Pixel Scroll 9/5/19 You Don’t Scroll On Pixelman’s Cape, You Don’t File In The Wind

(1) DID AMAZON CHEAT? The American Booksellers Association is on the warpath: “ABA Condemns Amazon for Breaking ‘Testaments’ Embargo”.

The fallout from Amazon violating Penguin Random House’s September 10 embargo of The Testaments by Margaret Atwood continues to roil the industry.

Late yesterday, the American Booksellers Association released a strongly worded statement condemning Amazon. The ABA disclosed that it had contacted PRH “to express our strong disappointment regarding this flagrant violation of the agreed protocol in releasing this book to the public.”

In a statement released to PW late Thursday morning, Amazon acknowledged it had unintentionally shipped some books ahead of the sale date. “Due to a technical error a small number of customers were inadvertently sent copies of Margaret Atwood’s The Testaments,” the statement said. “We apologize for this error; we value our relationship with authors, agents, and publishers, and regret the difficulties this has caused them and our fellow booksellers.”

Before the broken embargo, the ABA was already working on initiatives that would put pressure on Amazon. In an organization-wide newsletter the ABA sent last week, ABA president Oren Teicher said the group is continuing its ongoing discussions with officials at the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission about looking into whether Amazon is violating antitrust laws. (ABA executives were in Washington, D.C., yesterday, when the news broke about Amazon’s violation of the PRH embargo.)

…The Golden Notebook bookstore in Woodstock, NY, created a digital postcard that it posted on its website and on social media with the heading, “Loyal Customers and Supporters of Independent Bookstores: A Request.” In it, the store said Amazon had shipped pre-orders of The Testaments to customers a week early, in clear violation of the “legally binding” embargo that all retailers had to sign.

The store went to ask customers to “please pre-order your own copy at your local or nearby independent bookstore” or to visit a story “on Tuesday, Sept. 10, the day the book legally is on sale.” The post closed with a quote from The Handmaid’s Tale, the bestselling prequel to The Testaments: “Ignoring isn’t the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.”

(2) MEANWHILE IN VIDEOLAND. The question is — “Handmaid’s Tale: Was it right to take the series beyond the book?” Warning for those who click through — Excerpt ends at point where spoilers start.

The second series of the Handmaid’s Tale came to an end on Sunday night.

Writing in iNews, Mark Butler calls the finale “a nail-biting conclusion to the season, with a controversial twist”, but Vanity Fair’s Sonia Saraiya termed the climax “a singularly frustrating end to a season that, despite its high points, often struggled to find its purpose”.

The series went beyond Margaret Atwood’s original novel – with her blessing – but how well did the show do in extending the novel beyond its intended lifecycle and how difficult is it to go beyond the book of an acclaimed author like Atwood?

“The novel ends quite ambiguously,” says Julia Raeside, who has written The Guardian’s episode-by-episode guide to series two of The Handmaid’s Tale.

Speaking to BBC News, she adds: “It’s really interesting when someone takes up the mantle of an unfinished story. If they’ve got something to say about what happens when you repress women for so long, then it’s something I welcome.”

The second series has been criticised by some for its brutal scenes, with some viewers switching off entirely due to what’s been termed by some as “needless torture porn”.

“I think the first couple of episodes were slightly misjudged,” says Raeside, “and I wonder how much brutality Atwood really agreed with.”

(3) GREAT LINES FROM SFF. Discover Sci-Fi is running a poll: “What are the best one-liners from sci-fi books?” There are 13 choices. I’d say about half of them shouldn’t even be under consideration. And it doesn’t include one of my all-time favorites, the line that opens E.E. “Doc” Smith’s Lensman Series –

“Two thousand million or so years ago two galaxies were colliding; or, rather, were passing through each other.”

I’m writing it in. So there.

(4) GAME HUGO? The Hugo Book Club Blog, in “Game Over”, casts doubt on the qualifications and capability of Worldcon members to choose a winner of a proposed Best Game Hugo. Here are some of the reasons they say the proposal should be rejected:

Ira Alexandre, who has been the driving force in arguing for a Best Game Hugo, has done their research. They looked at the amount of gaming content at Worldcons, examined the burgeoning field of interactive works, and made some significant arguments in favour of the suggested award.

But none of their work addresses the fact that gaming has never been a primary focus of Worldcon. Alexandre’s number-crunching even showed that the amount of gaming-related programming has never exceeded nine per cent of the convention — and is usually much smaller. We would suggest that the majority of Hugo voters are unlikely to have played a wide-enough and diverse-enough range of games and interactive experiences to make adequate nominations in a category dedicated to gaming. 


It’s already difficult enough for Hugo voters to get through a voting package with six works on the shortlist in 15 categories. Games and Interactive Works individually take up to 150 hours to play through – with a short time between the announcement of the shortlist and the voting deadline, it would be difficult to play through, and be able to adequately assess, even one such game.

(5) A CAT BY ANY OTHER NAME. [Item by Bruce D. Arthurs.]  Not sure if this is newsworthy, but a cheap laugh for others at my own expense is surely a good thing.

One of our rescue cats, Baldur, who we’ve had for about two years, came down very sick and has spent the last week at the vet’s. Recovering well, thankfully, but in the process we discovered something surprising about “him”. Tweeted it here:

In some follow-up tweets, I discussed a possible renaming for our newly-female cat:

Hope the tweets are amusing. I wouldn’t say “amused” for myself, but certainly bemused.

(6) SUPERBRAWL. Alyssa Wong has written all three issues of these Future Fight Firsts comics from Marvel.

Introduced in the Marvel Future Fight mobile game, White Fox, Luna Snow, and Crescent & Io recently made their Marvel comic book debut in War of the Realms: New Agents of Atlas and now, because you demanded it, all three will have their origin stories revealed in Marvel Future Fight Firsts! Check out these gorgeous covers by In-Hyuck Lee and prepare yourselves for an up close look at these new fan-favorite characters!

Marvel Future Fight Firsts arrives in October in comic shops, on the Marvel Comics App, and on Marvel.com.

FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS: WHITE FOX #1

  • Written by ALYSSA WONG
  • Art by KEVIN LIBRANDA
  • Cover by INHYUK LEE

FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS: LUNA SNOW #1

  • Written by ALYSSA WONG
  • Art by GANG HYUCK LIM
  • Cover by INHYUK LEE

FUTURE FIGHT FIRSTS: CRESCENT AND IO

  • Written by ALYSSA WONG
  • Art by JON LAM
  • Cover by INHYUK LEE

(7) POLLY WANNA CONVERSATION? “The Great Silence” by Ted Chiang in Nautilus is a short story excerpted from Chiang’s new collection Exhalation.

The humans use Arecibo to look for extraterrestrial intelligence. Their desire to make a connection is so strong that they’ve created an ear capable of hearing across the universe.

But I and my fellow parrots are right here. Why aren’t they interested in listening to our voices?

We’re a nonhuman species capable of communicating with them. Aren’t we exactly what humans are looking for?

(8) SOLUTION UNSATISFACTORY. Randall Munroe will soon be bringing us How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems. His book tour started this week.

For any task you might want to do, there’s a right way, a wrong way, and a way so monumentally bad that no one would ever try it. How To: Absurd Scientific Advice for Common Real-World Problems is a guide to the third kind of approach. It’s the world’s least useful self-help book.

It describes how to cross a river by removing all the water, outlines some of the many uses for lava around the home, and teaches you how to use experimental military research to ensure that your friends will never again ask you to help them move.

With text, charts, and stick-figure illustrations, How To walks you through useless but entertaining approaches to common problems, using bad advice to explore some of the stranger and more interesting science and technology underlying the world around us.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 5, 1936 Rhae Andrece and Alyce Andrece. They played twin androids in I, Mudd, a classic Trek episode. Both appeared as policewomen in “Nora Clavicle and the Ladies’ Crime Club” on Batman. That’s their only genre other appearance. (Died 2009 and 2005.)
  • Born September 5, 1939 George Lazenby, 80. He is best remembered for being James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Genre wise, he also played Jor-El on Superboy and was a Bond like character named JB in the Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. film. 
  • Born September 5, 1939 Donna Anderson, 80. She was Mary Holmes in On The Beach, based on Neal Shute’s novel. She also appeared in, and I kid you not, Sinderella and the Golden Bra and Werewolves on Wheels
  • Born September 5, 1940 Raquel Welch, 79. Fantastic Voyage was her first genre film though her appearance in One Million Years B.C. with her leather bikini got her more notice. She was charming in The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers. She has one-offs in BewitchedSabrina the Teenage WitchThe Muppet ShowLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanHappily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child and Mork & Mindy
  • Born September 5, 1951 Michael Keaton, 68. Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! He also has the title roles of Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns. His most recent role is The Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • Born September 5, 1964 Stephen Greenhorn, 55. Scriptwriter who has written two episodes for Doctor Who: “The Lazarus Experiment” and “The Doctor’s Daughter”, both Tenth Doctor stories. He also wrote Marchlands, a supernatural series with Doctor Who star Alex Kingston. 
  • Born September 5, 1973 Rose McGowan, 46. Best known as Paige Matthews on Charmed. She played two different roles in the Grindhouse franchise, Cherry Darling in  Planet Terror and Pam in  Death Proof. She was Miss Kitty in Monkeybone, a very weird film indeed.

(10) MYTHBUSTING. The results of test purport to explain “Why phones that secretly listen to us are a myth”.

A mobile security company has carried out a research investigation to address the popular conspiracy theory that tech giants are listening to conversations.

The internet is awash with posts and videos on social media where people claim to have proof that the likes of Facebook and Google are spying on users in order to serve hyper-targeted adverts.

Videos have gone viral in recent months showing people talking about products and then ads for those exact items appear online.

Now, cyber security-specialists at Wandera have emulated the online experiments and found no evidence that phones or apps were secretly listening.

(11) IN A SNAP, IT’S GONE. “Trolls cause shutdown of official Jeremy Renner app” – BBC has the story.

Superhero Hawkeye may have helped defeat Thanos – but trolls have proved too tough a foe for him to best.

Actor Jeremy Renner, who plays Marvel’s eagle-eyed hero, has shut down his app after it was hijacked and used to harass people.

Abuse and harassment mushroomed after trolls found a way to impersonate the actor and others on the Jeremy Renner Official app.

Renner apologised for the shutdown in a post explaining what had happened.

Identity crisis

Created in 2017, the app, on which Renner regularly posted exclusive images and content and occasionally messaged users, also operated as a community hub where fans could post their own stories and communicate with each other.

In his explanatory post, Renner blamed “clever individuals” who had found a way to pose as other users.

(12) FRIENDLY (?) NIEGHBORHOOD SPIDER-DRONE. What flies through the air and snares its enemies in webs? CNN has the answer: “China says its drone can hunt like Spiderman”.

               China says it has developed a new hunter drone that can disable other drones — or even small aircraft — by firing a 16-square-meter (172 square feet) web at them.

               “Caught by the web, the hostile drone should lose power and fall to ground,” said a report on the Chinese military’s English-language website.

               Developed by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, the drone can work alone but also can integrate with China’s defense system for small, slow and low-flying targets, according to the report.

The hexacopter drone can also perform surveillance and reconnaissance, it said.

(13) NECRONOMICON. The Washington Post’s Michael Dirda gives a con report for Necronomicon, including the panels he enjoyed and the art and books he brought home: “Dispatch from a ‘horror’ convention: It began in a dark, candlelit room .?.?.”

… Because NecronomiCon runs a half dozen simultaneous tracks, you can’t help but miss wonderful-sounding panels and events. On Friday alone I would have liked to have heard “Unsung Authors,” “Pulp History,” “Providence in Weird Fiction,” “Children’s Horror Anthologies of the 1960s and 70s,” and a discussion of the lushly decadent fantasist Tanith Lee, which featured, among others, her bibliographer Allison Rich, science fiction writer and critic Paul Di Filippo and popular Washington author Craig Laurance Gidney.

Still, along with my friend Robert Knowlton — a Toronto book collector who has read more weird fiction than anyone else alive — I did catch the program devoted to the specialty publisher Arkham House. Its participants included Donald Sidney-Fryer, who in his youth got to know that most poetical of Weird Tales writers, Clark Ashton Smith. Donaldo, as he likes to be called, generously inscribed my copy of “The Sorcerer Departs,” his memoir of that friendship. Not surprisingly, among the many films shown during the con was Darin Coelho Spring’s superb documentary “Clark Ashton Smith: The Emperor of Dreams.”…

(14) PYTHON RECOVERIES. Not exactly SF but Monty Python does a surreal riff. The BBC in a two part series of just 15 minutes are revealing newly discovered material from the cutting room floor — Monty Python at 50: The Self-Abasement Tapes.

Part one here.

On the 50th anniversary of Python, Michael Palin hunts down lost sketches. This programme contains material never heard before, including the infamous Fat Ignorant Bastards sketch.

(15) DRESS FOR EXCESS. Jezebel claims “The Woman Who Wore a T-Rex Costume to Her Sister’s Wedding Is the Best Person in America”. Photo at the site.

…As chill as many soon-to-be-married couples pretend to be, weddings are all about control. This is why bridesmaids are forced to purchase matching dresses that make them look like bipedal draperies, often to the tune of several hundred dollars. But this wedding season, one woman had the courage to say “no” to wrapping herself in an ill-fitting puff of chiffon for her sister’s nuptials. Instead she went with an outfit she loved, something she knew she’d wear again and again: A T-rex costume….

(16) MUSIC OF THE SPHERES. Live Proms from the Royal Albert Hall, London: London Contemporary Orchestra conducted by Robert Ames in music from Sci-Fi films. On the BBC Sounds website: “Prom 27: The Sound of Space: Sci-Fi Film Music”. You can listen anytime.

A Late Night Prom with a futuristic spin brings together some of the best sci-fi film music. Excerpts from cult soundtracks come together with recent works by Hans Zimmer and Mica Levi. The award winning London Contemporary Orchestra – whose collaborators include Radiohead, Goldfrapp and Steve Reich – perform music from Under the Skin, Interstellar and the recent Netflix series The Innocents, among other titles, as well as from Alien: Covenant, whose soundtrack the LCO recorded.

  • Steven Price: Gravity 
  • Mica Levi: Under the Skin 
  • John Murphy: Sunshine 
  • Wendy Carlos: Tron (Scherzo) 
  • Carly Paradis: The Innocents 
  • Clint Mansell: Moon 
  • Louis and Bebe Barron: Forbidden Planet (Main Titles – Overture) 
  • Jed Kurzel: Alien: Covenant Jòhann Jòhannsson arr. 
  • Anthony Weeden: Arrival (Suite No 1) 
  • Hans Zimmer: Interstellar 

(17) SWEET. The Harvard Gazette calls it “Pancreas on a chip”.

By combining two powerful technologies, scientists are taking diabetes research to a whole new level. In a study led by Harvard University’s Kevin Kit Parker and published in the journal Lab on a Chip on Aug. 29, microfluidics and human, insulin-producing beta cells have been integrated in an islet-on-a-chip. The new device makes it easier for scientists to screen insulin-producing cells before transplanting them into a patient, test insulin-stimulating compounds, and study the fundamental biology of diabetes.

The design of the islet-on-a-chip was inspired by the human pancreas, in which islands of cells (“islets”) receive a continuous stream of information about glucose levels from the bloodstream and adjust their insulin production as needed.

