Pixel Scroll 6/13/19 And What Rough Pixel, Its Hour Come Round At Last, Crowdfunds Towards Dublin, To Be Scrolled?

(1) SKIPPING OVER THE SAND. Judith Tarr tells why she’ll be passing on a Bene Gesserit tv series with an all-male creative team. Thread starts here.

(2) KAIJU-CON. On Saturday June 14, the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles is holding a one-day “Kaiju-Con”.

In conjunction with Kaiju vs Heroes, JANM is hosting a day-long Kaiju-Con that will include a vendor hall, workshops, panel discussions, and demonstrations all related to kaiju and Japanese toys. The day will culminate in a special free outdoor screening at 8:30 p.m., on JANM’s plaza of Mothra vs. Godzilla from 1964.

The museum’s exhibit “Kaiju vs Heroes: Mark Nagata’s Journey through the World of Japanese Toys” continues through July 7.

… After the war, the United States closely monitored the types of industries allowed to revive in Japan. The toy industry was one of the first to be enabled to reinvent itself, and the kaiju films and television shows helped fuel it. Additionally, the toy industry helped stimulate Japan’s economy during the early postwar reconstruction period. These new artistic and economic factors fused with kaiju and hero characters to set the stage for a golden age of Japanese popular culture—one that Nagata first became enamored with as a nine-year-old boy.

Nagata’s pursuit of these Japanese toys took him on an unexpected journey that brought new realizations about his cultural identity as an American of Japanese ancestry….

(3) DRAW YOUR OWN CONCLUSIONS. Gizmodo assures us that “Half the DNA on the NYC Subway Matches No Known Organism”.

The results of a massive new DNA sequencing project on the New York City subway have just been published. And yup, there’s a lot of bacteria on the subway—though we know most of it is harmless. What’s really important, though, is what we don’t know about it.

The PathoMap project, which involved sampling turnstiles, benches, and keypads at 466 stations, found 15,152 life-forms in total, half of which were bacterial. The Wall Street Journal has created a fun, interactive microbial map of the subway out of the data, showing where on the lines the bacteria “associated with” everything from mozzarella cheese to staph infections was found.

(4) GUNN RETROSPECTIVE. Dark Matter Zine is revisiting the work of the late Hugo-winning fanartist Ian Gunn: “Giant man-baby. A silly illo by Ian Gunn”.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be seeing some movie cliches that Ian Gunn drew. Today’s, obviously, is the giant man-baby walking in slow motion. Although the drawing is at least 20 years old but did Gunn foresee the Trump Baby resistance balloons, banners etc? I wonder if the giant Trump Baby acts in slow motion too?

(5) JUST A LITTLE SMACK. John Boston doesn’t pull his punches when he’s slugging the prozines of 1964 for Galactic Journey: “[June 12, 1964] RISING THROUGH THE MURK (the July 1964 Amazing)”.

Can it be . . . drifting up through the murk, like a forgotten suitcase floating up from an old shipwreck . . . a worthwhile issue of Amazing?

You certainly can’t tell by the cover, which is one of the ugliest jobs ever perpetrated by the usually talented Ed Emshwiller—misconceived, crudely executed, and it doesn’t help that the reproduction is just a bit off register.

(6) CLONE ARRANGER. ComicsBeat brings music to fans’ ears — “ORPHAN BLACK returns in new serialized novel and audio adaptation”.

The Clone Club is reconvening. Variety reports that Orphan Black, the hit BBC America sci-fi series that ended in 2017, is set to return as a serialized novel, with accompany audio narration, later this year. The new story is produced by publishing startup Serial Box, and will feature original series star Tatiana Maslany providing the audio narration.

(7) FLIP THE SCRIPT. Eater says the promotion is really quite simple: “Burger King’s New ‘Stranger Things’ Special Is Literally an Upside-Down Whopper”.

With the premiere of Stranger Things Season 3 just a few weeks away, Netflix and Burger King are teaming up for a fast food stunt that seems aimed at the die-hard fans, only: At 11 locations across the country, the chain is adding an “Upside Down Whopper” to the menu, which is literally just a Whopper served upside down. No special Demagorgon sauce, Eggo bun, or Hopper’s bacon crumbles. It’s just an inverted hamburger in Stranger Things-branded packaging.

The YouTube caption assures viewers —

pro tip: you can’t get eaten by something in the upside down if you’ve already eaten the upside down whopper. served upside down at select bk locations on June 21:

(8) MILES OBIT. Actress Sylvia Miles has died at the age of 94 reports the New York Times.

Sylvia Miles, who earned two Academy Award nominations (for “Midnight Cowboy” and “Farewell, My Lovely”) and decades of glowing reviews for her acting, died on Wednesday in Manhattan. She was 94.

Ms. Miles began her career as a stage actress; [she] was a witch in “A Chekhov Sketchbook” (1962). She described her character in the 1977 horror film “The Sentinel” as “a mad dead crazed German zombie lesbian ballet dancer.” Her other film roles included … Meryl Streep’s mother in “She-Devil” (1989).

Her final TV appearance was in 2008, on the series “Life on Mars.” Her last screen appearance was in “Old Monster,” a 2013 short based on the epic “Beowulf.”

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 13, 1892 Basil Rathbone. He’s best remembered for being Sherlock Holmes in fourteen films made between 1939 and 1946 and in a radio series of the same period. For films other than these, I’ll single out The Adventures of Robin Hood (all Robin Hood is fantasy), Son of Frankenstein and Voyage to the Prehistoric Planet. (Died 1967.)
  • Born June 13, 1893 Dorothy Sayers. ISFDB often surprises me and having her listed as writing four stories in the genre did it again. All of them were written in the Thirties and here they are: “The Cyprian Cat”, “The Cave of Ali Baba”, “Bitter Almonds” and “The Leopard Lady”. So, who here has read them and can comment on them being genre or not? (Died 1957.)
  • Born June 13, 1929 Ralph McQuarrie. Conceptual designer and illustrator. He worked on the original Star Wars trilogy, the first Battlestar Galactica, Star Wars Holiday Special, Cocoon, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Nightbreed, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home andE.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. (Died 2012.)
  • Born June 13, 1943 Malcolm McDowell, 76. My favorite role for him was Mr. Roarke on the rebooted Fantasy Island. Of course, his most infamous role was Alex in A Clockwork Orange. Scary film, that. His characterization of H. G. Wells in Time After Time was I thought rather spot on. And I’d like to single out his voicing Arcady Duvall in the “Showdown” episode of Batman: The Animated Series. Remember the Will Smith starred Wild Wild West film? Here is the same premise with John Hex instead. 
  • Born June 13, 1945 Whitley Strieber, 74. I’ve decidedly mixed feelings about him. He’s written two rather good horror novels, The Wolfen which made a fantastic horror film and The Hunger. But I’m convinced that his book Communion about his encounter with aliens is an absolute crock. 
  • Born June 13, 1949 Simon Callow, 70. English actor, musician, writer, and theatre director. So what’s he doing here? Well, he got to be Charles Dickens twice on Doctor Who, the first being in “The Unquiet Dead” during the time of the Ninth Doctor and then later during “The Wedding of River Song”. He’d also appear, though not as Dickens, on The Sarah Jane Adventures as the voice of Tree Blathereen in “The Gift” episode. I’ve not watched the latter. How are they? He was The Duke of Sandringham in the first season of Outlander
  • Born June 13, 1953 Tim Allen, 66. Jason Nesmith in the beloved Galaxy Quest, winning a much deserved Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. (What was running against it that year?) it actually had a big hit several years previously voicing Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story which would be the first in that film franchise.
  • Born June 13, 1963 Audrey Niffenegger, 56. Her first novel was The Time Traveler’s Wife. She has stated in interviews that she will not see the film as only the characters in the novels are hers. Good for her. Raven Girl, her third novel about a couple whose child is a raven trapped in a human body, was turned into performed at the Royal Opera House. 
  • Born June 13, 1981 Chris Evans, 38. Captain America in the Marvel film franchise. He had an earlier role as the Human Torch in the non-MCU Fantastic Four and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. I think this makes him the only performer to play two major characters in either the DC or Marvel Universes. 

(10) ROBOCOMICS. The New York Times looks at a marketing solution: “Like Comic Books? This Platform Picks Titles for You”.

Comic book fans have multiple digital options to choose from these days, with apps for independents, manga and political cartoons as well as libraries from giants like DC and Marvel. But the fractured nature of the business means readers have to visit several platforms to fill their needs.

Enter Graphite, a free digital service from Graphic Comics that begins Tuesday and hopes to put them all under one roof.

The impetus for the company was a simple one, said Michael Eng, Graphite’s chief executive: “There is no solution right now that serves comics in all its forms.”

The goal of the service is to offer digital comics from all formats, including the work of independent creators as well as major publishers, and make it all free. The content will include ads, but an ad-free service is available for a $4.99 monthly fee. Graphite also hopes to expand the audience of comics readers by offering material in 61 languages. But its biggest bet is on artificial intelligence, which will suggest content to readers based on their taste.

(11) HIDDEN NO MORE. BBC: “Hidden Figures: Nasa renames street after black female mathematicians”.

The street outside Nasa’s headquarters has been named “Hidden Figures Way”, in honour of three African-American women whose work helped pave the way for future generations at the space agency.

(12) A LARK IN THE VACUUM. The Atlantic’s Rebecca Boyle has her own estimate of “The True Price of Privatizing Space Travel”.

…NASA’s decision to open up the space station is in some ways a natural next step for space exploration. Earlier, earthbound vessels all experienced a similar transformation. Transoceanic ships, railroads, and airplanes spawned cottage industries to enable their spread and wide adoption, and each eventually reached the masses. And in widening access to space, NASA is actually behind the Russians, whose space agency has transported a few space tourists through a company called Space Adventures.

But space is different. Space, as they say, is hard. To get there, you have to strap yourself to a bomb, and sometimes those bombs malfunction.

Personal space exploration is also hard to justify….

…Handing tourists the keys to the ISS reflects a much broader shift in space exploration, one that prioritizes resource extraction and commercial profit over pure research and collective scientific efforts. It’s a step toward making space more mundane, a travel destination defined by money and vacations, rather than discovery and glory.

(13) ONE OF EVERYTHING. Joe Sherry does a fine job of tackling these finalists in “Reading the Hugos: Related Work” at Nerds of a Feather.

Related Work is a bit of a catch-all category. It’s for work that is primarily non fiction and that is related to science fiction and fantasy, and which is not otherwise eligible elsewhere on the ballot. This is how you can have an encyclopedia compete against a folk album against a podcast against a collection of essays about movies (this was in 2012 when the Fancast category had not yet been created. That particular lineup of finalists can’t happen today. You may also note that albums and songs have been included in Dramatic Presentation – because the two Clipping albums in question are narrative driven whereas Seanan McGuire’s Wicked Girls was not.). There may also be a single blog post competing and winning in the category. Or a series of blog posts focusing on the women of Harry Potter. In the case of this year there is a four way biography, a series of interviews, a three part documentary, a collected essay series about the Hugo Awards, a recognition of the work done by a website, and the experience of bringing together Mexicanx fans and creators to Worldcon. Related Work is an interesting cross section of another side of the genre and another side of fandom.

(14) HUGO NOVELLAS. James Reid continues his “Hugo Awards Extravaganza 2019 – Novella”.

I feel like this category has undergone a bit of a renaissance with digital publishing: when I was growing up, I thought of Novellas as either the anchor of a short story collection, 1 or works that flesh out a larger series.2  Without the pressure of meeting mass market paperback length however, novellas can be sold as free standing works, which then can lead to series of novellas.  Fully half the slate fall into this category,3 and not only are they sequels, but they are sequels to previous nominated works.

In all three of these series, I liked the original novella,4 but the two sequels that were in the ballot last year, Binti: Home and Down Among the Sticks and Bones were both marked by precipitous drops in quality.  Given this, my big questions going into the ballot this year are can Artificial Condition avoid this sophomore slump, and can either of the threequels pull out of their series nosedives?

(15) CANNED. “Star Wars’ Mark Hamill Reveals He Got Fired From Jack in the Box for Doing a Clown Voice”Comicbook.com has the story.

Star Wars icon Mark Hamill is still full of stories that will surprise and delight fans – as he recently proved during an appearance on The Late Show with James Corden. Corden and Hamill were talking about the road to fame (and all the detours it an take); when they got to the topic of Hamill having worked as a waiter (like so many struggling actors), we got this great anecdote:

“I tried. I always was trying to find the theatrical aspect of it. You know, I worked right down the street at Jack in the Box. And I was in the back all the time, making shakes and minding the grill, and I always aspired to work the window… The one chance I had at it, it never occurred to me not to be in character as the clown, as the Jack in the Box clown! Who would want to hear [Robot voice] ‘What is your order?’ I wanted to hear [Clown voice] ‘Whats your orderrrrrrrrrr?” My manager didn’t think it was very funny: He told me to go home and never come back. I got fired! Fired for being in character! Why you… [Shakes fist] I’ll show you: One day I will be The Joker and then you’ll be sorry!”

(16) BIG FAMILY IS WATCHING. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Nature notes some past fiction has become science fact with the rise of the surveillance state — “Eyed up: the state of surveillance”

In the 1998 Hollywood thriller Enemy of the State, an innocent man (played by Will Smith) is pursued by a rogue spy agency that uses the advanced satellite “Big Daddy” to monitor his every move. The film — released 15 years before Edward Snowden blew the whistle on a global surveillance complex — has achieved a cult following. It was, however, much more than just prescient: it was also an inspiration, even a blueprint, for one of the most powerful surveillance technologies ever created…

This is the basis for the new book Eyes in the Sky: The Secret Rise of Gorgon Stare and How It Will Watch Us All by Arthur Holland Michel (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019).

(17) A SEMI-MOVING PICTURE. Mike Kennedy sent the link with an observation – “I was not aware we needed this”: “‘Playmobil: The Movie’: Film Review” in The Hollywood Reporter.

Once they’re transformed into animated characters, Charlie soon winds up prisoner in a Gladiator-like kingdom ruled by the evil Emperor Maximums (Adam Lambert), prompting Marla to team up with a hipster food truck driver (Jim Gaffigan, providing vague comic relief) and a ridiculous secret agent (Daniel Radcliffe) to get her bro back. Along the way, she runs into tons of other merchandise, although it’s uncertain at this point whether the figure of Glinara (Maddie Taylor) — basically a female Jabba the Hut decked out in a sleeveless leather dress — was something already made by Playmobil or a creature the filmmakers invented for the hell of it.

Otherwise, everything goes exactly where you expect, from the live-action scenes bookending the cartoon to the nonstop chases and thundering soundtrack to all the attempts at humor that mostly miss their mark. To the director’s credit, the animated sequences are richly rendered, making the most of the rather stiff and plain-looking originals (though, if you want to get nitpicky, an early gag poking fun at the fact that Playmobil legs are unbendable is soon forgotten) and offering up a plethora of settings that help compensate for the lack of good writing.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/25/19 The Stars Not Your Destination? Recalculating…

(1) BACK FROM THE NEBULAS. Connie Willis shares with Facebook readers some of her info from the “We Have Always Been Here” panel —

At the Nebula Awards weekend in Los Angeles this last week I was on a panel with Sarah Pinsker, Cat Rambo, and Eileen Gunn called “We Have Always Been Here,” about early women SF writers. We discussed a bunch of them and decided to follow up with a Twitter hashtag–#AlwaysBeenHere–and discussions on our blogs and Facebook pages of these terrific (and sometimes nearly forgotten) writers.

One of the reasons their names aren’t well-known now is that they, like everybody else in SF at the time, were writing short stories rather than novels, so their stuff can be hard to find. Great writers like Fredric Brown, Ward Moore, and Philip Latham found themselves in the same boat.

