Pixel Scroll 5/18/20 “Look, Gracious Host! A Scroll In A Pixel!” “Fan Mail From Some Filer?”

(1) MISKATONIC SCHOLARSHIP. Scott Gray is the 2020 winner of George R. R. Martin’s Miskatonic Scholarship, which supports a promising new writer of Lovecraftian cosmic horror attending the Odyssey Writing Workshop.

As a boy, Martin came across his first story by H. P. Lovecraft. He says, “I had never read a story that scared me more . . . so of course I sought out more Lovecraft wherever I could find it.” Martin’s love of weird fiction grew, and he found that “No werewolf, no vampire, no thing going bump in the night could give me chills to equal those provided by the cosmic horrors that Lovecraft evoked.”

With the annual Miskatonic Scholarship, Martin hopes to provide “encouragement and inspiration to a new generation of writers.” And to one special scholarship candidate, Martin wants to offer the opportunity to learn and improve at the Odyssey Writing Workshop, one of the top programs in the world for writers of the fantastic. The scholarship covers full tuition and housing at the workshop.

Scott Gray lives in New Hampshire.

…He developed a love of stories as a young boy, especially those that transported him to other worlds.

…Jeanne Cavelos, one of the scholarship judges and director of the Odyssey Writing Workshops Charitable Trust, says, “The other judges and I loved the unique way that Scott’s story brought heart and a deep sense of humanity to this tale of cosmic horror. It evoked not only fear but also hope and joy.”

Click here to read about the other scholarship winners: “Special Announcement: 2020 Odyssey Writing Workshop Scholarship Winners”.

(2) FEELING DISCONNECTED. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Michael Cavna has a piece in the Washington Post about how comedians miss people getting together in groups and laughing.  Among the people Cavna talks to are Pixar head Pete Docter, who says that Soul is being edited in hundreds of homes of Pixar employees, and Patton Oswalt, who says that when he performs, “each crowd is its own separate sentient living thing” and without an audience, “you lose a check-in with humanity.  You lose a reminder that ‘OK, I’m connected with the planet–I’m connected with the present.” “Without movie theaters, we’re missing communal laughter: ‘You lose a check-in with humanity’’.

…Docter, the chief creative officer of Pixar, says that early filmmakers, in both animation and live-action, understood how their movies were made to be seen with an audience.

“Strange pauses and gaps in Bugs Bunny cartoons suddenly made sense when I saw them with a live audience — those blank areas were filled with audience laughter,” Docter says while self-quarantining in his Bay Area home. “The same was true of Laurel and Hardy and [Buster] Keaton films — they were timed to allow space for the audience to respond.”

(3) STILL IN THE WORKS. Locus Online adds items to its post about COVID-19 cancellations every few days. Locus Award Weekend, on the calendar for next month, has not been cancelled as of today’s update.

Locus Awards Weekend, June 26-28, 2020 in Seattle WA

We are keeping a close eye on the COVID-19 status, and will be diligent about canceling as needed. At this time it seems likely we will not have a physical event, but we are exploring virtual alternatives. We are in a holding pattern and have suspended general ticket sales.

(4) DISNEY WORLD MEETS FLORIDA MAN. Really, you’d think it would have happened before now. From behind a paywall at The Week:

A Florida man has been caught trying to self-isolate on a private island in Disney World.  Richard McGuire, 42, insisted that he hadn’t seen the numerous ‘no trespassing signs’ on the island, or heard the loudspeaker warnings from Disney officials who became aware of his presence.  He claimed to be ‘unaware’ of the police helicopter that hovered overhead because he was asleep on an abandoned building on Discovery Island.  When he was arrested, McGuire told police it felt as if he’d discovered a ‘tropical paradise.’

(5) CLOCKING IN. In “Here’s How Time Works Now” at McSweeney’s, Eli Grober has the 411 about the changing nature of time. For example —

A Day

You may remember that a day used to take place over the course of 24 hours. We felt this was too much. A day is now over the moment you first ask yourself, “What time is it?”

It does not matter what time it actually is when you do this. As soon as you ask or think, “What time is it” for the first time that day, even if it is still ten in the morning, it will suddenly be eight at night. Does that make sense?

(6) THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS. And it feels appropriate to follow with The Lewis Carroll Society of North America’s post “If you knew Time …”, a collection of links to resources about the author.

“Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly, for she had plenty of time as she went down to look about her, and to wonder what was going to happen next.”

For so many of us, this topsy-turvy world of shelter-in-place has left us with time on our hands. Our president, Linda Cassady, has some suggestions for some fine online Carrollian resources. And who knows? You might discover some unknown or little-known item or a fresh perspective that we can tell the world about!

(7) TAKE THE CHALLENGE. “Antidepressants or Tolkien”— it’s a quiz. The Filer who sent the link says, “It’s more difficult than you would expect.”  I racked up a score of 17/24.

(8) A PIONEER. In this video the late D.C. Fontana being interviewed by Rob Word from the A Word On Westerns podcast.  Her comments are mostly regarding the shows for which she wrote episodes and bounced from westerns to sci-fi and back.

(9) ALIENATED ABDUCTION. The Hollywood Reporter thought he mght have something to say: “Bill Pullman Responds to Donald Trump’s Altered ‘Independence Day’ Clip”.

President Donald Trump on Saturday shared a heavily altered video clip from the 1996 film Independence Day in which it appears that he gives the iconic speech from the President of the United States. 

Not only is Trump superimposed, but so are others in the crowd, including Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, Jr., as well as Fox News’ personalities Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity.

As of 8:30 p.m., the president’s post had been retweeted 50,000 times and had more than 153,000 “likes.”

Actor Bill Pullman, who played President Thomas J. Whitmore in Independence Day, was among those who saw the clip. And he responded.

“My voice belongs to no one but me, and I’m not running for president — this year,” Pullman told The Hollywood Reporter

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 18, 1962They make a fairly convincing pitch here. It doesn’t seem possible, though, to find a woman who must be ten times better than mother in order to seem half as good, except, of course, in the Twilight Zone. — Intro narration. On this date The Twilight Zone aired “I Sing The Body Electric,” an episode based on a story by Ray Bradbury. Although Bradbury contributed several scripts to the series, this was the only one produced. The script was written by Bradbury himself. An large ensemble cast was needed, hence Josephine Hutchinson, David White, Vaughn Taylor, Doris Packer, Veronica Cartwright, Susan Crane and Charles Herbert all being performers.  This was the year that the entire season of the series won Best Dramatic Presentation at Chicon III.  

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz. Typoed by Mike Glyer.]

  • Born May 16, 1918 Sam Dann. Scriptwriter who wrote 311 episodes of the CBS Radio Mystery Theater between 1974 and 1982. The show despite its name broadcast a lot of horror and science fiction stories as well. Much of his work was adaptations such as A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and Murder on the Space Shuttle (Holmes meets Rogers!), the SF content was largely his. (Died 2004.) (CE)
  • Born May 18, 1919 – Margot Fonteyn.  Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire; named prima ballerina assoluta of the Royal Ballet by Elizabeth II.  Danced many fantasies e.g. The FirebirdGiselleRaymondaSwan Lake.  (Died 1991) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1930 Fred Saberhagen. I’m reasonably sure I’ve read the entirety of his Berserker series though not in the order they were intended to be read. Some are outstanding, some less so. I’d recommend Berserker Man, Shiva in Steel and the original Berserker collection. Of his Dracula sequence, the only one I think I read is The Holmes-Dracula File which is superb. And I know I’ve read most of the Swords tales as they came out. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born May 18, 1931 – Don Martin.  Album covers for Prestige Records (Miles Davis, Art Farmer, Stan Getz).  A cover and thirty interiors for Galaxy.  Mad’s Maddest Artist, of hinged feet, onomatopoeia – his car license plate was SHTOINK – and National Gorilla Suit Day.  Fourteen collections.  Ignatz Award, Nat’l Cartoonists Society’s Special Features Award, Will Eisner Hall of Fame.  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born May 18, 1948 – R-Laurraine Tutihasi.  Active in fanzines, the N3F (Nat’l Fantasy Fan Fed’n; won its Kaymar and Franson awards), and otherwise.  Loccer (“loc” also “LoC” = letter of comment, the blood of fanzines) at least as far back as Algol and The Diversifier, also JanusTightbeamBroken Toys.  Her own fanzine is Purrsonal Mewsings.  [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1952 Diane Duane, 68. She’s known for the Young Wizards YA series though I’d like to single her out for her lesser known Feline Wizards series where SJW creds maintain the gates that wizards use for travel throughout the multiverse. A most wonderful thing for felines to do! (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1958 Jonathan Maberry, 62. The only thing I’ve read by him is the first five novels in the Joe Ledger Series which has a high body count and an even higher improbability index. Popcorn reading with Sriracha sauce. I see that he’s done scripts for Dark Horse, IDW and Marvel early on. And that he’s responsible for Captain America: Hail Hydra which I remember as quite excellent. (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1958 Toyah Willcox, 62. English actress who’s done quite a bit of genre work starting with being in The Quatermass Conclusion as Sal and then again in the Quatermass series. She shows up on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde as Janet, and as Dog in the superb Ink Thief series. She plays Dialta Downes in Tomorrow Calling based off Gibson’s “The Gernsback Continuum“ with the screenplay by Tim Leandro. (CE)
  • Born May 18, 1959 – Debbie Dadey.  A hundred sixty books, of which six dozen are (with Marcia Jones) short Bailey School Kids, also Ghostville ElementaryThe Keyholders.  Int’l Reading Ass’n Children’s Choice, Young Adults’ Choice awards; ABC Best Book for Children; Sunshine State Young Reader’s Awards.  [JH]
  • Born May 18, 1959 – Sophie Masson.  Member of the Order of Australia.  Forty novels, twenty shorter stories.  Aurealis Award for The Hand of Glory.  [JH]
  • Born May 17, 1963 – Greg Beatty.  Ph.D. in English.  Rhysling Award.  Stories, poems, articles, essays, reviews, interviews, in Abyss & ApexAeonAsimov’sAudiofileHeliosIndependent ScholarInternet Review of SFN.Y. Review of SFPhilological QuarterlySF StudiesStarlineStrange HorizonsTangent Online.  Children’s picture books too.  [JH] 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) WRAPPED UP. She-Ra Said Gay Rights! A Spoiler-Filled Chat with Creator Noelle Stevenson on the Final Season” at Paste Magazine.

…With the rainbow-solid queer credentials brought to the table by creator Noelle Stevenson (LumberjanesNimonaThe Fire Never Goes Out) and her team, and with the equally sparkling queer representation present in the series from the very beginning (Bow’s nerdy dads, thirtysomething Princess couple Spinerella and Netossa, Scorpia’s whole Scorpianess), fans needn’t have worried that their favorite friends-to-enemies lesbian ‘ship would right itself in the end. Still, when the frenemies’ long-awaited admission of love gave Adora enough strength to stop that apocalyptic countdown in the final minutes of “Heart Part 2,” you could almost feel the internet breathe a collective sigh of relieved joy.

(14) LOVE THAT DIRTY WATER. “Mud flows on Red Planet behave like ‘boiling toothpaste”. There’s an analogy for you – if you’re lucky, you’ve never experienced this at home or have any idea what that looks like.

Scientists have made a surprising discovery about Mars by playing with muck in the laboratory.

An international team of researchers wondered how volcanoes that spew mud instead of molten rock might look on the Red Planet compared with their counterparts here on Earth.

In chamber experiments, simulated Martian mud flows were seen to behave a bit like boiling toothpaste.

Under certain conditions, the fluid even began to bounce.

The mucky gunge resembled a certain type of lava referred to as “pahoehoe”, which is observed at Hawaii’s famous K?lauea volcano.

The research results could now complicate some investigations at the Red Planet, believes study lead Dr Petr Brož from the Czech Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Geophysics.

“You’ll look at some features [from space] and you won’t know for sure whether they are the result of lava flows or mud flows.

“Without a geologist on the ground to hit them with a hammer, it will be hard to tell,” he told BBC News.

(15) I WALK TO THE TREES. BBC invites you to “Meet the baby orangutans learning to climb trees”.

While much of the world is in lockdown, youngsters in one very unusual classroom are still having lessons.

At a forest school in Borneo, baby orangutans learn tree-climbing skills from their human surrogate parents.

The orphans spend 12 hours a day in the forest, preparing for a new life in the wild.

The orangutans were filmed and photographed before coronavirus struck, for the TV series Primates, on BBC One.

With human contact routinely kept to a minimum, life goes on much as before for the animals, says Dr Signe Preuschoft, leader of ape programmes for the charity Four Paws, which runs the rehabilitation centre in East Kalimantan.

As a precaution, the staff now have temperature checks, wear facemasks and change into uniforms on site.

…The young orphaned apes climb high into the treetops with their caregivers to help them acquire the skills they would have learned from their mothers in the wild.

They would otherwise spend more time on the ground than is natural for a species that feeds, lives and sleeps in the canopies of trees.

Baby orangutans have a huge advantage when it comes to climbing, as they can hold on “like an octopus”, says Dr Preuschoft.

“I think the orangutans were really completely thrilled when they realised that they could actually be in a canopy together with one of their moms,” she adds.

(16) VACCINE NEWS. “Coronavirus vaccine: First evidence jab can train immune system”.

The first hints that a vaccine can train people’s immune system to fight coronavirus have been reported by a company in the US.

Moderna said neutralising antibodies were found in the first eight people who took part in their safety trials.

It also said the immune response was similar to people infected with the actual virus.

Larger trials to see whether the jab actually protects against infection are expected to start in July.

Work on a coronavirus vaccine has been taking place at unprecedented speed, with around 80 groups around the world working on them.

Moderna was the first to test an experimental vaccine, called mRNA-1273, in people.

The vaccine is a small snippet of the coronavirus’s genetic code, which is injected into the patient.

It is not capable of causing an infection or the symptoms of Covid-19, but is enough to provoke a response from the immune system.

(17) THEY NEEDED TO PULL THE PLUG. BBC reports “Europe’s supercomputers hijacked by attackers for crypto mining”.

At least a dozen supercomputers across Europe have shut down after cyber-attacks tried to take control of them.

A pan-European supercomputing group says they seem to have tried to use the machines to mine cryptocurrency.

“A security exploitation” disabled access to the Archer supercomputer, at the University of Edinburgh, on 11 May.

Staff said they were working with the National Cyber Security Centre to restore the system, which had recently installed a pandemic modelling tool.

“We now believe this to be a major issue across the academic community as several computers have been compromised in the UK and elsewhere in Europe,” the team said.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “At Home With Roz Chast” on Vimeo is a portrait of the New Yorker cartoonist.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/23/20 Send Me The Pixel That You Scroll On

(1) THE TEN DOCTORS. The BBC’s Big Night In fundraising telethon broadcast April 23 included “The Doctors’ inspiring message to all frontline workers” delivered by regiment of actors who have played Doctor Who — Jodie Whittaker, Peter Capaldi, Matt Smith, David Tennant, Paul McGann, Sylvester McCoy, Colin Baker, Peter Davison, Tom Baker, and Jo Martin.

