Pixel Scroll 7/1/20 Consider a Spherical Scroll

(1) COMIC BOOK LEGAL DEFENSE FUND LEADERSHIP TURNOVER. The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund announced June 22 that they had accepted the resignation of Charles Brownstein as Executive Director, effective immediately.  According to Publishers Weekly, Brownstein’s resignation comes after the resurfacing of allegations of sexual assault brought against him in 2006. An account of the situation and its aftermath was reported in the Comics Journal in 2006.

The CBLDF subsequently posted this update:

First and foremost, the CBLDF is grateful that Kris Simon has come forward. We also want to recognize Taki Soma for what she endured and for bringing this to light. Both have our full support. We are releasing Shy Allot from the NDA she signed in 2010 when she left the organization so that her story can also be heard.

CBLDF’s Board is undergoing a complete review of management practices and where we have fallen short. We are examining our mission to ensure it meets modern industry needs, and will do so with input from our full-time staff, expert third parties, and the comics and manga community.

And on June 29, more retirements/resignations followed.

The CBLDF announced today that Paul Levitz is retiring from our Board of Directors. In addition, the Board has accepted the resignations of Katherine Keller and Jeff Abraham.

We respect the decisions that Paul, Katherine and Jeff have made to leave the Board. We realize it will be a long path to earning back the trust of our members, supporters and the industry. We recognize that it’s been our inability to react, or act at all, that’s been the cause of  pain in our community.

Even last week, when we took the necessary action in accepting Charles’s resignation, our communications were stilted and clumsy. To everyone who has come forward, we haven’t done justice to your bravery and we are truly sorry. We vow to be better….   

(2) VIRTUALLY THERE. Locus Online has posted a highly informative report about the 2020 SFWA Nebula Conference

The 2020 SFWA Nebula Conference morphed mid-COVID from an in-person conference into an impressive online event, held May 29-31, 2020. There were 808 members from 33 countries, a record, up from 2019’s record-breaking 475 registered members.

(3) LISTEN IN ON FANHISTORY. Fanac.org has posted the second segment of its audio recording of the “Fans Into Pros” panel at IguanCon II, the 36th Worldcon, held in Phoenix, Arizona in 1978. (The link to Part I is here.) The participants are Guest of Honor Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg, Terry Carr, Richard Lupoff and Ted White. 

This audio recording (enhanced with many images) is Part 2 of that panel. More serious than part 1, this segment talks about becoming a writer, and provides straightforward, candid insights about selling in the field. There’s less byplay but lots of good discussion. Note two things – the recording does not go to the end of the panel but stops abruptly (source material ends), and there is a section where members of the audience are speaking and you can’t hear them on the recording.  

Please be patient – the responses from the panel are worth hearing. This recording courtesy of IguanaCon chairman Tim Kyger.

(4) BRITAIN IS FINE. Rob Hansen has added a section about the 1979 Worldcon bid to his website THEN, with publications, photos, etc. Rob says, “I’ll eventually get around to tackling the con itself, but in the meantime here’s the tale of how it came to be.”

The story of how the idea of holding a UK Worldcon in the 1970s emerged, and how things came together and the bid then evolved, is worthy of its own entry. The bid also had its own series of progress reports independent of the eventual convention, all of which are included here.

LEAD Technologies Inc. V1.01

(5) NOBODY MUST GET STONED. The recent launch of Avengers: Infinity War on Disney+ was promoted by a short video on Marvel’s Instagram account highlighting the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s six Infinity Stones.

(6) HEARD THAT SOMEWHERE BEFORE. A.V. Club will point you to the video: “It’s some kind of supercut of every time someone says “some kind of” on Star Trek”.

Pretty much everyone has some kind of vocal tic, some sort of repeated phrase or word they use without necessarily even realizing it in their day-to-day conversations. Pointing it out in each other is generally considered an asshat thing to do, but that doesn’t change how damn annoying it can be for all of us. On that note, here’s some sort of supercut of all 214 times someone says “some sort of” or “some kind of” on some sort of show called Star Trek: The Next Generation.

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • July 1, 1955 — Robby the Robot was born. Or so claims the studio, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, that would release Forbidden Planet where he had his first screen appearance on March 4, 1956. He would go to be part of a number of series including Lost in SpaceThe Addams FamilyThe Twilight Zone and Holmes & Yo-Yo to name but a few of his appearances. His latest appearance was on The Big Bang Theory with other movie props in “The Misinterpretation Agitation” episode. (CE)
  • July 1, 1984 — William Gibson’s Neuromancer was published. It would win a Hugo for Best Novel at Aussiecon II. It was the first novel to win the Nebula Award, the Philip K. Dick Award, and the Hugo Award for a paperback original. The novel opens with the new famous line of “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.” Deadpool director Tim Miller was chosen three years ago to direct a live-action film adaptation, and Neuromancer the Opera was written but a quarter of a century later has not been staged. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 1, 1891 Otis Adelbert Kline. Early pulp writer and and literary agent whose great claim to fame was a possibly apocryphal feud with fellow author Edgar Rice Burroughs, in which he supposedly raised the latter’s anger by producing close imitations of Burroughs’s Mars novels. Wollheim and Moskowitz believed in the feud theory, Richard Lupoff wrote an articl debunking the idea. (Died 1945.) (CE)
  • Born July 1, 1923 – Jean Hougron.  Indochina (as it then was) 1947-1951; a score of novels.  Two for us, The Sign of the Dog, translated into German, Italian, Portuguese; and Naguen, winning the Grand Prix de la Science-Fiction.  Grand Prix du roman de l’Academie française for Death and Fraud, no. 4 in his series The Indochina Night.  (Died 2001) [JH]
  • Born July 1, 1934 Jean Marsh, 86. She was married to Jon Pertwee but it was before either were involved in Dr. Who. She first appeared alongside The First Doctor in “The Crusade” as Lady Joanna, the sister of Richard I (The Lionheart). She returned later that year as companion Sara Kingdom in “The Daleks’ Master Plan”. And she’d return yet again during the time of the Seventh Doctor in “Battlefield” as Morgana Le Fay. She’s also in Unearthly Stranger Dark PlacesReturn to OzWillow as Queen Bavmorda and The Changeling. (CE)
  • Born July 1, 1935 David Prowse, 85. The physical embodiment of Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy. Ok, it’s been a very long time since I saw Casino Royale but what was Frankenstein’s Creation doing there, the character he played in his first ever role? That he played that role in The Horror of Frankenstein and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell, Hammer Films a few later surprises me not. He shows up in Gilliam’s Jabberwocky according to IMDB as Red Herring and Black Knights (and no I’ve no idea what that means). Finally, he’s the executioner in The People That Time Forgot, a film that’s very loosely based off of several Burroughs novels. (CE)
  • Born July 1, 1942 – rich brown.  No capital letters in his name.  By the mid-1960s known and knowledgeable enough to publish, with Arnie Katz and Mike McInerney, the fanzine Focal Point, revived with AK in the early 1970s.  Also with AK the 3rd (1971) ed’n of The Enchanted Duplicator (1994 ed’n here) i.e. not the protagonist of “Double, Double, Toil and Trouble” but producing one’s fanzine, once and for some still the heart of fan activity; also with AK The Incompleat Terry Carr (a somewhat more compleat ed’n 1988 by Jerry Kaufman); contributed a study of fanspeak to Joe Sanders’ Science Fiction Fandom, eventually brought into Fancyclopedia 3.  Self-depreciatingly said “I’m everyone’s rich brother” and “I’m in The Lord of the Rings.  The Ents have my skin.  They have rich brown skin.”  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born July 1, 1952 – Mary Kay Kare , 68.  Edited Red Dust, clubzine of the Norman, Oklahoma, SF Society; then Seattle, San Jose. Co-chaired Potlatch 19 (literary SF con).  Innocently going overseas to Corflu 27 she found herself Guest of Honor – at Corflu this is determined by drawing names from a hat.  Hugo Awards Administrator at Denvention 3 the 66th Worldcon; photo  here.  Widow of the extraordinary Jordin Kare.  [JH]
  • Born July 1, 1959 – Leah Zeldes Smith, 61.  Can be found under both maiden and married names; husband, Dick Smith.  Served on boards of Ann Arbor SF Ass’n, Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n.  Co-founded Michigan Soc. of (Hapless) Amateur Publishers – opinions differ on whether the H is for Hapless or silent as in bheer; anyhow, MISHAP.  Half a dozen stories in Mike Resnick anthologies.  Fanzine Stet (with Dick) 3-time Hugo finalist.  Fan Guest of Honor at Corflu 4.  Down Under Fan Fund delegate (with Dick), attended Swancon 18.  Chaired Operacon.  More here.  [JH]
  • Born July 1, 1964 — Charles Coleman Finlay, 56. His first story, “Footnotes”, was published in 2001 in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction where many of his other stories were published, and which he has edited for past six years. The Traitor to the Crown series is his best-known work.  (CE)
  • Born July 1, 1965 – Kevin Maroney, 55.  Long-time managing editor, now publisher, of the New York Review of SF, 14-time Hugo finalist.  Guest of Honor at Detcon the 11th NASFiC (North America SF Con, held since 1975 when the Worldcon is overseas).  He says “Science fiction valorizes people who Know Things.”  Dilettante in the old sense.  [JH]
  • Born July 1, 1976 – Ketty Steward, 44.  Author, critic, proofreader.  Two dozen stories; collection, Interrupted Connections (in French, i.e. Connexions interrompoues; KS lives in Martinique). “HeLa Is Here” in English here.  Two special issues of Galaxies (in French) devoted to Africa.  Genre-mixing autobiographical novel, Black & White (Noir et blanc).  Degrees in applied mathematics, social sciences, labor science.  Student of Afrocyberfeminism.  [JH]
  • Born July 1, 1981 Genevieve Valentine, 39. Author of the superb Persona novel, and also she scripted a Catwoman series, working with artists Garry Brown and David Messina. Her first novel, Mechanique: A tale of the Circus Tresaulti, won the Crawford Award for a first fantasy novel. She also scripted a run of Xena: Warrior Princess. (CE)

(9) IN SPACE, NO ONE CAN SMELL YOU SCREAM. According to CNN, “This is what space smells like”.

If you’ve ever wondered what space smells like, a new perfume may answer that for you. A kickstarter was recently launched for a new fragrance called Eau de Space to bring the smell of outer space back down to Earth.

The fragrance was developed by Steve Pearce, according to Eau de Space product manager Matt Richmond. Pearce is a chemist and the founder of Omega Ingredients, a company focused on the “creation of the highest quality, provenance driven, natural flavours and ingredients for the food and beverage industry,” its website says.

(10) IN BOOKS TO COME. Andrew Liptak told readers where to find his monthly Reading List:

As some of you know from June, Polygon has decided to discontinue the list on their site for the foreseeable future — one small casualty from COVID. Accordingly, I’ve shifted the list over to my newsletter, Reading List.

This newsletter is designed as a step-back from the day-to-day news of the SF/F world, with a couple of different types of letters. Free ones have a regular set of content: I’m aiming for a book review and/or short piece of commentary, along with a list of notable long-read articles and pieces of note, as well as a roundup of book recommendations. I’m also using it as a place to conduct longer-form interviews and this book list. This has a growing audience, with a solid reading and open rate: 50-58%, depending on the post. 

The paid version (Reading List+) is something I just launched, and it features longer or in-depth commentary or reported feature — the first was about J.K. Rowling and Richard K. Morgan’s comments online. The next is set to go out this week, about the legacy of Michael Crichton’s name. This has a smaller audience, but with a much higher open and reading rate (~80%). Future plans here include podcasting (to be called Transfer Orbit), with one long-form interview set to debut later this month, as well as a handful of other posts, ranging from essays about writing, an in-depth feature on a military war game, and more.

(11) YOUR CHAIRS ARE READY. Episode 30 of the Two Chairs Talking podcast is out: “The many trouser-legs of time”. Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg are joined by Dr. Lucy Sussex to talk about alternate history novels. In particular, they discuss those alternate timelines in which the Axis powers won the Second World War. (Did someone forget to punch the Nazis?)

  • Swastika Night by Katharine Burdekin
  • Small Change trilogy by Jo Walton
  • Dominion by C. J. Sansom
  • The Iron Dream by Norman Spinrad
  • SS-GB by Len Deighton
  • Fatherland by Robert Harris
  • The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
  • The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

(12) AT THE CORE. In Nature, astronomers claim “Core of a gas planet seen for the first time” says the BBC.

Astronomers have found a previously unseen type of object circling a distant star.

It could be the core of a gas world like Jupiter, offering an unprecedented glimpse inside one of these giant planets.

Giant planets like Jupiter and Saturn have a solid planetary core beneath a thick envelope of hydrogen and helium gas.

But no-one has previously been able to see what these solid cores are like.

Now, a team of astronomers has discovered what they think are the rocky innards of a giant planet that’s missing its thick atmosphere. Their findings have been published in the journal Nature.

(13) PLANTING THE FLAG. This is a wonderful GIF — “NASA if it had the same budget as the US Military”. (I won’t embed it here, because GIFs in the Scroll drive some of you to distraction. Not that I’ll never ever do it, you understand…)  

(14) YA GOTTA BELIEVE. BBC reports:“Tesla overtakes Toyota to become world’s most valuable car maker”.

Tesla has become the world’s most valuable carmaker, overtaking Japan’s Toyota, after its stock hit a record high.

Shares in the electric carmaker hit a record $1,134 on Wednesday morning, before falling back, leaving it with a market value of $209.47bn (£165bn).

That is roughly $4bn more than Toyota’s current stock market value.

However, Toyota sold around 30 times more cars last year and its revenues were more than 10 times higher.

Shares in Tesla have risen more than 160% since the start of 2020, as investors feel more confident about the future of electric vehicles.

(15) SPACE JAM. A 2017 NASA video called “Space Station Fisheye Fly-Through 4K” is a really good look at the International Space Station with some smooth jazz. 

(16) BORED NOW. “Crucible: Amazon pulls ‘boring’ big-budget video game”.

Amazon has pulled its first major game release, putting it back into a testing phase after poor feedback from players.

Free-to-play shooter Crucible is now being put back into “closed beta” – a pre-release stage with a limited number of players.

Current players will be part of the beta, but new players will be unable to download the game without an invite.

Amazon said it had listened to player feedback and would “continue to make the game better”.

In May, when the game was about to be released, Amazon Games vice-president Mike Frazzini told the BBC the company wanted “to make games that resonate with a very large audience of players”.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. What?!

Dippin’ Dots—they’re an amusement park, zoo, aquarium and overall summertime staple. The mini balls of ice cream that melt in your mouth are also a childhood favorite. But where did the “ice cream of the future” come from? The answer has a little something to do with cow feed.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/9/20 I Had Too Much To Stream Last Night

(1) UNDERESTIMATED CRISIS. Kristine Kathryn Rusch sounds overwhelmed in “Business Musings: A Crisis Like No Other (A Process Blog)” where she discusses her daily challenges and struggles as a writer.

Well, I was wrong. A month or so ago, I warned that what we’re going through is a black swan event, that it would have an economic impact, and we as business owners needed to be braced. Then, as things got even worse, I decided this was a double black swan—a crisis without good leadership to carry us through to the other side.

And it seems that, in both cases, I underestimated this thing.  On April 3, Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, called this “a crisis like no other.”

In a speech before the World Health Organization, she added, “Never in the history of the IMF have we witnessed the world economy coming to a standstill. It is way worse than the global financial crisis.”

A crisis like no other. Yeah, that was my sense as well over these past two weeks as I tried over and over again to find some kind of historic precedent to guide us forward. I couldn’t find one—not an analogous one, on that hit the global economy all at once, and forced people around the world to behave in the same way.

It’s breathtaking and shocking and hard to fathom. As you can tell from my many blog posts, I’m wrestling with this change. I know we’ll come out the other side, but for the first time—maybe in my adult life—I have no idea what kind of world we will emerge into. Usually I can predict both worst case and best case scenarios….

(2) SETTING THE TONE. Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book is where I first read John Clyn’s famous quote, written in 1349 at the height of the Black Plague:

“So that notable deeds should not perish with time, and be lost from the memory of future generations, I, seeing these many ills, and that the whole world encompassed by evil, waiting among the dead for death to come, have committed to writing what I have truly heard and examined; and so that the writing does not perish with the writer, or the work fail with the workman, I leave parchment for continuing the work, in case anyone should still be alive in the future and any son of Adam can escape this pestilence and continue the work thus begun.”

(3) APOLLO 13. At least the astronauts came out the other side of this disaster all right — “‘Houston, we’ve had a problem’: Remembering Apollo 13 at 50”.

…A half-century later, Apollo 13 is still considered Mission Control’s finest hour.

Lovell calls it “a miraculous recovery.”

Haise, like so many others, regards it as NASA’s most successful failure.

“It was a great mission,” Haise, 86, said. It showed “what can be done if people use their minds and a little ingenuity.”

As the lunar module pilot, Haise would have become the sixth man to walk on the moon, following Lovell onto the dusty gray surface. The oxygen tank explosion robbed them of the moon landing, which would have been NASA’s third, nine months after Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took humanity’s first footsteps on the moon.

