Pixel Scroll 3/19/21 Scroll The Night, There’s Files Enough Here For Two

(1) EVERYBODY COMPLAINS ABOUT THE WEATHER. And they complain even more if somebody does something about it. Sierra Garcia points to research about “How Early Sci-Fi Authors Imagined Climate Change” at JSTOR Daily.

More than a century before melting polar ice caps, geoengineering schemes, and soaring greenhouse gas emissions became the norm, humans causing climate change was the stuff of science fiction.

For a few decades in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, authors from across ideologies and genres published stories that today would be called “cli-fi,” or climate fiction. French author Jules Verne, best known for popular adventure stories like Around the World in 80 Days and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, penned a novel in 1889 called Sans Dessus Dessous about capitalists intentionally heating the Arctic to extract coal reserves. Mark Twain included a subplot of selling warm climates in his 1892 novel The American Claimant. Recently, literary scholar Steve Asselin reexamined these and dozens of other early cli-fi stories, finding several disquieting themes relevant to how we think about modern-day climate change.

(2) STACK OF GREEN. Vox’s Peter Kafka, in a “Recode” feature, analyzes “Why Substack writers are mad about money Substack is paying out”, a topic mentioned in yesterday’s Scroll (item #2). It includes revenue figures Matthew Yglesias shared about his own deal.

…First the why: [Jude] Doyle says they left Substack because they were upset that Substack was publishing — and in some cases offering money upfront to — authors they say are “people who actively hate trans people and women, argue ceaselessly against our civil rights, and in many cases, have a public history of directly, viciously abusing trans people and/or cis women in their industry.”

Doyle’s list includes some of Substack’s most prominent and recent recruits: Former Intercept journalist Glenn Greenwald, my former Vox coworker Matt Yglesias, and Graham Linehan, a British TV writer who was kicked off Twitter last year for “repeated violations of [Twitter’s] rules against hateful conduct and platform manipulation.”

Substack’s main business model is straightforward. It lets newsletter writers sell subscriptions to their work, and it takes 10 percent of any revenue the writers generate (writers also have to fork over another 3 percent to Stripe, the digital payments company).The money that Substack and its writers are generating — and how that money is split up and distributed — is of intense interest to media makers and observers

But in some cases, Substack has also shelled out one-off payments to help convince some writers to become Substack writers, and in some cases those deals are significant….

(3) CUT TO THE CHASE. In the Washington Post, David Betancourt interviews Zack Snyder and Deborah Snyder about the release of Zack Snyder’s Justice League, with Deborah Snyder saying “the fans got a huge corporation to listen to them and make this (Snyder cut) a reality,” but with Betanourt noting the release of the Snyder cut is also because HBO Max is hungry for superhero content to compete with Disney. “’Zack Snyder’s Justice League’ is what the director really wanted all along”.

… Knowing the Snyder Cut would be a streaming experience and not a theatrical one allowed it to grow. The film is four hours and two minutes, twice as long a the original. HBO Max’s hunger to have game-changing new superhero content to compete with Netflix and Disney Plus — not to mention a pandemic making everyone eager for more at-home offerings — created a golden opportunity for all involved.

“What the streaming services have done is allowed a lot more risks to be taken,” Deborah [Snyder] said. “There’s movies getting made — and [the Snyder Cut] is a perfect example — that wouldn’t be made if it wasn’t for the streamers. As a filmmaker and as a producer, that is exciting to me. I want to see the envelope being pushed and risks to be taken.”

(4) JOURNEY PLANET IS GETTING CRAFTY! They’re looking for a few good crafters… or any crafters really. Team Journey Planet (this time being James Bacon, Sara Felix, and Chris Garcia) is putting together a Crafting in the Time of COVID-19 theme issue that will explore the DIY methods that people tried to pass the time they would normally spend out in the world. They’re looking for stories of hobbies taken up or re-kindled, photos of crafts managed, art cars or campers created, art you might have created during lockdown, and much more. 

Did you build a rudimentary lathe and start turning artisanal batbase bats? We wanna hear about it. Did you start painting alternate bookcovers for your favorite novels? We wanna see ’em? Take up bookbinding, or clockmaking, or knitting, crocheting or tiara-making? Share ’em with us. 

Deadline is March 31 — send any submissions or questions to journeyplanet@gmail.com

(5) CHINA MUTES OSCARS COVERAGE. “China Tells Media to Downplay Oscars With Protest Film Nominated” reports Bloomberg.

China told local media not to broadcast next month’s Oscars ceremony in real time and to play down coverage of the awards, according to people familiar with the matter, after a documentary on the Hong Kong protests was nominated and amid concern over the political views of Best Director contender Chloe Zhao.

“Do Not Split,” nominated for best short documentary, chronicles the anti-Beijing demonstrations that took hold in Hong Kong in mid-2019 and China’s growing power and influence in the former British territory.

