Pixel Scroll 9/16/20 Let Us Pixelate It In Glorious Scrollovision

(1) THE EXPANSE REACHES ITS LIMIT. “Leviathan Falls Will Be The Final Installment of The Expanse” – Andrew Liptak has the story at Tor.com.

During a live stream today, Orbit Books officially announced the title and cover for the final installment of James S.A. Corey’s science fiction series, The ExpanseLeviathan Falls, which will hit stores sometime in 2021 .

…Orbit didn’t release any synopsis for the book, but Abraham and Franck did explain that the novel will provide a definitive ending for the series.

During the live stream, Abraham and Franck answered a handful of reader questions. In addition to Leviathan Falls, they plan to have another novella that’ll come out after that final book, which will provide a “nice grace note” to some hanging threads from the series. Abraham noted that he’s been waiting to write the story for “years.”

Franck explained that they don’t plan to write any novels in the world, but that Alcon could always put together another Expanse-related project for television.

(2) RSR UPDATE. Rocket Stack Rank’s Greg Hullender announced today in “Taking a Break” that he’ll be on hiatus as a short fiction reviewer —

After five years of writing reviews for Rocket Stack Rank, I’m going to take an indefinite break. This month marks five years since we started the site, and so it seemed like a good time to pause.

Eric Wong says he will continue to update RSR with monthly lists of stories that readers can flag and rate and find reviews for, as well as aggregate recommendations from various sources (currently 6 reviewers, 16 awards, 7 year’s best anthologies) for the Year-To-Date and Year’s Best lists. 

Hullender adds:

Five years ago, in September 2015, Eric and I started Rocket Stack Rank as a response to the Sad/Rabid Puppy episode that ruined the 2015 Hugo Awards. As we said at the time, we wanted “to create a website to encourage readers of science fiction and fantasy to read and nominate more short fiction.”

The response was very positive, and we’ve enjoyed steady support from readers. We quickly ramped up to a few thousand unique monthly users, with 20-30,000 monthly page views (we recently passed 1,000,000 total page views), and we’re currently the #1 Google result for “short science fiction story reviews.” Best of all, we were finalists for the Hugo Award for Best Fanzine three times (2017, 2018, 2019). Thank you for supporting us!

(3) ANOTHER VIEW OF ROWLING’S CONTROVERSIAL LATEST. Alison Flood, in “JK Rowling’s Troubled Blood: don’t judge a book by a single review” in The Guardian, says she’s read Rowling’s Troubled Blood and although there are parts she says are “tone-deaf” that she doesn’t consider the novel “transphobic” since the cross-dressing character is not the main villain and is not described as trans or even a transvestite.

…Perhaps some will still consider this depiction transphobic, given Rowling’s rightly widely criticised views on trans people. It is, at best, an utterly tone-deaf decision to include an evil man who cross-dresses after months of pain among trans people and their allies. But there is also reason to be wary of any moral outrage stoked by the Telegraph, a paper that generally doesn’t shy away from publishing jeering at the “woke crowd”, or claims that children are “put at risk by transgender books”, or attacks on “the trans lobby”. And we should also be wary of how one review has been reproduced without question by countless newspapers and websites, by journalists who have shown no indication of having read the book themselves.

(4) GREETINGS GATES. “‘Star Trek’ Alum Gates McFadden To Host Nacelle Company’s First Podcast” reports Yahoo! Entertainment. The title: Who Do You Think You Are?

…The McFadden-fronted podcast will be the first one from the Nacelle Company and serves as a stepping stone for its NacelleCast Studios, the company’s neighboring podcast studio in Burbank. The new podcast studio will serve as the main production space for all NacelleCast productions.

The Nacelle Company has created a number of pop history-focused titles including Netflix’s The Movies That Made UsThe Toys That Made Us and the CW’s Discontinued. Branching into the podcast space is a step in the company’s efforts to broaden its reach of pop history-focused content.

(5) STATUS QUO VADIS. Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron will probe “Is Science Fiction Really the Literature of Change?” in its September 19 program. Register at the link.

Anil Menon is joining Gadi as co-host for a one-hour discussion on science fiction and change, bringing along friends and colleagues Christopher Brown, Claude Lalumière, Geoff Ryman, Nisi Shawl, and Vandana Singh. This Saturday, 19 September.

Arguably, science fiction has had a focus on working out the consequences of a change (what-if scenarios) rather than how a certain change comes to be. This seems to be especially true in the case of social or political change. The distinguished panelists will discuss the possibilities and limitations of (science) fiction for representing a changing world.

(6) GENUINE PIXEL NEWS. Plans for a Japanese adaptation of The Door Into Summer were unveiled on Twitter. Thread starts here.

(7) UNDERTALE CONCERT. Beginning at the 45-minute mark in this YouTube video, you can listen to the full orchestral concert that was staged for the 5th anniversary of the video game Undertale.

Polygon’s Patricia Hernandez tells why “Undertale’s surprise concert got the internet in its feelings”

This is probably why many folks who watched the concert last night absolutely got in their feelings about the game. The top comment on the YouTube video says, “I cried like twice through the whole thing.” I saw the same sentiment unfold across my Twitter timeline, where folks reminisced on the game’s highlights and what it meant to them when they played it. It was a total mood shift from the general depressing and terrifying tenor of the year. Undertale is, at its heart, an optimistic game about friendship and love. 

(8) LOOKING FOR SIGNS. In a Washington Post opinion piece, “Venus may hold the answers about life we’ve been looking for”, Cornell University astronomer Jonathan Lunine says that the discovery of phosphine in the atmosphere of Venus might mean that Venus had, and possibly has, life.

…How would we know such organisms might exist? Many chemical compounds that simple microbes produce are also made by non-biological processes. But one, phosphine or PH3, is difficult to produce on Earth abiotically (without life) and, as argued by Seager and her colleagues in another paper, could be a good “biosignature” or sign of life on planets around other stars. This isn’t always the case: The compound is found in the dense hydrogen-rich atmospheres of Jupiter and Saturn, where it is understood to be an abiotic product of simple chemistry, and will likely be found on gas giants around other stars using the James Webb Space Telescope, planned for launch next year. But Venus — which has an atmosphere in which hydrogen is extremely scarce — is a place where phosphine is a plausible biosignature.

The detection of sufficient quantities of phosphine in Venus’s atmosphere would be an intriguing pointer to the possibility of life in the sulfuric-acid clouds of our sister planet, but many questions would remain. Is it possible that planetary chemists have overlooked ways to produce phosphine on Venus in the absence of life? And if phosphine is produced by biology, where did that life originate? It is one thing to imagine life adapting to and hanging out opportunistically in the clouds of Venus. It is quite another to imagine that life could have originated there, sandwiched between the hell of the surface and the frozen realms of the thin upper atmosphere….

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • September 1995 — Twenty five years ago this month at Intersection, Lois McMaster Bujold’s Mirror Dance won the Hugo for Best Novel. Other finalists were John Barnes’ Mother of Storms, Nancy Kress‘s Beggars and Choosers, Michael Bishop‘s Brittle Innings and James Morrow’s Towing Jehovah.  It would be the third Hugo winner of the Vorkosigan saga, and Bujold’s third Hugo award-winning novel in a row. It’s  the direct sequel to Brothers in Arms. The Vorkosigan saga would win the Best Series Hugo at Worldcon 75. (CE)

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 16, 1898 Hans Augusto Rey. German-born American illustrator and author best remembered for the beloved  Curious George children’s book series that he and his wife Margret Rey created from 1939 to 1966. (An Eighties series of five-minute short cartoons starring him was produced by Alan Shalleck, along with Rey. Ken Sobol, scriptwriter of Fantastic Voyage, was the scriptwriter here.) His interest in astronomy led to him drawing star maps which are still use in such publications as Donald H. Menzel’s A Field Guide to the Stars and Planets. A simpler version for children called Find the Constellations, is still in print as well. (Died 1977.) (CE) 
  • Born September 16, 1917 – Art Widner.  Pioneer in earliest days, he left for a few decades to teach school, beget children, other mundane matters, then returned, resuming his fanzine YHOS (“Your Humble Obedient Servant”, pronounced ee-hoss though I said it should rhyme with dose), the Eo-Neo.  See here.  Here is his cover for the Mar 40 Spaceways.  On his board game Interplanetary see here.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate.  Big Heart (our highest service award).  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  YHOS first took my note on The Glass Bead Game.  As of his passing he may have been Oldest of All; rooming with him at a few cons, I promised not to call him “Woody” (see Mary Sperling in Methuselah’s Children).  Our Gracious Host’s appreciation here.  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born September 16, 1916 Mary, Lady Stewart (born Mary Florence Elinor Rainbow, lovely name that). Yes, you know her better as just Mary Stewart. Genre wise, she’s probably best known for her Merlin series which walks along the boundary between the historical novel and fantasy. Explicitly fantasy is her children’s novel A Walk in Wolf Wood: A Tale of Fantasy and Magic. (Died 2014.) (CE)
  • Born September 16, 1930 — Anne Francis. You’ll remember her best as Altaira “Alta” Morbius on Forbidden Planet. She also appeared twice in The Twilight Zone (“The After Hours” and “Jess-Belle”). She also appeared in multiple episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. She’d even appear twice in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and played several roles on Fantasy Island as well. (Died 2011.) (CE)
  • Born September 16, 1932 Peter Falk. His best remembered role genre is in The Princess Bride as the Grandfather who narrates the Story. The person who replaced him in the full cast reading of The Princess Bride for the Wisconsin Democratic Party fundraiser, Director Rob Reiner, wasn’t nearly as good as he was in that role. He also plays Ramos Clemente in “The Mirror”,  an episode of The Twilight Zone. And he’s Reverend Theo Kerr in the 2001 version of The Lost World. (Died 2011.) (CE) 
  • Born September 16, 1932 – Karen Anderson.  Fan and pro herself, wife of another, mother of a third, mother-in-law of a fourth.  While still Karen Kruse she was WSFA (Washington, DC, SF Ass’n) secretary and joined SAPS (Spectator Amateur Press Society) and The Cult.  Marrying Poul Anderson she moved to the San Francisco Bay area, bore Astrid, and thus was mother by marriage to Greg Bear.  Stellar quality also in filk, costuming, and our neighbor the Society for Creative Anachronism.  At an SF con party a few decades ago I arrived in English Regency clothes having just taught Regency dancing; she sang “How much is that Dukie in the window?”  See here; appreciation by OGH here.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born September 16, 1938 – Owen Hannifen, 82.  How he found the LASFS (Los Angeles Science Fantasy Soc.; “LASFS” pronounced as if rhyming with a Spanish-English hybrid “mas fuss”, unless you were Len Moffatt, who rhymed it with “sass mass” and had earned the right to do it his way) minutes, then and now known as The Menace of the LASFS, I’ve never learned; with a good Secretary – Jack Harness, Mike Glyer, John DeChancie – they’ve been swell; anyway they lured OH to L.A. (from Vermont?), where he roomed with Harness and others in a series of apartments, the Labyrinth, Labyrinth 3, Labyrinth of Valeron, Labyrinth DuQuesne (see here).  He was in N’APAOMPA, SAPS, and The Cult.  Dungeons & Dragons was fire-new then; he and his wife Hilda (also “Eclaré”) did that.  They moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, Sampo Productions (named for the magic sampo in “Why the Sea Is Salt”), and incidentally the SCA.  [JH]
  • Born September 16, 1948 – Julia Donaldson, C.B.E., 72.  Author, playwright, performer; almost two hundred books.  Famous for The Gruffalo.  Half a dozen stories of Princess Mirror-Belle.  Busked in America, England, France, Italy.  Bristol Street Theatre, British Broadcasting Corp., Edinburgh Book Festival.  Honorary doctorates from Univ. Bristol, Univ. Glasgow.  Children’s Laureate of the United Kingdom 2011-2013.  Commander of the Order of the British Empire.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born September 16, 1952 Lisa Tuttle, 68. Tuttle won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, received a Nebula Award for Best Short Story for “The Bone Flute”, which she refused, and a BSFA Award for Short Fiction for “In Translation”. My favorite works by her include CatwitchThe Silver Bough and her Ghosts and Other Lovers collection. Her latest novel is The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross. (CE) 
  • Born September 16, 1960 – Kurt Busiek, 60. Writer for Dark Horse, DC, Dynamite, Eclipse, Harris, Image, Marvel, Topps.  Known particularly for Astro City, Marvels, the Thunderbolts.  Nine Eisners, six Harveys; two Comics Buyer’s Guide Awards for Favorite Writer.  Here he’s interviewed about Conan.  Alex Ross put KB and wife Ann into Marvels 3 reacting to the arrival of the Silver Surfer and Galactus.  I’ll leave out Page 33.  What jewels these Filers be.  [JH]
  • Born September 16, 1960 Mike Mignola, 60. The Hellboy stories, of course, are definitely worth reading, particularly the early ones. His Batman: Gotham by Gaslight is an amazing What-If story which isn’t at all the same as the animated film of that name which is superb on its own footing, and the B.P.R.D. stories  are quite excellent too.  I’m very fond of the first Hellboy film, not so much of the second, though the animated films are excellent. (CE) 
  • Born September 6, 1982 – María Zaragoza, 38.  Three short stories for us; novels, poetry, film scripts, graphic novels.  Post-human, anthology of Spanish SF authors.  Atheneum of Valladolid Award, Young Atheneum of Seville Novel Prize.  Part of Fernando Marías Amando’s storytelling collective “Children of Mary Shelley”; of “The Cabin” collective of mutant artists (painters, poets, writers, sculptors, photographers), Ciudad Real.  [JH]

(10b) BELATED BIRTHDAY. Worldcon 76 chair Kevin Roche turned 60 on September 15 — we wish him a cake-full of candles for the occasion!

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Thatababy calls it a “new Mary Worth” storyline. Daniel Dern says, “I had to convince myself I hadn’t dreamed it.”
  • Lio discovers what happens when horror movies take over your yard. 
  • Argyle Sweater carves a Pinocchio joke.

