Pixel Scroll 3/23/20 So Tomorrow We Are Heading Up That Scrolly Road, Rocks And All. Got Any Dragons You Need Pixeled?

(1) WORTH YOUR WHILE. Having seen what shoppers are lined up for, James Davis Nicoll tracked down five highly time-absorbent novels — “Five Massive SFF Books to Read While You’re Social-Distancing” at Tor.com.

Ash: A Secret History by Mary Gentle

Clocking in at a streamlined 1120 pages, Ash tells the tale of 15th century mercenary Ash, a woman whose Europe is both very much like and very much different from our own. A natural soldier, she is drawn into the effort to defend a disunited Europe from the Visigoth army that threatens the continent. Visigoth-ruled Carthage has numbers and a seemingly magical technology the Europeans cannot match. Key to the invader’s success: the Faris, a woman guided by mysterious Voices…a woman who could be Ash’s twin.

(2) INSTANT TSUNDOKU. Paul Weimer presents “Mind Meld: The 101 and the 201 of SFF” at Nerds of a Feather. The feature involves asking people a genre-related question and sharing their responses. Answering this time are Marissa Lingen, Megan O’Keefe, Alix Harrow, Adri Joy, Marina Berlin, Lisa McCurrach, Melissa Caruso, Andrew Hiller, Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, Keena Roberts, J Kathleen Cheney, Elizabeth Fitz, Camestros Felapton, Catherine Lundoff, Sophia McDougall, and Julie Czerneda. His question is:

Some readers are looking for entry points into fantasy and pointing them at a book rich in the conversation and assumed tropes can throw them right out of it again. Other readers want more than a basic experience but are frustrated with novels that retread the same basics over and over.

So I’d like for you to recommend me *two* books:

1. A 101 SFF book that someone who may have seen Lord of the Rings but never cracked open an SFF book might fruitfully read. 
2. A 201 SFF book for someone looking for a deeper, richer experience, rewarding their previous reading in genre. 

(3) NEW ZEALAND GOING TO TOP ALERT LEVEL. Of concern for those hoping the 2020 Worldcon might still be held this summer, New Zealand’s Prime Minister announced yesterday that the nation has gone to Level 3 status, and tomorrow they will be going to Level 4 status for at least 4 weeks.

A New Zealand Herald article explains: “Coronavirus: What Covid-19 alert levels 3 and 4 mean for you and your family”.

New Zealand has 102 confirmed cases of coronavirus and is now at alert level 3 – and will move to level four for likely at least four weeks from Wednesday.

Alert level 3 means the risk of the potentially deadly virus not being contained and there will either be community transmission of the virus or multiple clusters breaking out.

Level 4 means people are instructed to stay at home, schools and universities closed, as well as non-essential businesses, major reprioritisation of health services, and severely limited travel.

Essential services will be open at all alert levels, but level level 3 means limited travel in areas with clusters of Covid-19 cases, affected educational facilities closed, mass gatherings cancelled, public venues closed (such as libraries, museums, cinemas, food courts, gyms, pools, amusement parks), some non-essential businesses closed, and non face-to-face primary care consultations, with non-elective services and procedures in hospitals deferred.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has just told the nation “we are all now preparing as a nation to go into self-isolation in the same way we have seen other countries do. Staying at home is essential”.

That would give the health system a chance to cope, she said.

(4) LAFFERTY FANS DISAPPOINTED. Laffcon, a one-day event about the works of R.A. Lafferty that had been scheduled for June 8 in Lawenceville, New Jersey has been postponed until June 2021.

(5) HELP NEEDED. A GoFundMe to help the late Kate Hatcher’s family has been launched by Rick Kovalcik: “Help Ben (and Ireland) Hatcher”.

As you may know, Kate Hatcher passed away early in March after battling pneumonia (http://file770.com/kate-hatcher-1974-2020/). She left behind her partner, Ben Hatcher, and a daughter with health issues, Ireland. Various people have asked if there is anything we could do for Ben and Ireland. Well, John Hertz called me yesterday and said Ben and Ireland really could use some money, especially in the next month, while Ben tries to straighten out the finances and government payments to Ireland. Since John is not on the Internet, the suggestion was that I create a GoFundMe and send the money to Ben Hatcher. I am doing so. As I did for the Boskone ASL Fund, I will make up the GoFundMe fees (up to the asking amount) in addition to my personal contribution so that Ben and Ireland get the full amount that people are donating.  As suggested by John Hertz, I will send Ben a money order on about March 31st with what is raised to that point and then follow up with additional funds as appropriate (perhaps weekly). If anyone wants to check the veracity of this, please feel free to contact John Hertz; if you don’t have his phone number, I can give it to you.

(6) FAN FAVORITES. The nerd folk duo doubleclicks will livestream interviews with two sff authors this week. (Times shown are PDT.)

TUESDAY:
11am: Interview with Hugo Award-Winning author Becky Chambers, author of the Wayfarers Series, which we’ve read about 2 dozen times. The second book has an AI in it whose story makes me feel one million things. Becky’s latest book is To Be Taught, If Fortunate and is also completely lovely!!

THURSDAY:
11am: interview with Hugo Award-Winning author Martha Wells, author of the Murderbot Diaries, which we’ve also read about 2 dozen times. This series is about a “robot” who just wants to binge tv shows and protect people and the books are so funny and real and emotional.

(7) A CHAPTER IN GENRE HISTORY. Joel Cunningham, the person who started the Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, tells the story of the site, which closed last December after five years. Thread starts here. He’s got a new job at Lifehacker. 

(8) NOSTALGIA AVAILABLE. [Item by Daniel Dern.] An Ontario guy set up a site with all sorts of old broadcasts and bits and pieces many locals grew up with. Did you know that in 1972, Dan Ackroyd voiced the call sign for a TV station? They also have Judith Merril’s post-show discussions of Doctor Who episodes from 1980, old commercials, stuff from the Buffalo TV stations … a lovely rabbit hole to slither down: Retrontario.com.

(9) PLAGUE INVADES THE LOCKED TOMB. Bad news for those awaiting the sequel to one of last year’s most talked about sff books. Tamsyn Muir told readers today —

(10) UNEVENLY DISTRIBUTED. “Not like the pictures”: “William Gibson Says Today’s Internet Is Nothing Like What He Envisioned”

William Gibson writes visionary stories — in his early work, he imagined an information superhighway long before the Web existed. But in a dozen novels over the last 35 years, Gibson has stalked closer and closer to the present.

His latest, Agency, has a complicated plot that jumps between the far future and the immediate present; Gibson says his favorite type of science fiction requires time and effort to understand. “My greatest pleasure in reading books by other people is to be dropped into a completely baffling scenario,” he says, “and to experience something very genuinely akin to culture shock when first visiting a new culture.”

Gibson imagined that sort of culture shock back in 1982 when he coined the word “cyberspace” in a short story. Two years later he popularized the term in his first novel, Neuromancer, about a washed up hacker hired for one last job.

…”He said once that he was wrong about cyberspace,” says author Lev Grossman, “and the internet when he first conceived it, he thought it was a place that we would all leave the world and go to. Whereas in fact, it came here.”

Grossman is a former book critic for Time magazine and author of the fantasy bestseller, The Magicians. “You have an artificial intelligence that is everywhere. It’s in all your devices. You’re looking through it as a lens to see the rest of the world. It’s an extraordinary vision of how computers will become aware, and become the thing that mediates between us and reality.”

But Gibson himself thinks the future of artificial intelligence will require human sensibility to take it to the next level. “Over the past few years, I’ve more and more frequently encountered people saying that the real change-bringer might not be something, an intelligence that we build from the ground up, but something like an uploaded healing consciousness that we then augment with the sort of artificial intelligence we already have.”

(11) WILD ABOUT HARRY. Marie Claire ran an article about nineandthreequartersco whose products we mentioned here the other day: “Harry Potter-inspired tea and coffee just launched in a whole range of magical flavours”. See more Harry Potter-themed beverages on the company’s Instagram page.

All the names take inspiration from J.K. Rowling’s fictional world; from ‘espresso patronum’, to ‘butter brew’, to ‘brew that must not be named’, there are flavours for every Potterhead.

The ‘espresso patronum’ coffee blend is, as you may have guessed, an espresso blend, promising to provide a smooth and chocolatey cup of coffee with a slightly fruity finish. The ‘butter brew’ coffee on the other hand, is a sweeter butterscotch flavour brew, taking inspiration from the beer the wizards drink at Hogsmede pub. More information about the other coffee flavours on their website.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 23, 1962 — The third season episode of Twilight Zone entitled “Person or Persons Unknown” first aired. Written by Charles Beaumont Who wrote a number of other classic episodes in this series such as “The Howling Man” and “Number 12 Looks Just Like You”, he also was the scriptwriter for such films as  7 Faces of Dr. Lao and Queen of Outer Space. The premise of his script is simple: upon awaking from a bender, his protagonist find no one recognises him. Richard Long is David Andrew Gurney and the supporting cast are quite fine in their roles as well.  

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 23, 1882 Charles Montague Shaw. His most remembered role came in 1936 as Professor Norton in the quite popular Undersea Kingdom serial. It was done in response to the Flash Gordon serial then being played. Ironically, he would appear several year later in the Flash Gordon’s Trip To Mars serial as the Clay King. (Died 1968.)
  • Born March 23, 1904 H. Beam Piper. I am reasonably sure that the first thing I read and enjoyed by him was Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen followed by Little Fuzzy and related works which are damn fun reading. Has anyone here read Scalzi’s Fuzzy novel? (Died 1964.)
  • Born March 23, 1934 Neil Barron. Certainly best known for Anatomy of Wonder: A Critical Guide to Science Fiction which actually is still a damn fine read which is unusual for this sort of material. If memory thirty years on serves me right, his Fantasy Literature and Horror Literature guides were quite good too. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 23, 1937 Carl Yoke, 83. One of those academics that I stumbled upon when I was looking for information on Zelazny. His 1979 study of him, Roger Zelazny, is quite excellent, as is his essay, “Roger Zelazny’s Bold New Mythologies” which is to be in Tom Staicar’s Critical Encounters II: Writers and Themes in Science Fiction. He also wrote “What a Piece of Work is a Man: Mechanical Gods in the Fiction of Roger Zelazny” which you’ll find in Contributions to the Study of Science Fiction and Fantasy, one of those serious academic volumes no one really reads for the most part. Yoke does have two genre stories to his credit, they’re called The Michael Holland Stories.
  • Born March 23, 1952 Kim Stanley Robinson, 68. If the Mars trilogy was the only work that he’d written, he’d rank among the best genre writers ever. But then he went and wrote the outstanding Three Californias Trilogy. I won’t say everything he writes I consider top-flight, the Science in the Capital series just didn’t appeal to me. His best one-off novels I think are without argument (ha!) The Years of Rice and Salt and New York 2140.  I should note he has won myriad Awards including the Hugo Award for Best Novel, BSFA Award for Best Novel, the Nebula Award for Best Novel and the World Fantasy Award. And the Heinlein Society gave him their Robert A. Heinlein Award for his entire body of work! 
  • Born March 23, 1958 John Whitbourn, 62. Writer of a number novels and short stories focusing on an alternative history set in a Catholic universe. It reminds me a bit of Keith Robert’s Pavane but much more detailed. A Dangerous Energy in which Elizabeth I never ascends the throne leads off his series. If that’s not to your taste, Frankenstein’s Legion’s is a sheer delight of Steampunk riffing off Mary Shelley‘s tale. He’s available at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born March 23, 1959 Maureen Kincaid Speller, 61. British reviewer and essayist who has been nominated for Hugos for Best Semiprozine and Best Fan Writer. She’s had an extensive career with her writing showing up in MatrixSteam Engine TimeThe Gate and Vector (all of which she either edited or co-edited), Barbed Wire KissesFire & HemlockLocal FanomenaRed Shift, Interzone and The BSFA Review. Other than a brief collection by BSFA, And Another Thing … A Collection of Reviews and Criticism by Maureen Kincaid Speller, her work has not yet been collected. 
  • Born March 23, 1977 Joanna Page, 43. It’s not the longest of genre resumes but it’s an interesting one. First, she’s Ann Crook in From Hell from the graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell. Next up is appearing in yet another version of The Lost World. (I think there’s there a legal contract requiring one be made every so often.) And finally she’s Queen Elizabeth I in The Day of The Doctor

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro answers the question, “What’s Heaven to a chicken?”
  • Bug-eyed aliens from Neptune invade Calvin & Hobbes.
  • Cul de Sac chronicles The Attack of the Monster Worm!  

(15) COMICS PIPELINE SHUT OFF. Bleeding Cool reports “Diamond Comic Distributors No Longer Taking In New Comics”.

Bleeding Cool has been informed by multiple senior industry figures that Diamond Comic Distributors is requesting that no more product be shipped to any of its warehouse until further notice. Product already in its warehouses will be distributed, such that it can, but after that they will be distributing no more comics, magazine, books, toys, games, or any other product until further notice….

The company’s reasons for the decision are chronicled at Adventures in Poor Taste: “Diamond Comics Distributor explains choice to halt shipping and marks March 25 as last slated shipment”.

… Our publishing partners are also faced with numerous issues in their supply chain, working with creators, printers, and increasing uncertainty when it comes to the production and delivery of products for us to distribute. Our freight networks are feeling the strain and are already experiencing delays, while our distribution centers in New York, California, and Pennsylvania were all closed late last week. Our own home office in Maryland instituted a work from home policy, and experts say that we can expect further closures. Therefore, my only logical conclusion is to cease the distribution of new weekly product until there is greater clarity on the progress made toward stemming the spread of this disease….

(16) CORONA CARTOONIST. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna profiles Chen Wang, who uses the name “Messycow” for her cartoons, who uses her background as someone born in Wuhan but who now lives in Seattle, whose comics deal with how she copes with the coronavirus. “Chinese American cartoonist finds satire in coronavirus crisis — with a perspective from both cultures”.

“People in the rest of the world might not have known much at the time, but it was all people cared about in China,” says the artist, who has family in Wuhan. “I followed the news closely and experienced a lot of emotions.”

To channel those emotions creatively, she took a humorous tone with the comic “Quarantine Makes Life Better,” which depicted a faux-news report of characters coping with stay-at-home life.

(17) PIXAR’S ONWARD ONLINE. Adweek reports “Disney’s Onward Available for Digital Purchase Tonight as Coronavirus Shutters Theaters”.

