Pixel Scroll 3/19/20 Using The Robotic Arm To Push The Mole

(1) JEMISIN EVENT CONVERTED TO LIVESTREAM. N.K. Jemisin’s in-person appearance at the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination has been converted to a virtual event, due to steps being taken to protect the health of the UC San Diego community and slow the spread of COVID-19. Use the Eventbrite link to secure access.

N.K. Jemisin’s in-person event for The City We Became has, unfortunately, had to be canceled, but we are pleased to be able to offer you access to an exclusive virtual event streamed live. You’ll get a chance to hear about The City We Became and ask Jemisin questions. Only ticket-holders will have access-plus, you will still receive a copy of the book, with an option to sign up for a signed bookplate from Orbit during the event.

The virtual event will take place at the same time as the original event, 7pm on Friday, April 3rd. Tickets are still available through Eventbrite. If you have already purchased a ticket and would like to request a refund, you may do so through Eventbrite. However we hope you choose to join us in celebrating The City We Became! All ticket purchases help support the author, Mysterious Galaxy bookstore, the publisher, and this thing we call human imagination.

And you have to buy the magazine to see this next Jemisin-related item. Kevin Hogan reports: “I was surprised but pleased to see a one-page The Making of the Book segment in Entertainment Weekly (April 2020, issue # 1586, page 90) on N.K. Jemisin and her upcoming novel, The City We Became. It’s always nice to see genre covered in ‘popular media’-type publications.”

(2) BALTICON NEWS. Dale S. Arnold, the Balticon 54 Hotel Liaison, asks for understanding about how reservation cancellations were sent by the hotel before the con could notify its members.

We sent a letter to the Balticon hotel asking for their opinion as to if they would be able to host Balticon this year and if they could not do so we would need to cancel the event.

The hotel management determined that it was very unlikely they would be able to host Balticon 54 and at a staff meeting on the morning of 03/18/2020 the general manager told his staff to send us an email explaining that it was unlikely they would be able to host Balticon and to cancel reservations once we confirmed we had told our people. Apparently, the head of reservations did not hear the part about waiting for us to send out notice and took immediate action by using an automated cancellation program.

Cancellations from the reservations department went out several hours before the email to us from the general manager letting us know they could not host Balticon 54 and would not attempt to collect cancellation fees and that they hope to see us next year was sent. A follow up email with apology for sending the cancellations before we told the hotel we had announced the cancellation of Balticon has already been received from the hotel. Given the stress many people are under during this pandemic I hope we can all forgive the hotel reservations department jumping the gun by a day or so.

A message concerning membership refunds (and roll-overs if you want to Balticon 55) and dealers tables refunds  etc. with the process to let us know what you want to do will be sent out soon.

(3) THE MAN WHO LEARNS BETTER. “Heinlein’s Juveniles, Pt. 1” is a fine article by Sourdough Jackson in the latest DASFAx clubzine. Click here – then scroll down to the March (202003) issue. Starts on page 2.

…When discussing the juveniles, I’ll be taking them two books per column. The first pair are Rocket Ship Galileo(1947) and Space Cadet (1948), both products of a troubled time in the author’s life—a typhoon was blowing his marriage toward the rocks, and the prospects for his writing career weren’t much better. Among his attempts to claw off that marital and literary lee shore was a projected series of books for boys: The Young Atomic Engineers. He thought to begin with a blockbuster—a trip to the Moon.

(4) MONSTROUS DISCOVERIES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the March 16 Financial Times, Simon Ings reviews “Monsters of The Deep,” a show about giant aquatic creatures that will be at Britain’s National Maritime Museum through January.

Back in 1893, the biologist Thomas Henry Huxley wrote in The Times:  ‘There is not an a priori reason that I know of why snake-bodied reptiles, from fifty feet long and upwards, should not disport themselves to our seas as they did those of the cretaceous epoch, which, geologically speaking, is a mere yesterday.’

Palaentologist Darren Naish, who is lead curator of the Falmouth exhibition,, is willing to entertain Huxley’s theory.  “His was the right attitude at the time, because the life of the deep oceans was only just being discovered. (Monsters of the Deep makes much of the ground-breaking research led by HMS Challenger, which between 1872 and 1876 discovered 4,700 species of marine life.) Large fossil dinosaurs and early whales, and amazing gigantic living animals, had been discovered only relatively recently,’ Naish pints out.’The whale shark, the world’s biggest fish, was a mid 19th century discovery.

(5) AGAINST THE LAW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Six Great Novels About Crime That Aren’t Quite Crime Novels” on CrimeReads, Mat Osman looks at six novels, two of which, China Mieville’s The City & The City and Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, are Hugo winners.  He also writes about Michel Faber’s Under The Skin, noting the novel is a “very different beast” than the filmed version.

The joy of The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is the way it lures you in with the most comforting of literary tropes. It’s a hard-bitten detective story about a boozy, lovelorn policeman with a seemingly unsolvable case. There are hard-drinking cops. There are underworld kingpins. There are unspoken codes of honor. So far, so Raymond Chandler. But under the surface another kind of book is flexing its muscles. It’s a what-if novel in which the post-WWII Jewish homeland is Alaska rather than Israel and the Messiah may (or may not) be on his way. It’s a setting that lets Chabon riff on his favored themes. Tall tales are told, language is toyed with (the Alaskan Jews call themselves The Frozen Chosen) and it builds to a denouement as vast as it is unexpected.

(6) BABY YODA ON THE COVER. That made me 1000% more interested. On sale May 26 from Titan Comics, Star Wars: The Mandalorian The Art & Imagery–Collector’s Edition Vol.1.

This deluxe edition collects the stunning artwork from the first four chapters of the Disney+ smash hit, highlighting the characters, creatures, allies, enemies and environments of this all-new Star Wars story.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 19, 1990 Repo Men premiered. It was directed by Miguel Sapochnik. It starred Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Liev Schreiber and Alice Braga. It was based on Eric Garcia’s The Repossession Mambo who co-wrote the screenplay with Garrett Lerner. It wasn’t well-received by critics at the time, nor does the audience over at Rotten Tomatoes care for it giving it a 21% rating.
  • March 19, 1999 Farscape premiered on Syfy. The series was conceived by Rockne S. O’Bannon and produced by The Jim Henson Company and Hallmark Entertainment.  The Jim Henson Company was responsible for the various alien make-up and prosthetics, and two regular characters, Rygel and Pilot were completely Creature Shop creations. Filmed in Australia, it would would last for four seasons ending in The Peacekeeper Wars.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 19, 1821 Sir Richard Francis Burton KCMG FRGS. He was a geographer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist when that term wasn’t a curse word, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer and diplomat. And the translator of an unexpurgated translation of One Thousand and One Nights. Along with Vikram and the Vampire or Tales of Hindu Devilry. Mind you, he was also the publisher of both Kama Sutra and The Perfume Garden. (Died 1890.)
  • Born March 19, 1919 Patricia Laffan. She was the alien Nyah in Devil Girl from Mars, a Fifties pulp film which you can see here. (Died 2014.)
  • Born March 19, 1926 Joe L. Hensley. He was a First Fandom Dinosaur which is to say he was  active in fandom prior to July 4, 1939 and he received the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. He is also a published genre author with ”And Not Quite Human” in the September 1953 issue of Beyond Fantasy Fiction being his first published work, and The Black Roads being his only genre novel. It does not appear that his genre works are available in digital editions. (Died 2007.)
  • Born March 19, 1928 Patrick McGoohan. Creator, along with George Markstein, of The Prisoner series with him playing the main role of Number Six. I’ve watched it at least several times down the years. It never gets any clearer but it’s always interesting and always weird.  Other genre credits do not include Danger Man but does comprise a short list of The Phantom where he played The Phantom’s father, Treasure Planet where he voiced Billy Bones and Journey into Darkness where he was The Host. (Died 2009.)
  • Born March 19, 1936 Ursula Andress, 84. I’msure I’ve seen all of the original Bond films though I’ll be damned I remember where or when I saw them. Which is my way of leading up to saying that I don’t remember her in her roles as either as Honey Ryder in the very first Bond film, Dr. No, or as as Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. Bond girls aren’t that memorable to me it seems. Hmmm… let’s see if she’s done any other genre work… well her first was The Tenth Victim based on Sheckley’s 1953 short story “Seventh Victim”. She also appeared in L’Infermiera, oops wrong genre, The Mountain of the Cannibal GodThe Fifth MusketeerClash of the Titans where she played of course Aphrodite, on the Manimal series, The Love Boat series and the two Fantaghirò films. 
  • Born March 19, 1945 Jim Turner. Turner was editor for Arkham House after the death of August Derleth, founder of that press. After leaving Arkham House for reasons that are not at all clear, he founded Golden Gryphon Press which published really lovely books until it went out of existence. Too bad their original website doesn’t exist anymore, but you can still view captures at the Wayback Machine. (Died 1999.)
  • Born March 19, 1955 Bruce Willis, 65. So do any of the Die Hard franchise count as genre? So even setting them aside, he has a very long  genre list, to wit Death Becomes Her (bit of macabre fun), 12 Monkeys (weird shit), The Fifth Element (damn great), Armageddon (eight tentacles down),  Looper (most excellent), The Sixth Sense (not at all bad), Sin City (typical Miller overkill) and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (yet more Miller overkill). 
  • Born March 19, 1964 Marjorie Monaghan, 56. JoJo on all six episodes of Space Rangers. My brain keeps insisting it lasted much, much longer. She also was on Babylon 5 as the Mars Resistance leader during the Earth Alliance Civil War, where she was known as Number One. She’s also appeared on Quantum Leap, in the cyberpunk Nemesis film, in The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy film, on Andromeda series, and on The Great War of Magellan film. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) CORONAVIRUS IMPACT ON COMICS MARKETING. “Image Comics Publisher Asks for Retailer Relief Amid Coronavirus Pandemic”. The Hollywood Reporter explains the new returns strategy adopted by the publisher of Saga, The Walking Dead, Monstress and many other famous titles.

As the comics industry reacts to the social isolation response to the coronavirus, Image Comics publisher and CEO Eric Stephenson has released an open letter about what his company — the third-largest publisher in the U.S. market — is doing to lessen pressure on retailers struggling with reduced traffic to stores and enforced closures. He is also asking other publishers to follow suit.

In normal times, comic book stores must estimate how many issues of each comic they will sell, and pay upfront for inventory from publishers. However, as the coronavirus has dramatically shifted how many customers are coming into shops, Stephenson said Image will allow comic book stores to return orders for the next 60 days. 

(11) THE WAY THROUGH. Elizabeth Bear, in her latest newsletter, looks for the tunnel that has the light at the end of it: “Adapt, improvise, overcome. And some strategies for coping with that cabinet full of shelf-stable STUFF.”

One of the precepts of emergency response is the title of this email: Adapt, improvise, overcome. It’s a phrase that gets mentioned several times in Machine, and I found myself thinking of it last night as I chatted with friends in various corners of the internet about the economic repercussions of the current xombie apocalypse. I see a lot of fear, and a lot of people saying “If we have to do this quarantine bullshit for 18 months the economy will never recover.”

A problem here is that we’ve been taught (by entertainment) to think of massive catastrophes as The End Of The World because that makes a better story. And I don’t want to minimize the grief and suffering that we endure in a catastrophe, be it a hurricane or an earthquake or a war or a pandemic. That is real.

But it’s also true that we adapt….

(12) AS CHAYKIN SEES IT. “Graphic Content: At The Intersection Of Comics And Crime With Howard Chaykin” is a fascinating profile by CrimeReads’ Alex Segura.

….Like the best crime fiction, Chaykin’s work is well versed in the morally ambiguous protagonist, as opposed to the steel-jawed, superheroic superman.

“My work more often than not betrays that hero with a wound thing, with a protagonist who is far from morally sound—and informs my interest in telling stories without a hero who does the right thing, that right thing as defined by an audience trained to love this romantic vision of the world,” Chaykin said. “And don’t get me started with the “rich guy who had a bad day when he was eight and turns to wage war on crime” model, either.”

(13) COME TIME TRAVEL WITH ME. Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus will be doing a “Come Time Travel with Me” show on March 27. Sign up online.

It’s been a pretty difficult set of weeks lately.  In addition to normal life grinding to a halt, conventions and gatherings have been canceled.  Galactic Journey was scheduled to present at a number of venues over the next several months.  That’s all fallen by the wayside.

But!

Thanks to the miracle of TELSTAR, SYNCOM, and RELAY, Galactic Journey can still perform for you, coming to you Live, Coast to Coast, in the comfort of your own living rooms!

That’s right — we are reviving Galactic Journey’s “Come Time Travel with Me” show, an hour-long (more or less) trip back in time exactly 55 years.

We’ll be covering science fiction, the Space Race, the recent civil rights march in Alabama, fashion, politics — you name it.  And we mean YOU.  After our introduction, it’ll be your questions that guide the course of the program.  And the best questions will win a prize!