Here are some of the women writers I’d like to see be read by a new generation…

(2) UNREAD WORD POWER. Cedar Sanderson expands our vocabulary in “Tsunduko Tsundere” at Mad Genius Club.

…My daughter explained to me that tsundere is ‘typically someone who acts like they don’t want something, but they really do.’ In anime or manga it’s actually a romantic style. Argues with the one they are attracted to, but inside they are all lovebirds and sighs. I am feeling a bit like this in my current relationship with books, in particular paper books.

(3) HERO PICKER. In the Washington Post, Sonia Rao profiles Sarah Finn, who, as the casting director of Marvel, has cast more than 1,000 roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, including Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, and Tom Hiddleston:

The risk paid off. Downey’s performance as the morally torn superhero anchors the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Infinity Saga, which began with 2008?s “Iron Man” and concluded 21 films later with last month’s box-office behemoth, “Avengers: Endgame.” It’s difficult to imagine anyone but him in that role — a statement that could extend to any of the heroes, really.

That’s largely thanks to Finn, who took on the gargantuan task of casting every actor who appears in the MCU (aside from those in “The Incredible Hulk,” released a month after “Iron Man”). That amounts to more than a thousand roles overall, she says, ranging from characters as high-profile as Captain America to those as minor as his background dancers. The job — which Finn held for the first five MCU films alongside Randi Hiller, who now heads casting for live-action projects at Walt Disney Studios — calls for a certain prescience, the ability to predict what sort of traits an actor would one day be asked to exhibit in films that have yet to be written.

(4) STAN LEE ELDER ABUSE. Variety reports “Stan Lee’s Former Business Manager Arrested on Elder Abuse Charges”.

Stan Lee’s former business manager, Keya Morgan, was arrested in Arizona Saturday morning on an outstanding warrant from the Los Angeles Police Department.

The LAPD’s Mike Lopez confirmed that the arrest warrant was for the following charges: one count of false imprisonment – elder adult; three counts of grand theft from elder or dependent adult, special aggravated white collar crime loss of over $100k; and one count of elder or dependent adult abuse.

The investigation into whether Stan Lee was the subject of elder abuse began in March 2018 stemming from actions allegedly taken by Morgan in May and June of 2018.

The grand theft charges stem from $262,000 that was collected from autograph signing sessions in May 2018, but that Lee never received.

(5) MORE ON JACK COHEN. Jonathan Cowie writes —

The funeral was mainly a family affair with Ian Stewart and I representing SF, and in addition to myself there were a couple of other biologists.

However there were over a hundred messages sent in to family.  And a few tributes read out including one from Nobel Laureate Prof. Sir Paul Nurse who was one of Jack’s student and who praised his teaching saying that every university departments needs its Jack Cohen.

  • Read Jonathan Cowie’sown tribute on his personal site.
  • And he’s archived an article he commissioned from Jack for Biologist way back in the 1990s on alien life here.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

May 25, 1953It Came From Outer Space premiered (story by Ray Bradbury).

May 25, 1969 — The first shave in space took place on Apollo 10.

May 25, 1977 Star Wars: A New Hope premiered on this day.

May 25, 1979 — Ridley Scott’s Alien debuts.

May 25, 1983 Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi in theatres.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 25, 1808 Edward Bulwer-Lytton. In addition, the opening seven words from Paul Clifford : “It was a dark and stormy night”, he also coined the phrases “the great unwashed”, “pursuit of the almighty dollar” and “the pen is mightier than the sword.” ISFDB credits him with eight genre novels including The Coming RaceAsmodeus at Large and Last Days of Pompeii to name but three. He wrote a lot of short fiction with titles such as “Glenhausen.—The Power of Love in Sanctified Places.— A Portrait of Frederick Barbarossa.—The Ambition of Men Finds Adequate Sympathy in Women”. (Died 1873.)
  • Born May 25, 1916 Charles D. Hornig. Publisher of the Fantasy Fan which ran from September ‘33 to February ‘35 and including first publication of works by Bloch, Lovecraft, Smith, Howard and Derleth. It also had a LOC called ‘The Boiling Point’ which quickly became angry exchanges between several of the magazine’s regular contributors, including Ackerman, Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith. He paid for the costs of Fan Fantasy by working for Gernsback at Wonder Stories. (Died 1999.)
  • Born May 25, 1935 W. P. Kinsella. Best I’d say known for his novel Shoeless Joe which was adapted into the movie Field of Dreams, one of the few films that Kevin Costner is a decent actor in, ironic as the other is Bull Durham. Kinsella’s other genre novel’s The Iowa Baseball Confederacy and it’s rather less well known that Shoeless Joe is but it’s excellent. He also edited Baseball Fantastic, an anthology of just what the title says they are. Given that he’s got eighteen collections of short stories listed on his wiki page, I’m reasonably sure his ISFDB page doesn’t come close to listing all his short stories. (Died 2016.)
  • Born May 25, 1939 Ian McKellen, 80. Best known for being Magneto in the X-Men films, and Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. I’m fairly sure his first genre role was as Dr. Faustus in an Edinburgh production of that play in the early Seventies. He also played Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre during that period. He’d played Captain Hook in Peter Pan at The Royal National Theatre, and was the voice of the Demon in The Exorcist in the UK tour of that production. Of course he was Dr. Reinhardt Lane in The Shadow, The Narrator in Stardust, Sherlock Holmes in Mr. Holmes, Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast and finally he’s going to be Gus the Theatre Cat in the forthcoming Cats
  • Born May 25, 1946 Frank Oz, 73. Actor, director including The Dark Crystal, Little Shop of Horrors and the second version of The Stepford Wives, producer and puppeteer. His career began as a puppeteer, where he performed the Muppet characters of Animal, Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, and oh so patriotic Sam Eagle in The Muppet Show, and Cookie Monster, Bert, and Grover in Sesame Street. Genre wise, he’s also known for the role of Yoda in the Star Wars franchise.
  • Born May 25, 1946 Janet Morris, 73. Hey I get to mention Thieves’ World! Yea! In that universe, she created the Sacred Band of Stepsons, a mythical unit of ancient fighters modeled on the Sacred Band of Thebes. She has three series, both listed as SF though I’d call one of them fantasy, the Silistra quartet, the Kerrion Space trilogy and the Threshold series. 
  • Born May 25, 1949 Barry Windsor-Smith, 70. Illustrator and painter, mostly for Marvel Comics. Oh, his work on Conan the Barbarian in the early Seventies was amazing, truly amazing! And then there was the original Weapon X story arc involving Wolverine which still ranks among the best stories told largely because of his artwork. And let’s not forget that he and writer Roy Thomas created Red Sonja partially based on Howard’s characters Red Sonya of Rogatino and Dark Agnes de Chastillon.
  • Born May 25, Kathryn Daugherty. I’m going to let Mike do her justice, so just go read his appreciation of her here, including her scoffing at the oversized “MagiCon” pocket program and the pineapple jelly beans she was responsible for. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 25, 1962 Mickey Zucker Reichert, 57. She’s best know for her Renshai series which riffs off traditional Norse mythology. She was asked by the Asimov estate to write three prequels in the I, Robot series. She’s the only female to date who’s written authorized stories. 
  • Born May 25, 1966 Vera Nazarian, 53. To date, she has written ten novels including Dreams of the Compass Rose, what I’d called a mosaic novel structured as a series of interlinked stories similar in to The One Thousand and One Nights that reminds a bit of Valente’s The Orphans Tales. She’s the publisher of Norilana Books which publishes such works as Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthologies, Catherynne M. Valente’s Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects and Tabitha Lee’s Lee’s Sounds and Furies

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Incidental Comics takes “A Writer’s Routine” from A to Z.

(9) URSULA VERNON. A hound wants out of this chicken outfit. Thread starts here.

(10) EXTRAORDINARY CLAIMS. ComicsBeat’s Hannah Lodge advances “5 reasons DOOM PATROL is the best superhero show of the decade”. Reason number one —

Power Patrol 

The Doom Patrol isn’t a team of shiny superheroes, a team of super-villains working to thwart those heroes, or even bad guys with a change of heart. They’re flawed, but trying, and their quests are less of the greater-good variety and more of the personal, soul-searching kind (even if they do casually prevent an apocalypse or two along the way). Each of the team members has your standard issue set of powers. What’s different about this show is the way they view and use them: as consequences and reminders of the mistakes they made in life they must learn to use and accept rather than invitations to a virtuous or higher moral calling. It’s refreshing to see this team as a found family working for smaller stakes and through very human issues – more often through things like superhero therapy than sprawling battles.

(11) OBJECTION. We’ve all heard sf stories get criticized for bad science – but what happens when a Real Lawyer Reacts to Star Trek TNG Measure of a Man — an episode written by Melinda Snodgrass?

When Starfleet officer Maddox orders Data’s disassembly for research purposes, Data is thrust into a legal battle to determine if he is entitled to the rights enjoyed by sentient beings. Data tries to resign his commission but Starfleet won’t let him. Worse, against his will, Commander Riker is ordered to advocate against Data. Captain Picard must defend Data in a trial for his life. Is it a realistic trial? Does Data deserves all the rights and privileges of a Starfleet officer? IS DATA A REAL PERSON?!

(12) LINGO SLINGING. The Washington Post’s Avi Selk profiles linguist David J. Peterson, who created the Valyrian and Dothraki languages for Game of Thrones in “a 600-page document owned by HBO”.  Peterson explains he began his career by being irritated at a scene in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi where Princess Leia includes the words “yate” and “yoto” to mean “a wookie; a bounty; a thermal detonator, and 50,000 space credits.” Selk also profiles several other creators of imaginary languages, including Jessie Sams, who teaches a course in imaginary languages at Stephen F. Austin State University. “How a community of obscure language inventors made it big with ‘Game of Thrones’”

A running joke in “Game of Thrones” has Peter Dinklage’s character, Tyrion, repeatedly butchering the Valyrian language, despite his best efforts.

In the episode last Sunday, he’s trying to ask a military guard for permission to see a prisoner and comes up with: “Nyke m?zun ipradagon bartanna r?elio.” A subtitle on the screen translates this for us as: “I drink to eat the skull keeper.”

When the guard stares at him in confusion, Tyrion tries again but only utters more gibberish. Finally, the guard informs him in perfect English, “I speak the common tongue,” and takes him to see the prisoner. Hah.

It’s a simple gag on its face, but there’s a deeper layer. The language Tyrion is garbling actually exists….

(13) FOR THE ROCKET. James Reid’s assessment of a Hugo finalist category: “Hugo Awards Extravaganza 2019 – Short Story”.

I like short stories to be self-contained: a good idea or a complete story.  As such I often gravitate to stories that are focused on doing one thing well.   It also means that I tend to prefer vignettes, where Hugo short stories can be surprisingly long (7500 words or less).

Note: it’s hard to discuss a short story without spoilers, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, skip to my rankings and general comments.

(14) RETRO REVIEWS. Right this way to Evelyn C. Leeper’s Retro Hugo Novella Reviews.

There’s always one on each ballot–one finalist that is totally unavailable–and this year it is “Attitude” by Hal Clement. This will not stop it from winning, of course; Clifford Simak’s “Rule 18” won a Retro Hugo in 2014 for its 1939 publication, and it had been reprinted since only once–in Italian. I think I can safely say that he won on name-recognition, and the same could happen with Clement. (“Attitude” is available in NESFA’s Clement collection, but I have no access to it.)…

(15) THE WRIGHT STUFF. Steve J. Wright has completed his Lodestar YA Novel Finalist reviews.

(16) SCIENCE ESSAY CONTEST. Nature has launched a young writers nonfiction contest to find the most inspiring ideas about the research of the future.

This year, Nature turns 150 years old. To mark this occasion, we are celebrating our past but also looking to the future. We would like to hear from you. Nature is launching an essay competition for readers aged 18 to 25. We invite you to tell us, in an essay of no more than 1,000 words, what scientific advance, big or small, you would most like to see in your lifetime, and why it matters to you. We want to feature the inspiring voices and ideas of the next generation

The deadline for completed essays is midnight GMT, UK time, on 9thAugust 2019. The winner will have their essay published in our 150th anniversary issue on 7 November, and receive a cash prize (£500 or $ equivalent) as well as a year’s personal subscription to the journal. For further information and to submit, visit go.nature.com/30y5jkz. We are looking for essays that are well reasoned, well researched, forward-looking, supported by existing science, and leave room for personal perspective and anecdotes that show us who you are. We encourage you to entertain as well as to inform; we are not looking for academic papers, an academic writing style or science fiction (though clearly those with an SF interest may have interesting ideas.

(17) BIG BANG’S BREXIT. Okay, it’s safe to talk about The Big Bang Theory again — its final show has aired in the British Isles and western Europe. British media reaction includes:-

(18) ANOTHER LEGO BRICK IN THE WALL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Ars Technica: “Massive Lego National Cathedral built with Vader, droids, Harry Potter wands’. The National Cathedral is using LEGOs to raise money for a restoration fund, and is including sff references (see added emphasis below) in the 1:40 scale model structure.

As millions of dollars in donations stacked up for the Notre-Dame Cathedral following the horrific fire last month, the Washington National Cathedral was quietly building its own restoration fund—brick by plastic brick.

[…] [Instructions were] created by the designers and professional Lego aficionados at Bright Bricks—are used by volunteers and kind donors who buy individual bricks and place them on the growing replica by hand. The bricks go for $2 each and all the money goes toward the $19 million needed to repair damage from a 5.8-magnitude earthquake in 2011.

[…] While the size of the project is impressive, what’s perhaps more remarkable is that Santos is designing and assembling only with off-the-shelf Lego bricks. This requires some creative workarounds and repurposing of parts. Small stone angels that sit at the foot of the tomb of Bishop Henry Yates Satterlee (the first Episcopal bishop of Washington and a key figure in the Cathedral’s construction) are represented by Star Wars droid heads. Part of the ornaments along a stained-glass window are made of droid arms. A cross at the altar of the basement chapel (Bethlehem Chapel) is made of Lego tire irons, and an ornate railing on the outside of the back of the cathedral is made of Harry Potter wands. The Lego cathedral will also include a Darth Vader head, replicating the actual Darth Vader “gargoyle” that sits high on the Northwest tower.

(19) RELEASE THE KAIJU. The “Godzilla: King of the Monsters – Knock You Out – Exclusive Final Look.” Movie comes to theaters May 31.

Following the global success of “Godzilla” and “Kong: Skull Island” comes the next chapter in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Legendary Pictures’ cinematic MonsterVerse, an epic action adventure that pits Godzilla against some of the most popular monsters in pop culture history. The new story follows the heroic efforts of the crypto-zoological agency Monarch as its members face off against a battery of god-sized monsters, including the mighty Godzilla, who collides with Mothra, Rodan, and his ultimate nemesis, the three-headed King Ghidorah. When these ancient super-species—thought to be mere myths—rise again, they all vie for supremacy, leaving humanity’s very existence hanging in the balance.

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

Jack Cohen (1933-2019)

Jack Cohen

By Jonathan Cowie: Sad news about a colleague who was one of the few to straddle my biological science and SF worlds. I was pleased to be paid to work with him professionally, and to drink with him socially at con bars. Dr Jack Cohen, biologist, author, SF author and SF fan, has passed.

Jack, as many of the older generation of biologists will know, was an active member of the Institute of Biology (IoB) and its W. Midlands Branch, as well as IoB Mission Control. He served a couple of terms on its Biomedical Science Committee (including when serviced by myself) as well as its Council.  Among many things, he helped draft the IoB’s (now adopted by the RSB) Royal Charter.

He was for much of his career based at Birmingham University where he was a whole-organism biologist specialising in reproductive biology as well as human biomedical aspects. Jack could talk sex.

Later in his career he moved to Warwick University.

He was known for a number of television appearances, and his image (uncaptioned) was even used to illustrate geniuses in a round of BBC’s Stephen Fry’s QI.  And he was the author of several popular science books.