Now the coronavirus pandemic has robbed them of their anniversary celebrations. Festivities are on hold, including at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the mission began on April 11, 1970, a Saturday just like this year.

(4) WHO TWO. ScreenRant offers their opinion — “Doctor Who: Every Doctor’s TRUE Companion”. For example:

Fourth Doctor: Sarah Jane Smith

Often considered the best companion of Doctor Who‘s classic run, Elizabeth Sladen made a lasting impression as Sarah Jane Smith, evolving the template set by Jo Grant previously. More so than her predecessors, Sarah Jane naturally grew into a second main character and although she debuted alongside the Third Doctor, her wits were slightly better suited to the eccentric ramblings of Tom Baker’s Time Lord. The Fourth Doctor would struggle to find an equally fitting companion, treating Leela with occasional contempt and burning through several regenerations of Romana.

(5) IMPOSSIBLE TIME. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination’s podcast Into the Impossible has posted Episode 38: “Giving the Devil His Due: a conversation with Michael Shermer & Brian Keating”.

Dr. Michael Shermer is the Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine, the host of the Science Salon Podcast, and a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University where he teaches Skepticism 101. For 18 years he was a monthly columnist for Scientific American. He is the author of New York Times bestsellers Why People Believe Weird Things and The Believing Brain, Why Darwin Matters, The Science of Good and Evil, The Moral Arc, and Heavens on Earth. His new book is Giving the Devil His Due: Reflections of a Scientific Humanist.

(6) HOW’S YOUR EYESIGHT? “Smithsonian seeks public’s help with Sally Ride’s astronaut training notes”.

Before she became the first American woman to fly into space, Sally Ride needed to learn how to be an astronaut. Now, 30 years later, the public can help expand access to Ride’s training experience by volunteering to transcribe her extensive handwritten notes.

The National Air and Space Museum has begun the process of converting the 23 cubic feet of material it obtained from Ride’s estate in 2015 to be available for research and study. Archivists have scanned and indexed the entire collection, but more can be done to make the papers fully searchable.

(7) DRUCKER OBIT. MAD Magazine artist Mort Drucker died April 8 at the age of 91. Mark Evanier paid tribute at News From Me: “Mort Drucker, R.I.P.”

He found his way to MAD magazine in 1956 at a precarious moment in that publication’s history. Founding editor Harvey Kurtzman had departed and taken most of the art crew with him. Replacement editor Al Feldstein was assembling a new team and with no idea how valuable the new applicant would be to MAD, he took a shot with Drucker.

Mort had never thought of himself as a caricaturist but when called upon to draw the comedy team of Bob & Ray for some pieces, he displayed a flair that surprised even him. Before long, Mort was the illustrator of movie and TV parodies in every issue of MAD…an association that lasted some 55 years. Big stars would say that you didn’t feel you’d made it in Hollywood until Mort Drucker had drawn you in MAD.

The New York Times obituary is here.

…“No one saw Drucker’s talent,” Mr. Hendrix wrote, until he illustrated “The Night That Perry Masonmint Lost a Case,” a takeoff on the television courtroom drama “Perry Mason,” in 1959. It was then, Mr. Hendrix maintained, that “the basic movie parody format for the next 44 years was born.”

From the early 1960s on, nearly every issue of Mad included a movie parody, and before Mr. Ducker retired he had illustrated 238, more than half of them. The last one, “The Chronic-Ills of Yawnia: Prince Thespian,” appeared in 2008.

Mr. Drucker compared his method to creating a movie storyboard: “I become the ‘camera,’” he once said, “and look for angles, lighting, close-ups, wide angles, long shots — just as a director does to tell the story in the most visually interesting way he can.”

Mr. Hendrix called Mr. Drucker “the cartoonist’s equivalent of an actor’s director” and “a master of drawing hands, faces and body language.” Mr. Friedman praised Mr. Drucker’s restraint: “He wasn’t really hung up on exaggerating. He was far more subtle and nuanced — interested in how people stood and so on.”

(8) WILLNER OBIT. Most recently known as Saturday Night Live’s sketch music producer. Hal Willner died April 7. The LA Times tribute is here. He had a long career in film, and produced several record albums, including these genre-adjacent projects –

…Most striking was Willner’s ode to the music of Walt Disney’s animated films. Called “Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films,” he enlisted artists including cosmic jazz traveler Sun Ra, experimental vocalist Yma Sumac, Los Angeles group Los Lobos and rock band the Replacements to re-imagine such songs as “Cruella De Ville,” “Whistle While You Work” and “Someday My Prince Will Come.” Tom Waits turned “Heigh Ho (The Dwarves Marching Song)” into a forced-labor dirge.

As the compiler of “The Carl Stalling Project: Music From Warner Bros. Cartoons 1936-1958,” Willner resurrected the reputation of the frantic, inventive composer Stalling and his scores for “Bugs Bunny” and “Road Runner” cartoons….

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 9, 1953 Invaders From Mars premiered. It was produced by Edward L. Alperson Jr. and directed by William Cameron Menzies. It starred  a large cast of Jimmy Hunt, Helena Carter, Arthur Franz, Morris Ankrum, Leif Erickson, and Hillary Brooke. Made a shoestring budget of three hundred thousand, it got amazingly good reviews though a few critics thought it it was too frightening for younger children, did a great box office and currently has a rating of fifty six percent among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You can see it here.
  • April 9, 1955 Science Fiction Theatre first aired in syndication. It was produced by Ivan Tors and Maurice Ziv.  It ran for seventy-eight episodes over two years and was hosted by Truman Bradley who was the announcer for Red Skelton’s program. The first episode “Beyond” had the story of a test pilot travelling at much faster than the speed of sound who bails out and tells his superiors that another craft was about to collide with his. It starred William Lundigan, Ellen Drew and Bruce Bennett. You can watch it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 9, 1911 George O. Smith. His early prolific writings on Astounding Science Fiction in the 1940s which ended when Campbell’s wife left him for Smith Whom she married. Later stories were on Thrilling Wonder Stories, GalaxySuper Science Stories and Fantastic To name but four such outlets. He was given First Fandom Hall of Fame Award just before he passed on. Interestingly his novels are available from the usual digital sources but his short stories are not. (Died 1981.)
  • Born April 9, 1913 George F. Lowther. He was writer, producer, director in the earliest days of radio and television. He wrote scripts for both Captain Video and His Video Rangers and Tom Corbett, Space Cadet.  You can see the first show “The Birth of The Galaxy” which he scripted here. (Died 1975.)
  • Born April 9, 1921 Frankie Thomas. He was best remembered for his starring role in Tom Corbett, Space Cadet which ran from 1950 to 1955. Though definitely not genre or genre adjacent, he was in the Nancy Drew film franchise that ran in the late Thirties. (Died 2006.)
  • Born April 9, 1935 Avery Schreiber. He’s had a long history with genre fiction starting with Get Smart! and going from there to include More Wild Wild West!Fantasy IslandFaerie Tale Theatre: PinocchioShadow ChasersCavemanGalaxinaDracula: Dead and Loving ItAnimainiacs in which he voiced Beanie the Brain-Dead Bisonand, of course, The Muppet Show. (Died 2002.)
  • Born April 9, 1937 Marty Krofft, 83. Along with with Sid, a Canadian sibling team of television creators and puppeteers. Through Sid & Marty Krofft Pictures, they have made numerous series including the superb H.R. Pufnstuf which I still remember fondly all these years later not to forget Sigmund and the Sea MonstersLand of the Lost and Electra Woman and Dyna Girl.
  • Born April 9,1949 Stephen Hickman, 71. Illustrator who has done over three hundred and fifty genre covers such as Manly Wade Wellman’s John the Balladeer and Nancy Springer’s Rowan Hood, Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest. His most widely known effort is his space fantasy postage stamps done for the U.S. Postal Service which won a Hugo for Best Original Artwork at ConAndian in 1994.
  • Born April 9, 1954 Dennis Quaid, 66. I’m reasonably sure that he first genre role was in Dreamscape as Alex Gardner followed immediately by the superb role of Willis Davidge in Enemy Mine followed by completing a trifecta with Innerspace and the character of Lt. Tuck Pendleton. And then there’s the sweet film of Dragonheart and him as Bowen. Anyone hear of The Day After Tomorrow in which he was Jack Hall? I hadn’t a clue about it.
  • Born April 9, 1955 Earl Terry Kemp, 65. Author of The Anthem Series: A Guide to the Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Weird Specialty Publishers of the Golden Age and The Anthem Series Companion: A Companion to The Guide to the Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Weird Specialty Publishers of the Golden Age. He also maintains several databases devoted to the same including The Golden Age of Pulps: SF Magazine Database: Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror (1890-2009).
  • Born April 9, 1972 Neve McIntosh, 48. During time of the Eleventh Doctor, she played Alaya and Restac, two Silurian reptilian sisters who have been disturbed under the earth, one captured by humans and the other demanding vengeance. Her second appearance on Doctor Who is Madame Vastra, in “A Good Man Goes to War”. Also a Silurian, she’s a Victorian crime fighter.  She’s back in the 2012 Christmas special, and in the episodes “The Crimson Horror” and “The Name of the Doctor”. She reprises her role as Madame Vastra, who along with her wife, Jenny Flint, and Strax, a former Sontaran warrior, form a private investigator team. 
  • Born April 9, 1998 Elle Fanning, 22. Yes she’s from that acting family. And she’s certainly been busy with roles in over forty films! Her first genre film is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button followed by Astro BoySuper 8MaleficentThe BoxtrollsThe Neon Demon, the upcoming Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and a recurring role on The Lost Room, a Cursed Objects miniseries that aired on Syfy. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Candorville encounters a social media slipup.
  • Free Range shows why even superheroes must keep in mind “the right tool for the right job.”

(12) TEMPORARILY FREE COMICS. Dark Horse Comics is releasing the first issue of more than 80 comics series for free, as well as a few volumes of graphics novels, available to read via DARK HORSE DIGITAL from now until April 30. The series include such titles as Umbrella AcademyAmerican Gods, & Disney’s Frozen, as well as graphic novels such as Empowered Vol. 1, and Hellboy Vol. 1.

(13) CAN COMICS RESUSCITATE THE CASH REGISTER? CBR.com investigates “DC vs Marvel: Possible Storylines for a New Big Two Crossover”.

As the effects of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continue to reverberate around the world, one of the many industries severely impacted by the global health crisis is the American comic book market. With major publishers refraining from distributing new comics either digitally or in print and comic retailers shuttering normal operations to prevent the virus’ spread, the future of the industry is currently in a state of limbo. Led by acclaimed writer Gail Simone, comic creators have since suggested the possibility of an intercompany crossover between DC and Marvel Comics’ respective superhero universes as a means to revitalize the industry.

(14) PICARD SPECIAL ISSUE. Titan Comics has Star Trek: Picard – The Official Collector’s Edition on sale now.

A behind-the-scenes guide to the smash hit new Star Trek TV Show, showcasing the further adventures of fan-favorite captain of the Enterprise-D, Jean Luc Picard!

A deluxe collector’s edition offering a behind-the-scenes guide to the brand new Star Trek: Picard TV show, featuring interviews with Star Trek legends Sir Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner (Data), Jonathan Frakes (Riker), Martin Sirtis (Troi), plus the new cast members Isa Briones (Dahj/Soji), Michelle Herd (Raffi), Harry Treadaway (Narke) and many more. Plus, Showrunners Alex Kurtzman and Michael Chabon, and Director Hanelle Culpepper reveal behind-the-scenes secrets.

(15) OLAF SCENES. “Fun With Snow” | At Home With Olaf on YouTube is the first of 20 micro-sized Olaf stories coming from Disney. Find others as they post on the Walt Disney Animation Studios YouTube channel.

(16) MAD AS HELL. In “Suing Hollywood” at CrimeReads, Tess Gerritsen looks at her long series of lawsuits about whether Gravity was stolen from her 1999 space thriller Gravity.

…Most writers who work in the industry understand that suing a studio, no matter how justified their lawsuit, is a losing proposition—and it’s the writer who almost always loses. Knowing this, why would any writer risk everything to charge into battle as David against Goliath? 

I’ll tell you why: because we’re angry and refuse to let them get away with it. I know, because I’ve been there and done that. I’ve seen the dark side of Hollywood.

(17) STATION BREAK. And making a smooth segue between topics, did you know NASA has available a virtual “International Space Station Tour”?

(18) NEXT SPACE STATION SHIFT ARRIVES. And for a news trifecta — “ISS crew blast off after long quarantine”.

Three new crew members have arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) after a launch carried out under tight restrictions due to the coronavirus.

The Russian Soyuz rocket carrying cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner and Nasa astronaut Chris Cassidy took off from Kazakhstan on Thursday.

Pre-launch protocols were changed to prevent the virus being taken to the ISS.

Only essential personnel were allowed at the launch site for the blast-off.

Support workers wore masks and kept their distance as the crew walked to the bus to take them to the spacecraft.

Earlier, Chris Cassidy said not having their families in Baikonur to cheer them on for the launch had affected the crew, but he added: “We understand that the whole world is also impacted by the same crisis.

(19) WAVE BYE-BYE. “BepiColombo: Mercury mission set to wave goodbye to Earth” – BBC supplies lots of details on the instruments being sent.

The joint European-Japanese mission to Mercury reaches a key milestone on Friday when it swings past the Earth.

The two-in-one BepiColombo space probe is using the gravity of its home world to bend a path towards the inner Solar System.

It will also bleed off some speed.

The mission needs to make sure it isn’t travelling too fast when it arrives at Mercury in 2025 or it won’t be able to go into orbit around the diminutive world.

(20) POTTERING ABOUT. “Harry Potter hospital rooms get JK Rowling approval”.

Doctors dealing with coronavirus said they were “uplifted” to have a message of support from JK Rowling when they named areas of their hospital after Harry Potter school houses.

Meeting rooms at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital were named Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravensclaw.

The hospital said the idea was “a bit of fun amongst all the significant issues”.

The author tweeted to say she had “rarely felt prouder”.

The hospital’s medical team decided to name meeting rooms after the Hogwarts houses when redesigning systems to be better prepared for the coronavirus outbreak.

Senior house officer Alex Maslen said: “The house names are familiar to many junior doctors who grew up with the Harry Potter stories, and the awareness has provided some reassurance during these difficult times.”

(21) YOUNG MAN MULLIGAN ATE HERE. BBC tells us “Crops were cultivated in regions of the Amazon ‘10,000 years ago'”.

Far from being a pristine wilderness, some regions of the Amazon have been profoundly altered by humans dating back 10,000 years, say researchers.

An international team found that during this period, crops were being cultivated in a remote location in what is now northern Bolivia.

The scientists believe that the humans who lived here were planting squash, cassava and maize.

The inhabitants also created thousands of artificial islands in the forest.

FYI, “Young Man Mulligan” is the filk answer to ”The Great Historical Bum” song (“Bum” lyrics here). It opens “I was born about ten thousand years from now.”

(22) BEFORE FABERGÉ. “Mysteries of decorated ostrich eggs in British Museum revealed”.

If you wanted to give an extravagant gift 5,000 years ago, you might have chosen an ostrich egg.

Now some of these beautiful Easter egg-sized objects are in London’s British Museum.

The eggs were found in Italy but their origins have long been a mystery – ostriches are not indigenous to Europe.

Now, research into the museum’s collection by an international team of archaeologists reveals new insights into their history.

People across Europe, the Mediterranean and North Africa traded ostrich eggs up to 5,000 years ago, in the Bronze and Iron Ages.

Eggs were decorated in many ways – painted, adorned with ivory or precious metals, or covered in small glazed stones or other materials.

The five eggs in the British Museum’s collection are embellished with animals, flowers, geometric patterns, soldiers and chariots.

(23) DON’T STOP. Rebooted – on YouTube.

It’s not easy for a movie-star to age – especially when you’re a stop motion animated skeleton monster. Phil, once a terrifying villain of the silver-screen, struggles to find work in modern Hollywood due to being an out-of-date special effect.

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

NASA Award to Advance Stem Cell Therapies in New Space Station Lab

A three-year, nearly $5 million award from NASA will allow researchers at the Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center at UC San Diego Health, Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination, and their partners at Space Tango to develop a new integrated space stem cell orbital research laboratory within the International Space Station (ISS) and launch three collaborative research projects within it.

Stem cells self-renew, generating more stem cells, and specialize into tissue-specific cells, such as blood, brain and liver cells, making them ideal for biological studies far from Earth’s resources. The goal of the new effort is to leverage microgravity and these unique properties of stem cells to better understand how space flight affects the human body. The studies will also inform how aging, degenerative diseases, cancers and other conditions develop in a setting with increased exposure to ionizing radiation and pro-inflammatory factors. The findings from these studies may speed the development of new therapeutics for a broad array of degenerative diseases on Earth.

“We envision that the next thriving ecosystem of commercial stem cell companies, the next nexus for biotechnology, could be created 250 miles overhead by the establishment of these capabilities on the ISS,” said Catriona Jamieson, MD, PhD, co-principal investigator of the award and Koman Family Presidential Endowed Chair in Cancer Research, deputy director of Moores Cancer Center, director of the Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center and director of the CIRM Alpha Stem Cell Clinic at UC San Diego Health.

