Pixel Scroll 5/22/20 Is A Palindrone An Unmanned Craft That Can Fly Backwards As Well As Forwards?

(1) LETTING THE GENE OUT OF THE BOTTLE. One of the field’s most esteemed writers delivers Whatever’s recurring feature today: “The Big Idea: Nancy Kress”.

At parties in my city—environmentally conscious, crunchy-granola, high-tech and socially activist Seattle—it is easy to start a flaming argument. Just walk up to a group, tilt your head, and say inquiringly, “What do you think of GMOs?” Then stand back to avoid being scorched.

Genetically modified organisms have passionate denouncers and equally passionate supporters. This is especially true for GMO crops, since the genemod bacteria and animals are usually hidden away in labs, ranches, or manufacturing facilities. But there is GMO food right out front on your table, plated in front of your kids. Everybody has an opinion.

Including me.

But I didn’t want my new novella from Tachyon, Sea Change, to be a polemic for one side of the controversy. I wanted to explore in a balanced way both sides of the myriad questions involved….

(2) HARRY POTTER READINGS. This edition is really cool.

(3) KEEPING AN EAR ON YOU. Mara Hvistendahl’s article “How a Chinese AI Giant Made Chatting—and Surveillance—Easy” in the June WIRED reports that iFlytek does a really good job of translation — and also allows Chinese authorities to track users by the sound of their voices.

When I mentioned iFlytek’s work to a friend in Shanghai, she said it reminded her of the story ‘City of Silence’ by the Chinese science fiction writer Ma Boyong.  The story is set in a future society where speech is tightly controlled.  The people are clever at adapting to each new limit, turning to homonyms and slang to circumvent censors, and in time the authorities realize that the only way to truly control speech is to publish a List of Healthy Words, forbid all terms not on the list, and monitor voice as well as text.  Anytime the protagonist leaves the house, he has to wear a device called the Listener, which issues a warning when he strays from the list of approved words.  The realm of sanctioned speech dwindles day by day.

Eventually the protagonist discovers the existence of a secret Talking Club, where in an apartment encircled by lead curtains, members say whatever they want, have sex, and study 1984,  Feeling alive again, he realizes that he has been suppressing ‘a strong yearning to talk.’  This brief encounter with hope is squelched when the authorities develop radar dishes that can intercept signals through lead curtains.  By the end of the story, there are no healthy words left, and the hero walks the city mutely, alone with his thoughts.  ‘Luckily, it was not yet possible to shield the mind with technology.’ Ma writes.

(4) EMPIRE AT 40. “Star Wars drops 40th anniversary poster for ‘The Empire Strikes Back'”Yahoo! Movies UK shared the image and some other interesting links.

This week marks the 40th anniversary of Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back.

Considered by most to be the blockbuster franchise’s finest moment, the second Star Wars film stunned audiences around the world with a killer twist and the ultimate downbeat ending.

To celebrate the film’s 40th year, Lucasfilm and Disney have gone all out, uploading a wealth of content to StarWars.com including a brand new interview with series creator George Lucas.

(5) YA GOTTA BELIEVE. Inverse has already mined that Lucas interview for a post: “George Lucas reveals a shocking connection between Yoda and Baby Yoda”.

Frank Oz, the original puppeteer and voice behind Yoda, also created several Muppet characters along with Jim Henson. You don’t think of Oz’s Miss Piggy as a puppet, you think of her as a pig. And, it’s the same with Yoda and Baby Yoda: We think of them as whatever it is they are supposed to be, not as a kooky fake thing.

But, it turns out, that creating that illusion requires a very specific philosophy. And in a new interview celebrating the 40th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back, George Lucas touched on one fascinating connection between the original Yoda in 1980 and Baby Yoda on The Mandalorian.

Over on the official Star Wars website, George Lucas is talking about The Empire Strikes Back. For diehards, there’s not necessarily a ton of new information in this interview, after all, people have been meticulously documenting the making of Star Wars movies since Star Wars began. But, in talking about the director or The Empire Strikes Back —Irvin Kershner — one detail about how Yoda was shot on set will raise your eyebrow if you’ve been following all the behind-the-scenes action on The Mandalorian.

From StarWars.com:

“Kershner treated Yoda like an actor on set, sometimes talking to the prop instead of addressing Oz down below.”

This is significant because nearly 40 years later, the exact same thing happened on the set of The Mandalorian. In the behind-the-scenes documentary series Disney Gallery: The Mandalorian, director Deborah Chow confirmed what was cropping up in several reports already; cinematic legend Werner Herzog spoke directly to Baby Yoda puppet on the set, and, like Kershner did on Empire, treated the puppet exactly like an actor….

(6) AURORA NEWS. Members of the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association will want to know: “Aurora Awards – Voter Package Downloads now available”.

Awards voting opens June 20 and ends July 25 at 11:59:59 EDT.

(7) CASTAWAYS WITH ETIQUETTE. James Davis Nicoll lists “Four SF Stories That Are More Gilligan’s Island Than Lord of the Flies for Tor.com readers.

…It turns out that even castaway kids will flout convention, as this Guardian article reveals. With no regard for the feelings of authority figures, six Tongan boys spent over a year marooned on a deserted island without even one brutal murder. Instead they cooperated and survived; they even cared for one of the boys who broke his leg…. 

(8) MARTIAN MUD PIMPLES. The German Aerospace Center suspects there are “Lava-like mud flows on Mars”.

Laboratory experiments show that at very low temperatures and under very low atmospheric pressure, mud behaves similar to flowing lava on Earth.

Results suggest that tens of thousands of conical hills on Mars, often with a small crater at their summit, could be the result of mud volcanism.

(9) MOVING TARGET. The paradigm shifts! And CNN tries to sort it out — “J.K. Rowling stupefies fans by revealing the truth around the origins of ‘Harry Potter'”

The news came after a fan posted a picture on Twitter of the Elephant House, a coffee shop in Edinburgh which on its website describes itself as the place “made famous as the place of inspiration to writers such as J.K. Rowling, who sat writing much of her early novels in the back room overlooking Edinburgh Castle.”

The fan asked Rowling to explain “the truth about this ‘birthplace’ of Harry Potter.”

Rowling, who is known to drop various bombshells and unknown tidbits about the franchise on Twitter, explained that the real “pen to paper” birth of Harry Potter himself, happened in her flat.

“If you define the birthplace of Harry Potter as the moment when I had the initial idea, then it was a Manchester-London train,” Rowling tweeted.

“But I’m perennially amused by the idea that Hogwarts was directly inspired by beautiful places I saw or visited, because it’s so far from the truth.”

(10) CHECK YOUR SHELVES. “Harry Potter first edition found in skip sells for £33,000”. No, J.K. Rowling’s revelation above is not the reason that book got chucked. It happened a long time ago. And hey, the librarian was just doing their job when they dumped that worn-out volume!

A hardback first edition Harry Potter book which was found in a skip has sold for £33,000 at auction.

The rare copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was discovered by a teacher 12 years ago along with two paperback first editions.

The anonymous seller found the books outside a school while tidying its library before an Ofsted inspection.

After the paperbacks went for £3,400 and £3,000, the seller said: “To say I’m pleased is an understatement.”

They were sold during an online auction at Bishton Hall in Staffordshire earlier.

Only 500 hardback first editions of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone were printed in 1997, most of which were sent to schools and libraries.

(11) RITA RETIRED. The Guardian’s take on RWA’s new award, “The Vivian” — “Romance Writers of America aims for happy end to racism row with new prize”.

Romance Writers of America is attempting to turn the page on a damaging racism row, abolishing its top literary prizes and replacing them with awards in a new format it hopes will show “happily ever afters are for everyone” and not just white protagonists.

The association of more than 9,000 romance writers is developing proposals to encourage more diverse winners, including training for its judges, an award for unpublished authors and processes to ensure books are judged by people familiar with each subgenre.

The RWA has been at the centre of an acrimonious debate about diversity, criticised for the paucity of writers of colour shortlisted for its major awards, the Ritas, as well as its treatment of Courtney Milan after she called a fellow author’s book a “racist mess” because of its depictions of Chinese women.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 22, 1981 Outland premiered. It was written and directed by Peter Hyams with production by Richard A. Roth and Stanley O’Toole.  It starred  Sean Connery, Peter Boyle, James B. Sikking,  Kika Markham and Frances Sternhagen. According to the studio, it literally broken even at the Box Office. Critics in general liked it (“High Noon in Outer Space”) but audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are meh on it giving a soft 54% rating.
  • May 22, 2012 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skulls premiered. The fourth film in the franchise, it directed by Steven Spielberg and was released nineteen years after the last film. Produced by Frank Marshall from a screenplay by David Koepp off of the story by George Lucas and Jeff Nathanson. And starring Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett,  Karen Allen,  Ray Winstone, John Hurt, Jim Broadbent and Shia LaBeouf. Despite the myth around it in the net that it was a critical failure, critics overwhelmingly loved it. And the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 60% rating. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 22, 1813 – Richard Wagner.  His fantasies The Flying Dutchman (“fly” in the sense we still have in “flee”), TannhäuserThe Ring of the Niebelung (four-opera series), Parsifal, are masterworks of music and theater.  Complicated life and opinions less admirable.  (Died 1883) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1859 – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  Famous for Sherlock Holmes, in SF he wrote five novels, sixty shorter stories, translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish.  In fact his surname from birth records to his knighting was only Doyle.  (Died 1930) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1907 Hergé. He is best remembered for creating The Adventures of Tintin which are considered one of the most popular European comics of the 19th and 20th centuries. He is much less remembered for Quick & Flupke, a short-lived series between the Wars, and The Adventures of Jo, Zette and Jocko which lasted well into the Fifties. (Died 1983.) (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1914 – Sun Ra.  In the avant-garde of jazz he played keyboards and sang, led a variously-composed band under names more or less like “The Solar Arkestra”, still performing; recorded dozens of singles and a hundred full-length albums with titles like We Travel the SpacewaysSpace Is the PlaceStrange Celestial Road.  Said he was taken to Saturn in a vision, changing his life and art.  (Died 1993) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1922 – Bob Leman.  Fanzine, The Vinegar Worm; two pieces in The Best of Fandom 1958.  Fourteen short stories in F&SF, one more in collection Feensters in the Lake, translated into French, German, Italian, Portuguese.  With Gerald Bishop, “Venture Science Fiction Magazine” , a Checklist of the First American Series and the First British Series.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1930 – Robert Byrne.  Editor of Western Construction.  Amateur magician, member of Int’l Brotherhood of Magicians.  Billiards and pool teacher and commenter; Byrne’s Standard Book of Pool & Billiards sold 500,000 copies; columnist for Billiards Digest; seven instructional videos; Billiard Congress of America Hall of Fame.  Eight anthologies of funny things people have said.  Three novels in our field, five others.  (Died 2016) [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1938 Richard Benjamin, 82. He’s here because he was Adam Quark on the all too short-lived Quark series. He also was Joseph Lightman in Witches’ Brew which was based off Fritz Leiber’s Conjure Wife novel (winner of the 1944 Retro-Hugo Award at Dublin 2019) though that’s not credited in the film. And he was in Westworld as Peter Martin. Finally, he did a stint on the Ray Bradbury Theatre as Mr. Howard in “Let’s Play Poison” episode. (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1943 – Arlene Phillips.  Dancer, choreographer including the film Annie and the Royal Shakespeare production of A Clockwork Orange, judge for Strictly Come Dancing and the U.K. version of So You Think You Can Dance?  Ten credited film appearances.  For us, six Alana, Dancing Star children’s books.  [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1956 Natasha Shneider. Her entire acting career consisted of but two roles, only one of interest to us, that of the Soviet cosmonaut Irina Yakunina in 2010: Odyssey Two. Her other genre contribution was she wrote and performed “Who’s in Control” for Catwoman. Cancer would take her at far too early an age. (Died 2008.) (CE)
  • Born May 22, 1968 Karen Lord, 52. A Barbadian writer whose first novel, Redemption in Indigo, won the Carl Brandon Parallax Award and Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature for its inventive use of Senegalese folklore. I’d also recommend her The Best of All Possible Worlds novel as it’s as well done as her earlier novel but different and fascinating in its own right. 
  • Born May 22, 1978 – Tansy Rayner Roberts.  Ph.D. in Classics from U. Tasmania.  Hugo as Best Fan Writer 2013, Ditmar as Best Fan Writer 2015; nine more Ditmars, three of them Athelings (for SF criticism).  George Turner prize for Splashdance Silver.  WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n) Small Press Award for “The Patrician”.  A dozen novels, three dozen shorter stories.  Served a term as a Director of SFWA (no one made SFWA into Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America and Australia; directors were no longer region-specific).  Crime fiction as Livia Day.  [JH]
  • Born May 22, 1979 Maggie Q, 41. She portrayed Tori Wu in the film adaptation of Veronica Roth’s novel Divergent, a role she reprised in its sequels, Insurgent and Allegiant. She played a female agent in a comedic version of the Jackie Chan fronted Around the World in 80 Days. And she’s in the recent remake of Fantasy Island that critics hated but was a box office success. On a brighter note, she voices Wonder Woman on the Young Justice series.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio references Harlan Ellison.

(15) SPEAK, MEMORY. So does Liza Fletcher McCall:

(16) HUMANITY IS NO LONGER ON TOP. Titan Comics has revealed the Horizon Zero Dawn issue #1 covers. The series, based on the award-winning game by Guerrilla, brings back characters Aloy and Talanah in a new story set after the events of the game. The series launches August 5, 2020.

Set on a far future Earth, where nature has reclaimed the planet but massive, animal-like machines now rule the land, Horizon Zero Dawn follows the story of Aloy, an extraordinary young woman whose quest to solve the riddle of her mysterious origins takes her deep into the ruins of the ancient past.

Titan’s new comic book series – co-created by Anne Toole, one of the writers of Horizon Zero Dawn, with artwork by fan-favorite artist Ann Maulina – takes place after the events of the game as Talanah, a strong and determined hunter, struggles to find purpose after her trusted friend Aloy disappears. When a mysterious threat emerges in the wilds, she sets out to hunt and to defeat it, only to learn that a whole new breed of killer machines stalk the land!

(17) NEW VIEWS. Nerds of a Feather hears about “6 Books with Rowenna Miller”.

4. How about a book you’ve changed your mind about – either positively or negatively?
How about a book that changed my mind? I’ve never been big on nineteenth century lit—there were books I liked here and there but so often they were just…dull. There, I said it. But I read Dickens’ Hard Times a couple years ago and it was such fun—witty and tongue-in-cheek, with obvious but not moralistic commentary on ethical issues—and found families and the circus! I’m finding that some of the lesser-known, non “canon” lit, and especially short fiction, from that period ticks more of my boxes than I realized.

(18) RANDOM ACCESS MEMORIES. Joe Sherry and Aidan Moher are on the party line in “The Modern Nostalgia of Dragon Quest XI: A Conversation” at Nerds of a Feather.

Aidan: Silent protagonists come under a lot of heat, but they’ve never really bothered me in older games. As the level of fidelity and detail grow, however, they make less and less sense, and it feels particularly odd in Dragon Quest XI. With so much voice acting in the game, every time the protagonist (who I’ll call Eleven) responds by awkwardly staring into space or making a weird little gasp feels uncanny. The characters all behave as though he’s this magnetic hero type, but so much of that is personality and charisma—and Eleven has none of that.

I recently replayed Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete (and a bit of Grandia before that) and one of the things that really stood out to me in those games was the personalities of the protagonists really shining through. By emphasizing their personalities, they felt like much more engage and proactive heroes, compared to, say, Crono from Chrono Trigger or Eleven from Dragon Quest XI. Those silent types require others to push the story forward and they act as sort of a… defining element for the protagonist’s actions and motivations. It’s almost like they’re the splash of paint revealing the invisible protagonist.

(19) IT’S ONLY NATURAL. CNN reports “A parasite that feeds off of the reproductive organs of millipedes is named after Twitter, where it was found”.

Biologist and associate professor Ana Sofia Reboleira of the National Natural History Museum said in a press release that she was simply browsing Twitter when she came across a photo, shared by her US colleague Derek Hennen of Virginia Tech, of a North American millipede.

Nothing unusual there. But then she looked closer….

(20) A NEW TWIST. “Jason Momoa is a Vampire and Peter Dinklage is Van Helsing in Action-Horror Movie ‘Good Bad & Undead’”Bloody Disgusting has the details.

Check out this wild plot synopsis, billed as “Midnight Run in a Bram Stoker world“:

“Dinklage will play Van Helsing, last in a long line of vampire hunters. He develops an uneasy partnership with a Vampire (Momoa) who has taken a vow never to kill again. Together they run a scam from town to town, where Van Helsing pretends to vanquish the Vampire for money. But when a massive bounty is put on the Vampire’s head, everything in this dangerous world full of monsters and magic is now after them.”

Momoa and Dinklage are also set to produce.

(21) KEEP WATCHING THE SKIES. In addition to SpaceX’s planned launch, “Virgin Orbit hopes for rocket flight this weekend”.

British businessman Sir Richard Branson is looking to this weekend to debut one of his new space systems.

Virgin Orbit, based in California, will put satellites above the Earth, using a rocket that’s launched from under the wing of a jumbo jet.

The maiden mission, to be conducted out over the Pacific Ocean, could take place as early as Saturday.

Assuming this demonstration is successful, Virgin Orbit hopes to move swiftly into commercial operations.

It already has a rocket built at its Long Beach factory for a second mission.

British businessman Sir Richard Branson is looking to this weekend to debut one of his new space systems.

(22) COPYCATS. There’s no telling what’s likely to come over the transom these days –

(23) VASTER THAN EMPIRES, AND MORE SLOW. “Herd-Like Movement Of Fuzzy Green ‘Glacier Mice’ Baffles Scientists”.

In 2006, while hiking around the Root Glacier in Alaska to set up scientific instruments, researcher Tim Bartholomaus encountered something completely unexpected.

“What the heck is this!” Bartholomaus recalls thinking. He’s a glaciologist at the University of Idaho.

Scattered across the glacier were balls of moss. “They’re not attached to anything and they’re just resting there on ice,” he says. “They’re bright green in a world of white.

Intrigued, he and two colleagues set out to study these strange pillow-like moss balls. In the journal Polar Biology, they report that the balls can persist for years and move around in a coordinated, herd-like fashion that the researchers can not yet explain.

“The whole colony of moss balls, this whole grouping, moves at about the same speeds and in the same directions,” Bartholomaus says. “Those speeds and directions can change over the course of weeks.”

In the 1950s, an Icelandic researcher described them in the Journal of Glaciology, noting that “rolling stones can gather moss.” He called them “jökla-mýs” or “glacier mice.”

This new work adds to a very small body of research on these fuzz balls, even though glaciologists have long known about them and tend to be fond of them.

(24) KEEPING BUSY. “Bumblebees’ ‘clever trick’ fools plants into flowering”. Yes. Let’s call this “Plan Bee.”

Scientists have discovered a new behaviour among bumblebees that tricks plants into flowering early.

Researchers found that when deprived of pollen, bumblebees will nibble on the leaves of flowerless plants.

The damage done seems to fool the plant into flowering, sometimes up to 30 days earlier than normal.

(25) STINKERS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] I can pretty much guarantee you’ve never heard of some of these. And that’s a good thing. “The Worst Sci-Fi Movies Every Year Of The Decade (According To IMDb)” at ScreenRant.

8 Area 407 (2012) – 3.6

Who’d have thought a sci-fi-horror found footage film released in the year 2012 could possibly be a critical failure? Believe it or not, that’s exactly what Area 407 turned out to be.

Arguably the most obscure movie on this list, the fact that barely anybody saw this one is likely no accident. The film was reportedly shot without a script, being entirely ad-libbed by its actors during the movie’s suspiciously lean five-day shoot. Whether or not this was down to sheer laziness or a failed attempt to recapture the magic of classic found footage movie The Blair Witch Project is up for debate – but the movie is terrible, regardless.

(26) SEE SPOT HERD. “Robot dog tries to herd sheep” — video.

A robot dog designed for search and rescue missions has had a go at herding sheep in New Zealand.

Technology company Rocos is exploring how the Spot robot – made by US-based Boston Dynamics – might be put to work in the agricultural industry.

(27) MORE BITS, SCOTTY! BBC rushes to judgment! “Australia ‘records fastest internet speed ever'”.

Researchers in Australia claim they have recorded the fastest ever internet data speed.

A team from Monash, Swinburne and RMIT universities logged a data speed of 44.2 terabits per second (Tbps).

At that speed, users could download more than 1,000 high-definition movies in less than a second.

According to Ofcom, the average UK broadband speed currently is around 64 megabits per second (Mbps) – a fraction of that recorded in the recent study.

(28) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Fire (Pozar)” on YouTube is a weird film written, animated, and directed by David Lynch in 2015.  (I can’t describe it–it’s just weird!)

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

Pixel Scroll 4/14/20 You’re The Nosferatu, On The Grave’d Durante

(1) TOPICAL TV IDEAS. The Vulture asked TV’s idle talent to take up the challenge: “If I Wrote a Coronavirus Episode”. Tagline: “Tina Fey, Mike Schur, and 35 more TV writers on what their characters would do in a pandemic.” If you scroll way down there’s one for Picard, although most of the others are funnier. By comparison, this bit for Sheldon Cooper is spot on —

“I’m not one to brag, but I was practicing social distancing back when it was called ‘Who’s the weird kid alone in the corner?’ And at the risk of sounding like a hipster, I was washing my hands 30 times a day before it was cool. I do, however, miss being with my friends. Sitting around eating Chinese takeout, sharing my scientific ideas and correcting theirs … that’s my happy place.” —Sheldon Cooper, Ph.D., The Big Bang Theory (Chuck Lorre and Steve Molaro)

(2) SUPPORT AVAILABLE FOR WRITERS. Publishers Lunch has a standing free reference page listing organizations that offer emergency grants to authors and other creators. Two examples:

Poets & Writers has created a COVID-19 Relief Fund to “provide emergency assistance to writers having difficulty meeting their basic needs.” They will provide grants of up to $1,000 to approximately 80 writers in April. The board allocated $50,000, which has been supplemented by gifts from supporters including Michael Piestch and Zibby Owens.

