Pixel Scroll 5/11/19 Doc Pixel, Scroll Of Bronze

(1) I WAS A FAN FOR THE FBI. Rob Hansen’s THEN documents the FBI informant who joined the LASFS and enjoyed fandom so much he stuck around — Samuel D. Russell. I heard the story from Milt Stevens, who made sure the legend was handed down to future club members, but I never had the opportunity to read these articles before.

…The name of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society was brought into the proceedings of the trial of eleven local communist leaders, currently taking place in this city. The eleven men and women being tried for the alleged act of advocating the use of violence for overthrowing the government of the United States.

The prosecution introduced various witnesses who had joined the communist party as informers for the FBI. One of these witness was the once well-known fan, Samuel D. Russell. Among many other activities, Russell was co-editor and publisher, with Francis T. Laney, of THE ACOLYTE, which was for many years one of the leading fan mags of the nation.

(2) MISSING IN ACTION. Joseph Loconte, author of A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War, says the new biopic fails to present a key moment of Tolkien’s life in “Tolkien Film Fails to Capture the Majesty of His Achievement” at National Review.

…Yet the film devotes more time to idle bantering and boozing than it does to the group’s literary and moral purposes. It also overlooks a crucial exchange: a meeting in December 1914, dubbed “the Council of London,” which was transformative for Tolkien. “In fact it was a council of life,” writes John Garth, author of the magisterial Tolkien and the Great War. The prospect of the trenches had a sobering effect. Late into the night they talked and debated — about love, literature, patriotism, and religion. It was at this moment, and among this fellowship, that Tolkien began to sense his literary calling. “For Tolkien, the weekend was a revelation,” Garth concludes, “and he came to regard it as a turning point in his creative life.”

If the film’s writers wanted to depict such a revelatory scene — which they don’t — it would have required familiarity with an ancient source of wisdom. We no longer appreciate how the educated classes of Tolkien’s generation were schooled in the classical and medieval literary traditions….

(3) DET. PIKACHU. The BBC’s Ali Plumb also likes Detective Pikachu — even if it doesn’t make sense: “Ali Plumb reviews Detective Pikachu”.

21-year-old insurance salesman Tim hasn’t seen his police detective dad for years, but when news arrives that his old man has mysteriously disappeared, he heads to the Pokemon paradise of Ryme City – where humans and Pokemon live side by side – to look into what’s happened.

Poking around his father’s flat, he discovers his dad’s Pokemon partner, “Detective Pikachu”, wandering around with no memory of what has occurred.

Together, Tim and Pikachu must solve the case and save the world, meeting a whole host of different Pokemon along the way, battling the occasional Charizard and negotiating with Mr. Mimes. As you do.

(4) ROAD TRIP. The BBC asks, “How do you learn to drive on Mars?” I don’t know, but Ray Bradbury had a license!

Ray Bradbury’s Martian driver license

Time is of the essence. It’s now little more than a year until the Rosalind Franklin rover is sent to Mars.

Engineers across Europe and Russia are busy assembling this scientific vehicle. and the hardware that will both carry it to the Red Planet and put it down safely on the surface.

In parallel to all this are the ongoing rehearsals.

These needed to ensure controllers can easily and efficiently operate the robot from back here on Earth.

The videos on this page show the latest locomotion verification tests that have been conducted at the RUAG company in Switzerland.

Not at the above link: debarkation, on video.

(5) BOLGEO MEDICAL UPDATE. Marcia Kelly Illingworth alerts friends of Tim Bolgeo that he has entered hospice care:

I am getting damned sick and tired of having to write to you about things like this. My dear, old friend, Tim “Uncle Timmy” Bolgeo, a well-known, Southern fan, founder of LibertyCon, in Chattanooga, TN, is in the hospital in Chattanooga TN, and has been placed in Hospice care.

I know that a lot of old school fans have problems with Timmy, due to his Conservative political views, and his old school, unconscious, presumed racist jokes. Be that as it may, I am here to say that he is a good man, a caring man, and a better friend anyone would be hard pressed to find. He’s been active in Southern fandom for more years than I can say. His electronic fanzine, The Revenge of Humpday, was nominated for a Hugo.

Timmy has been fighting health issues for years. He started having heart trouble back in the nineties. I remember when his first heart surgery had to be postponed, because his cardiologist had a heart attack that morning and had to have heart surgery himself that day. Some guys just can’t get a break! He has been battling congestive heart failure for some time now, with ever increasing medication. He was hospitalized last Friday, and today the family has advised us that he has been placed in Hospice care. They are asking prayers for a peaceful passing. We were so hoping that he would make it to one last LibertyCon.

(For anyone who needs more background, File 770 reported when Bolgeo’s fanzine made news in 2014.)

(6) LEWIS OBIT. The Reverend Allen L. Lewis, 77, of Sioux Falls, SD passed away on Monday, April 29 at the age of 77. The family obituary is here.

…Over the course of several decades Father Al amassed one of the largest private collections of Science Fiction and Fantasy hard bound first edition books in the world. The bulk of his collection was donated to the University of Iowa in 2015.

The donation was noted in Pixel Scroll (item 4) on July 28, 2015:

After 20 years of collecting, he is donating his one-of-a-kind collection of 17,500 books worth an estimated three quarters of a million dollars.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 11, 1899 E.  B. White. He’s a co-author with William Strunk Jr.of The Elements of Style. In addition, he wrote Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web. (Died 1985.)
  • Born May 11, 1916 Maurice Nahum. ISFDB credits him with being Editior in the Fifties of the Futuristic Science StoriesOut of This World MagazineSupernatural Stories and several other publications. Langford at the usual source says of them that ‘All were juvenile, undated and of poor quality.’ (Died 1994.)
  • Born May 11, 1920 Denver Pyle. His first genre performance is in The Flying Saucer way back in 1950 where he was a character named Turner. Escape to Witch Mountain as Uncle Bené is his best known genre role. He’s also showed up on the Fifties Adventures of SupermanCommando Cody: Sky Marshal of the UniverseMen Into Space, Twilight Zone and his final role was apparently in How Bugs Bunny Won the West as the Narrator. (Died 1997.)
  • Born May 11, 1918 Richard Feynman. Ok, not genre as such but certainly genre adjacent. I wholeheartedly recommend Genius: The Life and Science of Richard Feynman by James Gleick for an entertaining look at his life. (Died 1988.)
  • Born May 11, 1936 Gordon  Benson Jr. Publisher and bibliographer who released the first of his many SF bibliographies around the early Eighties. Writers such as Anderson, Lieber and Wellman were covered. Early bibliographies written solo were revised for the Galactic Central Bibliographies for the Avid Reader series, are listed jointly with Phil Stephensen-Payne as later ones. (Died 1996.)
  • Born May 11, 1952 Frances Fisher, 67. Angie on Strange Luck and a recurring role as Eva Thorne on Eureka. Have I mentioned how I love the latter series? Well I do! She’s also shown up on Medium, X-Files, Outer Limits, Resurrection, The Expanse and has some role in the forthcoming Watchmen series. 
  • Born May 11, 1976 Alter S. Reiss, 43. He’s a scientific editor and field archaeologist. He lives in Jerusalem, he’s written two novels, Sunset Mantel and Recalled to Service. He’s also written an impressive amount of short fiction in the past ten years, most published in places that I’ve never heard of. 
  • Born May 11, 1997 Lana Connor, 22. Jubilation “Jubilee” Lee in X-Men: Apocalypse, Koyomi in Alita: Battle Angel which is based on the manga series Gunnm, and she voices Kaoru in the Netfix series Rilakkuma and Kaoru.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro depicts state-of-the-art medicine for robots.

(9) YEAR’S BEST. Congratulations to Jim C. Hines for scoring a first –

(10) FANAC.ORG UPDATE. The award-winning resource site, Fanac.org, is continuing to put up classic old fanzines. All the zines listed, except Innuendo, were provided by Rob Jackson from Paul Skelton’s collection and scanned at Corflu 2019. Innuendo was provided by Joe Siclari and scanned at Corflu 2019.

  • Innuendo, 1956-1958. Edited by Terry Carr and Dave Rike (later by Terry Carr alone). 5 issues with contributors like Terry Carr, Robert Bloch, Carl Brandon, Harry Warner Jr., Bjo Wells (Trimble?), Bill Rotsler, Ray Nelson, Jack Speer, and Marion Zimmer Bradley. Outstanding stuff.
  • Tomorrow, issue 4, Winter 1938. Edited by Douglas Mayer. Published by the Science Fiction Association.
  • Umbra, 1955-1956, edited by John Hitchcock. 3 issues with contributors like Larry Stark, Ron Bennett, and Greg Benford.
  • Voice of the Imagi-Nation, edited by Forry Ackerman and Morojo. Issues 24, 27 and 33 from 1942-1944.  Letters from fandom, with correspondence from folks like Bob Tucker, Tigrina, Walt Leibscher, Harry Warner, C.S. Youd, Francis Towner Laney, Jimmy Kepner, Vol Molesworth, Robert Bloch, Milt Rothman and more.
  • Vulcan, edited by Pete Graham and Terry Carr. Issue (August 1952). Features, Fan humor, serious constructive stories, and serious constructive poems. Lots of Terry Carr content.

Also from Corflu, a recording of the Saturday panel, “The Void Boys Speak!” Thanks Rob Jackson, and thanks Bill!

VOID was a focal point fanzine of the 1950s, and launched the science fiction careers of Jim and Greg Benford. This panel, held at the 2019 Corflu, covers the history of VOID. With original editors Jim and Greg Benford, co-editor Ted White, and with Luis Ortiz (who is publishing a book on the topic) , the panel covers all aspects of VOID. If you are familiar only with the professional careers of Jim and Greg Benford, and Ted White, this video will give you perspective on their fannish careers. The video ends with a rousing rendition of the Void Boys song! Note that the video was streamed live, and there are slides in use showing the VOID covers that are not visible in the video. If you are interested in seeing the covers, or reading Void, check out http://fanac.org/fanzines/VOID.

(11) HELPING AN SJWCC. Florida Man does something nice for a change — “Bobcat coaxed down from Florida power pole”.

A wild bobcat perched high on a post by a busy road in the US state of Florida was encouraged down by workers in a cherry picker truck who used an extendable tool to tap it continuously on the head.

The cat, which was sat atop the pole used to support power cables in Collier County, eventually climbed down before leaving the scene in a hurry.

The power had been switched off to prevent electrocution, local media reported.

(12) ADVANCED CREDENTIAL. Science challenges academics — “Cats rival dogs on many tests of social smarts. But is anyone brave enough to study them?”

Toddlers pass this test easily. They know that when we point at something, we’re telling them to look at it—an insight into the intentions of others that will become essential as children learn to interact with people around them. Most other animals, including our closest living relative, chimpanzees, fail the experiment. But about 20 years ago, researchers discovered something surprising: Dogs pass the test with flying colors. The finding shook the scientific community and led to an explosion of studies into the canine mind.

Cats like Carl were supposed to be a contrast. Like dogs, cats have lived with us in close quarters for thousands of years. But unlike our canine pals, cats descend from antisocial ancestors, and humans have spent far less time aggressively molding them into companions. So researchers thought cats couldn’t possibly share our brain waves the way dogs do.

Yet, as cats are apt to do, Carl defies the best-laid plans of Homo sapiens. He trots right over to the bowl Vitale is pointing at, passing the test as easily as his canine rivals. “Good boy!” Vitale coos.

(13) DOG AND PONY TIME. BBC is there when “Jeff Bezos unveils Moon lander concept”.

Amazon entrepreneur Jeff Bezos has unveiled a mock-up of a new lunar lander spacecraft that aims to take equipment and humans to the Moon by 2024.

The reusable Blue Moon vehicle will carry scientific instruments, satellites and rovers.

It will feature a new rocket engine called BE-7 that can blast 10,000lb (4,535kg) of thrust.

“It’s time to go back to the Moon, this time to stay,” said Mr Bezos.

Mr Bezos presented the Moon goals of his space exploration company Blue Origin at the Washington Convention Center in Washington DC, to an audience consisting of potential customers and officials from Nasa.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. After School on Vimeo is a cartoon by Hanna Kim about the adventures of a girl coming home from school.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/23/19 So Come On, Come On, Scroll The Pixellation With Me

(1) MCINTYRE HEALTH UPDATE. Vonda McIntyre, one of sff’s most loved figures, is seriously ill. A Caringbridge page has been started: “Vonda N.’s Story”.

Vonda spent much of Seattle’s snow week at Swedish Hospital with jaundice and some vertigo, having many tests. The test results are in now, and the news is not good. The diagnosis is inoperable metastatic pancreatic cancer. Her doctor said it isn’t stupid to hope for a year, but it could be less. She’ll probably be getting treatment that may or may not slow things down, no way to know for sure.

(2) #COPYPASTECRIS. Nora Roberts tells some things she’s learned about plagiarists and people scamming Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited author revenue system in “Not a Rant, but a promise”.

