Pixel Scroll 5/10/20 She Scrolls Like A Pixel, Dances Like A Nipped Out Cat

(1) SOUND CHOICES. AudioFile’s Candace Levy helps listeners “Discover 5 New Fantasy Audiobook Series”.

Feeling down because you’re all caught up with your current fantasy series? Be sad no more, because 2020 is overflowing with new characters and new adventures for audiobook lovers.

First on the list –

Camille Peters’s PATHWAYS, the first in the Kingdom Chronicles series, finds its roots in two classic stories—“The Princess and the Pea” and “Rumpelstilskin”—and contains many familiar fairy tale elements, such as an enchanted forest and a peasant girl who meets a prince. At the same time, the plot includes fresh twists, making it easy for teen listeners to relate to the budding romance, the magical woods, the secrets and betrayals, and the hope for redemption and a happily ever after. Our reviewer praised narrator Shiromi Arserio for her skill in conveying the full range of emotions felt by our heroine as she follows her destiny.

(2) WHAT THE SHOW’S ABOUT. Abigail Nussbaum, in “Deus Ex: Thoughts on Westworld’s Third Season”, begins her summary with an example:

There’s a moment in the third season premiere of Westworld that, though incidental, also feels like it encapsulates the entire show. Dolores, the former “host” at the titular park, who has gained awareness, escaped her enslavement, and vowed to destroy humanity in her pursuit of safety for her people, has arrived at a swanky party wearing a classic Little Black Dress. Striding onto the scene with elegant purpose as only the statuesque Evan Rachel Wood can, she tugs at a bit of fabric, and the dress transforms, unfolding and draping itself around her to become a glittery ballgown. It’s very pretty, and an impressive feat of dressmaking (presumably vying for an Emmy nomination for costuming, the show has even released footage of a test run for the dress transformation). But a moment’s thought can only leave you wondering what it was all for. Both dresses are appropriate evening attire. Neither one makes Dolores more or less noticeable. Neither one conceals her from pursuit (of which there appears to be none). It’s not even as if the LBD was particularly “practical”. The whole thing exists purely for the cool moment. Which is not a bad thing in itself, of course–what is on-screen science fiction for, after all, if not providing us with cool moments to GIF and meme? But it also feels like Westworld in a nutshell: it looks super-dramatic, but when you give it a moment’s thought, it means nothing….

(3) SPFBO BEHIND THE SCENES. Mihir Wanchoo’s post about the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-off at Fantasy Book Critic, “SPFBO 5: Conclusion & Some Thoughts”, includes a lot of “inside baseball,” but ends with these passionate thoughts about the contest’s mission —

Lastly I would like to clarify what the point of the contest is… Here’s what I think:
– It’s NOT about the authors.
– It’s NOT about the bloggers
– IT’S ABOUT THE READERS
– It’s about shining a spotlight on books that readers might have overlooked or never heard about. It doesn’t matter whether a book has a single Goodreads rating or 5K-plus because it can still reach more people by being in the contest.

I vehemently believe that every book should be judged on its own merit and not whether its author has won SPFBO or been a previous finalist or is a famous one (either traditionally published or self-published). Yes we can have rules about how frequently a previous winner or finalist can re-enter their new books (maybe with a cooling period of 2/3 years for a winner and a year for the finalist) but that’s a discussion to be had.

(4) THERE’S AN ART TO THIS KIND OF WRITING. Add NPR’s Steve Mullis to the list of people who adore the series: “Murderbot Makes A Triumphant (And Cranky) Return In ‘Network Effect'”.

…Wells’ latest, Network Effect, is the first full-sized novel featuring our favorite cranky, cynical, sentient, artificially intelligent robot. For those unfamiliar, I’ll give you a few minutes to catch up on the first four books. Done? OK, well that might not be long enough for a simple human, but for Murderbot, it would have been plenty of time to read the previous four volumes, watch an episode of future soap opera The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon and break into a security system to complete a mission.

(5) WRITE-IN. Marc Scott Zicree, creator of Space Command, makes headlines when Neil deGrasse Tyson joins the cast!

Mr. Sci-Fi shares how famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson suggested a story for Space Command and now is a character in the show!

(6) REGISTER FOR VIRTUAL WISCON. WisCon, the world’s first feminist sff convention, is preparing to hold its first ever all-online edition. WisCon 44 will run virtually over U.S. Memorial Day Weekend — May 22-25, 2020. Registration is now open.

Aqueduct Press is collaborating with the organizers to encourage registration with a book giveaway: the first 100 people to register for the online con will receive a digital copy of this year’s volume of The WisCon Chronicles (Vol. 12): Boundaries and Bridges. This year’s volume of the traditional series, which gathers thoughts and creations by WisCon attendees, is edited by Isabel Schechter and Michi Trota.

The volume features Charlie Jane Anders’s and G. Willow Wilson’s WisCon 43 Guest of Honor speeches and the Tiptree (now Otherwise) award winner Gabriela Damián Miravete’s speech and fiction, as well as essays by Alexandra Erin, Julia Rios, Nisi Shawl, John Scalzi, and more.

(7) COMPANY CLOSES AFTER COFOUNDER DIES. [Item by Steve Green.] Twilight Time, the boutique home video label founded in 2011 by Brian Jamieson and the late Nick Redman, announced today (May 10) that it will be shutting down this summer and has begun a ‘closing down’ sale of warehouse stock. Effective July 1, Screen Archives will be taking over remaining inventory. Press release: “It’s Twilight Time For Us!”

Redman died on January 17, aged 63, following a lengthy illness. During his time at the Fox Music Group, he oversaw such movie soundtracks as the 1996 boxset Star Wars Trilogy and the following year’s Star Wars: A New Hope. Thanks to his input, most of the Twilight Time releases had isolated music tracks.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 10, 1945  — Green Hornet’s “An Armistice From Death” was broadcast on WXYZ in Detroit. It has a cast of Bob Hall as the Green Hornet and Rollon Parker as Kato. The latter actor also voiced The Newsboy at the end of each episode who hawked the Extra edition of The Sentinel that carried the story of the weekly racket or spy ring being smashed. The story this time was that though the Nazis have surrendered, a team of a German agent and a Japanese spy plan to carry on the fight against America. The Japanese spy says, “Honorable Hitler never admit defeat!” The first step is to kidnap Kato, Next, they leave a bio weapon in the form of a fatal virus to attack the celebrating Americans. This broadcast followed the actual V-E Day by only 2 days! You can hear it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 10, 1863 Cornelius Shea. As SFE puts it, “author for the silent screen and author of dime novels (see Dime-Novel SF), prolific in many categories but best remembered for marvel stories using a fairly consistent ’mythology’ of dwarfs, subterranean eruptions, and stage illusion masquerading as supernatural magic.” To my surprise, only two of his novels are in the Internet Archive, though Complete Mystery Science Stories of Cornelius Shea which includes two of these Novels is available from iBooks  and Kobo. (Died 1920.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1870 Evoe. Brother of Ronald Knox, husband of Mary Shepard who illustrated Mary Poppins and whose father illustrated Winnie the Pooh and The Wind in the Willows.  Edited Punch 1932-1949 after contributing for years.  When in 1960 Punch ran a series “Authors in Space” – “Dickens in Space”, “Kipling in Space”, “Joyce in Space” – Evoe (a pen name) wrote “Conan Doyle in Space”. (Died 1970.) [JH]
  • Born May 10, 1886 Olaf Stapledon. Original and almost unimaginable. Last and First Men, his first novel (!) extends over two billion years – written in 1930.  Who could follow that?  He did, with Star Maker, over 100 billion years. Their range, imagination, and grandeur may still be unequaled.  He was, however – or to his credit – depending on how you see things – an avowed atheist.  Odd John, about a spiritual-intellectual superman, may be tragic, or heroic, or both; likewise Sirius, about a superdog, on this year’s Retro-Hugo ballot.  First recipient of the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award, 2001.  Science Fiction Hall of Fame, 2014. (Died 1950.) [JH]
  • Born May 10, 1895 Earl Askam. He played Officer Torch, the captain of Ming the Merciless’s guards, in the 1936 Flash Gordon serial. It’s his only genre appearance though he did have an uncredited role in a Perry Mason film, The Case of Black Cat, which is at least genre adjacent as the defendant is a feline! (Died 1940.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1899 Fred Astaire. Yes, that actor. He showed up on the original Battlestar Galactica as Chameleon / Captain Dimitri In “The Man with Nine Lives” episode. Stunt casting I assume.  He had only two genre roles as near as I can tell which were voicing The Wasp in the English language adaptation of the Japanese Wasp anime series, and being in a film called Ghost Story. They came nearly twenty years apart and were the last acting roles that he did. (Died 1987.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1900 Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin. Groundbreakingly proposed in her doctoral dissertation (first Ph.D. from Radcliffe, at the time women-only) that the Sun was mainly hydrogen and helium; proved right four years later.  First woman to head a department at Harvard.  Six honorary degrees.  Stars in the Making (non-fiction) reviewed by Schuyler Miller in the July 1953 Astounding. Biography, What Stars Are Made Of (D. Moore; just published 2020). (Died 1979) [JH]  
  • Born May 10, 1905 Alex Schomburg. One of our finest graphic artists. 130 covers 1939-1993 from Startling to Tomorrow, including Amazing, Astounding and AnalogF & SFGalaxyAsimov’s, books – and the Westercon 37 Program Book; 250 interiors; not that numbers are supreme. Worldcon Special Committee Award for Lifetime Achievement, 1989, and Chesley Award for Lifetime Achievement, 1987; First Fandom Hall of Fame, 1990.  Six years an Illustrators of the Future judge.  See him in Di Fate’s Infinite Worlds. (Died 1998.) [JH]
  • Born May 10, 1935 Terrance Dicks. He had a long association with Doctor Who, working as a writer and also serving as the programme’s script editor from 1968 to 1974. He also wrote many of its scripts including The War Games which ended the Second Doctor’s reign and The Five Doctors, produced for the 20th year celebration of the program. He also wrote novelizations of more than sixty of the Doctor Who shows. Yes sixty! Prior to working on this series, he wrote four episodes of The Avengers and after this show he wrote a single episode of Space: 1999 and likewise for Moonbase 3, a very short-lived BBC series. (Died 2019.) [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1963 Rich Moore, 57. He’s directed Wreck-It Ralph and co-directed Zootopia and Ralph Breaks the Internet; he’s has worked on Futurama. It’s not really stretching the definition of genre , so I’ll note that he did the animation for the most excellent Spy vs. Spy series for MADtv. You can see the first one here. [CE]
  • Born May 10, 1969 John Scalzi, 51. I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve ever read by him. What would I recommend if you hadn’t read him? The Old Man’s War series certainly is fantastic with Zoe’s Tale bringing tears to my eyes as well as the Interdependency series are excellent. I really have mixed feelings about Redshirts in that it’s too jokeyfor my taste. I will note that his blog is one of a very few which I read every post of. [CE]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz wonders what else is in the universe.
  • Garfield enjoys a fan favorite.
  • Free Range plays with a skeptical rock climber.

(11) LINE BY LINE. Gideon Marcus surveys the state of the computing arts – in 1965 – for Galactic Journey: “[MAY 10, 1965] A LANGUAGE FOR THE MASSES (TALKING TO A MACHINE, PART THREE)”.

This is part three of our series on programming in the modern computer age.  Last time, we discussed the rise of user-oriented languages.  We now report on the latest of them and why it’s so exciting.

…These days, thanks to companies like IBM, Rand, and CDC, digital computers have become commonplace — more than 10,000 are currently in use!  While these machines have replaced de Prony’s human calculators, they have created their own manpower shortage.  With computation so cheap and quick, and application of these computations so legion, the bottleneck is now in programmers.  What good does it do to have a hundred thousand computers in the world (a number being casually bandied about for near future years like 1972) if they sit idle with no one to feed them code?

(12) WHEN JUPITER COLLIDES WITH MARS. Yahoo! News asks “Will Coronavirus Kill Astrology?” Are they kidding?

If ever there was one, Susan Miller would be a blue-chip astrologer. So in January, when she appeared on CBS New York and predicted that 2020 would “be a great year, and it will be a prosperous year,” people listened.

People listened when she said Capricorn would be the year’s “celestial favorite,” Cancer was the most likely to wed, Libra was set to score in real estate, and Taurus could expect a calendar full of international travel.

And then people got mad because — it probably doesn’t need pointing out — things didn’t exactly go according to the stars’ plan….

(13) ONE PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND BRICKS. Apartment Therapy introduces fans to “The New Harry Potter LEGO Collection [which] Includes Tiny Mandrake Plants and a Giant Hedwig”.

The Harry Potter universe is expanding, with six new LEGO sets coming this summer. They include scenes from Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, as well as the house on Privet Drive where Harry spent his childhood and a large Hedwig that can move its wings with the turn of a crank.

The LEGO world of Harry Potter is already vast. The first sets came out in 2001 along with the first film, and 19 years later, you can find LEGO versions of everything from the Hogwarts Castle to Diagon Alley, with niche sets dedicated to moments in the books and films.

See them all at the LEGO site, including the Hogwarts Astronomy Tower.

(14) CAPALDI PITCHES IN. “Peter Capaldi on For The Love of Scotland Livestream 22/4/2020” is a segment Capaldi did (including reading Kurt Vonnegut) for the “Masks for Scotland” fundraiser held on April 22. He quips, “My life is mostly unchanged because i avoid people anyway.”

(15) LEM BACK IN PRINT. Brendan Byrne makes “The Case for Stanislaw Lem, One of Science Fiction’s Unsung Giants” at Medium.

Since his death in 2006, the work of Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem has slowly slid from view. While his impact upon on American audiences was always softened by the Iron Curtain — he was was in peak form during the ’60s and ’70s — and an often tortured translation process, Lem was at one point “the most widely read science fiction writer in the world,” at least according to Theodore Sturgeon, an eminent writer of SF’s so-called Golden Age.

Lem was acknowledged, especially by fellow authors, as an especially important figure in the genre, but of late he seems to be primarily remembered as the author of the novel Solaris, the base material for the 1972 film by Andrei Tarkovsky and the 2002 version by Steven Soderbergh. This is a poor fate for an author who, for the latter half of the 20th century, skipped nimbly between SF sub-genres, with occasional excursions outside SF. While his sphere of influence was massive — he sold 45 million books worldwide — Lem’s refusal to settle into some comfortable little niche is distinctly unusual in a contemporary marketplace which today sections writers into increasingly sub-sub-genres.

Lem was simultaneously a moralist, stylist, and semi-professional scientist (a teenage inventor who trained as a physician). He managed to write hard science fiction that engaged with contemporary developments in science, medicine, and philosophy without ever condescending to his audience or engaging in specialist-speak (unless he was satirizing it).

Fortunately, the MIT Press has seen fit to help rejuvenate Lem’s oeuvre — they recently republished six of his key books, and, in the process, made the case for a Lemian resurgence — just in time for his 2021 centenary….

(16) THE END IS NEAR. The wait is over. “Here Comes the Droughtlander! Everything You Need to Know About Outlander Heading into the Season 5 Finale” in Parade.

…“Almost anybody can write a good love story, in which people meet and fall in love and get married or run off together,” Gabaldon says, adding, “It’s much harder and thus more interesting to find out what it takes to be married for 50 years. I had never seen anybody do that, so that’s what I decided I’d like to do.”

The Starz series that follows the heroic journey of Jamie (Sam Heughan) and Claire (Caitriona Balfe) is such a success that the term “Droughtlander” has been coined for the period of time in between seasons. And we will be heading there shortly. The season five finale airs May 10, and according to Heughan, it’s going to be “big.”

(17) NOT QUITE AT THE SPEED OF LIGHT. [Item by David Doering.] From the Truth is Stranger than Fiction department, here’s the tale of how SF turned fact gave us the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution and banned slavery. “The $60,000 Telegram That Helped Lincoln End Slavery”.

…Statehood looked promising, particularly for Nye, who had great political ambitions. He preferred living on the East Coast and saw his post in Nevada as a way to launch himself into what he really wanted to be — a Senator. Nye was charismatic and known for his “winning friendly face,” but his countenance changed rapidly when a telegram arrived the evening of Tuesday, October 25, 1864. The head of the California Pacific Telegraph passed on a telegram to him, which said, “The President has not received a copy of your constitution.” The deadline for the materials was just a few days away. There wasn’t enough time to mail it to the President. If Nye was going to get 175 pages of this official document to Abraham Lincoln, he was going to have to use the new technology that was just installed three years prior — the telegraph.

…When these electrical impulses finally reached the last leg of their journey, they were sent to the telegraph office of the War Department. This transmission was of such importance that intelligence from the warfront was put on hold for five hours to make way for Nevada’s telegram. Hodge’s and Ward’s message took two days to get to Lincoln and the cost of sending the message was $4,303.27 ($60,000 today). Nevada’s electric constitution reached Lincoln on the evening of October 28 and he proclaimed it a state on the 30th. On the 31st of October, Nevada officially celebrated its statehood, which gave it the right to participate in the election a week later on November 8….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Inside The Making of Dr. Strangelove” on YouTube is a 2000 documentary about Dr. Strangelove that includes interviews with production designer Sir Ken Adam, Kubrick biographer John Baxter, and James Earl Jones, who made his debut in the film.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best novelette:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The girl from the Gothic novels.

