Pixel Scroll 3/31/21 Run Back To The Shelter Of Her Pixel’s Scrolling Helper

(1) A DAY FOR VISIBILITY. On International Transgender Day of Visibility, one fan talks about the way Star Trek fandom helped her feel safe and seen as her full self: “Coming Out to My Star Trek Family”.

In October 2012, I stepped into a room full of people who’d known me for years, but most of them were about to truly meet me for the first time. I was scared out of my mind. At a science-fiction convention in Chicago, they were busy turning a hotel suite into a tiny nightclub, and I had arrived to step up my DJ gear, a now-familiar ritual. Only this time, I was wearing a full face of makeup and a dress… and an announcement needed to be made. I had new pronouns. And a new name. This was not some ultra-liberal organization of party throwers, either. It’s an organization known as Barfleet, whose only real ethos is “throw the best, safest convention parties”. And I was about to their first out, visibly transgender member….

(2) COSTUMER PHOTO HISTORY RETURNS. The International Costumers Gallery, the largest collection of costume photos in the world, includes photos from science fiction and fantasy conventions, masquerade competitions, fashion shows, historical dress competitions and other events and displays. The Gallery is returning online, featuring new software and new features at a new location: ICG Pat and Peggy Kennedy Memorial Archives.

The International Costumers’ Guild (ICG), founded in 1985, is an affiliation of hobbyist and professional costumers from around the world, dedicated to the promotion and education of costuming as an art form in all its aspects, and to fostering local educational and social costume events…

(3) BARDING PARTY. James Davis Nicoll acquaints Tor.com readers with “Five SFF Works That Put Bards Center Stage”.

If there is one lesson Tolkien intended us to take from The Lord of the Rings, it is that NPC (non-player-character) bards are extraordinarily dangerous beings. Not because they might kill you (although some might) but because by their nature, they are adept at upstaging other characters. It’s probably only due to the merciful brevity of his appearance on stage that Tom Bombadil didn’t manage to transform LOTR into Tom Bombadil Saves Middle-Earth with the Power of Verse (also there were some hobbits).

First on the list is Manly Wade Wellman’s collection John the Balladeer. (If you don’t mess around with Jim, you certainly don’t mess around with John.)

(4) AFTERMATH. Following yesterday’s announcement by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society – “BSFS Shares Outcome of Investigation Into Harassment Complaints” — Keith R.A. DeCandido has posted “An open letter to Balticon, which I am not attending”.

I’m afraid that I must decline the invitation to be an author guest/program participant at Balticon 55, and have no plans to return to the convention any time soon.  

The convention’s handling of the multiple harassment complaints against convention chair Eric Gasior is disappointing. All the more so because my wife Wrenn Simms and I were witnesses to the incident spelled out in one of those complaints. We were at Arisia 2016, and we observed Eric’s behavior toward one of the complainants. At the time, we thought it was an isolated incident due to a particular set of circumstances. We have since learned that there were at least three other complaints against Eric of a similar nature to that of the one we were privy to. Our names were passed on to the investigator that Balticon hired to look into the allegations, but we were never contacted. Now the investigation is said to be complete and finished, even though Wrenn and I were not questioned, despite being witnesses to Eric’s harassment in January 2016.  

This is massively unacceptable and I cannot in good conscience support the con. Balticon is a favorite convention of ours, and I am disappointed to not be attending, but to attend now would be to give my tacit support to a convention committee that has proven to not care about the safety of its attendees.  

(5) WELL, HARDLY EVERS. “HBO drops full trailer for new sci-fi period drama The Nevers”Ars Technica sets the frame:

An inexplicable event confers supernatural powers on a select group of people in Victorian London, who must battle prejudice and those who would exploit their abilities in The Nevers, a new original series coming to HBO next month.

(6) HE CAN DIG IT. [Item by rcade.] Not many actors would do as much preparation for a role as Alexander Skarsgard did to portray geologist Nathan Lind in the movie Godzilla vs. Kong, if this Uproxx interview is to be believed: “Alexander Skarsgard Knows You Don’t Care About Him In Godzilla Vs Kong”.

Alexander Skarsgard: Even though I play a very peripheral character and no one cares, I still take my craft seriously. And that means a decade of studying geology and living, breathing the character. Just to give the audience that sublime performance that I give in the movie.

Uproxx: When you’re giving the technical jargon during the movie, viewers can rest assured that you know exactly what you’re talking about, because you studied for so long with trained geologists.

Skarsgard: Exactly. And they can see that in my eyes, that I’m not lying. I’m not pretending. I’m not acting. I’m not playing a geologist. I am a geologist.

(7) ATTACK THE MOCK. The Mitchells vs.The Machines comes to Netflix on April 30.

A quirky, dysfunctional family’s road trip is upended when they find themselves in the middle of the robot apocalypse and suddenly become humanity’s unlikeliest last hope!

(8) ST-PIERRE OBIT. Montreal club member Sylvain St-Pierre and author of several novels died March 25 of Covid reports MonSFFA’s Cathy Palmer-Lister: “Sad news: Sylvain St-Pierre”.

I am so sorry to have to inform you that Sylvain St-Pierre and his mom have both passed away from Covid. His brother, Marc, is in quarantine as a precautionary measure.

We are in shock. Sylvain was one of the rocks on which this club was founded, and a best friend to so many of us in fandom. 

