Pixel Scroll 6/24/20 Pretty Pixels In The File, They Twinkle On The Screen, And Then Get Refreshed So That New Ones Are Seen

(1) JUMP ON THE TRUCK. In the Washington Post, Robert Zubrin and Homer Hickam have an opinion piece where they say that SpaceX Dragon’s success should make the preferred launch vehicle for a return to the Moon and NASA should shelve the Orion rocket as too unwieldy. “Send the SpaceX Dragon to the moon”.

In March 2019, Vice President Pence challenged NASA to land astronauts on the moon by 2024 “by any means necessary.” This was a potential breakthrough, because after nearly 50 years of drift, the White House was finally giving NASA’s human spaceflight program a concrete goal with a clear timeline and forceful support — a necessity for any progress and the restoration of the agency’s can-do spirit. The purpose for the mission itself is a blend of economic, scientific and world leadership goals designed to make the investment worthwhile to all Americans.

NASA’s response to Pence’s challenge was to proceed with what it already had in the pipeline: the Orion crewed spacecraft and the massive shuttle-derived Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift expendable booster rocket. SLS has been in slow-walk development since 2006, with more than $18 billion spent, but it is still years away from launch. Considering this track record, we unhappily doubt the SLS/Orion combination will meet the vice president’s challenge.

But now we have an alternative. The contract that resulted in the Dragon crewed spacecraft was issued by NASA in 2014. Six years and $3 billion later, it has flown astronauts into orbit. What SpaceX did was show that a well-led entrepreneurial team can achieve results that were previously thought to require the efforts of superpowers, and in a small fraction of the time and cost, and even — as demonstrated by its reusable Falcon launch vehicles — do things deemed impossible altogether. This is a revolution….

(2) RWA. The Romance Writers of America will hold a virtual RWA Conference from August 28-30. A full list of the RWA 2020 Conference Scholarships are at the link. Some new ones have been added.

RWA also has clarified a recent announcement about Dreamspinner Press to say they are available to advocate for non-members, too. Thread starts here.

(3) FROM THE CANOE. Elizabeth Bear posted “an open letter to my friends and acquaintances in the publishing community who have been outed as serial harassers, and to the ones who still think they’re getting away with something.”

It begins:

Hey there. I know you’re having a rough time right now, and I’m sorry to say you earned it. I wish I had known about your behavior sooner; I wish I had known that you weren’t just making rank jokes among friends, as we all do once in a while, but engaged in serious abuses of your power, engaged in harming people.

I am, needless to say, very very disappointed in you.

I’m saddened for the people you have hurt, and I’m really disappointed that you have turned out not to be the person I thought you were. Even more, I’m wondering if you even have the self-awareness to realize how much you have harmed not just the people you harassed or gaslit or backstabbed, but also the communities you were a part of. How much you have damaged the people who care about you and who have tried to be your friends, as well….

(4) STOKERCON UK. The StokerCon UK committee has announced a new set of dates for the Horror Writers Association event which has been chased around the calendar by the coronavirus. The post is here.

…Secondly, we are grateful to the majority of you who, since our previous announcement, have allowed us to get on with trying to save the convention—or at least a version of it—by rescheduling it.

To that end, we are pleased to let you know that, at the moment, we have agreed tentative dates for the event with the two convention hotels of 28-31 January 2021. With events and advice changing so quickly, the hotels have agreed to follow UK Government advice and are prepared to reassess or postpone the event once again nearer the time, depending on the spread and hopeful containment of the virus.

(5) YOU ARE HERE. Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes about this moment with empathy and wisdom: “Business Musings: Shock, Survival, and Forgiveness”.

… We now know where we are. We’re in that prolonged change. It’s a transition, and we’ve finally hit it. All of 2020 will be a year of half-measures, making do, and getting through.

Frankly, I find knowing where we are calming. I now know how to proceed day to day. I don’t like it, but I don’t have to like it.

I, you, all of us just have to survive it.

The knowledge of where we’re at, though, took me out of survival mode. I’m no longer obsessively reading the news every day, trying to figure out where we are. I’m donning my mask when I go out. I make that daily calculation—is it worth the risk to my health (and Dean’s health) to do whatever it is I am planning to do?

I can calculate risk now. And, more importantly, Dean and I are agreed. We consult if we’re going to do something outside of our usual schedule, based on the level of risk.

We are more or less staying home, but we did anyway, since we work here.  That sense of ease, that feeling of no longer being on the knife’s edge, has made it easier to focus, although not always easier to work.

I’m one of the few people I know who has made the mental transition out of survival mode. (If one of us gets sick, I know I’ll head right back into it.) Now that I know how we’re going to be living day to day, I’m willing to live day to day. I don’t need to be ever vigilante for another tow truck, coming at us out of the dark.

Because I’ve made this transition, I can see other folks who haven’t. In my various social media feeds, I’m watching writers talk about their process or their lack of one. Writers, discussing how their work has changed or just plain stopped. Writers, who can’t face any of their usual projects, and who are feeling lost and don’t exactly know why.

Everyone knows the changes in their writing habits come from the pandemic, but most don’t understand what to do. And many people are worried that the changes to their writing methods are permanent.

Are those changes permanent? It depends on the change. They seem to fall into two categories…

… We are in a new place. Like any new place, it will take time to learn all its ins and outs. We have to explore it and understand it—and survive the transition into it.

If you’re dealing with actual life and death issues, from someone being very ill in your life to a major loss of income or career, then give yourself time to recover. Take the pressure off your writing. There’s enough pressure in your life….

(6) MEDIA BIRTHDAY,

  • June 24, 1982 Blade Runner premiered. It was directed by Ridley Scott, and was written by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples. It starred Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Edward James Olmos and Sean Young. It was based very loosely on Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? It would win the Best Dramatic Presentation at ConStellation, beating out The Wrath of KhanE.T.The Dark Crystal and The Road Warrior. Critics were puzzled by it and t generated little street buzz nearly thirty years ago. It would vastly raise its stature over the years, now being considered one of the Best SF works ever done. It’s worth Warner Bros. released The Final Cut, a 25th-anniversary digitally remastered version; this is the only version over which Scott retained full artistic control.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 24, 1842 – Ambrose Bierce.  Four hundred short pieces, sixty poems.  A pioneer in realistic fiction; a great fantasist; a biting satirist.  When William Dean Howells said AB was among our three greatest writers, AB said “I am sure Mr. Howells is the other two.”  Translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish, Swedish.  (Died 1914, maybe) [JH]
  • Born June 24, 1915 – Sir Frederick Hoyle.  Coined the expression “Big Bang”, rejected the theory.  Radar research in World War II with more personnel than the Manhattan Project. Mayhew Prize, Balzan Prize, Crafoord Prize.  Founded the Cambridge Institute of Astronomy and resigned from it.  A dozen SF novels, two dozen shorter stories, some with co-authors; translated into Danish, Dutch, French, German, Hungarian, Japanese, Portuguese, Romanian, Serbian,  Spanish, Swedish.  (Died 2001) [JH]
  • Born June 24, 1937 – Charles Brown.  Founded Locus (with Ed Meskys and Dave Vanderwerf) as a fanzine; it grew, changed, and “semiprozine” was invented to describe it; 29 Hugos by the time of his death.  You could disagree with him; on panels with him I opposed his “mainstream literature is about the past, science fiction is about the present, nobody can write about the future”; no one has outdone him.  Writers & Illustrators of the Future Award for lifetime achievement.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born June 24, 1947 Peter Weller, 73. Yes it’s his Birthday today too. Robocop obviously with my favorite scene being him pulling out and smashing Cain’s brain, but let’s see what else he’s done. Well there’s The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, a film I adore. And then there’s Leviathan which you I’m guessing a lot of you never heard of. Is it of the Naked Lunch genre? Well, Screamers based on Philip K. Dick’s short story “Second Variety” certainly is. Even if the reviews sucked.  And Star Trek Into Darkness certainlyqualifies. Hey he showed up in Star Trek: Enterprise! (CE)
  • Born June 24, 1948 – Kris Neri, age 72.Two novels for us; four more, sixty shorter stories.  After living in San Francisco, and Southern California, moved to Sedona (Arizona); now at home in Silver City (New Mexico).  Teaches writing through the U. Cal. L.A. Extension School.  Says her Samantha Brennan and Annabelle Haggerty magical mysteries feature “a questionable psychic who teams up with a modern goddess/FBI agent”.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born June 24, 1950 Mercedes Lackey, 70. There’s a line on the Wiki page that says she writes nearly six books a year. Impressive. She’s certainly got a lot of really good series out there including the vast number that are set in the Valdemar universe. I like her Bedlam’s Bard series better. She wrote the first few in this series with Ellen Gunn and the latter in the series with Rosemary Edghill. The SERRAted Edge series, Elves with race cars, is kinda fun too. Larry Dixon, her husband, and Mark Shepherd were co-writers of these. Lackey and Dixon are GoHs of this year’s Worldcon, CoNZealand. (CE)
  • Born June 24, 1950 Nancy Allen, 70. Officer Anne Lewis in the Robocop franchise. (I like all three films.) Her first genre role was not in Carrie as Chris Hargensen, but in a best forgotten a film year earlier (Forced Entry) as a unnamed hitchhiker. She shows up in fan favorite The Philadelphia Experiment as Allison Hayes and I see her in Poltergeist III as Patricia Wilson-Gardner (seriously — a third film in this franchise?). She’s in the direct-to-video Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return as Rachel Colby. (Oh, that sounds awful.) And she was in an Outer Limits episode, “Valerie 23”, as Rachel Rose. (CE)
  • Born June 24, 1961 Iain Glen, 59. Scots actor who played as Ser Jorah Mormont in Game of Thrones, he’s also  well known for his roles as Dr. Alexander Isaacs/Tyrant in the Resident Evil franchise; and he played the role of Father Octavian, leader of a sect of clerics who were on a mission against the Weeping Angels in “The Time of Angels” and “Flesh and Stone”, all Eleventh Doctor stories. (CE)
  • Born June 24, 1970 – Nicolas Fructus, age 50.  Recently, comics and storyboard art for animated films and video games.  Worked with Moebius, Philippe Druillet; founded Delcourt publishing house.  Here is a cover for Bifrost.  Here is one for Kij Johnson’s novella “The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe”.  Here is A Year in the Air.  [JH]
  • Born June 24, 1982 Lotte Verbeek, 38. You most likely know her as Ana Jarvis, the wife of Edwin Jarvis, who befriends Carter on Agent Carter. She got interesting genre history including being Geillis Duncan on the Outlander series, Helena in The Last Witch Hunter, Aisha in the dystopian political thriller Division 19 film and a deliberately undefined role in the now-concluded cross-world Counterpart series. (CE)
  • Born June 24, 1988 – Kasey Lansdale, age 32. Country music singer-songwriter who has been writing in our field with her father Joe Lansdale; six short stories with him, two alone; edited two anthologies, recently Impossible Monsters.  “Tremble” with JL was in Pop the Clutch from Dark Moon last year.   Website here.  [JH]
  • Born June 24, 1994 Nicole Muñoz, 26. You’ll perhaps best remember her for role as Christie Tarr (née McCawley) in the Defiance series. Her first role was playing a Little Girl in Fantastic Four. Likewise she was A Kid with Braces in The Last Mimzy, and yes, Another Girl, in Hardwired. The latter was written by Michael Hurst, and has apparently nothing to with the Walter Jon Williams novel of the same same. (CE) 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) STICK WITH IT. USPS announced “New Stamps Celebrating Bugs Bunny’s 80th Birthday Coming Soon to a Post Office Near You”.

The U.S. Postal Service will issue commemorative Forever stamps celebrating Bugs Bunny’s 80th birthday. The Postal Service and Warner Bros. Consumer Products are excited to dedicate these stamps at a virtual ceremony on July 27, the 80th anniversary of Bugs Bunny’s official screen debut.

Bugs has always been known for his impeccable impersonations and his masterful masquerades, so the soon-to-be-revealed 10 designs on this pane of 20 stamps each showcase a costumed Bugs Bunny in some of his most memorable getups.

(10) A BIG IDEA. Rosamund Lannin is “Searching for Body Positivity in Fantasy” at Tor.com.

I remember the first time I encountered an attractive fat woman in a fantasy novel. My heart flipped a little as I read about a woman was for-real fat. She wasn’t your usual fictional overweight woman, either: there was no zaftig or curvy or voluptuous to be found near the Scientist’s Daughter in Haruki Murakami’s Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. But she was definitely attractive. The narrator describes her as follows:

“A white scarf swirled around the collar of her chic pink suit. From the fullness of her earlobes dangled square gold earrings, glinting with every step she took. Actually, she moved quite lightly for her weight. She may have strapped herself into a girdle or other paraphernalia for maximum visual effect, but that didn’t alter the fact that her wiggle was tight and cute. In fact, it turned me on. She was my kind of chubby.”

(11) THE NEXT SHIFT. At The Mary Sue, Cree Myles advises: “If You Really Want to Unlearn Racism, Read Black Sci-Fi Authors”.

… Society generally views the science fiction genre as one of leisure. You read it because you have time, not because you want to learn something. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. While all writers are charged with the task of creating a more empathetic society, science fiction writers have the additional burden of telling us what happens next.

Some of our best thinkers, and certainly our most comprehensive hopers, have been sci-fi writers. N.K. Jemisin has given us black female demigods who, despite their powers, still somehow suffer at the hands of an oppressive society. Octavia Butler has given us shapeshifters, time travelers, and voyagers who all had to react and survive under patriarchy and racism. Ursula K. Le Guin was creating entire non-binary societies … in the 1960s.

(12) IT’S IN THE OH! E. D. Ursula Vernon coins a word:

(13) BACK FROM THE FUTURE. “Segway: End of the road for the much-hyped two-wheeler”

Segway is ending production of its original two-wheeler, which was popular with city tour guides and some police forces – but not the public.

Launched in 2001, the much-hyped self-balancing vehicle promised to revolutionise personal transport.

The Segway, invented by US engineer Dean Kamen, debuted with much fanfare, but struggled to make a profit.

Accidents didn’t help with the Segway’s popularity, and the company was bought by Chinese rival Ninebot in 2015.

Made at a factory in New Hampshire, in the US, production of the Segway Personal Transporter will end on 15 July.

Announcing the news, Segway president Judy Cai said: “Within its first decade, the Segway PT became a staple in security and law enforcement, viewed as an effective and efficient personal vehicle.”

However, in the vehicle’s almost two decade-long history it has also been the subject of mockery and high-profile collisions as well as a tragic death.

(14) THE PASSENGER PIGEON OF VIDEO STORES. Atlas Obscura leads readers to something that’s the last of its kind: “Bend Blockbuster Video”.

In early summer of 2018, there were two Blockbusters left in Alaska and one in Oregon. The Alaska stores finally closed that summer, leaving the Bend store as the last one standing. National media attention soon followed and the Bend Blockbuster became a tourist site as well. And after the last Blockbuster Video in Australia closed in 2019, the Bend store became the only one left in the world. 

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

Pixel Scroll 4/26/20 Do Not Ingest Or Inject Pixels

(1) ONE NEBULA VOTER’S PICKS. Sue Burke, author of 2019 Campbell Award finalist Semiosis, evaluates the Nebula short fiction nominees in two categories and tells what she voted for:

Adrian Tchaikovsky, by Oscar Celestini

(2) FEARBUSTERS. Jasmin Gelick’s “PenPower Project” is a series of posts with input from well-known sff authors “designed to debunk the myths of writer’s block and all kinds of other writerly fears.” She’s releasing one a week. As part of the introductory post she commissioned artist Oscar Celestini to depict all the participants as superheroes — Sue Burke, Caitlin Starling, Tim Pratt, Yoon Ha Lee, Thoraiya Dyer, Anna StephensEowyn Ivey, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Kat Rocha, Martha Wells, John Langan, and Richard S. Ford. See them all here.

There’s also a post devoted to ”the Villain”, whatever writers worry about when starting a new story, or even when they’re in the middle and things aren’t coming together – the Villain gets a caricature, too.

These are the topics Gelick’s panelists have addressed so far:

In order to answer the question ‘Do you need to write every day?’ and the perhaps even more poignant: ‘If you don’t write every day can you call yourself a writer at all?’ we’ll take a close look at each of the twelve writing superheroes’ writing process below.

About the last one, Yoon Ha Lee says –

YOON: Honestly, the planning is the most fun. Actually writing is kind of a chore because it goes on foreeeeeeever, and then revisions become fun again. Kind of like a sandwich? I like twisty chess plots, which are hard to pull off, so that aspect of Raven Stratagem was particularly satisfying.

(3) CATCHING UP TO SCIENCE FICTION. In the Washington Post, Gene Park looks at efforts by Epic Games (creator of Fortnite) and other video game developers to create the Metaverse, predicted by Neal Stephenson in Snow Crash.  Park thinks Roblox and Minecraft are on course “to create a shared, virtual space that’s persistently online and active, even without people logging in” and notes that it’s significant that Reporters Without Borders asked Minecraft to host a database of 12 million publicly censored documents. “Silicon Valley is racing to build the next version of the Internet. Fortnite might get there first.”

