Pixel Scroll 5/19/20 Rated Restricted By The Motion Pixel Association For Gratuitous Treks And Filings

(1) ITALCON: FATE UNKNOWN. The winners of Italy’s Premio Italia are known – what’s unknown Is when they can be revealed. There were 438 voters, compared to last year, when 500 was reached.

The award ceremony was due to take place at Italcon in San Marino on 13 June. The health situation naturally makes it implausible that Italcon could actually take place on that date. At the moment, a date of convenience is indicated on the website of the Prize, September 1st (for technical reasons, a date must necessarily be indicated); however, decisions on the progress of Italcon are awaited. Decisions that evidently depend only in part on the organization of Italcon, but primarily on the decisions of the government of San Marino and on the progress of the epidemic. Probably no decision will be made before September.

(2) SOUL SURVIVOR. Filmmaker Fabrice Mathieu has released another ingenious fantasy short film, Memorium.

After the death, what happens? Where do we go? “Memorium” invites you to a journey of a man into the afterlife.

Inspired from the world created by the french artist Marc Giai-Miniet.

(3) THE EMPEROR’S NEW POP CULTURE. Io9’s James Whitbrook is on target with “Star Trek Ages Terribly When It Tries to Be Contemporary”.

…One of the weirder things always danced around on Star Trek is how its myriad bridge crews, despite being from the 23rd and 24th centuries, are fascinated with a popular culture that is not their own, but more reflective of our own recent past as peoples of the 20th and 21st century. Sisko loves baseball, a sport that, hilariously, apparently just stops being played professionally in 2042 according to Deep Space Nine. Picard loves the pulpy noir fiction of Dixon Hill, an original character for Trek but specifically rooted in the detective fiction boom of the 1940s. Janeway, when she’s not palling around with Leonardo DaVinci, is writing 19th-century Irish village self-insert fic or participating in a dull as hell Austen-esque choose your own adventure type stories.

(4) BIG TALK. They’ve optioned works by Tade Thompson and S.A. Chakraborty: “Edgar Wright, Nira Park, Joe Cornish, Rachael Prior launch production company Complete Fiction”Screen Daily has the story.

Former Big Talk Productions duo Edgar Wright and Nira Park have teamed up with writer-director Joe Cornish and producer Rachael Prior to launch a London and Los Angeles-based film and TV outfit called Complete Fiction.

The company’s debut development slate includes three new series for Netflix. Cornish is directing Lockwood & Co,  a supernatural detective series based on Jonathan Stroud’s novel series of the same name, while the company has also optioned Tade Thompson’s literary sci-fi horror trilogy The Murders Of Molly Southbourne and S.A. Chakraborty’s historical fantasy series inspired by Islamic folklore The City Of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy).

Complete Fiction is presently in post on Wright’s Last Night In Soho, produced with Working Title Films for Focus Features and Film4, as well as Wright’s untitled feature documentary about the band Sparks which it produced with MRC. 

(5) GRAPHIC ARTS. In “Entering The Sci-Fi Noir World of Lemire, Kindt, and Rubin’s Cosmic Detective” on CrimeReads, Alex Segura interviews writers Jeff Lemire and Matt Kindt and artist David Rubin on their new sf/mystery graphic novel: “Graphic Content: Entering The Sci-Fi Noir World Of Lemire, Kindt, And Rubin’s Cosmic Detective’.

….“We wanted to just do something as wild as we could imagine,” Kindt said. “Getting David to do the art really just made it a slam dunk proposition, because he can just draw absolutely anything. He’s the Catalonian Moebius. And he’s going to hate that I said that, but he’s got a visual intelligence and creativity that really only shows up once every generation or so. He’s it. It’s not just design and art for art’s sake, because he’s a writer too. Everything has meaning. Every color and costume and gadget. It all feeds into the story. So I think David was truly one of our greatest inspirations for this book.”

(6) OFF THE BEATEN PATH. The 2020 World Fantasy Con blog tells about the experience of “Discovering Steampunk at the Museum of Idaho”.

…In the process of becoming the first museum to host the exhibit, which was created by Bruce Rosenbaum and is part of Imagine Exhibitions’ traveling exhibits, the Museum of Idaho tackled one of the dilemmas of steampunk: how to make the unfamiliar concept accessible to general audiences. Months before the exhibit opened in May 2018, the Museum of Idaho displayed steampunk statues, advertised on billboards, and created events in tandem with the exhibit, such as a steampunk street party and a steampunk ball. They started with steampunk’s dynamic visual presentation and then lured the general public into asking what it was they were looking at.

(7) PITCH MEETING. Jessica Camerato, in “Doolittle Finds Balance, Focus In Love of Books” on MLB.com, notes that Washington Nationals closer Sean Doolittle isn’t just an avid cosplayer, but reads quite a lot.  His signed first edition of Octavia Butler’s Parable Of The Sower is on his top shelf right next to a baseball signed by Nationals players after his 2019 World Series win. Doolittle is also a fan of Juliette Wade.  In January, the American Booksellers Association named him the Indie Bookstore Day Ambassador because Doolittle patronizes independent bookstores whenever he’s on the road.

“I will totally judge a book by its cover,” Doolittle said. “If I think it looks cool, I’ll buy it. I have one waiting for me at home that I bought just because the cover was so sick. It was a fantasy book — it’s called ‘Mazes of Power’ by Juliette Wade. It came out right before Spring Training.”

(8) NONVERBAL MEMORY. James P. Blaylock’s 2019 piece “My Life in Books: A Meditation on the Writer’s Library” for Poets & Writers sounds like my original plan – to own and keep the books I read, and if I needed to refresh my memory, the volume would be on my shelves.

…Not long ago I was reading a collection of essays by Hilaire Belloc titled One Thing and Another, and, as is sometimes the case when I read other people’s essays, I got the idea of writing this one. The “idea,” such as it was, had nothing to do with the subject matter of any of the forty essays contained in Belloc’s book; what struck me was that the pages smelled as if they had been soaked in gasoline. I remembered abruptly that it had smelled that way when I’d bought it, and although it has sat on the shelf in my study for twenty years, waiting to be read, the odor hasn’t diminished. It could be fatal to light a match anywhere near it.

This olfactory discovery sent me off in a nostalgic search for my copy of Philip K. Dick’s Dr. Bloodmoney, which Phil gave to me in 1975…. 

(9) IN OTHER WORDS. Writing these books fulfilled a dream: “The Big Idea: Jennifer Brody” at Whatever.

…Upon graduating, I knew that I was moving to LA one-way without much money or even a job lined up. It was like that back then. You packed up your car and hit the road. You had to have blind faith. You chased after your dream. You lived on ramen. You had a roommate. You got paid $500 bucks a week. You ran errands and answered phones and started at the bottom. My first job was at Michael Bay’s new company Platinum Dunes. The first film we made was a remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. We were the first to do the remake thing. Everyone thought we were crazy. My parents wondered if my tuition money had gone to waste.

The film was a hit, earning over $80 million at the domestic box office. Within a year of moving West, I landed my dream job working for the executive producer of The Lord of the Rings. Did I mention that I’m a giant nerd? I’d read Tolkien’s classics cover to cover numerous times. A run of book-to-film properties followed on our slate, including The Golden Compass, Love in the Time of Cholera, and Inkheart. Working in Hollywood was a dream come true, albeit a complicated one with its share of workplace toxicity (which has now become quite public).

Despite loving my job, I had an itch that started to grow stronger. It needed scratching. After working on so many wonderful authors’ books and helping bring their worlds to life on the big screen, I found myself wanting to write my own big sci-fi trilogy…. 

(10) GLENN OBIT. Annie Glenn has died at the age of 100. CNN pays tribute: “Annie Glenn, speech disorder advocate and wife of John Glenn, dies of coronavirus complications at 100”.

…Though she’s perhaps best known for her proximation to her husband, Annie Glenn was an American hero in her own right, veteran reporter Bob Greene wrote in a 2012 CNN Opinion piece.

“Glenn has had a hero of his own,” Green wrote, “Someone who he has seen display endless courage of a different kind: Annie Glenn.”

And she was at the center of this legendary moment in The Right Stuff.

Although USA Today’s obituary says things happened a bit differently —

As John’s prowess as a pilot culminated in his historic orbital flight on Feb. 20, 1962, the spotlight shone ever more intensely on the Glenn family, which by then included a son, David, and a daughter, Lyn. After becoming the first American to orbit the Earth, John and his wife were cheered in a ticker-tape parade in New York City. Celebrity pursued them relentlessly and each brush with the media and famous people painfully revealed Annie’s stuttering.

With reporters in tow after the flight, then-Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was intent on visiting the Glenns at their home in Arlington, Virginia, but John angered Johnson by refusing to receive him, proffering the excuse that Annie was in bed with a migraine to spare her from the attention. Even so, the Glenns became good friends with Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 19, 1956 Science Fiction Theatre’s “The Flicker” first aired. Each episode was supposedly based on scientific fact though the host weaseled his way out of that in his narration. This story has a sociology graduate student committing murder after watching a badly flickering movie. Subliminal images I presume. It starred Victor Jory, Michael Fox and Judith Ames.   You can watch it here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 19, 1901 – George Pendray.  Early rocketeer; co-founded the American Interplanetary Society (its successor Am. Inst. Aeronautics & Astronautics gives the Pendray Award); invented the time capsule, for the 1939 World’s Fair; coined the word “laundromat”; helped establish Guggenheim Jet Propulsion Center at Cal. Tech., Guggenheim Labs at Princeton U., U.S. Nat’l Aeronautics & Space Adm’n.  Wrote SF as science editor of Literary Digest, e.g. “A Rescue from Jupiter”.  Co-edited The Papers of Robert H. Goddard.  (Died 1987) [JH]
  • Born May 19, 1920 – Walter Popp.  Prolific pulp illustrator for e.g. AmazingFantasticStartlingThrilling; see here. Also Gothic-romance fantasy, see here, some becoming limited-edition prints for fine-art galleries, see here.  Outside our field, true-crime and men’s-adventure magazines, paperbacks including Popular Library; toy and sporting-goods manufacturers; greeting cards.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born May 19, 1921 – Pauline Clarke.  Children’s fantasy The Twelve and the Genii won the Carnegie Medal and the Deutscher Jugendliteraturpreis.  The Pekinese Princess has talking animals and trees.  Thirty novels for various readers; Warscape, for adults, “lurches into the future”, says a remarkable 4,300-word Wikipedia entry.  (Died 2013) [JH] 
  • Born May 19, 1936 – Emanuel Schongut.  Fifty covers and interiors for us, see hereherehere.  Also children’s books, pictures based on shellsMasterpiece Theater.  Here are pages from a fashion magazine, a cover for a Maxim Gorky novel, a New York Times illustration, a poster for Beauty and the Beast, pig, some disco shoes, a 2016 New Year card. [JH]
  • Born May 19, 1937 Pat Roach. He was cast in the first three Indy Jones films as a decided Bad Person though he never had a name. His first genre appearance was in A Clockwork Orange as a Milkbar bouncer. His first name role was Hephaestus in Clash of Titans. He was of an unusually stocky nature, so he got cast as a Man Ape in Conan the Destroyer, and as Bretagne the Barbarian in Red Sonja. And, of course, he had such a role as Zulcki in Kull the Desttoyer. Oh, and he played an very large and mostly naked Executioner in the George MacDonald Fraser scripted The Return of The Musketeers. (Died 2004.)  (CE)
  • Born May 19, 1944 Peter Mayhew. Chewbacca from the beginning to The Force Awakens before his retirement from the role. The same year he first did Chewy, he had an uncredited role as the Minotaur in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger. He also shows in the Dark Towers series as The Tall Knight. (Died 2019.) (CE)
  • Born May 19, 1946 Andre the Giant. Fezzik in The Princess Bride, one of my all-time favorite films. Also, an uncredited role as Dagoth In Conan the Destroyer. He’s actually did a number of genre roles such as The Greatest American Hero with his American acting debut playing a Bigfoot in a two-part episode aired in 1976 on The Six Million Dollar Man titled “The Secret of Bigfoot”. (Died 1993)  (CE)
  • Born May 19, 1946 – Ken Kelly.  240 covers; interiors; The Art of Ken KellyKen Kelly Fantasy Art Trading Cards (2 sets), Escape (collection); album covers for KISS, Manowar, Ace Frehley.   See here (Amazing), here (The Stars My Destination), here (The Lincoln Hunters), here (Ace Frehley).  [JH]
  • Born May 19, 1948 – Paul Williams.  Created Crawdaddy!  Literary executor of Philip K. Dick, co-founder of PKD Society, biography of PKD Only Apparently Real; worked with David Hartwell on Age of Wonders – also The Int’l Bill of Human Rights; edited vols. 1-12, Complete Works of Theodore Sturgeon; also The 20th Century’s Greatest Hits (including Winnie-the-PoohThe Little PrinceGod Bless You, Mr. Rosewater), four on Bob Dylan, twenty more.  (Died 2013) [JH]
  • Born May 19, 1948 Grace Jones, 72. First genre appearance was as Stryx in Rumstryx, an Italian TV series. Her next was Zulu in Conan the Destroyer followed by being May Day in A View to Kill and Katrina in Vamp. She was Masako Yokohama in Cyber Bandits which also starred Adam Ant. Her last several genre  role to date was Christoph/Christine in Wolf Girl, and Death aka The Devil in Gutterdammerung, a film that also featured Henry Rollins, Slash and Iggy Pop!  (CE)
  • Born May 19, 1955 – Elise Primavera.  Author and illustrator of children’s books, some fantasy: The Secret Order of the Gumm Street GirlsFred & Anthony Meet the Heinie Goblins from the Black Lagoon (as Esile Arevamirp), Marigold Star. Here’s a book cover.  [JH]
  • Born May 19, 1966 Jodi Picoult, 54. Her Wonder Women work is exemplary (collected in Wonder Women, Volume 3 and Wonder Woman: Love and Murder).  She also has a most excellent two-volume YA series called the Between the Lines Universe which she wrote with Samantha van Leer. ISFDB lists her Second Glance novel as genre but I’d say it’s genre adjacent at best. (CE)
  • Born May 19, 1996 Sarah Grey, 24. Before DC Universe cast the present Stargirl in Brec Bassinger for that series, Legends of Tomorrow cast their Stargirl as this actress for a run of three episodes.  The episodes (“Out of Time”, “Justice Society of America” and “Camelot 3000”) are superb. I’ve not seen her as Alyssa Drake in The Order but I’ve heard Good Things about that series. (CE)

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro jokes about a bed that shares a name with a law.

(14) MOVING PICTURES. Not Pulp Covers hosts four GIFs made from clip of  The Best from 20,000 Fathoms. They really pop out of the page, despite being black-and-white. The film’s stop-motion animation special effects are by Ray Harryhausen. Its screenplay is based on Ray Bradbury’s short story The Fog Horn, specifically the scene where a lighthouse is destroyed by the title character. (I’m not going to put a sample here because people tell me GIFs in the Scroll drive them crazy.)

(15) THAT’S PUTTING IT MILDLY. In John Scalzi’s post “A Reminder, Re: Famous People I Know” he reasonably says he’d rather keep his friends. (So he won’t be starting a news blog.)

So, it turns out I know, and am friends (or at least I have been friendly) with, people who are notable or famous to some degree or another. Yes, I am as amazed about that as anyone else. Sometimes, those notable/famous people:

* Are disliked by a large group of people, for whatever reason(s);

* Have a life event, often not a happy one, that gains attention in the public sphere;

* Will have a public conflict with some other person who is also generally notable;

* Says or does something that causes the Internet to fall on their head;

* Some combination of two or more of the above;

* Otherwise attracts attention to themselves in some manner or another that elicits general comment.

(16) TYPE CASTING. The project to transcribe the Hevelin fanzine collection made Atlas Obscura’s article about a helpful way to pass the time: “Even More Ways to Help Librarians and Archivists From Home”.

Escape the Earth with science-fiction fanzines

What better time to zip into a happily unfamiliar realm? The DIY History project at the University of Iowa Library, which invites people to help transcribe digitized objects from the library’s special collections and other holdings, could use your help with its massive trove of science-fiction zines. Some date back to the 1930s; all were collected by the late James L. “Rusty” Hevelin. More than 10,780 pages of the Hevelin Fanzines collection have been transcribed so far, but there are still around 500 left to go. If you need a mental break from this planet and its familiar troubles, pop into this project and spend a little time somewhere else.

The project was first announced in 2014.

(17) CELEBRITY BURIAL. Atlas Obscura also introduces readers to “Nicolas Cage’s Pyramid Tomb” in a New Orleans cemetery. (He won’t be in residence for some time to come, though.)

…The empty grave is a stark, nine-foot-tall stone pyramid that stands in obvious contrast to the blockier, above-ground burial sites that have been crumbling away in the cemetery for over two centuries. There is no name on the pyramid yet, but it is emblazoned with the Latin maxim, “Omnia Ab Uno,” which translates to “Everything From One.”

The actor himself has chosen to remain silent about his reasoning for the flamboyant tomb. Some speculate it’s an homage to the “National Treasure” movie franchise, though given that many cemeteries host pyramid grave markers, it may have simply been a stylistic choice.

(18) THE VISIBLE BOOSTER. Popular Mechanics sets the frame for a video showing “Here’s What the Guts of Four Famous Rockets Look Like During Launch”. You see side-by-side the Saturn V, Space Shuttle, Falcon Heavy and the Space Launch System (SLS) rockets launching from Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39.

A new video reveals what the launches of four famous spacecraft would look like if the rockets were transparent. Seeing how the sausage is made, so to speak, is mesmerizing.

Youtuber Hazegrayart posted the video, which also includes audio from the four launches, to YouTube earlier this week. Hazegrayart has a number of other animated videos on their page. (This 52-year time lapse of Launch Complex 39 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida from the artist’s page is super cool, too.)

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

Pixel Scroll 5/14/20 You Will Scroll Eternal, Shiny And Chrome

(1) MOOT COURT. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is from Robert Barnes’ Washington Post report of a Supreme Court hearing an argument about whether states have the right to punish “faithless electors” who cast a vote in the Electoral College other than the candidate who won a state’s electoral votes.

“What of the elector who decides after the election ‘I really like Frodo Baggins,’” asked Justice Clarence Thomas, referencing one of the principal protagonists of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings.  That person is free to vote his or her convictions, a lawyer challenging state restrictions said, but not for a hobbit; the candidate must be a real person.

(Link: “Supreme Court considers ‘faithless’ presidential electors and finds more questions than answers”.)

(2) US IN FLUX. ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination launched the latest story in their Us in Flux project today, Tina Connolly’s “Skating Without Streetlights”, a story about virtual reality and friendship, with a bit of a YA spin.

On Monday, May 18 at 4 p.m. Eastern, they’ll have another virtual event on Zoom with Connolly in conversation with VR developer Dennis Bonilla.  

(3) WINDING DOWN NASFIC. Columbus 2020 NASFiC announced today it is cancelled. Their statement “We will not be offering any refunds but, that being said, we still plan on publishing a souvenir book for all attending and supporting members” received some pushback in a public Facebook conrunners’ group. Treasurer Kim Williams has responded with a supplementary statement:

We don’t know what our bills are going to be or what will be left over, And now unfortunately one person has escalated their unhappiness about no refund to PayPal and is encouraging her entire group of friends to do likewise.

