Pixel Scroll 5/20/19 My name Is Elmer J. Fudd, Millionaire. I Own A Pixel And A Scroll

(1) I SEE BY YOUR OUTFIT. You know what they say about the love of money. Patch O’Furr’s “How furries resist a commercialized fandom (Part 1)” begins a three-part series at Dogpatch Press.

Fandom roots were growing independently. Influential fans of these times included Fred Patten, who helped import anime to America, founding a fandom for it, mingling it with science fiction fans and their conventions. Anime was a breath of fresh air with robots, monsters, science fiction and serious adult stories. Patten was also a bridge for funny animal artists with self-published APA’s and zines. In the early 80’s, Steve Gallaci put furries in military science fiction illustration that energized these artists.

At conventions, there was a certain social split among artists and fans. Serious-minded artists wanted to launch respectable careers, while orbiting ones hoped to ride along. But others looked to themselves as sources for fandom for its own sake — and respectability to outsiders wasn’t the main point. While other fandoms took different paths, this one branched off towards a subculture.

At 1980’s sci-fi conventions like Baycon in the San Francisco Bay area, the split was felt with separate room parties (separated by elitism or even cliquish mocking at “skunkfvckers”). It eventually spun off into the first furry con, ConFurence 0 in 1989, a test put together by fans in Southern California. (Mark Merlino, cofounder of Confurence, told me about the fan split in a long email exchange in 2017.) Others spun off from Chicago (Duckon), Philadelphia (Philcon) and elsewhere when furry fans wanted cons of their own….

Tomorrow, Part 2 will look more at how fandom grows with free expression, its own cottage industry and independent media, while making a certain fandom identity. Then Part 3 will look at how fandom can work like counterculture (or even punk) and how commercialism creeps in and complicates it.

(2) X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS. The late Len Wein gets a lot of love in the video that launches this series – “The History of the X-Men Part 1.”

Starting today through the end of May, Marvel will release the four-episode series online to celebrate the X-Men series that changed the Marvel Universe forever: Giant-Size X-Men, 1991’s X-Men #1, Age of Apocalypse, and New X-Men. Sponsored by this summer’s blockbuster HOUSE OF X and POWERS OF X series, these new retrospectives will take both longtime and new X-Men fans back to some of the greatest moments in the Marvel Universe, setting the scene for the most important story in the history of mutantkind.

Each of these shorts will feature voices from Marvel’s past and present – including legendary creators like Adam Kubert, Chris Claremont, Larry Hama, Jonathan Hickman, Al Ewing and more – as they look back and share their thoughts (and inside looks) into the most influential moments that redefined and reignited the X-Men, leading to bold new directions that drew in generations of fans around the world.

X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Series Release Schedule:  5/20 – X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Episode 1: Giant-Size X-Men (1975);   5/22 – X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Episode 2: X-Men #1 (1991);  5/24 – X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Episode 2: Age of Apocalypse (1995);  5/28 – X-MEN: THE SEMINAL MOMENTS Episode 2: New X-Men (2001)

(3) A MARTIAN ODYSSEY. Ingvar (of Trigger Snowflake fame) livetweeted his tour of the Sweden Solar System, starting near the Sun and ending right by Mars, “Using just feet and public transport, it takes about three hours to go from the Sun to Mars.” The thread starts here.

(4) PINNACLE OF SFF. The winners of the 2019 Colorado Book Awards were announced on May 18. (Via Locus Online.)

  • Juvenile Literature
    Del Toro Moon by Darby Karchut (Owl Hollow Press)
  • Science Fiction/Fantasy
    While Gods Sleep by L. D. Colter (Tam Lin Publishing)

(5) HIGHER AND HIGHER. Did you know that Godzilla suffers from inflation? Bloody Disgusting has a lovely diagram: “Artist’s Epic Godzilla Size Chart Highlights How Much the King of the Monsters Has Grown Over the Years”.

…Artist Noger Chen put together this epic size chart in advance of King of the Monsters, putting every single live-action Godzilla (from 1954-2019) side by side, in order of height.

Godzilla measured just 50m tall when he first debuted on the scene, and here in 2019, he’s grown to a staggering 119.8m – the largest Godzilla, in front of Shin Godzilla, ever on screen!

(6) DOWN THE RIVER. Casting choices are named for a new sff movie in “Cannes: Anne Heche, Thomas Jane Join Sci-Fi Film ‘Salvage'” at The Hollywood Reporter.

