Pixel Scroll 12/3/20 Scrolls Are Seldom What They Seemeth, Mithril Masquerades As Scrith

(1) DISCON III ASKS QUESTIONS. Should DisCon III, the 2021 Worldcon, move its date, should it emphasize virtual or in-person participation? The committee has launched a survey to find what fans think:  

We’re working hard to figure out the best path forward for our Worldcon next year and we need to hear from you! Please take this brief 2-question poll which seeks your preference between shifting DC III to December 15-19, 2021, with a high probability to be an in-person Worldcon, or keeping with our existing August 25-29, 2021, which would be mostly virtual with the potential for limited in-person activities.

Anyone is welcome to take the DisCon III Date Survey – you don’t have to be a member.

(2) STOKERCON CONTINGENCY PLAN. For now, the Horror Writers Association is planning on StokerCon 2021 being an in-person event next May in Denver – but what if that changes?

…As of now, we intend to hold the convention as scheduled. At the same time, we are working on contingency plans should that not be possible. We are discussing the issue on an ongoing basis with The Curtis, who are sensitive to the situation and the needs and concerns of our attendees. 

If for some reason we cannot hold the convention as planned, any change will be announced more than sixty days before May 20th so that those who wish to change their plans may still obtain a refund for their registration fee and change or cancel hotel reservations and alter travel plans. We recommend those planning long distance travel who wish to purchase airfare or other tickets in advance look into refundable options and travel insurance. 

If for some reason we cannot hold StokerCon™ 2021 in person, we will look into the possibility of a virtual convention and have begun investigating options. This contingency is too far into the future to make concrete plans, though we will work to ensure a complete and enjoyable convention….

(3) EREWHON BOOKS: THE PUBLISHER ANSWERS QUESTIONS. Glitchy Pancakes episode 119 interviews Liz Gorinsky, Hugo-winning editor who’s now publisher of Erewhon Books.

[GLITCHY PANCAKES] Why don’t we start out and talk about your most recent venture Erewhon Books. This is really interesting because what i was personally curious about is after so many years working as an editor what made you want to take the leap and like hang out your own shingle and go into like the full scale publishing?

[LIZ GORINSKY] So yeah it was a tour of basically my entire adult career before that I did one internship in the industry which is DC Comics and then a long time at Tor, and it was great but I guess it was a combination — Publishing is intensely cyclical we had a three season schedule so just imagine doing the same thing three times a year for 15 years and like even if it’s doing a thing like working on books that you love, it is, you know, kind of repetitive in some ways. And i think it was also, you know, many great things were going on but I think that like around the time that i was working there there was like I guess a drive towards becoming a little bit more professional and a little bit more corporate and, I think, ultimately to the benefit of the company, but I felt like sort of cowboy territory when I started that we were just like a bunch of science fiction weirdos, and they still are to be sure, but there was also kind of a like let’s fit a little bit more into the greater Macmillan culture. So I was basically at the point where I could consider kind of working independently for a little while. So i was attempting to leave and go freelance and try to do some freelance editing for a while to focus on some other things that I was interested in exploring, just not do the same thing over and over again for a little while. Then some folks found me and they said would you like to start a new speculative fiction company that will be funded and you can do whatever you want, basically. I spent a little while wrestling with imposter syndrome about that and then, basically, like, you know, enough people said some variations on how can you not do that that. I kind of figured that i had to do that and that’s where we started…

(4) CONDENSED CREAM OF CONZEALAND. Morgan Hazelwood has completed a series of reports on some of the panels at CoNZealand, the 2020 Worldcon.

Here’s the list of panels I managed to squeeze in:

  • Cultures and Their Myths
  • Accessible Magic
  • World-Building: Economics
  • What’s In A Name? Characters in Fiction
  • Stranger in a Strange Head: Imposter Syndrome
  • Spirits Abroad and At Home
  • Fairy Tale Contract Law
  • Constructed Languages
  • Writing SFF From The Margins
  • What Fanfiction Can Teach Genre Writers
  • Writing For Young Adults
  • and last, but certainly not least!
  • In Space No One Can See You Hide The Evidence: Crimes in Space

(5) THICK AS A BRICK: David Langford has added his vast compilation of a decade’s worth of Ansible (2011-2020) to the TAFF ebooks library. It’s a free download, however, if you feel moved to donate to the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund that would be a good thing.

Issues 282 to 401 of the infamous Hugo-winning SF/fan newsletter. First published from January 2021 to December 2020 and archived online here. Compiled into an Ansible Editions ebook for the TAFF site on 3 December 2020, with cover logo (compressed second-series version) by Dan Steffan and artwork by Atom. 429,000 words.

(6) LETTERS FROM VONNEGUT. In “Satirist to the Galaxy” in The American Scholar, Anne Matthews reviews Love, Kurt, a collection of 226 letters Kurt Vonnegut wrote during World War II to the woman he would marry, which give new insights into Vonnegut’s views about war.

…At SS gunpoint, Vonnegut dug Dresden’s dead from the rubble, an extreme tutorial in entropy and decay for the Cornell biochemistry major. He was only 22, raised in a prosperous German-speaking family proud of its Old World ties. The funeral pyres of Dresden became the core of his moral vision and the engine of his later literary fame, but the price of witnessing was nearly unbearable, and everyone who tried to love him paid it, too.

Two women kept him sane. His big sister Alice was his muse, a spiritual twin. His future wife, Jane Cox, a friend since kindergarten days, also a would-be writer, became his literary umpire. “One peculiar feature of our relationship is that you are the one person in this world to whom I like to write,” he told her in 1943. “If ever I do write anything of length—good or bad—it will be written with you in mind. … And let’s have seven children xxxxxxx.” Two weeks after V-J Day, they married and raised, yes, seven children, three of their own plus four young nephews, orphaned after their father’s commuter train fell into Newark Bay two days before Alice died of cancer….

(7) FLING CAUTION TO THE WINDS. James Davis Nicoll finds “Five Stories Driven by a Disregard for Basic Safety” for Tor.com readers.

Nothing delivers unrequested adventures quite like normalization of deviance. It works like this:

Suppose one has a safety protocol. Suppose one decides that this protocol is onerous for some reason: it consumes extra time, it requires extra effort, or worst of all, it costs money. So, one shaves a step here and a precaution there. And nothing happens! Clearly, the whole shebang was not necessary in the first place. Clearly the thing to do here is to keep skipping steps until circumstances line up wrong and you’re looking at a trip to the emergency room or a burning pile of expensive rubble.

The end results of normalization of deviance are undesirable in reality. But…the process is oh-so-irresistible for authors looking for ways to drop their characters neck-deep in a pig lagoon. Take these five examples…

(8) TRAILER TIME. Wetware will be released December 11.

WETWARE is set in a near future where there are tough and tedious jobs no one wants to do – and people down on their luck who volunteer for genetic modifications to make them right for this work — in slaughterhouses, infectious disease wards, landfill and other hard jobs. With business booming, programmers at Galapagos Wetware up the stakes by producing high-end prototypes, Jack (Bret Lada) and Kay, for more sensitive jobs like space travel, deep cover espionage or boots on the ground for climate or resource conflicts.Galapagos genetic programmer Hal Briggs (Cameron Scoggins) improvises as he goes on what qualities to include or delete in his gene splicing for Jack and, especially, Kay, to whom he develops a dangerous attachment. Then word gets out that Jack and Kay have escaped, before Briggs has completed his work. As Briggs scrambles to track his fugitive prototypes, he makes a provocative discovery that changes everything.

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • December 3, 1965 — Fifty five years ago this evening, The Wild Wild West’s “The Night of the Human Trigger” was first aired on CBS. It starred Robert Conrad as Jim West and Ross Martin as Artemus Gordon with Burgess Meredith as the guest star this episode. He’s a mad scientist named Professor Orkney Cadwallader that’s using nitroglycerin to set off the earthquakes of horrendous size. The episode uses a number of genre tropes including Chekhov’s gun, mad scientist, deus ex machina and soft glass.  You can legally see it here, though oddly enough it’s not up on the CBS All Access app.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 3, 1922 – Donald H. Tuck. From his home in Tasmania with help from fans round the world he built a great card index, published A Handbook of Science Fiction and Fantasy (Special Committee Award, Chicon III the 20th Worldcon), then The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy (Best Nonfiction Book, L.A.con II the 42nd Worldcon – Australia’s first Hugo).  Guest of Honor at Aussiecon One the 33rd Worldcon, though he could not attend.  Big Heart, our highest service award.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born December 3, 1937 – Morgan Llywelyn, age 83.  A score of novels, three dozen shorter stories for us; much other work in historical fiction and nonfiction.  Exceptional Celtic Woman of the Year award.  Nat’l League of American Penwomen Novel of the Year award, Irish-American Heritage Committee (she then still lived in the U.S.) Woman of the Year award.  Two Bisto awards, Reading Ass’n of Ireland award.  A horsewoman; missed the U.S. Olympics team in dressage by .05 per cent.  [JH]
  • Born December 3, 1949 – Malcolm Edwards, age 71.  Fanzine, Quicksilver.  Edited FoundationInterzoneVector.  A hundred fifty essays, letters, reviews there and in The Alien CriticNY Rev of SFSF CommentarySF Monthly, Bleiler’s SF WritersSpeculation.  Guest of Honour at Loncon 3 the 72nd Worldcon.  Chair of SF at Gollancz (retired 2019), edited its SF Masterworks.  Not his fault that Peter Weston knowing no better wrote earlier as “Malcolm Edwards”, which we eventually sorted out.  [JH]
  • Born December 3, 1953 – Doug Beason, Ph.D., age 67.  Eight novels with Kevin Anderson, one with Ben Bova, two more, a score of shorter stories, for us; five novels, two nonfiction books, on next-door topics.  Science columns in Analog and SF Age.  Retired Air Force colonel.  Fellow of Amer. Physical Society.  Nat’l Defense Univ. President’s Strategic Vision award.  [JH]
  • Born December 3, 1955 Stephen Culp, 65. His first genre appearance was in Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday followed by being in the much different James and the Giant Peach. His next role is as Commander Martin Madden in the extended version of Star Trek: Nemesis, before showing up in Captain America: The Winter Soldier as Congressman Wenham. He also had a recurring role on Enterprise as Major Hayes. (CE) 
  • Born December 3, 1958 Terri Windling, 62. Author of The Wood Wife, winner of the Mythopoeic Award for Novel of the Year, she has deservedly won has won nine World Fantasy Awards, the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and The Armless Maiden collection was on the short-list for the then named James Tiptree, Jr. Award. Along with Ellen Datlow, Windling edited sixteen volumes of the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror  from 1986–2003. (Yes, the first volume is actually called Year’s Best Fantasy. I do have a full set here so I know that.) She is one of the core creative forces behind the mythic fiction emergence that began in the early Eighties through her work as an  editor for the Ace and Tor Books fantasy lines, and they also edited a number of anthologies such as the superb Snow White, Blood Red series which collected the very best in contemporary fantasy. I’m very fond of her work with Illustrator Wendy Froud, wife of Brian Froud, on the Old Oak Wood series about faeries living in the Old Oak Wood.  She interviewed one of them, Sneezlewort Rootmuster Rowanberry Boggs the Seventh, for Green Man here. (CE)
  • Born December 3, 1959 – Shawn Lamb, age 61.  From her Allon Books, a dozen novels for us; also historical fiction; television screenwriting.  Family Review Center Editors’ Choice and Gold Award for The Great Battle.  [JH]
  • Born December 3, 1960 Daryl Hannah, 60. She made her genre debut in Brian De Palma’s The Fury, though she’s better known as Pris in Blade Runner. And she was the mermaid Madison in Splash. In a decidedly unfashionable role, she was Ayala in The Clan of The Cave Bear before being Mary Plunkett Brogan in High Spirits where she was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress. Was she really that bad in it?  Last genre role I think was in the Sense8 series as Angelica Turing. (CE)
  • Born December 3, 1965 Andrew Stanton, 55. Director, screenwriter, producer and voice actor, all at Pixar. His work there includes co-writing A Bug’s Life (as co-director), Finding Nemo and its sequel Finding DoryWALL-E (Hugo for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form at Anticipation) and over at Disney, he directed John Carter. He also co-wrote all four Toy Story films and Monsters, Inc. (CE) 
  • Born December 3, 1968 Brendan Fraser, 52. The Mummy and The Mummy Returns are enough to get him Birthday Honors. Though he’s been in Monkeybone based on Kaja Blackley’s graphic novel Dark TownSinbad: Beyond the Veil of MistsLooney Tunes: Back in ActionJourney to the Center of the EarthG.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and being Robotman on the Titans series that now airs on HBO. (CE)
  • Born December 3, 1981 – Alyson Noël, age 39.  Sixteen novels, two shorter stories for us; half a dozen more novels; nine NY Times Best-Sellers, eight million copies in print.  Has been a flight attendant and a T-shirt painter; has kept pet turtles and tarantulas. Learned to read with Horton Hatches the Egg; favorite maybe The Catcher in the Rye.  Motto, Don’t believe everything you think.  [JH
  • Born December 3, 1985 Amanda Seyfried, 35. She plays Ed Zoe, the lead Megan’s best friend in Solstice, a horror film. Another horror film, Jennifer’s Body, shortly thereafter, finds her playing Anita “Needy” Lesnicki. Red Riding Hood, yes, another horror film, had her cast has as Valerie. She plays Sylvia Weis, a role within In Time in a dystopian SF film next and voices Mary Katherine, Professor Bomba’s 17-year-old daughter in Epic which is at genre adjacent. She’s Mary in an animated Pan, a prequel to Peter Pan which sounds delightful. Lastly, she has a recurring role as Becky Burnett on Twin Peaks. And did we decide Veronica Mars was at least genre adjacent? If so, she has a recurring role as Mary on it. (CE)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

As Lise Andreasen translates this Politiken cartoon:

Elon Musk is building a star ship.

