Pixel Scroll 10/17/19 Gosh, It’s Hard Enough To Get A Plumber Quickly On Earth, Imagine How Hard It Must Be In Orbit

(1) SFF FIGURES PART OF TAROT ART EXHIBIT. The KEEP Contemporary in Santa Fe, NM is hosting “Readings”, a group exhibition of four artists “whose work has been inspired by the guiding wisdom, karmic narrative and spiritual symbolism of Tarot cards.”

Featured artists include guest curator and illustrator Elizabeth Leggett along with other notable illustrators and painters including Lee Moyer, Sienna Luna and Reiko Murakami Rice. Exhibiting artists blend themes from Tarot with ideas from short stories, speculative fiction and fantasy writing in their own unique interpretation of the show’s theme.

John Scalzi purchased the card art about him:

(2) SFWA OFFICER TURNOVER. Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America has chosen James Beamon to take the place of a departing Director-at-Large. President Mary Robinette Kowal shared the news in “A Change in the Director-at-Large at SFWA”.

On October 2, Andy Duncan officially announced his resignation as Director-at-Large. He had told me some weeks earlier, but I asked him to stay on while we deliberated on a new officer. Andy has been invaluable to the board of SFWA. He has been a voice of reason and a well-spring of knowledge about the field of SFF.

I recruited him when I was on the elections committee and am very sorry to see him go. At the same time, I am deeply respectful of the need to take a break. I’m just grateful that he’s still willing to let me ask him questions.

Fortunately, SFWA had a robust field of people interested in running for office. The board unanimously voted to add James Beamon, who was one of the runners-up, to the board. James has agreed to serve the remainder of Andy’s term. James is both an indie novel author and writes short stories that have appeared in places such as Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine, Apex, and Lightspeed.

(3) LIBRARY STRIKES BACK. Publishers Weekly reports a “Major Public Library System Will Boycott Macmillan E-books”. The King County (WA) Library System, which is the nation’s top digital-circulating library, will stop buying new release Macmillan e-books once the publishers’ two-month embargo begins next month.

…In her note, [Librarian] Rosenblum acknowledged differing opinions among public library staff around the country on whether to boycott Macmillan e-books, and said King County’s decision was ultimately driven by two reasons: one “pragmatic” and the other “principled.”

As for the pragmatic side, Rosenblum explained that King County has pledged to readers to limit the wait time for any title to around 3 months. “Not allowing us to purchase multiple copies of an e-book for two months artificially lengthens the queue, triggering more of the same title to be purchased than would have occurred if we had been allowed to buy for the first two months,” she explains. “With an ever-increasing demand to buy a wide variety of digital titles, we do not think this is the best use of public funds.”

Rosenblum says the library will continue to buy print copies of Macmillan new releases (something Macmillan CEO John Sargent suggested libraries do in his memo announcing the new embargo policy) as well as new audiobooks (which are not embargoed), and perhaps even additional copies of e-books the library already owns, as needed. “My mantra has been if it is not embargoed, buy it,” Rosenblum said, when asked for comment by PW. “Our focus is not to punish Macmillan [when the publisher] provides us with timely access to [digital] materials,” she explained, “it is to address their embargo of new digital materials.”

The “principled” argument, Rosenblum says, is to send a message to other publishers that public libraries cannot accept limits on basic access. To do so, she writes, would “profoundly” change the public library….

(4) FUNNY HORROR NOVEL NEWS. Dark Moon Digest editor Max Booth III, in “Supernatural Crime Fiction—Is It Allowed To Be Funny?” on CrimeReads, lists ten funny horror novels and collections he likes, including works by Joe Lansdale (and his daughter), Elmore Leonard, and Sarah Gailey.

Sarah Gailey, Magic for Liars (2019)

Much to the disappointment of every other person with a Twitter account besides myself, I’ve never been a fan of the Harry Potter series. Any story utilizing the “chosen one” trope quickly puts me to sleep. There are better ways to plot a novel than relying on boring ol’ destiny. But, with that said, I’ve always been fascinated with the world-building in those books, and wondered how it would play out in more…realistic settings. Surely a high school for wizards would be occupied by a much larger majority of dickheads. The kinda dipshits who would use graffiti magic to permanently etch phrases like “SAMANTHA IS A SLUT” across lockers. But also: how would this world look under a noir lens? Something that sort of mashes together Harry Potter and Rian Johnson’s Brick? Thankfully, Sarah Gailey was kind enough to answer these questions of mine with her wonderful debut novel, Magic for Liars. Close your eyes and picture Chuck Palahiuk’s Philip Marlowe taking on a murder case inside Hogwarts. If you aren’t already trembling with excitement, you might be a lost cause.

(5) FOURTH AND FINAL. The Man In The High Castle returns for Season 4 on 11/15.

The final season of The Man in the High Castle will be rocked by war and revolution. The Resistance becomes a full-blown rebellion, driven by Juliana Crain’s (Alexa Davalos) visions of a better world. A new Black insurgent movement emerges to fight the forces of Nazism and imperialism. As empires teeter, Chief Inspector Takeshi Kido (Joel De La Fuente) will find himself torn between his duty to his country and the bonds of family. Meanwhile, Reichsmarschall John Smith (Rufus Sewell) will be drawn towards the portal the Nazis have built to another universe, and the tantalizing possibility of stepping through a gateway to the path not taken.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 17, 1937 — Huey, Dewey, and Louie first appeared in a comic strip.
  • October 17, 1937 The Shadow radio program aired “Murder By The Dead.” Orson Welles starred as Lamont Cranston and of course The Shadow. Welles stayed with the show for just a year. Agnes Moorehead was also in the cast as Margo Lane. You can hear it here.
  • October 17, 1987 — The Ferengi were “born” on this date when Star Trek: The Next Generation‘s “The Last Outpost” aired in syndication. This was Shimerman’s first appearance as a Ferengi though he had appeared on the series previously. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 17, 1886 Spring Byington. I like reaching back into the early years of cinema. Her appearance in Werewolf of London as Miss Ettie Coombes in 1935 is of that era. She would also appear in Batman as J. Pauline Spaghetti in “The Catwoman Goeth“ and “The Sandman Cometh” episodes. (Died 1971.)
  • Born October 17, 1913 Robert Lowery. Batman in 1949’s Batman and Robin. You can see the first part here. And he popped up in an episode of the Adventures of Superman. (Died 1971.)
  • Born October 17, 1914 Jerry Siegel. His most famous creation was Superman, which he created in collaboration with his friend Joe Shuster. He was inducted (along with the previously deceased Shuster) into the comic book industry’s Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1993. (Died 1996.)
  • Born October 17, 1921 Tom Poston. One of his acting first roles was The Alkarian (uncredited at the time ) in “The Mystery of Alkar” episode of Tom Corbett, Space Cadet in 1950. He much later had the recurring role of Mr. Bickley in Mork & Mindy. (Died 2007.)
  • Born October 17, 1926 Julie Adams. Her most famous role no doubt is being in the arms of The Creature from Black Lagoon. She also been on Alfred Hitchcock Presents three times, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. The Night GalleryKolchak: The Night Stalker, The Incredible Hulk and Lost all once. (Died 2019.)
  • Born October 17, 1934 Alan Garner, 85. His best book? That’d be Boneland whichtechnically is the sequel to The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath but really isn’t. Oh, and The Owl Service is amazing!
  • Born October 17, 1946 Bruce McAllister, 73. He’s a superb short story writer as you can see in The Girl Who Loved Animals and Other Stories that Golden Gryphon published originally and which Cemetery Dance has now in an ePub edition along with his two novels.  His Dream Baby novel is an interesting if brutal take on the Vietnam War. 
  • Born October 17, 1948 Margot Kidder. Lois Lane in the Superman film franchise that starred Christopher Reeve. Her first genre role however was Marcia Curtis in The Reincarnation of Peter Proud. I think her take as Kathy Lutz in The Amityville Horror is a much meatier acting role than her Superman role is. Speaking of horror, she’ll show up in Halloween II  as Barbara Collier. She did some of the usual genre one-offs in TV (Tales from the CryptThe Hunger and The Outer Limits to name but three) but her major role was voicing Rebecca Madison, the villain, in the animated Phantom 2040 series. (Died 2018.)
  • Born October 17, 1948 Robert Jordan. He is best known for the Wheel of Time series, which comprises fifteen books including a prequel novel. I must confess that so far I’ve resisted the urge to read this series, so put forth an argument as to why I should do so, please. It’s certainly considered a major work of fantasy. (Died 2007.)
  • Born October 17, 1949 Barclay Shaw,70. He has been nominated five times for the Hugo Award for Best Professional Artist. He has painted more than 500 book and magazine covers, and his work includes more than 20 cover paintings for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. The artist credits Ellison for giving him his start in the business when he invited him to paint cover illustrations for 16 paperback editions of his books
  • Born October 17, 1968 Mark Gatiss, 51. English actor, screenwriter, director, producer and novelist. Writer for Doctor Who; with Steven Moffat, whom Gatiss worked with on Doctor Who and Jekyll, he also co-created and co-produced Sherlock. As an actor, I’ll noted he does Vogon voices in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and is Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock.

(8) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman hopes listeners are ready to head to Dublin for brunch with Maura McHugh in Episode 107 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Maura McHugh and I first met during the 2007 Yokohama Worldcon, where I was introduced to her by former guest of the podcast Ellen Datlow as one of the students she’d met at Clarion West, which Maura had attended after receiving the Gordon R. Dickson Scholarship. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Jabberwocky, Doorways, Paradox, Goblin Fruit, and other magazines. She also writes comics, the most recent of which was The Dead Run, a five-issue Judge Anderson: PSI Division story for Judge Dredd Megazine. In 2015, she won Best Irish Writer of comic books in The Arcade Awards. She also published a book on Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me through the Midnight Movie Monograph series from Electric Dreamhouse Press and PS Publishing. Her most recent short story collection The Boughs Withered (When I Told Them My Dreams) launched at the Dublin Worldcon.

Maura and I discussed how the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop sometimes makes people realize they shouldn’t be writers (and why that can sometimes be a good thing), how having lived in both Ireland and the U.S. affected her life and her writing, whether her attraction to dark fiction was ever a choice, what it was like getting to create comics in the Judge Dredd universe, how she decides whether ideas that pop into her head get transformed into comics or prose, her recent art project inspired by the works of Simone de Beauvoir, why she doesn’t speak much about works in progress on social media, what she learned pulling together the selections for her first short story collection, why Twin Peaks fascinated her so much she wrote a book about the show — and much more.

(9) AN UNXPECTED PARTY. The New York Times observes, “Peter Jackson Has a Lot of Power in New Zealand. Some Say Too Much.”

Peter Jackson, the film director behind the “Lord of the Rings” series, is a towering figure in his native New Zealand, admired as both a down-to-earth titan of the box office and a one-man income generator for the country’s moviemaking and tourism industries.

But Mr. Jackson now finds himself at the center of a debate over how he has exerted that influence. This week, he helped catapult to victory a mayoral candidate who shared his opposition to a proposed development project near his studios, an unheard-of local political intervention in a country where money, fame and power are most often wielded lightly.

Mr. Jackson had been embroiled for months in a fight with Justin Lester, the first-term mayor of Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, over plans to build houses on a rugged peninsula in the city’s harbor. His opponent, Andy Foster, who had polled only in the single digits in previous mayor’s races, beat Mr. Lester by 503 votes on Saturday after receiving Mr. Jackson’s political and financial backing.

(10) NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME. “Google and BBC scrap VR projects”.

The BBC has disbanded the team it created to make virtual reality (VR) content, saying its funding has ended.

It comes as Google halts sales of its Daydream View headsets, admitting it does not see a future for smartphone-based VR.

There have been questions over the long-term future for the technology which has failed to become a mass market product.

One analyst said it could be several years before VR lived up to its hype….

…According to research firm IHS Markit, there will be 51 million consumer headsets in use around the world by 2023.

“Compared to mobile devices, this represents a niche audience so it is understandable the BBC is reconsidering its VR content strategy,” said analyst Piers Harding-Rolls.

(11) HALLOWEEN LIGHTS. Los Angeles’ Museum of Neon Art’s periodic Neon Cruise event on October 26 will be dubbed the Haunted by Neon Cruise.

Crawl aboard our double-decker “hearse” for a haunted ride as we explore the darker side of LA history…

Costumes are encouraged, so dress in your Halloween finest for a wickedly good time!

That will be in addition to the usual features —

Saturday Nights! JOIN US for a nighttime bus tour of neon signs, movie marquees and permanent installations of contemporary neon art through Downtown and Hollywood.

Developed by MONA beginning in 1985, this narrated tour points out neon’s aesthetic dimensions, placing them firmly within the context of 20th century Los Angeles cultural history. From the classic movie marquees of downtown Los Angeles’ theater district to the glittering lights of Hollywood and the glowing pagodas of Chinatown, you will see outstanding examples of contemporary neon art as well as innovative electrical advertising on this award-winning tour.

Jump on board the top deck of a convertible British bus and let your knowledgeable guide delight you with history and anecdotes about the urban electric jungle of L.A. Now in its 17th consecutive year, the Neon Cruise begins in the Historic Corridor of Downtown.

(12) A MILESTONE EVENT. NPR says “NASA’s First All-Female Spacewalk Set For Friday”.

The first all-female spacewalk in NASA’s 61-year history is finally happening and will even take place a few days ahead of schedule.

Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir, who were initially supposed to venture beyond the International Space Station on Oct. 21, are now slated to make their historic excursion this Friday. NASA announced the scheduling and other changes this week in light of issues with the space station’s battery charge-discharge unit, which Koch and Meir will replace. The International Space Station’s Twitter account tweeted Tuesday evening that the spacewalk will take place “no earlier than Friday,” updating NASA’s earlier announcement that it would happen either Thursday or Friday morning.

“We do anticipate that will stick,” NASA spokesperson Stephanie Schierholz told NPR in an email.

Friday’s spacewalk is set to begin at 7:50 a.m. EDT and last about 5 1/2 hours, according to NASA. The two astronauts will replace the faulty power regulator, which has been in operation since 2000 and failed to activate after new lithium-ion batteries were installed on the space station last week. NASA said the unit failure did not pose risks to any of the station’s operations, crew members, laboratory experiments or overall power supply. Still, the faulty unit prevents the new lithium-ion batteries from providing additional power to the station.

(13) VIDEO OF THE DAY. in “Bless You!” on Vimeo, Paulina Ziolkowska explains the consequences of sneezing.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/6/19 The Soylent Green Hills of Earth

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to chow down on chowder with the award-winning Jack Dann in episode 104 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Jack’s an old friend I see far too infrequently ever since he moved to Australia. I was privileged to publish a story of his in Science Fiction Age back in the ’90s, but that’s the least of his accomplishments. His first novel, The Man Who Melted, was nominated for a 1984 Nebula Award, and since then he’s gone on to win a Nebula Award, two World Fantasy Awards, three Ditmar Awards, and the Peter McNamara Award for Excellence. His short story collections include Timetipping, Jubilee: the Essential Jack Dann, and Visitations. His 1998 anthology Dreaming Down-Under (co-edited with his wife Janeen Webb) is a groundbreaking work in Australian science fiction.