Disney’s latest Pixar film, Onward, opened in theaters just two weeks ago, but the company is already making it available for digital purchase tonight, making it the latest current release to quickly migrate to video-on-demand platforms as the novel coronavirus’ spread wipes out traditional movie theater attendance.

The film, which follows the adventures of two elf brothers voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt, will be available to purchase on digital platforms for $19.99 beginning at 8 p.m. ET, Disney said this morning.

It will then be released on Disney’s streaming service Disney+ just two weeks from now, on April 3.

(18) BRITISH FAN HISTORY. The British Science Fiction Association has made its archive of its official journal Vector available on the Fanac.org website: “Early Vector now open access”.

The BSFA have partnered with FANAC.org to make sixty years’ worth of back issues available free online. This collection includes for the first time scans of all of the first seven issues (editors inclue E.C. Tubb, Terry Jeeves, Roberta Gray, and Michael Moorcock).

Most of what has been digitized is now available on Fanac: issues from the 1980s and 1990s should follow shortly.

(19) COMFORT READS. The New York Times features includes a couple of genre books (one of them by Harlan Ellison): “Celeste Ng, Ann Patchett, Min Jin Lee and Others on the Books That Bring Them Comfort”.

Celeste Ng – ‘The Princess Bride,’ by William Goldman

In 1987, my sister was halfway through reading me “The Princess Bride” when she went off to college. The day she left, I cried myself to sleep — and then, after I got my bearings again, I read the rest of the book on my own. So this has always been a comfort read for me: a fairy tale that acknowledges that life isn’t fair (“It’s just fairer than death, that’s all”) yet still manages to make you feel that the good guys might win, that justice will be served, that there’s a point to it all. If you only know the (fantastic) film, pick the book up, too — it’s just as much of a delight. —Celeste Ng’s most recent book is “Little Fires Everywhere.”

(20) DEPTH SHALL NOT RELEASE YOU. BBC has the bad news — “Climate change: Earth’s deepest ice canyon vulnerable to melting”.

East Antarctic’s Denman Canyon is the deepest land gorge on Earth, reaching 3,500m below sea-level.

It’s also filled top to bottom with ice, which US space agency (Nasa) scientists reveal in a new report has a significant vulnerability to melting.

Retreating and thinning sections of the glacier suggest it is being eroded by encroaching warm ocean water.

Denman is one to watch for the future. If its ice were hollowed out, it would raise the global sea surface by 1.5m.

…Most people recognise the shores around the Dead Sea in the Middle East to have the lowest visible land surface elevation on Earth, at some 430m below sea level. But the base of the gorge occupied by Denman Glacier on the edge of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet (EAIS) actually reaches eight times as deep.

This was only recently established, and it has made Denman a location of renewed scientific interest.

(21) NOT BLASTS FROM THE PAST.  Got to love this title: “Not Rocket Science: SF Stories Involving Alternatives to Space Rocketry”, a Tor.com post by James Davis Nicoll:

…A cousin to the sling is the accelerator, a (presumably firmly bolted down) device which uses some force other than centripetal to accelerate payloads. Such devices have some obvious limits (namely, power supply, heat management, and the trade-off between accelerations low enough not to crush the payload and final velocities high enough to be useful). They also have advantages, not least of which is not having to haul a gigawatt-plus power supply off-planet and across space. Accelerators of various kinds go way back in science fiction, at least as far as Jules Vernes’ From the Earth to the Moon, whose Baltimore Gun Club delivers a living payload past the Moon using a very, very large gun. No, larger than that.

Various flavours of accelerators show up all through SF. One of the more striking examples is Michael Swanwick’s Vacuum Flowers, whose “transit rings” manipulate space-time to accelerate payloads to high speeds without the payloads feeling the forces involved. I wonder if this was inspired by Robert Forward’s Guidelines to Antigravity

(22) LET THE SUNSHINE IN. Oh, sure, if you’re going to count everything“Electric car emissions myth ‘busted'”

Fears that electric cars could actually increase carbon emissions are a damaging myth, new research shows.

Media reports have questioned if electric cars are really “greener” once emissions from manufacture and electricity generation are counted.

The research concludes that in most places electric cars produce fewer emissions overall – even if generation still involves fossil fuels.

Other studies warn that driving overall must be reduced to hit climate targets.

The new research from the universities of Exeter, Nijmegen – in The Netherlands – and Cambridge shows that in 95% of the world, driving an electric car is better for the climate than a petrol car.

The only exceptions are places like Poland, where electricity generation is still mostly based on coal.

(23) SEA FOR YOURSELF. SYFY Wire applauds a scientific development: “Creepy Extinct Fish With Fingers Unearths The Bizarre Truth Of How Hands Evolved”.

Humans may not be directly related to fish (except maybe Abe Sapien or that creature from The Shape of Water), but the fossil of an extinct fish known as Elpisostege watsoni was a breakthrough for a research team from Flinders University in Australia and Universite de Quebec a Rimouski in Canada. This literal fish out of water had fingers, as in actual finger bones, in its pectoral fins. Its 380-million-year-old skeleton revealed how vertebrate fingers evolved from fins — and how prehistoric fish morphed into tetrapods.

(24) ANCIENT PILOT. William Shatner was Archie Goodwin in this adaptation of Nero Wolfe.

An unsold, 1959 pilot for a proposed NERO WOLFE TV series starring Kurt Kasznar as Nero Wolfe and William Shatner as Archie Goodwin. The theme was composed by Alex North. Rumor has it there are two additional unsold pilots with this cast out there somewhere.

(25) VULCAN LIVES. John Prine’s “Lonesome Friends of Science” is news to me!

“This song here is an epic.  This tells you about the humiliation of the planet Pluto, when it was told it was no longer a planet, the romantic escapades of the Vulcan in Birmingham, Alabama, and the end of the world as we know it.  All in a little over four minutes.” 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Nancy Lebovitz, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, rcade, Joe Siclari, Mike Kennedy, Ben Bird Person, Darrah Chavey, Iphinome, Michael J. Walsh, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contirebiting editor of the day Brian Z.]

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

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

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

What About the 2020 Darrell Awards?

First, they will be given.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael Dirda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minecraft has declined to comment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heck no.

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

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(11) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Category: Male Writers

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

Wrong question: “Who is Michener?”

Right question: “Who is Edgar Rice Burroughs?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 2/28/20 Speak To Geeky People, Get Geeky Answers

(1) PLAY IT AGAIN, JEAN-LUC. At Amazing Stories, Kimberly Unger tells how Picard is doing in checking off “The Required Plots of Star Trek”. She has an infographic with 13 of them.

A few years ago, I had the privilege to work on a game being built for Star Trek: Discovery (I will remain salty about the cancellation of this game until the day I die).  While that game ultimately never made it to market, it gave me a chance to do a number of deep dives into one of my favorite properties.  While we were in the early days of building the game design bible to give to the writers, I came up with a list of recurring broad plotlines that seemed to show up in every variation of Star Trek (and many other SF shows including Dr. Who, Stargate, etc.).

Now that Star Trek: Picard is on the air, I’m working my way down the list, watching to see which of these thirteen recurring plots show up. 

(2) CORONAVIRUS AND FANDOM. Chuck Wendig, in “Running A Con, Conference “Or Festival In The Age Of A Burgeoning Pandemic!”, wants upcoming conventions to address five points (see them at the link).

Am I an expert in any of this? Hardly. I just try to keep up to date on what’s up while simultaneously not fall for conspiracy theories or mis/disinformation. (Harder than you’d think in this age, sadly.)

So, now we circle back around to say —

Hey, there are a lot of conventions, conferences and festivals coming up.

For me, these are writing- or book-related, but again, I see a lot on the horizon and some that just recently passed: toys, electronics, food service, etc.

It’s convention season.

And, apparently, coronavirus season.

So, if you’re running just such a conference, lemme give you some advice:

Get ahead of this now.

Do not make us e-mail you to ask you what’s up.

This isn’t about causing panic — it’s about undercutting it. It’s about reassuring us that you have this in your mind, with plans forming….

Regina Kanyu Wang, a council member of World Chinese Science Fiction Association (WCSFA) and who lives in Shanghai, commented today on Facebook about the situation.

Talking about the coronavirus (COVID-19), now the situation in China is OK, with doctors and nurses really fighting in the frontier as well as normal citizens sacrificing their convenience of daily life (Especially those who live in Wuhan and Hubei in general! They’ve endured so much.) I am in Shanghai and my life is as normal, but I have friends and friends’ families living in Hubei, who are really trading their normal life to win more time for the world to take control of the plague. Recently, there have been an increase in numbers of cases in Korea, Japan, Italy, Iran and the US, and also first cases confirmed in more countries.

I realize that local governments may not tell the people how dangerous the virus is because they are afraid of panics and influences on economics. Wuhan and Hubei government did the same, and look what it’s like now….

(3) A PLAGUE OF STORIES. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar suggest “Coronavirus feels like something out of a sci-fi novel. Here’s how writers have imagined similar scenarios” in the Washington Post.

… Pandemic novels, like pandemics, come and go in waves. The 60s had Michael Crichton’s “The Andromeda Strain.” The 70s saw the mega-success of Stephen King’s “The Stand.” Robin Cook gave us “Outbreak” in the 80s. By the 2000s, Max Brooks’s “World War Z” and related “The Zombie Survival Guide” were deemed so plausible for emergency scenarios that Brooks now consults for the military. And in 2014, Emily St. John Mandel’s “Station Eleven,” about a deadly plague called the “Georgia Flu,” dominated award lists and won widespread recognition.

With the coronavirus on everyone’s minds, reading books about epidemics can either be a frightening turnoff or a fascinating “what if” thought experiment. For readers in the latter category, let’s talk about books you might dare to consider.

(4) DELANY IN PARIS REVIEW. “Sex in the Theater: Jeremy O. Harris and Samuel Delany in Conversation” in The Paris Review. Not unexpectedly, includes frank conversation about sexual matters.

Though the two had never met before, Delany has been hugely influential on Harris, and served as the basis for a character in the latter’s 2019 Black Exhibition, at the Bushwick Starr. And Delany was very aware of Harris. The superstar playwright made an indelible mark on the culture, and it was fitting that the two should meet on Broadway, in Times Square, Delany’s former epicenter of activity, which he detailed at length in his landmark Times Square Red, Times Square Blue and The Mad Man. …

Over turkey club sandwiches and oysters, Harris and Delany discussed identity, fantasy, kink, and getting turned on in the theater.

HARRIS

Can I ask you about the play? How are you processing it?

DELANY

I was confused in the beginning, but then I realized, Aha! This is therapy. And then, Aha! The therapists are nuts! Then I traveled around having sympathy for all the characters, especially the stupid good-looking guy. He was sweet, I’ve had a lot of those. The character that I identified with most is the one who insists that he’s not white. I used to get that all the time, I mean, the number of times I was told by my friends at Dalton, Well, I would never know that you were black. As if I had asked them.

One of the best things that ever happened to me happened when I was about ten, which was a long time ago. I was born in 1942, so this is 1952, and I’m sitting in Central Park doing my math homework. This kid, he could have been about nineteen or twenty, and I think he was homeless, he walks up to me, and he says to me with his Southern accent, You a n****, ain’t you? I can tell. You ain’t gonna get away with nothin’ with me.

And I looked up at him, I didn’t say anything, and he looked at me and said, That’s all right. You ain’t gonna get away with nothing from me.

And I was so thankful for it. I realized, first of all, he was right. He was being much more honest with me than any of my school friends.

It was also my first exposure to white privilege. There were a lot of white people from the South who felt obliged to walk up and say, You’re black, aren’t you? They thought it was their duty. In case I thought, for a moment, that they didn’t know. This was part of my childhood: people telling me that I was black….

(5) YOUNG PEOPLE. At Young People Read Old SFF, James Davis Nicoll introduces the panel to “’Step IV’ by Rosel George Brown”.

Rosel George Brown is a classic SF author of whom I have long been aware without managing to track down much of her work. Step IV was in fact the third Brown piece I ever read, after 1959’s ?“Car Pool”, and Earthblood, her 1966 collaboration with Keith Laumer. In large part this is because her career was cut tragically short. Aged just 41, she died of lymphoma in 1967. Most of her work is very much out of print.

Still, this particular story is available. What did my Young People make of it?

(6) DYSON OBIT. Freeman Dyson, acclaimed physicist whose ideas inspired Larry Niven’s Ringworld, died today: “Physicist And Iconoclastic Thinker Freeman Dyson Dies At 96” at NPR. The New York Times eulogy is here.

…During World War II, he was a civilian scientist with the Royal Air Force’s Bomber Command.

After the war, he came to the U.S. to study physics. Together with physicist Richard Feynman, he was able to reconcile two competing theories of quantum electrodynamics, the study of how sub-atomic particles and light interact. “He was able to show that all these different points of view were one and the same thing,” Dijkgraaf says. “He was a great unifier of physics.”

… Dyson permanently joined the Institute for Advanced Study in 1953. From his perch there, he pursued many other topics of interest. He helped to design an inherently safe nuclear reactor that could be operated “even in the hands of an idiot.” In 1958, he joined Project Orion, a plan to power a spacecraft with controlled nuclear explosions.

The spaceship was never built, but Dyson later described it as “the most exciting and in many ways happiest of my scientific life.” Dijkgraaf says Dyson was probably one of the few people on Earth that felt let down by the 1969 moon landings: “This all looked very disappointing in Freeman’s eyes,” he says. Dyson wanted to go to Saturn with nuclear-fueled rockets. “[He] was kind of envisioning jet planes, and in the end we took a bicycle.”