More details here. Tributes are being posted on St-Pierre’s Facebook page.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • March 31, 1987 — On this day in 1987, the Max Headroom series premiered on ABC. This is the America version of Max Headroom as the British version was Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future which is essentially identical to the initial origin episode of the American series.  Matt Frewer as Max Headroom and Edison Carter, Amanda Pays as Theora Jones and  W. Morgan Sheppard as Blank Reg would reprise their characters from the British film. It ran from April of 1985 to March of 1987.  A spin-off series, a talk show featuring Max was recorded, The Original Max Talking Headroom Show, this time in New York. It aired on Cinemax between the two seasons and lasted six episodes. And yes, Max had a lucrative gig shilling Coca Cola and other products here and in the United Kingdom. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born March 31, 1844 Andrew Lang. To say that he is best known as a collector of folk and fairy tales is a bit of understatement. He collected enough tales that twenty five volumes of Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books for children was published between 1889 and 1913. That’s 798 stories. If you’re interested in seeing these stories, you can find them here. (Died 1912.) (CE)
  • Born March 31, 1918 – Beth Krush.  Illustrator, mostly with husband Joe Krush, who survived her.  Both did Mary Norton’s Borrowers books.  BK did Eudora Welty’s only children’s book The Shoe Bird and sixteen with Sally Scott.   Here is The Borrowers Afield.  Here is A Spell Is Cast.  Here is Countdown at 37 Pinecrest Drive.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born March 31, 1932 John Jakes, 89. Author of a number of genre series including the Brak the Barbarian series. The novels seem to fix-ups from works published in such venues as FantasticDark Gate and Dragonard are his other two series. As  Robert Hart Davis, he wrote a number of The Man From UNCLE novellas that were published in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Magazine. The magazine apparently only existed from 1966 to 1968. (CE) 
  • Born March 31, 1934 Richard Chamberlain, 87. His first dive into our end of reality was in The Three Musketeers as Aramis, a role he reprised in The Return of Three Musketeers. (I consider all Musketeer films to be genre.) Some of you being cantankerous may argue it was actually when he played the title character in Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold which he did some years later. He listed as voicing the Jack Kirby created character Highfather on the superb Justice League: Gods and Monsters but that was but a few lines of dialogue I believe. He was in the Blackbeard series as Governor Charles Eden, and series wise has done the usual one-offs on such shows as Alfred Hitchcock PresentsBoris Karloff’s ThrillerChuck and Twin Peaks. (CE)
  • Born March 31, 1936 Marge Piercy, 85. Author of He, She and It which garnered the Arthur C. Clarke Award for Best Science Fiction novel. Of course she also wrote Woman on the Edge of Time doomed to be called a “classic of utopian speculative sf”. Woman on the Edge of Time was nominated for a Tiptree Award. (CE)
  • Born March 31, 1955 – Janice Gelb, age 66.  Co-founded the Israel SF Ass’n and the Filk Foundation.  Ran the Hugo Ceremony at L.A.con IV the 64th Worldcon, has run Program Ops at eight.  Fan Guest of Honor at Concave 22, Baycon 2003; Capricon 31 (with husband Stephen Boucher).  Big Heart (our highest service award; with Boucher).  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate; her campaignzine is here; trip report not available electronically so far as I know: try E-mail to either of the DUFF Administrators as given here; or send paper mail to me, 236 S. Coronado St., No. 409, Los Angeles, CA 90057, U.S.A., and we’ll arrange something.  [JH]
  • Born March 31, 1957 – David Bratman, age 64.  Librarian.  Classical-music reviewer.  Tolkien scholar; a dozen entries in the Tolkien Encyclopedia; edited Mythprint; edits & contributes to Tolkien Studies and Mythlore (about the Inklings).  See here.  Administered the Hugo Awards at three Worldcons, the Retrospective Hugos at one.  Although he once said “We liked dancing ‘The Black Nag’ to annoy John Hertz”, my answer to the question of the day is yes.  [JH]
  • Born March 31, 1957 – Gary Louie.  Hard-working, much-missed Los Angeles fan.  Evans-Freehafer Award (service to LASFS, L.A. Science Fantasy Society).  Labored on nearly every Worldcon for years.  When he arrived in L.A. fandom the mah jongg fad had begun (for which I bear some responsibility), and as he said, being Chinese he mixed right in.  (Died 1999) [JH]
  • Born March 31, 1960 Ian McDonald, 61. I see looking him up for this Birthday note that one of my favorite novels by him, Desolation Road, was his very first one. Ares Express which was the sort of sequel was just as splendid. Now the Chaga saga was, errr, weird. The Everness saga was fun but ultimately shallow. Strongly recommend both Devish House and River of Gods. Luna series just didn’t impress me me, so other opinions are sought on it. (CE)
  • Born March 31, 1971 Ewan McGregor, 50. Nightwatch, a horror film, with him as lead Martin Bell is his first true genre film.  That was followed by The Phantom Menace with him as Obi-Wan Kenobi, a role repeated in Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith and The Force Awakens. His latest role of interest, well to me if to nobody else, is as Christopher Robin in the film of the same name. (CE) 
  • Born March 31, 1982 – Alaya Dawn Johnson, age 39.  Seven novels, a dozen shorter stories.  Won a Nebula and an Andre Norton.  Interviewed in FantasyLightspeed. Guest of Honor at WisCon 39, ConFusion 42 (not its real name, which was “Life, the Universe, and ConFusion”).  [JH]
  • Born March 31, 2010 – João Paulo Guerra Barrera, age 11.  Two short stories in Portuguese and English.  Won the NASA Ames Space Settlement Contest.  And that ain’t the half of it.  [JH]

(11) MANGA NEWS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the March 22 Financial Times, Leo Lewis reports that Japan’s Financial Services Agency has “turned to a scatological cartoon character to teach children about money.”  The character, “Unko Doriru” (“poo exercises”) was introduced by publisher  Bunkyosha in 2017 to help children deal with all the memorization that it takes to learn to read and write Japanese.

“In the original books,” Lewis writes, “each new character is introduced with an excrement-based sentence by Unko-sensei, a smartly-dressed, bespectacled and mustachioed pedagogue whose head is a stylized stool.  The author’s bet on the inexhaustible powers of faeces to entertain children has seen the series expand to mathematics, science, and other usually soberly-taught realms of Japanese education.”

The Financial Services Agency’s use of the character is an online multiple-choice quiz, “asking children how they would respond to various financial realities, such as having insufficient funds (to buy video games), sudden seasonal gluts of capital (gift money) and the appropriate evaluation of rendered services (washing up.)  In each case, one of the available answers involves faeces.”

(12) YOU’LL NEVER GUESS WHO’S WRITTEN A BOOK. That’s what the email said. Even when it revealed that the subject was newly-released novel The Eighth Key by Laura Weyr I still needed the next clue – that Laura Weyr is the nom de plume of Janice Marcus, of the Galactic Journey Marcuses. Here’s the pitch for her new book:

The magic is gone…or is it?

Lucian is a jaded flirt and professional bard who knows all the old songs about sorcery. When he meets Corwin, a shy mage who can still use magic despite the Drought, Lucian finds his desire growing with each passing day—not just for answers, but for Corwin himself.