He’s also created some amazing stories in collaboration with the likes of Michael Swanwick, Gardner Dozois, Barry Malzberg, and others, and since you know from listening to Eating the Fantastic that collaboration completely baffles me, we dove into a discussion of that as well.

We stepped out to The Chowder House, which has been in operation since 1985, but has a history which goes all the way back to 1920, when Darcy’s Irish Pub opened — and over the decades expanded into a row of family-owned restaurants. It was a comfortable spot, with good food, and the perfect place for us to catch up after far too long apart.

We discussed the novel he and Gardner Dozois always planned to write but never did, how a botched appendectomy at age 20 which left him with only a 5% chance of survival inspired one of his most famous stories, why he quit law school the day after he sold a story to Damon Knight’s Orbit series, the bad writing advice he gave Joe Haldeman early on we’re glad got ignored, the secrets to successful collaborations, the time Ellen Datlow acted as referee on a story he wrote with Michael Swanwick, how it felt thanks to his novel The Man Who Melted to be a meme before we began living in a world of memes, why he’s drawn to writing historical novels which require such a tremendous amount of research, the time he was asked to channel the erotica of Anaïs Nin, the gift he got from his father that taught him to take joy in every moment — and much more.

Jack Dann

(2) RSR LAUNCHES IMPROVEMENT. Rocket Stack Rank announces “New Filtering and Simplified Highlighting” in an article that analyzes the most awards won, award nominations earned, and inclusion in year’s best TOC for short fiction from 2015-2018 by using the new filtering features added to RSR.

You can now filter stories in a table to show only the ones recognized with SF/F awards, year’s best anthologies, or prolific reviewers. Click the “Show:” drop-down list in the table header and choose one of the options (see image on the right). This is an easy way to dis-aggregate scores to see which stories received the most recognition by each type of recommendation for readers who favor one type over a combined score of all three.

(3) THE DELTA QUADRANT PRIMARY. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Senator Cory Booker is trying to acquire the votes of undecided Trekkies by showing off his nerd cred. The 50-year-old challenger for the Democratic nomination spoke to the New York Times today about his love for all things Star Trek, and how the show has influenced his politics: “How ‘Star Trek’ Pushed Cory Booker to Make It So”.

What did your father see in Trek?

It was hope.

“Star Trek” was more than just an escape. It was a portal to say the future is going to be different. It’s incredibly hopeful and a belief that we’re going to get beyond a lot of these lines. We’re going to unite as humanity. It’ll be a place where your virtue guides you, the highest of human aspirations. I think there’s something about that he found really powerful.

Do you think you took it in differently as a person of color?

I took it in through that lens because I really believe that was the lens that compelled my father. My dad loved UFOs. When that television series “Project Blue Book” came out, that was another thing. He was fascinated by the universe and excited about it.

This idea that we as humans, where we are right now, are literally just not even at the foothills yet of the mountains of discovery that are out there. He was a man of infinite hope. “Star Trek” gave him that. It showed him that we are going to overcome so much of the stuff that rips at humanity now.

(4) SNEAK PREVIEW. Unusual drama and security accompanied The Testaments’ submission to Booker Prize judges the New York Times reports: “Judging Margaret Atwood’s Top Secret New Novel”.

In July, the author Xiaolu Guo was expecting the delivery of a book that would not be published until September: Margaret Atwood’s “The Testaments,” the highly anticipated follow-up to “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

Guo was getting her copy so early because she is a judge for this year’s Booker Prize, Britain’s most prestigious literary award. There was just one problem, Guo said in an interview on Tuesday: When the courier turned up, she was late getting home from the airport. The courier refused to give the book to her brother and sister-in-law, who were visiting from China.

Guo missed the courier’s visit the next day, too, as she was out running errands. By the time she finally got the book, she was furious, she said.

“For me, it was quite over the top, the whole security issue,” Guo added, laughing.

The secrecy around Atwood’s new novel, which is on the Booker Prize shortlist that was announced this week, has complicated the judging process this year. The prize’s organizer had to sign a nondisclosure agreement on behalf of all the judges, said Peter Florence, the chairman of the judging panel.

Secrecy agreements were not required for the 150 other novels that judges read to create an initial list of books in the running that was announced at the end of July. They then reread and argued over those thirteen titles to choose the final six.

At the shortlist announcement on Tuesday, all six books were piled on a table in front of the judges, among them Salman Rushdie’s “Quichotte” and Lucy Ellmann’s “Ducks, Newburyport.” But the copy of “The Testaments” was actually a dummy.

“That’s not the real Atwood, by the way, in case anyone’s thinking of stealing it,” Gaby Wood, the prize’s literary director, told reporters.

(5) GAY KISS GETS COMIC BANNED IN RIO. “‘Avengers’ Comic Featuring Gay Kiss Banned by Rio de Janeiro Authorities”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

The collected edition of ‘Avengers: The Children’s Crusade’ has come under fire for featuring a kiss between two male characters.

In an unexpected move, Rio de Janeiro mayor Marcelo Crivella has announced that the translated edition of the Marvel comic book series Avengers: The Children’s Crusade would be removed from the literary festival Riocentro Bienal do Livro so as to protect the city’s children from what he described as “sexual content for minors.”

The so-called sexual content in question is an on-panel kiss between two male characters, Wiccan and Hulkling, who are in committed relationship. Both characters are clothed in the scene.

(6) STAR WARS SOUVENIR OKAYED TO FLY. A press release on the TSA.gov web site called “UPDATED: Statement on Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge themed soda bottles” says the TSA has relented on the “thermal detonator” soda bottles at Disneyland’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge and is now treating the bottles like “oversized liquids” —

 “The issue concerning Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge-themed soda bottles has recently been brought to our attention by the general public, as these items could reasonably be seen by some as replica hand grenades. We appreciate the concerns being raised, because replica explosives are not permitted in either carry-on or checked bags. We have completed our review, and instructed our officers to treat these as an oversized liquid. Because these bottles contain liquids larger than 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters), they should be put in checked baggage or emptied to be brought on as carry-on item. TSA officers will maintain the discretion to prohibit any item through the screening checkpoint if they believe it poses a security threat.”

(7) DUFF FUNDRAISER. Paul Weimer says, “I am auctioning a print of one of my photos to raise money for DUFF” – the Down Under Fan Fund. See it at eBay: 10″x13″ matboarded metallic print of Mt. Taranaki, New Zealand.

(8) GRAPHIC DETAILS. Joshua Corin begins Big Thrill’s “Getting Graphic: Sequential Crime” with “An Introduction to Crime-Inspired Graphic Novels and Comics.”

It’s 1962 in Milan and a former fashion model, Angela Guissana, is looking for material for a small publishing house she and her sister Luciana have opened.  She studies the reading tastes of the local commuters and concludes that thrillers—such as those featuring criminal mastermind Fantomas—are in.

Rather than hire someone else to forge ahead with their new thriller, she and her sister write the book themselves. To increase its appeal, they present the book as a fumetto, an Italian variation on the comic book format that has recently proven so popular in Europe with Tintin and Tex Willer—also thrillers. They make sure that each volume can fit inside a businessman’s coat pocket.

Thus, the Guissana sisters create Diabolik, which has in the 60 years since its inception, sold more than 150 million copies.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 6, 1953  — Hugo awards first presented at Philcon II (the second Philadelphia Worldcon).
  • September 6, 1956  — Fire Maidens from Outer Space premiered. A group of astronauts lands on a moon of Jupiter only to find it inhabited with sexy maidens. Well, and a hideous monster of course.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 6, 1904 Groff Conklin. He edited some forty anthologies of genre fiction starting The Best of Science Fiction from Crown Publishers in 1946 to Seven Trips Through Time and Space on Fawcett Gold in 1968. The contents are fairly a mix of the obscure and well known as Heinlein, Niven, Simak, Dahl, Sturgeon, Lovecraft and Bradbury show up here. (Died 1968.)
  • Born September 6, 1943 Roger Waters, 76. Ok, I’m stretching it. Is Pink Floyd genre? The Wall maybe. Or The Division Bell with its themes of communication. Or maybe I just wanted to say Happy Birthday Roger!
  • Born September 6, 1946 Hal Haag. Baltimore-area fan who found fandom in the early Eighties and who chaired Balticon 25 and Balticon 35 and worked on Balticon and quite a number of regionals.  He Co-founded BWSMOF (Baltimore/Washington SMOFs) along with Inge Heyer from Shore Leave, a regional organization whose purpose it is to discuss running regional conventions of all types. The Baltimore Science Fiction Society put together a very touching memorial site which you can see here. (Died 2006.)
  • Born September 6, 1953 Patti Yasutake, 66. Best-known for her portrayal of Nurse Alyssa Ogawa in the Trek universe where she had a recurring role on Next Generation and showed up in Star Trek Generations and Star Trek First Contact. In doing these Birthdays, I consult a number of sites. Several of them declared that her character ended her time as a Doctor. Not true but made for a nice coda on her story. 
  • Born September 6, 1958 Michael Winslow, 61. Though he might bear as the comically voiced Radar Technicianin Space Balls, I’m more interested that his first genre role of significance was giving voice to Mogwai and the other gremlins in Gremlins, a role he didn’t reprise for the second Gremlins film. 
  • Born September 6, 1972 China Miéville, 47. My favorite novels by him? The City & The City is the one I’ve re-read the most, followed closely by Kraken. Scariest by him? Oh, that’d King Rat by a long shot. And I’ll admit the dialect he used in Un Lun Dun frustrated me enough that I gave up on it. I’ll hold strongly that the New Crobuzon series doesn’t date as well as some of his other fiction does. 
  • Born September 6, 1972 Idris Elba, 47. Heimdall in the Thor franchise, as well as the Avengers franchise. First genre role was as Captain Janek in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus and later he was in Pacific Rim as Stacker Pentecost. And let’s not forget him as the Big Bad as Krall in Star Trek: Beyond
  • Born September 6, 1976 Robin Atkin Downes, 43. Though he’s made his living being a voice actor in myriad video games and animated series, one of his first acting roles was as the rogue telepath Byron on Babylon 5. He later shows up as the Demon of Illusion in the “Chick Flick” episode of Charmed and he’s got an uncredited though apparently known role as Pockla in the “Dead End” episode of Angel. Ditto for Repo Men as well. He does get as the voice of Edward in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.
  • Born September 6, 1976 –Naomie Harris, 43. She’s Eve Moneypenny in Skyfall, Spectre and the forthcoming No Time to Die. This was the first time Moneypenny had a first name. She also appeared in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End as Tia Dalma. And lastly I’ll note she played Elizabeth Lavenza in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at the National Theatre. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Molly Ostertag drew a K&S comic strip for Sam and Frodo. Hampus Eckerman says, “I think a lot of filers might enjoy this little comic.” Thread starts here.
  • A new Tales From The Slushpile at Publishers Weekly.

(12) PREVIOUSLY UNSUSPECTED SCIENCE. Really?

(13) NOT DISNEY. BBC tells how “Team plans colour film of black hole at galaxy’s center”.

The team that took the first ever image of a black hole has announced plans to capture “razor sharp” full colour video of the one at the centre of our galaxy.

Satellites would be launched to supplement the existing network of eight telescopes to make this movie.

The researchers say the upgraded network will be able to see the supermassive black hole consuming the material around it.

The team has been awarded the Breakthrough Award for Physics.

Prof Heino Falcke, of Radboud University in the Netherlands, who proposed the idea of the so-called Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), told BBC News that the next step was to see a black hole in action.

“Just like planets, a black hole rotates. And because of its incredibly strong gravity, it distorts space and time around it. And so seeing this very weird effect of space itself being rotated is one of the holy grails of astrophysics.”

(14) A LITTLE LIST. At CrimeReads, John Marks points out “Seven Techno-Thrillers to Read as Our World Crumbles”.

Tristan Da Cunha is the most remote yet inhabited island in the world. With just 297 people living on the volcanic enclave, it’s more than 1,750 miles away from its nearest coast of South Africa. There are no airports, hotels, or bars and it is only reachable following a six-day boat ride. Yet for all it lacks, the island still has access to the internet. There is virtually nowhere on earth where you can truly escape from technology.

Authors, like me, who write speculatively about tech, are only limited by our imaginations. And that’s why we are fascinated by it, because it offers limitless potential.

Often it is far more of a challenge to create characters and worlds that are overshadowed by tech that goes askew than tech that gets it right.

(15) 20/20 HINDSIGHT. I was soon won around to the name changes, but feel a bit jaded to read such confident reassurances from people who a month ago had no more idea than anyone else that this was coming:

Nancy Jane Moore in “Against Nostalgia” at Book View Café.

…Given the list of winners at the Hugos — which are fan awards and therefore a good marker of what the people who love their SF/F think is important — times have changed dramatically. I see no reason why Ng or anyone else needs to pay homage to Campbell, who is clearly going to be a marginal person in the genre if he’s mentioned at all fifty years from now.

…Many of the stories published in the 1950s gave us those possibilities, but they did so in the trappings of their times. Confusing those trappings with science fiction makes us misunderstand what the genre is truly about. And being nostalgic about the trappings is silly.

The world that gave us those stories has changed, and stories set in outdated realities, even good ones, often don’t make sense to anyone who doesn’t live in that period. There are a lot of times when you need context, which doesn’t mean saying someone is a “product of their times” and skipping over what they did, but looking at other layers in the story (assuming it’s a story that’s worth spending that much time on).

These days the audience for science fiction is much broader than the mythical 13-year-old (white) boys the Golden Age fiction was supposedly aimed at. We have a strong need for science fiction that breaks us out of the misogyny and racism and colonialism on which so much of western culture has been built. And the audience is worldwide, drawing from their own cultures and experiences.

If you believe storytelling is a vital part of being human – and I do – you have to realize that there are a lot of ways to tell a story and a lot of different ideas of who might be the hero.

John Scalzi in “The Gunn Center Makes a Change, and Further Thoughts on the Reassessment of John W. Campbell” at Whatever.

…This will no doubt start another round of anguished wailing from certain quarters about the erasure of John W. Campbell from the annals of science fiction history. The answer to this is he’s not being erased, he’s merely being reassessed. And the reassessment is: His extensive paper trail of bigotry, reactionary thought and pseudo-scientific nonsense wasn’t a great look at the time — a fact amply detailed by a number of his contemporaries in the field — and it’s even less of a great look now. As a result, his name is being taken off some things it was on before, because it staying on them means those things (and the people administering those things) would then have to carry the freight of, and answer for, his bigotry, reactionary thought and pseudo-scientific nonsense. And they would rather not.

…People aren’t perfect and you take the good and the bad together — but every generation, and every person, gets to decide how to weigh the good and the bad, and to make judgments accordingly. In the early seventies, in the wake of Campbell’s passing, such was Campbell’s reputation in the field of science fiction that he could be memorialized by two separate awards in his name, and apparently nobody batted an eye (or if they did, they didn’t count). Nearly fifty years later and at the end of the second decade of the 21st century, such is Campbell’s reputation in the field of science fiction that Campbell’s name is off one award, and may be off the other soon enough. In another 50 years, Campbell’s reputation in the field may be different again, or may simply be what so many things are after a century, which is, a historical footnote.