The count of my books lifted from is now five. And the count of writers victimized has gone up.

I’m getting one hell of an education on the sick, greedy, opportunistic culture that games Amazon’s absurdly weak system. And everything I learn enrages me.

There are black hat teams, working together, who routinely hire ghosts on the cheap, have them throw books together, push them out–many and fast–to make money, to smother out competition from those self-pubbed writers who do their own work. Those who do their own work can’t possibly keep up with the volume these teams produce by these fraudulent tactics.

They tutor others how to scam the system….

(3) A WHIRLWIND OF FANAC. Joe Siclari of Fanac.org reports “We’ve been getting a lot done, and last weekend we had a particularly productive Boskone.” 

At Boskone, the FANAC scanning station scanned almost 2000 pages of material. Scanning by Mark Olson, Edie Stern and Joe Siclari. History-minded fans stopped by and provided material (thanks Geri Sullivan!), and promised more. We have promises of photos and fanzines, and have already received a historical recording from Fred Lerner, and new scanning hardware too. 

The zines scanned at Boskone will be so marked in the index pages of the title, so you can see what we did. So far, we have put online about 850 pages of it.  So far from the Boston scanning we’ve put up issues of George Locke’s Smoke, Richard Bergeron’s Warhoon, Charles Lee Riddle’s Peon, Don Miller’s WSFA Journal, the Coulsons’ Yandro and brown and Katz’s Focal Point.

They can all be accessed from the Classic Fanzines List. More issues will be forthcoming. 

(4) RIGHT IN THE EYE. How would you like to go out this way? From NPR: “NOAA Researcher’s Ashes Were Dropped Into The Eye Of Hurricane Michael”.

Last fall, as Hurricane Michael was swirling toward the Florida panhandle, NOAA officials say it was carrying something in addition to rain and wind — the ashes of long-time hurricane researcher, Michael Black. Black was a research meteorologist who worked at the Hurricane Research Division of NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory on Virginia Key, just across the bridge from downtown Miami.

He was a pioneer in the use of dropwindsondes — small measuring devices dropped from airplanes that record wind speed, air pressure, temperature and humidity.

In 1997, on a mission flying through Hurricane Guillermo in the Pacific, he had an audacious idea. Why not drop some dropwindsondes — sometimes called dropsondes — directly into the eyewall of a hurricane?

NOAA research meteorologist Stan Goldenberg, who worked with Michael Black for more than two decades, recalls that flight with Black 21 years ago: “I remember the excitement we felt at seeing these winds and knowing these ‘sondes’ could handle it.” Black’s idea suddenly provided hurricane researchers with an important new data tool.

(5) PARSEC AWARDS. Bruce Press will step down as chair of the Parsec Awards Committee if he can find somebody to take his place. The sff podcast awards organizers have been reeling since December, when four 2018 Parsec Awards winners declined because the committee sustained the decision to give an award an alleged harasser. Today Press sent this statement to his distribution list:

After a pretty grueling 2018 for the committee, we were taking a bit of a breather to get our collective heads together.

We very much want to get trophies out to winners who want them, but we are without funds having done absolutely no fundraising in 2018. Our lack of resources is due to lack of resources. So, that’s item 1.

Item 2 is our perennial problem of manpower and leadership. The committee is severely short-staffed. We hoped to grow by creating sub-committee’s like ceremony and fundraising. However, it turns out that takes leadership and we only had me.

Item 3 is me. While item 2 might have been enough reason alone, I have some really good personal reasons to step down as committee chair. The timing of this is not ideal, but life rarely operates on a convenient schedule. Like previous chairs, I am not immediately leaving the committee.

So, here’s what I’m asking. If you think you have what it takes to lead. If you have a plan and can execute it. Whether overall, ceremony or fundraising. Send us an email parsecawards@gmail.com.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 23, 1896 –Tootsie Roll introduced
  • February 23, 1935 The Phantom Empire starred Gene Autry, it was an SF musical western.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 23, 1564 Christopher Marlowe. Author of Doctor Faustus (or The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus. Look, ISFDB lists him, so he must be genre. More to the point Elizabeth Bear made him a character in her Stratford Man series which is Ink and Steel and Hell and Earth novels which is highly recommended. If you’ve not read them, the Green Man review is here. (Died 1593.)
  • Born February 23, 1930 Gerry Davis. Mid-Sixties Story Editor on Doctor Who where he created companion Jamie McCrimmon and co-created the Cybermen along with unofficial scientific adviser Dr. Kit Pedler. They would create the Doomwatch series in the Sixties on BBC. Davis briefly returned to writing for Doctor Who, penning the first script for Revenge of the Cybermen though his script was largely abandoned by editor Robert Holmes. In 1989 he and Terry Nation who created the Daleks made a failed bid to take over production of the series and reformat it for the American market. (Died 1991.)
  • Born February 23, 1932 Majel Barrett. No doubt best remembered for being  Nurse Christine Chapel and Lwaxana Troi as well as for being the voice of most ship computer interfaces throughout the Star Trek series. I’ll note that she was originally cast as Number One in the unused (TOS) Pilot but the male studio heads hated the idea of a female in that role. Early Puppies obviously. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 23, 1965 Jacob Weisman, 54. Founder, Tachyon Publications which you really should go look at as they’ve published every great author I’d care to read. Seriously Tidhar, Beagle and Yolen are among their newest releases! He also edited (with Beagle) The New Voices of Fantasy which I highly recommend as most excellent reading.
  • Born February 23, 1970 Marie-Josée Croze, 49. Bibiane Champagne In Maelström which is genre if only because it’s narrated by a talking fish. In Canada movie theatres, she was in Battlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000 as Mara. Yeah, that film with a long title. Doubt it improved it.  It looks like her first genre acting was on The Hunger in two episodes, in “A Matter of Style” as Dominique and in “I’m Dangerous Tonight” as Mimi. Oh, and she had the lead as Pregnant Woman in Ascension which just looks weird.
  • Born February 23, 1994 Dakota Fanning, 25. Genre roles include Sally Walden in The Cat in the Hat which is on my worst films of all time list, Katie In Hansel and Gretel, Rachel Ferrier In War of the Worlds which, errr, is on the same list, and as the voice of Fern Arable In Charlotte’s Web which is brilliant.
  • Born February 23, 2002 Emilia Jones, 17. I’m reasonably sure this is the youngest Birthday I’ve done. At nine years of age, she’s made her acting debut in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides as English Girl. She’s Young Beth in the horror film Ghostland. She shows up on Doctor Who as Merry Gejelh in the “The Rings of Akhaten”, an Eleventh Doctor story. She’s currently in Residue, an SF horror series you can find on Netflix. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Free Range shows the monstrous side of photography.

(10) CRITICAL FAVORITES. On the Strange at Ecbatan blog Rich Horton is working through his Hugo recommendations.

Of these stories – none of which would disappoint me if they won the Hugo – my four favorites, in no particular order, are…

2.       David Gerrold and Ctein, “Bubble and Squeak” – About a gay couple, hoping to get married, who have their plans interrupted by a tsunami heading to Los Angeles, and who have to find a way to get to higher ground – and, as it turns out, help a bunch of others as well. It’s simply terrifically exciting, involving a plausible mix of heroism, foolishness, brutality, luck, and intelligence, on their part and others, as they struggle to find a way to a safe place, and as various options are closed off over time.

4.       Kelly Robson, “Intervention” (Infinity’s End) — A very intelligent story about child rearing in a heavily inhabited future Solar System. The narrator is from Luna, where creche work is socially frowned upon, so she leaves to work on an asteroid-based creche – and then later gets a chance to work on a bid to reform Luna’s failing creche system. This is just really interesting social speculation; and the characters are also very solidly portrayed, very honest.

5.       Karen Russell, “Orange World” (The New Yorker, 6/4/18) – An older first time mother is driven to make a deal with a literal devil to save the life of her child, and only the intervention of her support group allows her to cope … Really well written, really convincing.

(11) STAR WARS WRAPS. Entertainment Tonight did a red carpet interview of “J.J. Abrams on Wrapping ‘Star Wars: Episode IX’ and Bringing Back Lando (Exclusive)” (video).

(12) DOLLARS AND SENSE. Alasdair Stuart’s The Full Lid for February 22 includes a wryly-named commentary on cancelled cable sff shows – “Boulevard of Broken Streams.”

Netflix have done what Thanos couldn’t; wiped out an entire section of the Marvel universe. It was announced this week that The Punisher is done with season 2 and Jessica Jones with season 3. That will air later this year and be the swan song for a five (and a half) show mini-universe.

My feelings about this are, to mis-quote the best line in the entire Mission: Impossible franchise, complicated.

For a start there’s the Rat King of fan speculation and business practice to try and untie. We can all clap as loud as we want, the shows were never going to the Disney streaming platform because that platform has to aim for the widest possible audience. It’s also almost certainly what raised the renewal costs for the shows beyond practical. So, rationally, this all makes sense. It’s annoying, but it does make sense….

(13) PATIENCE, GRASSHOPPER. And here I thought it was a disaster of Biblical proportions: “What An Insect Can Teach Us About Adapting To Stress”.

What if we told you that you could learn a lot about handling adversity from the life of a bug? In their explorations of humans and how we interact with the world around us, the team that makes NPR’s Invisibilia stumbled on a surprising fact about the insect world — one that could inspire a new way of looking at ourselves.

The epic destruction wrought by swarms of locusts is downright biblical. Exodus tells of a plague that left nothing green in all of Egypt, and we’ve seen these harbingers of destruction at work in modern day Australia, Argentina and Israel, just to name a few. But for centuries, one essential piece of information about these strange insects eluded scientists: Where do they come from?

These massive swarms just seemed to pop up out of nowhere, decimate everything and then vanish.

(14) GRIND YOUR GOGGLES INTO PLOWSHARES. NPR reports “Microsoft Workers Protest Army Contract With Tech ‘Designed To Help People Kill'”.

Microsoft workers are calling on the giant tech company to cancel its nearly $480 million U.S. Army contract, saying the deal has “crossed the line” into weapons development by Microsoft for the first time. They say the use of the company’s HoloLens augmented reality technology under the contract “is designed to help people kill.”

In a letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and President Brad Smith, the workers also say the company is failing to inform its engineers “on the intent of the software they are building.”

The November contract is for what’s called an Integrated Visual Augmentation System.

“The contract’s stated objective is to ‘rapidly develop, test, and manufacture a single platform that Soldiers can use to Fight, Rehearse, and Train that provides increased lethality, mobility, and situational awareness necessary to achieve overmatch against our current and future adversaries,’ ” the letter said.

(15) KNOCKING THE COMPETITION. A Business Insider reporter was there: “Jeff Bezos just gave a private talk in New York. From utopian space colonies to dissing Elon Musk’s Martian dream, here are the most notable things he said.”

• Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, gave a talk to a members-only event at the Yale Club in New York on Tuesday. 

• During the 30-minute lecture, Bezos said his private aerospace company, Blue Origin, would launch its first people into space aboard a New Shepard rocket in 2019. 

• Bezos also questioned the capabilities of a space tourism competitor, Virgin Galactic, and criticized the goal of Elon Musk and SpaceX to settle Mars with humans. 

• Ultimately, Bezos said he wants Blue Origin to enable a space-faring civilization where “a Mark Zuckerberg of space” and “1,000 Mozarts and 1,000 Einsteins” can flourish. 

• Bezos advised the crowd to hold a powerful, personal long-term vision, but to devote “the vast majority of your energy and attention” on shorter-term activities and those ranging up to 2- or 3-year timeframes. 

(16) THE WEST END ZONE. In the February 16 Financial Times (behind a paywall), Matt Trueman profiles Anne Washburn, whose play based on The Twilight Zone is opening March 4 at The Ambassador Theatre in London.

“Her stage version of The Twilight Zone transfers into town next month.  On the surface, it’s a straightforward celebration of Rod Serling’s cult TV series.  Having watched all 156 episodes,she selected those stories that stuck in America’s psyche.  ‘I was polling anyone I ran into: What Twilight Zone episode traumatized you as a small child? People would answer immediately.  That’s where it lives in our culture.”

“In April, The Twilight Zone‘s getting a high profile reboot by Get Out director Jordan Peele, but Washburn’s incarnation celebrates its loveable, low-fi 1950s charm. Its schlockiness, essentially.’It’s morality,comedy, and horror at the same time,’ beams Washburn.  ‘That’s very appealing.’  The show sends up its arched-eyebrowed asides and cheap cardboard cut-outs.  ‘Where things are less adept, you can see right to its heart.  That’s always moving.’

“Insightful, too, as Washburn unpeels The Twilight Zone‘s skin to show us a glimpse of America’s soul in its recurring images: alien invasions and nuclear oblivion. ‘The Twilight Zone is about America dreaming–or America’s nightmare.'”

(17) SPIDER-SAN. CBR.com: shares the image: Spider-Man: Far From Home Gets Spectacular Japanese Poster”.