So, why did NASFIC say no refunds?

1. We just got to the point of cancellation This Morning. It’s hard to be in the land of “who knows?” so we got the main piece of information out to everyone as soon as possible. We didn’t want people making travel plans and fighting to cancel those too. I treated you with the respect I would have hoped for.

2. We do not have all the information from the hotel or any of our other vendors on what we owe them. We don’t know what is going to be left! I’m negotiating with each vendor doing the best I can.

3. We have to say no refunds at this point because we can’t even begin to know what might be left over.

4. We really would like to do a Souvenir/Program Book because we want to do something for our guests. We put a lot of thought into our choice of guests and feel horrible about not having a convention for them.

5. One of the issues we discussed TODAY is what we should do if any funds are left after that. What we would like to do is participate in the “pass along” program, just like any other WSFS event even though we didn’t receive any.

But if this person continues her claim, it risks all of the above, She wants her refund before anyone else even has a chance.

So, now I really don’t know what is going to happen. .

(4) MORE CONVENTION CANCELLATIONS. Oxonmoot and KublaCon are two more of the many fannish events now off the calendar.

Oxonmoot 2020’s co-chairs Elena Davison and Mike Percival told members the Tolkien Society’s fall event is off for this year.

It is with great sadness that we have reached the decision that it will be impossible to hold a face-to-face Oxonmoot in 2020.

At all times, we have had in mind that we would only run Oxonmoot if we could do so in a way which was safe for our members.

Following the publication on Monday 11th May of the UK Government document “Our Plan to Rebuild”, describing their Covid-19 recovery strategy, it is clear that some level of social distancing will still be required in September, and this has a dramatic impact on the way the spaces in college can be used – for example the capacity of the Hall is reduced by almost 80%. This has led the college to advise that they do not feel able to accommodate our event. In addition, the proposed introduction of a 14-day self-isolation period for overseas travellers would make it difficult for overseas members to attend….

KublaCon’s Executive Producer Mike Eckert says the Oakland, CA gaming convention is cancelled.

…We know this will disappoint many of you, we are disappointed along with you.  We also know there will be questions as to what comes next.

Some of us on Staff, myself included, lost their day job amid this pandemic, many more staff are at home, quarantined; just like you. You may be wondering what happens to your badge fees, ticket fees or booth fees. We want to help answer all of that and we humbly ask for your help too….

(5) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman is still “Social Distancing” – which means eating at home and withstanding the sharp cross-examination conducted by fans of his podcast, something the accomplished raconteur is thoroughly prepared to do,.

Two episodes ago, we sheltered in place together as I ate lunch and answered 33 questions from listeners and former guests of Eating the Fantastic. Since it’ll be awhile before the convention circuit starts up again and restaurants are back in business, I decided to once more invite you into my home to join me for a meal.

After all, my original call for questions had yielded 95 of them, and there was no way I was going to let that meat go to waste!

So after having roasted up a pork butt and assorted vegetables, I pulled together a plate and attempted to answer as many as I could while (metaphorically) breaking bread with you.

…I talked about my early days in the Marvel Comics Bullpen, the many things legendary editor Gardner Dozois and I shoved up our noses, when my food and fandom interests began to overlap, what I would have said to Harlan Ellison had he been in Barry Malzberg’s shoes, whether experiencing personal tragedy helps or harms a writer, the cognitive dissonance I feel about comics having taken over the world, which character caused me to start writing (hint: it was Conan the Barbarian), what I wishes I knew less about, who I was the most thrilled to have met in my life, whether I still get a kick out of my favorite childhood treats, what a terrible collaborator I am, and much, much more.

(6) NEWTON OBIT. Barry Newton, past President of the Washington Science Fiction Association (2014), died May 12 of cancer. He was 70. Barry was part of WSFA for nearly 50 years, having joined in June 1970.

He contributed items to the Scroll in years gone by.

He was retired from the National Institute of Standards & Technology.

His daughter, Meridel, said on Facebook  he will be cremated and inurned in Arlington National Cemetery whenever they resume burials. A celebration of life will be held when gatherings become possible again.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 14, 1996 Doctor Who aired on the Fox Television Network in the United States. Starring Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor, Sylvester McCoy as the Seventh Doctor, Daphne Ashbrook as Grace Holloway and Eric Roberts as The Master. It was directed by Geoffrey Sax off a script by Matthew Jacobs. It was intended as a pilot to American produced and based Who series but internal politics at BBC killed it off. Some critics loved, some hated it; the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes gave it a decent forty eight percent rating.  He has since reprised the role, briefly in video form and quite extensively in audio form for Big Finish. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 14, 1848 – Albert Robida.  French illustrator, etcher, lithographer, caricaturist, novelist.  Edited and published Caricature magazine 1880-1893; 520 illustrations for Pierre Giffard’s weekly serial The Infernal War (1908); 60,000 during AR’s life.  In The Twentieth Century (1882; set in 1952), War in the Twentieth Century (1887), Electric Life (1890), five more, imagined technological developments integrated with daily living, e.g. the telephonoscope, whose flat-screen display shows news, plays, conferences, 24 hours a day; here’s an aerial rotating house.  Books about Brittany, the Touraine, Normandy, Provence, Paris, The Old Towns of ItalyThe Old Towns of Spain, text, drawings, lithographs.  Illustrated Cyrano de Bergerac, Rabelais, Swift.  Clock of the CenturiesThe End of Books (with Octave Uzanne); The Long-Ago Is With Us TodayIn 1965.  (Died 1926) [JH]
  • Born May 14, 1852 – Henri Julien.  First full-time newspaper editorial cartoonist in Canada.  Interiors for Douglas Erskine’s novel A Bit of Atlantis (1900), reviewed by Everett Bleiler in Science Fiction, the Early Years (1991).  Here’s a flying canoe.  Louis-Philippe Hébert (1850-1917) called him the most original talent in the country.  Posthumous collection, Album Henri Julien (1916).  (Died 1908) [JH]
  • Born May 14, 1853 – Sir Hall Caine.  Novelist, dramatist, short-story writer, poet, critic.  Secretary to Dante Gabriel Rossetti; Recollections of Rossetti (rev. 1928).  Son of a Manxman, moved there, elected to its legislature; Bram Stoker dedicated Dracula to him in Manx.  The Christian, first novel in Britain to sell a million copies; The MahdiThe Eternal City (translated into thirteen languages), The ScapegoatThe White ProphetThe Prime Minister (play), fantasy; fifteen more novels, seventeen plays, four films (plus more made from his books); The Supernatural in Shakespere (HC’s spelling), The Supernatural Element in Poetry, eighteen more books of non-fiction; ten million books sold.  Went to Russia, Morocco, Iceland, Egypt.  Sixty thousand people at his funeral.  (Died 1931) [JH] 
  • Born May 14, 1929 – George Scithers.  His fanzine Amra 1959-1982 won two Hugos.  Chaired three Disclaves and the 21st Worldcon; Fan Guest of Honor at the 2nd NASFiC (N. Am. Science Fiction Convention, held when the Worldcon is overseas) and the 59th Worldcon; frequent chair of the annual WSFS (World SF Society) Business Meeting.  Served as President of WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n) and Official Arbiter of The Cult (an apa – amateur press ass’n – famous in song and story).  First editor of Asimov’s; two Hugos as Best Professional Editor.  Perpetrated the Scithers SFL (Science Fiction League) Hoax.  Revived Weird Tales (with John Betancourt).  World Fantasy special award for Weird Tales (with Darrell Schweitzer), 1992.  World Fantasy lifetime-achievement award, 2002.  (Died 2010) [JH] 
  • Born May 14, 1933 – Ron Bennett.  British fanwriter, collector, publisher, used-book dealer, even while living in Singapore.  TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) delegate, 1958; trip report, Colonial Excursion.  Chaired the 13th Eastercon (United Kingdom natcon, i.e. nat’l convention), ran the Dealers’ Room at the 45th Worldcon.  Member variously of OMPA (Off-trails Magazine Publishers Ass’n, serving awhile as its Official Editor), FAPA (Fantasy Am. Press Ass’n), The Cult (see G. Scithers note); best-known fanzines, Skyrack (rhyming with “beer hack” because, as RB well knew, it meant shire oak, but what a name), Ploy.  (Died 2006) [JH]
  • Born May 14, 1935 Peter J. Reed, 85. A Vonnegut specialist with a long history starting with Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.: The Vonnegut Chronicles: Interviews and Essays that he wrote with Marc Leeds, and Kurt Vonnegut: Images and Representations with Leeds again. He also wrote a handful of essays such as “Hurting ’til It Laughs: The Painful-Comic Science Fiction Stories of Kurt Vonnegut“ and “Kurt Vonnegut’s Bitter Fool: Kilgore Trout”. (CE)
  • Born May 14, 1944 George Lucas, 76. For better and worse I suppose, he created the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises. (Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade are fine. Several Star Wars films are.) And let’s not forget THX 1138. My fave works that he was involved in? LabyrinthRaiders of the Lost ArkThe Empire Strikes Back and Willow. Oh, and and The Young Indy Jones series. (CE)
  • Born May 14, 1947 Edward James, 73. Winner at Interaction of Best Related Non-Fiction Book for The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction which he did with Farah Mendlesohn. A companion volume, The Cambridge Companion to Fantasy Literature, was also edited with Mendlesohn. He was the editor of Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction from 1986 to 2001. (CE)
  • Born May 14, 1952 – Kathleen Ann Goonan, 68.  Author, Montessori certified teacher, professor at Georgia Tech (Ga. Inst. of Technology).  Three Nebula nominations; John W. Campbell Memorial Award for In War Times; first novel Queen City Jazz, a N.Y. Times Notable Book; six more novels, forty shorter stories, translated into French, German, Italian, Spanish; cover art for her collection Angels and You Dogs.  Reviews in SF EyeN.Y. Rev. SF.  John Clute caught her allusion to Julio Cortázar (1914-1984) and said of her Nanotech Cycle (QC Jazz the first published) that its heavy plotting only partially coats over the intellectual ferment of the whole.  [JH] 
  • Born May 14, 1968 Greg Davies, 52. He played King Hydroflaxq In the Twelfth Doctor story, “The Husbands of River Song“. A man who’s just a head. Literally. He’s also the Balloon Man in Teen Titans Go! To the Movies. (CE)

(11) SCALZI Q&A. It’s a good interview about a writer’s interaction with literature, but the New York Times’ headline has no relevance to any of his answers that I can see: “The Science Fiction Writer John Scalzi Readily Quits Reading”. (If I’m wrong, I’m sure you’ll let me know!)

Any comfort reads?

I reread James Clavell’s “Shogun” a lot when I travel; I tend to think of it as epic fantasy as I am unsure of its historical and cultural accuracy. Speaking of epic fantasy, Katherine Addison’s “The Goblin Emperor” is always a joy to reread; I leaned on it a lot when creating my own unready imperial ruler for the Interdependency series, the last book of which is out very soon now. And I always have at least one Susan Orlean book on my phone for when I’m stuck in the airport and in the mood for nonfiction; the current one I have at the ready is “The Library Book.” She writes books that are comforting and fascinating at the same time. That’s a good skill to have.

(12) TWO REVIEWS OF SNOWPIERCER. [Item by N.] I’m personally skeptical because the creators seemed to excise all the Bong Joon-ho-isms I enjoyed from the movie but it looks like they kept all the sociological critique. Will be interesting to see. 

The New York Times: “On Track for the Apocalypse, ‘Snowpiercer’ Comes to Television”.

… But the world that this “Snowpiercer” arrives in is one that has moved incrementally closer to the catastrophe that the series anticipates. Though the themes of the show may be more resonant now, the people who made “Snowpiercer” cannot be sure whether it will be more compelling or more terrifying to audiences as a result.The power of good science fiction, [Daveed] Diggs said, is a universality that extends beyond the moment in which it was created. “No matter what time we’re living in, it allows us to reflect on ourselves through a particular lens,” he said. “We certainly did not know that this would be the lens through which we’d be viewing our own show.”

“In TNT’s Series, Snowpiercer Is No Longer a Dark Prophesy but a Mirror”

… We are now coming up on two full months of quarantine here in the States, and though we are not exactly survivors aboard a 1,001-car high speed train careening around a frozen planet, it’s hard for dialogue like this not to resonate. Or for scenes depicting horrendous displays of classism to not gnaw at our collective conscience as we watch our ugly realities play out on a TV screen.

“Do you remember hugs? Do you remember leaving the house without a mask and gloves at the ready? Do you remember what it was like before?”

What happens when there is less to learn from the allegory than from reality itself? When simile becomes metaphor? It’s not that the society we live in is like the fictional world of Snowpiercer; it’s that the society we live in is Snowpiercer.

(13) LOOKING OVER YOUR SHOULDERS. The Boston Globe story “Brattle Book Shop is curating bookshelves for Zoom meetings and FaceTime hangouts” is probably paywalled, but this gives the essentials —

Friends and coworkers aren’t the only ones silently taking stock of what’s going on in the backgrounds of people’s daily virtual calls these days.

Staff at the Brattle Book Shop have also been scanning the scenes with a watchful eye. And as experts in the book trade, they’ve come to a conclusion: That shelf just beyond your upper torso? Yes, that one, with the torn edition of “Twilight” that’s next to the lilting fern. Perhaps it could use some touching up if it’s going to be on camera.

“Zoom calls: no one can see your legs,” store employees tweeted recently, “but everyone can see your apartment. We’re here to help, with the bookshelves at least.”

Like many businesses impacted by the spread of the coronavirus, Brattle Book Shop was forced to close its doors to walk-in customers back in early March. But to help fill the downtime while also staying connected to clientele both old and new, the downtown Boston business decided to tap into a niche market — one that’s been propelled by our newfound reliance on teleconferencing services like Skype, Zoom, and FaceTime.

In April, bookstore owner Ken Gloss and his team began offering to curate people’s shelves with hand-picked selections of books to display during video meetings. The service, staff says, can help add a pop of character to the otherwise disorganized backdrops being scrutinized by people on the other side of the computer screen.

To Gloss, having some aesthetically-pleasing spines perfectly arranged at eye level, or even a few well-known titles neatly stacked up for show, “offers a lot of prestige.”

“When you look at someone’s books, you can tell a lot about them,” he said. “Put back there the impression that you want to give.”

This concept of cleverly organizing backgrounds specifically for Zoom calls isn’t altogether novel, Gloss explained. It’s more of an inventive take on a familiar practice at the historic family-owned business.

For years, the bookstore has fielded requests from customers looking to decorate their shelves with carefully selected reading materials and antique-looking books, items that create a more homey atmosphere.

(14) GO BOOM FALL DOWN. “Spectacular demolition at German nuclear site” – BBC shares the video taken from multiple viewpoints.

Two cooling towers have been demolished in spectacular controlled explosions at a disused nuclear power plant in south-western Germany.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Alex and Mr Fluffkins” on Vimeo, Adeena Grubb and Andy Biddle discuss what happens to a man and his cat when the lockdown is finally over and they can go out.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/13/20 You Can’t Sleep ’Cause The World’s On Fire, Don’t Read Me If You’d Prefer The Shire, Techno Thriller

(1) FLIP THE SCRIPT. “James McAvoy to Lead ‘Sandman’ Audible Drama” says The Hollywood Reporter. Wait a second – Michael Sheen is going to be Lucifer?

James McAvoy is stepping into a dream role. The actor will voice star as Dream in Audible’s adaptation of The Sandman, the classic DC/Vertigo comic book written by Neil Gaiman.

McAvoy, known for playing Prof. X in four X-Men films, will lead a cast that also includes Riz Ahmed, Justin Vivian Bond as Desire, Arthur Darvill, Kat Dennings as Death, Taron Egerton, William Hope, Josie Lawrence, Miriam Margolyes as Despair, Samantha Morton, Bebe Neuwirth, Andy Serkis and Michael Sheen as Lucifer.

(2) NO MIDWESTCON IN 2020. Joel Zakem, who has attended 52 straight Midwestcons, nevertheless considers this a wise decision:  

After being held annually since 1950, Midwestcon 71, scheduled for June 25-28, 2020, in Cincinnati, OH., has unsurprisingly been cancelled. Everyone who has a hotel reservation should receive a cancellation notice with verification number from the hotel – no need to call them. Checks for pre-registrations (the only way to pre-reg fir Midwestcon) have not been cashed.

(3) DOOMSDAY BOOKS. The LA Times’ Martin Wolk tapped Emily St. John Mandel and other writers for their recommendations: “Essential end-of-the-world reading list offers a glimpse of the abyss”.

 …“I would not recommend reading ‘Station Eleven’ in the middle of a pandemic,” Mandel told the L.A. Times in an interview.

Yet many people are doing just that: The book is selling briskly just as Mandel’s new novel of financial disaster, “The Glass Hotel,” settles into the Los Angeles Times bestseller list. Mandel joins the L.A. Times Book Club on May 19 for a virtual discussion of these two eerily timely novels….

If you go: Book Club

Emily St. John Mandeljoins the L.A. Times Book Club in conversation with reporter Carolina A. Miranda.

When: 7 p.m. May 19

Where: Free virtual event livestreaming on the Los Angeles Times Facebook Page and YouTube.

More info: latimes.com/bookclub

(3.5) SFF JUSTIFIED. If it needs it. Esther Jones at The Conversation says “Science fiction builds mental resiliency in young readers”.  

Young people who are “hooked” on watching fantasy or reading science fiction may be on to something. Contrary to a common misperception that reading this genre is an unworthy practice, reading science fiction and fantasy may help young people cope, especially with the stress and anxiety of living through the COVID-19 pandemic.

I am a professor with research interests in the social, ethical and political messages in science fiction. In my book “Medicine and Ethics in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction,” I explore the ways science fiction promotes understanding of human differences and ethical thinking.

While many people may not consider science fiction, fantasy or speculative fiction to be “literary,” research shows that all fiction can generate critical thinking skills and emotional intelligence for young readers. Science fiction may have a power all its own….

(4) FROZEN AT HOME. The Walt Disney Animation Studios today released “I Am With You” — At Home With Olaf.

Wherever you may be, here’s a special message from Olaf’s home to yours. “I Am With You” Music and Lyrics Written at Home by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. Performed at Home by Josh Gad. Directed at Home by Dan Abraham.

(5) THE ROAD TO FURY. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Five years after the fourth Mad Max movie took audiences by storm, the New York Times film critic Kyle Buchanan (@kylebuchanan) interviewed dozens of crew members, producers, writers and stars to weave together a compelling picture of how Fury Road came to be. In “’Mad Max: Fury Road’: The Oral History of a Modern Action Classic”,  he charts the course of its production through quotes from Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, and writer/director George Miller.

…CHARLIZE THERON (Furiosa) I grew up on all the “Mad Max” movies — they’re very popular in South Africa. I remember being 12 and my dad letting me watch it with him. So I was like, “Oh yeah, I wanna be in a ‘Mad Max’ movie. Are you kidding me?”

[GEORGE] MILLER When someone is directing a film, they’re thinking about it every waking hour, and even processing it in their dreams. The problem is, if you’re a studio executive, you tend to think about it for 10 minutes on a Wednesday.

