2020 Down Under Fan Fund

Down Under Fan Fund co-administrator Paul Weimer has announced the 2020 DUFF ballot is live. There are four candidates to become the fund’s delegate to CoNZealand, the 78th Worldcon, 2020, in Wellington, New Zealand – Richard Auffrey, Shaun Duke, James Davis Nicoll, and Erin Underwood.

The voting process is DUFF’s fundraiser, and votes need to be accompanied by a minimum contribution of at least $5 in US, Australian, Canadian, or New Zealand currency.

Vote by emailing a copy of the ballot to both the Administrators. Pay using PayPal or by Credit Card to Paul. Full voting instructions and payment options are in the PDF ballot which is online here.

The voting deadline is March 27, 20202 at 11:59 p.m. EST (Eastern Standard Time in the U.S.).

The candidates’ platforms and nominators are:

  • Richard Auffrey

Send the Passionate Foodie to New Zealand! 

I’ve attended SFF conventions for 40 years, including 2 World Cons. Each year, I read 250+ books, including many genre novels, highlighting my favorites each year in my blog. In addition, I’ve previously interviewed numberous SFF authors for my Alcohol, Authors and Accolades series. I’m also the author of the Tipsy Sensei series, supernatural thrillers about a Sake expert encountering creatures from Japanese folklore. In addition, I’ve been a role-player for 40 years, usually as a Game Master, covering a diverse blend of games. It would be an honor to represent U.S. fandom.

(Nominators: Dan Rabarts, Ed Tisdale, Gillian Polack, Fred Kiesche, Paul Moore)

  • Shaun Duke

I’m a host for the two-time Hugo Finalist podcast, The Skiffy and Fanty Show, and a global SF enthusiast. In 2014, I created the World SF Tour to celebrate non-US SF/F through interviews and discussions; at each of the three international Worldcons I have attended (London, Helsinki, and Dublin), I have recorded podcasts to highlight SF/F from around the world. If selected as the DUFF delegate, I will continue that mission by more deeply exploring fandom and SF/F in New Zealand and Australia at ConZealand. I’ve got a handheld recorder, a geeky mind, and a hankering for ocean crossings!

(Nominators: David Annadale, Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Jen Zink, Beverly Bambury, Octavia Cade, Joyce Chng)

  • James Davis Nicoll

I would like to stand as a candidate for the 2020 DUFF. I have been an avid reader of speculative fiction for almost sixty years. I have attended cons, written thousands of reviews, served on diverse award juries, and provided the world with valuable safety hints [1]. If I am selected, I vow to embrace tradition and attempt to produce a humorous journal in the tradition of Walt Willis’ The Harp Stateside[2].

1: Persons concerned about sending me to a geologically active nation like New Zealand can rest assured that the Hawaii incident was probably a fluke.

2: With footnotes.

(Nominators: Sean Fagan, Elaine Walker, David Goldfarb, Azure Lunatic, Jo Van Ekeren, Mike Glyer)

  • Erin Underwood

I’m a con runner and fan editor/writer from Boston, Massachusetts, USA, whose passion for science, fandom, and SF/F drives me to bring new voices to publications and convention programs. While I’ve worked pre-con for many Worldcons, I could only afford attending a few conventions that I helped to create. I’d love to attend ConZealand, sharing my passion for SF/F with New Zealand and Australian fans, while also learning from those communities. I’m editing a special edition of the fanzine ?Journey Planet, highlighting New Zealand and ConZealand, and will promote fandom and DUFF through blogging, social media, and a summary report.

(Nominators: David MacDonald, Jim Kelly, Brenda Noiseux, Tim Szczesuil, Garth Nix, Nancy Holder, Janice Gelb)

Pixel Scroll 1/16/20 Maybe My Flubber Car Only Needed One Coat Of Anti-Gravity Paint After I Redid The Suspension Using Cavorite

I think the title is going to be longer than today’s Scroll. It’s been a busy day!

(1) YOUR EYEBALLS HAVE BEEN SPARED. Foz Meadows saw it so you don’t have to — “Tom Hooper’s Cats: A Study In Vogon Poetry”.

I’m not putting a spoiler tag on this. It’s fucking Cats. Get a grip.

I saw Cats today. Voluntarily. On purpose. It’s important you know that I wasn’t coerced in any way, nor was the friend who accompanied me. Of our own free will, being of sound mind and body, we exchanged real human money for the experience of seeing Tom Hooper’s Cats on the big screen, in the company of other real human strangers. Not that our session was packed – aside from the two of us, there were only five other people in attendance, all older to middle-aged women – but the two ladies sitting near us not only cried during Jennifer Hudson’s bifurcated rendition of Memory (more of which shortly), but applauded during the credits. Their happy reactions, audible in the theatre’s yawning silence, added a further layer of unreality to what was already a surreal and vaguely disturbing experience, but once we emerged in the aftermath, stunned and blinking like newborn animals, their enjoyment helped us cobble together a theory about who, exactly, Cats is for – if such a film can truly be said to be for anyone….

(2) CHATTERJEE Q&A. Joseph Hurtgen recently interviewed Indian sff author Rimi Chatterjee for Rapid Transmission. Born in Belfast, United Kingdom and now teaching and writing in India, “Chatterjee offers economic and cultural perspectives that Westerners need to hear,” says Hurtgen. “The wonder of science fiction is that science and human conflict are universal languages. By embracing non-Western culture and non-Western SF, we discover more about ourselves.” “Rimi Chatterjee: Love and Knowledge and Yellow Karma”.

RT: I read recently that William Gibson will look at the news, realize the book he’s working on is already outdated, and then revise accordingly. One particularly arresting intervention was the destruction of the World Trade centers, which he decided to include in his book Pattern Recognition–published 2003, though he was writing it in 2001. Does the pace of our 24-hour news cycle with its grim depiction of a world headed to WWIII and continent wide fires ever cause you to revise your stories?

RC: Mostly it’s the other way round: the universe treads on my heels. For instance a lot of the story of Bitch Wars is set in Malaysia in a fictional place called KL City (which has a slum called Climate Town where climate refugees or Climies live). So I was researching the 1MDB scandal for background, and the next day I open YouTube and Hasan Minhaj has done an episode of Patriot Act on Jho Low, Goldman Sachs and the whole sorry mess. I’m like: dude o_O.

(3) PEACOCK STREAMING. “All Your Favorite Stars Are Coming to NBC’s Streaming Service Soon”GQ fills you in. We’ll excerpt the part that’s genre —

…The other series that’s based on an established IP also has a very loyal, even more niche audience is The Adventure Zone. Based on a podcast of the same name from the McElroy Brothers, who also host the comedy podcast My Brother, My Brother, and Me, The Adventure Zone is a comedy fantasy adventure using the rules of Dungeons & Dragons. There is already a comic book adaptation of the series.

The Adventure Zone is a side-splitting and heart-filled fantasy animated comedy series that follows an unlikely, poorly equipped trio and their beleaguered Dungeon Master as they reluctantly embark on a quest to save their world,” reads the official synopsis.

(4) BETTER THAN A BOOK BOMB. In the Hindustan Times: “Bookstore fails to sell books, Neil Gaiman seeks Twitter’s help. This is how they oblige”.  

Two days back, on January 15, Petersfield Bookshop took to Twitter to share an image and a sad incident. “Not a single book sold today… £0.00… We think this maybe the first time ever,” the store wrote. “We know its miserable out but if you’d like to help us out please find our Abebooks offering below, all at 25% off at the moment,” they added. Along with the post, they also shared pictures of the empty bookstore.

The bookstore’s tweet captured people’s attention when fantasy and science fiction author Neil Gaiman retweeted it. In the caption, he urged Twitter to come together and do something good. “In these dark days it’s wonderful to see Twitter doing something good!” wrote Gaiman.

People answered the call and orders came flooding in from different corners of the world. In fact, the store ended up receiving £1,000 worth of orders overnight with many waiting to purchase more. The store also shared a tweet to give an update on the situation.

(5) FAST START. BBC welcomes us to “Meet the NASA intern who discovered a new planet on his third day”. And not just a planet, but one orbiting two stars, as in Star Wars.

As far as impressing your potential new boss goes, discovering a planet on day three of your internship at NASA is up there.

That’s what happened to 17-year-old Wolf Cukier while helping out at the space agency in the United States.

He was checking images from its super-strength satellite when he noticed something strange.

It turned out to be a new planet, 1,300 light years away from Earth. News just confirmed by NASA.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 16, 1963 Walt Disney’s Son Of Flubber premiered. Yes, it’s SF. Comedy SF we grant you but SF none-the-less. Sequel to the Disney science fiction comedy film The Absent-Minded Professor, it starred  Fred MacMurray of My Three Sons fame. It was directed by Robert Stevenson. A colorized version would be released in 1997.  It was a box office success earning back three times what it cost to produce, but critics didn’t like nearly as much as they liked The Absent-Minded Professor. Reviewers currently at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 86% rating. 
  • January 16, 1995  — Star Trek: Voyager premiered on UPN.  It would last for seven years and one hundred and seventy-two episodes, making it the longest running Trek series to date. Starring a very large cast that all of all you know by heart by now. It’s interesting that it would never make the final Hugo ballot for Best Dramatic Presentation, the only Trek show to date not to so. It rates very high at Rotten Tomatoes, garnering a mid-seventies rating from critics and viewers alike. 
  • January 16, 2015 — On Syfy, the Twelve Monkeys series debuted. It was by created by Terry Matalas and Travis Fickett, and it riffs loosely off Gilliam’s film and the original French short film Gilliam based his film on, La Jetée . We are not going to detail the cast as the four-season run lasting forty-seven episodes saw significant cast changes. Reception for the most part, excepting Gilliam, was positive. Ratings at Rotten Tomatoes are over 90% but we caution that less than a hundred individuals have expressed their opinion during its four-year run. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 16, 1887 John Hamilton. He’s no doubt remembered best for his role as Perry White in the Fifties Adventures of Superman series. He also was in the Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe serial as Professor Gordon, and I see he played G.F. Hillman in the Forties Captain America serial film. (Died 1958.)
  • Born January 16, 1905 Festus Pragnell. Ok, he’s here not because he had all that a distinguished a career as a writer or illustrator, but because of the charming story one fan left us of his encounter with him which you can read here. Festus himself wrote but three novels (The Green Man of Kilsona, The Green Man of Graypec, and The Terror from Timorkal), plus the wrote a series of stories about Don Hargreaves’ adventures on Mars. Be prepared to pay dearly if you want to read him as he’s not made it into the digital age and exists mostly in the original Amazing Stories only. (Died 1977.)
  • Born January 16, 1948 John Carpenter, 72. My favorite films by him? Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York.  His gems include the Halloween franchise, The Thing, Starman (simply wonderful),  The Philadelphia ExperimentGhosts of Mars and many other films. What do you consider him to have done that you like, or don’t like fir that matter? I’m not fond of Escape from L.A. as I keep comparing to the stellar popcorn film that the previous Escape film is.
  • Born January 16, 1970 Garth Ennis, 50. Comic writer who’s no doubt best known for Preacher which he did with illustrator Steve Dillon, and his stellar nine-year run on the Punisher franchise. I’m very fond of his work on Judge Dredd which is extensive, and his time spent scripting Etrigan the Demon For DC back in the mid Nineties. 
  • Born January 16, 1974 Kate Moss, 46. Yes she’s done SF. To be precise Black Adder which we discussed a bit earlier. She played Maid Marian in “Blackadder Back & Forth” in which as IMDB puts it “At a New Millennium Eve party, Blackadder and Baldrick test their new time machine and ping pong through history encountering famous characters and changing events rather alarmingly.” You can watch it here.
  • Born January 16, 1976 Eva Habermann,  44. She is best known for playing the role of Zev Bellringer on Lexx. She was succeeded in her role by Xenia Seeberg. Ok, I’ll confess that I’ve never seen the series which I know exists in both R and not so R versions. Who here has seen it in either form? She was also Ens. Johanna Pressler in Star Command, a pilot that wasn’t to be a series that was written by Melinda Snodgrass. And she had a role in the Code Name: Eternity series as Dr. Rosalind Steiner.

(8) SPECIAL SHROOMS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] At first glance, it does kinda sound like mushrooms were involved. A very special kind of mushrooms. 

Futurism: “NASA Wants to Grow a Moon Base Out of Mushrooms”

NASA scientists are exploring a peculiar strategy for building a Moon base and other off-world structures: growing them onsite out of living mushrooms.

The space agency first considered the possibility of fungal space habitats in 2018, but now scientists are conducting tests to determine how well mycelia fungus might grow in Martian soil, Space.com reports. If the research pans out, it would allow future astronauts to construct off-world settlements without needing to carry expensive, heavy building materials with them all the way from Earth — a game-changer in the plan to colonize space….

PS: Technically the structures would not be built out of living mushrooms… The shrooms would take nutrients from the Lunar (or Martian) soil, then the biomass would be heat treated to convert it into building material.

(9) THE THIGH BONE CONNECTS TO THE INTERNET BONE. Slate’s “Future Tense” features “The Ethical Dilemmas Surrounding 3D-Printed Human Bones”.

Ten years ago, it wasn’t possible for most people to use 3D technology to print authentic copies of human bones. Today, using a 3D printer and digital scans of actual bones, it is possible to create unlimited numbers of replica bones—each curve and break and tiny imperfection intact—relatively inexpensively. The technology is increasingly allowing researchers to build repositories of bone data, which they can use to improve medical procedures, map how humans have evolved, and even help show a courtroom how someone died.

But the proliferation of faux bones also poses an ethical dilemma—and one that, prior to the advent of accessible 3D printing, was mostly limited to museum collections containing skeletons of dubious provenance. Laws governing how real human remains of any kind may be obtained and used for research, after all—as well as whether individuals can buy and sell such remains— are already uneven worldwide. Add to that the new ability to traffic in digital data representing these remains, and the ethical minefield becomes infinitely more fraught. “When someone downloads these skulls and reconstructs them,” says Ericka L’Abbé, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Pretoria in South Africa, “it becomes their data, their property.”

(10) FUTURE HISTORY HAPPENS. James Davis Nicoll got Tor.com readers excited about “5 Thrilling Tales of Deadly Nuclear Reactors”. Or maybe it was him nuking Heinlein.

“Blowups Happen” is set in Robert A. Heinlein’s Future History. Rising demand for energy justifies the construction of a cutting-edge nuclear reactor. There is little leeway between normal operation and atomic explodageddon, which puts a lot of pressure on the power plant’s operators. A work environment that requires flawless performances—lest a moment’s inattention blow a state off the map—results in significant mental health challenges for the workforce. How to keep the workers focused on their task without breaking them in the process?

This story dates from what we might think of as the Folsom point era of nuclear energy… No, wait, that’s unfair to Folsom points, which are sophisticated hi-tech, really. This was the era when the atomic version of fire-hardened spear points was still on the drawing board. Hence Heinlein can be forgiven for getting essentially every detail about nuclear power wrong. What wasn’t clear to me was how a power plant composed of pure atomic explodium got licensed in the first place. Perhaps it was because this nonchalant attitude towards safety infuses the whole of the Future History. Just ask Rhysling.

(11) CLOSE DOWN. “Twitter apologises for letting ads target neo-Nazis and bigots”.

Twitter has apologised for allowing adverts to be micro-targeted at certain users such as neo-Nazis, homophobes and other hate groups.

The BBC discovered the issue and that prompted the tech firm to act.

Our investigation found it possible to target users who had shown an interest in keywords including “transphobic”, “white supremacists” and “anti-gay”.

Twitter allows ads to be directed at users who have posted about or searched for specific topics.

But the firm has now said it is sorry for failing to exclude discriminatory terms.

Anti-hate charities had raised concerns that the US tech company’s advertising platform could have been used to spread intolerance.

(12) WHO’S NOT BOND. “James Bond: Barbara Broccoli says character ‘will remain male'” – BBC is shaken but not stirred.

The producer of the James Bond films has ruled out making the character female after Daniel Craig’s departure.

No Time To Die, which will be released in April, marks Craig’s final outing as 007, and his replacement has not yet been announced.

“James Bond can be of any colour, but he is male,” producer Barbara Broccoli told Variety.

“I believe we should be creating new characters for women – strong female characters.

“I’m not particularly interested in taking a male character and having a woman play it. I think women are far more interesting than that.”

The forthcoming Bond film will see actress Lashana Lynch play a female 00 agent after Craig’s Bond has left active service.

Lynch was seen in character for the first time in the trailer, reigniting the conversation about whether James Bond himself could be re-cast as a woman for the next film.

Broccoli oversees the franchise with her half-brother Michael G Wilson. “For better or worse, we are the custodians of this character,” she said. “We take that responsibility seriously.”

(13) NOT SO PRIMITIVE. We keep finding we underestimated past versions of humans; now the BBC reports that “Neanderthals ‘dived in the ocean’ for shellfish”

New data suggests that our evolutionary cousins the Neanderthals may have been diving under the ocean for clams.

It adds to mounting evidence that the old picture of these anciClam shells that wash up on beaches can be distinguished from those that are still live when they’re gathered.ent people as brutish and unimaginative is wrong.

Until now, there had been little clear evidence that Neanderthals were swimmers.

But a team of researchers who analysed shells from a cave in Italy said that some must have been gathered from the seafloor by Neanderthals.

The findings have been published in the journal Plos One.

The Neanderthals living at Grotta dei Moscerini in the Latium region around 90,000 years ago were shaping the clam shells into sharp tools.

Paolo Villa, from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and colleagues, analysed 171 such tools, which all came from a local species of mollusc called the smooth clam (Callista chione). The tools were excavated by archaeologists at the end of the 1940s.

Clam shells that wash up on beaches can be distinguished from those that are still live when they’re gathered.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/15/20 This Pixel Has Been Approved For Scrolling Before All Audiences

(1) BIG CHOICES. “The Big Idea: Kameron Hurley” at Whatever.

…When I began writing my Worldbreaker Saga back in 2012, which begins with the novel The Mirror Empire, I too was obsessed with this idea of two choices: the light and the dark. I was writing fantasy, after all! While my protagonists might be morally messy early on, I always knew I was headed for a showdown where they had two choices: good or evil. Genocidal or self-sacrificing.

But it was a false choice.

And it literally took me years to realize this.

At some level I must have understood I was setting up a false choice as I finished the second volume, Empire Ascendant, and began the grueling process of tying everything up in the third and final book, The Broken Heavens. Emotionally, I was rebelling against my own embrace of these false choices, because no matter how many times I tried to get myself to write the ending I had in mind at the beginning of the series, it just never felt… right.

