Tähtivaeltaja Award 2020

The Tähtivaeltaja (“Star Rover”) Award winner was posted on May 13. The award, given by the Helsinki Science Fiction Society, goes to the best science fiction book published in Finland in the previous year.

  • Margaret Atwood: Testamentit. (Otavan Kirjasto) Translated into Finnish by Hilkka Pekkanen.

The Helsinki Science Fiction Society has been presenting the “Star Rover” award since 1986. This year’s winner was selected by a jury composed of journalist Hannu Blommila, editor Toni Jerrman, critic Elli Leppä, and critic Kaisa Ranta.

ALA Lists the Top 10 Most Challenged Books in 2019

During National Library Week, April 19 – 25, the American Library Association (ALA) released its 2020 State of America’s Libraries report.

The report found that the popularity of libraries in 2019 continues to soar. According to a recent Gallup poll, visiting the library is the “most common cultural activity Americans engage in by far.” In 2019, US adults reported taking an average of 10.5 trips per year to the library, a frequency that exceeded their participation in other common leisure activities like going to the movies, a museum or the zoo.

Additional report findings illustrate a 17% increase in the number of books targeted for removal or restriction fueling library staff efforts to protect the freedom to read. Hundreds of attempts from the public to remove or restrict materials, cancel programs, and dismantle displays and exhibits took place in public, school and academic libraries. The majority of library materials and services targeted for removal included or addressed LGBTQIA+ content.

The ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 377 challenges to library, school, and university materials and services in 2019. Overall, 566 books were targeted.

A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group.  A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.  Most challenges are unsuccessful and most materials are retained in the school curriculum or library collection.

Here are the “Top 10 Most Challenged Books in 2019,” along with the reasons cited for censoring the books:

1. “George,” by Alex Gino

Reasons: to avoid controversy; for LGBTQIA+ content and a transgender character; because schools and libraries should not “put books in a child’s hand that require discussion”; for sexual references; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint and “traditional family structure”

2. “Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out,” by Susan Kuklin

Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, for “its effect on any young people who would read it,” and for concerns that it was sexually explicit and biased

3. “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Presents A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo,” by Jill Twiss, illustrated by EG Keller

Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content and political viewpoints, for concerns that it is “designed to pollute the morals of its readers,” and for not including a content warning

4. “Sex is a Funny Word,” by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth

Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content; for discussing gender identity and sex education; and for concerns that the title and illustrations were “inappropriate”

5. “Prince & Knight,” by Daniel Haack, illustrated by Stevie Lewis

Reasons: featuring a gay marriage and LGBTQIA+ content; for being “a deliberate attempt to indoctrinate young children” with the potential to cause confusion, curiosity, and gender dysphoria; and for conflicting with a religious viewpoint.

6. “I Am Jazz,” by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas

Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content, for a transgender character, and for confronting a topic that is “sensitive, controversial, and politically charged”

7. “The Handmaid’s Tale,” by Margaret Atwood

Reasons: profanity and for “vulgarity and sexual overtones”

8. “Drama,” written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier

Reasons: LGBTQIA+ content and for concerns that it goes against “family values/morals”

9. Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling

Reasons: referring to magic and witchcraft, for containing actual curses and spells, and for characters that use “nefarious means” to attain goals

10. “And Tango Makes Three,” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, illustrated by Henry Cole

Reason: LGBTQIA+ content

Other library trends are available in the full text of the State of America’s Libraries 2020 report, available at here.

[Based on a press release.]

Pixel Scroll 4/23/20 Send Me The Pixel That You Scroll On

(1) THE TEN DOCTORS. The BBC’s Big Night In fundraising telethon broadcast April 23 included “The Doctors’ inspiring message to all frontline workers” delivered by regiment of actors who have played Doctor Who — Jodie Whittaker, Peter Capaldi, Matt Smith, David Tennant, Paul McGann, Sylvester McCoy, Colin Baker, Peter Davison, Tom Baker, and Jo Martin.

Doctors, past and present, unite together to send a powerful message to all frontline workers in the fight against coronavirus. Comic Relief and Children in Need join forces for the first time to deliver a very special night of television during these unprecedented times.The Big Night In brings the nation an evening of unforgettable entertainment in a way we’ve never seen before. More importantly, it will also raise money for and pay tribute to those on the front line fighting Covid-19 and all the unsung heroes going that extra mile to support their communities.

An excerpt from the YouTube transcript:

…We have all come together together together together together together together together for one important reason to praise salute and give the heartfelt thanks to real-life special doctors nurses and everyone everyone working on the phone lines in our NHS and care homes and hospices what you all do and have done for all of us is amazing it’s crucial phenomenal…

(2) HOLLAND CON DELAYED. Kees Van Toorn’s Reunicon 2020, a 30th anniversary celebration of the Worldcon in The Hague, has been postponed until August 2021.

Due to official regulations enforced by many countries worldwide concerning the covid-19 virus, all public events and travelling restrictions have been scrapped or postponed. That includes REUNICON 2020, alas. However, we have rescheduled the convention in August 20-22 in 2021. We are confident we will be able to host REUNICON next year, making it a good place to come to and share memories of CONFICTION 1990 as well as to remember all those we have lost in the past years and the grim period we now face. In the meantime, be well, stay healthy and take care of each other. And stay tuned for more information!

(3) TODAY’S THING TO WORRY ABOUT. Steven Saus found a problem: “Minecraft Bug: Despawning Named Zombie Villagers”.

We discovered what seems to be a bug in Minecraft. Named mobs are not supposed to despawn when the chunk unloads, but named villagers that are turned into (named) zombie villagers end up despawning too.

.. My named villager “Bait” was turned into a named zombie villager all right, but he also immediately despawned when the chunk unloaded.

If you want to spend 90 seconds you can watch it happen – yes, I admit I did…

(4) ACHIEVEMENTS TO UNLOCK. At the SFWA Blog, Cat Rambo begins “Effective Goal Setting for Writers” with this overview:

Something I work on with my coaching clients is goal setting, which is made up of several parts:

  • figuring out where they want to be in six months to a year
  • figuring out what the milestones of that goal are and mapping them against the schedule
  • figuring out the monthly goals they need to hit in order to achieve that schedule
  • figuring out the weekly goals necessary to achieve those monthly goals

(5) US IN FLUX. The third story for Center for Science and the Imagination’s Us in Flux project launched today: “When We Call a Place Home,” by Chinelo Onwualu.

On Monday, April 27 at 4 p.m. Eastern, they’ll have another virtual event on Zoom with Chinelo in conversation with Robert Evans, a conflict journalist and host of the podcasts Behind the Bastards and The Women’s War about the story “When We Call a Place Home” and the real-world community in Northern Syria that inspired the tale.

(6) REASONS REVISITED. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] In a free reprint from 2001, The London Review of Books’ Jenny Turner discusses “Reasons for liking Tolkien” — long, meaty, and balanced.

A writer, born around 1890, is famous for three novels. The first is short, elegant, an instant classic. The second, the masterpiece, has the same characters in it, is much longer and more complicated, and increasingly interested in myth and language games. The third is enormous, mad, unreadable. One answer is Joyce, of course. Another – The Hobbit (1937), The Lord of the Rings (1955), The Silmarillion (1977) – is J.R.R. Tolkien.

A writer, born around 1890, raged against ‘mass-production robot factories and the roar of self-obstructive mechanical traffic’ and ‘the rawness and ugliness of modern European life’. Instead he loved the trees and hedgerows of the English Midlands he had known as a boy, and the tales of ‘little, ultimate creatures’ he came across in the legends of the North. Clue: it wasn’t D.H. Lawrence.

A writer, born around 1890, worked bits of ancient writings into his own massive masterwork, magnificently misprising them as he went. Clue: it wasn’t Pound.

…A writer, born around 1890, declared himself a monarchist and a Catholic; and no, it wasn’t Eliot. In form, in content, in everything about it, The Lord of the Rings is the most anti-Modernist of novels. It is really very funny to think about how similar it is in so many ways to the works of the great Modernists.

(7) WHAT’S A WRITER TO DO? From The Guardian: “Margaret Atwood’s lockdown diary: life as an eccentric self-isolationist”.

As the first world war dragged on, volunteer women’s groups of all kinds formed in aid of the troops in the trenches: bandage rolling, preserved foods box packing, knitting. My grandmother joined a knitting group in rural Nova Scotia. You started on washcloths, progressed to scarves; then, if you were sufficiently adroit, you moved on to balaclavas and socks, and ultimately – the pinnacle! – to gloves. My grandmother was a terrible knitter. She never got beyond washcloths.

I’ve often wondered about these knitting groups. What were they for, really? Were they providing much-needed knitted items, or were they boosting morale by giving a bunch of otherwise very anxious civilians, whose sons and husbands were in jeopardy, something to do with their hands while waiting, waiting, endlessly waiting? I can see the socks and gloves making it to the frontlines, but the washcloths? Photographs of muddy, cramped, stinky trench life don’t show much washing going on. And my grandmother’s wonky, hole-filled washcloths in particular – were they sent to a secret depot where they were unraveled, and their wool reclaimed for something more functional?

So, in the spirit of my grandmother’s washcloths – not ultimately useful, perhaps, but let’s hope they focused the mind and gave a sense of accomplishment – I present some of my more bizarre self-isolation activities. You can do some of them at home. Though perhaps you won’t wish to.

…Another activity I’ve been doing lately is squirrel foiling. Hear a gnawing sound in the ceiling? These are your choices, in this part of the world: raccoons, possums, rats, squirrels, Google Earth. Probably squirrels, I thought, and so it proved to be. At first I foiled them by playing hot jazz and acid rock right under their gnawing station, but they got used to the wailing and screaming, so I climbed up a stepladder, placed a large steel bowl against the ceiling, and whacked it with a big metal serving spoon. Yes, I know, I shouldn’t have been doing that alone at night – the Younger Generation will scold when they read this – because people my age fall off ladders and break their necks, especially when not holding on because you need two hands for steel bowl banging. I won’t do it again, promise. (Until next time.)…

(8) MANDALORIAN MAKERS. Here’s a two-minute teaser for the next season of The Mandalorian, with appearances by Jon Favreau (creator/writer/executive producer), Dave Filoni (writer/director/executive producer), Deborah Chow (director), Bryce Dallas Howard (director), Taika Waititi (director/IG-11), Pedro Pascal (Din Djarin), Gina Carano (Cara Dune), and Carl Weathers (Greef Karga). Starts starts streaming May the 4th, on Disney+.

(9) MILLER OBIT. Ryder W. Miller (1965-2020)  passed away March 15 after a six-month fight with pancreatic cancer. A critic, poet, writer, and journalist, he was a regular contributor to The Mythic Circle, Beyond Bree, Mythprint, EGJ, and Rain Taxi, and also appeared in Mythlore. He published stories at The Lost Souls website. He is the author of Tales of Suspense and Horror, co-author of San Francisco: A Natural History, and editor of From Narnia to a Space Odyssey: The War of Letters Between Arthur C. Clarke and C.S. Lewis (ibooks, 2005).

(10) TODAY’S DAY.

Through reading and the celebration of World Book and Copyright Day, 23 April, we can open ourselves to others despite distance, and we can travel thanks to imagination.

In concert, Wikipedia has selected as its word of the day unputdownable:

Of a person, etc.: difficult or impossible to put down (in various senses). (specifically) Of a book or other written work: so captivating or engrossing that one cannot bear to stop reading it.

The unofficial annual holiday celebrates the day in 2011 when the first episode of the sixth season of the series was aired in the United KingdomUnited States, and Canada.

Doctor Who is a sci-fi series that first aired on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in 1963. The show follows the adventures of the Doctor, a time-travelling alien, who travels through time and space in a time machine and spacecraft called Time and Relative Dimension in Space or TARDIS. The TARDIS looks like a London police box from the 1960s.

