Pixel Scroll 12/21/19 This Could Involve Thiotimoline

(1) STABBY TIME. Reddit’s r/Fantasy is taking nominations for the Stabby Award until December 28. See the complete guidelines at the link.

Nominations will continue to take place here on /r/Fantasy. Nomination rules are below. Please read them and ask any questions under the comment pinned at the top of the thread.

The method for voting will be explained when the voting thread goes live. The nominations thread will close December 26 at 12:30 p.m. PST. The voting thread will go live no later than about 10 pm on Saturday, December 28.

(2) DIZZYLAND. For your maximum confusion, the Best Visual Illusion of the Year Contest presents its Top 10 Finalists. First prize goes to “Dual Axis Illusion.”

This spinning shape appears to defy logic by rotating around both the horizontal and vertical axis at the same time! To make things even more confusing, the direction of rotation is also ambiguous. Some visual cues in the video will help viewers change their perception.

(3) MEDICAL UPDATE. Eric Flint has posted on Facebook a fully detailed account of the medical problems that caused him to be hospitalized during NASFiC, and the course of treatment since, leading up to —

….Within a few weeks, my condition has improved drastically. My 02 saturation levels are back to normal and I’ve stopped having to use oxygen supplements. I spent the past weekend engaged in a long overdue cleansing of the basement – think “scouring of the shire” –which had me going up and down stairs for hours carrying heavy stuff without getting short of breath right away. Granted, after a few hours I’d get a little fatigued and need to rest a bit, but gimme a break. See “almost 73,” above. When I was a teenager, I spent a whole summer once digging ditches. Those days are behind me.
(Happily. It’s not like I enjoyed it at the time any more than I would today. It’s just that at the age of 17 I was ABLE to do it.).

Okay, enough. This turned into a very long post so I’ll wait a day or so before posting a progress report on how my work is coming along. The gist is: “Quite well, actually.” As I said earlier, as long as I was sitting on my butt or lying down I was able to keep working despite the hypoxemia – and, o joyous day! – my current (and hopefully last) profession involves sitting on my butt or lying down pretty much 100% of the time.

(4) MARRIAGE MASH. Comicbook.com points the way as “Funny or Die Mashes Up Marvel and Star Wars With Marriage Story”.

…The new clip from the site cuts up footage from Marriage Story as well as both the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Star Wars sequel trilogy to tell a similar story, but with Black Widow and Kylo Ren trapped in a relationship that has since become poisoned.

While both Driver and Johansson are earning buzz for their portrayal of the estranged couple undergoing divorce proceedings in Marriage Story, many fans are interested in their roles in their respective franchises.

(5) BROOKER OBIT. Tony Brooker (1925-2019), mathematician and computer scientist who designed the programming language for the world’s first commercial computer, died on 20 November 2019 aged 94. See the New York Times tribute.

Mr. Brooker had been immersed in early computer research at the University of Cambridge when one day, on his way home from a mountain-climbing trip in North Wales, he stopped at the University of Manchester to tour its computer lab, which was among the first of its kind. Dropping in unannounced, he introduced himself to Alan Turing, a founding father of the computer age, who at the time was the lab’s deputy director.

When Mr. Brooker described his own research at the University of Cambridge, he later recalled, Mr. Turing said, “Well, we can always employ someone like you.” Soon they were colleagues….

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 21, 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs premiered at the Carthay Circle Theater in Hollywood, California
  • December 21, 1963 — During Doctor Who’s first season, the first part of “The Daleks” aired. Written by Terry Nation and directed by Christopher Barry and Richard Martin. The Daleks which are created and co-owned by Terry Nation will make their first appearance in this story.  The below image is Dalek free so that I don’t spoil your appreciation of their first appearance.
  • December 21, 1979 C.H.O.M.P.S. premiered. Hoping to take bite out of the kid-friendly box office, it was produced by Burt Topper and Joseph Barbera (yes, that Barbera as it was a Hanna-Barbera film), and a cast headed by Wesley Eure, Valerie Bertinelli and Conrad Bain. Critics found it mediocre at best, and reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes really don’t like it as it has Currently a 32% rating there.  
  • December 21, 1979Disney’s The Black Hole premiered. Intended as The Mouse’s Reponse to Star Wars, it was directed by Gary Nelson.  A cast of Joseph Bottoms, Maximilian Schell, Yvette Mimieux, Anthony Perkins, Robert Forster, and Ernest Borgnine were to be found here, while the voices of the primary robot characters were provided by Roddy McDowall and Slim Pickens who both were uncredited. Special effects were developed in-house as apparently were most of the matte paintings used. Critics for the most part didn’t like it, and it holds a 40% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. And it bombed at the box office.
  • December 21, 2010 Mega Shark Versus Crocosaurus premiered. Robert Picardo was the sole performer of genre interest in it, and it was directed by Christopher Ray, son of noted exploitation director Fred Olen Ray. Is it genre? Is it sci-fi?  No one liked it, the critics gave it scathing reviews, and currently it has a 19% score among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. It has, alas, at least two sequels. 

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 21, 1929 James Cawthorn. An illustrator, comics artist and writer who worked predominantly with Michael Moorcock. He had met him through their involvement in fandom. They would co-write The Land that Time Forgot film, and he drew “The Sonic Assassins” strip which was based on Hawkwind that ran in Frendz. He also did interior and cover art for a number of publications from the Fifties onwards including (but not limited to) Vector 3, New Worlds SF, Science Fantasy and Yandro. (Died 2008.)
  • Born December 21, 1937 Jane Fonda, 82. Sure everyone here has seen her in Barbarella? Her only other genre appearances are apparently by voice work as Shuriki in the animated Elena of Avalor series, and in the Spirits of the Dead, 1968 anthology film based on the work of Poe. She was the Contessa Frederique de Metzengerstein in the “Metzengerstein” segment of the film. 
  • Born December 21, 1943 John Nance. Let’s just say he and David Lynch were rather connected. He’s Henry Spencer in Eraserhead, he had a small role as the Harkonnen Captain Iakin Nefud in Dune and he’s Pete Martell in Twin Peaks. He’s also a supporting role as Paul, a friend of Dennis Hopper’s villain character in Blue Velvet but even I couldn’t stretch that film to be even genre adjacent. (Died 1996.)
  • Born December 21, 1944 James Sallis, 75. He’d be getting a Birthday today if only for his SJW cred of giving up teaching at a college rather than sign a state-mandated loyalty oath that he regarded as unconstitutional. But he also does have a short SFF novel Renderings, more short fiction than I can count, a book review column in F&SF and he co-edited several issues of New Worlds Magazine with Michael Moorcock.  Worthy of a Birthday write-up! 
  • Born December 21, 1948 Samuel L. Jackson, 71. Where to start? Did you know that with his permission, his likeness was used for the Ultimates version of the Nick Fury? It’s a great series btw. He has also played Fury in the Iron Man, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron and Avengers: Infinity War and showed up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. too! He voiced Lucius Best (a.k.a. Frozone)in the Incredibles franchise, Mace Windu in The Phantom Menace and The Clone Wars, the Afro Samurai character in the anime series of the same name and more other genre work than can be listed here comfortably so go ahead and add your favorite role by him. 
  • Born December 21, 1966 Kiefer Sutherland, 53. My he’s been in a lot of genre undertakings! I think that The Lost Boys was his first such of many to come including Flatliners, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, The Three Musketeers,  voice work in Armitage: Poly-Matrix, Dark City, more voice work in The Land Before Time X: The Great Longneck Migration,  Marmaduke and Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight, Mirrors, and yes, he’s in the second Flatliners as a new character. 

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) TOP COMICS. The Hollywood Reporter’s “Heat Vision” reporter Graeme McMillan names “Heat Vision’s Top 10 Comics Of the Decade”. Anchoring the list is — 

Smile (A Dental Drama) by Raina Telegmeier (Scholastic, 2010)
Telegmeier is, simply put, likely the most important figure in comics of the last decade; after a string of adaptations of the Babysitters Club novels for Scholastic, she’s spent the last ten years creating more comic readers than arguably any other creator with a series of graphic novels for publisher Graphix that mix autobiography with pure fiction, combining clear, easy to understand, visuals with writing that’s accessible and consistently smart and (perhaps most importantly) respectful of its target audience. Smile, Telegmeier’s first book this decade, remains perhaps the finest example of her work, with her story of dental problems as a kid able to win over any audience.

(10) GIFT IDEAS. If you have any last-minute shopping needs, then why not consider Brit Cit published SF/F? SF² Concatenation has a news page with the season’s science fiction and also fantasy book releases from the major UK genre imprints, not forgetting nonfiction SF and popular science. Titles available from large genre bookshops in N. America as well as some online peddlers.

(11) BEEN TO THE MOVIES. John Scalzi says the baker didn’t give the ingredients time enough to rise — “Review: The Rise of Skywalker”.

There are a lot of moments in Skywalker that, while affecting, could have been even more so if they hadn’t been so gosh darn rushed. The prequel trilogy had excellent actors who weren’t utilized fully because as a director Lucas didn’t know what to do with people; the Disney trilogy has excellent actors who aren’t utilized fully because they simply don’t have the time to process, onscreen, the overwhelming emotions they’re supposed to be having. Abrams the director steps on several of those moments because apparently he’s got another plot point he’s gonna cram in. It’s deeply rare, especially these days, that I say a film should be longer — Jesus, they really don’t need to be any longer — but Skywalker genuinely could have benefited from an extra ten or fifteen minutes, just to let its actors do their jobs.

(12) PUNCH PULLED. Leonard Maltin declined to throw his popcorn box at the screen – after all, says he, other people will like the excess: “Star Wars: Variations on a Theme”.

I had a good time watching J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, even though I felt sucker-punched more than once. The filmmaker knows that this is the last time he (or possibly anyone) will get to play with George Lucas’s original concept and characters and his giddiness gets the better of him. Without spoiling any surprises, let’s just say that elements of identity, the powers of the Force and matters of life and death are toyed with in the name of “gotcha” entertainment.

At the same time, Abrams knows that diehard fans share his sentimental longing to spend a little more time with the people who first won our hearts in the initial installments of the Star Wars saga. He milks this for all it’s worth, and if he errs on the side of excess I bet there are lots of folks who won’t mind.

(13) SALUTE TO THE SEVENTIES. Tim Kreider’s New York Times op-ed “What if ‘Star Wars’ Was Just a Movie?” is full of pronouncements about things that are obvious – if you agree with the analysis.

…Lots of critics pointed out that the coda of “Star Wars,” when three heroes march up a corridor between columns of massed soldiers, is a visual quote of the wreath-laying at Nuremberg in “Triumph of the Will,” but everyone seems to assume this is a random allusion, devoid of historical context. It’s not as if Lucas was oblivious of the source. His film is full of fascist iconography — all, up until this moment, associated with the Empire. Assuming this final image is deployed intentionally, it might be most hopefully interpreted as a warning: Don’t become the thing you’ve fought against. The intimation of a hidden kinship between our hero and his enemy was right there in Darth Vader’s name all along — the dark father.

(14) MORE DISSENT FROM ROWLING’S TWEET. “‘Harry Potter’ Helped Me Come Out as Trans, But J.K. Rowling Disappointed Me” is a New York Times op-ed. (Site limits free articles.)

… As a devoted Harry Potter fan who also happens to be transgender, it was like a punch in the gut.

For the past decade, I’ve been an active player in the Harry Potter fan community, serving as the spokesperson for an independent nonprofit inspired by the boy wizard, sitting on the brain trust for a prominent Harry Potter fan conference and making videos about the impact the series has had on my life. I’ve seen the mind-blowing creativity of fans — from wizard rock music to cosplay to fan fiction that will make you weep — as well as their unparalleled capacity for positive change. Fans have organized in Harry’s name to donate over 400,000 books around the world, campaign in support of marriage equality and even convince Warner Bros. to switch to ethical sourcing for its Harry Potter-branded chocolates.

It was this community of loving, passionate people who accepted me with open arms when I came out as transgender at the age of 25. While I was nervous about coming out to some relatives and acquaintances, I never doubted that the Harry Potter fan community would accept me for who I was. After all, we all adhered to the values we learned from the books about being yourself, loving those who are different from you and sticking up for the underdog….

(15) A PAIR OF SCIENCE ROUNDUPS. Science has just published its round-up of top science of the year. In the mix is the biological recovery at the dinosaur asteroid impact site, a look at the human precursor Denisovan species, quantum computing breakthroughs and new Horizons Kuiper belt object encounter.

Also, what went wrong for scientists in 2019, including the Amazon burning.

Forest fires consumed thousands of square kilometers of the Amazon this year, and many blame the policies of Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, for fanning the flames.

Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) estimates the number of fires in the Amazon increased by 44% compared with 2018. One factor was an increase in deforestation, to about 9700 square kilometers in the 12 months through July, the largest area since 2007–08, INPE reported in November. Ranchers and farmers cut down and sell valuable trees and then burn the forest to make space for planting crops or raising cattle. Remote sensing indicated that this year’s fires tended to be far away from where crops are grown, suggesting ranchers were probably responsible….

(16) MEOW MIX. A cat with representation! The Hollywood Reporter invites you to “Meet CAA’s Million-Dollar Cat Client”.

It’s been a tough year for viral cats. Grumpy Cat passed away May 14 at age 7 following a urinary tract infection, and, on Dec. 1, Lil Bub, a special-needs perma-kitten with an ever-dangling tongue, died in her sleep at age 8. Going strong, however, is Nala Cat, a Siamese-tabby mix with 4.3 million Instagram followers, who happens to be the sole feline client of powerhouse agency CAA….

(17) ANOTHER STAR ON THE HORIZON? “Bionic cat Vito becomes ‘superstar’ with his prosthetic legs” – BBC has the story. Photos at the link.

A six-year-old cat has become an internet “superstar” as the first in Italy to receive two prosthetic hind legs following a serious road accident.

Vito, or Vituzzo, had both rear legs amputated after they were crushed by a vehicle in Milan while his owners were away on their honeymoon.

The couple, former basketball player Silvia Gottardi and her wife Linda Ronzoni, returned home immediately.

Vito’s story has been widely shared with the hashtag #vituzzosuperstar.

His surgery to attach two prostheses by inserting them directly into his remaining upper leg bones has reportedly never before been achieved successfully in Italy.

(18) SEUSS-COOKED MEAL. What’s this wrapped up in breakfast-scented paper for you from Sam? Surprise reveal, there’s a second serving of Green Eggs & Ham on Netflix.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/20/19 Return
of the Judi: The Force And The Furry-est

(1) STAR TREK: PICARD. A third teaser has dropped – but it’s been blocked on some sites, so we’ll find out together if this still works by the time I post today’s Scroll.

(2) UPROAR AFTER ROWLING OPINES ON TRANS IDENTITY. Maya Forstater was an employee of the British think tank Centre for Global Development. She tweeted some trans-exclusionary radical feminist views and got fired.  Rowling supported her.

Vox (the pop culture site) responded “JKR just ruined Harry Potter, Merry Christmas.” — “J.K. Rowling’s latest tweet seems like transphobic BS. Her fans are heartbroken”.

Rowling is customarily outspoken about her politics, which can be generalized as ranging from moderately liberal to progressive — though over time, she’s seemed increasingly less so than her fans. On Thursday morning, many of them woke up to a tweet from Rowling, which might seem at first to be a typical example of Rowling’s broadly liberal feminism.

In context, however, Rowling’s tweet reveals itself as a shocking dismissal of transgender identity: its first three lines seem to directly attack trans identity, while its final line mischaracterizes the facts surrounding a court case that involves significant transphobia.

Many fans have found Rowling’s statement deeply disturbing — so much so that the reaction to it was trending on Twitter on early Thursday morning, ahead of the historic impeachment of Donald Trump….

(3) YEAR’S TOP BOOKS. Cat Eldridge says he counts eight SFF novels on Paste’s list of “The 19 Best Novels of 2019”. This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone clocks in at number 2.

Whether you’re looking for a story about necromancers fighting in space or boys surviving a reform school in Florida, you’ll find something to love on our ranked list of the year’s best novels. These 19 books promise an escape from reality while still tackling real-world issues in creative ways, exploring everything from grief to mother-child relationships to spirituality. We loved these stories, and we believe you will, too.

There are also genre books, but not quite as many in PopMatters’ “The Best Books of 2019: Fiction”. The list begins with –

Ancestral Night, by Elizabeth Bear [Saga Press / Simon & Schuster]

Elizabeth Bear’s Ancestral Night immerses readers in a strange, futuristic universe from the very first pages, and while some of the concepts and language may be difficult at first for readers who want simple, unchallenging texts or are not used to the more speculative side of the genre, those who persevere will quickly be hooked. The book’s sweeping sense of mystery and discovery is what initially hooks, but it’s the speculative and complex world Bear has constructed which is most rewarding in the end.

Ancestral Night is a wise, intelligent book for modern-minded, thinking readers. Bear has dabbled in the steampunk and fantasy vein in the past, and while elements of that are recognizable here, for the most part this is hard sci-fi combined with brilliantly imagined speculative fiction. Bear has constructed a fascinating, absorbing universe populated with compelling and intelligent characters who conform to neither clichés nor stereotypes. It’s sci-fi of the top order, and here’s hoping we see more of it. – Hans Rollmann

Read more about this book here on PopMatters.

(4) CHANNELING GENRE. WIRED thinks “The 5 Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy TV Shows of 2019” were pretty much the top television shows, period.

We don’t only watch nerd TV here at WIRED. Fleabag’s fabulous. More Pose now. Ship a box of Emmys to Big Little Lies.

It’s just that, this year, when it came to new shows, genre kind of kicked all the butts. In fact, we could’ve left off the sci-fi/fantasy qualifier and called this list “The 5 Best TV Shows of 2019,” period. (We didn’t, because we thought you’d appreciate a bit of what’s known in the biz as framing.) Sure, there was some commodity crapola. The Boys wasn’t half as edgy as it thought. Baby Yoda swallowed The Mandalorian whole. His Dark Materials verged, at times, on the soulless (ironic, for a show about souls). (But Ruth Wilson as Mrs. Coulter—that slightly flared, froglike upper lip!—gives the best performance of 2019.)

(5) ANCIENT ADVICE. “Throw your testicles” at the London Review of Books is a review by Tom Shippey of the Getty Museum’s book about its exhibition of bestiaries. SJWs will not like what medieval people thought about cats! (Fortunately, the title does not come from the section about them.)

Sometimes ordinary life intrudes. A text from Bodley 764 (c.1225-50) neatly describes the cat: ‘This creature is called mouser because he kills mice. The common word is cat because he captures [captat] them … Catus is the Greek word for cunning.’ The mice the cat catches are ‘greedy men who seek earthly goods’, but, as Susan Crane comments, the accompanying pictures show an artist ‘speculat[ing] imaginatively on the hidden life of cats at night’. There are three cats: one curled up in front of a fire (apparently cleaning his behind), another with a mouse in his paws, and a third on his hind legs, trying to reach into a birdcage – almost a Breughel before its time.

