Chengdu Wins 2023 Worldcon Site Selection Vote

The 81st Worldcon will be held in Chengdu, China from August 23-29, 2023. The convention’s guests of honor will be Sergey Lukianenko, the author of the Night Watch series, Robert Sawyer author of Hominids, and Liu Cixin, the author of The Three-Body Problem.

(The spelling of Lukianenko here follows the usage of the author’s official site, although the Wikipedia spells it with a “y”.)

Site selection administrator Tim Szczesuil reported the following vote totals to the DisCon III business meeting this morning:

FIRST BALLOTPRE-CONWEDNESDAYTHURSDAYFRIDAYTOTAL
Chengdu in 20231950719302006
Winnipeg in ‘2333297197181807
Memphis in 2023 (withdrawn)21317
Write-ins837218
Total with preference22921082262142838
Needed to win    1420
No preference6024975
Total valid votes23521102302232915
Invalid ballots20057

He also reported that a further 917 tokens were sold for which no matching ballots were received.

Yesterday’s controversial but non-binding resolution about the application of the WSFS Constitution’s site selection rules did not lead to the exclusion of large numbers of votes. Szczesuil reports that included in the Pre-Con total are 1,591 ballots from China missing a street address, but otherwise valid. These ballots consisted of 1,586 for Chengdu and 5 with no preference. Had the lack of a street address caused these ballots to be shifted to “No preference,” Winnipeg would have won.

After the results were announced, Chengdu’s representative Chen Shi addressed the business meeting and shared information about their guests, dates, and other plans.

“After these days of hard work, I’m happy to give you this speech here. It’s been four years since Chengdu started and this has given hope to countless Chinese fans. For Chengdu fans, this is a once in a decade opportunity. This is a special moment for us all. It is a new adventure for all of us. It will be a different kind of Worldcon, but it will still be a Worldcon. That you will still recognize as part of these traditions that started in 1939, when the world was a very different place. I want to thank the efforts of the team in Winnipeg. It has been a long journey, and you gave some good competition, and I will say that we have learned some things from you as well! Such as how to run a good fan table, how to run a good community, give a good presentation, and so on. I hope that many of you will be ready and willing to join our teams. I hope that we can welcome all of you to Chengdu. In fact, we welcome everyone here to Chengdu. We prefer it if you come in person, but for those who can’t, a stream of virtual programming will be part of the accommodation.”

Their membership rates currently are Attending $100, and Virtual $80. He said, “We know that the virtual convention has expanded our ideas of what the Worldcon can be and has given us a great chance to build a global community of science fiction fans.”

A photo of the flyer distributed at the business meeting (courtesy of Chris Barkley) shows the staff that Chengdu already has in place, and the positions they are looking to fill. Chen Shi invited people to apply.

CHICON 8 REPORT. Once the Site Selection portion of the meeting was finished, Chicon 8’s chair Helen Montgomery provided an update about next year’s Worldcon in Chicago, then took questions. She said, “We will definitely have a virtual component. We don’t entirely know what it’s going to look like.”

Montgomery was asked, “I’ve heard rumors that George RR Martin will not be welcomed on program. Is that true?” Her answer was not yes or no. She said, “At this time, we have not picked anyone to be on program. Program applications and surveys have not gone out. It is the answer to the question. We have not picked anybody to be on program. And as far as — I don’t even know if Mr. Martin has filled in an applicant form. So I can’t actually answer that. Our goal for program, though, is to — and this has always been one of our goals — is we want to make sure that folks who have been historically marginalized have a voice in our convention. But that is not at the expense of other people who have been active in this fandom for a long time. So we’re looking to find a balance. But, you know , if folks are interested in being on program, fill out the program form. That’s the first thing that we can tell you to do. — that’s the best thing that we can tell you to do. From then, we have a vetting process and the whole nine yards.”

Room reservations for Chicon 8 will open early in 2022. Montgomery encouraged folks who need ADA rooms to e-mail access@chicon.org and get on the list as soon as possible. ADA rooms will open mid-January. Reservations for everybody else will open in mid-February.

Pixel Scroll 11/10/21 Pixel-Heroes Battle Pixel-Gorillas

(1) THE SIX-BODY PROBLEM. There’s a new trailer out for China company Tencent’s production of The Three-Body Problem, which is fueling comparisons with another adaptation forthcoming from Netflix. Will Netflix’ Benioff and Weiss, veterans of Game of Thrones, overlook Chinese cultural subtleties? Will China’s censors allow Tencent to address all of them? Variety begins with a gloss of the trailer: “Tencent’s First ‘Three-Body Problem’ Trailer Sparks Netflix Rivalry”:

…The new Tencent trailer opens with an exchange between two off-screen male voices.

“Have significant accidents ever happened to you in your life?” one asks. “No,” the other replies. “Then your life is a sort of accident,” the first continues. “But isn’t that the case for most people?” the second voice asks, and the first responds, to a backdrop of ominous music with deep foghorn-type blasts that would feel at home on the “Tenet” soundtrack: “Then most people’s lives are all accidents.”

In a final line, a woman’s voice says: “This is the end of humanity.”

Several companies have been trying to produce adaptations of Liu Cixin’s novel.

Tencent nabbed the rights to adapt the story into a TV series way back in 2008. Now, its version is entering a crowded playing field.

There are at least two other “Three-Body Problem” adaptations in the works in China, including a film backed by IP rights holder Yoozoo Group that may have fallen permanently to the wayside and an animated take from Gen Z- and anime-leaning platform Bilibili.

Netflix struck its own deal with Yoozoo to create an English-language adaptation, announcing the project last September. The American version is being co-created by “Game of Thrones” big shots David Benioff and Dan Weiss alongside Alexander Woo (“True Blood”), and will be directed by Hong Kong’s Derek Tsang (“Better Days”).

Chinese social media is pressuring Tencent to do a good job:

“‘Three-Body’ is a story full of Chinese elements told by we Chinese from our Chinese perspective and ways of thinking …to express Chinese people’s values, worldview and view of the universe. These things are very hard for foreigners to express — only we are able to do it,” wrote one popular comment in response to Tencent’s Weibo recent post about the new trailer.

It was outranked by the top comment, liked 27,000 times. It read: “Buck up — you better not lose to Netflix’s nonsense version.”

While nationalist users maintained that only a Chinese production could capture the essence of the story, the novel is set during the Cultural Revolution, which could pose a problem for censors in a Chinese retelling.

Incidentally, here is the trailer Bilibili released in 2019 for its anime adaptation of The Three-Body Problem.

(2) CHIP IN. M.C.A. Hogarth is closing in on the $10K stretch goal of a Kickstarter launched to fund a collection of MilSF short stories set in her Peltedverse: To Discover and Preserve by M.C.A. Hogarth. Two days left – you might want to get in on this.

Alysha Forrest, my oldest Peltedverse character, needs some love, aletsen. Not only does she need some, she deserves it. Though fewer in number than the books comprising the Eldritch canon, the Stardancer/light milsf books of the Peltedverse sell well and without nearly the advertising the Eldritch canon has. I have a bunch of short stories that belong to this side of the timeline, but they’re all Patreon extras or newsletter gifts… and I get questions about where new readers can find them all the time! That means it’s time to collect them for retail. And while I have five stories (enough to credibly issue a single volume), they’re pretty short and could use some friends. 

Hogarth has given fans this incentive to push the Kickstarter past $10K:

…if we do, rather than continuing to pad the collection indefinitely, I will promise to finish writing the latest Alysha novel. This is the only way to guarantee you see it within the next year, since it’s otherwise indefinitely backburnered…. 

(3) CLI-FI. The Arizona State University Center for Science and the Imagination today premiered a prerecorded video event, “Cli-Mates: Climate Futures Conversations from Scotland,” in collaboration with the Scottish SF magazine Shoreline of Infinity. The event features the SF authors Kim Stanley Robinson, Ken MacLeod, Xia Jia, Libia Brenda, Gabriela Damián Miravete, Tendai Huchu, and Hannah Onoguwe, along with several scholars and editors.

During the UN Climate Change Conference, or COP26 (1-12 November, 2021), the eyes of the world are on Glasgow, Scotland, where nations, civil-society groups and activists are meeting to determine the shape of global action in the face of the climate crisis. At this moment, perhaps more than any other, we need creatively expansive thinking about possible futures—stories that help us chart a path towards a just, equitable, sustainable global civilization.

(4) FOUNDATION FX. Apple TV+ shows how it’s done in Foundation — Bringing Visions To Life Featurette”.

From the start, the world’s most dedicated visual effects artists and costume designers established that Foundation would be a show unlike any other on TV.

(5) ONE-TIME OPPORTUNITY. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.] I came across this interesting-sounding item on Twitter: On November 18, the Smithsonian Archives department presents Yesterday’s Tomorrows: Visions of the Future on Film, a 1984 film that was part of a NMAH exhibit on “how past visions of the future continue to impact our present and inspire even further futures”, plus commentary from current conservator William Bennett. This is part of the Smithsonian 175th Film Fest, presenting films from the Smithsonian archives.

Due to copyright restrictions, viewers will need to register for a Zoom webinar; the presentation won’t be streamed or saved on YouTube.

(6) FROM AREA 57. “Heinz Debuts ‘Marz Edition’ Ketchup Made With Tomatoes Grown in Mars-Like Conditions” reports Smithsonian Magazine.

On Monday, Heinz revealed its first bottle of “Marz Edition” ketchup, a special recipe made with tomatoes grown in extreme temperature and soil conditions similar to the Red Planet. The team of scientists behind the celestial sauce, which is the product of two years of research and development, says the delicious achievement also advances the possibility of long-term food production on Mars.

“We’re so excited that our team of experts have been able to grow tomatoes in conditions found on another planet and share our creation with the world,” Cristina Kenz of Kraft Heinz said in a statement. “From analyzing the soil from Martian conditions two years ago to harvesting now, it’s been a journey that’s proved wherever we end up, Heinz Tomato Ketchup will still be enjoyed for generations to come.”…

Also note that The Late Show with Stephen Colbert last night included a “cold open” of Hunt’s trying to one-up Heinz with Uranus catsup—“The best tasting thing to come out of Uranus.” 

(7) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1966 — Fifty-five years on NBC, Star Trek’s “The Corbomite Maneuver” first aired. It was the tenth episode of the first season, and it was written by Jerry Sohl who had previously written for Alfred Hitchcock PresentsThe Outer Limits, The Invaders, and The Twilight Zone. (His other Trek scripts were “Whom Gods Destroy” and “This Side of Paradise”.) It was the first episode that was filmed in which Kelley played Dr. Leonard McCoy, Nichols played Lt. Uhura and Whitney played Yeoman Rand, though we first saw them in “The Man Trap”.  Clint Howard, brother of Ron Howard, played Balok, and Ted Cassidy, who was Gorn in “Arena” and the android Ruk in “What Are Little Girls Made Of?”, voiced the Balok puppet here. So did critics like it? No idea as I can’t find any contemporary reviews of it though media critics now love it. Most put it in their top twenty of all the Trek series episodes. It was nominated for a Hugo at NyCon 3, the year that “The Menagerie” won. “The Naked Time” was also nominated that year. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 10, 1924 Russell Johnson. Best known in what is surely genre for being Professor Roy Hinkley in Gilligan’s Island. His genre career started off with four Fifties films, It Came from Outer Space, This Island Earth, Attack of the Crab Monsters and The Space Children. He would later appear in both the Twilight Zone and Outer Limits. On ALF, he would appear as Professor Roy Hinkley in “Somewhere Over the Rerun”.  (Died 2014.)
  • Born November 10, 1932 Roy Scheider. First genre role was as Dr. Heywood R. Floyd in 2010, the sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey. His other major genre performance was as Captain Nathan Bridger in the SeaQuest DSV series. He also has roles in The Curse of the Living Corpse (his first acting role, a very low budget horror film), one of The Punisher films, Dracula III: Legacy and Naked Lunch which may or may not be genre.  I do not consider the Jaws films to be genre, but you may do so. (Died 2008.)
  • Born November 10, 1943 Milt Stevens. Today is indeed his Birthday. On the day that OGH announced his unexpected passing did a wonderful post and y’all did splendid commentary about him, so I’ll just send you over there. (Died 2017.)
  • Born November 10, 1950 Dean Wesley Smith, 71. Editor of Pulphouse magazine which fortunately Black Gate magazine has provided us with a fascinating history which you can read herePulphouse I first encountered when I collected the works of Charles de Lint who was in issue number eight way back in the summer issue of 1990. As a writer, he is known for his use of licensed properties such as StarTrekSmallvilleAliensMen in Black, and Quantum Leap. He is also known for a number of his original novels, such as the Tenth Planet series written in collaboration with his wife, Kristine Kathryn Rusch. 
  • Born November 10, 1955 Roland Emmerich, 66. Usually I don’t touch upon SJW affairs here (well I do when I want to) but he’s very strong campaigner for the LGBT community, and is openly gay so bravo for him!  Now back to his genre credits.  The Noah’s Ark Principle was in ‘84 by him written and directed by him as his thesis after seeing Star Wars at the Hochschule für Fernsehen und Film MünchenMoon 44 followed which likely most of you haven’t seen but now we get to his Hollywood films, to wit Universal SoldierThe High Crusade (yes, the Poul Anderson novel — who’s seen it?), StargateIndependence Day… no, I’m going to stop there. Suffice it to say he’s created a lot of genre film. And oh, he directed Stonewall, the 2015 look at that historic event which I know isn’t genre or genre adjacent but is worth noting. 
  • Born November 10, 1960 Neil Gaiman, 61. Where to start? By far, Neverwhere is my favorite work by him followed by the Sandman series and Stardust. And I sort of liked American GodsCoraline is just creepy. By far, I think his best script is Babylon 5’s “Day of The Dead” though his Doctor Who episodes, “The Doctor’s Wife” and “Nightmare in Silver” are interesting, particularly the former. 
  • Born November 10, 1971 Holly Black, 50. Best known for her Spiderwick Chronicles, which were created with fellow writer and illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi, and for the Modern Faerie Tales YA trilogy.  Her first novel was Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale. (It’s very, very good.) There have been two sequels set in the same universe. The first, Valiant, won the first Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy.  Doll Bones which is really, really creepy was awarded a Newbery Honor and a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award.  Suffice it to say if you like horror, you’ll love her. 
  • Born November 10, 1982 Aliette de Bodard, 39. Author of the oh-so-excellent Xuya Universe series. Her Xuya Universe novella “The Tea Master and the Detective” won a Nebula Award and a British Fantasy Award, and was nominated for the Hugo and World Fantasy Award. “The Shipmaker”, also set herein, won a BSFA Award for Best Short Fiction. Her other major series is The Dominion of the Fallen which is equally lauded. She’s nominated for a Hugo this year for her “The Inaccessibility of Heaven” novelette. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) TAKE THE CASH AND THE CREDIT, TOO. [Item by David Doering.] I caught a reference on Cracked about writer credits and comics. A fan asserted that comic writers only starting get credit regularly thanks to Marv Wolfman. I thought, hmmm… Really?

What do you know? It’s true. The Comics Code Authority in the 60s banned mention of “wolfman” in comics, BUT  “In DC Comics’ House of Secrets #83, the book’s host said that the story was told to him by ‘a wandering wolfman.’” Comically [pun intended], DC then credited the story to “Marv Wolfman”, making the reference OK by the CCA. 

After that, writers asking and getting credit for their stories. See full details and scans of the comics at CBR.com: “Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed #119”.

(11) FALSE GRIT. Joel Haver assures us “You’ll never find a more sandy planet of sand.” So this is a Dune parody, you assume? Hell no, it’s a Star Wars parody – go figure.