We Need Diverse Books will provide emergency grants to diverse authors, illustrators, and publishing professionals “who are experiencing dire financial need.” They will give grants of $500 each, and are limiting the first round of applications to 70.

(3) A WORD IN DEFENSE. From Publishers Weekly:“Internet Archive Responds to Senator’s Concern Over National Emergency Library”.

Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle is defending the legality of the organization’s National Emergency Library initiative to a U.S. Senator who last week raised concerns that the effort may be infringing the rights of authors and publishers.

…In his three-page response to [Senator] Tillis, Kahle rejected those criticisms, and explained the creation of National Emergency Library using the Senator’s constituents to illustrate its utility.

“Your constituents have paid for millions of books they currently cannot access,” Kahle explained, adding that North Carolina’s public libraries house more than 15 million print book volumes in 323 library branches across the state. “The massive public investment paid for by taxpaying citizens is unavailable to the very people who funded it,” he writes. “The National Emergency Library was envisioned to meet this challenge of providing digital access to print materials, helping teachers, students and communities gain access to books while their schools and libraries are closed.”

Kahle further maintained that “the vast majority” of the books in the National Emergency Library, mostly 20th Century books, are not commercially available in e-book form, and said the collection contains no books published in the last five years.

“[For] access to those books, readers and students can continue to turn to services like OverDrive and hoopla,” Kahle explained, making what defenders say is a critical distinction: commercial providers offer patrons access to e-books; the National Emergency Library is providing stopgap digital access to scans of paper books that are locked away in shuttered libraries and schools. “That is where the National Emergency Library fills the gap,” Kahle insists.

(4) LEGACY. [Item by Steve Davidson.] From Faaneds on Facebook: A friend is going through the personal effects of a passed fan and came across a number of LOCs by Michael W. Waite. Does anyone here know if there are any family members/friends who would appreciate having these?

(5) HAVE A LISTEN. Wil Wheaton links to his reading of a Doctorow story — “Radio Free Burrito Presents: Return to Pleasure Island by Cory Doctorow”.

I was talking to my friend, Cory, over the weekend, and we decided that we would each read and release something the other had written, because why not?

I’m a huge fan and admirer of Cory both as a human and as a creative person. He’s been my primary mentor since I started writing professionally, and I owe him more than I’ll ever be able to properly repay. It’s not unreasonable to say that, without Cory’s guidance and kindness, I wouldn’t be a published author.

So it’s with excitement (and a little trepidation, because I don’t want to disappoint my friend) that I chose one of Cory’s fantastic short stories from way back in 1999, which he describes this way:

This is the story of the ogres who run the concession stands on Pleasure Island, where Pinocchio’s friend Lampwick turned into a donkey. Like much of my stuff, this has a tie-in with Walt Disney World; the idea came to me on the Pinocchio ride in the Magic Kingdom, in 1993.

You can grab my narration at my Soundcloud. I hope you enjoy it.

(Public domain ebook versions of the story are also available at Project Gutenberg.)

(6) SPACE VERSE. Asimov’s Science Fiction’s Emily Hockaday posted the “National Poetry Month Podcast 2020” today.

Happy National Poetry Month! We have a dozen poems here pulled from past and current issues to celebrate our poets this year. Each of these poems is striking in its own way, and I hope you enjoy the many voices and styles to come. First up is “All Saints Day” by Lisa Bellamy, read by Diana Marie Delgado, followed by “All the Weight” by Holly Day, read by Emily Hockaday, “The Celestial Body” read and written by Leslie J. Anderson, “The Destroyer is in Doubt about Net Neutrality” read and written by Martin Ott, “Unlooping” read and written by Marie Vibbert, “Attack of the 50 foot Woman” read and written by Ron Koertge, “The Language of Water,” by Jane Yolen, read by Monica Wendel, “Archaeologists Uncover Bones, Bifocals, a Tricycle” read and written by Steven Withrow, “Objects in Space” by Josh Pearce, read by R.J. Carey, “Small Certainties” by Sara Polsky, read by Emily Hockaday, “Palate of the Babel Fish” read and written by Todd Dillard, and finally “After a Year of Solitude” by Lora Gray, read by Jackie Sherbow.

(7) SOUNDS PRETTY NUTTY. In the Washington Post, as part of his annual celebration of Squirrel Week, John Kelly has a piece about the Norse god Ratatoskr, a squirrel with a giant horn in the center of his head who ferried messages up and down the great World Tree. “Meet Ratatoskr, mischievous messenger squirrel to the Viking gods”. Incidentally, long before there was File 770, Bruce Pelz’ Ratatosk was the fannish newzine of record.

…Most of what we know about the stories Vikings told each other comes from Snorri Sturluson, who was an Icelandic poet and lawyer, a combination not quite so rare then as now. Snorri (1179-1241) was ambitious. He journeyed from Iceland to Norway to ingratiate himself with leaders there and pick up skills….

(8) IN WORDS OF MORE THAN ONE SYLLABLE. “’I May Have Gone Too Far In A Few Places’ And 9 Other Famous George Lucas Star Wars Quotes” compiled by ScreenRant.

In May of 1944, George Walton Lucas Jr. was born, twenty-three years later, he graduated from USC, and a decade after that he changed the world forever by releasing Star Wars. The Star Wars franchise is a phenomenon like no other, and nobody, not even the maker himself, could have predicted its impact.

The headline quote is #9. Here is ScreenRant’s commentary:

…Before The Last Jedi came to be, the prequels were the kings of controversy. After seeing a rough cut of his film in 1999, Lucas said the famous quote to a small screening room “I may have gone too far in a few places.”

Ironically, in behind the scenes videos of The Phantom Menace, Lucas talks about how the key to these types of films is not to go too far. This quote shows Lucas’ self-awareness and references the disjointedness of the movie.

(9) SULLIVAN OBIT. Ann Sullivan, the Disney animator behind The Little Mermaid and The Lion King, has died at the age of 91. She is the third member of the Motion Picture and Television Fund retirement home to die as a result of the coronavirus. The Hollywood Reporter paid tribute.

… Sullivan re-entered the business in 1973, when she started at Filmnation Hanna Barbera. She later returned to Disney, landing credits on studio titles from the late-1980s to the mid-2000s. Sullivan worked in the paint lab on…1989’s The Little Mermaid…and 1992’s Cool World. She painted for the 1990 short The Prince and the Pauper; 1994’s The Lion King; 1995’s Pocahontas; 1997’s Hercules; 1999’s Tarzan and Fantasia 2000; 2000’s The Emperor’s New Groove; and 2002’s Lilo & Stitch and Treasure Planet. Sullivan also is credited as having worked as a cel painter on 1994’s The Pagemaster and for performing additional caps and painting on 2004’s Home on the Range.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 14, 2010 — In the United States, The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec (in French, Aventures extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec) premiered. It was directed by Luc Besson from his own screenplay. It was produced by Virginie Besson-Silla, his wife.  It starred Louise Bourgoin, Mathieu Amalric, Philippe Nahon, Gilles Lellouche and Jean-Paul Rouve. It was narrated by Bernard Lanneau. It is rather loosely based upon “Adèle and the Beast” and “Mummies on Parade” by Jacques Tardi. Critics world-wide loved it, and the box office was very good, but the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a oddly muted 54% rating. Be advised the Shout Factory! DVD is a censored PG rating version but the Blu-Ray is uncensored. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 14, 1929 Gerry Anderson. English television and film producer, director, writer and if need be voice artist.  Thunderbirds which ran for thirty-two episodes was I think the best of his puppet based shows though Captain Scarlet and the MysteronsFireball XL5 and Stingray are definitely also worth seeing. Later on, he would move into live productions with Space: 1999 being the last production under the partnership of Gerry and Sylvia Anderson. (Died 2012.)
  • Born April 14, 1935 Jack McDevitt, 85. If you read nothing else by him, read Time Travelers Never Die as it’s a great riff on the paradoxes of time travel. If you’ve got quite a bit of time, his Alex Benedict space opera series is a fresh approach to conflict between two alien races.
  • Born April 14, 1936 Arlene Martel. No doubt you’ll best remember her as T’Pring in Star Trek’s “Amok Time” as it was a rather memorable episode. She also had roles in one-offs in a lot of genre series including Twilight ZoneThe Outer LimitsThe Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Wild Wild WestMission:ImpossibleThe Delphi BureauI Dream of Jeannie,  Man from AtlantisMy Favorite Martian,  The Six Million Dollar Man and Battlestar Galactica. (Died 2014.)
  • Born April 14, 1949 Dave Gibbons, 71. He is best known for his work with writer Alan Moore, which includes Watchmen and the Superman story ”For the Man Who Has Everything” (adapted to television twice, first into the same-named episode of  Justice League Unlimited and then more loosely into “For the Girl Who Has Everything”.) He also did work for 2000 AD where he created Rogue Trooper, and was the lead artist on Doctor Who Weekly and Doctor Who Monthly
  • Born April 14, 1954 Bruce Sterling, 66. Islands in the Net is I think is his finest work as it’s where his characters are best developed and the near future setting is quietly impressive. Admittedly I’m also fond of The Difference Engine which he co-wrote with Gibson which is neither of these things. He edited Mirrorshades: A Cyberpunk Anthology which is still the finest volume of cyberpunk stories that’s been published to date. He’s won two Best Novelette Hugos, one for “Bicycle Repairman” at LoneStarCon 2, and one at AussieCon Three for “Taklamakan”.
  • Born April 14, 1958 Peter Capaldi, 62. Twelfth Doctor. Not going to rank as high as the Thirteenth, Tenth Doctor or the Seventh Doctor on my list of favorite Doctors, let alone the Fourth Doctor who remains My Doctor, but I thought he did a decent enough take on the role. His first genre appearance was as Angus Flint in the decidedly weird Lair of the White Worm, very loosely based on the Bram Stoker novel of the same name. He pops up in World War Z as a W.H.O. Doctor before voicing Mr. Curry in Paddington, the story of Paddington Bear. He also voices Rabbit in Christopher Robin. On the boob tube, he’s been The Angel Islington in Neverwhere. (Almost remade by Jim Henson but not quite.) He was in Iain Banks’ The Crow Road as Rory McHoan (Not genre but worth noting). He played Gordon Fleming in two episodes of Sea of Souls series. Before being the Twelfth Doctor, he was on Torchwood as John Frobisher. He is a magnificent Cardinal Richelieu in The Musketeers series running on BBC. And he’s involved in the current animated Watership Down series as the voice of Kehaar.
  • Born April 14, 1977 Sarah Michelle Gellar, 43. Buffy Summers on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yes, I watched every episode. Great show. Even watched every bit of Angel as well. Her first genre role was as Casey “Cici” Cooper in Scream 2 followed by voicing Gwendy Doll in Small Soldiers. Her performance as Kathryn Merteuil in Cruel Intentions is simply bone chillingly scary. I’ve not seen, nor plan to see, either of the Scooby-Do films so I’ve no idea how she is Daphne Blake. Finally, she voiced April O’Neil in the one of latest animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films. 
  • Born April 14, 1982 Rachel Swirsky, 38. Her “The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers Beneath the Queen’s Window”  novella (lovely title that) won a Nebula Award, and her short story, “If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love” would do a short while later. Very impressive. I’ve read her “Eros, Philia, Agape” which is wonderful and “Portrait of Lisane da Patagnia” which is strange and well, go read it. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) BE YOUR OWN VILLAIN. We’ve heard the saying that everyone is the hero of their own story. In contrast, Brian Cronin reminds readers about “That Time That Jerry Siegel Plundered the Funny Pages to Defeat Superman” at CBR.com.

In Meta-Messages, I explore the context behind (using reader danjack’s term) “meta-messages.” A meta-message is where a comic book creator comments on/references the work of another comic book/comic book creator (or sometimes even themselves) in their comic. Each time around, I’ll give you the context behind one such “meta-message.”

Today, we look at Jerry Siegel plunder the Funny Pages as he, himself, becomes the villain of a Superman story involving other newspaper comic strips!

The whole thing went down in the opening story in 1942’s Superman #19 (by Siegel, Ed Dobrotka and John Sikela)… 

(14) DIAMOND IN THE ROUGH. ScreenRant tries to explain “Just What is the Direct Market In Comics and Where Did It Come From?”

With the coronavirus pandemic grinding the comic book industry to all halt, there has been much talk about what is to be done with the “direct market”. But just what exactly is the direct market, and how did it come to be? And perhaps more pressing, what will happen to the direct market in a post-COVID-19 world?

Believe it or not, there was a time comic books were purchased outside of comic book shop, carried by newsstands, grocery stores, and even gas stations. However, the comic book shop model, primarily engineered by Phil Seuling in 1972, offered several advantages. The system was known as the “direct market” because it bypassed traditional newspaper and magazine distributors. It offered a much more diverse line of content than the newsstands, including comic books aimed at an adult audience. One of the primary advantages for the distributor was that the comic books were unreturnable unlike newsstands, which would traditionally return all unsold merchandise…. 

Much history ensues. Then —

…Because of all of these factors and more, the future of the direct market is looking increasingly uncertain. In addition to the growing concern that many retailers will have to close their doors due to the coronavirus, the comic book industry itself seems destined for an overhaul. Some comic book shop owners are considering the possibility of re-negotiating with Diamond, while others are considering trying to bypass the current distribution system altogether. The direct market has served the comic book industry well for nearly fifty years, but it might be time to ask – what will best serve the comic book industry for the next fifty?

(15) GOOD REASON TO PREEN THEIR PLUMAGE. In “Adri and Joe Talk About Books: The Hugo Awards”, Adri Joy and Joe Sherry talk about their Hugo nomination for Nerds of a Feather, and some of the other works they’re glad made the final ballot.

Adri: There have been a few feelings knocking around! And about an hour of my life in which it has been unclear whether I should cry, shout, laugh, breathe, throw up, and indeed if I could do any one of those things without the others happening too.

Also, while I’ve definitely experienced the post-announcement Twitter love before, CoNZealand’s decision to schedule a streamed announcement at a timezone that worked for as many Hugo-voter-heavy countries as possible, and the general enthusiasm for people to get online at the moment and hang out, meant that the announcement feed and stream just felt so full of frenzied excitement and love for everyone. Definitely a very heightened moment and, yeah, I’ll absolutely take that finalist status, even if I was already swanning around Dublin wearing the “Finalist” badge ribbon last year.

Joe: I absolutely enjoyed that youtube sidebar chat during the announcement, even if it ultimately did amount to a bunch of people just mashing their keyboards at the same time in excitement.

(16) I’LL TAKE ‘DUBIOUS PRODUCT NAMES’ FOR $100. [Item by Daniel Dern.] This is what comes from not having any Humanities majors in your company… There’s enough obvious cheap-shot jokes that I’m not even going to bother including one here. From PRwire: “Pepperdata Introduces New Kafka Monitoring Capabilities for Mission-Critical Streaming Applications”.

With Streaming Spotlight, existing customers can integrate Kafka monitoring metrics into the Pepperdata dashboard, adding detailed visibility into Kafka cluster metrics, broker health, topics and partitions.

Kafka is a distributed event streaming platform and acts as the central hub for an integrated set of messaging systems. Kafka’s architecture of brokers, topics and data replication supports high availability, high-throughput and publish-subscribe environments. For some users, Kafka handles trillions of messages per day.

Managing these data pipelines and systems is complex and requires deep insight to ensure these systems run at optimal efficiency….

(17) HALL OF FAME. R. Graeme Cameron has finally received the hardware, and I enjoyed his description on Facebook.

Since I was not present when Eileen Kernaghan, Tanya Huff and myself were inducted into the CSFFA Science Fiction Hall of Fame during the Aurora Awards ceremony at Can-Con last year, CSFFA planned to present the plaque to me (and I assume to Eileen) at the Creative Ink Festival in May this year. But, as we all know, Covid-19 forced the CIF to cancel.

Consequently, CSFFA elected to mail me the plaque….

The Janus-like trophy features on one side the visage of an aging knight representing venerable fantasy, blended with vegetation and rather resembling a forest-spirit Don Quixote, an ancient book to the right of his beard, and on the other side the fresh face of a proud, young aviatrix representing the cutting edge of science fiction as perceived back in the 1930s, a rocket ship in flight just to the right of her neck. A most splendid and evocative trophy. Each inductee gets a plaque like this one. The trophy is on display throughout the year in various libraries.

(18) HIGH-SPEED HYPERLOOP PROJECTS WILL BEGIN OPERATION NO EARLIER THAN 2040. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Let’s make notes in our calendars so we can check whether they’re right…

Economics, not technology, pose the largest barriers to building the Hyperloop according to a new Lux report: “High-speed Hyperloop projects will begin operation no earlier than 2040”.

Lux has found that, while the Hyperloop concept is technically feasible, it will require significant development to become cost-effective. The Hyperloop differs from conventional rail because it operates in a vacuum system that reduces aerodynamic drag, thus enabling higher speeds and greater energy efficiency. There are four main design elements creating technical challenges with the Hyperloop: pillar and tube design, pod design, propulsion and levitation of the pods, and station design.

Lux Research found that pod design is the fastest-growing area for Hyperloop patent activity, with a focus on improving comfort and performance. Customer comfort is important due to the compact, enclosed spaces with no windows, which can increase the likelihood of customers getting sick. Optimizing pod performance is key to minimizing drag and reducing costs because pod design choices have a significant impact on tube design and aerodynamics. Propulsion and levitation systems have the least patent activity, in part due to the fact that Hyperloop will likely adapt magnetic levitation, or maglev, technology.

One of the biggest technical challenges will be identifying the optimal system pressure and minimizing leakage of the vacuum system, which, if higher than expected, can increase operating costs and reduce top speeds. “Selecting the Hyperloop’s tube pressure is the most important factor impacting cost, for both operational expenses and the initial capital needed for tube design and construction,” says Lux Research Associate Chad Goldberg….

(19) IN FRANCE. Is this anywhere near Remulac? Reuters reports: “Space scientists use COVID-19 lockdown as dry run for Mars mission”.

French space scientists are using the COVID-19 lockdown as a dry run for what it will be like to be cooped up inside a space craft on a mission to Mars.

The guinea pigs in the experiment are 60 students who are confined to their dormitory rooms in the southern city of Toulouse – not far removed from the kind of conditions they might experience on a long space mission.

When the French government imposed movement restrictions to curb the spread of the virus, space researcher Stephanie Lizy-Destrez decided to make the most of a bad situation, and signed up the student volunteers.

It’s not an exact simulation of space flight: tasks such as picking up samples from a planet’s surface using a lunar rover do not feature, and the students can break off from their virtual space journey for a daily trip outside.

Instead, they conduct computer-based tasks such as memory tests and mental agility tests. They keep a daily journal, and every five days have to complete a questionnaire.

(20) SOCIAL DISTANCING EARTH. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Spacecraft BepiColombo’s handlers have published a GIF of Earth as seen from the craft during a recent flyby. BepiColombo was slingshotting past Earth on its way to a Mercury survey mission. BC presumably wished us well in handling COVID-19, and made sure to stay far enough away not to pick up the virus. “BepiColombo takes last snaps of Earth en route to Mercury”.

The ESA/JAXA BepiColombo mission completed its first flyby on 10 April, as the spacecraft came less than 12 700 km from Earth’s surface at 06:25 CEST, steering its trajectory towards the final destination, Mercury. Images gathered just before closest approach portray our planet shining through darkness, during one of humankind’s most challenging times in recent history.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/27/20 For There Is No Joy In Scrollville, Mighty Pixel Has Struck Out

(1) PASSING THE GRAIL. “Steven Spielberg Won’t Direct Indiana Jones 5” reports Vanity Fair.

“Indiana…let it go.”

This was what the adventurer’s father said to him in the climax of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, as he hung by one hand from a cliff and reached with the other toward the Holy Grail. Ultimately, the words hit home. As much as he wanted one more treasure, he had gone far enough.

That’s apparently the conclusion Steven Spielberg just reached. The Oscar winner has decided not to direct a planned fifth movie about Harrison Ford’s punch-throwing archaeologist, multiple sources confirmed to Vanity Fair. Instead, James Mangold, director of Ford v Ferrari, Wolverine, and Logan, is in talks to take over the project, which is still set to hit theaters on July 9, 2021.

A source close to Spielberg told Vanity Fair, “The decision to hand over directing duties was entirely Steven’s,” adding that “he felt now was the perfect time to let a new director and a new generation give their perspective to the overall story and this film.”

(2) EGYPT ACROSS THE AGES. Juliette Wade hosts “K. Tempest Bradford” at Dive Into Worldbuilding. Read the synopsis, watch the video, or do both!

…She’s been researching Egypt for a long time. She told us about how she’s been attempting to write a novel set in Egypt since college. In fact, it’s a grouping of projects, not one (as is appropriate with a long and thorough research project of this nature!).  

She started with a novel based on the life of Pharaoh Akhenaten with links to Oedipus, and then decided she didn’t have the skills to do it well and put it on the back burner. At that point she started learning a lot about the 18th dynasty. People know a lot about that period, she points out, and she has become very knowledgeable about it. Then she started writing a Steampunk story set in ancient Egypt, pushing boundaries. It started out as a short story and turned into a novel. That, she says, has been common for projects she’s worked on since Clarion West. That piece is set at the start of the beginning of the 18th dynasty….

Tempest says she’s thought about carrying forward the steampunk cultural elements into her other novel. Giant flying scarab beetles run by the heat of the sun for Akhenaten to ride in sounded pretty awesome to us!