(6) MARKET LIGHTLY KILLED. Sorry, you can’t resell pixels in Europe… Publishers Lunch has the story —

The European Court of Justice agreed with the non-binding opinion from their Advocate General that reselling “used” ebooks is a violation of copyright. The ruling was made in a case brought by Dutch publisher associations against the website Tom Kabinet, which has tried to establish a marketplace for individuals to resell their ebooks.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 20, 1961 Mysterious Island premiered. Based on the novel by Jules Verne, the film was produced by Charles H. Schneer and directed by Cy Endfield, it was a visual feast of Ray Harryhausen special effects with music as often was in his films by Bernard Herrmann. Critics loved it, the box office was more than successful and the current Rotten Tomatoes rating among reviewers is an excellent 63%. 
  • December 20, 1985 Enemy Mine premiered. It was directed by Wolfgang Petersen as  the script by Edward Khmara off of Barry B. Longyear’s novella which won a Hugo Award for Best Novella and a Nebula Award for the same as well. The film stars Dennis Quaid and Louis Gossett, Jr. as you well know.  It wasn’t well received at the time, one critic called it “This season’s Dune”,  but it has a 68% rating over at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • December 20, 2002 — The Firefly series premiered on FOX. The Browncoats among us  know more about it than we could say about it, so tell us what you think about it. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge]

  • Born December 20, 1925 Nicole Maure. She appeared in The Day of the Triffids as Christine Durrant, and was  Elena Antonescu in Secret of the Incas, a film its Wiki page claims was the inspiration for Raiders of the Lost Ark. (Died 2016.)
  • Born December 20, 1943 Jacqueline Pearce. She’s best known as the villain Servalan on Blake’s 7. She appeared in “The Two Doctors”, a Second and Sixth Doctor story  as Chessene, and she’d voice Admiral Mettna in “Death Comes to Time”, a Seventh Doctor story. I’d be remiss not to note her one-offs in Danger Man, The Avengers, The Chronicles of Young Indiana Jones and The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 20, 1952 Jenny Agutter, 67. Her first SF role was Jessica 6, the female lead in Logan’s Run. Later genre roles include Nurse Alex Price In An American Werewolf in London (fantastic film), Carolyn Page in Dark Tower which is not  a Stephen King based film, an uncredited cameo as a burn doctor in one of my all time fav films which is Darkman and finally Councilwoman Hawley in The Avengers and The Winter Soldier.  
  • Born December 20, 1952 Kate Atkinson, 67. A strong case can be made that her Jackson Brodie detective novels are at least genre adjacent with their level of Universe assisting metanarrative. The Life After Life douology is definitely SF and pretty good reading. She’s well stocked on all of the digital book vendors. 
  • Born December 20, 1960 Nalo Hopkinson, 59. First novel I ever read by her was Brown Girl in The Ring, a truly amazing novel. Like most of  her work, it draws on Afro-Caribbean history and language, and its intertwined traditions of oral and written storytelling. I’d also single out  Mojo: Conjure Stories and  Falling in Love With Hominids collections as they are both wonderful and challenging reading. Worth seeking out out out is her edited Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction.  She was a Guest of Honor at Wiscon thrice. Is that unusual?

(9) COMICS SECTION.

Two from The Argyle Sweater:

(10) TAKE-HOME TEST. Camestros Felapton studies all the angles science fiction has come up with to get stories out of the idea of identical human copies in “How to duplicate people”.

So while the term ‘clone’ is what is used, actual cloning does not get at the concept which is more about duplication or near duplication. Creating another copy of a person is the essence of the science-fiction concept. Duplication of genes is just a handy hook on to which the idea can be hung. Practically we have always known that monozygotic twins are not literally identical even at a superficial level and certainly not at the level of character or personality.

So plot wise how do people get duplicated? …

(11) RUMP ROAST. “‘A Christmas Carol’: TV Review”The Hollywood Reporter’s critic is not a fan.

…There have certainly been attempts at gritty and dark interpretations of the Dickens text, but few as random and gratuitous as Steven Knight brings to the table in his new take for FX and BBC. Finally, we have a Christmas Carol in which Ebenezer Scrooge can bellow “Fuck!!!” several times for limited reason and where viewers can be exposed to one fleeting — not prurient, mind you — bare rump, as FX endeavors finally to put the “ass” in “Christmass.”

The result is that FX has made a Christmas Carol that very much isn’t for children — seriously, the wee ones will be either bored or scandalized — and probably isn’t really for adults either. At its very best, it’s an attempted in-depth character study of Scrooge, one that meshes very poorly with the inspiring structure of the story, while at its worst it’s an ill-paced, ill-focused version of A Christmas Carol that doesn’t even get up to the arrival of Jacob Marley until over an hour into its three-hour running time. At least FX is airing A Christmas Carol all at once. On BBC One, it’s airing over three nights, and I’m betting the lack of incident in the first hour will lead to ample tune-out.

(12) NOW THAT’S TALENT. “Miss America 2020: Biochemist wins crown after on-stage experiment” — includes video of experiment and narration.

A Virginian biochemist has been named winner of Miss America 2020 after performing a live science experiment that defied stereotypes of the contest.

Camille Schrier defeated 50 women to take the crown at Thursday’s final in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Wearing a lab coat, the 24-year-old impressed judges with a chemistry demonstration in the talent show.

(13) GOOD QUESTION. Jon Del Arroz has made seven consecutive blog posts about one Star Wars subject or another, including the piece de resistance — “Why Are So Many People Unhealthily Obsessed With Star Wars?”

(14) THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES. “Review: Star Wars Memories by Craig Miller” — Charon Dunn enjoyed the book.

…If you were there back in the ’70s, anticipating the Empire Strikes Back the way kids long for Santa, you’re going to enjoy this book immensely. It’s like time traveling back to your glorious misspent youth, back in the days of feathered hair and innocence.

Star Wars unlocked science fiction for me. I still run into folks who aren’t shy about letting me know they don’t consider it as *real* a franchise as some of the others. The science is wonky (explosions in space???) and the dialogue is nuts (nerfherder!!!) and some of the storytelling details remain as nebulous as Schroedinger’s cat (Han shot first dang it)….

(15) JUJU. Kwei Quartey analyzes “The Role of the Spiritual in African Crime Fiction” at CrimeReads.

… While supernatural phenomena in Ghana’s daily life serve as a unique background for much of the crime fiction I set in that West African country, it can also be a challenge. For logistic reasons too complex to go into now, my novels are not distributed to a significant degree in Africa in general and Ghana in particular. Western readers, primarily those in the United States, are and will remain my main market for the foreseeable future. So how do I introduce these unfamiliar beliefs and concepts like juju to my readers? Very carefully. It should appear seamless, which is not as simple as it may sound. Whenever I describe or highlight a supernatural phenomenon in my novel, I follow some general rules.

  • It should play an important part in the plot and not be tangential to the story.
  • I avoid making it seem gratuitous.
  • I avoid making it seem didactic.
  • I leave criticisms or praise of the custom to characters in the novel, not the narrator.

(16) MISSION NOT ACCOMPLISHED. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] NASA Press Release: “NASA Statement on Boeing Orbital Flight Test”.

BLUF: Things were, as they say in the space biz, “off nominal.” At least nothing exploded. The entire press release is reproduced below.

FYI: BLUF means Bottom Line Up Front—one preferred method of briefing high-ranking personnel in case their attention wanders or they cut the briefing off short.

“Early this morning, NASA and Boeing successfully launched Starliner on the first human-rated United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida.

“The plan was for Starliner to rendezvous and dock with the International Space Station and return home safely to Earth. While a lot of things went right, the uncrewed spacecraft did not reach the planned orbit and will not dock to the International Space Station.

“This is in fact why we test. Teams worked quickly to ensure the spacecraft was in a stable orbit and preserved enough fuel to ensure a landing opportunity.

“Boeing, in coordination with NASA, is working to return Starliner to White Sands, New Mexico, Sunday.

“At NASA we do really difficult things, and we do them all the time. I spoke to Vice President Pence, Chairman of the National Space Council, and he remains very optimistic in our ability to safely launch American astronauts from American soil. We remain positive even though we did face challenges today. We’ll be getting a lot more data in the coming days….

(17) MORE THAN ONE WAY TO SKIN A CATS.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Peace on Earth” on Vimeo is a 1939 cartoon by Hugh Harman about how the world is wiped out by a global apocalypse and humanity is replaced by cuddly carol-loving animals.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/18/19 Like A Pixel Lesnerized Upon A Table

(1) YA’S OWN STORY ARC. Slate’s “The Decade in Young Adult Fiction” is not specifically about sff, but a lot of the books they talk about (Twilight, The Hunger Games, etc.) are genre.

As a book publishing phenomenon, young adult literature entered the decade like a lion. At the beginning of the 2010s, a generation that had grown up obsessed with Harry Potter and other middle-grade fantasy series decided it wasn’t that interested in adult literary fiction, with its often lackadaisical plotting and downbeat endings. YA stood ready to supply them with plenty of action, cliffhangers, supernatural beings, mustache-twirling bad guys, and true love. But now, at decade’s end, YA seems to be eating itself alive….

…The impulse that led to these and other worthy enterprises, however, is vulnerable to being twisted to less salutary ends on platforms that foster cliques, vendettas, and self-righteous posturing. In the past two years, online networks of YA authors and readers—mostly female adults—have been convulsed with assorted scandals and controversies that have left many outside observers with the impression that “YA Twitter” is hopelessly “toxic.” Bloggers and Twitter pundits pilloried 2017’s The Black Witch, a debut young-adult fantasy novel by Laurie Forest, for its purported “racism.” That criticism proved unconvincing—even to teen readers, who made the book a success and reviewed it enthusiastically on Amazon—but few of those weighing in on the controversy bothered to point out instead how listlessly predictable The Black Witch is, with the usual high-born heroine confronting an unjust world while embroiled in the usual bad boy/good boy love triangle. It didn’t quite seem worthy of the energy adult readers devoted to fighting over it….

(2) ADD TO YOUR CINEMA TBR STACK. Leonard Maltin weighs in about a flock of books out this month: “New and Notable Film Books – December 2019”. Here are two of his comments:

THE SHOW WON’T GO ON: THE MOST SHOCKING, BIZARRE, AND HISTORIC DEATHS OF PERFORMERS ONSTAGE by Jeff Abraham and Burt Kearns (Chicago Review Press)

Abraham and Kearns surely aren’t the only show-biz aficionados who have harbored a keen interest in the stories of entertainers who actually died in front of an audience… but they’re the only ones who have had the gumption to research every urban legend surrounding this topic and separate fact from fiction.

RICK BAKER: METAMORPHOSIS by J.W. Rinzler; foreword by John Landis, preface by Peter Jackson, introduction by Rick Baker. (Cameron & Co.)

This massive two-volume tribute to seven-time Academy Award winner Rick Baker is a definitive study of his life and career in the world of makeup. Lavishly illustrated and beautifully produced in a slipcase edition, its quality and thoroughness justify its hefty price. Every page offers wonders and delights, including young Rick’s first correspondence with his hero, makeup genius Dick Smith, and his earliest experiments.

(3) EARLY RETURNS. NPR’s Glen Weldon finds that “‘The Rise Of Skywalker’ Makes For An Exciting, Exhaustive, Effortful Ending”.

The thing about the act of plate-spinning is: It’s not about the plates. Not really.

…If we happen to notice one plate starting to wobble, after all, the first thing we do is look away from it, to see if the plate-spinner sees it, too.

We want them to succeed. The whole cheesy novelty act is predicated on this. The sheer skill it takes to keep the plates from falling — the eye, the timing, the light touch — that’s what we’re drawn to, really. The work of the thing.

J.J. Abrams is spinning a great many plates in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the final chapter in the third and final trilogy of what we are now apparently supposed to call “The Skywalker Saga.” He’s not simply called upon to end the trilogy he began in 2015 with The Force Awakens, but the whole space-operatic, science-fiction-with-generous-helpings-of-fantasy, embrace-your-destiny, Joseph-Campbell, daddy-issues megillah. He has to land a Corellian light freighter that has been loaded down with everything that got kicked off in 1977…

He nails that 42-year-old recipe dutifully — effortfully, it must be said — but the flavoring’s off. The story doesn’t require him to toss in as many ingredients from earlier films in the saga as he does here, but he dumps them all (callbacks, references, echoes, events, characters) into the mix anyway. The result leaves you feeling not so much bloated — the film moves too quickly and is too much fun for that — but certainly overstuffed….

(4) TWO-MINUTE WARNING. And the Baby Yoda backlash follows right behind as Rolling Stone demands: “It’s Almost 2020, Why Hasn’t the Baby Yoda Meme Died?”.

The Mandalorian, as a whole, is an interesting litmus test of just how successful a giant entertainment conglomerate can be when it comes to wringing a piece of previously existing IP for all its worth. One might measure success in Disney+ views/subscriptions or award nominations — but, in 2019, maybe the measure is whether or not you can proffer up a bit of fan service and hope the Internet latches onto it, turns it into a meme and does all your best viral marketing for you, free of charge.

(5) ECONOMICS IN SPACE. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Nobel-prize winning economist, science fiction fan and 2009 Worldcon guest Paul Krugman unpacked the macroeconomic themes of The Expanse in his New York Times column on Wednesday. In specific, he highlights how the story of the Martian economy is a parable about the need for public spending during downturns: 

The emergence of high unemployment on Mars after demobilization and the end of terraforming makes it seem as if the real problem wasn’t technology, it was secular stagnation — a situation in which private spending is consistently too weak to employ the economy’s resources, except during unsustainable asset or debt bubbles.

(6) WE CAME, WE SAW, WE KICKED ITS ASS. Close to the occasion of Ghostbusters’ 35th anniversary, YouTuber and video essayist Ryan Hollinger has published a video analyzing the film’s full legacy and its effect on mainstream belief in the paranormal — “The Real Meaning of GHOSTBUSTERS… Apparently.”

(7) A BORROWER AND A LENDER BE. “Here Are The Most Popular NYC Library Books Of 2019, By Borough” presented by The Gothamist.

Number 1 Titles By Genre
(Manhattan, Staten Island & The Bronx, from the New York Public Library)

  • Classics: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Comics and Graphic Novels: Saga by Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan
  • Fantasy: Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
  • Horror: The Shining by Stephen King
  • Mystery and Detective: The Chef by James Patterson
  • Romance: Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks
  • Science Fiction: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 18, 1913 Alfred Bester. He’s best remembered perhaps for The Demolished Man, which won the very first Hugo Award. I remember experiencing it as an audiobook — a very spooky affair!  The Stars My Destination is equally impressive with Foyle both likeable and unlikable at the same time. Psychoshop which Zelazny finished is in my library but has escaped reading so far. I’ve run across references to Golem100 but I’ve never seen a copy anywhere. Has anyone read It? (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 18, 1939 Michael Moorcock, 81. Summing up the career of Moorcock isn’t possible so I won’t. His Elric of Melniboné series is just plain awesome and I’m quite fond of the Dorian Hawkmoon series of novels as well.  Particular books that I’d like to note as enjoyable for me include The Metatemporal Detective collection and Mother London. 
  • Born December 18, 1941 Jack C. Haldeman II. He’d get Birthday Honors if only for On the Planet of Zombie Vampires, book five of the adventures of Bill the Galactic Hero, co-written with Harry Harrison. He’d also get these honors for chairing Disclave 10 through Disclave 17, and a Worldcon as well, Discon II. He was a prolific short story writer, penning at least seventy-five such tales, but alas none of these, nor his novels, are available in digital form. (Died 2002.) 
  • Born December 18, 1946 Steven Spielberg, 73. Are we counting Jaws as genre? I believe we are per an earlier discussion here. If so, that’s his first such followed immediately by Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Between 1981 and 1984, he put out Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Twilight Zone: The Movie and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Ok, so the quality of the last film wasn’t great…  He’d repeat that feat between ‘89 and ‘93 when he put out Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Hook (YEA!) which I both love, followed by Jurassic Park which I don’t. The Lost World: Jurassic Park followed, starting a string of so-so to piss poor films,  A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Minority Report, War of the Worlds and one decided stinker, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.   The BFG is simply wonderful. 
  • Born December 18, 1953 Jeff Kober, 66. Actor who’s been in myriad genre series and films including V, The Twilight Zone, Alien Nation, the Poltergeist series,the X-Files series, Tank Girl as one of the kangaroos naturally, Supernatural, Voyager, Star Enterprise, Kindred: The Embraced and The Walking Dead
  • Born December 18, 1954 J.M. Dillard, 65. Yes I know this is a pen name but I’m interested only in her Trek output tonight. She’s written at least fifteen tie-ins starting with Star Trek: Mindshadow in the mid-Eighties And her last seemingly being Star Trek: The Next Generation: Resistance in the late Oughts. She also wrote one of the many, many non-fiction works that came out on Trek, Star Trek: ‘Where No One Has Gone Before’: A History in Pictures, which was actually largely written by Roddenberry’s assistant on a work-for-hire contract as a another book that didn’t get published, a woman named Susan Sackett. Memory Alpha has the story here.
  • Born December 18, 1954 Ray Liotta, 65. We could just stop at him being Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams, don’t you think that’s an exemplary genre cred? Well I will.
  • Born December 18, 1968 Casper Van Dien, 51. Yes, Johnny Rico in that Starship Troopers. Not learning his lesson, he’d go on to film Starship Troopers 3: Marauder and the animated Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars. Do not go read the descriptions of these films! He’d also star as Tarzan in Tarzan and the Lost City, show up as Brom Van Brunt In Sleepy Hollow, be Captain Abraham Van Helsing In Dracula 3000, James K. Polk in, oh really Casper, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter sequels, Rumpelstiltskin In Avengers Grimm and Saber Raine In Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine. That’s a lot of really bad films. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio meets an Alien in a snowman.  

(10) UNRAVELING THE GRINCH’S DNA. CrimeReads investigates “How Dr. Seuss Gave Us One of the Most Complex, Socially Important Heist Stories Ever”. You need to go waaaay back….

…Geisel, though, had a long history of mixed feelings about Christmas. According to biographer Charles D. Cohen, as a student at Dartmouth College in the 1920s and a writer and cartoonist for the campus humor magazine the Jack-O-Lantern, Geisel lampooned the whole affair, specifically citing the greed and materialism he saw in the season in an essay called “Santy Claus be Hanged,” which was mostly about how Christmas mornings are ruined because no one receives the items they truly want. He bemoaned, “Sister wanted silk unmentionables and she gets burlap unpronouncibles. Brother wanted a case of scotch and he gets a case of goldfish.” A few years later, in 1930, he published a humorous essay suggesting that parents should combine Santa Claus, his reindeer, the Bogeyman, the Sand-Man, and the Stork into one home-invasive figure—simplifying the number of flying and/or magical creatures that kids would have to count on entering their homes. And then he drew many cartoons representing classic Christmas hallmarks in weird or comically unpleasant versions.

(11) WHO BLABBED? The Royal Aeronautical Society spills the beans about “The secret history of Santa interceptions”.

For the past 70 plus years, nations around the world have attempted to intercept a mysterious hypersonic, high-flying intruder from the North Pole and learn its aeronautical secrets. Our Lapland aerospace Correspondent CHRIS TINGLE reports on the secret effort to counter these annual airspace intrusions. 

(12) OLD TECH. Some Filers will have read Dava Sobel’s Longitude; the BBC describes a spinoff, “The invention that inspired a New York tradition”.

When the final hours of 2019 arrive, a million celebrants will crowd Times Square in New York. Elsewhere, an estimated billion more will tune in to watch the annual spectacle celebrated across the globe.

…But few will acknowledge the man who really deserves their praise, a deeply religious British Royal Navy officer named Robert Wauchope.

…Wauchope’s goal was to make shipping safer. In the early 19th Century, having the exact time was crucial knowledge for mariners. It was only by keeping a ship’s clock precisely calibrated that sailors could calculate their longitude and accurately travel across oceans.

His ball, first demonstrated in Portsmouth, England, in 1829, was a crude broadcast system, a way to relay time to anyone who could see the signal. Typically, at 12:55, a creaky piece of machinery would raise a large painted orb halfway to the top of a pole or flagstaff; at 12:58, it would proceed to the top; and precisely at 13:00, a worker would release it to drop down the pole.

“It is a clear signal,” said Andrew Jacob, a curator who operates the time ball at the Sydney Observatory in Australia. “It’s easy to see the sudden movement as it begins to drop.”

Before the time ball’s invention, a ship’s master would typically come ashore and physically visit an observatory to check his watch against an official clock. Then he would quite literally bring time back to the ship. Wauchope’s invention let sailors calibrate their shipboard timepiece, called a chronometer, without leaving their boat.

“We’re so used to time being here and available, and that wasn’t always the case,” said Emily Akkermans, who has the enviable title, Curator of Time, at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London. The museum and historic site houses the world’s oldest operating time ball, which since 1833 has dropped daily, barring blustery weather, war or mechanical breakdown.