Sony Pictures has released a new poster promoting the Japanese release of the upcoming Marvel film Spider-Man: Far From Home, and it’s really awesome.

This exceptionally creative poster features a typographic image of Spider-Man’s mask composed almost entirely of bold, red Japanese text. The words and phrases used to create Spidey’s face mostly reference different aspects of the film, with the text repeating “summer vacation.” There are also numerous references to Nick Fury. Moreover, where Spider-Man’s mouth ought to be, there is a QR code that links to Spider-Man: Far From Home‘s Japanese trailer, which is the same as the international trailer.

(18) PUMP, BROTHERS. Food Network advises, “Throw Away Your Peanut Butter Knife!” This clearly isn’t genre, but it is a “great” “scientific” advance. Or it is you can’t resist both peanut butter and silly gadgets.

Who knew the world was clamoring for a better – or at least different – way to prepare a peanut butter sandwich?

One week after a Burbank, California, inventor/entrepreneur named Andrew Scherer launched an Indiegogo page to raise funds for his new Peanut Butter Pump, promising a way to eat “Peanut Butter Without the Knife,” the project has raised $46,955 (from more than 1,220 backers) and counting – more than twice its $20,000 goal.

[…] It’s basically a jar top – made to fit onto your standard 40-ounce grocery-store or name-brand peanut butter jar – with a pump top and a plunger inside that presses down the peanut butter, leaving the sides of the jar clean as it goes, and dispensing the peanut butter out the top and directly onto your bread or celery stick or wherever you’re aiming it.

(19) WITH AUTOMATIC UPSELL. Welcome to Uncanny Valley Restaurant. “This Fast Food Drive-Thru Is Now Using AI to Take Orders”Futurism has the story.

We already had a robot that could make fast food burgers. And now we have an artificial intelligence that can take your order for one.

Earlier this month, Colorado-based startup Valyant AI announced the launch of a voice-based AI customer service platform, which is now taking customer orders at the drive-thru at Denver’s Good Times Burgers and Frozen Custard.

“We’re excited to deliver a customer service experience unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before,” Valyant AI CEO Rob Carpenter said in a press release.

A video demonstration is here.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Emperox JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, James Davis Nicoll, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Tom Becker.]

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 11/12/18 Could He Show Up In A Noodle-Poodle, Bottle-Beetle, Paddle-Battle, Pixle-Scroodle?

(1) FIRE MISSES DEL TORO’S “BLEAK HOUSE”. Unlike houses belonging to some other celebrities in the area, filmmaker Guillermo del Toro’s Bleak House has survived the Woolsey fire Remezcla reports:

Bleak House is not actually where del Toro lives (he lives nearby), but it is home to his collection of more than 700 pieces of art, props, and memorabilia. He has everything from concept sketches from Disney’s Fantasia to figures from his Blade 2 to a life-sized statue of Edgar Allan Poe. These serve as his inspiration from both his own films and the movies he hopes to make in the future. In 2016, del Toro let fans inside his Bleak House with a curated exhibit that traveled to museums around North America showing off some of his items. Looking at pictures from the collection you can almost imagine the inside of the fantastical and dark director’s mind.

Luckily, del Toro’s collection has been spared by the Woosley fire. He tweeted about returning to his home to find it still standing with only some minor smoke damage.

(2) FUTURE HISTORY. Professor James Davis Nicoll today lectures the class on “World States and Mega Empires in SF” at Tor.com.

How stable would a World State be, in practice? Sure, one could argue (and people have) that without external enemies there’s no particular reason for a world-spanning government to fall apart. That was the argument in A World Out of Time: the state controlled all the apparatus necessary to sustain Earth’s vast population, making rebellion suicidal.

The problem is that one can point to historic polities that managed to dissolve into independent regions without much help from the outside…

(3) BARBIE WHO? The Guardian disapproves: “Doctor Who Barbie: time-travelling back to the sexist 1970s”.

Name: Doctor Who Barbie.

Age: About a week old.

Appearance: Like Barbie, if she went to a Halloween party as the Doctor.

This is a doll we’re talking about, is it? Yes. The “Doctor Who Barbie doll is sculpted to the likeness of the 13th Doctor and comes dressed in her iconic look.”

What do you mean, iconic? These are not my words, but the words of the US manufacturer, Mattel. “Additional true-to-character details include Doctor Who Barbie doll’s signature suspenders and lace-up boots.”

I don’t remember any suspenders. Are they from a later, more risque episode? They mean braces – Americans!

(4) UNLEASH IMAGINATION AWARDS. The Arthur C. Clarke “Unleash Imagination” Awards were  presented November 8 in Washington, D.C. [Via Locus Online.]

  • Lifetime Achievement Award – Irwin Jacobs, Chairman of the Salk Institute, co-founder and former Chairman of Qualcomm, co-developer of CDMA, Philanthropist
  • Innovator Award – Jill Tarter, astronomer, Emeritus Chair for SETI Research at the SETI Institute, and seeker of the answer to “Are we alone?”
  • Imagination in Service to Society – Liu Cixin acclaimed author of The Three Body Problem and other science fiction works, winner of the Hugo and five Chinese Galaxy Awards

(5) ASTOUNDING AUTHOR IN PERSON. Alec Nevala-Lee will be appearing at two library events this week to discuss his new book Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction:

  • Chicago

The Golden Age of Science Fiction with Alec Nevala-Lee and Gary K. Wolfe

Sulzer Regional Library (4455 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago)

Thursday, November 15

7-8pm

Join Alec Nevala-Lee, author of Astounding, and Gary K. Wolfe, critic and co-host of the science fiction podcast Coode Street, for an engaging discussion on the history and evolution of science fiction. (Note: The event is sponsored by One Book, One Chicago, which has chosen the science fiction classic Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick as this year’s selection.)

  • Oak Park

Astounding: Oak Park Author Alec Nevala-Lee

Oak Park Public Library (834 Lake St., Oak Park)

Sunday, November 18

2-4pm

Meet Oak Park author Alec Nevala-Lee and hear about his newly released book, Astounding. The Book Table will have books for sale and signing.

(6) DISNEY PIXAR. Disney has put up the first teaser trailer for Toy Story 4, where we learn about Forky the Spork! The movie comes to U.S. theaters on June 21, 2019.

Woody has always been confident about his place in the world and that his priority is taking care of his kid, whether that’s Andy or Bonnie. But when Bonnie adds a reluctant new toy called “Forky” to her room, a road trip adventure alongside old and new friends will show Woody how big the world can be for a toy.

 

(7) IT’S BEASTLY. The BBC’s Nicholas Barber says Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is an “ultimately numbing sprawl that seems to drag on forever.” The BBC critic gives it 2/5 stars:

Considering that JK Rowling’s books have made several zillion pounds and her films have made several zillion more, it would take a lot of gall to read one of her screenplays and say, actually, could you cut 50 pages? But her latest ‘Wizarding World’ instalment, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, would have been improved if someone had said just that.

(8) WHEN BEZOS MET STEPHENSON. The cover story of the November WIRED is about Jeff Bezos’s efforts to fund private space exploration through his company Blue Origin: “Jeff Bezos Wants Us All to Leave Earth—for Good”. Writer Steven Levy says that Neal Stephenson was recruited for Bezos’s space exploration efforts very early —

Bezos went to Princeton, where he attended seminars led by O’Neill and became president of the campus chapter of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space. At one meeting, Bezos was regaling attendees with visions of hollowing out asteroids and transforming them into space arks when a woman leapt to her feet. “How dare you rape the universe!” she said, and stormed out. “There was a pause, and Jeff didn’t make a public comment,” says Kevin Polk, another member of the club. “But after things broke up, Jeff said, ‘Did she really defend the inalienable rights of barren rocks?’?”

After Princeton, Bezos put his energies toward finance, working at a hedge fund. He left it to move to Seattle and start Amazon. Not long after, he was seated at a dinner party with science fiction writer Neal Stephenson. Their conversation quickly left the bounds of Earth. “There’s sort of a matching game that goes on where you climb a ladder, figuring out the level of someone’s fanaticism about space by how many details they know,” Stephenson says. “He was incredibly high on that ladder.” The two began spending weekend afternoons shooting off model rockets.

In 1999, Stephenson and Bezos went to see the movie October Sky, about a boy obsessed with rocketry, and stopped for coffee afterward. Bezos said he’d been thinking for a long time about starting a space company. “Why not start it today?” Stephenson asked. The next year, Bezos incorporated a company called Blue Operations LLC. Stephenson secured space in a former envelope factory in a funky industrial area in south Seattle.

(9) LEE OBIT. Legendary comics creator Stan Lee died November 12 at the age of 95.

Great photo of Stan Lee writing in
his backyard in Hewlett Harbor, on the jury-rigged arrangement he worked out,
tables placed on top of one another. This is precisely how Lee wrote some of the most widely read words of fantasy in
the 1960s.

When Stan Lee was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 2017 the citation read:

Stan Lee

One of the most influential comic book writers of all time, Stan Lee is responsible for the creation of numerous Marvel Comics characters including Spider-Man, Black Panther, and the X-Men. Born Stanley Martin Lieber, Lee began working as an assistant at Timely Comics when he was just seventeen and became the editor soon after, writing every style of comic from romance and westerns to horror. In 1961, while considering switching careers, Lee decided to take his wife’s advice and write a comics story to please himself. The story, about four people given superpowers after being exposed to cosmic rays, was called The Fantastic Four, and it began an era of unparalleled success for the newly renamed Marvel Comics. Lee’s creations captured fans’ imaginations through a combination of relatable characters and the idea of a shared universe inhabited by all of Marvel’s characters.

Lee’s characters and storylines have appeared across all types of media including animated series, video games, television shows, and the long-standing Marvel Cinematic Universe. A self-proclaimed frustrated actor, Lee has made a cameo in every Marvel film to date.

Hollywood celebrities including the leadership at Marvel and Disney paid tribute to his accomplishments in the Los Angeles Times obituary.

Marvel Comics and the Walt Disney Company honored Lee in a statement posted online Monday.

“Stan Lee was as extraordinary as the characters he created,” said Bob Iger, chairman and CEO of the Walt Disney Company. “A super hero in his own right to Marvel fans around the world, Stan had the power to inspire, to entertain, and to connect. The scale of his imagination was only exceeded by the size of his heart.”

“No one has had more of an impact on my career and everything we do at Marvel Studios than Stan Lee,” tweeted Kevin Feige, the president of Marvel Studios. “Stan leaves an extraordinary legacy that will outlive us all.”

File 770 readers saw Lee’s name in the news all the time for anything from his signature cologne to sharing the 2013 J. Lloyd Eaton Lifetime Achievement Awards with Ursula K. Le Guin and Ray Harryhausen (Lee’s acceptance was on video).

And everyone knows how he followed Alfred Hitchcock’s example by making a cameo appearance in every Marvel film. I have it on the authority of Christian B. McGuire that “For those of you who imagine there will be no more cameos for Stan, listen up! In Stan Lee’s contract it specifies that he will appear in ALL Marvel films in perpetuity. And that this contract MUST be accepted by anyone buying the Marvel universe. There’s enough video; image and sound, for the purveyors of Marvel Magic to synthesize him and put him in everything they make.” If someone feels like fact-checking that claim, help yourself.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 12, 1917  Dahlov Ipcar, Writer, Artist, and Illustrator. Though primarily an artist — and you really should go visit her website — she wrote three amazing young adult novels between 1969 and 1978, which are The Warlock of Night, The Que’en of Spells, and A Dark Horn Blowing. She lived but thirty miles north of here and I was privileged to meet her a few times. Lovely lady! A gallery of her fantastical works can be seen here. (Died 2017.)
  • Born November 12, 1929 Michael Ende, Writer from Germany who is best known for the novel The Neverending Story; it was turned into three adaptations, of which The Neverending Story was the first film — and certainly the best known version. The NeverEnding Story II: The Next Chapter was the next version, and it is a sort of sequel to the first; I never saw the third, The NeverEnding Story III, but it apparently only uses the characters and has nothing to do with the tale itself. Momo, or The Strange Story of the Time-Thieves and the Child Who Brought the Stolen Time Back to the People as it translates in English, is a charming if strange novel worth your time. The rest of his children’s literature has been translated from  German into English mostly by small specialist presses down the years, but unlike The Neverending Story and Momo, I’ve not read any of these. (Died 1995.)
  • Born November 12, 1943Wallace Shawn. First genre appearance was in All That Jazz. Best known genre role is Vizzini in The Princess Bride but what would you put in second place? No doubt Grand Nagus Zek in Deep Space Nine but he has other performances to note including as Warren Hughes in Eureka, Van Helsing in Vamps and the voice of Gilbert Hugh in The Incredibles.
  • Born November 12, 1945 Michael Bishop, 73, Writer, Editor, Poet, and Critic whose Urban Nucleus series and Georgia Stories are especially popular. He has won two Nebulas along with Mythopoeic, Shirley Jackson, and Rhysling Awards, and his works have garnered a multitude of Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, and British Science Fiction Award nominations. He was honored with Southern Fandom’s Phoenix Award, and has been Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, including a World Fantasy Convention.
  • Born November 12, 1950 Michael Capobianco, 68, Writer and Linguist, author of several SFF novels and some shorter works who has made major contributions for the benefit of genre writers as a Past President, Vice-President, and Treasurer of SFWA. Currently, he is a member of several SFWA writers’ advocacy committees, and writes informational pieces for Writer Beware, a writing scam investigation and warning site created by his wife A.C. Crispin and Victoria Strauss. He and Crispin were joint recipients of the Service to SFWA Award in 2003.
  • Born November 12, 1973 Radha Mitchell, 45, Actor, Director, and Producer, who broke into genre film with a role as a kickass spaceship pilot in Pitch Black, then played the obsessed J.M. Barrie’s long-suffering wife in Finding Neverland. Other genre appearances include Silent Hill, Rogue, Surrogates, The Crazies, and The Darkness.
  • Born November 12, 1980 Ryan Gosling, 38, Oscar-nominated Actor, Director, and Producer who debuted at the age of 15 in Frankenstein and Me; other genre appearances include Stay, the Hugo-nominated and Oscar- and Saturn-winning Blade Runner 2049 (for which he also received a Saturn nomination), and his role as Neil Armstrong in First Man (we’ll ignore the ill-conceived Lost River, which he wrote, produced, and directed). He has also had guest roles on episodes of Are You Afraid of the Dark?, PSI Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal, Goosebumps, Flash Forward, Young Hercules, and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. For more on Baby Gooseman, see here.
  • Born November 12, 1982 Anne Hathaway, 36, Oscar-winning Actor of Stage and Screen and Producer who received Saturn nominations for her roles in The Dark Knight Rises and the Hugo finalist Interstellar, and appeared in Ella Enchanted, Get Smart, Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass, Passengers, Colossal, and the Ruritanian film series The Princess Diaries. Voice roles include parts in Hoodwinked!, The Cat Returns, the Rio films, and three episodes of The Simpsons.