“If we want to cure diabetes, we have to restore a person’s own ability to make and deliver insulin,” explained Douglas Melton, the Xander University Professor of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology and co-director of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI). “Beta cells, which are made in the pancreas, have the job of measuring sugar and secreting insulin, and normally they do this very well. But in diabetes patients these cells can’t function properly. Now, we can use stem cells to make healthy beta cells for them. But like all transplants, there is a lot involved in making sure that can work safely.”

Before transplanting beta cells into a patient, they must be tested to see whether they are functioning properly. The current method for doing this is based on technology from the 1970s: giving the cells glucose to elicit an insulin response, collecting samples, adding reagents, and taking measurements to see how much insulin is present in each one. The manual process takes so long to run and interpret that many clinicians give up on it altogether.

The new, automated, miniature device gives results in real time, which can speed up clinical decision-making.

(18) BUT IT’S NOT RIGHT. BBC reports “Left-handed DNA found – and it changes brain structure”.

Scientists have found the first genetic instructions hardwired into human DNA that are linked to being left-handed.

The instructions also seem to be heavily involved in the structure and function of the brain – particularly the parts involved in language.

The team at the University of Oxford say left-handed people may have better verbal skills as a result.

But many mysteries remain regarding the connection between brain development and the dominant hand.

(19) HAVING A MELTDOWN. Global Meltdown:My Ice on YouTube explains what happens when the last man on Earth stands on the last piece of ice.

[Thanks to Bruce Arthurs, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Matthew Johnson.]

Pixel Scroll 9/4/19 The Filer Who Climbed Mount Tsundoku, But Came Down From Mount Read

(1) TIPTREE AWARD UPDATE. The Motherboard has added this note to their “Alice Sheldon and the name of the Tiptree Award” post:

Update: Wednesday September 4, 2019.

We’ve seen some people discussing this statement and saying we’re refusing to rename the award. Of course it’s easy to read what we’ve written in that way; our apologies. While this post focuses on the reasons why we have not immediately undertaken to rename the award, our thinking is ongoing and tentative, and we are listening carefully to the feedback we are receiving. We are open to possibilities and suggestions from members of our community as we discuss how best to move forward. You can contact us at feedback@tiptree.org.

(2) WORLDBUILDING. “R.J. Theodore on Secondary Worlds Without Monocultures: POV, Cultural Perspective, and Worldbuilding” is a guest post on Cat Rambo’s blog.

My favorite part of writing SFF is inviting the reader to explore new worlds with unearthly mechanics, magic systems, or zoology that entrance the imagination. But what imprints a story on the reader’s soul is the ability to relate to the experience. The real world contains multitudinous experiences, cultures, and viewpoints. It’s important to reflect that in our stories, even if we are zooming in on a more intimate story.

Avoiding monoculture by creating characters who have different experiences makes a story feel vibrant, more faithful, and realistic. When those characters interact, it adds conflict, tension, and opportunities to create real magic.

(3) UNPERSUASIVE. NPR’s Glen Weldon sums up “Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance’: Gorgeous, Multi-Faceted, Hollow At Its Center”.

Let’s get the cheap joke out of the way up top:

Look, if I wanted to watch dead-eyed, expressionless creatures sniping at one another over backstories I can’t follow without consulting the Internet, I’d watch Real Housewives.

Okay, that’s done. Now let’s get serious. Let’s talk Gelflings.

…Real talk: Gelfling are … bad. Boring. Lifeless. Dull.

On their own, they’d be generic enough — a first-pass attempt at your garden-variety Tolkien-adjacent high-fantasy race. But as soon as you place them — as do both the original 1982 The Dark Crystal film and Netflix’s new, 10-episode prequel series — at the center of a world as gorgeously wrought, breathtakingly detailed and astonishingly elaborate as that of The Dark Crystal, they become something even worse: They’re basic.

…When Henson and Co. create wildly inhuman, or un-human, creatures, we’ll blithely accept them, whether their eyes are ping-pong balls (C. Monster, K.T. Frog) or their mouth’s that of a toucan with a skin condition (assorted Skeksis). Pigs, podlings, bears or bog monsters — it doesn’t matter. We cheerfully buy into the illusion, not only because these women and men are so skilled in the art of design and puppetry, but because we know that we’re tourists wandering through someone else’s imagination — we assume things look and act different, there.

But Gelfling? They’ve got disturbingly human-like faces, and we know how those work. And even though the art of Gelfling-animatronics has evolved in the 37 years since the film — eyebrows now knit, cheeks now dimple — Gelfling as a race remain permanent residents of the darkest depths of the uncanny valley.

(4) ATWOOD’S NEW BOOK. NPR’s Danielle Kurtzleben reports that “‘The Testaments’ Takes Us Back To Gilead For A Fast-Paced, Female-Centered Adventure”

What do the men of Gilead do all day?

We learn very little about it in The Testaments. We hear of one who mostly shuts himself in his study, away from his family, to work all day. We learn that a high-ranking government official serially kills off each of his teenage wives once they get too old for his tastes, then seeks out new targets. We learn that another respected man is a pedophile who gropes young girls.

So. We know that Gilead men are at best nonentities, at worst monstrous. Beyond that, they are chilly, dull, uninterested in the women around them — to the point that they also seem kind of dim. Mostly, they lurk just outside the frame, threatening to swoop in at any moment to wreak havoc.

And that absence only emphasizes that the women of Gilead are more fascinating than ever. The Testaments, Margaret Atwood’s follow-up to her classic novel The Handmaid’s Tale, returns to that dystopic theocracy 15 years later via three protagonists: Agnes, a girl in Gilead who from a young age rejects marriage, though her parents intend to marry her to a powerful Commander. Daisy is a Canadian girl repulsed by Gilead, raised by strangely overprotective parents. And Aunt Lydia — yes, that Aunt Lydia — has near-godlike status as one of Gilead’s founding Aunts and spends her days quietly collecting dirt on Commanders and fellow Aunts.

Telling much more about how the lives of Agnes, Daisy and Aunt Lydia do and don’t intersect would be to spoil the fun of The Testaments. The book builds its social commentary on gender and power into a plot-driven page turner about these women’s machinations as they deal with their stifling circumstances.

“Fun” is a loose term here, of course. As with The Handmaid’s Tale, The Testaments contains a lot of gut punches (as one may have gathered by now, what with all the murderous, pederastic men everywhere).

And a lot of the time, it’s women administering these gut punches to each other. Despite the awful men everywhere, one of the main themes The Testaments explores is how women hurt one another — whether it’s friend versus friend, Aunt versus student, or even mother versus daughter.

(5) AND A BONUS. At NPR,“Hear Margaret Atwood Read From ‘The Testaments,’ Her Sequel To ‘The Handmaid’s Tale'” — audio, with transcript.

…Handmaids are in the public eye again thanks to the hit TV series — and the frequent appearance of silent, red-robed protesters at political events. Now, Atwood is returning to the world of Gilead, the repressive theocracy she created out of the ruins of present-day America. The Testaments opens 15 years after the events of the first book, and follows an old familiar character as well as introducing some new voices. As for what happens to Offred … well, no spoilers here.

(6) INSIDE HOLLYWOOD. “Kristen Stewart was told to stop holding ‘girlfriend’s hand in public’ if she wanted a Marvel movie”Yahoo! Entertainment quotes the actress:  

… She continued, “I have fully been told, ‘If you just like do yourself a favor, and don’t go out holding your girlfriend’s hand in public, you might get a Marvel movie.'” The writer noted how the actress looked “almost amused at the memory.” Although Stewart kept it vague about where that directive came from, she added, “I don’t want to work with people like that.” (Marvel did not immediately respond to Yahoo Entertainment’s request for comment.)

“Literally, life is a huge popularity contest,” she added.

The 29-year-old credited a younger generation with helping give her the confidence to step out publicly with a romantic partner. “I just think we’re all kind of getting to a place where — I don’t know, evolution’s a weird thing — we’re all becoming incredibly ambiguous,” she explained. “And it’s this really gorgeous thing.”

(7) HUGO WINNING SERIES BECOMES GAME. ComicBook.com reports “Award-Winning Broken Earth Fantasy Series to Become a Tabletop RPG”.

The award-winning Broken Earth books by N.K Jemisin will be adapted into a roleplaying game. Earlier this month, Green Ronin Publishing, the maker of tabletop RPGs based on The Expanse, Lazarus, Dragon Age, and A Song of Ice of Fire, announced that had signed a licensing agreement with Jemisin to publish a new game based on her Hugo Award-winning series. The new game will use a modified version of Green Ronin’s Chronicle System, the same game system used by A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying. Tanya DePass and Joseph D. Carriker will co-develop The Fifth Season RPG, which will be released in Fall 2020.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

History records that it was on this fateful day back in the year 1966 that Gene Roddenberry — believing he had captured lightning in a bottle — took a copy of Star Trek‘s “Where No Man Has Gone Before” to play for the crowds gathered at the World Science Fiction Convention in Cleveland, Ohio.  How was the program first received?  Well, let’s just say that Gene couldn’t sate their appetites, and — before the event was all over — crowds also demanded to view the black-and-white print the man also brought along of the original Trek pilot, “The Cage.”  So it goes without saying that many folks credit September 4th as the serendipitous birth of the franchise.

  • September 4, 1975 Space:1999 premiered on this day.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 4, 1905 Mary Renault. ISFDB only counts her Theseus novels as genre (The King Must Die, and The Bull from the Sea). Is that right? I’m not familiar with her full body of work to say if it is or is not correct. (Died 1983.)
  • Born September 4, 1916 Robert A. W. Lowndes. He was known best as the editor of Future Science Fiction, Science Fiction, and Science Fiction Quarterly (mostly published late Thirties and early Forties) for Columbia Publications. He was a principal member of the Futurians. A horror writer with a bent towards all things Lovecraftian ever since he was a young fan, he received two letters of encouragement from H. P. Lovecraft. And yes, he’s a member of the First Fandom Hall of Fame. (Died 1998)
  • Born September 4, 1924 Joan Aiken. I’d unreservedly say her Wolves Chronicles were her best works. Of the many, many in that series, The Wolves of Willoughby Chase featuring the characters of Bonnie Green, Sylvia Green and Simon is I think the essential work to read; even though The Whispering Mountain is supposed to a prequel to the series I don’t think it’s essential reading. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase is certainly the one in the series I see stocked in my local bookstores. (Died 2004.)
  • Born September 4, 1924 Ray Russell. His most famous story is considered by most to be “Sardonicus” which was published first in Playboy magazine, and was then adapted by him into a screenplay for William Castle’s Mr. Sardonicus. In 1991 Russell received the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. (Died 1999.)
  • Born September 4, 1928 Dick York. He is best remembered as the first Darrin Stephens on Bewitched. He was a teen in Them!, an early SF film which is considered the very first giant bug film. He showed up in myriad Alfred Hitchcock Presents, several episodes of Twilight Zone and has a one-off on Fantasy Island. He voiced his character Darrin Stephens in the “Samantha” episode of The Flintstones. (Died 1992.)
  • Born September 4, 1957 Patricia Tallman, 62. Best known as telepath Lyta Alexander on Babylon 5, a series I hold that was magnificent but ended somewhat annoyingly. She was in two episodes of Next Generation, three of Deep Space Nine andtwo of Voyager. She did uncredited stunt work on further episodes of the latter as she did on Voyager. H’h to the latter. Oh, and she shows up in Army of Darkness as a possessed witch. 
  • Born September 4, 1975 Kai Owen, 44. Best known for portrayal of Rhys Williams in Torchwood, the Doctor Who spin-off I stopped watching after the first two series. He reprised his characters in the Big Audio auidiodramas. 
  • Born September 4, 1999 Ellie Darcey-Alden, 20. She’s best known for playing young Lily Potter in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. She’s also celebrated here for being  Francesca “Franny” Latimer in the Doctor Who  Christmas special “The Snowmen”, an Eleventh Doctor story. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bizarro gets silly with a classical literary reference.
  • The Argyle Sweater gets silly with a pop culture TV reference. (Do you detect a trend?)

(11) PAYING THE FREIGHT. Arc Manor has begun a Kickstarter appeal, seeking $30,000 to publish “Robert Heinlein’s Unpublished Novel”.  They have already announced the ebook and a hardcover will be released in March 2020. 

We now have the unique opportunity to publish a brand new novel by this great author titled The Pursuit of the Pankera , A ‘parallel’ book written about the parallel universes introduced in book The Number of the Beast, published in 1980….

The Pursuit of the Pankera is an 185,000 word novel with the same characters as The Number of the Beast. The two books share a similar beginning, but where the existing book  goes off on a totally unrelated tangent (almost becoming a satire of science fiction and neglecting the original conflict), The Pursuit of the Pankera  remains focused on the original conflict and works itself towards a much more traditional Heinlein ending. In many ways, it hearkens back to some of the earlier Heinlein novels.

(12) YOUTUBE HIT WITH BIG PENALTY. BBC has the story — “YouTube fined $170m in US over children’s privacy violation”.

YouTube has been fined a record $170m (£139m) by a US regulator for violating children’s privacy laws.

Google, which owns YouTube, agreed to pay the sum in a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The video-streaming site had been accused of collecting data on children under 13, without parental consent.

The FTC said the data was used to target ads to the children, which contravened the 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (Coppa).

“There’s no excuse for YouTube’s violations of the law,” said FTC chairman Joe Simons.

He added that when it came to complying with Coppa, Google had refused to acknowledge that parts of its main YouTube service were directed at children.

However, in presentations to business clients, the company is accused of painting a different picture.

(13) BATMAN BY TWILIGHT. Ramin Setoodeh, in the Variety story “Robert Pattinson on Becoming Batman and Why ‘The Lighthouse’ Is Just Weird Enough”, has a long interview with Pattinson (it was Variety’s cover story) where he says he loved the Tim Burton movies as a kid and “You feel very powerful immediately” when you don the Batsuit.

…“Rob definitely has a darker side and is comfortable working in that space,” says Robert Eggers, the director of A24’s “The Lighthouse,” which screens this week at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival and opens in theaters on Oct. 18. “And he has good taste in cinema. I think a lot of directors he likes are doing stuff that isn’t run-of-the-mill Hollywood.”

But in the past few months, Pattinson’s career has taken another turn as he’s begun gravitating back toward the stormy clouds of movie stardom. He spent most of his summer in Estonia making the Nolan film, which arrives in theaters in July 2020. And of course, despite his concerns, he was cast in “The Batman,” the Warner Bros. tentpole from director Matt Reeves that will start shooting this winter and debuts in June 2021.

(14) CHANGING OF THE GUARD. Meanwhile in the actual comic books, Bleeding Cool’s Rich Johnston speculates “DC Comics is About to Give Us a Black Batman”. He says it’s likely DC will introduce a black Batman in 2020 although it’s unclear who will don the Batsuit.

The hot gossip coming out of comic book shows this weekend from a number of prominent sources, is that in the summer of 2020 leading into 2021, DC Comics is planning to bring us a black Batman. Not Bruce Wayne, but someone else donning the cowl and cape.

Who this new Batman will be, I don’t know. All I have been told is that it won’t be Duke Thomas, the young man previously teased as taking on the role of Robin and Batman to come.

Marvel Comics has given us a black/Latino Spider-Man with Miles Morales, popularised in the Into The Spider-Verse movie. Sam Wilson took on the role of Captain America, reflected in the Avengers: Endgame movie. And Nick Fury has been replaced in the Marvel Universe by his black son, Nick Fury, Jr, reflecting the casting of Samuel L Jackson in the Marvel movies. While in Doomsday Clock, DC Comics’ unauthorised sequel to Watchmen, the new Rorschach is a black man, and son of the original Rorschach’s psychiatrist. It looks like the mainstream DC Comics Universe may be heading in a similar direction with Batman.