(13) CHEOPS AHOY. The space-pharoahing probe is on the way: “Europe’s Cheops telescope launches to study far-off worlds”.

The European Cheops space telescope has launched to study planets outside our Solar System.

The observatory will follow up the discoveries of previous missions, endeavouring to reveal fresh insights on the nature of distant worlds: What are they made of? How did they form? And how have they changed through time?

The telescope was taken into orbit on a Russian Soyuz rocket that set off from French Guiana at 08:54 GMT.

The ride to 700km lasted 145 minutes.

Cheops (short for CHaracterising ExOPlanet Satellite) is a joint endeavour of 11 member states of the European Space Agency (Esa), with Switzerland in the lead.

What’s significant about this mission?

Some 4,500 planets have been discovered since the late 1990s using a variety of techniques. But there is a feeling now that the science has to move beyond just detection; beyond just counting planets. We need to profile the objects in a more sophisticated way. Do they have atmospheres and how thick are they? What kind of clouds? Do they possess oceans on their surface? Do they have rings and moons? Cheops ought to be able to address such questions just from looking for these tiny dips in light during a transit.

(14) GENTLEMEN, DON’T BE SEATED. BBC reports “Social media awash with scorn for ‘sloping toilet'”.

A toilet designed to slope downwards slightly, making it uncomfortable to sit on for more than a few minutes, has been pooh-poohed on social media.

The toilet design has an upper surface that slopes downwards at a 13-degree angle.

…The BBC spoke to Mr Gill about the toilet, which has been branded “StandardToilet”.

“It came from my personal experience where I stopped off at the motorway to go to the loo and realised there’s a huge queue,” he explained.

“I wondered what people were doing in there, some were coming out with their mobile phones.”

(15) MAKE UP YOUR OWN FACTS. Discover “The Incalculable Joy of Fermi Questions” at Math With Bad Drawings. Numerous examples in the post.

 … Since Fermi questions are so fun and useful, why aren’t they more widely taught? Why isn’t every middle school student doing one of these per week all year long?

I suspect a prosaic reason: they’re hard to grade fairly. Math education is accustomed to cut-and-dry answers. Fermi work is more like an essay, where there are many plausible answers, and reasoning trumps conclusions.

All the more reason to embrace them, I say!

(16) TRACING ANIMATION HISTORY. Alan Baumler recommends Daisy Yan Du’s Animated Encounters: Transnational Movements of Chinese Animation, 1940s–1970s (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2019) in “Princess Iron Fan and the origins of Asian animation”.

… One of the reasons the film is so famous is that Tezuka Osamu the “God of Manga”saw it in Japan as a kid and was profoundly influenced by it. In discussing his version of the Sun Wukong story he said

However, what really opened my eyes , impressed me deeply, and sparked my desire to create today was Princess Iron Fan, the first Chinese animated feature film., which premiered in Japan in 1942. (pg. 58)

… Du gives the background on inspiration for the film (Disney’s Snow White) , but most interestingly, for me at least, deals with how it ended up being shown in Japan and becoming, in some respects, the origin story of Asian animated film. It was the direct inspiration for Momotar?’s Sea Eagles (p.52), Japan’s first almost feature length animated film.

She also deals with what to make of Iron Fan, which was a big issue for the film at the time. It was made by the Wan brothers and a team of 250 artists starting on April 25, 1940. The film opened on Nov 19, 1941, in Shanghai. As you can see below, it was still running on Dec 8, 1941, when Japanese troops marched into the International Settlement and French Concession….

(17) BAD RAP. Who even thinks of stuff like this? “Thanos vs J Robert Oppenheimer” — Epic Rap Battles of History does.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/13/19 All These Scrolls Are Yours, Except Tsundoku. Attempt No Pixels There

(1) MARVEL SNAPSHOTS. Kurt Busiek is overseeing a Marvel showcase series featuring history-making characters.

This March, prepare to see the greatest moments of Marvel’s 80-year history told like never before! In MARVEL SNAPSHOTS, industry legend Kurt Busiek will bring together incredible creative teams for eight standalone, double sized issues showcasing Marvel’s most beloved characters from the golden age to today. Like 1994’s critically acclaimed MARVELS series, MARVEL SNAPSHOTS will be tales told through the eyes of ordinary people, offering unique insights on the legendary mythos of the Marvel Universe. MARVELS SNAPSHOTS also reunites Busiek with renowned MARVELS co-creator Alex Ross who will be providing the series with his iconic painted covers.

It all begins with SUB-MARINER: MARVELS SNAPSHOT #1 when best-selling novelist and Emmy Award-winning TV writer Alan Brennert (L.A. LAW, TWILIGHT ZONE) and superstar artist Jerry Ordway (ALL-STAR SQUADRON, CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS) unite to tell an unforgettable story about Marvel’s original antihero: Prince Namor!

Set circa World War II, things kick off with an action-packed tale featuring Namor, Betty Dean, and the All-Winners Squad–a dream come true for Brennert. “I can honestly say that I enjoyed working on this story more than any comics story I’ve done in years. I grew up reading (and loving) Marvel’s Golden Age heroes in the 1960s, in reprints in FANTASY MASTERPIECES. But I never thought I’d have a shot at writing them–especially the All-Winners Squad!–and I’m grateful to Kurt Busiek and Tom Brevoort for providing me the opportunity, and to Jerry Ordway for bringing it all to glorious life,” Brennert says. “I’m enormously proud of ‘Reunion’ and honored to be the first story published in MARVELS SNAPSHOTS.”

Artist Jerry Ordway is just as passionate about bringing this tale to life. “When I was offered this project, I jumped at it, being a big fan of the original MARVELS book by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross. Getting to draw a Sub-Mariner story set in the 1940s, with appearances by the All-Winners Squad, lets me connect with Marvel’s World War II era history, and the work of Subby’s creator, Bill Everett,” says Ordway. “I’ve been a Marvel maniac from the age of 10, so this is pretty cool! Alan Brennert wrote a great script which fits neatly into the bigger tapestry that is the Marvel Universe. I’m thrilled to get to play in this sandbox after so many years as an artist.”

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Listeners are invited to join host Scott Edelman and Elsa Sjunneson-Henry for lunch in Little Italy on Episode 111 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Elsa Sjunneson-Henry

My guest this time around is Elsa Sjunneson-Henry, who was a winner of the Best Semiprozine Hugo Award earlier this year for her work as a Guest Editor of Uncanny Magazine’s Disabled People Destroy Science Fiction Special Issue. She was also a 2019 Hugo Award finalist for Best Fan Writer. Her fiction has appeared in such magazines as Fireside and Uncanny, as well the anthologies Ghost in the Cogs and Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling. She’s written non-fiction for The Boston Globe, Barnes & Noble, Tor.com, and other venues. She is a feminist scholar and disability rights activist (which I knew), but also a burlesque historian (which I did not know).

We lunched at La Tavola, where I’d previously joined Marv Wolfman during the 2017 Baltimore Comic-Con. We discussed her roller coaster of emotions the night she won a Hugo Award earlier this year during the Dublin Worldcon, how that editorial gig increased her empathy, the way writing roleplaying games and being a Sherlock Holmes nerd taught her about world-building and led to her first professional fiction sales, the dinosaur-themed Twitter feed that gave birth to her most recently published short story, the novel she’s working on which she describes as The Conjuring meets The Stand, her expertise in obscenity law and fascination with the history of burlesque, why she felt the Bird Box novel handled blindness better than the movie, her background in competitive improv and the way that helped her within science fiction, advice on how not to let Internet trolls get you down, and much more.

(3) PILE PELION ON OSSA. John Scalzi chronicled the results of his Twitter poll which asks: “Would Baby Yoda eat a porg?” (Is it cannibalism if one cute thing eats another cute thing?) Thread starts here.

(4) JUST PLAIN FOLKS TALES. RS Benedict has released another episode of the Rite Gud podcast, “No More Heroes with JR Dawson”. In this interview with sff short fiction author JR Dawson, they talk about writing fiction that doesn’t focus on Big Important Heroes of Destiny. It’s called No More Heroes.

Much of speculative literature focuses on superheroes and Chosen Ones. But what about ordinary people or flawed people who don’t save the world? Do they matter?

Sci-fi/fantasy author JR Dawson joins us to talk about why she writes about ordinary people, and how privilege and inequality warp our idea of whose story deserves to be told. She also talks about being a Midwestern writer, her favorite literary losers and that time Hans Christian Andersen got really weird with Charles Dickens’ family.

(5) BEST SFF. Andrew Liptak chimes in with “The best science fiction and fantasy books of 2019” at Polygon. (It’s interesting to see that several of the year’s most-discussed books only made his Honorable Mentions.)

Here’s one that made the list —

The Waste Tide by Chen Quifan

Cixin Liu might have become the best-known science fiction writers to come out of China, but he’s far from the only one. Chen Qiufan’s Waste Tide is a far cry from Liu’s epic science fiction tales, taking a grim look at the near future of China, where impoverished workers struggle to make a living from the world’s electronic waste.

Waste Tide follows a series of people who come together in Silicone Isle: Mimi, a worker who heads there for work; Scott Brandle, an American who is trying to arrange a contract; and Chen Kaizong, a translator, all of whom find themselves wrapped up in a greater plot for control. It’s a book that reminded me quite a bit of Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl, with a pointed commentary on class warfare and the lifecycle of the devices we use.

(6) HAPPY BLANDINGS. At Tor.com, James Davis Nicoll wryly claims “SFF Needs More Incompetent Autocrats”. This turns out to be a Wodehouse tribute as much as anything.

One of SFF’s grand traditions is carefully filing the serial numbers off historical events (the American Revolutionary War, perhaps, or the Napoleonic Wars), or famous and classic works (Lord of the Rings, the Hornblower series, Zulu), and re-purposing the result as SFF. This is usually known as “research” (See Tom Lehrer on this point). Examples abound—my disinclination to deal with crowds of irate authors protesting at my door precludes naming them here….

(7) HOLLYWOOD HISTORY. Profiles in History’s “Hollywood: A Collector’s Ransom Auction” has all kinds of genre movie props, models, and figurines. It even has examples of correspondence between director Sam Peckinpah and Ray Bradbury. “Ray and Sam would lunch (hoist a few pints) at the Formosa Café,” recalls John King Tarpinian.

(8) A PYTHON SPEAKS. Leonard and Jesse interviewed Terry Gilliam for their Maltin on Movies podcast.

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote completes a quest that has consumed Terry Gilliam for thirty years, but as Leonard and Jessie learned, he bears his burdens lightly. He made his name supplying unique animated sequences for   Monty Python’s Flying Circus and his films include Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Brazil, and The Fisher King. He’s a delightful man with stories to tell (about everyone from Robin Williams to Heath Ledger) and a great outlook on life.

(9) MICROLOAN. Rachel Swirsky signal-boosted an “Opportunity to Support a Palestinian Library” and so will we.

I’ve been making microloans through Kiva.org through years, and this project caught my eye. A Palestinian woman is looking to convert an old house into a library and bookshop: 

Check it out at Kiva: https://www.kiva.org/lend/1893559

Duha is a nice girl who lives with her family in a small humble house near Ramallah. Duha has an amazing idea: she decided to restore an old house to make it a library and a place to sell books and other stationery.

She went to Palestine for Credit and Development (FATEN) to request a loan to help her to cover all restoration expenses to convert the old house into a library. Duha hopes that all the students and residents of the area will benefit from the library.

(10) OVERCOMING REJECTION. Alex Woolf advocates “Seven Ways to Grow Your Resilience as a Writer” at the SFWA Blog.

Study the nuances of rejection
In the miserable miasma of reading a fresh rejection, it can be easy to miss the nuggets of positivity and constructive feedback that are often contained in the message too. Some messages are form rejections, but it’s well-known that many venues have form messages that vary according to their take on the writer. A writer a venue wishes to encourage, for example, may get a standard message that’s quite different from the standard message that’s sent to a writer that for whatever reason they are never likely to publish.

So once the initial disappointment has subsided, make a point of going back to the message and seeing what you can learn from it for your next project or submission. Sometimes there is a valuable nugget in there (e.g. Try to use fewer adverbs or We felt we wanted to know more about what was happening from the protagonist’s perspective.) These are valuable insights that you can work with.

However disappointing the message, always send an acknowledgment – stay polite and professional. And if a venue says you should submit again, then do so, once or twice more at least. They didn’t have to say that, after all.

(11) YIKES! Bloomberg confirms “Silicon Valley Is Listening to Your Most Intimate Moments”.

Amazon declined interview requests for this story. In an emailed statement, a spokeswoman wrote, “Privacy is foundational to how every team and employee designs and develops Alexa features and Echo devices. All Alexa employees are trained on customer data handling as part of our security training.” The company and its competitors have said computers perform the vast majority of voice requests without human review.

Yet so-called smart devices inarguably depend on thousands of low-paid humans who annotate sound snippets so tech companies can upgrade their electronic ears; our faintest whispers have become one of their most valuable datasets. Earlier this year, Bloomberg News was first to report on the scope of the technology industry’s use of humans to review audio collected from their users without disclosures, including at Apple, Amazon, and Facebook. Few executives and engineers who spoke with Bloomberg Businessweek for this story say they anticipated that setting up vast networks of human listeners would be problematic or intrusive. To them, it was and is simply an obvious way to improve their products.

… Several of the big tech companies tweaked their virtual-assistant programs this year after a steady drip of news reports. While Google has paused human transcriptions of Assistant audio, Apple has begun letting users delete their Siri history and opt out of sharing more, made sharing recordings optional, and hired many former contractors directly to increase its control over human listening. Facebook and Microsoft have added clearer disclaimers to their privacy policies. And Amazon has introduced a similar disclosure and started letting Alexa users opt out of manual reviews. “It’s a well-known thing in the industry,” Amazon’s Limp recently said about human transcription teams. “Whether it was well known among press or customers, it’s pretty clear we weren’t good enough there.”

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Cat Eldridge emailed that he needed urgent care for some physical problems – I hope they are able to get him feeling better soon. Go ahead and mention birthdays you know about in the comments.]

(13) STAR TREK SHIP IN A BOTTLE. So is there a teeny-tiny Kirk and Spock in there somewhere?

On this episode of Ben’s Worx I make a ship in a bottle with epoxy resin and Australian burl.

(14) RABID IN THE NORTHWEST. Theodore Beale, aka Vox Day, was referenced by the Guardian in a story about a Washington state representative: “Report on far-right Republican Matt Shea in hands of Washington legislators”

Outside investigators have submitted a report to the Washington state house about the activities of the far-right Republican state representative Matt Shea, but legislators on both sides of the aisle remain tight-lipped about its contents.

…Last Monday the independent investigator, the Rampart Group, presented their findings to the chief clerk of the Washington state legislature . He in turn delivered the findings to the executive rules committee, composed of leaders of both parties in the house.

…Shea, meanwhile, was interviewed last week on Infowars’ David Knight Show, where he attacked perceived critics.

Shea then quoted Theodore Beale, whom the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) describes as a “champion of the alt right movement”, and whose blog is described as a home of “misogynistic, white supremacist diatribes”.

“Social justice warriors always lie, they always double down on their lie, and they always try to project on to you how they really are themselves,” Shea said.

(15) HIGH-STAKES COMICS AUCTION. Heritage Auctions brought home the bacon again: “Marvel Comics #1 Brings Record $1.26 Million to Lead Heritage Auctions’ Comics & Comic Art Auction Beyond $14.9 Million”.

The finest known copy of Marvel Comics No. 1, sold for $1,260,000 to lead Heritage Auctions’ record-setting Comics & Comic Art auction to $14,936,295 Nov. 21 in Dallas, Texas.

The second-largest comic auction of all time, trailing only the $15,121,405 realized in Heritage Auctions’ Chicago Comics & Comic Art Auction in May 2019, this sale included 15 lots that sold for at least $100,000.

…The issue, with famous cover art by Frank R. Paul and interior art by a group of illustrators that included Bill Everett, Carl Burgos and Paul Gustavson, was purchased by a Pennsylvania postal carrier who bought every No. 1 issue he could of both comic books and magazines, beginning in the 1940s. It’s grade of 9.4 on a scale of 1-10 makes it the best copy of the issue ever found, according to Certified Guaranty Company (CGC).

More than two dozen collectors made bids for Robert Crumb Your Hytone Comix #nn “Stoned Agin!” Inside Back Cover Original Art (Apex Novelties, 1971) before it closed at $690,000, breaking the record for the most ever paid for an interior piece of comic art. Created at the height of the artist’s popularity, the image is instantly recognizable, even by many who don’t know the work of Crumb, who is revered for his contribution to the underground comics movement in the 1960s. This iconic image was reproduced countless times, including on a blacklight poster, on pinback buttons, postcards and t-shirts.

Neal Adams Batman #251 Cover The Joker Original Art (DC, 1973) sold for $600,000, the most ever paid through Heritage Auctions for a piece of DC art. The spectacular image of one of the most famous Joker covers of all time debuted a new version of the villain, trumpeting the return of the Joker after a four-year hiatus from Batman comics….

(16) HE CREATED THE UBIQUITOUS MARKS. NPR reports “IBM Engineer Who Designed The Universal Product Code Dies At 94”.

On a June morning in 1974, a Marsh Supermarket cashier in Troy, Ohio, rang up a 67-cent pack of Juicy Fruit chewing gum using something novel — the black and white stripes of a universal bar code.

The Universal Product Code is now a packaging mainstay on everything from cereal boxes and produce to electronics and airplane tickets, but it might not have worked without IBM engineer George Laurer.

Laurer, who died this month at 94 in North Carolina, had been given an assignment by his manager: Write a proposal for grocery executives explaining how IBM would take a previously invented bar code pattern, in the shape of a bull’s-eye, and make it work in supermarkets across the country.

But when that manager returned from a vacation, Laurer was there to meet him. “I didn’t do what you asked,” he said.

Instead, Laurer had created something else — the bull’s-eye was gone and in its place was a linear bar code. Laurer had deemed the bull’s-eye design unworkable. The circular code, inspired by Morse code and patented by N. Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver in 1952, was too small, and it would smear when run through the poor-quality printing presses used for most food labels at the time.

(17) SIMMERING. Kotaku discovered that “Baby Yoda Can Be Bought In The Sims 4”.

Because EA owns The Sims, and because EA also has the rights to Star Wars video games, we finally have a digital tie-in with the new live-action Mandalorian series. It’s not a Carl Weathers outfit. It’s not a “Bounty Hunter” job for your Sim. It’s a Baby Yoda statue you can buy and put in your yard.

(18) IN SEARCH OF REPRODUCIBLE RESULTS. They hope a tool will make them easier to come by. “Can A Research Accelerator Solve The Psychology Replication Crisis?”

In 2008, psychologists proposed that when humans are shown an unfamiliar face, they judge it on two main dimensions: trustworthiness and physical strength. These form the basis of first impressions, which may help people make important social decisions, from whom to vote for to how long a prison sentence should be.

To date, the 2008 paper — written by Nikolaas Oosterhof of Dartmouth College and Alexander Todorov of Princeton University — has attracted more than a thousand citations, and several studies have obtained similar findings. But until now, the theory has been replicated successfully only in a handful of settings, making its findings biased toward nations that are Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic — or WEIRD, a common acronym used in academic literature.

Now, one large-scale study suggests that although the 2008 theory may apply in many parts of the world, the overall picture remains complex. An early version was published at PsyArXiv Preprints on Oct. 31. The study is under review at the journal Nature Human Behavior.

The study is the first conducted through the Psychological Science Accelerator, a global network of more than 500 labs in more than 70 countries. The accelerator, which launched in 2017, aims to redo older psychology experiments but on a mass scale in several different settings. The effort is one of many targeting a problem that has plagued the discipline for years: the inability of psychologists to get consistent results across similar experiments, or the lack of reproducibility.