[GEORGE] MILLER When the ideas that you start off with are then comprehended by an audience at large out there, that’s ultimately what redeems the process for you. The Swahili storytellers have this quote: “The story has been told. If it was bad, it was my fault, because I am the storyteller. But if it was good, it belongs to everybody.” And that feeling of the story belonging to everybody is really the reward.

(6) FROM THE BATCAVE. Zach Baron, in “Robert Pattinson: A Dispatch From Isolation” in GQ, caught up with Pattinson last month as he stayed isolated in a London hotel room.  Pattinson says he’s living on food supplied by The Batman production until shooting resumes but isn’t doing any exercise.  He also says although he is in Christopher Nolan’s film Tenet, he can’t give anything away because he doesn’t understand the plot except that it doesn’t involve time travel.

…It’s possible that you couldn’t build a person more suited to this experience. Pattinson, who turned 34 in May, has spent his adult life separating himself from the rest of the world. He was 21 when he was cast in the first Twilight, as the lead vampire in what would become five increasingly popular movies about teen lust in the Pacific Northwest. The final installment of the franchise, which turned Pattinson and his costar, Kristen Stewart, into two of the more famous people in the world, came out in 2012 and grossed over $800 million worldwide. But by that time, he was already mostly gone.

(7) GOING FOR THE KO? It’s Reader Request time at John Scalzi’s Whatever. In “Reader Request Week 2020 #6: Pulling Punches in Criticism”, the reader’s question begins:

Do you ever hold back in your criticism of other artistic endeavors (movies for instance) out of fear or apprehension that it will open your own work to hostile/non constructive criticism and exclude you from future opportunities?

We already know what the answer is, but that doesn’t mean it’s not interesting to see Scalzi work it out.

(8) CAFFEINATED CARTOON. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Financial Times Reader.] In the May 8 Financial Times, behind a paywall, Neville Hawcock reviews Rick and Morty.

It could easily be so sweet, charming, whimsical.  An eccentric old scientist zips around the galaxy in his home-made flying saucer, accompanied by his grandson sidekick. Each cartoon episode brings a new alien peril and a new chance to prevail through pluck and ingenuity, You could be forgiven for imagining a cross between a Werther’s Original commercial and Star Trek.

Rick and Morty, however is anything but…

…That doesn’t mean it’s weary; it is consistently energetic, inventive, and witty, both in script and animation. To borrow a phrase from the late sci-fi writer Gardner Dozois, each 30-minute episode has a high bit-rate. Whereas some bingeable TV is like the unlimited cups of coffee you get in American diners, and endless warm wash, an evening with Rick and Morty has the jolting quality of an espresso spree.

(9) DOCTOR WHO FACTOID. Martin Morse Wooster also found this data point in Horatio Clare’s essay-review in the May 9 Financial Times.

The National Trust reports that while 30 percent of eight-to-11 year olds could not identify a magpie, 90 percent could spot a Dalek.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 13, 1994 The Crow premiered. It was directed by Alex Proyas, written by David J. Schow and John Shirley. It was produced by Jeff Most, Edward R. Pressman and Grant Hill.  It starred Brandon Lee in his final film appearance as he was killed in a tragic accident during filming. It’s based on James O’Barr’s The Crow comic book, and tells the story of Eric Draven (Lee), a rock musician who is revived to avenge the rape and murder of his fiancée, as well as his own death. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 13, 1876 – Harold De Lay.  Illustrated W.E.B. DuBois’ Quest of the Silver Fleece, pretty good since De Lay later did covers and interiors for Golden Fleece.  Five interiors for Frank Baum’s early Daughters of Destiny.  Four covers and thirty-eight interiors for Weird Tales, of Robert Bloch, Edmond Hamilton, Robert E. Howard, Henry Kuttner, Manly Wade Wellman, Jack Williamson; here’s one.  Blue Bolt and The Human Torch for Marvel while it was under Funnies, Inc.; Treasure Island for Target Comics.  (Died 1950) [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1937 Roger Zelazny. Where do I start? The Amber Chronicles are a favorite as is the Isle of The Dead, To Die in Italbar, and well, there’s very little by him that I can’t pick him and enjoy for a night’s reading. To my knowledge there’s only one thing he recorded reading and that’s a book he said was one of his favorite works, A Night in the Lonesome October. I understand that John’s going to have a choice remembrance of him for us. (Died 1995.) [CE]
  • Born May 13, 1937 – Rudolf Zengerle.  Pioneer of the Risszeichner (German, “crack markers”) for Perry Rhodan – illustrators who draw schematics of robots, ships, weapons.  Zengerle did six dozen; here’s a Grand Battleship of the Blues.  Speaking of series, PR has sold over two billion copies worldwide.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1941 – John Vermeulen.  Flemish author; also sailor, diver, glider, horseman.  First SF novel at age 15.  Historical novels of Hieronymus Bosch, Peter Brueghel the Elder, Mercator, Nostradamus, da Vinci, translated into German, Japanese.  A dozen SF novels, as many each of thrillers, plays, books for children & young adults, shorter stories.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1946 – Marv Wolfman. Comics, novelizations, animation, for Dark Horse, DC, Disney, Eclipse, Image, Marvel (Editor-in-Chief 1975-1976), many more.  Pioneered writing credits when the Comics Code Authority said “No wolfmen; remove” (as was the rule at the time), DC said “But the writer’s name is Wolfman”, CCA said “Let’s see the name credit, then”, after which everybody got one.  Inkpot Award, 1979; Jack Kirby Awards, 1985-1986 (for Crisis on Infinite Earths, with George Pérez); named in Fifty Who Made DC Great,1985; National Jewish Book Award, 2007 (for Homeland); Scribe Award, 2007 (for novel based on Superman Returns).  Recently, see Man and Superman (2019, with Claudio Castellini).  [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1949 Zoë Wanamaker, 71. She’s been Elle in amazing Raggedy Rawney which was a far better fantasy than Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone where she was Madame Hooch. And she was Cassandra in two Ninth Doctor stories,” The End of the World” and “New Earth”. [CE]
  • Born May 13, 1951 Gregory Frost, 69. His retelling of The Tain is marvelous. Pair it with Ciaran Carson and China Miéville’s takes on the same existing legend and remaking it through modern fiction writing. Fitcher’s Brides, his Bluebeard and Fitcher’s Bird fairy tales, is a fantastic novel though quite horrific

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) THINK OF SFF CONFINED TO A HAMSTER BALL. Is it possible that James Davis Nicoll found “Classic SF With Absolutely No Agenda Whatsoever…”? Uh, you’ve read his Tor.com posts before, haven’t you?

As happens from time to time, I recently noticed an author being subjected to complaints that their fiction has an “agenda,” that there are “political elements” in their story, that it touches on society, class, race, culture, gender, and history. As it happens, the calumniated author is one of those younger authors, someone who’s probably never owned a slide-rule or an IBM Selectric. Probably never had ink-well holes in their school desks. Undoubtedly, they may be missing context that I, a person of somewhat more advanced years, can provide…

(14) GOOD TO GO. “Inflatable e-scooter that fits in backpack unveiled”.

An inflatable e-scooter compact enough to be stored inside a commuter’s backpack has been unveiled in Japan.

The Poimo, developed by the University of Tokyo, can be inflated in just over a minute, using an electric pump.

The creators said they wanted to create a vehicle that minimised the potential for injury in the event of an accident.

However, experts say e-scooter rules still need to be clarified by the government before such modes of transport can be considered safe.

(15) I’LL BE MACK. “Scientists Make the World’s First Liquid Metal Lattice’. Tagline: “It’s like the Terminator, only much less murdery.”

Scientists from SUNY-Binghamton are developing new Terminator-like liquefying metals made from Field’s alloy. And in a fun twist, the lead researcher behind the study—which appears in the journal Additive Manufacturinghasn’t seen any films in the Terminator franchise.

“To be honest, I’ve never watched that movie!” Pu Zhang, a mechanical engineering professor, said in a statement. (It’s safe to assume he also missed out on The Secret World of Alex Mack.)

The term “additive manufacturing” refers broadly to technology like 3D printing, where you add material in order to build an item. That contrasts with subtractive manufacturing, like using a lathe and removing metal or wood in order to sculpt a final shape. But in this case, the liquid metal is used in a more complex process where a “shell skeleton” is 3D printed from rubber and metal and then filled with liquid metal lattice….

(16) HAZARD PAY. Casualties on the front lines of the culture war will get help: “In Settlement, Facebook To Pay $52 Million To Content Moderators With PTSD.

Facebook will pay $52 million to thousands of current and former contract workers who viewed and removed graphic and disturbing posts on the social media platform for a living, and consequently suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a settlement agreement announced on Tuesday between the tech giant and lawyers for the moderators.

Under the terms of the deal, more than 10,000 content moderators who worked for Facebook from sites in four states will each be eligible for $1,000 in cash. In addition, those diagnosed with psychological conditions related to their work as Facebook moderators can have medical treatment covered, as well as additional damages of up to $50,000 per person.

(17) HINTS FROM OUR AI OVERLORDS. A Harvard researcher finds “Predictive text systems change what we write”.

Study explores the effects of autocomplete features on human writing

When a human and an artificial intelligence system work together, who rubs off on whom? It’s long been thought that the more AI interacts with and learns from humans, the more human-like those systems become. But what if the reverse is happening? What if some AI systems are making humans more machine-like?

In a recent paper, researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) explored how predictive text systems — the programs on our phones and computers that suggest words or phrases in our text messages and email — change how we write. The researchers found that when people use these systems, their writing becomes more succinct, more predictable and less colorful (literally).

…“We’ve known for a while that these systems change how we write, in terms of speed and accuracy, but relatively little was known about how these systems change what we write,” said Kenneth Arnold, a PhD candidate at SEAS and first author of the paper.

Arnold, with co-authors Krysta Chauncey, of Charles River Analytics, and Krzysztof Gajos, the Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science at SEAS, ran experiments asking participants to write descriptive captions for photographs.

…“While, for the most part, people wrote more efficiently with predictive text systems, this may have come at the cost of thoughtfulness. These kinds of effects would never have been noticed by traditional ways of evaluating text entry system, which treat people like transcribing machines and ignore human thoughtfulness. Designers need to evaluate the systems that they make in a way that treats users more like whole people.”

(18) IT WASN’T CASABLANCA THEN. “Scientists Might’ve Found the Most Dangerous Place in Earth’s History” claims Yahoo! News.

100 million years ago, Earth was a terrifying place. That’s according to a new paper in ZooKeys, which analyzed fossils from an area in southeastern Morocco also known as the Kem Kem beds. It was here that prehistoric animals such as “cartilaginous and bony fishes, turtles, crocodyliforms, pterosaurs, and dinosaurs” used to freely roam and hunt….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. ScreenRant’s headline is the best reason to watch the video: “Blade Runner 2049 Honest Trailer Can’t Explain Why Dune Was Greenlit After This”.

Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve is due to return with another highly ambitious and cerebral – not to mention, expensive – sci-fi epic later this year in the form of Dune, the first of a planned two-part adaptation of Frank Herbert’s touchstone 1965 novel. It’s a peculiar move for Warner Bros. purely from a business perspective, considering how much money they lost on Villeneuve’s last costly, thought-provoking, sci-fi feature. So naturally, as you’d expect, Screen Junkies points that out in their latest video.

With marketing for Dune now underway ahead of its release in December (assuming it’s not delayed to 2021), Screen Junkies has gone and released an Honest Trailer for Blade Runner 2049

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Joel Zakem, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Rich Lynch, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

Pixel Scroll 4/15/20 The Scroll Won’t Roll Because The Mxyzptlks Took The Pxl-Klickms

(1) IMAGINARY PAPERS. The second issue of Imaginary Papers, a quarterly newsletter on science fiction worldbuilding, futures thinking, and imagination from the Center for Science and the Imagination, features writing from SF author Indrapramit Das and ecologist Jessie Rack. Here is a direct link. Also, you can also use this link to subscribe for future issues.

(2) MORE BRAM STOKER PLANS. The Horror Writers Association will stream the Bram Stoker Awards ceremony on HWA’s YouTube channel on April 18. Prior to the Awards, see some of the nominees read from their works.

Here’s the schedule so far (times are PST):
BLOCK 1 (5 p.m.):
Gemma Amor (First Novel) reading from Dear Laura
Eric J. Guignard (First Novel) reading from Doorways to the Deadeye

BLOCK 2 (5:15 p.m.):
Peter Adam Salomon (Young Adult Novel) reading from Eight Minutes, Thirty-Two Seconds
Kate Jonez (Fiction Collection) reading from Lady Bits

BLOCK 3 (5:30 p.m.):
Greg Chapman (Short Fiction) reading from “The Book of Last Words”
Gwendolyn Kiste (Short Fiction) reading from “The Eight People Who Murdered Me (Excerpt from Lucy Westenra’s Diary)”
John Kachuba (Nonfiction) reading from Shapeshifters: A History

BLOCK 4 (5:45 p.m.):
Eric J. Guignard (Anthology) reading from Pop the Clutch: Thrilling Tales of Rockabilly, Monsters, and Hot Rod Horror
Colleen Doran (Graphic Novel) reading from Neil Gaiman’s Snow, Glass, Apples

(3) DATLOW ON YOUTUBE. Dacre Stoker interviews Ellen Datlow, Editor of Echoes: The Saga Anthology of Ghost Stories, which made it on to the HWA Final Ballot for the 2020 Stoker Awards. Video hosted on the Horror Writers Association YouTube channel.

Other Stoker finalists interviewed on the HWA YouTube channel include Including Kaaron Warren, Greg Chapman, Caitlin Starling, John Langan, Kelly Robinson, and Tim Waggoner.

The website for StokerCon™ 2021 Denver is up and running! Click here to check it out.

(4) BUHLERT IN THE PAPER. Cora Buhlert says, “The local paper [Weser Kurier] did a profile about me, because I’m a Hugo finalist and those are thin on the ground in Germany, let alone in my area (Simone Heller and Marko Kloos are both from other parts of Germany).” It’s in German — “Wie eine Seckenhauserin den wichtigsten Science-Fiction-Preis abräumen könnte”. Here’s an excerpt rendered in English by Google Translate: 

…She is also one of the authors of the international blog Galactic Journey, which has also been nominated for the Hugo Award this year.

The clocks tick a little differently on the platform, strictly speaking 55 years before our time. Galactic Journey picks up on the events of the time – also with reference to the home of the authors. Cora Buhlert mentions, for example, that Werder Bremen just became German soccer champion in 1965. Science fiction does not always have to be geared towards the future: “Time travel has always been part of it,” says Buhlert.

Cora adds, “The other local paper (I live in the overlap area of the coverage of two newspapers) is also going to do an interview.”

(5) IN THE ZON. John Scalzi wrote a post about how his newly released book The Last Emperox ranked in various Amazon marketing categories – which is very well.

This elicited a comment from Rick Hellewell (a name I recognize from Jerry Pournelle’s blog) about a very interesting tool he’s put online, which is free to use. He explained:

If you want to look at the sales ranking, and see the ranking of all the Zon categories (you can have up to 10), try out my BKLNK site. This link https://www.bklnk.com/categories5.php will allow you get the info by using the ASIN or ISBN-10 numbers.

I built the BKLNK site for UBLs that can have Affiliate links for the proper Zon store automatically, then added the CATFIND (category finder) to see all the categories assigned to my books. Although the Zon allows you to have up to 10 categories (by special requires), you can’t see all 10 categories on the book’s product page. The CATFIND tool lets you see all categories (and sales rank) assigned to a book.

I’m in the middle of adding a new feature (called ‘Catalize’) that will grab the categories used by the top 25 books in a genre. I see that as a great marketing tool for indie publishers, as the authors can see the best categories they might use for their books. (You can look at any book with each tool.) The new ‘Catalize’ tool will be available by the end of the week.

Anyway, the entire site is free to use, and might be helpful to other authors. I built it for my own needs, but it has become useful for others.

Just as a test I plugged in the ID number for a Terry Pratchett novel – and that search returned all kinds of interesting information.

(6) BOOK TRADE SHOWS CANCELLED. The inevitable has finally occurred: “BookExpo, BookCon 2020 Events Canceled” reports Publishers Weekly.

After initially postponing BookExpo and BookCon 2020 from their original May 27–31 dates to July 22-26, Reedpop has canceled both events. The cancellation is the latest in a string of them affecting the biggest conferences and fairs in the book business worldwide, including the London Book Fair, the Bologna Children’s Book Fair (which is planning a virtual fair beginning May 4), and the ALA annual meeting and conference.

(7) AUSTRALIAN SFF AND FANHISTORY. Past Aussie Worldcon chairs David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss have been doing the Two Chairs Talking podcast for almost a year now. In Episode 24, Perry and David, and special guests W. H. Chong and Paul Carr, talk about what it was that drew them into reading science fiction and fantasy in the first place: “Kings of Infinite Space”.

In another recent episode they interviewed Carey Handfield, Bruce Gillespie and Rob Gerrand about their experience running the publishing house Norstrilia Press in the 1970s and 80s, concentrating on science fiction and science fiction criticism. They boosted the careers of Greg Egan and Gerald Murnane among others. That’s here: Episode 22: “The best publishing house in Old North Australia”. (There’s also a history of Norstrilia Press in the fanzine SF Commentary, available here.)

(8) BAD NEWS ON THE DOORSTEP. Newsweek has the“‘Ministry For The Future’ Cover Reveal: New Kim Stanley Robinson Set In ‘Blackest Utopia’ — Our Next 30 Years”. Click through for the cover.

Science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson builds intricate future societies in many of his books, exploring how we might emerge from the depravities of our current era to create a better future for our species. But in his upcoming novel, The Ministry for the Future, Robinson isn’t visiting a half-sunk New York City a hundred years from now (New York 2140), tracking Martian terraforming over a century (the Mars trilogy) or following artists as they build sculptures on 24th century Mercury (2312). Instead, The Ministry for the Future follows more immediate possible futures, as humanity is confronted with a global warming mass extinction event.

“In The Ministry for the Future I tried to describe the next thirty years going as well as I could believe it might happen, given where we are now,” Robinson told Newsweek. “That made it one of the blackest utopias ever written, I suppose, because it seems inevitable that we are in for an era of comprehensive and chaotic change.”

(9) PIP BAKER OBIT. Doctor Who writer Pip Baker (1928-2020) has died at the age of 91. Doctor Who News paid tribute:

Pip Baker, along with his wife and writing partner Jane, was one of the best-known writers from the mid 80’s era of Doctor Who, writing eleven episodes for the series. Together they created the Rani, a female Time Lord scientist who was brought to life so vividly by the late Kate O’Mara, as well a creating the companion Mel.

Pip and Jane Baker began writing together in the 1960s working on the films The Painted Smile, The Break, The Night of the Big Heat and Captain Nemo and the Underwater City. On Television, they worked on the children’s thriller Circus as well as episodes of Z-Cars and Space 1999….