(3) FOWL PLAY. In the February 1 Irish Times, Niamh Donnelly interviews Eoin Colfer about his new fantasy Highwire, as Colfer discusses the forthcoming Artemis Fowl movie, how he hopes to slow down after 43 books, and the graphic novels he writes that deal with contemporary political issues: “Eoin Colfer: ‘Humour defines me … I’m obsessed with it’”.

… “As a teacher I always found that telling stories was the best way to teach because you could sneak the information inside an adventure story. So, a lot of the Artemis books, for example, would have a very ecological message. My books tend to be, of late, a mixture of escapism and trying to tackle issues head on. Last year we did the graphic novel, Illegal, which was, just blatantly, a book about how tough it is to migrate from Africa to Europe. But because it was a graphic novel, we got to people who wouldn’t normally get that subject. And we also brought a lot of people who do like that subject into the world of graphic novels. And then the flip side of that is I like to do books like Highfire and Fowl Twins just so people can have a laugh and kids can go to bed smiling.”

(4) ATTENTION STATION ELEVEN FANS. Penguin Random House talks ghost stories and more in a Q&A with Emily St. John Mandel:

Q: Was there a particular event or idea that was the genesis for The Glass Hotel?

A: My original idea was that I wanted to write a ghost story that was also somehow about money. (In fact, one of my early working titles was Ghosts and Money, because titles are hard.) But the event that captured my imagination was the collapse of the Madoff Ponzi scheme. The characters in the novel are entirely fictional, but the central crime is essentially Madoff’s.

Q: Station Eleven fans will find some small nods to that beloved novel here. While this novel is different in so many ways how do you see it in relation to Station Eleven? It seems like they are both in many ways about art?

A: Yes, I think that’s fair to say. I also think it’s fair to say that if The Glass Hotel is a departure from Station Eleven, it’s in many ways a return to the themes that preoccupied me in my earlier work. My first three novels—Last Night in Montreal, The Singer’s Gun, and The Lola Quartet—were largely concerned with bad decisions, the question of how to live honourably in a damaged world, memory, and questionable morality.

(5) AVOID THE TRAP. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This anecdote about Bradbury and Matheson is from “The Genre of You” by Jonathan Maberry behind a paywall in the March Writer’s Digest

‘What kind of writer do you want to be?’

That question was asked of me when I was 13.  I’d been dragged along to a party at a penthouse in New York City.  It was 1971 and the person asking the question was the legendary writer Richard Matheson…

…Before I could answer, another of the writers at the party — national treasure Ray Bradbury –touched my shoulder and said, ‘Be careful, young man.  That question’s a trap.”…

…So, what was the trap?  I found out when I did not step into it. ‘I don’t know,’ I said.  ‘A lot of things, I guess.’

Matheson beamed a great smile. ‘Good answer!’ he said, then explained why. ‘A genre is something that matters to the people in marketing.  It doesn’t matter much to me.  It doesn’t matter to Ray. We write what we want to write and then figure out how to sell it.”

Bradbury agreed.  ‘I like science fiction and fantasy, but if an idea for mystery comes and whispers loud enough to my ear, I’ll have to listen.’

The rest of the article includes anecdotes from Matheson, Harlan Ellison, and Joe R. Lansdale.  Here’s one more Bradbury quote:

“Don’t just write what you want to read — everyone does that. Write the story you would go out of your way to hunt down and read.'”

(6) MICHAEL HERTZ OBIT. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Michael Hertz, creator of definitive New York City subway map, RIP. Among other things, he found a way to redo the map so it could be done as one rather than 5. Paywalled NYT obit. Non-paywalled Chicago Tribune pickup of NYT article: “He designed one of the most consulted images in modern history: Creator of the NYC subway map dies at 87”

“It was the 1970s,” Arline L. Bronzaft, a psychologist who worked on Hertz’s replacement map, told Newsday in 2004. “People were fearful of going on the subways. We wanted people to use the map to see the sights of New York.”

The map that Hertz’s firm came up with included streets, neighborhoods and other surface reference points. And it depicted the city and its signature elements like Central Park and the waterways in a fashion more reflective of reality — the park wasn’t square, as on the earlier map, and the water wasn’t beige.

It feels like I recently read an article on the evolution of subway maps, as the systems’ complexity grew… but I can’t find or remember it. Ah well.

(Somewhere I still have a few NYT subway tokens of various sizes (= different values over the years). Pretty sure at least one was for a 10cent fare.)

Transit-map-wise, I did buy these two books a year or three ago (but haven’t really looked through them yet): Transit Maps of the World: Expanded and Updated Edition of the World’s First Collection of Every Urban Train Map on Earth

Or, for the train-specific: Railway Maps of the World.

For the sfnal connection, I’ve got a list of transit maps for Middle Earth that I put together a year and a half ago (if the Fellowship had had ’em, those books and movies could have been shorter, methinks), but apparently didn’t offer to OGH… I’ll recheck and update it and send it in.

Meanwhile, there’s the Westeros Metro System map.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 27, 1979 The Curse of Dracula premiered on NBC. Michael Nouri was Count Dracula, who is living undercover as a college teacher in 1979 San Francisco.  It was part of Cliffhangers which attempted to resurrect the genre of film serials. Each hour-long episode was divided into three 20-minute (including commercials) stories featuring different storylines Including this one. The Secret Empire was another genre serial done as part of this show. You can see the first episode of The Curse of Dracula here. Cliffhangers lasted but a single season from the 27th of February to 1st of May 1979. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 27, 1902 John Steinbeck. Yes, John Steinbeck. ISFDB lists one novel, The Short Reign of Pippin IV: A Fabrication, Plus a bevy of short fiction such as “The Wedding of King”, “The Affair at 7 Rue de M—“ and “The Death of Merlin”. I’ll admit that i didn’t know these existed. So, has anyone read these? (Died 1968.)
  • Born February 27, 1915 Donald Curtis. His first genre role was an uncredited one as Ronal in the first twelve chapters of the Forties Flash Gordon Conquers The Universe. He’s a German sentry in Invisible Agent, an WW II propaganda film, and Dr. John Carter in It Came from Beneath the Sea, a Fifties SF film. Likewise he’s in another Fifties SF film, Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, as Major Huglin. He played five different characters during on Science Fiction Theater, and he’d later have a one-offs on The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and Get Smart!. (Died 1997.)
  • Born February 27, 1927 —  Lynn Cartwright. She had a career in genre productions starting with two Fifties pulp films, Queen of Outer Space and Wasp Women. She next shows up in The Erotic Adventures of Robin Hood, his Lusty Men and Bawdy Wenches. She has an appearance in the Far Out Space Nuts series, and earlier showed up on Science Fiction TheaterThe Lucifer Complex is her SF role. (Died 2004.)
  • Born February 27, 1934 Van Williams. He was the Green Hornet (with the late Bruce Lee as his partner Kato) on The Green Hornet and three Batman cross-over episodes. He would voice President Lyndon B. Johnson on the Batman series, show up in an episode of Mission Impossible, and also do a one-off Quinn Martin’s Tales of the Unexpected and that’s it. (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 27, 1938 T.A. Waters. A professional magician and magic author. He appears not terribly well-disguised as Sir Thomas Leseaux, an expert on theoretical magic as a character in Randall Garrett’s Lord Darcy fantasy series and in Michael Kurland’s The Unicorn Girl in which he appears as Tom Waters. He himself wrote The Probability Pad which is a sequel to The Unicorn Girl. Together with Chester Anderson’s earlier The Butterfly Kid , they make up Greenwich Village trilogy. (Died 1998.)
  • Born February 27, 1944 Ken Grimwood. Another writer who died way too young, damn it.  Writer of several impressive genre novels including Breakthrough and Replay which I’ve encountered and Into the Deep and Elise which are listed in ISFDB but which I’m not familiar with. So, what else is worth reading by him? (Died 2003.)
  • Born February 27, 1960 Jeff Smith, 60. Creator and illustrator of the most awesome Bone, the now complete series that he readily admits that “a notable influence being Walt Kelly’s Pogo”. Smith also worked for DC on a Captain Marvel series titled Mister Mind and the Monster Society of Evil.
  • Born February 27, 1964 John Pyper-Ferguson, 56. I certainly remember him best as the villain Peter Hutter on The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. but I see that he got he got his start in Canadian horror films such as  Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II and Pin: A Plastic Nightmare. His first major SF role was in Space Marines as Col. Fraser. And though he has an extensive one-off career in genre series, his occurrence as a repeated cast member is not uncommon, ie he’s Agent Bernard Fainon the new Night Stalker for the episodes, shows up as Tomas Vergis on Caprica for six episodes and I see he’s had a recurring role on The Last Ship as Tex Nolan. 
  • Born February 27, 1970 Michael A. Burstein, 50. He won the Astounding Award for Best New Writer in 1997 for “TeleAbsence”. His “Sanctuary” novella was chosen by Analog readers as the best novella published by the magazine in 2005. He has one to date, Remember the Future: The Award-Nominated Stories of Michael A. Burstein, which is available fir the usual digital publishers.
  • Born February 27, 1976 Nikki Amuka-Bird, 44. The Voice of Testimony in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Doctor story, “Twice Upon A Time”.  She’s shown up quite a bit in genre work from horror (The Omen), space opera (Jupiter Ascending)takes on folk tales (Sinbad and Robin Hood) and evening SF comedy (Avenue 5).

(9) NEBULA PLATTER. Nerds of a Feather’s Adri Joy and Joe Sherry hit the highlights of the Nebula ballot in “Adri and Joe Talk About Books: The 2019 Nebula Awards”.

Joe: I’d love to see a Nebula Longlist where we can see the even just the three or four books that just missed the ballot because here’s where things get interesting for me – I’m surprised that neither The City in the Middle of the Night nor The Light Brigade made the ballot. There’s no telling how, exactly, the Nebulas will translate to the Hugo Awards except that I think we both agree that A Song for a New Day feels more like a Nebula Book than a Hugo Book for whatever that means and whatever that’s worth.

Adri: I agree. Because the Nebulas don’t release voting statistics, they can feel like a closed box in this regard, albeit one that we collectively put our trust in to be delivering a result accurate to the voting base (and, hey, no 20booksto50k shenanigans this year!). Anders, Hurley and also The Future of Another Timeline feel like books that must have been bubbling just under. I wonder, also, about books like Black Leopard, Red Wolf, and some of the other literary “crossover” titles we were looking at on the Locus list. Are those also in the hidden longlist, or is that not what SFWA voters were looking at when putting this together?

(10) SOME LIKE IT SHORT. Then, Adri Joy reviews five sources of short sff – including collections and magazines – as part of “Questing in Shorts: February 2020” at Nerds of a Feather.

Of Wars, and Memories, and Starlight by Aliette de Bodard (Subterranean Press)

Aliette de Bodard’s Subterranean press collection is as beautiful as you’d expect on the outside, with a Maurizio Manzieri cover and the standard level of Subterranean finishing. It’s also an excellent collection that’s largely comprised of pieces from the Best Series-nominated Xuya universe, which ranges from alternate history Earth stories in which the Western part of North America is colonised by China, and the Aztec empire of Mexica survives into the present day in a loose alliance with the power now called Xuya. The collection contains one piece from this Earthbound continuity “The Jaguar House, in Shadow“, an intriguing political thriller which, along with the opening story “The Shipmaker“, sets up the rest of the intergalactic political, cultural and technological traits of the Xuya universe very nicely. De Bodard’s stories dealing with cultural clashes of some kind are highlights for me: from “The Waiting Stars“, the tale of a young Dai Viet woman who has been taken from her family and raised in the Galactic Empire, to “Scattered Along the River of Heaven“, a story of conflict and war and cultural revolution told two generations after the fact, de Bodard is quietly unflinching in her portrayals of displaced characters and their struggles to find connection with the different cultures they are surrounded by and yet, to some extent, alienated from. The absolute highlight on this front is “Immersion“, a Nebula and Locus winning short story which alternates between Quy and another woman from the Rong people, both of whom wear Galactic (western culture)-made “Immersers” which allow them to communicate with Galactics but at the expense of their own culture and personhood. For Quy, who wears the Immerser briefly to help her family with business transactions, the experience is unpleasant but temporary; for the other narrator, it has become her permanent reality. The story’s sense of isolation, and the various losses which the casual dominance of Galactic culture in this part of space has created, come around into a perfect, heartbreaking, circle by the end as the second narrator finds tentative connection in her isolating, but unique, understanding of both Rong and Galactic culture….

(11) RETURNING TO THE GALACTOSCOPE. And there’s so much sff coming out in 1965 that Galactic Journey ran a second batch of reviews:

(12) DOES IT LIVE UP TO THE HEADLINE? Mike Kennedy passed along this 2016 link because he loves the title: “All 35 Video-Game Movies, Ranked From Least Bad to Absolute Worst”. If you want to save yourself the suspense, here’s the film at the bottom of the barrel —  

1. Postal (2007)

Here it is, a movie that should make you think Warcraft is high art. Postal opens on two terrorists in the cockpit of a plane, fighting about how many virgins greet martyrs when they enter heaven. The argument ends with them deciding to fly to the Bahamas instead, but then the passengers of their hijacked plane revolt and force it to crash into the World Trade Center. Everything hovers around that level of bad and offensive for the rest of the movie, making this an easy call for definitively worst video-game adaptation ever. Uwe Boll, you make it so hard to love you.

(13) FILL ‘ER UP. BBC reports: “Docking gives Intelsat telecoms satellite new lease of life”.

Two American satellites have docked high over the Atlantic in a demonstration of what many commentators expect to be a burgeoning new industry.

One of the platforms is an old telecoms spacecraft low on fuel; the other is an auxiliary unit that will now take over all the former’s manoeuvring functions.

This will allow Intelsat-901 to extend its 19-year mission of relaying TV and other services by another five years.

The event has been described as a major accomplishment by the firms involved.

Northrop Grumman, which produced the Mission Extension Vehicle-1 that grabbed hold of Intelsat-901, said it was the first time two commercial satellites had come together in this way at an altitude of just over 36,000km.

…Northrop Grumman’s vehicle will now control all movement for the pair, including the precise pointing required by IS-901 to map its telecommunication beams on to the right regions of Earth’s surface.

When the Intelsat’s extended mission comes to an end, the MEV-1 will take the telecoms platform to a “graveyard” orbit before then joining up with another “running on empty” customer that needs the same manoeuvring assistance.

Northrop Grumman, which is operating its new servicing business through a subsidiary, SpaceLogistics LLC, said it planned to expand the basic “tug” concept offered by MEV-1 to include vehicles capable of in-orbit repair and assembly.

Already it is working on systems that would feature not just simple docking probes but robotic arms to grab hold of satellites. Another option being developed is fuel pods that can be attached to satellites running low on fuel.

(14) BITTEN TO DEATH BY DUCKS. Daffy and Donald, lunch is served: “China prepares 100,000 ducks to battle Pakistan’s locust swarms”.

China is preparing to deploy 100,000 ducks to neighbouring Pakistan to help tackle swarms of crop-eating locusts.

Chinese agricultural experts say a single duck can eat more than 200 locusts a day and be more effective than pesticides.

Pakistan declared an emergency earlier this month saying locust numbers were the worst in more than two decades.

Millions of the insects have also been devastating crops in parts of East Africa.

The Chinese government announced this week it was sending a team of experts to Pakistan to develop “targeted programmes” against the locusts.

Lu Lizhi, a senior researcher with the Zhejiang Academy of Agricultural Sciences, described the ducks as “biological weapons”. He said that while chickens could eat about 70 locusts in one day a duck could devour more than three times that number.

“Ducks like to stay in a group so they are easier to manage than chickens,” he told Chinese media.

(15) NICKELODIOUS. The New York Times takes you “Down on the Farm That Harvests Metal From Plants”.

Some of Earth’s plants have fallen in love with metal. With roots that act practically like magnets, these organisms — about 700 are known — flourish in metal-rich soils that make hundreds of thousands of other plant species flee or die.

Slicing open one of these trees or running the leaves of its bush cousin through a peanut press produces a sap that oozes a neon blue-green. This “juice” is actually one-quarter nickel, far more concentrated than the ore feeding the world’s nickel smelters.

The plants not only collect the soil’s minerals into their bodies but seem to hoard them to “ridiculous” levels, said Alan Baker, a visiting botany professor at the University of Melbourne who has researched the relationship between plants and their soils since the 1970s. This vegetation could be the world’s most efficient, solar-powered mineral smelters. What if, as a partial substitute to traditional, energy-intensive and environmentally costly mining and smelting, the world harvested nickel plants?

(16) PULLING THE WOOL OVER. “This Lady Crochets Her Neighbors and It Is Incredible”Awkward has a photo gallery.

Aritst Liisa Hietanen is one talented lady. Like, incredibly talented. Hietanen takes crocheting to a whole new level when she creates life-like models of her friends and neighbors in her native Finland.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/3/20 Please Vasten Your Seatbelts

(1) A CENTURY OF THE GOOD DOCTOR. This week Asimov would have been 100. James Gunn marked the occasion in an article for Science “Asimov at 100”.

A case can be made that, like H. G. Wells, Asimov came along at the right time. (Wells once commented that he made his writing debut in the 1890s, when the public was looking for new writers.) But Asimov also had a restless and productive mind. His early experience of reading, and then writing, science fiction gave his popular science writing a rare narrative model, while his fiction similarly benefited from his scientific training.

(2) NOW A JOURNALISTIC TECHNIQUE. [Item by Olav Rokne.] The Columbia Journalism Review, in “Journalism and the foreseeable future”, takes note of the trend in mainstream publishing to look at contemporaneous and emerging issues through the lens of science fiction. It’s a welcome trend that is producing excellent work we’ve seen featured on the Pixel Scroll several times, and I’m very glad to see this getting attention within journalistic circles. 

Despite its dangers, [Sam] Greenspan sees the value of speculative journalism’s mix of the true and the fanciful. “I think the goal should be to use fiction or sci-fi to tell a better true story,” he says. “And I’m taking seriously the kind of emotional impact these stories have on people. By introducing even just the slightest amount of something fantastical, it gives your audience permission to have their minds wander a bit from what we know to be true, and really opens up this window into possibility and hope.”

(3) GUD LISTENING. On the latest Rite Gud podcast R.S. Benedict’s guest is Stephen Mazur, associate editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. They talk about whether or not originality really matters in writing. Stephen also gets into a bit of inside baseball regarding F&SF publishing: the recent history of the magazine, how many submissions they get, what kind of submissions they get, the process, etc.

(4) ROMANCE WRANGLERS BEWARE. Who but Chuck Tingle would add “no sex” as a selling point? Or need to?

Gorblin Crimble is an aspiring romance author with a brand new novel that could be his first breakthrough hit. Of course, Gorblin is going to need some help getting his work out there, and starts by seeking likeminded creatives.

After attending a local writer’s group, Gorblin makes a new friend, Amber, who points him towards Romance Wranglers Of America. It sounds like this community is exactly the helpful, loving, supportive group that Gorblin is looking for, but when him and Amber arrive at the Romance Wranglers Of America headquarters, they quickly realize something is wrong. This once loving group has been taken over by a dark and mysterious force; lead by a man named Demon and his chanting coven of board members in jet-black robes.

Something horrible from the depths of the cosmic Void has taken hold, but is it too late to prove that romance is about love, not hate?

This important no-sex tale is 4,300 words of reasonable writers looking for a kind and supportive romance community that respects its members and treats them fairly.

(5) SFF ZINES. Jason Sanford today posted three more interviews with editors done in conjunction with his fine “#SFF2020: The State of Genre Magazines” report.

Jason Sanford: I suspect most people in the SF/F genre don’t understand the difficulties of publishing a magazine. What’s one aspect of running a genre magazine you wish more readers and writers knew about?

Lynne M. Thomas and Michael Damian Thomas: We think it’s important that people know the financial margins for magazines to stay in the black are razor thin, and that most of the magazines are unable to generate income for their publishers. (And many aren’t able to pay the editors.) Almost all of the income generated by magazines are going to the writers and artists….

Jason Sanford: Amazing Stories was the first science fiction magazine, and helped launch the pulp fiction era of the 1920s and ’30s. What is it like publishing a magazine with such history? Has that history presented any difficulties to your relaunch of the magazine?

Steve Davidson: Well, you get unexpected support and assistance;  a lot of people in the field are still very fond of both the magazine and its place in Science Fiction’s history.  But that brings with it two difficulties.  One, most younger fans among our potential market seem to assume that we’re publishing reprints of older works or new works in a golden-age style, despite the fact that promotion and discussion of the magazine – let alone our contributor’s own statements – clearly say otherwise.  We’re an old, venerable name in the genre publishing new, ground-breaking science fiction from the current era. …

Jason: In many ways Clarkesworld helped birth the current movement in online and genre magazines. How have things changed since the founding of Clarkesworld? Would you say it’s harder or easier to run a genre magazine these days?

Neil: It was a very different world for magazines in 2006. Online fiction wasn’t particularly respected. I remember having established authors tell me point-blank they wouldn’t publish online because it was the domain of “newbie writers and pirates.” The year’s best anthologies and various genre awards rarely featured works from those markets. With two-to-three years, that started changing and today, the awards have heavily swung the other direction – something you could reasonably argue is just as problematic….

(6) BURNED OUT. Australian fan Don Ashby, who lost his home to one of the fires now raging Down Under, was interviewed by The Age: “The sky turned black. The beast had arrived in Mallacoota”. (Via Irwin Hirsh.)

When Don Ashby caught a lift through town on Tuesday afternoon, he counted as many as 20 properties destroyed. One was his mother-in-law’s mudbrick cottage. Another was his own home of 20 years.

Ashby had evacuated his family to Melbourne and spent Monday night helping a friend to defend her house.

It had been an exhausting night and morning, punctuated by the rapid combustion of gas cylinders at a nearby storage business.