(19) THEY LIE, YOU KNOW. “How ‘dark patterns’ influence travel bookings” – BBC will explain.

If you’ve wondered whether there were actually 30 people trying to book the same flight as you, you’re not alone. As Chris Baraniuk finds, the numbers may not be all they seem.

Ophir Harpaz just wanted to get a good deal on a flight to London. She was on travel website OneTravel, scouring various options for her trip. As she browsed, she noticed a seemingly helpful prompt: “38 people are looking at this flight”. A nudge that implied the flight might soon get booked up, or perhaps that the price of a seat would rise as they became scarcer.

Except it wasn’t a true statement. As Harpaz looked at that number, “38 people”, she began to feel sceptical. Were 38 people really looking at that budget flight to London at the same exact moment?

Being a cyber-security researcher, she was familiar with web code so she decided to examine how OneTravel displayed its web pages. (Anyone can do this by using the “inspect” function on web browsers like Firefox and Chrome.) After a little bit of digging she made a startling discovery – the number wasn’t genuine. The OneTravel web page she was browsing was simply designed to claim that between 28 and 45 people were viewing a flight at any given moment. The exact figure was chosen at random.

Not only that, the website’s innards were surprisingly blatant about what was going on. The bit of code that defined the number shown to users was even labelled “view_notification_random”.

(20) MECHANICAL BULLS***. “General Election 2019: How computers wrote BBC election result stories”.

For the first time, BBC News published a news story for every constituency that declared election results overnight – all written by a computer.

It was the BBC’s biggest test of machine-generated journalism so far.

Each of nearly 700 articles – most in English but 40 of them in Welsh – was checked by a human editor before publication.

The head of the project said the tech was designed to enhance the service provided rather than to replace humans.

“This is about doing journalism that we cannot do with human beings at the moment,” said Robert McKenzie, editor of BBC News Labs.

“Using machine assistance, we generated a story for every single constituency that declared last night with the exception of the one that hasn’t finished counting yet. That would never have been possible.”

VIDEO OF THE DAY. In Quail on Vimeo, Grant Kolton explains that if you want to be a quail, it’s hard work!

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

Pixel Scroll 11/9/19 You Don’t Need A Weatherman To Know Which Way The Pixel Scrolls

(1) VIEW TRANSIT OF MERCURY ON MONDAY. These occur on average about 13 times each century.  The next one won’t be until the year 2032. Let EclipseWise tell you about Monday’s event in “2019 Transit of Mercury”.

On Monday, 2019 November 11, Mercury will transit the Sun for the first time since 2016. The transit or passage of a planet across the face of the Sun is a relatively rare occurrence. As seen from Earth, only transits of Mercury and Venus are possible….

Observing the Transit

Since Mercury is only 1/194 of the Sun’s apparent diameter, a telescope with a magnification of 50x or more is recommended to watch this event. The telescope must be suitably equipped with adequate filtration to ensure safe solar viewing.

(2) SUPERNATURAL EPISODE RECAP. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the latest episode of Supernatural a character was introduced who said she made her living as “the number-one purveyor of non-authorized ‘Supernatural’ collectibles on Etsy.”  She also wrote fiction set in the Supernatural universe, although it wasn’t clear if this was fan fiction or professional fiction.  But what made the fiction distinctive was that instead of the typical Supernatural episode, which has, for 15 thunderous seasons, pitted Sam and Dean Winchester against vampires, assorted monsters, and the forces of Hell itself, the fan fiction had the Winchester brothers doing laundry and other chores.  This made the stories very popular.

The episode didn’t do much with the main character other than having her deal with another character who was struggling with writer’s block.  “The only way to deal with writer’s block is to write,” she said.

This is the first TV episode I’ve seen where fan fiction characters were referred to in the episode…

(3) THE NEW NUMBER TWO. When John Hertz looked at Walter Day’s Science Fiction trading cards he noticed that a photo of Isaac Asimov appears on both Asimov’s and Arthur C. Clarke’s cards in the online gallery. It brought to mind an anecdote about the two authors which is retold in the “Isaac Asimov FAQ” at Stason.org.

5.5 What is the Asimov-Clarke treaty?

The Asimov-Clarke Treaty of Park Avenue, put together as Asimov and Clarke were travelling down Park Avenue in New York while sharing a cab ride, stated that Asimov was required to insist that Arthur C. Clarke was the best science fiction writer in the world (reserving second best for himself), while Clarke was required to insist that Isaac Asimov was the best science writer in the world (reserving second best for himself).  Thus the dedication in Clarke’s book Report on Planet Three reads “In accordance with the terms of the Clarke-Asimov treaty, the second-best science writer dedicates this book to the second-best science-fiction writer”.

(4) SIGHTS TO SEE. Fanac.org’s Joe Siclari called attention to recent additions to their online collection, photos from the 1959 Worldcon, and scans of calendars featuring work by two great fanartists, George Barr and Tim Kirk.

Thanks to Karol DeVore Sissom, we are scanning photos from the collecton of Howard DeVore. Today, we put up 19 photos from Detention from Howard’s collection.Scans by Joe Siclari. http://www.fanac.org/worldcon/Detention/w59-p00.html

We also added two calendars today, one from 1960 (George Barr) and the other from 1969 (Tim Kirk). They’re now in a directory set aside for calendars, and I’m sure there will be more as we go forward. Scans by Joe Siclari. You can see it at: http://fanac.org/fanzines/Calendars/.

(5) CAREER CHANGE. “In today’s political climate, battling supervillains might seem an easier gig“ — “X-Men’s ‘Rogue’ is now a Liberal MP”and The Star has the story.

Actor-turned-politician Lenore Zann is finding a second act in politics just as one of her most well-known roles finds a second life on the streaming screen.

Zann, a longtime New Democrat MLA from Nova Scotia, arrived in Ottawa this week as a newly elected Liberal MP.

Rogue, the character Zann voiced in the iconic 90s X-Men: The Animated Series, will be on Disney’s new streaming service along with the rest of the superhero team when that service launches in Canada next week….

(6) MALTIN PODCAST. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In Leonard and Jessie Maltin’s podcast with James Gray, they talk about cosplay beginning at minute 14, when Gray asks, “At what point did adults start dressing up like Captain America at Comic-Con?” and then segue into Martin Scorsese’s complaint about the MCU films not being cinema.  Gray argues that the decline in the humanities in the past decade meant that more young people don’t have as deep a knowledge of film as previous generations do. At minute 20, they switch to deep and interesting film talk.

Gray never discusses why he decided to make a sf film with Ad Astra, although he did say he enjoyed working with Donald Sutherland.

Also, Leonard Maltin revealed at the end of the podcast that he always sits through the credits because “the movie isn’t over until you’ve been threatened with civil and criminal prosecution.”

(7) MEET MARY SUE. The Rite Gud podcast introduces listeners to a bit of fanspeak in “Writing Mary Sues, or What Even IS a Mary Sue?”. Go direct to the podcast here.

In this episode, special guest Jennifer Albright of Have You Seen This?  drops by to talk about Mary Sues, a term used to describe an overly-perfect female character created as a self-insertion wish fulfillment vehicle for the author. The discussion traces the expression Mary Sue back to its origin in Star Trek fanfiction and tries to grapple with its current usage. Does Mary Sue mean anything anymore? Is it a misogynistic term? Is Rey from Star Wars a Mary Sue? Is James Bond a Mary Sue? Does it really matter if a character is a Mary Sue?

(8) BOOKS FRANK MILLER LOVES. Shelf Awareness brings you “Reading with… Frank Miller”, best known for Daredevil, The Dark Knight Returns, Sin City and 300. 

Favorite book when you were a child: 

The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, because he went for impossible adventure.

Your top five authors: 

Isaac Asimov: He was the godfather of modern science fiction. He took us beyond the rocket ships and bug-eyed monsters.

Raymond Chandler: For his urban romantic poetry that celebrated 1940s Los Angeles.

Dashiell Hammett: His town was San Francisco; his dialogue was clipped, yet wildly evocative. His heroes were tough and very, very alone.

Dorothy B. Hughes: She brought a distinctly feminine edge to the hard-boiled genre and, in her own way, was ready to take us to darker places than any of the rest.

Mickey Spillane: For his pounding and frenetic portrait of New York City in the post-World War II era.

(9) URBAN MYTH. Snopes debunks “The Strange Case of Time Traveling Rudolph Fentz” – for a very genre-related reason.

In 1950, a New York City police officer who was working missing-persons cases examined the body of an approximately 30-year-old man that was brought into the morgue. The man had shown up in the middle of Times Square at 11:15 p.m. that evening, “gawking and looking around at the cars and up at the signs like he’d never seen them before,” then was quickly hit and killed by cab when he tried to cross a street against the traffic lights.

The pockets of the deceased’s clothing held multiple pieces of coinage and currency of forms that had not been produced for several decades, yet many of them were in mint condition. His possessions also included items from types of businesses that no longer existed in New York City (i.e., a bill from a livery stable and a brass slug from a saloon), a letter postmarked in 1876, and cards bearing the name Rudolph Fentz with an address on Fifth Avenue….

(10) SERLING DOCUMENTARY. The Hollywood Reporter learned from a film that will hit theaters next week that “‘Twilight Zone’ Creator Rod Serling Feared He’d Be Forgotten”.

Rod Serling remains one of the more influential writers in the annals of science fiction. As creator of The Twilight Zone, he took took viewers to strange dimensions and pushed the boundaries of what the genre could do. Yet, part of him feared he would not leave a lasting legacy. That’s one of the topics tackled in Remembering Rod Serling, a new documentary that will be unveiled Nov. 14 in theaters via Fathom Events to celebrate The Twilight Zone‘s 60th anniversary.  

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 9, 1886 Ed Wynn. He appeared on The Twilight Zone in “One for the Angels” which Sterling wrote specifically for him. He appeared one more time on the series in, “Ninety Years Without Slumbering”.  He provided the voice of the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland and played The Toymaker in Babes in Toyland.  No doubt his best-remembered film appearance was in Mary Poppins as Uncle Albert. Bet you can name the scene he’s best remembered for! (Died 1966.)
  • Born November 9, 1921 Alfred Coppel. Have I ever mentioned how much I love pulp? Everything from the writers to the artwork to the magazines themselves are so, so cool. And this writer was one of the most prolific such authors of the Fifties and Sixties. That he was also a SF writer is an added bonus. Indeed, his first science fiction story was “Age of Unreason” in a 1947 Amazing Stories. Under the pseudonym of Robert Cham Gilman, he wrote the Rhada sequence of galactic space opera novels aimed at a young adult market. Wiki claims he writing under A.C. Marin as well but I cannot find any record of this. (Died 2004.)
  • Born November 9, 1924 Alan Caillou. The Head in the Quark series. If you have to ask… Last role was Count Paisley in Ice Pirates and his first was on the One Step Beyond series. (Died 2006.)
  • Born November 9, 1924 Lawrence T. Shaw. A Hugo Award-winning fan, author, editor and literary agent. In the Forties and Fifties, Larry Shaw edited Nebula, Infinity Science Fiction and Science Fiction Adventures. He received a Special Committee Award during the 1984 Worldcon for lifetime achievement as an editor. (Died 1985.)
  • Born November 9, 1954 Rob Hansen, 65. British fan, active since the Seventies who has edited and co-edited numerous fanzines including his debut production Epsilon. And he was the 1984 Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund delegate. His nonfiction works such as Then: Science Fiction Fandom in the UK: 1930-1980, lasted updated just a few years ago, are invaluable. 
  • Born November 9, 1973 Gabrielle Miller, 46. Her first genre series was Highlander: The Series.  And yes, she had long red hair in it.  That’s followed by M.A.N.T.I.S., Outer Limits, X-Files, The Sentinel, Dead Man’s Gun, Stargate SG-1,  Viper, Poltergeist, Welcome to Paradox… oh, you get the idea.
  • Born November 9, 1974 Ian Hallard, 45. He was on Doctor Who as Alan-a-Dale in “Robot of Sherwood”, a Twelfth Doctor story; in Sherlock as Mr Crayhill in “The Reichenbach Fall”; and he played one of the original directors of Doctor Who, Richard Martin, in An Adventure in Space and Time. And he wrote “The Big Four” episode with Mark Gatiss for the Agatha Christie series.

(12) JFK. Gideon Marcus (Galactic Journey) is lining up fans who are interested in a free alternate history story.

(13) C.S. LEWIS BIOGRAPHY. Publishers Weekly does a Q&A with Harry Lee Poe: “New Biography Examines C. S. Lewis’s Earliest Reading Life “.

Harry Lee Poe, a professor of faith and culture at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., pores over the first 20 years of C. S. Lewis’s life in Becoming C. S. Lewis: A Biography of Young Jack Lewis (1898-1918), the first of a three-volume biography of Lewis by Poe.

Why did you decide to look so closely at these first 20 years of Lewis’s life?

Virtually all of Lewis’s biographers have puzzled over why he devoted most of his spiritual biography, Surprised by Joy, to his first 20 years. As I first began to read the letters of young Jack Lewis from the time when he first went away to school, I realized why Lewis thought his childhood and youth were so important in his conversion. During this period, he developed all of his major tastes about what he enjoyed in life and what he hated. Many of the ideas that he would pursue in both his scholarly work and his popular writings have their genesis in his teenage years. Whether books like The Allegory of Love and A Preface to Paradise Lost, or The Chronicles of Narnia and Mere Christianity, many of the ideas found in these books were topics of Lewis’s interest in letters to [lifelong friend] Arthur Greeves when he was 16 and 17….

(14) THEY DIDN’T JUST HANG AROUND. BBC reports “‘Astonishing’ fossil ape discovery revealed”.

Fossils of a newly-discovered ancient ape could give clues to how and when walking on two legs evolved.

The ability to walk upright is considered a key characteristic of being human.

The ape had arms suited to hanging in the trees, but human-like legs.

It may have walked along branches and even on the ground some 12 million years ago, pushing back the timeline for bipedal walking, say researchers.

Until now the earliest fossil evidence for walking upright dates back to six million years ago.

(15) VINTAGE MOONDUST UNCORKED. Smithsonian Magazine: “NASA Opens Pristine Tube of Moon Dust From the Apollo Missions”. Tagline: “Studying the lunar material will help scientists understand the best way to analyze new samples from future missions to the moon”

NASA scientists recently opened a sample tube of rock and soil collected on the moon during Apollo 17. The tube remained unopened for nearly 47 years, and it is the first time NASA scientists have broken in to a fresh moon sample in over four decades. Researchers are using the lunar dirt to test next-generation sampling tools in preparation for the next time humans fly to the moon.

The sample tube holds about 15 ounces of lunar regolith, or loose rocky material from the surface. Apollo 17 astronauts Gene Cernan and Jack Schmitt collected the material during mission in December of 1972, NASA’s last crewed mission to the moon. The sample, 73002, was taken from a two-foot-long tube that the astronauts drove into a landslide deposit in a feature called the Lara Crater. A second sample, 73001, is scheduled to be opened in January.

(16) A WIDE CANVAS. SYFY Wire’s video series is after big game this time — “Behind the Panel: On the hunt for Treasury Editions”.

In the latest installment of SYFY WIRE’s Behind the Panel, we’re roaming the halls of New York Comic Con while searching for an elusive Treasury Edition: MGM’s Marvelous Wizard of Oz. True story: That was the first-ever collaboration between Marvel and DC. But their second collaboration was a true game changer: Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man.

That’s right, the unthinkable crossover already happened in 1976, with a follow-up sequel in 1981. Only the Treasury Edition format could fully capture the twin heroic icons of comics as they had their inevitable battle before their equally inevitable team-up to save the day. For the time, Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man was the comic book equivalent of a blockbuster movie. That Treasury Edition is long out of print, but fans may be lucky enough to spot it at comic conventions.

(17) FROM THE LETTERZINE ZEEN. Kim Huett shares another gem from his files with readers of Doctor Strangemind. “One of the reasons I find nosing through old fanzines so worthwhile are the contemporary reactions to stories and authors. It’s always fun to discover reviews of the big names back when they were just starting out. As you can probably imagine I was most pleased to find what I suspect was the first critical reaction to Ursula Le Guin.” — “In the Beginning”

… Take for example consider the following comments by US fan, Earl Evers, who reviewed the contents of the April 1964 issue of Fantastic Stories of Imagination in his fanzine, Zeen #2 within weeks of it hitting the shelves. In the process of reviewing this magazine, story by story, he had the following to say about what was one of Ursula K. Le Guin’s earliest published stories…

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Kim Huett also shared this link for… reasons:

Here’s an #Owlkitty video which more than adequately explains exactly why Tolkien didn’t feature cats in either Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit. Yes, the right cat would make a great Balrog or an excellent Nazgal mount except cats have minds of their own and I can’t imagine Sauron would like that (besides, they would stare right back at him and it doesn’t take an All Seeing Eye to find that sort of behavior annoying):

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, John Hertz, Rich Lynch, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, RS Benedict, Olav Rokne, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Kim Huett, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Pixel Scroll 10/11/19 Keep Them Pixels Scrollin’, Though The Files Are Swollen, Five-Hide!

(1) WHAT YOUNG PEOPLE THINK OF MACLEAN. James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF returns with the panel’s responses to “Unhuman Sacrifice” by Katherine MacLean. Mikayla and the other young hands weigh in.

Katherine MacLean (1925 – 2019) was active as a short story writer mainly in the 1950s (although pieces appeared as late as 1997) and as a novelist mainly in the 1970s. Her Second Game saw her a Hugo finalist in 1959; Missing Man won a Nebula in 1972. Rediscovery offers MacLean’s “Unhuman Sacrifice”, an uplifting tale of a human missionary convinced he knows best for a community of just-contacted aliens. No doubt it can only end well.

The plan for this phase of Young People was to shift to a conversation-based format, using Slack to facilitate discussion. I then sabotaged this by getting sick the week the reviews came in. Ah, well. Next time it will all work swimmingly.

(2) MANY CHEFS. Daniel Brotzel’s SFWA Blog post “Collaboration” includes this advice for making it work:

…Writing a book with someone else can be a nightmare or it can be pure pleasure. In our case, lots of things fell into place almost by accident, things which I can now see are essential to making a collaboration work. These include:

• a shared passion for the project and the idea
• mutual respect for each other’s writing and ideas
• a practical way of working that can accommodate everyone’s schedules and constraints
• a willingness to set egos aside and make compromises for the good of the project (and the ultimate benefit of the reader)
• an attitude that embraces sharing and the ambition to see things through
• a good blend of the skills and capabilities that you to get a book off the ground – and beyond

(3) ANIMANIACS. SYFY Wire confirms the Animaniacs Cast Will All Return”.

Almost a full year ago we found out that the Animaniacs will be revived on Hulu with Steven Spielberg executive producing. And that was pretty exciting. But the larger question hung in the air: What about the original cast?

Well you can breath easy: They’re all back. Yes, Rob Paulsen, Jess Harnell, Tress MacNeille, and Maurice LaMarche are all returning to the fold. Or the water tower, I guess. It’s a massive relief. It’s not that animated characters can’t be recast, it’s just that these specific actors are, frankly, a pure distillation of so many childhoods that it would be a shame if they weren’t all returning to Animaniacs. Hooray! Everyone likes good news!

(4) WHO’S AFRAID OF THE BIG BAD AMAZON? amNY reveals “The secret to The Mysterious Bookshop’s 40-plus years of success”.

…Book clubs also keep loyal readers inspired, including a Book of the Month subscription that includes a signed first edition of the shop’s choosing and an unclassifiable club that includes books that do not fall into the traditional mystery genre. For example, Rob Hart’s “The Warehouse,” which takes place in a near-future dystopian world where a company has become a totalitarian force, would not traditionally be shelved in a bookstore’s mystery section, but has been extremely popular in The Mysterious Bookshop.

Speaking of corporate monopolies, Penzler isn’t fearful of big box competitors.

