Pixel Scroll 4/7/19 Filing On the Outside, Crying On the Inside

(1) GAME CHOW. Food & Wine doesn’t want you to miss a single offer: “All of the ‘Game of Thrones’ Food and Beverage Tributes for the Final Season”

Wherever your house allegiance may lie, there’s an Oreo for that—no, seriously. On April 2, the cookie brand announced a special line of Game of Thrones Oreos, which are stamped with the sigils of House Stark, House Targaryen, and House Lannister, symbolizing the main families that are left in the battle for the Iron Throne (and against the White Walkers). There’s even a cookie with the Night King on it, if you’re rooting for the dark side; plus, Oreo also recreated the show’s iconic opening sequence with (you guessed it) Oreos, which you can check out below.

(2) REALITY BOOZE. And Eater has another product roundup: “From Johnnie Walker to Oreos, Brands Are Going Ham on ‘Game of Thrones’ Merch”.

Then there’s sneakers, a $2,700 leather jacket, underwear, and even GoT wine and Johnnie Walker whiskey, which at least have a very tenuous connection, given that alcohol actually exists in Westeros (as compared to Oreos). Of course, none of these products will appear on screen, unless a final twist reveals that the entire Game of Thrones universe was actually the fever dream of a Mountain Dew advertising executive.

Hey, Fevre Dream is another clever GRRM reference, if intentional.

(3) DON’T PANIC. That’s what SFWA says, even though there’s no tickets left. Right now, anyway.

The 2019 Nebula Conference is SOLD OUT, but don’t panic! We’re looking into expanding capacity & expect to release more tickets. If you haven’t bought your membership yet, email events@sfwa.org to be notified when additional tickets are released.

(4) NOT WHISPERING. This morning I stopped at an intersection behind a “Smith Family Exterminating” truck and had the obvious thought. It came back to me now as I was reading Galactic Journey’s review of an old IF theme issue: “[Apr. 6, 1964] The art of word-smithing (May 1964 IF)”.

Science fiction magazines are no strangers to gimmicks.  Fantasy and Science Fiction has “All-star issues” with no authors but big names (though they often turn in second-rate stuff).  Analog is trying out a run in “slick” 8.5? by 11? size. 

And this month, IF has gotten extra cute.  Every story in the issue is written by a guy named “Smith.”  It’s certainly a novel concept, but does it work?

(5) WRITER’S BLOCH. His advice to Ray Bradbury is #5: “Robert Bloch: The World Explained in 20 Quotes” at CrimeReads.

“I urge you with all sincerity to get to work, write a book, write two—three—four books, just as a matter of course. Don’t worry about ‘wasting’ an idea or ‘spoiling’ a plot by going too fast. If you are capable of turning out a masterpiece, you’ll get other and even better ideas in the future. Right now your job is to write, and to write books so that by so doing you’ll gain the experience to write still better books later on.” (Bloch in an August 27, 1947 letter to Ray Bradbury)

(6) FLYOVER SLEUTHING. The winner of this year’s Paretsky Award for mysteries set in the Midwest was announced March 23: 

Scott Turow, the author of such best-selling novels as Presumed Innocent (1987), Reversible Errors (2002) and Testimony (2017), has received the annual Paretsky Award for his work. That commendation was presented to him during the third annual Murder and Mayhem in Chicago convention, held this last Saturday. The Paretsky Award, named after Sara Paretsky, the creator of Windy City private detective V.I. Warshawski, “honors mysteries set in the Midwest.”

(7) RAPHAEL OBIT. Rabbi Lawrence Raphael died March 17 at the age of 74 reports Mystery Fanfare. In addition to being a rabbi, he edited anthologies of Jewish mysteries and crime fiction, and was also an expert in Jewish science fiction.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 7, 1915 Stanley Adams. He’s best known for playing Cyrano Jones in “The Trouble with Tribbles” Trek episode. He reprised in the Star Trek: The Animated Series episode “More Tribbles, More Troubles” and archival footage of him was later featured in the Deep Space Nine “Trials and Tribble-ations” episode.  He also appeared in two episodes of the Batman series (“Catwoman Goes to College” and “Batman Displays his Knowledge”) as Captain Courageous. (Died 1977.)
  • Born April 7, 1915 Henry Kuttner. While he was working for the d’Orsay agency, he found Leigh Brackett’s early manuscripts in the slush pile; it was under his guidance that she sold her first story to Campbell at Astounding Stories.  His own work was done in close collaboration with  C. L. Moore, his wife, and much of they published was under pseudonyms.  During the Forties, he also contributed numerous scripts to the Green Lantern series. (Died 1958.)
  • Born April 7, 1928 James White. His best-known novels were the Sector General hospital series published over a nearly a forty year period. No, I’m not going to remember which ones I read but I do fondly remember reading several of them and encountering the short stories in various magazines. Definitely popcorn literature at its best! (Died 1999.)
  • Born April 7, 1934 Ian Richardson. His first genre performance was in  A Midsummer Night’s Dream as Oberon. That’s the film with Diana Rigg, Helen Mirren, Ian Holm and David Warner as well. He’s the Narrator of Gawain and the Green Knight, Sherlock Holmes in The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Sign of Four, Mr. Warrenn in Brazil (a film I’ve never understood), Polonius In Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Mr. Book in Dark City, Wasp in Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There and Sir Charles Warren in From Hell based off the Alan Moore excellent graphic novel about the Ripper murders. (Died 2007.)
  • Born April 7, 1935 Marty Cantor, 84. He’s the editor with then his wife Robbie of Holier Than Thou.  It was nominated for the 1984, 1985 and 1986 Hugo Awards for Best Fanzine, losing in the first two years to File 770 and in the last to Lan’s Lantern. He also published Who Knows What Ether Lurks in the Minds of Fen?, a rather nice play off The Shadow radio intro.
  • Born April 7, 1939 Francis Ford Coppola, 80. Director / Writer / Producer. THX 1138 was produced by him and directed by George Lucas in his feature film directorial debut in 1971. Saw it late at night after some serious drug ingestion with a redhead into Morrison — strange experience that was. Other genre works of note include Bram Stoker’s Dracula, an episode of Faerie Tale Theatre entitled“Rip Van Winkle”, Twixt (a horror film that almost no one has heard of), Mary Shelley’s FrankensteinJeepers Creepers and Jeepers Creepers 2
  • Born April 7, 1946 Stan Winston. He’s best known for his work in Aliens, the Terminator franchise, the first three Jurassic Park films, the first two Predator films, Batman Returns and Iron Man. He was unusual in having expertise in makeup, puppets and practical effects, and was just starting to get in digital effects as well. (Died 2008.)
  • Born April 7, 1945 Susan Petrey. There are days I don’t like the Universe very much and it’s things like her death which cause that. Dead at 35, she’s the author of the Varkela, a series of stories where vampires heal instead of kill. Her collected work is be found in Gifts of Blood. She was very active in Portland, Oregon fandom where her friends established the Susan C. Petrey Clarion Scholarship Fund in her memory which raises funds to send aspiring writers to the Clarion. (Died 1980.)
  • Born April 7, 1951 Janis Ian, 68. Stars: Original Stories Based on the Songs of Janis Ian is an anthology of stories edited by her and Mike Resnick. It looks damn good and I’ve got the  ISFDB link here for the contents.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) FINALISTS CONSIDERED. Gary Tognetti reacts to the ballot in “2019 Hugo Nominations Post – Impressions, Surprises, Disappointments” at The 1000 Year Plan.

…The opinions expressed below are not intended to divide the nominees up into things that “deserve” to be there and things that don’t. Every work/person on the ballot deserves to be there because their fans were passionate enough to make it happen. Fans are an opinionated bunch: we think some things are better than other things and we like to argue about it. That’s what I’m doing here.

(11) BRW. We’ve been talking a lot about AO3 – Paste takes a look at another Best Related Work that’s also a product of the times: “YouTuber Lindsay Ellis Has Been Nominated for a Hugo Award for Her Acclaimed ‘Hobbit Duology'”.

The YouTube video essay has become perhaps the defining form of entertainment media of the digital age, and yet it’s still not a medium that garners a lot of respect. Except for the likes of a handful of film YouTubers such as the dearly departed Every Frame a Painting, it’s a field where all of the middling quality entries have an anchor-like effect upon all the superior efforts. In much the same way that feature films on streaming services have slowly clawed their way into award recognition, though, the same is true of the YouTube video essay. And YouTuber Lindsay Ellis just made a major statement to that effect, garnering a Hugo Award nomination for her critically acclaimed “Hobbit Duology,” in the category of Best Related Work.

It’s not the first time a YouTuber has been nominated for a Hugo Award—it’s happened at least once before, when Rachel Bloom was nominated in 2010—but it’s still a major honor and an important precedent, all the same. And it’s a fitting recognition of Ellis’ instantly gripping series of three videos on Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, which offer a postmortem on how one of the most beloved film trilogies of all time (The Lord of the Rings) ended up being followed by a disappointing, overstuffed miscalculation.

(Note: Rachel Bloom was a 2011 nominee.)

(12) AWARD NEWS. The judges for the Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards are Ann VanderMeer and Jeff VanderMeer reports Locus Online. The $5,000 awards will be presented in May at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.

(13) THE METAPHORICAL RED PLANET. Kelly Lagor digs into a classic Bradbury collection at Tor.com: “On the Origins of Modern Biology and the Fantastic: Part 10—Ray Bradbury and Mechanisms of Regulation”.

The Martian Chronicles, published in 1950, represented something unique and different in science fiction. At the optimistic opening of the space age, if offered a perspective on the lie that the promise of a new frontier offers, as though by traveling to Mars we assumed we would leave behind our weakness and bigotry. It’s Bradbury up and down, sacrificing scientific rigor in favor of poetic metaphor; one part awe, one part sadness, three parts nostalgia. It brought a literary perspective to science fiction, tackling themes of loneliness, regret, and the inevitable loss of innocence. Bradbury sought the deeper meanings in the established mechanics of science fiction and his stories encompassed an added layer of complexity that would have a profound impact on an up-and-coming generation of writers.

(14) BOOK REVIEW BONANZA. Sweet Freedom’s “Friday’s Forgotten Books” feature links to the week’s collection of genre reviews.

This week’s books and more, unfairly (or sometimes fairly) neglected, or simply those the reviewers below think you might find of some interest (or, infrequently, you should be warned away from); certainly, most weeks we have a few not at all forgotten titles…a big week for Christie books…pushing the limit of “forgotten” but as with some of the other hugely popular, hugely prolific writers, each title aside from the most popular tends to be lost in the shuffle…how many John Creasey novels can most non-Creasey fans name?

The hotlinks to the items listed below are here:

  • Patricia Abbott: Go With Me by Castle Freeman
  • Les Blatt: The Judas Window by “Carter Dickson” (John Dickson Carr)
  • Joachim Boaz: The Road to Corlay by “Richard Cowper” (John Middleton Murry, Jr.)
  • John Boston: Amazing: Fact and Science Fiction Stories, August 1963, edited by Cele Goldsmith Lalli
  • Ben Boulden: “The Double Whammy” by Robert Bloch, Fantastic, February 1970, edited by Ted White
  • Brian Busby: Jimmie Dale Alias The Gray Seal by Michael Howard
  • Brandon Crilly: On Spec co-edited by Diane Walton
  • Martin Edwards: Dominoes by John Wainwright
  • Peter Enfantino: Atlas (proto-Marvel) Horror Comics: March 1952
  • Will Errickson: Off Season by “Jack Ketchum” (Dallas Mayr)
  • José Ignacio Escribano: The Labours of Hercules by Agatha Christie
  • Curtis Evans: A Spot of Folly by Ruth Rendell
  • Olman Feelyus: The Prone Gunman by Jean-Patrick Manchette (translation by James Brook)
  • Paul Fraser: New Worlds SF, February 1965, edited by Michael Moorcock
  • Barry Gardner: A Cool Breeze on the Underground by Don Winslow
  • Charles Gramlisch: The Best of the West edited by Joe R. Lansdale
  • John Grant: Gangway! by Donald Westlake and Brian Garfield; The Pursuit of Alice Thrift by Elinor Lipman
  • Aubrey Hamilton: Suddenly While Gardening by Elizabeth Lemarchand 
  • Rich Horton: Captives of the Flame by Samuel Delany; The Psionic Menace by “Keith Woodcott” (John Brunner); Ian McDonald stories; Ilium by Dan Simmons; Again, Dangerous Visions edited by Harlan Ellison
  • Jerry House: Negro Romance, #2 Fawcett August 1950/#4 Charlton May 1955, written and edited by Roy Ald and illustrated by Alvin Hollingsworth
  • Kate Jackson: Dead Man’s Folly by Agatha Christie; Mothers in Crime Fiction
  • Tracy K: What Never Happens by Anne Holt; Remembered Death by Agatha Christie
  • Colman Keane: Atlanta Deathwatch by Ralph Dennis
  • George Kelley: The Great SF Stories 8 (1946) edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg
  • Joe Kenney: Rock & Roll Retreat Blues by Douglas Kent Hall
  • B. V. Lawson: Picture Miss Seeton by “Heron Carvic” (Geoffrey Richard William Harris)
  • Evan Lewis: Comic Book Nation by Bradford W. Wright
  • Steve Lewis: Lord Mullion’s Secret by Michael Innes; Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie; 30 for a Harry by Richard Hoyt; “First Life” by Roger Dee, Super-Science Fiction, July 1950, edited by Ejler Jakobsson; “The Flies of Memory” by Ian Watson (novella version); Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine, September 1988, edited by Gardner Dozois
  • Todd Mason: Fantastic, September 1974, edited by Ted White; The Paris Review, Autumn 1974, edited by George Plimpton; The Ontario Review, Autumn 1974, edited by Raymond J. Smith; The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, September 1974, edited by Edward Ferman
  • Francis M. Nevins: the works of John Roeburt
  • John F. Norris: The Crowing Hen by Reginald Davis; The Hand of the Chimpanzee by Robert Hare
  • Scott Parker: Faraday: The Iron Horse by James Reasoner
  • Matt Paust: That Old Scoundrel Death by Bill Crider
  • James Reasoner: Hearts of the West edited by Jean Marie Stine
  • Richard Robinson: Bodies from the Library edited by Tony Medawar
  • Gerard Saylor: The End of Vandalism by Tom Drury
  • Jack Seabrook and Peter Enfantino: DC War Comics, September 1974
  • Doreen Sheridan: The King of the Rainy Country by “Nicholas Freeling” (Nicolas Davidson)
  • Steven H. Silver: the works of Anne McCaffrey
  • Victoria Silverwolf: Fantastic: Stories of Imagination, November 1963, edited by Cele Goldsmith Lalli
  • Kevin Tipple: A Reader’s Book of Days: True Tales from the Lives and Works of Women for Every Day of the Year assembled by Tom Nissley
  • “TomCat”: “Mystery at the Dog Pound” by Robert W. Cochran, Street & Smith’s Detective Story Magazine, May 1942, edited by Daisy Bacon

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Kim Huett, Martin Morse Wooster, Cora Buhlert, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Todd Mason, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 3/16/19 Hit Me With Your Pixel Stick, One Weird Fandom Click Click Click

(1) FANS LOSE THEIR SHIRT OVER ELLISON DESIGN. A Harlan Ellison Facebook Fan Club member pointed out that a Hawaiian shirt seller on Etsy was offering a colorful fractal collage of Ellison images.

The first fan to respond made the mistake of saying admiringly, “I think I’m going to order it” and was instantly schooled how outraged Ellison would have been to discover someone attempting to profit from unlicensed sales of his image (nor without paying the photographers who took the pictures). Fans shared their ire with Etsy store owner Ed Seeman and the Ellison shirt was taken down. However, Seeman’s hundreds of other similar designs involving movie and TV celebrities, famous scientists, and classical composers, are still on offer. These include William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, John Williams, and “Stephan” King.

(2) THINGS WRITERS HAVE TO DO BESIDES WRITE. Jeff VanderMeer came up with one I haven’t heard before:

It looks like a hawk got a dove on the ground near one of the feeders while we were out. From the spread of feathers and lack of body or any parts, I think it’s a hawk rather than a cat. Honestly, I sure hope it was a hawk, because if it was a cat I have to get out the supersoaker, fill it with orange juice, and spend a lot of time quietly waiting in the shadows and I have so much else to do.

(3) JEDI FASHION STATEMENT. The Orange County Register blabs practically everything about one of Disneyland’s forthcoming Star Wars experiences: “Step-by-step preview of the lightsaber-building experience coming to Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge”.

Padawan learners strong with the Force will be able to build their own lightsabers using scavenged parts from fallen Jedi temples inside a covert workshop hidden from the watchful eye of the First Order when the new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opens at Disneyland.

The build-your-own lightsaber experience will take place in Savi’s Workshop — Handbuilt Lightsabers when the 14-acre land debuts May 31 at the Anaheim theme park.

The new Galaxy’s Edge themed land will be set in the Black Spire Outpost on the planet of Batuu, located on the outer rim of the “Star Wars” galaxy. Every shop and restaurant in the village will have an extensive backstory and proprietor from the “Star Wars” universe.

The handbuilt lightsaber workshop will be run by Savi, who owns a space junkyard near the main entrance to Black Spire Outpost. The scrapper has been collecting lightsaber pieces from throughout the galaxy in hopes a true hero with the ability to assemble the parts would one day enter his shop. That day is today and that hero is you.

… Builders will choose from four lightsaber styles:

  • Peace & Justice, reflecting the Jedi style from the Republic era
  • Power & Control, a Sith style reflective of the Dark Side of the Force
  • Elemental Nature, using natural components like Brylark trees, Cartusion whale bones and Rancor teeth
  • Protection & Defense, incorporating components with ancient and mysterious motifs and inscriptions

(4) E.B. WHITE AWARD. “‘Bridge to Terabithia’ author Katherine Paterson wins E.B. White Award for literature” – the Burlington Free Press has the story:

Children’s-book author and Montpelier resident Katherine Paterson was announced Monday as the winner of the E.B. White Award, given once every two years by the American Academy of Art and Letters “in recognition of an exceptional lifetime body of work.”

