Pixel Scroll 9/15/20 The Six Million Pixel Scroll

(1) IT’S SF2 CONCATENATION TIME. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] SF2 Concatenation’s Autumnal edition is now up. Principal contents include:

Plus there are many standalone SF/FH book and non-fiction SF & science book reviews.

Full details at SF2 Concatenation’s What’s New page.

Looking ahead, in SF² Concatenation will (hopefully, depending on its lock-down) have its spring (northern hemisphere) edition. Before that, hopefully we will have a pre-Christmas one-page ‘Best of’ Nature Futures short stories. But if we have a second UK lockdown then that will get rolled into our January edition.

(2) CANON CONSIDERED. In a guest post at Sarah Gailey’s Personal Canons, Alasdair Stuart recalls the years when Warren Ellis’ work used to weave way through his life, and why he now doubts it can even sit on his shelves.

…So I start buying comics from the store I used to manage before being laid off.

That last one becomes a solace, a tiny spark against the black backdrop of sleeping on my parents’ camper bed. But it reminds me of the medium that brought me joy as joy slowly returns. This time it’s Ellis’ Secret Avengers[6] run — Fortean and weird, kind and bleak. The team are barely in control, reacting as much as leading. But they’re still trying. Beast – large, smart, kind Beast – makes an appearance.

I buy the book three times. In singles. In trade. The last time I buy it digitally, in California with my new partner, and realize that, at last, I’m home.

*

When we move back to the UK a panel from Transmetropolitan heads my new Facebook page. It’s Spider Jerusalem, sitting on a window ledge. The text box reads:

AND SO, FREED, I BEGIN TO WRITE.

I know how he feels. It’s good to be outside at last.

*

I am rounding the corner towards forty-four and I’m reading a different kind of Ellis’ work. Somanyofus.com collects testimony from over sixty of the countless women who he’s harassed, or groomed, or manipulated over the last twenty years. Careers made or denied, glimpsed briefly from my own track but now laid out with courageous, horrifying context. Were it simply that, it would be damning. But damning is a zero-sum game. Damning is something Spider Jerusalem would do.

The writers of this site are better than that. Better than him.

There are tools here. Questions to ask, behavior to search for. Things to know as you travel the complex and protean landscape of parasocial relationships.

This corpus is not just a collection of testimony but a statement of intent, a course bearing for an industry from the very people that industry — through Ellis — has ground up and thrown aside. Those damaged the most by the toxic business they loved, hauling on the tiller and trying to steer it away from more rocks, more damage, more careers broken against the shore of this single man….

(3) ROWLING IGNITES SOCIAL MEDIA AGAIN. “J.K. Rowling’s New Book—About A Cross-Dressing Serial Killer—Draws Outrage” Forbes’ Lisette Voytko has a rundown:

The revelation that Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling’s latest book hinges on a male serial killer who dresses like a woman infuriated social media users Monday, after Rowling kicked up controversy in recent months over her views on transgender people, which critics denounced as transphobic.

Rowling’s new book, written under her pen name Robert Galbraith, is titled Troubled Blood and is the latest installment of a fictional crime series following private detective Cormoran Strike.

Troubled Blood’s villain is a “psychopathic serial killer,” according to the book’s Amazon page, and turns out to be a man who dresses as a woman.

Reaction on social media was swift, with #RIPJKRowling trending on Twitter by early Monday afternoon, as critics and former fans argued that Troubled Blood’s villain is another example of the author’s alleged transphobia….

(4) THE COMMERCIAL MARCHES ON. “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will go on, but only in TV land”. Well, it’s always been more of a televised variety show anyway, to be honest.

This year’s parade will still have the giant balloons, colorful floats and, of course, Santa Claus, but it will “shift to a television-only special presentation,” Macy’s and New York City announced on Monday.

The parade will still air across the country on NBC on Thanksgiving morning, but the pandemic forced Macy’s to “reimagine” the event. It will forgo the traditional 2.5-mile route and reduce by 75% the number of parade participants, who will be socially distanced during performances and required to wear face coverings.

…All parade participants will be at least 18 years old, with previously selected high school and college bands’ performances deferred to the 2021 event and local professional marching and musical ensembles taking over this year.

Meanwhile, the 80 to 100 handlers that normally walk the balloons throughout the city will be replaced by specialty vehicles.

(5) LEM IN PLAY. GamesRadar+ honors the source material of a forthcoming game: “The Invincible is a sci-fi thriller coming to PS5 and Xbox Series X from a new studio of former CD Projekt Red and Techland developers”.

In fact, if you’ve read any of Stanislaw Lem’s novels, then you’re probably surprised that it’s taken this long for a studio to directly adapt one of his stories into a video game, which feel like the perfect medium for his pulpy ruminations on AI, futurology, and space exploration. 

The studio that’s breaking that pattern is Starward Industries, a new team based out in Cracow, Poland, made up of 12 veteran developers who hail from CD Projekt Red, Techland Games, and other household names from around the rest of the country. 

(6) WHAT VERNE GOT RIGHT. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s AirSpace podcast presents “Voyages To Mars”.

In this first installment of Voyages to Mars, we hear launch stories from two famous science fiction novels written long before the invention of modern rockets. From Percy Greg’s 1880 novel, Across the Zodiac, we get a detailed account of one of the first imaginary ships ever to travel from the Earth to Mars in literature. In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel, From the Earth to the Moon, we find one of the first descriptions ever written of what it might be like to witness a launch. Strap yourself in and come along for the ride.

(7) BOOKSTORE DESPERATION. There must be a lot of this happening by now: “Brentwood’s Diesel bookstore launches a GoFundMe as more stores struggle through pandemic” in the Los Angeles Times.

Next to a bottle of hand sanitizer, on a table at an entrance to Brentwood’s Diesel bookstore, is a message to customers describing an existential crisis induced by a pandemic. It says, in essence: We need your help.

“We have tried to weather this storm, with creative reinvention, hard work, and perseverance, as we always have,” reads the note from Diesel owners Alison Reid and John Evans. “We’ve managed to keep our booksellers afloat financially and with the necessary health care. But at this point, our stores are foundering.

”… So we are asking for your support to restore us to a sustainable level, to make it through this taxing time… We have resisted this appeal to our wider community, but now we are running out of time. It is either this, or ending our run as a quality independent bookstore.”

Online orders, gift card purchases and the recent return of indoor shopping by appointment only have helped keep afloat the charming bookstore tucked inside the Brentwood Country Mart. But as Reid and Evans alerted some 3,500 people via email, “it is not enough, given our rent, operating expenses and our publisher debt, to sustain us.”

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • September 15, 1965 — The Lost In Space series premiered on CBS. It was created and produced by Irwin Allen who was also responsible for Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Time Tunnel and Land of the Giants. It starred Guy Williams, June Lockhart, Mark Goddard, Marta Kristen, Bill Mumy, Angela Cartwright, Jonathan Harris and Bob May. Dick Trufeld was the voice of The Robot.   It would three seasons and eight three episodes, fifty-four In color. It would get two reboots — the Lost in Space film (withThe Robinsons: Lost in Space short) and the Lost in Space series. A sixty-minute animated film aired in the early Seventies as part of the ABC Saturday Superstar Movie. Only Jonathan Harris from the series was part of the voice cast. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 15, 1894 – Rachel Field.  Hitty, her First Hundred Years won a Newbery Award (the first given to a woman) and a Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, memoir of a mountain-ash-wood doll.  The Magic PawnshopEliza and the Elves also ours.  English lyrics to Schubert’s Ave Maria for Disney’s Fantasia.  A dozen other books, three best-sellers.  (Died 1952) [JH]
  • Born September 14, 1898 – Jan Slauerhoff.  Poet and novelist, an important Dutch author.  The Forbidden Kingdom (1932; Irishman haunted by and maybe transferring identities with Luís de Camões 1524-1580) recently in English (2012); sequel The Life on Earth (1934; tr. as Adrift in the Middle Kingdom 2019) yet stranger.  I haven’t found his poetry (Van der Hoogt Prize, 1933) in English.  (Died 1936) [JH]
  • Born September 15, 1914 – Aldolfo Bioy Caseras.  Friend of and collaborator with Borges, who called C’s Invention of Morel “reasoned imagination”, ha ha.  For us, one more novel, eight shorter stories, tr. into English; much else.  Legion of Honor, Cervantes Prize, Diamond Konex Award. (Died 1999)  [JH]
  • Born September 15, 1940 Norman Spinrad, 80. I’ll admit that the only novel I’ve read by him is Bug Jack Barron. My bad. And I was fascinated to learn he wrote the script for Trek’s “The Doomsday Machine” episode which is an amazing story. So how is that he’s never won a Hugo? (CE)
  • Born September 15, 1942  Charles L. Grant. A writer of whom it’s said he was best at what he called “dark fantasy” and “quiet horror.” Nightmare Seasons, a collection of novellas, won a World Fantasy Award, while the “A Crowd of Shadows” short garnered a Nebula as did “A Glow of Candles, a Unicorn’s Eye” novella. And “Temperature Days on Hawthorne Street” story would become the Tales from the Darkside episode “The Milkman Cometh”. Both iBooks and Kindle have decent but not outstanding selections of his works including a few works of Oxrun Station, his core horror series. (Died 2006.) (CE) 
  • Born September 15, 1942 Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, 78. Best known for her series of historical horror novels about the vampire Count Saint-Germain. She has been honored with the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, a Living Legend Award from the International Horror Guild Award and a Bram Stoker Award for Life Time Achievement. (CE)
  • Born September 15, 1942 – John Faucette.  Five novels, a few shorter stories; collection, Black SF.  Half a dozen novels unfinished at his death.  Of Black SF a reviewer said “warning label on the cover … should be heeded….  adult themes….  no one can argue that the author does not have a strong imagination.”  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born September 15, 1946 Howard Waldrop, 74. I think that The Texas-Israeli War: 1999 which he wrote with Jake Saunders is my favorite work by him. His short fiction such as “The Ugly Chickens” which won The World Fantasy and Nebula Awards are most excellent. A generous selection of his work is available at the usual digital suspects. (CE) 
  • Born September 15, 1956 Tommy Lee Jones, 74. Best known as Agent K in the Men in Black franchise, he’s done other genre work with the first being in Batman Forever as Harvey Dent / Two-Face. He’s also Colonel Chester Phillips in Captain America: The First Avenger as well. (CE) 
  • Born September 15, 1960 — Kevin Roche, 59. Chaired Worldcon 76 in San Jose (2018). Prior to that he co-chaired Westercon 66 in Sacramento in 2013 and chaired Costume-Con 26 in San José in 2008. He’s a veteran costumer and masquerade emcee, who co-directed the 2011 Worldcon’s Masquerade as well as Masquerades at Anime Los Angeles, Westercon, and BayCon. Roche is a research scientist at IBM Research Almaden. He also is the editor of Yipe! The Costume Fanzine of Record.
  • Born September 15, 1962 Jane Lindskold, 58. My first encounter with her was the Zelazny novel she finished, Donnerjack. It’s excellent though how much it’s Zelazny is open to vigorous debate. Of her own novels, I recommend The Buried Pyramid, Child of a Rainless Year and Asphodel as being very good. (CE) 
  • Born September 15, 1971 – Laura Martin, 49.  Colorist for CrossGen, DC, Image, Marvel.  Four times Comics Buyer’s Guide Favorite Colorist; six Eagles, two Eisners, a Harvey; Inkwell Awards Ambassador.  Special Guest at Comic-Con Int’l, 2015.  Here is a watercolor (portrait of Butch Guice).  Here is another.  She donated the original of this to the Baltimore Comic-Con art auction.  [JH]
  • Born September 15, 1977 – Sophie Dahl, 43.  Author and former fashion model.  Contributing editor at Condé Nast Traveller, to be seen (I mean, after her modeling career) in The GuardianThe ObserverVogue (won a Jasmine Award).  Books and cookboks.  Children’s picture book Madame Badoebdah.  Puffin Classics 2008 ed’n of The Secret Garden has her introduction.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Garfield agrees with aliens about what makes life on Earth worthwhile. (“These aliens were redirected to Denmark, I presume,” says Lise Andreasen.)

(11) CHOOSING BETWEEN HORROR AND CATS. You don’t actually have to, as we learn in James Whitbrook Q&A at io9, “Manga Legend Junji Ito Talks Making Horror, Adapting It, and Cats”. Here’s the part about cats:

io9: Your autobiographical manga series Yon & Mu is quite a step out from what people typically know you for. What drove you to make the switch from horror to a slice of life about living with cats?

Junji Ito: I had drawn some short autobiographical comics in the past, and I enjoy working on them because of how easy they are to make. When I got married, I started living with the cats that my wife brought with her, but prior to that I had never been around cats much and honestly got the impression they were a bit creepy. At some point, I realized that a manga about learning how to deal with these new circumstances could be interesting. Not long after, my editor somehow caught onto the fact that I was now living with cats, and proposed the idea of drawing the manga. I was between projects at the time, so it was perfect timing.

(12) ARRIVAL. James Davis Nicoll shows off his newly-arrived Hugo finalist pins at his Dreamwidth blog.

(13) TRAILBLAZER. There’s not much left of summer, so be prepared to read fast! James Davis Nicoll prepared “A Late-Summer SFF Reading List” to save you some time at Tor.com.

What have I read recently? I am so happy to have imagined someone asking me that conveniently leading question.

I should note that I have embraced the concept of comparative advantage by focusing on activities at which I am acceptably competent (reading, reviewing, encountering wild animals), freeing people who are not me up for other activities at which they are superior (anything social). The end result is more productivity all round! Plus, it turns out that, at the moment, a simple handshake can be akin to French-kissing Death herself, so all in all, this anti-social, work-focused lifestyle is working out pretty well! For me, anyway. Without further ado, here’s a survey of what I’ve been reading over the last month…

(14) MUTATING SARS-COV-2 VIRUS. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Most people (deniers excepted) have an interest in the SARS-CoV-2 /CoVID-19 pandemic, but SF folk perhaps a little more as pandemics are something of an SF trope and commonly evoked as the backdrop to a ‘Quiet Earth’ story.

The latest Nature journal has a feature, by Nature staffer Ewen Callaway, that explores how the SARS-CoV-2 virus (which can result inCoVID-19 disease) is mutating.

The feature may be a little hard to digest for those Filers not rooted in science or biology, so here’s a condensed summary.

SARS-CoV-2 is mutating (as was previously much anticipated even as a short-term concern). Fortunately it is mutating at less than half the rate of influenza viruses and a quarter that of HIV. The virus genome has nearly 30,000 letters and if you were today to sequence a virus from two patients anywhere in the world you’d probably see an average of 10 RNA letters difference. So far, some 90,000 patients have had their virus genomically sequenced and this has revealed over 12,000 mutations doing the rounds. Luckily, nearly all these do not affect the way the virus spreads, or the resulting disease.

The bad news is that a new dominant strain has emerged. Way back, it infected an estimated less than 10% of patients by early-to-mid-February but nearly 100% by mid-June (of a sample size of over 50,000 patients globally). This strain, D614G (with a genome mutation at the coding for the 614th amino acid position) is unlike most other strains that do not affect the CoVID-19 disease. Instead, this new strain is
more infective than the original SARS-CoV-2! This is because this mutation alters the spike protein on the virus’ surface that it uses to latch on to human cells. It makes the spike more open and so easier to latch onto human cell membrane proteins.

The good news is that in COVID-19 patient impact terms this strain is no better or worse to contract than the original virus.

More good news, is that though this new strain is more infective, it responds just as well to vaccines. This is likely because what makes it more infective (an open spike) also exposes the receptor binding domain (RBD) used to lock onto human cells but the mutation has not changed the RBD itself. So this new mutation is unlikely to affect the prognosis for a vaccine from the potential vaccines now being trialled.

Interestingly, there is a second mutation doing the rounds which is a big mutation involving nearly 400 RNA nucleotides! This strain is linked to a milder form of CoVID-19.

