Pixel Scroll 3/21/20 Social Distancing Warriors

(1) UK EASTERCON CANCELLED. Concentric, the 2020 Eastercon, was cancelled today. The con was to have been held April 10-13 in Birmingham, UK. Thread starts here.

(2) SERLING’S BASEBALL DRAMA TO AIR. “Rod Serling’s lost baseball show to make return” – the Fifties show has been re-created by students and Anne Serling will narrate.

If there’s one thing we could all use right now, it’s baseball — in any form. Well, how about a baseball story written by none other than “The Twilight Zone” creator Rod Serling?

On March 25, when we would otherwise be preparing for Opening Day, Cincinnati’s WVXU-FM will be streaming Serling’s radio drama, “O’Toole From Moscow.”

Written in 1955 — four years before “The Twilight Zone” debuted — the show is set during the Cold War and follows a Soviet Embassy worker who loves the Brooklyn Dodgers and skips town with a “comrade who suddenly becomes the greatest slugger ever for the Cincinnati Reds” — no word on if this slugger also ripped off his sleeves the way Ted Kluszewski did.

… The drama, which featured an appearance from Hall of Fame manager Leo Durocher, only aired once on NBC, and no recordings were ever made. Fortunately, Cincinnati journalist John Kiesewetter managed to hunt down the original script, and then edit it into a radio drama. With help from actors at University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and Anne Serling — Rod’s daughter — to provide the narration, the show was recorded in November and now awaits its debut.

(3) FILLING THE VACANCY. K. Tempest Bradford and Lou Antonelli have been exchanging barbs over his write-in candidacy to become a SFWA director-at-large. Bradford’s thread starts here.

Antonelli’s comments include —

(4) BOOKSTORE GOFUNDME. Nancy Hanger’s Star Cats Books in Vermont hopes to raise $7,500: “Save Star Cat Books in the time of Covid-19”.

Don’t let Covid-19 kill this bookstore!

Most Vermonters have already decided to shelter at home, and even at mid-day roads are close to empty. Fixed costs continue. The owner of Star Cat Books has a compromised immune system, but fears she must stay open for the few people who are looking for books for their kids or themselves. “Just closing” for two months, which is the shortest period the experts project this to last, guarantees the store will close forever. Even if two months is enough to end the risk, business will not return to normal at once.

(5) ORDER UP. Meanwhile, Jeff VanderMeer is lending a hand to his local Tallahassee bookstore Midtown Reader with sales of signed copies of his books, plus this special offer to receive a unique autographed item —

(6) TIME AGAIN TO POP THE LID. Alasdair Stuart’s The Full Lid barrels onward – here a link to the issue for 20th March 2020.

This week, there’s a look at how Netflix often write genre fiction kids very well, focusing on Lost in Space, Locke & Key and October Faction. We’ve also got a look at Marieke Nijkamp, Manuel Preitano, Jordie Bellaire and Clayton Cowles’ excellent Barbara Gordon YA graphic novel The Oracle Code. An interview with Marieke is planned for a future issue too (Although it did sneak into the Contents page here. Barbara Gordon folks, best hacker in the business). 

We’re also ramping up Signal Boost as multiple creatives and creative industries struggle under the growing changes to the fabric of modern life. If you have a project you’d like over 500 extra sets of eyes on, do get in touch.

(7) FREE PUBLISHERS WEEKLY. Forthcoming issues and a lot of digital archives can be accessed free announced PW’s President, George Slowik.

We will make the digital magazine available to everyone regardless of whether you subscribe starting with the current issue (March 16, 2020).

Everyone can now access the digital edition of PW from www.digitalpw.com or from the PW app on iOS and Android.

Additionally, articles, past bestsellers lists and the reviews database, which includes a search feature and the reviews listed by genre, will be made available to all.

And last, I am very pleased to share access to our recently launched archive database. The archive includes 7,597 past issues, 676,133 pages, 400,000 book reviews, 5,000 author profiles and interviews and, beginning in 1895, bestseller lists.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 21, 1989 Gor II, also known as Outlaw of Gor, premiered. It is a sequel to Gor and is directed this time by John Cardos. It is based on the Gor series by John Norman, but varies quite a bit from the original Outlaw of Gor novel. It starred Urbano Barberini, Rebecca Ferratti, Donna Denton, Russell Savadier and, yes, Jack Palance. You can see it here as lovingly critiqued on Mystery Science Theatre 3000. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 21, 1915 Ian Stuart Black. British screenplay writer best known for scripting two First Doctor stories, “The Savages” and “The War Machines” (with Kit Pedler and Pat Dunlop) and a Third Doctor story, “The Macra Terror”. He wrote thirteen episodes of The Invisible Man as well as episodes of One Step BeyondThe SaintStar Maidens and Danger Man. (Died 1997.)
  • Born March 21, 1931 Al Williamson. Cartoonist who was best known for his work for EC Comics in the ’50s, including titles like Weird Science and Weird Fantasy, and for his work on Flash Gordon in the Sixties. He won eight Harvey Awards, and an Eisner Hall of Fame Award. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 21, 1944 Lorene Yarnell. She was actually part of Shields and Yarnell, a well-known mime team, but you will know her as Dot Matrix on Spaceballs. She had a few previous genre appearances including being a villain named Forimicida on Wonder Women, and Sonia on The Wild Wild West Revisted. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 21, 1944 — Hilary Minster. He appeared twice on Doctor Who, one in a Third Doctor story, “Planet of the Daleks” and before that in a Second Doctor story, “Genesis of the Daleks.” He also was in “Achilles Heel”, an episode of The Tomorrow People, and he had a minor role in The Girl in a Swing film based on the Richard Adams novel. Finally, he was Fritz, a German soldier, in Timeslip, a children’s SF series. (Died 1999.)
  • Born March 21, 1946 Timothy Dalton, 74. He is best known for portraying James Bond in The Living Daylights and License to Kill but is currently in The Doom Patrol as Niles Caulder, The Chief. As I’ve said before, go watch it now!  He also was Damian Drake in Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Sir Malcolm on the Penny Dreadful series and Lord President of the Time Lords (Rassilon) during the time of Tenth and Eleventh Doctors. He went to theatre to play Lord Asriel in the stage version of His Dark Materials.
  • Born March 21, 1946 Terry Dowling, 74. I was trying to remember exactly what it was by him that I read and it turned out to be Amberjack: Tales of Fear and Wonder, an offering from Subterranean Press a decade ago. Oh, it was tasty! If it’s at all representative of his other short stories, he’s a master at them. And I see he’s got just one novel, Clowns at Minnight which I’ve not read. He’s not at all deeply stocked at the usual digital suspects but Kindle has this plus several story collections. 
  • Born March 21, 1947 Don Markstein. He was the creator and sole maintainer of Don Markstein’s Toonpedia which is subtitled A Vast Repository of Toonological Knowledge. It is an encyclopedia of print cartoons, comic strips and animation started in  2001. He said, “The basic idea is to cover the entire spectrum of American cartoonery.” (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 21, 1956 Teresa Nielsen Hayden, 64. She is a consulting editor for Tor Books and is well known for her and husband, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Making Light superb weblog, Back in the Eighties, they published the Izzard fanzine. And she has three pieces in The Essential Bordertown, edited by Delia Sherman and Terri Windling. 
  • Born March 21, 1985 Sonequa Martin-Green, 35. She currently plays Michael Burnham on Discovery which is now I believe in its third series. She had a brief recurring role as Tamara in Once Upon a Time, and a much longer recurring role on The Walking Dead as Sasha Williams but I’ve never seen her there as zombies hold no interest to me. Well Solomon Grundy does…  And she was in the Shockwave, Darkside film.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) COMIC BOOK EVENT POSTPONED. Free Comic Book Day is also a casualty of the coronavirus outbreak — “Free Comic Book Day 2020 Postponed”.

As the impact and spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to evolve, Diamond Comic Distributors is aware that Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) will be impacted to varying degrees throughout the world. With that in mind, Diamond Comic Distributors has made the difficult decision to postpone the event to a date later in the Summer.

“The severity and timing of the impact of the COVID-19 virus can’t be predicted with any certainty, but the safety of our retailer partners and comic book fans is too important to risk. As always, we appreciate your enthusiasm for and support of the comic industry’s best event and look forward to celebrating with you later in the Summer,” said Diamond Founder and CEO, Steve Geppi.

Free Comic Book Day 2020 offers a selection of 47 titles available absolutely free at participating local comic shops across the United States and around the world….

(12) TOO LATE THE PHYSICIAN. AP reports: “China exonerates doctor reprimanded for warning of virus”.

China has exonerated a doctor who was officially reprimanded for warning about the coronavirus outbreak and later died of the disease, a startling admission of error by the ruling Communist Party that generally bodes no challenges to its authority.

The party’s top disciplinary body said the police force in Wuhan had revoked its admonishment of Dr. Li Wenliang that had included a threat of arrest.

It also said a “solemn apology” had been issued to Li’s family and that two police officers, identified only by their surnames, had been issued “disciplinary punishments” for the original handling of the matter.

(13) ESCAPE. Atlas Obscura illustrates “How Soviet Science Magazines Fantasized About Life in Outer Space”.

A tall stele rises from a deeply cratered surface, casting a long, ominous shadow past a row of smaller towers. Straight lines connect the structures to each other, like streets on a map or the projected moves in a game of cosmic chess. The Earth floats serenely in the dark sky, next to the logo that reads Tekhnika—molodezhi, Russian for Technology for the Youth, a Soviet popular science magazine that launched in 1933. The magazine cover, from 1969, illustrated an article highlighting photographs from Luna 9, the Soviet unmanned spacecraft that was the first to survive a landing on the Moon a few years earlier.

This imagined moonscape is one of more than 250 otherworldly images from the upcoming, visually delightful book, Soviet Space Graphics: Cosmic Visions from the USSR, by Alexandra Sankova, director and founder of the Moscow Design Museum, which collaborated on the book with her. 

(14) SEEN YOU SOMEWHERE BEFORE. ScreenRant matches up “10 Pairs of Famous Movies That Used The Same Set”.

5 Blazing Saddles & John Carter – Vasquez Rocks

Key examples of both include Blazing Saddles, which used the rocks to portray the harsh terrain of the Western desert, and John Carter, which used them to convey the harsh terrain of Mars.

Speaking of Star Trek, one of the first uses of this location was in the original series, when Kirk had to go down to an alien planet and battle a lizard-human to death. The episode made the locale a common go-to for Westerns and science fiction films looking to create foreign landscapes.

(15) LAURENTIANS, REASSEMBLE! BBC reports “Diamond samples in Canada reveal size of lost continent”.

Canadian scientists have discovered a fragment of an ancient continent, suggesting that it was 10% larger than previously thought.

They were studying diamond samples from Baffin Island, a glacier-covered land mass near Greenland, when they noticed a remnant of North Atlantic Craton.

Cratons are ancient, stable parts of the Earth’s continental crust.

The North American Craton stretched from present-day Scotland to North America and broke apart 150m years ago.

Scientists chanced on the latest evidence as they examined exploration samples of kimberlite, a rock that often contains diamonds, from Baffin Island.

(16) YIELD OF THOUGHT EXPERIMENTS. The outbreak inspired France24’s English-language service to look at the ways genre creators have already thought about the problem in “Dystopia vs reality: Sci-fi movies are helping us gain a critical outlook on society.”

As COVID-19 spreads throughout the world, we take at a look at certain sci-fi movies and dystopian novels that had perhaps predicted certain consequences of such an outbreak. In this edition, we also explore the influence and the critical outlook that TV series can have on science and innovation but also politics and society at large.

(17) NO STATUE OF LIMITATIONS? I don’t feel too broken up about the predicament as stated in the NBC Sports headline, but they did get me to click and find out about the “curse” – maybe you will too. “Coronavirus could prevent Hanshin Tigers from breaking the Curse of the Colonel”.

…The finger-lickin’ curse was placed on the team following their triumph in the 1985 Japan Series over the Seibu Lions. Revelers took to the streets of Osaka in celebration of their favorite team’s first championship, and many of them gathered on Ebisu Bridge for a familiar ritual.

Japanese baseball fans are like soccer fans. They don’t stoically sit in the grandstand and only make noise when prompted to by organ players or jumbotrons. They have chants and songs for all sorts of occasions and for every player, with brass instrumental accompaniments. Japanese baseball, you see, actually encourages fun.

So there upon the bridge, they sang the songs for each of the victorious players and selected a member of the crowd who most looked like each of the players, and gave them the honor of jumping down into the canal below. This was all well and good until they got to Randy Bass, who had just won the series MVP award for the Tigers. There weren’t any Caucasian guys in the crowd, so the revelers purloined a statue of Colonel Sanders from outside of a nearby KFC and tossed it into the canal.

This has since been regarded as a karmically poor decision, as the Tigers proceeded to finish under .500 for the next 18 years.

The idea that the team had been cursed by making the Colonel sleep with the fishes quickly spread. Numerous attempts were made to recover the statue to no avail, and the proprietor of the KFC outlet was apologized to, but nothing could seem to cure the team’s misfortune….

[Thank to Chris Barkley, Daniel Dern, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kenned, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Rich Lynch, Alan Baumler, Mlex, Alasdair Stuart, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 2/23/20 Old Possum’s Scroll Of Practically Universal Robotic Cats

(1) DITMAR NOMINATIONS OPEN. Nominations for the 2020 Australian SF (“Ditmar”) awards are open until one minute before midnight Perth time on Sunday, March 1, 2020 (ie. 11.59 p.m., GMT+8). The current rules, including Award categories can be found at: here.

You must include your name with any nomination. Nominations will be accepted only from natural persons active in fandom, or from full or supporting members of Swancon 2020, the 2020 Australian National SF Convention.

A partial and unofficial eligibility list, to which everyone is encouraged to add, can be found here.

(2) NAACP IMAGE AWARDS. Genre triumphed: “Jordan Peele and Lupita Nyong’o Win Big for Us at NAACP Image Awards”ComicBook.com has the story.

After many thought Lupita Nyongo’o and Jordan Peele were snubbed from Oscar nominations this year for their work on Us, the duo ended up winning big at the NAACP Image Awards. By the time the annual gala was over Saturday night, Peele had won Outstanding Writing In A Motion Picture while Nyong’o won Outstanding Actress In A Motion Picture.

…Despite receiving zero nominations at the 92nd Academy Awards, the Peele-directed horror flick also managed to win big elsewhere this awards season. Peele won Best Director at this summer’s Saturn Awards while Nyong’o won Best Actress with the Hollywood Critics Association and more. As a whole, the movie’s biggest award came during the Critics’ Choice Awards, where it won Best Sci-fi/Horror movie.

(3) ORIGINAL COMICS ART ON THE BLOCK. Heritage Auctions is in the internet bidding phase of its 2020 March 5 – 8 Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction – Dallas #7224. This Spider-Man cover has already been bid up to $135,000.

John Romita Sr. Amazing Spider-Man #51 Cover Kingpin Original Art (Marvel, 1967). One of the finest Amazing Spider-Man covers we have ever had! It was the Kingpin’s very first cover appearance, and it set the image of the character in many fan’s heads for decades to come….