Salvage will tell the story of two couples fighting to survive on a houseboat as it moves down river in a post-apocalyptic America: Everyone is out for their own survival, nothing is as it was and brutality is the new normal. Each of the characters discover sides of themselves they never knew existed, some valiant and some violent.

The film also boasts an original score composed by Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains.

(7) CROWDSOURCED STAFFING. [Item by Dann]. Grimdark Magazine is losing their cover artist. They are asking fans who are subscribed to their Patreon to help them select their next cover artist.

Help us shortlist a new GdM cover artist

Right-o grimdark horde! I need your input to decide upon a shortlist for a new cover artist to replace our outgoing legend Jason Deem.

When I put out the word for a new artist we got a very tall pile of entries–fifty or sixty or so. I had to cut most of them either for their art not being aligned with what I want on our covers, or their rates being a bit too far out of budget, and got the list down to four. I’d love to get your opinion on them.

The artists are:

(8) DC SAYS STOP WONDERING. After the comic debuted a lawyer letter arrived —“DC Sends Cease And Desist Demand Over Wonder Woman AOC Cover”Bleeding Cool has the story.

This week, Devil’s Due published the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez & The Freedom Force: New Party, Who Dis? comic book. A number of comic book retailers ran exclusive retailer covers, including this one for NY Collector Cave by Carla Cohen which Bleeding Cool posted a couple of weeks ago. In which AOC bears a stunning resemblance to Wonder Woman. Too stunning it seems for DC Comics whose legal team, after reading the article on Bleeding Cool (Warner Bros IP traffic spiked in the days after we posted that article), sent a cease-and-desist notice to DEvil’s Due and the NY Collector Cave demanded that the comic in question not be distributed, but recalled and returned or destroyed.

(9) PUSHING THE NARRATIVE. Is Grumpy Cat dead, or already reincarnated as Craig Martelle? Camestros Felapton has a few quotes from the 20BooksTo50K leader that raise the possibility: “Wrapping up the LMBPN Kerfuffle and the Nebulas”. Martelle told his FB group —

…Six indies nominated for Nebula awards last night and zero indie winners. What matters most is which stories resonate best with the readers and which ones will lead to new stories bringing more readers on board. Who is going to be the most professional of the authors? Out of our six finalists? Only one is not a full-time author and that is by choice.

I am not talking down about any winners or any other authors – being a full-time writer comes with great risk….

Camestros follows up with some earthy opinions of his own.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 20, 1911 Gardner Francis Fox. Writer for DC comics who created The Flash, Adam Strange and The Atom, plus the Justice Society of America. His first SF novel was Escape Across the Cosmos though he wrote a tie-ie novel, Jules Verne’s Five Weeks in a Balloon, previously. (Died 1986.)
  • Born May 20, 1928 Shirley Rousseau Murphy, 91. Author of the Joe Grey series of mysteries. It’s a cat who solves mysteries. Surely that’s genre. Excellent series. She also did some genre, none of which I’ve encountered, the Children of Ynell series and the Dragonbard trilogy.
  • Born May 20, 1946 Cher, 73. In The Witches of Eastwick which is her main genre credit. She did appear as Romana on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in “The Hot Number Affair” and she voiced herself in the “The Secret of Shark Island” of The New Scooby-Doo Movies which despite the name was actually a series, but that’s it. 
  • Born May 20, 1960 John Billingsley, 59. Phlox on Enterprise, a series I really liked despite the fact it seems to have many detractors. His first genre role was in A Man from Earth as Mr. Rothman, a film in which the scriptwriter riffed off the immortality themes from the “Requiem for Methuselah” episode he did for Trek. He’d later reprise that role in The Man from Earth: Holocene. He’s had one-off appearances on The X-Files, Stargate SG-1, Duck Dodgers, Twin Peaks, Lucifer and The Orville. He had a recurring role on Stitchers as Mitchell Blair. 
  • Born May 20, 1961 Owen Teale, 58. Best known role is Alliser Thorne on the just concluded Game of Thrones. He also was Will Scarlet in the superb Robin Hood where the lead role was performed by Patrick Bergin, he played the theologian Pelagius in 2004 King Arthur, was Vatrenus in yet another riff on Arthurian myth called The Last Legion, was Maldak in the “Vengeance on Varos” episode in the Era of the Sixth Doctor, and was Evan Sherman in the “Countrycide” episode of Torchwood. He’s currently playing Peter Knox in A Discovery of Witches based on the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness, named after the first book in the trilogy.
  • Born May 20, 1992 Jack Gleeson, 27. Joffrey Baratheon on the just concluded Game of Thrones. Earlier genre roles are all nameless but are Reign of Fire, Batman Begins and Shrooms, the latter being an Irish horror film. 