Doctors, past and present, unite together to send a powerful message to all frontline workers in the fight against coronavirus. Comic Relief and Children in Need join forces for the first time to deliver a very special night of television during these unprecedented times.The Big Night In brings the nation an evening of unforgettable entertainment in a way we’ve never seen before. More importantly, it will also raise money for and pay tribute to those on the front line fighting Covid-19 and all the unsung heroes going that extra mile to support their communities.

An excerpt from the YouTube transcript:

…We have all come together together together together together together together together for one important reason to praise salute and give the heartfelt thanks to real-life special doctors nurses and everyone everyone working on the phone lines in our NHS and care homes and hospices what you all do and have done for all of us is amazing it’s crucial phenomenal…

(2) HOLLAND CON DELAYED. Kees Van Toorn’s Reunicon 2020, a 30th anniversary celebration of the Worldcon in The Hague, has been postponed until August 2021.

Due to official regulations enforced by many countries worldwide concerning the covid-19 virus, all public events and travelling restrictions have been scrapped or postponed. That includes REUNICON 2020, alas. However, we have rescheduled the convention in August 20-22 in 2021. We are confident we will be able to host REUNICON next year, making it a good place to come to and share memories of CONFICTION 1990 as well as to remember all those we have lost in the past years and the grim period we now face. In the meantime, be well, stay healthy and take care of each other. And stay tuned for more information!

(3) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Steven Saus found a problem: “Minecraft Bug: Despawning Named Zombie Villagers”.

We discovered what seems to be a bug in Minecraft. Named mobs are not supposed to despawn when the chunk unloads, but named villagers that are turned into (named) zombie villagers end up despawning too.

.. My named villager “Bait” was turned into a named zombie villager all right, but he also immediately despawned when the chunk unloaded.

If you want to spend 90 seconds you can watch it happen – yes, I admit I did…

(4) ACHIEVEMENTS TO UNLOCK. At the SFWA Blog, Cat Rambo begins “Effective Goal Setting for Writers” with this overview:

Something I work on with my coaching clients is goal setting, which is made up of several parts:

  • figuring out where they want to be in six months to a year
  • figuring out what the milestones of that goal are and mapping them against the schedule
  • figuring out the monthly goals they need to hit in order to achieve that schedule
  • figuring out the weekly goals necessary to achieve those monthly goals

(5) US IN FLUX. The third story for Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project launched today: “When We Call a Place Home,” by Chinelo Onwualu.

On Monday, April 27 at 4 p.m. Eastern, they’ll have another virtual event on Zoom with Chinelo in conversation with Robert Evans, a conflict journalist and host of the podcasts Behind the Bastards and The Women’s War about the story “When We Call a Place Home” and the real-world community in Northern Syria that inspired the tale.

(6) REASONS REVISITED. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] In a free reprint from 2001, The London Review of Books’ Jenny Turner discusses “Reasons for liking Tolkien” — long, meaty, and balanced.

A writer, born around 1890, is famous for three novels. The first is short, elegant, an instant classic. The second, the masterpiece, has the same characters in it, is much longer and more complicated, and increasingly interested in myth and language games. The third is enormous, mad, unreadable. One answer is Joyce, of course. Another – The Hobbit (1937), The Lord of the Rings (1955), The Silmarillion (1977) – is J.R.R. Tolkien.

A writer, born around 1890, raged against ‘mass-production robot factories and the roar of self-obstructive mechanical traffic’ and ‘the rawness and ugliness of modern European life’. Instead he loved the trees and hedgerows of the English Midlands he had known as a boy, and the tales of ‘little, ultimate creatures’ he came across in the legends of the North. Clue: it wasn’t D.H. Lawrence.

A writer, born around 1890, worked bits of ancient writings into his own massive masterwork, magnificently misprising them as he went. Clue: it wasn’t Pound.

…A writer, born around 1890, declared himself a monarchist and a Catholic; and no, it wasn’t Eliot. In form, in content, in everything about it, The Lord of the Rings is the most anti-Modernist of novels. It is really very funny to think about how similar it is in so many ways to the works of the great Modernists.

(7) WHAT’S A WRITER TO DO? From The Guardian: “Margaret Atwood’s lockdown diary: life as an eccentric self-isolationist”.

As the first world war dragged on, volunteer women’s groups of all kinds formed in aid of the troops in the trenches: bandage rolling, preserved foods box packing, knitting. My grandmother joined a knitting group in rural Nova Scotia. You started on washcloths, progressed to scarves; then, if you were sufficiently adroit, you moved on to balaclavas and socks, and ultimately – the pinnacle! – to gloves. My grandmother was a terrible knitter. She never got beyond washcloths.

I’ve often wondered about these knitting groups. What were they for, really? Were they providing much-needed knitted items, or were they boosting morale by giving a bunch of otherwise very anxious civilians, whose sons and husbands were in jeopardy, something to do with their hands while waiting, waiting, endlessly waiting? I can see the socks and gloves making it to the frontlines, but the washcloths? Photographs of muddy, cramped, stinky trench life don’t show much washing going on. And my grandmother’s wonky, hole-filled washcloths in particular – were they sent to a secret depot where they were unraveled, and their wool reclaimed for something more functional?

So, in the spirit of my grandmother’s washcloths – not ultimately useful, perhaps, but let’s hope they focused the mind and gave a sense of accomplishment – I present some of my more bizarre self-isolation activities. You can do some of them at home. Though perhaps you won’t wish to.

…Another activity I’ve been doing lately is squirrel foiling. Hear a gnawing sound in the ceiling? These are your choices, in this part of the world: raccoons, possums, rats, squirrels, Google Earth. Probably squirrels, I thought, and so it proved to be. At first I foiled them by playing hot jazz and acid rock right under their gnawing station, but they got used to the wailing and screaming, so I climbed up a stepladder, placed a large steel bowl against the ceiling, and whacked it with a big metal serving spoon. Yes, I know, I shouldn’t have been doing that alone at night – the Younger Generation will scold when they read this – because people my age fall off ladders and break their necks, especially when not holding on because you need two hands for steel bowl banging. I won’t do it again, promise. (Until next time.)…

(8) MANDALORIAN MAKERS. Here’s a two-minute teaser for the next season of The Mandalorian, with appearances by Jon Favreau (creator/writer/executive producer), Dave Filoni (writer/director/executive producer), Deborah Chow (director), Bryce Dallas Howard (director), Taika Waititi (director/IG-11), Pedro Pascal (Din Djarin), Gina Carano (Cara Dune), and Carl Weathers (Greef Karga). Starts starts streaming May the 4th, on Disney+.

(9) MILLER OBIT. Ryder W. Miller (1965-2020)  passed away March 15 after a six-month fight with pancreatic cancer. A critic, poet, writer, and journalist, he was a regular contributor to The Mythic Circle, Beyond Bree, Mythprint, EGJ, and Rain Taxi, and also appeared in Mythlore. He published stories at The Lost Souls website. He is the author of Tales of Suspense and Horror, co-author of San Francisco: A Natural History, and editor of From Narnia to a Space Odyssey: The War of Letters Between Arthur C. Clarke and C.S. Lewis (ibooks, 2005).

(10) TODAY’S DAY.

Through reading and the celebration of World Book and Copyright Day, 23 April, we can open ourselves to others despite distance, and we can travel thanks to imagination.

In concert, Wikipedia has selected as its word of the day unputdownable:

Of a person, etc.: difficult or impossible to put down (in various senses). (specifically) Of a book or other written work: so captivating or engrossing that one cannot bear to stop reading it.

The unofficial annual holiday celebrates the day in 2011 when the first episode of the sixth season of the series was aired in the United KingdomUnited States, and Canada.

Doctor Who is a sci-fi series that first aired on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 1963. The show follows the adventures of the Doctor, a time-travelling alien, who travels through time and space in a time machine and spacecraft called Time and Relative Dimension in Space or TARDIS. The TARDIS looks like a London police box from the 1960s.

Called The Impossible Astronaut, the episode became one of the most appreciated and watched episodes of the series.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 23, 1974 Planet Earth premiered. Created by Gene Roddenberry, written by Roddenberry and Juanita Bartlett, it was — not surprisingly – also based on a story by Roddenberry. It starred John Saxon as Dylan Hunt. The rest of cast was Diana Muldaur, Ted Cassidy, Janet Margolin, Christopher Cary. Corrine Camacho and Majel Barrett. It was intended  as a pilot for a new weekly television series, but that never came to be. It was the second attempt by him to produce a weekly series set on a post-apocalyptic future Earth with Genesis II being the previous pilot.  Roddenberry recycled both the concepts and characters used in Genesis II. Some of the characters here would show up in the Andromeda series such as Dylan Hunt. It was generally well-received by critics at the time, and it currently has a 45% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You can watch it here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 23, 1879 Talbot Mundy. English-born, but based for most of his life in the States, he also wrote under the pseudonym of Walter Galt. Best known as the author of King of the Khyber Rifles which is not quite genre and the Jimgrim series which is genre, much of his work was published in pulp magazines. (Died 1940.)
  • Born April 23, 1923 Avram Davidson. Equally at home writing mystery, fantasy or science fiction, he wrote two splendid Ellery Queen mysteries, And on the Eighth Day and The Fourth Side of the Triangle. I’m fond of his Vergil Magus series if only for the names of the novels like The Phoenix and the Mirror or, The Enigmatic Speculum. (Died 1993.)
  • Born April 23, 1935 Tom Doherty, 85. Publisher of Ace Books who left there in 1980 to found Tor Books. Doherty was awarded a World Fantasy Award in the Lifetime Achievement category at the 2005 World Fantasy Convention for his contributions to the fantasy field.
  • Born April 23, 1946 Blair Brown, 74. Emily Jessup In Altered States (based on the Paddy Chayefsky novel) was her first genre role. Later roles include Nina Sharp, the executive director of Massive Dynamic, on Fringe, an amazing role indeed, and Elizabeth Collins Stoddard in the 2004 television remake of Dark Shadows. Her last genre role was Kate Durning on Elementary.
  • Born April 23, 1955 Paul J. McAuley, 65. Four Hundred Billion Stars, his first novel, won the Philip K. Dick Award, Fairyland which I adore won a Arthur C. Clarke Award and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel. He was Toastmaster along Kim Newman at Interaction, 
  • Born April 23, 1956 Caroline Thompson, 64. She wrote the screenplays for Tim Burton’s Edward ScissorhandsThe Nightmare Before Christmas, and Corpse Bride. A stage version of the latter with director and choreographer Matthew Bourne was co-adapted with her this year. She also wrote the screenplay for The Addams Family
  • Born April 23, 1962 John Hannah, 58. Here for being Jonathan Carnahan in The MummyThe Mummy Returns, and there was apparently a third film as well, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. In a more meaty role, he was the title characters in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and of late he’s been Holden Radcliffe on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series.
  • Born April 23, 1973 Naomi Kritzer, 47. I saw that her 2015 short story “Cat Pictures Please” had been a  Hugo Award winner at  MidAmeriCon II, so I went and purchased Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories off iBooks so I could read it. It was superb as is her newest novel Catfishing on CatNet which is nominated for a Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book at this year’s Hugos.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) STILL IN THE DUGOUT. Last year Chris Barkley sent retiring Cincinnati Reds baseball broadcaster Marty Brennaman a copy of his “So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask” column full of advice about how to improve Major League Baseball, and he was ecstatic to finally receive an answer.

(15) EARTH DAY. Brain Pickings will celebrate Earth Day on April 25 with its The Universe in Verse event, a charitable celebration of science and nature through poetry, streaming on Vimeo.

“I don’t think it would have been conceivable to me when I was seventeen that science would ever need defending, let alone by a poet,” the poet Jane Hirshfield says in her beautiful and poignant meditation on her memory of the first Earth Day in 1970, prefacing her reading at the 2020 Universe in Verse, celebrating 50 years of Earth Day. (Tune into the global broadcast at 4:30PM EST on Saturday, April 25, to hear Hirshfield and a constellation of other radiant minds.

…Expect readings of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Adrienne Rich, Pablo Neruda, June Jordan, Mary Oliver, Audre Lorde, Wendell Berry, Hafiz, Rachel Carson, James Baldwin, and other titans of poetic perspective, performed by a largehearted cast of scientists and artists, astronauts and poets, Nobel laureates and Grammy winners: Physicists Janna LevinKip Thorne, and Brian Greene, musicians Rosanne CashPatti SmithAmanda PalmerZoë KeatingMorley, and Cécile McLorin Salvant, poets Jane HirshfieldRoss GayMarie Howe, and Natalie Diaz, astronomers Natalie Batalha and Jill Tarter, authors Rebecca SolnitElizabeth GilbertMasha GessenRoxane GayRobert Macfarlane, and Neil Gaiman, astronaut Leland Melvin, playwright and activist V (formerly Eve Ensler), actor Natascha McElhone, entrepreneur Tim Ferriss, artists Debbie MillmanDustin Yellin, and Lia Halloran, cartoonist Alison Bechdel, radio-enchanters Krista Tippett and Jad Abumrad, and composer Paola Prestini with the Young People’s Chorus. As always, there are some thrilling surprises in wait.

(16) ANATOMY OF A BLACK HOLE. “In a photo of a black hole, a possible key to mysteries” from the Harvard Gazette.

So little is known about them and the image hints at a path to a higher-resolution image and more and better data

Billions of people worldwide marveled at the first image ever captured of a black hole. The photo of the glowing, blurry doughnut, taken by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) team, showed the massive dark region, a monster the size of our solar system, that, like its peers, gobbles up everything — even light — that ventures too close.

“I definitely got shivers down my spine,” said Alexander Lupsasca, a junior fellow in Harvard’s Center for the Fundamental Laws of Nature, remembering the moment he saw the photo for the first time. It was thrilling because so very little is known about black holes. And now, Lupsasca and a team of scientists at Harvard’s Black Hole Initiative say the image may help provide more answers: Hidden within the glowing ring are an infinite number of sub-rings that offer a way to capture an even higher-resolution image and more precise data on the massive enigmas of the universe.

“They’re paradoxical objects. They’re the epitome of what we don’t understand,” said Andrew Strominger, the Gwill E. York Professor of Physics at Harvard. “And it’s very exciting to see something that you don’t understand.” Black holes are one of the great puzzles of modern physics — where Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and quantum mechanics collide. Scientists still know so little about them — their mass, how fast they spin, what’s inside their warped space-time. Until the EHT produced the first actual image, Strominger could only investigate their mysteries with complex mathematics, pencil, and paper. “I cried when I saw their picture,” he said. Then, he asked: “What can we learn from this?”

…“As we peer into these rings, first, second, third, etc., we are looking at light from all over the visible universe; we are seeing farther and farther into the past, a movie, so to speak, of the history of the visible universe,” said Peter Galison, the Joseph Pellegrino University Professor of the History of Science and of Physics, in the Black Hole Initiative’s press release.