(12) TAKING THE MICK OUT. “Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind Blueprints Leaked Online” – and Blog Mickey has a bucket full of what leaked.

A set of blueprints reportedly belonging to the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind attraction have leaked online. The attraction, which has been under construction for more than 4 years, will open sometime in 2022 at EPCOT. The blueprints pull the curtain back a bit on a project that Disney has only slowly revealed information about. It’s unclear how accurate the blueprints are to the final product, but lets take a look….

…As we saw in early construction photos, roller coaster track weaves throughout the building, but the blueprints show just how much track is inside.

It’s unclear how much of the roller coaster track is for the actual attraction, and how much is for the storage, but the majority of the attraction will take place in the large gravity building that was built from scratch for this attraction….

(13) THE GALACTIC HERO BILL. John Scalzi revealed his true net worth today. Don’t you agree that “Billions and billions” is a phrase that suits an sf writer very well?

(14) SHOW NO MERCY. James Davis Nicoll’s latest Young People Read Old SFF introduces the panel to Ursula K. Le Guin’s 1971 “Vaster Than Empires and More Slow.”

“Vaster” takes place in Le Guin’s Hainish setting, where for the most part other worlds are inhabited by variant humans seeded in the ancient past by the Hainish. “Vaster” is an exception: first contact here is not between two branches of humanity but between humans and something very alien. Let’s see what the Young People make of it! 

Sort of like a Beat Bobby Flay episode, the young judges record a split decision.

(15) LOST IN SPACE TRAILER. Official trailer for the third and final season of Lost in Space. All episodes drop December 1 on Netflix.

(16) UNHOBBLING THE HUBBLE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] This latest problem started 23 October. NASA seems cautiously optimistic that the Hubble can make a full recovery. WIRED has the story: “NASA Tries to Save Hubble, Again”.

THE HUBBLE SPACE telescope, one of the most famous telescopes of the 20th and 21st centuries, has faltered once again. After a computer hardware problem arose in late October, NASA engineers put Hubble into a coma, suspending its science operations as they carefully attempt to bring its systems back online.

Engineers managed to revive one of its instruments earlier this week, offering hope that they will end the telescope’s convalescence as they restart its other systems, one at a time. “I think we are on a path to recovery,” says Jim Jeletic, Hubble’s deputy project manager.

The problem began on October 23, when the school bus-sized space probe’s instruments didn’t receive a standard synchronization message generated by its control unit. Two days later, NASA engineers saw that the instruments missed multiple such messages, so they put them in “safe mode,” powering down some systems and shuttering the cameras.

Some problems are fairly easy to fix, like when a random high-energy particle hits the probe and flips a bit on a switch. But when engineers encounter an unknown problem, they’re meticulous. The slow process is designed to protect Hubble’s systems and make sure the spacecraft continues to thrive and enable scientific discovery for as long as possible. “You don’t want to continually put the instruments in and out of safe mode. You’re powering things on and off, you’re changing the temperature of things over and over again, and we try to minimize that,” Jeletic says.

In this case, they successfully brought the Advanced Camera for Surveys back online on November 7. It’s one of the newer cameras, installed in 2002, and it’s designed for imaging large areas of the sky at once and in great detail. Now they’re watching closely as it collects data again this week, checking to see whether the error returns. If the camera continues working smoothly, the engineers will proceed to testing Hubble’s other instruments….

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Eternals Pitch Meeting” on Screen Rant, Ryan George, in a spoiler-filled episode, has the writer say he has characters including “a speedster, a lady with ancient weapons, and a super-strong guy who shoots beams from his eyes.” The producer asks, “Yeah, yeah, and Batman and Aquaman. Are you sure you’re in the right office?”  The writer also can’t explain why introducing 10 superheroes we’ve never seen before can’t be done in an eight-hour Disney Plus show instead of a single movie.

After Avengers Endgame, Marvel has the massive task of not only continuing their surviving heroes’ stories, but also making audiences care about all new characters and all-new universe-threatening events. Their latest movie Eternals takes on the gargantuan challenge of introducing ten new superheroes AND explaining why they’re only showing up now. This thing’s getting complicated. Eternals definitely raises some questions. Like should this have been a Disney Plus show? Why do the Eternals only have important conversations at Golden Hour? Why is introducing humans to weapons not considered interfering in their affairs? Wouldn’t the Celestials be interested in stopping Thanos if they need a massive population to birth celestials? Why didn’t Kumail have a shirtless scene after all that work!? What have these post-credit scenes become?! To answer all these questions and more, step inside the Pitch Meeting that led to Eternals! It’ll be super easy, barely an inconvenience.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, N., Chris Barkley, Lise Andreasen, David Doering, Joey Eschrich, Bruce D. Arthurs, M.C. Hogarth, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, and Cat Eldridge  for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 10/30/21 I Never Meta Pixel I Couldn’t Scroll

(1) SEEMS I’VE HEARD THAT SONG BEFORE. “’Metaverse’ creator Neal Stephenson reacts to Facebook name change”Axios asked what he thought about the Zuckerberg announcement.

How do you feel about a storyline that you wrote in “Snow Crash” now turning into our potential global future?

It’s flattering when readers take the work seriously enough to put their own time and money into bringing similar ideas to fruition. After all the buildup in the last few weeks, the Meta announcement has a ripping-off-the-bandaid feeling.

Almost since the beginning of the genre, science fiction writers have occasionally been given credit for inspiring real-life inventions, so this is not new and it’s not unique. I was aware of that fact thirty years ago when I wrote “Snow Crash,” but I didn’t necessarily expect it to happen.

Good science fiction tries to depict futures that are plausible enough to seem convincing to the readers — many of whom are technically savvy, and tough critics.

So when depicting a future technology in a work of science fiction, you have to make it plausible. And if it’s plausible enough, it can be implemented in the real world.

(2) FUTURE TENSE. The series of short stories from Future Tense and Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination continues with “Furgen,” a new short story by Andrew Silverman, about a retriever, his owner, and his A.I.-enabled minder.

Caro had only once before felt such elation from a text alert, and that was when she first got Tucker in the mail. She ordered him from an exclusive breeder in Tokyo, of all places. She remembered she was watching videos of puppies learning to swim when her phone buzzed, followed by a message stating that Tucker, her beautiful new retriever, had just arrived on her doorstep. She shrieked with glee, ran outside to the porch, and opened up the hole-punched box containing the love of her life.

Today, six months into puppy parenting, Caro’s phone buzzed again, interrupting her usual stream of puppy content, to notify her that Furgen A.I. 2.0© had finally arrived….

There’s also a response essay by Clive D.L. Wynne, author of Dog Is Love: Why and How Your Dog Loves You.

It doesn’t take any special technology to see that dogs love people. Hildegard von Bingen, in the 11th century, noted that “a certain natural community of behavior binds [the dog] to humans. Therefore, he responds to man, understand him, loves him and likes to stay with him.” It could fairly be said that, like Othello, dogs love not wisely, but too well. Their loyalty to our capricious species has seen dogs led into wars, ill-fated Arctic expeditions, and many other tragic misadventures.

But are there limits on dogs’ capacity for love?…

(3) WFC 2021 ANNOUNCES DAY MEMBERSHIPS. World Fantasy Convention 2021 in Montréal will be selling day memberships. See more information at their website. The prices in Canadian dollars are:

  • Thursday  $75
  • Friday      $100
  • Saturday $100
  • Sunday      $50

World Fantasy Convention 2021 will be held at the Hotel Bonaventure Montréal from November 4-7.

(4) KEEP PUTTING ONE FOOT IN FRONT OF ANOTHER. At Eight Miles Higher, Andrew Darlington delves into the history of the UK’s most long-lived prozine: “SF Magazine History: ‘INTERZONE’”.

In terms of simple longevity, ‘Interzone’ must be credited as Britain’s most successful SF magazine ever. In January 1991 it comfortably coasted past the forty-one issue limit achieved by ‘Nebula’. Then by August 1994, it surpassed the eighty-five editions of ‘Authentic Science Fiction’. Leaving ‘Science Fantasy’ in its wake, until eventually, by the July-August 2009 issue, through stealth and persistence, it finally outdistanced the 222 incarnations of ‘New Worlds’. Nothing can now compete with that total. And throughout that regularly-spaced life-span, unlike the bizarre array of relaunches, rebirths and reconfigurations that characterized its predecessors, ‘Interzone’ has retained its recognizable appearance on the newsagent’s shelf as a reassuringly attractive glossy A4 magazine. 

(5) TWELVE-BODY SOLUTION. “The Three-Body Problem Casts 12 Stars, Including Two ‘Game of Thrones’ Alums” reports Tell-Tale TV. Twelve cast members are named at the link.

Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss didn’t wind up making their Star Wars movie, but the duo is working on a new science-fiction series for Netflix: The Three-Body Problem

…According to Deadline, the show has begun casting, announcing 12 stars for the upcoming series. Among them are two Game of Thrones alums: John Bradley and Liam Cunningham…. 

With actors hailing from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and a number of popular films, it seems The Three-Body Problem will have a fairly recognizable cast. The creators haven’t revealed who’s playing who, but further updates should be on the horizon.

(6) NIGHT LIFE IN SANTA FE. There will be “A Night of Wild Cards!” at G.R.R. Martin’s Jean Cocteau Cinema in Santa Fe, NM on November 13 at 4:00 p.m. – ticket info at the link.

Have you been touched by the Wild Card?

Spend an evening with authors George R.R. Martin, Melinda Snodgrass, and John Jos Miller as they speak about the Wild Cards Series, up coming projects, and remember fellow author and friend, Victor Milan.

Help us celebrate the life of Victor Milan, the release of “Turn of the Cards” in Trade Paperback, and “Death Draws Five” in Hardcover!

The Jean Cocteau is also a place where you can see Dune, the “Once-in-a-generation film,” as it was meant to be seen — on the big screen with a specially handcrafted cocktail in your hand.

(7) SIT DOWN, JOHN. In Debarkle Chapter 70, Camestros Felapton tells how the sf field finally said out loud they were ready for “Life After Campbell”.

…Torgersen’s Sad Puppies 3 slate and been something of a last hurrah for Analog at the Hugo Awards, with four Analog stories becoming finalists on the strength of the Puppy campaigns. Torgersen also included Kary English on the slate due to their common connection with Writers of the Future. No Writers of the Future from a year after 2015 would be a finalist again in the following years nor would any story from Analog make it onto the ballot…

(8) TURN AND RETURN. Boston University humanities professor Susan Mizrouchi on what caused Henry James to be interested in the supernatural and write The Turn Of The Screw. “On Spiritualism and the Afterlife in Henry James’ Turn of the Screw” at CrimeReads.

…Like many contemporary intellectuals, William and Henry took ghosts seriously. They were friendly with Frederic W. H. Myers, who headed the Society for Psychical Research, and Henry was recorded in the minutes of a society meeting in London reading a report on behalf of his absent brother about a female medium who was occasionally overtaken by the spirit of a dead man. Society researchers sought positivistic evidence of ghosts and provided a steady stream of testimonies for public consumption. These accounts of specter sightings, which numbered in the thousands, were in turn avidly consumed by readers, who couldn’t get enough of them.

The James brothers’ views on ghosts were rooted in contemporary science, and also in their personal convictions about the fate of consciousness after death. Having enjoyed such fertile minds, and interacted with so many others, neither could accept that these vital organs would simply expire with the body…. 

(9) DETERMINED COLLECTOR. “Holy bikini-clad Batwoman! Archive saves Mexico’s scorned popular films” – the Guardian tells how they did it.

… Had they not been rescued from a dusty storehouse seven years ago, the original negatives of hundreds of Mexican movies featuring the likes of the silver-masked crime-fighting wrestler El Santo, a bikini-clad Batwoman and the Satan-worshipping Panther Women would have been lost forever.

Salvation came in the form of Viviana García Besné, a film-maker, archivist, self-described “popular film activist” and descendant of Mexico’s cinematic Calderón clan…. 

“I thought the best, and most obvious, thing would be to send them all to the big film institutions in Mexico,” she says. “I told them about this marvellous collection of films, photos and paperwork, and thought they’d all jump for joy. But they were like, ‘We’ll have that, and maybe that, but not that.’”

Unwilling to split up the collection – “It’s the work of a company that began in 1910 and made films until 1990; that’s 80 years of cinema history,” she says – García Besné decided to hang on to it all and to embark on a quest to rescue and reappraise Mexico’s cine popular.

Her Permanencia Voluntaria (Double Feature) archive, which has extended beyond the Calderón collection and now holds some 400 films, is being showcased in Madrid this month in a season at Spain’s national film archive, the Filmoteca Española.

Despite the archive’s growing international reputation – it has restored 10 films over the past four years, and the collection is housed between the Mexican town of Tepoztlán and the UCLA film archive and the Academy film archive in Los Angeles – its genesis and survival have been far from easy….

(10) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

1987 – Thirty-four years ago, The Hidden premiered. Directed by Jack Sholder and produced by committee as it had three producers (Michael L. Meltzer, Gerald T. Olson and Robert Shaye). It was written by Jim Kouf (under the pseudonym Bob Hunt. Kouf being an Edgar Award winning screenplay writer apparently decided not to be associated with this film. It had a cast of Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Nouri,  Clu Gulager, Chris Mulkey, Ed O’Ross, Clarence Felder, Claudia Christian and Larry Cedar. 

Critics liked it with Roger Ebert calling it “a surprisingly effective film“. Not surprisingly it has gained cult status.   Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an excellent seventy-three rating. It likely more or less lost at least something  even after making ten million as it cost five million to make and figuring in publicity costs that suggests a loss. 

A sequel, The Hidden II, direct to DDV, came out six years later. It did not have the cast of the original film. Let’s just say that it’s wasn’t well received and leave it there. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 30, 1923 William Campbell. In “The Squire of Gothos” on Trek, which was a proper Halloween episode even if it wasn’t broadcast then, he was Trelane, and in “The Trouble With Tribbles” he played the Klingon Koloth, a role revisited on Deep Space Nine in “Blood Oath”. He appeared in several horror films including Blood BathNight of Evil, and Dementia 13. He started a fan convention which ran for several years, Fantasticon, which celebrated the achievements of production staffers in genre films and TV shows and raised funds for the Motion Picture & Television Fund, a charitable organization which provides assistance and care to those in the motion picture industry with limited or no resources, when struck with infirmity and/or in retirement age. (Died 2011.)
  • Born October 30, 1939 Grace Slick, 82. Lead singer first with Jefferson Airplane and then with Jefferson Starship, bands with definite genre connections.  “Hyperdrive” off their Dragonfly album was used at the MidAmeriCon opening ceremonies. And Blows Against the Empire was nominated for Best Dramatic Presentation at Noreascon 1, a year that had no winner.
  • Born October 30, 1947 Tim Kirk, 74. His senior thesis would be mostly published by Ballantine Books as the 1975 Tolkien Calendar. Impressive. Even more impressive, he won Hugo Awards for Best Fan Artist at Heicon ’70, L.A. Con I, Torcon II, Discon II and again at MidAmeriCon. With Ken Keller, he co-designed the first cold-cast resin base used at MidAmeriCon. He also won a Balrog and was nominated for a World Fantasy Award as well.
  • Born October 30, 1951 Harry Hamlin, 70. His first role of genre interest was Perseus on Clash of The Titans. He plays himself in Maxie, and briefly shows up in Harper’s Island. He also has two choice voice roles in Batman: the Animated Series,  Cameron Kaiser in “Joker’s Wild” and even more impressive as the voice of werewolf Anthony “Tony” Romulus in “Moon of the Wolf”.  Since I know a lot of you like the series, I’ll note he plays Aaron Echolls in Veronica Mars
  • Born October 30, 1951 P. Craig Russell, 70. Comic illustrator whose work has won multiple Harvey and Eisner Awards. His work on Killraven, a future version of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, collaborating with writer Don McGregor, was lauded by readers and critics alike. Next up was mainstream work at DC with I think his work on Batman, particularly with Jim Starlin, being amazing. He also inked Mike Mignola’s pencils on the Phantom Stranger series. He would segue into working on several Moorcock’s Elric of Melniboné projects. Worth noting is his work on a number of Gaiman projects including a Coraline graphic novel.  Wayne Alan Harold Productions published the P. Craig Russell Sketchbook Archives, a 250-page hardcover art book featuring the best of his personal sketchbooks.
  • Born October 30, 1958 Max McCoy, 63. Here for a quartet of novels (Indiana Jones and the Secret of the SphinxIndiana Jones and the Hollow EarthIndiana Jones and the Dinosaur Eggs and Indiana Jones and the Philosopher’s Stone) which flesh out the backstory and immerse Indy in a pulp reality. He’s also writing Wylde’s West, a paranormal mystery series.
  • Born October 30, 1972 Jessica Hynes, 49. Playing Joan Redfern, she shows up on two of the best Tenth Doctor stories, “Human Nuture” and “The Family of Blood”. She’d play another character, Verity Newman in a meeting of the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, “The End of Time, Part Two”. Her other genre role was as Felia Siderova on Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased) in the “Mental Apparition Disorder” and  “Drop Dead” episodes. Her last genre adjacent role is Sofie Dahl in Roald & Beatrix: The Tail of the Curious Mouse.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) HOMETOWN HAUNT. “Meet Karl Edward Wagner, Knoxville’s influential cult horror author that almost no one knows” — the Knoxville News Sentinel fans the flames of his memory.