(12) CLAREMONT ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL. Marvel Comics will honor the extraordinary career of writer Chris Claremont in December with the Chris Claremont Anniversary Special.

For the past 50 years, Claremont has graced the Marvel Universe with his brilliant storytelling—creating and defining some of its most iconic heroes and building the framework for one of its most treasured franchises.

In the Chris Claremont Anniversary Special, the acclaimed writer returns to the world of the X-Men with a brand-new story. Dani Moonstar is drafted for a mission across time and space for an incredible psychic showdown against the Shadow King—joining forces with other characters created and defined by the pen of Chris Claremont! In this extra-sized milestone issue, Claremont will team up with a host of iconic artists including Brett Booth and reunite with his classic New Mutants collaborator, Bill Sienkiewicz.

…Chris Claremont’s influential run on X-Men changed the comic book landscape forever. As the architect behind the epic tapestry that makes up the world of mutants, Claremont’s contributions went far beyond the creation of characters but to the very themes, concepts, and allegories that are ingrained in the X-Men today. Claremont’s work catapulted the X-Men into unprecedented success with now classic stories such as Dark Phoenix Saga and Days of Future Past as well as series like New Mutants and Wolverine’s first solo series. In addition to his groundbreaking work on X-Men titles, Claremont also had memorable runs on books such as Ms. Marvel and Fantastic Four.

(13) SFF IN TIMES TO COME. In “Noah Hawley on ‘Fargo’ Season 4, His ‘Star Trek’ Film and ‘Lucy in the Sky’” at Variety, Hawley says that his Star Trek film would be a new cast, and “we’re not doing Kirk and we’re not doing Picard” but there would be some sort of connection to the original Star Trek series.  He also says that Lucy In The Sky was his “magical-realist astronaut movie.”

Just before “Fargo” returned to production in August, Noah Hawley — the writer who somehow adapted an eccentric and beloved Coen brothers film into one of the most decorated television series of the past decade — sent a letter to the show’s cast and crew. He wrote about the importance of safety. He wrote about mutual responsibility. He wrote about Tom Cruise.

“Someday in the not too distant future Tom Cruise will go to space,” the message began. “He will bring a film crew with him. He will bring a director and actors. They will shoot a film. Now space, as we know, is an airless vacuum where nothing can live. A hostile void where a suit breach or airlock malfunction can kill, where even the simplest tasks must be done methodically, deliberately. Astronauts train for years to prepare. They drill protocols and procedures into their heads. They know that surviving in space will require their full concentration. Now imagine doing all that AND making a movie.”

The “Fargo” crew is rather more earthbound, but Hawley likened its experience to that of Cruise, who is indeed planning a trip to the International Space Station to shoot an action movie. (It was reported in May that he will do this with the help, of course, of Elon Musk.) But before Tom Cruise ascends into space, the cast and crew of “Fargo” are gathering in Chicago to film the final two episodes of the show’s fourth season in a 13-day stretch — five months after being forced to break camp by the coronavirus pandemic.

(14) FIRE BELLS. LAist points out a local science landmark in jeopardy: “What We’ll Lose If The Mt. Wilson Observatory Burns”.

You may not have realized it, but sitting atop one of the highest points in the San Gabriel mountains, looming 5,700 feet over L.A., is arguably one of the world’s most important spots for scientific discovery: the Mount Wilson Observatory.

The 114-year-old site is covered in equipment that not only helped mankind discover the universe and cement Southern California as an astronomy hub, but still connects normal people to wonders beyond our own world.

Worryingly, the Bobcat Fire is charging right for it. Only 500 feet away as of Tuesday afternoon.

(15) GREAT PUMPKINS. Los Angeles County’s Descanso Gardens plans a “Pumpkin-Filled Halloween Event”We Like LA has the story.

Descanso Gardens has announced a month-long fall exhibit for those of you who get really into decorative gourd season. “Halloween at Descanso” is a socially distant, “pumpkin-filled extravaganza” that takes place October 1-31. 

The exhibit is suitable for all ages, so don’t worry about this Halloween event being too scary. Instead, expect a winding hay maze, a house built entirely out of pumpkins, a pumpkin arch that leads to a forest filled with pumpkin-headed scarecrows, and colorful pumpkin mandalas. The pathways that lead to the Hilltop Gardens, the Japanese Garden, and the main promenade will feature hand-carved jack-o-lantern boxes. 

(16) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter says tonight’s Jeopardy! contestants struck out on this one.

Category: Summarizing the novel.

Answer: Utopia (not); I ain’t goin’ nowhere; the butler did it (in 1872).

No one got: What is Erewhon.

(17) PRESAGED BY ASIMOV. In the Washington Post article “School, but an ‘undead version’: Students, parents and teachers in Northern Virginia adjust to online learning”, Hannah Natanson interviewed middle school math teacher Jay Bradley, who thinks virtual teaching reminds him of the Asimov story “The Fun They Had.”

Margie went into the schoolroom…and the mechanical teacher was on and waiting for her,’ the passage (from Asimov) read,  ‘The screen was lit up, and it said, ‘Today’s arithmetic lesson is on the addition of proper fractions.  Please insert yesterday’s homework in the proper slot.’  Margie did so with a sigh.”

These days, Bradley–who teaches middle school in Fairfax County Public Schools–feels a lot like the ‘mechanical teacher.’  He spends ever morning huddled ina spare room in his Northern Virginia home staring at his computer screen. The monitor is filled with small rectangles:  Each one depicts an anonymous, identical silhouette.

(19) BORDER, BREED, NOR BIRTH. “Star children: can humans be fruitful and multiply off-planet?”The Space Review weeks the answer.

From his home in Cape Canaveral, Air Force pilot Alex Layendecker explained how he had been drawn to the study of sex and reproduction in space. “I had been immersed in the space environment in the Air Force, assigned to launch duty, and was simultaneously pursuing an M.A. in public health, and then at the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, and I was looking for a dissertation topic,” he recalled. “I decided that sex and reproduction in space had not received the attention they deserved—if we’re serious about discussions of colonization, having babies in microgravity—on Mars or other outposts of the Earth, then more needs to be learned.” His general recommendation was that because of the squeamishness of NASA to study sex in space, a private nonprofit organization, or Astrosexological Research Institute, should be founded for this research critical to human settlement of outer space.

What were the prospects for space-based sex lives? Layendecker’s study of the literature yielded both good and bad news. Sex should be possible, even lively, but reproduction, critical for space colonization, could entail severe health consequences… 

(20) BE SEATED. In Two Chairs Talking Episode 36 – “Marrying the genre next door” — Perry Middlemiss and David Grigg talk about novels which blur the boundaries between genres: literary novels with strong elements of fantasy or science fiction. Call them “genre adjacent” fiction. And David interviews Matthew Hughes, author of the historical fiction novel “What the Wind Brings.”

(21) SHARP, POINTY. The final trailer for Guillermo del Toro’s Antlers has dropped.

A small-town Oregon teacher and her brother, the local sheriff, become entwined with a young student harboring a dangerous secret with frightening consequences.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/14/20 Istanscroll Not Constantipixel

(1) MIYAZAKI EXHIBIT WILL KEYNOTE ACADEMY MUSEUM OPENING. The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles announced the work of Hayao Miyazaki will feature in its inaugural temporary exhibition when the museum opens to the public on April 30, 2021. It will be the first North American museum retrospective dedicated to the acclaimed artist and his work.

With more than 300 objects, the exhibition will explore each of Miyazaki’s animated feature films, including My Neighbor Totoro (1988) and the Academy Award®-winning Spirited Away (2001). Visitors will travel through the filmmaker’s six-decade career through a dynamic presentation of original imageboards, character designs, storyboards, layouts, backgrounds, posters, and cels, including pieces on public view outside of Japan for the first time, as well as large-scale projections of film clips and immersive environments.

From there, visitors move into the Creating Worlds gallery, a space that evokes Miyazaki’s fantastical worlds. The gallery will capture the contrast between beautiful, natural, and peaceful environments and the industrial settings dominated by labor and technology that are also often featured in Miyazaki’s movies. Visitors can view concept sketches and backgrounds that offer insight into Miyazaki’s imagination, including an original imageboard from his first Ghibli film Castle in the Sky (1986) and artworks from subsequent Ghibli features. Other areas explore Miyazaki’s fascination with complex vertical structures, such as the famous bathhouse in Spirited Away, and the underwater world of Ponyo (2008), as well as Miyazaki’s interest in flying, as seen in Porco Rosso (1992) and The Wind Rises (2013). As a highlight of the exhibition, visitors can enjoy a moment of quiet contemplation in the Sky View installation, addressing another frequent motif in Miyazaki’s films: the desire to slow down, reflect, and dream.

Next, the Transformations gallery affords visitors the opportunity to explore the astonishing metamorphoses often experienced by both characters and settings in Miyazaki’s films. In Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), for example, the protagonists go through physical transformations that reflect their emotional states, while in other films, such as Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, Miyazaki creates mysterious and imaginative ways to visualize the changes that humans impose on the natural world.

Visitors then enter the exhibition’s final gallery Magical Forest through its Mother Tree installation. Standing at the threshold between dream and reality, colossal, mystical trees in many of Miyazaki’s films represent a connection or gateway to another world. After passing through the installation, visitors encounter the spirits of the forest, such as the playful Kodama from Princess Mononoke, through an array of storyboards and mixed media. Visitors exit through another transitional corridor, which guides them from the imaginative worlds of Hayao Miyazaki back into the museum.

(2) ATTEND A VIRTUAL ANNOUNCEMENT ABOUT THE EXPANSE. Register here for the opportunity to hear news about the ninth and final book in the Expanse series on Wednesday at 11 AM PDT/2 PM EDT. Authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck will be answering questions following the announcement.

(3) NEW HONOR FOR ATWOOD. Margaret Atwood has won the Dayton literary peace prize reports The Guardian.

Margaret Atwood, whose sweeping body of work includes The Handmaid’s Tale, a depiction of a nightmarish totalitarian future for the US, has won a lifetime achievement award that celebrates literature’s power to foster peace, social justice and global understanding.

The Canadian writer will receive the Richard C Holbrooke distinguished achievement award, officials of the Dayton literary peace prize officials announced on Monday. The award is named for the late American diplomat who brokered the 1995 Bosnian peace accords reached in the Ohio city.

Atwood, a prolific writer of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, essays and comic books , has in recent years drawn a new round of acclaim for her bestselling 1985 novel of a dystopian future in which women are subjugated after a theocratic group overthrow the US government. The television adaptation, starring Elisabeth Moss, saw the book return to bestseller lists around the world, while some readers saw similarities to the leadership of authoritarian Gilead in the rise of US president Donald Trump…

(4) SLF STILL TAKING GULLIVER GRANT APPLICATIONS. The Speculative Literature Foundation is taking submissions for the Gulliver Travel Research Grant until September 30. Full guidelines on the website.

The SLF Gulliver Travel grants are awarded annually, since 2004, to assist writers of speculative literature (in fiction, poetry, drama, or creative nonfiction) in their research. They are not currently available for academic research, though we hope to offer such funds in the future. We are currently offering one $1000 travel grant annually, to be used to cover airfare, lodging, and/or other travel expenses.

(5) HOME (DELIVERED) COOKING. “Why did it take so long?” you’ll ask. Scott Edelman invites listeners to down dumplings with the legendary Irene Vartanoff in Episode 127 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Irene Vartanoff

This episode, I was able to totally fulfill the mandate of this podcast, and lose myself in a meal as I sat across a table face to face with a creator. That’s because I’ve known this guest for 46 years plus a few months — and have been in constant conversation with her for almost all of that time. She’s been a part of comics and science fiction fandom several years longer than I have, and worked in comics longer than I did, too. When I started at Marvel Comics on June 24, 1974, she’d ready been there for a couple of months. She has many fascinating things to say about her time in comics — and her decades working in the romance field as well.

I’m of course talking about my wife — Irene Vartanoff — or as she was dubbed by Stan Lee — “Impish” Irene Vartanoff. Her novel Hollywood Superheroine — the final book in her comics-inspired Temporary Superheroine trilogy — was recently published, so this is the perfect time to have a chat about it all.

We discussed how she’d never have gotten into comics if not for her father’s cigar habit, what made a comic book reader become a comic book fan become a comic book professional, the “heartbreaking” advice given to her by Julie Schwartz during her teen visit to DC Comics, why her reputation as a famed letterhack meant she didn’t face the same sexism as other women in comics, what it was like working for Roy Thomas at Marvel and Paul Levitz at DC (and why she respected them both), how critiquing romance manuscripts for 25 years was like being at Marvel all over again, the secret origins of her Temporary Superheroine character, how politics changed Hollywood Superheroine, the final novel in her trilogy, why pantsing works better for her than plotting, the reason she decided to go the indie publishing route, and much more.

(6) LE GUIN DISCOVERY. Sean Joyce-Farley finds worlds of meaning in Ursula LeGuin’s revision to a passage The Left Hand of Darkness, as explained in a post for Library of America, “Are You There Ursula? It’s Me, Sean”.

Knight Library lies tucked into the west side of the University of Oregon campus, just by the cemetery: a dark four-story brick building. Inside, sunlight falls into the Paulson Reading Room through the tall windows at my back. Rigged up in a mask, I look like a harbinger of things to come—but it’s the fall of 2019, and I just have a dust allergy.

There are no pens in the Special Collections, and no water. UO students periodically approach the desk only to learn that they need to take a different staircase to get to the other second floor, which is somehow not connected to this second floor. I take in camera, laptop, notebook, pencil. Grey boxes with my name on them—literally, stuck on in post-its—neatly line the shelf behind the librarian’s desk. The first box is number 77; inside, folders three to five house the handwritten manuscript of Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness (1969). I lift up the lid, and let the light in….

(7) GOT THAT RIGHT. “It’s Not Easy Being a BookTuber” on WIRED is an introduction to an episode of WIRED’s “Geek’s Guide To The Galaxy” podcast which has an interview with Daniel Greene, who makes his living reviewing sf and fantasy books on YouTube.  Greene discusses how he gets 20-30 requests from self-published authors to plug their books and how he has to keep reviewing bestsellers to satisfy YouTube’s algorithms.