“We can compete with Amazon because they don’t offer signed books,” he says. “I shouldn’t say that so loudly because they’ll probably do it, but every mystery writer comes to sign at our store. Half of books sold are signed and we don’t charge more for them!”

(5) ONE IS ENOUGH. NPR’s Mark Jenkins pans both performances: “Clone Gunman: Will Smith Vs. Will Smith In Sluggish, Sterile ‘Gemini Man'”.

Long before digital imaging, German philosopher Walter Benjamin opined that reproductions of artworks lacked the “aura” of the original. But what about reproductions of people? To judge by Will Smith’s double act in Gemini Man, the forerunner can be just as lacking as the copy.

Conceived more than 20 years ago as a Tony Scott-directed action flick, Gemini Man eventually fell to Ang Lee, who has recently shown more interest in cinematic technology than storytelling. Once a versatile stylist, the Taiwan-born director of The Life of Pi now seems consumed by advances in CGI. His latest trick, casting Will Smith against a digitally backdated version of himself, can’t save this movie from being bland, sluggish, and sentimental.

…There’s something else that Gemini Man shares with The Da Vinci Code: clunky dialogue. Credited to three writers but reportedly the work of many more, the movie’s script offers a preposterous scenario that might have been finessed by visual and verbal wit. It has little of either….

(6) THE NEED FOR SPEED. Leonard Maltin, on the other hand, was won over by the technical virtuosity as he says in the beginning of his review “Gemini Man: Two Will Smiths For The Price Of One”.

I was wary approaching Gemini Man, which I saw at 120 frames per second (about four times normal film speed) in 3-D. I got a headache the last time I watched a high-frame-rate feature but I came away from this film a believer. Director Ang Lee is trailblazing new territory, as he did in Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk, but this time he has a highly enjoyable, action-packed story and a perfect star in Will Smith. The entertainment value is high and cutting-edge technology organically suits the content….

(7) INSIDE THE CANISTER. Alasdair Stuart says this is what readers of “The Full Lid 11th October 2019” have in store:

This week’s Full Lid soars above London with the parkour and violence enthusiasts of the Assassins Creed Symphony! Then I’m off to Sheffield to discover my new favorite poem at an event that celebrates science and art and where they mix. This piece genuinely left me speechless and I’ve been riding an endorphin wave from being able to see it all week.

Finally, I take a look at Swedish SF movie Aniara, adapting the epic poem and Horror Christmas reaches The Silence of the Lambs. If you like what you read, please share and subscribe and I’ll see you next week. Happy Friday, everyone!

(8) PEN OUT LOUD. In a wide-ranging conversation with author Marlon James, acclaimed writer and former PEN America President Salman Rushdie previewed his latest novel Quichotte, a modern take on Miguel de Cervantes’ 17th-century novel Don Quixote, at a PEN Out Loud evening in New York City. There’s also a transcript at the link: “Salman Rushdie and Marlon James Discuss Language, Reality, and Nostalgia at PEN Out Loud”.

RUSHDIE: Intimate, but you know, [English is] not my mother tongue. That’s to say. I grew up in a kind of environment in India where everybody’s kind of multilingual because you have to be. But basically the language we spoke at home was mostly not English, mostly Urdu. But I went to what they call an English medium school. So when I went to school, I was being taught in English. So I grew up more or less bilingual. One of the reasons that I never make a spelling mistake is because I had to learn the language. People who just have the language very often can’t spell.

JAMES: Yes, when you said that, I heard my high school teacher in the back of my head going “dot your i’s, cross your t’s, and leave a full stop by the end of every single sentence.”

RUSHDIE: Yes, exactly. We got taught that shit.

JAMES: Yes, but I remember for a long time my biggest struggle with writing in English is, I would put something down, or I’ll speak, and it took me a while to realize I sounded like the butler.

RUSHDIE: Like a butler?

JAMES: Yeah. Like it was a very colonial English.

RUSHDIE: Like Jeeves.

JAMES: Yeah.

RUSHDIE: I can’t imagine you writing, the books you’ve written, as if you were Jeeves.

JAMES: I’m telling you, I used to use shit like “betwixt.”

(9) LEONOV OBIT. Cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, the first to walk in space, died at the age of 85 on October 11. CollectSpace paid tribute:

…Selected alongside Yuri Gagarin among the first 20 Soviet Air Force pilots to train as cosmonauts in 1960, Leonov flew twice into space, logging a total of 7 days and 32 minutes off the planet.

Launched on Voskhod 2, the world’s 17th human spaceflight, on March 18, 1965, Leonov made history as the first person to exit his spacecraft for an extravehicular activity (EVA).

“The Earth is round!” he exclaimed, as he caught his first view of the world. “Stars were to my left, right, above and below me. The light of the sun was very intense and I felt its warmth on the part of my face that was not protected by a filter,” said Leonov in a 2015 interview with the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) on the 50th anniversary of his spacewalk.

The New York Times obituary tells how that mission was almost fatal for Leonov:

…What Mr. Leonov did not reveal until many years later was that he and his fellow cosmonaut, Pavel I. Belyayev, who was also an Air Force pilot, were fortunate to have survived.

Mr. Leonov’s specially designed suit had unexpectedly inflated during his walk, and its bulk was preventing him from getting back inside the Voskhod.

“I knew I could not afford to panic, but time was running out,” he recalled in the book “Two Sides of the Moon” (2004), written with the astronaut David Scott, about their experiences in space.

Mr. Leonov slowly deflated the suit by releasing oxygen from it, a procedure that threatened to leave him without life support. But with the reduced bulk, he finally made it inside.

“I was drenched with sweat, my heart racing,” he remembered.

But that, he added “was just the start of dire emergencies which almost cost us our lives.”

The oxygen pressure in the spacecraft rose to a dangerous level, introducing the prospect that a spark in the electrical system could set off a disastrous explosion or fire.

It returned to a tolerable level, but the cosmonauts never figured out the reason for the surge.

When it came time for the return to Earth, the spacecraft’s automatic rocket-firing system did not work, forcing the cosmonauts to conduct imprecise manual maneuvers during the descent that left them in deep snow and freezing temperatures in a remote Russian forest, far from their intended landing point.

(10) PITTS OBIT. The SFWA Blog noted the death of J.A. Pitts:

SFWA member John A. Pitts died on October 3 from amyoidosis.  Pitts began publishing short fiction in 2006 with “There Once Was a Girl from Nantucket (A Fortean Love Story),” co-written with Ken Scholes.  He went on to write several short stories on his own and in 2010 began publishing novels under the name J.A. Pitts with Black Blade Blues, the first novel in his series about Sarah Beauhall.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 11, 1957 The Black Scorpion debuted. Starring Richard Denning, Mara Corday and Carlos Rivas, Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 33% rating. Mystery Science Theater 3000, well, see for yourself here what they thought of it. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • October 11, 1921 Linda Stirling. Sheila Layton in the 1945 The Purple Monster Strikes serial, also known as D Day on Mars. The sequel to this serial was the 1950 Flying Disc Man from Mars, which simply recycled much of the footage from the original. (Died 1997.)
  • October 11, 1940 Caroline John. Liz Shaw, companion to the Third Doctor. Shaw was a brilliant scientist, unusual for a companion. She returned for The Five Doctors. And she would reprise her character in the Big Finish audio works. Later she played the role of Laura Lyons in the BBC adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, opposite Tom Baker as Holmes. (Died 2012.)
  • October 11, 1960 Nicola Bryant, 59. Well known for her role as Perpugilliam “Peri” Brown, a companion to both the Fifth and Sixth Doctors. She also worked in “The Two Doctors” story so she appeared with the Second Doctor as well. Of course she’s done Big Finish Doctor Who audio dramas.
  • October 11, 1965 ?Sean Patrick Flanery, 54. I really think that his best work was on The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles and the films that followed. 
  • October 11, 1972 ?Claudia Black, 47. Best known for being Aeryn Sun in Farscape, Vala Mal Doran in Stargate SG-1 and Sharon “Shazza” Montgomery in Pitch Black. She also had a recurring role as Dahlia in The Originals and starred as Dr. Sabine Lommers in The CW’s Containment series.
  • October 11, 1976 Emily Deschanel, 43. Temperance “Bones” Brennan in Bones which crossed over with Sleepy Hollow twice (she visited the latter once) and she had a bit part on Spider-Man 2. More notably she was Pam Asbury in Stephen King’s Rose Red series. 
  • October 11, 1985 Michelle Trachtenberg, 34. Dawn, one of the most annoying characters in television ever, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

(13) NANCY. A Slate Q&A with Olivia Jaimes reveals “Nancy’s Artist Revived an 80-Year-Old Comic Strip by Writing Fan Fiction”

Matthew Phelan: Is working with someone else’s characters emotionally freeing? Or do you feel an intense, world-historic duty to do justice to classic Nancy

Olivia Jaimes: It feels like I’m writing Nancy fan fiction, which is very freeing. I’ve said the same thing to my editor before, and she’s gently broken it to me that my Nancies are canon, but fan fiction is what it feels like nonetheless. Maybe what I mean by this is that I feel comfortable transforming the strip in ways that suit me because I trust readers to know “the rules” of transformative works like fan fiction. It’s your take on characters that are shared by everyone. You’re not trying to pass seamlessly as the original author; you’re stretching and bending the original work to make it say what you want it to say.

(14) FLASH REFERENCES FLASH. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Am I the only one who (a) couldn’t tell what the words were, in the episode, (b) wouldn’t have recognized this as a Queen tune, even if I had, nor necessarily which movie it was from, (c) don’t mind, since, if nothing else, Cisco (formerly “Vibe”) had “been waiting for the perfect moment to use it, and Caitlin (aka Killer Frost) recognized it. Io9’s James Whitbrook’s episode recap The Flash Finally Did It” explains:

… And, via Cisco, The Flash finally, finally does something that is incredibly goofy, completely rad, and something it has simply been yearning to do since it first began: Cisco taps a key on STAR Labs’ sound system.

And Queen’s Flash Gordon theme starts playing.

It’s so dumb. It’s so good. It is, as Cisco argues, the perfect moment to deploy the 1980 classic. You don’t care that the black hole CG comes with all the questionable success CW-budget computer effects usually bring. You don’t care that this has been, otherwise, a pretty humdrum episode of The Flash, and weirdly low key for a season premiere. This is what this show has always been, and hopefully always will be, about: embracing the sheer, kinetic, camp audacity of superhero comics and just having an absolute whale of a time while doing so.

(15) SAILOR SHIPPING OVER. ScienceFiction.com says “Sailor Moon Is Returning To The Big Screen In 2020 In ‘Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon Eternal’”.

(16) GAMES TRANSFORMED TO NARRATIVES. “Ubisoft Planning Animated TV Adaptations of Popular Game Franchises”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Video game giant Ubisoft is getting cartoonish.

The Paris-based company’s film and television division is developing a slate of animated series inspired by its existing IP. First up: a Mars-set Rabbids Invasion special, after four successful seasons of the France 3/Netflix/Nickelodeon kids show. Other family-friendly programs in the works include a comedy-adventure inspired by the popular Rayman franchise and Hungry Shark Squad, based on the mobile game Hungry Shark.

… For slightly older viewers, Ubisoft is toning down its M-rated Watch Dogs action-adventure franchise for a tamer “cybermystery” aimed at tweens. The show centers on a teenaged “super hacker” who solves crimes in her high school.

(17) CHINA’S PROXY CENSOR. Zack Beauchamp, in “One of America’s Biggest Gaming Companies Is Acting As China’s Censor” on Vox, says that Activision Blizzard banned Chung Ng Wa, who plays as “Blitzchung,” after he won a Hearthstone Grandmasters tournament and then put on goggles and a face mask and said, “Liberate Hong Kong, revolution of our time.”

On Tuesday, Blizzard came down hard on Chung. In an official statement on Hearthstone’s blog, the company announced that it would be suspending Chung for a year, forcing him to forfeit thousands of dollars in prize money from 2019 and firing the casters (commentators) who conducted the interview.

This is a big deal.

Blizzard, who created (among other things) World of Warcraft, is a massive company. It brought in about $7.5 billion in revenue in 2018. Like the NBA, which has rebuked the Houston Rockets’ general manager over a pro-Hong Kong tweet, Blizzard is not merely trying to operate within the confines of Chinese censorship but acting as its agent.

(18) HEY, THE TIMING IS NOT THE ROBOT’S FAULT. “Istanbul Airport Robot Has A Message for You!” on YouTube describes the friendly robots helping passengers at Istanbul Airport.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/4/19 May The Pixel of Paradise Fly Up Your Scroll

(1) JUDGE DISMISSES MIGNOGNA SUIT. It’s over, unless there’s an appeal.

Sharon Grigsby’s commentary for the Dallas Morning News, “Anime voice actor Vic Mignogna loses big as judge drops final claims that Dallas-area studio and colleagues defamed him”, sums up:

…This sorry mess started in January, as Mignogna’s most recent film, Dragon Ball Super: Broly, soared to box office records. Its release also set off another round of allegations on social media about the 57-year-old actor’s aggressive kisses, hugs and unwanted sexual advances.

Mignogna repeatedly has denied all allegations of inappropriate actions, although he acknowledged in a June 26 deposition that people have commented negatively for years about his behavior.

As a columnist who writes regularly about these issues, I became interested in this case because of the voice actor’s decision to go on the offensive — digging in and fighting back against what he and his devoted fans have labeled lies, exaggerations and ploys for attention.

… The voice actor’s legal fight is apparently backed by a GoFundMe war chest, which has reached almost $250,000 since Minnesota lawyer Nick Rekieta opened it in February.

But even that large a sum may not cover all the plaintiff’s costs. Next up for the court is to sort out attorney’s fees — which could total up to half a million dollars given the multiple defendants and their legal representation — and mandatory sanctions.

Mignogna has provided the English-language voice for hundreds of animated shows, films and games created in Japan. He’s long been among the most popular actors at conventions across the nation that allow fans of the genre to meet their heroes.

His lawsuit named Funimation, voice actors Jamie Marchi and Monica Rial, and Rial’s fiancé, Ron Toye. The lawsuit painted the company and three individuals as a band of conspirators leading the charge to ruin Mignogna’s career. In response, those accused have maintained that the legal action is aimed at unjustly silencing them

Marchi, Rial and Toye were among the scores of anime talent and fans who, beginning early this year, tweeted critically about the actor’s behavior. Rial alleged that Mignogna grabbed her in a hotel room and forcibly kissed her without her consent at an anime convention in 2007. Marchi accused him of violently pulling her hair in a tense office encounter….

At Nerd & Tie, Trae Dorn’s “Vic Mignogna’s Case Against Monical Rial, Ronald Toye and Funimation Completely Dismissed” cut to the chase:

…the defendants challenged the suit under Texas’s Anti-SLAPP law (the TCPA), and a hearing was held on the matter about a month ago.

At that hearing, Judge John Chupp dismissed the case against Jamie Marchi entirely, along with most claims against the other defendants. A week and a half after that, Judge Chupp ordered both parties to attempt mediation to attempt to settle any remaining issues.

As that settlement resulted in an impasse, Judge Chupp has now issued his ruling on the TCPA motions. In it he has dismissed all remaining claims against the defendants under the TCPA. You can read the full dismissal here.

(2) “FORCEFUL” COOKWARE. How can we live without the ”Han Solo in Carbonite Signature Roaster”?

(3) LITIGATION RESOLVED. Brianna Wu announced in a public Facebook post today:

I’ve just been notified by my legal counsel that Alex Jones will be removing me from his defamation lawsuit.

My thanks to William Moran for representing me and getting this resolved. I look forward to focusing on my congressional campaign for the people of Massachusetts.

(4) MIND MELD. Nerds of a Feather’s Paul Weimer renews the popular feature originated at SF Signal: “The Hugo Initiative: Mind Meld: Favorite Best Novel Hugo Winner”.

What is your favorite winner of the Hugo award for best novel? Why?

Participants include Charlie Jane Anders, Casey Blair, Cheryl Morgan, Elizabeth Bear, Michael J. Martinez, Beth Cato, Marguerite Kenner, Sara Megibow, and Jaime Lee Moyer.

Marguerite Kenner picked this book —

My favorite best novel Hugo winner is from 1982 — ‘Downbelow Station‘ by C. J. Cherryh. I still own my first copy of it, a dog-eared, well-loved paperback. Captain Signy Mallory was the first ‘unlikable woman’ protagonist I remember resonating with, and I think I still know all the words to the filk song…

(5) QUESTION AUTHORITY. In “This is Not a Review of The Joker”  at Nerds of a Feather, Dean E.S. Richard dares to ask whether there was really any point to making the movie.

…In the first place, why do we need to know the origin of the Joker? For all his iterations through film, television and comics, what bearing does who he is and where he came from matter in the slightest? He is a villain for the sake of being a villain, which is a luxury most people writing fiction aren’t allowed, despite it being allowed in real life 2019. It works for the Joker precisely because he is The Joker – insane, given to sadistic whimsy, crafting ornate plans while simultaneously not having one at all. He works because he doesn’t have an origin. His adversary, Better Elon Musk, is all backstory. Rooted in his childhood trauma, he puts on a mask to keep it all out. Joker is what he is, unapologetically, always in pursuit of his mercurial goals, but doing what it takes to achieve them – Bats will give up his to protect a life, never willing to make the sacrifices truly needed.

In short, Joker works narratively because he is the perfect antagonist for Batman…

(6) THE JOKER’S ON US. Variety: “Box Office: ‘Joker’ Scores Record $13.3 Million on Thursday Night”.

Joaquin Phoenix’s “Joker” scored a record $13.3 million on Thursday night in North America.

The figure is above the $10 million in previews that was earned a year ago by “Venom,” which posted an $80 million opening weekend — both records for October. It’s the biggest preview number since “The Lion King” pulled in $23 million in July and portends a potential record opening. “Joker” has been forecast for a similarly massive debut in the $80 million to $95 million range from 4,374 North American theaters for Warner Bros.

[…] “Joker” premiered on Aug. 31 at the Venice Film Festival, where it won the Golden Lion, the festival’s highest prize. The pic polarized critics — while Phoenix’s performance has been lauded, the comic-book adaptation’s dark tone and handling of violence have generated a divisive response. “Joker” currently has a 69% score from critics on Rotten Tomatoes.

(7) DOESN’T LIKE IT ANYWAY. Nevertheless, NPR’s Glen Weldon finds that “‘Joker’ Is Wild … ly Dull”

In the comics and cartoons — and on film, as played by Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger and (checks notes) Jared Leto — the Joker, Batman’s archenemy, is an agent of chaos.

…One of the many things Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight got right about the character is that we only think we want to know who he is and where he came from. The Joker works best, most purely, when unencumbered by the humdrum of the everyday. His motivations must and should remain mysterious, unknowable.

Director Todd Phillips’ new film seeks to strip all mystery from the character and make his motivations very knowable. And in that much at least, he succeeds.

…Certainly, Joker is tense, grimy and claustrophobic, and Phoenix’s performance is a big swing, and a risky one — the kind of big, risky swing that Oscar voters historically eat up with a big ol’ spoon.

But the film so desperately strives to reject comic book trappings — so aches to be seen as edgy, provocative, serious, adult — that it simply apes the tone, style and content of other, better, edgier and more provocative films like Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy and Fight Club.

(8) MELODIOUS REFERENCES. Fanac.org has posted video of filksinger Julia Ecklar’s 1989 concert at Tropicon.

Julia Ecklar was the special filk guest at Tropicon 8, held in Dania, Florida, in 1989. This recording captures her concert at the convention, and includes 10 songs (of which Julia wrote four). The last song is beautifully signed by Linda Melnick. In the 1980s and early 1990s, Julia was a sought-after filk performer at science-fiction conventions worldwide. As a published author, her skill with words is very evident in the songs she writes. Filk songs are often strong on narrative, and you’ll notice that a number of these are about science fiction novels that were popular at the time. If you’ve read the books, the impact of the songs is increased, but they are enjoyable even if you haven’t. Can you identify the novels? Because Tropicon didn’t officially sponsor filk guests, the local community raised money to bring in one filk guest for each Tropicon. Concerts like this were held as a benefit for those who had donated.