Conversation around a more tangible, actualized Internet seems only more pointed in light of our current shelter-in-place reality in response to the coronavirus pandemic. In the past month, office culture has coalesced around video chat platforms like Zoom, while personal cultural milestones like weddings and graduations are being conducted in Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons. The Metaverse not only seems realistic — it would probably be pretty useful right about now.

(4) STEEL PALMETTOS. NPR’s Petra Mayer asks about The Southern Club for Vampires in “Getting Some Blood On The Page: Questions For Grady Hendrix”.

Grady Hendrix’s new novel stars a group of determined women who confront a supernatural threat in their community — and while vampires aren’t real (as far as we know), Hendrix says The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires has its roots in his own real life.

“Getting some blood on the page is the only way I know how to write, so all my books are really personal,” he tells me in an email interview. “This one’s set in the neighborhood where I grew up, around the time I graduated from high school, and it’s the first time I’ve had to run a book past my family before publication because so many of our stories wound up in it. Fortunately I’ve fictionalized everything pretty heavily so no one had too many problems.”

…The way you depict the women at the center of the book is clearly affectionate, but in places I felt like it was edging a little into mockery … was that your intent? Tell me how you approached building these characters and their world.

I feel bad it seemed to edge into mockery — I take these ladies very seriously. They’re the women I grew up around, and I wanted to write about how I went from knowing them as a kid, when they seemed like a bunch of lightweight nobodies, to how I got to know them as adults, when I learned that they had dealt with all the ugly, difficult stuff so the rest of us wouldn’t have to. The choices these women had to make were hard, and they were never offered the easy option. Southern ladies are not cute and cuddly. They are tough, strong women who will mess you up. On the other hand, I grew up in Charleston and that world can sometimes seem over-the-top, where the condition of your yard or whether you served your guests on paper or china plates were referendums on the state of your soul. It seems silly in retrospect, but at the time it felt deadly serious. But, you know, in 30 years a lot of the things that feel like life or death to me now are going to feel like punchlines. Time tends to turn almost everything into comedy.

(5) UP ALL NIGHT. New York Times reviewer Ruth Franklin, in “Can’t Sleep? Let Stephen King Keep You Company”, touts the virtues of his new collection If It Bleeds.

…King has previously used the novella — that stepchild of literary forms, somehow at once both too much and not enough — for stories that skirt the edge of horror without sinking into it, such as “The Body,” the inspiration for the classic 1980s film “Stand by Me,” in which a group of boys on a camping trip are transformed less by their discovery of a corpse in the woods than by their first taste of autonomy. “Mr. Harrigan’s Phone,” the first story in the new collection, is a prime specimen in this category. It’s 2007, and Craig, on the cusp of adolescence, has a part-time job helping out wealthy, elderly Mr. Harrigan, a formal but kindly man who introduces him to “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” and treats him to a scratch-off lottery ticket for his birthday and holidays. When one of those tickets wins a $3,000 jackpot, Craig shows his appreciation by buying Mr. Harrigan a first-model iPhone, the same one he just got for Christmas.

Initially skeptical, Mr. Harrigan is speedily seduced, just like the rest of us. “Are these numbers in real time?” he asks in wonder as Craig demonstrates the Stocks app. (In a line that perfectly characterizes the attachment, King writes that he caresses the phone “the way you might pat a small sleeping animal.”) But even as he grows dependent on the device, he recognizes its dangers: “It’s like a broken water main, one spewing information instead of water.” At Mr. Harrigan’s funeral, only a few months later, Craig tucks the man’s phone into the pocket of his suit jacket, a totem to accompany him into the afterlife. The uncanny events that ensue could be explained — possibly — by a technological glitch. But they are triggered by a human longing that anyone who has lost a loved one can understand: the desire to hear the departed person’s voice again, one of the many dubious consolations that technology now offers.

(6) THE DOMINOS ARE FALLING. Kristine Kathryn Rusch has a lot to say about how bad the immediate future looks for the traditional publishing industry in “Business Musings: The Trainwreck”.

I’m sure you’ve all gotten the question lately: How are you going to survive as a writer with the crisis in the publishing industry? Every news outlet —well, at least every news outlet that reports news other than the latest virus statistics—has done at least one story on the decimation of the publishing industry.

And let me be honest here: The traditional publishing industry is in grave danger. Not of the kind of disruption it saw in 2009 with the Kindle and ebook reading, but of actual mergers, closures, consolidations, and complete lack of payment to all of its suppliers.

Brick-and-mortar bookstores are shut down, deemed non-essential. Just like libraries, also non-essential. Unlike libraries, which have pivoted to ebooks in a startling and amazing way, many bookstores have no online capability at all.

…There’s a shortage of paper, because it comes from China. The two largest printers of magazines and books in the U.S., Quad/Graphics and LSC Communications were going to merge last summer, but something got in the way. Now, LSC Communications has filed for bankruptcyThe second largest printer, Quad, has shut its book printing facilities entirely.

In some regions, major distributors have shut down or disappeared, while although others, like Ingram, are still operating, although with reduced staff.

Not that it matters, since most bookstores are closed, and not shipping books to their customers. To make matters worse, the books that are being delivered will remain in their boxes, only to be returned for full price credit when this crisis is over. That was a policy established to help bookstores in the Great Depression of the 1930s, and the policy never got changed afterwards.

When bookstores do reopen, they’ll need to send the books back, because they will have the same gap in their cash flow that the rest of us will have—or maybe worse. Many independent bookstores will not survive this crisis, because bookselling has always been a marginal business.

Audiobooks—the brightest light in the traditional publishing firmament—stopped selling when we all sheltered in place. According to Beth Meacham, an editor at Tor who gave an amazing report from the front lines at the beginning of April, commuters account for damn near 100% of audiobook sales, and since no one is driving, no one is listening to audiobooks. The sales didn’t just dry up. They stopped….

The excerpt stops here, however, Rusch is only just getting started on her list of all the industry’s troubles!

(7) DYNARSKI OBIT. Actor Gene Dynarski has died at the age of 86. The Hollywood Reporter’s review of his career mentions many genre roles.

Gene Dynarski, a character actor who appeared in Steven Spielberg’s Duel and Close Encounters of the Third Kind … has died. He was 86.

Dynarski died Feb. 27 in a rehabilitation center in Studio City, playwright Ernest Kearney announced.

The Brooklyn native also worked twice on the original Star Trek, as the miner Ben Childress on the 1966 episode “Mudd’s Women” and as Krodak, who represents a city up for Federation membership, on the 1969 installment “The Mark of Gideon.”

Dynarski was seen as Benedict, one of Egghead’s (Vincent Price) henchmen, on Batman in 1966, and on a 2000 episode of The X-Files, his character fell victim to a monstrous bat creature.

His résumé also included Earthquake (1974)…, among other TV series.

In the 1971 telefilm Duel, Dynarski was a trucker confronted in a roadside café by Dennis Weaver, who thinks he’s the murderous big-rig driver on his tail, and in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), he played the supervisor who sends out Richard Dreyfuss to investigate those mysterious blackouts. 

Dynarski also portrayed Josef Stalin in the 1996 videogame Command & Conquer: Red Alert...

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Baptized April 26, 1564 William Shakespeare.World’s greatest playwright and perhaps one of our earliest fantasy writers was baptized today. (Died 1616.)
  • Born April 26, 1914 H. L. Gold. Best known for launching Galaxy Science Fiction in 1950, soon followed by its companion fantasy magazine, Beyond Fantasy Fiction which lasted but a few years. He was not a prolific writer having but two novels, None but Lucifer with L. Sprague de Camp and A Matter of Form, plus a generous number of short stories. None but Lucifer didn’t see printing in novel form until 2002. H. L. Gold Resurrected: Selected Science Fiction Stories of H. L. Gold appears to be his only collection avail from the usual digital suspects. (Died 1996.)
  • Born April 26, 1916 Vic Perrin. Best remembered for being the Control Voice in the original version of The Outer Limits. He also, genre wise, was the Adventures of SupermanMission: ImpossibleBuck Rogers in the 25th CenturyTwilight ZoneBuck Rogers in Twenty-Fifth Century and in three episodes of Star Trek including being the voice of Nomad. (Died 1989.)
  • Born April 26, 1922 A. E. van Vogt. Ok, I admit it’s been so long since I read him that I don’t clearly remember what I liked by him though I know I read Slan and The Weapon Makers.  I am fascinated by the wiki page that noted Damon Knight took a strong dislike to his writing whereas Philip K. Dick and Paul Di Filippo defended him strongly. What do y’all think of him? (Died 2000.)
  • Born April 26, 1943 Bill Warren. American film historian, critic, and one of the leading authorities on science fiction, horror, and fantasy films. He co-wrote the murder mystery Fandom is a Way of Death set at 42nd World Science Fiction Convention which was hosted by many members of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society and which he and his wife were very much involved in. His 1968 short story “Death Is a Lonely Place” would be printed in the first issue of the magazine Worlds of Fantasy. During the Seventies, he also wrote scripts for Warren Publishing’s black-and-white comic books CreepyEerie, and Vampirella. His film reference guide Keep Watching the Skies! American Science Fiction Movies of the Fifties would be revised and expanded several times. (Died 2016.)
  • Born April 26, 1955 Brad W. Foster, 65. A prolific cartoonist and fanzine cover artist, he won an amazing eight Hugo Awards for Best Fan Artist! From 1987 to 1991. He was a regular contributing illustrator to the science fiction magazine Amazing Stories. In 2008 he began producing illustrations for the newsletter Ansible, creating a full color version for the on-line edition, and a different black-and-white version for the print edition.
  • Born April 26, 1961 Joan Chen, 59. You’ll remember her from Twin Peaks universeas Jocelyn ‘Josie’ Packard, and probably less so as Ilsa Hayden in the first Judge Dredd film. I certainly don’t and I’ve watched that film multiple times She was Madame Ong in Avatar. No, not that film, this is a Singaporean sf film from twenty years back. And she was the very first customer on the quite short-lived Nightmare Cafe series. 

(9) PICK UP YOUR PEN. San Diego Comic-Con’s Toucan encourages fans: “You Can Draw With Katie Cook 071: How to Draw How We’re All Feeling Right Now”.

(10) RADICAL READING ORDER. In the midst of her series of reviews about Kage Baker’s Company series, “Start with the Empress of Mars!” advises the Little Red Reviewer’s Andrea Johnson.

If you’ve been seeing my posts and thinking to yourself “jeez, when is she gonna shut up about this Company series, I don’t even know where to freakin’ start with these damn books”,  you can start with The Empress of Mars!

ok, so I KNOW all the suggested reading orders put Empress of Mars near the end of the series, but you should read it near the beginning!!!

– It functions perfectly as a stand alone. Never read a Kage Baker before? start with Empress of Mars!

– omg it is HILARIOUS,  like Anvil of the World hilarious.  the bad translator scene? I was laughing so hard I drooled on myself.

– If you recognize some characters from elsewhere in the series, that’s ok, and if you don’t, that’s ok too.  the book isn’t about those people anyway.

(11) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman and Sarah Pinsker appertained their own chow when they met virtually to record the Eating the Fantastic podcast’s one hundred twentieth episode.

Sarah Pinsker

Since restaurants began closing down and social distancing became the sensible thing to do for my health, the health of potential podcast guests, and the health of the herd, listeners have been suggesting I consider recording episodes of Eating the Fantastic remotely … and I’ve resisted. Because my purpose here is to share the magical, intimate, relaxed conversations which occur best when people are chatting face-to-face over a table filled with food. That’s why last episode, I ended up letting you ask me the questions.

But then it occurred to me — there’s one person on the planet — and only one — with whom I was willing to record remotely. And that person is Sarah Pinsker, my guest on Episode 1 of this podcast four years and two months ago. I intended to catch up with her in meatspace anyway all these years later, but suddenly it felt right for us to chat in cyberspace.

The reason I felt that way is due to her wonderful debut novel, A Song for A New Day, which was published in September 2019. It’s set in a near future where due to a terrorist attack and an accompanying pandemic, all mass gatherings are banned — no concerts, no sporting events, no ways for people to come together the way people have done since the beginning of time — and we’re instead only allowed to meet in VR. So meeting up with Sarah remotely made artistic and poetic sense — because it would almost be as if we were living in the world of her novel.

Since that first episode, Sarah’s short story collection Sooner or Later Everything Falls into the Sea was published in March of last year by Small Beer Press. It includes many award-nominated and award-winning stories, including her Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award-winning “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind,” and her Nebula Award winner “Our Lady of the Open Road.” The collection as a whole was recently awarded the Philip K. Dick Award.

Her novel A Song for a New Day is currently a finalist for this year’s Nebula Award. She’s also a Hugo Award finalist for Best Novelette for “The Blur in the Corner of Your Eye,” published last year in Uncanny Magazine.

We discussed how relieved she was her pandemic novel A Song for a New Day was published in 2019 rather than 2020, why she originally wrote that book in a song format (and why that had to change), how she loves being surprised by her own characters, why neither of us can bear listening to music while we write, the extremely scientific, color-coded process she came up with for organizing her first short story collection, how one of her favorite fictional tropes led to the creation of the original story she wrote specifically for that collection, why the thing that most interests her is the way people cope with what’s put in front of them rather than why those things happen, the reason she prefers leaving interpretations to readers rather than providing answers, her terrible habit when reading collections and anthologies, how she’s coping with the surreal feeling of living in the world of her novel, and much more.

(12) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. [Item by David Doering.] Do cosplays and comic cons violate the law in New York State? I was reading a piece on protests, which led me to see this obscure New York State law forbidding wearing masks:

New York Consolidated Laws, Penal Law – PEN § 240.35 Loitering 

 4.?Being masked or in any manner disguised by unusual or unnatural attire or facial alteration, loiters, remains or congregates in a public place with other persons so masked or disguised, or knowingly permits or aids persons so masked or disguised to congregate in a public place; ?except that such conduct is not unlawful when it occurs in connection with a masquerade party or like entertainment if, when such entertainment is held in a city which has promulgated regulations in connection with such affairs, permission is first obtained from the police or other appropriate authorities;   

I wonder how may concoms read up on whether their city has has “promulgated regulations” regarding “a masquerade party”? Or think to ask permission of the police? And what does this law mean if there are no “promulgated regulations”? Does that make it illegal to “congregate in a public place” at all?

BTW: The history of this provision extends all the way back to 1845 (!!) when it was enacted to prevent protesters from using masks to hide their identities.

(13) BRAND O’LANDO. [Item by rcade.] Twitter is aflutter over Land O Lakes removing the Indian maiden from the packaging. The chatter wouldn’t be skiffy fodder but for a rebranding suggestion that keeps churning up:

(14) CONVINCING CRAFT. Catching up with this 2017 Popular Mechanics post, “The Art and Science of Making a Believable Sci-Fi Spaceship”. Tagline: “How the spaceships of Mass Effect: Andromeda were designed with physics and processing power in mind.”

…It’s an outgrowth of the desire to make a space epic with sci-fi elements based in scientific truth. “Mass Effect has always been grounded by a basis in reality,” says the Mass Effect: Andromeda Creative Director Mac Walters, and nothing in Andromeda exemplifies this more than its spaceship design.

Take the Nexus, for example, a kilometers-long space station engineered to serve as civilization’s base of operation among the unexplored planets. In the game’s lore, the monstrous ship’s kilometers-long design is inspired by “the Citadel,” and ancient alien relic of mysterious origin around which the series’ initial trilogy pivots. But despite its extraordinary inspiration, the ship itself has some surprisingly practical details. Designed to travel half-built, the Nexus is constructed over the course of the game, during which its carefully designed and realistic framework is exposed.

(15) HOBBITVILLE SOLD TO SALT LAKE CITY. Despite the dateline of April 1st, this is not an April Fools joke. “Salt Lake City buys historic ‘Hobbitville’ for $7.5M, sets it aside to become public park”.  

…  Allen Park, which was facing the possibility of being purchased and turned into new development, will soon be a public park. 

…Dr. George Allen and Ruth Larsen Allen purchased the property in 1931 and used a good chunk of the space for their exotic bird collection. Allen Park received the nickname “Hobbitville” because the small houses and log cabins found on the land looked like homes for hobbits.

In addition, it’s filled with signs featuring strange sayings painted on them. It’s considered one of the more unique places in the city. It had come under threat in recent years, though. At least one developer was seeking to purchase the land for future development….

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

Pixel Scroll 4/9/20 I Had Too Much To Stream Last Night

(1) UNDERESTIMATED CRISIS. Kristine Kathryn Rusch sounds overwhelmed in “Business Musings: A Crisis Like No Other (A Process Blog)” where she discusses her daily challenges and struggles as a writer.

Well, I was wrong. A month or so ago, I warned that what we’re going through is a black swan event, that it would have an economic impact, and we as business owners needed to be braced. Then, as things got even worse, I decided this was a double black swan—a crisis without good leadership to carry us through to the other side.

And it seems that, in both cases, I underestimated this thing.  On April 3, Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, called this “a crisis like no other.”

In a speech before the World Health Organization, she added, “Never in the history of the IMF have we witnessed the world economy coming to a standstill. It is way worse than the global financial crisis.”

A crisis like no other. Yeah, that was my sense as well over these past two weeks as I tried over and over again to find some kind of historic precedent to guide us forward. I couldn’t find one—not an analogous one, on that hit the global economy all at once, and forced people around the world to behave in the same way.