As many older Brit SF fans will be aware, he was also active within the UK Science Fiction community and in the 1970s-1990s regularly gave talks at Birmingham’s annual Novacons and the UK national Eastercons.

Along with myself he was a special guest at the 1994 Eurocon in Timisoara, Romania, a few years after the Iron Curtain lifted.

He co-wrote a couple of SF novels with Warwick U.’s mathematician Ian Stewart FRS as well as a series of quirky and entertaining, non-fiction Science of Discworld books again with Ian and also Terry Pratchett.

Some further links:

Pixel Scroll 4/28/19 Heck Has No Fury Like A Woman Scorned

(1) GOOGLE GAG. Google “Thanos.” There will be a Infinity Gauntlet image on the right side. Click on it. No spoilers involved.

(2) AVENGERS BREAKS THE BANK. Yahoo! Entertainment has the numbers as “World turns out for record ‘Avengers: Endgame’ movie debut”.

Fans around the globe packed movie theaters for the debut of “Avengers: Endgame” over the weekend, pushing total ticket sales for the Walt Disney Co superhero spectacle to a stunning $1.2 billion and crushing records in dozens of countries.

“Endgame” generated an unprecedented $350 million in the United States and Canada from Thursday night through Sunday, according to Disney estimates. The three-hour action spectacle that revealed the fates of Iron Man, Thor and other popular comic-book heroes also made history in China, Brazil, France, Egypt, South Africa and 38 other markets….

(3) LIFE OF TOLKIEN. Historian John Garth’s Daily Mail article has some spoilers for the Tolkien biopic — “The forbidden love that saved JRR Tolkien from the horrors of war: A controversial new film reveals the extraordinary true story behind The Lord Of The Rings”

…It was more than three weeks before he had a chance to think. Tolkien sat out at night in a Somme wood as dark and tangled as his thoughts, then wrote to the other two survivors. ‘Something has gone crack,’ he said. ‘I feel just the same to both of you – nearer if anything and very much in need of you. But I don’t feel a member of a little complete body now.’

The four had dreamed that with God’s help they would change the world through a grand creative collaboration. They must have been mistaken, Tolkien said.

Though none of them could know it, Gilson’s death had actually put Tolkien on the road to changing the world singlehandedly….

(4) CONTROVERSY STALKS CIA PRESENCE AT CON. “Awesome Con Opens With Fans Questioning CIA Involvement”ScienceFiction.com has extensive coverage.

Awesome Con opened the doors at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC, for its seventh year on Friday. Every year, Awesome Con gets bigger – more celebrities, more artists, more fans. Now, it seems like there’s also more controversy.

As first reported by the website ComicsBeat, the CIA has a large presence at this year’s con, from logos on various signage, to a large exhibit booth, to several CIA-inspired panels.

…At the convention, the CIA booth is in an area surrounded by other science, technology, and government bodies, including NASA. The messaging around the agency’s booth is clear – they are there to recruit those who are interested.

Talking to some of the attendees at the convention, the reactions to the CIA being there were mixed. Some who spoke about their displeasure would only provide their first names, citing fear of retribution.

“I think it’s just messed up, man,” said Peter, who would only say he lived somewhere ‘up north.’ “These are the same people who’ve killed and tortured innocent people, but you got them here recruiting? There are kids around here! I thought this show was supposed to be about the fans?”

“I’m not going anywhere near that area,” said Sara, who travelled with her young son from Pennsylvania. “It’s sad, too, because I wanted my son to see some of the space stuff over there. Maybe somebody will realize they made a mistake and not do this again.”

(5) BRADBURY STATUE. “Dedication planned for August as work starts on Waukegan’s Ray Bradbury statue” reports the Chicago Tribune.

Work on a Ray Bradbury statue in downtown Waukegan has begun as the final stretch of fundraising continues, a Waukegan Public Library official said.

The 12-foot-tall statue — which will feature the late Waukegan native, book in hand, on a rocket ship — will be placed outside the library once complete, with a dedication planned for Bradbury’s birthday on Aug. 22.

The statue, inspired by Bradbury’s poem “If Only We Had Taller Been,” is being created in stainless steel by acclaimed artist Zachary Oxman, who agreed to a contract a few months ago so he could start buying material and lining up a foundry, said Richard Lee, who saw the project begin as a conversation four years ago when he was the library’s executive director.

The Ray Bradbury Statue Committee is still $20,000 shy of the $125,000 needed to cover the statue’s cost, but the hope is that seeing the finished product will help spark the last fundraising push, library spokeswoman Amanda Civitello said.

(6) IN DEMAND. WorldCat’s The Library 100 lists the top novels available in libraries worldwide. Plenty of sff! I’ve read 41 of these, but lots of you can beat that score.

What makes a novel “great”? At OCLC, we believe literary greatness can be measured by how many libraries have a copy on their shelves.

Yes, libraries offer access to trendy and popular books. But, they don’t keep them on the shelf if they’re not repeatedly requested by their communities over the years. We’ve identified 100 timeless, top novels—those found in thousands of libraries around the world—using WorldCat, the world’s largest database of library materials.

So, check out The Library 100, head to your nearest library, and enjoy the read!

(7) TIME FOR A REFILL. In his latest The Full Lid, Alasdair Stuart says he “takes a look at the excellent narrative build of Discovery season 2 and what it shares with classic stage magic. I also listen to Monkeyman Productions’ remarkable Moonbase Theta, Out, find a lot to be optimistic about at Ytterbium and contrast that with one of my very few con horror stories. Thanks for reading.” Here’s a brief excerpt from the Eastercon report —

…Four years ago, volunteering at a convention, I had to explain to a decades-in-the-business, award winning creative you’ve probably heard of that a harassment policy was not a needless frippery but rather the equivalent of putting a roof on a house. Sooner or later, you always end up needing it. That wasn’t the only complaint we had about the policy, but it was the one that left the nastiest taste in my mouth. A taste, I notice four years later, has gone. Harassment policies are now the norm. The Overton Window of tradition has shifted and shifted, FOR ONCE, to the left.

That doesn’t just apply to cultural changes either. I’m seeing the ragged leading edge of the singularity hitting at multiple places across the industry and improving what came before it every time it does. Ten years ago I explained that I worked for a podcast and was greeted with the polite, confused expression of a relative who’s pretty certain they’ve been told a joke but have no idea whether or not to laugh. This year, I was part of the best podcast panel I’ve seen, or been on, at a convention to date….

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 28, 1840 Palmer Cox. He was known for The Brownies, his series of humorous books and comic strips about the troublesome but generally well-meaning sprites. The cartoons were published in several books, such as The Brownies, Their Book for some forty years starting in the 1870s. Due to the immense popularity of his Brownies, one of the first popular handheld cameras was named after them, the Eastman Kodak Brownie camera. (Died 1924.)
  • Born April 28, 1910 Sam Merwin Jr. He was most influential in the Forties  and Fifties as the editor of Startling Stories,  Fantastic Story Quarterly, Wonder Stories Annual, Thrilling Wonder Stories and Fantastic Universe. He wrote a few stories for DC’s Strange Adventures and Mystery in Space but otherwise wasn’t known as a genre writer. (Died 1996.)
  • Born April 28, 1914 Philip E. High. Made his name first in the Fifties by being published in Authentic Science Fiction, New Worlds Science Fiction and Nebula Science Fiction, and was voted “top discovery” in the Nebula readers’ poll for 1956.  A collection of his short stories, The Best of Philip E. High, was published in 2002. He wrote fourteen novels but I can’t remember that I’ve read any of them, so can y’all say how he was as a novelist? (Died 2006.)
  • Born April 28, 1917 Robert Cornthwaite. Actor in such Fifties films as The Thing From Another WorldThe War of the WorldsMen Into Space and Destination Space. He would be active well into the Twentieth Century in such productions as The Twilight Zone, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Colossus: The Forbin Project , The Six Million Dollar Man, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and White Dwarf. (Died 2006.)
  • Born April 28, 1929 Charles Bailey. Co-writer writer with Fletcher Knebel of Seven Days In May, a story of an attempted coup against the President.  Rod Serling wrote the screenplay for the film. ISFDB says it got one review in the trade, in Analog Science Fact & Science Fiction, February 1963 by P. Schuyler Miller. (Died 2012.)
  • Born April 28, 1930 Carolyn Jones. She began played the role of Morticia Addams (as well as her sister Ophelia and the feminine counterpart of Thing, Lady Fingers) in The Addams Family. Though she had an uncredited role in the original The War of the Worlds which be her first genre role as a Blonde Party Guest, and she was Theodora ‘Teddy’ Belicec in the Invasion of the Body Snatchers. She had a recurring role as Marsha, Queen of Diamonds on Batman. (Died 1983.)
  • Born April 28, 1948 Terry Pratchett. Did you know that Steeleye Span did a superb job of turning his Wintersmith novel into a recording? You can read the Green Man review here (Wintersmith) by Kage’s sister Kathleen. My favorite Pratchett? Well pretty much any of the Watch novels will do for a read for a night when I want something English and really fantastic. (Died 2015.)
  • Born April 28, 1953 Will Murray, 66. Obviously MMPs still live as he’s writing them currently in the Doc Savage Universe to the tune of eighteen under the house name of Kenneth Robeson since 1993. He’s also written in the King Kong, Julie de Grandin, Mars Attacks, Reanimator Universe, Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.,Tarzan, Destroyer and The Spider media franchises. So how many do you recognize? 
  • Born April 28, 1967 Kari Wuhrer, 52. Best known for her roles as Maggie Beckett in Sliders and as Sheriff Samantha Parker in Eight Legged Freaks. Her first genre role was as Jackie Trent in Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time. She also played Amy Klein in Hellraiser VII: Deader (There was that many films in that franchise? Really? Why?) She voiced Barbara Keane and Pamela Isley in the most excellent Batman: Gotham by Gaslight and earlier in her career she was Abigail in the first live action Swamp Thing series. 
  • Born April 28, 1971 Chris Young, 48. Bryce Lynch in the Max Headroom series which I still hold is of the best SF series ever done. The only other genre I think he’s are two horror films, The Runestone andWarlock: The Armageddon. Unless you call voice roles in The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars and The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue genre…

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • With geometric logic, Candorville proves that Star Trek:Discovery is a big deal.
  • Speed Bump reveals something you didn’t know about those Little Libraries.
  • Speed Bump has a cute phone joke, too.

(10) ROUGH JUSTICE. Yahoo! Entertainment says “‘Avengers: Endgame’ Spoiler Man Beaten Outside Hong Kong Cinema”.

A man who obviously didn’t get the memo on Avengers: Endgame – or chose to ignore it – was beaten outside a Hong Kong cinema for shouting out spoilers to fans waiting in line to see the film.

(11) BACK IN TIME. Intercot documents EPCOT’s Spaceship Earth attraction, which was created with the help of Ray Bradbury and many others.

Spaceship Earth opened on October 1, 1982 and “celebrates communication as the key to human progress and survival.” (Walt Disney World – A Pictorial Souvenir © 1984 Disney) “For EPCOT’s signature structure, the Imagineers needed an image as unique as the Magic Kingdom’s castle. Something that would say, ‘Here’s a place that’s global in scope and futuristic in design.’ They made an inspired choice, Spaceship Earth.”

You can read and listen to recordings of the Spaceship Earth narrative, too.

Passing directly beneath the remarkable structure, we proceed up a short ramp passing two posters, a sign, and a large mural before entering the pavilion. The two posters on either side of the entrance queue show a painting of Spaceship Earth with stars in the distance behind it. Both say “Ride the Time Machine from the Dawn of Civilization to the Beginning of Our Tomorrow. SPACESHIP EARTH.” The sign which is along the right side of the ramp reads “Spaceship Earth is a slow moving attraction that explores the history of human communications. Since travelers will be transported to the furthest regions of our solar system, the attraction is not recommended for those who experience anxiety in dark, narrow or enclosed spaces.” The mural depicts astronauts working on a satellite with Earth in the distance. Surrounding them are smaller images of cavemen, the Egyptians, the Romans, Gutenburg and his printing press, and modern day people. These announcements are heard as we near the entranceway:

(12) YOUR MPH MAY VARY. According to Gizmodo, “Hubble Measurements Confirm There’s Something Weird About How the Universe Is Expanding”.

…But other measurements don’t agree. Scientists using the Hubble Space Telescope recalculated the Hubble constant with the help of a recent high-accuracy measurement of the distance to a nearby satellite galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud, as well as new observations of 70 Cepheid variables, a kind of pulsating star. Cepheids’ pulsation rate and brightness are closely enough related that their distance can be calculated. Combined with other improvements, they calculated the Universe’s expansion at 74 kilometers per second per megaparsec.

Basically—when scientists look farther away, the Universe seems to be expanding more slowly than when they look at the local Universe….

(13) STARBIRTH. Jonathan Cowie says of Gaia DR2 reveals a star formation burst in the disc 2–3 Gyr ago” – “It’s a bit technical for non-science types but they in Gaia DR2 data an imprint of a star formation burst 2–3 Gyr ago in the Galactic thin disc domain, and a present star formation rate.” Nature summarizes it thus:

…A burst of star formation that peaked two billion to three billion years ago spangled the Milky Way with a new generation of stars.

To understand how the Galaxy formed and evolved, astronomers need to know the rate at which its stars are born and how that rate has changed over time. But there is no way to measure the age of individual stars directly.

Roger Mor at the University of Barcelona in Spain and his colleagues turned to data from the Gaia satellite, which precisely measures the distance from Earth to millions of stars. These measurements allow researchers to calculate a star’s true brightness and size, which can be fed into models to infer its age.

The team simulated star formation in the Milky Way over time, and found it was in steady decline until roughly five billion years ago, when production suddenly ramped up. The researchers estimate that half the total mass of all the stars ever created in the Milky Way’s thin disk — which contains most of the Galaxy’s stars — was produced during this period.

(14) RADIO 4. FutureProofing episode “The Apocalypse” is a 40-minute programme on BBC Radio 4 which is not your usual prepper fare as it touches a number of SF tropes including the singularity, post humanism, AI as well as the basics such as asteroids.

Will 21st century technology avert or accelerate the Apocalypse? FutureProofing discovers the dangers and risks of existential disaster in the 21st century.

(15) COULDA BEEN A CONTENDER. Core Ideas explains how the Heroes TV show was on the verge of becoming classic sci fi and then didn’t.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/24/19 The Scroll Of The File King From Pixel Gynt

(1) AO3’S HUGO PACKET ENTRY. Archive of Our Own has publicly released its Hugo Voter Packet Submission. The two-page writeup is here [PDF file]. The following intro comes from Firenze to Therum:

AO3 was nominated for a Hugo Award this year for Best Related Work! This is an amazing achievement and we’re overjoyed that Hugo voters have recognised the incredible collaborative work that is the Archive.

Here’s some information about AO3, including its origins, some key features, and the team that makes it all possible. You can also check out the shiny PDF we submitted for the 2019 Hugo packet!

(2) AVENGING ECONOMIST. Behind the Financial Times paywall, economics columnist Tim Harford offers his thoughts on Avengers: Endgame.

Thanos fascinates me not only because he’s the best bad guy since Darth Vader–but because the muscular utilitarian is an economist on steroids.

Thanos’s claim to the economists’ hall of fame lies in his interest in scarce resources, his faith in the power of logical analysis, and a strong commitment to policy action–specifically, to eliminate half of all life in the universe, chosen at random…

…Thanos has convinced himself that he’s seen something nobody else can quite understand.  The truth is that he sorely needs peer review.  Like many powerful people, he regards himself as above his critics, not to mention every sapient being in the universe.  He views humans less as free-willed spirits capable of solving their own problems, and more like overbreeding rabbits, needing a cull for their own good.

(3) ENDGAME REVIEW. NPR’s Glen Weldon tells us “Mourning Has Broken Them: ‘Avengers: Endgame'”.