Paterson, best known as the author of “Bridge to Terabithia,” receives $10,000 for the award that is given for achievement in children’s literature. The most recent winner, in 2017, was Judy Blume.

According to the biography on her website, Paterson has written more than 30 books, including 16 novels for children and young people. She won the Newbury Medal for American children’s literature in 1978 for “Bridge to Terabithia” and in 1981 for “Jacob Have I Loved.” She received the National Book Award in 1977 for “The Master Puppeteer” and 1979 for “The Great Gilly Hopkins.”

The Award jury members were Judy Blume and Alison Lurie.

(5) NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON SHOWS TO GO BACK ON AIR. Variety reports “Neil deGrasse Tyson Will Return to National Geographic After Assault Investigation” although little is said about what the investigation learned.

National Geographic Channel has completed its investigation into “Cosmos” and “StarTalk” host Neil deGrasse Tyson, and will move forward with both shows. The channel didn’t elaborate on its findings, however.

“‘StarTalk’ will return to the air with the remaining 13 episodes in April on National Geographic, and both Fox and National Geographic are committed to finding an air date for ‘Cosmos,’” the network said in a statement. “There will be no further comment.”

“Cosmos: Possible Worlds” and “Star Talk” have been in limbo for months, since Nat Geo launched an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against the famed astrophysicist.

Fox had originally scheduled the new season of “Cosmos” to premiere on Sunday, March 3, while Nat Geo had slated a second window to begin on Monday, March 4. Both networks later had to scrap those plans.

 (6) 2020 WORLDCON WEBSITE UPDATE. CoNZealand will unveil its changed website design on St. Patrick’s Day.

New Membership Site coming!

We are about to release our new Membership site. Barring any problems, we expect to open the site on March 17th, 2019, around 3PM NZST.

Our new system will include some new features.

  • New accounts will be created for Pre-supporting Members;
  • Membership upgrades will become available for Pre-supporting Members;
  • Lay-by instalment payments will become available for the purchase of new Memberships and to upgrade existing Memberships;
  • Existing membership numbers from our current online system will be increased by 2000. So if you are member #19, you will become member #2019. Because it’s the future. 
  • New fields will be added to the form to give people registering online the same options as those who registered on the paper form.

(7) DITILLIO OBIT. Writer Larry DiTillio, who became well-known to fans while serving as executive story editor on Babylon 5, has died at the age of 71. Before Babylon 5 he wrote for many TV shows, several of them also run by J. Michael Straczynski who recalled for Facebook readers their years of friendship and its end:

…Larry never pulled his punches, and that frankness requires stating that we did have our differences from time to time. Larry could be fractious, and I think he sometimes resented being brought on by me as a lieutenant. He was talented enough to be a show-runner on his own, and being constantly a second-in-command chafed to the point that he began carving out his own pocket universe in B5. He wanted to show that he could do what I was doing, which for me was never even a question, I just didn’t want him doing it when I was trying to tell a story in a straight line in a way that no one had ever done before. But things became increasingly difficult between us, the friendship strained and broke, and we parted ways after season two.

We didn’t speak again for nearly ten years. And that was very hard for me. I don’t make friends often or easily, and Larry was probably my closest friend, right alongside Harlan Ellison. We’d celebrated birthdays and went to conventions together, shared a love of comics and terrible movies and he even got me to do some gaming for a while, which was his greatest love, and we had dinner together more times than I can even begin to count. And now all that was gone, and I was lost.

Straczynski and DiTillio co-hosted local Pacifica radio show Hour 25 from 1987-1989, and I met him in the studio when I was there to promote Loscon. (I’d first met Straczynski when I recruited him to be on the 1980 Westercon program).

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Sonic More Music wants to show you the picture:

In the early days of The Velvet Underground, Lou Reed and John Cale had a day job playing Batman and Robin at birthday parties.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 16, 1961 –Walt Disney released The Absent Minded Professor to U.S. audiences.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 16, 1920 Leo McKern. Long involvement in the genre so I’ll be selective here. You probably know from his non-genre role in Rumpole of the Bailey where he was Horace Bailey, but I’m fond of him in three roles, the first being Professor Moriarty In The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, the second when he played, and this is a slight pun, Number Twothe chief administrator, of The Village in The Prisoner series, and the third being the great Swami Clang In Help!, a Beatles film which should be genre even if it’s not. (Died 2002.)
  • Born March 16, 1943 Susan Bay, 76. Also known as Susan Nimoy, wife of that actor. She portrayed Admiral Rollman in two episodes of Deep Space Nine: “Past Prologue” in the first season and “Whispers” in the second. Her only genre appearance, I believe, was in the Mr. Merlin series.
  • Born March 16, 1951 P. C. Hodgell, 68. Her best known work is the  Chronicles of the Kencyrath series with The Gates of Tagmeth being the current novel. She has dabbled in writing in the Holmesian metaverse with “A Ballad of the White Plague” that was first published in The Confidential Casebook of Sherlock Holmes as edited by Marvin Kaye. 
  • Born March 16, 1952 Alice Hoffman, 67. Best known for Practical Magic which was made into a rather good film. I’d also recommend The Story Sisters, a Gateway story, The Ice Queen, an intense riff off of that myth, and Aquamarine, a fascinating retelling of the mermaid legend. 
  • Born March 16, 1961 Todd McFarlane, 58. Best known for his work on The Amazing Spider-Man and Spawn. And let’s not overlook McFarlane Toys whose product could be fantastic or shitty depending on the mood of Todd on a given day. And, of course, Todd reached a deal after decades with Neil on unpaid monies due on books that Todd had done with him.
  • Born March 16, 1963 Kevin Smith. He was a New Zealand actor who was best known for being  Ares in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and in its two related series – Xena: Warrior Princess and Young Hercules. He also voiced Ares for Hercules and Xena: The Animated Movie: The Battle for Mount Olympus. And it looks like his last role was as Valdemar in the abysmal Riverworld movie. (Died 2002.)
  • Born March 16, 1964 Gore Verbinski, 55. He is best known for directing the first three films of the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise. I see he’s also responsible for Mouse Hunt (a delightful film), Rango (ok going downhill here) and hitting rock bottom, The Lone Ranger
  • Born March 16, 1966 David Liss, 53. Writer of Spider-Man: Hostile Takeover, novelization of Marvel’s Spider-Man whichis a 2018 action-adventure game. Comics writer, Black Panther: The Man Without Fear and Sherlock Holmes: Moriarty Lives series. Not at all genre but his trilogy of novels starting with A Conspiracy of Paper and featuring Benjamin Weaver, a retired bare-knuckle boxer, now a thief-taker, a cross between a PI and bounty hunter, are highly recommended by me. 
  • Born March 16, 1971 Alan Tudyk, 48. Best known, I think, as Hoban “Wash” Washburne in the Firefly metaverse. His current role is the very, very irritating villain Mr. Nobody in the excellent Doom Patrol series on the DC Universe streaming service. For at least the first several episodes, he narrated the episodeswhich was really annoying as it included references to everything meta including Grant Morrison and universe creating goat farts. They dropped that aspect mercifully. 

(11) BESIDES THE WRINKLE. At The Paris Review, Frankie Thomas’ YA of Yore column recalls “The Creepy Authoritarianism of Madeleine L’Engle”. It’s L’Engle’s mainstream YA novels that inspire the title.

…It was strange to go to school at night, and in a taxi with my father instead of on the bus. The book-signing took place in the elementary school gymnasium, noisier and more crowded than I’d ever seen it during the day; the event was open to the public and full of strangers. I carried two books for L’Engle to sign. One was my mother’s childhood copy of A Wrinkle in Time, which embarrassed me—surely everybody would bring that one!—but my mother had insisted. To correct for this, I also brought Troubling a Star, my favorite L’Engle novel and no one else’s. I hoped it would communicate to L’Engle that I was a different caliber of reader.

The line to meet L’Engle was so long, and I was so short. I couldn’t see her until it was my turn—then I was face to face with her. She was older than I’d expected. Her gray hair was cropped shorter than in her author photo. In my memory she looms quite tall even while seated at the book-signing table; I’ve always assumed this was the exaggerated perception of a very small nine year old, but apparently she was indeed very tall.

She smiled an impersonal smile at me, the same smile she must have smiled at thousands of other kids. She wrote her name, nothing more, inside my books. She did not say, “Wow, Troubling a Star? That’s an unusual choice!” She did not say “You are to be a light-bearer” or “You see things invisible to lesser mortals” or “I love you, Frankie, love you like my daughter.” If she said anything at all, I don’t remember what it was. The whole thing was over so quickly…

(12) SHH, IT’S A SECRET. Rebecca Lewis, in “Black Panther cast had no idea they were auditioning for a Marvel movie” on Metro was told by Winston Duke he auditioned for Black Panther using fake sides for a non-existent movie, and it wasn’t until Ryan Coogler showed up at his third audition that he began to realize he was auditioning for a Marvel movie.

(13) MEAN CUISINE. Clearly the demand is there!

(14) LOOK AT THE PRETTY PICTURES. SYFY Wire assembled an “Emerald City Comic Con Day 2 cosplay gallery”.

(15) EVOLUTIONARY ADAPTATIONS. For those keeping score at home, Adam Whitehead tells what all the Love, Death & Robots episodes are based on:

(16) FINDING 451. Parvati Sharma revels in the feeling of “When a book finds you” at The Hindu BusinessLine.

For a lover of second-hand books, buying a book pales in comparison to the sheer delight of chancing upon one

I was dying to read Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. I’d discovered him through my mother and a cover-less paperback that contained her favourite Bradbury short story The Veldt, about two kids so addicted to their virtual reality (VR) nursery that they feed their parents to VR lions. But even at his most gruesome (and prescient?), Bradbury has a sheer open-mouthed enjoyment of the strange and unexpected — from him, I learned to love dystopia. I even tried to write it. “He chocked. He was chocking. He would be chocking until death,” I wrote, aged 11, before taking things to a grim conclusion: “Then suddenly his head burst”.

A world in which books were crimes? It was a dystopian vision that held a particular thrill — in such a world, I might be a criminal.

So I was burning to read it, Bradbury’s novel about a book-less future, but it did not occur to me to look for it in a bookshop. I was sure I would find it on the book-strewn pavements of Daryaganj in Delhi….

(17) THE SWARM. BBC explores “How swarming drones will change warfare”.

The swarm robots are coming and they could change the way wars are fought.

In February, the defence secretary said “swarm squadrons” will be deployed by the British armed forces in the coming years.

The US has also been testing interconnected, co-operative drones that are capable of working together to overwhelm adversaries.

Low-cost, intelligent and inspired by swarms of insects, these new machines could revolutionise future conflicts.

From swarming enemy sensors with a deluge of targets, to spreading out over large areas for search-and-rescue missions, they could have a range of uses on and off the battlefield.

But just how different is “swarm” technology from the drones that are currently used by militaries across the globe? The key is self-organisation.

(18) BEFORE YOU BUY. Looking for book reviews? There are links to all of these at Todd Mason’s  Sweet Freedom: “Friday’s ‘Forgotten’ Books and More”. The reviewer’s name comes first, then book title and author’s name.

  • Patricia Abbott: Sleep While I Sing by L. R. Wright; What It Might Feel Like to Hope by Dorene O’Brien
  • Paul Bishop: the Gunships series by “Jack Hamilton Teed” (Christopher Lowder) 
  • Les Blatt: Three Witnesses by Rex Stout 
  • John Boston: Amazing: Fact and Science Fiction Stories, April 1964, edited by Cele Goldsmith Lalli 
  • Ben Boulden: Snowbound by Richard S. Wheeler; Things to Come, January/February 1955, the catalog of the (Doubleday) Science Fiction Book Club 
  • Brian Busby: The Bright Path to Adventure by Gordon Sinclair 
  • Peter Enfantino and Jack Seabrook: Warren Comics (Creepy and Blazing Combat), October to December 1965, edited by Archie Goodwin
  • Will Errickson: The Manitouby Graham Masterton 
  • José Ignacio Escribano:Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks by John Curran
  • Curtis Evans: Swing, Brother, Swing by Ngaio March
  • Paul Fraser: The Great SF Stories 5 (1943) edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg; Unknown Worlds, June 1943, edited by John W. Campbell, Jr. 
  • Barry Gardner: Kahawa by Donald Westlake
  • John Grant: The Secret History of the Pink Carnation by Lauren Willig; The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro
  • Aubrey Hamilton: Death in the Quadrangle by Eilis Dillon
  • Rich Horton: Antic Hay by Aldous Huxley; PITFCS: Proceedings of the Institute for Twenty-First Century Studies edited by Theodore R. Cogswell; Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart;
  • Jerry House: The Select (aka The Foundation) by F. Paul Wilson 
  • Kate Jackson: three novels by Michael Gilbert; 
  • Death in Store by Jennifer Rowe 
  • Tracy K: Turncoat by Aaron Elkins
  • Colman Keane: Cast the First Stone and Heart of Stone by James W. Ziskin
  • George Kelley: The Great SF Stories 7 (1945) edited by Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg
  • Joe Kenney: Cold Iron by “Robert Stone Pryor”
  • Margot Kinberg: The Division Bell Mystery by Ellen Wilkinson
  • Rob Kitchin: Winston’s War by Michael Dobbs
  • B. V. Lawson: The Port of London Murders by “Josephine Bell” (Doris Collier Ball)
  • Evan Lewis: Half Past Mortem by John A. Saxon
  • Jonathan Lewis: Journey into Fear by Eric Ambler
  • Steve Lewis: The Goodbye Look by “Ross Macdonald” (Kenneth Millar); “Eurema’s Dam” by R. A. Lafferty; Lemons Never Lie by “Richard Stark” (Donald Westlake); “Schroedinger’s Kitten” by George Alec Effinger
  • Mike Lind: Dashiell Hammett, Man of Mystery by Sally Cline
  • Todd Mason: best of the year horror fiction annuals for 2016
  • Jess Nevins: some women writers of horror from around the world 
  • John F. Norris: The Flight of the Doves by Walter Macken
  • Patrick Ohl: In the Best Families by Rex Stout (hosted by Kevin Tipple)
  • Scott D. Parker: Weird Western Tales, December 1973, edited by Joe Orlando
  • Matt Paust: The Trail to Seven Pines by Louis L’Amour; Ways of Looking at a Woman by Caroline Hagood
  • James Reasoner: “Blitzkrieg in the Past” by “John York Cabot” (David Wright O’Brien), Amazing Stories, July 1942, edited by Ray Palmer
  • Richard Robinson: A Blaze of Glory by Jeff Shaara
  • Gerard Saylor: Murdaland, #1 (2007), edited by Michael Lagnas
  • Jack Seabrook: “One More Mile to Go” by F. J. Smith, Manhunt, June 1956, edited by Scott Meredith 
  • Steven Silver: Convergent Series by Larry Niven
  • Victoria Silverwolf: Fantastic: Stories of Imagination, July 1963, edited by Cele Goldsmith-Lalli
  • “TomKat”: Challenge the Impossible: The Final Problems of Dr. Sam Hawthorne by Edward D. Hoch
  • David Vineyard: The Seven Sleepers by Francis Beeding

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

Pixel Scroll 2/6/19 Pixels In The Hands Of An Angry Scroll

(1) BETTER WORLDS. Latest in the Better Worlds series on The Verge is “Skin City” by Kelly Robson.

Listen to the audio adaptation of “Skin City” in Apple PodcastsPocket Casts, or Spotify.

Andrew Liptak’s Q&A with author Robson: “Kelly Robson on burlesque and privacy in a futuristic Toronto”.

Tell me a bit about how you came up with the idea for “Skin City.”

One of my big fandoms here in Toronto is Nerd Girls Burlesque. They are a wonderful troupe of nerdy burlesque dancers who recently put on a Game of Thrones burlesque show, two fantastic and incredibly well-attended the Harry Potter burlesque nights, and a Doctor Who burlesque show. I love them. I think they’re fantastic. They’re so witty and so delightful. So when I think about Toronto or when I think about a better world in Toronto, it definitely includes them. I wanted to write about a nerdy burlesque dancer, and I wanted to put her front and center in the city, and I wanted Toronto to be known for that kind of thing.

(2) BEST PRACTICE. It’s just good manners:

(3) WHAT IT IS. Jeff VanderMeer reviewed the book for the LA Times: “Marlon James’ ‘Black Leopard, Red Wolf’ unleashes an immersive African myth-inspired fantasy world”.

James certainly makes his own unique contribution to the process of decentralizing the white European experience in fantasy fiction, although it’s important to recognize that this process has been underway for some time — and in so many different ways that it’s just plain lazy to compare this novel with, say, works from the last decade by Nnedi Okorafor or David Anthony Durham or Nora Jemisin or Minister Faust or Nisi Shawl or Kai Ashante Wilson (perhaps even beyond lazy). Neither is “Black Leopard, Red Wolf” Afrofuturism or even, really, “the African Game of Thrones,” as many – including James – have called it.

What it is … is the latest Marlon James novel.

(4) GOT CHARACTERS WHO ARE STILL WITH US. As the next and final season of Game of Thrones approaches, publicity is cranking up (Mashable:New ‘Game of Thrones’ pics tease Varys’ return and more surprises”). A dozen new still photos have been released.

We’re just months from Game of Thrones’ final season, and HBO has released the first stills of Season 8 to get this hype train moving.

Though mostly character shots, it’s thrilling to see our favorite characters again – alive, for the time being, and moving around Westeros with the speed and urgency established in Season 7. Most surprising is the return of Varys (Conleth Hill) to the North…or does that snow mean winter is spreading south with the White Walkers?

(5) PROTIP. Myke Cole was yanking peoples’ chains:

Of course, one person actually went looking for the list. (See Twitter thread.)