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

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Incidental Comics by Grant Snider.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 1/21/20 We Have Always Filed In The Pixel

(1) COOL RUNNING. Pat Cadigan shares the good news: “Yeah, You Just Keep Running, Cancer”.

The last checkup was a personal best. Today’s checkup was even better than that. The level of cancer has fallen by a substantial amount to an unprecedented low. After five years. Which is three more than I was supposed to get. And I’m in my late 60s—-not the time of life generally associated with healing, restoration, and/or improvement.

Which just goes to show you: old doesn’t mean it’s over. Cancer doesn’t mean it’s over. And being old and having cancer doesn’t mean you’re marking time till you keel over….

(2) LESSONS LEARNED, WOUNDS REOPENED. Dwayne A. Day, who was a civilian investigator for the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB), responds to Eric Choi’s alternate history story about the shuttle’s last mission in “All these moments will be lost…” at The Space Review.

…To me, the Columbia accident had been a shock, but it had not been personal. I barely knew the astronauts’ names before the event, and had stopped paying attention to the mission while Columbia was in orbit. But many of the NASA people we encountered during our investigation knew the astronauts personally, and some felt responsible, directly or indirectly, for their deaths. This report on what could have been done to save them if the hole in Columbia’s wing had been discovered in time was like pouring salt on an open wound—like telling people that not only had they allowed the accident to happen, they had done nothing to save their friends. The tension in that room among the NASA people was palpable.

Now, 17 years later, there’s a weird new development in that emotionally-charged issue. Eric Choi, a Canadian science fiction writer, has written an alternative history story about the Columbia mission for Analog magazine where NASA seeks to save the crew. In his story, NASA tries to launch the shuttle Atlantis on a rescue mission. When that mission is aborted, the Columbia astronauts engage in a high-risk backup plan to fill the hole in Columbia’s wing with metal and frozen water. The salvage plan is only partially successful and a few crewmembers successfully bail out of the stricken orbiter, but the remainder perish. Those rescue scenarios are based on the actual ones that I and other investigators heard in the summer of 2003, and which were included in the CAIB final report.

Choi’s story is titled “The Greatest Day,” and it features the Columbia astronauts and some NASA officials. (The story is accompanied by a non-fiction article by Choi explaining his sources about the rescue mission option.) But in a head-scratching bit of fiction, Choi has changed some names but kept others. For the Columbia’s crew, mission commander Rick Husband and Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon have different names in the story. For the ground personnel, Linda Ham, who chaired the Mission Management Team for the STS-107 mission involving Columbia, has a different name. The main character in Choi’s story is Wayne Hale, who during the actual mission had tried to obtain better imagery of the orbiter after launch photography indicated it had been hit by foam coming off the external tank during ascent. Hale’s effort was shut down by Linda Ham.

It is unclear why Choi changed some names and not others. Could he have feared legal action? The character who runs the Mission Management Team in his story is portrayed extremely negatively, but the mission commander and the Israeli astronaut say and do nothing in the story, so why change their names but not the rest of the crew? Why even use the name “Columbia” in the story? …

(3) TODAY’S 10,000. Hey, they’re catching up fast! Amazing Stories recorded its ”Ten Thousandth Post” today. Congratulations, Steve Davidson. I’ll soon be wavng as you fly past! (And tell me, how do I get this thing out of second gear?)

 My original instructions to would-be bloggers for the site was to “write about what you are passionate about, because Fandom is all about passion, and the author’s enthusiasm will transmit to the reader”.  I believe that most of our contributors achieved that goal.

(4) CHIANG COMING TO NOTRE DAME. The University of Notre Dame has announced that Ted Chiang will join the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study (NDIAS) as an Artist in Residence during the 2020-2021 academic year: “Science fiction writer Ted Chiang to join Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study”, [Via Locus Online.]

…Chiang will participate in a collaborative two-day workshop presented by the NDIAS and the Notre Dame Technology Ethics Center (ND-TEC). Throughout the event, he will discuss how technical researchers and artists can work together to develop morally significant options for engaging with technology. Additionally, as part of his residency, Chiang will engage with Notre Dame faculty on campus and participate in NDIAS weekly seminars. These seminars will give Chiang the opportunity to discuss his work in progress with NDIAS fellows, students, and invited guests. 

…Chiang will also interface with undergraduate students throughout his residency. Students will have an opportunity to engage with Chiang during a one-credit course about his and other science fiction writings taught by Sullivan and McKenna. First year students enrolled in Sullivan’s course God and the Good Life will read “Hell is the Absence of God” and Chiang will discuss the story with students in a question and answer session. 

(5) HENSON PUPPETS. What happens when Henson puppeteers are joined by some of the best comedians in the world in a battle of improv comedy? “Brian Henson presents Puppet Up. Shows in Hollywood next week.  

Created by award-winning director, producer, Brian Henson (“Muppet Christmas Carol”, “Muppet Treasure Island”), and actor, director, and improv expert Patrick Bristow (“Ellen,” “Seinfeld,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”), Puppet Up! – Uncensored promises to deliver a completely unique experience (it’s never the same show twice!), and expertly combines dynamic and spontaneous off-the-cuff comedy with the unmatched talent and creativity of Henson puppeteers.

Based on suggestions from the audience, the puppet anarchy is two shows in one: the improvised puppet action projected live on screens above the stage, and the puppeteers racing around below in full view of the audience to bring it all to life. The show also features recreations of classic pieces originally created by Jim Henson, Jane Henson, and Frank Oz that haven’t been seen by live audiences in decades.

The award-winning Puppet Up! – Uncensored is hosted on The Jim Henson Company’s historic lot in Hollywood. Built by Charlie Chaplin and a legendary part of movie history, the lot is a classic destination that is not to be missed.

(6) GRANTS. Setsu Uzumé acquaints writers with the basics in “Grant Applications 101: Finding, Troubleshooting, and Completing the Quest for Funding” at the SFWA Blog.

From Kickstarter to ko-fi to patreon, the search for funding can be a huge challenge. I recently attended a lecture provided by the St. Louis chapter of the Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts on the subject of applying for grants. Some of the most basic hurdles include finding grants that might be a good fit for your work, and how to prepare your materials in a way to make it easy for the folks reading your submission. The greatest learning curve when it comes to grant writing is how to think about looking for grants, and how to frame your work as a good fit. Here is a bit of grant application 101.

(7) BUSINESS IS NOT BOOMING. NPR’s Jason Sheehan reviews the new William Gibson novel — “In ‘Agency,’ William Gibson Builds A Bomb That Doesn’t Boom (And That’s OK)”.

William Gibson does not write novels, he makes bombs.

Careful, meticulous, clockwork explosives on long timers. Their first lines are their cores — dangerous, unstable reactant mass so packed with story specific detail that every word seems carved out of TNT. The lines that follow are loops of brittle wire wrapped around them.

Once, he made bombs that exploded. Upended genre and convention, exploded expectations. The early ones were messy and violent and lit such gorgeous fires. Now, though, he does something different. Somewhere a couple decades ago, he hit on a plot architecture that worked for him — this weird kind of thing that is all build-up and no boom — and he has stuck to it ever since. Now, William Gibson makes bombs that don’t explode. Bombs that are art objects. Not inert. Still goddamn dangerous. But contained.

You can hear them tick. You don’t even have to listen that close. His language (half Appalachian economy, half leather-jacket poet of neon and decay) is all about friction and the gray spaces where disparate ideas intersect. His game is living in those spaces, checking out the view, telling us about it.

Agency, that’s his newest. It’s a prequel/sequel (requel?) to his last book, The Peripheral, which dealt, concurrently, with a medium-future London after a slow-motion apocalypse called “The Jackpot,” and a near-future now where a bunch of American war veterans, grifters, video game playtesters and a friendly robot were trying to stop an even worse future from occurring. It was a time travel story, but done in a way that only Gibson could: Almost believably, in a way that hewed harshly to its own internal logic, and felt both hopeful and catastrophic at the same time….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 21, 1991 Dead Space premiered. It was directed by Fred Gallo, produced by Mike Elliott and Roger Corman. The cast included Marc Singer, Laura Tate, Bryan Cranston  and Judith Chapman. The movie is a remake of the Corman-produced Mutant and while we will note that are minor differences, it still retains both story and characters from that film.  It does not fare well at Rotten Tomatoes with a rating of only 18% among reviewers there.
  • January 21, 2016DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow premiered.  It was developed by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg, and Phil Klemmer, who are also executive producers along with Sarah Schechter and Chris Fedak; Klemmer and Fedak serve as showrunners. The cast is is sprawling but Rip Hunter (portrayed by Arthur Darvill of Doctor Who fame) was at the center for the first few seasons. The time travel, multiverse premise, and it’s now been renewed for a sixth season, allows for everything from Greek Mythology to Jonah Hex to show up.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 21, 1923 Judith Merril. Author of four novels, Shadow on the HearthGunner CadeOutpost Mars and The Tomorrow People of which the last three were with C. M. Kornbluth. She also wrote twenty-six stories which can be found in The Best of Judith Merril. She was an editor as well of both anthologies and magazines. Her magazine editorship was as Judy Zissman and was Science*Fiction in 1946 and Temper! In 1945 and 1947. May I comment that ISFDB notes Temper! has a header of The Magazine of Social Protest which given its date may make it the earliest SJW citation known in our genre? Oh, and between, 1965 and 1969, she was an exemplary reviewer for the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. She was also a much-lauded Books Editor there at the same time. (Died 1997.)
  • Born January 21, 1924 Dean Fredericks. He’s best remembered for being Steve Canyon in the series of the same name which aired from a year in the late Fifties on NBC. Is it genre? You decide. He did have genre credits as he played Captain Frank Chapman in The Phantom Planet. He also appeared in The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold and The Disembodied. (Died 1991.)
  • Born January 21, 1925 Charles Aidman. He makes the Birthday Honors for having the recurring role of Jeremy Pike on The Wild Wild West, playing him four times. Other SFF appearances include Destination Space, The Invaders, Twilight Zone, Mission: Impossible and Kolchak the Night Stalker to name bunt a few of them. (Died 1993.)
  • Born January 21, 1934 Audrey Dalton, 76. I’ve first got her visiting the SFF genre in the Fifties monster flick The Monster That Challenged the World  where she was Gail MacKenzie. She’ll make three more SFF appearences in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Wild Wild West and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. before retiring from acting.  
  • Born January 21, 1940 Mike Reid. He’s a curious case as he’s been in a number of SFF roles, usually uncredited, starting with a First Doctor story, “ The War Machines” and including one-offs for The Saint, The Champions and Department S.  He is credited as playing Frank Butcher in Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time which you can watch here. (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 21, 1950 Ken Leung, 50. His SFF roles include Syatyoo-Sama in A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Miles Straume in Lost, Admiral Statura in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Kid Omega in X-Men: The Last Stand. He also played the Karnak, a member of the Inhumans, on that series which had poor rating and was canceled after eight episodes. 
  • Born January 21, 1954 Katey Sagal, 66. She voiced Leela on Futurama, the spaceship captain and head of all aviation services on board the Planet Express Ship. 
  • Born January 21, 1956 Geena Davis, 64. Her first genre appearance was as Veronica “Ronnie” Quaife In The Fly reboot followed by her widely remembered roles as Barbara Maitland in Beetlejuice and Valerie Gail In Earth Girls Are Easy. She also plays Morgan Adams in the box office bomb Cutthroat Island before getting the choice plum of Mrs. Eleanor Little in the Stuart Little franchise.  She has a lead role in Marjorie Prime, a film tackling memory loss in Alzheimer’s victims some fifty years by creating holographic projections of deceased family members that sounds really creepy. Who’s seen it? Her major series role to date is as Regan MacNeil on The Exorcist, a ten-episode FOX sequel to the film. 
  • Born January 21, 1962 Paul McCrane, 58. Emil Antonowsky in RoboCop whose death there is surely an homage to the Toxic Avenger.  A year later, he’d be Deputy Bill Briggs in the remake of The Blob, and he played Leonard Morris Betts in the “Leonard Betts” episode of the X-Files

(10) PAWSOME IDEA. Discover your Jellicle cat name:

(11) NOT JUST KID STUFF. When Doctor Who arrived in Australia – in 1965 – he ran afoul of the censors. Galactic Journey’s Kaye Dee tells how: “[January 20, 1965] The T.A.R.D.I.S. Lands Down Under and Japan Invades Australia (Doctor Who and The Samurai)”.

…I heard from a friend who works at the ABC that Australia has been one of the first countries to buy Doctor Who from the BBC. In fact, I was really excited when he told me in March last year that the ABC had purchased the show and intended to debut it last May, but then delays arose due to censorship issues. Yes, although Doctor Who is classed as a family show in Britain, the Australian censors (who view and classify every overseas television show that comes into the country) have deemed the first thirteen episodes to be not suitable for children and classified them as “Adult”! This means that the ABC must schedule these episodes for screening after 7pm and couldn’t show Doctor Who in the Sunday night 6.30pm timeslot it originally planned. But at last Doctor Who has found a home on Friday night at 7.30pm (at least in Sydney). I just hope the censors aren’t going to decide one day that some stories are too scary to be screened at all!

(12) SPIRIT OF DEATH. Accompanying The Criterion Collection’s  January selection of Seventies sff films, Ed Park analyzes the dual themes of  “The Labyrinth and the Plague”.

…The decade’s science-fiction legacy is partly obscured by the extraterrestrially inclined blockbusters appearing near its end: George Lucas’s Star Wars and Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979). But before that, filmmakers were using the genre to construct bleak, paranoid scenarios right here on earth: claustrophobic labyrinths and lethal plagues. Consciously or not, some films read like responses to the ongoing war in Vietnam, corruption in the shadow of Watergate, environmental degradation and urban decay, and the rise of a new machine age. Some of the films snap back at the excesses of the sixties, too: it can’t be coincidence that the slavering creeps whom Neville battles every night call themselves the Family, à la Charles Manson.

Even though humans reached the moon in ’69, most of these movies remain earthbound, as if the gravity of the world’s problems wouldn’t permit such easy, escapist fare—at least for a while. Indeed, the jarring prologue of George Lucas’s 1971 debut, THX 1138, is a snippet of an old Buck Rogers serial, pounding home the difference between a tale of derring-do and the imprisoning nature of man’s own inventions.

(13) ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN. Superversive Press has closed. It stopped selling its books on Amazon last fall, and turned over the balance of its unfinished Planetary Anthologies to another publisher. Today’s announcement said:

It is with great sadness that I bring you the announcement that the owner of Superversive Press has made the decision to shutter the press. His reasons are his own and personal, and I understand that running even a small company is a large amount of work. I would like to thank you, Jason, for all your hard work. It was a good run, and you brought a lot of us together.

Now, with that having been said, Superversive is a movement, not a company, and as authors, we will still be there, pressing forward with our goal of fiction that ennobles and inspires. If you were working with Superversive Press, check with your editors; most are looking at other presses we have worked with. (As we did with the Planetary Anthology.)

Camestros Felapton concisely explains Superversive’s publishing niche:

…Specialising in conservative orientated speculative fiction with an intent to ‘inspire from above’, the publisher was a part of a wave of attempts to revitalise right-leaning science-fiction in the mid 2010’s. From my perspective, given the world we do live in, experiments like Superversive Press were a far more positive outlet for some of the angst and frustrations among conservative SF/F fans than others. If we had to be in the midst of a culture war within science fiction, it was much, much better to be conducted with people exercising their creative energies creatively.

(14) ALL CATS GO TO DINNER. Karen Bruillard in the Washington Post reports that researchers at the “body farm” (formally known as the Forensic Investigation Research Station) at Colorado Mesa University found that cats will eat dead people, but because cats are finicky they may not eat your corpse if you’re dead.  The researchers found that one feral cat, given a choice of 40 bodies to consume, gnawed at one corpse for 35 consecutive days. “Compelling new evidence that your cat might eat your corpse”.

It is one of those pet-owner musings, a conversation topic so dark that it inspired a book by a mortician: Would Fluffy eat me if I dropped dead? The answer, according to small but growing body of scientific literature, is a fairly clear yes.

(15) BRICKS IN SPACE. TechCrunch tells us “Lego made an International Space Station kit, including Space Shuttle and robotic arm”. Photos at the link.

Lego is releasing an official International Space Station kit, which includes a scale model of the orbital platform, along with a miniature dockable Space Shuttle, a deployable satellite and two astronaut mini figurines. The kit is made up of 864 pieces, and celebrates the science station’s more than 20 years in operation. It was originally suggested through Lego’s Ideas platform, which crowdsources ideas from the Lego fan community.

(16) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter deduced these Jeopardy! contestants are not insatiable sff TV viewers.

Category: Spaced-Out Pop Culture.

Answer: Led by Captain Mercer, this sci-fi series on Fox sees its title ship & crew boldly going where no comedy has gone before.

No one got the question, “What is ‘The Orville'”.

There was a bit of a gaffe in the final round, too.

Final Jeopardy: Classic Movies.