Going into Avengers: Endgame, one would be well-advised to manage both one’s expectations, and — given its three-hour-plus, intermissionless runtime — one’s fluid intake.

…The Russos’ decision to stick close to the experiences of the remaining Avengers proves a rewarding one, as they’ve expressly constructed the film as an extended victory lap for the Marvel Cinematic Universe writ large. Got a favorite character from any Marvel movie over the past decade, no matter how obscure? Prepare to get serviced, fan. Because the film’s third and final hour contains extended references to every single Marvel film that has led up to this one – yes! even Thor: The Dark World! I’m as surprised as you are! – and part of the delight Endgame provides to the patient audience member is gauging the size of the cheer that greets the entrance of any given hero, locale or – in at least once instance – item of super-hardware.

Make no mistake: There will be cheers. And boos. And gasps. The final, climactic battle (come on, you knew there’d be one) is legitimately thrilling, because every one of its manifold delights is fueled by (a cynic would say coasting on) the warm familiarity that spending a decade with these characters has engendered….

(4) GLEN WELDON HAS COMPANY. BBC does a roundup of the immediate reaction — “Avengers: Endgame ‘satisfying’ and ‘glorious’, say critics”.

Critics have been left dazzled by the latest Avengers film, describing it as “glorious”, “irresistible”, “intensely satisfying” and “masterful”….

(5) DON’T MISS THIS OPPORTUNITY. Clarke Award director Tom Hunter, seeing how few award submissions are by writers of color, says “Diversity in science fiction needs action now”.

…Many authors and industry spokespeople have talked more eloquently about the need to address this disparity in publishing than I will ever be able to. But I also suspect more than a few publishers will quietly check their new submissions piles or log into BookScan after reading this, and suggest that in order to affect any real change they need to submit more books by writers of colour.

They may argue, of course, that there needs to be more evidence of sales potential first to get those books past gatekeepers in marketing, finance and other departments. They might (just) have a short-term point, but to me this sounds more like using data to justify a current position – and I think it also misses the bigger publishing opportunity.

Here are four cultural tipping point trends that show what I mean.

  • From the SF&F bookshelves: N.K. Jemisin wins a record-setting third consecutive Hugo Award for Best Science Fiction Novel with the final part of her Broken Earth trilogy (parts one and two having taken the prize in their own respective years).
  • From the ‘respectable’ bookshelves: Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad wins the Pulitzer, the National Book Award and the Arthur C. Clarke Award for science fiction literature.
  • From the Box Office: The Marvel Universe film Black Panther makes over a billion dollars at the box office in record time and gets nominated for seven Oscars including Best Picture (it doesn’t win that one though, of course).
  • From an adjacent cultural sector: The Musée d’Orsay in Paris opens their major exhibition Black Models: From Gericault to Matisse, challenging our historic perceptions of French masterpieces by reframing and renaming them to foreground attention on their black subjects, gaining both critical acclaim and a big upswing in first time visits from new audiences (new readers to you and me) along the way.

(6) HOPEPUNK AND HUGOS. Yes! takes a look “Inside Science Fiction’s Compassionate Revolution”.

…In 2018, almost every category of the Hugos were won by women, including N.K. Jemisin, who became the first person ever to win the Hugo for Best Novel three years in a row. Before Jemisin, no Black person of either gender had ever won the top award.

Then came this year’s historic collection of nominees, which are notable not just for the elevation of a more diverse field of storytellers, but for the specific type of story that many of them represent.

Rowland coined the term “hopepunk” on a whim in a 2017 Tumblr post, having no idea that it would catch on so strongly within the community. She defined it initially as “the opposite of grimdark,” referring to a popular dystopian subgenre characterized by nihilism, amorality, and a negative view of human nature. Hopepunk, in contrast, is optimistic about humanity and sees kindness as “an act of rebellion” against a power structure that benefits from people giving up on compassion.

In an essay for the Winter 2019 issue of The Stellar Beacon zine, Rowland expanded on hopepunk, emphasizing the resistance element. Unlike another subgenre dubbed “noblebright”—characterized by the belief that righteous heroes can and will prevail over wicked villains—hopepunk does not deny the inherent injustices of the real world. However, it also recognizes the potential for justice within humanity. Compassion and empathy are weapons in the eternal fight between good and evil within the human heart. Hopepunk acknowledges that that fight will never be won, but insists on fighting anyway, because, as Rowland wrote, “the fight itself is the point.”

(7) BIZARROCON PERSPECTIVE. Brian Keene interviewed Jeff Burk on a recent episode of The Horror Show With Brian Keene (“Jeff Burk Unchained – The Horror Show with Brian Keene – Ep 215”.)  Part of the discussion centered on the events at BizzaroCon where Chandler Morrison performed a section of one of his works; complete with a dead (toy) baby covered in blood (ketchup) — events covered in File 770 posts “A Reckoning for BizarroCon” and “Changes in Store for Bizarrocon”.

Dann listened to the podcast and sent along these notes —

During the interview, Burk categorically denied having anything to do with abusive/predatory behavior that had been an issue at past cons.  He was incensed at the post-con attempts to tie abusive behavior with himself or Morrison.    Burk suggested that the tone/perspective of comments that he received at the con were decidedly different from what was seen on the Internet in the days that followed.  The people complaining most loudly online had appeared to have substantially different perspectives while at the con.  He also denied that Morrison ever exposed himself during his performance.  A prosthetic/prop was used during the performance.

Burk acknowledged that he had made the mistake of thinking that BizarroCon was an appropriate venue for Morrison’s performance.  Similar (and perhaps more gross) performances have been a long tradition at KillerCon.

Brian Keene indicated that he had acted as a consultant/mediator after the BizarroCon performance, but he had no direct input on Deadite Press’ decision to fire Burk.

Burk indicated that he disagreed with the decision by Eraserhead Press’ decision to terminate him.  But he also said that he is still on good terms with the executives in charge and has a positive opinion of them.

He also discussed his new imprint “Section 31 Productions”.  Star Trek fans will recognize the homage in the company’s name.

(8) DRAGON CHOW. Eater’s article “How Much Do the ‘Game of Thrones’ Dragons Actually Need to Eat? An Investigation” kind of reminds me of the Lilliputians trying to feed Gulliver.

In the Season 8 premiere, Winterfell leather goth Sansa Stark questions her brother Jon Snow’s decision to bring his pushy new girlfriend (and aunt!) Daenerys and her two dragons to the north, wondering out loud what precisely the dragons are going to eat. The Mother of Dragons smugly replies, “Whatever they want.” (Which, judging from past episodes, includes a lot of animal herds and the occasional shepherd boy.)

Later in the episode, two of Dany’s Dothraki footmen inform her that her dragons only ate only “18 goats and 11 sheep” for lunch, a sign that they are losing their appetite as a result of the move up north. Considering that Game of Thrones scribes D.B. Weiss and David Benioff love foreshadowing, we couldn’t help but wonder if the dragon’s dietary needs will play some key role in the upcoming Battle of Winterfell. To better understand the dragon hunger situation and how it could impact the impending war with the Night King, Eater got in touch with a bona fide expert on large reptiles and flying animals, and asked her a few questions about how these aerial beasts might act during the epic battle ahead.

(9) CONNOR TRIBUTE. Graham Connor (1957-2018) co-founded SF² Concatenation at the 1987 Eastercon and remained one of its co-editors until his death in December 2018. Jonathan Cowie and other friends have assembled an illustrated profile of his life in SF and space communications in “A life in SF and space”, an advance post ahead of SF² Concatenation’s summer edition.

Graham was born in the Cumbrian, coastal town of Workington, in the shadow of Windscale (now Sellafield).  1957 was the year of the Windscale nuclear disaster.  And so the scene was set for Graham to potentially have been bitten by a radioactive spider and become a superhero. But, alas, that did not happen….

He did make it to several Worldcons — Brighton (1979), Brighton (1987), The Hague (1990) – he subsequently worked a couple of years for ESA nearby, and Glasgow (1995).  Sadly, chronic illness prevented further attendance beyond the mid-2000s.

(10) BARNES OBIT. From BBC: “Dick Barnes, pioneer behind oldest working computer, dies”. The 98-year-old died April 8.

One of the co-designers of a machine later recognised as the world’s oldest working digital computer has died.

Richard “Dick” Barnes helped to create the Harwell Dekatron, which was first put to use in 1951 by Britain’s fledgling nuclear research establishment.

He was also involved in the 2.5-tonne machine’s restoration, which saw it switched back on in 2012.

…He and two colleagues, Ted Cooke-Yarborough and Gurney Thomas, began their work on the Harwell Dekatron in 1949.

It was initially used by the Atomic Energy Research Establishment in Oxfordshire, where its tasks involved solving equations used to design the structure supporting the world’s first commercial nuclear reactor at Calder Hall.

…In November 2012 the machine was successfully switched back on after a three-year restoration project.

The revived machine functioned as planned, which is to say, very slowly.

It could take up to 10 seconds to multiply two numbers – but Mr Barnes and his co-designers had wanted a machine that could run continuously, not necessarily quickly, in order to be useful.

Indeed, it was known to calculate continuously for periods of up to 80 hours.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 24, 1930 Richard Donner, 89. Oh, now he’s credited in directing Superman as making the modern superhero film. H’h. Well I’m going to celebrate him instead for ScroogedThe Goonies (really not genre but fun) and Ladyhawke. Not to mention the horror he did — Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight and Bordello of Blood. Oh and the first X-Men film which was superb.
  • Born April 24, 1936 Jill Ireland. For her short life, she was in an amazing number of genre shows. She was on Star Trek romancing Spock as Leila Kalomi In “This Side of Paradise”. She had five appearances on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well as being on Night Gallery,  My Favorite Martian, Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Voodoo Factor and the SF film The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything based on the 1962 novel of the same name by John D. MacDonald. (Died 1990.)
  • Born April 24, 1946 Donald D’Ammassa, 73. Considered to be one of the best and fairest long-form reviewers ever. His Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2005) covers some five hundred writers and as can two newer volumes, Encyclopedia of Fantasy and Horror Fiction (2006) and Encyclopedia of Adventure Fiction (2009) are equally exhaustive. I can’t comment on his fiction as I’ve only ever encountered as a reviewer.
  • Born April 24, 1947 Michael Butterworth, 72. Author with Michael Moorcock of, naturally, two Time of the Hawklords novels, Time of the Hawklords and Queens of Deliria. He also wrote a number of Space 1999 Year 2 novels, too numerous to list here. He also edited Corridor magazine from 1971 to 1974. He also wrote a number of short fiction pieces including one whose title amuses me for reasons I’m not sure, “Circularisation of Condensed Conventional Straight-Line Word-Image Structures“. 
  • Born April 24, 1953 Gregory Luce, 66. Editor and publisher of both the Science Fiction Gems and the Horror Gems anthology series, plus such other anthologies as Citadel of the Star Lords / Voyage to Eternity and Old Spacemen Never Die! / Return to Earth. For a delightful look at him and these works, go here. Warning: cute canine involved! 

(12) WILSON FUNDRAISING UPDATE. The “Help Gahan Wilson find his way” GoFundMe is now up to 1300 contributors and just over $60,000 raised. Gahan Wilson is suffering from severe dementia, and the goal is to pay for his memory care.

Gahan and my mother had been residing in an assisted living facility in Arizona. With my mother’s passing, he must move to a memory care unit.

…Gahan will be in our care at the casita, and we will also find him a memory care unit in Santa Fe since he also needs daily medical care.

Memory care is wildly expensive. More so than assisted living. If we could cover the cost ourselves, we would. We can’t, and Gahan and my mother did not save for anything like this. We are asking his fans to help us, help Gahan.

That’s what this is all about. Making the rest of Gahan’s days as wonderful as they can be.

(13) OVERLOOKED. In its review of a new sff collection, The Hugo Award Book Club faults “A People’s Future Without Labour”.

…Any author or editor attempting to claim the mantle of [Howard] Zinn’s work has an unenviable task ahead of them. But when SF luminaries John Joseph Adams and Victor LaValle — both of whom have produced top-quality works — announced a short story collection whose title is an homage to Zinn, we were very excited. 

Given the provocative and timely premise of A People’s Future Of The United States, we approached the collection of stories with enthusiasm. Unfortunately, the collection as a whole failed to live up to the grand ideas described by the editors.

…Questions of race, class and gender are important to explore and have all-too-often been ignored in science fiction. 

We would argue that because science fiction is an inherently political genre, it is of paramount importance to create inclusive futures we can believe in. Some of the stories in this volume do indeed ably tackle topics of race, class and gender. But the topic of labour is almost entirely neglected. 

It is disappointing that an anthology that so explicitly aims to address cultural blindspots has reproduced one itself. 

In comparison, the index to Zinn’s classic history book includes a full page of references to organized labour movements. At a rough estimate, 30 per cent of the book deals with the struggles of traditional union movement organizing, and workers rights are integral to much of the rest of the text…. 

(14) ROBOTS LIKE ME. James Wallace Harris reviews Ian McEwan’s Machines Like Me in “Why Should Robots Look Like Us?” at Auxiliary Memory.

McEwan’s story often digresses into infodumps and intellectual musings which are common pitfalls of writing science fiction. And the trouble is he goes over the same well-worn territory. The theme of androids is often used to explore: What does it mean to be human? McEwan uses his literary skills to go into psychological details that most science fiction writers don’t, but the results are the same.

I’ve been reading these stories for decades, and they’ve been explored in the movies and television for many years too, from Blade Runner to Ex Machina. Why can’t we go deeper into the theme? Partly I think it’s because we assume AI robots will look identical to us. That’s just nuts. Are we so egocentric that we can’t imagine our replacements looking different? Are we so vain as a species as to believe we’re the ideal form in nature?

…Instead of writing stories about our problems of dealing with facsimiles of ourselves, we should be thinking about a world where glittery metallic creatures build a civilization on top of ours, and we’re the chimpanzees of their world.

(15) POWER VOCABULARY. BBC’s science news “‘Exhilarating’ implant turns thoughts to speech” includes recorded sample.

Scientists have developed a brain implant that can read people’s minds and turn their thoughts to speech.

The team at the University of California, San Francisco says the technology is “exhilarating”.

They add that their findings, published in the journal Nature, could help people when disease robs them of their ability to talk.

Experts said the findings were compelling and offered hope of restoring speech.

The mind-reading technology works in two stages.

First an electrode is implanted in the brain to pick up the electrical signals that manoeuvre the lips, tongue, voice box and jaw.

Then powerful computing is used to simulate how the movements in the mouth and throat would form different sounds.

(16) KRUGMAN’S WORLDCON TALK. At Anticipation, the 2009 Worldcon in Montreal, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman spoke and then took questions. Scott Edelman has posted an audio recording on YouTube.

(17) PROP MAKER. Kenneth Spivey is “The Swordsmith to the Stars”. Great Big Story has a video (just over 3 minutes) about this artist and prop maker who is “working on Hollywood films like the ones he’s always loved—and likely inspiring the next generation.” Chevy trucks are featured prominently since they are the corporate sponsor.

(18) GEMINI MAN. The Hollywood Reporter asks “Can ‘Gemini Man’ Revive the Golden Age of ’90s Sci-Fi?” That is, can it be “an event unto itself?” Will Smith stars opposite a CGI-ed 23-year-old version of himself in Ang Lee’s Gemini Man—a property with a long history of previous stars being attached. The movie opens October 11.

This morning Paramount had us seeing double with the first trailer for the Ang Lee-directed sci-fi/action film Gemini Man, starring not one, but two Will Smiths. The long-gestating film, which began development as a Tony Scott feature in 1997, centers on assassin on the verge of retirement Henry Brogen (Smith), who is forced to combat a younger clone of himself (Smith) in the not-too-distant future. Since the film’s inception in the late ’90s, a number of big names have been attached to star, including Harrison Ford, Nicolas Cage, Clint Eastwood and Sean Connery. When Ang Lee took over the project in 2017, he cast Smith in the lead role, giving the actor the unique opportunity to play both his current 50-year-old self and his 23-year-old self, who, thanks to the film’s revolutionary technology, looks like he just stepped right off the set of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. If the trailer for the film, which also stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Clive Owen and Benedict Wong, is any indication, Gemini Man may be just what the science fiction genre needs.