I heard him speak at the Starship Century Symposium in 2013 — “Freeman Dyson, ‘Noah’s Ark Eggs and Warm-Blooded Plants’”.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 28, 1956 — The “A Pail of Air” episode of X-One first aired. A boy narrates tale of a lifeless Earth. The Earth has been pulled away from its orbit by a comet when he was a baby, and his family live in a nest. The script’s by George Lefferts from a story by Fritz Leiber. Two more episodes would be based on stories by him, “Appointment in Tomorrow” and “The Moon is Green”. The cast includes Ronnie Liss, Pamela Hamilton and Joe De Santis. You can hear it here.
  • February 28, 1989 Journey To The Center Of The Earth premiered. It was written by Debra Ricci, Regina Davis, Kitty Chalmers, and Rusty Lemorande, as directed by Lemorande and Albert Pyun. It starred Emo Philips, Paul Carafotes, Jaclyn Bernstein and Kathy Ireland,. It was based on an uncompleted version for a different studio that Lemorande wrote and directed which was much more more faithful to Verne’s text. It was a sort of sequel to the film Alien from L.A. which has been noted here before. Critics usually used one word to describe it — “a mess”. Though it actually has a middling rating among the audiences Rotten Tomatoes at 42%. 
  • February 28, 2011  — Tyrannosaurus Azteca  premiered on Sci-fi. (Also known as Rex Aztec.) It was directed by Brian Trenchard-Smith as written by Richard Manning. It starred Starring: Ian Ziering, Shawn Lathrop, Milan Tresnak, Marc Antonio, Dichen Lachman and Jack McGee. It was made on he cheap, less than a million in total and critics noted that the CGI at times is much less than believable. You can see it here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 28, 1913 John Coleman Burroughs. Artist known for his illustrations of the works of his father, Edgar Rice Burroughs. At age 23, he was given the chance to illustrate his father’s book, The Oakdale Affair and the Rider which was published in 1937. He went on to illustrate all of his father’s books published during the author’s lifetime — a total of over 125 illustrations.  He also illustrated the John Carter Sunday newspaper strip, a David Innes of Pellucidar comic book feature and myriad Big Little Book covers. I remember the latter books — they were always to be found about the house during my childhood. (Died 1979.)
  • Born February 28, 1928 Walter Tevis. Author of The Man Who Fell to Earth which became the basis of the film of the same name starring David Bowie. There’s apparently a series planned of it. He also two other SF novels, The Steps of The Sun and Mockingbird. All off his work is available from the usual digital sources. (Died 1984.)
  • Born February 28, 1942 Terry Jones. Member of Monty Python who is considered largely responsible for the program’s structure, in which sketches flowed from one to the next without the use of punchlines. He made his directorial debut with Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which he co-directed with Gilliam, and also directed Life of Brian and The Meaning of Life. He also wrote an early draft of Jim Henson’s 1986 film Labyrinth, though little of that draft remains in the final version. (Died 2020.)
  • Born February 28, 1946 Leanne Frahm, 74. Australian writer whose “Deus Ex Corporus” won the Ditmar Award for best Australian short fiction. She won a Ditmar again in for “Catalyst”. Her story “Borderline” won an Aurealis Award for best science fiction short story. She’s won the Ditmar Award for best fan writer twice.
  • Born February 28, 1947 Stephen Goldin, 73. Author of the Family d’Alembert series which is based on a novella by E.E. “Doc” Smith. I think the novella is “Imperial Stars” but that’s unclear from the way the series is referred to. Has anyone read this series? How does it match up to the source material?
  • Born February 28, 1960 Dorothy Stratten. She played the title role in Galaxina. She also showed up on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century as Miss Cosmos in the “Cruise Hip to the Stars” episode. And she was Mickey on the Fantasy Island episode of “The Victim/The Mermaid”. (Died 1980.)
  • Born February 28, 1968 John Barnes, 62. I read and really liked the four novels in his Thousand Cultures series which are a sort of updated Heinleinian take on the spread of humanity across the Galaxy. What else by him do y’all like? He’s decently stocked by the usual digital suspects.
  • Born February 28, 1970 Lemony Snicket, 50. He’s the author of several children’s books, also serving as the narrator of A Series of Unfortunate Events. Though I’ve not read the books, they’re very popular I’m told at my local bookstore. It has been turned into a film, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, and into a Netflix series as well which is named, oh you guess. 

(9) CONVERSATION WITH DECANDIDO. Scott Edelman says now’s your chance to brunch on biscuits and gravy with Keith R.A. DeCandido in Episode 116 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

My guest this time around was Keith R.A. DeCandido, who has written novels and short stories in so many franchises — more than 30, including Star Trek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Doctor Who, Supernatural, Stargate SG-1, Farscape, and on and on — that a decade ago he was named Grandmaster by the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers.

He writes fiction in his own worlds as well, including multiple novels and short stories in the Dragon Precinct series, a police procedural set in a high fantasy universe. He also writes reviews and essays for tor.com, including his popular rewatches of multiple Star Treks, Stargate SG-1, and other series. And those are just a few of his facets, which include music, martial arts, and more.

(10) ORIGIN STORIES. Back from hosting a fan table at Boskone, Daniel Ritter of First Fandom Experience considers the question: “Are Young People Interested in Early Fan History?”.

…Young fans are interesting to us because the audience of people who have been most interested in our work so far is relatively small and skews to an older demographic. We cherish this community of long-time fans with some existing connection to the history we study, but we are also interested in reaching a younger audience who have little to no connection to early fan history.

This begs the question… 

Are Young People Interested in Early Fan History?

This is a question we ask ourselves often..

Although almost none of the First Fans of the 1930s are still with us, we fortunately can learn something of their stories through the people that knew them. This is the core community of collaborators and readers that we have interacted with through the course of this project so far, and is one primary audience for our work. 

But what about, for lack of a better phrase, young people? Do Millennials and Gen Z, born into the chaotic fullness of modern fandom, have any interest in the origin story of the SFF fan community?

(11) BALANCING THE SCALES. James Davis Nicoll is determined justice will be done! “Five SFF Novels Set in the Much-Maligned City of Toronto” at Tor.com.

Above by Leah Bobet

Far below Toronto’s streets, Safe provides a refuge to beings living with marvelous gifts and onerous curses—people who, if caught by the authorities, would be subjected to unpleasant experiments. Some of the refugees have been so subjected before they escaped to Safe.

Matthew is able to pass for a regular human. He can venture above to buy necessary supplies without letting any normal know that Safe exists….

(12) THE DOCTOR. THE MASTER. THE CYBERMEN. “Set course… for Gallifrey” The Doctor Who season 12 finale airs March 1 on BBC One.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/25/20 I Don’t Know, Batman. Why *Is* A Pixel Like A Writing Desk?

(1) HWA SERIES. The Horror Writers Association Blog continues its Women in Horror Month series of interviews with “Females of Fright: Linda Addison”.

3) Who were/are your biggest influences?
That is a long list of people. The first person that influenced me to write is my mother. She was a fantastic storyteller and would entertain the nine of us with fables she made up. This made it feel very natural to create stories for me. Also, two strong female characters from the Star Trek television series were huge influences: Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) as the first Black female officer in a SF series and Christine Chapel (Majel Barrett) whose character said more with a look than words.

When I was in high school, I loved Maya Angelou, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, James Baldwin, Eudora Welty, and Langston Hughes because of the music in their writing. In college, I discovered genre writers Isaac Asimov, Anne McCaffrey, Robert Heinlein, Octavia Butler, Nancy Kress, and Connie Willis. In horror, some of my female influences were Anne Rice, L. A. Banks, Elizabeth Massie, Marge Simon, and Charlee Jacob. Looking back, I see that I read more male SF and horror writers than female because the field didn’t have as many in print as they do now and even fewer Black female writers.

When my story was published in Sheree R. Thomas’ Dark Matter anthology in 2000, it gave me so much exposure and made a huge difference in my career. Others lifted me up with their belief in my writing early on: Jack Ketchum, Terry Bisson, Nancy Kress, Straub, L. A. Banks, Douglas Clegg, and so many more…

(2) CHANGING OF TH GUARD AT DISNEY. “Bob Iger steps down at Disney, Bob Chapek named new CEO” – the LA Times has details:

In a stunning move that marks the end of an era for one of the entertainment industry’s great corporate success stories, Bob Iger on Tuesday stepped down as chief executive of Walt Disney Co. after 15 years in the job.

Bob Chapek, a 27-year Disney veteran who most recently led the company’s massively important parks and consumer products business, was named Iger’s successor, effective immediately.

Iger, 69, has assumed the role of executive chairman, the company said. In that role, he will direct the Burbank entertainment giant’s creative endeavors and help guide the company’s board through the leadership transition until the end of his contract on Dec. 31, 2021, Disney said in statement.

Disney’s CEO succession plan was the subject of speculation for years as Iger delayed plans to leave the company. Disney’s board last extended Iger’s contract was in December 2017, when Disney announced that it was buying much of 21st Century Fox from Rupert Murdoch. As part of those negotiations, Murdoch requested that Iger stay on to run the company rather than leave when he’d planned….

(3) RETRO DRAMA. Mark Leeper has finished his complete overview of all feature-length dramatic presentations eligible for the Retro Hugo. Originally done in three installments, the full article now is available here — “Comments on the 1945 Retro Hugo Nominations in the Dramatic Presentation Category”.

Members of the 2020 World Science Fiction Convention will be given an opportunity to vote retroactively for Hugo Awards for 1945, for works from 1944. I am not actually old enough to have been around in 1944. The year 1944 was roughly a flowering when fantastic media was seen by much of the public. I am not sure when I started seeing fantastic media from the year 1944 until about 1960, but I do remember the early general public availability of some of the films nominated for a 1944 Retroactive Hugo. They had science fiction and fantasy for which the fiction was absurdly bad (but fun) and the “science” contained no science at all. It can still be fun to be misinformed by science from someone who knows less science than you do and by fiction that is just written. There is a certain charm to science fiction written by someone with no obvious understanding of science trying their best to make it sound credible

Many true fans of science fiction and fantasy still retain an interest in the fantasy fiction from 80 years earlier. Reading it creates an atmosphere from a writing style of decades ago. Few fans delude themselves into believing that this prose eight decades old is true artistry.

Personally I see only one or two titles among the nominees that say to me “classic.” By the time I finish this article you will probably have very little doubt which two are the ones that I consider the true classics. In the meantime I will hint for the reader think about which would the real classic be. Evelyn and I will both be viewing the choice of nominees and independently recording our opinions.

Enjoy your sojourn to the fun films of 1944. I know I will.

(4) SEES RIGHT THROUGH IT. “‘The Invisible Man’: Film Review” in The Hollywood Reporter.

This is not your father’s or, for that matter, grandfather’s The Invisible Man, even though it marks the launch of Universal’s revived attempt to seriously refresh and refashion its 1930s/’40s horror lineup for the modern age. Rather, enterprising writer-director Leigh Whannell (writer of Saw and Insidious and director of Insidious: Chapter 3) has imaginatively gone in a different direction by meeting the requirements of the title both literally and figuratively. At the same time, the movie stakes a claim for new mystery-horror territory worthy of a talent like Elisabeth Moss, who amplifies the qualities of the script with a top-shelf woman-in-severe-jeopardy performance…. 

(5) DON’T OPEN THE BOX! Last night on PBS’ Antiques Roadshow:

Caution: this appraisal may melt your face off! Watch as James Supp appraises a prototype Ark of the Covenant from the 1981 Indiana Jones film “Raiders of the Lost Ark” at Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, CA.

(6) A STEP ON THE WAY TO MARS. The LA Times reports “SpaceX gets approval to build its Mars spaceship at Port of L.A.”

The Los Angeles City Council approved a permit Tuesday that allows the Elon Musk-led company to use a site on Terminal Island at the port to build aerospace parts.

With the vote, SpaceX is now cleared to start work at the site; last week, the L.A. Board of Harbor Commissioners green-lighted the permit.

SpaceX representatives told L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino’s office that the company was interested in the port site because it needed additional manufacturing capacity for its Starship spaceship and rocket booster. A SpaceX representative at last week’s harbor commissioners meeting did not mention Starship by name during his presentation of the project, but he said the company would use the port site to further its goal of creating an interplanetary society that includes Mars.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 25, 1999 Escape from Mars premiered on UPN. It was directed by Neill Fearnley and produced  by Peter Lhotka. It was written by im Henshaw, Peter Mohan. It starred Lia Poirier, Allison Hossack , Peter Outerbridge, Allison Hossack and Michael Shanks. There are no critical reviews of it but the reviews at IMDB and Amazon make it clear that this is a horrible film.  And the audience numbers at Rotten Tomatoes are simpatico withose opinions at 27%. You can see it here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 25, 1906 Mary Chase. Journalist, playwright and children’s novelist. She’s best remembered for the Broadway playwright who penned Harvey which was later adapted for the film that starred James Stewart. Her only other genre work was the children’s story, “The Wicked, Wicked Ladies In the Haunted House”. The latter is available at the usual digital publishers but Harvey isn’t. You can get Harvey as an audiobook. (Died 1981.)
  • Born February 25, 1909 Edgar Pangborn. For the first twenty years of his career, he wrote myriad stories for the pulp magazines, but always under pseudonyms. It wasn’t until the Fifties that he published in his own name in Galaxy Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. His Tales of a Darkening World work is certainly well-crafted and entertaining. He’s deeply stocked at reasonable prices at the usual digital publishers. (Died 1976.)
  • Born February 25, 1913 Gert Fröbe. Goldfinger in the Bond film of that name. He also the Baron Bomburst in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Professor Van Bulow in Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon and Colonel Manfred von Holstein in Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, a film that’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 1988.)
  • Born February 25, 1917 Anthony Burgess. I know I’ve seen and read A Clockwork Orange many, many years ago. I think I even took a University class on it as well. Scary book, weird film.  I’ll admit that I’m not familiar with the Enderby series having not encountered them before now. Opinions please. (Died 1993.)
  • Born February 25, 1922 Robert Bonfils. Illustrator, known for his covers for pulp paperback covers, many of an erotic nature. I’ve not heard of him but ISFDB lists quite a few genre works that are, errr, graced by his work. Sex is certainly his dominant theme as can be seen in the covers of Go-Go SADISTO, Orgy of the Dead and Roburta the Conqueress. I’ve included the cover of From Rapture with Love, an obvious rip-off a Bond film, as an example of his work. (Died 2018.)
  • Born February 25, 1938 Diane Baker, 82. She starred in Journey to the Center of the Earth with James Mason,  and shortly thereafter, she’s Princess Yasmin in The Wizard of Baghdad.  She’s Kathy Adams in the “Beachhead” episode of The Invaders, and Fran Woods in the “Saturday’s Child” episode of the original Fantasy Island. I think her last genre role was as Dolores Petersen in the “Water, Water Everywhere” episode of Mann and Machine.
  • Born February 25, 1938 Malcolm Tierney. He’s Lt. Shann Childsen, the Imperial Prison Officer who questions Skywalker and Solo on what they are doing with Chewbacca in Star Wars, he’s in the Sixth Doctor story, “The Trial of a Time Lord” as Doland. (Died 2014.)
  • Born February 25, 1944 Mary Hughes. Solely here because she was a bikini-clad robot in Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, a too obvious Bond ripoff made entertaining by Vincent Price in the lead role. Her career spanned but three years. Another film she was in was The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini where she played, errr, a bikini clad Mary, and Boris Karloff played The Corpse.
  • Born February 25, 1968 A. M. Dellamonica, 52. A Canadian writer who has published over forty rather brilliant short works since the Eighties. Her first novel, Indigo Springs, came out just a decade ago but she now has five novels published with her latest being The Nature of a Pirate. Her story, “Cooking Creole” can be heard here at Pod Castle 562. It was in  Mojo: Conjure Stories, edited by Nalo Hopkinson.
  • Born February 25, 1971 Sean Astin, 49. His genre roles include Samwise Gamgee in the Rings trilogy, Mikey Walsh in The Goonies, and Bob Newby in the second season of Stranger Things. He also shows up in Justice League: War and in Justice League: Throne of Atlantis filmsvoicing both aspects of Shazam, a difficult role to pull off. He reprises that role on the Justice League Action series. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio finds one size does not fit all when it comes to being abducted by aliens.