…As the editor of The Year’s Best Horror anthology from 1980 until his death in 1994, Wagner showcased writers like Steven King, Harlan Ellison, Robert Bloch and Ramsey Campbell. Imagery from Wagner’s Lovecraftian short story “Sticks” influenced works like “The Blair Witch Project” and the “devil’s nests” branch constructs in the first season of “True Detective.”

“Wagner was ripped off,” said the late horror writer Dennis Etchison in a documentary interview. “That is only my opinion so the makers of ‘Blair Witch’ should not sue me. … I can only say that is my personal opinion, as an expert witness.”

But as large as a presence as he was in 1980s horror scene, his personal fame never matched the far-reaching influence of his ideas and taste. Wagner’s books and short stories are out of print and hard to obtain…. 

(14) NO SPARE CHANGE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Now this is meta. (Even though it has nothing to do with the newly renamed Meta.) New Yorker magazine has published a book review for a book about how Amazon is changing the way books are written—Everything and Less: The Novel in the Age of Amazon (Verso), by literary scholar Mark McGurl. “Is Amazon Changing the Novel?”

…McGurl’s real interest is in charting how Amazon’s tentacles have inched their way into the relationship between reader and writer. This is clearest in the case of [Kindle Direct Publishing]. The platform pays the author by the number of pages read, which creates a strong incentive for cliffhangers early on, and for generating as many pages as possible as quickly as possible. The writer is exhorted to produce not just one book or a series but something closer to a feed—what McGurl calls a “series of series.” In order to fully harness K.D.P.’s promotional algorithms, McGurl says, an author must publish a new novel every three months. To assist with this task, a separate shelf of self-published books has sprung up, including Rachel Aaron’s “2K to 10K: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love,” which will help you disgorge a novel in a week or two. Although more overtly concerned with quantity over quality, K.D.P. retains certain idiosyncratic standards. Amazon’s “Guide to Kindle Content Quality” warns the writer against typos, “formatting issues,” “missing content,” and “disappointing content”—not least, “content that does not provide an enjoyable reading experience.” Literary disappointment has always violated the supposed “contract” with a reader, no doubt, but in Bezos’s world the terms of the deal have been made literal. The author is dead; long live the service provider….

(15) TO SWERVE PLAN. Master satirist Alexandra Petri parodies Facebook’s name change via Twilight Zone episodes. “Goodbye, Facebook. Welcome to the Meta Zone.”

There is a sixth dimension beyond that which is known to man, as vast as space and as timeless as infinity, lying somewhere just past the Twilight Zone, between the pit of Mark Zuckerberg’s fears and the summit of Mark Zuckerberg’s knowledge. It is an area we call … Meta, the new rebranded name of the Facebook parent company. Here are a few tales from this place….

(16) GRAND THEFT DINO. The case has been cracked. Unfortunately, so have the dinos. “3 dinosaur statues stolen from museum found damaged at Texas fraternity, officials say”Yahoo! has the story.

Three beloved dinosaur statues that were snatched from a Central Texas museum are back home thanks to the help of an eagle-eyed tipster. Unfortunately, two were heavily damaged.

Attention was widespread after the statues – named Minmi, Dilong and Dimetrodon, each 6 to 10 feet long – were stolen from their exhibit areas at The Dinosaur Park in Cedar Creek on Oct. 20, the park announced on its Facebook page. The dinosaurs were later recovered at a UT Austin fraternity, a representative for the museum confirmed to McClatchy News.

UT Austin is about 21 miles from The Dinosaur Park….

(17) FRIGHT AT NIGHT. Keith Roysdon talks about how he geeked out on horror in the 1960s building Aurora monster kits and reading Famous Monsters Of Filmland in “Growing Up Spooky” at CrimeReads.

.. A couple of years before I was born, the classic 1930s and 1940s Universal horror films were sold to TV stations around the country in the so-called “Shock” syndicated package. “Dracula,” “Frankenstein,” “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Invisible Man.” They were all there, or in the “Son of Shock” package to follow.

Suddenly, movies that had only been seen in theaters – in rare re-releases – for two or three decades were there for audiences old and new through television. Most stations packaged them as “Shock Theater” or “Nightmare Theater,” the latter a late-night double feature hosted by Sammy Terry, a genial ghoul played for Indiana viewers by Bob Carter, a mild-mannered musical instrument salesman by day who terrified us late at night each weekend….

(18) CLICK THAT CRITIC. Dom Noble tackles the new Dune movie. How good an adaptation of the book is it?

(19) LEGACY. It’s less fun if you don’t play them, but it can pay off for your heirs. “Sealed copy of ‘Super Mario Bros. 2’ sells for $88,550 in estate sale” reports UPI.

An auction house handling an estate sale for a recently deceased Indiana woman said a sealed copy of 1988 video game Super Mario Bros. 2 sold for a whopping $88,550.

(20) GOOD CLEAN FEAR. The New Yorker’s Richard Brody call these “The Best Horror Movies for Halloween—Without the Gore”.

…That said, there’s a formidable tradition of films that express horror according not to a set of established guidelines but to freely expressive impulse, evoking, through far-reaching imagination rather than blood and guts, the emotions of fear, dread, foreboding, and a sense the uncanny. Here are ten of my favorites….

The list includes –

Shadow of the Vampire”

(2000, E. Elias Merhige)

This extravagant horror drama, played earnestly, is nonetheless also a giddy comedy of counterfactual cinematic history. It’s centered on the shoot of “Nosferatu,” the founding vampire film, in which the titular bloodsucker—bald-headed, pointy-eared, pop-eyed, long-clawed, and fanged—runs rampage through the bedrooms of Transylvania. The wild premise of Merhige’s film (written by Steven Katz) is that the real-life actor playing that role, a little-known one named Max Schreck (the last name actually means “fright” in German), was cast in the role because he was a real-life vampire. John Malkovich plays Murnau, who, in order to cast Schreck, both deceives his cast and crew and puts them at grave risk; Schreck is played by Willem Dafoe, who is conspicuously having the time of his life playing a monster straight. Merhige, too, overtly delights in the misunderstandings that divide humans from monsters—and also offers a monstrous metaphor of cinematic history itself, the real-life depredations on which the classic cinema was founded.

(21) WHAT MUSIC THEY MAKE. Overly Sarcastic Productions takes on Werewolves for Halloween!

You know ’em, you love ’em, but you might not know ’em quite as well as you think you do! Today let’s dive into one of the big-name creatures of the night!

(22) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Floor 9.5” at Vimeo, Tony Meakins says if the elevator stops between the ninth and tenth floor, don’t get off!

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Bonnie McDaniel, Darrah Chavey, Jennifer Hawthorne, StephenfromOttwa, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, and JJ for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 10/17/21 The Scroll Of Dr. Pringles And Other Pixels And Other Pixels

(1) THE 8 BILLION BODY PROBLEM. Liu Cixin told the WSJ he’s not as optimistic as he once was. “’Three-Body Problem’ Author No Longer Sure Humankind Would Unite Against Hostile Aliens” reports The Byte.

In his 2008 novel “The Three-Body Problem,” Liu Cixin wrote about nations banding together to deal with a looming alien invasion that would likely result in the end of humanity.

Now he’s not so sure about that unity, Cixin said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. If anything, he said, the coronavirus pandemic shows that we might do the opposite.

“In the past, we used to have an assumption: that if humanity was faced with a collective threat, people would throw away their differences, unite, join forces and overcome the crisis together,” Cixin told the WSJ. “Now I realize that might have been too perfect of a wish. Looking back at the past two years, the pandemic has pushed nations toward more divisions.”…

(2) NEXT FANHISTORY ZOOM SESSION. British fanhistory is highlighted in the next FANAC FanHistory Zoom, set for October 23 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern (7:00 p.m. London).

Keith Freeman and British fan historian Rob Hansen provide a first-hand look at some of the landmark moments of British fandom, from the inside.  Keith has been a science fiction fan since the 50s – he was a member of the Cheltenham Circle, a founder of the Reading Science Fiction Club, and is credited with reviving the Order of St. Fantony. He’s a fanzine fan (still active!), a past officer of the British Science Fiction Society (BSFA), and the 1977 winner of the Doc Weir Award. 

Among his considerable  fannish accomplishments, interviewer Rob Hansen is well known as a historian of British fandom, having published the definitive history Then — Science Fiction Fandom in the UK: 1930-1980Join us for this interview/discussion and find out about Brumcon, St. Fantony, the SF Society of Great Britain, the Eastercon relationship with BSFA, and more, including perhaps what it’s like to watch an H-bomb explode. 

To register, send an e-mail to to fanac@fanac.org .

(3) A PEEK AT THE TERMS. Deadline gives a 30,000-foot overview of the deal in “Hollywood Strike Averted As IATSE & AMPTP Reach Deal On New Film & TV Contract”.

…The deal for the new contract – called the Basic Agreement – is now in the books, but negotiations with the AMPTP will continue for IATSE members who work under the similar Area Standards Agreement in major production hubs such as New Mexico, New York, Illinois, Georgia and Louisiana.

More details are to come, but deal points include “improved wages and working conditions for streaming,” 10-hour turnaround times between shifts, MLK Day is now a holiday, “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives,” increased funding of the health and pension plans and a 3% rate increase every year for the duration of the yett-to-be approved contract, among other changes. The AMPTP had wanted to settle the rate increase at around 3% for the first year and then shift it down to 2.5% or even less for the subsequent two years of the contract….

(4) IN DEADLY COLOR. “Why Is Frankenstein’s Monster Green?” asks Mental Floss. He wasn’t always.

In the 203 years since Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein helped shape the horror genre as we know it today, there have been dozens of interpretations of Frankenstein’s Monster. For most of us, the version of the character that immediately comes to mind is the one from Universal’s classic 1931 film: Big green guy with a flat head and bolts in his neck who isn’t much of a talker—which is a far cry from the yellow-skinned, chatty creature Shelley imagined. But if our popular idea of the Monster’s appearance was dictated by a black-and-white movie, why is Frankenstein’s Monster so often depicted as being green?

(5) A PUBLIC CONFESSION. “Lauded Spanish female crime writer revealed to be 3 men” reports MSN.com.

Spain‘s literary world has been thrown into chaos after a coveted book prize was awarded to “Carmen Mola” — an acclaimed female thriller writer who turned out to be the pseudonym of three men.

Television scriptwriters Agustín Martínez, Jorge Díaz and Antonio Mercero shocked guests, who included Spain’s King Felipe and Queen Letizia, at the Planeta awards Friday when they took to the stage to pick up the prize money and reveal the celebrated crime author did not actually exist.

On the website for Mola’s agent, the writer — who has been compared to Italy’s esteemed novelist Elena Ferrante — is described as a “Madrid-born author” writing under a pseudonym in a bid to remain anonymous. The description for Mola on the website also contains a series of photographs of an unknown woman looking away from the camera….

The news stunned many fellow literary figures — and not everyone is thrilled about the news. Beatriz Gimeno, who describes herself as a writer and a feminist — and who was once the director of the Women’s Institute, a key national equality body in Spain — took to Twitter to criticize Martínez, Díaz and Mercero.

In a tweet, Gimeno said: “Beyond using a female pseudonym, these guys have spent years doing interviews. It’s not just the name, it’s the fake profile they’ve used to take in readers and journalists. Scammers.”…

(6) DATA POINTS. In the Washington Post, Donald Lievenson interviews Brent Spiner about his fictionalized memoir Fan Fiction.  Spiner explains why his memoir is fictionalized and how the pandemic had him writing much more than he would if there was no pandemic (where his book would be an “as told to” book.( “Brent Spiner, Data from ‘Star Trek,’ discusses his book”.)

Q: It’s a mixed blessing to be associated with a popular character. Leonard Nimoy famously wrote a book, “I am Not Spock,” then years later wrote another, “I am Spock.” Did writing your book help you in coming to terms with your relationship to Data?

A: It is a double-edged sword. The larger part of that sword has been very positive. It’s been a great job. On the other hand, what I was trained to do was to play as many different things as possible, so it has been limiting sort of in that way. I think there are times maybe I haven’t gotten a job because I am so identified with the character. I, frankly, like to think I’ve been typecast as the reason when I don’t get jobs, because the alternative is that I’m just lousy (laughs). But all that being said with relation to character, if I had to have one character that I had to be typecast as, it would be this character. There is a feeling of trust people have in the character that he’s incapable of hurting them. The confusion has been that I am that as well, and clearly, I’m not. But also, because I also got to play so many different things on the show as him, I got to try on the skin of all kinds of different types of humanity. I got to play his brother, his father, his uncle, his ancestors. It turned out to be a role that I was actually able to stretch a bit.

(7) LOGROLLING DAYS. In Debarkle: Chapter 68, Camestros Felapton reaches 2019 and the 20BooksTo50K Nebula ticket: “History Rhymes — Nebulas 2019”.

The group was unsurprisingly called 20BooksTo50K and by 2017 Anderle and Martelle were running a 20BooksTo50K conference in Las Vegas to help aspiring authors make money from self-publishing….

By 2019 the Facebook group had over 26,000 members and was running conferences internationally[7]….

In November 2018 Jonathan Brazee posted a message to the 20BooksTo50K Facebook group encouraging eligible members to take part in the SFWA’s Nebula Awards. At the end of the post was a long list of titles by 20BooksTo50K members that might be suitable works to add. Brazee was quite clear that this was not intended to be a slate but just a means to encourage participation and maybe improve the number of independently published works on the SFWA reading list.