(11) IN THE LID. Alasdair Stuart says The Full Lid for May 17 includes a visit to the UK’s phenomenally good National Video Game Museum, a review of Vylar Kaftan’s excellent new novella and a look at Directive, a short run podcast with endless tricks up its sleeve. The Hugo Spotlight this week is Foz Meadows. Here’s an excerpt about the museum —

…Some of them are demos or in beta testing like Lightmatter, which I spent a lot of time with. You’re visiting a science facility built into a mountain when the science becomes Science. Guided out by the grumpy Cave Johnson-alike whose project it is, you have to manipulate your surroundings to stay in the light. Because every shadow will kill you. It’s got that Portal ‘feral science’ feel to it mixed with a great, monochrome graphic palette that throws stark light and shadow everywhere. Once this is done, I’m going to pick it up.

So that’s a game I would never have known existed. That’s still being built. And you can play for free in a museum….

(12) AZAD SFF REVIEWED. NPR’s Caitlyn Paxson says “Language Has Magic In ‘The Candle And The Flame'”.

A fantastical silk road city comes to life in Nafiza Azad’s richly detailed debut novel, The Candle and the Flame.

Fatima works as a messenger in the melting pot of Noor, a bustling desert city where humans and djinn live side by side. Once Noor was only a human city, but an attack by a chaotic tribe of djinn called the Shayateen wiped out the entire population — all except for Fatima and her adoptive sister and grandmother. After the massacre, a new maharajah took charge of Noor and turned to the Ifrit, powerful djinn who strive to keep order in the world, to help drive out the Shayateen and keep the city safe, for its new human and Ifrit inhabitants alike.

(13) AVOID BLOGGER BURNOUT. Fine advice from The Little Red Reviewer: “Dear Book Bloggers, I’m worried about you”

Dear book bloggers of the world:  I’m worried about you. Please be kinder to yourselves.

Book blogging is not and was never meant to be something you are required to do every day or three times a week or on any arbitrarily defined schedule.

Book blogging is not and should not be about keeping up with other bloggers. There isn’t some prize for reading the most books, or downloading the most eARCs from Netgalley or getting the most ARCs in the mail.

Book blogging should not be something that comes before selfcare, or before your family, or before the big things in your life. Some days watching TV should come before book blogging, because we all do #selfcare differently….

(14) BEFORE LIGO. NPR looks at a “Billion-Dollar Gamble: How A ‘Singular Hero’ Helped Start A New Field In Physics”.

Imagine spending 40 years and more than a billion dollars on a gamble.

That’s what one U.S. government science agency did. It’s now paying off big time, with new discoveries about black holes and exotic neutron stars coming almost every week.

And while three physicists shared the Nobel Prize for the work that made this possible, one of them says the real hero is a former National Science Foundation staffer named Rich Isaacson, who saw a chance to cultivate some stunning research and grabbed it.

“The thing that Rich Isaacson did was such a miracle,” says Rainer Weiss, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and one of the 2017 Nobel laureates. “I think he’s the hero. He’s a singular hero. We just don’t have a good way of recognizing people like that. Rich was in a singular place fighting a singular war that nobody else could have fought.”

Without him, Weiss says, “we would’ve been killed dead on virtually every topic.” He and his fellow laureate Kip Thorne recently donated money to create a brand-new American Physical Society award in Isaacson’s honor.

(15) WESTEROS’ FOURTH ESTATE. Esquire’s Gabrielle Bruney suspects a bunch of writers are going to have to get real jobs now that the show’s ended: “Game of Thrones Created a Vast Media Ecosystem. We Talked to the People at Its Center.”

…”I think that when the show first started, it was the book reader base that really got it going,” said David “Razor” Harris, editor of Thrones news, recap, and discussion website Winter is Coming.