[…] Big-budget original science fiction needs a win, and hopefully Gemini Man can recapture the spirit of the ’90s where a big-name director, producer and actor were an event unto themselves, regardless of preexisting material. Gemini Man looks appealing not simply because of its concept and slick action sequences, but because it looks to simultaneously tap into our nostalgia with a sunglasses-wearing Smith, and also our desire for an original, high-concept property that doesn’t require any prior knowledge. It’s a double threat.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/18/19 Learn To Scroll The Pixelphone, I File Just What I Feel, Drink Straight Tully All Night Long, And Filk Behind The Wheel

(1) AMAZON SAYS THEY’RE NOT TO BLAME. “Amazon hits back at claims it is to blame for falling author earnings”The Guardian has the story.

Amazon has called the conclusions of a recent report into US author earnings flawed, after the Authors Guild suggested that the retail giant’s dominance could be partly responsible for the “a crisis of epic proportions” affecting writers in the US.

The report from the writers’ body, published last week, highlighted the statistic that median income from writing-related work fell to $6,080 (£4,730) in 2017, down 42% from 2009, with literary authors particularly affected. Raising “serious concerns about the future of American literature”, the writers’ body singled out the growing dominance of Amazon for particular blame. “Amazon (which now controls 72% of the online book market in the US) puts pressure on [publishers] to keep costs down and takes a large percentage, plus marketing fees, forcing publishers to pass on their losses to authors,” said the report.

But on Wednesday, Amazon took issue with the report’s conclusions. “The Authors Guild has acknowledged that there are significant differences between the data it compared in its recent survey and years prior, noting that ‘the data does not line up’,” said an Amazon statement. “As a result, many of the survey’s conclusions are flawed or contradictory. For instance, the survey also shows that earnings increased almost 17% for traditionally published authors and 89% for independent [self-published] authors, and that full-time authors saw their median income rise 13% since 2013.”

(2) OVERSAUCED. Cora Buhlert wrote an emphatic dissent from Lee Konstantinou’s Slate article “Something Is Broken in Our Science Fiction” (linked in the Scroll a few days ago). Buhlert’s post is titled “Science Fiction Is Dying Again – The Hopepunk Edition”

…And now science fiction is dying again. Or rather, it already died in the 1980s and has been shambling along like a mirroshaded cyberpunk zombie ever since. For inspired by the hopepunk debate that broke out in late December (chronicled here), Lee Konstantinou weighs in on cyberpunk, hopepunk, solarpunk and the state of science fiction in general as part of Slate‘s future tense project (found via File 770). And this is one case where I wish I could use the German phrase “seinen Senf dazugeben” (literally “add their mustard”) instead of the more neutral English “weigh in”. Because Lee Konstantinou absolutely adds his* mustard, regardless whether anybody actually wants mustard or whether mustard even fits the dish….

(3) THE NEXT SFWA PRESIDENT. He’s not a SFWA member but he believes that could change — Jon Del Arroz declares “My Endorsement Of Mary Robinette Kowal For SFWA President” [Internet Archive link]

…Outreach to underserved and underrepresented writers in the SFF community

Again, the most important aspect of this, as the most underserved and underrepresented writers in the SF/F community are conservatives and Christians. These groups feel like they’re not welcome anywhere within the sphere of publishing, and it needs to change.

I’m confident Ms. Kowal will enact change here, which is the primary reason for my endorsement. I also volunteer to act as an ambassador to the conservative/Christian writing communities on her behalf, as many writers feel they can safely speak with me in confidence, when their concerns might get them ostracized or their businesses hurt if they voice their issues elsewhere. With me in such a role, we can repair the bridge in fandom so we can make it about books again, and selling for authors, and not about petty political squabbles.

Ms. Kowal has demonstrated to me personally that she is sincere in this effort by attempting to assist me with Worldcon 2018 when they horribly discriminated against me last year because of my outspoken beliefs, and because I was under threat of physical harm being done to me at their convention by extreme left-wing agitators.  The cycle of victim blaming must stop, and Kowal has assured me SFWA will not be an organization that will treat conservative authors as 2nd class citizens. This is a human rights issue and very big for me!

But Kowal also puts her money where her mouth is. When I was coming up and needed promotion as a writer, Kowal featured me on her blog not just once—but twice, and the second after I’d already become a prominent outspoken conservative within the community. She cares about books FIRST – and this is what sets her apart from others.

I’m excited for her tenure so I can finally join the professional guild (as is my due) without being shut down and held to standards others within SFWA are not.

(4) SPOCK BACKSTORY. Showrunner Alex Kurtzman discusses the launch of Star Trek: Discovery season 2 with The Hollywood Reporter: “‘Star Trek’ Showrunner: ‘Discovery’ Season 2 Is About Spock’s ‘Unwritten Chapter’”.

Discovery season one seemed like a declarative end of a chapter with the Federation-Klingon war coming to its conclusion. Why did you choose to start the second chapter by bringing in the Enterprise, considering its notoriety?

We discover in season one that Michael has a relationship with Spock. The mystery of why Spock, who we’ve known for over 50 years, has never mentioned his sister, is huge. It felt like there was no way we were going to be able to answer that question in one or two episodes. It was easily going to be the substance of a whole season. This season is a deep-dive into that relationship and what went wrong, their history and where they’re headed. That excited me. It’s the unwritten chapter of how Spock became the character that we meet in the original series. We’ll come to understand that were it not for his relationship with Michael, many of the things we know and love about Spock may not have flowered in the way that they did.

(5) LOOKING GOOD. Camestros Felapton reviews the premiere in “Star Trek Discovery: Brother (S2E1)”.

…Launching into this first episode reminded me that I do actually like these characters. I felt happy to see Michael, Tilly, Saru and Stamets again. Also, Discovery remains visually impressive, it’s easily the best looking Star Trek. The promised story arc appears to be a mysterious simultaneous signal from five points across the galaxy — a signal that Spock knows something about and which (apparently coincidentally) Captain Pike has been tasked with investigating….

(6) COSTA BOOK AWARDS. The 2018 Costa Book Awards, a general literary prize in the UK, have a winner of genre interest — Stuart Turton won the First Novel award for The Seven (or 7 1/2) Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

At a party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed – again.  She’s been murdered hundreds of times, and each day Aidan Bishop is too late to save her.  The only way to break this cycle is to identify Evelyn’s killer.  But every time the day begins again, Aidan wakes in the body of a different guest.  And someone is desperate to stop him ever escaping Blackheath……   

Stuart Turton is a freelance travel journalist who’s previously worked in Shanghai and Dubai.  He’s the winner of the Brighton and Hove Short Story Prize and was longlisted for the BBC Radio 4 Opening Lines competition.  TV rights for The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle have been optioned by House Productions.  He lives in West London with his wife and daughter.     

Judges: ‘Impossibly clever, genre-busting murder mystery that feels like a mash-up of Cluedo, Sherlock and Groundhog Day.’

(7) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “WCFF-Dream” on Vimeo is an animated version of “I Dreamed a Dream” with many cute animals that was shown at the World Conservation Film Festival in October.

(8) PEARLMAN OBIT. Alan R. Pearlman (1925-2019) has died at the age of 93. The New York Times notes he was —

Founder of ARP Instruments and designer of its early synthesizers, which were used in Star Wars: A New Hope (R2-D2’s beeps), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (that infamous 5-note sequence, shown being played on an ARP 2500), and the 1980’s version of the Dr. Who theme.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 18, 1882 A.A. Milne. Oh Pooh has to count as genre, doesn’t he? Certainly that an exhibition entitled “Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic” appeared at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London shows his place in our culture. There’s also Once on a Time, a rather charming fairy tale by him. And though it isn’t remotely genre, i wholeheartedly recommend The Red House Mystery, a Country House Mystery that’s most excellent! (Died 1956.)
  • Born January 18, 1933 John Boorman, 86. I will admit that he does not at all have a lengthy genre resume though it’s quirky one nonetheless as it manages to encompass one howlingly horrible film being Zardoz featuring Sean Connery in diapers and Excalibur giving us a bare breasted Helen Mirren as Morgana. Did you know by the way that Robert Holdstock wrote the novelisation of The Emerald Forest which he directed? He also directed Exorcist II: The Heretic which frankly the less said about, the better.
  • Born January 18, 1937 Dick Durock. He was best known for playing Swamp Thing in Swamp Thing and The Return of Swamp Thing and the following television series. His only other genre appearances were in The Nude Bomb (also known as The Return of Maxwell Smart) and  “The First” of The Incredible Hulk. (Died 2009)
  • Born January 18, 1953 Pamela Dean, 66. Her best novel is I think Tam Lin though one could make an argument for Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary which Windling claims is her favorite fantasy novel. Her Secret Country trilogy is a great deal of fun reading. Much of her short stories are set in the Liavek shared universe created by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. Alll of these are now available on all major digital platforms. According to the files sitting in my Dropbox folder, there’s eight volumes to the series. They’re wonderful reading. End of plug.
  • Born January 18, 1955 Kevin Costner, 64. Some of his films are his genre films are really atrocious, to wit Robin Hood: Prince of ThievesWaterworldThe Postman and the recent Dragonfly but I really like  his Field of Dreams and his acting in it as Ray Kinsella is quite excellent. Not quite as superb as he was as  “Crash” Davis in Bull Durham but damned good. I forgot until just reminded that he was Jonathan Kent in both Man of Steel and  Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I know that’s two more horrid films he’s been in. 
  • Born January 18, 1960 Mark Rylance, 59. Prospero’s Books, an adaption of The Tempest which I really want to see, The BFG and Ready Player One are the films he’s been in. An active thespian, he’s been in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Royal Opera House, Hamlet at American Repertory Theater and Macbeth at Greenwich Theatre to show but a few of his appearances.
  • Born January 18, 1968David Ayer, 51. Film director, producer and screenwriter. Recent genre film from him were Suicide Squad and Bright, both of which have Will Smith in them and both of which, errr, were utter crap. He’ll be directing Gotham City Sirens which will not presumably have Will Smith in it. Yes I’m being snarky. 

(10) SIGNS OF SPRING. Jonathan Cowie announced that the Spring edition of SF2 Concatenation is now online, with its rich mix of con reports, articles, seasonal giant news page and loads of book reviews.

(11) BRICKS OF MONEY. Bloomberg says “The Hot New Asset Class Is Lego Sets”.

In a paper titled “Lego — The Toy of Smart Investors,” Dobrynskaya analyzed 2,300 sets sold from 1987 to 2015 to measure their price-return over time. She found that collections used for Hogwarts Castles and Jedi star fighters beat U.S. large-cap stocks and bonds, yielding 11 percent a year. Smaller kits rose more than medium-sized ones, similar to the size effect in the Fama-French model (though the relation isn’t exact).

Lego sets that focus on superheroes, Batman and Indiana Jones are among the ones that do best over time. The Simpsons is the only Lego theme that has lost value, falling by 3.5 percent on average.

(12) DANISH CRIME FICTION AWARDS. The winners of the 2018 Danish Criminal Academy Awards for the best Danish crime fiction have been announced.

The Harald Mogensen Prisen for the best thriller went to Jesper Stein for his novel Solo.

The Danish Criminal Academy’s debut award was won by Søren Sveistrup for the thriller novel “Kastanjemanden” (The Chestnut Man).

 The Palle Rosenkrantz Award for this year’s best foreign thriller novel has been awarded to Michael Connelly for Two Kinds of Truth. The award recognizes the best crime fiction novel published in Danish. It is named in honour of Palle Rosenkrantz (1867-1941), who is considered the first Danish crime fiction author; his novel Mordet i Vestermarie (Murder in Vestermarie) was published in 1902.

(13) J FOR JANUARY AND JOY. Cora Buhlert’s guest post “Space Opera and Me” is part of the Month of Joy project of the Skiffy and Fanty Show:  

At the time, a friend asked me why I always watched Star Trek, even though I’d seen much of it before and it was all the same anyway. “You watch soap operas, don’t you?” I asked her. She nodded and said, “Yes, to relax.” – “Well, Star Trek is my soap opera,” I told her.

I was on to something there, because there are similarities between space operas and soap operas beyond the fact that both started out as derogatory terms including the word “opera”. Both soap operas and space operas (and actual operas for that matter) offer larger-than-life drama with a huge cast of characters. Both offer the grand spectrum of emotion, love and hate, birth and death, weddings and funerals. However, space opera has aliens, ray guns, starships and space battles to go with the melodrama.

Another thing that unites space operas and soap operas is that no matter how fascinating the settings, how shocking the twists, how grand the melodrama, what makes us come back for more are the characters. The best space and soap operas feature people (in the loosest sense of the term) we want to spend time with, whether it’s in the mundane surroundings of Coronation Street or Lindenstraße or on the deck of a starship or the surface of an alien planet.

(14) FLOCKS OF HUGO RECOMMENDATIONS. Nerds of a Feather makes its collective picks in several Hugo categories at each post. Examples are included below.   

“2019 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 2: Visual Work Categories”

Graphic Story

  • Destroyer, Victor LaValle and Dietrich Smith
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: Volume 7: Synthesis, by Tom Sidell
  • Lumberjanes, Volume 8: Stone Cold, by Shannon Waters and Kat Leyh
  • Monstress: Volume 3: Haven, by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda
  • Saga: Volume 9, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
  • The Walking Dead, Volume 29: The Lines We Cross, by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard
  • White Sand: Volume 2, by Brandon Sanderon, Rik Hoskin, and Julius Gopez
  • X-Men: Grand Design, by Ed Piskor

“2019 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 3: Individual Categories”

Fan Writer

“2019 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 4: Institutional Categories”

Semiprozine

(15) HOW WE GOT HERE. An article in this week’s Nature reminds me of the old t-shirt design pointing out “You are here” — “The Once and Future Milky Way” [PDF file].

Data from the Gaia spacecraft are radically transforming how we see the evolution of our Galaxy.

There was a a smashup between the young Galaxy and a colossal companion . That beast once circled the Milky Way like a planet around a star, but some 8 billion to 11 billion years ago, the two collided, massively altering the Galactic disk and scattering stars far and wide. It is the last-known major crash the Galaxy experienced before it assumed the familiar spiral shape seen today. Although the signal of that ancient crash had been hiding in plain sight for billions of years, it was only through the Gaia space probe’s data set that astronomers were finally able to detect it.

(16) CITY CHESS. Maybe nothing to do with Brunner’s The Squares of the City, but designers can plot their moves with this — “Virtual cities: Designing the metropolises of the future”.

Simulation software that can create accurate “digital twins” of entire cities is enabling planners, designers and engineers to improve their designs and measure the effect changes will have on the lives of citizens.

Cities are hugely complex and dynamic creations. They live and breathe.

Think about all the parts: millions of people, schools, offices, shops, parks, utilities, hospitals, homes and transport systems.

Changing one aspect affects many others. Which is why planning is such a hard job.

So imagine having a tool at your disposal that could answer questions such as “What will happen to pedestrian and traffic flow if we put the new metro station here?” or “How can we persuade more people to leave their cars at home when they go to work?”

This is where 3D simulation software is coming into its own.

Architects, engineers, construction companies and city planners have long used computer-aided design and building information modelling software to help them create, plan and construct their projects.

But with the addition of internet of things (IoT) sensors, big data and cloud computing, they can now create “digital twins” of entire cities and simulate how things will look and behave in a wide range of scenarios.

(17) YOUNGER THAN RINGTIME. BBC says “Saturn’s spectacular rings are ‘very young'” — thought likely for a while, but now it’s locked down.