Daniel Greene makes a full-time living off his YouTube channel, discussing fantasy authors such as Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson, and Jim Butcher. Talking about your favorite books all day might sound like a dream come true, but Greene says that building a successful channel is harder than people think.

“For a few years I was doing a video every day of the week, seven days a week, which was insane, while also being a software engineer,” Greene says in Episode 431 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “I’m a workaholic.”

(8) MORE SAND. MovieWeb alerted readers to a French-langauge variant of last week’s Dune trailer with some additional shots.

While the majority of the Dune trailer is the same as the one that debuted a few days ago, this version is slightly shorter and has been restructured. The trailer is in French but, while you may not have much idea what they’re saying, there are a few new shots included, giving us a further look at the likes of Gurney Halleck, played by Josh Brolin, who is seen preparing for battle, as well as a little more of Timothée Chalamet’s Paul Atreides enduring the excruciating pain of the Gom Jabbar Test.

(9) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • September 2000 — Twenty years ago this month, the online magazine Strange Horizons posted its first issue. It does short stories, poetry and reviews, essays, interviews, and other material as tickles its fancy. It was founded by writer and editor Mary Anne Mohanraj. Susan Marie Groppi who took over in 2004, won the World Fantasy Special Award: Non-Professional in 2010 for her work as the Editor-in-Chief. Other editors have followed; the current one is Vanessa Rose Phin. Several of the stories first published here have been nominated for Hugos, Sofia Samatar’s “Selkie Stories Are for Losers” and Benjamin Rosenbaum‘s “The House Beyond Your Sky”. It was a finalist for the Best Website Hugo Award in two years, and for the Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine every year from 2013 through 2020. You can find it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 14, 1927 – Martin Caidin.  His Cyborg was the basis for The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman.  Thirty novels for us, half a dozen nonfiction books about rockets and Space travel; eighty fiction and nonfiction books all told, a thousand magazine articles; an authority on aviation and aerospace.  Restored to full airworthiness a 1936 Junkers Ju 52, toured extensively with her.  Flew with the Thunderbirds demonstration squadron (U.S. Air Force), honorary member of the Golden Knights parachute demonstration team (Army).  Twice won Aviation/Space Writers Ass’n Award for outstanding aviation author.  (Died 1997) [JH]
  • Born September 14, 1931 – Ivan Klíma, 89.  Kafka Prize and Magnesia Litera award.  A Childhood in Terezin (in German, Theresienstadt; WW II holding ground for deportation to death camps e.g. Auschwitz; few survived) about his own experience.  Biography of Karel Capek (software won’t allow the diacritical mark over the showing it’s pronounced like ch in English church) translated into English, also memoir My Crazy Century.  Penguin Classics ed’n of R.U.R. has his introduction.  Three dozen other books.  [JH]
  • Born September 14, 1932 Joyce Taylor, 88. She first shows as Princess Antillia in Atlantis, the Lost Continent. Later genre appearances were The Man from U.N.C.LE., the first English language Beauty and the Beast film, the horror film Twice-Told Tales and the Men into Space SF series. (CE)
  • Born September 14, 1936 Walter Koenig, 83. Best known for his roles as Pavel Chekov in the original Trek franchise and Alfred Bester (named in homage of that author and a certain novel) on Babylon 5Moontrap, a SF film with him and Bruce Campbell, would garner a 28% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, and InAlienable which he executive produced, wrote and acts in has no rating there. (CE)
  • Born September 14, 1941 Bruce Hyde. Patterns emerge in doing these Birthdays. One of these patterns is that original Trek had a lot of secondary performers who had really short acting careers. He certainly did. He portrayed Lt. Kevin Riley in two episodes, “The Naked Time” and “The Conscience of the King” and the rest of his acting career consisted of eight appearances, four of them on as Dr. Jeff Brenner.  He acted for less than two years in ‘65 and ‘66, before returning to acting thirty-four years later to be in The Confession of Lee Harvey Oswald which is his final role. (Died 2015.) (CE)
  • Born September 14, 1948 – Elizabeth Winthrop, 72.  Five dozen books, mostly children’s fiction.  Fisher Award (after Dorothy Canfield Fisher; adults choose master list, children vote) for The Castle in the Attic; it and two more ours.  Jane Addams Peace Prize for Counting on Grace.  Sarah Lawrence alumna.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born September 14, 1961 Justin Richards, 60. Clute at ESF says “Richards is fast and competent.” Well I can certainly say he’s fast as he’s turned out thirty-five Doctor Who novels which Clute thinks are for the YA market between 1994 and 2016. There’s another nineteen novels written there.  And he had other series going as well including being one of the main scriptwriters for the Jago & Litefoot  Big Finish series, the characters being spin-offs from the Fourth Doctor story, “The Talons of Wang Chiang”.  And then there’s the Doctor Who non-fiction which runs to over a half dozen works.  (CE)
  • Born September 14, 1962 – Leigh Cunningham, 58.  Lawyer with three Master’s degrees.  Her Being Anti-Social (2013) a Best Indie Book.  Two novels for us.  Ranks Nineteen Eighty-four above The Sound and the Fury.  [JH]
  • Born September 14, 1964 – Lorie Ann Grover, 56.  Firstborn for us (Kirkus starred review); verse novels; board books; The Magic Cup with Howard Behar former president of Starbucks.  Illustrations: “I’m putting these up for fabbity publisher types to see my samples…. copyright…. Just ask me if you’d like to share them.” [JH]
  • Born September 14, 1972 Jenny T. Colgan, 48. Prolific writer of short stories in the Whovian universe with a baker’s dozen to date with several centered on River Song. She novelized “The Christmas Invasion”, the first full Tenth Doctor story. She has two genre novels, Resistance Is Futile and Spandex and the City. (CE) 
  • Born September 14, 1989 Jessica Brown Findlay, 31. She appeared as Beverly Penn in the film version of Mark Helprin‘s Winter’s Tale novel. She’s Lorelei in Victor Frankenstein, a modern take on that novel, and plays Lenina Crowne in the current Brave New World series on Peacock. Finally I’ll note she was Abi Khan on Black Mirrior’s “Fifteen Million Merits“ episode. (CE) 
  • Born September 14, 1986 – Rick Griffin, 44.  Co-authored, and illustrates, the Hayven Celestia universe, where the admirable geroo and various others suffer under the wicked krakun.  Recently Tales of Hayven Celestia (in Gre7g Luterman’s name, the is silent).  Four more covers.  [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) SOMETHING’S IN THE AIR. “Astronomers see possible hints of life in Venus’s clouds” reports Yahoo! News.

Astronomers have found a potential sign of life high in the atmosphere of neighboring Venus: hints there may be bizarre microbes living in the sulfuric acid-laden clouds of the hothouse planet.

Two telescopes in Hawaii and Chile spotted in the thick Venusian clouds the chemical signature of phosphine, a noxious gas that on Earth is only associated with life, according to a study in Monday’s journal Nature Astronomy.

Several outside experts — and the study authors themselves — agreed this is tantalizing but said it is far from the first proof of life on another planet. They said it doesn’t satisfy the “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” standard established by the late Carl Sagan, who speculated about the possibility of life in the clouds of Venus in 1967.

“It’s not a smoking gun,” said study co-author David Clements, an Imperial College of London astrophysicist. “It’s not even gunshot residue on the hands of your prime suspect, but there is a distinct whiff of cordite in the air which may be suggesting something.”

(13) VENUS IF YOU WILL. By an interesting coincidence, on a day when a paper has been released indicating the discovery of a biosignature in Venus’ atmosphere, James Davis Nicoll offers “Five Science Fiction Books Featuring Floating Habitats” a Tor.com.

Venus is so inconsiderate. It presents itself as a sister world, one that would seem at first glance to be very Earth-like, but… on closer examination it’s utterly hostile to life as we know it. Surface conditions would be extremely challenging for terrestrial life, what with the toxic atmosphere, crushing pressures, and blast-furnace-like temperatures.

That’s at the surface, however. Just fifty kilometers above the surface, there is a region with terrestrial pressures and temperatures, a veritable garden of Eden where an unprotected human would not be almost immediately incinerated but instead would expire painfully (in just a few minutes) due to the lack of free oxygen and the prevalence of toxic gases….

(14) STAR WARS MUSICS HELPS CELEBRATE MILESTONE. [Item by David Doering.] Nice to see the Tabernacle Choir chose Star Wars to celebrate their 110 years of recordings:

Legendary film composer John Williams wrote the music for each of the nine Star Wars saga films, spanning more than forty years from 1977 to 2019. For Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999), Williams composed “Duel of the Fates” for orchestra and chorus, accompanying a climactic lightsaber duel. The words are a fragment of an ancient Welsh poem that Williams had translated into Sanskrit—he then rearranged the syllables himself to make the text essentially meaningless, while still retaining a forceful chant-like power. He intended the choral singing itself to give the scene an explicitly religious feel, as if it were a ceremony of some kind. “Duel of the Fates” went on to become a defining musical feature of the prequel trilogy, a symbol of the saga’s broad focus on the cosmic struggle between darkness and light.

The choir music was also used to demonstrate the first stereophonic recording made back in 1940.

Oh, and BTW, while the media proudly announced that Vinyl records outsold CDs for the first time, this is on revenues, not on units. LPs are still quite a bit more expensive than CDs.

(15) GOING FOR THE JUGULAR, WITH A KICK TO THE GROIN. In a post for This Way To Texas, “Libertarians nominate Lou Antonelli for Congress”, Antonelli spotlighted the political battles he’s been waging.

…The Texas Supreme Court on Saturday, Sept. 5, rejected a Republican attempt to remove 44 Libertarians from the November ballot, according to the Texas Tribune.

Groups affiliated with both major parties have gone to court in recent weeks to remove from the ballot non-major-party candidates perceived to be a threat. In general, Libertarians are believed to peel votes away from Republicans, while the Green Party is thought to siphon votes from Democrats.

The GOP sued because the Libertarians didn’t pay their filing fees. But the state Supreme Court said Republicans missed the deadline to kick them off the ballot.

Antonelli, running in the 4th District, is one of the candidates the Republicans sought to block.

He’s trying to get Republican nominee Pat Fallon to join him in a public forum or debate, meantime trying to score off Fallon for not living in the district he wants to represent.

… Fallon lives in the Denton county portion of Prosper, an outer suburb of Dallas, which is just outside the 4th’s boundaries.

Even Wikipedia, the largest and most popular general reference work on the World Wide Web, notes Fallon’s position: “Fallon’s state senate district includes much of the eastern portion of the congressional district.”

However, regarding the 4th Congressional District, Wikipedia continues: “While candidates for the House are only required to live in the state they wish to represent, longstanding convention holds that they live either in or reasonably close to the district they wish to represent.”

The Libertarian Party candidate in the election, Antonelli said “A number of candidates who lost to Fallon in the district convention seem to feel his victory was due to arm-twisting by himself and Senator Ted Cruz, and they resent it and have told me so,”

“The residency requirement for the U.S. House is in the Constitution, so Fallon has done nothing illegal,” said Antonelli. “But Texas deserves congressional leaders who do better than just skirt the law.”

Antonelli is doing his best to leave no stone unthrown.

(16) THE UNSEEN HAND – AND EVERYTHING ELSE. The Cut introduces “The Designer Who Sent Ghost Models Down the Runway”.

While stuck inside during quarantine this past spring, designer Anifa Mvuemba began playing around with 3-D technology. Soon, an idea struck: What if she held a virtual fashion show in which her feminine, curve-friendly designs glided along on invisible models? She’d been working on her line Hanifa for eight years but had never held a runway show — maybe it was time.

On May 22, she premiered the collection, called Pink Label Congo, on Instagram Live. The digital runway show featured ghostlike 3-D figures strutting sinuously down the runway in the collection.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Using Cuts as a Visual Effect” on Vimeo, David F. Sandberg explains how cutting can be just as effective a way to produce special effects as more expensive CGI. WARNING: Many scenes from gory horror movies.

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

2019 Novellapalooza

[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]

By JJ:

TL;DR: Here’s what I thought of the 2019 Novellas. What did you think?

I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading:

  • 31 of the novellas published in 2015,
  • 35 of the novellas published in 2016,
  • 46 of the novellas published in 2017,
  • and 38 of the 2018 novellas.
  • (and this year I was waiting for access to a few novellas, so I was reading others, and thus my final total crept up to 55!)

The result of these reading sprees were

I really felt as though this enabled me to do Hugo nominations for the Novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.

The success and popularity of novellas in the last 5 years seems to have sparked a Golden Age for SFF novellas – so there are a lot more novellas to cover this year. By necessity, I’ve gotten to the point of being more selective about which ones I read, based on the synopsis being of interest to me.

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low.

Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). What’s more, I apparently had a defective childhood, and do not share a lot of peoples’ appreciation for fairytale retellings and portal fantasies. My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

Novellas I’ve read appear in order based on how much I liked them (best to least), followed by the novellas I haven’t read in alphabetical order.

I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included.

Please feel free to post comments about any other 2019 novellas which you’ve read, as well. And if I’ve missed your comment about a novella, or an excerpt for a novella, please point me to it!

(Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

(fair notice: all Amazon links are referrer URLs which benefit non-profit SFF fan website Worlds Without End)

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 12/27/19 With Slow Glass Pixels, It Will Take Ten Years To Scroll

(1) WELCOME WAGON. SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal responded to the Romance Writers of America meltdown by tweeting, “As president of SFWA, please accept my invitation to consider our organization if you feel your work has a kinship with SFF, even a tenuous tie.” Thread starts here.

Many interesting replies. A couple of them are –

(2) STAR POWER. Thomas Disch dominated the Galactic Stars awards presented by Galactic Journey for the best sff of 1964: [December 25, 1964] Stars of Bethlehem and Galactic Journey (Galactic Stars 1964).

Best author(s)

Tom Disch

This Cele Lalli discovery, just 24 years old, garnered three Galactic Stars this year.

He narrowly beats out Harry Harrison (and Harrison might have been on top, but he came out with clunkers as well as masterpieces this year).