Called The Impossible Astronaut, the episode became one of the most appreciated and watched episodes of the series.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 23, 1974 Planet Earth premiered. Created by Gene Roddenberry, written by Roddenberry and Juanita Bartlett, it was — not surprisingly – also based on a story by Roddenberry. It starred John Saxon as Dylan Hunt. The rest of cast was Diana Muldaur, Ted Cassidy, Janet Margolin, Christopher Cary. Corrine Camacho and Majel Barrett. It was intended  as a pilot for a new weekly television series, but that never came to be. It was the second attempt by him to produce a weekly series set on a post-apocalyptic future Earth with Genesis II being the previous pilot.  Roddenberry recycled both the concepts and characters used in Genesis II. Some of the characters here would show up in the Andromeda series such as Dylan Hunt. It was generally well-received by critics at the time, and it currently has a 45% rating among audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. You can watch it here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 23, 1879 Talbot Mundy. English-born, but based for most of his life in the States, he also wrote under the pseudonym of Walter Galt. Best known as the author of King of the Khyber Rifles which is not quite genre and the Jimgrim series which is genre, much of his work was published in pulp magazines. (Died 1940.)
  • Born April 23, 1923 Avram Davidson. Equally at home writing mystery, fantasy or science fiction, he wrote two splendid Ellery Queen mysteries, And on the Eighth Day and The Fourth Side of the Triangle. I’m fond of his Vergil Magus series if only for the names of the novels like The Phoenix and the Mirror or, The Enigmatic Speculum. (Died 1993.)
  • Born April 23, 1935 Tom Doherty, 85. Publisher of Ace Books who left there in 1980 to found Tor Books. Doherty was awarded a World Fantasy Award in the Lifetime Achievement category at the 2005 World Fantasy Convention for his contributions to the fantasy field.
  • Born April 23, 1946 Blair Brown, 74. Emily Jessup In Altered States (based on the Paddy Chayefsky novel) was her first genre role. Later roles include Nina Sharp, the executive director of Massive Dynamic, on Fringe, an amazing role indeed, and Elizabeth Collins Stoddard in the 2004 television remake of Dark Shadows. Her last genre role was Kate Durning on Elementary.
  • Born April 23, 1955 Paul J. McAuley, 65. Four Hundred Billion Stars, his first novel, won the Philip K. Dick Award, Fairyland which I adore won a Arthur C. Clarke Award and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel. He was Toastmaster along Kim Newman at Interaction, 
  • Born April 23, 1956 Caroline Thompson, 64. She wrote the screenplays for Tim Burton’s Edward ScissorhandsThe Nightmare Before Christmas, and Corpse Bride. A stage version of the latter with director and choreographer Matthew Bourne was co-adapted with her this year. She also wrote the screenplay for The Addams Family
  • Born April 23, 1962 John Hannah, 58. Here for being Jonathan Carnahan in The MummyThe Mummy Returns, and there was apparently a third film as well, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor. In a more meaty role, he was the title characters in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and of late he’s been Holden Radcliffe on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series.
  • Born April 23, 1973 Naomi Kritzer, 47. I saw that her 2015 short story “Cat Pictures Please” had been a  Hugo Award winner at  MidAmeriCon II, so I went and purchased Cat Pictures Please and Other Stories off iBooks so I could read it. It was superb as is her newest novel Catfishing on CatNet which is nominated for a Lodestar Award for Best Young Adult Book at this year’s Hugos.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) STILL IN THE DUGOUT. Last year Chris Barkley sent retiring Cincinnati Reds baseball broadcaster Marty Brennaman a copy of his “So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask” column full of advice about how to improve Major League Baseball, and he was ecstatic to finally receive an answer.

(15) EARTH DAY. Brain Pickings will celebrate Earth Day on April 25 with its The Universe in Verse event, a charitable celebration of science and nature through poetry, streaming on Vimeo.

“I don’t think it would have been conceivable to me when I was seventeen that science would ever need defending, let alone by a poet,” the poet Jane Hirshfield says in her beautiful and poignant meditation on her memory of the first Earth Day in 1970, prefacing her reading at the 2020 Universe in Verse, celebrating 50 years of Earth Day. (Tune into the global broadcast at 4:30PM EST on Saturday, April 25, to hear Hirshfield and a constellation of other radiant minds.

…Expect readings of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Adrienne Rich, Pablo Neruda, June Jordan, Mary Oliver, Audre Lorde, Wendell Berry, Hafiz, Rachel Carson, James Baldwin, and other titans of poetic perspective, performed by a largehearted cast of scientists and artists, astronauts and poets, Nobel laureates and Grammy winners: Physicists Janna LevinKip Thorne, and Brian Greene, musicians Rosanne CashPatti SmithAmanda PalmerZoë KeatingMorley, and Cécile McLorin Salvant, poets Jane HirshfieldRoss GayMarie Howe, and Natalie Diaz, astronomers Natalie Batalha and Jill Tarter, authors Rebecca SolnitElizabeth GilbertMasha GessenRoxane GayRobert Macfarlane, and Neil Gaiman, astronaut Leland Melvin, playwright and activist V (formerly Eve Ensler), actor Natascha McElhone, entrepreneur Tim Ferriss, artists Debbie MillmanDustin Yellin, and Lia Halloran, cartoonist Alison Bechdel, radio-enchanters Krista Tippett and Jad Abumrad, and composer Paola Prestini with the Young People’s Chorus. As always, there are some thrilling surprises in wait.

(16) ANATOMY OF A BLACK HOLE. “In a photo of a black hole, a possible key to mysteries” from the Harvard Gazette.

So little is known about them and the image hints at a path to a higher-resolution image and more and better data

Billions of people worldwide marveled at the first image ever captured of a black hole. The photo of the glowing, blurry doughnut, taken by the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) team, showed the massive dark region, a monster the size of our solar system, that, like its peers, gobbles up everything — even light — that ventures too close.

“I definitely got shivers down my spine,” said Alexander Lupsasca, a junior fellow in Harvard’s Center for the Fundamental Laws of Nature, remembering the moment he saw the photo for the first time. It was thrilling because so very little is known about black holes. And now, Lupsasca and a team of scientists at Harvard’s Black Hole Initiative say the image may help provide more answers: Hidden within the glowing ring are an infinite number of sub-rings that offer a way to capture an even higher-resolution image and more precise data on the massive enigmas of the universe.

“They’re paradoxical objects. They’re the epitome of what we don’t understand,” said Andrew Strominger, the Gwill E. York Professor of Physics at Harvard. “And it’s very exciting to see something that you don’t understand.” Black holes are one of the great puzzles of modern physics — where Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and quantum mechanics collide. Scientists still know so little about them — their mass, how fast they spin, what’s inside their warped space-time. Until the EHT produced the first actual image, Strominger could only investigate their mysteries with complex mathematics, pencil, and paper. “I cried when I saw their picture,” he said. Then, he asked: “What can we learn from this?”

…“As we peer into these rings, first, second, third, etc., we are looking at light from all over the visible universe; we are seeing farther and farther into the past, a movie, so to speak, of the history of the visible universe,” said Peter Galison, the Joseph Pellegrino University Professor of the History of Science and of Physics, in the Black Hole Initiative’s press release.

(17) A DREAM WITHIN A DREAM. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A new project at MIT may allow one to control lucid dreams (those in which you’re aware you’re dreaming)… at least a bit. As one drops into hypnagogia, that liminal state between being awake and being asleep, a wearable in development detects this and triggers a pre-selected one-word audio cue. In theory this may help the wearer to be like David Beckham and bend a lucid dream to follow a desired trajectory.

To say that the Popular Mechanics article’s author, Caroline Delbert, is skeptical of the usefulness of this would be an understatement. “Would You Wear This Glove to Hack Your Dreams?”

(18) DRAWING FOR HEALTH. “The Japanese monster going viral” – BBC has the story.

People across the world are drawing images of a mythical Japanese spirit believed to help ward off plagues.

In Japan, as parts of the country declare a state of emergency, people here have been reacting to the Covid-19 pandemic in a unique way: by sharing images online of a mystical, mermaid-like being believed to ward off plagues.

Largely forgotten for generations, Amabie, as it’s known, is an auspicious yokai (a class of supernatural spirits popularised through Japanese folklore) that was first documented in 1846. As the story goes, a government official was investigating a mysterious green light in the water in the former Higo province (present-day Kumamoto prefecture). When he arrived at the spot of the light, a glowing-green creature with fishy scales, long hair, three fin-like legs and a beak emerged from the sea.

Amabie introduced itself to the man and predicted two things: a rich harvest would bless Japan for the next six years, and a pandemic would ravage the country. However, the mysterious merperson instructed that in order to stave off the disease, people should draw an image of it and share it with as many people as possible.

(19) HEAL, SPOT HEAL! Spot the Robot Dog is trying out for a job as a telemedicine worker reports Forbes: “Spot The Robot Dog Roams The Coronavirus Pandemic’s Front Lines”.

Spot, the famous robot dog from Boston Dynamics, has been conscripted into service to work on the front lines helping medical professionals battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

Engineers at the company, which was formerly a subsidiary of Google before being purchased by Softbank, have been working for the past six weeks to develop the means for Spot to help reduce the exposure of healthcare workers.

So far Spot has been working with Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, where robots outfitted with a special payload are deployed in triage tents and parking lots to help staff receive patients suspected to have COVID-19 and perform initial assessments.

“With the use of a mobile robot, hospitals are able to reduce the number of necessary medical staff at the scene and conserve their limited PPE supply,” explains a release from Boston Dynamics.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. A video on YouTube as “vol. 5 Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798/1861)” is an animation by Pasquale D’Amico of works by a 19th-century macabre Japanese artist.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/7/20 Files In My Pocket Like Pixels Of Scrolls

(1) S.P. SOMTOW RETURNS TO SFF. Somtow Sucharitkul celebrated the appearance of his new novel with these retrospective thoughts —

My first novel was published in 1981 by Simon and Schuster. It cost $2.50 and I got 20¢ a copy. To earn out my $5,000 advance, I would have had to sell 25,000 books. I don’t know if it sold that many, but it did get reprinted by S&S, and then republished by Del Rey. Later, my advances, and presumably the number of books they sold, increased quite a bit.

Twenty years ago, I kind of vanished from publishing except for the odd (very) Star Trek novel. But anyway the bottom fell out of the market for us mid-list types.

Now forty years have gone by since my first novel came out. I have just put out my first new science fiction novel since 1997 (unless you count that “very” odd Star Trek novel. Today, I’m not even imagining selling 100,000 copies of Vampire Junction or 25,000 copies of a space opera. Today, putting the whole thing on amazon all by myself, I’m thinking boy, if I sell 100 copies, I’ll have made a whole lot of old-time fans, most of whom I know personally, happy. And enjoy a lot of very nice meals.

But here’s the thing … it was REALLY satisfying to finish a science fiction novel. I might have to do some more.

Homeworld of the Heart — the 5th novel in the Inquestor series and my first science fiction book since 1997. Here are the links to the trade paperback and Kindle editions on Amazon.

It’s about the childhood of Sajit, who was to become the poet of the entire galactic empire. It’s chock-full of childsoldiers, people bins, tachyon bubbles, utopia hunters, beauty and depravity and the other expected features of the series, but also speaks about the chaos that ensues when the Inquestors’ games misfire, about the subtleties of music in the Inquestral age, and the stone-age taboos of a high-tech civilization.

(2) BAEN SERIES ENDS. I inquired of Baen Books’ Christopher Ruocchio and learned there won’t be a volume of The Year’s Best Military & Adventure SF in 2020. He said, “Toni and [editor] David Afsharirad decided that five volumes was going to do it for the military sf anthology series and wrapped it up. Last year’s was the last for the present.” The series will be missed.

(3) MEDICAL UPDATE. Juanita Coulson, 87, was taken to Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio, for tests and treatment. It was suspected she’d had a stroke, however, Bruce Coulson told Facebook readers today in a public post: “Further news on Mom. It turns out she did NOT have a stroke (probably), but does have a UTI and will be off work for a while. On the plus side, she might be going back home in a couple of days.”

Coulson is a sff author, winner of the Big Heart Award (2012), and past DUFF delegate.

(4) CANADA PERFORMS. Margaret Atwood kicks off a streaming series for Canadian writers whose tours have been derailed. “It doesn’t replace the fun of an audience, mass audience response, but it’s better than nothing,” she said. “I think we’re in the better-than-nothing era.” The New York Times reports: “At Margaret Atwood’s Prompting, Canada Launches Virtual Book Tours”.

Margaret Atwood is launching an online series that she hopes will help Canada’s writers sell books to a nation of shut-ins. But even she has not been immune to the headaches plaguing many people as they attempt to communicate during the global pandemic.

One came half an hour into a conversation about upcoming books with Adrienne Clarkson, a friend and fellow author, hosted by the National Arts Centre on Facebook Live. Atwood’s image froze.

“Come back, come back,” Clarkson said. “Was it anything I said?”

After a few minutes, Atwood did reappear, in a different room of her house with a superior internet connection. The two women continued to go through a list of books they acknowledged that, for the most part, they hadn’t even seen, let alone read, but were written by authors whose earlier works they enjoyed.

Their chat, which veered into social distancing and gardening, among other subjects, was an extension of a program the arts center started two weeks ago, CanadaPerforms, to provide a paid venue for musicians, actors, comedians and other performers at a time when stages are dark around the world….