“This is a show that both debuted and ran in an era where live-tweeting, after episode breakdowns, and podcasts are the norm,” said Myles McNutt, a media studies expert and assistant professor at Old Dominion University, who reviews the show for The AV Club. Twitter was barely five years old when the program debuted; Instagram would make its appearance six months after Thrones did. Earlier generations of web-savvy fans had been consigned to wikis and message boards, corners of the internet the uninitiated found easy to overlook. But instead, Thrones content was “popping up in your YouTube related videos, on the the Apple front page of top podcasts,” said McNutt.

“It sort of feels like it’s part of your feeds and your daily existence online,” he continued. “I do think there’s ubiquity to it that has encouraged people to jump onboard that might not have otherwise.”

(16) SIREN SONG. Air New Zealand encourages George R.R. Martin to finish the books — after flying to the country on one of their planes.

(17) NOT THIS FUTURE? BBC’s Jane Wakefield analyzes “The Google city that has angered Toronto”. Key quote vs. genre: “The smart city model is all about hype. They believe that if we have enough data we can solve all our problems, and we need to be skeptical about those claims.”

It was meant to be a vision of how we will all live in future – a smart city built from the internet up – offering citizens the chance to experience the very latest technology.

That would include autonomous cars, innovative ways to collect rubbish and shared spaces for communities to come together in new ways.

Sidewalk Labs, a sister company to Google, had acquired disused land in Toronto, Canada for this bold urban experiment, which it hoped would become a model for other cities around the world.

The fact that it would be collecting a lot of data from sensors placed all around the harbourside development unsettled some.

Now many are asking whether a private firm should take charge of urban improvement at all….

(18) NOT SO FAST! Indications that another much-touted idea doesn’t work to spec — “Warning over using augmented reality in precision tasks”.

People who use augmented reality headsets to complete complex tasks fare worse than those with no high-tech help, a small study suggests.

In addition, those fitted with headsets over-estimate how well they perform.

The discovery might limit the usefulness of augmented reality, which has been finding a role in medical and engineering jobs.

The problem arose because of the way that human eyes focused, researchers said.

(19) FACING THE FUTURE. “Hershey’s Tries to Woo the Youths With Emojis”MyRecipes tells how.

…Are the emojis just an attempt to sell more chocolate to youths? Probably. But they’re also designed to do the one thing that advertisers and brand managers speaking at industry conferences love most: starting a conversation. The press release states that the selected emojis were chosen because they “feature meanings that would help to spark a conversation.” The idea that chocolate could get people talking was based on market research which concluded that 87% of kids would want to share chocolate that features emojis with others.

(20) WESTWORLD SADDLES UP AGAIN. The third season trailer has dropped — Westworld III – HBO 2020.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Cat Eldridge, Patch O’Furr, Andrew Porter, Dann, Alasdair Stuart, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Acoustic Rob.]

Pixel Scroll 4/29/19 The Task Of Filling Up This Scroll I’d Rather Leave To You

(1) EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED. Ian Sales’ “Top five science fiction films” is a good post made even more interesting by the choice of John Carter (2012) as one of the five – not a movie many viewers would pick.

I saw someone recently tweet for requests for people’s top five science fiction films and I thought, I can do that. Then it occurred to me I’ve watched around 3000 movies in the past few years, and many of them were science fiction. So those films I think of as my favourites… well, surely I’d seen something that might lead to a new top five? Even if nothing sprung immediately to mind… True, I’m not that big a fan of science fiction cinema, and most of my favourite movies are dramas. And most of the sf films I have seen were commercial tentpole US movies, a genre I like even less…

I went back over my records, and pulled together a rough list of about fifteen films – it seems most of the sf films I’ve seen didn’t impress me very much – and then whittled that down to five. And they were pretty much old favourites. Which sort of rendered the whole exercise a bit pointless.

Or was it?…

(2) FILER SCORES SCALZI Q&A. While John Scalzi was in Hungary for the Budapest International Book Festival, he gave an interview to blogger Bence Pintér:

I will present an English version for my blog in a few days, but until then there is a short video interview at the end of the article, which is in English: “John Scalzi: A szélsojobbos trollok csak jót tettek a science fictionnel”.

(3) HELP ED NAHA. Lots of fans know Ed Naha as the creator and screenwriter for Honey I Shrunk The Kids, and a writer for Starlog, Fangoria and Heavy Metal. He also wrote scripts for the movies Doll, Trolls, and other horror/sf movies.

