Pixel Scroll 7/15/20 Who Would Open This Can Of Words?

(1) ONE WEEK LEFT TO VOTE FOR HUGOS. CoNZealand today reminded members the deadline is nearing – voting closes Wednesday, July 22 at 23:59 PDT (UTC-7), which in New Zeland is Thursday, July 23 at 18:59 NZST (UTC+12).

(2) PEAKE ARCHIVE PRESERVED. The British Library has acquired the Visual Archive of writer, artist and illustrator Mervyn Peake, best known for his series Gormenghast.

.. Mervyn Peake’s Visual Archive comprises over 300 original illustrations, including drawings from his critically acclaimed Gormenghast series, together with original illustrations for his own books for children Captain Slaughterboard Drops Anchor and Letters From a Lost Uncle and other classic works of English literature, such as Treasure IslandThe Hunting of the Snark, Household Tales by the Brothers Grimm,and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Also included are unpublished early works, preliminary sketches, and drawings of famous literary, theatrical and artistic figures such as Laurence Olivier and W.H. Auden. This acquisition brings Peake’s archive together in one place, making it fully accessible to the public for the first time.

Mervyn Peake was an English writer, artist and illustrator, best known for creating the fantasy trilogy Gormenghast. A Royal Academy trained artist of great versatility and inventiveness, he has been seen as arguably the finest children’s illustrator of the mid-20th century. Combining technical mastery with an innate ability to evoke fear, delight and wonderment in young readers, he redefined the cosy nature of children’s book illustrations.

Despite his originality, Peake’s fondness and respect for the work of other artists is evident in the archive, from the influence of Hogarth, Doré and Blake to Dickens’ illustrator Phiz and Boys’ Own artist Stanley L. Wood.

The archive is notable for Peake’s exquisite Treasure Island illustrations from 1949, which remain some of his finest work, described by critics as ‘tense, eerie and dramatic’ and ‘one of the few editions which have come near to meeting the demands of the author’s text’. Treasure Island was Peake’s favourite book and his love for the story is evident in the archive from the watercolour illustrations he painted aged 15, to the large number of preliminary sketches and annotated proofs which show his commitment to perfecting the 1949 edition.

(3) STORYBUNDLE. Available for the next three weeks: “The Glitter and Hope Bundle – Curated by Cat Rambo”.

I think I speak for all of us when I say that 2020 has not gone exactly how I expected it to, and this StoryBundle has been no exception. I originally conceived of it as a hopepunk centered bundle, but as I sorted through possibilities, I found less punk than plenty of hopeful stories that reminded me that hope comes in all sorts of forms, not all of them as in your face as hopepunk.

Hope can find its origin in friendship, whether on an alien planet or a New York street corner. It can come from writing, in a myriad shades as multi-colored as the ink in which it’s inscribed. It glitters at the bottom of Pandora’s box, waiting to escape. Waiting to provide comfort and lightand renewed vigor for the fight….

… For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you’re feeling generous), you’ll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.

  • Diamondsong – Escape 01 by E.D.E. Bell
  • The Burglar of Sliceharbor by Jason A. Holt
  • Modern Surprises by Joan Marie Verba
  • The Traveling Triple-C Incorporeal Circus by Alanna McFall

If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus seven more more books, for a total of eleven.

  • Diamondsong – Capture 02 by E.D.E. Bell
  • Tales of the Captain Duke – Vol. 1-4 by Rebecca Diem
  • The Voyage of the White Cloud by M. Darusha Wehm
  • Community of Magic Pens by Atthis Arts Anthology
  • Carpe Glitter by Cat Rambo
  • Missing Signal by Seb Doubinsky
  • The Legacy Human – Singularity 1 by Susan Kaye Quinn

(4) SCIENCE FICTION IS NEVER ABOUT THE FUTURE. (William Gibson and Margaret Atwood have both said so; the name of the person who actually said it first escapes me at the moment.) Abigail Nussbaum’s “The Political Hugo” discusses “the nominees on this year’s Hugo ballot that feel most relevant to our crazy, confusing political moment, and why I’d like them to win.” She advocates that the Hugo should be appropriated as an award for topical fiction.

….We’re coming off a decade in which the Hugo struggled with its own definition, and with a troupe of interlopers who claimed to want to save it from those who would “politicize” it. It’s a decade in which the award’s diversity has advanced considerably, with more women, POC, and LGBT people being recognized than ever before. And yet at the same time, the Hugo can be inward-looking (some might say that this is inevitable, given its nature and voting system). Its politics are often internal politics–as much as it reflected trends in the broader political discourse, the Puppy debacle was the ultimate in inside baseball. I would like this year’s winners to be more outward-looking, to reflect the upheaval in the world and the simple fact that we are all participating in that upheaval, whether we want to or not. What I want to write about in this post are the works on this year’s Hugo ballot that, besides being excellent examples of their type, speak to some of the issues we’ve been seeing in the real world. 

(5) A VELDT OF THEIR OWN. “Why Exposing Kids To Horror Might Actually Be Good For Them” – that’s what Stephen Graham Jones contends in a post for CrimeReads.

…But, I know: horror? Don’t kids need “safe” programming, not nightmare fuel? My take is . . . no. Childhood already has a lot of the hallmarks of a horror movie, I think. Kids are small in a big place, they have no real power, they don’t know how even the simplest parts of the world work. Doors stretch dauntingly high, shadows can hold anything. Parents say one thing, mean another, and then take it all back anyway, change the rules for no reason other than that they “say so.” And everyone is always telling kids that the minute they’re alone, without tether to a trustworthy adult, that’s when the predators of the world will pounce, spirit them away to a place they never come back from.

Pretty terrifying, right?

My take is that when kids engage horror stories, they kind of . . . recognize that feeling, that terror, that uncertainty, that unfairness, and they maybe even understand that they’re not alone in feeling it. They’re not “weird,” they’re just human. Fear is our default setting. It’s what happens when you evolve on a savanna where everything wants to eat you.

(6) BEATTS AND BORDERLANDS BOOKS UPDATE. “Authors, Customers Demand Borderlands Books Owner Divest from Store”Publishers Weekly does a roundup.

…  Some sponsors have publicly denounced Beatts on Twitter, including several who have reached out privately to PW to confirm that they will not renew their sponsorships.

One of the authors expressing such sentiments was children’s book author Maggie Tokuda-Hall, who has cohosted several “lovely” literary events there, including a May fundraiser with Rebecca Roanhorse and N.K. Jemisin that netted $6,000 for the store. In an email to PW, Tokuda-Hall wrote that it is her “dearest hope that Alan will divest from the store, and allow the staff and community to reclaim the space. The staff does not deserve to be associated with these allegations.”…

…Mary Robinette Kowal, who is the president of the Science Fiction Writers of America, told PW last week that a Tor representative called her and asked if she wished to cancel a scheduled July 23 virtual event for her new release, Relentless Moon.

“If your publisher comes to you and asks if you still want to do an event…maybe not,” Kowal said, adding that she was not “100% convinced” that she had made the right decision. “I don’t like the ripple effects,” she explained: canceling the event also “punishes” the store’s general manager, Jude Feldman, and its four other employees. “The decision an author has to make is a lot messier than the decision an individual customer has to make,” Kowal added. “It’s the thing we’re doing because it’s the only tool we have.”

Kowal disclosed that she sent an email to Beatts before Tor canceled the event, writing that “I needed him to step back from the store and to address his drinking.” Most of the other sources PW spoke to also referred to Beatts’ drinking habits; a former employee described the store to PW as having a “heavy drinking culture.”

In her capacity as SFWA president, Kowal said that it would be “inappropriate” for the organization to address these specific allegations, but that it has been discussing “the larger problem” of how to report unethical or abusive behavior within the science fiction and fantasy community. SFWA has recently implemented a diversity, equity, and inclusion committee, which will, among other tasks, explore ways to deal with such situations in ways that are “sustainable and safe.”

… Beatts dismissed the suggestion that he divest himself from the store by transferring ownership to [Jude] Feldman. “I cannot see any way in which Borderlands can possibly operate without me,” he wrote. “I’ve discussed this with Jude and she agrees. That is not an option.” Feldman, in addition to being the store’s general manager for 19 years, has been Beatts’s significant other for about 20 years….