… The post had stated that it wasn’t a slate but the difference between Brazee’s asterisked list and a slate was minimal. In addition four of the six authors from the slate that had ended up being Nebula finalists had also been published recently by LMBPN including Jonathan Brazee, Richard Fox, A.K. DuBoff, R.R. Virdi and Yudhanjaya Wijeratne. Blogger Aaron Pound looked further into the Brazee’s original list and found that 15 of the authors had listed had appeared either in a LMBPN anthology series called The Expanding Universe or had appeared in a non-LMBPN anthology series called Sci-Fi Bridge

(8) FERGUSON OBIT. BBC producer Michael Ferguson died October 4 at the age of 84. He worked on and directed episodes of Doctor Who, including the first episode to feature the Daleks, shortly after the series began in 1963.

…Working on his first programme as an assistant floor manager – while also holding an actors’ union Equity card – he waved the first Dalek “sucker” arm, resembling a sink plunger, to be seen as it threatened the Time Lord’s companion Barbara Wright (Jacqueline Hill). The Daleks’ “bodies” were not revealed until the next part of the story.

Then, he became one of the few directors to work with all of the Time Lord’s first three incarnations: William Hartnell, battling a self-thinking computer in The War Machines (1966); Patrick Troughton, taking on the Ice Warriors in The Seeds of Death (1969); and Jon Pertwee, in both The Ambassadors of Death (1970) and The Claws of Axos (1971).

Ferguson gained a reputation for being adventurous and inventive, with angled, “point of view” and silhouetted shots, “jump” ones that ramped up the tension, and characters filmed from below to show them looking down.

Frazer Hines, who played the Doctor’s companion Jamie in the second of Ferguson’s serials, recalled that he would challenge actors in rehearsal to perform a “speed run”, delivering their lines as fast as possible to ensure they knew them thoroughly. “It’s very good for the old brain cells,” added Hines….

(9) MEMORY LANE.

  • 1980 – Forty-one years ago at Noreascon Two, Alien would win the Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation. It was directed by Ridley Scott from the screenplay by Dan O’Bannon off the story by O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett. This would the second Hugo nomination for O’Bannon who was nominated earlier at MidAmeriCon for Dark Star. He’d would win his second Hugo several years later for Aliens at Conspiracy ’87, and be later nominated at Chicon V for Total Recall and Alien 3 at ConFrancisco. A half million audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a horrifyingly great ninety-four percent rating.  

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 17, 1914 Jerry Siegel. His most famous creation was Superman, which he created in collaboration with his friend Joe Shuster. He was inducted (along with the previously deceased Shuster) into the comic book industry’s Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1993. I see he edited a magazine called Science Fiction according to ISFDB for two issues in 1932 which was definitely genre. (Died 1996.)
  • Born October 17, 1917 Marsha Hunt, 104. Performer who appeared in both the original versions of the Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits, also appeared in Star Trek: The Next Generation’s “Too Short a Season” as Anne Jameson, Shadow Chasers and Fear No Evil. She is also the oldest living member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. She was blacklisted by Hollywood in the Fifties during McCarthyism.
  • Born October 17, 1921 Tom Poston. One of his acting first roles was The Alkarian (uncredited at the time ) in “The Mystery of Alkar” episode of Tom Corbett, Space Cadet in 1950. He much later had the recurring role of Mr. Bickley in Mork & Mindy. He also showed up on Get Smart! in the “Shock It to Me! Episode as Doctor Zharko. (Died 2007.)
  • Born October 17, 1926 Julia Adams. Her most famous role no doubt is being in the arms of The Creature from Black Lagoon. She’s also been on Alfred Hitchcock Presents three times, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. The Night GalleryKolchak: The Night StalkerThe Incredible Hulk and Lost all once. Signed photos of her in her swimsuit on location for Creature are highly collectible and rather expensive these days going by high prices on eBay currently. And the movie poster is rare. (Died 2019.)
  • Born October 17, 1934 Alan Garner, 87. His best book? That’d be Boneland which technically is the sequel to The Weirdstone of Brisingamen and The Moon of Gomrath but really isn’t though I can’t say why as that’d be a massive spoiler. Oh, and The Carnegie Medal-winning The Owl Service is amazingly superb! There’s a video series of the latter but I’ve not seen it. He’s garnered a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
  • Born October 17, 1946 Bruce McAllister, 75. He’s a superb short story writer as you can see in The Girl Who Loved Animals and Other Stories that Golden Gryphon published originally and which Cemetery Dance has now in an ePub edition along with his three novels.  His Dream Baby novel is an interesting if brutal take on the Vietnam War with a definite SF take to it. His Dream Baby novelette was nominated for a Hugo at Nolacon II, and his “Kin” short story was nominated at Nippon 2007. 
  • Born October 17, 1968 Mark Gatiss, 53. English actor, screenwriter, director, producer and novelist. Writer for Doctor Who with Steven Moffat, whom Gatiss also worked with on Jekyll. He also co-created and co-produced Sherlock. As an actor, I’ll note he does Vogon voices in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and is Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock.  And he played Tycho Nestoris in Game of Thrones.
  • Born October 17, 1971 Patrick Ness, 49. Best known for his books for young adults, including the Chaos Walking trilogy and A Monster Calls. He’s also the creator and writer of the Doctor Who spin-off Class series. And he’s written a Doctor Who story, “Tip of the Tongue”, a Fifth Doctor story. He won The Otherwise Award for The Knife of Never Letting Go, and his Monster Calls novel won both a Carnegie and a Kitschie as well being nominated for a Stoker and a Clarke.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

Tom Gauld in The Guardian.

(12) LEVAR’S NEXT JOB. Kenan Thompson plays new NFL coach LeVar Burton in Saturday Night Live’s cold open. I didn’t think it was that funny (although all the points they were making are true enough). The LeVar Burton characterization comes at the 7-minute mark if you want to jump to it.

(13) FOUNDATION AND MOLASSES. Cora Buhlert reviews the fifth episode: “Foundation realises ‘Upon Awakening’ that the story is still moving at a glacial pace”. Beware spoilers.

…I’m sorry, but I just don’t understand the storytelling choices this show makes. Like I’ve said before, I accept that a literal adaptation of the original stories isn’t possible, because stories of people sitting around and talking would not make for very thrilling TV. However, the shows pads out the lean narrative of the original stories with a lot of stuff that’s at best irrelevant and at worst contradicts the story. The show also deals with the fact that the Foundation series takes place over a long period of time (500 years for the original trilogy with the sequels and prequels spanning an even longer period of time) by inserting yet more unnecessary time jumps….

(14) BUT Y? Variety says this show’s run at Hulu is over: “’Y: The Last Man’ Canceled at FX on Hulu Before Season One Finale”.

Y: The Last Man” has been canceled by FX, weeks before its first season debuts its final episode on FX on Hulu.

The news was shared by “Y: The Last Man” showrunner Eliza Clark through her Twitter on Sunday. In her post, Clark thanks FX and the show’s creative team for their partnership on the project. She also expresses hope that “Y: The Last Man” will be able to continue its run at a different network.

“We have learned that we will not be moving forward with FX on Hulu for Season 2 of ‘Y: The Last Man.’ I have never in my life been more committed to a story, and there is so much more left to tell,” Clark wrote. “‘We had a gender diverse team of brilliant artists, led by women at almost every corner of our production… It is the most collaborative, creatively fulfilling and beautiful thing I have ever been a part of. We don’t want it to end.”

(15) IT’S SHOWTIME. “Russian crew wraps trailblazing movie in space, safely returns to Earth”CNN has the story.

…Peresild and Shipenko traveled to the space station alongside veteran Russian cosmonaut Anton Shkaplerov on October 5, encountering a bit of real-life drama — in the form of communications issues — while docking to the space station. Over the course of 12 days, they filmed their movie, “Challenge,” the first feature film shot in space.

The movie will tell the story of a surgeon, played by Peresild, who has to operate on a sick cosmonaut in space, portrayed by Novitskiy, because the cosmonaut’s medical condition prevents him from returning to Earth to be treated. Filming for the movie continued during the crew farewells and hatch closing.

The film is being made under a commercial agreement between Roscosmos and Moscow-based media entities Channel One and studio Yellow, Black and White.

(16) WHO INSPIRED. [Item by Ben Bird Person.] Illustrator Elizabeth Fijalkowski did this piece on the Robert Holmes Doctor featured in the 1976 Doctor Who serial “The Brain of Morbius”. Design based on comic artist Paul Hanley!

(17) BAT TRAILER. Warner Bros. dropped a new trailer for The Batman.

Matt Reeves’ “The Batman,” starring Robert Pattinson in the dual role of Gotham City’s vigilante detective and his alter ego, reclusive billionaire Bruce Wayne.

(18) THE MITE HAS A THOUSAND EYES. “Incredible Trilobite Fossil Reveals It Had Hundreds Of Eyes” at IFLScience.

A fossilized trilobite dating back 390 million years has revealed some unnerving secrets about the large marine arthropods – they had eyes unlike any other animal ever discovered. What looked to be two distinct eyes, like scientists would expect, were actually large systems of hundreds of individual lenses that all formed their own mini-eyes. That is to say that these animals had hundreds and hundreds of eyes. 

Behind each lens were a series of facets anchored by photoreceptors and a network of nerve cells, capturing the light from each before sending it down a central optical nerve to the brain, creating what can only be assumed as an entirely unique way of seeing the world. The research was published in the journal Scientific Reports. …

(19) BREAKTHROUGH, WE CAN NOW DETECT SMALL EXOPLANETS. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Small exoplanet, as well as a possibly habitable super-Earth, detected.  Large planets orbiting other stars outside our Solar system (exoplanets) are easier to detect than smaller exoplanets. Also large planets around small stars are easier to detect than large planets around large stars: large stars are less affected by the gravity of planets than small stars and one way of detecting exoplanets is to look at the way stars wobble as their planets orbit.  But the detection limits have improved and a few years ago we began to detect the first Earth-sized exoplanets.

Now, a collaboration of mainly mainland continental Europeans using the European Southern Observatory, have detected a planet half the mass (about a quarter the size) of Venus orbiting a (small) Red Dwarf (L 98-59) some 34.5 light years away.

If this were not enough, the collaboration has also detected a super-Earth in the system’s habitable zone. More good news, this system lies within the field of view of the forthcoming James Webb telescope and so it is likely we will soon learn more about these exoplanets. (See Demangeon, O. D. S., et al. (2021) https://www.aanda.org/articles/aa/pdf/2021/09/aa40728-21.pdf  Warm terrestrial planet with half the mass of Venus transiting a nearby star. Astronomy & Astrophysicsvol. 653, A41.)

(20) PLAY IT AGAIN SAM.  “Supernova Déjà-Vu: Astronomers Spot the Same Stellar Explosion Three Times – And Predict a Fourth Sighting in 16 Years” says SciTechDaily.

An enormous amount of gravity from a cluster of distant galaxies causes space to curve so much that light from them is bent and emanated our way from numerous directions. This “gravitational lensing” effect has allowed University of Copenhagen astronomers to observe the same exploding star in three different places in the heavens. They predict that a fourth image of the same explosion will appear in the sky by 2037. The study, which has recently been published in the journal Nature Astronomy, provides a unique opportunity to explore not just the supernova itself, but the expansion of our universe.

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, Michael Toman, Cat Eldridge,Joe Siclari,  Chris Barkley, Ben Bird Person, Daniel Dern, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jim Janney.]

Netflix Answers Senators’ Letter About Three-Body Problem Series

2017 book signing: Liu Cixin. Photo by Daniel Dern

A Netflix executive has replied to the letter from five Republican senators challenging the company’s plans to produce a series based on Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem because the author, in a 2019 New Yorker interview, defended Chinese repression against the Uighurs. Netflix denies there is any connection between the projected series and Liu Cixin’s opinions that needs to be addressed.

Deadline published the full text of Netflix’s answer.

September 25, 2020
Senator Marsha Blackburn
Senator Rick Scott
Senator Kevin Cramer
Senator Thom Tillis
Senator Martha McSally
United States Senate

Washington,
DC 20510

Dear Senators Blackburn, Scott, Cramer, Tillis, and McSally:

Thank you for your letter from September 23, and your interest in the upcoming Netflix series adaptation based on The Three-Body Problem.

First, we’d like to note that Netflix does not operate a service in China.
We address your questions and concerns below:

Q: Does Netflix agree that the Chinese Communist Party’s interment of 1.8 to 3 million Uyghurs in internment or labor camps based on their ethnicity is unacceptable?

A: Absolutely. As the UN Declaration of Human Rights (which China has signed) states “all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

Q: In order to avoid any further glorification of the CCP’s actions against the Uyghurs, or validation of the Chinese regime and agencies responsible for such acts, what steps will Netflix take to cast a critical eye on this project – to include the company’s broader relationship with Mr. Liu?

A: Mr. Liu is the author of the books, not the creator of this series. Mr. Liu’s comments are not reflective of the views of Netflix or of the show’s creators, nor are they part of the plot or themes of the show.

Q: Were Netflix senior executives aware of the statements made by Mr. Liu Cixin regarding the CCP’s genocidal acts prior to entering into an agreement to adapt his work? If so, please outline the reasoning that led Netflix to move forward with this project. If not, please describe Netflix’s standard process of due diligence and the gaps therein that led to this oversight.

A: Mr. Liu is a Chinese citizen living in China – he is the author of the books, not the creator of this Netflix series. The creators are David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, the creators of Game of Thrones, and Alexander Woo, executive producer/writer on the series True Blood.

Q: Does Netflix have a policy regarding entering into contracts with public-facing individuals who, either publicly or privately, promote principles inconsistent with Netflix’s company culture and principles? If so, please outline this policy. If not, please explain why not.

A: Netflix judges individual projects on their merits. Mr. Liu is the author of the book – The Three Body Problem – not the creator of this show. We do not agree with his comments, which are entirely unrelated to his book or this Netflix show.

Sincerely,

Dean Garfield
Vice President, Global Public Policy
Netflix

The Legislative Body Problem: GOP Senators Criticize Netflix Plan to Adapt Liu Cixin Hugo-Winner

Liu Cixin

Five Republican senators sent a letter to Netflix challenging the company’s plans to produce a series based on Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem because the author, in a 2019 New Yorker interview, defended Chinese repression against the Uighurs.

The letter to Netflix is signed by Martha McSally (R., Ariz.), Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.), Rick Scott (Fla.), Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.), and Thom Tillis (R., N.C.). The Republican members “ask Netflix to seriously reconsider the implications of providing a platform to Mr. Liu in producing this project” due to Liu Cixin’s 2019 comments, and pose the question, “Does Netflix agree that the Chinese Communist Party’s interment of 1.8 to 3 million Uyghurs in internment or labor camps based on their ethnicity is unacceptable?”

The full text of the Senators’ letter says:

We write today with questions regarding a decision by Netflix to adapt and promote “The Three-Body Problem” by Mr. Liu Cixin as a live-action series on your network.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is committing atrocities in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), also known as East Turkistan to locals, including mass imprisonment, forced labor, thought transformation in order to denounce religion and culture, involuntary medical testing, and forced sterilization and abortion. These crimes are committed systemically and at a scale which may warrant a distinction of genocide. Sadly, a number of U.S. companies continue to either actively or tacitly allow the normalization of, or apologism for, these crimes. The decision to produce an adaptation of Mr. Liu’s work can be viewed as such normalization.

In an interview with the New Yorker last summer, when asked about the ongoing atrocities in XUAR, Mr. Liu parroted CCP talking points accusing all Uyghurs of being terrorists, then stating, “If anything, the government is helping their economy and trying to lift them out of poverty…If you were to loosen up the country a bit, the consequences would be terrifying.” When the interviewer draws similarities to Mr. Liu’s trilogy, in which Australia’s population is enslaved and find that they prefer totalitarianism to democracy, Liu implies that she has been brainwashed by the West and that she, “with [her] inflexible sense of morality, was the alien.”