(9) CARROLL OBIT. Famed TV actress Diahann Carroll died October 4 at the age of 84. The two genre roles in her resume were The Man in the Moon, a musical fantasy from 1960 which features Andy Williams as an actual Man in the Moon who visits Earth and meets up with an array of human talent, including Carroll as a singer, and The Star Wars Holiday Special where she played Mermeia Holographic Wow.

(10) ZASLOVE OBIT. Animator, producer and director Alan Zaslove has died at the age of 92. Animation Magazine paid tribute:

Zaslove began his career in 1942 as an “office boy” at Leon Schlesinger’s Studios, and then went on to work on many UPA shorts and series, including Gerald McBoing-Boing and Mr. Magoo. During the 1960s and ‘70s, he worked as an animator on TV and feature projects such as Popeye the Sailor, Fractured Fairy Tales, Roger Ramjet, The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo, The Gumby Show, A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Phantom Tollbooth, A Chipmunk Christmas, Tom Thumb, The Night Before Christmas and Stanley the Ugly Duckling.

…He was nominated for Emmys for his work on DuckTales, Smurfs, Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, Darkwing Duck and the Aladdin TV series.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 4, 1972 Night of the Lepus starring Janet Leigh appeared on movie screens. This horror film is based upon the science fiction novel The Year of the Angry Rabbit by Russell Braddon. It scores 27% at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • October 4, 1985 — The Misfits Of Science series debuted. starring Dean Paul Martin and Courteney Cox, it would last just sixteen episodes before be canceled due to low ratings. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 4, 1860 Sidney Edward Paget. British illustrator of the Victorian era,  he’s definitely known for his illustrations that accompanied Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories in The Strand. He also illustrated Arthur Morrison’s Martin Hewitt, Investigator, a series of short stories featuring the protagonist, Martin Hewitt, and written down by his good friend, the journalist Brett. These came out after Holmes was killed off, like many similar series. (Died 1908.)
  • Born October 4, 1904 Earl Binder. Under the pen name of Eando Binder, he and his brother Otto published SF stories. One series was about a robot named Adam Link. The first such story, published in 1939, is titled “I, Robot”. A collection by Asimov called I, Robot would be published in 1950. The name was selected by the publisher, despite Asimov’s wishes. As Eando Binder, they wrote three SF novels — Enslaved Brains, Dawn to Dusk and Lords of Creation. There’s lots of Eando Binder available on iBooks and Kindle. (Died 1966.)
  • Born October 4, 1923 Charlton Heston. Without doubt, best known for playing astronaut George Taylor in the Planet of the Apes. He retuned to the role Beneath the Planet of the Apes. He’s also Neville in The Omega Man. By the way, once at the LA Music Center he played Sherlock Holmes in The Crucifer of Blood, opposite Richard Johnson as Dr. Watson. His IMDB credits show him as being on SeaQuest DSV in the “Abalon” episode. (Died 2008.)
  • Born October 4, 1928 Alvin Toffler. Author of Future Shock and a number of other works that almost no one will recall now. John Brunner named a most excellent novel, The Shockwave Rider, after the premise of Future Shock. (Died 2016.)
  • Born October 4, 1929 Scotty Beckett. He costarred on Rocky Jones, Space Ranger which ran for thirty- four episodes from February to November 1954, lasting only two seasons. Because it was recorded on film rather than being broadcast live, it has survived.  You can the first episode of the series here.
  • Born October 4, 1932 Ann Thwaite, 87. Author of AA Milne: His Life which won the Whitbread Biography of the Year, as well as The Brilliant Career of Winnie-the Pooh, a scrapbook offshoot of the Milne biography. (And yes, Pooh is genre.) In 2017 she updated her 1990 biography of A.A Milne to coincide with Goodbye Christopher Robin for which she was a consultant. 
  • Born October 4, 1941 Anne Rice, 78. She‘s best known for The Vampire Chronicles. Confession time: I’ve not read them. So how are they? Same goes for Lives of the Mayfair Witches series which I’ve been told is excellent. It’s just that she’s too damn popular and I really don’t do popular all that well. 
  • Born October 4, 1946 Susan Sarandon, 73. She make Birthday Honors just for being Janet Weiss in The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but she’s also been in Enchanted as Queen Narissa, The Witches of Eastwick as Jane Spofford, The Lovely Bones as Grandma Lynn and The Hunger as Sarah Roberts. An impressive genre list indeed! 
  • Born October 4, 1956 Christoph Waltz, 63. He portrayed James Bond’s nemesis Ernst Stavro Blofeld in Spectre , he is set to reprise the role in No Time to Die. Genre wise, he also portrayed Qohen Leth in The Zero Theorem,Benjamin Chudnofsky in The Green Hornet (I lasted ten minutes before giving up), Cardinal Richelieu in The Three Musketeers, himself in Muppets Most Wanted, Léon Rom in The Legend of Tarzan and Dr. Dyson Ido in Alita: Battle Angel
  • Born October 4, 1975 Saladin Ahmed, 44. Hi Throne of the Crescent Moon was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel and did win the Locus Award for Best First Novel. He has also written in Kamala Khan (The Magnificent Ms. Marvel), Black Bolt, Exiles and the Miles Morales (Spider-Man) series, all on Marvel Comics. Oddly only his Marvel is available on iBooks and Kindle. 

(13) INSIDE STORY. Heather Rose Jones launched a new blog, explaining: “I’ve decided to start developing a FAQ for the Alpennia series, one question at a time.” First question: “Alpennia FAQ: Are the Alpennia books romances?”

I thought I’d post the individual questions+answers here in the blog first–which gives a chance to get more feedback–and then migrate them to their own page once the series is finished. If you have a general-interest question about the series that you think might not occur to me, let me know in the comments! Or if you want more details or further explanation on a topic.

(14) UNHIDDEN. John DeNardo shows us where to learn “Everything You Wanted to Know About Science Fiction’s Lost History (Almost)” at Kirkus Reviews. That would be from the book Lost Transmissions: The Secret History of Science Fiction and Fantasy by Desirina Boskovich.

… This treasure trove of secrets, presented in a generously illustrated hardbound volume, is like a gateway into science fiction’s inner sanctum. Though it may seem squarely aimed at science fiction fans, the fact that SF so pervades our culture makes it an attractive coffee table book for anyone. Everyone will find something to relate to here, whether it’s reading about a favorite author, like Philip K. Dick or Angela Carter; or about the rock band The Who and their never-fully-materialized concept album follow-up to Tommy called Lifehouse, set in a near future where reality is experienced through a worldwide network called The Grid. The topics are simply too attractive for even the casual science fiction fan to ignore…

(15) ROANHORSE EXCERPT. The B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog invites readers to “Rejoin General Leia and Poe Dameron in an Exclusive Excerpt from Star Wars: Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse”.

To celebrate the lead-up to Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, today we’re all about exploring the next major novel in the Star Wars Expanded Universe: Star Wars: Resistance Reborn, written by Hugo and Nebula-winner Rebecca Roanhorse.

Set in-between the shocking climax of The Last Jedi—which saw the Resistance against Kylo Ren and the ruthless First Order nearly collapse, costing the life of an iconic character—and the opening scenes of the new film, Resistance Reborn serves as “Episode 8.5” (VIII.V?) of the saga, introducing crucial new characters and setting the stage for the a climactic clash more than four decades in the making.

(16) PORTMAN’S LATEST. Leonard Maltin is not a big fan of this one: Lucy in the Sky: Earthbound”.

Lucy in the Sky is an ideal vehicle for Natalie Portman, cast as an astronaut who finds outer space thrilling and life back on earth somewhat less so. Affecting a Southern accent and sporting a short haircut, she creates a character who is thoroughly relatable, at first. We understand her exhilaration during a spacewalk and her dissatisfaction at home, despite the fact that she has a loving husband (Dan Stevens), a salty grandmother (Ellen Burstyn) and congenial colleagues. As it unfolds, however, the story takes this character to extremes.

(17) BY ANY OTHER NAME. Nina Shepardson reviews In the Shadow of Spindrift House by Mira Grant” at Outside of a Dog.

…Seanan McGuire uses the Mira Grant pen name to write stories with a somewhat darker tone, but Spindrift House shares one major commonality with some of her best work as McGuire. As in the Wayward Children series, the theme of “found family” plays a major role here. Harlowe and her friends understand each other’s quirks, help each other through difficulties both major and minor, and generally act as siblings to each other.

(18) ONE SMALL STEP. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] “Paralysed man moves in mind-reading exoskeleton” — We’re a long way from A Spectre Is Haunting Texas — but this is a step. Includes video of walking.

A man has been able to move all four of his paralysed limbs with a mind-controlled exoskeleton suit, French researchers report.

Thibault, 30, said taking his first steps in the suit felt like being the “first man on the Moon”.

His movements, particularly walking, are far from perfect and the robo-suit is being used only in the lab.

But researchers say the approach could one day improve patients’ quality of life.

(19) SUPER POO FLINGING. The Guardian passes along one expert’s opinion: “Martin Scorsese says Marvel movies are ‘not cinema'”.

Martin Scorsese, one of cinema’s most venerated current directors, has decried superhero movies – the dominant force in today’s industry. The director of films such as Taxi Driver, Raging Bull and Goodfellas told Empire magazine that his attempts to get up to speed with contemporary superhero films had failed.

“I tried, you know?” the director said when asked if he had seen Marvel’s movies. “But that’s not cinema.”

(20) ANIME CHARACTER PROMOTES CONDOM USE. “In The Name Of The Moon: Free Sailor Moon Condoms Distributed By The Japanese Government Will Protect You From STDs And Pregnancy!”ScienceFiction.com has the story.

In the name of the moon, I will protect you… from unwanted pregnancy and STDs!  Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare has partnered with Naoko Takeuchi to distribute free Sailor Moon condoms!  These condoms, which come in cute heart-shaped wrappers, will be distributed for free at STD/STI prevention events throughout October.  The first takes place tomorrow, October 5 in Fukuoka, with another taking place in Hiroshima, on Monday, October 14 in Hiroshima.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/21/19 You’re Watching Bladerunner, Suddenly A Pixel Scrolls Down Your Arm

(1) A CENTURY OF TITLES FROM OUR CENTURY. The Guardian says it’s time for another clickworthy list! “The 100 best books of the 21st century” includes both fiction and nonfiction – I count about 16 sff works on it, with Jemisin, Gaiman, and Pullman among the authors.

Dazzling debut novels, searing polemics, the history of humanity and trailblazing memoirs … Read our pick of the best books since 2000

(2) SPACE ACE. Leonard Maltin delivers his verdict: Ad Astra: On Man’s Destiny in Outer Space”

Writer-director James Gray is nothing if not bold. He dared to tackle a non-cynical romantic triangle in Two Lovers and a return to “high adventure” in The Lost City of Z. Neither film found the audience it deserved. With Ad Astra he has ventured into outer space, fully aware of the pitfalls: being compared to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey or, more recently, Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity. He needn’t have worried.

In fashioning an intelligent space drama for grownups he found inspiration and a through-line in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and its modern-day equivalent, Apocalypse Now. He also found theperfect actor to serve as his space traveler. The part fits Brad Pitt like a glove, and he delivers one of his finest, most nuanced performances.

(3) DATLOW QUOTES. “’Horror is Everywhere’: A Conversation with Editor Ellen Datlow” with interlocutor John DeNardo at Kirkus Reviews.

When asked what motivates her to keep editing anthologies, Datlow’s genuine love of reading and sharing shines through. “I love being the person who sometimes initiates the process of the creation of a brilliant new story (by soliciting new stories by writers whose work I love) and I love rediscovering/pushing stories that I think are amazing. I want everyone to discover stories they will love and admire as much as I do. I also enjoy working with all my authors.”

(4) A POURNELLE REDISCOVERY. Paperback Warrior, a blog that reviews old thrillers, mysteries, westerns, etc. just reviewed Red Heroin, a 1969 spy thriller that also happened to be Jerry Pournelle’s debut novel, written under the pen name Wade Curtis.

“Red Heroin” is a thinking-man’s espionage novel rather than a high-speed action killfest, and I enjoyed it quite a bit. The sequel “Red Dragon” (unrelated to Thomas Harris’ Hannibal Lector novel) came out in 1970, and I will definitely check it out.

(5) WARMING UP FOR THE ABDICATION. On Facebook, Walter Jon Williams shares what he thinks would be a much better story line for the Downton Abbey movie. The idea may explain why they haven’t already lined him up to do a media tie-In novel…

(6) TODAY’S DAY.

September 21 CNN is there when “Cities across the world flash the Bat Signal on Batman Day”.

Cities across the world on Saturday marked Batman Day by flashing the Bat Signal across buildings and into the night sky, a nod to the Caped Crusader on his 80th birthday.

Fans of the DC Comics superhero spotted his famous distress call at 8 p.m. local time in Melbourne, Tokyo, Johannesburg, Berlin, Rome and London, among other major cities.

Here’s what it looked like:

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 21, 1937 — J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit published.
  • September 21, 1996  — The Dark Skies series premiered as part of the NBC lineup. A “what if aliens were manipulating all of History” premise didn’t help it last past twenty episodes.
  • September 21, 2012 — The character of Judge Dredd returned with Dredd.  Karl Urban played Dredd and Olivia Thirlby played Judge Anderson. To date, it’s not broken even. The Stallone Judge Dredd barely broke even
  • September 21, 2015 — Fox Television debuted their Minority Report series based off of the Philip K. Dick work. It lasted a scant ten episodes.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 21, 1866 —  H. G. Wells. I really don’t need to tell y’all that he’s called the “father of science fiction” along with Jules Verne and Hugo Gernsback. I’m not sure how much of his fiction beyond The War of the Worlds the reading world beyond fandom remembers these days. (Died 1946.)
  • Born September 21, 1895 Norman Louis Knight. His most-remembered work is A Torrent of Faces, a novel co-written with James Blish and reprinted in the Ace Science Fiction Specials line. His only other writing is a handful of short fiction. Not surprisingly his short fiction isn’t available at iBooks or Kindle but neither A Torrent of Faces. (Died 1972.)
  • Born September 21, 1912 Chuck Jones. Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies creator (think Bugs Bunny). His work won three Oscars, and the Academy also gave him an honorary one in 1996.  (Died 2002.)
  • Born September 21, 1935 Henry Gibson. I’m going confess upfront that I remember best him as a cast member of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. In regards to his genre work, he showed up on the My Favorite Martian series as Homer P. Gibson, he was in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as an uncredited dancer, in Bewitched twice, once as Napoleon Bonaparte, once as Tim O’ Shanter, he was the voice of Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web, in The Incredible Shrinking Woman as Dr. Eugene Nortz, and even in an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the “Profit and Lace” episode to be exact in which he was Nilva, a ferengi. (Died 2009.)
  • Born September 21, 1947 Nick Castle, 72. He co-wrote with John Carpenter the scripts for Escape from New York and Escape from L.A., and he’s the director of The Last Starfighter. He also wrote the Hook script. He was Michael Myers in both 1978 Halloween and the later remake of that film, plus the forthcoming Halloween Kills. He also was the pianist in Escape from New York
  • Born September 21, 1947 Stephen King, 72. I once saw him leaning up against a wall in Bangor outside his favorite breakfast spot nose deep in a paperback novel. That’s how his native city treated him. Favorite by him? I’m not fond of his novels but I love his novellas and shorter fiction, so Different SeasonsFour past Midnight and Skeleton Crew are my picks. 
  • Born September 21, 1950 Bill Murray, 69. Scrooged is my favorite film by him by a long shot followed by the first Ghostbusters film. I’m also fond of his voicing of Clive the Badger in Fantastic Mr. Fox.
  • Born September 21, 1983 Cassandra Rose Clarke, 36. I strongly recommend The Witch Who Came in from the Cold, a serial fiction story she coauthored with Max Gladstone, Lindsay Smith, Ian Tregillis, and Michael Swanwick. It’s quite brilliant.  And The Mad Scientist’s Daughter, nominated for a Philip K. Dick Award, is equally brilliant.
  • Born September 21, 1990 Allison Scagliotti, 29. One of the primary cast of Warehouse 13, a show that I really, really loved. Her first genre role was as Jayna, one of the Wonder Twins, on the Smallville series. And she showed in a crossover episode of Eureka, “Crossing Over”.  Her current gig is as Camille Engelson on Stitchers which to my surprise is getting ratings. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) AREA 51 EVENT. Unilad reports something seen on TV news: “First Naruto Runner Spotted Naruto Running At Area 51 Behind Live News Broadcast”.

The first Naruto runner has been spotted Naruto running towards Area 51 during a live news report.

… But just as he closed his news segment on KTNV, he was upstaged by the perfectly timed runner, which is a hilarious reference to the original event’s satirical description which said, ‘if we Naruto run, we can move faster than their bullets. Let’s see them aliens.’

The Portland (ME) Press-Herald has a headcount of the participants: “About 75 people gather at Area 51 gate in Nevada”.

About 75 people arrived early Friday at a gate at the once-secret Area 51 military base in Nevada — at the time appointed by an internet hoaxster to “storm” the facility to see space aliens — and one person was arrested, authorities said.

The “Storm Area 51” invitation spawned festivals in the tiny Nevada towns of Rachel and Hiko nearest the military site, and a more than two-hour drive from Las Vegas.

Lincoln County Sheriff Kerry Lee estimated late Thursday that about 1,500 people had gathered at the festival sites and said more than 150 people also made the rugged trip several additional miles on bone-rattling dirt roads to get within selfie distance of the gates.

(11) CASTING SHADOWS. The Old Farmer’s Almanac visits some very old stones in “5 Ancient Sites Aligned With the Solstice and Equinox”.

Ever been to Stonehenge? Machu Picchu? Across time, people have marked the changes of seasons—sometimes in dramatic ways! Here are five amazing ancient sites aligned with the solstices and equinoxes.

Did you know that the equinoxes and solstices happens at the same moment around the world? Even though we all have different time zones, this is an astronoimical event, based on our planet’s orbit around the Sun and tilt on its axis.

Our ancestors lived amidst nature more than most of us do today. They observed the universe, marveling in its rhythms. They used the Sun and the Moon as a sort of calendar, tracking the Sun’s path across the sky. Here are some examples of the ancient sites and monuments that aligned with the solstice and equinox.

Our ancestors built the first observatories to track the sun’s progress…

(12) “YELLOW RAIN” REDUX. An unfortunate emission: “Cuba’s ‘sonic weapon’ may have been mosquito gas”.

Canadian researchers say they may have identified the cause of a mystery illness which plagued diplomatic staff in Cuba in 2016.

Some reports in the US suggested an “acoustic attack” caused US staff similar symptoms, sparking speculation about a secret sonic weapon.

But the Canadian team suggests that neurotoxins from mosquito fumigation are the more likely cause.

The Zika virus, carried by mosquitoes, was a major health concern at the time.

So-called “Havana syndrome” caused symptoms including headaches, blurred vision, dizziness and tinnitus.

It made international headlines when the US announced more than a dozen staff from its Cuban embassy were being treated.

Cuba denied any suggestion of “attacks”, and the reports led to increased tension between the two nations.

(13) FACING THE PAST. “Denisovans: Face of long-lost human relative unveiled” – BBC has the story.

Researchers have provided the first glimpse of what an ancient group of humans looked like.

Denisovan remains were discovered in 2008 and human evolution experts have become fascinated with the group that went extinct around 50,000 years ago.

One of the biggest questions had been over their appearance, with no full sketches of the Denisovan drawn up.

But now a team of researchers have produced reconstructions of our long-lost relatives.

(14) ICON WILL VISIT THE ARROWVERSE. Yahoo! Lifestyle restrains its enthusiasm: “Welp, Another Superman Actor You Liked In Your 20s Is Playing Superman Again”.