(5) BARBER OBIT. [Item by Joel Zakem.] Michigan fan Tom Barber (born 1949) passed away on April 4, 2020, from complications of COVID 19. Tom was a long time convention worker and occasional t-shirt dealer who, in the past, had chaired both Confusion and Conclave. He was a member of the Dorsai Irregulars and was Fan GOH at Confusion in 2001.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 7, 1933 King Kong was released nationwide I he U.S. It was directed and produced by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack. The screenplay was written by James Ashmore Creelman and Ruth Rose was developed from an idea by Cooper and Edgar Wallace. It stars Fay Wray, Bruce Cabot and Robert Armstrong. Critics mostly loved it, the box office was quite amazing and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 97% approval rating. You can watch it here.
  • April 7, 1951 The Thing from Another World premiered. It was directed by Christian Nyby, and produced by Edward Lasker. It’s based on John W. Campbell ‘s “Who Goes There?” novella. The film stars Margaret Sheridan, Kenneth Tobey, Robert Cornthwaite, and Douglas Spencer. James Arness is The Thing, but he is almost impossible to recognize in makeup due to both the extremely low lighting and other steps used to hide his face. Critics at the time weren’t wild about it but audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes really like it and give it an 87% rating. You can watch it here.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 7, 1915 Henry Kuttner. While he was working for the d’Orsay agency, he found Leigh Brackett’s early manuscripts in the slush pile; it was under his guidance that she sold her first story to Campbell at Astounding Stories. His own work was done in close collaboration with C. L. Moore, his wife, and much of what they published was under pseudonyms.  During the Forties, he also contributed numerous scripts to the Green Lantern series. (Died 1958.)
  • Born April 7, 1915 Stanley Adams. He’s best known for playing Cyrano Jones in “The Trouble with Tribbles” Trek episode. He reprised that role in the Star Trek: The Animated Series episode “More Tribbles, More Troubles” and archival footage of  him was later featured in the Deep Space Nine “Trials and Tribble-ations” episode. He also appeared in two episodes of the Batman series (“Catwoman Goes to College” and “Batman Displays his Knowledge”) as Captain Courageous. (Died 1977.)
  • Born April 7, 1928 James White. Certainly the Sector General series which ran to twelve novels and ran over thirty years of publication was his best known work. I’ve no idea how many I read but it was quite a few. I’m not sure what else by him I’ve read but I’m certain there was other novels down the years. He worked on the famed Irish fanzines Slant and Hyphen. He was a guest of honor at the 1996 Worldcon. (Died 1999.)
  • Born April 7, 1935 Marty Cantor, 85. He edited with his then wife Robbie Holier Than Thou, nominated for the 1984, 1985 and 1986 Hugo Awards for Best Fanzine — losing in the first two years to File 770 and in the last to Lan’s Lantern. He also published Who Knows What Ether Lurks in the Minds of Fen?, a rather nice play off The Shadow radio intro.
  • Born April 7, 1939 Francis Ford Coppola, 81. Director / Writer / Producer. THX 1138 was produced by him and directed by George Lucas in his feature film directorial debut in 1971. Saw it late at night after some serious drug ingestion with a red head into Morrison — strange experience that was. Other genre works of note include Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a episode of Faerie Tale Theatre entitled “Rip Van Winkle”, Twixt (a horror film that almost no one has heard of), Captain EO which featured Michael JacksonMary Shelley’s FrankensteinJeepers Creepers and Jeepers Creepers 2.
  • Born April 7, 1945 Susan Petrey. Only three of her stories were published during her lifetime. More of her work appeared in the Gifts of Blood collection published after her death. She was nominated, also posthumously, for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer, and her story ”Spidersong” was nominated for the Hugo Award. Susan C. Petrey Clarion Scholarship Fund annually awards scholarships to both the Clarion & Clarion West workshops and also supports an instructor at Clarion West as a Petrey Fellow. (Died 1980.)
  • Born April 7, 1946 Stan Winston. He’s best known for his work in Aliens, the Terminator franchise, the first three Jurassic Park films, the first two Predator films, Batman Returns and Iron Man. He was unusual in having expertise in makeup, puppets and practical effects, and was just starting to get in digital effects as well upon the time of his passing. I think we sum up his talent by noting that he both an Oscars for Best Visual Effects and Best Makeup for his work on Terminator 2: Judgment Day. (Died 2008.)
  • Born April 7, 1951 Yvonne Gilbert, 69. Though best remembered for her controversial cover design of Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s 1983 single ”Relax”, she did a number of great genre covers including Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea for Bantam in 1991 and Beagle’sA Dance for Emilia for Roc in 2000.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

Is coronavirus funny enough to fill the entire Comics Section? You be the judge!

  • xkcd tells why homemade masks are better than some other ideas for avoiding infection.
  • Pearls Before Swine’s creator is suspiciously unavailable — April 6 and April 7
  • Brewster Rockit goes for a pretty obvious punchline on the first day, and another one the next day.
  • Frank and Ernest certainly have their hearts in the right place.
  • Lio is about as funny as usual. (If you’ll pardon my saying so.)
  • Tank McNamara, on the other hand, is almost worth a laugh, which has never happened before. 

(9) AS LONG AS YOU HAVE SOME TIME ON YOUR HANDS: Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Barry Kibrick discuss the Universe from the Big Bang to Newton in a two-part special episode of Between the Lines: “Astrophysics: Part One, From the Big Bang to Newton” and “Astrophysics: Part Two, From Newton to Our Current Time”.

(10) SPIN CONTROL. “Event Horizon Telescope: Black hole produces twisting jet” – BBC has the story.

One year on from publishing the first ever image of a black hole, the team behind that historic breakthrough is back with a new picture.

This time we’re being shown the base of a colossal jet of excited gas, or plasma, screaming away from another black hole at near light-speed.

The scene was actually in the “background” of the original target.

The scientists who operate the Event Horizon Telescope describe the jet in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

They say their studies of the region of space known as 3C 279 will help them better understand the physics that drives behaviour in the vicinity of black holes.

(11) TIGER, TIGER. Details on the sick tigers: NPR asks “A Tiger Has Coronavirus. Should You Worry About Your Pets?”

Nadia is a four-year-old Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo. Last week, she started exhibiting one of the key symptoms of the novel coronavirus: a dry cough.

And it wasn’t just Nadia — her sister Azul, two Amur tigers, and three African lions were all experiencing the same thing. So the zoo got permission from local and state health departments and animal health authorities, and took a sample from Nadia to be tested for the SARS-CoV-2. The sample was analyzed at the University of Illinois and Cornell University, and the presumptive positive finding confirmed at a U.S. Department of Agriculture lab in Iowa.

That positive makes Nadia the first known infection case of an animal in the U.S., the CDC says.

That result raises a number of questions about the virus, and how it could affect the animals we spend time with. We’ll tackle those questions here.

How do you test a tiger for coronavirus?

The test involved an oral swab, a nasal swab, and procedure called a tracheal wash, which allows for sampling of the animal’s airways….

How did the tiger get tested when a lot of people still can’t?

The sample from Nadia was tested at veterinary diagnostic labs that aren’t approved to analyze human tests. The testing of the tiger “did not take a test or resources from human health efforts,” the zoo said.

Nadia and the other tigers and lions are doing well and improving, the zoo says, though some have a decrease in appetite.

(12) VIDEOS OF THE DAY. “2 Lizards:  Episode 3, 2020” completes a three-part series of short videos on Vimeo in which Oriem Barki and Meriem Bennani show that even lizards get antsy if they stay inside and watch coronavirus coverage on their laptops.

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

2020 Prometheus Award Best Novel Finalists

The Libertarian Futurist Society has announced the finalists for the Best Novel category of the 2020 Prometheus Awards.

The 2020 Prometheus Awards will be presented at Columbus NASFiC 2000 (the North American Science Fiction Convention) to be held Augus 20-23 in Columbus, Ohio, pandemic permitting. The Best Novel winner will receive a plaque with a one-ounce gold coin. 

Here are the five Best Novel finalists, listed in alphabetical order by author:

  • The Testaments, by Margaret Atwood (Random House: Nan A. Talese):

In this long-awaited sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale (a 1987 Prometheus Award finalist), oppressed women and others struggle valiantly for freedom. Some face mortal risks undermining the Gilead dictatorship, struggling with thorny moral complexities and working within the halls of power while taking covert steps to subvert tyranny. Poignantly and with sly humor, Atwood weaves three narrative threads exploring enduring questions about liberty, power, responsibility, and resistance. An “Underground Femaleroad” network (much like 19th-century libertarian Abolitionists) smuggles women into Canada while intelligence provided to the wider world’s free press promotes re-establishment of a free United States. Atwood references the “eternal verities” about “life, liberty, democracy, and the rights of the individual” that remain at the heart of libertarian ideals.

  • Alliance Rising, by C.J. Cherryh and Jane S. Fancher (DAW)

Set in Cherryh’s Alliance-Rising Universe (before her novel Downbelow Station),this interstellar saga of technological upheaval, intrigue and romance explores the early days of the Merchanter Alliance. Independent spaceship families ally during complex, multisided political-economic rivalries to defend established rights and promote the common good through free trade. In one of the better fictional treatments of a complex economy, characters maneuver to prevent statist regimes from dominating space lanes, resist Earth’s centralized governance, and investigate the mysterious purpose of a ship, The Rights of Man, undergoing construction on an isolated space station. Classic libertarian themes emerge about what rights are and where they come from (often to resolve conflicts), and how commerce and property rights promote peace and prosperity as humanity spreads among the stars.

  • Ruin’s Wake, by Patrick Edwards (Titan Books)

This dystopian debut novel, set within a totalitarian world that emerged from catastrophe 500 years ago, weaves narrative threads from different sympathetic characters fighting for identity, love, and revenge amid repression. A young woman finds hope in an illicit love affair with a subversive rebel while trapped in an abusive marriage with a government official. An exiled old soldier searches desperately for his dying son, and a female scientist-archeologist discovers a mysterious technology that exposes the vulnerability of her world. A dictatorial government threatens their pursuit of happiness, knowledge, and family in a world recovering from ruin. This state has erased history and individual identity – a plausible scenario modeled by the author to evoke parallels to Stalinist Russia and today’s communist North Korea.

  • Luna: Moon Rising, by Ian McDonald (TOR Books)

In the sequel to the Prometheus-nominated novels Luna: New Moon and Luna: Wolf Moon, McDonald dramatizes the struggle for independence and sovereignty as feuding lunar factions unite against a threat from Earth. The trilogy’s thrilling finale builds on McDonald’s intricate future of moon colonization, buoyed by somewhat free markets marred by violence, corporate espionage, and political marriages as the Five Dragons family dynasties control the main lunar industrial companies. Characters empowered by personal freedom and individual/social achievement in a society where contracts with others define people. Rendering a more positive view of a free society than earlier novels, McDonald offers justifications for freedom and markets while showing more negative aspects of politics and human behavior dealt with by people addressing inevitable problems in more voluntary ways.

  • Ode to Defiance, by Marc Stiegler (LMBPN Publishing)

The forces of enlightenment, science, liberty, and truth battle factions of statism, bureaucracy, ignorance, superstition, and deception in this lighthearted, explicitly libertarian and occasionally satirical sci-fi/adventure novel, set in Stiegler’s BrainTrust Universe. To escape a United States impoverished by socialist bureaucracy, people live and work on innovative technology on a BrainTrust fleet of independent seastead ships. The story explores how a libertarian society can work and engage with rivals without violence and, ultimately, in peaceful co-existence (though some opponents receive the sharp end of the BrainTrust’s characteristically pointed violence.) This world-encompassing sequel to Stiegler’s Prometheus-nominated Crescendo of Fire and Rhapsody for the Tempest explores bio-engineered diseases and biological warfare – especially timely during the ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic.

All LFS members have the right to nominate eligible works for the Prometheus Awards. LFS members also nominated these 2019 works for this year’s Best Novel category: They Will Drown in Their Mother’s Tears, by Johannes Anyuru (Two Lines Press); Monster Hunter Guardian, by Larry Correia and Sarah H. Hoyt (Baen Books); The Good Luck Girls, by Charlotte Nicole Davis  (TOR Teen); Empire of Lies, by Raymond Khoury (Forge Books/TOR); The Year of Jublio!, by Joseph T. Major (Amazon); Atlas Alone, by Emma Newman (ACE Books/Penguin Group); and Stealing Worlds, by Karl Schroeder (TOR Books).

The Prometheus Awards, sponsored by the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), was established and first presented in 1979, making it one of the most enduring awards after the Nebula and Hugo awards, and one of the oldest fan-based awards currently in sf.

A 12-person judging committee selects the Prometheus Award finalists for Best Novel. Following the selection of finalists, all LFS upper-level members (Benefactors, Sponsors, and Full members) have the right to read and vote on the Best Novel finalist slate to choose the annual winner.