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 15, 1944 The Monster Maker (originally titled The Devil’s Apprentice) premiered. It was directed by Sam Newfield and produced from a script written by Sigmund Neufeld, Lawrence Williams, Pierre Gendron and Martin Mooney. It starred J. Carrol Naish, Talla Birell, Wanda McKay and Ralph Morgan. It was largely ignored by critics at the time and it currently holds an extremely low three percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes among audience reviewers. You can see it here.
  • April 15, 1960 Teenage Zombies premiered. It was written and directed by Jerry Warren and starring Katherine Victor, Don Sullivan, Chuck Niles, and Warren’s then-wife and the film production manager Brianne Murphy. Warren wrote the screenplay under his pen name Jacques Lecoutier. It was on a double bill with The Incredible Petrified World. Interestingly enough, although the film’s credits include a 1957 copyright statement for G.B.M. Productions, the film was never registered for copyright, so it’s in the public domain. And that means you can watch it here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 15, 1922 Michael Ansara. Commander Kang in Trek’s “The Day of The Dove” as well as a lot of other genre work including a recurring role as Kane on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, multiple roles on I Dream of Jeannie andmyriad voicings of Victor Fries / Mr. Freeze in the Batman series. (Died 2013.)
  • Born April 15, 1933 Elizabeth Montgomery. She’s best remembered as Samantha Stephens on Bewitched. Other genre roles included being Lili in One Step Beyond’s “The Death Waltz” which you can watch here. She also had one-offs in The Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and voicing a Barmaid in the “Showdown” in Batman: The Animated Series. (Died 1995.)
  • Born April 15, 1937 Thomas F. Sutton. Comic book artist who’s best known for his contributions to Marvel Comics and  Warren Publishing’s line of black-and-white horror magazines. He’s particularly known as the first artist of the Vampirella series. He illustrated “Vampirella of Draculona”, the first story of which was written by Forrest J Ackerman. (Died 2002.)
  • Born April 15, 1941 Mal Dean. UK illustrator who, as Clute at EoSF notes, died tragically young of cancer. As Clute goes on, he is “best known for the work he did for New Worlds in the late 1960s and early 1970s; it was especially associated with the Jerry Cornelius stories by Michael Moorcock and others.” (Died 1974.)
  • Born April 15, 1949 Sharan Newman, 71. Author of the most excellent Guinevere trilogy (GuinevereChessboard Queen and Guinevere Evermore), a superb reinterpretation of the Arthurian saga. They’re available at the usual digital suspects as is her superb Catherine LeVendeur medieval mystery series. Alas her SF short stories are not. 
  • Born April 15, 1974 Jim C. Hines, 46. [Entry by Paul Weimer.] Writer, and blogger. Jim C. Hines’ first published novel was Goblin Quest, the tale of a nearsighted goblin runt and his pet fire-spider. Jim went on to write the Princess series, four books often described as a blend of Grimm’s Fairy Tales with Charlie’s Angels. He’s also the author of the Magic ex Libris books, my personal favorite, which follow the adventures of a magic-wielding librarian from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, who happens to have the same pet fire-spider lifted from the Goblin novels as his best friend. He’s currently writing his first foray into science fiction novels, the Janitors of the Post-Apocalypse series. Jim’s novels usually have the fun and humor dials set on medium to high. Jim is also an active blogger on a variety of topics and won the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2012.
  • Born April 15, 1990 Emma Watson, 30. Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter film franchise which lasted an entire decade. She was Belle in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, and the voice of Prince Pea in The Tale of Despereaux. 
  • Born April 15, 1997 Maisie Williams, 23. She made her professional acting debut as Arya Stark of Winterfell in Game of Thrones. She was Ashildr, a Viking woman of unique skills,  the principal character of “The Girl Who Died”, during the time of Twelfth Doctor. She is set to star as Wolfsbane in the forthcoming Marvel film New Mutants, due for release sometime this year provided the Plague doesn’t further delay it. 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) FREE FROM AUDIBLE. Free stories for kids of all ages. Audible Stories  is a free website where kids of all ages can listen to hundreds of Audible audio titles across six different languages—English, Spanish, French, German, Italian and Japanese. From classics to Harry Potter and other YA.

For as long as schools are closed, we’re open. Right now, kids everywhere can instantly stream an incredible collection of stories, including titles across six different languages, that will help them continue dreaming, learning, and just being kids.

All stories are free to stream on your desktop, laptop, phone or tablet.

Explore the collection, select a title and start listening.

It’s that easy.

(14) NEEDS A BETTER LAWYER. Heinlein proved “Jerry Is A Man” but “Bronx Zoo’s Happy the Elephant is not legally ‘a person,’ judge rules”.

Elephants are NOT people, too.

That was the determination of a judge who ruled that Happy the Elephant can’t be sprung from the Bronx Zoo because she’s not legally “a person,” it was revealed Wednesday.

Bronx Supreme Court Judge Alison Tuitt dismissed the NonHuman Rights Project’s petition to grant the 48-year-old pachyderm “legal personhood” in order to move her to a 2,300-acre sanctuary….

(15) POWERFUL MUTANT. “Scientists create mutant enzyme that recycles plastic bottles in hours”The Guardian has the story.

A mutant bacterial enzyme that breaks down plastic bottles for recycling in hours has been created by scientists.

The enzyme, originally discovered in a compost heap of leaves, reduced the bottles to chemical building blocks that were then used to make high-quality new bottles. Existing recycling technologies usually produce plastic only good enough for clothing and carpets.

The company behind the breakthrough, Carbios, said it was aiming for industrial-scale recycling within five years. It has partnered with major companies including Pepsi and L’Oréal to accelerate development. Independent experts called the new enzyme a major advance.

Billions of tonnes of plastic waste have polluted the planet, from the Arctic to the deepest ocean trench, and pose a particular risk to sea life. Campaigners say reducing the use of plastic is key, but the company said the strong, lightweight material was very useful and that true recycling was part of the solution.

The new enzyme was revealed in research published on Wednesday in the journal Nature. The work began with the screening of 100,000 micro-organisms for promising candidates, including the leaf compost bug, which was first discovered in 2012.

(16) BUS ROUTE 9¾. “Harry Potter buses used as free NHS transport”

Harry Potter-branded buses normally used to take fans to film studio tours are being offered as free transport for staff working in the NHS.

The buses will take them between three sites in Hertfordshire, and will have on-board social distancing rules.

Warner Bros and coach company Golden Tours have had to cancel all trips to the Leavesden studios where much of the Harry Potter filming took place.

The NHS said the move was a “wizard idea”.

“Our workforce has been depleted due to sickness or self-isolation and so it’s really important that those staff who are well, but have transport issues, can come back,” Paul da Gama, from the West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust, said.

(17) CAT IS OUT OF THE BAG. BBC reports “JK Rowling secretly buys childhood home”.

Harry Potter author JK Rowling has secretly bought her childhood home in Gloucestershire.

Renovation work is now taking place on Church Cottage in Tutshill, close to the banks of the River Severn.

The author lived there between the ages of nine and 18 and in 2011 bought the cottage through a property company in her married name.

She paid about £400,000 for the house, which is said to have inspired key elements of the young wizard’s story.

Land Registry records show in September 2011, Edinburgh-based Caernarfon Lettings Ltd, which lists the author’s husband Neil Murray as a director, bought Church Cottage.

The property was sold by BBC producer Julian Mercer, who himself had bought it off the Rowling family in 1995.

(18) ASTRAL METEOROLOGY. The BBC’s weather department reports that “The planets line up”. (“When the Moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter collides with Mars, then pieces of the planets will fly off into the stars…”)

You might get the chance to see something special in the sky in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Around pre-dawn or dawn, if you look towards the Moon from your garden or window, you may notice three other bright dots. These dots are actually Jupiter, Saturn and Mars.

Jupiter will be the brightest of the planets, as it shines 14 times brighter than Saturn or Mars. However the three planets will line up together just above the Moon and you should be able to see them all, even with the naked eye. While Jupiter will be the brightest, you may notice Mars with an orange glow and Saturn with a golden tinge. If you’ve got a telescope or even binoculars, you’ll be able to see the difference in the planets more clearly.

(19) LASHING OUT. On yesterday’s Daily Show (or as they’re calling it right now the Daily Social Distancing Show), host Trevor Noah listed a bunch of things Trump has promised to deliver, then said, “At this point Trump owes more pages than George R.R. Martin.” He continued on the Martin theme for the next several sentences. Hey, it’s not fair to build up a head of steam talking about Trump and then vent it on GRRM! (Begins around 9:25.)

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

Pixel Scroll 4/11/20 And The Auld Scrollangle Went Pixel Jangle All Along The Files Of The Royal Canal

(1) ONE WORD: PLASTIC! Cora Buhlert’s latest Galactic Journey contribution is: “[APRIL 10, 1965] FURNISHING THE HOME OF THE FUTURE: INTERIOR DESIGN FOR THE SPACE AGE”.

…But while the International Style may excel at furnishing office buildings, its minimalist purism does feel a little too cold and bland for the home. Thankfully, our Northern neighbours are on the case with furnishings that manage to be both modernist and cosy.

In the past three decades, Scandinavia has emerged as a source of beautiful and functional design to the point that Scandinavian Modern has become a recognisable style found in many homes in Europe (including my own) and beyond.

Traditionally, Scandinavian Modern has been associated with clean lines, neutral palettes and natural materials like wood, leather and wicker. A prime example is the beautiful “Hammock” chair by Danish designer Poul Kjærholm. However in recent times, Scandinavian designers have branched out and embraced materials like plastics as well as brighter colours….

(2) PREDICTING THE PRESENT. John Scalzi was interviewed by NPR’s Weekend Edition: “Set 1,500 Years From Now, ‘The Last Emperox’ Is Still Pretty Timely”.

Now, the scientists of Scalzi’s world knew the Flow was going to collapse — but they didn’t do anything about it. Why?

“Primarily wish fulfillment and greed,” he says. “The idea that, sure, this thing is going to happen. But is it really going to happen the way that the scientists and experts say it’s going to happen? And even if it is happening in that way, isn’t there a way that we can work it to our advantage so that when it finally does happen, we’ll still be OK while everybody else is kind of in trouble?”

(3) TIME ON YOUR HANDS? WIPE IT OFF. The pandemic is no joke, despite which McSweeney’s contributors are getting a lot of laughs out of it. Consider Scott Bolohan’s declaration “I Am Using My Free Time To Not Write A Novel”.

They say the best way to not write a novel is to not write every day. When you first wake up is a particularly good time to not write. But as I join billions of others around the world in quarantine, I worry my newfound free time is going to get in the way of not writing a novel….

(4) OUT THE WINDOW. And if Charles Stross ever writes a third Scottish near-future police procedural (following Halting State and Rule 34) it won’t be the one he planned: “Yet another novel I will no longer write”. But you can see an excerpt of what might have been.

…And the whole theme of this untitled novel was going to be: this is elite panic, and this is disaster capitalism, and this is what really happens during a zombie epidemic, and these things are not the same—

And then COVID-19 came along and basically rendered the whole thing unneccessary because we are all getting a real world crash-course in how we deal with people suffering from a viral pandemic, and we do not generally deal with them using shotguns and baseball bats even if they’re so contagious that contact might kill us.

Because—fuck my life—writing plausible near-future SF in the 21st century wasn’t hard enough already.

Anyway, let me leave you with the WARNING very rough, first draft, unpolished only existing fragment of what was intended to be The Lambda Functionary before COVID-19 buried it at the crossroads with a mouthful of garlic and a stake through its heart….

(5) EXPANDING HORIZONS. Drew Hayden Taylor is “Imagining an Indigenous science-fiction festival for the stay-home era” in the Toronto Globe and Mail. A good jumping off point for anyone interested in exploring indigenous SF.

This may come as a surprise, but self-isolating on a Central Ontario First Nation can be quite boring. Especially when you consider that B.C. (Before COVID-19), I would’ve been returning from the sun-drenched hills of Albuquerque, N.M., at this very moment, fresh from IndigiPop X, essentially an Indigenous Comicon. There, amidst as many as 2,000 other IndigiNerds, I would have been wallowing ecstatically in a pop culture smorgasbord of film, music, gaming and panels discussing topics as diverse as how to develop a superhero, developing storylines throughout a comic book series, exploring the implications of the effects archetypes in pop culture have on communities and individuals, and the crafting of costumes for cosplay and film … all with Indigenous themes. Like most other things, it was cancelled. And I wept.

But I don’t need an Indigenous science-fiction convention to explore all that. Sitting in my living room, bored silly, I have decided to celebrate my own sci-fi festival. It will have practically everything the one in Albuquerque would, except our sci-fi will be locally sourced.

(6) BUFFY VIDEO BUFFET. SYFY Wire reports “Buffy cast set for virtual Q&A”. There’s a free segment (see below). They’re also selling 2-minute live video chats with the celebrities.

…As entertainment conventions and film/TV productions around the world remain shut down under the coronavirus lockdown, some events are taking creative approaches to the situation. Some, like SXSW, are screening films with partners like Amazon. Others, like convention company Wizard World, are taking things 100 percent virtual.

One of these Wizard World Virtual Experiences is the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel event (not really a panel, since everyone’s going to be online) featuring a free 45-minute live video Q&A with castmembers James Marsters, Amber Benson, Clare Kramer, Elisabeth Röhm, Emma Caulfield, and Camden Toy. The moderated Q&A will stream on Twitch, Facebook Live, and YouTube.

Where otherwise fans may have lined up to get an autograph, they’ll now be able to pay for a few minutes of exclusive facetime with their actor of choice or get a recorded video message. They can also still get autographs (just shipped to their homes). As cons continue to adapt to the new normal of the pandemic, an all-online comic con doesn’t seem too far-fetched.

The Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel Q&A takes place on April 11 at 12:00 PM PDT.

From the Wizardworld site:

FREE Live Q&A: Take part in this free, interactive and moderated 45-minute live video Q&A with the cast of Buffy/Angel!  Livestream will be viewable on the Wizard World Virtual Twitch channel, Facebook Live, and YouTube.

(7) TALBOT MUNDY REMEMBERED. Michael Dirda whets readers’ appetite for a book newly in the public domain: “For fans of Indiana Jones and Dan Brown, an adventure story for the ages” in the Washington Post.

First published as a book in 1924 and thus out of copyright this year, Talbot Mundy’s “The Nine Unknown” is an occult thriller for fans of the Indiana Jones movies, Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code,” Rudyard Kipling’s “Kim” and, of course, Mundy’s other supernaturally inflected adventure classics, “King — of the Khyber Rifles” and “Om: The Secret of Ahbor Valley.” Set in India, the novel focuses on a secret society — the Nine Unknown — that has existed for centuries, accumulated immense wealth and used its esoteric powers to shape the course of history. As one character says, “Viceroys, kings, and all their pomp are side-shows.”

….Mundy’s “The Nine Unknown” is just one of several highly entertaining novels published in the United States in 1924 and now in the public domain. Let me also recommend Lord Dunsany’s beautifully written romantic fantasy “The King of Elfland’s Daughter,” P.C. Wren’s Foreign Legion swashbuckler, “Beau Geste,” Edgar Rice Burroughs’s “The Land That Time Forgot,” Francis Brett Young’s spooky “Cold Harbour,” and such golden-age mysteries as Edgar Wallace’s nostalgically kitschy “The Green Archer” and A.E.W. Mason’s “The House of the Arrow.” Any of these books will provide at least temporary respite from the nightmare in which we now live.

(8) HELP FOR SFWA MEMBERS. “SFWA Announces Resources for Writers Affected by COVID-19” at the SFWA Blog. Grants, medical assistance and dues relief are available to SFWA Members.

Mary Robinette Kowal, president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) today announced relief efforts to help members of the science-fiction and fantasy (SF/F) community affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including a combination of dues relief, grants, and other programs.

“These are unprecedented times,” Kowal said. “Many of our members are facing painful and difficult circumstances. For creative artists, in particular, the pandemic has brought the cancellation and suspension of much of our usual access to revenue. Uncertainty about the future is in the air, and bills continue to come due.”

Many SFWA members have seen their income sharply reduced, as publishers delay anthologies and novels, advertising vanishes in the flood of news, and public events like conventions and tours are canceled or postponed. Many bookstores and other distributors have shuttered, and readers have less money for buying books.

To respond to these challenges, SFWA today announced a series of measures to support its members….

(9) LADY DUNSANY DIES. Ireland’s Meath Chronicle has a familiar name in the obituaries: “Lady Dunsany dies from Covid-19 as son pays tribute to frontline workers”.

Lady Dunsany, Maria-Alice De Marsillac Plunkett, has died from Covid-19, her son, Randal Plunkett, announced tonight.

She was wife of the late Edward Plunkett, 20th Lord Dunsany, who died in 2011, and mother of the present Lord, the filmmaker and conservationalist, Randall.
The Brazilian-born architect is also survived by two children from her first marriage, and Randal’s younger brother, Oliver….

(10) HEATH OBIT. SYFY Wire reports:

Hilary Heath, the actress who co-starred with Vincent Price in the 1968 British-American cult horror hit Witchfinder General and also appeared on TV in The Avengers and Space:1999, has died of complications due to the coronavirus. She was 74.

The Hollywood Reporter obit includes this quote –

Following a turn in The Body Stealers (1969), she reunited with Price in Edgar Allan Poe’s The Oblong Box (1969) and Cry of the Banshee (1970).

“I adored Vincent,” she said during a 2010 panel discussion. “I played his mistress, his daughter and his wife. And he said, ‘If you ever play my mother, I’ll marry you.’ ” 

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 11, 1986 The Toxic Avenger was released nationally two years after it premiered in New York City. It directed by Michael Herz and Lloyd Kaufman (who is credited here as Samuel Weil) as written by Kaufman and Joe Ritter. It was the first installment of The Toxic Avenger franchise which would encompass three more films, a Marvel Comics series and a short lived children’s animated series. Mitch Kessler was the Toxic Avenger with his voice  provided by Kenneth Kessler. Critics at the time ranged in their opinions from disgusted to delighted with the mainstream ones decidedly not liking it; it currently holds an approval rating of 70% among  audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.  Kaufman and Herz are currently attached to a reboot.  