It’s breathtaking and shocking and hard to fathom. As you can tell from my many blog posts, I’m wrestling with this change. I know we’ll come out the other side, but for the first time—maybe in my adult life—I have no idea what kind of world we will emerge into. Usually I can predict both worst case and best case scenarios….

(2) SETTING THE TONE. Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book is where I first read John Clyn’s famous quote, written in 1349 at the height of the Black Plague:

“So that notable deeds should not perish with time, and be lost from the memory of future generations, I, seeing these many ills, and that the whole world encompassed by evil, waiting among the dead for death to come, have committed to writing what I have truly heard and examined; and so that the writing does not perish with the writer, or the work fail with the workman, I leave parchment for continuing the work, in case anyone should still be alive in the future and any son of Adam can escape this pestilence and continue the work thus begun.”

(3) APOLLO 13. At least the astronauts came out the other side of this disaster all right — “‘Houston, we’ve had a problem’: Remembering Apollo 13 at 50”.

…A half-century later, Apollo 13 is still considered Mission Control’s finest hour.

Lovell calls it “a miraculous recovery.”

Haise, like so many others, regards it as NASA’s most successful failure.

“It was a great mission,” Haise, 86, said. It showed “what can be done if people use their minds and a little ingenuity.”

As the lunar module pilot, Haise would have become the sixth man to walk on the moon, following Lovell onto the dusty gray surface. The oxygen tank explosion robbed them of the moon landing, which would have been NASA’s third, nine months after Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took humanity’s first footsteps on the moon.

Now the coronavirus pandemic has robbed them of their anniversary celebrations. Festivities are on hold, including at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where the mission began on April 11, 1970, a Saturday just like this year.

(4) WHO TWO. ScreenRant offers their opinion — “Doctor Who: Every Doctor’s TRUE Companion”. For example:

Fourth Doctor: Sarah Jane Smith

Often considered the best companion of Doctor Who‘s classic run, Elizabeth Sladen made a lasting impression as Sarah Jane Smith, evolving the template set by Jo Grant previously. More so than her predecessors, Sarah Jane naturally grew into a second main character and although she debuted alongside the Third Doctor, her wits were slightly better suited to the eccentric ramblings of Tom Baker’s Time Lord. The Fourth Doctor would struggle to find an equally fitting companion, treating Leela with occasional contempt and burning through several regenerations of Romana.

(5) IMPOSSIBLE TIME. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination’s podcast Into the Impossible has posted Episode 38: “Giving the Devil His Due: a conversation with Michael Shermer & Brian Keating”.

Dr. Michael Shermer is the Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine, the host of the Science Salon Podcast, and a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University where he teaches Skepticism 101. For 18 years he was a monthly columnist for Scientific American. He is the author of New York Times bestsellers Why People Believe Weird Things and The Believing Brain, Why Darwin Matters, The Science of Good and Evil, The Moral Arc, and Heavens on Earth. His new book is Giving the Devil His Due: Reflections of a Scientific Humanist.

(6) HOW’S YOUR EYESIGHT? “Smithsonian seeks public’s help with Sally Ride’s astronaut training notes”.

Before she became the first American woman to fly into space, Sally Ride needed to learn how to be an astronaut. Now, 30 years later, the public can help expand access to Ride’s training experience by volunteering to transcribe her extensive handwritten notes.

The National Air and Space Museum has begun the process of converting the 23 cubic feet of material it obtained from Ride’s estate in 2015 to be available for research and study. Archivists have scanned and indexed the entire collection, but more can be done to make the papers fully searchable.

(7) DRUCKER OBIT. MAD Magazine artist Mort Drucker died April 8 at the age of 91. Mark Evanier paid tribute at News From Me: “Mort Drucker, R.I.P.”

He found his way to MAD magazine in 1956 at a precarious moment in that publication’s history. Founding editor Harvey Kurtzman had departed and taken most of the art crew with him. Replacement editor Al Feldstein was assembling a new team and with no idea how valuable the new applicant would be to MAD, he took a shot with Drucker.

Mort had never thought of himself as a caricaturist but when called upon to draw the comedy team of Bob & Ray for some pieces, he displayed a flair that surprised even him. Before long, Mort was the illustrator of movie and TV parodies in every issue of MAD…an association that lasted some 55 years. Big stars would say that you didn’t feel you’d made it in Hollywood until Mort Drucker had drawn you in MAD.

The New York Times obituary is here.

…“No one saw Drucker’s talent,” Mr. Hendrix wrote, until he illustrated “The Night That Perry Masonmint Lost a Case,” a takeoff on the television courtroom drama “Perry Mason,” in 1959. It was then, Mr. Hendrix maintained, that “the basic movie parody format for the next 44 years was born.”

From the early 1960s on, nearly every issue of Mad included a movie parody, and before Mr. Ducker retired he had illustrated 238, more than half of them. The last one, “The Chronic-Ills of Yawnia: Prince Thespian,” appeared in 2008.

Mr. Drucker compared his method to creating a movie storyboard: “I become the ‘camera,’” he once said, “and look for angles, lighting, close-ups, wide angles, long shots — just as a director does to tell the story in the most visually interesting way he can.”

Mr. Hendrix called Mr. Drucker “the cartoonist’s equivalent of an actor’s director” and “a master of drawing hands, faces and body language.” Mr. Friedman praised Mr. Drucker’s restraint: “He wasn’t really hung up on exaggerating. He was far more subtle and nuanced — interested in how people stood and so on.”

(8) WILLNER OBIT. Most recently known as Saturday Night Live’s sketch music producer. Hal Willner died April 7. The LA Times tribute is here. He had a long career in film, and produced several record albums, including these genre-adjacent projects –

…Most striking was Willner’s ode to the music of Walt Disney’s animated films. Called “Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films,” he enlisted artists including cosmic jazz traveler Sun Ra, experimental vocalist Yma Sumac, Los Angeles group Los Lobos and rock band the Replacements to re-imagine such songs as “Cruella De Ville,” “Whistle While You Work” and “Someday My Prince Will Come.” Tom Waits turned “Heigh Ho (The Dwarves Marching Song)” into a forced-labor dirge.

As the compiler of “The Carl Stalling Project: Music From Warner Bros. Cartoons 1936-1958,” Willner resurrected the reputation of the frantic, inventive composer Stalling and his scores for “Bugs Bunny” and “Road Runner” cartoons….

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 9, 1953 Invaders From Mars premiered. It was produced by Edward L. Alperson Jr. and directed by William Cameron Menzies. It starred  a large cast of Jimmy Hunt, Helena Carter, Arthur Franz, Morris Ankrum, Leif Erickson, and Hillary Brooke. Made a shoestring budget of three hundred thousand, it got amazingly good reviews though a few critics thought it it was too frightening for younger children, did a great box office and currently has a rating of fifty six percent among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You can see it here.
  • April 9, 1955 Science Fiction Theatre first aired in syndication. It was produced by Ivan Tors and Maurice Ziv.  It ran for seventy-eight episodes over two years and was hosted by Truman Bradley who was the announcer for Red Skelton’s program. The first episode “Beyond” had the story of a test pilot travelling at much faster than the speed of sound who bails out and tells his superiors that another craft was about to collide with his. It starred William Lundigan, Ellen Drew and Bruce Bennett. You can watch it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 9, 1911 George O. Smith. His early prolific writings on Astounding Science Fiction in the 1940s which ended when Campbell’s wife left him for Smith Whom she married. Later stories were on Thrilling Wonder Stories, GalaxySuper Science Stories and Fantastic To name but four such outlets. He was given First Fandom Hall of Fame Award just before he passed on. Interestingly his novels are available from the usual digital sources but his short stories are not. (Died 1981.)
  • Born April 9, 1913 George F. Lowther. He was writer, producer, director in the earliest days of radio and television. He wrote scripts for both Captain Video and His Video Rangers and Tom Corbett, Space Cadet.  You can see the first show “The Birth of The Galaxy” which he scripted here. (Died 1975.)
  • Born April 9, 1921 Frankie Thomas. He was best remembered for his starring role in Tom Corbett, Space Cadet which ran from 1950 to 1955. Though definitely not genre or genre adjacent, he was in the Nancy Drew film franchise that ran in the late Thirties. (Died 2006.)
  • Born April 9, 1935 Avery Schreiber. He’s had a long history with genre fiction starting with Get Smart! and going from there to include More Wild Wild West!Fantasy IslandFaerie Tale Theatre: PinocchioShadow ChasersCavemanGalaxinaDracula: Dead and Loving ItAnimainiacs in which he voiced Beanie the Brain-Dead Bisonand, of course, The Muppet Show. (Died 2002.)
  • Born April 9, 1937 Marty Krofft, 83. Along with with Sid, a Canadian sibling team of television creators and puppeteers. Through Sid & Marty Krofft Pictures, they have made numerous series including the superb H.R. Pufnstuf which I still remember fondly all these years later not to forget Sigmund and the Sea MonstersLand of the Lost and Electra Woman and Dyna Girl.
  • Born April 9,1949 Stephen Hickman, 71. Illustrator who has done over three hundred and fifty genre covers such as Manly Wade Wellman’s John the Balladeer and Nancy Springer’s Rowan Hood, Outlaw Girl of Sherwood Forest. His most widely known effort is his space fantasy postage stamps done for the U.S. Postal Service which won a Hugo for Best Original Artwork at ConAndian in 1994.
  • Born April 9, 1954 Dennis Quaid, 66. I’m reasonably sure that he first genre role was in Dreamscape as Alex Gardner followed immediately by the superb role of Willis Davidge in Enemy Mine followed by completing a trifecta with Innerspace and the character of Lt. Tuck Pendleton. And then there’s the sweet film of Dragonheart and him as Bowen. Anyone hear of The Day After Tomorrow in which he was Jack Hall? I hadn’t a clue about it.
  • Born April 9, 1955 Earl Terry Kemp, 65. Author of The Anthem Series: A Guide to the Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Weird Specialty Publishers of the Golden Age and The Anthem Series Companion: A Companion to The Guide to the Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Weird Specialty Publishers of the Golden Age. He also maintains several databases devoted to the same including The Golden Age of Pulps: SF Magazine Database: Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror (1890-2009).
  • Born April 9, 1972 Neve McIntosh, 48. During time of the Eleventh Doctor, she played Alaya and Restac, two Silurian reptilian sisters who have been disturbed under the earth, one captured by humans and the other demanding vengeance. Her second appearance on Doctor Who is Madame Vastra, in “A Good Man Goes to War”. Also a Silurian, she’s a Victorian crime fighter.  She’s back in the 2012 Christmas special, and in the episodes “The Crimson Horror” and “The Name of the Doctor”. She reprises her role as Madame Vastra, who along with her wife, Jenny Flint, and Strax, a former Sontaran warrior, form a private investigator team. 
  • Born April 9, 1998 Elle Fanning, 22. Yes she’s from that acting family. And she’s certainly been busy with roles in over forty films! Her first genre film is The Curious Case of Benjamin Button followed by Astro BoySuper 8MaleficentThe BoxtrollsThe Neon Demon, the upcoming Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and a recurring role on The Lost Room, a Cursed Objects miniseries that aired on Syfy. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Candorville encounters a social media slipup.
  • Free Range shows why even superheroes must keep in mind “the right tool for the right job.”

(12) TEMPORARILY FREE COMICS. Dark Horse Comics is releasing the first issue of more than 80 comics series for free, as well as a few volumes of graphics novels, available to read via DARK HORSE DIGITAL from now until April 30. The series include such titles as Umbrella AcademyAmerican Gods, & Disney’s Frozen, as well as graphic novels such as Empowered Vol. 1, and Hellboy Vol. 1.

(13) CAN COMICS RESUSCITATE THE CASH REGISTER? CBR.com investigates “DC vs Marvel: Possible Storylines for a New Big Two Crossover”.

As the effects of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continue to reverberate around the world, one of the many industries severely impacted by the global health crisis is the American comic book market. With major publishers refraining from distributing new comics either digitally or in print and comic retailers shuttering normal operations to prevent the virus’ spread, the future of the industry is currently in a state of limbo. Led by acclaimed writer Gail Simone, comic creators have since suggested the possibility of an intercompany crossover between DC and Marvel Comics’ respective superhero universes as a means to revitalize the industry.

(14) PICARD SPECIAL ISSUE. Titan Comics has Star Trek: Picard – The Official Collector’s Edition on sale now.

A behind-the-scenes guide to the smash hit new Star Trek TV Show, showcasing the further adventures of fan-favorite captain of the Enterprise-D, Jean Luc Picard!

A deluxe collector’s edition offering a behind-the-scenes guide to the brand new Star Trek: Picard TV show, featuring interviews with Star Trek legends Sir Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner (Data), Jonathan Frakes (Riker), Martin Sirtis (Troi), plus the new cast members Isa Briones (Dahj/Soji), Michelle Herd (Raffi), Harry Treadaway (Narke) and many more. Plus, Showrunners Alex Kurtzman and Michael Chabon, and Director Hanelle Culpepper reveal behind-the-scenes secrets.

(15) OLAF SCENES. “Fun With Snow” | At Home With Olaf on YouTube is the first of 20 micro-sized Olaf stories coming from Disney. Find others as they post on the Walt Disney Animation Studios YouTube channel.

(16) MAD AS HELL. In “Suing Hollywood” at CrimeReads, Tess Gerritsen looks at her long series of lawsuits about whether Gravity was stolen from her 1999 space thriller Gravity.

…Most writers who work in the industry understand that suing a studio, no matter how justified their lawsuit, is a losing proposition—and it’s the writer who almost always loses. Knowing this, why would any writer risk everything to charge into battle as David against Goliath? 

I’ll tell you why: because we’re angry and refuse to let them get away with it. I know, because I’ve been there and done that. I’ve seen the dark side of Hollywood.

(17) STATION BREAK. And making a smooth segue between topics, did you know NASA has available a virtual “International Space Station Tour”?

(18) NEXT SPACE STATION SHIFT ARRIVES. And for a news trifecta — “ISS crew blast off after long quarantine”.

Three new crew members have arrived at the International Space Station (ISS) after a launch carried out under tight restrictions due to the coronavirus.

The Russian Soyuz rocket carrying cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner and Nasa astronaut Chris Cassidy took off from Kazakhstan on Thursday.

Pre-launch protocols were changed to prevent the virus being taken to the ISS.

Only essential personnel were allowed at the launch site for the blast-off.

Support workers wore masks and kept their distance as the crew walked to the bus to take them to the spacecraft.

Earlier, Chris Cassidy said not having their families in Baikonur to cheer them on for the launch had affected the crew, but he added: “We understand that the whole world is also impacted by the same crisis.

(19) WAVE BYE-BYE. “BepiColombo: Mercury mission set to wave goodbye to Earth” – BBC supplies lots of details on the instruments being sent.

The joint European-Japanese mission to Mercury reaches a key milestone on Friday when it swings past the Earth.

The two-in-one BepiColombo space probe is using the gravity of its home world to bend a path towards the inner Solar System.

It will also bleed off some speed.

The mission needs to make sure it isn’t travelling too fast when it arrives at Mercury in 2025 or it won’t be able to go into orbit around the diminutive world.

(20) POTTERING ABOUT. “Harry Potter hospital rooms get JK Rowling approval”.

Doctors dealing with coronavirus said they were “uplifted” to have a message of support from JK Rowling when they named areas of their hospital after Harry Potter school houses.

Meeting rooms at the Royal Bournemouth Hospital were named Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravensclaw.

The hospital said the idea was “a bit of fun amongst all the significant issues”.

The author tweeted to say she had “rarely felt prouder”.

The hospital’s medical team decided to name meeting rooms after the Hogwarts houses when redesigning systems to be better prepared for the coronavirus outbreak.

Senior house officer Alex Maslen said: “The house names are familiar to many junior doctors who grew up with the Harry Potter stories, and the awareness has provided some reassurance during these difficult times.”

(21) YOUNG MAN MULLIGAN ATE HERE. BBC tells us “Crops were cultivated in regions of the Amazon ‘10,000 years ago'”.

Far from being a pristine wilderness, some regions of the Amazon have been profoundly altered by humans dating back 10,000 years, say researchers.

An international team found that during this period, crops were being cultivated in a remote location in what is now northern Bolivia.

The scientists believe that the humans who lived here were planting squash, cassava and maize.

The inhabitants also created thousands of artificial islands in the forest.

FYI, “Young Man Mulligan” is the filk answer to ”The Great Historical Bum” song (“Bum” lyrics here). It opens “I was born about ten thousand years from now.”

(22) BEFORE FABERGÉ. “Mysteries of decorated ostrich eggs in British Museum revealed”.

If you wanted to give an extravagant gift 5,000 years ago, you might have chosen an ostrich egg.

Now some of these beautiful Easter egg-sized objects are in London’s British Museum.

The eggs were found in Italy but their origins have long been a mystery – ostriches are not indigenous to Europe.

Now, research into the museum’s collection by an international team of archaeologists reveals new insights into their history.

People across Europe, the Mediterranean and North Africa traded ostrich eggs up to 5,000 years ago, in the Bronze and Iron Ages.

Eggs were decorated in many ways – painted, adorned with ivory or precious metals, or covered in small glazed stones or other materials.

The five eggs in the British Museum’s collection are embellished with animals, flowers, geometric patterns, soldiers and chariots.