(10) SQUOOBS AND COMPANY. When Mysterious Galaxy bookstore reopened in San Diego this month, representatives of the Mandalorian Mercs and Imperial Sands Garrison were on hand: “Mercs ‘Haran’galaar – Mysterious Galaxy Grand Opening’ Event Report”.

Event location: San Diego, CA
Date: February 08, 2020
Clan(s) Involved: Haran’galaar Clan
Mission Objective: Photo ops
Event Report: Mysterious Galaxy book store opened its doors again and Haran’galaar member Squoobs Jaro was there to show support. Guests were treated to photo ops with Squoobs along with members of the Imperial Sands Garrison.

(11) LAW LAW LAND. In “Useful Laws of the Land” on the Collaborative Fund website, Morgan Heusel discusses “Benford’s law of controversye:  “Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available,” which Gregory Benford promulgated in Timescape.

8. Benford’s law of controversy: “Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available.”

The line appeared in science fiction author Gregory Benford’s book Timescape.

Data has a way of keeping excitement in check, whereas if you have to take a leap of faith on something you’re likely to leap as far as your mind allows.

The median income of the people of another state: data I can confirm and everyone can agree on.

The feelings and political beliefs of the people of another state: no way for me to easily tell. But I can guess and draw conclusions, some of which are wrong and missing content, and might anger me, which angers them, and so on.

Former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale once said, “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”

He wasn’t serious, but it seriously explains a lot of things.

(12) IT’S A BABY! In the Washington Post, David Betancourt, reporting from the Toy Fair New York, says the market is about to be flooded with Baby Yoda merchandise, including a doll that makes baby noises if you hold his left hand and the theme from “The Mandalorian” if you hold the right.  He interviews “Mandalorian” producer Dave Piloni, who says that one reason why Baby Yoda merchandise is becoming available now is that they wanted to surprise people with the character and couldn’t start production of Baby Yoda stuff until after the show was launched: “Baby Yoda toys are finally arriving. Sure, they missed the holidays — but at least that prevented spoilers.”

And on Thursday at the Dream Hotel in Manhattan, the Child was everywhere. Legos, action figures, costumes, backpacks, hats, shirts, wallets and socks were all on display. An image of the now-classic moment in “The Mandalorian” when a young Baby Yoda reaches out of a capsule and extends the cutest finger in the universe for the first time? Framed and ready for your wall. The capsule itself? Also available, and featuring an animatronic Baby Yoda that blinks, coos and will melt your heart, for $60.

(13) YOU’RE INVITED TO GO APE. Fathom Events is selling tickets to a theatrical screening of King Kong on March 15.

In the classic adventure that made her a star, Fay Wray plays the beautiful woman who conquers the savage heart of a giant ape.

(14) FROM DA VINCI TO DA CAPO. Dan Brown’s next project is for young children. Wild Symphony, a hybrid picture book and album, featuring a mouse conductor who recruits other animals to join his orchestra.

Before he became a best-selling writer, Dan Brown was an aspiring musician. In 1989, he self-produced an album of children’s music he arranged on synthesizers, titled “Musica Animalia.” It sold around 500 copies, and Brown soon forgot about it.

He had better luck as a novelist, with page-turners like “The Da Vinci Code,” “The Lost Symbol” and other thrillers that collectively have more than 220 million copies in print.

Now, three decades later, Brown is reviving his musical career with a hybrid children’s album and picture book that grew out of the music and poems he wrote for “Musica Animalia.”

(15) STEALING COMEDY GOLD. James Davis Nicoll acquaints Tor.com readers with a Donald Westlake series in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Heist”.

…Just as Parker was the perfect lead for noir crime novels, hapless, likeable Dortmunder was the perfect lead for a comic heist series. There’s always stuff that needs stealing in New York; there are no end of unanticipated complications that can transform what was on paper a simple plan into a hilariously inconvenient maze of stumbling blocks for Dortmunder and his crew. It’s no surprise, therefore, that Westlake wrote fourteen novels and eleven or so short stories about John Dortmunder, Kelp, Murch, Tiny, and the rest of the crew before the author’s death put an end to the series.

(16) TEAMING WITH A ROBOT. “What do we look for in a ‘good’ robot colleague?” BBC devotes a long article to answering the question, with field observations as well as speculation.

How can we make our robot colleagues feel more at home? Teams of psychologists, roboticists and managers are trying to find out.

With a tank-like continuous track and an angular arm reminiscent of the Pixar lamp, the lightweight PackBot robot was designed to seek out, defuse and dispose of the improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, that killed and injured thousands of coalition soldiers during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bomb disposal was and is highly dangerous work, but the robot could take on the riskiest parts while its human team controlled it remotely from a safer distance.

US Army explosive ordinance disposal technician Phillip Herndon was assigned a PackBot during his first tour in Iraq. Herndon’s team named their robot Duncan, after a mission when the robot glitched and began spinning in circles, or doughnuts (doughnuts led to Dunkin Donuts, hence Duncan). His fellow bomb disposal techs named theirs too, and snapped photos of themselves next to robots holding Xbox controllers, dressed in improvised costumes or posing with a drink in their claws.

A PackBot was a piece of lifesaving kit, but it also felt like a comrade. No other equipment evoked the same kind of emotional pull, said Herndon, who retired from the army in 2016 as a first sergeant. Duncan’s final mission came one night when an enemy combatant fired on the robot as it worked to defuse a bomb. The strike disabled the IED, potentially saving lives, but destroyed the robot. “It was actually kind of a sad day for all of us,” says Herndon. “You do wind up in this situation where you have this robot for a tremendous amount of your operations, and all of a sudden you’re without a robot… There’s this emotional and operational missing link.”

Herndon was hardly alone in his attachment. Bomb-disposal robots have proven to be highly effective both at clearing explosives and at eliciting affection from their human handlers, some of whom have held robot funerals and award ceremonies for favoured bots.

These relationships offer illuminating insights into the experience of working with a robotic teammate, something an increasing number of workers in fields from healthcare to retail will be called on to do.

…‘Helping, not taking jobs’

“You need to think from the beginning of how you’re going to put these teams together, and give the robot [or] AI the job that the robot or AI does best and that the human doesn’t want to do, or that’s too boring or dangerous for the human,” says Nancy Cooke, a professor of cognitive science and director of Arizona State University’s Center for Human, Artificial Intelligence, and Robot Teaming.

(17) WHERE DID THE VIRUS COME FROM. “Coronavirus: The race to find the source in wildlife” – BBC has the story.

…Somewhere in China, a bat flits across the sky, leaving a trace of coronavirus in its droppings, which fall to the forest floor. A wild animal, possibly a pangolin snuffling for insects among the leaves, picks up the infection from the excrement.

The novel virus circulates in wildlife. Eventually an infected animal is captured, and a person somehow catches the disease, then passes it on to workers at a wildlife market. A global outbreak is born.

Scientists are attempting to prove the truth of this scenario as they work to find wild animals harbouring the virus. Finding the sequence of events is “a bit of a detective story”, says Prof Andrew Cunningham of Zoological Society London (ZSL). A range of wild animal species could be the host, he says, in particular bats, which harbour a large number of different coronaviruses.

So how much do we know about the “spillover event”, as it’s known in the trade? When scientists cracked the code of the new virus, taken from the body of a patient, bats in China were implicated.

The mammals gather in large colonies, fly long distances and are present on every continent. They rarely get sick themselves, but have the opportunity to spread pathogens far and wide. According to Prof Kate Jones of University College London, there is some evidence bats have adapted to the energetic demands of flight and are better at repairing DNA damage. “This might enable them to cope with a higher burden of viruses before getting sick – but this is just an idea at present.”

…The second part of the puzzle, then, is the identity of the mystery animal that incubated the virus in its body and possibly ended up in the market at Wuhan. One suspect for the smoking gun is the pangolin.

(18) COMPUTERIZED INCOMPETENCE. BBC reports “Pets ‘go hungry’ after smart feeder goes offline”.

Owners of a device designed to release food for pets say their animals were left hungry during a week-long system failure.

Petnet allows owners to schedule and control feeding via a smartphone app.

When the BBC contacted Petnet on its advertised email address, the email bounced back with a delivery failure notice.

One pet owner tweeted: “My cat starved for over a week”, while others complained about other hardware issues.

“My three Gen2 feeders constantly jam and won’t dispense food,” wrote another.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/21/20 Pixels Strike Curious Poses, They Scroll The Heat, The Heat Between Me And You

(1) MAGICALLY UNEMPLOYABLE. Julien Darmoni claims “I Went To Hogwarts For Seven Years And Did Not Learn Math Or Spelling, And Now I Can’t Get A Job” in The New Yorker.

… It’s hard out here for a poorly rounded wizard. Recently, I went on magical LinkedIn and saw almost none of my Hogwarts class of 2007 represented at top-tier wizarding companies. It’s not difficult to speculate why—without the assistance of Hermione Granger, half of my fellow-Gryffindors couldn’t even conjugating most verbs, and I am not sure that the instruction we received from Hagrid the giant is technically certifiable. Additionally, I cannot sit still for more than four hours a day without embarking on spontaneous adventures, and my vocabulary is poop….

(2) THERE’S A REASON FOR THE HEAT. WIRED’s Kate Knibbs tells why “The Hottest New Literary Genre Is ‘Doomer Lit’”.

…Sure enough, a doomer perspective seems most at home in so-called climate fiction (cli-fi for short). The genre, which imagines stories and worlds shaped by climate change, is sometimes considered a cousin of science fiction. For the most part, cli-fi titles traffic in danger but contain optimistic codas, allowing their characters to triumph or at least survive. But there is a growing offshoot of more downbeat fare. Andrew Milner, a literary critic and the author of the forthcoming Science Fiction and Climate Change, has tracked the trend. Along with his coauthor, J. R. Burgmann, he calls pessimistic fatalism one of the major “paradigmatic responses to climate change in recent fiction.”…

(3) ACH! IT’S A TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE JOB, HAULING A HIPPO OUT OF A BOG. The Paris Review calls him “Russia’s Dr. Seuss”.

Let me tell you something about children’s poetry: people tend to create it for the right reasons. I was taught this concept in connection to medieval lyric poetry. My teacher’s point was that art made in the modern world is under scarcely any obligation to be good. It can be interesting instead, or new. Or it can “bear witness.” Being good—actually good—is even considered a little passé.

The minute you bring a six-year-old into the picture, though, everything changes. She doesn’t care whether what you’re doing “serves as a useful critique.” She wants it to be good. Consequently, if I’m in a used bookstore and I see a book called Thai Children’s Poetry or Setswana Children’s Poetry or Inuit Children’s Poetry, I pretty much buy it on contact. One wants to know: Does Botswana have a Dr. Seuss? Does Thailand? ’Cuz if they do, I need to know about it.

Russia had a Dr. Seuss. Same deal as ours, except his hot decade wasn’t the fifties; it was the twenties. There’s a lot to be said here.

Name: Kornei Chukovsky. Dates: 1882 to 1969. Number of supremo-supremo classic children’s books to his credit: ten or twelve. His stuff is a lot like Green Eggs and Ham: about that long; rhymes bouncing around like popcorn; no real point in sight….

(4) WESTWORLD, HO! The Hollywood Reporter introduces “‘Westworld’ Season 3 Trailer: HBO’s Science Fiction Thriller Heads to a New World”.

“I was born into this world, and my first memories of it are pain.” So speaks Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), the artificial intelligence icon who broke free from the park confines of Westworld at the end of season two, trading her original world for a new one — our world, to be precise, albeit with some pivotal technological upgrades.

That nearish-future version of our world is front and center in the brand-new official trailer for Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s science fiction series, returning for its third season on March 15, with veterans like Thandie Newton and Jeffrey Wright along for the ride, as well as space for newcomers, including Breaking Bad star Aaron Paul.

(5) MONTGOMERY OBIT. “Julius Montgomery, Who Broke a Space-Age Race Barrier, Dies at 90” – the New York Times pays tribute.

Julius Montgomery had already broken one color barrier when he faced another.

In 1956, he had become the first African-American who was not a janitor to be hired to work at the Cape Canaveral space facility in Florida. He was part of a team of technical professionals, known as “range rats,” who repaired the electronics in malfunctioning ballistic missiles and satellite equipment.

Two years later, his team wanted to start a school to keep the space workers up-to-date. Brevard Engineering College, as it was to be called (Cape Canaveral is in Brevard County), planned to lease classrooms at a public junior high school near the space center.

But public officials in Florida — a state still in the grip of Jim Crow and the Ku Klux Klan — had control over who walked into their classrooms. And they didn’t want black people.

The county’s superintendent of schools said he would not allow Mr. Montgomery to participate, and he threatened to shut down the college before it even got started.