…While initially lauded in the Chinese press for the success of her naturalistic film “Nomadland,” Zhao — who won the Golden Globe for Best Director last month — has since attracted criticism for a 2013 interview where she is said to have described China as “a place where there are lies everywhere.”…

(6) FRANK THORNE OBIT. Frank Thorne (1930-2021), artist of the Red Sonja comics of the 1970s has died. Heavy Metal pays tribute:

… Red Sonja, a character from the Conan-verse created by Robert E. Howard, made her Marvel Comics debut in Marvel Feature #1, penciled by Dick Giordano. Thorne took over as artist in the second issue, and remained Red Sonja’s artist through the title’s seventh and final issue, dated November 1976. Red Sonja got her own title beginning in January 1977, illustrated by Thorne (he did it all — pencils, inks, colors and lettering, and cover art) through issue 11.

Thorne clearly relished Red Sonja; his association with the title went beyond a job and became part of his identity. There was also a performative aspect — Thorne would show up at conventions dressed in a wizard costume, accompanied by a model or few (calling themselves “The Hyborean Players”) wearing the famous scale-mail bikini of Red Sonja. One of the Red Sonja models was Wendy Pini, who managed to make conventions and photo shoots when she wasn’t illustrating the series that would make her famous in the comics world: ElfQuest. Yup, that Wendy Pini….

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

March 19, 1999 — On this day in 1999, Farscape premiered on Syfy. The series was conceived by Rockne S. O’Bannon and produced by The Jim Henson Company and Hallmark Entertainment.  The Jim Henson Company was responsible for the various alien make-up and prosthetics, and two regular characters, Rygel and Pilot were completely Creature Shop creations. Filmed in Australia by Network Nine, it would would last for four seasons ending in The Peacekeeper Wars which is considered the fifth season.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 19, 1821 Sir Richard Francis Burton KCMG FRGS. He was a geographer, translator, writer, soldier, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer and diplomat. He worked on the translation of an unexpurgated version of One Thousand and One Nights. Also, Vikram and the Vampire or Tales of Hindu Devilry. Mind you, he was also the publisher of both Kama Sutra and The Perfume Garden. Philip Jose Farmer made him a primary character of the Riverworld series. (Died 1890.) (CE)
  • Born March 19, 1894 – Lilith Lorraine.  Author of poetry and otherwise, editor, radio lecturer, under various names.  Half a dozen short stories, a hundred poems.  Founded Avalon poetry ass’n; The Avalonian carried Robert Silverberg’s first paid story.  Time Grows Thin posthumous coll’n of poetry (so consider the title!) has an introduction by Steve Sneyd.  (Died 1967) [JH]
  • Born March 19, 1926 Joe L. Hensley. He was a First Fandom Dinosaur which is to say he was  active in fandom prior to July 4, 1939 and he received the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. He is also a published genre author with ”And Not Quite Human” in the September 1953 issue of Beyond Fantasy Fiction being his first published work, and The Black Roads being his only genre novel. It does not appear that his genre works are available in digital editions. (Died 2007.) (CE) 
  • Born March 19, 1928 Patrick  McGoohan. Creator along with George Markstein of The Prisoner series with him playing the main role of Number Six. I’ve watched it at least several times down the years. It never gets any clearer but it’s always interesting and always weird.  Other genre credits do not include Danger Man but do comprise a short list of The Phantom where he played The Phantom’s father, Treasure Planet where he voiced Billy Bones and Journey into Darkness where he was The Host. (Died 2009.) (CE)
  • Born March 19, 1936 Ursula Andress, 85. I’m sure I’ve seen all of the original Bond films though I’ll be damned I remember where or when I saw them. Which is my way of leading up to saying that I don’t remember her in her roles as either as Honey Ryder in the very first Bond film, Dr. No, or as as Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. Bond girls aren’t that memorable to me it seems. Hmmm… let’s see if she’s done any other genre work… well her first was The Tenth Victim based on Sheckley’s 1953 short story “Seventh Victim”. She also appeared in The Mountain of the Cannibal GodThe Fifth MusketeerClash of the Titans where she played of course Aphrodite, on the Manimal series, The Love Boat series and the two Fantaghirò films. (CE) 
  • Born March 19, 1946 – John Gribbin, Ph.D., age 75.  Eight novels, a score of shorter stories; columnist, correspondent, reviewer for AnalogOmniVector; fourscore books of nonfiction e.g. Almost Everyone’s Guide to Science (with wife Mary Gribbin); Hyperspace, Our Final Frontier; biographies of Einstein, Feynman, Schrödinger.  Lifetime Achievement Award from Ass’n of British Science Writers.  [JH]
  • Born March 19, 1953 – Laurie Sutton, age 68.  A dozen novels.  Worked for the Comics Code Authority awhile; “I never considered my job to be one of censorship…. being a comic book fan.”  Then comics for DC (including Adam Strange) and Marvel (including Star Trek); introduced Frank Miller to Japanese comics.  Publishing Innovation Award.  [JH]
  • Born March 19, 1955 Bruce Willis, 66. So do any of the Die Hard franchise count as genre? Setting them aside, he has a very long  genre list, to wit Death Becomes Her (bit of macabre fun), 12 Monkeys (weird shit), The Fifth Element (damn great), Armageddon (eight tentacles down),  Looper (most excellent), The Sixth Sense (not at all bad), Sin City (typical Miller overkill) and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (yet more Miller overkill). (CE) 
  • Born March 19, 1960 – Karen Cooper, age 61.  Chaired Ditto 12 (fanziners’ con; Ditto, a brand of spirit duplicator).  Long-time member of Minn-Stf.  Her Minicon 34 Restaurant Guide (with husband Bruce Schneier) was a Hugo finalist for Best Related Book (as the category then was, now “Best Related Work”).  Fan Guest of Honor at WindyCon 40.  [JH]
  • Born March 19, 1964 Marjorie Monaghan, 57. JoJo on all six episodes of Space Rangers. My brain keeps insisting it lasted much, much longer. She also was on Babylon 5 as the Mars Resistance leader during the Earth Alliance Civil War, where she was known as Number One. She’s also appeared on Quantum Leap, in the cyberpunk Nemesis film, in The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy film, on Andromeda series and on The Great War of Magellan film. (CE)
  • Born March 19, 1970 – Kimberly Sabatini, age 51.  One novel so far.  Alice Curtis Desmond Award.  When her father died, she “discovered … she’s full of questions that need to be answered.”  Has read Endurance (Scott Kelly), The Wonderful Wizard of OzHidden FiguresFrankensteinNothing Stopped Sophie (Sophie Germain), SeabiscuitGone With the Wind.  [JH]
  • Born March 19, 1973 – Josh Rountree, age 48.  One novel, twoscore shorter stories including “The Review Lester Bangs Would Have Written for the New Stones Album if He’d Lived Long Enough to Witness the Fall of Humanity and the Rise of the Other”.  Seen in Andromeda SpacewaysBeneath Ceaseless SkiesDaily SFElectric VelocipedeRealms of Fantasy.  [JH]

