name, her image, herself routinely cut off from many articles. Namely, when Vice News tweeted about this deal, and the graphic that followed wasn’t of the author who wrote the book, but of George R R Martin, and the book cover….

And today an alternate version is making the rounds –

(6) JACKET. Neil Gaiman’s cover reveal for the U.S. paperback.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 16, 1939 — The comic strip Superman first appeared in newspapers.
  • January 16, 1995 Star Trek: Voyager premiered.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born January 16, 1948 – John Carpenter celebrated his 70th birthday today – no matter what you may have read. Entertainment Weekly caught the competition’s mistake in listing him as deceased.

Happy birthday John Carpenter! Rotten Tomatoes has some bad news…

The mega-popular film review aggregation site mistakenly declared veteran film director dead Tuesday in a since-deleted tweet.

The 70-year-old horror icon is very much alive, though RT seemed to have a different impression when it honored the Halloween and The Thing director’s birthday…

(9) SEARCHING FOR A SIGN. Further Confusion was held this past weekend in San Jos and they have lost track of a convention icon —

(10) CATAPOSTROPHE. Apparently Kazakhstan is switching from the Cyrillic to the Latin alphabet, and the result is loaded with apostrophes, so the words look like they came from a bad SF novel. The New York Times has the story: “Kazakhstan Cheers New Alphabet, Except for All Those Apostrophes”.

In his 26 years as Kazakhstan’s first and only president, Nursultan A. Nazarbayev has managed to keep a resurgent Russia at bay and navigate the treacherous geopolitical waters around Moscow, Beijing and Washington, keeping on good terms with all three capitals.

The authoritarian leader’s talent for balancing divergent interests, however, suddenly seems to have deserted him over an issue that, at first glance, involves neither great power rivalry nor weighty matters of state: the role of the humble apostrophe in writing down Kazakh words.

The Kazakh language is currently written using a modified version of Cyrillic, a legacy of Soviet rule, but Mr. Nazarbayev announced in May that the Russian alphabet would be dumped in favor of a new script based on the Latin alphabet. This, he said, “is not only the fulfillment of the dreams of our ancestors, but also the way to the future for younger generations.”

…The modified Latin alphabet put forward by Mr. Nazarbayev uses apostrophes to elongate or modify the sounds of certain letters.

For example, the letter “I” with an apostrophe designates roughly the same sound as the “I” in Fiji, while “I” on its own sounds like the vowel in fig. The letter “S” with an apostrophe indicates “sh” and C’ is pronounced “ch.” Under this new system, the Kazakh word for cherry will be written as s’i’i’e, and pronounced she-ee-ye.

(11) ON TONIGHT’S JEOPARDY! Rich Lynch says the game show Jeopardy! included an Asimov clue in the first round of tonight’s episode, mentioning the Hugo Award. The returning champ got it right!

(12) WHERE’S THE BEEF? Astronaut John Young, who recently died, once got in trouble for smuggling a corned beef sandwich on a space mission.

Gemini 3 had several objectives, from testing the effect of zero gravity on sea urchin eggs to testing orbital maneuvers in a manned spacecraft, which would aid the future moon landing. But another imperative was to test new space foods. Grissom and Young were sent up with dehydrated packets that they were meant to reconstitute with a water gun.

According to Young’s biography, “A couple of congressmen became upset, thinking that, by smuggling in the sandwich and eating part of it, Gus and I had ignored the actual space food that we were up there to evaluate, costing the country millions of dollars.” The House Appropriations Committee convened to mull over the sandwich incident, and one representative even harangued a NASA administrator, calling the sandwich stunt “just a little bit disgusting.”

Young was given a reprimand, the first ever for a member of a NASA space flight. He eventually regretted smuggling the sandwich into space, especially as the story came up over and over. But Grissom remembered it as “one of the highlights of the flight.” Grissom himself was in hot water for nicknaming Gemini 3’s spacecraft Molly Brown after the musical “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.” (Grissom’s first space flight ended with his capsule sinking into the ocean after re-entry.) Grissom forced irritated NASA administrators to back down after he suggested the name “Titanic” as an alternative.

(13) STARGAZING. From the BBC, “Hubble scores unique close-up view of distant galaxy”.