(4) SEND THE TARDIS TO DUBLIN. Nicholas Whyte wishes Doctor Who spent more time in Ireland – like any at all. He has written a rundown on the Irishness of the TV show, book adaptations, audio dramas, and comics. You might say there is more green in Tom Baker’s trademark scarf than the rest of the show combined.

It is a sad fact that up to the present day (choosing my words *very* carefully here), not a single second of TV screen time on the show, or any of its spinoffs, has been set in Ireland. Indeed, hitherto the Doctor spent more televised time in Hungary than on the Emerald Isle (special prize if you know what story I am referring to). A couple of confused characters do wonder if Gallifrey, the home planet of the Time Lords, may be in Ireland, but that’s as close as we get.

However, the real life relationship between Doctor Who and Ireland is much stronger. Tenth Doctor David Tennant’s grandmother was from Northern Ireland – his grandfather was a professional footballer, whose record of 57 goals for Derry City in a single season still stands. Lalla Ward, who played the second incarnation of Romana and was briefly married to Fourth Doctor Tom Baker, is the daughter of the 7th Viscount Bangor; their family home was Castle Ward in County Down, better known to Game of Thrones fans as Winterfell.

And lucky kids in Belfast and Derry were thrilled one day in 1978 when the Fourth Doctor himself turned up at their school…

(5) CHEWHACKA. ComicBook.com points readers to a video that teaches how “Disneyland Guests Unlock Secret ‘Chewbacca Mode’ on Millenium Falcon Ride, and You Can Too”.

…The hack has to be done like an old video game cheat code. You need to make certain inputs by a certain time in order to bring “Chewie mode” online. Here is a video and written instruction from the FreshBaked YouTube Channel, which specializes in Disneyland tips and tricks:

(6) TRIBBLES BY THE NUMBERS. Although now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall, that wasn’t enough. Ars Technica learned that scientists wanted the answer to yet another question: “Physics undergrads crunched numbers for Star Trek’s tribble problem”.

Chalk this one up to fun scientific papers we inexplicably missed last year. A group of undergraduates at the University of Leicester in the UK calculated the growth rate of the fictional Star Trek critters known as tribbles. They published their results in a short paper in the university’s undergraduate-centric Journal of Physics Special Topics, estimating just how long it would take for there to be enough tribbles to fill up the USS Enterprise….

(7) VENUSIAN ROVER DESIGN CHALLENGE. NASA is summoning the public to help create new technology for a mission to a “hellish” planet: “Exploring Hell: Avoiding Obstacles on a Clockwork Rover”.

…Imagine a world hot enough to turn lead into a puddle, where the atmospheric pressure can crush a nuclear-powered submarine. Now imagine sending a rover to explore that world. 

Venus, ancient sister of Earth with a planetary environment just this side of hellish, has been visited by a handful of probes since the early days of space flight.  Of the many missions to our celestial neighbor, only about a dozen have made contact with the surface of the planet. The longest-lived landers only managed to function for a couple of hours before succumbing to the relentlessly oppressive heat and pressure.

… Current, state-of-the-art, military-grade electronics fail at approximately 125°C, so mission scientists at JPL have taken their design cues from a different source: automatons and clockwork operations. Powered by wind, the AREE mission concept is intended to spend months, not minutes, exploring the landscape of our sister world. Built of advanced alloys, AREE will be able to collect valuable long-term longitudinal scientific data utilizing both indirect and direct sensors.

As the rover explores the surface of Venus, collecting and relaying data to an orbiter overhead, it must also detect obstacles in its path like rocks, crevices, and steep terrain. To assist AREE on its groundbreaking mission concept, JPL needs an equally groundbreaking obstacle avoidance sensor, one that does not rely on vulnerable electronic systems. For that reason, JPL is turning to the global community of innovators and inventors to design this novel avoidance sensor for AREE. JPL is interested in all approaches, regardless of technical maturity.

This sensor will be the primary mechanism by which the potential rover would detect and navigates through dangerous situations during its operational life. By sensing obstacles such as rocks, crevices, and inclines, the rover would then navigate around the obstruction, enabling the rover to continue to explore the surface of Venus and collect more observational data.

CNN assures everyone:

Don’t have an engineering degree? Doesn’t matter. Never seen a spacecraft in real life? No problem.

“JPL is interested in all approaches, regardless of technical maturity,” NASA said.

The 1st-place winner of the design contest will get up to $15,000, the 2nd-place winner will get up to $10,000, and the 3rd-place winner will get $5,000.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 23, 1935 The Phantom Empire premiered.  It was a Western serial film with elements of SF and musical theater as well. It was directed by Otto Brower and B. Reeves Eason. It starred the singing cowboy himself Gene Autry along with Frankie Darro and Betsy King Ross. In 1940, a feature film edited from the serial was released as either Radio Ranch or Men with Steel Faces. It was a box office success earning back its seventy-five thousand dollar budget.  The very few audience members who gave it a rating at Rotten Tomatoes didn’t like it hence the 27% rating there. You can see the first chapter here.
  • February 23, 1954 Rocky Jones, Space Ranger premiered. This was the first science fiction television show to be entirely pre-filmed (instead of being televised live as was the case with Captain Video, Buck Rogers and Tom Corbett.) It was also the first to use sets of unusual good quality, live location shoots, and rather decent special effects. Rocky Jones was played by Richard Crane. It was created by Roland D. Reed and written by Warren Wilson, Arthur Hoerl and Marianne Mosner, with Hollingsworth Morse being the director. It lasted but two seasons as it never really caught on with the public. Story wise, it actually had a great deal of continuity built into it, unlike almost all of the other series at the time. Its thirty-nine episodes, each twenty-five minutes in length, aired originally between February 23rd and November 16th, 1954. You can see the first episode here.
  • February 23, 1978 Quark was slotted in on NBC as a mid-season replacement series. Yes, the pilot aired on May 7, 1977, so technically that it’s birthday but let’s skip past that please. It was created by Buck Henry, co-creator of Get Smart. The series starred Richard Benjamin, Tim Thomerson, Richard Kelton, Tricia Barnstable and Cyb Barnstable. It specialized in satirizing popular SF series and films — the Wiki article states that three episodes were based upon actualTrek episodes, though that can’t be confirmed. It lasted but eight episodes beating Space Rangers by two episodes in longevity. You can see the first episode here. here.

(9) 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.  Elizabeth Bear made him a character in her Stratford Man series which is Ink and Steel and Hell and Earth novels which I highly recommend. If you’ve not read them, the Green Man review is here. (Died 1593.)
  • Born February 23, 1915 Jon Hall. Frank Raymond in Invisible Agent and The Invisible Man’s Revenge. He was also the creator and star of the Ramar of the Jungle series. And he directed and starred in The Beach Girls and the Monster and The Navy vs. the Night Monsters. (Died 1979.)
  • 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 that ran in the Sixties on BBC. Davis briefly returned to writing for the series, 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 of the ship computer interfaces throughout the series. I’ll note that she was originally cast as Number One in the unused 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, 55. 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, 1983 Emily Blunt, 37. Her most direct connection to the genre is as Elise Sellas in the Adjustment Bureau film based off Dick’s “Adjustment Team” story. Mind, she’s been in quite a number of other genre films including The WolfmanGulliver’s Travels, Gnomeo & Juliet, The Muppets, Looper, Edge of Tomorrow, Into the Woods, The Huntsman: Winter’s WarThe Strange Case of Sherlock Holmes & Arthur Conan Doyle, and Mary Poppins Returns.
  • Born February 23, 2002 Emilia Jones, 18. I’m reasonably sure this is the youngest Birthday individual that I’ve done.  She shows up on Doctor Who as Merry Gejelh, The Queen of Years, in the “The Rings of Akhaten”, an Eleventh Doctor story. At nine years of age, she’s made her acting debut in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides as an unnamed English Girl. She’s Young Beth in the horror film Ghostland. She’s currently in Residue, an SF horror series you can find on Netflix. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • And let’s catch up with Tom Gauld –

(11) LEAP BEER. On February 29 Ology Brewing Company in Tallahassee, Florida will combine the debut of their Tropical Habitat beer – “inspired by the Southern Reach trilogy” – with a book signing by Jeff VanderMeer.

To honor our friendship with Jeff VanderMeer, Tallahassee resident and author of the Southern Reach Trilogy, we are releasing Tropical Habitat, a tropical, otherworldly Hazy Double IPA at a special Book Signing and Meet & Greet event alongside the release of three other beers (Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout, Barrel-Aged American Sour, and Fruit Beer).

A portion of Tropical Habitat sales (both cans and tap pours) will benefit the Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge (The Salamander Project) and honor the setting of the trilogy book series and one of our team’s favorite places – the North Florida Coast.

(12) BEHIND THE VEIL. Cora Buhlert put up another evaluation of a Retro-eligible work: “Retro Review: ‘The Veil of Astellar’ by Leigh Brackett”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

Uncommon for Leigh Brackett, “The Veil of Astellar” begins with a framing story about a manuscript found inside a message rocket sent to the Interworld Space Authority headquarters on Mars. This manuscript offers an explanation of the space phenomenon called “the Veil” which comes out of nowhere and swallows spaceships in the asteroid belt. The space police officers are initially sceptical about the account, but eventually manage to determine that it is authentic. Furthermore, the much feared Veil has vanished and the message inside the rocket explains why….

(13) HEARTFIELD CLASS. Cat Rambo shared “Highlights from Writing Interactive Fiction,” taught online by Kate Heartfield.  Thread starts here.

(14) QUINN AGAIN, BEGIN AGAIN. A.V.Club: “DC Universe’s Harley Quinn is coming back for another season in April”.

We’re going through a Harley Quinnaissance at the moment, even if Birds Of Preydidn’t light up the box office, and it looks like DC Universe is eager to keep it going. As announced on Twitter, the streaming service (which still exists and has yet to be swallowed up by HBO Max!) will already be getting a new season of the Harley Quinn animated series in April. The first season just premiered at the end of 2019, so this will be a surprisingly short wait for a chance to hear more DC comic book characters say “fuck” and get beat up in surprisingly violent ways. Also, maybe this time Harley and Poison Ivy will end up together? Or maybe they won’t and that’s okay too? Either way, DC Universe has to hold onto something that fans want to see, or else HBO Max will just quietly roll up and take over. Then Harley Quinn’s going to have to hang out with the Friendsinstead of Poison Ivy, and nobody wants that.

(15) IF YOU DON’T SLING THE LINGO. BBC asks: “Dubs or subs? Parasite renews debate on how to watch foreign films”.

The South Korean dark comedy film Parasite had a historic awards season sweep – and in the process, reignited the debate over whether subtitles or dubbing is the best way to watch a movie that isn’t in your native language.

As director Bong Joon Ho accepted the first-ever best foreign language picture Golden Globe for a South Korean film, he said: “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”

Fast forward a month, and he was making history again, accepting the best picture award once more at the Oscars. Parasite’s Oscar win introduced it to a broad US audience – but not everyone was in favour of watching the award winner in its original language.

Dubbing takes the stress out of enjoying a foreign film, some argued, and performances are meant to be heard, not read. The angered response from subtitle fans ranged from accusations of racism to pointing out the needs of deaf viewers.

How you watch a foreign film is a clearly personal matter, tangled in pet peeves and accessibility. But as foreign flicks are gaining more screen time before American audiences, here’s a deeper dive into how we got here, and where the industry is headed.

In the early days of film, on-screen text was far from a “one-inch barrier” – it was the only way to express dialogue. Title cards were the precursor to subtitles, and they, too, were controversial in a way that mirrors the modern debate.

Stage actors would try to hide their work in silent film as many felt the lack of sound diminished the quality of the performance, Professor Marsha McKeever, academic director of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, told the BBC.

(16) THE CALL OF THE UNWILD. Yours truly used to live a few blocks from where this happened: “Wild bear roams streets of California neighbourhood” (video). The bears didn’t come down to our block, but coyotes, skunks, and possums did.

A wild bear has been sedated and captured after it was seen roaming in a residential area in Monrovia, California.

The 28.3 stone (180kg) elderly female walked through residential areas close to Angeles National Forest.

A mild California winter could be a possible reason for the sighting, as warmer weather causes bears to leave their dens in search of food.

(17) HOMEMADE ASTRONAUT AND ROUND EARTH SKEPTIC DIES. The earth may not be flat, but now he is: “‘Mad’ Mike Hughes dies after crash-landing homemade rocket”.

A US daredevil pilot has been killed during an attempted launch of a homemade rocket in the Californian desert.

“Mad” Mike Hughes, 64, crash-landed his steam-powered rocket shortly after take-off near Barstow on Saturday.

A video on social media shows a rocket being fired into the sky before plummeting to the ground nearby.

Hughes was well-known for his belief that the Earth was flat. He hoped to prove his theory by going to space.

Video at TMZ.

(18) SEEKER. BrainPickings’ Maria Popova delves into Brian Greene’s book Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe: “Until the End of Time: Physicist Brian Greene on the Poetry of Existence and the Wellspring of Meaning in Our Ephemeral Lives Amid an Impartial Universe”.

…Although science is Greene’s raw material in this fathoming — its histories, its theories, its triumphs, its blind spots — he emerges, as one inevitably does in contemplating these colossal questions, a testament to Einstein’s conviction that “every true theorist is a kind of tamed metaphysicist.”

(19) TRANSFORMATIVE EXPERIENCE. Jeffrey Lyles succumbs to the Hasbro advertising — “Check out the incredible trailer for Transformers: War For Cybertron Trilogy: Siege” – at Lyles Movie Files.

I’ve been impressed with my ability to not get sucked into Hasbro’s Transformers’ Siege line. Those figures really look impressive, but I’m trying to keep my Transformers purchases to the Masterpiece line. But now with the release of Netflix’s Transformers: War for Cybertron Trilogy trailer, I’m thinking my resolve is about to crumble especially given how good this series looks.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/28/19 Pixel Gadol Hayah Scroll

(1) TINGLE. It was brought to Chuck Tingle’s attention yesterday that the incoming president of RWA, Damon Suede, made a claim about him in a 2018 interview. Chuck lit him up.

(2) OPINIONS. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] The staff of the Boston Public Library share their top ten science fiction (BostonPL_Top 10 Sci-Fi Novels of the 2010s), fantasy (BostonPL_Top Ten Fantasy Novels of the 2010s), and horror (BostonPL_Top Ten Horror Novels of the 2010s) novels of the decade, and their ten best books of the 2019 (BostonPL_BPL Staff Picks: Best Books of 2019; includes two genre works).

(3) JEFF VANDERMEER GOES TO A WORKSHOP. Hilarious. Thread starts here.

(4) YODABYES. Geek Girl Authority rounded up “Our Favorite Baby Yoda Fan Videos That Gave Us All the Emotions”.