(7) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • July 1997 — Christopher Golden’s The Lost Army was released by Dark Horse Comics. The first of seven Hellboy novels that Golden would write for Dark Horse over the next decade, it bore a cover done by Mike Mignola who also provided interior illustrations. It would have French and Spanish editions as well. It was the very first of the twelve original Hellboy novels done by Dark Horse over a twenty year period. If you’re interested all of them are available from the usual digital suspects. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 15, 1606 – Rembrandt van Rijn.  Draftsman, painter, printer.  Among the greatest visual artists.  Master of light, texture, portraiture.  We can claim his mythological pictures; perhaps also his Biblicals, at least when like The Evangelist Matthew and the Angel showing, besides what believers would deem historical, some element that could only be imagined.  Here is The Sacrifice of Isaac.  Here is Pallas Athena.  Here is The Abduction of Persephone.  See what he could do with a few lines.  (Died 1669) [JH]
  • Born July 15, 1779 – Clement Moore.  He was a Professor of Biblical Learning.  “A Visit from St. Nicholas” was published anonymously; for twenty years he did not acknowledge it; some scholarship indicates he was not the author; and it must be said he owned slaves and opposed Abolition.  But consider the poem as an achievement of fantasy – particularly since St. Nicholas was a 4th Century bishop in what is now Turkey.  (Died 1863) [JH]
  • Born July 15, 1917 – Robert Conquest, Ph.D.  For us, a novel, a few shorter stories, a few poems; five Spectrum anthologies with Kingsley Amis.  Many other writings.  Politically a conservative, and a brilliant one, which is a pain or a joy depending on your point of view (note that I put pain on the left and joy on the right).  He might not like being remembered most for this, but we do: “SF’s no good, they bellow till we’re deaf.  But this looks good.  Well then, it’s not SF.”  (Died 2015) [JH]
  • Born July 15, 1918 Dennis Feltham Jones. His first novel Colossus was made into Colossus: The Forbin Project. He went on to write two more novels in the series, The Fall of Colossus and Colossus and the Crab, which in my opinion became increasingly weird. iBooks and Kindle have the Colossus trilogy plus a smattering of his other works available. ((Died 1981.) CE)
  • Born July 15, 1931 Clive Cussler. Pulp author. If I had to pick his best novels, I’d say that would be Night Probe and Raise the Titanic, possibly also Vixen 03. His real-life National Underwater and Marine Agency, a private maritime archaeological group found several important wrecks including the Manassas, the first ironclad of the civil war. (Died 2020.) (CE)
  • Born July 15, 1944 Jan-Michael Vincent. First Lieutenant Jake Tanner in the film version of Roger Zelazny’s Damnation Alley which somehow I’ve avoided seeing so far. Is it worth seeing? Commander in Alienator and Dr. Ron Shepherd in, and yes this is the name, Xtro II: The Second Encounter. Not to mention Zepp in Jurassic Women. (Don’t ask.) As Airwolf counts as genre, he was helicopter pilot and aviator Stringfellow Hawke in it. (Died 2019.) (CE)
  • Born July 15, 1957 Forest Whitaker, 63. His best-known genre roles are Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as Saw Gerrera and in The Black Panther as Zuri. He’s had other genre appearances including Major Collins in Body Snatchers, Nate Pope in Phenomenon, Ker in Battlefield Earth for which he was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor, Ira in Where the Wild Things Are, Jake Freivald In Repo Men (anyone see this?) and he was, and Host of Twilight Zone. (CE)
  • Born July 15, 1958 – Pat Molloy, 62.  Chaired ConCave 1980-1982, Con*Stellation IV & VII, DeepSouthCon 25 (some use Roman numerals, some don’t); Fan Guest of Honor at DSC 27, 52.  After twenty years of the Rebel Award, co-founded and named the Rubble Award; punished by being given the Rebel Award.  DUFF (Down Under Fan Fund) delegate (with Naomi Fisher), attended the 2001 Australian nat’l convention.  [JH]
  • Born July 15, 1963 Brigitte Nielsen, 57. Red Sonja! What a way to launch your film career. Mind you her next genre were 976-Evil II and Galaxis… She starred as the Black Witch in the Nineties Italian film series Fantaghiro, and played the Amazon Queen in the Danish Ronal the Barbarian. (CE)
  • Born July 15, 1964 – Elspeth Kovar, 56.  Wrote the Joe Mayhew memorial for the Chicon 6 Souvenir Book (58th Worldcon); see her con report in File 770 137, p. 28 (PDF).  Chaired Capclave 2006.  Active in WSFA (Washington, D.C., SF Ass’n).  Not true that one of her cats was in an iron lung and on dialysis. [JH]
  • Born July 15, 1967 Christopher Golden, 53. Where to start? The Veil trilogy was most excellent as was The Hidden Cities series co-authored with Tim Lebbon. The Menagerie series co-authored with Thomas E. Sniegoski annoyed me because it never got concluded. Straight On ‘Til Morning is one damn scary novel. (CE)
  • Born July 15, 1983 – Tristan Tarwater, 37.  Author of fantasy, comics, and RPG (role-playing games) bits.  Six novels, recently The Marauders’ Island, laced with coconut wine, salt, and magic; a few shorter stories.  Among her books read are the Vinland Saga (i.e. Makoto Yumimura’s), The Fifth SeasonBlake’s Complete Illuminated Books, and The Glass Bead Game.  Website here.  [JH]

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) BILL’S BIOPIC. Will this film be called The Shat Story? “William Shatner Wants Chris Pine To Play Him In Future Biopic” says We Got This Covered.

Shatner recently appeared as a guest via virtual chatroom at this year’s Galaxy Con, and given the prolific career he’s enjoyed in his 89 years, the idea of bringing his story to the big screen was sure to be on the minds of the collective Star Trek fandom.

“I want to play myself. I don’t want to die!,” Shatner said when asked who he’d like to have star in such a feature. “I don’t know. Chris Pine? Why doesn’t he play me? A good looking, talented guy,”

(11) SEEMS LEGIT. Another LEGO collectible.

(12) IT’S DEAD, JIM. LitHub revisits 1965 and “What Our First Close Look at Mars Actually Revealed” – tagline: “The Disappointment of a Blighted Planet.”

…Scarcely anyone had been prepared for what frame seven revealed, much less what they saw in the next dozen images. “My God, it’s the moon,” thought Norm Haynes, one of the systems engineers. There were craters in the image, all perfectly preserved, which meant the planet was in bleak stasis. The crust hadn’t been swallowed by the churn of plate tectonics, but, more important, the surface hadn’t been worn down by the ebb and flow of water. Preserved craters meant there had been no resurfacing, no aqueous weathering of any kind resembling that of the Earth. As with the moon, it appeared there had never been any significant quantity of liquid water on the surface—no rainfall, no oceans, no streams, no ponds.

Stunned, the Mariner 4 team didn’t publicly release the images for days as they tried to understand the implications of what they were seeing.

(13) GREEN CHEESE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.]  I think the cheesy commercial for this is news

Second only to seeing @TheGreenKnight in theaters: playing The Green Knight RPG at home.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/7/20 I Know This Defies The Law Of Pixel Scrolling, But I Never Studied Law

(1) CLARKE AWARD GOES GREEN. Well, the reverse idea worked when Lucky Strike went to war… The Clarke Award has unveiled a logo redesign on Twitter via @clarkeaward.

(2) PRATCHETT’S GENESIS. “Final Terry Pratchett stories to be published in September” reports The Guardian. The stories in The Time-travelling Caveman were written for newspapers in the Sixties and Seventies. One of them, “The Tropnecian Invasion of Great Britain,” appears at the end of the article.

The final collection of early stories from the late Terry Pratchett, written while the Discworld creator was a young reporter, will be published in September. The tales in The Time-travelling Caveman, many of them never released in book form before, range from a steam-powered rocket’s flight to Mars to a Welsh shepherd’s discovery of the resting place of King Arthur. “Bedwyr was the handsomest of all the shepherds, and his dog, Bedwetter, the finest sheepdog in all Wales,” writes the young Pratchett, with typical flourish….

(3) SFF NOT QUITE IN TRANSLATION. Ann Leckie wryly announced she is —

(4) THE LID IS UP. Today Camestros Felapton advocates for another finalist in “Hugo Fan Writer: Why you should vote for…Alasdair Stuart”.

… Stuart manages very well to shift the distance in his writing from the observational to the personal. Character is, I’d contend, a underestimated aspect of fan-writing. Yes, fan-writing does cover the kind of community journalism style writing, as well as descriptive reviews (both valuable – I’m not knocking them) but fan-writers are by title fans and it is the personal engagement with fandom and stories that drives the world of fan-writing. You can’t genuinely know people from what they write but good fan-writing should, over the course of many examples, give a sense of a person and a perspective. I think it is something that Alasdair Stuart does very well. I’ve never met him (and it’s unlikely I will anytime soon) but his writing conveys character in a way that is very personally engaging. Yes, yes, that’s an illusion of sorts but that illusion is something I enjoy in good writing.

(5) TWO TOPICS WITH ADA PALMER. In “Uncanny Censorship Essay & Writing POV” on Ex Urbe, Ada Palmer discusses her article in Uncanny Magazine about censorship and summarizes a panel she was on at Balticon about writing point-of-view in fiction.