(6) VORLICEK OBIT. [Apologies for substituting certain letters in his Czech name which WordPress won’t reproduce.] Vaclav Vorlicek, a Czech director of fantasy films that are greatly beloved throughout Europe, died February 6. Cora Buhlert says he’s “definitely one of the greats of our genre who deserves to be remembered” and has written an appreciation:

You may never have heard Vaclav Vorlicek’s name until today, but if you were a kid in Eastern and/or Western Europe in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, you have almost certainly watched his films at some point. Because Vaclav Vorlicek was the man behind many of those Czech fairytale movies that were afternoon television staples for children all over Europe in the 1970s and 1980s. Because – uncommon for the time – Vorlicek’s films crossed the iron curtain and entertained children on both sides.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 6, 1923 Patrick Macnee. He was best known as the secret agent John Steed in The Avengers, a tole he reprised in the New Avengers. He made his genre debut as Young Jacob Marley in Scrooge. He then starred as Derek Longbow in Incense for the Damned (also released as Bloodsuckers, Freedom Seeker Incense for the Damned and Bloodsuckers, Freedom Seeker and Doctors Wear Scarlet). Next up is an uncredited role voicing Imperious Leader on the original Battlestar Galactica.  He played Captain John Good R.N. in King Solomon’s Treasure based rather loosely on the H. Rider Haggard source material. What else? Let’s see… he shows up in The Howling as Dr. George Waggner, as Dr. Stark in a film as alternative title is, I kid you not, Naked Space and Spaceship. It’s a parody apparently of Alien. Next up for him is another toff named Sir Wilfred in Waxwork and its sequel. Yes he wears a suit rather nicely. At least being Professor Plocostomos in Lobster Man from Mars is an open farce.  Yes let me note that he had a voice only role in the absolutely shitty remake of The Avengers as Invisible Jones, a Ministry Agent. I do hope they paid him well. His last film work was genre as well, The Low Budget Time Machine, in which he started as Dr. Bernard. (Died 2015.)
  • Born February 6, 1925 Patricia S. Warrick, 94. Academic who did a lot of Seventies anthologies with Martin Greenberg and Joseph D. Olander with such such titles as Social Problems Through Science FictionAmerican Government Through Science Fiction and Run to Starlight, Sports Through Science Fiction. She did write two books of a more serious nature by herself, The Cybernetic Imagination in Science Fiction and Mind in Motion: The Fiction of Philip K. Dick.
  • Born February 6, 1927 Gerard O’Neill. Author, The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space and though lesser known, 2081: A Hopeful View of the Human Future. Conceptualized ideas of permanent space habitats and mass drivers. (Died 1992.)
  • Born February 6, 1931 Rip Torn, 88. First genre work that comes to mind is of course RoboCop 3 and his Men in Black films. His first dip into our world comes as Dr. Nathan Bryce In The Man Who Fell to Earth. Yeah that film. Actually if you count Alfred Hitchcock Presents, he’s been a member of our community since his Twenties. He also shows up on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Questionable Content comic strip’s workplace is the Coffee of Doom coffeehouse. One of the baristas is highly educated.

(9) SIGNPOSTS. Wim Crusio says you should avoid The Road to Hell. No, he’s not talking theology, he’s reviewing a novel: “Recent Reads: David Weber & Joelle Presby, The Road to Hell”.

However, there are serious problems with this series, which I am afraid is symptomatic for Weber’s recent work. Like the Safehold series, this one moves at a glacial pace. In 1009 pages, we advance from November 29, 1928 CE to May 3, 1929 CE. Barely three months… And this in a multiverse where it takes months even to send a message from one end of a chain of universes to another. The use of CE dates (in addition to the calendars used by the two opposing universes) makes me fear the worst: is the story at some point going to add a gate to our own universe? Which, of course, should be at some point in our future? Meaning that at a pace of 3 months per 1000 pages we have something like 400,000 pages to look forward to? Please no!

In fact, I’m not even sure that I will by the next installment in this series, because the glacial pace with which the narrative advances is not even the worst part of this book. No, those are the endless discussions of military logistics….

(10) THANKS FOR THE PRIVILEGE. This went badly. Anand Giridharadas accepted a speaking engagement at a club for wealthy progressives. Thread starts here.

(11) SPIKE-O-SAURS. These dinos look very punk: “Newly Discovered Spiked Dinosaurs From South America Look Like Creatures From ‘No Man’s Sky’”.

Paleontologists in Argentina have uncovered a dinosaur unlike anything ever seen before. Alive some 140 million years ago, these majestic herbivores featured long, forward-pointing spikes running along their necks and backs. These spikes may have served a defensive role, but their exact purpose now presents a fascinating new mystery.

(12) CLIMATE’S INFLUENCE ON JAPANESE HISTORY. “How Japan’s ancient trees could tell the future”.

Locked inside the wood of Japan’s hinoki trees is an unprecedented 2,600 year-long record of rainfall patterns that are helping to piece together how weather shapes society.

At his laboratory in a wooded grove in northern Kyoto, Takeishi Nakatsuka holds up a vacuum sealed bag. Inside, bobbing in a bath of brown water, is a glistening disk the size of a dinner plate and the color of rich gravy. This soggy circle is the remnants of a 2,800-3,000-year-old tree, recovered from a wetland – water included, so the spongy wood does not deform – in Japan’s Shimane Prefecture, just north of Hiroshima. Within this ancient trunk lie secrets that can help us prepare for the future.

Nakatsuka, a palaeoclimatologist at Japan’s Research Institute for Humanity and Nature, along with a diverse team of 68 collaborators, has spent the last decade developing a novel method to reveal bygone precipitation patterns and interpret their effect on society. The results offer unprecedented insight into 2,600 years of Japanese rainfall patterns. By teasing out information locked inside the preserved wood of ancient forests, they are able to reveal just how much rain fell around the country over the past two and half millennia. It is an extraordinary record.

About every 400 years, the researchers found, the amount of rain falling on Japan would suddenly become extremely variable for a period. The nation would toggle between multi-decadal bouts of flood-inducing wetness and warmer, drier years that were favorable for rice cultivation. As the rains came and went, Japanese society prospered or suffered accordingly.

As weather patterns today increasingly defy expectations and extreme events become more frequent and severe, this window into past climate variability hints at what may be in store for us in the coming years. “Today is not different than 1,000 or 2,000 years ago,” Nakatsuka says. “We still have the same lifespans and we are still facing large, stressful multi-decadal variation.”

(13) IT’S A HIT! “Cosmic pile-up gives glimpse of how planets are made”.

Astronomers say they have the first evidence of a head-on collision between two planets in a distant star system.

They believe two objects smacked into each other to produce an iron-rich world, with nearly 10 times the mass of Earth.

A similar collision much closer to home may have led to the formation of the Moon 4.5 billion years ago.

The discovery was made by astronomers in the Canary Islands observing a star system 1,600 light years away.

One planet – called Kepler 107c – is thought to have an iron core that makes up 70% of its mass, with the rest potentially consisting of rocky mantle.

Another planet further towards the star – known as Kepler 107b – is also about 1.5 times the size of Earth, but half as dense.

(14) UPDATING KIPLING. Did you wonder? “When did the kangaroo hop? Scientists have the answer”.

Scientists have discovered when the kangaroo learned to hop – and it’s a lot earlier than previously thought.

According to new fossils, the origin of the famous kangaroo gait goes back 20 million years.

Living kangaroos are the only large mammal to use hopping on two legs as their main form of locomotion.

The extinct cousins of modern kangaroos could also hop, according to a study of their fossilised foot bones, as well as moving on four legs and climbing trees.

The rare kangaroo fossils were found at Riversleigh in the north-west of Queensland in Australia.

(15) HISTORY-MAKING DUDS. BBC takes you “Inside the museum dedicated to failure” – video.

Welcome to the home of the biggest product flops of all time, including Sony Betamax, an electrocuting face mask and a Swedish alternative to marshmallows.

(16) MOTHER COMPLEX. “Netflix Acquires Rights to Sci-Fi Thriller I Am MotherComingSoon.net has the story. The flick was mentioned in the January 27 Pixel Scroll.

(17) NEW DUMBO TRAILER. Opens in the UK March 29.

From Disney and visionary director Tim Burton, the all-new grand live-action adventure “Dumbo” expands on the beloved classic story where differences are celebrated, family is cherished and dreams take flight. Circus owner Max Medici (Danny DeVito) enlists former star Holt Farrier (Colin Farrell) and his children Milly (Nico Parker) and Joe (Finley Hobbins) to care for a newborn elephant whose oversized ears make him a laughingstock in an already struggling circus. But when they discover that Dumbo can fly, the circus makes an incredible comeback, attracting persuasive entrepreneur V.A. Vandevere (Michael Keaton), who recruits the peculiar pachyderm for his newest, larger-than-life entertainment venture, Dreamland. Dumbo soars to new heights alongside a charming and spectacular aerial artist, Colette Marchant (Eva Green), until Holt learns that beneath its shiny veneer, Dreamland is full of dark secrets.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/24/19 Scroll Up for the Mystery Tour

(1) APOLLO 11 FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY COINS. Today the U.S Mint began offering for sale coins from the “2019 Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Program”.

This year, we honor that historic achievement with the 2019 Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Commemorative Coin Program, a collection of coins as unique in construction as they are stunning to behold. The program comprises curved coins in gold, silver and clad. The design of the coins’ obverse is a nod to the space missions that led up to the Moon landing, while the reverse features a representation of the famous “Buzz Aldrin on the Moon” photograph.

A collectSPACE article has the full list:

The 2019 Apollo 11 50th Anniversary commemorative coins are being offered in seven editions:

  • An uncirculated-quality clad metal half dollar, limited to 750,000, for $25.95.
  • A proof-quality clad metal half dollar, limited to 750,000, for $27.95.
  • An uncirculated-quality silver dollar, limited to 400,000, for $51.95, with an order limit of 100 per household.
  • A proof-quality silver dollar, limited to 400,000, for $54.95, with an order limit of 100 per household.
  • A 5-ounce proof-quality silver dollar, limited to 100,000, for $224.95, with an order limit of 5 per household.
  • An uncirculated-quality $5 gold coin, limited to 50,000, for $408.75, with an order limit of one per household.
  • A proof-quality $5 gold coin, limited to 50,000, for $418.75, with an order limit of one per household.

The U.S. Mint has also produced an Apollo 11 50th Anniversary 2019 proof half dollar set, which includes one Apollo 11 50th Anniversary proof half dollar and one Kennedy enhanced reverse proof half dollar, “to commemorate the enduring relationship between President Kennedy and the American space program.” The set is a limited edition of 100,000 units and retails for $53.95.

The sale of the coins will benefit three foundations —

As authorized by Congress in 2016, proceeds from the sale of the U.S. Mint coins benefit three space-related organizations that preserve space history and promote science and engineering education: the Astronauts Memorial Foundation, the Astronaut Scholarship Foundation and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s “Destination Moon” gallery, scheduled to open in 2022.

If all of the Apollo 11 commemorative coins are sold, then they will raise a total of $14.5 million, with half going to the Smithsonian and the remaining funds divided between the two foundations.

(2) ARISIA. The Monday edition of Arisia’s daily newzine said the con’s total registration was 3,190.

Last year’s attendance was 3,930.

(3) HOPE. Leigh Alexander and John Scalzi did an Ask Us Anything session at Reddit today to promote The Verge’s “Better Worlds” project. Here’s an excerpt.

Q: Your most optimistic vision for the future comes true. What is it, and why is it actually awful in reality?

Leigh Alexander:

A: Optimism is biased data. Whatever I imagined as ‘ideal’ would have some kind of blind spot among the people I failed to consider. I don’t even care to speculate aloud, lest some celestial monkey’s paw shudders one more finger closed.

I really find Star Trek: The Next Generation soothing because you have Patrick Stewart, one of the world’s most brilliant actors, taking this little cardboard set, these goofy prosthetic aliens, with just the utmost sincerity — and in so doing, he represents what we think of as the ‘best’ of humanity in space.

But then of course there are all these times that the optimistic ‘ideals of the show reveal this provincial normativity that we wouldn’t expect to still exist in the fully automated luxury space future — so many of the aliens just have the same gender binary, same hierarchical titles, same everything as “the humans”. 

Whatever I can imagine would be good for us in the future won’t be relevant to all of us by the time we get there. But I do hope that being good to each other is an ongoing part of our evolution, that with each generation we get better at that. That’d be the dream.

John Scalzi:

My most optimistic vision is that people treat other people decently, and also incorporate the idea the planet will be here after they are, so maybe don’t trash the place. Neither of these require any SF concepts to be implemented, and honestly it’s difficult to see what the downside of these would be in tandem. 

(4) ACADEMY OVERLOOKS ANNIHLATION. Jeff VanderMeer has some thoughts about Oscar snubs. To begin with, he linked to Slate — “The Oscars Have Snubbed the Weird Annihilation Noise”.

For some unknown reason, voters chose to honor those movies and their music instead of Ben Salisbury and Geoff Barrow’s score and its magnificently spooky centerpiece, “The Alien,” home to a cluster of hypnotic notes that Slate has dubbed the weird Annihilation noise. (Listen at the 2:40 mark….)   

VanderMeer continues:

That was definitely a weird snub. But I really think the bigger snub is that Tessa Thompson wasn’t up for anything–whether for Annihilation or her other films from last year. Really truly mindboggling. Also, I thought Gina Rodriguez in Annihilation should at least have been considered–the performance was great and without her the whole thing would’ve been so understated as to be ridiculous.

(5) STUMPING THE HOST. Bradley Walsh, host of UK game show The Chase, claimed he couldn’t even understand this question. On the other hand, Filers should have no problem —

The 58-year-old presenter was hoping his team would be able to get through to the final chase, having already seen Richard the librarian go through with £6,000.

But as he read out the next question to Jo from Buckinghamshire, he could not make out what it was asking.

Baffled, he said: “In 2017, a special edition of what book was released that can only be read when the pages are burnt?

“What!? I don’t understand!”

The tricky puzzle had answers of A. Fahrenheit 451, B. Frankenstein, or C. Fifty Shades Of Grey.

(6) MEKAS OBIT. Experimental filmmaker Jonas Mekas died January 23 – Gothamist has the story: “Jonas Mekas, Avant-Garde Film Auteur & Co-Founder Of Anthology Film Archives, Has Died At Age 96”.  Andrew Porter realized this is genre news because “Jonas and his brother Adolfas appeared on the cover of the April 1963 F&SF, as depicted by artist and fellow filmmaker Ed Emshwiller.” The full story is online at Underground Film Journal.

To the moon, Jonas! The blog Potrzebie posted up this scan of the cover of a 1963 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science-Fiction featuring a dashing young Adolfas Mekas piloting a rocketship while his skeletal brother Jonas Mekas looms in the background. Apparently the cover is illustrating a tale of a spaceman who starves himself so his brother can pilot their lost ship back to civilization.

(7) PAVLOW OBIT. British actress Muriel Pavlow (1921-2019) died January 19, aged 97. Genre appearances included Hansel and Gretel in 1937, Project M7 in 1953 and one episode of R3 in 1965.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 24, 1911C.L. Moore.  Author, and wife of Henry Kuttner until his death in 1958. Their work was written as a collaborative undertaking, resulting in such delightful works as “Mimsy Were the Borogoves” and “Vintage Season”, both of which were turned into films which weren’t as good as the stories. She had a strong writing career prior to her marriage as well with such fiction as “Shambleau” which involves her most famous character Northwest Smith. I’d also single out “Nymph of Darkness” which she wrote with Forrest J Ackerman. I’ll not overlook her Jirel of Joiry, one of the first female sword and sorcery characters, and the “Black God’s Kiss” story is the first tale she wrote of her adventures. She retired from writing genre fiction after he died, writing only scripts for writing episodes of Sugarfoot, MaverickThe Alaskans and 77 Sunset Strip, in the late Fifties and early Sixties. Checking iBooks, Deversion Books offers a nearly eleven hundred page collection of their fiction for a mere three bucks. Is their works in the public domain now? (Died 1987.)
  • Born January 24, 1917 Ernest Borgnine. I think his first genre role was Al Martin in Willard but if y’all know of something earlier I’m sure you’ll tell me. He’s Harry Booth in The Black Hole, a film whose charms escape me entirely. Next up for him is the cabbie in the superb Escape from New York. I’m  the same year, he’s nominated for a Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor as Isaiah Schmidt in the horror film Deadly Blessing. A few years later, he’s The Lion in a version of Alice in WonderlandMerlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders is horror and his Grandfather isn’t that kindly. He voices Kip Killigan in Small Soldiers which I liked, and I think his last role was voicing Command in Enemy Mind. Series wise let’s see…  it’s possible that his first SF role was as Nargola on Captain Video and His Video Rangers way back in 1951. After that he shows up in, and I’ll just list the series for the sake of brevity, Get SmartFuture CopThe Ghost of Flight 401Airwolf where of course he’s regular cast, Treasure Island in Outer Space and Touched by an Angel. (Died 2012.)
  • Born January 24, 1942Gary K. Wolf, 77. He is best known as the author of Who Censored Roger Rabbit? which was adapted into Who Framed Roger Rabbit. It bears very little resemblance to the film. Who P-P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit? which was written later hews much closer to the characters and realties of the film. He has written a number of other novels such as Amityville House of Pancakes Vol 3 which I suggest you avoid at all costs. Yes they are that awful. 
  • Born January 24, 1944 David Gerrold, 75. Let’s see… He of course scripted “The Trouble With Tribbles” which I still love, wrote the amazing patch up novel When HARLIE Was One, has his ongoing War Against the Chtorr series and wrote, with Robert Sawyer, Boarding the Enterprise: Transporters, Tribbles, and the Vulcan Death Grip in Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek. Setting aside his work as a novel writer, he’s been a screenwriter for Star Trek, Star Trek: The Animated Series, Land of the Lost, Logan’s Run (the series), Superboy, Babylon 5, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Sliders, Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II, and Axanar. Very impressive.
  • Born January 24, 1967 Phil LaMarr, 52. Best known I think for his voice work which, and this is a partial list, includes Young Justice (Aquaman among others), the lead role on Static Shock, John Stewart aka Green Lantern on Justice League Unlimited, Robbie Robertson on The Spectacular Spider-Man, various roles on Star Wars: The Clone Wars and T’Shan on Black Panther. Live roles include playing a Jazz singer in the  “Shoot Up the Charts” episode of Get Smart, a doctor on The Muppets in their ”Generally Inhospitable” segment, a lawyer in the “Weaponizer” episode of Lucifer and the voice Rag Doll in the “All Rag Doll’d Up” episode of The Flash. Oh I’ve got to see that! 
  • Born January 24, 1978Kristen Schaal, 41. Best known as Carol on The Last Man on Earth, the post-apocalyptic comedy. Other genre creds includes her role as Gertha Teeth in Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant, an adaptation of Darren O’Shaughnessy’s The Saga of Darren Shan, Miss Tree In Kate & Leopold, Pumpkin / Palace Witch in Shrek Forever After, Tricia in Toy Story 3 and Toy Story 4, The Moderator in The Muppets film and the Freak Show series.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) MISSION POSSIBLE. The South FloridaSun Sentinel reported on January 18: “Holy heist, Batman! Thief drops through roof to nab $1.4 million in comics”.