(2) BASE RUMORS. CoNZealand has extended the deadline for entering the Hugo base design competition until January 31.

If you were thinking of entering the competition to design bases for the 2020 Hugo Awards and 1945 Retro Hugos, you’re in luck. The deadline for entries has been extended until 31st January 2020 (from the original deadline of 17th January).

Read more about the design contest.

Read more about the Hugo Awards.

(3) SCREAM QUIETLY. Paramount dropped a trailer for A Quiet Place II.

Following the deadly events at home, the Abbott family (Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe) must now face the terrors of the outside world as they continue their fight for survival in silence. Forced to venture into the unknown, they quickly realize that the creatures that hunt by sound are not the only threats that lurk beyond the sand path.

(4) THEY HAVE ISSUES. Daily Grail spotlights fantasy history in “Hidden Jewels in ‘The Garden of Orchids’: The Esoteric Content of an Early Fantasy Magazine”.

For a long time Weird Tales (probably best known for short stories by H.P. Lovecraft, Robert. E. Howard, and later Ray Bradbury) was seen as the first fantastical magazine, publishing science fiction, weird fiction and horror. That history has been revised over the past few years. Der Orchideengarten (in English, The Garden of Orchids) was a Munich-based magazine first published in 1919, predating the better known American magazine by several years, and is now acknowledged as the first fantasy magazine (archived digitally here).

Only published until 1921 Der Orchideengarten is somewhat overshadowed by its better known, and more mainstream, Munich-based contemporaries, Jugend and Simplissicimus, yet the breadth of stories and unsettling art is worth looking at.

(5) WOLFMAN. One of the many cameos in CW’s Crisis on Infinite Earths “Part 5” was the real Marv Wolfman, who co-wrote the original Crisis on Infinite Earths mini-series which was published by DC Comics in 1985-1986. CBR.com has the dialog, from when Marv, playing a fan, stops Supergirl and The Flash to ask for their autographs.

“Wait, you know both of us?” Kara asks. “And it’s normal to see us together?” Barry adds.

“Well, normally, you’d also have Green Arrow and a Legend or two,” Wolfman explains. “Last year, even Batwoman joined in.” He points to the folder. “Would you make that out to Marv? Thank you!”

“You’re welcome,” Barry says as he scribbles. “Marv, as far as you know, how long have Supergirl and I and all the rest of us been working together on this Earth?”

“Uh, since forever!” Wolfman answers.

(6) LAST TRUMP. The LA Times’ Mark Swed reviews an opera: “King Arthur meets Trump and Superman in Long Beach “.

…Meanwhile, Long Beach Opera, as ever priding itself with radically rethinking repertory, has done a full refashioning of the first great “King Arthur” opera (there aren’t many, but Chausson’s “Le Roi Arthus” is a neglected beauty). Arthur here becomes the comic book delusional fantasy of a pudgy, narcissistic, emigrant-phobic politico requiring psychiatric treatment.

…Arthur King is a patient at Camelot O’Neil, a behavioral residence mental health unit. His sexy nurse is Gwen E. Veer. His buddy is another patient, Lance E. Lott. Doc Oswald runs the dubious joint.

Mitisek then takes apart the opera, adapting Purcell’s music to fit new circumstances and a completely new theatrical structure. His cutup rearranges, revises, reorders and reduces Purcell’s score. The occasional Dryden line is retained, but much of the sung text is new. Five acts become a single uninterrupted one under two hours.

Our schlumpy, Trumpian Arthur thinks he can save the world from aliens. He can be ridiculously pompous, Drydenesque even. He can also be sympathetically vulnerable.

(7) MAISEL MASHUP. Marvel’s Mrs. Maisel: Rachel Brosnahan Enters the Marvel Universe on The Late Late Show with James Corden.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 15, 2010 — Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Alice Sebold‘s The Lovely Bones novel premiered.  It starred starring Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Susan Sarandon, Stanley Tucci, Michael Imperioli, and Saoirse Ronan. The screenplay was by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson. Although Ronan and Tucci were praised for their performances, it received mixed reviews from critics. It has a 32% rating at Rotten Tomatoes by reviewers.
  • January 15, 2008 File 770 blog makes its first post. Happy birthday to us!

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 15, 1879 Ernest  Thesiger. He’s here because of his performance as Doctor Septimus Pretorius in James Whale’s Bride of Frankenstein. He had a major role in Hitchcock’s not completed and now lost Number 13 (or Mrs. Peabody) which is even genre adjacent. He was also in The Ghoul which was an early Boris Karloff film. And he continued to show up in SFF films such as The Ghosts of Berkeley Square where he was Dr. Cruickshank of Psychical Research Society. (Died 1961.)
  • Born January 15, 1913 Lloyd Bridges. Though I’m reasonably sure Secret Agent X-9, a 1945 serial, isn’t genre, I’m listing it anyways because I’m impressed with it — it was based on a comic strip by Dashiell Hammett, Leslie Charteris and others. He’s the Pilot Col. Floyd Graham in Rocketship X-M, Dr. Doug Standish In Around the World Under the Sea, Aramis in The Fifth Musketeer, Clifford Sterling in Honey, I Blew Up the Kid and Grandfather in Peter and the Wolf. His television appearances are too many to list here. (Died 1998.)
  • Born January 15, 1926 Maria Schell. German actress who had roles in Superman and The Martian Chronicles. I’m reasonably sure that the Village of The Damned was her only other SFF film appearance.  (Died 2005.)
  • Born January 15, 1927 Phyllis Coates, 93. Lois Lane on The Adventures of Superman series for the first season. She’s also in Superman and the Mole Men which preceded the series. And she was in Fifties horror film Teenage Frankenstein. Wiki claims she had an appearance on Lois & Clark but IMDB does not show one. 
  • Born January 15, 1928 Joanne Linville, 92. Best remembered I’d say for being the unnamed Romulnan Commander Spock gets involved with on “The Enterprise Incident”. (Vulcan’s Heart by Josepha Sherman and Susan Shwartz, calls her Liviana Charvanek.)  She also starred in the Twilight Zone‘s “The Passersby” episode, and she starred in “I Kiss Your Shadow” which was the final episode of the Bus Stop series. The episode was based on the short story by Robert Bloch who wrote the script for it. This story is in The Early Fears Collection
  • Born January 15, 1935 Robert Silverberg, 85.  I know the first thing I read by him was The Stochastic Man a very long time ago. After that I’ve read all of the Majipoor series which is quite enjoyable, and I know I’ve read a lot of his short fiction down the years. So what should I have read by him that I haven’t? 
  • Born January 15, 1944 Christopher Stasheff. A unique blending I’d say of fantasy and SF with a large if sometimes excessive dollop of humor. His best-known novels are his Warlock in Spite of Himself series which I’ve read some of years ago. Who here has read has Starship Troupers series? It sounds potentially interesting. (Died 2018.)
  • Born January 15, 1945 Ron Bounds, 75. One of the founders of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society in the Sixties. He co-chaired Discon 2, was a member of both the Baltimore in ’67 and Washington in ’77 bid committees.  He chaired Loscon 2.  He published the Quinine, a one-shot APA. He was President of the Great Wall of China SF, Marching & Chop Suey Society which is both a cool name and a great undertaking as well.

(10) BINTI FOR TV. Author Nnedi Okorafor will co-write the script alongside Stacy Osei-Kuffour (Watchmen) for Media Res.Shelf Awareness reports –

Hulu has given a script order for an adaptation of Nnedi Okorafor’s Hugo and Nebula award-winning Binti trilogy. The Hollywood Reporter noted that Stacy Osei-Kuffour (WatchmenPEN15, The Morning Show) will co-write the script with Okorafor. The studio is Media Res, the banner launched by former HBO drama head Michael Ellenberg, who will executive produce alongside Osei-Kuffour and Okorafor.

(11) GENERAL WITHOUT TROOPS. NPR finds it’s lonely a the top:“Commander Sworn In As First Member Of New Space Force”.

The first newly created branch of the U.S. armed forces in more than seven decades now has its first official member.

Air Force Gen. John “Jay” Raymond was sworn in Tuesday as chief of Space Operations. It’s the top post in what since late last month is the Pentagon’s seventh military branch, the United States Space Force.

…But at the moment, there are no Space Force troops to command. Most of the 16,000 officers, airmen and civilians who Pentagon officials expect to comprise the new service branch in the next few months would likely be Air Force personnel drawn from the U.S. Space Command, which is to be the Space Force’s operational component.

(12) LIVE LONG AND PROSPER. “Secrets of ‘1,000-year-old trees’ unlocked” – BBC shares the key.

Scientists have discovered the secret of how the ginkgo tree can live for more than 1,000 years.

A study found the tree makes protective chemicals that fend off diseases and drought.

And, unlike many other plants, its genes are not programmed to trigger inexorable decline when its youth is over.

The ginkgo can be found in parks and gardens across the world, but is on the brink of extinction in the wild.

“The secret is maintaining a really healthy defence system and being a species that does not have a pre-determined senescence (ageing) programme,” said Richard Dixon of the University of North Texas, Denton.

“As ginkgo trees age, they show no evidence of weakening their ability to defend themselves from stresses.”

(13) RIGHT TO THE POINT. James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers about “Five Sword-Wielding Women in SFF”.

Steel by Carrie Vaughn

In Carrie Vaughn’s Steel, fourth-rate fencer Jill Archer tumbles off her boat during a family vacation near Nassau. She hits the water in the 21st century; she is pulled out during the Golden Age of Piracy. Luckily for the teen, Captain Marjory Cooper offers Jill the choice between signing on as a pirate or remaining a prisoner. (Less savoury fates are not on offer.) She chooses piracy, a life that involves a lot more deck swabbing than Basil Rathbone movies would suggest. Jill’s astounding temporal displacement makes her of considerable interest to scallywag pirate Edmund Blane. Jill will need better than fourth-place sword skills to survive Blane and find her way home.

(14) TWO RESNICK TRIBUTES. One of them was a young writer longer ago than the other, but they both admire how Mike Resnick treated them then.

George R.R. Martin: “RIP Mike”.

I don’t recall when I first met Mike, but it was a long, long time ago, back in the 1970s when both of us were still living in Chicago.  I was a young writer and he was a somewhat older, somewhat more established writer.  There were a lot of young writers in the Chicago area in those days, along with three more seasoned pros, Gene Wolfe, Algis Budrys, and Mike.   What impressed me at the time… and still impresses me, all these years later… was how willing all three of them were to offer their advice, encouragements, and help to aspiring neo-pros like me.   Each of them in his own way epitomized what this genre and this community were all about back then.  Paying forward, in Heinlein’s phrase.

And no one paid it forward more than Mike Resnick.

Michelle Sagara West: “Mike Resnick and me, or Laura Resnick is my sister”.

…Michelle is shy.

People who had met me in real life found this hilar­ious. I think one of them was certain I was play-acting. I wasn’t, of course. I was terri­fied. I could stand outside a door that lead to a publisher party and hyper­ven­ti­late.

Resnick?—?I called him Resnick, not Mike; I don’t remember why?—?under­stood that fear. He talked about being nine­teen and terri­fied at his first conven­tion. And I knew that if I went to a conven­tion that Mike Resnick was at, I’d know at least one person. I’d have one friend.

(15) TO DYE FOR. “Oreo Is Releasing Pink Easter Egg Cookies This Year And They’re Honestly Adorable” – that’s Delish’s opinion, anyway.

From the looks of it, these are actually Golden Oreos that have been dyed pink and made to look like decorated Easter eggs. As @ThreeSnackateers pointed out, these aren’t any fancy flavor, they’re just festive and fun.

And maybe you can wash them down with one of these — “Jelly Belly Is Releasing Seltzer And It Comes In 8 Sweet Flavors”.

Just because the name suggests this will be a super sugary drink (based off the beloved jelly beans, of course) doesn’t mean that’s true. These seltzers are going to have zero calories and zero sweeteners and will only use two ingredients.

The cans will begin to stock shelves next week, and the drink comes in eight of the iconic Jelly Belly jelly bean flavors. You can take your pick between French vanilla, lemon lime, orange sherbet, piña colada, pink grapefruit, tangerine, very cherry, or watermelon. Each flavor is made only with carbonated water and natural flavors, so you can have a taste of the candy jar with zero of the cals.

(16) HOPING TO LAUNCH. When you’re rich enough, you can get AV Club to treat your singles ad as news: “Rich man taking applications for moon wife”.

Yusaku Maezawa is a Japanese billionaire and the founder of online fashion retailer Zozotown—according to Forbes, as of today, he’s worth $2 billion…

Let me be perfectly clear: the Bachelor references are there for fun, and technically, Maezawa is looking for a female “life partner,” not a moon wife, but other than that, nothing else in this story is a joke. These are facts: Yusaku Maezawa, a billionaire, is taking applications from women (aged 20 and up) who want to be his life partner. One of the things that life partner will do with Maezawa is go to the moon, and that’s not just a minor perk or something, it is his major selling point.

(17) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter was tuned in when a Jeopardy! contestant missed another chance:

Answer: This Netflix show is a chilling reworking of Shirley Jackson;s gothic horror tale.

Wrong question: “What is ‘The Lottery.'”

Correct question: What is ‘The Haunting of Hill House’?”

And somebody else took a header over this —

Answer: One of England’s most beloved tunes is the one by Hubert Parry names for this faraway Mideast city.

Bizarrely wrong question: “What is Van Diemon’s Land?”

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In the sci-fi short film ‘Regulation'” on YouTube, Ryan Patch describes a dystopian future where children are forced to wear “happy patches” to fight depression.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/13/20 Hey Airbender, Bend A Little Space-Time For Me

(1) STORY DECK. From the fertile mind of James Davis Nicoll – “Five SF Works to Read If You’ve Ever Played Traveller” at Tor.com. First on the list —

Becky Chambers’ Wayfarers series

Both The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet and A Closed and Common Orbit are quite Traveller-esque, the first with its small commercial vessel crewed by a diverse assortment of characters struggling to stay afloat in a demanding universe, and the second features the sort of horrifying backstory implied by Traveller’s notorious character generation system.

(2) THE WHY. BBC’s The Why Factor analyzes the appeal of  “Dystopias”.

23 minute audio

Released On: 13 Jan 2020

Available for over a year

Dystopic fiction is going through a bit of a boom at the moment, but why is it that we can’t seem to get enough of stories where ordinary people struggle to survive against an all-powerful state or in a post- apocalyptic world? Is it because they reflect the anxieties we already feel about the world we live in, or because they allow us to escape it. 

Shabnam Grewal asks Why is Dystopic fiction so appealing? 

(3) PRATCHETT. BBC Radio 4’s “Good Omens” webpage includes a section about “Terry Pratchett on Neil Gaiman” which is an extract from the hardback edition of Good Omens, published by Gollancz. This is probably not recent, but it’s news to me…

…He also had a very bad hat. It was a grey homburg. He was not a hat person. There was no natural unity between hat and man. That was the first and last time I saw the hat. As if subconsciously aware of the bad hatitude, he used to forget it and leave it behind in restaurants. One day, he never went back for it. I put this in for the serious fans out there: If you search really, really hard, you may find a small restaurant somewhere in London with a dusty grey homburg at the back of a shelf. Who knows what will happen if you try it on?

(4) DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS. “Lucifer Season 5 Announces Musical Episode”Comicbook.com has the story.

Details about “Blood Celestial Karaoke Jam” aren’t being released just yet, but what we do know is that this episode will be different from the 1940s-set episode. That episode, which will be the fourth of the final season, reportedly will contain only two song performances and not a full plot built around singing and dancing. Even with that being the case, the noir episode should be highly entertaining for fans as it will offer an alternate version of Lucifer (Tom Ellis) and Mazikeen (Lesley-Ann Brandt) singing together. The rest of the cast will also be part of that episode but won’t be playing the characters fans are most familiar with in the series given its past setting.

“I can’t tease too much!” Ellis said previously about the episode. “I would say on this episode, we take a trip down memory lane with Lucifer. We tell a story that answers the question a lot of fans have been asking actually.”

(5) IN TIME OF MOURNING. David Gerrold deftly addresses an issue on Facebook.

When Harlan Ellison died, there were people who were quick to point out what a terrible human being he was. And yes, that was their experience of him. Okay.

Over here, Harlan was my big brother. He saved my life. I knew he had human failings. We all do. Harlan’s were considerable. (So are mine.) So what? His impact on me — and on many — was enormous. And those of us who had benefited from his various kindnesses were saddened by his loss. He was important to us.

But to those who needed to vent their unfulfilled angers — “Have you no decency? At long last, have you no sense of shame?”

In such a circumstance, I would ask, “Why do you want to add to the pain of the close friends and family? What do you gain?”

Or is your own self-righteous need to dredge up your own angers one more time so important that the feelings of others are irrelevant to you?

What I’m talking about is the lack of empathy — and the inability to recognize the consequences of one’s own actions.

What I have learned (the hard way) is that maturity and wisdom are best demonstrated by keeping one’s mouth shut and listening harder. There might still be something to learn that is more important than my own unresolved issues.

Does this have anything to do with any recent events in the SF community?

Oh, probably.

(6) MORBIUS. Sony Pictures has dropped a teaser trailer for Morbius. “Teaser”? It’s almost three minutes long!

One of Marvel’s most compelling and conflicted characters comes to the big screen as Oscar® winner Jared Leto transforms into the enigmatic antihero, Michael Morbius. Dangerously ill with a rare blood disorder, and determined to save others suffering his same fate, Dr. Morbius attempts a desperate gamble. What at first appears to be a radical success soon reveals itself to be a remedy potentially worse than the disease.

(7) RESNICK GOFUNDME CONTINUES. The target amount has been raised to $70,000 for the “Help Mike Resnick’s widow pay off medical bills” GoFundMe.

UPDATE on 01/13/2020: Carol and Laura would like to very much thank all of Mike’s friends, peers, and donators for their condolences and amazingly generous donations. Carol is just now starting to discover how expensive everything is following Mike’s passing, and it has been quite overwhelming. Your support has helped comfort her through a very hard time.

As you may be aware, Carol does not earn an income herself, and Mike was unable to work for a good slice of this year, due to multiple surgeries and illnesses. Yet she still has funeral arrangements to cover, a mortgage to pay, food to put on the table, and way too many bills to pay off. Every dollar donated helps her set up a new existence without her life partner.