Paul Sanchez says, “Ed is facing an upcoming major life-threatening surgery. The great American health care system being what it is, it is not nearly enough (Shocking, right?)” So he’s launches a GoFundMe appeal —“Honey, I Shrunk Naha’s Medical Bills!”

In the first two days people have contributed $1,605 toward its $19,998 goal.

(4) ZHAO RETURNS. The author who pulled her book in response to a Twitter uproar now is ready for it to go to press.

The New York Times elaborates: “She Pulled Her Debut Book When Critics Found It Racist. Now She Plans to Publish.”

(5) WHY WAIT? “‘The Twilight Zone’ Renewed for Season 2 at CBS All Access” says The Hollywood Reporter.

CBS All Access and Jordan Peele will spend some more time in another dimension.

The streamer has renewed Peele and Simon Kinberg’s Twilight Zone revival for a second season. The pickup comes five episodes into the anthology’s run; new installments are released each Thursday.

(6) HORROR AT GETTYSBURG. Dann writes: “Via episode 216 of The Horror Show with Brian Keene, I learned about a new Con.”

The inaugural Creature Feature Weekend is scheduled to take place Labor Day weekend of 2019. (August 30 to September 1) In Gettysburg, PA. The con will feature the usual vendor’s room, autograph opportunities, nightly ghost/film location tours, and host an independent film festival.

Scheduled guests include Corey Feldman, Patty Mullen, Joe Bob Briggs, Geretta Geretta, Jason Brooks, Brandon Novak, Chalet Lizette Branna, Billy Bryan, David Eisenhauer John Russo, Glenn Ennis, and others.

Thought this might be of interest to fans of the horror corner of the genre pool.

(7) ANTHOLOGY ARCHITECTURE. In “Time Capsule: SF – The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy (1956)”, Nerds of a Feather contributors Adri Joy, Joe Sherry and Paul Weimer use a single work to focus their discussion of editor Judith Merril.

… Today we’re talking about Judith Merril’s first Year’s Best anthology: SF: The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy, originally published in 1956….

Paul: I am reminded that rights make it difficult to get many of these older anthologies except in falling-apart paperbacks. I do think there is something lost when these things fall out of print, because the notes make this more, in my view, than just the sum of the stories. There is value in reading this collection above and beyond the individual stories themselves.

On that note, one thing I did like in this anthology that you don’t get in a lot of modern anthologies is the “Sewing together” that Merrill does in providing explicit direction as to what she was thinking in placement of stories on subject and theme. I don’t think that gets enough play these days, and too often, anthologies seem to have stories in any old order without a sense of how they reflect and refract on each other. Merrill WANTS you to know what she is thinking. It’s a more “present” place for an anthologist than what you get these days.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 29, 1887 H. Bedford-Jones. Pulp writer of whom only maybe ten percent of his twelve hundred stories could be considered genre but some such as the Jack Solomon novels, say John Solomon, Argonaut and John Solomon’s Biggest Game are definitely genre. Like many of the early pulp writers, he used a number of pen names, to wit Michael Gallister, Allan Hawkwood, Gordon Keyne, H. E. Twinells and L. B. Williams. Wildside Press published in 2006 a collection of his short stories, The House of Skulls and Other Tales from the Pulps. (Died 1949.)
  • Born April 29, 1908 Jack Williamson. I’ll frankly admit that he’s one of those authors that I know I’ve read a fair amount by can’t recall any specific titles as I didn’t collect him. A quick research study suggests the Legion of Space series was what I liked best. What did y’all like by him? (Died 2006.)
  • Born April 29, 1923 Irvin Kershner. Director and producer of such genre works as the Amazing Stories and seaQuest DSV series, Never Say Never Again, RoboCop 2 and The Empire Strikes Back. By the way, several of the sources I used in compiling this Birthday claimed that was the best Star Wars film. (Died 2010.)
  • Born April 29, 1946 Humphrey Carpenter. Biographer whose notable output of biographies includes J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography; also did editing of The Letters of J. R. R. Tolkien, and is responsible for The Inklings: CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien, Charles Williams and their Friends. (Died 2005.)
  • Born April 29, 1955 Kate Mulgrew, 64. Captain Kathryn Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager. Other genre roles include voicing Red Claw on Batman: The Animated Series, Jane Lattimer on Warehouse 13 and Clytemnestra in Iphigenia at the Signature Theatre Company. 
  • Born April 29, 1968 Michelle Pfeiffer, 61. Selina Kyle aka Catwoman in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns. I saw it once which was quite enough. She was also in the much better The Witches of Eastwick as Sukie Ridgemont and was Brenda Landers in the “Hospital” segment of Amazon Women on the Moon. She played Laura Alden in Wolf, voiced Tsipp?r?h in The Prince of Egypt, was Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, voiced Eris in Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, was Lamia in Stardust and is playing The Wasp (Janet van Dyne) in Ant-Man and the Wasp
  • Born April 29, 1970 Uma Thurman, 49. Venus / Rose in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (Kage’s favorite film), Maid Marian in the Robin Hood starring Patrick Bergin which I highly recommend, Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin (bad, bad film) which she will follow by being Emma Peel in The Avengers, an even worse stinker of a film, and Irene in Gattaca.