Answer: This 1939 movie was loosely based on Senator Burton Wheeler, victim of a sham investigation for looking into the Justice Department.

Wrong question: What is “Gone with the Wind.”

Correct question: What is “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

(17) SMALL MERCY. Sort of like Barney Fife — “Robot tanks: On patrol but not allowed to shoot”.

In 1985 the US pulled the plug on a computer-controlled anti-aircraft tank after a series of debacles in which its electronic brain locked guns onto a stand packed with top generals reviewing the device. Mercifully it didn’t fire, but did subsequently attack a portable toilet instead of a target drone.

The M247 Sergeant York (pictured above) may have been an embarrassing failure, but digital technology and artificial intelligence (AI) have changed the game since then.

Today defence contractors around the world are competing to introduce small unmanned tracked vehicles into military service.

…Will this new generation of mini-tanks change the face of warfare? How much autonomy can they be trusted with?

Estonian soldiers currently serving in Mali are going out on patrol with an unmanned ground vehicle or UGV. The size of a sit-on lawn-mower with tracks, it carries heavy supplies such as water and ammunition. Trundling behind a conventional armoured personnel carrier it resembles an obedient younger sibling.

…Across the Atlantic US defence contractor FLIR has been buying up robotics firms in order to put together a UGV package with a group of technology and engineering firms, Team Ripsaw. This group has adapted the Ripsaw, a small tracked vehicle with sports car speeds popularised on TV and by Hollywood.

Originally marketed as a millionaire’s plaything and subsequently starring in Fast and Furious 8, the Ripsaw may be about to earn further recognition as an unmanned war machine.

(18) WHO CAN YOU TRUST? “DDoS: Man who sold website defences pleads guilty to attacks” – BBC has the story,.

A man in the US who co-founded a service to protect sites from cyber-attackers has pleaded guilty to launching distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

Tucker Preston is co-founder of BackConnect, a cyber-security firm that claimed to be “the new industry standard in DDoS mitigation”.

However, he was accused of arranging DDoS attacks targeting an unnamed firm.

A court document stated the attacks took place between 2015 and 2016.

News of the guilty plea was published online by Brian Krebs, a cyber-security expert and blogger.

(19) MARS LIVERS. “Learning how to live like a Mars colonist”: video — dippy intro gradually leads to substance.

Astroland is a project designed to see how humans would cope with the psychological demands of living on Mars and to test out potential technologies.

It is thought the first colonists on Mars will have to live in caves or lava tubes to protect them from interstellar radiation and for the purpose of the Astroland experiment, “Mars”, is set up in a remote cave in Arredondo, Spain.

(20) FROM THE FRINGE? “Future Forward: Thai opposition party cleared over Illuminati claims” reports the BBC.

A court in Thailand has acquitted one of the country’s largest opposition parties after it was accused of having links to a mythical secret society.

A sedition charge against Future Forward alleged that it was influenced by the Illuminati and was seeking to overthrow the monarchy.

The Constitutional Court dismissed the charge. A guilty verdict could have seen the party banned.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/19/20 All That Is Scrolled Does Not Pixel, Not All Those Who File Are Fifth

(1) A MIGHTY LONG LIST. List Challenges presents “1000 Books You May Have Actually Read” — “Based on the number of ratings each book has on Goodreads. And if you haven’t read them, maybe you can use for a literature bucket list.”

I scored 169. The list has certain biases. If I’d read every book by Nicholas Sparks and Stephen King, I think I could have doubled my number. On the other hand, I got credit for a whole bunch of books I read aloud to my daughter when she was little.

(2) SINCE 9/11. At LA Review of Books, Yxta Maya Murray mines the applications of 2002 Creative Capital awardees to look at how these artists imagined a post-9/11 future: “Art Matters Now — 12 Writers on 20 Years of Art: Yxta Maya Murray on Artists’ Responses to 9/11”.

2002 was a historical hinge. Just a moment earlier, the United States had seemed to be enjoying a period of peace; now it was at war. The art of that year offers a time capsule that reflects the millennium’s complex transitions. Reeling from 9/11 but working on projects begun during the Clintonian boom, before the Towers fell, some artists in 2002 were still able to romanticize millenarianism and the future: rather than imagining the specifics of the violence that would descend with the war presidency of George W. Bush, artists such as Sawad Brooks and Sabrina Raaf, for example, revealed a fascination with a speculative tomorrowland that resembled the visions of sci-fi writers such as Isaac Asimov, Iain Banks, and William Gibson. But others, such as Tana Hargest, Sujata Bhatt, Suzanne Lacy, and Nick Cave, forecasted a more difficult future.

(3) DISNEY’S ARMY OF LAWYERS. IndieWire reports “Disney Is Cracking Down on Sellers of Unlicensed Baby Yoda Dolls”.

Ever since “The Mandalorian” premiered on Disney+ in November, the adorable “Baby Yoda” character has melted hearts and minds around the world. However, despite fervent requests for Baby Yoda dolls, Disney has been rather slow to respond to product demands, reportedly in order to keep Baby Yoda’s reveal in “The Mandalorian” pilot a secret per Jon Favreau’s request.

But the cat was out of the bag after the show’s premiere, and “The Child” quickly became a social media sensation. It shouldn’t then be a surprise that impatient fans have already taken matters into their own hands, with Etsy crafters and sellers creating their own unofficial Baby Yoda toys to capitalize on the demand. And for a while, the bootleg Baby Yoda market seemed to flourish.

Of course, it didn’t take long before Disney discovered this, and began issuing takedown notices, reminding Etsy that it owns the intellectual property rights to all Star Wars characters. And Etsy businesses with popular Baby Yoda products suddenly found their listings deactivated, at the request of Disney, according to The Verge.

(4) LEGO NEWS. In the Washington Post, Abha Bhattarai says that Lego is trying to market itself to Generation X people as a stress reliever, thinking that Gen X types “are more likely to drop $800 on a 7,541-piece Star Wars Millennium Falcon set or $400 for a Harry Potter Hogwarts Castle.” — “Lego sets its sights on a growing market: Stressed-out adults”.

Bhattarai says that Lego is trying to appeal to Gen X nostalgia by offering items such as the Central Perk cafe from “Friends” or a “vintage 1989 Batmobile.”  Also next month LEGO Masters will premiere as a competition show on FOX.

Another connection to sf:  Bhattarai says Lego posted a loss in 1998 but was saved when they got the license to produce Star Wars products

(5) BRICKS IN SPACE. And io9 spotted a massive Lego Star Wars fan project:  “This Custom Lego Version of Echo Base Is Ready for the Empire’s Siege”.

The sheer ambition of Lego creators never ceases to amaze me. Far from being satisfied with what Lego’s sets provide, these sculptors create incredible things. Like this version of Echo Base from The Empire Strikes Back, which is ready for battle.

Hopefully, this version will have a better fight than the one in the film, however. Clocking in at over 16,000 pieces, this Echo Base, created by YouTuber The Lego Room, is a custom build featuring the base’s hangar, medical chamber, and pretty much every other part you see in the films. It even has a fully motorized gate to keep the snow and the Empire out. Capping it off is an elaborate build of the Millenium Falcon, taking up a lot of hangar space.

(6) SAD STORY OF HARASSMENT. LA Times columnist Julia Wick writes: “A female mayor denounces the harassment she receives. Hours later, a man is arrested at her office”.

 If you are a woman who is so bold as to inhabit a vaguely public stage, chances are high that you will be called a lot of things that can’t be printed in a family newspaper. And then some.

It’s a truism that unfortunately appears to transcend industry or geography. Exist in public, and eventually an online mob will nitpick your looks, rate your sexual desirability in relation to your ability to do your job, and probably make threats vague and specific — regardless of whether you’re a female journalist, the founder of an indie game studio or trying to run a small city in the Central Coast region of California.

San Luis Obispo Mayor Heidi Harmon was fed up when she finally took to Facebook last Monday morning to call out the constant harassment she received.

(7) FIRST TIMER. Twitter user Yubi had never actually seen The Princess Bride and knew very little about it. Until now, when they did a watch through, and livetweeted their reactions. It’s really entertaining seeing them find out where so many common fan phrases and gifts came from. Thread starts here.

(8) MORE ABOUT STEVE STILES. The Baltimore Sun paid tribute to one of their own: “Steve Stiles, Hugo Award-winning comic fan artist of ‘Xenozoic Tales,’ dies at 76”.

…He did a two-year Army stint in the mid-1960s. A commanding officer told him: “If you can draw my girlfriend, you won’t get orders to go to Vietnam.”

“That’s exactly what happened,” said Elaine Stiles, his wife of 38 years. He was stationed instead at bases in Missouri and Virginia Beach.

Mr. Stiles was tasked with using his artistic talents to liven up the Army manuals for rifles and other equipment — following in the footsteps of one of his idols, the legendary comic artist Will Eisner, who had done similar jobs in the service during World War II.

More than 20 years later, while they were serving together on a science-fiction panel at a 1988 convention in Florida, Mr. Eisner complimented Mr. Stiles on his art.

“He was talking about it for the rest of his life,” Mrs. Stiles said.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 19, 1967 Star Trek’s “Arena” episode first aired on NBC. It was written by Gene L. Coon  but after the episode aired , it was found to almost identical to one Fredric Brown had published in 1944 in Astounding Science Fiction. Coon then bought the rights to his story and Brown has been retroactively given a story writing credit. Not one but two actors play Gorn (Gary Combs and Bobby Clark), both uncredited, and Ted Cassidy is the Voice of Gorn Captain, also uncredited. This episode, aired in the first season is where the Federation is first mentioned.
  • January 19, 1990 — The first Tremors film premiered. It was directed by Ron Underwood and produced by Gale Anne Hurd, Brent Maddock, and S. S. Wilson, as written by Maddock, Wilson, and Underwood. It starred Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter, Michael Gross, and Reba McEntire. It was the only film of six in total to get a box office release. It did poorly at the box office even though critics thought it well of it and thought it has a Fifties throwback vibe to it. It has an 75% rating at Rotten Tomatoes with an astonishing almost two hundred and forty thousand votes! 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 19, 1930 Tippi Hedren, 90. Melanie Daniels In Hitchcock’s The Birds which scared the shit out of me when I saw it a long time ago. She had a minor role as Helen in The Birds II: Land’s End, a televised sequel done thirty years on. No idea how bad or good it was. Other genre appearances were in such films and shows as Satan’s Harvest, Tales from the Darkside, The Bionic Woman, the new version of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and Batman: The Animated Series.
  • Born January 19, 1940 Mike Reid. He’s a curious case as he’s been in a number of SFF roles, usually uncredited, starting with a First Doctor story, “The War Machines” and including one-offs for The Saint, The Champions and Department S.  He is credited as playing Frank Butcher in Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time which you can watch here. (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 19, 1942 Michael Crawford, 78. He was the first Phantom of the Opera in Andrew Lloyd Opera’s play.  He did thirteen hundred performances in total. He did two other genre plays, Dance of the Vampires and The Wizard of Oz. He did an episode of One Step Beyond as well, though I’m not sure that was genre.
  • Born January 19, 1948 Michael J. Jackson, 72. Shows up on Dr. Who in the Fifth Doctor adventure, “The King’s Demons” as Sir Geoffrey. He played Sean Burns in a recurring role on Highlander, and played Richard I in The Legend of Robin Hood series. He was in The Morons from Outer Space as the Second Scientist.
  • Born January 19, 1954 Katey Sagal, 66. She voiced Leela on Futurama, the spaceship captain and head of all aviation services on board the Planet Express Ship.
  • Born January 19, 1957 Roger Ashton-Griffiths, 63. He’s no doubt best known for his role as Mace Tyrell on Game of Thrones. And yes he was on Doctor Who in a Twelfth Doctor adventure, “The Robots of Sherwood” as Quayle. He’s also had roles in Terry Pratchett’s The Colour of Magic,Tales from the Crypt, Torchwood, Brazil and Young Sherlock Holmes
  • Born January 19, 1962 Paul McCrane, 58. Emil Antonowsky in RoboCop whose death there is surely an homage to the Toxic Avenger.  A year later, he’d be Deputy Bill Briggs in the remake of The Blob, and he played Leonard Morris Betts in the “Leonard Betts” episode of the X-Files
  • Born January 19, 1981 Bitsie Tulloch, 39. She’s best known for her role as Juliette Silverton on Grimm. (I saw the first three seasons I think. It’s rather good.) She played Lois Lane in the Elseworlds event which she reprised during the Crisis on Infinite Earths even a year later.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Close to Home shows a certain kind of gourmand in action.
  • The Duplex took a photo of my dating life from back in the day.
  • Free Range has a new idea for a nature park.

(12) PIXEL PACKIN’ POWER. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the January 15 Financial Times, Tom Faber reviews a concert at the O2 Brixton Academy in London by Hatsune Miku, a hologram who has a repertory of 100,000 songs.

Here, on her second European tour, she was performing to a mixed crowd:  ‘otaku’; Japanese subculture obsessives dressed in elaborate aqua wigs and microscopic skirts; other excited teens; and a smattering of baffled dads.  There was a real four-piece band on stage to support the synthesized vocals, but the players were left mostly in the dark as they tore through the signature J-pop genre crush of pop, metal, techno and trance.  The dreams and emotions were turned up to 11 from the first chorus, and for two hours they did not come back down  She sang big hits such as the buoyant, melodramatic ‘World is Mine’ and the English-language ‘Miku’ (sample lyric:  ‘Blue hair, blue tie, hiding in your WiFi’).  The misses outnumbered them, though, with an excess of polite guitar shredding and a particularly bloodless salsa number.

…While the 10-year-old hologram technology used in the show was not particularly impressive, Miku’s star continues to rise; she has just been added to the line-up at Coachella 2020.  Her name translates from Japanese as ‘first sound of the future,’ and while she doesn’t convince as a harbinger of the future of pop, she does suggest the future of fandom. After her last song, Miku exploded into a thousand cyan pixels.  The house lights came up and the crowd roared.  Next to me a man, sweaty and euphoric, screamed, ‘Thank you, Miku!’ into the empty air.

Hatsune Miku’s website is https://piapro.net/intl/en.html .

(13) RADIX OFFERS COPIES FOR AWARDS CONSIDERATION. Radix Media is offering review copies (printed or PDF) to anybody interested in considering their 2019 releases in the Futures: A Science Fiction Series for awards: “2020 Science Fiction and Fantasy Awards Eligibility”.

(14) DUNE WHAT COMES NATURALLY. MovieWeb talked to somebody who attended the screening: “First Dune Remake Footage Earns Big Praise, Gets Compared to Lord of the Rings”.

The first Dune footage has screened. The preview footage was shown to a small group of industry insiders and has already been hailed as “epic.” Principal photography wrapped not that long ago and Denis Villeneuve is currently in the post-production phase to prepare the long-awaited movie for release at the end of the year. As for the footage that was shown, it was mixed in with cast interviews and behind-the-scenes shots. It does not seem like it was intended for public release, so don’t expect to see it any time soon.

Sci-fi novelist Brian Clement was one of the lucky viewers of the first Dune footage and he has shared his thoughts online for fans. First of all, the footage did not have completed special effects, though Clement describes the cinematography as “beautiful,” while stating, “I’m not exaggerating when I say a lot of people will have goosebumps/tears when they see this movie (I might!). Heck, when they see the footage I saw they will.” The author had to choose his words wisely as not to catch any trouble with Warner Bros.

…A small amount of footage of Stellan Skarsgard as Baron Harkonnen was seen also seen in the Dune footage, along with a tiny bit of Jason Momoa. Brian Clement went on to tease that the choice of actor for playing Kynes will be a surprise for audiences, while Dave Bautista apparently looks “creepy” in the footage.

(15) OUT FOXED. “Disney culls ‘Fox’ from 20th Century Fox in rebrand”.

Disney executives have cut the word “Fox” from their 20th Century Fox film studio in an apparent bid to distance it from operations of the previous owner, Rupert Murdoch.

US media suggests Disney does not want to be associated with the media mogul’s highly partisan, right-wing Fox News network.

However, Disney has not clarified its reasons.

It bought the studio, with other media operations, in a $71bn deal last March.

20th Century Fox is known for producing some of the biggest films of all-time, including Avatar and Titanic.

(16) AVENUE 5. This is going to be longer than a “three-hour tour” — “Review: HBO’s ‘Avenue 5,’ a Tale of a Fateful Trip (in Space)” in the New York Times.

How far is Armando Iannucci’s new HBO comedy, “Avenue 5,” from his previous one, “Veep”? About a billion miles, give or take, or the distance from earth to Saturn, where the spaceship of the title is thrown off course, greatly increasing the time its load of unlucky tourists will have to spend on their interplanetary cruise.

Set 40 years in the future aboard a vessel that looks like a cross between the Starship Enterprise and a high-end mall, Iannucci’s new show would seem to be a radical departure from the acrid, of-the-moment political satire of “Veep” and his earlier British series “The Thick of It.” (Several of those shows’ writers, including Simon Blackwell, Tony Roche and Will Smith, have joined him on “Avenue 5.”)