Sparks fly as they find themselves passionately entangled in adventure and each other. But learning the true origin of the Drought and the Key to ending it comes at a price that their bond may not survive…

How do you get it? Here are three options: Amazon; Bookshop.org; eBook from publisher Journey Press.

(13) A PEEK INTO THE FUTURE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] 60 Minutes had a segment about Boston Dynamics.  They went behind the scenes and had many interesting shots of company headquarters and some robots we’ve never seen.  The most interesting fact in Anderson Cooper’s piece is that the humanoid robot that does all the leaping is only five feet tall. “Robots of the future at Boston Dynamics”.

(14) GETTING PHYSICAL. But are they going anywhere? “New Warp Drive Model Requires No ‘Exotic Matter,’ Scientists Say We Can Build It” – maybe you’ll understand The Debrief’s explanation.  

…“If you read any publications that claim we have figured out how to break the speed of light, they are mistaken,” said one of the researchers, Gianni Martire, in an email to The Debrief. “We [instead] show that a class of subluminal, spherically symmetric warp drive spacetimes, can be constructed based on the physical principles known to humanity today.”

… So, with the team assembled, Martire described how they first looked at the classical warp designs before trying to tackle the problem themselves. “[Harold] White’s paper makes heavy use of extra non-physical dimensions,” he said, “which, as you know, is incompatible with the current understanding of general relativity. Thus, the work is not usable in our reality. No warp metric was

Hence, why they were all unphysical.”

With this limitation in mind, Martire and his co-author, Lund University Astrophysicist Alexey Bobrick, set out to design an entirely new type of Warp drive, a design they term a physical warp drive. “Our paper covers all the existing warp drives and all their possible modifications (i.e., Alcubierre),” Martire said in the email, “but the APL metric stands on its own, hence why it’s the first physical class of warp.”

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Honest Trailers:  Zack Snyder’s Justice League” on YouTube, the Screen Junkies note that the Snyder Cut is 2 1/2 times longer than Casablanca, which gives him plenty of room for many, many slo-mo scenes (including a slo-mo shot of Lois Lane’s coffee cup) and scenes where “the grey CGI villain reports in excruciating detail to his grey CGI boss and his boss’s grey CGI executive assistant.”

[Thanks to N., Lloyd Penney, John King Tarpinian, James Davis Nicoll, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Pierre and Sandy Pettinger, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Dann, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rob Thornton.]

Pixel Scroll 11/24/20 Do I Dare Disscroll The Pixelverse?

(1) GRATING EXPECTATIONS. Piper J. Drake analyzes readers’ reactions based on default views of history in “Marginalized people living varied and fulfilled lives in genre fiction is historically accurate” at the SFWA Blog.

Earlier this year, an author of color announced the acquisition of her new historical romance series. In direct reply to her tweet, someone publicly questioned the historical accuracy of the series. The author of color was prepared because she knew she would be challenged about “historical accuracy” and she provided an organized response. The challenger deleted her tweet but doubled down on her right to question the author and circled back to her own feed to gain sympathizer support for the attitude she was getting from the author of color because she “just asked a question.” For those sympathizers, I broke down the original challenge to demonstrate why it wasn’t just a question but, in reality, an insidious attack.

Let’s unpack this, because one might wonder why we’re even discussing historical accuracy in science fiction and fantasy. After all, these genres are fiction. Accuracy doesn’t need to come into play.

But here’s the thing: when the question of historical accuracy is raised regarding fiction, it’s rarely — if ever — actually about facts or history. 

It’s about the default, the norm.

It’s about what some people consider to be true simply because they’ve never questioned those assumptions, and the reality they default to is often wrong…. 

(2) SERPELL ON AFROFUTURISM. The Huntington has posted “Black Matter”, in which Namwali Serpell, professor of literature at Harvard, author of The Old Drift, and recent recipient of the Arthur C. Clarke award for the best science fiction novel published in the UK, discusses the origins of afrofuturism. This is the Ridge Lecture for Literature

(3) PICKING UP AFTER PICARD. Abigail Nussbaum copes with Trek-induced anxieties in “One More Adventure: Thoughts on Star Trek: Picard, which she says ends up wasting its beloved titled character.

I watched the first few episodes of Star Trek: Picard this spring, and then stopped. I could blame a lack of time, too many shows on my schedule and not enough hours to keep up with all of them (this was the reason that I similarly ended up dropping the most recent season of Legends of Tomorrow, which I wrote up on my tumblr last week). But really, the reason was that Picard made me anxious. All new Star Trek does. I find it impossible to watch these shows without the constant awareness that the people who are the franchise’s current stewards have, at best, a teaspoon’s-depth understanding of what it is and why it works, and I end up feeling constantly on guard against the next travesty they’re sure to commit. Which also makes me kind of sick of myself, for watching like that, being unable to let go, unable to trust the story to take me where it wants to go—even if that distrust is well earned. It’s for this reason, I think, that I found this summer’s new animated foray into the franchise, Lower Decks, so relaxing. The show is wall-to-wall fanservice, with absolutely no pretension of doing anything new with its material. So while the result is, inevitably, uninvolving, it’s also easier to trust.

Picard, in contrast, seems designed to agitate my NuTrek anxieties….

(4) CRITICS’ CHOICE. Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Lavie Tidhar line up their picks of the year: “2020 books: Best science fiction, fantasy and horror” in the Washington Post. The list of five opens with —

The Only Good Indians

By Stephen Graham Jones

Jones, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, conjures a revenge story involving friends who are haunted by a supernatural entity. The tale calls to mind classics such as “It” and “Ghost Story.” Jones’s take is a fresh and enticing tale — and features a memorable foe.

(5) ‘TIS THE SEASON. Journey Press hopes you’ll do some gift shopping off their booklist — “Received from Galactic Journey, reposted with permission”, signal boosted by James Davis Nicoll.

As you may know, the book business has been hit inordinately hard by COVID. Printing and shipping have been disrupted, but more importantly, bookstores have been locked down. Those that are open have lower foot traffic for obvious and good reasons.

For presses like mine , which have prioritized brick and mortar shops over Amazon, it’s been a rough time.