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 11, 1867 William Wallace Cook. Newspaper reporter and pulp writer who wrote four novels (The Fiction FactoryA Round Trip to the Year 2000, or A Flight Through Time, Cast Away at the Pole and Adrift in the Unknown, or Adventures in a Queer Realm) which were serialized in Argosy in the early part of the last century. Clute at EoSF says he was “was a crude writer, but is of interest for his attempts to combine adventure plots and Satire.” (Died 1933.)
  • Born April 11, 1920 Peter O’Donnell. Best remembered as the creator of Modesty Blaise who  of which EoSF says that her “agility and supple strength are sufficiently exceptional for her to be understood as a Superhero”.  He also wrote the screenplay of The Vengeance of She based on H. Rider Haggard’s Ayesha: The Return of She novel. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 11, 1941 Gene Szafran. He did the cover art for genre  books published by Bantam and Ballantine during the Sixties to the Eighties, including a series of Signet paperbacks of Robert A. Heinlein’s work including Farnham’s Freehold, The Green Hills of Earth, and Methusaleh’s Children. His art would garner him four Locus Awards. (Died 2011.)
  • Born April 11, 1949 Melanie Tem. She was the wife of genre author Steve Rasnic Tem. A prolific writer of both novels and short stories, she considered herself a dark fantasy writer, not a horror writer. Bryant, King and Simmonds all praised her writing. If I had to make recommends, I’d say start with Blood MoonWitch-Light (co-written with Nancy Holder) and Daughters done with her husband. ”The Man on the Ceiling” won her a World Fantasy Award.  She died of cancer which recurred after she’d been in remission. (Died 2015.)
  • Born April 11, 1952 James Patrick Kelly, 68. One of his best stories, “Solstice” is in Sterling’s Mirrorshades anthology. Of course, he’d win the Hugo Award for “Think Like a Dinosaur” and “1016 to 1”, both amazing pieces of writing! The Mariska Volochkova series is the one I would definitely recommend if you’ve not read it yet.
  • Born April 11, 1955 Julie Czerneda, 65. She won the Prix Aurora Award for her Company of Others novel. She’d also receive one for Short Form in English for her “Left Foot on A Blind Man” Story, both of these early in her career.  She has a long running series, The Clan Chronicles which is as sprawling as anything Martin conceived.
  • Born April 11, 1963 Gregory Keyes, 57. Best known for The Age of Unreason tetralogy, a steampunk and magical affair featuring Benjamin Franklin and Isaac Newton. He also wrote The Psi Corps Trilogy and has done a lot of other media tie-in fiction including Pacific RimStar WarsPlanet of The ApesIndependence Day and Pacific Rim
  • Born April 11, 1981 Matt Ryan, 39. He’s John Constantine in Constantine and the Arrowverse along with being regular cast now on Legends of Tomorrow starting with fourth season, as well as voicing him on Justice League Dark and the superb  Constantine: City of Demons.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Grant Snider’s advice —

(14) ON THE MARGINS. The New York Times asks “Can Comic Books Survive the Coronavirus Era?”

….The dollars at stake are substantial: in recent years, sales of comics and graphic novels in the United States and Canada have topped $1 billion annually, with printed comic books accounting for more than a third of that figure, according to an analysis by Comichron and ICv2, sites that track the comic business. Digital sales contribute about $100 million to that total.

But now, neither the people who make comic books nor the veteran observers of this industry see a quick solution; they cannot predict whether the current calamity will eradicate only some stores and publishers or an entire, decades-old model of doing business.

“I do think this is an extinction-level event,” said Heidi MacDonald, editor of The Beat, a comics culture website. “It’s life-changing for everyone. This is a whole industry that lived on very thin margins. There’s no port in this storm.”

Publishers of every size recognize that they are at risk. Dan Buckley, the president of Marvel Entertainment, which is home to Spider-Man, the X-Men and the Avengers, said in a statement, “This crisis is having an unprecedented impact on every aspect of our lives and requires patience and perseverance,” adding that he remained optimistic that comics “are here to stay.”

(15) DRUCKER APPRECIATION. In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna has an appreciation of Mort Drucker, including interviews with cartoonists Sergio Aragones and Tom Richmond and The Simpsons producer David Silverman.  Cavna recalls interviewing Drucker at a Reuben Awards ceremony in 2015 and asking him if “there was anyone he could not caricature.”  “My wife,” said Drucker.  “She’s too perfect to draw.” “Mort Drucker’s legendary Mad magazine caricatures spoofed Hollywood — and Hollywood loved them”.

(16) YOU ARE, NUMBER SIX. Paleymatters.org interviewed Alan Moore about The Prisoner TV series in 2018.

DB: What appealed to you about the show then, and what appeals to you about it now? How much of it did you understand initially as ergodic storytelling?

AM: First and foremost, it was the show’s experimentalism and radicalism that made the impact. Some of its sensibilities were already in the televisual air around then, with the wackier Avengers episodes and Anthony Newley’s Strange World of Gurney Slade (which I hadn’t then seen), but it was The Prisoner which seemed to most perfectly synthesise these exciting new elements and approaches into a coherent vehicle, a vehicle apparently aimed at affecting the mind of the viewer in ways that, outside of avant garde theatre and cinema, the general public hadn’t previously encountered.

I certainly didn’t understand it as ergodic storytelling at that point, and in fact have just had to look up the word “ergodic.” If I’m interpreting the term correctly, ergodic storytelling would be narratives that go through their permutations but always return to an underlying state of ongoing stability, an example being most serials and soap operas: disruptions to the underlying situation will provide the excitement and motivations for a given number of episodes, but once the disruption has been resolved the ongoing narrative will settle back to its basic state, ready for the next thrilling or amusing disruption. While The Prisoner seemed to hammer home its ergodic nature — with the bars slamming across McGoohan’s face at the end of each episode after another thwarted escape — it never really seemed to me to be playing to the comforting endless stasis of a show like, say, The Fugitive. It always seemed as if this was a narrative that was heading towards a fixed point and a conclusion.

David Bushman: Apparently many, many people in the U.K. were incensed by the ending — the reveal of Number 1, the Delphian nature, etc. Do you remember your initial reaction to the series finale?

Alan Moore: I imagine you’re almost certainly right about the scale of public anger aroused by the Gnostic extravagance of that final episode, but that wasn’t at all my experience as a thirteen-year-old in Northampton’s Boroughs neighborhood, a district not widely regarded for its intellectual acumen. Down in the Boroughs, everybody that I spoke to, children and adults both, seemed far more stimulated and intrigued by that final episode than they were infuriated….

(17) PURPOSE OF SFF. Recently it was Chandra K. Clarke’s turn to come up with “The Big Idea” at Whatever. The author says, “For my money, science fiction’s highest and best use is to inspire people to think about the future they want.” 

…When tech bros weren’t burning tens of millions of dollars on dubious inventions, such as Wi-Fi-enabled juicers, they were launching massive, disruptive “platforms” that had the capacity to be positive socioeconomic forces, with little thought (or care) for how they might be abused. Where it once it felt as if we were on the verge of some big breakthroughs and substantial progress, we now feel as if we’re scrambling to avoid disaster while fighting a rearguard action.

My response to this was to write Echoes of Another. In it, a well-meaning scientist invents a technology that can record and play back the neurological and physiological states associated with “flow”—that rare but lovely state of total focus and peak performance. She wants to be able to invoke flow on demand so that humanity can bring peak states to bear on our biggest problems. But before she’s able to do much with her prototype, it is stolen, copied, and put to a range of uses, both good and . . . well, really rather bad….

(18) SPACE CHOW. In WIRED, Nicola Twilley, interviews Ariel Ekblaw, head of the Space Exploration Initiative at the MIT Media Lab.  One section of the initiative is about what sort of hobbies will keep astronauts’ minds stimulated on long space voyages,  But she spends most of her article profiling Maggie Coblentz, head of the initiative’s gastronomic research division, about how reasonably tasty food can withstand space instead of “space gorp” astronauts usually eat. “Algae Caviar, Anyone? What We’ll Eat on the Journey to Mars”.

… The focus group gathered in a fluorescent-lit conference room decorated with large-format photos of lollipops and Buffalo wings and coiled spirals of salami. On the table, Coblentz had laid out small plastic cups of M&Ms, freeze-dried cheese bites, and Tang; these would serve as both snacks and design inspiration. Nespoli showed up with props of his own—some silvery foil packets from NASA’s current menu rotation; some cans filched from the Russian supplies and the European Space Agency, including one simply labeled SPACE FOOD; and a translucent plastic package filled with what looked like yellowish plugs of ear wax but were apparently dehydrated mashed potatoes. “Nobody goes to space for the food,” Coleman said.

(19) HARRY POTTER CRAFTS. These knitting kits will be the first in Hero Collector’s new handicrafts range. The collection is scheduled to launch Q3 2020, and starts with five kits:

  • Hogwarts Express Door Insulator: This kit contains everything you need to make a Hogwarts Express inspired door insulator. Finished item measures approx. 61cm long.
  • House Scarves: Show your house pride by knitting your own Hogwarts house scarf. Do you belong to Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff or Slytherin? Finished item measures at least 160 cm.
  • House Slouch Socks and Mittens: Need something more to keep you warm this winter? These house pride socks and mittens will do the trick! Or perhaps you have a house-elf that would be all too happy to receive them…
  • House Reversible Backpacks: Complete your house pride collection by creating a “magical” reversible backpack, perfect for carrying all your items to school (cauldrons excluded).
  • Teapot and Egg Cosies: For all the Mrs Weasley’s out there, you can now show your love for the Wizarding World by knitting these teapot and egg cosies.

(20) LIGHTS OUT. Space.com says mark your calendar: “We’re T-minus 4 years to the next Great American Solar Eclipse in 2024”.

The next Great North American Solar Eclipse is coming.

Four years from now, on Monday, April 8, 2024, a total eclipse of the sun will sweep across our continent. The dark shadow cone of the moon — known as the umbra — will trace out a path like a black crayon across parts of 15 states. An estimated 130 million people will either be positioned inside or within less than a day’s drive of the zone of the total eclipse. Almost all of North America, as well as Central America and a sliver of northwestern South America will see a partial eclipse. 

(21) OF RARE DEVICE. “Rube Goldberg Bar of Soap Challenge” on YouTube is a contest from Rube Goldberg, Inc. (run by Goldberg’s granddaughter, Jennifer George, in which contestants have to come up with Goldberg like- contraptions that place a bar of soap in someone’ hand in either 10 or 20 steps. Contest details here.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/28/20 No, For The Comte De La Scroll It Is Too Little; For Pixel, Too Much.

(1) TURNING THE TABLE. Scott Edelman volunteers to be the next interviewee on the Eating the Fantastic podcast if you’ll think of the questions. Thread starts here.

(2) BALTICON MOVES ONLINE. Michael Rafferty, now Chair, Virtual Balticon 54, and the Baltimore Science Fiction Society (BSFS) have announced “a free Virtual Balticon” over Memorial Day weekend.  

We decided this was the best way to bring the Balticon Community together without contributing to the spread of the illness.

Plans for Virtual Balticon are still in development….

The virtual convention will kick off Friday night May 22nd, 2020 and run until Monday afternoon.  Details on the schedule will be listed on the Balticon website (https://balticon.org).

The shift to a virtual convention this year presents a challenge to many of the artists and dealers who depend on sales made at Balticon for a substantial part of their income.  If you had planned on attending Balticon 54 and making purchases, please consider purchasing directly through the links we will provide at Balticon.org.

BSFS depends on memberships from Balticon for nearly all of its yearly budget, including the seed money for the next Balticon. While the Virtual Balticon will be free of charge, donations would be greatly appreciated.  As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, all donations to BSFS are tax-deductible (please contact your tax professionals for full details). Please visit http://www.bsfs.org/donate.htm to donate.

Lastly, we have been sending emails regarding pre-paid Balticon 54 memberships and reservations for Artist Alley, Dealers Room, or Art Show.  If you purchased one of these and have not yet received an email, please contact refunds@balticon.org.

(3) CHOSEN HORROR. At The Line-Up, “Ellen Datlow Recommends 13 Dark & Creepy Books to Read In the Time of COVID-19 (That Are Not Apocalyptic)” . The list includes:

The Library at Mount Char

By Scott Hawkins

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins is an accomplished debut novel. A group of neighborhood children orphaned simultaneously in a devastating event are taken in by a mysterious stranger who becomes their overbearing “father.” Whenever the reader thinks they know what will happen next, the story veers into another direction, perfectly controlled by the author. An excellent, very dark fantasy about the monstrousness of gods. It’s both horrifying and funny, and it hits every mark. 

(4) NGHI VO CONSIDERED. NPR reviewer Jessica P. Wick gets busy “Uncovering The Secrets Of A Fallen Ruler In ‘Empress Of Salt And Fortune'”.

“Accuracy above all things. You will never remember the great if you do not remember the small.”

What details are truly small? Who says they are? Ask yourself as you read The Empress of Salt and Fortune.

This book is not a happy ending book. This is a salt and fortune book: dangerous, subtle, unexpected and familiar, angry and ferocious and hopeful. Here, the truth is delicately, tenderly fished out of darkness. Ugliness is couched in exquisite poetry and the ordinary is finely-drawn; any object, however plain in purpose or silly in function, might be a relic of endurance and a witness to greatness. Nghi Vo’s story of women and intrigue at the end of one empire and beginning of another reveals in flashes that what you think you see isn’t all there is to see. It asks — and answers — the question: What is important? Who is important? Here, the old aphorism “all that glitters is not gold” is particularly apt.

Cleric Chih is on their way to the new Empress’s first Dragon Court, accompanied by their assistant Almost Brilliant (a “neixin” or talking hoopoe with mythical, generational recall of history), when word comes that all sites put under imperial lock during the previous Empress In-Yo’s reign have been declassified. Fortunately, they happen to be near Lake Scarlet, the haunted site of In-Yo’s exile from court “before the mammoth trampled the lion.”

They can’t resist the chance to be first to uncover Lake Scarlet’s secrets about this mysterious but important time in the empire’s history, and are surprised to find the residence there, though locked down, hasn’t been abandoned….

(5) XPRIZE GETS INVOLVED. The “Xprize Pandemic Alliance” intends “to bring the innovative power of the global crowd together with a powerful network of partners who can work together to solve the world’s greatest challenges and enable radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity.”

The Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination at UC San Diego is a proud founding member of the XPRIZE Pandemic Alliance, a data-powered global alliance to stop COVID-19. 

The Pandemic Alliance is a global coalition that combines the power of collaboration, competition, innovation, and radical thinking to accelerate solutions that can be applied to COVID-19 and future pandemics. We are focusing on dire areas such as accelerating solutions for remote care, provision of personal protective equipment to the front line, testing access, and food and medicine security for vulnerable populations. 

The Clarke Center joins the Alliance alongside the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Ending Pandemics, Intel, Illumina, IEEE Standards Association, MIT Solve, C2 International, Cloudbreak Health, the Foundation Botnar, McGill University, Nvidia, the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation, and the PPE Coalition, among others. Dr. Erik Viirre, Director of the Clarke Center, is Medical Director of the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE

(6) GEEZER WORLD. Cosmos declares “Jupiter is the most ancient planet in the solar system”.

…According to the modeling, Jupiter’s inner core grew to the equivalent of about 20 times the mass of the Earth within the first million years. The Sun was still a protostar at this stage, not having become dense enough for hydrogen fusion to begin.

The growth rate then slowed down, but continued, reaching about 50 times the mass of earth three million years later.

“Thus, Jupiter is the oldest planet of the solar system, and its solid core formed well before the solar nebula gas dissipated,” the team writes.

(7) GOODMAN OBIT. Minneapolis-area fan Dan Goodman (1943-2020) passed away March 25. He discovered fandom in New York City in 1962, participating in FISTFA (the city’s “fannish insurgents” group), before moving to the Bay Area and on to Los Angeles. He joined LASFS in 1969 and remained active for several years. When I knew him he worked as a typist at the IRS producing statutory notices of deficiency (which was no trivial job for a typist in those days). We were together in several APAs, not the least of which was the weekly APA-L. Goodman, Jack Harness, perhaps John Hertz,  and I don’t know who else, lived near downtown and helped each other get their contributions in, or delivered finished copies of the APA, and joked about being members of STUD – Shoving Things Under Doorways. He contributed to my early genzines, and even to an issue of File 770 — in #12 (1979) Dan’s article “Just the Facts” used his own fannish biography to satirically demonstrate how anyone bidding for a convention could simulate an impressive resume. Dan was one of several LASFSians who were attracted by Minneapolis’ very congenial fandom and moved there. He edited some issues of the Minn-stf’s newsletter, Einblatt. He was always strongly interested in fiction writing – I’m a little surprised that ISFDB reports only one published story, “The Oldest Religion” which appeared in Tales of the Unanticipated in 1988. His CaringBridge page indicates Dan’s health began a final decline early this year. In a wonderful gesture on February 8, they brought the Minn-stf meeting to him – about 10 people. It certainly sounds like he chose the right place to put down roots.

Dan Goodman (in yellow) at 1972 LASFS Board of Directors meeting. Others visible: (seated) Len Moffatt and Lois Newman; (standing) Elst Weinstein, and in the corner, Larry Niven.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 28, 1959 The Manster premiered. Shot in Japan, it was produced by George P. Breakston as directed by Breakston and Kenneth G. Crane. The screenplay was by Walter J. Sheldon. Sheldon’s script was based on Breakston’s story which he originally titled The Split, presumably because the process that created the monster gave it two heads. (It was marketed as The Split in areas.) It starred  Peter Dyneley, Jane Hylton, Tetsu Nakamura and Terri Zimmern. One reviewer at the time called it “a pathetic pot-boiler” and another noted that “the second head lolled around at random”. The audience at Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 30% rating. You can see it for yourself here.
  • March 28, 2003 Tremors: The Series premiered on Syfy. It followed three Tremors films and starred Michael Gross, Gladise Jimenez, Marcia Strassman and Victor Brown. Created by Brent Maddock and S.S. Wilson who brought us the entire Tremors franchise, it lasted but thirteen episodes. You can watch the first episode, “Feeding Frenzy” here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 28, 1922 A. Bertram Chandler. Did you ever hear of popcorn literature? Well the Australian-tinged space opera that was the universe of John Grimes was such. A very good starting place is the Baen Books omnibus of To The Galactic Rim which contains three novels and seven stories. If there’s a counterpart to him, it’d be I think Dominic Flandry who appeared in Anderson’s Technic History series. Oh, and I’ve revisited both to see if the Suck Fairy had dropped by. She hadn’t.  (Died 1984.)
  • Born March 28, 1932 Ron Soble. He played Wyatt Earp in the Trek episode, “Spectre of The Gun.” During his career, he showed up on a huge number of genre series that included Mission: ImpossibleThe Six Million Dollar ManShazamPlanet of The ApesFantasy IslandSalvage 1 and Knight Rider. His last genre role, weirdly enough, was playing Pablo Picasso in Pterodactyl Woman from Beverly Hills. (Died 2002.)
  • Born March 28, 1933 J. R. Hammond. Looking for companionable guides to H.G. Wells? Clute at EoSF has the scholar for you. He wrote three works that he recommends as being rather good (H G Wells: A Comprehensive Bibliography,  Herbert George Wells: An Annotated Bibliography of his Works and An H G Wells Companion: A Guide to the Novels, Romances and Short Stories). Clute says that his “tendency to provide sympathetic overviews, now as much as ever, is welcome.” (Died 2018.)
  • Born March 28, 1944 Ellen R. Weil. Wife of  Gary K. Wolfe. She wrote a number of works with him including the non-fiction study, Harlan Ellison: The Edge of Forever. They wrote a fascinating essay, “The Annihilation of Time: Science Fiction; Consumed by Shadows: Ellison and Hollywood”, which can be found in Harlan Ellison: Critical Insights. (Died 2000.)
  • Born March 28, 1946 Julia Jarman, 74. Author of a  children’s book series I like a lot, of which I’ll single out Time-Travelling Cat And The Egyptian GoddessThe Time-Travelling Cat and the Tudor Treasure and The Time-Travelling cat and the Viking Terror as the ones I like the best. There’s more in that series but those are my favorites. 
  • Born March 28, 1955 Reba McEntire, 65. Her first film role was playing Heather Gummer in Tremors. Since then, she’s done voice work as Betsy  the Cow in Charlotte’s Web and as Etta in The Land Before Time XIV: Journey of the Brave. She also voiced Artemis on the Disney Hercules series.
  • Born March 28, 1960 Chris Barrie, 60. He’s Lara Croft’s butler Hillary in the most excellent Tomb Raider franchise films. He also shows up on Red Dwarf  for twelve series as Arnold Rimmer, a series I’ve never quite grokked. He’s also one of the principal voice actors on Splitting Image which is not quite genre adjacent but oh so fun.
  • Born March 28, 1972 Nick Frost, 48. Yes, he really is named Nick Frost as he was born Nicholas John Frost. Befitting that, he was cast as Santa Claus in two Twelfth Doctor stories, “Death in Heaven” and “Last Christmas”. He’s done far more genre acting that I can retell here starting with the Spaced series and Shaun of The Dead (he’s close friends with Simon Pegg) to the superb Snow White and The Huntsman. He’s currently Gus in the forthcoming Truth Seekers, a sort of low budget comic ghost hunter series 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) A PSA YOU SHOULD FOLLOW. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] When the Silver Surfer tells you you should practice #SocialDistancingNow, you should probably listen. You really don’t want him to sic Galactus on you. “Silver Surfer Provides a PSA for Self-Quarantining” at CBR.com.