In a matter of seconds, at the end of the first episode of The Mandalorian, pop culture and Star Wars fandom was changed forever. Baby Yoda was introduced to the universe and we’ll never be the same. The immediacy in which we fell in love with The Child has left an indelible mark. The eyes, the ears, the broth sipping… We were immediately in our feelings and could not climb out. And, thankfully, so were some very creative fans. 

Lovestruck, creative fans put out some wonderfully clever and sublimely hilarious videos. They run the gamut of Christmas song remakes, Hamilton mash-ups to very original productions. Take a look, dive into your Baby Yoda emotions and enjoy!

And hey – I actually know one of the singers in The Mary Sues! (She’s my daughter’s aunt.)

(5) SUPER ADAPTATIONS. “The Top 10 Comic Book Movies of the Decade” listed by Let Your Geek Sideshow.

4. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

And maybe it was the freedom to explore obscure characters without being tethered to the baggage of canon that gave this film an opportunity to stretch? Or perhaps it was Gunn’s propensity for infusing humor, heart, and a killer soundtrack into a movie about a dysfunctional family which could very well be the most relatable premise ever?

Whatever the reason, you’ve got to give the dude credit–after all, Gunn was so confident with his realized vision that he held on to the merchandise-friendly Baby Groot until the end credits.  

(6) NO NEED TO PREDICT. “Kim Stanley Robinson: ‘What the hell do we write now?’” – the author is interviewed by New Statesman.

…Advisers to the Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have sought him out to discuss the environment. But he doesn’t like to think in terms of political parties: “I’d just say I’m an American leftist. The left’s an honourable tradition and a very broad band from Bill Clinton to Xi Jinping. Anything that seems to be progressive in a way that a social scientist or an ordinary person in the street could agree with: health insurance, a pension, and the right to a job.”

His outlook is rooted less in ideology and more in the lived experiences of landscape – specifically the boldly fragile beauty of California’s terraformed farms and coast. “California’s different: it’s the fifth biggest economy in the world, it’s the gold rush, Hollywood, Silicon Valley, and it’s too lucky. I wish the whole United States was being led by California, that would get faster solutions. On the other hand, the inequality here is getting as bad as anywhere.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 28, 1913 Charles Maxwell. He makes the Birthday List for being Virgil Earp in the “Spectre of the Gun”, a not terribly good Trek story.  He also appeared in My Favorite Martian’s “An Old Friend of the Family” as the character Jakobar. His longest running genre role was as the Radio Announcer on Gilligan’s Island for which he was largely uncredited. Interestingly he had six appearances playing six different characters on the Fifties series Science Fiction Theatre. (Died 1993.)
  • Born December 28, 1922 Stan Lee. Summarizing his career is quite beyond my abilities. He created and popularized Marvel Comics in a way that company is thought to be the creation of Stan Lee in  way that DC isn’t thought if of having of having a single creator. He co-created the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk,  Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Scarlet Witch and Ant-Man, an impressive list by any measure. And it’s hardly the full list. I see he’s won Eisner and Kirby Awards but no sign of a Hugo. Is that correct? (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 28, 1932 Nichelle Nichols, 87. Uhura on Trek. She reprised her character in Star Trek: The Motion PictureStar Trek II: The Wrath of KhanStar Trek III: The Search for SpockStar Trek IV: The Voyage HomeStar Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Other film SF roles included Ruana in Tarzan’s Deadly Silence with Ron Ely as Tarzan, High Priestess of Pangea in The Adventures of Captain Zoom in Outer Space, Oman in Surge of Power: The Stuff of Heroes and Mystic Woman in American Nightmares. Other series appearances have been as Lieutenant Uhura and additional voices in the animated Trek, archive footage of herself in the “Trials and Tribble-ations” DS9 episode and as Captain Nyota Uhura In Star Trek: Of Gods and Men which may or may not be canon.
  • Born December 28, 1934 Maggie Smith, 85. First genre role was as Theis in Clash of the Titans. Much better known as Minerva McGonagall In the Harry Potter film franchise. She also played Linnet Oldknow in From Time to Time  and voiced Miss Shepherd, I kid you not, in two animated Gnomes films. 
  • Born December 28, 1942 Eleanor Arnason, 77. She won the Otherwise Award and the Mythopoeic Award for A Woman of the Iron People and also won the Gaylactic Spectrum Award for Best Short Fiction for “Dapple”.  She’s a Wiscon Guest of Honor. I wholeheartedly recommend her Mammoths of the Great Plains story collection, which like almost all of her fiction, is available in the digital format of your choice. 
  • Born December 28, 1945 George Zebrowski, 74. He won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel for Brute Forces. He’s married to Pamela Sargent with whom he has co-written a number of novels, including Trek novels. 
  • Born December 28, 1970 Elaine Hendrix, 49. I found a Munsters film I didn’t know about (big fan I am yes) and she’s Marilyn Munster in it: The Munsters’ Scary Little Christmas. She later is Gadget Model 2 (G2) in Inspector Gadget 2. (Anyone watch these?) And she’s Mary in the animated Kids vs Monsters. 
  • Born December 28, 1978 John Legend, 41. Several years back, Legend was Jesus Christ in of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice opera Jesus Christ Superstar which aired on NBC. He also voices Crow in the animated Crow: The Legend film. 
  • Born December 28, 1981 Sienna Miller, 38. The Baroness in one of the endless G.I. Joe films I’ve no intention ever of seeing, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra to be precise. More interestingly, she’s Victoria in the flawed but still worth seeing Stardust. (Go listen to Gaiman reading it for the best take on it — brilliant that is!) And she’s Darcy in Kis Vuk, A Fox’s Tale, a Hungarian-British animated tale that sounds quite charming.
  • Born December 28, 1982 Beau Garrett, 37. She made her genre appearances first in Turistas and Unearthed, definitely grade b horror films, before being Captain Raye in Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer and Gem in Tron: Legacy
  • Born December 28, 1987 Thomas Dekker, 32. He’s best known John Connor in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Zach on Heroes andAdam Conant on The Secret Circle. He also played Jesse Braun in the remake of A Nightmare on Elm Street. He was also in ChromeSkull: Laid to Rest 2 which might be one of the worse titles I’ve seen for a horror film….

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld’s take on a recent newsmaking bit of punctuation.

(9) FAST DEATH. “Russia deploys Avangard hypersonic missile system” – BBC has the story.

Russia’s first regiment of Avangard hypersonic missiles has been put into service, the defence ministry says.

The location was not given, although officials had earlier indicated they would be deployed in the Urals.

President Vladimir Putin has said the nuclear-capable missiles can travel more than 20 times the speed of sound and put Russia ahead of other nations.

They have a “glide system” that affords great manoeuvrability and could make them impossible to defend against.

…Mr Putin said on Tuesday the Avangard system could penetrate current and future missile defence systems, adding: “Not a single country possesses hypersonic weapons, let alone continental-range hypersonic weapons.”

(10) IT’S FOR SCIENCE! NPR asks “Would You Lend Your Voice To Our Experiment?”

We need your help — and your voice.

From a robot in your phone to a smart speaker in your kitchen, voice-to-text algorithms are moving into more and more aspects of our lives.

But how well do they understand English speakers of all backgrounds? We’re running an experiment to find out.

This is where you come in: Record yourself speaking (we’ll give you prompts), send us the clips and we’ll have the machines interpret them. It doesn’t matter if you know of or have used the devices or services we’re testing. If you can speak, we’d like to hear from you.

Here’s the link to the experiment: https://npr.forms.fm/voice-crunching

(11) MASH-UP. “BBC transfers HP Lovecraft drama to site of Rendlesham UFO incident”.

A podcast based on a 1930 American horror story has been relocated due to fresh inspiration from “rural English mythology” and an alleged UFO sighting.

The BBC Sounds podcast The Whisperer in Darkness features reports by US airmen who claimed to have seen a UFO in Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk in 1980.

Writer Julian Simpson visited drama locations in Suffolk with actress Jana Carpenter before penning the series.

His version is loosely based on the novella set in Vermont by HP Lovecraft.

(12) VIRAL TENTACLES. This animatronic has gone viral.

(13) DISNEY EXEC PROFILED. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Behind a paywall in the November 23 Financial Times, Emma Jacobs profiles Walt Disney Animation Studios president Jennifer Lee.

“Ms Lee knows something about identifying with animated heroes.  The 48-year-old has described growing up in Rhode island on “a poor street in a rich town: where she was tormented by schoolyard bullies,  In Disney’s Cinderella, Ms Lee found comfort in a character who ensured cruel mistreatment before finding happiness.  The bullying left her plagued with self-doubt.  ‘People talk about the dangers of rose coloured glasses,’ she said.  ‘But let me tell you, the lenses of self-doubt are far worse.  They are nasty.  Thick and filthy.”

….”Ms. Lee once wrote that the hardest part of being a female director was not the legacy of Disney or making herself heard in a room full of men.  Rather it was the red carpet.  ‘I didn’t know that being a size 2…might as well be a size 92 to the elite designers; I have never wanted to be an animated character so badly.'”.

(14) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “I’m a Lunatic Chef That Cooks Food Using Explosives.”

The master chef’s guide to serving up steaks to customers extra extra extra extra extra extra extra well done, whether they asked for it or not. This is also Cooking Simulator’s July 4 2019 update that adds some festive things for destroying your kitchen even faster.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/7/19 Why Do Belters Wear Red Suspenders?

(1) F&SF COVER REVEAL. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s Jan/Feb 2020 cover art is by Max Bertolini.

(2) RECOMMENDATIONS. Andrew Liptak shares his list of “10 new science fiction and fantasy books to check out this December” at Polygon. Following his first choice, Gideon the Ninth

…The second is Cixin Liu’s Supernova Era. Liu is best-known for the epic novels The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Death’s End, which put Chinese science fiction on the map for US readers. This novel, which sees Earth’s adult population wiped out after radiation from a supernova passes by, is about the young survivors as they work to rebuild human civilization once again. Like Liu’s other novels, it’s an ambitious, fun read that reminds me quite a bit of science fiction’s classic eras.

(3) A FELINE UNIVERSE. All you students of worldbuilding probably already know this: “An Attempt to Answer All Your Questions About the Plot and Universe of Cats at Vulture.

What the hell does “Jellicle” mean?
According to T.S. Eliot’s widow Valerie Eliot (at least as described in Lloyd Webber’s memoir), the word comes out of T.S.’s private joke about how the British upper class slurred the words “dear little cats” together to somehow make a sound like “Jellicle.” Eliot also wrote about “Pollicle Dogs,” based off the phrase “poor little dogs.” There’s a poem, “The Aweful Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles” that gets ported into Cats, where the cats all dress up as dogs and make fun of them. This is frankly anti-dog, but what did you expect in Cats?

(4) NEW TESTAMENTS. “In the 2010s, The Handmaid’s Tale Arrived Margaret Atwood on whether anything shocks her anymore.”The Vulture’s Molly Young interview with Atwood includes this passage about fan tributes.

What, if anything, did you make of that?
My readers deal with those things. They notice them before I do. I expect that Kylie Jenner heard from some of them along the lines of “We appreciate the thought, but you kind of missed it.” There were some themed tequila. People often do this in a very well-meaning way; they’re not trying to be unpleasant. It has been the occasion when I’ve been speaking somewhere and I will be greeted with Handmaid’s Tale cupcakes because the person doing the catering is such a fan. Will I turn up my nose at such cupcakes? No, I will not. I will not do that.

Will you eat the cupcake?
That depends on my relationship to sugar at the moment. If I were in a sugar-eating moment, I would certainly eat the cupcake. I have a collection of artifacts: I have LEGO handmaids and commanders made by the children of one of the publicists in London. I’ve got some knitted chickens from a pro-choice outfit in Texas that knits chickens for charity. She made me some themed knitted chickens. First one is called “the Henmaid’s Tale.” It has an outfit. I have a piece of honey-point embroidery done before the embroiderer had read The Testaments or even knew about it. It says F*CK AUNT LYDIA So there are these things that appear, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s people playing in the sandbox. I’m happy to have people playing in the sandbox, although sometimes they get a little off, but that is to be expected. There are people right now writing military histories of Gilead, and I look forward to reading them because I’m not going to do that.

(5) NEW VANDERMEER. Arkady Martine for NPR concludes that “Clarity Isn’t The Point In Confusing, Absorbing ‘Dead Astronauts'”.

Jeff Vandermeer’s latest novel, Dead Astronauts, is a kaleidoscopic and fractured mosaic: In a long-changed, post-climate-apocalypse world, a trio of saboteurs — or escapees — or simply survivors — attempt over and over again to dismantle the work of the Company, an entity which may have once been a biotech corporation but now churns out broken and altered-beyond-recognition monstrosities in an endless stream. The three — who are the closest the reader gets to protagonists in the first half of the book — are only nominally human, and only nominally astronauts. Like nearly everything else Vandermeer has created in Dead Astronauts, they are allegories, figments, fables for a dissolving world where narrative and language are as subject to corruption as modified flesh.

Their leader is Grayson, an astronaut returned to Earth who can see futures and truths out of her blinded eye. With her are Chen, who sees the world in equations and probabilities, constantly on the verge of ego-dissolution into mathematics and emotional trauma; a man who might once have been a salamander, or many salamanders, but who definitely once worked intimately for the Company — and Moss, whom Grayson loves. Moss is sometimes a woman, sometimes a person — when she wants to be, for Grayson — and always a sentient moss, splittable into many selves, charged with (or choosing) to use herself to reseed the broken world with viable life.

(6) STARGIRL TEASER TRAILER.  “The staff chose me, and I choose you.”

Stargirl premieres Spring 2020 on DC Universe and The CW. Stargirl follows high school sophomore Courtney Whitmore (Brec Bassinger), who inspires an unlikely group of young heroes to stop the villains of the past. The project reimagines Stargirl and the very first superhero team, the Justice Society of America, in a fun, exciting and unpredictable series

(7) STAY FROSTY. BBC’s Sounds devotes a segment of CrowdSicence to the question: “Could humans hibernate during interstellar travel?”

Science fiction is full of people settling on distant planets. But even the closest stars would take millennia to reach with current speeds of travel, by the time any passengers reached an extra solar planet, they would be long dead. 

So CrowdScience listener Balaji asked us to find out whether humans could hibernate for interstellar travel?

To uncover the science fact behind this idea, Anand Jagatia holds a tiny hibernating dormouse at the Wildwood Trust in Kent, and meets Dr Samuel Tisherman who puts his patients into suspended animation for a couple of hours, to save their lives after traumatic injuries that cause cardiac arrest. We ask if Dr Tisherman’s research could be extended to put healthy individuals to sleep for much longer periods of time? 

It’s a question that neuroscientist, Professor Kelly Drew is studying, in Alaska Fairbanks. She uses Ground Squirrels as a model to understand internal thermostats, and how hibernating mammals manage to reduce their core temperatures to -3 degrees Celsius. 

Anand speculates wildly with science fiction authors Adrian Tchaikovsky and Temi Oh whose characters in their books ‘Children of Time’ and ‘Do You Dream of Terra Two?’ traverse enormous distances between habitable planets. 