(16) SCAVENGER’S FEAST. Meanwhile, Richard Paolinelli is hastening to fill the sudden vacuum of Campbell-named awards by adding one to his personal collection of honors: “New Category Added To The Helicons in 2020” [Now links to toxic original blog].

“The Helicon Society is proud to announce that the 2020 Helicon Awards will also feature the inaugural John W. Campbell Diversity In SF/F Award.

The Society looks forward to honoring the award’s first-ever recipient next spring.”

I don’t know about you folks, but I’m pretty interested in finding out who this will be. Aren’t you?

These antics apparently help Paolinelli sell books. When he inaugurated his Helicon Awards earlier this year, Paolinelli also announced a pair of awards whose namesakes had recently been removed from awards by the American Library Association: the Melvil Dewey Innovation Award and Laura Ingalls Wilder Best New Author Award.

(17) BATTLE OF THE BULGE. In this week’s Science (the US version of Nature), Rosemary Wyse discusses “Galactic archaeology with Gaia”.

The past and present merger activity of the Milky Way galaxy has recently been put into sharp focus through the analysis of data from the Gaia astrometric satellite.

The emerging picture created is one of persistent disequilibrium, with high merger activity some 10 billion years ago that plausibly created the stellar halo and thick disk (see the figure), followed by a lull during which only lower-mass satellite galaxies were accreted. The Milky Way is now acquiring the Sagittarius dwarf galaxy, which is likely sculpting the galaxy’s thin disk….

…The first data release (DR1) from Gaia provided the position on the sky and apparent brightness for over a billion stars. One result stands out from Gaia DR1: the discovery by Belokurov et al. (3) of a population of stars with distinctive motions, which were identified as debris from a massive satellite that merged into the Galaxy a long time ago. These stars are moving on unexpectedly radially biased orbits and they dominate the stellar halo, particularly close to the peak of its chemical abundance distribution. 

(18) MEET YOUR WATERLOO. James Davis Nicoll wants you to know about “SFF Works Linked by One Canadian University”.

You might not immediately identify Ontario’s University of Waterloo as a hotbed of speculative fiction writing. The establishment is far better known for its STEM programs, baffled-looking first-year students, the horrifying things in the tunnels, and vast flocks of velociraptor-like geese. So you may be surprised to learn that the University has produced a number of science fiction and fantasy authors over the years

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

Storm Over Campbell Award

The John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer has been presented at the Worldcon since 1973, two years after Campbell’s death. The 47th winner was Jeannette Ng. Will there be a 48th? Many are responding to her acceptance remarks with a call to change the name of the award.

Although voting is administered by the Worldcon, the award belongs to Dell Magazines, publisher of Analog. It was named for him because Campbell edited Astounding/Analog for 34 years and in his early years at the helm he introduced Heinlein, Asimov, and many other important sf writers, reigning over what was called by the time of his death the Golden Age of SF. That cemented his legend as a discoverer of talent (regardless that in later years he passed on submissions from any number of talented newcomers incuding Samuel R. Delany and Larry Niven).

A revised version of Jeanette Ng’s acceptance remarks is posted at Medium, “John W. Campbell, for whom this award was named, was a fascist”, with the profanity removed and other corrections made.

A video of the actual speech is here —

Jeannette Ng’s tweets about the reaction include —

Annalee Newitz commented:

Rivers Solomon, another Campbell nominee, posted screenshots of the acceptance speech they would have given. Thread starts here.

N.K. Jemisin explains why the term “fascist” in Ng’s speech is apposite. Thread starts here.

Alec Nevala-Lee, author of Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction, says:

Past Campbell Award winner (2000) Cory Doctorow supported Ng in an article at Boing Boing: “Read: Jeannette Ng’s Campbell Award acceptance speech, in which she correctly identifies Campbell as a fascist and expresses solidarity with Hong Kong protesters”.

Jeannette Ng’s speech was exactly the speech our field needs to hear. And the fact that she devoted the bulk of it to solidarity with the Hong Kong protesters is especially significant, because of the growing importance of Chinese audiences and fandom in sf, which exposes writers to potential career retaliation from an important translation market. There is a group of (excellent, devoted) Chinese fans who have been making noises about a Chinese Worldcon for years, and speeches like Ng’s have to make you wonder: if that ever comes to pass, will she be able to get a visa to attend?

Back when the misogynist/white supremacist wing of SF started to publicly organize to purge the field of the wrong kind of fan and the wrong kind of writer, they were talking about people like Ng. I think that this is ample evidence that she is in exactly the right place, at the right time, saying the right thing.

… When Ng took the mic and told the truth about his legacy, she wasn’t downplaying his importance: she was acknowledging it. Campbell’s odious ideas matter because he was important, a giant in the field who left an enduring mark on it. No one disagrees about that. What we want to talk about today is what that mark is, and what it means.

Another Campbell winner, John Scalzi, tried to see all sides in “Jeannette Ng, John W. Campbell, and What Should Be Said By Whom and When” at Whatever.

… You can claim the John W. Campbell Award without revering John W. Campbell, or paying him lip service, and you can criticize him, based on what you see of his track record and your interpretation of it. The award is about the writing, not about John W. Campbell, and that is a solid fact. If a recipient of the Campbell Award can’t do these things, or we want to argue that they shouldn’t, then probably we should have a conversation about whether we should change the name of the award. It wouldn’t be the first time an award in the genre has been materially changed in the fallout of someone calling out the problems with the award’s imagery. The World Fantasy Award was changed in part because Nnedi Okorafor and Sofia Samatar were public (Samatar in her acceptance speech!) about the issue of having a grotesque of blatant racist HP Lovecraft as the trophy for the award. There was a lot of grousing and complaining and whining about political correctness then, too. And yet, the award survives, and the new trophy, for what it’s worth, is gorgeous. So, yes, if this means we have to consider whether it’s time to divorce Campbell from the award, let’s have that discussion.

Now, here’s a real thing: Part of the reaction to Ng’s speech is people being genuinely hurt. There are still people in our community who knew Campbell personally, and many many others one step removed, who idolize and respect the writers Campbell took under his wing. And there are people — and once again I raise my hand — who are in the field because the way Campbell shaped it as a place where they could thrive. Many if not most of these folks know about his flaws, but even so it’s hard to see someone with no allegiance to him, either personally or professionally, point them out both forcefully and unapologetically. They see Campbell and his legacy abstractly, and also as an obstacle to be overcome. That’s deeply uncomfortable.

It’s also a reality. Nearly five decades separate us today from Campbell. It’s impossible for new writers today to have the same relationship to him as their predecessors in the field did, even if the influence he had on the field works to their advantage….

Bounding Into Comics’ Spencer Baculi unexpectedly followed Doctorow’s and Scalzi’s lead, even though the site often covers the work of Jon Del Arroz and Vox Day’s Alt-Comics: “2019 John W. Campbell Award Winner Jeanette Ng Labels Influential Sci-Fi Author as a “Fascist” During Acceptance Speech”.

…Ng’s assessment of Campbell is undoubtedly informed by Campbell’s personal politics and beliefs and those who have written about him. Campbell argued that African-Americans were “barbarians” deserving of police brutality during the 1965 Watts Riots, as “the “brutal” actions of police consist of punishing criminal behavior.” His unpublished story All featured such racist elements that author Robert Heinlein, who built upon Campbell’s original story for his own work titled Sixth Column, had to “reslant” the story before publishing it. In the aftermath of the Kent State massacre, when speaking of the demonstrators murdered by the Ohio National Guard, Campbell stated that “I’m not interested in victims. I’m interested in heroes.” While difficult to presume where Campbell’s beliefs would place him in modern politics, it is apparent that Campbell would disagree with many of the beliefs held by modern America.

Ng’s speech unsurprisingly caused backlash and outrage among some members of the literary community, with some claiming that Ng should have withheld from insulting the man whose award she was receiving.

Chris M. Barkley praised Ng’s comments in his File 770 post “So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask — Special Irish Worldcon Edition, Day Four”.

…I was one of the people madly cheering this speech. I posted a meme on Facebook as she was still speaking: “Jeannette Ng is AWESOME!!!!!” Moments later, swept up in the moment, I posted another meme, “I’m just gonna say it: The Name of the John W. Campbell Award SHOULD BE F***KING CHANGED!”

To clamor atop a soapbox for a moment; NO, I am not advocating that the life and work of John W. Campbell, Jr. be scrubbed from history. But neither should we turn a blind, uncritical eye to his transgressions. When the winners of such a prestigious award start getting angry because the person behind it is viewed to be so vile and reprehensible, that ought to be acknowledged as well….

Mark Blake honored a request to comment about Campbell on Facebook.

For a brief period a few years ago, my byline was prominently associated with the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. This was not because I’d ever won such an award, or even appeared on the ballot (I was never a nominee), but rather because I assembled anthologies for the purpose of showcasing new writers during their two-year window of eligibility, as an exercise in public awareness of writing that, despite potential merit, might not have received sufficient reviews to garner an audience among the Worldcon membership at large.

In that context, someone asked me to defend Campbell because of the acceptance speech given by this year’s recipient.

This was an uncomfortable request. The more I’ve learned about Campbell over the years, the more certain I’ve become that I wouldn’t have even wanted to share an elevator with him, much less try to sell him a story… and I say that despite having learned any number of his storytelling and editing techniques by way of hand-me-down tutelage….

Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson was mainly concerned that Ng’s remarks were bad for the brand – i.e., Ng mistakenly identified Campbell as an editor of his magazine instead of Astounding/Analog. “Emergency Editorial”.

…A couple of days ago we watched and updated our post covering the 2019 Hugo Awards;  we were a bit surprised at Jeannette Ng’s acceptance where she made some connections between fascism in the SF field, fascism in the US and the events taking place in Hong Kong right now.  Hong Kong is Ms. Ng’s home base and we are absolutely and completely in sympathy with her and the protesters who are braving arrest, and possibly worse, as they try to maintain their freedoms.

We entirely missed the misattributions of Ms. Ng’s speech;  what she wanted to do was identify John W. Campbell Jr., the editor of Astounding Stories, as a fascist.  She ended up naming Jospeph Campbell as the editor of Amazing Stories….

I am sure she is tired, chuffed, overwhelmed and, perhaps even a bit embarrassed over having misnamed Campbell and the magazine he was associated with in front of an audience and a community that knows this history without even thinking about it.

But the internet being what it is, disrespect for facts being what they are these days, I can not allow the idea that John W. Campbell – racist, anti-semite, fascist, misogynist, whatever – was associated with Amazing Stories to go unchallenged….

Ng has issued a correction:

Swedish Fan Ahrvid Engholm today sent two fannish listservs copies of a complaint he has filed with the Dublin 2019 committee that Ng’s speech violated the convention’s Code of Conduct.

…One may wonder what a Code of Conduct is worth, if it isn’t respected by those who have all eyes upon them on the big stage, during the highlight of a convention, such as the awards ceremonies witnessed by thousands.

I therefore want to report, as a breach of the Code of Conduct during Dublin 2019, the intimidation and personal attacks in Jeannette Ng’s Campbell Award speech, of which the very lows are wordings like:

“John W. Campbell…was a fascist” and he was “setting a tone” she claims “haunts” us as “Sterile. Male. White.” glorifying “imperialists” etc.

Full text here https://twitter.com/jeannette_ng/status/1163182894908616706
Several parts of the CoC (as published in the Pocket Convention Guide, and also here https://dublin2019.com/about/code-of-conduct/) may apply, but let me point to:

“Everyone involved with Dublin 2019 is expected to show respect towards…the various communities associated with the convention. …Dublin 2019 is dedicated to provide a harassment-free convention experience for all Attendees regardless of…gender…race…We do not tolerate harassment of convention attendees in any form” /which includes:/
* Comments intended to belittle, offend or cause discomfort”

Most if not all would find being called a “fascist” offending, surely causing discomfort.

And it’s especially deplorable when the person belittled this way has passed away and thus can’t defend himself. It is reported that John W Campbell’s grandson John Campbell Harrmond was present at the convention that branded his grandfather a “fascist”. John W Campbell was the leading sf magazine editor of his era (of Astounding SF, not Amazing Stories as this far from well-founded speech said) and have many admirers who also have cause to feel offended. If you like Campbell, the claim he is a “fascist” surely splashes on you too – you’d be “fascist sympathiser”.

Ms Ng continues to harass whole categories of convention Attendees, those who are “male” and “white”. They are “sterile” and the negative “tone” claimed being “set” in the sf genre. It must be noted that the CoC is explicitly against slurs regarding race and gender. (And in these circumstances “white” indicates race and “male” gender.) The CoC further says it won’t be tolerated “in any form”, which surely must also include the form of a speech from a big stage.

It is too late now do do anything about this regrettable episode, but those making reports are asked to state what they would like to happen next. What I simply want is to get it confirmed that the event reported indeed IS a breach of the CoC, because that could be important for the future.

–Ahrvid Engholm
sf con-goer since 1976 (of Worldcons since 1979)

Scott Edelman supported Ng in several comments, describing his deep unhappiness with some of Campbell’s opinions at the time the were originally published 50 years ago. He also quoted this anecdote from the autobiography of William Tenn / Phil Klass:

Daniel Dern’s Sunday Dublin 2019 Photos

Yr humble correspondent at the helm

That would be Starship Captain Dern, putting the vessel through its paces

More of Dern’s photos follow the jump.

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Daniel Dern’s Thursday Dublin 2019 Photos

Let’s begin with Peter S. Beagle here and post the rest of Daniel Dern’s gallery after the jump —

Peter S. Beagle

Peter S. Beagle
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Pixel Scroll 8/13/19 It’s Far From Files And Pixels You Were Scrolled

(1) RETRO-HUGOS LIVE. The Hugo Awards site shows where to access live text reports on Thursday. “2019 Retro-Hugo Award Ceremony – Live Coverage”.

(2) LAW PRACTICE.  At Whatever, “The Big Idea: Christopher Brown” tells the history behind Rule of Capture.

…I pitched the idea to my editor—“think Better Call Saul meets Nineteen Eighty-Four”—and he liked it so much he wanted two.

Rule of Capture, out today from Harper Voyager, is the result. The story of Donny Kimoe, a burned out trial lawyer defending political dissidents hauled in front of the special emergency court of an America drifting into totalitarianism. Busy trying to save one client from the death penalty after he’s framed for aiding an attack on the President, Donny gets assigned the unwinnable case of Xelina Rocafuerte, a young journalist and eco-activist who witnessed the assassination of a grassroots political leader and is being prosecuted as a terrorist to silence her.  To get her off, Donny has to extract justice from a system in which due process has been suspended. That means breaking the rules, and risking the same fate as his clients.

Donny practices law in a world where the clients are mostly guilty. It’s the laws they violate that are unjust. In otherwords, it’s a lot like the real world, but uses the tools of dystopian fiction to tell truths more conventionally realist legal thrillers cannot. …

(3) MACHADO IN LA. ”PEN Presents: Carmen Maria Machado” on Thursday, November 21, 7-9 p.m. at Dynasty Typewriter in Los Angeles. Tickets available at the link.