While Congress seriously considers the systemic crimes carried out against the Uyghurs, we have significant concerns with Netflix’s decision to do business with an individual who is parroting dangerous CCP propaganda. In the face of such atrocities in XUAR, there no longer exist corporate decisions of complacency, only complicity.

In light of these concerns, we respectfully request answers to the following questions:

1. Does Netflix agree that the Chinese Communist Party’s interment of 1.8 to 3 million Uyghurs in internment or labor camps based on their ethnicity is unacceptable?

2. Were Netflix senior executives aware of the statements made by Mr. Liu Cixin regarding the CCP’s genocidal acts prior to entering into an agreement to adapt his work? If so, please outline the reasoning that led Netflix to move forward with this project. If not, please describe Netflix’s standard process of due diligence and the gaps therein that led to this oversight.

3. Does Netflix have a policy regarding entering into contracts with public-facing individuals who, either publically or privately, promote principles inconsistent with Netflix’s company culture and principles? If so, please outline this policy. If not, please explain why not.

4. In order to avoid any further glorification of the CCP’s actions against the Uyghurs, or validation of the Chinese regime and agencies responsible for such acts, what steps will Netflix take to cast a critical eye on this project – to include the company’s broader relationship with Mr. Liu?

Netflix’s company culture statement asserts that “Entertainment, like friendship, is a fundamental human need; it changes how we feel and gives us common ground.” This statement is a beautiful summary of the value of the American entertainment industry, which possesses innovation largely unmatched in the global market. We ask Netflix to seriously reconsider the implications of providing a platform to Mr. Liu in producing this project.

We appreciate your swift and detailed response to these inquiries.

The opening novel of a trilogy, The Three-Body Problem, for which Liu became the first writer in Asia to win the Hugo Award in 2015, is set during the Cultural Revolution when humans establish contact with an alien civilization on the edge of extinction. After the aliens invade earth, humans split off into two camps: one in favor of takeover by the superior aliens and the other determined to resist.

The controversial passage of the June 2019 New Yorker interview, “Liu Cixin’s War of the Worlds”, says this:

…When I brought up the mass internment of Muslim Uighurs—around a million are now in reëducation camps in the northwestern province of Xinjiang—he trotted out the familiar arguments of government-controlled media: “Would you rather that they be hacking away at bodies at train stations and schools in terrorist attacks? If anything, the government is helping their economy and trying to lift them out of poverty.” The answer duplicated government propaganda so exactly that I couldn’t help asking Liu if he ever thought he might have been brainwashed. “I know what you are thinking,” he told me with weary clarity. “What about individual liberty and freedom of governance?” He sighed, as if exhausted by a debate going on in his head. “But that’s not what Chinese people care about. For ordinary folks, it’s the cost of health care, real-estate prices, their children’s education. Not democracy.”

I looked at him, studying his face. He blinked, and continued, “If you were to loosen up the country a bit, the consequences would be terrifying.” I remembered a moment near the end of the trilogy, when the Trisolarans, preparing to inhabit Earth, have interned the whole of humanity in Australia:

“The society of resettled populations transformed in profound ways. People realized that, on this crowded, hungry continent, democracy was more terrifying than despotism. Everyone yearned for order and a strong government. . . . Gradually, the society of the resettled succumbed to the seduction of totalitarianism, like the surface of a lake caught in a cold spell.”

Liu closed his eyes for a long moment and then said quietly, “This is why I don’t like to talk about subjects like this. The truth is you don’t really—I mean, can’t truly—understand.” He gestured around him. “You’ve lived here, in the U.S., for, what, going on three decades?” The implication was clear: years in the West had brainwashed me. In that moment, in Liu’s mind, I, with my inflexible sense of morality, was the alien.

And so, Liu explained to me, the existing regime made the most sense for today’s China, because to change it would be to invite chaos. “If China were to transform into a democracy, it would be hell on earth,” he said. “I would evacuate tomorrow, to the United States or Europe or—I don’t know.” The irony that the countries he was proposing were democracies seemed to escape his notice. He went on, “Here’s the truth: if you were to become the President of China tomorrow, you would find that you had no other choice than to do exactly as he has done.”

It was an opinion entirely consistent with his systems-level view of human societies, just as mine reflected a belief in democracy and individualism as principles to be upheld regardless of outcomes. I was reminded of something he wrote in his afterword to the English edition of “The Three-Body Problem”: “I cannot escape and leave behind reality, just like I cannot leave behind my shadow. Reality brands each of us with its indelible mark. Every era puts invisible shackles on those who have lived through it, and I can only dance in my chains.”

Pixel Scroll 9/1/20 Senpai
Noticed Me!

(1) GAME OF THRONGS. Netflix has ordered a series covering all three books in Liu Cixin’s trilogy — The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Death’s End — reports Variety: “‘Three-Body Problem’ Series From David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Alexander Woo Set at Netflix”.

There seem to be a lot of cooks hovering over the broth:

Benioff and Weiss executive produce under their Bighead Littlehead banner along with the company’s newly installed president, Bernadette Caulfield. [Rian] Johnson, Ram Bergman, and Nena Rodrigue executive produce via T Street Productions. [Brad] Pitt executive produces with along with Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner for Plan B Entertainment. [Rosamund] Pike and Robie Uniacke executive produce for Primitive Streak. Lin Qi, chairman of Yoozoo Group and The Three-Body Universe, and Zhao Jilong, vice president of The Three-Body Universe, also executive produce.

…Author Liu Cixin and accomplished sci-fi writer Ken Liu, who translated the English versions of the first and third books, serve as consulting producers.

The article quotes Liu Cixin:

“I have the greatest respect for and faith in the creative team adapting ‘The Three-Body Problem’ for television audiences,” said Cixin. “I set out to tell a story that transcends time and the confines of nations, cultures and races; one that compels us to consider the fate of humankind as a whole. It is a great honor as an author to see this unique sci-fi concept travel and gain fandom across the globe and I am excited for new and existing fans all over the world to discover the story on Netflix.”

(2) INTERNET ARCHIVE SUIT TRIAL SCHEDULED. Publishers Weekly is a fly on the courtroom wall when “Judge Sets Tentative Schedule for Internet Archive Copyright Case”. All the benchmark dates are at the link.

…The parties, barring a motion that would moot the schedule, are to be ready for trial on 48 hours notice on or after November 12, 2021.

…The copyright infringement lawsuit against the Internet Archive’s scanning and lending program was first filed on June 1 in the Southern District of New York by Hachette, HarperCollins, John Wiley & Sons, and Penguin Random House, and is being coordinated by the Association of American Publishers.

(3) VOTERS BY THE YARD. “Biden campaign launches official Animal Crossing: New Horizons yard signs” reports The Verge.

…Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in the US earlier this year, campaigns like Biden’s have been forced to entirely rethink how they organize voters. Instead of in-person rallies, Biden’s team has opted for live-streamed events and fundraisers along with socially distanced productions and interviews. The entire Democratic National Convention was held virtually earlier this month, with most guests streaming in over video software like Zoom to deliver speeches.

The Biden-Harris campaign released four sign designs for players to download, featuring the official Biden-Harris logo, Team Joe logo, the “Joe” Pride logo, and an image of aviator sunglasses shaded in red, white, and blue. Players will be able to access the designs in-game by scanning the design QR codes through the Nintendo Switch Online app.

Millions of people have picked up Animal Crossing: New Horizons since its initial release in March, and the Biden campaign is hoping to engage that large base with their new merch. “Animal Crossing is a dynamic, diverse, and powerful platform that brings communities together from across the world. It is an exciting new opportunity for our campaign to engage and connect Biden-Harris supporters as they build and decorate their islands,” Christian Tom, director of digital partnerships for the Biden campaign, said in a statement to The Verge. “As we enter the final campaign stretch towards November, this is one way we are finding new creative and innovative ways to meet voters where they are and bring our supporters together.”

(4) ZOOM IN BLOOM. Cora Buhlert wrote a NASFiC conreport and an overview of the growing phenomenon of virtual sff events: “Cora’s Adventures at the Virtual 2020 NASFiC and More Thoughts on Virtual Conventions”.

…The first panel I watched was “Fantasy for YA vs. Adults”, featuring Alma Alexander, Farah Mendlesohn, Sherwood Smith and Kathryn Sullivan. I picked this panel over the horror panel going on at the same time, because I knew and liked the panelists. There was some concern in the chat that the panelists were all white. And indeed, more diversity would have been nice, especially considering what a diverse field fantasy in general and YA in particular is.

Talking of the chat, unlike other recent virtual conventions, NASFiC opted not to use the Zoom chat, but have the Discord chat side by side with the panel. From the POV of an audience member, this was a lot better than having to switch between Discord and Zoom in different tabs/windows. Though I’m not sure how it was from the POV of a panelist, since panelists and moderators can more easily see questions, when they are asked in the Zoom chat…

(5) MASTERING DUALITY. Sarah Gailey’s Personal Canons series continues with “Abhorsen”.

…When I first read the Abhorsen books, I was very young, and I was just starting to grapple with questions of identity, duality, and choice. Bound up in those questions was a larger, overarching question of worth. I felt certain that if I didn’t answer those questions about myself correctly, I’d lose some degree of goodness. Bit by bit, parts of me would tarnish; I’d become Bad, and there would be no place in the world for me. That feeling was too much. I couldn’t face it.

But in Garth Nix’s books, I saw that perhaps the answers could be more complicated than I realized. In Sabriel, I saw that feeling afraid and unprepared didn’t have to mean surrender, so long as I could be resourceful and stubborn. In Lirael, I saw that it’s possible to survive the crushing feeling that life is unsurvivable.

(6) NYRSF 30TH SEASON. The New York Review of SF Readings Series, hosted by Jim Freund, kicks off its new season virtually on September 8 with a reading by Michael Swanwick. More info at the link: “NYRSF Readings: Swanwick/Dozois ‘The City Under the Stars’”

This reading marks the beginning of our 30th Season! Sadly, we cannot all join together for a fete, but over the course of time, we’ll figure something out. We wish to experiment with simulcasting the reading on our traditional home here on Facebook, but also try simulcasting it on YouTube. We’ll be testing this through the week so be sure to check back here to find out where to log in.

On Tor.com, Michael Swanwick wrote:
“Almost a quarter century ago, Gardner Dozois and I published “The City of God,” now the first half of this novel. It ended with a slam, seemingly precluding any sequels. But over the decades Gardner and I talked over what might come next. We planned to write two more novellas, “The City of Angels” and “The City of Men,” which would tell one long, complete story. One with a happy ending.

Don’t laugh.

Yes, Gardner could be a bleak writer. Yes, the novella was dark even for him. But he had an uplifting idea for how the book would end. We discussed it often. We were midway through the second novella and aiming at that happy ending when, without warning, Gardner died.

I knew I would never write that third novella without his input, his genius. Nevertheless I wanted the world to see this genuinely happy ending. So I changed the direction of the work in progress, combined both novellas, divided them into chapters, and made of them a novel I think Gardner would have been pleased with.

The ending is exactly what Gardner envisioned all those decades ago. A happy one. For everyone.

When I wrote the last words of it, I cried.”

(7) NOT TOO LATE TO TUNE IN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.]“Arthur Charles Clarke discusses science fiction” at the Studs Terkel Radio Archive is a 1959 interview Studs Terkel conducted with Clarke where Clarke discusses his novels Childhood’s End and Earthlight, explains why he thought sf was not escapist, and said that “I’m a moral vegetarian, although I hate vegetables.”

(8) OKAY BOOMER. “Can You Recognize These Guest Stars On Star Trek: The Original Series?” John King Tarpinian got 9 of 11. I got 10. It helps if you’ve watched too much Sixties television.

We gathered some of our favorite guest stars from Star Trek: The Original Series. They are famous faces from classic television. See if you can match them to their popular roles. Good luck!

(9) DINO MITES. “‘Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous’ Trailer: Netflix Unleashes Look At New Dreamworks Animation Series, Launches Interactive Site”Yahoo! Entertainment has the story.

…The series trailer (watch it above) sets up the premise of Camp Cretaceous: A group of six teenagers are trapped at a new adventure camp on the opposite side of Isla Nublar. When the events of the film unfold and dinosaurs are unleashed across the island, each kid realizes their very survival rests on the shoulders of themselves and their fellow campers. Unable to reach the outside world, the six teens will go from strangers to friends to family as they band together to survive the dinosaurs and uncover hidden secrets so deep they threaten the world itself.

Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous premieres September 18 on Netflix.

The new interactive site, live now, invites users to experience a behind the gates look at Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous. At CampCretaceous.com, users can tour the campgrounds, get up close with dinosaurs, check out tree top cabins and a zipline, among other adventures.

(10) GOSPEL OR BLASPHEMY? Chris Mooney, in “You Don’t Have To Be A Genre Writer To Explore Genre” on CrimeReads, says his desire to put sf elements in a suspense novel led him to explore other works that combine sf and suspense, including novels by Colson Whitehead, Margaret Atwood, and Sir Kazuo Ichiguro.