So come join us, March 27, 1965 (2020) at 6PM PDT.  All you need is a screen and an hour.  We’ll provide the rest.

See you there!

(14) IT FEELS SO GOOD WHEN I STOP. “At long last, NASA’s probe finally digs in on Mars” – the PopSci version.

NASA unsticks its Martian digging probe by whacking it with a shovel.

Every day, the InSight lander’s suite of instruments sends back data proving that the Red Planet isn’t really dead. Marsquakes rumble the seismometer. Swirling vortices register on onboard pressure sensor. And temperature sensors help track the weather and changing of the seasons.

Despite the lander’s successes, however, one gauge has met with resistance from the Martian environment while trying to carry out its mission. Something has stopped InSight’s 15-inch digging probe, dubbed “the mole” for its burrowing prowess. Instead of diving deep into the Martian sand where it could take the planet’s temperature, it’s been stuck half-buried. An intercontinental team of MacGyvers has spent a year devising successively daring plans to get the mole digging again, but still it flounders on the surface. Now their final gambit—directly pushing the mole into the soil—has shown tentative signs of success, NASA announced Friday on Twitter.

The goal of the mole, which is the measurement probe of InSight’s Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (or HP3), is to track the temperature variations of Mars itself. This heat comes from Mars’s core, which, like Earth’s core, remains warm from the planet’s birth. By measuring it, researchers hope to learn about Mars’s formation—but from the rod-shaped mole’s current position they can get readings only of the surface temperature. Mission planners hope to ideally reach 15 feet underground to escape the warming and cooling from the Martian seasons that would interfere with reading the planet’s true temperature.

“I always thought, ‘let’s ask Mark Watney [the fictional protagonist of the book The Martian] to just go over there and just push a little bit on the mole,’” said Tilman Spohn, the HP3’s principle investigator.

But without any Martian explorers to lend a hand, Spohn and his colleagues on the “anomaly response team” have had to improvise with the only tool available—a small shovel-like “scoop” on the end of InSight’s robotic arm. Over the last year they’ve tried to punch down the walls of the hole around the mole, to fill in the hole with nearby sand, and to give the mole more purchase by pinning it against the side of the hole with the scoop. But to no avail.

(15) UNDER DEADLINE. Nature reports “How China is planning to go to Mars amid the coronavirus outbreak”.

China’s first journey to Mars is one of the most anticipated space missions of the year. But with parts of the country in some form of lockdown because of the coronavirus, the mission teams have had to find creative ways to continue their work. Researchers involved in the mission remain tight-lipped about its key aspects, but several reports from Chinese state media say that the outbreak will not affect the July launch — the only window for another two years…

(16) BEHIND THE SCENES. “We Spent 24 Hours Searching for the Elusive ‘Butthole Cut’ of Cats”. You probably don’t really need the Vanity Fair article – you intuited the whole story immediately.

You can blame—or thank—Seth Rogen.

On Tuesday, the actor and writer partook in the ancient theatrical tradition that is trying to understand the baffling, inscrutable movie-musical Cats (recently available on digital). Rogen wrote a long Twitter thread about the experience, marveling at the impossibly small cat shoes worn by several characters and wondering what the hell a “Jellicle” is, anyway. (For the record, that made-up word is a play on how posh Brits pronounce “dear little” cats).

In the process, Rogen also tweet-quoted a post from screenwriter Jack Waz, who claimed to know a visual effects artist who had been tapped to work on Cats back in November. That VFX person’s job? “To remove CGI buttholes that had been inserted a few months before,” Waz wrote. “Which means that, somewhere out there, there exists a butthole cut of Cats.”

(17) AREA 51. “Rise of Skywalker Has An Awesome John Williams Easter Egg You Missed”ScreenRant points the way.

…With The Rise of Skywalker concluding the iconic Skywalker saga and wrapping up Williams’ time in a galaxy far, far away, J.J. Abrams made sure to put Williams in front of the camera in the film. Williams has a minor Rise of Skywalker cameo, appearing in a seedy establishment on Kijimi as the Resistance heroes make their way to meet Babu Frik. Getting the opportunity to see Williams onscreen was thrilling enough for fans, but the scene also includes several nods to his unparalleled career.

The making-of documentary in the Rise of Skywalker home media release has a segment focused on Williams. In it, Abrams reveals each of the props surrounding Williams represents the 51 Oscar nominations Williams received up to that point. Examples include Indiana Jones’ whip from Raiders of the Lost Ark, the barrels from Jaws, and the iron from Home Alone….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 3/6/19 Fortune Favors The Scrolled

(1) PICARD. ThatHashtagShow.com is reporting “STAR TREK: PICARD Series Update With Character Breakdowns”. There are eight descriptions in the post. Here are the first four —

The first character in the list is the main man himself, Jean-Luc Picard, Male. And that’s all we’ve got for him. From interviews and assorted other information that’s been released, we know that Picard will have been affected by the destruction of Romulus due to his close involvement with building a bond between the Romulan Empire and the Federation.

Next, we have Starton, a male of any ethnicity in his early 30s. He specializes in positronic brains and is terrified of space. He’s charming in a self-deprecating way and is excited about the research opportunities on Picard’s mission. It goes on to say that his demeanor will evolve over the series, but it does not say in what way.

Connie, a female who is also in her early 30’s. She’s African-American and has a quick temper, but is also quick to forgive. In addition to dealing with the loss of her husband, she is also avoiding a death sentence on her home planet. She’s a mercenary pilot who uses her ship to transport people to and from an artifact of some kind, though the ship is massively overqualified for that job.

Lawrence is a handsome man in his 30’s of any ethnicity. . . who has a dodgy moral compass. He’s the pilot of the ship Picard takes on his mission. Being a capable (and enthusiastic) thief, his loyalties are questionable.

(2) GOOD OMENS TRAILER. Here’s the latest trailer for the Good Omens series which premieres May 31 on Amazon Prime.

With Armageddon just days away, the armies of Heaven and Hell are amassing and The Four Horsemen are ready to ride. Aziraphale, an angel, and Crowley, a demon, agree to join forces to find the missing Anti-Christ and to stop the war that will end everything. Based on the best-selling novel by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, Good Omens follows an unlikely duo and their quest to save the world.

(3) RSR FACTORS IN STURGEON AWARDS. Eric Wong says Rocket Stack Rank’s annual annotated 2018 Sturgeon Award finalists list is posted, now merged with our RSR’s 2018 Best SF/F list to facilitate analysis of the 11 finalists against the top 286 stories of the year based on award finalists, year’s best anthologies, and prolific reviewers.

Unlike the Nebula finalists this year, there were few surprises with the Sturgeon finalists, with 8 of the 11 finalists already being in the top 10 in their respective categories (Novella, Novelette, Short Story) and 7 were top scoring stories in their respective magazines before being Sturgeon finalists. It’s also nice to see three stories by Campbell Award-eligible writers.

Details with links to pivot the table by Length, Publication, and New Writer are available in the article.

(4) ROUTINE. NPR’s Glen Weldon says “‘Captain Marvel’ Takes Flight — Through Very Familiar Skies”.

There are several moments in Captain Marvel — most of them intimate two-hander scenes between Agent Nick Fury (a digitally de-aged Samuel L. Jackson) and the main character (Brie Larson) — where the performances click, the comic chemistry catalyzes, the dialogue buzzes and everything in this latest million-dollar superhero blockbuster seems downright … breezy.

Now: It’s a practiced breeziness. A studied breeziness. A breeziness that doesn’t feel forced, exactly, but that certainly feels enforced. Because as they trade quips and cracks and grins while expositing about an intergalactic war between two alien races, you react to the quips and cracks and grins with a sense of satisfaction, as down deep in your forebrain, your unconscious knows that this right here is the part of the Marvel superhero movie where they do the quips and cracks and grins. And that they will soon get interrupted by the bad guy. And that there will then be some (quite good) fight choreography. And that some venerated veteran actor (why, hello, Miss Annette Bening!) will show up in a goofy outfit to deliver hokey dialogue at precisely 23 percent of their ability and stand around looking just you know wildly incongruous.

You know all this not because you saw the trailers (though the trailers give away all the best stuff, including far too much of the plot), but because Marvel has been churning out million-dollar superhero blockbusters for over a decade now. They know how to do them — and you know how to watch them. And that means knowing, for example, that when the Big Reveal shows up to kick off the third act, right on schedule, it’ll be neither big nor particularly revelatory. It never is. And that’s fine….

(5) SECOND VERSE, SAME AS THE FIRST. The BBC roundup shows a lot of reviewers adopting that tone: “Captain Marvel: Female-led superhero film labelled ‘perfunctory’ by critics”.

Captain Marvel is an “entertaining” and “robust” superhero movie but is not the game-changer Black Panther and Wonder Women were, according to critics.

The film, the first from Marvel to have a stand-alone female lead, stars Oscar-winner Brie Larson as an intergalactic warrior with untapped super powers.

According to the Telegraph, the Room actress gives a “terrific” performance that is “big on girl-boss attitude”.

Yet other reviewers are less impressed, calling the film “perfunctory”…..

SiImilarly, Dana Stevens’s review of Captain Marvel for Slate is called “Finally, Women Have Their Own Mediocre Marvel Movie.” She says that Captain Marvel “somewhat resembles the sort of low-budget sci-fi that might have played on Saturday afternoons when this movie is set.” However, Stevens ends with this optimistic look at the near future —

It’s less two months until Carol Danvers will be back in theaters in Avengers: Endgame, an all-star Marvel megamovie that will settle the fates of our current crew of super-friends. The last we saw of the Avengers, their ranks had been cut in half by the cruel machinations of Thanos (Josh Brolin), a brooding purple supervillain who proved to be the first immovable object heroes of the franchise had yet encountered. It remains to be seen what the mega-chinned Mauve One will do when he comes face to face with this new heroine’s unstoppable force. From what we’ve seen of her so far, Captain Marvel may not be the most complex or finely shaded of the MCU protagonists. But given that she’s the first woman to be charged with the duty of saving this cinematic universe, I for one totally support her avenging.

(6) TOMORROW’S HOUSE, YESTERDAY. If you have a few million dollars to remodel a house you don’t own, you can live in the House of Tomorrow (Chicago Curbed: ‘Live in the ‘House of Tomorrow’ from the 1933 World’s Fair“).

Overlooking Lake Michigan from windswept Indiana bluff, the groundbreaking glass house architect George Fred Keck created for Chicago’s 1933-34 Century of Progress World’s Fair is seeking a dedicated lover of modern design to cover its $3 million restoration. In return, the deep-pocketed patron will be granted a 50-year sublease to use the structure as a one-of-a-kind single family home. 

When it debuted at the Century of Progress, Keck’s creation offered an optimistic vision of the future and was nothing short of cutting edge. Its innovative use of a glass curtain wall was a precursor to the homes of Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson that came to define modern architecture. Other technological oddities included central air conditioning, an “iceless” refrigerator, and a push-button attached garage and airplane hanger.

(7) LIFETIME IN CRIME. Britain’s Crime Writers Association has announced the recipient of its: 2019 Diamond Dagger Award.

The Crime Writers’ Association is delighted to announce that Robert Goddard is to receive the 2019 CWA Diamond Dagger, the highest honour in British crime writing. The Dagger award recognises authors whose crime writing careers have been marked by sustained excellence, and who have made a significant contribution to the genre.

(8) HAMMETT. The North American Branch of the International Association of Crime Writers also have announced the Hammett Prize nominees for a work of literary excellence in the field of crime writing by a US or Canadian author. 

  • The Lonely Witnessby William Boyle (Pegasus Crime)
  • Under My Skinby Lisa Unger (Park Row)
  • Cut You Downby Sam Wiebe (Random House Canada)
  • November Roadby Lou Berney (William Morrow)
  • Paris in the Darkby Robert Olen Butler (The Mysterious Press)

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 6, 1917 William Eisner. He was one of the first cartoonists to work in the comic book industry, and  The Spirit running from the early Forties to the early Fifties was noted for both its exceptional content and form. The Eisner Award is named in his honor, and is given to recognise exceptional achievements each year in the medium. He was one of the first three  inductees to the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame. Though I wouldn’t call A Contract with God and Other Tenement Stories genre, I do strongly recommend it. (Died 2005.)
  • Born March 6, 1928 William F. Nolan, 91. He became involved in fandom in the Fifties publishing several zines including The Ray Bradbury Review. He best known for co-authoring the novel Logan’s Run with George Clayton Johnson. I see that he has a number of other series. Has anyone read these? 
  • Born March 6, 1937 Edward L. Ferman, 82. He’s known best as the editor of F&SF from 1966 to 1991 when he won multiple Hugos. He was also recognised by a special World Fantasy Award for professional work in 1979 and by the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1998. He was inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2009. I discovered that he in 1969 and 1970 also the editor of F&SF‘s sister publication Venture Science Fiction Magazine, a publication I’ve never heard of.
  • Born March 6, 1942 Christina Scull, 77. Tolkien researcher who’s married to fellow Tolkienist Wayne Hammond who all her books are co-authored with. Their first book was J. R. R. Tolkien: Artist and Illustrator and I’ll single out just The J. R. R. Tolkien Companion and Guide and The Art of The Lord of the Rings as being worth your time to seek out.
  • Born March 6, 1957 Ann VanderMeer, 62. Publisher and editor, and the second female editor of Weird Tales. As Fiction Editor of Weird Tales, she won a Hugo Award. In 2009 Weird Tales, edited by her and Stephen H. Segal, won a Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine. She is also the founder of The Silver Web magazine, a periodical devoted to experimental and avant-garde fantasy literature.