Carmen Maria Machado has been hailed as one of the most talented young writers of our time. With In the Dream House, she reinvents the memoir with a gut-wrenching tale of love gone wrong, exploring her personal history of psychological abuse while bearing witness to the history and reality of violence in queer relationships. Her dark, fantastical short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, was a finalist for the 2018 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction.

(4) MASTER CLASS. What Does Not Kill Me presents an “Interview with Ellen Datlow: Queen of Horror, Master Editor”.

QUESTION ONE: What is your process like for Best Horror of the Year? I know you read the big name magazines, and then get all of the top anthologies sent to you, the obvious projects on your radar, but do you have any help with pre-screening stories, or looking outside of the genre (horror) into fantasy and science fiction, for example? And how do you start whittling the work down to your long-list, short-list and final TOC. That’s a daunting task. Must be hundreds of stories a year, if not thousands.

ANSWER ONE: Yes, it’s hundreds of stories. As I read during the year, I create a “recommended” list and if there’s a story I really like, I’ll put an asterisk by the title/author and ask the publisher to send me a word doc file of the story so I can keep it in a separate email folder labeled “considering.”

With regard to where I find the stories, I attempt to keep track of all venues that might publish horror or very dark fiction and request copies of magazines, literary journals, anthologies, collections, and novellas/chapbooks (plus appropriate nonfiction titles). I currently have two readers who help me sift through the material I think unlikely to contain much horror. One reads online/e-zines not specifically geared toward horror. And the other reads print magazines/anthologies that don’t look like they contain dark material. They suggest stories that they judge to be horror or very dark fantasy so I can check them out.

Once in a while (mostly because it’s a story I originally published, I’ll know immediately that I’m going to take a story, so I’ll send out the contract and move the story into my “story” folder, adding it to my Table of Contents.

But usually, I’ll begin rereading the stories I’ve noted toward the end of the year. I know how many words I have to work with—I usually begin the rereading process with twice the word count I’m allowed and read/reread each story until I whittle my choices down to my word limit.

(5) SFF IN THE SUBCONTINENT. “One giant leap for Indian cinema: how Bollywood embraced sci-fi”  — The Guardian has the story.

…Kumar says. “Unfortunately, it’s a genre that hasn’t been explored in Bollywood.”

One reason might be the box office failure of Love Story 2050 in 2008. A frenzied time travel movie, it broke India’s film-budget record, but its mix of Mad Max futurism, slushy romance and traditional Bollywood song-and-dance routines was a flop.

…Then again, last year Kumar played the villain in 2.0, a Tamil-language thriller about Chennai’s mobile phones going berserk and arranging themselves into creatures that devastate the city – a bit like a Vodafone version of The Birds. Reportedly with a budget of $76m – costing more than ISRO’s entire mission to Mars – it was a visual rollercoaster and a big commercial success.

Another key factor over the last decade has been the boom in India’s visual effects industry – to which Hollywood outsources much of its own special effects – that has enabled higher quality film-making…

(6) ALIEN INVASION FLOPS. In contrast, “China’s Latest Big-Budget Sci-Fi Film ‘Shanghai Fortress’ Crashes After Liftoff” says The Hollywood Reporter.

Shanghai Fortress, China’s latest big-budget science fiction tentpole, crashed and burned shortly after liftoff over the weekend.

The expensive film’s flop is a blow to the Chinese industry’s efforts to ramp up production values so that it can begin competing with Hollywood’s effects-heavy blockbusters on more equal footing. After the colossal success of sci-fi tentpole The Wandering Earth earlier this year — it earned $700 and rave local reviews — hopes were high that Shanghai Fortress might be the next big breakthrough.

Costing an estimated $57 million (RMB 400 million), Shanghai Fortress was developed and produced over a period of five years. The movie is an adaptation of a 2009 novel of the same name, about a group of young people hiding out in Shanghai, which has become humanity’s last redoubt against a devastating alien invasion. It stars Taiwanese actress Shu Qi and pop star-turned-actor Lu Han (the latter previously Disney’s marketing ambassador for the Star Wars franchise in China).

Shanghai Fortress briefly opened at the top of China’s box office during the first half of Friday, but its ticket sales quickly plummeted as negative reviews and harsh word of mouth began to course through local social media…

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • August 13, 1942 — The Walt Disney classic, Bambi, premiered on this day at Radio City Music Hall.
  • August 13, 1953 The War Of The Worlds was premiered in New York City.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 13, 1422 William Caxton. He was an English merchant, diplomat, writer and printer. Its widely thought that he was the first British individual to work as a printer and also the first to introduce a printing press into England. He published The Historye of Reynart the Foxe (from the Dutch, 1481) which is sort of genre. (Died 1491.)
  • Born August 13, 1899 Alfred Hitchcock. If he’d only done Alfred Hitchcock Presents, that’d be enough to get him Birthday Honours. But he did some fifty films of which a number are genre such as The Birds and Psycho. Though I’ve not read it, I’ve heard good things about Peter Ackroyd’s Alfred Hitchcock. (Died 1980.)
  • Born August 13, 1909 Tris Coffin. I’d say he’s best known for being Jeff King in King of the Rocket Men, a late Forties production, the first of three serials that he did starring the Rocketman character, who would later be paid homage to through the Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer character.  He would show in two episodes of Batman as The Ambassador, “When the Rat’s Away, the Mice Will Play” and “A Riddle a Day Keeps the Riddler Away”. (Died 1990.)
  • Born August 13, 1932 John Berkey. Artist whose best-known work includes much of the original poster art for the Star Wars trilogy. He also did a lot of genre cover art such as the 1974 Ballantine Books cover of Herbert’s Under Pressure (I read that edition), and the 1981 Ace cover of Zelazny’s Madwand which I think is the edition I read. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 13, 1945 Patricia McNulty, 74. She played Yeoman Tina Lawton in the “Charlie X” episode of Trek. Like many performers on Trek, she had a brief acting career at time, barely six years. 
  • Born August 13, 1950 Jane Carr, 69. Most current genre role is the recurring one as Tabitha the Fairy God Mother on The Legends of Tomorrow.  She also appeared as Malcolm Reed’s mother, Mary Reed in the “Silent Enemy” episode of Enterprise, and was Timov, one of the three wives of Londo Mollari in the “Soul Mates” episode of Babylon 5.
  • Born August 13, 1971 Heike Makatsch, 38. Dr. Lisa Addison in Resident Evil, and Alicia Wallenbeck in A Sound of Thunder. The latter being loosely based on the short story of the same name by Ray Bradbury. On Rotten Tomatoes, it got a six percent score! 
  • Born August 13, 1972 Crystal Allen, 47. Green skinned Orion slave girl D’Nesh on the “Bound” episode of Enterprise. These characters originally showed up in “The Cage” episode of Trek. She went to be one of many Trek performers from all series appearing in Star Trek: Of Gods and Men, the non-canon and not Paramount-sanctioned fan mini-series where she played Conqueror Navigator Yara.
  • Born August 13, 1990 Sara Serraiocco, 29. She’s Nadia Fierro/Baldwin, a mysterious assassin from the Prime world in Counterpart. She was nominated for the Autostraddle TV Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress Playing an LGBTQ+ Character in a Sci-Fi Series.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro shows some really devoted music fans.

(10) POTTER CHOW. WCYY says A Perfect Spell, “A reservation-only wizarding restaurant in the theme of Harry Potter”, will open in Pownal, Maine is September – then after a year, will magically disappear…

The Perfect Spell will do just that. When customers show up, they’ll be put into wizard training by the head master of the restaurant. In order to eat, you’ll have to pass your first class. From there, diners will enjoy a delicious meal while the performance takes place in front of them. Each “show” will be for a maximum of 30 people, and performances will only take place on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

The Eventbrite description adds —

THE PERFECT SPELL … A POP UP MAGICAL THEATRICAL RESTAURANT! 

ONLY OPEN 1 YEAR & ONLY TAKING 3,744 TABLE RESERVATIONS!

If you Love HARRY POTTER, WIZARD’S, WITCHES, MAGIC, THEATER then you’re going to love this magical theatrical restaurant. Let our leading Head Master Wizard guide you through a magical Theatrical Dinner experience with Wizards, Witches, Magic and much more!

A very magical theatrical feel right from the candle entrance designed to bring magic to life. This restaurant is packed full with the art of Magic, Singing, Dancing, and Acting. All while having a delicious meal.

Location is in a small cute country setting going with the whole awesome magical theme of the restaurant in North Pownal.

(11) THOUGHTS HE CAN’T GET OUT OF HIS HEAD. Timothy the Talking Cat finds much to admire in the fiction of Hewlett Packard Lovercraft as the feline explains in “Timothy Reads The Call of Cthulhu” at Camestros Felapton.

By far his greatest work is The Call of Cthulhu. Now you might think this is about a phone call from somebody called Cthulhu or you might thing this is about the sound a cthulhu makes when it is lost in the woods after maybe you had got a pet cthulhu for Christmas but then decided you didn’t want it after all because you can’t handle the responsibilities of keeping a pet, so you take it out into the woods and abandon it and afterwards you here it’s plaintive cry as you run back to the car and tell you driver to drive away but when you get home you can still here the lonely cry in your sleep but no. That would be too obvious and that’s why I didn’t think those things, particularly not the last one. Lovercraft is just messing with your head with that title because that is how good a writer he is.

(12) ANOTHER SWATTING INCIDENT. BBC reports “Kyle ‘Bugha’ Giersdorf: Fortnite world champion ‘swatted’ mid-game”.

Newly crowned Fortnite world champion Kyle Giersdorf has been confronted by police in the middle of a game.

Giersdorf, who plays under the name Bugha, disappeared for 10 minutes while the game was live-streamed on Twitch.

He later said he had been “swatted” – where someone makes a hoax report so the special weapons and tactics (Swat) police raid a target’s house.

Giersdorf, 16, won the $3m (£2.4m) top solo prize at the Fortnite World Cup in New York last month.

Twitch is a streaming site where fans can watch gamers play live. More than 38,000 people were watching Giersdorf’s game when he was interrupted by the police.

(13) BEARIVERSARY. If you haven’t made up your mind whether Paddington – now you can decide by the flip of a coin: “New Paddington Bear 50p coins enter circulation”.

They may not be enough to buy a decent jar of marmalade, but new 50p coins featuring Paddington Bear have entered circulation.

Two new coins – featuring the bear from darkest Peru at the Tower of London and St Paul’s Cathedral – have been released by The Royal Mint.

On Tuesday, they filled the tills at the Mint’s museum in Llantrisant, South Wales, and will be circulated more generally in the coming weeks.

The coins mark 60 years of Paddington.

The first Paddington book was published in October 1958 and the series following his adventures have become classics of children’s literature. Last year, the Mint released 50p coins depicting the fictional bear visiting other London landmarks – the train station after which he was named, and the guards outside Buckingham Palace.

(14) PARTS WELL-KNOWN. Culinary adventurer John Scalzi goes the distance —

(15) FOR ESME, WITH LOVE AND TABLETS. BBC reveals “JD Salinger novels finally to be published as ebooks”.

The works of The Catcher in the Rye author JD Salinger are finally being published in ebook format, nearly 10 years after his death.

Salinger’s work has remained offline because the writer hated computers and technology, his son Matt told the New York Times.

But he said he now wanted his father’s work to be more accessible.

Matt Salinger said a letter from a disabled fan, who found it difficult to read print, changed his mind.

“Ebooks and audiobooks are tough… he clearly didn’t want them,” said Matt, who helps run the JD Salinger Literary Trust.

…”My father always did what he could to keep his books affordable and accessible to as many readers as possible, especially students,” said Matt.

(16) BUT COULD HE WITHSTAND ADMANTIUM? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The source of this article is the New York Post tabloid, so use the largest grain of salt possible. That said, pay attention to the final sentence below. Headline: “Ozzy Osbourne is a genetic mutant, DNA research proves”

Lede: “In 2010, when scientists at Knome Inc. were looking to study a remarkable human’s DNA, they didn’t ring up Steve Jobs or Beyoncé. Instead, the Cambridge, Mass.-based human genome company reached out to Ozzy Osbourne. They wanted to know what genes had kept the rocker alive through decades of heavy drug and alcohol abuse.”

(17) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. “Amazon quizzed over ‘Choice’ ratings” – BBC tells why.

Amazon is being told to reveal how it decides which products get the “Amazon’s Choice” label in its online store.

Two US senators have written to Amazon asking it to say whether people or algorithms are making decisions about what gets the label.

They are worried that the Choice category can be manipulated via fake reviews and can mislead customers.

Amazon has been given until 16 September to respond to the letter.

Sales jump

The letter was written following an investigation by news site Buzzfeed which claimed many products in the “Choice” category are of poor quality or have their ratings boosted by fake reviews.

Research suggests products getting the Choice label sell better. OC&C Strategy Consultants found that products awarded the Choice label see a sales jump of about 300%.

This is partly because anyone using their Amazon Echo smart speaker to buy products in a category in which they have never shopped before, will get a product bearing the Choice label.

“We are concerned the badge is assigned in an arbitrary manner, or worse, based on fraudulent product reviews,” wrote Democrats Bob Menendez and Richard Blumenthal.

(18) YOUR NARRATOR, ADAM SELENE. BBC reports that in China “AI used to narrate e-books in authors’ voices”. A skeptical Chip Hitchcock sent the link with a comment: “I’ll believe this is worthwhile when they can mimic someone who can read well — e.g., Gaiman.”

…It is now a simple process to use text-to-speech technology to quickly generate an audio version of a book, using digitised, synthetic voices.

But most people prefer audiobooks that are “professionally narrated” by authors, actors or famous public figures.

And now, advances in machine learning and speech-to-text technologies mean that digitised voices are becoming more lifelike.

For example, the company Lyrebird allows clients to create custom “vocal avatars” from just a one-minute recording of their voices.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/31/19 Yes, It’s True. This Scroll Has No Pix

(1) AHH, THE CLASSICS. Newly available from British fandom’s premier historian, Rob Hansen, a reader of fannish literature intended as a companion to his classic history of UK fandom, THEN, assembled by Rob and the late Vince Clarke. 

THEN Again: A UK Fanhistory Reader 1930-1979 is a free download (in multiple formats) from Dave Langford’s TAFF website, but please consider making a donation to the Transatlantic Fan Fund while you’re there. (And check out the other free downloads, too.)

This companion to Rob Hansen’s monumental THEN: Science Fiction Fandom in the UK: 1930-1980 brings together the writings of many players on the stage of British and Irish fandom from 1930 to the end of 1979, telling in their own words the stories of SF groups – including the BSFA – fanzines, famous fannish addresses, bizarre fan activities and much more. There are 59 articles, several compiled from more then one source, plus an Introduction, Appendix and Afterword.

Cover photo: Festivention 1951, with Ted Carnell speaking and Forrest J Ackerman at front right. Published by Ansible Editions for the TAFF site on 1 August 2019. Over 120,000 words.