(23) DON’T STOP. Rebooted – on YouTube.

It’s not easy for a movie-star to age – especially when you’re a stop motion animated skeleton monster. Phil, once a terrifying villain of the silver-screen, struggles to find work in modern Hollywood due to being an out-of-date special effect.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/17/20 Let’s Build Robots With Genuine Pixel Personalities, They Said

(1) SPRNG THAW. Book borrowers cheer as Publishers Weekly reports “Macmillan Abandons Library E-book Embargo”.

In a surprise announcement today, Macmillan abandoned its controversial embargo on new release e-books in libraries, effective this week.

“There are times in life when differences should be put aside,” reads a brief memo from Macmillan CEO John Sargent addressed to librarians, authors, illustrators, and agents. “Effective on Friday (or whenever thereafter our wholesalers can effect the change), Macmillan will return to the library e-book pricing model that was in effect on October 31st, 2019. In addition, we will be lowering some e-book prices on a short term basis to help expand libraries collections in these difficult times. Stay safe.”

A Macmillan spokesperson confirmed that the removal of the embargo covers all titles, including new release Tor titles (which were technically still under a “test” embargo on October 31, 2019).

The news comes as libraries across the nation are (or soon will be) closing down their physical locations in an attempt to slow the outbreak of Covid-19….

(2) MORE NON-CORONA NEWS. The South China Morning Post has the story: “Xiao Zhan scandal – why millions of Chinese shoppers boycotted Piaget, Cartier and Estée Lauder because of homoerotic idol fan fiction”.

Things escalated quickly after A03’s takedown. Enraged by Xiao fans’ censorship plot, millions of free speech activists began boycotting the dozens of brands Xiao campaigns for, including Estée Lauder, Piaget and Qeelin. But they’ve gone further than the usual boycott by promoting competitors of Xiao-promoted brands, crashing Xiao-sponsored brands’ customer service lines, and pressuring those brands to end their collaborations with Xiao. So far, the Chinese Weibo hashtag #BoycottXiaoZhan has exceeded 3,450,000 posts and 260 million views.

.. But the idol economy has a sinister side. In the Chinese model of idol adoration, fans are the ones in control of the idol’s reputation and commercial worth – not the idol. And since fan communities are so actively involved in their idol’s brand sponsorships, it also falls on them to attack brands that they perceive to be opposing their idol’s interests.

(3) FUN STORY. A wonderful spin on a beleaguered classic: Cora Buhlert’s “The Cold Crowdfunding Campaign” begins –

Save the Girl and Save Me From Having to Toss Her Out of the Airlock

Organised by Captain C. Barton

Started on August 4, 2178, 08:48     Category: Accidents and emergencies

My name is Barton and I’m the pilot of an EDS (Emergency Dispatch Ship) currently en route to the frontier world of Woden to deliver some desperately needed medical supplies.

I have a problem, because I just discovered a stowaway aboard my ship, an eighteen-year-old girl named Marilyn Lee Cross. Upon questioning, Marilyn explained that her brother Gerry works on Woden as part of the government survey crew. She wants to visit him and since there is no regular passenger traffic to Woden because of the current medical crisis, she snuck aboard my ship…..

(4) WINDY CITY PULP CON POSTPONED. Chicago’s Windy City Pulp and Paper Convention, originally set for next month, has been rescheduled to September 11-13.

On March 16, 2020, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker mandated that social gatherings of 50 or more people be cancelled for the next eight weeks.  Given other recent developments in the Covid-19 crisis, we anticipated that some sort of ban might be imposed that would make it impossible to hold our convention at its scheduled time in April, 2020.  Out of concern for the health of our extended family of attendees, dealers and staff, for the past week we had been working with our hotel — the Westin Lombard Yorktown Center in Lombard, Illinois — to attempt to reschedule our convention.  

We can now announce that we’ve just reached an agreement to postpone the convention to September 11-13, 2020. The location of the convention remains the same, and we thank the fine folks at the Westin Lombard for working with us to make this change….

More information about memberships and hotel reservations at the link.

(5) EDGAR AWARDS. Mystery Writers of America have cancelled the Edgar Awards event planned for April 30: “Edgar Week Events – Update”. How the awards will be announced is under discussion.

It is with heavy heart that we have to let you know we are cancelling both the Edgar Awards banquet and the symposium.

All bars and restaurants have been closed in New York City due to the pandemic (other than for delivery and pick-up), and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a statement on Sunday urging people to cancel or postpone all events bringing together 50 or more people for the next eight weeks, including weddings. “Large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19 in the United States via travelers who attend these events and introduce the virus to new communities,” the CDC said on their website. “Examples of large events and mass gatherings include conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, and other types of assemblies.

This year is the 75th anniversary of MWA; our Edgar week festivities were to be a celebration of that anniversary.

But the health, safety, and well-being of our nominees, guests, members and the hotel staff have to be paramount, and it is not in anyone’s best interest that we go forward with the festivities.

(6) LEPRECON LOSES GOH. At the moment LepreCon 46 is still scheduled for April 10-12 in Chandler, Arizona, however, one of their guests of honor has stepped down. A decision about the con’s future is coming this week.

LepreCon has had some participant cancellations, most notably our Author Guest of Honor, Robert McCammon, who lives in Alabama. He stated: “I’ve gone back and forth on this, and back and forth again, and unfortunately I feel the need to cancel my appearance at LepreCon. I hate to do this because I’d been looking forward to the con and also because never before in my life have I said I would be somewhere and not shown up… but in all honesty I just don’t feel confident in traveling right now and am uncertain of what another month may bring.”

We are restricted in our decision to postpone or cancel Leprecon 46 by our contract with the hotel. We must work in conjunction with them to come up with a solution, since Governor Ducey & ADHS haven’t yet prohibited all public gatherings. We will speak with them Monday to begin the process of determining whether the convention can be postponed or canceled. A decision will be announced by the end of the week.

(7) NO LAST DANCE IN LOUISVILLE. It was going to be the last con in a series that started a decade ago, but now ConGlomeration won’t be taking place. The Louisville, Kentucky fan event was planned for April 10-12.

All good things, as they say, must come to an end. And so it comes to ConGlomeration.

In accordance with current COVID-19 safety recommendations, as well as local, state, and federal mandates, and to ensure the health and well-being of our membership, the Convention Committee has elected to cancel our final ConGlomeration

For those asking why we are cancelling, rather than merely postponing, we simply have no idea if or when a suitable replacement date and venue would become available. We cannot hold our guests, staff, or resources in limbo for an indeterminate amount of time. And, as this was our final convention, we have no “next year” to simply “roll over” this year’s plans and people into.

So, rather than “see you later,” we must instead say “goodbye.”

(8) COMIC RELIEF. Courtesy of George Takei.

(9) BACK TO THE BAD NEWS. Mark George R.R. Martin’s Jean Cocteau Cinema closed, too. The Santa Fe, NM theater posted this “Important Announcement”.

To our Jean Cocteau & Beastly Books Supporters:

We like to keep our community as informed as we can. We regret to say that we have decided to close the Jean Cocteau Cinema for a month starting 03/17 and hope to reopen on 04/15. TBD. The Jean Cocteau Cinema is fortunate enough to continue to pay our employees for the interim….

(10) LIBRARIANS’ DAY RECALENDARED. Horror Writers of America have moved HWA Librarians’ Day to November 12, 2020. The Naperville, IL event is another casualty of coronavirus restrictions.

(11) WHITMAN OBIT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Actor Stuart Whitman has died at the age of 92. Whitman was probably best known for his work in action, war, and western films, but did have some genre roles, the first being an uncredited appearance in When Worlds Collide (1951).

Perhaps most notable were 10 episodes as Jonathan Kent scattered across 4 seasons of the 80s/90s TV series Superboy Other genre and adjacent TV work included seven episodes of Fantasy Island (as different characters), plus episodes on more than a half-dozen other shows including Night Gallery and Tales from the Dark Side

He appeared in sf and horror movies such as Omega Cop, Deadly Intruder, Vultures, Invaders of the Lost Gold, The Monster Club, Demonoid, The Cat Creature, and City Beneath the Sea.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 17, 1846 Kate Greenaway. Victorian artist and writer, largely known today for her children’s book illustrations. So popular was she and her work that the very popular Kate Greenaway Almanacks appeared every year from 1883 to 1895. Among her best-known works was her edition of Robert Browning’s The Pied Piper of Hamelin, Rosa Mulholland’s Puck and Blossom and Bret Harte’s Pirate Isle. She’s readily available at the usual digital suspects. (Died 1901.)
  • Born March 17, 1906 Brigitte Helm. German actress, Metropolis. Her first role as an actress, she played two roles, Maria and her double, the Maschinenmensch, plus several uncredited roles as well.  She’s got some other genre credits including L’Atlantide (The Mistress of Atlantis) and Alraune (Unholy Love). Her later films would be strictly in keeping with the policies of the Nazis with all films being fiercely anti-capitalist and in particular attacking Jewish financial speculators. (Died 1996.)
  • Born March 17, 1945 Tania Lemani, 75. She played Kara in the Trek episode “Wolf in the Fold”. She first met Shatner when she was offered her a role in the pilot for Alexander the Great which starred him in the title role (although the pilot failed to be picked up as a series). She had parts in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Bionic Woman and she shows up in the fanfic video Star Trek: Of Gods and Men. I assume as Kara, though IMDb lists her as herself. 
  • Born March 17, 1947 James K. Morrow, 73. I’m very fond of the Godhead trilogy in which God is Dead and very, very present. Shambling Towards Hiroshima is a lot of satisfying satirical fun as is The Madonna and the Starship which is also is a wonderful homage to pulp writers.
  • Born March 17, 1948 William Gibson, 72. I’ve read the Sprawl trilogy more times than I can remember and likewise the Bridge trilogy and The Difference Engine. The works I struggled with are Pattern RecognitionSpook Country and Zero History. I’ve tried all of them, none were appealing. Eh? 
  • Born March 17, 1949 Patrick Duffy, 71. Surely you’ve seen him on Man from Atlantis? No?  Oh, you missed a strange, short-lived show. His other genre credits are a delightfully mixed bag of such things as voicing a Goat on Alice in Wonderland, appearing on The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne as Duke Angelo Rimini  in the “Rockets of the Dead” episode and voicing  Steve Trevor in the incredibly excellent “The Savage Time” three-parter on Justice League
  • Born March 17, 1951 Kurt Russell, 69. I know I saw Escape from New York on a rainy summer night in a now century-old Art Deco theatre which wasn’t the one I later saw Blade Runner in. I think it’s much better than Escape from L.A. was. Of course, there’s Big Trouble in Little China, my favorite film with him in it. And let’s not forget Tombstone. Not genre, you say. Maybe not, but it’s damn good and he’s fantastic in it. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • About today’s Wallace the Brave Rich Horton commented, “I’m just surprised he didn’t wear a propeller beanie!”

(14) BEYOND 404. Bleeding Cool tells about a new comedy that’s on the way — “’Upload’: Your Afterlife Depends on Your Wi-Fi Strength in Greg Daniels’ Upcoming Amazon Prime Comedy Series”.

If we’re reading things correctly, Greg Daniels‘ (The Office, Space Force) new comedy series Upload for Amazon Prime Video makes the case that the future of your afterlife may depend on how strong your Wi-Fi signal is. At least that’s the premise vibe were getting from the 10-episode series, which includes an ensemble cast fronted by The Flash alum Robbie Amell and Andy Allo (Pitch Perfect 3, The Hero) and a debut date of May 1 for the streaming service….

(15) SPACE COLLECTIBLE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Kickstarter: “DeskSpace: Lunar Surface“. Inspired by the Apollo 11 lunar landing, this Kickstarter project is selling a detailed replica landscape of part of the Moon’s surface. 

Made from “jewelry grade concrete,“ they plan to make it available in two sizes — roughly 7” (180 mm) square & roughly 4“ (100 mm) square. Introductory pledge levels – which are about to run out – are about 75 & 99 US dollars respectively. (Actual pledges appear to be in HK$.)

For a bit more, they’ll sell you the entire solar system.

(16) POMP AND MINECRAFT CIRCUMSTANCES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] SoraNews24: “Japanese students hold graduation ceremony in Minecraft amid school cancellation”. Tagline: “As usual, kids are way ahead of adults.”

Japanese schools have been closed for over two weeks now due to coronavirus quarantine, and they will remain closed until after spring vacation.

Because the Japanese school year ends in March and begins in April, for many students this closing period means that they will miss their graduation ceremonies. Whether they’re leaving elementary school, middle school, or high school, it’s a sad feeling for them to go out with a whimper instead of a bang.

But some creative elementary school graduates in Japan came up with a great workaround. If they couldn’t have a graduation ceremony at school, then why not have one digitally in a place they all meet often anyway… in Minecraft!

(17) SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL CRITTER. At Dogpatch Press, Patch O’Furr has an animal-centric post about the plague, with a side order of furry con fraud. “Good news! Doggos won’t make you vom-o — and more to know about a zoonotic pandemic.”

Need something wholesome for a time like this?  Investigation found no reason to fear that people might catch COVID-19 from dogs. That’s good for me and my chihuahua child. No more worry about going “aww” for little sneezes!

(18) COMBAT NEWS AFFECTED DISORDER. Kristine Kathryn Rusch is running a “March Sadness Special” which includes the offer of a couple free books to people signing up for a newsletter.

The last week has been…well, a year in stress and changes and everything else. I’ve been blogging about it to help people through the changes. Those blogs are currently on Patreon, but will hit here, starting tomorrow night.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that people worldwide are staying home. Inside. With computers and streaming and books to keep them occupied.

Last week, Allyson of WMG, Dean, and I discussed a way to provide weekly content to readers and writers. The Stay At Home And Chill Newsletter will tell you about deals and discounts...and if you sign up now, you’ll get two free books to help you relax through this crisis.

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

2019 Novellapalooza

[Editor’s note: be sure to read the comments on this post for more novellas and more Filer reviews.]

By JJ:

TL;DR: Here’s what I thought of the 2019 Novellas. What did you think?

I’m a huge reader of novels, but not that big on short fiction. But the last few years, I’ve done a personal project to read and review as many Novellas as I could (presuming that the story synopsis had some appeal for me). I ended up reading:

  • 31 of the novellas published in 2015,
  • 35 of the novellas published in 2016,
  • 46 of the novellas published in 2017,
  • and 38 of the 2018 novellas.
  • (and this year I was waiting for access to a few novellas, so I was reading others, and thus my final total crept up to 55!)

The result of these reading sprees were

I really felt as though this enabled me to do Hugo nominations for the Novella category in an informed way, and a lot of Filers got involved with their own comments. So I’m doing it again this year.

The success and popularity of novellas in the last 5 years seems to have sparked a Golden Age for SFF novellas – so there are a lot more novellas to cover this year. By necessity, I’ve gotten to the point of being more selective about which ones I read, based on the synopsis being of interest to me.

It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book despite not feeling that the jacket copy makes the book sound as though it is something I would like – and to discover that I really like or love the work anyway. On the other hand, It is not at all uncommon for me to choose to read a book which sounds as though it will be up my alley and to discover that, actually, the book doesn’t really do much for me.

Thus, my opinions on the following novellas vary wildly: stories I thought I would love but didn’t, stories I didn’t expect to love but did, and stories which aligned with my expectations – whether high or low.

Bear in mind that while I enjoy both, I tend to prefer Science Fiction over Fantasy – and that while I enjoy suspense and thrillers, I have very little appreciation for Horror (and to be honest, I think Lovecraft is way overrated). What’s more, I apparently had a defective childhood, and do not share a lot of peoples’ appreciation for fairytale retellings and portal fantasies. My personal assessments are therefore not intended to be the final word on these stories, but merely a jumping-off point for Filer discussion.

Novellas I’ve read appear in order based on how much I liked them (best to least), followed by the novellas I haven’t read in alphabetical order.

I’ve included plot summaries, and where I could find them, links to either excerpts or the full stories which can be read online for free. Short novels which fall between 40,000 and 48,000 words (within the Hugo Novella category tolerance) have been included.

Please feel free to post comments about any other 2019 novellas which you’ve read, as well. And if I’ve missed your comment about a novella, or an excerpt for a novella, please point me to it!

(Please be sure to rot-13 any spoilers.)

(fair notice: all Amazon links are referrer URLs which benefit non-profit SFF fan website Worlds Without End)

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 9/12/19 The Last Voyage Of The Space Unicorn, By A.E. Van Beagle

(1) DEFINITELY A FIRST. Somtow Sucharitkul’s full day included release of the Czech translation of his short story collection — Den v Mallworldu

What a day!

Siam Sinfonietta was honored by being made Orchestra in Residence of the International Music Festival in Olomouc

I received a medal for my work in cross-cultural outreach from Festa Musicale

My book was launched, the first book by a Thai author ever to appear in Czech

…Amazingly, while taking my orchestra on tour in Central Europe, well known fan and translator Jaroslav Olša organized the publication of all my stories that have previously appeared in Czech as a collection and I am having a book launch today – followed by conducting the orchestra in Martinu Hall! This has got to be a SF first, I would think!

(2) ALPHABET SLOOP. Camestros Felapton saw a need and filled it: “The less loved Star Wars wing fighters”.