Mr. Montgomery withdrew his application so the college could open. Three years later, in 1961, Brevard secured its own facilities and admitted Mr. Montgomery, who became the first student to integrate the college, known today as the Florida Institute of Technology.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 20, 1958 — Day The World Ended premiered in West Germany. It was produced and directed by Roger Corman. It starred Richard Denning, Lori Nelson, Adele Jergens, and Mike Connors. This was the first SF film by Corman. The film was shot over 10 days on a budget of $96,234.49. Critics at the time considered it silly and fun. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 42% rating. You can watch it here.
  • February 20, 1968 The Power premiered.  It was produced by George Pal as directed by Byron Haskin in what would be in his final film. It stars George Hamilton and Suzanne Pleshette. (Look for Forrest J Ackerman as a Hotel clerk.)  It is based on Frank M. Robinson’s The Power. It had previously been a Studio One episode. The audience score at Rotten Tomatoes is 35%. You can watch it here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 21, 1912 P. Schuyler Miller. He wrote pulp stories in he Thirties and Forties in a wide range of zines including Amazing StoriesMagazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and Weird Tales to name but a few. He wrote just a single novel, Genus Homo, (with L. Sprague de Camp) but wrote nearly fifty stories. He was also known as a reviewer winning a Special Hugo for that work. His reviews ran in Astounding Science Fiction and its successor, Analog. Most, though interestingly not all, of his stories are available for the usual digital sources. (Died 1974.)
  • Born February 21, 1913 Ross Rocklynne. The pen name used by Ross Louis Rocklin, an SF writer active in the Golden Age of the genre. He was a professional guest at the first WorldCon in 1939. Though he was a regular contributor to several SF magazines including Astounding Stories, Fantastic Adventures and Planet Stories, he never achieved the success of fellow writers Isaac Asimov, L. Sprague de Camp and Robert A. Heinlein. ISFDB lists two novels for him, The Day of the Cloud and Pirates of the Time Trail. (Died 1988.)
  • Born February 21, 1935 Richard A. Lupoff, 85. His career started off with Xero, a Hugo winning fanzine he edited with his wife Pat and Bhob Stewart.  A veritable who’s who of who writers were published there. He also was a reviewer for Algol. To say he’s prolific as a professional writer is an understatement as he’s known to have written at least fifty works of fiction, plus short fiction, and some non-fiction as well. I’m fond of Sacred Locomotive Flies and The Universal Holmes but your tolerance for his humor may vary. The digital publishers stock him deeply at reasonable prices.
  • Born February 21, 1937 Gary Lockwood, 83. Best remembered for his roles as astronaut Frank Poole in 2001: A Space Odyssey and as Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell in the Trek episode “Where No Man Has Gone Before”. He’s also in The Magic Sword as Sir George which Mystery Science Theatre admitted was pretty good, a rare admission for them. He’s got a number of genre of one-offs including the Earth II pilot ,Mission Impossible, Night Gallery, Six Million Dollar Man and MacGyver.
  • Born February 21, 1946 Alan Rickman. I’ll single him out for his role on the beloved Galaxy Quest as Dr. Lazarus but he’s got an extensive acting resume beyond that film in our community. Of course, he played Professor Severus Snape in the Potter franchise, and his first genre role was in the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as the Sheriff of Nottingham. (Bad film, worse acting by Costner.)  He voiced Marvin the Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a role worthy of an Academy Award. Voicing Absolem in Alice Through the Looking Glass was his final role. (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 21, 1946 Anthony Daniels, 74. Obviously best known for playing C-3PO in the Star Wars film series. To my knowledge, he’s the only actor to have appeared in all of the films in the series. He has scant other genre creds but they are being in I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle as a Priest, voicing C-3PO in The Lego Movie and the same in Ralph Breaks the Internet. Both Disney films I’d guess. Did you know that Season 4, Episode 17 of The Muppet Show is listed as “The Stars of Star Wars” and C-3PO apparently appears on it? 
  • Born February 21, 1962 –  David Foster Wallace. I will openly confess that I was never even slightly inclined to read Infinite Jest. The sheer size was enough to put me off and reading the first chapter convinced me I was right in that belief. So who’s read it? ISFDB also lists The Pale King as genre as well. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 21, 1977 Owen King, 43. There are not quite legions of Kings though sometimes it seems like it. Owen, a son of Stephen and Tabitha, is early in his writing career. His first novel, Double Feature, was not genre and got mixed reviews. His second, Sleeping Beauties, written with his father is genre and getting much better reviews. I’m rather fond of his short story collection, We’re All in This Together, but then I like his father’s short stories better than I like his novels, too. He also got a graphic novel, Intro to Alien Invasion, but I’ve not seen it anywhere yet. 

(8) THIEVES LIKE US. “Crimes, Capers, and Gentleman Thieves: 5 Must-Read SFF Heist Novels” — James Davis Nicoll’s recommendations at Tor.com.

Heist stories always seem so straightforward at the beginning. All that stands between our protagonists and possession of whatever it is they covet or require is a team with the right skills, a plan so cunning you could put a tail on it and call it a fox, and a bit of concerted effort. What could possibly go wrong? And yet, something always does.

It doesn’t matter if the heist takes place in a mundane world or a science fiction world or a fantasy world. There are always complications…because otherwise, where’s the fun?

(9) INSIDE THE LID. Alasdair Stuart is back with “The Full Lid for 21st February 2020”

This week in The Full Lid, we take a look at the changing faces of heroism as embodied by Lost in Space‘s John Robinson, Don West and Ben Adler. I also take a look at upcoming Marvel title The Union and talk about why I desperately want it to work. Then we round off with ‘Breadventures!’ in which Marguerite and I are tutored in the ways of pizza baking by a Siberian baking wizard. 

Women in Horror spotlight this week highlights writers Gemma Amor, Sandra Odell, Cassandra Khaw and C.A. Yates. Signal Boost this week includes The Palimpsest Podcast ,Flying in the Face of Fate and Humble Hauntings as well as writer Michael J. Hollows and editors Ryan Boyd and Jason Arnopp 

(10) FIRST TRACTION. “‘The Host’: Looking Back on ‘Parasite’ Director Bong Joon-ho’s Stinging Social Monster Thriller” at Bloody Disgusting.

But nowhere does Bong mix comedy and direness better than with his international breakout hit, The Host, back in 2006. No, I’m not referring to the Stephanie Meyer adaptation. Instead of futuristic love stories, Bong Joon-ho’s The Host is a wildly entertaining monster thriller about a mysterious monster infesting the waters of the Han River in South Korea and soon emerging from the river to attack people on the surface, doubling as a sharp critique of the American and South Korean governments.

Though Memories of Murder and Barking Dogs Never Bite led to a surge of popularity for Bong Joon-ho in his native country, The Host is what first garnered him international popularity, playing at several prominent film festivals across the world and earning famed auteur Quentin Tarantino’s seal of approval with a placement on his Top 20 favorite films since he became a director (which gives Bong’s shout-out to Quentin at the Oscars more context).

(11) WHERE THE 80S MET THE 90S. Paste’s Holly Green promises “World of Horror Combines H.P. Lovecraft and Junji Ito for a New Kind of Terror”.

World of Horror is one of those games that makes me wish I’d been there—“there” being the specific intersection of time and space that inspired World of Horror. Modeled after the ‘90s era of Japanese PC gaming, it’s a game that, like many of its peers in the genre, taps into our instinctive fear of the archaic and forbidden by evoking the fashions of a period long gone. The result is a blend of styles that melds the visual horror of ‘80s manga artist Junji Ito to the mythos of H.P. Lovecraft, with compelling results.

The game is set in 1980s Shiokawa, Japan, where the convergence of recent paranormal events and modern technology triggers the awakening of a dark pantheon of Eldritch gods. As a resident in the town, the player sets out to investigate a handful of local mysteries, looking into peculiar tales and disturbances that seem to be strangely interconnected. If they can survive the results of all five cases, they receive the keys to a nearby tower, where a final ritual awaits.

World of Horror is best described as a paranormal investigation game, with five available mysteries to be explored by the player during each individual playthrough.

(12) HITS AND MISSES. The BBC discusses and rates “The best James Bond themes that never made it to the screen”.

The James Bond movie theme tunes have become an indelible part of pop music culture.

Almost from the get-go, with Sean Connery’s industry-creating turn as the suave secret agent in Dr No, the Bond films’ producers hit upon a formula as long-lasting as the secret agent himself.

While each official Eon Productions Bond film has featured the characteristic theme tune by Monty Norman – you’re humming it now – they have also featured a secret weapon, one which makes each film as distinct as the villain the vodka-martini-sipping spy has to despatch: the theme song.

It’s impossible to think of Live And Let Die (1973) without Wings’ apocalyptic slice of rock opera, or A View To A Kill (1985) without Duran Duran’s grandiose theme song. And that’s before we even consider Shirley Bassey’s masterclasses of cinematic unsubtlety with Goldfinger.

So, spare a thought for those well-known artists who penned a Bond theme hoping for immortality, only for it to be rejected on the casting couch. As Billie Eilish prepares to unleash her Bond theme No Time To Die at the Brit Awards, BBC Music looks back at some of the Bond themes that might have been…

Johnny Cash, Thunderball

Film: Thunderball (1965)
Lost to: Tom Jones
Better than the chosen theme? Tied
Most Bond-like lyric: Somewhere, there is a man who could stop the thing in time/ He is known by very few but he’s feared by all in crime

“Thunderball, your fiery breath can burn the coldest man!” intones The Man in Black, in a manner both outrageously camp and as stony faced as an Easter Island statue. Lyrically, Cash’s failed Bond theme follows the film’s plot faithfully – coastal city menaced by a ship containing a giant bomb – in a cinematic country style full of whooping backing vocals and booming brass. Tom Jones, of course, may have recorded the actual theme, but Cash’s effort is a champion among failures.

(13) PAINTER OF OZ. BBC acquaints readers with “The artistic wizard who brought Oz to life”.

Scottish artist George Gibson created the movie scenery which helped define the look of legendary films including The Wizard of Oz during Hollywood’s golden age. Now his family hope he will finally get the wider recognition he did not receive at the time.

In the 1930s and 40s, movie backdrops had to be created on indoor sound stages by crews of scene painters who conjured up everything from cityscapes to rolling hills.

Film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) was one of the leading exponents of the art, all produced under the watchful eye of George Gibson.

He was the head of MGM’s scenic design department for 30 years. The backdrops he created appeared in films such as the Wizard of Oz (1939), An American in Paris (1951) and Brigadoon (1954).

His backdrops were as large as 60ft x 150ft (18m by 45m) and so realistic that the audience often did not realise the setting was a soundstage.

…In an effort to find better weather and work in America, a friend convinced Gibson to move out west to California – where he picked up odd jobs such as illustrating storyboard art at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

By 1938 he became head of the scenic design department, where he helped construct the MGM scene painting workshop, which was arguably the finest in the country.

He convinced the studio heads to construct a pioneering new building where all the backdrops could be painted centrally on movable frames rather than the fixed scaffolding of the soundstages.

(14) MICROBERSERKER. AI powers medical breakthrough. “Scientists discover powerful antibiotic using AI”.

In a world first, scientists have discovered a new type of antibiotic using artificial intelligence (AI).

It has been heralded by experts as a major breakthrough in the fight against the growing problem of drug resistance.

A powerful algorithm was used to analyse more than one hundred million chemical compounds in a matter of days.

The newly discovered compound was able to kill 35 types of potentially deadly bacteria, said researchers.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/17/20 From Rishathra With Love

(1) NOT FAR FROM THE TREE. Apple TV+ has dropped the Amazing Stories — Official Trailer. The show debuts March 6 on the Apple TV app – if you have an Apple TV+ subscription: Amazing Stories.

From visionary executive producers Steven Spielberg and Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz, this reimagining of the classic anthology series transports everyday characters into worlds of wonder, possibility, and imagination

(2) IN THE AUDIENCE AT BOSKONE. Filer Mlex posted a report about the sessions he attended at this weekend’s “Boskone 2020”.

Fairy Tales from the Dark Side

Theodora Goss started off this session by noting that she spent some years of her childhood in Budapest and that she takes particular interest in the fairy tales of Hungary, with their typical strong heroines. She went on to say that fairies vary quite a lot, not only in different cultural traditions, but depending on the date and conditions where they were formed. Victorians had their small flower fairies, for example, and subtle messages could be presented in the form of fairy tales about feminism or other social and political movements. Think of the women brewing eels, bats, herbs, and potions. The fairy represents the human encounter with the magical other.

Isabel Yap noted that Fillipino fairies do not play by human rules. They are not so clearly anthropomorphized and might often turn into fish, or other creatures. These fairy tales might be quite violent, and the fairies are not on our side.

(3) LISTENING TO A CULTURE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] There is something of a theme taking place in British culture this spring.

Second Sleep

First we had The Second Sleep by Robert Harris which then became BBC Radio 4’s book at bed time last month (and still downloadable in 15 minute episodes. Here the end of the world was IT related (not really a spoiler as it is hypothesized in first few chapters).

Then on the non-fiction front a vaguely respected Brit senior politician (i.e. pre-Boris /Trump) is to have a book published next month warning that our IT society has no fall-back back-up system in place. This book uses an SF novelette interspersed with factual comment and explanation to elucidate such things as Black Swan events among much else.

And finally, back at the BBC, Radio 4 has just launched another season of its SFnal Dangerous Visions the first episode of 4 is ‘Blackout’ and concerns what happens when the internet (hence power as the grid is web managed) crashes…

Be thankful you can still read this post….

Dangerous Visions

(4) VISUALIZING THE CULTURE. I don’t know how I missed this — The Culture: Notes and Drawings by Iain M. Banks and Ken MacLeod is set for a November 26 release date.

Iain M. Banks, the modern master of SF, created many original drawings detailing the universe of his bestselling Culture novels. Now these illustrations – many of them annotated – are being published for the very first time in a book that celebrates Banks’s grand vision, with additional notes and material by Banks’s longtime friend and fellow SF author Ken MacLeod. It is an essential addition to the collection of any Iain M. Banks fan.

(5) CROWDFUNDING. Apex Publications has launched a Kickstarter to raise $20,000 to publish Invisible Threads: Cutting the Binds That Hold Us edited by Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner.

No matter who you are or where you come from, there are boundaries and barriers that dictate what you can do, where you can go, and who you can become. Invisible threads running through society, pulling you this way or that, tripping you when you try to better yourself, ensnaring and holding you back.  Invisible Threads is an anthology of dark sci-fi, fantasy, and horror stories that examine these barriers.