“Thank God we got away.”

(12) THEY’RE BACK. Another monolith, this one in California. “Mystery Obelisk Appears on Pine Mountain”. The Atascadero News says it’s not the identical to the one found in Utah.  

In late November, a mysterious 9-foot obelisk appeared in Utah, sparking world-wide awe as many made a pilgrimage to see it in San Juan County.

The Utah obelisk was illegally installed without cooperation with the Bureau of Land Management.

On Black Friday, it disappeared as mysteriously as it appeared, leaving a triangular divot in the ground.

On Wednesday morning, a similar monument appeared at the top of Atascadero’s Pine Mountain, and sparked similar patronage. Dozens of local hikers made the trek to the top of Pine Mountain to view the object. (The object has since been removed)

The three-sided obelisk appeared to be made of stainless steel, 10-feet tall and 18 inches wide. The object was welded together at each corner, with rivets attaching the side panels to a likely steel frame inside. The top of the monument did not show any weld marks, and it appears to be hollow at the top, and possibly bottom.

Unlike its Utah sibling, the Atascadero obelisk was not installed into the ground (however it was attached with rebar), and could be knocked over with a firm push. The Atascadero News estimates it weighs about 200 pounds.

(13) BYO POPCORN. You won’t have to leave the house for these move debuts if you’re subscribed to HBO Max — “Warner Bros. Announces ‘Matrix 4,’ ‘Dune,’ and All Its 2021 Movies Will Debut on HBO Max and in Theaters”. Includes Dune (October 1, 2021) and The Matrix 4 (December 22, 2021). Could it spell the end of movie theaters? (If COVID-19 hasn’t done that already?)

In a move that some may have suspected was on the horizon while most will consider it quite the shock, Warner Bros. has announced plans for its entire 2021 roster to debut simultaneously on the HBO Max streaming platform and in theaters.

Per a press release shared on Thursday, WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Group CEO Ann Sarnoff is calling this approach a “unique one-year plan,” which points to the possibility of it indeed being a single-time rollout strategy inspired solely by the difficulties facing theaters across the country as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

“We see it as a win-win for film lovers and exhibitors, and we’re extremely grateful to our filmmaking partners for working with us on this innovative response to these circumstances,” Sarnoff said.

(14) LIBRARY ON A ROLL. Here’s something for booklovers: “Round Top Yano Design Washi Tape – Debut Series Natural – Bookshelf”.

This cute roll of washi tape is die-cut to highlight the shape of its bookshelf print.

Washi tape is a Japanese craft masking tape that comes in many colors and patterns and has tons of creative uses. Use it to add whimsical, creative accents to scrapbooks and cards, or stick it on your wall calendars and personal planners to mark important dates. The tape is removable, which means that you can easily stick it on, unpeel it, and move it to a different spot—this is especially convenient when marking ever-changing schedules. It can be cut with scissors to create a clean edge or torn by hand to create a more textured look.

(15) MORE HOLIDAY IDEAS. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Projections from Hingston & Olsen Publishing is an original anthology edited by Rebecca Romney in which the 12 stories are individual pamphlets in a collectible box.

They also have an “Advent calendar” of short stories that includes Sofia Samatar but I don’t know how many of these stories are sf or fantasy.

For the past five years, the Short Story Advent Calendar has lit up libraries and living rooms around the world with shimmering smorgasbords of bite-sized literary fiction. But all good things must come to an end. So grab the emergency schnapps from the back of the liquor cabinet, and join us for one last holiday hurrah.

You know the drill by now. The 2020 Short Story Advent Calendar is a deluxe box set of individually bound short stories from some of the best writers around.

(16) PASSING FANCIES. “Jupiter and Saturn will look like a double planet just in time for Christmas” – CNN tells us when to look.

The two largest planets in our solar system are coming closer together than they have been since the Middle Ages, and it’s happening just in time for Christmas.

So, there are some things to look forward to in the final month of 2020.

On the night of December 21, the winter solstice, Jupiter and Saturn will appear so closely aligned in our sky that they will look like a double planet. This close approach is called a conjunction.

“Alignments between these two planets are rather rare, occurring once every 20 years or so, but this conjunction is exceptionally rare because of how close the planets will appear to one another,” said Rice University astronomer and professor of physics and astronomy Patrick Hartigan in a statement.

“You’d have to go all the way back to just before dawn on March 4, 1226, to see a closer alignment between these objects visible in the night sky.”

(17) WILDCATS ARE BIGGER, OF COURSE. Did you know? At Literary Hub, John Gray says “House Cats and Wild Cats Aren’t Actually That Different”.

…Unless they are kept indoors, the behavior of house cats is not much different from that of wild cats. Though the cat may regard more than one house as home, the house is the base where it feeds, sleeps and gives birth. There are clear territorial boundaries, larger for male cats than for females, which will be defended against other cats when necessary. The brains of house cats have diminished in size compared with their wild counterparts, but that does not make house cats less intelligent or adaptable. Since it is the part of the brain that includes the fight-or-flight response that has shrunk, house cats have become able to tolerate situations that would be stressful in the wild, such as encountering humans and unrelated cats….

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Mad Max:  Fury Road Behind The Scenes Documentary” on YouTube is a 2017 film, directed by Cory Watson, originally titled Going Mad:  The Battle Of Fury Road, which is a behind the scenes look at the 2015 Mad Max:  Fury Road.  The documentary reveals this film had an extremely long gestation, as George Miller originally had the idea for the film in the late 1990s,  Production was shut down in 2002 in Namibia because the US dollar tanked in the wake of 9/11, wiping out a quarter of the film’s budget, and halted a second time in Australia in 2010 because of floods shortly before shooting which turned the desert set into a lush flowery landscape. The documentary includes interviews with stars Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron and many behind-the scenes looks at the mixture of feminism, car crashes, and gratuitous consumption of fossil fuels that led to six Oscars in 2016.

My favorite behind the scenes bit:  dozens of bald-headed extras preparing for their day of being weirdoes by singing “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider.”

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

Pixel Scroll 12/2/20 The Television Will Not Be Revolutionized

(1) FLIGHT WORN ART. Artist Gregory Manchess tells how he designed the Dragon Crew One patch – and how he got the gig in the first place: “Mission Patch: Crew One” at Muddy Colors.

…Through a convoluted process of attending conventions and patiently waiting for the right timing, I’d met an astronaut who is a fan of science fiction. Kjell Lindgren, the year before, had opened the envelope to read one of the winners for the World Science Fiction convention in 2016. . .while floating in zero g at the space station.

The following year, Kjell (pronounced ‘Chell’) attended the WSF convention in Helsinki, which I attended, and I got to meet him. A year after that, I ran into him again at the same convention in Texas. I asked him about his next flight up and joked that I’d like to come along. He asked if I knew how to handle a robotic arm and I said, “Man, I can handle a brush. How could that be any harder?” I think he actually did a spit take on that one.

Then I asked him, seriously, who was doing their mission patch. Several conversations later, I found myself on a Skype call with Kjell, the mission commander, Mike “Hopper” Hopkins, and mission pilot, Victor “Ike” Glover.

One never knows when an opportunity may arise that can be taken advantage of. My timing was right and my enthusiasm authentic. A deadly combination for winning over clients….

(2) THE IMAGINATION DESK. The latest episode of the Center for Science and the Imagination’s podcast The Imagination Desk features an interview with science fiction author, editor, and researcher Regina Kanyu Wang. Here are direct links to the podcast, on the CSI website (which links out to the other services), Apple PodcastsSpotifyRadioPublic, and Libsyn

Regina Kanyu Wang is a science fiction writer, researcher, and critic from Shanghai. She is now based at the University of Oslo, where she is part of the CoFUTURES project. In this conversation, we talk about the Chinese science fiction scene, its fan culture, and gender politics in the genre, as well as insights on Regina’s own recent writing—including how she builds nuance and complexity into her portrayals of AI and other technologies.

(3) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Priya Sharma and Justin C. Key on Wednesday, December 16, at 7 p.m. in a livestreamed event on YouTube. Link forthcoming. Listen to their podcast of readings here.

  • Priya Sharma

Priya Sharma is a short story writer whose collection All the Fabulous Beasts won a British Fantasy Award and a Shirley Jackson Award. Her first novella Ormeshadow from Tor won a Shirley Jackson Award. When she’s not writing she works as a doctor in the UK.

  • Justin C. Key


Justin C. Key is a speculative fiction writer and psychiatrist. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, Tor.com, Escape Pod, and Crossed Genres. His novella, Spider King, will be released by Serial Box in early 2021. He’s currently working on a near-future novel inspired by his medical training. He lives in Los Angeles.

(4) DON’T BEAM UP THE PLAGUE. “Captain Kirk calls out Alberta for not adopting federal tracing app” – Edmonton’s City News has the story.

It appears Captain Kirk is a fan of the federal COVID-19 tracing up and a critic of Alberta’s decision not to adopt it.

Canadian icon William Shatner, who played the famous Star Trek character, voiced his opinion on Twitter Wednesday, promoting the COVIDAlert app.

“Now you just need to get Alberta on board,” said Shatner. “I’ve heard that certain people have an issue with the app because they have their own app.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada responded to the tweet, thanking Shatner for promoting contact tracing.

(5) SEA SQUARED. Being a successful writer is a dream come true. Or is that a nightmare? “Jeff VanderMeer on the Saga of The Festival of the Freshwater Squid” at LitHub.

…The Ambergris books received a ton of critical acclaim, well beyond what one might expect for fictions centered around squid and mushroom people. They also sold well enough that a non-rabid, fairly polite fan base sprouted up around Ambergris.

In short, I wrote about the fantastical Festival of the Freshwater Squid for years without anything particularly odd happening. What did happen tended to fall into one of three categories.

Category the first. Dried squid. Tons of it. Acres of it. More dried squid than there are undried squid. Every year, without fail, people sent me dried squid in the mail. Never the same people, I must add, so this was not a stalkery situation, but merely an issue of proper methods of disposal. I don’t actually like to eat squid because having become an amateur squidologist, I know just how intelligent squid are and how likely it is that they would rule over us if they lived fifty years instead of two to four. But, of course, it’s the thought that counts, and the thought of receiving bags and bags of dried squid for the rest of my life might’ve been disturbing, but it was also a testament to the power of Ambergris. (Ironically, I never received any ambergris in the mail.)…

(6) THREE MORE FOR YOUR TBR. Because why would you only read the first book after seeing this pitch? “Kelly Link: Why You Should Read This Classic Trilogy” in LitHub.