But is human stasis something that would actually be useful? John Bradford is the director of SpaceWorks, this company works with NASA to try to investigate human hibernation for space travel. He’s trying to make space-based human hibernation a reality, and it seems that may be closer than you’d think. 

(8) DALEKS! Galactic Journey’s Jessica Holmes keeps her TV tuned to vintage Doctor Who — [December 7, 1964] Panic On The Streets Of London (Doctor Who: THE DALEK INVASION OF EARTH).

…Cue the montage! Daleks in Trafalgar Square! Daleks at the Albert Memorial! This is what location shooting is for. I don’t care if the rest of the series takes place in my shed, it’s worth it to see a Dalek surrounded by pigeons, further proving that Daleks are not the masters of Earth, because pigeons bow to no man, or alien pepperpot….

(9) FUTURE WHO. Meanwhile, in 2020…. Or it will be when this airs: “‘Doctor Who’ To Return With Biggest Episode Ever As Showrunner Chris Chibnall Shakes Up Sci-Fi Show”Deadline has the story.

Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall… told Deadline that Jodie Whittaker’s Tardis-travelling time lord will be thrown into action in a “movie-like” two-part curtain-raiser called Spyfall, which will premiere on BBC One and BBC America on January 1, 2020.

“Episode one is probably the biggest episode of Doctor Who we’ve done, or has been done, I would imagine. Physically, there’s a lot of stunts, there’s a lot of locations, it’s a globe-trotting action thriller,” he said. “But you don’t want to lose sight of character and intimacy and emotion. You can’t do everything at 11.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 7, 1979 Star Trek: The Motion Picture premiered. Starring all of the expected suspects plus the now departed Indian model and actress Persis Khambatta, the film did very well but not well enough to not stop the studio from stripping Roddenberry of creative control of all things Trek. Reviewers and critics alike give it a 42% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
  • December 7, 1984 2019: After The Fall of New York premiered. This Italian film was directed by Sergio Martino in both the English and Italian versions. The film starred Michael Sopkiw and Anna Kanakis, and George Eastman. Wiki says it was influenced by Escape from New York. One critic noted that “Graphic scenes of rape and murder await the viewer, as well as rats, midgets, and subway-riding revolutionaries.” Despite that, or because of it, it has a decent 59% rating among viewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • December 7, 1984 2010: The Year We Make Contact premiered. Written, produced, shot and directed by Peter Hyams. It’s based off Clarke’s 2010: Odyssey Two, the sequel to the film. It starred Roy Scheider as Heywood Floyd, John Lithgow as Walter Curnow and Helen Mirren as Tanya Kirbuk. It would outgross both Dune and Starman who opened roughly when it did. And yes it won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at Aussiecon Two beating out The Last StarfighterDuneGhostbusters and The Search for Spock.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 7, 1915 Eli Wallach. I‘ve a fondness for anyone who appeared on the Sixties Batman series. He played Mr. Freeze in a two part story, the third actor to do as both George Sanders and Otto Preminger had done so in previous two part stories. He also had one-offs in Worlds Beyond, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Veritas: The Quest and Tales of the Unexpected. (Died 2014.)
  • Born December 7, 1923 Johnny Duncan. Was the Sixties Batman the first Batman series? You know better. Johnny here was Robin on Batman And Robin (1949) for Columbia Pictures Corporation. It ran for fifteen episodes with roughly fifteen or so minutes apiece. Robert Lowery was Wayne / Batman. He has only one other genre appearance, an uncredited one in Plan 9 from Outer Space as Second Stretcher Bearer. (Died 2016.)
  • Born December 7, 1915 Leigh Brackett. Surely her scripts for The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye are genre adjacent? Why not? Ok, then her very pulpy Sea-Kings of Mars is? Being rhetorical there. And I love her Eric John Stark stories! (Much of these were written with her husband Edmond Hamilton.) And yes, she completed her draft of The Empire Strikes Back just before she died. (Died 1978.)
  • Born December 7, 1945 W.D. Richter, 74. As a screenwriter, he’s given us Invasion of The Body Snatchers, Dracula, and one of my most loved films, Big Trouble In Little China.  As a director, he gave us Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension, another of my most loved films. He’s not getting love for the reboot of Big Trouble In Little China with Dwayne Johnson that he’s apparently involved with. Grrrr!
  • Born December 7, 1947 Wendy Padbury, 72. She’s Zoe Heriot, a Companion to the Second Doctor. She first appears in “The Wheel in Space” where she is the librarian on board the Wheel.  Big Finish has made use of her character rather well. Her only genre film was Cathy Vespers in The Blood on Satan’s Claw (not to my to-be-viewed list), and she was regular cast member Sue Wheeler in the Freewheelers series which at least genre adjacent. Think Avengers only younger. 
  • Born December 7, 1949 Tom Waits, 70. He’s got uncredited (but obviously known) roles in Wolfen and The Fisher King. He is in Bram Stoker’s Dracula as R.M. Renfield, and he shows up in Mystery Men as Doc Heller and in Mr.Nick in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. He’s simply Engineer in The Book of Eli
  • Born December 7, 1959 William John King, 60. Author who works exclusively in the Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 Universes. Now I’ve not read in that universe, but I discovered recently, well in the last few months I think, that Games Workshop actually has some forty shops around the US where you can buy their miniatures, get them painted and just hang out. They also sell some fiction, both hardcopy and audiobooks, all Warhammer of course. Neat?

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bliss shows there’s no end of things alien visitors must keep in mind.
  • Frank and Ernest think that, a synonym for wimpy, “snowflakes” is an illogical choice.

(13) THE ORIGINALS. Profiles in History will hold an auction of rare original comicbook art on December 12, “Comic & Illustration Art the Property of a Distinguished American Collector”. The entire catalogue is viewable online, or as a download.

(14) BIG BROTHER WASN’T WATCHING? Daring Fireball carries the phone maker’s response to news linked in yesterday’s Scroll: “Ultra Wideband Technology: Apple’s Explanation for Why Newer iPhones Appear to Collect Location Data, Even When Location Services Are Disabled”

…Nick Heer:

“This makes complete sense to me and appears to be nothing more than a mistake in not providing a toggle specifically for UWB. It seems that a risk of marketing a company as uniquely privacy-friendly is that any slip-up is magnified a hundredfold and treated as evidence that every tech company is basically the same.”

It is totally fair to hold Apple to a higher standard on privacy than other companies. But Heer is exactly right: when they do make a mistake, it’s going to be magnified. The mistake here wasn’t that location data was leaked?—?including to Apple’s own servers, apparently. The mistake was not making it clear in Settings that UWB requires location data for regulatory compliance. Most people don’t even know what UWB is at this point.

(15) SOME RANDO. Tor.com’s Andrew Liptak in “Ryan Reynolds Discovers He’s an NPC in the First Trailer for Free Guy explains it more clearly than the studio’s synopsis, so let’s go with Liptak. He begins —

Non-player characters (NPCs) are a staple of video games: the anonymous members of a crowd that make up the background of the story you’re playing. At São Paulo’s Comic Con Experience (CCXP) today, 20th Century Fox unveiled a first look at Free Guy, about such a character who realizes that the world he inhabits isn’t what it seems.

(16) LOVE AMONG THE PENGUINS. I was never allowed to see Bruce Pelz’ chart of the romantic entanglements of LASFS members, but I bet it looked something like this… “Japan’s aquarium penguins lead complicated lives of feuding, love — and incest”. CNN has the complete chart posted here.  

…Such is the intrigue surrounding the sex lives of these black and white birds that, for the second year running, Kyoto Aquarium and Tokyo’s Sumida Aquarium, have released a chart detailing the tangled love lines among them.

…Rozu (or Rose) was a pick-up artist and a penguinizer before meeting Warabi, formerly the most popular penguin in the aquarium.

After falling in love, the two are now in an exclusive relationship and “can’t bear to leave each other’s side for more than one second.”

Then there’s inter-species love.

The two Penguin Relationship Charts also reveal how the aquariums’ caretakers are unwittingly pulled into the penguins’ affairs of the heart.

Caretaker Nagaoka’s friendship with penguin Hanabi has made Hanabi’s wife Ichigo jealous, turning Nagaoka and Ichigo into enemies.

Chiyouchin is said to have “neverending love” for his caretaker Oshiro.

Caretaker Tanaka wants to befriend Kiriko, but Kiriko blows hot and cold — sometimes sulking with Tanaka for as long as 20 minutes.

(17) CONSENTACLE. “Consentacle is a board game about having consensual alien sex in space “ – let SYFY Wire’s “Fangrrls” explain:

… While we at SYFY FANGRRLS don’t often talk about board games, we thought we would make an exception for this one, because it’s about playing through a consensual female-focused alien encounter with some sexy tentacles, and if that’s not our area of expertise, I don’t know what is.

Consentacle is a co-operative board game set in space, where the whole aim is for players to communicate as best they can with a language barrier in place. One player takes on the role of a curious blue-haired human astronaut, while the other takes on the role of a sensitive and caring feminine tentacle-covered alien. Neither of your species shares a spoken language, and as such the players are not allowed to use words to communicate their plans during the game. Both players and characters establish consent, then attempt to fumble their way wordlessly through a sexy space encounter, keeping each other’s needs and wants in mind.

Different acts between the pair will produce different “satisfaction” resource tokens, and the players have to work out what each other needs, and try to anticipate their plays, for mutual resource building in tandem. Each player has their own deck of cards, which have various effects when used solo or in combos, with some cards better used one-sided or in tandem….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

3. Los Espookys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(10) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

— and it wasn’t there….

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

“POLICE.”….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Authors Share More ChiZine Experiences, Others Part Ways with CZP

Additional writers, interns and staffers have opened up about their experiences with ChiZine Publications, the Canadian horror publisher run by Sandra Kasturi and Brett Savory. At the same time, there has been some pushback from people in the field, of whom Stephen Jones (editor) may be the best known.

Earlier summaries of CZP news can be found in these posts:

Note: There is considerably more information to read at each link beyond the excerpts quoted here.

Michael Matheson, whose extensive commentary on ChiZine Publications’ finances based on records in their possession was linked previously, and who looked into CZP’s funding from grants by Canadian public sources, told Facebook readers the news is having an impact:

ChiZine WERE one of the Ontario Arts Council Recommender Grants for Writers recommending publishers. They’re off the site.

Which means the OAC PULLED them after the news of what they’ve been doing broke

Beverly Bambury shared more about CZP’s “culture of intimidation and silence.” Thread starts here.

Former CZP intern Feli Law spoke in a Facebook post about low pay and no pay, and the unexpected responsibilities dumped on them, concluding —  

…When I finally left CZP, I quit publishing because I was so bitter over what happened and how toxic it all was. I hated the snobbery of publishers and writers, and it ruined my perception of the publishing world.

My story isn’t even the worst one, but it’s my story.

Jeff VanderMeer found that his assistance in negotiating a ChiZine writer’s contract went for nought, as he detailed on Facebook:

I just learned today about another horror story. I acted as the agent to an agentless writer for their first book, from ChiZine. It was a breathtakingly predatory contract. I deleted all of that language and replaced it with reasonable terms. What happened next I didn’t know in its entirety until today, but basically Brett and Sandra waited until this author was in the room with them and them browbeat, cajoled, and pressured the author to sign the original contract. I don’t blame the author, who thought it was their own big break and had no experience. But I do blame ChiZine for being predatory.

Simon Bestwick asks people not to buy his collection from ChiZine, which they released in August.

As I’ve said elsewhere, my initial instinct when the first stories about ChiZine Publications began to come out was to reserve judgement until I’d heard what all parties had had to say and seen the evidence. I knew people who were close to ChiZine who couldn’t believe that what had been described had happened. I don’t believe in trial-by-mob.

But more and more stories came out, from more and more people. Appalling stories, and often appallingly consistent in the conduct they alleged. Consistent and convincing, not only to me but to those same people who were closer to ChiZine than I.

I’m getting in touch with my agent re reverting the rights to And Cannot Come Again, but this might not be a practicable move at my end as I’ll have to return the advance – which, given my current financial position, is something I can’t really do right now.

In the meantime – and it utterly chokes me to say this of a collection I am so proud of and that has been so beautifully put together – I can only ask people NOT to purchase And Cannot Come Again from ChiZine.

Despite the number and gravity of the experiences people have shared, there has been some backlash and scoffing in social media. Perhaps the most widely-known figure warning off ChiZine critics has been Stephen Jones (editor).

As Laird Barron noted on Facebook:

Stephen Jones (editor) basically excoriated everybody complaining and/or reporting about the Chizine debacle. After 200+ comments he deleted the whole thing.

Some who wrote comments say Jones also blocked everyone who commented.

However, Axel Hassen Taiari preserved screencaps of the Jones post before it was removed, which are presented in a thread that starts here.

Axel Hassen Taiari’s own response includes —

Brian Keene’s reaction was —

Amazing Stories has also changed plans for what was formerly a ChiZine-related readings series. The November 20 reading has moved to Bakka Phoenix Books: “Toronto Readings From Amazing Stories Change of Venue”.

Readings from Amazing Stories, originally scheduled to take place at The Round Venue in Toronto on November 20th in conjunction with The Chiaroscuro Reading Series has been relocated to the Bakka Phoenix bookstore, also in Toronto.

Earlier this week a decision was made to host the event independently from its association with the ChiZine Reading series – Chiaroscuro – given the issues currently involving the small press publisher.  In all sincerity we hope that ChiZine Publications and its authors are able to work through their difficulties and find solutions aceptable to all involved.

… The event, hosted by Ira Nayman, Editor-in-Chief of Amazing Stories, will commence at 5 pm on Wednesday, November 20th, and will feature readings from Jen FrankelPaul Levinson, Shirley Meier, Lena Ng and Liz Westbrook-Trenholm (all of whom have had stories published in Amazing Stories over the past year), as well as musical performances by Kari Maaren and Paul Levinson.

The Chiaroscuro Reading Series — ChiSeries — has been sponsored in part by grants from the Toronto Arts Council, the Ontario Arts Council – Conseil des arts de l’Ontario, ChiZine Publications and donations from attendees. (The series’ publicity webage has been taken down, although its Google cache file can still be viewed, for as long as that remains available).

With the Amazing reading now being hosted independently, a GoFundMe appeal has been launched to raise $700 so Bakka can meet the commitments for the event: “Amazing Stories – Amazing Writers”.

The creators and writers behind AMAZING STORIES have suddenly had to change venues for their thrilling  reading night on Wednesday, November 20th! While Bakka-Phoenix Books is proud to jump in and supply a space and equipment and snacks, we don’t have the budget to pay the authors and musician appearing so we’re asking our AS fans and wider community if you can pitch in. Writers who create, well, amazing stories deserve to be paid!

Authors Break Silence with Complaints About ChiZine Publications

ChiZine Publications, the Canadian horror publisher run by Sandra Kasturi and Brett Savory, has been under fire from writers this week for slow payment and nonpayment, accused of bullying and blackballing an author who complained, and in connection with remarks made by some individuals associated with CZP of a sexist and racist nature.