The project’s first flight to the ISS is planned for mid-2021. The ISS stem cell lab is expected to be fully operational and self-sustaining by 2025.

With hardware designed by Space Tango, a developer of fully automated, remote-controlled systems for research and manufacturing on orbit, initial projects in the new lab will include investigations of:

Blood cancers and immune reactivation syndromes, led by Jamieson, who is also a member of the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, and Sheldon Morris, MD, MPH, clinical professor of family medicine and public health and infectious diseases at UC San Diego School of Medicine. 

In what’s known as the NASA Twins Study, investigators around the nation assessed identical twin astronauts Scott and Mark Kelly. Scott flew aboard the ISS for 342 days in 2015 and 2016, while his identical twin brother, Mark, remained on Earth. In a paper published in Science in early 2019, researchers, including UC San Diego School of Medicine’s Brinda Rana, PhD, described the many ways Scott’s body differed from Mark’s due to his time spent in microgravity, including signs of pre-cancer. 

In the new ISS lab, Jamieson and Morris will use stem cell-derived blood and immune cells to look for biomarkers — tell-tale molecular changes — as cancer develops and immune cells malfunction in microgravity. They will also work with experts in the Jacobs School of Engineering at UC San Diego and Space Tango to build special microscopes and bioreactors that fit the ISS lab space and transmit images to Earth in near real-time.

“If we can find early predictors of cancer progression on the ISS, we are ideally positioned to rapidly translate them into clinical trials in our Sanford Stem Cell Clinical Center back on Earth,” Jamieson said. 

Brain stem cell regeneration and repair, led by Alysson R. Muotri, PhD, professor of pediatrics and cellular and molecular medicine and director of the Stem Cell Program at UC San Diego School of Medicine and a member of the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, and Erik Viirre, MD, PhD, professor of neurosciences and director of the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination.

This project will build on a previous proof-of concept flight that sent a payload of stem cell-derived human brain organoids to the ISS in 2019. Brain organoids — also called mini-brains — are 3D cellular models that represent aspects of the human brain in the laboratory. Brain organoids help researchers track human development, unravel the molecular events that lead to disease and test new treatments. 

Since their last trip to space, the UC San Diego team has significantly advanced the brain organoids’ levels of neural network activity — electrical impulses that can be recorded by multi-electrode arrays. 

“All the research models we currently use to study aging in a laboratory dish rely on artificial things, such as increasing oxidative stress or manipulating genes associated with aging,” said Muotri, who is also co-principal investigator on the award. “Here we’re taking a different approach to speed up the aging process and study how it plays a role in developmental diseases and neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s.”

Liver cell injury and repair, led by David A. Brenner, MD, vice chancellor of health sciences at UC San Diego, and Tatiana Kisseleva, MD, PhD, associate professor of surgery at UC San Diego School of Medicine. 

On Earth, Brenner and Kisseleva study ailments of the liver, such as liver fibrosis and steatohepatitis, a type of fatty liver disease. Liver diseases can be caused by alcohol use, obesity, viral infection and a number of other factors. They are interested in determining the impact microgravity may have on liver function, which could provide insights into diseases on Earth, as well as potential effects during space travel. In the future, the team may test therapies for steatohepatitis in the new ISS lab, where microgravity mimics aging and can lead to liver cell injury.

“These insights may allow us to develop new ways to stop the progression of liver disease and cirrhosis — conditions that affect approximately 4.5 million people in the U.S.,” Brenner said.

Once the ISS stem cell lab is validated, the team said it will replicate the Earth-based Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, a “collaboratory” in La Jolla, Calif. that brings together experts from five research institutions: UC San Diego, Scripps Research, Salk Institute for Biological Studies, Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute and La Jolla Institute for Immunology. 

Plans for the new ISS research lab and initial projects were made possible by an award from the NASA Research Opportunities for ISS Utilization. The UC San Diego team also credits the support of philanthropists T. Denny Sanford, Rebecca Moores Foundation and the Koman Family Foundation; their leadership, Pradeep Khosla, chancellor of UC San Diego, Patty Maysent, CEO of UC San Diego Health, Scott Lippman, MD, director of Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health; and previous research and infrastructure funding from the National Institutes of Health, California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), Pedal the Cause, and Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

[From a press release, of course.]

Pixel Scroll 3/14/20 In Dublin’s File City, Where The Scrolls Are So Pixely

(1) RSR ASSESSES STRAHAN’S NEW BEST TOC. Rocket Stack Rank has prepared an annotated list of the 28 stories in Jonathan Strahan’s new Year’s Best Science Fiction series (highlights are free online), along with the tweet by Saga Press that shows the stories. To see how the 28 stories ranked among the 2019 Best SF/F, click this link (JStrahan TOC highlighted).

(2) MIDSOUTHCON CANCELLED. MidSouthCon has been “postponed until 2021”, which is to say cancelled. The administrator of the Darrell Awards gave an update now that the presentation can’t take place there.

What About the 2020 Darrell Awards?

First, they will be given.

Second, the Winners and Runners-up and other Finalists will be announced here and on other social media.

Third, the details of how and when for the above will be decided by the Jury shortly.

(3) ANOTHER SHUTDOWN. Add Anime Boston (April 10-12) to the list of cancelled cons: “Anime Boston 2020 Cancellation Announcement”.

 As you may be aware, Governor Charlie Baker recently announced a ban on all gatherings of 250 people or more in Massachusetts. This ban is set with no current end date, until the governor announces otherwise. With Anime Boston 2020 scheduled for less than four weeks from now, it is highly likely this ban will still be in place. Given the uncertainty around these new circumstances, we have no choice but to cancel Anime Boston 2020….

(4) PLAN FOR LEFTY AWARDS. The Left Coast Crime mystery convention was brought to an abrupt end on Thursday when the coronavirus outbreak caused local San Diego health officials to restrict gatherings. The event’s Lefty Awards would have been voted on by members at the con. Now con committee member Stan Ulrich says they’re working on an alternative plan.  

As you may know, we vote with paper ballots, and of course the voting period was unexpectedly cut short within a 2-hour period, due to conflicting and poorly-worded San Diego edicts.

We told the assembled folks at the last event, where about 200 attendees were in the room, that we will not be counting the paper ballots that had been cast, but rather would conduct an online vote by all registrants to this convention.

I don’t know when that will take place, but I’d hope we can do it very soon. We have many issues to deal with, ones we don’t even know about yet, so it will depend on when I can find the time to concentrate on getting it done right. But for now, my intention is to get the e-ballots out in the next few days, after we get home to Santa Fe, and set the system up.

(5) VIRUS-FREE AUDIO. Scott Edelman invites listeners to chow down on crab cakes with Pulitzer Prize-winning book critic Michael Dirda in Episode 117 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Michael Dirda

Early this week, before it occurred to me that leaving the house to break bread might not be the wisest thing to do considering the times in which we live, I headed to Silver Spring, Maryland for lunch with Michael Dirda at All Set restaurant. Luckily, you won’t have to risk contagion from the coronavirus to take a seat at the table and eavesdrop on our conversation.

Michael is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The Washington Post Book World with a special love for genre fiction. He’s the author of the memoir An Open Book, plus four collections of essays: Readings, Bound to Please, Book by Book and Classics for Pleasure. Since 2002, he’s been a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, and his book On Conan Doyle was awarded the 2012 Edgar Award in the Best Critical/Biographical category. He’s currently at work on The Great Age of Storytelling, an appreciation of British popular fiction of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. 

We discussed the convention at which he thought he was about to be punched out by Harlan Ellison, the book he wants to write but which he realizes he could probably never publish, how discovering E. F. Bleiler’s Guide to Supernatural Fiction opened a whole new world for him, whether he faced judgment from his peers for believing Georgette Heyer is as important as George Eliot, why he wants to be buried with a copy of The Count of Monte Cristo, how Beverly Cleary’s Henry Huggins is like a Proustian madeleine, the way he navigates the tricky act of reviewing the fiction of friends, the word he used which annoyed Gene Wolfe, and much more.

(6) HIS FACE MASK ISN’T ENOUGH. SoraNews24 reports “Jason calls off Friday the 13th activities due to coronavirus”.

Hockey-masked Jason has been creeping into everyone’s nightmares since making his killing debut in the ’80s, and later resurfacing for some more bloodshed in the early 21st century as well. While he’s been keeping a curiously low profile recently, this year Jason appeared in Japan in the lead-up to Friday the 13th, giving a surprise press conference to inform everyone that the coronavirus would be impinging on this year’s activities.

(7) GAMING THE SYSTEM. BBC finds “Minecraft ‘loophole’ library of banned journalism”.

It started out as a project in an online forum and turned into the best-selling video game of all time, but now Minecraft is being used for something even its creator would not have dreamt of.

The iconic game based around placing Lego-like blocks with more than 145 million players each month has been turned into a hub of free speech.

A virtual library has been meticulously created to host articles written by journalists which were censored online.

Work by Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist killed by Saudi agents in 2018, can be read among the plethora of books in the library.

Minecraft has declined to comment.

The project was created by non-profit organisation Reporters Without Borders, which seeks to defend the freedom of information worldwide, and the Minecraft library itself was built by design studio Blockworks.

Christian Mihr, executive director of Reporters Without Borders Germany, told the BBC that Minecraft was good for the project as he believes it is not seen as a threat by governments which censor their media.

“We chose Minecraft because of its reach,” he said. “It is available in every country. The game is not censored like some other games which are under suspicion of being political.

(8) WE DON’T NEED NO STINKIN’ BABIES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] GeekMom isn’t shy about sharing this opinion. My advice is to not click through to the article unless you’re prepared to read about several major bummer outcomes for these fictional tykes. “Stop With the Superhero Babies! It Never Works”.

This is going to sound callous, but I wish creators would stop adding superhero babies to their stories.

Because I hate it when the big two superhero comic companies introduce babies and young children into their stories.

When I saw the teaser panel of a pregnant Catwoman for the upcoming Batman/Catwoman series, I winced.

Do I have anything against little kids and babies? No.

Do I think good stories of superhero parents can be told? Yes.

Do I think that’s ever been done on a consistent basis at DC and Marvel?

Heck no.

There are only a few fates available for babies or little kids with superhero parents in comics.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 14, 1994 Robocop: The Series premiered. It stars Richard Eden as the title character. A Canadian produced and directed series, it lacks the graphic violence and intent of Robocop and Robocop 2 that preceded it, and adds a lot more humor. You can see the two-hour pilot episode here. It was adapted from the unused RoboCop 2 script, Corporate Wars which was from the writers of the first  RoboCop film, Edward and Michael Miner. 
  • March 14, 1995 Cyborg Cop II  premiered.  It’s directed by Sam Firstenberg as written by Jon Stevens and Firstenberg. It’s obviously the sequel to Cyborg Cop, and stars David Bradley, Morgan Hunter, Jill Pierce, and Victor Melleney. Needless to say, a Cyborg Cop IIII film followed. You can see it here. Unlike Robocop: The Series, it is R rated, so you’ll need to sign in to prove you of an an appropriate age.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 14, 1869 Algernon Blackwood. Writer of some of the best of the best horror and ghost stories ever done according to the research I just did. Most critics including Joshi say his two best stories are “The Willows” and “The Wendigo”. The novel that gets recommended is The Centaur. If you’re interested in reading him, he’s readily available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1951.)
  • Born March 14, 1918 Mildred Clingerman. Most of her stories were published in the Fifties in F&SF whenBoucher was Editor. Boucher included “The Wild Wood” by her in the seventh volume of The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction and dedicated the book to her, calling her the “most serendipitous of discoveries.”  A Cupful of Space and The Clingerman Files, neither available as a digital publication, contain all of her stories. (Died 1997.)
  • Born March 14, 1948 Valerie Martin, 72. Her novel Mary Reilly is the retelling of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from the point of view of a servant in the doctor’s house. It is a film of the same name with John Malkovich in the lead role. It was nominated for Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. 
  • Born March 14, 1957 Tad Williams, 63. Author of the Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn series, Otherland series, and Shadowmarch series as well as the most excellent Tailchaser’s Song and The War of the Flowers
  • Born March 14, 1964 Julia Ecklar, 56. She’s the Astounding Award–winning author for The Kobayashi Maru which is available in English and German ebook editions. She’s also a filk musician who recorded numerous albums in the Off Centaur label in the early 1980s, including Horse-Tamer’s Daughter, Minus Ten and Counting, and Genesis.
  • Born March 14, 1971 Rebecca Roanhorse, 49. Her “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™“ which was first published  in the August 2017 of Apex Magazine won both a Nebula and a Hugo as best short story. She also won the 2018 Astounding Award for Best New Writer. Her novel Trail of Lightning was also a Nebula and Hugo nominee.
  • Born March 14, 1974 Grace Park, 46. Boomer on the reboot of Battlestar Galactica. She’s been on a fair amount of genre over the years with her first acting role being the Virtual Avatar in the “Bits of Love” episode of Outer Limits. After that, she shows up on Secret Agent Man, This Immortal, The Outer Limits again, Star Gate SG-1, Andromeda, and oddly enough, Battlestar Galactica in a number roles other than her main one. I’m sure one of you can explain the latter. 
  • Born March 14, 1978 Butcher Billy, 42. Brazilian artist and graphic designer known for his art pieces and illustration series based on popular culture. Though ISFDB only lists his Strange Stars: David Bowie, Pop Music, and the Decade Sci-Fi Exploded and Jurassic Park piece, he’s active right to the present as he did artwork based on Black Mirrior which in turn led him to being commissioned to do work for the series by series creator Charlie Brooker. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) HIGH CAPACITY. Alasdair Stuart’s “The Full Lid 13th March 2020”  has a report from planet-forming vessel The Future about their recent…Dalek…unpleasantness. Plus —

We’ve also got a detailed look at new James Bond sourcebook Bond Vs Bond, an offer of help for anyone whose projects are marooned due to the ever receding tide of events, an update on where I’m at right now and my favorite Kids in the Hall sketches! Which may not be the ones you think…

Signal Boost this week covers Ginger Nuts of Horror and their series on horror and mental health. It also takes a look at Geek Syndicate‘s latest project, The Nugeroom and the most recent episode of always excellent comics podcast House to Astonish.

Over on the dark side of the street, The Lurking Transmission are one of my favorite new horror podcasts and Dread Singles, home of my favorite esoteric postal deliveries, is launching a newsletter!  We’ve also got the imminent end of season 3 of Flying In The Face of Fate, one of the Lid’s favorite shows. Get caught up here.

Elsewhere, Kat Kourbeti is one of my favorite people and she’s just started a writing/commentary/media newsletter. If you like The Lid you’ll love Honest to Blog
Finally, Liberty is a constellation of podcasts and comics. It’s one of my personal high watermarks for cyberpunk/urban SF and they’ve just lost some listeners due to a server migration. Treat yourself and go check them out.

(13) THE WAY OUT OF HELL. James Davis Nicoll picks out “Five SFF Characters Seeking Redemption and Trying to Do Better”. Here’s one of them:

Harry Connolly’s Twenty Palaces series protagonist Ray Lilly would have been right at home in a hardboiled crime novel. In the weird horror setting in which he lives, Ray’s combination of criminal smarts, blind loyalty, and diminished executive function led him to dabble in the Dark Arts. Unlike most fools who flirt with inadvertently letting extradimensional predators into our world, Ray is given a chance to make amends for his bad judgement. Indeed, he’s not given any choice: Ray will spend the rest of his life fighting the horrors he enabled.

(14) ARE YOU SMURFING ME? Never let it be said they blue their opportunity: “‘It was the chance to say that we are alive’: France hosted a record-breaking Smurf festival amid the escalating coronavirus epidemic”.

The novel coronavirus has assailed more than 100 countries, infecting over 121,000 people and causing over 4,300 deaths. And while the outbreak sparked in China, Europe has not been spared: Italy is on lockdown, cases are escalating in Spain and France, and German leaders are bracing for nearly 70% of the country’s population to contract the illness. Tourist haunts, shops, universities, and entire towns are deserted.

But the mounting fear of this contagion didn’t stop people in western France from setting a Guinness World Record on March 7.

Some 3,500 people dressed up as Smurfs — in blue and white outfits, with painted faces, and toting the characters’ trademark pointed hats — gathered in the town of Landerneau. Their goal was to set a record for the largest-ever gathering of the blue, human-like Belgian comic characters. 

(15) TIMELY QUESTION. The BBC asks “How do you keep a space station clean?”

The astronauts and cosmonauts on board the International Space Station have brought with them a host of bacteria from Earth. How do they keep them from creating havoc?

By 1998, after 12 years in orbit, Russian space station Mir was showing its age. Power cuts were frequent, the computers unreliable and the climate control system was leaking. But when the crew began a study to assess the types of microbes they were sharing their living space with, even they were surprised at what they found.

Opening an inspection panel, they discovered several globules of murky water – each around the size of a football. Later analysis revealed the water was teeming with bacteria, fungi and mites. Even more concerning were the colonies of organisms attacking the rubberised seals around the space station windows and the acid-excreting bugs slowly eating the electrical cabling.