A fortune in Batman comics has been stolen from a West Boca man and he is reaching out to the comic-collecting community around the world in the hopes of getting nearly 450 prized books back.

In a letter posted on social media sites, Randy Lawrence said his registered collection was valued at $1.4 million and that it was stolen from an indoor air-conditioned, double-locked storage unit.

A later Sun Sentinel story says that some of the collection has since been recovered: “Comic book collector ‘hopeful’ after small part of his stolen $1.4 million collection is found”.

It’s only a few checks off his list of missing pieces, but Randy Lawrence is hopeful he’ll get his $1.4 million in comic books back.

Police in Phoenix arrested a man who tried to sell four of Lawrence’s nearly 450 missing comic books.

(11) TOLKIEN’S FELLOWSHIP. Extra Credits continues its new season with episode 2 of “Extra Sci Fi” – “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.”

J. R. R. Tolkien wasn’t *just* a fantasy author–he was a mythology master. As a result, he ended up inventing some of the most popular genre tropes that science fiction heavily draws upon. Fellowship of the Ring introduces the theme of the “lessening of the world” and the decay of humanity.

(12) GERMAN CRIME FICTION AWARDS. The winners of the Deutscher Krimipreis, Germany’s oldest crime fiction award, have been announced. Cora Buhlert, who sent the link, adds: “One of the runners-up in the national crime novel category, Finsterwalde by Max Annas, is actually sort of science fictional.”

Winner national:

  • Mexikoring by Simone Buchholz

Runners-up national: 

  • Tankstelle von Courcelles by Matthias Wittekindt
  • Finsterwalde by Max Annas

Winner international:

  • 64 by Hideo Yokoyama

Runners-up international: 

  • Krumme Type, Krumme Type (Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter) by Tom Franklin
  • Blut Salz Wasser (Blood, Salt, Water) by Denise Mina

(13) SPACE, THE FINAL FRONT EAR. Another day, another Star Trek opinion piece. Writing at FilmSchoolRejects.com, Charlie Brigden takes a turn “Ranking The ‘Star Trek’ Themes.”

Music has always been a huge part of Star Trek, from 1966 and that fanfare to the modern stylings of Star Trek: Discovery, which begins its second season this week. Over the course of 13 movies and seven television series, not to mention a boatload of video games, various composers have tried their best to musically represent Gene Roddenberry‘s vision of gunboat diplomacy and utopian societies. But which theme reaches maximum warp first? Which of the many pieces of music can deal with the most phaser hits and deciphering technobabble? Let’s find out.

Brigden says a good bit about each of the themes, but stripping it down to just the list:

15. Enterprise
14. The Animated Series
13. The Voyage Home
12. Deep Space Nine
11. Generations
10. Discovery
9. Nemesis
8. Star Trek ’09
7. The Undiscovered Country
6. Insurrection
5. Voyager
4. The Wrath of Khan
3. First Contact
2. The Original Series
1. The Motion Picture

(14) GOING TO THE WELLS ONCE TOO OFTEN. “War of the Worlds – as explained by Timothy the Talking Cat” is on feature at Camestros Felapton. It’s all amusing, and the ending is an especially droll bit of satire.

…Meanwhile, across the vast emptiness of space incredible minds were watching Earth and thinking “I know, let’s invade Surrey”. You have to remember that this wasn’t the 1950s when invading aliens preferred to target sleepy small towns in America. This was the nineteenth century and if you were an alien and you were thinking of making a trip to Earth, your first thought was “Surrey”. It’s a case of a local tourist board being just a bit too successful with their promotion of local sights. “Visit Sunny Woking” said the brochure that a Martian advance scout had picked up at Waterloo Station in an extremely brief visit in 1885…

(15) JEOPARDY! PATROL. Andrew Porter saw it on tonight’s Jeopardy!

Category: Potent Poe Tales

Answer: This Poe story’s title is realized as the narrator flees the “House” as it cracks and is torn asunder.

Wrong question: “What is the house with a crack in its wall?”

(16) PITCH MEETING. ScreenRant adds to its series with “Glass Pitch Meeting: Shyamalan’s Sequel To Split And Unbreakable.”

(17) FLY BY NIGHT. Where’s your flying car? Here’s your flying car… if you have a license to fly experimental aircraft and if you can settle for a few feet up for a few seconds. At least so far. Yahoo! Finance has the story (“Boeing’s flying car lifts off in race to revolutionize urban travel”).

Boeing Co said on Wednesday its flying car prototype hovered briefly in the air during an inaugural test flight, a small but significant step as the world’s largest planemaker bids to revolutionize urban transportation and parcel delivery services.

Boeing is competing with arch-rival Airbus SE and numerous other firms to introduce small self-flying vehicles capable of vertical takeoff and landing.

[…] Boeing’s 30-foot-long (9 meter) aircraft – part helicopter, part drone and part fixed-wing plane – lifted a few feet off the ground and made a soft landing after less than a minute of being airborne on Tuesday at an airport in Manassas, Virginia, Boeing said.

Future flights will test forward, wing-borne flight.

“This is what revolution looks like, and it’s because of autonomy,” John Langford, president and chief executive officer of Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences, said in a news release announcing the test flight.

(18) CHINA BLOCKS BING FOR A DAY. The BBC found “Microsoft’s Bing search engine inaccessible in China” on Wednesday.

US tech giant Microsoft has confirmed that its search engine Bing is currently inaccessible in China.

Social media users have expressed concern that the search engine might be the latest foreign website to be blocked by censors.

Chinese authorities operate a firewall that blocks many US tech platforms, including Facebook and Twitter.

Microsoft hasn’t said if the outage may be due to censorship, or is merely a technical problem.

“We’ve confirmed that Bing is currently inaccessible in China and are engaged to determine next steps,” Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement.

A BBC correspondent in China attempted to visit the site, and was able to access it through a Chinese internet provider on a desktop, but not on a smartphone.

Many US tech companies are keen to tap into the Chinese market, but have a difficult relationship with the authorities in Beijing.

The government’s internet censorship regime, often known as the “Great Firewall”, uses a series of technical measures to block foreign platforms and controversial content.

Chinese authorities have also cracked down on Virtual Private Networks, which allow users to skirt around the firewall.

NPR reports Bing was accessible again in China on Thursday.

The Microsoft search engine, Bing, is back online in China after apparently being blocked on Wednesday, a company spokesperson told NPR.

“We can confirm that Bing was inaccessible in China, but service is now restored,” the spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

…Microsoft President and Chief Legal Counsel Brad Smith explained that it’s not the first time the search engine has been blocked. “It happens periodically,” he said in an interview with Fox Business News from Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday.

(19) SPIRITS IN THE VASTY WOODS. See video of “The giant trolls hidden in the woods of Denmark”.

Cheeky trolls that tower over passers-by can be found in the Danish wilds. Constructed using wood found around the city, the sculptor behind them wants to bring people into nature.

Go for a walk in a Danish forest and you may spot a giant troll peeking out from behind a tree, or lounging luxuriously across the ground. These folkloric creatures are made by recycling artist, designer and activist Thomas Dambo, who sculpts the enormous beings from reclaimed wood.

(20) RED DWARF RETURNS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Red Dwarf is back, baby! Or anyway, it will be. Den of Geek had the story (“Red Dwarf Series 13 Confirmed”) all the way back in April 2018.

The boys from the Dwarf will be back for a thirteenth series…

Red Dwarf XIII is happening! Dave has ordered a brand new series of our favourite space sitcom, as confirmed by Robert Llewellyn and Danny John-Jules at Thames Con, and then duly reported by British Comedy Guide shortly thereafter.

Baby Cow Productions are set to start filming series XIII in the first few months of 2019, and Doug Naylor will be back to write all the new episodes. Robert Llewellyn, Danny John-Jules, Craig Charles and Chris Barrie will, of course, all be along for the ride.

Now there’s an update at Den of Geek (“Red Dwarf: the Dave era, Series XIII, and beyond”) which considers history and possible future projects.

With more Red Dwarf on the way, [columnist] Mark [Harrison] ponders how the sci-fi sitcom’s revival on Dave has secured its future…

For a show that’s three million and 31 years into deep space, Red Dwarf is in pretty rude health. It’s been just over a year since the programme came to the end of its 12th series, the second of a two-series production block shot in early 2016, on UK TV channel Dave, and it looks as if there’s still plenty more to come from Lister, Rimmer, Kryten and the Cat.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Your Cocoon” on Vimeo, Jerry Paper explains why you can’t have any fun if you’re a detached head.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Carl Slaughter, Steve Green, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Cora Buhlert, Martin Morse Wooster, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Daniel Dern for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 12/21/18 Golden The Ship Was Ho! Ho! Ho!

(1) DOOM PATROL TEASER. Daniel Dern helpfully adds a Rot-13 footnote to the video: “For Filers too young and/or cool to recognize the background music’s singer, Fvatvat ‘Gvcgbr Guebhtu Gur Ghyvcf’ vf Gval Gvz , of course.”

DOOM PATROL is a re-imagining of one of DC’s most beloved groups of outcast Super Heroes: Robotman, Negative Man, Elasti-Girl and Crazy Jane, led by modern-day mad scientist Dr. Niles Caulder (The Chief). The Doom Patrol’s members each suffered horrible accidents that gave them superhuman abilities — but also left them scarred and disfigured. Traumatized and downtrodden, the team found purpose through The Chief, who brought them together to investigate the weirdest phenomena in existence — and to protect Earth from what they find. Part support group, part Super Hero team, the Doom Patrol is a band of super-powered freaks who fight for a world that wants nothing to do with them. Picking up after the events of TITANS, DOOM PATROL will find these reluctant heroes in a place they never expected to be, called to action by none other than Cyborg, who comes to them with a mission hard to refuse, but with a warning that is hard to ignore: their lives will never, ever be the same.

There’s a flock of character posters, too.

(2) BUMBLEBEE LIFTS OFF. NPR non-fan Scott Tobias says that in “Flight Of The ‘Bumblebee’: Transformers Flick Soars Over (Low) Franchise Expectations”

Mankind has split the atom, sent a man to the moon, and now, in arguably its most unlikely achievement, it has produced a watchable Transformers movie.

There’s really no scientific expression for how low Michael Bay’s five previous Transformers movies have set the bar, but it’s not enough to praise Bumblebee, the diverting new spin-off/prequel, for basic visual coherence or evidence of identifiable human emotion. It does better than that, imbuing the commercial cynicism of a Hasbro product with the borrowed warmth of E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial, Splash, and a soundtrack so chock-a-block with ’80s favorites that it gets from The Smiths to Steve Winwood in a hummingbird’s sneeze.

Though Bay has stayed on as producer, director Travis Knight, who made the wonderful Laika animated film Kubo and the Two Strings, and his screenwriter, Christina Hodson, almost make a point of crumpling up his vision and tossing in the waste basket. Gone is the Bay’s risible mix of mythology and militarism, replaced by simplified conflict and an emphasis on the friendship between an outcast and an exile. Gone also is the leering, dorm-room poster sexuality, replaced by a notably chaste teen romance that doesn’t get past first base. Bumblebee seems to have more of a family-friendly mandate than Bay’s Transformers movies, but the lightness and earnestness serves the material well. Movies inspired by toys tend to crack like cheap plastic under too much weight.

(3) TOP SFF. Here’s The Verge’s list of “Our favorite science fiction and fantasy books of 2018”:

The long and bleak year of 2018 is almost over. It was a year full of devastating storms and disasters, scandal after scandal from tech companies, and chaotic politics from around the world. If there was any bright point in the year, it was that 2018 also brought with it a bumper crop of fantastic science fiction, fantasy, and horror novels that served as an oasis to examine the world around us, or to escape for brighter pastures.

The best books of this year told stories of interstellar colonization, of fantastic magical civilizations, optimistic alternate worlds, and devastating potential futures. They brought us fantastic characters who sought to find their places in the vivid and fantastic worlds they inhabited.

One of those books is –

The Tiger Flu by Larissa Lai

Set in the distant future, humanity survives on a planet wrecked by climate change and plagues in Larissa Lai’s latest novel The Tiger Flu, which follows a community of cloned women who are battling for their very survival waged by illness and economics.

Lai’s story follows two women: Kirilow, a doctor of Grist Village whose lover Peristrophe dies of a new strain of flu. Peristrophe was vitally important to their community — she could regrow her limbs and organs, and following her death, Kirilow sets out to Salt Water City to try to find someone to replace her. There, she meets Kora, a woman living in the city who might be able to save her community, but who resists leaving her family behind. Lai’s story is an intriguing post-apocalyptic novel, one rife with biotech and the remnants of the world from before.

(4) SPACE COMMAND. On Late Night With Stephen Colbert the USS Enterprise receives a message from an alien curious about this whole Space Command thing. (The one thought up by Trump, not Marc Zicree.)

(5) THE KING JEFF VERSION. Now in those days a decree went out from Jeff VanderMeer counting down his Facebook rules for 2019:

I’m expanding my blocking next year to people who (1) love ice cream, (2) hate vultures, (3) tag me in posts comparing me unfavorably to authors I hate, (4) post cute animal vids without checking the source, (5) think wine coolers are cool, (6) have “author” as part of their name, (7) are inept at the fine art of humble bragging, (8) tell me something’s inspired by Annihilation just to get me to retweet it, (9) send me emails about how convinced they are the biologist wanted to commit suicide, and (10) send me every goddamn photo of a weird tree every single goddamn time. – Love, Curmudgeon

(6) MOFFAT OBIT. You saw him a lot, but did you know his name? “Donald Moffat, Commander Garry in John Carpenter’s The Thing, passes away at 87” – details at Syfy Wire.

Donald Moffat, the English actor most known for playing station commander Garry in John Carpenter‘s 1982 remake of The Thing, has died at the age of 87. According to The New York Times, Moffat passed away Thursday in Sleepy Hollow, New York, after complications arose from a stroke six days before his 88th birthday.

… Born in Plymouth of the U.K.’s Devon County in December of 1930, Moffat moved to the United States at the age of 26 to pursue a full-time acting career. Besides The Thing, the actor appeared in a number of other genre projects, like Night Gallery, The Terminal Man, Logan’s Run (the TV series), Exo-ManPopeyeThe Right Stuff, and Monster in the Closet.

(7) MASTERSON OBIT. “Peter Masterson, Actor, Director and ‘Best Little Whorehouse in Texas’ Writer, Dies at 84”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

The father of actress Mary Stuart Masterson and a two-time Tony nominee also helmed ‘The Trip to Bountiful’ and appeared in ‘The Stepford Wives’ and ‘The Exorcist.’…

(8) ICONS LOST IN 2018. Last week, Turner Classic Movies posted its annual in memoriam video. Harlan Ellison, Jerry Maren, William Goldman, Gary Kurtz, Margot Kidder, and Stan Lee are some of the genre figures shown.

In loving memory of the actors and filmmakers who have passed away in 2018. We will remember you for all time.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

December 21, 1968 – Apollo 8 launches. The Washington Post’s Joel Achenbach notes the 50th anniversary of Apollo 8.  “No space mission had ever presented so many exotic ways to kill astronauts,” Achenbach writes. “Apollo 8: NASA’s first moonshot was a bold and terrifying improvisation”.

Walter Cronkite held a tiny model of the Apollo 8 spacecraft and strode across a darkened studio where two dangling spheres represented Earth and the moon. This was the CBS Evening News, Dec. 20, 1968, and three Apollo 8 astronauts were scheduled to blast off the following morning on a huge Saturn V rocket. Cronkite explained that the astronauts would fly for three days to the vicinity of the moon, fire an engine to slow the spacecraft and enter lunar orbit, circle the moon 10 times, then fire the engine a final time to return to Earth and enter the atmosphere at 25,000 miles per hour.

“They must come in at JUST the right angle. If they come in too steeply, they will be CRUSHED in the Earth’s atmosphere. If they come in too shallow, they will SKIP OUT and go into Earth orbit and not be able to return,” Cronkite said….