With the holiday season coming up, I wonder if you might consider one or more of our books as gift possibilities — for others…and yourself. Not only would you be getting some great reading material, you’d be helping me and Journey Press out at a time when we could really use some good news. I guarantee you will enjoy all of these, as will anyone you give them to:

(6) BE EARLY BIRDS. The annual “H.G. Wells Short Story Competition” offers a £500 Senior and £1,000 Junior prize and free publication of all shortlisted entries in a quality, professionally published paperback anthology.

The theme for the 2021 HG Wells Short Story Competition will be “Mask”. The competition will open in early 2021, and close in July 2021.

Get started now while we wait for them to start taking submissions.

(7) RIPPLES ON THE POND. Engadget delivered the news — “The Hugo Awards will have a video game category in 2021” with a link in the last sentence to the post here – presumably the strong case was made in the comments, or the linked article by Ira Alexandre.

…As things stand, video games won’t be an ongoing fixture at the Hugo Awards. That’s not unusual. The awards have consistently experimented with categories. In 2002 and 2005, for instance, it gave out awards to the best websites, but hasn’t done so since. The good news is that the Hugo Study Committee will consider adding a permanent Best Game or Interactive Experience category, and there’s a strong case to be made for their inclusion.  

On the other hand, PC Gamer is condescending in its coverage: “The Hugo Awards are getting a videogame category—but only for 2021”.

…Hold on, I hear you say, haven’t games been meaningful prior to early 2020? Isn’t the continued growth of the gaming industry a pretty strong signifier of how many people spend a large amount of time gaming, pandemic or no? 

Well, even though videogames do have a rather large audience overlap with science fiction novels, the people who actually nominate and vote for the awards may not be a prime gaming audience. These are the same people who just last year showed that when it comes to diversity, the Hugos still have some way to go, and who reference Pong in reply to their own gaming category announcement. Back in 2006, a newly-introduced videogames category to the Hugo Awards was dropped due to lack of interest.

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • November 24, 1985 Ewoks: The Battle for Endor premiered on ABC. It was produced and written by George Lucas. Starring Wilford Brimley, Warwick Davis, Aubree Miller, Paul Gleason and Carel Struycken, the sequel to Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure was considered mostly harmless by critics. It is treated as canon by Lucas. It holds a 51% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born November 24, 1849 – Frances Hodgson Burnett.  Four novels for us including The Secret Garden, nine shorter stories; much other work outside our field including Little Lord Fauntleroy, first loved, then hated (“an awful prig”), perhaps due for re-examining.  John Clute, whom I love to agree with because it’s so seldom, says “The supernatural content of [SG] is slight … but the book as a whole, like the best fantasies, generates a sense of earned transformation….  ‘Behind the White Brick’ stands out…. has a swing and a drive … makes one regret that FHB did not write full-length fantasies.”  (Died 1924) [JH]
  • Born November 24, 1907 Evangeline Walton. Her best known work, the Mabinogion tetralogy, was written during the late 1930s and early 1940s, and her Theseus trilogy was produced during the late 1940s. It’s worth stressing Walton is best known for her four novels retelling the Welsh Mabinogi. She published her first volume in 1936 under the publisher’s title of The Virgin and the Swine which is inarguably a terrible title. Although receiving glowing praise from John Cowper Powys, the book sold quite awfully and none of the other novels in the series were published at that time. Granted a second chance by Ballantine’s Adult Fantasy series in 1970, it was reissued with a much better title of The Island of the Mighty. The other three volumes followed quickly. Witch House is an occult horror story set in New England and She Walks in Darkness which came out on Tachyon Press is genre as well. I think that is the extent of her genre work but I’d be delighted to be corrected.  She has won a number of awards including the Mythopoeic Award for Adult Literature, Best Novel along with The Fritz Leiber Fantasy Award,  World Fantasy Award, Convention Award and the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement. (Died 1996.) (CE) 
  • Born November 24, 1912 – Charles Schneeman.  Ten covers, three hundred interiors.  Here is the May 38 Astounding.  Here is the Jan 40.  Here is the Nov 52.  Here is the Aug 68 Riverside Quarterly.  This is for Gray Lensman.  This is for “The Scrambler”.  (Died 1972) [JH]
  • Born November 24, 1916 – Forrest J Ackerman.  (No punctuation after the J).  Pioneer and indeed a founder of fandom; collector (he was the Grand Acquisitor); editor, literary agent.  Famous for wordplay, he was known as 4e, 4sj, and much else.  At Nycon I the first Worldcon he and Morojo – an Esperanto nickname, they were both Esperantists – wore what he called futuristicostumes, pioneering that too.  Winning a Hugo for #1 Fan Personality, never given before or since, he walked off stage leaving it, saying it really should have gone to Ken Slater.  For years administered the Big Heart, our highest service award.  In one of his more inspired puns, called us the Imagi-Nation.  (Died 2008)
  • Born November 24, 1942 – Alicia Austin, 78.  Fan and pro artist.  Three dozen covers, four hundred eighty interiors.  Inkpot; one Hugo; World Fantasy Award; Guest of Honor at ConFrancisco the 51st Worldcon; more.  This Program Book page shows her logograph for L.A.Con (in retrospect L.A.con I).  Artbook Alicia Austin’s Age of Dreams.  Here is The Last Castle.  Here is Solomon Leviathan’s Nine Hundred Thirty-First Trip Around the World.  Here is Bridging the Galaxies.  [JH]
  • Born November 24, 1948 Spider Robinson, 72. His first story “The Guy with the Eyes” was published in Analog February 1973. It was set in a bar called Callahan’s Place, a setting for much of his later fiction.  His first published novel, Telempath in 1976 was an expansion of his Hugo award-winning novella “By Any Other Name”. The Stardance trilogywas co-written with his wife, Jeanne Robinson.  In 2004, he began working on a seven-page 1955 novel outline by the late Heinlein to expand it into a novel. The resulting novel would be called Variable Star. Who’s read it? Oh, he’s certainly won Awards. More than be comfortably listed here. (CE) 
  • Born November 24, 1949 – Jim Warren, 71.  A hundred covers, two hundred twenty interiors.  Artbooks The Art of Jim WarrenPainted Worlds.  Here is All Flesh is Grass.  Here is Jimi Hendrix.  Here is a Disney-related image (JW is an official Disney artist).  He is self-taught.  [JH]
  • Born November 24, 1951 – Ruth Sanderson, 69.   Eight short stories, a score of covers, two dozen interiors for us; much other work outside our field.  Two Chesleys. World Fantasy Con 2011 Program Book.  Here is The Princess Bride.  Here is The Snow Princess.  Here is The Golden Key.  Here is The Twelve Dancing Princesses, in a grayscale coloring book for adults.  Here is her Little Engine That Could.  [JH]
  • Born November 24, 1957 John Zakour, 63. For sheer pulp pleasure, I wholeheartedly recommend his Zachary Nixon Johnson PI series which he co-wrote with Larry Ganem. Popcorn reading at its very best. It’s the only series of his I’ve read, anyone else read his other books? (CE) 
  • Born November 24, 1957 Denise Crosby, 63. Tasha Yar on Next Gen who got a meaningful death in “Yesterday’s Enterprise”. I other genre work, She was on The X-Files as a doctor who examined Agent Scully’s baby. And I really like it that she was in two Pink Panther films, Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther, as Denise, Bruno’s Moll. And she’s yet another Trek performer who’s popped doing what I call Trek video fanfic. She’s Dr. Jenna Yar in “ Blood and Fire: Part 2”, an episode of the only season of Star Trek: New Voyages. (CE)
  • Born November 24, 1957 Jeff Noon, 63. Novelist and playwright. Prior to his relocation in 2000 to Brighton, his stories reflected in some way his native though not birth city of Manchester. The Vurt sequence whose first novel won the Arthur C. Clarke Award is a very odd riff off Alice in Wonderland that Noon describes as a sequel to those works. Noon was the winner of the Astounding Award for the Best New Science Fiction Writer. (CE) 
  • Born November 24, 1965 Shirley Henderson, 55. She was Moaning Myrtle in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. She was Ursula Blake in “Love & Monsters!”, a Tenth Doctor story, and played Susannah in Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, a film that’s sf because of the metanarrative aspect. (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio shows why you never got that flying saucer as a kid. 
  • Lio also prompts this note to self: Avoid horror movie pop-up books.
  • Pearls Before Swine discusses the challenges of writing during the lockdown.
  • Off the Mark has an X-ray vision of a Thanksgiving Day truth.