We have changed the fundraiser goal to help meet her current needs, and while we understand you may have donated already (for which we are profoundly grateful), we ask if you could please share the fundraiser on your social media accounts again to help raise awareness. Your well wishes alone, and supportive words, have been so valued. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 13, 1939 Son Of Frankenstein premiered. It  starred Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, and was the third entry in Universal Studios’ Frankenstein series and the last to feature Boris Karloff as the Monster. Directed and produced by Rowland V. Lee, Wyllie Cooper wrote the script in which he created the Igor character. The box office was remarkable and Universal Studios ordered The Ghost Of Frankenstein several years later with Lon Chaney Jr. in the title role. It has an amazing 91% rating among critics and 71% among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.
  • January 13, 1964 The Outer Limits aired the sixteenth episode of its first season, a comedy called “Controlled Experiment”. Yes comedy and the only one that they did.  Written and directed by Leslie Stevens, it starred Grace Lee Whitney of Trek fame as Carla Duveen and The Martians in a story well worth seeing. You can see it here.
  • January 13, 1980 Dr. Franken first aired. Directed by Marvin J. Chomsky and Jeff Lieberman from a script by Jeff Lieberman, it starred Robert Vaughn as Dr. Arno Franken in a modern retelling of this that tale. Robert Perault played the John Doe in  Room 841 whom I assume was The Monster. The All Movie Site says no network or sponsor cared enough to purchase this pilot film for a weekly series emerge from it.
  • January 13, 1989Deepstar Six premiered. It was directed  by Sean S. Cunningham and produced by  him and Patrick Markey from a screenplay by Lewis Abernathy and Geof Miller from the story that  Abernathywrote. (I know that’s a lot of credits.) The sprawling cast included included Greg Evigan, Nancy Everhard, Miguel Ferrer, Nia Peeples and Matt McCoy. It was extremely poorly received by critics and audience members alike. Currently it’s got a a 0% rating at Rotten Tomatoes among critics but only seven have been found that expressed an opinion, and it gets just 23% among the many reviewers there gave their opinion.  

January 13, 2008 — Fox Television premiered Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. It starred Lena Headey, Thomas Dekker and Summer Glau, it lasted two seasons and thirty one episodes. (It actually had a wrap-up to it.) It was narrated by Lena Headey who you’ll remember as Ma-Ma in Dredd. At Rotten Tomatoes, critics (77%) and reviewers (85%) really liked it but it never got better than mediocre ratings. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 13, 1893 Clark Ashton Smith. One SFF critic deemed him one of “the big three of Weird Tales, with Robert E. Howard and H. P. Lovecraft“. This is while some readers found him excessively morbid — as L. Sprague de Camp said of him, “nobody since Poe has so loved a well-rotted corpse.” If you’ve not read his work, Nightshade has collected it in The Collected Fantasies of Clark Ashton Smith, five volumes in total. They’re all available in Kindle editions. (Died 1961.)
  • Born January 13, 1933 Ron Goulart, 87. First I must acknowledge that he is very prolific and uses many pseudonyms,  to wit Kenneth Robeson, Con Steffanson, Chad Calhoun, R.T. Edwards, Ian R. Jamieson, Josephine Kains, Jillian Kearny, Howard Lee, Zeke Masters, Frank S. Shawn, and Joseph Silva. (Wow!) You did the see Doc Savage one in there, didn’t you? I’m reasonably sure that the I’ve read a lot of his fiction including the Flash Gordon series, his Avenger series, maybe a bit of the Vampirella novels, the Incredible Hulk definitely, not the Groucho Marx series though it sounds fun, and, well, damn he’s prolific. So what have you have read by him that you like? 
  • Born January 13, 1938 William B. Davis, 82. Best remembered I say as the Smoking Man. (need I say which series? I think not.) He’s had a long career in SFF video with roles in The Dead Zone, Mindstorm, Beyond the Stars, Snakehead TerrorRise of the Damned, Singularity Principle, and my fav title for one of his his works, Medium Raw: Night of the Wolf. 
  • Born January 13, 1938 Billy Gray, 82. Here’s here for being Bobby Benson in The Day the Earth Stood Still. He’s certainly not here for CPO Fred Twining in The Navy vs. the Night Monsters, the other SFF film he did which rates a 26% by reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. His Wiki page has him retiring from acting in 1977 but he appeared in 1996 as the Majordomo in The Vampyre Wars which was his last acting role. 
  • Born January 13, 1938 Charlie Brill, 82. His best remembered role, well at least among us, is as the Klingon spy Arne Darvin in “The Trouble with Tribbles”. And yes he’ll show in the DS9 episode that repurposed this episode to great effect. He was the voice of Grimmy in the animated Mother Goose and Grimm series, as well having one-offs in They Came from Outer Space, The Munsters Today, Sliders, The Incredible Hulk, Wonder Woman and Super Train. Not even genre adjacent but he was a recurring performer on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In
  • Born January 13, 1943 Richard Moll,  77. Most will best remember him best from Night Court — that’s not genre unless the Magic Judge Harry did was real — but I’ve found that he voiced Harvey Dent aka Two-Face on Batman: The Animated Series which I recognized him from. He had SFF other appearances on Buck Rogers in the 25th CenturyMork & MindyFantasy IslandJurassic: Stone AgeHeadless HorsemanScary Movie 2The Flintstones and Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn
  • Born January 13, 1945 Joy Chant,  75. Chant is an odd case as she only wrote for a short period between 1970 and 1983 but she produced the brilliant House of Kendreth trilogy, consisting of  Red Moon and Black Mountain, The Grey Mane of Morning and When Voiha Wakes. Her other main work, and it is without doubt absolutely brilliant, is The High Kings, illustrated lavishly by George Sharp and designed by David Larkin with editing by Ian and Betty Ballantine. It is intended as a reference work on the Arthurian legends and the Matter of Britain with her amazing retellings of the legends. I’ve got one reference to her writing Fantasy and Allegory in Literature for Young Readers but no cites for it elsewhere. Has anyone actually read it?
  • Born January 13, 1960 Mark Chadbourn, 60. ‘ve read his Age of Misrule series in which the Celtic Old Gods are returning in modern times and they’re not very nice but they make for very entertaining reading. It’s followed by the Dark Age series which is just as well-crafted. His two Hellboy novels are actually worth reading as well.
  • Born January 13, 1968 Ken Scholes, 52. His major series, and it’s quite worth reading, The Psalms of Isaak.  His short stories, collected so far in three volumes, are also worth your precious reading time. He wrote the superb “ Rock of Ages” for METAtropolis: Green Space.
  • Born January 13, 1982 Ruth Wilson, 38. She’s Marisa Coulter in BBC’s His Dark Materials series. She’s in Depp’s The Lone Ranger as Rebecca Reid. (Yes, it’s genre. There’s a wendigo as a story device,) in the horror film I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House, she was Lili Saylor. Finally I note she was Sara (Number 313) in the remake of The Prisoner. Having seen and enjoyed the original series, I skipped this happily when it came out. 

(10) MORE STEVE STILES. The artwork Steve Stiles did for the Baltimore Sun in the Eighties and Nineties can be viewed here.

(11) IN THE QUEUE. Is it funny? Well, its at least well-told. Thread starts here.

(12) A REALLY GRAPHIC NOVEL. “Strip artist: Local cartoonist collects 10 years of smutty sci-fi comics” – an interview in the Brooklyn Paper.

…Migdal also wanted to create an inclusive erotic novel, one that would be a fun and exciting read for audiences of any orientation. But it took a little while to work out the kinks in his art style, said the author. 

“I had to develop my artistic skills to draw naked people that didn’t look like a pile of legos,” Migdal said. “But also drawing images that were representing body positivity and figuring out how to get that on to the page.” 

The story follows Ana?s Phalese, a Brooklynite who meets a visitor from another world — Fauna Lokjum, the Liquorice Princess of Candy World — who is on the run from an arranged marriage to a supervillain. The two hop across dimensions and explore their sexualities while trying to save the world from Fauna’s would-be fiance.  

(13) BURN A LITTLE. Parts of the western US are still arguing over how to back down from the old Forest Service policy of preventing all fires, realizing that small fires helped reduce the fuel for huge fires. Australia is now looking at the same issue: “Aboriginal planners say the bush ‘needs to burn'”.

For thousands of years, the Indigenous people of Australia set fire to the land.

Long before Australia was invaded and colonised by Europeans, fire management techniques – known as “cultural burns” – were being practised.

The cool-burning, knee-high blazes were designed to happen continuously and across the landscape.

The fires burn up fuel like kindling and leaf detritus, meaning a natural bushfire has less to devour.

Since Australia’s fire crisis began last year, calls for better reintegration of this technique have grown louder. But it should have happened sooner, argues one Aboriginal knowledge expert.

“The bush needs to burn,” says Shannon Foster.

She’s a knowledge keeper for the D’harawal people – relaying information passed on by her elders – and an Aboriginal Knowledge lecturer at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).

…While modern-day authorities do carry out hazard reduction burning, focusing on protecting lives and property, Ms Foster says it’s “clearly not working”.

“The current controlled burns destroy everything. It’s a naive way to practise fire management, and it isn’t hearing the Indigenous people who know the land best.

“Whereas cultural burning protects the environment holistically. We’re interested in looking after country, over property and assets.

…”Cool burning replenishes the earth and enhances biodiversity – the ash fertilises and the potassium encourages flowering. It’s a complex cycle based on cultural, spiritual and scientific knowledge.”

They also create a mosaic of ecologies, Ms Foster says, and this can lead to beneficial micro-climates.

(14) BE ALERT. Penguin is releasing We Have Always Lived in the Castle and The Call of Cthulhu as part of its new brand:

Orange you glad we included Penguin Orange? This vivid collection of beloved modern classics is a nod to our old-school, tri-band heritage design, featuring custom illustrations by artist Eric Nyquist that take everything to the next level.

(15) THE SCENT OF A BOOK. The BBC’s Miguel Trancozo Trevino reports on “The people trying to save scents from extinction”

The smells of ordinary life, from traditional pubs to old books, are part of our culture and heritage – and many of them are in danger of being lost.

Imagine an old leather-bound book just pulled out from a wooden shelf. Its yellowed pages release dust as they open. Even before you begin to read the book, the unique smell of it fills your nose.

This familiar scent is not only a simple pleasure for people who like to peruse libraries and bookshops. These smells have a cultural heritage value, and they are at risk of being lost. For every old book that falls apart, is thrown away or kept locked behind a temperature-controlled curatorial door, these scents become harder to experience. It is a problem that is far from unique to books – from perfumeries and pubs to entire cities, the background scents of our lives are changing all the time.

For Cecilia Bembibre, a researcher at the UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage, the smell of old books is important. She is developing different techniques to recover “extinct” scents from the past and to preserve those around today for the future.

It’s a facet of heritage that is often, quite literally, overlooked. “The proposals made by cultural heritage spaces such as galleries, museums, historic houses, are mostly focused on the sight,” says Bembibre. “The engagement they propose tends to be visual. [With] some exceptions, the stimulation of senses, like the objects that can be touched or smelled, is reserved for children.”

…In 2003, Unesco adopted a convention to safeguard intangible cultural heritage, which includes social practices, oral traditions and performing arts. Where, though, were the scents? For centuries there have been cultural practices where smell plays a vital role, like the Spanish Fiesta of the patios in Cordova or the Holy Week processions in Popayán, Colombia. In 2018, the skills related to perfumery in Pays de Grasse, France, were included on the intangible heritage list. No scents themselves, however, are listed.

(16) TECHNICAL PROWESS. Sure, the excuse to post this non-sff film is that it was shot on a phone – but the real reason is that it’s very sweet.

A film about three generations of Chinese women coming together at Chinese New Year. Shot on iPhone 11 Pro. Directed by Theodore Melfi. Cinematography by Lawrence Sher. Starring Zhou Xun, China’s leading actress.

(17) JEAN-RELUCTANT PICARD. “Patrick Stewart Didn’t Want To Reprise Captain Picard In A Post-Brexit World”. The NPR piece includes interview excerpts, and audio link to full interview including his impression of the version of the voiceover intro that was recorded but fortunately not used.

…Stewart says, in a post-President Trump and post-Brexit world, the United States and the United Kingdom, in particular, distanced themselves from what the United Federation of Planets — Star Trek’s fictional interstellar union of planets that share democratic goals — represented.

“The European Union always made me feel, well, we are heading towards our own Federation of Planets somewhere down the line that will come about. And I am angry, disappointed and embarrassed by our decision to leave the Union,” the English-born actor said in an interview with Weekend Edition Sunday.

Much like Picard, Stewart is uninterested in playing a part — fictional or not — if it doesn’t mesh with his beliefs.

It wasn’t until the producers described the transformed landscape they envisioned for Picard that Stewart got on board. “The Federation” has swung isolationist, and the new Picard is very different.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Way Out” on Vimeo, Jeon You-jin explains what happens when little girls chase balloons.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/11/20 The Yellow Brick Road Must Roll

(1) PROZINE REJOINS THE LIVING Compelling Science Fiction has been saved from the scrapheap of history. Editor Joe Stech explains how it happened:

We’re back in business and will be open to submissions once again on Monday, January 13th!

After I announced in September that Compelling Science Fiction would be shutting down for good, Nick Wells of Flame Tree reached out to me and suggested we work together to keep the magazine publishing our unique brand of science fiction stories. Over the last month we came to an agreement that will allow Compelling Science Fiction to continue publishing — you may recall that my issue was one of time, and Flame Tree will take over many of the most time-consuming aspects of the magazine. My role will transition to that of editor-in-chief, and Nick will take over the publishing role. I’m very excited to work with Nick and Flame Tree, and continue to support this genre of fiction that I love.

We’ll be transitioning to a quarterly schedule, and will also be accepting submissions much more often. Authors, we need your wonderful stories, so please send them our way! And readers, thanks for entrusting us with your time. I will always treat it with respect, and do my best to provide the types of stories you come here for.

(2) MORE SFF ON JEOPARDY! David Goldfarb says “The third episode of the ‘Greatest of All Time’ Jeopardy! tourney had a number of SFF-related questions.”

Here was the $800 answer in “Prequels and Sequels”:

Edited by the author’s son Christopher & published in 1977, it’s a history of Middle-Earth before “Lord of the Rings”.

Ken Jennings readily questioned, “What is Silmarillion?”

And the $400 answer:

Set for release in 2020 is Suzanne Collins’ “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes”, a prequel to this series.

James Holzhauer asked, “What is The Hunger Games?”

In the “TV Green Thumb” category:

$1200: On “The Handmaid’s Tale”, this wife of Commander Waterford has some pivotal scenes in her greenhouse.

Two wrong guesses, but nobody got, “Who is Serena?”

$1600: Played by Carolyn Jones in the ’60s, she loved to cut the heads off her roses, & rejoiced when her thorns came in sharp.

Crickets. “Who is Morticia Addams?”

And the $2000 featured a picture of Jean-Luc Picard and Boothby the groundskeeper: Jean-Luc Picard once helped Boothby, played by this one-time TV Martian, to replant some flowers at Star Fleet Academy.

Ken Jennings got it: “Who is Ray Walston?”

Goldfarb concludes, “The game in the second half (each day’s game is two regular games put together) had questions about Cocteau’s ‘La Belle et Le Bête’ and Grieg’s ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’, but I’m going to call those only genre-adjacent and not quote them.”

Then, Andrew Porter saw this go down —

Category: Book Marks

Answer: In this novel, Mark Watney says, “I didn’t die on Sol 6. Certainly the rest of the crew thought I did.”

Wrong question: What is “The Sun Also Rises?”

Right question: What is “The Martian.”

(3) DIAGNOSING SUCCESS. The Hollywood Reporter’s Patrick Shanley probes “The Key Difference Between Video Game and Film Remakes”.

…Video game remakes work because, in many ways, they are the antithesis of film remakes. They honor the original vision by elevating it to what it was hoping to be but unable to achieve due to the limits of technology. The best remakes (in any medium) maintain the heart and soul of their source material while simultaneously modernizing them. In that regard, games have outshone film, delivering on the promise of the original while also updating them in a way that appeals to the nostalgia of longtime fans and the discerning eye of newcomers.

(4) STREAMING SEVENTIES SFF. [Item by Rob Thornton.] Criterion Channel, a streaming service that focuses on art films and is based on the home video distributor The Criterion Collection, will be featuring a wide range of science fiction films from the 1970s for most of January 2020. The service’s sci-fi offerings for the month are:

  • No Blade of Grass (Cornel Wilde, 1970)
  • A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971) [based on the Anthony Burgess novel of the same name]
  • The Omega Man (Boris Sagal, 1971) [based on Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend]
  • THX 1138 (George Lucas, 1971)
  • Z.P.G. (Michael Campus, 1972)**
  • Westworld (Michael Crichton, 1973)
    Soylent Green (Richard Fleischer, 1973) [based on Harry Harrison’s Make Room, Make Room!]
  • Dark Star (John Carpenter, 1974)
  • The Terminal Man (Mike Hodges, 1974)
  • Rollerball (Norman Jewison, 1975),
  • A Boy and His Dog (L. Q. Jones, 1975) [based on the Harlan Ellison story of the same name]
  • Death Race 2000 (Paul Bartel, 1975)
  • Shivers (David Cronenberg, 1975)
  • The Ultimate Warrior (Robert Clouse, 1975)
  • Logan’s Run (Michael Anderson, 1976)
  • God Told Me To (Larry Cohen, 1976)
  • Demon Seed (Donald Cammell, 1977)
  • Mad Max (George Miller, 1979)

Other genre-related SF films from the decade may already be available on the service (Tarkovsky’s Stalker and Solaris are definitely there) .

(5) JAMES DAVIS NICOLL. The proprietor tells us that today’s review — of An Illusion of Thieves by Cate Glass — is review 1500 on James Nicoll Reviews. His career total is “something like 6600 reviews.”

(6) CROWDFUNDING WISDOM. Cat Rambo tweeted the highlights from “Crowdfunding and Kickstartering with M.C.A. Hogarth.” Thread starts here.

(7) GETTING THE ROCKETS READY. CoNZealand has posted a “Hugo Awards Video” hosted by Tammy Coxen, this year’s awards administrator.