…Black Lives Matter has momentum now around the world, a call for change that can’t be silenced; the hate it battles also has momentum, and amid their clash another wave is gaining momentum, as it does in every information revolution: the wave of those in power (politicians, corporations, alarmed elites) wanting to silence the uncomfortable voices empowered by the new medium.  We need to fight this battle too, a battle to find a balance between protecting the new ability of radical voices to speak while also protecting against hate speech, misinformation, and other forms of communication toxic to peace and democracy.  As I explain in my essay, genre fiction, we who read it, we who write it, have a lot of power to affect the battle over censorship.  These days are hard; as someone both disabled and immunocompromised I can’t go join the protests in the streets, not without both endangering fellow protesters by getting in their way, and the risk of this one moment of resistance destroying my ability to be here helping with the next one, and the next.  But I can help on the home front as it were, working to protect the tools of free expression which those out on the streets depend on every minute, every protest, every video exposing cruel realities.  Everything we do to strengthen speech and battle censorship protects our best tool, not just for this resistance, but for the next one, and the next….

The second section of the post, about writing POV begins:

Question: What I don’t get is why they tell new writers to not have multiple POVs in a novel. I mean, if the story calls for it, and you’re clear on the change, why not?

Jo Walton: Minimizing POVs is good discipline because it’s very easy to get sloppy. So it’s one of those things that’s good advice when you’re starting out, but not a law.

Ada Palmer: I agree that minimizing POVs is often wise.  Whenever I find myself wanting a scene to be in a different POV I think really hard about it. Sometimes it’s the right answer, but the fail condition is that you have too many POVs and the reader expects each of them to have follow-through and they don’t….

(6) HAVE YOU READ THESE? Goodreads has posted “The 100 Most Popular Sci-Fi Books on Goodreads”. I’ve read 54 of them – much better than I usually do with book lists, but barely over 50% even so.

Dystopias, alien invasions, regenerated dinosaurs, space operas, multiverses, and more, the realm of science fiction takes readers out of this world to tackle all-too-real issues, including oppression, bigotry, censorship, and the horrors of war. To celebrate the most inventive of genres, we’re exploring readers’ 100 most popular science fiction novels of all time on Goodreads.

As all good sci-fi readers know, the science behind the story is half the fun. To create our list, we ran the data to reveal the most reviewed books on our site. Additionally, each title needed at least a 3.5-star rating from your fellow readers to join this list. And, since science fiction is known for its continuing voyages, in the case of multiple titles from the same series, we chose the one with the most reviews.

Here are the top science fiction novels on Goodreads, listed from 1 to 100. We hope you discover a book or two you’ll want to read in this lineup, whether it’s a classic of the genre or one of the newer entries to sci-fi.

The top four books on the list are:

(7) PANTHER’S PRIEST. [Item by Olav Rokne.] One of the most important comic creators you may never have heard interviewed dropped in to Marvel creative director Joe Quesada’s YouTube channel. The somewhat reclusive and iconoclastic Christopher Priest opened up about his creative process with regards to Black Panther, as well as some of the challenges he faced as the first African American to be a full-time writer in mainstream comic books. For the record, there would never have been a Black Panther movie without Christopher Priest’s stellar run on the book. 

(8) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

July 1988 — Bruce Sterling’s Islands in The Net was published by Arbor House, an imprint of William Morrow. This hardcover edition went for $18.95 and was 394 pages in length. It would win the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. It was nominated for Hugo, Ditmar and Locus Awards that same year. It would lose out to C. J. Cherryh’s Cyteen at Noreascon 3. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 7, 1851 – Kate Prichard.  With her son Hesketh, whom she outlived, a dozen pioneering stories of Flaxman Low, possibly the first psychic detective in literature.  Six are at Project Gutenberg Australia (as by E. & H. Heron, pseudonyms used by the authors) here.  (Died 1935) [JH]
  • Born July 7, 1907 Robert A. Heinlein. I find RAH to be a complicated writer when it comes to assessing him. Is Starship Troopers a fascist novel? Is The Number of The Beast as bad as it seems? (Yes.) What do I really like by him?  The Cat Who Walks Through Walls (though I despise its sequel To Sail Beyond the Sunset), The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress and The Rolling Stones. Lots of his short fiction such as as “…All You Zombies“ is just amazing.  And only he knows why he wrote Time Enough for Love. John has an interesting take on him here. (Died 1988.) (CE)
  • Born July 7, 1919 Jon Pertwee. The Third Doctor and one that I’ll admit I like a lot. He returned to the role of the Doctor in The Five Doctors and the charity special Dimensions in Time for Children in Need. He also portrayed the Doctor in the stage play Doctor Who – The Ultimate Adventure.  After a four-year run there, he was the lead on Worzel Gummidge where he was, errr, a scarecrow. And I must note that one of his first roles was as The Judge in the film of Toad of Toad Hall by A. A. Milne. (Died 1996.) (CE)
  • Born July 7, 1926 – Tom Beecham.  Five dozen interiors for Amazing, FantasticFutureGalaxyIfSF Quarterly.  Here is his illustration for “A Saucer of Loneliness”.  Here, “Weak on Square Roots”.  Here is a spaceship cover for Fury magazine.  Later well-known for Westerns, wildlife in landscape; President, Soc. American Historical Artists; 360 paintings.  (Died 2000) [JH]
  • Born July 7, 1948 – Paul Doherty, Ph.D.  Fifty science columns in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction with noted student of ’Pataphysics and co-founder of the Tiptree Award (as it then was) Pat Murphy.  Popped corn in David Letterman’s hand with a Van deGraaff generator.  Rock climber who climbed the face of El Capitan.  Taught with the Exploratorium, also the Science Circle which established a Paul Doherty educators’ award.  Named Best Science Demonstrator, World Congress of Museums, 1996.  His Exploratorium Teacher Institute Website is here.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born July 7, 1959 Billy Campbell, 61. There are some films so good in my memory that even the Suck Fairy can’t spoil them and The Rocketeer in which he played stunt pilot Cliff Secord is one of them. By the way, IDW published a hardcover edition called Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer: The Complete Adventures and Amazon has it for a mere twenty bucks! (CE)
  • Born July 7, 1962 Akiva J. Goldsman, 58. Screenwriter whose most notable accomplishment was that he wrote a dozen episodes of Fringe; he also wrote the screenplays for Batman Forever and its sequel Batman & RobinI, RobotI Am LegendPractical MagicWinter’s Tale (his first directing gig) and Lost in Space. (CE)
  • Born July 7, 1964 – Kôsuke Fujishima, 56.  Famous for Oh, My Goddess! manga, with video animation, games, and like that; Kodansha Manga Award.  Of course college sophomore Keiichi Morisato calls a wrong number and reaches the Goddess Help Line.  Of course when a Norn answers and says KM gets one wish, KM thinks it’s a practical joke and tells Verthandi (which Fujishima renders “Belldandy”, not too bad) KM wants her to stay with him forever.  They have to leave KM’s dormitory.  Today is the author’s fourth wedding anniversary; he married the famous 20-year-old cosplayer Nekomu Otogi on July 7, 2016 (or at least that’s when he confirmed it on Twitter).  [JH]
  • Born July 7, 1968 – Tricia Sullivan, 52.  A dozen novels, as many shorter stories.  Translated into French, German, Portuguese.  Clarke Award for Dreaming Into Smoke.  She says “Occupy Me [2016] … is the work that means the most to me….  I have a B.A. in Music … M.Sc. in Astrophysics…. working on a Ph.D…. machine learning in astronomy, which means coding most days.  I balance out this madness by talking to my vegetable garden, sometimes even as I eat bits of it.”  [JH]
  • Born July 7, 1980 – Elena Vizerskaya, 40.  Illustrator; she says “surrealist photographer”, which is true.  Here is her cover for Permeable Borders.  Here is Flying in the Heart of the Lafayette Escadrille (nominated for a Chesley); Brenda Cooper said “Get it in physical form, the cover is worth having.”  Here is Amaryllis.  Here is “Find new ways to change”.  Try this Website.  [JH]
  • Born July 7, 1987 V. E. Schwab, 33. I’m very pleased with her A Darker Shade of Magic which explores magicians in a parallel universe London. It’s part of her Shades of Magic series. Highly recommended. Her Cassidy Blake series is also good provided you’re a Potter fan because she makes a lot of references to that series. (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Death takes a holiday in Bizarro.
  • Despite the pandemic, Moderately Confused is off to see the Wizard.
  • Lio shows how to become a proper superhero.
  • And here’s some welcome news –

(11) PROTECTING COPYRIGHT. The SFWA Blog reports “Copyright Registration Rule Change Allows Flat Fee Registration of Short Textual Works Published Online”. (A complete explanation of the rule can be read here in the Federal Register.)