(2) SLIMED. Alyssa Wong was the victim today of right-wing media circulating a fake anti-Stan-Lee tweet (dated last November) reports Bleeding Cool. Wong herself tweeted a denial:

What seems to have triggered the attack on Wong, says Bleeding Cool, was this news:

Two weeks ago, Greg Pak announced that fantasy, sci-fi and comics writer Alyssa Wong was to work with him on the current Aero series, writing the character’s origin. This would be her first work for Marvel Comics.

As the article shows, Wong sharply criticized Marvel’s C.E. Cebulski in the past, but that’s not in dispute.

Meantime, outlets like Bounding Into Comics today ran stories capitalizing on the fake tweet. (I’m not linking to it, you do what you need to do.)

(3) LOTS TO LOVE. James Davis Nicoll is “Celebrating Poul Anderson with Five Favourite Works” at Tor.com.

Poul Anderson died on this day back in 2001. Anderson’s career spanned over sixty years, from the 1940s to the early 2000s. He wrote fiction and non-fiction. He published in many genres: fantasy, science fiction, historicals, and mysteries. He wrote dozens of novels and hundreds of shorter pieces, all of a level of quality that was never less than competent—and sometimes better. The often acerbic Encyclopedia of Science Fiction calls Anderson “his generation’s most prolific sf writer of any consistent quality[…].” (He was the anti-Lionel Fanthorpe.)

(4) IT’S ONLY NATURAL. John Scalzi has tweeted the photo that goes with his Whatever post from the other day that said:

On my walks on my street these days, I pass by a dairy farm. Mostly the cows keep near the barn but yesterday they were down by the road, and they were very very interested in me as I walked by.

Of course these cows are interested — they’ve heard John knows when The Last Emperox is arriving.

(5) DRAWING A LINE IN THE SILICON. “Toby Walsh, A.I. Expert, Is Racing to Stop the Killer Robots” – the New York Times interviewed Walsh about his concerns.

What was your argument?

That you can’t have machines deciding whether humans live or die. It crosses new territory. Machines don’t have our moral compass, our compassion and our emotions. Machines are not moral beings.

The technical argument is that these are potentially weapons of mass destruction, and the international community has thus far banned all other weapons of mass destruction.

What makes these different from previously banned weaponry is their potential to discriminate. You could say, “Only kill children,” and then add facial recognition software to the system.

Moreover, if these weapons are produced, they would unbalance the world’s geopolitics. Autonomous robotic weapons would be cheap and easy to produce. Some can be made with a 3-D printer, and they could easily fall into the hands of terrorists.

Another thing that makes them terribly destabilizing is that with such weapons, it would be difficult to know the source of an attack. This has already happened in the current conflict in Syria. Just last year, there was a drone attack on a Russian-Syrian base, and we don’t know who was actually behind it.

(6) THE WILL TO WRITE. “Facebook funds AI mind-reading experiment”. The opening line of BBC’s article says “Facebook has announced a breakthrough in its plan to create a device that allows people to type just by thinking” – which sounds like it should be easy for a company that already has people typing without thinking.

It has funded a study that developed machine-learning algorithms capable of turning brain activity into speech

It worked on epilepsy patients who had already had recording electrodes placed on their brains to assess the origins of their seizures, ahead of surgery.

Facebook hopes it will pave the way for a “fully non-invasive, wearable device” that can process 100 words per minute.

University of California San Francisco scientists asked the patients to answer out loud a list of simple multiple-choice questions ordered randomly.

And the algorithms learned to identify:

the question they had been asked, 75% of the time

their chosen answer, 61% of the time

“Most previous approaches have focused on decoding speech alone,” Prof Eddie Chang said, “but here we show the value of decoding both sides of a conversation – both the questions someone hears and what they say in response.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 31, 1932 Ted Cassidy. He’s best known for the role of Lurch on The Addams Family in the mid-1960s. if you’ve got a good ear, you’ll recall that he narrated The Incredible Hulk series. And he played the part of the android Ruk in the episode “What Are Little Girls Made Of?” on Trek, and provided the voices of the more strident version of Balok in the episode “The Corbomite Maneuver” and the Gorn in the episode “Arena”. In The Man from U.N.C.L.E. episode “The Napoleon’s Tomb Affair”, he was Edgar, who kidnapped, tortured, and repeatedly attempted to kill Napoleon and Illya. (Died 1979.)
  • Born July 31, 1951 Jo Bannister, 68. Though best know as a British crime fiction novelist, she has three SH novels to her credit, all written in the early Eighties — The MatrixThe Winter Plain andA Cactus Garden. ISFDB lists one short story by her as genre, “Howler”, but one I wasn’t aware that Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine printed genre fiction which is where it appeared first.
  • Born July 31, 1955 Daniel M. Kimmel, 64. His essays on classic genre films were being published in The Internet Review of Science Fiction from 2005–2010 and are now in Space and Time. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association.
  • Born July 31, 1956 Michael Biehn, 63. Best known in genre circles as Sgt. Kyle Reese in The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Cpl. Dwayne Hicks in Aliens and Lt. Coffey in The Abyss. He’s also as being The Sandman in a single episode of Logan’s Run. 
  • Born July 31, 1959 Kim Newman, 60. Though best known For his Anno Dracula series, I’d like to single him out for his early work, Nightmare Movies: A critical history of the horror film, 1968–88, a very serious history of horror films. It was followed up with the equally great Wild West Movies: Or How the West Was Found, Won, Lost, Lied About, Filmed and Forgotten.
  • Born July 31, 1962 Wesley Snipes, 57. The first actor to be Blade in that Blade film franchise. There’s a new Blade actor though they name escapes right now. I also like him as Simon Phoenix in Demolition Man. 
  • Born July 31, 1965 J. K. Rowling, 54. I will confess that the novels were not my cup of Earl Grey hot but I loved the films. Anyone here read her Cormoran Strike crime series?
  • Born July 31, 1976 John Joseph Adams, 43. Anthologist of whom I’m very fond of The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dead Man’s Hand: An Anthology of the Weird West which he did. He was the Assistant Editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction for nearly a decade, and he’s been editing both Lightspeed and Nightmare Magazine since the early part of this decade.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • xkcd jokes about ebook reading habits.

(9) A WHIZ OF A WIZ. ModernCryptid muses about D&D interior design. Thread starts here.

(10) THE DOCTOR IS IN…THE COMPUTER? Smithsonian Magazine: “Will Artificial Intelligence Improve Health Care for Everyone?”

Tagline: “A.I.-driven medical tools could democratize health care, but some worry they could also worsen”

     There is no shortage of optimism about A.I. in the medical community. But many also caution the hype surrounding A.I. has yet to be realized in real clinical settings. There are also different visions for how A.I. services could make the biggest impact. And it’s still unclear whether A.I. will improve the lives of patients or just the bottom line for Silicon Valley companies, health care organizations, and insurers.

(11) LE LOCH NESS. Look out! “Giant Serpent Emerges From the Sea Off the Coast of France”.

Just off the shore of the Loire estuary outside of Nantes, France, a slithering serpent rises from the water. Completed in 2012, Serpent d’océan is an impressive 425-foot (130 meters) sculpture by French Chinese contemporary artist Huang Yong Ping and is part of the Estuaire permanent public art collection along the estuary’s 37 miles.

The aluminum skeleton of the serpent is continually covered and uncovered by the tides, excavating itself as the water level decreases and revealing its archeological remains. The curving shape of the serpent’s spine mirrors the form of the nearby Saint-Nazaire bridge, harmonizing the creature with its surroundings.

(12) SMASH HIT. BBC finds Disney has gotten into a habit: “The Lion King hits $1bn box office mark”.

The Lion King has become the fourth Disney film this year to make $1bn (£821m) in worldwide box office sales.

The Disney remake of the 1994 classic has achieved the feat less than three weeks after being released in cinemas.

The movie, which features the voices of Beyonce and Donald Glover, joins Avengers: Endgame, Captain Marvel and Aladdin in Disney’s $1bn class of 2019.

As reported by Variety, director Jon Favreau’s version is already the fifth-biggest global release of of the year.

(13) NON LOCATION. “The Lion King – how VR brought the animals to life” – a BBC video.

Director of Disney’s The Lion King, Jon Favreau, has told BBC Click how they created a completely digital 3D environment with 3D digital animals.

“We had a full live-action film crew in VR, operating camera equipment as though it was a live-action set,” said Favreau.

The crew achieved a documentary look by limiting themselves to the camera platforms that would be available to them if they were out on location filming live animals, he explained.

The digital characters and environment were created by visual effects company MPC.

(14) IT’S DANCEABLE. For the ages: “Could La Folia be history’s most enduring tune?”

Why did this humble tune, first conjured by medieval farmers, capture so many people’s imaginations and even feature in The Addams Family? Andrea Valentino takes a look.

Checking the pop charts today is simple. Want to know the most popular artist on Spotify? Just a few clicks will take you to Ed Sheeran and his 72 million monthly listeners. What about the most popular song? The scruffy ginger-haired heartthrob strikes again. Sheeran’s Shape Of You was the first track to be streamed a bewildering two billion times. The numbers elsewhere are even more astounding. Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s Despacito has over 6.3 billion views on YouTube.

But for all that, the internet can’t tell you everything. What, for example, is the most popular tune ever? Not the most covered song: that would be Yesterday by The Beatles. But rather the most enduring melody, a simple theme that has been shaped by countless hands. One of the strongest candidates is a tune few will recognise. Yet for centuries, La Folia has dazzled hundreds of composers and musicians, up to the present day. Its story tells us much about the history of music, and maybe even something about ourselves….

(15) MCU COMMANDMENTS. ScreenRant chronicles “25 Strict Rules Marvel Actors Have To Follow” if they want to keep making the big bucks.

In today’s ScreenRant video special, we’re going to look at some of the rules that Marvel devised. You lucky bunch. The video has a variety of different rules. Some rules dictate the public personas that the actors must show. Another rule looks at which other production companies that the thespians can’t work for. A different collection of rules include what the actors can be expected to do when on set. And finally a different bunch of rules that cover Marvel’s obsession with reducing the possibility of film leaks. So, strap in. Get your cape ready. And relax whilst we fill you in on Marvel’s collection of rules.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/24/19 Credentials Asleep On The Shoulder Of John Scalzi

(1) RUTGER HAUER DIES. Variety pays tribute: “Rutger Hauer, ‘Blade Runner’ Co-Star, Dies at 75”.

Rutger Hauer, the versatile Dutch leading man of the ’70s who went on star in the 1982 “Blade Runner” as Roy Batty, died July 19 at his home in the Netherlands after a short illness. He was 75.

Hauer’s agent, Steve Kenis, confirmed the news and said that Hauer’s funeral was held Wednesday.

His most cherished performance came in a film that was a resounding flop on its original release. In 1982, he portrayed the murderous yet soulful Roy Batty, leader of a gang of outlaw replicants, opposite Harrison Ford in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi noir opus “Blade Runner.” The picture became a widely influential cult favorite, and Batty proved to be Hauer’s most indelible role.

More recently, he appeared in a pair of 2005 films: as Cardinal Roark in “Sin City,” and as the corporate villain who Bruce Wayne discovers is running the Wayne Corp. in Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins.”

… Hauer increasingly turned to action-oriented parts in the ‘80s: He toplined the big-budget fantasy “Ladyhawke” (1985), reteamed with fellow Hollywood transplant Verhoeven in the sword-and-armor epic “Flesh & Blood” (1985), starred as a psychotic killer in “The Hitcher” (1986), and took Steve McQueen’s shotgun-toting bounty hunter role in a modern reboot of the TV Western “Wanted: Dead or Alive” (1986).

WIRED kicks off its collection of memories with the iconic speech: “Remembering Rutger Hauer, Black-Armored Knight of the Genre”.

Let’s get the monologue on the table, first thing, because he wrote it himself, and it’s brilliant:

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”

That’s Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner, playing the artificial person Roy Batty in his death scene…

(2) ACCESSIBLE GAMING. The Mary Sue has discovered “The Surprising Ways Blind Players Have Made Games Like Dungeons & Dragons Accessible”.

… Then, in 2017, a friend introduced me to Roll20, an online platform that serves as a digital tabletop, and everything changed. On a computer, I have the power to alter my settings—I can zoom in, change colors, and make whatever tweaks I need in order to make things accessible for my specific visual impairment. And things I lacked the power to change, my DM could: giving tokens borders with higher contrast, adjusting the lighting on a map, or—if I got lost looking for something—shifting my view in the direction I needed to be focusing.

I could roll dice directly on the platform and see my result easily, and best of all, I had a digital character sheet I could alter easily and at will, rather than a few pieces of paper I’d require another player to edit for me. And then I discovered other websites, like DnDBeyond, which made it easy to look up stats and spells online—again, in a medium far more accessible for me.

I still required a dungeon master willing to take the time to describe certain things to me and to make whatever color and contrast adjustments I needed, but even playing with strangers via Roll20’s Looking For Game system, my experience has been positive. Thanks to the websites I used, the things I needed didn’t require all that much work on their end, and now I was able to fully immerse myself in a hobby I’d once believed would be impossible for me because of my disability.

(3) ABLEGAMERS. And in the Washington Post Magazine, Christine Sturdivant Sani has a profile of AbleGamers, a nonprofit that helps people with disabilities enjoy video games: “How a West Virginia group helped make video games accessible to the disabled”.

In 2018, when Sony Interactive Entertainment unveiled the latest versions of two of its top-grossing video game titles — “God of War” and “Marvel’s Spider-Man” — they included new features that meant a lot to a specific subset of players: those with disabilities. To aid people with motor skill impairments, for instance, “God of War” introduced an option to press and hold a single button instead of tapping it repeatedly; it also let players with hearing disabilities adjust individual audio settings such as volume, dialogue and sound effects. For players with visual impairments, the subtitles in “Spider-Man” are now resizable and include tags that always indicate who is speaking.

Five years ago, according to Sam Thompson, a managing senior producer at Sony Interactive, it was possible to count on one hand the number of video games that had features catering to people with disabilities. Today, there are hundreds of such games. The shift, says Thompson, is “kind of amazing” — and he gives credit to a small nonprofit in Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

The group, called AbleGamers, was the brainchild of Mark Barlet, a 45-year-old disabled Air Force veteran and entrepreneur…

 (4) GAIMAN AUDIOBOOKS. AudioFile editorJenn Dowellsays – lend Neil Gaiman an ear! “Good Omens and Good Audiobooks: The Best of Neil Gaiman”.

… Where to start? Whether you’re a longtime fan of GOOD OMENS, Gaiman’s funny book about the apocalypse co-written with the late Terry Pratchett almost 30 years ago, or a new convert thanks to the sparkling new Amazon/BBC series, now is the perfect time to hear (or revisit) the audiobook.

… For something darker that’s perfect for an extended road trip, Gaiman’s 2001 epic novel AMERICAN GODS, in which old gods clash with new ones, also comes in two unabridged versions: one narrated by Golden Voice George Guidall, and a Tenth Anniversary Edition performed by a full cast. Can’t get enough gods? Follow up with ANANSI BOYS, about trickster god Anansi, read by Lenny Henry, and NORSE MYTHOLOGY, read by Gaiman.