“Hello, True Believers! This is Norrin Radd, Sentinel of the Spaceways and Herald to Galactus, Devourer of Worlds,” begins Radd. “It is important to remember that while I wield the Power Cosmic, you do not and, as such, it is your responsibility to maintain your social distance during this pandemic.”

After delivering the PSA, the Surfer goes on to play electric guitar and sing his own theme song.

(12) LEADFOOT ON THE TIME ACCELERATOR. I thought it was interesting to read how developments from the coronavirus epidemic broke into John Scalzi’s plan to get away from the news while he was on the JoCo cruise: “The Last Best Time”.

(13) LIVE! With everything under quarantine, the nerd-folk duo doubleclicks compiled this list of upcoming live shows streamed directly to your computer screen: “We Recommend These Live Shows You Can Watch From Your House!”

Last week, the Doubleclicks streamed every day and played games, interviewed authors, recorded and even wrote songs! It was really fun, and you can watch all the videos we made up on this YouTube playlist. We’ll definitely do more streaming in the future, but we’re taking a little while to regroup and rest next week. However, we want to recommend some awesome livestreams you should check out, done by people we really enjoy and recommend!

(14) IS THE EFFECT MORE THAN YOU THINK? In the Washington Post, Ron Charles interviews Tom Perrotta, whose 2011 novel The Leftovers shows what happened to America three years after an apocalypse wipes out two percent of the American population. “Tom Perrotta’s ‘The Leftovers’ imagined 2 percent of the population disappearing. That could be our reality.”

…Speaking from his home outside of Boston, Perrotta says he was startled by some people’s scornful response to the premise of “The Leftovers.” “Two percent?” they said. “That’s nothing.”

But that would be 6.5 million Americans, and it could soon be this administration’s economic plan for the United States.

The horror of even contemplating a loss of that magnitude is staggering. “I look out my window, and it’s a beautiful day, and the water comes out of the faucet when I turn it on, and my car works,” Perrotta says. “The infrastructure of the world is intact, but there is this feeling of dread and grief that makes it feel entirely different than what it did a month ago. I wake up and as soon as I go downstairs and come in contact with any information, this heaviness just comes over me that I carry through the whole day. And I think, you know, 2 percent is a lot.”

As he suggested in “The Leftovers,” which was later adapted into an HBO series, Perrotta doubts anybody would survive such a “minor” apocalypse unscathed. “It may not be somebody in your first ring of acquaintances,” he says, “but it’ll be someone in the second and maybe someone right next to you. One of the things it does is really make you aware of just how connected we are.”

(15) SO MUCH FOR THAT. “OneWeb blames pandemic for collapse” says BBC.

OneWeb, the high-profile London-based satellite start-up, has filed for bankruptcy protection in the US.

The firm, which has been building a network to deliver broadband across the globe, blamed the Covid-19 crisis for its inability to secure new investment.

OneWeb issued a statement saying it was laying off most of its staff while it seeks a buyer for the company.

The start-up recently launched the 74th satellite in a constellation planned to total at least 648 spacecraft.

The idea is that this network will provide high-bandwidth, low-latency internet connections to any point on Earth, bar Antarctica.

Rumours of a collapse had been swirling around OneWeb this past week. It had raised £2.6bn to implement its project but experts in the space industry speculated that double this sum would probably be needed to complete the system.

The statement released by OneWeb in the early hours of Saturday, London time, said the company had been close to obtaining financing but that, “the process did not progress because of the financial impact and market turbulence related to the spread of Covid-19”.

(16) NOT SO DIFFERENT. “Neanderthals ate sharks and dolphins”. “You know when he bites sharks with his teeth, babe…”

Neanderthals were eating fish, mussels and seals at a site in present-day Portugal, according to a new study.

The research adds to mounting evidence that our evolutionary relatives may have relied on the sea for food just as much as ancient modern humans.

For decades, the ability to gather food from the sea and from rivers was seen as something unique to our own species.

Scientists found evidence for an intensive reliance on seafood at a Neanderthal site in southern Portugal.

Neanderthals living between 106,000 and 86,000 years ago at the cave of Figueira Brava near Setubal were eating mussels, crab, fish – including sharks, eels and sea bream – seabirds, dolphins and seals.

The research team, led by Dr João Zilhão from the University of Barcelona, Spain, found that marine food made up about 50% of the diet of the Figueira Brava Neanderthals. The other half came from terrestrial animals, such as deer, goats, horses, aurochs (ancient wild cattle) and tortoises.

(17) THE NATIVES ARE RESTLESS. “East Antarctica’s glaciers are stirring”.

Nasa says it has detected the first signs of significant melting in a swathe of glaciers in East Antarctica.

The region has long been considered stable and unaffected by some of the more dramatic changes occurring elsewhere on the continent.

But satellites have now shown that ice streams running into the ocean along one-eighth of the eastern coastline have thinned and sped up.

If this trend continues, it has consequences for future sea levels.

There is enough ice in the drainage basins in this sector of Antarctica to raise the height of the global oceans by 28m – if it were all to melt out.

“That’s the water equivalent to four Greenlands of ice,” said Catherine Walker from Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/25/20 Captain COVIDeo And His Pixel Scrollers

(1) BLAST FROM THE PRESENT. Gideon Marcus reports: “Good news! Literally — Galactic Journey (me, Lorelei, Janice, etc.) was featured in the Times of Israel (though the bit about Kaua’i is now up in the air!).” “Historian and family live in groovy 1965 bubble and do the time warp, again”.

Marcus is a 45-year-old space historian and science fiction aficionado from Vista, a city of around 100,000 less than an hour north of San Diego. He introduces himself as The Traveler, but for those unsure of exactly where he travels, a pasteboard next to the dais declares: “Time Travel — Just Ask Me.”

Many who attend his presentations at science fiction and fantasy conventions, public libraries, coffee houses, corporate auditoriums, and other venues actually do ask, Marcus tells The Times of Israel. They’re particularly interested, he says, in the way he bridges the present with the world of 55 years ago.

(2) WHY WE CAN’T HAVE INTERSTELLAR NICE THINGS.

(3) LIBERTYCON STILL GO. As of St. Patrick’s Day this was  their status on Facbook.

As of now, with LibertyCon being three months away, we do not anticipate a cancellation of the convention.

We, like every ConCom around the world (for it is not flat), will be monitoring the global health crisis and will be following the national guidelines as they are updated.

(4) LISTEN TO THE DOCTORS.

(5) ELFQUEST. “Get The Elfquest Coloring Book–For Free!”.

Everyone is doing their best to stay healthy and sane in these trying times as we face the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Remember the Kickstarter campaign that got our three gorgeous art books funded? One of the perks was an ElfQuest coloring book, full of wonderful Wendy Pini black-and-white line artwork. This book was only available through the Kickstarter campaign and is now rare as zwoot brains.

We’re now making it available to you here, for free, as a PDF file for you to print out and color to your heart’s content. We hope it’ll ease some of the cabin fever we’re all feeling – and that you’ll share your creations on social media.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 25, 1956Indestructible Man premiered. Based on a screenplay written by Vy Russell and Sue Dwiggins, it  was produced and directed by Jack Pollexfen,  and starred Lon Chaney, Jr., Ross Elliott and Robert Shayne. In some areas of the States, it was a double bill with Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It wasn’t at all liked by critics at the time, and the audience over at Rotten Tomatoes currently gives it an eight percent rating. You can see it here, and you can also see it with the Mystery Science Theater 3000 commentary thisaway. (MST3 version)

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 25, 1916 Jean Rogers. She played Dale Arden in 1936’s Flash Gordon serial and again in 1938’s Flash Gordon Goes To Mars serial. She’d be replaced by Carol Hughes for the third,  Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe,  when she said she wasn’t interested in doing it. She would go on to co-star with Boris Karloff in the horror film Night Key. (Died 1991.)
  • Born March 25, 1927 Sylvia Anderson. Film producer, writer, voice actress and costume designer, best known for her collaborations with Gerry Anderson on such Supermarionation series as ThunderbirdsSupercarFireball XL5 and Stingray. (Died 2016.)
  • Born March 25, 1930 — Patrick Troughton. The Second Doctor of who I’ll confess I’m not the most ardent fan of. The Fourth Doctor is my Doctor. Troughton had a long genre resume starting with Hamlet and Treasure Island early on before preceding to such works as Scars of Dracula and Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell later on. Telly wise, I see him on R.U.R. Radius playing a robot, on a Fifties Robin Hood show being that character, and on The Feathered Serpent. This is children’s series set in pre-Columbian Mexico and starring Patrick Troughton as the scheming High Priest Nasca. H’h. (Died 1987.)
  • Born March 25, 1939 D. C. Fontana. Script writer and story editor, best remembered  for her work on the originalTrek franchise. She also worked on Genesis IILogan’s Run, The Six Million Dollar Man and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Her final work was writing an episode for the fanfic known as Star Trek: New Voyages. (Died 2019.)
  • Born March 25, 1947 Paul Levinson, 73. The Silk Code novel by him would garner  the Locus Award for Best First Novel of 1999. It was the first novel in a series of novels and short stories featuring NYPD forensic detective Dr. Phil D’Amato who first appeared in Levinson’s “The Chronology Protection Case” novelette. You can purchase it from the usual digital sources. 
  • Born March 25, 1947 Elton John, 73. According to EoSF, “Rocket Man (I Think It’s Going to Be a Long Long Time)” is based on the  Bradbury “Rocket Man” short story. And they also note that “Dan Dare (Pilot of the Future)” (on Rock of the Westies, 1975) is a catchy song about the childhood taste in comics of the song’s lyricist Bernie Taupin.
  • Born March 25, 1958 Amy Pascal, 61. She gets Birthday honors for being responsible for bringing Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse to the screen. She also produced Spider-Man: Homecoming and Spider-Man: Far from Home as well the Ghostbusters film that’s best ignored. She is producing the yet untitled Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse sequel.
  • Born March 25, 1964 Kate DiCamillo, 56. She is one of only six people to win two Newbery Medals, for her novels The Tale of Despereaux and Flora & Ulysses. I’m not familiar with the latter work, but the former is a wonderful read that got turned into a remarkably good film as well. 

(8) LEAVE YOU HANGING. “Coronavirus: The Walking Dead to pause on penultimate episode”.

Fans of The Walking Dead must wait for the finale of the current series after producers revealed they had not been able to finish it because of Covid-19.

That means season 10 will end with its penultimate episode next month – but they aim to air the planned finale as a special episode later in the year.

AMC, which makes the zombie drama, said the pandemic had made it “impossible” to finish the episode on time.

Season 10 started airing last October and will now wrap up on 5 April.

“Current events have unfortunately made it impossible to complete post-production of The Walking Dead season 10 finale, so the current season will end with its 15th episode on April 5,” the network said.

When it does eventually arrive, the programme-makers have promised the finale will be “an epic, action-packed thriller with plenty of surprises”.

(9) ANOTHER DELAY. “‘Wonder Woman’ And ‘In The Heights’ Films Delayed During Coronavirus Outbreak”.

With movie theaters closed around the world because of the coronavirus pandemic, Warner Brothers is postponing the openings of some of its big summer movies, including Wonder Woman 1984. It was originally set for June 5. Now, it will hit theaters on Aug. 14.

Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot tweeted, “In these dark and scary times, I am looking forward to a brighter future ahead where we can share the power of cinema together again.” Warner Brothers is also postponing its animated movie Scoob, the thriller Malignant and its film version of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit Broadway musical In the Heights.

(10) CAUTION. “Coronavirus: Calls to protect great apes from threat of infection”.

Conservation experts are calling for urgent action to protect our closest living relatives, the great apes, from the threat of coronavirus.

New measures are needed to reduce the risk of wild gorillas, chimps and orangutans encountering the virus, scientists warn in a letter in Nature.

Habitat loss and poaching are big threats to the survival of great apes, but viruses are also a concern.

Scientists say the current outbreak warrants the utmost caution.

Infectious disease is now listed among the top three threats to some great ape groups.

“We do not know what the effect of the virus on them is and that means we have to take the precautionary principle and reduce the risk that they will get the virus,” said Prof Serge Wich of Liverpool John Moores University, UK, who is a co-signatory of the letter.

“That means halting tourism, which is happening in several countries already, reducing research, being very cautious with reintroduction programmes, but also potentially halting infrastructure and extractive projects in great ape habitats which bring people in closer contact with great apes and thus potentially spread this virus to them.”

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

Pixel Scroll 3/20/20 Four Feet Good — Six Feet Better!

(1) STAR DATING. Thanks to The Hollywood Reporter we have not missed these entries: “William Shatner Gives Captain’s Log Updates as Kirk Amid Coronavirus Standstill”.

It would appear William Shatner is not quite through with Capt. James T. Kirk after all. The actor has been giving Star Trek fans a treat via social media with Captain’s Log updates — a plot device, usually done for story exposition, on the famed sci-fi TV show and subsequent films. Shatner, like many around the world, is self-isolating during the coronavirus pandemic.

(2) NEBULA CONFERENCE. A plan will be shared at the end of the month said SFWA President Mary Robinette Kowal today in “An Update on the SFWA Nebula Conference”.

Last night, California announced that it was extending its shelter-in-place measures across the entire state. With the Nebula Conference scheduled to take place in Los Angeles at the end of May, we have been anticipating that move and working towards a positive solution which we had planned to announce on March 31st. I would like to keep to that timeline as it will enable us to complete some final details for what we believe will be a great conference. I would appreciate your patience until then.

Though the circumstances are distressing, the alterations that we are making to prioritize the health and safety of our attendees have offered us some exciting opportunities to make the Nebula Conference more accessible and inclusive. I know you may have questions about refunds and your hotel reservations. Please do not make any changes until we share with you our plan on March 31st, which will allow us to expand the range of options that you will have.

I look forward to speaking with you on March 31st.

(3) INDUSTRY POSTPONEMENTS. On the other hand, BookExpo has definitely moved reports Shelf Awareness:

BookExpo, Unbound and BookCon are being moved to July 22-26 from May 27-31, at the Javits Center in New York City.

Reedpop, the organizer of the events, explained: “We have been closely monitoring the outbreak of COVID-19 in New York and around the country. Following the guidance of health officials, we are now complying with the State’s request that large gatherings be postponed to ensure the well-being of everyone involved with our event.”

Event director Jenny Martin commented: “If the situation changes again between now and July, we will change along with it. We run events, we pivot proudly. Right now, we remain focused on the goal of serving our community this summer with those who want to do the same.”

(4) A LITTLE LIST. Discover magazine calls these the “10 Best Science Fiction Planets” – a 2008 post, but it’s news to me!

4. Mote Prime (1974): In Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle’s The Mote in God’s Eye, this is the homeworld of the Moties, a species that, due to cosmic happenstance, has been bottled up in its solar system ever since it evolved. Mote Prime is planet which has become a palimpsest, mutely testifying to the endless cycles of technological development and collapse experienced by the trapped Moties.

I’m quoting this one because a friend recently shared with me his quite definite ideas about the usage of palimpsest.

(5) PRODUCTION HALTED. TV Guide’s article includes news of many genre/related media going on hiatus: “Coronavirus Update: Every TV Show, Movie, Sport, and Major Event Canceled Due to COVID-19”. Here are a couple of excerpts – more at the link.

The Handmaid’s Tale

Deadline reports that production on Season 4 of The Handmaid’s Tale has been temporarily suspended due to concerns over the recent spread of COVID-19, aka coronavirus. The show, which films in Toronto, has yet to announce whether this suspension will delay its planned fall premiere date….

Disney+ Marvel Shows, including MCU spin-offs

On March 10, Disney+ shut down production on its Marvel series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which stars Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stanbecause the Czech Republic placed restrictions on travel and events, and closed its schools due to COVID-19 concerns. There is no word yet on if the show will revisit Prague to finish shooting.

On March 14, Variety reported Marvel Studios paused production on the rest of its Disney+ series, which includes Loki and WandaVision. For shows currently in production, the work will continue remotely.

(6) INFLUENTIAL CINEMA. The Criterion Channel is running a block of historic movies of the ”German Expressionism” school.

Physical reality warps and bends to fit the twisted psychological states on display in the cinema of the German expressionist movement of the 1920s. With their emphasis on exaggerated shadows, off-kilter camera angles, dreamlike sets, and macabre story lines, these movies paved the way for the aesthetics of both horror cinema and film noir, genres in which mood and atmosphere take precedence over realism. This selection of some of the movement’s key works includes the quintessential example of the style, the delirious nightmare THE CABINET OF DR. CALIGARI; F. W. Murnau’s shivery vampire classic NOSFERATU; and several masterpieces by Fritz Lang, who, following the success of works like METROPOLIS and M, would go on to become instrumental in importing expressionist aesthetics to the Hollywood of the 1930s and ’40s.

(7) ACCIO JAVA. Delish reports some clever branding: “This Harry Potter Inspired Coffee Comes In Flavors Fit For Your Favorite Wizards”.