But there are recognizably Iannuccian things about this space-com, which debuts Sunday. Like the politicians and operatives guiding the ship of state in “Veep,” the crew members of the Avenue 5 are an often amoral, small-minded and quarrelsome bunch whose constant sniping provides the bulk of the humor. Leading them is a captain, played by the “Veep” alumnus Hugh Laurie, who, like Vice President Selina Meyer, is not ideally qualified for his post.

(17) SAFETY FIRST. “SpaceX completes emergency crew escape manoeuvre” — includes video.

SpaceX has conducted a test of the abort manoeuvre it would use if one of its crew-carrying rockets ever developed a problem during flight.

The rehearsal at Kennedy Space Center saw a Falcon-9 vehicle’s ascent into the sky deliberately terminated just 80 seconds after lift-off.

The Dragon astronaut capsule on top fired its escape engines to carry itself clear of the “faulty” booster.

Parachutes brought the vessel to a safe splashdown some 30km off Florida.

No humans were involved in the practice abort; the only occupants of the Dragon ship were a couple of Anthropomorphic Test Devices, or “dummies”.

This was considered to be the last major milestone for California’s SpaceX company before the US space agency (Nasa) certifies the firm to carry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) later this year.

(18) NOT FOREVER MAN. Hey, don’t laugh, these’ll be very useful the first time there’s a mission to take over an integral tree: “US Space Force mocked for unveiling camouflage uniforms”.

The US Space Force has defended its newly unveiled camouflage uniforms after they were roundly mocked on social media.

The force, officially launched by US President Donald Trump last month, posted a picture of the uniform to its Twitter account.

The uniform in the picture has a woodland camouflage design with badges embroidered on the arm and chest.

Reacting to the uniform, many critics had the same question: “Camo in space?”

[Thanks to Rose Embolism, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Scott Edelman, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, JJ, N., Michal Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editors of the day Andrew and Meredith.]

Pixel Scroll 12/23/19 Sincerity And Affection, In Cat

(1) FAME OVERDUE. The Chicago Tribune’s Michael Robbins says: “Every book lover should know John Crowley. Get to it already. He’s waited long enough.”

This has been a banner year for John Crowley fans — not one but two new collections published, and the ink still wet on 2017’s enchanted “Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr.” Alas, the banner is likely to read “Who is John Crowley?” Championed by heavyweights — Ursula Le Guin, Harold Bloom, Michael Chabon, Peter Straub, Neil Gaiman — Crowley inspires devotion among a fortunate but modest readership.

Crowley’s “Little, Big,” published in 1981, is my favorite novel. It is, I think, a lot of people’s favorite novel. I’ve owned several copies in various editions and conditions over the decades, most of which have found their way into the hands of friends whom I hoped to convert. I’ll never surrender my original copy, a dilapidated mass market paperback from 1987 now barely held together by packing tape. Its back cover reads:

This is the saga of the remarkable Drinkwater family, the sparkling inhabitants of Edgewood, and the ever-changing house that sits on the border between what we know is real and what we’ve always hoped is real. To this alluring place a young man comes to be wed.

No mention of fairies. The title page reads “Little, Big,” and it is not until the table of contents is reached that we learn of the novel’s alternative title: “Or, The Fairies’ Parliament.” Upon learning that fairies were involved, one reader of my acquaintance read no further. “If we put fairies on the cover,” the original publisher told Crowley, as the author recounts in his new collection of essays and reviews, “Reading Backwards,” “this book’s going right down the toilet.”…

(2) SFWA NEBULA CONFERENCE. Twelve days left to get the earlybird rate.

(3) ROCK-A-BYE-BABY-YODA. Get busy and it could be done in time to hang on your Christmas tree – Geekologie’s “Simple DIY Papercraft Baby Yoda In Floating Pod Christmas Tree Ornament”.

…This is the very simple print-and-fold-and-cut-and-tape The Child tree ornament created by one of the artists working on The Mandalorian and shared on Twitter by series creator Jon Favreau. Simple enough. I guess maybe Disney feels kinda guilty (LOLOL) about not getting the Baby Yoda merchandise machine up and running in time for Christmas. *shrug* Maybe Mickey chewed through an ignition wire or something.

Keep going for several example of Baby Yoda hanging out in trees like an Ewok.

(4) INTERIOR DECORATION. “Take a look behind the ‘small doors to imaginary spaces’ within bookshelves” – pictures at the link.

How did a “book nook” capture the imagination of people worldwide from Louisiana to Omsk?

You might have seen the words book nook popping up on social media in recent days, along with images of crafted alleyways, and structures acting as dividers on bookcases.

The concept became popular on Reddit, with the r/booknooks subreddit going from zero to 7,900 members in just two days.

The website defines book nooks as “mini worlds created within your bookshelf”, usually as a diorama of an alley.

The idea seems to have originated in 2018 from a Japanese artist called Monde.

They created a “back alley bookshelf” made to fit alongside paperback books. The tweet has been liked 179k times since.

(5) FROZEN MINIFIGS. CNET: “Scientists chilled Lego bricks to near absolute zero to see what happens”. “That’s 2,000 times colder than deep space.”

A team at Lancaster University subjected some Lego to ultra-cold temperatures…mostly just to see what happened. It turned out the ABS plastic bricks were good thermal insulator in the microKelvin range—something which may be useful in designing future generations of ultra low temp refrigerators.

(6) ONLY SO-SO. “The Rise of Skywalker: Another hit for Star Wars despite falling sales” – BBC has the numbers.

The latest Star Wars blockbuster raked in $374m (£288m) in global ticket sales in its opening weekend, falling short of prior films in the trilogy.

The Rise of Skywalker’s US sales were down nearly 30% on the first movie in the saga, The Force Awakens.

Still, the latest instalment ranked as one of the best December openings in North America.

(7) CATS AUTOPSY. In “How ‘Cats’ Became A Calamity At The Box Office With $6.5M Opening” on Deadline, Anthony D’Allesandro explains why Cats was a failure, including bad special effects and no plot.

…Universal wanted to get a trailer out for the film timed to the release of The Lion King, which was opening over Comic-Con weekend, to appeal to mass family audiences. Note overall it was a challenge for Uni to market this movie because Cats footage was never ready. In fact, Hooper was still working on the film up until the night of the pic’s world premiere in NYC on Dec. 16 and exhibition received a note over the weekend that future prints with better VFX are on the way. So, the proper lead-up time to campaign was never on Uni’s side, heck the new Lloyd Webber song performed by Swift “Beautiful Ghosts” didn’t even make the Oscar shortlist, though it received a Golden Globe nom. I understand that while VFX were improved following the social media backlash to the 100M-plus viewed trailer back in July, the whole notion of dancing actor-felines continued to divide, if not freak out audiences. I hear that even Cats EP Steven Spielberg didn’t get a chance to see a final cut of Cats given the pic’s down-to-the minute post production. Still, I don’t care what anyone says about how awful the cats look in the movie, it’s a damn improvement upon the stage show’s tacky disco fluff collar costumes.

(8) CRITICAL DIFFERENCE. The BBC’s Stephen Kelly writes The Witcher review: this isn’t Game of Thrones.

Netflix’s The Witcher is a TV show born from the most bitter of marriages. Starring Henry Cavill as grizzled monster hunter Geralt of Rivia, it is adapted from the fantasy books of Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski – yet the Witcher franchise is undoubtably known to most people through the non-canon video game sequels. This is a quirk that famously infuriates Sapkowski, who never foresaw what a success the games would become. Hence why, when he sold the licence in the early 00s, he demanded a one-off lump sum rather than a percentage of the profits. 2015’s The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, considered by many to be one of the greatest role-playing games ever made, has to date sold 20 million units alone. There has since been legal action.

This tension between the legitimacy of the source material and the popularity of the video games is something that showrunner Lauren Schmidt Hissrich, known for her work on Netflix’s Marvel shows Daredevil and The Defenders, has played down in interviews. If you’re a fan of the games, she argues, then there’s no reason why you wouldn’t be a fan of the TV show adapting the books that inspired the games. And this is true. The Witcher’s problem is not to do with the richness of Sapkowski’s books, nor the baggage it carries from being associated with an RPG. It is that while the books ground you in Geralt’s head, and the video games ground you in Geralt’s world, the TV show does neither. That’s due to both a jarringly paced, convoluted script, and a colourless lead performance from Cavill, which often leaves the impression that he’s the handsomest cosplayer at Comic Con.

(9) SUESS OBIT. The New York Times reports “Randy Suess, a computer hobbyist who helped build the first online bulletin board, anticipating the rise of the internet, messaging apps and social media, died on Dec. 10 at a hospital in Chicago. He was 74.”

In the late 1970s and on into the ’80s, as word of their system spread through trade magazines and word of mouth, hobbyists across the country built their own online bulletin boards, offering everything from real-time chat rooms to video games. These grass-roots services were the forerunners of globe-spanning social media services like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

“Everything we do in terms of communicating with other people online can be traced back to Randy and his bulletin board,” said Jason Scott, a computer history archivist who made an online documentary about the creation of C.B.B.S. “The only difference is that now it is all a little slicker.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 23, 1947 Beauty And The Beast Which was released in Paris in 1946 premiered in NYC. It was directed by Jean Cocteau, and stars Josette Day as Belle and Jean Marais as The Beast, it was generally well-received by the critics and audiences alike. Beauty and the Beast is now recognized as a classic of French cinema. The film has an amazing 90% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes! 
  • December 23, 1958 The 7th Voyage Of Sinbad premiered.  The feature starred Kerwin Mathews and Kathryn Grant, and was directed by Nathan H. Juran. It was produced  by Charles H. Schneer and  Ray Harryhausen, one of three such Sinbad films. This film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress. 
  • December 23, 1960 Twilight Zone’s “The Night of the Meek” first aired. This was a Christmas themed story with Art Carney as a Santa Claus fired on Christmas Eve who finds a mysterious bag that gives an apparently unlimited stream of gifts. The script would be used over in the Eighties version of this series and on the radio program as well. Serling ended the original broadcast with the words, “”And a Merry Christmas, to each and all”,  but that phrase was deleted in the Eighties and would not be back until Netflix started streaming the series.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 23, 1896 Máiréad Ní Ghráda. She’s the author of Manannán, a 1940 novel which is regarded as the first such science fiction work in Irish. Several years previously, she translated Peter Pan in Irish, Tír na Deo, the first time it had been done. (Died 1971.)
  • Born December 23, 1919 Peggy Fortnum. She’s an English illustrator beloved for illustrating Michael Bond‘s Paddington Bear series. She first illustrated him in A Bear Called Paddington. One of Fortnum’s Paddington illustrations is part of a series of stamps that was issued by the Royal Mail in 2006 celebrating animals from children’s literature. Somehow it seems appropriate to Christmas to me to share that stamp here. (Died 2016.)
  • Born December 23, 1919 Robert McCall. He was an illustrator for Life magazine in the 1960s, created the promotional artwork for 2001: A Space Odyssey. He was also production illustrator on Star Trek: The Motion Picture. And he was one of the art directors on The Black Hole (along with John B. Mansbridge and Al Roelofs). (Died 2010.)
  • Born December 23, 1927 Chuck Harris. A major British fan, active in fandom from the Fifities until his passing. He ran the infamous money laundering organization Tentacles Across the Sea with Dean Grennell, and was a well-loved British member of Irish Fandom. He was involved in myriad Apas and fanzines; he indeed got nominated multiple times for the Best Fanzine Hugo in the Fifties but never won. (Died 1999.)
  • Born December 23, 1945 Raymond E. Feist, 74. Best known for the Riftwar  series. The only novel I’ve read by him is was Faerie Tale, a dark fantasy set in the state of New York, which is one damn scary work. 
  • Born December 23, 1949 Judy Ann Strangis, 70. She’s one of the leads, Judy / Dyna Girl, on a Seventies show I never heard of, Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, which was a Sid and Marty Krofft (H.R. Pufnstuf) live action SF children’s television series from 1976. She had one-offs on Twilight Zone and Bewitched, and appeared twice on Batman courtesy of her brother who was a production manager there.  She’s also done voice work in The Real Ghostbusters and Batman: The Animated Series.
  • Born December 23, 1958 Joan Severance, 61. She’s on the Birthday list because she was Darcy Walker, the Black Scorpion in Roger Corman’s Black Scorpion. She then starred in and co-produced Black Scorpion II: Aftershock and The Last Seduction II.
  • Born December 23, 1984 Alison Sudol, 35. She’s known for being Queenie Goldstein on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. I do so like those titles. She’s also has a recurring role as Kaya in Transparent, a series which is at least genre adjacent for its genre content and certainly SJW in content. 
  • Born December 23, 1986 Noël Wells, 33. Solely here as I’m excited that she’s one of the voice on Star Trek: Below Decks, the forthcoming animated series on CBS All Access being that of Ensign Tendi. It should rather fun time. She was also Theresa in Infinity Baby, an SF comedy.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Holiday reading from Incidental Comics’ Grant Snider.

(13) HANDWAVIUM. “Inventing sign language for space” – a BBC video.

British sign language is receiving an astronomical update thanks to a unique collaboration between a space scientist and a group of deaf astronomers.

The University of Leeds based astrophysicist found that there were no signs for terms describing the latest discoveries in the world of astronomy. So she has decided to help create them.

(14) DEEPER MEANINGS. “I was a teenage code-breaker at Bletchley Park” – another BBC video.

Helen Andrews was one of the youngest at Bletchley Park when she arrived from South America.

A brilliant mathematician at 17, her family had been told that she had a place at Cambridge.

She travelled back to the UK on a lightly guarded Atlantic convoy of ships which took almost four weeks.

Three ships in the convoy were sunk by U-boats – as the convoy was not allowed to stop, she witnessed many women and children drowning.

When she docked at Tilbury, she was invited to the captain’s quarters, where she was told: “A man is waiting for you. Get in his car and don’t ask any questions”.

She was driven to Bletchley, not Cambridge. At 92 she has only just started talking about her experiences.

(15) OUR ROBOT SANTALORDS? BBC will tell you about“The robots trying to spread Christmas cheer”.

Robots are demonstrating their abilities in the festive windows at Bloomingdale’s flagship store in New York this year.

Eleven machines in three of the stores windows are performing tasks such as playing instruments and serving coffee, as well as offering karaoke carols.

The collaboration between store, ABB robots and robot animator Andy Flessas aims to demonstrate how robots could be used in retail in the future.

(16) EVERYBODY’S DOING IT. Birds do it, bees do it, even the UAE dood it: “Google and Apple remove alleged UAE spy app ToTok”.

Google and Apple have removed an Emirati messaging app called ToTok amid claims that it is used for state spying.

Not to be confused with China’s TikTok, ToTok markets itself as an easy and secure way to chat by video or text.

However, The New York Times (NYT) has reported allegations that the WhatsApp-lookalike is a spy tool for the United Arab Emirates government.

ToTok has told users that it will be back in the app stores soon.

In a blog, it wrote that it is “temporarily unavailable” on the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store because of a “technical issue”.

Citing American officials as sources, the NYT reported that ToTok gives UAE spies access to citizen’s conversations, movements, and other personal information like photos.

Google removed the app last Thursday and Apple pulled it the following day. However, ToTok users, who already have the app on their phone, can carry on using it.

…The NYT reports that the app’s publisher, Breej Holding Ltd, is affiliated with DarkMatter, which is an Abu Dhabi-based intelligence and hacking firm that is allegedly under investigation by the FBI for possible cyber-crimes.

DarkMatter employs Emirati intelligence officials, former National Security Agency employees and former Israeli military intelligence operatives, according to the NYT.

ToTok, DarkMatter, and the Embassy of United Arab Emirates in London did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(17) GRINCH. NPR finds a silver lining: “Boeing’s Starliner Lands Safely Back To Earth After Aborted Space Station Mission”.

Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft returned to Earth on Sunday, landing safely in the New Mexico desert.

The journey is being hailed as a major achievement despite failing to complete a core objective: docking at the international space station.

Engineers and scientists are now analyzing data from the trip ahead of a plan to send U.S. astronauts to space in 2020. It would mark the first American-launched space travel since NASA retired its space shuttle fleet in 2011.

The Sunday landing of the test flight – which did not include any crew members – concluded with three red, white and blue parachutes opening up and gliding into the Army’s White Sands Missile Range.

It, however, did not go without a hitch.

The capsule was carrying holiday presents, clothes and food, cargo that was supposed to be dropped off at the International Space Station.

Because of an internal clock snafu that made the spacecraft operate as if it were at a different point in its journey, it went on the wrong orbit and never docked at the space station as planned.

Nonetheless, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said the test flight was an overall success — including a rare ground landing. All other U.S. capsules have ended in the ocean

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Rule Britannia on Vimeo is a steampunk take on Brexit by Jeroen Kofferman and Ernest Jan van Melle.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/14/19 Gort Pixel Barada Nikscroll

(1) ONE QUESTION. The Hollywood Reporter is there when “‘Rise of Skywalker’ Cast Answers Questions About Final Film, Baby Yoda on ‘The Late Show'”.

 “Hey Daisy, how did you figure out how to do alien accent?” another staffer asked.

“You mean this British accent?” Daisy Ridley, who plays Rey, responded.