And bless the Journey staff for recognizing newzines in this category —

Best Fanzine

Starspinkle gave up the ghost last month, though it has a lookalike sequel, Ratatosk.  They were/are both nice little gossip biweeklies.

(3) CLASSIC IRISH FANWRITING. The Willis Papers by Walt Willis is the latest free download produced by David Langford in hopes of inspiring donations to the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund.

A collection covering the first decade (and a bit) of Walt Willis’s fanzine writing, from his 1948 debut in Slant to 1959, edited by George W. Field and published by Ted Johnstone in August 1961. As well as twenty-two classic Willis articles, there are Prefaces by both editor and publisher, while Vin¢ Clarke and John Berry provide not entirely serious tributes to the great man.

The text of The Willis Papers was long ago transcribed into HTML by Judy Bemis for Fanac.org, and this Ansible Editions ebook is gratefully based on that version. The cover photograph of Walt Willis at the 1957 London Worldcon was taken by Peter West. (From the Ethel Lindsay photo archive, courtesy of Rob Hansen.) Ebook released on 25 December 2019. 31,500 words.

Walt Willis was born in October 1919, and his centenary in 2019 has been little remarked in science fiction fandom.

One small gesture is the simultaneous ebook release of Beyond the Enchanted Duplicator and The Willis Papers as a 2019 Christmas treat for fans.

(4) CASUALTY LIST. “China Blocks American Books as Trade War Simmers” — the New York Times has the story.

…Publishers inside and outside China say the release of American books has come to a virtual standstill, cutting them off from a big market of voracious readers.

“American writers and scholars are very important in every sector,” said Sophie Lin, an editor at a private publishing company in Beijing. “It has had a tremendous impact on us and on the industry.” After new titles failed to gain approval, she said, her company stopped editing and translating about a dozen pending books to cut costs.

The Chinese book world is cautiously optimistic that the partial trade truce reached this month between Beijing and Washington will break the logjam, according to book editors and others in the publishing industry who spoke to The New York Times.

… Still, publishing industry insiders describe a near freeze of regulatory approvals, one that could make the publishing industry reluctant to buy the rights to sell American books in China.

“Chinese publishers will definitely change their focus,” said Andy Liu, an editor at a Beijing publishing company, adding that the United States was one of China’s most frequent and profitable sources of books.

“Publishing American books is now a risky business,” he said. “It’s shaking the very premise of trying to introduce foreign books” as a business.

While China is known for its censorship, it is also a huge market for books, including international ones. It has become the world’s second-largest publishing market after the United States, according to the International Publishers Association, as an increasingly educated and affluent country looks for something engrossing to curl up with.

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to chow down on cannoli with author Bob Proeh in Episode 112 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Bob Proehl

This time around, you get to take a seat at the table with Bob Proehl, who published his first novel in in 2016. A Hundred Thousand Worlds is about the star of a cult sci-fi TV show and her nine-year-old son making a cross-country road trip with many stops at comic book conventions along the way, and was named a Booklist best book of the year.

His latest novel, The Nobody People, about the emergence of super-powered beings who’ve been living among us, came out earlier this year…

We slipped away to Sabatino’s Italian restaurant …where we chatted over orders of veal parmigiana and eggplant parmigiana. (I’ll leave it to you to guess which of us was the carnivore, though I suspect that if you’re a regular listener, you’ll already know.)

We discussed how it really all began for him with poetry, the way giving a non-comics reader Watchmen for their first comic is like giving a non-novel reader Ulysses as their first novel, why discovering Sandman was a lifesaver, the reason the Flying Burrito Brothers 1968 debut album The Gilded Palace of Sin matters so much to him, why he had a case of Imposter Syndrome over his first book and how he survived it, the reasons he’s so offended by The Big Bang Theory, what he meant when he said “I actually like boring books,” his love for The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the X-Men, whether it’s hard to get a beer in New York at six o’clock in the morning, why he wasn’t disappointed in the Lost finale, and much more.

(6) HECK YEAH. The DisINSIDER says “‘Crazy Rich Asians’ Director Wants To Tackle A Rose Tico Series on Disney+”.

…Of course the tweet is simply just that a tweet, and doesn’t mean anything will come it. However, Chu is a hot name in the industry after directing the 2018 hit Crazy Rich Asians, he would be a fantastic choice to develop a Rose Tico series. Chu is currently working on the film adaptation of In The Heights based on the hit broadway musical, and will return to direct China Rich Girlfriend.

(7) INSIDE SFF HISTORY. Jonathan Lethem interviews M. John Harrison at Literatura Inglesa. The English language version follows the long Spanish language one — scroll down. “Derribando los pilares de la ficción: una entrevista con M. John Harrison.”

You also mentioned that your time at New Worlds was an exciting one as it provided you with the possibility to read the manuscripts of Ballard’s stories even before they were printed. What’s interesting to me is that, while writers like Aldiss or Moorcock, who loved SF and fantasy genre and helped revitalize it (although Aldiss later disowned his participation in the new wave “movement”), Ballard seemed to quickly abandon the genre (except, maybe, for Hello America).

I think it took Ballard a long time to “abandon” the genre, if he can be said to have done that, and that the process began much earlier than people admit. From the beginning his relationship to science fiction was modified by his personality, his needs as a writer, and his many cultural influences outside SF. So from the outset of his career he was working his way towards the idiopathic manner we associate with short stories like “The Terminal Beach” and novels like The Drought and The Atrocity Exhibition. It was not so much an “abandonment” as a steady evolutionary process. This happens with writers. They develop.

(8) SUPERCOLLABORATOR. CBR.com looks back on “When Superman Helped Kurt Vonnegut Write a Novel!”.

Today, based on a suggestion from reader Stephen R., we take a look at the time that Clark Kent had to help Kurt Vonnegut finish a novel!

The story appeared in 1974’s Superman #274 by Gerry Conway, Curt Swan and Vince Colletta, where Clark Kent and Kurt Vonnegut are both on a talk show together…

The “Wade Halibut” name is a reference to Vonnegut’s famous fictional writer, Kilgore Trout, who appeared in many of Vonnegut’s classic works, like Breakfast of Champions and Slaughterhouse Five

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 27, 1904 –J. M. Barrie’s play Peter Pan premiered in London.
  • December 27, 1951 Captain Video: Master of the Stratosphere premiered on film screens. It was directed by Spencer Gordon Bennet and Wallace A. Grissel with a script by Royal G. Cole, Sherman I. Lowe and Joseph F. Poland. Judd Holdren, in what was only his second starring screen role, plays Captain Video, the leader of a group of crime-fighters known as the Video Rangers.  This fifteen-part movie serial is unusual as it’s based off a tv series, Captain Video and His Video Rangers. Like most similar series, critical reviews are scant and there is no rating at Rotten Tomatoes. It was popular enough that it aired repeatedly until the early Sixties. There’s a few episodes up on YouTube – here’s one.
  • December 27, 1995 —  Timemaster premiered on this date. It was directed by James Glickenhaus and starred his son Jesse Cameron-Glickenhaus, Pat Morita and Duncan Regehr. It also features Michelle Williams in one of her first film roles, something she now calls one of the worst experiences of her acting career. The film got universally negative, if not actively hostile, reviews and has a 0% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 27, 1888 Thea von Harbou. She penned the novel Metropolis based upon her uncredited screenplay of that film for husband Fritz Lang. She also collaborated with him on other projects, none of which save her 1922 Phantom screenplay appear to be genre. (Died 1954.)
  • Born December 27, 1917 Ken Slater. In 1947, while serving in the British Army, he started Operation Fantast, a network of fans which had eight hundred members around the world by the early Fifties though it folded a few years later. Through Operation Fantast, he was a major importer of American SFF books and magazines into the U.K. – an undertaking which he continued, after it ceased to exist, through his company Fantast up to the time of his passing.  He was a founding member of the British Science Fiction Association in 1958. (Died 2008.)
  • Born December 27, 1938 Jean Hale, 81. If you’ve watched Sixties genre television, you’ve likely seen her as she showed up on My Favorite Martian, In Like Flint (at least genre adjacent), Alfred Hitchcock Presents, My Brother the AngelWild Wild West, Batman and Tarzan.
  • Born December 27, 1948 Gerard Depardieu, 71. He’s in Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet which we all agree (I think we agree) is genre. He plays Obélix in the French film Asterix & Obélix and Asterix at the Olympic Games: Mission Cleopatra and is Cardinal Mazarin in La Femme Musketeer. 
  • Born December 27, 1951 Robbie Bourget, 68. She started out as an Ottawa area fan, where she became involved in a local Who club and the OSFS before moving to LA and becoming deeply involved in LASFS. She was a key member of many a Worldcon and Who convention over the years (she was the co-DUFF winner with Marty Cantor for Aussiecon) before she moved to London in the late Nineties.
  • Born December 27, 1951 Charles Band, 68. ExploItation film maker who’s here because some of his source material is SFF in origin. Arena was scripted off the Fredric Brown “Arena” short story which first ran in the June 1944 Astounding, and From Beyond which was based on H P Lovecraft’s short story of the same name, first published in June 1934 issue of The Fantasy Fan
  • Born December 27, 1960 Maryam d’Abo, 59. She’s best known as Kara Milovy in The Living Daylights. Her first genre role was her screen debut in the very low-budget SF horror film Xtro, an Alien rip-off. She was Ta’Ra in Something Is Out There, a miniseries that was well received and but got piss poor ratings. Did you know there was a live Mowgli: The New Adventures of the Jungle Book? I didn’t. She was Elaine Bendel, a recurring role in it. 
  • Born December 27, 1969 Sarah Jane Vowell, 50. She’s a author, journalist, essayist, historian, podcaster,  social commentator and actress. Impressive, but she gets Birthday Honors for being the voice of Violet Parr in the Incredibles franchise. I say franchise as I’ve no doubt that a third film is already bring scripted.
  • Born December 27, 1977 Sinead Keenan, 42. She’s in the Eleventh Doctor story “The End of Time” as Addams, but her full face make-up guarantees that you won’t recognize her. If you want to see her, she’s a Who fan in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. Her final Who work is a Big Finish audio drama, Iterations of I, a Fifth Doctor story. And she played Nina Pickering, a werewolf, in Being Human for quite a long time.
  • Born December 27, 1987 Lily Cole, 32. Been awhile since I found a Who performer and so let’s have another now. She played The Siren in the Eleventh Doctor story, “The Curse of The Black Spot”. She’s also in some obscure film called Star Wars: The Last Jedi as a character named Lovey. And she shows up in the important role of Valentina in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Not mention she’s in Snow White and The Huntsman as Greta, a great film indeed.
  • Born December 27, 1995 Timothée Chalamet, 24. First SF role was as the young Tom Cooper in the well received Interstellar. To date, his only other genre role has been as Zac in One & Two but I’m strongly intrigued that he’s set to play Paul Atreides In Director Denis Villeneuve forthcoming Dune. Villeneuve is doing it as a set of films instead of just one film which will either work well or terribly go wrong.

(11) HEARING FROM THE EXPANSE. The Guardian books podcasts asks the authors of The Expanse, “When imagining our future, what can sci-fi teach us?”

This week, Richard sits down with duo Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, who write science fiction together under the name James SA Corey. Their bestselling space-opera series, The Expanse, which started in 2012 and is due to end in 2021, is set in the middle of the 24th century, when humanity has colonised the solar system. Human society is now beyond race and gender, and is instead divided on a planetary level: those living on Earth, on Mars and on various asteroids, moons and space stations called Belters.

The eighth book in the series, Tiamat’s Wrath, is the latest, while the fourth season of the award-winning TV adaptation [is] on Amazon Prime on 13 December.

And Claire, Richard and Sian discuss the 20 books up for the 2019 Costa awards shortlists.

(12) A RECORD RECORD. As Bruce Sterling said, new technologies don’t replace old technologies. But how many of the old ones hang onto life so tenaciously — Billboard’s numbers show “Harry Styles, Billie Eilish & The Beatles Help Vinyl Album Sales Hit Record Week in U.S.”

Vinyl album sales hit yet another record week in the U.S., according to Nielsen Music.

In the week ending Dec. 19, the data tracking firm reports 973,000 vinyl albums were sold in the U.S. — marking the single biggest week for vinyl album sales since the company began electronically tracking music sales in 1991.  

(13) NIGHT BLIGHT. “Satellite constellations: Astronomers warn of threat to view of Universe” – the Dave Clements mentioned in BBC’s report is an SF fan.

From next week, a campaign to launch thousands of new satellites will begin in earnest, offering high-speed internet access from space.

But the first fleets of these spacecraft, which have already been sent into orbit by US company SpaceX, are affecting images of the night sky.

They are appearing as bright white streaks, so dazzling that they are competing with the stars.

Scientists are worried that future “mega-constellations” of satellites could obscure images from optical telescopes and interfere with radio astronomy observations.

Dr Dave Clements, an astrophysicist from Imperial College London, told BBC News: “The night sky is a commons – and what we have here is a tragedy of the commons.”

The companies involved said they were working with astronomers to minimise the impact of the satellites.

And Clements occasionally writes sff – his story “Last of the Guerrilla Gardeners” originally appeared in Nature.

(14) OUT OF CHARACTER. Ganrielle Russon, in the Orlando Sentinel story “The Disney employees behind Mickey Mouse, Minnie and Donald Duck were violated by tourists”, says that three Walt Disney World employees say they were inappropriately touched while in costume at Walt Disney World and have filed grievances.

…Another incident happened that same day at the Magic Kingdom, the world’s busiest theme park.

It started innocently when a 36-year-old Disney employee who portrays Minnie Mouse posed for pictures with a man and his wife from Minnesota in the park’s circus-themed meet-and-greet area.

Afterward, Minnie Mouse gave the man a hug. Then without saying a word, he groped her chest three times, according to the sheriff’s incident report.

The employee alerted her supervisors. On Dec. 6, she identified pictures of the 61-year-old man from Brewster, Minn.

She decided against pressing charges.

It wasn’t the first time the man had done something wrong at Disney World on his trip.