(17) A DREAM WITHIN A DREAM. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A new project at MIT may allow one to control lucid dreams (those in which you’re aware you’re dreaming)… at least a bit. As one drops into hypnagogia, that liminal state between being awake and being asleep, a wearable in development detects this and triggers a pre-selected one-word audio cue. In theory this may help the wearer to be like David Beckham and bend a lucid dream to follow a desired trajectory.

To say that the Popular Mechanics article’s author, Caroline Delbert, is skeptical of the usefulness of this would be an understatement. “Would You Wear This Glove to Hack Your Dreams?”

(18) DRAWING FOR HEALTH. “The Japanese monster going viral” – BBC has the story.

People across the world are drawing images of a mythical Japanese spirit believed to help ward off plagues.

In Japan, as parts of the country declare a state of emergency, people here have been reacting to the Covid-19 pandemic in a unique way: by sharing images online of a mystical, mermaid-like being believed to ward off plagues.

Largely forgotten for generations, Amabie, as it’s known, is an auspicious yokai (a class of supernatural spirits popularised through Japanese folklore) that was first documented in 1846. As the story goes, a government official was investigating a mysterious green light in the water in the former Higo province (present-day Kumamoto prefecture). When he arrived at the spot of the light, a glowing-green creature with fishy scales, long hair, three fin-like legs and a beak emerged from the sea.

Amabie introduced itself to the man and predicted two things: a rich harvest would bless Japan for the next six years, and a pandemic would ravage the country. However, the mysterious merperson instructed that in order to stave off the disease, people should draw an image of it and share it with as many people as possible.

(19) HEAL, SPOT HEAL! Spot the Robot Dog is trying out for a job as a telemedicine worker reports Forbes: “Spot The Robot Dog Roams The Coronavirus Pandemic’s Front Lines”.

Spot, the famous robot dog from Boston Dynamics, has been conscripted into service to work on the front lines helping medical professionals battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Engineers at the company, which was formerly a subsidiary of Google before being purchased by Softbank, have been working for the past six weeks to develop the means for Spot to help reduce the exposure of healthcare workers.

So far Spot has been working with Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where robots outfitted with a special payload are deployed in triage tents and parking lots to help staff receive patients suspected to have COVID-19 and perform initial assessments.

“With the use of a mobile robot, hospitals are able to reduce the number of necessary medical staff at the scene and conserve their limited PPE supply,” explains a release from Boston Dynamics.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. A video on YouTube as “vol. 5 Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798/1861)” is an animation by Pasquale D’Amico of works by a 19th-century macabre Japanese artist.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/27/20 The Software Responsible For The Captions Has Been Sacked

(1) GRANTS AND EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE FOR CREATIVES. Jason Sanford’s updated “COVID-19 resources, info, and assistance for the science fiction, fantasy, & horror communities” includes a number of emergency funds open to writers and artists, along with info on genre conventions, freelancing and more.

(2) RESEARCHERS WANT MORE INTERVIEWS WITH TOLKIEN FANS. Robin Reid is asking for help to spread the word:

The link below leads to my Digital Tolkien class discussion about the Marquette Tolkien Oral History Project created and curated by Bill Fliss. This project is incredible effort to create an online accessible archive of interviews with Tolkien fans that consists of podcasts and transcriptions of the interviews for fan and academic meta. You can read all about the process at the link, but I’m asking for your help circulating the project information in fan spaces to generate more interviews. My sense is that Tumblr would be a great space to advertise it, along with some others, but I’m not in the least literate or comfortable in Tumblr (I tried it. I failed it). But if you all were willing to spread the information, it would be great!

(3) BEFORE THE TUCKER HOTEL. Now on the First Fandom Experience blog: “A Visit To Science Fiction House” (1939-40), from the papers of Donald A. Wollheim.

…The notion of a “Science Fiction House” emerged in New York fandom in the late 1930s and became real with the establishment of a residence in Brooklyn known as Futurian House. The story of that fabled abode is told in detail in the October 1939 and January 1940 issues of the Jim Avery’s M.S.A. Bulletin, the club organ of the Maine Scientifiction Association.

But Wollheim had already formed a vision of an idyllic communal living space for fans. This fictional history, sadly incomplete, is dated December 3 1937.  The post contains scans of his original three-page document.  Enjoy!

(4) ON THE ROAD AGAIN. [Item by Olav Rokne.] NME reports that Anna Taylor-Joy has auditioned (via skype due to Coronavirus) for a role in the Mad Max spin off Furiosa. The movie, which is set to film in 2021 is one of the productions that seems to have recently escaped development hell, as studios are gearing up for accelerated production schedules post-Coronavirus. “‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ spin-off ‘Furiosa’ reportedly in production”.  

Director George Miller is ready to return to the iconic post-apocalyptic world after the green light was given for shooting to take place in Australia this autumn, according to Geeks WorldWide.

(5) HALEGUA OBIT. Veteran pulp collector Mark Halegua died March 18 at the age 66. Murania Press’ Ed Hulse has an obituary for Mark on his blog: “Mark Halegua (1953-2020), R.I.P.” One of the highlights —

At the 1997 Pulpcon in Bowling Green, Ohio, I recognized Mark from the comic-book conventions and introduced myself. During our first brief conversation I learned he was a fan and collector of the “Thrilling Group” pulps edited by Leo Margulies and published by Ned Pines. He was compiling complete sets of The Phantom DetectiveBlack Book Detective (with his favorite character, the Black Bat), and Captain Future, among others. He liked hero pulps in general and also had a fondness for science fiction.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 27, 1957 X Minus One’s  “A Pail of Air”  aired. . A family are together in their nest. Everything is calm for the moment, but at any moment the mother could wake and start to ramble on about things that don’t exist anymore. Things such as the sun and grass. Or are things as they believe they are? Written by Fritz Leiber for Galaxy in December 1952, the radio script was by Pamela Fitzmaurice, with the cast being Ronald Liss and Eleanor Phelps. Daniel Sutter was the director. You can download it here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 27, 1892 Thorne Smith. A writer of humorous supernatural fantasy. He is best remembered for the two Topper novels — a comic fantasy fiction mix of plentiful drink, many ghosts and sex. Not necessarily in that order.  The original editions of the Topper novels complete with their erotic illustrations are available from the usual digital sources. (Died 1934.)
  • Born March 27, 1901 Carl Barks. Cartoonist, writer, and illustrator. He is best known for his work in Disney comic books, as the writer and artist of the first Donald Duck stories and as the creator of Scrooge McDuck. He wrote The Fine Art of Walt Disney’s Donald Duck and Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge McDuck. He was one of the three inaugural inductees of the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame. (Died 2000.)
  • Born March 27, 1942 Michael York, 78. I remember him in the Babylon 5  “A Late Delivery from Avalon” episode as a man who believed himself to be King Arthur returned. Very chilling. I also enjoyed him as D’Artagnan in the Musketeers films and remember him as Logan 5 in Logan’s Run. So what is on his genre list that really impresses you?
  • Born March 27, 1949 John Hertz, 71. Winner of the Big Heart Award at the 2003 Torcon. He’s quite active in the fanzine world publishing the Vanamonde fanzine. Four collections of his fanwriting have been published, West of the MoonDancing and Joking, On My Sleeve, and Neither Complete nor Conclusive. He‘s been  nominated for the Hugo for Best Fan Writer three times.
  • Born March 27, 1952 Dana Stabenow, 68. Though better known for her superb Kate Shugak detective series, she does have genre work to her credit in the excellent Star Svensdotter space series. The latter is available at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born March 27, 1962 Kevin J. Anderson, 58. Ok, I’ll admit that I love first two Dune books and have only read the first four of them, so I’m puzzled what the market is for eighteen novels and counting that he and his co-writer have written that have expanded that universe. I mean he’s really, really prolific — he even co-wrote Clockwork Angels with Neil Peart, a novelization of Rush’s 20th studio album of the same name! 
  • Born March 27, 1971 Nathan Fillion, 49. Certainly best known for being Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds in Firefly verse. An interesting case of just how much of a character comes from the actor. In his case, I’d say most of it. He voiced Green Lantern/Hal Jordan in Justice League: DoomJustice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and Justice League: Throne of AtlantisThe Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen. Oh, and he appeared in a recurring role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer as Caleb.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio begins Tolkien-inspired gardening.

(9) NOTORIOUS F.I.L.E.

(10) A HIGHER TECH PRACTICAL JOKE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Be sure to follow the link to the Facebook post. It will take you to the page where the Chain Chomp is being sold. Anchor one to the floor just inside the bathroom door after everyone else has gone to bed…

(11) CLARION’S ONLINE OFFERINGS. Clarion West is offering a series of free online workshops.

Our amazing community of alumni, instructors, and friends has come together to create a robust and diverse offering. We have everything from one-hour presentations on specific areas of craft to week-long interactive workshops. There are also writing sprints to help you get words down on paper.

The workshop class list is here, and it can be found under Workshops -> Online Workshops.

We’re particularly excited to offer several teen workshops with the help of the Bureau of Fearless Ideas.

Registration opens at 12pm PST Friday, March 27th. It is first-come, first-served and most workshops are capped at 20 participants.

(12) YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE. Vox kicks off its list of “The 10 best movies you can now watch at home” with Bacurau, a film which some fans are seeking an eligibility extension for the 2021 Hugos:

Virtual theater listings for Bacurau are available on the Kino Lorber website. (You’ll receive a rental link, and the profits will help support the independent theater you select on the page.)

And here’s the Kino Lorber link — Bacurauwith description of the film.

(13) EATING THE FANTASTIC TIME CAPSULE. Scott Edelman invites listeners to time travel to 1995 as Geoffrey A. Landis and Yoji Kondo ponder the age of the universe in a flashback episode of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

When I launched Science Fiction Age in 1992, one of the things I decided to do to deliver a different experience than other science fiction publications of the time was to have our science column be — not an essay by a single author — but a Science Forum. There was an occasional exception, but for the most part, from the very beginning, until the magazine shut down in 2000, I’d take science fiction writers who were also scientists out for a meal, we’d eat, we’d chat, and I’d record the results for publication.

A couple of years back, I realized that since I’d been eating in restaurants talking about the fantastic with science fiction writers, it made sense to repurpose what conversations survived for this podcast. And now, with the coronavirus making meals in restaurants either risky or impossible depending on your location, I thought it would be fun to share yet another time travel episode.

At the time of this conversation 25 years ago, Geoffrey A. Landis worked for Sverdrup Technology at the NASA Lewis Research Center and was named by Ad Astra magazine as a “cutting edge” theorist in the special issue on the “stars” of space. As an SF writer, Geoffrey Landis had won the Hugo Award for “A Walk in the Sun” and a Nebula Award for “Ripples in the Dirac Sea.” In the quarter century since, he’s won 2003 Hugo Award for best short story “Falling Onto Mars,” the 2011 Theodore Sturgeon Award for best short science fiction for “The Sultan of the Clouds,” and the 2014 Robert A. Heinlein Award.

A quarter of a century ago, Yoji Kondo, an astrophysicist, was the director of the geosynchronous satellite observatory IUE. The previous year, he co-organized and co-chaired the International Astronomical Union Symposium on “Examining the Big Bang” in The Hague. Under the pseudonym Eric Kotani, he had written five SF books, four with John Maddox Roberts and one with Roger MacBride Allen. Since that time, he published an additional novel with Roberts, as well as the Star Trek Voyager novel Death of A Neutron Star. In 2003, the Lunarians awarded him its Isaac Asimov Memorial Award. Sadly, Kondo passed away October 9, 2017.

We discussed how the idea of the universe even having a beginning is a relatively new concept, the way we choose between the many competing theories of its age, how the phrase “Big Bang” was a joke which stuck, the paradox of some stars appearing to be older than the universe itself, how a science fiction writer’s imagination might solve unanswered questions, whether knowing when the universe was born will help us calculate when it will end, and more.

(14) US SPACE FORCE. “US Space Force launches satellite after short delay”.

The US military’s newest branch has launched its first satellite, despite a short delay in the countdown.

A rocket carrying a US Space Force communications satellite lifted off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Thursday.

An inaccurate reading on hydraulic equipment stopped the clock for 80 minutes before the issue was resolved.

US President Donald Trump established the Space Force, which is focused on warfare in space, in December 2019.

Lieutenant General John F Thompson, Commander of the Space and Missiles Systems Centre in California, explained why the launch was proceeding despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is a really, really important launch,” he said. “It’s the very first launch for the US Space Force.

“There are critical things, or mission essential things, that the US Department of Defence does every day. Even in the face of a global pandemic we must continue to perform mission essential tasks.

“[The satellite] supports the president and other world leaders with critical communications around the planet. This launch extends that communication into a timeframe beyond 2030.”

“US Space Force launches first national security mission”  [video].

The United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The launch was delayed by an hour due to a ground hydraulics issue.

The public viewing area was closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic.

(15) DIRECT ACTION. “Tesla donates hundreds of ventilators to New York”.

Elon Musk has promised to provide New York with hundreds of ventilators to help meet demand from the growing coronavirus outbreak.

The Tesla chief executive said the first batch of donated machines would be delivered later on Friday.

The ventilators were purchased from US government-approved manufacturers in China.

The mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio thanked Mr Musk on Twitter writing “We’re deeply grateful.”

“We need every ventilator we can get our hands on these next few weeks to save lives,” he tweeted.

The ventilators will be donated to hospitals in New York City and across New York state.

(16) FEAR ITSELF. Following up on a mention of him the other day, “Max Brooks Has Been Called The ‘Zombie Laureate’” is a clip of his appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in 2017.

‘Minecraft: The Island’ author Max Brooks explains the paranoid upbringing that led him to write about the undead.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/24/20 A Robot Shall Not Stand Less Than Six Feet From A Human, Nor, Through Inaction, Let One Get That Close

(1) MAKE IT SO. Entertainment Weekly brings word that “All episodes of Star Trek: Picard are now free to non-subscribers”.  

More entertainment fodder for your shelter-in-place: Star Trek: Picard is now free to non-subscribers to CBS All Access.

Or, put more accurately: Non-paid subscribers. You’ll still have to sign up for the CBS streaming service to watch the show, but now there’s a coupon code that unlocks Picard: “GIFT.”

There are nine episodes from the show’s first season available now, and the season finale drops on Thursday.

(2) SIT LIKE A CAPTAIN. While you’re binge-watching, you might think about refurnishing your living room with an assortment of the “Commercially Available Chairs in Star Trek”.

Countless off-the-shelf office chairs, lounge chairs or car seats appeared in Star Trek productions. Here is a list of the models that we identified, among them many design classics.

See also a list of unidentified chairs and help us track their origin.

(3) WISCON. Today this year’s WisCon was cancelled:

We are currently working on an online event to replace it — a WisCOnline, if you will. More details will be coming in a second blog post by next Monday (March 30).