Confirmed authors include Alix Harrow, Andi Buchanan, Maurice Broaddus, Fran Wilde, Chesya Burke, Merc Fenn Wolfmoor, Stephanie Malia Morris, Jordan Kurella, K.T. Bryski, ZZ Claybourne, A.C. Buchanan, Damien Angelica Walters, Beth Dawkins, Geoffrey Girard, Sabrina Vourvoulias, A.C. Wise, and Michael Wehunt. We plan to hold an open submissions call should we fund.

(6) EVEN IF IT IS JOSHI. The John Hay Library at Brown University invites applications for its 2020-2021 S.T. Joshi Endowed Research Fellowship for research relating to H.P. Lovecraft, his associates, and literary heirs. The application deadline is March 13, 2020.

The Hay Library is home to the largest collection of H. P. Lovecraft materials in the world, and also holds the archives of Clark Ashton Smith, Karl Edward Wagner, Manly Wade Wellman, Analog magazine, Caitlín Kiernan, and others. The Joshi Fellowship, established by The Aeroflex Foundation and Hippocampus Press, is intended to promote scholarly research using the world-renowned resources on H. P. Lovecraft, science fiction, and horror at the John Hay Library (projects do not need to relate to Lovecraft directly). The Fellowship provides a monthly stipend of $2,500 for up to two months of research at the library between July 2020 and June 2021. The fellowship is open to students, faculty, librarians, artists, and independent scholars.

(7) DOOM IN BLOOM. In “The Pleasure (Reading) of Impending Doom” at CrimeReads, Tosca Lee recommends novels by Ben H. Winters, William Fortschen, A.G. Riddle if you want to read novels about global apocalypses.

As a lifelong lover of a good doomsday story, I’ve always considered the tenacity and resourcefulness of the human spirit to be the category’s major appeal—along with the it-could-really-happen scary plausibility and ingenious “prepping” specifics, of course. But it wasn’t until I started writing my apocalyptic thriller, The Line Between, that the real charm of the genre became apparent to me. 

I’d recently married a single father and become an insta-mom to four. Life was busy and crowded with details. But as I began to plot my literary cataclysm, the chaos of daily life—work, bills, school schedules, errands, house stuff, holidays, political noise, grocery lists, social media, bucket lists, and those ever-elusive last ten pounds—fell away in the face of a story with a single goal: survival. Suddenly, that looming list of to-dos doesn’t seem so insurmountable—or even important—compared to savoring time with those we love while we’re all here on earth together.

(8) NAKAHARA OBIT. Kellye Nakahara, best known for her work on M*A*S*H but who also had several genre roles, died February 17. Consequence of Sound paid tribute: “R.I.P. Kellye Nakahara, M*A*S*H Actress Dies at 72”.

…Nakahara portrayed Nurse Kellye Yamato for 167 episodes of the hit show (according to IMDb). It would go on to be her largest and most memorable role. She followed it up with bit parts in television series such as At Ease, Hunter, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and with film roles in Clue (the cook, Mrs. Ho), Black Day Blue Night (as Fat Mama), and Eddie Murphy’s version of Doctor Dolittle (credited as Beagle Woman).

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 17, 1959 The Cosmic Man premiered. It produced by Robert A. Terry and directed by Herbert S. Greene. The film stars John Carradine, Bruce Bennett and Angela Greene. The film was shot quickly, primarily on a hotel lobby set, and in Griffith Park in L.A., where the Griffith Observatory was used as stand-in for the Pacific Institute of Technology. At least in Los Angeles, it played on a double bill with House on Haunted Hill. With the notable exception of Variety who really didn’t like it, most critics at the time found it to be a pleasant, fun experience. The audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes does not reflect that — it has a 0% rating from the very few, only thirty four, who’ve given it a score. You can see it here.
  • February 17, 1966 — On this day in Dublin, The Projected Man premiered. It was directed by Ian Curteis from a script by Peter Bryan, John C. Cooper, and Frank Quattrocchi, and starred Bryant Haliday, Mary Peach, Norman Wooland, Ronald Allen, and Derek Farr. Universal Studios released it on a double bill with Terror Island. Critics noted the monster’s resemblance to that of one in The Fly but those involved here denied that film inspired the look of the creature in this movie. It was featured in a ninth season episode of  Mystery Science Theater 3000, and currently the audience over at Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 3% rating. You can see it here.

February 17, 1966 — In the United Kingdom, Episode Twenty-one of the first season of The Thunderbirds,  “The Duchess Assignment”, aired. Created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, and. filmed by their production company. The electronic marionette puppetry which they called Supermarionation  was combined with scale-model special effects sequences.  It was the fifth such project by their company. You can see this episode of the Thunderbirds here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 17, 1903 Kenne Duncan. He’s got a number of genre credits starting with the 1938 Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars serial where he was the Airdrome Captain. He’d play Ram Singh, the butler to the Spider, in The Spider’s Web and The Spider Returns serials, and he’d be Lt. Lacy in the 1939 Buck Rogers serial. Several years later, he’d be Cheney Hencheman Barnett in The Adventures of Captain Marvel serial. You can see him in the first chapter of Spider’s Web serial here. (Died 1972.)
  • Born February 17, 1912 Andre  Norton. She penned well over a dozen series, but her major series was Witch World which began rather appropriately with Witch World in 1963. The first six novels in that series were Ace Books paperback originals published in the Sixties. I remember them with some fondness quite some decades after reading them. (Died 2005.)
  • Born February 17, 1920 Curt Swan. He’s the artist most associated with Superman during the Silver Age, and he produced hundreds of covers and stories from the Fifties through the Eighties. He would be let go in the DC reorganization of the Eighties with his last work as a regular artist on Superman being the 1986 story “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” that was written by Alan Moore. (Died 1996.)
  • Born February 17, 1930 Ruth Rendell. I’ve read and enjoyed some of her mysteries down the decade but am not familiar at all with the three listed as genre by ISFDB (The Killing Doll, The Tree of Hands and The Bridesmaid). Who of you is familiar with these? (Died 2015.)
  • Born February 17, 1931 Johnny Hart. The creator of B.C. and The Wizard of Id. (Brant Pant was the other creator of the latter strip.)  He certainly wasn’t without controversy as this strip attests. (Died 2007.)
  • Born February 17, 1954 Don Coscarelli, 66. A film director, producer, and screenwriter best known for horror films. His credits include the Phantasm series, The Beastmaster, and Bubba Ho-Tep, the latter based on a novella by Joe R. Lansdale whom I’ve met and who is a really nice person
  • Born February 17, 1971 Denise Richards, 49. Her first genre role was as Tammy in Tammy and the T-Rex (really don’t ask). Her next role was the one she’s known for as Carmen Ibañez in Starship Troopers. She’ll be a few years later Dr. Christmas Jones in The World Is Not Enough, the eighteenth Bond film. She’s been announced as playing Victoria Darw in the still to be scheduled Timecrafters: The Treasure of Pirate’s Cove.
  • Born February 17, 1974 Jerry O’Connell, 46. Quinn Mallory on Sliders, a series whose behind the broadcast politics is too tangled to detail here. His first SF role was on Mission to Mars as Phil Ohlmyer with the SF dark comedy Space Space Station 76 with him as Steve being his next role. He’s done a lot of of DCU voice work, Captain Marvel in Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam, Clark Kent / Superman in Justice League vs. Teen Titans and Justice League: Throne of AtlantisJustice League Dark, The Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen where he also plays Cyborg Superman to great, chilling effect. The latter film is kickass excellent. 

(11) SH-BOOM. High Seas Trading Co. has reason to brag about its “Outer Space” design:

The Hawaiian Shirt that the Astronauts wore on Aloha Friday on the International Space Station.This space themed Hawaiian shirt is out of this world.

(12) FRESH LID. Alasdair Stuart’s “The Full Lid for 14th February 2020” maps the abstractions of nautical horror with Underwater and The Lighthouse, take a look at the amazing Parasite and shows him learning to Hack the Panic!

Signal Boost this week is Mockery Manor ,Mike UnderwoodKevin Petker‘s Princess World is live on Kickstarter from next week. Be sure to check it outRosarium are currently crowdfunding ‘Hellraiser meets Black History Month’ graphic novel, Box of Bones.. Gordon B. White‘s splendidly titled anthology As Summer’s Mask Slips, and Other Disruptions just got a starred PW review!!

Finally Tracacy Barnett’s current project, This Thing We Started is crowdfunding now. They’ve also recommended Descent into Midnight, launching on Saturday and VERY much my sort of thing.

(13) SPATIAL DELIVERY. James Davis Nicoll found copies of “Five SF Stories About Teleportation Systems Gone Awry” at Tor.com. At least.

In Thomas Disch’s 1967 novel Echo Round His Bones, Nathan Hansard is transmitted to America’s Camp Jackson Mars via teleporter. This is a routine operation…or so it is believed. Wrongly. Hansard is surprised to discover himself somewhere other than Mars. Teleportation creates phantom duplicates on Earth, living ghosts dependent on the phantom duplicates of supplies sent to Mars. Food is in short supply, but no matter. Some of Hansard’s predecessors have solved the problem in a straightforward manner: by eating their fellow phantoms….

But if they eat The Phantom, who will remain to leave comments on Lela Buis’ blog?

(14) EASY DOES IT. So, more like smushing together mudpies? “New Horizons spacecraft ‘alters theory of planet formation'”.

Scientists say they have “decisively” overturned the prevailing theory for how planets in our Solar System formed.

The established view is that material violently crashed together to form ever larger clumps until they became worlds.

New results suggest the process was less catastrophic – with matter gently clumping together instead.

The study appears in Science journal and has been presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Seattle.

…The claim arises from detailed study of an object in the outer reaches of the Solar System. Named Arrokoth, the object is more than six billion km from the Sun in a region called the Kuiper belt. It is a pristine remnant of planet formation in action as the Solar System emerged 4.6 billion years ago, with two bodies combining to form a larger one.

Scientists obtained high-resolution pictures of Arrokoth when Nasa’s New Horizons spacecraft flew close to it just over a year ago. It gave scientists their first opportunity to test which of the two competing theories was correct: did the two components crash together or was there gentle contact?

The analysis by Dr Stern and his team could find no evidence of violent impact. The researchers found no stress fractures, nor was there any flattening, indicating that the objects were squashed together gently.

(15) HIGH FLIGHT. BBC is there: “Virgin Galactic: Unity rocket ship moves to operational base”.

Sir Richard Branson has moved his rocket plane from its development base in California to what will be its operational centre in New Mexico.

The transfer of the Unity vehicle and its mothership, Eve, to the Spaceport America complex signals the start of final testing.

Sir Richard’s Virgin Galactic company is now close to beginning commercial service.

More than 600 individuals have paid deposits to ride Unity to over 80km.

The trip will enable them to experience a few minutes of weightlessness around the top of the rocket ship’s climb.

Already almost 100 Virgin Galactic staff have moved to the southern New Mexico spaceport to prepare it – and themselves – for operations.

Unity will now perform a series of test flights above the desert.

Some of these will see it dropped from altitude to simply glide back to the runway. Others will involve firing its rocket motor to power skyward.

(16) WHAT A CAST. Does a show about Skeletor and He-Man deserve this array of talent? “Mark Hamill and Lena Heady Lead Expansive Voice Cast for Kevin Smith’s ‘Masters of the Universe’ Series”.

Netflix and Mattel TV announced an expansive voice cast for its upcoming “Masters of the Universe” series from Kevin Smith. The cast is led by Mark Hamill as Skeletor, Lena Headey as Evil-Lyn and Chris Wood as Prince Adam aka He-Man.

The new series, “Masters of the Universe: Revelations,” will focus on the unresolved storylines of the original 1982 TV series, picking up many of the characters’ journeys where they left off decades ago.

In addition to those three, the cast also includes Sarah Michelle Gellar (Teela), Liam Cunningham (Man-At-Arms), Stephen Root (Cringer), Diedrich Bader (King Randor/Trap Jaw), Griffin Newman (Orko), Tiffany Smith (Andra), Henry Rollins (Tri-Klops), Susan Eisenberg (Sorceress), Alicia Silverstone (Queen Marlena), Justin Long (Roboto), Jason Mewes (Stinkor), Phil LaMarr (He-Ro), Tony Todd (Scare Glow), Cree Summer (Priestess), Kevin Michael Richardson (Beast Man), Kevin Conroy (Mer-Man) and Harley Quinn Smith (Ileena).

(17) INSPECTOR SPOT-ET. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Spot may not be designed to follow the Three Laws (yet?), but it is starting to protect humans by taking over certain hazardous and/or mind-numbingly repetitive jobs. Of course, some people would argue that it’s also starting to threaten humans by taking over certain hazardous and/or mind-numbingly repetitive jobs. SYFY Wire: “Boston Dynamics’ robotic dog gets a job working an offshore oil rig”.

See Spot walk. See Spot sit. See Spot roll over. See Spot run onto a Norwegian oil rig to sniff out lethal gas leaks!

Boston Dynamics’ next-generation robotic device, affectionately nicknamed Spot, will soon be embarking on a new test mission aboard an offshore oil rig for petroleum product producer Aker BP and AI software company Cognite. The newly announced project will be rolled out to test a number of advanced robots and drones on Aker BP’s Skarv installation in the Norwegian Sea later this year.

[…] “Our vision is to digitalize all our operations from cradle to grave in order to increase productivity, enhance quality, and improve the safety of our employees,” Aker BP’s CEO Karl Johnny Hersvik said in a press release. “Exploring the potential of robotics offshore underpin our digital journey.”

(18) COLLECTIBLE ROBOT. Michael Crawford provides a review and photos of Wal-Mart’s “Robby the Robot Forbidden Planet action figure” at Captain Toy.

Sculpting – ****
The sculpt isn’t particularly detailed, but the original robot had a lot of smooth surfaces.

What sets this guy apart is all the individual pieces that went into making him, particularly inside and attached to the dome. Check out the levers and doo-dads which would spin and turn and clack along as he spoke and moved, demonstrating the very analog way we looked at robots back then. You could almost see the zeroes and ones flitting through his mechanical brain. Of course none of the interior dome pieces on this figure move, but the detail work is quite impressive for this price point.

The body recreates the original look quite well, although the proportions are a smidge off. Still, at a solid 14″ tall, he’s about the right height and scale to fit in great with other sixth scale figures, including the old Lost In Space characters.

(19) FRENCH VIDEO OF THE DAY. (A) Vous Regardez Un Film on Vimeo is a cartoon by Jon Boutin about the drudgery of going to the office.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/5/20 Scroll, A Scroll, A Scroll I’ll Make, How Many Pixels Will It Take?