(11) SPIDER-GWEN. The Comics Beat’s Joe Grunenwald asks the questions in this — “INTERVIEW: Seanan McGuire on writing SPIDER-GWEN: GHOST-SPIDER under the watchful eye of Marvel’s ‘snipers’”.

Grunenwald: Gwen is sort of having a Moment right now, too, between, obviously, the new series and then in other media there’s Marvel Rising and she’s going to be in the Into the Spider-Verse movie, so she’s got a higher profile now arguably that she’s ever had before. Has there been any pressure as a result of that, coming onto the character and having to keep that momentum going?

McGuire: My editors are amazing. I love them. And they hired me because they were reasonably sure I could keep that momentum going. Most of the pressure is internal. When you’re a novelist and represented by a literary agent, one of the first things they’ll do is sit you down and say, ‘Where do you see your career going?’ And this is because if you say ‘I want to be the next J.K. Rowling,’ they want to be ready to kind of talk you down. That’s the ‘No, no, honey, let’s be reasonable’ conversation.

When my agent sat me down for that conversation ten years ago, I said, “I want to write the X-Men.” And she went, ‘Excuse me?’ And I said, “I need you to make me famous enough that they will let me write the X-Men.’ So writing for Marvel is my life’s dream. This is what I’ve been working toward all this time, so there’s a huge amount of pressure but it’s all internal. I’m very aware that I’m making canon.

(12) TRANSFORMERS FANDOM. BBC covers “Transformers: Misfit robots and the women who love them”.

Over three decades Transformers has grown from a line of children’s toys to a media franchise encompassing film, TV and gaming. Perhaps its most radical spin-off though is a comic that has used wit and humanity to reach a new, diverse fan base.

Transformers started out as a boy’s toy. The robot characters, which could be quickly reconfigured into guns and cars – tapped into the young male zeitgeist of 1984.

Those children have grown into today’s adult collectors. But thanks to a cult comic, the franchise’s male-dominated audience has crossed the gender divide.

At Europe’s largest Transformers convention this year, TFNation, women accounted for almost half of attendees aged 21 to 31. It caps a three-year trend in which female attendance grew by a third. Taking the credit is the comic Lost Light.

(13) CENTENNIAL. This was one of the many commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I tweeted yesterday –

(14) BREATHING LIFE INTO OLD FOOTAGE. New technology enables full color restoration. This week the Smithsonian Channel will broadcast a new season of America in Color with even better images than ever before:

Witness defining moments of early 20th century America like never before: in dramatic color. Roam the untamed Wild West, visit burgeoning cities, and enter the dream factory of Hollywood. Follow larger-than-life figures who drove America’s industrial transformation, turned crime into an organized business, and built political dynasties. Using cutting-edge digital technology, we bring our young country’s most seminal landmarks, people, and moments to vibrant life.

Mark Kermode also discusses Peter Jackson and team’s painstaking restoration and colorization of First World War footage: “They Shall Not Grow Old review – an utterly breathtaking journey into the trenches” in The Guardian.

The challenges involved in achieving this miracle are manifold. Most obviously, the digital restoration and colourisation of the original films has been painstakingly carried out with meticulous attention to detail, rendering everything from skin tones to scenery in impressively natural hues. (For theatrical presentation, a moderate 3D enhancement has also been applied.)

More complex is the correction of the film’s pace. The century-old footage with which Jackson was working was shot at anything from 10 to 18 frames per second, with the rate often changing within a single reel. We’ve all seen old movies projected at the modern speed of 24fps, creating that skittering, agitated effect that fixes such footage in the dim and distant past. Here, Jackson and his team have used computers to build interstitial frames that recapture the rhythms of real life, tuning into the music of the soldiers’ movements, breathing intimate life into their smallest gestures. The process may sound nerdily technical but the effect is powerfully emotional. It’s as if the technology had somehow pierced the surface of the film, causing (virtual?) memories to come pouring out.

 

(15) REVERE THE SJWC. “Archaeologists Discover Dozens Of Cat Mummies, 100 Cat Statues In Ancient Tomb” — The real surprise: mummified scarabs. No reports whether the scarabs were for the cats to play with…

Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities announced Saturday that a team of Egyptian archaeologists excavating a 4,500-year-old tomb near Cairo has found dozens of mummified cats. Also in the tomb were 100 gilded wooden cat statues, as well as a bronze statue of Bastet, the goddess of cats.

The discoveries were made at a newly discovered tomb in Saqqara, the site of a necropolis used by the ancient city of Memphis. The tomb dates from the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom, and archaeologists have found another one nearby with its door still sealed — raising the possibility that its contents are untouched.

(16) THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING KILOGRAM. Twitter thread discusses why the kilogram is the one measure that still relies on a material instance rather than a definition-by-physics, and how this is being fixed.

(17) HARRYHAUSEN THE ARTIST. David Rosler praises the animator to the skies in “RAY HARRYHAUSEN: The Twentieth Century Leonardo da Vinci” at Films in Review.

Da Vinci’s time of Renaissance humanism recognized virtually no mutually exclusive differences between sciences and the arts, and artists often thought in terms of science and scientists delved into the arts, heedless of any abstract concept now assumed to separate them. Both Ray and da Vinci were Renaissance men of the highest caliber of their respective times, both became positively revered by their contemporaries and, most importantly, both changed much of how the world saw their forms of art by leading the way with uniquely original creations, significantly changing the larger world around them.

Ray Harryhausen self-portrait

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

Pixel Scroll 7/7/18 It’s My Pixel, And I’ll Scroll If I Want To

(1) MODEL RAILROADING. A hobbyist told readers of the ModelTrainForum this layout accessory will be available this fall from Menard’s Model Train Company —

(2) ALIEN RETURNS? Website Omega Underground is reporting on a rumor that a series set in the Alien universe may be on its way to a cable network or streaming service. The story notes that the franchise will celebrate it’s 40th anniversary in 2019. Article writer Christopher Marc claims to have multiple sources for at least parts of a rumor that a TV series may be in the offing to mark that occasion.

With the Alien films possibly in limbo could there be other platforms for stories outside of video games and comics?

Well, take the following as a rumor.

Back in April, a reliable source revealed to us that a series set within the “Alien universe” was being considered behind the scenes. I was able to reaffirm the rumbling with another source located in another country that was able to support some of the basic info.

What they couldn’t connect on is where it could land be it FX or a streaming platform, Hulu and Netflix were ruled out at the time.

I didn’t think much of the series rumor at the time as I had assumed it would be a big announcement for Alien Day [26 April] and would just wait, which obviously didn’t happen.

However, the rumbling resurfaced yesterday [2 July] and that something could be announced “soon”. If they plan on announcing their intentions or are aiming to release it next year to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the Alien franchise remains to be seen.

(3) SMALL WORLD. NPR’s Bob Mondello looks at Ant Man and the Wasp — audio with soundbites, and transcription.

MONDELLO: Super-confidence – not his strong suit. But give him a good enough reason, and he’ll shrink to the occasion. What gets him going this time is multiple bad guys or gals and a mission to head for the Quantum Realm, which is subatomic. And, well, there’s a lot of plot virtually unspoilable because it makes so little sense. So why don’t we let Ant-Man’s pal Luis handle it?

(4) EPIC OF THE LUCAS MUSEUM. Paul Goldberger tells Vanity Fair readers how the twice-spurned project landed in L.A. — “George Lucas Strikes Back: Inside the Fight to Build the Lucas Museum”.

There are a number of reasons why movie directors do not generally go around establishing museums. It is not only because most of them do not own enough artworks to put into them or have enough money to start new careers as philanthropists. If you direct movies for a living, you are accustomed to controlling just about everything that comes across your field of vision. But if you decide to build a museum, you can control very little, as George Lucas—who has plenty of art, and plenty of money—has discovered over the past several years. His quest to donate more than a billion dollars’ worth of art and architecture in the form of a brand-new public museum containing the bulk of his collection of paintings, drawings, and film memorabilia was turned down in San Francisco, driven away by opponents in Chicago, proposed again for a different location in San Francisco, and finally, last year, approved for a site in Los Angeles.

The project, which is now officially named the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art but, given its history, might just as well be called the Flying Dutchman, will take the form of a dramatic, swooping, cloud-like structure designed by the Chinese architect Ma Yansong, in Exposition Park, adjacent to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

What Lucas is now building—ground was broken on March 14, and there is already an excavation so large that it looks like a massive earthwork if you view it from an airliner approaching Los Angeles International Airport—could not be more different from where he started out. The museum’s original incarnation, proposed for waterfront land within the Presidio national park, with views of the Golden Gate Bridge, was a grandiose, heavy-handed Beaux-Arts building that Lucas, who prides himself on his love of both art and architecture, insisted was the only thing appropriate for that site. That first version was called the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum, a title as awkward semantically as the building was architecturally. Its unveiling, in 2013, marked the beginning of a multi-year saga that would come to have nearly as many dramatic clashes as you’ll encounter in Lucas’s Star Wars, and almost none of the amiability of his American Graffiti.

No one back then had the slightest idea that the proposed museum would provoke a major backlash in not one but two American cities, or that it would finally come to rest in Los Angeles, a location that carries no small degree of irony, since it is a city that Lucas built much of his identity as a filmmaker on spurning. Although he studied film at the University of Southern California and has been a major supporter of its film school, he has lived and worked in Northern California for most of his life, and for years he made something of a fetish of avoiding Los Angeles as much as possible. Although Lucas bought a $33.9 million estate in Bel Air last year, which will allow him to be close to the museum as it rises, he still spends most of his time either in Marin County, north of San Francisco, or in Chicago, where his wife, Mellody Hobson, a Chicago native who is the president of a financial firm, Ariel Investments, is based. Chicago, of course, would become the second city to find itself the recipient of what Lucas felt to be his unrequited love.

(5) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 7, 1955 — The sf radio program X-Minus One aired Robert Heinlein’s “The Green Hills Of Earth” for his birthday.

(6) TODAY’S OTHER BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 7 – Shelley Duvall, 69. Executive Producer of Faerie Tale Theatre, performer in Popeye as Olive Oyl, also Twilight Zone, Time Bandits, The Shining, and Ray Bradbury Theater to name some of her genre work.
  • Born July 7 – Billy Campbell, 59. The Rocketeer of course, but also series work in STNG, Dead Man’s Gun, The 4400, and Helix, plus a role in the Bram Stoker’s Dracula film.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

  • Chip Hitchcock found out how monsters cosplay in Bizarro.

(8) PERSONAL SFF HISTORIES. Fanac.org has posted an interview recorded at Philcon 2017 — Samuel R. Delany & Tom Purdom on the Science Fiction community.

Chip Delany and Tom Purdom talk informally about their experiences in science fiction in this audio tape with images. You’ll hear some startling stories about the Nebulas, and about writers such as Judy Merril, Walter Miller, and Fred Pohl. Tom talks about his introduction to science fiction and fandom in the 50s, and the fannish equivalent of the internet. This is a low key, entertaining session, held in the Philcon con suite. It’s an interesting take on how different fandom is for these two authors. Note: there is some choppiness in the audio during the last 15 minutes. Introduction by Gene Olmstead, and questions by Joe Siclari.