The LFS says these are the kinds of work recognized by the Prometheus Award –

For close to four decades, the Prometheus Awards have recognized outstanding works of science fiction and fantasy that dramatize the perennial conflict between Liberty and Power, favor cooperation over coercion, expose the abuses and excesses of coercive government, critique or satirize authoritarian ideas, or champion individual rights and freedoms as the mutually respectful foundation for peace, prosperity, progress, justice, tolerance, mutual respect and civilization itself.

For a full list of past Prometheus Award winners in all categories, visit www.lfs.org.

Pixel Scroll 12/7/19 Why Do Belters Wear Red Suspenders?

(1) F&SF COVER REVEAL. The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction’s Jan/Feb 2020 cover art is by Max Bertolini.

(2) RECOMMENDATIONS. Andrew Liptak shares his list of “10 new science fiction and fantasy books to check out this December” at Polygon. Following his first choice, Gideon the Ninth

…The second is Cixin Liu’s Supernova Era. Liu is best-known for the epic novels The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Death’s End, which put Chinese science fiction on the map for US readers. This novel, which sees Earth’s adult population wiped out after radiation from a supernova passes by, is about the young survivors as they work to rebuild human civilization once again. Like Liu’s other novels, it’s an ambitious, fun read that reminds me quite a bit of science fiction’s classic eras.

(3) A FELINE UNIVERSE. All you students of worldbuilding probably already know this: “An Attempt to Answer All Your Questions About the Plot and Universe of Cats at Vulture.

What the hell does “Jellicle” mean?
According to T.S. Eliot’s widow Valerie Eliot (at least as described in Lloyd Webber’s memoir), the word comes out of T.S.’s private joke about how the British upper class slurred the words “dear little cats” together to somehow make a sound like “Jellicle.” Eliot also wrote about “Pollicle Dogs,” based off the phrase “poor little dogs.” There’s a poem, “The Aweful Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles” that gets ported into Cats, where the cats all dress up as dogs and make fun of them. This is frankly anti-dog, but what did you expect in Cats?

(4) NEW TESTAMENTS. “In the 2010s, The Handmaid’s Tale Arrived Margaret Atwood on whether anything shocks her anymore.”The Vulture’s Molly Young interview with Atwood includes this passage about fan tributes.

What, if anything, did you make of that?
My readers deal with those things. They notice them before I do. I expect that Kylie Jenner heard from some of them along the lines of “We appreciate the thought, but you kind of missed it.” There were some themed tequila. People often do this in a very well-meaning way; they’re not trying to be unpleasant. It has been the occasion when I’ve been speaking somewhere and I will be greeted with Handmaid’s Tale cupcakes because the person doing the catering is such a fan. Will I turn up my nose at such cupcakes? No, I will not. I will not do that.

Will you eat the cupcake?
That depends on my relationship to sugar at the moment. If I were in a sugar-eating moment, I would certainly eat the cupcake. I have a collection of artifacts: I have LEGO handmaids and commanders made by the children of one of the publicists in London. I’ve got some knitted chickens from a pro-choice outfit in Texas that knits chickens for charity. She made me some themed knitted chickens. First one is called “the Henmaid’s Tale.” It has an outfit. I have a piece of honey-point embroidery done before the embroiderer had read The Testaments or even knew about it. It says F*CK AUNT LYDIA So there are these things that appear, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s people playing in the sandbox. I’m happy to have people playing in the sandbox, although sometimes they get a little off, but that is to be expected. There are people right now writing military histories of Gilead, and I look forward to reading them because I’m not going to do that.

(5) NEW VANDERMEER. Arkady Martine for NPR concludes that “Clarity Isn’t The Point In Confusing, Absorbing ‘Dead Astronauts'”.

Jeff Vandermeer’s latest novel, Dead Astronauts, is a kaleidoscopic and fractured mosaic: In a long-changed, post-climate-apocalypse world, a trio of saboteurs — or escapees — or simply survivors — attempt over and over again to dismantle the work of the Company, an entity which may have once been a biotech corporation but now churns out broken and altered-beyond-recognition monstrosities in an endless stream. The three — who are the closest the reader gets to protagonists in the first half of the book — are only nominally human, and only nominally astronauts. Like nearly everything else Vandermeer has created in Dead Astronauts, they are allegories, figments, fables for a dissolving world where narrative and language are as subject to corruption as modified flesh.

Their leader is Grayson, an astronaut returned to Earth who can see futures and truths out of her blinded eye. With her are Chen, who sees the world in equations and probabilities, constantly on the verge of ego-dissolution into mathematics and emotional trauma; a man who might once have been a salamander, or many salamanders, but who definitely once worked intimately for the Company — and Moss, whom Grayson loves. Moss is sometimes a woman, sometimes a person — when she wants to be, for Grayson — and always a sentient moss, splittable into many selves, charged with (or choosing) to use herself to reseed the broken world with viable life.

(6) STARGIRL TEASER TRAILER.  “The staff chose me, and I choose you.”

Stargirl premieres Spring 2020 on DC Universe and The CW. Stargirl follows high school sophomore Courtney Whitmore (Brec Bassinger), who inspires an unlikely group of young heroes to stop the villains of the past. The project reimagines Stargirl and the very first superhero team, the Justice Society of America, in a fun, exciting and unpredictable series

(7) STAY FROSTY. BBC’s Sounds devotes a segment of CrowdSicence to the question: “Could humans hibernate during interstellar travel?”

Science fiction is full of people settling on distant planets. But even the closest stars would take millennia to reach with current speeds of travel, by the time any passengers reached an extra solar planet, they would be long dead. 

So CrowdScience listener Balaji asked us to find out whether humans could hibernate for interstellar travel?

To uncover the science fact behind this idea, Anand Jagatia holds a tiny hibernating dormouse at the Wildwood Trust in Kent, and meets Dr Samuel Tisherman who puts his patients into suspended animation for a couple of hours, to save their lives after traumatic injuries that cause cardiac arrest. We ask if Dr Tisherman’s research could be extended to put healthy individuals to sleep for much longer periods of time? 

It’s a question that neuroscientist, Professor Kelly Drew is studying, in Alaska Fairbanks. She uses Ground Squirrels as a model to understand internal thermostats, and how hibernating mammals manage to reduce their core temperatures to -3 degrees Celsius. 

Anand speculates wildly with science fiction authors Adrian Tchaikovsky and Temi Oh whose characters in their books ‘Children of Time’ and ‘Do You Dream of Terra Two?’ traverse enormous distances between habitable planets. 

But is human stasis something that would actually be useful? John Bradford is the director of SpaceWorks, this company works with NASA to try to investigate human hibernation for space travel. He’s trying to make space-based human hibernation a reality, and it seems that may be closer than you’d think. 

(8) DALEKS! Galactic Journey’s Jessica Holmes keeps her TV tuned to vintage Doctor Who — [December 7, 1964] Panic On The Streets Of London (Doctor Who: THE DALEK INVASION OF EARTH).

…Cue the montage! Daleks in Trafalgar Square! Daleks at the Albert Memorial! This is what location shooting is for. I don’t care if the rest of the series takes place in my shed, it’s worth it to see a Dalek surrounded by pigeons, further proving that Daleks are not the masters of Earth, because pigeons bow to no man, or alien pepperpot….

(9) FUTURE WHO. Meanwhile, in 2020…. Or it will be when this airs: “‘Doctor Who’ To Return With Biggest Episode Ever As Showrunner Chris Chibnall Shakes Up Sci-Fi Show”Deadline has the story.

Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall… told Deadline that Jodie Whittaker’s Tardis-travelling time lord will be thrown into action in a “movie-like” two-part curtain-raiser called Spyfall, which will premiere on BBC One and BBC America on January 1, 2020.

“Episode one is probably the biggest episode of Doctor Who we’ve done, or has been done, I would imagine. Physically, there’s a lot of stunts, there’s a lot of locations, it’s a globe-trotting action thriller,” he said. “But you don’t want to lose sight of character and intimacy and emotion. You can’t do everything at 11.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 7, 1979 Star Trek: The Motion Picture premiered. Starring all of the expected suspects plus the now departed Indian model and actress Persis Khambatta, the film did very well but not well enough to not stop the studio from stripping Roddenberry of creative control of all things Trek. Reviewers and critics alike give it a 42% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
  • December 7, 1984 2019: After The Fall of New York premiered. This Italian film was directed by Sergio Martino in both the English and Italian versions. The film starred Michael Sopkiw and Anna Kanakis, and George Eastman. Wiki says it was influenced by Escape from New York. One critic noted that “Graphic scenes of rape and murder await the viewer, as well as rats, midgets, and subway-riding revolutionaries.” Despite that, or because of it, it has a decent 59% rating among viewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • December 7, 1984 2010: The Year We Make Contact premiered. Written, produced, shot and directed by Peter Hyams. It’s based off Clarke’s 2010: Odyssey Two, the sequel to the film. It starred Roy Scheider as Heywood Floyd, John Lithgow as Walter Curnow and Helen Mirren as Tanya Kirbuk. It would outgross both Dune and Starman who opened roughly when it did. And yes it won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at Aussiecon Two beating out The Last StarfighterDuneGhostbusters and The Search for Spock.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 7, 1915 Eli Wallach. I‘ve a fondness for anyone who appeared on the Sixties Batman series. He played Mr. Freeze in a two part story, the third actor to do as both George Sanders and Otto Preminger had done so in previous two part stories. He also had one-offs in Worlds Beyond, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Veritas: The Quest and Tales of the Unexpected. (Died 2014.)
  • Born December 7, 1923 Johnny Duncan. Was the Sixties Batman the first Batman series? You know better. Johnny here was Robin on Batman And Robin (1949) for Columbia Pictures Corporation. It ran for fifteen episodes with roughly fifteen or so minutes apiece. Robert Lowery was Wayne / Batman. He has only one other genre appearance, an uncredited one in Plan 9 from Outer Space as Second Stretcher Bearer. (Died 2016.)
  • Born December 7, 1915 Leigh Brackett. Surely her scripts for The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye are genre adjacent? Why not? Ok, then her very pulpy Sea-Kings of Mars is? Being rhetorical there. And I love her Eric John Stark stories! (Much of these were written with her husband Edmond Hamilton.) And yes, she completed her draft of The Empire Strikes Back just before she died. (Died 1978.)
  • Born December 7, 1945 W.D. Richter, 74. As a screenwriter, he’s given us Invasion of The Body Snatchers, Dracula, and one of my most loved films, Big Trouble In Little China.  As a director, he gave us Buckaroo Banzai Across The 8th Dimension, another of my most loved films. He’s not getting love for the reboot of Big Trouble In Little China with Dwayne Johnson that he’s apparently involved with. Grrrr!
  • Born December 7, 1947 Wendy Padbury, 72. She’s Zoe Heriot, a Companion to the Second Doctor. She first appears in “The Wheel in Space” where she is the librarian on board the Wheel.  Big Finish has made use of her character rather well. Her only genre film was Cathy Vespers in The Blood on Satan’s Claw (not to my to-be-viewed list), and she was regular cast member Sue Wheeler in the Freewheelers series which at least genre adjacent. Think Avengers only younger. 
  • Born December 7, 1949 Tom Waits, 70. He’s got uncredited (but obviously known) roles in Wolfen and The Fisher King. He is in Bram Stoker’s Dracula as R.M. Renfield, and he shows up in Mystery Men as Doc Heller and in Mr.Nick in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. He’s simply Engineer in The Book of Eli
  • Born December 7, 1959 William John King, 60. Author who works exclusively in the Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 Universes. Now I’ve not read in that universe, but I discovered recently, well in the last few months I think, that Games Workshop actually has some forty shops around the US where you can buy their miniatures, get them painted and just hang out. They also sell some fiction, both hardcopy and audiobooks, all Warhammer of course. Neat?

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bliss shows there’s no end of things alien visitors must keep in mind.
  • Frank and Ernest think that, a synonym for wimpy, “snowflakes” is an illogical choice.

(13) THE ORIGINALS. Profiles in History will hold an auction of rare original comicbook art on December 12, “Comic & Illustration Art the Property of a Distinguished American Collector”. The entire catalogue is viewable online, or as a download.

(14) BIG BROTHER WASN’T WATCHING? Daring Fireball carries the phone maker’s response to news linked in yesterday’s Scroll: “Ultra Wideband Technology: Apple’s Explanation for Why Newer iPhones Appear to Collect Location Data, Even When Location Services Are Disabled”

…Nick Heer:

“This makes complete sense to me and appears to be nothing more than a mistake in not providing a toggle specifically for UWB. It seems that a risk of marketing a company as uniquely privacy-friendly is that any slip-up is magnified a hundredfold and treated as evidence that every tech company is basically the same.”