The social media outpouring seems to have been precipitated by the sharing of what passed between author Ed Kurtz and ChiZine Publications. I haven’t sourced the beginnings of this conversation (which may not have been public), but the details appear in CZP’s denial and Kurtz’ rebuttal below. But before turning to them, it’s helpful to look at one of Michael Matheson’s posts.  

Matheson’s comments on Facebook include:

…Just now catching the edges of what happened with Ed Kurtz and CZP. And I can’t even begin to say I’m surprised. Honestly, I’m just glad we’re finally as a field starting to talk about the problems with CZP a little more publicly.

If you’ve never had a problem working with/for them, that’s fantastic, and I know it’s true for a number of people. But having been on the inside of that company for two years (2013-2015, longer if you count time spent working for Chiaroscuro Magazine doing reviews and review management before that), the issues that are coming up around Ed aren’t unusual. These are longstanding issues, spread across CZP’s interactions with writers, editors, interns, publicists, cover artists, agents (some who flat out won’t allow their clients to work with CZP), multiple distributors, several book printers, and they’re not going to get better.

…Long story short, you could not pay me to work with CZP ever again – not least of all because beyond the collected freelance payment of $3,200 for working on 30 books in whatever span it was (which I think was also in the two years I worked directly for them), I never did get paid. Nothing like hearing “Oh we’ll be able to pay you a salary/stipend when we get the Book Fund,” for two years running.

ChiZine Publications has publicly responded to charges about their payments to Ed Kurtz and allegations of mistreatment.

Given the recent discussion on social media about our professional relationship with author Ed Kurtz and other authors, we feel some of the mis-statements that have been made need to be corrected.

In 2018, Ed approached us, asking about monies due him from a Russian translation of his novel. At the time, we told him the monies had not yet been paid to us, and we checked with our foreign rights agent, who confirmed that they had received no monies either. We did not receive the translation rights monies until late April of 2019.

Once we received the translation monies owed, we paid Ed within 48 hours.

Earlier this year, we were approached by the Horror Writers Association to mediate the situation—and we do acknowledge that Ed’s author royalties were late at the time, which we regret, and which situation was corrected promptly. ChiZine Publications remains a small press run by two people, and while we do our best to stay on top of the business, we occasionally fall short. This is not something we take lightly—our author relationships are important to us.

Ed Kurtz’s royalties are currently paid in full. Any other monies he might be due will be paid on his next royalty statement, which will be in spring 2020.

As to an accusation that we, along with other small presses, attempted to blacklist Ed Kurtz, or threaten him in any way—that is categorically untrue, and we deny it. We were proud to publish Ed’s novel and were eager to publish his next one, as per our contract option. But when he wished to withdraw that novel, we respected his wish.

At no time has Ed ever asked for a rights reversal, although of course he is entitled to do so. We are happy to revert his rights if he makes that request.

We are aware that this discussion has brought to light instances of late royalty statements or payments, and we believe it is important to address this with our authors.

Accordingly, over the next four to six weeks we will be reviewing our financials, and reaching out to our authors and/or their representatives, to ensure that royalties are up to date, and promptly address any shortfalls.

If any of our authors have any specific questions—whether regarding royalty statements or any other business-related concerns—please contact us and we will do our best to provide answers in a timely fashion.

Ed Kurtz authorized this rebuttal to be posted on Facebook:

The statement from Chizine neglects a number of salient facts, such as the moment in July 2018, at Necon, when I explained to Brett Savory that my partner was facing a layoff, our cat was ill, we were in severe financial distress, and I had *never* been paid a single cent of royalties in what was at that time almost two years for a moderately successful book. He actually grinned and said, “Things are hard for everyone right now” before walking away. The following morning it was reported to me that Sandra was loudly complaining in the dealer room about me having asked about my royalties, and of course the two of them went on a whirlwind trip around the world a few weeks after that, showing us all that things weren’t so rough for them, after all.

In fact, I’d asked after my royalties several times and was rebuffed or given excuses every single time (usually something wrong with their accounting software or something similar, which I later learned they’d been saying to authors for years). I only went to the HWA after several other frustrated CZP authors (one of whom hadn’t been paid in five years!) strongly encouraged me to do so. I expressed fear of bullying and/or retaliation, and some of these authors promised me they’d have my back (they didn’t). And yes, a lot of us got paid through my efforts, though it is untrue I’m paid in full. I was never paid royalties for the months of my first year of publication, 2016, though CZP continues to claim I was. I just gave up on this.

As for bullying/blackballing? I’d call the half dozen people who refused to acknowledge my existence at Necon 2019 and since then just that. Some of these people I once called friends. They know who they are and they can keep their excuses and apologies to themselves. (Not the ones who blocked me for demanding to get paid, of course. They’ll never make excuses!) This behavior has wrecked my mental health, driven me from the writing community, and killed in me any last vestiges of my desire to continue writing at all, so hurrah for you if that’s the sort of thing that pleases you, I guess. (And sending excuses and apologies through my partner when you have my email and/or phone number is just sad and cowardly.) Of course, I’ve heard from a number of people some of the awful, nasty things CZP say about me and other authors (including calling us “cunts”), so if that’s not bullying, I guess I don’t understand the meaning of the word. (That’s just their sense of humor, I was told by one of the authors who completely failed to stand up for me. I just don’t get it, apparently.)

And again, I had no idea that I would be the only one named on the complaint submitted through the HWA to Chizine. There were more than half a dozen of us, some of whom were happily chumming it up with Brett and Sandra at Necon while avoiding me like the bubonic plague—after getting them paid. Had I known these authors had planned to do this to me, I might never have gone that route. (Also note, I’ve been told a LOT of other Chizine authors were NEVER paid.)

As to all this nonsense handwringing about them being just a small, two-person operation, look—if you can’t pay, you can’t play. Shut down. If you’re doing more than you can handle, do less or shut down. It does NOT MATTER how small you are or what accounting problems you’ve had for ten years running. PAY YOUR AUTHORS. PAY THEM EVERY TIME. PAY THEM ON TIME. And for fuck’s sake, stop lying about every goddamned thing. No one is fooled by you anymore. Chizine has been a “squeaky stair” in the whisper network for a decade about how they mistreat and cheat people. It’s out now. No more whispers. Tell your truths, people. I’ve heard from a LOT of people. Other authors, former employees. It’s all coming out now.

Let this be a public announcement that I demand my rights back for THE RIB FROM WHICH I REMAKE THE WORLD in total. I have sent an email to the same effect and I have been told this morning by ChiZine that this will be granted. I asked for my rights back once before, when CZP asked me about turning the book into a POD affair, and the request was ignored. We’ll see about this time around. Let it also be known that I received an unrequested PayPal payment this afternoon from ChiZine, along with a statement I have yet to review at the time of this writing, which ostensibly covers 2019 to the present day. I was also promised a final payment come February 2020. I do not know if it will ever be re-issued once it goes out of print.

Anyway, they don’t have to worry too much. I’m still gone. I’m still wrecked. My career is still in shambles. They won in that regard, they and their minions. I just want my book back so I don’t have to have any further contact and I’ll stay away from the whole damn scene that’s been so toxic to me and others. And to everyone else, for Christ’s sake: DO BETTER. I know everyone wants to get ahead, but when you stop being a decent human being just for this nonsense? When someone you have the temerity to call a friend tells you they’ve been hurt and wronged, and you go running to the one doing the hurting with your hands open like Oliver fucking Twist? DO BETTER. It’s fucking pathetic the way some of y’all treat each other just to get your name on the cover of a small press book. The whole “Well, gee, I see how awful you and literally dozens of others have been treated, but I’ve known them LONGER!” thing? Do I need to say it again?

DO. BETTER.

Adios.

Michael Matheson also indicates there were deep problems with CZP’s work environment. Thread starts here.

Kerrie Byrne told about some of their experiences working for CZP. Thread starts here.

Today’s conversation has also surfaced complaints of sexism and racism.

Livia Llewellyn’s thread starts here.

Chesya Burke on Facebook recalled a 2013 experience where she was a victim of online racism by ChiZine author Michael Rowe, and detailed the ways in which CZP’s publishers condoned his behavior:

…Even after posting yesterday that writers need to stick together and talk about their experiences in this business, I hesitated writing this post. Not because it isn’t important, but because I know it could be seen as a pile on and it’s not quite a ChiZine ChiZine story. But, I’ve never been one to shut the fuck up out of fear and it won’t start now.

While this story has nothing to do with ChiZine not paying their authors and artists, it certainly supports the growing concern over the atmosphere of fear and control that ChiZine seems to create….

Few people, in all of horror defended me. One of them was an artist friend who called them all out for their racism. He also worked for ChiZine. After this, Brett and Sandra [of ChiZine] began “relaying passive aggressive messages” to my artist friend from Micheal. Eventually, “they defended Micheal saying that he didn’t mean it,” which lets you know that they knew what he’d said was beyond the pale, but the refused to address it. The artist says that ChiZine “became this insular thing about their buddies and pals. Don’t worship their racist friends? You’re not worth it.”

My artist friend, who is a damn fine artist, quit publishing altogether. This left a bad taste in his mouth and because “it’s hard to get work after you’ve severed ties abruptly.”

Let me make it clear, Brett and Sandra are not responsible for Micheal Rowe’s behavior. But I absolutely hold them responsible for harboring an atmosphere that hid and silently condoned racists and white supremacy. I don’t know their ideologies. Their ideologies don’t matter. Their actions when faced with outright, in your face, call-a-black-woman-a-nigger-in-2013 racism, was to support the racists and harm anyone who didn’t fall in line.

Do with this this information, what you want. But I will not hide it. And will repost every single time it’s taken down.

Jeff VanderMeer, after reading these revelations, made a succinct statement:

We do not recommend ChiZine as a publisher or as an employer.

He also said:

Meanwhile, there is concern that the authors will unfairly receive the brunt of the punishment when customers stop buying books from CZP, or reviewers don’t cover their CZP books (as a couple online critics have already announced they will refuse to do in the future). Rio Youers said:

This concern prompted Richard Thomas to remind people about the “Ten Ways to Support Your Favorite Authors This Holiday Season” which he posted last December and could be helpful now.

More people are expected to share their CZP stories in days to come. Among those reaching out to authors for their ChiZine experiences are Jason Sanford, and The Horror Show with Brian Keene.

Note: A follow-up post with more information can be read here.

Pixel Scroll 10/30/19 Pixels And Gatherings Of Pixels, File Beyond File Without End, The Light

(1) FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND. Vaught Contemporary Ballet once again will perform Dune, The Ballet on November 2 at the Chesapeake Arts Center in Brooklyn Park, which is outside Baltimore.

Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel, Dune, is widely recognized as the best selling science fiction novel of all time. It’s exploration of politics, religion, sexism, and ecology against an interstellar backdrop, allows the reader a reflection on the human condition in the modern era. Herbert’s Fremen of Arrakis provide a counterpoint to a culture consumed by avarice – the desire for melange.

Join us as we interpret this classic science fiction story through the art of ballet. Movement will be on full display in its varied definitions as we follow Paul Atreides in his rise to power as both royalty and the prophet of the Fremen.

The Baltimore Sun previewed another performance this summer:

…Katie Vaught of Vaught Contemporary Ballet has choreographed a piece that follows Paul through his many tribulations. It will feature parts of the soundtrack from David Lynch’s 1984 film adaptation scored by Toto, as well as tracks from 2013 documentary “Jodorowsky’s Dune.” Though it is meant to stand alone as a ballet and to be accessible to anyone, those who have read the novel will understand the plotline clearly and pick up on references to the book.

(2) NEOLOGOS. Slate’s Laura Spinney, in “Tongue Twisters”, shows why “Invented languages—or conlangs—have a scientific and cultural impact far beyond Klingon.”

The recent proliferation of conlangs has been driven by the internet, as resources became more accessible and people who were initially ashamed of a nerdy pastime discovered like-minded others and came together in online communities. That in turn meant that producers of sci-fi movies and TV series knew where to turn when they wanted a now obligatory alien-sounding conlang built, and some conlangers—like David Peterson, the inventor of Game of Thrones’ Dothraki—have turned professional. There is another category of conlangers, however, who couple their love of linguistic creativity with serious scientific investigation.

(3) ROANHORSE WRITES STAR WARS. USA Today talks to the author: “Exclusive excerpt: New ‘Star Wars’ novel rallies the good guys before ‘Rise of Skywalker'”.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” left Rey, Finn, General Leia Organa and the rest of the scrappy, rag-tag Resistance with a win against the evil First Order but far, far away from having a legit army.

The highly anticipated movie “The Rise of Skywalker” (in theaters Dec. 20) promises major battles between good guys and bad, but before that the new novel “Resistance Reborn” (Del Rey Books, out Nov. 5) acts as an important bridge between films. It picks up immediately after “Last Jedi.” Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (played by Oscar Isaac in the movies) has been tasked to reunite with his Black Squadron, while Leia is aboard the Millennium Falcon trying desperately to reach their allies.

Writing Leia “was an honor and a gift,” says author Rebecca Roanhorse, adding that the late Carrie Fisher‘s heroine “was really my way into the ‘Star Wars’ universe. Her continued leadership and strength in the face of loss and grief was a great inspiration for understanding not only her character but Poe, Finn and Rey, as well.

“I remember the first time I wrote, ‘Leia said’ or ‘Leia laughed.’ I definitely got a bit choked up. That’s when this fantastic journey all became real.”…

Andrew Liptak provides a thorough rundown about the book at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.: Star Wars: Resistance Reborn Sets the Stage for a Galactic Final Showdown with the First Order”.

While many Expanded Universe novels exist at the edges of the Star Wars galaxy, Resistance Reborn feels like a vital next step in the saga. While the Resistance’s dire position was made patently obvious at the end of The Last Jedi, Roanhorse hammers the point home: the movement is down to its last people, and if they’re found, they’ll be snuffed out completely by the First Order’s stormtroopers. While the odds are certainly against them, the narrative feels like an inherently optimistic one, despite it all. (You know how these rebels react to being told the odds.) It feels particularly pressingly relevant in our world of 2019, a time when mass protests against oppressive governments are raging in the streets of Chile and Hong Kong.

(4) CHARACTER REFERENCE. Deborah J. Ross helps authors understand their wayward characters in “Auntie Deborah’s Autumn Writing Advice Column” at Book View Café.

Dear Auntie Deborah: Help! My characters have gone amok and won’t follow the plot of my book! What can I do to whip them into shape?

— A Frustrated Author

Dear Frustrated: The short (but brutal) answer is that your characters behave the way you created them. Their histories, personalities, goals, and motivations are all part of that creation. So if you — like so many of us! — find your characters resisting the demands of the plot or going off on their own adventures, it’s time to take a step back and delve deeper into what’s on the page and what’s in your creative imagination that isn’t explicit but nonetheless exerts a powerful influence over the character’s behavior….

(5) RAMBO’S VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR. T. Kent Writes hosts today’s stop on the Carpe Glitter blog tour with “10 Things I Have Learned From Writing by Cat Rambo”. Number One is:

If you binge read or watch something, it will seep into the writing you are producing at the moment, which may or may not be a good thing.