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 21, 1892Hubert Rogers. Illustrator during the Golden Age of pulp magazines. His first freelance work was for Ace-High, Adventure, Romance, and West. In ‘42, he started doing covers for Astounding Science Fiction which he would do until ‘53. He did the cover art for the ‘51 edition of the Green Hills of Earth, the ‘50 edition of The Man Who Sold the Moon and the ‘53 edition of Revolt in 2100. (Died 1982.)
  • December 21, 1928Frank Hampson. A British illustrator that is best known as the creator and artist of Dan Dare, Pilot of The Future and other characters in the boys’ comic, The Eagle, to which he contributed from 1950 to 1961. There is some dispute over how much his original scripts were altered by his assistants before being printed. (Died 1985.)
  • Born December 21, 1937 Jane Fonda, 81. Sure everyone here has seen her in Barbarella? Her only other genre appearances are apparently by voice work as Shuriki in the animated Elena of Avalor series, and in the Spirits of the Dead, 1968 anthology film based on the work of Poe. She was the Contessa Frederique de Metzengerstein in the “Metzengerstein” segment of the film. 
  • Born December 21, 1948Samuel L. Jackson, 70. Where to start? Did you know that with his permission, his likeness was used for the Ultimates version of the Nick Fury? It’s a great series btw. He has also played Fury in the Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Avengers: Infinity War and showed up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. too! He voiced Lucius Best (a.k.a. Frozone) in Incredible and Incredibles 2, Mace Windu in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace and Star Wars: The Clone Wars, the Afro Samurai character in the anime series of the same name and more other genre work than can be listed here comfortably so go ahead and add your favorite role by him. 
  • Born December 21, 1962Kevin Murphy, 56. American actor and writer best known as the voice and puppeteer of Tom Servo on the Mystery Science Theater 3000. And he does RiffTrax which are  humorous audio commentary tracks intended to be played along with various television programs and films. 
  • Born December 21, 1966 Kiefer Sutherland, 52. My, he’s been in a lot of genre undertakings! I think that The Lost Boys was his first such of many to come including FlatlinersTwin Peaks: Fire Walk with MeThe Nutcracker PrinceThe Three Musketeers,  voice work in Armitage: Poly-MatrixDark City, more voice work in The Land Before Time X: The Great Longneck Migration,  Marmaduke and Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn TwilightMirrors, and yes he’s in the forthcoming second Flatliners as a new character. 
  • Born December 21, 1971Jeff Prucher, 47. Won the Hugo Award for Brave New Words: The Oxford Dictionary of Science Fiction which to my knowledge is still the only historical dictionary of words originating in sf, plus citations and bibliographic information for them. If there’s another one, I’d like to know about it. 

(11) DON’T JUDGE BY CHARACTERS ON TV. Ada Hoffman told Twitter readers, “[If] you are NT, I am going to explain several reasons why you SHOULD NOT EVER judge if a character is ‘autistic enough’ by how well they match autistic characters on TV. Any TV.” Thread starts here.

(12) SPACE DOESN’T HAVE ENOUGH SPACE? The Man Who Sold The Moon, Delos Harriman, died before authorities could smother him with paperwork for his illegal mission – not so  Swarm co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Sara Spangelo: “FCC fines Swarm $900,000 for unauthorized satellite launch”.

Swarm Technologies Inc will pay a $900,000 fine for launching and operating four small experimental communications satellites that risked “satellite collisions” and threatened “critical commercial and government satellite operations,” the Federal Communications Commission said on Thursday.

The California-based start-up founded by former Google and Apple engineers in 2016 also agreed to enhanced FCC oversight and a requirement of pre-launch notices to the FCC for three years.

Swarm launched the satellites in India last January after the FCC rejected its application to deploy and operate them, citing concerns about the company’s tracking ability.

(13) COUNTERING ROGUE DRONES. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] BBC chronicles “Gatwick airport: How countries counter the drone threat”. Context: per another BBC post, possibly 100,000 or more passengers grounded due to somebody flying at least one drone around the airport. It’s unclear so far whether it was a random idiot, or somebody deliberately harassing; the latter reminds of Christopher Anvil’s “Gadget vs. Trend” which is framed by quotes from a sociologist complaining first about rampant conformism and last about rampant individualism, after a device has allowed people to be … disruptive.

Rogue drones “deliberately” flown over one of the UK’s busiest airports caused travel chaos this week.

Incoming planes were forced to divert to airports up and down the country as the drones, or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), repeatedly appeared over the airfield at London’s Gatwick Airport.

The situation was so serious the Army was called in to support the local police in tackling the issue, with the runway finally re-opening on Friday morning.

For some time now, governments around the world have been looking at different ways of addressing the dangers of drone use in areas where they pose safety risks.

Here we look at some of the solutions – ranging from bazookas to eagles.

More: “Gatwick disruption: How will police catch the drone menace?”

(14) 770 FROM 770 IS NOTHING. Here’s the real reason for today’s diminished sunlight — senpai has stopped noticing me!

(15) SAD FOR REAL. No explanation why yet, but “Scientists Find A Brain Circuit That Could Explain Seasonal Depression”.

Just in time for the winter solstice, scientists may have figured out how short days can lead to dark moods.

Two recent studies suggest the culprit is a brain circuit that connects special light-sensing cells in the retina with brain areas that affect whether you are happy or sad.

When these cells detect shorter days, they appear to use this pathway to send signals to the brain that can make a person feel glum or even depressed.

(16) YA DESERVING YOUR ATTENTION. Surprisingly, all six books chosen by Vicky Who Reads for “Best of 2018: Hidden Gems + Underappreciated Books” are sff.

There are so many amazing books this year that I personally think did not get enough hype or recognition, and today’s all about highlighting some of the quieter YA releases that you should definitely check out!

Every single book on this list and the ones to come are books that I’ve already read + loved, but obviously there are 2018 novels I haven’t read and could definitely qualify. But, alas. It is not to be.

One of those picks is –

Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson

I feel like in end of the year lists, we oftentimes forget about books that published earlier in the year, but Undead Girl Gang is a book I looooved! Not only did it star a fat Hispanic MC, but it’s also a really great book about friendship?

I mean, this girl has her mean girls revived as “zombies” of sorts (just not…flesh eating) and I loved seeing how they resolved their differences throughout the novel. It was not only super nice to read about friendship and not a lot of romance, but I also really loved the sort of fun narrative style that makes you enjoy what’s happening and not take it too seriously!

(17) OUTWARD MOBILITY. Paul Weimer makes a recommendation at Nerds of a Feather: “Microreview [book]: Implanted, by Lauren C Teffeau”.

Lauren C Teffeau’s Implanted combines future cyberpunk beats with a climate changed ravaged future, a vertically oriented arcology setting, and a strong central character with a thriller chassis for an entertaining read.

…The strength of the novel is Emily as a flawed, complicated character with lots of fiddly bits to her personality and story. Far from being a smooth operator when dropped into her new, unwelcome situation, and on the other hand, avoiding the trap of making her a completely clueless newbie without any skills, the author creates Emily as someone with strengths and weaknesses, in terms of skills and personality, that become plot relevant and interesting to her development and growth. Her desire to reconnect with her former life, damn the consequences, is a major driver of the plot as well.

(18) FELINE NAVIDAD. Camestros Felapton’s “Carols with Catnip” features seasonal music behind a video visage of Timothy the Talking Cat. It’s sort of like that Sauron eye fireplace video, except even more horrifying!

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

Pixel Scroll 12/20/18 Five Chaptered Twice Chaptered Filing Purple Pixel Scroller

(1) YEAR’S BEST FANTASY BOOKS. The popular culture website Paste calls these “The 15 Best Fantasy Novels of 2018”.

The following 15 books capture the range that makes fantasy fiction so great, from epic high fantasy to alternate reality to urban fantasy to literary fiction that just happens to star a Greek goddess. These books visit other magical worlds, sure, but also draw from West African, Chinese and Greek mythology, as well as the American Civil War, ’80s punk scenes, far-off planets and Edwardian England. Most of these are stand-alone novels, but there are also a few continuations of some of our favorite fantasy series.

4. Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Named Paste’s best Young Adult novel of 2018, Dread Nation blends elements of fantasy, horror and alternate history to create something wholly unique and utterly memorable. Set in an alternate world in which the undead rose up at the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War, the novel picks up years later as the United States is spiraling into horror. Readers meet Jane, a teen studying to be an Attendant who is trained to fight zombies for the wealthy white class. But it isn’t the life she wants. A novel that discusses race, class and so much more, Dread Nation is one of 2018’s best reads. —Eric Smith

(2) QUEST, OR GUILT TRIP? However, Forbidden Futures’ Cody Goodfellow takes a skeptical view of epic fantasy: “Exiled from Middle-Earth: Why Fantasy Failed Us”.

…If Tolkien stirred our noblest aspirations, he also created a benign propaganda that mythologized cultural differences until nationalities became species, and denied basic humanity to its antagonists, rendering the defense of the divine right of kings into a Manichean conflict between absolute light and absolute darkness––arguably, in spite of his denials, an allegory for Europe’s agonizing crusade against Hitler. As noted contrarian David Brin observed in an essay coinciding with Jackson’s grandiose adaptation of Lord Of The Rings, the humans and their allies worship at the altar of absolute hereditary rule, and libel the one agent of merit, inclusion and technological progress in Middle Earth. Certainly, the notion that the land might incarnate itself in the form of a devoted ruler is a beautiful conceit, but it’s only the most richly embroidered defense of a myth that’s brought little but tribulation and tragedy, in the real world. If one were to ask the Saudi Crown Prince in a candid moment about the butchery of Jamal Khashoggi only this month, he would no doubt clothe his rationalization by noting that the Washington Post journalist dismembered with bone saws in the Saudi consulate in Turkey was just another orc threatening his divinely ordained kingdom….

(3) ELSEWORLDS CROSSOVER. A highlight from the CW event — “Black Suit Superman Speaks With Kara In Meta Jail — Elseworlds Crossover Supergirl.”

(4) DEEP FAN. NPR’s Glen Weldon discusses “Aquaman, From Super Friend To Surfer Dude: The Bro-Ification Of A Hero”.

Let’s get the bona fides out of the way up top.

This post is about some of the sweeping changes that the DC Comics superhero Aquaman (Swift and Powerful Monarch of the Ocean! King of the Seven Seas!) has undergone on his way to this weekend’s blockbuster movie Aquaman. Inevitably, it will elide many details important to ardent fans of the character, and open its author up to charges of not knowing whereof he speaks, of a willful ignorance of the character, of simply echoing stale observations hastily ransacked from the Aquaman Wikipedia page.

The defense humbly (okay, smugly) presents the following evidence.

Exhibit A: That photo atop this post? That’s the author’s collection of aqua-memorabilia. Kindly do not refer to it as a shrine, as it is simply the by-product of what happens when the author’s lifelong obsession with a fictional character intersects with his husband’s insistence that said obsession not take up more space in their tiny apartment than the top of one friggin’ dresser.

(5) COUNTERPOINT. Despite several quibbles, NPR’s Linda Holmes says “‘Mary Poppins Returns’ Is A Fine And Fresh Take On A Classic”.

The first rule of Mary Poppins is that you must never explain Mary Poppins.

Perhaps the smartest decision in the sequel Mary Poppins Returns is that it’s no more clear than it ever was how, exactly, this nanny floats in. We don’t know where Mary came from, how exactly she has relatives given that she seems to have simply materialized from the sky, or whether she was ever a child herself. Mary Poppins simply is.

It’s hard to bring to life a character with no past and no future except to visit more children, take them on more adventures, and then leave them again. Created in the P.L. Travers children’s books and indelibly committed to film by Julie Andrews in 1964, Mary is special in part because since she’s magic, she is nurture without need. She doesn’t need to be thanked; she doesn’t even need to be remembered. The helping is all.

(6) OUT, DARNED DOTS. Jeff VanderMeer says the problem is very simple:

If the semi-colon is ruining your writing, periods, colons, and commas probably are ruining it, too.

(7) HANG UP. Continuing today’s Abbreviated Wisdom for Authors section: “Michael Chabon’s Advice to Young Writers: Put Away Your Phone”.

…And it’s advice I give to myself, as much as to anyone, but especially to younger writers. Writers coming up now. Which is put your?—?put this [points to phone]?—?away. When you’re out in the world, when you’re walking down the street, when you’re on the subway, when you’re riding in the back of a car, when you’re doing all those everyday things that are so tedious, where this [phone] is such a godsend in so many ways. As in that David Foster Wallace graduation speech, when he talks about standing in line at the grocery store. When you’re in those moments where this [phone] is so seductive, and it works! It’s so brilliant at giving you something to do. I mean walking down the street looking at your phone?—?that’s pretty excessive. But in other circumstances where it feels natural, that’s when you need to put this [phone] away. Because using your eyes, to take in your immediate surroundings… Your visual and auditory experience of the world, eavesdropping on conversations, watching people interact, noticing weird shit out the window of a moving car, all those things are so deeply necessary to getting your work done every day. When I’m working on a regular work schedule, which is most of the time, and I’m really engaged in whatever it is I’m working on, there’s a part of my brain that is always alert to mining what can be mined from that immediate everyday experience. I don’t even know I’m doing it, but I’ll see something, like,“That name on that sign is the perfect last name for this character!” Or the thing I just overheard that woman saying, is exactly the line of dialog I need for whatever I’m doing. And if you’re like this [phone in your face], you miss it all.

(8) BILL CRIDER PRIZE FOR SHORT FICTION. Bouchercon 2019 will inaugurate the Bill Crider Prize for Short Fiction in the mystery genre.

Debuting at the 50th Anniversary of Bouchercon, Carol Puckett and the 2019 Bouchercon Dallas committee launched the Bill Crider Prize for Short Fiction to celebrate this treasured literary form, both the short story and the widely-admired mystery author and reviewer, Bill Crider. Designed to encourage writers from all over the world, these distinguished prizes award stories with fascinating characters and twisty plots, all in the mystery genre.

First Prize: $1000

Second Prize: $750

Third Prize: $500

Janet Hutchings, editor of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and Linda Landrigan, editor of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, will choose the winners from the shortlisted writers.

Once the final four writers have been chosen, all shortlisted authors will be notified on or near October 1.

Bouchercon Dallas Guest of Honor, Hank Phillippi Ryan, will recognize the shortlisted authors and award the top prizes during Bouchercon 2019 in Dallas, Texas. The convention takes place October 31-November 3, 2019.

The deadline for submissions is March 1, 2019. Full guidelines at the link.

(9) MORE ON NINE WORLDS. Robot Archie steered me to another exposition about the fate of Nine Worlds. Avery Delany’s Twitter thread begins here.  

(10) STRONG LANGUAGE, HARLAN? Fanac.org returns you to the thrilling days of yesteryear with an audio recording of Harlan Ellison at Pacificon II, the 1964) Worldcon, speaking about “Adaptation of Science Fiction to a Visual Media.” Visually annotated, illustrated with convention photos, and preceded with this little warning —

Pacificon II, the 22nd World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Oakland, CA in 1964. WARNING – 1) Harlan uses some strong language in this recording. 2)The first few minutes are missing. Harlan gives an engrossing talk (audio, enhanced with images) about writing for television and about how Hollywood works. The talk took place during the filming of the Outer Limits episode, “Demon With a Glass Hand”, and Harlan speaks very frankly (including complaints) about his experience as the writer on the episode. Includes Harlan’s reading of a scene as written, and as changed by management as well as discussion on the casting, the directing and the location. Embedded are photos of Harlan throughout his science fiction career. This audio material was provided by The Southern California Institute for Fan Interests (SCIFI), and Jerome Scott, Director of Projects for SCIFI in LA.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 20, 1933Son Of Kong premiered in theaters.
  • December 20, 1961 – The film version of Jules Verne’s drama Mysterious Island was released.
  • December 20, 1974 — Walt Disney’s The Island At The Top Of The World debuted.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 20, 1838 Edwin Abbott Abbott. Author of the Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, an 1884 novella that has come to be adopted as SF even though it’s really mathematical fiction. Go ahead, argue with me. (Died 1926.)
  • Born December 20, 1942  — Angel Tompkins, 76. Anyone remember Amazon Women on the Moon? Yeah she was in it. She later shows up in the Knight Rider series and, oh, that Starlost series which Cordwainer Bird swore off before the first episode. There’s an episode of Wild Wild West and Night Gallery as well but she stopped acting twenty years ago.
  • Born December 20, 1943 Jacqueline Pearce. Longest and definitely best known role would be as the evil Supreme Commander Servalan/ and Commissioner Sleer on Blake’s 7. She’d show several times in Doctor Who, one on screen in The Two Doctors (Yes, I saw it) and once as a voice only role in Death Comes to Time, a Seventh Doctor story.  She played a Mrs. Annabelle Levin in the “Paris, October 1916” episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles as well, a series I really liked. She did a bit of time travel in Moondail as Miss Vole / Miss Raven and finally showed up in The Avengers as a character named Miaranne. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 20, 1952 Jenny Agutter, 66. Fist SF role was Jessica 6 in Logan’s Run. Later genre roles include Nurse Alex Price In An American Werewolf in London (great film), Carolyn Page in Dark Tower which is not  a Stephen King based film, an uncredited cameo as a burn doctor in one of my all time fav films which is Darkman and finally Councilwoman Hawley in The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
  • Born December 20, 1960 Nalo Hopkinson, 58. First novel I ever read by her was Brown Girl in The Ring, a truly amazing novel. Like all her work, it draws on Afro-Caribbean history and language, and its intertwined traditions of oral and written storytelling. I’d also single out  Mojo: Conjure Stories and Falling in Love With Hominids collections as they are both wonderful and challenging reading. Worth seeking out out out is her edited Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction. She was a Guest of Honor at Wiscon thrice. Is that unusual?
  • Born December 20, 1970 Nicole de Boer, 48. I first saw her in a Canadian produced series called Beyond Reality where she played multiple roles. Very odd show. You’ll more likely know her as Ezri Dax on i or Sarah Bracknell Bannerman on The Dead Zone as those are her major genre series to date. She’s also shown up in Forever Knight, TekWar, Poltergeist, The Outer Limits, Stargate Atlantis, Haven, Five Days to Midnight, The Fearing Mind, Mission Genesis and Psi Factor. I believe all of these latter shows were filmed in Canada, some of them of Toronto if memory serves me right.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) DRUM ROLL, PLEASE. WhatCulture has designated these the 10 Best Comic Books of 2018.

(15) COMICS’ JEWISH INFLUENCERS. Career artist and fan Hugo winner Steve Stiles responded to the Baltimore Jewish Times’ farewell to Stan Lee in this recently-published letter of comment. Steve begins —  

As one who enjoyed a five-year stint as a freelance illustrator for Marvel’s British publications, I enjoyed reading Arie Kaplan’s article on Stan Lee (“Stan Lee Gave Comic Books Permission to Be More Jewish, JT online”). I was, however, surprised that one of Marvel’s leading Jewish characters, Ben Grimm, aka The Thing, the strong man of the Fantastic Four, was overlooked….