Where does all this leave us?

Well, it could be that slow mutation will lead to vaccine-resistant strains. With vaccination, these strains may only generate mild symptoms (vaccines to related strains may confer partial protection) and also we may develop new vaccines for the new significant mutations. One possibility, the Nature feature contemplates (which the SF²; Concatenation briefing also considered way back in March), is that vaccines will immunise us making us less susceptible to mutations, so that subsequent COVID-19-related disease will have less impact. In short, that we will eventually get by with annual SARS-CoV jabs and that in the long-term it will be a bit like living with flu.

(15) TOS CONTINUES. Fansided makes sure viewers know “A new fan film called Star Trek: First Frontier has debuted online”.

Star Trek: First Frontier is an entirely new, original, and self-funded fan film that takes place in the time of the original show. Set in the same time-frame, with sets and uniforms dedicated to that era of Star Trek. It was directed by Kenneth Smith, with the entire film being self-funded by the director. It was released on Star Trek Day 2020 to add to the festivities.

Despite its production budget being very high for a Star Trek fan-film, there are issues that the director himself admits to. He attempted to fix everything but funds became scarce after Covid-19 hit, and the subsequent quarantining caused a financial issue in fixing some of the minor issues with the audio. Smith promises that the issues will be fixed in a special edition.

(16) HONEST TRAILER PARK. In “Mulan (2020) Honest Trailer” the Screen Junkies explain the Mulan remake has “vibrant colors and sumptuous landscapes that will be totally wasted on your crappy TV.”

(17) ONLY ONE HAS A RACING STRIPE. Ranker asks readers to vote on “The 19 Coolest Starships In The ‘Star Trek’ Universe”.

Throughout the many complicated iterations of the Star Trek universe, there are entire cultures dedicated to exploration, subjugation, and assimilation. Whether they’re looking to map uncharted territories or obliterate neighboring races, the right starship makes all the difference.

Here’s a look at some of the greatest Starfleet cruisers, Klingon fighter ships, and bizarre sentient space vessels that the Star Trek universe has to offer.

Now in fourth place —

4. USS ENTERPRISE (NCC-1701)

Where It’s From: Star Trek: The Original Series

Who It Belongs To: Starfleet

Why It’s Awesome: This Constitution-class heavy cruiser was built in San Francisco, assembled in space, and has one of the most storied histories of any vessel in Starfleet. It has visited more than 70 different worlds over its multiple five-year missions, and is the flagship of the Federation fleet.

(18) NOT YOUR AVERAGE BEAR. Looks like he couldn’t find a pic-a-nic basket in time. “Perfectly preserved Ice Age cave bear found in Arctic Russia”.

Reindeer herders in a Russian Arctic archipelago have found an immaculately preserved carcass of an Ice Age cave bear, researchers said Monday.

The find, revealed by the melting permafrost, was discovered on the Lyakhovsky Islands with its teeth and even its nose intact. Previously scientists only had been able to discover the bones of cave bears that became extinct 15,000 years ago.

Scientists of the North-Eastern Federal University in Yakutsk, the premier center for research into woolly mammoths and other prehistoric species, hailed the find as groundbreaking.

In a statement issued by the university, researcher Lena Grigorieva emphasized that “this is the first and only find of its kind — a whole bear carcass with soft tissues.”

“It is completely preserved, with all internal organs in place, including even its nose,” Grigorieva said. “This find is of great importance for the whole world.”

A preliminary analysis indicated that the adult bear lived 22,000 to 39,500 years ago.

(19) PITCH MEETING. In “Twilight: New Moon Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George explains that the sequel to Twilight reveals that werewolves run around shirtless to save themselves from ripping off their shirts, but asking what happens to werewolf pants is too much information.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. From 2014.

The Doctor and Clara have been called to the National Portrait Gallery to investigate some very strange paintings, but instead the Doctor runs into, well, himself.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, N., James Davis Nicoll, Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, JJ, John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, Lise Andreasen, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 9/3/20 This Is Not The Pixel Scroll You Are Looking For

(1) POWERFUL RECOMMENDATION. Innocent Chizaram Ilo writes a guest feature for Sarah Gailey’s series: “Personal Canons: Lesley Nneka Arimah”. “They are the winner of the 2020 Commonwealth Short Story Prize (African Region). …They live in Lagos but dream of vast lives in unimaginable places.”

The Kirkus Review, while reviewing Lesley’s brilliant collection of short stories, described it as one that heralds a new voice with certain staying power. This staying power is something that has continued to resonate within me anytime I read Lesley Nneka Arimah. That she decided to give her characters names like Nneoma, Ogechi, Mama Said, Ogechi, Chidinma, seemingly ordinary names belonging to ordinary people, and fling them into bold and daring futures or reimaginations opened up a world of possibilities for me that speculative fiction can be other things not just…white.

Everything and anything is possible and impossible in the whimsical worlds Lesley Nneka Arimah builds with fiction. This distinctive feature of her work keeps the reader on edge, even while reading her realistic stories, because we are always expecting the weird and wonderful. Lesley Nneka Arimah’s stories are also unapologetically political, from her allusions to Biafra in What It Means When A Man Falls From the Sky and War Stories, to reimagining a world where women decide when they want to have children in Who Will Greet You At Home, to interrogating the pressure Igbo tradition places on women to get married in Skinned (which won the 2019 Caine AKO Prize for African Writing).

(2) WHEN DINOSAURS ROAMED THE TOWN. “A new interactive map lets you track where your city or town was located on Earth 750 million years ago”Business Insider has the story. The map is here. You can pick various points in history to compare. For example, 400 million years ago during the Devonian Period my town was underwater and my neighbors included Plesiosaurus and Fresnosaurus.

…Have you ever wondered what the area around your hometown was like during the Cretaceous period, when the Tyrannosaurus rex roamed? How about before then, when Earth had just one supercontinent?

Now you can find out.

An interactive map developed by software engineer Ian Webster lets users track the locations of modern-day landmarks back hundreds of millions of years.

If you type in the name of your hometown or current city, the map can pinpoint its location on the planet in a given era, going back 750 million years (that’s about 150 million years before multicellular life emerged).

New York City, for example, formed part of the Rodinia supercontinent 750 million years ago.

Webster’s map relies on the work of geologist and paleogeographer Christopher Scotese, who created his own chronological map in 1998 that charts how tectonic plates shifted throughout Earth’s history.

(3) LONCON 3 REVISITED. Given that Britain is now bidding for the 2024 Worldcon, SF2 Concatenation’s Mark Bilsborough looks back at the last UK-venued Worldcon in “The 2014 SF Worldcon”.

Glasgow is bidding to host Worldcon in 2024, which would be a welcome British return for the science fiction and fantasy sprawling roadtrip that in recent years has taken in HelsinkiMelbourne and Dublin, as well as Glasgow itself in 2005 and London in 2014.  This year it was meant to be in New Zealand, in Wellington, a great venue for SF folk, but global events kyboshed that one (though it did go ‘virtual’. The world’s first truly ‘world’ con?).  Mostly other years since its inception have been North American affairs (as was last and will be next year’s, and 2022), so a 2024 return to UK shores is most welcome….

(4) ‘TIS THE SEASON FOR CONNIE WILLIS. The November/December Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine will publish a new holiday novella by Connie Willis. The release date for the issue is October 20, 2020. There will also be a signed and limited hardcover edition published by Subterranean Press in November (preorder here.)

About the Book:

Ori’s holidays are an endless series of elaborately awful meals cooked by her one-time stepfather Dave’s latest bride. Attended by a loose assemblage of family, Ori particularly dreads Grandma Elving—grandmother of Dave’s fourth wife—and her rhapsodizing about the Christmas she worked at Woolworth’s in the 1950s. And, of course, she hates being condescended to by beautiful, popular Sloane and her latest handsome pre-med or pre-law boyfriend.

But this Christmas is different. Sloane’s latest catch Lassiter is extremely interested in Grandma Elving’s boringly detailed memories of that seasonal job, seeing in them the hallmarks of a TFBM, or traumatic flashbulb memory. With Ori’s assistance, he begins to use the older woman in an experiment—one she eagerly agrees to. As Ori and Lassiter spend more time together, Ori’s feelings for him grow alongside the elusive mystery of Grandma’s past.

(5) APPRAISING BEOWULF. Filer StephenfromOttawa recommends Ruth Franklin’s “A ‘Beowulf’ for Our Moment in The New Yorker as a long, generally positive discussion of the Headley Beowulf translation.

I’m out of free articles at that site, but you might not be!

(6) THE DOCTOR DOESN’T MAKE HOUSE CALLS, BUT DALEKS DO. Simon Stephenson, author of Set My Heart To Five, tells Whatever readers where he got his Big Idea.

A few years ago, I spent a night in a chain hotel after a long series of international flights.  I arrived after midnight, took a shower and an Ambien, and then discovered that I had forgotten my toothpaste. I called down to reception and ten minutes later, the doorbell on my room rang. I threw on my robe, grabbed a few dollars for a tip, and opened the door to reveal the creature that had perma-stalked my childhood nightmares: a Dalek.

For a moment, my Dalek and I stood in silent contemplation of each other. I had outrun them for decades but now Davros’ mechanical foot soldiers had caught me: alone, tired, drugged, be-robed and with no real weapons to defend myself except a Gideon bible and that thing they leave in hotel rooms that has something to do with shoes….

(7) JAMES BOND. A new trailer for No Time To Die dropped today.

(8) SAUNDERS OBIT. Charles Saunders (1946-2020), author of Imaro and Dossouye and creator of Sword and Soul, died in May of natural causes reported Milton Davis on Facebook. An African-American author and journalist who lived in Canada. Called a pioneer of Black Speculative Fiction, Saunders’ first sff story was published in 1974.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

September 3, 1996  — Burning Zone premiered on UPN. A series where the cast explored the worst kinds of epidemiological outbreaks. Yeah not the best viewing perhaps currently. It ran just one season of nineteen episodes With elements of the supernatural and super science as well. Initially, it was focused on virologist Edward Marcase as played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Dr. Kimberly Shiroma as played by Tamlyn Tomita.  Due to the series’ epic low ratings at that point, they were removed in the middle of the season with Dr. Daniel Cassian as played by Michael Harris became the lead character.  (It didn’t help.) Critical response to the series was overwhelmingly negative with it being compared quite unfavourably to The X-Files. To date, it has not been released to any of the streaming sites. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 3, 1930 – Cherry Wilder.  New Zealander living two decades in Australia, two in Germany, then home.  Ten novels, forty shorter stories; some short stories, poetry, under another name outside our field.  Reviews in Foundation (F 54 a special Wilder issue), InterzoneVector.  Collection, Dealers in Light and Darkness.  One Ditmar.  (Died 2002) [JH]
  • Born September 3, 1934 Les Martin, 86. One of those media tie-in writers that I find fascinating. He’s written the vast majority of the X-Files Young Readers series, plus a trio of novels in the X-Files Young Adult series. He’s also written two Indiana Jones YA novels, and novelizations of Blade Runner and The Shadow. (CE) 
  • Born September 3, 1937 – Paul R. Alexander, 83.  A hundred fifty covers, thirty interiors; three novels (with Laurie Bridges).  Here is the 25th Anniversary Best from F&SF.  Here is The Worlds of Frank Herbert.  Here is The Witches of Karres.  Here is The Best of “Trek” 10.  Here is Crown of Empire.  [JH]
  • Born September 3, 1940 Pauline Collins, 80. She played Queen Victoria in the Tenth Doctor story, “Tooth and Claw”, a most excellent tale, but she first showed up on Who over thirty years earlier as Samantha Briggs in “The Faceless Ones”, a Second Doctor story. She’s appears in Tales of the UnexpectedThe Three Musketeers, Julian Fellowes’ From Time to Time film and the Merlin series.(CE)
  • Born September 3, 1943 Mick Farren. Punk musician who was the singer with the proto-punk band the Deviants. He also wrote Hawkwind lyrics.  His most well-known genre work was the The Renquist Quartet about an immortal vampire. His late Eighties novel The Armageddon Crazy was set in a post-Millennium States dominated by fundamentalists who toss the Constitution away.  (CE) 
  • Born September 3, 1943 Valerie Perrine, 77. She has an uncredited role as Shady Tree’s sidekick in Diamonds Are Forever, her first film appearance. Her first credited film role is as Montana Wildhack in Sluaughterhouse-Five. She’s Eve Teschmacher in Superman and Superman II. She showed up as Tins in “The Three Little Pigs” episode of Faerie Tale Theatre, and was April Flowers in “ Who’s Who: Part 3” of Ghostwriters. (CE)
  • Born September 3, 1950 – Faren Miller, Ph.D., 70.  Her book notes in Locus 1981-2018 earn her this place.  A novel too, The Illusionists.  [JH]
  • Born September 3, 1956 – Fred Gambino, 64.  Three hundred seventy covers, thirty interiors.  Here is Ship of Shadows.  Here is The Man in the High Castle.  Here is N-Space.  Here is Foundation.  Here is the Dec 96 Analog and here is the May 18.  Artbooks Ground ZeroDark Shepherd.  [JH]
  • Born September 3, 1959 Merritt Butrick. He played Kirk’s son, David, in The Wrath of Khan and again in The Search for Spock. Note the very young death. He died of AIDS. Well he died of toxoplasmosis, complicated by AIDS to be precise. (Died 1989.) (CE) 
  • Born September 3, 1969 – John Picacio, 51.  A hundred seventy covers, fifty interiors.  Here is Dante’s Equation.  Here is Her Smoke Rose Up Forever.  Here is Mission of Gravity.  Here is the Dec 10 Asimov’s.  Here is When the Devil Drives.  Artbook Cover Story.  Interviewed in ClarkesworldLocusShimmer.  Graphic Artist Guest of Honor at Minicon 41, Boskone 47, Balticon 50, Westercon 68; roused support for bringing fifty folk to the 76th Worldcon (where he was a Guest of Honor) in his Mexicanx Initiative (i.e. including Mexicana, Mexicano).  Three Hugos, seven Chesleys; World Fantasy Award; Solstice.  Has been doing cards for his version of Lotería, e.g. herehere.  [JH]
  • Born September 3, 1974 Clare Kramer, 46. She had the recurring role of Glory, a god from a hell dimension that was the main antagonist of the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She’s been a lot of horror films including The Skulls IIIThe GravedancersThe ThirstRoad to HellRoad to Hell, Big Ass Spider! and Tales of Halloween. (CE)
  • Born September 3, 1980 – Jenny Han, 40.  M.F.A. from the New School.  Three novels for us; eight others, three being NY Times Best Sellers and a fourth winning the Young Adult 2015-2016 Asian / Pacific American Award for Literature.  A short story too is ours, “Polaris Is Where You’ll Find Me”.  Website here. [JH]

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Does anyone remember this Trek episode? The Far Side.
  • Garfield observes a competition.
  • Off the Mark shows what happens when everybody talks and nobody listens if he conversation includes R2-D2.

(12) BOOK THOUGHTS. At Nerds of a Feather, Paul Weimer groks “6 Books with Dan Moren”

5. What’s one book, which you read as a child or a young adult, that has had a lasting influence on your writing?

Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising is one of my all time favorites. I can still remember the boxset that my aunt gave me—for years I was terrified of the cover image, with the Rider on the rearing horse outside of Will Stanton’s house. But once I finally got up the courage to start reading, I was transported into this amazingly atmospheric world, scenes and characters of which stick with me to this day. It’s just this master class in telling a young adult fantasy story that, like the best of them, has these dark and sinister elements. It’s one of the few books that I’d love to do a screenplay adaptation of (as long as we can all agree that the execrable 2007 movie never happened).

(13) PROPRIETY OF SELLING POINTS. Adri Joy questions what’s up with the marketing of a forthcoming 2021 book: “Tor.com Publishing, First Become Ashes, and the pretty pastel packaging of abuse” at Nerds of a Feather.

CW: Discussions of rape, rape apologism, abuse, slavery, racism, explicit BDSM. Spoilers for Docile by K.M. Szpara.