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) is extremely pleased that the U.S. Copyright Office has issued a new copyright registration rule that will allow authors to register up to fifty short textual works published online for a single flat fee. 

SFWA, along with the National Writers Union, Horror Writers Association, and American Society of Journalists and Authors, first requested the creation of such a group registration option in January 2017.  In 2018, a productive round table between authors’ groups and the Copyright Office was held, and subsequent comments from SFWA and other groups were fully integrated into the final rule. 

The rule, which takes effect on August 17, 2020, specifies that each work must be between fifty and 17,500 words in length, must have been published in the same 90-day period, and be written by the same single author or collaboration. For works that qualify, a single fee of $65 will cover the registration of up to fifty individual works…. 

(12) LEGO PORTRAITS. “Lego debuts new sets for the young at heart featuring Marilyn Monroe, The Beatles, Star Wars and Iron Man”CNN has photos.

Lego announced a new line of “Lego Art” — a higher-end building set geared towards adult fans.

The line, available for purchase September 1st, will launch with four themes: Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe, Marvel Studios Iron Man, Star Wars “The Sith” and The Beatles.

The pieces, once they are completed, form beautiful mosaics worthy of permanent display.

(13) K/S. “How Slash Fiction Saved Star Trek” has a title with a clickbait claim that tends to overshadow the video’s nuanced account of early Trek fanhistory and about a strong facet of fannish interest in the show’s characters.

Slash fiction and fan fiction in general has always been a derided part of the fandom community. But without the pioneering efforts of many fan fiction and slash fiction writers, we wouldn’t have Star Trek or science fiction as we know it today! So let’s dive into the complex relationship between slash fiction and Star Trek.

(14) SILLY SEASON. “Doncaster baby owl webcam ‘banned by Facebook over sex and nudity rule'”.

Video of nesting baby owls was temporarily removed by Facebook for apparently breaking rules on nudity and sexual activity, the page’s owner said.

The live stream was set up by Graham Moss, who started sharing cute pictures of the owls in his Doncaster garden during the coronavirus lockdown.

He claimed his Brockholes Wildlife Diary’s (sic) page was blocked despite having no inappropriate content.

While the page has been reinstated Mr Moss has yet to receive an explanation.

Facebook has been contacted by the BBC for a comment.

(15) ROYALTY QUESTION. Marissa Doyle inquires “Have You Upped a Swan Lately?” at Book View Café. I must admit I have not. But I learned that because of the pandemic, neither has anybody else.

Swan Upping is the traditional census-taking of Mute Swans on the River Thames, wherein swans are rounded up, checked for bands or banded, and released. The king or queen of England, by ancient law and custom dating back to the middle ages, owns all unmarked swans in England. And since the twelfth century or so, the swans who live on the Thames have been counted and marked by the Royal Swan Upper to enforce that ownership (though two ancient groups, the Worshipful Company of Vintners and the equally Worshipful Company of Dyers also have some swan-related rights and participate as well.) Swans were once reckoned something of a delicacy, after all, and having one on your banquet table was something of a status symbol that the Crown thought ought to mostly belong to it.

(16) GET IN LINE. BBC tells how “Esa and Nasa line up satellites to measure Antarctic sea-ice”.

US and European scientists are about to get a unique view of polar ice as their respective space agencies line up two satellites in the sky.

Authorisation was given on Tuesday for Europe’s Cryosat-2 spacecraft to raise its orbit by just under one kilometre.

This will hugely increase the number of coincident observations it can make with the Americans’ Icesat-2 mission.

One outcome from this new strategy will be the first ever reliable maps of Antarctic sea-ice thickness.

Currently, the floes in the far south befuddle efforts to measure their vertical dimension.

Heavy snow can pile on top of the floating ice, hiding its true thickness. Indeed, significant loading can even push Antarctic sea-ice under the water.

But researchers believe the different instruments on the two satellites working in tandem can help them tease apart this complexity.

Nasa’s Icesat-2, which orbits the globe at about 500km in altitude, uses a laser to measure the distance to the Earth’s surface – and hence the height of objects. This light beam reflects directly off the top of the snow.

Esa’s Cryosat-2, on the other hand, at around 720km in altitude, uses radar as its height tool, and this penetrates much more deeply into the snow cover before bouncing back.

(17) ALONG CAME JONES. In “Honest Trailers–Indiana Jones Trilogy” the Screen Junkies look at the first three Indiana Jones movies and conclude that Jones “isn’t just a terrible professor–he’s a terrible archeologist!”

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

Pixel Scroll 6/30/20 The Pixel Scroll Is Read, Yet There’s Much More To Be Said

(1) DON’T BE THAT AUTHOR. Brenda Clough’s list grows longer: “Ways to Trash Your Writing Career: An Intermittent Series”.

There are the really obvious ways to torch your career — rudeness to editors, for instance.  And then there are the hidden trap doors.  The one I am going to reveal today is truly obscure.  It could be broadly described as meddling with the publication process. More specifically, you can enrage the publisher’s sales reps.  Kill your book dead in one easy step! …

(2) AND DON’T BE THAT POET. F.J. Bergmann wrote and Melanie Stormm designed “How To Piss Off A Poetry Editor” for readers of SPECPO, the blog of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association. Here’s the header —

(3) KGB READINGS ONLINE. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Benjamin Rosenbaum and Mike Allen Wednesday, July 15 in a YouTube livestream event. Starts at 7 p.m. Eastern.

Benjamin Rosenbaum

Benjamin Rosenbaum’s short fiction has been nominated for the Nebula, Hugo, BSFA, Sturgeon, Locus, and World Fantasy Awards, and collected in The Ant King and Other Stories. His first novel, The Unraveling, a far-future comedy of manners and social unrest, comes out this October from Erewhon Books. His tabletop roleplaying game of Jewish historical fantasy in the shtetl, Dream Apart, was nominated for an Ennie Award. He lives near Basel, Switzerland with his family.

Mike Allen

Mike Allen has twice been a finalist for the World Fantasy Award. His horror tales are gathered in the Shirley Jackson Award-nominated collection Unseaming, and in his newest book, Aftermath of an Industrial Accident. His novella The Comforter, sequel to his Nebula Award-nominated story “The Button Bin,” just appeared in the anthology A Sinister Quartet. By day, he writes the arts column for The Roanoke (Va.) Times.

Listen to podcasts of the KGB readings here.

(4) FUTURE TENSE. The June 2020 entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “The Last of the Goggled Barskys,” by Joey Siara.

Transmitted herewith are excerpts from statements provided by members of the Barsky family regarding the incident with Hayden Barsky, age 11.

The true origins of KHAOS remain unknown….

It was published along with a response essay, “How Not to Optimize Parenthood” by Brigid Schulte, director of the Better Life Lab and author of the book Overwhelmed: Work, Love, & Play When No One Has the Time.

Most parents are well-intentioned. We try to do the right thing, hoping to spare our children at least a measure of the pain or heartache we muddled through, to smooth the rough edges of life and give them every advantage to make it in an uncertain and often cruel world.

That’s at least the hope. In practice, no one really knows how to do that. So, particularly in America, where “winning” and the self-improvement dictate to “beat yesterday” are akin to sacred commandments, we have always turned to the experts for help. What does the science say? What are the neighbors doing? What book or podcast or shiny gadget will instantly make my child’s life easier? More joyful? Miraculous? And, perhaps most importantly, better than your kid’s?…

(5) LOCKDOWN MOVIE. “Quarantine Without Ever Meeting”Vanity Fair profiles the filmmakers. Tagline: “The actors set up lights, did their own makeup, and ran the cameras. The filmmakers advised on Zoom. Somehow…it worked.”

…While Hollywood is struggling to figure out if it’s possible to make a feature-length movie in the grip of the coronavirus pandemic, this group of independent filmmakers and actors have already done it. “The whole movie has been written, produced, packaged, shot within quarantine. Now we’re in postproduction, and I had a first cut of the whole film done on Friday,” said director and cowriter Simon. As The Untitled Horror Movie nears completion, its producers are finally announcing the secret project and seeking a distributor. It appears to be the first movie created entirely within the parameters of the lockdown.

The horror comedy is about a group of needy and desperate young stars from a once-popular TV series who learn, via video conference, that their show has just been canceled. Fearing obscurity, they decide to stay in the spotlight by making a quickie horror film—but while shooting it, they perform a ritual that accidentally invokes an actual demonic spirit. Mayhem follows. “We kind of described it going into it as Scream meets For Your Consideration,” Simon said.