It is totally fair to hold Apple to a higher standard on privacy than other companies. But Heer is exactly right: when they do make a mistake, it’s going to be magnified. The mistake here wasn’t that location data was leaked?—?including to Apple’s own servers, apparently. The mistake was not making it clear in Settings that UWB requires location data for regulatory compliance. Most people don’t even know what UWB is at this point.

(15) SOME RANDO. Tor.com’s Andrew Liptak in “Ryan Reynolds Discovers He’s an NPC in the First Trailer for Free Guy explains it more clearly than the studio’s synopsis, so let’s go with Liptak. He begins —

Non-player characters (NPCs) are a staple of video games: the anonymous members of a crowd that make up the background of the story you’re playing. At São Paulo’s Comic Con Experience (CCXP) today, 20th Century Fox unveiled a first look at Free Guy, about such a character who realizes that the world he inhabits isn’t what it seems.

(16) LOVE AMONG THE PENGUINS. I was never allowed to see Bruce Pelz’ chart of the romantic entanglements of LASFS members, but I bet it looked something like this… “Japan’s aquarium penguins lead complicated lives of feuding, love — and incest”. CNN has the complete chart posted here.  

…Such is the intrigue surrounding the sex lives of these black and white birds that, for the second year running, Kyoto Aquarium and Tokyo’s Sumida Aquarium, have released a chart detailing the tangled love lines among them.

…Rozu (or Rose) was a pick-up artist and a penguinizer before meeting Warabi, formerly the most popular penguin in the aquarium.

After falling in love, the two are now in an exclusive relationship and “can’t bear to leave each other’s side for more than one second.”

Then there’s inter-species love.

The two Penguin Relationship Charts also reveal how the aquariums’ caretakers are unwittingly pulled into the penguins’ affairs of the heart.

Caretaker Nagaoka’s friendship with penguin Hanabi has made Hanabi’s wife Ichigo jealous, turning Nagaoka and Ichigo into enemies.

Chiyouchin is said to have “neverending love” for his caretaker Oshiro.

Caretaker Tanaka wants to befriend Kiriko, but Kiriko blows hot and cold — sometimes sulking with Tanaka for as long as 20 minutes.

(17) CONSENTACLE. “Consentacle is a board game about having consensual alien sex in space “ – let SYFY Wire’s “Fangrrls” explain:

… While we at SYFY FANGRRLS don’t often talk about board games, we thought we would make an exception for this one, because it’s about playing through a consensual female-focused alien encounter with some sexy tentacles, and if that’s not our area of expertise, I don’t know what is.

Consentacle is a co-operative board game set in space, where the whole aim is for players to communicate as best they can with a language barrier in place. One player takes on the role of a curious blue-haired human astronaut, while the other takes on the role of a sensitive and caring feminine tentacle-covered alien. Neither of your species shares a spoken language, and as such the players are not allowed to use words to communicate their plans during the game. Both players and characters establish consent, then attempt to fumble their way wordlessly through a sexy space encounter, keeping each other’s needs and wants in mind.

Different acts between the pair will produce different “satisfaction” resource tokens, and the players have to work out what each other needs, and try to anticipate their plays, for mutual resource building in tandem. Each player has their own deck of cards, which have various effects when used solo or in combos, with some cards better used one-sided or in tandem….

[Thanks to Gordon Van Gelder, John Coxonn, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, Andrew Liptak, Chip Hitchcock, Daniel Dern, Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Fire Chief Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 11/1/19 We Are The Pixels That Say “Scroll!”

(1) TWO NEW TAFF EBOOK FUNDRAISERS. David Langford says they were unable to locate the final speech, but all the rest of The Serious Scientific Talks by Bob Shaw are now available as an ebook which you can download free – though with hopes you‘ll be inspied to donate to the Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund.

The same hope comes with Rob Hansen’s latest fanhistory compilation, Challenging Moskowitz, released today:

Sam Moskowitz’s The Immortal Storm is regarded by many as the definitive history of US fandom in the 1930s, but several contemporary fans either presented alternative versions of events or took issue with the book’s selectivity (New York-centrism in particular) and partisanship. Rob Hansen has compiled and introduced this collection of relevant fanwriting by Allen Glasser, Charles D. Hornig, Damon Knight, Jack Speer, Harry Warner Jr, Donald A. Wollheim and T. Bruce Yerke.

First published as an Ansible Editions ebook for the TAFF site on 1 November 2019. The cover photograph of (from left to right) Jack Darrow, Julius Schwartz, an unknown, Donald A. Wollheim and Conrad Ruppert is from the Ted Carnell collection; actual photographer unidentified. Approximately 47,000 words.

(2) TIME AFTER TIME. In “The Superman Clause”, The Hugo Book Club Blog explores the rule in the WSFS Constitution that lets Worldcon members vote to add a year of Hugo Award eligibility. Their research has uncovered facts that are both fascinating and unexpected. For example, after listing all the works that have been granted an extension, they say:

We find it interesting that despite the high quality of these works, only the Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction was actually placed on the Hugo Ballot (and it won a well-deserved Hugo trophy for Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn)….

(3) DRAGONS IN THE BOX SCORE. George R.R. Martin shares his insights about the fate of two post-Game-of-Thrones TV projects, one approved, the other dropped, in “The Dragons Take Wing” at Not A Blog.

Ryan Condal is new to Westeros, but not to me.   I first met Ryan when he came to New Mexico to shoot a pilot for a fantasy western that was not picked up.  I visited his set and we became friendly.  Later Ryan created and served as showrunner for the SF series COLONY, and we had the honor of doing a premiere screening for the show at the Jean Cocteau.   He’s a terrific writer… and a fan of my books since well before we met.   He tells me that he discovered the series just after A STORM OF SWORDS was published, and “I’ve loved the books for 19 years.”   (He is also a huge fan of my Dunk & Egg stories.   In fact, that was the show he wanted to do initially, but I’m not prepared to bring Dunk & Egg to television until I’ve written quite a few more stories).  Working with Ryan on the development of HOUSE OF THE DRAGON has been a dream.

Martin adds:

But… let me make this perfectly clear… I am not taking on any scripts until I have finished and delivered WINDS OF WINTER.  Winter is still coming, and WINDS remains my priority, as much as I’d love to write an episodes of HOUSE.

(4) WHERE IS IT? Readers learned from the November Ansible where Nature has hidden the fiction:

When Nature acquired a ‘new look’ with its 23 October issue, the ‘Futures’ short-sf-story page vanished from both the printed magazine and the website contents list. The feature continues online but you have to know where to look for it: nature.com/futures.

Their most recent entry (October 30) is Wendy Nikel’s “When We Were Infinite” which begins:

“The faster your ships, the smaller the Universe. The smaller the Universe, the more important it is to live harmoniously.” Inva weaves her digits together, invoking a picture of beings residing tranquilly side-by-side.

(5) THE ORIGINAL UPGRADE. What’s new at Los Alamos – in 1964? Galactic Journey’s Ida Moya has the declassified scoop: “[November 1, 1964] Time (sharing) travel”.

As the Traveler said, things have really been heating up in Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (LASL). And what with President Kennedy being taken from us so traumatically last year, it has all been too much. We have been struggling with national security while mourning the loss of our leader, and also attending to a deluge of new computers that are coming into the lab. Things have calmed down a little so I am now able to share a few secrets with you again.

…I’m sure I also told you that we finally received our IBM 7090 computer. This equipment is being used for big science calculations around atomic energy, guided missile control, strategic planning (cryptanalysis, weather prediction, game theory), and jet engine design. I’m sure it is no surprise when I tell you we are using it to simulate nuclear explosions. This computer also has what they call an “upgrade,” the addition of more memory and input-output capability. The upgraded computer is called an IBM 7094.

(6) EXPLAINING THAT SUDDEN BURST OF TRAFFIC. I didn’t know there was more than one sff writer named Spinrad – meet Demetria Spinrad.

(7) WATCHERS’ DIGEST. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Entertainment Tonight: ”’For All Mankind’ Cast Describes the Apple TV Plus Drama in 10 Seconds”. ET challenged the cast of Apple TV+ streaming alternate history For All Mankind to describe the show in 10 seconds or less. The exclusive video is available on their website. 

This is one small step for your screens, but one giant leap for Apple TV+.

Apple’s streaming service officially launches today with a star-studded lineup of new shows including For All Mankind — the latest space-centric drama from Battlestar Galactica and Star Trek: The Next Generation executive producer Ronald D. Moore.

[…] ET asked Joel KinnamanShantel VanSanten, Sarah Jones and many more of For All Mankind‘s cast members to embark on a stellar mission to describe the drama in 10 seconds or less — and their answers are out of this world!

(8) ALTERNATE SPACE HISTORY. And Andrew Liptak reviews the series at Polygon: “Apple series For All Mankind isn’t thrilled by America’s role in the space race”. When the Soviets get to the Moon first —

…The landing prompts the US to reexamine the drive to get to space. Astronaut Edward Baldwin (Altered Carbon’s Joel Kinnaman) takes the news particularly hard, and calls out NASA’s administration and Werner Von Braun’s cautious approach to space travel. He gets booted from his assignment, Apollo 15, but his antics attract the attention of some ambitious politicians and administrators, who get him to testify in congress that NASA all but allowed the USSR to get there first, and that the country needs a far more aggressive approach to space.

He gets his wish — he’s reinstated on Apollo 15, and Von Braun is forced out. The move is a timely one: after a far more hair-raising Apollo 11 mission (Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin almost don’t make it off after a rough landing), the Soviets land a second time, this time with a female cosmonaut stepping out onto the surface. In response, President Richard Nixon orders that NASA begin training a team of female astronauts. When US intelligence believes that the Soviets might be planning a permanent camp on the Moon, NASA makes a lunar base a top priority.

Other plot threads feel embedded for future episodes or seasons (Moore and his writers have apparently plotted out seven).

(9) THE GAME GOES ON. The final trailer for Jumanji: The Next Level has dropped – the movie comes to theaters December 13.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 1, 1974 Phantom Of The Paradise premiered.  Written and directed by Brian De Palma,  and scored by and starring Paul Williams. It’s a very loose bastardisation of The Phantom of the Opera, The Picture of Dorian Gray and Faust. Remarkably it rates 84%% among viewers at Rotten Tomatoes and 92% among critics. 
  • November 1, 2000 — The SciFi series Starhunter premiered with its first episode, “The Divinity Cluster”. Starring Michael Paré, Tanya Allen and Claudette Roche, it would last just two seasons and be called Starhunter 2300 in the second season. Peter Gabriel Did the music for the second season opening credits. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 1, 1882 Edward Van Sloan. He’s best remembered for his roles in three Thirties Universal Studios films of Dracula, Frankenstein  and The Mummy. He was Abraham Van Helsing in the Dracula, a role he’d done in touring production of Dracula by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston. He would be in a number of other horror films though none remembered as well as these. (Died 1964.)
  • Born November 1, 1897 Naomi Mary Margaret Mitchison, Baroness Mitchison, CBE (née Haldane). Author of many historical novels with genre trappings such as The Corn King and the Spring Queen and The Bull Calves but also new wave SF such as Memoirs of a Spacewoman.
  • Born November 1, 1917 Zenna Henderson. Her first story was published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1951.  The People series appeared in magazines and anthologies, as well as the stitched-together Pilgrimage: The Book of the People and The People: No Different Flesh. Other volumes include The People Collection and Ingathering: The Complete People Stories. She was nominated for a Hugo Award in 1959 for her novelette “Captivity.” Her story “Pottage” was made into the 1972 ABC-TV movie, The People.  “Hush” became an episode of George A. Romero’s Tales from the Darkside which first aired in 1988. (Died 1983.)
  • Born November 1, 1923 Gordon R. Dickson. Truly one of the best writers of both Science Fiction and Fantasy. I won’t even begin to go into his stellar career in any detail as that would require a skald to do so. His first published speculative fiction was the short story “Trespass!”, written with with Poul Anderson, in the Spring 1950 issue of Fantastic Stories which was the first issue of Fantastic Story Magazine as it came to be titled. Childe Cycle involving the Dorsai is his best-known series and the Hoka are certainly his silliest creation. I’m very, very fond of his Dragon Knight series which I think reflects his interest in that history. (Died 2001.)
  • Born November 1, 1941 Robert Foxworth, 78. He’s been on quite a number of genre shows including The Questor Tapes,seaQuest DSV, Deep Space Nine, Outer Limits, Enterprise, Stargate SG-1 and Babylon 5. His first genre role was as Dr. Victor Frankenstein in Frankenstein where Bo Swenson played the monster.
  • Born November 1, 1942 Michael Fleisher. Comics writer best known for his DC Comics work of in the Seventies and Eighties on Spectre and Jonah Hex. He also has had long runs on Ghost Rider and Spider-Woman early which pulling it them on the Marvel Unlimited app shows that he is a rather good writer. (Died 2018.)
  • Born November 1, 1958 Rachel Ticotin, 61. Melina in Total Recall. (Anyone see the remake?) She voiced Capt. Maria Chavez in the most excellent animated Gargoyles series. She hasn’t done a lot of acting but she was Charbonnet / Lilian in “Staited in Horror”, a Tales from The Crypt episode, and Theodora ‘Teddi’ Madden in “Mona Lisa”, an Outer Limits episode.
  • Born November 1, 1959 Susanna Clarke, 60. Author of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell which I think wins my award for the most-footnoted work in genre literature. It won the World Fantasy, Nebula, Locus, Mythopoeic and Hugo Awards for Best Novel. It was adapted into a BBC series and optioned for a film. The Ladies of Grace Adieu and Other Stories collects her short works and is splendid indeed.
  • Born November 1, 1973 Aishwarya Rai, 46. Indian actress who’s done two SF films in India, the Tamil language Enthiran (translates as Robot) in which she’s Sana, the protagonist’s medical student girlfriend, and Mala in Action Replayy, a Hindi-language SF romantic comedy. She was also Sonia in The Pink Panther 2.
  • Born November 1, 1984 Natalia Tena, 35. She played Nymphadora Tonks in the Harry Potter film franchise, and was the wildling Osha in Game of Thrones. She was also Lana Pierce on the YouTube SF series Origin which lasted one season. And, to my amazement, she was Fevvers in the stage adaptation of Angela Carter’s Nights at the Circus which took place at the Kneehigh Theatre. 