(10) THE SIMPSONS. Guillermo del Toro showed up but the episode still didn’t win the approval of the A.V. Club’s reviewer: “A disappointing Simpsons doesn’t quite get under the skin of Jerk-Ass Homer”.

…And the episode, interestingly, allows Lisa’s signature clever plan (one of those “sentencing mitigation” videos that, apparently, the writers found out are a thing) to go nowhere. Snyder isn’t buying Lisa’s Final Cut Pro, babies-and-dogs opus after Comic Book Guy makes his case with an unexpectedly affecting (boom-box-aided) plea for justice. Even the inspiration from an episode-derailing but fun sample video that Lisa shows Homer and Marge can’t steal the win, despite Mr. Burns having enlisted Guillermo del Toro (voicing himself) to helm a typically fanciful film about why even monsters deserve love, too. “He stripped away the darkness and found beauty at the core,” pronounces Lisa in admiration. If only “101 Mitigations” were up to the same task.

(11) A CREDENTIAL IS BORN. There’s a “Hello Kitty movie in the works at New Line Cinema” according to UPI.

New Line Cinema said it is working on an animated, English-language movie starring Hello Kitty.

This is the first time Japan’s Sanrio design and licensing company has granted a major film studio the rights to its 45-year-old characters Hello Kitty, Gudetama, My Melody and Little Twin Stars, which have inspired toy lines and appeared as images on apparel.

(12) TIME FOR THAT TALK. John Scalzi explains it all to you….

(13) EXIT POLL. “What do the people of the world die from?” has fascinating numbers and some plausible conclusions from them.

Around the world, people are living longer.

In 1950, global average life expectancy at birth was only 46. By 2015, it had shot up to over 71.

In some countries, progress has not always been smooth. Disease, epidemics and unexpected events are a reminder that ever-longer lives are not a given.

Meanwhile, the deaths that may preoccupy us – from terrorism, war and natural disasters – make up less than 0.5% of all deaths combined.

But across the world, many are still dying too young and from preventable causes.

The story of when people die is really a story of how they die, and how this has changed over time.

(14) THIS COULD BE A REALLY SHORT TRIP. “Nasa InSight probe: Mars ‘mole’ hits blockage in its burrow” reports BBC.

The Insight probe’s efforts to drill down below the surface of Mars appear to have hit some stony obstructions.

The US space agency lander’s HP3 “mole” was designed to dig up to 5m into the ground and began burrowing last week.

But controllers back on Earth called a halt to operations when no progress was being made despite repeated hammering.

Analysis suggests the 40cm-long mole mechanism, which will measure Mars’ temperature, has barely got out of the tube that was guiding its descent.

(15) HERBERT’S WORLDBUILDING. Extra Credits’ video “Dune – Muad’dib” is Extra Sci Fi’s fourth installment about the novel.

Charismatic leadership can conceal corruption, and Frank Herbert saw how dangerous this was in the political events he lived through. Leto Atreides, Valdimir Harkonnen, and Paul Atreides (Muad’dib) each represent different types of charismatic but very faulty leadership practices.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Cycle of Life” on YouTube explains what happens when a can of chicken noodle soup acquires the power to talk.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/13/19 The Fast And The Furriest

(1) REST IN PEACE, MARTIAN ROBOT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] We know where it is, but with communication now long lost NASA has declared one of its Mars rovers dead (Popular Mechanics: “NASA Says Goodnight to Opportunity, Its Most Enduring Mars Rover”).

Opportunity colored our modern understanding of the red planet. Now, it’s time to say goodbye.

The craft, which arrived at the Red Planet in July 2004, has been out of communication since last summer. Many months’ worth of attempts to contact the craft failed. Today, NASA is officially saying goodbye to the craft that, for years and years, couldn’t be stopped. At 2 p.m. Eastern, the space agency will give a press conference on the rover and is expected to say that the last attempts to reach it have failed.

Opportunity had been roving the surface of Mars for 15 years before the ominous, giant global dust storm that sealed its demise came along. This wasn’t the first time a dust storm had made Oppy go silent. But a subsequent “cleaning” event—what NASA calls it when weather conditions clear, exposing the solar panels and allowing the craft to recharge—never happened.

The press conference referenced above did happen and the expected announcement was made. RIP Opportunity. A short farewell video was posted by NASA/JPL-Caltech here.

(2) HEART TREK. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Valentine’s Day is coming. Prepare to cuddle up on your comfiest couch with your loved one and watch a marathon of, um, Next Gen? (Den of Geek: “10 Star Trek: The Next Generation Episodes Awkwardly Romantic Enough For Valentine’s Day.”)

Don’t want to go boldly into dating disaster on Valentine’s Day? Beam these Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes onto your screen.

So you’re not into mail-order teddy bears or heart-shaped boxes of bonbons. Neither is the crew of the Starship Enterprise. There are plenty of reasons, human and otherwise, that Star Trek: The Next Generation wouldn’t be considered Valentine’s Day viewing. Androids like Data aren’t programmed to feel human emotion, and just a few minutes of getting to know Worf makes it clear the Klingon race will do just about anything to avoid it.

Even the homo sapiens on board (with the possible exception of Riker) aren’t exactly temptresses or Casanovas. Some need an operating manual just to get through a date, while others wouldn’t show affection if the Federation mandated it. Could you possibly imagine Captain Picard waltzing over to Dr. Crusher’s quarters with a bottle of Magus III’s finest vintage and a bouquet of chameleon roses? Point made.

Space fairytales aren’t about to happen when you’re beaming alien diplomats or racing across galaxies at warp nine. Still, the crew of the Enterprise tries to fumble their way through romance between all the Calrissian conflicts and Ferengi negotiations. From Riker’s interplanetary (and often interspecies) liaisons and Data’s failed attempt at programming human emotions to the embarrassingly amorous antics of Deanna Troi’s mother, it appears love in 24th century space isn’t nearly as advanced as the technology.

There’s lots of info about the episodes… but herewith just the list:

  • “Haven” Season 1, Episode 10 (1987)
  • “The Dauphin” Season 2, Episode 10 (1989)
  • “Manhunt” Season 2, Episode 19 (1989)
  • “The Emissary” Season 2, Episode 20 (1989)
  • “Booby Trap” Season 3, Episode 6 (1989)
  • “The Vengeance Factor” Season 3, Episode 9 (1989)
  • “Ménage à Troi” Season 3, Episode 24 (1989)
  • “Data’s Day” Season 4, Episode 11 (1991)
  • “Qpid” Season 4, Episode 20 (1991)
  • “In Theory” Season 4, Episode 25 (1991)

(3) YEAR OF THE VILLAIN. It’s not quite free, but CBR.com figures it might as well be (“DC Declares 2019 the Year of the Villain With a 25-Cent One-Shot Comic”).

DC Comics readers can begin their Free Comic Book Day celebration a few days early when the publisher releases [it’s] DC’s Year of the Villains one-shot on Wednesday, May 1.

The issue, which will retail at 25-cents, not only celebrates DC’s most popular bad guys, it is designed to set up the next year’s worth of major storylines and events for the company’s biggest titles.

(And by the way, Free Comic Book Day arrives on May the Fourth.)

(4) GETTING INTO THE BUSINESS. A Publishing Perspectives columnist imparts wisdom gained from experiences producing his firm’s first book — “Richard Charkin: Nine Lessons From a Small Indie Publisher”.

Lesson 3. Treat your suppliers with respect. I’ve taken a policy decision to pay cash owed into a freelancer’s account the same day I receive the invoice. My cash flow is important but respecting other people’s cash flow generates goodwill, and better relationships are vital for a small enterprise—perhaps for big enterprises too.

Lesson 4. Everything costs more than estimated, and income is always less. Those who see publishers, large or small, as greedy monsters making large profits should try it for themselves.

Lesson 5. All the fine comments, tweets, and reviews about a book count for little if they don’t generate readership and sales. The best—and only?—viral campaign remains word of mouth.

(5) FROZEN II TRAILER. Since not long after Frozen hit theaters, a significant contingent of fans has been advocating for Disney to make Elsa the first gay Disney Princess. Now that a trailer is out for Frozen 2 (due in theaters 22 November), the clamor is ratcheting up (Wired: “Frozen 2 Trailer: Twitter Asks, Where Is Elsa’s Girlfriend?”).

One hour. That’s all it took for the tweets to start coming in. No sooner had Disney dropped the trailer for Frozen 2 than the question started popping up: Where was Elsa’s girlfriend? Was she gonna be a lesbian, or nah? Disney fans and LGBTQ advocates alike were demanding: Make Elsa Gay, Dammit.

This call for Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) to embrace her Sapphic side didn’t come from out of the blue. For one, her theme song, “Let It Go,” has been embraced as a coming-out anthem, beloved at karaoke nights and piano bars the world over. For another, there’s been a Twitter campaign for it that dates back to 2016, when a young woman named Alexis Isabel Moncada noted how “iconic” it would be if Disney made the character into a lesbian princess. “The entertainment industry has given us girls who have fallen in love with beasts, ogres who fall for humans, and even grown women who love bees,” Moncada wrote in a piece for MTV about her tweet. “But we’ve never been able to see the purity in a queer relationship.” Soon #GiveElsaAGirlfriend was trending and a movement was born.

(6) BALLANTINE OBIT. Betty Ballantine (1919-2019) died February 12 — “Paperback Pioneer Betty Ballantine Dead at 99”.  She and her husband Ian (d. 1995) helped create Bantam Books in 1945 and established Ballantine Books in 1952. They became freelance publishers in the 1970s. The Ballantines were Worldcon guests of honor in 1989, and voted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2008. Betty was given the World Fantasy Convention’s Life Achievement Award in 2007.

She was also a writer — her novel, The Secret Oceans (1994), was marketed as “a modern-day, ecology-oriented 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea for kids.”

The New York Times obituary begins —

Betty Ballantine, the younger half of a groundbreaking husband-and-wife publishing team which helped invent the modern paperback and vastly expand the market for science fiction and other genres through such blockbusters as “The Hobbit” and “Fahrenheit 451,” has died.

…Charging as little as a quarter, they published everything from reprints of Mark Twain novels to paperbacks of contemporary best-sellers. They helped established the paperback market for science fiction, Westerns and other genres, releasing original works and reprints by J.R.R. Tolkien, Arthur C. Clarke and H.P. Lovecraft, among others. They made their books available in drugstores, railroad stations and other non-traditional outlets. They issued some paperbacks simultaneously with the hardcover, instead of waiting several months or longer.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 13, 1932 Barbara Shelley, 87. She was at her most active in the late Fifties (Blood of the Vampire) and Sixties when she became Hammer Horror’s best known female star with DraculaThe Gorgon Prince of Darkness and Rasputin, The Mad Monk as some of her credits.
  • Born February 13, 1938Oliver Reed. He first shows up in a genre film uncredited in The Two Faces of Dr. Jekyll with his first credited role being Leon in The Curse of the Werewolf. He was King in The Damned, an SF despite its title, and Z.P.G. saw him cast as Russ McNeil. Next up was him as Athos in the very charming Three Musketeers, a role he reprised in Four Musketeers and  Return of the Musketeers. Does Royal Flash count as genre? Kage Baker loved that rogue. Kage also loved The Adventures of Baron Munchausen in which he played Vulcan. Orpheus & Eurydice has him as Narrator, his final final film role. (Died 1999.)
  • Born February 13, 1959 Maureen F. McHugh, 60. Her first novel, China Mountain Zhang was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula Award, and won the James Tiptree, Jr. Award, impressive indeed. Her other novels are Half the Day Is NightMission Child and Nekropolis. She has an impressive collective of short stories. 
  • Born February 13, 1961 Henry Rollins, 58. Musician and actor of interest to me for his repeated use in in the DC Universe as a voice actor, first on Batman Beyond as Mad Stan the bomber, also as Benjamin Knox / Bonk in Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker, then on Teen Titans as Johnny Rancid and finally, or least to date, voicing Robot Man in the “The Last Patrol!” of Batman: The Brave and the Bold.  I’d be remiss not to note he’s Spider in Johnny Mnemonic, andin Green Lantern: Emerald Knights as the voice of  Kilowog.
  • Born February 13, 1966Neal McDonough, 53. He first shows up in an SF role on Star Trek: First Contact as Lieutenant Hawk. He’s then in Minority Report as Officer Gordon ‘Fletch’ Fletcher. (Anyone see this? Just curious.) He next plays Frank Gordon in Timeline before going off into Loren Coleman territory as Ned Dwyer in They Call Him Sasquatch. He voices Green Arrow in the most superb DC Showcase: Green Arrow short which you on the DC Universe service. Where can also also find Batman: Assault on Arkham with him voicing the Deadshot / Floyd Lawton character. (End of plug.) Series wise, I see he’s appeared as  Dum Dum Dugan on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter. Did he time time? He’s also played Damien Darhk in the Arrowverse. And he played Wyatt Cain in the Tin Man series. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • A new comic universe is mooted in Frazz. (Which sounds a lot more sophisticated than the joke.)
  • Last Kiss’ Valentine’s Day gag is even less tasteful…

(9) FUTURE HUGO CATEGORIES. John Scalzi has a dream:

(10) ANOTHER SMALL STEP. “Nasa’s InSight mission: Mars ‘mole’ put on planet’s surface”. Chip Hitchcock says, “With all this spreading, I’m just waiting for a cop to show up and ticket Insight for parking outside the lines.”