If you’d like to know more about the Hugo Awards, check out this new video from the CoNZealand team, talking about the history of the awards and why they’re so important.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 11, 1997 — in Japan, Barb Wire got released. Starring Pamela Anderson and a very brief outfit, it was based on a Dark Horse comic (written by John Arcudi and illustrated by a rotating group of artists), the film was made on a shoehorn budget (about the size of her outfit) of nine million but was still a box office bomb bringing in only four million. Excepting Ebert, most critics didn’t like it and the reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are especially harsh, giving it just a 14% rating. And there’s a lot of them that don’t like it — 47, 276 so far! 
  • January 11, 2013 Survival Code (Borealis was its original name and it was called that in Canada), and it starred Ty Olsson, Patrick Gallagher and Michelle Harrison. It was directed by David Frazee. It won three Canadian Screen Awards at the Second Canadian Screen Awards for Best Dramatic Miniseries or Television Movie, Best Writing in a Dramatic Program or Miniseries, and Best Original Score for a Television Program. The film was created to be a series pilot for Space, but the series never happened for reasons we can’t find but Space, its distributor, aired it instead as a television film. Yes it scored well at the Canadian Screen Awards, but the reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes were less forgiving as it get just 33% there. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 11, 1906 John Myers Myers. Ahhh, Silverlock. I read the NESFA Edition which has the Silverlock Companion in it which is very useful as you know the novel’s very meta indeed. If you don’t have this, it was reprinted separately later. Thirty years after Silverlock was published, The Moon’s Fire-Eating Daughter novella came out. Myers claims it’s a sequel to Silverlock. (Died 1988.)
  • Born January 11, 1923 Jerome Bixby. His “It’s a Good Life” story became the basis for an episode of the original Twilight Zone episode under the same name, and which was included in Twilight Zone: The Movie. He also wrote four episodes for the original Star Trek series: “Mirror, Mirror”, “Day of the Dove”, “Requiem for Methuselah”, and “By Any Other Name”. With Otto Klement, he co-wrote the story upon which Fantastic Voyage series is based, and the Isaac Asimov novel was based. Bixby’s final produced or published work so far was the screenplay for The Man from Earth film.  (Died 1998.)
  • Born January 11, 1923 Wright King. He’s had roles in the SFF realm starting with Captain Video and His Video Rangers and including Johnny Jupiter, Twilight Zone, Out ThereThe Invaders, Planet Of The Apes , Invasion of the Bee Girls, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Logan’s Run. (Died 2018.)
  • Born January 11, 1930 Rod Taylor. First SFF role would be as Israel Hands in Long John Silver. He would follow that up with World Without End (which you probably heard of), The Time MachineColossus and the Amazon Queen (Taylor claims to have rewritten the script), The Birds (I really don’t like it), Gulliver’s Travels and last, and certainly least, The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy. (Died 2015.)
  • Born January 11, 1937 Felix Silla, 83. He played Cousin Itt (sic) on The Addams Family in a role invented for the show. The voice was not done by him but rather provided by sound engineer Tony Magro in post-production. He was also responsible for the physical performance of Twiki on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century though the voice was supplied by Mel Blanc or Bob Elyea. And he played an unnamed Ewok on Return of the Jedi
  • Born January 11, 1961 Jasper Fforde, 59. I read and thoroughly enjoyed every one of his Thursday Next novels with their delightfully twisted wordplay as I did his Nursery Crimes series. I thought last year when I wrote Birthday note up that I had not read his Shades of Grey books and I was right — I now know that I read the first few chapters of the first one and wasn’t impressed enough to finish it. I do know I’ve not read the Dragonslayer series though I’ve heard Good Things about them. 
  • Born January 11, 1963 Jason Connery, 57. Son of Sir Sean Connery. He’s best known for appearing in the third series of Robin of Sherwood, a series I loved dearly including the music which was done by Clannad which I’ve got live boots of. He also played Jondar in the “Vengeance on Varos”story on Doctor Who during the Sixth Doctor era (my least favorite Doctor). He was Ian Fleming in Spymaker: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming. And he was a young Merlin in Merlin: The Quest Begins
  • Born January 11, 1971 Tom Ward, 49. He’s Captain Latimer in the Eleventh Doctor’s Christmas Special, “The Snowmen”. And he’s Edward Goodwin in Harry Price: Ghost Hunter. His latest genre role was as Sir Robert Peel in The Frankenstein Chronicles.
  • Born January 11, 1972 Amanda Peet, 48. Not a long SFF précis but an interesting one none-the-less.  She first shows up voicing Maria Montez in Battle for Terra. She was then Harlee in Martian Child which is at genre adjacent. She was ASAC Dakota Whitney in The X-Files: I Want to Believe. Say did you know that Quantum Quest: A Cassini Space Odyssey was paid for in part by NASA? Way cool. She voiced Ranger in it. 

(10) BRITISH INTERPLANETARY SOCIETY REMEMBERED. The London Review of Books has linked to “Operation Backfire” by Francis Spufford first published in 1999.  This history of the British space program mentions Arthur C. Clarke twice:  first in describing the British Interplanetary Society in 1944 and second a theological debate Clarke had with Lewis and Tolkien in 1958.

In November 1944 a group of men met in a London pub. In this fifth year of the war, the capital was dingy, dog-eared, clapped-out, frankly grimy. Though Britain had not shaken off its usual inefficiencies at mass production, it had converted its economy to the needs of the war more completely than any other combatant nation. For five years there had been no new prams, trams, lawnmowers, streetlamps, paint or wallpaper, and it showed. All over the city things leaked, flapped, wobbled and smelt of cabbage. It was the metropole that Orwell would project forward in time as the London of 1984.

These drinkers were not the kind of people to let an unpromising present determine the shape of things to come. They were the inner circle of the British Interplanetary Society, and in 1938 they had published a plan for reaching the Moon using two modules, one to orbit, one to descend to the lunar surface. The cost of the rocket – as much as a million pounds – was far more than they could raise, but they did have enough money to make a couple of instruments for it. ‘We were in the position of someone who could not afford a car, but had enough for the speedometer and the rear-view mirror,’ Arthur C. Clarke would remember. They constructed a ‘coelostat’, a device to stabilise the image of a spinning star-field. It was made from four mirrors and the motor of Clarke’s gramophone; it worked, and was proudly displayed in the Science Museum.

(11) “FUN” IS OVER. For awhile Jon Del Arroz branded his videos Diversity in Comics – but no more! “Why I’m Changing the Channel Name Back to Jon Del Arroz”.  Here’s the transcript of his explanation. (And remember, YouTube talking head videos really do tend to be one endless run-on sentence):

…But for here I’ve used the name Diversity in Comics over the last I guess two three months helped grow the channel quite a bit so thank you everybody came by because you saw the name and thought it was funny and all that but there comes a time where jokes have to end and we had a funny joke for a bit there and it was great and at this point I’m seeing that there’s a couple things that are an issue with this which is one that yeah it is needlessly antagonizing some people who get really worked up about this and and while I I do enjoy triggering people who get triggered for no reason and all that there there comes a time where joke a stand and it’s it’s just not funny and it’s not funny even watching somebody lose their minds over something like this anymore so definitely don’t want that happening anymore don’t want to insult anybody who might be a comic book reader who might check out the books and things like that I definitely want that to be something uh you know to where we can have are buying comic books and and we’re coming back and changing it back to just my name and the reason we’ll go with my name instead of something fancy….

(12) GIBSON INTERVIEW. William Gibson tells a Guardian writer, “‘I was losing a sense of how weird the real world was'”.

… As a Canadian writer who initially marked his territory in a future Japan, what attracted him to setting his post-Jackpot world in London? He doesn’t see it as so much of a jump. “On my first three or four visits to Japan I immediately thought that Tokyo had more in common with London than with any other city,” he says. “These disproportionately large sites of former empires, huge concentrated populations, recent wartime trauma, lots of fatalities. They’re capitals of island nations. But also cultural things: the fanatical attention paid to specific individual classes of objects. In London you could probably find a speciality shop for almost anything. And you certainly could in Tokyo. All these parallels. I’m curious that I’ve almost never seen it mentioned anywhere.”

(13) STRANGE DIRECTION. BBC reports “Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson exits over ‘creative differences'”.

Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson has left the sequel over “creative differences” with Marvel.

Derrickson made the original 2016 film starring Benedict Cumberbatch and had been due to deliver Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in 2021.

There’s speculation that Derrickson and Marvel boss Kevin Feige disagreed about how scary the follow-up should be.

The director, whose credits include The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister, had pledged “the first scary MCU film”.

He made the comments at San Diego Comic Con in July, where Feige swiftly clarified that it would still be suitable for teenage viewers. “It’s gonna be PG-13 and you’re going to like it!” he added.

Feige has since said it would not be a horror film, and that any scary sequences would be like those made by Steven Spielberg in films like Indiana Jones and Gremlins.

(14) MOMENT OF BOOM. “Popocatépetl: Mexican volcano’s spectacular eruption caught on camera” — someone caught the start of the eruption on a short video.

Mexico’s Popocatépetl volcano erupted on Thursday with a dramatic show of lava and a cloud of ash and rocks that reached 3,000m (9,800ft) into the sky.

No-one was hurt. Popocatépetl is an active stratovolcano, 70km (43 miles) south-east of the capital, Mexico City.

Its name means “smokey mountain” in the indigenous Náhuatl language.

(15) OPPOSITE OF SWATTING. Or so you might call it: “Teenager having seizure saved by online gamer – 5,000 miles away in Texas”.

The parents of a teenager who suffered a seizure while chatting online have thanked his friend who called emergency services from 5,000 miles away.

Aidan Jackson, 17, was talking to an American gamer from his bedroom in Widnes on 2 January when he had a fit.

His friend, 20-year-old Dia Lathora, from Texas, alerted police in the UK.

The first Aidan’s parents knew of the emergency was when police and an ambulance appeared at their front door, the Liverpool Echo reported.

Caroline and Steve Jackson then rushed upstairs to find their son “extremely disorientated”.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. They intend to live happily ever after:

Lee Loechler recently proposed to his girlfriend, Sthuthi David, by taking her to a packed theater to see her favorite movie, Sleeping Beauty. Little did she know that Loechler had spent six months altering the animation of the film’s most iconic scene, changing the characters to look like the couple themselves and altering the storyline to set up his Big Question. And that’s only the beginning.

Watching David’s face during the scene change is sheer delight, as her confused look proves that she has no clue what is about to happen. The set-up is great, but the magical moment when Loechler’s illustrated self tosses the engagement ring to his real-life self? That’s when we all toss up our hands and say, “OKAY, man. You win at proposing. Everyone else must bow before you now.”

The whole proposal—the re-illustrations, the heart jokes (David is a cardiologist), and the bride-to-be’s surprise when she finds surrounded by her friends and family—it’s all perfection. Just watch:

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

Pixel Scroll 1/9/20 Once Pixels Scroll Up Who Cares Where They Scroll Down

(1) WRONG PRESCRIPTION? The Guardian covers a paradoxically different set of unhappy fans: “Too woke? Nope – Doctor Who is more offensive than ever”. Beware spoilers for the season opening episode (not quoted here).

… Now, though, a different group of fans are railing against Doctor Who. Far from being too liberal, many believe this iteration has actually lost the morality that made the character so unique, and become problematic on social issues – engaging with them to an often offensive degree.

… Another episode focused on Kerblam, an Amazon-a-like delivery company. The story reflected real-world mistreatment of workers, but while many viewers expected a satire of exploitative capitalism, the real villain was revealed to be a maintenance man, who was killing in protest at poor working conditions. This led the Doctor to claim that “systems aren’t the problem”, just people who “use and exploit the system” – thus refusing to engage with real-world suffering.

(2) HARLEY QUINN. New trailer for Birds of Prey. In theaters February 7, 2020

(3) STRANGE IDEA OF FUN. James Davis Nicoll invites Tor.com readers to contemplate “Five Planetary Catastrophes We’ll Probably Never Get to Enjoy”.

Supervolcano

We live on a tectonically active planet. Past eruptions have been impressive. Not piddling little booms like Mount St. Helens (which ejected about 3 km3 worth of material) or Tambora (more than 40 km3), but truly impressive eruptions that covered entire continents in volcanic debris. Lake Toba’s eruption of 74,000 years ago ejected 2,800 cubic kilometres, while the Yellowstone eruption of 620,000 years ago ejected 1,000 cubic kilometres. Supervolcano eruptions can throw a spanner into the works across a continent (and they probably have significant short-term global climate effects as well). It’s not surprising they’re featured in novels like Harry Turtledove’s Supervolcano series….

(4) RED LIGHT SPECIAL. In “Did HAL Commit Murder?” on the MIT Press website, Tufts University philosopher Daniel C. Dennett, in an article excerpted from the forthcoming book Hal’s Legacy, argues that HAL was indeed a murderer and should be judged accordingly.

…The legal concept has no requirement that the agent be capable of feeling guilt or remorse or any other emotion; so-called cold-blooded murderers are not in the slightest degree exculpated by their flat affective state. Star Trek’s Spock would fully satisfy the mens rea requirement in spite of his fabled lack of emotions. Drab, colorless — but oh so effective — “motivational states of purpose” and “cognitive states of belief” are enough to get the fictional Spock through the day quite handily. And they are well-established features of many existing computer programs.

(5) POLES APART. “Roberto Quaglia: Multipolarity and science fiction – The future of the Chinese” – this commentary by independent Italian scholar, Roberto Quaglia, is critical of US unipolarity and Anglo-Saxon domination of science fiction literature.

(6) LOCKE & KEY TRAILER. Locke & Key Season 1 is coming to Netflix on February 7.

Based on the best-selling graphic novels, Locke & Key follows 3 siblings who, after the murder of their father, move to their ancestral home only to find the house has magical keys that give them a vast array of powers and abilities.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 9, 1984 — In the U.K., Chocky first aired. It wasa children’s six-part series  based on the 1968 novel by John Wyndham. Two sequels, Chocky’s Children and Chocky’s Challenge, were later aired. All three series were written by Anthony Read, directed by Vic Hughes and produced by Thames Television. The cast was Anabel Worrell, James Hazeldine, Carol Drinkwater, Andrew Ellams, Zoe Hart, Prentis Hancock and Glynis Brooks. And yes, you can see the first episode here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 9, 1890 Karel Capek. Author of the 1936 novel War with the Newts and 1920 play R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), which introduced the word robot. R.U.R.was a dystopian work about a really bad day at a factory populated with sentient androids. ISFDB shows two additional works by him, Krakatit: An Atomic Fantasy and The Absolute at Large which I’ve not heard of. (Died 1938.) [Note: Latin ‘C’ used in surname because WordPress doesn’t support the correct character.]
  • Born January 9, 1908 Simone de Beauvoir. You know who she is but likely don’t know she wrote All Men Are Mortal (Les Hommes Sont Mortels in its original French)in 1946 which tells the story of Raimon Fosca, a man cursed to live forever. It’d be published in English in the States a decade later and was adapted into a 1995 film of the same name. (Died 1986.)
  • Born January 9, 1925 Lee Van Cleef. The Warden of the Prison in Escape from New York, he was best known for acting in Spaghetti Westerns. Genre wise, he was also Col. Stone in The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, and Dr. Tom Anderson in Corman’s It Conquered the World. (Died 1989.)
  • Born January 9, 1931 Algis Budrys. I’m trying to remember what I read by him and I think it was Some Will Not Die, which I remember because of the 1979 Starblaze edition cover. I’ve also read and enjoyed his Rogue Moon. Setting aside his work as a writer which was exemplary, he was considered one of our best genre reviewers ever reviewing for Galaxy, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, and even in the more mainstream Playboy. He edited a number of the L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future anthologieswhich I’ll admit I’ve not read any of. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 9, 1950 David Johansen, 70. He’s the wisecracking Ghost of Christmas Past in the oh so perfect Scrooged, he played Halston in Tales from the Darkside: The Movie in “The Cat from Hell” segment, and he appeared as a character named Brad in Freejack. I think the brief Ghost of Christmas Past riff in Scrooged is enough to earn him as Birthday Honors here.
  • Born January 9, 1955 J. K. Simmons, 65. You may know him as J. Jonah Jameson in the various Spider-Man films but I find his more interesting genre role to be as Howard Silk in the Counterpart series where he plays two versions of himself in two versions of parallel Berlins in a spy service that may or may not exist. He also portrayed Commissioner James Gordon in Justice League.
  • Born January 9, 1957 Greg Ketter, 63. A Minneapolis SF Bookstore owner, Dreamhaven to be precise, a huckster, and con-running fan as well. He is a member of MN-Stf. He’s been involved in myriad regionals and Worldcons. He‘s chaired Minicons and World Fantasy Conventions alike.
  • Born January 9, 1961 Al Jean, 59. Producer of ALF which is definitely genre and The Simpsons too which must be genre, isn’t it? He was the Executive Producer of Homeboys in Outer Space as well. 
  • Born January 9, 1981 Julia Dietze, 39. She’s Renate Richter in Iron Sky: The Coming Race, a Finnish-German film in which the Nazis are occupying the moon after a nuclear war. (It garnered a 31% rating by reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. And yes, critics were really, really hostile.)  it wasn’t her first bad film as she was Princess Herzelinde in 2  Knights: In Search of the Ravishing Princess Herzelinde (1+ 1 / 2  Ritter – Auf der Suche nach der hinreißenden Herzelinde) which it won’t surprise you  didn’t exactly make the German reviewers gush over it. 

(9) REUSE. “Tokyo 2020: Recycled cardboard used for beds at Olympics and Paralympics”. Talk about sleep numbers…

The bed frames for athletes at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be made from recyclable cardboard.

The mattresses for the beds will be formed of polyethylene materials that will be reused for plastic products after the events.

There will be 18,000 beds needed for the Olympics, and 8,000 for the Paralympics.

Medals for the Tokyo 2020 Games are made entirely from recycled consumer devices.

The beds will be 2.10 metres long and the manufacturers say they will be able to support a weight of about 200kg, which is more than any athlete weighed at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

(10) I SPY WITH MY LITTLE EYE. They were canned: “Amazon Ring workers fired for accessing user video”.

The Amazon-owned company Ring, which makes home-security devices, has admitted firing four employees for accessing users’ videos.

It was revealed in a letter sent to US senators, in response to questions about the company’s security practices.

In each case, the employees were authorised to view videos but access “exceeded what was necessary for their job functions”.

Ring faces questions about the security and privacy of its devices.

In November, five Democratic senators sent a letter to Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos with a range of questions about security, including why employees in Ring’s Ukrainian office, where it conducts research and development, had access to customer video data.

(11) AWWW. “Australia fires: Orphaned baby bats wrapped with love” – BBC video. (Another report says people as far away as Boston are also helping.)

Thousands of baby animals left orphaned by Australia’s bushfires are in need of constant care.

Volunteers around the world have been helping by knitting and sewing special pouches and wraps. They are collected by animal rescue organisations which then distribute them to carers.

One Australian mum and her daughter who live in Singapore are among the volunteers doing their part to keep orphaned baby bats warm.