(9) FUNKO SPOCK WITH SJW CREDENTIAL. Io9’s Rob Bricken headlines these new collectibles: “Star Trek: The Original Series Finally Gets More Funko Pops”.

Of the seemingly thousands of Pop figures that Funko has made, it’s weird to think that the company has only released six from Star Trek: The Original Series, way back in 2013. Sure, it’s made characters from The Next Generation, the Star Trek Beyond movie, and even put the cast of The Big Bang Theory in Trek uniforms since then. But Funko will finally right this wrong later this year with eight new figures from TOS.

The original six Pop figures included Kirk, Spock, Scotty, a Klingon, an Andorian, and an Orion Slave Girl. It shouldn’t be surprising that after so long, as StarTrek.com reports, the new series also contains a Kirk and Spock, but now the former is sitting in his captain’s chair, while Spock is, uh… holding a cat…

Spock  with Gary Seven’s familiar from “Assignment: Earth”

(10) HARRYHAUSEN IN THE MUSEUM. You won’t need a ticket for an aeroplane, or time to take a fast train — Edinburgh News tells how you can see it. “Edinburgh gallery launches ‘virtual experience’ devoted to Hollywood special effects legend Ray Harryhausen”.

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art has turned its Ray Harryhausen tribute into a “virtual experience” after spending years working on the exhibition with the legendary movie-maker’s family.

A £10 pass, which is available from today, will offer unlimited access to the online incarnation of the exhibition, which explores how Harryhausen inspired cinematic legends like Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Peter Jackson thanks to his groundbreaking work on Jason and the Argonauts, Clash of the Sitans, Earth vs the Flying Saucers and the Sinbad series.

They will be able to secure glimpses of rarely-seen models, drawings, sketches, photographs, posters and storyboards drawn from the archives of the Ray and Diana Harryhausen Foundation, which is run by the family of the Californian-born special effects legend and his wife, who both passed away in 2013.

(11) ZOOMING WITH THE BENFORDS. Fanac.org’s next FanHistory Zoom will be “The Benford Twins, Fandom and the Larger Universe” on March 27, 2021, 2 pm Eastern. To receive a Zoom link, please RSVP to fanac@fanac.org.  

Jim and Greg Benford (founding editors of the legendary fanzine Void) became fans in the 1950s, and throughout a lifetime of science, professional writing, and extensive accomplishments, they have remained fans. In this Zoom session, they’ll talk about their introduction into fandom, their fandom over the years, and tell stories about the important and interesting people they’ve met. What influence has fandom had on them? Did relocation change their interactions with fandom? How have their professional lives influenced their fandom? Join us and find out (and expect a few surprises.)

The current schedule of future Fan History zoom sessions is available here.