The man also had “an inappropriate interaction with a cast member” Dec. 5 at the Magic Kingdom, according to the sheriff’s office incident report that didn’t provide any additional details on what happened. Disney declined to elaborate.

(15) RAPPED GIFT. Bad Lip Reading dropped a bizarre “A Bad Lip Reading of The Last Jedi” on Christmas.

[Thanks to JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Hampus Eckerman, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Robert Whitaker Sirignano.]

Tiamat’s Wrath – A Non-Spoiler Recommendation for Newest Expanse Novel

By Daniel Dern: Although my bedside pile includes Dozois’ The Very Best of the Best: 35 Years of Year’s Best Science Fiction — which I’ve started, and already, and one story in (“The Potter of Bones,” by Eleanor Arnason), feels like I’ve already enjoyed a great read…  I put it aside to settle in with Tiamat’s Wrath, the latest (eighth) and, a friend tells me, penultimate book in James S. A. Corey (Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck)’s Expanse series.

It was worth waiting for, it was worth reading. We re-encounter some old friends, we meet some new characters. Explosions large and small! Rockets/space ships large and small!

As with the previous volumes, while the book is continuing the long arc of the series, the plot starts or picks up threads, and brings them to satisfactory conclusions by the end.

I love the Expanse books for several reasons:

• They’re written like the authors live there. The prose is crisp and to the point, with enough info-bits and micro recaps to help newcomers as well as those of us who might have lost track of who’s who and what’s what (and in some cases who’s what and what’s who), without bogging down the flow.

• Each chapter, rather than having a title, is titled with its PoV character, so (I) don’t have to waste a few seconds sussing out who’s talking or otherwise being our lens into the action. (Having wrestled with a few non-Expanse books over the years that don’t do this, I seriously appreciate this; it’s not hard for the author (or editorial team) to do, and, with some possible exceptions where sussing out who’s “talking” is part of the way the book works, it keeps me more easily engaged.  And, as a friend points out, it provides easy “stop points” for setting the book aside to go do stuff.

• The pacing of the prose, particularly in this volume, is exquisite. This is especially clear in the end-of-chapter last paragraphs or three.

• Respect for gravity, mass, inertia, fuel limits, and speed of light in terms of orbits, zooming through space, and communication. (With a few acknowledged and contextually legitimate exceptions.) This isn’t unique to The Expanse but it’s always nice to see being respect both by the plot and the characters.

Tiamat’s Wrath will, IMHO, be much more satisfying (and make more sense) if you’ve read the previous books. Since I have read ’em all (although not yet all – currently — five of the shorter Expanse pieces), I can’t tell you whether it makes enough sense without having first read v’s 1-7. But it’s definitely more satisfying, just like watching Game of Thrones, West Wing, The Magicians, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, G.L.O.W., Sports Night or The Newsroom.

If you’ve read and enjoyed the previous books, you’ll be happy. If you haven’t yet dipped an eyeball into The Expanse, perhaps this will convince you to give them a try. If you have already decided these aren’t your cup of appertained beverage, fair ’nuff.

Note, “Tiamat” does not, as best I can tell, appear or even get mentioned anywhere except in the title. Or maybe I missed that paragraph. But the same friend from comments above notes that this is the case for the previous seven books, which my memory won’t let me challenge.

Recommended. And then we wait for the big one..

A closing unrelated question: What would happen if Corey (re)wrote Lord of the Rings? Would we see more women, particularly fighting? Would the Eagles get fitted with weapons, etc.? Would any of the battles go differently?

Pixel Scroll 2/9/19 Long Thoughtful Commentses Wrapped Up In Sings, These Are A Few Of My Scrolliest Things

(1) SCIENCE IS A MOVING TARGET. James S.A. Corey thought they had the science right but a NASA spacecraft proved them gloriously wrong. National Geographic got the creators of The Expanse to write Dawn a fan letter — “Dear Dawn: How a NASA robot messed up our science fiction”.

Dear Dawn:

Did we do something to piss you off? Because to tell you the truth, your attacks on our books seemed kind of personal.

In 2011, we came out with a science-fiction novel called Leviathan Wakes that featured a big plotline on the dwarf planet Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt. In particular, we imagined a hard, nickel-iron Ceres with a population of millions thirsty for water harvested from the rings of Saturn. We did pretty well with the story; it got a Hugo nomination, and the publisher bought some follow-ups.

Four years later, we were launching a television show based on the book, starring the embattled crew of an ice hauler trying to keep Ceres Station hydrated. That was 2015—the same time you became the first spacecraft to orbit a dwarf planet. And as we gathered in the writer’s room and on set, what did you tell us? Ceres has water. Lots of it. Not only that, you found large deposits of sodium carbonate on Ceres’s surface, which doesn’t sound that impressive until you realize it’s evidence of ice volcanoes. Seriously. Ice volcanoes….

(2) WHAT NEEDS TO BE IN THE DEAL. SF author Ramez Naam (Nexus series) is  a “futurologist” as well, and he just wrote an excellent extended tweet about the Green New Deal and how it might be better. Thread begins here.

(3) ENTERPRISE. “Jeff Bezos, long known for guarding his privacy, faces his most public and personal crisis” is an article by Craig Timberg, Peter Whoriskey, Christian Davenport, and Elizabeth Dwoskin in the Washington Post about how Jeff Bezos broke his long-standing efforts to remain as private as possible in his battle against the National Enquirer. Not the most titillating part of the story, but there is a sci-fi reference in it —

in the early 2000s, Bezos started quietly acquiring hundreds of thousands of acres in West Texas, where Blue Origin now launches its New Shepard rocket.  He purchased the land under corporate entities named for explorers.  Thee was Joliet Holdings and Cabot Enterprises, the James Cook and William Clark Limited Partnerships and Coronado Ventures.

All were linked to a firm with a Seattle post office called Zefram LLC, namedafter Zefram Cochrane, a character in the Star Trek franchise.

(4) WISHING HIM A RAPID RECOVERY. Apex Magazine Editor-in-Chief Jason Sizemore wrote about the burdensome and painful health problems he’s been coping with in his February editorial.

…One of the diagnostics for stroke the doctor ran on me at the emergency room was a CT scan. He said, “Good news, I’m confident you are not having a stroke. But … some bad news, your scan shows a sizable lesion on the front of your mandible.“

(5) CROSS-GENRES. Vicki Who Reads picks out eight niche favorites in “Fantasci Book Recs: Books In Between Science Fiction and Fantasy!”

I love fantasy and I love science-fiction (though, sci-fi a little more than fantasy). And I think it’s really interesting when authors sort of combine the two–mixing sci-fi and fantasy (and ends up just being labeled under fantasy, typically).

But this leads to the creation of the fun, intermediate genre (at least, that’s what it is in my mind), fantasci. The intersection of science-fiction and fantasy where it’s not magic, but it’s not science either….

A Spark of White Fire by Sangu Mandanna

This book is so darn underappreciated, and it deserves ALL the love! I was sucked into the story and had such a hard time stopping, and then the ending completely wrecked me.

Like . . . is it legal to inflict these types of emotions upon me? Idk, but this book had me CRYING late at night as I read a bout [redacted]. And it’s a sort of space fantasy that’s based on Indian mythology and has me swooning.

Gosh. My heart still hurts and I need the sequel ASAP. If this book isn’t on your TBR, you’re doing something wrong because it is AMAZING and the ending is so horrible (for my heart) but so worth it.

You can read my review here!

(6) ACADEMY FOR WAYWARD WRITERS. Cat Rambo livetweeted highlights from Rachel Swirsky’s “Detail and Image” online writing class today. The thread is here.

(7) WORLDCON REUNION. Kees van Toorn, Chairman ConFiction1990, today announced plans for Reunicon 2020:  

It all started with a phone call from a fan in New York way back in 1984. Then it took three years of bidding to win the race in Brighton in 1987. Another three long years to make ConFiction1990 a fact in The Hague, the first true World Science Fiction Convention on the continent of Europe. We are still creating a website and social media avenues to preserve the past for the future and… to promote our intended Reunicon 2020 to commemorate 30 years after ConFiction 1990. We look forward hearing from you or seeing you in 2020 in The Hague.

(8) PLEASE BE SEATED. ThinkGeek s offering a Star Trek TOS 1:6 Scale Captain’s Chair FX Replica for $59.99.

THE CENTERPIECE OF EVERY STARSHIP

Is that the ship intercom, or the self-destruct button? You better read up on your engineering schematics before sitting in a captain’s chair, or your tenure will be shorter than Spock’s patience for illogical behavior.  
 
Quantum Mechanix has created an extremely detailed FX replica of the most important part of the original USS Enterprise: the captain’s chair. This 1/6 scale replica doesn’t just look good – it also lights up and makes sounds. Powered by either three AA batteries or a mini-USB plug (not included), this captain’s chair replica has four different light and sound settings including: standard bridge operations, ship-wide announcement, viewscreen scanning, and of course, red alert.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 9, 1863 Anthony Hope. He is remembered predominantly for only two books: The Prisoner of Zenda and its sequel Rupert of Hentzau. Well so says Wiki but I never heard of the latter novel. Any of you heard of It? The Prisoner of Zenda was filmed in 1936 with Douglas Fairbanks Jr. in the lead role. (Died 1933.)
  • Born February 9, 1877George Allan England. His short story, “The Thing from—’Outside'”, which had originally appeared in Gernsback’s Science and Invention, was reprinted in the first issue of the first SF magazine, Amazing Stories, in April 1926. Unfortunately, his later Darkness and Dawn trilogy is marked by overt racism as later critics note. (Died 1936.)
  • Born February 9, 1928Frank Frazetta. Artist whose illustrations showed up damn near everywhere from LP covers to book covers and posters. Among the covers he were Tarzan and the Lost EmpireConan the Adventurer (L. Sprague de Camp stories in that setting) and Tarzan at the Earth’s Core. He did over-muscled barbarians very well! Oh and he also helped Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder on three stories of the bawdy parody strip Little Annie Fanny in Playboy. Just saying. In the early 1980s, Frazetta worked with Bakshi on the feature Fire and Ice. He provided the poster for it as he did for Mad Monster Party and The Fearless Vampire Killers, or Pardon Me, But Your Teeth Are in My Neck, two other genre films. He was inducted into both Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame. (Died 2010.)
  • Born February 9, 1953 Ciaran Hinds, 66. I can’t picture him but he’s listed as being King Lot in Excalibur, that being being his credited his genre role. He next shows up in Mary Reilly, a riff off the Hyde theme, as Sir Danvers Care. I’ve next got him in Jason and the Argonauts as King Aeson followed by being in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life as Jonathan Reiss. (Yes I like those films.) before being replaced in the next film, he played Aberforth Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. Two final roles worth noting. he played The Devil in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance and Steppenwolf In Justice League.
  • Born February 9, 1956Timothy Truman, 63. Writer and artist best known in my opinion for his work on Grimjack (with John Ostrander), Scout, and the reinvention of Jonah Hex with Joe R. Lansdale. His work with Ostrander is simply stellar and is collected in Grimjack Omnibus, Volume 1 and 2.  For the Hex work, I’d say Jonah Hex: Shadows West which collects their work together. He did do a lot of other work and I’m sure you’ll point out what I’ve overlooked… 
  • Born February 9, 1981 Tom Hiddleston, 38. Loki in the Marvel film universe. And a more charming bastard of a god has never been conceptualised by screenwriters. Outside of the MCU, I see he shows up in Kong: Skull Island as Captain James Conrad and The Pirate Fairy as the voice of James Hook as well in a vampire film called Only Lovers Left Alive as Adam. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • In the world of Brewster Rockit, some newspaper columns are very easy to write.

(11) IN RE VERSE. A star of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (labeled on Wikipedia as a “actor, singer, dancer, and rapper”) told The Hollywood Reporter he hopes to write a song for the sequel (“‘Spider-Verse’ Star Shameik Moore Hopes to Record a Song for the Movie’s Sequel”). The interview also ranges into Moore’s other genre interests. It turns out he’s a fan of the Harry Potter movies.

The Hollywood Reporter: The Spider-Verse soundtrack had a few hits, including Post Malone and Swae Lee’s “Sunflower.” Have you pitched yourself to do a track for the Spider-Verse sequel?

Shameik Moore: They were asking me to make a song for Spider-Man before any of the songs on the soundtrack were even being considered. The only reason I am not on the soundtrack is because I couldn’t quite come up with a song myself to write from Miles’ point of view. So next time, hopefully. The music that I’ve been making is for me. It’s not really for Spider-Man. It’s for who I am. My music is a bit edgier.

(12) THE GREAT SKY ROAD. Andrew Porter sent screenshots of some flights of fancy seen on the February 4 episode of Antiques Roadshow.

(13) LOCUS LIST CONSIDERED. Adri Joy and Joe Sherry have actually read a lot of these books so their discussion of what did and did not make the list is quite substantial: “Adri and Joe Talk About Books: Locus Recommended Reading List” at Nerds of a Feather.

…What did you expect, or want, to see here that isn’t?

Joe: The first thing I specifically looked for was Matt Wallace’s final Sin du Jour novella Taste of Wrath. I’m not entirely surprised it didn’t make the list simply because I’m not sure it’s received a fraction of the attention and love that the series deserved. I passionately and sometimes aggressively love those stories and it has been a perpetual disappointment to me that they haven’t been nominated for everything they are eligible for and even for some things they aren’t. I’m holding out for a Best Series Hugo nod, but maybe I shouldn’t hold my breath.

The second thing i looked for, and this was mostly out of curiosity, was whether anything from Serial Box made the cut. Nothing did. Because I’m that sort of wonk, I did a super quick check of previous years and the first season Tremontaine made the list. I’m not surprised by that either, because Tremontaine is an expansion of the Swordspoint world and I would expect to see Locus recognize Ellen Kushner. I do wonder if next year we’ll see recognition for The Vela or Ninth Step Station. Both seem like something that might get some extra attention, eyeballs, and acclaim.

(14) LOOK FOR THE BEAR NECESSITIES. BBC reports “Russia islands emergency over polar bear ‘invasion'”. They must be running out of Coca-Cola.