We’re looking at Saturn at a very special time in the history of the Solar System, according to scientists.

They’ve confirmed the planet’s iconic rings are very young – no more than 100 million years old, when dinosaurs still walked the Earth.

The insight comes from the final measurements acquired by the American Cassini probe.

The satellite sent back its last data just before diving to destruction in the giant world’s atmosphere in 2017.

“Previous estimates of the age of Saturn’s rings required a lot of modelling and were far more uncertain. But we now have direct measurements that allows us to constrain the age very well,” Luciano Iess from Sapienza University of Rome, Italy, told BBC News.

(18) BOX SCORE. The sff/horror drama Bird Box was very good for Netflix’s business:

Shows including Bird Box helped Netflix end 2018 with more than 139 million subscribers, adding 8.8 million members in the last three months of the year.

Bird Box was watched by 80 million households in its first four weeks after release

The firm reported quarterly revenue of $4.2bn (£3.2bn), up 27% from the same period in 2017.

(19) WALK THIS WAY. Cnet explains how “Scientists built a lizard-like robot based on a 280-million-year-old fossil”.

You can tell a lot about an animal from the way it moves, which is why scientists have been recreating the movements of an extinct crocodile-like creature called Orobates pabsti. Orobates lived well before the time of the dinosaurs and is what’s called a ‘stem amniote’ – an early offshoot of the lineage which led to birds, reptiles and mammals. Using 3D scans of an exquisitely preserved Orobates fossil – and an associated set of fossilised footprints – researchers were able to build a dynamic computer simulation of the creature’s movement. The simulation incorporates data from extant animals such as lizards and salamanders to create more realistic motion as it walks along. And the simulation didn’t just stay on a computer; the researchers tested the models in the real world using a Orobates robot, helping bring this ancient creature to life.

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

Graham Connor (1957-2018)

By Jonathan Cowie: SF Concatenation’s  co-editor, SF fan and my close friend for over four decades, Graham Connor has died.

This is the mini-obit we will be using in the next edition:

Graham Connor, the British physicist and SF fan, has died aged 61. He graduated only with a 2:1 as – not only was this decades before university funding privatisation and its grade inflation – his lecturers said that they did not give firsts to students who never attended their lectures in the final year; though arguably this was another reason he should have received a first. As a result, he had a career in aerospace building communication satellites: it was not rocket science (well it was) and not the career researching gravity he wanted, his physics passion. If ever you have made an international phone call in Europe, then most likely your signal will have gone through a microwave guide designed by Graham onboard the communications satellite. But before that, and since, Graham was an SF enthusiast.  He entered fandom, while a student, in 1976.  He was a runner-up at the Unicon 1 short story competition (claiming he should have won) and won the short story competition at Unicon 2 (claiming he should have come second against what he considered another’s more worthy story).  He was on the committee of a couple of the Hatfield PSFIFA Shoestring cons (now rebranded as Hertfordshire University PSIFA).  He was one of the film projectionists for the London area BECCONs of the 1980s and the BECCON Eastercon in 1987. That was the convention that SF² Concatenation was launched with Graham as co-editor: he was the issue editor of its 1989 paper edition. His last major contribution to SF² Concatenation was the creation of the now-running series of articles by scientists who are SF authors on their favourite scientists. He was a regular at Eastercons in the late 1970s though to the 1990s.  He attended other conventions including the 1979, 1987, 1990 and 1995 Worldcons and the non-British 1994 Eurocon. In the mid-1990s he began attending Manchester’s Festival of Fantastic Films (founded by a friend of SF² Concatenation, the late Harry Nadler) and attended the Fest most years through to the late 2000s. Following an episode, ill health prevented his attending conventions after 2008. For the past few years, a few old PSIFAns met regularly near his home for a reunion, as did the past couple of years the former BECCON team, and these gave him a convention fan bar experience.  We really had hoped for more time with him.

Pixel Scroll 12/19/18 The Black Hole Singularity’s A Feinman Private Place, But None, I fear, Do From There Escape

(1) DUBLIN 2019 ADDS FACILITIES. Next year’s Worldcon is branching out to accommodate a growing membership: “Dublin 2019 Expands: Announcing Dublin 2019’s New Creative Hub”. Chair James Bacon told fandom:

It is with excitement that I write to share that Dublin 2019 – An Irish Worldcon is expanding.

We have watched as membership increases beyond our expectations, and have been working for some time now on how to ensure we can welcome and accommodate everyone.

We also want to ensure that any expansion works to improve the experience for members who come along, while taking into account that there is not a building directly next to the Convention Centre Dublin that we can expand into.

Eight hundred and fifty meters from the CCD, or just over half a mile, are a number of facilities that we have decided to hire and use at a wonderful location called The Point. Conveniently, there is a Luas stop outside the CCD and one outside our new facilities, with direct tram travel between them. The facilities include hotel function rooms for over 300 people, auditorium space in the Odeon Cinema for 1,000 people, 2,600 sq metres of extra exhibits space, and a number of bars, social spaces, and restaurants, all in one ‘Block’.

The additional space is not only desirable to accommodate our members, but also to accommodate everything we want to celebrate and bring to our members. It allows elements such as our art show to increase their footprint, it allows programme to programme more items for the 800 potential participants who have signed up already, it allows us to include an amazing installation from a featured artists, it will allow us to have more large displays, and it will allow us to increase dealers’ space and our ‘creative alley’.

The new spaces are the Odeon Cinema, The ‘Warehouse’, and the Gibson hotel.

More details at the link.

(2) MAPPING IRELAND’S MT. TSUNDOKU. [Item by Olav Rokne.] The Guardian’s Jack Fennell (@JFennellAuthor), who literally wrote the book on Irish science fiction, shared his list of the “Top 10 Irish science fiction authors”. If you’re looking for some reading to get you in the mood for Dublin 2019, this might be a good place to look. It is surprising to note that he omitted mention of James White’s media tie-in novel for the TV series Earth Final Conflict

9. Sarah Maria Griffin (1988-)

Spare and Found Parts is a homage to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a feminist dissection of creativity and interpersonal relationships, and a dystopian critique of Irish society. Set in a disease-ravaged future Dublin, the story follows Nell Crane, a talented roboticist who decides to construct a companion for herself out of items she salvages from a nearby beach. Griffin refers to herself as a “spec”(speculative) writer, rather than declaring allegiance to any one genre, but her appreciation for sci-fi, horror and fantasy bleeds through all her work.

(3) NO NINE WORLDS IN 2019? Former committee member Steve Lacey casts doubt on the chances of there being a Nine Worlds next year. Thread starts here. (The London convention Nine Worlds announced in August that they are “beginning a process of reconstitution”.)

(4) HELLBOY TRAILER. In theaters April 12, 2019.

(5) UNALLOYED PLEASURE. Steve Carper revisits a comic that fascinated me as a kid in “Elementary, My Dear Metal Men” at Black Gate.

It’s 1962. You are Irwin Donenfeld, executive vice president for DC Comics, the 800-pound gorilla of superhero comics. You are riding high on the Silver Age of comics, having revived superhero comics from their near-death experience at the hands of Fredric Wertham, the New York District Attorney, and Congress itself. A dozen new versions of 1940s legends have poured from your offices since 1956 along with brand-new successes. The secret? Showcase, a comic invented purely to give tryouts to comic concepts and get the fans, the readers, the buyers to write in insisting that one or another of them be given their own titles. The Barry Allen Flash emerged from Showcase #4, The Challengers of the Unknown in #6, Lois Lane in #8, Green Lantern in #22, Aquaman in #30, the Atom in #34.

(6) WHAT HORROR WRITERS EAT. The “Winners of the 2018 Cookbook Contest” have been announced by the Horror Writers Association. They’ll publish the winning recipes and photos in their January newsletter.

1st Place

  • Owl Goingback – Indian Pumpkin Fry Bread

2nd Place – Tie

  • Dan Rabarts – Slow-Cooked Minotaur Shanks
  • Kelly Robinson – Blue Hubbard Squash Tarts & Cemetery Quiche

3rd Place – Tie

  • Frank Coffman – Hungry for man Goulish
  • Bruce Boston – WASP Pizza (with story)

(7) IN TRANSLATION. At Speculative Fiction in Translation, Rachel S. Cordasco is assembling a list of sff in translation due out in 2019.  See the spreadsheet for complete information [Google Docs].

(8) IT CAN GET WORSE. That’s Phoebe Wagner’s takeaway: “Microreview [Book] Ink by Sabrina Vourvoulias”at Nerds of a Feather.

…Ten years ago when Ink first hit shelves, it would have been a difficult read. Now, the images of tattoos, GPS trackers, internment camps, border dumps are all too mainstream. Just like Twitter in the novel, these stories fill my timeline. This past weekend, a brief discussion popped up on my timeline regarding good speculative fiction: it’s not meant to predict the future but warn against a type of future…

(9) WHERE DID UNIONS GO IN SFF? Olav Rokne begins a short series about “Imagining the future of organized labour (part one of two)” at the Hugo Award Book Club.

At their peak in 1954, unions represented almost a third of workers in the United States, and it was easy to take their existence — and their action as a counterbalance to the power of capital — for granted. Even employees in non-union workplaces enjoyed gains because employers had to keep up with union shops to retain and recruit labour.

But despite their prevalence in society, labour unions were largely absent from science fictional narratives during the Golden Age, and their few portrayals in the genre are usually either comedic or antagonistic.

As labour activist and science fiction author Eric Flint pointed out atWorldCon76, the major contributors to the development of science fiction — from the dawn of the Golden Age of Science Fiction through this era of union organizing and stability — were largely drawn from academic circles or the upper middle class. Despite working for a living, these authors and editors did not see themselves as part of the proletariat, and thus based their narratives on assumptions that their privileged working relationships allowed them to hold.

(10) BOWDLERIZING HARLAN. Amazing Stories’ SF Trivia Context #3 poses this question:

True or False:

Harlan Ellison once stated that the “hideous neologism”…”SciFi”…“sounds like grasshoppers f***ing”.

I know the answer – though I’m curious about the attempt to clean up the quote.

(11) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

The late Penny Marshall was the first-ever guest star on The Simpsons.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 19, 1918 — Marylou Tousignant in the Washington Post notes that Robert Ripley started the comic strip that, re-named, became “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” in December 1918.
  • December 19, 1958 — The first known radio broadcast from outer space was transmitted when President Eisenhower’s recorded voice issued a holiday greeting for the whole world from the Atlas satellite which was launched the previous day.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 19, 1902 Sir Ralph Richardson. God in Time Bandits but also Earl of Greystoke in Greystoke:The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes and Chief Rabbit In Watership Down. Also the Head Librarian in Rollerball. And a caterpillar in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. And Satan in the Tales from the Crypt film. Oh my he had an interesting genre film career! (Died 1983.)
  • Born December 19, 1960 Dave Hutchinson, 58. Best known for his Fractured Europe series which consists of Europe in Autumn, Europe at Midnight, Europe in Winter and Europe at Dawn. Great reading! He’s got a lot of other genre fiction as well but I’ve not delved into that yet.
  • Born December 19, 1969 Kristy Swanson, 49. Her first starring genre film role was in Wes Craven’s Deadly Friend, but no doubt her best known genre role was as the original Buffy. She also shows up in Alfred Hitchcock PresentsThe PhantomNot Quite Human and The Black Hole. For the record, I like her version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer! 
  • Born December 19, 1972 Alyssa Milano, 46. Phoebe Halliwell in the long running Charmed series. Other genre appearances include on Outer Limits, Fantasy Island, Embrace of the VampireDouble Dragon, the Young Justice animated series as the voice of Poison Ivy and more voice work in DC’s The Spectre, an excellent animated short.
  • Born December 19, 1975 Brandon Sanderson, 43.Best known for the Mistborn series . He is also known for finishing Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time .OK I’m going to freely admit I’ve not read either of these series. Opinions please. 
  • Born December 19, 1979Robin Sloan, 39. Author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore which definitely has fantasy elements in it  is a damn fine read. His second novel which he sent me to me consider reviewing,  Sourdough or, Lois and Her Adventures in the Underground Market, is also probably genre but is also weirdly about food as well. And he’s a really nice person as well. 
  • Born December 19, 1980 Jake Gyllenhaal, 38. First genre role was the lead in Donnie Darko. Later roles have included The Day After TomorrowPrince of Persia: The Sands of TimeSource Code and the forthcoming Spider-Man: Far From Home

(14) THE SOUND OF M.R. JAMES. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie recommends these Christmas short audio ghost stories from the BBC and M.R. James (grandmaster of horror). “They are only 14 minutes long and perfect to bring a delightful shiver to the festive season.  Yesterday’s was this one –“

“Casting the Runes” by the master of the ghost story, M.R. James. The tale of a curse passed on by a curiously inscribed slip of paper.

This story inspired the film Night of the Demon (1957). You can hear it online for the next 28 days.

(15) READING BY GASLIGHT.Did somebody hack JDA’s blog? There’s a new post, “On Bullying And ComicsGate” [Internet Archive ink], which begins —

One of my main principles is I’m anti-bullying…. 

(16) SAD PUPPY DNA. Gizmodo says “Don’t Take the DNA Test You’ll Probably Get for Christmas”.

… there’s no guarantee that the results you get back from a DNA-testing company are particularly meaningful or even accurate. Earlier this year, a company called Orig3n, which claims to offer fitness and lifestyle advice based on your genes, failed to note that a sample of submitted DNA actually came from a Labrador retriever.

(17) EXPLAINING THAT FLOPPEROO. Looper would be delighted to have you watch their video explaining why Mortal Engines tanked, although by the time you’ve read the “hook” you may already know all they have to say:

Mortal Engines was a massive flop at the box office. What was the reason that this potential series builder bombed so hard at the box office, really? There’s a lot to unpack with this movie – which potentially just killed a franchise. Despite a $100 million budget, and a marketing budget of more than $120 million, Mortal Engines pulled in a measly $7.5 million domestic in its opening weekend – only good enough for fifth place. What went wrong exactly? Well, we can start by looking at the marketing. Despite a lot of cash and ads, unless you were familiar with the 2001 Philip Reeve book (and books after), the idea of cities on wheels that roll around and gobble up smaller cities sounds… well… silly. The ads didn’t do a very good job explaining what exactly was going on. Another issue was the presentation: Is this a drama? An action movie? Is it a teen drama? If you went with teen drama for Mortal Engines you’d be correct, and we are at a time when teen/young adult dramas are flopping left and right; the timing was rather poor. Then Mortal Engines had the misfortune of opening against Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, and The Mule – which eliminated two major age groups from seeing it. Add in a surprise exclusive showing of Aquaman via Amazon Prime and holdovers like Ralph Breaks The Internet, it’s not a surprise at all that the city on wheels movie never got rolling.

(18) GENIE-US. ScienceFiction.com liberated Entertainment Weekly’s photo gallery so that you can “Get Your First Look At Will Smith And The Cast Of ‘Aladdin’”.

In May of next year, Will Smith is hoping to enchant audiences with his depiction of the Genie in the latest live action remake of a classic Disney animated film, ‘Aladdin’.  This project is directed by Guy Ritchie (‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’) and also stars Mena Massoud (‘Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan’) as Aladdin, Naomi Scott (‘Power Rangers’) as Princess Jasmine, and Marwan Kenzari (‘Murder on the Orient Express’) as the villainous Jafar, as well as Numan Acar, Billy Magnussen, Navid Negahban, and Nasim Pedrad.

To prepare you for your trip to Agrabah, Disney has released a series of first-look photos from the film…

(19) CLEAR ETHER. BBC assures everyone “Nasa’s New Horizons probe on course for historic flyby”.

The American space agency’s New Horizons probe remains on course for its daring flyby of Ultima Thule…

When the mission sweeps past the 30km wide object on New Year’s Day, it will be making the most distant ever visit to a Solar System body – at some 6.5 billion km from Earth.