“It was like we were in the middle of the battle of the Somme,” he said.

When he returned to his own home, it looked unscathed. Then he realised it was just the facade that had been untouched by fire. The rear of the house was a blazing ruin. With no CFA tankers nearby and no water pressure left to fight the fire, he could only stand and watch it burn.

“It is all a bit grim really,” he said. “We really copped it.

“I have been in a few bushfires before but nothing like this. Nothing like this has happened before. The whole of Gippsland was on fire.”

(7) BABY IT’S GOLD OUTSIDE. Plagiarism Today reports from the front in “The Battle Over ‘Baby Yoda’”.

…However, those were just the first drops of a tidal wave that came crashing down on the internet. Etsy, for example, is swarming with unauthorized Baby Yoda merchandise of all types and eBay is much the same way.

This has become the subject of a lot of media coverage as well, such as this article on The Nerdist highlight a Baby Yoda plush toy.

This glut of unauthorized toys isn’t due to a lack of effort on Disney’s part. Several artists have reported receiving takedown notices after selling Baby Yoda merchandise on such sites and even the toy referenced above was also removed. Still, it’s clear that the Baby Yoda craze has outpaced even Disney’s capacity for control.

And the issues aren’t just related to physical items. Back in November, the popular gif website Giphy pulled all of its Baby Yoda gifs. Though Disney was initially blamed for this, it turned out it was a proactive move by Giphy that aimed to head off potential legal action by Disney. Disney hadn’t done anything.

(8) 2020 SIR JULIUS VOGEL AWARD NOMINATIONS OPEN. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand (SFFANZ) is taking nominations for the 2020 Sir Julius Vogel awards until 11.59 pm NZT on March 31.

The awards recognise excellence and achievement in science fiction, fantasy, or horror works created by New Zealanders and New Zealand residents, and first published or released in the 2019 calendar year.

…A nomination made by a SFFANZ member carries a weight of two nominations, where non-members’ nominations carry a weight of one.

Full information about the awards, including the rules and criteria for the Sir Julius Vogel Award, can be found here. Eligibility list is here.

(9) PRO-ROWLING. Megan McArdle’s opinion piece in the Washington Post “Has J.K. Rowling figured out a way to break our cancel culture?” says that Rowling’s defense of Maya Forstater and her refusal to back down after social media protests shows that “the opinions of officious strangers, possibly thousands of miles away, who swarm social media like deranged starlings over and over again” can be safely ignored.

The censorious power of Mrs. Grundys always depends on the cooperation of the governed, which is why their regime collapsed the moment the baby boomers shrugged off their finger-wagging. If Rowling provides an unmissable public demonstration that it is safe to ignore the current crop, we can hope others will follow her example, and the dictatorship of the proscriptariat will fall as quickly as it arose.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 3, 1970 Doctor Who’s “Spearhead from Space” serial started airing. The Third Doctor as played by John Pertwee first appears in this episode. It would also be the first appearance of companion Liz Shaw who’s played by Caroline John. She only lasted a season because the next showrunner decided she was too intelligent to be a proper companion.
  • January 3, 1993 Star Trek: Deep Space Nine premiered in television syndication. As you know, it would have a seven-year run with one seventy-six episodes in total. S.D. Perry wrote a sort of authorized ninth season in her Avatar novels. She’s written a number of Trek universe novels including a Section 31 one.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 3, 1892 J. R. R. Tolkien. I’m not going to waste my time detailing Tolkien to this group. My go-to book for him for him after over forty years of reading him remains The Hobbit. The book that still annoys me? The Two Towers. Best Tolkien experience? Seeing The Father Christmas Letters read live. (Died 1973.)
  • Born January 3, 1898 Doris Pitkin Buck. She’s got my feline curiosity aroused. Wiki says “She published numerous science fiction stories and poems, many of them in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.” That’s fine but there’s little said about her or how she came to be a SF writer. ESF notes her “still unpublished tale “Cacophony in Pink and Ochre” has long formed part of the announced contents of Harlan Ellison’s The Last Dangerous Visions.” So what do y”all do about her? (Died 1980.)
  • Born January 3, 1930 Stephen Fabian, 90. He specializes in genre illustration and cover art for books and magazines such as H. Warner’s The Werewolf of Ponkert which you can see here. I see he got a World Fantasy Award—Life Achievement, and was nominated seven times for Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist. Is that the most times for being nominated without winning? His collected works include Ladies & Legends and Women & Wonders. Of course, they’re genre. 
  • Born January 3, 1937 Glen A. Larson. Triple hitter as a producer, writer and director. Involved in Battlestar Galactica, Galactica 1980The Six Million Dollar Man, ManimalBuck Rogers in the 25th Century, and Knight Rider. He also was responsible for Magnum, P.I. which I love but I’ll be damned if I can figure any way to claim that’s even genre adjacent. He also did a lot of Battlestar Galactica novels, some with Ron Goulart. (Died 2014.)
  • Born January 3, 1940 Kinuko Y. Craft, 80. She is a Japanese-born American painter, illustrator and fantasy artist. True enough. So why is she here?  Because she had an amazing run of illustrating the covers of the Patricia McKillip novels until quite recently. I’m linking here to our review at Green Man of The Bards of Bone Plain for a favorite cover she did. There’s a slim volume on Imaginosis called Drawings & Paintings which collects some of her work.
  • Born January 3, 1956 Mel Gibson, 64. I know the first thing I saw was genre wise involving him was The Road Warrior in a cinema which would be some forty years ago. Likewise I saw Mad Max 2 and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome in cinemas, but I admit have mixed feelings about both of those films, though less about the latter as it’s at least fun. He’s in FairyTale: A True Story, a look at the the Cottingley Fairy photographs of the 1920s, and voices John Smith in Pocahontas. He plays Hamlet in Hamlet but I really don’t think I can call that genre, but I know some of you will. 
  • Born January 3, 1975 Danica McKellar, 45. From 2010–2013 and since 2018, she’s voiced Miss Martian in Young Justice. It’s just completed its third season and it’s most excellent! She’s done far, far more voice work than I can list here, so if you’ve got something you like that she’s done, do mention it. 
  • Born January 3, 1976 Charles Yu, 44. Taiwanese American writer. Author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe and the short-story collections, Sorry Please Thank You and Third Class Superhero. His novel was ranked the year’s second-best science fiction novel by the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas — runner up for the Campbell Memorial Award. 

(12) ALL ROBOT DOGS GO TO THE CLOUD. BuzzFeed: “While Americans Worry About The AI Uprising, People In Japan Are Learning To Love Their Robots — And Be Loved Back”.

It was before 10 a.m. on a gray summer Sunday, but already a small crowd had gathered outside Penguin Café at the end of a block in residential Tokyo. A woman named Kyoko, dressed in a white T-shirt and apron, unlocked the doors and motioned for everyone to come inside.

Half a dozen or so people filed in, several with signature pink dog carriers slung over their shoulders. As more entered, the group clustered at the center of the café. Carefully, they unzipped the mesh panels of their carriers and removed the small white and silver dogs inside, setting them down on the wooden floor. One owner peeled back a yellow blanket over a baby carrier strapped to her chest where she held her dog, still asleep.

Some of the owners fussed with the dogs’ outfits before putting them down — straightening a necktie or pulling up the elastic band on a pair of shorts. One owner had dressed their dog in a Hawaiian shirt, while another was wearing aviator goggles and had a strong resemblance to Snoopy. Several had tiny straw hats affixed between their ears. All the dogs were plastic, powered by facial recognition and artificial intelligence….

(13) BOOKMARKS. Nerds of a Feather features “6 Books With Yoon Ha Lee”.

6. And speaking of that, what’s your latest book, and why is it awesome? 

Thor: Metal Gods
is a Serial Box serialized novel by Aaron Stewart-Ahn (the lead writer), Jay Edidin, Brian Keene, and myself.  It features Thor and Loki, both coming to terms with old sins and old friends, a Korean tiger goddess, and a genderfluid space pirate and astronomer.  There are black holes, eldritch abominations, heavy metal, and mayhem.  We had terrific fun writing it and we hope you’ll enjoy it too.

(14) CLEANER OR MEANER? Daily Beast writer David Axe contemplates whether “It’s the First Orbiting Garbage Collector—or a New Kind of Space Weapon”.

… The European Space Agency is about to pull one of the bigger hunks of garbage from orbit. But there’s a problem: The same tech that could help make space cleaner might, in the long run, also make it more dangerous.

That’s because the ESA’s ClearSpace-1 orbital garbage truck, as well as other spacecraft like it, could double as a weapon. 

Swiss startup ClearSpace designed the ClearSpace-1 vehicle to intercept a chunk of debris, latch onto it, and drag it back into Earth’s atmosphere where it can safely burn up. The ESA has scheduled the clean-up mission for 2025 and has even identified its target: a 265-pound piece of an old rocket orbiting 310 miles above Earth’s surface.

The 2025 mission will involve what ClearSpace CEO Luc Piguet called “non-cooperative capture.” That is to say, the targeted piece of debris wasn’t designed with an interface or any other system that might help a clean-up craft grab onto it. 

(15) AMAZONS! A growing body of archaeological evidence shows that legends about the horseback-riding, bow-wielding female fighters were almost certainly rooted in reality. The Washington Post has the story: “Amazons were long considered a myth. These discoveries show warrior women were real. “

…In a landmark discovery revealed this month, archaeologists unearthed the remains of four female warriors buried with a cache of arrowheads, spears and horseback-riding equipment in a tomb in western Russia — right where Ancient Greek stories placed the Amazons.

The team from the Institute of Archaeology at the Russian Academy of Sciences identified the women as Scythian nomads who were interred at a burial site some 2,500 years ago near the present-day community of Devitsa. The women ranged in age from early teens to late 40s, according to the archaeologists. And the eldest of the women was found wearing a golden ceremonial headdress, a calathus, engraved with floral ornaments — an indication of stature.

(16) WORDSMITH ALSO TUNESMITH. Don’t say you never got the chance to hear Norman Spinrad sing. Today on Facebook he reminded people about the time he performed at the Cirque Electrique in Paris.

Not that I’m planning to ever give up my day job, but I’ve had a long slow minor career with music, something around a dozen songs written or co-written, something less than that creating and recording, occasional live performances too such as this one, my best I think.

(17) 2019. Joe Sherry explains his choices for the “Top 9 Books of the Year” at Nerds of a Feather.

7. Middlegame: Middlegame is perhaps the most ambitious novels from Seanan McGuire and is a showcase for her skill at telling a good and complex story. Twins, math, alchemy, murder, time-bending, family, secret organizations, impossible powers, and just about everything McGuire can throw into this wonderous novel. Seanan McGuire has blended together as much as she possibly could stuff into one novel and she makes the whole thing work. It’s impressive. McGuire goes big with Middlegame. Doubt Seanan McGuire at your peril. (my review)

(18) IF IT WEREN’T FOR THE HONOR OF THE THING. Publishers Weekly declared “Dav Pilkey Is PW’s Person of the Year for 2019”.

Pilkey’s Captain Underpants and the Terrifying Return of Tippy Tinkletrousers, the ninth book in his popular children’s novel series, published in 2012, features a comic strip made by the book’s incorrigible pranksters George and Harold, the stars of the series. This comic-within-a-novel marks the first appearance of Dog Man, Pilkey’s lovable crime-fighting superhero, who is surgically constructed from the body of a cop and the head of his police dog companion after they were both injured in a typically Pilkey-style zany accident.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY.  From Savag Entertainment, “Timelapse Reveals How Clever This Billboard Ad For The BBC’s ‘Dracula’ Is.”

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Michael Toman, Olav Rokne, Contrarius, Daniel Dern, Chip Hitchcock, R.S. Benedict, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/30/19 Code of the Headline-Maker by James Scrollgan

(1) QUEEN’S NEW YEAR HONOURS. Over a thousand people are on the list. It is a very good New Year to be a musician with the surname “John” — both Olivia Newton-John and Elton John received honours.

As for literature and genre…

In the Queen’s New Year’s Honors list, literary agent Felicity Bryan was given an MBE for services to publishing, and novelist Rose Tremain was made a Dame.

Director Sam Mendes received a Knighthood for services to drama. He was Executive Producer of Penny Dreadful, and his two James Bond movies, the Oscar winning Skyfall and Spectre, released in 2012 and 2015 respectively, are the most successful in the history of the franchise.

(2) THE BEST OF TIMES, THE WORST OF TIMES. Jason Sanford has released “a detailed look at science fiction and fantasy magazine publishing in this day and age” — “#SFF2020: The State of Genre Magazines”. His report is loaded with information and includes observations by a dozen magazine editors.

Introduction

Back in August I tweeted congrats to the fantasy magazine Beneath Ceaseless Skies for achieving their fundraising goal. Which again, excellent news! But I then foolishly used that thread to try and demonstrate why BCS’s success was proof that science fiction and fantasy magazines were doing better than ever.

Spoiler: I was wrong. As multiple editors and publishers of genre magazines quickly pointed out.

Now don’t misunderstand. In many ways we’re living through the best of times for writers and readers of science fiction and fantasy short fiction. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America lists more than 25 professional-level magazines, likely more than the genre has ever witnessed at the same time. And Locus Magazine’s most recent analysis of the genre’s magazines found “70 magazines, 14 audio sites, and nine critical magazines.

And that’s merely English-language magazines. There are also many great magazines around the world such as XB-1, Galaxies Science-Fiction, and Fantastica. And the biggest SF/F magazine currently in existence is Science Fiction World in China, which reportedly has a circulation of over 200,000 a month.

In addition, the boon of e-publishing has lowered the traditional printing and distribution cost barriers to creating new genre magazines. This allows more people than ever, including marginalized and diverse voices, to create their own magazines without the need for a large company or trust fund to support their dreams.

But despite all this, times are still tough for many magazines. A number of high-profile and award-winning genre magazines have shut down in the last two years, including Apex Magazine, The Book Smugglers (although their review site continues), Intergalactic Medicine Show, and Shimmer.

And during this same time period Neil Clarke, the publisher and editor-in-chief of Clarkesworld, has been speaking publicly about the many issues faced by genre magazines and warning that the short fiction market was “oversaturated when compared to the number of paying readers.” He believed this might eventually result in a market correction and said a big part of the problem was that having so many SF/F short stories available to read for free had “devalued short fiction.”

(3) CLIMATE CHANGE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Not strictly SF but since climate fiction is arguably a sub-branch of SF —

The BBC Radio 4 morning Today programme is the most listened radio news programme in the British Isles.

In the dead period between Christmas and New Year, when Westminster and Capitol Hill are shut down, the Today programme gives over editorial control to guest editors. This morning (30th Dec) we had Greta Thunberg as the day’s editor who brought on folk from Antarctic researchers to the head of the Bank of England.

It is a three-hour programme interspersed with the general news of the day — such as the Australian wildfires.  Rarely do we get such an intense, diverse burst of climate information on a news programme. You can listen to it here.

Of course, if you have been studying for an environmental science degree between 2007- 2018 then likely you might be aware of my own take on the biological and human aspects of climate change.

I have also talked about this at conventions.

10 years ago I wrote a short article based on the questions people often asked me.

Back then I was perhaps considered as depressing and even a few might have thought a little controversial alarmist. However over the subsequent decade I have bullet-point listed the key science developments since my original writing of the essay.  These show how the overall science view has slowly migrated to my own perspective.  In fact, today my own views might be considered by some as positively conservative…

But if you want a short (8 minute) summary as to how well we are doing addressing the issue then here’s Thunberg herself earlier this month:

(4) CLEVER. [Item by Daniel Dern.] The idea/company is great (and a few years old at this point), but for some of us, the name is likely the coolest part. (Via Scott Kirner’s column in the Dec 30 Boston Globe, “Technology and planning are helping to take a bite out of food waste”, and don’t worry if you can’t get see it because paywall.)

The Boston startup Spoiler Alert runs an online trading platform that enables food producers and distributors to get rid of excess inventory by selling it or donating it.

https://www.spoileralert.com/ – I wonder if they had to buy the URL, hard to believe it hadn’t previously been taken.

(5) CARTOPHILE’S LITTLE LIVER PILLS. If you’re a mapophile (or whatever the technical term is), this site is for you: “Download Over 91,000 Maps from the World’s Largest Private Collection” at My Modern Met.

Map lovers will be thrilled by the possibility to peruse some of the world’s most unique historic maps. Over 91,000 maps from the exhaustive David Rumsey Map Collection have been placed online for the world to view and download, making it a treasure trove of information related to cartography. The collection, which was started over 30 years ago, is now housed at Stanford University.

In the 1980s, David Rumsey, president of the digital publishing company Cartography Associates, began building his collection by first focusing on maps of North and South America. With materials dating from the 16th to 21st centuries, the collection is unique in its scope of maps focusing on the United States. From 19th-century ribbon maps of the Mississippi to the world’s largest early world map, the collection is filled with special gems that show the wide variety of artistic maps produced throughout history.

(6) THAT PANTING SOUND. Brenda Clough advises “Flying by the Seat of Your Pants: Listen!” at Book View Café.

If you’re a pantser you are not in sole charge of the work. The characters, the plot, the theme, all chip in and drag the book to new and exciting places. You want them to do that. This is the whole point of pantsing in the first place. The book will go to places that you, if you outlined it at the beginning, could never have imagined. You know the thing’s really alive, when it gets up and runs!

But to get this to happen, you have to listen…

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 30, 1865 Rudyard Kipling. Yea, Kipling. I didn’t do him last year and he’s written enough of a genre nature such as the Just So Stories for Little Children stories like “How the Camel Got Hump“ and “ The Cat that Walked By Himself“ being wonderful stories with a soupçon of the fantastic in them that I should’ve of done so. Or there’s always The Jungle Books, which run to far more stories than I thought. Yes, he was an unapologetic Empire-loving writer who expressed that more than once but he was a great writer. (Died 1936.)
  • Born December 30, 1922 Jane Langton. Author of the Hall Family Chronicles series which is definitely SFF in nature having both fantasy and SF elements in these charming tales for children. The eight books herein are mostly not available digitally though Kindle has the final novel but the Homer Kelly mysteries which both Fantastic Fiction and ISFDB list as genre or genre-adjacent are partially available. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 30, 1942 Fred Ward, 77. Lead in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins which was pleasant but forgettable upon finishing.  Co-lead with Kevin Bacon in several of the Tremors films. Plays The Captain in The Crow: Salvation and Maj. General David Reece in the Invasion Earth series. My favorite role for him? Detective H.P. Lovecraft in Cast a Deadly Spell. Is he that Lovecraft? Maybe, maybe not. 
  • Born December 30, 1945 Concetta Tomei, 74. Blank Dominique, operator along with Blank Reg (the late Morgan Shepherd) of Big Time Television, on Max Headroom. She’s had one-offs on Touched by an Angel, Numb3rs, Ghost Whisperer, and Voyager.
  • Born December 30, 1950 Lewis Shiner, 69. Damn, his Deserted Cities of the Heart novelwas frelling brilliant! And if you’ve not read his Wild Cards fiction, do so now. He also co-wrote with Bob Wayne the eight-issue Time Masters series starring Rip Hunter which I see is on the DC Universe app. Yea! Anyone that’s read the Private Eye Action As You Like It collection of PI stories I see listed on Kindle with Joe Lansdale?  It looks interesting. 
  • Born December 30, 1951 Avedon Carol, 68. She was the 1983 winner of the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund to Albacon II in Glasgow, And she was GOH at Wiscon II along with Connie Willis and Samuel R. Delany. She has been nominated for three Hugos as Best Fan Writer. She’s been involved in thirty apas and fanzines according to Fancyclopedia 3.
  • Born December 30, 1959 Douglas A. Anderson, 60. The Annotated Hobbit, for which he won the Mythopoeic Award, is one of my favorite popcorn readings. I’m also fond of his Tales Before Narnia: The Roots of Modern Fantasy and Science Fiction which has a lot of great short fiction it, and I recommend his blog Tolkien and Fantasy as it’s one of the better ones on fantasy literature out there. Today he’s saying a few words about Holdstock.
  • Born December 30, 1976 Rhianna Pratchett, 43. Daughter of Terry who now runs the intellectual property concerns of her father. She herself is a video game writer including the recent Tomb Raider reboot. For her father, she’s overseen and being involved several years back in The Shepherd’s Crown, the last Discworld novel, to print. She was also with Simon Green the writer of The Watch, the Beeb’s Ankh-Morpork City Watch series. She’s a co-director of Narrativia Limited, a production company which holds exclusive multimedia and merchandising rights to her father’s works following his death. They, of course, helped develop the Good Omens series on Amazon.
  • Born December 30, 1980 Eliza Dushku, 39. First genre role was Faith in the Buffyverse. Not surprisingly, she’d star in Whedon’s Dollhouse. I think her Tru Calling series was actually conceptualized better and a more interesting role for her. She voices Selina Kyle, Catwoman, in the animated Batman: Year One which is quite well done and definitely worth watching.   She done a fair of other voicework, two of which I’ll single out as of note. One is is the character of Holly Mokri in Torchwood: Web of Lies – view here. The other role is fascinating — The Lady In Glen Cook’s The Black Company series. Here’s the link to that story.
  • Born December 30, 1986 Faye Marsay, 33. Shona McCullough In a Twelfth Doctor story, “The Last Christmas”. She also was on A Game of Thrones for several seasons as The Waif. (Who that is I know not as I didn’t watch that series.) She also played Blue Colson in Black Mirror’s “Hated in the Nation” tale. Her theater creds include Hansel & Gretel, Peter Pan and Macbeth — all definitely genre.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) AMONG THE MISSING. LA Curbed’s article “Mapping the most incredible lost mansions of Los Angeles” has Ray Bradbury’s home at #10 – with John King Tarpinian’s photo that originated on this blog.