(12) ATWOOD NOW A COMPANION. But not the Doctor’s – the Queen’s. Shelf Awareness reports a royal honor for Margaret Atwood:

On Friday, Queen Elizabeth named Margaret Atwood a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour for her services to literature, the CBC reported, adding that Atwood told British media she felt “a bit emotional” in the presence of the Queen while accepting the prestigious accolade during an investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle. The Royal Family’s Twitter account noted the event: “.@MargaretAtwood was made a Companion of Honour by Her Majesty for Services to Literature. #Investiture.”

“When you see the Queen at her age and her schedule that she puts out, it’s an inspiration to everybody, you just keep going,” Atwood said after the ceremony.

Founded by King George V in 1917, the Companion of Honour is an award for those who have made a major contribution to the arts, science, medicine, or government over a long period.

(13) CRADLE OF GOLDEN AGE SF. In “Heinlein and Butler Revisited”, Steve Fahnestalk tells Amazing Stories readers about the time he visited Heinlein’s Missouri home town.

…Knowing that I would be driving to Missouri that summer, Spider [Robinson] asked me if I would be going anywhere near Butler and, if so, could I take some photos of the Heinlein wing of the public library. For reasons of my own not related to RAH, I was indeed going to Butler itself, so I said, “Sure!” and on June 15 of 2013, we drove into the almost prototypical little mid-American town. This town looks like something Ray Bradbury wrote, with a bandstand (Figure 2) on the town square across from the courthouse. I almost expected to see Mr. Dark and the Dust Witch! Or maybe even the story “You Know They Got a Hell of a Band” by Stephen King!

(14) HALLOWEEN IS OVER. And James Davis Nicoll announces he’s “So Tired of All These Gormenghast Costumes, Year After Year…” at Tor.com.

…I do know how important Tékumel and Gormenghast are to people. Tékumel was, after all, one of the earliest in-depth roleplaying game settings, the first that offered worldbuilding with the depth of J. R. R. Tolkien’s popular works without being in any way derivative. (This was important for RPG companies fearing letters from Professor Tolkien’s estate’s lawyers … who are fine people, of course! No offense intended.) Obviously, had anyone tried a Lord of the Rings knock-off that featured Hobbits renamed “Halflets” or some such thing, the game might have survived a legal challenge… However, no roleplaying game company back then had the cash to test the theory. Empire of the Petal Throne pointed the way and other companies have followed.

(15) IN THE SPIRIT. There are lots of photos to go with BBC’s article “Harry Potter: How one drag queen became 31 JK Rowling characters”.

Some people might know Jaremi Carey as drag queen Phi Phi O’Hara.

Others might recognise him as Hermione Granger, Professor McGonagall, Dobby, Sirius Black or Rubeus Hagrid from the Harry Potter movies.

That’s because he’s spent October 2019 sharing photos of his transformations into some of JK Rowling’s fantasy characters on social media.

“I’m a Harry Potter fan first off, so it wasn’t a stretch for me to do,” Jaremi tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

He’d already been performing as Helena Bonham Carter’s character, Bellatrix Lestrange, in his live shows, and the idea for something bigger and more magical came to him during a trip to the UK.

(16) KAIJU HERDER. “Godzilla’s Conscience: The Monstrous Humanism of Ishiro Honda”Criterion traces the director’s impressive career.

… Honda… would forge a unique path as Japan’s foremost director of kaiju eiga, or giant-monster movies. While the works of Kurosawa et al. were limited to art-house distribution abroad, Honda’s films played to mainstream moviegoing audiences in the U.S. and across the West, and they have subsequently become ensconced in the pop-culture pantheon. Honda’s influence is undeniable: as one of the creators of the modern disaster film, he helped set the template for countless blockbusters to follow, and a wide array of filmmakers—including John Carpenter, Martin Scorsese, Tim Burton, and Guillermo del Toro—have expressed their admiration for his work. Yet the full scale of his achievements has only recently begun to be appreciated.

But it all started with Honda’s sober-minded approach to the original Godzilla. Other directors had begged off the project, believing it was ridiculous, and that it would likely end up a laughingstock. But to Honda, this was no joke….

(17) ANSWER BACK. BBC is there when “Disney boss Bob Iger talks Star Wars, Marvel and Martin Scorsese”.

Since becoming chief executive of The Walt Disney Company in 2005, Bob Iger has masterminded the Mouse House’s growth into an entertainment empire with the takeovers of Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and 21st Century Fox….

Following the publication of his memoir, titled The Ride of a Lifetime (Disney does theme parks too), he gave his only UK interview to BBC media editor Amol Rajan.

Here are five key things he said, including why “less is more” in the Star Wars universe, why Martin Scorsese was wrong to compare Marvel films to theme parks, and why Disney didn’t go through with a deal to buy Twitter.

…The legendary Taxi Driver and Goodfellas director recently put the boot into Marvel by saying they are closer to theme parks than real films because it “isn’t the cinema of human beings trying to convey emotional, psychological experiences to another human being”.

“Ouch!” is Iger’s reply. “Martin Scorsese is a great film-maker. I admire him immensely. He’s made some great films. I would debate him on this subject. First of all, Marvel’s making movies. They’re movies. That’s what Martin Scorsese makes. And they’re good movies.”

He goes on: “I don’t think he’s ever seen a Marvel film. Anyone who’s seen a Marvel film could not in all truth make that statement.”

(18) BREAKFAST IS SERVED. Daniel Dern says, “I’m not sure I’l like this on a phone, or on a tablet, on a TV, or on a credenza…” Netflix will launch its Seussian Green Eggs & Ham series on November 8.

Heroes aren’t born, they’re poached, scrambled, and fried… Green Eggs and Ham, serving November 8, only on Netflix. The story you know is just the start. This new adventure is off the charts. Hit the road with a whole new crew. There’s Sam, Guy, and a Chickeraffe too. But how’d we turn this 50-word, Seussian spiel into a 13-episode meal? Our recipe starts “Here” and definitely goes “There.” We added a “Box” full of “Fox”, a “Boat” load of “Goat,” and a “Mouse,” on the “House.” Try it in the “Rain” on a “Train” or go far in your “Car” to find a spot to park and stream it in the “Dark.” Because, in case you were unaware, this show’s miles ahead of “Anywhere!”

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, SF Concatenaion’s Jonathan Cowie, Mlex, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jon Meltzer.]

Pixel Scroll 10/21/19 Oh, This Is The Scroll, It’s A Beautiful Scroll, And We Call It Pixela Scrollte

(1) DALLAS TORNADO. Fanartist David Thayer and his wife Diana had a close call last night but are unscathed themselves:

A tornado with winds of 165 m.p.h. cut a swath through Dallas just a mile south of our house yesterday evening after dark. A powerful gust snapped the trunk of our 70 ft mesquite halfway up and sent it crashing down into our front yard. The only property damage we sustained was to our yard light. Seeing all the destruction in the news this morning, we are thankful we came through relatively unscathed.

(2) AVENGERS ASSEMBLE. Just in case the Marvel Cinematic Universe needs any defense against the negative opinions of Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, a couple of well-known figures connected with the MCU have spoken up.

James Gunn:

Many of our grandfathers thought all gangster movies were the same, often calling them “despicable”. Some of our great grandfathers thought the same of westerns, and believed the films of John Ford, Sam Peckinpah, and Sergio Leone were all exactly the same. I remember a great uncle to whom I was raving about Star Wars. He responded by saying, “I saw that when it was called 2001, and, boy, was it boring!” Superheroes are simply today’s gangsters/cowboys/outer space adventurers. Some superhero films are awful, some are beautiful….

Natalie Portman:

I think there’s room for all types of cinema,” she told The Hollywood Reporter at the 6th annual Los Angeles Dance Project Gala on Saturday at downtown Los Angeles’ Hauser & Wirth. “There’s not one way to make art.”

“I think that Marvel films are so popular because they’re really entertaining and people desire entertainment when they have their special time after work, after dealing with their hardships in real life.”

(3) HOW EAGER ARE YOU? ESPN will be airing the final trailer for Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker tonight during Monday Night Football.

(4) NAVIGATING THE ROCKETS SAFELY HOME. In “What happened to the 1944 Retro Hugos?”, Nicholas Whyte asks fans to consider the burden of producing a whole run of trophies when it’s this hard to find homes for them after the ceremony. Of course, the job would have been a little easier if the nominees with accepters had won:

…I’m glad to say that we did have a few designated acceptors in the room on the night. Apart from those noted below, Betsy Wollheim was on hand in case her father Donald won (unfortunately he lost in all three categories where he was nominated); June and Naomi Rosenblum were there for their father-in-law/grandfather J. Michael Rosenblum; Stephanie Breijo was there for her great-grandfather Oscar J. Friend; and Harper Collins sent a rep for C.S. Lewis. So, for 66 finalists, we had acceptors on hand for 10. Future Worldcons might like to bear that in mind when planning whether or not to run Retro Hugo Awards.

This is what happened with the trophies, in increasing order of the difficulty we had in dealing with them….

(5) HOUSE CALL. Can it be that we are about to have a visit from the Doctor and his companion? (No, not that one.)

(6) TARDIGRADES LITIGATION RESUMES. Plagiarism Today’s Jonathan Bailey urges against a court appeal in “An Open Letter to Anas Abdin”

Three weeks ago, it seemed as if the Tardigrades lawsuit was over. Anas Abdin’s lawsuit was tossed decisively and at an early stage, Abdin himself said, “I respect the ruling and I expect everyone to do so,” and there seemed to be little interest in any kind of an appeal.

However, that respect for the decision did not last long. On Friday, Abdin announced that he was appealing the verdict and was launching a GoFundMe to finance the campaign. As of this writing, that campaign has raised more than $17,500 from more than 470 donors and is inching closer to its $20,000 goal….

(7) CONFACTS. Kees Van Toorn announced that all issues of ConFacts, the daily newsletter of ConFiction, the 1990 Worldcon, have been uploaded on their archival website in flipbook format.

(8) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present David Mack and Max Gladstone on November 20,  2019.

David Mack is a New York Times bestselling author of over thirty novels of science fiction, fantasy, and adventure. His most recent works are The Midnight Front and The Iron Codex, parts one and two of his Dark Arts trilogy from Tor Books. He currently works as a creative consultant on two upcoming Star Trek television series.

Max Gladstone is the author of Empress of Forever, the Hugo finalist Craft Sequence, and, with Amal El-Mohtar, This is How You Lose the Time War, in addition to his work with short and serial fiction, games, screenwriting, and comics. He has been a finalist for the Hugo, John W Campbell /Astounding, XYZZY, and Lambda Awards, and was once thrown from a horse in Mongolia.

The event starts at 7 p.m. in the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.) in New York, NY.

(9) FANFICTION. Sff writer Sara L. Uckelman, Assistant Professor of logic and philosophy of language at Durham University, issued an invitation: “Anyone interested in the paper behind the talk, my paper ‘Fanfiction, Canon, and Possible Worlds’ can be downloaded here.”