…The thing is, though, the desire to celebrate the transgressive blending of rape and happy endings (pleasure and pain!) plays out rather differently in an unmonetized fandom space than it does when backed up by a significant portion of a Big 5 Publishing imprint’s marketing budget and social media reach. The use of tags in fanfiction can be playful, but they are ultimately there to inform readers of the exact content of a piece of media (however imperfectly), and let them make their own choices. When turned into a marketing tool, the incentives for “tagging” completely change to become about what will sell, and that completely changes what is appropriate and what is trustworthy. Likewise, the choice to pair your dark stories with an unexpected pastel aesthetic is one thing when you’re choosing a Tumblr theme or commissioning an artist to draw your fic, but it has an entirely different weight behind it when you’re printing 75,000 hardbacks to go out to major stores and sit on the shelf alongside all the other pastel aesthetic SFF books which are almost entirely not about rape and BDSM. Once you’ve started writing about the traumatic, abusive cock cages in your book in cutesy handwriting font, it’s possible you’ve lost the plot entirely… but even if there is an audience that would be good for, it’s certainly not all 25,000 Twitter followers of Tor.com Publishing! These are not responsible choices; they deliberately obfuscate and misrepresent the book, and in doing so prevent potential readers – particularly those who aren’t clued in on the past pattern via Twitter – from making fully informed choices about their reading. For other books, that might be annoying, especially at hardback price point; for one with this combination of sensitive topics, it’s frankly dangerous….

(14) RADIO ACTIVITY. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4 yesterday broadcast Science Stories which this week concerned possible alien life in meteorites. A notion that goes back over 100 years.  Apparently, Pasteur had an interest and around that time there was a hoax perpetrated (it is thought to discredit those arguing against Pasteur). Filers can listen to it here: “The meteorite and the hidden hoax”

Also yesterday, BBC Radio 4 broadcast Thinking Allowed which this week included mass surveillance.  While this does sort of relate to an SFnal trope, of particular interest is that the exploration of present-day mass surveillance is through the prism of Orwell’s 1984. Filers can listen to it here: “Surveillance”.

(15) CREDENTIALS AHOY. Atlas Obscura invites you aboard “De Poezenboot (The Cat Boat)”.

De Poezenboot is an animal sanctuary floating on a canal in Amsterdam. It was founded by Henriette van Weelde in 1966 as a home for stray, sick, and abandoned felines, and has since grown into an official charity.

The house boat accommodates up to 50 cats at once, 14 of which are permanent residents. Human visitors are welcome on the vessel as well. Many come to choose a cat for adoption, but tourists are also welcome to drop in and scratch a kitty behind the ears. 

(16) NEW ARRANGEMENT. In “Ghostbusters Theme: Medieval Bardcore Version” on YouTube, L’Orchestra Cinematique has a version of the Ghostbusters theme you can play at a SCA banquet.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers: The Boys” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies take on the Amazon Prime series where “Superman is a stone-cold psychopath, Wonder Woman is a jaded alcoholic, The Flash is a jaded junkie who’s lost his edge, and Batman is pretty much the same.”  Also featured:  laser babies!

[Thanks to John Hertz, Daniel Dern, Michael Toman, Lise Andreasen, Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, StephenfromOttawa, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, James Davis Nicoll, Catherine Lundoff, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Pixel Scroll 9/1/20 Senpai
Noticed Me!

(1) GAME OF THRONGS. Netflix has ordered a series covering all three books in Liu Cixin’s trilogy — The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Death’s End — reports Variety: “‘Three-Body Problem’ Series From David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Alexander Woo Set at Netflix”.

There seem to be a lot of cooks hovering over the broth:

Benioff and Weiss executive produce under their Bighead Littlehead banner along with the company’s newly installed president, Bernadette Caulfield. [Rian] Johnson, Ram Bergman, and Nena Rodrigue executive produce via T Street Productions. [Brad] Pitt executive produces with along with Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner for Plan B Entertainment. [Rosamund] Pike and Robie Uniacke executive produce for Primitive Streak. Lin Qi, chairman of Yoozoo Group and The Three-Body Universe, and Zhao Jilong, vice president of The Three-Body Universe, also executive produce.

…Author Liu Cixin and accomplished sci-fi writer Ken Liu, who translated the English versions of the first and third books, serve as consulting producers.

The article quotes Liu Cixin:

“I have the greatest respect for and faith in the creative team adapting ‘The Three-Body Problem’ for television audiences,” said Cixin. “I set out to tell a story that transcends time and the confines of nations, cultures and races; one that compels us to consider the fate of humankind as a whole. It is a great honor as an author to see this unique sci-fi concept travel and gain fandom across the globe and I am excited for new and existing fans all over the world to discover the story on Netflix.”

(2) INTERNET ARCHIVE SUIT TRIAL SCHEDULED. Publishers Weekly is a fly on the courtroom wall when “Judge Sets Tentative Schedule for Internet Archive Copyright Case”. All the benchmark dates are at the link.

…The parties, barring a motion that would moot the schedule, are to be ready for trial on 48 hours notice on or after November 12, 2021.

…The copyright infringement lawsuit against the Internet Archive’s scanning and lending program was first filed on June 1 in the Southern District of New York by Hachette, HarperCollins, John Wiley & Sons, and Penguin Random House, and is being coordinated by the Association of American Publishers.

(3) VOTERS BY THE YARD. “Biden campaign launches official Animal Crossing: New Horizons yard signs” reports The Verge.

…Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in the US earlier this year, campaigns like Biden’s have been forced to entirely rethink how they organize voters. Instead of in-person rallies, Biden’s team has opted for live-streamed events and fundraisers along with socially distanced productions and interviews. The entire Democratic National Convention was held virtually earlier this month, with most guests streaming in over video software like Zoom to deliver speeches.

The Biden-Harris campaign released four sign designs for players to download, featuring the official Biden-Harris logo, Team Joe logo, the “Joe” Pride logo, and an image of aviator sunglasses shaded in red, white, and blue. Players will be able to access the designs in-game by scanning the design QR codes through the Nintendo Switch Online app.

Millions of people have picked up Animal Crossing: New Horizons since its initial release in March, and the Biden campaign is hoping to engage that large base with their new merch. “Animal Crossing is a dynamic, diverse, and powerful platform that brings communities together from across the world. It is an exciting new opportunity for our campaign to engage and connect Biden-Harris supporters as they build and decorate their islands,” Christian Tom, director of digital partnerships for the Biden campaign, said in a statement to The Verge. “As we enter the final campaign stretch towards November, this is one way we are finding new creative and innovative ways to meet voters where they are and bring our supporters together.”

(4) ZOOM IN BLOOM. Cora Buhlert wrote a NASFiC conreport and an overview of the growing phenomenon of virtual sff events: “Cora’s Adventures at the Virtual 2020 NASFiC and More Thoughts on Virtual Conventions”.

…The first panel I watched was “Fantasy for YA vs. Adults”, featuring Alma Alexander, Farah Mendlesohn, Sherwood Smith and Kathryn Sullivan. I picked this panel over the horror panel going on at the same time, because I knew and liked the panelists. There was some concern in the chat that the panelists were all white. And indeed, more diversity would have been nice, especially considering what a diverse field fantasy in general and YA in particular is.

Talking of the chat, unlike other recent virtual conventions, NASFiC opted not to use the Zoom chat, but have the Discord chat side by side with the panel. From the POV of an audience member, this was a lot better than having to switch between Discord and Zoom in different tabs/windows. Though I’m not sure how it was from the POV of a panelist, since panelists and moderators can more easily see questions, when they are asked in the Zoom chat…

(5) MASTERING DUALITY. Sarah Gailey’s Personal Canons series continues with “Abhorsen”.

…When I first read the Abhorsen books, I was very young, and I was just starting to grapple with questions of identity, duality, and choice. Bound up in those questions was a larger, overarching question of worth. I felt certain that if I didn’t answer those questions about myself correctly, I’d lose some degree of goodness. Bit by bit, parts of me would tarnish; I’d become Bad, and there would be no place in the world for me. That feeling was too much. I couldn’t face it.

But in Garth Nix’s books, I saw that perhaps the answers could be more complicated than I realized. In Sabriel, I saw that feeling afraid and unprepared didn’t have to mean surrender, so long as I could be resourceful and stubborn. In Lirael, I saw that it’s possible to survive the crushing feeling that life is unsurvivable.

(6) NYRSF 30TH SEASON. The New York Review of SF Readings Series, hosted by Jim Freund, kicks off its new season virtually on September 8 with a reading by Michael Swanwick. More info at the link: “NYRSF Readings: Swanwick/Dozois ‘The City Under the Stars’”

This reading marks the beginning of our 30th Season! Sadly, we cannot all join together for a fete, but over the course of time, we’ll figure something out. We wish to experiment with simulcasting the reading on our traditional home here on Facebook, but also try simulcasting it on YouTube. We’ll be testing this through the week so be sure to check back here to find out where to log in.

On Tor.com, Michael Swanwick wrote:
“Almost a quarter century ago, Gardner Dozois and I published “The City of God,” now the first half of this novel. It ended with a slam, seemingly precluding any sequels. But over the decades Gardner and I talked over what might come next. We planned to write two more novellas, “The City of Angels” and “The City of Men,” which would tell one long, complete story. One with a happy ending.

Don’t laugh.

Yes, Gardner could be a bleak writer. Yes, the novella was dark even for him. But he had an uplifting idea for how the book would end. We discussed it often. We were midway through the second novella and aiming at that happy ending when, without warning, Gardner died.

I knew I would never write that third novella without his input, his genius. Nevertheless I wanted the world to see this genuinely happy ending. So I changed the direction of the work in progress, combined both novellas, divided them into chapters, and made of them a novel I think Gardner would have been pleased with.

The ending is exactly what Gardner envisioned all those decades ago. A happy one. For everyone.

When I wrote the last words of it, I cried.”

(7) NOT TOO LATE TO TUNE IN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.]“Arthur Charles Clarke discusses science fiction” at the Studs Terkel Radio Archive is a 1959 interview Studs Terkel conducted with Clarke where Clarke discusses his novels Childhood’s End and Earthlight, explains why he thought sf was not escapist, and said that “I’m a moral vegetarian, although I hate vegetables.”

(8) OKAY BOOMER. “Can You Recognize These Guest Stars On Star Trek: The Original Series?” John King Tarpinian got 9 of 11. I got 10. It helps if you’ve watched too much Sixties television.

We gathered some of our favorite guest stars from Star Trek: The Original Series. They are famous faces from classic television. See if you can match them to their popular roles. Good luck!

(9) DINO MITES. “‘Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous’ Trailer: Netflix Unleashes Look At New Dreamworks Animation Series, Launches Interactive Site”Yahoo! Entertainment has the story.

…The series trailer (watch it above) sets up the premise of Camp Cretaceous: A group of six teenagers are trapped at a new adventure camp on the opposite side of Isla Nublar. When the events of the film unfold and dinosaurs are unleashed across the island, each kid realizes their very survival rests on the shoulders of themselves and their fellow campers. Unable to reach the outside world, the six teens will go from strangers to friends to family as they band together to survive the dinosaurs and uncover hidden secrets so deep they threaten the world itself.

Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous premieres September 18 on Netflix.

The new interactive site, live now, invites users to experience a behind the gates look at Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous. At CampCretaceous.com, users can tour the campgrounds, get up close with dinosaurs, check out tree top cabins and a zipline, among other adventures.

(10) GOSPEL OR BLASPHEMY? Chris Mooney, in “You Don’t Have To Be A Genre Writer To Explore Genre” on CrimeReads, says his desire to put sf elements in a suspense novel led him to explore other works that combine sf and suspense, including novels by Colson Whitehead, Margaret Atwood, and Sir Kazuo Ichiguro.

…Sometimes when you mix things together, the results are amazing, even spectacular. As I was writing Blood World, I realized that almost of my all-time favorite books—the ones that had the greatest impact on me—were from authors who successfully incorporated elements from more than one genre. And now, it’s mid-August, the height of vacation season, and if, like me, you find yourself stuck in your backyard on a “staycation,” or lucky enough to live near a beach, you can do no better than these definitive, intelligent, page-turning, genre-bending classics.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • September 1, 1950Dimension X’s “The Roads Must Roll.” Based on the Robert Heinlein story that first was published in Astounding Science Fiction in the June 1940 issue, it would first be broadcast on this date on NBC  in 1950. It would win the Retro Hugo for Best Novella at MidAmericon II, the same year that OGH won another Hugo for Best Fan Writer. Jason Bolander, Norman Rose and Karl Weber were the cast. You can listen to it here. (CE)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 1, 1875 Edgar Rice Burroughs. Bradbury declared him “the most influential writer in the entire history of the world.” Now I’d not necessarily disagree or agree with that statement but I would note that he has largely fallen out of public notice once again. So what’s your favorite works by him? The Barsoom stories are mine. (Died 1950.) (CE)
  • Born September 1, 1928 – Shelby Vick.  Edited Planetary Stories 2005-2017.  Edited a new (i.e. 2013, centuries after the original) volume of Sindbad stories (with E. Erdelac & E. Roberts; unable to resist the spelling “Sinbad”), writing one.  A score of short stories around then.  Leading fan since the 1940s.  Introduced Lee Hoffman (to some of us, after this incident, “Hoffwoman”), to Bob Tucker.  Started WAW with the Crew in ’52 bringing W.A. Willis to Chicon II the 10th Worldcon.  Organized, if that word may be used, Corflu 16 (fanziners’ con; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid, once indispensable); brought as a guest to Corflu 29.  Rebel Award.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born September 1, 1942 C. J. Cherryh, 78. I certainly think the Hugo Award-winning Downbelow Station and Cyteen are amazing works but I think my favorite works by her are the Merchanter novels such as Rimrunners. Anyone familiar with “Cassandra“,  the short story she won a Hugo for at Seacon ‘79? What’s it part of? (CE) 
  • Born September 1, 1943 – Filthy Pierre, 77.  So unassumingly and widely helpful for so long he was at length given the Big Heart (our highest service award) and more locally made a Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; its service award).  With Marilyn Wisowaty (as she then was; also F.N.) compiled The Blackdex and Bluedex indexing SF prozines.  FP being a filker is often at hand during an SF con and, when waiting is, inspires song, accompanying us on the current version of the Filth-O-Phone.  Made the well-named Microfilk, an early filk index.  Filk Hall of Fame.  Invented the Voodoo Message Board.  Fan Guest of Honor at Albacon 2010, Baltcon 52.  Under a transparent pseudonym has conducted the SF Conventional Calendar for Asimov’s since 1977.  [JH]
  • Born September 1, 1951 Donald G. Keller, 69. Editor and critic. Co-edited Phantasmicom with Jeff Smith (1969-1974). A contributor to The New York Review of Science Fiction in the early Nineties which is where his “The Manner of Fantasy” essay appeared. He also edited The Horns of Elfland anthology with Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman. Inactive genre wise for a decade now other than being a member of the editorial board of Slayage, the online Encyclopedia of Buffy Studies. (CE) 
  • Born September 1, 1952 – Brad Linaweaver.  Productive pro writer found lovable by many because of or despite proclaimed libertarian opinions.  A dozen novels, five dozen shorter stories, some with co-authors.  Artbook anthology Worlds of Tomorrowwith Forrest J Ackerman.  Interviewed William Tenn for Riverside Quarterly.  Two Prometheus Awards.  Phoenix. Heinlein’s brass cannon bequeathed to him.  (Died 2019)
  • Born September 1, 1954 – Larisa Mikhaylova, Ph.D., 66.  Editor, critic; translator including Cadigan and Le Guin.  Editor-in-chief, Supernova.  Organizer of conferences on Ivan Yefremov, co-ordinator of preparing his Complete Works.  Biography of HE in J. Francaville ed., Harlan Ellison.  “Shore Leave Russia” on Star Trek fandom in Russia, Eaton Journal of Archival Research in SF.  Academic Secretary, Russian Soc. Amer. Cultural Studies.  [JH]
  • Born September 1, 1961 – Jacinta Escudos, 59.  Mario Monteforte Toledo Central American Prize for Fiction.  Collection, The Devil Knows My Name (in Spanish, i.e. El diablo sabe mi nombre).  Anthologized in And We Sold the RainLovers and ComradesYou Can’t Drown the Fire.  Widely known outside our field.  Blog here (in Spanish).  [JH]
  • Born September 1, 1964 Martha Wells, 56. She’s has won a Nebula Award, a Locus Award, and two Hugo Awards, one for the “All Systems Red” novella at WorldCon ‘76, and the other for her “Artificial Condition“ novella at Dublin 2019.  Impressive. And she was toastmaster of the World Fantasy Convention in 2017 where she delivered a speech called “Unbury the Future”. Need I note the Muderbot Diaries are a truly amazing reading? (CE)
  • Born September 1, 1967 Steve Pemberton, 53. He’s on the Birthday List for being Strackman Lux in the most excellent Eleventh Doctor stories of “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead” but he has other genre credits including being Drumknott in Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal, Professor Mule in the Gormenghast series and Harmony in the Good Omens series as well. (CE) 
  • Born September 1, 1974 Burn Gorman, 46. Best known for his roles as Owen Harper in Torchwood , Karl Tanner in the Game of Thrones, Philip Stryker in The Dark Knight Rises and also as Hermann Gottlieb in Pacific Rim and the sequel Pacific Rim: Uprising. Like so many of his fellow Torchwood performers, he’s been active at Big Finish where he’s been in nine Torchwood stories to date. (CE) 
  • Born September 1, 1978 — Yoav Blum, 42.  Software developer and author.  First novel translated (from Hebrew), The Coincidence Makers.  Ranks Guards! Guards! about the same as Winnie-the-Pooh.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Ziggy listens to an outburst about an unfair evolutionary advantage.
  • Off the Mark comes up with one of those times when you shouldn’t count on Superman to save your life.
  • The Far Side asks Doctor who?
  • The Far Side illustrates a science fictional parenting problem.