WisCon 45, in May 2021, will be a banger, with all the elements of WisCon 44 that we are unable to carry off online, as well as all of the normal elements of WisCon 45! More details will be coming soon on W45 as we confirm them; watch this space!

(4) TOLKIEN READING DAY IS MARCH 25. Actors, scholars and fans will participate in the livestreamed Tolkien Reading Day tomorrow. The Tolkien Collector’s Guide tells where to link up and who’ll be reading. The participants’ schedule is at the link (scroll down).

The live streaming event will take place on Discord, a wonderful service for audio and text chatting – a free account will be needed to participate. The link you will need for the event is https://discord.gg/ZJfh7xD if you want to participate in the live text chat or want to be a reader. If you just want to listen, the live stream should be available on YouTube, thanks to the excellent support of the German Tolkien Society (Deutsche Tolkien Gessellshaft e.V.) – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCerbg8qXXeiQEvxq7u6Kz6w

You are welcome to join in at any time, though there will not be any scheduled readings until March 25th. If you would like to schedule a time to read something, please contact me through private message and we will work it out. Open mic readings will take place all day long as well if you just want to drop in.

Some of the guest readers will be: Marcel Aubron-Bülles, Dr. Luke Shelton, John Garth, Carl Hostetter, Dr. Andrew Higgins, Jason Fisher, Brian Sibley, Chica Chubb (Japan), Dr. Sara Brown, Stephen Hunter (“Bombur” in The Hobbit movies), Bruce Hopkins (“Gamling” in The Lord of the Rings movies), Ted Nasmith, Verlyn Flieger, and Dr. Una McCormack

(5) KAYMAR. Fan artist Jose Sanchez is the winner of the 2020 Kaymar Award, given by the National Fantasy Fan Federation.

Jose’s artistic contributions have added brilliance to the covers of the N3F’s magazines, including N’APA, Tightbeam, and Eldritch Science. Three cheers for Jose’s contributions! And may they long continue!

(6) POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE INFLUENCES. In “How N.K. Jemisin’s The City We Became came to be”, Entertainment Weekly interviews he author about influences on the work.  

Jemisin cites the recent debates over the World Fantasy Award (which has traditionally been shaped as a bust of H.P. Lovecraft despite the “Call of Cthulhu” author’s public record of vile racism) as one of the main inspirations for The City We Became. That aforementioned “otherworldly threat” facing New York resembles both Lovecraft’s work and his life. The Enemy, as the characters refer to their many-headed foe, sometimes appears in the form of strange tentacled monsters (very reminiscent of Lovecraft’s signature Great Old Ones), but other times disguise themselves in human form as white gentrifiers and alt-right racists. Lovecraft himself lived in New York for a time, and documented in letters how repellent he found the city’s signature mix of people from all ethnicities and walks of life.

“It’s basically me mentally and spiritually engaging with the whole idea of how so much fantasy owes itself to Lovecraft, while overlooking his glaring flaws,” Jemisin says. “I also read some of his letters where you can see him just being horrifically racist, using the same language to refer to people in New York City the same way he refers to the Great Old Ones and Nyarlathotep and all the other creations of his. It’s kind of a deep dive into how pathological racists think. You cannot read Lovecraft without understanding that this is what’s in Stephen Miller’s head. There are all these people out there who sadly and horrifyingly now have positions of power, and they think of their fellow human beings this way.”

(7) UDERZO OBIT. Albert Uderzo (co-creator of Asterix) has died at 92 according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Astérix, which has a cult following, particularly in Europe, has also become a major film franchise, both in animated and live-action form. The property has spawned a number of cinematic adaptations, most notably 1999’s Asterix & Obelix Take on Caesar, starring Gerard Depardieu and Roberto Benigni.

Asterix debuted in October 1959 in the French magazine Pilote, created by René Goscinny and Uderzo. Two years later, the first stand-alone effort, Astérix the Gaul, was released. Since then, the series has gone on to sell more than 380 million copies, translated into more than 100 languages internationally. The duo collaborated on the comic until the death of Goscinny in 1977. Uderzo then took over the writing until 2009.

The Guardian accompanied its main obituary (“Asterix creator Albert Uderzo dies at 92”) with two sidebar articles about the comic and its creators:

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 24, 1946 The Shadow’s “The Walking Corpse” first aired. Like most of The Shadow stories aired after the brief glorious run of Orson Welles as The Shadow in the Thirties, little is known about who was involved it in though it is known that Eric Walker was the writer. We were unable to pin down who were the actors involved, nor who the sponsors were. If you listen to the episode, do tell us what you find out! 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 24, 1834 William Morris. Credited with creating the modern fantasy literature genre, he certainly wrote some of its earlier works, to note his epic poem The Earthly ParadiseThe Wood Beyond the World and The Well at the World’s End, plus his entire artistic motif fits nearly within a fantasy literature and artistic design that looks as if it was created by the Fey Themselves. All of his works can be found at the usual digital suspects, often at no cost. (Died 1896.)
  • Born March 24, 1874 Harry Houdini. His literary career intersects the genre world in interesting ways. Though it’s not known which, many of his works were written by his close friend Walter B. Gibson who as you know is the creator of The Shadow. And one famous story of his, “Imprisoned with the Pharaohs”, was actually ghost-written by Lovecraft! ISFDB lists another piece of genre fiction for him, “The Spirit Fakers of Hermannstad.” (Died 1926.)
  • Born March 24, 1897 Theodora Kroeber. Mother of Ursula K. Le Guin. Anthropologist. Ishi in Two Worlds is the work she’s most remembered for. ISFDB lists her as having but one genre work, a children book titled Carrousel with illustrations by Douglas Tait. (Died 1979.)
  • Born March 24, 1924 Peter George. Welsh author, most remembered for the late Fifties Red Alert novel, published first as Two Hours To Doom and written under the name of Peter Bryant. The book was the basis of Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. (Died 1966.)
  • Born March 24, 1930 Steve McQueen. He got his big break by being the lead, Steve Andrews, in The Blob. Setting aside the two different roles on Alfred Hitchcock Presents he had which are at least genre adjacent, The Blob is his only genre appearance in his brief life. (Died 1980.)
  • Born March 24, 1941 Henry Glassie, 79. Folklorist who’s the author of one of my all-time fav Christmas books, All Silver and No Brass: An Irish Christmas Mumming. I was delighted to see that ISFDB say he has two works of genre fiction, “Coals on the Devil’s Hearth“ and “John Brodison and the Policeman”. Both are to be found in the Jane Yolen anthology, Favorite Folktales from Around the World which is available at all the usual digital suspects.
  • Born March 24, 1946 Gary K. Wolfe, 74. Monthly reviewer for Locus for twenty-seven years now and yes, I enjoy his column a lot. His brief marriage to Ellen R. Weil which ended with her tragic early death resulted in them co-writing Harlan Ellison: The Edge of Forever.  Old Earth Books has reprinted many of his reviews done between 1992 and 2006 in  Soundings: Reviews 1992-1996. He’s also written several critical looks at the genre, Critical Terms for Science Fiction and Fantasy and The Known and the Unknown: The Iconography of Science Fiction.
  • Born March 24, 1946 Andrew I. Porter, 74. Editor, publisher, fan.  Major member of NYC regional fandom starting in the early Sixties. APA publisher and edition in mind boggling numbers with Algol: The Magazine About Science Fiction which became Starship. He won a Hugo for Best Fanzine in 1974, in a tie with Richard E. Geis. who was doing SFR. He sold Science Fiction Chronicle which he founded in May 1980 to DNA Publications in May 2000 and was fired in 2002. Algol/Starship lasted less than five years despite the exceedingly superb reading it was. He has won myriad awards, including the Big Heart Award at a recent Worldcon. He has attended hundreds of science fiction conventions and nearly forty Worldcons since his first in ‘63. He was Fan Guest of Honor at several conventions, including the 1990 Worldcon.
  • Born March 24, 1949 Tabitha King, 71. Wife of Stephen, mother of that writing brood. I met her but once on the lot of the original Pet Sematary a very long time ago. ISFDB to my surprise lists only two novels she’s written solely by herself, Small World and Wolves at the Door, and one with Michael McDowell, Candles Burning. None of her books are with her husband which surprised me. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio explains to us why some aliens might wish to visit our planet: 
  • Half Full, using a Batman reference, proves again that English is a funny language.
  • The Argyle Sweater has a horror, and horrible, pun.
  • Grant Snider’s cartoon is not genre, but is apropos to the times.

(11) CALLING SHORT ORDER COOKS. The editorial team of Journey Planet is looking for articles, artwork, creative writing, or anything printable for their upcoming issue dedicated to DC’s Swamp Thing.  Anything related to that character in comics, film, and television — live action or animated — is all good.  They’ve received great submissions already. They’d like yours as well.  Send entries to Chuck Serface at ceserface@gmail.com by April 1, 2020. The issue will appear shortly thereafter.

(12) FREE BOOK OFFER. To encourage folks to STAY AT HOME, Black Coat Press is now offering one free book to anyone who will write to them and request one! You have a choice between four titles:

Send them an email at info@blackcoatpress.com telling (1) which title you desire, and (2) if you want to receive it as a PDF or an EPUB file. That’s all! No strings! No archiving of email addresses! Please stay home!

(13) THE ROOTS OF HORROR. The Horror Writers Association is rolling out a “Haunted Library of Horror Classics”.

The Horror Writers Association (HWA) and Poisoned Pen Press, an imprint of SourceBooks, present the Haunted Library of Horror Classics, a line of reissued classic horror literature books from over the past 250 years. These books are recognized as literary masterpieces of their era and are either remembered today only through distorted theatrical or movie versions, have been relegated to academic study, or have otherwise been nearly forgotten entirely.

Series editors Eric J. Guignard and Leslie S. Klinger now bring back these seminal titles of the genre, making them easily available to modern readers!

(14) IT’S A LONG WAY FROM AMPHIOXUS. Earlier than even the earliest bird — “Fossil worm shows us our evolutionary beginnings”.

A worm-like creature that burrowed on the seafloor more than 500 million years ago may be key to the evolution of much of the animal kingdom.

The organism, about the size of a grain of rice, is described as the earliest example yet found in the fossil record of a bilaterian

These are animals that have a front and back, two symmetrical sides, and openings at either end joined by a gut.

The discovery is described in the journal PNAS.

The scientists behind it say the development of bilateral symmetry was a critical step in the evolution of animal life.

It gave organisms the ability to move purposefully and a common, yet successful way to organize their bodies.

A multitude of animals, from worms to insects to dinosaurs to humans, are organised around this same basic bilaterian body plan.

Scott Evans, of the University of California at Riverside, and colleagues have called the organism Ikaria wariootia.

(15) NOT JUST HAMBURGERS. “Could synthetic fish be a better catch of the day?” It’s not impossible…

…”Simply put, we are running out of fish,” says Daniel Pauly, a professor of fisheries at the Institute of Oceans and Fisheries at the University of British Columbia. “And the situation, the trend line, is getting worse every year.”

“Maybe centuries ago we could live off hunting for our food but we can’t live off hunting today and fishing is hunting. The notion of hunting in the 21st century to feed 10 billion people is absurd.”

A handful of start-up firms think they might have the answer. They are experimenting with growing fish “meat” in the lab.

Mainly based in Silicon Valley with a couple in Europe and Asia, they have developed techniques to extract fish stem cells and grow them into commercial quantities of edible flesh.

Stem cells are a type of cell, found in embryos or adult creatures – which can grow into a number of different specialised cells. They can grow into the muscle cells which make up most the parts of fish people like to eat.

(16) SORRY, WRONG NUMBER. Here’s how NASA dresses up its 404 error messages.

(17) COUNTRY AND MANDALORIAN WESTERN MUSIC. Funk Turkey’s “El Mando” is the sequel to “Big Mandalorian Iron”.

They’ve also released “The Jedi Went Down to Tattooine” –

What happens when you mix The Phantom Menace with Charlie Daniels? An outer rim ho-down, ya’ll. Strap in and enjoy this before the mouse yeets it.

(18) JIM BUTCHER DOUBLE PLAY. A new trailer for Peace Talks (the next Dresden) just came out — and at about the 1:49 mark of the trailer comes the announcement that another new Dresden, called Battle Ground, will be coming out in September of this year.

PEACE TALKS by Jim Butcher, Book 16 of the five-time #1 NYT Bestselling Dresden Files book series. Coming July 14th in hardcover, ebook, and audio formats from Penguin Random House.

And if that’s not enough for you, Andrew Liptak has rounded up “More Details From Jim Butcher and Priscilla Spencer on The Dresden Files Short Film and Surprise Book Announcement” at Tor.com.

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Dann, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Michael Toman, John King Tarpinian, Olav Rokne, Chuck Serface, Nina Shepardson, Darrah Chavey, Daniel Dern, Danny Sichel, Paul Di Filippo, Contrarius, and birthday boy Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 2/16/20 I Scroll. The Pixels Take The Same Shape As A Previous Title. All Scroll. O The Embarrassment

(1) FOR WANT OF A NAIL. A Miss Manners column linked here earlier in the month has now made its appearance in the Washington Post“Miss Manners: ‘Losers’ party’ goes from bad to worse”. The comments have led a few hundred people to File 770’s post “GRRM on the Hugo Losers Party”.

Dear Miss Manners: I was nominated for an award, which I did not win — and that’s fine!

Before the awards ceremony, all nominees were given an invitation to the “losers’ party” after the ceremony. The party was off-site, and we (losing nominees and our plus-ones) were taken there in buses.

I was on the second bus, and when we arrived, we found out that entry into the party venue had been cut off due to capacity concerns. Our bus driver refused to take us back to the original venue, and we were all left standing in the street on a chilly evening, wearing our nice clothes — “we” being at least 50 people….

(2) BACK TO BACK. Nerdbot points out another remarkable example of what you cn do with tech today: “Here’s RDJ & Tom Holland As Doc And Marty In Back To The Future”.

Deepfake videos never cease to amaze me. They do such an amazing job that it’s hard to imagine that they aren’t really performing the part. Now EZRyderX47 on YouTube has created a mash up of Back to the Future with none other than our favorite Marvel dynamic, Robert Downey Jr. and Tom Holland. Check out the film down below.

(3) SWEAR IN THE PANEL. [Item by Daniel Dern.] “Anti-solar panel can generate electricity at night, researchers say”Inverse has the story.

Researchers from the University of California, Davis explain in a new paper that was just published in the journal ACS Photonics that if you want to create a solar panel that generates electricity at night, then you just have to create one that operates the exact opposite way solar panels work during the day. It’s being referred to as the “anti-solar panel.”

Solar panels are cold compared to the Sun, so they absorb the Sun’s light and turn it into energy. Space is very cold, so if you point a panel on Earth that is comparatively warm toward it, it will radiate heat as invisible infrared light. This allows you to generate electricity by capturing that power. The paper claims such a device could generate about a quarter of the electricity at night that a normal solar panel generates during the day.

Jeremy Munday, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at UC Davis who is an author of the paper, tells Inverse that whether it’s a solar panel or this anti-solar panel, these things are essentially just “heat engines.”