When each Mir module launched from Earth it was near-pristine, assembled in clean rooms by engineers wearing masks and protective clothing. All the unwanted life now living on the station had been carried into orbit by the multinational group of men and women who subsequently occupied the orbiting laboratory.

We share our lives, and bodies, with microbes. From the bacteria lining our gut, to the microscopic mites nibbling at our dead skin, it’s estimated that more than half the cells in our body aren’t human. Most of these microbes are not only harmless but essential, enabling us to digest food and fend off disease. Everywhere we go, we take our microbiome with us and – just like humans – it’s learning to adapt to life in space….

Her research is timely. By November this year, the ISS will have been occupied continuously for 20 years. After the experience of Mir, biologists have been concerned about what else might be living on board and particularly any microbes that might endanger the station, or worse, the astronauts.

(16) SOUL TRAILER. Disney and Pixar’s Soul, in theaters June 19.

Joe Gardner is a middle-school band teacher who gets the chance of a lifetime to play at the best jazz club in town. But one small misstep takes him from the streets of New York City to The Great Before – a fantastical place where new souls get their personalities, quirks and interests before they go to Earth. Determined to return to his life, Joe teams up with a precocious soul, 22, who has never understood the appeal of the human experience. As Joe desperately tries to show 22 what’s great about living, he may just discover the answers to some of life’s most important questions.

(17) THAT’S COOL. Lyles Movie Files praises the decision to speed up the release date: “Frozen 2 debuts on Disney+ tomorrow”.

With little in the way of excitement with the box office delay of Mulan and likely Black Widow, Disney decided to give fans something to be exciting about by releasing Frozen 2 to Disney+ three months ahead of schedule starting Sunday. It was originally set to release June 26.

The film will also arrive on Disney Plus in Canada, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand on Tuesday, March 17.

In a statement, new Disney CEO Bob Chapek said “the themes of perseverance and the importance of family are messages that are incredibly relevant during this time, and we are pleased to be able to share this heartwarming story early with our Disney+ subscribers to enjoy at home on any device.”

(18) MAN TROUBLE. Andrew Porter was tuned into Jeopardy! the other night when contestants collided with this topic:

Category: Male Writers

Answer: “Me, Alex. Him, this serial novelist who oldest WWII correspondent in South Pacific theatre at age 66”

Wrong question: “Who is Michener?”

Right question: “Who is Edgar Rice Burroughs?”

(19) BETTER THAN JURASSIC PARK. “Blood sucking insect stuck in amber with dinosaur DNA is nothing. Whole dinosaur skull preserved in Amber – now you’re talking.” — John Hammond.

In this week’s Nature: “Tiny fossil sheds light on miniaturization of birds”. Tagline “A tiny skull trapped in 99-million-year-old amber suggests that some of the earliest birds evolved to become miniature. The fossil illustrates how ancient amber can act as a window into the distant past.”

Dinosaurs were big, whereas birds — which evolved from dinosaurs — are small. This variation is of great importance, because body size affects lifespan, food requirements, sensory capabilities and many other fundamental aspects of biology. The smallest dinosaurs weighed hundreds of grams, but the smallest living bird, the bee hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae), weighs only 2 grams. How did this difference come about, and why? In a paper in Nature, Xing et al. describe the tiny, fossilized, bird-like skull of a previously unknown species, which they name Oculudentavis khaungraae. The discovery suggests that miniature body sizes in birds evolved earlier than previously recognized, and might provide insights into the evolutionary process of miniaturization.

Full research paper abstract (subscribers only for full paper).

(20) STARGIRL. Here’s the extended version of the Stargirl trailer. Stargirl debuts Monday, May 11 on DC Universe. It will debut on The CW the next day, Tuesday, May 12.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/24/20 I Pass The Test. I Will Comment, And Go Into The Thread, And Remain Galadriel

(1) TFL. Alasdair Stuart’s The Full Lid (24th January 2020) is filled to overflowing —

This week TFL takes a look at all the iconic characters getting third acts, what’s good, what’s bad and who’s missing. I also take a look at the excellent charity ‘zine Visitor’s Pass, inspired by The Magnus Archives, process the emotions of my partner finally being out of the Visa system, embrace the joy of getting weird fiction-related and talk about what’s next for The Full Lid.

Signal Boost this week covers upcoming show PodUK2020 and Escape Artists’ role there, fiercely inventive RPG Trophy hitting Kickstarter, Rachel E. Beck‘s latest cyberpunk thriller becoming available for pre-order and friend and colleague Kit Power prepping to launch the crowdfunding campaign for the first collection of his superb Ginger Nuts of Horror column, My Life in Horror

Here’s an excerpt:

Keep a very, very close eye on the Captain’s Biography series from Titan. Firstly because they’re immense fun (the ‘Edited by’ tag kills me every time) and secondly because they’re a useful canary. Or to put it another way, we’ll know the Pike-Era Enterprise show is a go (and I’m 99% sure it is), once the Chris Pike biography is announced…

Anyway, Janeway is a perfect fit for the Picard treatment. She successfully guided a disparate crew home across an incalculable distance, assisted in dealing a near-mortal blow to Starfleet’s most relentless enemy and happily accepted a promotion, something we know Picard struggled to do. I’d love to see a show following her in the same time period. Interestingly, and with typical eloquence, Kate Mulgrew is less sure. I can see why too. (Incidentally, Mulgrew is fantastic as the narrator of The Space Race, which I’ll be writing about the remainder of here shortly.)

(2) SURVIVOR. CrimeReads’ Maureen Johnson provides “Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village”.

It’s happened. You’ve finally taken that dream trip to England. You have seen Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and Hyde Park. You rode in a London cab and walked all over the Tower of London. Now you’ve decided to leave the hustle and bustle of the city and stretch your legs in the verdant countryside of these green and pleasant lands. You’ve seen all the shows. You know what to expect. You’ll drink a pint in the sunny courtyard of a local pub. You’ll wander down charming alleyways between stone cottages. Residents will tip their flat caps at you as they bicycle along cobblestone streets. It will be idyllic.

Unless you end up in an English Murder Village. It’s easy enough to do. You may not know you are in a Murder Village, as they look like all other villages. So when you visit Womble Hollow or Shrimpling or Pickles-in-the-Woods or Nasty Bottom or Wombat-on-Sea or wherever you are going, you must have a plan. Below is a list of sensible precautions you can take on any trip to an English village. Follow them and you may just live….

 (3) THAT’S THE QUESTION. “Quiz of the week: Do you know Jones’s Python characters?” This week’s BBC News Quiz leads off with a Python question. How many Filers will get it?

(4) FADED. NPR film reviewer Mark Jenkins finds“No Love, Little Craft In Pulpy Body-Horror Flick ‘Color Out Of Space’ “.

It wasn’t like any color I’d ever seen before,” explains a dazed New England patriarch, trying to describe the unearthly phenomena at the center of Color Out of Space. Such an assertion might work in “The Colour Out of Space,” the 1927 story by H.P. Lovecraft, whose work oozes with mysteries that can’t be fully comprehended or even perceived. But viewers of the movie have already seen the unearthly hue by the time it’s so described.

It’s purple.

So are many things in this indigestible stew of modern sci-fi and antiquarian horror, notably Nicolas Cage’s characteristically unhinged performance. Cage plays Nathan Gardner, a failed painter and would-be farmer who’s frantic to protect his wife, three kids, dog, and flock of alpacas. Alpacas? They’re among many additions to the tale that would bewilder its original creator.

Like this movie, Lovecraft’s pulp-fiction mythos combines extraterrestrial and occult threats, although the author was never concerned with plausible science. So it’s not such a stretch that the first Gardner to be introduced is one invented altogether by the filmmakers: teenage Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur), whose blonde tresses are partly dyed, yes, purple. She’s an aspiring witch spied by the movie’s narrator, visiting hydrologist Ward Phillips (Elliot Knight), as she’s performing a ritual in the woods.

…In the original, the narrator arrives years after the events have occurred, and struggles to piece it all together. His investigation leaves questions and doubts, allowing readers to complete the story in their heads and decide for themselves what they believe. Color Out of Space takes a more explicit, less artful course: It turns ominous possibilities into a gory mess that proves utterly unbelievable.

(5) SOMTOW’S NEW OPERA. A story behind a paywall at the Financial Times, however, I was able to access the article from Google (no idea if that will work for you.) The headline is: “Helena Citrónová — Somtow Sucharitkul’s Auschwitz-set opera premieres in Bangkok.”

A work of intriguing moral ambiguity was sung with passionate commitment at the Thailand Cultural Centre 

When he first saw the BBC’s landmark 2005 documentary on Auschwitz, the Thai-born, British-educated composer and author Somtow Sucharitkul was immediately struck by a Slovakian prisoner’s interview about her relationship with a Nazi officer. Sensing its operatic potential, he soon fashioned a libretto inspired by their story. 

The music came later, mostly in fits and starts. But last autumn Somtow unveiled a suite from the opera during a European concert tour, and the piece quickly gained traction after a broadcast in Slovakia. All this helps explain why, amid this month’s 75th anniversary commemorations of the liberation of Auschwitz, the opera Helena Citrónová made its premiere last week in Bangkok with the imprimatur of the German and Israeli ambassadors to Thailand. 

Opera Siam, which Somtow originally formed as the Bangkok Opera in 2001, is a scrappy outfit largely moulded from its founder’s diverse interests. Halfway through presenting south-east Asia’s first Ring Cycle — its Siegfried has been postponed at least twice — the company began devoting resources to Somtow’s epic cycle Ten Lives of the Buddha (it has now reached chapter six).

Emotionally, the evening took its cues directly from Cassandra Black’s Helena and Falko Hönisch’s Nazi guard Franz Wunsch, who acutely revealed their emotional range in one standout scene, in which Franz is interrogated and Helena is tortured (at opposite ends of the stage), smoothly transitioning from dramatic quartet to lyrical love duet. Other standouts (in multiple roles) were Stella Grigorian’s maternal presence as Helena’s sister and Franz’s mother, and Damian Whiteley’s all-round villainy as both chief prisoner and a German captain.

(6) A MERE FORCE GHOST OF ITSELF. Variety says things are looking dark: “Obi-Wan Kenobi Series at Disney Plus Loses Writer, Seeks to Overhaul Scripts”.

Pre-production on the Obi-Wan Kenobi-focused TV series in the works at Disney Plus has been put on hold as the streamer and Lucasfilm look to overhaul early scripts and find new writers, sources tell Variety.

Hossein Amini had been attached to write. The news follows recent talk that the entire series was being scrapped altogether.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 24, 1969 Trek’s “That Which Survives” first aired on NBC.

“What is it, Jim?”

“A planet that even Spock can’t explain.”

– McCoy and Kirk, on the Kalandan outpost

This episode has the Enterprise crew members stranded on a ghost planet and terrorized by Losira, the image of a beautiful woman. (Former Miss America Lee Meriwether plays her.) It was the seventeenth episode of the final season.  It was directed by Herb Wallerstein. It was written by John Meredyth Lucas as based on a story by D.C. Fontana under the pseudonym Michael Richards. In her original “Survival” story, Losira is much more brutal, and actively encourages the crew to turn on each other and fight.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 24, 1911 C. L. Moore. Author and wife of Henry Kuttner until his death in 1958. Their collaborative work resulted in such delightful works as “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” and “Vintage Season”, both of which were turned into films which weren’t as good as the stories. She had a strong writing career prior to her marriage as well with such fiction as “Shambleau” which involves her most famous character Northwest Smith. I’d also single out “Nymph of Darkness” which she wrote with Forrest J Ackerman. I’ll not overlook her Jirel of Joiry, one of the first female sword and sorcery characters, and the “Black God’s Kiss” story is the first tale she wrote of her adventures. She retired from writing genre fiction after Kuttner died, writing only scripts for writing episodes of Sugarfoot, MaverickThe Alaskans and 77 Sunset Strip, in the late fifties and early sixties. Checking iBooks, Deversion Books offers a nearly eleven-hundred page collection of their fiction for a mere three bucks. Is their work in the public domain now? (Died 1987.)
  • Born January 24, 1917 Ernest Borgnine. I think his first genre role was Al Martin in Willard but if y’all know of something earlier I’m sure you’ll tell me. He’s Harry Booth in The Black Hole, a film whose charms still escape me entirely. Next up for him is the cabbie in the superb Escape from New York. In the same year, he was nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor as Isaiah Schmidt in the horror film Deadly Blessing. A few years later, he’s The Lion in a version of Alice in WonderlandMerlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders is horror and his Grandfather isn’t that kindly. He voices Kip Killigan in Small Soldiers which I liked, and I think his last role was voicing Command in Enemy Mind. Series wise let’s see…  it’s possible that his first SF role was as Nargola on Captain Video and His Video Rangers way back in 1951. After that he shows up in, and I’ll just list the series for the sake of brevity, Get SmartFuture CopThe Ghost of Flight 401Airwolf where of course he’s regular cast, Treasure Island in Outer Space and Touched by an Angel. (Died 2012.)
  • Born January 24, 1937 Julie Gregg. A performer that showed up in a lot of SFF series though never in a primary role. She was in Batman: The Movie as a Nightclub Singer (uncredited) in her first genre role, followed by three appearances on the series itself, two as the Finella character; one-offs on I Dream of Genie, Bewitched, The Flying Nun, Mission: Impossible, Kolchak: The Night Stalker and Incredible Hulk followed. Her only lead role was as Maggie Spencer in Mobile One which can’t even be stretched to be considered genre adjacent. (Died 2016.)
  • Born January 24, 1944 David Gerrold, 76. Let’s see… He of course scripted “The Trouble With Tribbles” which I absolutely love, wrote the amazing patch-up novel When HARLIE Was One, has his ongoing War Against the Chtorr series and wrote, with Robert J. Sawyer, Boarding the Enterprise: Transporters, Tribbles, and the Vulcan Death Grip in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek. Besides his work as a novel writer, he’s been a screenwriter for Star Trek, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Land of the Lost, Logan’s Run (the series), Superboy, Babylon 5, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Sliders, Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II, and Axanar. Very, very impressive.
  • Born January 24, 1949 John Belushi. No, he was no in a single SFF series or film that I can mention here though he did voice work on one such undertaking early in his career that I’ll not mention here as it’s clearly pornographic in nature. No, he’s here for his brilliant parody of Shatner as Captain Kirk which he did on Saturday Night Live which you can watch here. (Died 1982.)
  • Born January 24, 1967 Phil LaMarr, 53. Best known I think for his voice work which, and this is a partial list, includes Young Justice (Aquaman among others), the lead role on Static Shock, John Stewart aka Green Lantern on Justice League Unlimited, Robbie Robertson on The Spectacular Spider-Man, various roles on Star Wars: The Clone Wars and T’Shan on Black Panther. Live roles include playing a Jazz singer in the  “Shoot Up the Charts” episode of Get Smart, a doctor on The Muppets in their ”Generally Inhospitable” segment, a lawyer in the “Weaponizer” episode of Lucifer and the voice of Rag Doll in the “All Rag Doll’d Up” episode of The Flash
  • Born January 24, 1970 Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock, 50. It’s been awhile since I’ve done an academic so let’s have one. He’s not a specialist — instead he’s tackled the Gothic (The Cambridge Companion to the American Gothic), cult television (Return to Twin Peaks: New Approaches to Materiality, Theory, and Genre on Television), popular culture (Critical Approaches to Welcome to Night Vale: Podcasting Between Weather and the Void) and even cult film (Reading Rocky: The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Popular Culture). His The Age of Lovecraft anthology (co-edited with Carl Sederhlm) has an interview by him with China Miéville on Lovecraft.  
  • Born January 24, 1985 Remy Ryan, 35. You most likely remember as her as ever-so-cute hacker urchin in RoboCop 3 who saves the day at the end of that film. She actually had her start in acting in Beauty and the Beast at four and was in The Flash a year later. At twelve, she’s in Mann & Machine. A year later is when she’s that urchin. Her last genre undertaking was in The Lost Room eight years ago and she retired from acting not long after.

(9) RETRO ROCKETS. Cora Buhlert covers another 1944 contender — “Retro Review: ‘The Lake’ by Ray Bradbury”.

“The Lake” is a short story by Ray Bradbury, which was first published in the May 1944 issue of Weird Tales and is therefore eligible for the 1945 Retro Hugos. The story may be found online here. This review is also crossposted to Retro Science Fiction Reviews.

Warning: There will be spoilers in the following….

(10) OVER THERE. Galactic Journey’s Mark Yon review two new (in 1965) issues of British prozines: “[January 24, 1965] A New Beginning… New Worlds and Science Fantasy Magazine, January/February 1965”.

Summing up New Worlds

New Worlds is an eclectic mixture this month and there are signs that Moorcock is making his own stamp on the magazine. The addition of factual science articles and more literary reviews reflect this, and it must be said that the expansion of literary criticism has been one of Mike’s intentions since he took over as Editor. It’ll be interesting to see how the regular readers respond to it.