(12) BONESTELL GOING UNDER THE HAMMER. Heritage Auctions would like to get up to $30,000 for Chesley Bonestell’s “Winged Rocket Ferry Orbits Mars Prior to Landing after 250-Day Flight” cover art for The Exploration of Mars (1956) when it’s submitted to bidders during the April 30 Illustration Art Signature Auction in Dallas.

(13) FLAME ON. “NASA completes engine test firing of moon rocket on 2nd try”AP News has the story.

NASA completed an engine test firing of its moon rocket Thursday, after the first attempt in January ended prematurely.

This time, the four main engines of the rocket’s core stage remained ignited for the full eight minutes. Applause broke out in the control room at Mississippi’s Stennis Space Flight Center once the engines shut down on the test stand.

NASA officials called it a major milestone in sending astronauts back to the moon, but declined to say when that might occur or even whether the first test flight without a crew would occur by year’s end as planned.

(14) CANCEL THAT RENDEZVOUS WITH RAMA. AP News says “No cigar: Interstellar object is cookie-shaped planet shard”.

Our solar system’s first known interstellar visitor is neither a comet nor asteroid as first suspected and looks nothing like a cigar. A new study says the mystery object is likely a remnant of a Pluto-like world and shaped like a cookie.

Arizona State University astronomers reported this week that the strange 148-foot (45-meter) object that appears to be made of frozen nitrogen, just like the surface of Pluto and Neptune’s largest moon Triton.

The study’s authors, Alan Jackson and Steven Desch, think an impact knocked a chunk off an icy nitrogen-covered planet 500 million years ago and sent the piece tumbling out of its own star system, toward ours. The reddish remnant is believed to be a sliver of its original self, its outer layers evaporated by cosmic radiation and, more recently, the sun.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “MCI Commercial With Leonard Nimoy, TOS Cast, and Jonathan Frakes” on YouTube reveals that in 1993 the original Star Trek cast was eager to call 1-800-3BEAMUP to get 20 percent off the MCI Friends and Family Plan.  But who invited Jonathan Frakes to the party?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Cora Buhlert, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, and Michael Toman for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little.]

Pixel Scroll 9/27/19 Pixel, Pixel, In The Scroll, Who’s The Blogger That’s A Troll?

(1) CHANGES TO NY TIMES BESTSELLER LISTS. Publishers Weekly reports “‘NYT’ Shifts Its Lists Again”. Mass market paperbacks and graphic books will be tracked again, and middle grade paperback and YA paperback lists will debut.

The New York Times Book Review has announced a new slate of changes to its bestseller lists, both in print and online.

After cutting the mass market paperback and graphic novel/manga lists in 2017, the TimesBest Sellers team will again track mass market paperback sales, as well as debut a combined list for graphic books, which will include fiction, nonfiction, children’s, adults, and manga. Two new monthly children’s lists, middle grade paperback and young adult paperback, will debut as well. (The Times retired its middle grade e-book and young adult e-book lists in 2017.) In addition, the Times will cut its science and sports lists, explaining that “the titles on those lists are frequently represented on current nonfiction lists.” The changes are effective October 2 online and October 20 in print.

The Times has already cut back its print lists on the combined print/e-book and print hardcover lists to 10 titles, from 15, although the online lists will continue to show 15 titles. A representative of the paper said that the change “was made for design reasons, specifically to improve the readability of the lists in print.”

(2) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Barbara Krasnoff and Nicole Kornher-Stace on Wednesday, October 16.

Barbara Krasnoff

Barbara Krasnoff is the author of over 35 short stories, including “Sabbath Wine,” which was a finalist for the Nebula Award, and recently published a mosaic novel titled The History of Soul 2065. She’s also responsible for a series of captioned photos that can be found under the hashtag #TheirBackstories.

Nicole Kornher-Stace

Nicole Kornher-Stace is the author of the Norton Award finalist Archivist Wasp and its sequel, Latchkey. Her next novel, Firebreak, is due out from Saga in 2020. She can be found online at nicolekornherstace.com or on Twitter @wirewalking.

The event begins 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.)
New York, NY.

(3) SUNDAY IN THE PARK. Last Sunday at the Brooklyn Book Festival, Andrew Porter took this photo of the Dell Magazines booth which was hosted by Asimov’s editor Sheila Williams and her daughter.

(4) NEW AWARD PROMOTES DIVERSE SFF. Gollancz and author Ben Aaronovitch are launching a writing prize championing under-represented voices in science fiction, fantasy and horror after stats showed less than 1% of the genres’ books come from British BAME authors. (BAME is used in the UK to refer to black, Asian and minority ethnic people.)

Submissions for the Gollancz and Rivers of London BAME SFF Award will be taken from October 1, 2019 until January 31, 2020 — 5,000 to 10,000 words consisting of either a self-contained short story or the opening of a novel that fits into the scifi, fantasy or horror genres

The prizes include:

  • £4,000 for the overall winner alongside a critique and year-long mentoring programme with Gollancz commissioning editor Rachel Winterbottom.
  • Second place: £2,000 and a critique of their work
  • Five runners-up will receive £800 and a Gollancz goodie bag.

