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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Magical Women, edited by Sukanya Venkatraghavan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY’S DAY.

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

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(12) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…Here’s why.

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

Let’s look at each of these in order.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which are my sentiments exactly.

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

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

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

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

Health food

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

Saima Naz

 Pakistan.

Personalised diet

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

Ada Gabriela Blidner

Laboratorio de Inmunopatología,

Argentina.

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

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

Followed by —

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do we know about her?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Elsa Sjunneson-Henry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s one that made the list —

The Waste Tide by Chen Quifan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE UNIVERSITY LIBRARY
UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, RIVERSIDE


Position Title:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 12/4/19 A Thousand Naked Scroll Files Screaming And Throwing Little Pixels At You

(1) LEST MARKNESS FALL. Christine Feehan tweeted a justification of her application to trademark book series with the word “Dark” in the title. Penny Reid is one of many who still hopes someone will put a stop to the idea. [UPDATE: Feehan has removed the tweet to which Reid is responding. I have not located a screencap to replace it.]

(2) INDIGENOUS FUTURES. Abaki Beck’s article “An Old New World: When One People’s Sci-Fi Is Another People’s Past” for Bitch Media discusses Indigenous SF, with quotes from Rebecca Roanhorse.

As Portland State University Indigenous Nations Studies professor Grace L. Dillon wrote in the introduction to 2012’s Walking the Clouds: An Anthology of Indigenous Science Fiction, “It is almost commonplace to think that the Native Apocalypse, if contemplated seriously, has already taken place.” Indigenous authors are thus in a unique position to reclaim sci-fi narratives as a form of resistance against settler colonialism. Indigenous science fiction or speculative fiction—which Dillion encapsulates with the term “Indigenous futurisms,” inspired by the Afrofuturism movement—offers a space for Indigenous writers, filmmakers, and artists to explore possible futures. From cowboy films to government-assimilation policies, Native American communities and cultures are often portrayed as a “vanishing race” with no place in the present, let alone the future. Indigenous futurism is a contemplation of what our futures look like as Indigenous people, one that recognizes the significance and strength of Indigenous knowledge systems.

Such possible futures are prevalent themes in Cherie Dimaline’s 2017 novel The Marrow Thieves and Rebecca Roanhorse’s 2018 novel Trail of Lightning. Both books create new worlds that center and celebrate Indigenous people, knowledge, and land. “You don’t see a lot of Native Americans in science fiction and fantasy, and when you do they are usually not situated in a world that is specifically Native, like the Navajo reservation,” Roanhorse told Barnes & Noble in 2018. “I wanted to read a science fiction and fantasy story where Native characters held front and center, where the landscape was filled with the places and the people that I knew from living on the rez, where the gods and heroes were of North American Indigenous origin.”

…As each world is destroyed, a new one begins. The Diné believe that we are now in the fifth world, and in Trail of Lightning, Roanhorse creates the beginning of the sixth—one that takes shape in the aftermath of global destruction brought about by climate change and human hubris. In effect, Roanhorse is modernizing Diné stories and history without translating it for readers. She expects those who read her books to already know about these traditions and beliefs, making the Sixth World series uniquely accessible to Diné and other Native peoples in a way that other sci-fi and fantasy series are not.

(3) DEAD ASTRONAUTS MUSIC. [Item by Rob Thornton.] Jeff VanderMeer has posted “The Operatic, Post-Punk Sounds of Dead Astronauts”, a selected list of 23 songs that were on the playlist that he listened to while writing Dead Astronauts, his latest science fiction book for the Farrar, Straus & Giroux imprint MCD Books. The playlist includes songs by Midnight Oil, The Church, Spoon, Mercury Rev, Three Mile Pilot, Tropical Fuck Storm, and the Chills:

The Dead Astronauts “mix tape” consists of 900 songs, played on shuffle unless I needed to summon a certain emotion for a particular scene. The 23 songs here are either favorites or representative of albums I love. But loving an album isn’t enough—I write very much by feel and music is essential to that. I have to be in the right headspace to stay within the style and voice of the novel. In the case of Dead Astronauts, there are ten sections and ten different perspectives and styles.

Yet pervading everything in Dead Astronauts is a dual sense of anger and defiance mixed acceptance and loss. These are big, almost operatic emotions that manifest in the novel in both bold, over-the-top ways and in a minor key, with intricate little eddies and shifts in perspective.

(4) YOU SAY GOODBYE, I SAY HELLO. According to The Ringer, “2019 Marked the End of a Television Era—and the Beginning of a New One”. Includes discussion of shows such as Game of Thrones and brief mentions of shows like Watchmen, The Mandalorian and Russian Doll.

Leading up to its widely watched, less widely admired culmination in May, much was made of Thrones’ status as the last of its kind, a great unifier whose most fantastical flourish of all was reviving the monoculture for an hour at a time on Sunday nights. Nearly seven months later, those eulogies for Thrones still echo, though they take on a different tone when held up against the context of all this year’s other finales. In truth, television as communal mass consumption is a model that was de facto extinct long before Game of Thrones artificially expanded its lifespan, White Walker–style—and may in fact be better represented by The Big Bang Theory, another monster hit that wound down within days of its flashier peer. However warranted, the noise around Thrones may have obscured the passing of a different kind of cultural moment.

The Ringer also produced a list of “The Best TV Shows of 2019”.  

3. Los Espookys

There’s so much else unusual about Los Espookys that it’s easy to forget the novelty, and significance, of its being the first-ever Spanish-language series to air on HBO. Conceived of by SNL’s Fred Armisen and cowritten by Julio Torres and Ana Fabrega, all of whom serve in the ensemble cast, Los Espookys seems to set and defy its own rules at will. In this unnamed Latin American country, there’s ample demand for “horror groups” to stage elaborate, quasi-mystical pranks, some of them involving aliens. Also, valet parking is a high art; news anchors are beautiful, brainwashed abductees; and the U.S. ambassador is a live-action Barbie doll who gets trapped in an enchanted mirror. At once deadpan and fantastical, Los Espookys flair for the dramatic resembles nothing else on television, except for Torres’s distinctive sketch work over in Studio 8H. The show achieves a similar effect, immersing the viewer in an alternate reality mercifully low on stakes and high on cursed amulets. Only when the spell is broken do you notice the quietly forceful statement of subtitling the English dialogue along with the Spanish.

(5) FUTURE TENSE. This month’s entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “A Priest, a Rabbi, and a Robot Walk Into a Bar,” by Andrew Dana Hudson, a new short story that looks at how artificial intelligence could support, and distort, faith.

It was published along with a response essay by Ruth Graham, a staff writer at Slate who covers religion: “A.I. Could Bring a Sea Change in How People Experience Religious Faith”.

(6) BABY YODA. Funko Pop’s The Child comes in two sizes, 10 and 3.75 inches. Speculation is that the former is intended to be life-sized. Available for pre-order now with delivery in Spring 2020, so don’t expect to see it in your Christmas stocking.

(7) BOLD BUNDLE. Nick Mamatas has curated “The Outspoken Authors Bundle” for StoryBundle.  

The Outspoken Author series is unique: it covers the gamut of genres, from hard SF to crime and literary fiction, and it collects the underappreciated and hard-to-find work of legendary figures in an accessible format. Not only is there fiction, the authors offer up essays, transcripts of talks and speeches, and ruminations about the writing life. Each volume concludes with an in-depth interview conducted by series editor Terry Bisson, and these go deep: you’ll learn about everything from revelations about drag personas to dissections of Trotskyism in the United Kingdom.

Never has a single StoryBundle offered work by so many of speculative literature’s most important figures: Ursula K. Le Guin, Samuel R. Delany, Michael Moorcock, and many others. We’re offering twenty-three volumes in DRM-free digital formats that are yours to keep till freedom reigns over the world.

You decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of six books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Thoreau’s Microscope by Michael Blumlein
  • A City Made of Words by Paul Park
  • The Beatrix Gates by Rachel Pollack
  • Totalitopia by John Crowley
  • Raising Hell by Norman Spinrad
  • Modem Times 2.0 by Michael Moorcock

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all six of the regular books, plus SEVENTEEN more books!

  • The Atheist in the Attic by Samuel R. Delany
  • Fire. by Elizabeth Hand
  • Miracles Ain’t What They Used to Be by Joe R. Lansdale
  • Gypsy by Carter Scholz
  • My Life, My Body by Marge Piercy
  • Patty Hearst & The Twinkie Murders by Paul Krassner
  • The Science of Herself by Karen Joy Fowler
  • New Taboos by John Shirley
  • The Human Front by Ken Macleod
  • Report From Planet Midnight by Nalo Hopkinson
  • Surfing the Gnarl by Rudy Rucker
  • The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow by Cory Doctorow
  • The Wild Girls by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Mammoths of the Great Plains by Eleanor Arnason
  • The Underbelly by Gary Phillips
  • The Lucky Strike by Kim Stanley Robinson
  • The Left Left Behind by Terry Bisson

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 4, 1970 Latitude Zero premiered in New York City. It was directed by Ishir? Honda and scripted by Ted Sherdeman as based on his Latitude Zero radio show. The film stars both American and Japanese actors including Joseph Cotten, Cesar Romero, Akira Takarada, Masumi Okada, Richard Jaeckel and Patricia Medina. Critics found the plot weak but the special effects rather fun. It currently has a rating of 50% at Rotten Tomatoes among viewers. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 4, 1937 David Bailie, 82. He played Dask in “The Robots of Death”, a Fourth Doctor story, and also appeared in Blake’s 7 as Chevner in the “Project Avalon” story. Also, he played the mute pirate Cotton in the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise. Intriguingly he shows up in The Creeping Flesh which starredChristopher Lee and Peter Cushing. 
  • Born December 4, 1939 Jimmy Hunt, 80. He plays Dave MacLean in Invaders from Mars. Some three decades later, he’ll appear in the remake as the Police Chief. He’s an uncredited appearance early in his career in My Brother Talks to Horses which is definitely genre. And he’s in Close Encounters of the 4th Kind: Infestation from Mars though I know nothing of this film. Have any of you seen it? 
  • Born December 4, 1945 Karl Edward Wagner. As an editor, he created a three-volume set of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian fiction restored to its original form as it was originally written by Howard.  He is quite likely best known for his invention of the character Kane, the Mystic Swordsman who I think is in as many as thirty works by Wagner. Anyone here read them? Rhetorical question I know. His Carcosa publishing company issued four volumes of stories by authors of the Golden Age pulp magazines. Anything I left off that folks should know about him? (Died 1994.)
  • Born December 4, 1949 Jeff Bridges, 70. I’d say his best genre role was as Starman / Scott Hayden in the film of that name. Other genre work includes King Kong, the voice of Prince Lir in Peter Beagle’s The Last Unicorn, Jack Lucas in The Fisher King, Iron Monger in Iron Man and Kevin Flynn/CLU 2 in Tron: Legacy. He appeared also in a film called R.I.P.D. as Roycephus “Roy” Pulsipher which was either really bad or really, really bad. 
  • Born December 4, 1954 Sally Kobee, 65. Fan, Bookseller, filker. She has served on the committees for myriad conventions, and chaired both Ohio Valley Filk Fest 4 and OVFF 10, and WFC 2010 and 2016. She was honored as a Fellow of NESFA and as a Guest of Honor at Windycon XXVII. She and her now late husband purchased a bookstore in the 90s. She continues to the day to sell books at conventions.
  • Born December 4, 1954 Tony Todd, 65. Let’s see… He was a memorable Kurn in  Next Gen and Deep Space Nine, he plays Ben in Night of the Living Dead, he’s of course the lead character in the Candyman horror trilogy, William Bludworth in the Final Destination film franchise, Cecrops in Xena: Warrion Princess and Gladius on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Those are just selected highlights. 
  • Born December 4, 1957 Lucy Sussex, 62. Fan, reviewer, author, and editor. Born in New Zealand, resident in Australia… she’s been writing SFF ever since attending a Terry Carry led workshop. And she’s edited several anthologies such as She’s Fantastical, the first collection of Australian women’s speculative fiction. She’s won three Ditmar Awards, A. Bertram Chandler Award and an Aurealis Award to name some of her awards — impressive indeed!  I’ve not heard of her before now, so I’ve not read her, so who has read her? 
  • Born December 4, 1964 Marisa Tomei, 55. May Parker in Marvel Cinematic Universe, but also to my delight has an uncredited role as a Health Club Girl in The Toxic Avenger. She also shows up as Mrs. O’Conner in the “Unwomen”, an episode of The Handmaid’s Tale.
  • Born December 4, 1989 Nafessa Williams, 30. She had only two genre roles but with the first being the revival series of Twin Peaks where she was Jade. The other is what gets her Birthday Honors — She’s Anissa Pierce who is the superhero Thunder on the Black Lightning series. Superb series, great character! 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) SCALZI’S DOPEST BREAD CONNECTION. John Scalzi tells why he received a baked good by a very roundabout route: “The Case of the Felonious Bread”.