…At the heart of the Deptford Trilogy is a set of mysteries. There is the question of whether the woman struck in the head by the snowball may or may not be, afterward and as a consequence, a saint capable of raising the dead and other miracles. Tied to this is the question of the peculiar death of a man named Boy Staunton. At the end of Fifth Business, a clue is offered by a Brazen Head, which floats above a stage. “He was killed by the usual cabal,” it says. But the cabal of characters here and in Fifth Business’s sequels is anything other than usual. It is, in fact, an extraordinary cabal and unlike any you are likely to encounter in novels less bold in their scope. Davies has the scalpel-like acuity of a mystery novel sleuth who has been invited to attend a birthday party and for his own entertainment proceeds to pin down the secret desires, transgressions, and petty misdeeds of each guest. In fact, part of the strangeness and originality of Fifth Business is that, in the moment where a clue is offered by the Brazen Head, it becomes apparent that we are reading a mystery novel in reverse order. First, we are given a leisurely and pleasurable introduction to a cast of disreputable, eccentric characters along with their motivations, opportunities, and confessions. Then, as the book draws to its end, we arrive with a jolt at the moment when a body is discovered under the most perplexing circumstances. Afterward, rather than being given a solution, we are briskly shown out of the novel by its narrator.

(7) PRESERVE TOLKIEN’S HOME. The stars are aligning to make sure one of Tolkien’s homes meets a better fate than, say, Ray Bradbury’s. The goal is to establish a literary center there: “Lord of the Rings Cast Reunite to Buy $6 Million Home of Author J.R.R. Tolkien” reports People. The Tolkien Estate is not involved.

Lord of the Rings stars Sir Ian McKellen and John Rhys-Davies are embarking on another epic adventure.

Rather than crossing Middle Earth to battle the evil forces of Sauron, however, the British actors have joined a fellowship to save 20 Northmoor Road, the Oxford house in which J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, in advance of it being put on the market by realtors Breckon & Breckon.

The initiative, called Project Northmoor, starts crowdfunding on December 2 and hopes to raise $6 million to purchase the home and create a literary center in honor of Tolkien. It is also supported by The Hobbit star, Martin Freeman.

…”This is just an opportunity that can’t be ignored,” John Rhys-Davies, who played Gimli and voiced Treebeard in the films, tells PEOPLE from his self-isolation in a New Zealand hotel.

“If people are still reading in 1,000 years, Tolkien will be regarded as one of the great myth-makers of Britain and it will be evident within a matter of years that not to secure this place would have been such an act of arrogance and ignorance and folly on our part.”

The donation site is here: “Project Northmoor – Save Tolkien’s Home”.

J.R.R. and Edith Tolkien moved into 20 Northmoor Road with their young family in 1930. Over the next 17 crucial years the house was the heart of the Tolkien home. It was here that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote The Hobbit, which he had begun as a bedtime story for his children, and followed that with another unexpected journey. That book became The Lord of the Rings.

(8) KEAYS-BYRNE OBIT. Boing Boing reports “Hugh Keays-Byrne, of Mad Max fame, dead at 73”

(9) MORE ABOUT BOVA. Ben Bova’s son commemorated his late father in this Facebook profile: “Ben Bova, by his son. Benjamin William Bova”.

… Widely read, Dr. Bova would delight in reciting entire poems of, say, Rudyard Kipling, or the songs of Cole Porter on occasion. He would acknowledge the most esoteric pun or obscure reference with a groan or a wry grin. He could – as he often did during writing breaks – with pen and sans eraser, complete entire New York Times crossword puzzles in the time it takes to finish a lunch cup of yoghurt. Words were his tools; his memory and imagination, his toolbox. And his two pointing fingers – he never used his entire set of fingers to write, the hammers that pounded first the typewriter keys and then, when it was invented, the home computer to conceive and mold a good story….

(10) MEDIA ANNIVERSARY.

  • 1995 – Twenty-five years ago Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Forgiveness Day,” published in the November 1994 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction, would win the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. The other nominees were Maureen F. McHugh’s “Nekropolis” and Michael Bishop’s “Cri de Coeur”.  It would also win a Locus Award for Best Novella. It was last published in The Found and the Lost: The Collected Novellas of Ursula K. Le Guin on Saga Press which is available in print and digital editions.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born December 2, 1913 – Jerry Sohl.  Fourteen novels, two dozen shorter stories for us, other work including television, film, a chess book and a bridge book.  Title of posthumous collection Filet of Sohl not his fault.  (Died 2002)  [JH]
  • Born December 2, 1914 Ray Walston. Best remembered, of course, for playing the lead in My Favorite Martian from 1963 to 1966, alongside co-star Bill Bixby. Before that, played the Devil in Damn Yankees. His later genre appearances would include The Wild Wild WestMission: ImpossibleSix Million Dollar ManGalaxy of TerrorAmazing Stories, PopeyeFriday the 13th: The Series and Addams Family Reunion.   He would appear in The Incredible Hulk (in which David Banner was played by Bill Bixby) as Jasper the Magician in an episode called “My Favorite Magician”. (Died 2001.) (CE) 
  • Born December 2, 1929 – Lael Littke, age 91.  Two novels, a dozen shorter stories for us; she has published forty books, six dozen shorter stories, including Ellery Queen’sLadies Home JournalSeventeen.  “The trick is to recognize a good idea when it sweeps by.”  [JH]
  • Born December 2, 1937 – Brian Lumley, age 83.  Eight Cthulhu novels, a score of shorter stories (“My guys fight back.  Also, they like to have a laugh along the way”); two dozen more novels including Necroscope best-sellers, ten dozen more shorter stories, three dozen poems.  World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.  [JH]
  • Born December 2, 1946 David Macaulay, 74. British-born American illustrator and writer who is genre adjacent I’d say. Creator of such cool works as CathedralThe New Way Things Work which has he updated for the computer technology age, and I really like one of latest works, Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World. (CE) 
  • Born December 2, 1946 Josepha Sherman. Writer and folklorist who was a Compton Crook Award winner for The Shining Falcon which was based on the Russian fairy tale “The Feather of Finist the Falcon”. She was a prolific writer both on her own and with other writer such as Mecedes Lackey with whom she wrote A Cast of Corbies and two Buffyverse novels with Laura Anne Gilman.   I knew her personally as a folklorist first and that is she was without peer writing such works as Rachel the Clever: And Other Jewish Folktales and  Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood that she wrote with T K F Weisskopf.  Neat lady who died far too soon. Let me leave you with an essay she wrote on Winter for Green Man twenty years ago: “Josepha Sherman’s Winter Queen Speech”  (Died 2012.) (CE)
  • Born December 2, 1952 OR Melling, 68. One of her favorite authors is Alan Garner whose The Owl Service is a frequent read of hers she tells me. As for novels by her that I’d recommend, the Chronicles of Faerie series is quite excellent. For more adult fare, her People of the Great Journey is quite good. (CE)
  • Born December 2, 1954 – Laura Underwood, age 66.  Nine novels, eighty shorter stories.  Here is her cover for Bradley Sinor’s Dark & Stormy Nights.  [JH]
  • Born December 2, 1968 Lucy Liu, 52. She was Joan Watson on Elementary in its impressive seven-year run. Her other genre role, and it’s been long running, has been voicing Tinkermist in the Disney Fairies animated franchise. I kid you not. She’s had a few genre one-offs on The X-FilesHercules: The Legendary Journeys and the Rise: Blood Hunter film, but not much overall haughty she did show up in Luke Cage. (CE) 
  • Born December 2, 1971 Frank Cho, 49. Writer and illustrator, best remembered  as creator of the let excellent  Liberty Meadows series as well as work on HulkMighty Avengers and Shanna the She-Devil for Marvel Comics, and Jungle Girl for Dynamite Entertainment. I recommend the Frank Cho Art Book from Delcourt as being a superb look at his work. CE)
  • Born December 2, 1976 – Kate Milford, age 44.  Eight novels, another due next February.  Has read A Canticle for LeibowitzPoems of Ambrose Bierce, Borges’ Ficciones, and Serve It Forth.  She very frankly says “I update this site sometimes.”  [JH]
  • Born December 2, 1980 – Leander Deeny, age 40.  One novel by this man whom someone wants us to know was in the BBC series Merlin and the Captain America film The First Avenger.  He likes whisky, cookery, falconry, and another thing I keep forgetting.  [JH]

(12) ALIEN REAL ESTATE. “Netflix Reveals What Mysterious ‘Alien Worlds’ May Look Like” – let the Daily Beast fill you in.

Netflix is brimming with outlandish out-of-this-world genre fare, but the streaming giant’s latest docuseries, Alien Worlds, puts the science back in science fiction. Imagining what life might be like on distant planets, producer Nigel Paterson’s four-episode endeavor utilizes what we know about biology and civilization on Earth to speculate about extraterrestrial existence—a mix of knowledge and conjecture that’s echoed by its form, which marries nature documentary footage from around the globe with inventive CGI panoramas of bizarre landscapes and creatures. The result is a fantastical—and fascinating—intergalactic version of Planet Earth.

In light of that structure, it’s only natural that Alien Worlds (premiering Dec. 2) boasts its own David Attenborough-like narrator: acclaimed English actress Sophie Okonedo, who imparts surprising and enlightening facts about Earth’s varied ecosystems—and surmises about what that could mean for life elsewhere—with sonorous, import-laden gravity….

(13) RETURN OF THE TOASTMAKER. Food Network ran a listicle about the “12 Best Star Wars Kitchen Tools”. This is the kind of thing we’re talking about – aren’t you glad these helmets are good for something?

Star Wars Storm Trooper Toaster

$49.95 

WILLIAMS SONOMA

We’re willing to bet that this is the fiercest toaster you’ve ever laid eyes on. It’s shaped like a Stormtrooper’s helmet, but that doesn’t stop it from perfectly preparing your toast. The slots are extra-wide in order to accommodate different types of bread, and features a removable crumb tray for easy cleaning.

(14) CREDENTIAL HEALTH CHECK. Michael Toman sent this link with a reassuring note: “Nope, I’m definitely NOT suggesting ‘Cats Throw Up on SF’ as a new photo contest category for File 770!” Anyway, it’s Mental Floss’ fault that we’re wondering “Why Do Cats Throw Up So Often?”

And y’know, maybe I’ll forego putting an excerpt here.

(15) A MATCH MADE IN HELL. Ryan Reynolds calls it “A Love Story for the ages. Or at least this age.”

(16) I’M PIXELING MY SCROLL FOR THE MISTY MOUNTAINS. Another reason to remember today’s date, on December 2, 1971 Led Zeppelin released ”Misty Mountain Hop” as a single in the US.

The most common interpretation of the song’s title involves a reference to the Misty Mountains in J. R. R. Tolkien‘s The Hobbit.

(17) BOMBS AWAY. While tuned in to tonight’s Jeopardy, Andrew Porter saw these efforts to score during Final Jeopardy:

Novel Characters.

Answer: This character from an 1851 novel “was intent on an audacious, immitigable, and supernatural revenge.”

Wrong questions: “Who is Frankenstein?” “Who is The Count of Monte Cristo?”

Correct question: “Who is Captain Ahab?”

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] “Franz Kafka’s It’s A Wonderful Life” on YouTube is a short film, written and directed by Peter Capaldi, that was originally broadcast on BBC Scotland in 1993.  The film, starring Richard E. Grant as Kafka, really is a variation on Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life, and earned Capaldi an Oscar for Best Short Film–Live Action in 1995.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Arnie Fenner, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Michael Toman, Rob Thornton, Alan Baumler, Olav Rokne, Contrarius, Mike Kennedy, Dann, Steve Davidson, Sean Wallace, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 5/21/20 Six Out Of 14 Duchies Vote OK To Release The Dragons In Two Weeks

(1) CALIFORNIA GETTING BACK IN BUSINESS – CASE BY (BOOK) CASE. “For booksellers in L.A., a partial reopening brings hope and anxiety” – the LA Times has the story.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, Hillary McMahon pulled up into a parking spot in Pasadena, where a sign attached to a traffic cone read: “Reserved for Vroman’s Curbside Pickup. Space 1.” She dialed the number listed below the sign and let the store know she was ready for her book.