The US space agency’s (Nasa) InSight mission has positioned the second of its surface instruments on Mars.

Known as HP3, the heat-flow probe was picked up off the deck of the lander with a robot arm and placed next to the SEIS seismometer package, which was deployed in December.

Together with an onboard radio experiment, these sensor systems will be used to investigate the interior of the planet, to understand its present-day activity and how the sub-surface rocks are layered.

(11) NOT THAT ONE. BBC reports “Black panther: Rare animal caught on camera in Kenya”.

Black Panther has been everywhere in recent years – but spotting one of the animals the famous superhero is named after in the African wilderness is a little more rare.

Wildlife photographer Will Burrard-Lucas managed it – and there are even claims this is the first time anyone has captured a melanistic leopard on camera in Africa in 100 years.

Very few images of these iconic, secretive creatures exist.

Will heard rumours of a black panther – which is a loose term for a black leopard or black jaguar, depending where in the world it’s from – at the Laikipia Wilderness Camp in Kenya.

(12) THE NEXT ASTRONAUT SENATOR? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Mark Kelly wants to join an exclusive club: astronauts turned US politician (CNN: “NASA astronaut Mark Kelly launches Senate campaign”). John Glenn (Mercury-Atlas 6 and Shuttle mission STS-95) served as Senator for 24 years and campaigned for president in the 1984 cycle. Both Harrison Schmitt (Apollo 17) served one term as Senator and Jack Swigert (Apollo 13) was elected to the Senate but died before he took office. Jake Garn (Shuttle mission STS-51-D) was a Senator for a bit over 18 years and went to space in the middle of that. Bill Nelson (Shuttle mission STS-61-C) has served in both the House of Representatives and the Senate, flying on the Shuttle while in the House.

Former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly’s “next mission” is to be a US senator for Arizona.

“I care about people. I care about the state of Arizona. I care about this nation. So because of that, I’ve decided that I’m launching a campaign for the United States Senate,” Kelly said in a video released Tuesday announcing his run as a Democratic candidate.

Kelly, 54, is the husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Arizona, who survived a shooting in 2011. The two appeared together in Kelly’s announcement video, recounting that difficult period in their lives and Giffords’ rehabilitation from the gunshot wound.

“I learned a lot from being an astronaut. I learned a lot from being a pilot in the Navy. I learned a lot about solving problems from being an engineer,” Kelly says in the campaign announcementvideo. “But what I learned from my wife is how you use policy to improve people’s lives.”

(13) NO CROSSOVERS, PLEASE! [Item by Mike Kennedy.] “Reboots are us,” James Cameron seems to be saying (Yahoo! Entertainment: “James Cameron reveals dark title for new ‘Terminator’ movie, teases a ‘hardened’ Sarah Connor” and Consequence of Sound: “James Cameron reveals new Terminator title, hints at Aliens sequel”). In the Yahoo story, we see that:

Now, Cameron is headed back to Terminator’s less-than-hopeful future for the first time since 1991’s action classic Terminator 2: Judgment Day. The writer-director is serving as executive producer on the Tim Miller-helmed sixth entry in the franchise, which will reset the continuity clock back to Judgment Day, erasing the subsequent sequels Rise of the Machines (2003), Salvation (2009) and Genisys (2015) from the timeline. And while Sarah Connor appeared to avert the machine uprising at the end of T2, the proposed title for the new Terminator — due in theaters on Nov. 1 — makes it clear that there’s plenty of darkness still ahead. “We’re calling it, Terminator: Dark Fate,” Cameron reveals. “That’s our working title right now.”

And in the Consequence of Sound article:

[…] Last week, the director also teased that he might be doing the same for the Alien franchise, specifically that would-be followup to Aliens that Neill Blomkamp dreamed up years ago (and Ridley Scott promptly destroyed). If you recall, the idea would be to bring back Sigourney Weaver and Biehn, ignoring Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection.

On a recent red carpet interview […], Cameron was asked about calling up Blomkamp and pivoting to Aliens, to which he confirmed, saying: “I’m working on that, yeah.” It’s exciting news given that Blomkamp is currently doing something similar for RoboCop, and the idea of a legacy sequel is all the rage right now in Hollywood (see: HalloweenGhostbusters).

(14) GHOSTFACE MILLIONAIRE. A Jamaican lottery winner went to ex-Screams, um, I mean extremes to hide his (or, despite the headline, it could be her) identity while completing the paperwork and accepting the souvenir oversized check (BuzzFeed: “Baller Move By This Lottery Winner Who Wore A Scream Mask To Pick Up His Prize”).

(15) WEIRD CITY. The new anthology series created by Jordan Peele and the “Key & Peele” writer Charlie Sanders, Weird City, streams on YouTube Premium. The first couple episodes are currently available free.

A sci-fi potpourri that wears its influences on its sleeves, this imagines a socially stratified dystopia whose upper- and lower-class citizens are separated by a physical barrier called “the line.” But while it’s dystopian, it’s also funny; the show plays as if “Black Mirror” and Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” had a love child, and then that child chose a career in comedy. Many recognizable actors — including Steven Yeun, Awkwafina, Dylan O’Brien, LeVar Burton and Rosario Dawson — portray the citizenry of this middle-class-less society.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/9/19 Long Thoughtful Commentses Wrapped Up In Sings, These Are A Few Of My Scrolliest Things

(1) SCIENCE IS A MOVING TARGET. James S.A. Corey thought they had the science right but a NASA spacecraft proved them gloriously wrong. National Geographic got the creators of The Expanse to write Dawn a fan letter — “Dear Dawn: How a NASA robot messed up our science fiction”.

Dear Dawn:

Did we do something to piss you off? Because to tell you the truth, your attacks on our books seemed kind of personal.

In 2011, we came out with a science-fiction novel called Leviathan Wakes that featured a big plotline on the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt. In particular, we imagined a hard, nickel-iron Ceres with a population of millions thirsty for water harvested from the rings of Saturn. We did pretty well with the story; it got a Hugo nomination, and the publisher bought some follow-ups.

Four years later, we were launching a television show based on the book, starring the embattled crew of an ice hauler trying to keep Ceres Station hydrated. That was 2015—the same time you became the first spacecraft to orbit a dwarf planet. And as we gathered in the writer’s room and on set, what did you tell us? Ceres has water. Lots of it. Not only that, you found large deposits of sodium carbonate on Ceres’s surface, which doesn’t sound that impressive until you realize it’s evidence of ice volcanoes. Seriously. Ice volcanoes….

(2) WHAT NEEDS TO BE IN THE DEAL. SF author Ramez Naam (Nexus series) is  a “futurologist” as well, and he just wrote an excellent extended tweet about the Green New Deal and how it might be better. Thread begins here.

(3) ENTERPRISE. “Jeff Bezos, long known for guarding his privacy, faces his most public and personal crisis” is an article by Craig Timberg, Peter Whoriskey, Christian Davenport, and Elizabeth Dwoskin in the Washington Post about how Jeff Bezos broke his long-standing efforts to remain as private as possible in his battle against the National Enquirer. Not the most titillating part of the story, but there is a sci-fi reference in it —

in the early 2000s, Bezos started quietly acquiring hundreds of thousands of acres in West Texas, where Blue Origin now launches its New Shepard rocket.  He purchased the land under corporate entities named for explorers.  Thee was Joliet Holdings and Cabot Enterprises, the James Cook and William Clark Limited Partnerships and Coronado Ventures.

All were linked to a firm with a Seattle post office called Zefram LLC, namedafter Zefram Cochrane, a character in the Star Trek franchise.

(4) WISHING HIM A RAPID RECOVERY. Apex Magazine Editor-in-Chief Jason Sizemore wrote about the burdensome and painful health problems he’s been coping with in his February editorial.

…One of the diagnostics for stroke the doctor ran on me at the emergency room was a CT scan. He said, “Good news, I’m confident you are not having a stroke. But … some bad news, your scan shows a sizable lesion on the front of your mandible.“

(5) CROSS-GENRES. Vicki Who Reads picks out eight niche favorites in “Fantasci Book Recs: Books In Between Science Fiction and Fantasy!”

I love fantasy and I love science-fiction (though, sci-fi a little more than fantasy). And I think it’s really interesting when authors sort of combine the two–mixing sci-fi and fantasy (and ends up just being labeled under fantasy, typically).

But this leads to the creation of the fun, intermediate genre (at least, that’s what it is in my mind), fantasci. The intersection of science-fiction and fantasy where it’s not magic, but it’s not science either….

A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna

This book is so darn underappreciated, and it deserves ALL the love! I was sucked into the story and had such a hard time stopping, and then the ending completely wrecked me.

Like . . . is it legal to inflict these types of emotions upon me? Idk, but this book had me CRYING late at night as I read a bout [redacted]. And it’s a sort of space fantasy that’s based on Indian mythology and has me swooning.

Gosh. My heart still hurts and I need the sequel ASAP. If this book isn’t on your TBR, you’re doing something wrong because it is AMAZING and the ending is so horrible (for my heart) but so worth it.

You can read my review here!

(6) ACADEMY FOR WAYWARD WRITERS. Cat Rambo livetweeted highlights from Rachel Swirsky’s “Detail and Image” online writing class today. The thread is here.

(7) WORLDCON REUNION. Kees van Toorn, Chairman ConFiction1990, today announced plans for Reunicon 2020:  

It all started with a phone call from a fan in New York way back in 1984. Then it took three years of bidding to win the race in Brighton in 1987. Another three long years to make ConFiction1990 a fact in The Hague, the first true World Science Fiction Convention on the continent of Europe. We are still creating a website and social media avenues to preserve the past for the future and… to promote our intended Reunicon 2020 to commemorate 30 years after ConFiction 1990. We look forward hearing from you or seeing you in 2020 in The Hague.

(8) PLEASE BE SEATED. ThinkGeek s offering a Star Trek TOS 1:6 Scale Captain’s Chair FX Replica for $59.99.

THE CENTERPIECE OF EVERY STARSHIP

Is that the ship intercom, or the self-destruct button? You better read up on your engineering schematics before sitting in a captain’s chair, or your tenure will be shorter than Spock’s patience for illogical behavior.  
 
Quantum Mechanix has created an extremely detailed FX replica of the most important part of the original USS Enterprise: the captain’s chair. This 1/6 scale replica doesn’t just look good – it also lights up and makes sounds. Powered by either three AA batteries or a mini-USB plug (not included), this captain’s chair replica has four different light and sound settings including: standard bridge operations, ship-wide announcement, viewscreen scanning, and of course, red alert.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 9, 1863 Anthony Hope. He is remembered predominantly for only two books: The Prisoner of Zenda and its sequel Rupert of Hentzau. Well so says Wiki but I never heard of the latter novel. Any of you heard of It? The Prisoner of Zenda was filmed in 1936 with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in the lead role. (Died 1933.)
  • Born February 9, 1877George Allan England. His short story, “The Thing from—’Outside'”, which had originally appeared in Gernsback’s Science and Invention, was reprinted in the first issue of the first SF magazine, Amazing Stories, in April 1926. Unfortunately, his later Darkness and Dawn trilogy is marked by overt racism as later critics note. (Died 1936.)
  • Born February 9, 1928Frank Frazetta. Artist whose illustrations showed up damn near everywhere from LP covers to book covers and posters. Among the covers he were Tarzan and the Lost EmpireConan the Adventurer (L. Sprague de Camp stories in that setting) and Tarzan at the Earth’s Core. He did over-muscled barbarians very well! Oh and he also helped Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder on three stories of the bawdy parody strip Little Annie Fanny in Playboy. Just saying. In the early 1980s, Frazetta worked with Bakshi on the feature Fire and Ice. He provided the poster for it as he did for Mad Monster Party and The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck, two other genre films. He was inducted into both Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame. (Died 2010.)
  • Born February 9, 1953 Ciaran Hinds, 66. I can’t picture him but he’s listed as being King Lot in Excalibur, that being being his credited his genre role. He next shows up in Mary Reilly, a riff off the Hyde theme, as Sir Danvers Care. I’ve next got him in Jason and the Argonauts as King Aeson followed by being in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life as Jonathan Reiss. (Yes I like those films.) before being replaced in the next film, he played Aberforth Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. Two final roles worth noting. he played The Devil in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Steppenwolf In Justice League.
  • Born February 9, 1956Timothy Truman, 63. Writer and artist best known in my opinion for his work on Grimjack (with John Ostrander), Scout, and the reinvention of Jonah Hex with Joe R. Lansdale. His work with Ostrander is simply stellar and is collected in Grimjack Omnibus, Volume 1 and 2.  For the Hex work, I’d say Jonah Hex: Shadows West which collects their work together. He did do a lot of other work and I’m sure you’ll point out what I’ve overlooked… 
  • Born February 9, 1981 Tom Hiddleston, 38. Loki in the Marvel film universe. And a more charming bastard of a god has never been conceptualised by screenwriters. Outside of the MCU, I see he shows up in Kong: Skull Island as Captain James Conrad and The Pirate Fairy as the voice of James Hook as well in a vampire film called Only Lovers Left Alive as Adam. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • In the world of Brewster Rockit, some newspaper columns are very easy to write.