… In the mood for nonfiction? THE VIEW FROM THE CHEAP SEATS and ART MATTERS collect Gaiman’s essays and speeches and will give listeners insights into Gaiman’s wide-ranging interests and his writing process—and maybe even inspire you to make your own art.

… P.S. If you fell in love with Michael Sheen and David Tennant’s performances in the Good Omens series, don’t miss their own star turns on audio: Sheen gives a wonderfully immersive, Earphones Award-winning narration of Philip Pullman’s THE BOOK OF DUST: La Belle Sauvage, and Tennant brings his acting chops and Scottish charm to The Wizards of Once and How to Train Your Dragon series by just-named UK Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell.

(5) INKLINGS. Bruce Charlton revisits “Humphrey Carpenter’s The Inklings – 1978″ at The Notion Club Papers blog.

…Yet, in the end, Humphrey Carpenter failed in his attempt to throw the Inklings into the dustbin of irrelevance; because overall the book had the opposite effect of its intent – awakening for many, such as myself, a long-term and intense fascination with a ‘group of friends’ who were also, in reality, so much more than merely that.

(6) FROM THE BEEB. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4 has aired the second in the science and SF series Stranger Than Sci-Fi where astro-physicist Dr Jen Gupta and comedian Alice Fraser travel the parallel worlds of science and sci-fi.

Last week’s was on artificial wombs.  Today’s is on black holes (or frozen stars if you are of Russian persuasion and wish to avoid the rude connotation) — “Black Hole Jacuzzis”.

The program will be downloadable from BBC for a month once it is broadcast

(7) MINORITY REPORT? Atwood’s novel is not in bookstores but it’s already up for the Booker. BBC has the story — “Booker Prize 2019: Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale sequel on longlist”.

Margaret Atwood’s follow-up to The Handmaid’s Tale is one of 13 novels on the Booker Prize longlist, despite not being published for several weeks.

The Testaments is out on 10 September and comes 33 years after the original book was nominated for the same award.

(8) KRASSNER OBIT. Pop culture figure Paul Krassner died July 21: the New York Times has a profile — “Paul Krassner, Anarchist, Prankster and a Yippies Founder, Dies at 87”.

Paul Krassner being interviewed in the men’s room during the 1978 ABA convention. (photo: Andrew Porter)

Mr. Krassner was writing freelance pieces for Mad magazine in 1958 when he realized that there was no equivalent satirical publication for adults; Mad, he could see, was largely targeted at teenagers. So he started The Realist out of the Mad offices, and it began regular monthly publication. By 1967 its circulation had peaked at 100,000.

“I had no role models and no competition, just an open field mined with taboos waiting to be exploded,” Mr. Krassner wrote in his autobiography.

The magazine’s most famous cartoon was one, drawn in 1967 by the Mad artist Wally Wood, of an orgy featuring Snow White, Donald Duck and a bevy of Disney characters enjoying a variety of sexual positions. (Mickey Mouse is shown shooting heroin.) Later, digitally colored by a former Disney artist, it became a hot-selling poster that supplied Mr. Krassner with modest royalties into old age.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 24, 1948 — Debut of Marvin the Martian in Bugs Bunny’s “Haredevil Hare.”

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 24, 1802 Alexandre Dumas. The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After. Are they genre? Good question. (Died 1870.)
  • Born July 24, 1878 Lord Dunsany whose full name and title was a jaw dropping Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany. So ISFDB lists him as genre for the Jorkens body of work among works. H’h. Gary Turner, who some of you will recognize from Golden Gryphon Press and elsewhere, reviewed The Collected Jorkens: Volumes One, Two, and Three, for Green Man, so I’ve linked to the review here. They also list The King of Elfland’s Daughter which I’m going to link to another review on Green Man as it’s an audio recording with a very special guest appearance by Christopher Lee. (Died 1957.)
  • Born July 24, 1895 Robert Graves. Poet, historical novelist, critic. Author of, among other works, The White Goddess (a very strange book), two volumes called the Greek MythsSeven Days in New Crete which Pringle has on his Best Hundred Fantasy Novels list and more short fiction that bears thinking about. (Died 1985.)
  • Born July 24, 1916 John D. MacDonald. Primarily a mystery writer whose Travis McGee series I enjoyed immensely, he wrote a handful of genre works including the sublime The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything.  ISFDB lists a collection, End of the Tiger and Other Short Stories, which I presume is genre. (Died 1986.)
  • Born July 24, 1936 Mark Goddard, 83. Major Don West, the adversary of Dr. Zachary Smith, on Lost in Space. Other genre appearances were scant. He played an unnamed Detective in the early Eighties Strange Invaders and he showed up on an episode of The Next Step Beyond which investigated supposed hauntings as Larry Hollis in “Sins of Omission”. Oh, and he was an unnamed General in the Lost in Space film. 
  • Born July 24, 1945 Gordon Eklund, 74. He won the Nebula for Best Novelette for “If the Stars Are Gods”, co-written with Gregory Benford. They expanded it into a novel which was quite good if I remember correctly. So would anyone care to tell the story of how he came to write the Lord Tedric series which was inspired by an E.E. Doc Smith novelette? 
  • Born July 24, 1951 Lynda Carter, 68. Wonder Woman of course. But also Principal Powers, the headmistress of a school for superheroes in Sky High; Colonel Jessica Weaver in the vampire film Slayer;  Moira Sullivan, Chloe Sullivan’s Kryptonite-empowered mother in the “Prodigy” episode of Smallville; and President Olivia Marsdin In Supergirl. 
  • Born July 24, 1964 Colleen Doran, 55.  Comics artist and writer. work worth particularly  worth noting she’s done includes Warren Ellis’ Orbiter graphic novel, Wonder Woman, Legion of Superheroes, Teen Titans, “Troll Bridge” by Neil Gaiman and her space opera series, A Distant Soil. She also did portions of The Sandman, in the “Dream Country” and “A Game of You”. She’s tuckerised Into Sandman as the character Thessaly is based on Doran.
  • Born July 24, 1981 Summer Glau, 38.  An impressive run in genre roles as she’s was. River Tam in Firefly and of course Serenity, followed by these performances: Tess Doerner in The 4400, as Cameron in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Bennett Halverson in Dollhouse (Is this worth seeing seeing?), Skylar Adams in Alphas and lastly Isabel Rochev who is The Ravager in Arrow.
  • Born July 24, 1982  — Anna Paquin, 37. Sookie Stackhouse in the True Blood series. Rogue in the X-Men franchise. She also shows up in Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams as Sarah in the “Real Life” episode. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Poorly Drawn Lines has a funny entry that actually references the phrase “sense of wonder.”
  • A well-known nanny visits the seashore in Rhymes With Orange.
  • Bizarro shows how to bring the full social media experience to live book signings.

(12) STRONG KEEP. John Scalzi tells what he thinks about “A Couple of Bits on Hugo Award Proposals and Attempted Wikipedia Deletions” which we have been covering here. When it comes to the Wikipedia —

… You might think that I, who was the target of much Sad Puppy whining and mewling, would be sitting here happily munching on popcorn while this bit of Wikidrama unfolds. But in fact I think the deletion attempt is a problem. Neither Williamson nor Hoyt are exactly on my Christmas card list at the moment, but you know what? Both of them are solid genre writers who for years have been putting out work through a major genre publisher, and who are both actively publishing today. They are genuinely of note in the field of science fiction and fantasy. One may think their politics, in and out of the genre, are revanchist as all fuck, or that their tenure and association with the Puppy bullshit didn’t do them any favors, or that one just doesn’t care for them on a day-to-day basis for whatever reason. But none of that is here or there regarding whether, on the basis of their genre output, they are notable enough to be the subject of a damn Wikipedia article. They are! Wikipedia notability is kind of a middlin’-height bar, and they get themselves over it pretty well.

Or to flip it around, if neither Williamson nor Hoyt is notable enough for inclusion in Wikipedia, there’s gonna be some bloodletting in the site’s category of science fiction and fantasy writers, because there are a fair number of Wikipedia-article-bearing genre authors who are no more notable than Hoyt or Williamson. If they go, there are legitimately many others on the chopping block as well.

According to Camestros Felapton, “John Scalzi is wading into the Wiki-fuss”, Scalzi also made entries to the Wikipedia deletion discussion itself. He probably did, and although the links aren’t working for me Camestros has the full quotes anyway.

(13) FUTURE SHOCK. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Writing in The New Yorker, Emily Nussbaum takes a look at the BBC/HBO co-produced near-future science fiction series Years And Years.  The series, which is built around the conceit of moving through years at a rapid pace — often three years in a one-hour episode, provides a mostly-realistic future that won’t fill many viewers with hope. ““Years and Years” Forces Us Into the Future”.  

“Years and Years” keeps leaping forward, forcing us into the future, as the economy crumbles, the ice caps melt, authoritarianism rises, and teen-agers implant phones into their hands. It’s an alarmist series, in a literal sense: it’s meant to serve as an alarm, an alert to what’s going on in front of our eyes, and where that might lead, if we don’t wake up.”

In the wake of Boris Johnson’s elevation to the post of Prime Minister, I’d say that the series might seem overly optimistic about the future of the United Kingdom. But I’d heartily recommend seeking out the series. 

(14) MORE URGENT. “Climate change: 12 years to save the planet? Make that 18 months”

Do you remember the good old days when we had “12 years to save the planet”?

Now it seems, there’s a growing consensus that the next 18 months will be critical in dealing with the global heating crisis, among other environmental challenges.

Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that to keep the rise in global temperatures below 1.5C this century, emissions of carbon dioxide would have to be cut by 45% by 2030.

But today, observers recognise that the decisive, political steps to enable the cuts in carbon to take place will have to happen before the end of next year.

The idea that 2020 is a firm deadline was eloquently addressed by one of the world’s top climate scientists, speaking back in 2017.

“The climate math is brutally clear: While the world can’t be healed within the next few years, it may be fatally wounded by negligence until 2020,” said Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, founder and now director emeritus of the Potsdam Climate Institute.

The sense that the end of next year is the last chance saloon for climate change is becoming clearer all the time.

(15) CLOSING THEIR EARS. Meanwhile, the \outpatients\troglodytes were out in force: “Greta Thunberg speech: French MPs boycott teen ‘apocalypse guru’”.

Teen activist Greta Thunberg has lashed out at French lawmakers for mocking her in a speech to parliament that was boycotted by far-right politicians.

The 16-year-old addressed legislators on Tuesday, telling them to “unite behind the science” of climate change.

She and other children were invited to France’s parliament by a cross-party group of politicians.

“You don’t have to listen to us, but you do have to listen to the science,” she said.

Ms Thunberg, whose solo protest outside the Swedish Parliament inspired the school climate strike movement, has been lauded for her emotive speeches to politicians.

But lawmakers from French parties, including the conservative Republicans and far-right National Rally, said they would shun her speech in the National Assembly.

Urging his colleagues to boycott Ms Thunberg’s speech, leadership candidate for The Republicans, Guillaume Larrive, wrote on Twitter: “We do not need gurus of the apocalypse.”

Other French legislators hurled insults at Ms Thunberg ahead of her speech, calling her a “prophetess in shorts” and the “Justin Bieber of ecology”.

Republicans MP Julien Aubert, who is also contending for his party’s leadership, suggested Ms Thunberg should win a “Nobel Prize for Fear”.

Speaking to France 2 television, Jordan Bardella, an MEP for the National Rally, equated Ms Thunberg’s campaigning efforts to a “dictatorship of perpetual emotion”.

(16) TO SIR WITH LOVE. BBC reports “Sir Michael Palin to have heart surgery”.

Comedian and broadcaster Sir Michael Palin is to have surgery to fix a “leaky valve” in his heart.

The Monty Python member discovered a problem with his mitral valve – a small flap that stops blood flowing the wrong way around the heart – five years ago.

It had not affected his general fitness until earlier this year, he said.

“Recently, though, I have felt my heart having to work harder and have been advised it’s time to have the valve repaired,” he wrote on his website.

“I shall be undergoing surgery in September and should be back to normal, or rather better than normal, within three months.”

(17) PICARD & COMPANY. TV Line did a mass interview — “’Star Trek: Picard’ Cast on the Return of Patrick Stewart’s Iconic Captain.”

The cast of ‘Star Trek: Picard’ previews the CBS All Access series with TVLine’s Kim Roots at San Diego Comic-Con 2019.

[Thanks to John A Arkansawyer, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Hampus Eckerman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Olav Rokne, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 7/13/19 Our House Hasn’t Collapsed Under The Weight Of All The Books Yet

(1) ARISIA BACK IN THE WESTIN. The convention website indicates Arisia 2020 will return to the Westin Boston Waterfront, from January 17-20, 2020.

(2) READERCON. Kate Nepveu compiled a great set of panel notes about the Readercon panel “Translation and Embedded Assumptions” with Anatoly Belilovsky, John Chu, Neil Clarke, Pablo Defendini, Tamara Vardomskaya (mod).

Neil: is publishing translations without being able to read original, has to count on team of people. So a lot of these granular issues settled before comes to, but not always. It’s interesting when there’s an American in the translated story . . . who is not always that American. They try to get the spirit of story across, so often work extra with the translators on that situation. Has edited bilingual anthology of Chinese SF, two volumes published in China, not been able to get published in U.S.

Tamara: gives example from Ada Palmer, in whose books gender is outlawed: everyone uses “they” (except narrator) to signal that progressive viewpoint has won. Polish translator said, in Polish that’s the conservative position, the progressive is to give high visibility to female existence (e.g., “waitress and waiter”, not “server”). Ada went with political connotation rather than word-for-word….

(3) SHINY. Nature’s David Seed delves into “Two millennia of lunar literature”:

The Moon’s luminous, cratered face, visible to the naked eye, has sparked the imaginations of writers and scientists for centuries with much proto-science fiction…

This included the second-century Syrian satirist Lucian of Samosata, whose A True Story is often cited as the first science-fiction narrative….

But Greek the biographer Plutarch’s Moralia (ad 100) is arguably the first such narrative to introduce scientific ideas…

Lunar literature began to crystallize in the ferment of the Renaissance, and to surge in the seventeenth century…

(4) TRUE CONFESSIONS. At American Magazine, Tom Deignan asks “Why do Catholic priests keep popping up in sci-fi?”

This month, Simon & Schuster will reissue a short story collection entitled The Toynbee Convector, by science fiction master Ray Bradbury, best known for classics like Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles. First published in 1988, The Toynbee Convector features 23 stories, among them “Bless Me, Father, for I Have Sinned,” about a priest who hears a chilling confession on a snowy Christmas Eve.

That story—as well as countless other science fiction classics published over the centuries—raises an intriguing question: Why do priests and other religious figures play such an important role in the fantastic worlds and futuristic dystopias conjured by a wide range of sci-fi writers?

(5) SPACE INVADERS. The Alien Party Crashers official trailer has dropped.