I was impressed by this comprehensive list of ‘alphabet’ fighters from Star Wars https://www.gizmodo.com.au/2019/09/star-wars-wings-ranked/

I hadn’t realised there were so many but I can’t help thinking that there is a lot more of the alphabet Star Wars could have covered. So I have decided to fill in some of the gaps.

(3) DINOS FROM DUBLIN. Collider features a long interview with the director — “Exclusive: Colin Trevorrow on How He Secretly Made the ‘Jurassic World’ Short Film ‘Battle at Big Rock’”.

A lot of people are going to wonder how did you make a Jurassic World short film without anyone getting wind of it?

TREVORROW: We shot it in Ireland last winter. They have a grove of redwood trees outside Dublin that look exactly like the national parks in Northern California. I honestly never thought we’d make it this far without getting found out. The Irish can keep a secret….

Netflix has a Jurassic World animated series arriving next year. Do you guys have an idea of how long you want the animated series to go for? Do you have a plan if the show is a huge hit?

TREVORROW: Camp Cretaceous. The animation is gorgeous, it’s really exciting and emotional. I think kids are going to love these characters. The writers are so deeply invested in making something we can all be proud of. If it’s a hit and people want more, we’re ready. Just say the word

(4) FUNDRAISER. Kristine Kathryn Rusch sends fans “A Charitable Reminder” about an event she’s doing tomorrow —

I will be doing a live reading and Q&A for the Read for Pixels YouTube Session at 6.00pm PST on September 13th, 2019 (Friday).

The Pixel Project is a worldwide coalition of grassroots activists and volunteers who strongly believe that men and women must take a stand together for the right of women and girls to live a life free of gender-based violence. Our team, our allies, and our supporters use the power of the internet to mount a global effort to raise awareness about and hopefully mobilize communities around the world to get involved with ending violence against girls and women.

I’m participating in their fall fundraiser which began on September 1. Several other authors are participating as well. We’re donating our time and some goodies to encourage you to give a little bit of your hard-earned cash for the cause. So please join me on Friday!

(5) MAKING PARANORMAL MORE CONVINCING. Erin Lindsey, in “Tying In History, Mystery, and The Supernatural” on CrimeReads tells historical paranormal romance novelists that they’ll write better books if their history is accurate.

…Hang on a minute, you say. I was with you up to the magic paintings, but aren’t we writing historical fiction here? Isn’t that supposed to be, you know… accurate?

For the most part, yes. That’s why it’s so important to get the details right. To make sure everything else is meticulously researched and faithfully rendered, so that when that moment of departure comes, it makes a big impression. It helps if you can even ground your supernatural elements in real life – for example, by referring to unexplained incidents that actually exist in the historical record. For Murder on Millionaires’ Row, I researched ghost stories in the New York Times, selecting a few that took place at roughly the same time and even turning one of the real-life investigating officers into a major secondary character. Readers can go back to 19th century newspaper clippings and connect the dots between murders, ghosts, and a few other surprises—all against the backdrop of an otherwise historically accurate Gilded Age New York.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 12, 1958 The Blob premiered.
  • September 12, 1993 — CBS first aired Rockne S. O’Bannon’s Seaquest DSV on this date in 1993. Seaquest DSV would last just three years.
  • September 12, 1993 — Genre fans were treated to latest version of the Man Of Steel when Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman debuted this day.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 12, 1897 Walter B. Gibson. Writer and professional magician who’s best known for his work creating and being the first and main writer of the pulp character The Shadow. Using the pen-name Maxwell Grant, he wrote 285 of the 325 Shadow stories published by Street & Smith in The Shadow magazine of the Thirties and Forties. He also wrote a Batman prose story which appeared in Detective Comics #500 and was drawn by Thomas Yeates. (Died 1985.)
  • Born September 12, 1914 Desmond Llewelyn. He’s best known for playing Q in 17 of the Bond films over thirty-six years. Truly amazing. Live and Let Die is the only one in the period that Q was not in. He worked with five Bonds, to wit Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan. Other genre appearances include The Adventures of Robin Hood, the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr HydeThe Curse of the Werewolf and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. (Died 1999.)
  • Born September 12, 1916 Mary, Lady Stewart (born Mary Florence Elinor Rainbow). Yes, you know her better as just Mary Stewart. Genre wise, she’s probably best known for her Merlin series which walks along the boundary between the historical novel and fantasy. Explicitly fantasy is her children’s novel A Walk in Wolf Wood: A Tale of Fantasy and Magic. (Died 2014.)
  • Born September 12, 1921 Stanislaw Lem. He’s best known for Solaris, which has been made into a film three times. Both iBooks and Kindle have generous collections of his translated works at quite reasonable prices. (Died 2006.)
  • Born September 12, 1922 John Chambers. He’s best known for designing Spock’s  pointed ears, and for the prosthetic make-up work on the Planet of the Apes franchise. Some of those character creations, including Cornelius and Dr. Zaius from the Planet of the Apes series, are on display at the Science Fiction Museum. He worked on the Munsters, Outer Limits, Lost in Space, Mission Impossible, Night Gallery and I Spy along with uncredited (at the time) prosthetic makeup work on Blade Runner. (Died 2001.)
  • Born September 12, 1940 Brian De Palma, 79. Though not a lot of genre in his resume, he has done some significant work including Carrie. Other films he’s done of interest to us are The Fury which most likely you’ve never heard of, and the first Mission: Impossible film along with Mission to Mars. Not genre, but I find it fascinating that he directed Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark video which has a genre connection as actress Courtney Cox would be in the Misfits of Science series and the Scream horror franchise as well. 
  • Born September 12, 1940 John Clute, 79. Critic, one of the founders of Interzone (which I avidly read) and co-editor of the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (with Peter Nicholls) and of the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (with John Grant) as well as writing the Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Science Fiction. All of these publications won Hugo Awards for Best Non-Fiction. And I’d be remiss not to single out for praise The Darkening Garden: A Short Lexicon of Horror which is simply a superb work.
  • Born September 12, 1942 Charles L. Grant. A writer who said he was best at what he called “dark fantasy” and “quiet horror”. Nightmare Seasons, a collection of novellas, won a World Fantasy Award, while the “A Crowd of Shadows” short garnered a Nebula as did “A Glow of Candles, a Unicorn’s Eye” novella. “Temperature Days on Hawthorne Street” story would become the Tales from the Darkside episode “The Milkman Cometh”. Both iBooks and Kindle have decent but not outstanding selections of his works including a few works of Oxrun Station, his core horror series. (Died 2006.)
  • Born September 12, 1962 Mary Kay Adams, 57. She was Na’Toth, a Narn who was the aide to G’Kar in the second season of Babylon 5, and she would show up as the Klingon Grilka in the episodes “The House of Quark” and “Looking for par’Mach in All the Wrong Places”. 

(8) DOCTOR WHO COLLECTIBLES. If you’re at the New York Comic Con (October 3-6) you might have a shot at these —

DOCTOR WHO 3″ Thirteenth Doctor “Kerblam!” Kawaii TITAN

Titan Entertainment are proud to present the latest in their series of limited edition Thirteenth Doctor Kawaii TITANS vinyls! For NYCC 2019, we’re showcasing the Thirteenth Doctor as she appears in the seventh episode of season eleven “Kerblam!” Available in very limited numbers at Titan Entertainment Booth #2142!

DOCTOR WHO 3″ Thirteenth Doctor “Rosa” Classic TITAN

Titan Entertainment are thrilled to announce the latest in their series of limited edition Thirteenth Doctor classic TITANS vinyls! For NYCC 2019, we’re debuting the Thirteenth Doctor as she appears in the third episode of season eleven “Rosa”. Available in very limited numbers at Titan Entertainment Booth #2142!

(9) FILM NOTES. The New York Times’ Joshua Barone is there when two movie scores, overshadowed for one reason or another when they first screened, get their due in a performance at David Geffen Hall: “‘Psycho’ and ‘Close Encounters’ Roll at the Philharmonic”.

‘Close Encounters of the Third Kind’

That Mr. Williams wrote his score for “Star Wars” in the same year as “Close Encounters” speaks to his versatility. One is a grand space opera, with catchy Wagnerian leitmotifs and blaring immensity; the other is atonal and elusive, full of amorphous sound that rarely coalesces into melody. (Mr. Williams, ever adaptable, later wrote playfully enchanting music for “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” which the Philharmonic will perform in December.)

If you listen closely, there are signs that “Star Wars” and “Close Encounters” share a composer: an affinity for Ligeti comes through in both, as does a mastery of cosmic Romanticism. But their differences are clear from the first measure. Where “Star Wars” begins with fanfare and a brassy overture, Mr. Spielberg’s movie doesn’t open with any sort of memorable theme….

‘Psycho’

Steven C. Smith, in his biography “A Heart at Fire’s Center: The Life and Music of Bernard Herrmann,” repeats a quip from the composer that Hitchcock completed only 60 percent of any film.

“I have to finish it for him,” Herrmann said.

That’s not too outrageous; in the films they collaborated on between 1955 and 1964, from “The Trouble With Harry” to “Marnie,” Herrmann’s soundtracks were vital in setting tone and offering insight into psychology.

(10) CATS SLEEP ON SFF. Twitter edition –

(11) TURN BACK THE CLOCK. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] The SF concept of Anagathics or Antiagathics may about to come of age as an article in Nature reveals…. “First hint that body’s ‘biological age’ can be reversed”.

In a small trial, drugs seemed to rejuvenate the body’s ‘epigenetic clock’, which tracks a person’s biological age.

A small clinical study in California has suggested for the first time that it might be possible to reverse the body’s epigenetic clock, which measures a person’s biological age.

For one year, nine healthy volunteers took a cocktail of three common drugs — growth hormone and two diabetes medications — and on average shed 2.5 years of their biological ages, measured by analysing marks on a person’s genomes. The participants’ immune systems also showed signs of rejuvenation.

The results were a surprise even to the trial organizers — but researchers caution that the findings are preliminary because the trial was small and did not include a control arm.

(12) DYNASTIC DUO. SciFiNow shared Eoin Colfer reading from a forthcoming novel — “Exclusive video: Artemis Fowl author Eoin Colfer reads his new book The Fowl Twins”.

The new fantasy series sees Artemis’s twin brothers at the helm of a dangerously fast-paced adventure. With their brother, criminal virtuoso Artemis Fowl, away on a five-year mission to Mars, the younger Fowl children, 11- year-old twins Myles and Beckett, have been left alone at the Fowl family home.

One day, the twins manage to accidentally get caught up in an interspecies dispute when a troll burrows out of the Earth’s core right in front of Beckett’s eyes! In the events that follow the boys are shot at, kidnapped, buried, arrested, threatened and even temporarily killed but, despite their differences, the twins find that there is no force stronger than the bond between them. 

(13) THE TESTAMENTS ON RADIO. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] B Beeb Ceeb Radio 4 are doing a Book at Bed Time, Atwood’s The Testaments. They must have been quietly working on this as I only heard of it yesterday (usually I am pretty genned up on Radio 4 as it is piped to my study).

If you want an abridged audio book then this could be it for you. Episodes begin Monday 16th Sept (so not downloadble yet) starting here.

Margaret Atwood’s powerful and hugely anticipated sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale picks up 15 years after Offred stepped into the unknown. Now shortlisted for the Booker Prize.

(14) ROWLING HONORS MOTHER. It involves a charitable contribution: “JK Rowling donates £15.3m to Edinburgh MS research centre”.

JK Rowling has donated £15.3m to support research into neurological conditions at a centre named after her mother.

The Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic at the University of Edinburgh was established with a £10m donation from the Harry Potter author in 2010.

Her latest gift will help create new facilities and support research.

Anne Rowling died aged 45 from complications related to multiple sclerosis (MS).

The centre is an integrated care and research facility focusing on MS and neurological conditions with the aim of bringing more clinical studies and trials to patients.

Neurological conditions studied at the clinic include motor neurone disease (MND), Parkinson’s and dementias.

(15) LEGENDARY ELEMENT. BBC asks, “‘Red mercury’: why does this strange myth persist?”.

For centuries rumours have persisted about a powerful and mysterious substance. And these days, adverts and videos offering it for sale can be found online. Why has the story of “red mercury” endured?

Some people believe it’s a magical healing elixir found buried in the mouths of ancient Egyptian mummies.

Or could it be a powerful nuclear material that might bring about the apocalypse?

Videos on YouTube extol its vampire-like properties. Others claim it can be found in vintage sewing machines or in the nests of bats.

There’s one small problem with these tales – the substance doesn’t actually exist. Red mercury is a red herring.

The hunt for red mercury

Despite this, you can find it being hawked on social media and on numerous websites. Tiny amounts are sometimes priced at thousands of dollars.

Many of the adverts feature a blurry photo of a globule of red liquid on a dinner plate. Next to it there will often be a phone number scribbled on a piece of paper, for anybody foolish enough to want to contact the seller.

(16) EXIT INTERVIEW. [Item by Jo Van.] In New Zealand, the law requires that people going for an employment-related meeting or medical consultation be permitted to bring a support person, who may be there to provide emotional support, other kinds of support for a mentally- or physically-disabled or ill person, or translation services in the case of someone whose English comprehension may not be strong. “Auckland adman hires professional clown for redundancy meeting” in the New Zealand Herald. (“redundancy” = “down-sized” or “laid off”.)

…The Herald understands that the clown blew up balloons and folded them into a series of animals throughout the meeting.

It’s further understood that the clown mimed crying when the redundancy paperwork was handed over to the staffer.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/16/19 Pixelate a Spherical Chicken

(1) FRAZETTA SALE BREAKS RECORD. Heritage Auctions reports that Frank Frazetta’s 1969 Egyptian Queen just sold for $5.4 million during the ongoing Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction (Chicago; 16–18 May). This is said to be a world record for comic book art, besting a record also held by Frazetta for Death Dealer 6 (1990; also sold by Heritage in May 2018) at a “mere” $1.79 million: “Egyptian Queen by Artist Frank Frazetta Sets $5.4 Million World Record at Heritage Auctions”

…The winning bidder does not wish to be identified at this time.

The painting has been in the possession of Frazetta’s family ever since it was created 50 years ago, and Thursday was the first time it was made available for private ownership in Heritage Auctions’ Comics & Comic Art Auction. In addition to a world record, the painting also set a house record as the most expensive item ever sold by Heritage Auctions, surpassing a luxury Dallas estate, which closed for $4.95 million in 2016.

(2) IN THE BEGINNING. At CrimeReads, Michael Gonzales, in “The Groundbreaking Art of Jim Steranko”, profiles the artist, whose crime novel Chandler has a claim to be the first graphic novel.

For a moment I just stared at him, as the man himself flashed me one of his trademark Kodak smiles. With his jet black perfect hair, G.Q. wardrobe, sunglasses and spit-shined boots, he was iceberg smooth. “How you doing over there,” Steranko said in his world’s greatest showman voice. I shyly glanced at him and back at the Chandler cover when I suddenly realized that the picture of that mean streets private dick was actually a self-portrait.

(3) ON THE IRON HOT SEAT. The Ringer’s Brian Phillips finds that George R.R. Martin makes an excellent vehicle for exploring all kinds of problems with the way writers are underrated, even now in the so-called Golden Age of Television: “Funny Hats and Lonely Rooms: Give George R.R. Martin Some Respect”.

…He’s become a tragicomic figure, a man whose story got away from him creatively and outgrew him culturally at the same time.

Got all that? Good. Now, can we take a minute to give him some damn respect?

If the relentless mediocrity of Game of Thrones’ final season has clarified anything, it’s how desperately this show has always needed Martin’s imagination. (God knows it hasn’t clarified character motives or the workings of fantasy elements or the rate-distance equations for determining travel time over continent-sized landmasses.) Without Martin’s storytelling gifts to guide the series—without his understanding of the characters he created and the world into which he set them loose—Game of Thrones has lost its way, and more than that, it’s lost its way without evidently knowing or caring that it has. The show still looks great, at least when you can see it, and it’s still full of hugely talented actors. Narratively, though, it comes across as a tourist wandering through its own story, pressed for time and always a little confused about what’s happening.

(4) FOOD OF ICE AND FIRE. Meanwhile, Delish ponders the less weighty question of “What Would Happen If Your Favorite Fast Food Chains Actually Did Exist In The ‘Game Of Thrones’ Universe”. “Starbucks in Westeros was just the beginning.”

Did you notice that while HBO said it was a craft services coffee cup chilling in the middle of episode four‘s most pivotal scene, Starbucks didn’t refute the internet’s insistence that it was a classic Bux cup? I did. That’s why I’m doubling down on my theory that there’s been fast food in Westeros all along. A lot of it.

(5) NEW EARWORM. Emperor Stardust plans to set everyone humming again at this weekend’s Nebula Conference.

(6) RUNNING AN AUTHOR KICKSTARTER. Kristine Kathryn Rusch devotes a Business Musings post to “Kickstarter Stress”.

… let me tell you our procedure for running a Kickstarter.

1. Pick a project that will work on Kickstarter

By work, I mean two things. Make sure that it’s something that people will want. And make sure it’s something you can do.

(7) A MID-CENTURY COLLECTION. Bruce D Arthurs found another list of books I haven’t read many of: “Blast From The Past: 102 Great Novels, as of 1962-63”. My score is 16 out of 102. (There are a few more I bought at some point and tried to read without success.)