By including such material of course means that there’s less space for fiction, and I suspect that whilst that might ease Moorcock’s load a little – he is writing and editing a fair bit of it, after all – it may not sit well with readers. But then we are now monthly…

(11) TROPES IN SPACE. If, like me, you don’t remember ever hearing about 1990’s computer game “Master of Orion”, no problem — Digital Antiquarian tells us everything we missed. And about a few other PC sff games, too.

…A new game of Master of Orion begins with you choosing a galaxy size (from small to huge), a difficulty level (from simple to impossible), and a quantity of opposing aliens to compete against (from one to five). Then you choose which specific race you would like to play; you have ten possibilities in all, drawing from a well-worn book of science-fiction tropes, from angry cats in space to hive-mind-powered insects, from living rocks to pacifistic brainiacs, alongside the inevitable humans. Once you’ve made your choice, you’re cast into the deep end — or rather into deep space — with a single half-developed planet, a colony ship for settling a second planet as soon as you find a likely candidate, two unarmed scout ships for exploring for just such a candidate, and a minimal set of starting technologies.

(12) ABOUT WHAT YOU’D EXPECT. Mad Genius Club’s Peter Grant hasn’t quite learned how to fake sincerity: “Things To Ponder”.

…Whilst I don’t sexually objectify (or subjectify, for that matter) attack helicopters in any way (the ones I saw in my younger days, I was usually trying to shoot down!), and I’m more of a transgressor than a transgender, I nevertheless sympathize with the author.

(13) DEER LORD ABOVE, WHY? SYFY Wire reports “Bambi to get The Lion King treatment as latest Disney ‘live-action’ remake”.

The Lion King won’t be the only Disney film about an animal losing a parent to be made even more realistic and emotional thanks to modern technology. Now the 1942 animated classic Bambi will be getting what Disney calls a “live-action” remake (even though it’s actually impressive CGI that aims to be photoreal).

(14) THE MUMMY SPEAKS. “Egyptian priest’s voice heard 3,000 years after death” — 2-second video.

The voice of a 3,000-year-old ancient Egyptian priest has been recreated using cutting-edge 3D printing and speech technology.

Nesyamun’s voice was reproduced as a vowel-like sound that is reminiscent of a sheep’s bleat.

The research – carried out by academics at Royal Holloway, University of London, the University of York and Leeds Museum – is published in the Scientific Reports journal.

He distinctly said “To blave.”

(15) MMM-MMM-GOOD? “Space cookies: First food baked in space by astronauts”.

Chocolate chip cookies have become the first food to be baked in space in a first-of-its-kind experiment.

Astronauts baked the cookies in a special zero-gravity oven at the International Space Station (ISS) last month.

Sealed in individual baking pouches, three of the cookies returned to Earth on the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft on 7 January.

The aim of the experiment was to study cooking options for long-haul trips.

The results of the experiment, carried out by astronauts Luca Parmitano and Christina Koch, were revealed this week.

The question is: how do they taste? The answer: nobody knows, yet

A spokesman for Double Tree, the company that supplied the dough, told the BBC the cookies would “soon undergo additional testing by food science professionals to determine the final results of the experiment”.

These tests will establish whether the cookies are safe to eat.

(16) PROTO ST. AQUIN. “What we can learn about robots from Japan”, according to BBC writer Amos Zeeberg.

While the West tends to see robots and artificial intelligence as a threat, Japan has a more philosophical view that has led to the country’s complex relationship with machines.

At a certain 400-year-old Buddhist temple, visitors can stroll through peaceful stone gardens, sit for a quiet cup of tea, and receive Buddhist teachings from an unusual priest: an android named Mindar. It has a serene face and neutral appearance, neither old nor young, male nor female. Beyond the realistic skin covering its head and upper torso, it looks unfinished and industrial, with exposed tubes and machinery. But Mindar is philosophically quite sophisticated, discoursing on an abstruse Buddhist text called the Heart Sutra.

If you had to figure out where you could find this robotic priest, you might need only one guess to conclude it’s in Japan, at the beautiful Kodai-ji Temple in Kyoto. Japan has long been known as a nation that builds and bonds with humanoid robots more enthusiastically than any other. While this reputation is often exaggerated abroad – Japanese homes and businesses are not densely populated by androids, as hyperventilating headlines imply – there is something to it.

Some observers of Japanese society say that the country’s indigenous religion, Shinto, explains its fondness for robots. Shinto is a form of animism that attributes spirits, or kami, not only to humans but to animals, natural features like mountains, and even quotidien objects like pencils. “All things have a bit of soul,” in the words of Bungen Oi, the head priest of a Buddhist temple that held funerals for robotic companion dogs.

According to this view, there is no categorical distinction between humans, animals, and objects, so it is not so strange for a robot to demonstrate human-like behaviours – it’s just showing its particular kind of kami. “For Japanese, we can always see a deity inside an object,” says Kohei Ogawa, Mindar’s lead designer.

Japan’s animism stands in contrast with the philosophical traditions of the West. Ancient Greeks were animistic in that they saw spirits in natural places like streams, but they thought of the human soul and mind as distinctly separate from and above the rest of nature.

(17) FAST SHOOTING. Via Slashdot: “Ultrafast Camera Takes 1 Trillion Frames Per Second of Transparent Objects, Phenomena”.

After developing the world’s fastest camera a little over a year ago, Caltech’s Lihong Wang decided that wasn’t good enough and started working on an even faster device. A new paper published in the journal Science Advances details a new camera from Wang that can take up to 1 trillion pictures per second of transparent objects.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Le Silence de la Rue” on Vimeo, Marie Opron discusses the hazards of city life.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/24/19 Scroll If You Must This Old Great Head, But Dare Not Say Aught Bad About Cheesecake

(1) LE GUIN FELLOWSHIP. Shelley Streeby is the 2019 winner of the Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship sponsored by UO Libraries’ Special Collections and University Archives at the University of Oregon. [Via Locus Online.]

The intention of the Le Guin Feminist Science Fiction Fellowship is to encourage research within collections in the area of feminist science fiction. The UO Libraries Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA) houses the papers of authors Ursula K. Le Guin, Joanna Russ, James Tiptree, Jr., Kate Wilhelm, Suzette Haden Elgin, Sally Miller Gearhart, Kate Elliot, Molly Gloss, Laurie Marks, and Jessica Salmonson, along with Damon Knight…

This award supports travel for the purpose of research on, and work with, the papers of feminist science fiction authors housed in SCUA. These short-term research fellowships are open to undergraduates, master’s and doctoral students, postdoctoral scholars, college and university faculty at every rank, and independent scholars working in feminist science fiction. In 2019, $2,000 will be awarded to conduct research within these collections.

(2) FOR THE COOKIE MONSTER WHO LIVES WITH YOU. Bustle tells how Trader Joe’s Haunted House Chocolate Cookie Kit bridges the holidays.

Just in case you missed it, all of Trader Joe’s Halloween and pumpkin products have officially hit shelves for 2019, so autumn is finally in full delicious swing. Joining all of our spooky favorites in this year’s lineup is the Trader Joe’s Haunted House Chocolate Cookie Kit, a crowd-pleaser and returner from last year that will tide you over until gingerbread house season finally arrives. (Although this is arguably much better — what gingerbread house can also boast that it’s haunted?)

As usual, Joe is nothing if not prepared — the kit comes ready with everything your spooky little HGTV-loving heart desires. It contains six different chocolate cookie pieces to make up the house, plus an extra cookie ghost for spooky ambiance.

(3) BAD CHECK TREK. John G. Hertzler, who played Martok on Star Trek: Deep Space 9, has written a Facebook post about his bad experience with Jerry Silber of NE Trek Con in Albany, NY in 2016.

…Just as he did with Aron [Eisenberg] and Bob [O’Reilly], at the conclusion of the convention, Mr. Silber looked me straight in the eye and handed me a bad check that he not only failed to write a number that agreed with the alphabetical amount but he post dated it for nearly a week in the future. He knew what he was doing! I didn’t notice because I trusted him. Bob trusted him. Aron trusted him. Mike Friedman trusted him. Garrett Wang, Max Grodenchik, Chris Abbott trusted him. All were handed bad checks. All were stiffed at the end of the weekend during which we all gave 110% of our ability to entertain and inspire the fans of Star Trek. Aron gave perhaps a little more…like 150%…but he always did. It’s not the money….it’s the betrayal of trust and then the dishonesty. Because I live in New York state, it was fairly simple for me to sue Mr. Silber in small claims court to make good on his check. The judge listened to both sides of the issue and found in my favor in approximately 5 minutes. A judgement was made against Mr. Silber that would follow him about for 20 years or until paid. In two days, it was paid. Somehow he found the money! That was great for me but there were my friends and colleagues who were still left with nothing….

(4) SUPERSTINKERS. James Davis Nicoll makes it sound like you want to be careful not to create any gaps in your urban ecology, because who knows what will move into it: “The Care and Feeding of Supervillains” at Tor.com.

…After all, it’s a lot easier to track down people in bright, garish costumes whose mental quirks compel them to leave riddles, jokes, maps, and large billboards hinting at crimes to come. This is the moment where our roof-runner should stop and think.

Mishandling these eccentrics means the difference between living somewhere like the Silver Age Central City, where rogues were willing to follow rules of engagement, or living somewhere more like the Punisher’s New York, where every encounter is going to end with a corpse….

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 24, 1956 — The world’s first transatlantic telephone cable, from Clarenville, Newfoundland, to Oban, Scotland, began operation.
  • September 24, 1995Space: Above and Beyond with debut the first two episodes, “Pilot” and “Omega Squadron” airing as a single film. It would last a single season.
  • September 24, 2007 — The Journeyman series debuted. Marketed as a “time travel science fiction romance” series, NBC didn’t renew it after the run of its first thirteen episodes was done.
  • Septembr 24, 2009 FlashForward first aired.  Adapted for television by Brannon Braga and David S. Goyer, it was based on the novel Flashforward by Robert J. Sawyer. It lasted for one season. 
  • September 24, 2013 — Marvel’s Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. first aired on the ABC Network.  Six seasons later, it’s still going strong. 

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 24, 1922 Bert Gordon, 97. Film director most famous for such science fiction and horror films as The Amazing Colossal ManVillage of the Giants and The Food of the Gods (based of course on the H.G. Wells’ novel The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth).  His nickname “Mister B.I.G.” was a reference both to his initials and to his preference for directing movies featuring super-sized creatures.
  • Born September 24, 1930 Jack Gaughan. Artist and illustrator who won the Hugo several times including once for Best Professional Artist and Best Fan Artist in the same year. Most of his from 1970 onward was for Ace and DAW. He illustrated the covers and hand-lettered title pages for the unauthorized first paperback edition of The Lord of the Rings which Ace released in 1965. (Died 1985.)
  • Born September 24, 1934 John Brunner. Favorite works? The Shockwave Rider, the Hugo Award winning Stand on Zanzibar and The Sheep Look Up. That was easy. What’s your favorite works by him? (Died 1995.)
  • Born September 24, 1936 —  Jim Henson. As much as I love The Muppet Show, I think The Storyteller is his best work. That’s not to overlook Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal which are also excellent.  (Died 1990.)
  • Born September 24, 1945 Ian Stewart, 74. Mathematician and writer. He makes the Birthday Honors for the four volumes in The Science of Discworld series he wrote with Jack Cohen and Terry Pratchett. Each segment of the book alternates between the usually absurd Discworld story and serious scientific exposition. He did write two novels with Jack Cohen, Wheelers and Heaven
  • Born September 24, 1951 David Banks, 68. During the Eighties, he was the Cyberleader on Doctor Who in all stories featuring the Cybermen — Earthshock, The Five Doctors, Attack of the Cybermen and Silver Nemesis. In 1989, he played the part of Karl the Mercenary in the Doctor Who: The Ultimate Adventure stage play. There were two performances where he appeared as The Doctor as he replaced Jon Pertwee who had fallen ill.
  • Born September 24, 1957 Brad Bird, 62. Animator, director, screenwriter, producer, and occasionally even a voice actor whom I’m going praise directing for The Iron Giant, The IncrediblesIncredibles 2 and Tomorrowland. He’s the voice of Edna Mode in both the Incredibles films. 
  • Born September 24, 1965 Richard K. Morgan, 54. The Takeshi Kovacs novels are an awesome series  which is why I haven’t watch the video series. His fantasy series, A Land Fit For Heroes, is on my TBR, well, my To Be Listened To pile now. 
  • Born September 24, 1979 Justin Bruening, 40. Seriously who really thought did we needed a reboot of the Knight Rider series? I know it was one where he played Mike Traceur, the son of character Michael Knight, but still… it lasted a pilot film plus eighteen episodes. He went one to to cast as Benjamin Price in  Ravenswood, a supernatural drama that got cancelled after one season. And intriguingly he was cast as Steve Trevor in Wonder Woman, a never-broadcast television pilot. 

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Maria Scrivan delivers a Star Wars chicken joke.
  • The Flying McCoys matches up Bigfoot with another well-known reference and winds up with a pretty funny cartoon.

(8) SCI-FI STANDBY. Titan Comics is reissuing the first two years of adventures from the iconic, British classic Dan Dare written and drawn by David Motton and Keith Watson — reprinted for the first time ever.

(9) HARD-WORKING BIDDER. Hampus Eckerman was amazed at what he received from the Glasgow in 2024 bid chair: “They’re sending out handwritten letters and pins!!”

(10) NO MATTER WHAT YOU MAY HAVE HEARD. “Cats are just as loyal to their owners as dogs, study finds” – an article in the Independent.

…Dr Kristyn Vitale, lead author of the study, said: “Cats that are insecure can be likely to run and hide or seem to act aloof.

“There’s long been a biased way of thinking that all cats behave in this way but the majority of cats use their owner as a source of security.”

Vitale continued: “Your cat is depending on you to feel secure when they are stressed.”

For the study, the team of researchers replicated situation tests that were originally designed in the 1970s to help evaluate the parent-infant bond.

But, instead of parents and infants, the scientists tested the relationship between 108 cats – including 70 kittens and 38 adult felines – and their owners.

(11) REPRESENTATION CONTROVERSY. In the Washington Post, Lindsey Beyer says that there is a conflict between Autism Speaks and the Autistic Self Advocacy Network over the character of Julia, an autistic character who has been part of the Muppet cast since 2017. “How a ‘Sesame Street’ Muppet became embroiled in a controversy over autism”.

… An autistic “Sesame Street” Muppet is caught in a conflict between the most prominent autism organization in the United States advocating for early intervention, and autistic adults who see the condition as a difference, not a disease needing to be cured….

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), an organization run by and for autistic people, announced it had cut ties with “Sesame Street” after the children’s program partnered with Autism Speaks to make the Muppet the face of a public service campaign encouraging early screening and diagnosis of autism. ASAN has accused Autism Speaks of using “language of acceptance and understanding to push resources that further stigmatize and treat autistic people as burdens on our families.” It contends that resource materials from Autism Speaks encourage parents “to view autism as a terrible disease from which their child can ‘get better.’ ”

(12) LIPS ARE SEALED, EVEN IF ISS ISN’T. Newsweek reports that “Russia Refuses to Tell NASA What Caused Mystery Leak on ISS”.

Russia has said it knows what caused the air leak on board the International Space Station in 2018 but intends to keep it a secret, with its space agency head Dmitry Rogozin stating: “We won’t tell you anything.”

The leak, which caused a drop in pressure, took place on 29 August, 2018. After investigating the cause, the crew found a small hole—0.07 inches in diameter—and fixed it using heat-resistant tape. It was in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft docked at the ISS and it posed no threat to any of the astronauts on board.

(13) DESSERT TOPPING? FLOOR WAX? BBC tells how “Nasa’s IceSat space laser tracks water depths from orbit”.

Scientists say one of the US space agency’s (Nasa) new Earth observers is going to have a transformative impact in an unexpected area.

The IceSat-2 laser mission was launched a year ago to measure the shape of Antarctica and Greenland, and to track the thickness of Arctic sea-ice.

But early results show a remarkable capability also to sense water depths.

IceSat’s laser light penetrates up to 40m in the clearest conditions, opening up a raft of new applications.

“As much as people think all areas on Earth have been reasonably well mapped, it’s really not true when you start looking at shallow water areas,” said Dr Christopher Parrish from Oregon State University.

“We’ve got huge data voids from the shoreline out to about 5m water depth.

“This hinders our ability to study things like inundation, the effects of major storms, and the changes to coral reef habitat.”

A project has already started to map the seafloor around low-lying Pacific islands and atolls, which will assist tsunami preparedness for example.

The capability should also enable scientists to work out the volumes of inland water bodies to help quantify Earth’s global freshwater reserves.

(14) NO BALONEY SHORTAGE. “Snopes: How do you survive 25 years debunking fake news?”

…Snopes began as a forum for sharing and investigating urban legends and cool folklore.

But in a world where “fake news” dominates, where disinformation is a part of the political sphere and misinformation touches every single corner of the internet, what is it about this online encyclopaedia which has made it become the go-to bible for many fact-checkers?

And how is it evolving to deal with the current landscape?

…David Mikkelson, the co-founder of Snopes, says: “People come to look up things they’ve encountered on the internet and find out whether they are true or not.

…”The standards we use for fact-checking are about going after what most people are questioning or asking about.