 Carpe Glitter by Cat Rambo was released by Meerkat Press on October 29.

What do you do when someone else’s past forces itself on your own life? Sorting through the piles left behind by a grandmother who was both a stage magician and a hoarder, Persephone Aim finds a magical artifact from World War II that has shaped her family history. Faced with her mother’s desperate attempt to take the artifact for herself, Persephone must decide whether to hold onto the past—or use it to reshape her future.

(6) JOE HILL. Andrew Liptak interviews “Joe Hill on Full Throttle, Netflix Adaptations, and Working With His Dad” for the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

[AL]: My favorite one so far is “Late Returns”.

[JH]: “Late Returns” is sort of a soft, sentimental fantasy, and I think that’s probably my favorite in the collection too, that and “You Are Released.”

I do think I think you’re right that there’s a wider, wider range of genres. I was actually surprised at how much Bradbury is in the book. I didn’t realize it until I was writing the introduction and going through the stories. But “By the Silver Waters of Lake Champlain” feels a little bit like a rip on Bradbury’s classic tale “The Fog Horn,” about a prehistoric monster falling in love with a lighthouse. “Faun” is about men who go to a farmhouse in Maine who slip through a tiny door and enter a Narnia-like world called Palomino, full of orcs and trolls and fauns. They’ve gone their ton to shoot Fauns and to shoot orcs, and bring home ahead, you know, a trophy head for the wall. That story has a little bit of C.S. Lewis and a little bit of Hemingway in it. But a lot of Bradbury, a lot of “Sound of Thunder.” 

Joe Hill meets Ray Bradbury for the first time at 2009 Comic-Con. Photo by John King Tarpinian.

(7) RIVERS OF LONDON GRAPHIC NOVEL. Titan Comics will release Rivers of London: Action at a Distance, a 112-page graphic novel, on November 13. Authors: Andrew Cartmel, Ben Aaronovitch; Artists: Brian Williamson, Stefani Renne; Cover artist: Anna Dittmann.

A new story in the bestselling cops-and-wizards series Rivers Of London, from chart-topping author Ben Aaronovitch! Uncover the secret World War II history of Peter Grant’s fan-favorite mentor, the mysterious Nightingale. When a serial killer with strange powers arrives on the streets of London, an old soldier remembers the man who mastered the occult at the height of World War II!

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 30, 1938 — The broadcast of Orson Welles’ radio drama, War of the Worlds, caused a national panic.
  • October 30, 1974 Invasion From Inner Earth premiered. The film, also known as Hell Fire and They, starred Paul Bentzen and Debbi Pick. It has an audience rating of 0% at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 30, 1896 Ruth Gordon. You’ll likely best remember her as Minnie Castevet in Rosemary’s Baby. (Trust me, you don’t need to see Look What’s Happened to Rosemary’s Baby.) she’s quite excellent as Cecilia Weiss in The Great Houdini, and that pretty much sums up her genre work save Voyage of the Rock Aliens which keeps giving the giggles. Serious giggles. (Died 1985.)
  • Born October 30, 1923 William Campbell. In “The Squire of Gothos” on Trek, he was Trelane and in “The Trouble With Tribbles”, he played the Klingon Koloth, a role revisited on Deep Space Nine in “Blood Oath”. He had one-offs in the Six-Million Dollar Man, Wild Wild West and The Next Step Beyond. (Died 2011.)
  • Born October 30, 1951 Harry Hamlin. His first role of genre interest was Perseus on Clash of The Titans. He plays himself in Maxie, and briefly shows up in Harper’s Island
  • Born October 30, 1972 Jessica Hynes, 47. Playing Joan Redfern, she shows up on two of the Tenth Doctor stories, “Human Nature” and “ The Family of Blood”. She’d play another character, Verity Newman in a meeting of the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, “The End of Time, Part Two”. Her other genre role was as Felia Siderova on Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) in the “Mental Apparition Disorder” and “Drop Dead” episodes.
  • Born October 30, 1980 Sarah Carter, 39. She’s known for her recurring role as Alicia Baker in Smallville, and Maggie in Falling Skies. She was on The Flash in a recurring role as Grace Gibbons who was The Cicada.
  • Born October 30, 1981 Fiona Dourif, 37. Her longest running SFF role is as Bart Curlish in Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. She’s played Nica Pierce in two of the Chucky horror films, and she’s Good Leader Tavis on The Purge, an ongoing horror series.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) FRIGHTENING IN ANY CASE. CrimeReads’ Zach Vasquez picks “20 Essential Films That Blur the Line Between Horror and Noir”.

Targets (1968)

In his debut feature (made for Roger Corman’s American International Pictures), Peter Bogdanovich brilliantly cast Boris Karloff (who owed Corman two days of shooting from a previous project) as a worn-out horror film icon only a few steps removed from his real life persona. He then split the narrative with a seemingly unrelated story about a clean-cut young man (inspired by real life mass murderer Charles Whitman) who randomly embarks upon a mass shooting spree. Eventually, the dual narratives do intersect, resulting in a profoundly disturbing statement about the nature of idealized horror versus the banality of the real thing. In the decades since, Targets has grown even more prescient and unnerving.

(12) WHAT JOKER MASK SIGNIFIES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] CNN is reporting that “Some Hong Kong protesters are adopting the Joker as their own. Others are horrified”.

Halloween is just days away — and with “Joker” smashing box-office records, it seems inevitable that throngs of film fans will dress as killer clowns for the festivities that await.

But in Hong Kong, where pro-democracy, anti-government protests have stretched on for four months, the mask of the Joker holds greater weight — and reveals a divide between some protesters who see themselves reflected in him, and others who are horrified at the comparison.

[…] Viewers on social media point out that both Gotham and Hong Kong are home to groups of discontented people who feel abandoned by their government and a rich elite. In the movie, Gotham citizens and police officers fight in a subway station, an eerie echo of such scuffles in Hong Kong’s own stations. At the end of the film, rioters vandalize parts of the city, with what appears to be smoke or gas drifting through the air — similar to the tear gas, graffiti and smashed glass that have become routine in Hong Kong.

[…] Despite their best efforts, however, these Joker fans are not making headway within the protest movement — rather, many more are trying to distance themselves from the film. Posts that draw these comparisons are often heavily downvoted, with comments urging the community not to aspire towards the Joker.

[…] “Please don’t make the Joker into a leader of the resistance,” the post read. “(The movie) is really good. But at this moment, it is dangerous, and the danger lies in the fact that people may interpret it intentionally or unintentionally into the current situation in Hong Kong.”

(13) TALKING ANIMALS. Chelsea Eckert’s post “On Writing Anthropomorphic Animal Characters (For Adults)” includes this advice:

…Unless you’re specifically looking to write an allegory, you have to actively avoid making your species and characters allegorical or symbols or stand-ins for something. It’s rather patronizing at best and can get offensive at worst. (FYI, we’re not dealing with allegory in this post.)

(14) MILESTONE. Right on schedule…

(15) GETTING READY FOR THE HOLIDAY. Jeff VanderMeer is crowdsourcing costume ideas.

(16) HALLOWEEN DÉCOR. Lots of pictures in BBC’s post “Day of the Dead: Giant skeleton ‘crawls out’ of Mexico street”.

A giant skeleton has “emerged” from a street in the Tlahuac neighbourhood of Mexico City.

Much to the delight of local children, the sculpture has been placed in the city street ahead of the Day of the Dead celebrations on 1 and 2 November.

(17) DO YOU GET THESE REFERENCES? Seventeen has collected “27 Best Harry Potter Costume Ideas That Only True Fans Will Get”.

Now, you’ve probably already dressed as Harry, Ron, and/or Hermione for at least one Halloween celebration, so it’s time to really up your fandom game. As a lifelong Potterhead and Seventeen‘s official HP expert, I am uniquely qualified to help you on this magical Halloween-related journey.  

View this post on Instagram

Riddikulus! #boggart #snape #harrypotterhalloween

A post shared by Matt Roeser (@mattroeser) on

(18) INSIDE AND TRYING TO GET OUT. Buzzfeed invites you to take the quiz: “Everyone Has A Stephen King Character Who Matches Their Personality — Here’s Yours”. Mine is – Carrie.

On the outside, you’re an absolute introvert, but when people get to know you, they realize there’s some ~fire~ in there.

(19) ANCESTRAL HOME. BBC reports “Origin of modern humans ‘traced to Botswana'”.

Scientists have pinpointed the homeland of all humans alive today to a region south of the Zambezi River.

The area is now dominated by salt pans, but was once home to an enormous lake, which may have been our ancestral heartland 200,000 years ago.

Our ancestors settled for 70,000 years, until the local climate changed, researchers have proposed.

They began to move on as fertile green corridors opened up, paving the way for future migrations out of Africa.

“It has been clear for some time that anatomically modern humans appeared in Africa roughly 200,000 years ago,” said Prof Vanessa Hayes, a geneticist at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research in Australia.

“What has been long debated is the exact location of this emergence and subsequent dispersal of our earliest ancestors.”

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

Pixel Scroll 10/28/19 I Robot
— R U Robot?

(1) JUST LET ME GO NATURALLY. Naomi Booth gives an overview of eco-horror in her essay “For Some Horror Writers, Nothing Is Scarier Than a Changing Planet” in the New York Times.

“Why does climate change cast a much smaller shadow on literature than it does on the world?” asked the novelist Amitav Ghosh, writing in The Guardian in 2016. “Is it perhaps too wild a stream to be navigated in the accustomed barques of narration?”

…Yet the idea of a world in crisis is fundamental to horror, a genre historically devalued by the gatekeepers of high culture as, well, outlandish and unserious. Horror has always sought to amplify fear. It works against false comfort, complacency and euphemism, against attempts to repress or sanitize that which disturbs us. Inevitably, the climate crisis has given rise to a burgeoning horror subgenre: eco-horror. Eco-horror reworks horror in order to portray the damage done to the world by people, and the ways the world might damage or even destroy us in turn. In eco-horror, the “natural” world is both under threat and threatening.

The best-known work of eco-horror might be Jeff VanderMeer’s “Southern Reach” trilogy (2014), about a beautiful and deadly exclusion zone known as Area X. The first book, “Annihilation,” which was made into a Hollywood film last year, is narrated by a biologist on a mission to explore the area. She records her initial impressions of the abandoned landscape, including a “low, powerful moaning” audible at dusk. Her team discovers a structure in the earth, an inverted tower. The biologist is lowered into it. There is a smell like rotting honey. The walls are covered with words, the writing system of some kind of fruiting body. She hears a heartbeat. The structure turns out to be a living organism, a “horror show of … beauty and biodiversity.” The biologist leans in close and is sprayed with golden spores — infected….

(2) A LOT OF GOLD IN THEM THAR HILLS. The Hugo Book Club, an unofficial blog about its namesake, has tweeted a long, thoughtful thread about the Best Fan Writer Hugo category, probing how meaningful it is — or isn’t — that any given fan has previously heard of all the finalists. Thread starts here.

(3) IT’S MONEY THEY HAVE. Got $30,000? Then you could make the required minimum bid on this “Apollo 11 Flown and Crew-Signed Beta Cloth Mission Insignia Originally from the Personal Collection of Mission Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, Signed and Certified”, a lot coming up in Heritage Auctions’ Armstrong Family Collection IV sale November 14-16.

(4) PUBLISHING NEWS. This year’s Hugo-winning Best Editor – Long Form, Navah Wolfe, is surprisingly available after a shakeup at Saga Press.

(5) GOVERNMENT FIGURE KNOWS GENRE. France’s new EU Commissioner is a science fiction fan and author according to Politico’s summary “4 things to know about Thierry Breton”.

He’s into sci-fi

Back in 1984, Breton co-wrote a science fiction novel called “Softwar” based around the National Software Agency (which in no way resembles the U.S. National Security Agency). Billed as a “technology thriller,” the novel’s plot is centered on an American cyberattack on Soviet computers. “At the time no one was speaking about viruses, the word didn’t exist,” Breton said, according to Liberation.

However, his co-author Denis Beneich later claimed Breton “never wrote a word of this novel” although “he had the idea for it.”

Breton, whose Commission portfolio would include the space industry, wrote two other novels in the mid to late 1980s — “Vatican III” and “Netwar” (all three of his books are worth checking out, if only for the cover art).

His love of sci-fi doesn’t stop with books, however. Breton also helped come up with the idea for a high-tech theme park called “Futuroscope” in Chasseneuil-du-Poitou, just north of Poitiers in western France. Its tag-line is “Expect the unexpected,” which sounds like good advice ahead of a hearing before the European Parliament.

(6) MILFORD. The New York Times reintroduces people to Milford, PA’s publishing and film history in “A Cabin With a Literary Pedigree”.

Charlie Chaplin slept here. So did Sarah Bernhardt, Mary Pickford, Lillian Gish, Franz Liszt, Warren Harding, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Wolfe, Cloris Leachman and Arlene Dahl. Likewise, D.W. Griffith, who, in 1912, shot two movies — “A Feud in the Kentucky Hills” and “The Informer” — in this dot of a town in the foothills of the Poconos.

Josh Sapan has slept here too — as often as his schedule permits. But 33 years ago, when Mr. Sapan learned of Milford’s many charms from a friend, he knew nothing about the town’s past. Still, he was sufficiently captivated to buy a waterfront cabin.

It was enough that he could look out his windows after dark and see no illumination but the moon, enough that the Delaware rolled along mere steps from his door. “I just love houses on rivers and I really love this house,” said Mr. Sapan, 67, the president and chief executive of AMC Networks, a Manhattan-based company that owns and operates cable channels including AMC, BBC America and SundanceTV. “I don’t know what it is. I find it quite magical, if that’s the right word.”

Mr. Sapan had yet to learn that the novelist Stephen Crane had camped out for a summer in Milford with friends, and published a satirical newspaper during his stay, that Milford was the birthplace of the conservation movement, and that in the 1950s and 1960s, it was the red hot center of the science fiction writers’ universe, even figuring in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater,” because several big names in the genre, notably the literary agent Virginia Kidd, had settled in town….

Andrew Porter left a comment there filling in more of the “big names” only alluded to in the article:

Milford is associated with many science fiction writers. Authors Damon Knight, James Blish and Judy Merrill also lived there. It was the setting for the annual Milford Science Fiction Writers Conference for many years, starting in the 1950s, which spun off other “Milford” conferences, most notably in the UK and Seattle, as well as the “New Wave” in SF in the mid-1960s. Also in Milford, the foundations were laid for the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, an active organization which presents the annual Nebula Awards. For more information about how Milford looms so large in the science fictional universe, see the Wikipedia page here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milford_Writer’s_Workshop

(7) EVANS OBIT. “Robert Evans, colorful Paramount boss behind Rosemary’s Baby, dies at 89” reports SYFY Wire.

…Given the reins of Paramount Pictures with little experience in 1966 thanks to a friendship with corporate owner Gulf & Western’s Charles Bluhdorn, Evans turned the company around thanks to a string of critical darlings that would eventually become classics. During his tenure as production VP, he oversaw genre fare like Rosemary’s Baby, Don’t Look Now, and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.