(Music to cue up: Flanders and Swann, “…heat can’t pass from the cooler to the hotter” from their “First & Second Law” (of thermodynamics, not robotics.)

And here’s a dramatic (and dramatized) (not sung) version: “First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics”

Finally, here’s a charming version via Oberlin! “First and Second Laws — Scofield, Lemberger, and Owen”

Oberlin College Physics Professors John H. Scofield and Rob Owen along with OC senior physics major Ben Lemberger (piano) perform Flanders and Swann’s “First and Second Laws” for intro physics class on May 7, 2014.

(4) FOLLOWED BY A SECRET PANEL. “13 things you didn’t know about Ray Bradbury” from RayBradbury.com.

2

The Secret Panel

Not only did Bradbury create fantastical worlds with pen and paper, he also lived in a surreal world of his own creation. His Beverly Hills office (just like his home basement office) was filled with items that tickled his imagination: cartoons, figurines, stuffed animals, masks, and magic. In fact, Bradbury was so often lost in his own imaginary world that he would forget the demands of reality. He regularly forgot the keys to his office, but he solved this minor inconvenience by using a secret sliding panel.

(5) SFF AT BOOKEXPO 2020. Machado and Roanhorse will be there: “Reedpop Announces Annual Adult Book & Author Breakfast Lineup at BookExpo 2020”.

The lineup for BookExpo’s Adult Book & Author Breakfast, scheduled for Thursday, May 28, has been announced. Zerlina Maxwell, radio host and MSNBC political analyst, will host and discuss her new book The End of White Politics: How to Heal Our Liberal Divide (Hachette Books), which will hit stores just a few days earlier, on May 26.

Joining Maxwell will be United States Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, there to present When the Light of the World was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through, a Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry featuring the work of more than 160 poets from nearly 100 indigenous nations; bestselling author Carmen Maria Machado, who will discuss her upcoming comic book debut, The Low, Low Woods, a new horror comic from Joe Hill’s imprint at DC; U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar (D.-Minn.), onstage to showcase her forthcoming memoir, This Is What America Looks Like, arriving from HarperCollins on May 26; and fantasy author Rebecca Roanhorse, there to discuss her novel Black Sun, the first book in a new epic fantasy trilogy about four warring matriarchies vying for power, to be published by Gallery/Saga Press.

(6) REMINGTON OBIT. Artist Barbara Remington, whose work included iconic covers of paperback editions of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, has died at the age of 90 reports Comicbook.com.

…Remington is best known for illustrating Ballantine Books’ paperback editions of Tolkien’s fantasy novels, which began to be published in 1965 and quickly gained a cult status amongst readers. According to The New York Times, Remington died on January 23rd in Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, with her longtime friend John Bromberg citing breast cancer as the cause of death.

As Remington revealed in an interview with Andwerve, her work on the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit covers came about on a very tight deadline.

“Ballantine was in a hurry to get these books out right away,” Remington revealed. “When they commissioned me to do the artwork, I didn’t have the chance to see either book, though I tried to get a copy through my friends. So I didn’t know what they were about. I tried finding people that had read them, but the books were not readily available in the states, and so I had sketchy information at best.”

“When Tolkien saw the fruit tree, he asked, ‘What are pumpkins doing in a tree?’ Of course they weren’t pumpkins, but he wasn’t sure what they were,” Remington added. “He was especially perplexed about the lion on the cover because there are no lions in the story. He requested that Ballantine remove the lions from the cover, so they painted them over for later books.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 16, 1939 Chuck Crayne. An important conrunner who died before his time. (I’m quoting Mike there, so please don’t complain.) He was a LASFS member who was most active during the Sixties and Seventies. You can read Mike’s full post on him here. (Died 2009.)
  • Born February 16, 1951 William Katt, 69. Ralph Hinkley, the lead of The Greatest American Hero. A series I know I watched and loved at the time.  In December 1975, he auditioned for the part of Luke Skywalker But didn’t get the role obviously. 
  • Born February 16, 1953 Mike Glyer, 67. Let’s praise the man who’s created the finest online community for SFF fandom that one could possibly hope for. One that entertains and educates us. It’s no wonder that he has won the Best Fan Writer Hugo four times and File 770 Itself has won the Best Fanzine Hugo seven times. Happy Birthday Mike!
  • Born February 16, 1954 Iain M. Banks. I’m certain I’ve read the entire Culture series even though I certainly didn’t read them in the order they were written. My favorites? The Hydrogen Sonata was bittersweet for being the last ever, Use of Weapons and the very first, Consider Phlebas, are also my favs. And though not genre, I’m still going to make a plug for Raw Spirit: In Search of the Perfect Dram. It’s about whisky, good food and his love of sports cars. (Died 2013.)
  • Born February 16, 1957 Ardwight Chamberlain, 63. The voice of Kosh on Babylon 5. And that tickles me, as I don’t think they credited it during the series, did they? Most of his other voice work English dubbing versions of Japanese anime including Digimon: Digital Monsters and The Swiss Family Robinson: Flone of the Mysterious Island.
  • Born February 16, 1964 Christopher Eccleston, 56. The Ninth Doctor who’s my third favorite among the new ones. Other genre work includes 28 Days LaterThe SeekerG.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Thor: The Dark WorldThe LeftoversThe Second Coming and The Borrowers. He also played Macbeth at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Barbican Theatre. 
  • Born February 16, 1968 Warren  Ellis, 52. I think Planetary is bloody brilliant as is Global Frequency and Transmetropolitan. His work on The Authority is not to be sniffed at either, nor should we overlook Iron Man: Extremis. He’s got two rather superb novels, Crooked Little Vein and Gun Machine, that are not genre but which if if you like hard-boiled detective fiction, I’ll strongly recommend both.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) WHAT’S THE MATTER WITH KIDS TODAY? Grayson Quay reminds readers about “The Time C.S. Lewis Went Full ‘Get Off My Lawn’” at The American Conservative.

…That essay, “Delinquents in the Snow” [1957] from the collection God in the Dock, begins with Lewis griping about neighborhood kids who constantly bother him by singing terrible renditions of Christmas carols at his door and expecting money in return. Then, with increasing crankiness, he tells the reader that these are probably the same kids who broke into his shed and stole some stuff recently. Other than Lewis’s intuition, there’s no connection between the carolers and the discourse on criminal justice that follows. Like I said, it’s a weird essay.

Basically, Lewis is angry that the kids who robbed his shed were let off easy by the court and will therefore likely grow up to commit “burglary, arson, rape, and murder.” Without any additional evidence, he extrapolates this single event into a nationwide trend and predicts that unless something is done about it, the result will be either an outbreak of vigilante violence or a full-scale revolution.

“Delinquents in the Snow” is full of cringe-inducing moments. Lewis insists on referring to the female judge who gave the delinquents a mere slap on the wrist as “the Elderly Lady,” suggesting a lack of respect for women in positions of authority. He also writes that “when the State ceases to protect me from hooligans I might reasonably, if I could, catch and trash them myself.” The mental image of a 59-year-old university don beating up children would be funny if I weren’t afraid he actually meant it. There’s even a hint of Atlas Shrugged in there when he says that by failing to adequately punish crime, society risks pushing middle-class “bearers of what little moral, intellectual, or economic vitality remains” to the point at which “they will snap.”

(10) CZECH THAT OUT. Glenn Erickson remembers “Three Fantastic Journeys by Karel Zeman” at Trailers from Hell

…t first it seemed too good to be true, a movie all about the ‘fabulous’ aventures of one of the two authors I’d read at age nine, Jules Verne. I was visiting my Aunt Virginia (yes, for real) and she dropped me off alone at the theater in Las Vegas. First, I had to sit through a dumb circus movie called Jumbo, probably Bimbo the Great. But then came a movie that looked like a cartoon, but not really. At first I was really disappointed, as were some of the kids in the theater with me. But after just a couple of minutes we were entranced. It wasn’t what we expected from a cartoon, or a movie. It was like vintage book illustrations come to life. Every new scene was a wonderment that went beyond the question, ‘how’d they do that?’   We were transported to the other side of movie reality, into something like a moving dream. Who knew that this movie and the brilliant sci-fi picture Voyage to the End of the Universe came from a Communist country?  All the names were Anglicized. I had heard of Czechoslovakia in 1962 only because somebody said it had been invaded in a war newsreel.

(11) GREEN LANTERN. DC press release: “Green Lantern 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular #1 Arrives May 20, 2020”. Tagline: “Comics’ Brightest Celebrate Eighty Years of Galactic Peacekeeping.”

“In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship evil’s might,
Beware my power, Green Lantern’s light.”

Since the first Green Lantern was introduced in All-American Comics #16 in May 1940 by artist Martin Nodell and writer Bill Finger, the Green Lanterns have been fan-favorite characters with millions of comic book fans….

To commemorate the 80th anniversary of the original Green Lantern, Alan Scott, DC will be publishing Green Lantern 80th Anniversary 100-Page Super Spectacular #1 on May 20, 2020. Join us to see tales of all of the universe’s most legendary Green Lanterns: Alan Scott, Hal Jordan, John Stewart, Guy Gardner, Kyle Rayner, Jessica Cruz and Simon Baz, plus appearances from other cosmic favorites!

In addition to a dynamic cover by Liam Sharp, fans and collectors can also look forward to eight variant covers spotlighting Lanterns throughout the decades, drawn by some of comics’ premier artists….

(12) HIGHLANDS AND OUTLANDS. In the Washington Post, Erika Mailman says that many fans of Outlander enjoy visiting the 42 sites in Scotland where filming took place during the first four seasons of the show and gives a guide to where the show films and what fans can see when they visit. “The Outlander Effect: The popular book and TV series is increasing travel to these Scottish sites”.

Best-selling author Diana Gabaldon hadn’t even set foot in Scotland when she began the book that launched the popular Outlander series. But she’s made the country so attractive to readers — and to watchers of the Starz television program, which resumes with Season 5 on Sunday — that the Scottish government’s tourism agency gave her an honorary Thistle Award for generating a flood of visitors to the fens, glens, jagged mountains and soft jade landscapes she so alluringly describes. According to numbers from VisitScotland, Outlander has increased tourism by an average of 67 percent at the sites mentioned in the books or used in filming.

(13) ALL ABOARD. Food & Wine says “‘Harry Potter’ Fans Will Love the Napa Valley Wine Train’s New Murder Mystery Experience”.

…The “Witches and Wizards” theme will take place on Saturday, October 24, and guests are encouraged to wear witch hats and wizard robes. (If you have a wand, you might as well bring that too.) Like the rest of the murder mystery experiences on the train, it includes a ride on the train, “murder mystery dinner theatre,” and a multi-course gourmet meal, which is prepared by executive chef Donald Young…

(14) AN ANTI-SMARTWATCH? That’s one description — “Activate This ‘Bracelet of Silence,’ and Alexa Can’t Eavesdrop” in the New York Times.

Last year, Ben Zhao decided to buy an Alexa-enabled Echo speaker for his Chicago home. Mr. Zhao just wanted a digital assistant to play music, but his wife, Heather Zheng, was not enthused. “She freaked out,” he said.

Ms. Zheng characterized her reaction differently. First she objected to having the device in their house, she said. Then, when Mr. Zhao put the Echo in a work space they shared, she made her position perfectly clear:“I said, ‘I don’t want that in the office. Please unplug it. I know the microphone is constantly on.’”

Mr. Zhao and Ms. Zheng are computer science professors at the University of Chicago, and they decided to channel their disagreement into something productive. With the help of an assistant professor, Pedro Lopes, they designed a piece of digital armor: a “bracelet of silence” that will jam the Echo or any other microphones in the vicinity from listening in on the wearer’s conversations.

The bracelet is like an anti-smartwatch, both in its cyberpunk aesthetic and in its purpose of defeating technology. A large, somewhat ungainly white cuff with spiky transducers, the bracelet has 24 speakers that emit ultrasonic signals when the wearer turns it on. The sound is imperceptible to most ears, with the possible exception of young people and dogs, but nearby microphones will detect the high-frequency sound instead of other noises.

(15) APRIL SHOWERS BRING MAYFLOWERS. “Mudlarks Scour the Thames to Uncover 2,000 Years of Secrets” in the New York Times.

From ribald tokens from London’s Roman past to hints of the Mayflower’s fate, mudlarks discover the story of a constantly changing London — but only at low tide….

“What you are looking for are straight lines and perfect circles,” she said, her eyes scanning the surface of the mud for man-made artifacts. “They sort of stand out from the natural shapes.”

Within minutes she had spotted fragments of a 17th-century jug, the half-face of a bearded man visible in the clay.

The name — mudlark — was first given to the Victorian-era poor who scrounged for items in the river to sell, pulling copper scraps, rope and other valuables from the shore. But more recently the label has stuck to London’s hobbyists, history buffs and treasure hunters who scour the river edge searching for objects from the city’s past.

Mudlarking’s popularity has grown steadily in recent years, driven in part by social media communities where enthusiasts share their finds, and tour groups that offer a trudge through the shards of history’s castoffs.

…“I like just to collect what the river decides it’s going to leave on that day,” Ms. Maiklem said. “It’s that element of luck.”

But sometimes there are more significant finds, like the first “spintria” found in Britain. Spintriae are Roman bronze tokens, with depictions of sexual acts on one face and a Roman numeral on the other, whose purpose remains uncertain.

And every tide reveals some of the city’s varied story: Roman coins, medieval badges worn by religious pilgrims, an elaborate 17th-century watch.

The Thames, the very reason people began settling in the city over 2,000 years ago, is one of the best preservers of London’s history. The river has been used many ways over the millenniums — as a highway, a source of food and, most important to mudlarks, as a dump.

(16) OLD VIDEO OF THE DAY. Kirk Douglas drinks coffee with Ray Bradbury, John Barry and John Frankenheimer in Japanese commercials

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

Pixel Scroll 2/6/20 Yondah Lies The Pixel Of My Filer

(1) OVERLOOKED MARKETING WIZARD. The Hollywood Reporter wonders: “He Was ‘Star Wars’ ‘ Secret Weapon, So Why Was He Forgotten?”

Ashley Boone Jr., the first black president of a major Hollywood studio, helped make George Lucas’ quirky space opera a hit in the 1970’s — yet chances are you’ve never heard of him: “He was way ahead of his time.”

When thousands gathered Dec. 16 in Hollywood for the world premiere of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker — supposedly the last Skywalker film — they heard Bob Iger, Kathleen Kennedy and J.J. Abrams thank everyone from creator George Lucas to the actor who played R2-D2. But one name was not so much as whispered, despite this person’s critical 1970s role in launching what would become the most successful movie franchise of all time: the all-but-forgotten Ashley Boone Jr….

(2) WHERE TO LOOK FOR MIDDLE-EARTH. The Worlds of J. R. R. Tolkien: The Places That Inspired Middle-earth by John Garth, “an illustrated look at the locales familiar to J. R. R. Tolkien, the creator of Middle-earth,” will be released by Princeton University Press on June 2.