(9) GAME OF ROT-13. BEWARE SPOILERS for last night’s Game of Thrones episode.The Mary Sue asks “Ubj va gur Jbeyq Pna Nalbar Fnl Neln Fgnex Vf n Znel Fhr?”.

Gvzr sbe zr gb erne zl htyl urnq va guvf pbairefngvba naq fgneg fpernzvat ng crbcyr, orpnhfr gur tebff pbafrafhf nsgre gur yngrfg rcvfbqr bs UOB’f Tnzr bs Guebarf vf gung Neln Fgnex, n jbzna jub qrqvpngrq ure yvsr gb pbzong genvavat, vf abj n Znel Fhr. Nsgre fur raqrq hc qrsrngvat gur Avtug Xvat ol fgnoovat uvz jvgu qentbatynff, zra ner znq gung n jbzna qvq vg vafgrnq bs gurve cerpvbhf Wba Fabj.

(10) QUICK, WATSON. Paul Weimer reviews a Holmes-inspired novel in “Microreview [book]: The Hound of Justice, by Claire O’Dell” at Nerds of a Feather.

By the end of A Study in Honor, the first in Claire O’Dell’s Janet Watson Chronicles, the writer had established the parameters of her world, introduced our two main characters in full, Dr. Janet Watson and Sara Holmes. These two queer women of color as posited are indeed this world’s versions of the classic detective duo, in a near future 21st century Washington D.C, where America, after the divisiveness of a Trump administration is wracked by something even worse: A new Civil War. The two meet, and a first step toward Watson engaging with the war-torn past that cost her an arm is the central mystery at the heart of that novel.

In The Hound of Justice (yet a second novel title in homage to Doyle)., Dr. Watson’s story continues…

(11) XENON. “Scientists witness the rarest event in the Universe yet seen” — at SYFY Wire, Phil Plait tells what made it possible.

Over a kilometer below the surface of Italy, deep beneath the Gran Sasso mountain, lies a cylindrical tank. It’s roughly a meter high, a bit less than that wide, and it’s filled with an extraordinary substance: three and a half tons of ultra-pure xenon, kept liquid at a temperature of almost a hundred degrees Celsius below zero.

The tank is part of an experiment called XENON1T, and scientist built it in the hopes of detecting an incredibly rare event: an interaction of a dark matter particle with a xenon nucleus, predicted to occur if dark matter is a very specific kind of particle itself. Should they see such an event, it will nail down what dark matter is, and change the course of astronomy.

Unfortunately, they haven’t seen that yet. But instead, what they have seen is something far, far more rare: the decay of xenon-124 into tellurium-124. The conditions need to be so perfect for this to happen inside the nucleus of a xenon-124 atom that the half-life* for this event is staggeringly rare: It’s 1.8 x 1022 years.

(12) SOURCE OF OLD EARWORMS. NPR’s “From Betty Boop To Popeye, Franz Von Suppé Survives In Cartoons” includes the cartoons mentioned in the headline.

On April 18, 2019, Franz von Suppé was born on 200 years ago in what is now Croatia, but he went to Vienna as a young man and built a successful career as a conductor and composer. And while you may never have heard of von Suppé, if you like movies, cartoons, or video games, odds are you’ve heard his music.

(13) BEFORE THE BREAKTHROUGH. BBC delves into “‘The Wandering Earth’ and China’s sci-fi heritage”.