(15) DISNEY ROTATES PARTY THEMES. LAist urges readers to “Embrace The ‘Nightmare’ Of Oogie Boogie Bash, Disney’s New Halloween Event At California Adventure”. (Why does this remind me that I came in second to Oogle Boogle in LASFS’ Fugghead of the Year Contest in 1976?)

Mickey’s Halloween Party is retiring to Florida. Disneyland’s wholesome, long-running, kid-focused, trick-or-treating event was a favorite for Disney fans (of all ages, we don’t judge) who were allowed to go to the parks IN COSTUME, which is normally against the rules.

This year, Disney is replacing the SoCal event with something slightly more sinister: the Oogie Boogie Bash, themed around Nightmare Before Christmas villain Oogie Boogie. It’s also switching parks, with the monster taking over California Adventure. Don’t worry, you can still dress up.

It’s a darker take on Halloween, with a focus on villains, and a storyline that involves Oogie Boogie casting a spell to take over the park.

The change may help keep both parks full, since Disneyland will no longer have to shut down early on event nights. It’s also a chance to age up the vibe from just being for the tykes, according to Disney show director Jordan Peterson, with some spookier attractions meant to appeal to the tween and even teen audience.

(16) SPECULATIVE THRILLER NEWS. John Marks, in “Seven Techno-Thrillers To Read As Our World Crumbles” on CrimeReads, says that there’s no better way to prepare for global environmental or technological collapse than reading a novel by Ernest Cline, Michael Crichton, or Andy Weir.

Authors, like me, who write speculatively about tech, are only limited by our imaginations. And that’s why we are fascinated by it, because it offers limitless potential.

Often it is far more of a challenge to create characters and worlds that are overshadowed by tech that goes askew than tech that gets it right.

What happens when automation that has been designed to assist humanity starts working against it? That question has been the basis of two of my six novels, The One and most recently, The Passengers.

(17) SMOKE GETS IN YOUR REPLICANT EYES. From 2013, the Blade Runner trailer redone in classic black-and-white noir style.

[Thanks to JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Brian Z., Rich Horton, David Doering and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Hampus Eckerman.]

Pixel Scroll 9/3/19 The Scrolls of Doctor Pixel And Other Files

(1) MAKES CENTS. The SFWA Blog reminds everyone that the “SFWA Minimum Pro Rate Now in Effect”. The new rate of eight cents a word, announced in January, became effective September 1.

Writers applying for SFWA membership qualify on the basis of the per-word rate on the date of contract. For example, short fiction sold before September 1, 2019 at six cents per word continue to qualify a writer for SFWA membership, etc.

This change to the SFWA pro rate is the result of market analyses conducted by SFWA Board members, along with a review of the effects of inflation on author compensation. The SFWA pro rate was last changed in 2014, rising from five to six cents per word, and from three to five cents per word in 2004.

(2) AURORA VOTING DEADLINE. Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association members have until September 14 to vote in the Aurora Awards.

You must be logged in to the website with an active CSFFA membership in order to download the voter’s packages or to vote. 

Vote results will be announced at Can-Con October 18 – 20, 2019 in Ottawa (http://can-con.org/) and will be available on the website soon after.

(3) DRAGON COUNT. Yesterday’s Dragon Con press release, “Dragon Awards Recognize Fans’ Favorites in Fiction, Games and Other Entertainment”, cites this number of participants:

More than 10,000 fans cast ballots for Dragon Award winners, selected from among 91 properties in 15 categories covering the full range of fiction, comics, television, movies, video gaming, and tabletop gaming. 

(4) BOOKER PRIZE SHORTLIST. A couple of familiar names here: “Booker Prize 2019: Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie both make shortlist”.

Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie are among the six authors shortlisted for this year’s Booker Prize.

Atwood is in contention again with The Testaments, her eagerly awaited follow-up to The Handmaid’s Tale, while Sir Salman makes the cut with Quichotte.

Bernardine Evaristo, Chigozie Obioma, Elif Shafak and US author Lucy Ellmann are also up for the prize.

Both Atwood and Rushdie have won the coveted prize before, in 2000 and 1981 respectively.

Atwood also made the shortlist with The Handmaid’s Tale in 1986….

The winner, whittled down from 151 submissions and a longlist of 13, will be announced on 14 October.

(5) KGB. The Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Sarah Beth Durst & Sarah Pinsker on Wednesday, September 18, 2019, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar.

Sarah Beth Durst

Sarah Beth Durst is the author of nineteen fantasy books for adults, teens, and kids, including The Queens of Renthia series, Drink Slay Love, and The Girl Who Could Not Dream. She won an ALA Alex Award and a Mythopoeic Fantasy Award and has been a finalist for SFWA’s Andre Norton Award three times. She hopes to one day have her own telepathic dragon.

Sarah Pinsker

Sarah Pinsker is the author of over fifty stories as well as the collection Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea and the novel A Song For A New Day, both out in 2019. Her fiction has won the Nebula and Sturgeon awards, and been a finalist for the Hugo, Eugie Foster, Locus, and World Fantasy Awards.

The address of the KGB Bar is 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs), New York, NY.

(6) YOU COULD LOOK IT UP. Kenneth R. Johnson says he has “posted a mildly updated version of one of my on-line indexes” — “FANTASY GOTHICS”, subtitled, “A comprehensive bibliography of modern Gothics with genuine fantasy elements.”

About forty years ago I visited a fellow Science Fiction collector who introduced me to the concept of collecting “on the fringes.”  I thought I was fairly knowledgeable about the Science Fiction and Fantasy books that had been in published in paperback, but when I examined his collection I saw a large number of books that I had not known about because they had not been marketed as Fantasy.  I was especially drawn to the books that had been issued in other genres, such as Mysteries and Romances. 

I was particularly struck by the large number of Gothics that were spread throughout his collection.  I began looking for these particular crossovers in my visits to second-hand bookstores.   Within a few years I had amassed a couple hundred books, but by the early 1980s the Gothic craze had waned and most publishers had dropped the category.  The existing books gradually disappeared from the second-hand market. …

Scope of Index

 This bibliography is restricted to mass-market paperback books published in the U.S. between the 1960’s and the 1980’s.  The deciding factor in whether a book appears here, besides a genuine fantasy element, is how the book was labeled when published.  If a particular book had several editions from a given publisher and at least one of them was marketed as a Gothic, then all of that publisher’s editions are listed.  Any editions from a publisher who never labeled it as a Gothic are omitted.   

(7) BOK WAS ALSO A VERBAL ARTIST. Robert T. Garcia has launched a Kickstarter appeal to fund publication of “The Fantastic Fiction of Hannes Bok: Three Fantasies by Bok” with Hannes Bok’s three published solo novels: Starstone World, The Sorcerer’s Ship, and Beyond The Golden Stair (the unedited version of the novel Blue Flamingo). Includes an all-new introduction for this collection by Charles de Lint.

For two years I’ve been working on a project that got more interesting the further I got into it.  Hannes Bok was one of the 20th Century’s best sf-fantasy-weird fiction artists.  He was a painter with an eye for beautiful colors and flowing compositions in a time when sf art was very literal and staid. His paintings featured stylized figures, colors by Parrish, and a creative imagination that could only be Bok’s. And he could not be confined to one discipline in his creativity, there were paintings and line work, poetry and sculpture, intricate wood carvings and—of special interest here—fantasy novels: The Sorcerer’s Ship, Beyond the Golden Stair and Starstone World.

These aren’t your conventional fantasies, although all the trappings are there. They have a sly humor with plots full of twists and turns, stories which take the reader on strange metaphysical paths, and glorious descriptions that could only come from someone with a painter’s eye.  Certainly not the most smoothly told tales, but as Lester Del Rey wrote about Beyond the Golden Stair: “in spite of its faults, it has the sense of enchantment so rarely found in most market fantasy. And since our world needs the glamor at least as much as it ever did, let us lose no chance.”

Here’s your chance to experience that glamor. All three of these books have been out-of-print for at least 48 years. That’s too long. They have been left behind, and should be part of the legacy of Hannes Bok, and part of the discussion of early 20th Century fantastic fiction.

At this writing, Garcia has raised $6,623 of the $11,999 goal.

(8) TALKING ABOUT MY REGENERATION. SYFY Wire travels back to 1979 to celebrate one of the show’s charming inconsistencies: “40 years ago Doctor Who changed regeneration canon forever”.

The reason Romana’s regeneration was so unique is that the new actress, Lalla Ward, had already played a different role on the series. In the Season 16 serial “The Armageddon Factor,” the first Romana (Mary Tamm) and the Doctor encountered a character named Princess Astra, who also happened to have been played by Ward. So, when Ward was later cast as the new version of Romana in Season 17, it required an onscreen explanation.

In the scene, the Doctor is freaked out that Romana suddenly looks like someone they both had recently met. “But you can’t wear that body!” he protests. “You can’t go around wearing copies of bodies!” The newly regenerated Romana insists it didn’t matter. She likes the way Princess Astra looks and says they probably aren’t going back to the princess’s home planet of Atrios anyway.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 3, 1953 — The 3-D movie Cat-Women of the Moon premiered.  It starred Marie Windsor and Victor Jory who on a scientific expedition to the Moon encounters a race of cat-women. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 3, 1810 Theodor von Holst. He was the first artist to illustrate Shelley’s Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus in 1831. The interior illustrations consist of a frontispiece and title page engraved illustrations. (Died 1844.)
  • Born September 3, 1943 Mick Farren. Punk musician was the singer with the proto-punk band the Deviants who wrote also  lyrics for Hawkwind. His most well-known genre work was the The Renquist Quartet about an immortal vampire. (Died 2013.)
  • Born September 3, 1943 Valerie Perrine, 76. She has uncredited role as Shady Tree’s sidekick is Diamonds Are Forever in her first film appearance. Her first credited film role is as Montana Wildhack in Sluaughterhouse-Five. She’s Eve Teschmacher in Superman and Superman II. 
  • Born September 3, 1954 Stephen Gregg. Editor and publisher of Eternity Science Fiction which  ran 1972 to 1975 and 1979 to 1980. It had early work by Glen Cook, Ed Bryant, Barry N Malzberg, Andrew J Offutt and Roger Zelazny. (Died 2005.)
  • Born September 3, 1959 Merritt Butrick. He played Kirk’s son, David, in The Wrath of Khan and again in The Search for Spock. Note the very young death. He died of AIDS. Well, he died of toxoplasmosis, complicated by AIDS to be precise. (Did 1989.)
  • Born September 3, 1969 John Picacio, 50. Illustrator who in 2005 won both the World Fantasy Award for Best Artist and the Chesley Award for Best Paperback Cover for James Tiptree Jr.’s Her Smoke Rose Up Forever. He won the Hugo for Best Artist in 2012. 
  • Born September 3, 1971 D. Harlan Wilson, 48. Author of Modern Masters of Science Fiction: J.G. BallardCultographies: They Live (a study of John Carpenter) and Technologized Desire: Selfhood & the Body in Postcapitalist Science Fiction. No, I’ve no idea what the last book is about.
  • Born September 3, 1974 Clare Kramer, 45. She had the recurring role of Glory, a god from a hell dimension that was the main antagonist of the fifth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She’s been a lot of horror films including The Skulls III, The GravedancersThe ThirstRoad to HellRoad to Hell, Big Ass Spider! and Tales of Halloween.

Plus this “Happy Book Birthday” – Congratulations to Ellen Datlow!

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brewster Rockit treats us to more “famous parting words from defeated aliens.” Ook ook!
  • Half Full delivers sff’s answer to Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

(12) MOONWALKING. It isn’t easy anywhere to get local government to fix the streets,  

Indian actor Poornachandra Mysore joined artist Baadal Nanjundaswamy to document the conditions of the roads in Bengaluru, India. In a creative way and wearing a spacesuit, the man decided to walk on these crater-like potholes as if he was walking on the moon.

(13) MOUNTAINTOP EXPERIENCE. Gabino Iglesias expresses appreciation for the stylish grimness of Laird Barron’s prose in his LA Review of Books review, “Cosmic Horror and Pulpy Noir: On Laird Barron’s “Black Mountain””.

Black Mountain is a crime-horror hybrid that takes the most entertaining elements of both genres and mixes them into something new that pushes the boundaries of contemporary crime fiction. From horror Barron grabs the fear of death, the tensions of knowing there is a killer out there and on the hunt, the gore of mutilated bodies and serrated knives digging into soft flesh. From crime he pulls mobsters, the existence of secrets that, if revealed, would lead to many murders. He also works with a level of violence that is rarely found in crime novels from big publishers.

With those elements on the table, Barron uses his elegant prose as glue. There is brutish behavior, but the words describing it are beautiful, mercilessly obliterating the imagined line between genre and literary fiction on almost every page…

(14) MUSHROOM (CLOUD) HUNTING. File this under “No damn way!” Digital Trends reports “Experts think America should consider giving A.I. control of the nuclear button”.

In news to file under “What could possibly go wrong,” two U.S. deterrence experts have penned an article suggesting that it might be time to hand control of the launch button for America’s nuclear weapons over to artificial intelligence. You know, that thing which can mistake a 3D-printed turtle for a rifle!

In an article titled “America Needs a ‘Dead Hand,’” Dr. Adam Lowther and Curtis McGiffin suggest that “an automated strategic response system based on artificial intelligence” may be called for due to the speed with which a nuclear attack could be leveled against the United States. Specifically, they are worried about two weapons — hypersonic glide vehicles and hypersonic cruise missiles — which reduce response times to mere minutes from when an attack is launched until it strikes.

They acknowledge that such a suggestion is likely to “generate comparisons to Dr. Strangelove’s doomsday machine, War Games’ War Operation Plan Response, and The Terminator’s Skynet. But they also argue that “the prophetic imagery of these science fiction films is quickly becoming reality.” As a result of the compressed response time frame from modern weapons of war, the two experts think that an A.I. system “with predetermined response decisions, that detects, decides, and directs strategic forces” could be the way to go.

(15) LEDGE OF TOMORROW. The Atlantic: “Coming Soon to a Battlefield: Robots That Can Kill”. Tagline: “Tomorrow’s wars will be faster, more high-tech, and less human than ever before. Welcome to a new era of machine-driven warfare.”

Wallops Island—a remote, marshy spit of land along the eastern shore of Virginia, near a famed national refuge for horses—is mostly known as a launch site for government and private rockets. But it also makes for a perfect, quiet spot to test a revolutionary weapons technology.

If a fishing vessel had steamed past the area last October, the crew might have glimpsed half a dozen or so 35-foot-long inflatable boats darting through the shallows, and thought little of it. But if crew members had looked closer, they would have seen that no one was aboard: The engine throttle levers were shifting up and down as if controlled by ghosts. The boats were using high-tech gear to sense their surroundings, communicate with one another, and automatically position themselves so, in theory, .50-caliber machine guns that can be strapped to their bows could fire a steady stream of bullets to protect troops landing on a beach.

(16) LEND A … HAND? NPR tells how “Submarine Hobbyists Help Researchers On Montana’s Flathead Lake”. (Maybe you never knew there were “submarine hobbyists”?)

Something odd was bubbling beneath the surface of northwest Montana’s Flathead Lake this summer. It wasn’t lake monsters, but submarines. The subs’ pilots were there to help cash-strapped researchers explore the depths of Flathead Lake for free.