Garth identifies the locales that served as the basis for Hobbiton, the elven valley of Rivendell, the Glittering Caves of Helm’s Deep, and many other settings in Middle-earth, from mountains and forests to rivers, lakes, and shorelands. He reveals the rich interplay between Tolkien’s personal travels, his wide reading, and his deep scholarship as an Oxford don. Garth draws on his profound knowledge of Tolkien’s life and work to shed light on the extraordinary processes of invention behind Tolkien’s works of fantasy. He also debunks popular misconceptions about the inspirations for Middle-earth and puts forward strong new claims of his own.

(3) BRADBURY ON STAGE. On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Ray Bradbury’s birth, Caltech Theater celebrates the prolific science fiction writer by producing a series of his one-acts and adapted stories: Bradbury 100. (Ticket prices at the link.)

The creative team of Bradbury 100 is drawn from Caltech undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, Caltech community and Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), to celebrate the legacy of Bradbury and his connection with Caltech that began over fifty years ago.

FIRST WEEKEND
Friday & Saturday, February 21 & 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, February 23 at 2:30 p.m.

All Summer in a Day. directed by Aditi Seetharaman
Marionettes, Inc., directed by Barbie Insua
The Martian Chronicles, directed by Brian White

SECOND WEEKEND
Friday & Saturday, February 28 & 29 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, March 1 at 2:30 p.m.

The Flying Machine (in Mandarin w/English subtitles), directed by Miranda Stewart
A Sound of Thunder, directed by Doug Smith
The Martian Chronicles, directed by Brian White

On Friday night of the second weekend (2/28/20) H/SS Professor Chip Sebens will discuss Bradbury’s science fiction and the paradoxes of time travel and on Saturday night (2/29/20) one of Ray’s daughters Ramona Bradbury and her two daughters Claire and Julia Handleman will make appearances on stage to share personal stories of their father and grandfather.

(4) CALIFORNIA HERE YOU GO. Isaac Butler interviews Kim Stanley Robinson about science fiction, utopia, and the reissue of his Three Californias trilogy in “Three Californias, Infinite Futures” at Slate.

So it’s a few years later, you’re writing The Wild Shore, the first in the trilogydo you remember how you worked out the post–nuclear apocalypse world of it?

I went back into the history of science fiction and read other after-the-fall novels: Earth Abides by George Stewart, A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter Miller, a couple of Philip K. Dick—especially Dr. Bloodmoney. I also got to study with the California poet Gary Snyder at UC–Davis. In terms of these Three California novels, Snyder is as important as anybody in terms of my teachers, because he was the one that established what a California writer ought to be doing: facing Eastern Asia, getting interested in Buddhism, kind of getting rid of the European influences. I began thinking of myself as a poet in the Snyder tradition before I discovered the science fiction. That was always underlying every sentence.

(5) BCS STAYS ABOVE EVENT HORIZON. Beneath Ceaseless Skies met its goal of attracting enough Patreon support to keep their pay rate for short stories at 8c/word, which is the new higher SFWA “pro” pay rate. BCS was able to institute the new rate when it went into effect last September, but there had since been some contraction in their Patreon support. BCS is now back on target.

(6) EVALUATING THE LOCUS LIST. Rocket Stack Rank’s annual “Annotated 2019 Locus Reading List for Short Fiction” is now online.

The merge lets us analyze the Locus list to see which stories that were broadly recognized as outstanding were left out, which publications stood out, which authors did particularly well (or not), how many were eligible for the Astounding Award, and how RSR‘s own recommendations stack up with Locus reviewers in general.

Eric Wong adds, “As with all RSR lists, you can flag and rate stories on the page, see the recommendations earned by each story (reviewer, award, year’s best anthology), get links to the story, author, and other reviews (if online), and group stories by length (default), publication and author.”

(7) FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION. Asimov’s and Analog have made the short fiction on the Locus Recommended Reading List for 2019 available as free reads – in PDF files linked from the Locus list. That’s seven stories altogether. [Via Rocket Stack Rank.]

(8) ‘DIVERSE EDITIONS’ SUSPENDED. “Books pulled over ‘literary blackface’ accusations” – BBC has the story.

The largest bookseller in the US has pulled a new series of “culturally diverse” classic book covers after facing widespread criticism.

Barnes and Noble launched the new Diverse Editions on Tuesday, featuring new covers illustrating the main characters as people of colour.

But the initiative to mark Black History Month received a swift backlash with authors calling it superficial.

The bookseller said it had acknowledged the criticism and suspended the series.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Moby-Dick and Frankenstein were among the titles included.

On the back of the redesigned covers, the company said: “For the first time ever, all parents will be able to pick up a book and see themselves in a story.”

But the move faced a barrage of criticism.

“This is essentially literary blackface,” tweeted author Frederick Joseph.

(9) RUSS AND LE GUIN.  Joanna Russ and her relationship with feminism and science fiction is chronicled by author B.D. McClay in a New Yorker profile “Joanna Russ, the Science-Fiction Writer Who Said No”.

[The] rift between Russ and Le Guin was a different sort of disagreement. Even before the symposium, the two writers had begun to distinguish themselves from each other, though Russ seems to have been more invested in these differences than Le Guin was. In public, Russ had written a harsh review of Le Guin’s “The Dispossessed,” characterizing some of the book’s central conceits as “a fancy way of disguising what we already know” and its anarchist society as poorly realized. Privately, to mutual friends, Russ accused Le Guin of being accommodating to men, of refusing to write as a woman. In some ways, Le Guin conceded the argument—she claimed to write under the influence of her male “animus”—but in other ways she resisted. After all, wasn’t her freedom not to write “as a woman” precisely the point?

At stake in this disagreement was not simply the sorts of struggles that feminists have always had with one another. There was also a question of what science fiction was for and what it should ultimately do. For Russ and Le Guin both, science fiction represented the possibility of telling a genuinely new story. Science fiction, Russ once wrote, was poised to “provide myths for dealing with kinds of experiences we are actually having now, instead of the literary myths we have inherited, which only tell us about the kinds of experiences we think we ought to be having.” The form aspired not to fantasy but to reality.

The search for that reality led Russ and Le Guin in different directions, and, though the latter has become, in the years since, the face of women in speculative fiction, it would be a mistake to regard Russ as overshadowed.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 6, 1974  — Zardoz premiered. Starring Sean Connery, Charlotte Rampling and Sara Kestelman. It was written, produced, and directed by John Boorman. It was made on a shoestring budget of one point six million and made one point eight million at the Box Office. Critics praised its special effects but thought both the acting and story fell rather flat. It holds a 50% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 6, 1922 Patrick Macnee. He was best known as the secret agent John Steed in The Avengers, a tole he reprised in the New Avengers. He made his genre debut as Young Jacob Marley in Scrooge. He then starred as Derek Longbow in Incense for the Damned (also released as Bloodsuckers, Freedom Seeker Incense for the Damned and Bloodsuckers, Freedom Seeker and Doctors Wear Scarlet). Next up is an uncredited role voicing Imperious Leader on the original Battlestar Galactica.  He played Captain John Good R.N. in King Solomon’s Treasure based rather loosely on the H. Rider Haggard source material. What else? Let’s see… he shows up in The Howling as Dr. George Waggner, as Dr. stark in a film as alternative title is, I kid you not, Naked Space and Spaceship. It’s a parody apparently of Alien. Next up for him is another toff named Sir Wilfred in Waxwork and its sequel. Yes, he wears a suit rather nicely. At least being Professor Plocostomos in Lobster Man from Mars is an open farce.   His last film work was genre as well, The Low Budget Time Machine, in which he started as Dr. Bernard. (Died 2015.)
  • Born February 6, 1927 Zsa Zsa Gabor. Her first venture into SF was the Fifties very camp Queen of Outer Space which she followed up by being in Frankenstein’s Great Aunt Tillie. She had a cameo in A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. She’s Erika Tiffany Smith on Gilligan’s Island, and Minerva on Batman. One of her last appearances was as herself on The Munsters Today as she retired from acting in late Nineties. (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 6, 1931 Mamie Van Doren, 89. She made but two SF films, the first being The Navy vs. the Night Monsters (a.k.a. Monsters of the Night and The Night Crawlers), and the second being Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women
  • Born February 6, 1932 Rip Torn. First genre work that comes to mind is of course RoboCop 3 and his Men in Black films. His first dip into our world comes as Dr. Nathan Bryce in The Man Who Fell to Earth. Yeah that film. Actually, if you count Alfred Hitchcock Presents, he’s been a member of our community since his twenties. He also shows up on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Died 2019.)
  • Born February 6, 1943 Gayle Hunnicutt, 77. I’m giving her Birthday Honors as she was Irene Adler, opposite Jeremy Brett, in the first episode of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, “A Scandal in Bohemia”. She also shows up in The Martian Chronicles, The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Legend of Hell HouseFantômas (a French series) and Tales of The Unexpected
  • Born February 6, 1943 Fabian, 77. Bill Dexter in Dr. Goldfoot and the Girl Bombs (which the Italians got boring by naming it Le spie vengono dal semifreddo, literally “The spies who came in from the cool”.) He doesn’t have much of a genre resume appearing only once on Fantasy Island, plus being in Kiss Daddy Goodbye. The latter would be shown on Movie Macabre, Elvira’s early Eighties movie show.
  • Born February 6, 1947 Eric Flint, 73. Definitely a Good Guy for both being on Baen Books and fighting against the Sad Puppies who thought he’d be on their side because he was, well, on Baen Books. They really should’ve looked at his work history. Now fiction-wise, I really like his Assiti Shards series, and the Heirs of Alexandria as well.
  • Born February 6, 1958 Cecily Adams. She played Ishka (aka Moogie), mother of the Ferengi brothers Rom and Quark, in four of her five appearances on Deep Space Nine. (Andrea Martin played her the first time.) Most of her genre experience was in such concerns as Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Flash Forward, Lost on Earth, Bone Chillers and 3rd Rock from The Sun. (Died 2004.)

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump tells us why we don’t know about Pinocchio’s brother.

(13) YOU SHALL NOT PASS (THE BAR). Food & Wine suggests everyone “Eat Gandalf-Themed Corn Dogs at This ‘Lord of the Rings’ Pop-Up Bar”.

After ending 2019 with a magical Harry Potter Christmas pop-up, Chicago’s Replay Lincoln Park bar is back with another franchise theme targeting a devout fanbase. Last weekend, the space transformed into a Lord of The Rings wonderland, …and it has everything from meals named after Frodo to photo opps with a Ring Wraith and the Balrog…

To fuel your quest, Replay has once again partnered with Zizi’s Cafe, a local restaurant, to create a LOTR-inspired menu. Think Gandalf’s Corn Staff (aka, two corndogs), Pippin’s Popcorn, Beef Lembas, Frodo’s Dolma, Fried Po-Tay-Toes, and Lord of the Wings—plus, the Onion Ring to Rule Them All, if you’re not prone to the ring’s temptations. 

(14) SPACEFLIGHT RECORD. “Christina Koch: Nasa astronaut sets new female space record”.

The Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying Koch parachuted down to the grasslands of Kazakhstan at around 09:12 GMT.

She spent 328 days on the International Space Station (ISS), surpassing the previous record held by fellow American Peggy Whitson.

Her stay is just 12 days short of the all-time US record set by Scott Kelly, who was on the ISS from 2015-2016.

“I’m so overwhelmed and happy right now,” she told reporters as she sat outside the capsule, shortly after it touched down in the snow.

Ms Koch surpassed the 289-day record set by fellow American Ms Whitson on 28 December last year. But her return to Earth sets the marker for future space travellers to beat.

Whitson still holds the record for most time spent in space by a woman, accrued over the course of three spaceflights from 2002-2017.

(15) FORTY-FIVE CALIBER STORIES. Cora Buhlert continues her look at Retro-Hugo eligible work in “Retro Review: ‘The Monster Maker’ by Ray Bradbury”.

“The Monster Maker” by Ray Bradbury is a science fiction short story, which appeared in the spring 1944 issue of Planet Stories and is therefore eligible for the 1945 Retro Hugos. The story may be found here….

Warning: There will be spoilers in the following!

(16) RIVERDALE EPISODE RECAP: BEWARE SPOILERS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] I saw Riverdale last night and thought Filers would like to get up to speed on what’s happening with Archie and the gang.

We learned that Archie’s uncle, Frank, was a mercenary who had other mercenaries chasing him.  One of the mercenaries fights Archie in a high school men’s room and throws Archie into a sink which is smashed.  The rogue mercenary is captured shortly thereafter.

Jughead is in a chess death match with the president of the Quill and Skulls fraternity.  In the middle of the match action is stopped because an alarm goes off at the fraternity.  The fraternity president finds that Betty and a friend have discovered a secret trove of VHS sex tapes which the fraternity compiled for use against the frat’s many enemies. The chess match resumes, but soon ends when Jughead deliberately causes a checkmate and I’m not sure why.

Veronica and her friend Katy Keene decide to go out, and Veronica asks her friend, ‘Do you like drag?’

(17) STORMQUAKES. NPR did a segment on “Discovering ‘Stormquakes'”:

Seismologist Wenyuan Fan explains the accidental discovery — buried deep in seismic and meteorological data — that certain storms over ocean water can cause measurable seismic activity, or ‘stormquakes.’ He says this phenomenon could help scientists better understand the earth below the sea.

The original paper Wenyuan co-authored on stormquakes is here.

Transcription of the NPR interview is here.

…As Wenyuan and his colleagues outlined in their paper in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, stormquakes all come down to waves.

FAN: Because when you have large storms, it will couple with the ocean and make high waves.

SOFIA: Gotcha.

FAN: And by doing the cross-examination of the ocean waves and the seismicity, we start to see a clear correlation between the occurrence of stormquakes and also the high-wave conditions.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Dinosaurs In Love” on Vimeo is a song by Fenn Rosenthal about what happens to dinosaurs when they fall in love.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Chris Castro, Eric Wong, Mike Kennedy, Nina, Martin Morse Wooster, Rob Thornton, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, N., and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jayn.]

Christopher Tolkien (1924-2020)

Christopher Tolkien, son of J.R.R. Tolkien and the last of the Inklings, died January 15 at the age of 95 the New York Times reports.

For nearly 50 years after his father passed away in 1973, Christopher continued to edit and publish his father’s unfinished manuscripts, giving J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary output the benefit of two lifetimes’ work. Christopher assembled from pieces the epic Middle-Earth predecessor to Lord of the Rings, melding them into The Silmarillion (1977). In all, he edited or oversaw the publication of two dozen editions of his father’s works, many of which became international best sellers.

Along the way he produced 12 volumes of The History of Middle-earth, a compilation of drafts, fragments, rewrites, marginal notes and other writings that showed the evolution of J.R.R. Tolkien’s legendarium.

Christopher is also credited with creating the acclaimed 1954 map of Middle-earth.