(12) BIRD BRAINS. “Polly Share A Cracker? Parrots Can Practice Acts Of Kindness, Study Finds”, and NPR has the story.

Parrots can perform impressive feats of intelligence, and a new study suggests that some of these “feathered apes” may also practice acts of kindness.

African grey parrots voluntarily helped a partner get a food reward by giving the other bird a valuable metal token that could be exchanged for a walnut, according to a newly published report in the journal Current Biology.

“This was really surprising that they did this so spontaneously and so readily,” says Désirée Brucks, a biologist at ETH Zürich in Switzerland who is interested in the evolution of altruism.

(13) LAST CHANCE TO SEE? “SpaceX Starlink mega-constellation: ‘Limited time’ to fix brightness issue”.

California’s SpaceX company says it will work constructively with the scientific community to fix the brightness of its satellites.

The firm has come under fire for the brilliance of its Starlink spacecraft, which are being launched to deliver broadband to every corner of the globe.

One hundred and eighty of the platforms have already been sent to orbit with thousands more to follow.

Astronomers fear they will interfere with telescope observations.

Pictures of the night sky showing long streaks as the Starlinks cross the field of view have now become a heightened complaint.

But a SpaceX executive told the American Astronomical Society conference in Hawaii on Wednesday that the company was seeking ways to make the platforms much less intrusive.

Patricia Cooper, the firm’s vice president of satellite government affairs, told a specially convened session that delegates’ science was valued and there was no desire to impede it.

(14) ROLLING ON THE RIVER. “Nasa Moon rocket core leaves for testing” — lots of great pictures.

The first core stage for Nasa’s “mega-rocket”, the SLS, has left its factory in New Orleans for crucial tests to assess its readiness for launch.

The Space Launch System (SLS) is a critical part of the space agency’s Artemis programme, which aims to return Americans to the Moon by 2024.

The core stage is the centrepiece of the new rocket and will undergo comprehensive testing in Mississippi.

On Wednesday, it was placed on a barge which will sail it to its destination.

The rocket, which will be taller than a 30-storey building, is being built for Nasa by Boeing.

…The core is the largest stage Nasa has ever had built at the Louisiana factory, including the Saturn V rocket stages for the Apollo programme.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/6/20 Forever Let Us Hold Our Appertainments High

(1) RWA CANCELS RITA AWARDS. The “Status of the 2020 RITA Contest” announces the RITA awards are the latest casualties of the internecine strife that began when Romance Writers of America tried to impose penalties on Courtney Milan.

Due to recent events in RWA, many in the romance community have lost faith in RWA’s ability to administer the 2020 RITA contest fairly, causing numerous judges and entrants to cancel their participation. The contest will not reflect the breadth and diversity of 2019 romance novels/novellas and thus will not be able to fulfill its purpose of recognizing excellence in the genre. For this reason, the Board has voted to cancel the contest for the current year. The plan is for next year’s contest to celebrate 2019 and 2020 romances. 

While we understand this will be disappointing news for some, we also understand that other members will support taking this step. Recent RWA Boards have worked hard to make changes to the current contest, striving to make it more diverse and inclusive, relieve judging burdens, and bring in outside voices, but those changes had to be voted on and implemented in a narrow window of time each year. 

By not holding a contest in 2020, we will be able to move away from making piecemeal changes. Instead, we will have the opportunity to take a proper amount of time to build an awards program and process – whether it’s a revamped RITA contest or something entirely new – that celebrates and elevates the best in our genre. We plan on engaging a consultant who specializes in awards programs and a DEI consultant, as well as soliciting member input. 

Members who entered the 2020 contest will be refunded their full entry fee by January 22, 2020. We extend our deep appreciation to the judges who volunteered their time this year.

(2) LEADING WORKSHOPS. Cat Rambo’s “Nink Knowledge: How to Grow Voices ~ The Subtle Art of Facilitating Workshops” is the featured article for January at Novelists, Inc.

When leading a discussion, don’t be afraid to go with the flow. Sometimes the oddest questions may be the most fruitful, or those questions may lead to additions for the future, sometimes even inspiring entirely new classes. The question of how to maintain a fruitful writing practice in the face of increasingly grey times, for example, led to a class on hopepunk that has become one of my favorites to teach and one which was even referenced in a Wall Street Journal article on the subgenre.

(3) MUTATIS MUTANDI. A trailer for The New Mutants has dropped. Film comes to theaters April 3.

20th Century Fox in association with Marvel Entertainment presents “The New Mutants,” an original horror thriller set in an isolated hospital where a group of young mutants is being held for psychiatric monitoring. When strange occurrences begin to take place, both their new mutant abilities and their friendships will be tested as they battle to try and make it out alive.

(4) PICARD TEASER. The show arrives January 23. Will this be the bait that finally gets me to pay for CBS All-Access?

(5) ALT WORLD PANEL IN LA. The Barnes & Noble story at The Grove in Los Angeles will host “The Man in The High Castle: Creating The Alt World Special Event” on January 8.

Join us when we celebrate “The Man in the High Castle: Creating the Alt World” with our very special panel of guest Mike Avila – author and Emmy award-winning TV producer, Jason O’Mara – Star, “Wyatt Price”, Isa Dick Hackett – Executive Producer, David Scarpa – Co-Showrunner, Drew Boughton – Production Designer.

Discover the alt worlds of The Man in the High Castle with the cast and crew in this exclusive collection of art. Packed with concept art, final designs, and artist commentary plus previously unseen storyboards.

The Man in the High Castle is the hit Amazon series, inspired by Philip K. Dick’s award-winning novel, that offers a glimpse into a chilling alternate timeline in which Hitler was victorious in World War II. In a dystopian America dominated by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, Juliana Crain discovers a mysterious film that may hold the key to toppling the totalitarian regimes.

This is a panel discussion and signing and will be wristbanded.

A wristband will be issued on a first come, first serve basis to customers who purchase “The Man in The High Castle: Creating The Alt World ” from Barnes & Noble in The Grove beginning January 8th
• Limit 1 wristband per book
• Check Back for more Details as they Become Available

For more information contact Barnes & Noble at The Grove — 189 The Grove Dr, Ste K 30, Los Angeles, California 90036

(6) FREELANCING IN CALIFORNIA. Publishers Lunch for January 2 includes the following: “Legal: California Freelance Law and Authors.”

The Authors Guild has a look at California’s new law AB-5 that requires treating many freelance workers as employees. On the question of whether the law affects book authors, “We were assured by those working on the bill that trade book authors are not covered, and we do not see a basis for disagreeing since the bill clearly states that AB-5 applies only to ‘persons providing labor or services’ and authors provide neither ‘labor’ nor ‘services’ under standard book contracts—they instead grant copyright licenses or assignments. Additionally, royalties—even in the form of advance payments—are not considered wages. It is difficult to imagine how a court would conclude that a typical book contract is for labor or services.”

Some book contracts, though, such as work-made-for-hire agreements and “contracts where the author has ongoing obligations and the publisher has greater editing ability or control over the content” could be subject to the new law, though. And the AG recommends that, “Publishers and authors who want to be certain to retain a freelancer relationship should be careful to make sure the contracts are written as simple license grants and not as services agreements.”

(7) NOT QUITE MAGGIE’S DRAWERS. James Davis Nicoll pointed Tor.com readers at “12 Excellent SFF Books You Might Have Missed in 2019”. Not to brag, but I actually read one of these! The list includes —

Magical Women, edited by Sukanya Venkatraghavan

Venkatraghavan delivers an assortment of stories by talented Indian writers. Three elements unite the stories: all are written by women, all are speculative fiction, and all are worth reading. A further element common to many (but not all) is an undercurrent of incandescent fury over the current condition of the world. Taken as a whole, the collection is not quite as upbeat as Jemisin’s Broken Earth series, but the craft of the writers is undeniable.

(8) ANDI SHECHTER. The Andi Shechter Memorial is scheduled for January 11, 2020 in Seattle.

Her friends will be gathering to remember her and share those memories. The memorial will be held in Seattle, at the Magnolia Public Library.

Date: Saturday 11th January, 2020
Noon – 3pm (set-up at 11am, teardown until 4pm)

Magnolia Meeting Room in Magnolia Library
Address: 2801 34th Ave W, Seattle, WA 98199

Please bring light refreshments to share, and note that this is an alcohol-free venue.

At this gathering we will share stories of Andi,  honoring her life and fight for disabled access and political advantages for all.

(9) TODAY’S DAY.

Handsel Monday — According to Scottish custom, the first Monday of the new year was the time to give children and servants a small gift, or handsel. Literally something given into the hands of someone else, the gift itself was less important than the good luck it signified. The handsel was popular as a new year’s gift from the 14th to 19th centuries, but it also had a broader application to mark any new situation. It continues today in the form of a housewarming gift to someone moving into a new home.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 6, 1973 Schoolhouse Rock! premiered
  • January 6, 1975 — The first episode of The Changes premiered on BBC 1. It was a ten-part series adapting Peter Dickinson’s The Changes YA trilogy (The Weathermonger, Heartsease and The Devil’s Children. (The books were written in reverse order: the events of The Devil’s Children happen first, Heartsease second, and The Weathermonger third). It starred Victoria Williams and Keith Ashton. I find no reporting on it from the time, nor is it rated over at Rotten Tomatoes but that’s typical of these BBC series from this time. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 6, 1895 Tom Fadden. He’s on the Birthday Honors List for the original  Invasion of the Body Snatchers where his character was one of the first victims to yield to the invaders. It wasn’t his first SFF role as some thirty years before that role, he would make his Broadway debut as Peter Jekyll in The Wonderful Visit based off the novel of the same name by H. G. Wells, who also co-wrote the play. The last role of his that I’ll note was that one of his first television roles was Eben Kent, the man who adopts Kal-El on the first episode of The Adventures of Superman series. (Died 1980.)
  • Born January 6, 1905 Eric Frank Russell. He won the first annual Hugo Award for Best Short Story at Clevention in 1955 for “Allamagoosa” published in the May 1955 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. Sinister Barrier, his first novel, appeared in Unknown in 1939, the first novel to appear there. What’s your favorite work by him? (Died 1978.)
  • Born January 6, 1954 Anthony Minghella. He adapted his Jim Henson’s The Storyteller scripts into story form which were published in his Jim Henson’s The Storyteller collection. They’re quite excellent actually. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 6, 1955 Rowan Atkinson, 65. An unlikely Birthday perhaps except for that he was the lead in Doctor Who and The Curse of Fatal Death which I know did not give him the dubious distinction of the shortest lived Doctor as that goes another actor although who I’ve not a clue.  Other genre appearances were scant I think (clause inserted for the nit pickers here) though he did play Nigel Small-Fawcett in Never Say Never Again and Mr. Stringer in The Witches which I really like even if the author hates. 
  • Born January 6, 1958 Wayne Barlowe, 62. Artist whose Barlowe’s Guide to Extraterrestrials that came out in the late Seventies I still remember fondly. It was nominated at Noreascon 2 for a Hugo but came in third with Peter Nichol’s Science Fiction Encyclopedia garnering the Award that year.  His background paintings have been used in Galaxy Quest, Babylon 5, John Carter and Pacific Rim to name but a few films. 
  • Born January 6, 1959 Ahrvid Engholm, 61. Swedish conrunning and fanzine fan who worked on many Nasacons as well as on Swecons. Founder of the long running Baltcon. He has many fanzines including Vheckans Avfentyr, Fanytt, Multum Est and others. He was a member of Lund Fantasy Fan Society in the University of Lund.
  • Born January 6, 1960 Andrea Thompson, 60. I’ll not mention her memorable scene on Arliss as it’s not genre.  Her noted genre work was as the telepath Talia Winters on Babylon 5. Her first genre role was in Nightmare Weekend which I’ll say was definitely a schlock film. Next up was playing a monster in the short-lived Monsters anthology series. She had a one-off on Quantum Leap before landing the Talia Winters gig. Then came Captain Simian & The Space Monkeys. Really. Truly. Her last genre role to date appears to be in the Heroes: Destiny web series.
  • Born January 6, 1969 Aron Eisenberg. Nog on Deep Space 9. Way after DS9, he’d show up in Renegades, a might be Trek series loaded with Trek alumni including Nichelle Nichols, Robert Beltran, Koenig and Terry Farrell. It lasted two episodes. (Died 2019.)
  • Born January 6, 1976 Guy Adams, 44. If you’ve listened to a Big Finish audio-works, it’s likely that you are familiar with his writing as he’s written scripts for their Doctor, UNIT and Torchwood series among his many endeavors there. Not surprisingly, he’s also written novels on Doctor Who, Torchwood, Sherlock Holmes and so forth. I’ve read some of his Torchwood novels — they’re good popcorn literature.
  • Born January 6, 1982 Eddie Redmayne, 38. He portrayed Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. He was Newt Scamander in the Fantastic Beasts film series.
  • Born January 6, 1984 Kate McKinnon, 36. Dr. Jillian Holtzmann in that Ghostbusters film.   I think her only other genre role to date was voicing various character on Robotomy, a Cartoon Network series. She is Grunhilda in the forthcoming The Lunch Witch film based off the YA novel by Deb Lucke.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur offers an alternate description of the afterlife.
  • Frank and Ernest find out the problems the cast of The Wizard of Oz has when looking for work.

(13) FRIENDS DON’T LET FRIENDS WATCH ‘CATS’ ON DRUGS. The Washington Post’s Michael O’Sullivan helps readers decide if they’re the audience for this movie: “‘Cats’ the movie is pretty crazy. But you already know that, and you don’t care.”

Having just watched “Cats,” the movie version of the hit musical about something called “Jellicle cats,” it is clear that “Jellicle” must be cat-speak for “wackadoodle.”…

(14) SILENT RADIO. So far as I know, Camestros Felapton is only on beer. But after reading “CATS! An audio-free podcast review!” I plan to follow Abraham Lincoln’s example and ask him to send each of us a barrel.

[Camestros] So let’s start. [in recitative] Did you find this film weird?
[Timothy] Did it give us the frights?
[Susan] Did it run far too long?
[Camestros] Did the cast all wear tights?
[Timothy] Was it bad C-G-I?
[Susan] Was it moving and sad?
[Camestros] Was it ineffably awful and indescribably bad?
[Susan] (take it away Timothy!)
[Timothy -sings] Because the movie of Cats is and the movie is not,
It’s like the movie of Cats can and the movie can not,
It’s not the movie of Cats is but also its not,
While this movie of Cats should and really should not,
And its because the movie of Cats is bad and bad it is not….

(15) FERTILITY PIONEER. BBC makes sure you’ll remember the name of “The female scientist who changed human fertility forever”.

She was the first person to successfully fertilise a human egg in vitro, changing reproductive medicine forever – but few people know her name today.

…As a technician for Harvard fertility expert John Rock, Menkin’s goal was to fertilise an egg outside the human body. This was the first step in Rock’s plan to cure infertility, which remained a scientific mystery to doctors. He particularly wanted to help women who had healthy ovaries but damaged fallopian tubes – the cause of one-fifth of the infertility cases he saw in his clinic.

Usually, Menkin exposed the sperm and egg to each other for around 30 minutes. Not this time. Years later, she recalled what transpired to a reporter: “I was so exhausted and drowsy that, while watching under the microscope how the sperm were frolicking around the egg, I forgot to look at the clock until I suddenly realised that a whole hour had elapsed… In other words, I must admit that my success, after nearly six years of failure, was due – not to a stroke of genius – but simply to cat-napping on the job!”

On Friday, when she came back to the lab, she saw something miraculous: the cells had fused and were now dividing, giving her the world’s first glimpse of a human embryo fertilised in glass.

(16) THE FUTURE IS REDISTRIBUTED. “Wheel.me robot wheels move furniture via voice commands” – a BBC video.

A Norwegian start-up wants to make it possible to rearrange a home’s furniture solely via a voice command or the touch of an app’s button.

To achieve this, Wheel.me has developed the Genius robotic wheels, which attach to the base of tables, chairs and other furnishings.

It is showing off a prototype at the CES tech expo in Las Vegas, where founder Atle Timenes arranged a demo for BBC Click’s Lara Lewington.

(17) HELPFUL SJWC? “CES 2020: Restaurant cat robot meows at dining customers” – let the BBC introduce you.

A robot cat designed to ferry plates of food to restaurant customers has been unveiled at the CES tech expo in Las Vegas.

BellaBot, built by the Chinese firm PuduTech, is one of a number of wacky robotic inventions being shown off at the event this year.

There is also UBTech’s Walker, which can pull yoga poses.

And Charmin’s RollBot. It speeds a roll of toilet paper on demand to bathrooms that have run out of the stuff.

One expert said it was likely that robots exhibited at CES would only continue to get more bizarre in the future.

BellaBot, the table-waiting robot cat, is a service bot with personality.

It updates a previous model that had a more utilitarian design. BellaBot, in contrast, features a screen showing cat-face animations.

It mews when it arrives at tables to encourage customers to pick up their food.

(18) SOUND INVESTMENT. “Audiobooks: the rise and rise of the books you don’t read”.

Audiobooks are having a moment. As they soar in popularity, they are becoming increasingly creative – is the book you listen to now an artform in its own right, asks Clare Thorp.

…Audiobooks are in the midst of a boom, with Deloitte predicting that the global market will grow by 25 per cent in 2020 to US$3.5 billion (£2.6 billion). Compared with physical book sales, audio is the baby of the publishing world, but it is growing up fast. Gone are the days of dusty cassette box-sets and stuffily-read versions of the classics. Now audiobooks draw A-list talent – think Elisabeth Moss reading The Handmaid’s Tale, Meryl Streep narrating Charlotte’s Web or Michelle Obama reading all 19 hours of her own memoir, Becoming. There are hugely ambitious productions using ensemble casts (the audio of George Saunders’ Booker Prize-winning Lincoln in the Bardo features 166 different narrators), specially created soundscapes and technological advances such as surround-sound 3D audio. Some authors are even skipping print and writing exclusive audio content.

…While audiobook sales are up and physical book sales down, it’s not a given that the two things are related. In fact, audio is pulling in new audiences – whether that’s listeners who don’t usually buy books, or readers listening to genres in audio format that they wouldn’t pick up in print.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Is that Emperor Palpatine on an air guitar, or a Force guitar?

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, Darrah Chavey, James Davis Nicoll, Michael J. Walsh, Peace Is My Middle Name, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Steve Davidson.]

Pixel Scroll 12/17/19 After the Police Bread, What Can You Expect?