…Sometimes when you mix things together, the results are amazing, even spectacular. As I was writing Blood World, I realized that almost of my all-time favorite books—the ones that had the greatest impact on me—were from authors who successfully incorporated elements from more than one genre. And now, it’s mid-August, the height of vacation season, and if, like me, you find yourself stuck in your backyard on a “staycation,” or lucky enough to live near a beach, you can do no better than these definitive, intelligent, page-turning, genre-bending classics.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • September 1, 1950Dimension X’s “The Roads Must Roll.” Based on the Robert Heinlein story that first was published in Astounding Science Fiction in the June 1940 issue, it would first be broadcast on this date on NBC  in 1950. It would win the Retro Hugo for Best Novella at MidAmericon II, the same year that OGH won another Hugo for Best Fan Writer. Jason Bolander, Norman Rose and Karl Weber were the cast. You can listen to it here. (CE)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 1, 1875 Edgar Rice Burroughs. Bradbury declared him “the most influential writer in the entire history of the world.” Now I’d not necessarily disagree or agree with that statement but I would note that he has largely fallen out of public notice once again. So what’s your favorite works by him? The Barsoom stories are mine. (Died 1950.) (CE)
  • Born September 1, 1928 – Shelby Vick.  Edited Planetary Stories 2005-2017.  Edited a new (i.e. 2013, centuries after the original) volume of Sindbad stories (with E. Erdelac & E. Roberts; unable to resist the spelling “Sinbad”), writing one.  A score of short stories around then.  Leading fan since the 1940s.  Introduced Lee Hoffman (to some of us, after this incident, “Hoffwoman”), to Bob Tucker.  Started WAW with the Crew in ’52 bringing W.A. Willis to Chicon II the 10th Worldcon.  Organized, if that word may be used, Corflu 16 (fanziners’ con; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid, once indispensable); brought as a guest to Corflu 29.  Rebel Award.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born September 1, 1942 C. J. Cherryh, 78. I certainly think the Hugo Award-winning Downbelow Station and Cyteen are amazing works but I think my favorite works by her are the Merchanter novels such as Rimrunners. Anyone familiar with “Cassandra“,  the short story she won a Hugo for at Seacon ‘79? What’s it part of? (CE) 
  • Born September 1, 1943 – Filthy Pierre, 77.  So unassumingly and widely helpful for so long he was at length given the Big Heart (our highest service award) and more locally made a Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; its service award).  With Marilyn Wisowaty (as she then was; also F.N.) compiled The Blackdex and Bluedex indexing SF prozines.  FP being a filker is often at hand during an SF con and, when waiting is, inspires song, accompanying us on the current version of the Filth-O-Phone.  Made the well-named Microfilk, an early filk index.  Filk Hall of Fame.  Invented the Voodoo Message Board.  Fan Guest of Honor at Albacon 2010, Baltcon 52.  Under a transparent pseudonym has conducted the SF Conventional Calendar for Asimov’s since 1977.  [JH]
  • Born September 1, 1951 Donald G. Keller, 69. Editor and critic. Co-edited Phantasmicom with Jeff Smith (1969-1974). A contributor to The New York Review of Science Fiction in the early Nineties which is where his “The Manner of Fantasy” essay appeared. He also edited The Horns of Elfland anthology with Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman. Inactive genre wise for a decade now other than being a member of the editorial board of Slayage, the online Encyclopedia of Buffy Studies. (CE) 
  • Born September 1, 1952 – Brad Linaweaver.  Productive pro writer found lovable by many because of or despite proclaimed libertarian opinions.  A dozen novels, five dozen shorter stories, some with co-authors.  Artbook anthology Worlds of Tomorrowwith Forrest J Ackerman.  Interviewed William Tenn for Riverside Quarterly.  Two Prometheus Awards.  Phoenix. Heinlein’s brass cannon bequeathed to him.  (Died 2019)
  • Born September 1, 1954 – Larisa Mikhaylova, Ph.D., 66.  Editor, critic; translator including Cadigan and Le Guin.  Editor-in-chief, Supernova.  Organizer of conferences on Ivan Yefremov, co-ordinator of preparing his Complete Works.  Biography of HE in J. Francaville ed., Harlan Ellison.  “Shore Leave Russia” on Star Trek fandom in Russia, Eaton Journal of Archival Research in SF.  Academic Secretary, Russian Soc. Amer. Cultural Studies.  [JH]
  • Born September 1, 1961 – Jacinta Escudos, 59.  Mario Monteforte Toledo Central American Prize for Fiction.  Collection, The Devil Knows My Name (in Spanish, i.e. El diablo sabe mi nombre).  Anthologized in And We Sold the RainLovers and ComradesYou Can’t Drown the Fire.  Widely known outside our field.  Blog here (in Spanish).  [JH]
  • Born September 1, 1964 Martha Wells, 56. She’s has won a Nebula Award, a Locus Award, and two Hugo Awards, one for the “All Systems Red” novella at WorldCon ‘76, and the other for her “Artificial Condition“ novella at Dublin 2019.  Impressive. And she was toastmaster of the World Fantasy Convention in 2017 where she delivered a speech called “Unbury the Future”. Need I note the Muderbot Diaries are a truly amazing reading? (CE)
  • Born September 1, 1967 Steve Pemberton, 53. He’s on the Birthday List for being Strackman Lux in the most excellent Eleventh Doctor stories of “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead” but he has other genre credits including being Drumknott in Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal, Professor Mule in the Gormenghast series and Harmony in the Good Omens series as well. (CE) 
  • Born September 1, 1974 Burn Gorman, 46. Best known for his roles as Owen Harper in Torchwood , Karl Tanner in the Game of Thrones, Philip Stryker in The Dark Knight Rises and also as Hermann Gottlieb in Pacific Rim and the sequel Pacific Rim: Uprising. Like so many of his fellow Torchwood performers, he’s been active at Big Finish where he’s been in nine Torchwood stories to date. (CE) 
  • Born September 1, 1978 — Yoav Blum, 42.  Software developer and author.  First novel translated (from Hebrew), The Coincidence Makers.  Ranks Guards! Guards! about the same as Winnie-the-Pooh.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Ziggy listens to an outburst about an unfair evolutionary advantage.
  • Off the Mark comes up with one of those times when you shouldn’t count on Superman to save your life.
  • The Far Side asks Doctor who?
  • The Far Side illustrates a science fictional parenting problem.

(14) LIPTAK’S SEPTEMBER GUIDE. Andrew Liptak teases “22 science fiction and fantasy books to check out this September” on the Readling List.

….I’ve been in a bit of a reading rut in recent weeks, but one book that I’ve been enjoying is The Human Cosmos: Civilization and the Stars by Jo Marchant. It’s out today, and Marchant takes a slightly different tack on the history of astronomy: she looks at not how humanity discovered the stars and planets, but how it impacted our development as a civilization. It’s an excellent example of multidisciplinary history, looking at archeology, science, mathematics, and of course, astronomy. I highly recommend it.

If you’re looking for other books coming out this month, here are 22 science fiction and fantasy ones hitting stores that you should check out.

(15) THE STICKS HAVE BEEN HEARD FROM. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, who has been without the internet most of the time during the pandemic, broke out of isolation to update “Concatenation Science Communication News”.

CoVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2 Lockdown — Please Note  Both Science Com and SF² Concatenation are in digital lockdown, but much is continuing as usual.  So stakeholders and those who liaise with either should note the following carefully.

Prior to CoVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2, neither abode being connected to the internet was not a problem (not even required) as regular internet access was available at college, volunteer work offices as well as learned society Fellows rooms’ and public libraries’ cybercafes (plus even hotels when travelling).  However, with SARS-CoV-2, access to these has ceased.  This means no e-mail communication since 20th March 2020 and this will not resume until we get a vaccine and restrictions are lifted. So if you have e-mailed, now you know why you have not had a response.

All other (non-e-mail) communications are working fine…

More news at the link.

He also tweeted assurance that there will be an autumnal edition of SF2 Concatenation as contributors have been snail-mailing contributions in on memory sticks.

(16) C.S. LEWIS MOVIE TO COMMENCE FILMING. “Production Begins Next Month for New C.S. Lewis Motion Picture” reports Narniafans.

… The material that this movie is based upon is Max McLean’s one man stage play that chronicles the Narnia author’s journey from atheism to Christianity… Although a filmed from the stage version of this production is already available on DVD, the new movie version will be entirely different with a full cast shooting at historic locations from C.S. Lewis’s life.

“The difference about this play is it’s going to be on location all over Oxford. We have full access to Maudlin College, The Kilns, the church, [and] various other places that are mentioned in the play. Instead of it being a one person show, it’s going to be a multi-actor show. I’ll play the older Lewis, we’ll have a boy Lewis, a young Lewis in his 20’s, cast his mother, his father, Tolkien, Barfield, Kirk, among others, and that is going to begin shortly.”

 In March 2020 the entire world of Fellowship for Performing Arts came to a complete standstill. The New York based theatrical organization had been selling 2,000 tickets a week for their four productions, but that quickly dropped to 0 tickets a week and there is no expectation that live theater will resume until 2021. More than 30 FPA shows have been canceled because it is far too dangerous to hold any public gatherings in the United States.

“Since our plays have all shut down, we’ve moved up our feature film adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s conversion story. That was designed to be a 2021/2022 project, well we’ve moved it up to September and October of this year. I’ll be leaving tomorrow for the UK to begin shooting in mid-September (I have to quarantine for two weeks before we begin shooting).”-Max McLean

Norman Stone is the producer of this movie. This award-winning British director also directed Shadowlands (1985), C.S. Lewis: Beyond Narnia (2005), and The Narnia Code (2009).

(17) WILL CROWDFUNDING LET THEM MAKE THEIR TEASER TRAILER? The Kickstarter for “BAÏDIR – the animated series”, a space-opera animated series, looks to be far from funding, having raised only $29,266 of its $35,968 goal and the appeal ending September 6.

This is an epic, modern, ecological, and family fable…

It tells the initiatory path of a hero willing to do anything to locate his sister, and thus restore the family’s lost balance. It is also a story that echoes a much broader collective quest. At stake: restoring our planet’s lost environmental equilibrium.

Baïdir is a series designed to span three parts, each composed of 8 episodes of 26 minutes. The genre varies from adventure to science fiction with a good dash of fantasy.

Born from the imagination of Slimane Aniss, then enriched by the graphic universe spun by Charles Lefebvre and Thierry Rivière, Baïdir got its first teaser in 2009. Several years later, in 2012, the concept for the series was purchased by a first production studio. This resulted in a second teaser being hatched. Then several years after that, Andarta Pictures managed to acquire the rights to the work. At long last, work could begin on building the narration and the universe, thus allowing it to take shape for the television screen.

Baïdir is a project that has garnered quite a lot of interest during its various development phases. There is a massive amount of fan art on social networks. This crowdfunding campaign will allow us to breathe life into this whole universe and to tell the story of Baïdir and his friends at last.

(18) ALIEN LIFE. The American Museum of Natural History will present online the “2020 Isaac Asimov Debate: Alien Life” on Wednesday, September 9, 2020.

Join Neil deGrasse Tyson, the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, and a panel of experts for a livestream debate and question-and-answer session to discuss how life may have formed on Earth and explore what alien life might look like elsewhere in the universe.

What criteria do we use to classify life as we know it? Should the criteria be revised as we look for life on other worlds? The debate will bring together scientists from different fields–Nathalie A. Cabrol of the SETI Institute, Vera Kolb of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute, Carol Cleland of the University of Colorado, and Max Tegmark of MIT–to share their creative ideas for what forms life might take in an extraterrestrial environment and what these predictions can teach us about life on our own planet.

(19) HO, HO PHO. Archie McPhee has “Ketchup, Shiitake And Pho Candy Canes” ready for the holiday season – whatever holiday that may be. (“National Flash on Your Carpet Day”?) Wait – they seem to think it’s Christmas!

This year’s Archie McPhee candy canes are here! We’ve got three crazy flavors to make your Christmas more delicious than ever. Ketchup Candy Canes are fresh-from-the-bottle candy that tastes just like America’s favorite condiment. Shiitake Mushroom Candy Canes have a mushroom flavor that will make Christmas morning even more fungus than usual. And, finally, Pho Candy Canes are un-pho-gettable! 

I hope Santa leaves the antidote within reach!

(20) RU A ROBOT? Daniel Dern calls it “The best CAPTCHA I’ve seen to date”.  From FB’s Concellation group.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/5/20 Please Pixel Your Scroll In The Form Of A Question

(1) KEEPING THE PLUS IN DISNEY+. Disney+ will premiere Mulan on its platform – at an extra charge to subscribers reports Variety.

In another major blow to movie theaters, Disney announced Mulan will forgo its planned theatrical release.  Instead, the live-action remake is premiering on Disney Plus on Sept. 4 for a premium rental price.

The company believes that the release of the action epic will help drive subscribers while serving as a valuable test case to determine how much of their hard-earned cash customers are willing to part with in order to watch a movie that was originally intended to debut exclusively in cinemas.

Unlike the rest of the content available on Disney Plus, “Mulan” won’t be available directly to subscribers. Consumers in the U.S. and other territories will have to pay $29.99 to rent the movie on top of the streaming service’s monthly subscription fee of $6.99. In markets where Disney Plus isn’t available, “Mulan” will play in cinemas.

(2) SEE AURORA AWARDS CEREMONY. The Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association will hold the Aurora Awards ceremony online this year on Saturday, August 15 at 7:00 p.m. Eastern via the When Words Collide YouTube channel. The livestream will be open to everyone.

(3) LEADER OF THE PACK. HBO Max dropped a trailer for Raised by Wolves. Arrives September 3.

Mother was programmed to protect everyone after Earth had been destroyed. When the big bad wolf shows up, she is the one we must trust.

(4) BEUKES Q&A. NPR’s Petra Myers interviews author: “In ‘Afterland,’ A World (Mostly) Without Men: Questions For Lauren Beukes”.

Lauren Beukes’ new Afterland takes place in a world that exists not long after our own — a very near future in which a terrible virus has wiped out almost all the men in the world, leaving a scant few million, mostly held in government research facilities.

As the book opens, we meet Cole, who’s on the run after breaking her preteen son out of one of those facilities with the help of her sister, Billie (who has her own motives). Their journey will take them across a drastically different — but still recognizable — country, bouncing from utopian communes to religious sects to Miami sex clubs.

“I wanted to interrogate the preconceptions that a world of women would be a kinder or gentler place,” Beukes tells me over email, “especially if it was only a couple of years out from our current reality and the existing power structures, inequality and social ills. Because of course, women are full human beings and just as capable of being power hungry, selfish, violent, corrupt as much as we are of being kind, compassionate and nurturing as men are of all those things too….”

Why do you think the idea of wiping out all the men is so compelling? This isn’t the first no-men post-apocalyptic story I’ve read, but I don’t think I’ve seen any where women get wiped out.

I’ll be the first to cop to a world without men hardly being an original idea, from Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1915 somewhat-prim women’s utopia, Herland, on up through Joanna Russ’ The Female Man in 1975 and, more recently, the hugely popular comics series Y: The Last Man by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra, which gets a subtle nod in Afterland.

It’s an appealing idea because it allows us to explore how women could be without the centuries of oppression and misogyny (including the internalized kind), without the constant threat of violence and rape. It’s the joy of imagining a world where we could be safe walking at night (without having to be a man-killing vampire, as in the wonderful Iranian film A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.)

The reverse has been explored in a much more limited away, including in a recent movie about a woman-killing plague with a father and his sole surviving daughter, and in Stephen and Owen King’s Sleeping Beauties, which puts all the women in the world into a coma.

I don’t think it’s as popular a conceit, because of the power structures. We live under patriarchy. And the horrific reality is that women are “wiped out” every day, usually by intimate partner violence. In South Africa, we have a devastatingly high rate of gender-based violence, including against gay and trans men and women. According to my friend Dr. Nechama Brodie, who wrote the recent Femicide in South Africa, four women a day are killed here by their partners or ex-partners. The most recent international stats I could find were from the Global Study on Homicide, which found that one-third of women killed in 2017 were victims of domestic violence.

(5) MISSING IN ACTION. Sir Julius Vogel Award winner Casey Lucas tells “How NZ’s best fantasy and science fiction writers got shafted on a global stage” on The Spinoff.

… But I’m going to do what the Hugo Awards committee was afraid to do and stop giving Martin airtime. Because I’m here to document a completely different phenomenon – one that has only been generating chatter once the immediate shocking aftermath of the Hugos’ disrespect to its own nominees had passed.

It began as murmurs in chat rooms, posts on social media platforms, questions posed on industry Slacks and Discords: say, where was the New Zealand representation at the Hugo Awards ceremony? The New Zealand presenters? What of the karakia, the acknowledgement of mana whenua? Aside from a few jokes, a ramble about our gorgeous country, an admittedly brilliant segment on the artists who crafted the physical Hugo trophies, and a stuffed kiwi on a desk, there was no New Zealand content.

Those who attended the WorldCon held in Helsinki, Finland in 2017 commented on the stark contrast. That ceremony, organised in part by the Turku Science Fiction Society, presented Finland’s Atorox Award alongside its international counterparts. So … what about our local awards ceremony?

(6) ISN’T SOMETHING ELSE MISSING? CoNZealand publications staff didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory here.

Since they didn’t print anything but his name, James Davis Nicoll thinks it would have been nicer if it had been spelled correctly.  

Souvenir Book editor Darusha Wehm apologized, however, Nicoll says he found that apology lacking.  

(7) YES, WE’LL EAT THE BREAD. Why certainly, giving a Hugo to people who hijacked the CoNZealand name is exactly the kind of move you might expect to see after the previous two news items.

But as a salute to their not using any WSFS registered trademarks I think we really should be voting them the DisCon III Shiny Pointy Thing.

(8) IF IT’S RIGHT IT’S A MIRACLE. Somehow Tor.com gets James Davis Nicoll’s name right in the byline for this fivesome — “Five SFF Stories Involving Secretly Supernatural Beings”. Was it a case of divine intervention?