Moving on from leading the studio, Evans personally produced movies like the adaptation of William Goldman’s Marathon Man (starring Dustin Hoffman), Popeye (with Robin Williams), and early comic book film The Phantom. Some hit higher highs than others, but Evans was a constant presence in the industry.

(8) BRETT OBIT. “Robin Brett, NASA scientist who studied ‘moon rocks,’ dies at 84” – the Washington Post has the story.

Robin Brett, a NASA scientist who 50 years ago was among the first to study and direct research on lunar samples — popularly known as ‘‘moon rocks’’ — from the Apollo space missions, died Sept. 27 at his home in Washington. He was 84.

The cause was Alzheimer’s disease, said his wife, Jill Brett.

From 1969 to 1974, Dr. Brett was chief of the geochemistry branch at NASA’s Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston. In July 1969, he was among a select four scientists present for the opening of a sealed box containing the first moon rocks from the initial Apollo lunar mission.

…When the lunar samples were first brought to Earth, they were kept for a period in a quarantined and sterile environment, lest they contain or exude a noxious substance that might be harmful in earth’s atmosphere.

Dr. Brett doubted the necessity of this precaution, which he demonstrated, he said, by becoming the first man on Earth to lick a moon rock.

What did it taste like?

‘‘A dirty potato,’’ he answered.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

[Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I saw Zombieland: Double Tap, which delivers if you want a pretty gory zombie movie with many good jokes.  Early in the film the four main characters are hiding out in the ruins of the White House.  They exchange Christmas presents even though it’s November 17 because they don’t have anything else to do.  Emma Stone gives Jesse Eisenberg a copy of the first edition of The Fellowship of the Ring.  (We don’t know why the White House has first editions of Tolkien.

“Why thank you,” Eisenberg says, “and look, you’ve ruined the book by scribbling on the first page.”

Of course, it isn’t really a Tolkien book but they did fake the original cover…

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 28, 1951 — The Out There series premiered. It was one of the first SF anthology series. It lasted a mere twelve episodes. Some of the SF writers it adapted were Heinlein, Sturgeon, Bradbury,  Bissell and Long. Heinlein in particular was a favorite source for them. 
  • October 28, 1994 Stargate premiered. Starring Kurt Russell and James Spader, critics intensely hated it, and it rated 50% at Rotten Tomatoes. It of course spawned Stargate SG-1 series franchise.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 28, 1902 Elsa Lanchester. The Bride in 1935’s The Bride of Frankenstein with Boris Karloff. In 1928 she appeared in three silent shorts written for her by H. G. Wells: Blue Bottles, Daydreams and The Tonic. Ray Bradbury originally wrote “Merry Christmas 2116” to be performed by Lanchester and her husband Charles Laughton. (Died 1986.)
  • Born October 28, 1951 William H. Patterson, Jr. Author of Robert A. Heinlein: In Dialogue with His Century, a two-volume look at Heinlein which arguably is the best biography ever done on him. He also did The Martian Named Smith: Critical Perspectives on Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. This Tribute to Bill Patterson by Mike with comments by Filers is touching indeed. (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 28, 1951 Joe Lansdale, 68. Writer and screenwriter whose DCU Jonah Hex animated screenplays are far superior to the live action Hex film. Bubba Ho-Tep is a American comedy horror film starting Bruce Campbell is his best known genre work though he has done a number of another works including The God of The Razor and  Reverend Jedidiah Mercer series which are definitely Weird Westerns. 
  • Born October 28, 1952 Annie Potts, 67. Janine Melnitz in the still-best Ghostbusters and in Ghostbusters II as well. She has a cameo as Vanessa the hotel clerk in the Ghostbusters reboot. She is listed as reprising her original role in the forthcoming Ghostbusters 2020 which I’ll freely admit I know nothing about. 
  • Born October 28, 1958 Amy Thomson, 61. Writer of four novels in a decade twenty years ago including Virtual Girl which won her the Astounding Award for Best New Writer. She published one piece of short fiction, “The Ransom of Princess Starshine”, in 2017 in Stupefying Stories which is edited by Bruce Bethke.
  • Born October 28, 1958 Kristin Landon. Though she was working on a fourth novel in the series at the time of her death, the published novels will comprise the Hidden Worlds trilogy: The Hidden Worlds, The Cold Minds, and The Dark Reaches. (Died 2019.)
  • Born October 28, 1962 Daphne Zuniga, 57. Her very first was as Debbie in The Dorm That Dripped Blood, labelled a Video Nasty in the UK.  You know her much better as Princess Vespa in Spaceballs, and she also in The Fly II being Beth Logan. Series work include Nightmare Classics, Batman BeyondHappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child, Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits and, no surprise here, Spaceballs: The Animated Series where she voicedPrincess Vespa
  • Born October 28, 1967 Julia Roberts, 52. How can I resist giving Birthday Honors to Tinker Bell in Hook? Not to mention she was in the seriously weird Flatliners that I saw at a virtually empty theater. Of course, there’s the ever weirder Mary Reilly with her in the title role. For something more charming, she voiced Charlotte the Spider in Charlotte‘s Web. I’m going to skip her as a Smurf I think…
  • Born October 28, 1974 Joaquin Phoenix, 45. Currently The Joker. He hasn’t done much genre acting setting aside being Max in SpaceCamp when he was twelve, and being Billy Hercules in the “Little Hercules” episode of Superboy. Well he did a Shyamalan film but I refuse to consider them genre. 
  • Born October 28, 1982 Matt Smith, 37. The Eleventh Doctor, also Alex in Terminator Genisys, a film I’ve not seen. Nor likely will. He’s also Jim in The Sally Lockhart Mysteries: The Ruby in the Smoke based off the Philip Pullman novels.

(12) EL-MOHTAR REVIEWS. Amal El-Mohtar, in a book review column for the NYT, “Dark Books for Dark Times”, opines about His Hideous Heart, a collection edited by Dahlia Adler, Tamsyn Muir’s Gideon the Ninth, Paul Krueger’s Steel Crow Saga, and Annalee Newitz’s The Future of Another Timeline.

… Conceptually “The Future of Another Timeline” is breathtakingly brilliant, and part of a constellation of time-travel stories this year that wed present-day activism to a willingness to change the past. But as I read, I found myself far more affected by the smaller, fiercer story of Tess and Beth’s early years — the story of feral friendships formed in extreme circumstances, of surviving abuse and finding the power to seek revenge or walk away from it. Everything about that story clutched at my heart, while the broader time-travel stakes and narrative diminished in effect; I became less concerned with the overarching conceit than with the story of these young women arguing over what love and honesty demand. But time travel creates the space for that story to happen — and Newitz’s book is, more than anything else, about the importance of fighting for such spaces. In that, it’s entirely successful.

(13) POWER OFF. Californian Abraham Lustgarten addressed the New York Times about the state’s power shutdowns: “Letter of Recommendation: Mandatory Blackouts” .

…The blackouts solved nothing, of course. De-energizing the electrical grid is a bludgeon: imprecise, with enormous potential for collateral damage as people deal with a darkened world. It doesn’t even eliminate fire risk. What it largely does is shift responsibility away from Pacific Gas & Electric, the state’s largest utility company, whose faulty transmission lines had been found to have caused some of the most destructive wildfires on record.

In fact, cutting power can exacerbate some fire risks. In a blackout, more people rely on home generators, many of which have been installed without permits and might be no less faulty than the utility’s own equipment. Detours and gridlock force more cars into vulnerable places. (Sparks off roadways are another top cause of wildfire.) The blackout makes it harder for the public to respond to fire emergencies even as it does little to prevent all the other factors that cause them — from careless barbecues to tossed-out cigarette butts to plain old arson. One of the state’s most serious fires so far this year was ignited by burning garbage.

But a mandatory blackout does have one radically positive effect. By suddenly withdrawing electrical power — the invisible lifeblood of our unsustainable economic order — PG&E has made the apocalyptic future of the climate crisis immediate and visceral for some of the nation’s most comfortable people. It is easy to ignore climate change in the bosom of the developed world. But you can’t fail to notice when the lights go out.

…In the American West, our climate will only get hotter and drier, our wildfires worse. Every year more places are going to burn, and we will, repeatedly, be horrified by the losses. But we should not be shocked by them. The blackouts have laid bare the uncomfortable fact that the infrastructure we’ve built and maintained over the course of many decades isn’t matched to the threats we face in our rapidly unfolding climate emergency….

(14) THAT HAWAIIAN BURGER JOINT. Eater: Los Angeles says this non-genre yet irresistible film reference will come to life on October 30 and 31 (only): “Big Kahuna Burger From ‘Pulp Fiction’ Pops Up in Hollywood Next Week”

Fat Sal’s, the overstuffed sandwich makers in Hollywood, have gotten into the mix before, and now for Halloween the group is transforming its corner address off Highland into a Big Kahuna Burger from the movie Pulp Fiction.

Much like in years past, Fat Sal’s plans to its dining area to fit the new temporary theme. Expect a grassy Hawaiian-tinged awning and overt nods to the 1994 film everywhere, including slogans (“Now that is a tasty burger” or “That’s that Hawaiian burger joint”) and an image of Jules Winnfield, the character played by Samuel L. Jackson in the Tarantino flick. A separate area will be turned into the pawn shop from the film as well, and diners will be able to check out merchandise in that space…

Fat Sal’s Hollywood. 1300 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles.

(15) ANOTHER TRIUMPH. BBC finds thumbs up all over: “Seven Worlds, One Planet: ‘Gorgeous’ nature series gets five-star reviews”.

Sir David Attenborough’s latest nature series has received five-star reviews from critics, one of whom says it may be the BBC’s “best wildlife show ever”.

Seven Worlds, One Planet, the Mail’s Christopher Stevens says, is “visually magnificent” and has photography that is “almost abstract in its beauty”.

The show, says the Telegraph’s Michael Hogan, is “another landmark series” from “the indefatigable Sir David”.

(16) IPO. “Virgin Galactic: Branson’s space firm set for stock market launch”.

Virgin Galactic, the space venture backed by Sir Richard Branson, is ready to launch – not into space but on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

Shares in Virgin Galactic are set to start trading on Monday, a first for a space tourism company.

The move follows Virgin’s merger with publicly-listed Silicon Valley holding firm Social Capital Hedosophia.

That deal brought $800m (£624m) to Virgin as it rushes to meet its goal of sending customers to space in 2020.

Taking the firm public will “open space to more investors and in doing so, open space to thousands of new astronauts,” Sir Richard said at the time.

…The company, founded in 2004, has spent more than $1bn developing its programme, which is years behind schedule and took a hit after a fatal accident in 2014.

However, Virgin has told investors it hopes to make 16 trips to space with customers as soon as next year.

In a presentation, it predicts that revenue will skyrocket as the number of flights increases.

In 2023, the expects to make 270 trips to space, bringing in nearly $600m and generating profit of more than $430m.

About 600 people, including pop star Justin Bieber, have already put down deposits for the 90-minute experience at a price of about $250,000 per ticket, according to the company.

(17) AROUND THE WORLD IN A LOT OF DAYS. NPR takes note when “Secret Air Force Space Plane Lands After More Than 2 Years In Orbit”.

After a record-breaking 780 days circling the Earth, the U.S. Air Force’s mysterious X-37B unmanned space plane dropped out of orbit and landed safely on the same runway that the space shuttle once used.

It was the fifth acknowledged mission for the vehicle, built by Boeing at the aerospace company’s Phantom Works.

“Today marks an incredibly exciting day for the 45th Space Wing,” Brig. Gen. Doug Schiess, 45th Space Wing commander, said in a statement. “Our team has been preparing for this event, and I am extremely proud to see their hard work and dedication culminate in today’s safe and successful landing of the X-37B.”

As in previous missions, many of the details about the vehicle’s activities in the past two years are being kept under wraps. One experiment was to “test experimental electronics and oscillating heat pipe technologies in the long-duration space environment,” according to the Air Force statement.

Randy Walden, the director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, said the latest X-37B mission “successfully hosted Air Force Research Laboratory experiments, among others, as well as providing a ride for small satellites.”

“The statement that this @usairforce X-37 flight deployed small satellites is alarming, since the US has not reported those deployments in its UN Registration Convention submissions,” McDowell tweeted. “This would be the first time that either the USA or Russia has blatantly flouted the Convention.”

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

Pixel Scroll 10/22/19 All I Said To My Wife Was That That Pixel Scroll Was Good Enough For Jehovah

(1) EARLY RETURNS ON STAR WARS FINAL TRAILER. Jeff VanderMeer is a tough audience:

I’m crying over the new Star Wars trailer. I’m bawling and overcome. I’m shaking like a performative baby over this trailer.

Finally. Finally it will be over and I will never have to encounter this mediocre piece of crap franchise again…until the next time.

While Chuck Tingle tries to exert a calming influence:

(2) FLEET OF REFERENCES. Io9 is hyping “The First Big Cameo of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Has Been Revealed”. Here’s what they spotted —

…Now, that’s almost certainly the Ghost. Not a Force Ghost, THE Ghost. What’s the Ghost?

It’s the customized VCX-100 light freighter flown by Captain Hera Syndulla, which was kind of the Millennium Falcon of Star Wars Rebels. Later, it appeared in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and, thanks to the epilogue of Rebels, we knew it survived until the timeline of the sequel trilogy. Now, it seems the Ghost, and probably even Hera herself, are standing with the Falcon in what we can only assume is the Resistance’s final stand against the First Order.

And they saw even more ships in that brief scene that you’ll probably need to look up in the Wookieepedia.

(3) BETTER CAPERS. Galactic Journey’s Jason Sacks says a well-known comic has turned the corner – in 1964 – thanks to the editorial direction of Julius Schwartz: “[October 22, 1964] Introducing a “New Look” for Batman”.  

I have some good news for those of you who haven’t been paying close attention to comic books: Batman comics are finally readable!

That’s a major change from the puerile adventures which editor Jack Schiff has been presenting in the pages of Batman and Detective Comics. For all too many years, Schiff and his team of seemingly subpar creators have delivered a never-ending stream of absurdly juvenile tales of the Caped Crusader and his steadfast sidekick. He gave us ridiculous and dumb tales in which Batman gallivanted in outer space, Robin was romantically pursued by the pre-teen Bat-Girl, and the absurdly awful Bat-Mite showed up at random times to add chaos to Batman’s life. Even adventures which featured classic Batman villains (such as last fall’s Batman #159, “the Great Clayface-Joker Feud,”) fell far short of even the most basic standards of quality. Great they were not.

(4) FILER Q&A. Today Speculative Fiction Showcase’s Jessica Rydill interviewed “Heather Rose Jones, author of Floodtide, a novel of Alpennia”.