…The most recent teardown on our list, this 1937 Cheviot Hills house was the home of author Ray Bradbury for more than 50 years. In January 2015, starchitect Thom Mayne began deconstruction of the house, much to the chagrin of Bradbury fans and local preservationists. Mayne claimed, “I could make no connection between the extraordinary nature of the writer and the incredible un-extraordinariness of the house. It was not just un-extraordinary, but unusually banal.”

(10) A STUNNER. Joe Sherry’s confidence in the Old Guard is not misplaced: “The Hugo Initiative: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2001, Best Novel)” at Nerds of a Feather.

In Retrospect: Rowling’s Hugo Award is very likely one of the most controversial in the history of the award – while beloved, the Harry Potter novels have never quite received their due as literature. They are books for children and the series is wildly popular, a combination which is great for success and less great for earning respect (such that it truly matters). 

The main thing working against Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire for its place in Hugo Award history, though, is that it won the award over A Storm of Swords, by George R.R. Martin (as well as novels from Ken MacLeod, Robert Sawyer, and Nalo Hopkinson). A Storm of Swords is, notably, the third novel in his A Song of Ice and Fire sequence and widely considered the finest novel in not only that series but in Martin’s acclaimed career. To those who care about such things, Martin is considered “core genre”, writing epic fantasy and being a lifetime part of the Worldcon community. Rowling was an outsider who writes children’s books. I’m sure there is a segment of the old guard Worldcon crowd who still has not gotten over Rowling’s win and Martin’s loss…. 

(11) CUBIC. Cat Eldridge flagged this New York Times article as “really SFnal” — “WeWork Planned a Residential Utopia. It Hasn’t Turned Out That Way.”

After first pledging to upend the way people worked, WeWork vowed to change how they lived: WeLive, a sleek dormitory for working professionals with free beer, arcade games in the laundry room and catered Sunday dinners, would spread around the world.

It has not quite turned out that way.

WeLive has not expanded beyond its first two locations and efforts to open sites in India and Israel have collapsed. In addition to long-term rentals, WeLive offers rooms at its only locations, in New York City and Virginia, for nightly stays on hotel sites.

…Now WeLive’s chances of surviving as the We Company tries to recover from its failed initial public offering are slim, said Scott Galloway, a business analyst and professor of marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business.

“I bet WeLive is wonderful for everyone except the shareholders and We,’’ Mr. Galloway said. “There was a total lack of internal controls. Where were the board’s basic questions like, ‘Why are we doing WeLive?’”

The uncertainty about WeLive comes as other co-living companies are thriving and expanding. A London-based company, The Collective, has plans to build a co-living building in Brooklyn, while another company, Common, has more than 12,000 beds under development in multiple cities, including a 600-unit building in Miami.

(12) WHEN FANDOM IS IN THE DRIVER’S SEAT. Vox critic-at-large Emily VanDerWerff and Constance Grady join Aja Romano to discuss “Fandom went mainstream in the 2010s — for better and worse”.

Constance: Ooh, this is tricky, and actually, Veronica Mars is a good case study here.

Veronica Mars went on as long as it did entirely because of its fandom. In the ’00s, fan mail-in campaigns got it renewed for a second and third season despite low ratings. In 2013, the fan Kickstarter campaign raised over $5 million to pay for the movie’s production budget. This year, the show’s history of intense fan engagement is an enormous part of what led to the Veronica Mars Hulu revival — and in that revival, Veronica’s love interest Logan dies, destroying the ship that large swaths of the fandom were hugely invested in and, with it, their fannish investment in the show.

My impulse when Logan died was to think, “Well, that sucks, but certainly showrunner Rob Thomas is entitled to do whatever he wants with his characters. He doesn’t owe me or his fans anything.” But a number of fans disagreed: Rob Thomas, they said, had taken advantage of their desire to see Veronica and Logan together, using their investment as shippers to leverage not just their time and attention, but the literal dollars out of their pockets. In that case, didn’t he owe them something? Wasn’t killing Logan a betrayal of the contract Thomas had made with the fandom?

To be honest, I can see the argument. When a show’s survival depends this heavily on its fans, the power dynamic between creator and fandom does change dramatically. The Veronica Mars fandom went above and beyond to keep that show coming back again and again, and the showrunner responded by destroying the piece of the show that a huge part of the fandom cared about most. Emotionally, that does feel like a betrayal.

Emily: …I think a lot about a quote from Joss Whedon that I heard when I was a teenager and decided was accurate without a ton of reflection: “Don’t give people what they want; give them what they need.” Of the many bits of storytelling wisdom Whedon has dispensed in interviews over the years, this is the one that has most taken on a life beyond his fandom, because it speaks to something that I think we’re all a little wary of in 2019: anesthetizing art against the horrors of the world so much that it becomes a sort of safe space.

(13) RENAISSANCE PLAYER. Paul Weimer appraises the next book in a series, “Microreview [book]: Priest of Lies by Peter McLean”, at Nerds of a Feather.

…That rich worldbuilding seen in the first novel is extended and expanded on here. From the nature of magic, to the political structure of the capital (including the true structure of the Queen’s Men), the novel enfolds rich details of the main character’s world. Both Ellisberg and now, Dannsburg come across as distinct, real cities that you can imagine walking down the streets of (although do mind the smell of the first, and all the guards in the second)….

(14) JEOPARDY! On tonight’s Final Jeopardy, contestants showed they can draw a blank on non-sff literary items, too. Andrew Porter took notes —

Answer: In a New Yorker profile, he said, “Where I like it is out west in Wyoming, Montana, & Idaho, & I like Cuba & Paris.”

Wrong questions: “Who is Kerouac?” and “Who is John Wayne?”

Correct question: “Who is Hemingway?”

Not skiffy, but what the hey…

(15) HOW DO YOU GET THIS THING OUT OF SECOND GEAR? Jason Kottke frames a video in “How Do You Move a Star? Stellar Engines!”

In this episode of Kurzgesagt, they’re talking about building engines powerful enough to move entire stars, dragging their solar systems along with them….

[Thanks to SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, N., Daniel Dern, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Bill, Alan Baumler, John A Arkansawyer, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 12/12/19 You Ain’t Nothin’ But A Time Lord

(1) MONSTER PRICE. Bernie Wrightson’s original wrap-around cover artwork for Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley sold at auction today for $1 million dollars. The catalog description at the link claims —

…It can also easily be said that the 1983 Marvel publication of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein is arguably the finest illustrated book of the second half of the 20th century. Originally written in 1818, the novel was later painstakingly illustrated over the course of nearly a decade by pen and ink master Bernie Wrightson. We are proud to offer here, what we consider the finest fantasy ink drawing of the 20th century, if not of all time….

(2) UNCERTAIN FUTURE. Editor Alex Shvartsman’s foreword in Future Science Fiction Digest issue 5 explains why it contains only about 20% of the wordage of previous issues – the launch funding from its Chinese partner has run out.

As Future SF enters its second year, we do so without a safety net.

Our first year’s run was sponsored by the Future Affairs Administration. Together we were able to publish a considerable amount of excellent international fiction, and we thank FAA for their help and support as the magazine launched and found its footing. While FAA is still considering their options regarding any future partnerships with us, at this moment they’re not affiliated with the magazine.

So, what does it mean for Future SF going forward? We aren’t going away, but we have to considerably scale back until we secure alternate funding, or follow the path of many other e-zines in our field and slowly build up a subscription and patron base.

I’m currently talking to the FAA, as well as to a couple of other companies, to see if we can work out another sponsorship or partnership. But even if that proves successful, it is a temporary solution. Only a substantial base of subscribers can ensure stable funding in the long term….

(3) IN TIMES THAT CAME. The Bookseller points to a realm of publishing where change is happening almost quicker than it can be predicted: “Voicing a revolution”.

“Voice tech” will be the next revolution. It’s hard to imagine in today’s text- and screen-based society, but voice recognition apps such as search, device control, shopping and social media will replace screens. It’s already here: only five years after inception, half of citizens in the developed world (47%) owns a smart speaker. How odd we were, the next generation will think, for our incessant tapping on little screens. Wearable tech such as Amazon’s Echo Loop (a small ring enabling you to whisper demands into your palm, and cup your ear for Alexa’s answer) gives a glimpse of the shape our future, with virtual assistants always at our disposal. No need to pull out your phone, even for a phone call. Audiobooks will be a beneficiary of the new generation of voice apps as spheres of our lives transition and we get used to the ease and convenience of voice, and brands have to offer aligned products. Audiobooks are part of the fabric of a healthier technology on the go, where screens play a small role. 

Every book published will be available as an audiobook. AI-driven Text-to-Speech apps for audiobook production will leap forward. The AI narrator could be a sampled actor, or a “designer voice” to match the book or brand….

(4) DOUBLE YOUR READING PLEASURE. Cora Buhlert suggests great holiday gifts for the sff readers of 1964 at Galactic Journey: “[December 11, 1964] December GalactoscopE”.

Personally, I think that books are the best gifts. And so I gave myself Margaret St. Clair’s latest, when I spotted it in the spinner rack at my local import bookstore, since I enjoyed last year’s Sign of the Labrys a lot. Even better, this book is an Ace Double, which means I get two new tales for the price of one. Or rather, I get six, because one half is a collection of five short stories.

First on her list —

Message from the Eocene by Margaret St. Clair (Ace Double M-105)….

 (5) FOR 10 YEARS WE’VE BEEN ON OUR OWN. At Nerds of a Feather, Adri Joy and Joe Sherry find nine books worthy of listing as the best of the past 10 years – plus six honorable mentions: “Adri and Joe Talk About Books: The Best of the Decade”. First up —

Range of Ghosts, by Elizabeth Bear (2012): Elizabeth Bear is something of a chameleon of a writer. Whether it is near future cyberpunk thrillers, urban fantasy, alternate historical vampire fiction, espionage, space opera, steampunk, a Criminal Minds meets the X-Files mashup, or epic fantasy – Bear can write it all.

Eschewing the trappings of the stereotypical European setting, Range of Ghosts is silk road epic fantasy – meaning that the novel has a more Mongolian flavor and has an entirely different cultural grounding than what is so often considered “traditional epic fantasy”. Bear pulls no punches in delivering a full realized and top notch epic with rich characterization and incredible worldbuilding. The magic and religion and battles of Range of Ghosts is handled with a deft touch and the best thing is that all of this is set up for something far larger. Range of Ghosts is Elizabeth Bear at the height of her considerable powers. (G’s Review) (Joe)

(6) THOSE OLD FAMILIAR HAUNTS. Emily Littlejohn, in “The Elements of the Haunted House: A Primer” on CrimeReads, says that haunted house mysteries work if they’re in the right place and have ghosts who are appealing but who didn’t die too young or too old.

…Of course, not all ghost stories feature a malevolent spirit intent on wreaking havoc on the living; there are some lovely novels that feature ghosts that are sad rather than mad, more unsettled than vengeful. Those books can be enjoyed in the bright light of day, perhaps with a nice sandwich and a glass of lemonade. But if you like your haunted houses a bit darker, a little less safe, read on for this writer’s perspective.

If I were to write a haunted house novel, I know where I would start: the setting. The canon practically demands a stately manor from the pages of a historical register or an architectural study, all turrets and gables and perhaps a few strange windows that seem a little too much like eyes. Long hallways, flickering light from an early electric bulb or a candle, rooms with furniture shrouded in sheets . . . and nooks, so many nooks, to hide in.

(7) ANCIENT ART. “44,000-Year-Old Indonesian Cave Painting Is Rewriting The History Of Art”NPR says they know because they analyzed the calcite “popcorn” on a pig. (Say that three times fast.)

Scientists say they have found the oldest known figurative painting, in a cave in Indonesia. And the stunning scene of a hunting party, painted some 44,000 years ago, is helping to rewrite the history of the origins of art.

Until recently, the long-held story was that humans started painting in caves in Europe. For example, art from the Chauvet Cave in France is dated as old as 37,000 years.

But several years ago, a group of scientists started dating cave paintings in Indonesia — and found that they are thousands of years older.

“They are at least 40,000 years old, which was a very, very surprising discovery,” says Adam Brumm, an archaeologist at Australia’s Griffith University. He and his colleagues used a technique called uranium-series analysis to determine the paintings’ age. The oldest figurative painting in those analyses was a striking image of a wild cow.

These works had been known for years by locals on the island of Sulawesi — but Brumm adds that “it was assumed they couldn’t be that old.”

Since that big reveal, Brumm’s team — which he led with archaeologists Maxime Aubert and Adhi Agus Oktaviana — has been searching for more art in these caves. In 2017, they found something breathtaking — the massive hunting scene, stretching across about 16 feet of a cave wall. And after testing it, they say it’s the oldest known figurative art attributed to early modern humans. They published their findings in the journal Nature.

The BBC adds details: “Sulawesi art: Animal painting found in cave is 44,000 years old”.

The Indonesian drawing is not the oldest in the world. Last year, scientists said they found “humanity’s oldest drawing” on a fragment of rock in South Africa, dated at 73,000 years old.

…It may not be the oldest drawing, but researchers say it could be the oldest story ever found.

“Previously, rock art found in European sites dated to around 14,000 to 21,000 years old were considered to be the world’s oldest clearly narrative artworks,” said the paper in Nature.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 12, 2014 Bill The Galactic Hero premiered. Directed by Cox and a lot of friends, it likewise had a cast that was rather large. Yes it’s based on Harrison’s novel. Cox got the rights just after Repo Man came out. Costing just over a hundred thousand to produce, it got generally positive reviews and currently is not available anywhere for viewing. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 12, 1893 Edward G. Robinson. His very last film was Soylent Green in which was he was Sol Roth. He shortly before that played Abraham Goldman in “The Messiah on Mott Street” on Night Gallery, and he shows up uncredited as himself in the “Batman’s Satisfaction” episode of Batman. (Died 1973.)
  • Born December 12, 1944 Ginjer Buchanan, 75. Longtime Editor-in-Chief at Ace Books and Roc Books where she worked for three decades until recently. She received a Hugo for Best Editor, Long Form at Loncon 3. She has a novel, White Silence, in the Highlander metaverse, and three short stories in anthologies edited by Mike Resnick. And she’s a Browncoat as she has an essay, “Who Killed Firefly?” in the Jane Espenson edited Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly.
  • Born December 12, 1945 Karl Edward Wagner. As an editor, he created a three-volume set of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian fiction restored to its original form as it was originally written by Howard.  He is possibly best-known for his creation of Kane, the Mystic Swordsman.  (Died 1994.)
  • Born December 12, 1946 Josepha Sherman. Writer and folklorist who was a Compton Crook Award winner for The Shining Falcon which was based on the Russian fairy tale “The Feather of Finist the Falcon”. She was a prolific writer both on her own and with other other writer such as Mecedes Lackey with whom she wrote A Cast of Corbies and two Buffyverse novels with Laura Anne Gilman. I knew her personally as a folklorist first and that she was without peer writing such works as Rachel the Clever: And Other Jewish Folktales and  Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood that she wrote with T K F Weisskopf.  Neat lady who died far too soon. Let me leave you with an essay she wrote on Winter for Green Man twenty years ago. (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 12, 1949 Bill Nighy, 70. Yes he shows up as Dr. Black on Who in an Eleventh Doctor story, “ Vincent and the Doctor”. He’d make a fine Doctor, I’d say. He’s done a lot of other genre performances from the well-known Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean franchise and Slartibartfast in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, to the blink and he’s gone as he was as the ENT Doc in Curse of the Pink Panther.
  • Born December 12, 1961 Sarah Sutton, 58. She’s best known for her role as Nyssa who was a Companion to both the Fourth and Fifth Doctors.  She reprised the role of Nyssa in the 1993 Children in Need special Dimensions in Time, and of course in the Big Finish audio dramas. She’s in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
  • Born December 12, 1966 Hiromi Goto, 53. Winner of the Otherwise Award for The Kappa Child. She followed that with two more SFF novels, The Water of Possibility and Half World, though it’s been a decade since the latter came out. Systems Fail, the 2014 WisCon Guest of Honor publication, highlighted her work and that of .K. Jemisin. Hopeful Monsters, her collection of early genre short fiction, is the only such work available digitally from her.
  • Born December 12, 1970 Jennifer Connelly, 49. Her first genre outing wasn’t as Sarah Williams in Labyrinth, but rather in the decidedly more low-budget Italian horror film Phenomena.  She goes to be in The Rocketeer as Jenny Blake, and Dark City as Emma Murdoch / Anna, both great roles for her. I’m giving a pass to the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still which she was involved in and not saying anything about it. Alita: Battle Angel in which she’s Dr. Chiren scores decently with audiences. 
  • Born December 12, 1976 Tim Pratt, 43. I think his best work was his very first novel which was The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl but there’s no doubt that later work such as The Constantine Affliction, Bone Shop and The Stormglass Protocol are equally superb. That’s not to overlook his short fiction which if you’ve not tried it you should, and I’d recommend Little Gods as a good place to start. 
  • Born December 12, 1981 C.S. E. Cooney, 38. She won the Rhysling Award for “The Sea King’s Second Bride” and a World Fantasy Award for her Bone Swans collection. She has what appears to be a very short novel out, Desdemona and the Deep, published by Tor.com. The latter and her collection are available digitally on Apple Books, Kindle and Kobo. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) WATCHMEN. In the LA Times, Lorraine Ali and Robert Lloyd dissent from praise the show has generally received: “Commentary: More manipulative than meaningful, ‘Watchmen’ has a ‘Lost’ problem”.

LLOYD: Lorraine, you steal thoughts from my head. (Are you Dr. Manhattan?) Yes, “Lost” is what I thought of too, though the apparent randomness of a polar bear on a tropical island was much more interesting than when they got around to an explanation. There’s an effective trickery when it comes to coincidence — they’re always spooky on some level — and “Lost” got a lot of mileage from repeating the same essentially meaningless sequences of numbers all over the damn place. (Fans spent an enormous amount of time puzzling the show out, even as, fundamentally, there was no puzzle.) In “Watchmen” it’s clocks and eggs and such, and a narrative that leans heavily on dark secrets and (not always) amazing reveals for its dramatic effects: X is the Y of Z!

It works on some primal level, yet it still feels more manipulative than meaningful to me. “Watchmen” is a lot tighter than “Lost” was, though; the circular systems have been obviously worked through in advance, where “Lost” was a festival of retconning.

(12) SEEKING TOMORROW. Steven Cave says, “The Futurium needs a bolder vision to show that we, technology and nature are one,” in his Nature review, “Lost in the house of tomorrow: Berlin’s newest museum”.

Thirty years ago, the future became passé. When the Berlin Wall fell in late 1989 and the communist regimes that hid behind it collapsed, political scientist Francis Fukuyama called the event “the end of history”. But he also cast it as the finale of the future: the end of imagining how things might be different. The utopian visions driving both communism and fascism had been discredited and defeated. They were to be replaced by an eternal ‘now’ that, in Fukuyama’s words, saw “Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government”.

… Overall, the Futurium succeeds best as a showcase for the shiniest aspects of the present. In this way, it resembles other tech-engagement centres, such as Science Gallery Dublin and its six sister venues around the world, or Tokyo’s National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. But it claims to be something more: a place for co-imagining alternative futures. To succeed, it will need to be bolder. Even though the Berlin landscape is dotted with monuments to failed ideologies, such as the Stasi Museum, history did not end when the wall fell. To imagine new futures, this museum must free itself from the conceptual frameworks of the past.

(13) STARBEGOTTEN. The Parker Probe’s investigation of the Sun takes scientists “A step closer to the Sun’s secrets”.

Although the Sun is quite near to us compared with other stars, it has always kept intriguing and fundamental scientific secrets from us. For instance, we still don’t know how the solar corona — the Sun’s outermost atmosphere — maintains temperatures in excess of one million kelvin, whereas the visible surface has temperatures of just below 6,000?K 

(14) AN OLD SELFIE. “Stonehenge 1875 family photo may be earliest at monument” – see that and many more photos shot at the ancient monument.

An 1875 photograph of a family dressed in finery enjoying a day out at Stonehenge may be the earliest such snap taken at the monument.

English Heritage asked people to send in their pictures to mark 100 years of public ownership of the stones.

After sifting through more than 1,000 images historians said they believed the photograph of Isabel, Maud and Robert Routh was the oldest.

It will be part of a new exhibition of personal photos titled Your Stonehenge.

…The exhibition shows how photography has changed – illustrated by “the way that people pose” and how “their faces have got closer to the camera until they are taking a picture of themselves more than they are of Stonehenge”, said Ms Greaney.

(15) WAY DOWN YONDER. Lots of juicy detail in BBC’s report — “Denman Glacier: Deepest point on land found in Antarctica”.

The deepest point on continental Earth has been identified in East Antarctica, under Denman Glacier.

This ice-filled canyon reaches 3.5km (11,500ft) below sea level. Only the great ocean trenches go deeper.

The discovery is illustrated in a new map of the White Continent that reveals the shape of the bedrock under the ice sheet in unprecedented detail.

Its features will be critical to our understanding of how the polar south might change in the future.

It shows, for example, previously unrecognised ridges that will impede the retreat of melting glaciers in a warming world; and, alternatively, a number of smooth, sloping terrains that could accelerate withdrawals.

“This is undoubtedly the most accurate portrait yet of what lies beneath Antarctica’s ice sheet,” said Dr Mathieu Morlighem, who’s worked on the project for six years.

(16) STEAL ME. Plagiarism Today tells how artists are “Battling the Copyright-Infringing T-Shirt Bots”.

…The exploit was actually very simple. Many of these unethical shops use automated bots to scour Twitter and other social media looking for users saying they want a particular image on the t-shirt and then they simply grab the image and produce the t-shirt, site unseen.

The artists exploited this by basically poisoning the well. They created artwork that no reasonable person would want on a shirt sold on their store and convinced the bots to do exactly that.