(6) OFF THE COAST. In the Washington Post, Rob Wolfe says that Wizards of the Coast has banned seven Magic:  The Gathering cards it says are “racist or culturally offensive” and promises a review of all 20,000 cards to find any other ones it deems questionable. “‘Racist’ and ‘culturally offensive’ images pulled from hugely popular trading card game”

The card had been around since 1994, tagged “Invoke Prejudice” by the world’s most popular trading card game. It showed figures in white robes and pointed hoods — an image that evoked the Ku Klux Klan for many people.This month, the company behind “Magic: The Gathering” permanently banned that card and six others carrying labels like “Jihad” and “Pradesh Gypsies.” Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of toy giant Hasbro, acknowledged the images were “racist or culturally offensive.”

“There’s no place for racism in our game, nor anywhere else,” the company said in a statement announcing its action.

With the country roiled by tensions and protests over African Americans’ deaths at the hands of police, the issues entangling Magic and its creators are unlikely to subside soon. The fantasy game of goblins, elves, spells and more boasts some 20 million players, and in pre-pandemic times, thousands flocked to elite international tournaments with hefty prizes. Players of color say they have long felt excluded in the white- and male-dominated community from the game’s top echelons, as well as employment at the company….

(7) WHAT MIGHT HAVE BEEN. “A Better World ?” seems to be a kind of text-based game letting players choose among “Uchronies,” a French term that partakes of alternate history but is more fantastic in nature. I racked up a lot of karma in a hurry, sad to say.

The dates you can change are in yellow.

The dates you just changed are in pink.

Click on one of them to change the past!

Your current karma:

0

See the list of Uchronies (cancels the current game)

It didn’t go well, I’d like to start over…

(8) ANOTHER TONGUE. James Davis Nicoll says there are a bundle of “Intriguing SFF Works Awaiting English Translations” at Tor.com.

I am monolingual, which limits me to reading works in English. One of the joys of this modern, interconnected world in which we’re living is that any speculative fiction work written in another language could (in theory) be translated into English. One of my frustrations is that, generally speaking, they haven’t been. Here are five works about which I know enough to know that I’d read them if only they were translated….

(9) I’M READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP. Olav Rokne says, “Sometimes, you just want to ask the question nobody wants.” He passed along some of the hilarious responses.   

(10) CARL REINER OBIT. The creator of The Dick Van Dyke Show and straight man to Mel Brooks’ “2000 Year Old Man,” died June 29 at the age of 98. The duo won a Grammy in 1998 for their The 2000 Year Old Man in the Year 2000. (The New York Times eulogy is here.)

He shared the lead in The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming and appeared in It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. He directed numerous movies, including several starring Steve Martin. In recent years he voiced characters in several genre animated TV shows — and Carl Reineroceros in Toy Story 4.

John King Tarpinian remembers:

He is not genre but his passing reminds me of the good old days.  Back in the 80s, I was president of the largest Atari club consortium in the US.  One of the members owned the Vine Street Bar & Grill.  It was between Hollywood & Sunset.  The first Wednesday of the month the guest jazz singer was Estelle Reiner.  Ron Berinstein, club member and club owner invited me to come on Estelle’s nights to make sure the club was always full.  The first time I went her husband, Carl, was also there.  I learned that he always came…and that he’d have friends join them.  Over the years everybody from Sid Caesar, Buck Henry, Neil Simon, Dick Van Dyke, Mel Brooks & more.

During Estelle’s break between sets Carl & whomever was also there would get up and entertain.  Carl & Mel would do their 2000 Year Old Man routine but not the Ed Sullivan version but the version they’d do a parties.  My ribs would be sore the next morning from laughing so hard. 

Sid Caesar would come to Ray Bradbury’s plays.  Imagine somebody being able to upstage Ray…who also would be laughing so hard.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 30, 1971 Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory premiered. Based on Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory novel, it was directed by Mel Stuart, and produced by Stan Margulies and David L. Wolper. The screenplay was by Roald Dahl and David Seltzer. It featured Gene Wilder as Willie Wonka with a supporting cast of Jack Albertson, Peter Ostrum, Roy Kinnear, Julie Dawn Cole, Leonard Stone and Denise Nickerson. Some critics truly loved it while others loathed it. It currently holds an 87% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. (CE)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 30, 1905 — Nestor Paiva. Sometimes it only takes one film or series  for a performer to get a Birthday write-up from me. Paiva makes it for Lucas the boat captain in The Creature from the Black Lagoon and its oft forgotten sequel Revenge of the Creature. Though that was hardly his only genre role as his first role was in the early Forties as an uncredited prison guard in Tarzan’s Desert Mystery and he’d be in many a genre film and series over the decades as Prof. Etienne Lafarge in The Mole People, as the saloon owner in (I kid you not!) Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter, Felicity’s Father in The Spirit Is Willing, Captain Grimby in “The Great Treasure Hunt” of The Adamms Family and a Doorman in the “Our Man in Leotards” episode of Get Smart. (Died 1966.) (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1920 Sam Moskowitz. SF writer, critic, and historian. Chair of the very first World Science Fiction Convention held in NYC in 1939. He barred several Futurians from the con in what was later called the Great Exclusion Act. In the Fifties, he edited Science-Fiction Plus, a short-lived genre magazine owned by Hugo Gernsback, and would edit several dozen anthologies, and a few single-author collections, most published in the Sixties and early Seventies. His most enduring legacy was as a historian of the genre with such works as Under the Moons of Mars: A History and Anthology of “The Scientific Romance” in the Munsey Magazines, 1912–1920 and Hugo Gernsback: Father of Science Fiction. (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1929 – Anie Linard, 91.  Active from France, herself and with Jean Linard, in the 1950s and 1960s; fanzines Innavigable MouthMeuhVintkatX-trap.  Voted in the 1958 TAFF (Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund) campaign.  She was, like many of us, a correspondent of Ned Brooks.  I have not traced her more recently than June 1962.  Anie, if you see this, salut!  [JH]
  • Born June 30, 1935 – Jon Stopa, 85.  Active with Advent publishing house, half a dozen covers including In Search of WonderThe Eighth Stage of Fandom, and The Issue at Hand.  Three stories in Astounding.  Program Book for Chicon III the 20th Worldcon, and cover for its Proceedings; with wife Joni, Fan Guests of Honor at Chicon V the 49th, where I think they were in some of the Madeira tastings I assembled when I found four or five D’Oliveiras in the hotel bar.  The Stopas were (Joni has left the stage) also great costumers, both as entrants and judges; there’s a YouTube of their work here.  [JH]
  • Born June 30, 1959 Vincent D’Onofrio, 61. Kingpin in that not terribly good or bad Daredevil film, Edgar the Bug in the only truly great Men in Black film and Vic Hoskins in Jurassic World. He also was Jason Whitney / Jerry Ashton in The Thirteenth Floor, loosely based upon Simulacron-3, a early Sixties novel by Daniel F. Galouye. (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1961 Diane Purkiss, 59. I’ve not read her Corydon Trilogy she wrote with Michael Dowling, her son, but I can say that  At the Bottom of the Garden: A Dark History of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Nymphs, and Other Troublesome Things is as splendid as the title suggests it is. She’s also written Fairies and Fairy Stories: A History. (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1961 – Nigel Rowe, 59.  Published Timeless Sands history of New Zealand fandom, then moved to Chicago.  Here is a 1994 photo of him with Russell Chauvenet (who coined the word fanzine) at Corflu 11 in Virginia.  A 2019 photo of him is on p. 47 of Random Jottings 20 (PDF), the Proceedings of Corflu 36 in Maryland; he’s also on the cover (back right; you may be able to make out his badge “Nigel”).  Very helpful relaying paper fanzines across the seas.  [JH]
  • Born June 30, 1961 – carl juarez, 59.  No capital letters in his name.  Co-edited the fanzine Apparatchik with Andy Hooper (from Apak 62), later Chunga with Hooper and Randy Byers.  Here is his cover for Chunga 8.  He’s on the right of the cover for Chunga 17 (PDF).  Chunga credited cj as designer, the results being indeed fine.  He, Byers, and Hooper were such a tripod that with Byers’ death, Chunga tottered; should it fall, may cj find his feet.  [JH]
  • Born June 30, 1963 Rupert S. Graves, 57. Here because he played Inspector G. Lestrade on that Sherlock series. He also appeared on Doctor Who as Riddell in the Eleventh Doctor story, “Dinosaurs on a Spaceship”. He had one-offs in The Nightmare Worlds of H. G. Wells: The MothTwelve MonkeysKrypton and Return of the Saint. (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1966 – Penny Watson, 54.  Degrees in plant taxonomy, horticultural science, biology, and floral design; “there is nothing better than getting up in the morning, heading out to your garden and picking fresh basil, cherry tomatoes, cukes, and arugula greens for breakfast.”  Obsessed with dachshunds.  Has trained dolphins, coached field hockey and lacrosse.  Nat’l Excellence in Romance Fiction Award.  Eight novels, five of them and a novella for us.  [JH]
  • Born June 30, 1966 Peter Outerbridge, 54. Dr. David Sandström in what I think is the underrated ReGenesis series as well as being Henrik “Hank” Johanssen in Orphan Black anda recurring role on Millennium as Special Agent Barry Baldwin. He’s currently in two series, The Umbrella Academy with a recurring role as The Conductor, and as Calix Niklosin in V-Wars, yet another Netflix SF series. (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1972 Molly Parker, 48. Maureen Robinson on the current Lost in Space series. One-offs in Nightmare Cafe, The Outer Limits, The SentinelHighlander: The SeriesPoltergeist: The LegacyHuman Target and she appeared in The Wicker Man asSister Rose / Sister Thorn. (CE)
  • Born June 30, 1974 – Juli Zeh, 46.  A dozen novels so far, three for us.  Deutscher BücherpreisSolothurner Literaturpreis; doctorate in international law, honorary judge at the Brandenburg constitutional court.  About Schilf (“reed”, name of a character – likewise an English surname), translated into English as Dark Matter (London) and In Free Fall (New York), when a Boston Globe interviewer asked “Are you asking the reader to reconsider the nature of reality?” JZ answered “Yes, I want to take the reader on an intellectual journey”; to “Can a novel of ideas be written today, without irony?” JZ answered “As long as mankind doesn’t lose its curiosity to think about the miracles of being.”  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Non Sequitur shows us the first science fiction writer — and true Hard SF, even as to the medium it’s composed on.
  • Today’s Bizarro is not an SF comic, but one with good advice for the privileged rich kid starting a literary career.