Neighbours! Fine people, right up to the moment when they are overcome by xenophobia and assemble in a large mob (shouty), all too well supplied with torches (lit) and implements (agricultural). Of course, not all people are prone to hateful prejudice and fear against outsiders. Some might go the other way, lavishing unwanted adoration and attention on unusual people. It’s awkward either way, which is reason enough for some folks to carefully conceal their true nature.  Such as these five…

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 5, 1850 – Guy de Maupassant.  Fifty short stories for us, translated into Dutch, German, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish; three hundred in all, six novels, travel, poetry.  Second novel Bel Ami had thirty-seven printings in four months.  A father, many think, of the short story.  Managed to write both realistically and fantastically.  (Died 1893) [JH]
  • Born August 5, 1891 Donald Kerr. Happy Hapgood in 1938’s Flash Gordon’s Trip To Mars which might be one of the earliest such films. His only other genre appearances were in the Abbott and Costello films such as Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy and Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man in uncredited roles.  (Died 1977.) (CE)
  • Born August 5, 1929 Don Matheson. Best-remembered  for being Mark Wilson in Land of the Giants. He also had roles in Lost in Space (where he played in an alien and an android in another episode), Voyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Alfred Hitchcock Hour, an Alice in Wonderland film and Dragonflight. (Died 2014.) (CE) 
  • Born August 5, 1935 Wanda Ventham, 85. Mother of Benedict Cumberbatch. She’s been on Doctor Who three times, in “The Faceless Ones”, a Second Doctor story, in “Image of the Fendahl, a Fourth Doctor story and finally in “Time and the Rani”, a Seventh Doctor story. She also had roles in The Blood Beast TerrorProject U.F.O and Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter. She was often on British TV including Danger ManThe SaintThe Avengers and The Prisoner. And yes, she was on Sherlock where she played his mother. (CE) 
  • Born August 5, 1943 – Kathleen Sky, 77.  Five novels, eight shorter stories, translated into French and German.  The Business of Being a Writer with Stephen Goldin.  I realize I haven’t read “One Ordinary Day, with Box”, but since it came well after an all-time great Shirley Jackson story (“Had it for lunch”; he didn’t, of course, which is the point), it must –  [JH]
  • Born August 5, 1947 – Élisabeth Vonarburg, Ph.D.,, 73.  A score of novels, fifty shorter stories.  Editor of Solaris 1983-1986, contributor thereafter; also to CarfaxFoundationNY Review of SFTorus (hello, Lloyd Penney).  Ten Prix Aurora.  Grand Prix de l’ImaginairePrix du Conseil Quebecois de la Femme en LitteratureUtopiales Prix Extraordinaire.  Guest of Honor at WisCon 25, three-time Guest of Honour at Boréal (2004, 2007-2008), Guest of Honour at Anticipation the 67th Worldcon.  [JH]
  • Born August 5, 1948 – Larry Elmore, 72.  First professional illustrator at TSR (producers of Dungeons & Dragons).  Did Dragonlance.  Also Magic: the Gathering.  Also Traveller and Sovereign Stone.  Novel (with brother Robert), Runes of Autumn.  Artbooks Reflections of Myth (2 vols.) and Twenty Years of Art and Elmore: New Beginnings.  Two hundred covers, twelve dozen interiors.  Here is the Mar 85 Amazing.  Here is Chicks in Chainmail.  Here is 1632.  Here is Missing Pieces 5.  [JH]
  • Born August 5, 1956 Ian R. MacLeod, 64. Another author I need to read more of. I’ve read the first two in what’s called the Aether Universe series, The Light Ages and The House of Storms, but there’s a number of novels I’m intrigued by including Song of Time and The Great Wheel. Anything else y’all would recommend I read?  (CE)
  • Born August 5, 1966 James Gunn, 54. Director, producer and screenwriter who first film as director was Slither. Very silly film. He’s responsible for both Guardians of The Galaxy films, plus the forthcoming one. He executive produced both of the recent Avengers films, and he’s directing and writing the next Suicide Squad film. (CE)
  • Born August 5, 1968 – Carina Axelsson, 52.  Fashion model and author.  After modeling in New York and Paris went to art school, wrote and illustrated children’s picture book Nigel of Hyde Park, a frizzy-haired dragon (then fashion-detective Model Under Cover, then Royal Rebel; naturally World-Wide Web logs = blogs brought about video blogs = vlogs).  Three favorite books Jane EyrePride and PrejudiceRebecca, so she may really be a both-ist.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 5, 1972 Paolo Bacigalupi, 48. I remember the book group I was part of having a spirited debate over The Windup Girl over the believability of the central character. I think he did a better job with characters in his next novels, Ship Breaker and The Drowned Cities, but he’s really not about characters anyways. (CE)
  • Born August 5, 1988 – Manuel Sumberac, 32.  (The should have a caron over it, a punctuation mark like a little v, indicating a sound like English sh.)  Thirty covers, many interiors.  Here is The Nowhere Emporium.  Here is Tuesdays at the Castle.  Also animation.  Also Steampunk City, an alphabetical journey: see the letters O and P.  Here is an interior from Steampunk Poehere is another.  Website here.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) THREE-BODY. Now it’s going to be a TV series.

(12) THEY MADE A LITTLE CORRECTION. Somebody jogged the elbow of the folks at io9, who now have added this note to the bottom of their post about George R.R. Martin and the Hugos

Correction: An earlier version of this post misidentified File 770, a multiple award winner of Hugos for Best Fanzine, as being affiliated with “the Hugos’ official website.” io9 regrets the error.

Think of it as a corollary to Muphry’s Law.

(13) OVERCOMING. Vanity Fair chronicles how “Black Storytellers Are Using Horror to Battle Hate”.

Civil Rights leader Patricia Stephens Due adored scary stories, which baffled her family since she had experienced so many real terrors. While crusading against Jim Crow laws and segregation in the 1960s, she’d been threatened, dragged away, and arrested, and her eyesight had been permanently damaged when police threw a tear gas canister directly into her face.

Still, she loved tales of killers, monsters, and restless spirits, and purchased her daughter, the future novelist and scholar Tananarive Due, her first Stephen King book. “My dad thought it was kind of weird, but now I’ve come to think that she liked horror because she was a civil rights activist,” says Due. “There was something about horror—that thrill and anxiety when you’re watching something on a screen that isn’t real—that I believe was therapeutic to her, and helped her slough off some of that fear and anger.”

(14) CIVICS CURSE. “City growth favours animals ‘more likely to carry disease'”.

Turning wild spaces into farmland and cities has created more opportunities for animal diseases to cross into humans, scientists have warned.

Our transformation of the natural landscape drives out many wild animals, but favours species more likely to carry diseases, a study suggests.

The work adds to growing evidence that exploitation of nature fuels pandemics.

Scientists estimate that three out of every four new emerging infectious diseases come from animals.

The study shows that, worldwide, we have shaped the landscape in a way that has favoured species that are more likely to carry infectious diseases.

And when we convert natural habitats to farms, pastures and urban spaces, we inadvertently increase the probability of pathogens crossing from animals to humans.

“Our findings show that the animals that remain in more human-dominated environments are those that are more likely to carry infectious diseases that can make people sick,” said Rory Gibb of University College London (UCL).

(15) DEAD ON. “Horror effects icon Tom Savini: ‘My work looks so authentic because I’ve seen the real thing’”, he explains to The Independent.

Whether it’s Kevin Bacon unexpectedly getting an arrow through the throat while lying in bed in Friday the 13thTed Danson’s waterlogged walking corpse in Creepshow, or a zombie getting the top of its head sliced off by a helicopter blade in Dawn of the DeadTom Savini is responsible for some of horror cinema’s greatest moments. Yet not everybody realises that a lot of this iconic gore was inspired by the special effects guru’s traumatic time serving as a field photographer in Vietnam.

“I saw some pretty horrible stuff,” the horror legend, now 73, tells me soberly. “I guess Vietnam was a real lesson in anatomy.” While serving with the US military, Savini learnt details such as the way blood turns brown as it dries or how our bodies lose control of the muscles when we die. “This is the reason why my work looks so visceral and authentic,” he adds. “I am the only special effects man to have seen the real thing!”

(16) MARTIAN HOP. “SpaceX: Musk’s ‘Mars ship’ prototype aces 150m test flight” – BBC has the story.

A prototype of SpaceX’s next-generation Starship vehicle has successfully flown to an altitude of 150m (500ft).

The uncrewed test vehicle rose up on a plume of exhaust before deploying its landing legs and touching down softly.

The flight was carried out at SpaceX’s test site near the village of Boca Chica in south Texas on Tuesday evening.

It’s the first flight test in almost a year for the Raptor engine, which will be used to power Starship.

The stainless steel test vehicle, called SN5, has been compared variously to a grain silo and water tank.

But it could pave the way for a spacecraft capable of carrying humans to the Moon and Mars.

(17) ROUGH RIDE. “SpaceX: Nasa crew describe rumbles and jolts of return to Earth” – BBC story includes interview video.

Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley have described the rumbles, heat and jolts of returning from space in the Crew Dragon spacecraft on Sunday.

Behnken vividly described the clouds rushing by the window and jolts that were like being “hit in the back of the chair with a baseball bat”.

But Hurley and Behnken said the spacecraft performed just as expected.

They splashed down in the Gulf of Mexico, ending the first commercial crewed mission to the space station.

“As we descended through the atmosphere, I personally was surprised at just how quickly events all transpired. It seemed like just a couple of minutes later, after the [de-orbit] burns were complete, we could look out the windows and see the clouds rushing by,” he said at a news conference broadcast from Nasa’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

“Once we descended a little bit into the atmosphere, Dragon really came alive. It started to fire thrusters and keep us pointed in the appropriate direction. The atmosphere starts to make noise – you can hear that rumble outside the vehicle. And as the vehicle tries to control, you feel a little bit of that shimmy in your body.

“We could feel those small rolls and pitches and yaws – all those little motions were things we picked up on inside the vehicle.”

(18) NO S**T, THERE THEY ARE. Er, correction, make that “yes s**t” — “Climate change: Satellites find new colonies of Emperor penguins”.

Satellite observations have found a raft of new Emperor penguin breeding sites in the Antarctic.

The locations were identified from the way the birds’ poo, or guano, had stained large patches of sea-ice.

The discovery lifts the global Emperor population by 5-10%, to perhaps as many as 278,500 breeding pairs.

It’s a welcome development given that this iconic species is likely to come under severe pressure this century as the White Continent warms.

The Emperors’ whole life cycle is centred around the availability of sea-ice, and if this is diminished in the decades ahead – as the climate models project – then the animals’ numbers will be hit hard.

One forecast suggested the global population could crash by a half or more under certain conditions come 2100.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Down And Out Kidney” on Vimeo is a cartoon by Dan and Jason about why you should worry about too much uric acid in the body (and yes, it’s entertaining!)

[Thanks to Daniel Dern, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Hampus Eckerman, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, John Hertz, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, James Davis Nicoll, Mlex, Martin Morse Wooster, Madame Hardy, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Chengdu Bid Committee Officially Established to Facilitate Worldcon 2023 Bid

The bidders to hold the 2023 Worldcon in Chengdu, China held a kickoff meeting to publicize their efforts on July 28, the day before the start of CoNZealand. Those attending saw video messages from well-known sff authors Liu Cixin, Wang Jinkang, He Xi, and Yao Haijun, deputy editor-in-chief of Science Fiction World magazine,

A photo shows there also was a video message from Colette H. Fozard and William Lawhorn, co-chairs of Discon III, the 2021 Worldcon in Washington, D.C.. The 2023 site selection vote will be administered by their Worldcon. A press release posted after the meeting quotes Lawhorn —

William Lawhorn, chairman of the 2021 Washington Worldcon, also encouraged Chengdu’s bid. He hopes the Worldcon can expand its scope of influence to farther places on earth. “After all, only by hosting at different places each time, the world-class convention can be diverse and the sci-fi family can be enlarged.” Lawhorn said, “We need Chengdu, China to become a part of our world sci-fi family.”

The complete press release follows the jump.

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 1/4/20 A Combination Of Sagrazi And Prescience

(1) NAME YOUR PRICE. John Varley realized this material should not go to waste — “And the Hugo Goes to … Introduction”.

Earlier this year I was putting together an anthology project to be called And the Hugo Goes To …. The idea was to collect all my stories that were nominated for the Hugo Award. Now, I have had a lot of nominations in my career, and have won three times. Putting them all together would make up a fairly healthy volume.

…Except that fact that one of the books to be published again was The John Varley Reader, which contained most of the stories. It made no sense to put that book and the new one in print. So the Hugo book was dead.

But not quite. I still had fun writing the intros, and I would hate to see them go into the trunk, never to be seen. So I am going to experiment.

…I am going to go the Doctorow route. You can read all the intros at the link right HERE.

Then, should you decide they are worth something, you can go to that little yellow button on the Welcome box at the home page, the one that says DONATE. You can’t miss it. That will take you to PayPal, where you can decide what you want to pay. I don’t know what to suggest. $5? $10? $2? More, less? It’s entirely up to you.

And should you want to read them for free, or if you don’t think they are worth anything, that’s cool, too. We can get along eating dog food for another year.

Here’s a small taste of what Varley put on the table –

…But I gave it a shot. I wrote a four-page story, pecking it out painstakingly on a borrowed typewriter. I can’t recall anything at all about that story. I sent it off to Mr. H.L. Gold, the editor of Galaxy, my favorite magazine at that time. He sent it back with a form rejection slip, and he had written at the bottom: “Nice try, but not quite.”

You think I was disappointed? Not a bit! Those five words, from a man who lived in New York City and edited the finest magazine in the world, just had me walking on air. I’d have framed that rejection slip and hung it on the wall if I could have afforded a frame….

(2) SPACE TRADERS. The Hugo Book Club Blog post “The Movement of Goods In Science Fiction” asks whether these science fictional economies are really wearing any clothes….

Space-based science fiction places a lot of attention on the transportation of goods.

Whether it’s a Lissepian captain hauling self-sealing stem bolts from Deep Space 9 or the crew of Firefly delivering cattle to the colony of Jiangyin, we are often presented with depictions of how goods are moved from one location to another.

This focus is probably a reflection of the modern neoliberal consensus that globalized trade is a good and necessary thing, and is a trend in science fiction that is worth questioning.

The large-scale movement of goods only makes sense if there is a strong economic incentive; if it is cheaper to build something in one location rather than another, if the skills to build something are only available in one location, or if the resources are only available in one location. When you see the depiction of merchant space ships travelling on regular runs between two locations, it implies that there are entire planets where it is cheaper to build something, and markets looking to buy those things.

Is inter-jurisdictional trade really that scalable?

(3) ABEBOOKS QUIZ. Answer appears at the end of the Scroll.

(4) FORESIGHT. The Christian Science Monitor collected input from a host of sff writers for “Future present? How science fiction sees our world in 2050”.

Machine learning speeds up 

The science fiction writer Liu Cixin, author of “The Three-Body Problem,” a richly layered Chinese novel that describes first contact with extraterrestrial life forms, foresees the transforming effect of artificial intelligence. 

“I don’t believe that in 2050 strong artificial intelligence that surpasses human beings will appear, but AI will have developed enough to compete with humans for jobs,” Mr. Liu says in a written statement to the Monitor, translated from Chinese by staff writer Ann Scott Tyson.

“This will have two possible profound implications for society,” he says. “One is that the jobless public and AI will be in a long-standing conflict, causing long-term social turmoil and instability. The second is that humans will have smoothed out the relationship with AI and established a leisurely life in which people reduce their working hours or even don’t need to work. The latter, however, will require major changes in the current political and economic distribution system of mankind.” …

(5) IT IS THE END, MY FRIEND. Here are Paste Magazine’s picks for “The 20 Best “End of the World” Movies”.

“This is the way the world ends: not with a bang but a whimper.”