Gollancz publisher Anne Clarke said:

The current lack of representation in science fiction and fantasy is no secret and it has to change. As modern speculative fiction publishers, we at Gollancz have a responsibility not just to say our doors are open, but to actively seek out and support writers whose backgrounds and experience have historically been – and still are – under-represented in our genre. I hope this award will encourage writers who have perhaps not always felt welcome in the world of science fiction and fantasy publishing and I’m looking forward to discovering exciting new writing talent within the submissions.

[Via Locus Online.]

(5) CINEMA’S SPINOFF STINKERS. ScreenRant offers these titles as “10 Of The Worst Spin-Off Movies Of All Time According To IMDB”.  Most are sff.

It’s Hollywood logic to try bleed more money from a stone. Whenever there’s a successful franchise, it’s natural for studios to stay safe and invest in more of the same product and produce as many sequels, prequels, TV shows, and reboots of the property. However, every so often, Tinseltown fails to catch lighting in a bottle a second time. Not every movie deserves 815 more iterations of the same story.

In the middle of the list is —

5. CATWOMAN

Long before DCEU fans bemoaned the current DC movies, they were (rightfully) bailing on another one. Somehow, DC was able to zap all of the fun and sultriness out of Selina Kyle for the long-gestating Catwoman movie, which starred Oscar winner Halle Berry, Sharon Stone, and Benjamin Bratt. All in all, not a bad trio. So what went wrong?

First, the entire origins of a cat burglar/vixen are heaved out the window and replaced with an Egyptian Cat Mythology. That mythology would have worked if it was a little more thought out and the movie itself wasn’t just an excuse to feature the gorgeous Berry in as little clothing as possible.

(6) STEAMFEST. Cora Buhlert shares lots of photos in her report “Steampunk in East Frisia: Steamfest Papenburg 2019”. (Before I read Cora’s post, Papenburg was, for me, only an obscure reference in a Patrick O’Brien novel.)

…Steampunk is not exactly something you would associate with Papenburg, even though the steamship MV Liemba a.k.a. Graf Goetzen, which starred in The African Queen as the German gunboat Königin Luise, was built here in 1913. Therefore, I was very surprised to learn that Papenburg not only has an active Steampunk community, but also hosts Steamfest, a Steampunk festival which took place for the second time in 2019. And since Papenburg is only about 114 kilometres away, I of course decided to pay Steamfest a visit.

(7) SHORT SFF FOR YOUR TBR PILE. Alex Brown monthly picks are listed on Tor.com: “Must-Read Speculative Short Fiction: September 2019”.

Magic as revenge, retaliation, or retribution is the theme of many of September’s best short speculative fiction stories. There are some new authors on this list alongside some very well-known names, yet no matter where they are career-wise, the stories they’ve written have left a mark on this world. Here are some of the ten best science fiction, fantasy, and horror short stories I read in September.

(8) FUTURE TECH CRIMINALS. Editors Eric Bosarge and Joe McDermott have launched a Kickstarter to fund their The Way of the Laser: Future Crime Stories anthology from VernacularBooks.

The contributing authors include Kameron Hurley, Mur Lafferty Patrice Sarath, Wendy Wagner, Julie C Day, Paul Jessup, Jamie Mason, Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam, Ross Lockhart, Karen Bovenmyer, with open submissions to new authors.

It used to be if someone wanted to mug you, they had to look you in the face and make a threat. Not anymore. Hackers can wipe a bank account without ever having to risk drawing blood. Bad people use technology for personal gain. Nothing’s new about that. What is new is the ways technology opens up opportunities for exploitation.

New technology is coming on-line all the time, creating new opportunities for creative criminals and dissidents. Stolen elections, companies held hostage by hackers, and acts of terror have all been committed with technology that didn’t exist a few short years ago. 

Join leading edge speculative fiction authors on an exciting walk into darkness where people and machines plunder, cheat, kill, and steal in ways we can’t even imagine with tools that may not even exist, yet. But, they’re coming. 

(9) SATIRE ON TWO WHEELS. Remember Knight Rider? Well, here’s David Hasselhoff in Moped Rider…