(14) DOOMSCROLLING. I learned a useful new word from John Scalzi’s post “Check In, 6/30/20”.

…With that said, there’s another aspect of it, too, which I think I’ve been minimizing: it’s not just time on social media, it’s engagement when I am on it, and how social media is making me feel when I use it. The term “doomscrolling” refers to how people basically suck down fountains of bad news on their social media thanks to friends (and others) posting things they’re outraged about. It’s gotten to the point for me where, particularly on Twitter, it feels like it’s almost all doomscrolling, all the time, whether I want it to be or not.

(15) STANDING UP. David Gerrold’s unlocked Patreon post “I Stand With The Science Fiction Writers of America” may be a reaction to yesterday’s item about the publisher of Cirsova, and certainly gives emphatic support to SFWA’s recent statement about BLM.

…The BLM movement are not terrorists. They are not thugs. They are peaceful protesters, marching against industrial discrimination and system-entrenched bigotry. The demonstrators have actually caught looters and rioters and delivered them to the police.

It doesn’t matter how much the limousine-liberals preach equality if there are no serious efforts to redress the grievances of the disadvantaged. 

If we truly are all in this together, then it behooves all of us to reach out to each other and create partnerships and opportunities. This isn’t preferential treatment. It’s a necessary bit of repair work to a damaged genre. 

If we don’t talk about it, if we don’t take steps, if we don’t address it, then we are guilty of complicity. If the racism of the past was a product of its time, then let our attempts to redress the situation be a product of our time. 

(16) BLOCKED OUT. Missed this in March: “Lego embraces the dark side with three helmet building kits”. And it’s not like I didn’t have time on my hands.

… These sets are up for preorder now from Lego at $59.99 and are set to ship on April 19.

  • Stormtrooper Buildable Model Helmet ($59.99; lego.com)
  • Boba Fett Buildable Model Helmet ($59.99; lego.com)
  • TIE Fighter Pilot Buildable Model Helmet ($59.99; lego.com)

With the Stormtrooper, you’re getting a 647-piece helmet-building set, complete with the blacked-out visor, two nodes on the bottom for speaking and stickers to complete the look. Similarly, the Boba Fett helmet will let you pay homage to the original Mandalorian. This set is 21 centimeters tall (a little over 8 inches) and has 625 pieces. You’ll be constructing each detail of the helmet, including the fold-down viewfinder that lets Boba easily track down his targets. (He is a bounty hunter, after all.)

(17) HAKUNA ERRATA. [Item by Daniel Dern.] In Pixel Scroll 5/27/20 Johnny Mnemonic B. Goode I’d said —

This in turn reminded me of one of my favorite songs by Chris Smither, “Henry David Thoreau” riffing on (same tune) Berry’s song. Oddly, even incomprehensibly, I find NO mention of it anywhere via DuckDuckGo nor Google, even though I’ve heard Smither sing it numerous times. (I also checked his discography.

It turns out that, while I have heard Chris Smither sing this song, he wasn’t the author. That was Paul Geremia, one of Boston/Cambridge’s wonderful acoustic blues musicians.

The song is on his Self Portrait In Blues album. (And on my ~2,800-song Spotify playlist, which is how, when it came around again this morning on the guitar, as it were, I realized my mistake.)

Here’s a so-so performance:

The song (and much of the album) is on Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple, and elsewhere. Apple’s got a reasonable sample snippet.

(18) THE STAR VANISHES. The BBC says Alfred Hitchcock isn’t involved in “Mystery over monster star’s vanishing act”.

Astronomers have been baffled by the disappearance of a massive star they had been observing.

They now wonder whether the distant object collapsed to form a black hole without exploding in a supernova.

If correct, it would be the first example of such a huge stellar object coming to the end of its life in this manner.

But there is another possibility, the study in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society reports.

The object’s brightness might have dipped because it is partially obscured by dust.

It is located some 75 million light-years away in the Kinman Dwarf galaxy, in the constellation of Aquarius.

The giant star belongs – or belonged – to a type known as a luminous blue variable; it is some 2.5 million times brighter than the Sun.

Stars of this kind are unstable, showing occasional dramatic shifts in their spectra – the amount of light emitted at different wavelengths – and brightness.

(19) YOU WILL BELIEVE A…EH, NO YOU WON’T. NPR explains “How Snakes Fly (Hint: It’s Not On A Plane)”

Flying snakes like Chrysopelea paradisi, the paradise tree snake, normally live in the trees of South and Southeast Asia. There, they cruise along tree branches and, sometimes, to get to the ground or another tree, they’ll launch themselves into the air and glide down at an angle.

They undulate their serpentine bodies as they glide through the air, and it turns out that these special movements are what let these limbless creatures make such remarkable flights.

That’s according to some new research in the journal Nature Physics that involved putting motion-capture tags on seven snakes and then filming them with high-speed cameras as the snakes flew across a giant four-story-high theater.

How far they can go really depends on how high up they are when they jump, says Jake Socha at Virginia Tech, who has studied these snakes for almost a quarter-century. He recalls that one time he watched a snake start from about 30 feet up and then land nearly 70 feet away. “It was really a spectacular glide,” Socha recalls.

Part of the way the snakes do this is by flattening out their bodies, he says. But the snakes’ bodies also make wavelike movements. “The snake looks like it’s swimming in the air,” he says. “And when it’s swimming, it’s undulating.”

(20) BLOCKBUSTED. “With Big Summer Films Delayed, AMC Theatres Puts Off U.S. Reopening”.

The nation’s largest movie theater chain is delaying its U.S. reopening until the end of July because film companies have postponed release dates of two anticipated blockbusters.

AMC Theatres announced that a first round of approximately 450 locations will resume operations two weeks later than initially planned, to coincide with the updated August release dates of Warner Brothers’ Tenet and Disney’s Mulan.

“Our theatre general managers across the U.S. started working full time again today and are back in their theatres gearing up to get their buildings fully ready just a few weeks from now for moviegoers,” CEO Adam Aron said in a June 29 statement. “That happy day, when we can welcome guests back into most of our U.S. theatres, will be Thursday, July 30.”

The company said it expects its more than 600 U.S. theaters to be “essentially to full operation” by early August.

AMC Theatres made headlines earlier this month when it announced patrons will be required to wear masks, reversing course on a controversial reopening plan that had only encouraged them to do so.

(21) ALL THE SMART KIDS ARE DOING IT. “Famous New York Public Library Lions Mask Up To Set An Example”.

For the first time, the familiar marble faces outside the New York Public Library will be obscured by masks.

Patience and Fortitude, the iconic lion sculptures guarding the 42nd Street library, are wearing face coverings to remind New Yorkers to stay safe and stop the spread of COVID-19.

The masks arrived on June 29, and measure three feet wide by two feet tall, according to a library statement.

New York Public Library President Anthony Marx emphasized the symbolism of the aptly named lions, and said New Yorkers are similarly strong and resilient.