…The study of fanfiction from a philosophical point of view raises a number of questions: What is fanfiction?  What distinguishes it from ordinary fiction? How can we make sense of what is going on when people create and interact with fanfiction?  In this paper, I consider two competing accounts of fanfiction—the derivative or dependent account and the constitutive account—and argue that these competing views parallel two competing ways in which a possible worlds account of fiction can be fleshed out, namely, Lewis’s modal realist account and Kripke’s stipulative view. I further argue that this parallel is not a mere parallel, but provides us with a test of adequacy for the possible worlds accounts: It is worthless to provide a philosophical account of the theoretical foundations of fiction if such an account doesn’t coordinate with the actual practice and production of fiction. 

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 21, 1977Damnation Alley premiered. Based somewhat on Zelazny’s novel, it starred George Peppard as Major Eugene “Sam” Denton and Jan-Michael Vincent as 1st Lt. Jake Tanner. It bombed and was pulled quickly. Its Rotten Tomatoes score is 34%.  For now at least, it’s on YouTube here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 21, 1904 Edmond Hamilton. One of the prolific writers for Weird Tales from the late 20s to the late 40s, writing nearly eighty stories. (Lovecraft and Howard were the other key writers.) Sources say that through the late 1920s and early 1930s Hamilton wrote for all of the SF pulp magazines then publishing. His story “The Island of Unreason” (Wonder Stories, May 1933) won the first Jules Verne Prize as the best SF story of the year. This was the very first SF prize awarded by a vote of fans, which one source holds to be a precursor of the Hugo Awards. From the early 40s to the late 60s, he work for DC, in stories about Superman and Batman. He created the Space Ranger character with Gardner Fox and Bob Brown. On December 31, 1946, Hamilton married fellow science fiction author and screenwriter Leigh Brackett. Now there is another story as well. (Died 1977.)
  • Born October 21, 1914 Martin Gardner. He was one of leading authorities on Lewis Carroll. The Annotated Alice, which incorporated the text of Carroll’s two Alice books, is still a bestseller. He was considered the doyen (your word to learn today) of American puzzlers. And, to make him even more impressive, in 1999 Magic magazine named Gardner one of the “100 Most Influential Magicians of the Twentieth Century”.  Cool! (Died 2010.)
  • Born October 21, 1929 Ursula Le Guin. She called herself a “Narrative American”. And she most emphatically did not consider herself to be a genre writer instead preferring be known as an “American novelist”. Oh, she wrote genre fiction with quite some brilliance, be it the Earthsea sequence,  The Left Hand of DarknessThe Dispossessed, or Always Coming Home. Her upbringing as the daughter of two academics, one who was an anthropologist and the other who had a graduate degree in psychology, showed in her writing. And the home library of the family had a lot of SF in it. If you’re interested in the awards she won in her career, she garnered  the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Locus Award, and World Fantasy Award. At last she was also awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters It won’t surprise you that she was made a SFWA Grandmaster, one of the few women writers so honored. (Died 2018.)
  • Born October 21, 1933 Georgia Brown. She’s the actress who portrayed Helena Rozhenko, foster mother of Worf, in the Next Gen’s “Family” and “New Ground” episodes. She was Frau Freud in The Seven-Percent Solution, and was Rachel in “The Musgrave Ritual” episode of the Nigel Stock fronted Sherlock Holmes series. (Died 1992.)
  • Born October 21, 1945 Everett McGill, 74. Stilgar in the first Dune film. Earlier in his career, he was a Noah in Quest for Fire. Later on, he’s Ed Killifer in License to Kill, and in Twin Peaks, he’s Big Ed Hurley. He was also Rev. Lowe in Stephen King’s Silver Bullet, a werewolf flick that actually has a decent rating of 55% at Rotten Tomatoes! 
  • Born October 21, 1956 Carrie Fisher. In addition to the original Star Wars trilogy, Star Wars Holiday SpecialThe Force Awakens, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and the forthcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, she was in Amazon Women on the Moon, The Time Guardian, Hook, Scream 3, and A Midsummer Night’s Rave. (Died 2016.)
  • Born October 21, 1973 Sasha Roiz, 45. I know him only as Captain Sean Renard on Grimm but he’s also been Sam Adama on Caprica as well. And he’s also been on Warehouse 13 in the recurring role of Marcus Diamond. He even showed up once on Lucifer as U.S. Marshal Luke Reynolds.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz makes a nifty dinosaur pun.

(13) UNLIKELY BONANZA. Joseph Hurtgen studies the illustration of an economic system in a Hugo-winning novel: “Gateway – Frederik Pohl: A Critique of Capitalism”.

…Consider the name of the alien space station for which Pohl’s book gets its name: Gateway. In the same way that taking highly random and highly dangerous alien space flights is the gateway to potential wealth, the capitalist system is also the gateway to the extreme fortune of the limited few that have, through luck or pluck, benefited most from the system. But no billionaire earns their riches without exploiting populations. Behind every fortune are the underpaid, the underfed, the forgotten, and the have nothings. The capitalist system, most simply defined, is a system of using the work of others and the work of wealth itself, to gain more wealth. It doesn’t take too much mental work to see that people are a form of capital in the capitalist system. Indeed, within capitalism everything is a form of capital. The best capitalist is the individual that figures out how to make more out of what they have….

(14) MYLNE’S GENRE ART. Artist James Mylne has been in the news lately (see, for instance ITV: “Boris Johnson turns into The Joker in new artwork”) for a political commentary that leans heavily on a genre reference. Filers might, therefore, be interested to know that his work has sometimes borrowed from other genre sources also. Example below.

(15) SOLARIS ON STAGE. Those passing through London between now and November 2 can see the play Solaris (nearest tube/metro/underground is Hammersmith).

On a space station orbiting Solaris, three scientists have made contact with a new planet.

Sent from earth to investigate reports of abnormal activity on-board, Kris Kelvin arrives to find one crew member dead and two who are seeing things that cannot be explained.

When her dead lover appears to her, it seems she too has fallen victim to the mystery of this strange planet. Should she return to reality, or is this her chance to turn back time?

Have the crew been studying Solaris – or has it been studying them?

This psychological thriller asks who we are when we’re forced to confront our deepest fears.

(16) ATWOOD PROFILE. Behind a paywall in the October 12 Financial Times, Horatia Harrod has a lengthy interview with Margaret Atwood.

In Oryx and Crake, Atwood wrote about a world decimated by environmental catastrophe; her understanding of the fragility of the Earth and the rapaciousness of its human inhabitants came early.  “My father was already talking about this over the dinner table in 1955,” says Atwood, who has been committed to raising awareness of the climate crisis for decades (she promised her 2000 Booker Prize winnings to charities dedicated to endangered animals.  “There is so much data and evidence.  But people would rather adhere to a belief system that favours them. So, what view of the climate is going to make more money for me?”

Atwood’s mother, meanwhile, was a tomboy, whose favored pastimes were speedskating, horseback riding, canoeing, fishing, not doing housework.  “I can’t think of much she was afraid of. This is a mother who chased a bear away with a broom, saying the following word:  ‘Scat!’” There were other tough female role models:”Inuit women, who have done some pretty spectacular things.  My aunt Ada, who I named a character in The Testaments after, was a hunting and fishing guide, and a crack shot with a .22.”

(17) PLANETARY ANTHOLOGIES MIGRATE. Superversive Press has dropped the Planetary Anthologies line says Declan Finn, whose contribution, Luna, is awaiting publication. (Indeed, a search on Amazon showed Superversive Press books as a whole are now only available from third-party vendors.) However, Finn says another publisher is stepping up.

The Planetary Anthology series is being discontinued.

In fact, even the five anthologies that have been published already have been discontinued. They will no longer be available for sale online from the publisher.

Which is odd for me. Especially after a year where the Area 51 anthology I was in this year was conceived of, edited, and released in 3 months from call for stories to publication.

So, yeah, the original publisher isn’t doing them anymore.

Finn says “the anthologies have all been picked up again by Tuscany Bay Books,” the imprint of Richard Paolinelli whose own unpublished Planetary Anthology, Pluto, will be next to appear. Contributors to these anthologies have included Jody Lyn Nye, Dawn Witzke, Lou Antonelli, Paolinelli, L Jagi Lamplighter, Hans G. Schantz, John C. Wright, Joshua M. Young and many others.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Lego In Real Life TRILOGY” on YouTube, Brick Bros. Productions looks at what happens when common household objects turn into Legos.

[Thanks to Camestros Felapton, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (please roll him a meatball).]

Atwood, Evaristo Share
2019 Booker Prize

Margaret Atwood and Bernardine Evaristo, 2019 Booker Prize winners.

The judges of the 2019 Booker Prize for Fiction overturned the rules and awarded the prize jointly to two authors: Margaret Atwood for The Testaments and Bernardine Evaristo for Girl, Woman, Other.

The Booker Prize has been jointly awarded twice before, to Nadine Gordimer and Stanley Middleton in 1974 and to Michael Ondaatje and Barry Unsworth in 1992. In 1993, the rules were changed so that only one author could win the prize. This is the first time since then that two authors have been announced as joint-winners. The 2019 winners will share the £50,000 prize money.

It is the second time that Atwood has won the Booker Prize, having won in 2000 with The Blind Assassin. She has been shortlisted for four further books: The Handmaid’s Tale (1986), Cat’s Eye (1989), Alias Grace (1996) and Oryx and Crake (2003). 

Bernardine Evaristo is the first black woman to be awarded the Booker Prize. She wins with Girl, Woman, Other, her eighth book of fiction, which she has written alongside essays, drama and writing for BBC radio. Evaristo drew on aspects of the African diaspora, be it past, present, real of imagined, to inform Girl, Woman, Other.

The New Statesman said of Evaristo that “if you want to understand modern day Britain, this is the writer to read”, and called Girl, Woman, Other “a story for our times.” 

Writing on the story behind her book for The Guardian, Evaristo said:

Fiction excavates and reimagines our histories; investigates, disrupts, validates and contextualises our societies and subjectivities; exercises our imaginations through flights of fancy, takes the reader on transformational adventures, and probes and presents our motivations, problems and dramas. What, then, does it mean to not see yourself reflected in your nation’s stories? This has been the ongoing debate of my professional career as a writer stretching back nearly forty years, and we black British women know, that if we don’t write ourselves into literature, no one else will.

The five judges on the Booker Prize panel were: founder and director of Hay Festival Peter Florence (Chair); former fiction publisher and editor Liz Calder; novelist, essayist and filmmaker Xiaolu Guo; writer, broadcaster and former barrister Afua Hirsch; and concert pianist, conductor and composer Joanna MacGregor.  

Gaby Wood, Literary Director of the Booker Prize Foundation, said:

Over an agonising five hours, the 2019 Booker Prize judges discussed all of the much-loved books on their shortlist, and found it impossible to single out one winner. They were not so much divided as unwilling to jettison any more when they finally got down to two, and asked if they might split the prize between them. On being told that it was definitively against the rules, the judges held a further discussion and chose to flout them. They left the judging room happy and proud, their twin winners gesturing towards the six they would have wanted, had it been possible to split the prize any further.

The Booker Prize for Fiction is open to writers of any nationality, writing in English and published in the UK or Ireland.

The Booker award winner typically enjoys a big sales boost immediately after the announcement. In the week after Milkman by Anna Burns won the prize, book purchases increased by 880% from 963 in the week prior to the announcement to 9,446 in the week following the announcement, then a further 99% (9,446 to 18,786) the following week. The total number of copies of Milkman sold, across all formats, is currently 546,500.

Atwood reads:

Evaristo reads:

Pixel Scroll 9/23/19 But That Was Very Long Ago, And Oh, So Far Away

(1) A MATTER OF RESPECT. Edmund Schluessel has returned from Fantasticon 2019, in Copenhagen, Denmark with a burden: “I attended as a Special Guest this weekend in Copenhagen. There has been discussion within the Nordic countries’ fan community about the event’s poster and some other issues of insensitivity and I discuss those here.” — “Saints and people who do not think like us (Fantasticon 2019)”.

…Nisi [Shawl] was talking about altruism. They talked about being a saint. They talked about sacrifice, even putting yourself in harm’s way to protect someone who would do harm to you. 

The Chair gave an impromptu speech just afterward. The poster was excellent, he told us all, and complaints about it all came from “people who do not think like us.”

Then started the filk sing-a-long. Only quick action by an observant program participant kept the projector screen from telling the whole banquet room that we’d be singing along to the tune of “The Darkies’ Sunday School.” That quick action did not prevent the flippant reference to rape in the lyrics. “It was like something from the ’70s,” that quick intervenor said later.

Why am I amped up to 11 about all this? At a fundamental level, fandom is about storytelling. And something I’ve seen in every single fan community I’ve interacted with, going back something like 25 years now, is that the story fandom always tells best is when it’s telling itself “we are tolerant, we are open, we accept everyone.” Too often that story is a myth.