McMahon, 72, of La Cañada Flintridge, got out of her car, opened the trunk, hopped back inside and put on her blue mask. Minutes later, an employee wearing sunglasses, blue gloves and a mask walked out of the empty bookstore on an eerily quiet Colorado Boulevard, brown paper bag in hand, and dropped into the trunk a copy of Claudio Saunt ’s “Unworthy Republic.”

Vroman’s , with locations in Hastings Ranch and Pasadena, is among L.A.’s many independent bookstores — including Stories, Pages and Chevalier’s — that have started offering contactless, curbside service since Gov. Gavin Newsom allowed some retailers to reopen May 8 within strict guidelines for limiting the spread of the coronavirus….

…On May 14, the California Independent Booksellers Alliance held a virtual town hall for booksellers featuring a special guest — a nurse.

In advance of the meeting, nurse Jean Taylor-Woodbury distributed information on the state’s guidelines: site-specific protection plans; disinfecting protocols; training and screenings of employees and a detailed risk assessment.

Over the course of the call, which went over an hour, 72 booksellers from across the state asked Taylor-Woodbury a variety of questions: How long does the virus stay on paper and cardboard? How do you disinfect money? Do we have to disinfect books after browsers touch them? (The answer was “yes”.) How do you disinfect books? What do we do if customers won’t wear masks? Is there a better way to access testing? How long will someone test positive? …

(2) NO ALBACON THIS YEAR. Add Albacon 2020 to the roster of cancelled conventions. The event, which was to have been held in Albany, NY in September, has been postponed to 2021.

Due to the ongoing issues with Covid-19 health and safety, the Albacon Committee has decided to postpone the convention until Fall of 2021. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have agreed to attend as Guests of Honor. Memberships will roll over, but, given the situation, we will make an exception to our usual policy and give refunds on request.

(3) I SOLEMNLY SWEAR. This is wild. “This ‘Harry Potter’ Mask Reveals the Marauder’s Map as You Breathe”.

…Hook told Insider that she created these masks to “bring some magic” into the real world. While the masks were created using simple tools— an inexpensive sewing machine, standard sewing supplies, licensed cotton fabric, elastic, and of course the special color-changing pigment — the design process was lengthy. Each mask took her about 17 hours to create start to finish. “The majority of the time is waiting for the treatment to set into the fabric,” she told Insider.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CAYcXtiBYYp/

(4) STAR PERFORMER. “NASA Names Dark Energy Telescope for Nancy Grace Roman”. The New York Times tells what the late astronomer did to earn the honor.

NASA announced Wednesday that one of its most ambitious upcoming space telescopes would be named for Nancy Grace Roman, who pioneered the role of women in the space agency.

Dr. Roman joined the agency in 1959 when NASA was only six months old, and rose to be its first chief astronomer. She is credited, among other things, with championing and spearheading the development of the Hubble Space Telescope. Around the agency and in astronomical circles she is known as “the mother of Hubble.” She died in 2018.

The Nancy Grace Roman Space Telescope, as it is now named, is being designed to investigate the mysterious dark energy speeding up the expansion of the universe and to scan space for exoplanets belonging to distant stars. The project to build the telescope has survived several attempts by the Trump administration to kill it, and is now slated to be launched later this decade.

Until now it has been known by the decidedly uncatchy name of the Wide Field Infrared Survey Telescope, or Wfirst. The acronym had a double meaning: “W” is the name for a crucial parameter that measures the virulence of dark energy, thus giving a clue to the fate of the universe.

“It is because of Nancy Grace Roman’s leadership and vision that NASA became a pioneer in astrophysics and launched Hubble, the world’s most powerful and productive space telescope,” Jim Bridenstine, NASA’s administrator, said in a statement issued by the space agency.

(5) TOWEL DAY. It will be time to celebrate again on May 25, and BookRiot’s contribution to the festivities is —“Quiz: How Well Do You Know The Hitchhiker’s Guide Trilogy?” I scored 13/15, and talked myself out of yet another right answer, so you may suspect it’s not that hard.

Traditional Towel Day celebrations primarily involve carrying a towel everywhere you go. (A towel, after all, “is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.”) Last year, I celebrated with a Which Hitchhikers Guide Character Are You? quiz. For Towel Day 2020, I decided to put together a different sort of quiz, this time to test your knowledge on this zaniest of franchises. In this quiz, I’ll lob you 15 questions about all five Adams-penned Hitchhiker’s Guide books (no disrespect, Mr. Colfer, but today is literally not your day), plus one or two about the numerous adaptations.

(6) TRIFFIDS REDUX. The New York Times reviews Kenneth Oppel’s Bloom: “A Few Brave Kids Battle a Toxic World”. (May be paywalled.)

If flu-pandemic books make cold sufferers anxious and zombie books make agoraphobics jittery, here’s something to rattle the Zyrtec set.

You name an allergy, and adolescent Anaya in Kenneth Oppel’s BLOOM (Knopf, 320 pp., $16.99; ages 10 and up) has it. Gluten, eggs, milk, smoke, dust — all of these things aggravate her acne. Anaya’s gorgeous ex-BFF Petra doesn’t have zit issues, but her allergy is a rare and lethal one: water. New kid Seth is allergic to life in general: Being shuttled between foster families who don’t want you sucks.

Then rain falls upon their Canadian home of Salt Spring Island. A peculiar rain. It clears Anaya’s skin and Petra isn’t allergic to it. In the hours that follow, the farm Seth tends with his current fosters, Mr. and Mrs. Antos, sprouts an invasive species of tall, black, spiky grass.

Soon it’s popping up all over the world, outgrowing even kudzu. Picture the xenomorph from “Alien,” only leafier. It destroys lawn mower blades. Cutting it releases acid. Burning it generates toxic fumes. And everyone seems to be allergic to it — except Anaya, Petra and Seth, who haven’t felt this lively in ages.

…There is nothing especially deep to this story. But these are deep times, and readers will have no choice but to overlay their current Covid-19 experiences on Oppel’s chillingly prescient details: the initial blaming of China, a shrinking work force gutted by sickness, closed schools, stay-at-home orders, overloaded hospitals and the omnipresence of medical masks.

It is a helpless situation with which readers will powerfully identify. How cathartic to imagine a few brave kids might turn it all around. This makes “Bloom” the perfect book right now for young readers searching for hope, strength, inspiration — and just a little horticultural havoc.

(7) TRAILER PARK. IGN reports “Tenet: New Trailer Premieres Tonight on Fortnite” – so it will already be available by the time you see today’s Scroll.

For anyone excited for Christopher Nolan’s highly-anticipated new movie, Tenet, you will be able to watch the brand new trailer on Fortnite starting tonight.

In the latest collaboration with Epic Games’ popular battle royale shooter, Warner Bros. is premiering the brand new Tenet trailer on Fortnite’s virtual big screens. The new Tenet trailer will premiere at the top of every hour starting at 5 pm PT/8 pm ET tonight, May 21.

What did I say?

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 21, 1980 — Yoda made his debut appearance in The Empire Strikes Back, which was released in the United States on May 21, 1980. He has since appeared in over 50 films and TV shows.
  • May 21, 1981 Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior premiered. Directed by  George Miller and produced by  Byron Kennedy, the screenplay was by Terry Hayes, George Miller and Brian Hannant. Australian New Wave composer Brian May is responsible for the music.  It stars Mel Gibson and the Australian outback. It was extremely well received by critics, and audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a 87% rating currently. 
  • May 21, 1985 Ray Bradbury Theater premiered on HBO.  It ran for two seasons on there from 1985 to 1986, and then for four additional seasons on USA Network from 1988 to 1992. All 65 episodes were written by Bradbury and many were based on works he had previously written. The Ray Bradbury Theater site has the best look at the series. You can watch the first episode, “Marionettes, Inc.“ here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 21, 1471 – Albrecht Dürer.  Engravings, paintings, watercolors, woodcuts; printmaker; theorist.  The 15 Apocalypse pictures, or Knight, Death, and the Devilor Melencolia I, are each enough to make him an immortal fantasist.  (Died 1528) [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1688 – Alexander Pope.  Second most quoted author in English (after Shakespeare); e.g. “damning with faint praise”.  Mock-heroic epic The Rape of the Lock (“lock” i.e. of hair; “rape” meaning “carry away by force”, same root as “raptor”) has sylphs.  Superb translations – if you are mainly looking for what wonderful English poetry he could make, not accuracy, because you know enough Greek to read the original, as Sam Johnson did, or don’t care – of Homer’s Iliad and (with collaborators) Odyssey, each being superb fantasy.  (Died 1744) [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1889 Arthur Hohl. He’s Mr. Montgomery, the man who helps Richard Arlen and Leila Hyams to make their final escape in Island of Lost Souls, the 1932 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The Island of Dr. Moreau, which is considered the first such filming of that novel. Genre adjacent, he’ll show later in The Adventures of Sherlock HolmesThe Three Musketeers and The Devil-Doll. (Died 1964.) (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1903 – Manly Wade Wellman.  Wrote for AmazingAstoundingPlanetStartlingStrangeUnknownWeird Tales.  Best-known characters, John the Balladeer (“Silver John”; I’ve always been fond – if that word may be used – of the story “Vandy, Vandy”) and the two occult-phenomena investigators Judge Keith Pursuivant and John Thurstone.  Comics: wrote the first issue of Captain Marvel, contributed to The Spirit and Blackhawk.  Sixteen novels, two hundred shorter stories, in our field, translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish; detective fiction, a Western, histories of the Old South.  World Fantasy Award for life achievement.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1911 – Virginia Haviland.  Librarian, author, folklorist, student of children’s literature.  Reviewed for The Horn Book thirty years.  Sixteen volumes of Favorite Fairy Tales, one each for France, England, Russia, India, Germany, Sweden, Poland, Spain, Ireland, Czechoslovakia, Scotland, Denmark, Japan, Greece, Italy, Norway.  Founded Center for Children’s Literature, U.S. Library of Congress.  Kate Greenaway Medal for The Mother Goose Treasury.  Regina Medal.  Grolier Award.  Simmons University gives a Virginia Haviland scholarship.  (Died 1988) [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1917 Raymond Burr. Speaking of lawyers, we have the Birthday of the man who played Perry Mason. It looks the 1949 film Black Magic with him playing Dumas, Jr. was his first genre performance. Bride of the Gorilla was his next with Lou Chaney Jr. co-starring and  Curt Siodmak directing. He goes on to be Grand Vizier Boreg al Buzzar in The Magic Carpet before being Vargo in Tarzan and the She-Devil. And finally he’s in a Godzilla film, Godzilla, King of the Monsters! To be precise, as Steve Martin. And unfortunately, he played the same role in Godzilla 1985 which earned him a Golden Raspberry Award. (Died 1993.) (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1918 Jeanne Bates. She’s Diana Palmer in the Forties The Phantom serial, possibly the first one done. Her first genre role was as Miss Norcutt in The Return of the Vampire, a unauthorized sequel to Lugosi’s 1931 Universal Studios film Dracula. Most of the films she’s known for are horror films such as The Soul of a Monster and Back from the Dead. (Died 2007.) (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1935 Bill Williams. He appeared on Science Fiction Theater in five different roles, and played The Millionaire on Batman in “Fine Finny Fiends” and “Batman Makes the Scenes”. He also made an appearance on The Wild Wild West in “Night of the Casual Killer“ as Marshal Kirby. He also did a lot of seriously pulpish SF films such as Space Master X-7. (Died 1992.) (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1945 Richard Hatch. He’s best-known for his role as Captain Apollo in Battlestar Galactica. He is also widely known for his role as Tom Zarek in the second Battlestar Galactica series. He also wrote a series of Battlestar Galactica franchise novels co-authored with Christopher Golden, Stan Timmons, Alan Rodgers and Brad Linaweaver. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1951 – Broeck Steadman, 69.  Eighty covers, two hundred sixty interiors, for AnalogAsimov’s (see here), Realms of FantasySF Age; books, see herehere; postage stamps, see herehere; murals, see herehere.   Keeps bees.  Twenty years running an art school with up to forty students a week.  Has done art for liquor bottles, soda cans, cars, jet planes, computers, toothpaste, chocolate.  [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1953 Trevor Cooper, 67. He plays Takis in the Sixth Doctor story, “Revelation of the Daleks“, and then will show up as Friar Tuck in a Twelfth Doctor story, “Robot of Sherwood”.  He’s currently playing Colin Devis in Star Cops, and he was Simeon in the Wizards vs. Aliens series before that. (CE)
  • Born May 21, 1958 – Jeff Canfield.  Photographer, system-software specialist, Formula Vee racer (he drove a Viper, which ought to count).  Recruited Kevin Standlee.  One of four founding directors, San Francisco Science Fiction Conventions, Inc.  Deputy vice-chair of 51st Worldcon, editor of its Program Book, timekeeper of its Preliminary Business Meeting, and its Speaker to Dr. Evil.  See here.  (Died 2014) [JH]
  • Born May 21, 1984 – Jackson Pearce, 36.  As You Wish, young-adult urban fantasy; four fairy-tale-retelling books based on Little Red Riding HoodHansel & GretelThe Little MermaidThe Snow Queen.  With Maggie Stiefvater, Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures, two more.  Tsarina (as by J. Nelle Patrick), historical fantasy.  YouTube channel with 200 videos, 13,000 subscribers.  Her Website says “Young Adult 58%, Middle Grade 42%, Baked Goods 85%, Glitter 100%”.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) BOOKING THE DATE. “Iam pervenimus usque ad umbilicos”. I don’t know what the title means even after running it through Google Translate, however, the results forced me to discard my bellybutton theory. Whatever it means, Steve J. Wright was in the room where it happened:

Well, I did it.  What did I do?  I uploaded two of my novels to Amazon’s Kindle publishing system, and within the past couple of minutes, I hit the button marked “Publish”.  There’s a review process, which is currently very slow because of the ongoing plague, so the books won’t actually be available for at least two weeks… but, at the end of that time, I presume a jet of light will shoot out of my head, as I level up from “deservedly obscure blogger” to “deservedly obscure indie author”.  (Yes, I’ve been spending too much time in MMORPGs.)

So, anyone who has said to themselves, “Bah and tcha!  This Steve person is full of criticism for other writers, going on about how to present sympathetic characters and how to construct your plot structure, but how well could he do it himself, eh?”… well, any such person will shortly be getting the chance to find out.  I’m not really in a position to be objective, myself – I mean, obviously I think I’m wonderful, but I’m aware that this opinion may not be universally shared.

Hey – forget about waiting, they’re already available. Take Martial’s word for it: “Ohe! iam satis est, ohe! Libelle”.

(12) SORRY, WRONG NUMBER. “She Gets Calls And Texts Meant For Elon Musk. Some Are Pretty Weird” reports NPR.

There are a lot of people trying to reach celebrity entrepreneur Elon Musk. Sometimes, though, they get Lyndsay Tucker, a 25-year-old skin care consultant.

Tucker, who works at a Sephora beauty store in San Jose, Calif., had never heard of the Tesla and SpaceX founder and CEO until a couple years ago, when she began fielding a steady stream of calls and text messages intended for him.

“I asked my mom, ‘Hey, I keep getting these text messages’ — and I was also now starting to get phone calls — ‘for this guy Elon Musk. I don’t know who this is,’ ” Tucker said. “And my mom’s jaw just dropped.”

Turns out, Tucker’s cellphone number used to be registered to Musk. On any given day, she receives at least three calls or texts intended for Musk, whom she has never met.

If the maverick billionaire stirs controversy, as he is wont to do, her phone blows up with a torrent of messages. (Full disclosure: I reached out to Musk during one of those controversies, when he threatened to sue the California county that is home to Tesla’s headquarters over its coronavirus-related restrictions. Instead, I got Tucker.)

She has accidentally intercepted far more interesting calls than mine, however. One woman volunteered to go to space with SpaceX. Another person sent a blueprint for a bionic limb. “Which is, No. 1, really cool,” Tucker said. “But I have no idea how it’s built.”

(14) WHY. Today, Yahoo! Entertainment thinks they know the answer to “Why ‘Batwoman’ Star Ruby Rose Left the CW Series”.

…According to multiple sources, Rose was unhappy with the long hours required of her as the series lead, which led to friction on the set. It was thus decided by her and the network and studio, Warner Bros. Television, that they would part ways.

(15) THIS WAY TO THE EGRESS. And Ars Technica thinks they might be able to fill in a blank about another previously unexplained departure:“Here’s why NASA’s chief of human spaceflight resigned—and why it matters”.

Why did Doug Loverro resign?

He made an error during the procurement process of the Human Landing System, during which NASA selected bids from Blue Origin, Dynetics, and SpaceX to build lunar landers as part of the Artemis Program. In his resignation letter to employees on Tuesday, Loverro admitted he made a “mistake” earlier this year. Multiple sources have suggested that he violated the Procurement Integrity Act.

It’s worth noting that on March 25, 2020, NASA’s inspector general announced an audit of “NASA’s acquisition strategy for the Artemis missions to include landing astronauts on the Moon by 2024.” It seems plausible that this audit may have involved some action taken by Loverro.

The article tells what he may have done, and assesses the implications of his departure on NASA’s hopes to meet the 2024 target.

(16) ARTIFACT. “Expedition To Salvage Titanic’s Wireless Telegraph Gets The Go-Ahead”.

In the final hours it took the R.M.S. Titanic to sink, wireless telegraph operators issued a series of increasingly frantic messages calling for rescue.

They went from detailed to desperate.

The last transmission — issued just a few minutes before the “unsinkable” ship disappeared below the surface of the North Atlantic after striking an iceberg — was just five words: “Come quick. Engine room nearly full.”

The messages offer a poignant record of the final moments of chaos and tragedy aboard the Titanic in April 1912.

And this week a federal judge ruled that the wireless telegraph set may be recovered from the wreckage.

U.S. Judge Rebecca Smith said retrieval of the Edwardian technology — the most advanced of its time — “will contribute to the legacy left by the indelible loss of the Titanic, those who survived, and those who gave their lives in the sinking,” the Associated Press reported.

The decision is a victory for RMS Titanic Inc., a private company with exclusive rights to salvage artifacts from the ship. It has been waging a decades-long legal battle to gain the right to extract the equipment and other artifacts from the ship.

In 2000, an earlier judge denied the company permission to cut into the shipwreck or detach any part of it. But Smith appeared swayed by RMST’s argument that remnants of the luxurious vessel are rapidly deteriorating.

“While many items that remain in and around the Titanic wreckage have the ability to enlighten generations on the lives of its passengers, only one item holds the story of all of the survivors,” Bretton Hunchak, president of the company said in a statement on Facebook.

(17) HOW ABOUT A NICE GAME OF CHESS? “Years Before The Pandemic, War Games Predicted A ‘Global Tempest'” says NPR.

One day in early March, as the coronavirus was spreading across the country, Margaret McCown was in her office at the Pentagon figuring out how her staff could work from home.

As McCown went over the logistics, she began to feel a sense of déjà vu.

A pandemic. Government on alert. Schools and offices closing. It was a scenario she had seen before. Just not in real life.

“That was that uncomfortable moment where you find yourself a little bit living in your own war game,” McCown said.

Starting in 2006, when she was a war gamer at the National Defense University, McCown spent two years running pandemic simulations for senior policymakers. The scenario: A novel flu strain is racing across the planet. The virus is deadly and highly contagious; U.S. officials are trying to contain the outbreak before it hits the United States. (Spoiler: They don’t succeed.)

McCown called the first exercise “Global Tempest.” In the office that day in March, she dug out an article she’d written about it for a defense journal. The title was “Wargaming the Flu.”

“As I looked through it, I was realizing the extent to which it had really identified some of the things that we were living and some of the debates I was seeing on TV,” she said.

In McCown’s simulations, as in several others in the early 2000s, participants foresaw an overwhelmed health care industry struggling to respond to unprecedented demand. McCown’s teams worried about the number of ventilators and hospital beds.

What’s more interesting to McCown is that the gamers also identified the many ways a pandemic could disrupt ordinary life.

(18) NO FIGHTING IN THE WARP ROOM. Everybody loves this house — the link is circulating widely: “480 Rainier Dr, Pittsburgh, PA 15239 – 3 Bed, 1 Bath Single-Family Home – MLS# 1445093 – 24 Photos” at Trulia. The goodies are in the middle of the photo deck, so keep flipping.

Do you like Fun & Adventure? See this One of a Kind Brick Ranch, Converted into a 2 Story. Enter the Door to a 13th Century Castle Décor Sunken Living Rm, w/ Dramatic, High, Oak Beamed Ceiling, Hardwood Floor, Brick Fireplace, a Ladder to an Elevated Library. Time Travel at Warp Speed to the 25th Century Starship. A Talking Space Alien greets you as you walk toward the Floor to Ceiling, Outer Space Wall Mural. The Dining Rm Command Center Rear Wall opens up to the Spaceship Main Bridge-Working Computer & Controls from an Apache Helicopter, Speakers & a 55 Inch Screen (TV works)…. 

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

Pixel Scroll 5/13/20 You Can’t Sleep ’Cause The World’s On Fire, Don’t Read Me If You’d Prefer The Shire, Techno Thriller

(1) FLIP THE SCRIPT. “James McAvoy to Lead ‘Sandman’ Audible Drama” says The Hollywood Reporter. Wait a second – Michael Sheen is going to be Lucifer?

James McAvoy is stepping into a dream role. The actor will voice star as Dream in Audible’s adaptation of The Sandman, the classic DC/Vertigo comic book written by Neil Gaiman.

McAvoy, known for playing Prof. X in four X-Men films, will lead a cast that also includes Riz Ahmed, Justin Vivian Bond as Desire, Arthur Darvill, Kat Dennings as Death, Taron Egerton, William Hope, Josie Lawrence, Miriam Margolyes as Despair, Samantha Morton, Bebe Neuwirth, Andy Serkis and Michael Sheen as Lucifer.

(2) NO MIDWESTCON IN 2020. Joel Zakem, who has attended 52 straight Midwestcons, nevertheless considers this a wise decision:  

After being held annually since 1950, Midwestcon 71, scheduled for June 25-28, 2020, in Cincinnati, OH., has unsurprisingly been cancelled. Everyone who has a hotel reservation should receive a cancellation notice with verification number from the hotel – no need to call them. Checks for pre-registrations (the only way to pre-reg fir Midwestcon) have not been cashed.

(3) DOOMSDAY BOOKS. The LA Times’ Martin Wolk tapped Emily St. John Mandel and other writers for their recommendations: “Essential end-of-the-world reading list offers a glimpse of the abyss”.

 …“I would not recommend reading ‘Station Eleven’ in the middle of a pandemic,” Mandel told the L.A. Times in an interview.

Yet many people are doing just that: The book is selling briskly just as Mandel’s new novel of financial disaster, “The Glass Hotel,” settles into the Los Angeles Times bestseller list. Mandel joins the L.A. Times Book Club on May 19 for a virtual discussion of these two eerily timely novels….

If you go: Book Club

Emily St. John Mandeljoins the L.A. Times Book Club in conversation with reporter Carolina A. Miranda.

When: 7 p.m. May 19

Where: Free virtual event livestreaming on the Los Angeles Times Facebook Page and YouTube.

More info: latimes.com/bookclub

(3.5) SFF JUSTIFIED. If it needs it. Esther Jones at The Conversation says “Science fiction builds mental resiliency in young readers”.  

Young people who are “hooked” on watching fantasy or reading science fiction may be on to something. Contrary to a common misperception that reading this genre is an unworthy practice, reading science fiction and fantasy may help young people cope, especially with the stress and anxiety of living through the COVID-19 pandemic.

I am a professor with research interests in the social, ethical and political messages in science fiction. In my book “Medicine and Ethics in Black Women’s Speculative Fiction,” I explore the ways science fiction promotes understanding of human differences and ethical thinking.

While many people may not consider science fiction, fantasy or speculative fiction to be “literary,” research shows that all fiction can generate critical thinking skills and emotional intelligence for young readers. Science fiction may have a power all its own….

(4) FROZEN AT HOME. The Walt Disney Animation Studios today released “I Am With You” — At Home With Olaf.

Wherever you may be, here’s a special message from Olaf’s home to yours. “I Am With You” Music and Lyrics Written at Home by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez. Performed at Home by Josh Gad. Directed at Home by Dan Abraham.