(22) NEVERENDING SENDUP. The Screen Junkies continue their look at oldies with an “Honest Trailer” for The Neverending Story, where they show that gloomy Germans created “a world of neverending misery.”  They discovered that star Noah Hathaway subsequently played Harry Potter Jr. in Troll (1986) with Michael Moriarty playing Harry Potter Sr.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, JJ, Joey Eschrich, Rich Horton, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael Toman, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Daniel Dern, Darrah Chavey, Olav Rokne, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to wandering minstrel of the day Cliff.]

Pixel Scroll 6/5/20 I’ve Got A File, You Can Comment If You Like, It’s Got A Pixel, A Scroll That Rhymes

(1) OFF SCRIPT, ON POINT. Cat Rambo was profiled by The Seattle Times today: “Fresh off a Nebula Award and kicking off a book deal, West Seattle writer Cat Rambo speaks about craft, George Floyd protests and more”

… Though her presidency ended last year, the legacy of her work was on full display during a vibrant awards ceremony and conference, a gathering forced online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“She’s the reason that SFWA was able to do this pivot because she put the organization on such firm financial footing,” said Mary Robinette Kowal, SWFA president, during the awards, adding: “She was such an amazing president for five years. Let me say that again. She was president of SFWA for five years. Five.”

Asked to give a speech that Saturday night, the webcast from her delightfully book-cluttered office turned into a toss-the-script moment.

“I had a pretty speech all prepared, but the news this morning convinced me to throw that all away,” she said of the developing clashes around the country between protesters and law enforcement after George Floyd was killed by arresting police in Minneapolis last week.

She noted that the SFWA was started by a small group of writers who wanted to look out for their fellow writers. The need for that mission has only been reinforced in a time of pandemic and pandemonium.

(2) THE NOT RIGHT SPEAKS OUT. Alt-right blog Bounding Into Comics did a roundup of the opinions of writers Jon Del Arroz, Jennifer Marie Brissett, Kit Sun Cheah, Yakov Merkin, and Louie Lozano. who condemned plans SFWA announced yesterday in “A Statement from SFWA on Black Lives Matter and Protests”.

(3) LEGO SOFT-PEDALS COP SETS. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertaiment story “Lego pauses marketing its police-themed playsets ‘in response to events in the U.S.'”, says Lego announced it will still sell, but not market, such kits as “Sky Police Air Base” and “Police Highway Arrest” as well as kits of the White House in response to the protests over George Floyd’s death

…Earlier this week, the Toybook published the copy of an email sent to affiliates by the marketing network Rakuten LinkShare. “In light of recent events, Lego has requested the below products to be removed from sites and any marketing ASAP,” the letter begins. The list of more than 30 products includes such playsets as Sky Police Air Base, Police Highway Arrest, Police Handcuffs & Badge and Police Pursuit, as well as a Lego version of the White House, which has been the site of several clashes between police and protesters.

In a statement provided to Yahoo Entertainment, Lego stresses that these playsets are not being pulled from sale in stores or online, but confirms that they are part of an ongoing marketing pause. No end date was specified as to when the brand would resume marketing. (Read the full statement below.)…

…There is no place for racism in our society. We stand with the black community against racism and inequality. Our mission is to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow, and that includes inspiring them to be tolerant, inclusive and kind. There is more to do and as one small step, we are donating US$4 million to organizations in the U.S. dedicated to organizations that support black children and others that educate all children about tolerance and racial equality. …

(4) TRASH OF THE TITANS. “Elon Musk calls for ‘break up’ of Amazon”

Elon Musk has called for the “break up” of tech giant Amazon, following a dispute about a coronavirus e-book.

The entrepreneur came to the defence of an author after Amazon’s Kindle publishing division rejected his book about the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Musk tagged Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos in a tweet, saying the decision was “insane”, adding: “Time to break up Amazon.”

Amazon said the book had been removed in error and would be reinstated.

The author of the book, Alex Berenson, caught Mr Musk’s attention by tweeting a screenshot from Amazon, which told him that his book about the pandemic did not meet its guidelines.

(5) DC DEALS DIAMOND OUT. ComicsBeat brings news of a seismic upheaval in comics distribution: “DC pulls out of Diamond, will use Lunar and UCS for periodical distribution”.

…DC’s comics will be available through Lunar Distribution and UCS Comics Distributors, the companies that were set up during Diamond’s downtime, as well as Penguin Random House, which has been DC’s book distributor for many years.

…Asked for confirmation, a DC spokesperson sent this statement:

“After 25 years, DC and Diamond Comic Distributors are ending their long-standing relationship. Moving forward, comic book retailers can obtain their DC books from Penguin Random House, or their books and periodicals through Lunar or UCS comic book distributors. DC continues to be committed to providing the Direct Market with best in class service and the fans with the world’s greatest comic books.”

The mailer included this answer to “Why is DC Doing This?”

DC has been analyzing its Direct Market distribution for some time, long before COVID, specifically in light of sustained stagnant market growth. The timing of the decision to move on from Diamond was ultimately dictated by the fact that DC‘s contract with Diamond has expired, but incidentally, the disruption by COVID to the market has required DC to forge ahead with its larger growth strategies that will benefit both the Direct Market and DC.

… Diamond has just released a response from owner Steve Geppi….

Today, DC sent out a retailer communication indicating they are ending their long-standing relationship with Diamond. In April, we were informed that DC was going to begin distributing products through additional partners. At that time, they asked us to submit a proposal for a revised agreement with the understanding that Diamond would continue to be one of their distributors. Which we promptly did. They then requested an extension to June 30 which we also accommodated. Last week, DC requested an additional extension through July. We responded with questions and DC indicated they would reply today, June 5. Instead of receiving a response, today we received a termination notice. While we had anticipated this as a possible outcome, we, like so many others in the industry, are disappointed by their decision to end our partnership so abruptly at this time.

(6) INSIDE THE SERIAL BOX. Nerds of a Feather’s Andrea Johnson scored an interview with two of the creators behind a new Jessica Jones project: “Interview: Lauren Beukes and Fryda Wolff”.

Marvel’s Jessica Jones: Playing With Fire launched on Serial Box on May 28th, with new episodes available every Thursday.   Jessica Jones’ dry sense of humor,  her brand of “self care”, and a simple missing person case, what could possibly go wrong? (well, everything of course, and that’s what makes this so addictively entertaining!).

The 16 episode season was written by Lauren Beukes, Vita Ayala, Sam Beckbessinger, Zoe Quinn, and Elsa Sjunneson, and narrated by Fryda Wolff. …

NOAF: How did the team decide who was going to write which episodes?  Any funny stories about how particular scenes were plotted out or designed?

LB: We settled it with an old-fashioned rage-in-the-cage, home-made weapons, anything goes, no backsies. No, that’s not right. We used our words and talked it out. What was interesting was how particular episodes really resonated with different writers. It was very organic and democratic. Elsa was excited to write the Matt Murdock chapters because it’s the first time the blind Daredevil has been written by an actual blind writer. Vita called dibs on the big fight scene, and Zoe wanted to delve into the psychological trauma and head games. I wanted to kick it off, set the tone and then we brought in another wonderful South African writer, Sam Beckbessinger, post-writers room, to write some of the later chapters.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 5, 1956 X Minus One’s “Project Mastodon” first aired. Based  off multiple Hugo Award wining author Clifford D. Simak’s novella from the March 1955 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction, Three adventurers return to prehistoric times, found a country called Mastodonia, and try to establish diplomatic relations with the United States with somewhat mixed results. The script is by Ernest Kinoy. The cast members were Floyd Mack, Dick Hamilton, Charles Penman,  Raymond Edward Johnson, Frank Maxwell, Bob Hastings, John Larkin and Joe Julian.  You can listen to it here.                                