…Seamus Blackley …sent me a loaf via Fed Ex this weekend, and yesterday I got a notice through email that the package had been delivered. I went down from my office to retrieve it —

— and it wasn’t there….

….Then I looked to see who it was who signed for my package:

“POLICE.”….

(12) WELL… Artist James Artimus Owens told his Facebook readers about the time a therapist gave him some unexpected advice – and it worked! But the story is funny, too.

(13) THIS FRUIT’S NOT FORBIDDEN JUST FORGOTTEN. “Some Other Trees in the Garden of Eden’ – humor in The New Yorker:

(14) RIDE THE RISE. “Inside the innovative Disney ride that’s key to its Star Wars strategy”CNN posted an exclusive about the “Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance” attraction about to open at Galaxy’s Edge. Beware ride spoilers! (None in this excerpt, though.)

Now Disney is finally pulling the curtains off “Rise,” opening on Thursday at Walt Disney World and on January 17 at Disneyland. The stakes are high for this expensive gamble to succeed: Attendance at Disney’s domestic theme parks was down 3% in its latest quarter. The company also recently announced the departure of Catherine Powell, the president of Disney Parks who oversaw Anaheim and Orlando.

Disney is betting it can turn things around with the power of high-tech experiences. The attraction packs dozens of audio-animatronics — and a couple of giant AT-ATs — holograms, lasers, and the most complex ride system Disney’s Imagineers had ever designed: a trackless vehicle that moves laterally, vertically, and at all times unpredictably. At its annual shareholders meeting, Disney CEO Bob Iger called the ride “the most technologically advanced and immersive attraction that we have ever imagined.”

(15) LINEAR Z. “‘Zork’ Source Code, Presumed Lost Forever, Has Been Uploaded to GitHub”Krypton Radio reported this in the spring, but it’s still news to me!

It’s written in a language called ZIL, which stands for Zork Implementation Language. The games have been rewritten for various platforms and have been circulating for years, but knowledge of the actual scripting language used to create the game was lost to the annals of history.

Until now. Somebody called themselves ‘historicalsource’ has uploaded the original source ZIL code to a bunch of Infocom games to GitHub. That someone is computer historian Jason Scott.

(16) CLIMB EVERY MOUNT TBR. James Davis Nicoll believes he knows the cure: “How to Recover From Reader’s Block”.

Recently a well-regarded essayist expressed dissatisfaction with the current state of the SF novel. He went so far as to confidently assert, “I stopped reading novels last year. I think you did too.” Sweeping assertions are often wrong. This one is definitely wrong, at least where I am concerned.

…What may have sparked his comment is burnout, of the form that might be called “reader’s block.” You want to read something, but can find nothing specific you want to read. I think most of us who read extensively have been there.

The best method I know of for mitigating reader’s block is to cast one’s net wider….

(17) DEALER DOWNER. Bookseller Patrick Darby, who hucksters at many Maryland-area conventions, may have to shut down: “An independent bookstore owner is facing the last chapter of his beloved business” in the Washington Post.

On Black Friday, as shoppers packed an outlet mall just up the road, Patrick Darby sat behind the counter at Novel Books, his charmingly cramped bookstore in suburban Maryland, narrating the last chapter of his business.

“I’ll be gone by next week if something doesn’t happen,” Darby said, his hands trembling.For Darby, 60, this bookstore tucked inside an old yellow house with a wraparound porch in Clarksburg was his opportunity to finally sell books the old-fashioned way. He had spent decades working for big chains, including Crown Books, once a staple of Washington.

“I’d been thinking about a store like this the whole time,” Darby said.

(18) WEIGHT FOR IT. Looper claims “Fans are slamming Marvel after that Black Widow trailer”.

…The response from some fans online was highly reminiscent of the “Fat Thor” controversy after the release of Avengers: Endgame. Many were incredulous that Marvel appeared not to have learned anything from said controversy, including Twitter user @The_GothDaddy, who wrote, “The Black Widow trailer looks pretty good I’d like it more if Marvel learned their lesson with Thor and maybe considered leaving out yet… A n o t h e r… Dig at fat people.”

User @Artists_Ali agreed, writing, “So I watched the Black Widow trailer. Is Marvel just gonna do wall to wall fatphobic jokes in all their movies now or….? Yeah that’s gonna be a no from me.”

There were a wealth of similar tweets to be found in the trailer’s immediate wake, and while everybody is obviously entitled to their opinion, ours is that — as with the Endgame controversy — the approach to Harbour’s character is being wildly misinterpreted. User @MediocreJedi (great name) contributed another critical tweet that touched on our reasoning: “Imma watch the hell out of #BlackWidow,” they wrote, “but did Marvel learn ANYTHING from their Endgame Thor fat joke backlash? Most women I know find David Harbour hot. So, another fat joke? Signed, guy who can barely fit into his 21-year-old dress uniform but can still kick ass.”

(19) SHAKEN, NOT STIRRED. New trailer for the next James Bond movie No Time To Die.

In No Time To Die, Bond has left active service and is enjoying a tranquil life in Jamaica. His peace is short-lived when his old friend Felix Leiter from the CIA turns up asking for help. The mission to rescue a kidnapped scientist turns out to be far more treacherous than expected, leading Bond onto the trail of a mysterious villain armed with dangerous new technology.

[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, N., Jennifer Hawthorne, Darrah Chavey, Rob Thornton, Joey Eschrich, Chip Hitchcock, StephenfromOttawa, Mike Kennedy, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing collaborative editors of the day cmm and Jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 12/2/19 There’s A Long, Long Scroll A-Winding Into The Land Of My Pixels

(1) LISTEN UP. Here are works of genre interest picked for AudioFile’s Best Audiobooks of 2019 beyond the Best Science Fiction Fantasy & Horror category announced at File 770.

YOUNG ADULT

  • Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor
  • The Secret Commonwealth (Book of Dust volume 2) by Philip Pullman

FICTION, POETRY & DRAMA

  • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

BIOGRAPHY & HISTORY

  • American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race by Douglas Brinkley
  • Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham

(2) TUNE IN DOCTOR WHO. ScienceFiction.com knows the airtime, and also how to see the two-parter on the big screen via Fathom Events: “New ‘Doctor Who’ Trailer Delivers The Release Date/Time For Season 12”.

The January 1 episode is part one of a two-part story called “Spyfall,” with part two arriving on Sunday, January 5, presumably also at 8 pm.  That will be ‘Doctor Who’s regular time slot going forward.

If you’re a ‘Doctor Who’ superfan, BBC and BBC America are teaming up with Fathom Events for a one-time-only screening of both parts of “Spyfall” on the big screen, followed by a LIVE Q&A with Whittaker, Cole, and Gill from the Paley Center for Media in New York.  These showings will be held at 600 theaters in the US on January 5.  (Tickets go on sale on Friday at FathomEvents.com.)

(3) SMILE FOR THE CAMERA. Kevin Standlee promoted the Tonopah 2021 Westercon at this weekend’s Loscon.

Team Tonopah welcomed 19 new attending members while we were at Loscon 46 at the LAX Airport Marriott, and talked to many more people to tell them all about our plans for Westercon in Tonopah, Nevada.

(4) KGB READINGS. TheFantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Paul Tremblay and Nathan Ballingrud on Wednesday, December 18 at the KGB Bar. Event starts at 7 p.m. (KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, 2nd Floor, New York, NY.)

Paul Tremblay

Paul Tremblay has won the Bram Stoker, British Fantasy, and Massachusetts Book awards and is the author of The Cabin at the End of the WorldA Head Full of Ghosts, and most recently the short story collection Growing Things and Other Stories. His essays and short fiction have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly online, and numerous year’s-best anthologies. 

Nathan Ballingrud

Nathan Ballingrud is the author of North American Lake Monsters and Wounds: Six Stories from the Border of Hell. He’s twice won the Shirley Jackson Award, and has been shortlisted for the World Fantasy, British Fantasy, and Bram Stoker Awards. His stories have appeared in numerous Best of the Year anthologies. Wounds, a film based on his novella “The Visible Filth,” has recently been released. North American Lake Monsters is in development as an anthology series at Hulu.

(5) RIGOROUS ARTWORK. James Davis Nicoll compliments “Five ’70s SF Cover Artists Who Stay True to the Story” in a post for Tor.com.

The Doppelgänger Gambit by Leigh Killough, 1979, cover by Michael Herring

Herring’s cover captures two key elements of this gripping 21st-century police procedural. The first: the two police officers don’t get along. The second: clothing fashions in this future are somehow even more hideous than real-world 1970s fashions. The cover is true to the work. Detective Janna Brill thinks Maxwell takes unconscionable risks, and these are the clothes described in the novel. (Though I suspect the cops in the novel used holsters.)

(6) MARTIAN FURNITURE. FastCompany reports “Now that Ikea has colonized Earth, it’s going after Mars”.

Two years ago, Ikea sent designers to the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), which created a habitat in the Utah desert that mimics the conditions on the Red Planet. Ikea interior designer Christina Levenborn stayed in the habitat, ultimately creating an Ikea line for small spaces inspired by her stay. But more recently, she used her experience living in the habitat to help researchers outfit the space. She just returned from redecorating the habitat, which now looks brightly lit and neatly organized. In fact, it looks a lot like what you’d see in an Ikea catalog—which is impressive, because the space is exceptionally small and stark.

Sff writer David Levine did a cycle with the MDRS in 2010 and File 770 ran several posts based on his updates, including “Levine Reaches Mars”.

(7) MORE BLOWBACK. “Two Nobel literature prize committee members quit” – BBC tells how the membership continues to churn.

Two external members of the Nobel literature prize committee have quit after criticising the Swedish Academy.