Among the papers of our friend Anne Braude, who passed away in 2009, I found a small pamphlet, a single folded sheet yellowed and brittle with age, that listed “102 Great Novels”. The pamphlet was distributed by the Scottsdale Public Library, and its list “COMPILED BY NELLENE SMITH, DIRECTOR”. Ms. Smith’s name dates the list to 1962 or 63 (thanks, Google!).

So, nearly sixty years ago, these were the books thought listing as “Great”.

(8) DONBAVAND OBIT. The writer Tommy Donbavand has died at the age of 52.

Tommy Donbavand was an authour and entertainer who wrote over 100 books for young readers, including the Scream Street series. He wrote the Doctor Who book Shroud of Sorrow featuring the Eleventh Doctor.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 16, 1891 Mikhail Bulgakov. Russian writer whose fantasy novel The Master and Margarita, published posthumously, has been called one of the masterpieces of the 20th century. The novel also carries the recommendation of no less than Gary Kasparov. (Died 1940.)
  • Born May 16, 1918 Barry Atwater. Surak in “The Savage Curtain” episode. He did a lot of other genre work from Night Stalker where he played the vampire Janos Skorzeny to The Man From U.N.C.L.E.The Alfred Hitchcock HourVoyage to the Bottom of the SeaNight Gallery, The Wild Wild West and The Outer Limits. (Died 1978.)
  • Born May 16, 1937 Yvonne Craig. Batgirl on Batman, and that green skinned Orion slave girl Marta on “Whom Gods Destroy”. She also appeared in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Wild Wild West, Voyage to The Bottom of the SeaThe Ghost & Mrs. MuirLand of the Giants, Six Million Dollar Man and, err, Mars Needs Women. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 16, 1942 Judith Clute, 77. Illustrator, painter and etcher. Artwork can be found on such publications as Polder: A Festschrift for John Clute and Judith Clute and The Entropy Exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the British ‘New Wave’ in Science Fiction
  • Born May 16, 1944 Danny Trejo, 75. Trejo is perhaps most known as the character Machete, originally developed by Rodriguez for the Spy Kids films. He’s also been on The X-FilesFrom Dusk till DawnLe JaguarDoppelganger: The Evil WithinFrom Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money, Muppets Most Wanted and more horror films that I care to list here. Seriously he’s really done a lot of low-budget horror films.
  • Born May 16, 1950 Bruce Coville, 69. He’s an author of young adult fiction. He has a number of series including Coville’s ShakespeareCamp Haunted Hills and Bruce Coville’s Chamber of Horror / Spirit World. He’s is also the co-founder of Full Cast Audio, a company devoted to recording full-cast, unabridged copies of YA literature.
  • Born May 16, 1953 Pierce Brosnan, 66. James Bond in a remarkably undistinguished series of films. Dr. Lawrence Angelo in The Lawnmower Man, lunch, errr, Professor Donald Kessler in Mars Attacks! and Mike Noonanin Bag of Bones.
  • Born May 16, 1962 Ulrika O’Brien, 57. A Seattle-area fanzine fan, fanartist, con-running fan, and past TAFF winner. Her APA list according to Fancyclopedia 3 is quite amazing —  Fringe, Widening Gyre, and Demi-TAFF Americaine (TAFF Newsletter). Her APAzines include Mutatis Mutandis, and APAs include APA-L, LASFAPA, Myriad and Turbo-APA.
  • Born May 16, 1968 Stephen Mangan, 51. Dirk Gently in that series after the pilot episode. He played Arthur Conan Doyle in the Houdini & Doyle series, did various voices for the 1999 Watership Down, and appeared in Hamlet as Laertes at the Norwich Theatre Royal.
  • Born May 16, 1969 David Boreanaz, 50. Am I the only one that thought Angel was for the most part a better series than Buffy

(10) OWNING IT. BBC quotes “Guardians director James Gunn: Disney ‘had right’ to fire me”.

Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn says Disney “totally had the right” to fire him over decade-old tweets that joked about rape and abuse.

He was rehired to direct the third instalment of the Marvel franchise in March, after the film’s stars signed an open letter asking for his return.

Gunn says he “feels bad” about some of the ways he’s spoken in public in the past and “some of the jokes I made”.

“I feel bad for that and take full responsibility,” he told Deadline.

(11) CRACK TO THE FUTURE. Let James Davis Nicoll explain why “The Luddites Were Right: SF Works That Show the Downside to New Technology”.

…Let’s examine the contrarian position: newer isn’t always best. And let’s take our examples from science fiction, which is dedicated to exploring the new…and, sometimes inadvertently, showing that the newest thing may not work as intended.

(12) SFF FROM A FILER. Joy V. Smith, a regular contributor to the letter column in File 770’s paper days, is out with her latest book, Taboo Tech.

Taboo Tech is a science fiction adventure; it begins with Lacie Leigh Collier saying good-bye to her parents, who leave her in her Uncle Sterling’s care. However, this family has secrets and is fascinated with discovering caches of ancient technology, most of which is forbidden and protected zealously by the Interstellar Guard. So when her uncle gets impatient–he’s supposed to be taking care of Lacie until she comes of age–and takes her with him while on an venture of his own and is pursued by the IG, he sends Lacie on her way, and she must make her way back home, with her own AI, the young Embers, and continue her education at the space academy and points beyond while wondering where her parents are…

(13) THIS TIME FOR SURE! Ehhh…. “Medieval manuscript code ‘unlocked’ by Bristol academic”

An academic claims to have deciphered a medieval manuscript which countless scholars including Alan Turing had been unable to decode.

The Voynich manuscript is a handwritten and illustrated text carbon-dated to the mid-15th Century.

The document is housed in the Beinecke Library at Yale University in the USA.

Dr Gerard Cheshire said: “I experienced a series of ‘eureka’ moments whilst deciphering the code, followed by a sense of disbelief and excitement.”

The manuscript is named after Wilfrid M Voynich, a Polish book dealer and antiquarian, who purchased it in 1912.

The script’s codex also baffled the FBI, which studied it during the Cold War apparently thinking it may have been Communist propaganda.

Dr Cheshire, a research assistant at the University of Bristol, said: “The manuscript was compiled by Dominican nuns as a source of reference for Maria of Castile, Queen of Aragon, who happens to have been great-aunt to Catherine of Aragon.

“It is also no exaggeration to say this work represents one of the most important developments to date in Romance linguistics.”

(14) RAWHIDE AND GO SEEK. Yesterday Ursula Vernon was on the road at an unholy hour to go help a friend “acquire a calf so that her cow will not be sad.”  (Thread starts here.) We also learned something new about sheep —

(15) SURVIVOR. Cockroaches surviving a holocaust is a staple of speculative fiction, but we know for sure “Bedbugs survived the dinosaur extinction event”.

A study that began as an investigation into the “utterly bizarre” way in which bedbugs reproduce has revealed they have existed for far longer than humans.

DNA samples from 30 species of bedbug revealed the insects had been around for at least 115 million years.

The blood-sucking parasites predate their earliest known hosts – bats – by more than 50 million years.

The surprising finding is published in the journal Current Biology.

(16) HUGO REVIEWS. Garik16 joins the throng of reviewers sharing their opinions of the finalists with “Reviewing the 2019 Hugo Nominees: Best Novel”.

I’d actually read all six Hugo Nominees when they were announced, though none made my nominating ballot (you can find that HERE).  Still, three of the nominees came close to making my ballot, so I’m not really dissatisfied with the results, even if my favorites didn’t make it.  There’s definitely some works I don’t really think are Hugo Worthy, though I can see how others might enjoy some of those more than I did.  But there’s a few clearly worthy potential winners here as well.

(17) TO THE LAST DROP. Quanta Magazine discusses the research that suggests “Black, Hot Ice May Be Nature’s Most Common Form of Water”. (Which reminds Daniel Dern of Jane Curtin’s Airplane coffee.)

Recently at the Laboratory for Laser Energetics in Brighton, New York, one of the world’s most powerful lasers blasted a droplet of water, creating a shock wave that raised the water’s pressure to millions of atmospheres and its temperature to thousands of degrees. X-rays that beamed through the droplet in the same fraction of a second offered humanity’s first glimpse of water under those extreme conditions.

The X-rays revealed that the water inside the shock wave didn’t become a superheated liquid or gas. Paradoxically — but just as physicists squinting at screens in an adjacent room had expected — the atoms froze solid, forming crystalline ic

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

Pixel Scroll 5/8/19 Only The True Pixel Denies His Scrollability!

(1) KAY Q&A. “A Collision of History and Memory: Guy Gavriel Kay Discusses His New Novel A Brightness Long Ago at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

In a letter you wrote that was attached by the publisher to advance copies of A Brightness Long Ago, you note that we are psychologically and neurologically programmed to internalize the memories from our teens until our mid-twenties more intensely than any other time of life, a fact that is an underpinning to this book. Do you care to expand on that thought?
There’s a wry aspect to this, as my psychoanalyst brother (to whom this book is dedicated) mentioned this to me 15 or so years ago! When I started writing this novel, using as one of the point of view characters—a man looking back on events form his twenties that loom large for him—that conversation came back from my memory! I asked my brother and he sent some scholarship on the subject.

(2) WATCHMEN TEASER. Time is running out – but for what?

Tick tock. Watchmen debuts this fall on HBO. From Damon Lindelof, Watchmen is a modern-day reimagining of Alan Moore’s groundbreaking graphic novel about masked vigilantes.

(3) NEW RUSS PROFILE. Gwyneth Jones, winner of two World Fantasy Awards, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the SFRA Pilgrim award for lifetime achievement in SF criticism, will have a new book out in July — Joanna Russ (University of Illinois Press).

Experimental, strange, and unabashedly feminist, Joanna Russ’s groundbreaking science fiction grew out of a belief that the genre was ideal for expressing radical thought. Her essays and criticism, meanwhile, helped shape the field and still exercise a powerful influence in both SF and feminist literary studies.

Award-winning author and critic Gwyneth Jones offers a new appraisal of Russ’s work and ideas. After years working in male-dominated SF, Russ emerged in the late 1960s with Alyx, the uber-capable can-do heroine at the heart of Picnic on Paradise and other popular stories and books. Soon, Russ’s fearless embrace of gender politics and life as an out lesbian made her a target for male outrage while feminist classics like The Female Man and The Two of Them took SF in innovative new directions. Jones also delves into Russ’s longtime work as a critic of figures as diverse as Lovecraft and Cather, her foundational place in feminist fandom, important essays like “Amor Vincit Foeminam,” and her career in academia.

(4) ORIGINAL QUESTIONS. The Powell’s City of Books site scored an interview with Ted Chiang about his new collection — “Powell’s Q&A: Ted Chiang, Author of ‘Exhalation'”

What do you care about more than most people around you?
In the context of speculative fiction, I think I’m atypically interested in the question of how do the characters in a story understand their universe. I’ve heard some people say that they don’t care about the plausibility of an invented world as long as the characters are believable. To me these aren’t easily separated. When reading a story I often find myself thinking, Why has no one in this world ever wondered such-and-such? Why has no one ever asked this question, or attempted this experiment? 

(5) ALL ALPHABETS ARE OFF. R.S. Benedict, who’s made several quality appearances in F&SF, has a new podcast, Rite Gud, talking about writing issues. The first episode is: “This Garbage Brought to You By the Letters S-E-O: How Google Is Ruining Writing”.

If you’ve been on the internet for a while, you may have heard about SEO, or “Search Engine Optimization.” But do you know what SEO really is — and the effect it has on writing? While some SEO tips are good — like citing your sources with added external links! — others make writing stilted and awkward. (For example, have you noticed how many times “SEO” has appeared in this paragraph?)

We all want to be seen. One of the most important ways is via Google, is it worth it if it makes your writing stiff? And do you have any other options? Or are we all stuck on the same hamster wheel, using the same techniques to try to rise above the din?

(5b) TOP OF THE POLL. Congratulations to Michael A. Burstein, who has been re-elected to the Brookline (MA) Board of Library Trustees for a sixth term. He notes, “Although the race was uncontested, the unofficial results indicate that I came in first among the four of us running this year, for which I thank everyone who voted for me.”

(6) RUSCH KICKSTARTER. Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Kickstarter appeal for The Diving Universe funded the first day, now they’re raising money to meet the stretch goal. JJ got me reading these, so I had to chip in —

…Two years ago, I realized that before I could write the next book about Boss, though, I needed to figure out what happened in the past, long before any of my current characters were born. 

So…I started what I thought was a short story. It became a 260,000 word adventure novel called The Renegat, because I can’t do world-building without telling a story.

…Everyone who backs this Kickstarter at the $5 and above will receive an ebook of The Renegat

The Kickstarter also gave me an excuse to assemble two books of extras—unfinished side trails, some from The Renegat, and many from earlier books, along with some essays about the entire project.

Of course, backers at the higher levels will get the hardcovers of the series as we complete them. And there are some other fun things here as well. You can get some of the lectures I’ve done for WMG Publishing about writing, or you can join the monthly Ask Kris Anything sessions. Those are live webinars, and you can ask questions about Diving to your heart’s content.

If we make our $5,000 stretch goal, every backer will get a copy of the novella, “Escaping Amnthra,” which is a side story that couldn’t fit into the novel. (“Escape” stands alone as well.)

(7) ROMANCE AWARDS. An array of Romance Writers of America awards have been announced. The award recipients will be recognized at the 2019 RWA Conference in New York.

2019 RWA Award Recipients

  • RWA Lifetime Achievement Award: Cherry Adair
  • RWA Emma Merritt Service Award: Dee Davis
  • RWA Service Awards: Courtney Milan, Gina Fluharty, Barbara Wallace
  • RWA Vivian Stephens Industry Award: Mark Coker, Founder & CEO, Smashwords
  • RWA Cathie Linz Librarian of the Year: Stephen Ammidown, Manuscript & Outreach Archivist, Browne Popular Culture Library, Bowling Green State University
  • RWA Steffie Walker Bookseller of the Year: Michelle Mioff-Haring, Owner, Cupboard Maker Books
  • RWA Veritas Award:Meet The Women Who Are Building A Better Romance Industry” by Bim Adewunmi

Hey – I actually used the pop culture library at BGSU when I went there eons ago!

(8) ANCIENT CLONE. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination hosts “Neanderthal Among Us? Science Meets Fiction: A Discussion of the Motion Picture William” on May 13 at UCSD from 5:30-8:30 p.m. RSVP Required – full details here.

Join the UC San Diego Stem Cell Program, the Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny, OnePlace, and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination for a free screening of the film William, which tells the story of what happens when two scientists clone a Neanderthal from ancient DNA and raise him in today’s world. Following the film, a panel will explore the scientific and ethical questions the film raises.

About the Film William

Star academics Doctors Julian Reed and Barbara Sullivan, fall in love with each other and with the idea of cloning a Neanderthal from ancient DNA. Against the express directive of University administrators they follow through on this audacious idea. The result is William: the first Neanderthal to walk the earth for some 35,000 years. William tries his best to fit into the world around him. But his distinctive physical features and his unique way of thinking–his “otherness”–set him apart and provoke fear. William’s story is powerful and unique, but his struggle to find love and assert his own identity in a hostile world is universal–and timeless.

(9) TWO SCOOPS OF ALASDAIR STUART. Alasdair Stuart’s latest column for Fox Spirit, “Not The Fox News: Don’t Be Nelson”, talks about how emotional engagement, especially when so many major story cycles are starting to end, is both a good thing and to be encouraged.

About once a decade, everything lines up. A half dozen major cultural juggernauts all come into land at about the same time and some poor soul is paid to write the ‘GEEK CULTURE IS OVER. WE SHALL NEVER SEE ITS LIKE AGAIN’ piece. Hey if the check clears and the piece doesn’t hurt anyone, go with God. We’re in one of those times now. Game of Thrones has under half its super short final season to go. Avengers Endgame is all over theaters everywhere and the ninth core Star Wars movie has been confirmed as the end of the Skywalker saga. If this was a concert, we’d officially be into the ‘Freebird’, ‘Hotel California’, ‘Thrift Shop’, ‘Single Ladies’ phase of the night.

These are emotional times….

Stuart has also joined the Ditch Diggers team with a new monthly column. The first one takes a look at the massive ructions in podcasting at the moment and the lessons writers can take from that. “Welcome to the Montage, Now Stare at a Test Tube”

…So let’s break this down. First off, Luminary is a new podcast streaming platform that launched a few months ago with a ton of exclusive titles and a ton of money, very little of which they seem to have spent on a public relations department. The idea is that they are ‘the Netflix of podcasts’, which presumably doesn’t mean:

‘We’re sustained by the physical library system that no one expected to live this long and it takes two years for us to get the new season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’.

Instead, the idea is that Luminary will feature forty or so podcasts which are only available through it’s app, most of which are fronted by celebrities.

How you feel about this really depends on how you feel about ‘famous person has some thoughts’ style shows.

(10) COHEN OBIT. The SFWA Blog announced that scientist Jack Cohen (1933-2019) died May 6.

Cohen primarily worked in the field of reproductive biology….  