(5) THE ROAD TO FURY. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Five years after the fourth Mad Max movie took audiences by storm, the New York Times film critic Kyle Buchanan (@kylebuchanan) interviewed dozens of crew members, producers, writers and stars to weave together a compelling picture of how Fury Road came to be. In “’Mad Max: Fury Road’: The Oral History of a Modern Action Classic”,  he charts the course of its production through quotes from Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, and writer/director George Miller.

…CHARLIZE THERON (Furiosa) I grew up on all the “Mad Max” movies — they’re very popular in South Africa. I remember being 12 and my dad letting me watch it with him. So I was like, “Oh yeah, I wanna be in a ‘Mad Max’ movie. Are you kidding me?”

[GEORGE] MILLER When someone is directing a film, they’re thinking about it every waking hour, and even processing it in their dreams. The problem is, if you’re a studio executive, you tend to think about it for 10 minutes on a Wednesday.

[GEORGE] MILLER When the ideas that you start off with are then comprehended by an audience at large out there, that’s ultimately what redeems the process for you. The Swahili storytellers have this quote: “The story has been told. If it was bad, it was my fault, because I am the storyteller. But if it was good, it belongs to everybody.” And that feeling of the story belonging to everybody is really the reward.

(6) FROM THE BATCAVE. Zach Baron, in “Robert Pattinson: A Dispatch From Isolation” in GQ, caught up with Pattinson last month as he stayed isolated in a London hotel room.  Pattinson says he’s living on food supplied by The Batman production until shooting resumes but isn’t doing any exercise.  He also says although he is in Christopher Nolan’s film Tenet, he can’t give anything away because he doesn’t understand the plot except that it doesn’t involve time travel.

…It’s possible that you couldn’t build a person more suited to this experience. Pattinson, who turned 34 in May, has spent his adult life separating himself from the rest of the world. He was 21 when he was cast in the first Twilight, as the lead vampire in what would become five increasingly popular movies about teen lust in the Pacific Northwest. The final installment of the franchise, which turned Pattinson and his costar, Kristen Stewart, into two of the more famous people in the world, came out in 2012 and grossed over $800 million worldwide. But by that time, he was already mostly gone.

(7) GOING FOR THE KO? It’s Reader Request time at John Scalzi’s Whatever. In “Reader Request Week 2020 #6: Pulling Punches in Criticism”, the reader’s question begins:

Do you ever hold back in your criticism of other artistic endeavors (movies for instance) out of fear or apprehension that it will open your own work to hostile/non constructive criticism and exclude you from future opportunities?

We already know what the answer is, but that doesn’t mean it’s not interesting to see Scalzi work it out.

(8) CAFFEINATED CARTOON. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster, Designated Financial Times Reader.] In the May 8 Financial Times, behind a paywall, Neville Hawcock reviews Rick and Morty.

It could easily be so sweet, charming, whimsical.  An eccentric old scientist zips around the galaxy in his home-made flying saucer, accompanied by his grandson sidekick. Each cartoon episode brings a new alien peril and a new chance to prevail through pluck and ingenuity, You could be forgiven for imagining a cross between a Werther’s Original commercial and Star Trek.

Rick and Morty, however is anything but…

…That doesn’t mean it’s weary; it is consistently energetic, inventive, and witty, both in script and animation. To borrow a phrase from the late sci-fi writer Gardner Dozois, each 30-minute episode has a high bit-rate. Whereas some bingeable TV is like the unlimited cups of coffee you get in American diners, and endless warm wash, an evening with Rick and Morty has the jolting quality of an espresso spree.

(9) DOCTOR WHO FACTOID. Martin Morse Wooster also found this data point in Horatio Clare’s essay-review in the May 9 Financial Times.

The National Trust reports that while 30 percent of eight-to-11 year olds could not identify a magpie, 90 percent could spot a Dalek.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 13, 1994 The Crow premiered. It was directed by Alex Proyas, written by David J. Schow and John Shirley. It was produced by Jeff Most, Edward R. Pressman and Grant Hill.  It starred Brandon Lee in his final film appearance as he was killed in a tragic accident during filming. It’s based on James O’Barr’s The Crow comic book, and tells the story of Eric Draven (Lee), a rock musician who is revived to avenge the rape and murder of his fiancée, as well as his own death. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 13, 1876 – Harold De Lay.  Illustrated W.E.B. DuBois’ Quest of the Silver Fleece, pretty good since De Lay later did covers and interiors for Golden Fleece.  Five interiors for Frank Baum’s early Daughters of Destiny.  Four covers and thirty-eight interiors for Weird Tales, of Robert Bloch, Edmond Hamilton, Robert E. Howard, Henry Kuttner, Manly Wade Wellman, Jack Williamson; here’s one.  Blue Bolt and The Human Torch for Marvel while it was under Funnies, Inc.; Treasure Island for Target Comics.  (Died 1950) [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1937 Roger Zelazny. Where do I start? The Amber Chronicles are a favorite as is the Isle of The Dead, To Die in Italbar, and well, there’s very little by him that I can’t pick him and enjoy for a night’s reading. To my knowledge there’s only one thing he recorded reading and that’s a book he said was one of his favorite works, A Night in the Lonesome October. I understand that John’s going to have a choice remembrance of him for us. (Died 1995.) [CE]
  • Born May 13, 1937 – Rudolf Zengerle.  Pioneer of the Risszeichner (German, “crack markers”) for Perry Rhodan – illustrators who draw schematics of robots, ships, weapons.  Zengerle did six dozen; here’s a Grand Battleship of the Blues.  Speaking of series, PR has sold over two billion copies worldwide.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1941 – John Vermeulen.  Flemish author; also sailor, diver, glider, horseman.  First SF novel at age 15.  Historical novels of Hieronymus Bosch, Peter Brueghel the Elder, Mercator, Nostradamus, da Vinci, translated into German, Japanese.  A dozen SF novels, as many each of thrillers, plays, books for children & young adults, shorter stories.  (Died 2009) [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1946 – Marv Wolfman. Comics, novelizations, animation, for Dark Horse, DC, Disney, Eclipse, Image, Marvel (Editor-in-Chief 1975-1976), many more.  Pioneered writing credits when the Comics Code Authority said “No wolfmen; remove” (as was the rule at the time), DC said “But the writer’s name is Wolfman”, CCA said “Let’s see the name credit, then”, after which everybody got one.  Inkpot Award, 1979; Jack Kirby Awards, 1985-1986 (for Crisis on Infinite Earths, with George Pérez); named in Fifty Who Made DC Great,1985; National Jewish Book Award, 2007 (for Homeland); Scribe Award, 2007 (for novel based on Superman Returns).  Recently, see Man and Superman (2019, with Claudio Castellini).  [JH]
  • Born May 13, 1949 Zoë Wanamaker, 71. She’s been Elle in amazing Raggedy Rawney which was a far better fantasy than Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone where she was Madame Hooch. And she was Cassandra in two Ninth Doctor stories,” The End of the World” and “New Earth”. [CE]
  • Born May 13, 1951 Gregory Frost, 69. His retelling of The Tain is marvelous. Pair it with Ciaran Carson and China Miéville’s takes on the same existing legend and remaking it through modern fiction writing. Fitcher’s Brides, his Bluebeard and Fitcher’s Bird fairy tales, is a fantastic novel though quite horrific

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) THINK OF SFF CONFINED TO A HAMSTER BALL. Is it possible that James Davis Nicoll found “Classic SF With Absolutely No Agenda Whatsoever…”? Uh, you’ve read his Tor.com posts before, haven’t you?

As happens from time to time, I recently noticed an author being subjected to complaints that their fiction has an “agenda,” that there are “political elements” in their story, that it touches on society, class, race, culture, gender, and history. As it happens, the calumniated author is one of those younger authors, someone who’s probably never owned a slide-rule or an IBM Selectric. Probably never had ink-well holes in their school desks. Undoubtedly, they may be missing context that I, a person of somewhat more advanced years, can provide…

(14) GOOD TO GO. “Inflatable e-scooter that fits in backpack unveiled”.

An inflatable e-scooter compact enough to be stored inside a commuter’s backpack has been unveiled in Japan.

The Poimo, developed by the University of Tokyo, can be inflated in just over a minute, using an electric pump.

The creators said they wanted to create a vehicle that minimised the potential for injury in the event of an accident.

However, experts say e-scooter rules still need to be clarified by the government before such modes of transport can be considered safe.

(15) I’LL BE MACK. “Scientists Make the World’s First Liquid Metal Lattice’. Tagline: “It’s like the Terminator, only much less murdery.”

Scientists from SUNY-Binghamton are developing new Terminator-like liquefying metals made from Field’s alloy. And in a fun twist, the lead researcher behind the study—which appears in the journal Additive Manufacturinghasn’t seen any films in the Terminator franchise.

“To be honest, I’ve never watched that movie!” Pu Zhang, a mechanical engineering professor, said in a statement. (It’s safe to assume he also missed out on The Secret World of Alex Mack.)

The term “additive manufacturing” refers broadly to technology like 3D printing, where you add material in order to build an item. That contrasts with subtractive manufacturing, like using a lathe and removing metal or wood in order to sculpt a final shape. But in this case, the liquid metal is used in a more complex process where a “shell skeleton” is 3D printed from rubber and metal and then filled with liquid metal lattice….

(16) HAZARD PAY. Casualties on the front lines of the culture war will get help: “In Settlement, Facebook To Pay $52 Million To Content Moderators With PTSD.

Facebook will pay $52 million to thousands of current and former contract workers who viewed and removed graphic and disturbing posts on the social media platform for a living, and consequently suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a settlement agreement announced on Tuesday between the tech giant and lawyers for the moderators.

Under the terms of the deal, more than 10,000 content moderators who worked for Facebook from sites in four states will each be eligible for $1,000 in cash. In addition, those diagnosed with psychological conditions related to their work as Facebook moderators can have medical treatment covered, as well as additional damages of up to $50,000 per person.

(17) HINTS FROM OUR AI OVERLORDS. A Harvard researcher finds “Predictive text systems change what we write”.

Study explores the effects of autocomplete features on human writing

When a human and an artificial intelligence system work together, who rubs off on whom? It’s long been thought that the more AI interacts with and learns from humans, the more human-like those systems become. But what if the reverse is happening? What if some AI systems are making humans more machine-like?

In a recent paper, researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) explored how predictive text systems — the programs on our phones and computers that suggest words or phrases in our text messages and email — change how we write. The researchers found that when people use these systems, their writing becomes more succinct, more predictable and less colorful (literally).

…“We’ve known for a while that these systems change how we write, in terms of speed and accuracy, but relatively little was known about how these systems change what we write,” said Kenneth Arnold, a PhD candidate at SEAS and first author of the paper.

Arnold, with co-authors Krysta Chauncey, of Charles River Analytics, and Krzysztof Gajos, the Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science at SEAS, ran experiments asking participants to write descriptive captions for photographs.

…“While, for the most part, people wrote more efficiently with predictive text systems, this may have come at the cost of thoughtfulness. These kinds of effects would never have been noticed by traditional ways of evaluating text entry system, which treat people like transcribing machines and ignore human thoughtfulness. Designers need to evaluate the systems that they make in a way that treats users more like whole people.”

(18) IT WASN’T CASABLANCA THEN. “Scientists Might’ve Found the Most Dangerous Place in Earth’s History” claims Yahoo! News.

100 million years ago, Earth was a terrifying place. That’s according to a new paper in ZooKeys, which analyzed fossils from an area in southeastern Morocco also known as the Kem Kem beds. It was here that prehistoric animals such as “cartilaginous and bony fishes, turtles, crocodyliforms, pterosaurs, and dinosaurs” used to freely roam and hunt….

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. ScreenRant’s headline is the best reason to watch the video: “Blade Runner 2049 Honest Trailer Can’t Explain Why Dune Was Greenlit After This”.

Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve is due to return with another highly ambitious and cerebral – not to mention, expensive – sci-fi epic later this year in the form of Dune, the first of a planned two-part adaptation of Frank Herbert’s touchstone 1965 novel. It’s a peculiar move for Warner Bros. purely from a business perspective, considering how much money they lost on Villeneuve’s last costly, thought-provoking, sci-fi feature. So naturally, as you’d expect, Screen Junkies points that out in their latest video.