(11) IN RE VERSE. A star of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (labeled on Wikipedia as a “actor, singer, dancer, and rapper”) told The Hollywood Reporter he hopes to write a song for the sequel (“‘Spider-Verse’ Star Shameik Moore Hopes to Record a Song for the Movie’s Sequel”). The interview also ranges into Moore’s other genre interests. It turns out he’s a fan of the Harry Potter movies.

The Hollywood Reporter: The Spider-Verse soundtrack had a few hits, including Post Malone and Swae Lee’s “Sunflower.” Have you pitched yourself to do a track for the Spider-Verse sequel?

Shameik Moore: They were asking me to make a song for Spider-Man before any of the songs on the soundtrack were even being considered. The only reason I am not on the soundtrack is because I couldn’t quite come up with a song myself to write from Miles’ point of view. So next time, hopefully. The music that I’ve been making is for me. It’s not really for Spider-Man. It’s for who I am. My music is a bit edgier.

(12) THE GREAT SKY ROAD. Andrew Porter sent screenshots of some flights of fancy seen on the February 4 episode of Antiques Roadshow.

(13) LOCUS LIST CONSIDERED. Adri Joy and Joe Sherry have actually read a lot of these books so their discussion of what did and did not make the list is quite substantial: “Adri and Joe Talk About Books: Locus Recommended Reading List” at Nerds of a Feather.

…What did you expect, or want, to see here that isn’t?

Joe: The first thing I specifically looked for was Matt Wallace’s final Sin du Jour novella Taste of Wrath. I’m not entirely surprised it didn’t make the list simply because I’m not sure it’s received a fraction of the attention and love that the series deserved. I passionately and sometimes aggressively love those stories and it has been a perpetual disappointment to me that they haven’t been nominated for everything they are eligible for and even for some things they aren’t. I’m holding out for a Best Series Hugo nod, but maybe I shouldn’t hold my breath.

The second thing i looked for, and this was mostly out of curiosity, was whether anything from Serial Box made the cut. Nothing did. Because I’m that sort of wonk, I did a super quick check of previous years and the first season Tremontaine made the list. I’m not surprised by that either, because Tremontaine is an expansion of the Swordspoint world and I would expect to see Locus recognize Ellen Kushner. I do wonder if next year we’ll see recognition for The Vela or Ninth Step Station. Both seem like something that might get some extra attention, eyeballs, and acclaim.

(14) LOOK FOR THE BEAR NECESSITIES. BBC reports “Russia islands emergency over polar bear ‘invasion'”. They must be running out of Coca-Cola.

A remote Russian region has declared a state of emergency over the appearance of dozens of polar bears in its human settlements, local officials say.

Authorities in the Novaya Zemlya islands, home to a few thousand people, said there were cases of bears attacking people and entering residential and public buildings.

Polar bears are affected by climate change and are increasingly forced on to land to look for food.

Russia classes them as endangered.

Hunting the bears is banned, and the federal environment agency has refused to issue licences to shoot them.

(15) SLIP-AH-DEE-DOO-DAH. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] 2017? No way. 2018? Um, negatory. January 2019? Nope. February? Nope, nope, nope. March? Well, maybe. SpaceX has announced another slip (albeit a modest one) in the schedule for the first (un-crewed) launch of the to-be-crewed version of the Dragon capsule (ExtremeTech: “SpaceX Pushes Crewed Dragon Test Back to March 2”). Boeing is aiming for April for Starliner—their competing capsule—to have its first launch.

NASA kicked off the Commercial Crew Development Program in 2010 to support the development of new crewed spacecraft. Here we are, almost a decade into the program and on the verge of a manned launch. It’s taken a long time to get here, and it may be a little longer still. SpaceX has announced yet another delay in its Dragon 2 test flight, which was supposed to take place this month. 

The precise date has slipped numerous times, and this is after ample delays in earlier phases of the program. We’re in the home stretch now, so each change in the schedule is that much more frustrating. SpaceX initially wanted to conduct the first test launch of its crewed Dragon capsule in 2017. Then the timeline slipped to 2018, and then it was late 2018. More recently, SpaceX promised a January 2019 launch… and then it decided February was more likely. You can probably blame the government shutdown for that one. Now, we’re looking at March 2, according to SpaceX. 

(16) ROLE PLAYING. Last summer Simon Pegg talked about characters he’s played – including one that was a bit autobiographical.

Simon Pegg breaks down his favorite and most iconic characters, including Tim from “Spaced,” Shaun from “Shaun of the Dead,” Nicholas Angel from “Hot Fuzz,” Gary King from “The World’s End,” Scotty in “Star Trek,” Unkar Plutt in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” and Benji Dunn in the “Mission: Impossible” movies.

(17) CAN A BOT BE AN INK-STAINED WRETCH? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] This story has a personal edge for me as I encounter robot-written stories quite often when using MaxPreps to catch up on various high school sporting events. (Though, those particular stories are obvoiusly written by an Artificial Stupidity.) Forbes, which has dipped a toe in AI journalism itself, takes a look at the growing phenomenon (“Did A Robot Write This? How AI Is Impacting Journalism”).

How do you know I am really a human writing this article and not a robot?  Several major publications are picking up machine learning tools for content. So, what does artificial intelligence mean for the future of journalists?

According to Matt Carlson, author of “The Robotic Reporter”, the algorithm converts data into narrative news text in real-time.

Many of these being financially focused news stories since the data is calculated and released frequently. Which is why should be no surprise that Bloomberg news is one of the first adaptors of this automated content. Their program, Cyborg, churned out thousands of articles last year that took financial reports and turned them into news stories like a business reporter.

Forbes also uses an AI took called Bertie to assist in providing reporters with first drafts and templates for news stories.

(18) UNHEARD OF. Part of the experiment has failed says Gizmodo: “Small Satellites That Accompanied InSight Lander to Mars Go Silent”.

A pair of small satellites that joined the InSight mission on its way to Mars haven’t been heard from in over a month—but the experimental mission is still an important success for NASA.

Mars Cube One, or MarCO, consisted of two 30-pound satellites named WALL-E and EVE. The relatively inexpensive satellites were the first time that CubeSats had entered the space between planets. The mission could foretell a future of spacecraft bringing more CubeSats with them in the future. 

[…] NASA lost contact with WALL-E on December 29 and with EVE on January 4. It’s possible that the probes’ antennae aren’t pointed at Earth properly, or that their solar panels aren’t pointed at the Sun and their batteries died, according to the press release.

(19) I CAN HELP. A little bit of sibling rivalry in Washington state:

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

Pixel Scroll 11/27/18 Three Pixels And One Scroll Are Trapped In A File! Send Tick Boxes! If You Can’t Send Tick Boxes, Send Two More Chapter Fives!

(1) WHAT’S INSIGHT. The InSight lander, after yesterday’s successful touchdown, charged up its solar-powered batteries and tested its camera….

(This may be an old chestnut by now, but it’s a Martian chestnut!)

(2) ELVES AND MEN. Olga Polomoshnova considers partings beyond the end of the world in “Last Goodbye” at Middle-Earth Reflections.

Before proceeding, let us look at the fates of Elves and Men after death to understand why Lúthien’s and Arwen’s decisions caused such grief to their parents. The First Children of Ilúvatar were doomed to dwell in Arda as long as it endured. If Elves died (they could be either slain, or die of grief), they went to the Halls of Mandos and stayed there for some time. Then they, with a few notable exceptions, were restored to their bodily forms and returned to life in Aman. Therefore Elves could reunite with their kin and loved ones: even death could not part them forever.

(3) BOOKS OF THE YEAR. NPR’s “Guide To 2018’s Great Reads” – a general link — left-side picks filter for genre.

What would you like to read?

Use the filters below to explore more than 300 titles NPR staff and critics loved this year. (You can also combine filters!)

(4) GREAT WALL OF GOOGLE. “‘We’re Taking A Stand’: Google Workers Protest Plans For Censored Search In China”NPR has the story.

The project, code-named Dragonfly, would block certain websites and search terms determined by the Chinese government — a move that, according to a growing number of workers at Google, is tantamount to enabling “state surveillance.”

“We are among thousands of employees who have raised our voices for months. International human rights organizations and investigative reporters have also sounded the alarm, emphasizing serious human rights concerns and repeatedly calling on Google to cancel the project,” said the letter’s signatories, whose group initially numbered nine employees but has ballooned since its publication on Medium.

…The employees are not alone in expressing their dismay at reports of the new project’s development. In fact, they released their letter the same day that Amnesty International launched a protest of its own. The human rights organization announced it would be reaching out to Google staff to add their names to a petition calling on CEO Sundar Pichai to kill the project before it can even get off the ground.

“This is a watershed moment for Google,” Joe Westby, Amnesty’s researcher on technology and human rights, said in a statement Tuesday. “As the world’s number one search engine, it should be fighting for an internet where information is freely accessible to everyone, not backing the Chinese government’s dystopian alternative.”

(5) NYT NOTABLE. Naomi Novik’s Spinning Silver has been named a “2018 Notable Book” by the New York Times. (There is only one page for all the fiction selections, so this link does not go directly to the Novik entry.)

In her stunning new novel, rich in both ideas and people, Novik gives classic fairy tales — particularly “Rumpelstiltskin” — a fresh, wholly original twist, with the vastness of Tolkien and the empathy and joy in daily life of Le Guin.

(6) FOR GIVING. Nerds of a Feather has a nice roundup of recommendations in “Holiday Gift Guide: Games”. Here’s one —

Fireball Island (Mike):

If you are looking for a blast of nostalgia then Fireball Island from Restoration Board Games is the game you want under your tree. Vul-Kar has returned and is not happy. Players make their way around the island picking up treasures and snapping pictures.  You can try to steal the heart of Vul-Kar, but watch out for the rolling embers and fireballs that will make your adventure a dangerous one.  Featuring a bigger board than the original and some optional expansions, Fireball Island looks amazing on the table with its stunning 3-D board and shiny marbles.