Gun-Britt Sundstrom said the choice of Peter Handke as this year’s winner had been interpreted as if literature stood above politics and she did not agree.

The choice of Handke was criticised because of his vocal support for the Serbs during the 1990s Yugoslav war.

Kristoffer Leandoer said he’d left due to Academy reforms taking too long following a sexual assault scandal.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 2, 1979 Star Trek comics premiered in syndicated form in the U.S. From 1979 to 1983, the Los Angeles Times Mirror Syndicate produced a daily and Sunday comic strip based upon this series. Larry Niven was among the many writers who did scripts for it. IDW has reprinted them in two volumes, The Newspaper Comics, Volume 1 and The Newspaper Comics, Volume 2.
  • December 2, 2005 Aeon Flux premiered.  Produced by Gale Hurd, it stars Charlize Theron in the title role. It’s based on the animated Aeon Flux series of the same name created by Peter Chung. It bombed at the box office, was poorly received by critics, and currently has a 9% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • December 2, 2017 – First pizza party in space took place on the International Space Station.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 2, 1913 Jerry Sohl. Scriptwriter and genre writer who did work for The Twilight Zone (ghostwriting for Charles Beaumont who was seriously ill at the time), Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Outer Limits and Star Trek. One of his three Trek scripts was the superb “Corbomite Maneuver” episode. (Died 2002.)
  • Born December 2, 1914 Ray Walston. Best known of course for playing the lead in My Favorite Martian from 1963 to 1966, alongside co-star Bill Bixby. His later genre appearances would include The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, Six Million Dollar Man, Galaxy of Terror, Amazing Stories,  Popeye, Friday the 13th: The Series and Addams Family Reunion.   He would appear in The Incredible Hulk (in which David Banner was played by Bill Bixby) as Jasper the Magician in an episode called “My Favorite Magician”. (Died 2001.)
  • Born December 2, 1937 Brian Lumley, 81. Horror writer who came to distinction in the Seventies writing in the Cthulhu Mythos and  by creating his own character Titus Crow. In the Eighties, he created the Necroscope series, which first centered on Speaker to the Dead Harry Keogh. He has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association, and a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
  • Born December 2, 1946 Josepha Sherman. Writer and folklorist who was a Compton Crook Award winner for The Shining Falcon, which was based on the Russian fairy tale “The Feather of Finist the Falcon”. She was a prolific writer both on her own and in collaboration authors such as Mecedes Lackey (A Cast of Corbies), and Laura Anne Gilman (two Buffyverse novels).  I knew her personally as a folklorist first and she was without peer writing such works as Rachel the Clever: And Other Jewish Folktales and Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood that she wrote with T K F Weisskopf.  Neat lady who died far too soon. Let me leave you with an essay she wrote on Winter for Green Man twenty years ago. (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 2, 1946 David Macaulay, 73. British-born American illustrator and writer. Genre adjacent I’d say. Creator of such cool works as Cathedral, The New Way Things Work which has he updated for the computer technology age, and his latest, Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World.
  • Born December 2, 1952 OR Melling, 67. One of her favorite authors is Alan Garner whose The Owl Service is a frequent read of hers she tells me. As for novels by her that I’d recommend, the Chronicles of Faerie series is quite excellent. For more adult fare, her People of the Great Journey is quite good.
  • Born December 2, 1968 Lucy Liu, 51. She was Joan Watson on Elementary in its impressive seven-year run. Her other genre role, and it’s been long running, has been voicing Tinkermist in the Disney Fairies animated franchise. I kid you not. She’s had a few genre one-offs on The X-Files, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and the Rise: Blood Hunter film, but not much overall.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio tells Santa what he wants.
  • At Existential Comics, leading philosophers brawl over the implications of “I am no man!”

The original intentions or ideas of the author aren’t necessarily more valid than those of any other interpreter.

Gasp!

(11) WRITER’S WRATH. “HG Wells builds time machine so he can punch whoever was responsible for that adaptation of War of the Worlds”NewsThump has the story,

Popular Edwardian novelist and inventor of the concept of Time Travel Herbert George Wells has appeared in central London this morning, intending to punch whoever made the BBC adaptation of War of the Worlds squarely on the nose.

Wells, who believed the chances of anyone making a boring adaptation of his masterpiece were a million to one, said ‘but still, it’s done’.

“There was a great disturbance in the… oh, I’m sure you’ll come up with a word for it”, said Wells. “As if millions of my fans voices cried out ‘what the heck’.”

(12) AS OTHERS SEE US. Liberty Island’s Tamara Willhite uncovers a rich vein of fantasy in “An Interview with Author Louis Antonelli”.

Tamara Wilhite: What are you currently working on?

Louis Antonelli: Well, kind of following up the previous question, since the Sad Puppies in 2015 there’s been a pretty ironclad blacklist in the major science fiction magazine and publishers against anyone who isn’t an intolerant doctrinaire left-wing asshole. Nobody denies it anymore, because such assertions only gets the horse laugh.

The only major book publisher that judges authors impartially is Baen; Analog is the one major magazine that seems to pick stories based on merit and not the author’s politics and lifestyle….

(13) POACHING SCIENCE. “Dinosaurs: Restoring Mongolia’s fossil heritage”.

Eighty million years ago, during the Cretaceous Period, Mongolia’s Gobi Desert was a dinosaur’s paradise of vast valleys, freshwater lakes and a humid climate.

Mammal-eating velociraptors, lizard-hipped sauropods and spike-armoured ankylosaurs could have been spotted roaming in what are now the Martian red sandstone spires of Bayanzag’s Flaming Cliffs.

These prehistorically favourable conditions make the Gobi Desert the largest dinosaur fossil reservoir in the world.

Over almost 100 years of palaeontological research in the Gobi, more than 80 genera have been found. But for many people living there, this scientific heritage remains unknown.

“Putting a fence up is not protection; protection is people’s knowledge,” Mongolian palaeontologist Bolortsetseg Minjin explains as we wind through the Flaming Cliffs in search of signs of fossil poaching.

(14) CAN’T DANCE TO IT. “Amazon’s AI musical keyboard ‘sounds terrible'”.

Amazon has unveiled a musical keyboard with a built-in artificial intelligence (AI) composer.

The AWS DeepComposer is a two-octave, 32-key keyboard that can connect to computers via a USB cable.

Users can play a short tune, or use a pre-recorded one, ask the keyboard to embellish it in one of four styles – jazz, classical, rock or pop – and then publish it on Soundcloud.

But one expert said the audio demo provided by Amazon was “terrible”.

(15) INCREDIBLE JOURNEY. BBC follows“India tiger on ‘longest walk ever’ for mate and prey”.

A tiger has undertaken the longest walk ever recorded in India, travelling some 1,300km (807 miles) in five months.

Experts believe the two-and-a-half-year-old male is possibly in search of prey, territory or a mate.

The tiger, which is fitted with a radio collar, left its home in a wildlife sanctuary in the western state of Maharashtra in June.

It was then tracked travelling back and forth over farms, water and highways, and into a neighbouring state.

So far, the tiger has come into conflict with humans only once, when it “accidentally injured” one person who was part of a group that entered a thicket under which it was resting.

(16) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter watched tonight’s Jeopardy! with wrapped attention….

Category: Literary Works of the 1920s.

Answer: “Jane Webb Loudon wrote the 1st novel about one of these creatures, including the line, ‘Weak, feeble worm! Exclaimed Cheops.'”

Wrong question: “What is a Sphinx?”

Correct question: “What is a Mummy?”

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Mushroom Hunters” on YouTube is a poem by Neil Gaiman read by Amanda Palmer, with music by Jherek Bischoff.

[Thanks to Camestros Felapton (Felapton Towers, Bortsworth, Bortsworthshire), John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Olav Rokne, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day StephenfromOttawa.]

Pixel Scroll 11/29/19 The Scrolls of Our Teeth

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman encourages listeners to share scallops with comics legend Larry Lieber in Episode 110 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Larry Nieber

I first met comic book artist and writer Larry Lieber when I worked in the Marvel Comics Bullpen of the mid-‘70s. Though perhaps that’s not really accurate — because that was only when I first met him in the flesh. I really first met him when I was seven, the year I picked up copies of Tales of Suspense #39, in which he co-created Iron Man, Journey into Mystery #83, in which he co-created Thor, and Tales to Astonish #35, in which he co-created Ant-Man.

…A week before Larry’s 88th birthday, we met for dinner at his favorite French restaurant, Bistro Le Steak, on the corner of Third Avenue and East 75th Street in Manhattan, where we chatted about the old days, as well as what he has planned for the days still to come.

We discussed the old-time radio shows which most influenced him, what he learned about humanity from reading Margaret Mead back in the ’50s, how the only reason he became a writer was because he was too slow to make a living an artist, who told him back at the start of his career that comics was a “dying industry,” the tips Stan Lee gave to make him a better writer, why his attempts to work for DC Comics never worked out, the warning artist Syd Shores offered he wishes he hadn’t heeded, how a quote he heard in a movie about Irish playwright Sean O’Casey helped him understand the arc of his own life, the three best-selling books he read before writing his own novel, his mixed feelings on winning the Bill Finger Award, how Jim Shooter helped him relearn how to be an artist, which comics assignment he enjoyed the most, what Stan Lee told him about the Rawhide Kid that made him decide to take it over from Jack Kirby, why he feels like Don Quixote, the surprising thing he thinks is the best thing he’s ever written, and much more.

(2) ALWAYS TO CALL IT RESEARCH. Read about “8 Movies Accused of Plagiarism” – several of them genre – at Top10Films.UK.

2. The Terminator (1984) 

Harlan Ellison, a highly prolific writer, wrote many novels, short stories and screenplays. What most people do not know is that Harlan Ellison was a very litigious writer. He claimed that many TV shows and movies stole his ideas.

In an episode of “The Outer Limits” (called “Soldier”) about a robot from the future, Ellison claimed that the movie “The Terminator” was based on this story as well as another episode he wrote called “Demon With a Glass Hand”.

(3) SMOFCON UPDATE. SMOFcon 37, to be held December 6-8 in Albuquerque, NM, has posted its Code of Conduct.

(4) L’ENGLE CONFERENCE. Publishers Weekly’s report of the “First Madeleine L’Engle Conference Held in New York City” shows it was a remarkably diverse event.

Nearly 200 participants, including a distinguished roster of children’s book authors, gathered on November 16 at All Angels Church on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where author Madeleine L’Engle was a member for many years, to discuss how faith and art inform each other at Walking on Water: The Madeleine L’Engle Conference. Taking its title from L’Engle’s 1972 book, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, the event was organized by Brian Allain of Writing for Your Life, a resource center for spiritual writers; Charlotte Jones Voiklis, L’Engle’s granddaughter, literary executor and co-author, with her sister Léna Roy, of the middle-grade biography Becoming Madeleine; and Sarah Arthur, author of A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L’Engle.

(5) SPREADING THE WORD. “Virgil Finlay’s Daughter Lail needs our help” – a GoFundMe has been started by Bob Garcia to raise $5,000 to help her respond to an emergency:

I met Virgil Finlay’s daughter Lail and  her daughter Brien at the World Fantasy Convention in 2014. We’ve become friends since then. For the last few years, she has been battling metatastic cancer while holding down a job, since her husband, musician Julio Hernandez, has been ill as well. They celebrated their 50th anniversary not so long ago.