(16) KEEP COUNTING. Seems there’s still a lot to discover on this planet! Per the BBC: “The secret life of plants: Ten new species found this year”.

Plant collectors have searched for the hidden wonders of the plant world for centuries.

Yet plants that are new to science are still being described, at a rate of about 2,000 a year.

Scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, discovered and named more than 100 new plants in 2018.

Their list of the top new plants includes carnivorous pitcher plants, exotic orchids and climbers with untapped medicinal powers.

(17) LITTLE BROTHER IS LISTENING. Get ready to shake and bake: “Nasa’s InSight deploys ‘Marsquake’ instrument”.

The American space agency’s InSight mission to Mars has begun to deploy its instruments.

The lander’s robotic arm has just placed the bell-shaped seismometer package on the ground in front of it.

This suite of sensors, developed in France and the UK, will listen for “Marsquakes” in an effort to determine the internal structure of the Red Planet.

InSight touched down near the world’s equator in November.

(18) PIE A LA GIANT MODE. Speaking of baking, this has nothing to do with genre, but dang! In Australia, “Domino’s Is Selling Its Biggest Pizza Ever, And It Barely Can Fit Into Cars”.

It’s available in extremely limited quantities.

Only two are available per store, per day, so you have to order one online ahead of time if you want in. Domino’s requires a 24 hour heads-up, so plan your hang-outs accordingly.

It’s too big for delivery.

Do you really expect someone to carry this on their bike to you?! No, you gotta go in and pick it up. And since it’s a full 40 inches across (Domino’s had to make new boxes to stand up to the weight!) you might want to go in an SUV.

(19) MONSTERS FROM THE US. From Entertainment Weekly: Us first look: See photos from Jordan’s Peele’s Get Out follow-up”

Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out, not only delivered a bone-chilling psychological thriller, it dissected the underlying racial oppression running through the veins of America, spearheaded conversations of societal fractures, and earned four Oscar nominations. (It would go on to win Peele the Best Original Screenplay award.) So after Peele’s killer success, what does the filmmaker do next?

“For my second feature, I wanted to create a monster mythology,” Peele tells EW. “I wanted to do something that was more firmly in the horror genre but still held on to my love of movies that are twisted but fun.”

Details are very, very vague about Peele’s upcoming film Us. The story is set in the present day and follows Adelaide and Gabe Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke) as they take their kids to Adelaide’s old childhood beachside home in Northern California for the summer.

(20) GET STARTED BOOING NOW. No need to wait — you know this will end badly The Hollywood Reporter says “‘Harvey’ Remake in the Works at Netflix”. The idea does not sound either oh, so nice, or oh, so smart….

‘Shrek 2’ writers J. David Stem and David N. Weiss have been tapped to write.

One of film’s best-known rabbits is hopping his way back to Hollywood.

A Harvey remake is in the works at Netflix, with J. David Stem and David N. Weiss set to write the screenplay. Fabrica de Cine, which is working with the streamer on Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, will produce.

(21) I DREAM OF GENIE. Footage from the forthcoming Aladdin live-action movie with Will Smith as the Genie.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/29/18 It Is By Tickboxes Alone I Set My Scroll In Pixels.

(1) NO ESCAPE. Lila Shapiro interview N.K. Jemisin for Vulture: “For Reigning Fantasy Queen N.K. Jemisin, There’s No Escape From Reality”. The cut line adds: “I’m writing about dragons as a black woman, and it’s fucking political.”

Jemisin was a dreamy kid, but she was practical, too. She didn’t think it was possible for a black woman to have a career as a fantasy writer. So when it came time for her to choose a profession, she followed the example of her mother, a psychologist who administered IQ tests. Jemisin studied psychology at Tulane and the University of Maryland and got a job as a career counselor specializing in what she describes as “at risk” populations — marginalized groups, first-generation students, older people having midlife crises. When she turned 30, she had her own crisis. Swimming in student debt, she decided to try to make a little side money from her lifelong hobby. “I thought, well I have this talent, I haven’t monetized it,” Jemisin recalls. “I don’t know if I can because I don’t think that the publishing marketplace is really interested in what I write, but if I can at least develop it to get a few hundred dollars a month, that will make a difference.”

Her first short story was published two years later, in 2004. The next year, an agent picked the manuscript of Jemisin’s first novel out of the slush pile. The agent, Lucienne Diver, was struck by the setting, a fantastical realm inspired by ancient Egypt, and by the characters, who were nearly all black. “I’ve been reading fantasy all my life, and so much sounds the same,” Diver tells me. “Nora’s book was not like anything else I’d ever read.”

(2) BRITISH ANIMATION. BBC’s snips from a program to be available later — “From propaganda to Plasticine: Six secrets of British animation”. First snip — Aardman Studios’ first output, “Morpho”, has been a UK TV hit for 4 decades but isn’t profitable.

Morph didn’t make any money

Morph, the funny figure made of brown clay who lived in a microscope box, was the original star of Aardman Animations, who went on to create Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and Timmy Time. “Made from a simple bit of clay, he’s practically a mascot for animation,” says the documentary.

Created by David Sproxton and Peter Lord, Morph has been on the go for four decades: from children’s TV with Tony Hart in the 70s to CBBC’s SMart in the 90s and his current YouTube channel full of claymation antics.

However, despite being synonymous with British animation, he isn’t profitable. Peter Lord says: He wasn’t a financial success really at all, which surprises everyone I think because he’s been a popular success, a cultural success but not economic.” Co-creator David Sproxton adds: “We’ve never made any money out of Morph and we still don’t, we just love doing him.”

(3) BLURB KARMA. Jeff VanderMeer has not forgotten!

And this just goes on gets funnier…

(4) ANOTHER NEW STROKE FOR ADULT SWIM. The Hollywood Reporter reveals “‘Blade Runner’ Anime Series Coming to Adult Swim”.

The Blade Runner universe is expanding again with an anime series that will air on Adult Swim in the U.S.

The cable channel has partnered with Alcon Television Group and anime streaming outlet Crunchyroll to produce Blade Runner — Black Lotus, a 13-episode series inspired by 2017’s Blade Runner 2049, the sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic.

(5) 2019 NZ NATCON. GeyserCon 2019 is New Zealand’s 40th National Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention, to be held in Rotorua from May 31-June 3, 2019. They have posted their preliminary program schedule.

(6) UNUSUAL READING EXPERIENCE. John A Arkansawyer sends the link to The Cliff Nest with the recommendation, “I haven’t had a chance to give it the full read, but it’s an interesting idea and readable so far.”

The Cliff Nest is a book published as a serial of posts. The top main page will always show the latest published issue in the serial.

In order to start reading from the beginning, go to the story mode, which will sort the posts from the very first onward so you can read it like a book.

The book will include multiple cybersecurity and/or technical challenges which will invite the readers to look around the internet. Some are part of the story, while others will ask the readers to propose a solution with a character name that will tell the solution in the story.

The best proposed solution and character name (with minor adjustments to align with the story) will become part of the story.

(7) DAREDEVIL CHOPPED. Ars Technica invites fans to the funeral: “The bloodbath continues: Netflix cancels Daredevil after three seasons”.

Clearly Netflix is cleaning house, since this follows surprise cancellations in October of Iron Fist and Luke Cage. That just leaves Jessica Jones and The Punisher on Netflex’s roster of Defenders. Both have new seasons in the pipeline that are currently slated to air on Netflix as planned, according to Deadline’s sources. But they will, in all likelihood, be on the chopping block eventually as well.

All this further fuels speculation that Disney/Marvel may resurrect all the cancelled series when it launches its new streaming service. Indeed, the Netflix statement hints as much.

(8) MORE ABOUT SPONGEBOB. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna reminds readers “‘SpongeBob’ creator Stephen Hillenburg raised our spirits — and ocean awareness”.

It took a fair amount of imagination for Hillenburg even to envision a career in animation. Born in Oklahoma to a teacher and a draftsman, he headed to Northern California’s Humboldt State University to study marine resources, before becoming a marine biology teacher at what is now the Ocean Institute in California. Yet his interest in drawing still beckoned like a call to the sea.

“Honestly, I hadn’t looked into the logistics and income. I just knew that’s what I wanted to do,” Hillenburg told me. “I thought, at least, I could get a job cleaning up somebody’s drawings. .?.?. Then there was ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘Ren & Stimpy’ — everyone was excited about the rebirth of the form” in the ’90s.

(9) KATZ OBIT. Gloria Katz (1942-2018): American screenwriter and producer, died November 25, aged 78. Genre credits include Messiah of Evil (1973; she and husband William Huyck were the uncredited directors), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Howard the Duck (1986).

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 29, 1959The Atomic Submarine premiered at your local drive-in
  • November 29, 1972 — Pong, a coin-operated video game, debuted.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • November 29, 1898 – C.S. Lewis, Writer from Ireland. There are, no doubt, folks here here who are far more literate on him than me. I’ve read The Screwtape Letters for a college course decades ago, and throughly enjoyed The Chronicles of Narnia also many years back, but that’s it for my personal acquaintance with him. I know individuals who have loved The Space Trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength) and I’ve known ones who loathed it. Of the Inklings, I suspect I need not say anything, as all of you are fully aware of that group which has frankly become legend and in turn is fast becoming myth. There have been novels about them ranging from almost true to them to quite fantastical. Currently, there is a movie called The Inklings in production, though available details about it are scant. (Died 1963.)
  • November 29, 1918 – Madeleine L’Engle, Writer whose genre work included the splendid YA sequence starting off with A Wrinkle in Time, which won the Newbery Medal and a host of other awards, and has been made into a 2003 television film and this year’s film directed by Ava DuVernay. She produced numerous loosely-linked sequels, including A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time. In addition to her fiction, she wrote poetry and nonfiction, much of which related to her universalist form of Christian faith. She was honored with a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1997. In 2013, Crater L’Engle on Mercury was named for her. (Died 2007.)
  • November 29, 1925 – Leigh Couch, Science Teacher and Member of First Fandom. Active in fandom, along with her husband and children, during the 1960s and 70s, she was a member of the Ozark Science Fiction Association and one of the editors of its fanzine Sirruish. She was on the committee for the bid to host Worldcon in Hawaii in 1981. She was honored for her contributions as Fan Guest of Honor at the first Archon, the long-running regional convention which grew out of that early St. Louis-area fandom. (Died 1998.)
  • November 29, 1942 – Maggie Thompson, 76, Librarian, Editor, and Fan who, with her husband Don, edited from the 1960s to the 90s the fanzines Harbinger, Comic Art, Rainy Days, and Newfangles, and wrote a column for The Buyer’s Guide for Comic Fandom. When this became the professional publication Comic Buyer’s Guide in 1983, because of their extensive knowledge of comics, she and her husband were hired as editors; after he died in 1994, she continued as editor until it ceased publication in 2013. Under their editorial auspices, it won two Eisner Awards and the Jack Kirby Award. Together they were honored with the Inkpot Award, and twice with the Comic Fan Art Award for Favorite Fan Writers.
  • November 29, 1950 – Kevin O’Donnell Jr., Writer who produced a number of genre novels and more than 70 short fiction works. He was chair of the Nebula Award Committee for nearly a decade, and business manager for the SFWA Bulletin for several years; he also chaired for 7 years SFWA’s Grievance Committee, which advocates for authors who experience difficulties in dealing with editors, publishers, agents, and other entities. He received the Service to SFWA Award in 2005, and after his death, the award was renamed in his honor. (Died 2012.)
  • November 29, 1964 – Don Cheadle, 54, Oscar-nominated Actor and Producer with a surprisingly-deep genre resume, especially for playing James “Rhodey” Rhodes War Machine in Iron Man 2 and 3, Captain America: Civil War, and the Avengers films Age of Ultron, Infinity War, and the as-yet-untitled #4. Other genre roles include Mission to Mars, The Meteor Man, and Volcano, and the televised-live black-and-white Cold War drama Fail Safe.
  • November 29, 1971 – Naoko Mori, 47, Actor from Japan who lives in the UK. Her first genre appearance was in Hackers, with the then-unknown Angelina Jolie and Jonny Lee Miller. Her performance as the character of Doctor Sato in the “Aliens of London” episode” of Doctor Who so impressed Russell T Davies that he brought her back as a regular character on the first two seasons of Torchwood. Other TV series appearances include episodes of Humans, Bugs, the British-American comedy-drama genre miniseries You, Me and the Apocalypse, and an SF series pilot called Three Inches, and the films Life and Maneater. She has also done voice characters for animated series and videogames, including Big Hero 6, Genji, Final Fantasy, and Dragon Quest.
  • November 29, 1976 – Anna Faris, 42, Actor, Writer, Producer, and Podcaster. Ahhh, I love franchise horror. She’s had a regular gig as Cindy Campbell in the first four Scary Movie films, and appeared in the horror films Lovers Lane and May. She had main roles in the odd superhero movie My Super Ex-Girlfriend, the ode to fanboy geekdom Mama’s Boy, and the SF comedy Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel – and does a recurring character voice in the Alvin and the Chipmunks franchise count as genre? Her campy credentials no doubt were the inspiration for Air New Zealand to cast her in this quirky aircraft safety video.
  • November 29, 1977 – Chadwick Boseman, 41, Actor, Writer, and Producer who is principally known for playing Black Panther in in the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther (for both of which he received Saturn nominations), Avengers: Infinity War, and the upcoming untitled Avengers 4. He had a main role on Persons Unknown, a one-season series which was sort of an ensemble version of The Prisoner. He played the bird god Thoth in the Gods of Egypt film, and had a guest role in an episode of Fringe.
  • November 29, 1980 – Janina Gavankar, 38, Actor and Singer with an impressive span of genre roles, including main roles as shapeshifter Luna Garza on True Blood and supernatural creature Leigh Turner on The Gates, recurring roles on The Vampire Dairies, Arrow, and Sleepy Hollow, and guest parts in episodes of Stargate Atlantis and Dollhouse. She voiced canon Star Wars character Iden Versio in the audiobook for Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad and its companion videogame, and provided additional character voices for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. She received a Behind The Voice Award nomination for her role in the videogame Far Cry 4, and appeared in an ad campaign for Microsoft as Ms. Dewey, the avatar of a Microsoft search engine who commented on the user’s searches.
  • November 29, 1982 – Gemma Chan, 36, Actor of Stage and Screen from  England whose first genre appearances were the horror movie When Evil Calls and her portrayal of Mia Bennett on Doctor Who’s “The Waters of Mars”. She has had a lead role on the series Humans for the last three years, was a regular on Bedlam, and had a guest part in an episode of Sherlock. Genre film roles include Madam Ya Zhou in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Quintessa in Transformers: The Last Knight; she’ll be Doctor Minerva in the forthcoming Captain Marvel film. Voice roles include the Watership Down miniseries as Dewdrop and the Revolting Rhymes movie as Snow White.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • From Publishers Weekly, a new installment of Tales from the Slush Pile. As always, hilarious but true. This week: what you hear at Thanksgiving from your relatives.

(13) PURE POISON. SYFY Wire tells us that—wearing her producer hat—”Margot Robbie “trying” to explore Harley Quinn’s relationship with Poison Ivy in the DCEU”.

There’s no question that Margot Robbie, who launched her successful production company LuckyChap Entertainment in 2014, is a force to be reckoned with in the movie business… and that could be very good news for the DC Extended Universe.

For example, when asked by PrideSource if she was being mindful of Quinn’s sexuality in her upcoming Birds of Prey film, the actress/producer revealed that she’s been “trying” to bring the relationship between her character Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy to the big screen.

“If you read the comics you know that Poison Ivy and Harley have an intimate relationship. In some comics they convey it as a friendship; in other comics you can see that they’re actually sexually involved as a couple. I’ve been trying to – I would love to have Poison Ivy thrown into the universe,” Robbie told the site. “Because the Harley and Poison Ivy relationship is one of my favorite aspects of the comics, so I’m looking to explore that on screen.”

(14) GETTING WARMER. It’s almost not news anymore — “Climate change: Last four years are ‘world’s hottest'”.

The year 2018 is on course to be the fourth warmest on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

It says that the global average temperature for the first 10 months of the year was nearly 1C above the levels between 1850-1900.

The State of the Climate report says that the 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years, with the 2015-2018 making up the top four.

(15) DO IT FOR SCIENCE. From The Onion:

(16) TO THE MOON, ALICE B. TOKLAS. Firefly may head to the Moon. No, not that Firefly. NASA has signed up nine companies that will be allowed to bid on delivery of small payloads to the Moon. (Ars Technica: “NASA takes a tangible step back toward the Moon with commercial program”)

NASA announced Thursday that it has partnered with nine companies to enable the delivery of small scientific payloads to the lunar surface. No money was exchanged up front, but the space agency said these companies would now be eligible to “bid” for contracts to deliver select experiments to the Moon.

[…] The nine companies that earned the right to bid on what are called Commercial Lunar Payload Services contracts are:

  • Astrobotic Technology Inc.: Pittsburgh
  • Deep Space Systems: Littleton, Colorado
  • Draper: Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Firefly Aerospace Inc.: Cedar Park, Texas
  • Intuitive Machines LLC: Houston
  • Lockheed Martin Space: Littleton, Colorado
  • Masten Space Systems Inc.: Mojave, California
  • Moon Express: Cape Canaveral, Florida
  • Orbit Beyond: Edison, New Jersey

[…] NASA said payload delivery could begin as early as 2019. These contracts do not have a time or quantity limit, and they have a combined maximum contract value of $2.6 billion during the next 10 years. The agency said it would look at a number of factors when comparing the bids, such as “technical feasibility, price, and schedule.”

(17) STREEP IN POPPINS. Marc Sneitiker, in “Here’s what Meryl Streep and Emily Blunt said about reuniting (again!) for Mary Poppins Returns” on Entertainment Weekly, said that Streep and Blunt are working together for the first time since Into the Woods four years ago and both actors really respect each other’s work.