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 27, 1958 — In Italy, The Day the Sky Exploded (Italian: La morte viene dallo spazio, “Death Comes From Space”. It is known as the first Italian SF film, predating even the SF films of Antonio Margheriti.
  • September 27, 1979 Buck Rogers in the 25th Century began its regular first season (after the airing of the film) with an episode called “Planet of the Slave Girls”.
  • September 27, 2002 — Joss Whedon’s Firefly premiered on Fox TV. It was cancelled after eleven of the fourteen produced episodes were aired. Eventually it concluded in a film called Serenity which Will Shetterly reviewed here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 27, 1902 Henry Farrell. Novelist and screenwriter, best known as the author of the “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?” story which was made into a film of the same name starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. (Died 2006.)
  • Born September 27, 1932 Roger Charles Carmel. The original Harcourt Fenton “Harry” Mudd as he appeared in two episodes of the original Star Trek, “Mudd’s Women” and “I, Mudd”” and one episode of the animated series as well, “Mudd’s Passion”. I say original because Discovery has decided that they have a Harry Mudd. He also had one-offs on I-Spy, Munsters, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Batman. It is rumored but not confirmed he was going to reprise his role as Harry Mudd in a first-season episode of Next Gen but died before filming could start. (Died 1986.)
  • Born September 27, 1934 Wilford Brimley, 85. His first genre role is as Dr. Blair in John Carpenter’s The Thing. He’s Benjamin ‘Ben’ Luckett in the Cacoon films, and Agency Director Harold Smith in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. He made a rather splendid President Grover Cleveland in The Wild Wild West Revisted. And finally I note that he was Noa in Ewoks: The Battle for Endor
  • Born September 27, 1947 Meat Loaf, 72. He has a tasty role as Eddie in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. And I’d argue some of his music videos are genre stories in their own right. He also has film roles in Wishcraft (horror), Stage Fright (horror) and Urban Decay (yes, more horror). He’s also in BloodRayne which is yes, horror. He’s had one-offs on Tales from the Crypt, The Outer Limits, Monsters, Masters of Horror and was Doug Rennie, a main cast member of Ghost Wars
  • Born September 27, 1950 Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, 69. He’d be on the Birthday Honors list if he’d only been Zylyn in Space Rangers which lasted only six episodes. Damn. But he’s also shown up on Babylon 5, the premier of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Superboy, Alien Nation, the Australian version of Mission: ImpossibleSabrina the Teenage WitchStargate SG-1Poltergeist: The LegacyThe Librarians, voicing characters on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Star Wars Rebels. He’s currently got two main roles going, the first being Nobusuke Tagomi in The Man in The High Castle, the other being Hiroki Watanabe in Lost in Space
  • Born September 27, 1956 Sheila Williams, 63. Editor, Asimov’s Science Fiction last fifteen years. She won the Hugo Award for Best Short Form Editor in 2011 and 2012. With the late Gardner Dozois, she co-edited a bonnie bunch of anthologies such as Isaac Asimov’s RobotsIsaac Asimov’s Christmas and Isaac Asimov’s Cyberdreams. She was also responsible for the Isaac Asimov Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy writing being renamed the Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing. 
  • Born September 27, 1972 Gwyneth Paltrow, 47. Yes, she is Pepper Potts in the Marvel Universe film franchise but her first genre role was as a young Wendy Darling in Hook. And she shows up in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow asPolly Perkins, a reporter for The Chronicle

(12) ROCKET ROYALTY. In Olav Rokne’s post “Many Princes; One Crown” at the Hugo Book Club Blog, readers are reminded of the challenges in voting on works translated to English, beginning with a recent Retro-Hugo winner.

…But the case of The Little Prince is more comparable to that of the first translated work to appear on a Hugo Ballot: the 1963 novel Sylva, which was written by French war hero Vercors (A.K.A. Jean Bruller). No translator is mentioned on the dust jacket of the book. And until this summer, when the record was updated at our request, the official Hugo Awards site did not list the name of the translator, Rita Barisse. The Wikipedia entry for the Hugo Awards, and several other publications continue to neglect Barisse’s contribution to the work….

(13) LAFFERTY AWARENESS. Shelf Awareness checks in with the author of Lies My Teacher Told Me in “Reading with… James W. Loewen”. R.A. Lafferty gets a big shout-out:  

Book you’re an evangelist for:

The only historical novel I recommend without reservation: Okla Hannali by R.A. Lafferty. Even though by a white author, I credit it as a Choctaw history of the 19th century, in the form of a biography of a fictional Choctaw leader who was born in Mississippi around 1801 and died in Oklahoma in 1900. I realize such a statement creates all sorts of problems for me–expropriation of Native knowledge, white arrogance, etc. My only defense is the work itself. I have no idea how Lafferty, otherwise known for science fiction, learned so much about Choctaws (and white folks), but every time I have checked out any fact in Okla Hannali, no matter how small, Lafferty got it right. And what a read! Only a little over 200 pages long, but an epic, nevertheless.

(14) ANOTHER WAY OF LOOKING AT THINGS. David Gerrold contends art and the artist should be regarded separately in his public Facebook post:

So let’s say that I point out that the owners of a specific fast-food chain have donated a lot of money to anti-LGBTQ+ causes.

This is not an invitation to say:

“The food is terrible.”

Let’s say that I point out that a particular actor has said some unsavory things about politics. This is not an invitation to say,

“She can’t act anyway.”