…Etsy shop 9andthreequartersco has created coffee blends inspired by the magical world of Harry Potter. These coffees names are not only inspired by the books and movies, but so are the flavors.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 20, On this date, X Minus One’s “Protection” first aired. A man accidentally acquires an alien protector, who knows every disaster in the world before it happens. The script is by Ernest Kinoy.  The cast includes Bill Redfield, William Keane and Elliott Reed.  It written by Robert Sheckley.  It was a half-hour science fiction radio drama series that broadcast from April 24, 1955 to January 9, 1958 in various timeslots on NBC. You can hear it this episode here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 20, 1902 David Lasser. From 1929 to 1933, he was the Managing Editor of Gernsback’s Stellar Publishing Corporation. He edited Science Wonder Stories and Wonder Stories Quarterly, as well working with writers on both zines. Lasser also edited Gernsback’s Wonder Stories from June 1930 to October 1933. As near as I can tell, The Time Projector novel is his only genre work. (Died 1996.)
  • Born March 20, 1932 Jack Cady. He won the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the Bram Stoker Award, an impressive feat indeed. McDowell’s Ghost gives a fresh spin on the trope of seeing seeing a War Between The States ghost, and The Night We Buried Road Dog is another ghost story set in early Sixties Montana. Underland Press printed all of his superb short fiction into two volumes, Phantoms: Collected Writings, Volume 1 and Fathoms: Collected Writings, Volume 2. (Died 2004.)
  • Born March 20, 1948 Pamela Sargent, 72. She has three exemplary series of which I think the Seed trilogy, a unique take on intergenerational colony ships, is the one I like the best. The other two series, the Venus trilogy about a women determined to terraform that world at all costs is quite good also, and there is the Watchstar trilogy which I know nothing about. Nor have I read any of her one-off novels, so please do tell me about them. 
  • Born March 20, 1950 William Hurt, 70. He made his first film appearance as a troubled scientist in Ken Russell’s Altered States, a history-making film indeed. He’s next up as Doug Tate in Alice, a Woody Allen film. Breaking his run of weird roles, he shows in it’s that not bad really to be Lost in Space as Professor John Robinson. Dark City and the phenomenal role of Inspector Frank Bumstead follows for him. He was in A.I. Artificial Intelligence as Professor Allen Hobby and performed the character of William Marshal in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood, Up next was horror film Hellgate and his role as Warren Mills which spiked a lot watchable than The Host and Jebediah character  from Winter’s Tale as adapted from the Mark Helprin novel was interesting as wax the entire film. His final, to date that is, is in Avengers: Infinity War as Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross. Two series roles of notes, the first being in the SyFy Frank Herbert’s Dune as Duke Leto I Atreides. Confession: the digitised blue eyes bugged me so much that I couldn’t watch it. The other role worth noting is him as  Hrothgar in Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands
  • Born March 20, 1955 Nina Kiriki Hoffman, 65. Her first novel, The Thread That Binds the Bones, won the Bram Stoker Award for first novel. In addition, her short story “Trophy Wives” won a Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Other novels include The Silent Strength of Stones (a sequel to Thread), A Fistful of Sky, and A Stir of Bones. All are excellent. Most of her work has a strong sense of regionalism being set In either California or the Pacific Northwest. 
  • Born March 20, 1979 Freema Agyeman, 41. Best-known for playing Martha Jones in Doctor Who, companion to the Tenth Doctor. She reprised that role briefly in Torchwood. She voiced her character on The Infinite Quest, an animated Doctor Who serial. She was on Sense8 as Amanita Caplan. And some seventeen years ago, she was involved in a live production of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld’s Lords and Ladies held in Rollright Stone Circle Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. It was presented out of doors in the centre of two stone circles. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Macanudo wonders what if traditional witches gained access to Lovecraftian monsters?
  • Bizarro finds the … bright? … side of a visit to the pediatrician.
  • Reprinted in The Paris Review – “Krazy Kat Gets the Spanish Flu.”

(11) FREE READS. Apex Book Company is offering “Free eBooks for Your Covid-19 Social Distancing”.

Available until March 31st

Covid-19 is serious business. In an effort to control the spread of the virus, people across the world are being asked to practice social distancing and to stay home.

As part of that call, Apex Books and other publishers are providing free eBooks to help readers cope with the extended periods of inactivity and being housebound.

We hope this selection of Apex titles will help make this stressful time pass a little easier, a little quicker.

Books in the Covid-19 bundle:

  • Machine by Jennifer Pelland (dark SF)
  • Stay Crazy by Erica L. Satifka (dark SF)
  • Maze by J.M. McDermott (dark fantasy)
  • Beautiful Sorrows by Mercedes M. Yardley (horror)
  • Like Death by Tim Waggoner (horror)

(12) FREE MISS FISHER. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Even if you’ve already seen all the Miss Fisher Mysteries episodes, here’s your chance to see the new (releasing 3/23/2020) movie! Also starring David Tennant and (from The Good Wife/The Good Fight) Cush Jumbo (she played Luca Quinn)

Per a Miss F movie thread on Facebook from a few weeks back that I’m not sure where it is.

Starting today, we’re offering an extended 30-day free trial for new subscribers with code FREE30. Settle in for the streaming debut of Miss Fisher and The Crypt of Tears (3/23) and Deadwater Fell starring David Tennant and Cush Jumbo (4/6). Share the best TV from Britain and beyond.

Sign up at http://acorn.tv — use special code: FREE30

Daniel Dern notes: “I’m not sure whether they’d already been offering a 30-day free trial anyway. Their ‘Start Free Trial’ page asks for, but doesn’t seem to require, a promo code. Since we’ve already been subscribing to Acorn for a buncha months — watched/watching Murdoch Mysteries, The Good Karma Hospital, the Brokenwood Mysteries, Foyle’s War, etc.

“Mmm, they have Slings & Arrows, which we saw years ago, but if you haven’t, recommended! (‘…this darkly comic Canadian series follows the fortunes of a dysfunctional Shakespearean theatre troupe, exposing the high drama, scorching battles, and electrifying thrills that happen behind the scenes. Paul Gross (Tales of the City, Due South [AND The Republic Of Doyle – DPD]) leads an outstanding ensemble cast in ‘one of TV’s greatest shows’ (The A.V. Club).’”

(13) UNCLE TIMMY TRIBUTE. The Give Me Libertycon anthology E-ARC is available from Baen. The trade paperback will be released in June.

Since its inception, LibertyCon has been a science fiction convention like no other. Held annually in Chattanooga, Tennessee, LibertyCon attracts the best of the best science fiction and fantasy writers, working scientists, fans, and organizers. Now, join Baen Books as we celebrate this unique institution with an anthology of all-new fiction and nonfiction—and some filk songs, too! A new Honorverse story by David Weber, and stories by Timothy Zahn, David Drake, Larry Correia, Jody Lynn Nye, Mike Massa, Charles E. Gannon and Sarah A. Hoyt, David B. Coe, Kacey Ezell and Christopher L. Smith, Bill Fawcett, and more. Plus, nonfiction by Les Johnson, filk (science fiction folk) songs by Gray Rinehart.

A portion of the sales will fund a scholarship set up in the name of superfan, TVA engineer, and LibertyCon founder Richard T. “Uncle Timmy” Bolgeo.

(14) SUPER-ROOMBA. “Coronavirus: Robots use light beams to zap hospital viruses”.

“Please leave the room, close the door and start a disinfection,” says a voice from the robot.

“It says it in Chinese as well now,” Simon Ellison, vice president of UVD Robots, tells me as he demonstrates the machine.

Through a glass window we watch as the self-driving machine navigates a mock-hospital room, where it kills microbes with a zap of ultraviolet light.

“We had been growing the business at quite a high pace – but the coronavirus has kind of rocketed the demand,” says chief executive, Per Juul Nielsen.

He says “truckloads” of robots have been shipped to China, in particular Wuhan. Sales elsewhere in Asia, and Europe are also up.

…Glowing like light sabres, eight bulbs emit concentrated UV-C ultraviolet light. This destroys bacteria, viruses and other harmful microbes by damaging their DNA and RNA, so they can’t multiply.

It’s also hazardous to humans, so we wait outside. The job is done in 10-20 minutes. Afterwards there’s a smell, much like burned hair

“There are a lot of problematic organisms that give rise to infections,” explains Prof Hans Jørn Kolmos, a professor of clinical microbiology, at the University of Southern Denmark, which helped develop the robot.

“If you apply a proper dose of ultraviolet light in a proper period of time, then you can be pretty sure that you get rid of your organism.”

(15) COURTSHIP RITE. “Vampire bats ‘French kiss with blood’ to form lasting bonds”.

Vampire bats establish friendships by sharing regurgitated blood with their neighbours in a “kind of horrifying French kiss”, a new study says.

Researchers observing the mammals said their sharing behaviours appeared to be an important aspect of their bonding.

(16) LOST MOON. “Coronavirus: Nasa’s Moon plans take a hit”.

The fall-out from the coronavirus crisis is even being felt in space.

Rising infection rates near key technical centres in Louisiana and Mississippi mean the US space agency is suspending production and testing of its Moon rocket and capsule systems.

…Nasa said it had no choice but to suspend work on the construction of the rocket, called the Space Launch System, and the capsule, known as Orion.

The Stennis Space Center in Mississippi has had one confirmed infection among its staff, and although the Michoud Assembly Facility in Louisiana hasn’t yet had a COVID-19 case – growing infection rates in the communities around both complexes means a shut-down is the only sensible option.

(17) CORONAVIRUS ADVICE. This is how you get to be a 2000-year-old man. “Don’t Be A Spreader,” a message from Mel Brooks’ son.

(18) CHANGES IN STORE. John Scalzi is among the writers contributing the the Washington Post’s speculative“After the Pandemic”. As he framed it at Whatever –

The folks over at the Washington Post have put together a piece on how the world will change after this pandemic — not in the huge ways, but in the smaller, day-to-day ways — and they asked me to write something for it. I did a piece on personal greetings, because, as it happens, it was a matter of some discussion on the cruise I just came back from.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/16/20 The Pixels Are Best, I Wouldn’t Scroll Tuppence For All Of The Rest

Everyone would be happy for a diversion from coronavirus stories, I’m sure — I’ll try and strike a better balance tomorrow.

(1) INTERRUPTING THE FLOW. John Scalzi shared some “Important News About The Last Emperox Tour” – it’s not happening.

So, let’s get right to it, folks: The book tour for The Last Emperox has to be cancelled.

Why? Well, I’m pretty sure you know why:

1. There’s a global pandemic going on as we speak.

2. Gathering in groups is not a great idea.

3. In a lot of the places where my tour stops are, gathering in large groups is currently not allowed….

(2) NO FILKONTARIO. Sally Headford, chair of FilKONtario 30, sent this message to members cancelling the con, which was to have taken place in Markham, Ontario (Canada), from April 26-29: “An Important Message From the FilKONtario ConCom”.

We know that it will come as no surprise to any of you to hear that we have decided that we have to cancel this year’s FKO.

While we may have been able to wait a while longer and see how things develop, we felt that it was our responsibility to make a decision and inform everyone sooner, rather than later, in the hopes that people are able to change their plans

We love our community, and deeply regret cancelling. However, we don’t feel that getting together at the height of a global pandemic, to sing in a closed environment, is in the best interests of that community. I’ll say no more on that point, as I am sure you are all as aware of the factors involved as we are……..

(3) MARCON. Likewise, Marcon 55, scheduled for May 8-10 in Columbus, OH “is cancelled due to government regulations about health concerns.”  Chair Kim Williams announced:

It’s official: This morning I received the email from the hotel honoring the Force Majeure clause in our contract.

To our members: your continued support is incredible. Without your attendance, this event could not have happened for the past 54 years….

(4) UNDERSTANDING CORONAVIRUS. SF2 Concatenation has advance postedJonathan Cowie’s “SARS-CoV-2, COVD-19 and the SF community. A briefing”, part of its April 20 issue. It is an overview of the science behind the virus and related disease.

…The current SARS-CoV-2 outbreak is now affecting the national and international science fiction community.  Already some SF fans living in northern Italy have experienced a few weeks of self-isolation with all but necessary travel banned by law under penalty of a three month jail sentence.  Descriptions of life from these have included as if being in an SF film.  Meanwhile, as the virus spreads, and cases of the resulting disease (COVID-19) mount, questions are being asked as to the viability of some forthcoming SF events: some at the time of writing (March 2020) have already been cancelled.  It therefore may be useful to have a basic, preliminary briefing on the science and likely fan impacts that goes a little beyond the arguably cautious, limited statements some authorities have made.  This is an on-going situation, so irrespective of the below, it is always best to seek guidance from regional health authorities and international bodies as well as, of course, your own clinician….

His qualifications for writing the post are —

Jonathan Cowie is an environmental scientist who has had a career in science communication, including science publishing and policy, working primarily for UK learned biological societies.  Then in the early 2000s he turned to focus on climate change concerns: principally the Earth system, biological and human ecological impacts.  Among other things, including writing climate change university textbooks, and his 2009 online essay, ‘Can we beat the climate crunch‘ has been somewhat prescient as demonstrated from subsequent work by others.  Since the mid-2010s he has shifted his attention to the Earth system and the co-evolution of life and planet.  Of passing relevance to this briefing, in his mid-1970s, pre-college gap period he spent 18 months working at NIRD as a junior technician.  The former National Institute for Research into Dairying was not hidden in a remote area in Nevada, concealed in the sub-basements of a legitimate Department of Agriculture research station, but was a genuine MAFF Research Institute attached to the University of Reading.  His work there included that in its SPF and Germ Free Units. One of the outputs of this was providing Specific Pathogen Free eggs for children in isolation undergoing bone marrow transplantation.  He has therefore kind of done the Andromeda Strain thing.

(5) HOME MOVIES. Via Slashdot, “Universal Makes Movies Now Playing in Theaters Available Online”.

Universal said that by Friday recently released films like “The Invisible Man,” “The Hunt” and “Emma” will be available for digital rental for $19.99 in the U.S., or the equivalent value in overseas markets. Paying the rental fee will allow customers 48 hours to watch the movie. In an even bolder move, Universal also said “Trolls World Tour” will open simultaneously in theaters and at home on April 10. Universal released “The Hunt” in theaters over the weekend while “The Invisible Man” and “Emma” both came out late last month. Costing just $7 million to make, “The Invisible Man” has already had a successful run in theaters, grossing $122.4 million globally in three weekends.

(6) POSTER CHILDREN. PropStore displays lots of great art in “Featured Lots | Cinema Poster Live Auction March 2020”.

This year’s Cinema Poster Live Auction has over 300 posters, including an amazing selection of posters and original artwork from the collections of well-known comic-art artist Jock, Academy Award®-winning special effects cinematographer, Richard Edlund, former Lucasfilm Executive and Assistant Director Howard Kazanjian, and so much more!

So, sit back, relax, and get up-close and personal with some of our featured lots from the auction…

Here’s one example:

US One-Sheet Poster, INVASION OF THE SAUCER-MEN (1957)

“See Earth attacked by flying saucers! See teenagers vs. the saucer men!”. Examples of classic 1950’s B-movie science fiction don’t come better than this superb 1957 country of origin US One-Sheet for Samuel Z. Arkoff’s 1957 production “Invasion of the Saucer Men”. Truly outstanding Albert Kallis artwork that features the alien “cabbage head” invaders from space. Originally folded, this is now presented linen-backed with light restoration and it looks ‘out of this world’. Any paper ephemera from this movie is scarce and far more difficult to obtain than other examples from the more famous 1950s horror/sci-fi titles as it played in far fewer theaters than Forbidden Planet, The Day the Earth Stood Still, or other more mainstream science fiction titles.

Artist: Albert Kallis

Estimate: £3,000 – 5,000

(7) THE STORY OF THE FUTURE. In “The Big Idea: Ann VanderMeer” at Whatever, she explains “The goal: To use storytelling to intrigue and inspire the public about our possible futures, brought about by the work XPRIZE is doing today.”

…We face many challenges in the modern world, what with climate change, health issues, global conflicts, access to education, and poverty. At XPRIZE, people are working together to find solutions for the future. And the stories being expressed with the XPRIZE anthologies give rise to the imagination. Indeed, storytelling is often used for applied creativity in problem solving.

The relationship between science fiction stories and actual science has always been there. Many scientists who became involved in the Space Program at NASA were early readers of science fiction and were inspired to make a career of science. It’s not just that certain technologies and ideas that originated from science fiction stories become real in our modern day, but also that some SF readers go on to pursue careers in the sciences and make an impact in the world.

I was first approached last year to edit the Current Futures anthology to promote World Oceans Day. I had the opportunity to bring in new voices and work with other writers that I knew and admired. It was a dream project and I was thrilled to see writers like Rochita Loenen-Ruiz, Deborah Biancotti and Karen Lord get excited about stories and work with them again. I was also thrilled to work with other writers for the first time, including Malka Older, Madeline Ashby and Gu Shi….

(8) TOOTHSOME FICTION. Vanity Fair interviews the author of Sharks in the Time of Saviors: “How Kawai Strong Washburn Opened Up the Legends of Hawaii for Mainlanders”.

Were you very conscious of balancing those spiritual or fantastical elements with realistic fiction?

I love “genre” fiction like speculative and fantasy fiction. Those are fun books to read, but a lot of times a deeper exploration of the human condition is lacking. So while I really enjoy the freedom of genre fiction—you can push the boundaries of a story in interesting ways—I wanted to make it feel like something that was still believable. I was very concerned about integrating these myths and legends in a way that felt experienced by the characters. I didn’t want to reinforce stereotypes about how Hawaii is some sort of exotic land. I tried to make the “magical” elements feel more realistic so that readers wonder if things are really happening or characters are just imagining them.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 16, 1961 The Absent-minded Professor premiered. Yes, it’s genre at least as Disney defined it. It was based on the short story “A Situation of Gravity” by Samuel W. Taylor which was originally published in the May 22, 1943 issue of Liberty magazine, a magazine of religious freedom. It was directed by Robert Stevenson, and starred Fred MacMurray as Professor Ned Brainard. It holds a good 63% audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 16, 1883 Sonia Greene. Pulp writer and amateur press publisher who underwrote several fanzines in the early twentieth century. Wiki says she was a president of the United Amateur Press Association but I can’t confirm that elsewhere. And she was married to Lovecraft for two years. (Died 1972.)
  • Born March 16, 1900 Cyril Hume. He was an amazingly prolific screenplay writer with twenty-nine credits from 1924 to 1966 including The Wife of the Centaur (a lost film which has but has but a few scraps left), Tarzan Escapes, Tarzan the Ape Man, The Invisible Boy and Forbidden Planet. (Died 1966.)
  • Born March 16, 1920 Leo McKern. He shows up in a recurring role as Number Two on The Prisoner in  “The Chimes of Big Ben”, “Once Upon a Time” and “Fall Out”. Other genre appearances include Police Inspector McGill in X the Unknown, Bill Macguire in The Day the Earth Caught Fire, Professor Moriarty in The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’ Smarter Brother, The Voice of Gwent in “The Infernal Machine” episode of Space: 1999. (Died 2002.)
  • Born March 16, 1929 Ehren M. Ehly. This was the alias of Egyptian-American author Moreen Le Fleming Ehly. Her first novel, Obelisk, followed shortly by Totem. Her primary influence was H. Rider Haggard of which she said in interviews that was impressed by Haggard’s novel She at an early age. If you like horror written in a decided pulp style, I think you’ll appreciate her. (Died 2012)
  • Born March 16, 1929 A. K. Ramanujan. I’m going to recommend his Folktales from India, Oral Tales from Twenty Indian Languages as essential reading if you’re interested in the rich tradition of the Indian subcontinent. Two of his stories show up in genre anthologies, “The Magician and His Disciple“ in Jack Zipes’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: An Anthology of Magical Tales and “Sukhu and Dukhu“ in Heidi Stemple and Jane Yolen’s Mirror, Mirror. (Died 1993.)
  • Born March 16, 1961 Todd McFarlane, 59. Best-known for his work on The Amazing Spider-Man and Spawn.
  • Born March 16, 1971 Alan Tudyk, 49. Hoban “Wash” Washburne in the Firefly universe whose death I’m still pissed about. Wat in A Knight’s Tale. (Chortle. Is it genre? Who cares, it’s a great film.)  He’s K-2SO in Rogue One and yes, he does both the voice and motion capture. Impressive. He also had a recurring role on Dollhose as Alpha, he voiced a number of characters in the Young Justice series streaming on DC Universe, and he was a very irritating Mr. Nobody on the Doom Patrol series.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) WELL, THERE YOU HAVE IT. The highly scientific BBC Radio 4 “Out of the Ordinary” series has determined “Aliens are the size of polar bears (probably)”.