Emily Blunt and Meryl Streep have now made three big-budget studio films together: 2006’s The Devil Wears Prada, playing a toiling assistant and her monstrous boss; 2014’s Into the Woods, as a peasant baker and the witch who cursed her womb; and now 2018’s Mary Poppins Returns, playing the enigmatic nanny and her gravity-challenged cousin Topsy, who’s perhaps the only person ever to disagree with Mary Poppins.

“It is a bit hilarious that we always play people who are contentious with one another,” Blunt laughs, looking back on her relationship with Streep that’s now into its second decade. “From Prada to the Witch and the Baker’s Wife and now to cousins who drive each other insane, I did finally ask her, ‘When are we gonna play lovers or something?!’” Blunt laughs again. “She said, ‘Dream on.’”

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

Pixel Scroll 11/21/18 Never Pixel Or Scrollardy. Never Click Up, Never File In

(1) WORLD FANTASY CON. After Silvia Moreno-Garcia criticized WFC 2019 for announcing an all-white guest slate, the concom’s answer did not allay complaints. And the World Fantasy Convention Board’s answer to a letter she sent them has only fanned the flames. Moreno-Garcia’s screencap of their reply is part of a reaction thread which starts here.

Once the copy of the letter was tweeted, the WFC Board and World Fantasy Con 2019 came in for another round of criticism from writers including —

  • N.K. Jemisin (Thread starts here.)

  • Jeff VanderMeer (Thread starts here.)

  • S.A. Chakraborty (Thread starts here.)

  • Michi Trota (Thread starts here.)

  • Fonda Lee (Thread starts here.)

(2) JEMISIN AT HAYDEN PLANETARIUM. On Tuesday, November 27 the Hayden Planetarium Space Theater in New York will host “Astronomy Live: The Perfect Planet”.

Earth is a rare and special place in the universe. Astrophysicist Jackie Faherty joins forces with Broken Earth series author N.K. Jemisin to examine what makes our planet unique compared to others in our solar system and beyond. Find out where artists and scientist alike look for life beyond Earth, from Io to Enceladus and beyond.

(3) DON’T RALPH. NPR’s Scott Tobias tells us “Toxic Masculinity Is The Bad Guy In ‘Ralph Breaks The Internet'”.

In Ralph Breaks the Internet, a hyperconnected sequel to the animated hit Wreck-It Ralph, the possibilities of a Disney/Star Wars/Marvel crossover are breathlessly celebrated while fragile masculinity threatens to destroy the world. Cultural anthologists of the future will require no carbon dating to recognize this film as extremely 2018. In fact, as a screen grab of online and entertainment culture, Ralph Breaks the Internet seizes so shrewdly on the times that the prospect of watching it 10, 20 or 100 years from now is more exciting than seeing it in a theater today, when it feels too much like an animated extension of everyday stresses and distractions. Clickability isn’t always a virtue.

(4) CRITICS AT THE FBI. The Harper’s Magazine post “Literary Agents” has excerpts from Writers Under Surveillance in which they reprint the FBI’s description of writers they were watching.

The FBI said Ray Bradbury was “a freelance science fiction writer whose work dealt with the development and exploitation of Mars, its effect on mankind, and its home world.”

By contrast, they said Gore Vidal was “A writer who is intolerable, masquerading as smart-aleck entertainment.”

(5) COURSE CORRECTION. In “DC’s Birds Of Prey a ‘great opportunity’ to end ‘sluggish’ films”, a BBC writer asks, “Could this be DC’s Guardians of the Galaxy moment?”

Movies about Superman and Justice League may have flopped with the critics, but DC will be hoping to find more favourable reviews for new franchise, Birds Of Prey.

Or, to give the movie its full title: Birds Of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of one Harley Quinn.

Margot Robbie revealed the full title of the film on Instagram.

And it certainly seems like they are steering away from the dark, sour tones of Batman vs Superman this time around.

View this post on Instagram

😆

A post shared by @ margotrobbie on

(6) GOREY FLASHBACKS. A new biography tells of “The mysterious, macabre mind of Edward Gorey”. The title/author are somewhat buried in the article– Born To Be Posthumous by Mark Dery.

That he is not better known elsewhere is perhaps due to the unclassifiable nature of his work – yet his influence can be seen everywhere, from the films of Tim Burton to the novels of Neil Gaiman and Lemony Snicket.

Gorey himself was a complicated, reclusive individual whose mission in life was “to make everybody as uneasy as possible”. He collected daguerreotypes of dead babies and lived alone with 20,000 books and six cats in his New York apartment. Sporting an Edwardian beard, he would frequently traipse around the city in a full-length fur coat accessorised with trainers and jangling bracelets.

(7) UNDER AN ASSUMED NAME. The Science Fiction & Fantasy Marketing Podcast has tons of advice to share — “SFFMP 208: Improving Visibility, Launching New Pen Names, and the ‘Trifecta of Indie Success’”.

This week, we’re joined by fantasy and science fiction author Nicholas Erik, who also writes and experiments under the pen name D.N. Erikson. He’s an analytical guy who’s always observing what’s working and what’s not, both for his own work and for others.

  • Reasons for launching a pen name and whether it should be secret or not.
  • Trying a new series and new genre when you’re not getting the results you hoped for from your first effort.
  • Nick’s “trifecta of indie success” — marketing, craft, and productivity….

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • November 21, 1924 – Christopher J. R. Tolkien, 94, Writer and Editor who is the son of  J. R. R. Tolkien, and editor of so much of his father’s posthumously-published material. He drew the original maps for the Lord of the Rings, and provided much of the feedback on both The Hobbit and LoTR; his father invited him to join the Inklings when he was just twenty-one years old, making him the youngest member of that group. He published The Saga of King Heidrek the Wise: Translated from the Icelandic with Introduction, Notes and Appendices. The list  of his father’s unfinished works which he has edited and brought to published form is a long one; I’ll leave it to the august group here to discuss their merit, as I have mixed feelings on them.
  • November 21, 1937 – Ingrid Pitt, Actor from Poland who emigrated to the UK who is best known as Hammer Films’ most sexy female vampire of the early Seventies. Would I kid you? Her first genre roles were in the Spanish movie Sound of Horror and the science-fictional The Omegans, followed by the Hammer productions The Vampire Lovers, Countess Dracula, and The House That Dripped Blood. She appeared in the original version of The Wicker Man and had parts in Octopussy, Clive Barker’s Underworld, Dominator, and Minotaur. She had two different roles in Doctor Who – somewhat of a rarity – as Dr. Solow in the “Warriors of the Deep” episode and as Galleia in “The Time Monster” episode. (Died 2010.)
  • November 21, 1941 – Ellen Asher, 77, Editor who introduced many fans to their favorites, as editor-in-chief of the Science Fiction Book Club (SFBC) for thirty-four years, from 1973 to 2007 (exceeding John W. Campbell’s record as the person with the longest tenure in the same science fiction job). She was personally responsible for selecting the monthly offerings to subscribers, and oversaw the selection of individual works for their special anthologies and omnibuses. She has been honored with a World Fantasy Special Award and an Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction. In 2009, she was given a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and she was Editor Guest of Honor at Worldcon in 2011.
  • November 21, 1942 – Al Matthews, Actor, Singer, and former Marine with two Purple Hearts, who is best known for his appearance as Gunnery Sergeant Apone in Aliens – a performance so memorable that his character was the inspiration for Sgt. Avery Johnson in the Halo franchise. He reprised his role 27 years later in the video game Aliens: Colonial Marines. Other genre films include The Fifth Element, Superman III, Riders of the Storm (aka The American Way), Omen III, The Sender,  and Tomorrow Never Dies. (Died 2018.)
  • November 21, 1944 – Harold Ramis, Actor, Writer, and Producer, best-known to genre fans for his role as Egon Spengler in the Saturn-winning, Oscar- and Hugo-nominated Ghostbusters and its lesser sibling Ghostbusters II (the scripts for both of which he co-wrote with Dan Aykroyd). He had voice roles in Heavy Metal and Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone, and a cameo in Groundhog Day, for which he received Saturn nominations for writing and directing. He was also director and producer of Multiplicity. (Died 2014.)
  • November 21, 1945 – Vincent Di Fate, 73, Artist and Illustrator who has done many SFF book covers and interior illustrations since his work first appeared in the pages of Analog in 1965. He was one of the founders of the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists (ASFA), and is a past president. In addition to his Chesley Award trophy and 7 nominations, he has been a finalist for the Professional Artist Hugo 11 times, winning once; two collections of his artwork, Infinite Worlds: The Fantastic Visions of Science Fiction Art and Di Fate’s Catalog of Science Fiction Hardware, have been Hugo finalists as well. He was Artist Guest of Honor at the 1992 Worldcon, for which he organized their Art Retrospective exhibit. He was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2011. You can see galleries of his works at his website.
  • November 21, 1950 – Evelyn C. Leeper, 68, Writer, Editor, Critic, and Fan, who is especially known for her decades of detailed convention reports and travelogues. A voracious reader, she has also posted many book reviews. She and her husband Mark founded the Mt. Holz Science Fiction Club at Bell Labs in New Jersey (Mt = abbreviation for the labs’ Middletown facility), and have produced their weekly fanzine, the MT VOID (“empty void”), since 1978; it is currently at Issue #2,041. She was a judge for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History for 20 years. She has been a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer twelve times, and Fan Guest of Honor at several conventions, including a Windycon.
  • November 21, 1953 – Lisa Goldstein, 65, Writer, Fan, and Filer whose debut novel, The Red Magician, was so strong that she was a finalist for the Campbell Award for Best New Writer two years in a row. Her short fiction has garnered an array of Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award nominations, as well as a Sidewise Award. The short story “Cassandra’s Photographs” was a Hugo and Nebula finalist and “Alfred” was a World Fantasy and Nebula finalist; both can be found in her collection Travellers in Magic. Her novel The Uncertain Places won a Mythopoeic Award. You can read about her work in progress, her reviews of others’ stories, and other thoughts at her blog.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Rabbits Against Magic has a wonderful “Cartoon Lexiconville” showing English words and phrases that were originated in or popularized by comic strips.
  • Pay attention authors! Incidental Comics illustrates “Types of Narrators.”

(10) FLAME ON! “As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fry!” – is not a quote from “’Eat, Fry, Love’ a Turkey Fryer Fire Cautionary Tale presented by William Shatner & State Farm.” (Released in 2011 but it’s news to me!)

It is a turkey fryer cautionary tale with excellent video of the dangers associated with using turkey fryers. It shows how fire can rapidly intensify, spread, destroy and cause serious injury. Enjoy this video, learn from it and stay safe.

 

(11) SICKROOM HISTORY. Brenda Clough tells Book View Café readers it’s easy to make — “Feeding Your Invalid in the 19th Century 2: Barley Water”.

Horatio Wood’s ‘Treatise on therapeutics’ (1879) says that “Barley-water is used as a nutritious, demulcent drink in fevers.” It is still in use….

(12) PRIME TIMING. At NPR — “Optimized Prime: How AI And Anticipation Power Amazon’s 1-Hour Deliveries”. Skeptic Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a comment: “I’ll believe in their AI when it issues delivery instructions good enough that packages for someone else’s front door don’t show up at my side door.”

But a lot of it is thanks to artificial intelligence. With AI, computers analyze reams of data, making decisions and performing tasks that typically require human intelligence. AI is key to Amazon’s retail forecasting on steroids and its push to shave off minutes and seconds in the rush to prepare, pack and deliver.

“It goes beyond just being able to forecast we need a hundred blouses,” Freshwater says. “We need to be able to determine how many do we expect our customers to buy across the sizes, and the colors. And then … where do we actually put the product so that our customers can get it when they click ‘buy.’ ”

That’s a key element to how Amazon speeds up deliveries: The team predicts exactly where those blouses should be stocked so that they are as close as possible to the people who will buy them.

(Note: Amazon is one of NPR’s financial supporters.)

This process is even more essential now that the race is on for same-day and even same-hour delivery. Few other retailers have ventured into these speeds, because they’re very expensive. And few rely quite so much on AI to control costs while expanding.

(13) THE ROADS MUST ROIL. NPR finds “Climate Change Slows Oil Company Plan To Drill In The Arctic”. They were relying on winter ice to let gravel trucks drive out to build a drill pad in the water. No ice, no driving.

A milestone oil development project in Alaska’s Arctic waters is having to extend its construction timeline to accommodate the warming climate. The recently approved Liberty Project — poised to become the first oil production facility in federal Arctic waters — has altered its plans due to the shrinking sea ice season.

The challenge comes as the Trump administration has reversed an Obama-era policy and proposed re-opening the majority of Alaska’s federal waters to drilling. It’s pushing to hold a lease sale in the Beaufort Sea next year. The lease for the Liberty Project pre-dates the Obama-era ban on oil development in Arctic waters.

(14) MORE BRICKS THAN LEGO. “Drones called in to save the Great Wall of China” – the BBC video shows how drone surveys identify the most-decayed parts of hard-to-reach sections, so reconstruction can be targeted where it’s most needed.

(15) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman has strategically released Episode 82 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast before people have a chance to stuff themselves on Thanksgiving. Scott invites you to savor a steak dinner with comics legend Paul Levitz.

Get ready to get nostalgic — or rather, listen to me get nostalgic — on an episode of Eating the Fantastic which features a guest I believe I’ve known longer than any other — comics legend Paul Levitz.

Paul and I go way back, all the way to Phil Seuling’s 1971 Comic Art Convention, when I would have been 16 and him 15, both fans and fanzine publishers, long before either of us had entered the comics industry as professionals. We later, along with a couple of other friends, roomed together at the 1974 World Science Fiction Convention in Washington D.C. As you listen, think of us as we were in the old days — that’s us in 1974 compared to us now —

In 1976, he became the editor of Adventure Comics before he’d even turned 20. He ended up working at DC Comics for more than 35 years, where he was president from 2002–2009. He’s probably best known for writing the Legion of Super-Heroes for a decade, scripting the Justice Society of America, and co-creating the character Stalker with Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko. He was given an Inkpot Award at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2002 and the Dick Giordano Hero Initiative Humanitarian of the Year Award in 2013 at the Baltimore Comic-Con. And if you try to lift his massive and essential history 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking, you’re going to need to see a chiropractor.

We discussed why even though in a 1973 fanzine he wrote he had “no desire to make a career for myself in this industry” he’s spent his life there, how wild it was the suits let kids like us run the show in the ’70s, the time Marv Wolfman offered him a job over at Marvel (and why he turned it down), what he learned from editor Joe Orlando about how to get the best work out of creative people, the bizarre reason Gerry Conway’s first DC Comics script took several years to get published, how he made the Legion of Super-Heroes his own, which bad writerly habits Denny O’Neil knocked out of him, the first thing you should ask an artist when you start working with them, why team books (of which he wrote so many) are easier to write, our shared love for “Mirthful” Marie Severin, how glad we are there was no such thing as social media when we got started in comics, why Roger Zelazny is his favorite science fiction writer, and much, much more.

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

Jeff VanderMeer’s Borne Among Six New Additions to NEA Big Read Library

Two poetry collections, one memoir, one creative nonfiction book, and two novels will join the NEA Big Read, an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest. The NEA Big Read annually supports community reading programs across the country, each designed around a single book. Through the act of sharing a book together, participants have the opportunity to broaden their understanding of the world, their community, and themselves.

In total, 32 books will be available for nonprofit organizations to choose from in applying for a 2019-20 NEA Big Read grant. The six new additions are:

This timely collection explores the struggles and questions that can arise from an assigned gender identity that doesn’t feel right, described through the lens of, among other things, inanimate objects, talking animals, and 1980s pop culture.

  • Borne by Jeff VanderMeer (novel)

In a ruined city overrun with hybrid creatures from a defunct biotech company, a woman nurtures a strange creature that grows into something she will both love and fear in this science fiction tale of love and hope and inevitable change.

  • Hustle by David Tomas Martinez (poetry)

Emblazoned with a tattoo on its cover, this collection examines the experiences of the poet’s Southeast San Diego youth—his activity in a gang, the complicated dynamics of his family life, and eventually his discovery of poetry, leading him to reflect on what it means to be a man.

This is the true story that inspired Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick about the crew of the 19th-century whaleship Essex that got rammed and shattered by one of the largest whales anyone had ever seen and the whalers’ subsequent, harrowing fight for survival on the open seas.

A young woman passionate about trees and plants and other aspects of the natural world finds friendship in odd places, battles bipolar disorder, perseveres through setbacks, and ultimately becomes a wife, a mom, and a respected scientist in this inspiring and engrossing memoir.

Set during World War II in the Australian bush and based on the true history of Italian POWs sent there to work the farms, this story is told from the perspective of a woman with albinism and a troubled past whose secrets and desires will upend her and her family’s isolated lives.

The NEA’s Big Read website has more information on the program, including book and author information, podcasts, videos, and community stories from past NEA Big Read grantees. In addition, the NEA will host a webinar on November 14, 2018 at 2 p.m. ET about these six new titles.

“We are always looking to expand the NEA Big Read library with a range of new genres, perspectives, and experiences,” said NEA Director of Literature Amy Stolls. “Communities can choose to explore, for example, the story behind Moby-Dick with In the Heart of the Sea, or get immersed in rural Australia and World War II history with The Paperbark Shoe, or dive into one of the books of poetry, a genre we know from NEA research is growing in popularity, particularly among younger readers. I look forward to seeing how communities embrace the new books and find ways to highlight and explore them together.”

Guidelines are now available for organizations applying for grants to support Big Read projects between September 2019 and June 2020. The application deadline is Thursday, January 24, 2019. Full details on eligibility, how to apply, and application advice are available on Arts Midwest’s website. Eligible applicants include organizations such as arts centers, arts councils, arts organizations, colleges and universities, community service organizations, environmental organizations, fairs and festivals, faith-based organizations, historical societies, housing authorities, humanities councils, libraries, literary centers, museums, school districts, theater companies, trade associations, and tribal governments.