After a staffer asked what he would do with the Force, Billy Dee Williams (who plays Lando Calrissian) mimicked a choking action like the one used by Darth Vader in the Skywalker saga. The staffer then pretended to be choked.

(2) ANOTHER SECRET THEY KEPT. Entertainment Weekly checks in with Lawrence Kasdan in “‘I am your father’: The Empire Strikes Back writer looks back on iconic twist”.

Filming the scene was made even more challenging by the use of loud wind machines. Hamill not only couldn’t hear Vader body actor David Prowse say his lines, but couldn’t even hear himself and had to go off visual cues of Prowse moving in his suit. In fact, Hamill says that one of the biggest Star Wars original trilogy secrets is that more than half the dialogue was recorded in post-production due to all the intrusive noises from smoke and wind machines, prop effects, and even clunking robots. “C-3PO doesn’t sound like metal, he sounds like fiberglass,” Hamill notes.

After filming the scene, the fake twist — that Obi-Wan killed Luke’s father — leaked to a British tabloid. “These newspapers were offering 20,000 notes for anybody that got a good Star Wars leak,” Hamill says. “We couldn’t even keep that [the fake twist] a secret for a week. I was secretly delighted.”

(3) CUBISM. Learn “How ‘Missing Link’ Filmmakers Blew Up an Ice Bridge in Stop-Motion Animation” in The Hollywood Reporter.

…The sequence starts with an encounter on the bridge that was shot mostly in camera with puppets and full-scale components of the bridge built on a soundstage (one of roughly 110 miniature sets, including a full miniature bridge, that were constructed for the movie). The bridge was built of clear casting urethane resin in order to achieve the look of the ice without its turning yellow, explains production designer Nelson Lowry.

As the pursuit heats up, the bridge collapses. There were 64 individually rigged ice blocks that could be independently controlled for the shot in which the bridge begins to break. The actual destruction of the bridge was digitally created in the computer, and the puppets were composited into the action. Before it’s over, some are dangling from a rope, trying to gain safe footing. Butler says this was one of the toughest scenes Laika has ever tackled, and the artistry and heart-racing story have garnered Laika a slew of nominations, including multiple Annie Awards and a Golden Globe.

(4) WATTS ASSEMBLAGE. Tachyon Publications offers “The complete PETER WATTS IS AN ANGRY SENTIENT TUMOR previews”, from a collection of the author’s blog posts. The previews include:

(5) DECADE’S TOP SFF PICTURES. The Daily Dot picked only one Marvel production for its list of “The 10 most important sci-fi films of the 2010s”, leaving plenty of room for less obvious selections like this one –

6) High Life (2018)

Want to feel disturbed and alarmed? Well, High Life is the film for you. Acclaimed French indie director Claire Denis ventured into sci-fi territory for her English language debut, casting Robert Pattinson as the lead in a gut-churning thriller about a group of convicts in a claustrophobic spaceship. Pattinson plays the convict Monte, co-starring with Juliette Binoche as the ship’s creepy and sexually aggressive doctor, along with an ensemble cast including Andre 3000, Mia Goth, and a baby. Although if you sign up for this film based on the posters showing Robert Pattinson hanging out with an adorable toddler, you’ll be in for a nasty surprise. This gripping drama features sporadic but intense violence, explicit sex, and a dread-inducing descent into certain death. Both a commentary on incarceration and a straightforward space thriller, High Life riffs on the tropes of other trapped-in-a-spaceship movies like Alien and Event Horizon, while still feeling thoroughly memorable in its own right.

(6) #ET TOO. At CrimeReads, Damien Angelica Walters explored “How Women Authors Are Reshaping the Horror Genre” — “The boogeyman in the closet isn’t an amorphous shape in the dark—It’s someone we know and trust.”

The Monsters We Pass on the Street

I mentioned earlier that more than half the women killed in 2017 were murdered by their intimate partners or family members. Not a day goes by where I don’t see an article about a woman being abused, assaulted, or killed. It’s terrifying and what’s even more frightening is how commonplace it is. Violence against women by men is the backdrop to countless books, television shows, both fictional and not, and movies.

In My Sister, The Serial Killer, Oyinkan Braithwaite turns this on its head, creating feminist catharsis with her unexpected reversal. Korede’s younger sister, Ayoola, is beautiful and charming. She also has a penchant for killing her boyfriends, relying on Korede to help her clean up the mess. Korede doesn’t have to fear Ayoola, but she protects her. Until the doctor Korede works with and is secretly in love with meets and falls for Ayoola, forcing Korede to make a choice: do you stand by the monsters when they’re one of your own?

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

Shoot, this was a big day for sff in 1984!

  • December 14, 1984 1984 premiered in limited released in the art house circuit. It would get a general circulation release the next year. Starring John Hurt, Richard Burton, Suzanna Hamilton  and Cyril Cusack, critics loved it with Ebert calling saying Hurt was “the perfect Winston Smith”.  It currently has a 71% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • December 14, 1984 Runaway premiered. Starring Tom Selleck, Cynthia Rhodes and Gene Simmons, it faired quite poorly as it was up against The Terminator, The Search for Spock, and 2010: The Year We Make Contact. It got not so great reviews from critics and garnered a 44% rating from reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • December 14, 1984 Dune premiered. Directed by David Lynch of later Twin Peaks fame, starring Francesca Annis, Linda Hunt, Sting, Kyle MacLachlan and a cast of thousands, it did poorly at the box office and was treated badly by critics. Reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes however give a 66% rating. It would place in fourth in AussieCon Two voting with 2010: Odyssey Two winning that year.
  • December 14, 1984 — John Carpenter’s Starman premiered. Starring Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen, it did very well at the box office and critics loved it as well.  Bridges earned was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor, making this the only film by Carpenter to receive an Academy Award nomination.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge *yay*]

  • Born December 14, 1916 Shirley Jackson. First gained public attention for her short story “The Lottery, or, The Adventures of James Harris” but it was her The Haunting of Hill House novel which has been made her legendary as a horror novelist as it’s truly a chilling ghost story.  I see that’s she wrote quite a bit of genre short fiction — has anyone here read it? (Died 1965.)
  • Born December 14, 1920 Rosemary Sutcliff. English novelist whose best known for children’s books, particularly her historical fiction which involved retellings of myths and legends, Arthurian and otherwise. Digging into my memory, I remember reading The Chronicles of Robin Hood which was her first published novel and rather good; The Eagle of the Ninth is set in Roman Britain and was an equally fine read. (Died 1992.)
  • Born December 14, 1929 Christopher Plummer, 90. Let’s see… Does Rudyard Kipling in The Man Who Would Be King count? If not, The Return of the Pink Panther does. That was followed by Starcrash, a space opera I suspect hardly no one saw which was also the case with Somewhere in Time.  Now Dreamscape was fun and well received.   Skipping now to General Chang in Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country. Opinions everyone? I know I’ve mixed feelings on Chang.  I see he’s in Twelve Monkeys which I’m not a fan of and I’ve not seen The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus yet. 
  • Born December 14, 1960 Don Franklin, 59. He’s best known for his roles in seaQuest DSV as Commander Jonathan Ford, Seven Days as Captain Craig Donovan, and as one of The Young Riders  as Noah Dixon. No, the last isn’t remotely genre but it was a great role.
  • Born December 14, 1964 Rebecca Gibney, 55. She was in Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, and was also in King’s Nightmares and Dreamscapes mini-series. She also had one-offs in Time Trax, Farscape and The Lost World, all of which were produced either in Australia or New Zealand, convenient as she’s New Zealand born and resident.
  • Born December 14, 1965 Theodore Raimi, 54. Though he’s known for being in whatever his brother Sam Raimi has done including a fake Shemp in The Evil Dead, a possessed Henrietta in Evil Dead II, and Ted Hoffman in the Spider-Man film franchise, I remember rather him from him being Joxer on Hercules and Xena, a role I wasn’t that fond of. 
  • Born December 14, 1966 Sarah Zettel, 53. Her first novel, Reclamation, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award in 1996, and in 1997 tied for the Locus Award for the Best First Novel. Writing under the alias of C. L. Anderson, her novel Bitter Angels won the 2010 Philip K. Dick award for best paperback original novel. If you’ve not read her, I’d recommend her YA American Fairy Trilogy as a good place to start. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld goes Christmas shopping with a bookworm at The Guardian.

(10) SEQUELS. Mental Floss challenges “Can You Match the Classic Book to Its Not-So-Classic Sequel?”. I hit only 8 out of 14 of these. You’ll do much better.

(11) WALL TO WALL BOOKS. Brick bookshelves, but not the kind you may have had in your first apartment.“LEGO unveils its latest Creator Expert set, a 2,500-piece modular bookshop” – get the lowdown from 9to5toys.

While in the most recent few years LEGO has strayed from the theme’s roots with unique garage and diner builds, this year the company is going back to the basics for a delightful multistory bookstore. Comprised of 2,504 bricks, this model was inspired by houses in Amsterdam, bringing the European aesthetic into brick-built form in a distinct way.

Doubling down on the modular nature, this set features to independent buildings that can be rearranged throughout your city. Fittingly for this LEGO kit’s namesake, the bookstore is the larger of the two Creator Expert models. It sports a brick-like brown facade complemented by stonework accenting.

(12) GROOVE TUBE. “The London Underground’s logo gets an inspired redesign”FastCompany has photos.

London’s underground transit system, known as “The London Underground” or “The Tube,” started running in 1863. Its iconic symbol, a patriotically colored bar-and-circle roundel, was first plastered on the city’s subterranean walls in 1908 and has gone through several iterations since. Until now, each new draft of the logo has been a variation on the same theme—all solidly red and blue, with only slight changes to the proportions and weight of the letters. Recently, however, British-Ghanaian artist Larry Achiampong has reimagined the traditional transit symbol to reflect the rich and diverse African diaspora that makes up roughly 44% of London’s population.

This large-scale logo redesign is a public commission from Art on the Underground, a visual arts showcase funded by Transport for London, which “seeks to consider the possibilities of alternate histories,” according to a statement. “Pan African Flag for the Relic Travellers’ Alliance” exists as a part of the showcase’s 2019 program “On Edge,” which encourages artists to create works that explore themes of unity, utopia, and belonging, inspired by the United Kingdom’s likely departure from the European Union…

(13) TRUE GRIT. Where else would you look for science fiction news than Men’sHealth? — “Oscar Isaac Says Denis Villeneuve’s Dune Movie Will Be ‘Shocking’ and ‘Nightmarish'”.

…Dune takes place on a desert planet called Arrakis, one of many feudal worlds ruled over by galactic stewards, and the only natural source of a highly valuable substance known as “spice.” Timothée Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name) will also star as Isaac’s on-screen son Paul Atreides, while Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible – Fallout) will play his concubine Lady Jessica. The wider ensemble cast will include Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy), Josh Brolin (Endgame), Zendaya (Euphoria) and Jason Momoa (Aquaman).

“There are some things that are — for lack of a better word — nightmarish about what you see,” Isaac continued. “There’s just this kind of brutalist element to it. It’s shocking. It’s scary. It’s very visceral… And I know that definitely between Denis and myself and Chalamet and Rebecca Ferguson as the family unit, we really searched for the emotion of it. I’m beyond myself with excitement. I think it’s good to feel cool, unique, and special.”

(14) HO HO HO. “Longleat Safari Park chipmunks sent hundreds of socks” – BBC explains why.

A wildlife park has been inundated after putting out an appeal for “chipmunk worthy socks” to help keep the rodents warm over Christmas.

The family of chipmunks at Longleat Safari Park, in Wiltshire, use the socks to nest in during the winter.

Following an appeal on Facebook, the park has received hundreds of pairs from as far afield as New Zealand.

Longleat’s Alexa Maultby said: “There’s now a sock mountain and we’re looking for other uses for them.”

(15) TOHO DID IT BETTER. — But they used effects: “Octopus and eagle square off at Canadian fish farm” (BBC video).

The duelling animals were found floating in the waters off Quatsino, British Columbia. Crews freed the bird from the clutches of the sea creature.

(16) FEAR ITSELF. FastCompany shares a flashback to the computer Armageddon writers warned about: “The weird, wonderful world of Y2K survival guides: A look back”.

For a brief period in the late 1990s, it was one of the busiest categories in book publishing.

As the decade wound down, more and more people became agitated about the Y2K bug—also known as the millennium bug and the year 2000 problem–which stemmed from programmers having conserved precious bytes by storing years as two digits. (For instance, “80” instead of “1980.”) When 1999 turned into 2000, aging software reliant on such space-saving dates wouldn’t be able to tell the new year from 1900. And that raised the specter of much of the code that ran the world failing—possibly, the theory went, in disastrous ways. Power grids might be knocked out. Banks could fail. Food shortages and mass unemployment might lead to riots. Any semblance of normalcy could take years to return.

Enter a profusion of books dedicated to helping people plan for this techno-doomsday….

(17) CLASSIC COVERS. See “The Avon Fantasy Reader Covers – A Gallery” at Darkworlds Quarterly.

The Avon Fantasy Reader was an important Pulp reprint anthology (taking its contents from Weird Tales, Thrilling Wonder, The Blue Book, Adventure and Wonder Stories) that ran for eighteen issues from 1946 to 1952. It had a Science Fiction companion that ran for three issues before both were combined into The Avon Science Fiction and Fantasy Reader for two more final issues. Edited by Donald A. Wolheim, it featured many Sword & Sorcery tales by Robert E. Howard and others. It also ran Cthulhu Mythos Horror and Space Opera style Science Fiction. For Complete Contents.

The covers for the series were also important, as they were some of the best Fantasy art to appear besides the original Pulps….

(18) BEHIND THE GOLD MASK. Bill Bradley, in “Anthony Daniels On That NSFW ‘Star Wars’ Image And Why He Wanted C-3PO To Die” on Huffington Post, has an interview with Daniels, who gives his thoughts on Baby Yoda, the naughty C-3PO trading card, and how he’s satisfied but of course can’t explain what happens to his character in Star Wars:  The Rise of Skywalker.

Since you were around when Yoda was originally created, what are your thoughts on Baby Yoda?

Ah, Baby Yoda. It had to happen. It had to happen just before Christmas. Baby Yoda is the thing, maybe the toy of the month, the year, whatever. Yoda is such an adored character created by Frank Oz, and obviously now we are looking back at origins.

Do we need a smaller wookiee? I don’t know. I love the inventiveness with “Star Wars,” the creative inventiveness that “Star Wars” has fostered over the years, whether it’s with the technicians or with fans. And of course, some of the fans now work on the movies because their abilities are so great. Baby Yoda is cute, gorgeous, but I would warn the public that Baby Yoda is not just for Christmas. It’s a responsibility.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Santa Claus” is an episode of Good Bad Flicks where they revist the 1959 classic Mexican film where Santa lives in a castle in outer space, has Merlin as his sidekick, and beats Satan by shooting him in the butt with a dart from a blow gun.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/21/19 Oh, This Is The Scroll, It’s A Beautiful Scroll, And We Call It Pixela Scrollte

(1) DALLAS TORNADO. Fanartist David Thayer and his wife Diana had a close call last night but are unscathed themselves:

A tornado with winds of 165 m.p.h. cut a swath through Dallas just a mile south of our house yesterday evening after dark. A powerful gust snapped the trunk of our 70 ft mesquite halfway up and sent it crashing down into our front yard. The only property damage we sustained was to our yard light. Seeing all the destruction in the news this morning, we are thankful we came through relatively unscathed.

(2) AVENGERS ASSEMBLE. Just in case the Marvel Cinematic Universe needs any defense against the negative opinions of Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, a couple of well-known figures connected with the MCU have spoken up.

James Gunn:

Many of our grandfathers thought all gangster movies were the same, often calling them “despicable”. Some of our great grandfathers thought the same of westerns, and believed the films of John Ford, Sam Peckinpah, and Sergio Leone were all exactly the same. I remember a great uncle to whom I was raving about Star Wars. He responded by saying, “I saw that when it was called 2001, and, boy, was it boring!” Superheroes are simply today’s gangsters/cowboys/outer space adventurers. Some superhero films are awful, some are beautiful….

Natalie Portman:

I think there’s room for all types of cinema,” she told The Hollywood Reporter at the 6th annual Los Angeles Dance Project Gala on Saturday at downtown Los Angeles’ Hauser & Wirth. “There’s not one way to make art.”

“I think that Marvel films are so popular because they’re really entertaining and people desire entertainment when they have their special time after work, after dealing with their hardships in real life.”

(3) HOW EAGER ARE YOU? ESPN will be airing the final trailer for Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker tonight during Monday Night Football.

(4) NAVIGATING THE ROCKETS SAFELY HOME. In “What happened to the 1944 Retro Hugos?”, Nicholas Whyte asks fans to consider the burden of producing a whole run of trophies when it’s this hard to find homes for them after the ceremony. Of course, the job would have been a little easier if the nominees with accepters had won:

…I’m glad to say that we did have a few designated acceptors in the room on the night. Apart from those noted below, Betsy Wollheim was on hand in case her father Donald won (unfortunately he lost in all three categories where he was nominated); June and Naomi Rosenblum were there for their father-in-law/grandfather J. Michael Rosenblum; Stephanie Breijo was there for her great-grandfather Oscar J. Friend; and Harper Collins sent a rep for C.S. Lewis. So, for 66 finalists, we had acceptors on hand for 10. Future Worldcons might like to bear that in mind when planning whether or not to run Retro Hugo Awards.