A remote Russian region has declared a state of emergency over the appearance of dozens of polar bears in its human settlements, local officials say.

Authorities in the Novaya Zemlya islands, home to a few thousand people, said there were cases of bears attacking people and entering residential and public buildings.

Polar bears are affected by climate change and are increasingly forced on to land to look for food.

Russia classes them as endangered.

Hunting the bears is banned, and the federal environment agency has refused to issue licences to shoot them.

(15) SLIP-AH-DEE-DOO-DAH. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] 2017? No way. 2018? Um, negatory. January 2019? Nope. February? Nope, nope, nope. March? Well, maybe. SpaceX has announced another slip (albeit a modest one) in the schedule for the first (un-crewed) launch of the to-be-crewed version of the Dragon capsule (ExtremeTech: “SpaceX Pushes Crewed Dragon Test Back to March 2”). Boeing is aiming for April for Starliner—their competing capsule—to have its first launch.

NASA kicked off the Commercial Crew Development Program in 2010 to support the development of new crewed spacecraft. Here we are, almost a decade into the program and on the verge of a manned launch. It’s taken a long time to get here, and it may be a little longer still. SpaceX has announced yet another delay in its Dragon 2 test flight, which was supposed to take place this month. 

The precise date has slipped numerous times, and this is after ample delays in earlier phases of the program. We’re in the home stretch now, so each change in the schedule is that much more frustrating. SpaceX initially wanted to conduct the first test launch of its crewed Dragon capsule in 2017. Then the timeline slipped to 2018, and then it was late 2018. More recently, SpaceX promised a January 2019 launch… and then it decided February was more likely. You can probably blame the government shutdown for that one. Now, we’re looking at March 2, according to SpaceX. 

(16) ROLE PLAYING. Last summer Simon Pegg talked about characters he’s played – including one that was a bit autobiographical.

Simon Pegg breaks down his favorite and most iconic characters, including Tim from “Spaced,” Shaun from “Shaun of the Dead,” Nicholas Angel from “Hot Fuzz,” Gary King from “The World’s End,” Scotty in “Star Trek,” Unkar Plutt in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” and Benji Dunn in the “Mission: Impossible” movies.

(17) CAN A BOT BE AN INK-STAINED WRETCH? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] This story has a personal edge for me as I encounter robot-written stories quite often when using MaxPreps to catch up on various high school sporting events. (Though, those particular stories are obvoiusly written by an Artificial Stupidity.) Forbes, which has dipped a toe in AI journalism itself, takes a look at the growing phenomenon (“Did A Robot Write This? How AI Is Impacting Journalism”).

How do you know I am really a human writing this article and not a robot?  Several major publications are picking up machine learning tools for content. So, what does artificial intelligence mean for the future of journalists?

According to Matt Carlson, author of “The Robotic Reporter”, the algorithm converts data into narrative news text in real-time.

Many of these being financially focused news stories since the data is calculated and released frequently. Which is why should be no surprise that Bloomberg news is one of the first adaptors of this automated content. Their program, Cyborg, churned out thousands of articles last year that took financial reports and turned them into news stories like a business reporter.

Forbes also uses an AI took called Bertie to assist in providing reporters with first drafts and templates for news stories.

(18) UNHEARD OF. Part of the experiment has failed says Gizmodo: “Small Satellites That Accompanied InSight Lander to Mars Go Silent”.

A pair of small satellites that joined the InSight mission on its way to Mars haven’t been heard from in over a month—but the experimental mission is still an important success for NASA.

Mars Cube One, or MarCO, consisted of two 30-pound satellites named WALL-E and EVE. The relatively inexpensive satellites were the first time that CubeSats had entered the space between planets. The mission could foretell a future of spacecraft bringing more CubeSats with them in the future. 

[…] NASA lost contact with WALL-E on December 29 and with EVE on January 4. It’s possible that the probes’ antennae aren’t pointed at Earth properly, or that their solar panels aren’t pointed at the Sun and their batteries died, according to the press release.

(19) I CAN HELP. A little bit of sibling rivalry in Washington state:

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

Pixel Scroll 5/21/18 And The Book Recs, They Grow Just Like Lava Flows

(1) IT’S ALIVE! The Hollywood Reporter says “‘The Expanse’ Revived for Season 4 at Amazon”.

Amazon Studios is in talks to revive one of CEO Jeff Bezos’ favorite properties.

The retailer and streaming outlet is near a deal to revive space drama The Expanse for a fourth season just 10 days after Syfy canceled the series. Amazon Studios declined comment as sources note the deal is not closed.

Starring Steven Strait and based on James S.A. Comedy’s [sic] best-selling book series of the same name, Syfy had only first-run linear rights in the U.S. to The Expanse. Amazon Studios had streaming rights to the first three seasons of the show. Sources say Bezos is a big fan of the book and was livid that the TV series went to NBCUniversal-owned Syfy. The move is said to have ignited Bezos’ demand that Amazon Studios brass find the company’s version of Game of Thrones.

(2) FLYNN STROKE. Author Michael Flynn is hospitalized. His daughter made the announcement on Facebook:

Hi. This is Mike’s daughter. He will be absent from the internet for a few days, as he has had a pontine stroke and is in the hospital. After that, he’ll be going to rehab for a few days. He’s doing very well, all things considered. He’s eating a sandwich right now and has previously cracked some ill-advised “dad jokes” with the doctors and nurses.

Pontine stroke, described:

Pontine stroke is a type of stroke that happens when the blood flow in the brain stem is disrupted. The stroke is caused by decrease blood supply to brain stem. The blood flow is restricted to brain stem because of either rupture of blood vessels causing bleeding (hemorrhagic stroke) or obstruction of blood flow because of blood clot within the artery resulting in obstruction of blood supply (ischemic stroke).

(3) SUPPORT FOR ANTIHARASSMENT POLICIES. The Utah-based Rock Canyon Writers group of YA authors calls on writers to sign their “Conference Harassment Pledge”.

It has become increasingly clear that we must face the problems of sexual harassment and other kinds of harassment (racial, disability, sexual/gender identity, religion, nationalism, and more) that are happening within our own children’s literature community. We acknowledge that this is a systemic problem, and that systems of power are very difficult to change. They are also difficult
to see, but we must start to see the ways in which we are all implicated in looking away from uncomfortable talk about those we have once looked up to within the community. We cannot change this problem until we see it and face it
plainly. We must start thinking differently, intervening more quickly, believing victims more easily, and allowing excuses less readily. We cannot allow harassers to continue to act freely and without consequence, nor can we allow victims to be ignored, revictimized, or minimized. Nor can we continue a “whisper network” of knowledge that only helps those who are “in the know.”

… We plead with writers to cosign this document and to pledge NOT to attend conferences where there is no policy in place or where stated policies have not been followed through on.

(4) DOGWHISTLES FOR AI. “Alexa and Siri Can Hear This Hidden Command. You Can’t.” The New York Times has the story.

Many people have grown accustomed to talking to their smart devices, asking them to read a text, play a song or set an alarm. But someone else might be secretly talking to them, too.

Over the last two years, researchers in China and the United States have begun demonstrating that they can send hidden commands that are undetectable to the human ear to Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. Inside university labs, the researchers have been able to secretly activate the artificial intelligence systems on smartphones and smart speakers, making them dial phone numbers or open websites. In the wrong hands, the technology could be used to unlock doors, wire money or buy stuff online — simply with music playing over the radio.

A group of students from University of California, Berkeley, and Georgetown University showed in 2016 that they could hide commands in white noise played over loudspeakers and through YouTube videos to get smart devices to turn on airplane mode or open a website.

This month, some of those Berkeley researchers published a research paper that went further, saying they could embed commands directly into recordings of music or spoken text. So while a human listener hears someone talking or an orchestra playing, Amazon’s Echo speaker might hear an instruction to add something to your shopping list.

The way Walter Jon Williams puts it is:

Of course you knew that when you installed Alexa, Siri, or Google’s Assistant in your home, you were installing a spy.  You just trusted that Amazon, Apple, or Google would use your information for good, or at least would not actively harm you.

What you may not have known is that these assistants aren’t just spies, they’re potential enemy saboteurs.

(5) FOCUS ON THE DONUT NOT THE HOLE. Scott Edelman calls on everyone to “Relive Nebula Awards weekends past and present in the third lightning-round episode of Eating the Fantastic”.

In 2016, Eating the Fantastic brought you the Readercon Donut Spectacular.

In 2017, you were invited to partake of the Balticon Donut Extravaganza.

And now, in Episode 67, it’s time to experience—the Nebula Awards Donut Jamboree!

That’s right—it’s time for another lightning-round episode of Eating the Fantastic as 15 guests devour a tasty dozen—this time from Pittsburgh’s Just Good Donuts— while recounting their favorite Nebula Awards memories.

During the Nebula Awards weekend which ended yesterday, I sat near registration with a dozen donuts and a sign offering a free one to any who’d come on the show to chat about their memories of this annual event, and waited to see what would happen.

Which is how I ended up listening as Michael Swanwick explained how his love of Isaac Asimov impelled him to walk out on guest speaker Newt Gingrich, David D. Levine remembered catching the penultimate Space Shuttle launch, Daryl Gregory recalled the compliment which caused him to get yelled at by Harlan Ellison, Barry Goldblatt revealed what cabdrivers do when they find out he’s an agent, Cat Rambo put in a pitch for SFFWA membership, Fran Wilde confessed a moment of squee which was also a moment of ooops, Steven H. Silver shared how he caused Anne McCaffrey to receive a Pern threadfall, Annalee Flower Horne told of the time John Hodgman stood up for her onstage during the awards banquet, and much, much more!

(6) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lise Andreasen says Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal’s “Responsible” makes it clear: “We’re doomed.”

(7) COMIC-CON LITIGATION. Bryan Brandenburg, of the now-renamed FanX Salt Lake Comic Convention, told Facebook readers about the con’s next legal move:

If the San Diego Comic Convention vs Salt Lake Comic Con jury trial was the Empire Strikes Back, this marks Act I of Return of the Jedi. Dan Farr Productions has filed a motion for a new trial, which will likely lead to our appeal with the U.S. Court Of Appeals, Ninth Circuit.

(8) HITTING THE BRICKS. Newsweek has pictures: “Lego Superheroes: Batman, Superman and Other DC Comics Characters Made of Over Two Million Bricks”.

American artist Nathan Sawaya’s captivates crowds around the world with his life-size sculptures of DC Comics’ most famous characters, building them with Lego bricks. His latest exhibition features over 100 sculptures, with some taking as long as two or three weeks to make. Besides patience, they require a lot of Lego. His recreation of the Batmobile is 18 feet long and uses around half a million bricks.

Sawaya was originally working as a corporate lawyer when he decided to turn to Lego as his creative outlet. “Some people go to the gym or go running at the end of the day; for me, I needed to create something,” he explained in a recent interview. Now he owns an art studio in Los Angeles housing over 7 million bricks.

(9) CAN YOU DIG IT? James Davis Nicoll is out to save the world: “Tugging on Superman’s Cape: Simple Suggestions for Avoiding World-Destroying Disaster. Or Not.”

There are, I think, a few basic safety rules which, if consistently ignored, will almost always provide would-be adventurers with sufficient diversion to create an exciting plot.

Rule number one: do not engage in archaeology. Do not fund archaeology. Above all, do not free that which has been carefully entombed. In most SF and fantasy settings, there were good reasons for entombment…and they still hold.

Indiana Jones did not manage to keep the Nazis from grabbing the Ark of the Covenant. No, the Ark protected itself. As you can see…

(10) THE THRILLING POO OF YESTERYEAR. NPR has the story: “DNA Analysis Of Ancient Excrement Reveals The Diets Of Centuries Past”.

When it comes to the nitty, gritty details, life in antiquity was pretty stinky – in a literal sense. Without high food and personal hygienic standards, most people probably contracted an intestinal worm at some point or another, says veterinary scientist Martin Søe. “I think it’s fair to say it was very, very common. In places with low hygienic standards, you still have a lot of whipworm and round worm.”

That also means lots of parasitic eggs dumped into latrines through the years. In a scientist like Søe’s eyes, that’s a historical record of what people ate and what ailed their guts. So he and his colleagues at the University of Copenhagen and Aarhus University began exhuming ancient excrement from toilets of yore to reconstruct snapshots of food and health in bygone centuries.

(11) CROWDED NEIGHBORHOOD. At the time E.E. Smith wrote the Lensman series, the odds against this were supposed to be, ah, astronomical: “‘Ground-breaking’ galaxy collision detected”.

Star nurseries

Known as starburst galaxies, the objects are extremely bright as they are forming stars at a high rate – up to 1,000 times as fast as the Milky Way.

Professor Caitlin Casey, who was not involved in the study, described the findings as “extremely unusual.”

“We often get excited when we find just two galaxies like this grouped together, because each one is already quite unusual and rare compared to ‘normal galaxies’, forming stars several hundreds or thousands of times faster than the Milky Way. To find fourteen such starbursts all grouped together is unheard of,” the University of Texas at Austin researcher commented.

(12) ARTFUL POSER. Science Alert finds “The Official Picard Facepalm Bust Makes Daily Life Less Futile”. ThinkGeek has produced a $65 limited-edition 6-inch Picard facepalm bust, with only 1602 said to be available. Bad news – the ThinkGeek website already shows it as Out of Stock.

ThinkGeek has the perfect salve for every Trekkies effort to resist the workplace grind. An official 6-inch bust of Jean-Luc Picard in his notorious, glorious facepalm pose.

There are so many moments in life where a glance toward Picard would be just what you need to take the edge off life’s less than stellar moments.

But, here’s the bad news. It’s a limited edition. Only 1602 people will be able to get their hands on this official merchandise.

…At US$64.99 it’s a little more than joke gift territory, but ThinkGeek has limited the bust to two per customer, so they know this thing will sell out fast.

Make it so. Before it’s too late.