(11) DOCTOROW. Register at the link to watch Cory Doctorow’s talk on “How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism” — 2020 Beaverbrook Annual Lecture Part 2 on November 30 at 12:00 Eastern. A live Q&A session will follow.

His lecture, “How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism” will build from his recently published book of the same name, and will respond to the current state of surveillance capitalism through a critical analysis of technological and economic monopolies.

(12) CONTESTS OF NOTE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Haben Kelati has a piece about contests for kids.  She lists three of them and I thought two were pertinent.

The Geek Partnership Society has a contest for kids to write poetry, comic books, or short stories with sf or fantasy elements, with prizes being $50-75 gift cards: Writing Contest – Geek Partnership Society.

NASA has a contest where kids imagine who they’d bring on an expedition to the Moon’s south pole and one piece of technology they’d leave on the Moon to help future astronauts.  Three first prizes get trips to see an Artemis-1 launch and nine second prizes get tours of the Johnson Space Center. Future Engineers :: Moon Pod Essay Contest.

(13) HE WAS FIRST. “2020 National Book Festival Highlights: Gene Luen Yang” includes video of Yang’s presentation.

When Gene Luen Yang was named the 2016-2018 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, the honor represented more than just recognition for his extraordinary work. It was also a profound acknowledgment of the importance of a genre that was once relegated to being mere comics.

Yang was the fifth National Ambassador, but the first graphic novelist to receive the honor.

The Library of Congress and the Children’s Book Council bestow the ambassadorship on a writer for his or her contributions to young people’s literature, the ability to relate to kids and teens, and a dedication to fostering children’s literacy.

In “Dragon Hoops” (First Second), Yang’s first nonfiction work, he turns the spotlight on his life, his family, basketball and the high school where he once taught. In “Superman Smashes the Klan” (DC Comics), a Chinese-American teenager awakens to find his house surrounded by the Klan of the Fiery Kross.

In the video Yang recorded exclusively for the Library, he speaks eloquently about the importance of libraries in disseminating stories: “Libraries are the keepers of stories. Stories define culture, right? Whether or not we have hopeful culture or a culture that’s mired in despair is completely up to the stories that we tell. It’s completely up to the stories that are taken care of by our libraries, that are collected and disseminated by our libraries.”

(14) WELCOME TO AARP. My fellow geezers, here’s a chance to play the video games of your youth without that Atari console you wouldn’t have anyway because if you did you’d have sold it by now. “Atari Video Games – Classics Available To Play Online”. Asteroids, Breakout, Centipede, Missile Command, and Pong.

(15) CALCULUS OR BUST. In the Washington Post, education columnist Jay Mathews says he is re-reading Have Space Suit, Will Travel and notes that Heinlein foresaw a dominance of “progressive education,” where students pick the courses of interest to them. “Progressive education hard to pin down because it’s everywhere”

…It is called progressive education. It took a beating in the 1950s, particularly from conservatives like Heinlein. In his novel, he describes a future time when humans are living on the moon and exploring the solar system, but the progressive commitment to student-centered learning in the United States has led to this class schedule described by the book’s hero, an ambitious high school sophomore:

“Social study, commercial arithmetic, applied English (the class had picked ‘slogan writing’ which was fun), handicrafts .?.?. and gym.” The school has no math classes beyond algebra and geometry, so the hero’s father persuades him to learn trigonometry and calculus on his own to pursue his dream of going to space.

…Heinlein died in 1988 at age 80.  He might be pleasantly surprised that in the real 21st century, even at a small-twon school like the one in his book, calculus is likely to be available, as well as college-level courses in chemistry and biology and reading of real literature.  My visits to schools often reveal that despite Heinlein’s doubts, progressive education has deepened learning with projects and topics relevant to students’ lives.

(16) IN DOUBTFUL TASTE. The New York Times wants to know “Why Were Canadians Warned Not to Let Moose Lick Their Cars?”

Visitors at a Canadian national park were greeted with a rather unusual digital road sign this weekend: “Do not let moose lick your car.”