It can be hard for research divers to see what’s at the bottom of deep bodies of water like Flathead Lake without special equipment and experience. So, having a couple of submarines around this summer was helpful to the University of Montana’s Flathead Lake Biological Research Station.

…Riders met British Columbia resident Hank Pronk, who was standing on his two-man submarine bobbing on the lake’s crystal-clear surface.

A useful hobby

Pronk and his fellow enthusiasts build their subs mostly by hand. Pronk’s sub, named the Nekton Gamma, is smaller than a compact car; climbing in is a squeeze.

(17) DIY-NET. Staying off the internet: “Hong Kong protesters using Bluetooth Bridgefy app”.

Pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong have been turning to a new app to communicate – one that does not use the internet and is therefore harder for the Chinese authorities to trace.

Bridgefy is based on Bluetooth and allows protesters to communicate with each other without internet connection.

Downloads are up almost 4,000% in the past two months, according to measurement firm Apptopia.

Texts, email and messaging app WeChat are all monitored by the Chinese state.

Bridgefy uses a mesh network, which links together users’ devices allowing people to chat with others even if they are in a different part of the city, by hopping on other users’ phones until the message reaches the intended person.

The range from phone to phone is within 100m (330ft).

The app was designed by a start-up based in San Francisco and has previously been used in places where wi-fi or traditional networks struggle to work, such as large music or sporting events.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/24/19 Credentials Asleep On The Shoulder Of John Scalzi

(1) RUTGER HAUER DIES. Variety pays tribute: “Rutger Hauer, ‘Blade Runner’ Co-Star, Dies at 75”.

Rutger Hauer, the versatile Dutch leading man of the ’70s who went on star in the 1982 “Blade Runner” as Roy Batty, died July 19 at his home in the Netherlands after a short illness. He was 75.

Hauer’s agent, Steve Kenis, confirmed the news and said that Hauer’s funeral was held Wednesday.

His most cherished performance came in a film that was a resounding flop on its original release. In 1982, he portrayed the murderous yet soulful Roy Batty, leader of a gang of outlaw replicants, opposite Harrison Ford in Ridley Scott’s sci-fi noir opus “Blade Runner.” The picture became a widely influential cult favorite, and Batty proved to be Hauer’s most indelible role.

More recently, he appeared in a pair of 2005 films: as Cardinal Roark in “Sin City,” and as the corporate villain who Bruce Wayne discovers is running the Wayne Corp. in Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins.”

… Hauer increasingly turned to action-oriented parts in the ‘80s: He toplined the big-budget fantasy “Ladyhawke” (1985), reteamed with fellow Hollywood transplant Verhoeven in the sword-and-armor epic “Flesh & Blood” (1985), starred as a psychotic killer in “The Hitcher” (1986), and took Steve McQueen’s shotgun-toting bounty hunter role in a modern reboot of the TV Western “Wanted: Dead or Alive” (1986).

WIRED kicks off its collection of memories with the iconic speech: “Remembering Rutger Hauer, Black-Armored Knight of the Genre”.

Let’s get the monologue on the table, first thing, because he wrote it himself, and it’s brilliant:

“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”

That’s Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner, playing the artificial person Roy Batty in his death scene…

(2) ACCESSIBLE GAMING. The Mary Sue has discovered “The Surprising Ways Blind Players Have Made Games Like Dungeons & Dragons Accessible”.

… Then, in 2017, a friend introduced me to Roll20, an online platform that serves as a digital tabletop, and everything changed. On a computer, I have the power to alter my settings—I can zoom in, change colors, and make whatever tweaks I need in order to make things accessible for my specific visual impairment. And things I lacked the power to change, my DM could: giving tokens borders with higher contrast, adjusting the lighting on a map, or—if I got lost looking for something—shifting my view in the direction I needed to be focusing.

I could roll dice directly on the platform and see my result easily, and best of all, I had a digital character sheet I could alter easily and at will, rather than a few pieces of paper I’d require another player to edit for me. And then I discovered other websites, like DnDBeyond, which made it easy to look up stats and spells online—again, in a medium far more accessible for me.

I still required a dungeon master willing to take the time to describe certain things to me and to make whatever color and contrast adjustments I needed, but even playing with strangers via Roll20’s Looking For Game system, my experience has been positive. Thanks to the websites I used, the things I needed didn’t require all that much work on their end, and now I was able to fully immerse myself in a hobby I’d once believed would be impossible for me because of my disability.

(3) ABLEGAMERS. And in the Washington Post Magazine, Christine Sturdivant Sani has a profile of AbleGamers, a nonprofit that helps people with disabilities enjoy video games: “How a West Virginia group helped make video games accessible to the disabled”.

In 2018, when Sony Interactive Entertainment unveiled the latest versions of two of its top-grossing video game titles — “God of War” and “Marvel’s Spider-Man” — they included new features that meant a lot to a specific subset of players: those with disabilities. To aid people with motor skill impairments, for instance, “God of War” introduced an option to press and hold a single button instead of tapping it repeatedly; it also let players with hearing disabilities adjust individual audio settings such as volume, dialogue and sound effects. For players with visual impairments, the subtitles in “Spider-Man” are now resizable and include tags that always indicate who is speaking.

Five years ago, according to Sam Thompson, a managing senior producer at Sony Interactive, it was possible to count on one hand the number of video games that had features catering to people with disabilities. Today, there are hundreds of such games. The shift, says Thompson, is “kind of amazing” — and he gives credit to a small nonprofit in Harpers Ferry, W.Va.

The group, called AbleGamers, was the brainchild of Mark Barlet, a 45-year-old disabled Air Force veteran and entrepreneur…

 (4) GAIMAN AUDIOBOOKS. AudioFile editorJenn Dowellsays – lend Neil Gaiman an ear! “Good Omens and Good Audiobooks: The Best of Neil Gaiman”.

… Where to start? Whether you’re a longtime fan of GOOD OMENS, Gaiman’s funny book about the apocalypse co-written with the late Terry Pratchett almost 30 years ago, or a new convert thanks to the sparkling new Amazon/BBC series, now is the perfect time to hear (or revisit) the audiobook.

… For something darker that’s perfect for an extended road trip, Gaiman’s 2001 epic novel AMERICAN GODS, in which old gods clash with new ones, also comes in two unabridged versions: one narrated by Golden Voice George Guidall, and a Tenth Anniversary Edition performed by a full cast. Can’t get enough gods? Follow up with ANANSI BOYS, about trickster god Anansi, read by Lenny Henry, and NORSE MYTHOLOGY, read by Gaiman.

… In the mood for nonfiction? THE VIEW FROM THE CHEAP SEATS and ART MATTERS collect Gaiman’s essays and speeches and will give listeners insights into Gaiman’s wide-ranging interests and his writing process—and maybe even inspire you to make your own art.

… P.S. If you fell in love with Michael Sheen and David Tennant’s performances in the Good Omens series, don’t miss their own star turns on audio: Sheen gives a wonderfully immersive, Earphones Award-winning narration of Philip Pullman’s THE BOOK OF DUST: La Belle Sauvage, and Tennant brings his acting chops and Scottish charm to The Wizards of Once and How to Train Your Dragon series by just-named UK Children’s Laureate Cressida Cowell.

(5) INKLINGS. Bruce Charlton revisits “Humphrey Carpenter’s The Inklings – 1978″ at The Notion Club Papers blog.

…Yet, in the end, Humphrey Carpenter failed in his attempt to throw the Inklings into the dustbin of irrelevance; because overall the book had the opposite effect of its intent – awakening for many, such as myself, a long-term and intense fascination with a ‘group of friends’ who were also, in reality, so much more than merely that.

(6) FROM THE BEEB. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4 has aired the second in the science and SF series Stranger Than Sci-Fi where astro-physicist Dr Jen Gupta and comedian Alice Fraser travel the parallel worlds of science and sci-fi.

Last week’s was on artificial wombs.  Today’s is on black holes (or frozen stars if you are of Russian persuasion and wish to avoid the rude connotation) — “Black Hole Jacuzzis”.

The program will be downloadable from BBC for a month once it is broadcast

(7) MINORITY REPORT? Atwood’s novel is not in bookstores but it’s already up for the Booker. BBC has the story — “Booker Prize 2019: Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale sequel on longlist”.

Margaret Atwood’s follow-up to The Handmaid’s Tale is one of 13 novels on the Booker Prize longlist, despite not being published for several weeks.

The Testaments is out on 10 September and comes 33 years after the original book was nominated for the same award.

(8) KRASSNER OBIT. Pop culture figure Paul Krassner died July 21: the New York Times has a profile — “Paul Krassner, Anarchist, Prankster and a Yippies Founder, Dies at 87”.

Paul Krassner being interviewed in the men’s room during the 1978 ABA convention. (photo: Andrew Porter)

Mr. Krassner was writing freelance pieces for Mad magazine in 1958 when he realized that there was no equivalent satirical publication for adults; Mad, he could see, was largely targeted at teenagers. So he started The Realist out of the Mad offices, and it began regular monthly publication. By 1967 its circulation had peaked at 100,000.

“I had no role models and no competition, just an open field mined with taboos waiting to be exploded,” Mr. Krassner wrote in his autobiography.

The magazine’s most famous cartoon was one, drawn in 1967 by the Mad artist Wally Wood, of an orgy featuring Snow White, Donald Duck and a bevy of Disney characters enjoying a variety of sexual positions. (Mickey Mouse is shown shooting heroin.) Later, digitally colored by a former Disney artist, it became a hot-selling poster that supplied Mr. Krassner with modest royalties into old age.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 24, 1948 — Debut of Marvin the Martian in Bugs Bunny’s “Haredevil Hare.”

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 24, 1802 Alexandre Dumas. The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After. Are they genre? Good question. (Died 1870.)
  • Born July 24, 1878 Lord Dunsany whose full name and title was a jaw dropping Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th Baron of Dunsany. So ISFDB lists him as genre for the Jorkens body of work among works. H’h. Gary Turner, who some of you will recognize from Golden Gryphon Press and elsewhere, reviewed The Collected Jorkens: Volumes One, Two, and Three, for Green Man, so I’ve linked to the review here. They also list The King of Elfland’s Daughter which I’m going to link to another review on Green Man as it’s an audio recording with a very special guest appearance by Christopher Lee. (Died 1957.)
  • Born July 24, 1895 Robert Graves. Poet, historical novelist, critic. Author of, among other works, The White Goddess (a very strange book), two volumes called the Greek MythsSeven Days in New Crete which Pringle has on his Best Hundred Fantasy Novels list and more short fiction that bears thinking about. (Died 1985.)
  • Born July 24, 1916 John D. MacDonald. Primarily a mystery writer whose Travis McGee series I enjoyed immensely, he wrote a handful of genre works including the sublime The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything.  ISFDB lists a collection, End of the Tiger and Other Short Stories, which I presume is genre. (Died 1986.)
  • Born July 24, 1936 Mark Goddard, 83. Major Don West, the adversary of Dr. Zachary Smith, on Lost in Space. Other genre appearances were scant. He played an unnamed Detective in the early Eighties Strange Invaders and he showed up on an episode of The Next Step Beyond which investigated supposed hauntings as Larry Hollis in “Sins of Omission”. Oh, and he was an unnamed General in the Lost in Space film. 
  • Born July 24, 1945 Gordon Eklund, 74. He won the Nebula for Best Novelette for “If the Stars Are Gods”, co-written with Gregory Benford. They expanded it into a novel which was quite good if I remember correctly. So would anyone care to tell the story of how he came to write the Lord Tedric series which was inspired by an E.E. Doc Smith novelette? 
  • Born July 24, 1951 Lynda Carter, 68. Wonder Woman of course. But also Principal Powers, the headmistress of a school for superheroes in Sky High; Colonel Jessica Weaver in the vampire film Slayer;  Moira Sullivan, Chloe Sullivan’s Kryptonite-empowered mother in the “Prodigy” episode of Smallville; and President Olivia Marsdin In Supergirl. 
  • Born July 24, 1964 Colleen Doran, 55.  Comics artist and writer. work worth particularly  worth noting she’s done includes Warren Ellis’ Orbiter graphic novel, Wonder Woman, Legion of Superheroes, Teen Titans, “Troll Bridge” by Neil Gaiman and her space opera series, A Distant Soil. She also did portions of The Sandman, in the “Dream Country” and “A Game of You”. She’s tuckerised Into Sandman as the character Thessaly is based on Doran.
  • Born July 24, 1981 Summer Glau, 38.  An impressive run in genre roles as she’s was. River Tam in Firefly and of course Serenity, followed by these performances: Tess Doerner in The 4400, as Cameron in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, Bennett Halverson in Dollhouse (Is this worth seeing seeing?), Skylar Adams in Alphas and lastly Isabel Rochev who is The Ravager in Arrow.
  • Born July 24, 1982  — Anna Paquin, 37. Sookie Stackhouse in the True Blood series. Rogue in the X-Men franchise. She also shows up in Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams as Sarah in the “Real Life” episode. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Poorly Drawn Lines has a funny entry that actually references the phrase “sense of wonder.”
  • A well-known nanny visits the seashore in Rhymes With Orange.
  • Bizarro shows how to bring the full social media experience to live book signings.

(12) STRONG KEEP. John Scalzi tells what he thinks about “A Couple of Bits on Hugo Award Proposals and Attempted Wikipedia Deletions” which we have been covering here. When it comes to the Wikipedia —

… You might think that I, who was the target of much Sad Puppy whining and mewling, would be sitting here happily munching on popcorn while this bit of Wikidrama unfolds. But in fact I think the deletion attempt is a problem. Neither Williamson nor Hoyt are exactly on my Christmas card list at the moment, but you know what? Both of them are solid genre writers who for years have been putting out work through a major genre publisher, and who are both actively publishing today. They are genuinely of note in the field of science fiction and fantasy. One may think their politics, in and out of the genre, are revanchist as all fuck, or that their tenure and association with the Puppy bullshit didn’t do them any favors, or that one just doesn’t care for them on a day-to-day basis for whatever reason. But none of that is here or there regarding whether, on the basis of their genre output, they are notable enough to be the subject of a damn Wikipedia article. They are! Wikipedia notability is kind of a middlin’-height bar, and they get themselves over it pretty well.

Or to flip it around, if neither Williamson nor Hoyt is notable enough for inclusion in Wikipedia, there’s gonna be some bloodletting in the site’s category of science fiction and fantasy writers, because there are a fair number of Wikipedia-article-bearing genre authors who are no more notable than Hoyt or Williamson. If they go, there are legitimately many others on the chopping block as well.

According to Camestros Felapton, “John Scalzi is wading into the Wiki-fuss”, Scalzi also made entries to the Wikipedia deletion discussion itself. He probably did, and although the links aren’t working for me Camestros has the full quotes anyway.

(13) FUTURE SHOCK. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Writing in The New Yorker, Emily Nussbaum takes a look at the BBC/HBO co-produced near-future science fiction series Years And Years.  The series, which is built around the conceit of moving through years at a rapid pace — often three years in a one-hour episode, provides a mostly-realistic future that won’t fill many viewers with hope. ““Years and Years” Forces Us Into the Future”.  

“Years and Years” keeps leaping forward, forcing us into the future, as the economy crumbles, the ice caps melt, authoritarianism rises, and teen-agers implant phones into their hands. It’s an alarmist series, in a literal sense: it’s meant to serve as an alarm, an alert to what’s going on in front of our eyes, and where that might lead, if we don’t wake up.”