(14) LIPTAK’S SEPTEMBER GUIDE. Andrew Liptak teases “22 science fiction and fantasy books to check out this September” on the Readling List.

….I’ve been in a bit of a reading rut in recent weeks, but one book that I’ve been enjoying is The Human Cosmos: Civilization and the Stars by Jo Marchant. It’s out today, and Marchant takes a slightly different tack on the history of astronomy: she looks at not how humanity discovered the stars and planets, but how it impacted our development as a civilization. It’s an excellent example of multidisciplinary history, looking at archeology, science, mathematics, and of course, astronomy. I highly recommend it.

If you’re looking for other books coming out this month, here are 22 science fiction and fantasy ones hitting stores that you should check out.

(15) THE STICKS HAVE BEEN HEARD FROM. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, who has been without the internet most of the time during the pandemic, broke out of isolation to update “Concatenation Science Communication News”.

CoVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2 Lockdown — Please Note  Both Science Com and SF² Concatenation are in digital lockdown, but much is continuing as usual.  So stakeholders and those who liaise with either should note the following carefully.

Prior to CoVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2, neither abode being connected to the internet was not a problem (not even required) as regular internet access was available at college, volunteer work offices as well as learned society Fellows rooms’ and public libraries’ cybercafes (plus even hotels when travelling).  However, with SARS-CoV-2, access to these has ceased.  This means no e-mail communication since 20th March 2020 and this will not resume until we get a vaccine and restrictions are lifted. So if you have e-mailed, now you know why you have not had a response.

All other (non-e-mail) communications are working fine…

More news at the link.

He also tweeted assurance that there will be an autumnal edition of SF2 Concatenation as contributors have been snail-mailing contributions in on memory sticks.

(16) C.S. LEWIS MOVIE TO COMMENCE FILMING. “Production Begins Next Month for New C.S. Lewis Motion Picture” reports Narniafans.

… The material that this movie is based upon is Max McLean’s one man stage play that chronicles the Narnia author’s journey from atheism to Christianity… Although a filmed from the stage version of this production is already available on DVD, the new movie version will be entirely different with a full cast shooting at historic locations from C.S. Lewis’s life.

“The difference about this play is it’s going to be on location all over Oxford. We have full access to Maudlin College, The Kilns, the church, [and] various other places that are mentioned in the play. Instead of it being a one person show, it’s going to be a multi-actor show. I’ll play the older Lewis, we’ll have a boy Lewis, a young Lewis in his 20’s, cast his mother, his father, Tolkien, Barfield, Kirk, among others, and that is going to begin shortly.”

 In March 2020 the entire world of Fellowship for Performing Arts came to a complete standstill. The New York based theatrical organization had been selling 2,000 tickets a week for their four productions, but that quickly dropped to 0 tickets a week and there is no expectation that live theater will resume until 2021. More than 30 FPA shows have been canceled because it is far too dangerous to hold any public gatherings in the United States.

“Since our plays have all shut down, we’ve moved up our feature film adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s conversion story. That was designed to be a 2021/2022 project, well we’ve moved it up to September and October of this year. I’ll be leaving tomorrow for the UK to begin shooting in mid-September (I have to quarantine for two weeks before we begin shooting).”-Max McLean

Norman Stone is the producer of this movie. This award-winning British director also directed Shadowlands (1985), C.S. Lewis: Beyond Narnia (2005), and The Narnia Code (2009).

(17) WILL CROWDFUNDING LET THEM MAKE THEIR TEASER TRAILER? The Kickstarter for “BAÏDIR – the animated series”, a space-opera animated series, looks to be far from funding, having raised only $29,266 of its $35,968 goal and the appeal ending September 6.

This is an epic, modern, ecological, and family fable…

It tells the initiatory path of a hero willing to do anything to locate his sister, and thus restore the family’s lost balance. It is also a story that echoes a much broader collective quest. At stake: restoring our planet’s lost environmental equilibrium.

Baïdir is a series designed to span three parts, each composed of 8 episodes of 26 minutes. The genre varies from adventure to science fiction with a good dash of fantasy.

Born from the imagination of Slimane Aniss, then enriched by the graphic universe spun by Charles Lefebvre and Thierry Rivière, Baïdir got its first teaser in 2009. Several years later, in 2012, the concept for the series was purchased by a first production studio. This resulted in a second teaser being hatched. Then several years after that, Andarta Pictures managed to acquire the rights to the work. At long last, work could begin on building the narration and the universe, thus allowing it to take shape for the television screen.

Baïdir is a project that has garnered quite a lot of interest during its various development phases. There is a massive amount of fan art on social networks. This crowdfunding campaign will allow us to breathe life into this whole universe and to tell the story of Baïdir and his friends at last.

(18) ALIEN LIFE. The American Museum of Natural History will present online the “2020 Isaac Asimov Debate: Alien Life” on Wednesday, September 9, 2020.

Join Neil deGrasse Tyson, the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, and a panel of experts for a livestream debate and question-and-answer session to discuss how life may have formed on Earth and explore what alien life might look like elsewhere in the universe.

What criteria do we use to classify life as we know it? Should the criteria be revised as we look for life on other worlds? The debate will bring together scientists from different fields–Nathalie A. Cabrol of the SETI Institute, Vera Kolb of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute, Carol Cleland of the University of Colorado, and Max Tegmark of MIT–to share their creative ideas for what forms life might take in an extraterrestrial environment and what these predictions can teach us about life on our own planet.

(19) HO, HO PHO. Archie McPhee has “Ketchup, Shiitake And Pho Candy Canes” ready for the holiday season – whatever holiday that may be. (“National Flash on Your Carpet Day”?) Wait – they seem to think it’s Christmas!

This year’s Archie McPhee candy canes are here! We’ve got three crazy flavors to make your Christmas more delicious than ever. Ketchup Candy Canes are fresh-from-the-bottle candy that tastes just like America’s favorite condiment. Shiitake Mushroom Candy Canes have a mushroom flavor that will make Christmas morning even more fungus than usual. And, finally, Pho Candy Canes are un-pho-gettable! 

I hope Santa leaves the antidote within reach!

(20) RU A ROBOT? Daniel Dern calls it “The best CAPTCHA I’ve seen to date”.  From FB’s Concellation group.

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

SF2 Concatenation Spring 2020 Issue Now Online

By Jonathan Cowie: The SF2 Concatenation’s spring edition is now up. Principal contents include

    • SF Convention go-er appeal.  At home in lockdown?  Do you have a favourite convention you go to time and again? Want to make an SFnal mark? How about giving them a promotional puff?

Plus there are many standalone SF/FH book and non-fiction SF & science book reviews.

Full details at SF2 Concatenation’s What’s New page.

Looking ahead, in September SF² Concatenation will (hopefully, depending on its lock-down) have its autumnal (northern hemisphere) edition. This will consist of some articles and some standalone book reviews. (Many thanks to its book review panel members who have been sending in their reviews on USB memory sticks by old-fashioned snail-mail post as SF² Concatenation’s mission control is digitally isolated.) Alas, there will be no seasonal news page in September for the autumn as publishers are going rather quiet on the book promotion front, cinemas are closed to new films, and all SF conventions have been cancelled.

Looking further ahead SF² Concatenation will be suspending operations (other than receiving books from publishers for review). They will not be checking their e-mails (their mission control is digitally isolated during UK lock-down — ironically to prevent computer virus infection/master site hacking etc.) but they will pick up articles submitted by e-mail at some point in the future when they can get to their office.

Still further into the future, they aim to resume their seasonal editions three months after British lock-down ends. (This is because many publishers have ceased sending out physical review copies of books during the current SARS-CoV-2 crisis and so they will have to wait to accrue a season’s worth of books and review them before they can resume full editions.) They say they will though pick up their e-mails as soon as lock-down ends and liaise with contributors at that time. SF² Concatenation will also monitor publishers’ catalogues as soon as the resumption of production of new ones recommences and so their first seasonal news page may have lengthier forthcoming books listings as these will include recent releases not previously covered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Gathering in groups is not a great idea.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His qualifications for writing the post are —

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s one example:

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

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

Artist: Albert Kallis

Estimate: £3,000 – 5,000

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(11) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The valve connects patients in intensive care to breathing machines.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 2/20/20 Rotating PixelScrolls And The Possibility Of Global File Violation

(1) CON CANCELLED. MediaWest*Con 40 will not be held – the pioneering sf/media con in Lansing, MI declares it’s the “End of an Era”. The con had been scheduled for Memorial Day Weekend in May.

…Sadly, despite our best efforts to increase membership to a sustainable level, advance memberships are at an all-time low and show no sign of improving. Even with repeating the function space downsizing we instituted last year, this year it does not appear we would make the minimum number of hotel reservations needed to avoid thousands in hotel penalties. Therefore, we have no choice but to cancel MW*C 40 and notify attendees so that they can cancel their travel and hotel reservations in a timely fashion.

We hope people will understand that this is not an easy decision for us, and that it does NOT mean MediaWest*Con is dead. Rather, it gives us time to consider how MW*C may continue in some form.

Obviously, the myriad causes are nothing new — the graying of fandom, dwindling interest in fanzine culture, technology that makes face-to-face meetings seem superfluous, ever increasing travel expense and inconvenience, and SF/Media going mainstream, to name but a few. All have contributed to declining membership and participation in suggesting panel topics, Fan Q nominations, etc.. Nor are many of these issues unique to us, as other cons have suffered as well with no solution in sight.

(2) HAPPY BIRTHDAY, 1632. Eric Flint posted a 20-year retrospective of 1632 and the book series it proved to be a launching point for: “Tempus Fugit”.

…I’ve lost track of how many authors have been involved in the Ring of Fire universe, and how many words have been written in the series. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 200 authors, and we’re now well beyond 10,000,000 words—of which at least 5,000,000 have been produced in paper as well as electronic format. To put that in perspective, that’s more than twenty times as long as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and sixteen times as long as Tolstoy’s War and Peace. And—wait for it! wait for it!—it’s now much longer than the Bible. (Which comes in at 783,137 words, in the King James edition.)

There are now at least two million copies of the 1632 series books in print. And—this is where grubby scribblers chortle with glee—the royalties earned by the authors have just gone over the $2,000,000 mark. Yay for us!

(3) FOR YOUNG WOMEN COLLECTORS. “Announcing the fourth annual Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize”Literary Hub is taking submissions.

Literary Hub is pleased to announce that submissions are now open for the fourth annual Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize, which awards $1,000 to an outstanding book collection conceived and built by a young woman, aged 30 or younger, who lives in the United States.

According to the guidelines, “the winning collection must have been started by the contestant, and all items in the collection must be owned by her. A collection may include books, manuscripts, and ephemera; it may be organized by theme, author, illustrator, publisher, printing technique, binding style, or another clearly articulated principle. The winning collection will be more than a reading list of favorite texts: it will be a coherent group of printed or manuscript items, creatively put together. Collections will not be judged on their size or their market value, but on their originality and their success in illuminating their chosen subjects.”

…The deadline for submissions is June 1, 2020. You can see the full requirements and apply here. The winner will be announced in September. The prize is sponsored this year by BiblioSwann Galleries, and Ellen A. Michelson.

(4) NEBULA ANALYSIS. Cora Buhlert delivers “Some Comments on the 2019 Nebula Award Finalists”.

Best novelette:

Again, we have a strong ballot in this category. G.V. Anderson is certainly one of the best short fiction writers to have emerged in recent years. Her novelette “A Strange Uncertain Light” is also the only Nebula finalist to have originated in the print magazines. “For He Can Creep” by Siobhan Carroll is a lovely little story and I’m happy that it made the ballot. Sarah Pinsker and Caroline M. Yoachim are both excellent writers of short fiction, though I haven’t read these particular stories. I also must have missed “His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light” by Mimi Mondal, even though I usually read the Tor.com stories. However, I have enjoyed other stories by Mimi Mondal that I read. Finally, I’m very happy to see Carpe Glitter by Cat Rambo on the Nebula ballot and not just because we featured it at the Speculative Fiction Showcase last year. This is the first Nebula finalist we’ve featured at the Speculative Fiction Showcase, by the way, though we have featured finalists and even winners of the Bram Stoker and Sir Julius Vogel Awards.

Diversity count: Six women, two international writers, two writers of colour

(5) SEE THE FRONT OF A BOOK YOU’LL WANT TO READ. Tor.com has done a cover reveal for The Hollow Places, Oor Wombat’s follow-up to The Twisted Ones: “Check Out the Cover for The Hollow Places, T. Kingfisher’s Folk Horror Follow-up to The Twisted Ones.

(6) SHRINKING FANDOM. And I don’t mean it’s getting smaller: Gavin Miller opines at The Conversation: “Fan of sci-fi? Psychologists have you in their sights”.

Science fiction has struggled to achieve the same credibility as highbrow literature. In 2019, the celebrated author Ian McEwan dismissed science fiction as the stuff of “anti-gravity boots” rather than “human dilemmas”. According to McEwan, his own book about intelligent robots, Machines Like Me, provided the latter by examining the ethics of artificial life – as if this were not a staple of science fiction from Isaac Asimov’s robot stories of the 1940s and 1950s to TV series such as Humans (2015-2018).

Psychology has often supported this dismissal of the genre. The most recent psychological accusation against science fiction is the “great fantasy migration hypothesis”. This supposes that the real world of unemployment and debt is too disappointing for a generation of entitled narcissists. They consequently migrate to a land of make-believe where they can live out their grandiose fantasies.

The authors of a 2015 study stress that, while they have found evidence to confirm this hypothesis, such psychological profiling of “geeks” is not intended to be stigmatizing. Fantasy migration is “adaptive” – dressing up as Princess Leia or Darth Vader makes science fiction fans happy and keeps them out of trouble.

But, while psychology may not exactly diagnose fans as mentally ill, the insinuation remains – science fiction evades, rather than confronts, disappointment with the real world….