As a science fiction fan, Cohen found himself advising many authors, including Anne McCaffrey, Larry Niven, David Gerrold, Jerry Pournelle, and Harry Harrison.  He teamed with Ian Stewart and Terry Pratchett wrote four volumes in the Science of Discworld series, the first of which earned the three authors a Hugo Nomination for Best Related Book.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 8, 1937 Thomas Pynchon, 82. Ok I’m confused. I’ve not read him so I’m not at all sure which of his novels can be considered genre. Would y’all first enlighten to which are such, and second what I should now read. ISFDB certainly doesn’t help by listing pretty much everything of his as genre including Mason & Dixon which though post-modernist isn’t genre.
  • Born May 8, 1938 Jean Giraud. Better to y’all as Moebius. He contributed storyboards and concept designs to myriad science fiction and fantasy films including Alien, The Fifth Element, The Abyss and the original Tron film. He also collaborated with avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky for an unproduced adaptation of Dune. Oh, I would’ve loved to have seen that!  And no, I’m not forgetting his work on both Heavy Metal and Marvel Comics, but I’ll let you detail those endeavours. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 8, 1940 Peter Benchley. He’s known for writing Jaws and he co-wrote the film script with Carl Gottlieb. His novel Beast is genre and was adapted into a film, as was White Shark, which has absolutely nothing to do with sharks. Another novel, The Island, was also turned into a film and it’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 8, 1947 Susan Casper. Editor and author, married to Gardner Dozois until her death.  Her fiction is first collected in Slow Dancing through Time which includes one collaboration with Dozois and one with Jack M Dann. Rainbow: The Complete Short Fiction of Susan Casper which was edited just after her death by her husband is as its title states a complete collection of her short fiction. She was co-editor with him of the Ripper! and Jack the Ripper anthologies. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 8, 1954 Stephen Furst. The saddest part of doing these Birthdays is discovering how many folks have died that I reasonably expected were still living. He died of complications from diabetes at a far too young age. You know most likely Centauri diplomatic attaché Vir Cotto on Babylon 5, a decent being way over his head in a job he was ill prepared for. He also directed three low-budget movies for the Sci Fi Channel: Dragon Storm, Path of Destruction, and Basilisk: The Serpent King; he additionally co-starred in the last two films. And he produced Atomic Shark which aired during Sharknado Week on Syfy. (Died 2017)
  • Born May 8, 1963 Michel Gondry, 56. French director, screenwriter, and producer of such genre as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind  (love that film), The Green Hornet (on the other hand, I deleted this from my .mov files after watching fifteen minutes of it) and The Science of Sleep (which I had not heard but sounds interesting.) 
  • Born May 8, 1981 Stephen Amell, 38. He’s known for portraying Oliver Queen / Green Arrow In Arrowverse. Ok I have a confession. I can either read or watch series like these. I did watch the first few seasons of the Arrow and Flash series. How the Hell does anybody keep up with these and set aside a reasonable amount of time to do any reading?  Seriously the amount of genre on tv has exploded. I’m watching Star Trek, Young Justice and Doom Patrol which is quite enough, thank you.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brevity crams several horrendous puns into this one-frame, LOTR-inspired cartoon.

(13) SPOILERS ASSEMBLE! The putative Endgame spoiler ban has been lifted by the Russo brothers, and Yahoo! Entertainment has a roundup of special tweets from the cast: “‘Avengers: Endgame’ cast reveals treasure trove of behind the scenes footage as spoiler ban lifts”.

The cast of Avengers: Endgame have had to sit on a ton of spoilers for years, with much of the filming on the Marvel mega-blockbuster dating all the way back to 2017.

Directing duo Joe and Anthony Russo have now lifted the ban on discussing spoilers from the film, so many of the cast members have been unveiling some of their illicit behind-the-scenes pictures and videos.

There are, of course, Avengers: Endgame spoilers ahead…

(14) ATWOOD. Tyler Cowen had Margaret Atwood on his Conversations With Tyler podcast: “Margaret Atwood on Canada, Writing, and Invention”. Atwood discusses Hag-Seed, her take on The Tempest, at the 10 minute mark.  She explains why she started writing The Handmaid’s Tale in West Berlin in 1984, and her love of H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau.  Audience questions coming in at the 55-minute mark about her Handmaid’s Tale sequel The Testaments, coming in September, why she likes the YouTube video “At Last, They’ve Made A Handmaid’s Tale for men,” and how readers figured out Offred’s last name.

(15) THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON POKÉMON. Ars Technica reports players have unexpected anatomical development: “Pokémon characters have their own pea-sized region in brain, study finds”.

…It’s well known that human beings are remarkably adept at visually recognizing faces, words, numbers, places, colors, and so forth thanks to a constellation of regions—small clusters of neurons about the size of a pea—in the temporal lobe, located just behind the ears. Those regions show up in the same place in most people, despite differences in age, sex, or race. There’s even a so-called “Jennifer Aniston neuron,” (aka the “grandmother cell“) discovered by a UCLA neuroscientist in 2005, whose primary purpose seems to be to recognize images of the famous actress. Similar neurons have also been found for other celebrities like Bill Clinton, Julia Roberts, Halle Berry, and Kobe Bryant.

“This is quite remarkable, and it’s still an open mystery in neuroscience why these regions appear exactly where they do in the brain,” said co-author Jesse Gomez, a postdoc at the University of California, Berkeley, who conducted the experiments while a grad student at Stanford University. One way to answer this question, and determine which of several competing theories is correct, is to study people who, as children, had a unique experience with a new type of visual stimulus. If those people were shown to have developed a new brain region dedicated to recognizing that new object class, that would offer useful insight into how the brain organizes itself.

The catch: it would take many hours of laboratory practice with any new visual stimulus for there to be any measurable effect. But “I realized that the 1990s had already done it for me,” said Gomez. “I grew up playing Pokémon. The game rewards kids for individuating between hundreds of similar-looking Pokémon.” The game is also played primarily during childhood, a “critical window” period where the brain is especially plastic and responsive to experience. He reasoned it might be possible that passionate Pokémon players like his childhood self would have developed a new brain region in response to that experience. So he applied for a seed grant to test that hypothesis.

(16) BDP PLAYOFFS. Time is out of joint in Camestros Felapton’s review post, “Hugo 2019 Best Dramatic Long etc Round-up”.

…Bless its mega-crossover heart but Avengers: Infinity War is not a serious contender for the best science-fiction film of 2018. It is a notable bit of film making but it’s rather like what ends up on your plate when you* visit a really nice buffet — lots of tasty things but not a carefully constructed dining experience. I get why it’s here instead of Thor: Ragnarok but Thor 3 was a better contender as a sci-fi movie.

That leaves a face-off between Black Panther and Spider-Man. Both are visual treats. Spider-verse pulls off the remarkable feat of creating yet another reboot of Spider-Man as a film character in a way that makes me genuinely excited (doubly remarkable as the MCU version of Spidey was pretty good too)….

(17) HUGO REVIEWS, Here are links to three more sets of 2019 Hugo nominee reviews.

Steve J. Wright’s Best Novella Hugo Finalist reviews are online:

Bonnie McDaniel has completed her Best Novel Hugo Reviews at Red Headed Femme.

Peter Enyeart has posted a set of “2019 Hugo picks: Short stories” at Stormsewer.

(18) RISK. “Think Women Aren’t Big Risk Takers? These Chinese Girls Buck The Stereotype”NPR has the story.

Many studies have found that women aren’t as willing as men to take risks. And so they may shy away from riskier investments or career choices, missing out on the rewards that can come from taking big chances.

The perennial question: Why? Is it nature or nurture?

…Elaine Liu, an economist at the University of Houston, …and co-author Sharon Xuejing Zuo at Fudan University in Shanghai found that young girls from the Mosuo community in China, one of the few societies in the world run by women, were bigger risk-takers than boys from the same community. But after the Mosuo girls spent years in schools with boys and girls who came from patriarchal communities, the trend reversed: Older Mosuo girls took fewer chances.

(19) THE HOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT. BBC reports a “Missing part of Stonehenge returned 60 years on”.

A missing piece of Stonehenge has been returned to the site 60 years after it was taken.

A metre-long core from inside the prehistoric stone was removed during archaeological excavations in 1958.

No-one knew where it was until Robert Phillips, 89, who was involved in those works, decided to return part of it.

English Heritage, which looks after Stonehenge, hopes the sample might now help establish where the stones originally came from.

In 1958 archaeologists raised an entire fallen trilithon – a set of three large stones consisting of two that would have stood upright, with the third placed horizontally across the top.

During the works, cracks were found in one of the vertical stones and in order to reinforce it, cores were drilled through the stone and metal rods inserted.

The repairs were masked by small plugs cut from sarsen fragments found during excavations.

(20) BEST FOOT FORWARD. I’m telling you, this reminds me of a John Sladek story: “Botswana gives leaders stools made from elephant feet”.

Stools made from elephant feet have been presented to three African leaders by their host in Botswana during a meeting on the future of the mammals.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi handed over the gifts, covered in a blue patterned cloth, to his counterparts from Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The countries, along with South Africa, are calling for the ban on the sale of ivory to be lifted.

They argue that money from the trade can be used for conservation projects.

Elephant poaching is a big issue across Africa and some estimates say 30,000 are killed every year. There are thought to be 450,000 left.

(21) ROCK OF AGES. In Air & Space Magazine’s article “Claimed Signs of Life in a Martian Meteorite” the tagline seems an understatement — “Like other previous claims, this one may not hold up.” Another scientist has claimed that a meteorite that originated on Mars contains signs of life. You may recall such a claim previously made based on analysis of ALH84001 (ALH stands for Allan Hills in Antarctica, where the rock was found) with the announcement made in 1996. The evidence was eventually judged inconclusive by most scientists.

Now a new paper by Ildikó Gyollai from the Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences in Budapest, Hungary, and colleagues, claims that there might be clues to Martian life in another Allan Hills meteorite, this time ALH77005. They base their conclusions on morphological and geochemical indicators—including the presence of organic material—which lead them to speculate on the past presence of iron bacteria in this Martian rock. […]

[Thanks to Standback, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Jim Meadows, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributor of the day Kip Williams.]

Pixel Scroll 3/23/19 Pixelon File Was Dream Given Scroll

(1) OUT OF SCHOOL. Nineties throwback comedy series Schooled did an episode last week about the premiere of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. LA fan Shawn Crosby made an appearance, and several 501st and Rebel Legion members were extras, portraying costumed Star Wars fans at the theater audience.

Shawn is here holding a Yoda puppet —

Here’s a snippet:

Here’s a one-minute scene.

(2) TOOL RECOGNITION. Kristine Kathryn Rusch uses the comma to pry open a discussion of a writer’s “voice”: “Business Musings: Punctuation, Voice, and Control”

…Writers feel like they got enough of that “grammar crap” in school, when they probably got very little at all. And what they did get, usually, was a turgid discussion of hard and fast rules which aren’t really hard and which certainly aren’t fast.

So, (she writes, with an introductory comma and a second grammatically unnecessary comma), here’s the short version of my comma rant.

The manuscript you have just finished writing is not your story. Your story lives in your mind. The manuscript is a tool that takes the story from your head and puts it in my head.

The very best writers use that manuscript tool so effectively that readers can actually hear the writer’s voice as they read. That’s why so many readers have a visceral response to writers like Stephen King or Nora Roberts. (Oh, I hate them. They can’t write. Or Oh, I love them. They could tell me stories forever.) That’s why so many English students and unsophisticated writers will complain that certain bestsellers “can’t write their way out of a paper bag.” Those reviewers, students, readers, and writers are all reacting to upper-level voice, without realizing it.

(3) WHO’S TO BLAME? (Re)Generation Who 5, a Doctor Who convention due to be held in Rockville, Maryland next weekend, just canceled today, less than a week ahead. Their short. rather detail-lacking press release here blames the decision on cancellations by the actors.

As a result of a string of last minute cancellations, we see no alternative but to cancel (Re)Generation Who 5. We want to apologize for this as we tried every way possible to move forward, but could not find a way to produce an event of the quality you have come to expect from us.

We will be working with our team to determine if there are any options moving forward.

Please note you will need to contact the hotel directly if have guest room reservations.

Onezumi Events inc.

Names were not specified apart from Paul McGann, the only actor cancellation announced on the convention’s website.

(4) FEARSOME POET. From the Horror Writers Association blog, “Nightmares and Haiku: An Interview with Bram Stoker Award Winning Poet Christina Sng”.

A: The home I grew up in was situated opposite a World War II torture chamber. Long had there been rumors about it being haunted, with one aunt refusing to ever return when she saw a spectre and another hearing chains being dragged down the hallway. You can imagine what effect this had on a child. It was a shadowy apartment unit on the ground floor and I was often left to play by myself in the large bedroom my siblings and I shared. It was sectioned in parts by tall cupboards that seemed to loom over me. I had lots of imaginary friends and time to think and ponder about life, which perhaps has influenced how I write and the stories I tell.

(5) GUIDED DETOUR. Andrew Liptak, who already posted links to the stories that inspired the short films, has made additional reading recommendations at The Verge: “Want more Love, Death + Robots? Read these 17 short stories online”.

Last week, Netflix released its 18-episode animated anthology Love, Death + Robots, a decidedly NSFW series that adapted a number of short stories from well-known science fiction authors. It’s clear from watching the series that there’s a nearly endless supply of source material out there for another season, if Netflix green-lights one. While we wait to see whether that happens, we’ve rounded up some recommendations for a good season 2, and we’ve got 17 recommendations that you can read online now (along with a couple of deep cuts that you’ll have to hunt for.)

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 23, 1904 H. Beam Piper. I’m reasonably sure that the first thing I read and enjoyed by him was Lord Kalvan of Otherwhen followed by Little Fuzzy and related works which are damn fun reading. Didn’t Scalzi write a new novel in this series a few years back? (Died 1964.)
  • Born March 23, 1934 Neil Barron. Certainly best known for Anatomy of Wonder: A Critical Guide to Science Fiction which actually is still a damn fine read. If memory thirty years on serves me right, his Fantasy Literature and Horror Literature guides were quite good too. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 23, 1935 Michael Emmet Walsh, 84. He’s been in a lot of genre work, some of it good and some of it not, Blade Runner being great, Wild Wild West being just plain shit and The Iron Giant being fantastic. In the latter, he voices Earl Stutz, a sailor and the first man to see the robot. He also had appearances on Twilight Zone, Amazing Stories, Tales from the Crypt, Outer Limits, X-Files and Adventure Time
  • Born March 23, 1952 Kim Stanley Robinson, 67. If the Mars trilogy was the only work that he’d written, he’d rank among the best sf writers ever. But then he went and wrote the outstanding Three Californias Trilogy. I won’t say everything he writes I consider top-flight, the Science in the Capital series just didn’t appeal to me. His one-off novels I think are without argument The Years of Rice and Salt and New York 2140. I should note he has won myriad awards I including the Hugo Award for Best Novel, BSFA Award for Best Novel, the Nebula Award for Best Novel and the World Fantasy Award. And the Heinlein Society gave him their Robert A. Heinlein Award for his entire body of works! 
  • Born March 23, 1957 Amanda Plummer, 61. Best known for her work in as Joe Versus the Volcano, The Fisher King and The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. And she apparently was in Freejack as a Nun. 
  • Born March 23, 1976 Michelle Monaghan, 43. Best known I’ve no doubt for playing Julia Meade in Mission: Impossible III, Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol and Mission: Impossible: Fallout but she was in In much more hardcore genre film, to wit Constantine as Ellie. Now admittedly it was initially an uncredited cameo but… now she does get credit for her work in Justice League: War for voicing Wonder Woman. She also Violet van Patten in Pixels, a very strange SF film.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

Here’s a bouquet of Bob the Angry Flowers:

(8) CRAVING HISTORY. MeTV sighs, “Oh, how we want these 8 Hostess snack cakes to come back”. Number 3 includes a Marvel reference —

The official Hostess site touts its Cherry, Apple and Lemon varieties of Fruit Pies. That’s great and all, but what about Blueberry, Blackberry, Peach and Pineapple? 

(9) MYTHING IN ACTION. Time to go back — “Planet Venus: Hopes rise of new mission to the hothouse world”.

The longstanding idea that Venus is geologically dead is a “myth”, scientists say.

And new research may be on the verge of ending that perception forever.

Hints of ongoing volcanic and tectonic activity (activity in the planet’s outer shell) suggest that, while different to the Earth, the planet is very much alive.

Now scientists are building new narratives to explain the planet’s landscape.

This includes an idea that proposes the existence of “toffee planets”. This theory incorporates knowledge accumulated through studying exoplanets.

(10) SCIENCE WITHOUT THE -FI. The editorial in this week’s Science brings together some sff with science: “The future of science in film”.

Film is a universal language of modern societies. Larger-than-life images, stories, ideas, and characters portrayed in films can speak across the globe. This makes science and technology—which have shaped the modern world but remain little understood and poorly integrated into mainstream culture—a rich subject for film and a goldmine for filmmakers.

(11) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Mythos” on Vimeo, Stephen Kelleher gives short animations of classic Greek myths.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/21/19 I Said I Didn’t Get Nothin’, I Had To Pay Fifty Dollars And Scroll Up The Pixels

(1) BAD BUSINESS. Kristine Kathryn Rusch sees disaster in store for those who will do anything to make their Amazon hamster wheel turn faster: “Business Musings: Ghostwriting, Plagiarism, and The Latest Scandal”.

… They will be dealing with this for months, maybe years. And I sure wish them the best.