Mission planners decided at the weekend to forego a possible trajectory change.

It means the probe will get to fly 3,500km from icy Ultima’s surface to take aseries of photos and other data.

There had been some concern that the object might be surrounded by large debris particles which could destroy the probe if it were to run into them. But nothing of the sort has been detected and so a wider, safer pass will not be needed.

(20) WHICH CAME FIRST? Maybe neither the chicken nor the egg – it may have been the feathers: “Pterosaurs: Fur flies over feathery fossils”.

Two exceptionally well preserved fossils give a new picture of the pterosaurs, the flying reptiles that lived at the time of the dinosaurs.

Scientists believe the creatures may have had feathers, and looked something like brown bats with fuzzy wings.

The surprise discovery suggests feathers evolved not in birds, nor dinosaurs, but in more distant times.

Pterosaurs were the closest relatives of dinosaurs, sharing a common ancestor about 250 million years ago.

“We would suggest – tentatively – that it would be worth considering that feathers originated much earlier than we thought,” Prof Mike Benton, from the University of Bristol, told BBC News.

(21) THE CONQUEROR BEFORE WILLIAM. “Hastings dinosaur footprints exposed by cliff erosion”. “Yes, technically the conqueror before William was Claudius,” admits Chip Hitchcock, who sent the link, “but he didn’t land at Hastings.”

Dozens of well-preserved dinosaur footprints from at least 100 million years ago have been uncovered in East Sussex.

At least seven different species were identified by University of Cambridge researchers during the past four winters following coastal erosion along the cliffs near Hastings.

They range in size from less than 2cm to more than 60cm across, and are so well-preserved that even the skin, scales and claws are easily visible.

There are more than 85 markings, all of which date from the early Cretaceous period.

(22) WHAT’S UP, DOCS? The American Chemical Society sent out a story about how “Rabbit gene helps house plant detoxify indoor air.”

A genetically modified houseplant can efficiently remove toxins from the air.

Our homes are supposed to be safe havens from the outside world. However, studies have shown that household air is more polluted than either office or school air, exposing children and home workers to higher levels of carcinogens than the general population. Now, researchers have made a genetically modified houseplant that can efficiently remove at least two toxins from the air. They report their results in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Indoor air often contains volatile organic compounds such as formaldehyde, benzene and chloroform. These toxins come from many sources, including cooking, showering, furniture and smoking. House plants can remove some toxins from the air, but they aren’t very efficient: A homeowner would need more than 20 plants to remove formaldehyde from a typical room, researchers estimate. Stuart Strand and colleagues wondered if introducing a mammalian gene called CYP2E1 to a common houseplant, pothos ivy (Epipremnum aureum), would boost the plant’s detoxifying potential. his gene encodes cytochrome P450 2E1, an enzyme that breaks down a wide range of volatile organic compounds found in the home.

The team introduced rabbit CYP2E1 to the ivy’s genome and injected benzene or chloroform gas into closed vials that contained growing plants. After 3 days, the concentrations of these compounds in the vials had dropped dramatically, and by 8 days, chloroform was barely detectable. In contrast, the compounds’ concentrations in vials containing unmodified ivy or no plants did not change. The researchers estimate that a hypothetical biofilter made of the genetically modified plants would deliver clean air at rates comparable to commercial home particulate filters.

(23) MORE SEASONAL VERSE. Submitted by Anna Nimmhaus, inspired by item 14 in the December 17 Pixel Scroll. (Apologies for the formatting — I have not yet conquered the WordPress 5.0 update of a week ago.)

Pixel scroll, pixel scroll,

Pixels all the way.

Oh, what fun it is to rhyme

With Camestros today.

Scrolling pixels through

With Camestros today,

Internets we view,

Laughing all the way.

Trolls will fail to sting,

Making spirits bright.

Camestros and we shall sing

A scrolling song tonight.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/13/18 Have Space Suit — But No Visa; Can’t Travel

(1) DRAGON AWARD NOMINATIONS OPEN. Camestros Felapton found that the “Dragon Award Nominations Are Open Sort Of”  — the “sort of” meaning Camestros experienced the same thing that I did before I tried it out — the actual nominations page is updated for the 2019 awards, but the supporting pages (rules,etc.) are still loaded with last year’s information. They’ll inevitably fix that when they get around to it, I’m sure. No hurry.

(2) ANOTHER LOOK AT SFWA V. WOTF. Keffy R.M. Kehrli responded to Eric James Stone’s criticism of SFWA’s handling of the Writers of the Future Contest (linked the other day in Scroll item #1.) Kehrli’s thread begins here.

(3) A FEW WEE IMPROVEMENTS. In that alternate universe where Camestros Felapton is Doctor Who’s showrunner, here’s what he would have done differently — “Doctor Who: Changing Season 11”.

There are lots of good things to say about the 2018 season of Doctor Who: Jodie Whittaker was great, it was often visually lovely, it took historical episodes seriously and to top it all Alan Cumming deftly eating the scenery.

In my list of least liked Doctor Who episode there is not a single one from the 2018 season but…

…the best episodes weren’t on the same level as the best episodes from previous seasons. What the season gained in consistency it lost in excellence.

I’m going to suggest some changes that I think would have given it a bit more oomph.

(4) SMELLIER ON THE INSIDE. TARDIS versus trashcan? Olav Rokne labeled his link, “The dumbest thing I have ever tweeted, And yet…I’m shockingly proud.” Thread starts here.

(5) SIXTIES SFF. The Library of America’s Fall 2019 offeringsinclude these volumes of genre interest:

American Science Fiction: Eight Classic Novels of the 1960s(two volumes)
Gary K. Wolfe, editor
Volume 1: Four Classic Novels1960–1966
Poul Anderson, TheHigh Crusade • Clifford D. Simak, Way Station • Daniel Keyes, Flowers for Algernon • Roger Zelazny, . . . And Call Me Conrad [This Immortal]
Library of America #321 / ISBN 978-159853-501-3
Volume 2: Four Classic Novels 1968–1969
R. A. Lafferty, PastMaster • Joanna Russ, Picnic on Paradise • Samuel R. Delany, Nova • Jack Vance, Emphyrio
Library of America #322 / ISBN 978-159853-502-0
Boxed set: ISBN 978-159853-635-5
September 2019

The tumultuous 1960s was a watershed decade forAmerican science fiction. As the nation raced to the moon, acknowledged masters from the genre’s “golden age” reached the height of their powers. As it confronted calls for civil rights and countercultural revolution, a “new wave”of brilliant young voices emerged, upending the genre’s “pulp” conventions with newfound literary sophistication—and female, queer, and non white authors broke into the ranks of SF writers, introducing provocative new protagonists and themes. In American Science Fiction: Eight Classic Novels of the 1960s, editor Gary K. Wolfe gathers eight wildly inventive novels in a deluxe, two-volume collector’s set: Daniel Keyes’s heartbreaking Flowers for Algernon and Poul Anderson’s madcap time-travel novel The High Crusade; Clifford D. Simak’s Hugo Award-winning Way Station; Roger Zelazny’s Hugo Award–winning . . . And Call Me Conrad (published in bookform as My Immortal), restored to a version that most closely approximates Zelazny’s original text; Joanna Russ’s Picnic on Paradise, a pioneering work of feminist SF, and Samuel R. Delany’s proto-cyberpunk space opera Nova; R. A. Lafferty’s quirky, neglected, utterly original Past Master; and Jack Vance’s haunting Emphyrio. Wolfe’s introduction offers a new view of the genre’s best, and a discussion of his selections, that ought to provoke rethinking and debate among fans and critics. (Wolfe’s new collection is a successor to American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s, the two-volume set he edited for us in 2012.)

(6) RICHARD LUPOFF INTERVIEW. This is the intro to the Richard A. Lupoff: Master of Xero! Interview at Alter Ego #156 – text starts on page 20.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 13, 1961 The Phantom Planet premiered.
  • December 13, 1996 — Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! premiered.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • December 13, 1925 Dick Van Dyke, 93. Seriously you think I wouldn’t write him up? Bert/Mr. Dawes Sr. in Mary Poppins followed shortly by being Caractacus Pott in the film adaptation in Ian Fleming’s novel Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.(No it’s not the same character as he is in the book.)  He voices the lead character in the animated Tubby the Tuba film and plays D.A.Fletcher in Dick Tracy.  He narrates Walt: The Man Behind the Myth whose subject matter you can guess. Played Commissioner Gordon in Batman: New Times as well. Shows up in both of the Night at the Museum films which sort of interest me. And yes he has a role as Mr.Dawes Jr. in Mary Poppins Returns.
  • Born December 13, 1929 Christopher Plummer, 89. Let’s see… Does Rudyard Kipling in The Man Who Would Be King count? If not, The Return of the Pink Panther does.That was followed by Starcrash, a space opera I suspect hardly no one saw which was also the case with Somewhere in Time. Now Dreamscape was fun and well received. Skipping now to General Chang in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Opinions everyone? I know I’ve mixed feelings on Chang. I saw he’s in Twelve Monkeys but I think I’ve deliberately forgotten that film and I’ve not seen The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus yet. 
  • Born December 13, 1949 R.A.MacAvoy, 69. She won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1984.  Loved her Black Dragon series. Other series include the Damiano, Lens of the World and Albatross. If memory serves me right, I read The Grey Horse at a time when I was obsessively into Irish myth and liked it a lot for its storytelling. 
  • Born December 13, 1954Emma Bull, 64. Writer of three of the best genre novels ever, Bone Dance: A Fantasy for TechnophilesFinder: A Novel of The Borderlands and War for The Oaks. Will Shetterly, her husband and author of a lot of really cool genre works, decided to make a trailer for the latter.  You can see it here. Oh, and the Faerie Queen is Emma herself.
  • She’s also been in in a number of neat bands, one that has genre significance that being Cats Laughing which has Stephen Brust, Adam Stemple, son of Jane Yolen, and John M. Ford either as musicians or lyricists. They came back together after a long hiatus at MiniCon 50 and you can read the Green Man review of the CD / DVD combo they put out here.
  • Born December 13, 1954 Tamora Pierce, 64. Her first book series, The Song of the Lioness, taking her character Alanna through the trials training as a knight, sold very well and was well received by readers.That Erie’s, like most of work, is set is in Tortall, world akin to European Middle Ages. What I’ve seen of it I like a lot. She would win in 2005 the Edward E. Smith Memorial Award for Imaginative Fiction, a rare honor indeed. 

(9) PREVIEW OF COMING ATTRACTIONS. Jonathan Cowie writes: “SF2 Concatenation is gearing up now (before the Seasonal festive distractions) for its next seasonal edition to be posted mid-January.But the science part of its content will include…” —

A fuller figure has oft (rightly/or wrongly) been associated with US citizens and even SF fans.  But it seems as if the rest of the world is catching up and, indeed, over-taking!

Research just published today in the BMJ suggests that a number of countries’ restaurant meals have more calories than their counterparts in the US…

Modelling indicated that, except in China, consuming current servings of a full service and a fast food meal daily would supply between 70% and 120% of the daily energy requirements for a sedentary woman, without additional meals, drinks, snacks, appetizers, or desserts.

CONCLUSION
Very high dietary energy content of both full service and fast food restaurant meals is a widespread phenomenon that is probably supporting global obesity. This arguably needs to be addressed.

Stanley Robinson’s Icehenge now a mathematical formula

Kim Stanley Robinson’s 1984 novel Icehenge depicts a long-lived future human society that forgets its recent past…  Now research published in Nature has revealed that in reallife events, concerns, music etc, decays from our cultural memory mathematically.

In addition to science, the forthcoming seasonal edition of SF2Concatenation will have SF news (relating to publishing, TV and film), forthcoming SF as well as fantasy book titles, and convention reports including this year’s Worldcon, plus another in a series of articles of scientist SF authors favourite scientists.

(10) STAN LEE CAMEO. [Item by Mike Kennedy. Vanity Fair: “Behind the Scenes of Stan Lee’s Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse Cameo”. Fair Warning: THE VANITY FAIR ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS, though none are (intentionally) included below. (Their spoiler warning appears immediately after the paragraphs quoted below.)

It won’t be his last, but it may be his best.

Though he died last month, Marvel Comics legend and Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee pre-recorded several cameos for upcoming films before he passed—including a touching, animated appearance in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Loaded with a heavy significance that resonates independent of his death, this emotionally resonant appearance is nothing like the zippy, superficial live-action and animated appearances Lee made in the past. That’s because the Spider-Verse filmmakers were determined to honor Lee’s legacy by breaking open narrow definitions of what it means to be a hero—and because of some personal events in Lee’s life that made his Into the Spider-Verse cameo particularly weighty. (The cameo also happens to be wickedly funny, which is part of Lee’s legacy as well.) The filmmakers—including Into the Spider-Verse’s three directors—took Vanity Fair behind the scenes of Lee’s appearance, as well as the in memoriam title card that closes out the film.

(11) A SPACE FIRST. BBC says they made it: “Branson’s Virgin Galactic successfully reaches space”.

The latest test flight by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic successfully rocketed to space and back.

The firm’s SpaceShip Two passenger rocket ship reached a height of 82.7km, beyond the altitude at which space is said to begin.

It marked the plane’s fourth test flight and followed earlier setbacks in the firm’s space programme.

Sir Richard is in a race with Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos to send the first fee-paying passengers into space.

(12) BACK IN THE AREA CODE. It can be called a success once the data’s sent back — “Parker Solar Probe: Sun-skimming mission starts calling home”.

Just weeks after making the closest ever flyby of the Sun, Nasa’s Parker Solar Probe is sending back its data.

Included in the observations is this remarkable image of the energetic gas, or plasma, flowing out from the star.

The bright dot is actually far-distant Jupiter. The black dots are repeats that occur simply because of the way the picture is constructed.

Parker’s WISPR instrument acquired the vista just 27.2 million km from the surface of the Sun on 8 November.

(13) BOGUS BOT. Reminds me of the 19th-century chess-playing automaton. From the BBC: “Robot turns out to be man in suit”.

A robot on show at a Russian state-sponsored event has turned out to be a man dressed in a costume.

Robot Boris featured on Russian TV and was apparently able to walk, talk and dance.

But soon after its appearance journalists began to question the bot’s authenticity.

In a picture published afterwards on social media, the neck of a person was clearly visible

(14) HISTORY BELOW THE WATERLINE. “Lake Titicaca: Underwater museum brings hope to shores”.

…The 9,360-sq-m building will have two parts, one located on the shore where pieces salvaged from the lake will be exhibited and another semi-submerged part which will allow visitors to see some of the underwater structures, dubbed “hidden city”, through glass walls.

(15) SEASONS’ EATINGS. Visitors to the UK will have noticed their strangely-flavored potato chips, but the strangeness is spreading to pizza, croissants, and ham: “Marmite sprouts? Why retailers are pushing the boundaries with festive food”.

Many readers will find the thought of Christmas tree-flavoured crisps revolting, but Iceland is betting its customers will feel the opposite this festive season.

The crisps are part of the supermarket chain’s festive food range, and have a distinct pine-like taste thanks to their pine salt seasoning, which is made with pine tree oil.

It is part of a wider trend for novel, sometimes bizarre fusion foods that has swept the UK over the last few years as retailers vie for our attention and our cash.

(16) WELL, SHEET. “Nasa’s IceSat space laser makes height maps of Earth” – BBC has the story.

One of the most powerful Earth observation tools ever put in orbit is now gathering data about the planet.

IceSat-2 was launched just under three months ago to measure the shape of the ice sheets to a precision of 2cm.

But the Nasa spacecraft’s laser instrument is also now returning a whole raft of other information.

It is mapping the height of the land, of rivers, lakes, forests; and in a remarkable demonstration of capability – even the depth of the seafloor.