 

(9) DOOMED. Ansonia smeago, named for resemblance to Gollum, is in deep trouble – the BBC has the story: “Lord of the Rings toad on brink of extinction”.

A toad named after the character Gollum in the fantasy novel Lord of the Rings has joined the latest list of animals deemed at risk of extinction.

The amphibian lives not in the Misty Mountains, but on a Malaysian mountain.

The toad got its name from Gollum, also known as Sméagol, in Tolkien’s trilogy because scientists saw similarities between the two….

(10) CLARKE. David Doering discovered Arthur C. Clarke prophesying about developments in tech in a letter of comment from the August 1941 issue of Voice of the Imagi-nation.

2 July:    “Many thanks for the April and May VoM’s which arrived this morning. For the last couple of months I have been in London learning all about radio. This is the sort of work that suits me down to the ground so I am having a fine time with vector diagrams, resonant circuits, valve [tube] characteristics, and the intriguing complexities of A.C. theory. I am hoping that I shall be able to learn about radiolocation eventually – the dear old ‘detector screen’ of science fiction at last! Another scoop for sf, when you think about it.

I’m thinking that the rocket will be the next thing that will hit the war (in more ways than one!) as it is a well-known fact that the Italians have had a jet propelled plane flying for some time [the Caproni Campini N.1], and the Nazis have been using rockets to assist take-off of heavily loaded bombers. After that (or perhaps before) will be atomic power, I fear. Then the fat will be in the fire…..

Arthur “Ego” Clarke

(11) BETTER LATE. Hey, I’m liking this. From 2010, Robin Sloan’s “The Wrong Plane”.

…I showed up at the old gate, handed over my boarding pass—printed at home on an aging Epson inkjet that will no longer produce the color red—and the little scanner beeped in protest, but it was lost in the din of the boarding process, and I kept shuffling, half-asleep, and the gate agent kept shuffling, half-asleep, and everything just shuffled along.

Or maybe, through some strange printer error, my Epson smudged the bar-code in such a way as to produce an encoded string that passed muster. Maybe my boarding pass was defective and yet, presented at precisely the right wrong gate, effective. I realize this explanation is totally implausible, but I found myself drawn to it—because of what I saw out the window.

First, the ocean. Nothing out of the ordinary, except that it was the ocean, and we weren’t supposed to be flying over the ocean.

Second, the sky. An electric globe, ramping from pink at the horizon to indigo high above us, speckled generously with white curlicues, little cloudlets shaped like commas and tildes. They were distributed evenly across my entire field of vision. Not an impossible sky, but an extraordinary sky.

Third, the plane. I was sitting on the wing. It curved away from the fuselage like a giant sickle, and it had a mirror finish like a blade, too, reflecting the pink and blue of the sky. Its length was physics-defying (and I know wing physics); it tapered to a sharp point that looked about a mile away. This was not the United shuttle….

(12) ONCE MORE INTO DINOSAUR KINGDOM II. In the Washington City Paper, Pablo Maurer profiles Dinosaur Kingdom II and reveals that one of Mark Cline’s inspirations for mashing together the Civil War and dinosaurs was Ray Harryhausen — “In Central Virginia, Dinosaurs Still Walk the Earth”.

…Cline’s latest creation is difficult to describe. Just up the highway from his studio, it’s part nature trail, part haunted house, part art gallery.

The story goes something like this: It’s 1864. The Union army is shelling Lexington, and one of their cannon rounds inadvertently disturbs some sleeping dinosaurs in the caverns below. The Yanks, determined to harness the power of their new ancient friends, weaponize them and turn them loose on Confederate troops. That plan, though, backfires. What ensues is a massacre of prehistoric proportions.

Also involved: a pterodactyl flying off with the Gettysburg Address, a re-incarnated Stonewall Jackson fitted with a mechanical arm, slime-colored creatures plucked straight from a low-budget horror flick. There is all of this, and more, at Dinosaur Kingdom II….

Cline says some of the inspiration for Dinosaur Kingdom II comes from the 1969 fantasy flick The Valley of the Gwangi, which tells the story of a wild-west stunt show that stumbles upon and corrals a herd of dinosaurs. He melded that inspiration together with a bit of history. “I started thinking—60 percent of the battles in the Civil War were fought in Virginia. And Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are buried right here around Lexington. So I blended the two ideas together. Like chocolate and peanut butter.”

(13) CAN’T LOOK AWAY. It’s not just the moon that’s made of this stuff… GeekTyrant invites you to “Watch The Fantastically Cheesy Trailer For Indie Sci-Fi Film ALIEN EXPEDITION”.

If you loved the indie film Turbo Kid, you’re absolutely going to love this. Alien Expedition takes the genre of intentional sci-fi camp and does it some real justice in its two-minute trailer. I for one am really hoping one of the streaming services snags this film up so I can watch it without having to do a lot of searching months from now. …Watch the film’s website for information on a potential release date….

 

(14) BLUE MOON, NOW I’M NO LONGER ALONE. [Scroll item compiled by Mike Kennedy.] Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space flight company has announced a program named Blue Moon [GeekWire link] [Business Insider link] to land a spaceship on the Moon no later than 2023. Speaking for Blue Origin, business development director A.C. Charania said the program is “our first step to developing a lunar landing capability for the country, for other customers internationally, to be able to land multi metric tons on the lunar surface.” He continued, “Any permanent human presence on the lunar surface will require such a capability.” He also said, “Blue Moon is on our roadmap, and because of our scale, because of what we see from the government, we brought it a little bit forward in time. I think we are very excited to now implement this long-term commercial solution with NASA partnership.”

This is only one of Blue Origin’s ongoing goals, albeit the most recently announced. They’ve already missed an earlier goal to have human suborbital test fights by 2017  something that’s now hoped before the end of 2018. Tickets for paying sub-orbital passengers may be available in 2019. Meanwhile, they’re developing a new rocket engine (the BE-4) to be used for an geostationary-orbital-class rocket, the New Glenn. Some launches for the New Glenn are already booked for the early 2020’s.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. WernAcular on Vimeo answers this question: wouldn’t your film sound MUCH classier if Werner Herzog narrated it?  Well, with WernAcular, everyone can be Werner Herzog!

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

Pixel Scroll 4/29/18 First Step On Our New Homeworld. That’s One Small Pixel For A Fan, One Giant Scroll For Fankind

(1) AVENGERS KEEP THE REGISTER RINGING. The Hollywood Reporter has the numbers: “Box Office: ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Passes ‘Star Wars: Force Awakens’ With Record $250M U.S. Bow”

Disney and Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War kicked off the summer box office in high style over the weekend, opening to a record-setting $250 million in North America and $380 million overseas for a global total of $630 million, the top worldwide debut of all time. The superhero mashup accomplished the feat without China, where it doesn’t unfurl until May 11.

(2) HAPPY CUSTOMER. Doc at Sci-Fi Storm praises the new MCU film: “Avengers: Infinity War breaks records, looks at $250M opening; Non-Review”.

There is very little I can say about the movie that isn’t a spoiler, so I’ll limit myself to what little there is that isn’t. This movie is practically non-stop, with powerful action sequences and emotional points throughout. There are so many characters we know I’m amazed they were given the amount of time that they could!

(3) END OF A LUCKY STREAK. Abigail Nussbaum tells Asking the Wrong Question readers why Avengers: Infinity War” doesn’t work for her.

…So even though I wouldn’t say that I walked into Avengers: Infinity War with high hopes, I had certain expectations from it.  I’m not a great fan of any of the MCU’s team-up movies–I think Avengers is more impressive for being attempted than for its limited success; I get more annoyed with Age of Ultron whenever I think about it; and though I praised Civil War when I first watched it, it has aged very poorly for me, and I now remember mainly its risible politics and the fact that it has made me dislike Steve Rogers.  But for all that, I still believed that the question aroused by the Infinity War concept–how can Marvel rope together dozens of characters from multiple storylines into a battle against a single universe-destroying villain, and make a successful and entertaining movie out of it?–would be answered with the same definitive success as previous ones.  I didn’t expect to love Infinity War, but I expected it to work.

Instead, it is barely even a movie.  The answer to “how can you give each of these lovingly crafted characters the space and attention they deserve” turns out to be “you can’t”….

(4) KERMODE ON AVENGERS. Mark Kermode’s review for the BBC is spoiler free. But IanP notes: “However as he is not a dyed in the wool comic fan he didn’t manage to fully engage emotionally with the film, while fully understanding while fans will. Overall I think he admired what they’d managed to do without it actually working for him.”

(5) ALONG FOR THE RIDE. A Blue Origin New Shepard space vehicle was launched Sunday on a suborbital hop carrying a dummy astronaut. His name?  Mannequin Skywalker. Cnet has the story: “Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin launch used rocket, and fleas, to space”.

After a number of delays Sunday morning, a Blue Origin New Shepard rocket blasted off from the west Texas desert just after noon Central Daylight Time, sending a crew capsule carrying a dummy named “Mannequin Skywalker” on a brief trip to space.

For the eighth time, Jeff Bezos’ commercial space company successfully tested the system it hopes to use to send paying passengers on suborbital flights in the coming months.

The spacecraft reached an altitude of 350,000 feet (106,680 meters), or about 5 percent higher than previous New Shepard test flights. That height sent the rocket beyond the internationally accepted boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and space, called the Karman Line.

(6) SATURN TESTS. In 1963, Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus wonders why it’s taking so long to get to the moon. Who knew we’d be asking that question again in 2018. “[Apr. 29, 1963] When a malfunction isn’t (the flight of Saturn I #4 and other space tidbits)”.

Enter the two-stage Saturn I, whose first stage has eight engines, like the Nova, but they are much smaller.  Still, altogether, they produce 1.5 million pounds of thrust — that’s six times more than the Atlas that will put Gordo Cooper’s Mercury into orbit next month.  The Saturn I’s second stage will likely also be the third stage on the Saturn V.

The Saturn I has had the most successful testing program of any rocket that I know of.  It’s also one of the most maddeningly slow testing programs (I’m not really complaining — methodical is good, and it’s not as if Apollo’s ready to fly, anyway).

(7) NEW VORKOSIVERSE NOVELLA ON THE WAY. Lois McMaster Bujold read part of this story on her last tour says ULTRAGOTHA – “The Flowers of Vashnoi bloom in May”.

I am pleased and somewhat surprised to report that a new Vorkosiverse novella is upcoming, probably in late May.

Title is “The Flowers of Vashnoi”, cover label is going to be “an Ekaterin Vorkosigan novella”, and the length is about 22,400 words, roughly the same as “Winterfair Gifts”.

As usual, no pre-order will be set up; you can just buy it when it goes live, at our usual three online vendors Kindle, iTunes, and Nook. I will certainly post the news when that occurs.

Final revisions are almost complete – it’s down to the stage where I spend all morning adding two sentences and all afternoon taking them back out, which is generally a sign to stop. The other part to be nailed down is the e-cover, still in development, so no sneak peek yet.

Possibly my shortest novella, this one has, oddly, taken the longest of anything to complete. My computer files claim I started the first draft back in November, 2011. (I could not even remember.) It ran along well for a while, then hit a brick wall and died on impact, I thought. I believed it was buried forever, but apparently it was just cryofrozen, because it came back to life a couple of months ago when I was trying and failing to boot up a new adventure for Penric and Desdemona. When my backbrain hands me a gift like that, I’ve found it’s better not to refuse it.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY MOGUL

  • Born April 29, 1923  — Irvin Kershner. The Force was with him.

(9) MYTHIC CHOW. Atlas Obscura’s Anne Ewbank ponders “Why Do Fantasy Novels Have So Much Food?”.

Food in fantasy dates back to early myths and legends, which are full of symbolic, often menacing fare. The Greek goddess Persephone ate six pomegranate seeds in the underworld, consigning her to spend six months of the year with Hades, the god of death. European tales and poems abound with mystical fairies or elves using food to lure humans. In the poem “La Belle Dame Sans Merci,” written in 1819 by Romantic poet John Keats, a knight falls in love with a fairy girl, who feeds him “roots of relish sweet, And honey wild, and manna-dew.” But one day, the knight wakes up to find himself abandoned and half-mad for what he lost. In 1859, poet Christina Rossetti wrote “Goblin Market,” about eerie, otherworldly creatures that sell fruit that, once tasted, drive people crazy for more.

The trope of dangerous fairy food still exists in modern fantasy, says Dr. Robert Maslen. Maslen is a senior lecturer at the University of Glasgow, where he founded one of the world’s first master’s degrees in fantasy literature. He gives two modern examples: the film Pan’s Labyrinth and Ellen Kushner’s novel Thomas the Rhymer. When food comes with consequences, it’s a sign that “we’re in a world where the rules are very different.”