In the wake of Boris Johnson’s elevation to the post of Prime Minister, I’d say that the series might seem overly optimistic about the future of the United Kingdom. But I’d heartily recommend seeking out the series. 

(14) MORE URGENT. “Climate change: 12 years to save the planet? Make that 18 months”

Do you remember the good old days when we had “12 years to save the planet”?

Now it seems, there’s a growing consensus that the next 18 months will be critical in dealing with the global heating crisis, among other environmental challenges.

Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reported that to keep the rise in global temperatures below 1.5C this century, emissions of carbon dioxide would have to be cut by 45% by 2030.

But today, observers recognise that the decisive, political steps to enable the cuts in carbon to take place will have to happen before the end of next year.

The idea that 2020 is a firm deadline was eloquently addressed by one of the world’s top climate scientists, speaking back in 2017.

“The climate math is brutally clear: While the world can’t be healed within the next few years, it may be fatally wounded by negligence until 2020,” said Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, founder and now director emeritus of the Potsdam Climate Institute.

The sense that the end of next year is the last chance saloon for climate change is becoming clearer all the time.

(15) CLOSING THEIR EARS. Meanwhile, the \outpatients\troglodytes were out in force: “Greta Thunberg speech: French MPs boycott teen ‘apocalypse guru’”.

Teen activist Greta Thunberg has lashed out at French lawmakers for mocking her in a speech to parliament that was boycotted by far-right politicians.

The 16-year-old addressed legislators on Tuesday, telling them to “unite behind the science” of climate change.

She and other children were invited to France’s parliament by a cross-party group of politicians.

“You don’t have to listen to us, but you do have to listen to the science,” she said.

Ms Thunberg, whose solo protest outside the Swedish Parliament inspired the school climate strike movement, has been lauded for her emotive speeches to politicians.

But lawmakers from French parties, including the conservative Republicans and far-right National Rally, said they would shun her speech in the National Assembly.

Urging his colleagues to boycott Ms Thunberg’s speech, leadership candidate for The Republicans, Guillaume Larrive, wrote on Twitter: “We do not need gurus of the apocalypse.”

Other French legislators hurled insults at Ms Thunberg ahead of her speech, calling her a “prophetess in shorts” and the “Justin Bieber of ecology”.

Republicans MP Julien Aubert, who is also contending for his party’s leadership, suggested Ms Thunberg should win a “Nobel Prize for Fear”.

Speaking to France 2 television, Jordan Bardella, an MEP for the National Rally, equated Ms Thunberg’s campaigning efforts to a “dictatorship of perpetual emotion”.

(16) TO SIR WITH LOVE. BBC reports “Sir Michael Palin to have heart surgery”.

Comedian and broadcaster Sir Michael Palin is to have surgery to fix a “leaky valve” in his heart.

The Monty Python member discovered a problem with his mitral valve – a small flap that stops blood flowing the wrong way around the heart – five years ago.

It had not affected his general fitness until earlier this year, he said.

“Recently, though, I have felt my heart having to work harder and have been advised it’s time to have the valve repaired,” he wrote on his website.

“I shall be undergoing surgery in September and should be back to normal, or rather better than normal, within three months.”

(17) PICARD & COMPANY. TV Line did a mass interview — “’Star Trek: Picard’ Cast on the Return of Patrick Stewart’s Iconic Captain.”

The cast of ‘Star Trek: Picard’ previews the CBS All Access series with TVLine’s Kim Roots at San Diego Comic-Con 2019.

[Thanks to John A Arkansawyer, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Hampus Eckerman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, Olav Rokne, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 5/26/19 Scrollman vs the Click

(1) SEND YOUR NAME TO MARS. NASA’s Mars 2020 Rover is heading to the red planet. Submit your name by September 30, 2019, and fly along! Full details on the NASA website. Over five million names have been sent in – two million of them from Turkey?

Your email is used only to give you “Frequent Flyer” points and to allow you to send your name on future Mars missions.

(2) MALCOLM EDWARDS LEAVES GOLLANCZ. The Bookseller reports “‘Publishing legend’ Edwards steps down from Orion and Gollancz roles”. (Via Ansible Links.)

Orion consultant publisher and Gollancz chair Malcolm Edwards is stepping down from his roles after first joining the SFF imprint 43 years ago.

Hachette UK c.e.o. David Shelley said Edwards, who will work his last day at Orion on 31st May, is a “true publishing legend”.

…Edwards started his publishing career as a sci fi editor at Gollancz in 1976, quickly rising up the ranks to become publishing director. He established a stellar list of authors including Brian Aldiss, Octavia Butler, Arthur C. Clarke, Philip K. Dick, Frank Herbert, Ursula Le Guin and Terry Pratchett. One landmark month in 1984 saw him publish J.G. Ballard’s Empire of the Sun, William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Robert Holdstock’s Mythago Wood.

He went on to join HarperCollins in 1989, becoming fiction publishing director and editing Stephen Baxter, Tom Clancy, Clive Cussler, David Eddings, Alan Furst, James Herbert and Peter Straub.  He edited and published both Michael Dobbs’s House of Cards novels and George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones, going on to release Stephen King’s The Green Mile in serial paperback parts.

Edwards moved to Orion in 1998 as manging director of Orion Books before promotion to deputy c.e.o. and publisher in 2003. … In 2015 it was announced he would leave his roles to become chairman of Gollancz and consultant publisher, allowing him to work on “fewer projects closer to his heart”.

(3) READY TO AIR. The Verges’s Andrew Liptak has some advice for TV programmers in “These eight short story collections would make excellent sci-fi anthology shows “.

It’s easy to see why anthology shows based on short stories are appealing: they don’t represent a whole lot of commitment from viewers, and provide a lot of variety. A science fiction writer’s collection of short stories can provide both: self-contained, bite-sized narratives that can play out in 20-40 minutes. Don’t like one? Skip to the next. With word that Ballingrud’s debut collection is in the works, we had some ideas for other single-author collections that might make for a good anthology series in their own right….

(4) THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE NOSTROMO. BBC’s Nicholar Barber explains “What Ridley Scott’s Alien can tell us about office life”.

It’s the 40th anniversary of the ground-breaking sci-fi. HR Giger’s nightmarish demon aside, the 1979 film is about a group of interstellar wage slaves doing ordinary, unglamorous jobs, writes Nicholas Barber.

Forty years ago, a little-known director and a little-known cast made a small-scale slasher movie set on a spaceship. It was a masterpiece. Ridley Scott’s Alien would go on to spawn three sequels, two prequels and two Alien v Predator mash-ups, not to mention a slew of comics and video games. But even after all this time, and all those spin-offs, the first film is unique.

A significant factor, naturally, is the title character: the sleekly nightmarish biomechanical demon designed by HR Giger. But another, under-rated, ingredient is everyone in the film who is not an alien. While James Cameron’s sequel revolved around a squad of hard-bitten marines, Scott’s 1979 original features ordinary, unglamorous people doing what are, for them, ordinary, unglamorous jobs. We never hear their full names, and they never talk about their past experiences or their future plans. Nonetheless, we get to know all seven of them, which is one reason why their deaths hit us with the force of a chest-bursting xenomorph….

(5) HIGH SCORE. WIRED lists “12 of the best science fiction books everyone should read”. Hey, the best I’ve ever done on a list – 8 out of 12. But two by Atwood, neither of which is The Handmaid’s Tale?

Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood (2003)

While The Handmaid’s Tale describes a world that seems more plausible by the day, in Oryx and Crake Atwood spins a genetically-modified circus of current trends taken to their absolute extreme – a “bio-engineered apocalypse,” is how one reviewer put it. A number of television adaptations have been mooted, including a now-defunct HBO project with Darren Aronofsky, but this might be one to place alongside The Stars My Destination in the impossible-to-adapt file. The world of the book is vibrant, surreal and disturbing enough.

(6) TALES OF URSINIA. The Hollywood Reporter’s review (‘The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily’: Film Review) of the Cannes-screened film The Bears’ Famous Invasion of Sicily tries to sum it up with a “Bottom Line” of “A folkloristic work of the imagination for under-14s.” The short official trailer (with English subtitles) would seem to partly belie that, in that the film could easily appeal to fantasy fans of any age.

Thematically, the film spins around the eternal clash between humans and other members of the animal kingdom. When the bear cub Tonino is captured by hunters, his father Leonzio, the king of the bears, leads his thousands of brave subjects into the city to search for him, and also to rustle up some food. The encounter between Leonzio’s easy-going bears and the army of the evil Duke who rules the city highlights the naïveté of the bears in thinking they would get a fair shake out of humans.

The story is framed by the wandering storyteller Gedeone (Antonio Albanese in the Italian voice cast) who takes shelter in a big cave one inclement day with his young daughter and assistant, Almerina (Leila Bekhti). They are surprised to wake up a huge old bear (Andrea Camilleri in the Italian version; Jean-Claude Carriere in the French), who listens to their tale about the bears’ invasion of Sicily. The storyteller reappears several times in the film, keeping the tone light.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 26, 1897 – The first sale of Bram Stoker’s Dracula in London.
  • May 26, 1961The Twilight Zone aired “Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up?” One of the lines in this Rod Serling penned script pays homage to his friend, Ray Bradbury. “It’s a regular Ray Bradbury.”

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 26, 1865 Robert W. Chambers. He best known for his book of short stories titled The King in Yellow, published in 1895. I see that it has been described by such illuminaries as Joshi and Klein as a classic in the field of the supernatural. (Died 1933.)
  • Born May 26, 1913 Peter Cushing. Best known for his roles in the Hammer Productions horror films of the Fifties to the Seventies, as well as his performance as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars. He also played Holmes many times, and though not considered canon, he was the Doctor in Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. and Dr. Who and the Daleks. He even made appearances in both The Avengers and The New Avengers as well as Space: 1999. There’s a CGI recreation of Grand Moff Tarkin used for his likeness in Rogue One. (Died 1994.)
  • Born May 26, 1921 Mordecai Roshwald. His best known work is Level 7 written in the Fifties. He is also the author of A Small Armageddon and Dreams and Nightmares: Science and Technology in Myth and Fiction. (Died 2015.)
  • Born May 26, 1923 James Arness. He appeared in three Fifties SF films, Two Lost Worlds, Them! and The Thing from Another World. The latter is based on the 1938 novella Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell (writing under the pseudonym of Don A. Stuart). The novella would be the basis of John Carpenter’s The Thing thirty years later. (Died 2011.)
  • Born May 26, 1923 Roy Dotrice. I’ll always think of him first and foremost as Jacob “Father” Wells on Beauty and the Beast. He was Commissioner Simmonds in two episodes of Space: 1999. He also appeared in recurring role on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys as Zeus. He’s on A Game of Thrones in the second season playing “Wisdom Hallyne the Pyromancer” in “The Ghost of Harrenhal” and “Blackwater” episodes. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 26, 1925 Howard DeVore. He was according to all sources, an expert on pulp magazines who dealt in them and collected them, an APA writer, con-runner and otherwise all-around volunteer in First Fandom. He wrote two fascinating-sounding publications all with Don Franson, A History of the Hugo, Nebula, and International Fantasy Awards, Listing Nominees & Winners, 1951-1970 and A History of the Hugo, Nebula, and International Fantasy Awards. (Died 2005.)
  • Born May 26, 1964 Caitlín R. Kiernan, 55. She’s an impressive two-time recipient of both the World Fantasy and Bram Stoker awards. As for novels, I’d single out Low Red MoonBlood Oranges (writing as Kathleen Tierney) and The Drowning Girl: A Memoir as being particularly worth reading. She also fronted a band, Death’s Little Sister, named for Neil Gaiman’s character, Delirium.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio knows all about green power.  

(10) TANKS FOR THE MEMORY. These fans may belong to Starfleet, but don’t let them near the Enterprise: “Paint job mystery solved: Local college club explains purchase of incorrect color”.

A tank’s mysterious transformation from olive drab to lemon-lime green was solved Wednesday when the sponsor of a Bluefield State College club came forward and said some paint that was ordered turned out to be the wrong color.

Local residents and officials were puzzled Tuesday when Daily Telegraph photographer Eric DiNovo shot a picture of the tank parked near Bowen Field. DiNovo had noticed that the tank had been painted a bright lemon-lime color….

The mystery was solved Wednesday when Jerry Conner, sponsor of the U.S.S. Yeager Chapter of Starfleet International, a science fiction club at Bluefield State, sent a letter to the Daily Telegraph describing how the color change had happened.

Conner said that the U.S.S. Yeager club had been cleaning and painting the M-41 Bulldog tank near the entrance to Lotito Park for about 20 years. The tank needed a new coat of paint, and the club had made plans to get “the proper shade of olive drab for a World War II-period tank.”

“We took a sample of the color to a Bluefield merchant and purchased two gallons which was supposed to match our sample,” Conner said in the letter. “We were worried when we opened the containers and found something nowhere near our sample. ‘Surely it will dry the right color,’ we thought, and proceeded with the prep and painting. Imagine our chagrin when it dried, not green-brown olive, but instead, bright mustard yellow!”

…Rideout said the city obtained a copy of the paint receipt from the local retailer that sold it to the club. On the receipt, the color is called “tank green.”

(11) DRAWN THAT WAY. NPR considers “How Disney Princesses Influence Girls Around The World”.

Many academics and parents have said that Disney princesses are “bad for girls” because they are defined by their appearance – and they often must be rescued by men rather than act on their own (see: Sleeping Beauty and Snow White).

Sociologist Charu Uppal in Sweden has another concern – the fact that many classic Disney princesses are white and Western.

Uppal has been studying the effects of Disney princesses on girls internationally since 2009. In a world where Disney’s TV channels are broadcast in 133 countries, and its films and merchandise pervade even more, she wanted to see how girls of different nationalities perceived the idea of a princess.

…Her latest study, published in March in the journal Social Sciences, analyzed 63 princess drawings from girls in Fiji, India and Sweden. In this sample, nearly every drawing — 61 out of 63 — depicted a light-skinned princess, many of those resembling Disney characters. Fijian girls drew multiple Ariels; Indian girls drew Belles and Sleeping Beauties. Not one girl drew a princess in her country’s traditional garb.

(12) BOOM BOOM HA HA. “He Led A Platoon Of Artists Who Fooled The Germans: ‘Imagination Is Unbelievable'” – NPR profiles a veteran member of the unit.

After World War II broke out, 26-year-old Gilbert Seltzer enlisted into the Army.

Soon after, he was told he was being put on a secret mission — and an unconventional one at that.

Seltzer, then an architectural draftsman, was selected to lead a platoon of men within a unit dubbed the “Ghost Army.” Made up mostly of artists, creatives and engineers, the unit would go on to play an instrumental role in securing victory in Europe for the U.S. and its allies.

Their mission was deception. From inflatable tanks, to phony convoys, to scripted conversations in bars intended to spread disinformation, they used any and all possible trick to fool the enemy….

(13) THEY’LL PUT A STOP TO THAT. “Google thwarts Baltimore ransomware fightback” – BBC has the story.

Google has inadvertently thwarted attempts by Baltimore’s city government to fight off crippling ransomware.

The cyber-attack struck civil computers in Baltimore on 7 May, blocking email accounts and online payment systems.

City officials set up GMail accounts to restore communications between citizens and staff.

The mass creation of the accounts triggered Google’s GMail defences which shut them down, believing they were being used by spammers….

(14) MAKING THE MOVE. BBC investigates how Norway encourages electric cars: “‘I drive in the bus lane'”.

“I drive in the bus lane because I have an electric car. It saves me 30 minutes on every journey to work.”