(7) TRACING A SUBGENRE WITH AN ASSIST FROM SFF. In “The Girl in the Mansion: How Gothic Romances Became Domestic Noirs” at CrimeReads, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, who is about to publish her first crime novel, cites Joanna Russ and Terry Carr as she explains how the Gothic romance evolved into today’s domestic noir novel.

Whatever happened to that girl? You know the one I mean: long hair, old-fashioned dress, with a dark, looming house in the distance and a look of anxiety on her face. She’s most often running from said dark house.

The girl from the Gothic novels.

I’m talking about the mid-20th century Gothic novels, not the original crop of Gothic books, like The Castle of Otranto or The Mysteries of Udolpho. No, it’s that second wave of Gothics—termed Gothic romances—that were released in the 1960s in paperback form that I’m referring to. This was a category dominated by authors such as Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney, and their covers fixed in the minds of a couple of generations what ‘Gothic’ meant….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 20, 1955 Tarantula premiered. It was produced by William Alland, directed by Jack Arnold. It stars John Agar, Mara Corday, and Leo G. Carroll. The screenplay by Robert M. Fresco and Martin Berkeley was based on a story by Arnold, which was in turn was based on by Fresco’s script for the Science Fiction Theatre “No Food for Thought” episode  which was also directed by Arnold.  It was a box office success earning more than a million dollars in its first month of release. Critics at the time liked it and even current audiences at Rotten Tomatoes gives at a sterling 92% rating. You can watch it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 20, 1906 Theodore Roscoe. A mere tasting of his pulp stories, The Wonderful Lips of Thibong Linh, which are sort of based of a member of the French Foreign Legion, and was published by Donald M. Grant. The complete stories, The Complete Adventures of Thibaut Corday and the Foreign Legion, are available digitally in four volumes on Kindle. The Wonderful Lips of Thibong Linh only contains four of these stories. (Died 1992.)
  • Born February 20, 1912 Pierre Boulle. Best known for just two works, The Bridge over the River Kwai and Planet of the Apes. The latter was La planète des singes in French, translated in 1964 as Monkey Planet by Xan Fielding, and later re-issued under the name we know. (Died 1994.)
  • Born February 20, 1925 Robert Altman. I’m going to argue that his very first film in 1947, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, based off the James Thurber short story of the same name, is genre given its premise. Some twenty-five years later Images was a full blown horror film. And, of course, Popeye is pure comic literature at its very best. (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 20, 1926 Richard  Matheson. Best known for I Am Legend which has been adapted for the screen four times, as well as the film Somewhere In Time for which he wrote the screenplay based on his novel Bid Time Return. Seven of his novels have been adapted into films. In addition, he wrote sixteen episodes of The Twilight Zone including “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” and “Steel”. The former episode of course has William Shatner in it. (Died 2013.)
  • Born February 20, 1943 Diana  Paxson, 77. Did you know she’s a founder of the Society for Creative Anachronism? Well she is. Genre wise, she’s best known for her Westria novels, and the later books in the Avalon series, which she first co-wrote with Marion Zimmer Bradley, then – after Bradley’s death, took over sole authorship of. All of her novels are heavily colored with paganism — sometimes it works for me, sometimes it doesn’t. I like her Wodan’s Children series more than the Avalon material.
  • Born February 20, 1954 Anthony Head, 66. Perhaps best known as Librarian and Watcher Rupert Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he also made an impressive Uther Pendragon in Merlin. He also shows up in Repo! The Genetic Opera as Nathan Wallace aka the Repo Man, in Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance as Benedict, and in the awesomely great Batman: Gotham by Gaslight voicing Alfred Pennyworth.
  • Born February 20, 1964 Rodney Rowland, 56. His best remembered roles to date are 1st Lieutenant Cooper Hawkes in Space: Above and Beyond and P. Wiley in The 6th Day. He’s also Corey Mahoney in Soulkeeper, a Sci Fi Pictures film that frankly sounds horrid. He’s got one-offs in X-Files, Welcome to Paradox, Dark Angel, Seven Days, Angel, Charmed and Twin Peaks.
  • Born February 20, 1967 Lili Taylor, 53. Her most recent role was as Captain Sandra Maldonado in the short lived Almost Human series, with her first genre role being in The Haunting off Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Incidental Comics by Grant Snider.

(11) ARE WE STILL ALLOWED TO LAUGH? Art Spiegelman reviews SCREWBALL!: The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny by Paul C. Tumey, and a museum exhibition of Rube Goldberg’s art, in  “Foolish Questions” at the New York Review of Books.

…Now that comics have put on long pants and started to strut around with the grownups by calling themselves graphic novels, it’s important to remember that comics have their roots in subversive joy and nonsense. For the first time in the history of the form, comics are beginning to have a history. Attractively designed collections of Little Nemo, Krazy Kat, Thimble Theater, Barnaby, Pogo, Peanuts, and so many more—all with intelligent historical appreciations—are finding their way into libraries.

Paul Tumey, the comics historian who co-edited The Art of Rube Goldberg book seven years ago, has recently put together a fascinating and eccentric addition to the expanding shelves of comics history.3 The future of comics is in the past, and Tumey does a heroic job of casting a fresh light on the hidden corners of that past in Screwball!: The Cartoonists Who Made the Funnies Funny. It’s a lavish picture book with over six hundred comics, drawings, and photos, many of which haven’t been seen since their twenty-four-hour life-spans in newspapers around a century ago. The book is a collection of well-researched short biographies of fifteen artists from the first half of the twentieth century, accompanied by generous helpings of their idiosyncratic cartoons. Goldberg—whose name schoolchildren learn when their STEM studies bump into chain reactions—is the perfect front man to beckon you toward the other less celebrated newspaper cartoonists who worked in the screwball vein that Tumey explores.

(12) TICKLE-ME YODA? CBR.com scopes out the product: “The Mandalorian’s Baby Yoda Comes to Life in Actual-Size Animatronic Toy”. (And, good lord, the photo at Lyle Movie Files shows a version that comes complete with Baby Yoda’s lunchpail – and a frog! Can that be legit?)

The Force is strong with Hasbro’s new animatronic Baby Yoda toy.

The actual-sized figure of The Mandalorian‘s The Child comes to life with animatronic motions and sounds taken directly from the hit Disney+ series. Arriving in Fall 2020, this lifelike recreation of The Asset will retail for $59.99 and is intended for ages four and up. He also comes with the Mandalorian’s pendant, as given to him by his mentor Din Djarin.

(13) NEEDED IN DC? BBC reports “Human brain seized in mail truck on US-Canada border”.

US customs officers made an unusual discovery when they carried out a spot check on a Canadian mail truck – a human brain inside a jar.

The brain was found at the Blue Water Bridge crossing, between Michigan and the Canadian province of Ontario, on 14 February, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said.

It was inside a shipment labelled “Antique Teaching Specimen”.

The shipment originated in Toronto and was destined for Kenosha, Wisconsin.

“Upon opening the shipment, CBP officers found the package to contain a human brain specimen inside of a clear glass mason jar without any paperwork or documentation in support of its lawful entry into the United States,” the agency said in a statement.

(14) CLIFFHANGERS. This week’s Nature includes a review of some key end-of-society books of recent years. “Panicking about societal collapse? Plunder the bookshelves”.

In case you missed it, the end is nigh. Ever since Jared Diamond published his hugely popular 2005 work Collapse, books on the same theme have been arriving with the frequency of palace coups in the late Roman Empire. Clearly, their authors are responding to a universal preoccupation with climate change, as well as to growing financial and political instability and a sense that civilization is lurching towards a cliff edge. Mention is also made of how big-data tools are shedding new light on historical questions. But do these books have anything useful to share?

The upside of societal collapse is that while it may be the end of the world for them, it can help with innovation and renewal, if not there then elsewhere.  Also, even if the end of the world cannot be prevented, learning from past societal collapses may help us soften the blow. 

(15) BE A SCIENCE REPORTER. Andrew Porter advises “Print it out, put it in your wallet! (Put your own name over the one that’s there.)” Was this what he used to get in and cover events for SF Chronicle?

(16) NOT TOYS. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] Not quite the scale of the rocket built at LoneStarCon 3, but more practical: “Woman solves wheelchair access problem – with Lego” – video.

Rita Ebel, 62, has come up with a novel way of helping wheelchair users like herself enjoy their shopping experiences in the western German town of Hanau.

Rita, who has been using a wheelchair since a serious car accident 25 years ago, has been building ramps from Lego and distributing them around town.

(17) SCIENTISTS GRASP THE OBVIOUS. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] Horror films make you scared.  It’s official. Shock, horror, drama, probe!!!! Psychologists in Finland used functional magnetic resonance imaging on 37 subjects watching horror films to see their ‘hemodynamic brain activity’, which is a psychologist’s poncy way of what we biologists call ‘blood flow’. (Why use two words when you can use three longer ones).  Different parts of the brain were stimulated when another group was shown non-horror films.  Or in the psychologists’ words: “[Their] main finding was that acute fear elicited consistent activity in a distributed set of cortical, limbic, and cerebellar regions, most notably the prefrontal cortex, paracentral lobule, amygdala, cingulate cortex, insula, PAG, parrahippocampus, and thalamus.”

Their work is published in the journal Neurolmage: “Dissociable neural systems for unconditioned acute and sustained fear”

…Here we studied the brain basis of sustained and acute fear using naturalistic functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) enabling analysis of different time-scales of fear responses. Subjects (N ?= ?37) watched feature-length horror movies while their hemodynamic brain activity was measured with fMRI….

(18) JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR, PART N: “It’s ‘game over’ for Sony at PAX East 2020” — note, the Boston Globe story may be paywalled.

…Japanese consumer electronics giant Sony said Wednesday that it will not participate in next week’s PAX East gaming exposition at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, out of concern about the spread of the coronavirus epidemic.

Sony announced its decision in a post on its PlayStation blog:

“Today, Sony Interactive Entertainment made the decision to cancel its participation at PAX East in Boston this year due to increasing concerns related to COVID-19 (also known as “novel coronavirus”). We felt this was the safest option as the situation is changing daily. We are disappointed to cancel our participation in this event, but the health and safety of our global workforce is our highest concern.”

In response, PAX East organizers vowed that the show would go on, but with extra precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“We are working closely with the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and following local, state, and federal public health guidelines,” the organizers said on the PAX website. “While we are saddened that Sony will no longer have a presence at PAX East 2020, we look forward to welcoming our friends at Sony to future PAX events and are focused on making PAX East 2020 a successful and enjoyable event for all attendees and exhibitors.”

(19) FAKE VIDEO OF THE DAY. The Verge quivers and quails as “This disturbingly realistic deepfake puts Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk in a Star Trek episode”.

A new deepfake puts Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and Tesla CEO Elon Musk in the pilot episode of the original Star Trek, “The Cage” — and I kind of love it. In this particular AI-powered face swap, Bezos plays a Talosian alien with a huge bald head, while Musk plays Captain Christopher Pike (who is the captain of the USS Enterprise before James T. Kirk).

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Nina Shepardson, Karl-Johan Norén, Bill Wagner, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, “Orange Mike” Lowrey, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 2/17/20 From Rishathra With Love

(1) NOT FAR FROM THE TREE. Apple TV+ has dropped the Amazing Stories — Official Trailer. The show debuts March 6 on the Apple TV app – if you have an Apple TV+ subscription: Amazing Stories.

From visionary executive producers Steven Spielberg and Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz, this reimagining of the classic anthology series transports everyday characters into worlds of wonder, possibility, and imagination

(2) IN THE AUDIENCE AT BOSKONE. Filer Mlex posted a report about the sessions he attended at this weekend’s “Boskone 2020”.

Fairy Tales from the Dark Side

Theodora Goss started off this session by noting that she spent some years of her childhood in Budapest and that she takes particular interest in the fairy tales of Hungary, with their typical strong heroines. She went on to say that fairies vary quite a lot, not only in different cultural traditions, but depending on the date and conditions where they were formed. Victorians had their small flower fairies, for example, and subtle messages could be presented in the form of fairy tales about feminism or other social and political movements. Think of the women brewing eels, bats, herbs, and potions. The fairy represents the human encounter with the magical other.

Isabel Yap noted that Fillipino fairies do not play by human rules. They are not so clearly anthropomorphized and might often turn into fish, or other creatures. These fairy tales might be quite violent, and the fairies are not on our side.

(3) LISTENING TO A CULTURE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] There is something of a theme taking place in British culture this spring.

Second Sleep

First we had The Second Sleep by Robert Harris which then became BBC Radio 4’s book at bed time last month (and still downloadable in 15 minute episodes. Here the end of the world was IT related (not really a spoiler as it is hypothesized in first few chapters).

Then on the non-fiction front a vaguely respected Brit senior politician (i.e. pre-Boris /Trump) is to have a book published next month warning that our IT society has no fall-back back-up system in place. This book uses an SF novelette interspersed with factual comment and explanation to elucidate such things as Black Swan events among much else.

And finally, back at the BBC, Radio 4 has just launched another season of its SFnal Dangerous Visions the first episode of 4 is ‘Blackout’ and concerns what happens when the internet (hence power as the grid is web managed) crashes…

Be thankful you can still read this post….

Dangerous Visions

(4) VISUALIZING THE CULTURE. I don’t know how I missed this — The Culture: Notes and Drawings by Iain M. Banks and Ken MacLeod is set for a November 26 release date.

Iain M. Banks, the modern master of SF, created many original drawings detailing the universe of his bestselling Culture novels. Now these illustrations – many of them annotated – are being published for the very first time in a book that celebrates Banks’s grand vision, with additional notes and material by Banks’s longtime friend and fellow SF author Ken MacLeod. It is an essential addition to the collection of any Iain M. Banks fan.

(5) CROWDFUNDING. Apex Publications has launched a Kickstarter to raise $20,000 to publish Invisible Threads: Cutting the Binds That Hold Us edited by Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner.

No matter who you are or where you come from, there are boundaries and barriers that dictate what you can do, where you can go, and who you can become. Invisible threads running through society, pulling you this way or that, tripping you when you try to better yourself, ensnaring and holding you back.  Invisible Threads is an anthology of dark sci-fi, fantasy, and horror stories that examine these barriers.

Confirmed authors include Alix Harrow, Andi Buchanan, Maurice Broaddus, Fran Wilde, Chesya Burke, Merc Fenn Wolfmoor, Stephanie Malia Morris, Jordan Kurella, K.T. Bryski, ZZ Claybourne, A.C. Buchanan, Damien Angelica Walters, Beth Dawkins, Geoffrey Girard, Sabrina Vourvoulias, A.C. Wise, and Michael Wehunt. We plan to hold an open submissions call should we fund.

(6) EVEN IF IT IS JOSHI. The John Hay Library at Brown University invites applications for its 2020-2021 S.T. Joshi Endowed Research Fellowship for research relating to H.P. Lovecraft, his associates, and literary heirs. The application deadline is March 13, 2020.

The Hay Library is home to the largest collection of H. P. Lovecraft materials in the world, and also holds the archives of Clark Ashton Smith, Karl Edward Wagner, Manly Wade Wellman, Analog magazine, Caitlín Kiernan, and others. The Joshi Fellowship, established by The Aeroflex Foundation and Hippocampus Press, is intended to promote scholarly research using the world-renowned resources on H. P. Lovecraft, science fiction, and horror at the John Hay Library (projects do not need to relate to Lovecraft directly). The Fellowship provides a monthly stipend of $2,500 for up to two months of research at the library between July 2020 and June 2021. The fellowship is open to students, faculty, librarians, artists, and independent scholars.

(7) DOOM IN BLOOM. In “The Pleasure (Reading) of Impending Doom” at CrimeReads, Tosca Lee recommends novels by Ben H. Winters, William Fortschen, A.G. Riddle if you want to read novels about global apocalypses.