(10) TAFF REPORT. Now you can pick up Jim Mowatt’s 2013 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund trip report – Where I Lay My Hat. Let Jim tell you about it —

After years of desperate procrastination the Taff report of my 2013 Taff trip to North America is now complete. It tells the tale of my visits to Toronto, Abingdon, Seattle, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Las Vegas, San Antonio (Worldcon) and New Orleans. It features art from (in order of appearance) Alan White, Al Sirois, Stu Shiffman, Carrie Mowatt, D. West, Taral Wayne, Brad Foster, Allison Hershey, Ulf Skei, Valeri Purcell, Julie McMurray and Anne Stokes. There are many fine full colour photos of frolicking fans and I’ve even shoved a few words in there. I’m recommending a donation to Taff of about 20 pounds (28 or 29 dollars) and you can donate using the Taff donations buttons at taff.org.uk. Email me,  jim (at) umor.co.uk or John Purcell at 2017taff2019 (at) gmail.com and we’ll post out a copy.

(11) CONTASTROPHE. Aja Romano’s “Great Con Disasters Of The Past: A Thread” begins here:

(12) DON’T BLOW YOUR CHANCE. Atlas Obscura shares “The Uncanny Delights of the World Balloon Convention”.

…This year’s WBC was held in mid-March, in San Diego, California. According to the official website, close to 900 people attended, from 52 countries. The best of the best participated in the Convention’s nine separate competitions, battling to take home titles in everything from “Large Sculpture” to “Balloon Hat.”

The competitors are incredibly skilled. (Most are “Certified Balloon Artists,” which means they have passed a qualifying exam.) Several categories require creating entire landscapes out of gas and latex. Incredible details are achieved with a limited palette of shapes. Sometimes the juxtapositions are funny: The winner of the “Fashion & Costume” category has reimagined a lightsaber as a long, floppy balloon. In the “Large Sculpture” winner, a tiger sports armor that, if you zoom in, looks like sausage links….

(13) APRIL SUMMATIONS BRING MAY FEATURES: Jason has summed Summation: April 2018 over at Featured Futures.

Ten of this month’s eleven noted stories (five recommended) come from the 50 (of just over 200,000 words) that I’ve read with a publication date between April 1 and April 28. Nature and Terraform had a good month with a recommended story and an honorable mention each. Some venues appeared for just the first or second time this year (Grievous Angel, On Spec (reviewed for Tangent), and Strange Horizons (with an especially strong story)), though some of the usual suspects (BCS, Clarkesworld, and Lightspeed) also pitched in. Aside from unusual venues, this month’s wombat is a relatively large number of SF (and no fantasy) honorable mentions.

The eleventh noted story is another first-time appearance. It comes from Slate’s “Future Tense Fiction” department and coverage of that is one of three changes in Featured Futures to report. The latest “Weekly Webzine Wrap-Up” caught up on the stories already released this year and future stories will be continue to be covered there.

Meanwhile, Lightspeed and Nightmare have been covered in the “Wrap-Ups” but will be covered as monthly issues beginning in May.

Lastly, Featured Futures is going to the final frontier: coverage of  short fiction in books. So far, there are a couple of collections and maybe an anthology I’ll see about covering in May.

(14) SHARKTICLE. Another Shadow Clarke juror tells what they will be reading: “Negotiating Cartography by Samira Nadkarni”.

 …As a small cross-section: I started reading Sami Schalk’s Bodyminds Reimagined: (Dis)Ability, Race, and Gender in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction—whose introduction discusses Jasbir Puar whose work I’m following for another project on queerness and warfare— while waiting for Janelle Monàe’s Dirty Computer to drop. Monàe’s vehemently queer 44-minute emotion picture will locate itself around a technocratic society in which citizens are termed “computers,” a section of whom are now on the run from an authoritarian government. Based on what we’ve seen of the three tracks dropped so far, the project is also fiercely Black, and strongly rooted in the political. It’s impossible not to think back to Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures: The Story of the African American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race (followed by a film of the same name starring Monàe, Taraji P. Henson, and Octavia Spencer) which made evident the links between women (Black women in particular) and the history of computers. Knowing that early production units were called “kilo-girls” to denote the number of hours worked and that these women were called “computers,” Monàe’s choice of a return to “computers” as words for people in videos peopled almost exclusively by Black people, and heavily peopled by Black women in this futuristic melding of technology, activism, and talking back to an authoritarian regime feels poignant and part of an evolving expression of futurity located in historicity.

… All of this was with me when I sat down to make this shortlist. I’m hoping the explanation helps contextualise my interest in books that not only talk about power, but also may talk about the complications of power that may come even with resistance and reclamation.

(15) RON HOWARD EXPLAINS IT ALL. …In a new Solo: A Star Wars Story “Becoming Solo Featurette.”

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Hampus Eckerman, ULTRAGOTHA, Mark Hepworth, Steve Bartlett, Jim Mowatt, Carl Slaughter, Jason, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Mister Dalliard.]

Pixel Scroll 4/26/17 A Scroll On The Hand May Be Quite Continental

(1) IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND THERE LIVED AN ARCHITECT. The structure replacing Ray Bradbury’s torn-down home is nearly finished. LA Observed interviewed architect Thom Mayne and his wife about the design in “What would Ray think? Thom and Blythe Mayne’s house in Cheviot Hills is almost ready to call home “. Despite the title, it didn’t seem to me the question was really addressed.

Prominent LA architect Thom Mayne razed the longtime Cheviot Hills home and work space of Ray Bradbury to build his own home. Mayne promised the neighborhood and fans a “very, very modest” house that would honor Bradbury in its design. Now that the teardown-and-replace is nearly complete, KCRW’s Frances Anderton, host of Design & Architecture, gets a tour and assesses if the promise was met.

However, the promised fence with Bradbury quotes is there, although you really can’t make them out in this photo from LA Observed.

A metal screen, fabricated by Tom Farage, contains quotes from Ray Bradbury’s writings. The moving gate will eventually have a hedge that moves with it (photo: Frances Anderton.)

(2) THAT TIME GRUMPY AND DOC WENT TO THE MOVIES. Atlas Obscura unearthed “The Movie Date That Solidified J.R.R. Tolkien’s Dislike of Walt Disney”.

…According to an account in the J.R.R. Tolkien Companion and Guide, Tolkien didn’t go see Snow White until some time after its 1938 U.K. release, when he attended the animated film with [C.S.] Lewis. Lewis had previously seen the film with his brother, and definitely had some opinions. In a 1939 letter to his friend A.K. Hamilton, Lewis wrote of Snow White (and Disney himself):

Dwarfs ought to be ugly of course, but not in that way. And the dwarfs’ jazz party was pretty bad. I suppose it never occurred to the poor boob that you could give them any other kind of music. But all the terrifying bits were good, and the animals really most moving: and the use of shadows (of dwarfs and vultures) was real genius. What might not have come of it if this man had been educated–or even brought up in a decent society?

… Tolkien didn’t like the goofball dwarfs either. The Tolkien Companion notes that he found Snow White lovely, but otherwise wasn’t pleased with the dwarves. To both Tolkien and Lewis, it seemed, Disney’s dwarves were a gross simplification of a concept they held as precious….

(3) DEMENTOR INVENTOR. Zata Rana, in an article on Quartz, “How JK Rowling Overcame Depression and Went On To Sell Over 400 Million Books”, reminds us that Rowling began to write Harry Potter novels after being diagnosed with clinical depression in the 1990s and her struggles to overcome her depression provides inspiring lessons for us all.

…During this period, her depression took a dark turn, and she considered herself a failure. She had fallen and felt stuck. She even contemplated suicide. Luckily, she found it in her to seek help, and writing became an outlet. The idea for the Harry Potter series had come to her years before on a train ride from Manchester to London. She had worked on a few chapters in Portugal, but she only really found her momentum back in the UK.

Rowling finished the first two books while still on welfare benefits. The dementors introduced in the third book were inspired by her mental illness….

(4) STINKS IN SPACE. The popular video game took a wrong turn when it left the Earth: “Activision admits taking ‘Call of Duty’ to space was a bad idea”.

Right from the very start it was clear that Activision’s Call of Duty franchise had taken a bit of a wrong turn with Infinite Warfare. The initial trailer for the game was absolutely slaughtered on YouTube, and early sales indicated that the game just wasn’t striking a chord with some of its target audience. Now, Activision is admitting what we all knew: Infinite Warfare was a misstep.

In a recent earnings call with investors, Activision CEO Bobby Kotick and COO Thomas Tippl revealed that the company wasn’t particularly pleased with how the game sold, or its overall reception….

(5) CAN’T PULL OVER TO THE ROADSIDE. And you know what else is going to stink in space? Blue Origin “Hold on tight and hold it: Jeff Bezos says no potty breaks on Blue Origin space trips”. Here are a couple quotes from a Bezos Q&A session.

What if I get queasy? Getting sick to your stomach can be a problem on zero-G airplane flights like NASA’s “Vomit Comet,” but motion sickness typically doesn’t come up until you’ve gone through several rounds of zero-G. Blue Origin’s suborbital space ride lasts only 11 minutes, with a single four-minute dose of weightlessness. “You’re going to be fine,” Bezos said.

What if I have to use the bathroom in flight? Go before you go. “Listen, if you have to pee in 11 minutes, you got problems,” Bezos said. You may have to hold it for more than 11 minutes, though, since passengers will board the spaceship a half-hour before launch.

(6) TODAY’S TRIVIA. “What, Me Worry?” Alfred E. Neuman made his debut as Mad Magazine’s mascot by appearing on the cover of The Mad Reader, a reprint paperback published in November 1954. He appeared for the first time on the magazine’s cover in issue #21 (March 1955).

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • April 26, 1956  — The Creature Walks Among Us was released.

(8) THEY STOPPED FOR LUNCH. And didn’t clean up after. Better hope your litter doesn’t last this long. “Neanderthals in California? Maybe so, provocative study says”

A startling new report asserts that the first known Americans arrived much, much earlier than scientists thought — more than 100,000 years ago __ and maybe they were Neanderthals.

If true, the finding would far surpass the widely accepted date of about 15,000 years ago.

Researchers say a site in Southern California shows evidence of humanlike behavior from about 130,000 years ago, when bones and teeth of an elephantlike mastodon were evidently smashed with rocks.

The earlier date means the bone-smashers were not necessarily members of our own species, Homo sapiens. The researchers speculate that these early Californians could have instead been species known only from fossils in Europe, Africa and Asia: Neanderthals, a little-known group called Denisovans, or another human forerunner named Homo erectus.

This reminds me of my visit 40 years ago to the Calico Early Man Site where Louis (but not Mary) Leakey thought they had found evidence of equally ancient toolmaking. According to Mary, their disagreement over this contributed to their split.

(9) QUESTIONS BIGGER THAN THE EXPANSE. The Space Review ponders the utopian and quasi-religious aspects of space advocacy in “Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids”.

A few years ago historian Roger Launius wrote “Escaping Earth: Human Spaceflight as Religion” in the journal Astropolitics. He noted the similarities between human spaceflight enthusiasts and what we understand as traditional religion. For much of the history of the space age the comparisons have often been blatant, with spaceflight leaders such as Chris Kraft and Wernher von Braun, as well as numerous political leaders such as Ronald Reagan, talking about spaceflight in quasi, or even literally religious terms. Launius observed that human spaceflight, like religion, has its immortality myths, its revered leaders and condemned villains, its sacred texts, and its rituals, rules, and shared experiences. According to Launius, “The belief system has its saints, martyrs, and demons; sacred spaces of pilgrimage and reverence; theology and creed; worship and rituals; sacred texts; and a message of salvation for humanity, as it ensures its future through expansion of civilization to other celestial bodies.”

These religious aspects can be found throughout the writings of spaceflight advocates, the self-styled missionaries of the spaceflight religion. One of the most common arguments for space settlement is to achieve immortality for humankind by moving a portion of humanity to Mars in event of catastrophe. The Space Review regularly publishes these kinds of appeals to transcendence. The advocates argue that humankind could be wiped out by natural disaster—typically a meteor strike—and settling the Moon and Mars would help avoid the species being wiped out (see “Settling space is the only sustainable reason for humans to be in space”, The Space Review, February 1, 2016). Other commonly-cited threats include man-made ones like war and environmental destruction—as if space settlers would not also face the same things in a far more fragile biosphere. The Expanse has highlighted this vulnerability and interdependence with a subplot about food production on Jupiter’s moon Ganymede collapsing because the ecosystem lacks the robustness of Earth’s complex environment.

(10) CHU ON WRITING. In an interview at Outer Places, “Author John Chu Talks Cybernetics, Short Fiction, and Sci-Fi”.

OP: Are there themes or elements you find yourself returning to again and again in your work?

Chu: At a LonCon 3 panel, I joked that all the parents in my stories make unreasonable expectations of their children. That may be truer than I’d like. Certainly, I like to explore the notion of family in its many forms, i.e., family does not have to mean blood relation. The most interesting characters in my stories are likely either navigating relationships with their blood relatives, searching for their family, or both.