To select new books for the NEA Big Read library, the NEA collected suggestions from a variety of sources, including the public, NEA Big Read grantees, and past NEA Big Read panelists. The National Endowment for the Arts narrowed the list of suggestions based on the following criteria: the capacity to incite lively and deep discussion; the capacity to expand the range of voices, stories, and genres currently represented in the NEA Big Read library; the capacity to interest lapsed and reluctant readers and/or to challenge avid readers and introduce them to new voices; and the capacity to inspire innovative programming for communities. A committee of outside readers and community organizers reviewed the books and made the final recommendations.

The full list of books available for 2019-2020 Big Read grants also includes works by Bradbury, Le Guin, Kelly Link, and Emily St. John Mandel —

  • In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • Advice from the Lights by Stephanie (previously Stephen) Burt
  • Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast
  • Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat
  • The Round House by Louise Erdrich
  • A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines
  • The Paperbark Shoe by Goldie Goldbloom
  • How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems 1975-2002 by Joy Harjo
  • To Live by Yu Hua
  • Lab Girl by Hope Jahren
  • Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
  • A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link
  • Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  • Hustle by David Tomas Martinez
  • The Big Smoke by Adrian Matejka
  • The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  • The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
  • When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
  • In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick
  • True Grit by Charles Portis
  • Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine
  • Burning Bright by Ron Rash
  • A Small Story About the Sky by Alberto Ríos
  • Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea
  • Borne by Jeff VanderMeer
  • Our Town by Thornton Wilder
  • The Latehomecomer by Kao Kalia Yang
  • Book of Hours by Kevin Young
  • Ways of Going Home by Alejandro Zambra

 [Thanks to Jeff VanderMeer for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 9/12/18 Pleonasmatic

(1) MAGIC ON DISPLAY. Sean McLachlan reviews the exhibit of “Magical Items at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum” for Black Gate.

A new exhibition at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum showcases 180 real-life magical items.

Spellbound: Magic, Ritual & Witchcraft explores the history of magic from the early modern era to the present day through objects ranging from Renaissance crystal balls to folk charms against witchcraft. It looks at basic human needs such as fear of death and desire for love, and how people have used magic to try to get what they need.

The exhibition also turns the question of magic and superstition back on the viewer. In the entrance hallway, you are invited to step under a ladder or go around it. The museum is counting how many people dare to tempt fate. I did, and I hope they post the statistics when the exhibition is over!

(2) WHEEL OF TIME TV. Adam Whitehead shares his notes at The Wertzone: “WHEEL OF TIME TV showrunner hosts Q&A”.

Wheel of Time showrunner Rafe Judkins has hosted a Q&A on Twitter, where he invited fans to pitch him questions about the show. Given that the project is still in an early stage of pre-production, a lot of questions couldn’t be answered, but some interesting tidbits were dropped about how he sees the project moving forwards.

The current status of the project:

Judkins confirmed that the show is in development at with Amazon (via, as we know already, Sony TV Studios) but it has not yet been formally greenlit, either for a full first season or a pilot. As such, things like production timelines, timetables for casting and when we might get to see the show all remain up in the air.

Judkins notes that he is now able to talk about the show in a way he couldn’t a couple of months ago, and that indeed something has changed to facilitate this….

(3) QUITE A BUNCH. At NYR Daily, “David Bunch’s Prophetic Dystopia”, an overview adapted from Jeff VanderMeer’s introduction to the new Bunch collection.

…That these tales come off as a seamless meld of the eccentric poetics of E.E. Cummings, the genius-level invention of Philip K. Dick, and the body horror of Clive Barker perhaps explains both why they remain vital today and why they were characterized as “fringe” during Bunch’s career. They are wild, visceral, and sui generis, without the signifiers of a particular era that might provide anchors for mystified readers. Popular contemporaries like Samuel R. Delany, Ursula K. Le Guin, and even James Tiptree Jr. ameliorated the strangeness of their work with the scaffolding or appearance of more familiar plotlines, even as they wrote stories generally from the point of view of marginalized groups. Bunch, by contrast, foregrounded lyricism over plot and chose to write from the potentially unsympathetic viewpoint of a hyper-aggressive warmonger—a viewpoint clearly quite far from his own. Even his authorial stand-in, the nameless writer of the fictional introduction to this volume, has monstrous qualities.

Nothing quite like the Moderan stories had been written before and nothing like them has been written since….

(4) NARNIA LETTER. Brenton Dickieson spotted a bit of literary history on sale: “For £5,000 You Can Own A Piece of Narnia: New C.S. Lewis Letter Surfaces”.

That’s right, Dominic Winter Auctioneers is putting a newly surfaced letter from C.S. Lewis on the auction block. It is a great artifact, as The Daily Mail reports, a generous and light bit of Narnian delight as Lewis answers some questions from schoolchildren at Grittleton House School in Wiltshire. The auctioneers have made photographs of this short, two-page 22 May 1952 letter. The children of Grittleton House–who Lewis calls Grittletonians–were no doubt curious after the release of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (1950) and Prince Caspian: Return to Narnia (1951). Not only did Lewis assure them that The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader (1952) would be out in a few months, but that there would be seven stories in all.

Although the letter is very much like one sent to Michael Irwin just a couple of months previously (25 Mar 1952), there are a couple of things really worth noting here….

His post includes stats of the letters.

(5) SUPERMAN OUT, SUPERGIRL IN. Tatiana Siegel and Borys Kit, in The Hollywood Reporter’s story “Henry Cavill Out as Superman Amid Warner Bros.’ DC Universe Shake-Up”, say that Warner Bros. has removed Henry Cavill from any future movies as Superman because a cameo by him in Shazam! didn’t work out and DC wants to do a Supergirl origin movie next and put off doing anything with Superman for several years.

Warners had been trying to enlist Cavill, who most recently co-starred in Mission: Impossible — Fallout, for a Superman cameo in Shazam!, which stars Zachary Levi and will bow April 5. But contract talks between Cavill’s WME reps and Warners broke down, and the door is now closing on other potential Superman appearances.

That’s because the studio has shifted its focus to a Supergirl movie, which will be an origin story featuring a teen superheroine. This effectively removes an actor of Cavill’s age from the storyline’s equation given that Superman, aka Kal-El, would be an infant, according to DC lore.

Furthermore, Warners isn’t likely to make a solo Superman film for at least several years, according to another source. “Superman is like James Bond, and after a certain run you have to look at new actors,” says a studio source.

(6) VEGGIE OVERLOAD. Laura Anne Gilman makes a simple request at Book View Café: “A Meerkat Rants: No More Kale, Please.”

Let me admit this shameful fact up front.  I like kale. No, really, I do.  It’s not an easy-to-love vegetable, I’ll agree, but if you know how to buy and handle it, you can get tender, sharp-yet-tasty roughage that serves a variety of salads (including my fave: baby kale and pear with white wine vinaigrette).

But I don’t want it every week. Hell, I don’t want anything food-wise, every single week without fail.

But then I went and joined a CSA.

CSA, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, stands for community supported agriculture.  Basically, you pay a set fee, and get a box of whatever the local farms have on-offer, on a seasonal basis….

(7) VERSE THE CURSE. Charles Payseur interviews Aidan Doyle — “Quick Questions – Aidan Doyle of Sword and Sonnet”. Doyle co-edited the Sword and Sonnet anthology with Rachael K. Jones and E. Catherine Tobler.

So why battle poets?

AD: I liked the idea of poetry being used as a magic system. Sei Sh?nagon was one of the original inspirations for my idea of what a battle poet could be. She wrote The Pillow Book, one of the classics of Japanese literature and was renowned for intimidating the men of Heian-era Japan with her knowledge of poetry. I hadn’t seen any other anthologies that covered a similar theme. After we announced the Kickstarter, there were many writers who told us they were particularly excited by the theme.

(8) DIY STEAMPUNK DÉCOR. Clickbait time at Homedit“21 Cool Tips To Steampunk Your Home”.

The steampunk style is not one of the most well known in terms of interior design. Maybe that’s because many of us don’t even know which are the basic details that define this concept. When I say steampunk, I remember about the Victorian era, with all the inventions back then, but the meaning of this word would be incomplete without the industrial details.

In essence, this trend is a mixture between elegant Victorian interior accessories and the strength of industrial elements. Maybe you remember about Joben Bistro, that beautiful pub from Romania. It’s an inspiration for us….

The fifth tip is –

  1. Buy a terrestrial globe (in case you don’t have one already)

Make sure it’s old and very used. It would be one of the most popular items in the house, and kids would love to spin it over and over again.

(9) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The town of Santa Claus, Indiana, changed its name in 1856 from Santa Fe, which was already taken, to get its own post office. As a result many of the town’s street names are Christmas-themed, including Sled Run, Blitzen Lane and Melchior Drive. Source: Wikipedia

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 12, 1958 The Blob got loose in theaters.
  • September 12, 1993Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” premiered on TV.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 12, 1921 – Stanislaw Lem. Polish writer whose The Man from Mars was a first contact novel, other genre works include Solaris, and two short story collections, Fables for Robots and The Cyberaid. His later years are marked by his anti-technological views including outright opposition to the internet. In 1973, he was made an honorary member of SFWA (later rescinded).
  • Born September 12 —John Clute, 78. Critic, reviewer and writer. Some of his reviews are in his early collection, Strokes. I’ll  single out The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction which he co-edited with Peter Niicholls and The Encyclopedia of Fantasy (John Grant, co-editor) which I think are still really awesome. Oh and The Darkening Garden: A Short Lexicon of Horror is fucking amazing! I’ve not read his fiction so I welcome your opinions on it.
  • Born September 12 – William Goldman, 87. Writer of The Princess Bride which he adapted as a screenplay. He also wrote the screenplays for Misery and The Stepford Wives. His late brother is James Goldman who wrote The Lion in Winter and Robin and Marian.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) BOOKSTORE ON WHEELS. The thread starts here.

(14) PHILOSOPHICAL DILEMMAS. Eric Schwitzgebel’s guest post for Cat Rambo’s blog deals with an episode of The Good Place: “Eric Schwitzgebel Gives One-Point-Five Cheers for a Hugo Award for a TV Show about Ethicists’ Moral Expertise”.

When The Good Place episode “The Trolley Problem” won one of science fiction’s most prestigious awards, the Hugo, in the category of best dramatic presentation, short form, I celebrated. I celebrated not because I loved the episode (in fact, I had so far only seen a couple of The Good Place’s earlier episodes) but because, as a philosophy professor aiming to build bridges between academic philosophy and popular science fiction, the awarding of a Hugo to a show starring a professor of philosophy discussing a famous philosophical problem seemed to confirm that science fiction fans see some of the same synergies I see between science fiction and philosophy.

I do think the synergies are there and that the fans see and value them – as also revealed by the enduring popularity of The Matrix, and by West World, and Her, and Black Mirror, among others – but “The Trolley Problem”, considered as a free-standing episode, fumbles the job. (Below, I will suggest a twist by which The Good Place could redeem itself in later episodes.)

(15) A MEXICANX INTIATIVE LOOK AT W76. Alberto Chimal, part of the MexicanX Initiative at Worldcon 76, has written up his experience for Literal Magazine: “Fui a otro mundo y me traje esta camiseta” . (Here’s a link to a Google Translate English language versioncaveat emptor.)

….La delegación en la que estuve, compuesta por casi cincuenta artistas, escritores y lectores mexicanos y mexicoamericanos, pudo inscribirse y figurar en el programa de la convención gracias a un proyecto de fondeo y apoyo entre el propio fandom que se llamó The Mexicanx Initiative. Éste fue idea del artista John Picacio, ilustrador y portadista de larga carrera a quien se nombró invitado de honor de la Worldcon: es la primera vez que una persona de origen mexicano recibe esa distinción. Picacio, como muchas otras personas, ha observado la postura abiertamente racista y antimexicana del gobierno actual de los Estados Unidos, y cómo los exabruptos y tuits de su presidente, Donald Trump, están “normalizando” formas de odio y extremismo que hace menos de una década hubieran sido condenadas sin vacilación….

(16) OVER THE TRANSOM. JDA submits to Uncanny. Surprised it’s lasted this long — the title phrase is really too well-known to be called a dogwhistle.

(17) SPECIAL ISSUE. Charles Payseur finds an extra big serving of short fiction on his plate: “Quick Sips – Uncanny #24 Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction! [September Fiction]”.

Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction! is here!!! And with it comes a whole heck of a lot of fiction and poetry. To be specific, ten stories and ten poems. But, because this is also a regular issue of Uncanny, the work will be released publicly over two months. And so, to keep things manageable for me, I’m going to be tackling this extra-big issue in four parts—September fiction, September poetry, October fiction, and October poetry. So let’s dig in! The first half of the issue’s fiction is up and features five short stories touching on aliens, assistive devices, families, and a whole lot of disabled characters getting shit done. The work in these focuses primarily (for me, at least) on occupations and growing up. About facing down intolerance and violence and finding ways to find community, hope, and beauty in a universe that can often be ugly and cruel. So let’s get to the reviews!

(18) D&D MANGA. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog enumerates “14 Graphic Novels & Manga for Dungeons & Dragons Fans”.

Comics and fantasy role-playing games have shared a similar trajectory as of late: once considered distinctly nerdy pursuits and viewed as mildly disreputable by the broader culture (when they weren’t the subject of full-blown moral panics, anyway), they both have recently been thrust into the mainstream, whether via big budget movies or name-dropping teens on Netflix. Yet somehow, both forms of entertainment have maintained their legit geek cred.

The recent release of the graphic novel The Adventure Zone: Here There Be Gerblins illustrates (heh) the intersection perfectly: a number one New York Times’ bestseller based on a popular podcast that’s all about a family sitting around playing Dungeons & Dragons. With that in mind, we rolled a d20 to perform a skill check on the 13 great graphic novels below, and discovered they are all highly proficient in satisfying tabletop gamers looking for a fantasy fix between play sessions.

(19) NOVELLAS. At Nerds of a Feather, Adri Joy reviews two novellas published by The Book Smugglers: “Microreview [Books]: A Glimmer of Silver by Juliet Kemp and Accelerants by Lena Wilson”.

The Book Smugglers’ Novella Initiative line was a highlight of my novella reading in 2017, bringing a set of diverse, different stories with some interesting romance and a more YA sensibility to some of the entries than I’ve seen in other fiction of this length. I’ve been hoping throughout this year that we’d see more from the line, and in August my waiting was rewarded with this pair – with some bonus theming around the classical elements to really seal the deal!

Both Accelerants and A Glimmer of Silver deal with people on the cusp of adulthood in their own societies, whose choices are immediately constrained by the societies they live in.

(20) THREE ON A MATCH. Nerds of a Feather’s Joe Sherry gives quick verdicts on three books including Adrian Tchaikovsky’s latest: “Nanoreviews: The Skaar Invasion, Phoresis, The Expert System’s Brother”.

(21) BUY YOUR OWN HAMMER. Bonobos won’t share tools. Now I want to know what their policy is on books: “What’s Mine Is Yours, Sort Of: Bonobos And The Tricky Evolutionary Roots Of Sharing”.

An intriguing study published this week suggests that bonobos, among the closest relatives to humans, are surprisingly willing to hand over food to a pal. But they didn’t share tools.

The discovery adds a new wrinkle to scientists’ efforts to understand the evolutionary origins of people’s unusual propensity to help others.

“One of the things that is really striking about humans is how cooperative or helpful we are,” says Christopher Krupenye, an evolutionary anthropologist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. “It’s just a really pervasive element of our behavior.”

Common chimpanzees (a related species that diverged from bonobos about 2 million years ago) do engage in some altruistic behavior. For example, it’s been shown that chimps will hand a tool that’s out of reach to a person who clearly is trying to get it — as will human children. So Krupenye and some colleagues recently repeated that experiment with bonobos in a sanctuary.

“Bonobos didn’t help at all,” says Krupenye. Instead, sometimes they would retrieve the tool but still keep it out of reach, showing it off in a teasing way. “They didn’t help, in this particular context.”

(22) PUTTING HUMANITY TO THE TEST. In fact, Margaret Atwood called on the internet for some help with a tool just yesterday. Is social media more or less evolved than bonobos? The thread starts here.

(23) SPARE CHANGE. Meanwhile, I will gladly pay you Tuesday for an Apple today: “6-Figure Price Tag Expected For Rare Apple-1 Computer At Auction”.

Before Apple was a trillion-dollar company, before its phones and laptops came to dominate the tech industry, it was just a California startup working out of a garage. Now, one of the first products the company ever made — the Apple-1 computer — is about to be the star of a live auction on Sept. 25 in Boston.

“The Apple-1 is so iconic of that era, of the garage era of Silicon Valley, that I think there is almost no other object that really encapsulates what it does culturally and technologically,” says Dag Spicer, senior curator for the Computer History Museum, which has an Apple-1 in its collection. Spicer says it’s one of their most popular pieces.

(24) LARPING. A photo essay about costumes, including some genre, at the Washington Post: “Inside the fantastical world of live-action role playing”:

What is LARP? It is an acronym for live-action role playing, a phenomenon inspired by fantasy board games, films, literature and computer games. People who are into LARP outfit themselves as their favorite characters such as orcs, dwarfs, zombies and vampires, among others. Photographer Boris Leist takes us into this world with his latest book, “LARP,” which will publish this year by Kehrer Verlag.

A few years ago, Leist met a man in the LARP community. The man was dressed as a dwarf, and Leist was impressed by the quality of the man’s costume and the passion he had for role playing. Although the man was an IT professional in real life, he was so committed to LARPing that he was taking a welding class so that he could build armor for himself. This passion and commitment inspired Leist to go deeper into the LARP community and meet more of its members. Leist ended up spending three years delving into that world and compiling portraits.

(25) SCARY GOOD. The Guardian has a great gallery of international posters from Harryhausen films: “A monster talent: Ray Harryhausen movie posters – in pictures”.

From roaring dinosaurs to clashing titans and flying saucers, the stop-motion genius made audiences gasp, shriek and doubt their eyes. Here are the best posters his groundbreaking movies inspired

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