This is what happened with the trophies, in increasing order of the difficulty we had in dealing with them….

(5) HOUSE CALL. Can it be that we are about to have a visit from the Doctor and his companion? (No, not that one.)

(6) TARDIGRADES LITIGATION RESUMES. Plagiarism Today’s Jonathan Bailey urges against a court appeal in “An Open Letter to Anas Abdin”

Three weeks ago, it seemed as if the Tardigrades lawsuit was over. Anas Abdin’s lawsuit was tossed decisively and at an early stage, Abdin himself said, “I respect the ruling and I expect everyone to do so,” and there seemed to be little interest in any kind of an appeal.

However, that respect for the decision did not last long. On Friday, Abdin announced that he was appealing the verdict and was launching a GoFundMe to finance the campaign. As of this writing, that campaign has raised more than $17,500 from more than 470 donors and is inching closer to its $20,000 goal….

(7) CONFACTS. Kees Van Toorn announced that all issues of ConFacts, the daily newsletter of ConFiction, the 1990 Worldcon, have been uploaded on their archival website in flipbook format.

(8) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present David Mack and Max Gladstone on November 20,  2019.

David Mack is a New York Times bestselling author of over thirty novels of science fiction, fantasy, and adventure. His most recent works are The Midnight Front and The Iron Codex, parts one and two of his Dark Arts trilogy from Tor Books. He currently works as a creative consultant on two upcoming Star Trek television series.

Max Gladstone is the author of Empress of Forever, the Hugo finalist Craft Sequence, and, with Amal El-Mohtar, This is How You Lose the Time War, in addition to his work with short and serial fiction, games, screenwriting, and comics. He has been a finalist for the Hugo, John W Campbell /Astounding, XYZZY, and Lambda Awards, and was once thrown from a horse in Mongolia.

The event starts at 7 p.m. in the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.) in New York, NY.

(9) FANFICTION. Sff writer Sara L. Uckelman, Assistant Professor of logic and philosophy of language at Durham University, issued an invitation: “Anyone interested in the paper behind the talk, my paper ‘Fanfiction, Canon, and Possible Worlds’ can be downloaded here.”

…The study of fanfiction from a philosophical point of view raises a number of questions: What is fanfiction?  What distinguishes it from ordinary fiction? How can we make sense of what is going on when people create and interact with fanfiction?  In this paper, I consider two competing accounts of fanfiction—the derivative or dependent account and the constitutive account—and argue that these competing views parallel two competing ways in which a possible worlds account of fiction can be fleshed out, namely, Lewis’s modal realist account and Kripke’s stipulative view. I further argue that this parallel is not a mere parallel, but provides us with a test of adequacy for the possible worlds accounts: It is worthless to provide a philosophical account of the theoretical foundations of fiction if such an account doesn’t coordinate with the actual practice and production of fiction. 

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 21, 1977Damnation Alley premiered. Based somewhat on Zelazny’s novel, it starred George Peppard as Major Eugene “Sam” Denton and Jan-Michael Vincent as 1st Lt. Jake Tanner. It bombed and was pulled quickly. Its Rotten Tomatoes score is 34%.  For now at least, it’s on YouTube here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 21, 1904 Edmond Hamilton. One of the prolific writers for Weird Tales from the late 20s to the late 40s, writing nearly eighty stories. (Lovecraft and Howard were the other key writers.) Sources say that through the late 1920s and early 1930s Hamilton wrote for all of the SF pulp magazines then publishing. His story “The Island of Unreason” (Wonder Stories, May 1933) won the first Jules Verne Prize as the best SF story of the year. This was the very first SF prize awarded by a vote of fans, which one source holds to be a precursor of the Hugo Awards. From the early 40s to the late 60s, he work for DC, in stories about Superman and Batman. He created the Space Ranger character with Gardner Fox and Bob Brown. On December 31, 1946, Hamilton married fellow science fiction author and screenwriter Leigh Brackett. Now there is another story as well. (Died 1977.)
  • Born October 21, 1914 Martin Gardner. He was one of leading authorities on Lewis Carroll. The Annotated Alice, which incorporated the text of Carroll’s two Alice books, is still a bestseller. He was considered the doyen (your word to learn today) of American puzzlers. And, to make him even more impressive, in 1999 Magic magazine named Gardner one of the “100 Most Influential Magicians of the Twentieth Century”.  Cool! (Died 2010.)
  • Born October 21, 1929 Ursula Le Guin. She called herself a “Narrative American”. And she most emphatically did not consider herself to be a genre writer instead preferring be known as an “American novelist”. Oh, she wrote genre fiction with quite some brilliance, be it the Earthsea sequence,  The Left Hand of DarknessThe Dispossessed, or Always Coming Home. Her upbringing as the daughter of two academics, one who was an anthropologist and the other who had a graduate degree in psychology, showed in her writing. And the home library of the family had a lot of SF in it. If you’re interested in the awards she won in her career, she garnered  the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Locus Award, and World Fantasy Award. At last she was also awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters It won’t surprise you that she was made a SFWA Grandmaster, one of the few women writers so honored. (Died 2018.)
  • Born October 21, 1933 Georgia Brown. She’s the actress who portrayed Helena Rozhenko, foster mother of Worf, in the Next Gen’s “Family” and “New Ground” episodes. She was Frau Freud in The Seven-Percent Solution, and was Rachel in “The Musgrave Ritual” episode of the Nigel Stock fronted Sherlock Holmes series. (Died 1992.)
  • Born October 21, 1945 Everett McGill, 74. Stilgar in the first Dune film. Earlier in his career, he was a Noah in Quest for Fire. Later on, he’s Ed Killifer in License to Kill, and in Twin Peaks, he’s Big Ed Hurley. He was also Rev. Lowe in Stephen King’s Silver Bullet, a werewolf flick that actually has a decent rating of 55% at Rotten Tomatoes! 
  • Born October 21, 1956 Carrie Fisher. In addition to the original Star Wars trilogy, Star Wars Holiday SpecialThe Force Awakens, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and the forthcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, she was in Amazon Women on the Moon, The Time Guardian, Hook, Scream 3, and A Midsummer Night’s Rave. (Died 2016.)
  • Born October 21, 1973 Sasha Roiz, 45. I know him only as Captain Sean Renard on Grimm but he’s also been Sam Adama on Caprica as well. And he’s also been on Warehouse 13 in the recurring role of Marcus Diamond. He even showed up once on Lucifer as U.S. Marshal Luke Reynolds.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz makes a nifty dinosaur pun.

(13) UNLIKELY BONANZA. Joseph Hurtgen studies the illustration of an economic system in a Hugo-winning novel: “Gateway – Frederik Pohl: A Critique of Capitalism”.

…Consider the name of the alien space station for which Pohl’s book gets its name: Gateway. In the same way that taking highly random and highly dangerous alien space flights is the gateway to potential wealth, the capitalist system is also the gateway to the extreme fortune of the limited few that have, through luck or pluck, benefited most from the system. But no billionaire earns their riches without exploiting populations. Behind every fortune are the underpaid, the underfed, the forgotten, and the have nothings. The capitalist system, most simply defined, is a system of using the work of others and the work of wealth itself, to gain more wealth. It doesn’t take too much mental work to see that people are a form of capital in the capitalist system. Indeed, within capitalism everything is a form of capital. The best capitalist is the individual that figures out how to make more out of what they have….

(14) MYLNE’S GENRE ART. Artist James Mylne has been in the news lately (see, for instance ITV: “Boris Johnson turns into The Joker in new artwork”) for a political commentary that leans heavily on a genre reference. Filers might, therefore, be interested to know that his work has sometimes borrowed from other genre sources also. Example below.

(15) SOLARIS ON STAGE. Those passing through London between now and November 2 can see the play Solaris (nearest tube/metro/underground is Hammersmith).

On a space station orbiting Solaris, three scientists have made contact with a new planet.

Sent from earth to investigate reports of abnormal activity on-board, Kris Kelvin arrives to find one crew member dead and two who are seeing things that cannot be explained.

When her dead lover appears to her, it seems she too has fallen victim to the mystery of this strange planet. Should she return to reality, or is this her chance to turn back time?

Have the crew been studying Solaris – or has it been studying them?

This psychological thriller asks who we are when we’re forced to confront our deepest fears.

(16) ATWOOD PROFILE. Behind a paywall in the October 12 Financial Times, Horatia Harrod has a lengthy interview with Margaret Atwood.

In Oryx and Crake, Atwood wrote about a world decimated by environmental catastrophe; her understanding of the fragility of the Earth and the rapaciousness of its human inhabitants came early.  “My father was already talking about this over the dinner table in 1955,” says Atwood, who has been committed to raising awareness of the climate crisis for decades (she promised her 2000 Booker Prize winnings to charities dedicated to endangered animals.  “There is so much data and evidence.  But people would rather adhere to a belief system that favours them. So, what view of the climate is going to make more money for me?”

Atwood’s mother, meanwhile, was a tomboy, whose favored pastimes were speedskating, horseback riding, canoeing, fishing, not doing housework.  “I can’t think of much she was afraid of. This is a mother who chased a bear away with a broom, saying the following word:  ‘Scat!’” There were other tough female role models:”Inuit women, who have done some pretty spectacular things.  My aunt Ada, who I named a character in The Testaments after, was a hunting and fishing guide, and a crack shot with a .22.”

(17) PLANETARY ANTHOLOGIES MIGRATE. Superversive Press has dropped the Planetary Anthologies line says Declan Finn, whose contribution, Luna, is awaiting publication. (Indeed, a search on Amazon showed Superversive Press books as a whole are now only available from third-party vendors.) However, Finn says another publisher is stepping up.

The Planetary Anthology series is being discontinued.

In fact, even the five anthologies that have been published already have been discontinued. They will no longer be available for sale online from the publisher.

Which is odd for me. Especially after a year where the Area 51 anthology I was in this year was conceived of, edited, and released in 3 months from call for stories to publication.

So, yeah, the original publisher isn’t doing them anymore.

Finn says “the anthologies have all been picked up again by Tuscany Bay Books,” the imprint of Richard Paolinelli whose own unpublished Planetary Anthology, Pluto, will be next to appear. Contributors to these anthologies have included Jody Lyn Nye, Dawn Witzke, Lou Antonelli, Paolinelli, L Jagi Lamplighter, Hans G. Schantz, John C. Wright, Joshua M. Young and many others.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Lego In Real Life TRILOGY” on YouTube, Brick Bros. Productions looks at what happens when common household objects turn into Legos.

[Thanks to Camestros Felapton, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (please roll him a meatball).]

Pixel Scroll 10/16/19 The Pixels In This Scroll Are Not For Eating!

(1) CHESLEY AWARD. Neil Clarke shows off this year’s beautiful trophy.

(2) HELP NEEDED TO FIND TEXT OF A BOB SHAW SPEECH. Rob Jackson and Dave Langford are planning an ebook of Bob Shaw’s legendary Serious Scientific Talks, to be added to the free library at the TAFF site (taff.org.uk). They have traced thirteen of these convention speeches — three never before collected — but not the final one. This was delivered at Confabulation, the 1995 UK Eastercon, and (perhaps with revisions) at the first Glasgow Worldcon later that year. Rather than the usual knockabout punning, Bob reminisced movingly about his 50 years in fandom. Can any Filer help with a copy, transcription or recording of this talk to complete the set?

Here is the planned cover, with artwork by Jim Barker from the five-speech collection The Eastercon Speeches (1979) edited by Rob Jackson.

(3) MODERATING CON PANELS. Matt Moore’s post from a few years ago surfaced again because it has so many useful things to say: “How to Be a Good Moderator for Panel Discussions at Conventions”.

Understanding your role as moderator

The moderator is there to make sure there actually is a discussion, and that it runs smoothly. Panelists should have a lot to say, but you need to guide the conversation. This means:

  • Everyone gets a chance to speak
  • Only one person speaks at a time
  • People can disagree and be passionate in their views, but it must be done respectfully
  • You stay on topic

(4) TALKIN’ ABOUT THE 451 WAYS. Alex Jay talks about drafting graphics for a long-ago video game in “Lettering: Fahrenheit 451” at Tenth Letter of the Alphabet.

In 1984 Byron Preiss Visual Publications produced a video game adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 for Trillium. The book was published by Ballantine Books on October 19, 1953.

Byron Preiss gave an Atari console to me to create the graphics. I don’t recall the model number. Below are my ideas for the title sequence. Preiss wanted to use a salamander in the sequence.

(5) THE CRAFT IN LOVECRAFT. Learn how unexpectedly picky HPL was about space opera in “The Cthulhu Mythos and Space Opera by Bobby Derie” at the On An Underwood No. 5 blog.

…A keen amateur astronomer, Lovecraft largely eschewed the dynamics that made space opera feasible. In his 1935 essay “Some Notes on Interplanetary Fiction” he railed:

“A good interplanetary story must have realistic human characters; not the stock scientists, villainous assistants, invincible heroes, and lovely scientist’s-daughter heroines of the usual trash of this sort. Indeed, there is no reason why there should be any “villain”, “hero”, or “heroine” at all. These artificial character-types belong wholly to artificial plot-forms, and have no place in serious fiction of any kind…”

(6) FELINE PERFECTION. BBC reports: “Catwoman: Zoe Kravitz follows Hathaway and Berry in The Batman role”.

Comic book fans will be purring with delight at the mews that Zoe Kravitz will play Catwoman opposite Robert Pattinson in the next Batman film.

Kravitz as good as confirmed her casting when she responded to an Instagram post by Aquaman star Jason Momoa in which he said he was “freaking stoked” by her latest role.

“Love that Aquaman and Catwoman spend the holidays together from now on,” wrote the 30-year-old, best known for her appearances in Big Little Lies and the Fantastic Beasts films.

Kravitz, daughter of rock star Lenny and actress Lisa Bonet, previously provided Catwoman’s voice in 2017’s The Lego Batman Movie.

The Batman, directed by Matt Reeves and starring Pattinson as a young Bruce Wayne, will be released in the UK in June 2021.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 16, 2001 — WB first aired Smallville which would run for ten seasons. Starring Tom Welling, Kristin Kreuk and Annette O’Toole, it ran five years on the WB and the last five on the CW. The series lives on in comics and novels. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 16, 1924 David Armstrong. He never had a major role in any genre show but he was in myriad ones. In The Man from U.N.C.L.E. alone he appeared in twenty-two episodes in twenty-two different minor roles, he was a henchmen twice on Batman and had two uncredited appearances on Trek as well. He showed up on Mission Impossible, Get Smart!, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and even The Invaders. (Died 2016.)
  • Born October 16, 1925 Dame Angela Brigid Lansbury, 94. She first shows up in a genre work as Sibyl Vane in The Picture of Dorian Gray. A few years later, she’s Queen Anne of France in The Three Musketeers. Somewhat later, she’s Miss Eglantine Price in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. She voices Mommy Fortuna in The Last Unicorn, and is Granny in A Company of Wolves. And yes, she’s in Mary Poppins Returns as The Balloon Lady.
  • Born October 16, 1947 Guy Siner, 72. He’s one of only ten actors to appear in both the Trek and Who franchises. He appeared in the “Genesis of the Daleks”, a Fourth Doctor story, and on Enterprise in the “Silent Enemy” episode. Interestingly, he shows up on Babylon 5 as well in “Rumors, Bargains and Lies”. 
  • Born October 16, 1952 Ron Taylor. He got his break with the 1982 off-Broadway production Little Shop of Horrors as he voiced Audrey II in the show which ran for five years and over 2,000 performances. He didn’t do a lot of genre, showing up only on Ice PiratesQuantum Leap, Twin Peaks and Deep Space Nine, plus voice work on Batman Beyond. (Died 2002.)
  • Born October 16, 1958 Tim Robbins, 61. His first genre role was Phil Blumburtt in Howard the Duck. He played Erik in Erik the Viking, and is in The Shawshank Redemption as Andy Dufresne. He’s Woodrow “Woody” Blake in Mission to Mars. He was Harlan Ogilvy in the truly awful War of the Worlds followed by being Senator Robert Hammond in the even worse Green Lantern.
  • ?Born October 16, 1965 Joseph Mallozzi, 54. He is most noted for work on the Stargate series. He joined the Stargate production team at the start of Stargate SG-1’s fourth season in 2000. He was a writer and executive producer for all three series. He also co-created the Dark Matter comic book series with Paul Mullie that became a Syfy series. 
  • Born October 16, 1973 Eva Röse, 46. Most likely best-known for her role as the android Niska in Season 1 of the Swedish Real Humans upon which AMC’s Humans was based. She also was one of the voice cast for the animated Creepschool series, and was Jasmie on The Befallen, a supernatural series that lasted one season there. 

(9) INSERT LIGHTSABER SOUND HERE. Major League Baseball’s Cut4 blog declares “The best possible way to interrupt a live interview is with a lightsaber”.