With marketing for Dune now underway ahead of its release in December (assuming it’s not delayed to 2021), Screen Junkies has gone and released an Honest Trailer for Blade Runner 2049

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Joel Zakem, Chris Barkley, Michael Toman, John Hertz, Rich Lynch, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Camestros Felapton.]

Pixel Scroll 3/27/20 The Software Responsible For The Captions Has Been Sacked

(1) GRANTS AND EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE FOR CREATIVES. Jason Sanford’s updated “COVID-19 resources, info, and assistance for the science fiction, fantasy, & horror communities” includes a number of emergency funds open to writers and artists, along with info on genre conventions, freelancing and more.

(2) RESEARCHERS WANT MORE INTERVIEWS WITH TOLKIEN FANS. Robin Reid is asking for help to spread the word:

The link below leads to my Digital Tolkien class discussion about the Marquette Tolkien Oral History Project created and curated by Bill Fliss. This project is incredible effort to create an online accessible archive of interviews with Tolkien fans that consists of podcasts and transcriptions of the interviews for fan and academic meta. You can read all about the process at the link, but I’m asking for your help circulating the project information in fan spaces to generate more interviews. My sense is that Tumblr would be a great space to advertise it, along with some others, but I’m not in the least literate or comfortable in Tumblr (I tried it. I failed it). But if you all were willing to spread the information, it would be great!

(3) BEFORE THE TUCKER HOTEL. Now on the First Fandom Experience blog: “A Visit To Science Fiction House” (1939-40), from the papers of Donald A. Wollheim.

…The notion of a “Science Fiction House” emerged in New York fandom in the late 1930s and became real with the establishment of a residence in Brooklyn known as Futurian House. The story of that fabled abode is told in detail in the October 1939 and January 1940 issues of the Jim Avery’s M.S.A. Bulletin, the club organ of the Maine Scientifiction Association.

But Wollheim had already formed a vision of an idyllic communal living space for fans. This fictional history, sadly incomplete, is dated December 3 1937.  The post contains scans of his original three-page document.  Enjoy!

(4) ON THE ROAD AGAIN. [Item by Olav Rokne.] NME reports that Anna Taylor-Joy has auditioned (via skype due to Coronavirus) for a role in the Mad Max spin off Furiosa. The movie, which is set to film in 2021 is one of the productions that seems to have recently escaped development hell, as studios are gearing up for accelerated production schedules post-Coronavirus. “‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ spin-off ‘Furiosa’ reportedly in production”.  

Director George Miller is ready to return to the iconic post-apocalyptic world after the green light was given for shooting to take place in Australia this autumn, according to Geeks WorldWide.

(5) HALEGUA OBIT. Veteran pulp collector Mark Halegua died March 18 at the age 66. Murania Press’ Ed Hulse has an obituary for Mark on his blog: “Mark Halegua (1953-2020), R.I.P.” One of the highlights —

At the 1997 Pulpcon in Bowling Green, Ohio, I recognized Mark from the comic-book conventions and introduced myself. During our first brief conversation I learned he was a fan and collector of the “Thrilling Group” pulps edited by Leo Margulies and published by Ned Pines. He was compiling complete sets of The Phantom DetectiveBlack Book Detective (with his favorite character, the Black Bat), and Captain Future, among others. He liked hero pulps in general and also had a fondness for science fiction.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 27, 1957 X Minus One’s  “A Pail of Air”  aired. . A family are together in their nest. Everything is calm for the moment, but at any moment the mother could wake and start to ramble on about things that don’t exist anymore. Things such as the sun and grass. Or are things as they believe they are? Written by Fritz Leiber for Galaxy in December 1952, the radio script was by Pamela Fitzmaurice, with the cast being Ronald Liss and Eleanor Phelps. Daniel Sutter was the director. You can download it here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 27, 1892 Thorne Smith. A writer of humorous supernatural fantasy. He is best remembered for the two Topper novels — a comic fantasy fiction mix of plentiful drink, many ghosts and sex. Not necessarily in that order.  The original editions of the Topper novels complete with their erotic illustrations are available from the usual digital sources. (Died 1934.)
  • Born March 27, 1901 Carl Barks. Cartoonist, writer, and illustrator. He is best known for his work in Disney comic books, as the writer and artist of the first Donald Duck stories and as the creator of Scrooge McDuck. He wrote The Fine Art of Walt Disney’s Donald Duck and Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge McDuck. He was one of the three inaugural inductees of the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame. (Died 2000.)
  • Born March 27, 1942 Michael York, 78. I remember him in the Babylon 5  “A Late Delivery from Avalon” episode as a man who believed himself to be King Arthur returned. Very chilling. I also enjoyed him as D’Artagnan in the Musketeers films and remember him as Logan 5 in Logan’s Run. So what is on his genre list that really impresses you?
  • Born March 27, 1949 John Hertz, 71. Winner of the Big Heart Award at the 2003 Torcon. He’s quite active in the fanzine world publishing the Vanamonde fanzine. Four collections of his fanwriting have been published, West of the MoonDancing and Joking, On My Sleeve, and Neither Complete nor Conclusive. He‘s been  nominated for the Hugo for Best Fan Writer three times.
  • Born March 27, 1952 Dana Stabenow, 68. Though better known for her superb Kate Shugak detective series, she does have genre work to her credit in the excellent Star Svensdotter space series. The latter is available at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born March 27, 1962 Kevin J. Anderson, 58. Ok, I’ll admit that I love first two Dune books and have only read the first four of them, so I’m puzzled what the market is for eighteen novels and counting that he and his co-writer have written that have expanded that universe. I mean he’s really, really prolific — he even co-wrote Clockwork Angels with Neil Peart, a novelization of Rush’s 20th studio album of the same name! 
  • Born March 27, 1971 Nathan Fillion, 49. Certainly best known for being Captain Malcolm “Mal” Reynolds in Firefly verse. An interesting case of just how much of a character comes from the actor. In his case, I’d say most of it. He voiced Green Lantern/Hal Jordan in Justice League: DoomJustice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and Justice League: Throne of AtlantisThe Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen. Oh, and he appeared in a recurring role in Buffy the Vampire Slayer as Caleb.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio begins Tolkien-inspired gardening.

(9) NOTORIOUS F.I.L.E.

(10) A HIGHER TECH PRACTICAL JOKE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Be sure to follow the link to the Facebook post. It will take you to the page where the Chain Chomp is being sold. Anchor one to the floor just inside the bathroom door after everyone else has gone to bed…

(11) CLARION’S ONLINE OFFERINGS. Clarion West is offering a series of free online workshops.

Our amazing community of alumni, instructors, and friends has come together to create a robust and diverse offering. We have everything from one-hour presentations on specific areas of craft to week-long interactive workshops. There are also writing sprints to help you get words down on paper.

The workshop class list is here, and it can be found under Workshops -> Online Workshops.

We’re particularly excited to offer several teen workshops with the help of the Bureau of Fearless Ideas.

Registration opens at 12pm PST Friday, March 27th. It is first-come, first-served and most workshops are capped at 20 participants.

(12) YOUR VIEWING PLEASURE. Vox kicks off its list of “The 10 best movies you can now watch at home” with Bacurau, a film which some fans are seeking an eligibility extension for the 2021 Hugos:

Virtual theater listings for Bacurau are available on the Kino Lorber website. (You’ll receive a rental link, and the profits will help support the independent theater you select on the page.)

And here’s the Kino Lorber link — Bacurauwith description of the film.

(13) EATING THE FANTASTIC TIME CAPSULE. Scott Edelman invites listeners to time travel to 1995 as Geoffrey A. Landis and Yoji Kondo ponder the age of the universe in a flashback episode of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

When I launched Science Fiction Age in 1992, one of the things I decided to do to deliver a different experience than other science fiction publications of the time was to have our science column be — not an essay by a single author — but a Science Forum. There was an occasional exception, but for the most part, from the very beginning, until the magazine shut down in 2000, I’d take science fiction writers who were also scientists out for a meal, we’d eat, we’d chat, and I’d record the results for publication.

A couple of years back, I realized that since I’d been eating in restaurants talking about the fantastic with science fiction writers, it made sense to repurpose what conversations survived for this podcast. And now, with the coronavirus making meals in restaurants either risky or impossible depending on your location, I thought it would be fun to share yet another time travel episode.

At the time of this conversation 25 years ago, Geoffrey A. Landis worked for Sverdrup Technology at the NASA Lewis Research Center and was named by Ad Astra magazine as a “cutting edge” theorist in the special issue on the “stars” of space. As an SF writer, Geoffrey Landis had won the Hugo Award for “A Walk in the Sun” and a Nebula Award for “Ripples in the Dirac Sea.” In the quarter century since, he’s won 2003 Hugo Award for best short story “Falling Onto Mars,” the 2011 Theodore Sturgeon Award for best short science fiction for “The Sultan of the Clouds,” and the 2014 Robert A. Heinlein Award.

A quarter of a century ago, Yoji Kondo, an astrophysicist, was the director of the geosynchronous satellite observatory IUE. The previous year, he co-organized and co-chaired the International Astronomical Union Symposium on “Examining the Big Bang” in The Hague. Under the pseudonym Eric Kotani, he had written five SF books, four with John Maddox Roberts and one with Roger MacBride Allen. Since that time, he published an additional novel with Roberts, as well as the Star Trek Voyager novel Death of A Neutron Star. In 2003, the Lunarians awarded him its Isaac Asimov Memorial Award. Sadly, Kondo passed away October 9, 2017.

We discussed how the idea of the universe even having a beginning is a relatively new concept, the way we choose between the many competing theories of its age, how the phrase “Big Bang” was a joke which stuck, the paradox of some stars appearing to be older than the universe itself, how a science fiction writer’s imagination might solve unanswered questions, whether knowing when the universe was born will help us calculate when it will end, and more.

(14) US SPACE FORCE. “US Space Force launches satellite after short delay”.

The US military’s newest branch has launched its first satellite, despite a short delay in the countdown.

A rocket carrying a US Space Force communications satellite lifted off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Thursday.

An inaccurate reading on hydraulic equipment stopped the clock for 80 minutes before the issue was resolved.

US President Donald Trump established the Space Force, which is focused on warfare in space, in December 2019.

Lieutenant General John F Thompson, Commander of the Space and Missiles Systems Centre in California, explained why the launch was proceeding despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It is a really, really important launch,” he said. “It’s the very first launch for the US Space Force.

“There are critical things, or mission essential things, that the US Department of Defence does every day. Even in the face of a global pandemic we must continue to perform mission essential tasks.

“[The satellite] supports the president and other world leaders with critical communications around the planet. This launch extends that communication into a timeframe beyond 2030.”

“US Space Force launches first national security mission”  [video].

The United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The launch was delayed by an hour due to a ground hydraulics issue.

The public viewing area was closed to the public due to the coronavirus pandemic.

(15) DIRECT ACTION. “Tesla donates hundreds of ventilators to New York”.

Elon Musk has promised to provide New York with hundreds of ventilators to help meet demand from the growing coronavirus outbreak.

The Tesla chief executive said the first batch of donated machines would be delivered later on Friday.

The ventilators were purchased from US government-approved manufacturers in China.

The mayor of New York City Bill de Blasio thanked Mr Musk on Twitter writing “We’re deeply grateful.”

“We need every ventilator we can get our hands on these next few weeks to save lives,” he tweeted.

The ventilators will be donated to hospitals in New York City and across New York state.

(16) FEAR ITSELF. Following up on a mention of him the other day, “Max Brooks Has Been Called The ‘Zombie Laureate’” is a clip of his appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in 2017.

‘Minecraft: The Island’ author Max Brooks explains the paranoid upbringing that led him to write about the undead.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/1/19 Attention, Slans! This Is a Porgrave Pixel-Broadcasting Scroll

(1) DEEP DISH READING SERIES. The Speculative Literature Foundation will be hosting the Deep Dish Reading Series Thursday, October 3 at 7pm at Volumes Bookcafe (1474 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60622).  This event is being done in partnership with the Plurality University Network as part of their Many Tomorrows Festival.

Transcending boundaries of space, time, and imagination, we will gather together in Chicago speculative fiction authors from various communities, each with their own unique vision of the world. This event is co-sponsored by SFWA (Science Fiction Writers of America) (www.sfwa.org) and Chicago Nerd Social Club (www.chicagonerds.org). 