(17) OPENING A GOOD VINTAGE. Joe Sherry does a fine retrospective of this Connie Willis book at Nerds of a Feather: “The Hugo Initiative: Doomsday Book (1993, Best Novel)”. It tied for the Hugo, but Joe, by not saying which of the two books was really the best, avoids the mistake Your Good Host once made that launched a thousand ships Jo Walton into orbit. Sherry’s conclusion is:

…The thing about Doomsday Book is that it works. It is a masterful piece of storytelling that perhaps shouldn’t work as well as it does almost three decades later. It’s good enough that I want to read Fire Watch and the other three Oxford Time Travel novels sooner rather than later(though perhaps not specifically for The Hugo Initiative). The novel is a softer form of science fiction that uses time travel in a way that makes sense. No paradoxes, there is risk, and maybe don’t visit a time and place with bubonic plague. And really, who doesn’t want to read a novel where the protagonist is surrounded by bubonic plague and renders as much aid as she can?

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Vacation on Vimeo, Andrey Kasay looks at vacations that went out of control.

(19) VIDEO OF SOME OTHER DAY. The Mandalorian CHiPs intro. Think of Ponch and Jon long ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Contrarius, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel “Houndog” Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/8/19 Why The Pixel Shudders When It Perceives The Scroll

(1) MCINTYRE BEQUEST. Clarion West announced in August that they are the recipient of the literary assets of Vonda N. McIntyre, who wished that the organization manage her literary copyrights in perpetuity. Locus Online in an article today reported —  

She also left a bequest of $387,129 to the program, the largest single financial gift in the organization’s history: “The bequest will bolster the Clarion West endowment, strengthening our mission and ensuring our financial stability for years. Vonda’s extraordinary generosity will allow Clarion West to continue to support emerging writers for generations to come.” Janna Silverstein has joined as literary contract manager, and will advise Clarion West on how to manage “all copyright materials.”

(2) A BORROWER AND A LENDER BE. In the Washington Post, Heather Kelly looks at dedicated e-book patrons who sign up with multiple library systems (including out of state ones) because e-book sales to libraries are rationed and signing up for multiple libraries is the only way to quickly check out popular e-book titles: “E-books at libraries are a huge hit, leading to long waits, reader hacks and worried publishers”.

…And while there are technically an infinite number of copies of digital files, e-books also work differently. When a library wants to buy a physical book, it pays the list price of about $12 to $14, or less if buying in bulk, plus for services like maintenance. An e-book, however, tends to be far more expensive because it’s licensed from a publisher instead of purchased outright, and the higher price typically only covers a set number of years or reads.

That means Prince’s recently released memoir “The Beautiful Ones” recently had a four-week wait for the e-book in San Francisco. Library-goers in Ohio’s Cuyahoga County were waiting 13 weeks to download Jia Tolentino’s book of essays, “Trick Mirror.”

Library e-book waits, now often longer than for hard copies, have prompted some to take their memberships to a new extreme, collecting library cards or card numbers to enable them to find the rarest or most popular books, with the shortest wait.

(3) CLARION WEST SCHOLARSHIP CREATED. With a gift of $1,000, Blue Corn Creations, a publishing firm undertaking a variety of Native American-themed projects, has launched a scholarship for writers of Native American descent at the Clarion West Writers Workshop: “Blue Corn Creations Sponsors Scholarship for Native American Writers”

 “We’re excited about developing the next generation of Native superhero, science fiction, and action/adventure stories,” said Rob Schmidt, owner of Blue Corn Creations. “To do that, we also need to develop the next generation of Native writers. This scholarship will help accomplish that.”

Clarion West has helped emerging writers reach for their dreams of professional careers in speculative fiction since 1971. Every summer, aspiring science fiction and fantasy writers attend the Clarion West Writers Workshop, a six-week intensive whose instructors include the best and brightest in the genre. Attendees benefit from the opportunity to hone their craft with the guidance of successful writers.

“Historically the field has reflected the same prejudices found in the culture around it, leading to proportionately fewer successful writers of color,” according to Clarion West’s vision statement. That’s why the Blue Corn Creations scholarship is a great fit with Clarion West’s mission, said Schmidt. “With it the workshop can serve another group with untapped potential: Native Americans.”

The Blue Corn Creations Scholarship for students of Native descent will help cover tuition, fees, and lodging for one student in 2020. The winner will be awarded in a blind judging to those indicating an interest on the application form. 

…Blue Corn Creations and Clarion West encourage others to contribute to the scholarship fund. The goal is to establish a permanent full scholarship for students of Native American descent.

(4) BAIZE WHITE MOURNED. Mark Oshiro is going on immediate hiatus while he deals with the sudden death of his partner Baize White.

The pair figured in an important story about Code of Conduct enforcement in 2016 when they surfaced issues of mistreatment at a midwestern con: “Mark Oshiro Says ConQuesT Didn’t Act On His Harassment Complaints”.

(5) SPINNEY OBIT. Sesame Street’s Caroll Spinney died December 8 reports the New York Times:

Sometimes he stood 8 feet 2 inches tall. Sometimes he lived in a garbage can. He often cited numbers and letters of the alphabet, and for nearly a half century on “Sesame Street” he was Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, opening magic doors for children on the secrets of growing up and the gentle arts of friendship.

His name was Caroll Spinney — not that many people would know it — and he was the comfortably anonymous whole-body puppeteer who, since the 1969 inception of the public television show that has nurtured untold millions of children, had portrayed the sweet-natured, canary-yellow giant bird and the misanthropic, furry-green bellyacher in the trash can outside 123 Sesame Street.

…Big Bird appeared in “The Muppet Movie” (1979) and “The Muppets Take Manhattan” (1984), and in 1985 starred in “Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird,” in which a meddlesome social worker sends him to live with “his own kind,” a family of dodos in “darkest Illinois.” He runs away, and has a cross-country adventure.

…With the impending 50th anniversary of “Sesame Street” in October 2018, Mr. Spinney left the show after his own remarkable half-century run as the embodiment of two of the most beloved characters on television and one of the last surviving staff members who had been with the show from its beginning.

(6) AUBERJONOIS OBIT. René Auberjonois, known to fans as Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s shapeshifting Odo, died December 8. Variety noted his famous roles in and out of genre: “René Auberjonois, ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Boston Legal’ Actor, Dies at 79”.

Auberjonois was a prolific television actor, appearing as Paul Lewiston in 71 episodes of “Boston Legal” and as Clayton Runnymede Endicott III in ABC’s long-running sitcom “Benson” — a role that earned him an Emmy nomination for best supporting actor in a comedy in 1984. He played shape-shifter Changeling Odo in “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” and carried that role into video games, voicing Odo in “Harbinger” and “The Fallen.” His appearance as Judge Mantz in ABC’s “The Practice” earned him another Emmy nod for guest actor in a drama in 2001.

… Other film credits include Roy Bagley in 1976’s “King Kong” and Reverend Oliver in “The Patriot,” as well as parts in “Batman Forever,” “Eyes of Laura Mars” and “Walker.”

…Auberjonois was also known for his voice roles, particularly in 1989’s Disney Renaissance hit “The Little Mermaid,” in which he voices Chef Louis and sang the memorable “Les Poissons.” Fans of “The Princess Diaries” would recognize him as the voice of Mia Thermopolis’ father, Prince Philippe Renaldi, in an uncredited role.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 8, 1954 The Atomic Kid premiered.  It was produced by Maurice Duke and Mickey Rooney, and directed by Leslie H. Martinson. It stars Mickey Rooney, Elaine Devry and Robert Strauss. This is the film showing in 1955 at the Town Theater in Back to the Future

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 8, 1861 Georges Méliès. Best known as a film director for A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la Lune) which he said was influenced by sources including Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon and Around the Moon. (Died 1938.)
  • Born December 8, 1894 E. C Segar. Best known as the creator of Popeye who first appeared in 1929 in Segar’s comic strip Thimble Theatre. Popeye’s first line in the strip, upon being asked if he was a sailor, was “Ja think I’m a cowboy?” J. Wellington Wimpy was another character in this strip that I’m fond of.  (Died 1938.)
  • Born December 8, 1916 Richard Fleischer. Starting in the early Fifties, he’s got he an impressive string of genre films as a Director — 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Fantastic Voyage (which came in second to Star Trek’s “The Menagerie” at NyCon 3 in that Hugo category), Doctor DoolittleSoylent Green (placed third in Hugo voting), Conan The Destroyer and Red Sonja during the thirty year run of his career. (Died 2006.)
  • Born December 8, 1939 Jennie Linden, 80. She’s here for being Barbara in Dr. Who and the Daleks, the 1965 non-canon film. Her next genre forays were both horror comedies, she was in A Severed Head as Georgie Hands, and she’d later be in Vampira as Angela. She’d show up in Sherlock Holmes and The Saint as well. 
  • Born December 8, 1950 Rick Baker, 69. Baker won the Academy Award for Best Makeup a record seven times from a record eleven nominations, beginning when he won the first award given for An American Werewolf in London.  So what else is he known for? Oh, I’m not listing everything, but his first was The Thing with Two Heads and I’ll single out The Exorcist, Star Wars, The Howling which I quite love, Starman for the Starman transformation, Beast design on the  Beauty and the Beast series and the first Hellboy film version.
  • Born December 8, 1951 Brian Attebery, 68. If I was putting together a library of reference works right now, Attebery would be high on the list of authors at the center of my shopping list. I think The Fantasy Tradition in American Literature: From Irving to Le Guin is still essential reading and Parabolas of Science Fiction with Veronica Hollinger is very close to a Grand Unification Theory of the Genre. 
  • Born December 8, 1953 Kim Basinger, 66. She was the of Bond girl Domino Petachi in Never Say Never Again. After that, it’s Vicki Vale in Burton’s Batman as far as we’re tracking her. (We’re pretending My Stepmother Is an Alien never happened.) Ahhhh, Holli Would In Cool World… there’s an odd film.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur has Alexa working on helping you to become a better writer.

(10) 124C2020. Nicholas Whyte is able to tell us all about the coming year because he’s been reading its history for years: “Life in 2020, as portrayed in science fiction”. Here’s what one author has in store for us:

In 1907, the gloriously named Horace Newte published The master beast : being a true account of the ruthless tyranny inflicted on the British people by socialism A. D. 1888-2020, republished in 1919 as The Red Fury: Britain Under Bolshevism. Unlike the other two, Bellamy isn’t mentioned explicitly but it’s clearly a response all the same. Newte’s hero is dismayed to see socialists come to power in Britain at the start of the twentieth century, followed of course by a successful German invasion. He then sleeps from 1911 to 2020, and awakes to find a morally degenerate country where women behave with dreadful freedom. But England is then invaded again, this time by African and Chinese forces, and he escapes to France. It’s online here.

(11) A SEASON FOR GIVING. Nerds of a Feather helps fans with their holiday shopping in a series of posts about gift suggestions, such as — “Holiday Gift Guide: Games (All Kinds!)”. Adri Joy’s enthusiasm about the Goose Game is contagious.

Untitled Goose Game (Recommended by Adri)

It will come as a surprise to nobody that Untitled Goose Game is my pick for a video game gift this year. This year’s most memeable game, from indie developer House House, combines elaborate stealth-based mechanics with the aesthetics of a rural English village, and puts you in the shoes (well, the webbed feet) of a horrible goose completing a number of tasks to mess with a series of villagers. Featuring four main areas for mischief which open up into an increasingly elaborate world, its a game whose puzzles are satisfying and unrepentantly sadistic, with a great flow through the “level-based” tasks and into more elaborate post-game tests. There’s also plenty of fun to be have in tasks which serve no in-game purpose apart from the pure-hearted joy of being a goose, and while this isn’t quite Breath of the Wild levels of “exploring the world because its there” content, it’s still a diversion that can be returned to even once your goose to-do is all crossed off.

(12) BREAKING IN. The Odyssey Writing Workshop posted an interview with Guest Lecturer JG Faherty.

Once you started writing seriously, how long did it take you to sell your first piece? What were you doing wrong in your writing in those early days?

I started writing fiction in 2004, but prior to that I had been writing non-fiction for a long time. Laboratory manuals and procedures, business documents, etc. Then I got a part-time gig writing elementary school test preparation guides for The Princeton Review. That required writing fictional reading passages. I found I liked it, and here’s where real serendipity enters the equation. Makes you wonder if Fate really exists. I wanted to write horror and sci-fi, so I attended a convention (LunaCon) in New York, where I met Odyssey Director Jeanne Cavelos. We talked, and she said I should submit something to an anthology she was working on. I had two days before the deadline. I went home and wrote like a fiend. Finished my first-ever short story and sent it to her, unedited, unproofed.

It got rejected, of course.

But she sent it back with a note saying I almost made it in, I had real talent, and I should keep writing. So I did. And a year later I made my first professional sale, a short story. The year after that, it was two pieces of flash fiction and some poems. Then another couple of short stories. I went on like that for five years, all while also working on my first novel, which was published in 2010.

In those days, I’d have to say I was doing EVERYTHING wrong! I didn’t know about using editors or beta readers. I thought you just proofed your work and the publishers edited it. I didn’t know about first or third drafts. I didn’t know how to write a cover letter. I didn’t know anyone in the business except Jeanne. Over time, I attended more conventions. Met people. Joined the Horror Writers Association and the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America. Took some classes. Learned how to edit properly.

And gradually, the quality of my work improved.

(13) BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE. In “The Hugo Initiative: They’d Rather Be Right (1955, Best Novel)”, after mustering all the possible explanations for the book’s unlikely victory, Nerds of a Feather’s Joe Sherry drops this bomb:

Is They’d Rather Be Right the worst Hugo Award winning novel of all time? I’m in the minority of readers who hated The Three-Body Problem, so that will always be in contention for my personal Worst Hugo Winner of All Time category.

(14) BONES. The New York Review of Books’ Verlyn Klinkenborg dismisses their own question “What Were Dinosaurs For?” while covering a selection of dino books.

…As I was reading some recent books on dinosaurs, I kept wondering, “What were dinosaurs for?” It’s a ridiculous question, and I wondered why I was wondering it. After all, dinosaurs were “for” exactly what we are “for,” what every organism has been “for” since life began. Every species that has ever lived is a successful experiment in the enterprise of living, and every species is closely kinned at the genetic level with all other species. This is harder to grasp than it seems, partly because the logic of that Satanic preposition—“for”—is so insidious, so woven through the problem of time. Teleology is the moralizing of chronology, and nowadays science tries to keep watch for even the slightest trace of it, any suggestion that evolution has a direction tending to culminate in us or in what we like to call intelligence or in any other presumably desirable end point.

(15) LEGACY. PopHorror interviewed the actor about his myriad projects including his one-man Ray Bradbury show: “He’s No Dummy – Actor Bill Oberst, Jr. Talks ‘Handy Dandy,’ Ray Bradbury And Bill Moseley’s Beard”.

PopHorror: Are you still touring with Ray Bradbury Forever (Live)?

Bill Oberst, Jr.: Yes. I’ve got a show in Atlanta next year and then I’m going to Walla Walla, Washington. I wanted to go there just so I could say Walla Walla. It’s fun. And then I’ll be performing at some libraries next year because it will be the 100th anniversary of Ray’s birth. We did it on Broadway, and we did it in Los Angeles. We did about ten performances last year, so I learned what worked and what didn’t work. My goal is to get it to the point where people who know nothing at all about Ray Bradbury, people who have never read a word of his, can say, “Wow, I got something out of that.” I’m not interested in the Wikipedia info, where he was born and what he wrote and all that.

Think about it: after we’re all gone and all the people who have known us are gone, what’s left of Tracy and Bill? What were our lives lived for? What did we stand for? What is it about us that future people can say, “Well, I don’t know anything about Tracy or Bill, but this thing they did could apply to my life.” That’s the test. In 100 years, who is going to remember you unless you have some legacy, some mark.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/26/19 We Didn’t Start The File, It Was Always Scrolling Since The Fans Been Squeeing

(1) STAMPEDE ZONE. Fran Wilde, in one of the New York Times’ op-eds from the future, implores “Please, Stop Printing Unicorns”. Tagline: “Bioprinters are not toys, and parents shouldn’t give them to children.”

… Making bioprinting more accessible to the public — especially to children — will be likely to lead to even worse disasters than last Friday’s blockade of the Chicago I-899 skyways off-ramp by a herd of miniature unicorns. Sure, the unicorns (whose origins are unknown) were the size of ducklings, but their appearance caused several accidents and a moral quandary.

These bioprinted unicorns were living creatures with consciousness — as defined by the A.I. Treaty of 2047 — trying to find their way in the world…..

(2) NYRSF STARTS SEASON 29. The New York Review of Books’ readings open their 29th season on September 3 with Gregory Feeley and Michael Swanwick.

Gregory Feeley writes novels and stories, most in some respect science-fictional. His first novel, The Oxygen Barons, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick award, and his short fiction has twice been nominated for the Nebula Award. His most recent novels are the historical novel Arabian Wine, and Kentauros, a fantasia on an obscure Greek myth. He recently completed a long novel, Hamlet the Magician.

Michael Swanwick writes fantasy and science fiction of all sorts, at lengths ranging from novels to flash fiction. Over the years, he’s picked up a Nebula Award, five Hugos and the World Fantasy Award–and has the pleasant distinction of having lost more of these awards than any other writer. Tor recently published The Iron Dragon’s Mother, completing a trilogy begun with The Iron Dragon’s Daughter twenty-five years ago. That’s far longer than it took Professor Tolkien to complete his trilogy.

The event is Tuesday, September 3 at The Brooklyn Commons Café, 388 Atlantic Avenue  (between Hoyt & Bond St.). Doors open at 6:30 p.m., event begins at 7:00 p.m.

(3) D&D FILES — THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE. Kotaku challenges the received wisdom: “Dungeons & Deceptions: The First D&D Players Push Back On The Legend Of Gary Gygax”.

Everybody calls Rob Kuntz last, he says. Those who want to know about the history of Dungeons & Dragons start with co-creator Gary Gygax’s kids, one of Gygax’s biographers, or D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast. As they’re wrapping things up, they might get around to dialing up Kuntz, a 63-year-old game designer. And once they call him, he tells them the same thing: Everything they know about the creation of the tabletop role-playing game is, in his opinion, sorely mistaken or flat-out wrong.

“There’s a myth that’s been propagated in the industry,” Kuntz told Kotaku during an interview in February of this year. “If you keep digging into this, you’re going to come up with a story that will enrage people and expose the truth.”

(4) MIND OF THESEUS. In the August 14 Financial Times (behind a paywall), Library of Congress fellow Susan Schneider critiques the arguments of Ray Kurzweil and Elon Musk that we should figure out how to download our brains into the clouds to prevent really smart AI machines from taking over our lives.

“Here is a new challenge, derived from a story by the Australian science fiction writer Greg Egan.  Imagine that an AI device called ‘a jewel’ is inserted into your brain at birth.  The jewel monitors your brain’s activity in order to learn how to mimic your thoughts and behaviours.  By th time you are an adult, it perfectly simulates your biological brain.

At some point, like other members of society, you grow confident that your brain is just redundant meatware.  So you become a ‘jewel head,’ having your brain surgically removed. The jewel is now in the driver’s seat.

Unlike in Mr Egan’s story, let us assume the jewel works perfectly, So which is you–your brain or your jewel?”

(5) CHAMBERS PRAISED. [Item by Olav Rokne.] The recent Worldcon in Dublin seems to be prompting some discussion of the literary merit of genre work. Writing in the Irish Times, John Connolly (“The future of sci-fi never looked so bright”) holds up the work of Hugo-winner Becky Chambers as an example of meritorious genre work, writing that:

In a world in which intolerance seems to be implacably on the rise, the fundamental decency at the heart of Chambers’s narratives, her depiction of a post-dystopian humanity attempting to construct a better version of itself while encountering new worlds and species, begins to seem quietly, gently radical.

(6) THE STORY OF A GENERATION. USA Today reports from D23 — “Disney unveils new ‘Rise of Skywalker’ footage, ‘Star Wars’ fans lose it over Rey’s double lightsaber”. The clips start with a walk down memory lane…  

Disney released a new poster depicting the battle, presenting it to all attendees.

Fans can now watch the pinnacle moment of the footage – a cloaked Rey pulls out what appeared to be a red, double lightsaber in battle, similar to the infamous weapon wielded by Darth Maul in “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.”

The D23 crowd let out an immediate, overpowering cheer at the sight of the weapon’s return and proclaimed the sighting on Twitter.