A week or so ago I received this e-mail:

“Just a note to let you know that Sat. Nov 9th my house burned down with my husband inside. He died in the fire, my daughter and I are physically okay. So I don’t yet know if any of the artwork survived, and my daughter and I are now homeless and staying with a kind friend.”

Here’s the news story.

Lail needs all the help she can get. Especially with things that the insurance company just won’t cover. Besides the normal expenses, for example, she needs $1,100 just to remove her father’s art from the house, and more to get it cleaned and restored. And there are her father’s correspondences, which she has not been able to get into the building to see if they survived. Lail estimates she needs $5000 to get through this time.

And she needs to get these things paid for quickly, before it becomes too late to recover things from what’s left of her house.

(6) NOT LONG BEFORE THE END. “Star Wars: Dying fan to get early screening, Bob Iger confirms”.

A dying man and his son will be able to watch the new Star Wars film before it goes on general release, Disney’s CEO Bob Iger has said.

Rowans Hospice in Waterlooville, Hampshire, sent out a plea on Twitter asking for an early screening of the movie, which is due out on 20 December.

The hospice said: “This is our most desperate hour. Sadly, time is not on his side for 20th Dec.”

After receiving confirmation, Rowans said it “cannot thank Disney enough”

The hospice tweeted on Wednesday asking for help for the patient to see the film, attracting hundreds of retweets.

(7) AN INKLING HAS HIS BACK. Earth and Oak has reprinted “CS Lewis’ Response to Critics of The Lord of the Rings: The Dethronement of Power” with this introduction:

C. S. Lewis’ defence of Tolkien’s work gives insight into the types of criticism it elicited. Chief among those criticisms were its supposed lack of realism, and lack of character development or moral complexity. Lewis robustly argues against both allegations, and with characteristic succinctness states “we know at once that it has done things to us.” Notably this review came only 2 days after Tolkien’s final instalment was published, in response to criticism that was clearly already in full flow since the earlier volumes. It demonstrates the extent to which even a great piece of work will encounter rejection and snobbery, but also demonstrates the value of even one strong ally who supports your work. Below is Lewis’ essay in full….

(8) STALEY OBIT. Actress Joan Staley died November 24. Her busy career included a few genre roles: “Joan Staley, Actress in ‘The Ghost and Mr. Chicken,’ Dies at 79”.

She also slapped Elvis in ‘Roustabout,’ sang to Audie Murphy in ‘Gunpoint’ and played Shame sidekick Okie Annie on ‘Batman.’

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 29, 1959 The Atomic Submarine premiered. It stars Arthur Franz, Dick Foran, Brett Halsey, and Joi Lansing, with John Hilliard as the voice of the alien. It rates 27% at Rotten Tomatoes. It’s in the public domain, so you can see it here.
  • November 29, 1972 — Pong, the coin-operated video game version, debuted.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 29, 1898 C.S. Lewis. There are no doubt folks here who are far more literate about him than I. I’ve read The Screwtape Letters for a college course decades ago and thoroughly enjoyed The Chronicles of Narnia also many years back but that’s it for my personal acquaintance with him.  I know individuals that have loved The Space Trilogy and I’ve known ones who loathed it. So what do you like or dislike about him? (Died 1963.)
  • Born November 29, 1918 Madeleine L’Engle. Writer whose genre work included the splendid YA sequence starting off with A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels: A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time. One of her none-genre works that I recommend strongly is Katherine Forrester Vigneras series. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 29, 1950 Peter Hooten, 69. He played the title character in the late Seventies Dr. Strange film. His other genre appearances are all in definitely low-grade horror films such as Orca, House of Blood and Souleater. And one Italian film that had so many name changes that I’m accused it of name laundering, 2020 Texas Gladiators
  • Born November 29, 1954 Howie Mandel, 64. He was the voice of Gizmo in Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch. His longest voice acting gig was on the Muppet Babies where he did a lot of different voices, and he voiced Sam-I-Am in In Search of Dr. Seuss which is not nearly as serious as it sounds.
  • Born November 29, 1966 Andrée Bernard, 53. She appeared as Folly in “The Shakespeare Code”, a Tenth Doctor story. She was Yana Haverty in Snakes and Ladders, a What If Future UK series. and she provided voice work to Star Wars: The Old Republic – Rise of the Hutt Cartel.
  • Born November 29, 1969 Greg Rucka, 50. Comic book writer and novelist, known for his work on Action Comics, Batwoman and Detective Comics. If you’ve not read it, I recommend reading Gotham Central which he co-created with Ed Brubaker, and over at Marvel, the four issue Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra which he wrote is quite excellent as well. I’ve read none of his novels, so will leave y’all to comment on those. He’s a character in the CSI comic book Dying in the Gutters miniseriesas someone who accidentally killed a comics gossip columnist while attempting to kill Joe Quesada over his perceived role in the cancellation of Gotham Central.
  • Born November 29, 1970 Larry Joe Campbell, 49. He had the recurring role of Chief Engineer Newton on The Orville series. His character was written out at the end of season one. He’s also Officer Murphy in R.I.P.D. which is a really bad film, and was in Pacific Rim as one of this background perplexed you don’t really see, a construction worker.
  • Born November 29, 1971 Naoko Mori, 48. Torchwood was really her only genre appearance though I see that she popped up first in Doctor Who playing her character of Doctor Sato in the “Aliens of London” episode.  She also voiced Nagisa Kisaragi  in Gerry Anderson’s Firestorm.
  • Born November 29, 1976 Anna Faris, 43. She broke into genre acting with the lead part of Cindy Campbell in the Scary Movie film franchise. She also had roles in May, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel and the Alvin and the Chipmunks. film franchise. 
  • Born November 29, 1976 Chadwick Boseman, 43. The Black Panther alias Challa in Marvel’s film metaverse. The same year that he first was this being, he was Thoth in Gods of Egypt.(If you’ve not heard, no one else did as it bombed at the box office.) He was Sergeant McNair on Persons Unknown which is at least genre adjacent I would say.  And he appeared on Fringe!

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Baby Blues references a superhero film in its joke about a more widespread family TV viewing issue.

(12) SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF. James Davis Nicoll studies how writers have answered a question that possibly worries him more than other readers — “How to Explain the Sudden Appearance of Anthropomorphic Characters in Your Story”.

Lots of people love anthropomorphic characters. Perhaps you are one such fan. Perhaps you are a writer who plans to feature them in your fiction. Many authors don’t feel a particular need to justify anthropomorphic characters’ presence in their stories. There are plenty of examples available, but attempting to list all the relevant folktale figures, manga characters, and inhabitants of Duckburg would take up an entire essay, at least. But there are other people—people like me—who become anxious if important elements aren’t given a backstory or explanation. For those people, here are some semi-plausible ways anthropomorphic characters could have appeared in your setting…

(13) NOT JUST MAMMOTHS. “Extinction: Humans played big role in demise of the cave bear”.

The arrival of human ancestors in Europe some 40,000 years ago coincided with the downfall of the cave bear, scientists have revealed.

New evidence suggests humans hunted the bear and drove it from caves, putting it on the road to extinction.

The fate of the species was sealed by other pressures, such as the onset of the last Ice Age, and shrinking food resources.

The bear eventually died out 24,000 years ago.

“We see this dramatic drop in the population of the cave bear starting from 40,000 years ago, which coincides with the arrival of anatomically modern humans in Europe,” said Prof Verena Schuenemann of the University of Zurich, who led the study.

“It is the clearest evidence we have so far that humans might have played a big role in the extinction of the cave bear.”

(14) STARTING YOUNG. I’d have loved this project. “Teaching children to build satellites in school” – a BBC video.

South African start-up XinaBox is teaching children to build satellites in school using a modular chip that can be clipped together.

The company is using its technology to teach children about space, science and coding in interactive workshops.

(15) THE DIGITAL JOLLY ROGER. “Rise of comic book piracy ‘a real problem'” reports BBC.

A comic book writer’s claim that the proliferation of piracy is “a real problem” has encouraged others in the industry to share their concerns.

Jim Zub, who writes for Marvel and IDW, tweeted that 20 times as many people read comics illegally shared online, than pay for digital or physical works.

Many other comic creators replied with their own experiences of pirated work.

For some, piracy brought personal and professional costs, while others suggested radical distribution changes.

(16) STAR WARS FEATURETTE. A nostalgic mix of behind-the-scenes footage from the original Star Wars movie and the latest, soon-to-end trilogy.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/26/19 Sandworms, Why Did It Have To Be Sandworms?

(1) DARK ART. Christine Feehan has applied for a trademark on the word “Dark” for a “Series of fiction works, namely, novels and books.”

Feehan is a California author of paranormal romance, paranormal military thrillers and fantasy.

The application to the US Patent and Trademark Office, filed November 20, describes her claim as follows:

International Class 016:  Series of fiction works, namely, novels and books.

In International Class 016, the mark was first used by the applicant or the applicant’s related company or licensee or predecessor in interest at least as early as 11/13/1998, and first used in commerce at least as early as 03/03/1999, and is now in use in such commerce. The applicant is submitting one(or more) specimen(s) showing the mark as used in commerce on or in connection with any item in the class of listed goods/services, consisting of a(n) amazon.com website showing books in series being sold, book catalog showing series of books with mark, personal website showing series of books with mark..

The mark consists of standard characters, without claim to any particular font style, size, or color.

Will the mark be granted? What use will the author make of it?

Last year Faleena Hopkins triggered “Cockygate” when she claimed exclusive rights to “cocky” for romance titles. Hopkins sent notices to multiple authors telling them to change the titles of their books and asked Amazon to take down all other cocky-titled romance books (not just series).

The Authors Guild got involved in the litigation and Hopkins withdrew her trademark claim. The Guild’s settlement announcement also said:

…The Trademark Office clarified that the owner of a trademark in a book series title cannot use that trademark against single book titles. Since single titles cannot serve as trademarks, they also cannot infringe series title trademarks. So, if another author or a publisher ever tries to stop you from using a single book title because of their series trademark, you can tell them to take a hike. Only series titles can infringe another series title.

(2) MAGNIFICENT SEVEN. Nicholas Whyte does an epic roundup of “Blake’s 7: the third series” at his From The Heart of Europe blog. In addition to his commentary and links to episodes on YouTube, he also keeps track of such trivia as appearances by actors who also had roles in Doctor Who, and includes clips of some of the betterlines of dialog. such as –

Dialogue triumph:

Avon: That one’s Cally. I’ll introduce her more formally when she wakes up. This one is Vila. I should really introduce him now; he’s at his best when he’s unconscious.

(3) FIND THE BEST SHORT FANTASY. Rocket Stack Rank posted its annual roundup “Outstanding High Fantasy of 2018” with 39 stories that were that were finalists for major SF/F awards, included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction.

Included are some observations obtained from highlighting specific recommenders and pivoting the table by publication, author, awards, year’s best anthologies, and reviewers.

(4) ROCINANTE LIFTS OFF 12/13. Amazon has dropped the trailer for the next season of The Expanse:

Season 4 of The Expanse, its first as a global Amazon Original, begins a new chapter for the series with the crew of the Rocinante on a mission from the U.N. to explore new worlds beyond the Ring Gate. Humanity has been given access to thousands of Earth-like planets which has created a land rush and furthered tensions between the opposing nations of Earth, Mars and the Belt. Ilus is the first of these planets, one rich with natural resources but also marked by the ruins of a long dead alien civilization. While Earthers, Martians and Belters maneuver to colonize Ilus and its natural resources, these early explorers don’t understand this new world and are unaware of the larger dangers that await them.