In the style of Shaun Of The Dead, The Lost Boys and Attack the Block, this is a funny, dark and action packed sci-fi horror comedy that pits a group of drunken friends on New Years Eve in a Welsh valley against an invasion task force of creepy time-traveling aliens. A kick-ass M.O.D agent, an insecure radio DJ and a kung fu master who owns the local B&B learn their new years resolution this year is simple: STAY ALIVE.”

(6) HEAR WRITERS’ THOUGHT PROCESSES. Authors Marshall Ryan Maresca, Alexandra Rowland, and Rowenna Miller have started a podcast called World Building for Masochists, Downloadable at the website, transcripts also available. They have two episodes out so far. The first, “Playing God in Your Spare Time” includes this exchange:

ROWENNA: …I think that I start thinking about the character first, and what are they encountering, what do they have for breakfast, what do they see when they go out of their door in the morning, and there might be things that the character doesn’t know about their world. I think, you know, like you, Marshall, I started the story in a city, and my character actually doesn’t know very much about what’s going on outside of that city; she’s never been outside of it. So there’s kind of a freedom there for her to be ignorant, and it was kind of weird for me at first to be like, okay, there are things that I might know, but I need to keep that shoved aside, because there’s no reason for her to know what this other city would look like, or what the patterns of trade are between, you know, these two coastal towns. She’s never been there, she has no idea. 

MARSHALL: But she might have, say, heard the name, and has her own preconceived notions of what it’s supposed to be.

ALEXANDRA: And I think that having a character with some degree of ignorance can also be a really useful tool for you as an author, because then you can — and I’m going to keep bringing this up because it’s my favorite trick of all time to use — you can sort of build a negative space and invite your character to make assumptions about the world, and also invite the reader to make assumptions about the world…

We’re keeping an eye out for the arrival of “World Building for Sadists,” too.

(7) HEAR IT MEOW? “Do critics think Lion King is a ‘roaring success’?” – BBC has compiled their reactions.

Disney’s Lion King remake, starring Donald Glover and Beyonce, has been described equally by pun-tastic critics as both a “roaring success” and “tame”.

The original 1994 animation won two Oscars for best music and score, while the stage version is also Broadway’s top grossing musical.

…In a four-star review, The Telegraph said “the power of this new Lion King comes from the outside”.

…The Guardian, were less impressed with the film, writing the “deepfake copycat ain’t so grrreat.”

(8) STRANGER THAN EVER. The Hollywood Reporter brings word that “Nielsen Confirms ‘Stranger Things’ Season 3 Is a Big Hit”.

Netflix has said that Stranger Things amassed a bigger audience over its first four days than any other original show in its history. New data from Nielsen shows that a lot of people did, in fact, spend the July 4 holiday weekend watching the series.

Per the ratings service’s SVOD content ratings, the eight episodes of Stranger Things 3 had an average minute audience — the closest approximation for streaming shows to Nielsen’s average viewership on linear TV — of 12.8 million viewers over its first four days of release. That’s a 21 percent increase over the same time frame after the release of season two in October 2017 (10.6 million)

(9) AFTER THE KING RETURNED. Paul Weimer is back to discuss a Robin Hood-themed novel in “Microreview [book]: Brightfall, by Jaime Lee Moyer” at Nerds of a Feather.

The other characters in the novel, human and otherwise, are the strength, power and richness of the novel. Beyond Marian herself, Robin comes off as a prat at first, someone to intensely dislike and hate because of his abandonment of Marian. The reasons how and why he did so, and his ultimate connection with the unraveling of the plot, humanize him to a degree, but the writer’s and reader’s intended sympathy comes off the page intended for Marian. Even by the end of the novel, I still thought he was a prat for his actions, even if I ultimately understood the how and why of them by the end of the novel.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 13, 1904 Norvell W. Page. Chief writer of The Spider pulp series as Grant Stockbridge. He started out by writing a backup story in the first issue of The Spider pulp: “Murder Undercover” and by the third issue was writing the main Spider stories which he did for some seventy stories. He also wrote The Black Bat and The Phantom Detective pulps. (Died 1961.)
  • Born July 13, 1937 Jack Purvis. He appeared in three of director Terry Gilliam’s early fantasy films, with roles in Time BanditsThe Adventures of Baron Munchausen and Brazil. He’s in three of the Star Wars films, the only actor he says to play three different roles, and he’s also in Wombling Free (based on The Wombles, a UK Children’s series), The Dark Crystal and Willow. (Died 1997)
  • Born July 13, 1940 Sir Patrick Stewart, 79. If you count The Avengers as genre (and I certainly do), his first SF role was as a man walking in from the sea in “The Town of No Return” episode. Setting aside Trek, other memorable genre roles include Leodegrance in Excalibur, Gurney Halleck in Dune, Prof. Macklin in The Doctor and the Devils, Charles Xavier in the X-Men franchise and he’s played Macbeth myriad times in the theatre world. 
  • Born July 13, 1942 Mike Ploog, 77. He’s a storyboard and comic book artist, as well as a visual designer for films. his work on Marvel Comics’ Seventies Man-Thing and The Monster of Frankenstein series are his best-known undertakings, and as is the initial artist on the features Ghost Rider, Kull the Destroyer and Werewolf by Night.  He moved onward to storyboarding or other design work on films including John Carpenter’s The Thing, Little Shop of Horrors, The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth and The Storyteller series.
  • Born July 13, 1942 Harrison Ford, 77. His best films? Raiders of The Ark, Star Wars and Blade Runner. Surely that’s not debatable. His worst film? Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Equally not debatable.
  • Born July 13, 1955 David J. Schow, 64. Mostly splatterpunk horror writer of novels, short stories, and screenplays. (He’s oft times credited with coining the splatterpunk term.) His screenplays include The Crow and Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. He’s also done scripts for Masters of HorrorPerversions of Science and The Outer Limits. As an editor, he’s did the very impressive three-volume collection of Robert Bloch fiction, The Lost Bloch.
  • Born July 13, 1953 Chip Hitchcock, 66. A conrunner who co-chaired the 1999 World Fantasy Convention with his wife, Davey Snyder, he also has worked Worldcons as a Division Head, and chaired Bosklone, Lexicon 7 and Boskone 24. He was made a Fellow of NESFA in 1979. Other fannish credits include book editing, Worldcon floor plans, and producer of fannish theatricals.
  • Born July 13, 1966 David X. Cohen, 53. Head writer and executive producer of Futurama. Cohen is a producer of Disenchantment, Matt Groening’s fantasy series on Netflix. He also wrote a number of the “Treehouse of Horror” episodes on the Simpson’s which have a strong genre slant such as “Treehouse of Horror VII” (“Citizen Kang”). 
  • Born July 13, 1981 Monica Byrne, 38. Her debut novel The Girl in the Road which is I’ve added to my reading list as it sounds fantastic which won the 2015 James Tiptree, Jr. Award and was also nominated for the Locus and Kitschies awards. She also had an essay in Wired back four years ago, “Hey, Book World: Sexism is Way Bigger Than the Hugos”, commenting on the Sad Puppies. It’s interesting reading still. And this essay, “Literature Still Urgently Needs More Non-White, Non-Male Heroes”, certainly shows where she is ideologically.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) IN THIS DICTIONARY, HIS PICTURE REALLY IS RIGHT NEXT TO THE WORD. For reasons you can now guess, Sir Patrick Stewart figures in the entry for the Wikitionary word of the day for July 13, 2019: “calvous”.

(13) UNDER THE LID. Alastair Stuart’s “The Full Lid 12th July 2019” stops “in at Centerville for Jim Jarmusch’s deeply strange The Dead Don’t Die, which may be the oddest horror movie you’ll see this year. It’s certainly, along with Midsommar, one of the most interesting. Also on deck this week is Greg van Eekhout’s startlingly good middle-grade SF novel Cog and the always excellent ZoomDoom Stories continue to impress with season one of The Six Disappearances of Ella McCray.”

The Dead Don’t Die

The best way to spot a Jim Jarmusch movie is to throw a dart, blindfold, at a wall of ideas. He’s done existential westerns (Dead Man), anthologies about taxi drivers (Night on Earth), a documentary about The Stooges (Gimme Danger) and the best hip-hop/samurai/film noir movie ever made (Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai). Now, he’s turned his attention to horror comedy and the result is so inherently Jarmuschian it basically breaks the meter and embeds the needle in the wall of the lab. Where, I can only assume, Bill Murray stares at it for a moment, goes…’Huh’ and then continues about his day.

(14) SHALL WE DANCE?

(15) WHEN I’M ’64. Galactic Journey’s Jessica Holmes is fascinated by the new Doctor Who series – in 1964: “[July 12th, 1964] Mind Over Matter (Doctor Who: The Sensorites [Part 1])”.

Can I admit to something silly? I am a little bit scared of mind-readers. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t actually believe in telepaths. Then again, who knows what sort of freaky experiments certain entities get up to.

I just think the idea of someone reading my mind, or even manipulating it, is one of the most horrifying concepts out there.

And it looks like Doctor Who agrees with me.

(16) CHESS PLAYER CHEATED IN TOILET. I saw ESPN’s headline and I said to myself, that’ll get some clicks. They sourced their post from this Chess.com story:

GM Igors Rausis is under investigation for cheating after he was caught with his phone during a game at the Strasbourg Open. The 58-year-old Latvian-Czech grandmaster had raised suspicions after he increased his rating in recent years to almost 2700.

During an open tournament July 10-14 in Strasbourg, France, a phone was found in a toilet that had just been used by Rausis. He later signed a declaration that the phone was his.

Whether he was using his phone to get assistance from a chess engine is not clear at the moment.

In a comment to Chess.com, Rausis said:

I simply lost my mind yesterday. I confirmed the fact of using my phone during the game by written [statement]. What could I say more? Yes, I was tired after the morning game and all the Facebook activity of accusers also have a known impact. At least what I committed yesterday is a good lesson, not for me—I played my last game of chess already.

…Six years ago, in May 2013, [Rausis’] rating was still 2518, and it had fluctuated around the 2500 mark for at least 10 years. It has since increased by almost 200 points. 

Over the last six years, Rausis increased his rating steadily as he mostly limited himself to playing lower-rated opponents against whom he continued scoring perfectly or almost perfectly. For instance, in the July 2019 rating calculations, he scored 24.5/25 against almost only players rated more than 400 points below his own rating.

…To increase one’s rating like Rausis did requires almost perfect play over a long period of time, which is not easy even against very low opposition.

The case of Rausis is similar to that of a Georgian grandmaster who got banned from a tournament in 2015 after his phone was found in a toilet. In that case, it was discovered that he had been analyzing his position with a chess engine. He was banned for three years and lost his GM title.

(17) GET THE SHOT. NPR remembers “The Camera That Went To The Moon And Changed How We See It” – a feature with lots of pictures — some well-known, some less so.

In the summer of 1962, Walter Schirra — who would soon become America’s third man to orbit the Earth — walked into a Houston photo supply shop looking for a camera he could take into space.

He came out with a Hasselblad 500C, a high-end Swedish import that had been recommended to him by photographers from Life and National Geographic.

“He was sort of an amateur photographer,” Jennifer Levasseur, a curator in charge of the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum’s astronaut cameras, says of Schirra. “Somewhere along the line, the decision was made that he could select what camera was flown on his flight.”

…When NASA got a look at Schirra’s Hasselblad, they liked what they saw. The space agency purchased at least one more. Engineers tore into the off-the-shelf consumer model to make it space-worthy. They stripped it down to save weight and painted it dull black to reduce reflections. They also had to “astronaut-proof it,” says Cole Rise, a photographer and filmmaker who builds custom reproductions of the Hasselblad space cameras.

…Hasselblad’s Chris Cooze says until then, the space agency was so focused on the technical side of spaceflight that photography was something of an afterthought.

He says it was in 1965, when NASA released stunning photos of Ed White’s spacewalk on Gemini 4, that Hasselblad “put two and two together” and realized the pictures were taken with one of their cameras.

“Then they got in touch with NASA to see if there was anything that we could cooperate on,” Cooze says.

(18) FOLLOW THE BOUNCING ‘BOW. “Rippling Rainbow Map Shows How California Earthquakes Moved The Earth”NPR has the story.

Curious how much the ground shifted after the two large earthquakes last week in Southern California? NASA has just the map for that question — and it happens to look like beautiful, psychedelic art.

On July 4, a 6.4 magnitude quake hit the town of Ridgecrest, north of Los Angeles. The next evening, the area was jolted again by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake. Luckily, there were no serious injuries or major infrastructure damage.

The map was created by the Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. It shows rippling rainbows forming a circular pattern around the faults of the two quakes.

Each rainbow stripes[sic] means that the ground has been displaced there by some 4.8 inches. It’s the same logic as a topographic map, where lines that are closer together indicate steeper slopes. In this case, the closer together the rainbow stripes are, the more the ground was displaced by the temblor.

(19) THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT. Steve J. Wright has done both sets of Hugo editor categories now:

The editing categories are always hard for us non-initiates to judge; we do not know the Dark Arts of editorship, the secret and sacred magic by which a piece of text is transmogrified into a professional story…. However, at least we can see the general tenor of a skiffy magazine, and read, well, editorials and the like, and we can work out from that how the short-form editors think.  Sort of.

And, of course, it is distorted in 1943 by the unassailable fact that there’s only one right answer: Astounding, edited by John W. Campbell Jr.  Like it or not, Campbell was shaping science fiction in his own image at this time.  He is the unavoidable choice; the eight-hundred-pound gorilla of the SF world.

Wright begins his Long Form Editor reviews (the Retro category was cancelled) with the same observation, but faithful to the category, at greater length:

Anyway, here we are again, with the category no one is particularly qualified to decide on.  We don’t know, for example, if Beth Meacham found a scrawled note one day that read “dere iz dis wumman who wantz 2 b a spaceman” and worked it up into The Calculating Stars from that, or if Mary Robinette Kowal submitted the manuscript exactly in its current form, and Meacham’s only contribution was to fling it at a passing minion with a cry of “Publish this!”  The truth, of course, must lie somewhere in between those extremes… and it is probably (unless you’re actually interested in the minutiae of the editing profession) pretty darn boring, for those of us not directly concerned.  I think it was John Sladek who said that there were secrets of the universe which Man was not meant to know, and some of them are not even worth knowing.

(20) BLACK HOLE DETECTIVE. BBC says it has lifted off: “Spektr-RG: Powerful X-ray telescope launches to map cosmos”.

One of the most significant Russian space science missions in the post-Soviet era has launched from Baikonur.

The Spektr-RG telescope is a joint venture with Germany that will map X-rays across the entire sky in unprecedented detail.

Researchers say this information will help them trace the large-scale structure of the Universe.

The hope is Spektr-RG can provide fresh insights on the accelerating behaviour of cosmic expansion.

It should also identify a staggering number of new X-ray sources, such as the colossal black holes that reside at the centre of galaxies.

As gas falls into these monsters, the matter is heated and shredded and “screams” in X-rays. The radiation is essentially a telltale for the Universe’s most violent phenomena.

Spektr-RG is expecting to detect perhaps three million super-massive black holes during its service life.