Remember October 2001? If you’re around my age, this was the time when the new Superman refused to wear a cape and existed in a Dawson’s Creek-esque TV series called Smallville, which originally aired on a network called The WB. (Annoying frog mascot with a top hat.) But now, Tom Welling, the actor who played Superman/Clark Kent on Smallville is back in the Superman tights he avoided on Smallville for so long.

According to Deadline, Welling will reprise his role as Superman in a crossover event for the CW’s popular “Arrowverse” TV shows. This follows a similar return of fellow-Superman actor, Brandon Routh, who is also set to return as Superman on the CW. If you’re not following these shows (and really, you can’t be blamed if you’re not, they’re very confusing) the CW is apparently doing everything it can to get olds like me interested in tuning in again. Tom Welling played Clark Kent/Superman for a staggering 10 seasons on Smallville before the show finally ended in 2011.

(15) “THERE’S ALWAYS THE POST OFFICE”. BBC says they are winners – if this is what winning looks like: “Post office team picked for Antarctic Port Lockroy base”.

Five people have beaten off competition from more than 200 people to run the UK’s most remote post office in Antarctica.

The team will man the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust’s post office at Port Lockroy for four months.

The first permanent British base to be established on the Antarctic Peninsula, it has been run as a museum and post office for tourists since 2006.

The new postmasters start work in November and return to the UK in March.

Each year, the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, which is based in Cambridge, advertises for a new intake of seasonal postal workers.

Hundreds apply despite there being no running water or mains electricity and the job involving working in sub-zero temperatures 11,000 miles away from home.

As well as running the office, museum and shop, the chosen team monitors the island’s resident gentoo penguin population.

Several brooms are sent to the team each year to clean the penguin droppings outside the building – which the trust admits would otherwise look like “a penguin toilet”.

(16) BIG CANDLE. Juicy details — “SLS: Nasa’s giant ‘Moon rocket’ takes shape”.

Nasa has finished assembling the main structural components for its largest rocket since the Apollo-era Saturn V.

Engineers at the agency’s Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) in New Orleans connected the last of five sections that make up the core of the Space Launch System (SLS).

The rocket will be used to send an uncrewed Orion craft to the Moon, in a flight expected to launch in 2021.

This will pave the way for crewed missions, with a landing in 2024.

The last piece of the SLS’ 64m (212ft) -tall core stage was the complicated engine section. This will serve as the attachment point for the four powerful RS-25 engines, which are capable of producing two million pounds of thrust (9 meganewtons).

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Maestro” on Vimeo, Illogic has hedgehogs, turtles, and birds, singing an aria conducted by a squirrel. (That’s what it says–“Directed by Illogic”.)

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

Pixel Scroll 7/26/19 Scroll-Fly Pie And Pixel-Pan Dowdy

(1) MARY SUE ORIGIN STORY. [Item by Jerry Kaufman.] This recent article from the London Review of Books is about fandom, or fandoms as the case may be, the woman who identified the “Mary Sue”, and her recent writing. (I am the real Jerry Kaufman – accept no other) – “On Sophie Collins”. (Registration required to read full article.)

A ‘Mary Sue’ is an implausibly skilful, attractive or successful protagonist who seems to be a stand-in for the author, especially in fanfiction. The term comes from Paula Smith’s parodic story ‘A Trekkie’s Tale’ (1973), originally published in a mimeographed journal for Star Trek fans. In mocking ‘Mary Sue’, Smith was not attacking fanfiction but trying to bolster its literary quality against fans who used it naively for wish fulfilment. Most of these fans were (like Smith) female. As the term, and the critique, became more common, some fans, and some feminist critics, pushed back. They saw fan communities, and the defiantly unprofessional cultural production that emerged from them, as a kind of safe space, where the rules imposed by a patriarchal outside world about what one can say, and who one can be, could be ignored.

(2) ON THE STREET WHERE YOU LIVE. “City Council Votes to Name Bronx Street ‘Stan Lee Way’ in Honor of Comic Book Genius, Spider-Man Creator” — New York TV station NBC-4 has the story.

Council Member Fernando Cabrera’s proposal aims to honor Stan Lee’s Bronx roots by co-naming a section of University Avenue between Brandt Place and West 176th Street after the comic book genius.

The city council voted Tuesday to approve the proposal.

… “Stan Lee was a Bronx native who grew up in my district,” said Cabrera. “Stan Lee was a creative genius who co-created iconic super heroes including Spider-Man, the X-Men, the Hulk, Doctor Strange, Ant-Man, Black Panther and more. Mr. Lee’s amazing talent brought joy and entertainment to countless children and adults and he deserves to be permanently memorialized in his home borough, the Bronx.”

(3) BUILDING A STORY WITH MAGIC. Juliette Wade’s new Dive Into Worldbuilding introduces readers to “Julie Czerneda and The Gossamer Mage. View the video interview, and/or read the summary notes at the link. 

…I asked her where the idea for the book started, and she said it started with a pen – and proceeded to show us the pen in question! She brought a lot of cool props to show us, so I encourage you all to check out the video if you’re curious about them.

One of the things that Julie explored while writing this was the history of ink. Battles were fought over areas of the world that provided good ink ingredients, and pirates stole ink as well as other things.

I’ve always found constrained magic systems very interesting, so I asked her to tell us about the magic system she used in The Gossamer Mage. Julie said she agreed with me that she liked constrained systems. She said she liked it when everyone knows how to use the magic, but wait, it’s not so simple. This particular magic system is constrained in part because it requires writing, which means it requires a particular type of scholarship. You have to be able to write words that are not human words, and to intend them. Further, this magic can only be done in the one place in the world where magic remains. One important ingredient here is that magic used to be in more of the world, but is no longer present except in one region, ringed with mountains.

Thus, magic is constrained physically, and it is constrained to scholars….

(4) BOOK MAKER. Shelf Awareness does a Q&A with Babylon-5 creator, who recently published his autobiography Becoming Superman: “Reading with… J. Michael Straczynski”.

On your nightstand now: 

Rereading A Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. I believe that an appreciation of poetry is essential for any writer in any field. That economy of language reminds you of the importance of choosing exactly the right word, not the word next to the right one on the shelf. On a conceptual level, I admire Ferlinghetti’s writing which comes at you from a right angle with a huge impact, so I reread his work every couple of years to keep my brain flexible.

(5) HE WHO OVERCOMES. Then, Cory Doctorow does an epic review of “J Michael Straczynski’s “Becoming Superman”: a memoir of horrific abuse, war crimes, perseverance, trauma, triumph and doing what’s right” at BoingBoing.

And so, drip by drip, crumb by crumb, inch by inch, Straczynski manages to become a writer, and it turns out that not only can he write to deadline, he’s really good at it. Even projects that seem silly or trivial on their face, like writing for He-Man or The Real Ghostbusters, are treated with such intense seriousness that they just kill.

But this being Hollywood, where, famously, nobody knows anything, every success that Straczynski ekes out is eventually scuttled by venality, cowardice, grift, or all three, as greedy execs and bullshit-slinging consultants demand that he compromise on what he knows is right. And Straczynski being Straczynski — being the survivor of a campaign of terror visited upon him by a literal Nazi — refuses to back down, because despite the mountain of shit he’s climbed to get where he is, the prospect of falling down to the bottom is incapable of scaring him beyond his threshold of tolerability.

And, remarkably, despite industry concentration and a thousand variations of “you’ll never work in this town again,” Straczynski continues to work. His story is a beautiful parable about how luck is made: the way it’s told, it seems like Straczynski has a horseshoe up his ass, with opportunities dropping appearing over the horizon just a little faster than the burn-rate of the bridges he’s torched behind him, but when you look a little closer, you realize that the most improbable thing here isn’t the opportunities, but rather Straczynski’s relentless, singleminded determination to seize them, writing (for example) entire seasons of his TV shows when the studios’ dumb mistakes leave them shorthanded.

(6) REVOLUTIONARY DATA. Can you imagine Brent Spiner playing John Adams in 1776? There’s a concept. He’s the guest on the latest Maltin on Movies podcast.

Forever to be remembered as Lt. Commander Data on Star Trek: the Next Generation and other treks to follow, Brent Spiner is a versatile actor and performer with notable Broadway credits—and two fervent fans in Leonard and Jessie, who saw him play John Adams in a masterful revival of 1776. He’s happy to discuss all facets of his career, from musical theater to his memorable role in Independence Day. Even longtime fans may learn things they didn’t already know about Brent in this delightful chat.

(7) THIS IS COOL. The earth seen from outer space —  here is a visualization of how Planet’s satellites assemble swatches of remote sensing tiles to complete a global observation in 24 hours:

In four years, Planet has flown on 18 successful launches and deployed 293 satellites successfully into low Earth orbit. With more than 150 satellites currently in orbit, Planet has the largest constellation of Earth imaging satellites in history.

As you may notice, the satellites are not always taking photos (or sending / “beaming” the data down to Earth). Parts of the landmass can also be missing due to complete cloud cover that day. See the Amazon, Central Africa, or Northern Australia for example.

A companion piece reveals more about the satellites themselves; the “doves”, “RapidEyes”, and “SkySats”. Explaining their sizes, the numbers out there already and the types of images they capture. Check out the story here!

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 26, 1883 Edwin Balmer. Together with author Philip Wylie, he penned When Worlds Collide and After Worlds Collide. The first was made into the 1951 movie by George Pal. He also wrote several detective novels and collaborated with William MacHarg on The Achievements of Luther Trant, an early collection of detective short stories. The latter are not genre, despite being listed as ISFDB as I’ve read them. (Died 1959.)
  • Born July 26, 1894 Aldous Huxley. Brave New World is fascinating. I knew I had it assigned and sort of discussed in a High School class and at least one Uni class decades ago. So what else is genre by him and worth reading? (Died 1963.)
  • Born July 26, 1919 James Lovelock, 99. Just shy of a century now in life, the Gaia theorist wrote a genre novel with Michael Allaby, The Greening of Mars, of the transformation of the red planet into a green one.  His newest work, Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence, thinks that hyperintelligent machines are coming into being by our own hand and that we better be prepared for their arrival. 
  • Born July 26, 1928 Stanley Kubrick. I’m reasonably sure 2001: A Space Odyssey was the first film I saw by him but Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb was the one that impressed me the most. A Clockwork Orange was just damn depressing. And I’m not a horror fan as such so I never saw The ShiningBarry Lyndon is great but it’s not genre by any means. (Died 1999.)
  • Born July 26, 1945 M. John Harrison, 74. TheViriconium sequence, I hesitate to call it a series, starting with The Pastel City, is some of the most elegant fantasy I’ve read. And I see he’s a SJW as he’s written the Tag, the Cat series which I need to take a look at. He’s not published deep in digital form at this time.
  • Born July 26, 1945 Helen Mirren, 74. She first graces our presences as Hermia in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She next shows up in a genre role as Alice Rage in The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu, Peter Sellers’ last film. She’s an ever so delicious Morgana in Excalibur and then leaps into the future as Tanya Kirbuk in 2010: The Year We Make Contact. She voices the evil lead role in The Snow Queen, and likewise is Deep Thought in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • Born July 26, 1957 Nana Visitor,62. Kira Nerys on Deep Space Nine which for my money is the best of the Trek series to date. After DS9 ended, Visitor had a recurring role as villain Dr. Elizabeth Renfro on Dark Angel. In 1987, Visitor appeared as Ellen Dolan in a never developed series pilot for Will Eisner’s The Spirit with Sam J. Jones as The Spirit.
  • Born July 26, 1971 Mary Anne Mohanraj, 48. Writer and editor. Founder of Strange Horizons, a genre fiction magazine. She has one genre novel, The Stars That Change, and two stories published in the Wild Cards Universe, “Low Chicago” and “Ties That Bind”. She also an anthology, Without A Map, co-edited with Nnedi Okorafor.
  • Born July 26, 1978 Eve Myles, 41. She’s a a Welsh actress from Ystradgynlais, convenient as she played Gwen Cooper on Torchwood which was set in and shot in Cardiff. She previously played the servant girl Gwyneth in the Doctor Who episode “The Unquiet Dead” during the Ninth Doctor’s time. She and the full Torchwood cast did an an BBC 4 Radio Play called  Golden Age in which they time travelled back to Imperial India. Highly recommended. 

(9) THE BOYS. According to NPR’s Glen Weldon, “Superhero Satire ‘The Boys’ Doesn’t Have Much New To Say, But Says It Loudly”.

…Amazon’s new 8-episode series The Boys – about a team of non-powered mercenaries determined to take down the world’s premier team of evil, corrupt, soulless-corporate-shill superheroes – chooses to play in a sandbox that’s seen its share of use. A sandbox that’s been sitting out in the sun and rain and wind for decades, filling up with cigarette butts and cat poop and old toys left by previous storytellers, who’ve hit precisely the same themes.

This is even more true today than it was in 2006, when the comics series The Boys, by writer Garth Ennis and artist Darick Robertson – from which the Amazon show has been adapted, freely – first debuted.

…What The Boys was, at the time — especially if you’d been reading comics for years — was tiresome, more than anything else: Really? We’re still doing … this?

I’m happy to report that the Amazon series improves on its source material. It does so by taking the comics’ lazy inciting incident – the accidental death-by-superhero of the girlfriend of its main character Hughie (Jack Quaid) – and treating it as something more than solely a plot trigger. The series gives Hughie time to absorb, to grieve, to soak in the brutal incident so – even though it is depicted, lovingly, in garish slow-motion – it becomes something more than another nihilistic gag.

That’s a hallmark of the show, as it turns out. Where the comic was content to steer headlong into bloody spectacle and smugly snicker, the show serves up the spectacle (on a budget) and then … takes the time to inspect it, examine it, unpack it. To legitimately honor it, in other words. In its way.

(10) NEW TENANT IN THE WHITE HOUSE. Zombieland: Double Tap comes to theaters October 18.

A decade after Zombieland became a hit film and a cult classic, the lead cast (Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Abigail Breslin, and Emma Stone) have reunited with director Ruben Fleischer (Venom) and the original writers Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick (Deadpool) for Zombieland 2: Double Tap. In the sequel, written by Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick and Dave Callaham, through comic mayhem that stretches from the White House and through the heartland, these four slayers must face off against the many new kinds of zombies that have evolved since the first movie, as well as some new human survivors. But most of all, they have to face the growing pains of their own snarky, makeshift family.

(11) CHANNELING TRADER JOE. Fast Company appreciates why “The Trader Joe’s YouTube channel is unexpectedly amazing—and very weird”.

Although wackiness levels vary from video to video, the run times are all wisely kept brief. The only things that run longer than the time it takes to decide between regular avocados and organic ones are the cooking tutorials. Everything else—including charm-infused shorts like Christmas in Germany, produced by Condé Nast Traveler, which mixes traditional animation with stop-motion footage of Pfeffernüsse cookies and other German delicacies—runs at around the one-minute mark, making for a thoroughly undemanding watch.

This one’s very stfnal –

While this one’s just plain funky –

(12) NASFIC/WESTERCON IN UTAH. Rodford Edmiston has posted an album of photos from Spikecon at Flickr. Whether intentionally or not, the photographer showed a genius for standing at the back of a hall in which the only people were in the front row and on the platform.

(13) REUBEN AWARD. Stephan Pastis won the 2018 Reuben Award for Cartoonist of the Year given by the National Cartoonists Society. The award was announced during the NCS Annual Reuben Awards Weekend in May.

STEPHAN PASTIS is the creator of the daily comic strip Pearls Before Swine, syndicated by Andrews McMeel Syndication. Stephan practiced law in the San Fransisco Bay area before following his love of cartooning and eventually seeing syndication with Pearls, which was launched in newspapers beginning December 31, 2001. The National Cartoonists Society awarded Pearls Before Swine the Best Newspaper Comic Strip in 2003 and in 2006. Stephan is also the author of the children’s book series Timmy Failure. Stephan lives in northern California with his wife Staci and their two children.

(14) CHERNOBYL. BBC digs into “The true toll of the Chernobyl disaster” in a long meaty article. Here is a brief excerpt:

Covered up by a secretive Soviet Union at the time, the true number of deaths and illnesses caused by the nuclear accident are only now becoming clear.

Springtime was always the busiest time of year for the women working at the wool processing plant in Chernihiv, northern Ukraine. More than 21,000 tons of wool passed through the factory from farms all across the country during the annual sheep shearing period. The April and May of 1986 were no exception.

The workers pulled 12-hour shifts as they sorted the piles of raw fleece by hand before they were washed and baled. But then the women started getting sick.

Some suffered nosebleeds, others complained of dizziness and nausea. When the authorities were called to investigate, they found radiation levels in the factory of up to 180mSv/hr. Anyone exposed at these levels would exceed the total annual dose considered to be safe in many parts of the world today in less than a minute.

Fifty miles away was the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. On 26 April 1986 reactor number four at the power plant suffered a catastrophic explosion that exposed the core and threw clouds of radioactive material over the surrounding area as a fire burned uncontrollably.

But Chernihiv was regarded to be well outside the exclusion zone that was hastily thrown up around the stricken plant and readings elsewhere in the town had shown it to have comparatively low levels of radiation.

(15) HAUER’S MASTERPIECE. Bilge Ebiri explains why “Even Now, Rutger Hauer’s Performance in ‘Blade Runner’ Is a Marvel” in the New York Times.

…Had Hauer played Batty as another stone-faced Eurobaddie, “Blade Runner” itself might have been a more comfortably classifiable genre effort, the kind of movie that many viewers expected in 1982, the kind that promised to pit Ford, the star so familiar to us as Han Solo and Indiana Jones, against a new kind of futuristic nemesis. Instead, audiences were thrown off by the knotty neo-noir that Scott and the screenwriters Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples delivered, the film flopped, and a cult masterpiece was born.

Look no further than Batty’s extended final battle with Deckard to see both the evidence of the movie’s idiosyncratic tone and how Hauer’s remarkable performance enhances it, practically deconstructing the simple plot before our eyes. The replicant chases the beleaguered, frightened Deckard around an abandoned building, toying with the cop and playing singsong children’s games. But there’s still a catch in Batty’s words, slight pauses scattered in unusual places. Seeing that Deckard has killed his replicant lover, Pris (Daryl Hannah), Batty offers, “I thought you were good. Aren’t you the … good man?” The awkwardness of the words, combined with the pause before “good man” seems to question the film’s very moral universe…

(16) X MARKS THE PLOT. ScreenRant fires up another Pitch Meeting – this one for Dark Phoenix.

The X-Men franchise has been running for nearly two decades, and it all culminates with Dark Phoenix, a storyline that the movies already covered in 2006. Once again, Jean Grey goes absolutely bonkers with power, but this time Wolverine isn’t around to stab her. The movie has a pretty awful score on Rotten Tomatoes and definitely raises a lot of questions. Like what’s the deal with the aliens, are they bulletproof or not? Why was Quicksilver dismissed from the movie so quickly? What was up with that Phoenix moment in X-Men Apocalypse? Why do these movies keep jumping forward a decade each time? Is Magneto supposed to be 62 years old, and if so, why is a 42-year-old with no make-up playing him? Why did they show Mystique dying in the trailer?

[Thanks to Jerry Kaufman, Juliette Wade, John Hertz, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, mlex, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, and Martin Morse Wooster for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 6/28/19 A Pixel’s A Pixel, No Matter How Scrolled

(1) LEADING EFFECTS ARTISTS GATHER. Last night in Beverly Hills, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hosted “Galactic Innovations: Star Wars and Rogue One”, with some people who have made special effects history.

Over the last 40 years, technology has advanced by leaps and bounds. But the impetus to create and inspire remains the same. This event contrasted the analog technologies developed for the first STAR WARS released in 1977 with the all-digital toolsets used to create ROGUE ONE released in 2016.