Dagfinn Hiehe was smiling ear-to-ear as he told me his favourite thing about having an electric car.

…Driving in the bus lane is just one of the incentives the Norwegian government is offering its citizens, in exchange for dumping their petrol or diesel and switching to electric.

Like many big cities, Oslo’s roads are crowded, and saving time on the commute is hugely appealing. Another big benefit is the discount on road tolls, which you are largely exempt from in an electric vehicle.

(15) YOUR PRINTABLE MARTIAN HOME. Popular Mechanics is there when “NASA Crowns Winner in Mars Habitat Competition”.

What would life on Mars look like? NASA thinks it’s getting one step closer to figuring it out. The Agency has awarded a combined $700,000 to the first and second-place teams in its 3D-Printed Habitat Challenge

Self-described “multi-planetary architectural and technology design agency” AI SpaceFactory, based in New York, took first place with $500,000. A team of professors from Penn State finished in second with $200,000.

AI SpaceFactory beat over 60 other teams in the finale of an ongoing competition that began in 2015. NASA ran the contest in conjunction with Bradley University of Peoria, Illinois, where the final challenges were held.

For the On-Site Habitat Competition, teams had to autonomously print a one-third-scale habitat. This habitat had to be built from recyclables and materials that could be found on deep-space destinations, like the Moon and Mars.

(16) ANOTHER DAY IN COURT. The first one went so well *coff* let’s see how a “Real Lawyer Reacts to Game of Thrones: Trial of Tyrion Lannister.”

Tyrion is put on trial for the murder of Joffrey. Does he get a fair trial?

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

Pixel Scroll 5/8/19 Only The True Pixel Denies His Scrollability!

(1) KAY Q&A. “A Collision of History and Memory: Guy Gavriel Kay Discusses His New Novel A Brightness Long Ago at the B&N Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog.

In a letter you wrote that was attached by the publisher to advance copies of A Brightness Long Ago, you note that we are psychologically and neurologically programmed to internalize the memories from our teens until our mid-twenties more intensely than any other time of life, a fact that is an underpinning to this book. Do you care to expand on that thought?
There’s a wry aspect to this, as my psychoanalyst brother (to whom this book is dedicated) mentioned this to me 15 or so years ago! When I started writing this novel, using as one of the point of view characters—a man looking back on events form his twenties that loom large for him—that conversation came back from my memory! I asked my brother and he sent some scholarship on the subject.

(2) WATCHMEN TEASER. Time is running out – but for what?

Tick tock. Watchmen debuts this fall on HBO. From Damon Lindelof, Watchmen is a modern-day reimagining of Alan Moore’s groundbreaking graphic novel about masked vigilantes.

(3) NEW RUSS PROFILE. Gwyneth Jones, winner of two World Fantasy Awards, the Arthur C. Clarke Award, and the SFRA Pilgrim award for lifetime achievement in SF criticism, will have a new book out in July — Joanna Russ (University of Illinois Press).

Experimental, strange, and unabashedly feminist, Joanna Russ’s groundbreaking science fiction grew out of a belief that the genre was ideal for expressing radical thought. Her essays and criticism, meanwhile, helped shape the field and still exercise a powerful influence in both SF and feminist literary studies.

Award-winning author and critic Gwyneth Jones offers a new appraisal of Russ’s work and ideas. After years working in male-dominated SF, Russ emerged in the late 1960s with Alyx, the uber-capable can-do heroine at the heart of Picnic on Paradise and other popular stories and books. Soon, Russ’s fearless embrace of gender politics and life as an out lesbian made her a target for male outrage while feminist classics like The Female Man and The Two of Them took SF in innovative new directions. Jones also delves into Russ’s longtime work as a critic of figures as diverse as Lovecraft and Cather, her foundational place in feminist fandom, important essays like “Amor Vincit Foeminam,” and her career in academia.

(4) ORIGINAL QUESTIONS. The Powell’s City of Books site scored an interview with Ted Chiang about his new collection — “Powell’s Q&A: Ted Chiang, Author of ‘Exhalation'”

What do you care about more than most people around you?
In the context of speculative fiction, I think I’m atypically interested in the question of how do the characters in a story understand their universe. I’ve heard some people say that they don’t care about the plausibility of an invented world as long as the characters are believable. To me these aren’t easily separated. When reading a story I often find myself thinking, Why has no one in this world ever wondered such-and-such? Why has no one ever asked this question, or attempted this experiment? 

(5) ALL ALPHABETS ARE OFF. R.S. Benedict, who’s made several quality appearances in F&SF, has a new podcast, Rite Gud, talking about writing issues. The first episode is: “This Garbage Brought to You By the Letters S-E-O: How Google Is Ruining Writing”.

If you’ve been on the internet for a while, you may have heard about SEO, or “Search Engine Optimization.” But do you know what SEO really is — and the effect it has on writing? While some SEO tips are good — like citing your sources with added external links! — others make writing stilted and awkward. (For example, have you noticed how many times “SEO” has appeared in this paragraph?)

We all want to be seen. One of the most important ways is via Google, is it worth it if it makes your writing stiff? And do you have any other options? Or are we all stuck on the same hamster wheel, using the same techniques to try to rise above the din?

(5b) TOP OF THE POLL. Congratulations to Michael A. Burstein, who has been re-elected to the Brookline (MA) Board of Library Trustees for a sixth term. He notes, “Although the race was uncontested, the unofficial results indicate that I came in first among the four of us running this year, for which I thank everyone who voted for me.”

(6) RUSCH KICKSTARTER. Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Kickstarter appeal for The Diving Universe funded the first day, now they’re raising money to meet the stretch goal. JJ got me reading these, so I had to chip in —

…Two years ago, I realized that before I could write the next book about Boss, though, I needed to figure out what happened in the past, long before any of my current characters were born. 

So…I started what I thought was a short story. It became a 260,000 word adventure novel called The Renegat, because I can’t do world-building without telling a story.

…Everyone who backs this Kickstarter at the $5 and above will receive an ebook of The Renegat

The Kickstarter also gave me an excuse to assemble two books of extras—unfinished side trails, some from The Renegat, and many from earlier books, along with some essays about the entire project.

Of course, backers at the higher levels will get the hardcovers of the series as we complete them. And there are some other fun things here as well. You can get some of the lectures I’ve done for WMG Publishing about writing, or you can join the monthly Ask Kris Anything sessions. Those are live webinars, and you can ask questions about Diving to your heart’s content.

If we make our $5,000 stretch goal, every backer will get a copy of the novella, “Escaping Amnthra,” which is a side story that couldn’t fit into the novel. (“Escape” stands alone as well.)

(7) ROMANCE AWARDS. An array of Romance Writers of America awards have been announced. The award recipients will be recognized at the 2019 RWA Conference in New York.

2019 RWA Award Recipients

  • RWA Lifetime Achievement Award: Cherry Adair
  • RWA Emma Merritt Service Award: Dee Davis
  • RWA Service Awards: Courtney Milan, Gina Fluharty, Barbara Wallace
  • RWA Vivian Stephens Industry Award: Mark Coker, Founder & CEO, Smashwords
  • RWA Cathie Linz Librarian of the Year: Stephen Ammidown, Manuscript & Outreach Archivist, Browne Popular Culture Library, Bowling Green State University
  • RWA Steffie Walker Bookseller of the Year: Michelle Mioff-Haring, Owner, Cupboard Maker Books
  • RWA Veritas Award:Meet The Women Who Are Building A Better Romance Industry” by Bim Adewunmi

Hey – I actually used the pop culture library at BGSU when I went there eons ago!

(8) ANCIENT CLONE. The Arthur C. Clarke Center for the Human Imagination hosts “Neanderthal Among Us? Science Meets Fiction: A Discussion of the Motion Picture William” on May 13 at UCSD from 5:30-8:30 p.m. RSVP Required – full details here.

Join the UC San Diego Stem Cell Program, the Center for Academic Research and Training in Anthropogeny, OnePlace, and the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination for a free screening of the film William, which tells the story of what happens when two scientists clone a Neanderthal from ancient DNA and raise him in today’s world. Following the film, a panel will explore the scientific and ethical questions the film raises.

About the Film William

Star academics Doctors Julian Reed and Barbara Sullivan, fall in love with each other and with the idea of cloning a Neanderthal from ancient DNA. Against the express directive of University administrators they follow through on this audacious idea. The result is William: the first Neanderthal to walk the earth for some 35,000 years. William tries his best to fit into the world around him. But his distinctive physical features and his unique way of thinking–his “otherness”–set him apart and provoke fear. William’s story is powerful and unique, but his struggle to find love and assert his own identity in a hostile world is universal–and timeless.

(9) TWO SCOOPS OF ALASDAIR STUART. Alasdair Stuart’s latest column for Fox Spirit, “Not The Fox News: Don’t Be Nelson”, talks about how emotional engagement, especially when so many major story cycles are starting to end, is both a good thing and to be encouraged.

About once a decade, everything lines up. A half dozen major cultural juggernauts all come into land at about the same time and some poor soul is paid to write the ‘GEEK CULTURE IS OVER. WE SHALL NEVER SEE ITS LIKE AGAIN’ piece. Hey if the check clears and the piece doesn’t hurt anyone, go with God. We’re in one of those times now. Game of Thrones has under half its super short final season to go. Avengers Endgame is all over theaters everywhere and the ninth core Star Wars movie has been confirmed as the end of the Skywalker saga. If this was a concert, we’d officially be into the ‘Freebird’, ‘Hotel California’, ‘Thrift Shop’, ‘Single Ladies’ phase of the night.

These are emotional times….

Stuart has also joined the Ditch Diggers team with a new monthly column. The first one takes a look at the massive ructions in podcasting at the moment and the lessons writers can take from that. “Welcome to the Montage, Now Stare at a Test Tube”

…So let’s break this down. First off, Luminary is a new podcast streaming platform that launched a few months ago with a ton of exclusive titles and a ton of money, very little of which they seem to have spent on a public relations department. The idea is that they are ‘the Netflix of podcasts’, which presumably doesn’t mean:

‘We’re sustained by the physical library system that no one expected to live this long and it takes two years for us to get the new season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’.

Instead, the idea is that Luminary will feature forty or so podcasts which are only available through it’s app, most of which are fronted by celebrities.

How you feel about this really depends on how you feel about ‘famous person has some thoughts’ style shows.

(10) COHEN OBIT. The SFWA Blog announced that scientist Jack Cohen (1933-2019) died May 6.

Cohen primarily worked in the field of reproductive biology….  

As a science fiction fan, Cohen found himself advising many authors, including Anne McCaffrey, Larry Niven, David Gerrold, Jerry Pournelle, and Harry Harrison.  He teamed with Ian Stewart and Terry Pratchett wrote four volumes in the Science of Discworld series, the first of which earned the three authors a Hugo Nomination for Best Related Book.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 8, 1937 Thomas Pynchon, 82. Ok I’m confused. I’ve not read him so I’m not at all sure which of his novels can be considered genre. Would y’all first enlighten to which are such, and second what I should now read. ISFDB certainly doesn’t help by listing pretty much everything of his as genre including Mason & Dixon which though post-modernist isn’t genre.
  • Born May 8, 1938 Jean Giraud. Better to y’all as Moebius. He contributed storyboards and concept designs to myriad science fiction and fantasy films including Alien, The Fifth Element, The Abyss and the original Tron film. He also collaborated with avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky for an unproduced adaptation of Dune. Oh, I would’ve loved to have seen that!  And no, I’m not forgetting his work on both Heavy Metal and Marvel Comics, but I’ll let you detail those endeavours. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 8, 1940 Peter Benchley. He’s known for writing Jaws and he co-wrote the film script with Carl Gottlieb. His novel Beast is genre and was adapted into a film, as was White Shark, which has absolutely nothing to do with sharks. Another novel, The Island, was also turned into a film and it’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 8, 1947 Susan Casper. Editor and author, married to Gardner Dozois until her death.  Her fiction is first collected in Slow Dancing through Time which includes one collaboration with Dozois and one with Jack M Dann. Rainbow: The Complete Short Fiction of Susan Casper which was edited just after her death by her husband is as its title states a complete collection of her short fiction. She was co-editor with him of the Ripper! and Jack the Ripper anthologies. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 8, 1954 Stephen Furst. The saddest part of doing these Birthdays is discovering how many folks have died that I reasonably expected were still living. He died of complications from diabetes at a far too young age. You know most likely Centauri diplomatic attaché Vir Cotto on Babylon 5, a decent being way over his head in a job he was ill prepared for. He also directed three low-budget movies for the Sci Fi Channel: Dragon Storm, Path of Destruction, and Basilisk: The Serpent King; he additionally co-starred in the last two films. And he produced Atomic Shark which aired during Sharknado Week on Syfy. (Died 2017)
  • Born May 8, 1963 Michel Gondry, 56. French director, screenwriter, and producer of such genre as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind  (love that film), The Green Hornet (on the other hand, I deleted this from my .mov files after watching fifteen minutes of it) and The Science of Sleep (which I had not heard but sounds interesting.) 
  • Born May 8, 1981 Stephen Amell, 38. He’s known for portraying Oliver Queen / Green Arrow In Arrowverse. Ok I have a confession. I can either read or watch series like these. I did watch the first few seasons of the Arrow and Flash series. How the Hell does anybody keep up with these and set aside a reasonable amount of time to do any reading?  Seriously the amount of genre on tv has exploded. I’m watching Star Trek, Young Justice and Doom Patrol which is quite enough, thank you.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brevity crams several horrendous puns into this one-frame, LOTR-inspired cartoon.

(13) SPOILERS ASSEMBLE! The putative Endgame spoiler ban has been lifted by the Russo brothers, and Yahoo! Entertainment has a roundup of special tweets from the cast: “‘Avengers: Endgame’ cast reveals treasure trove of behind the scenes footage as spoiler ban lifts”.

The cast of Avengers: Endgame have had to sit on a ton of spoilers for years, with much of the filming on the Marvel mega-blockbuster dating all the way back to 2017.

Directing duo Joe and Anthony Russo have now lifted the ban on discussing spoilers from the film, so many of the cast members have been unveiling some of their illicit behind-the-scenes pictures and videos.

There are, of course, Avengers: Endgame spoilers ahead…

(14) ATWOOD. Tyler Cowen had Margaret Atwood on his Conversations With Tyler podcast: “Margaret Atwood on Canada, Writing, and Invention”. Atwood discusses Hag-Seed, her take on The Tempest, at the 10 minute mark.  She explains why she started writing The Handmaid’s Tale in West Berlin in 1984, and her love of H.G. Wells’s The Island of Dr. Moreau.  Audience questions coming in at the 55-minute mark about her Handmaid’s Tale sequel The Testaments, coming in September, why she likes the YouTube video “At Last, They’ve Made A Handmaid’s Tale for men,” and how readers figured out Offred’s last name.

(15) THIS IS YOUR BRAIN ON POKÉMON. Ars Technica reports players have unexpected anatomical development: “Pokémon characters have their own pea-sized region in brain, study finds”.

…It’s well known that human beings are remarkably adept at visually recognizing faces, words, numbers, places, colors, and so forth thanks to a constellation of regions—small clusters of neurons about the size of a pea—in the temporal lobe, located just behind the ears. Those regions show up in the same place in most people, despite differences in age, sex, or race. There’s even a so-called “Jennifer Aniston neuron,” (aka the “grandmother cell“) discovered by a UCLA neuroscientist in 2005, whose primary purpose seems to be to recognize images of the famous actress. Similar neurons have also been found for other celebrities like Bill Clinton, Julia Roberts, Halle Berry, and Kobe Bryant.