(1) EXTREME 18TH CENTURY HORROR. For publishing this book author Lewis would live the rest of his life under a cloud, even though he did get to spend “the summer of 1816 with Mary Shelley and Percy Bysshe Shelly in Geneva, where the three of them recounted ghost stories to each other.” — “Brian Keene’s History of Horror Fiction, Chapter Eight: The Monk and 1796 Cancel Culture” at Cemetery Dance.

As I pointed out in our last column, Walpole’s novel is one of two that has inspired much that has come since, beginning with Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, and Edgar Allan Poe (all of whom we’ll be getting to soon).

The other novel that serves as the genre’s ancestral blueprint is The Monk by Matthew Gregory Lewis.

Up until the publication of The Monk in March of 1796, the Gothics mostly followed Walpole’s formula. The books usually featured a mystery or threat to the main character, an evil villain threatening the virtue of a virginal female, supernatural elements such as a ghost or an ancestral curse, and secret passages in crumbling mansions or castles. That template carried over into the next century, as evidenced by the bulk of the stories published in the pulps during the 1930s.

But with The Monk, Matthew Gregory Lewis took Walpole’s formula, as well as the influence of Radcliffe’s The Mysteries of Udolpho, and ran them through a meat grinder. The result was the most shocking novel of the century. If The Castle of Otranto was the world’s first horror novel, then The Monk was the world’s first extreme horror novel. As author J.F. Gonzalez once said, “In some ways, The Monk can be seen as the entire hardcore oeuvre of Edward Lee and Wrath James White of 1796. It was certainly hardcore for its time, and as a result it was banned and suppressed in later editions.” 

(2) ON THE FRONT OF F&SF. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s Mar/Apr 2020 cover art is “Walkabout” by Mondolithic Studios.

(3) MO*CON. The day after Maurice Broaddus’ 50th birthday Mo*Con: Origins begins: “Imagine a convention that’s nothing but a barcon. writers, artists, publishing professionals, and fans having great conversations while enjoying great meals”.

The event takes place May 1-3, 2020 at Café Creative (546 E. 17th Street, Indianapolis, IN). Guests of Honor are Nisi Shawl, Chesya Burke, Linda Addison, Wrath James White, and Brian Keene, with Editor Guest Scott Andrews (Beneath Ceaseless Skies), Publisher Guest of Honor Jason Sizemore, Special Guests K. Tempest Bradford, Jeff Strand, Lynne Hanson, and Featured Local Artists Deonna Craig and Rae Parker.

(4) RIPPLES OF RESENTMENT. Miss Manners answered a letter of complaint about the Hugo Losers Party at Dublin 2019 in the San Francisco Chronicle on February 3: “Party was for ‘losers,’ and that’s how they felt”.

No apology or explanation has been given by the party organizers, and that’s really all I want. The radio silence feels like an implication that I’m being the unreasonable one for being upset I wasn’t allowed into a party I was explicitly invited to. Am I in the right or wrong here?

George R.R. Martin wrote several thousand words of explanation here, and specifically said there were things he was sorry for, including — “They had to wait, yes, and I am sorry for that, and it should not have happened, and a number of mistakes were made, most by me.” Alex Acks, who was one of the invited Hugo losers stuck outside, thought the piece fell far short of being an apology (“I didn’t feel personally belittled until this moment: George’s Hugo Losers Party explanation”). Although the Miss Manners letter has parallels to Acks’ post, since that’s been on the internet since September anybody could have cribbed from it. (Question: Does Miss Manners really just wait for letters to show up, or does she have helpers searching for real-life inspirations like this?)

(5) CLASH OF OPINIONS. Deadline says SYFY Wire’s The Great Debate will begin airing this summer, hosted by comedian and actor Baron Vaughn (Grace & Frankie, Mystery Science Theater 3K) and his robot sidekick DB-8.

The show will throw a group of nerds in a room as they answer questions like “Who’d be a worse boss, Darth Vader or the Joker?” or “Would you rather have a Green Lantern ring or a Wizard Wand?”

(6) WE CAN REMOVE YOU WHOLESALE. Tor.com’s James Davis Nicoll calls these “Five SF Precursors to Murderbot”. Number two is —

Jenkins, a robot who appears in Clifford Simak’s City fix-up, at first glance seems an Asimovian robot, dutifully serving the Webster family across generations. Each new cohort of humans make decisions that seem justifiable at the time; each choice assists humans on their way to irrelevance and extinction. It’s little wonder, therefore, that ultimately Jenkins transfers his loyalty away from foolish, suicidal, and sometimes vicious humans to their successors, the gentle Dogs. Humans may have built Jenkins but rather like Frankenstein, they never earned his loyalty.

(7) A DIFFERENT ‘TUDE. The Times Literary Supplement’s Science Fiction Issue came out this week.

John Updike was not much of a fan of science fiction, objecting to the flash and glare of its imagined scenery, complaining that it “rarely penetrates and involves us the way the quietest realistic fiction can”. To Updike, the genre was little more than an “escape into plenitude”. This week, we certainly provide plenitude, but also an examination of the breadth of science fiction, not least the way it often involves much more than Updike ever allowed.

We begin with two authors whose membership of the SF canon comes with qualification: they are “more” than simply genre novelists. Both H. G. Wells and John Wyndham share a certain approach to the extra-terrestrial, “examining the impact on real-life society of a perturbing incident or two”. Pippa Goldschmidt notes that, when it comes to Wyndham’s triffids, only “persistent and hard physical work will succeed in clearing the protagonist’s land of these all-pervasive plants”. There is more quiet realism here than Updike might have noticed.

One of the pieces is “When we fought a lot of dwarves”, a memoir about the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook.

… Robert Cohen, in The Sun Also Rises, liked to brag that if all else fails, a man can still make a living playing bridge. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I’ve always known that if I hit rock bottom, there’s a shelf in the TV room of my parents’ house in Austin where I’ve got several hundred dollars’ worth of role-playing games. Not just the standard stuff (bent-sided bright red box sets of the old Basic edition), but specialist limited editions like Privateers and Gentlemen. The pick of the bunch, the one that gave me the most pleasure as a kid, is also the most obvious: my 1978 Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook.

(8) BARNETT OBIT. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction crew mourns the death of one of their colleagues: “Paul Barnett (1949-2020)”.

Our old friend and fellow-encyclopedist Paul Barnett — who published mostly as by John Grant — died unexpectedly on 3 February 2020. Besides a prodigious output of solo-written sf, fantasy and nonfiction, he was Technical Editor of the second edition of the SF Encyclopedia (1993), and co-editor with John Clute of the 1997 Encyclopedia of Fantasy , for which they shared a Hugo; he also wrote many new artist entries and updated existing ones for the current online edition of this encyclopedia. See his SFE entry for some indication of his considerable achievement.

(9) KIRK DOUGLAS OBIT. Kirk Douglas, a throwback to Hollywood’s golden age, died February 5 at the age of 103. Although best known as the leading man in movies from Spartacus to Paths of Glory, his portfolio includes appearances in such genre productions as Ulysses (based on Homer), Disney’s production of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, TV movie Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (he played both leads, of course), Saturn 3, the WW2 time-travel movie The Final Countdown, and an episode of the Tales From the Crypt TV series.

He also was the recipient of the 25th Ray Bradbury Creativity Award in 2012.

Bo Derek and Kirk Douglas in 2012.

He wasn’t known as a singer, yet his rendition of “Whale of a Tale” is iconic.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 5, 1944 — The original Captain America himself — Dick Purcell — premiered theatrically in the silver screen serial. This Republic black-and-white serial film was based on the Timely Comics (now known as Marvel Comics) Captain America character. It was the last Republic serial made about a superhero, and the next theatrical release featuring a Marvel hero would not occur for more than forty years. It was the most expensive serial the company ever produced. You can watch it here.
  • February 5, 1953 — Walt Disney’s Peter Pan premiered.
  • February 5, 1983 T. J. Hooker‘s “ Vengeance Is Mine” premiered. It’s being listed here as Shatner playing Sgt. T. J. Hooker encounters Nimoy in the role of a disturbed police officer whose daughter was raped. For this one episode, these two Trek stars were reunited. 
  • February 4, 1994 The Next Generation’s “Lower Decks” episode from their final season first aired. It’s being included here as the CBS All access service will be adding an animated series in 2020 to the Trek universe called Star Trek: Lower Decks which has already been given a two-season order. The episode itself is consistently ranked among the best episodes of that series making the Best of Lists, and ranking as high as Variety listing it as one of the fifteen best Next Gen episodes. 
  • February 5, 1998 Target Earth premiered. It starred Janell McLeod, Dabney Coleman and Christopher Meloni, and was directed by Peter Markle from a script from Michael Vivkerman. It seems to have been intended as a pilot for a series but it faired poorly at the box office, critics didn’t like (“sheer rubbish” said several) and it currently has a 29% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 5, 1906 John Carradine. I’m going to count Murders in the Rue Morgue as his first genre appearance. After that early Thirties films, he shows up (bad pun, I know) in The Invisible Man, The Black Cat, Bride of Frankenstein,  Ali Baba Goes to Town, The Three Musketeers and The Hound of the Baskervilles. Look that’s just the Thirties. Can I just state that he did a lot of genre work and leave it at that? He even had roles on The Twilight Zone, The Munsters, Lost in Space, Night Gallery and the Night Strangler. (Died 1988.)
  • Born February 5, 1915 Sam Gilman. He played Doc Holliday in the Trek episode,”Spectre of the Gun”. Surprisingly he’s done little additional in genre showing only up in a one-off in the Tucker’s Witch series, and a starring role in Black Sabbath. Now Westerns he was a pro at. (Died 1985.)
  • Born February 5, 1919 Red Buttons. He shows up on The New Original Wonder Woman as Ashley Norman. Yes, this is the Lynda Carter version. Somewhat later he’s Hoagy in Pete’s Dragon followed by being the voice of Milton in Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July.  He also played four different characters on the original Fantasy Island. (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 5, 1924 Basil Copper. Best remembered for Solar Pons stories continuing the character created as a tribute to Sherlock Holmes by August Derleth. I’m also fond of The Great White Space, his Lovecraftian novel that has a character called Clark Ashton Scarsdale has to be homage to Clark Ashton Smith. Though I’ve not seen them them, PS Publishing released Darkness, Mist and Shadow: The Collected Macabre Tales of Basil Copper, a two-volume set of his dark fantasy tales. (Died 2013.)
  • Born February 5, 1941 Stephen J. Cannell. Creator of The Greatest American Hero. That gets him Birthday Honors. The only other genre series he was involved with was The 100 Lives of Black Jack Savage which I never heard of, but you can see the premiere episode here. (Died 2010.)
  • Born February 5, 1961 Bruce Timm, 59. He did layout at Filmation on the likes of of Flash Gordon and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. Sought work at DC and Marvel without success before being hired at Warner Brothers where his first show was Tiny Toons before he and his partner on that series created Batman: The Animated Series. That in turn spawned more series by him —  Superman: The Animated SeriesBatman Beyond, Static ShockJustice League in several series and Green Lantern: The Animated Series. Certainly not all of them but that’s the one I remember seeing and enjoying. His first love is comics. He and writer Paul Dini won the Eisner Award for Best Single Story for Batman Adventures: Mad Love in the early Nineties and he’s kept his hand in the business ever since. Harley Quinn by the way is his creation. He’s a voice actor in the DC Universe voicing many characters ranging from the leader of a Jokerz gang in a Batman Beyond episode to playing The Riddler in Batman: Under the Red Hood.
  • Born February 5, 1964 Laura  Linney, 56. She first shows up in our corner of the Universe as Meryl Burbank/Hannah Gill on The Truman Show before playing Officer Connie Mills in The Mothman Prophecies (BARF!) and then Erin Bruner in The Exorcism of Emily Rose. She plays Mrs. Munro In Mr. Holmes, a film best described as stink, stank and stunk when it comes to all things Holmesian. Her last SF was as Rebecca Vincent in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows.
  • Born February 5, 1974 Rod Roddenberry, 46. Son of those parents. Currently Executive Producer on Discovery, Picard and Lower Decks. His very first job in the Trek franchise was as production assistant on Next Gen. Interestingly his Wiki page says he was a Consulting Producer on the fanfic video Star Trek: New Voyages

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Shoe makes a confession when asked to define a word.
  • Lio creates Dr. Jekyll & the Missing Link.
  • Bizarro creates what I might call a “meowshup.”

(13) IS GOOFY JEALOUS? SYFY Wire wonders if “Pluto’s frozen heart could be causing all those strange formations on its surface”.

Pluto might have been demoted from planet status, but it still has a heart.

Tombaugh Regio is literally the beating heart of Pluto. Half nitrogen ice and half glacier-studded highlands, this frozen heart is located in the Sputnik Planitia basin and is now thought to control the dwarf planet’s wind circulation — kind of like how the human heart is the epicenter of the human circulatory system. It could also possibly be the source of many strange features, like those weird ice dunes that could be a landscape from beyond the Wall in Game of Thrones.

(14) FOUR WALLS DO NOT A PRISON MAKE. At Galactic Journey, Cora Buhlert reviews two stories, a James White prison break, and Jack Vance’s Space Opera. “[February 4, 1965] Space Prison of Opera (February Galactoscope #1)”.

When I spotted The Escape Orbit by James White in the spinner rack at my local import store, what first attracted me was the cover, showing two humans fighting a tusked and tentacled monstrosity. But what made me pick up the book was the tagline “Marooned on a Prison Planet”. Because stories about space prisons are like catnip to me.

(15) BEWARE KRAPTONITE. Io9 warns: “Forget Superbabies, Superman & Lois Will Feature Superteens Instead”.

Sorry if you were looking forward to seeing superpowered baby-raising shenanigans on the CW’s upcoming Superman & Lois spin-off series. The network just announced who’ll be playing the sons of Superman and Lois Lane, and it looks like the show will be leaning into teen drama instead. Well, it is the CW. What did you expect, really?

(16) RECYCLED HEAT. “Can we heat buildings without burning fossil fuels?”

The world is on average getting warmer, but we still need to keep buildings at liveable temperatures year-round. Is it possible to cut emissions while keeping warm in winter?

To look at, the dark, dripping sewers of Brussels seem an unlikely place for anything particularly valuable to be hidden. But a wet day reveals all.