The Nationals finished off an NLCS sweep of the Cardinals on Tuesday and are headed to their first-ever World Series. Champagne was flowing, players were dancing, Max Scherzer was being Max Scherzer and a couple MLB Network analysts were still on the field — trying to wrap their heads around what had just happened. And then, well …

(10) IF YOU WERE A DESKTOP DINOSAUR, MY LOVE. Gizmodo teases, “Lego’s New Dinosaur Fossils Turn Your Desk Into a Miniature Natural History Museum”. Photos at the link.

You can claim to be interested in historical artifacts like pottery, suits of armor, and maybe even a mummy, but the most compelling reason to visit a museum, even as an adult, are the dinosaur fossils. If your hometown happens to be lacking in museums, however, Lego’s new Dinosaur Fossils set puts a small collection of thunder lizard skeletons on your desk, no admission required.

(11) SMILE AND THE WORLD SMILES WITH YOU. Delish claims “People Are Loving The Joker Frappuccino Even More Than The Movie That Inspired It”.

…First, you’ll have to ask for the barista to draw the smile on the side of the cup in strawberry syrup. Next, they’ll blend a Matcha Green Tea Creme Frappuccino. Then, Pyper suggests you ask for matcha powder to be mixed into the whipped creme but you honestly could probably just get it on top. That’s finished off with a drizzle of chocolate syrup and there you have it.

(12) BOMBS AWAY. The Mirror (UK) names the “Biggest box-office flops of the 21st century”.  There are three genre films atop the list. One of them is —

4. The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002)

Starring Eddie Murphy in a dual role, the critically panned sci-fi comedy managed to earn a Razzie nomination for worst film, worst actor, worst director, worst screenplay and worst on-screen couple (both for Eddie Murphy and a cloned version of himself).

It managed to make just £5.73 million on a budget of £81.83 million.

(13) MOBILE SUIT xEMU. “For NASA’s New Suits, ‘Mobility’ Is The Watchword”NPR has the story. (The BBC has more pictures here.)

NASA has unveiled prototypes of its next generation space suits to be worn inside the Orion spacecraft and on the surface of the moon when American astronauts return there as soon as 2024.

At the space agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., two NASA engineers modeled the new suits destined for the Artemis program, one known as the Exploration Extravehicular Mobility Unit (xEMU), designed for walking around the lunar surface, and the other, the Orion Crew Survival System, a bright orange pressure suit to be worn when astronauts launch from Earth and return.

The design criteria? After keeping the crew safe, including America’s first woman moon walker, it’s all about mobility.

To that end, the suited models demonstrated bending, squatting and walking around in the bulky garments.

“This is the first suit we’ve designed in about 40 years,” Chris Hansen, a manager at NASA’s spacesuit design office, said. “We want systems that allow our astronauts to be scientists on the surface of the moon.”

Amy Ross, NASA’s lead spacesuit engineer, said: “Basically, my job is to take a basketball, shape it like a human, keep them alive in a harsh environment and give them the mobility to do their job.”

(14) WHAT APRIL SHOWERS BRING. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.]“Unmanned ship to go on 400-year-old journey across the Atlantic”. This will be a real test for artificial “intelligence” — how will it aim for Virginia and wind up in Massachusetts?

A fully autonomous ship tracing the journey of the Mayflower is being built by a UK-based team, with help from tech firm IBM.

The Mayflower Autonomous Ship, or MAS, will launch from Plymouth in the UK in September 2020.

Its voyage will mark the 400th anniversary of the pilgrim ship which brought European settlers to America in 1620.

IBM is providing artificial intelligence systems for the ship.

The vessel will make its own decisions on its course and collision avoidance, and will even make expensive satellite phone calls back to base if it deems it necessary.

(15) CUBE ROUTER. Working one-handed and with obstacles, “Robot hand solves Rubik’s cube, but not the grand challenge”. Includes video.

A remarkable robot, capable of solving a Rubik’s cube single-handedly, has demonstrated just how far robotics has advanced – but at the same time, experts say, how far we still have to go.

OpenAI’s system used a computer simulation to teach the robot hand to solve the cube, running through routines that would take a single human some 10,000 years to complete.

Once taught, the robot was able to solve a cube that had been slightly modified to help the machine tell which way up it was being held.

Completion time varied, the research team said, but it generally took around four minutes to complete the task.

Using machine-learning and robotics to solve a Rubik’s cube has been achieved before. Notably, in March 2018, a machine developed by engineers at MIT managed to solve a cube in just 0.38 seconds.

What’s significant with OpenAI’s effort is the use of a multi-purpose robot, in this case a human-hand-like design, rather than a machine specifically designed to handle a Rubik’s cube and nothing else.

(16) TERMINAL MAN. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] “And ‘Lo!’ – How the internet was born”. The writer underestimates undergraduate students…

In the 1960s, Bob Taylor worked at the heart of the Pentagon in Washington DC. He was on the third floor, near the US defence secretary and the boss of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (Arpa).

…Next to his office was the terminal room, a pokey little space where three remote-access terminals with three different keyboards sat side by side.

Each allowed Taylor to issue commands to a far-away mainframe computer.

…Each of these massive computers required a different login procedure and programming language.

It was, as the historians Katie Hafner and Matthew Lyon put it, like “having a den cluttered with several television sets, each dedicated to a different channel”.

…The solution was proposed by another computing pioneer, physicist Wesley Clark.

Clark suggested installing a minicomputer at every site on this new network.

The local mainframe – the hulking Q-32, for example – would talk to the minicomputer sitting close beside it.

…The network designers wanted message processors that would sit quietly, with minimal supervision, and just keep on working, come heat or cold, vibration or power surge, mildew, mice, or – most dangerous of all – curious graduate students with screwdrivers.

(17) DOGGIE DINER. It can’t be easy to get a real dog to forego eating a meatball. Although maybe the meatball is fake, unlike the dog? “New Trailer for Live-Action ‘Lady and the Tramp’ Teases Iconic Spaghetti Dinner Scene”. Hypebeast breaks it down.

Following the first trailer for Disney’s forthcoming live-action adaptation of the renowned pup love story, Lady and the Tramp, the second trailer for the highly-anticipated film has arrived. Pegged as the first of the entertainment conglomerate’s original movies to premiere via Disney+, the film will take on the memorable story of a cocker spaniel named Lady (voiced by Tessa Thompson) who finds love with a stray mutt named Tramp (Justin Theroux). The film will also star Janelle Monáe, Thomas Mann, Kiersey Clemons, Benedict Wong, Ashley Jensen, and Yvette Nicole Brown.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/12/19 “Have Fifth, Will Godstalk,” Reads The File Of A Man, A Scroll Without Pixels In A Fannish Land

(1) NYRSF READINGS. The New York Review of Science Fiction Readings presents “An Evening of ‘Reckoning’” — creative writing on environmental justice – on October 14 with guest curator Michael J. DeLuca, featuring Emily Houk, Yukyan Lam, Krista Hoeppner Leahy, Marissa Lingen, Emery Robin, and Brian Francis Slattery. The event begins at 7:00 p.m. at The Brooklyn Commons Café, 388 Atlantic Avenue  (between Hoyt & Bond St.). Full info on Facebook.

Michael J. DeLuca‘s roots are mycorrhizal with sugar maple and Eastern white pine. He’s the publisher of Reckoning, an annual journal of creative writing on environmental justice. His fiction has appeared most recently in Beneath Ceaseless SkiesThree-Lobed Burning EyeStrangelet and Middle Planet

Emily Houk’s short fiction has appeared previously in Conjunctions, and she has just finished her first novel. She is coeditor of Ninepin Press, and she thrives in the shade of the library stacks of Western Massachusetts.

Yukyan Lam is based in New York, NY, and works for a non-profit on environmental health and social justice. Her scientific writing has appeared in various academic journals. She loves reading and writing creative non-fiction and short stories, and currently serves as a prose editor for Typehouse Literary Magazine. Follow her @yukyan_etc

Krista Hoeppner Leahy is a poet, writer, and actor. Her work has appeared in ClarkesworldFarrago’s WainscotLady Churchill’s Rosebud WristletRaritanShimmerTin HouseYear’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy and elsewhere. Born in Colorado, Krista currently resides in Brooklyn with her family.

Marissa Lingen is a freelance writer living in the suburbs of Minneapolis with two large men and one small dog. Mostly she writes speculative fiction. She has a large collection of foliage-themed jewelry.

Emery Robin is an Oakland-born and New York-based writer, previously published on Tor.com and in Spark: A Creative Anthology. When not busy reading, Emery is interested in propaganda, marginalia, and rock ‘n’ roll, and can be found on Twitter @ emwrobin .

Brian Francis Slattery is the arts editor and a reporter for the New Haven Independent. He has written four novels and is currently on the writing team of Bookburners, a serial fiction project. He’s also a musician and for a week out of every year, lives without electricity.

(2) JUNGLE CRUISE. Andrew Petersen, a student I met at Azusa Pacific University’s Yosemite Semester in 2001, achieved his goal of becoming a driver on the Jungle Cruise Ride. If only he hadn’t died last year – he would have gotten a kick out of this movie.  

Inspired by the famous Disneyland theme park ride, Disney’s JUNGLE CRUISE is an adventure-filled, Amazon-jungle expedition starring Dwayne Johnson as the charismatic riverboat captain and Emily Blunt as a determined explorer on a research mission. Also starring in the film are Edgar Ramirez, Jack Whitehall, with Jesse Plemons, and Paul Giamatti. Jaume Collet-Serra is the director and John Davis, John Fox, Dwayne Johnson, Hiram Garcia, Dany Garcia and Beau Flynn are the producers, with Doug Merrifield serving as executive producer. Disney’s JUNGLE CRUISE opens in U.S. theaters on July 24, 2020.

(3) PRINCIPLES OF WARFARE. At The Angry Staff Officer, Matthew Ader exercises 20/20 hindsight in “Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory on Wakanda”.

Captain Roger’s performance at the Battle of Wakanda has been widely and rightly panned. But nothing has been said about the profound failures of his enemy, the Thanosians. Despite every possible advantage in manpower, materiel, and circumstance, they still failed. All students of the military art should examine how they so masterfully snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. 

Terrain Analysis 

The Thanosians had complete freedom in the approach to battle. Nevertheless, they committed two grievous and unforced errors. First, they failed to identify the large energy shield protecting Benin Zana and its immediate environs. This information would have been known with even the most cursory reconnaissance. The mistake cost them at least a battalion worth of troops, when their dropship smashed into it. It is generally agreed that losing a sixth of your force before battle commences is a bad thing. ..

(4) KRAMER PLEADS NOT GUILTY. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports “Judge, others charged in Gwinnett hacking case enter not guilty pleas”.

All four defendants charged in Gwinnett County’s convoluted courthouse hacking saga entered not guilty pleas Thursday afternoon.

Each of the defendants — including sitting Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader and DragonCon co-founder Ed Kramer — were present for a brief arraignment hearing, scattered across the courtroom gallery as attorneys spoke on their behalf. Their not guilty pleas mean the case against them will move forward. The next hearing in the case is scheduled for Nov. 7….

(5) IMPERIAL SPONGEBOB. Holly M. Barker’s article for The Contemporary Pacific, “Unsettling SpongeBob and the Legacies of Violence on Bikini Bottom”, asserts the cartoon series normalizes an array or moral and ethical problems. Most of the piece is behind a paywall. Here is the abstract:

Billions of people around the globe are well-acquainted with SpongeBob Squarepants and the antics of the title character and his friends on Bikini Bottom. By the same token, there is an absence of public discourse about the whitewashing of violent American military activities through SpongeBob’s occupation and reclaiming of the bottom of Bikini Atoll’s lagoon. SpongeBob Squarepants and his friends play a role in normalizing the settler colonial takings of Indigenous lands while erasing the ancestral Bikinian people from their nonfictional homeland. This article exposes the complicity of popular culture in maintaining American military hegemonies in Oceania while amplifying the enduring indigeneity (Kauanui 2016) of the Marshallese people, who maintain deeply spiritual and historical connections to land—even land they cannot occupy due to residual radiation contamination from US nuclear weapons testing—through a range of cultural practices, including language, song, and weaving. This article also considers the gendered violence of nuclear colonialism and the resilience of Marshallese women.

Campus Reform’s post “Prof: SpongeBob perpetuates ‘violent, racist’ acts against indigenous people” elaborates on some of the issues, for example:  

… While Barker admits that the show’s creators likely did not have “U.S. colonialism” in mind while developing the cartoon, she calls it “disturbing” that they did not realize that “Bikini Bottom and Bikini Atoll were not theirs for the taking.” Consequently, Barker suggests that “millions of children” have “become acculturated to an ideology that includes the US character SpongeBob residing on another people’s homeland.” 

In this way, colonialism is supposedly “produced, reproduced, and normalized” through the cartoon

As if fictionally “occupying” nonfictional land was not enough, Barker also accuses the cartoon of being biased against women. 

The professor complains that “all of the main characters on the show are male,” except for Sandy Cheeks the squirrel, whom she suggests was only created in order to boost the gender diversity of the show. 

“The name ‘Bob’ represents the everyday man, a common American male, much like a ‘Joe,'” Barker observes, concluding that “our gaze into the world of Bikini Bottom, as well as the surface of Bikini, is thus filtered through the activities of men.”

Barker concludes her article by insisting that even though SpongeBob’s writers likely did not mean “to infuse a children’s show with racist, violent colonial practices,” the show is part of a larger issue, an “insidious practice of disappearing Indigenous communities.”

(6) DANIUS OBIT. Sara Danius has died due to breast cancer. She was the permanent secretary for the Swedish Academy during the MeToo era and who was forced out from it due to her determination to get rid of its toxic patriarchal working culture. She was 57 years old. (Swedish language news article here.)

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 12, 1987 Ultraman: The Adventure Begins. This Japanese animated film stars the English voice lead talents of Adrienne Barbeau and Stacy Keach.  Jr.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 12, 1875 Aleister Crowley. Genre writer? You decide. But I’ve no doubt that he had a great influence upon the genre as I’m betting many of you can note works in which he figures. One of the earliest such cases is Land of Mist, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle which was published in 1926. (Died 1947.)
  • Born October 12, 1903 Josephine Hutchinson. She was Elsa von Frankenstein with Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff in Son of Frankenstein. She was in “I Sing the Body Electric”, The Twilight Zone episode written by Bradbury that he turned into a short story. (Died 1998.)
  • Born October 12, 1904 Lester Dent. Pulp-fiction author who was best known as the creator and main author of the series of novels chronicling Doc Savage. Of the one hundred and eighty-one  Doc Savage novels published by Street and Smith, one hundred and seventy-nine were credited to Kenneth Robeson; and all but twenty were written by Dent. (Died 1959.)
  • Born October 12, 1916 Lock Martin. His claim to fame was that he was one of the tallest humans that ever lived.  At seven feet and seven inches (though this was dispute by some), he was also quite stocky.  He had the distinction of playing Gort in The Day The Earth Stood Still. He was also in The Incredible Shrinking Man as a giant, but his scenes were deleted. And he shows up in Invaders from Mars as the Mutant carrying David to the Intelligence though he goes uncredited in the film. (Died 1959.)
  • Born October 12, 1924 Randy Stuart. She’s best remembered as Louise Carey, the wife of Scott Carey, in The Incredible Shrinking Man. She was also Frances Hiller in “Anniversary of a Murder“ on One Step Beyond which conceived as a companion series to the Twilight Zone. (Died 1996.)
  • Born October 12, 1942 Daliah Lavi. She’s in Casino Royale as The Detainer, a secret agent. In the same year, she was in Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon as Madelaine. She was Purificata in The Demon, an Italian horror film.  If you’re into German popular music, you might recognize her as she was successful there in Seventies and Eighties. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 12, 1943 Linda Shaye, 76. She’s been an actress for over forty years and has appeared in over ninety films, mostly horror. Among them is A Nightmare on Elm StreetCritters, Insidious, Dead End2001 Maniacs and its sequel 2001 Maniacs: Field of ScreamsJekyll and Hyde… Together AgainAmityville: A New GenerationOuija, and its prequel Ouija: Origin of Evil. She even appeared in The Running Man as a Propaganda Officer
  • Born October 12, 1965 Dan Abnett, 54. His earlier work was actually on Doctor Who Magazine,  but I’ll single out his co-writing Guardians of the Galaxy #1–6 with Andy Lanning, The Authority: Rule Britannia and his Border Princes novel he did in the Torchwood universe as great looks at him as a writer. 
  • Born October 12, 1968 Hugh Jackman, 51. Obviously Wolverine in the Marvel film franchise. He’s also been the lead character in Van Helsing as well as voicing him in the animated prequel Van Helsing: The London Assignment. One of his most charming roles was voicing The Easter Bunny in The Rise of The Guardians. And he played Robert Angier in The Prestige based off the novel written by the real Christopher Priest.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Rich Horton says about today’s Dilbert: “I don’t know if Scott Adams nicked this idea from Fred Pohl or Greg Egan or someone else, but I think of Daniel Galouye’s Simulacron-3 (filmed as The Thirteenth Floor).”

(10) THE ANSWER IS. Heather Rose Jones replies to the latest question on the Alpennia FAQ: “Are the Alpennia books historical?”