“We don’t make any judgments about what’s too silly or obvious or frivolous or not important enough.”

However he added that sometimes he found it disconcerting what the audience considered to be important and how it was sometimes very different to what his team would consider reporting.

“There may be rumours of a chemical attack against civilians in Syria and all sorts of rumours about whether that happened and who was involved. There are questions around did the government do it; was it an outside force etc and that doesn’t get much interest.

“But then you might have a ridiculous story about something like a woman giving birth in an elevator and it gets millions of views.”

(15) STORM SNOOPERS. An amusing account of the mass storming of Area 51 in the Guardian: “I ‘stormed’ Area 51 and it was even weirder than I imagined”.

…My neighbors at the parking lot-slash-campsite were a punk band called Foreign Life Form. They weren’t part of the planned music lineup, one Life Form explained as he ate Chef Boyardee room-temperature from a can, but when they heard about Alienstock, it seemed like fate.

My other neighbor, an erudite, joint-smoking history podcaster from Oregon, wore a T-shirt that said “Take me to your dealer”. He and his son had had the shirts custom-made; the Life Forms were disappointed they couldn’t buy some….

(16) BOT TO TROT. On eBay, bidding is up to $50,100 for this “15-Ton 2-Story Tall Gasoline Powered Car-Smashing Piloted Giant Battle Robot”. Or is that 12 tons? Opinions differ. “This giant 12-ton fighting robot is on sale for $1” says the New York Post.

One man’s 12-ton, 16-foot-tall fighting robot is another man’s treasure.

Eagle Prime, the crown jewel of MegaBots Inc.’s fleet of sci-fi-inspired piloted robots, is being sold on eBay with bids starting at a single dollar. Founded by Gui Cavalcanti, Matt Oehrlein and Andrew Stroup, the company is shuttering operations amid money trouble. Their latest high jinks, a futuristic bot battle between the US and Canada, drew thin crowds online.

“It was meant to be monster trucks meets UFC with a hint of WWE,” Oehrlein tells The Post. “The goal was to build a multibillion-dollar sports league of robots fighting in stadiums.”

(17) GETTING IN THE MOOD FOR HALLOWEEN. The Valley Relic Museum in Los Angeles has lined up a scary panel event.

“For the last twenty years, I have been fascinated with the ghost stories of Los Angeles. One of my favorite pastimes is to explore historical and haunted locations in the area. This past year I’ve turned my hobby into a podcast and I have been interviewing people about their personal ghost stories as well as exploring haunted locations in Los Angeles and beyond for my podcast Ghost Magnet, from the Playboy Mansion to the house on Cielo Drive (associated with the Sharon Tate Murder) there is no shortage of ghost stories or paranormal activity,” says Bridget Marquardt.

[Thanks to Hampus Eckerman, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, JJ, bill, James Davis Nicoll, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, mlex, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 6/7/19 Saturday Night’s All Right For Scrolling, Get A Little Pixel In

(1) AWARDS AT AUSSIE NATCON. Opening night at Continuum 15, the Australian National Convention, saw Lucy Sussex and Julian Warner win a special prize for their services to the Nova Mob and Melbourne fandom generally. The committee also presented Bruce R. Gillespie with the Eternity Award for his long-time fannish achievements. (Still looking for a photo of the latter.)

(2) PRIDE OF 2018. Rocket Stack Rank assembled its annual “Outstanding LGBT Science Fiction & Fantasy of 2018 article”.

June is Pride Month, and here are 56 outstanding short stories with LGBT characters from 2018 that were finalists for major SF/F awards (9), included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies (5), or recommended by prolific reviewers. 37 are free online!

This list could be useful for making nominations for the 2019 Gaylactic Spectrum Awards for Best Short Fiction (published in 2010-2018). Anyone can nominate through June 30, 2019. Stories from 2018 are below.

(3) BY THE TIME I GET TO PHOENIX. NPR’s Glen Weldon reports that “‘Dark Phoenix’ Channels The Cosmic Power Of The Comics, Avoids Going Down In Flames”:

Thanks to a sure(ish) grip on Marvel’s mutants-as-metaphor approach to storytelling, the film brings a classic comics storyline to life. Sure, it’s melodramatic — but that’s the X-Men for you.

…Characters turn against one another in ways that the comics had ample time to lay plenty of track for, but that the film can’t and doesn’t. The dialogue is clunky, and at times it turns so deeply purple you expect it to break into “Smoke on the Water” — but hey, it’s X-Men. The closest thing we get to a joke is a scene in which McAvoy gets to call up the surprising smarminess he brought to the Xavier character in First Class, as he soaks up the adulation of a grateful nation at an event in the White House.

(4) FANHISTORY REMEMBERED. Usually when this happens it’s a hoax convention bid that decides it’s serious after all, however, Femizine was a fanzine created under a pseudonym that took on a serious life of its own. Now featuring on Rob Hansen’s UK fanhistory site THEN:

‘Joan Carr’ did not exist. She was created as a hoax to be played primarily on the Nor’west Science Fantasy Club (NSFC), who then met regularly in Manchester. Hiding behind that pseudonym was a man – H. P. ‘Sandy’ Sanderson. Though initially edited by him, FEMIZINE soon developed a life of its own, becoming a rallying point for female fans in the UK during the 1950s. This was the decade in which women first really began to assert themselves in the hitherto male-dominated SF fandom of these isles. In this context FEMIZINE is a fanzine that is both historically and culturally significant. FEMIZINE ran from 1954 to 1960 and saw fifteen issues in all, plus mini versions bound into a couple of combozines.

Note: As with most fanzines that are many decades old you will occasionally encounter words and attitudes that would be unacceptable today. Decades from now similar warnings may well be considered necessary for today’s fanzines as social attitudes continue to evolve.

Rob Hansen has two issues already scanned in and adds, “We are hoping to upload one issue per week.” He’s also assembled a contemporary photo gallery of many of those who contributed to ‘FEZ’.

(5) TALKING ABOUT TOLKIEN MOVIE. All About Jack: A C.S. Lewis Podcast hosted a “Discussion of Tolkien Biopic ([Diana]Glyer and [Brenton] Dickieson)”.

In May 2019 a biopic on J.R.R. Tolkien, simply entitled Tolkien was released. While there has been no shortage of opinions on the film, I wanted to add some thoughts on it for those who follow this podcast. Two guests join me to share a hopeful perspective about the movie while acknowledging its shortcomings. They are Dr. Diana Glyer, a respected scholar on Tolkien and Lewis, and Brenton Dickieson who is a Lewis scholar nearing his completion of Ph.D. studies on Lewis.

(6) THREE DEGREES OF RAY BRADBURY. The Zoot Suit Riots led to Edward James Olmos playing the lead in the play, Zoot Suit.  Edward James Olmos played Vamanos in Ray’s play and movie of the same name, The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit. Edward James Olmos has said his first paid acting job was in Ray’s first stage production, in Chicago. “The Zoot Suit Riots Happened This Week, 76 Years Ago. Here’s A Look Back At The Fashion Statement That Sparked A Racist Mob” at LAist.

(7) WHEN I’M IN ’64. At Galactic Journey, Kaye Dee reports on the test flight of Australia’s satellite launcher: [June 6, 1964] Going Up from Down Under (The launch of the Blue Streak rocket)

…At least yesterday’s first test launch of the Blue Streak was a success. Although there was a problem with sloshing of the propellant as the fuel tanks emptied which caused the rocket to roll about quite a bit in the last few seconds of its flight and to land short of its intended target zone, the instrumentation along the flight corridor acquired a huge amount of useful information about the rockets performance. I was so thrilled with the news of the Blue Streak flight that I even phoned my former supervisor Mary Whitehead last night to hear more about it (and I’m going to have to give my sister the money for that long-distance trunk call, which I’m sure will be expensive).

Mary was at the Range for the launch and she told me that the rocket looked spectacular as it rose up into the blue sky out of its cloud of orange exhaust. She’s especially proud of the fact that the zigzag pattern you can see on the Blue Streak was her idea. It enables the tracking cameras to make very accurate measurements as the rocket rolls after leaving the launchpad. Using the pattern, the cameras can easily measure if, and how far, the rocket rolls depending on where that diagonal was relative to the top and bottom stripes. I know she’s looking forward to seeing how well this worked.

I’m looking forward to the next test flight, and Australia’s further involvement in the Space Age!

(8) MORE HISTORIC HUGO STATS. Kevin Standlee announced “Hugo History Updates Posted” at The Hugo Awards.

We have now added the Full Nominating and Voting Statistics historical data for the 1943 Retro Hugo Awards (awarded in 2018), 1946 Retro Hugo Awards (awarded in 1996), and 1954 Retro Hugo Awards (awarded in 2004).

We continue to update historical data for past Hugo Awards as data becomes available to us. If you have historical Hugo Award data (such as nominating and voting statistics) that are not shown on the page for that year’s Awards, please contact us so we can add it.

(9) HAPPY BIRTHDAY TETRIS. NPR lights the candles: “Happy Birthday, Tetris. 35 Years Later You’re As Addictive And Tetromino-y As Ever”. Chip Hitchcock notes, “I remember when the mantra for Noreascon 2 concom was “Just Say No to Tetris”.

Thirty-five years ago in Moscow, working on what he says was “an ugly Russian” computer that was frankensteined together with spare parts, Alexey Pajitnov started a side project that has become the second-best-selling video game of all time: Tetris.

…Two years later, in 1986, it became the first computer game from the Soviet Union to be released in the West, Engadget reports. Since then it has sold more than 170 million copies around the world, adapting to a vast array of consoles and platforms over the years. In other words, it was and continues to be a commercial juggernaut that has touched lives of hundreds of millions of players.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 7, 1909 Jessica Tandy. Though her genre career came late in life, her films were certainly some of the most charming made —  CocoonBatteries Not Included for which she won a Saturn Award for Best Actress and Cocoon: The Return. Both of the Cocoon films saw her nominated for the same Award. Well one film isn’t charming — Still of the Night is a psychological horror thriller. (Died 1994.)
  • Born June 7, 1932 Kit Reed. Her first short story, “The Wait” (1958), was published by Anthony Boucher in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. She would write more stories than I care to count over her career for which she was nominated for the James Tiptree Jr. Award three times. I’m not at all familiar with her novels, so do tell me about them please. Amazon has very little by her, but iBooks has a generous amount of her fiction available. (Died 2017.)
  • Born June 7, 1944 Mildred Downey Broxon, 75. Author of three novels and some short stories, heavy on Nordic-German mythology.  The Demon of Scattery was co-written with Poul Anderson. There are no digital books available for her and her printed editions are out of print now. I see no sign that her short fiction has been collected into a volume to date.
  • Born June 7, 1952 Liam Neeson, 67. He first shows up in genre films as Gawain in Excalibur and as Kegan in Krull. He plays Martin Brogan In High Spirits, a film I enjoy immensely. Next up is the title role in Darkman, a film I’ve watched myriad times. He’s Dr. David Marrow in The Haunting which I’d contend is loosely off of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. Now we get him as Qui-Gon Jinn in The Phantom Menace. Followed unfortunately by his horrid take as Ra’s al Ghul in Batman Begins and as a cameo in the The Dark Knight Rises. Now he voiced Aslan with amazing dignity in The Chronicles of Narnia franchise and I hope voiced Zeus as well in the Titans franchise. 
  • Born June 7, 1954 Louise Erdrich, 65. Writer of novels, poetry, and children’s books featuring Native American characters and settings. She is an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. Her genre work includes according to ISFDB the Ojibwe series of The Antelope Wife which won a World Fantasy Award and The Painted Drum, plus stand-alone novels of The Crown of Columbus (co-written with her husband Michael Dorris) and Future Home of the Living God.
  • Born June 7, 1954 Anthony Simcoe, 50. Ka D’Argo in  Farscape, one of the best SF series ever done. If you don’t watch anything else, just watch the finale, The Peacekeeper Wars as it’s fairly self contained. Farscape is the SF he did. If you can find a copy, Matt Bacon’s No Strings Attached: The Inside Story of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop is a wonderful look at the creation of the creatures on the show including D’Argo facial appendages. 
  • Born June 7, 1972 Karl Urban, 47. He’s in the second and third installments of The Lord of the Rings trilogy as Éomer. He has was McCoy in the Trek reboot franchise, Cupid on Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, John Kennex on Almost Human, Vaako in the Riddick film franchise, and Judge Dredd in Dredd. For the record, I liked  both Dredd films.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Half Full illustrates more benefits of printed books.

(12) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman hopes you will “Bite into what USA Today dubbed the best burger in Michigan with award-winning horror writer John R. Little” and listen to his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

[Lunch was] with John R. Little at The Cottage Bar & Restaurant, a local institution which has been around since 1927.

USA Today says they serve the best burger in Michigan. But what did John and I think of it? Well, for that, you’ll have to give this episode a listen.

John’s a four-time finalist for the Bram Stoker Award, starting back with his first novel, The Memory Tree, in 2008. He won the following year in the category of Long Fiction for “Miranda,” for which he also won a Black Quill Award. His short fiction has been published in Cavalier (his first, in 1983), Twilight Zone, Weird Tales, Dark Discoveries, and other magazines, plus anthologies such as You, Human and Haunted Nights. His most recent novel is The Murder of Jesus Christ.

We discussed how seeing his sister’s portable typewriter for the first time changed his life forever, the way he launched his career by following in Stephen King’s men’s magazine footsteps, why he’s so fascinated by time and how he manages to come up with new ways of writing about that concept, which writer’s career he wanted when he grew up and how buying a copy of Carrie changed that, the reason a science major has ended up mostly writing horror, the most important thing he learned from a night school’s creative writing course, which of his new novel’s controversial aspects concerned him the most during creation, and much more.

(13) TAKE ME OUT TO THE BALL GAME. Cut4 has photos — “The Pirates represented nearly every comic/superhero universe with their road trip costumes”.

The mash-up provided by the Pirates as they headed to the airport for a road trip on Thursday afternoon is one of the biggest convergences of realms and universes we’ve seen in a long time — maybe ever. Here’s a preview, featuring the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Batman and Robin, Wolverine (in and out of costume) and … Jesus:

(14) BUGS, MISTER RICO! “Spotted: A Swarm Of Ladybugs So Huge, It Showed Up On National Weather Service Radar”NPR has the story.

“It was very strange because it was a relatively clear day and we weren’t really expecting any rain or thunderstorms,” Casey Oswant, a NWS meteorologist in San Diego, tells NPR. “But on our radar, we were seeing something that indicated there was something out there.”

So the meteorologists called a weather spotter in Wrightwood, Calif., near the blob’s location in San Bernardino County. Oswant says the spotter told them the mysterious cloud was actually a giant swarm of ladybugs.

The phenomenon is known as a ladybug “bloom,” and while this one appears particularly large, Oswant says it’s not the first time local meteorologists have spotted the beetles.

(15) WE KNEW THAT. BBC reports “Ultimate limit of human endurance found”. Wait, they didn’t already discover this when Freff stayed awake through nearly the entire 1972 Worldcon?

The ultimate limit of human endurance has been worked out by scientists analysing a 3,000 mile run, the Tour de France and other elite events.

They showed the cap was 2.5 times the body’s resting metabolic rate, or 4,000 calories a day for an average person.

Anything higher than that was not sustainable in the long term.

The research, by Duke University, also showed pregnant women were endurance specialists, living at nearly the limit of what the human body can cope with.

(16) …AND A PONY! Sounds like lovely work — “Prehistoric stone engraved with horses found in France”.

A stone believed to be about 12,000 years old and engraved with what appears to be a horse and other animals has been discovered in France.

The prehistoric find by archaeologists excavating a site in the south-western Angoulême district, north of Bordeaux, has been described as “exceptional”.

…According to the institute, the most visible engraving is that of a headless horse, which covers at least half of the stone’s surface on one side.

“Legs and hooves are very realistic,” Inrap said on its website (in French), adding: “Two other animals, smaller, are also slightly incised.”

(17) DERN MOMENTS. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Ted Chiang’s Exhalations collection. Not done reading it yet; they’re rich enough (or whatever the term is when it’s not denseness of prose but something else that, well, I can’t think of the right term for) that I’m finding I’d druther not read more than 0.5 – 1.5 per “session.”

Michael Swanwick’s The Iron Dragon’s Mother. Both via my public library. I don’t know if that makes these “Dern moments.” The library’s mobile app means that as soon as I learn about, or think of, a given book, e.g., reading about it in a scroll, or seeing it listed in Locus, etc., I can do a quick reserve. (If it’s sufficiently advanced news, and not yet in their system even as an “ordered but not yet here” I’ll suggest it as a purchase.)

(18) TWIN PLANETS. After President Trump shared his amazing understanding of the structure of the Solar System —

 — Camestros Felapton ran wild making animated graphics:

(19) FAN ART COMMANDS BIG TICKET PRICE. The owner is asking C$4,189.49 on eBay for Vaughn Bodé’s original drawing published as the cover of Ontario Science Fiction Club #2 in June 1968 – which makes it one of the items that appeared in the eligibility year before Bodé won the Best Fan Artist Hugo in 1969.

(20) A ROOM WITH A VIEW. They’ll leave the light on: “Nasa to open International Space Station to tourists”.