Have there been any particular books or writers who influenced you, whether in or outside the genre? [I’m a Jane Austen fan and live in Bath, which has featured in many dramatizations of her work]

As I mentioned previously, one of the inspirations for Daughter of Mystery was wanting to write a Georgette Heyer novel with lesbians. But the other major inspiration–if maddening frustration can be a form of inspiration–was Ellen Kushner’s novel The Privilege of the Sword. That book came so close to being the perfect novel of my heart…and then turned out to be a different novel. A perfectly wonderful novel, but not the book I desperately wanted. So that was another influence, not so much in writing style, but in the “feel” of the story–a story about brave and clever girls who love and rescue each other.

Jane Austen is something of an underlayer, if only in providing examples of the world of women in early 19th century Europe. One of the historical realities that modern readers aren’t always aware of is how strictly gender-segregated 19th century life was. Women–especially unmarried women–spent most of their lives socializing with other women and living with them in intimate proximity. It makes setting up same-sex relationships much easier! It’s been very important to me to center the series on women and their connections and community with each other. Too many historical stories allow women only as isolated characters, always interacting with men. In reality, if a woman had a problem or a puzzle or a project, the first people she’d turn to would be other women. I wanted the series to reflect that.

(5) MORE ON DALLAS TORNADO. Fanartist Brad Foster and his wife Cindy also escaped injury, however, they were almost right in the tornado’s path and their home suffered roof damage, while in the yard trees and fences took a hit.

(6) HEARING FROM OKORAFOR. AudioFile’s article “Author Nnedi Okorafor on Personal Experiences & Fantastic Worlds” hears from the author of Akata Witch and many other fantasy titles about narrating the audiobook of her autobiography Broken Places & Outer Spaces.  

Narrating her memoir was more difficult than revisiting her words in the editing process. “There’s something to the art of reading it out loud, and it being an oral telling as opposed to written, that brings [those experiences] even more to the forefront. Reading it out loud in the booth, it was just even more intense. I was reliving it that much more.” The memoir details how she became a writer, showing “the idea that those things we think will break us can actually be the things that make us. All of these experiences that we have are useful, even the terrible ones. It’s just a matter of how you choose to use them. Because they are going to be there regardless. Do you want to just let them fester there, or do you want to make something out of them?”

(7) ROYALTY STATEMENT. James Davis Nicoll provides Tor.com readers with introductions to “Science Fictional Rulers, from Undying Emperors to Starlike Sovereigns”

Science Fiction is famous for the bewildering variety of worlds it imagines. This is particularly true for its political systems. A newcomer to SF might well be astounded by the diverse range of governmental arrangements on display. Let me provide some examples…

(8) HARI PLOTTER. Io9 promises“Apple’s Long-Anticipated Adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Casts Some Familiar Faces”.

It’s been a long road from page to screen for Isaac Asimov’s iconic Foundation series, with the first real foothold coming last year when Apple announced it had snagged the rights for the streaming service now known as Apple TV+. Today, more news: Jared Harris (Chernobyl) and Lee Pace (Captain Marvel) have joined the cast.

And even better, we know who they’ll be playing, per Deadline: “Pace plays Brother Day, the current Emperor of the Galaxy. Harris plays Hari Seldon, a mathematical genius who predicts the demise of the Empire.”

(9) MORE MARVEL PRO AND CON. Rosy Cordero, in “Here’s What Marvel Directors And Stars Are Saying About Martin Scorsese’s MCU Criticism,” in Entertainment Weekly, rounds up comments, including ones from Robert Downey Jr., Joss Whedon, and Jon Favreau.

Avengers and Age of Ultron director Joss Whedon singled out [James] Gunn’s work when responding to Scorsese earlier this month. He tweeted, “I first think of @JamesGunn, how his heart & guts are packed into GOTG. I revere Marty, & I do see his point, but… Well there’s a reason why ‘I’m always angry’” (the latter quote being a Hulk reference).

Meanwhile, a British director joins the dogpile — “Ken Loach Says Marvel Films Are ‘Made as Commodities Like Hamburgers’” at The Hollywood Reporter.

Speaking to Sky News, the two-time Palme d’Or-winning Brit described Marvel’s output as “boring” and cynically produced.

“They’re made as commodities like hamburgers, and it’s not about communicating, and it’s not about sharing our imagination,” he said. “It’s about making a commodity which will make a profit for a big corporation – they’re a cynical exercise. They’re a market exercise, and it has nothing to do with the art of cinema. William Blake said, ‘When money is discussed, art is impossible.'”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 22, 1936 — According to the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, today is the day, “Fandom gathering at Milton A. Rothman’s home in Philadelphia, 1936, declares itself to be the first sf Convention. Some fans accept this; others consider the following year’s Leeds UK event a more significant landmark since it was organized in advance as a convention and used public meeting facilities.”
  • October 22, 2006Torchwood, a companion to Doctor Who, premiered on BBC Three.  Starring John Barrowman and Eve Myles, it ran for forty one episodes over five years. And Big Finish Productions has produced some thirty audio-stories so far.  
  • October 22, 2016  — On this day in the U.K. and Canada, Class, a spin-off series of Doctor Who, premiered. Starring Greg Austin, Fady Elsayed and Sophie Hopkins, the series would last just a single season of eight episodes due to really poor ratings though Big Finish Audio continued the series as an audiowork. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 22, 1919 Doris Lessing. The five novels collectively known as Canopus in Argos: Archives certainly established her genre creds. I personally would add her Cat Tales, three volumes of stories and nonfiction (Particularly Cats, Rufus the Survivor and The Old Age of El Magnifico) to your reading list. (Died 2013.)
  • Born October 22, 1922 Lee Jacobs. LA fan in the last years of his life. I’m mentioning him here because he’s credited with the word filk which was his entirely unintentional creation. He typoed folk in a contribution to the Spectator Amateur Press Society in the 1950s: “The Influence of Science Fiction on Modern American Filk Music.” Yes I know that its first documented intentional use was by Karen Anderson in Die Zeitschrift für vollständigen Unsinn (The Journal for Utter Nonsense) #774 (June 1953), for a song written by her husband Poul. (Died 1968.)
  • Born October 22, 1938 Christopher Lloyd, 81. He has starred as Commander Kruge in The Search for Spock, Emmett “Doc” Brown in the Back to the Future trilogy, Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Uncle Fester in The Addams Family and the Addams Family Values. (Huh. I didn’t spot him in those.) Let’s not forget that he was in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as John Bigbooté, and he played Dr. Cletus Poffenberger in a recurring role on Tremors.
  • Born October 22, 1938 Derek Jacobi, 81. He played a rather nicely nasty Master in “Utopia”, a Tenth Doctor story. He’s currently Metatron on Good Omens. And he was Magisterial Emissary in The Golden Compass.
  • Born October 22, 1939 Suzy McKee Charnas, 80. I’d say The Holdfast Chronicles are her best work to date. Certainly they’re the most honored, winning Gaylactic Spectrum, James Tiptree Jr. and Lambda Literary Awards. Any of you read her Sorcery Hall series?
  • Born October 22, 1943 Jim Baen. Editor of Galaxy and If. Considered to be the first profitable Ebooks publisher. Founder of Baen Books. (Died 2006.)
  • Born October 22, 1952 Jeff Goldblum, 67. The Wiki page gushes over him for being in Jurassic Park and Independence Day (as well as their sequels, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) and Independence Day: Resurgence, but neglects my favorite film with him in it, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, not to mention the Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake he was in. 
  • Born October 22, 1954 Graham Joyce. Selecting his best novel is a futile exercise as everything is fantastically good but I’ll single out Some Kind of Fairy Tale and The Tooth Fairy as the ones I found the most interesting reads. (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 22, 1956 Gretchen Roper, 63. Long-time member of fandom, filker and con-runner. She co-founded Dodeka Records with her husband, Bill Roper. She received with her husband the Pegasus Award for Best Original Humorous Song, “My Husband The Filker”, and was inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame in 2008. She runs The Secret Empire, a business selling filk and other things at cons.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • XKCD has a Narnia joke. (And remember, these cartoons have a second joke in a rollover– rest your cursor on the pictures and you see more text.)
  • Tom Gauld tries to help out New Scientist’s AI readers.

(13) THE CON GAME. S.M. Carrière offers sound advice in “How I Survive Conventions” at Black Gate.

6. Engage. It can be a scary thing to approach folks at conventions. There isn’t really any way around it, but practice does make it easier. Start, if you like, by asking questions at panels that permit it. You can then use that to speak to any of the panelists afterwards, asking for clarification or even pointers. Also, try the dealer’s room if the convention has one. It’s a great place to practice conversational skills, and most of the vendors are quite happy to chat. I know I am.

(14) ENCOUNTERING PANGBORN. Cora Buhlert’s review of Davy is part of this review column at Galactic Journey (scroll down): “[October 18, 1964] Out in Space and Down to Earth (October’s Galactoscope #1)”.

Edgar Pangborn has been writing science fiction under his own name for thirteen years at this point and was apparently writing under other names before that. However, none of his stories have been translated into German and the availability of English language science fiction magazines is spotty at best. Therefore, I had never encountered Pangborn’s work before, when I came across his latest novel Davy in my local import bookstore.

(15) WATCH THIS. Entertainment Weekly shares a video clip: Black Lightning gives Jefferson a suit upgrade in sneak peek: ‘Well, damn'”

…We’ve known for a while now that Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) is getting a new suit this season, but now we finally know how he receives it. In this exclusive clip from tonight’s episode, Agent Odell (Bill Duke) gives the imprisoned superhero a gift: a watch. Jefferson is initially skeptical because it looks like a normal timepiece and he’s probably suspicious of anything the shady ASA spook gives him. But Odell continues to gently push Jefferson until he actually tests it out and discovers the watch’s real purpose: It’s basically a morpher that contains Black Lightning’s sleek new super-suit.

“This is the reason we have you have here, why we’re testing you, why we’re putting you through so much pain and struggle,” says Odell as the suit begins to cover a Jefferson’s body. “It’s so we can create tech that will help all metas to live better. The Markovians are planning on killing or capturing all of the metas in Freeland. I cannot stop them without your help.”

“Well, damn,” Jefferson simply says as he checks out his new threads. (This is essentially the equivalent of Kara’s “Pants!” exclamation from the Supergirl season 5 premiere when she tried out her new panted super-suit for the first time.)

(16) CRISPER THAN CRISPR? BBC sees promise: “Prime editing: DNA tool could correct 89% of genetic defects”.

A new way of editing the code of life could correct 89% of the errors in DNA that cause disease, say US scientists.

The technology, called prime editing, has been described as a “genetic word processor” able to accurately re-write the genetic code.

It has been used to correct damaging mutations in the lab, including those that cause sickle cell anaemia

The team at the Broad Institute say it is “very versatile and precise”, but stress the research is only starting.

…Much of the excitement has centred on a technology called Crispr-Cas9, which was developed just seven years ago.

It scans DNA for the right spot and then, like a microscopic pair of scissors, cuts it in two.

This creates the opportunity to edit the DNA.

However, the edits are not always perfect and the cuts can end up in the wrong place. Both issues are a problem for using the technology in medicine.

The promise of prime editing is precision.

(17) NO DUMMY. They knew the importance of sticking to it — “Neanderthal ‘glue’ points to complex thinking”.

Traces of ancient “glue” on a stone tool from 50,000 years ago points to complex thinking by Neanderthals, experts say.

The glue was made from birch tar in a process that required forward planning and involved several different steps.

It adds to mounting evidence that we have underestimated the capabilities of our evolutionary cousins.

Only a handful of Neanderthal tools bear signs of adhesive, but experts say the process could have been widespread.

The tool, found in the Netherlands, has spent the last 50,000 years under the North Sea. This may have helped preserve the tar adhesive.

Co-author Marcel Niekus, from the Stichting STONE/Foundation for Stone Age Research in Groningen, said the simple stone flake was probably used either for cutting plant fibres or for scraping animal skins.

While birch tar may have been used by Neanderthals to attach stone tools to wooden handles in some cases, this particular tool probably had a grip made only of tar. Dr Niekus said there was no imprint from a wood or bone shaft in the tar.

It would have enabled the user to apply more pressure to the stone flake without cutting their hands – turning the edge into a precision cutting tool.

(18) GALILEO PROBE GETS A MOVIE. The “‘Saving Galileo’ Documentary Screens This Weekend” at Caltech’s Beckman Auditorium in Pasadena, CA on Saturday, Oct. 26, at 7 p.m. PDT. Free admission; first come, first served.

…Produced by JPL Fellow and national Emmy Award-winner Blaine Baggett, the hour-long film tells the story of how the mission stayed alive despite a multitude of technical challenges, including a years-long launch delay and the devastating failure of its main antenna to open properly in space. It is also the story of a team of scientists and engineers transformed through adversity into what many came to regard as a tight-knit family.

“Saving Galileo” picks up from Baggett’s previous documentary “To the Rescue,” which focuses on the mission’s tortuous path to the launch pad. Together the films capture how, despite its many challenges and limitations, Galileo proved a resounding success, leading to profound scientific insights that continue to draw NASA and JPL back to Jupiter for new adventures.

(19) PLACEBO. NPR contends: “The Placebo Effect Works And You Can Catch It From Your Doctor”.

If there’s one thing you do want to catch from a trip to your doctor, it’s her optimism.

A new study, published Monday in the journal Nature Human Behavior, finds that patients can pick up on subtle facial cues from doctors that reveal the doctor’s belief in how effective a treatment will be. And that can have a real impact on the patient’s treatment outcome.

Scientists have known since at least the 1930s that a doctor’s expectations and personal characteristics can significantly influence a patient’s symptom relief. Within research contexts, avoiding these placebo effects is one reason for double blind studies — to keep experimenters from accidentally biasing their results by telegraphing to test subjects what they expect the results of a study to be.

The new study both demonstrates that the placebo effect is transmitted from doctor to patient, and shows how it might work.

(20) OWN LE GUIN DOCUMENTARY. The latest Kickstarter backer update for the documentary Worlds of Ursula Le Guin contains information on how to view a digital copy and buy a DVD:

We know many of you haven’t yet had a chance to watch the film – we’re trying to bring it to you as quickly as we can. Online streaming, DVD, and broadcast opportunities vary by country, and continue to evolve, but here’s our latest update:

  • In the United States and English-speaking Canada, the film is now available to rent and buy via iTunes. For residents whose reward package didn’t include a DVD, you can also pre-order the DVD through our US distributor Grasshopper Films.
  • In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the film will be available to stream on BBC iPlayer after our broadcast date, expected to be announced soon. DVDs will be available in September 2021. 
  • If you live in Israel, streaming and DVDs will be available in March 2020.
  • For everyone else, you can pre-order the DVD internationally through Grasshopper Films. We’re also planning a worldwide Video-on-Demand (VOD) release in December for participating countries (excluding those listed above, and some others). 

Note that our DVD release date has shifted – we now expect to have DVDs ready to send out by mid-November. All DVDs will include closed captions in English for the hearing impaired, subtitles in several languages, and special extras we rescued from the cutting room floor. DVDs won’t be region-specific, so viewers around the world should be able to watch them.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. in “Bicycle” on Vimeo, Cool 3D World shows what happens when five green men decide to ride a bicycle.

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