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 5, 1844 L. T. Meade. Author of series aimed generally at girls but who wrote several genre series as well, to wit Stories of the Sanctuary ClubThe Brotherhood of the Seven Kings and The Sorceress of the Strand. All of these were co-written by Robert Eustace. Meade and Eustace also created the occult detective and palmist Diana Marburg in “The Oracle of Maddox Street” found initially in Pearson’s Magazine in 1902. (Died 1924.) (CE)
  • Born June 5, 1899 – Boris Artzybasheff.  Prolific graphic artist in and out of our field; 200 covers for Time (one was Craig Rice – pen name of Georgiana Craig – first mystery-fiction writer shown there, 28 Jan 46).  Here is his cover for The Circus of Dr. Lao – he did its interiors too; here is The Incomplete Enchanter.  Here is a commercial illustration, “Steel”; here is Buckminster Fuller.  Don’t miss him in Vincent Di Fate’s Infinite Worlds.  Book of his artwork, As I See (rev. 2008).  (Died 1965) [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1908 – John Fearn.  British author of SF, crime fiction, Westerns; fairground assistant, cinema projectionist; wrote under two dozen names.  Two hundred books in our field, two hundred eighty shorter stories.  Guest of honor at Supermancon (the second Eastercon – British national SF con – to be held at Manchester).  (Died 1960) [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1928 Robert Lansing. He was secret agent Gary Seven in the “Assignment: Earth” episode of Trek. The episode was a backdoor pilot for a Roddenberry series that would have starred him and Teri Garr, but the series never happened.  He of course appeared on other genre series such as  The Twilight ZoneJourney to the UnknownThriller and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. (Died 1994.) (CE)
  • Born June 5, 1931 – Barbara Paul, 89.  She says, “I did not grow up reading science fiction….  I was one of those smug mundanes who thought ‘sci-fi’ was all death-rays and aluminum-foil spacesuits and Robby the Robot.  (Well, maybe sci-fi is, but not SF.)  It wasn’t until my son, eleven at the time, handed me a book f short stories by Robert Sheckley that I began to realize what I’d been missing.”  For us, six novels (I’m counting Liars and Tyrants and People who Turn Blue, which depends upon a psychic character), a dozen and a half shorter stories; more of other kinds e.g. detectives.  [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1946 John Bach, 74. Einstein on Farscape (though he was uncredited for most of the series), the Gondorian Ranger Madril in the second and third movies of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, also a British bodyguard on The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. And he was the body double for shooting Saruman in place of Christopher Lee, who was unable to fly to New Zealand for principal photography on The Hobbit film series. (CE) 
  • Born June 5, 1949 – Ken Follett, 71.  Five novels, as many shorter stories, in our field, under this and other names; translated into Dutch, Finnish, German, Hungarian, Italian, Spanish; dozens more, some international best-sellers; The Pillars of the Earth, about building a 12th Century cathedral, sold 27 million copies as of 2019; film and television adaptations.  Non-fiction On Wings of Eagles about rescuing men from Iranian prison.  Four honorary doctorates.  Bass balalaika with folk group Clog Iron.  [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1953 Kathleen Kennedy, 67. Film producer responsible for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, her first film, and later produced the Jurassic Park franchise.  She’s been involved in over sixty films, I’d say at least half genre, starting with Raiders of the Lost Ark as an associate to Steven Spielberg. Amblin Films with her husband and Spielberg has produced many of the genre’s best loved films. (CE) 
  • Born June 5, 1960 – Margo Lanagan 60.  A dozen novels, six dozen shorter stories, in our field; among the two dozen contributors to “Celebrating 50 Years of Locus” in Locu s687.  Two Ditmars, three World Fantasy awards.  Recent collection, Singing My Sister Down.  [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1964 – P.J. Haarsma 56. Author, photographer.  Co-founder of Kids Need to Read.  Four Rings of Orbis books, two Spectrum comics (with Alan Tudyk, Sarah Stone) in that world, and an electronic role-playing game.  Crowd-funded $3.2 million to start Con Man (television).  Redbear Films commercial production.  [JH]
  • Born June 5, 1971 Susan Lynch, 49. Northern Irish actress whose career in film started off by being a selkie in The Secret of Roan Inish with her next role being an unnamed Paris Vampire in Interview with a Vampire. Film wise, her last role to date is Aunt Alice in Ready Player One. She’s got one series credit to date playing Angstrom In the Thirteenth Doctor story, “The Ghost Monument”. (CE)
  • Born June 5, 1976 Lauren Beukes, 44. South African writer and scriptwriter. Moxyland, her first novel, is a cyberpunk novel set in a future Cape Town.  Zoo City, a hardboiled thriller with fantasy elements is set in a re-imagined Johannesburg. It won both the Arthur C. Clarke Award and a Kitschies Red Tentacle for best novel. And The Shining Girls would win her a August Derleth Award for Best Horror Novel. (CE) 

(9) UNDER THE HOOD. SYFY Wire reports: “Mark Hamill Surprises Star Wars-Loving Nurse In Heartwarming ‘Kimmel’ Segment”.

Do you need a dose of optimism and joy in such uncertain and turbulent times? We’ve got just the thing with a wonderful Jimmy Kimmel Live segment in which Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker himself!) surprises a California healthcare worker who also happens to be a massive Star Wars fan. That’s Chloé Ducos, a registered nurse who works in a coronavirus testing tent in San Diego.

“I’m a pretend hero, you’re the real hero. Thank you for your service,” Hamill told Ducos, who burst into genuine tears of shock and happiness when the actor appeared on the virtual call and removed his Jedi-like hood. Her heartwarming reaction alone makes the video below worth watching.

Kimmel’s YouTube intro adds:

…We are also giving her $10,000 from our friends at PayPal, who will also be sending PayPal vouchers to all of her coworkers as well.

(10) PRO TIP. Matt Wallace cannot be denied.

(11) MORE THAN CATAPULT FODDER. Paul Weimer is high on the novel and the author: “Microreview [Book] Savage Legion by Matt Wallace” at Nerds of a Feather.

…Savage Legion is most definitely the best work from the pen of an author whose skills, to my eye, are growing by leaps and bounds.

(12) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. NPR asks “Are There Zombie Viruses — Like The 1918 Flu — Thawing In The Permafrost?”

Zac Peterson was on the adventure of a lifetime.

The 25-year-old teacher was helping archaeologists excavate an 800-year-old log cabin, high above the Arctic Circle on the northern coast of Alaska.

They had pitched tents right on the beach. Over the course of a month, Peterson watched a gigantic pod of beluga whales swim along the beach, came face-to-face with a hungry polar bear invading their campsite and helped dig out the skull of a rare type of polar bear.

But the most memorable thing happened right at the end of that summer trip.

“I noticed a red spot on the front of my leg,” Peterson says. “It was about the size of a dime. It felt hot and hurt to touch.”

The spot grew quickly. “After a few days, it was the size of a softball,” he says.

Peterson realized he had a rapidly spreading skin infection. And he thought he knew where he might have picked it up: a creature preserved in the permafrost….

(13) JETBOY’S LAST ADVENTURE. “Combat drone to compete against piloted plane”

The US Air Force will pit an advanced autonomous aircraft against a piloted plane in a challenge set for July 2021.

The project could eventually lead to unpiloted fighter aircraft that use artificial intelligence (AI).

Lt Gen Jack Shanahan, head of the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, called the test a “bold, bold idea”.

Air Force Magazine also described the development of autonomous fighter jets as a “big Moonshot” for the military.

(14) ALFRED’S GHOST. “Crows ‘terrorise’ staff at Essex Police headquarters”. BBC learns a policeman’s lot is not a happy one.

Police officers and staff are being “terrorised” by a family of crows that is nesting at its headquarters.

Essex Police Deputy Chief Constable Pippa Mills warned visitors to the site to “beware” and “keep calm and keep walking” in a tweet about the issue.

She shared a photo of a warning sign which has been put up at Essex Police HQ.

It advises people to “take an alternative route” or “wear a hat or use an umbrella”.

The sign urges people to “not act aggressive as they will feel threatened”.

(15) IT REALLY BUGS THEM. The Harvard Gazette finds the worst problem with a lack of sleep might not center where you’d think: “Sleep, death, and… the gut?”

The first signs of insufficient sleep are universally familiar. There’s tiredness and fatigue, difficulty concentrating, perhaps irritability or even tired giggles. Far fewer people have experienced the effects of prolonged sleep deprivation, including disorientation, paranoia, and hallucinations.

Total, prolonged sleep deprivation, however, can be fatal. While it has been reported in humans only anecdotally, a widely cited study in rats conducted by Chicago-based researchers in 1989 showed that a total lack of sleep inevitably leads to death. Yet, despite decades of study, a central question has remained unsolved: Why do animals die when they don’t sleep?

Now, Harvard Medical School (HMS) neuroscientists have identified an unexpected, causal link between sleep deprivation and premature death.

In a study on sleep-deprived fruit flies, published in Cell on June 4, researchers found that death is always preceded by the accumulation of molecules known as reactive oxidative species (ROS) in the gut.

When fruit flies were given antioxidant compounds that neutralize and clear ROS from the gut, sleep-deprived flies remained active and had normal lifespans. Additional experiments in mice confirmed that ROS accumulate in the gut when sleep is insufficient.

The findings suggest the possibility that animals can indeed survive without sleep under certain circumstances. The results open new avenues of study to understand the full consequences of insufficient sleep and may someday inform the design of approaches to counteract its detrimental effects in humans, the authors said.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Looking for Mr Bond, 007 at the BBC–James Bond Documentary” on YouTube is a 2015 BBC documentary,, directed by Matthew Thomas, that includes 50 years of behind-the-scenes footage from the BBC of Bond movies, including interviews with Ian Fleming, John le Carre, and Roald Dahl, who wrote the screenplay for From Russia With Love.

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

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.]