“This is quite remarkable, and it’s still an open mystery in neuroscience why these regions appear exactly where they do in the brain,” said co-author Jesse Gomez, a postdoc at the University of California, Berkeley, who conducted the experiments while a grad student at Stanford University. One way to answer this question, and determine which of several competing theories is correct, is to study people who, as children, had a unique experience with a new type of visual stimulus. If those people were shown to have developed a new brain region dedicated to recognizing that new object class, that would offer useful insight into how the brain organizes itself.

The catch: it would take many hours of laboratory practice with any new visual stimulus for there to be any measurable effect. But “I realized that the 1990s had already done it for me,” said Gomez. “I grew up playing Pokémon. The game rewards kids for individuating between hundreds of similar-looking Pokémon.” The game is also played primarily during childhood, a “critical window” period where the brain is especially plastic and responsive to experience. He reasoned it might be possible that passionate Pokémon players like his childhood self would have developed a new brain region in response to that experience. So he applied for a seed grant to test that hypothesis.

(16) BDP PLAYOFFS. Time is out of joint in Camestros Felapton’s review post, “Hugo 2019 Best Dramatic Long etc Round-up”.

…Bless its mega-crossover heart but Avengers: Infinity War is not a serious contender for the best science-fiction film of 2018. It is a notable bit of film making but it’s rather like what ends up on your plate when you* visit a really nice buffet — lots of tasty things but not a carefully constructed dining experience. I get why it’s here instead of Thor: Ragnarok but Thor 3 was a better contender as a sci-fi movie.

That leaves a face-off between Black Panther and Spider-Man. Both are visual treats. Spider-verse pulls off the remarkable feat of creating yet another reboot of Spider-Man as a film character in a way that makes me genuinely excited (doubly remarkable as the MCU version of Spidey was pretty good too)….

(17) HUGO REVIEWS, Here are links to three more sets of 2019 Hugo nominee reviews.

Steve J. Wright’s Best Novella Hugo Finalist reviews are online:

Bonnie McDaniel has completed her Best Novel Hugo Reviews at Red Headed Femme.

Peter Enyeart has posted a set of “2019 Hugo picks: Short stories” at Stormsewer.

(18) RISK. “Think Women Aren’t Big Risk Takers? These Chinese Girls Buck The Stereotype”NPR has the story.

Many studies have found that women aren’t as willing as men to take risks. And so they may shy away from riskier investments or career choices, missing out on the rewards that can come from taking big chances.

The perennial question: Why? Is it nature or nurture?

…Elaine Liu, an economist at the University of Houston, …and co-author Sharon Xuejing Zuo at Fudan University in Shanghai found that young girls from the Mosuo community in China, one of the few societies in the world run by women, were bigger risk-takers than boys from the same community. But after the Mosuo girls spent years in schools with boys and girls who came from patriarchal communities, the trend reversed: Older Mosuo girls took fewer chances.

(19) THE HOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT. BBC reports a “Missing part of Stonehenge returned 60 years on”.

A missing piece of Stonehenge has been returned to the site 60 years after it was taken.

A metre-long core from inside the prehistoric stone was removed during archaeological excavations in 1958.

No-one knew where it was until Robert Phillips, 89, who was involved in those works, decided to return part of it.

English Heritage, which looks after Stonehenge, hopes the sample might now help establish where the stones originally came from.

In 1958 archaeologists raised an entire fallen trilithon – a set of three large stones consisting of two that would have stood upright, with the third placed horizontally across the top.

During the works, cracks were found in one of the vertical stones and in order to reinforce it, cores were drilled through the stone and metal rods inserted.

The repairs were masked by small plugs cut from sarsen fragments found during excavations.

(20) BEST FOOT FORWARD. I’m telling you, this reminds me of a John Sladek story: “Botswana gives leaders stools made from elephant feet”.

Stools made from elephant feet have been presented to three African leaders by their host in Botswana during a meeting on the future of the mammals.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi handed over the gifts, covered in a blue patterned cloth, to his counterparts from Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The countries, along with South Africa, are calling for the ban on the sale of ivory to be lifted.

They argue that money from the trade can be used for conservation projects.

Elephant poaching is a big issue across Africa and some estimates say 30,000 are killed every year. There are thought to be 450,000 left.

(21) ROCK OF AGES. In Air & Space Magazine’s article “Claimed Signs of Life in a Martian Meteorite” the tagline seems an understatement — “Like other previous claims, this one may not hold up.” Another scientist has claimed that a meteorite that originated on Mars contains signs of life. You may recall such a claim previously made based on analysis of ALH84001 (ALH stands for Allan Hills in Antarctica, where the rock was found) with the announcement made in 1996. The evidence was eventually judged inconclusive by most scientists.

Now a new paper by Ildikó Gyollai from the Research Centre for Astronomy and Earth Sciences in Budapest, Hungary, and colleagues, claims that there might be clues to Martian life in another Allan Hills meteorite, this time ALH77005. They base their conclusions on morphological and geochemical indicators—including the presence of organic material—which lead them to speculate on the past presence of iron bacteria in this Martian rock. […]

[Thanks to Standback, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, Jim Meadows, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributor of the day Kip Williams.]

Pixel Scroll 3/9/19 The Correct Double Entendre Can Make Anything Genre

(1) FEELING FELINE. Beware “Timothy’s Spoiler Filled Review of Captain Marvel” at Camestros Felapton.

[From the desk of the CEO of Cattimothy Media dot Org] This is Marvel’s second cat led superhero movie. Black Panther was a bit disappointing as they cast a human in the key role of the Black Panther. Disappointing but understandable given that big cats have been boycotting Hollywood ever since the tiger in Life of Pi didn’t get their fair share of the royalties.

Goose is a superhero cat who is a regular cat and also an alien cat….

(2) SURVIVORS. Aniara, based on a 1956 poem by Swedish Nobel Prize-winning author Harry Martinson, opensin theaters and on demand May 17.

A spaceship carrying settlers to a new home in Mars after Earth is rendered uninhabitable, only to be knocked off course.

(3) ATWOOD’S NEW BOOK. “Atwood to launch The Handmaid’s Tale sequel with live broadcast” – they’re making it into a big media event reports The Guardian.

Margaret Atwood is to mark the publication of her sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale with a midnight launch in London on 9 September followed by a live interview at the National Theatre broadcast around the world.

There will also be a six-date tour of the UK and Ireland.

The rock-star arrangements reflect just how anticipated publication of her book, The Testaments, is. It will be set 15 years after The Handmaid’s Tale, and returns readers to life in Gilead, a theocratic dictatorship with its roots in 17th century Puritanism that has replaced the United States’ liberal democracy. It is a place where women have almost no rights and are used as enslaved breeding vessels.

(4) NORSTRILIA. Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus, while at a comic fest in Southern California, paused to read the current (1964!) issue of Galaxy and review Cordwainer Smith’s latest: “[March 9, 1964] Deviant from the Norm (April 1964 Galaxy)”.

25 years ago, a group of fen met in New York for the first World’s Science Fiction Convention.  Now, conclaves are springing up all over the nation (and internationally, too).  Just this weekend, I attended a small event ambitiously titled San Diego Comic Fest.  It was a kind of “Comics-in,” where fans of the funny pages could discuss their peculiar interests: Is Superman better than Batman?  Are the X-Men and the Doom Patrol related?  Is Steve Ditko one of the best comics artists ever?

…For years, Cordwainer Smith has teased us with views of his future tales of the Instrumentality, the rigid, computer-facilitated government of Old Earth.  We’ve learned that there are the rich humans, whose every whim is catered to.  Beneath them, literally, are the Underpeople — animals shaped into human guise (a la Dr. Moreau) who live in subterranean cities.  A giant tower, miles high, launches spaceships to the heavens, spreading the Instrumentality to the hundreds of settled stars of the galaxy.  All but one, the setting of Smith’s newest book.

(5) SF IN CHINA. Will Dunn analyzes “How Chinese novelists are reimagining science fiction” at New Statesman America.

One afternoon in June 1999, more than three million Chinese schoolchildren took their seats for the Gaokao, the country’s national college entrance exam. Essay subjects in previous years had been patriotic – “the most touching scene from the Great Leap Forward” (1958) – or prosaic –“trying new things” (1994) – but the final essay question of the millennium was a vision of the future: “what if memories could be transplanted?”

Chen Quifan, who is published in the West as Stanley Chen, says this was the moment that modern Chinese science fiction was born. “Earlier that year,” he explains to me in the offices of his London publisher, “there was a feature on the same topic in the biggest science fiction magazine in China, Science Fiction World. It was a coincidence, but a lot of parents then thought, OK – reading science fiction can help my children go to a good college.”

The magazine’s circulation exploded, as hundreds of thousands of new readers began to explore a genre that had previously been classified as children’s literature. Among those readers were Chen and other aspiring writers who would go on to submit stories to the magazine, and eventually to publish novels. This new generation of sci-fi authors has become hugely popular in China and, increasingly, around the world.

(6) MOON MEMORIES. Leonard Maltin has a personal review of this one: “Apollo 11: Reliving A Once-in-a-Lifetime Experience”.

I was a teenager when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon in the summer of 1969 and, like millions of people around the world, I will never forget that moment. I can only guess how this film will play to viewers who didn’t experience the glory years of NASA and America’s space program, but I can tell you that I marveled at the sights and sounds of Apollo 11 and choked up as it reached its conclusion. (Moreover, I didn’t need a title card to identify the first voice we hear, which recurs throughout the movie. Newscaster Walter Cronkite has become synonymous with mid-20th century events.)

Watching this saga on a giant IMAX screen plays a key role in its impact. NASA documented every facet of its operations, but only a fraction of their vast archive has ever been tapped. David Sington was one of the first filmmakers to dig deep and find previously unused material for his excellent feature In the Shadow of the Moon (2007). Apollo 11’s Todd Douglas Miller made an even more dramatic discovery: large-format 65mm footage that was never processed, unseen for fifty years. This material was destined to be shown in IMAX.

(7) PEN AMERICA. “The 2019 PEN America Literary Awards Winners” were announced February 26. The list is at the link.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 9, 1940 Raul Julia. If we count Sesame Street as genre, his appearance as Rafael here was his first genre role. Yeah I’m stretching it. Ok how about as Aram Fingal In Overdrawn at the Memory Bank, a RSL production off the John Varley short story? That better?  He later starred in Frankenstein Unbound as Victor Frankenstein as well. His last role released while he was still living was in Addams Family Values as Gomez Addams reprising the role he’d had in The Addams Family.  (Died 1994.)
  • Born March 9, 1955 Pat Murphy, 64. I think her most brilliant work is The City, Not Long After. If you’ve not read this novel, do so now. The Max Merriwell series is excellent and Murphy”s ‘explanation’ of the authorial attributions is fascinating.
  • Born March 9, 1958 Linda Fiorentino, 61. She played Laurel in Men in Black but I forget what her one-letter designation was. Scant other genre work though she did appear on Alfred Hitchcock Presents early in her career and I see she was in What Planet Are You From?, a SF film a decade before she stopped acting altogether. 
  • Born March 9, 1964 Juliette Binoche, 55. Several green roles including in the the recent remake of Godzilla as Sandra Brody, in Ghost in the Shell as Dr. Ouelet, and in High Life as Dr. Dibs. 
  • Born March 9, 1965 Brom, 54. Illustrator and novelist who I think is best in Krampus: The Yule Lord and  Lost Gods. Interestingly he did a lot of covers early on in his career including Michael Moorcock’s Elric: Tales of the White Wolf anthology and Jack Vance’s The Compleat Dying Earth on SFBC.
  • Born March 9, 1978 Hannu Rajaniemi, 41. Author of the Jean le Flambeur series which consists of The Quantum ThiefThe Fractal Prince and The Causal Angel. Damn if I can summarize them. They remind a bit of Alastair Reynolds and his Prefect novels, somewhat of Ian Mcdonald’s Mars novels as well. Layers of weirdness upon weirdness. 

(9) OPPOSITE SWEDEN. “Your money’s no good here” used to be a way of saying something was on the house, not a literal statement — “Protecting The ‘Unbanked’ By Banning Cashless Businesses In Philadelphia”.

Back in December, the Philadelphia City Council passed “Fair Workweek” legislation, joining a growing national movement aimed at giving retail and fast-food workers more predictable schedules and, by extension, more predictable lives. Low-income residents and unions lobbied lawmakers and put the issue on their radar. Similar laws are on the books in New York, San Francisco and Seattle.

That’s typically how it works. Advocates shine a light on a problem. A bill gets introduced.

That’s not the way it worked with another new law in Philadelphia. That law can be traced back to one man: City Councilman Bill Greenlee.

Last fall, Greenlee introduced a bill outlawing cashless businesses — brick-and-mortar shops and restaurants where customers can only pay with credit and debit cards.

“I heard that there started to be some establishments in Center City. Something just didn’t sit right with me on that,” said Greenlee.

Mayor Jim Kenney signed it into law last week, making Philadelphia the first big city in the country to ban cash-free stores. It takes effect July 1.

(10) DOTTED LINE. NPR finds the lighter side of the issue — “When Not Reading The Fine Print Can Cost Your Soul”.

Nobody reads the fine print. But maybe they should.

Georgia high school teacher Donelan Andrews won a $10,000 reward after she closely read the terms and conditions that came with a travel insurance policy she purchased for a trip to England. Squaremouth, a Florida insurance company, had inserted language promising a reward to the first person who emailed the company.

“We understand most customers don’t actually read contracts or documentation when buying something, but we know the importance of doing so,” the company said. “We created the top-secret Pays to Read campaign in an effort to highlight the importance of reading policy documentation from start to finish.”

Not every company is so generous. To demonstrate the importance of reading the fine print, many companies don’t give; they take. The mischievous clauses tend to pop up from time to time, usually in cheeky England.

In 2017, 22,000 people who signed up for free public Wi-Fi inadvertently agreed to 1,000 hours of community service — including cleaning toilets and “relieving sewer blockages,” the Guardian reported. The company, Manchester-based Purple, said it inserted the clause in its agreement “to illustrate the lack of consumer awareness of what they are signing up to when they access free wifi.”

(11) HUGOS THERE. Mark Yon reviews “An Unofficial History of the Hugos by Jo Walton” at SFFWorld.

…As this is an ‘informal’ history, there are clear favourite authors and non-favourites which are freely admitted by the contributors. Most noticeable is the consistent love of Theodore Sturgeon and Gene Wolfe’s work throughout. However Jo is not a fan of everything and everyone.  She admits that she is not a fan of anything cyberpunk, Dan Simmons’s later Hyperion books and Philip K Dick’s writing to the point where she has avoided his work, including the 1963 Award Winner The Man in the High Castle.  Although she is often an advocate of Heinlein’s work (such as Double Star), she is less enamoured with the more famous Stranger in A Strange Land (rather like myself, actually.)

(12) NOT IMPOSSIBLE. The Clarke Center’s podcast Into the Impossible, in Episode 21: Beyond 10,000 Hours explores physics, education, and what it takes to train imaginative scientists with Carl Wieman, Nobel Prize winning physicist with joint appointments as Professor of Physics and Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Stanford University. Dr. Wieman is interviewed by Brian Keating, UC San Diego Professor of Physics, Director of the Simons Observatory, and Associate Director of the Clarke Center. 