(5) 55 YEARS AGO. Galactic Journey’s Mark Yon covers pop culture and the latest British sff books, prozines, film, TV – the latest as of November 25, 1964 that is: “The Times They Are a-Changin’… Science Fantasy December 1964/January 1965”.

…On the television the genre pickings have still not been many. I am still enjoying most of Doctor Who, and Jessica’s excellent reports on that series’ progress need no further comment from me, but my latest find this month has been another popular series for children. I am quite surprised how much I have enjoyed its undemanding entertainment, as Gerry Anderson’s Stingray has been shown on ITV. Be warned though – it’s a puppet series! Nevertheless, its enthusiasm and energy, combined with great music in a wonderful title sequence has made this unexpected fun. I understand that it has been entirely filmed in colour, although like the majority of the 14 million British households with a television, we’re forced to watch it in good old black-and-white.

(6) GIVING THANKS FOR THE WEIRD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.]The November 24 episode of The Simpsons was a Thanksgiving version of Treehouse of Horror, and all three segments were sf or fantasy.  The first episode recreated the original Thanksgiving, with cast members playing the Pilgrims, the Indians, and the turkeys.  The second episode had a personal assistant AI like Siri or Alexa, and the AI version of Marge did a better job of preparing Thanksgiving dinner than Marge did.  But the best segment was when a space ark fled Earth because of climate change, and Bart Simpson finds a can of cranberry sauce and decides to replicate it, skipping all the warnings about how you shouldn’t replicate organic objects.  Of course, Bart ignores the warnings, and the cranberry sauce comes to life and becomes very hungry.

(7) THE GREATEST? BBC says it’s a real icebreaker: “Frozen 2 rakes in $350 million worldwide on box office debut”. But I could use a hand interpreting the second paragraph – those places aren’t part of “worldwide”?

Frozen 2 raked in $350 million (nearly £272m) in its opening weekend worldwide, beating forecasts and the box office debut of the original film.

The sequel made about £15m in the UK and Ireland and $127m (£98.9m) in the US and Canada, which are not counted towards the worldwide figures.

The 2013 original took $93m (£72.28m) during its first five days in theatres, according to Reuters.

It ended up making a whopping $1.27bn in total.

Disney say the sequel has set a new record for the biggest opening weekend for an animation.

That’s owing to the fact they consider this year’s remake of the Lion King, which made $269m on its opening weekend, to be a live action film.

But some feel the digital 3D film is more of a photo-realistic animation

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 26, 1977 Space Academy aired “My Favorite Marcia”. The YA series stars Commander Isaac Gampu as played by Jonathan Harris. And the Big Bad in this episode is Robby the Robot with a different head. And a black paint job. 
  • November 26, 1986 Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home premiered. Featuring the all still living main cast of the original series, it was financially quite successful, liked by critics and fans alike. It currently has an 81% rating at Rotten Tomatoes among viewers. It placed second to Aliens for the Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo at Conspiracy ‘87.
  • November 26, 1997 Alien Resurrection premiered. The final instalment in the Alien film franchise, it starred Sigourney Weaver and Winona Ryder. It was the last Alien film for Weaver as she was not in Alien vs. Predator. It did well at the box office and holds a 39% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 26, 1897 Naomi Mary Margaret Mitchison, Baroness Mitchison, CBE (née Haldane). Author of many historical novels with genre trappings such as The Corn King and the Spring Queen and The Bull Calves but also new wave SF such as Memoirs of a Spacewoman, pure fantasy Graeme and the Dragon and an Arthurian novel in Chapel Perilous. (Died 1999.)
  • Born November 26, 1910 Cyril Cusack. Fireman Captain Beatty on the classic version of Fahrenheit 451. He’s Mr. Charrington, the shopkeeper in Nineteen Eighty-four, and several roles on Tales of the Unexpected round out his genre acting. (Died 1993.)
  • Born November 26, 1919 Frederik Pohl. Writer, editor, and fan who was active for more seventy-five years from his first published work, the 1937 poem “Elegy to a Dead Satellite: Luna” to his final novel All the Lives He Led. That he was great and that he was honored for being great is beyond doubt — If I’m counting correctly, he won four Hugo and three Nebula Awards, and his 1979 novel Jem, Pohl won a U.S. National Book Award in the one-off category Science Fiction. SWFA made him the 12th recipient of its Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master Award in 1993, and he was inducted by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 1998. OK, setting aside Awards which are fucking impressive, there’s the matter of him editing Astonishing Stories, Galaxy Science Fiction, Worlds of If, andSuper Science Stories which were a companion to Astonishing Stories, plus the Star Science Fiction anthologies –and well let’s just say the list goes on. I’m sure I’ve not listed something that y’all like here. As writer, he was amazing. My favorite was the Heechee series though I confess some novels were far better than others. Gateway won the Hugo Award for Best Novel, the 1978 Locus Award for Best Novel, the 1977 Nebula Award for Best Novel, and the 1978 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. Very impressive. Man Plus I think is phenomenal, the sequel less so. Your opinion of course will no doubt vary. The Space Merchants co-written with Cyril M. Kornbluth in 1952 is, I think, damn fun. (Died 2013.)
  • Born November 26, 1939 Tina Turner, 80. She gets noted here for being the oh-so-over-the-top Aunty Entity in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, but let’s not forget her as The Acid Queen in Tommy as well and for appearing as The Mayor in The Last Action Hero which is at least genre adjacent.
  • Born November 26, 1945 Daniel Davis, 74. I’m singling him out for Birthday Honors for being his two appearances as Professor Moriarty on Next Gen. He has one-offs on MacGyver, Gotham and Elementary. He played a Judge in The Prestige film. He also voiced several characters on the animated Men in Black series.
  • Born November 26, 1961 Steve Macdonald, 58. A fan and longtime pro filker ever since he first went to a filk con in 1992. In 2001, he went on a “WorlDream” tour, attending every filk con in the world held that year. He’s now resident where he moved to marry fellow filker Kerstin (Katy) Droge.
  • Born November 26, 1966 Kristin Bauer van Straten, 53. Best known for being  Pamela Swynford De Beaufort on True Blood, and as sorceress Maleficent on Once Upon a Time. She was also the voice of Killer Frost in the most excellent Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay film.
  • Born November 26, 1988 Tamsin Egerton, 31. She was the young Morgaine, and I do mean young, in The Mists of Avalon series.  She goes on to be Kate Dickens in the Hans Christian Andersen: My Life as a Fairytale series, Miranda Helhoughton in the Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking film and Guinevere in the Camelot series. Oh, and she’s Nancy Spungen in an episode of Psychobitches which is least genre adjacent if not genre. 
  • Born November 26, 1988 Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, 31. He played Gregor “The Mountain” Clegane on the Game of Thrones for five seasons. That’s it for his genre acting, but he co-founded Icelandic Mountain Vodka whose primary product is a seven-time distilled Icelandic vodka. Surely something Filers can appreciate! 

(10) RE-FINDING NEMO. [Item by Daniel Dern.] I’m behind in doing a Windsor McKay/Little Nemo post, but this is a close-out item and probably going fast, so:

For you $45 plus shipping – $7.95, via USPS (you can spend more for faster), down from the original $124.99

My point: If you are a McKay/Nemo fan, and think you might be interested, now is the time, before they’re gone (or gone at this price). (Needless to say, I ordered mine before sending this item to OGH.)

The book is 16″x21″ — the same size as the original McKay strips, back when the “Sunday Funnies” were humongous… and Nemo (and many others) got an entire of these pages. There are, as an item or comment a few weeks/months back noted, two volumes of McKay’s Nemo that are themselves full-sized. They ain’t cheap. (I own the first one, felt that was enough that I didn’t follow up and get the second… I do, to be fair, have enough smaller-sized Nemo volumes.

From the listing:

By Bill Sienkiewicz, Charles Vess, P. Craig Russell, David Mack et al. Contemporary artists pay tribute to this beloved and imaginative Sunday page. They have created 118 entirely new Little Nemo pages, all full Sunday page size! Contributors also include Paul Pope, J.H. Williams III, Carla Speed McNeil, Peter Bagge, Dean Haspiel, Farel Dalrymple, Marc Hempel, Nate Powell, Jeremy Bastian, Jim Rugg, Ron Wimberly, Scott Morse, David Petersen, J.G. Jones, Mike Allred, Dean Motter, Yuko Shimizu, Roger Langridge, Craig Thompson, and Mark Buckingham, among many others.

The Kickstarter page has a video about the project. Enjoy!

(11) YOUNG CREATORS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna interviews Lynda Barry.  Barry, who teaches interdisciplinary creativity at the University of Wisconsin (Madison), says that she’s going to use her Macarthur Fellowship to study four-year-olds who see writing and drawing as one thing to determine when kids see writing and drawing as separate activities and then give up drawing. One result, she says, may be to find ways to teach adults who don’t think they can draw to start making art again. “How MacArthur ‘genius’ Lynda Barry is exploring brain creativity with true artists: Preschoolers”.

… “Most people stop drawing when they reach the age of 8 or so, because they couldn’t draw a nose or hands,” said Barry, 63. “The beautiful thing is that their drawing style is intact from that time. Those people, if you can get them past being freaked out, have the most interesting lines — and have a faster trajectory to making really original comics than people who have been drawing for a long, long time.”

(12) POHL SHORT AND LONG. James Davis Nicoll marks the Pohl centenary with a bouquet of brief reviews: “Celebrating Frederik Pohl’s 100th Birthday with Five Overlooked Classics”.

…No discussion of authors of Pohl’s vintage would be complete without mentioning their shorter works.1972’s collection The Gold at the Starbow’s End contains five of Pohl’s finest, two of which are standouts.

The first standout is the title novella, in which a small crew of astronauts are dispatched on a slow voyage to Alpha Centauri. They have been assured that a world awaits them; this is a lie. There is no world and they have not been told of the true goals of their project. The project is a success. If only the geniuses who created the program had asked themselves what the consequences of success might be…

The other standout is 1972’s The Merchant of Venus. The discovery of alien relics on Venus has spurred colonization of that hostile world. Maintaining a human presence on Venus is fearfully expensive. It’s not subsidized by the home world; colonists must pay for their keep. This is a challenge for Audee Walthers, who is facing impending organ failure and doesn’t have the dosh to pay the doctor….

(13) STAR WARS — GONE TO POT. Eater realizes that the “‘Star Wars’ Instant Pot Gets Us Closer to an Entire ‘Star Wars’ Kitchen”.

The launch of Disney+ show The Mandalorian, and the introduction of baby Yoda, has brought upon us the latest round of Star Wars obsession, with plenty of product tie-ins to aid the fandom. Last month, Le Creuset introduced a line of Star Wars-branded cookware, including a C-3P0 Dutch oven and a porg pie bird. But if you’re torn between wanting to use a Star Wars casserole dish and needing to braise ribs quickly, a new line of Star Wars Instant Pots is here….

(14) CRASH LANDING. Even though Plagiarism Today’s headline says “You Wouldn’t Plagiarize an Airport” without a question mark, it certainly can’t be an absolute statement — 

In what has to be one of the more bizarre plagiarism stories in recent memory, Qatar Airways accused Singapore’s Changi Airport Group of plagiarizing not a paper, an idea or a proposal, but an airport.