The event’s Featured Readers will be Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Jane Rosenberg LaForge, and Scott Huggins, with Rapid-Fire Readers Sue Burke, Mary Anne Mohanraj, Jeremy John, and Anaea Lay. Deep Dish readings are open to the public and all are welcome, free of charge.

(2) COUPLE OF AMAZON TRIBUTARIES DRYING UP. The Digital Reader reports a pair of changes will soon be made to Amazon’s marketing strategies.

On September 27 they wrote: “Amazon is Shutting Down Amazon Giveaways on 30 November”.

Amazon is shutting down its nearly five-year-old giveaway service in two weeks.

The retailer sent out an email today, informing authors and others who have run contests that the service is being wound down over the next couple months. The option to start a new giveaway contest will end on 10 October, and Amazon will end all current contests on 17 October. 

A couple days later this item followed: “Amazon is Shutting Down Kindle Matchbook, Its Print+eBook Bundling Program”.

…Launched in 2013, Kindle Matchbook was a program where authors and publishers had the option of creating ebook+print bundles that combine a Kindle ebook with a print book sold by Amazon. The ebook could be given away for free, or sold for $1.99 or $0.99.

If you’ve never heard of this program, you’re not alone. Aside from the stories about the publishing industry losing its shit when Amazon launched Kindle Matchbook, it has gotten almost no media attention.

Most authors have never heard of it, and the ones that do have books in the program report that there was little interest from readers.

(3) BREAKING A RULE. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett assembles an entertaining array of authors reproving critics in “Taking Care When Biting the Bear”. Keith Roberts lights up a pseudonymous reviewer, while James Blish is racked by Anthony Boucher and Isaac Asimov.

It has often been said, and rightly so, that there is little value in an author complaining about what others say about their work. No matter how wrong-headed an author might think such opinions, in the normal course of events complaining about them rarely does the author much good. The problem for any author who feels slighted is that we all form opinions about everything we experience and few of us will happily accept being told our opinions are worthless. Thus when an author uses the argument ‘that X did not understand what I was trying to do’ most of us feel our hackles raise in empathy with the critic.

To argue about anything but clear errors of fact (as Jack Vance once did in response to James Blish) is risky business for this very reason….

(4) MARS BY WAY OF KENSINGTON. Forbes advises travelers, “From A Mars Exhibit To An Out-Of-This-World Tea Time, Here’s How To Have The Perfect Space-Themed London Day”. The itinerary begins here:

…On October 18, the London Design Museum will launch their “Moving to Mars” exhibition, which considers both the science and design behind what going to Mars will look like for humankind. The exhibit is divided into three aesthetically pleasing exhibitions – one on Mars in popular culture, one on what life and living conditions will be like on Mars, and one on what the future of Mars could look like. Guests are then invited to make their own conclusions about how and when humans should make the leap to the red planet. Because it’s a design museum, the curators have collected more than 150 Mars-related objects and commissioned an interior design firm to create a multi-sensory experience. Guests will be able to walk through a prototype of a Martian habitat and study the clothing that will need to blend style and functionality with heavy-duty protection and technical performance. The exhibit will run until February 23, 2020. It’s best to buy your tickets in advance and is recommended for children 8 and older.

(5) POLL CATS. At Tor.com, James Davis Nicoll comments on “Four Speculative Novels Featuring Important Elections”. (And has no trouble reaching that number even before mentioning Double Star.)

My nation (which may not be yours) is in the midst of another election. On the one hand, it’s a glorious celebration of our right to choose who runs the nation for the next four years. On the other hand, many of us view with dismay the endless election—thirty-six full days of bloviation and punditry!—and the sinking feeling that it is all an exercise in deciding which of our colourful array of parties  is least objectionable. Still, even if it feels like one is being asked to choose between the Spanish Influenza and Yersinia pestis, it is important to remember one take-home lesson from Herman Kahn’s On Thermonuclear War: even undesirable outcomes can be ranked in order of preference. The Spanish flu is bad. The Black Death is worse.

All of which led me to consider how elections have figured in speculative fiction novels.

(6) HARLEY QUINN. The first Birds of Prey trailer has dropped. In theaters February 7, 2020

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 1, 1957 The Brain From Planet Arous premiered. Starring John Agar, Joyce Meadows, and Robert Fuller, it was made on a budget of $ 58,000. It went into appeared in wide distribution in 1958 as a double feature with Teenage Monster.
  • October 1, 1998Futuresport aired on ABC. Starring Dean Cain, Vanessa Williams, and Wesley Snipes, it polled 23% at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • October 1, 2001 — The Mutant Xseries first aired. It lasted for three seasons and sixty episodes. John Shea who was Luthor in the 1990s Lois & Clark was a cast member. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 1, 1896 Abraham Sofaer. The Thasian in “The Charlie X” episode of the original Trek. He’s also been on  The Man from U.N.C.L.E in “The Brain-Killer Affair” as Mr. Gabhail Samoy, head of U.N.C.L.E. operations in Calcutta, and also had one-offs on Twilight Zone, Boris Karloff’s ThrillerTime Tunnel, I Dream of JeannieKolchak: The Night Stalker and Lost in Space. (Died 1988.)
  • Born October 1, 1914 Donald Wollheim. Founding member of the Futurians, Wollheim organized what was later deemed the first American science fiction convention, when a group from New York met with a group from Philadelphia on October 22, 1936 in Philadelphia. As an editor, he published Le Guin’s first two novels as an Ace Double. And would someone please explain to me how he published an unauthorized paperback edition of The Lord of the Rings? (Died 1990.)
  • Born October 1, 1930 Richard Harris. One of the Dumbledores in the Potter film franchise. He also played King Arthur in Camelot, Richard the Lion Hearted in Robin and Marian, Gulliver in Gulliver’s Travels, James Parker in Tarzan, the Ape Man and he voiced Opal in Kaena: The Prophecy. His acting in Tarzan, the Ape Man him a nominee for the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor. Anyone seen that film? (Died 2002.)
  • Born October 1, 1935 Dame Julie Andrews, DBE, 84. Mary Poppins! I could stop there but I won’t. (Hee.) she had a scene cut in which was a maid in The Return of the Pink Panther, and she’s uncredited as the singing voice of Ainsley Jarvis in The Pink Panther Strikes Again. Yet again she’s uncreated in a Panther film, this time as chairwoman in Trail of the Pink Panther. She voices Queen Lillian in Sherk 2Shrek the Third and Shrek Forever After. And she’s the voice of Karathen in Aquaman.
  • Born October 1, 1944 Rick Katze, 75. A Boston fan and member of NESFA and MCFI. He’s chaired three Boskones, and worked many Worldcons. Quoting Fancyclopedia 3: “A lawyer professionally, he was counsel to the Connie Bailout Committee and negotiated the purchase of Connie’s unpaid non-fannish debt at about sixty cents on the dollar.” He’s an active editor for the NESFA Press, including the six-volume Best of Poul Anderson series.
  • Born October 1, 1948 Michael Ashley, 71. Way, way too prolific to cover in any detail so I’ll single out a few of his endeavours. The first, his magnificent The History of the Science Fiction Magazine, 1926 – 1965; the second being the companion series, The Time Machines: The Story of the Science-Fiction Pulp Magazines from the Beginning to 1990. This not to slight anything he is done such as The Gernsback Days: A Study in the Evolution of Modern Science Fiction from 1911 to 1936.
  • Born October 1, 1953 John Ridley, 66. Author of Those Who Walk in Darkness and What Fire Cannot Burn novels. Both excellent though high on the violence cringe scale. Writer on the Static Shock and Justice League series. Writer, The Authority : human on the inside graphic novel. And apparently the writer for Team Knight Rider, a female version of Knight Rider that last one season in the Nineties. 
  • Born October 1, 1989 Brie Larson, 30. Captain Marvel in the Marvel film universe. She’s also been in Kong: Skull Island as Mason Weaver, and plays Kit in the Unicorn Store which she also directed and produced. Her first genre role was Rachael in the “Into the Fire” of Touched by an Angel series; she also appeared as Krista Eisenburg in the “Slam” episode of Ghost Whisperer. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Where are they now? Grimmy answers the question for one rainbow vaulter.

(10) AT A GLANCE. Camestros Felapton in “Cat Psychology” provides a handy chart of facial expressions so you can tell what your cat is thinking – provided yours thinks the same way as Timothy the Talking Cat.

(11) WRONG ON JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter watch a contestant lose money with this response on tonight’s episode of Jeopardy!

Category: What’s that award for.

Answer: The Arthur C. Clarke Award.

Wrong question: What is tennis?

(12) NEW SFF. Victoria Sandbrook praises an author’s debut novel: “Review: THE LESSON by Cadwell Turnbull”.

…Turnbull’s narrative is measured, calm, until it isn’t, a thundercloud too easily written off until it looms above you. The central, external conflict remains taut and ever-present, even as Turnbull explores the deeply individual experiences of each character with an awareness and love of place rooted in his own history there.

(13) DON’T MISS THE APOCALYPSE. The Daily Mail’s article “Enter the Thunderdome: 4,000 Mad Max fans and their weaponry-festooned vehicles gather in the California desert for Wasteland Weekend – the ‘world’s largest post-apocalyptic festival'” comes with myriad photos.

Roughly 4,000 people have descended on to California‘s Mojave Desert for an annual post-apocalyptic festival called Wasteland Weekend. 

The festival, which was inspired by the Mad Max film series, celebrated its tenth anniversary this year and revelers flocked to the desert in their masses. 

Created in 2010 by Karol Bartoszynski, Jared Butler and James Howard, the festival sees its participants spend the entire weekend in post-apocalyptic costume. 

They proudly note:

The permanent festival site sits between the defunct Nevada nuclear test site, where from 1951 a total of 928 nuclear warheads were tested during the cold war, and Hollywood.

(14) BEAR ANCESTRY. Scientists are “Collecting polar bear footprints to map family trees”.

Scientists from Sweden are using DNA in the environment to track Alaskan polar bears.

The technique which uses DNA from traces of cells left behind by the bears has been described as game changing for polar bear research.

It’s less intrusive than other techniques and could help give a clearer picture of population sizes.

Environmental DNA (eDNA) comes from traces of biological tissue such as skin and mucus in the surroundings.

Scientists and now conservationists are increasingly using such samples to sequence genetic information and identify which species are present in a particular habitat.

It’s often used to test for invasive species or as evidence of which animals might need more protection.

In another application of the technique, geneticist Dr Micaela Hellström from the Aquabiota laboratory in Sweden worked with WWF Alaska and the Department of Wildlife Management in Utqiagvik (formerly Barrow) to collect snow from the pawprints of polar bears.

They tested the technique on polar bears in parks in Sweden and Finland.

“We realised that for the first time we could reach the nuclear DNA within the cells. The material outside the cell can tell what species you are and there are 1,000 or 2,000 copies. But the DNA in the nucleus which identifies an individual has only two copies, so it’s an enormous challenge to get out enough from these snowsteps,” she said.

(15) ONTOGENY RECAPITULATES PHYLOGENY.  “Babies in the womb have lizard-like hand muscles” – BBC has the story.

Babies in the womb have extra lizard-like muscles in their hands that most will lose before they are born, medical scans reveal.

They are probably one of the oldest, albeit fleeting, remnants of evolution seen in humans yet, biologists say, in the journal Development.

They date them as 250 million years old – a relic from when reptiles transitioned to mammals.

It is unclear why the human body makes and then deletes them before birth.

The biologists say the developmental step may be what makes thumbs dextrous. Thumbs, unlike other digits, retain an extra muscle.

(16) GOOD USE. BBC reports “Virtual reality PTSD treatment has ‘big impact’ for veterans”.

Virtual reality could be used to help military veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) who have struggled with mainstream treatment.

It involves patients walking on a treadmill in front of a screen which projects images depicting the type of trauma experienced.

A two-year trial found some patients could see almost a 40% improvement in their symptoms.

One veteran said it had given him the “biggest impact” out of any treatment.

(17) NOT IN HAWKINS ANYMORE? Netflix has greenlighted a fourth season of Stranger Things. The announcement took the form of this video:

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