The sign caught the imagination of the internet and led to questions like:

“What happens if a moose licks your car?”

“Is it really that big of a problem?”

And, perhaps most salient: “Exactly how would you stop them?”

As it turns out, the signs were put up by officials of Jasper National Park, in … Alberta, to try to stop moose from licking road salt off idling cars — a serious problem that can present dangers to the vehicles, the drivers and the moose.

Steve Young, a spokesman for the park, said … moose usually got their salt, a vital part of their diets, from salt licks… But the animals discovered that they could get the mineral from cars splashed with road salt. (It has begun snowing in Jasper, and salt can help melt ice on roads.) continues….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY.  In “Watch Dogs: Legion” on YouTube, Fandom Games says the future London portrayed in this series “is like now, only 20 percent more Elon Musk-ified.”

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

Pixel Scroll 3/3/20 And Was The Corny Cry Of ‘Fifth’ On The File’s Pleasant Comments Seen?

(1) NEW HORROR “RADIO NETWORK.” Brian Keene announced yesterday on Facebook that The Horror Show with Brian Keene will become the flagship podcast for the new Brian Keene Radio Network, which will also include Defenders Dialogue, Cosmic Shenanigans, and Grindcast. From the statement, it looks like the split from Shelly and Armand Rosamilia is amicable.  They are all still friends.

The Horror Show with Brian Keene started out on the Project iRadio Network. During our second year, we became part of the Project Entertainment Network.

Beginning April 1, (in the midst of our sixth year on the air) The Horror Show with Brian Keene will become the flagship podcast for the new Brian Keene Radio Network,…

Listeners will not be impacted by this change. You’ll still be able to hear episodes of each podcast for free via Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, YouTube, Google Play Music, and all other platforms. You’ll also be able to hear them for free on a new 24/7 live-streaming venture (a rebooted and revamped Brian Keene Radio) beginning in April. Old shows will still be accessible, as well. You may notice some changes to the structure of each show — new theme music, new title cards, advertising presented in a different way — but otherwise, it’s business as usual….

(2) DEAR JEFF BEZOS. While Amanda S. Green had some unfortunate problems uploading her new book via Kindle Digital Publishing, thereby missing a deadline and forfeiting pre-orders, she got a hell of a good post out of it for Mad Genius Club: “Not How I Expected Today To Go”. A lot to learn here.

…Lesson #1: Check the Terms of Service on a regular basis.

Amazon has updated the Terms of Service and did so on Feb. 20, 2020. How many of you have read them since then to see if there are any changes you need to be aware of? I hadn’t–at that point. I guarantee you I have since then.

…In the meantime, I have set a recurring alarm on my phone’s calendar to remind me to check the ToS every month. Yes, I’m being obsessive about it. But I am convinced the fact I knew what the ToS said and could prove it was at odds with the FAQs helped me plead my case and get my pre-order privileges restored. (As did being professional in my dealings with Amazon).

This writer will not be the unhappy writer on what should be release day ever again.

Fingers crossed.

(3) ONWARD. Vanity Fair fills readers in about “The Heartbreaking True Story Behind Pixar’s Onward”. Tagline: “A lost father. A found tape. A voice a filmmaker thought he would never hear.”

Dan Scanlon didn’t have a sad childhood; he just grew up with a hole in it.

It was in the shape of his father, who died in 1977 when Scanlon was only one year old. Neither he nor his brother, who is about three years older, remember their dad. They tried to construct some sense of him from pictures, from stories, from glimpses of the few soundless reel-to-reel home movies they had.

That’s what inspired Scanlon, a veteran Pixar creative team member and director of Monsters University, to pitch the idea for Onward, an animated fantasy about two brothers who do the same. These siblings—younger, shy Ian (voiced by Tom Holland) and older, boisterous Barley (Chris Pratt)—are blue-skinned, pointy-eared elves in a suburban sword-and-sorcery world who harness magic to bring their late father back for one single day together. 

(4) LONDON CALLING, FEWER ANSWERING. Coronavirus is taking its toll of book events. Publishers Lunch asserts “Reed Is Holding the London Book Fair, Dubbed ‘The Nightmare of Epidemiologists,’ without All of You”

The UK government is not ready to ban public events of scale yet, and Reed Exhibitions is apparently not ready to face the costs of a voluntary cancellation and continues to vow that the London Book Fair will proceed next week. The show is an increasing outlier, with the big Leipzig Book Fair canceling next week’s show.

More companies have announced that they will skip the fair and protect their employees, now including a number of UK-based companies and divisions. Penguin Random House, which officially had only made the show optional for US employees — most of whom opted out — has followed other large trade publishers in withdrawing entirely. Their spokesperson said, “The London Book Fair is an important moment in the global publishing calendar but given the fast moving situation around the Coronavirus, Penguin Random House has come to the difficult decision to withdraw from the fair in the interest of the health and wellbeing of our employees, authors, and partners.”

The post continues for another couple of paragraphs naming businesses that have pulled out of the London event. Nevertheless, Publishers Weekly says “London Book Fair Will Still Go Ahead”.

(5) CALL FOR ARTICLES. Steven H Silver will be co-editing an issue of Journey Planet and would like contributions that fit in with its theme —

I don’t believe in the supernatural, but when I was walking amongst the ruins of Kenilworth Castle back in 1984, I had the feeling that if ghosts existed, I was about to meet one.

As anyone who knows me can tell you, I’m not much for wandering around outdoors. Allergies have had a tendency to make me favor climate controlled areas, so it came as a huge surprise to Elaine when we saw Thingvellir in Iceland that I commented “I want to come back here and spend three or four days hiking and camping.”

While it is true that travel broadens the mind, it is also true that it opens us up to the magic of the world around us. This year, I’ll be co-editing an issue of the Hugo Award wining fanzine Journey Planet with James Bacon and Christopher J Garcia that looks at “the most magical place you’ve visited.”

We’re leaving it up to the authors and artists whose work will appear in this issue to define what “most magical” means in this context. It could be a place that took your breath away, a place that actually made you believe that magic or ghosts or the supernatural existed, a place that has significant meaning for you, or something else entirely.

Artwork and photos based on the same prompt are also very welcome.

If you are interested in participating, please drop me an e-mail at shsilver@sfsite.com and we can discuss appropriate topics and article length.