The accusation was made by Akbar Al Baker, who is the CEO of both Qatar Airways and Hamad International Airport. In a recent press conference, he claimed that Singapore’s Changi Airport was a plagiarism of a planned expansion of Hamad International Aiport in Doha, Qatar.

(15) CHARACTER STUDY. At Rapid Transmissions, Joseph Hurtgen suggests “Seven ways to write great characters”. First up —

Make your characters likable

Will Smith and Tom Hanks have made their careers by playing likable characters. Some of these characters are hyperintelligent and some profoundly dumb. Some inspire laughter and others tears. But the characters they play are always easy to like. They have a quality about them that makes you feel like, given the chance, you’d get along with them.

So, why does this matter? It matters because people like rooting for a likable person. People want the good guy to get the girl. They want the honorable person to rise to the top. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always deal out its cards fairly. Bad guys win all the time. As a result, people want to escape into a fiction governed by poetic justice, where the bad guys run up against the shit they deserve and the good guys get to sit back and have a cold one.

But no need to limit yourself, Hurtgen’s second suggestion is —

Make your characters unlikable…

(16) RED SHIFT. In “We Made Star Wars R-Rated,” YouTube’s Corridor Crew takes some scenes from the second trilogy and adds the gore and splatter that Lucasfilms forgot to include….

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Olav Rokne, James Davis Nicoll, Daniel Dern, Eric Wong, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, N., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 11/11/19 The Wendig from a Burning Pixel

(1) ANOTHER TESTIMONY ABOUT HARASSMENT AT CZP. Kelsi Morris, who rose from intern to managing editor of ChiZine Publications – all unpaid – shared a painful account of the chronic sexual harassment she endured from its owners and authors on Facebook. (Much more at the link.)

…I think we can all agree there is a clear pattern of financial mismanagement and ill treatment of authors. What has only just started to be touched on is the deeply rooted culture of bullying, emotional abuse, sexual harassment, and the silencing of victims. And this is why I think it’s important I finally say something.

I started with ChiZine in 2012, when I was 22 years old and less than a week out of publishing school…

…I did move up quickly. I started as an intern (unpaid, of course), then became the head of marketing & publicity (also unpaid), then at 23 years old, became the managing editor for the biggest indie speculative fiction publisher in Canada (still unpaid). And more than that, I had somewhere I *belonged*.

…I was considered cool enough to hang, which meant I got to go to the exclusive parties, all the cons and events (at my own expense, of course), was invited to the casual pool nights, and fancy family dinners. I loved being included, and I was still young enough to be starstruck around so many amazing authors I admired.

Being cool, and eventually becoming friends with the “inner circle”, also meant that everyone talked freely around me. I heard the cruel ways they talked about their friends who weren’t around. I heard them plan out ways of breaking up couples. I attended family dinners where folks brought short stories written by their peers to read dramatically aloud and laugh. I heard the boundless misogyny, the mockery of women who spoke out about harassment at cons & the snowflakes who found comfort in content warnings, and the resentment they held towards their authors who had the audacity to expect to be paid. I sat, and listened, and internalized the implicit threat of what could happen to me.

And so I continued to just sit, and listen, with an uncomfortable smile pasted on my face, when I was hit on by male authors more than 15 years my senior. I smiled when hanging out with the inner circle and they made jokes about my body. I grimaced when one of the authors caressed my ass in full view of all my colleagues in the crowded con suite, but didn’t move away. I dressed accordingly at events when Sandra told me the only thing that mattered was “tits and teeth”. I nervously laughed along with everyone else when I was the only woman in a room full of men, and one of them started making rape jokes about me. …

…There are so many people who were complicit in, or at the very least enabled, what has accurately been described as the cult-like culture of bullying, abuse, harassment, and silencing. This will continue to be a problem long after ChiZine is gone, if it’s not something we start talking about now….

(2) FIREBELL IN THE NIGHT. Silvia Moreno-Garcia has quit the professional organization SF Canada over its lack of support for the ChiZine authors who have voiced grievances. The thread here.

(3) AMAZON MAKES ITS INVENTORY PROBLEM EVERYBODY’S PROBLEM. Publisher Weekly reports “Amazon Reducing Orders to Publishers”. Just in time for Christmas.

In order to deal with congestion issues at its warehouses,Amazon has been cutting book orders to publishers over the last several weeks. It isn’t clear how widespread the reduction in orders is, but several independent publishers contacted by PW reported cuts in their weekly orders since late October. One publisher reported that an order placed last week was about 75% lower than an order placed last year at this time. “It’s a nightmare,” the head of one independent publisher said.

…The head of yet another company said if Amazon orders don’t rise to what has been typical ordering patterns in past years within two weeks, “we [could] lose the entire holiday season.” He added that if problems with Amazon persist and orders continue to be low, it is possible that some online book sales could move to BN.com and other retailers such as Walmart, which has invested heavily in its online operations. If Amazon starts running out of stock, he added, “maybe they’ll lose some market share to their competitors.”

(4) SEEN AT WFC 2019. Ellen Datlow has shared photos she took at World Fantasy Con and afterward on Flickr.

(5) WRITING ABOUT A DIFFERENT RACE. In “Who Gave You The Right To Tell That Story?” on Vulture, novelists discuss how they wrote about characters who were a different race than they are.  Among the writers who contribute short essays are N.K. Jemisin, Victor LaValle, and Ben H. Winters.

Scouring Tumblr

N. K. Jemisin, The Broken Earth Trilogy

I’ve learned to not fear obviousness when I’m describing race or topics related to oppression. With an American audience, you have to be as in your face about it as possible because our society encourages delicate euphemism. I’d rather be accused of being obvious than allow people to get away with thinking all of my characters are white people. The truth is, when you walk into a room and you see a bunch of strangers, the first thing you notice is their appearance, their race and gender. When I first describe a character, I sometimes hang a lampshade on race. My narrator will immediately think: ‘She might be Latino, oh maybe not, she might be Indian.’ I render that mental process.

You’re not going to be perfect. In The Broken Kingdoms, my protagonist was a blind woman, and she had a superpower associated with her blindness. As I now know, disability as a superpower is a trope. I didn’t read enough literature featuring blind people to really understand it’s a thing that gets done over and over again. Ehiru, a character from The Killing Moon, is asexual, and I don’t think I explored that well. If I were writing it now, I would have made him more clearly ace. I figured this out by reading Tumblr. I am on Tumblr quietly — I have a pseudonym, and nobody knows who I am. Because lots of young people hang out there and talk about identity and the way our society works, it’s basically a media-criticism lab. It’s an interesting place to talk about identity, and I did not understand until I saw these conversations that asexuality was an identity. I thought about it as a broken sexuality. My story reflected my lack of understanding of how that worked.

(6) NEUKOM SEEKS SFF AWARD ENTRIES. The Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth College is now “Accepting Submissions for 2020 Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards”.

The Neukom Awards, now in its third year, offers prizes in three categories of speculative fiction. Each category will receive an honorarium of $5,000 at a Dartmouth-sponsored event related to speculative fiction.

The speculative fiction awards are offered for playwriting, established author and first-time author.

The deadline for all submissions is December 31, 2019. The awards will be announced in the spring of 2020.

(7) TOP DOLLAR. “Joker: How it became the most profitable comic book film ever” – let BBC tell you.

Joker has become the most profitable comic book movie of all time, having made more than $950 million (£738m) at the worldwide box office.

It tells the story of how Arthur Fleck (played by Joaquin Phoenix) becomes the Joker, Batman’s nemesis and one of the most infamous comic book villains ever.

Joker has now made more than 15 times what it cost to make, reports Forbes.

Director Todd Phillips made the movie on a budget of $62.5m (£49m), a fraction of the budget of many comic book adaptations.

Avengers: Endgame, the highest grossing movie of all time, has earned close to $2.8 billion (£2.2bn) but had a budget of $356 million (£276m).

Endgame has made more at the box office overall, but Joker has made more in relation to what was spent to make it.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 11, 1951 Flight to Mars premiered. It was produced by Walter Mirisch for Monogram Pictures, and directed by Lesley Selander. It starred Marguerite Chapman, Cameron Mitchell and Arthur Franz. Most of the interiors are from the Rocketship X-M shooting. It currently has a 21% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 11, 1917 Mack Reynolds. He’d make Birthday Honors just for his first novel, The Case of the Little Green Men, published in 1951, which as you likely know is a murder mystery set at a Con.  He gets Serious Geek Credits for writing the first original authorized classic Trek novel Mission to Horatius.  And I’ve seriously enjoyed his short fiction. Wildside Press has seriously big volumes of his fiction up at Apple Books and Kindle for very cheap prices. (Died 1983.)
  • Born November 11, 1922 Kurt Vonnegut Jr. The Sirens of Titan was his first SF novel followed by Cat’s Cradle which after turning down his original thesis in 1947, the University of Chicago awarded him his master’s degree in anthropology in 1971 for this novel. Next was Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death which is one weird book and an even stranger film. It was nominated for best novel Nebula and Hugo Awards but lost both to Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness. I’m fairly sure Breakfast of Champions, or Goodbye Blue Monday is his last genre novel there’s a lot of short fiction where something of a genre nature might have occurred. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 11, 1925 ?Jonathan Winters. He’s in a number of genre series and films including Twilight Zone, Wild Wild West, Mork & Mindy where he was Mearth, the animated Smurfs series and The Animaniacs.  And that’s a very selective list. (Died 2013.)
  • Born November 11, 1926 Donald Franson. Longtime fan who lived most of his life in LA. Was active in the N3F and LASFS including serving as the secretary for years and was a member of Neffer Amateur Press Alliance.  Author of A Key to the Terminology of Science-Fiction Fandom. Also wrote A History of the Hugo, Nebula, and International Fantasy Awards, Listing Nominees & Winners, 1951-1970 and An Author Index to Astounding/Analog: Part II—Vol. 36, #1, September, 1945 to Vol. 73 #3, May, 1964, the first with Howard DeVore. (Died 2003.)
  • Born November 11, 1960 Stanley Tucci, 59. He was Puck in that film version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. However, his first role was asDr. John Wiseman in Monkey Shines. (Shudder.) he shows as in forgettable The Core, and was amazing as Stanley Kubrick in The Life and Death of Peter Seller. And I’m fond of his voicing Boldo in The Tale of Despereaux.
  • Born November 11, 1962 Demi Moore, 57. Ghost, of course, getting her Birthday Honors. And yes, I did see it. Sniff. But she got her genre creds with her second film Parasite which is good as she didn’t do much after that of a genre nature.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Grimmy shows why it can be disillusioning – but funny – to meet your heroes.
  • Bizarro fractures a fairy tale.

(11) DISNEY DROPS SONG FROM REMAKE. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “The Controversial Scene That’s Not In The Live-Action of The Lady and the Tramp says that in The Lady and the Tramp remake, streaming on Disney+ on November 12, Disney decided to keep the scene where the Lady and the Tramp bond over a plate of spaghetti but decided to cut “The Siamese Cat Song” because it reflects a  “50s-era Orientalism” considered out of place today.

Interestingly, Disney+ subscribers will have the chance to watch both the the 2019 version of Lady and the Tramp and the 1955 version on the studio’s new streaming service, allowing families to compare and contrast the two films, and discuss moments like “The Siamese Cat Song.”