That’s bad enough, but what this mess has revealed is that ugly underbelly of indie that I noticed a while ago, and decided to run away from.

This ghostwriting thing? It’s a disaster waiting to happen. For everyone. I expected the problems to be contractual with the writers who hired the ghostwriters, particularly the dumbfucks who don’t have a contract or any kind of written agreement with their ghostwriters.

I did not expect plagiarism although, given the contracts I’ve seen from traditional publishers, I should have.

I mean, what’s to stop the ghostwriters from plagiarizing? It’s not their name on the manuscript. And I know some of the writers who are hiring ghostwriters. Those writers aren’t vetting the books. They’re not doing the kind of due diligence that college professors and high school teachers do to see if the writing is plagiarized. (There are programs that search for similar wording all over the internet.)

The writers are not overseeing the projects at all, and are doing it for all the wrong reasons. These writers want more product out, to goose Amazon algorithms, not to get the best stories possible to their readers. …

(2) 20BOOKSTO50K AND THE NEBULAS. Cora Buhlert covers a range of topics in “Some Thoughts on the 2018 Nebula Award Finalists”, such as the professional connections of some newer nominees.

…Which brings us to the other notable trend on this year’s Nebula shortlist, namely the surprising amount of indie writers nominated. There are six indie writers and five indie books/stories nominated for Nebula Awards this year, which is a lot more than we’ve seen before. Now the SFWA opened membership to self-published writers a few years ago, so it was only to be expected that we would start to see more indie books on the Nebula shortlist (disclaimer: I’m not an SFWA member).

I also guess another disclaimer is in order: I don’t hate indie authors. I’m one myself, for heaven’t sake. I also promote a lot of indie books, both on this blog and over at the Speculative Fiction Showcase and the Indie Crime Scene. In fact, I’m pretty sure that I included Jonathan P. Brazee’s nominated novella Fire Ant in one of my new release round-ups last year – at any rate, the title rings a bell.

Because what’s really notable is how different the five indie finalists are from the rest of the finalists. For starters, the indie finalists are all space opera with strong military leanings or outright military science fiction. Again, this isn’t too surprising, since a whole lot of indie SFF writers, including the massively successful ones who are most likely to be SFWA members (there is a minimum income threshold for SFWA eligibility), write space opera and military SF.

Furthermore, most (five of six – I’m not sure about Rhett C. Bruno) of the indie Nebula finalists are affiliated with the 20Booksto50K group founded by Michael Anderle. For those who don’t know, 20Booksto50K started out as a Facebook group for business minded indie writers (the name implies that 20 books should bring you an income of 50000 USD), but by now they are also holding regular writers’ conferences. 20Booksto50K is a huge group – I think they have twenty thousand members or something – and because of their business focus, a lot of financially successful indie writers, i.e. the ones also most likely to join SFWA, are members….

Camestros Felapton shares screenshots and asks more questions in “The Nebulas & 20booksto50, not-a-nudge-nudge-slate”.

Cora notes the presence of several nominees associated with the 20booksto50 group. I discussed this group last year after they received several finalist positions in the Dragon Awards. The group is centered on helping indie writers write and promote their books and notable figures in the group are Craig Martelle, Michael Anderle and Jonathan Brazee.

So was there a 20bboksto50 slate? Well, they have a closed Facebook group but it’s not a particularly mysterious group or highly exclusive and I don’t thing it is a secret (but perhaps not well known) that they’ve had a recommended reading list for the Nebulas for a few years.

Here’s a screenshot of the start of the relevant post this year (I’ll post the text further on)….

(3) BALLANTINE TRIBUTE. TheSmithsonian Magazine says   “Sci-Fi Lovers Owe a Debt of Gratitude to Betty Ballantine”. Subheading: “‘Introverted and quiet’ Betty, who ran the editorial side of the Ballantine publishing companies, deserves her due for changing the industry.”

The next time you pick up a science fiction novel, you should take a moment to thank Betty Ballantine for helping bring the genre into the mainstream.

Ballantine and her husband, Ian, were two halves of a pioneering team that revolutionized the publishing industry in the 20th century. The couple was inseparable, says Beth Meacham, executive editor at science fiction and fantasy publishing company Tor Books, but it’s the “boisterous and charismatic” Ian, who ran the promotional and sales side of their publishing companies, who frequently is given the majority credit for their success. The “introverted and quiet” Betty, who ran the editorial side of the business, also deserves her due for changing the industry.

Meacham calls Betty, who died at her home in Bearsville, New York, at the age of 99 earlier this month, a “quiet magician, working behind the scenes with the writers.”

(4) CON CRISIS SOLVED. LibertyCon sold all its memberships, like they do, and everything was great. Then suddenly they had to find a new venue.

On Wednesday, 20 Feb 2019, at 2pm we received a call that no convention wants to get. Due to delays in their construction schedule, we will not be able to hold LibertyCon at the Read House this year on May 31 – June 2, 2019. After some very late night and early morning discussions and negotiations, we are relieved to say that we have a new home for the next several years, but with so many conventions using Chattanooga as a destination, we could not get the same weekend.

LibertyCon will now be held at the Marriott and the Chattanooga Convention Center on June 28 – 30, 2019.

(5) COSTUME DESIGNERS GUILD AWARDS. Genre took home some of the honors — Variety: “‘Black Panther,’ ‘Crazy Rich Asians,’ ‘Westworld’ Among Costume Designers Guild Winners”.

“Crazy Rich Asians,” “The Favourite” and “Black Panther” walked away with top honors at the 21st annual Costume Designers Guild Awards Tuesday night, the final industry guild show before the Oscars on Feb. 24.

[…] In the television categories, “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” took the contemporary award, while Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and HBO’s “Westworld” won for period and sci-fi/fantasy, respectively. “RuPaul’s Drag Race” took the reality-competition prize.

“The Wife” star Glenn Close received the organization’s Spotlight Award, while Ryan Murphy received the Distinguished Collaborator Award. “Black Panther” costume designer Ruth E. Carter received lifetime achievement recognition.

(6) NETFLIX WILL AIR MOVIE BASED ON LIU CIXIN STORY. SYFY Wire: “Netflix bringing Chinese sci-fi blockbuster The Wandering Earth to the U.S.”

China’s film industry is truly making itself known around the globe these days. Especially now that Netflix has announced it’s snagged the rights to release The Wandering Earth, the Chinese sci-fi blockbuster touted as the country’s first mainstream sci-fi hit on par with the production quality and thrills of a Hollywood tentpole.

[…] Netflix hasn’t issued a release date for the film on its platform, but considering the streaming giant doesn’t operate in China due to local regulations favoring homegrown streaming services, it marks a major acquisition for the U.S. streaming service.

(7) HEADLINER. What does it mean, anyway, for an AI to be dubbed “female”? “China Unveils the World’s First Female AI News Anchor”Futurism.com has the story.

On Tuesday, China’s state-run news outlet Xinhua announced the latest addition to its news team: Xin Xiaomeng.

But Xin never went to journalism school — or any school — because “she” is not a real person. Instead, she’s an artificial intelligence created by Xinhua and search engine Sogou — making her the world’s first female AI news anchor.

Xin will make her professional debut during March’s Two Sessions, the name given to a pair of annual meetings featuring China’s legislature and its top political advisory body.

She won’t be the only AI news anchor covering the event either….

(8) HULKAMANIA. From WIRED we learn: “Thor Is Going To Be Playing the Hulk”. Hulk Hogan, that is.

It’s Thursday, which means it’s time once again for The Monitor, WIRED’s look at all the news coming out of the world of pop culture. What’s hot today? Well, Chris Hemsworth is set to play Hulk Hogan, The Wandering Earth is coming to Netflix, and Idris Elba is set to host Saturday Night Live. Pretty steamy, amirite?

(9) NEW MOON. Nature reports they discovered a “A new moon for Neptune”:

Hippocamp, a previously undetected moon of Neptune, has a peculiar location and a tiny size relative to the planet’s other inner moons, which suggests a violent history for the region within 100,000 kilometres of the planet.

The discovery of Hippocamp is intriguing because of the moon’s relationship to Proteus and the role that both objects might have had in the history of Neptune’s inner system. Hippocamp, the smallest known inner moon of Neptune, orbits just 12,000 km inside the orbit of Proteus, the planet’s largest inner moon (Fig. 1). Both moons migrate outwards because of gravitational interactions with Neptune, but smaller Hippocamp moves much more slowly than Proteus. Therefore, Hippocamp resides nearer to the location at which it formed than does Proteus, which suggests that the two bodies were much closer together in the past.

Whether Hippocamp formed in place from material that did not originate from Proteus or was born of Proteus remains to be determined. Nevertheless, applying the techniques that were used to find it might result in the detection of other small moons around giant planets, or even planets that orbit distant stars.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 21, 1912 Peter Schuyler Miller. He wrote pulp fiction starting in the Thirties, and is generally considered one of the more popular writers of the period. His work appeared in such magazines as Amazing Stories, Astounding, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Marvel Tales, Super Science Stories, and Weird Tales to name but a few of the publications he appeared in. He began book reviewing beginning initially for Astounding Science Fiction and later for its successor, Analog. He was awarded a special Hugo Award for book reviewing. He had but two novels, Genus Homo, written with L. Sprague de Camp, and  Alicia in Blunderland. (Died 1974.)
  • Born February 21, 1913 Ross Rocklynne. The pen name used by Ross Louis Rocklin, an SF writer active in the Golden Age of the genre. He was a professional guest at the first WorldCon in 1939. Though he was a regular contributor to several SF magazines including Astounding Stories, Fantastic Adventures and Planet Stories, he never achieved the success of fellow writers Isaac Asimov, L. Sprague de Camp and Robert A. Heinlein. ISFDB lists two novels for him, The Day of the Cloud and Pirates of the Time Trail. (Died 1988.)
  • Born February 21, 1935 Richard A. Lupoff, 84. His career started off with Xero, a Hugo winning fanzine he edited with his wife Pat and Bhob Stewart.  A veritable who’s who of who writers were published there. He also was a reviewer for Algol.  To say  he’s prolific as a professional writer is an understatement as he’s known to have written at least fifty works of fiction, plus short fiction, and some non-fiction as well.
  • Born February 21, 1946 Anthony Daniels, 73. Obviously best known for playing C-3PO in the Star Wars film series. He is the only actor to have appeared in all of the  films in the series. He has scant other genre creds but they are being in I Bought a Vampire Motorcycle as a Priest,  voicing C-3PO in The Lego Movie and the same in Ralph Breaks the Internet. Both Disney films I’d guess. Did you know that Season 4, Episode 17 of The Muppet Show is listed as “The Stars of Star Wars” and C-3PO apparently appears on it? 
  • Born February 21, 1946 Alan Rickman. I’ll single him out for his role on the beloved Galaxy Quest as Dr. Lazarus but he’s got an extensive acting resume in our community. Of course he olayed Professor Severus Snape in the Potter franchise, and his first genre role was in the Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as the Sheriff of Nottingham. (Bad film, worse acting by Costner.)  He voiced Marvin the Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a role worthy of an Academy Award. Voicing Absolem in Alice Through the Looking Glass was his final role.(Died 2016.)
  • Born February 21, 1949 Frank Brunner, 70. Comics artist whose career started at such venues as Creepy, Web of Horror and Vampirella. Worked later mostly at Marvel Comics on such features as Howard the Duck where he did his artwork for his early features. He also did the art for the  Chamber of Chills, Haunt of Horror, and Unknown Worlds of Science Fiction anthologies. In addition, he and Moorcock collaborated on a adaptation of the latter’s sword-and-sorcery hero Elric in Heavy Metal magazine. 
  • Born February 21, 1950 Larry Drake. I know him best as Robert G. Durant in both Darkman and Darkman II: The Return of Durant. His other genre roles are largely in series one offs such as several appearances on Tales from the Crypt, an appearance on The Outer Limits and even an episode of Star Trek: Voyager. (Died 2016.)
  • Born February 21, 1961 David D. Levine, 58. Winner of the Hugo Award for Best Short Story for his story “Tk’tk’tk” which you hear thisaway. He has the Adventures of Arabella Ashby series which currently is three novels strong. To date, he has had one collection titled Space Magic.
  • Born February 21, 1962 David Foster Wallace. I will openly confess that I was never even slightly inclined to read it. The sheer size was enough to put me off and reading the first chapter convinced me I was right in that belief. So who’s read it? ISFDB also lists The Pale King as genre as well. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 21, 1977 Owen King, 42. There are not quite legions of Kings though sometimes it seems like it. Owen, a son of Stephen and Tabitha, is early in his writing career. His first novel, Double Feature, was not genre and got mixed reviews. His second, Sleeping Beauties, written with his father is genre and getting much better reviews. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) BILL ON BIG BANG. Here’s a two-minute featurette about William Shatner’s Big Bang Theory appearance.

(13) EATS, SHOOTS, AND LEAVES. That’s what this Gizmodo story made me think of: “Japanese Spacecraft Hayabusa2 Touches Down on Asteroid Ryugu”.

The Japanese Hayabusa2 spacecraft has completed one of its most exciting challenges yet: On Thursday evening, it touched down on the asteroid Ryugu, fired a tantalum bullet into the rocky surface, and ascended back into orbit around the tiny world, according to updates from the mission’s English-language Twitter account.

During its brief contact with the asteroid, the spacecraft should have attempted to collect rock samples kicked up by the bullet, the Planetary Society explained. The return of these samples to Earth is a major goal of the mission. 

(14) TOY FAIR. This Uproxx.com has a good con going — “We Went To Toy Fair And Looked At Lots Of New ‘Star Wars’ Toys, Which Look A Lot Like Old ‘Star Wars’ Toys”.

Every year I find it more and more difficult to make up excuses that I can send to my editor so that I can cover Toy Fair. As far as I can tell, Uproxx isn’t a toy collecting website (not yet, at least, but if I ever get my way…) and I don’t know much about the intricacies and nuances of toy reporting except that, sometimes, I like looking at new toys. (Watching the toy reporters at work is truly something. They will spend hours taking painstakingly detailed photographs of every single flake of paint on a new action figure. I only wish I could be that detailed about anything.)

But, whatever, I like going! Especially, of course, to look at Star Wars toys. One of my last “pure” memories of being a little kid was turning that corner into the toy aisle of whatever department store we happened to be at that day, then seeing rows and rows of vintage Kenner Star Wars action figures on that now-classic packaging. (Toys ‘R’ Us was never really in the equation for me. I’ve been seeing a lot of Toy ‘R’ Us nostalgia lately, but, in the greater St. Louis region at the time, our toy store was Children’s Palace. If I remember correctly, the store looked kind of like a castle. I wish there were Children’s Palace nostalgia.)

(15) SIPPY ACTION. Charles Payseur made me click! “THE SIPPY AWARDS 2018! The “Time to Run Some Red Lights” Sippy for Excellent Action!!! in SFF”.

These are stories that got my blood pumping, that made me want to run outside and punch an eagle in the face. Or, perhaps more accurately, they made me want to climb into a mech suit and punch the moon! I mean, come on, the moon is pretty smug up there, always looking down on everyone. Just saying. Anyway, the action doesn’t always have to be traditional battles and brawls. Some of these stories are about a chase, or a race. Some are about war and the struggle of the individual against the weight of history and press of injustice. But these stories run hot, fast, and furious, and I think that stories like that deserve to be seen, because they do show how much fun and thrilling short SFF can be without sacrificing nuance or meaning.

(16) BEE SERIOUS. The world’s biggest bee has been re-discovered, after decades thought lost to science — “World’s biggest bee found alive”.

The giant bee – which is as long as an adult’s thumb – was found on a little-explored Indonesian island.

After days of searching, wildlife experts found a single live female, which they photographed and filmed.

Known as Wallace’s giant bee, the insect is named after the British naturalist and explorer Alfred Russel Wallace, who described it in 1858.

Scientists found several specimens in 1981, but it has not been seen since.

(17) WHAT A DRAG. BBC has research that shows “Stonehenge: Preseli stone ‘transported over land'”.

Stones from Pembrokeshire used in the construction of Stonehenge may have been transported by land rather than sea, archaeologists have found.

A study found some of the stones were taken from the northern part of quarries in the Preseli hills, making it easier to transport them over land.

The findings were published in the journal Antiquity.

Earlier research suggested the bluestones were taken south to the coast.

…However, the new study of crops at Carn Goedog and Craig Rhos-y-felin found the stones were removed from further north in the Preseli hills – making it easier for ancient people to go over the hills rather than around them.

The referenced Antiquity paper opens —

Geologists and archaeologists have long known that the bluestones of Stonehenge came from the Preseli Hills of west Wales, 230km away, but only recently have some of their exact geological sources been identified. Two of these quarries—Carn Goedog and Craig Rhos-y-felin—have now been excavated to reveal evidence of megalith quarrying around 3000 BC—the same period as the first stage of the construction of Stonehenge.

(18) CUE TWILIGHT ZONE THEME. Two minor league pitchers with identical names and heights and hair color and beards and glasses and Tommy John surgery (with the same doctor no less) and a distinct resemblance had their DNA checked to show that they are not, in fact, related. They do, however, share that they are 53% of Germanic ancestry. “2 Baseball Players Named Brady Feigl Take DNA Tests To See If They’re Related”.

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