(13) SING ME A SONG. Rev. Bob broke out a filk to wide applause in today’s comments:

The File 770 Rag

It’s file o’clock on a Caturday
My mailbox just sounded a chime
Mike’s news for fans is awaiting me
Today’s Pixel Scroll’s here right on time!

There’s a dozen or two short news items there
Plus a couple of odd videos
A comic or two and a birthday or three
And maybe some blog links – who knows?

Pixels keep scrollin’ on
And comments keep rollin’ along…

Scroll us some pixels, Seven-Seventy
Serve up the news tonight
You’re the place that we go to be “in the know”
And the comments will roll in all night

Now Meredith’s cruising an ebook site
To tell us which books are priced right
But it seems that her dragon
Is blockin’ my wagon
So I’ll probably be here all night

I see movement – there, in a dark corner
They’re probably the shy lurker type
Far away, I may hear puppies baying now
But I’m not buying into their hype.

Oh, pixels keep scrollin’ on
And comments keep rollin’ along…

Well, Kendall scored fifth ‘fore I hit the end
With Hampus in second-fifth place
Sometime Soon Lee will appear
Followed by Paul Weimer
As Stoic and Chip up the pace.

Damn, I can’t read this verse for the life o’ me
But not ’cause I’m blind, drunk or mean
No, JJ said it was too spoilery
And encoded it in ROT13.

Fpebyy hf fbzr cvkryf, Frira-Friragl
Freir hc gur arjf gbavtug
Lbh’er gur cynpr gung jr tb gb or “va gur xabj”
Naq gur pbzzragf jvyy ebyy va nyy avtug

The discussion’s still rolling on Caturday
Camestros and Tim just arrived
Lis, Jon, Andrew, Ctein,
James, Bruce, others most fine,
Ding! A new Pixel Scroll just arrived!

And the book recs, they grow just like lava flows
As Mt. Tsundoku’s slopes reach the skies
And my bank account weeps as my rent money creeps
Into publishers’ pockets – b’bye!

Oh, pixels keep scrollin’ on
And comments keep rollin’ along…

Scroll us some pixels, Seven-Seventy
Serve up the news tonight
You’re the place that we go to be “in the know”
And the comments will roll in all night

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Steven H Silver, James Davis Nicoll, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock Martin Morse Wooster, ULTRAGOTHA, Lise Andreasen, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rev. Bob.]

Pixel Scroll 5/12/18 Don’t Pixel Under The Kitten-Tree With Anyscroll Else But Me

(1) PLUG PULLED ON GAMING CON. The Dark Carnival Games convention in Denver was shut down by the hotel this weekend. Violence between some people on the premises seems to have been the cause – for example, see this video of a fight that purportedly occurred there.

Trae Dorn explains one of the con’s unusual characteristics in his post at Nerd & Tie.

Dark Carnival Games Con (or “Dark Carnival Game Con” according to some of the other official materials) isn’t exactly your typical gaming convention. It’s a game convention for Juggalos hosted by the Insane Clown Posse themselves.

In fact, after the shutdown, Insane Clown Posse issued a statement on Facebook:

…Juggalos…we love you. We appreciate you. And we acknowledge all your wonderful work and creativity in making DCG a Dark Carnival blessed and beautiful space that was truly For Juggalos, By Juggalos. However, due to circumstances that are beyond our control, the DCG Con Conventiion Hall has been shut down, to the tears and heartbreak of our wonderful 100% Juggalo-run staff and amazing attendees who put their hearts and souls into making this space for our beloved Juggalo Family. This was COMPLETELY out of our hands, ninjas. We here at Psychopathic Records apologize and we are with you, we will be here in the hotel, and we love you more than you will ever know….

(2) ARE CODES OF CONDUCT WORKING? Alisa Krasnostein has made available the results of her “Audit of Australian Science Fiction convention Codes of Conduct”. Her survey received 81 responses. Analysis and graphs at the link.

Executive Summary

After personally hearing recounts of a few very troubling incidents, I decided to conduct a survey of attendees at Australian SF conventions to assess the prevalence of harassment still being experienced there….

…Drilling down into the details of how these codes of conduct are being enforced, and how complaints are being addressed, raised some real issues for concern.

The successful enforcement of a code of conduct relies on a reporting process that is well publicised, accessible, supportive, safe and trusted.

Only 85% of the respondents were aware of the code of conduct. 70% knew whom to approach for assistance as per the code of conduct. All three of the main SF conventions inform attendees to report any incidents of harassment to the convention committee. Swancon includes WASFF board members as a point of contact. Only one of the conventions tells attendees how to identify these points of contact (by the colour of their con badge).

I find this to be grossly insufficient. It relies on convention attendees to know not only the names but also match them to the faces of organisers of the event they are attending, and to be able to locate them during a personally stressful or distressing time. Additionally, in my experience, both as a convention attendee and organiser, convention committee members are incredibly busy and not remotely accessible at the best of times. Let alone when you need a quiet and private moment to lodge an upsetting complaint….

(3) AS IF MILLONS OF VOICES SUDDENLY CRIED OUT. Inverse reports “That pesky Obi-Wan Kenobi movie might actually be happening” — “Obi-Wan ‘Star Wars’ Movie Rumored to Be in Secret Pre-Production”.

Since August of 2017, persistent rumors have suggested that a standalone Star Wars movie about Obi-Wan Kenobi, and starring Ewan McGregor is definitely going to happen. However, since then, there has been no official confirmation from Lucasfilm about this project. But, on Thursday, the day of the early Los Angeles premiere of Solo: A Star Wars Story, a new rumor surfaced that the Obi-Wan movie is already in secret pre-production.

…[A]ccording to an anonymous source who spoke to Fantha Tracks on Thursday, “The project is sufficiently along that an art department is now in full pre-production mode at Pinewood Studios, England…A number of concept artists, prop modelers, and storyboard artists are working as a team across the two locations on the film…”

(4) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman says don’t miss a chance to  chow down on chive dumplings with Mary SanGiovanni in Episode 66 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast. Scott adds, “Warning: The post — though not the episode itself — include video of me strumming ‘Monster Mash’ on the ukulele!” Hm, I better see if my liability insurance covers that….

Did you listen to the 24-hour Scares That Care Telethon, hosted by Brian Keene and his cohorts from The Horror Show with Brian Keene podcast, which ended at noon today after having raised $21,591 for that 501c3 charity devoted to helping those coping with childhood illness, burns and breast cancer? If not, don’t worry. Because though its content was for the most part livestreamed only, never to be seen or heard again, I’ve got some of it for you right here.

Because once again, Eating the Fantastic invaded!

During last year’s telethon, as captured in Episode 34, I brought BBQ and chatted with that best-selling zombie author himself, while this year I picked up takeout from Viet Thai Cafe for dinner with Mary SanGiovanni.

Mary’s the author of The Hollower trilogy, the first volume of which was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award, plus the recent novels Chills and Savage Woods. Her collections include Under Cover of Night, A Darkling Plain, and Night Moves. She’s also the host of the Cosmic Shenanigans podcast.

We discussed H. P. Lovecraft’s racism and sexuality (or lack thereof), how having grown up in New Jersey might have given her the toughness she needed to survive her early short story rejections, why she ended up writing horror instead of science fiction even though her father read her Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert when she was a kid, which novella she wrote that will never see the light of day, how watching The Exorcist III changed her life, why she’s no longer afraid of vampires, the reason her motto if she founded a religious cult would be “doorways are meant to be opened,” the first writer she met who treated her like an equal, the identify of “the George Carlin of Horror,” and much, much more.

(5) PREFERRED BOOKSTORES. N. K. Jemisin contributed to Lonely Planet’s list: “11 authors recommend US bookstores worth traveling for”.

WORD Books in Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Recommended by NK Jemisin, author of The Stone Sky

WORD Books in Greenpoint is probably my current favorite. It’s tiny and cramped, yet they consistently manage to have at least one book that I absolutely HAVE to buy, every time I go there. And the downstairs event space makes up for the tight fit upstairs; I had the launch party for The Fifth Season there and it was lovely. There was even enough room for a homemade volcano! And readings, and talks and more. It’s on a gorgeous street with historic architecture and a little park, easily bike-able or train-able. All they lack is a bookstore cat. Why don’t bookstores do those anymore? Oh, allergies. Well, it’s perfect except for that.

(6) BUD PLANT OUT. One of the San Diego Comic-Con giants is going away: “Comic-Con Pioneer Vendor, Bud Plant, Calls it Quits After 48 Years”.

“I’m proud that we had as many as 11 booths up until 2008, 10 of new products and one with out-of-print material,” he said. “But since that disastrous year, when sales dropped by 40 percent, we’ve been downsizing in an effort to still make it work.”

Francis “Bud” Plant, 66, of Grass Valley noted how he spent “seven full days on the road” and 13-hour days at the annual July show.

He said event organizers had always treated him well, but “attendees these days are, in general, not our customers or they are not looking for books.”

(7) WHO’S WHO IN EOFANDOM. Fanac.org posted a scan of L.D. Broyles’ “1961 Who’s Who #1”. Lots of fans you never heard of before, I betcha. However, I did pretty well on page 4 – recognized 5 out of 9 fans listed, including Greg Benford and Ruth Berman. You might be intrigued by Roger Ebert’s entry, from before he made the big time —

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • May 12, 1988 Earth Girls Are Easy premiered on this day.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) WE INTERRUPT THIS WAKE… After Syfy cancelled The Expanse The Verge’s Andrew Liptak found a way to soften the blow: “The Expanse author James S.A. Corey is writing a new space opera trilogy”.

Coming off of this morning’s news that the Syfy channel was not going to renew The Expanse for a fourth season, there is some positive news for fans of the series: Orbit Books has announced that it has signed Expanse author James S.A. Corey for three books of a new space opera series.

Corey is actually two authors: Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, who co-wrote The Expanse series, which is expected to run for nine novels, the last of which will hit bookstores in 2019. That series has become a popular hit with readers and was adapted as a television show on the Syfy channel that premiered in 2015 with Abraham and Franck as producers. The duo have written outside of the series before: they wrote a Star Wars novel about Han Solo in 2014, Honor Among Thieves. Abraham tells The Verge that Orbit is where James S.A. Corey really began, and I’m delighted that we have another projected queued up with them once The Expanse is complete.”

(11) DISNEY WORLD’S HOTTEST ATTRACTION – FOR ONE DAY. Syfy Wire has videos and stills — “WATCH: Maleficent the dragon bursts into flames during Disney World parade”.

We all know that dragons are supposed to breathe fire, not catch fire. Well,  Maleficent never got that memo.

Friday afternoon, during the Festival of Fantasy parade at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, an enormous animatronic float of Maleficent in dragon form caught fire. The fire occurred when the dragon arrived in Liberty Square, with about 15 minutes remaining in the parade. No one was injured, and the fire was extinguished quickly.

 

(12) A PENNY FOR YOUR VIKING THOUGHTS. Atlas Obscura delves into “The Mystery of Maine’s Viking Penny”.

On February 6, 1979, Kolbjørn Skaare, a Norwegian numismatist with a tall, wide forehead, walked into the Maine State Museum to see the coin. Just a few years earlier, he had published Coins and Coinage in Viking-Age Norway, a doctoral thesis that grew from the decade-plus he had spent as a keeper at the University of Oslo’s Coin Cabinet. The first specialist to examine the coin in person, he had just a day with it before Bruce J. Bourque, the museum’s lead archaeologist, had to address the national press.

Skaare saw “a dark-grey, fragmentary piece,” he later wrote. It had not been found whole, and the coin had continued to shed tiny bits since it was first weighed. A little less than two-thirds of an inch in diameter, it had a cross on one side, with two horizontal lines, and on the other side “an animal-like figure in a rather barbarous design,” with a curved throat and hair like a horse’s mane. In his opinion, it was an authentic Norwegian penny from the second half of the 11th century.

The mystery centered on its journey from Norway to Maine. It was possible to imagine, for example, that it had traveled through the hands of traders, from farther up the Atlantic coast, where Norse explorer Leif Eriksson was known to have built a winter camp. If the coin had come to America in the more recent decades, the hoaxer—presumably Mellgren, Runge, or someone playing a trick on them—must have been able to obtain a medieval Norse coin.

(13) FAMILIAR FIGURE. Here’s something else in silver that’s come from the mint a little more recently…. The New Zealand Mint has just introduced its very first Star Trek pure silver miniature: “Captain Kirk Takes the Silver”.

3D master sculptor Alejandro Pereira Ezcurra designed the Kirk miniature, which is available now in a limited worldwide production of only 1,000 casts. Produced from a minimum of 150g pure silver, it stands approx 10cm tall, is finished with an antique polish, and features a unique production number stamped into the base.

 

They want US$550 for the Captain. The New Zealand Mint is also offering some less expensive silver Trek collectibles. There’s a series of coin notes with images of the Classic Trek crew. Who knew the day would come when money would be issued with Lt. Uhura on one side and Queen Elizabeth II on the other?

Made from 5g of pure silver, the note’s reverse has images of Uhura and the U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701 and is coloured and engraved with Star Trek themes.

The obverse features the Ian Rank-Broadley effigy of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and is legal tender in Niue.

(14) REPOPULATION TROPE. Wired headline: “How Hard Could It Be to Repopulate the Planet?” Editor Gordon Van Gelder addresses repopulating the Earth stories (including his collection Go Forth and Multiply), John W. Campbell, and much more in an episode of Wired’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy.

In the 1950s many science fiction writers explored the idea of a global disaster that leaves behind only a single man and woman, who would then have to carry on the human race. According to science fiction editor Gordon Van Gelder, a popular variant of this idea featured a twist ending in which the last man and woman turn out to be Adam and Eve.

“It was one of those stories that science fiction would lend itself to so readily, and newbies would be drawn to it, like ants going to a sugar cube,” Van Gelder says in Episode 308 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast.

The idea became so overused that magazines would specifically prohibit writers from submitting “Adam and Eve stories.” And while such stories would remain the bane of science fiction editors for decades, the theme of repopulation also produced a number of interesting thought experiments, many of which Van Gelder collected in his recent book Go Forth and Multiply. He says that despite obvious concerns about inbreeding, the idea of one man and one woman repopulating the world isn’t impossible.