The Afrofuturist authors whose work and ideas this convention we’re supposed to be celebrating — if we won’t listen to their message, are they “people who do not think like us”? The convention members who saw something wrong with the poster, whether or not they could clearly articulate it — are they not part of “us”? Am I not part of “us”? You put my name on the damned poster!

(2) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Where do you go for a Javanese dinner? For Lisa Tuttle and interviewer Scott Edelman the answer was: Dublin. Join them in Episode 105 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Lisa Tuttle

My guest this time around is the award-winning writer Lisa Tuttle, who I caught up with one night after she was done with a 7:30 p.m. reading, which meant that by the time we began our meal it was a later than usual dinner (for me, at least). We hopped in a cab and took off for at Chameleon, an Indonesian restaurant I’d found via Eater’s list of 38 essential Dublin restaurants. The restaurant offers set menus from various regions, including Sumatra and Bali. We decided to go with Java, but added to that some pork bell bao, and the 10-hour Javanese anise short rib of beef, a signature dish of theirs which turned out to be my favorite thing eaten all weekend.

Lisa and I both had wonderful experiences 45 years ago at the 1974 Worldcon in Washington, D.C., me because it was my first Worldcon, she because of winning the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. She’s accomplished a lot in the 4-1/2 decades since, including being awarded the 1982 Nebula for Best Short Story for “The Bone Flute.” She’s published seven short story collections, starting with A Nest of Nightmares in 1986 and most recently Objects in Dream in 2012, plus more than a dozen novels, the first of which was Windhaven (1981), written in collaboration with George R. R. Martin, who was my guest back in Episode 43. She was nominated for an Arthur C. Clarke award for her novel Lost Futures. She edited the pivotal anthology Skin of the Soul: New Horror Stories by Women (1990) as well as Crossing the Border: Tales of Erotic Ambiguity (1998).

We discussed the amusing series of mishaps which prevented her from learning she’d won the 1974 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best New Writer as early as she should have, the first thing Harlan Ellison ever said to her, how the all-male table of contents for a major horror anthology inspired her to edit her classic female horror anthology Skin of the Soul, the way emigrating from the U.S. to the UK affected her writing, why an editor said of one of her submitted novels, “I love this book, but I could no more publish it than I could jump out the window and fly,” how she and George R. R. Martin were able to collaborate early in their careers without killing each other, what she’d do if she were just starting out now as a writer, the reasons contemporary acknowledgements sections of novels should be shortened — and so much more.

(3) SPEED IS OF THE ESSENCE. He likes to get paid, too — “Chuck Yeager sues Airbus for writing ‘Yeager broke the sound barrier’” at Ars Technica.

In 2017, Airbus published a promotional article promoting an Airbus helicopter.

“Seventy years ago, Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier,” said Guillaume Faury, CEO of Airbus Helicopters. “We’re trying to break the cost barrier. It cannot be ‘speed at any cost.'”

The 96-year-old Yeager wasn’t happy. Last week, he filed a lawsuit in federal court, arguing that Airbus had infringed his rights by using his name without permission.

“By using Yeager’s name, identity, and likeness and federal registered trademarks in the infringing material, Airbus impaired the ability of General Yeager to receive his established earning potential,” Yeager’s lawyers wrote.

Yeager says that he visited Airbus in 2008 and told Airbus it would cost at least $1 million to use his name and likeness in promotional materials. Airbus refused his offer.

(4) VISUAL CONREPORT. Roberto Quaglia shares some great views in his video “Glimpses of an Irish Worldcon – Dublin 2019.”

(5) HARD SF. Here’s Rocket Stack Rank’s annual “Outstanding Hard Science Fiction of 2018” with 27 stories that were that were finalists for major SF/F awards, included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction.

Included are some observations obtained from highlighting specific recommenders and pivoting the table by publication, author, awards, year’s best anthologies, and reviewers.

(6) NOT ALL TROLLS. “Neil Gaiman On The Good Kind of Trolls”  at Literary Hub is his introduction to The Complete and Original Norwegian Folk Tales of Asbjørnsen and Moe in which Gaiman discusses his love of Norway and Norwegian folklore.

You will meet youngest sons and foolish farmers, clever women and lost princesses, adventurers and fools, just as in any collection of folk stories from anywhere in Northern Europe. But the Norwegian Folktales come with trolls, and if Asbjørnsen and Moe did not see them, as Kittelsen did, then they got their stories from people who had, people who had seen the trolls walking in the mist at dawn.

(7) EMMY REMEMBRANCES. The 2019 Primetime Emmys included an Memoriam segment. Some of the names of genre interest: Jan-Michael Vincent, James Frawley, Ron Miller, Cameron Boyce, Rutger Hauer, Stan Lee, and Rip Torn.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 23, 1846 — Planet Neptune was discovered.
  • September 23, 1962 The Jetsons debuted its very first episode, “Rosey the Robot”. The series which was produced by Hanna-Barbera would run for three seasons.
  • September 23, 1968 Charly was released, starring Cliff Robertson and Claire Bloom. Based on “Flowers for Algernon” which is a sf short story and a novel by Daniel Keyes. The short story, written in 1958 and first published in the April 1959 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, won the Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 1960. The novel was published in 1966 and was joint winner of that year’s Nebula Award for Best Novel with Samuel R. Delany’s Babel-17

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 23, 1897 Walter Pidgeon. He’s mostly remembered for his role in the classic Forbidden Planet as Dr. Morbius, but he’s done some other genre work being in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as Adm. Harriman Nelson, and in The Neptune Factor as Dr. Samuel Andrews. (Died 1984.)
  • Born September 23, 1908 Wilmar House Shiras. Her story “In Hiding” was submitted in 1948 to Astounding Science Fiction, where it was published. She published two sequels in the magazine: “Opening Doors”, and “New Foundations”. The three stories would become the first three chapters in the novel, Children of the Atom. Other than a handful of short fiction, I think it’s her only work. Neither iBooks or Kindle carry anything by her. (Died 1990.)
  • Born September 23, 1920 Richard Wilson. Not a writer of much genre fiction at all. His really major contribution to fandom and to Syracuse University where he worked as the director of the Syracuse University News Bureau was in successfully recruiting the donation of papers from many prominent science fiction writers to the Syracuse University’s George Arents Research Library.  The list of those writers includes Piers Anthony, Hal Clement, Keith Laumer, Larry Niven and Frederik Pohl. And, of course, himself. It has been called the “most important collection of science fiction manuscripts and papers in the world.” (Died 1987.)
  • Born September 23, 1944 Anne Randall, 75. She was Daphne, a servant girl in the original Westworld which if memory serves me correctly also had Yul Brynner in it. She’ll show also in Night Gallery  in the “Tell David” episode as Julie. 
  • Born September 23, 1956 Peter David, 63. Did you know that his first assignment for the Philadelphia Bulletin was covering Discon II? I’m reasonably sure the first thing I read by him was Legions of Fire, Book 1—The Long Night of Centauri Prime but he’s also done a number of comics I’ve read including runs of Captain Marvel , Wolverine and Young Justice.
  • Born September 23, 1959 Frank Cottrell-Boyce, 60. Definitely not here for his sequels to Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. (Horrors!) He is here for such writing endeavors as Goodbye Christopher Robin, his Doctor Who stories, “In the Forest of the Night” and “Smile”, both Twelfth Doctor affairs, and the animated Captain Star series in which he voiced Captain Jim Star. The series sounds like the absolute antithesis of classic Trek
  • Born September 23, 1963 Alexander Proyas, 56. Australian director, screenwriter, and producer. He’s best known for directing The Crow (which is superb), Dark City, I, Robot  (nor so superb) and Gods of Egypt. His first, shot in Australia of course, was Spirits of the Air, Gremlins of the Clouds. It’s genre. Has anyone seen it? 
  • Born September 23, 1957 Rosalind Chao, 61. She was the recurring character of Keiko O’Brien with a total of twenty-seven appearances on Next Generation and  Deep Space Nine. In 2010, a preliminary casting memo for Next Gen from 1987 was published, revealing that Chao was originally considered for the part of Enterprise security chief Tasha Yar.

(10) BURNING COLD. The second official trailer for Frozen 2 dropped today.

(11) FLASH GORDON. Film School Rejects thinks this movie has lessons to teach today’s creators despite its reputation: “What Today’s Sci-Fi Should Learn from ‘Flash Gordon'”.

Take, for example, the 2017 flop Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Luc Besson’s film, which is itself based on comics originating in the 1960s, spends way too much time explaining stuff that never becomes relevant. The eponymous City of a Thousand Planets is a space station broken down into multiple districts, as the exposition explains, but the action of the film barely takes place in any of them.

Flash Gordon, meanwhile, understands that drama is built between characters and then focuses on them. Everyone in the movie, from Flash to Ming to Flash’s larger-than-life ally Prince Vultan, has their own distinct wants, and the story emerges from these characters interacting and trying to reconcile these wants. This movie gets at the humanity behind these characters, even if they happen to be aliens

(12) ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY. Pursuing a thought experiment inspired by a list of 21st Century books, Peace Is My Middle Name started a hypothetical list of “100 best books of the Twentieth Century” as if it had been compiled in 1919. Their titles are in a comment and ought to have been mentioned yesterday, except the comment landed in the spam and wasn’t spotted for hours. Well worth your time.

(13) FOR YOUR EARS. Several episodes of a reading of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments are available for listening at the BBC.

In this brilliant and long-awaited sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood answers the questions that have tantalised readers for decades. In The Testaments, set fifteen years after the events of her dystopian masterpiece, the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. Now the testimonies of three different women bring the story to a dramatic conclusion. Today we hear from the infamous Aunt Lydia, and Agnes, a young girl who has only known life in Gilead.

(14) NOT ARISTOTLE. “Euclid space telescope to study ‘dark Universe’ makes progress” – BBC has the story.

Europe’s space mission to uncover the secrets of the “dark Universe” has reached a key milestone.

The test model of the Euclid telescope has just emerged from a chamber where it was subjected to the kind of conditions experienced in orbit.

It was a critical moment for engineers because the successful trial confirms the observatory’s design is on track.

Euclid, due for launch in 2022, will map the cosmos for clues to the nature of dark matter and dark energy.

These phenomena appear to control the shape and expansion of the Universe but virtually nothing is known about them.

The €800m venture, led by the European Space Agency (Esa), will be one of a group of new experiments to come online in the next few years.

Scientists are hopeful these next-generation technologies will provide the insights that have so far eluded them.

(15) ATARI 2600. BBC fathoms “The mysterious origins of an uncrackable video game”.

With the digital equivalent of trowels and shovels, archaeologists are digging into the code of early video games to uncover long forgotten secrets that could have relevance today.

“You and your team of archaeologists have fallen into the ‘catacombs of the zombies’.” A miserable situation, to be sure. But this was the chilling trial that faced players of Entombed, an Atari 2600 game, according to the instruction manual.

The catacombs were an unforgiving place. A downward-scrolling, two-dimensional maze that players had to navigate expertly in order to evade the “clammy, deadly grip” of their zombie foes. An archaeologist’s nightmare.

Released in 1982, Entombed was far from a best-seller and today it’s largely forgotten. But recently, a computer scientist and a digital archaeologist decided to pull apart the game’s source code to investigate how it was made.

…Like intrepid explorers of catacombs, Aycock and Copplestone sought curious relics inside Entombed. But they got more than they bargained for: they found a mystery bit of code they couldn’t explain. It seems the logic behind it has been lost forever.

Into the labyrinth

Maze-navigating games were very common back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but the method used to generate a maze varied, depending on the programmer. In the age of Atari, games had to be designed with incredible skill because the computer systems that ran them were so limited. (Read more about the mind of a maze-builder.)

Although the blocky, two dimensional mazes from entombed might look simple by the standards of today’s computer graphics, in 1982 you couldn’t just design a set of mazes, store them in the game and later display them on-screen – there wasn’t enough memory on the game cartridges for something like that. In many cases, mazes were generated “procedurally” – in other words, the game created them randomly on the fly, so players never actually traversed the same maze twice.

But how do you do get a computer program to avoid churning out a useless maze with too many walls, or an otherwise impenetrable floorplan?

(16) SNOWPIERCER BACKSTORY. On September 24, Titan Comics will release Snowpiercer The Prequel: Part 1: Extinction, a brand-new prequel graphic novel set before the extinction incident that led to the events of the original Snowpiercer graphic novel trilogy. It’s written by Matz (Triggerman, The Assignment), with art by the original Snowpiercer graphic novel artist Jean-Marc Rochette, shown in this promotional video creating an iconic scene from the book.

[Thanks to bill, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Edmund Schluessel , Eric Wong, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day OGH.]