(1) DESPITE CODES OF CONDUCT. In a post for Medium, Erica Friedman and J. Lynn Hunt count off the many reasons “Why Anime Conventions Are Still Inviting Sexual Predators As Guests”. They hit a lot of familiar problems, and explain them concisely.

…Here’s why.

1)Lack of Training
2) Policies Without Procedures
3) Lack of Organizational Memory
4) Tribalism
5) Misogyny
6) Financial Incentive

Let’s look at each of these in order.

Lack of Training
Con chairs are usually mostly-untrained volunteers with a staff of untrained volunteers. Even the largest cons tend to draw chairs from their own volunteers, so there’s no competence required beyond years of experience and your team of volunteers not walking out on you. No one receives training in sexual harassment policies, or, frankly, anything. Worse, many of the leadership structures in conventions encourages those seeking power and rewards those willing to be assholes. In our experience, we’ve seen volunteers who exploit or abuse their staff allowed to continue because no one feels comfortable removing them from that position. As people around them leave, they rise in the ranks, filling holes they cause. Abusive and exploitative leaders report to no one, especially at small conventions that are privately funded. AnimeMidwest is a perfect example of this. Having been banned from one con, [Ryan] Kopf created his own. Who will be in a position to police him? No one….

(2) TOMORROW THROUGH THE PAST. At Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll introduces the panel to “A Matter of Proportion” by Ann Walker and gets a good range of responses.  

In general, classic SF wasn’t particularly interested in fiction about the disabled, except perhaps as a first step towards a new life as brain-a-jar piloting a space ship or a cyborg covert operative, or to justify testing Phillips’ experimental regeneration treatment on a Lensman. In A Matter of Proportion, Walker focuses on the challenges facing a disabled individual in a world not particularly invested in accommodating their needs. Anne Walker is an author new to me, one I discovered thanks to Rediscovery, Volume 1. This story convinced me I need to seek out more of her work.

(3) TOY LAUNCH. BBC serves up a slice of genre marketing history: “Star Wars: The Leicestershire factory at the centre of a toy galaxy”.

…But initially, with no guarantee that the first film would be a box office success, let alone spawn a smash-hit series, and with no actual toys or market data to show potential buyers, Palitoy had a tough job to convince retailers to invest.

“You have to remember, this was a film people weren’t sure about… they were reluctant to take stuff because it was what they thought was a B-movie – you know, science fiction, all that business,” said Bob Brechin, the firm’s chief designer.

Salvation came in the form of Action Man. Retailers were offered discounts on the firm’s hugely popular soldier figures if they would take Star Wars toys.

Sales manager John Nicholas recalled how one chain’s whisky-loving buyer was handed a bottle of Scotch and asked how many Star Wars figures he wanted.

About half an hour later, and with a third of the bottle gone, he had decided. He would take a million.

“Well, it was my biggest order ever. I’ve never taken an order for that, and, you know, when Woolworths came along and said, ‘All right, I’ll have 100,000’, it was ‘Oh, is that all?’.”

(4) SPEAKING OF CREDENTIALS. I’d love to get another Cats Sleep on SFF entry to see the year out!

(5) THE RESISTANCE. Phillip Pullman not only discusses the poem, but interrogates what prevents many people from enjoying poetry in general: “The Sound and the Story, Exploring the World of Paradise Lost” at The Public Domain Review.

A correspondent once told me a story — which I’ve never been able to trace, and I don’t know whether it’s true — about a bibulous, semi-literate, ageing country squire 200 years ago or more, sitting by his fireside listening to Paradise Lost being read aloud. He’s never read it himself; he doesn’t know the story at all; but as he sits there, perhaps with a pint of port at his side and with a gouty foot propped up on a stool, he finds himself transfixed.

Suddenly he bangs the arm of his chair, and exclaims “By God! I know not what the outcome may be, but this Lucifer is a damned fine fellow, and I hope he may win!”

Which are my sentiments exactly.

I’m conscious, as I write this essay, that I have hardly any more pretensions to scholarship than that old gentleman. Many of my comparisons will be drawn from popular literature and film rather than from anything more refined….

(6) WATCHMEN EFFECTS FEATURETTE. I don’t know if there are any spoilers – caveat emptor!

The visual effects on Watchmen are a thermodynamic miracle. See how we brought you squid attacks, clones, and Europa

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 17, 1973 Sleeper premiered. Directed by Woody Allen, starring Woody Allen and Diane Keaton, and written by him, it was made as a tribute to Groucho Marx and Bob Hope. Sleeper was awarded the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation at Discon II. It was equally well received among critics and reviewers, indeed it currently holds a hundred percent rating among the latter at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • December 17, 2010 Tron: Legacy premiered. It was directed by Joseph Kosinski, in his feature directorial debut, from a screenplay written by Adam Horowitz and Edward Kitsis, based on a story by Horowitz, Kitsis, Brian Klugman and Lee Sternthal. It is a sequel to Tron, whose director Steven Lisberger returned to produce. The cast includes Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner reprising their roles as Kevin Flynn and Alan Bradley.  It did decently at the box Office, got deciedly mixed reviews among critics and currently holds a 51% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 17, 1903 Erskine Caldwell. He’s listed by ISFDB as having only two SFF pieces, both short stories, of which one, and no I’m kidding, is titled “Advice About Women”. It was published in The Bedside Playboy as edited by a certain Hugh Hefner and published of course on Playboy Press in 1963. Fredric Brown, Ray Bradbury, Avram Davidson, Richard Matheson and Robert Sheckley were the SSF writers present therein. (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 17, 1929 Jacqueline Hill. As Barbara Wright, she was the first Doctor Who companion to appear on-screen in 1963, with her speaking the series’ first lines. (No, I don’t know what they are.) She’d play another character later in the series. (Died 1993.)
  • Born December 17, 1930 Bob Guccione. The publisher of Penthouse, the much more adult version of Playboy, but also of Omni magazinetheSF zine which had a print version between 1978 and 1995.  A number of now classic stories first ran there such as Gibson’s “Burning Chrome” and “Johnny Mnemonic”, as well as Card’s “Unaccompanied Sonata” and even Harlan Ellison’s novella, Mephisto in Onyx which was on the Hugo ballot at ConAdian but finished sixth in voting. The first Omni digital version was published on CompuServe in 1986 and the magazine switched to a purely online presence in 1996.  It ceased publication abruptly in late 1997, following the death of co-founder Kathy Keeton whose Birthday was noted here. (Died 2010.)
  • Born December 17, 1944 Jack L. Chalker. I really, really enjoyed his Well World series, and I remember reading quite a bit of his other fiction down the years. Which of his other myriad series have you read and enjoyed? I find it really impressive that he attended every WorldCon from except one, from 1965 until 2004. One of our truly great members of the SF community as was a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association and was involved in the founding of the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. (Died 2005.)
  • Born December 17, 1945 Ernie Hudson, 73. Best known for his roles as Winston Zeddemore in the original Ghostbusters films, and as Sergeant Darryl Albrecht in The Crow. I’m reasonably sure his first SF role was as Washington in Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, a few years before the first Ghostbusters film. Depending on how flexible your definition of genre is, he’s been in a fair number of films including Leviathan, Shark Attack, Hood of Horror, Dragonball Evolution, voice work in Ultraman Zero: The Revenge of Belial, and, look there’s a DC animated movie in his resume!, as he voiced Lucius Fox in Batman: Bad Blood.
  • Born December 17, 1953 Bill Pullman, 66. First SF role was as Lone Starr in Spaceballs, a film I’ll freely admit I watched but once which was more than enough.  He next appears in The Serpent and the Rainbow which is damn weird before playing the lead in the even weirder Brain Dead. Now we come to Independence Day and I must say I love his character and the film a lot.   Post-Independence Day, he went weird again showing up in Lake Placid which is a lot of fun and also voiced Captain Joseph Korso in the animated Titan A.E. film. Which at least in part was written by Joss Whedon.   He reprises his Thomas J. Whitmore character in Independence Day: Resurgence which I’ve not seen. 
  • Born December 17, 1973 Rian Johnson, 46. Director responsible for the superb Looper, also Star Wars: The Last Jedi  and Knives Out. I know, it’s not even genre adjacent. It’s just, well, I liked Gosford Park, so what can I say about another film similar to it? He has a cameo as an Imperial Technician in Rogue One, and he voices Bryan in BoJack Horseman which is definitely genre. 
  • Born December 17, 1974 Sarah Paulson, 45. She’s most likely best known for being Bunny Yeager in The Notorious Betty Paige, but she has solid genre creds having acted in Serenity, The Spirit, Bird Box, Abominable, American Gothic and Glass. She was in seven series of American Horror Story playing at least fifteen different characters. And she’s Nurse Ratched in the upcoming Ratched series.
  • Born December 17, 1975 Milla Jovovich, 44. First SFF appearence was as Leeloo de Sabat in The Fifth Element, a film which still gets a very pleasant WTF? from me when I watch it. She was also Alice in the Resident Evil franchise which is five films strong and running so far. I see she shows up as Miliday de Winter in a Three Musketeers I never heard of which is odd is it’s a hobby of mind to keep track of those films, and plays Nimue, The Blood Queen in the rebooted Hellboy. 
  • Born December 17, 1993 Kiersey Clemons, 26. There’s a Universe in which films exist in which performers actually performed the roles they were hired for. Case in point is her who was Iris West is Justice League but all her scenes were deleted. You can see hose scenes in the extras of course. She has other genre creds including being in the reboot of Flatliners (saw the original but this one), in the live action version of Lady and the Tramp which is at least genre adjacent, and Lucy in Extant, a series produced by Steven Spielberg. 

(9) GET IN ON THE DRAWING. Standback is so enthusiastic about “The Outspoken Authors Bundle, curated by Nick Mamatas” for Storybundle that he’s organized his own giveaway.

(10) EAT YOUR VEGGIES, OR VICE-VERSA. Plants in Science Fiction: Speculative Vegetation – I love the title. The essay collection, edited by Katherine E. Bishop, will be released by the University of Wales Press in May 2020.

Plants have played key roles in science fiction novels, graphic novels, and film. John Wyndham’s triffids, Algernon Blackwood’s willows, and Han Kang’s sprouting woman are just a few examples. Plants surround us, sustain us, pique our imaginations, and inhabit our metaphors – but in many ways they remain opaque. The scope of their alienation is as broad as their biodiversity. And yet, literary reflections of plant-life are driven, as are many threads of science fictional inquiry, by the concerns of today. Plants in Science Fiction is the first-ever collected volume on plants in science fiction. Its original essays argue that plant-life in SF is transforming our attitudes toward morality, politics, economics, and cultural life at large; questioning and shifting our understandings of institutions, nations, borders, and boundaries; erecting – and dismantling – new visions of utopian and dystopian futures

(11) IN MEALS TO COME. Coincidentally, the journal Science asked young scientists to write an advertisement that answers this question: “How will food options, food availability, and individuals’ food choices change in the future?” Their answers were decidedly SFnal. “Foods of the future” [PDF file.] For example —

Health food

Tired of managing your diet? Health Capsule provides non-invasive, cognitive control of your hunger, satiation, and weight. Made possible by deep brain stimulation and neuromodulation technology, this environmentally sustainable capsule will keep you healthy and fit while satisfying all your cravings. Put calculating your calories and carbon footprint behind you!

Saima Naz

 Pakistan.

Personalised diet

Send us your DNA, and we will predict your food preferences! Receive your personalized food basket, with a day-by-day diet program. We will send you full meals and personalized smoothies based on your genetic taste predisposition. We know what you love; it’s in your DNA.

Ada Gabriela Blidner

Laboratorio de Inmunopatología,

Argentina.

(12) EMPLOYEE THEFT! From Jimmy Kimmel Live, “Star Wars Cast on Premiere, Stealing from Set & Gifts from J.J. Abrams.”

J.J. Abrams, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Kelly Marie Tran, Naomi Ackie & Keri Russell talk about the premiere of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, gifts that J.J. gave them, what they stole from set, and they surprise the audience with IMAX movie tickets.

Followed by —

J.J. Abrams, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Billy Dee Williams, Anthony Daniels, Kelly Marie Tran, Naomi Ackie, Keri Russell & Chewbacca from the cast of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker play #ForceFamilyFeud!

(13) WINDOW ON TRAVEL INTO CHINA. [Item by Bill.] Bunnie Huang is a well-known hardware hacker.  He goes to China annually with a group of MIT students to show them where the products they design will be built, and has written a “how-to” guide for navigating the Shenzen electronics district.  Most of it is specific to the electronics markets, but there is good information on getting around in China generally – internet limitations and work-arounds (p. 19), local customs (dress, tipping, etc.) (p. 20),  point-to-translate written material for getting around (p. 67), visas and border crossing (p. 84), etc. With all the recent discussion about China’s Worldcon bid, it might be a useful introduction. The Essential Guide to Electronics in Shenzhen [PDF file].

(14) ARCHAEOLOGICAL SUPERFUND SITE? In this case, we know why it was buried. “Israelis find rare Roman fish sauce factory”.

Israeli archaeologists have discovered the well-preserved remains of a 2,000-year-old factory for making garum, the fabled fish sauce that the Romans took with them on all their journeys of conquest.

The Israel Antiquities Authority came across the small cetaria, or factory for making the prized sauce, while inspecting the site of a planned sports park on the outskirts of the southern city of Ashkelon, Israel’s Kan public broadcaster reports.

The dig was funded by the local authorities, and young people and school children from the Ashkelon area came to help out.

It is one of the very few garum factories found in the eastern Mediterranean, despite the Romans’ long presence in the area and the premium they put on the pungent fermented sauce.

Most surviving examples are to be found in the Iberian Peninsula and southern Italy.

“We have something really unusual here,” Israel Antiquities Authority archaeologist Dr Tali Erickson-Gini told The Times of Israel, as the Romans added garum to almost all their dishes to give them a salty savoury kick.

“It’s said that making garum produced such a stench that cetariae were located some distance from the towns they served, and in this case the factory is about two kilometres from ancient Ashkelon,” Dr Tali Erickson-Gini said, according to Kan.

(15) FACIAL RECONSTRUCTION. “DNA from Stone Age woman obtained 6,000 years on” – image at the link.

This is the face of a woman who lived 6,000 years ago in Scandinavia.

Thanks to the tooth marks she left in ancient “chewing gum”, scientists were able to obtain DNA, which they used to decipher her genetic code.

This is the first time an entire ancient human genome has been extracted from anything other than human bone, said the researchers.

She likely had dark skin, dark brown hair and blue eyes.

Dr Hannes Schroeder from the University of Copenhagen said the “chewing gum” – actually tar from a tree – is a very valuable source of ancient DNA, especially for time periods where we have no human remains.

“It is amazing to have gotten a complete ancient human genome from anything other than bone,” he said.

What do we know about her?

The woman’s entire genetic code, or genome, was decoded and used to work out what she might have looked like. She was genetically more closely related to hunter-gatherers from mainland Europe than to those who lived in central Scandinavia at the time, and, like them, had dark skin, dark brown hair and blue eyes.

(16) ECUMENICAL. “Gloas and Cruinlagh: Planet and star become first with Manx names” reports BBC.

A star and planet will be given Manx Gaelic names for the first time after being chosen in an international competition.

The star WASP-13 will be known as Gloas (which means ‘to shine’) and the planet WASP-13b as Cruinlagh (‘to orbit’).

A class of Manx eight and nine-year-olds came up with the names for a competition run by the International Astronomical Union (IAU).

Professor Robert Walsh said they had made their “mark on the universe”.

The names were chosen due to their “sense of mystery” after taking 20% of 15,000 votes cast by members of the public.

(17) LINE ITEM. Popular Mechanics proclaims “The Space Force Will Become the Sixth Branch of the U.S. Military”. Will it be the right kind of smoke and mirrors?

It’s really happening. A bipartisan budget agreement for 2020 will see the creation of a new branch of the military specifically oriented towards space. The United States Space Force will be the first new service branch in more than 60 years, tasked to ensure America’s freedom to operate in outer space—or take space away from somebody else.

According to a draft of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Agreement, also known as the 2020 U.S. defense budget, the Pentagon will redesignate the U.S. Air Force’s Space Command the U.S. Space Force, spinning it off from an arm of the Air Force into a separate service.

The service will be headed by a Chief of Space Operations, similar to how the U.S. Navy is headed by a Chief of Naval Operations and consist of “the space forces and such assets as may be organic therein.” That’s pretty ambiguous language but probably means most of the Air Force’s space assets, from satellite launching facilities like Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to spacecraft ground control bases like Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado. It’ll also include america’s network of GPS satellites, the X-37B spaceplane, and other military space assets. The Space Force will also likely strip away a smaller number of assets and personnel from the U.S. Army and Navy.

(18) A FEW WOODS FROM OUR SPONSOR. Somebody has taken care of making a bunch of cute sequels to these commercials: “Geico makes sequels to popular Pinocchio, racoons and woodchucks ads” at The Drum.

…Six humorous spots from The Martin Agency continue where the originals left off. Pinocchio continues his lying ways in two spots. One finds him pulled over by a cop and his nose grows as he tries to fib his way out of a ticket to no avail. The other finds his lengthening wooden nose becoming a problem as he lies on a first date he booked on a dating app….

You can access the playlist if you click through this video to YouTube.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/13/19 All These Scrolls Are Yours, Except Tsundoku. Attempt No Pixels There

(1) MARVEL SNAPSHOTS. Kurt Busiek is overseeing a Marvel showcase series featuring history-making characters.

This March, prepare to see the greatest moments of Marvel’s 80-year history told like never before! In MARVEL SNAPSHOTS, industry legend Kurt Busiek will bring together incredible creative teams for eight standalone, double sized issues showcasing Marvel’s most beloved characters from the golden age to today. Like 1994’s critically acclaimed MARVELS series, MARVEL SNAPSHOTS will be tales told through the eyes of ordinary people, offering unique insights on the legendary mythos of the Marvel Universe. MARVELS SNAPSHOTS also reunites Busiek with renowned MARVELS co-creator Alex Ross who will be providing the series with his iconic painted covers.

It all begins with SUB-MARINER: MARVELS SNAPSHOT #1 when best-selling novelist and Emmy Award-winning TV writer Alan Brennert (L.A. LAW, TWILIGHT ZONE) and superstar artist Jerry Ordway (ALL-STAR SQUADRON, CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS) unite to tell an unforgettable story about Marvel’s original antihero: Prince Namor!