(15) SWIMMING THE CHANNELS. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie says, “Unless you have one of those new-fangled colour television things with auto-record, this Thursday 9 p.m. gives us Brit SF fans a tough choice.” At that hour they have to pick between —

  • Channel 4 the new season of Humans:

  • Or BBC4 and the French SF series Missions:

(16) WHIRLYBIRD. BBC reports “NASA will send helicopter to Mars to test otherworldly flight”.

The Mars Helicopter will be bundled with the US space agency’s Mars rover when it launches in 2020.

Its design team spent more than four years shrinking a working helicopter to “the size of a softball” and cutting its weight to 1.8kg (4lbs).

It is specifically designed to fly in the atmosphere of Mars, which is 100 times thinner than Earth’s.

(17) WHERE DINOS TROD. In case you hadn’t heard, some people are idiots: “Utah tourists urged to stop throwing dinosaur tracks in lake”.

Visitors to a US state park in Utah have been destroying 200 million-year-old dinosaur tracks by throwing them into the water, park officials say.

While this has been an ongoing problem for many years, officials say the damaging behaviour has increased dramatically in the last six months.

The dinosaur tracks are one of the biggest draws to Red Fleet State Park and many have been irrevocably damaged.

Visitors have been throwing the tracks around as if they were merely rocks.

(18) USING SPACE. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna, in “Here’s why 2018 is a huge moment in the history of political cartoons”, studies the work of such prize-winning political cartoonists as Ruben Bolling, Tom Tomorrow, and Jen Sorensen and finds they are more like multi-panel comics than they used to be.

Many veteran political cartoonists occasionally create longer-form comics, but traditionally that work hasn’t garnered the mainstream awards. Now, formal recognition is catching up to both changing technology and new pools of talent.

“Without the space constraints print always had,” Sutton notes of drawing in an online era, “the number of panels in a cartoon is no longer the pressing issue it once was” — so more cartoonists can diversify their formats.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Destino:  Walt Disney & Salvador Dali (1945-2003)” is a short animated film on YouTube begun by Salvador Dali in 1945 and abandoned and ultimately completed by Disney in 2003.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Errolwi, Michael J. Walsh. Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Scott Edelman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editors of the day Andrew and Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 4/13/18 Soylent Scroll is Pixels

(1) ARTEMIS IS NOT THE EXPANSE. Ioannis Kokkinidis gives an analysis of how realistic Andy Weir’s Artemis is in “The polis of Artemis on the Moon” at Centauri Dreams.

Over the years many rationales have been given to colonize the Moon. This is the only story I have read – granted I have not been able to read that much science fiction – where tourism is the primary driver of colonization. Andy Weir has said that he first created an economy of the town and then went on to write the novel. His description of a tourist dependent city though has several assumptions that, while mostly true for some American destinations, are quite odd for tourist destinations outside the US. This is an analysis by a person who comes from a country whose economy is highly dependent of tourism, has visited some 30 countries and lived in 5 of them. I am trying to keep this review as spoiler free as possible so as not to ruin the enjoyment of the book to anyone who has not read it, though I hope that those that have not read the book will be able to follow my arguments and form their own opinions.

Kokkinidis’ article includes the surprise that Andy Weir and James S.A. Corey (aka Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) have agreed that his stories are set in the same universe as The Expanse series.

Or not, says Greg Hullender, who sent the link along with his own research into the matter.

There was a tweet from Corey back in 2015 that said the stories were part of the same continuity —

But a few months ago, Weir denied it during a  Reddit AMA session:

I love The Expanse – fantastic stories. But no, The Martian and The Expanse are not in the same continuity. They just threw in the reference for fun. I’m honored.

And a month later, Daniel Abraham admitted it was just a joke:

It was a friendly joke at SDCC a few years back. Andy’s awesome, and we’re fans. I think we can keep the copyright lawyers in their cages for the time being.

Ah well. It was a pretty idea while it lasted.

(2) DOCTOR STRANGEMIND. Kim Huett of Doctor Strangemind takes the recent controversy over Terry Goodkind’s criticism of cover srt on his new book as a starting point for a dive into sff art history, “Author Vs Art”.

In 1973 Dennis Stocks organized a science fiction convention in Brisbane. At this convention there was a panel titled: “SF Illustration… A Dying Art?” In preparation for this panel he asked various authors their opinions. He received some fascinating answers:

….Perhaps we’ll have more luck with Robert Bloch:

About science fiction illustration being a dying art – I’d be more inclined to regard the patient as not dying but merely partially crippled. My diagnosis is as follows:

His skin – that is to say, cover illustrations in both magazines and paperbacks – has a good, healthy tone and radiates a high degree of vitality,

His insides – i.e. interior illustrations in the magazines are ailing. And have been for many a long year. Much black-and-white is crude, hastily-executed and poorly reproduced, and necessarily limited as to size by the digest format of the pages on which it appears.

(3) FELAPTON PIRATED! Camestros Felapton real life is far more exciting than mere fiction: “Avast! And Splice the Epub Me Hearties! Pirates Off the Starboard iBook!”

So 2018 has so far been a strange year for the Felapton brand, aside from a being a Hugo finalist, being reported to the Federal Police for running a blog and not forgetting being accused of secretly lecturing in philosophy in Aberdeen, I’ve now been pirated!

The Apple iBooks store has two version of The Felapton Digest available. One is the correct one distributed by Smashwords and is free. The other is…I’m not sure, I haven’t looked inside it because whoever is selling it is charging $39.99!

(4) NEW BAT CHANNEL. George R.R. Martin has moved his blog off of LiveJournal. Here’s the link to the new URL for Not A Blog.

(5) FREE COMICS. Free Comic Book Day is coming May 5.

(6) REAL LIFE PODCASTING. Cat Rambo shares a… pro tip? Confession?

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Cat Eldridge agrees with xkcd’s Narnian punchline about Turkish Delight.

(8) NIHIL NECCO? Meanwhile, the fate of another candy hangs in the balance — “Necco wafers may disappear forever due to candy factory shutdown”:

Still, Necco Wafers are not as flashy as more modern confections, like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or Baby Ruths. Naysayers have complained that Necco Wafers taste like drywall or chalk; time and again, the wafers have topped lists of America’s most hated candy.

Be that as it may, Necco Wafers are suddenly having a huge revival. Why? Because the candy factory — the New England Confectionary Company, or Necco — that makes these deliciously despised candies may shut down.

In March, Necco CEO Michael McGee told the Boston Globe that the failing company would be closing down — and laying off nearly 400 people — if it could not find a buyer.

(9) A REAL SPACE MUSEUM. The BBC tells about : “The ambitious proposal to create a space ‘museum’ in orbit” — preserving the Hubble as an exhibit now that there’s no shuttle to keep refurbishing it.

One of the most significant scientific endeavours of all time, Hubble is destined to burn apart as it re-enters the atmosphere in the early 2030s. It will go the same way as many other historic space objects – from the first satellite and Laika the space dog, to Skylab and the Mir space station.

But there may be an “impossible” alternative.

“It seems an ignominious end for such a celebrated object,” says Stuart Eves, chair of the Space Information Exchange – a UK government and industry forum for space security and infrastructure – who is a satellite engineer and expert on space debris. “Instead, in the same way we preserve historic ships, aircraft, cars and trains in museums,” he says, “we ought to look after Hubble and preserve it for posterity.”

Rather than bring it back to Earth – a costly and challenging mission (successfully attempted by the Space Shuttle in 1984 with two communications satellites) – Eves is urging the US to preserve the telescope in space.

(10) THE GOAL. Greg Hullender explains the reviewing philosophy of Rocket Stack Rank in “A Word for Authors”. “It tries to give authors some guidance on when they ought to engage with us about a review they had problems with,” he says. “The key thing is that it separates our reviews, which are matters of opinion, from our index, which should be a matter of fact. We have an adversarial relationship with authors regarding reviews, but we ought to be cooperative when it comes to the index. It’s the one place where we have the same goal: to attract readers to stories that might interest them.” Here’s an excerpt —

Honest Doesn’t Mean Cruel

Some authors can’t handle any amount of criticism of their work. One author complained about five negative words in thousand-word 5-star review which otherwise gushed over how great the story was. Another complained that a 5-star review praised their story for the wrong reasons. We can’t make everyone happy, and we aren’t going to try.

But there’s no reason to be cruel either. Nothing I post is ever meant to hurt an author’s feelings. If I’ve overstepped the line, anyone (readers, authors, editors, etc.) should feel free to let me know. In particular:

  • A review should never be personal. “This story suffers from a weak plot” is okay. “This author can’t plot his way out of a paper bag” is not.
  • A review should not pile on. Once I’ve cited enough reasons to explain why the story got a 2-star review, I should stop. There’s no point in trying to list 50 things that bothered me if 5 will do.
  • A review should never use the race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, religion, or disability of an author or the characters portrayed as factors for or against a story. (Unrealistic portrayal is a different story, of course. “But a Mainer would neverbe best friends with a New Yorker!”)

Beyond that, if an author believed I was unnecessarily harsh, he or she should feel free to let me know. If I somehow wrote “This was the most awful thing I’ve ever read,” I’d almost certainly be willing to soften that to “I didn’t enjoy this story at all.”

(11) YANG AT HIGH TIDE. Joe Sherry covers three books in “Nanoreviews: Good Guys, Penric’s Fox, The Black Tides of Heaven” at Nerds of a Feather.

He really likes this one –

Yang, JY. The Black Tides of Heaven [Tor.com Publishing]

Have you ever read a book and midway through you’re actively angry at yourself for not reading it sooner? That was me after maybe twenty pages of The Black Tides of Heaven. By the end of the book my jaw was on the floor in amazement at just how spectacular this novella is. Told over the course of more than thirty years, The Black Tides of Heaven is not quite the story of revolution, but it is more a story of politics, of family, of personal choice, with a bit of revolution in the mix. All of that, and more, is woven together to something that is far superior than any facile description I could possibly give. I’m not sure I am up to the task of properly reviewing thie novella. I can only give The Black Tides of Heaven my highest possible recommendation.
Score: 10/10 

(12) THE U.S. ARMY’S OWN MILSF. The IEEE Spectrum says “To Illustrate the Dangers of Cyberwarfare, the Army Is Turning to Sci-fi”.

Graphic novelettes issued by the U.S. Army Cyber Institute aim to educate soldiers about digital threats…

The books grew out of the ACI’s collaboration with the Threatcasting Lab at Arizona State University, in Tempe. Brian David Johnson is the director of the Threatcasting Lab and Intel’s former in-house futurist. He wrote the books—Dark Hammer, Silent Ruin, Engineering a Traitor, and 11/25/27—with Sandy Winkelman as creative director.

“We do two-day threatcasting events where we…model possible threats 10 years in the future,” Johnson says. “Threats to national security, threats to the economy, threats to civilization. And once we’ve established those, then we look backward and say, ‘How do we disrupt and mitigate those threats?’ ” he says.

The ACI decided they wanted more than just the lab’s traditional reports, Johnson says. “They wanted something that was much more visceral, that could be put in front of an 18-year-old cadet and also in front of a three-star general. They chose a process of mine called science fiction prototyping. You write science fiction stories based on science facts to explore possible futures. We used the threatcasting reports as the science facts, and we developed these four comic books as a way to illustrate these possible threats.”

(13) THE NEXT JOB FOR ROBOTS. Never mind hamburgers: “Could a robot pip people picking peppers?” [Video]

A pepper-picking robot named Harvey is being developed by Queensland University of Technology with the aim of reducing crop waste.

Moving between crop rows autonomously, the robot can detect when the fruit is ripe and picks the pepper with the aid of a suction grip and an electric saw.

(14) WINTER IS COMING. Europe could get colder: “Climate change dials down Atlantic Ocean heating system” — “the Atlantic Ocean circulation system is weaker now than it has been for more than 1,000 years – and has changed significantly in the past 150.”

The study, in the journal Nature, says it may be a response to increased melting ice and is likely to continue.

Researchers say that could have an impact on Atlantic ecosystems.

Scientists involved in the Atlas project – the largest study of deep Atlantic ecosystems ever undertaken – say the impact will not be of the order played out in the 2004 Hollywood blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow.

But they say changes to the conveyor-belt-like system – also known as the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (Amoc) – could cool the North Atlantic and north-west Europe and transform some deep-ocean ecosystems.

(15) PAY THE WRITER. The BBC article “Dealing with clients who expect you to work for free” is a collection of sleazy lines turned into cartoons — not specifically genre, but a common concern in the field. (Cartoons at the link.)

She calls this a “graphic survey” approach –  drawing illustrations that put a face with the crowd-sourced quote – that would create a space for creatives to share their experiences.

“It’s fun to create that in-joke where people have experienced these things,” she says. “But the other people [who aren’t in on the joke] are like, ‘What’s going on, am I getting made fun of?’ It creates awareness, and hopefully it gets shared.”

The goal of For Exposure, beyond creating a platform for frustrated creatives? It’s not only to arm them to be savvier – it’s also hold the people they work for accountable.

“I want artists to learn to recognise red flags,” Estrada says. “And I want clients to learn how not to be insulting.”

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

John Picacio’s Mexicanx Initiative Approaching 50 Memberships

Late in January, Worldcon 76 Artist Guest of Honor John Picacio announced he would be giving memberships in the con to two #Mexicanx professional sf/f artists or writers and two Mexicanx sf/f fans.

I’m doing this because our world needs more #Mexicanx stories, more #Mexicanx sf/f pros and fans, and more #DREAMers. To own our future, we *must* own our narratives, lest we continue to be villainized, abused, and butchered.

Two of the first four memberships were donated by John Scalzi. Since then many more contributors have stepped up, raising the number to nearly 50.

John Picacio has updated the donor list

My amazing sponsoring teammates so far are:

The submissions date has passed for requesting assistance (February 2) however,  Picacio says, “I’m still accepting Worldcon 76 Attending Membership sponsorships for Mexicanx pros and fans.”

Interested sponsors can contact him here: http://johnpicacio.com/contact.html