Another installment covers “Holiday Gift Guide: Books and Comics”, and includes a Paul Weimer writeup:

Dungeons and Dragons Art and Arcana: A Visual History (recommended by Paul)

This the definitive work that shows the growth and evolution of the artwork used in the Dungeons and Dragons games over the last 40 years. It’s an amazingly deep dive into a look at the game, not just as its art, as filtered through the changing depictions of everything. From the first handdrawn maps of the original developers of the game, to the modern sleek art of today, the book’s art unlocks the evolution of the game through imagery and essays. While the book is mainly arranged by chronology, starting from the precursors of D&D in the 1970’s and running up to today, my favorite feature is “Evilution”, where the book breaks this format to show how an iconic monster or character, like, for example, the fearsome Beholder, has evolved across multiple editions. Features like this give a cohesive and complete view of how the art and the imagery of the game has evolved and changed over time. And, joyfully, the book has some of my favorite art in the game’s history, like “Emirikol the Chaotic”. Anyone vaguely interested in Dungeons and Dragons will love this book. It’s compulsively dippable back into anytime, to be inspired to write, dream, and of course, roleplay.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 27, 1907 – L. Sprague de Camp, Aeronautical Engineer, Writer, and Member of First Fandom, whose early career included many stories for Campbell’s Astounding and Unknown magazines. His time-travel alt-history Lest Darkness Fall is considered a classic. He and Fletcher Pratt co-wrote the popular humorous Incomplete Enchanter fantasy series and collaborated on the Gavagan’s Bar series. His later career turned mostly to fantasy, and he contributed more than three dozen stories to Robert E. Howard’s Conan universe. He wrote many nonfiction reference works for both science fiction and fantasy, as well as a biography of H.P. Lovecraft; his Time & Chance: An Autobiography won a Hugo Award for Best Nonfiction Book. By all accounts, his 60-year marriage with fellow fan and writing collaborator Catherine Crook was a great love, and the two of them were Guest of Honor at more than two dozen conventions. He was GoH at Worldcon in 1966, named SFWA Grand Master in 1979, was honored with a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1984, and received a Sidewise Award for Special Achievement in Alternate History in 1995. (Died 2000.)
  • Born November 27, 1951 – Melinda M. Snodgrass, 67, Attorney, Historian, Writer, Editor, Equestrian, and Fan whose Star Trek Original Series early Pocket Books tie-in novel featuring Uhura, The Tears of the Singers, is still considered one of the best, and is probably the reason that her unsolicited script for Star Trek: The Next Generation was accepted and made into the acclaimed episode “The Measure of a Man” – considered by many to be the first truly great episode of the series, and for which she received a Writers Guild of America Award nomination. As a result, she became the series story editor and script consultant for the second and third seasons of TNG. She also wrote scripts for the series Odyssey 5, The (new) Outer Limits, Sliders, SeaQuest DSV, and Beyond Reality, and for the TV movies Trapped in Space (based on Asimov’s story “Breaking Strain”) and Star Command. She is co-creator and co-editor, with GRRM, of the Wild Cards shared universe, which since 1987 has spawned more than two dozen novels and anthologies and more than 200 short fiction works; a TV series is in the works, for which she will be an executive producer. This year saw the release of the third volume in her Military SF quintology The Imperials (which JJ thinks is fantastic).
  • Born November 27, 1940 – Bruce Lee, Actor, Director, and Martial Artist from Hong Kong, best known for his martial arts adventure films – but he had a recurring genre role as Kato in the TV series The Green Hornet which, to my utter surprise, turns out to only have lasted for 26 episodes between 1966 and 1967. He also appeared in three episodes of Adam West’s Batman series, “The Spell of Tut”, “ Batman’s Satisfaction”, and “A Piece of The Action”. He died before having the opportunity to have a full life and career at the age of 32, due to cerebral swelling caused or exacerbated by reaction to pain medication. (Died 1973.)
  • Born November 27, 1960 – Lori Wolf, Forensic Chemist, Bookseller, Conrunner, and Fan who was a member of the Cepheid Variables fan club at Texas A&M and a past chair of the Fandom Association of Central Texas. She co-chaired two ArmadilloCons, served on numerous other convention committees, and managed the Hugo Award ceremony at Worldcon in 1997 and the Boucher Award ceremony at the World Mystery Convention in 2002. She left fandom too soon at the age of 43 after a battle with cancer. (Died 2004.)
  • Born November 27, 1961 – Samantha Bond, Actor from England who is best known for playing Miss Moneypenny in four James Bond films during the series’ Pierce Brosnan years, but her first genre role was as Helga in Erik the Viking, which was written and directed by Monty Python‘s Terry Jones. She had a recurring role as Mrs Wormwood in the Doctor Who spinoff The Sarah Jane Adventures, and provided voices for characters in the live-action marionette film Strings and in The Children’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.
  • Born November 27, 1974 – Jennifer O’Dell, Actor whose main genre role of note is three seasons as Veronica on Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, a series very loosely based on his 1912 novel. She had roles in two genre films, Sometimes They Come Back… for More and Alien Battlefield, and a guest part in an episode of Charmed.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) SPIDER PROLIFERATION. The Hollywood Reporter says “‘Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse’ Sequel and All-Female Spinoff in the Works From Sony”.

With just weeks to go before Sony unveils the buzzy animated movie, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Sony Pictures Animation is already putting the pieces together for not just a sequel but a spinoff as well.

Joaquim Dos Santos, known for his work on cartoon series Avatar: The Last Airbender and, more recently, Netflix’s Voltron series, has been tapped to direct the sequel. David Callaham, who penned The Expendables and worked on Wonder Woman 1984 as well as Zombieland 2, is writing.

At the same time Lauren Montgomery, who also worked on Voltron and co-directed animated movies Batman: Year One and Superman/Batman: Apocalypse for DC, is in negotiations to helm an untitled Spider-centric project that will gather the female heroes in the Spider-Man universe of characters in one adventure. Bek Smith, who wrote episodes of CBS show Zoo, will pen the script.

(10) NEXT YEAR’S LOSCON. Loscon 46, which will be held November 29-December 1, 2019, has unveiled its website.  There you can find out more about the guests of honor.

Howard Waldrop

Professional Writer Guest of Honor

Julie Dillon

Artist Guest of Honor

Edie Stern

Fan Guest of Honor

(11) WORD BUCKET BRIGADE. BBC tells about “The app that makes writing less lonely”.

If you see a writer in a movie, most likely she (or he) will be tapping on a laptop. But many young writers are doing it on mobile phones, and sometimes in teams….

(12) A GIANT RETURN ON CAPITAL. Another Netflix sff announcement: “Netflix to adapt Roald Dahl stories including Matilda and The BFG”.

Felicity Dahl, the author’s widow, said it was “an incredibly exciting new chapter for the Roald Dahl Story Company.”

She added: “Roald would, I know, be thrilled.”

Melissa Cobb, a spokesperson for Netflix, said: “We have great creative ambition to reimagine the journeys of so many treasured Dahl characters in fresh, contemporary ways with the highest quality animation and production values.”

(13) SHUTDOWN. Text and video on decommissioning a UK nuclear-fuel reprocessing plant — “Inside Sellafield’s death zone with the nuclear clean-up robots”.

Thorp still looks almost new; a giant structure of cavernous halls, deep blue-tinged cooling ponds and giant lifting cranes, imposing in fresh yellow paint.

But now the complex process of decontaminating and dismantling begins.

It is a dangerous job that will take decades to complete and require a great deal of engineering ingenuity and state-of-the-art technology – some of which hasn’t even been invented yet.

This is why.

Five sieverts of radiation is considered a lethal dose for humans. Inside the Head End Shear Cave, where nuclear fuel rods were extracted from their casings and cut into pieces before being dissolved in heated nitric acid, the radiation level is 280 sieverts per hour.

(14) PICKY EATER. The “‘Siberian unicorn’ walked Earth with humans” – if so, then the humans got out of its way!

A giant rhino that may have been the origin of the unicorn myth survived until at least 39,000 years ago – much longer than previously thought.

Known as the Siberian unicorn, the animal had a long horn on its nose, and roamed the grasslands of Eurasia.

New evidence shows the hefty beast may have eventually died out because it was such a picky eater.

…Weighing in at a mighty four tonnes, with an extraordinary single horn on its head, the “Siberian unicorn”, shared the earth with early modern humans up until at least 39,000 years ago.

(15) JEOPARDY! TONIGHT. Andrew Porter reports sff made another appearance on the Jeopardy! game show tonight.

  • In the category, “The Writer Speaks,” the clue was, “This ‘Space Odyssey’ Author: ‘I predict that a new species could well appear on Earth–what I call Robosapiens.”
  • No one could answer with the question, “Who is Arthur C. Clarke.”

(16) TRADITION OVER THRONE AT MEDIEVAL TIMES. Dave Doering writes, “I see that our boisterous battle and binging eatery has run into tougher times over historical recreations as this line from the Washington Post has it — ’Medieval Times has a queen for the first time, but the show is still stuck in the Dark Ages’.” Dave seems shaken up by this change. “First, it was the maiden market in Pirates of the Caribbean ride in Disneyland, now we have erased more history…”

The Dairy Queen used to reign supreme over the Arundel Mills shopping mall. But last month, a new ruler ascended the throne: All hail Doña Maria Isabella, who presides over a kingdom of knights and squires, horses and falcons, rotisserie chicken, middle-schoolers wearing paper crowns and Honda Odysseys in the parking lot of the fake castle it shares with a Best Buy next door.

History is being made at the same time it’s being reenacted at Medieval Times. It’s the first time a female ruler has presided over the equestrian jousting dinner theater experience in its nearly 35-year history in America. Gender equality and the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements are still making progress in politics and the C-suite, but at least here, in this version of 11th-century Spain, cultural forces have unseated a long-ruling monarch.

(17) BOOZE CONTINUES, CHOW ON HIATUS. The Franklin Avenue blog drew attention to a big change at the reopened (in 2015) Clifton’s Cafeteria, home to LASFS meetings in the 1930s — “Clifton’s Closes Its Cafeteria; Will Food Ever Return to the Downtown Landmark?”

Opened in 1935 as Clifton’s Brookdale, we visited the forest-themed eatery several times before new owner Andrew Meieran (who previously created downtown’s famed Edison bar) shut it down for what was supposed to be a brief renovation in 2011.

Cut to nearly five years later, and rebuilding Clifton’s became a labor of love for Meieran, who has kept the fun and the kitsch but added so much more to the place. Clifton’s finally re-opened in 2015.

Clifton’s original famous slogan, of course, was “Pay What You Wish, Dine Free Unless Delighted.” Perhaps not enough folks were delighted with the updated cafeteria. I asked Chris Nichols via Twitter what he knew about the shut-down cafeteria portion of Clifton’s, and he wrote back: “I also miss eating at Clifton’s. This just in from the owner: ‘food is definitely coming back— pretty soon if anyone asks.'”

(18) HAUNTED PAINTING. Heritage Auctions is taking bids on “Haunted Mansion Stretching Room Disneyland Painting Original Art”. Currently up to $3,009. Helps if you have a really tall living room.

“The Haunted Mansion” opened in New Orleans Square on 8/9/69. The Mansion boasted a population of 999 Happy Haunts. People rode in “Doom Buggies” in this ride. The “Ghost Host” of this attraction was the voice of Paul Frees. The tour of the Mansion begins in the famous “Stretching Room.” As the walls get larger, four portraits appear to grow and change right before your eyes. The four paintings were designed by original Disney “Nine Old Men” member and Disney Legend Inductee, Mr. Marc Davis. The Stretching Room portraits were hand-painted from 1969 to 1972. They would be changed over time. Eventually they went to prints. This is a rare original hand-painted Stretching Room painting on canvas. It is very large, measuring 11′ 2″ x 3′ 10″. A wooden pole is at the top, for mounting purposes. This is the Elderly Widow, sitting on her husband’s tombstone. One of the few original paintings from the Stretching Room that we have seen, that is hand-signed by Marc Davis. One of the single most identifiable pieces of Disneyland Park original artwork we have ever come across! A slight crease where the tracks to stretching device were. Minor scuffing and edge wear from normal use. Overall Good condition.


[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Rich Horton, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Scott Edelman, Carl Slaughter, Rob Thornton, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Randall M.]

Pixel Scroll 11/26/18 Caution: Pixels In Scroll Are Closer Than They Appear

(1) POUNDING AWAY AT IT. Although I’ll never carry this much British cash, I’m interested in the story: “New £50 note scientist nominations released”.

 On the list are computing pioneers Alan Turing and Ada Lovelace, telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell and astronomer Patrick Moore.

The Bank received 174,112 nominations, of which 114,000 met the eligibility criteria.

To be on the list, the individual must be real, deceased and have contributed to the field of science in the UK.

The list, which includes more than 600 men and almost 200 women, includes black holes expert Stephen Hawking, penicillin discoverer Alexander Fleming, father of modern epidemiology John Snow, naturalist and zookeeper Gerald Durrell, fossil pioneer Mary Anning, British-Jamaican business woman and nursing pioneer Mary Seacole and Margaret Thatcher, who was a scientist before becoming prime minister.

Here’s the Bank of England’s eligibility list [PDF file]. Fred Hoyle is on it. (Don’t you think he looks darling in the mockup below?) Keep looking, probably lots more sf writer/scientists. And I see other unexpected names – like Jethro Tull….

The BBC story notes that there are a lot of women and minorities on the list, but not whether the bank intends to pick someone ignored rather than someone obviously famous. Hawking is the favorite of bookmakers, but women are #2, #3 (tied) and #6 on that list.

(2) EARLY START ON NEBULA WEEKEND PROGRAM. I’m hungry already.

(3) INSIGHT REACHES THE SURFACE OF MARS. CNN follows the headline with a full retrospective of the mission: “NASA’s InSight lander has touched down on Mars”.

After seven months of traveling through space, the NASA InSight mission has landed on Mars. A few minutes after landing, InSight sent the official “beep” to NASA to signal that it was alive and well, including a photo of the Martian surface where it landed.

Mission Control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory exploded into celebratory applause and cheers after the touchdown was confirmed. The landing was watched around the world and even broadcast live on the Nasdaq Stock Market tower in New York City’s Times Square.

(4) OUTASIGHT. Satirical Canadian news site The Beaverton suggests that the lander must be glad to be away from humans: “Mars probe glad to leave doomed Earth behind”.

“After the atmospheric entry procedure, InSight reported that it was ‘functioning normally, unlike your ill-fated Earth-bound governments,’” said NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in a press release…

(5) SLOSHING ON THE RED CARPET. Elle’s R. Eric Thomas wasn’t a big fan of the stars’ red carpet outfits: “I Don’t Really Understand the ‘Aquaman’ Premiere’s Dress Code”.