The deadline is June 20.

(6) AO3/CHINA UPDATE. Two English-language publications that focus on China have news stories from their perspective.

South China Morning Post: “Archive of Our Own, one of the internet’s biggest fanfiction sites, blocked in China amid new censorship rules”

…Outraged internet users took to social media Weibo to voice their anger, accusing Xiao’s fans of being compliant in China’s censorship machine.

“China has succeeded in getting people accustomed to self-censorship in the past decade, and in using public power to eliminate those with different opinions. The idea has been deeply rooted in everyone’s head,” Weibo user Frunzzi wrote in one of the most popular comments.

Another user with the handle ChaofanDouxiansen wrote: “Why would you hurt the already limited space for creation? Shame on you.”

Also, Radii reported: “A03 Fanfiction Drama Sparks High-Stakes War of Boys’ Love Fandom”

…Some Sean Xiao fans went so far as to organize a coordinated assault against the website, posting a message that encouraged others to report AO3 and LOFTER (China’s equivalent of Tumblr) for unlawful and homoerotic content.

Unfortunately, it seems that the spiteful act has yielded results. AO3 is now blocked in China, leaving a massive base of displaced fanfiction authors and readers. In turn, that community has started to launch similar attacks against Xiao’s fanbase.

The whole thing is a huge and unnecessary mess, and the fan who organized the assault has admitted to working with Sean Xiao’s management team in order to control the situation on Weibo.

(7) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Daniel Braum and Robert Levy on Wednesday, March 18, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar (85 East 4th Street, 2nd Floor, New York, NY.)

Daniel Braum

Daniel Braum is the author of the short story collections The Night Marchers and Other Strange Tales, The Wish Mechanics: Stories of the Strange and Fantastic and the Dim Shores Press chapbook Yeti Tiger Dragon. His third collection, Underworld Dreams is forthcoming from Lethe Press in 2020. The Serpent’s Shadow, his first novel, was released from Cemetery Dance eBooks in 2019. He is the editor of the Spirits Unwrapped anthology from Lethe Press.

Robert Levy

Robert Levy’s novel The Glittering World was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award and the Shirley Jackson Award, while shorter work has appeared in Black Static, Shadows & Tall Trees, The Dark, The Best Horror of the Year, The Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction, and more. Anaïs Nin at the Grand Guignol, a speculative novella written in the style of the literary icon’s legendary diaries, was released in October by Lethe Press.

(8) LUNNEY OBIT. Fanzine fan Frank Lunney died February 28 due to a coronary event. Early on, Lunney’s Beabohema was competitive with the very best sercon zines of its day, gaining a Best Fanzine Hugo nomination in 1970 when it shared the ballot with Richard E. Geis’ Science Fiction Review, Charlie Brown’s Locus, Leland Sapiro’s Riverside Quarterly, and Peter Weston’s Speculation. Wikipedia says his contributors included “a then-obscure fan named ‘Gene Klein’ who would later become famous as Gene Simmons of KISS.”

In the early Seventies he switched over to publishing Syndrome, the reasons for which he explained in an interview published by Dan Steffan and Ted White in Blat! (See the full text here.)

…But the real thig that made me decide to change was being at the Boston woldcon in 1971 with the Katzes and the Kunkels. They had some hashish that made me hallucinate. (laughs) And they loaned me A Sense of FAPA with Ah! Sweet Idiocy in it, and I read and I realized that not writing about science fiction was a lot more interesting than being concerned with science fiction at all….

Although he considered what he was doing before to be fannish, from that point on other fans also identified his output as fannish. Or even faannish. In later years he would often attend Corflu. Indeed, Lunney is credited with originating the Corflu practice of paying $20 to have one’s name removed from the choosing hat, taking away any risk of being drafted to give a GoH speech at the Sunday banquet.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 3, 1965 Mutiny in Outer Space premiered. It was, produced, directed and written by Hugo Grimaldi and Arthur C. Pierce (although the latter was not credited as directing). It starred William Leslie, Dolores Faith, Pamela Curran and Richard Garland. The word “meh” would best sum up the reaction critics at the time had to this film. It has no rating at Rotten Tomatoes so you’ll need to watch it and see what you think of it.
  • March 3, 1965 The Human Duplicators premiered. It was produced and directed by Hugo Grimaldi and Arthur C. Pierce (without a credit for the latter as director). The film stars George Nader, Barbara Nichols, George Macready and Dolores Faith. It was the color feature on a double bill with the black-and-white Mutiny in Outer Space. It wasn’t well received by critics, and Mystery Science Theater 3000 gave it their usual treatment. It currently holds a zero percent audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes. You can see it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 3, 1863 Arthur Machen. His novella “The Great God Pan” published in 1890 has garnered a reputation as a classic of horror, with Stephen King describing it as “Maybe the best horror story in the English language.” His The Three Impostors; or, The Transmutations 1895 novel is considered a precursor to Lovecraft and was reprinted in paperback by Ballantine Books in the Seventies. (Died 1947.)
  • Born March 3, 1920 James Doohan. Montgomery “Scotty” Scott on Trek of course. His first genre appearance was in Outer Limits as Police Lt. Branch followed by being a SDI Agent at Gas Station in The Satan Bug film before getting the Trek gig. He filmed a Man from U.N.C.L.E.film, One of Our Spies Is Missing, in which in played Phillip Bainbridge, during the first season of Trek.  Doohan did nothing of genre nature post-Trek. ISFDB notes that he did three genre novels co-written with S.M. Stirling. (Died 2005.)
  • Born March 3, 1924 Catherine Downs. She’s in four Fifties grade B SF films: The Phantom from 10,000 Leagues, The She Creature, The Amazing Colossal Man and Missile to the Moon. All but the first film was the subject of a MST3K show. (Died 1976.)
  • Born March 3, 1936 Donald E. Morse, 84. Author of the single best book done on Holdstock, The Mythic Fantasy of Robert Holdstock: Critical Essays on the Fiction which he co-wrote according to ISFDB with Kalman Matolcsy. I see he also did two books on Kurt Vonnegut and the Anatomy of Science Fiction on the intersection between SF and society at large which sounds fascinating.
  • Born March 3, 1945 George Miller, 75. Best known for his Mad Max franchise, The Road WarriorMad Max 2Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome andFury Road.  He also directed The Nightmare at 20,000 Feet segment of the Twilight Zone film, The Witches of Eastwick, Babe and 40,000 Years of Dreaming
  • Born March 3, 1977 Sarah Smart, 43. She’s Jennifer in the two part Eleventh Doctor story, “The Rebel Flesh” and “The Almost People”. She’s Magda Cribden on The Secret of Crickley Hall, and played Carl Gruff in the “Billy Goat” episode of the Fairy Tale series. 
  • Born March 3, 1982 Jessica Biel,  38. A number of interesting genre films including The Texas Chainsaw MassacreBlade: Trinity, StealthThe Illusionist, the remake of Total Recall which I confess I’ve not seen, and the animated Spark: A Space Tail.
  • Born March 3, 1980 Katherine Waterston, 40. She’s Tina Goldstein in the Harry Potter spin-off Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which she reprised in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. And she was Janet “Danny” Daniels in Alien: Covenant. Finally I’ll note that she was Chrisann Brennan in the Steve Jobs film.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) FOWL TRAILER. Artemis Fowl hits U.S. theaters May 29.