As a lifelong lover of a good doomsday story, I’ve always considered the tenacity and resourcefulness of the human spirit to be the category’s major appeal—along with the it-could-really-happen scary plausibility and ingenious “prepping” specifics, of course. But it wasn’t until I started writing my apocalyptic thriller, The Line Between, that the real charm of the genre became apparent to me. 

I’d recently married a single father and become an insta-mom to four. Life was busy and crowded with details. But as I began to plot my literary cataclysm, the chaos of daily life—work, bills, school schedules, errands, house stuff, holidays, political noise, grocery lists, social media, bucket lists, and those ever-elusive last ten pounds—fell away in the face of a story with a single goal: survival. Suddenly, that looming list of to-dos doesn’t seem so insurmountable—or even important—compared to savoring time with those we love while we’re all here on earth together.

(8) NAKAHARA OBIT. Kellye Nakahara, best known for her work on M*A*S*H but who also had several genre roles, died February 17. Consequence of Sound paid tribute: “R.I.P. Kellye Nakahara, M*A*S*H Actress Dies at 72”.

…Nakahara portrayed Nurse Kellye Yamato for 167 episodes of the hit show (according to IMDb). It would go on to be her largest and most memorable role. She followed it up with bit parts in television series such as At Ease, Hunter, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and with film roles in Clue (the cook, Mrs. Ho), Black Day Blue Night (as Fat Mama), and Eddie Murphy’s version of Doctor Dolittle (credited as Beagle Woman).

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 17, 1959 The Cosmic Man premiered. It produced by Robert A. Terry and directed by Herbert S. Greene. The film stars John Carradine, Bruce Bennett and Angela Greene. The film was shot quickly, primarily on a hotel lobby set, and in Griffith Park in L.A., where the Griffith Observatory was used as stand-in for the Pacific Institute of Technology. At least in Los Angeles, it played on a double bill with House on Haunted Hill. With the notable exception of Variety who really didn’t like it, most critics at the time found it to be a pleasant, fun experience. The audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes does not reflect that — it has a 0% rating from the very few, only thirty four, who’ve given it a score. You can see it here.
  • February 17, 1966 — On this day in Dublin, The Projected Man premiered. It was directed by Ian Curteis from a script by Peter Bryan, John C. Cooper, and Frank Quattrocchi, and starred Bryant Haliday, Mary Peach, Norman Wooland, Ronald Allen, and Derek Farr. Universal Studios released it on a double bill with Terror Island. Critics noted the monster’s resemblance to that of one in The Fly but those involved here denied that film inspired the look of the creature in this movie. It was featured in a ninth season episode of  Mystery Science Theater 3000, and currently the audience over at Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 3% rating. You can see it here.

February 17, 1966 — In the United Kingdom, Episode Twenty-one of the first season of The Thunderbirds,  “The Duchess Assignment”, aired. Created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, and. filmed by their production company. The electronic marionette puppetry which they called Supermarionation  was combined with scale-model special effects sequences.  It was the fifth such project by their company. You can see this episode of the Thunderbirds here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 17, 1903 Kenne Duncan. He’s got a number of genre credits starting with the 1938 Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars serial where he was the Airdrome Captain. He’d play Ram Singh, the butler to the Spider, in The Spider’s Web and The Spider Returns serials, and he’d be Lt. Lacy in the 1939 Buck Rogers serial. Several years later, he’d be Cheney Hencheman Barnett in The Adventures of Captain Marvel serial. You can see him in the first chapter of Spider’s Web serial here. (Died 1972.)
  • Born February 17, 1912 Andre  Norton. She penned well over a dozen series, but her major series was Witch World which began rather appropriately with Witch World in 1963. The first six novels in that series were Ace Books paperback originals published in the Sixties. I remember them with some fondness quite some decades after reading them. (Died 2005.)
  • Born February 17, 1920 Curt Swan. He’s the artist most associated with Superman during the Silver Age, and he produced hundreds of covers and stories from the Fifties through the Eighties. He would be let go in the DC reorganization of the Eighties with his last work as a regular artist on Superman being the 1986 story “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” that was written by Alan Moore. (Died 1996.)
  • Born February 17, 1930 Ruth Rendell. I’ve read and enjoyed some of her mysteries down the decade but am not familiar at all with the three listed as genre by ISFDB (The Killing Doll, The Tree of Hands and The Bridesmaid). Who of you is familiar with these? (Died 2015.)
  • Born February 17, 1931 Johnny Hart. The creator of B.C. and The Wizard of Id. (Brant Pant was the other creator of the latter strip.)  He certainly wasn’t without controversy as this strip attests. (Died 2007.)
  • Born February 17, 1954 Don Coscarelli, 66. A film director, producer, and screenwriter best known for horror films. His credits include the Phantasm series, The Beastmaster, and Bubba Ho-Tep, the latter based on a novella by Joe R. Lansdale whom I’ve met and who is a really nice person
  • Born February 17, 1971 Denise Richards, 49. Her first genre role was as Tammy in Tammy and the T-Rex (really don’t ask). Her next role was the one she’s known for as Carmen Ibañez in Starship Troopers. She’ll be a few years later Dr. Christmas Jones in The World Is Not Enough, the eighteenth Bond film. She’s been announced as playing Victoria Darw in the still to be scheduled Timecrafters: The Treasure of Pirate’s Cove.
  • Born February 17, 1974 Jerry O’Connell, 46. Quinn Mallory on Sliders, a series whose behind the broadcast politics is too tangled to detail here. His first SF role was on Mission to Mars as Phil Ohlmyer with the SF dark comedy Space Space Station 76 with him as Steve being his next role. He’s done a lot of of DCU voice work, Captain Marvel in Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam, Clark Kent / Superman in Justice League vs. Teen Titans and Justice League: Throne of AtlantisJustice League Dark, The Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen where he also plays Cyborg Superman to great, chilling effect. The latter film is kickass excellent. 

(11) SH-BOOM. High Seas Trading Co. has reason to brag about its “Outer Space” design:

The Hawaiian Shirt that the Astronauts wore on Aloha Friday on the International Space Station.This space themed Hawaiian shirt is out of this world.

(12) FRESH LID. Alasdair Stuart’s “The Full Lid for 14th February 2020” maps the abstractions of nautical horror with Underwater and The Lighthouse, take a look at the amazing Parasite and shows him learning to Hack the Panic!

Signal Boost this week is Mockery Manor ,Mike UnderwoodKevin Petker‘s Princess World is live on Kickstarter from next week. Be sure to check it outRosarium are currently crowdfunding ‘Hellraiser meets Black History Month’ graphic novel, Box of Bones.. Gordon B. White‘s splendidly titled anthology As Summer’s Mask Slips, and Other Disruptions just got a starred PW review!!

Finally Tracacy Barnett’s current project, This Thing We Started is crowdfunding now. They’ve also recommended Descent into Midnight, launching on Saturday and VERY much my sort of thing.

(13) SPATIAL DELIVERY. James Davis Nicoll found copies of “Five SF Stories About Teleportation Systems Gone Awry” at Tor.com. At least.

In Thomas Disch’s 1967 novel Echo Round His Bones, Nathan Hansard is transmitted to America’s Camp Jackson Mars via teleporter. This is a routine operation…or so it is believed. Wrongly. Hansard is surprised to discover himself somewhere other than Mars. Teleportation creates phantom duplicates on Earth, living ghosts dependent on the phantom duplicates of supplies sent to Mars. Food is in short supply, but no matter. Some of Hansard’s predecessors have solved the problem in a straightforward manner: by eating their fellow phantoms….

But if they eat The Phantom, who will remain to leave comments on Lela Buis’ blog?

(14) EASY DOES IT. So, more like smushing together mudpies? “New Horizons spacecraft ‘alters theory of planet formation'”.

Scientists say they have “decisively” overturned the prevailing theory for how planets in our Solar System formed.

The established view is that material violently crashed together to form ever larger clumps until they became worlds.

New results suggest the process was less catastrophic – with matter gently clumping together instead.

The study appears in Science journal and has been presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Seattle.

…The claim arises from detailed study of an object in the outer reaches of the Solar System. Named Arrokoth, the object is more than six billion km from the Sun in a region called the Kuiper belt. It is a pristine remnant of planet formation in action as the Solar System emerged 4.6 billion years ago, with two bodies combining to form a larger one.

Scientists obtained high-resolution pictures of Arrokoth when Nasa’s New Horizons spacecraft flew close to it just over a year ago. It gave scientists their first opportunity to test which of the two competing theories was correct: did the two components crash together or was there gentle contact?

The analysis by Dr Stern and his team could find no evidence of violent impact. The researchers found no stress fractures, nor was there any flattening, indicating that the objects were squashed together gently.

(15) HIGH FLIGHT. BBC is there: “Virgin Galactic: Unity rocket ship moves to operational base”.

Sir Richard Branson has moved his rocket plane from its development base in California to what will be its operational centre in New Mexico.

The transfer of the Unity vehicle and its mothership, Eve, to the Spaceport America complex signals the start of final testing.

Sir Richard’s Virgin Galactic company is now close to beginning commercial service.

More than 600 individuals have paid deposits to ride Unity to over 80km.

The trip will enable them to experience a few minutes of weightlessness around the top of the rocket ship’s climb.

Already almost 100 Virgin Galactic staff have moved to the southern New Mexico spaceport to prepare it – and themselves – for operations.

Unity will now perform a series of test flights above the desert.

Some of these will see it dropped from altitude to simply glide back to the runway. Others will involve firing its rocket motor to power skyward.

(16) WHAT A CAST. Does a show about Skeletor and He-Man deserve this array of talent? “Mark Hamill and Lena Heady Lead Expansive Voice Cast for Kevin Smith’s ‘Masters of the Universe’ Series”.

Netflix and Mattel TV announced an expansive voice cast for its upcoming “Masters of the Universe” series from Kevin Smith. The cast is led by Mark Hamill as Skeletor, Lena Headey as Evil-Lyn and Chris Wood as Prince Adam aka He-Man.

The new series, “Masters of the Universe: Revelations,” will focus on the unresolved storylines of the original 1982 TV series, picking up many of the characters’ journeys where they left off decades ago.

In addition to those three, the cast also includes Sarah Michelle Gellar (Teela), Liam Cunningham (Man-At-Arms), Stephen Root (Cringer), Diedrich Bader (King Randor/Trap Jaw), Griffin Newman (Orko), Tiffany Smith (Andra), Henry Rollins (Tri-Klops), Susan Eisenberg (Sorceress), Alicia Silverstone (Queen Marlena), Justin Long (Roboto), Jason Mewes (Stinkor), Phil LaMarr (He-Ro), Tony Todd (Scare Glow), Cree Summer (Priestess), Kevin Michael Richardson (Beast Man), Kevin Conroy (Mer-Man) and Harley Quinn Smith (Ileena).

(17) INSPECTOR SPOT-ET. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Spot may not be designed to follow the Three Laws (yet?), but it is starting to protect humans by taking over certain hazardous and/or mind-numbingly repetitive jobs. Of course, some people would argue that it’s also starting to threaten humans by taking over certain hazardous and/or mind-numbingly repetitive jobs. SYFY Wire: “Boston Dynamics’ robotic dog gets a job working an offshore oil rig”.

See Spot walk. See Spot sit. See Spot roll over. See Spot run onto a Norwegian oil rig to sniff out lethal gas leaks!

Boston Dynamics’ next-generation robotic device, affectionately nicknamed Spot, will soon be embarking on a new test mission aboard an offshore oil rig for petroleum product producer Aker BP and AI software company Cognite. The newly announced project will be rolled out to test a number of advanced robots and drones on Aker BP’s Skarv installation in the Norwegian Sea later this year.

[…] “Our vision is to digitalize all our operations from cradle to grave in order to increase productivity, enhance quality, and improve the safety of our employees,” Aker BP’s CEO Karl Johnny Hersvik said in a press release. “Exploring the potential of robotics offshore underpin our digital journey.”

(18) COLLECTIBLE ROBOT. Michael Crawford provides a review and photos of Wal-Mart’s “Robby the Robot Forbidden Planet action figure” at Captain Toy.

Sculpting – ****
The sculpt isn’t particularly detailed, but the original robot had a lot of smooth surfaces.

What sets this guy apart is all the individual pieces that went into making him, particularly inside and attached to the dome. Check out the levers and doo-dads which would spin and turn and clack along as he spoke and moved, demonstrating the very analog way we looked at robots back then. You could almost see the zeroes and ones flitting through his mechanical brain. Of course none of the interior dome pieces on this figure move, but the detail work is quite impressive for this price point.

The body recreates the original look quite well, although the proportions are a smidge off. Still, at a solid 14″ tall, he’s about the right height and scale to fit in great with other sixth scale figures, including the old Lost In Space characters.

(19) FRENCH VIDEO OF THE DAY. (A) Vous Regardez Un Film on Vimeo is a cartoon by Jon Boutin about the drudgery of going to the office.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, Daniel Dern, Mlex, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern, who scores a Rishathra hat trick.]

Pixel Scroll 1/2/20 Pixellate In Glorious Scrollovision

(1) NETWORK ANALYSIS OF RWA/MILAN CONTROVERSY. Mikki Kendall did a breakdown for NBC News: “The Romance Writers of America racism row matters because the gatekeepers are watching”.

…Let’s talk about the power of romance. There’s power in the written word, even in a genre that we tend to consider — because of sexism — less intellectual than some others. And it isn’t just about hearts and flowers and candy; this is cold hard cash: Romance as a literary genre represents a quarter of all fiction sales and more than half of all paperback sales, and it brings in over a billion dollars in sales annually.

The impact of romance books on the culture is outsize because everyone is interested in romance, whether they admit it publicly or not.

…But there’s inevitably a small contingent of writers who simply can’t handle being criticized, whether directly or indirectly. Vitriolic responses to critics are hardly limited to well-known writers; those who aspire to become household names are equally prone to them. Having your work dissected, discussed and sometimes even demeaned, however, is part of putting it out into the world. All writers know this — or at least they should — and writing romance novels is no exception.

(2) FOLLOW THE MONEY. Jason Sanford continues releasing interviews he conducted with sff magazine editors in conjunction with his well-researched report #SFF2020: The State of Genre Magazines.

Jason: You said Fireside pays its editors a fee for each issue of the print magazine, with the fee based on Fireside’s word rate and the revenue to pay for this coming entirely from subscribers. Was there a break-even point with subscribers where this started to work? Do you still rely on any fundraising to support the magazine?

Pablo: I think using a word like ‘fundraising’ is misleading. Fireside is not a non-profit, and it’s not a charity – so we’re not ‘raising funds’ for anything. Using vocabulary linked to non-profits and charities implies that the people who support us are doing so out of the kindness of their heart, without receiving any direct value in return. The stories, artwork, and publications that Fireside publishes have value, our customers recognize that, and are willing to pay money for it.

But I digress. To answer your question…

Jason: According to this year’s Locus Magazine survey, Escape Pod has an audience size of 37,000 people, making it one of the largest English-language SF magazines in the world. What percentage of your audience supports the magazine with donations? Any  thoughts on how to convinces more genre readers and listeners to support the magazines they love?

Mur: I believe we have the typical 1% rate of donation. We have no funding but our listeners, and the couple of times we’ve been in trouble, we’ve been honest with saying, hey, we can’t keep delivering the show to you if you don’t support us, and they’ve always stepped up. With Patreon it’s much easier to allow people to donate on a sustaining level and get rewards as well!

(3) ROSE IS STILL MISSING. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna discusses the controversy over whether Kelly Marie Tran deserved more screen time in The Rise of Skywalker, noting that screewnwriter Chris Terrio has withdrawn his explanation that Tran would have had many scenes with Carrie Fisher had Fisher lived to not much of an explanation at all: “Many Star Wars fans are upset the new movie sidelines Kelly Marie Tran’s character. The writer is trying to explain.”

…On Monday, Terrio walked back that explanation, saying that the real issue with Rose had nothing to do with visual effects.