Set circa World War II, things kick off with an action-packed tale featuring Namor, Betty Dean, and the All-Winners Squad–a dream come true for Brennert. “I can honestly say that I enjoyed working on this story more than any comics story I’ve done in years. I grew up reading (and loving) Marvel’s Golden Age heroes in the 1960s, in reprints in FANTASY MASTERPIECES. But I never thought I’d have a shot at writing them–especially the All-Winners Squad!–and I’m grateful to Kurt Busiek and Tom Brevoort for providing me the opportunity, and to Jerry Ordway for bringing it all to glorious life,” Brennert says. “I’m enormously proud of ‘Reunion’ and honored to be the first story published in MARVELS SNAPSHOTS.”

Artist Jerry Ordway is just as passionate about bringing this tale to life. “When I was offered this project, I jumped at it, being a big fan of the original MARVELS book by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross. Getting to draw a Sub-Mariner story set in the 1940s, with appearances by the All-Winners Squad, lets me connect with Marvel’s World War II era history, and the work of Subby’s creator, Bill Everett,” says Ordway. “I’ve been a Marvel maniac from the age of 10, so this is pretty cool! Alan Brennert wrote a great script which fits neatly into the bigger tapestry that is the Marvel Universe. I’m thrilled to get to play in this sandbox after so many years as an artist.”

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Listeners are invited to join host Scott Edelman and Elsa Sjunneson-Henry for lunch in Little Italy on Episode 111 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Elsa Sjunneson-Henry

My guest this time around is Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, who was a winner of the Best Semiprozine Hugo Award earlier this year for her work as a Guest Editor of Uncanny Magazine’s Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction Special Issue. She was also a 2019 Hugo Award finalist for Best Fan Writer. Her fiction has appeared in such magazines as Fireside and Uncanny, as well the anthologies Ghost in the Cogs and Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling. She’s written non-fiction for The Boston Globe, Barnes & Noble, Tor.com, and other venues. She is a feminist scholar and disability rights activist (which I knew), but also a burlesque historian (which I did not know).

We lunched at La Tavola, where I’d previously joined Marv Wolfman during the 2017 Baltimore Comic-Con. We discussed her roller coaster of emotions the night she won a Hugo Award earlier this year during the Dublin Worldcon, how that editorial gig increased her empathy, the way writing roleplaying games and being a Sherlock Holmes nerd taught her about world-building and led to her first professional fiction sales, the dinosaur-themed Twitter feed that gave birth to her most recently published short story, the novel she’s working on which she describes as The Conjuring meets The Stand, her expertise in obscenity law and fascination with the history of burlesque, why she felt the Bird Box novel handled blindness better than the movie, her background in competitive improv and the way that helped her within science fiction, advice on how not to let Internet trolls get you down, and much more.

(3) PILE PELION ON OSSA. John Scalzi chronicled the results of his Twitter poll which asks: “Would Baby Yoda eat a porg?” (Is it cannibalism if one cute thing eats another cute thing?) Thread starts here.

(4) JUST PLAIN FOLKS TALES. RS Benedict has released another episode of the Rite Gud podcast, “No More Heroes with JR Dawson”. In this interview with sff short fiction author JR Dawson, they talk about writing fiction that doesn’t focus on Big Important Heroes of Destiny. It’s called No More Heroes.

Much of speculative literature focuses on superheroes and Chosen Ones. But what about ordinary people or flawed people who don’t save the world? Do they matter?

Sci-fi/fantasy author JR Dawson joins us to talk about why she writes about ordinary people, and how privilege and inequality warp our idea of whose story deserves to be told. She also talks about being a Midwestern writer, her favorite literary losers and that time Hans Christian Andersen got really weird with Charles Dickens’ family.

(5) BEST SFF. Andrew Liptak chimes in with “The best science fiction and fantasy books of 2019” at Polygon. (It’s interesting to see that several of the year’s most-discussed books only made his Honorable Mentions.)

Here’s one that made the list —

The Waste Tide by Chen Quifan

Cixin Liu might have become the best-known science fiction writers to come out of China, but he’s far from the only one. Chen Qiufan’s Waste Tide is a far cry from Liu’s epic science fiction tales, taking a grim look at the near future of China, where impoverished workers struggle to make a living from the world’s electronic waste.

Waste Tide follows a series of people who come together in Silicone Isle: Mimi, a worker who heads there for work; Scott Brandle, an American who is trying to arrange a contract; and Chen Kaizong, a translator, all of whom find themselves wrapped up in a greater plot for control. It’s a book that reminded me quite a bit of Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl, with a pointed commentary on class warfare and the lifecycle of the devices we use.

(6) HAPPY BLANDINGS. At Tor.com, James Davis Nicoll wryly claims “SFF Needs More Incompetent Autocrats”. This turns out to be a Wodehouse tribute as much as anything.

One of SFF’s grand traditions is carefully filing the serial numbers off historical events (the American Revolutionary War, perhaps, or the Napoleonic Wars), or famous and classic works (Lord of the Rings, the Hornblower series, Zulu), and re-purposing the result as SFF. This is usually known as “research” (See Tom Lehrer on this point). Examples abound—my disinclination to deal with crowds of irate authors protesting at my door precludes naming them here….

(7) HOLLYWOOD HISTORY. Profiles in History’s “Hollywood: A Collector’s Ransom Auction” has all kinds of genre movie props, models, and figurines. It even has examples of correspondence between director Sam Peckinpah and Ray Bradbury. “Ray and Sam would lunch (hoist a few pints) at the Formosa Café,” recalls John King Tarpinian.

(8) A PYTHON SPEAKS. Leonard and Jesse interviewed Terry Gilliam for their Maltin on Movies podcast.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote completes a quest that has consumed Terry Gilliam for thirty years, but as Leonard and Jessie learned, he bears his burdens lightly. He made his name supplying unique animated sequences for   Monty Python’s Flying Circus and his films include Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Brazil, and The Fisher King. He’s a delightful man with stories to tell (about everyone from Robin Williams to Heath Ledger) and a great outlook on life.

(9) MICROLOAN. Rachel Swirsky signal-boosted an “Opportunity to Support a Palestinian Library” and so will we.

I’ve been making microloans through Kiva.org through years, and this project caught my eye. A Palestinian woman is looking to convert an old house into a library and bookshop: 

Check it out at Kiva: https://www.kiva.org/lend/1893559

Duha is a nice girl who lives with her family in a small humble house near Ramallah. Duha has an amazing idea: she decided to restore an old house to make it a library and a place to sell books and other stationery.

She went to Palestine for Credit and Development (FATEN) to request a loan to help her to cover all restoration expenses to convert the old house into a library. Duha hopes that all the students and residents of the area will benefit from the library.

(10) OVERCOMING REJECTION. Alex Woolf advocates “Seven Ways to Grow Your Resilience as a Writer” at the SFWA Blog.

Study the nuances of rejection
In the miserable miasma of reading a fresh rejection, it can be easy to miss the nuggets of positivity and constructive feedback that are often contained in the message too. Some messages are form rejections, but it’s well-known that many venues have form messages that vary according to their take on the writer. A writer a venue wishes to encourage, for example, may get a standard message that’s quite different from the standard message that’s sent to a writer that for whatever reason they are never likely to publish.

So once the initial disappointment has subsided, make a point of going back to the message and seeing what you can learn from it for your next project or submission. Sometimes there is a valuable nugget in there (e.g. Try to use fewer adverbs or We felt we wanted to know more about what was happening from the protagonist’s perspective.) These are valuable insights that you can work with.

However disappointing the message, always send an acknowledgment – stay polite and professional. And if a venue says you should submit again, then do so, once or twice more at least. They didn’t have to say that, after all.

(11) YIKES! Bloomberg confirms “Silicon Valley Is Listening to Your Most Intimate Moments”.

Amazon declined interview requests for this story. In an emailed statement, a spokeswoman wrote, “Privacy is foundational to how every team and employee designs and develops Alexa features and Echo devices. All Alexa employees are trained on customer data handling as part of our security training.” The company and its competitors have said computers perform the vast majority of voice requests without human review.

Yet so-called smart devices inarguably depend on thousands of low-paid humans who annotate sound snippets so tech companies can upgrade their electronic ears; our faintest whispers have become one of their most valuable datasets. Earlier this year, Bloomberg News was first to report on the scope of the technology industry’s use of humans to review audio collected from their users without disclosures, including at Apple, Amazon, and Facebook. Few executives and engineers who spoke with Bloomberg Businessweek for this story say they anticipated that setting up vast networks of human listeners would be problematic or intrusive. To them, it was and is simply an obvious way to improve their products.

… Several of the big tech companies tweaked their virtual-assistant programs this year after a steady drip of news reports. While Google has paused human transcriptions of Assistant audio, Apple has begun letting users delete their Siri history and opt out of sharing more, made sharing recordings optional, and hired many former contractors directly to increase its control over human listening. Facebook and Microsoft have added clearer disclaimers to their privacy policies. And Amazon has introduced a similar disclosure and started letting Alexa users opt out of manual reviews. “It’s a well-known thing in the industry,” Amazon’s Limp recently said about human transcription teams. “Whether it was well known among press or customers, it’s pretty clear we weren’t good enough there.”

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Cat Eldridge emailed that he needed urgent care for some physical problems – I hope they are able to get him feeling better soon. Go ahead and mention birthdays you know about in the comments.]

(13) STAR TREK SHIP IN A BOTTLE. So is there a teeny-tiny Kirk and Spock in there somewhere?

On this episode of Ben’s Worx I make a ship in a bottle with epoxy resin and Australian burl.

(14) RABID IN THE NORTHWEST. Theodore Beale, aka Vox Day, was referenced by the Guardian in a story about a Washington state representative: “Report on far-right Republican Matt Shea in hands of Washington legislators”

Outside investigators have submitted a report to the Washington state house about the activities of the far-right Republican state representative Matt Shea, but legislators on both sides of the aisle remain tight-lipped about its contents.

…Last Monday the independent investigator, the Rampart Group, presented their findings to the chief clerk of the Washington state legislature . He in turn delivered the findings to the executive rules committee, composed of leaders of both parties in the house.

…Shea, meanwhile, was interviewed last week on Infowars’ David Knight Show, where he attacked perceived critics.

Shea then quoted Theodore Beale, whom the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) describes as a “champion of the alt right movement”, and whose blog is described as a home of “misogynistic, white supremacist diatribes”.

“Social justice warriors always lie, they always double down on their lie, and they always try to project on to you how they really are themselves,” Shea said.

(15) HIGH-STAKES COMICS AUCTION. Heritage Auctions brought home the bacon again: “Marvel Comics #1 Brings Record $1.26 Million to Lead Heritage Auctions’ Comics & Comic Art Auction Beyond $14.9 Million”.

The finest known copy of Marvel Comics No. 1, sold for $1,260,000 to lead Heritage Auctions’ record-setting Comics & Comic Art auction to $14,936,295 Nov. 21 in Dallas, Texas.

The second-largest comic auction of all time, trailing only the $15,121,405 realized in Heritage Auctions’ Chicago Comics & Comic Art Auction in May 2019, this sale included 15 lots that sold for at least $100,000.

…The issue, with famous cover art by Frank R. Paul and interior art by a group of illustrators that included Bill Everett, Carl Burgos and Paul Gustavson, was purchased by a Pennsylvania postal carrier who bought every No. 1 issue he could of both comic books and magazines, beginning in the 1940s. It’s grade of 9.4 on a scale of 1-10 makes it the best copy of the issue ever found, according to Certified Guaranty Company (CGC).

More than two dozen collectors made bids for Robert Crumb Your Hytone Comix #nn “Stoned Agin!” Inside Back Cover Original Art (Apex Novelties, 1971) before it closed at $690,000, breaking the record for the most ever paid for an interior piece of comic art. Created at the height of the artist’s popularity, the image is instantly recognizable, even by many who don’t know the work of Crumb, who is revered for his contribution to the underground comics movement in the 1960s. This iconic image was reproduced countless times, including on a blacklight poster, on pinback buttons, postcards and t-shirts.

Neal Adams Batman #251 Cover The Joker Original Art (DC, 1973) sold for $600,000, the most ever paid through Heritage Auctions for a piece of DC art. The spectacular image of one of the most famous Joker covers of all time debuted a new version of the villain, trumpeting the return of the Joker after a four-year hiatus from Batman comics….

(16) HE CREATED THE UBIQUITOUS MARKS. NPR reports “IBM Engineer Who Designed The Universal Product Code Dies At 94”.

On a June morning in 1974, a Marsh Supermarket cashier in Troy, Ohio, rang up a 67-cent pack of Juicy Fruit chewing gum using something novel — the black and white stripes of a universal bar code.

The Universal Product Code is now a packaging mainstay on everything from cereal boxes and produce to electronics and airplane tickets, but it might not have worked without IBM engineer George Laurer.

Laurer, who died this month at 94 in North Carolina, had been given an assignment by his manager: Write a proposal for grocery executives explaining how IBM would take a previously invented bar code pattern, in the shape of a bull’s-eye, and make it work in supermarkets across the country.

But when that manager returned from a vacation, Laurer was there to meet him. “I didn’t do what you asked,” he said.

Instead, Laurer had created something else — the bull’s-eye was gone and in its place was a linear bar code. Laurer had deemed the bull’s-eye design unworkable. The circular code, inspired by Morse code and patented by N. Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver in 1952, was too small, and it would smear when run through the poor-quality printing presses used for most food labels at the time.

(17) SIMMERING. Kotaku discovered that “Baby Yoda Can Be Bought In The Sims 4”.

Because EA owns The Sims, and because EA also has the rights to Star Wars video games, we finally have a digital tie-in with the new live-action Mandalorian series. It’s not a Carl Weathers outfit. It’s not a “Bounty Hunter” job for your Sim. It’s a Baby Yoda statue you can buy and put in your yard.

(18) IN SEARCH OF REPRODUCIBLE RESULTS. They hope a tool will make them easier to come by. “Can A Research Accelerator Solve The Psychology Replication Crisis?”

In 2008, psychologists proposed that when humans are shown an unfamiliar face, they judge it on two main dimensions: trustworthiness and physical strength. These form the basis of first impressions, which may help people make important social decisions, from whom to vote for to how long a prison sentence should be.

To date, the 2008 paper — written by Nikolaas Oosterhof of Dartmouth College and Alexander Todorov of Princeton University — has attracted more than a thousand citations, and several studies have obtained similar findings. But until now, the theory has been replicated successfully only in a handful of settings, making its findings biased toward nations that are Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic — or WEIRD, a common acronym used in academic literature.

Now, one large-scale study suggests that although the 2008 theory may apply in many parts of the world, the overall picture remains complex. An early version was published at PsyArXiv Preprints on Oct. 31. The study is under review at the journal Nature Human Behavior.

The study is the first conducted through the Psychological Science Accelerator, a global network of more than 500 labs in more than 70 countries. The accelerator, which launched in 2017, aims to redo older psychology experiments but on a mass scale in several different settings. The effort is one of many targeting a problem that has plagued the discipline for years: the inability of psychologists to get consistent results across similar experiments, or the lack of reproducibility.

(19) THEY LIE, YOU KNOW. “How ‘dark patterns’ influence travel bookings” – BBC will explain.

If you’ve wondered whether there were actually 30 people trying to book the same flight as you, you’re not alone. As Chris Baraniuk finds, the numbers may not be all they seem.

Ophir Harpaz just wanted to get a good deal on a flight to London. She was on travel website OneTravel, scouring various options for her trip. As she browsed, she noticed a seemingly helpful prompt: “38 people are looking at this flight”. A nudge that implied the flight might soon get booked up, or perhaps that the price of a seat would rise as they became scarcer.

Except it wasn’t a true statement. As Harpaz looked at that number, “38 people”, she began to feel sceptical. Were 38 people really looking at that budget flight to London at the same exact moment?

Being a cyber-security researcher, she was familiar with web code so she decided to examine how OneTravel displayed its web pages. (Anyone can do this by using the “inspect” function on web browsers like Firefox and Chrome.) After a little bit of digging she made a startling discovery – the number wasn’t genuine. The OneTravel web page she was browsing was simply designed to claim that between 28 and 45 people were viewing a flight at any given moment. The exact figure was chosen at random.

Not only that, the website’s innards were surprisingly blatant about what was going on. The bit of code that defined the number shown to users was even labelled “view_notification_random”.

(20) MECHANICAL BULLS***. “General Election 2019: How computers wrote BBC election result stories”.

For the first time, BBC News published a news story for every constituency that declared election results overnight – all written by a computer.

It was the BBC’s biggest test of machine-generated journalism so far.

Each of nearly 700 articles – most in English but 40 of them in Welsh – was checked by a human editor before publication.

The head of the project said the tech was designed to enhance the service provided rather than to replace humans.

“This is about doing journalism that we cannot do with human beings at the moment,” said Robert McKenzie, editor of BBC News Labs.

“Using machine assistance, we generated a story for every single constituency that declared last night with the exception of the one that hasn’t finished counting yet. That would never have been possible.”

VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Quail on Vimeo, Grant Kolton explains that if you want to be a quail, it’s hard work!

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

Pixel Scroll 12/6/19 Sometimes Ups Outnumber The Downs, But Not In Pixlingsham

(1) THREE AI’S AND A BABY. Carolyn Giardina’s story in The Hollywood Reporter, “Why Jon Favreau Chose Baby Yoda: ‘”We Don’t Know a Lot of Details About His Species’”, is a lengthy interview with Favreau, where he talks about all his projects, including his cooking show, his direction of The Lion King, and of course, why he created Baby Yoda.

Let’s start with your virtual production process for The Mandalorian. How did it grow out of work that you did for The Lion King?

In The Lion King, we built a tool set, basically a “multiplayer VR filmmaking game,” using the Unity game engine. We built a bunch of tools working with [lead VFX house] MPC and [tech developer] Magnopus and Unity, and we developed a way by which you could actually create environments and set up cameras and shots within VR. In The Mandalorian, we used a lot of the same tools to plan the entire production, working with the Unreal engine [from Epic Games]. But Lion King was a much different production because there was no actual photography. For Mandalorian, we take that cut, and instead of going right to animation and render like we did on Lion King, we build sets and a digital environment that we project onto a video wall. We partnered with Unreal and [VFX house] ILM and put together this system for The Mandalorian. All the people that we worked with then took that technology, and they’re doing their versions of it. They’re all slightly different, but basically we did research and development for The Mandalorian, and now everybody is building on the innovation that we collectively did and making that available to other people who might be curious about this process as well.