Nasa is to allow tourists to visit the International Space Station from 2020, priced at $35,000 (£27,500) per night.

The US space agency said it would open the orbiting station to tourism and other business ventures.

There will be up to two short private astronaut missions per year, said Robyn Gatens, the deputy director of the ISS.

Nasa said that private astronauts would be permitted to travel to the ISS for up to 30 days, travelling on US spacecraft.

…The new commercial opportunities announced on Friday are part of a trajectory towards full privatisation of the ISS. US President Donald Trump published a budget last year which called for the station to be defunded by the government by 2025.

(21) FIRST BUCK ROGERS FILM. This Buck Rogers film short was made for the 1934 Chicago World’s Fair by the owner of the comic strip.

[Thanks to Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, rcade, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kaboobie, who’s may be wondering why I used this on a Friday.]

Pixel Scroll 5/4/19 Pixellation Of The Scroll Nation

(1) MAY THE FOURTH BE WITH YOU. John Stratman posted a 16-bit “Super Nintendo inspired version of the trailer for Star Wars Episode 9.” SYFY Wire explains

His awesome contribution to May The 4th is a sly homage to old-school 16-bit video games of yore applied to the official trailer for Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker.  Stratman is notorious for his slick remastered trailers in 8-bit and 16-bit style,

(2) HE DIDN’T MEAN IT. WIRED’s “Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy” podcast hastens to reassure us that “Ian McEwan Doesn’t Hate Science Fiction”. In case you care.

In a recent interview British novelist Ian McEwan seemed to suggest that science fiction is only about “traveling at 10 times the speed of light in anti-gravity boots,” in contrast to his own novel Machines Like Me, which he says explores the “human dilemmas” involved with artificial intelligence. Science fiction fans bristled, questioning whether McEwan had ever actually read any science fiction, but McEwan now insists that he’s been misunderstood.

“I was a little taken aback at how some rather offhand remarks of mine should cause such a storm,” McEwan says in Episode 359 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “And actually I’ve read a fair amount of science fiction over a lifetime.” …

“I actually put a nod towards Blade Runner in Adam’s final speeches, after he’s been attacked by Charlie,” McEwan says. “There’s a very self-conscious nod to that famous farewell in the rain.”

And while science fiction works like Blade Runner are a definite influence on Machines Like Me, McEwan notes that there are many other influences as well. “I’d be very happy for my novel to be called science fiction, but it’s also a counterfactual novel, it’s also a historical novel, it’s also a moral dilemma novel, in a well-established traditional form within the literary novel,” he says. “I’m very happy if they want to call my novel science fiction, even honored. But it’s much else, that’s all I’m trying to say.”

(3) MARVEL CONTENT FOR LIBRARIES AND SCHOOLS. Rakuten OverDrive now offers Marvel Digital Graphic Novels to public libraries and schools.

Marvel Entertainment has teamed up with Rakuten OverDrive, the leading digital reading platform for libraries and schools, to offer 600 graphic novel and comic collection titles to public libraries and schools worldwide. Library patrons and students of participating public libraries and schools can borrow digital versions of renowned titles including Avengers, Black Panther, Amazing Spider-Man, X-Men and more. Visit overdrive.com to find a library or school near you.

Marvel Entertainment joins OverDrive’s catalog of millions of ebooks and audiobooks including over 31,000 graphic novels and comics from prominent publishers such as DC Comics, Image Comics, IDW, Valiant, Izneo and Titan Comics. Libraries and schools can select from this catalog to build their individual digital collections.

…Readers can embark on the Marvel adventure in a variety of ways. Public library patrons may download Libby or choose to read on a computer browser. Libby provides an easy, user-friendly experience and is compatible with all major devices, including iPhone®, iPad®, Android™, Windows® and “send to Kindle®” [US only]. Students of participating schools can use Sora, the student reading app, or enjoy via computer browser. Through the Sora app, students have easy access to both the school’s and local public library’s digital collections anytime, anywhere. In both cases, the title will automatically expire at the end of the lending period and there are no late fees.

Daniel Dern notes/adds:

1, Good news, free!

2, Takes a little patience. It looks like each library has a finite # of concurrent per-item licenses, so you may have to search other library systems, and hope that your credentials will let you borrow from it.

3, The price is right.

4, Like all digital comic reading, works best on a big-enough display, either your desktop, or an iPad Pro 12.9. Probably good ’nuff on slightly smaller tablets, but (I suspect) often frustrating in terms of any tiny print, etc.

(4) CINEMATOGRAPHY AS GENRE. NPR’s Mark Jenkins reviews “‘Shadow’: An Epic Tale Of Feudal China That Gradually Shades Into Fantasy”.

…While Shadow is loosely based on historical events, the story’s mythic nature is announced not by the movie’s story but by its look. The ravishing costumes and sets are all in black, white, and watery shades of gray, as if they’d been conjured from Chinese calligraphy and ink paintings.

One of Zhang’s visual signatures is a billowing sheet of brightly colored cloth, a device that dates to 1990’s Ju Dou, set in a fabric dying plant. The closest equivalents in Shadow are seen in the king’s receiving chamber, outfitted with more than a dozen large banners. They’re emblazoned with black-on-white script, its loose penmanship as traditional as Lao Zai’s spare score, composed for venerable Chinese instruments.

In the film’s first half, the only bits of color are the characters’ pinkish skin and an occasional sprig of gray-green vegetation. Later, of course, there will be blood.

Shadow doesn’t rush to battle, unlike such earlier Zhang martial-arts spectaculars as Hero and House of Flying Daggers. The movie spends about an hour sketching the backstory and observing the machinations that will lead to war….

(5) CUMBERBATCH LENDS VOICE TO TOLKIEN PROJECT. The Express reports: “Benedict Cumberbatch waives £7m fee for charity film”.

The star stepped in at no cost – and at short notice – to narrate the film about the death of the great-grandson of Hobbit creator JRR Tolkien from the devastating disease. Cumberbatch, who starred in the film version of the classic fantasy novel, commands up to £7.5million a film. But after hearing from Royd Tolkien, whose brother Mike died aged 39, he waived his fee in a secret deal.

The film portrays Mike’s battle with the neurodegenerative disease and the bucket list he left for actor and film maker Royd, 49, which included a canyon swing tied to a chair.

“Benedict made the most noble, private and breathtaking tribute to my brother,” Royd said. “On his deathbed [Mike] told me he’d left a secret list with 50 challenges I had to complete around the world.

“We made a film of my journey and the detailed narration is a key part.

“The budget was finished and I was devastated. It needed a big name, but I felt Mike’s spirit and just rolled the dice.

“Benedict is my favourite actor so I simply emailed to ask a colossal and free favour.

“I was on urgent deadline and realistically expected nothing in return.”

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 4, 1858 E. Nesbit. She wrote or collaborated on more than 60 books, forty of which were children’s literature, at least some of which are fantasy or supernatural horror. I strongly recommend The Complete Book Of Dragons, the 1975 edition which collection previously unpublished material, and Man and Maid which collects most of her short story horror. (Died 1924.)
  • Born May 4, 1940 Robin Cook, 79. Well he is genre, isn’t he? Or at least genre adjacent? I’ve never actually read any of his best selling books so one of y’all that has will need tell to me how truly genre friendly he is. 
  • Born May 4, 1943 Erwin Strauss, 76. I’m not sure I can do him justice. Uberfan, noted member of the MITSFS, and filk musician. He frequently is known by the nickname “Filthy Pierre” which I’m sure is a story in itself. Created the Voodoo message board system used at a number of early cons and published an APA, the Connection, that ran for at least thirty years. Tell me about him. 
  • Born May 4, 1949 Kim Mohan, 70. Editor and author of the Cyborg Command RPG based on an outline by Gary Gygax. He was Editor of TSR’s The Dragon magazine for several years which led to his becoming editor of Amazing Stories from 1991 to 2000. 
  • Born May 4, 1974 James Bacon, 45. Editor along with more folk than I can possibly mention here of the Hugo-winning Journey Planet magazine from 2009 to the present. Also editor of Exhibition Hall, a Steampunk Zine he edited with Christopher J. Garcia and Ariane Wolfe for some years. 
  • Born May 4, 1977 Gail Carriger, 43. Ahhhh, lovely mannerpunk she writes! I think I first noticed her with the start of the Finishing School series which she started off with Etiquette & Espionage some six years ago. Moirai Cook does a delightful job of the audiobooks by the way. I also the two novellas in her Supernatural Society series as well. 
  • Born May 4, 1995 Shameik Moore, 24. He voices Miles Morales, the teen-ager who would become Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse which I review here.  It’s by far the best film I’ve seen this year and I urge you to go see it now. 

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Off the Mark remembers that Star Wars speed record a little differently.

(8) ISS BECOMES A GAS STATION. “Nasa instrument heads to space station to map CO2” – BBC has the story.

Nasa has sent up an instrument to the International Space Station (ISS) to help track carbon dioxide on Earth.

OCO-3, as the observer is called, was launched on a Falcon rocket from Florida in the early hours of Saturday.

The instrument is made from the spare components left over after the assembly of a satellite, OCO-2, which was put in orbit to do the same job in 2014.

(9) LIGO. Apparently there’s an app for that — “Gravitational waves hunt now in overdrive”.

…The alert on Mansi Kasliwal’s phone went off at two in the morning. Shrugging off the sleep, she squinted at the message. It was from LIGO, the Nobel Prize-winning scientific collaboration that operates gravitational wave detectors.

A far-off violent event had sent ripples in space-time through the Universe, to be picked up by LIGO’s sensor in Louisiana, and it looked from the data like there should be visible “fireworks”, too.

Thanks to the smartphone revolution, she could react without leaving her bed. A few taps on the screen, and the Zwicky Transient Facility, a robotic telescope on Mount Palomar, was reprogrammed to start the hunt.

LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, and its European counterpart, VIRGO, have just completed upgrades that mean they should be spotting space-distorting events several times each week – collisions of black holes, of neutron stars, and even more exotic phenomena.

And since they started running again at the start of April, expectations are holding up: two in the second week; three last week.

(10) MONOLITH. “How Avengers put Disney at the top of the charts” – and Chip Hitchcock wants to know, “Will Endgame take the title for all-time inflation-adjusted gross from Gone With the Wind?”

Avengers: Endgame broke all box office records last weekend and has confirmed Disney’s dominance in global cinema.

More than 90% of the value of all tickets sold in UK cinemas last weekend was for Avengers: Endgame.

Within five days it had become the fastest film to break the $1bn sales barrier worldwide.

(11) EVERMORE. It may not be quite as hot a ticket as Avengers:Endgame, but the Utah theme park is making sales says David Doering: “While some suggested the park opening would be delayed, they are now selling tix for opening day on Saturday, May 25th. The show, called World of Mythos, sells regularly for $29/adult, $16/child )<14).on Saturdays,  $19 and $9 on Thursdays and Fridays. Mondays are discount day with $14/adults, $9 for kids.”

(12) SLOW HAND. Did he hurt the hand he painted with? Just which hand was that anyway? Analysts speculate that “Leonardo’s ‘claw hand’ stopped him painting”.

Leonardo da Vinci could have experienced nerve damage in a fall, impeding his ability to paint in later life, Italian doctors suggest.

They diagnosed ulnar palsy, or “claw hand”, by analysing the depiction of his right hand in two artworks.

It had been suggested that Leonardo’s hand impairment was caused by a stroke.

But in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, the doctors suggest it was nerve damage that meant he could no longer hold a palette and brush.

Leonardo da Vinci, who lived from 1452-1519, was an artist and inventor whose talents included architecture, anatomy, engineering and sculpture, as well as painting.

But art historians have debated which hand he used to draw and paint with.

Analysis of his drawing shows shading sloping from the upper left to lower right, suggesting left-handedness. But all historical biographical documents suggest Leonardo used his right hand when he was creating other kinds of works.

(13) SHOUT OUT/BLOT OUT. Vanity Fair: “Mike Pence Got an Insane Game of Thrones Shout-Out During the Battle of Winterfell”.

[…] co-creator/showrunner D.B. Weiss […] shared with Jimmy Kimmel some of the challenges of their extensive production [of “The Long Night” episode]. In particular, Weiss revealed the long hours and night-shoots took a toll on series star Jacob Anderson (Grey Worm), whose usual fluency with the “High Valyrian” language was reduced to improvising gibberish among his fellow Unsullied.

“At one point, Miguel [Sapochnik], the director, starts yelling at Jacob to improvise something in Valyrian … yell to your troops in Valyrian,” Weiss explained. “And Jacob was so tired and so delirious and so out of it that all he could think to yell was, ‘Mike Pence! Mike Pence! Mike Pence!’ So in one of those scenes when Jacob is yelling and pointing—whatever he was saying was dubbed over—but what he was actually saying was ‘Mike Pence! Mike Pence!’”

Not only were Anderson’s lines understandably dubbed in post, but Weiss noted the mask over Anderson’s mouth prevents any recognition of the “Mike Pence!” chant regardless. Probably for the best—Game of Thrones has a history of riling up Washington. […]

(14) COP ON A STICK. A new invention, still in development, promises to make the interaction between police and motorists they pull over safer for both sides. Gizmodo: “Imagine Getting Pulled Over By This Tablet on a Stick”.

Every year, millions of drivers are pulled over and during those stops thousands of assaults and physical altercations happen, resulting in injuries and even deaths to both police officers and suspects. On top of that, there’s also the risk from other vehicles when a stop is made on the side of a busy road. Reuben Brewer […] cobbled together [the first versions] in his garage, [but] he’s now developing his police robot for SRI International in the company’s Applied Technologies and Science Department.

[…] When officers pull over a vehicle,] the robot will help create a safe distance between suspects and the police while they both remain in their vehicles during testing. It’s a telepresence robot that extends on a long arm from a police cruiser to the suspect’s vehicle, facilitating two-way video and audio communications.

[… T]he robot is […] equipped with a barcode reader allowing a driver’s license to be quickly scanned, while a thermal printer can churn out tickets and citations that drivers can tear off like a receipt. As the robot moves alongside a vehicle it also subtly deploys a spike strip under the car, so should a suspect decide to flee, they’ll shred at least one tire in the process. […]

(15) KAMERON HURLEY. Paul Weimer considers the “genre conversation” that leads to Hurley’s new novel in “Microreview [book]: The Light Brigade by Kameron Hurley” at Nerds of a Feather.

A future world where Corporations dominate the globe, have in effect become the superpowers that rule a rather tired Earth. For the lower classes, those who are not citizens, it’s a rather rough and precarious life. Dietz (who never gets a first name, and in a bit of ledgerdemain their gender is kept relatively unstated and understated) goes from a future and poor Sao Paulo, to fighting Martians on Mars, in what was once Canada, and far beyond. There’s just one problem: The lightspeed technology to move soldiers around has a strange effect on Dietz, and in short order starts to learn they are experiencing her future all out of order. Worse, thar futuie is a dark one in which the war they signed up for is far more terrible than they can imagine.

(16) GENRE IN NIGERIA. Charles Payseur visits a new frontier of sff in “Quick Sips – Strange Horizons 04/29/2019”.

It’s a special release from Strange Horizons to close out April, featuring two short stories and three poems celebrating Nigerian SFF. The works bring a fresh feel to fantasy that weaves magic and creation, persecution and resistance. It finds characters who just want to be free to live their lives being pulled into plots and intrigues that they want no part of but that threaten them all the same. And only through connecting to their power, their families, and the people they have chosen to surround themselves with can they fight back and perhaps fully embrace their potential. It’s a wonderful batch of short SFF, and a treat for readers hungry for more international SFF, so I’ll get right to the reviews!

(17) BEWARE SPOILERS. ScreenRant invites you to step inside the pitch meeting that led to Avengers: Endgame. (“Oh, it’s like Fanservice: The Movie!”) While amusing the viewers Ryan George pretty much gives everything away so BEWARE SPOILERS!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Chris M. Barkley, Carl Slaughter, 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 2/7/19 “What Are You In For?” “Littering.” And They All Moved Away From Me. “And Making A Nuisance.”

(1) TWO CIXIN LIU MOVIES BATTLE FOR TOP BOX OFFICE. A pair of films based on the work of Cixin Liu recorded the top box office grosses in mainland China over the Chinese New Year.

Popular Chinese director Ning Hao has seen his comedy fantasy film “Crazy Alien” gross more than $100 million at the mainland China box office after just two days on release during the Chinese New Year holiday period. It’s the highest two-day total for any film in the Middle Kingdom so far this year.

The milestone was passed at around 8 p.m. on Wednesday. By 10 p.m., the film’s accumulated gross had advanced to $101 million (RMB680 million), according to website China Box Office.

The film is about a zookeeper who finds an unusual animal and takes it home. There he discovers that the creature is in fact an extraterrestrial, but getting rid of it may be problematic.

China’s first homegrown sci-fi epic, The Wandering Earth, is continuing its upwards trajectory. After opening at No. 4 on Tuesday, the start of the Chinese New Year, it gained traction on Wednesday to move into the No. 2 spot, and today, it led the daily Middle Kingdom box office.