(21) APOLLO DOCUMENTARY. Assembled by Voice of America:

As the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of the historic mission to land humans on the surface of the moon, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh presents this reflection of the monumental achievement through the eyes of the NASA astronauts themselves. In exclusive interviews Farabaugh gathered, the men of the Apollo program reflect on the path to the moon, and what lies beyond.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/12/19 Pixel Less, Scroll More

(1) CELEBRATING “BLOB FEST” THIS WEEKEND. [Item by Steve Vertlieb.] This weekend, fans from all over the world will converge upon The Colonial Theater in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania to commemorate the arrival upon our planet of a gelatinous intruder whose ravenous appetite inspired the birth of girth, and shamed The Cookie Monster into both seclusion and retirement. The historic theater, itself a performer in the classic Paramount release, plays host each Summer to “Blob Fest,” and will be the preferred destination for all self-respecting horror fans from Friday to Sunday, July 12th, 13th, and 14th.

Some years ago, I was invited by my beloved friend, Wes Shank, to his home to meet his nefarious tenant. Wes left us, sadly, a year ago … but his protege continues to mystify, charm, and entertain millions of adoring fans.

What follows is the link to a hopefully entertaining chronicle of one of my less successful show business associations…with one of filmdom’s “largest” screen personalities, and a creature that only Jenny Craig could love. Celebrating the sixty first anniversary of “The Blob.” — “How I Met… The Blob” at The Thunderchild.

(2) “HIGHLY CLASSIFIED” TV COMMERCIAL. Ad Astra comes to theaters September 20.

Astronaut Roy McBride (Brad Pitt) travels to the outer edges of the solar system to find his missing father and unravel a mystery that threatens the survival of our planet. His journey will uncover secrets that challenge the nature of human existence and our place in the cosmos.

(3) THE MAD MEN WHO SOLD THE MOON. FastCompany lines up “The best and worst ads that celebrated the Apollo 11 Moon landing”:

…The most interesting ad on July 21, 1969, came from Brillo steel-wool scrubbing pads. Brillo offered Times readers a poster-size color map of the Moon, from Rand McNally. The ad was a striking one-third of a page, showing the Moon, with a coupon. It was a typical late sixties promotion: Fill in your address and mail the coupon, with two “proofs of purchase” clipped from boxes of Brillo pads to get that map. “This map is only available from Brillo,” the ad touted. “Let Brillo send you the Moon. Free.”

Brillo, to be clear, had no connection to the Moon landings.

The advertising blossomed on the day after Michael Collins, Buzz Aldrin, and Neil Armstrong successfully and safely splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. On that day, in fact, the ratio of news coverage to advertising in the New York Times completely reversed.

The paper itself was 88 pages that Friday, July 25, 1969. It contained 15 full-page ads about Apollo, and another half-dozen ads that were a half-page or bigger. In all, there were more than 22 pages of advertisements about the Moon landings. The coverage itself that day was only six pages.

(4) PREPPING FOR DUBLIN. The third in Anne-Louise Fortune’s series “What is Worldcon” aims to enlighten the YouTube generation. “Three Essential Elements” covers the business meeting and site selection, among other things.

(5) I AM NO MAN. Nicole Rudick reviews The Future Is Female anthology in “A Universe of One’s Own” at The New York Review of Books.

“Write me a creature who thinks as well as a man, or better than a man, but not like a man.” This was the challenge the influential science-fiction editor John Campbell famously issued his authors in the 1940s. It was aimed at producing aliens as fully formed as the interstellar human travelers who encounter them. Isaac Asimov thought the best example was a creature named Tweel from Stanley Weinbaum’s “A Martian Odyssey,” a story from 1934 that preceded the dictum. But the instruction also has the feel of a riddle, and neither Campbell nor Asimov considered its most obvious answer: a woman.

Three years before Weinbaum’s Martian adventure, Leslie F. Stone published “The Conquest of Gola” in the April 1931 issue of the science-fiction pulp magazine Wonder Stories. This was not Stone’s first published story, but it became her best known. Gola is a planet ruled by a gentle civilization of telepathic nonhumanoid females with movable eyes and sensory functions available on all parts of their round, golden-fur-covered bodies. The males of the planet are docile pleasure-consorts. Into this edenic world plunges a cadre of Earth men who desire “exploration and exploitation.” The queen rejects their plea for trade and tourism. She isn’t just dismissive of what she feels are the Earthlings’ barbarian mentality and low-grade intelligence; she simply can’t be bothered to take them seriously. “To think of mere man-things daring to attempt to force themselves upon us,” she says. “What is the universe coming to?” Rebuffed, the Earth men launch a full invasion; the Golans (who narrate the tale) obliterate them. End of story. A case study in thinking better than men but not like men.

“The Conquest of Gola” is one of the twenty-five SF tales written by women that are collected in the enjoyable new anthology The Future Is Female, edited by Lisa Yaszek…

(6) BEGGING THE QUESTION. BookRiot thinks readers should already know the answer: “So You Want To Bring Back Dystopian YA? Well, Here’s Why It Never Left”.

With the announcement of a prequel to Suzanne Collins’s popular young adult trilogy The Hunger Games, there has been a wealth of discourse on why it’s finally time to bring back dystopian YA. It’s a trend that dominated both the YA scene and the box office in the early 2010s, with the success of The Hunger Games seeing major film production companies competing in a fierce battle for the next big blockbuster hit.

…But what about the books? Is Suzanne Collins bringing back dystopian YA? Is the trend finally rising from the ashes, allowing us all to relive our best 2012 selves? Well, you can’t bring back something that never really left.

Despite the apparent decline of dystopian YA movies in Hollywood, a steady stream of young adult novels in recent years has kept the genre afloat for teens who still wanted to consume these stories outside of the adaptations.

Some of the most popular series, like An Ember In The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir and Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, both written by authors of colour, were first published during the dystopian craze of the early 2010s, and subsequent books continue to be published without the marketing push that saw the likes of The Hunger Games and Divergent driven to success.

(7) FLAME OUT. At a Warner Bros. studio in the UK, fire claimed a set used in numerous genre productions: “Warner Bros Studios fire: Crews tackle blaze for 15 hours”.

Crews were called to the site in Leavesden, Hertfordshire, at 23:29 BST on Wednesday.

The fire service said the set involved was not being used at the time and there had been no reported injuries.

All eight Harry Potter films as well as other movies including James Bond, Fast and Furious and the Mission Impossible franchises have filmed at the studios.

The fire service confirmed shortly before 15:00 on Thursday the fire was out, although some crews remain at the scene.

A spokesman for Warner Bros said the fire had occurred on a sound stage being used for the television production Avenue 5, but all productions were able to continue working.

Avenue 5 is an HBO space tourism comedy by The Thick of It creator Armando Iannucci.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

July 12, 1969  — [Item by Steve Green.] Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of Star Trek‘s debut on British television, where it occupied the Saturday afternoon slot on BBC1 traditionally occupied by Doctor Who. Unlike NBC and its US affiliates, the BBC opened with ‘Where No Man Has Gone Before’, the second pilot and the first to feature William Shatner as James T Kirk. As one of those captivated viewers, this means July 12, 2019 is also the fiftieth anniversary of my becoming a Star Trek fan.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 12, 1895 Buckminster Fuller. Genre adjacent and I don’t believe that he actually wrote any SF though one could argue that Tetrascroll: Goldilocks and the Three Bears, A Cosmic Fairy Tale is sort of genre. You will find his terminology used frequently in genre fiction. (Died 1983.)
  • Born July 12, 1912 Joseph Mugnaini. An Italian born artist and illustrator. He is best known for his collaborations with writer Ray Bradbury, beginning in 1952. Through an amazing piece of serendipity, there’s an interview with him talking about working with Bradbury which you can listen to here. (Died 1992.)
  • Born July 12, 1923 James E. Gunn, 96. H’h, what have I read by him? Well there’s The Joy Makers and Future Imperfect, not to mention The Magicians. I’m sure there’s more but those are the ones I fondly remember. Which ones do you recall reading? 
  • Born July 12, 1933 Donald E. Westlake. No, I didn’t know he did genre but ISFDB says he, hence this Birthday note. Transylvania Station by him and wife is based on Mohonk Mountain House-sponsored vampire hunting mystery role-playing weekend. (Died 2008.)
  • Born July 12, 1945 James D. Allan, 74. A rather prolific writer and author on the subject of Tolkien linguistics. He is primarily known for his book, An Introduction to Elvish. His most recent contribution to the field is “Gandalf and the Merlin of the Arthurian Romances”, published in Tolkien Society’s Amon Hen number 251. 
  • Born July 12, 1946 Charles R. Saunders,73. African-American author and journalist currently living in Canada, much of his fiction is set in the fictional continent Nyumbani (which means “home” in Swahili). His main series is is the Imaro novels which he claims are the first sword and sorcery series by a black writer.
  • Born July 12, 1970 Phil Jimenez, 49. Comics illustrator and writer. He was the main artist of Infinite Crisis, a sequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths. He also did the awesome first issue of Planetary/Authority: Ruling the World, and was responsible for the first six issues of Fables spin-off, Fairest.
  • Born July 12, 1976 Anna Friel, 43. Her best remembered genre role is as played Charlotte “Chuck” Charles on Pushing Daisies, but she’s been Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Elizabeth Bonny in Neverland, not to mention Lady Claire in Timeline, an SF virtually no one has heard of. 
  • Born July 12, 1976 Gwenda Bond,  43. Her Blackwood novel won a Locus Award for Best First Novel. (Strange Alchemy is the sequel.) She written three novels featuring DC character Lois Lane, and her Cirque American series with its magic realism looks interesting. She also wrote the “Dear Aunt Gwenda” column in the Lady Churchill’s Robot* Wristlet chapbooks that Gavin J. Grant and Kelly Link did for awhile over at Small Beer Press. 

(10) RESISTANCE ON HOLD. Hugo Martin, in “Disneyland delays 2nd ride at Star Wars land” at the LA Times, says “Rise of the Resistance will open Jan. 17 instead of this year.”

The Anaheim theme park had previously said the Rise of the Resistance ride would launch this year.

The ride is designed to put parkgoers in the middle of a fierce battle between resistance fighters and the evil forces of the First Order. An identical ride will open in December at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge , the largest expansion in the park’s history, opened May 31 with only one ride in operation, Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run…

Bob Iger, chief executive of Walt Disney Co., had previously promised Disney fans that Rise of the Resistance would open in 2019.

Instead, Disney said on its website Thursday that the much-anticipated Rise of the Resistance will open first at the Florida park before the Christmas holiday vacation and then at Disneyland in January, when families will have returned to work and school after the winter break.

Disney’s website suggested that the California attraction would open later than the one in Florida because Disney engineers and ride developers can open only one ride at a time…

(11) JAPAN SCORES TOUCHDOWN. “Hayabusa-2: Japanese spacecraft makes final touchdown on asteroid” – BBC has the story.

A Japanese spacecraft has touched down on a faraway asteroid, where it will collect space rock that may hold clues to how the Solar System evolved.

The successful contact with the Ryugu asteroid was met with relief and cheering in the control room at Japan’s space agency, JAXA.

It is the second touchdown for the robotic Hayabusa-2 craft, which grabbed rocks from the asteroid in February….

(12) TRUE ACCOUNTABILITY. Somebody had to say it.

(13) TEA OR TOR. Bonnie McDaniel takes her turn at reviewing the lot: “Hugo Reading 2019: Best Novella”.

The novella (17,500-40,000 words) has had something of a resurgence in recent years, mainly due to Tor’s excellent novella line. (I know the ones I’ve bought are taking up nearly a full shelf in one of my bookcases.) This time around, five of the six nominees are from Tor; the only exception (Aliette de Bodard’s The Tea Master and the Detective) was published by Subterranean, a niche publisher that puts out lovely limited collectible editions. (Which also take up a not-inconsiderable amount of my own shelf space.) For a lot of stories, the novella is the perfect length, and I’m glad to see its growing popularity.

(14) AREA CODE. CNN reports “Thousands of people have taken a Facebook pledge to storm Area 51 to ‘see them aliens'”.

Stretch those quads and prep that tinfoil hat!

Over 300,000 people have signed on to a Facebook event pledging to raid Area 51 in Nevada in a quest to “see them aliens.”

The event, titled “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us,” is inviting users from around the world to join a “Naruto run” — a Japanese manga-inspired running style featuring arms outstretched backwards and heads forward — into the area.

“We can move faster than their bullets,” the event page, which is clearly written with tongue in cheek, promises those who RSVP for September 20.

(15) INVESTMENT OPPORTUNITY. It only takes one.

(16) CRAWL VARMINT, CRAWL ON YOUR BELLY LIKE A REPTILE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Is this movie—about oversized alligators terrorizing people trapped in a crawlspace during a massive storm—genre? Well, it is horror of a sort, perhaps only one or two steps removed from movies about shark-filled tornadoes.

Having seen a TV advert for Crawl, I absolutely knew I would never want to go see the movie in a  theater (though YMMV). On the other hand, the review itself is a hoot: The Hollywood Reporter: “’Crawl’: Film Review”

No sensible person goes to see a movie about killer alligators and then complains that it was silly and over the top. So it’s puzzling that Paramount would refuse to hold critics’ screenings for Alexandre Aja’s Crawl, a film that, despite some ludicrous action scenes and risible dialogue, might well have been helped more than harmed, on the whole, by reviews. After all, not every Snakes on a Flesh-Eating Sharknado delivers on its schlocky promises, and savvy consumers like to be told they won’t get burned this time. Consider this a measured endorsement for the kind of action-packed B picture where Serbia stands in for coastal Florida, and nobody notices, and they wouldn’t care if they did.

(17) KEEPING UP WITH THE PHILISTINES. In Science Advances, “Ancient DNA reveals the roots of the Biblical Philistines”. “The Philistines appear repeatedly in the Bible, but their origins have long been mysterious. Now genetic evidence suggests that this ancient people trace some of their ancestry west all the way to Europe.”

The ancient Mediterranean port city of Ashkelon, identified as “Philistine” during the Iron Age, underwent a marked cultural change between the Late Bronze and the early Iron Age. It has been long debated whether this change was driven by a substantial movement of people, possibly linked to a larger migration of the so-called “Sea Peoples.” Here, we report genome-wide data of 10 Bronze and Iron Age individuals from Ashkelon. We find that the early Iron Age population was genetically distinct due to a European-related admixture. This genetic signal is no longer detectible in the later Iron Age population. Our results support that a migration event occurred during the Bronze to Iron Age transition in Ashkelon but did not leave a long-lasting genetic signature.

(18) ON STRIKES. For your edification, ScreenRant screens the “Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back Pitch Meeting.”

Empire Strikes Back is known not only as one of the best Star Wars movies, but one of the best sequels of all time. Despite it’s amazing reputation it still raises a few questions. Like how did that Wampa freeze Luke’s feet to a cave ceiling? Why was Yoda making him do so many flips? What’s up with the AT-AT strategy on Hoth? Why did Leia kiss Luke? To answer all these questions and more, step inside the pitch meeting that led to The Empire Strikes Back!

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Dann, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Michael Toman, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Doug.]