(2) CONTINUED NOBEL BLOWBACK. [Item by Karl-Johan Norén.] Member of the Swedish Academy and former permanent secretary Peter Englund will not participate in any of the Nobel festivities or activities this week, due to the 2019 Nobel Prize in literature being awarded to Peter Handke. He writes on Instagram (my translation):

As previously reported I will not participate in this year’s Nobel Week. To celebrate Peter Handke’s Nobel Prize would be deeply hypocritical from my part. Can add that this will not be a surprise for my friends and colleagues in the Academy. Also I will be present in the usual way at the Academy’s celebratory meeting on December 20. The white tie will rest until then.

The image used is of the Stockholm City Hall, where the Nobel Prize banquet is traditionally held.

Peter Englund is a historian, and during the Yugoslavian Civil War he made several trips to the country as a journalist. He is without a doubt the member of the Swedish Academy with the strongest relation to and knowledge of the Yugoslavian Civil War and its consequences.

(3) MORE FUNDS NEEDED FOR ROBYN SURGERY. Amazing Stories has reblogged Shahid Mahmud’s announcement of a new fundraising goal: “Arc Manor Sets Up Go Fund Me for Lezli Robyn”.

Many of you know that Arc Manor is, essentially, a two-person company: Myself and Lezli Robyn. Some of you are also aware that we had a GoFundMe for a couple of years ago for treating her eyes–for Keratoconus, a rare disease that effectively leads to blindness by causing blurriness and multiple images.

…Unfortunately, Lezli’s other illnesses intervened and she had to postpone her eye surgery twice (the second time needing to be in another country for urgent abdominal surgery). She was misdiagnosed for about two years (until very recently) for her hyperthyroid condition, which led her to have a Thyroid Storm. At the point of her diagnosis, she was in the hospital in a touch-and-go situation with her life.

Since her diagnosis, she has been put on the right meds (she may need an additional surgery, but the meds may be sufficient) and has recovered significantly. However, one side effect of her untreated condition has been a significant worsening of her eye-sight. She was legally blind even before this, but now it is gotten to the point where she has needed to get a blind cane. She now sees 40 duplications, instead of the original 7.

In an update by Lezli on the “Help Lezli See (Eye Surgery)” GoFundMe page, she supplies a lot more diagnostic detail following this introduction —

Shahid, his wife, and other close friends have been arguing that I need to raise the level on my fundraiser so it can also cover the procedure to CORRECT my eye condition as well as HALT my Keratoconus (giving me normal eyesight again!). People are very confronted by how bad my eyesight is now—especially after seeing me get around in person. I can no longer hide it and they say it’s not a matter of wanting to get it done, but NEEDING to get it done, because they argue my quality of life is severely compromised. I have also had to be honest and let my boss (also Shahid) know what I cannot do for work now, because I literally cannot see well enough to do certain publishing tasks.

Her delayed eye surgery is now scheduled for March 2020, and for reasons explained in these two posts, more funds are needed,

(4) ANOTHER KIND OF TUBE MAP. Abigail Nussbaum delivers an extended critique of some new shows in “Notes From the Streamapocalypse “ at Asking the Wrong Questions.

Until last month, 2019 felt like a year in which popular culture was winding itself down.  What seems like an abnormal number of shows, including juggernauts like Game of Thrones, wrapped up their stories, while others were cancelled.  Collaborations like the Netflix MCU were brought to an abrupt end.  Everywhere there was a feeling of holding one’s breath, clearing the decks in preparation for the coming onslaught.  And then, a few weeks ago, that deluge arrived with the launch of Apple TV+ and Disney+, two new streaming platforms seeking to directly challenge Netflix and Amazon for primacy in a field that already feels hopelessly crowded and balkanized.  Scripted TV is only one front in that fight (Disney+, for example, can afford to launch with only one original scripted series because it has such an enormous back-catalog to boast of, whereas Apple+ is scrambling to measure up with four new scripted series, and more to come).  But it’s the one I find most interesting.  Overall, my verdict is that all of these shows are ambitious, and a few are interesting, but none of them are truly great (and all suffer from the besetting flaw of streaming TV, of working better at a binge, which obscures annoying tics and makes the plot seem to flow better, than in weekly installments).  If this is the future of television, my reaction to it is decidedly qualified, with a few sprinklings of hope.

(5) NOT QUITE IN THE BEGINNING. James Davis Nicoll advises against “Creating Gods Through Science and Magic” – and illustrates his warning with characters from well-known sff works.

To (mis)quote Russian Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, “I looked and looked but I didn’t see God.” Humans are cunning little monkeys, though, so even if at present we assume there are no gods as such, it’s within the realm of possibility that we might someday build something (or somethings) functionally equivalent to gods.

We could even turn ourselves into gods (via tech assist or magic). Would this be an unmixed blessing? Um, not really. We already know that humans can be monumental dicks; deified humans could be just as nasty….

(6) HELP WANTED. There is an opening for a new Jay Kay Klein and Doris Klein Librarian for Science Fiction at UC Riverside. Full requirements at the link: Assistant Librarian – Associate Librarian – Librarian – Potential Career

THE UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, RIVERSIDE


Position Title:


Rank and Salary Scale
Assistant Librarian/Associate Librarian/Librarian – Potential Career $61,201 – $82, 045

The Jay Kay Klein and Doris Klein Librarian for Science Fiction is responsible for the development, stewardship, and promotion of the Eaton Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy and associated collections of science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other forms of speculative fiction housed in the University of California, Riverside Library’s Special Collections & University Archives Department….

(7) SKYWALKER TRIGGER WARNING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] This may not be the type of trigger warning you were expecting… The Hollywood Reporter: “’Star Wars’: Disney Warns of Flashing Lights, Seizure Concerns for ‘Rise of Skywalker’”.

Disney has issued an uncommon warning to cinema owners around the globe asking them to notify customers that certain visuals and sustained flashing lights sequences in J.J. Abrams’ upcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker could affect those with photosensitive epilepsy.

The studio has also notified the Epilepsy Foundation, which posted a similar advisory Friday morning, saying it was working in concert with Disney to provide information to its constituents.

[Disney’s letter to exhibitors stated,] “Out of an abundance of caution, we recommend that you provide at your venue box office and online, and at other appropriate places where your customers will see it, a notice containing the following information: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker contains several sequences with imagery and sustained flashing lights that may affect those who are susceptible to photosensitive epilepsy or have other photosensitivities.” […]

(8) WALKER OBIT. Robert Walker Jr., who played Charlie X on Star Trek, died today in Malibu: “Robert Walker Jr., ‘Star Trek’ Actor and Son of Hollywood Superstars, Dies at 79”.

…On the second aired episode of Star Trek, “Charlie X,” the slender, blue-eyed Walker portrayed Charles “Charlie” Evans, the sole survivor of a transport-ship crash who possesses strange powers. Walker was actually 26 when he played the 17-year-old Charlie during filming in 1966.

He starred in Jack Lemmon’s role as the title character in Ensign Pulver (1964), a sequel to the 1955 classic comedy Mister Roberts, and portrayed a kid sharpshooter opposite Robert Mitchum in Young Billy Young (1969).

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 6, 1991 Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country premiered. It will be the last film with the entire cast of the original series. Screenplay by Nicholas Meyer, who also directed as he did previously with the Wrath of Khan film. It was a very spectacular financial success and bless them the critics treated it very well. Currently it scores in the low eighties among critics and viewers alike at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 6, 1893 Sylvia Townsend Warner. Do yourself a favor and look up a bio of her as she’s a fascinating person. This site  is a good place to do so. Her first novel, Lolly Willowes or, The Loving Huntsman, is definitely genre. ISFDB lists four genre collections by her. Kingdoms of Elfin is available on Kindle, Lolly Willowes is available everywhere. (Died 1973.)
  • Born December 6, 1900 Agnes Moorehead. I’m assuming that the statute of limitations for spoilers has long passed on this particular show. I’m referring to the Twilight Zone episode “The Invaders” in which she never spoke a word as she fought off the tiny Invaders, human astronauts, and she a giant alien. Written especially for her by Richard Matheson. (Died 1974.)
  • Born December 6, 1918 William P. McGivern. Once in a while, I run across an author I’ve never heard of. So it is with McGivern. He was a prolific writer of SFF stories for twenty years starting from the early Forties. ISFDB only lists one genre novel by him, The Seeing, that he wrote with his wife Maureen McGivern. The digital has been good for him with both Apple Books and Kindle having pretty much everything by him that he did except the long out of print The Seeing. (Died 1982.)
  • Born December 6, 1941 Wende Wagner. She is no doubt best remembered as Lenore Case on the Green Hornet series. Other genre roles include being Rosemary’s Girl Friend in Rosemary’s Baby, and Sandra Welles in Destination Inner Space, a horror film drawing the not coveted 0% rating at Rotten Tomatoes among viewers. (Died 1997.)
  • Born December 6, 1941 Leon Russom, 78. He portrayed Admiral Toddman In Deep Space Nine‘s “The Die is Cast” episode and the Starfleet Chief in Command in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. He’s had one offs in the classic Mission Impossible, Strange World, X-Files, Jericho and Paranormal Burbank.
  • Born December 6, 1957 Arabella Weir, 62. A performer with two Who appearences, the first being as Billis in “The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe”, a superb Eleventh Doctor story, before being The Doctor Herself in “Exile”, a Big Audio production. She’s had one-offs on genre and genre adjacent series such as Shades of Darkness, Genie in the House, Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) and Midsomer Murders.
  • Born December 6, 1962 Colin Salmon, 57. Definitely best known for his role as Charles Robinson in the Bond films Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day. He played Dr. Moon in “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead”, Tenth Doctor stories. He has, alas, been in some clunkers, Mortal Engines certainly come to mind.
  • Born December 6, 1969 Torri Higginson, 50. I had forgotten that she had a role in the TekWar movies and series as Beth Kittridge. I like that series a lot. Of course, she portrayed Dr. Elizabeth Weir in Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis. Her most recent genre role was as Dr. Michelle Kessler in Inhuman Condition, where she plays a therapist who focuses on supernatural patients.

(11) MAZE RUINERS. “Researchers Release Teeny Little Minotaur Into Maze To Test Mice’s Capacity To Use Enchanted String”The Onion covers this scientific breakthrough…

In an effort to study the rodents’ ability to manipulate simple magical objects, researchers at the University of Chicago reportedly released a teeny little minotaur into a maze Thursday to test mice’s capacity to use enchanted string….

(12) HARLEY QUINN. You had to be there… “Colorful New ‘Birds of Prey’ Footage Unveiled for Fans in Brazil”.

Fans of Harley Quinn got a new look at the movie Thursday at Comic Con Experience, the Brazilian convention in São Paulo, where Margot Robbie and the cast of next year’s Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) debuted all-new footage, including the opening sequence of the movie itself.

Two convention-only clips were screened for the audience, including a new trailer that focused more on Black Canary and Huntress than the first — as Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) put it, Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has “anger issues,” despite her shouted assertions to the contrary, while Canary herself has a broken heart and feels empathy for a Harley who’s learning to be alone after the Joker dumped her. Don’t worry; there was also plenty of explosions, and Harley’s two beloved hyenas, Wayne and Bruce. (Just wait a second, it’ll come to you.)

(13) STAR CORK. Bleeding Cool’s Gavin Sheehan liked the bottle even more than the wine: “Review: Star Trek United Federation Of Planets Old Vine Zinfandel”.

…So first and foremost, this bottle is a work of art unto itself. Rarely do I ever have wine in a square container such as this, but it’s a standard 750 ml. The design caught me off-guard but also made me smile because this is very much a Trek thing. Whenever you look at bottles of liquor in Ten Forward or Quark’s, the prop masters always went out of their way to create futuristic glasses and containers that you normally wouldn’t keep booze in during this point in time. But maybe wine is stored differently in the future, so you get this rectangle-shaped design that slims down the lower it goes.

(14) COLONEL’S LOG. The recipe? First, steal one fireplace….“KFC Brings Back Fried Chicken-Scented Fire Log for the Holidays”.

“Last year, we captured the hearts, noses and fireplaces of our fans, but thousands more were clamoring to get their hands on our limited firelogs. So, we brought our 11 Herbs & Spices Firelogs back with an exclusive partnership with Walmart to spread the finger-lickin’ good cheer,” Andrea Zahumensky, KFC U.S. CMO said in a statement to the company’s website. “We hope you’ll cuddle up with your family or friends with a bucket of our world-famous fried chicken and a warm fried chicken-scented fire this holiday season.”

Also available right now, the anime-themed “I Love You, Colonel Sanders! A Finger Lickin’ Good Dating Simulator”

Do you have what it takes to date the most famous chicken salesman of all time? Find out now in the most delicious dating simulator ever created. Play now on Steam for free! http://bit.ly/2m9MaQu

(15) HINT FROM THE MASTER? “How to conquer work paralysis like Ernest Hemingway” – BBC remembers his advice.

The author wasn’t all about literary masterpieces, dry martinis and rakish charm – he also invented a technique that can beat procrastination and boost productivity.

He was famous for his constant womanising, his achingly cool moustache and his affection for six-toed cats. Legend has it that he could drink 17 daiquiris in an afternoon, he was recruited by the KGB as a spy codenamed “Argo” and he once slept with a bear. Oh, and he wrote some of the most highly acclaimed works of all time.

I’m talking about Ernest Hemingway, of course. But it turns out that the author had more than novels and macho anecdotes up his rugged, intellectual sleeves. He was also the inventor of a clever psychological trick: the “useful interruption”.

According to a 1935 article Hemingway penned for Esquire magazine, when asked “How much should you write in a day?” by a young writer, he replied: “The best way is always to stop when you are going good and when you know what will happen next. If you do that every day when you are writing a novel, you will never be stuck.” He urged the nascent writer to remember this – and even went so far as to say that it was the most valuable advice he could give.

(16) PSYCH OUT. Isn’t this what Majel Barrett’s computer voice was doing on the original Star Trek? “Why progress bars can make you feel better”

We are all familiar with the spinning wheels and download indicators that signify when our electronic devices are “working”, but are they making us fall for the “labour illusion”?

…But there is a good chance that you have been misled online at least once already today, probably without you even realising it. If you downloaded some software, tried to stream a video or even conducted an internet search, you’ve more than likely been taken in by one of the most widespread fibs of our modern age.

The spinning wheels, rotating egg timers and moving progress bars we regularly see on our screens when using our electronic devices are often misleading. Rather than offering an accurate representation of work being done, they are more often than not simply there to give the impression that something is happening behind the scenes. They provide us with a sense that we are not waiting in vain for something to happen.

And there is a fundamental reason for this: we like to see real work being done. In fact, we value it more, even when the end result is the same.

Ryan Buell, an associate professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, studies how we value the work we see being done. Perhaps this is most clearly illustrated in restaurants where customers can see chefs working in the kitchen. Diners rated the quality of food from those restaurants as 22% higher than the same food when they could not see it being prepared.

(17) BUY-BUY! NPR’s Elizabeth Metzger reviews “‘In Fabric’: Darkly Comic Horror About A (Literally) Killer Dress”.

As Black Friday/Cyber Monday impulse-buys start piling up on our doorsteps, Peter Strickland’s new film In Fabric hits a nerve: Everyone loves a great sale, after all, just as everyone rankles at overly strict return policies.

Especially if the item in question is a dress that’s out to kill you.

Sheila, played by Marianne Jean-Baptiste, falls prey to a great winter sales rack. It’s a pity that the flowy A-line red dress she purchases is haunted by a coven of macabre sales clerks led by Miss Luckmoore (Fatma Mohamed) — but what can one expect of a dress purchased at 60% off retail? That said, it does come in ‘Artery Red.’

…What, you may ask, prompts the purchase of a killer dress, beyond a love for a great deal? The recently divorced Sheila is putting herself back out there, going on a first date with Adonis (Anthony Adjekum) — who is not all what his name implies. Bad luck follows Sheila: a mysterious rash, an imploding washing machine, and constant undermining from both her superiors at the bank and her son’s girlfriend, played by Gwendoline Christie in a harsh black wig. Jean-Baptiste grounds the movie in a world filled with the farcical, the gory and the hypersexualized.

(18) APOSTROPHE CATASTROPHE. “Apostrophe society shuts down because ‘ignorance and laziness have won'” – the Evening Standard has the story.

A society dedicated to preserving the correct use of the apostrophe has shut down because “ignorance has won”. 

Retired journalist John Richards, 96, started the Apostrophe Protection Society in 2001 to make sure the “much-abused” punctuation mark was being used correctly.

But Mr Richards has now announced: “With regret I have to announce that, after some 18 years, I have decided to close the Apostrophe Protection Society.

“There are two reasons for this. One is that at 96 I am cutting back on my commitments and the second is that fewer organisations and individuals are now caring about the correct use of the apostrophe in the English Language.”

…His website lists three simple rules for the correct use of the apostrophe.

The rules Mr Richards gave for apostrophes are: They are used to denote a missing letter or letters, they are used to denote possession and apostrophes are never ever used to denote plurals.

(19) TAKING A BITE OUT OF THE SCENERY. The Ringer puts together a commentary on “The Best TV Episodes of 2019”. Some of them are genre.

8. “The Trial,” What We Do in the Shadows

Much like Taika Waititi’s eponymous film, FX’s What We Do in the Shadows gleefully leans into mundanity. This simple idea—that being an immortal, centuries-old vampire could lead to a meandering existence—is elevated by the show’s largely anonymous cast and the fact our vamps are based in Staten Island. (No disrespect to the Staten Islanders out there, but it’s usually not the borough tourists head for when they visit New York.) But in “The Trial,” What We Do in the Shadows pulls out all the stops, providing what could be the greatest on-screen vampire reunion … ever?

When our protagonists Nandor, Laszlo, and Nadja go before an international tribunal of vampires to answer for the death of the “Baron,” they’re greeted not just by the stars of the original movie, but some of the most famous actors who’ve played vampires in other projects: Tilda Swinton (Only Lovers Left Alive), Evan Rachel Wood (True Blood), Paul Reubens (the Buffy the Vampire Slayer movie), Danny Trejo (From Dusk Till Dawn), and even Wesley Snipes (the Blade trilogy) via glitchy Skype. Absentees Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Robert Pattinson, and Kiefer Sutherland are all name-dropped, as well, turning “The Trial” into the Avengers for pop-culture vampires and, more importantly, a clever inversion of the show’s banal storytelling. The flex of having all these stars show up is commendable in and of itself, but “The Trial” is a series highlight for its excellent banter and the subtle implication that Swinton and Co. are also still themselves—and that they play vampires on screen in order to hide in plain sight. Like the humans they feast on, the vampiric world of What We Do in the Shadows remains an absolute treat. —Surrey

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