With an estimated additional RMB 342M ($50.7M) on Thursday, the increase from yesterday was about 33% for a local cume of RMB 800M ($118.6M). That still lags about $20M behind Crazy Alien‘s cume, though it should quickly make up the difference after Crazy Alien had led the first two days of the Lunar New Year period. The Wandering Earth‘s performance is testament to the positive buzz being generated by the $50M pic, which stars Wolf Warrior 2’s Wu Jing in a race against time to save the planet’s population.

(2) RETCON. Maybe you think you’ve painted yourself into a corner but Robert Woods knows lots of tricks to get out of these situations – “‘Retcon’: How To Rewrite Details In An Ongoing Series” at Standout Books.

Secrets, lies and errors in judgement

The easiest way to add or remove details from a story is to undermine those elements that contradict the new canon. In Stars Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope¸ Obi-Wan Kenobi tells Luke Skywalker that his father was a skilled pilot betrayed and killed by the evil Darth Vader. Later in the series, it’s revealed that Vader is Luke’s father and that Obi-Wan knew all along.

Creator George Lucas has claimed that he always knew Vader was Luke’s father, but fans point to a host of evidence that this wasn’t the case when the scene was written. If they’re right, Lucas had no problem retconning his decision later, since the information that stood in his way came from a single source. When it’s time to reveal that Vader is Luke’s father, Obi-Wan admits he lied, hiding the truth to try to influence Luke’s reaction.

This is the easiest way to retcon information out of a story – someone lied, omitted key details, implied something that wasn’t true, or thought they were telling the truth but were wrong. Sometimes, this means adding additional information to give characters a reason to have lied, but since all this takes place in the realm of character motivations and interactions, it can even serve to enliven a story, and it might inspire new directions, as in the Star Wars prequel films….

(3) KOREAN SF. Neil Clarke announced Clarkesworld’s opportunity to expand its program of sf in translation: “Clarkesworld Receives Grant to Publishing Korean Science Fiction”.

In May 2015, Clarkesworld published “An Evolutionary Myth” by Bo-Young Kim, translated from Korean by Gord Sellar and Jihyun Park. I am pleased to announce that Clarkesworld Magazine has now received a grant from the Literature Translation Institute of Korea (LTI Korea) to translate and publish nine more Korean science fiction stories in 2019.

The process for selection and translation of stories will be similar to the model developed for Clarkesworld‘s Chinese translation project, which has recently celebrated its fourth anniversary. In that model, a group of people serve as a recommendation team that will provide story notes and details to Neil Clarke for evaluation and selection. Stories will then be confirmed for English language availability, contracted, and assigned to one of several translators.

(4) HOLD THE CAKE! In theory a new edition of The Best of R.A. Lafferty was released by Gollancz today. Except it wasn’t.

(5) READ THIS, NOT THAT. But yesterday Tor.com published Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut story “Articulated Restraint”.

He took a slow breath. “No one is dead. A ship returning from the moon had a retrorocket misfire while docking with Lunetta yesterday evening.”

“Oh God.” Scores of people worked on the Lunetta orbiting platform. People she knew. And Eugene Lindholm, her partner for today’s run—his wife would have been on the lunar rocket. Ruby played bridge with Myrtle and Eugene. She turned, looking for the tall black man among the people working by the pool. He was at the stainless steel bench, running through his checklist with tight, controlled motions. No one was dead, but if the Meteor had taught the world anything, death wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to someone. “How bad?”

(6) FANHISTORY RESOURCE. Peter Balestrieri, Curator, Science Fiction and Popular Culture Collections at University of Iowa Libraries has announced —

The Daniel McPhail Correspondence Collection is now processed and ready for research http://aspace.lib.uiowa.edu/repositories/2/resources/2836. This includes around 500 letters and post cards sent by the biggest names in fandom and the pros, starting around 1930. It’s not digitized but digitized copies of individual letters are available on request http://aspace.lib.uiowa.edu/repositories/2/resources/2836.

McPhail was one of the earliest sf fans (1929). He co-edited a magazine called The Original Idea with Jim Speer (Jack’s older brother). In 1936 he founded the Oklahoma Scientifiction Association. An early member of the Fantasy Amateur Press Association (FAPA), McPhail introduced the Mailing Comment –which, if you’ve ever belonged to an apa, you know that’s what everyone hopes their contribution will inspire. File 770 published McPhail’s obituary in 1984.

(7) JOSHI FELLOWSHIP. There’s a name I don’t associate with fellowship, nevertheless — The John Hay Library at Brown University invites applications for its 2019-2020 The S. T. Joshi Endowed Research Fellowship for research relating to H.P. Lovecraft, his associates, and literary heirs. The application deadline is March 15, 2019.

The Hay Library is home to the largest collection of H. P. Lovecraft materials in the world, and also holds the archives of Clark Ashton Smith, Karl Edward Wagner, Manly Wade Wellman, Analog Magazine, Caitlín Kiernan, and others.

The Joshi Fellowship, established by The Aeroflex Foundation and Hippocampus Press, is intended to promote scholarly research using the world-renowned resources on H. P. Lovecraft, science fiction, and horror at the John Hay Library. The Fellowship provides a monthly stipend of $1,500 for up to two months of research at the library between July 2019 and June 2020. The fellowship is open to individuals engaged in pre- and post-doctoral, or independent research.

(8) HOW TO AFFORD AN EDITOR. Authors who want their manuscripts worked on by a professional an editor know they have to come up with the bucks to pay them. There have been a couple of threads recently filled with more-or-less serious advice about ways “broke” writers can foot the bill. C.L. Polk’s begins here.

Fred Coppersmith’s less serious thread begins here.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

February 7, 1940 — Walt Disney’s movie Pinocchio debuted. Guillermo del Toro’s version might be slightly darker.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 7, 1812 Charles Dickens. Author of more genre fiction according to ISFDB than I knew. There’s A Christmas Carol that I’ve seen performed lived myriad times but they also list The Chimes: A Goblin Story of Some Bells That Rang an Old Year Out and a New Year InThe Cricket on the Hearth: A Fairy Tale of HomeThe Battle of Life, The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain and The Christmas Books. Somewhere there being overly broad in defining genre perhaps? (Died 1870.)
  • Born February 7, 1908 Buster Crabbe. He also played the title role in the Tarzan the Fearless, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers series in the Thirties, the only person to do though other actors played some of those roles.  He would show up in the Seventies series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century as a retired fighter pilot named Brigadier Gordon. (Died 1983.)
  • Born February 7, 1913 Henry Hasse. Best known for being the co-author of Ray Bradbury’s first published story, “Pendulum”, which appeared in November 1941 in Super Science Stories. ISFDB lists a single novel by him, The Stars Will Wait, and some fifty short stories if I’m counting correctly. (Died 1977.)
  • Born February 7, 1929Alejandro Jodorowsky, 90. The Universe has many weird things in it such as this film, Jodorowsky’s Dune. It looks at his unsuccessful attempt to film Dune in the mid-1970s. He’s also has created a sprawling SF fictional universe, beginning with the Incal, illustrated by the cartoonist Jean Giraud which is rooted in their work for the Dune project which is released as comics.
  • Born February 7, 1941 Kevin Crossley-Holland, 78. Best known for his Arthur trilogy consisting of The Seeing Stone, At the Crossing-Places, and King of the Middle March. I really liked their perspective of showing a medieval boy’s development from a page to a squire and finally to a knight. Highly recommended. 
  • Born February 7, 1949 Alan Grant, 70. He’s best known for writing Judge Dredd in 2000 AD as well as various Batman titles from the late 1980s to the early 2000s.  If you can find it, there’s a great Batman / Judge Dredd crossover “Judgement on Gotham” that he worked on. His recent work has largely been for small independents including his own company. 
  • Born February 7, 1950 Karen Joy Fowler, 69. Her first work was “Recalling Cinderella” in L Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Vol I. Her later genre works are Sarah Canary, the Black Glass collection and  the novel The Jane Austen Book Club, is not SF though SF plays a intrinsic role in it, and two short works of hers, “Always” and ““The Pelican Bar” won significant Awards. Her latest genre novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, is being adored far and wide. 
  • Born February 7, 1950 Margaret Wander Bonanno, 69. She written seven Star Trek novels, several science fiction novels set in her own worlds, including The Others, a novel with Nichelle Nichols. In putting together this Birthday, several sources noted that she had disavowed writing her Trek novels because of excessive editorial meddling by the publisher. She self-published Music of the Spheres, her unapproved version of Probe, the official publication. According to her, Probe has less than ten per cent of the content of her version.
  • Born February 7, 1960James Spader, 59. Most recently he did the voice and motion-capture for Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron. No I did not enjoy that film. Before that, he played Stewart Swinton in Wolf, a Jack Nicholson endeavour. Then of course he was Daniel Jackson in Stargate,  a film I still enjoy though I think the series did get it better. He then plays Nick Vanzant in Supernova andJulian Rome in Alien Hunter. 
  • Born February 7, 1985 Deborah Ann Woll, 34. She is known for her roles as the vampire Jessica Hamby in True Blood, and Karen Page in Daredevil, The Defenders, and The Punisher.she also played Molly in the horror film Little Murder and Amanda Harper in Escape Room, another horror film. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Basic Instructions explains the structure of ST:TNG episodes.
  • Tom Gauld has ideas for future weather forecasts.

(12) QUARTERS, WITH MORE OR LESS BITS. Writing for The Mary Sue—and using floor plans that were on Angie’s List—Kaila Hale-Stern takes a look at six different Captain’s quarters from the various Star Trek series (“Let’s Judge These Star Trek Captains’ Quarters”). Welcome to Kirk’s, Picard’s, Sisko’s, Janeway’s, Archer’s, and Lorca’s abodes.

We’ve had several beloved Starfleet Captains, but how are they sleeping at night? Journey with me into the final frontier of Star Trek Captains’ quarters, and let’s see who had the sweetest floor plan.

Courtesy of a post by home services site Angie’s List, we now have detailed layouts to pore over. They created floor plans of our Captains’ quarters, starting with Kirk’s in The Original Series to Archer’s on EnterpriseDiscovery is a bit trickier Captain-wise, since we only have the late unlamented Lorca’s rooms for reference—but maybe Pike will show us where he lays his head in the future.

(13) DON’T SHUSH THEM. Let us go then, you and I, / When the evening is spread out against the sky / Like a patient etherized upon a table… “Brian Blessed among stars brightening up library speaker system”.

Library closing time is ringing out to the sound of Brian Blessed after a host of celebrities recorded their voices for the building’s loudspeaker system.

Manchester Central Library has recruited the Flash Gordon actor and other stars to bring a showbiz feel to its public information announcements.

Former Coronation Street actress Julie Hesmondhalgh and ex-England footballer Gary Neville are also onboard.

The quirky bespoke broadcasts will run for two weeks, the city council said.

(14) PTERRY WOULD BE PROUD. BBC tells why — “Climate change: ‘Future proofing’ forests to protect orangutans”.

A study has identified key tree species that are resilient to climate change and support critically endangered apes.

Planting them could help future proof rainforests, which are a key habitat for orangutans, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature – IUCN.

Researchers surveyed 250 plants in Indonesia’s Kutai National Park.

Over 1,000 orangutans are thought to inhabit the park, as well as other rare animals such as the Malayan sun bear.

“Selecting which species to plant is a significant contribution to restoring the health of this ecosystem,” said study co-author Douglas Sheil.

“Of course, the reasons why forest cover was lost in the first place must also be addressed for reforestation efforts to succeed.”

(15) NAMING A ROVER. They didn’t pick “Blood” — “Rosalind Franklin: Mars rover named after DNA pioneer”.

The UK-assembled rover that will be sent to Mars in 2020 will bear the name of DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin.

The honour follows a public call for suggestions that drew nearly 36,000 responses from right across Europe.

Astronaut Tim Peake unveiled the name at the Airbus factory in Stevenage where the robot is being put together.

The six-wheeled vehicle will be equipped with instruments and a drill to search for evidence of past or present life on the Red Planet.

Giving the rover a name associated with a molecule fundamental to biology seems therefore to be wholly appropriate

(16) A PERSONAL CATASTROPHE. While trying to “upgrade their toilet facility” there was a water leak on the International Space Station (“ISS Suffers Toilet Malfunction, Leaks Water Everywhere”). Earthbound DIY plumbers can probably sympathize.

The toilet onboard the ISS was installed in 2008, during one of the last space shuttle missions. It’s based on a design that’s about as old as the ISS itself, so it was in need of some improvement. The ISS astronauts were trying to install that improvement when something went wrong. 

According to a NASA blog, the ISS crew were trying to install the new Universal Waste Management System, a next-gen toilet system that’s supposed to be smaller, lighter, cleaner, and more efficient than what they have now.  […]

The aforementioned 1 February 2019 NASA blog explains:

Universal Waste Management System (UWMS):

The crew successfully installed a new double stall enclosure within Node 3 today. During the activity, the crew experienced a water leak while de-mating a Quick Disconnect (QD) for the potable water bus. Approximately 9.5 liters leaked before the bus was isolated by MCC-H flight controllers. The crew worked quickly to re-mate the leaky QD and soak up the water with towels. An alternate QD was then de-mated in order to continue with the installation. The new concept, referred to as the Universal Waste Management System (UWMS), includes favorable features from previous designs while improving on other areas from Space Shuttle and the existing ISS Waste Collection System (WCS) hardware. This double stall enclosure provides privacy for both the Toilet System and the Hygiene Compartment. The starboard side will provide access to the existing toilet and the port side will be used for hygiene until new replacement Toilet System arrives in early 2020.

Mopping up 2.5 gallons of water is hard enough with gravity to collect it all on the floor for you,

(17) GET MY BETTER SIDE. NASA has taken a candid snapshot of the neighbors (NASA: “First Look: Chang’e Lunar Landing Site”). The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has spotted the landing site of China’s Chang’e 4 lander on the back side of the Moon. The LRO wasn’t close enough to picture the whole Chang’e 4 “family”—the tiny rover is just too small for the camera to pick up.

On Jan. 3, 2019, the Chinese spacecraft Chang’e 4 safely landed on the floor of the Moon’s Von Kármán crater (186 kilometer diameter, 116 miles). Four weeks later (Jan. 30, 2019), as NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter approached the crater from the east, it rolled 70 degrees to the west to snap this spectacular view looking across the floor toward the west wall. Because LRO was 330 kilometers (205 miles) to the east of the landing site, the Chang’e 4 lander is only about two pixels across (bright spot between the two arrows), and the small rover is not detectable. The massive mountain range in the background is the west wall of Von Kármán crater, rising more than 3,000 meters (9,850 feet) above the floor.

(18) FUTURE OF ENTERTAINMENT. The future of musical concerts—is it to be folded inside games? Blockbuster shoot-em-up game Fortnite recently called a cease fire and staged a concert (The Verge: “Fortnite’s Marshmello concert was a bizarre and exciting glimpse of the future”).

Even if you’re not a huge fan of electronic music or have never heard of the EDM producer Marshmello, Fortnite’s live in-game concert was still a shockingly stunning sight to behold — it was also an unprecedented moment in gaming. It truly felt like a glimpse into the future of interactive entertainment, where the worlds of gaming, music, and celebrity combined to create a virtual experience we’ve never quite seen before. 

At 2PM ET [2 February], every one of the likely tens of millions of players of Epic Games’ battle royale title were transported to a virtual stage. There, Christopher Comstock — who goes by the DJ name Marshmello and is known best for his signature food-shaped helmet — began a 10-minute mini-set, all while while up to 60 players across thousands of individual matches were able to watch live. Epic, having learned from past one-time live events like its iconic rocket launch and its most recent freezing over of the entire game map, smartly launched a special game mode specifically for the show. 

Based on its team rumble mode, it allowed players to respawn if they were taken out by an especially rude enemy trying to spoil the fun. Going even further, however, Epic disabled the ability to use weapons for the entirety of the 10-minute event, which ensured that everyone could have a front-row seat to the spectacle. 

(19) DON’T TELL ME. Matthew Johnson’s song parody is a mite long for a Scroll title, so I’ll salute it here:

Counting pixels on the scroll, that don’t bother me at all
Playing D&D ’til dawn, with my twenty-sideds gone
Eating soylent green and watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Now don’t tell me I can’t go back in time

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

We Can Do This Thing

By John Hertz: (reprinted from Vanamonde 1286; January 31, 2017)  Today is National Gorilla-Suit Day (Don Martin Bounces Back, 1963).

I’ve just come to the passage in Scott Kelly’s Endurance (2017) where his twin brother Mark announces sending a gorilla suit to Scott at the International Space Station.

“Of course you need a gorilla suit,” Mark says (p. 219, in the large-print edition, which is what I could get).

Its launching rocket explodes, but – this is ahead of where I am in the book – another is sent, upon arrival captured with a robot arm (p. 498) by Kjell (pronounced “chell”) Lindgren, who also while at the Station 22 Jul – 11 Dec 15 was a long-distance Guest of Honor of Sasquan, the 73rd World Science Fiction Convention, presenting the Hugo Award for Best Novel by video.

Indeed Scott Kelly gorillas up, as he puts it (p. 529), of which a video got onto the Internet 23 Feb 16.