During a winter downpour, the brick tunnels become subterranean waterslides. Fresh rain tumbles from drains in the street above, joining waste water already in the sewers from sinks, baths, showers and toilets on their long journey downstream. The volume of these fluids and, crucially, their temperature are the reason that the city’s energy experts’ minds are in the gutter.

“The heat of the tunnels always astonished me,” says Olivier Broers, head of investment at the city’s water company, Vivaqua. He first noticed the Belgian city’s dormant heat source 20 years ago when he worked in tunnel restoration. He recalls days when there was ice and snow in the city, but on climbing down a manhole, he would find the sewers an ambient 12-15C. “Enough to fog my glasses,” he recalls.

…Tunnel Vision

In Belgium, residential heating accounts for around 14% of total greenhouse gas emissions. Of that heat, the largest source of loss is through what goes down the drain and into the sewer. To try and recoup that loss, Broers has developed a prototype heat converter that can be installed in the sewers themselves….

(17) BEST SUPPORTING ROLE. “Green light for UK commercial telecoms Moon mission” – BBC has the story.

UK satellite company SSTL has got the go-ahead to produce a telecommunications spacecraft for the Moon.

The platform, which should be ready for launch in late 2022, will be used by other lunar missions to relay their data and telemetry to Earth.

Satellites already do this at Mars, linking surface rovers with engineers and scientists back home.

The Lunar Pathfinder venture will do the same at the Moon.

SSTL is financing the build of the satellite itself but will sell its telecoms services under a commercial contract with the European Space Agency (Esa).

It’s hoped other governmental organisations and private actors will purchase capacity as well.

…Nasa’s Project Artemis has identified 2024 as the date when the “first woman and the next man” will touchdown, close to the lunar south pole.

The plan is to put the UK satellite into a highly elliptical orbit so that it can have long periods of visibility over this location.

Pathfinder is expected to be particularly useful for any sorties – human or robotic – to the Moon’s far side, which is beyond the reach of direct radio transmission with Earth.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Turtle Journey: The Crisis In Our Oceans” on YouTube is a cartoon done by Aardman Animations for Greenpeace about the need to protect turtle habitat in the oceans.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Gordon Van Gelder, Darrah Chavey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Xopher Halftongue.]

Pixel Scroll 1/25/20 You Can Pixel Anytime You Like, But You Can Never Scroll

(1) ALL KNOWLEDGE IS CONTAINED IN FANZINES. CBR.com’s Brian Cronin reveals a little-known origin story — “Comic Legends: The Surprising Possible Inspiration for Superman’s S Logo”.

COMIC LEGEND:

A rather familiar S shield was used as the sign-off to a classic 1930 science fiction fanzine

STATUS:

True

This is an interesting legend because I’m not trying to prove that something is a specific influence or anything like that, which I normally do in stuff like this (or, in the alternative, show that it WASN’T an influence). No, here, the POSSIBLE inspiration is so interesting in and of itself that I’m still going to feature it. It’s just THAT freaky.

… [Mort] Weisinger and the others (including [Julie] Schwartz) referred to themselves as “The Scienceers.”

In the third issue of The Planet (and yes, by the way, there’s a reasonable chance that the name of the fanzine, itself, was an inspiration for the Daily Planet, as well), they tried out a logo for “The Scienceers”.

(2) WILD (LIFE) IMAGINATION. “How Animals Behave When We Aren’t Looking By Artist Julien Tabet” – at deMilked.

Julien Tabet is a 21-year-old French artist who creates incredible photo manipulations of animals. He started creating his clever edits a little over a year ago and in this short time gathered a whopping 95k followers on Instagram.

(3) JEOPARDY! GOAT. [Item by David Goldfarb.] I went back and watched the first episode of the Jeopardy! “Greatest of All Time” tournament (yes, this is out of order: I blame Hulu’s UI) and there was a category “Greatest of All Time Travelers” in the preliminary round of the second game. All answers were successfully questioned. I’ll put the answers first, in case readers want to try themselves:

$200: In Stephen King’s “11/22/63”, Jake Epping travels back in time to prevent this event from ever happening.

$400: In this Audrey Niffenegger novel, Clare is married to Henry, who suffers from Chrono-Displacement Disorder.

$600: In chapter 16 of “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”, Hank meets this woman whose first name is the same as his surname.

$800: In this 1969 classic, Tralfamadorians abduct the protagonist who has unfortunately become “unstuck in time”.

$1000: “Kindred”, about an African-American woman transplanted back to a plantation in antebellum Maryland, is a novel by this author.

And here are the questions:

$200: What is the Kennedy assassination?

$400: What is “The Time Traveler’s Wife”?

$600: Who is Morgan Le Fey?

$800: What is “Slaughterhouse-5”?

$1000: Who is Octavia Butler?

Also, in the Double Jeopardy round of that game, this was the $800 answer in the category “Potpourri”:

When she said she was leaving “Star Trek”, MLK asked her to stay, saying, “Through you, we see ourselves and what can be”.

I assume that all File 770 readers will know, “Who is Nichelle Nichols?”

(3) A FAR, FAR BETTER THING. James Davis Nicoll starts “Five SF Works Involving Epic Space Journeys” starts by telling Tor.com readers  he’s running for DUFF – because he, too, wants to make an epic journey, get it?

… Of course, the tradition of sending people very far away for various laudable reasons is an old one. Unsurprisingly, this is reflected through the lens of science fiction. Various SF protagonists have been sent quite astonishing distances; sometimes they are even permitted to return home. Here are five examples.

(4) NOW ON SALE. Stephen Blackmoore, one of the game designers for Evil Hat’s game Fate of Cthulthu, wants to make something very clear:

Somebody asked why, then, try to monetize Lovecraft’s material at all? How dare someone ask a question like that! Jeeeze, dude, next thing you’ll be asking the Emperor where’s his clothes!

(5) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS. [Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 25, 1905 Margery Sharp. Her best remembered work is The Rescuers series which concerns a mouse by the name of Miss Bianca. They were later adapted in two Disney animated films, The Rescuers and The Rescuers Down Under. I’m reasonably sure I’ve seen the first one a very long time ago. Her genre novel, The Stone of Chastity, is according to her website, based on English folklore. Other than the first volume of The Rescuer series, she’s not really available digitally though she is mostly in print in the dead tree format. (Died 1991.)
  • Born January 25, 1918 King Donovan. Jack Belicec in the original and by far the best version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Thirty years later, he’d be Lunartini Husband in Nothing Lasts Forever, a SF comedy film with a contentious history. His only other genre appearence was a one-off on Night Gallery. (Died 1987.)
  • Born January 25, 1920 Bruce Cassiday. Under two different pen names, Con Steffanson and Carson Bingham, he wrote three Flash Gordon novels (The Trap of Ming XII, The Witch Queen of Mongo and The War of the Cybernauts) and he also wrote several pieces of nonfiction worth noting, The Illustrated History of Science Fiction, with Dieter Wuckel, and Modern Mystery, Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers. The latter done in ‘93 is safely out of date and OOP as well. Checking the online digital publishing concerns shows nothing’s available by him. (Died 2005.)
  • Born January 25, 1931 Dean Jones. An actor in some of the sillier and most entertaining genre and genre adjacent films undertaken in the Sixties. He was Jim Douglas in The Love Bug, Steve Walker in Blackbeard’s Ghost and Peter Denwell in Mr. Superinvisible. May I count his later appearance in Agent Zeke Kelso in That Darn Cat! as a SJW cred? Around the the time of the film, he was a Dean Webster Carlson in The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes. His final role before he retired from acting was as Ebenezer Scrooge in Scrooge & Marley.  (Died 2015.)
  • Born January 25, 1943 Tobe Hooper. Responsible for the Texas Chainsaw Maasacare, which heco-wrote with Kim Henkel. That alone gets him Birthday honors. But he has also directed the Salem’s Lot series, also Poltergeist, Lifeforce and Invaders from Mars. And this is hardly a full listing. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 25, 1950 Christopher Ryan, 70. He’s played two different aliens on Doctor Who. First in the Sixth Doctor story, “Mindwarp,” he was Kiv where he looked looked akin to Clayface from the animated Batman series. Second in the era of the Tenth Doctor (“The Sontarian Experiment”, “The Poison Sky”) and the Eleventh Doctor (“The Pandorica Opens”), he was the Sontarian General Staal Commander Stark.
  • Born January 25, 1958 Peter Watts, 62. Author of the most excellent Firefall series which I read and enjoyed immensely. I’ve not read the Rifters trilogy so would welcome opinions on it. And his Sunflower linked short stories sound intriguing. Queen of Air and Darkness he’s written lot!
  • Born January 25, 1963 Catherine Butler, 57. Has published a number of works of which his most important is Four British fantasists: place and culture in the children’s fantasies of Penelope Lively, Alan Garner, Diana Wynne Jones, and Susan Cooper. Anotherimportant work is Reading History in Children’s Books, with Hallie O’Donovan. Her website ishere.
  • Born January 25, 1973 Geoff Johns, 47. Where to begin? Though he’s done some work outside of DC, he is intrinsically linked to that company having working for them for twenty years. My favorite work by him in on Batman: Gotham Knights, Justice League of America #1–7 (2013) and 52 which I grant which was way overly ambitious but really fun. Oh and I’d be remiss not to notehis decade long run on the Green Lantern books.

(6) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld predicts the Jack Reacher series will veer off in surprising new directions.

(7) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Yahoo! Entertainment sets the table: “Star Trek’s George Takei Reacts to Donald Trump’s Space Force Logo: ‘We Are Expecting Some Royalties'”.

On Friday, Trump unveiled the new insignia for the United States Space Force — which was signed into effect in late December — and was met with a flurry of comparisons to the emblem worn by the members of Star Trek‘s fictional Starfleet organization.

“After consultation with our Great Military Leaders, designers, and others, I am pleased to present the new logo for the United States Space Force, the Sixth Branch of our Magnificent Military!” Trump tweeted alongside the Space Force’s new logo.

George Takei, who starred as Hikaru Sulu in the original Star Trek series, was quick to respond. Amid accusations from other Trekkies that the emblem had copied the Starfleet logo, the actor responded to Trump in a tweet, “Ahem. We are expecting some royalties from this…”

 “Is Trump’s Space Force Logo a Copycat of Starfleet’s From ‘Star Trek’? (Sure Looks Like It)”. The Wrap makes sure to magnify the uproar before eventually remembering where the Space Force logo really comes from.

…Compare and contrast: On the left side of the image above is the logo for Space Force (which, for those of you wondering, is part of the air force and not actually a separate branch of the military); and on the right is the emblem of Starfleet Command, the scientific and military space force for the United Federation of Planets.

…Now, in fairness, the new Space Force logo is actually based on the preexisting Air Force Space Command logo, which was established in 1982 and rendered obsolete by Space Force. Here’s what that looks like:

Okay, here, I’ve run the story – you all can stop sending me links to it.

(8) FASTER THAN A SPEEDING BULLETIN. WIRED reports “An AI Epidemiologist Sent the First Warnings of the Wuhan Virus”.

On January 9, the World Health Organization notified the public of a flu-like outbreak in China: a cluster of pneumonia cases had been reported in Wuhan, possibly from vendors’ exposure to live animals at the Huanan Seafood Market. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had gotten the word out a few days earlier, on January 6. But a Canadian health monitoring platform had beaten them both to the punch, sending word of the outbreak to its customers on December 31.

BlueDot uses an AI-driven algorithm that scours foreign-language news reports, animal and plant disease networks, and official proclamations to give its clients advance warning to avoid danger zones like Wuhan.

Speed matters during an outbreak, and tight-lipped Chinese officials do not have a good track record of sharing information about diseases, air pollution, or natural disasters. But public health officials at WHO and the CDC have to rely on these very same health officials for their own disease monitoring. So maybe an AI can get there faster…

(9) SIGN AWAY. “Facebook and YouTube moderators sign PTSD disclosure” – BBC has the details.

Content moderators are being asked to sign forms stating they understand the job could cause post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to reports.

The Financial Times and The Verge reported moderators for Facebook and YouTube, hired by the contractor Accenture, were sent the documents.

Moderators monitor objectionable materials and often view hundreds of disturbing images in a day’s work.

Accenture said the wellbeing of workers was a “top priority”.

In a statement the company added only new joiners were being asked to sign the forms, whereas existing employees were being sent the form as an update.

“We regularly update the information we give our people to ensure that they have a clear understanding of the work they do,” Accenture said in a statement.

(10) SPOT INSPECTION. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Tested Labs has begin a year-long series of tests of Boston Dynamics dog-like robot Spot. Former Mythbuster Adam Savage will be a tester and the on-camera host of the video series, available on their YouTube channel. Nerdist: “Adam Savage Tested Boston Dynamics’ ‘Spot’ Robot Dog”

Boston Dynamics’ robot dog, “Spot,” has been in the news ever since the robotics company debuted its ancestor, BigDog, a decade ago. Over the last ten years, we’ve seen Spot evolve from prototype into polished product, and now it’s finally time to see how the mechanical quadruped performs out in the real world. And what better way to do that than by having legendary myth-buster Adam Savage put the robo-pup through its paces?

Savage and the rest of the Tested YouTube channel crew recently announced they’ll be testing Spot over the next year, with an initial video (above) showing the team unboxing the robot dog and having it perform some initial tasks including walking, climbing, and crawling; feats, incidentally, that would make most other four-legged droids quake in their metallic foot cups.

(11) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Time Travel in Fiction Rundown” on YouTube, Minute Physics explains different theories of time travel, including in Ender’s Game and Harry Potter.

[Thanks to JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, N., Olav Rokne, Hampus Eckerman, Michael Toman, James Davis Nicoll, David Goldfarb, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Chris S.]

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: North America: Fred Kiesche, Paul Moore, Ed Tisdale; Australasia: Gillian Polack, Dan Rabarts)

  • 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: North America: David Annadale, Beverly Bambury, Jen Zink; Australasia: Joyce Chng, Elizabeth Fitzgerald)

  • 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: North America: Sean Fagan, Mike Glyer, David Goldfarb; AU/NZ: Jo Van Ekeren, Elaine Walker)

  • 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: North America: Janice Gelb, Nancy Holder, Jim Kelly, Australasia: David McDonald, Garth Nix)

[Update 01/20/2020: Made changes to correspond with revised ballot.]

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.]