There are millions of planets out there that could contain intelligent life. We can’t look at them all, so which should we focus on? Using nothing but statistics, astronomer Fergus Simpson predicts the aliens will be living on small, dim planets, they’ll have small populations, big bodies, and will be technologically backward.

This goes against many astronomers’ working assumption that the earth is typical of inhabited planets – and that our sun is an ordinary star in an ordinary galaxy. Fergus argues that this is an example of the “fallacy of mediocrity” which we fall for time and time again, whether it’s in our assumptions about gym membership, taxi drivers, or train overcrowding.

(13) WAITING FOR… BBC reports — “Coronavirus: Daniel Radcliffe play off as entertainment activity winds down”.

Daniel Radcliffe’s new play Endgame has become the first major London production to be cancelled in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Samuel Beckett play started at the Old Vic theatre in January and had been due to run until 28 March.

The venue said it was scrapping the final two weeks “with great sadness”.

It comes as a long list of other plays, TV shows, gigs and movies have postponed performances and film shoots as the virus continues to spread.

Citing travel and other restrictions, the Old Vic said it was “becoming increasingly impractical to sustain business as usual at our theatre”.

The show also starred Alan Cumming, Jane Horrocks and Karl Johnson.

The theatre said: “We are very sympathetic to people’s personal circumstances, as we are to the audiences who are still excited to visit the theatre and see our productions. We are also extremely aware of our employees’ financial dependence on work being presented and tickets being purchased.”

The theatre warned that giving full refunds for all lost performances would be “financially devastating for us”, so asked ticket-holders to consider the ticket price as a donation.

In return, those who do not ask for their money back will receive a filmed recording of the play from earlier in the run and a private video message of appreciation from the cast.

Meanwhile, the Young Vic theatre has cancelled all remaining performances of Nora: A Doll’s House.

(14) NEW TECH TO THE RESCUE. “Coronavirus: 3D printers save hospital with valves”.

A 3D-printer company in Italy has designed and printed 100 life-saving respirator valves in 24 hours for a hospital that had run out of them.

The valve connects patients in intensive care to breathing machines.

The hospital, in Brescia, had 250 coronavirus patients in intensive care and the valves are designed to be used for a maximum of eight hours at a time.

The 3D-printed version cost less than €1 (90p) each to produce and the prototype took three hours to design.

(15) SEATS WITHOUT BUTTS. The New York Times says these are the times that try a theater owner’s soul — “Movie Crowds Stay Away. Theaters Hope It’s Not for Good.”

For most of last week, movie theater executives clung grimly on.

At issue, among other things, was CinemaCon, an annual Las Vegas event intended to bolster the most fragile part of the film business: leaving the house, buying a ticket and sitting in the dark with strangers to watch stories unfold on big screens. The National Association of Theater Owners was under pressure to call off the convention because of the coronavirus pandemic, but worries abounded about potential consumer fallout.

What message would canceling the confab send to potential ticket buyers, including those increasingly likely to skip cinemas — even in the best of times — and watch films on streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus? American cinemas, after all, were staying open in the face of the pandemic.

Reality eventually made the association pull the plug on CinemaCon, another example of how seemingly every part of American life has been disrupted because of the coronavirus. For movie theaters, however, the pandemic could be a point of no return.

The National Association of Theater Owners has insisted that streaming services are not a threat. “Through every challenge, through every new technology innovation over the last twenty years, theatrical admissions have been stable and box office has consistently grown,” John Fithian, the association’s chief executive, said in a January news release titled “theater owners celebrate a robust 2019 box office.” Ticket sales in North America totaled $11.4 billion, down 4 percent from a record-setting 2018.

Many analysts, however, see a very different picture. Looking at the last 20 years of attendance figures, the number of tickets sold in North America peaked in 2002, when cinemas sold about 1.6 billion. In 2019, attendance totaled roughly 1.2 billion, a 25 percent drop — even as the population of the United States increased roughly 15 percent. Cinemas have kept ticket revenue high by raising prices, but studio executives say there is limited room for continued escalation. Offerings in theaters may also grow more constrained. Even before the pandemic, major studios were starting to route smaller dramas and comedies toward streaming services instead of theaters.

And now comes the coronavirus, which has prompted people to bivouac in their homes, theaters to put in place social-distancing restrictions and studios to postpone most theatrical releases through the end of April. Rich Greenfield, a founder of the LightShed Partners media research firm, predicted that the disruption would speed the ascendance of streaming….

(16) GATES REFOCUSES. “Bill Gates steps down from Microsoft board to focus on philanthropy” – BBC has the story.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is stepping down from the company’s board to spend more time on philanthropic activities.

He says he wants to focus on global health and development, education and tackling climate change.

One of the world’s richest men, Mr Gates, 65, has also left the board of Warren Buffett’s massive holding company, Berkshire Hathaway.

Mr Gates stepped down from his day-to-day role running Microsoft in 2008.

Announcing his latest move, Mr Gates said the company would “always be an important part of my life’s work” and he would continue to be engaged with its leadership.

But he said: “I am looking forward to this next phase as an opportunity to maintain the friendships and partnerships that have meant the most to me, continue to contribute to two companies of which I am incredibly proud, and effectively prioritise my commitment to addressing some of the world’s toughest challenges.”

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

Coronavirus Threat Causes
Some Conventions to Cancel or Reschedule

Book fairs and sff conventions, like all public events, were already making decisions whether to proceed in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, but today’s World Health Organization announcement will step up the level of concern even higher. From the New York Times: “W.H.O. Declares Pandemic as Number of Infected Countries Grows”.

…“Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, chief of the W.H.O., said at a news conference in Geneva.

“We cannot say this loudly enough or clearly enough or often enough,” he added. “All countries can still change the course of this pandemic.”

But now there is evidence on six continents of sustained transmission of the virus, which has infected more than 120,000 people and killed more than 4,300, and by most scientific measures the spread qualifies as a pandemic. The designation itself is largely symbolic, but public health officials know that the public will hear in the word elements of danger and risk.

PopCult HQ has been tracking 8 conventions worldwide that are planned for next weekend and as of yesterday, only two have been called off.

Seattle’s large Emerald City Comic Con, which was planned for March 12-15, announced on March 9 that it has been postponed until Summer 2020 (the date to be named later.)

Each year the Emerald City Comic Con team works their hardest to do right by the thousands of fans that come together in Seattle. We want to create a space for you to gather, be yourselves and make memories with those who matter to you most. We have been closely monitoring the situation around the COVID-19 virus in Seattle, and, after many hours of conversation internally and consultation with local government officials and the tourism bureau, we have decided to move next week’s Emerald City Comic Con to Summer 2020 with date and detail announcement forthcoming. We did everything that we could to run the event as planned, but ultimately, we are following the guidance of the local public health officials indicating that conventions should now be postponed.

The Manga Comic Con in Leipzig, Germany is part of the Leipzig Book Fair, which also will not take place. Public health policies contributed heavily to the decision:

…The Leipzig Public Health Office decided to follow the directive of the Federal Ministry of Health and the Federal Ministry of Economics, which states that the traceability of contact persons at major events must be guaranteed. The directive explicitly stipulated that every participant in the fair must provide written proof that he or she is not from any of the identified risk locations and has not had contact with people from such locations. Considering the approximately 2,500 exhibitors and 280,000 expected visitors, this was not a reasonable task. The health of our exhibitors, visitors, guests, partners and employees is our top priority. The City of Leipzig and Leipziger Messe have therefore decided to cancel the event entirely.

However, next weekend’s conventions in Canada, Ireland, and several U.S. cities east of the Mississippi are going forward.

On the other hand, the Burning Cat gaming con slated for May in Portland, OR has already canceled.

Not on PopCult HQ’s list, Consonance 2020, the Bay Area filk convention slated for March 20-22, has been cancelled. Chair Lynn Gold made the announcement today.   

And Perth, Australia’s Swancon 2020, calendared for April 25-27, has been called off. The convenors told Facebook followers, “This Really is The Darkest Timeline”:

In light of information from the Department of Health, the Western Australian Department of Health, and the advice of medical professionals in our community such as Dr Karen McKenna, the Convention Committee, Convention Steering Committee and WASFF Board have voted to cancel Swancon 2020.

Early projections indicate that the height of the pandemic is likely to be late April to early May, and as such we would be irresponsible to hold a large public gathering, regardless of the amount of hand sanitizer and tissues we provided.

The governor of Washington state today set a policy banning large gatherings in three counties which could impact Norwescon“Inslee orders halt on large gatherings in Seattle region, asks schools to prepare for closure, to slow coronavirus spread”

Flanked by the leaders of Seattle, Tacoma and Everett, and of King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, Inslee said he was ordering the cancellation of large church services, sporting events, concerts, festivals and conventions.

“Today I am ordering, pursuant to my emergency powers, that certain events in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties with more than 250 people are prohibited by order of the governor,” Inslee said, at a King County government building in downtown Seattle. The three counties are “experiencing significant community transmission, significant outbreaks and they are large population centers.”

The order is in effect through the end of March, Inslee said, but it is “highly likely” it will be extended beyond that time.

Norwescon is scheduled for April 9-12. The convention committee has posted this response:

The Executive team is aware of the March 11 announcement by WA Gov. Inslee regarding COVID-19 containment plans. We are in active discussion within the Executive team and with the hotel to determine our best options. We will provide updates as soon as possible, but do need some time to coordinate. Thank you for your patience and understanding as we do our best to adjust to a quickly moving situation.

BALANCING ACT. Where public health officials have not yet instituted any restrictions, few events can unilaterally cancel without jeopardizing their future.

The International Association For The Fantastic In The Arts, in “COVID-19, Cancellations, and Credits/Refunds”, said their economic survival would be in doubt if they cancelled the event, therefore ICFA 41 will still take place March 18-21 in Florida.

The conference will meet. We have to meet certain guaranteed minimums for room occupancy, food and beverage expenditures, etc., specified in our contract with the hotel, or pay out of pocket. It is not an exaggeration to say that cancellation would jeopardize the very existence of the IAFA.

All conrunners have a recent example in Arisia of what happens when penalty clauses kick in because an event has been cancelled for reasons outside the provisions of their facilities contracts.

In that vein, after conferring with their hotel the chairs of UK’s Eastercon, Concentric 2020, planned for April 10-13, put out this statement on March 8:  

The Eastercon committee met with the Hilton on Friday and discussed with them the concerns of the Eastercon membership. We asked about their policies on refunds for the event and any rooms booked with the potential issues from Covid-19. The Hilton have confirmed to the committee that, as the government’s stance at this point is business as usual, they will not be offering any additional or exceptional circumstances towards bookings that have already been made.

We have discussed if there would be any possibility of a change in their stance on this matter. We have been advised that the only time at which there would be a change would be if running the convention would be either impossible or illegal due to requirements put in place either from the Government or from an authorised public body such as Public Health England or the World Health Organisation….

Pittsburgh’s furry fandom Anthrocon (July 2-5) has also been consulting with and monitoring information from public health agencies, and in a March 9 statement said they plan to go on with the con:

At this time, there is no intention of canceling or delaying the Anthrocon 2020 convention. None of the agencies listed above has advised either course of action. We continue to monitor the situation daily, however, and should circumstances warrant either a cancellation or rescheduling, we will issue that announcement without delay on our web site and through all of our social media outlets. Please be patient. None of us can predict the course that this epidemic will take, and to what extent – or even if – it will be a concern in July. Our only choice is to rely on the advice of the medical professionals who are best situated to offer such advice.

At this time, no U.S. medical agency is advising travelers to cancel plans to travel to Western Pennsylvania, whereas of this date no cases of COVID-19 have been reported.

Today, the SFWA Board of Directors today said the Nebula Conference (May 28-31) is going forward, because of the penalties that would result from cancellation: “A Message from SFWA Regarding the Coronavirus (COVID-19)”.

…At the moment, SFWA is planning to hold the conference with adjustments to reduce the risks of spreading the virus. The SFWA Board and the Nebula Conference events team are talking about this evolving situation daily including the possibility that things may shift enough that we need to cancel the in-person event. We will continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments.

The Nebulas are 80 days away and every day brings us a better understanding of what’s happening with COVID-19.

Our challenge is that the hotel will not allow us to cancel the event without paying penalties unless it is “illegal or impossible” to host it. Similarly, they will not offer us any refunds. This limits our choices. With that said, the board’s priority in decision-making still remains with the health and safety of our attendees and by extension their families.

The chairs of CoNZealand, the 2020 Worldcon, Norman Cates and Kelly Buehler made this public statement on March 6:

Although New Zealand has not been affected by Covid-19 to the extent of the rest of the world, our government and the NZ Ministry of Health have extensive civil defence plans. We are monitoring the situation and will be prepared for what the future brings.

As usual, we strongly advise all members purchase their own comprehensive travel insurance for any foreign travel, including cancellation insurance. If you have already purchased insurance for your journey to New Zealand, we recommend that you check the full terms with your insurance provider.

We are in touch with the Ministry of Health as well as with our venue planning managers. We want everyone to have a safe and healthy convention, and we will be following best practices.

CRUISE SHIPS. While the Canadian government’s coronavirus disease guidance warns citizens to avoid all cruise ship travel, and the United States’ Center for Disease Control recommends cruise ship travel be deferred, N.K. Jemisin, Rebecca Roanhorse, Patrick Rothfuss, John Scalzi, and Martha Wells are among the many pop culture guests currently aboard the 2020 JoCo Cruise, which ends March 13.

READINGS: The Fantastic Fiction at KGB readings series today canceled its March event with guests Daniel Braum & Robert Levy, promising instead, “both authors will be reading their work over an online livestream at the same scheduled date and time (March 18th, 7pm). Details on that livestream will be forthcoming.”

BOOK FAIRS. Outside of fandom, a series of publishing industry events have shuttered or rescheduled due to the withdrawal of participating book companies and sponsors.

The National Book Critics Circle in New York has canceled both its finalists reading on Wednesday, March 11, and its awards ceremony on Thursday, March 12. The Tucson (AZ) Festival of Books, which was planned for March 14-15, has canceled. 

The Los Angeles Times has postponed its Festival of Books and Food Bowl events, “in light of public health concerns related to the coronavirus and out of an abundance of caution.” “Los Angeles Times postpones Festival of Books and Food Bowl due to coronavirus concerns “

The 25th Festival of Books, originally scheduled for April, will now take place the weekend of Oct. 3-4 on the USC campus. The 4th Food Bowl, previously set for May, will also be moved to the fall, with dates to be announced later.

While the Book Prizes awards ceremony will not be held this year, honorees and winners will still be acknowledged via an announcement to be released on April 17.

With Italy already a center of the outbreak, publishers are shying away from the Bologna Book Fair:

Penguin Random House has become the second of the Big Five U.S. publishers to announce it would not attend this year’s rescheduled Bologna Children’s Book Fair, scheduled for May 4–7,

Shelf Awareness has a growing list of book fairs and bookstore events that have been called off, or adjusted their plans: “COVID-19 Update: More Cancellations & Postponements”.

SHOW UP BUT KEEP YOUR DISTANCE. Events that are proceeding have instituted whatever safety measures they think are appropriate.


UPDATE: Ace Comic Con Northeast (March 20-22), which had publicized their decision to go on, has now cancelled. Note that the following segment was written before the announcement.


Despite fannish complaints, ACE Comic Con Northeast is running March 20-22 in Boston, and chirpily told the Boston Globe: “ACE Comic Con is still on. Just don’t touch the Chrises (Hemsworth or Evans).”

…Ace Comic Con, which is hosting a Northeast fan event from March 20-22 at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, will go on as planned, despite coronavirus concerns, according to organizers. That said, there are some new rules regarding social distancing, posted on ACE’s Facebook page:

“During Photo Ops & Autographs – Handshakes, hugs, requests to hold props during Photo Ops, and physical contact will not be permitted. No gifts, letters, or cards will be accepted by celebrity guests so we ask that you do not bring in those items.

…Of course, some have fans have posted complaints on Facebook. They bought special autograph packages expecting to get hugs and handshakes from stars.

“I am coming from FL and I wanted a hug from both Chris’. Now I’m gonna stand side by side with them? How is that fair? … I honestly don’t want to come anymore,” one Facebook user said.

FALLOUT. The economic consequences from not holding events will ripple far beyond the hotels and committees. For example, the SXSW cancellation has caused major layoffs:

On March 6, SXSW canceled its 2020 festival due to concerns surrounding the recent coronavirus outbreak. It marked the first cancellation in the annual Austin event’s 34-year history. Now, SXSW’s parent company SXSW LLC has laid off roughly a third of its 175 year-round employees, according to a new report by local paper the Austin American-Statesman,

DECISION TIME. To hold the con or not?

Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn agrees that “Every Convention Staff Needs to Have the COVID-19 Conversation”.

…The fact is we are dealing with a disease where it’s possible that some infected people can be contagious while appearing healthy for weeks. Transmission happens when people are in close proximity, and since this is a new form of the disease, odds are if you’re exposed you’re going to get it. And you can talk about how mortality rates as a percentage are only slightly higher than the flu, a lot of people don’t get the flu. There are plenty of people who walk our convention halls who have a good chance of dying if they get infected.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a fan of having none of my convention’s attendees die.

So yeah, it’s time to talk. How drastic your conversation is depends on how bad things are where you are physically along with who might come to your event. If you’re an event like SXSW where people come from all over the world… consider not holding your event immediately. Postpone it if you can, but no event is worth people’s lives. If you’re a regional event, you need to look at the landscape. If you’re in a city or area with an active outbreak, do not hold your event, I beg of you.

And Chuck Wendig has written several virus-related blog posts in the past 10 days, beginning with “Running A Con, Conference Or Festival In The Age Of A Burgeoning Pandemic!” These are things that convention guests will have on their minds:

e) Recognize that we’re probably anxious about this. Many of us will go to our events via two or more airports, likely international ones. We will then be at your event with hundreds to thousands of people. If we’re writers, we’re gonna be theoretically up close and personal with folks, signing their books, some want photos — and trust me, writers are already a pretty anxious lot. Our brains are carousels of crawling ants. We’re already imagining worse case scenarios. (Seriously, have you read Wanderers?) You talking to us about that before we have to talk to you about it would be very nice.

f) Recognize too we don’t want to get stuck anywhere. We have families! Pets! Extreme introversion! Note that some people who have traveled overseas have found themselves in exactly this scenario. Best case scenario, it’s a travel delay. Worst case, it’s full restriction or quarantine. Who knows how the fuck this current administration will bungle this up — they might not do anything, or they might clamp down hard when it’s not needed. Either way? We don’t wanna find out. So, what happens if it does? Are you gonna cover our hotels if we’re guests? One night? Ten? Certainly your responsibility ends somewhere, but I’d sure like you to be thinking about that.

Right now, all the choices are hard.