He told Vulture: “I badly misspoke if in an earlier statement I implied that any cut scenes between Rose and Leia were the fault of our VFX team and the wizards at ILM. In that earlier interview, I was referring to a specific scene in which Leia’s emotional state in ‘Episode VII’ [‘The Force Awakens’] did not seem to match the scene we wrote for use in ‘Episode IX’ [‘Rise’] and so it was cut at the script stage before the VFX work was done.”

Terrio underscored to the Hollywood Reporter on Monday that the issue did not involve “photorealism,” as he earlier stated. “I would sometimes come and sit at the VFX reviews and my jaw would drop at seeing Leia live again.”

(Representatives from the film have not yet responded to a request from The Post to speak with Terrio.)

(4) FAVES OF 2019. Hot off the blocks with the New Year, SF² Concatenation has its team’s annual choice for the Best SF books and films of the previous year. They have advance posted “Best Science Fiction of the Year – Possibly?” ahead of their spring edition of news and reviews (which is slated for mid-January).

Every year, around Christmas and New Year a round-robin is sent to many members of the SF² Concatenation team asking for their favourite SF/F/H books and films of the previous year.  If just two or three nominate the same work then it gets added to a list of Best SF/F/H works of the previous year.  This list appears in the Spring (northern hemisphere academic year) edition’s news page.  It is simply a bit of fun and not meant to be taken too seriously but as a pointer for our regulars to perhaps check out some recent works.  Yet over the years, each year sees a few from these lists go on to be short-listed, and even win, a number of SF awards.

Spooky, huh?

(5) BITES JUST RIGHT. “Dracula: Critics applaud ‘energetic and fun’ revival of vampire classic” – BBC has a roundup.

The BBC’s new take on Dracula is a hit with critics, one of whom says it is “the meatiest, goriest, most energetic and fun version” she has ever seen.

“Previous versions now look anaemic,” writes The Times’ Carol Midgley.

The Mail’s reviewer hailed “a Dracula to delight horror movie fans of all stripes” in his five-star write-up.

The Telegraph’s reviewer, meanwhile, praised Danish actor Claes Bang for his “witty, outrageous and thrilling” portrayal of Bram Stoker’s vampire.

“It might not have been faithful to the original, but it was a scream,” writes the paper’s Anita Singh.

The BBC One mini-series has been written and created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, the duo behind the award-winning Sherlock.

(6) BREATHE IN. IGN interviews the midwives…. “Galaxy Quest: How the Thermians Were Born”.

…Parisot remembers Colantoni’s audition inventiveness setting the tone for the Thermians. After a solid read, the direct says he could tell the actor was holding back on his way out the door.

“For some reason I said, ‘Rico, it seems like you’ve got something on your mind,’” recalls the director. “He goes, ‘Well, I have this voice. I don’t know if it works.’ I said, ‘What is it? Try it.’ He did it and I just went, ‘Oh my God, that’s it!’

“The Thermians came out of that voice,” Parisot continues. As more actors were added to the Thermian ranks, that voice became the reference point with every addition, including Missi Pyle (Laliari), Jed Rees (Teb), and Patrick Breen (Quellek).

“We had alien school and we would come up with things like the walk,” Parisot remembers. “Rather than swinging in the direction most people do, we went the opposite direction with the arms, and the posture because they’re basically giant calamari hiding in human shape.

(7) THE DAY OF THEIR RETURN. It might be this year.“Chandrayaan-3: India plans third Moon mission”.

India has announced plans for a third lunar mission, months after its last one crash landed on the Moon’s surface.

The chairman of India’s space agency, K Sivan, said work was going “smoothly” on the Chandrayaan-3 unmanned mission.

He said the country was aiming to launch the mission in 2020 but that it “may spill over” to 2021.

If successful, it would make India the fourth country to achieve a soft landing on the Moon, and boost its credentials as a low-cost space power.

(8) BUT WAIT — THERE’S MORE. “India Announces Plans For Its First Human Space Mission”.

India’s space agency says that four astronaut candidates have been selected for its first human mission, targeted to launch by 2022, but they’ve not been publicly named or identified.

India hopes to join the United States, Russia and China as the world’s fourth nation capable of sending people to space. It has been developing its own crewed spacecraft, called Gaganyaan (or “sky vehicle” in Sanskrit), that would let two to three people orbit the Earth on a week-long spaceflight.

K Sivan, the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, held a press briefing on New Year’s Day and told reporters that the four astronauts would start their training in Russia in a few weeks.

(9) NATIONAL SCIENCE FICTION DAY. There’s even a Wikipedia entry – unfortunately, one that makes it sound like a big commercial. That attitude would make more sense to me if I’d ever seen a Hallmark card for the occasion.  

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 2, 1996 The Demon Headmaster aired the first episode of its three seasons. Based on the children’s series by Gillian Cross of the same name, the later books were based off the screenplays for the series which Cross wrote. The cast included Terrence Hardiman, Frances Amey, Gunnar Atli, Cauthery and Thomas Szekeres. A sequel series was done. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 2, 1920 Isaac Asimov. I can’t possibly summarize him here so I won’t. My favorite novels by him are the original Foundation novels followed very closely by his Galactic Empire series and I, Robot. I know I’ve read a lot of his short fiction but I’ll be damn if I can recall any of it specifically right now. (Died 1992.)
  • Born January 2, 1940 Susan Wittig Albert, 80. She’s the author of The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter, a series of mysteries featuring that writer. Really. Truly. Haven’t read them but they bear such delightful titles as The Tale of Cuckoo Brow Wood. She has non-genre series involving an herbalist and a gardening club as well. 
  • Born January 2, 1948 Deborah Watling, Best known for her role as Victoria Waterfield, a companion of the Second Doctor. She was also in Downtime, playing the same character, a one-off sequel to a sequel to the Second Doctor stories, The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear. No Doctors were to be seen. If you’ve seen the English language dubbed version of Viaje al centro de la Tierra (Where Time Began, based off Verne’s Journey to the Center of The Earth), she’s doing the lines of Ivonne Sentis as Glauben. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 2, 1952 Caitlín Matthews, 68. Fiction writer. Well she sure as Odin’s Beard isn’t a scholar in any meaningful sense. With her husband John, she’s written such works as King Arthur’s Raid on the Underworld: The Oldest Grail Quest, The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures and on her own, Mabon and the Mysteries of Britain: An Exploration of the Mabinogion. They’re entertaining as long as you accept that they’re really mostly fiction. 
  • Born January 2, 1959 Patrick Nielsen Hayden, 61. Wiki in a fit of exuberance list him as a “editor, fan, fanzine publisher, essayist, reviewer, anthologist, teacher and blogger”. Which is true. He’s won three Hugo Awards for Best Editor Long, and he won a World Fantasy Award for editing the Starlight 1 anthology. 
  • Born January 2, 1967 Tia Carrere, 53. Best remembered for her three-season run as Sydney Fox, rogue archeologist on Relic Hunter. She’s been in a lot of one-offs on genre series including Quantum Leap, Hercules, Tales from The Crypt, Airwolf, Friday the 13th and played Agent Katie Logan for two episodes on Warehouse 13.
  • Born January 2, 1979 Tobias S. Buckell, 41. I read and enjoyed a lot his Xenowealth series which he managed to wrap up rather nicely. The collection he edited, The Stories We Tell: Bermuda Anthology of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, is well worth reading, as is his own Tides from a New World collection.
  • Born January 2, 1983 Kate Bosworth, 37. She’s Barbara Barga in the SS-GB series done the superb Len Deighton novel. She’s both a producer and a performer on The I- Land Netflixseries where she’s KC, a decidedly not nice person. For a more positive character, she portrayed Lois Lane in Superman Returns.

(12) SOLAR TO BLAME. Mark Lawrence’s “Star one stars!” features bad reviews that Amazon customers gave books, complaining about things that aren’t in the writer’s control. His first example —

I was recently the lucky recipient of this 1* review on Amazon. It struck me as worthy of note because not only is it not a review of the book, it’s not even a criticism of Amazon. It’s more of a critique of the customer’s own life skills…

“1*: Can’t remember ordering these books. Not my type of subject. Unable to find a method of cancelling the transaction”

(13) LIGHT ‘EM UP. Cora Buhlert tells how she celebrated a “Happy New Year 2020” in Germany, where fireworks are part of the tradition – but for how long?

…However, this year some organisations are calling for a complete ban on private fireworks. The initial reasons given were environmental – fireworks release smoke and microparticles, but then other reasons like animal welfare and health and safety were also given. Plus, there is a call – echoed by various charities – that fireworks are a waste of money and that the people should rather donate the money spent on fireworks to charity. One figure that’s often bandied about is that in 2018, 130 million Euros were spent on fireworks in Germany. That sounds like a lot – until you do the calculations and realise that this figure means that every person in Germany spent 1,57 Euros per year on fireworks on average. And 1,57 Euros per person is not a lot of money, especially if you consider that the total figure of 130 million Euros also includes money spent on professional fireworks.

So why are fireworks suddenly so controversial, especially since they are limited to one night of the year – with the occasional firecracker going off a few days before or after? IMO, the underlying reason is just that some people find fireworks annoying, because they are noisy, frivolous and the wrong kind of people (teenagers, immigrants, poor people) are having fun. In recent times, there has been a resurgence of the kind of joyless moralism that dominated the 1980s. And not coincidentally, the “Give to charity rather than buying fireworks” campaign originally also dates from the 1980s.

(14) IN TIMES TO COME. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Nature points out “The science events to watch for in 2020”. This includes… 2020 will see a veritable Mars invasion as several spacecraft, including three landers, head to the red planet. NASA will launch its Mars 2020 rover, which will stash rock samples that will be returned to Earth in a future mission and will also feature a small, detachable helicopter drone. China will send its first lander to Mars, Huoxing-1, which will deploy a small rover. A Russian spacecraft will deliver a European Space Agency (ESA) rover to the red planet — if issues with the landing parachute can be resolved. And the United Arab Emirates will send an orbiter, in the first Mars mission by an Arab country. Closer to home, China is planning to send the Chang’e-5 sample-return mission to the Moon.

Attached is a pic of the forthcoming Mars lander being tested.

(15) ONLY 3600-SOME-ODD SHOPPING DAYS ‘TIL. In “The 2030 Last-Minute Christmas Gift Guide” on Vice, Tim Maughan foresees what the hot holiday items of ten years from now will be, including Barron Trump’s rap albums and Marvel Vs. Star Wars VI: The Final Conflict.

…Want to take a low flying helicopter ride over the Texas Refinery District Toxic Exclusion Zone? Try urban scuba deep under what was once the Miami waterfront? Or maybe you want to take a leaf out of your favorite influencer’s book, and get your photo taken on the rim of the crater that was once the Space X test facility? The Unlimited Dream Company can make it happen, with its range of exclusive, customizable tourist trips. You’ll be given full safety training and orientation—including an entry level handgun course for trips in disputed states—and will be accompanied by medical staff*, Darklake certified security agents, and tour guides with unmatched local knowledge.

(16) RESOLUTIONS. At Brain Pickings, Maria Popova selects “Elevating Resolutions for the New Year Inspired by Some of Humanity’s Greatest Minds” (2016). A long Ursula K. Le Guin excerpt crowns the middle of the list – but the Vonnegut is short enough to quote —

In 2005, Kurt Vonnegut (November 11, 1922–April 11, 2007) — a man of discipline, a sage of storytelling, and one wise dad — penned a short and acutely beautiful remembrance of his friend Joseph Heller, who had died several years earlier. Originally published in the New Yorker, it was later reprinted in John C. Bogle’s Enough: True Measures of Money, Business, and Life (public library).

JOE HELLER

True story, Word of Honor:
Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer
now dead,
and I were at a party given by a billionaire
on Shelter Island.

I said, “Joe, how does it make you feel
to know that our host only yesterday
may have made more money
than your novel ‘Catch-22’
has earned in its entire history?”
And Joe said, “I’ve got something he can never have.”
And I said, “What on earth could that be, Joe?”
And Joe said, “The knowledge that I’ve got enough.”
Not bad! Rest in peace!

(17) ART LARP. “One Night In An Edward Hopper Hotel Room? It’s Less Lonely Than You Might Think”.

It isn’t hard to imagine yourself inside an Edward Hopper painting — having a coffee at a late-night diner, or staring out the bedroom window at the bright morning sun.

Now, for $150 a night, you can sleep in one — or a reproduction of one — at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. Designers have constructed a 3D version of Hopper’s 1957 Western Motel, and invited Hopper fans to sleep over.

It feels a little funny getting undressed for bed in a museum. (There are plenty of nudes on the walls, but you don’t expect to be one yourself.) But suddenly there you are, in your jammies — a guard outside in the hallway — turning off the goose-neck lamp on the bedside table, tucking yourself under a deep burgundy bedspread, and looking out the big picture “window” at a green Buick parked outside.

(18) THE NEXT MARVEL FIRSTS. “Marvel to get first transgender superhero”. And that’s not all.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is set to get its first transgender superhero.

“And very soon. In a movie that we’re shooting right now,” Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige said during a Q&A at the New York Film Academy.

Asked by a fan whether there were any plans for more LGBT characters in Marvel’s films, “specifically the T, trans characters”, Kevin said: “Yes, absolutely. Yes.”

This year, The Eternals will introduce Marvel movies’ first gay character.

There have been reports since 2019 that Phase 4 of the MCU – the films following the Avengers Infinity saga – would star a trans character.

Marvel has also said it will introduce its first deaf superhero in The Eternals and its first Asian-American superhero, in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

“You look at the success of Captain Marvel and Black Panther. We want the movies to reflect the audience and we want every member of our global audience to see themselves reflected on the screen,” Kevin Feige previously said.

(19) DIY. “Invasion Planet Earth: Sci-fi filmed in Birmingham” — video, with clips and interviews.

Since being a teenager Simon Cox loved science fiction, especially Star Wars.

He wanted to make his own blockbuster, and he has finally realised his dream to write and direct his own film, which is called Invasion Planet Earth.

It’s taken 20 years, crowd funding and several campaigns to fund the small budget film.

Much of the sci-fi epic was filmed in Birmingham with 900 Brummies acting as extras.

The movie, which has been shown in mainstream cinemas, is available on DVD and available to download.

(20) LOOKING AHEAD. Sounds like they’re not going with Jubal Harshaw’s solution. BBC covers “Writing a ‘national anthem’ for Mars” — video, with performance.

An Indian former software analyst who’s now a rising star in the opera world has written a new “national anthem” for Mars.

Oscar Castellino was commissioned to give the Red Planet its own anthem by the UK’s Mars Society – to promote the idea that if humans ever live there then they will need their own musical identity.

(21) THESE ARE THE DROIDS I’M LOOKING FOR. Philadelphia channel 17 captured the highly stfnal “Fralinger String Band at the 2020 Mummers Parade” on video.  

Love the Fralinger String Band?  Then you came to the right place.   We’ve got Fralinger’s 2020 Mummers Parade performance video of their “Lunar Effect” theme and some photos below.

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

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

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

As for literature and genre…

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

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

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

Introduction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have also talked about this at conventions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(8) COMICS SECTION.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It has not quite turned out that way.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Correct question: “Who is Hemingway?”

Not skiffy, but what the hey…

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 12/5/19 As It Wheeled Its Scroll-Barrow, Through The Bands Broad And Narrow, Crying “Pixels And Scrolls Alive, Alive, Oh!”

(1) DARK MARK WALKED BACK? Christine Feehan tweeted another update, saying that she “asked my trademark lawyer to withdraw all of the current single word applications that have been filed and are causing so much distress.” The statement, screencapped below, has been greeted with a mix of approval and skepticism – see comments in the thread which starts here.

(2) MULAN. A second trailer for Disney’s Mulan dropped today.

When the Emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Army to defend the country from Northern invaders, Hua Mulan, the eldest daughter of an honored warrior, steps in to take the place of her ailing father. Masquerading as a man, Hua Jun, she is tested every step of the way and must harness her inner-strength and embrace her true potential. It is an epic journey that will transform her into an honored warrior and earn her the respect of a grateful nation…and a proud father.