Look, I don’t want to rain on the parade here. I’m not trying to dampen anyone’s spirits. I don’t want to be a wet blanket. I’m not trying to be a drip. But, what was the dress code for this event?

Amber Heard is going very literal with an Esther Williams realness water ballet lewk, complete with an embroidered cap. Loves it. She is giving me 1970s country club loungewear vibes. She just got a perm and she’s just trying to get some sun and maybe stick her feet in the pool. That all tracks.

But what is is Jason Momoa doing in this scenario? This look says less Son of Atlanna and more Son of Anarchy. Whereas Amber is giving us Busby Berkley balletics, Jason is serving Rizzo from Grease.

(6) LAST GEEKWIRE. Frank Catalano reports, “I’ve decided to end my GeekWire podcast series on science fiction, pop culture, and the arts. Or at least take a long pause that, hopefully, refreshes –”

After 18 stories and 14 episodes over about a year and a half, the “popcast” I hosted has run the gamut for now. GeekWire generally is rethinking its podcast strategy, so the timing is right. The episodes were great fun, and not only were the podcasts distributed through Google Play and Apple Podcasts, but they also aired in Seattle on KIRO-FM on the weekends.

Among the science fiction episodes were interviews with Greg Bear, Cat Rambo and Ramez Naam, a look at the history of Clarion West, how Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture looks for and preserves science fiction and fantasy artifacts, and how the SF and science fact site Scout uses science fiction as a business planning tool.

All episodes were recorded in real time and not heavily produced, on purpose, to make the guests and topics the star, not the production. However, the audio quality was always excellent.

I will continue to cover science fiction for GeekWire, but just not necessarily in audio form. (Unless Brian Herbert finally gives me that interview I’ve been pestering him about for 18 months, if he ever makes it into Seattle proper.)

All the episodes and stories can be found at this link: https://www.geekwire.com/tag/popcast

(7) JAY OBIT. Magician and actor Ricky Jay died November 24 reports Variety. BravoLimaPoppa3 notes: “For genre related works, he was in The Prestige, Mystery Men and an episode of the X-Files. Plus he could pull off stunts that made magic look real – as close to a real life wizard as you could get. He will be missed.”

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 26, 1986Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home had a whale of a time

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 26, 1919 – Frederik Pohl, Writer, Editor, and Member of First Fandom, who was active for more seventy-five years from his first published work, the 1937 poem “Elegy to a Dead Satellite: Luna” to his final novel All the Lives He Led. He edited Astounding Stories, Galaxy Science Fiction and Galaxy Science Fiction UK, If, Star Science Fiction Magazine (which I’ve never heard of), Super Science Stories which were a companion to Astounding Stories, and the list goes on. As a writer, he was amazing. My favorite was the Heechee series, though I confess some novels were far better than others; Gateway won Hugo Nebula, Campbell, Prix Apollo, and Locus Awards for Best Novel. Man Plus, I think, is phenomenal, the sequel less so. Your opinion, of course, will no doubt vary. The Space Merchants, co-written with Cyril M. Kornbluth in 1952, is damn fun. He wrote a lot of short fiction, some I think brilliant and some not – but that was true of most SF writers of the time. That he was great, and that he was honoured for being great, is beyond doubt — he won seven Hugo Awards (three as editor, three as author, and one as fan writer!) and two Nebula Awards; and for his 1979 novel Jem, he won a U.S. National Book Award in the special one-off category Science Fiction. SWFA made him its 12th recipient of their Grand Master Award in 1993, and he was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 1998. (Died 2013.)
  • Born November 26, 1936 – Shusei Nagaoka, Artist and Illustrator from Japan who is best known for his music album cover art in the 1970s and 1980s. He designed covers for many of Earth, Wind and Fire’s albums, and many of his covers were very distinctively SFFnal; especially notable are Out of the Blue, by Electric Light Orchestra and When We Rock, We Rock, and When We Roll, We Roll by Deep Purple. His art also graced numerous genre books, including Tepper’s After Long Silence, Attanasio’s The Last Legends of Earth, and Reed’s Down the Bright Way. He helped to design the 1970 Osaka World’s Fair Expo, and had one of the first artworks which was launched into outer space and attained orbit, via the Russian Mir Space Station, in 1991. He won a Seiun Award for Best Artist in 1982. (Died 2015.)
  • Born November 26, 1939 – Tina Turner, 79, Grammy-winning Actor, Composer, Singer, and Dancer. She rates being mentioned just for being the oh-so-over-the-top Aunty Entity in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, but let’s not forget her as The Acid Queen in the musical Tommy, and a cameo as The Mayor in The Last Action Hero.
  • Born November 26, 1940 – Paul J. Nahin, 78, Engineer and Writer of numerous non-fiction works, some of genre interest, and at least 20 SF short fiction works. Time travel is certainly one of the intrinsic tropes of SF, so certainly there should be at least one academic that specializes in studying it. Oh, there is: I present this Professor Emeritus of electrical engineering at the University of New Hampshire who has written not one, but three, works on the subject, to wit: Time Machines: Time Travel in Physics, Metaphysics, and Science Fiction, Time Travel: A Writer’s Guide to the Real Science of Plausible Time Travel, and Time Machine Tales: The Science Fiction Adventures and Philosophical Puzzles of Time Travel. No mere dry academic is he, as he’s also had stories published in genre venues which include Analog, Omni, and Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine.
  • Born November 26, 1949 – Victoria Poyser-Lisi, 69, Artist, Illustrator, Teacher, and Fan who was inspired at the 1979 World Fantasy Convention to become a genre artist. She did more than a hundred covers and interior illustrations for fanzines, magazines, and books, and won two of her three Hugo Award nominations for Best Fan Artist. She now works in collaborative children’s book illustration and instructional painting books, and teaches drawing and painting courses in Colorado.
  • Born November 26, 1961 – Steve MacDonald, 57, Musician, Writer, Singer, Filker, and Fan. He served for several years as the Evangelista for the Pegasus Awards (the Filkers’ most prestigious awards, given out by the Ohio Valley Filk Fest), and was responsible for many changes in the award process that led to greater participation among the voting base. In 2001, he attended ten filk conventions around the world and recorded filkers singing “Many Hearts, One Voice”, a song he had composed; the tracks were merged electronically for the WorlDream project to celebrate the new millennium. He has won six Pegasus Awards, for Best Performer, Writer/Composer, Filk Song, Adapted Song, Dorsai Song, and Myth Song. He has been Filk Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, and was inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame in 2006, after which he emigrated to Germany to marry fellow filker Katy Droge, whom he had met eight years before at OVFF.
  • Born November 26, 1966 – Garcelle Beauvais, 52, Actor and Producer born in Haiti, whose first role was in Manhunter, the original adaptation of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon featuring Hannibal Lector. She has also appeared in Spider-Man: Homecoming, I Know Who Killed Me, and the steampunk Wild Wild West film, had a main role in the cybertech TV series Eyes, and played recurring roles in Grimm and The Magicians.
  • Born November 26, 1973 – Peter Facinelli, 45, Actor, Director, and Producer whose genre appearances include a main role in all of the Twilight movies, the first season of Supergirl, parts in The Scorpion King, The Damned, Angela, and Hollow Man 2, and as the oh-so-creepy villain in Supernova.

(10) TRUMP TREK. Reason’s Jonathan Rauch wastes no subtlety on “How Star Trek Explains Donald Trump”

Sociopaths have haunted fiction since fiction began, and no wonder. Sociopathy is civilization’s greatest challenge. Richard III and Iago; Raskolnikov, Kurtz, Willie Stark, and Humbert Humbert; J.R. Ewing, Frank Underwood, and even HAL 9000. How do we understand the narcissist, the demagogue, the liar, the manipulator, the person without scruples or conscience? The creative imagination can probe dark places that psychology and medicine can’t reach. So I am not being cute when I say that Star Trek is a source of insight into the universe of President Donald Trump.

….In “Mirror, Mirror,” the normal Kirk, realizing he has entered a barbaric parallel world, is able to impersonate a barbarian long enough to save himself and his shipmates. In our own universe, meanwhile, Kirk’s corrupt counterpart cannot fake values like empathy, trust, and fair play, and quickly finds himself locked in the brig. The sociopath may be charismatic, wily, and manipulative, but he lacks the moral depth and imagination to fool people who do not wish to be fooled….

This did not go over well with Reason readers, however, you need to register to read the comments. If you’re not willing, just think of a lot of comments that sound like Tank Marmot wrote them…

(11) FACE THE MUSIC. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Apropos item (6) (“Negative Feedback”) from the Pixel Scroll of this past Saturday (11/24), Gizmodo brings us news that “Facial Recognition Flags Woman on Bus Ad for ‘Jaywalking’ in China”. A businesswoman whose visage appeared in ads on busses was publicly shamed for jaywalking, before the authorities had to pull an Emily Litella.

China’s surveillance system is becoming increasingly omnipresent, with an estimated 200 million cameras and counting. While this state of existence alone is unsettling, it’s even more troubling that the machines are fucking up even the simplest task.

Last week, the face of Dong Mingzhu—the chairwoman of a leading air conditioner manufacturer in China—was displayed on a giant Billboard-sized screen in Ningbo, a major port city in east China’s Zhejiang province, to publicly shame her for breaking a traffic law. Zhejiang is one of the provinces that last year deployed facial recognition technology that humiliates citizens who jaywalk by putting their photos on massive LED screens. But the cameras didn’t catch Mingzhu jaywalking—they identified a photo of her in a bus ad, South China Morning Post reported.

The error was caught, acknowledged, and corrected and the police were even thanked by Dong Mingzhu’s company (Gree Electric Appliances) “for their hard work” in a blog post. One may be forgiven for wondering if the error would have been caught, acknowledged, or corrected had the citizen offended been of a less lofty station.

(12) CYBER MONDAY. Via KinjaDeals, “ThinkGeek’s Cyber Monday Sale Is a Bonkers 50% Off Sitewide”.

for Cyber Monday, ThinkGeek is taking 50% off sitewide via coupon code DOTCOM. Combined with the lowered free shipping threshold (today you have to spend only $35 pre-discount, rather than the usual $75)

Daniel Dern suggests: “If nothing else, grab a ’Bag of Holding – Con-Survival Edition’here’s an image — It quickly became my favorite day bag, not just for cons but also trade shows and general carrying of stuff during a day.”

(13) ROAR OF SKY. Jana Nyman praises Beth Cato’s trilogy-ending book in “Roar of Sky: A solid conclusion to this magical alternate-history trilogy” at Fantasy Literature. (Beware spoilers.)

…However, I do love everything about the magic system, and Cato’s exploration of geomancy and its potential uses for good and ill is thoughtful and feels sturdy, like it could actually exist. Madam Pele is literally awesome. The sylphs are fun without becoming twee….

(14) MALKA OLDER’S SERIES. Abigail Nussbaum looks over “A Political History of the Future: State Tectonics by Malka Older” for Lawyers, Guns & Money.

The point of the Centennal Cycle books, as I see it, is not to offer a plausible alternative to our current democratic system, but to encourage us to ask questions about how that system is organized, and whether we could make different choices that could lead to better outcomes. The idea of a non-contiguous political entity, for example, one that is united by shared policy preferences rather than ethnic or national identity, is an intriguing one. So is the notion of expanding the concept of political parties past national lines (though on a darker note, it also has its echoes in discussions we’ve had on this site about the trans-national nature of many far-right, supremacist movements). It’s not so much that you’d want to pursue any of these ideas in the real world, as that they provide an interesting thought experiment with which to expand your understanding of what government is and can be.

(15) REFINER’S FIRE. This is a hell of a story from the LA Times coverage of the Northern California fires: “As deadly flames approached, a mother called her daughters to say goodbye”. (Definitely skip the comments on this one.)

This is how I die.

She is standing in the driveway of a sand-colored house — she doesn’t know whose — and the air is choked with smoke.

The sky is a nuclear orange. Wind is hurling embers against her body and into her blond wavy hair.

She has just seen an ambulance melt. Transformers are blowing up around her. Homes are caving in and trees are bowing. Fleeing cars have jammed the roads, and flames dance on both sides of the asphalt….

[Thanks to Alan Baumler, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Olav Rokne, BravoLimaPoppa3, Mike Kennedy, Frank Catalano, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Pixel Scroll 11/13/18 If We Had Pixels We Could Have A Pixel Scroll, If We Had Scrolls

(1) NOIR WITH EXTRA MUSTARD. Here’s the first trailer for POKÉMON Detective Pikachu, coming to theaters May 10.

The story begins when ace private eye Harry Goodman goes mysteriously missing, prompting his 21-year-old son Tim to find out what happened. Aiding in the investigation is Harry’s former Pokémon partner, Detective Pikachu: a hilariously wise-cracking, adorable super-sleuth who is a puzzlement even to himself. Finding that they are uniquely equipped to communicate with one another, Tim and Pikachu join forces on a thrilling adventure to unravel the tangled mystery. Chasing clues together through the neon-lit streets of Ryme City—a sprawling, modern metropolis where humans and Pokémon live side by side in a hyper-realistic live-action world—they encounter a diverse cast of Pokémon characters and uncover a shocking plot that could destroy this peaceful co-existence and threaten the whole Pokémon universe.