Or maybe a well-known author has said something egregiously stupid. That’s not an invitation to say,

“I never liked his writing in the first place.” …

(15) ETERNAL QUESTIONS. Meantime, Michael A. Burstein invited his FB friends to study a different moral dilemma:

You are on a runaway trolley. On one track are five people who have not yet seen The Good Place and don’t intend to, and who will die if you don’t move the lever. On the other track is one person who, like you, is caught up and can discuss the show with you. What do you do?

(16) PENN AND POURNELLE. There’s a pair of names you wouldn’t put in the same sentence – unless you’re Tedium’s Ernie Smith. In “All Penn, No Teller” he recalls when Penn Jillette was “a sometimes-rebellious big-name computer magazine columnist in the ’90s.”

…Now, tech writing of this era doesn’t have the pedigree of, say, good music journalism in the 1970s. Certainly, there were good tech writers during this time, particularly free-wheeling voices like fellow moonlighter Jerry Pournelle of Byte, hard-nosed insiders like journeyman scribe John C. Dvorak and the long-anonymous Robert X. Cringely, and well-considered newspaper voices of reason like syndicated columnist Kim Komando and the Wall Street Journal’s Walt Mossberg.

But Jillette was something different. He was already famous—certainly more famous than Pournelle, an established science-fiction author, thanks to being a regular fixture on television during much of his career and starring in a legendary Run-DMC music video—and he likely did not need a nationally distributed computer magazine column to make a living. Jillette simply liked computers and knew a lot about them, which meant that he could rant about the details of an Autoexec.bat file just as easily as he can about politics. He gave the tech writing form something of an edge, while maintaining the freewheeling nature established by fellow pre-blogging voices like Pournelle….

(17) EARLY WORMS. Science Daily reports “Otherworldly worms with three sexes discovered in Mono Lake”. The lede reads:

“Caltech scientists have discovered a new species of worm thriving in the extreme environment of Mono Lake. This new species, temporarily dubbed Auanema sp., has three different sexes, can survive 500 times the lethal human dose of arsenic, and carries its young inside its body like a kangaroo.”

Terry Hunt sent the link in with a note: “I was irresistibly reminded of Vonda N. McIntyre’s story ‘Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand’ and its novel expansion Dreamsnake.”

(18) LOOKING FOR ET IN YOUR OWN BACKYARD. The Beyond Center presented the 2019 Eugene Shoemaker Memorial Lecture with James Benford on September 5.

Abstract: A recently discovered group of nearby co-orbital objects is an attractive location for extraterrestrial intelligence (ETI) to locate for observing Earth. Near-Earth objects provide an ideal way to watching our world from a secure natural object that provides resources an ETI might need: materials, a firm anchor, concealment. These co-orbital objects have been little studied by astronomy and not at all by SETI or planetary radar observations. I describe the objects found thus far and propose both passive and active observations of them by optical and radio listening, radar imaging and launching probes. We might also broadcast to them.

(19) SMACK DAB ON THE MOON. “Chandrayaan-2: India Moon probe made ‘hard landing’, says Nasa” – BBC has the story.

India’s Moon rover, which lost contact moments before it was to touch down on the lunar surface earlier this month, had a “hard landing”, Nasa has said.

New pictures from a Nasa spacecraft show the targeted landing site of the Vikram rover, but its precise location “has yet to be determined”.

The images were taken at dusk, and were not able to locate the lander.

India would have been the fourth nation to make a soft landing on the Moon.

Chandrayaan-2 was due to touch down at the lunar South Pole on 7 September, over a month after it first took off.

It approached the Moon as normal until an error occurred about 2.1km (1.3 miles) from the surface, Indian space officials said.

On Friday, Nasa tweeted the images of the targeted landing site of the Indian module.

(20) STAR WARS AT DISNEYLAND. Good Morning America shared an advance look at the “Rise of the Resistance” attraction that will be part of the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge area of the Disney parks,

(21) TITAN PROBE. According to the MIT Technology Review “NASA is testing a shape-shifting robot that could explore Saturn’s moon Titan”. NASA’s Shapeshifter would change its configuration to meet the demands of the mission.

The future: The fully realized version of Shapeshifter would be a “mothercraft” lander that carries a collection of 12 mini robots (“cobots”) to the surface, acts as the main power source, and uses a suite of scientific instruments that can directly analyze samples. The cobots could work together to carry and move the mothercraft to different areas. They would be able to operate individually or as one cohesive unit, in order to adapt to a variety of terrains and environments. 

For example, the cobots would be able to separate and fly out in different directions or together as a flock, link up together like a barrel of monkeys in order to explore narrow caves and caverns, or even float on or swim in liquid.

(22) SURVIVE BY A WHISKER. Gato Roboto is a video game designed to let you channel your inner feline.

Pounce inside of your cozy armored mech and set off on a dangerous trek through an alien underworld full of irritable creatures and treacherous obstacles in a valiant effort to save your stranded captain and his crashed spaceship. Tiptoe outside the friendly confines of your technological marvel and follow your feline instincts through tight tunnels and mysterious waterways to scavenge for new weapons and gear. Adventure awaits the most curious of cats in Gato Roboto!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Terry Hunt, Nina Shepardson,Cliff, Rob Thornton, Michael J. Walsh, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna NImmhaus.]