The setting deviates from real-world history in two major ways. Magic exists. And the country of Alpennia does not correspond to any real-world place or nation…. [More at the link.]

(11) WITH RESERVATIONS. CNET: “Addams Family fans can book ‘creepy, kooky’ night in replica mansion”. The “mansion” is in Brooklyn. Tagline: “Booking.com is offering a scary stay. Get a witch’s shawl on and a broomstick you can crawl on.”

…The exterior of Booking.com‘s Addams Family mansion doesn’t look spooky, but the inside makes up for it.

The [3700 square foot] mansion rents for just $101.10 per night, but not everyone interested will get in. [It will be available for only four one-night bookings starting the 29th of this month.] Mark your calendars now if you want to try to be one of the lucky ones. Bookings open on Oct. 28 at 9 a.m. PT, and they’ll probably disappear as fast as you can snap your fingers.

(12) KINGS AND MONSTERS. LitHub learns from Joe Hill, “When Stephen King is Your Father, the World is Full of Monsters”.

We had a new monster every night.

I had this book I loved, Bring on the Bad Guys. It was a big, chunky paperback collection of comic-book stories, and as you might guess from the title, it wasn’t much concerned with heroes. It was instead an anthology of tales about the worst of the worst, vile psychopaths with names like The Abomination and faces to match.

My dad had to read that book to me every night. He didn’t have a choice. It was one of these Scheherazade-type deals. If he didn’t read to me, I wouldn’t stay in bed. I’d slip out from under my Empire Strikes Back quilt and roam the house in my Spider-Man Underoos, soggy thumb in my mouth and my filthy comfort blanket tossed over one shoulder. I could roam all night if the mood took me. My father had to keep reading until my eyes were barely open, and even then, he could only escape by saying he was going to step out for a smoke and he’d be right back.

(13) THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW. Behind a paywall at The Wall Street Journal: “Streaming Is Killing Physical Media. Here’s Why You Won’t Miss It “. Tagline: “With Samsung’s decision to stop making Blu-ray players, now even discs are going extinct. One writer reminisces about all we’ll lose. Another looks forward to an all-digital future.”

(14) FUTURIUM. Aa “house of futures” museum opened in Berlin last month called the Futurium, and their website is futurium.de. The home site is in German, however, they also offer an English language version.

Futurium celebrated its opening on 05 September 2019. Since then, the interest in the house of futures has exceeded all expectations. In the first month, 100,000 visitors already came to Futurium and devoted themselves to the question: How do we want to live?

(15) NOSFERATU. [Item by Steve Vertlieb.] Every generation has its incarnation of the vampire mythos – Dark Shadows, Twilight, True Blood, and more. But it all cinematically began with F.W. Murnau’s 1922 silent movie masterpiece Nosferatu. Ninety-four years after its inception, North Hollywood’s Crown City Theater Company unleashed an astonishing live stage presentation entitled Nosferatu: A Symphony in Terror. In Nosferatu”, film historian Steve Vertlieb takes us aboard a dark yet wonderful cinematic time machine, delving into the creation of Murnau’s seminal horror film, examining it’s influence on generations (from Lugosi and Lee, to Salem’s Lot, Harry Potter and more), then reviews the startling stage presentation from a few years ago.

 (16) ONE LESS BRICK IN THE WALL. CNN says “You can feel good about ditching your LEGO bricks thanks to this new program”.

…Gather the LEGO bricks, sets or elements that you want to part with; put them in a cardboard box; and print out a free shipping label from the LEGO Replay website. At the Give Back Box facility, they’ll be sorted, inspected and cleaned.

“We know people don’t throw away their LEGO bricks,” Tim Brooks, vice president of environmental responsibility at the LEGO Group, said in a Tuesday news release. “The vast majority hand them down to their children or grandchildren. But others have asked us for a safe way to dispose of or to donate their bricks. With Replay, they have an easy option that’s both sustainable and socially impactful.”

(17) MUSHROOM MANAGEMENT. Car ownership and use are dropping, so they’re “Turning Paris’s underground car parks into mushrooms farms” – the BBC has video.

What do you do with an old car park that no-one wants to park in? Why not use them to grow mushrooms – or even salad?

Paris built too many underground car parks in the 1960s and 70s. Falling car ownership means many are standing empty, or finding new and surprising uses.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Lauren Gunderson Is Taking On J.M. Barrie” on YouTube, Lauren Gunderson discusses her adaptation of Peter Pan, which will be produced by the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington in December.

[Thanks to Nancy Collins, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Karl-Johan Norén, Steve Vertlieb, and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anne Sheller.]

Pixel Scroll 9/17/19 Lady Scrollhill’s Rosebud Pixlet

(1) HEADHUNTING. LAD Bible previews a project coming to YouTube on September 25: “A Mockumentary Has Been Made About Star Wars’ Most Famous Blooper”.

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… a stormtrooper smashed their head on a door in the Death Star – and people have been wanting to know who it was ever since.

The scene occurs in Star Wars: A New Hope and has become a cult moment for Warsies (that’s what Star Wars fans call themselves apparently). Now, a filmmaker has taken it upon himself to make a mockumentary about the blunder, entitled The Empire Strikes Door.

(2) YOUR BEDTIME IT IS. The Disney Bedtime Hotline is back online. Polygon tells how “You can now call Yoda to wish you a good night”.

Good news to all the insomniacs out there. Disney’s Bedtime Hotline returns from Sept. 16 to Sept. 30. The hotline which debuted last August, gave fans a chance to hear bedtime messages from the core Disney cast of Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, or Goofy.

The hotline returns for the next two weeks, this time with a lineup taking advantage of Disney’s full trove of IP. In addition to Mickey, callers can also get messages from Woody, Jasmine, and Elsa and Anna, as well as as some unexpected choices from Disney properties. Specifically Yoda and Spider-Man.

That’s right, Yoda is a Disney character and now he tells you about the importance of sleep as you curl up for the night.

Calling 1-877-7-MICKEY — toll free!

(3) FULL FATHOM FIVE. In The Guardian’s weekly segment on “Jumping The Shark,” Ben Gazur contends this is “How Babylon 5 went from space opera to space junk”.

Babylon 5 was a show that should never have been commissioned. Five seasons of the United Nations set in space, anyone? Well, set your phasers to stunned because while Star Trek gets all the glory – what with its big-name actors, great special effects and lasting cultural cachet – it was Babylon 5 that became every true sci-fi fan’s secret favourite.

(4) PREVIEWS OF MOUNT TBR. NPR’s Caitlyn Paxson reports on “3 Crackling Young Adult Reads To Welcome Fall”, two of which are genre works.

In Akwaeke Emezi’s Pet, angels have rid the city of Lucille of all its monsters. That’s what Jam has been taught, and she has no reason to doubt it, as she lives a happy life surrounded by her loving parents and her best friend, Redemption. No reason, until a strange and frightening creature crawls out of one of her mother’s paintings, intent on hunt down a monster hiding in their midst. The creature is called Pet, and it tells Jam that her duty is to help search out the evil that has taken root in Redemption’s house. Jam isn’t sure she’s the right person for the task — but what choice does she have, when no one else will even admit that there may still be monsters lurking in the shadows?

…After making her entrance last year with The Light Between Worlds, which asked what happens to the children cast out of portal fantasies once the adventure is over, Laura Weymouth returns with A Treason of Thorns, a full-on alternate history fantasy that imagines an England that is home to Great Houses — sentient buildings that enrich or destroy their regions depending on how well they are managed by their human Caretaker.

(5) JANIS IAN DONATES COLLECTION. Brown University Library announced the acquisition: “Network of Women Writers and Readers Crux of John Hay Library’s Janis Ian Collection of Science Fiction and Fantasy”.

The John Hay Library is now home to renowned recording artist, writer, and activist Janis Ian’s collection of personally inscribed works of science fiction and fantasy, many by women and LGBTQ authors. 

The John Hay Library at Brown University is delighted to announce the acquisition of Janis Ian’s personal library, including collections of books of contemporary science fiction and fantasy authors inscribed to her. Among these authors are Anne McCaffrey, George R. R. Martin, Mercedes Lackey, Mike Resnick, Nancy Kress, Neil Gaiman, Connie Willis, Harlan Ellison, Jane Yolen, Tanith Lee, Diane Duane, and many others. In all, the Library received approximately 200 volumes from Ms. Ian’s collection.

(6) STALLMAN GONE. “Richard Stallman Resigns from MIT”Slashdot has the story.He’s also resigned as President from the Free Software Foundation.

Multiple Slashdotters are reporting the unfortunate news that famed free software advocate and computer scientist Richard Stallman has resigned from MIT. Slashdot reader iamacat writes:

Following outrage over his remarks about Jefferey Epstein’s victims, Richard Stallman has resigned from his position in MIT, effective immediately.

Stallman wrote in an email,

I am resigning effective immediately from my position in CSAIL at MIT. I am doing this due to pressure on MIT and me over a series of misunderstandings and mischaracterizations.

CSAIL is MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

(7) MESSAGE FROM PTERRY? “‘Grim reaper’ stolen from Russian street” – he was gone in sixty seconds.

The Russian city of Arkhangelsk caused a stir by putting up a statue of the Grim Reaper on a roadside to put motorists off speeding, only for thieves to steal it later in the day….

The black-shrouded figure, made to order by a craftsman from local pine, was meant to “discourage drivers from speeding up on that stretch of road since it’s been repaired”, spokeswoman Tatyana Simindei told the site.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 17, 1964Mothra Vs. Godzilla premiered in the U.S.
  • September 17, 1976 — NASA named its first Space Shuttle after a starship from some sci-fi TV show – Enterprise.
  • September 17, 1978 — The original Battlestar Galactica premiered on television. It would last but a single season.
  • September 17, 1982 The Powers of Matthew Star first aired. It ran one season. Harve Bennett (Trek films II–V) was one of its creators and Leonard Nimoy directed the “Triangle” episode while Walter Koenig wrote the “Mother” episode. The original pilot, “ Starr Knight” as written by Steven E. de Souza, writer of The Running Man aired as the final episode. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 17, 1908 John Creasey. English crime and SF writer who wrote well over than six hundred novels using twenty-eight different names. His SF writings were mostly in the Dr. Palfrey series, a British secret service agent named Dr. Stanislaus Alexander Palfrey, who forms Z5. I’ve not read them, so how are they as SF?  None of these appear to be available from iBooks but they’re available from Kindle. 
  • Born September 17, 1917 Art Widner. He was a founding member of The Stranger Club which created  Boston fandom. He chaired Boskone I and Boskone II which were held in 1941 and 1942, they being the very first two Boston cons. Fancyclopedia 3 has a very detailed  look at him here. (Died 2015.)
  • Born September 17, 1920 Dinah Sheridan. She was Chancellor Flavia in “The Five Doctors”, a Doctor Who story that brought together the First, Second, Third, Fourth and Fifth Doctors. Richard Hurndall portrayed the First Doctor, as the character’s original actor, William Hartnell, had died. (Died 2012.)   
  • Born September 17, 1920 Roddy McDowall. He is best known for portraying Cornelius and Caesar in the original Planet of the Apes film franchise, as well as Galen in the television series. He’s Sam Conrad in The Twilight Zone episode “People Are Alike All Over” and he voices Jervis Tetch / The Mad Hatter in Batman: The Animated Series. (Died 1998.)
  • Born September 17, 1939 Sandra Gimpel, 80. Performer and stunt woman. Though you’ll literally not recognize her, she was the salt monster aka the M-113 creature (as it was called in the credits) in “The Man Trap” episode of the original Trek. In “The Cage” episode, she played a Talosian. As a stunt woman, she’s been on genre shows ranging from Lost in Space to Lucifer and even appeared on films like Escape from New York
  • Born September 17, 1951 Cassandra Peterson,68. Definitely better known as Elvira, Mistress of The Darkness, a character she’s played on TV and in movies, becoming the host of Elvira’s Movie Macabre, a weekly horror movie presentation in LA in 1981. She’s a showgirl in Diamonds Are Forever which was her debut film, and is Sorais in Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold.
  • Born September 17, 1962 Paul Feig, 56. I see that he and Katie Dippold were nominated but didn’t win a Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation for their Ghostbusters film. How did it do in the actual voting? 
  • Born September 17, 1965 Bryan Singer, 54. Director of such genre film as including X-MenSuperman ReturnsX-Men: Days of Future Past, and X-Men: Apocalypse
  • Born September 17, 1973 Jonathan Morris, 46. SFF television series are fertile grounds for creating spinoff book series and Doctor Who is no exception. This writer has only written four such novels to date but oh, the number of Big Finish audiobooks that he’s written scripts for now numbers in the high forties if I include the Companions and the Jago & Lightfoot series as well. 

(10) LEGO’S NEW GLOBAL CAMPAIGN. From behind a paywall at The Drum:

…The result is ‘Rebuild the World’, Lego’s most significant global brand campaign since the 90s, which was created by BETC in collaboration with The Lego Agency.

Ultimately, the push seeks to position the toy as something that can strengthen creative resilience and problem-solving capabilities in kids – an idea originally floated by BETC in a world where children are more likely to pick up an iPad than open a toybox.

Underpinned by bold, playful creative that will run across TV, online, OOH and cinema, Marcelli describes the campaign as “a new, modern expression of the true, deep foundations” of the brand, and the “perfect interpretation” of its mission to inspire future generations.

At the heart of the drive is a film directed by Traktor Creative, a duo who have previously worked with The Prodigy and Madonna, which shows what the world would look like if it obeyed the rules of Lego play.

(11) DON’T LESNERIZE. “Common cold stopped by experimental approach” reports BBC.

Scientists think they have found a way to stop the common cold and closely related viruses which can cause paralysis.

Instead of trying to attack them directly, the researchers targeted an essential protein inside our cells which the viruses need to replicate.

The approach gave “complete protection” in experiments on mice and human lung cells.

However, the US-based researchers are not ready for trials in people.

(12) THE BUZZ. You are invited to “Meet The Nuclear-Powered Self-Driving Drone NASA Is Sending To A Moon Of Saturn” — includes video simulation.

On the face of it, NASA’s newest probe sounds incredible. Known as Dragonfly, it is a dual-rotor quadcopter (technically an octocopter, even more technically an X8 octocopter); it’s roughly the size of a compact car; it’s completely autonomous; it’s nuclear powered; and it will hover above the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan.

…”Almost everyone who gets exposed to Dragonfly has a similar thought process. The first time you see it, you think: ‘You gotta be kidding, that’s crazy,’ ” says Doug Adams, the mission’s spacecraft systems engineer. But, he says, “eventually, you come to realize that this is a highly executable mission.”

NASA reached that conclusion when, after a lot of careful study, it gave Dragonfly the green light earlier this summer. “This revolutionary mission would have been unthinkable just a few short years ago,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said when the roughly $1 billion project was selected in June. “A great nation does great things.”

For Shannon MacKenzie, a postdoc on the mission, there’s no destination that could be greater than Titan. The largest moon of Saturn, it has dunes, mountains, gullies and even rivers and lakes — though on Titan, it’s so cold the lakes are filled with liquid methane, not water.

“It is this complete package,” she says. “It’s this really unique place in the solar system where all of these different processes are coming together in a very Earthlike way.”

(13) NOT-SO-HOT BOTS. BBC asks, “Russia and robots: Steel junk or a brave new world?”

Russia likes to boast of its robots – but at the same time it seems to have a somewhat troubled relationship with them.

It has endured a series of very public robotic mishaps, but all is not lost.

Amid much fanfare and praise for the Roscosmos space agency, Russian robot Fedor was launched into space on board a Soyuz 14 spacecraft in August.

Fedor made history as the first such robot ever to be sent into space by Russia, and within moments he was reporting on his progress and all was apparently going to plan.But then, mission control in Houston broke the news that Fedor’s attempt to dock with the International Space Station (ISS) had to be aborted because of a technical problem.

Before his spaceflight, Fedor had been busy impressing observers with his activities. State TV showed him driving a car, firing guns and doing push-ups – but sceptics were critical. Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was scathing in a post on Twitter.

“This Fedor the robot is what the Putin regime is all about. The PR idiots at Roscosmos came up with the idea, and engineers had to send a hundred kilos of useless steel junk into orbit,” Navalny wrote…

Alyosha, Boris and Igoryok

Last year, a robot called Boris made an appearance on national television. He announced that he was good at mathematics, but added that he would like to learn how to compose music. He also danced.

Before Boris, Russian TV also reported excitedly about another robot, a huge steel thing called Igoryok, but nobody’s seen it move – or even do anything….

(14) FATHER AND SON HORROR. Netflix has released a trailer for In the Tall Grass, a film based on a novella by Stephen King and his son Joe Hill. It becomes available October 4.  

Some places have a mind of their own. Based on the novella by Stephen King and Joe Hill, when siblings Becky and Cal hear the cries of a young boy lost within a field of tall grass, they venture in to rescue him, only to become ensnared themselves by a sinister force that quickly disorients and separates them. Cut off from the world and unable to escape the field’s tightening grip, they soon discover that the only thing worse than getting lost is being found.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, John A Arkansawyer, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Steven H Silver, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]