 

(2) CRITICS RECOGNIZE HAWKE. Author Sam Hawke won a Canberra Circle Critics Award for her novel City of Lies.

(3) FEED INTERRUPTED. Cory Doctorow’s Unauthorized Bread is being adapted for TV: “Topic Studios Buys Cory Doctorow’s Sci-Fi Novella ‘Unauthorized Bread’”.

Topic Studios (who were behind mainstream hits including Spotlight and Leave No Trace) have begun work on an adaptation of Cory Doctorow’s upcoming novella Unauthorized Bread. The planned TV series takes aim at the ‘Internet of Things’ by imagining a world in which corporations have put user locks on all kitchen appliances so that they only work with brand-name food — to the point that even a toaster won’t work on Unauthorized Bread. Doctorow’s novella comes out next January.

(4) OOPS. A New Zealand newspaper’s mistake inspired an epically funny Twitter thread.

(5) DATA POINTS. Trekspertise considers “Androids vs Holograms: Personhood In Star Trek.”

Star Trek’s defense of personhood is both loud & obvious, like Picard’s defense of Androids. But, what if there was a more subtle way? Enter the Holograms.

 

(6) LIBERTYCON 2019.  The LibertyCon 32 Guests of Honor will be:

(7) FURRIES ON CNN. The next episode of Lisa Ling’s CNN series This Is Life is “Furry Nation” – and the trailer shows it is, indeed, about fursuited fans. Airs this Sunday.

(8) RED PLANET TOUCHDOWN. Cnet says “NASA set to broadcast its first Mars landing in six years” and tells where to watch.

It’s been a while since we’ve sat down in front of the TV to watch a good ol’ Mars landing.

But clear your calendar because NASA said Tuesday it will broadcast its InSight Mars Lander touching down on the Red Planet on Nov. 26 on NASA Television and its website, as well as Twitter and Facebook.

The last time NASA broadcast a landing was six years ago, and it made for exciting viewing: The Curiosity rover executed a dramatic plunge to the surface.

InSight was launched May 5, and if it’s successful, it will be NASA’s first spacecraft to land on Mars since Curiosity in 2012. NASA says its mission is to study the “deep interior” of Mars. It’s data will “help scientists understand the formation of all rocky worlds, including our own,” the space agency said.

(9) BEST OF 2018. Do I want to make James Davis Nicoll yell that 2018 isn’t over again? Yeah, why not? Here’s a link to “Tor.com Reviewers’ Choice: The Best Books of 2018”. Ten folks make selections, including Paul Weimer. Here are Mahvesh Murad’s picks.

I’m a fangirl of Megan Abbott’s lean, mean writing, so of course I was going to enjoy her latest novel, Give Me Your Hand. I didn’t know just how much of an impact it would have though, because it did, with its taut, intense narrative about two young women scientists working on premenstrual dysphoric disorder research. Abbott is so deft at turning a thriller narrative inwards, forcing us to dip our fingers into the bloody souls of female friendships.

There have been a few revamps of ancient epics this year, and Madeline Miller’s Circe is one of the two I loved. It’s a gorgeous book ostensibly based on The Odyssey, but told from the perspective of the witch Circe, and is a glorious exploration of femininity and feminism, divinity and motherhood.

The second book based on an epic that will stay with me for a long while is Maria Dahvana Headley’s The Mere Wife, a sharp,visceral feminist take on Beowulf. Headley’s writing has rhythms I’ve always been fascinated by, and The Mere Wife is no exception to her unabashed no holds barred approach to any narrative. If Beowulf was a story about aggressive masculinity, The Mere Wife is one of femininity, where the female characters are more than just monster, hag, trophy—they are also in turn hero, saviour, leader.

(10) BUCK BUCK BOOK. Gabriel Iglesias, in “The 10 Weirdest Crime Novels You Probably Haven’t Read” on Crimereads, recommends such “crime/bizarro hybrids” as Repo Shark by Cory Goodfellow, in which “ancient entities turn into sharks” and Embry by Michael Allen Rose, in which all the characters are chickens.

Sometimes weirdness doesn’t affect the core of the narrative, and this is a perfect example. Embry is an extremely strange tribute to 1950s sleuth pulp. There are fistfights, a mysterious murder, a lot of running and hiding, and a femme fatale that helps the antihero. In fact, the only difference between this and a Dashiell Hammett novel is that the characters are all chickens. Yes, poultry. Rose is obviously a fan of pulp, and the fun he had writing this is palpable in every page, every cracked shell, and every bloody feather.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 13, 1933 The Invisible Man debuted in theaters.
  • November 13, 1940 – Disney’s Fantasia premiered.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 13, 1887A.R. Tilburne. Pulp artist who by 1938 was selling illustrations to Short Stories and Weird Tales, and  the 1940s he also drew many interior story illustrations for Weird Tales. In 1947 he painted the cover for H. P. Lovecraft’s The Lurking Fear which was published by Avon. (Died 1965.)
  • Born November 13, 1888 – Philip Francis Nowlan. He’s best known as the creator of Buck Rogers. While working in Philadelphia, he created and wrote the Buck Rogers comic strip, illustrated by Dick Calkins. Nowlan and the syndicate John F. Dille Company, later known as the National Newspaper Service syndicate, were contracted to adapt the story into a comic strip. The strip made its first newspaper appearance on January 7, 1929. (Died 1940.)
  • Born November 13, 1955 Whoopi Goldberg, 63. Best known for her role as Guinan the Barkeep in Ten Forward on Enterprise in Star Trek: The Next Generation which she reprised in Star Trek Generations and Star Trek: Nemesis. Other genre appearances include It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas MoviePinocchio 3000Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle  to name but a few of her appearances as she’s very busy performer!
  • Born November 13, 1957Stephen Baxter, 61. Ok I’m going to confess that the only thing I’ve read that he’s written is the Long Earth series with Terry Pratchett which produced five books, The Long Earth, The Long War, The Long Mars, The Long Utopia and The Long Cosmos. I’ve only read the first three but they are quite stellar SF! I really, really need your help to figure out what else of his that I should consider reading. To say he’s been a prolific writer is somewhat of an understatement and he’s gotten a bonnie bunch of literary awards as well.  It’s worth noting that Baxter’s story “Last Contact” was nominated for the 2008 Hugo Award for best short story.
  • Born November 13, 1969 Gerard Butler, 49. He’s done Tomb Raider, Reign of Fire, the 300 films (for which he received a Saturn nomination), the How to Train Your Dragon films, Beowulf & Grendel, Dracula 2000, Tale of the Mummy, Gamer, and Timeline.

(13) STAN LEE TRIBUTES. Michael Cavna has an appreciation of Stan Lee in the Washington Post that includes an interview with Neil Gaiman. It starts with a strong lede: “There was a lot more to comics’ greatest showman than just showing up, convention after convention, show after show. And to the man who long wore that mantle, with great power came great adaptability.” “Stan Lee became one of pop culture’s greatest showmen — by making fans feel like part of the club”.

Lee told me that the key to all this success was that he began to listen to himself — to what fascinated him about fairy tales and classic novels alike, from Grimm to “Great Expectations.” Lee was drawn to the strength we find in ourselves at the height of human frailty.

That universal appeal to our vulnerabilities — at the height of tumultuous times and generational change in the United States in the 1960s — helped Marvel’s creations become embraced and embedded in mainstream culture. And as their popularity grew, Lee grew from his duties as writer-editor to his role as promoter and ringmaster.

“He was the huckster that comics needed — he was the showman,” novelist and “Sandman” writer Neil Gaiman told me Monday. “He was also an effective writer. When you look at the [Marvel] comics by other people who weren’t Stan, you realized how efficient and effective he was.”

(14) VINTAGE LEE. Marcus Errico, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “The Lost Stan Lee Interview:  From Making Modern Fairy Tales To The Hero He Most Identified With”, reprints an interview from 2015.

Yahoo Entertainment: You’ve created so many universes of superheroes in your career — do you have a philosophy of superheroism?
Stan Lee: 
I hate to make it sound un-intellectual, but to me, I think of these superheroes the way young people read fairy tales. When you’re 3, 4, 5 years old, you read about giants and witches and monsters and things like that. And they’re colorful and bigger than life, and you’re a little kid and you’re impressed with them. [But when] you get a little older, you can’t read fairy tales anymore. Suddenly, along come these superhero stories and to me they’re like fairy tales for grown-ups because they’re all bigger than life, they’re about characters that really have abilities that no human beings possess. … You’re recapturing the enjoyment you had when you were a kid reading fairy tales. So I don’t think there’s anything thing very much deeper to it than that.

(15) WHEN WOLVERINE PLAYED SECOND BANANA. Hugh Jackman told this Stan Lee anecdote to Stephen Colbert:

‘The Front Runner’ star Hugh Jackman remembers thinking his portrayal of Wolverine would make him the center of attention on the red carpet at Comic Con. That was until the paparazzi abandoned him for Stan Lee.

Jackman also admitted that when he was cast he’d never heard of wolverines, thought it was a made up name, because they don’t have any in Australian zoos. Instead, he spent lots of time studying wolves and their mannerisms. On the first day of filming Wolverine the director told him he’d got it totally wrong.

(16) JUNO SNAP. Smithsonian proves “Juno’s Latest Photo of Jupiter Is Breathtaking”.

On October 29, the Juno spacecraft that has been orbiting Jupiter since 2016, swooped above the planet’s North Temperate Belt and snapped what may be its most mesmerizing image of the gas giant’s clouds yet. The image, taken 4,400 miles above the planet and enhanced by citizen-scientists and artists Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran, includes white pop-up clouds and an anticyclonic storm that appears as a white oval.

(17) THINKING OF A BOOK WILL KEEP YOU WARM. It is the time of year for a reading blanket. Litograph has all kinds of thematic graphics. Here is a link to their sci-fi/fantasy genre designs.

(18) PAST LIVES. Filers consumed by the discussion of Barbie in comments may be interested to see that Galactic Journey’s John Boston coincidentally uncovered a Philip K. Dick story inspired by the doll in a 1963 Amazing“[November 13, 1963] Good Cop (the November 1963 Amazing)”

…The adult humans are completely preoccupied with Perky Pat, a blonde plastic doll that comes with various accessories including boyfriend, which the flukers have supplemented with various improvised objects in their “layouts,” which seem to be sort of like a Monopoly board and sort of like a particularly elaborate model train setup.  On these layouts, they obsessively play a competitive game, running Perky Pat and her boyfriend through the routines of life before the war, while their kids run around unsupervised on the dust- and rock-covered surface chasing down mutant animals with knives.

Obviously the author has had an encounter with a Barbie doll complete with accessories, and didn’t much care for it….

(19) RIVERS OF LONDON. Fantasy Literature’s Rachael “Ray” McKenzie fills readers in about Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaronovitch:

Peter Grant, our favourite semi-competent detective cum wizard-in-training, returns in Lies Sleeping (2018), the seventh book in Ben Aaronovitch’s RIVERS OF LONDON series. The Faceless Man has been unmasked and is on the run, and it is now up to Peter and the inimitable Detective Chief Inspector Nightingale (slash last officially sanctioned English Melvin the Wizard) to apprehend him.

(20) ONE OF LIFE’S MYSTERIES. Adam-Troy Castro can’t understand it. Who can?

If I live to be a thousand, I will never ever understand this impulse possessed by the dull, the cornball, the second-rate, to think they can take on the quick, in battles of wits.

…And yet they try. Oh, how they try.

When I see the dullards taking on Jim Wright, or David Gerrold, or John Scalzi, or J.K. Rowling — all masters at such responses — I am not astonished at how cleverly these misguided ripostes are returned. I am astonished that the barely equipped aggressors took them on, virtually unarmed, and thought that it would end well….

(21) CASE OF THE HIVES. BBC asks “Can listening to bees help save them – and us?”

Can artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning help save the world’s bees? That’s the hope of scientists who are scrambling to reverse the dramatic declines in bee populations.

Bees are in trouble, but we’re not quite sure why.

It could be the overuse of insecticides; air pollution; warming temperatures; the varroa destructor mite; or even interference from electromagnetic radiation.

Or it could be a combination of all these factors. But until we have more data, we won’t know for sure.

So the World Bee Project and IT firm Oracle are creating a global network of AI “smart hives” to give scientists real-time data into the relationships between bees and their environments./CHip

(22) QUEEN FOR A KING. “Queen of New York” featuring Christiani Pitts and members of the cast is a video based on a song from King Kong, which has just opened on Broadway

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Mark Hepworth, John King Tarpinian, Paul Weimer, JJ, Cat Eldridge, ULTRAGOTHA, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Olav Rokne, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]