During World War II, when Christopher was serving with the Royal Air Force in South Africa, his father mailed him parts of The Lord of the Rings for comment and editing.

After the war he studied English at Trinity College, Oxford, taking his BA in 1949 and his B.Litt a few years later. He became a lecturer in Old and Middle English as well as Old Icelandic at the University of Oxford. 

In 1945, he became the youngest member of the Inklings, a circle of Oxford writers and scholars started in the Thirties by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and others, who met weekly in Lewis’s college rooms. Christopher was told in a letter from his father that the Inklings proposed to consider him “a permanent member, with right of entry and what not quite independent of my presence or otherwise.”

Dr. Diana Glyer, author of two books about the Inklings, including The Company They Keep: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien as Writers in Community, mourned his passing:

I must refer now to all the Inklings in past tense; the last of them has died. I met Christopher Tolkien, talked with him, corresponded from time to time. I have devoted my life to studying the Inklings. Today, they have slipped from solid, real, and tangible into the past, beyond reach. I no longer have the privilege of studying what is, only what was. Everything has changed.

J.R.R. Tolkien biographer John Garth ended his Facebook announcement of Christopher’s death with this fitting quote from the end of Lord of the Rings:

“Well, here at last, dear friends, on the shores of the Sea comes the end of our fellowship in Middle-earth. Go in peace! I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”

Christopher is survived by his second wife, Baillie, his sister Priscilla, and three children, Simon, Adam and Rachel.

AbeBooks Most Expensive Sales of 2019

AbeBooks has posted a baker’s dozen of the most expensive items sold through their site in 2019. Topping the list is The Complete Works of Abraham Lincoln, $40,000, but genre works followed close behind.

Published by Bloomsbury, all seven volumes in deluxe bindings. All signed by J.K. Rowling. The Chamber of Secrets, and The Prisoner of Azkaban are signed by artist Cliff Wright.

This was AbeBooks’ most expensive J.K. Rowling sale ever. The previous record was a true first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, which sold for $37,000 in August 2005.

A set of unrestored first edition, first printings published by George Allen and Unwin between 1954 and 1955. All three volumes are in near fine condition. Epic high fantasy, the three volumes are The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King.

[Thanks to Michael J. Walsh for the story.]

Pixel Scroll 11/29/19 The Scrolls of Our Teeth

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman encourages listeners to share scallops with comics legend Larry Lieber in Episode 110 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Larry Nieber

I first met comic book artist and writer Larry Lieber when I worked in the Marvel Comics Bullpen of the mid-‘70s. Though perhaps that’s not really accurate — because that was only when I first met him in the flesh. I really first met him when I was seven, the year I picked up copies of Tales of Suspense #39, in which he co-created Iron Man, Journey into Mystery #83, in which he co-created Thor, and Tales to Astonish #35, in which he co-created Ant-Man.

…A week before Larry’s 88th birthday, we met for dinner at his favorite French restaurant, Bistro Le Steak, on the corner of Third Avenue and East 75th Street in Manhattan, where we chatted about the old days, as well as what he has planned for the days still to come.

We discussed the old-time radio shows which most influenced him, what he learned about humanity from reading Margaret Mead back in the ’50s, how the only reason he became a writer was because he was too slow to make a living an artist, who told him back at the start of his career that comics was a “dying industry,” the tips Stan Lee gave to make him a better writer, why his attempts to work for DC Comics never worked out, the warning artist Syd Shores offered he wishes he hadn’t heeded, how a quote he heard in a movie about Irish playwright Sean O’Casey helped him understand the arc of his own life, the three best-selling books he read before writing his own novel, his mixed feelings on winning the Bill Finger Award, how Jim Shooter helped him relearn how to be an artist, which comics assignment he enjoyed the most, what Stan Lee told him about the Rawhide Kid that made him decide to take it over from Jack Kirby, why he feels like Don Quixote, the surprising thing he thinks is the best thing he’s ever written, and much more.

(2) ALWAYS TO CALL IT RESEARCH. Read about “8 Movies Accused of Plagiarism” – several of them genre – at Top10Films.UK.

2. The Terminator (1984) 

Harlan Ellison, a highly prolific writer, wrote many novels, short stories and screenplays. What most people do not know is that Harlan Ellison was a very litigious writer. He claimed that many TV shows and movies stole his ideas.

In an episode of “The Outer Limits” (called “Soldier”) about a robot from the future, Ellison claimed that the movie “The Terminator” was based on this story as well as another episode he wrote called “Demon With a Glass Hand”.

(3) SMOFCON UPDATE. SMOFcon 37, to be held December 6-8 in Albuquerque, NM, has posted its Code of Conduct.

(4) L’ENGLE CONFERENCE. Publishers Weekly’s report of the “First Madeleine L’Engle Conference Held in New York City” shows it was a remarkably diverse event.

Nearly 200 participants, including a distinguished roster of children’s book authors, gathered on November 16 at All Angels Church on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where author Madeleine L’Engle was a member for many years, to discuss how faith and art inform each other at Walking on Water: The Madeleine L’Engle Conference. Taking its title from L’Engle’s 1972 book, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art, the event was organized by Brian Allain of Writing for Your Life, a resource center for spiritual writers; Charlotte Jones Voiklis, L’Engle’s granddaughter, literary executor and co-author, with her sister Léna Roy, of the middle-grade biography Becoming Madeleine; and Sarah Arthur, author of A Light So Lovely: The Spiritual Legacy of Madeleine L’Engle.

(5) SPREADING THE WORD. “Virgil Finlay’s Daughter Lail needs our help” – a GoFundMe has been started by Bob Garcia to raise $5,000 to help her respond to an emergency:

I met Virgil Finlay’s daughter Lail and  her daughter Brien at the World Fantasy Convention in 2014. We’ve become friends since then. For the last few years, she has been battling metatastic cancer while holding down a job, since her husband, musician Julio Hernandez, has been ill as well. They celebrated their 50th anniversary not so long ago.

A week or so ago I received this e-mail:

“Just a note to let you know that Sat. Nov 9th my house burned down with my husband inside. He died in the fire, my daughter and I are physically okay. So I don’t yet know if any of the artwork survived, and my daughter and I are now homeless and staying with a kind friend.”

Here’s the news story.

Lail needs all the help she can get. Especially with things that the insurance company just won’t cover. Besides the normal expenses, for example, she needs $1,100 just to remove her father’s art from the house, and more to get it cleaned and restored. And there are her father’s correspondences, which she has not been able to get into the building to see if they survived. Lail estimates she needs $5000 to get through this time.

And she needs to get these things paid for quickly, before it becomes too late to recover things from what’s left of her house.

(6) NOT LONG BEFORE THE END. “Star Wars: Dying fan to get early screening, Bob Iger confirms”.

A dying man and his son will be able to watch the new Star Wars film before it goes on general release, Disney’s CEO Bob Iger has said.

Rowans Hospice in Waterlooville, Hampshire, sent out a plea on Twitter asking for an early screening of the movie, which is due out on 20 December.

The hospice said: “This is our most desperate hour. Sadly, time is not on his side for 20th Dec.”

After receiving confirmation, Rowans said it “cannot thank Disney enough”

The hospice tweeted on Wednesday asking for help for the patient to see the film, attracting hundreds of retweets.

(7) AN INKLING HAS HIS BACK. Earth and Oak has reprinted “CS Lewis’ Response to Critics of The Lord of the Rings: The Dethronement of Power” with this introduction:

C. S. Lewis’ defence of Tolkien’s work gives insight into the types of criticism it elicited. Chief among those criticisms were its supposed lack of realism, and lack of character development or moral complexity. Lewis robustly argues against both allegations, and with characteristic succinctness states “we know at once that it has done things to us.” Notably this review came only 2 days after Tolkien’s final instalment was published, in response to criticism that was clearly already in full flow since the earlier volumes. It demonstrates the extent to which even a great piece of work will encounter rejection and snobbery, but also demonstrates the value of even one strong ally who supports your work. Below is Lewis’ essay in full….

(8) STALEY OBIT. Actress Joan Staley died November 24. Her busy career included a few genre roles: “Joan Staley, Actress in ‘The Ghost and Mr. Chicken,’ Dies at 79”.

She also slapped Elvis in ‘Roustabout,’ sang to Audie Murphy in ‘Gunpoint’ and played Shame sidekick Okie Annie on ‘Batman.’

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 29, 1959 The Atomic Submarine premiered. It stars Arthur Franz, Dick Foran, Brett Halsey, and Joi Lansing, with John Hilliard as the voice of the alien. It rates 27% at Rotten Tomatoes. It’s in the public domain, so you can see it here.
  • November 29, 1972 — Pong, the coin-operated video game version, debuted.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 29, 1898 C.S. Lewis. There are no doubt folks here who are far more literate about him than I. I’ve read The Screwtape Letters for a college course decades ago and thoroughly enjoyed The Chronicles of Narnia also many years back but that’s it for my personal acquaintance with him.  I know individuals that have loved The Space Trilogy and I’ve known ones who loathed it. So what do you like or dislike about him? (Died 1963.)
  • Born November 29, 1918 Madeleine L’Engle. Writer whose genre work included the splendid YA sequence starting off with A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels: A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time. One of her none-genre works that I recommend strongly is Katherine Forrester Vigneras series. (Died 2007.)
  • Born November 29, 1950 Peter Hooten, 69. He played the title character in the late Seventies Dr. Strange film. His other genre appearances are all in definitely low-grade horror films such as Orca, House of Blood and Souleater. And one Italian film that had so many name changes that I’m accused it of name laundering, 2020 Texas Gladiators
  • Born November 29, 1954 Howie Mandel, 64. He was the voice of Gizmo in Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch. His longest voice acting gig was on the Muppet Babies where he did a lot of different voices, and he voiced Sam-I-Am in In Search of Dr. Seuss which is not nearly as serious as it sounds.
  • Born November 29, 1966 Andrée Bernard, 53. She appeared as Folly in “The Shakespeare Code”, a Tenth Doctor story. She was Yana Haverty in Snakes and Ladders, a What If Future UK series. and she provided voice work to Star Wars: The Old Republic – Rise of the Hutt Cartel.
  • Born November 29, 1969 Greg Rucka, 50. Comic book writer and novelist, known for his work on Action Comics, Batwoman and Detective Comics. If you’ve not read it, I recommend reading Gotham Central which he co-created with Ed Brubaker, and over at Marvel, the four issue Ultimate Daredevil and Elektra which he wrote is quite excellent as well. I’ve read none of his novels, so will leave y’all to comment on those. He’s a character in the CSI comic book Dying in the Gutters miniseriesas someone who accidentally killed a comics gossip columnist while attempting to kill Joe Quesada over his perceived role in the cancellation of Gotham Central.
  • Born November 29, 1970 Larry Joe Campbell, 49. He had the recurring role of Chief Engineer Newton on The Orville series. His character was written out at the end of season one. He’s also Officer Murphy in R.I.P.D. which is a really bad film, and was in Pacific Rim as one of this background perplexed you don’t really see, a construction worker.
  • Born November 29, 1971 Naoko Mori, 48. Torchwood was really her only genre appearance though I see that she popped up first in Doctor Who playing her character of Doctor Sato in the “Aliens of London” episode.  She also voiced Nagisa Kisaragi  in Gerry Anderson’s Firestorm.
  • Born November 29, 1976 Anna Faris, 43. She broke into genre acting with the lead part of Cindy Campbell in the Scary Movie film franchise. She also had roles in May, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel and the Alvin and the Chipmunks. film franchise. 
  • Born November 29, 1976 Chadwick Boseman, 43. The Black Panther alias Challa in Marvel’s film metaverse. The same year that he first was this being, he was Thoth in Gods of Egypt.(If you’ve not heard, no one else did as it bombed at the box office.) He was Sergeant McNair on Persons Unknown which is at least genre adjacent I would say.  And he appeared on Fringe!

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Baby Blues references a superhero film in its joke about a more widespread family TV viewing issue.

(12) SUSPENSION OF DISBELIEF. James Davis Nicoll studies how writers have answered a question that possibly worries him more than other readers — “How to Explain the Sudden Appearance of Anthropomorphic Characters in Your Story”.

Lots of people love anthropomorphic characters. Perhaps you are one such fan. Perhaps you are a writer who plans to feature them in your fiction. Many authors don’t feel a particular need to justify anthropomorphic characters’ presence in their stories. There are plenty of examples available, but attempting to list all the relevant folktale figures, manga characters, and inhabitants of Duckburg would take up an entire essay, at least. But there are other people—people like me—who become anxious if important elements aren’t given a backstory or explanation. For those people, here are some semi-plausible ways anthropomorphic characters could have appeared in your setting…

(13) NOT JUST MAMMOTHS. “Extinction: Humans played big role in demise of the cave bear”.

The arrival of human ancestors in Europe some 40,000 years ago coincided with the downfall of the cave bear, scientists have revealed.

New evidence suggests humans hunted the bear and drove it from caves, putting it on the road to extinction.

The fate of the species was sealed by other pressures, such as the onset of the last Ice Age, and shrinking food resources.

The bear eventually died out 24,000 years ago.

“We see this dramatic drop in the population of the cave bear starting from 40,000 years ago, which coincides with the arrival of anatomically modern humans in Europe,” said Prof Verena Schuenemann of the University of Zurich, who led the study.

“It is the clearest evidence we have so far that humans might have played a big role in the extinction of the cave bear.”

(14) STARTING YOUNG. I’d have loved this project. “Teaching children to build satellites in school” – a BBC video.

South African start-up XinaBox is teaching children to build satellites in school using a modular chip that can be clipped together.

The company is using its technology to teach children about space, science and coding in interactive workshops.

(15) THE DIGITAL JOLLY ROGER. “Rise of comic book piracy ‘a real problem'” reports BBC.

A comic book writer’s claim that the proliferation of piracy is “a real problem” has encouraged others in the industry to share their concerns.

Jim Zub, who writes for Marvel and IDW, tweeted that 20 times as many people read comics illegally shared online, than pay for digital or physical works.

Many other comic creators replied with their own experiences of pirated work.

For some, piracy brought personal and professional costs, while others suggested radical distribution changes.

(16) STAR WARS FEATURETTE. A nostalgic mix of behind-the-scenes footage from the original Star Wars movie and the latest, soon-to-end trilogy.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/18/19 What Pixel Should A Poor File Scroll For All Tomorrow’s Entries

(1) COLLECTIBLE PAPERBACKS SPOTLIGHTED. [Item by Andrew Porter.] This daily series of short videos concentrate on vintage and collectible paperbacks. It began barely more than a month ago, and so far, nearly 50 have been uploaded to Gary Lovisi’s YouTube channel.