Happy 75th Birthday Greg Benford!

Young Greg (left) and Jim (right) Benford war with the descendants of dinosaurs, er, chickens.

Young Greg (left) and Jim (right) Benford war with descendants of dinosaurs, er, chickens.

Best wishes to Greg and Jim Benford, twin brothers born this day in 1941, renowned scientists, sf fans, and authors.

They discovered fandom in the 1950s while their father was in the Army and stationed in Germany. There, jokes Greg, he and his brother both had to learn a foreign language: “I had to learn English – because I’m from Alabama.” The two began Void, one of the zines most closely identified with the iconoclastic spirit many remember as the best thing about fandom in those days. Also, Greg attended his first convention in 1956.

Greg and Jim in Germany in 1956.

Greg became a Professor of Plasma Physics and Astrophysics at the University of California, as well as one of the most accomplished hard sf writers. He’s a two-time Nebula winner, and has been nominated for the Hugo 13 times. A new collection of his short fiction, The Best of Gregory Benford, edited by David G. Hartwell, was published last July.

Greg Benford and David G. Hartwell sitting in President Taft's chair.

Greg Benford and David G. Hartwell sitting in President Taft’s chair.

Jim and Greg have worked on a number of things together, such as the concept of “Benford beacons”, theorizing that an alien civilization striving to optimize costs and make its signaling technology more efficient, would prefer signals that are pulsed, narrowly directed and broadband in the 1-to-10-gigahertz range.

In 2013, they helped organize the Starship Century Symposium where participants asked, “Is this the century we begin to build starships? Can we? Should we?”

The brothers Benford hope “Yes” is the answer to all three questions.

Jim and Greg at Tri Alpha Energy, a company doing advanced work in magnetic field-reversed containment methods, with the goal of developing fusion power.

Greg and Jim at Tri Alpha Energy, a company doing advanced work in magnetic field-reversed containment methods, with the goal of developing fusion power.

Worden Steps Down as Ames Research Center Director

Simon “Pete” Worden, director of NASA’s Ames Research Center, has announced he is retiring.

Worden funded Gregory and Jim Benfords’ Starship Century book and conference, together with UCSD.

He spent the last nine years at Ames and during that time, he told Space News –

We have launched dozens of small, low-cost satellites – and helped ignite a major new industry in this area. Ames people have revitalized space biology and begun to apply the new field of synthetic biology…. Ames has provided entry technology for the emerging commercial space launch sector. We have helped launch small satellites working with a number of nations. And we’ve hosted and inspired thousands of students.

He said he plans to ““to pursue some long-held dreams in the private sector.”

Set the Controls for Alpha Centauri

Traveling to our nearest stellar neighbor becomes an increasingly tangible vision. Not just for sf readers, or the countless thousands of Civilization gameplayers who built and launched the starship to Alpha Centauri, but the general public.

Witness the latest installment of NPR’s Studio 360 podcast, “How To Fly To Alpha Centauri”, in which the Benford brothers, former astronaut Mae Jemison of 100 Year Starship, and Marc Millis of the Tau Zero Foundation, set the vision.

Mae Jemison

Mae Jemison

Mae Jemison is the Principal of the 100 Year Starship Trust:

“That time frame is reasonable, why?” she asks rhetorically. “If you said ten years — ‘Nah, we know that’s not long enough.’ If you said 500 years, people would say, ‘I can kick back for another two to three hundred years because I don’t have to worry about it.’ One hundred years is close enough.”

Nor can the idea be dismissed as unattainable:

Gregory Benford likes to remind us of how greatly we underestimate the pace of change. “Thomas Jefferson said in 1812 that it will take 1,000 years for the republic to reach the Pacific. He never envisioned that 57 years later, a train would run all the way to San Francisco.”

Especially when people are already at work on technological concepts that might provide the key:

James Benford is president of a company that does microwave research; his identical twin brother Gregory is an astrophysicist at the University of California, Irvine. The Benfords make a strong case for a technology right out of a science fiction novel. The technology is the beam sail, and the book is Rocheworld, written by Robert Forward in 1982. “[It’s] a very solid scientific concept for a starship,” James says.

A beam sail is like a regular sail — “envision it as a giant umbrella, maybe 100 meters across,” says Gregory — pushed with microwave beams, instead of wind, to extremely high speeds.

Twin Pair o’ Docs

By Bill Higgins: Spotted something unusual: In the April 2014 issue of Physics Today, two letters were published from two physicists, who are brothers, both commenting on the same article.

I doubt that has happened before.

James Benford and Gregory Benford were responding to an article on Cold War history by Frank von Hippel in the September 2013 issue. (Physics Today has always had a rather leisurely turnaround time in publishing letters.)