Then again, what does T.S. Eliot know? As far as the movies go, the possibilities for destroying our planet or civilizations are downright infinite. Certainly, in light of several recent predictions claiming that the end of the world is ‘nigh (most of which have passed, mind you), the apocalypse has naturally been on a lot of peoples’ minds.

And so it goes: What’s prevalent in society’s consciousness is subsequently reflected in our pop culture. This means a surge of movies dealing with a world-ending event. Dramatic or funny; action-packed and exciting or slow and deliberate; real life or supernatural—there’s an apocalypse story for everyone….

6. 12 Monkeys (1995)

Inspired by the classic 1962 French short film La Jetée, 12 Monkeys went on to become the rare financial success in the notoriously disaster-prone career of former Monty Python member Terry Gilliam. Bruce Willis plays a mentally unstable convict from an apocalyptic future who is sent back in time to halt the release of a deadly virus that will kill billions. Featuring great performances from Willis and a decidedly un-glamorized Brad Pitt, 12 Monkeys bears that rare distinction of containing all the creative visuals and quirks that make Gilliam films great without the incoherent, scatter-brained plotting that often proves to be their downfall.

(6) WITCHER WATCHER. In the Washington Post, Sonia Rao previews the Netflix series The Witcher, including news about Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, on whose novels the series is based, and how the series “is like turning on a self-aware B movie.” “Will you toss a coin to ‘The Witcher’?”

Perhaps you would remain stone-faced, a reaction typical of the Witcher himself, given that Cavill plays him as a brooding hunk wandering the Continent — which, yes, is what this magical, medieval society calls its continent. Or maybe you would be inclined to give “The Witcher” a chance. It’s been advertised as Netflix’s very own “Game of Thrones” but has also proved to be an entertaining fantasy series in its own right. That’s not to say it’s good, per se, but that it’s so bizarre, it’s hard to look away.

(7) CHEKHOV’S CAT. In “Kneading Into the Comfort of Cozy Cat Mysteries”, on Jezebel, Kelly Faircloth explains the rules of cozy mysteries with cats in them, including that you can’t put a cat on the cover unless the cat is a character and you can’t kill a cat in a cozy cat mystery.

…Within the wider world of the cozy, there is the cat cozy. These specifically were pioneered by Lilian Jackson Braun, who launched the “Cat Who” series in the mid-1960s, took a couple of decades off, then returned in the 1980s after she retired and continued writing them regularly almost until she died in 2011. She was joined in the 1990s by Rita Mae Brown—whom you may know as the author of the classic lesbian novel Rubyfruit Jungle—who began “cowriting” her Mrs. Murphy series with her own cat, Sneaky Pie Brown. The cat mystery became a thing unto itself, a world within the broader universe of cozy mysteries.

(8) IF YOU GIVE THE GAME AFOOT IT’LL TAKE A MILE. In “The Year in Sherlock Holmes” on CrimeReads, Lyndsay Faye summarizes 2019’s Sherlockian developments, including  two new Sherlock Holmes conventions, the end of Elementary, and the postponement of the next Robert Downey Jr. Holmes movie until at least 2021.

…CBS’s highly regarded procedural Elementary wrapped up its seventh season this year, and it’s with a heavy heart that I take up my proverbial pen to say goodbye to Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu’s Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson. An unflinching look at sobriety and addiction—as well as unapologetically progressive casting regarding both race and gender—helped to bring the Great Detective and the Good Doctor to a new generation of enthusiasts. Kinder than BBC’s Sherlock (and in some ways more respectful of the original material—there, I said it, and I’m not taking it back either), Elementary not only stood on its own two feet as a modern crime drama, but contained scores of delightful Easter eggs for fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 4, 1982 Doctor Who first aired “Castrovalva, Part 1”, the first full episode of the Fifth Doctor as played by Peter Davison. He would play the Fifth Doctor for three series which were twenty stories in totality. As a Baker preceded him in the role, a Baker would follow him in playing the role.
  • January 4, 2002Impostor premiered in limited release. in California. Produced by a large group including Gary Sinise, best know for CSI: NY, with a screenplay by Caroline Case, Ehren Kruger and David Twohy off the Dick’s “Impostor” story which was first published in Astounding SF magazine in June, 1953. The 11th Worldcon held in Philadelphia didn’t do a Hugo for Best Short Story, so there’s no telling how it might’ve done that year. The film received overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics and Rotten Tomatoes gives it a score of 41% from reviewers.
  • January 4, 2011 Monster Mutt was released on DVD. It’s making these notes because of The Baby discussion we’ve been having. Monster Mutt, the very large dog with that name, is not CGI but is yes a puppet requiring five people to control its movements. Critics actually liked the puppet and the film as well,  even though it has a rather weak 40% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 4, 1890 Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson. Creator of the modern comic book in the early Thirties by publishing original material instead of reprints of newspaper comic strips. Some years later, he founded Wheeler-Nicholson’s National Allied Publications which would eventually become DC Comics. (Died 1965.)
  • Born January 4, 1927 Barbara Rush, 93. She won a Golden Globe Award as the most promising female newcomer for being Ellen Fields in It Came From Outer Space. She portrayed Nora Clavicle in Batman, and was found in other genre programs such as the revival version of Outer Limits, Night GalleryThe Bionic Woman and The Twilight Zone.
  • Born January 4, 1930 Ruth Kyle. OGH has her touching story here. Warning: it has Isaac Asimov behaving badly at a Con material. Just kidding. Maybe. (Died 2011.)
  • Born January 4, 1946 Ramsey Campbell, 74. My favorite novel by him is without doubt The Darkest Part of the Woods which has a quietly building horror to it. I know he’s better known for his sprawling (pun full intended) Cthulhu mythology writings but I never got into those preferring his other novels such as his Solomon Kane movie novelization which is quite superb.
  • Born January 4, 1958 Matt Frewer, 62. His greatest role has to be as Max Headroom on the short-lived series of the same name. Amazingly I think it still stands thirty-five years later as SF well-crafted. Just a taste of his later series SF appearances include playing Jim Taggart, scientist and dog catcher on Eureka, Pestilence in Supernatural, Dr. Kirschner in 12 Monkeys and Carnage in Altered Carbon. His film genre appearance list is just as impressive but I’ll single out SupergirlHoney, I Shrunk the KidsThe StandMonty Python’s The Meaning of Life (oh, do guess where he is in it) and lastly Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb, a series of films that I really like. 
  • Born January 4, 1960 Michael Stipe, 60. Lead singer of R.E.M. which has done a few songs that I could are genre adjacent. But no, I’ve got him here for being involved in a delightful project called Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films. Lots of great songs given interesting new recordings. His contribution was “Little April Shower” from Bambi which he covered along with Natalie Merchant, Michael Stipe, Mark Bingham and The Roches. Fun stuff indeed! 
  • Born January 4, 1985 Lenora Crichlow, 35. She played Cheen on “Gridlock”, a Tenth Doctor story. She played also Annie Sawyer on the BBC version of Being Human from 2009 to 2012. And she appeared as Victoria Skillane in the “White Bear” of Black Mirror.
  • Born January 4, 2000 Addy Miller, 20. She is on the Birthday List for being Sarah in Plan 9. Really? They remade that movie? Why? And yes, she played A Walker in that other show. My fav role by her is because of the title, it was a short called Ghost Trek: Goomba Body Snatchers Mortuary Lockdown, in which she was Scary Carrie Carmichael. And yes, you can watch it here.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Flying McCoys has an ad from an unexpected kind of ambulance chaser.
  • The strip doubtless works even better if you understand the language, but it’s funny anyway.

(12) UNCANCEL CULTURE. “How Amazon (and Jeff Bezos) Saved ‘The Expanse'”Space.com thinks, “In hindsight, being canceled by Syfy was probably the best thing that could have happened to ‘The Expanse.’”

However, only three seasons had been sold to Syfy and there are eight novels in the series with a ninth on the way. Not long after Season 3 started to air, Syfy announced it had not purchased the rights for future seasons because of restrictive distribution arrangements, and on May 11, 2018, it was officially canceled

However, by now the show had built up a considerable following and fans protested the cancellation. 

Such a display of displeasure from fans isn’t entirely unusual. When “Star Trek: The Original Series” was canceled in 1968 after just two seasons, a letter-writing campaign orchestrated by fans – Bjo and John Trimble in particular – kept the show on the air for an additional season. And while one more season might not seem like a substantial victory, it set a precedent for many subsequent campaigns to keep shows on the air. Some were successful, like “Star Trek” and “Quantum Leap,” but sadly, others weren’t, like “Firefly” and “Almost Human” – both were canceled by Fox after just one season, and both were high-quality sci-fi shows with massive potential that had amassed a loyal fan base in a short amount of time….

(13) WHERE THE FUTURE BEGAN. Syd Mead, whose passing was noted here December 31, has received a lengthy appreciation in the New York Times: “Syd Mead, 86, Maker of Future Worlds in ‘Blade Runner’ and More, Dies”.

…Although his work usually involved creating a fanciful future, it sometimes ended up depicting the actual future. A 2012 exhibition of his artwork in Manhattan included a painting from decades earlier that showed people using hand-held information devices; they could easily pass as modern-day smartphone users. In 1969 he envisioned a personal transportation system called a unipod that used gyroscope technology — what is now used in devices like the Segway personal transporter.

(14) LOOSE ENDS. Or as BBC says, “A Knotty Problem Solved”.

Special fibers that change color when they are under strain have helped scientists come up with some simple rules that can predict how a knot will perform in the real world.

There’s a whole field of mathematics that studies knots, to explore abstract properties of idealized curves. “But that’s not what you care about if you are, for example, a sailor or a climber and you need to tie something which holds,” says Vishal Patil, a graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology whose new findings appear in the journal Science.

People have used knots since ancient times, notes Patil, and thousands of knots have been invented. Yet scientists struggle to explain why knots do what they do. Most of what’s known about them comes from long experience, rather than any theoretical understanding.

For example, take the granny knot and the reef knot — two simple knots that look very similar but behave very differently.

“It’s quite easy to see this, if you just take a shoelace or a bit of string and you tie it. If you pull on the reef knot, it tends to hold. And if you pull on the granny knot, it tends to slip quite easily,” says Patil. “The fact that they behave so differently suggests that there must be some story there, something you can say mathematically and physically about them.”

(15) BESPOKE SPACESUITS A SPECIALTY. “Hey Sisters, Sew Sisters” from BBC Sounds — 26.5 minute audio.

Space travel is not always high-tech. When the Apollo astronauts landed on the Moon in 1969, seamstresses made their spacesuits at a company famous for stitching latex into Playtex bras.  

During the Space Shuttle era, a group of 18 women were in charge of all soft goods – the fabrics for machine and hand sewing the spaceplane’s thermal blankets. These women became known as the Sew Sisters. 

Presenter, artist and former Nasa astronaut Nicole Stott meets some of these ‘sew sisters’ from past and present missions and celebrates their contributions,,,. 

(16) SWEEPERS, MAN YOUR BROOMS. BBC tells a clean story: “Tackling the Earth’s orbiting space junk”.

Here’s a quiz question: what do using road navigation systems, keeping time consistent around the world and having accurate stock exchange data have in common? The answer is that they all depend on working satellites. But an increasing amount of debris polluting space is now posing a risk to all those services. So one Japanese firm, Astroscale, has been working on ways to clean up space junk. Its founder and chief executive Nobu Okada explains.

(17) CHIMP PUSHED OUT OF THE BUSINESS. The Hollywood Reporter discovers “Hollywood’s Last Actor Chimp in Need of Permanent Home”.

…Having been let go by Working Wildlife (which specializes in providing exotic species for entertainment productions), he was dropped off in March at a financially struggling nonprofit sanctuary near Angeles National Forest, just outside of Los Angeles. The facility shut down in August, and Eli and more than 40 other chimps, many of whom arrived from research labs, have since been under the on-site care of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “We are currently in discussion with a high-quality facility that may provide a permanent home for Eli,” says Kirsten Macintyre, a spokeswoman for the state agency.

The 9-year-old chimpanzee’s transition out of the business, as typically occurs when the species reaches adolescence, is part of a larger trend away from using real wild creatures to “act” onscreen. (While chimps, orangutans and elephants are being phased out, it’s still mostly business as usual for species like big cats and bears.)

… Eli — who appeared in commercials (Microsoft), music videos (One Direction) and the occasional TV show (TBS’ Angie Tribeca) — saw his own output curbed by the effort, with a Geico ad pulled and scenes from a season of MasterChef Junior cut. PETA primate expert Debbie Metzler is proud of the result. “A decade ago, there were at least a dozen chimpanzees working,” she says. “Now there are zero.”

(18) NANO NANO. The Harvard Gazette calls it, “Catching lightning in a bottle”.

Researchers in an ultracold environment get a first look at exactly what happens during a chemical reaction

Call it a serendipity dividend. A big one.

Kang-Kuen Ni set out to do something that had never been done before. The Morris Kahn Associate Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and of Physics and a pioneer of ultracold chemistry had built a new apparatus that could achieve the lowest temperature chemical reactions of any currently available technology. Then she and her team successfully forced two ultracold molecules to meet and react, breaking and forming the coldest bonds in the history of molecular couplings.

While they were doing that, something totally unanticipated and important also happened.

In such intense cold — 500 nanokelvin, or just a few millionths of a degree above absolute zero — the molecules slowed to such sluggish speeds that Ni and her team saw something no one has ever seen before: the moment when two molecules meet to form two new molecules. In essence, they captured a chemical reaction in its most critical and elusive act.

“Because [the molecules] are so cold,” Ni said, “now we kind of have a bottleneck effect.”

Chemical reactions are responsible for literally everything: from making soap, pharmaceuticals, and energy to cooking, digesting, and breathing. Understanding how they work at a fundamental level could help researchers design reactions the world has never seen. Maybe, for example, novel molecular couplings could enable more-efficient energy production, new materials like mold-proof walls, or even better building blocks for quantum computers. The world offers an almost infinite number of potential combinations to test.

…Ni’s ultracold temperatures force reactions to a comparatively numbed speed. When she and her team reacted two potassium rubidium molecules — chosen for their pliability —the ultracold temperatures forced the molecules to linger in the intermediate stage for mere millionths of a second. So-called microseconds may seem short, but that’s millions of times longer than ever achieved, and enough time for Ni and her team to investigate the phase when bonds break and form — in essence, how one molecule turns into another.

(19) HOLLYWOOD INSTITUTION CLOSES. The LA Times pays its respects: “His props starred in hundreds of Hollywood movies and TV shows. Now he’s exiting the stage after 42 years”.

Standing amid his life’s work inside a cavernous warehouse in San Fernando, John Zabrucky is eager to show off what he calls his most famous “machine.”

But first, he must scuttle past a spaceship command deck, rows of computer consoles, radar scanners, shelves packed with sophisticated high-tech gadgetry — and even an alien autopsy, before arriving at the futuristic device.

“We did this for the original ‘Incredible Hulk,’ the TV series, back in the late ’70s,” said Zabrucky, the founder and president of Modern Props.

Since then, the device has been seen in more than 100 hundred feature films and TV shows, including “Austin Powers” and multiple episodes of “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Giving it a once-over, Zabrucky adds with a sparkle of pride, “You can see how well it’s made.” The apparatus has turned up in so many shows that a fan created a YouTube video devoted to its many appearances, dubbing it “the most important device in the universe.”

Zabrucky’s magnum opus, with its pair of giant elongated glass tubes that glow variously in yellow, red and orange, operated by a cutting-edge control board with dials, buttons and a joy stick, looks as if it would be right at home inside the CERN particle collider lab in Switzerland….

(20) ABEBOOKS QUIZ ANSWER.

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