Episodes have covered (starting with the most recent): Hardboiled Crime Fiction “Frank Kane” with Ron Lesser GGA covers; Dell 10¢ Paperbacks; Edgar Rice Burroughs “John Carter” inspired Pulp SF “Jon Kirk of Ares”; Sherlock Holmes Books; Sleaze “Kozy Books” Series; “The Thing” SF Horror in Paperback; ” UK Cherry Tree Books; Sexy Digest GGA Sleaze; Mysterious Bookshop NYC Tour; “Shuna” Jungle Girl Series; Best Rare US Dime Novels; Hardboiled Pulp Fiction Books; Rare British “World Fantasy Classics”; Fredric Brown early Bantam Paperbacks; “Boardman Bloodhound Books”; Checkerbooks US Paperback Book series; Gold Star “The New Tarzan Book Series”; British Gangster Digests; “Avon Science Fiction Reader” Series; Early Avon SF Fantasy & Horror.

(2) PETER RABBIT DEUX. The sequel arrives in theaters next Easter.

In PETER RABBIT™ 2: THE RUNAWAY, the lovable rogue is back. Bea, Thomas, and the rabbits have created a makeshift family, but despite his best efforts, Peter can’t seem to shake his mischievous reputation. Adventuring out of the garden, Peter finds himself in a world where his mischief is appreciated, but when his family risks everything to come looking for him, Peter must figure out what kind of bunny he wants to be.

(3) TOLKIEN GENESIS. Verlyn Flieger’s Scholar Guest of Honor Address for the 2019 Mythcon, “The Arch and the Keystone”, can be read online at Mythlore.

…Moving forward is more challenging. How can we contrive to move forward when, like Alice’s Red Queen, we have to run faster and faster just to stay in place? The growing body of writing both by and about Tolkien ensures that not only can we no longer read the unknown book I discovered in 1956, we can’t even all read the same book in 2019. We have too many opinions based on too much information from too many sources to come to a consensus. In spite of his fame, in spite of his position at the top of the heap, in spite of The Lord of the Rings’ established position as Waterstone’s Book of the Century, the world has and probably will continue to have trouble agreeing on who/what he is….

(4) BACK IN COSTUME. The Washington Post’s Tim Grieving interviews Mystery Science Theatre 3000 founder Joel Hodgson about why he returned to the series and why he is involved in Mystery Science Theatre 3000 Live, which is playing in Washington DC this weekend. “‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ takes its audience down memory lane — with an eye on the future”.

…This weekend, Hodgson, 59, will sport the red jumpsuit for the first time since 1993 and bring the Great Cheesy Movie Circus Tour to the National Theatre, a live version of the MST3K format familiar to fans: making fun of bad movies — in this case, the British schlockfest “Circus of Horrors” (1960) and the 1986 kung fu flick “No Retreat, No Surrender” — interspersed with sketches.

(5) SF CONFERENCE IN CHINA. At Yunchtime, Mlex shares what he’s found out about “Chinese Science Fiction Conference 2019”, a November event sponsored by Science & Fantasy Growth Foundation.

…With the fourth annual conference scheduled to take place very soon in Beijing Nov 2019, I thought I would delve a little deeper into the conference and the organization behind it.

The 2019 conference will, for the first time, include participants from outside of China. These include Andrei Heim, Kevin Anderson, Leonard Mondrino, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Neil Clarke.

The Conference theme for 2019 is divided into tracks: “science fiction + culture”, “science fiction + technology”, “science fiction + science”, “sci-fi + film” “, science fiction + games”, “science fiction + youth.”

Organizationally, I get the impression that this has a professional team, strategizing about how to capitalize on the popularity of science fiction in China today, and that they are looking for not only ideas, but actual talent….

(6) BACK TO DUBLIN. I’m a bit overdue to link to España Sheriff’s conreport, “Worldcon 2019 in Dublin”.

…Besides the art show and print shop, Warehouse One was also housed several cool displays and craft items. There were half a dozen large scale lego constructions, including a massive Star Wars one by James Shields, a Community Drawing Wall, and a wall of art by Irish artist, including some Steve Dillon comic pages and Ian Clark’s wonderful Dublin 2019 artworks. There was programming in the Odean movie theatre screen rooms, and next door at the Gibson hotel, and some of it looked quite good. But ultimately when deciding what to see I factored in the walk there and back, and unless there were two items one after another there just didn’t seem worth it – by the end I attended no programming at Point Square excepting the art show and artist reception. In retrospect the 7-day LUAS transit pass would have been a good idea, but we didn’t see that option in time.

(7) BACK IN 1938. Let the LA Times’ Michael Rechtshaffen tell you about a cinematic discovery: “Review: Unreleased 1938 silent sci-fi film ‘As the Earth Turns’ boasts analog ingenuity”. The 45-minute film will be shown tonight in Glendale, CA.

Had Steven Spielberg been a 16-millimeter camera-toting teen in the 1930s, his home movies might have looked like “As the Earth Turns,” a black-and-white, silent 45-minute science-fiction film about a peace-crazed scientist named Pax who attempts to persuade the world to put down its weapons by inducing extreme climate change.

Made by Richard H. Lyford, a 20-year-old Seattle-based budding playwright and filmmaker who would go on to work as a Disney animator and Oscar-winning documentary director, the digitally restored 1938 original has been outfitted with a period-appropriate score by contemporary composer Ed Hartman.

(8) CROWDED FRAME. Variety headline: “Record 32 Animated Feature Films Submitted for Oscars”.

The Addams Family,” “Frozen II,” “Toy Story 4,” “Abominable” and “The Secret Life of Pets 2” are among the record 32 movies submitted for the animated feature film category at the 2020 Oscars.

Last year’s Academy Awards race boasted 25 entries, while 2017 had 26 and 2016 had 27 (a then-record).

(9) ROAD MAP. This week’s Nature offers “Tips from a Pulitzer prizewinner” — author Cormac McCarthy. Though this advice is for writing research papers, it’s good, general writing advice…

• Use minimalism to achieve clarity. While you are writing, ask yourself: is it possible to preserve my original message without that punctuation mark, that word, that sentence, that paragraph or that section? Remove extra words or commas whenever you can.

• Decide on your paper’s theme and two or three points you want every reader to remember. This theme and these points form the single thread that runs through your piece. The words, sentences, paragraphs and sections are the needlework that holds it together. If something isn’t needed to help the reader to understand the main theme, omit it.

• Limit each paragraph to a single message. A single sentence can be a paragraph. Each paragraph should explore that message by first asking a question and then progressing to an idea, and sometimes to an answer. It’s also perfectly fine to raise questions in a paragraph and leave them unanswered.

• Keep sentences short, simply constructed and direct. Concise, clear sentences work well for scientific explanations. Minimize clauses, compound sentences and transition words — such as ‘however’ or ‘thus’ — so that the reader can focus on the main message.

(10) WHERE’D SHE GO? NPR’s Scott Tobias sighs, “‘Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil’ Clips Angelina Jolie’s Wings”.

As Disney continues to plunder its animated IP for live-action remakes, where these films fall on the spectrum of pointlessness has to do with how closely they adhere to the source. The remakes that simply copy the material from one format to the other, like Beauty and The Beast or Aladdin, have been consistently enervating whereas the ones that attempt a full gut rehab, like Dumbo or the excellent Pete’s Dragon, at least have the benefit of an independent artistic vision. In this particular creative desert, every droplet of water counts.

The 2014 fantasy Maleficent wasn’t a remake of Sleeping Beauty so much as an alternative telling, an act of playful revisionism that relates to the original as the novel and Broadway musical Wicked relates to The Wizard of Oz. The main twist — that Maleficent isn’t evil, but a wronged fairy taking revenge on a duplicitous king — riffs cleverly on the idea that everyone has their reasons. The film also nests other bits of commentary inside, like questioning whether Prince Phillip and Princess Aurora could have fallen in love so quickly or snickering at the notion that Aurora could dodge Maleficent’s curse by hiding in the woods for 16 years. But it works best as a vehicle for Angelina Jolie, whose enhanced cheekbones and villainous cackle suggested the making of a camp icon.

…Mistress of Evil loses the emotional stakes of the first film, which were rooted in a terrible injustice and the unlikely bond between Maleficent and the cursed princess she comes to adore. There’s a good angle here about the destructive potential of myth, tied to the stories that unfairly poison Maleficent in the human world, but Jolie goes missing for long stretches of the film as Ingrith does her scheming. And while it’s a pleasure to see Pfeiffer lay into a regal villain, it’s odd to see a Maleficent film with so little Maleficent, and all the giggly little sprites in the world can’t make up for it. Jolie was born to play the role, and the best strategy would have been to let her.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

October 18, 2016 — The new edition of The Star Trek Encyclopedia by Michael Okuda and Denise Okuda was released. They were production staff on Next Generation, Deep Space Nine and Voyager. It was illustrated by Doug Drexler. Now a two volume. set with a slip case, it has five hundred new entries. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 18, 1917 Reynold Brown. Artist responsible for many SF film posters. His first poster was Creature from the Black Lagoon which Mike included in a recent post, with other notable ones being Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, I Was a Teenage Werewolf and Mothra vs. Godzilla. (Died 1991.)
  • Born October 18, 1938 Barbara Baldavin, 81. She was a recurring performer on Trek first as Angela Martine in “Balance of Terror” and “Shore Leave”.  She would also appear in the final season’s “Turnabout Intruder” as communications officer Lisa.  After that, she had one-offs on Fantasy Island and The Bionic Woman. She retired from the business in 1993.
  • Born October 18, 1938 Dawn Wells, 81. Mary Ann Summers on Gilligan’s Island which y’all decided was genre. She and Tina Louise are the last surviving regular cast members from that series. She had genre one-offs on The Invaders, Wild Wild West and Alf.
  • Born October 18, 1944 Katherine Kurtz, 75. Known for the Deryni series which started with Deryni Rising in 1970, and the most recent, The King’s Deryni, was published in 2014. As medieval historical fantasy goes, they’re damn great. 
  • Born October 18, 1951 Jeff Schalles, 68. Minnesota area fan who’s making the Birthday Honors because he was the camera man for Cats Laughing’s A Long Time Gone: Reunion at Minicon 50 concert DVD. Cats Laughing is a band deep in genre as you can read in the Green Man review here.
  • Born October 18, 1951 Pam Dawber, 68. Mindy McConnell in Mork & Mindy. She did very little other genre work, Faerie Tale Theatre and the Twilight Zone being the only other shows she did. She was however in The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything as Bonny Lee Beaumont which is based off the John D. MacDonald novel of the same name. Go watch it — it’s brilliant! 
  • Born October 18, 1960 Jean-Claude Van Damme, 59. Cyborg, the Universal Soldier film franchise and Time Cop are but three of his genre films. And he’s in some films in ways that aren’t necessarily apparent, i.e. he was an uncredited stunt double in Predator, and he had a cameo in Last Action Hero. 
  • Born October 18, 1964 Charles Stross, 55. I’ve read a lot of him down the years with I think his best being the rejiggered Merchant Princes series. Other favorite works include the early Laundry Files novels and both of the Halting State novels. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater believes in ghastly puns, especially at Halloween.
  • JJ says, “Somehow I don’t think this was quite what Campbell had in mind for psience.” —

(14) CELEBRATING LONGEVITY. “Wonder Woman gets monumental, all-star 750th issue”SYFY Wire has the story.

Wonder Woman is getting a special giant-sized comic book to commemorate an upcoming landmark issue.

Today, DC Comics announced it will assemble an all-star roster of writers and artists who will pack the 96-page super-sized one-shot with stories and artwork that chronicle the Amazonian princess from the 1940s all the way through to today. Contributing to the issue are long-time Wonder Woman scribes Greg Rucka and Gail Simone, along with the book’s current writer, Steve Orlando

(15) THE LATEST COUNT. John Kelly in the Washington Post has a profile of Dick Dyszel, who played “Count Gore De Vol” in Washington’s creature feature on Channel 20 from 1979-87.  The count is still busy, with his website, (countgore.com), and streaming short films on Vimeo. “The horror! Homegrown Count Gore De Vol is back for some Halloween high jinks” (2018 article.)

…I asked Dick which movies scared him as a kid growing up in Chicago. Not many, he said. “What I really liked were the big bug movies: ‘Them.’ ‘Tarantula.’ Things like that.”

In fact, Dick said he didn’t actually see the movie that scared him the most.

“I’m being very honest: There was a trailer I saw in the movie theater,” he said. “There was a closet door opening and some thing came out of the closet. It scared the living daylights out of me. I left the theater. Let’s face it, it’s a cheap horror thing: the unknown coming out of a door.”

Cheap but effective, just like Count Gore.

(16) SOUND RETREAT. SYFY Wire hopes this house may do as much for visiting writers as it did for the original owner: “Stephen King’s Bangor home to serve as archive, writers’ retreat”.

Great news, Stephen King fans … and aspiring writers! The Victorian mansion in Bangor, Maine, that King and his wife Tabitha have called home for decades has been reorged as a nonprofit and will open its ornate bat-decorated gate to scholars and authors.

The Bangor City Council on Wednesday approved the Kings’ request to rezone their home, per a story from Rolling Stone. Going forward, the red mansion at 47 West Broadway where the Kings raised their three children will serve as an archive of King’s work, while a guest house next door would serve as a writers’ retreat. The archive was previously at the Kings’ alma mater, the University of Maine….

(17) THE TIFF SPREADS. Another country objects to a map shown in this animated movie: “Abominable: A DreamWorks movie, a map, and a huge regional row”, followup on a Pixel from a few days ago.

Malaysian censors have ordered a scene to be cut from DreamWorks film Abominable before it is screened there – because of a brief glimpse of a map.

It is the third South East Asian country to take offence at the scene in the film, a Chinese co-production.

The contentious map shows the “nine-dash line”, which China uses to show its claims in the South China Sea.

Parts of the sea and various island groups are claimed by five other Asian countries, as well as China.

Vietnam has already pulled the movie – while Philippine politicians are calling for a DreamWorks boycott.

It might be merely a backdrop in an animated movie – but it shines a spotlight on one of the world’s hottest territorial disputes.

(18) SOME HOBBY. Meet “The man who owns 1,000 meteorites”.

On Christmas Eve 1965 a 4.5 billion-year-old meteorite exploded over the Leicestershire village of Barwell.

It was one of the largest and best recorded meteorite falls in British history: witnesses reported a flash in the sky accompanied by a loud bang, followed by a thud as one of the first pieces of space rock landed on the ground. As news of what happened emerged, the media descended on the village and a frantic search for the hundreds of scattered fragments began.

For nine-year-old Graham Ensor, who lived nearby, it was an event that would change his life, sparking an enduring passion for space rocks. The former lecturer now owns about 1,000 specimens, which experts believe could be the largest private collection in the UK.

(19) LOAFING AROUND. Kitchen Overlord celebrates this literary occasion with a ghastly looking baked good: “Dune Week: Spice Stuffed Sandworm Bread”. At the end of the post there are links to even more Dune-inspired recipes.

Since you honor my sietch with your visit, I will share the secrets of creating a proud, impressive, spice-scented effigy of the Great Maker of Arrakis….

 (20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Truth About Test Screenings” on Vimeo, SHAZAM! director David F. Sandberg gives an insider’s view of when test screenings matter and when they don’t.

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