Key contributors from both STAR WARS and ROGUE ONE shared the journey of creating the impossible with their breakthrough visual effects. Our list of stellar participants included: John Dykstra, Dennis Muren, John Knoll, Ben Burtt, Marcia Lucas, Bill George, Harrison Ellenshaw, Bruce Nicholson, Richard Edlund and Rachel Rose. Hosted by Kiri Hart, co-producer of ROGUE ONE.

A recording of the livestreamed video is available today:

I learned from Craig Miller, “Lucasfilm has donated the original Dykstraflex Camera – used to do the miniature photography for Star Wars – to the Academy Museum and the significance of the camera prompted them to put together this event.”

(2) CELEBRATE. FIYAH Literary Magazine is making headway to fund its staff Hugo Meetup in Atlanta. Any donation helps.

(3) NEXT YEAR’S HUGOS. Renay has kicked off what some admirers call 2020 Hugo Spreadsheet of Doom to collect recommendations of works published this year.

(4) THE FIFTH SEASON AUTHOR ON TV. See video of N.K. Jemisin’s appearance on the PBS News Hour in connection with her book being a selection for their #NowReadThis book club.

(5) ANTHOLOGY NEWS. Haka is an anthology of speculative / science fiction in Filipino by European authors, organized by Julie Novakova and Jaroslav Olsa Jr. that will include stories from 15 authors of different nationalities.

The publisher, Anvil Publishing, will announce the launching date soon.

Line Up:

  • Peter Schattschneider: Brief aud dem Jenseits (Austria)
  • Ian Watson: Walk of Solace with My Dead Baby (Britain)
  • Hanuš Seiner: Hexagrammaton (the Czech Rep.)
  • Richard Ipsen: The Null in the Nought (Denmark)
  • Johanna Sinisalo: Äänettömät Äänet (Finland)
  • Aliette de Bodard: Three Cups of Grief, by Starlight (France)
  • Michalis Manolios: Aethra (Greece)
  • Péter Lengyel: Napkelet Cím? (Hungary)
  • Francesco Verso and Francesco Mantovani: iMATE (Italy)
  • Tais Teng: Silicium Snelwegen (the Netherlands)
  • Stanislaw Lem: Podró? siódma (Poland)
  • Pedro Cipriano: Seeds of Hope (Portugal)
  • Zuzana Stožická: ?repiny z oblohy (Slovakia)
  • Bojan Ekselenski: ?asovni kredita (Slovenia)
  • Sofía Rhei: Secret Stories of Doors (Spain)
  • Bertil Falk: Gjort är gjort (Sweden)

(6) NEVER STEAL ANYTHING SMALL. Meanwhile, back at the slushpile, Neil Clarke thought he might have seen this one before:

(7) KEENE TELETHON CANCELLED. Brian Keene has announced they will not be holding the 3rd annual The Horror Show with Brian Keene telethon, which was scheduled to take place at Dark Delicacies in September. One of the hosts is medically not in a condition to do what needs to be done and the rest of the hosts are unwilling to proceed without him. Keene explained on Facebook:

It is with profound regret that I have to announce the cancellation of the 3rd annual The Horror Show with Brian Keene telethon, which was scheduled to take place at Dark Delicacies in September.

Listeners to the show know that co-host and engineer Dave Thomas has been experiencing some health problems. I am not going to share the private details of what has been occurring, but while Dave’s condition so far hasn’t greatly impacted his abilities to participate on the weekly program, his doctors this week have strongly advised against doing the telethon, given what is required for it. He can’t travel to California. And doing it here on the East Coast isn’t an option either because — to be blunt — staying awake and energized for 24 hours will kill him….

If Dave’s health fortunes change, I will absolutely reschedule this for early-2020. But as it stands right now, he simply can’t do it, and we simply won’t do it without him.

Keene hopes people will still find the cause worth supporting

If you’d still like to help, you can donate to Scares That Care by clicking here. And you can shop at Dark Delicacies from anywhere in the world by clicking here.

(8) ANIME MILWAUKEE BANS RYAN KOPF. Anime News Network reports “Convention Runner Ryan Kopf Banned from Anime Milwaukee Following Alleged Sexual Assault”, the consequences of a 2018 incident:

Anime Milwaukee (AMKE) staff confirmed with Anime News Network that Ryan Kopf, the chief executive officer of the AnimeCon.org convention organization, is banned from future Anime Milwaukee conventions following an incident that took place during the 2018 convention between February 16-18 at the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee hotel. Police were called to the hotel to respond to an alleged sexual assault involving Kopf.

Anime Milwaukee made a statement (full text at the linked post) which begins:

As the leadership of Anime Milwaukee, we take safety standards seriously. That is why we, AMKE’s parent non-profit organization (the Entertainment and Culture Promotion Society, Inc.) are choosing to come forward about an incident that happened at our show, and the preventative action we have taken since.

Anime Milwaukee can confirm there was an incident involving Mr. Kopf, a representative of Anime Midwest, at AMKE 2018. In this case, per protocol, Milwaukee PD were called by Hyatt staff. Convention staff also responded to assist the attendee as needed, until we were dismissed by police upon their arrival. Our details are pretty sparse from there, since this became a matter for law enforcement personnel. For our part, Mr. Kopf was immediately banned from Anime Milwaukee for 2018 and all future years. He is not permitted to attend AMKE in any capacity. We were also informed that the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee banned him from their property.

Our convention chair at the time, Corey Wood, acted decisively to ensure Mr. Kopf, all associated events staff, and promotional materials were ejected fully from Anime Milwaukee events space….

ANN asked for Kopf’s side of things:

Anime News Network reached out to Kopf for comment on alleged incidents at Anime Milwaukee 2018 and Anime-zing! 2013. Kopf denied he was removed from the Anime Milwaukee 2018 event or that any incident took place. He also denied anything improper took place at Anime-zing 2013.

“When attending Anime Milwaukee in 2018, I was always in the company of at least one of my staff members. We were not approached by anyone and we were not asked to leave. The precise nature of these allegations remain [sic] unclear to me. I have not done anything improper at either of these events, and I fully intend to pursue holding accountable those who have continued to repeat defamatory statements about me,” Kopf wrote.

Kopf has been involved in a number of incidents, and some litigation against those who reported them, over the pat few years – see File 770’s 2016 post “Ryan Kopf Refiles Suit Against Nerd & Tie”.

(9) NASA MISSION TO TITAN. NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced yesterday that “NASA’s Dragonfly Will Fly Around Titan Looking for Origins, Signs of Life”.

NASA has announced that our next destination in the solar system is the unique, richly organic world Titan. Advancing our search for the building blocks of life, the Dragonfly mission will fly multiple sorties to sample and examine sites around Saturn’s icy moon.

Dragonfly will launch in 2026 and arrive in 2034. The rotorcraft will fly to dozens of promising locations on Titan looking for prebiotic chemical processes common on both Titan and Earth. Dragonfly marks the first time NASA will fly a multi-rotor vehicle for science on another planet; it has eight rotors and flies like a large drone. It will take advantage of Titan’s dense atmosphere – four times denser than Earth’s – to become the first vehicle ever to fly its entire science payload to new places for repeatable and targeted access to surface materials.

Titan is an analog to the very early Earth, and can provide clues to how life may have arisen on our planet. During its 2.7-year baseline mission, Dragonfly will explore diverse environments from organic dunes to the floor of an impact crater where liquid water and complex organic materials key to life once existed together for possibly tens of thousands of years. Its instruments will study how far prebiotic chemistry may have progressed. They also will investigate the moon’s atmospheric and surface properties and its subsurface ocean and liquid reservoirs. Additionally, instruments will search for chemical evidence of past or extant life.

… Dragonfly took advantage of 13 years’ worth of Cassini data to choose a calm weather period to land, along with a safe initial landing site and scientifically interesting targets.

(10) MALTIN AND GRRM. Leonard Maltin interviewed George R.R. Martin for his podcast Maltin on the Movies.

The prolific author behind Game of Thrones is also a lifelong movie buff and invited us to interview him at his very own theater, The Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, New Mexico. George and Leonard compared notes about starting out as a fan and contributing to fanzines, back in the pre-Internet era. (For more on this, go to www.leonardmaltin.com.) George went on to teach writing and enjoyed success as a novelist before moving to Hollywood, where he spent a decade working in television. Ultimately he returned to his roots as an author, little dreaming that his novels would inspire one of the most elaborate and successful television shows ever produced. George is a great conversationalist and was a gracious host to Leonard and Jessie; you can join them vicariously by listening in.
Read more at http://maltinonmovies.libsyn.com/george-rr-martin#rKoWVaWd6LogrJmZ.99

Maltin also wrote a post about his fanpublishing roots: “My Link to Game of Thrones’ George R.R. Martin: Fanzines”. (Apropos to our current discussion of gatekeeping, Maltin put out a movie fanzine, and obviously would be shocked if anyone didn’t consider that a link to young GRRM’s fanac.)

We had a great conversation for our podcast, Maltin on Movies, which you can find HERE. In doing homework for that chat I discovered that Mr. Martin and I have at least one thing in common, other than growing up in New Jersey: we both got our start writing for fanzines….

It turned out that the school paper had no use for cocky freshmen, so another friend, Barry Gottlieb, and I launched a more ambitious publication we called Profile. It reflected my growing interest in film history and Barry’s love of magic and magicians. Profile was reproduced on a used mimeograph machine, which was given to me by my father’s cousin, who was in the printing business. It lacked an automatic paper feed, so it was truly labor-intensive—and messy, to boot. I still feel like I have black ink under my fingernails from that experience. Barry had artistic skills and graced our covers with lineoleum-block prints. When we felt flush we sprang for wraparound covers featuring photos and posters from a local job-printer. That spruced up our little magazine, which was starting to build a following outside of our schoolmates.

I was 13 years old when Forrest J. Ackerman’s popular newsstand magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland printed a survey of fanzines. That’s how I learned of The 8mm Collector, published by Samuel K. Rubin in Indiana, Pennsylvania and Film Fan Monthly, published by Daryl Davy in Vancouver, B.C. I submitted articles to them both and they were accepted. That’s when I saw my byline in print for the first time in a publication other than my own. Believe me, that was a heady experience. Only after they published my pieces did I tell them that I was 13. Sam Rubin said he didn’t care and Daryl Davy said the same, adding that he was 19 at the time. I became a regular contributor to both magazines.

(11) COWBOY V. ROBOTS. The Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles is running a “Weird West Film Series” and on July 13 will host a marathon screening of the cowboy star’s serial The Phantom Empire (1935)”

Join us for a marathon screening of all 12 chapters of the classic sci-fi Western serial The Phantom Empire! The underground empire of Murania threatens the world with robots, ray-guns, and Thunder Riders—and only Gene Autry, in his first starring role, can save the day! Watch for Griffith Observatory (the super-scientific, highly advanced kingdom of Murania 20,000 feet below Gene Autry’s Radio Ranch). Chapters are screened every half hour and introduced by Karla Buhlman, President of Gene Autry Entertainment. Drop in or stay for the whole show, cliffhangers and all.

For more details on the cast and songs in this film, visit the Official Gene Autry website page for The Phantom Empire.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 28, 1957 Beginning of the End premiered. (Think giant grasshoppers)
  • June 28, 1957The Unearthly debuted in theaters.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 28, 1926 Mel Brooks, 92. Blazing Saddles I’ve watched, oh, at least two dozen times. Get Smart several times at least wholly or in part. Spaceballs, errr, once was enough. And let’s not mention Robin Hood: Men in Tights though The Producers (not genre I grant you) was brilliant. So what do you like or dislike by him? 
  • Born June 28, 1941 Martin Greenberg. Founder of Gnome Press who’s not to be confused with Martin H Greenberg. Not on Asimov’s list of favorite people despite being the first publisher of the Foundation series. Not paying authors is a bad idea. (Died 2011.)
  • Born June 28, 1944 Peggy Rae Sapienza. Anything I could possibly say, Mike has said of this fan of the first order far more eloquently here. (Died 2015.)
  • Born June 28, 1946 Robert Asprin. I first encountered him as one of the editors (along with Lynn Abbey) of the Thieves’ World Series for which he wrote the superb “The Price of Doing Business” for the first volume. I’m also fond of The Cold Cash War novel. His Griffen McCandles (Dragons) series is quite excellent. I’m please to say he’s well stocked on both Apple Books and Kindle. (Died 2008.)
  • Born June 28, 1948 Kathy Bates, 71. Her performance in Misery based on the King novel was her big Hollywood film. She was soon in Dolores Claiborne, another King-derived film. Other genre roles included Mrs. Green in Dick Tracy, Mrs. Miriam Belmont in Dragonfly, voice of the Sea Hag in Popeye’s Voyage: The Quest for Pappy, voice of Bitsy the Cow in Charlotte’s Web and Secretary of Defense Regina Jackson in The Day the Earth Stood Still , a very loose adaption of the Fifties film of the same name.
  • Born June 28, 1951 Lalla Ward, 68. She is known for her role as Romana (or Romanadvoratrelundar in full) on Doctor Who during the time of the Fourth Doctor. She has reprised the character in Dimensions in Time, the webcast version of Shada, and in several Doctor Who Big Finish productions. In addition, she played Ophelia to Derek Jacobi’s Hamlet in the BBC television production.  And she was Helga in an early horror film called Vampire Circus.
  • Born June 28, 1954 Alice Krige, 65. I think her first genre role was in the full role of Eva Galli and Alma Mobley in Ghost Story. From there, she plays Mary Shelley (née Godwin) in Haunted Summer before going onto being Mary Brady in Stephen King’s Sleepwalkers. Now Star Trek: First Contact in which she first plays the Borg Queen, a role she’ll repeat in the 2001 finale of Star Trek: Voyager, “Endgame”. She’s had a number of other genre roles but I only note that she was Eir in Thor: The Dark World.
  • Born June 28, 1954 Deborah Grabien, 65. She makes the Birthday list for her most excellent Haunted Ballads series in which a folk musician and his lover tackle the matter of actual haunted spaces. It leads off with The Weaver and the Factory Maid. You can read the first chapter here. Oh, and she makes truly great dark chocolate fudge. 
  • Born June 28, 1954 Raffaella De Laurentiis, 65. Yes, she’s related to that De Laurentiis hence she was the producer of the Dune film. She also did Conan the Barbarian and Conan the Destroyer, both starting Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Kull the Conqueror. She also produced all films in the Dragonheart series.
  • Born June 28, 1957 Mark Helprin, 72. Author of three works of significance to the genre, Winter’s TaleA City in Winter which won the World Fantasy Award for Best Novella and The Veil of Snows. The latter two are tastefully illustrated by Chris Van Allsburg. I know Winter’s Tale was turned into a film but color me very disinterested in seeing it.  
  • Born June 28, 1966 Sara Stewart, 53. Martha Wayne in Batman Begins, she played the Sheriff of Nottingham’s sister, Davina, in “Sister Hood”, the opening episode of Season 2 of Robin Hood, her voice appears in the Dr Who episode “The End of the World”, and a loa possess her in the London Voodoo film.
  • Born June 28, 1979 Felicia Day, 40. She was Vi in  Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dr. Holly Marten in Eureka, and had a recurring role as Charles Bradbury on Supernatural. She also appears as Kinga Forrester in Mystery Science Theater 3000.

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Flying McCoys shows somebody who’ll be surprised that Dracula doesn’t think this is good news.

(15) ST:P. Picard is slated to debut later this year, and famed genre figure Michael Chabon will be at the helm: “‘Star Trek: Picard’ Names Michael Chabon Showrunner”.

“‘Star Trek’ has been an important part of my way of thinking about the world, the future, human nature, storytelling and myself since I was ten years old,” said Chabon. “I come to work every day in a state of joy and awe at having been entrusted with the character and the world of Jean-Luc Picard, with this vibrant strand of the rich, intricate and complex tapestry that is ‘Trek.’”

(16) UP, PERISCOPE. The Cut brings its investigative powers to bear on “A Close Reading of the Most Deranged Sandwich Commercial Ever”.

Those of you who’ve spared yourselves of Twitter might have missed the absolute calamity that ensued when Simmons shared this example of advertising run wild. At the time of writing, it had been retweeted tens of thousands of times, received thrice as many faves, generated roughly 5,000 comments, and immediately cemented itself as a meme. It has also raised a lot of questions:

(17) FRANKENSTEINLY SPEAKING. Daniel Kimmel, a film critic and author of several humorous sf novels, is interviewed by the Jewish Journal: “In new book, Somerville author explores ‘What is it like to be Jewish in the 21st century?’” The accompanying photo shows Kimmel posed with his Skylark Award

…Kimmel’s earlier novels include “Jar Jar Binks Must Die … and Other Observation about Science Fiction Movies,” and “Time On My Hands: My Misadventures In Time Travel.” He’s the winner of the 2018 Skylark Award, given by the New England Science Fiction Association for lifetime contributions to the genre. It’s a distinction he shares with such notables as Isaac Asimov, Jane Yolen, and Bruce Coville.

…In a recent conversation, Kimmel said his new novel is a mashup of two classic films, “Father of the Bride” (1950, remade in 1991), and “The Bride of Frankenstein” (1935), an irresistible challenge for the 63-year-old who lives in Somerville.

It’s Kimmel’s first work of explicitly Jewish fiction, with memorable characters – including a rabbi – enlivened with Kimmel’s Jewish sensibilities from growing up in Queens, N.Y.

“Father of the Bride of Frankenstein” opens with a prologue from the father-narrator, a bank executive who sets the stage of the wildly imaginative tale of the unlikeliest Jewish wedding about to unfold: the marriage of his darling daughter Samantha, a college philosophy major, to Frank, the charismatic human who, only a few years earlier, was brought to life from tissues taken from a corpse in an (illegal) experiment by scientists (who are now behind bars).

With a witty pen, Kimmel manages to touch on issues of the day, from bioethics to politics and human rights, all wrapped up in hilarious family dynamics bursting with Borscht-Belt humor.

(18) LOVECRAFT BOBBLEHEAD. World Fantasy Award winners didn’t want little Lovecraft statuettes, but maybe you do. Especially if it’s a bobblehead. On sale at MVD Entertainment Group: “H.P. Lovecraft – Limited Edition Bobblehead By Rue Morgue Rippers”.

Rue Morgue Magazine’s next release in the Rue Morgue RIPpers line is the father of cosmic horror, H.P. Lovecraft. This 7-inch polyresin figure of Lovecraft is limited to 1500 numbered units. Sculpted with incredible accuracy, the H.P. Lovecraft Rue Morgue RIPper will surely please fans worldwide.

(19) DEAD CERT. There’s not a ghost of a chance that the lease will be renewed – details in The Brag: “Melbourne’s Haunted Bookshop lease denied on account of landlord’s ‘Spiritual Beliefs’”.

A Melbourne paranormal bookstore has had a lease application denied because of the potential landlord’s “spiritual beliefs.”

The Haunted Bookshop was established in 1997 but will be closing permanently this year. Any hope of remaining open at a new, nearby location seems to have been diminished with the establishment becoming the latest flashpoint to dominate national discourse in the debate around a perceived attack on religious expression.

… In the post, Sinton mentioned that the landlord is “a high-profile member of the Buddhist community” though The Brag is unable to confirm this at the time of publish. The Brag has also reached out to the agent representing the property for comment.

(20) ALL KNIGHT LONG. “Michael Palin to produce Radio 4 specials for Monty Python birthday” – BBC has the story. Chip Hitchcock comments, “A pity the world record attempt is too late for Worldcon-related tourism — I bet a lot of fans would have shown up.”

Sir Michael Palin is to serve as the executive producer on five new Radio 4 specials to mark the 50th anniversary of the Monty Python comedy troupe.

The shows, to air in September, will feature “never-before-released material from the Monty Python sound archives”.

The 50th anniversary of Monty Python’s Flying Circus first airing on BBC One will be marked as well by a month-long season at BFI Southbank in London.

The 5 October anniversary will also be marked by a world record attempt.

Organisers are hoping to encourage the largest gathering of people dressed as Gumbys – the spectacle-wearing, knotted handkerchief-sporting imbeciles who became part of Python lore.

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