(3) TAKING A SPIN. Deadline reveals “David Tennant To Play Phileas Fogg In Slim Film + Television’s ‘Around The World In 80 Days’ Adaptation”.

… The Doctor Who and Broadchurch star is fronting the eight-part drama, which is produced by Slim Film + Television.

Following an outrageous bet, Fogg and his valet, Passepartout, played by rising French actor Ibrahim Koma, take on the legendary journey of circumnavigating the globe in just 80 days, swiftly joined by aspiring journalist Abigail Fix, played by The Crown’s Leonie Benesch, who seizes the chance to report on this extraordinary story.

(4) POE SLEPT HERE. “Baltimore knows its Poe House is a treasure, but now it’s officially Maryland’s first ‘Literary Landmark’” — the Baltimore Sun has the story.

Baltimore’s Edgar Allan Poe House & Museum, where the famed 19th-century author and literary critic lived during the 1830s, has been named a Literary Landmark by United for Libraries, a nationwide advocacy group and division of the American Library Association.

The Poe House will be Maryland’s first Literary Landmark, but not the first involving Poe. Philadelphia’s Edgar Allan Poe House, one of several places the author called home while living in Philly, was added to the list in 1988. And a stuffed Grip, Charles Dickens’ pet raven and the inspiration (so many believe) for Poe’s poem (the one Baltimore named its NFL team after), resides in the Rare Books Department of the Free Library of Philadelphia. It was named to the list in 1999.

The national registry of Literary Landmarks, begun in 1986, singles out sites and objects with special literary significance….

(5) EREWHON LIT SALON. Carlos Hernandez and C.S.E. Cooney will be the readers at the Erewhon Literary Salon on December 12. The event takes place in the office of Erewhon Books in the Flatiron/NoMad district of Manhattan. For full information and policies, and to RSVP, click here. Event address and information will be emailed to those who have RSVPed a few days before the event.

CARLOS HERNANDEZ is the author of over 40 SFF short stories, poems, and works of drama. His critically acclaimed short story collection The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria came out in 2016 from Rosarium, and his middle-grade novel Sal and Gabi Break the Universe was published by Disney Hyperion in 2019. Carlos is a CUNY professor of English and a game designer and enthusiast. Look for Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe in May 5, 2020.

C.S.E. COONEY is an audiobook narrator, the singer/songwriter Brimstone Rhine, and author of World Fantasy Award-winning Bone Swans: Stories. Her work includes the Tor novella Desdemona and the Deep, three albums: Alecto! Alecto!, The Headless Bride, and Corbeau Blanc, Corbeau Noir, and a poetry collection: How to Flirt in Faerieland and Other Wild Rhymes, which features her Rhysling Award-winning “The Sea King’s Second Bride.” Her short fiction can be found in Ellen Datlow’s Mad Hatters and March Hares: All-New Stories from the World of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, the Sword and Sonnet anthology, Rich Horton’s Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, Jonathan Strahan’s The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, and elsewhere.

(6) IT’S A MYSTERY. Tyler Hayes, in “Tips for Writing Speculative Detective Fiction” on CrimeReads offers tips for writers interested in writing sf mysteries about how to keep their plots logical and interesting.

…There are more tricks available, but every solution boils down to three things: make sense, make it matter, and make it clear.

“Make sense” means that whatever you do needs to feel true. The disruption to the available speculative elements needs to be either baked into the world, or clearly explained, so that it doesn’t feel like the exception is just there to allow the story to be told (even though that’s totally why you did it)…

(7) RETRO LANDS IN HOUSTON. The late Fritz Leiber won a Retro Hugo at Dublin 2019 – it’s now safely ensiled at the University of Houston Libraries:

(8) WEINER OBIT. Canadian sff writer Andrew Weiner, whose first published story was “Empire of the Sun” in Again, Dangerous Visions (1972), died December 3. The family obituary is here.  

He wrote three novels, Station Gehenna (1987), Getting Near the End (2000), Among the Missing (2002), and many shorter works. The first of his several short story collections was Distant Signals and Other Stories (1990)

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction’s John Clute says, ” Craftsmanlike, witty and quietly substantial, Weiner never gained a reputation befitting his skills.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 5, 1954 The Shadow radio show aired “Murder by Proxy”.  Starring Bret Morrison as The Shadow (Lamont Cranston) Gertrude Warner as Margot Lane. The script was by Judith Bublick and David Bublick, who contributed many scripts during the last two years it was on the air. (This “Murder by Proxy” is not the same script as an earlier show of the same name.)
  • December 5, 1956 Man Beast premiered. It was directed and produced by Jerry Warren. It starred Rock Madison and Asa Maynor. The film was distributed in the States as a double feature with Prehistoric Women. Critics generally intensely disliked, and it has no ratings at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • December 5, 1980 Flash Gordon premiered. Directed by Mike Hodges and produced by Dino De Laurentiis of Dune fame, it starred Sam Jones, Max von Sydow and Melody Anderson. Most critics sort of liked it although Clute at ESF definitely did not. It holds an 80% rating among viewers at Rotten Tomatoes and it did exceedingly well at the Box Office. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 5, 1890 — Fritz Lang. Metropolis of course, but also Woman in the Moon (German Frau im Mond)   considered to be one of the first “serious” SF films. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 5, 1901 Walt Disney . With Ub Iwerks, he developed the character Mickey Mouse in 1928; he also provided the voice for his creation in the early years. During Disney’s lifetime his studio produced features such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Pinocchio, Fantasia (both 1940), Dumbo (1941), and Bambi (1942), Cinderella (1950) and Mary Poppins (1964), the latter of which received five Academy Awards. In 1955 he opened Disneyland. In the Fifties he also launched television programs, such as Walt Disney’s Disneyland and The Mickey Mouse Club. In 1965, he began development of another theme park, Disney World, and the “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” (EPCOT). (Died 1966.)
  • Born December 5, 1921 Alvy Moore. He shows up first in a genre role uncredited as Zippy in The War of the Worlds. (He was also uncredited in The Girls of Pleasure Island that same year.) He’s again uncredited, as a scientist this time, in The Invisible Boy (aka S.O.S Spaceship) and The Gnome-Mobile saw his continue that streak as a Gas Mechanic. The Brotherhood of Satan saw him get a credit role as did The Witchmaker, both all budget horror films. He’s listed as having co-written and produced, along with LQ Jones,  A Boy and His Dog, the Ellison originated film. (Died 1997.)
  • Born December 5, 1936 James Lee Burke, 83. This is one of the listings by ISFDB that has me going “Eh?” as to it being genre. The Dave Robicheaux series has no SFF elements in it and despite the title, In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead, neither does that novel. The character makes it clear that it’s likely he’s hallucinating. Great novel.
  • Born December 5, 1943 Roger Robinson, 76. Owner of Beccon publications, a British small-press publisher specializing in SF and filk. He’s looked at filk (On the Filk Road), reviews (Soundings: Reviews 1992-1996 by Gary K Wolfe), fiction (Elizabeth Hand’s Chip Crockett’s Christmas Carol) and Fred Smith’s Once There was a Magazine ~~, a look at Unknown Magazine). 
  • Born December 5, 1951 Susan Palermo-Piscatello. SF Site in its obit said that she was “was active in fandom in the early 1970s, taking pictures that appeared in The Monster Times and working for the company that brought Japanese monster films, including Battle for the Planets and Time of the Apes to the US. She was among the first bartenders at CBGB and was in the band Cheap Perfume. She had recently returned to fandom after several years of gafiation.” (Died 2011.)
  • Born December 5, 1954 Elizabeth R. Wollheim, 65. President, co-Publisher and co-Editor-in-Chief of DAW Books. Winner, along with her co-Publisher and co-Editor-in-Chief Sheila E. Gilbert, of a Hugo Award  for Long Form Editing. In the early Nineties, they won two Chesley Awards for best art direction. DAW is, despite being headquartered at Penguin Random House, a small private company, owned exclusively by its publishers.
  • Born December 5, 1971 Kali Rocha, 48. She is best remembered for her recurring role on Buffy as Anya’s vengeance demon friend, Halfrek, and as William the Bloody’s love interest, Cecily. She appeared with fellow Buffy alum Emma Caulfield in TiMER. And she’s in Space Station 76 which has remarkably good reviews.
  • Born December 5, 1973 Christine Stephen-Daly, 46. Her fate as Lt. Teeg on Farscape literally at the hands of her commanding officer Crais was proof if you still need it that this series wasn’t afraid to push boundaries. She was also Miss Meyers in the two part “Sky” story on The Sarah Jane Adventures.
  • Born December 5, 1980 —  Gabriel Luna, 39. He plays Robbie Reyes who is the Ghost Rider rather perfectly in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series. Much better I’d say than Nick Cage did in the films. He was also Terminator Rev-9 in Terminator: Dark Fate, and he did voice work for the BlackSite: Area 51 video game.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio finds it impossible to escape the long reach of Disney.

(12) PULLING OUT ALL THE STOPS. In “A Tube Map of SF&F Genres” Camestros Felapton has designed an irresistibly amusing representation of the field.

As with any London Tube style map, distance on the map has no connection with distance in reality. Position is about how to make everything fit. I feel like it needs more stops on the big pink Fantasy circle line. Green stops allow you to change services to mainstream rail lines. Purple stops allow you to change to the horror tram services.

There is a foot tunnel between Cyber Punk and Steam Punk.

(13) A CHRISTMAS SUGGESTION. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] What to get the SF fan who has nearly everything? SF²; Concatenation has a seasonal suggestion in their advance-post (ahead of their spring edition) — Joel Levy’s latest non-fiction: From Science Fiction to Science Fact: How writers of the past invented our present, a colorful exploration of the science fiction visions that came to be technological realities.

Confusingly, this has recently been published under two different titles, one for each side of the Pond. It is published in N. America as Reality Ahead of Schedule: How Science Fiction Inspires Science Fact.

Packed with full color illustrations and well researched, it is an ideal gift for fans of all persuasion (or even a Christmas present to themselves). SF²; Concatenation says:

From Science Fiction to Science Fact may not be an encyclopaedic work, but there is sufficient here (and it is structured to be navigable) that those who personally like to study SF, as opposed to simply consuming it, will find this quite useful as a reference work of pointers. It will also be a welcome addition to any SF aficionado’s bookshelf if not coffee table. Here, the production values are high.

(14) IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE CW. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Why (some of us) love the WB tv series DC’s Legends of Tomorrow

…because they do goofy great.

(15) GAHAN WILSON ON NPR. A nice snippet from a 1986 interview with Gahan Wilson from Fresh Air on NPR was replayed December 2 to commemorate Gahan after his recent passing. “The linked webpage has a transcript for those who do not wish to listen to the audio,” says Tom Boswell-Healey. “I think the audio is worthwhile as it contains Gahan’s verbal effects.”

GROSS: When you came to New York with your portfolio of cartoons and tried to sell them to magazines, was it hard to get in initially?

WILSON: Very. Very, yeah because I’m still regarded as sort of far-out in some circles, and at that point, I was really, really far out. And I mean, I was really bizarre. They – what I’d – what had happened to me was this singularly frustrating scene where the editors would say, look at this stuff, and they’d laugh at it hysterically and just think it was marvelous and compliment me on – this is – kid, you’re really great. This is great stuff, kid, but our readers would never understand it. And then they would hand it back to me. And that was my big block, was that they figured that I was beyond the – those jerks out there.

GROSS: Could you maybe describe a couple of those early cartoons?

WILSON: Oh, sure. Let’s see. There’s this fellow, and he’s in a cannibal pot. He’s being cooked. And he has a evil look on his face, and he has a bottle of poison, and he’s pouring the poison, and the water is being cooked in. And that was one. And then let me see – oh, they were – there was one where there’s this little kid, and he’s with his father, and they’re in a snowstorm. And there’s this dead bird on the snowbank with his feet in the air, and the little kid’s pointing at it. And he says look, Daddy – the first robin.

(16) STORMY WEATHER. NPR reports: “Probe Gets Close To The Sun — Finds Rogue Plasma Waves And Flipping Magnetic Fields”.

An unprecedented mission to venture close to the sun has revealed a strange region of space filled with rapidly flipping magnetic fields and rogue plasma waves.

These surprises are among just some of the first observations by NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which blasted off last year to get up-close-and-personal with our nearest star.

Scientists say the findings, described in a series of reports in the journal Nature, could help explain long-standing mysteries — like why the sun’s extended atmosphere is hotter than its surface.

They also could help scientists better understand and predict solar storms that might disrupt vital artificial satellites that orbit our planet.

…From Earth, during a total solar eclipse, it’s easy to see the sun’s corona, an aura of plasma that is the sun’s outer atmosphere. The Parker Solar Probe is designed to plow through the corona with instruments that measure magnetic fields, plasma, and energetic particles.

All of this lets researchers explore the origin of the solar wind, charged particles that continually spew out of the sun.

It turns out that close to the sun, the wind seems to get sped up by powerful, rogue waves that move through the magnetic field, says Kasper.

“We’d see suddenly a spike in flow, where in just a couple seconds the solar wind would start flowing 300,000 miles an hour faster,” he says.

(17) FETCH! Of course – that’s what rovers do… “Mars rover aims to grab a piece of history”.

British engineers have begun testing technologies that will be needed to bring samples of Martian rock to Earth.

The Airbus team is training a prototype rover to recognise and pick up small cylinders off the ground.

It’s a rehearsal for a key part of a multi-billion-dollar project now being put together by the US and European space agencies – Nasa and Esa.

Returning rock and dust materials to Earth laboratories will be the best way to confirm if life exists on Mars.

It is, though, going to take more than a decade to achieve.

(18) ANTICIPATION. We aren’t going to be around to see it anyway, so no spoiler warning here: “Distant star’s vision of our Sun’s future ‘death'”.

A newly discovered planet offers new insights into the Solar System after the Sun reaches the end of its life in 5-6 billion years.

Astronomers observed a giant planet orbiting a white dwarf, the small, dense objects some stars become once they have exhausted their nuclear fuel.

It’s the first direct evidence planets can survive the cataclysmic process that creates a white dwarf.

Details of the discovery appear in the journal Nature.

The Solar System as we know it won’t be around forever. In about six billion years, the Sun, a medium-size yellow star, will have puffed up to about two hundred times its current size. In this phase, our parent star will be known as a Red Giant.

As it expands, it will swallow and destroy the Earth before collapsing into a small core – the white dwarf.

Researchers discovered a white dwarf that lies 2,000 light-years away had a giant planet thought to be about the size of Neptune (though it could be larger) in orbit around it.

“The white dwarf we’re looking at is about 30,000 Kelvin, or 30,000C. So if we compare the Sun, the Sun is 6,000 – almost five times as hot. This means it’s going to be producing a lot more UV radiation than the Sun,” said Dr Christopher Manser, from the University of Warwick.

(19) BIG BROTHER IS STILL WATCHING. So be good for goodness sake! “Apple iPhone 11 Pro ‘can override location settings'”.

Apple’s flagship iPhone 11 Pro tracks users’ locations even when they have set it not to, a security researcher has discovered.

Brian Krebs found that the phone collects data about a user’s position even if location sharing has been turned off in every individual app.

However, the user could avoid being tracked if the entire system was set to never share location.

Apple said it was “expected behaviour” and denied it was a security problem.

The company has made big play of the fact that it allows users granular control over sharing their location – so for instance they can have location switched on for Maps but off for everything else.

Mr Krebs found users could disable all location services entirely via Settings>Privacy>Location Services, but if they chose the individual controls, they might still be tracked.

(20) MAKE IT SNOW. From Destructoid we learned that “Sir Patrick Stewart kicks off Feastivus in Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville”.

Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville is getting into the spirit with a snowy present-filled makeover of Giddy Park, a social hub where plant and zombie players can mingle and duke it out. Alongside update 1.03, PopCap went ahead and booked Sir Patrick Stewart to recite a festive poem.

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