(11) PLUS ATWOOD’S CAMEO. An NPR reviewer finds  “Hulu’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ Is Compelling — And Chilling”.

One searing scene features Offred’s memory of Aunt Lydia, the abusive headmistress who trains new Handmaids, quoting scripture and shocking the women with cattle prods. Eventually, she explains their duties as breeders. “You girls will serve the leaders of the faithful and their barren wives,” says Aunt Lydia, who cites Tinder as one source of the moral turpitude that has caused God to create the infertility crisis. “You will bear children for them. Oh! You are so lucky!”

(Atwood, who also served as a consulting producer on Hulu’s series, pops up in one scene from the first episode, where she slaps Offred for being slow to respond during an indoctrination session.)

This is a world of 1984-style paranoia and doublespeak. On the surface, it’s a placid, polite community that just happens to have black-clad guards with machine guns on every corner. But beneath that veneer is a world of grim desperation, fear and oppression. Women are stripped of husbands, children, jobs, their own money and control over their sexuality.

(12) MARVELS AND MARTYRS. Carmen Maria Machado reviews The Book of Joan for NPR.

One of the pleasures of The Book of Joan is its take-no-prisoners disregard for genre boundaries. Its searing fusion of literary fiction and reimagined history and science-fiction thriller and eco-fantasy make it a kind of sister text to Jeff VanderMeer’s ineffable Southern Reach trilogy. Yuknavitch is a bold and ecstatic writer, wallowing in sex and filth and decay and violence and nature and love with equal relish. Fans of her previous novel, The Small Backs of Children, will recognize these themes and their treatment.

(13) HELL’S JINGLING BELLS. And the BBC tells us why Milton should be more widely read.

…Ricks notes that Paradise Lost is “a fierce argument about God’s justice” and that Milton’s God has been deemed inflexible and cruel. By contrast, Satan has a dark charisma (“he pleased the ear”) and a revolutionary demand for self-determination. His speech is peppered with the language of democratic governance (“free choice”, “full consent”, “the popular vote”) – and he famously declares, “Better to reign in Hell, than serve in Heaven”. Satan rejects God’s “splendid vassalage”, seeking to live:

Free, and to none accountable, preferring

Hard liberty before the easy yoke

Of servile Pomp.

(14) SOME LIKE THE LIGHTNING — SOME DON’T. Two perspectives on Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning.

TRIGGER WARNINGS for discussion of ciscentricity, allocentricity, intersexis, and gender essentialism, and for quoted anti-trans and anti-intersex slurs apply to the following essay, as well as SPOILER WARNINGS.

Too Like the Lightning has been feted and critically acclaimed, and now nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel. I read it back when it first came out, after hearing about how well it supposedly handled queerness, and especially gender in the context of queerness, from a number of people whose opinions on the topic I usually respect; I did not agree with these assessments. I’ve been asked a number of times to discuss more fully my issues with the presentation of gender in the novel, so, with the Hugo Awards now open for voting, it seems like this might be the moment, to let voters see what this particular genderqueer person thought of the presentation of gender in the book. For context, I’m a bisexual nonbinary person and my pronoun is they….

Hi! I’m trans. I’m queer. I would like to talk about trans characters who end up dead in the course of story, or queer characters who are not the heroes of the story, and why that is frequently completely all right with me; and why the frequent labeling of works as “problematic” for not portraying trans (etc.) characters as paragons of virtue is itself a problem….

Now, I can completely sympathize with someone, especially a trans or nonbinary someone, noping out of Palmer’s novel due to the use of pronouns. I am personally of the opinion that you can refuse to leisure-read a book for any reason you damn well please, and I can see why that would hit a sore spot. (To reiterate: we’re talking about leisure reading here, things you read of your own will.) But I do not agree that Palmer’s worldbuilding here was problematic, and I do not think she should have been discouraged from writing this future….

“But is it hurtful?” you ask.

I feel this is the wrong question.

Individuals are hurt by whatever hurts them. And that’s not always something an author can predict–given the number of individuals in this world that’s a losing proposition, to try to write a work that never hurts anyone. I was not hurt by Palmer’s exploration of gender and society and use of pronouns, but again, trans people are not a monolith; and I want to be clear that people who noped out of the novel because of the pronouns (or any other reason) are entirely within their rights. I do think she was doing something interesting and definitely science fictional and that that’s fine, and that she should not have been prevented from writing with this device.

(15) CLASSIC WHO. Michael O’Donnell contributes an “it’s always new to someone on the internet” news item, a Doctor Who documentary, 30 Years In The Tardis posted on Vimeo by the director Kevin Davies around a year ago. It was originally broadcast by the BBC in 1993 to celebrate the Doctor’s 30th anniversary and never repeated (although it was included with one of the Doctor Who box sets).

Part 1:

Part 2:

(16) WELCOME TO KARLOFFORNIA. And A.V. Club remembers when “Thriller turned classic pulp stories into terrifying television”. (A post from 2014.)

… “As sure as my name is Boris Karloff, this is a Thriller!” was the catchphrase associated with Thriller, the horror anthology hosted by the craggy, silver-haired Englishman who in 1960 was still the world’s most emblematic scary-movie star. Rod Serling’s nervous energy animated The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock’s laconic drawl set the tone for his eponymous suspense series. Karloff was a natural choice to join their ranks: He let viewers know what they were in for just by saying his name….

Here is the prosaic chain of events by which Thriller came to meet Weird Tales: Frye’s associate producer, Doug Benton, asked writer Charles Beaumont (The Twilight Zone) for his ideas on material to adapt for Thriller. Beaumont suggested the pulp magazine and steered Benton to superfan Forrest J. Ackerman, who owned a complete set. Ackerman wouldn’t part with his trunk of back issues but agreed to loan them to Benton, a few at a time. Benton set out to track down authors and rights, and so Thriller began to offer relatively authentic screen versions of many key Weird Tales authors: August Derleth, Harold Lawlor, Margaret St. Clair, Fredric Brown, Henry Kuttner, and Robert Bloch. Only Lovecraft was missing.

(17) PASSING GO. Atlas Obscura goes inside the history and geography of the iconic game: “Touring the Abandoned Atlantic City Sites That Inspired the Monopoly Board”.

One of the last traces of old Atlantic City is the Claridge Hotel. Found on the corner of the two most expensive properties on the Monopoly board—Park Place and Boardwalk—the Claridge was known in its heyday as the “skyscraper by the sea.” Opened in 1930, it had an Art Deco opulence that wouldn’t be out of place in midtown Manhattan.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael D’Donnell, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 3/30/17 Do Not Taunt Happy Fun Scroll

(1) WAX TREK. The Orange County Register’s Keith Sharon should get a Pulitzer Prize for the first line of his article “$80,000 later, why this trio gave up their ‘Star Trek’ wax figures, Enterprise replica”:

Mr. Spock’s head cooled in a wooden crate for 10 years before someone noticed something was wrong.

Equally good is the rest of the article — about the fate of the wax Star Trek crew since the defunct Movieland Wax Museum sold its exhibits in 2006.

Steve and Lori had 24 hours to decide whether they wanted to pay about $40,000 for Kirk, Spock, Sulu, Uhura, Dr. McCoy, Chekov and Scott. Or they could buy just one, or just a few.

They went to Don Jose’s restaurant and had margaritas over dinner. They knew other people wanted to buy the individuals in the crew. One guy wanted to put Spock in a bar. Another guy wanted to put Captain Kirk in his house. So they decided to buy them all, to keep the crew together. They made it their mission to save the crew of the Enterprise.

“Let’s protect them,” Steve told Lori.

“We took them home and put them in our dining room,” Lori said.

That’s when it got weird. Steve couldn’t stand the life-like eyes looking at him all the time.

“We put paper bags over their heads,” Steve said.

 

Steve Greenthal puts on the head of his Captain Kirk wax figure at the Fullerton Airport before donating them to the Hollywood Sci-Fi Museum on Saturday, March 25, 2017. The figures were purchased when the Movieland Wax Museum went out of business. (Photo by Nick Agro, Orange County Register/SCNG)

(2) NOT ENOUGH HAMMER. Ursula K. Le Guin reviews Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology for The Guardian and finds it very well-written but wanting in some ways:

Gaiman plays down the extreme strangeness of some of the material and defuses its bleakness by a degree of self-satire. There is a good deal of humour in the stories, the kind most children like – seeing a braggart take a pratfall, watching the cunning little fellow outwit the big dumb bully. Gaiman handles this splendidly. Yet I wonder if he tries too hard to tame something intractably feral, to domesticate a troll.

… What finally left me feeling dissatisfied is, paradoxically, the pleasant, ingratiating way in which he tells it. These gods are not only mortal, they’re a bit banal. They talk a great deal, in a conversational tone that descends sometimes to smart-ass repartee. This chattiness will be familiar to an audience accustomed to animated film and graphic narrative, which have grown heavy with dialogue, and in which disrespect is generally treated as a virtue. But it trivialises, and I felt sometimes that this vigorous, robust, good-natured version of the mythos gives us everything but the very essence of it, the heart.

(3) FROM BUFFY TO BATGIRL. Joss Whedon is in talks to do a Batgirl movie says The Hollywood Reporter.

Whedon is in negotiations to write, direct and produce a Batgirl stand-alone movie for Warner Bros., adding another heroine to the studio’s DC cinematic universe.

Warner Bros. Pictures president Toby Emmerich will oversee the project, along with Jon Berg and Geoff Johns….

Batgirl will be the second female superhero stand-alone in Warner Bros. DCU (Wonder Woman will hit theaters on June 2). Whedon has long been credited as a pioneering voice for female-focused genre fare, having created the hit TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer two decades ago.

(4) DIETZ ESTATE SALE. Over 300 sf/f collectible books and other items from Frank Dietz’ are for sale on eBay. Dietz passed away in 2013.

He was chairman of the first 14 Lunacons, and was Fan Guest of Honor at the 2007 Lunacon. His activities as “Station Luna,” an effort to record the proceedings of many World SF Conventions, continued for many years. He recorded events at the 1951 Worldcon in New Orleans.

(5) WOTF IN TOWN. Ron Collins reports on Day 2 of the annual Writers of the Future Workshop.

“It’s a little overwhelming,” Andrew Peery told me during a break after the opening session. He meant it in a good way. Peery, from North Carolina, is the 4th quarter first prize winner. The group had just walked through the Author Services Hall of Writers and been given a presentation of past judges throughout the contest’s history. People here have asked me how things have changed in the 18 years since my last visit. One thing that’s different is that the list of judges has gotten a little longer and a little more prominent. It’s very cool to think about.

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the purpose of the workshop.

“Our goal in this workshop is to help you train yourself to be a professional writer,” Dave Farland said in his opening remarks. He and Tim [Powers] then covered several topics, focusing on things like how to develop writerly habits, how stories are structured, and how to create and use suspense. And that was just before lunch. Along the way the two of them did a little brotherly bickering about the speed with this things should be done. “If you’re here, we already know you’re good,” Dave said. “But now we want to help you think about producing that good work more quickly.” Tim, followed that up with: “My first drafts take forever and are never any good.” Then he explained why that was just fine by him. I’ve seen that before, but, yeah, it holds up on second viewing! It’s always great to see how creativity is different for two such high-caliber artists.

Other authors have written about Day 1 and Day 3.

(6) EGYPT IN SF. Tim Powers was recently interviewed by Rachel Connor and described his preparation.

Rachel: I was first introduced to your work when I read The Anubis Gates, a historical fiction with time-travel, Victorian corruption and ancient Egyptian folklore. Can you tell us a little about your approach to historical fiction? What is it about a certain period of time that intrigues you?

Tim: A novel for me generally starts with something I stumble across in recreational non-fiction reading. I’ll notice some peculiarity — like Edison working on a phone to talk to dead people with, or Albert Einstein going to a séance — and I’ll start to wonder if a story might not be built around what I’m reading.

If I come across another oddity or two — like Edison’s last breath being preserved in a test tube in a museum in Michigan, or Einstein turning out to have had a secret daughter who disappears from history in 1902 — I’ll decide that this isn’t recreational reading after all, but research for a book.

For The Anubis Gates, it was a note in one of Lord Byron’s letters. He said that several people had recognized him in London at a particular date in 1810, when at that time he was in fact in Turkey, very sick with a fever.

I wondered how he might have a doppelganger, and started reading all about Byron, and his doctor in Turkey, and London at the time, looking for clues

(7) EVERY JOT AND TITTLE. Tom Easton and Michael Burstein’s collaborative short story Sofer Pete” has been published in Nature

The visitors were crowded against one wall of bookcases, facing a large table on which was stretched a long piece of parchment. An inkwell filled with black ink sat off to the side. A hand holding a traditional goose-quill pen moved over the parchment, leaving rows of Hebrew characters behind it more quickly than a human hand ever could.