The Wandering Earth has been billed as a breakthrough for Chinese sci-fi.

The film tells the story of our planet, doomed by the expanding Sun, being moved across space to a safer place. The Chinese heroes have to save the mission – and humanity – when Earth gets caught in Jupiter’s gravitational pull.

Based on Hugo Award winner Liu Cixin’s short story of the same name, Wandering Earth has already grossed $600m (£464m) at the Chinese box office and was called China’s “giant leap into science fiction” by the Financial Times. It’s been bought by Netflix and will debut there on 30 April.

But while this may be the first time many in the West have heard of “kehuan” – Chinese science fiction – Chinese cinema has a long sci-fi history, which has given support to scientific endeavour, offered escapism from harsh times and inspired generations of film-goers.

So for Western audiences eager to plot the rise of the Chinese sci-fi movie, here are five films I think are worth renewed attention….

(14) PLEASE TO RETURN TO SENDER. “Norway finds ‘Russian spy whale’ off Arctic coast”: BBC has the story.

A beluga whale found off Norway’s coast wearing a special Russian harness was probably trained by the Russian navy, a Norwegian expert says.

Marine biologist Prof Audun Rikardsen said the harness had a GoPro camera holder and a label sourcing it to St Petersburg. A Norwegian fisherman managed to remove it from the whale.

He said a Russian fellow scientist had told him that it was not the sort of kit that Russian scientists would use.

Russia has a naval base in the region.

The tame beluga repeatedly approached Norwegian boats off Ingoya, an Arctic island about 415km (258 miles) from Murmansk, where Russia’s Northern Fleet is based. Belugas are native to Arctic waters.

…A Russian reserve colonel, who has written previously about the military use of marine mammals, shrugged off Norway’s concern about the beluga. But he did not deny that it could have escaped from the Russian navy.

Interviewed by Russian broadcaster Govorit Moskva, Col Viktor Baranets said “if we were using this animal for spying do you really think we’d attach a mobile phone number with the message ‘please call this number’?”

(15) WHAT TO WANT. I learned something about Murderbot, and something about the reviewer, Andrea, in “Exit Strategy by Martha Wells” at Little Red Reviewer.

…When I first started reading Exit Strategy, I thought the plot was thin and weak. I felt like I wasn’t connecting with this book as much as I had with earlier entries, and that annoyed me. Call it user-error.  More on that later, I promise….

(16) WHERE’S OSHA DURING ALL THIS? It’s James Davis Nicoll’s turn to deconstruct a classic: “On Needless Cruelty in SF: Tom Godwin’s ‘The Cold Equations’”.

Science fiction celebrates all manner of things; one of them is what some people might call “making hard decisions” and other people call “needless cruelty driven by contrived and arbitrary worldbuilding chosen to facilitate facile philosophical positions.” Tomato, tomato.

Few works exemplify this as perfectly as Tom Godwin’s classic tale “The Cold Equations.”…

James has a good time, and doubtless some of you will, too. Teenaged me, on the other hand, considers his feelings mocked….

(17) TURNING UP THE LOST VOLUME. “Christopher Columbus’ son’s universal library is newly rediscovered in this lost tome”.

Hernando Colón, the illegitimate son of Italian colonizer Christopher Columbus, had an obsession with books. Colón traveled the world to attempt an ambitious dream: to collect and store all of the world’s books in one library. Summaries of the volumes he gathered were distilled in the “Libro de los Epítomes,” or “The Book of Epitomes” — that repository had been lost to history for centuries.

…This was right at the dawn of the era of print, so the number of books was rising exponentially. He realized that the idea of this library was a wonderful one, but of course, it might become unmanageable if he was just collecting the books and not finding a way to organize and distill them. So he paid an army of readers to read every book in the library and to distill it down to a short summary so that all of this knowledge could be put at the disposal of a single person.

It’s this book, the “Libro de los Epítomes,” that is described by his last librarian in a document at the end of Hernando’s life, but then disappears and isn’t really heard of for basically 500 years because it’s been sitting for at least 350 of those years in Scandinavia, where it was unrecognized….

Somehow this reminds me of Forry Ackerman’s answer to the question of whether he’d read all the books in his collection – “Every last word.” By which he meant he’d looked at the last word on the last page of all of them.

[Thanks to rcade, Rich Lynch,, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Tom Mason, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]