The Hubble telescope has bagged an unprecedented close-up view of one of the Universe’s oldest known galaxies.

Astronomers were lucky when the orbiting observatory captured the image of a galaxy that existed just 500 million years after the Big Bang.

The image was stretched and amplified by the natural phenomenon of gravitational lensing, unlocking unprecedented detail.

Such objects usually appear as tiny red spots to powerful telescopes.

(14) RATS ACQUITTED! New simulations show “Black Death ‘spread by humans not rats'”.

“We have good mortality data from outbreaks in nine cities in Europe,” Prof Nils Stenseth, from the University of Oslo, told BBC News.

“So we could construct models of the disease dynamics [there].”

He and his colleagues then simulated disease outbreaks in each of these cities, creating three models where the disease was spread by:

  • rats
  • airborne transmission
  • fleas and lice that live on humans and their clothes

In seven out of the nine cities studied, the “human parasite model” was a much better match for the pattern of the outbreak.

(15) RARE CASES. BBC considers “The mystery of why some people become sudden geniuses”. Chip Hitchcock notes, “Readers of old-time SF may recall H. L. Gold’s ‘The Man with English.’”

But until recently, most sensible people agreed on one thing: creativity begins in the pink, wobbly mass inside our skulls. It surely goes without saying that striking the brain, impaling it, electrocuting it, shooting it, slicing bits out of it or depriving it of oxygen would lead to the swift death of any great visions possessed by its owner.

As it happens, sometimes the opposite is true.

After the accident, Muybridge eventually recovered enough to sail to England. There his creativity really took hold. He abandoned bookselling and became a photographer, one of the most famous in the world. He was also a prolific inventor. Before the accident, he hadn’t filed a single patent. In the following two decades, he applied for at least 10.

In 1877 he took a bet that allowed him to combine invention and photography. Legend has it that his friend, a wealthy railroad tycoon called Leland Stanford, was convinced that horses could fly. Or, more accurately, he was convinced that when they run, all their legs leave the ground at the same time. Muybridge said they didn’t.

To prove it he placed 12 cameras along a horse track and installed a tripwire that would set them off automatically as Stanford’s favourite racing horse, Occident, ran. Next he invented the inelegantly named “zoopraxiscope”, a device which allowed him to project several images in quick succession and give the impression of motion. To his amazement, the horse was briefly suspended, mid-gallop. Muybridge had filmed the first movie – and with it proven that yes, horses can fly.

The abrupt turnaround of Muybridge’s life, from ordinary bookseller to creative genius, has prompted speculation that it was a direct result of his accident. It’s possible that he had “sudden savant syndrome”, in which exceptional abilities emerge after a brain injury or disease. It’s extremely rare, with just 25 verified cases on the planet

(16) KEVIN SMITH’S RATIONALE. Sebastian Paris, in “‘Star Wars’: Kevin Smith Weighs In On The Backlash Against ‘The Last Jedi’” on Heroic Hollywood, says that Smith, in his Fatman on Batman podcast, says that one reason many fans were disappointed with The Last Jedi was that they expected Luke Skywalker to be like Obi-Wan Kenobi and were disappointed when he turned out to be someone else.

(17) 2017 IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR. Rich Lynch’s 19th issue of My Back Pages [PDF file] is now online at the eFanzines.com website:

Issue #19 absolutely deplores the undearly departed 2017 as one terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year, and has essays involving historic mansions, convincing re-enactors, subway cars, Broadway shows, urban renewal, pub food, deadly duels, famous composers, iconic catchphrases, tablet computers, 1930s comic books, noir-ish buildings, foreboding edifices, unpaid interns, jams & singalongs, storm warnings, ancient palace grounds, Buddhist temples, worrisome fortunes, sushi adventures, retirement plans, and lots of Morris Dancers.

(18) MUNDANE COMMERCIALS, WHAT ELSE? Should you run out of things to watch, there’s always this collection of Dos Equis “The Most Interesting Man In the World” ads – at least 8 minutes worth.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Richard Williams–Animating Movement is a piece on Vimeo by the Royal Ocean Film Society that describes the techniques of the great Canadian animator whose best known work is the Pink Panther and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, IanP, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Greg Hullender, Martin Morse Wooster, Rich Lynch, ULTRAGOTHA, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]