Because the hand did not belong to a human. The gleaming metal hand belonged to a humanoid robot seated on the other side of the table. Its name was Pete.

(8) THANKS DAD! Most people know Joe Hill’s father is Stephen King. Here’s what happened when young Joe turned to him for advice….

(9) “EVERY WINDOW’S A SEAT”. How much will people pay to be in space for a few minutes? “Jeff Bezos just revealed a mock-up of the spacecraft his rocket company will use to take tourists into space”.

Each launch will rocket a handful of wealthy tourists more than 62 miles (100 kilometers) above Earth on a roughly 11-minute trip.

Near the top of a high arc, the rocket will detach from the space capsule, which will fall toward the ground, granting passengers about four minutes of weightlessness and letting them take in an incredible view of the fringes of our planet’s outer atmosphere.

(10) GHOSTESS WITH THE MOSTEST. The BBC says the animated Ghost in the Shell was good, but the live-action is better.

The Japanese anime Ghost in the Shell isn’t just one of the most acclaimed science-fiction cartoons ever made, it’s one of the most acclaimed science-fiction films, full stop. Conceptually and visually breathtaking, Mamoru Oshii’s cyberpunk detective flick bridged the gap between analogue blockbusters and digital ones, between Blade Runner and The Terminator, with their cyborgs and androids, and The Matrix and Avatar, with their body-swaps and virtual realities. The makers of The Matrix, in particular, were happy to acknowledge that they were following in Oshii’s future-noir footsteps.

The question is, then, is it worth bothering with a belated live-action version? Considering that the cartoon is now a cult classic, and that several other films have taken its innovations and run with them, can a mega-budget Hollywood remake have anything of its own to offer? The answer to both questions is a definite yes.

(11) RELAUNCH. First reuse of a SpaceX recoverable boosterNPR reports:

SpaceX launched a communications satellite from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida using a rocket stage that has already been to space and back. SpaceX is betting that this kind of recycling will lower its costs and revolutionize space flight.

(12) NOT FIVE? At the B&N Sci-FI & Fantasy Blog, Corinna Lawson shares the four rules that tell her “How to Know When It’s Okay to Read a Series out of Order”.

  1. When the character arcs are resolved by book’s end

In Sins of Empire, there are three leads, and all set out on emotional journeys that are fully resolved by book’s end.

Meanwhile, ASoIaF readers are still waiting to see what happens via-à-vis Jamie Lannister’s redemption arc, whether the Khaleesi will ever seize her birthright, if Tyrion’s suffering will amount to anything, or if Jon Snow will ever stop flailing about and realize who and what he is.

In Bujold’s The Warrior’s Apprentice, a young man who dreams of being a soldier finds more than he bargained for, and, at the end, his journey has a resolution, despite a fair dozen books that follow.

But Bishop’s Others, series, well, readers have been waiting for four books to see what happens with Simon and Meg, and though their patience is rewarded, it took four other books to get there.

(13) REVIEW HAIKU. Aaron Pound begins with a 17-syllable plot summary, then goes on to tell why he loved Kelly Sue DeConnick’s graphic story Pretty Deadly, Vol. 1: The Shrike.

Full review: I must confess that I obtained this book almost solely because it was written by Kelly Sue DeConnick, and at this point I am pretty much willing to at least take a look at anything she writes. Pretty Deadly not only met the high expectations I have for work from DeConnick, it exceeded them. This is, quite bluntly, mythic storytelling that manages to be both epic in scale and simultaneously intensely personal. Told via a combination of tight and brilliant writing from DeConnick and stunningly beautiful and evocative artwork from Emma Rios, this story presents a violent and visceral enigma shrouded in mystery wrapped up in magic, gunfights, and swordplay.

(14) THREE SHALL BE THE NUMBER THOU SHALT COUNT. This is a public service announcement from N.K. Jemisin.

(15) KORSHAK COLLECTION. An exhibit from “The Korshak Collection: Illustrations of Imaginative Literature” will be on display April 10-May 16 at the Albin O Kuhn Library and Gallery on the University of Maryland Baltimore County campus. The collection, now owned by Stephen Korshak, was started by his father Erle Korshak, past Worldcon chair and founder of the imprint Shasta Publishers, and has its own impressive website.

Truly a vision of the fantastic, this exhibition is an amazing exploration of both illustrative art and the evolution of the visual landscape of science fiction and fantasy literature. Featuring work by both American and European artists and spanning more than a century, these vivid illustrations bring to life adventures, beings, and worlds conjured in novels such as Don Quixote, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Tarzan, and pulp magazines including Amazing Stories, Weird Tales, Fantastic Adventures, and Wonder Stories. Accomplishing far more than simply guiding readers in their explorations of new and sometimes bizarre realms, the range and impact of these illustrations is far-reaching.

The exhibition will also include books, pulp magazines, and other items drawn from UMBC’s Rosenfeld Collection, revealing how the illustrations in the Korshak Collection were meant to appear when encountered as artifacts of material culture.

(16) BEYOND ORWELL. The 2084 Kickstarter has funded. The collection —

features 11 stories from leading science fiction writers who were all asked the same question – what will our world look like 67 years from now? The anthology features new and exclusive stories from:

Jeff Noon, Christopher Priest, James Smythe, Lavie Tidhar, Aliya Whiteley, David Hutchinson, Cassandra Khaw, Desirina Boskovich, Anne Charnock, Ian Hocking, and Oliver Langmead.

(17) BOOKS WERE SOLD. This is John Scalzi’s executive summary of The Collapsing Empire’s first week:

So, in sum: Top selling science fiction hardcover in the US, second-best-selling audio book in the US, my highest debut on the USA Today bestseller list, and a TV deal.

That’s a pretty good week, y’all.

Fuller details at the post.

(18) JURY CALL. The Shadow Clarke Jury continues to review its Clarke Award picks.

I put this novel on my shadow shortlist after reading the opening chapters on Amazon, because I was fascinated by the premise: the seemingly inexplicable overnight irruption of masses of full-grown trees into our familiar world. I said, when I explained my choices, that I was intrigued because it reminded me somewhat of John Wyndham’s The Day of the Triffids, in which the world is transformed, first by meteors, which cause mass blindness, and then by the apparently coordinated escape of the triffids, seizing the opportunities afforded by this new blindness. I was curious to see how much The Trees might be in conversation with Triffids more than half a century on.

De Abaitua wrote one of the most complex and difficult novels from 2015, If Then, and I still find myself wondering about it at random times. I was so taken by that strange novel about an algorithmic society in decay—a novel that feels so uneven on the surface, yet so complete in substance—I couldn’t articulate my thoughts well enough to write a decent review. Since then, The Destructives has been on my “most anticipateds” list. Placed on a Clarke award shortlist only once before, for The Red Men in 2008, de Abaitua was unaccountably left off the list for If Then in 2016. The Destructives is the latest piece in this abstract thematic series and, given its scope, it seems primed to make up for last year’s Clarke snub.

Any work of fiction is a formal exercise in the controlled release and withholding of information. What is withheld and for how long is a key element in how we read the work and even how we classify it. To give an obvious example, in a detective story in the classical mode it is essential that the identity of the killer is withheld until the last page, the structure of the novel is therefore dictated by the need to steadily release information that leads towards this conclusion without actually pre-empting it. How successful the novel is depends upon the skill with which this information is managed. If too much is given away so that readers can guess whodunnit too early, the work is adjudged a failure; similarly, if too little is revealed so that the denouement comes out of the blue, it is seen as a cheat and again the work fails.

In a recent article for the Guardian, ‘How to build a feminist utopia’, Naomi Alderman briefly sets out some pragmatic measures for helping pave the way to a world in which genitals, hormones and gender identification don’t matter because ‘everyone gets to be both vulnerable and tough, aggressive and nurturing, effortlessly confident and inclusively consensus-building, compassionate and dominant’. Among suggestions such as trying to establish equal parenting as the norm and teaching boys to be able to express their emotions, she also proposes teaching every girl self-defence at school from the age of five to sixteen. In effect, this is what happens in The Power when it becomes apparent that a generation of teenage girls across the world have developed the capacity to emit electric shocks. The only difference is that this doesn’t just allow the girls to defend themselves against male violence but instead enables them to become the aggressors.

(19) STATUARY GRIPE. Copied to Twitter, a grumpy letter to the editor from a “Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells” type about a proposed Terry Pratchett statue.

(20) TV IS COMING. HBO’s latest series promo, Game of Thrones Season 7: Long Walk.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, rcade, Rob Thornton, Cat Eldridge, Mark-kitteh, David K.M.Klaus, Andrew Porter, Chip Hitchcock, and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

Bezos Receives Heinlein Prize

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Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin, who was named winner of the Heinlein Prize on June 20, accepted the $250,000 award Wednesday evening at an event at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

The billionaire pledged to donate the money to Students for the Exploration and Development of Space. SEDS is a nonprofit that aims to help young people participate in space exploration efforts.

Bezos, who was an early member of the Princeton chapter of the group in the early 1980s, said he hoped the organization “would continue to do great work.”

One of SEDS’ founders, Peter Diamandis, won the inaugural Heinlein Prize in 2006 for his efforts in establishing the X Prize, which is aimed at stimulating the development of the commercial suborbital reusable launch vehicle.

“Books have always meant a lot to me, but not as much as they meant to you,” Diamonds joked with Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com who is now thought to be worth more than $60 billion.

The Washington Post published an edited transcript of Bezos’ remarks at the Smithsonian event — “Jeff Bezos on nuclear reactors in space, the lack of bacon on Mars and humanity’s destiny in the solar system”; here are some of the quotes.

On humanity’s future in space:

“I wish there were a trillion humans in the solar system. Think how cool that would be. You’d have a thousand Einsteins at any given moment—and more. There would be so much dynamism with all of that human intelligence. But you can’t do that with the resources on Earth or the energy on earth. So if you really want to see that kind of dynamic civilization as we expand through the solar system, you have to figure out how to safely move around and use resources that you get in space.”

On competing against Musk and other commercial companies:

“Competition is super healthy…Great industries are never made by single companies. And space is really big. There is room for a lot of winners…At Blue Origin, our biggest opponent is gravity. The physics of this problem are challenging enough..Gravity is not watching us and saying, ‘Uh-oh those Blue Origin guys are getting really good, I’m going to have increase my gravitational constant.’ Gravity doesn’t care about us at all. ”

On achieving the impossible:

“I believe the dreamers come first, and the builders come second. A lot of the dreamers are science fiction authors, they’re artists…They invent these ideas, and they get catalogued as impossible. And we find out later, well, maybe it’s not impossible. Things that seem impossible if we work them the right way for long enough, sometimes for multiple generations, they become possible.”

The Heinlein Prize honors the memory of Robert A. Heinlein, and encourages progress in commercial space activities that advance Robert and Virginia Heinlein’s dream of humanity’s future in space. In addition to the award, recipients receive a Lady Vivamus sword from Heinlein’s novel, Glory Road.

[Thanks to Jeb Kinnison for the story.]

Jeff Bezos Awarded Heinlein Prize

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Jeff Bezos at Blue Origin’s launch facility in West Texas.

Jeff Bezos, founder of Blue Origin, has won the Heinlein Prize “for his vision and leadership in commercial space activities that have led to historic firsts and reusability in the commercial spaceflight industry.” The award was announced June 20 in conjunction with the Space Frontier Foundation’s NewSpace 2016 conference in Seattle.

Under Bezos’ leadership, Blue Origin developed a number of technology firsts that are driving U.S. space competitiveness. The reusable BE-3, a liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen engine, is now being used in Blue Origin’s New Shepard spacecraft. New Shepard is the first rocket ever to fly above the Karman line into space and then land vertically upon the Earth. Furthermore, it has done so multiple times with the same rocket hardware – not even removing the engine between flights. In late 2014, Blue Origin reached a commercial agreement with a private launch company to develop the BE-4 engine which could be used to power the next generation of U.S. launch vehicles.

The Heinlein Prize honors the memory of Robert A. Heinlein, and encourages progress in commercial space activities that advance Robert and Virginia Heinlein’s dream of humanity’s future in space. In addition to the award, recipients receive a Lady Vivamus sword from Heinlein’s novel, Glory Road.

Bezos, best known as the billionaire founder of Amazon, acknowledged the award in a statement: “Robert Heinlein inspired millions with his visionary—and incredibly entertaining—stories, and it’s an honor for all of us at Blue Origin to receive this award. Heinlein foresaw a thriving future with humans throughout the solar system. We won’t stop working to make that vision come true.”

Bezos is the third recipient of the Heinlein Prize. The first award was to Dr. Peter Diamandis in 2006 for the Ansari XPRIZE and SpaceShipOne, the first manned commercial vehicle to fly to space. The second prize was awarded to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in 2011 for the Falcon 1, the first privately-developed launch vehicle to orbit the Earth.

The award announcement comes just days after Blue Origin the New Shepard through its fourth suborbital test flight to outer space and back.