Disney’s “Artemis Fowl,” based on the beloved book by Eoin Colfer, is a fantastical, spellbinding adventure that follows the journey of 12-year-old genius Artemis Fowl, a descendant of a long line of criminal masterminds, as he seeks to find his father who has mysteriously disappeared. With the help of his loyal protector Butler, Artemis sets out to find him, and in doing so uncovers an ancient, underground civilization—the amazingly advanced world of fairies. Deducing that his father’s disappearance is somehow connected to the secretive, reclusive fairy world, cunning Artemis concocts a dangerous plan—so dangerous that he ultimately finds himself in a perilous war of wits with the all-powerful fairies.

(13) REALISM. In “How To Write Believable, Realistic, and Responsible Violence” on CrimeReads, Ed Ruggero offers seven tips for making violent scenes in fiction plausible.

1. People have strong reactions to violence.

Here is retired Marine Randy Hoffman describing combat to young men and women in training. “Your heart rate is uncontrollable,” he tells them. “Your pulse goes up so much that your ears kind of stop up. Everything goes kind of in slow motion. Your brain focuses on minute details to help you get through engaging the enemy before he can kill you.” [Wall Street Journal, December 13, 2019]

There are also delayed physiological effects. Here is the late Paul Russell, a combat medic in Vietnam, describing his reaction after he crawled under incoming fire to rescue wounded GIs, an action for which he would be awarded the Silver Star. “I threw my guts up all the next day. Adrenaline.”

(14) PRESSING ON. Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus is full of good news about their affiliated venture, Journey Press. He begins the “State of the Press, March 2020 edition” with news that their flagship release, Rediscovery: Science Fiction by Women (1958-1963), is in over 300 bookstores (besides being available as an ebook.) Here’s what else they have coming up —

Old Masters sign on with Journey Press

It is our great honor and privilege to announce that Journey Press will be working with Hugo Finalist and SF veteran Tom Purdom to bring back his classic, I Want the Stars. We chose to bring back this particular book for several reasons. For one, it is a timeless work, with a unique vision of the human condition nearly a thousand years from now. For another, it may well be the first science fiction novel ever to explicitly star a Black man. That’s unusual for today, forget 1964. Finally, it’s just a great book. It comes out in June.

Also, we are bowled over with delight to announce our collaboration with Robin Brown, son of the late, great Rosel George Brown. Ms. Brown was one of science fiction’s brightest lights from the mid ’50s until her untimely death in 1967 (two of her best stories are in Rediscovery). Just before she passed away, she wrote Sibyl Sue Blue, the novel that features the first galactic woman space cop. If ever there were a genre we need to have more books in, it’s that one!

Look for Sibyl Sue Blue next year, timed to coincide with coverage of the book at Galactic Journey.

New Talent on the Horizon

In less than two weeks, we will be releasing Kitra, our first work of new fiction. It’s already gotten some great advance reviews, and we think it’ll be a hit. Well, we hope so: there are nine more planned books in the series! Don’t worry, though. Kitra stands alone.

We’re particularly excited about this release, not only because it’s a revival of the space adventure yarns of the mid-20th Century (think Robert Heinlein and Andre Norton), but it also features illustrations by the talented Lorelei E. Marcus. Last, but certainly not least, Kitra has a queer woman of color as its protagonist — again, something we think there should be more of!

(15) WATERWORLD IS REAL. Or at least it Was. Maybe. According to Futurism com: ”Scientists Say Ancient Earth Was Completely Covered In Water”.

Scientists at Iowa State and the University of Colorado say they’ve found compelling new evidence that the ancient Earth was an unbroken expanse of water, without a single continent. Yes: “Waterworld.”

The research, published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience, examined ancient samples of sea floor found in Australia and found chemical clues that Earth used to be a completely blue planet — a discovery, the scientists say, that could have deep implications for the history of life itself.

(16) GAME TECH. “Half-Life: Alyx – Hands on with Valve’s virtual reality game-changer”, a BBC video.

In 1998, Half Life changed first-person shooters forever.

It combined cinematic storytelling, taut and tense combat and extra-dimensional bad guys.

A successful sequel followed, but it’s been nearly 13 years since the last release.

Now the series has returned in the form of a virtual reality title.

BBC Click’s Marc Cieslak was one of the first people in the world to play it, and he suggests it could be VR’s first killer app.

(17) PLOT POINT. “Mulan: Disney drop character following #MeToo movement” – BBC has the story.

A Disney producer says the character Li Shang is missing from the live-action remake of Mulan, as his storyline is not “appropriate” in the #MeToo era.

The film tells of a woman who disguises herself as a man to fight in place of her father in China’s imperial army.

In the 1998 animated original, based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan, General Li Shang developed a bond with Mulan’s male warrior alter-ego Ping.

After her true identity was revealed, she and Li Shang have dinner together.

Given recent revelations in Hollywood, however, producer Jason Reed confirmed they were uncomfortable with the power dynamics in their relationship.

“I think particularly in the time of the #MeToo movement, having a commanding officer that is also the sexual love interest was very uncomfortable and we didn’t think it was appropriate,” Reed told Collider.

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