(12) YOUNG PEOPLE WEIGH IN. James Davis Nicoll connects the Young People Read Old SFF panel with Judith Merril’s “Wish Upon A Star”.

Judith Merril was a founding member of the Futurians, an editor, founder of what is now the Merril library and of course a science fiction writer. 

“Wish Upon a Star” is a generation ship story. By their nature, the need for a stable society able to keep a small community functioning for decades in total isolation, generation ships are forced to make some striking adaptations. In most cases, those adaptations included mutiny, cultural amnesia, barbarism and eventual extinction. 

Merril’s characters made very different choices. Let’s see what the Young People made of them.

(13) AN EARLIER STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND. Jeff Kingston’s “Exhuming Lafcadio Hearn” at the LA Review of Books surveys the Japanese Tales of Lafcadio Hearn, edited by Andrei Codrescu, the author’s Japanese Ghost Stories, and Monique Truong’s “mesmerizing” novel The Sweetest Fruits.

In 1890, Hearn moved to Japan, where he was to spend the last 14 years of his life, initially teaching English in remote Matsue, in Shimane Prefecture, and subsequently at Waseda University and the University of Tokyo. He also had stints in journalism and became an influential and popular interpreter for a Western audience of what was regarded at the time as an inscrutable culture and society. He is now best remembered for his traditional Japanese stories about supernatural monsters, spirits, and demons. Hearn died from heart failure at age 54, yet he was a prolific writer, despite poor health in his final years. His insights into turn-of-the-century Japan attest to his powers of observation and interpretation. Glimpses of an Unfamiliar Japan (1894) is a classic, conveying his rapturous appreciation for all things Japanese, especially traditions, customs, and ways of living unsullied by foreign accretions.

(14) ONE TRUE WAY. The Cut discovered this is a controversial question: “What Is the Correct Way to Eat a Cinnamon Roll?” What do you say?

Madeleine Aggeler, writer: No, you unroll and tear it apart with your fingers.

Izzy Grinspan, deputy style editor: There’s no wrong way to eat a cinnamon roll.

Rachel: Incorrect, Mrs. Switzerland, only one can survive.

(15) PRESS THE BUTTON, MAX. “The switch that saved a Moon mission from disaster”.

Just a few months after the triumph of Apollo 11, Nasa sent another mission to the lunar surface. But it came chillingly close to disaster.

In November 1969, just four months after men first set foot on the Moon, Nasa was ready to do it again. Basking in the success of Apollo 11, the agency decided that Apollo 12’s mission to the Ocean of Storms would be even more ambitious.

Unlike Neil Armstrong, who had been forced to overshoot his planned landing site because it was strewn with boulders, Apollo 12 Commander Pete Conrad was aiming for a precision touchdown, within moonwalking distance of an unmanned Surveyor probe. Conrad and landing module pilot, Al Bean, would then spend longer on the surface – with two excursions planned – while beaming back the first colour television from the Moon.

On 14 November, Conrad, Bean and Command Module Pilot Dick Gordon settled into their couches at the top of the 111-metre-high Saturn 5 rocket at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Meanwhile, in mission control Houston, flight director Gerry Griffin took his seat behind his console – his first time leading a mission.

At the launchpad, the ground was wet from storms that recently passed through the area and the sky is overcast. But with the rocket and crew ready to go, and US President Richard Nixon watching (for the first time) from the VIP stands, all systems were green for launch.

At 11.22, the giant white rocket slowly lifted off the pad and accelerated into the clouds.

“This baby’s really going,” shouts Conrad to his crewmates as the launcher cleared the tower and Houston takes over control. “It’s a lovely lift-off.”

Then, 36 seconds into the flight, Conrad sees a flash. All the fuel cells supplying power to the capsule fell offline and the entire alarm panel lit up….

(16) RAISING THE SUB STANDARD. The Brooklyn Paper tells how it happened: “A rough knight: Medieval fighter slashed in subway”.

Some wacko slashed a modern-day knight in the face aboard an L train in Williamsburg on Nov. 8, after the chivalrous straphanger prevented him from assaulting another man.

The victim — who dons plate armor to engage in armed duals as part of the Society for Creative Anachronisms and New York City Armored Combat League — sustained a seven-inch gash amid the attack, and said Medieval warfare has nothing on the city’s transit system. 

“My sport involves swords and axes, but the only thing I’ve gotten from that is a torn ACL and a couple broken bones, and here I finally get a scar,” said Zorikh Lequidre…. 

(17) BACK OFF. “Bird of the Year: Rare anti-social penguin wins New Zealand poll” – BBC has the story.

An endangered yellow-eyed penguin has won New Zealand’s coveted Bird of the Year competition after two weeks of intense campaigning.

The hoiho saw off more than five rivals to become the first penguin to win the annual honour in its 14-year history.

(18) RUH ROH! SCOOB! is a Scooby-Doo remake which Warner Bros. will release in the summer of 2020.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/8/19 I Tell You My Friend, You Got Tribbles — Right Here In River City

(1) STAR WARS FAN. Craig Miller’s book, Star Wars Memories is now available in paperback and as an eBook on Amazon.

Craig Miller was the original Director of Fan Relations at Lucasfilm, working on “Star Wars” and “The Empire Strikes Back”. As part of that, he was a publicist, a writer, an editor, and a producer. He wrote press material and articles, created and ran the Official Star Wars Fan Club, oversaw a staff who opened and responded to the seeming tons of fan mail the films received, worked with licensees, created a telephone publicity stunt that accidentally shut down the state of Illinois’ phone system, was the producer on projects ranging from episodes of “Sesame Street” to commercials for Underoos (“underwear that’s fun to wear”), operated R2-D2, and spent weeks hanging out on the set of “The Empire Strikes Back”. “…It’s a book of stories you haven’t heard before; an insider’s look from someone who, himself, is a fan and found the whole experience joyful and exciting. These stories are told in a way that brings you in and makes you feel like you were there.”

(2) HOWLING AGAIN. Jim Freud’s long-running sff-themed radio show “Hour of the Wolf” on New York station WBAI was one of the casualties when Pacifica closed the station down, claiming the non-for-profit could no longer support WBAI and its multimillion-dollar debt. But a state court ruling has restored power to the people, so to speak: “‘A victory for free speech’: WBAI is back on air” – the Brooklyn Daily Eagle has the story.

… Until Nov. 6, Pacifica had only complied with half of the ruling, keeping WBAI staffers on payroll. But after New York State Supreme Court Judge Melissa Crane ruled in favor of WBAI Wednesday, the Brooklyn-based station finally regained control of its own programming….

One of the first programs back on air, White said, was the station’s science fiction talk show, “Hour of the Wolf.” Shortly after the shutdown, the show’s host Jim Freund vowed in an interview with the Eagle that he would dedicate his first show back to fielding questions from listeners about the shutdown.

And that’s exactly what he did, White said. “We have a lot of work to do in dispelling some of the misinformation that’s out there,” he said.

(3) MORE CHIZINE INFORMATION. Some deeper dives into ChiZine’s finances amplify things learned from the last two days’ revelations.

For those unfamiliar with the Canadian publishing industry, many publishers benefit from subsidies and grant money. For example, according to a 2013 article in the National Post between 50% and 60% of ChiZine’s operating budget comes from grants. And in 2016, the Ontario Arts Council gave a $20,262 block grant to ChiZine

ChiZine has also received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, such as a “Supporting Artistic Practice” grant for $42,000 for 2017-18 and the same amount for 2018-19 (note: link is a spreadsheet download from Canada Council for the Arts; all amounts are in Canadian dollars).

… A publisher does not get every amount of grant money they vie for. BUT, in a year where you get OAC and Canada Council for the Arts block operating grants you can pull in something close to $60,000. CZP also vied for the OMDC Book Fund, though as far as I know was not successful in that aim – you know, that fund they kept promising I could get paid out of if they acquired it. They later sought additional aid from the OMDC (unsuccessfully as I recall, though others can speak to what happened after I left in 2015). I don’t know that CZP ever got Toronto Arts Council block operating grants. Though I know they were looking to apply at various points. But your revenue has to be up over $100,000/year as a threshold. I don’t know that CZP ever hit that.

I recall a lot of the numbers because, along with others, wrote a lot of those arts council grant and other granting body applications. It was shared work. And multiple grant applications were successful.

CZP also applied for, and on different fronts and in different years received, project-based operating grants for both the Chiaroscuro Reading Series, and the annual SpecFic Colloquium conference. And sought funds over the years for the CZP/Rannu Fund fiction contest (though I could not tell you without more digging into my emails whether that ever got grants).

All of these grants, block operating and project-specific, require as part of ther fulfillment that publishers publicly disclose and acknowledge receipt of funds or face violation of terms, and the CCA, OAC, and TAC may request return of dispersed funds. That’s easy to do with books – you put the acknowledgement on the colophon page, which CZP did. But CZP wasn’t always so great with doing that around the other projects..

  • Silvia Moreno-Garcia has written about the CZP news from the viewpoint of operating her own small press. She also touches on one of the less obvious motives for CZP writers to stay silent. Thread starts here.
  • Bracken MacLeod makes the case in a Facebook post that an ethical publisher should allocate sales and place the portion representing author royalties into a separate escrow account that cannot be reached for the operating expenses of their press. He models this on how attorneys are required to handle client funds (by their professional ethical code, and in some jurisdictions, by law).
  • Lucy A. Snyder is another writer who has pulled a story from a ChiZine project:

(4) DOCTOR SLEEP REVIEW. NPR’s Scott Tobias finds that “‘Doctor Sleep’ Is Haunted By The Ghost Of Stanley Kubrick”.

The screen history of Stephen King adaptations has for decades couched a peculiar irony: Namely, that of the dozens and dozens of films that have been produced from his work — many of them not-so-great — the author famously detested the most revered, Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 version of The Shining.

…Over time, images from Kubrick’s The Shining have so dominated the culture that King’s efforts to redirect the public to the source, including the sequel novel Doctor Sleep, have fallen under its shadow. Director Mike Flanagan’s new adaptation represents near-total capitulation, lifting many of Kubrick’s familiar visual and aural cues to continue the story of Danny Torrance, the child whose psychic sensitivities are referred to as “the shining.”

Flanagan proved a gifted steward of King’s Gerald’s Game, a seemingly unadaptable book he pulled off for Netflix, and he has borrowed from Kubrick’s film with the author’s blessing. By King’s apparent calculation, it’s the finer points that count.

To that end, King and Flanagan have restored the legacy of alcoholism in the Torrance family, which ignited Jack’s madness like gasoline to flame, and has been passed along to a now-middle-aged Dan. In Dan’s case, however, alcohol muffles the traumas of the past and the voices that still echo in his head through his extrasensory perception.

Played by a sad-eyed Ewan McGregor, Dan is a loner who has bused his way to small-town New Hampshire on the modest hope of a steady job, a small apartment and a path to recovery. And he finds it, too, going a full eight years as a sober contributor to society. He even discovers the perfect application of his unique talent, sitting bedside at a hospice center and gently guiding patients into the hereafter.