It caused a disturbance in the Force which was felt well beyond the D23 walls.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 26, 1911 Otto Oscar Binder. He’s  best remembered as the co-creator with Al Plastino of Supergirl and for his many scripts for Captain Marvel Adventures and other stories involving the entire Marvel Family. He was extremely prolific in the comic book industry and is credited with writing over four thousand stories across a variety of publishers under his own name. He also wrote novels, one of which was The Avengers Battle the Earth Wrecker, one of the series created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist and co-plotter Jack Kirby. (Died 1974.)
  • August 26, 1912 Ted Key. Of interest to us is his screenplay for The Cat from Outer Space about an apparent alien feline who has crash-landed here (starring Ken Berry, Sandy Duncan and Harry Morgan), which he followed up with a novelization. He also conceived and created Peabody’s Improbable History for producer Jay Ward’s The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. It would become the Sherman and Peabody Show. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 26, 1912 Gerald Kersh. He wrote but one genre novel, The Secret Masters, and two genre stories in his Henry the Ghost series. So why’s he here, you ask? Because Ellison declared “you will find yourself in the presence of a talent so immense and compelling, that you will understand how grateful and humble I felt merely to have been permitted to associate myself with his name as editor.” You can read his full letters here. (Died 1968.)
  • Born August 26, 1938 Francine York. Her last genre performance was on Star Trek: Progeny. Never heard of It? Of course not, as it was yet another fan project. It’s amazing how many of these there are. Before that, she appeared in Mutiny in Outer SpaceSpace Probe Taurus and Astro Zombies: M3 – Cloned. (Died 2017.)
  • Born August 26, 1949 Sheila E Gilbert, 70. Co-editor-in-chief and publisher of DAW Books with Elizabeth R (Betsy) Wollheim. For her work there, she has also shared the Chesley Awards for best art director with Wollheim twice, and received a solo 2016 Hugo award as best professional editor (long form). 
  • Born August 26, 1950 Annette Badland, 69. She is best known for her role as Margaret Blaine on Doctor Who where she was taken over by Blon Fel-Fotch Pasameer-Day, a Slitheen. This happened during “Aliens of London” and “World War Three” during the Era of the Ninth Doctor. Her story would conclude in “Boom Town”. 
  • Born August 26, 1970 Melissa McCarthy, 49. Yes, I know she was in the rebooted Ghostbusters. Fanboys across the net are still wetting their pants about that film. I’m more interested in Super Intelligence in which she is playing a character that has an AI who has decided to take over her life. It reminds me somewhat of Kritzer’s “Cat Pictures Please” premise. It will be released on December 20 of this year.  (And we are not talking about her The Happytime Murders.)
  • Born August 26, 1980 Chris Pine, 39. James T. Kirk in the Star Trek reboot series. He also plays Steve Trevor in both Wonder Woman films and Dr. Alexander Murry in A Wrinkle in Time. He’s also Cinderella’s Prince in Into the Woods. Finally, he voices Peter Parker / Ultimate Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) LOOKS LIKE DEATH (EXTREMELY) WARMED OVER. Delish says“Cheetos Is Rumored To Be Bringing Back Its ‘Bag Of Bones’ Snacks For Halloween” in Flamin’ Hot and White Cheddar flavors.

If you haven’t had a chance to try this snack yet, they’re basically Cheetos puffs that are shaped into various parts of a skeleton like the head, ribcage, hands, and bones. This means that besides being as delicious as a classic Cheeto, you can also build spooky skeletons with your food if you can resist scarfing down the whole bag for a while.

.(10) LAUNCHING FROM THE ANTIPODES. Ars Technica invites readers “Behind the scenes at Earth’s most beautiful rocket launch site” – lots of photos.

Not a blade of grass longer than the rest, a red “Remove Before Flight” tag unchecked, or a single Kiwi (be it bird or engineer) out of place: Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex-1 looks like an industry brochure come to life (better in fact). Located at the southern tip of the picturesque Mahia Peninsula on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, LC-1 is currently the only operational Rocket Lab launch site where the Electron vehicle—Rocket Lab’s low-cost small satellite launch vehicle—takes flight.

Rocket Lab just took advantage of the latest window at LC-1 on August 19. But back in December 2018, fellow rocket launch photographer Brady Kenniston had the exclusive opportunity to photograph Rocket Lab’s first NASA mission, ElaNa-19, from this private launch site. This launch was going to be Rocket Lab’s most important mission to date because, as the leader in the small satellite industry, they had an opportunity to show NASA (and the world) what they are made of. If successful, it could lead to future business from other small satellites in need of a ride to space—not to mention, the company would earn the endorsement of NASA Launch Services as an eligible vehicle to fly future NASA small-satellite science payloads.

(11) SO FAR, SO GOOD. Joe Sherry, Adri Joy, and Paul Weimer identify the high points of 2019 in “Blogtable: Best of the Year So Far” at Nerds of a Feather.

Joe: We’re a little more than seven months into what is shaping up to be an absolute stellar year for science fiction and fantasy fiction and I wanted to check in with the two of you to see what you’ve been reading and what has stood out in a year of excellence.

Adri: Indeed! well for starters I lost my heart in the time war…

Paul: I, too, lost my heart in the Time War. Among many other places, but having recently finished that, it is strongly on my mind. I am Team Blue, Adri, how about you?

(12) FEEDBACK. Heinlein is both an important influence on genre history and in the regard of author Chris Nuttall, who goes deep into Farah Mendlesohn’s book in “Review: The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein”. Nuttall ends a substantial discussion by saying —

Heinlein was not fond of critics, not entirely without reason. Even in his day, a good critic could be a wonder – and a bad one a nightmare. But I think he might have liked this book – and, as Heinlein remains popular, we should ask ourselves why. You may not agree with everything in this book, but it will make you think. Mendlesohn treats Heinlein as what he was, a man. Not an angel, or a demon, but a man. An influential man, but a man nonetheless.

(13) SMILE! Guess what this scene made Kevin Standlee think of —  

(Now imagine, what if somebody used X-ray film?)

(14) CHALLENGES IN PRODUCING HEINLEIN BOOK. Shahid Mahmud of Arc Manor Publishers sent out an update about Phoenix Pick’s Heinlein novel The Pursuit of the Pankera.

…As many of you are aware from my previous emails, this is the parallel text to The Number of the Beast. 
 

It is, effectively, a parallel book about parallel universes.


We had originally attempted to release the book before Christmas, but some production issues have delayed the release to Sprint/Summer of 2020.

These include sorting out some fairly intricate details discussed in the book. For example (for those of you dying to see what it is that we publishers actually do), here are a few internal excerpts between editors working on various aspects of the book:

“The planet-numbering system may be off in certain parts of the story. At the beginning of the story (and in real life) we live on planet Earth. In the course of the story, there is time travel, and that’s where it gets confusing… the story refers to both Earth-One and Earth-Zero. There is a detailed explanation of the numbering system (see pg. 312) wherein “Earth-Zero is so designated because Dr. Jacob Burroughs was born on that planet…”

However, in other parts of the book, Earth-One is referred to as the characters’ home planet.”

OR

“After discussion with Patrick, I’ve settled on the following conventions: x-axis (hyphenated, lowercase, no italics) but axis x (no hyphen, lowercase, italic single letter). In the manuscript, of course, the italic letter would be underlined rather than set italic. The letters tau and teh remain in the Latin alphabet (rather than Greek or Cyrillic) and are lowercase but not set italic. When used with the word “axis” (tau-axis) they are hyphenated.”

These are the little details that keep us Publishers up at night 🙂

But alas, given a book of this magnitude and size (this is a BIG book, over 185,000 words) all this takes time.

Hence the delay.

Mahmud says the ebook will be priced at $9.99 at launch, but they will run a Kickstarter beginning September 4 to help pay for production, which will allow people to buy the ebook for just $7.00. And there will be other rewards available.

(15) THE NEXT BIG THING. Best Fanzine Hugo winner Lady Business tweeted a get-acquainted thread for new followers (starts here) which closes with this appeal –

OMG, what a great idea, nominating business meeting agenda items in Best Related Works! Chris Barkley will be so excited (Best Translated Novel Hugo Category Proposed)! Am I right or am I right?

(16) NOT A GOOD IDEA. Just because Trump doesn’t know this it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t: “Nuclear weapons and hurricanes don’t mix, NOAA advises”.

Using nuclear weapons to destroy hurricanes is not a good idea, a US scientific agency has said, following reports that President Donald Trump wanted to explore the option.

The Axios news website said Mr Trump had asked several national security officials about the possibility.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the results would be “devastating”.

Mr Trump has denied making the suggestion.

Hurricanes typically affect the US east coast, often causing serious damage.

It’s not the first time the idea has been considered.

Following reports of Mr Trump’s suggestion, the hashtag #ThatsHowTheApocalyseStarted has been trending on Twitter.

What effect would nuking a hurricane have?

Mr Trump asked why the US couldn’t drop a bomb into the eye of the storm to stop it from making landfall, news site Axios said.

The NOAA says that using nuclear weapons on a hurricane “might not even alter the storm” and the “radioactive fallout would fairly quickly move with the tradewinds to affect land areas”.

(17) A VOLCANO SPEAKS. There was smoke on the water. Then this: “Vast ‘pumice raft’ found drifting through Pacific Ocean”. Opinions vary on whether it will reach Australia or break up, and on how likely it is to be helpful — “Giant Pumice Raft Floating Toward Australia Could Help Replenish Great Barrier Reef”:

A vast “raft” of volcanic rocks stretching over 150 sq km (93 sq miles) is drifting through the Pacific Ocean, scientists say.

The sea of pumice – the size of 20,000 football fields – was first reported by Australian sailors earlier this month.

Experts say the mass likely came from an underwater volcano near Tonga which erupted around 7 August according to satellite images.

Sailors have been warned to stay clear of the potential hazard.

Pumice is a lightweight, bubble-rich rock that can float in water. It is produced when magma is cooled rapidly.

(18) NOT COKE. “World of Warcraft Classic: Hit game goes back to basics” – BBC has the story.

The hit video game World of Warcraft (WoW) is going back to basics with the launch of WoW Classic this evening.

First released in 2004, the online multi-player game has evolved and changed dramatically over the years.

Many players had asked developer Blizzard Entertainment to revive the original version of the game, known as “classic” or “vanilla” WoW.

While not identical to the original, WoW Classic will replicate a majority of the features from the first game.

World of Warcraft is a fantasy game in which players roam the virtual world, fighting monsters and completing quests.

Blizzard said some players who had been given early access to the classic version – which is released at 23:00 BST on Monday – mistakenly thought some of the original features were errors.

(19) FASTER THAN A PET ROCK. A BBC video shows “Gloucestershire man walks tortoise to the pub every day”. Doesn’t move as slow as you might think…

A Gloucestershire man has started walking Nancy Drew the tortoise to the pub and around town.

Jason Smith says the African sulcata tortoise, which is actually male, needs to burn off energy, as in the wild he would ordinarily be looking for a mate at this time of year.

The creature has become famous around Tewkesbury, with people loving to stop and say hello.

(20) CRASH LANDING. “Natalie Portman rockets toward madness in mind-bending ‘Lucy in the Sky’ trailer” Yahoo! Entertainment cues it up.

Natalie Portman blasts off through the wildest reaches of the universe in the new trailer for Lucy in the Sky.

Legion creator Noah Hawley’s feature directorial debut stars the Oscar-winning actress as Lucy Cola, a loose adaptation of real-life astronaut Lisa Nowak, who, after returning to earth from a length mission to space, began an obsessive affair with a coworker….

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

Pixel Scroll 7/25/19 It All Happened At Earthport, Greatest Of Buildings

(1) DRESSING UP. An 11-minute video of cosplay at San Diego Comic-Con.

San Diego Comic Con 2019, at the San Diego Convention Center. In its 50th year it was an hectic and news worthy convention with some really great costumes and creativity, thanks everyone for participating  

(2) DUBLIN 2019 REMINDERS. The Hugo voting deadline is upon us —

Voting will end on 31 July 2019 at 11:59pm Pacific Daylight Time (2:59am Eastern Daylight Time, 07:59 Irish and British time, all on 1 August)

Also, Dublin 2019 invites members to take the survey — “Consider participating in a research study that is collecting data on Worldcon attendees.”

Want to Help Out Science?

Professor Jennifer Zwahr-Castro is researching Worldcon, and investigating why we attend and what we get out of the experience. She would like to invite all Dublin 2019 attendees to take part in her research by filling out a survey.

(3) THE CHERRY ON THE TOP OF MT. TBR. An email from NESFA Press tells me they are pleased to announce two new ebooks available immediately–

  • Moskowitz, Sam, The Immortal Storm (978-1-61037-334-0)
  • Nielsen Hayden, Teresa, Making Book (978-1-61037-333-3)

(4) CLOSE READING. [Item by rcade.] Catherynne Valente tweeted that in 15 years writing professionally, she doesn’t think she’s ever described the size of a woman’s breasts.

After some internal debate over whether I should, I broke the news to her that she had.

The overall thread has a lot of hilarious stuff in it. It starts here.   

(5) BOOKER PRIZE LONGLIST. Margaret Atwood’s inclusion on the 2019 Book Prize Longlist was reported in yesterday’s Scroll – but here’s the complete list, or ‘Booker Dozen’, as the cognoscenti say.  

This year’s longlist of 13 books was selected by a panel of five judges: founder and director of Hay Festival Peter Florence (Chair); former fiction publisher and editor Liz Calder; novelist, essayist and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo; writer, broadcaster and former barrister Afua Hirsch; and concert pianist, conductor and composer Joanna MacGregor.  

The 2019 longlist, or ‘Booker Dozen’, of 13 novels, is:

  • Margaret Atwood (Canada), The Testaments (Vintage, Chatto & Windus)
  • Kevin Barry (Ireland), Night Boat to Tangier (Canongate Books)
  • Oyinkan Braithwaite (UK/Nigeria), My Sister, The Serial Killer (Atlantic Books)
  • Lucy Ellmann (USA/UK), Ducks, Newburyport (Galley Beggar Press)
  • Bernardine Evaristo (UK), Girl, Woman, Other (Hamish Hamilton)
  • John Lanchester (UK), The Wall (Faber & Faber)
  • Deborah Levy (UK), The Man Who Saw Everything (Hamish Hamilton)
  • Valeria Luiselli (Mexico/Italy), Lost Children Archive (4th Estate)
  • Chigozie Obioma (Nigeria), An Orchestra of Minorities (Little Brown)
  • Max Porter (UK), Lanny (Faber & Faber)
  • Salman Rushdie (UK/India), Quichotte (Jonathan Cape)
  • Elif Shafak (UK/Turkey), 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World (Viking)
  • Jeanette Winterson (UK), Frankissstein (Jonathan Cape)

The list was chosen from 151 novels published in the UK or Ireland between 1 October 2018 and 30 September 2019.

(6) BIG BRAINS. Kicking off today in Dublin, a “Theorizing Zombiism Conference”:

The rising academic interest in the zombie as an allegory for cultural and social analysis is spanning disciplines including, humanities, anthropology, economics, and political science. The zombie has been used as a metaphor for economic policy, political administrations, and cultural critique through various theoretical frameworks. The zombie has been examined as a metaphor for capitalism, geopolitics, globalism, neo-liberal markets, and even equating Zombiism to restrictive aspects of academia.

Apparently it is not a joke:  

(7) DO YOU WANT TO PLAY A GAME? NPR asks “Can This Group Of Teen Girls Save The World From Nuclear War?”

On a recent morning, 15 teenage girls and young women reported for duty at an office overlooking the Pentagon. Their mission: Save the world from nuclear war.

“This is where I want you to stop being you,” said Stacie Pettyjohn, a political scientist at the RAND Corporation, a defense think tank. “You’re going to have to start to role-play.”

Pettyjohn was leading a war-game exercise on North Korea. Typically, military commanders and policymakers use war gaming to test strategies and their likely consequences. But nothing about this game was typical. It was designed by women — RAND’s “Dames of War Games” — for teenagers from Girl Security, a nonprofit that introduces girls to defense issues. The partnership was a first for both groups; it’s among a series of recent efforts to boost women’s participation in national security.

“You have to fight,” Pettyjohn told the teens. “You are the military commanders.”

The scenario Pettyjohn laid out was bleak. U.S. talks with North Korea had collapsed, and deadly tit-for-tat attacks had spiraled into open conflict on the Korean Peninsula. Half the teens would join the blue team, assuming the roles of U.S. and allied South Korean generals. The others went to the red team, playing North Korean leaders determined to stay in power.

 (8) SOMEDAY MY BLUEPRINTS WILL COME. Curbed’s Angela Serratore shares credit with architects of the Eighties and Nineties for corporate Disney’s current world domination: “The magical (postmodern) world of Disney”.

It was 1991 and Michael Eisner was on the brink of changing everything.

After becoming the CEO of the Walt Disney Company in 1984, Eisner, a native New Yorker, set out to turn the old-fashioned Disney brand into one that would speak not just to the present moment but also, crucially, to the future. During his tenure, the company would eventually acquire the television network ABC and the sports behemoth ESPN and produce films that would come to define the Disney Renaissance—The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and Aladdin, among others.

An amateur architecture and design buff, Eisner also understood that a company like Disney ought to have a real presence—theme parks, of course, but also office buildings, studios, and hotels. What if, his design philosophy seemed to suggest, people could look up at Disney headquarters in Burbank or Orlando and feel the same awe and delight they must’ve felt on Disneyland’s opening day?

(9) DRAWN THAT WAY. A tour of the exhibit led by Lucas Adams: “Worlds Apart: Sci-Fi Visions of Altered Reality” at New York Review of Books.

We all wish we could change the past, at least some of the time. Relationships, elections, conversations: there are countless moments in our lives we’d love the chance to rework, or simply reimagine. Living in an era when we can easily tweak the small (delete a sentence, crop an image) but feel helpless when facing the large (political turmoil, climate change), it’s hard not to fantasize about reworking our histories. 

But this inclination is not new. Attempting to rework the past, at least on paper, has been the outlet of artists and authors for as long as people have been wishing for different endings. “As If: Alternative Histories From Then to Now,” an exhibition at the Drawing Center, presents eighty-four works from 1888 to the present that “offer examples of how we might reimagine historical narratives in order to contend with the traumas of contemporary life.”

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 25, 1907 Cyril Luckham. He played the White Guardian on Doctor Who. He appeared in The Ribos Operation episode, The Key to Time season during the Era of the Fourth Doctor, and the Enlightenment story during the Era of the Fifth Doctor. He was also Dr. Meinard in the early Fifties Stranger from Venus (a.k.a. Immediate Disaster and The Venusian). (Died 1989.)
  • Born July 25, 1921 Kevin Stoney. He appeared in three serials of the science fiction series Doctor Who over a period of ten years, playing Mavic Chen in The Daleks’ Master Plan during the time of the First Doctor, Tobias Vaughn in The Invasion during the time of the Second Doctor and Tyrum in Revenge of the Cybermen during the time of the Fourth Doctor. Other genre credits include: The Adventures of Robin Hood, Danger Man, The Avengers, The Prisoner, Doomwatch,  The Tomorrow People, Space: 1999, The New Avengers, Quatermass, and Hammer House of Horror. (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 25, 1922 Evelyn E. Smith. She has the delightful bio being of a writer of sf and mysteries, as well as a compiler of crossword puzzles. During the 1950s, she published both short stories and novelettes in Galaxy Science Fiction, Fantastic Universe and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. Her SF novels include The Perfect Planet and The Copy Shop. A look at iBooks and Kindle shows a twelve story Wildside Press collection but none of her novels. (Died 2000.)
  • Born July 25, 1937 Todd Armstrong. He’s best known for playing Jason in Jason and the Argonauts. A film of course that made excellent by special effects from Ray Harryhausen. His only other genre appearance was on the Greatest American Hero as Ted McSherry In “ A Chicken in Every Plot”. (Died 1992.)
  • Born July 25, 1948 Brian Stableford, 71. I am reasonably sure that I’ve read and enjoyed all of the Hooded Swan series a long time ago which I see has been since been collected as Swan Songs: The Complete Hooded Swan Collection. And I’ve certainly read a fair amount of his short fiction down the years. 
  • Born July 25, 1973 Mur Lafferty, 46. Podcaster and writer. Co-editor of the Escape Pod podcast with Divya Breed, her second time around. She is also the host and creator of the podcast I Should Be Writing which won aParsec Award for Best Writing Podcast. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of the Escape Artists short fiction magazine Mothership Zeta. And then there’s the Ditch Diggers podcast she started with Matt Wallace which is supposed to show the brutal, honest side of writing. For that, it won the Hugo Award for Best Fancast in 2018, having been a finalist the year before.  Fiction-wise, I loved both The Shambling Guide to New York City and A Ghost Train to New Orleans with I think the second being a better novel. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Incidental Comics by Grant Snider –

(12) FAILURE TO IMAGINATE. “Twitter’s retweet inventor says idea was ‘loaded weapon'” – BBC has the story.

The man who came up with Twitter’s retweet button has likened it to “handing a four-year-old a loaded weapon”, in an interview with BuzzFeed.

Developer Chris Wetherell said no-one at Twitter had anticipated how it would alter the way people used the platform.

…He told BuzzFeed that he thought the retweet button “would elevate voices from under-represented communities”.

Previously people had to manually retweet each other by copying text and typing RT and the name of the tweeter but once the process was automated, retweeting meant popular posts quickly went viral.

While some went viral for good reasons, such as providing information about natural disasters, many others were not so benign.

Gamergate – a harassment campaign against women in the games industry – was one example of how people used the retweet to co-ordinate their attacks, Wetherell told BuzzFeed, describing it as a “creeping horror story”.

“It dawned on me that this was not some small subset of people acting aberrantly. This might be how people behave. And that scared me to death.”

(13) CRASH TEST DUMMIES? BBC wonders “Why is India sending humanoid robots into space?” Me too.

Before humans headed up there, animals were the first living creatures that were sent into space. But India will now become the first nation to fly a spacecraft with only humanoid robots. Science writer Pallava Bagla reports.

The Indian government has sanctioned $1.4bn (£1.1bn) to the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) for its first manned space flight by 2022.

…To date – using indigenously made rockets – Russia, the US and China have sent astronauts into space. If India can achieve this, it will become the fourth country to launch humans into space from its own soil.

But, unlike other nations that have carried out human space flights, India will not fly animals into space. Instead, it will fly humanoid robots for a better understanding of what weightlessness and radiation do to the human body during long durations in space.

(14) FLYING TO FEAR. A BBC video details “The Nasa astronauts on a mythical mission to Mars moon”.

Nasa is finding out how people cope with the demands of long space missions at its Human Exploration Research Analog (Hera).

For 45 days a crew of four people live in a habitat which simulates a mission to Phobos, a moon that orbits the planet Mars.

The crew carry out daily maintenance tasks on board, enjoy views of space from the capsule window and keep in contact with mission control via a five minute delay, meaning that a response to a communication takes 10 minutes.

(15) REASONS TO VOTE. Joe Sherry ranks the YA award contenders in “Reading the Hugos: Lodestar” at Nerds of a Feather.