“We can see down to 30m in really clear waters,” said Lori Magruder, the science team leader on the IceSat mission. “We saw one IceSat track just recently that covers 300km in the Caribbean and you see the ocean floor the entire way,” the University of Texas researcher told BBC News.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/24/18 Haikuna Pixelata! Or Cest La Scroll, As The French Would Say

(1) DOCTOR WHO AT DUBLIN 2019 BLOG. Nicholas Whyte explains why it’s a challenge to write about “Doctor Who in Ireland”, then fannishly does so anyway —

23 November 2018 marks the 55th anniversary of the first episode of Doctor Who. It is a sad fact that not a single second of TV screen time on the show, or any of its spinoffs, has been set in Ireland. Indeed, the Doctor has spent more televised time in Hungary than on the Emerald Isle (special prize if you know what story I am referring to). A couple of confused characters do wonder if Gallifrey, the home planet of the Time Lords, may be in Ireland, but that’s as close as we get.

(2) A SHURI THING. Issue 2 of Nnedi Okorafor’s Shuri comics for Marvel was released November 21. This is one of the variant covers, by Afua Richardson.

(3) BUBBLES POPPIN’. Julie Andrews has reportedly performed a voice role in Aquaman (Entertainment Weekly: “Julie Andrews has a secret role in Aquaman”). Aquaman opens theatrically 21 December. Amazon Prime members will get a chance to buy tickets to advance screenings 15 December.

A member of Hollywood royalty has a secret role in Warner Bros.’ upcoming Aquaman.

None other than Oscar-winner Julie Andrews has a previously unannounced part to play in the superhero adventure, EW has learned exclusively.

The Sound of Music actress voices the mythic Karathen, an undersea creature that holds the key to Arthur Curry’s (Jason Momoa) quest to unite the Atlantean and surface worlds.

The casting is particularly interesting as Aquaman is going head-to-head at the box office next month against Disney’s Mary Poppins Returns[…]

Andrews hasn’t appeared in a film in nearly a decade, but has lent her unmistakable voice to other big screen projects over the last decade (such as Despicable Me 3 and Shrek Forever After) and appeared in the Netflix series Julie’s Greenroom.

(4) COUNTLESS BRICKS. Arrives in theaters February 8 — The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part. Here’s Official Trailer 2.

The much-anticipated sequel to the critically acclaimed, global box office phenomenon that started it all, “The LEGO® Movie 2: The Second Part,” reunites the heroes of Bricksburg in an all new action-packed adventure to save their beloved city. It’s been five years since everything was awesome and the citizens are facing a huge new threat: LEGO DUPLO® invaders from outer space, wrecking everything faster than they can rebuild. The battle to defeat them and restore harmony to the LEGO universe will take Emmet, Lucy, Batman and their friends to faraway, unexplored worlds, including a strange galaxy where everything is a musical. It will test their courage, creativity and Master Building skills, and reveal just how special they really are.

 

(5) CHINA STRENGTHENS PENALTIES ON BANNED CONTENT. Reuters news service reports “Ten years’ jail term for Chinese author of homoerotic novel sparks outcry”.

A Chinese court’s 10-year jail term for an author of a homoerotic book found guilty of profiting from selling “obscene” literature has been met with disbelief among some internet users who question how the crime could warrant so severe a punishment.

The author, surnamed Liu, was found guilty on Oct. 31 by Wuhu county court in eastern Anhui province after she self-published a book that “obscenely and in detail described gay male-male acts”, according to state media.

The court ruled that the strict sentence was enforced due to her having made 150,000 yuan ($21,600) by selling over 7,000 copies, the article said.

…Pornography has long been illegal in China, but in recent years, the Communist Party has intensified efforts to clear away what it sees as inappropriate content, introducing new legislation, rewards and punishments to help its aims.

Authorities on Saturday launched a campaign to “eradicate pornography and illegal publications” by offering heightened rewards of up to 600,000 yuan for reporting banned content to the police, starting from December.

The Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) is an independent agency of the U.S. government which monitors human rights and rule of law developments in the People’s Republic of China. It was created in October 2001. Their post on the topic asserts “Freedom of Expression in China: A Privilege, Not a Right”:

Chinese officials have stated that anyone wanting to publish their opinions may submit their article or book to a government-licensed publisher, but if they are unable to find a licensed publisher, then the only way they can legally exercise their constitutional right to freedom of publication is to “enjoy their works themselves, or give copies to friends and family.”

While homosexuality hasn’t been classified as a crime since 1997, same-sex relationships are still banned from the small screen and online streaming platforms. And the government seems to have a bone to pick with pornography, as authorities recently upped the monetary reward given to those who report such “illegal” content to a maximum of more than $86,000 (U.S).

The Hong Kong Free Press, in its story “China ups cash rewards to US$86,000 for citizens who report porn”, provides additional background about the government’s enforcement of internet rules:

… Starting December 1, people can rake in up to 600,000 yuan (US$86,000) for reporting illegal content, online or otherwise, double the 300,000 yuan under previous guidelines.

What counts as “illegal” content in China is broadly defined, but includes work that “endangers national unity”, “leaks state secrets”, and “disturbs social order” — umbrella terms that are also sometimes used when authorities punish or silence Chinese dissidents and rights campaigners.

… Earlier this week the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said it had “cleaned up” 9,800 accounts on Chinese social media platforms which it accused of spreading “politically harmful” information and rumours.

(6) NEGATIVE FEEDBACK. The Independent details the impact of China’s newly-implemented “social credit” system: “China blacklists millions of people from booking flights as ‘social credit’ system introduced”.

Millions of Chinese nationals have been blocked from booking flights or trains as Beijing seeks to implement its controversial “social credit” system, which allows the government to closely monitor and judge each of its 1.3 billion citizens based on their behaviour and activity.

The system, to be rolled out by 2020, aims to make it “difficult to move” for those deemed “untrustworthy”, according to a detailed plan published by the government this week.

It will be used to reward or punish people and organisations for “trustworthiness” across a range of measures.

A key part of the plan not only involves blacklisting people with low social credibility scores, but also “publicly disclosing the records of enterprises and individuals’ untrustworthiness on a regular basis”.

The plan stated: “We will improve the credit blacklist system, publicly disclose the records of enterprises and individuals’ untrustworthiness on a regular basis, and form a pattern of distrust and punishment.”

For those deemed untrustworthy, “everywhere is limited, and it is difficult to move, so that those who violate the law and lose the trust will pay a heavy price”.

The credit system is already being rolled out in some areas and in recent months the Chinese state has blocked millions of people from booking flights and high-speed trains.

According to the state-run news outlet Global Times, as of May this year, the government had blocked 11.14 million people from flights and 4.25 million from taking high-speed train trips.

The state has also begun to clamp down on luxury options: 3 million people are barred from getting business class train tickets, according to Channel News Asia.

(The Global Times is a daily Chinese tabloid newspaper under the auspices of the People’s Daily newspaper, focusing on international issues from the Chinese government’s perspective. Channel News Asia is a pay TV news channel based in Singapore.)

(7) ROEG OBIT. Nicholas Roeg (1928-2018), director of The Man Who Fell to Earth and the Roald Dahl based The Witches; photographer on Corman’s The Masque of the Red Death and Truffaut’s Fahrenheit 451“Nicolas Roeg obituary: From tea-maker to director’s chair”.

‘His breakthrough came in 1964 when he worked as a cinematographer on Roger Corman’s film The Masque of the Red Death, an adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe short story, starring Vincent Price.

Corman was gaining a reputation for spotting and developing new talent and boosted the careers of other future directors including James Cameron and Martin Scorsese.

Interestingly the red-clad figure in the Corman film foreshadowed a similarly dressed character in Roeg’s masterpiece, Don’t Look Now.

He also worked on Francois Truffaut’s Farenheit 451, which was notable for the bright hues in which it was shot, and on John Schlesinger’s 1967 adaptation of the Thomas Hardy novel, Far From the Madding Crowd.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 24, 1882 – E.R. Eddison. Writer whose most well-known work by far is The Worm Ouroboros. It’s slightly connected to his lesser-known later Zimiamvian Trilogy. And quite frankly, having never read a word of his works, that’s all I can say. (Died 1945.)
  • Born November 24, 1907 – Evangeline Walton. Her best-known work, the Mabinogion tetralogy which retells the Welsh Mabinogi, was written during the late 1930s and early 1940s. The first volume came out in 1936 under the publisher’s title of The Virgin and the Swine, which is inarguably a terrible title. Although it receiving glowing praise from John Cowper Powys, the book sold quite awfully, and therefore none of the other novels in the series were published at that time. Granted a second chance by Ballantine’s Adult Fantasy series in 1970, it was reissued, with a much better title of The Island of the Mighty, and sold accordingly. The other three volumes followed quickly. Her Theseus trilogy was produced during the late 1940s. Witch House is an occult horror story set in New England, and She Walks in Darkness – which just came out from Tachyon Publications – is genre as well. I think that is the extent of her genre work, but I’d be delighted to corrected. She has won a number of awards including the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature, Best Novel, The Fritz Leiber Fantasy Award, World Fantasy Award, Convention Award and the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 1996.)
  • Born November 24, 1916 – Forrest J Ackerman. It’s no wonder that he got a Hugo Award for #1 Fan Personality in 1953, and equally telling that after he was handed the trophy (at Philcon II by Asimov), he physically declined, saying it should go to Ken Slater, to whom the trophy was later given by the con committee. That’s a nice summation of him. As a literary agent, he represented some two hundred writers, and he served as agent of record for many long-lost authors, thereby allowing their work to be reprinted. Hell, he represented Ed Wood! He was a prolific writer, more than fifty stories to his credit, and he named Vampirella and wrote the origin story for her. Speaking of things pulp, which she assuredly is, he appeared in several hundred films which I’ll not list here, and even wrote lesbian erotica. Eclectic doesn’t begin to describe him. His nonfiction writings are wonderful as well. I’ll just single out Forrest J Ackerman’s Worlds of Science FictionA Reference Guide to American Science Fiction Films, and a work he did with Brad Linaweaver, Worlds of Tomorrow: The Amazing Universe of Science Fiction Art. Did I mention he collected everything? Well, he did. Just one location alone contained some three hundred thousand books, film, SF material objects and writings. The other was eighteen rooms in extent. Damn, if anyone needed their own TARDIS, it was him. In his later years, he was a board member of the Seattle Science Fiction Museum and Hall of Fame, which now has possession of many items of his collection. If there was ever anyone who truly was the best in fandom, I believe it was him. So let’s toast him his memory. (Died 2008.)
  • Born November 24, 1948 – Spider Robinson. His first story “The Guy with the Eyes” was published in Analog February 1973. It was set in a bar called Callahan’s Place, a setting for much of his later fiction. In 1976, his first published novel, Telempath, was an expansion of his Hugo award-winning novella “By Any Other Name”. The Stardance trilogy was co-written with his wife Jeanne Robinson. In 2004, he began working to expand into a novel a seven-page 1955 outline left by the late Heinlein. The resulting novel would be called Variable Star. Who’s read it? Oh, he’s certainly won awards. John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (1974; Hugo Awards for: Best Novella (1977); “By Any Other Name”; Best Novella (1978); “Stardance”‘ (with Jeanne Robinson); Best short story (1983); “Melancholy Elephants”; Nebula Award for: Best Novella (1977); “Stardance” (with Jeanne Robinson) 2008;  Robert A. Heinlein Award (for Lifetime Achievement) 2015; LASFS Forrest J Ackerman Award for Lifetime Achievement; Named a Guest of Honor at the 2018 World Science Fiction Convention.
  • Born November 24, 1957Jeff Noon, 61. Novel and playwright. Prior to his relocation in 2000 to Brighton, his stories reflected in some way his native though not birth city of Manchester. The Vurt sequence is a very odd riff off Alice in Wonderland that Noon describes as a prequel to those works. Look I’m not sure I’m the right person to explain these books so y’all should do so. Really go ahead, educate me. Same goes for all the other books he’s done such as Needle in the Groove.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) WHOVIAN COMPLAINT FORM. The popular meme has been given an update to include the latest gripes:

(11) LAST OF THE INKLINGS. Weekly Standard profiles “The Steward of Middle-earth”, Christopher Tolkien.

…Now, after more than 40 years, at the age of 94, Christopher Tolkien has laid down his editor’s pen, having completed a great labor of quiet, scholastic commitment to his father’s vision. It is the concluding public act of a gentleman and scholar, the last member of a club that became a pivotal part of 20th-century literature: the Inklings. It is the end of an era.

All of this would have come as a great surprise to 24-year-old J.R.R. Tolkien as he scrambled down the lice-ridden trenches of the Somme. Catching trench fever removed Tolkien from the front lines and probably saved his life. While on sick leave, he began a draft of The Fall of Gondolin. Now, 102 years later, it sits on the shelves of every Barnes & Noble in the country.

The first draft of The Fall of Gondolin was begun during the Great War; the final incomplete version is dated 1951. Both versions are included in the newly published book, along with fragments and working drafts. While the story itself is good, its true weight is as the final piece of the Tolkien legendarium, a project an entire century in the making.

It is work that has spanned Christopher Tolkien’s life….

(12) HISTORY OF DUDS. This BBC video highlights “The museum that embraces failure” – of mostly-tech ideas that didn’t catch on. My fellow vintage Filers will remember some of them.

(13) EGGSACTLY. Yahoo! Entertainment gets all the free-range references: “From ‘Frozen 2’ to ‘Star Wars’: Here’s your guide to all the Disney Easter eggs in ‘Ralph Breaks the Internet'”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

As the title suggests, the animated sequel Ralph Breaks the Internet finds everyone’s favorite fictional ’80s video game character, Wreck-It Ralph (voiced by John C. Reilly), careening through the online world like — what else? — a wrecking ball. But even as the new film lightly satirizes internet giants like eBay and Google, many of its best gags are aimed directly at its parent corporation, the Walt Disney Company.

(14) THE UNITED STATES SPACE PROGRAM CINEMATIC UNIVERSE. If the Marvel and DC Cinematic Universes are by design, there are others you might claim have been created by coincidence. Patrick Willems takes us on an idea-trip through some of “The Original Cinematic Universes.”

(15) FIRST FLIGHT OF ION-DRIVE AIRCRAFT. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] A remarkable machine propelled by ionic wind could signal a future with cleaner aeroplanes. Nature reports on “Flight test for ion drive”:

In February 1904, a short news item in Nature marked a monumental event. It recorded the achievements of the American brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright and the contraption that they had launched from a hill in North Carolina a couple of months earlier. “They now appear to have succeeded in raising themselves from the ground by a motor-driven machine,” Nature stated. It was, “the first successful achievement of artificial flight”. That first trip lasted barely 12 seconds.

Nearly 115 years later, Nature reports on another historic brief flight, which this time lasted 8–9 seconds. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge describe an aviation breakthrough that will draw inevitable comparisons to that wobbly and fragile first journey by air. The aeroplane is powered by a battery connected to a type of engine called an ion drive that has no moving parts.

You can watch the flight here:

Summary of the science at Nature here [PDF file].

Apparently, the inventor was inspired by the Star Trek shuttles.

Full primary research article here (you can access if you are either at an academic/research institution with a Nature subscription or if you are a subscriber yourself, otherwise it costs) — https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0707-9.pdf

(16) TIME’S UP. This item is more fun if you watch the video before reading Slate’s intro:

A project description said that Baas was inspired by “the many faceless men who sweep, clean and work at an airport in their blue overalls.” (Are there no female janitors at the Amsterdam airport?) Baas described the “Schiphol Clock” as “basically a big box hanging from the ceiling in Lounge 2,” adding that he decided to use “the most archetypical form of a clock.”

But he added a ladder and a door to create an imaginary path that his video janitor might have used to access the clock, just to heighten the surrealism. “He has a red bucket and a yellow cleaning cloth and he is cleaning up after the hands of time, after which he creates a new minute, every time again,” Baas said…

 

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