But from there, Doctor Sleep gets complicated. Around the time the Torrances were battling ghosts in the Overlook Hotel, a hippieish death cult called the True Knot, led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), were traveling across the country, recruiting new members and feasting on the psychic energy (called “the steam”) of people like Danny. “The steam,” passed around and inhaled like pot smoke, gives Rose and company immense power and eternal life, and those with the shining radiate to them like a beacon of light. It’s only a matter of time before they catch up with Dan, but he finds an ally in Abra (Kyliegh Curran), a teenager who shines just as brightly.

(5) CAN’T WAIT TO SEE IT — ER. Universal Pictures has dropped a trailer for The Invisible Man, in theaters February 28.

What you can’t see can hurt you. Emmy winner Elisabeth Moss (Us, Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale) stars in a terrifying modern tale of obsession inspired by Universal’s classic monster character. Trapped in a violent, controlling relationship with a wealthy and brilliant scientist, Cecilia Kass (Moss) escapes in the dead of night and disappears into hiding, aided by her sister (Harriet Dyer, NBC’s The InBetween), their childhood friend (Aldis Hodge, Straight Outta Compton) and his teenage daughter (Storm Reid, HBO’s Euphoria). But when Cecilia’s abusive ex (Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Netflix’s The Haunting of Hill House) commits suicide and leaves her a generous portion of his vast fortune, Cecilia suspects his death was a hoax. As a series of eerie coincidences turns lethal, threatening the lives of those she loves, Cecilia’s sanity begins to unravel as she desperately tries to prove that she is being hunted by someone nobody can see.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 8, 1847 Abraham “Bram” Stoker. You know that he’s author of Dracula but did you wrote that he other fiction such as The Lady of the Shroud and The Lair of the White Worm? Of course you do, being you. The short story collection Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories was published in 1914 by Stoker’s widow, Florence Stoker. (Died 1912.)
  • Born November 8, 1898 Katharine Mary Briggs. British folklorist and author who wrote A Dictionary of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures , and the four-volume Dictionary of British Folk-Tales in the English Language, and the Kate Crackernuts novel. Her The Anatomy of Puck: An Examination of Fairy Beliefs among Shakespeare’s Contemporaries and Successors is fascinating read. (Died 1980.)
  • Born November 8, 1914 Norman Lloyd, 105. His longest genre role was as Dr. Isaac Mentnor on the Seven Days series. He’s been on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Get Smart! in the form of the Nude Bomb filmand The Twilight Zone, and in a fair of horror films from The Dark Secret of Harvest Home to The Scarecrow
  • Born November 8, 1932 Ben Bova, 87. His more than one hundred and twenty books have won six Hugo Awards. He’s a former editor of Analog, along with once being editorial director at Omni. Hell, he even had the thankless job of SFWA President. (Just kidding. I think.) I couldn’t hope to summarize his literary history so I’ll single out his Grand Tour series that though uneven is overall splendid hard sf as well as his Best of Bova short story collections put out recently in three volumes. What’s your favourite book by him? 
  • Born November 8, 1952 Alfre Woodard, 67. I remember her best from Star Trek: First Contact where she was Lily Sloane, Cochrane’s assistant. She was also Grace Cooley in Scrooged, and polishing her SJW creds, she once voiced Maisie the Cat in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to School. And yes, I know she’s portrayed a character in Marvel Universe. I just like the obscure roles. 
  • Born November 8, 1956 Richard Curtis, 63. One of Britain’s most successful comedy screenwriters, he’s making the Birthday List for writing “Vincent and the Doctor”, a most excellent Eleventh Doctor story. He was also the writer of Roald Dahl’s Esio Trot which isn’t really genre but it’s Roald Dahl. And he directed Blackadder.
  • Born November 8, 1968 Parker Posey, 51. Doctor Smith on the rebooted Lost in Space series. I’ve not seen it, so how is it?  She was in a film based on based on Dean Koontz’s version of Frankenstein. And she shows in Blade: Trinity as well.
  • Born November 8, 1972 Gretchen Mol, 47. Dr. Agatha Matheson in the Nightflyers series off Martin’s novel. Canceled after a single season. Annie Norris In Life on Mars which also made it but a single season. She’s also in The Thirteenth Floor, a genre crime thriller where she plays two roles, Natasha Molinaro and Jane Fuller. 

(7) KLINGON COVERS. This is timely, given the upcoming “Re-Frozen” movie: Klingon Pop Warrior – yIbuSQo’ (Let It Go) from Warrior Woman CD, “Pop songs translated into the Klingon language.”

(8) IT’S THE LAW. “The ‘law’ that explains why you can’t get anything done”.

A British historian famously wrote that work expands to fill available time – but what was he actually saying about inefficiency?

“It is a commonplace observation that work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.” British naval historian and author Cyril Northcote Parkinson wrote that opening line for an essay in The Economist in 1955, but the concept known as ‘Parkinson’s Law’ still lives on today.

…But what fewer people know is that Parkinson’s original intent was not to take aim at old lady letter-writers or journalists like me, but at a different kind of inefficiency – the bureaucratisation of the British Civil Service. In his original essay he pointed out that although the number of navy ships decreased by two thirds, and personnel by a third, between 1914 and 1928, the number of bureaucrats had still ballooned by almost 6% a year. There were fewer people and less work to manage – but management was still expanding, and Parkinson argued that this was due to factors that were independent of naval operational needs.

Get more subordinates, create more work

One scholar who has taken a serious look at Parkinson’s Law is Stefan Thurner, a professor in Science of Complex Systems at the Medical University of Vienna. Thurner says he became interested in the concept when the faculty of medicine at the University of Vienna split into its own independent university in 2004. Within a couple years, he says, the Medical University of Vienna went from being run by 15 people to 100, while the number of scientists stayed about the same. “I wanted to understand what was going on there, and why my bureaucratic burden did not diminish – on the contrary it increased,” he says.

He happened to read Parkinson’s book around the same time and was inspired to turn it into a mathematical model that could be manipulated and tested, along with co-authors Peter Klimek and Rudolf Hanel. “Parkinson argued that if you have 6% growth rate of any administrative body, then sooner or later any company will die. They will have all their workforce in bureaucracy and none in production.”

(9) NANO NANO. SYFY Wire admits “Nanomedicine looks like a Borg implant but can save lives in space”.

…Next for Grattoni’s team is something even more extraordinary and Borg-like; nano-telemedicine. An implant about the size of a grape (below), equipped with Bluetooth technology to consult doctors back on Earth, will rely on a remote control to tell it to store and release medication as needed. Remote doctor appointments will determine how an astronaut’s medicine is adjusted and enable the doctor to control the device by sending a command that makes it increase, decrease, or stop dosage. This unreal device will be tested on the ISS next year.

(10) TWO EYES GOOD, FOUR EYES BAD. BBC finds that “Japan ‘glasses ban’ for women at work sparks backlash”.

Wearing glasses at work has become an emotive topic in Japan following reports that some firms have told female employees to remove them.

Several local news outlets said some companies had “banned” eyewear for female employees for various reasons.

Among them, some retail chains reportedly said glasses-wearing shop assistants gave a “cold impression”.

That has sparked heated discussion on Japanese social media over dress practices and women in the workplace.

The Nippon TV network and Business Insider were among the outlets to report on the issue, which looked at how firms in different industries prohibit women from wearing glasses.

They included safety reasons for airline workers, or being unable to see make-up properly for women working in the beauty sector.

(11) FIRST, CATCH YOUR MAMMOTH. “Mexico mammoths: Human-built woolly mammoth traps found in Tultepec” — BBC’s article contains several photos (none taken at the time, naturally.)

At least 14 woolly mammoth skeletons have been uncovered in Mexico in traps built by humans about 15,000 years ago.

The two pits in Tultepec north of Mexico City are the first mammoth traps to be discovered, officials say.

Early hunters may have herded the elephant-sized mammals into the traps using torches and branches.

The recent discovery of more than 800 mammoth bones could change our understanding of how early humans hunted the enormous animals.

Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) says more traps could be uncovered in the area north of Mexico City.

Archaeologists thought early humans only killed mammoths if the animals were trapped or hurt.

However, INAH’s discovery of the human-built traps could mean such hunts were planned.

(12) A STORY THAT GROWS IN THE RETAILING. Just like every science fiction fan, I want to ask the author – “Where do you get your ideas?” Today it’s James Davis Nicoll I want to hear from – whatever made him think of “Adventures in Retail! SFF Stories Set in Department Stores” for Tor.com.

Savertown USA in Erica L. Satifka’s Stay Crazy doesn’t offer protagonist Em much in the way of pay or happiness, but it’s not as if Em has options. Clear Falls, Pennsylvania is in the heart of the rust belt and Em herself is still dealing with the paranoid schizophrenia that ended her college days; a job at a soulless big box store is the best offer available.

It’s just too bad that this particular Savertown USA was built over a dimensional rift. Thanks to her psychiatric history, Em isn’t inclined to take a voice in her head warning her about the fate of the world at face value. Nor would the people around Em place much faith in her claims if Em did reveal the dire warnings she is receiving. As is so often the case, it’s up to an expendable clerk and whatever allies she can scrounge to face down danger and save the world.

(13) I’LL BE BACK. “How airships could return to our crowded skies” – let BBC tell you.

Airships lost out to conventional aircraft after a series of disastrous crashes. But now safer technology could be the key to their return.

Zeppelins fill the skies of Philip Pullman’s epic trilogy of fantasy novels, His Dark Materials. The giant airships of his parallel universe carry the mail, transport soldiers into battle and explorers to the Arctic. What was once my local post office in Oxford is in Pullman’s fantasy – a zeppelin station where I could catch the evening airship to London.

When I put the books down the reality is rather disappointing. A handful of smaller airships can be found flying proudly across the United States on promotional tours for brands like Goodyear and Carnival Cruise Line. Last year, a blimp demeaned itself by setting two world records, including one for the fastest text on a touch screen mobile phone while water skiing behind a blimp. A few more are employed to fly well-heeled tourists on sight-seeing trips over the German countryside. Another can be found flying over the Amazon. And that’s about it.

The good news is that soon, the real world may finally drift closer to Pullman’s fantasy. In four to five years, all being well, one of the first production models of the enormous Airlander airship dubbed “the flying bum” will be the first airship to fly to the North Pole since 1928. The men and women on board the Airlander are tourists on an $80,000 (£62,165) luxury experience rather than explorers. Tickets are on sale today

The Airlander won’t be alone in the skies either. About the same time, a vast new airship the shape of a blue whale, at 150m the length of an A380 and as high as a 12-storey building should rise up above its assembly plant, out of the heat and humidity of Jingmen, China. Its job: heavy lifting in some of the toughest places on Earth. The manufacturers have some Boeing-sized ambitions for this new age of the airship. They expect there to be about 150 of these airships floating around the world within 10 years.

In the history books, the crash of the Hindenburg in 1937 marked the end of the brief, glorious era of the airship – except it didn’t. The US Navy continued to use blimps for anti-submarine warfare during World War Two. The American Blimp Corporation manufactured airships for advertising. New, bigger, hi-tech airships were built by Zeppelin in Germany. Engineers and pilots have spent whole careers in an industry that wasn’t supposed to exist anymore.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Life of Brian 1979 Debate–Complete” on YouTube is an episode of Friday Night…and Saturday Morning from 1979 in which John Cleese, Michael Palin, Malcolm Muggeridge, and Mervyn Stockwood, the Bishop of Southwark, discuss The Life of Brian, which had just been released.

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