…Generally, it takes a novel that breaks out of the YA spaces and gains visibility in some of the more SFF communities that I engage with (see, Children of Blood and Bone) or has some aspect that catches the attention of those communities (see, Dread Nation) or are beloved by commentators I deeply admire and respect (see, Tess of the Road). Also, I almost said the “wider SFF communities”, but that would not have been correct because YA publishing and readership is absolutely huge and has a significant overlap in science fiction and fantasy that should not be understated.

This is all to say that I was familiar with three of the novels on the ballot, and I was excited to read everything here to see which novels would break out into my list of new favorites. At least one, and let’s find out which….

(16) THIS IDEA COULD CRATER. Looking at both sides of the question:“Hawaii TMT: Desecrating sacred land or finding new frontiers?”

Rifts over a dormant volcano in Hawaii have resurfaced in recent days, pitting the state’s culture and history against its ambitions.

Plans for a powerful new telescope near the summit of the Mauna Kea volcano could bring in hundreds of jobs and boost science and the economy. But some native Hawaiians insist the site is sacred and that the long-planned construction should not go ahead.

Last week, protesters blocked access to the building site on Mauna Kea, the tallest mountain in the world when measured from its underwater base. At least 33 people were arrested, given citations and released.

Hawaii’s governor has issued an “emergency proclamation” that increases powers to break up the blockade but said he wanted to find a “peaceful and satisfactory” solution for both sides.

Here, some of the people at the centre of the debate explain what Mauna Kea and the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) project mean to them.

(17) AUTO-BUY. Adri Joy’s faith in an author is repaid: “Microreview [Book]: Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia” at Nerds of a Feather.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is an author I’d follow into almost any genre, and that’s a good thing given how varied her career has been so far. From the 80’s nostalgia-heavy Signal to Noise to the romance fantasy of manners The Beautiful Ones, to the criminally underrated sci-fi novella Prime Meridian and even the editorial work she does on The Dark Magazine (a recent addition to my short fiction rounds), Garcia brings talent, nuance and a particular eye for female characters challenging overwhelming imbalances in power over the forces against them. Now, in Gods of Jade and Shadow, Moreno-Garcia brings her talents to a historic fantasy where 1920’s Jazz Age Mexico meets the gods and monsters of Mayan mythology, taking protagonist Casiopea Tun on an unexpected but long-dreamed-of adventure with a deposed Lord of the Underworld….

(18) SPLASH. The flyer from a recent Pixel tried something a lot harder — “Franky Zapata: Flyboard inventor fails in cross-Channel bid”.

A French inventor has failed in his attempt to cross the English Channel on a jet-powered flyboard.

Franky Zapata, a former jet-ski champion, had been hoping to cross from northern France to southern England in just 20 minutes.

But the 40-year-old fell into the water halfway across as he tried to land on a boat to refuel.

He took off from near Calais on Thursday morning and was heading for St Margaret’s Bay in Dover.

Mr Zapata was not injured when he fell and later announced he was planning a second bid to fly across the Channel next week.

(19) FIRE ONE. James Gleick traces the long, fictional effort to infect Earthlings with “Moon Fever” at New York Review of Books.

…The first moon landing was at once a historical inevitability and an improbable fluke. Inevitable because we had already done it so many times in our storytelling and our dreams. Astonishing, even in hindsight, because it required such an unlikely combination of factors and circumstances. “The moon, by her comparative proximity, and the constantly varying appearances produced by her several phases, has always occupied a considerable share of the attention of the inhabitants of the earth,” remarks Jules Verne in his fantastic tale From the Earth to the Moon (1865). The French fabulist imagined that the pioneers of space would be none other than Les Yankees: “They had no other ambition than to take possession of this new continent of the sky, and to plant upon the summit of its highest elevation the star-spangled banner of the United States of America.”

To get there, Verne proposed a projectile fired from a giant gun. He had probably read Edgar Allan Poe’s story “The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall” (1835), in which a Dutchman journeys to the moon by lighter-than-air balloon and meets the inhabitants, “ugly little people, who none of them uttered a single syllable, or gave themselves the least trouble to render me assistance, but stood, like a parcel of idiots, grinning in a ludicrous manner.” Like Poe, Verne embellished his story with a great deal of plausible science involving computations of the moon’s elliptical orbit, the distances to be traveled at apogee or perigee, the diminishing force of gravitation, and the power of exploding gunpowder….

(20) FACTS AND FIGURES. BBC updates readers on “Climate change: Current warming ‘unparalleled’ in 2,000 years”.

The speed and extent of current global warming exceeds any similar event in the past 2,000 years, researchers say.

They show that famous historic events like the “Little Ice Age” don’t compare with the scale of warming seen over the last century.

The research suggests that the current warming rate is higher than any observed previously.

The scientists say it shows many of the arguments used by climate sceptics are no longer valid.

When scientists have surveyed the climatic history of our world over the past centuries a number of key eras have stood out.

These ranged from the “Roman Warm Period”, which ran from AD 250 to AD 400, and saw unusually warm weather across Europe, to the famed Little Ice Age, which saw temperatures drop for centuries from the 1300s.

The events were seen by some as evidence that the world has warmed and cooled many times over the centuries and that the warming seen in the world since the industrial revolution was part of that pattern and therefore nothing to be alarmed about.

Three new research papers show that argument is on shaky ground.

The science teams reconstructed the climate conditions that existed over the past 2,000 years using 700 proxy records of temperature changes, including tree rings, corals and lake sediments. They determined that none of these climate events occurred on a global scale.

(21) TRAILER PARK. From the novel The Future of Another Timeline, by Annalee Newitz, comes a riot grrl band called Grape Ape. They are lost to our timeline, but you can see them here in all their glory. The Future of Another Timeline comes out from Tor Books on Sept. 24, 2019.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/10/19 Our Pixels Manned The Air They Ran The Scrolls And Took Over The Airports

(1) VINTAGE. New art from Star Trek: Picard. What should we call this episode? “The Grapes of Wrath of Khan”? The big reveal on the story and characters of the new show will be at San Diego Comic-Con next week.

(2) MORE BEST TRANSLATED HUGO FEEDBACK. Taiyo Fujii commented about the proposal on Facebook.

Thanks for M. Barkley and Rachel S. Cordasco for proposing Best Translated Novel for Hugo, but I should say as a Japanese writer, It’s not necessary.

Hugo already honored 3 translated works without translated category, and we saw the translator of that works Ken Liu was celebrated on the presentation stage. This is why I respect Hugo and voters, who don’t cares the work is from overseas or not.

I worry if translated category is held, translated short forms will be ignored by s-s, novelette and novella which are fascinated category for new young non anglophone writers. We are trying to open the door to be just a writer with contributing short forms, and readers already saw our works, and voted for nomination. But if translated category was held, only novels are honored.

In fact, translated fiction category is set on literary award held in non anglophone country, then we Japanese couldn’t give prize for Three Body Problem as the best novel of Seiun Awards even if we hope to honor.

(3) LISTEN AND LEARN. Brenton Dickieson points out “7 New Audiobooks on C.S. Lewis: Michael Ward, James Como, Stephanie Derrick, Patti Callahan, Joe Rigney, Diana Glyer, Gary Selby” at A Pilgrim in Narnia.

Michael Ward, Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C. S. Lewis (13 hrs)

I have argued that Dr. Michael Ward’s Planet Narnia is the most important resource for reading Narnia that has emerged in the new century. While one might argue with parts of Ward’s thesis–as I have donePlanet Narnia is a great book for providing close readings of Lewis’ greatest works in a literary way that invites us into a deeper understanding of the books behind the Narnian chronicles. I hope the publishers record The Narnia Code, the popular version of the Planet Narnia resource, but I am thrilled that they began with the magnum opus, Planet Narnia. Meanwhile, Audible also has Ward’s “Now You Know” audio course, “Christology, Cosmology, and C.S. Lewis,” a shorter but helpful resource for newcomers to the conversation. The audiobook reader, Nigel Patterson, is professional and even in tone.

(4) INTRODUCING NEWTON EWELL. Yesterday a commenter noticed that artist Newton Ewell was one of the NASFiC/Westercon guests who had no entry in Fancyclopedia 3. Overnight someone (“Confan”) decided rather than complain, they’d write one for him. It’s very good, and apparently there’s a lot to know about – Newton Ewell.

(5) TIL THEY ATE THEM. An unexpected discovery in the Crimea: “Early Europeans Lived Among Giant 300kg Birds”. I suspect this state of affairs lasted until dinnertime. [Via Amazing Stories.]

Early Europeans lived alongside giant 3-meter tall birds new research published on Wednesday explains. The bird species was one of the largest to ever roam the earth weighing in at a staggering 450 kg.

Bones of the massive, probably flightless bird were discovered in a cave in Crimea. “We don’t have enough data yet to say whether it was most closely related to ostriches or to other birds, but we estimate it weighed about 450kg,” says the study’s lead author Dr. Nikita Zelenkov. This formidable weight is nearly double the largest moa, three times the largest living bird, the common ostrich, and nearly as much as an adult polar bear.”

(6) MARTIAN CARAVANSARY. Slate has posted an interview with Robert Zubrin, Founder and president of the Mars Society and author of The Case for Space: “What Will Life On Mars be Like?”

Slate: How do you envision settling Mars will begin, and what will the early settlements look like?

Robert Zubrin: I think it will begin with an exploration, and then the establishment of a permanent Mars base to support exploration. Whoever is sponsoring this base, whether it’s the U.S. government, an international consortium of governments, or private groups, it’s going to be tremendously to their benefit to have people stay extra rotations on Mars because the biggest expense is transporting people back and forth. If it costs $100 million to send someone to Mars and back—and that’s a low estimate—it would be a no-brainer to offer someone $5 million to stay there an extra two years. So, I think you’ll start to see people staying extra rotations on Mars, just like there are some people who spend an extra rotation on trips to Antarctica. And then, relationships will form. And people will have children. And you will see the beginning of an actual settlement, a base.

(7) AUREALIS AWARDS. The 2019 Aurealis Awards are now taking entries:

The Aurealis Awards, Australia’s premier awards for speculative fiction, are for works created by an Australian citizen or permanent resident, and published for the first time between 1 January 2019 and 31 December 2019.

Full guidelines and FAQ can be found on the Aurealis Awards website:

(8) WESTEROS DISTINGUISHED. Everyone knows the Ninth Circuit marches to the beat of its own drummer – or is that to the pace of its own White Walkers? “Game of Thrones Night King storyline gets torched by federal judge”.

A federal appeals court’s opinion on Lindie Banks v. Northern Trust Corp. is — as one would expect from a case charging breaches of fiduciary duties — full of references to assets, investments and irrevocable trusts. Naturally, the Night King from Game of Thrones also makes a showing. 

In the opinion filed July 5, Judge John B. Owens writes that the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit won’t discard a prior legal precedent “the way that Game of Thrones rendered the entire Night King storyline meaningless in its final season.” 

(9) TORN OBIT. The actor with the best working name in Hollywood, Rip Torn, died July 9. CNN has the story: “Rip Torn, actor best known for ‘Men in Black’ and ‘The Larry Sanders Show,’ dies at 88”.

Rip Torn, an Emmy Award-winning actor who starred in “Men in Black” and HBO’s “The Larry Sanders Show,” has died, according to his publicist Rick Miramontez. He was 88.

Torn died Tuesday at his home in Lakeville, Connecticut with his family by his side, Miramontez said.

The actor had a seven-decade career in film, television and theater, with nearly 200 credits to his name.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 10, 1903 John Wyndham. His best-known works include The Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cuckoos, both written in the Fifties. The latter novel was filmed twice as Village of the Damned. Both iBooks and Kindle have an impressive selection of his novels though little of his short fiction is available alas. (Died 1969.)
  • Born July 10, 1923 Earl Hamner Jr. Though much better known for writing and producing The Waltons, he wrote eight scripts for the Twilight Zone including “Black Leather Jackets” in which an alien falls in love with a human girl and “The Hunt” where raccoon hunters enter the Twilight Zone. He also wrote the script of the Hanna-Barbera production of Charlotte’s Web. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 10, 1929 George Clayton Johnson. He’s best known for co-writing with William F. Nolan the Logan’s Run novel, the source for the Logan’s Run film. He was also known for his scripts for the Twilight Zone including  “A Game of Pool”, “Kick the Can”, “Nothing in the Dark”, and “A Penny for Your Thoughts”, and the first telecast episode of the original Star Trek, “The Man Trap”. (Died 2015.)
  • Born July 10, 1931 Julian May. She‘s best known for her Saga of Pliocene Exile (known as the Saga of the Exiles in the UK) and Galactic Milieu series: Jack the BodilessDiamond Mask and Magnificat. She also chaired the 1952 Worldcon in Chicago. (Died 2017.)
  • Born July 10, 1941 David Hartwell. Encyclopedia of Science Fiction describes him as “perhaps the single most influential book editor of the past forty years in the American science fiction publishing world.”  I certainly fondly remember the The Space Opera Renaissance he co-edited with Kathryn Cramer. Not to mention that his Year’s Best Fantasy and Year’s Best SF anthologies are still quite excellent reading. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 10, 1945 Ron Glass. Probably best known genre wise as Shepherd Book in the Firefly series and its sequel Serenity. His first genre role was as Jerry Merris in Deep Space, a SF horror film and he’d later show up voicing Philo D. Grenman in Strange Frame: Love & Sax (“slated as the world’s first animated lesbian-themed sci-fi film”; look it up as it as an impressive voice cast) and he showed up twice as J. Streiten, MD in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Oh and he was on Voyager playing a character named Loken in the  “Nightingale” episode. (Died 2016.)
  • Born July 10, 1970 John Simm, 49. The second of modern Masters on Doctor Who.  He appeared in the final three episodes of series three during the Time of the Tenth Doctor: “Utopia”, “The Sound of Drums”, and “Last of the Time Lords”. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Wizard of Id comes up with a problem faced by witches in the land of Oz, one that never occurred to me before.

(12) TO AIR IS HUMAN. Galactic Journey’s Natalie Devitt attends a 1964 movie with a pre-Batman Adam West: “[July 10, 1964] Greetings from the Red Planet (The Movie, Robinson Crusoe on Mars)”.

The movie opens up aboard a spaceship carrying Commander Christopher Draper (played by Paul Mantee, appearing in his first film major film role), Colonel Dan McReady (Adam West, an actor commonly found on television westerns) and an adorable monkey named Mona.  Things take an unexpected turn when they detect a meteoroid and are “forced out of orbital velocity to avoid collision with planetoid into tighter orbit of Mars.”  As the situation worsens, the crew is left with no other option than to immediately attempt to land on the fourth planet.  While fleeing the vehicle in their individual escape pods, Draper is separated from McReady and Mona.

Draper adapts to the conditions on the red planet, while searching for McReady and Mona.  Even though he is part of the first crew on Mars, Draper learns quickly what it takes to survive.  He finds shelter in a cave.  For heat, Draper discovers yellow rocks that “burn like coal.” Heating the rocks not only keeps him warm, but also produces oxygen, which he then uses to refill his oxygen tank.  Throughout the film, Draper keeps a careful audio record about all that he experiences, which provides a useful narrative device when things happen off-screen. 

(13) BESPOKE. Vicky Who Reads mostly likes this one: “Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim: A Lush and Beautiful Fantasy with a Romance I Wasn’t Into”. (A little problem with the age difference between the couple, for one thing.)  

I knew this was going to be good, but I definitely did not know just how good it would be.

Elizabeth Lim’s Spin the Dawn was a classic-style story with a lush and beautiful world and gorgeous prose. Featuring the classic “girl dressing as a boy” trope, a Project-Runway-esque competition, and a quest, Spin the Dawn weaves tradition and fantasy into a phenomenal story.

(14) LEND ME YOUR EARS. Joe Sherry is “Listening to the Hugos: Fancast” and opens with thoughts about the category itself.

…Fancast suffers from some of the same issues that many of the down ballot categories do, though perhaps “suffer” is the wrong word. There is a lot of institutional memory built in here for fancasts which are consistent year after year. With a core of listeners who are frequent participants in the Hugo Award process, it is not surprising to see a number of finalists come back year after year. I’ve said this about a number of other categories, but it does make me wonder a little bit about the health of the category, but on the other hand it does also give a snapshot of what the genre and fan conversation and communities may have looked like over a several year period. A positive takeaway, though, is that the only repeat winner was SF Squeecast in the first two years of the category. Both Be the Serpent and Our Opinions Are Correct are new to the ballot and are new to being a podcast.

(15) DEAD CON WALKING. Although Trae Dorn has eased back on his posting frequency, Nerd & Tie still comes through with fannish news scoops: “Better Business Bureau Calls Walker Stalker Events a ‘Scam’”.

Walker Stalkers LLC, which runs conventions under the Walker Stalker Con, Heroes & Villains, and FanFest names, has been having a bit of a rough patch when it comes to finances lately. We reported on this back in April, and while the company has made some effort to refund people for cancelled events and appearances, many might claim that it hasn’t been quite enough. Those issues seem to have come to a head though, as their problems are now becoming known outside of the geek community.

Nashville’s WSMV is reporting that the Better Business Bureau is now openly warning people to avoid Walker Stalkers LLC run events.

(16) IS IT REAL? BBC asked — “Midsommar: What do film critics in Sweden think?” Beware the occasional spoilers.

Swedish film reviewers are giving a cautious welcome to Midsommar, a horror film about a bizarre pagan festival in a remote part of Sweden.

Directed by Hereditary’s Ari Aster, the film stars Florence Pugh and Jack Reynor as an American couple who travel to Harga village in Halsingland to observe the midsummer ritual that takes place there only once every 90 years.

The film – which was actually shot in Hungary – has been getting strong reviews since it opened in the US earlier this month. It currently has an 83% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

One critic, IndieWire’s David Ehrlich, tweeted that Midsommar would “do for Swedish pagan rituals what Psycho did for showers”.

The film opened in Sweden on Wednesday and the first reviews have been appearing in the Swedish press. So what do the critics there think?

(17) REALITY CHECK. Be fair – everyone’s seen mermaids and knows, uh, never mind… NPR relates that “Disney Cable Channel Defends Casting Black Actress As New ‘Little Mermaid'”.

When Disney announced that Halle Bailey, a teen actress and one-half of the singing group Chloe x Halle, had landed the role of Ariel in the forthcoming live-action remake of The Little Mermaid, some people on social media went bonkers.

But not over the fact that it’s 2019 and the Danish fairy tale tells the story of a young female creature who loves singing and wearing a seashell bikini top and eagerly gives up her voice in exchange for a romance with a good-looking guy. Nor are critics outraged by the kind of message that narrative conveys to young children.

Instead, certain circles of the Internet are aghast that the ingenue cast by Disney is black.

The complaints run along the lines of: “The actress should look like the real Little Mermaid!” By which they presumably mean the white-skinned, blue-eyed cartoon character in the 1989 blockbuster film. The hashtag #NotMyAriel quickly began trending on Twitter, and since the announcement last week, scores of fans have pledged to boycott the film.

For days the company remained silent regarding the controversy, but Freeform, a cable network owned by Disney and on which Bailey appears as a cast member on Grown-ish, issued a statement on Instagram clarifying that, “Ariel…is a mermaid.”

(18) SHAKE IT ‘TIL YOU BREAK IT. “Satellite photos show California earthquake leaves scar on the desert” – BBC has lots of photos, satellite and other.

The strongest earthquake to hit California in two decades left a scar across the desert which can be seen from space, new pictures show.

The 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck on Friday at a depth of just 0.9km (0.6 miles), creating a fissure near its epicentre about 240km north-east of Los Angeles.

It was felt as far away as Phoenix, Arizona – more than 560km south-east.

…The crack in the desert – captured in before and after pictures released by Planet Labs – opened close to the epicentre of the quake near the town of Ridgecrest.

(19) TWO FAMILY TREES. BBC encounters the “Earliest modern human found outside Africa”.

A skull unearthed in Greece has been dated to 210,000 years ago, at a time when Europe was occupied by the Neanderthals.

The sensational discovery adds to evidence of an earlier migration of people from Africa that left no trace in the DNA of people alive today.

The findings are published in the journal Nature.

Researchers uncovered two significant fossils in Apidima Cave in Greece in the 1970s.

One was very distorted and the other incomplete, however, and it took computed tomography scanning and uranium-series dating to unravel their secrets.

The more complete skull appears to be a Neanderthal. But the other shows clear characteristics, such as a rounded back to the skull, diagnostic of modern humans.

What’s more, the Neanderthal skull was younger.

(20) SPACE COLLECTIBLES. On July 16-189, Heritage Auctions continues with the third round of Neil Armstrong memorabilia: “The Armstrong Family Collection III Space Exploration Signature Auction”.

To the many numismatists who may be reading this newsletter, here is a unique piece for your consideration: a Gemini 8 Flown United States 1864 Large Motto 2¢ Piece, graded MS 61 BN by NGC and encapsulated by CAG (Collectibles Authentication Guaranty) . This coin was supplied by an Ohio coin dealer to Neil Armstrong who took it with him on the mission, “carried in a specially sewn pocket in my pressure suit.” As you may know, Gemini 8 performed the world’s first orbital docking in space but it nearly ended in disaster when one of the Orbit and Maneuvering System thrusters stuck in the on position causing an uncontrollable tumbling. Armstrong was somehow able to control it and bring the craft in for a successful emergency landing. This coin, for many years on loan from the Armstrong family to the Armstrong Air & Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio, is extensively provenanced by the dealer and also Neil Armstrong’s father.

Another amazing item is Neil Armstrong’s Personally Owned and Worn Early Apollo-Era Flight Suit by Flite Wear with Type 3 NASA Vector Patch. I can’t imagine a better (or rarer) item for display purposes, a real museum piece. And, to go with it: Neil Armstrong’s Personal NASA Leather Name Tag.

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