(13) HEAT VISION. Scientists have used nanoparticles inside the eyeballs of mice to make otherwise invisible near-infrared light visible to the mice (Gizmodo: “Incredible Experiment Gives Infrared Vision to Mice—and Humans Could Be Next”). What’s next, X-ray vision?

By injecting nanoparticles into the eyes of mice, scientists gave them the ability to see near-infrared light—a wavelength not normally visible to rodents (or people). It’s an extraordinary achievement, one made even more extraordinary with the realization that a similar technique could be used in humans.

Of all the remarkable things done to mice over the years, this latest achievement, described today in the science journal Cell, is among the most sci-fi.

(14) OVERMATCHED. From Captain Marvel, “Talos Vs Nick Fury Fight Scene Clip.”

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “One Minute Art History” is a video by Cao Shu  on Vimeo which condenses a great deal of art history into a 90-second video.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/28/19 Untitled Pixel Scroll Reboot

(1) FROM BOOKER TO GENRE. This week’s New Yorker article “Why Marlon James Decided to Write an African ‘Game of Thrones’” tells about Marlon James, who won the Booker prize and then decided to write “an African Game of Thrones.”   

A couple of weeks before we met for coffee, I went to hear James speak on a panel about diversity in sci-fi and fantasy, at New York Comic Con, a convention that annually converts the Javits Center into a maelstrom of geekery and cosplay. The audience for the panel was a mixture of black, white, and brown faces; a few rows from me, a Harley Quinn in hijab took furious notes. After a fellow-panelist, Tochi Onyebuchi, the author of a young-adult fantasy series influenced by Nigerian myth, urged the crowd to read Jemisin’s books, James joked that Jemisin would be coming for the Booker next. (He told the crowd they should also read Nalo Hopkinson, a Jamaican-born Canadian writer whose début, “Brown Girl in the Ring,” from 1998, is a dystopian horror-fantasy story animated by the West African spirit-magic tradition of Obeah.) Even as condescension toward genre fiction has gone out of style, the universes of literary and speculative fiction remain distinct, with their own awards, their own publishers, and their own separate, albeit overlapping, communities of readers. “There are a lot of literary-fiction authors whose heads are super stuck up their asses,” James said, telling the attendees that writers ought to read widely across genres.

(2) BETTER WORLDS STORY #5. The magic number! Here’s the latest Better Worlds short story from Rivers Solomon: “St. Juju”. Video by Allen Laseter.

Andrew Liptak did a Q&A with the author: “Rivers Solomon on colonialism, the apocalypse, and fascinating fungus”.

Rivers Solomon

What was the inspiration for this story, and what about fungus attracted you to this world, in particular?

Lately, I’ve been really intrigued by the idea of the end of the world — how it’s never really real, though it may feel like it is to us living in the midst of climate change as we are. Except on the scale of billions of years, according to the kind of timeline where suns birth and die and so on, worlds are quite adaptive creatures. Earth has had five or so ice ages. Dinosaurs have come and gone, many dying, others living on as birds. Mass extinction is par for the planet’s course.

(3) ATWOOD MASTER CLASS. Margaret Atwood Teaches Creative Writing is a 23-lesson video course from Masterclass. Cost, $90.

Called the “Prophet of Dystopia,” Margaret Atwood is one of the most influential literary voices of our generation. In her first-ever online class, the author of The Handmaid’s Tale teaches how she crafts compelling stories—from historical to speculative fiction—that remain timeless and relevant. Explore Margaret’s creative process for developing ideas into novels with strong structures and nuanced characters.

(4) PLUNK THOSE SILVER STRINGS. The Haffner Press will publish a very ambitious Manly Wade Wellman collection this year — The Complete John the Balladeer. The book will be released at the 2019 World Fantasy Convention in Los Angeles.

John, whose last name is never revealed, is a wandering singer who carries a guitar strung with strings of pure silver. He is a veteran of the Korean War and served in the U.S. Army as a sharpshooter (in the novel After Dark, he mentions that his highest rank was PFC). In his travels, he frequently encounters creatures and superstitions from the folk tales and superstitions of the mountain people. Though John has no formal education, he is self-taught, highly intelligent and widely read; it is implied that his knowledge of occult and folk legendarium is of Ph.D level. This knowledge has granted him competent use of white magic, which he has used on occasion to overcome enemies or obstacles, but it is primarily his courage, wit and essential goodness that always enables him to triumph over supernatural evils (although the silver strings of his guitar and his possession of a copy of The Long Lost Friend are also powerful tools in fighting evil magic), while basic Army training allows him to physically deal with human foes.

Stories:
“O Ugly Bird!”
“The Desrick on Yandro”
“Vandy, Vandy”
“One Other”
“Call Me from the Valley”
“The Little Black Train”
“Shiver in the Pines”
“Walk Like a Mountain”
“On the Hills and Everywhere”
“Old Devlins Was A-Waiting”
“Nine Yards of Other Cloth”
“Then I Wasn’t Alone”
“You Know the Tale of Hoph”
“Blue Monkey”
“The Stars Down There”
“Find the Place Yourself”
“I Can’t Claim That”
“Who Else Could I Count On”
“John’s My Name”
“Why They’re Named That”
“None Wiser for the Trip”
“Nary Spell”
“Trill Coster’s Burden”
“The Spring”
“Owls Hoot in the Daytime”
“Can These Bones Live?”
“Nobody Ever Goes There”
“Where Did She Wander?”

Novels
The Old Gods Waken (1979)
After Dark (1980)
The Lost and the Lurking (1981)
The Hanging Stones (1982)
The Voice of the Mountain (1984)

(5) BO PEEP. Disney’s new trailer for Toy Story 4.

(6) MEMORIAL. NASA Watch “Remembering” is a wrap-up of several memorials to lost astronauts and cosmonauts posted the day before the anniversary of the Challenger shuttle disaster. Mike Kennedy sent the link with a note: “In my long-time home of Huntsville AL, we name schools after these people. I live just a few blocks from Roger B. Chaffee Elementary School and maybe 2-3 miles from Virgil I. Grissom High School. The former Ed White Middle School name was sadly lost when it and another school were combined a few years ago. Those were, of course, the astronauts who died in the Apollo 1 fire. We also have Challenger Elementary/Middle school and Columbia High School. These wounds run deep around here, even after all the intervening years.”

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 28, 1929 Parke Godwin. I’ve read a number of his novels and I fondly remember in particular Sherwood and Robin and the King. If you’ve not read his excellent Firelord series, I do recommend you do so. So who has read his Beowulf series? (Died 2013.)
  • Born January 28, 1969 Kathryn Morris, 50. First played in Sleepstalker, a horror I’ll be gobsmacked if any of you have heard of. She has a small role as a teenage honey (IMDb description, not mine) in A.I. Artificial Intelligence. After that she was Lara Anderton in Minority Report. She played Najara on several episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess and was in Poltergeist: The Legacy series as Laura Davis in the “Silent Partner” episode.
  • Born January 28, 1973 Carrie Vaughn, 46. Author of the Kitty Norville series. She’s also been writing extensively in the Wild Cards as well. And she’s she’s got a new SF series, The Bannerless Saga which has two novels so far, Bannerless and The Wild Dead. Sounds interesting. 
  • Born January 28, 1981 Elijah Wood, 38. His first genre role was Video-Game Boy #2 in Back to the Future Part II. He next shows up as Nat Cooper in Forever Young followed by playing Leo Biederman In Deep Impact. Up next was his performance as Frodo Baggins In The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit films. Confession time: I watched the the very first of these. Wasn’t impressed. He’s done some other genre work as well including playing Todd Brotzman in the Beeb superb production of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.
  • Born January 28, 1985 Tom Hopper, 34. His principal genre role was on the BBC Merlin series as Sir Percival. He also shows up in Doctor Who playing Jeff during the “The Eleventh Hour” episode which would be during the time of the Eleventh Doctor. He’s been cast as Luther Hargreeves in the forthcoming The Umbrella Academy which is an adaptation of the comic book series of the same name, created by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá. Yes I’m looking forward to seeing this! 
  • Born January 28, 1993 Will Poulter, 26. First genre role was as Eustace Scrubb in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. He later appeared as Gally in The Maze Runner and Maze Runner: The Death Cure. He plays Colin Ritman In Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. Series wise, he’s been in The Fades, a BBC supernatural drama,playing Mac.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • This Get Fuzzy posits the best book ever: Harry da Vinci’s Rings.

(9) FUTURE TENSE. This month’s entry in the Future Tense Fiction series is “Thoughts and Prayers” by Ken Liu, which looks at how much worse trolling could get.

It was published along with a response essay by digital culture researcher Adrienne Massanari, “What’s in It for the Trolls?”

Ken Liu’s “Thoughts and Prayers” shows how the cruelest of online harassers convince themselves they’re doing the right thing….

When reading Liu’s piece, I was reminded again that the terms troll and trolling are maddeningly overused in popular culture. Trolling has come to mean everything from merely derailing a conversation with a purposefully nonsensical or impolite comment to actively harassing women with death and rape threats on Twitter. It’s a kind of linguistic shield that creates an easy way for abusers and harassers to dismiss their toxic behavior as “just trolling.”

(10) DOLLARS MISTER RICO, MILLIONS OF ‘EM! TVWeb says “Starship Troopers TV Show with Original Movie Cast Is Being Planned”.  

The Starship Troopers TV series would more than likely be pretty big, especially with the original cast and Ed Neumeier on board. One could easily see Netflix or Hulu jumping at the chance to put that out. However, it seems that they are in the early stages of talking about the project, and as Neumeier says, we don’t want to “jinx” it either. So for now, we’ll just think positive thoughts about the project actually happening.

Of course, you might have thoughts of your own about it.

(11) WIZARD OF OZ SETS RECORD. Cousin Judy’s film is still bringing ‘em into the theater — Variety: “Film News Roundup: ‘Wizard of Oz’ Sets Single-Day Record for Fathom”.

Fathom Events’ 80th anniversary of “The Wizard of Oz” took in $1.2 million at 408 North American sites on Sunday, setting a new Fathom record as the highest-grossing single-day classic film release.

“The Wizard of Oz” also had the highest per-screen average of any film in wide release on Sunday. The 1939 release is part of the TCM Big Screen Classics series, which will include “My Fair Lady,” “Field of Dreams,” “Glory,” “Alien” and “Lawrence of Arabia” this year.

(12) BAUM’S AWAY. Coming to Oakland in February, the California International Antiquarian Book Fair poster has an Oz theme.

(13) LET’S GET ROVING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A trio of articles give different impressions on the fate of the Opportunity rover on Mars—silent since the planetwide dust storm several months ago—at least according to the headlines. At Futurism, they say, “NASA’s Opportunity Rover Feared Dead: ‘An Honorable Death’,” which sounds decidedly pessimistic. Over on Gizmodo, they say, “Wake Up, Oppy! NASA Sends New Commands to Mars Opportunity Rover,” a somewhat more optimistic take. Meanwhile, The Jet Propulsion Laboratory itself simply says, “Rover Team Beaming New Commands to Opportunity on Mars.” That article doubtless gives the clearest story, coming as it does straight from NASA.

Engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, have begun transmitting a new set of commands to the Opportunity rover in an attempt to compel the 15-year-old Martian explorer to contact Earth. The new commands, which will be beamed to the rover during the next several weeks, address low-likelihood events that could have occurred aboard Opportunity, preventing it from transmitting. 

[…] “We have and will continue to use multiple techniques in our attempts to contact the rover,” said John Callas, project manager for Opportunity at JPL. “These new command strategies are in addition to the ‘sweep and beep’ commands we have been transmitting up to the rover since September.” With “sweep and beep,” instead of just listening for Opportunity, the project sends commands to the rover to respond back with a beep. 

[…] “Over the past seven months we have attempted to contact Opportunity over 600 times,” said Callas. “While we have not heard back from the rover and the probability that we ever will is decreasing each day, we plan to continue to pursue every logical solution that could put us back in touch.”

Time is of the essence for the Opportunity team. The “dust-clearing season” – the time of year on Mars when increased winds could clear the rover’s solar panels of dust that might be preventing it from charging its batteries – is drawing to a close. Meanwhile, Mars is heading into southern winter, which brings with it extremely low temperatures that are likely to cause irreparable harm to an unpowered rover’s batteries, internal wiring and/or computer systems. 

If either these additional transmission strategies or “sweep and beep” generates a response from the rover, engineers could attempt a recovery. If Opportunity does not respond, the project team would again consult with the Mars Program Office at JPL and NASA Headquarters to determine the path forward.

(14) MARGOT ROBBIE. Miss me? That’s what Margo Robbie’s asks while dressed as her DC alter ego in an Instagram post. Gizmodo/io9 has that story together with a short video clip showing off costumes for Quinn and several other Birds of Prey characters (“Harley Quinn Brings Fantabulous Fashion to Birds of Prey Video Introducing Black Canary, Black Mask, Huntress & More”).

While Warner Bros. upcoming Birds of Prey movie will introduce a number of DC’s formidable heroines like Huntress and Black Canary to the DCEU for the first time, it’ll also feature the return of one Harley Quinn who, judging from the film’s title, might embark upon some sort of redemptive arc. New year, new movie, new Harley—and Margot Robbie’s just revealed our first look at her.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy, JJ, Lisa Goldstein, John King Tarpinian, Joey Eschrich, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Peer.]

Pixel Scroll 1/26/19 Sitting On The Dock Of The Pod Bay Door

(1) MANGA AT THE MUSEUM. The British Museum will host an exhibit on “Manga” from May 23-August 26.

Enter a graphic world where art and storytelling collide in the largest exhibition of manga ever to take place outside of Japan.

Manga is a visual narrative art form that has become a multimedia global phenomenon, telling stories with themes from gender to adventure, in real or imagined worlds.

Immersive and playful, the exhibition will explore manga’s global appeal and cultural crossover, showcasing original Japanese manga and its influence across the globe, from anime to ‘cosplay’ dressing up. This influential art form entertains, inspires and challenges – and is brought to life like never before in this ground-breaking exhibition.

For those who haven’t encountered manga before there’s a familiarization post at the Museum’s blog: “Manga: a brief history in 12 works”.

Japanese manga artists find inspiration for their work in daily life, the world around them, and also in the ancient past. Many people are familiar with modern manga, but the art form – with its expressive lines and images – is much older than you might think. …Here is a brief history of Japanese manga in 12 works.

(2) LEFT ON THE BEACH? SYFY Wire springs a little surprise: “Patrick Stewart won’t be a captain on the Picard spinoff series, says Jonathan Frakes”.

The upcoming Picard TV series on CBS All Access will feature one major difference regarding its titular main character played by Patrick Stewart—he won’t be a starship captain. Speaking with Deadline about the current Star Trek revolution being helmed by Discovery showrunner, Alex Kurtzman, actor/director Jonathan Frakes revealed this interesting bit of news.

“Patrick isn’t playing Captain Jean-Luc Picard this time, he’s done with Starfleet in this show. That’s about the only thing I do know about the show,” he said.

(3) VERDICT COMING FOR OPPORTUNITY. NASA has received only silence from Opportunity since contact was lost during a global dust storm on the red planet last June. The agency may soon decide to move on. The New York Times has the story — “‘This Could Be the End’ for NASA’s Mars Opportunity Rover”.

…The designers of the spacecraft expected that dust settling out of the Martian air would pile up on the solar panels, and the rovers would soon fail from lack of power. But unexpectedly, gusts of Martian winds have repeatedly provided helpful “cleaning events” that wiped the panels clean and boosted power back up.

In 2009, Spirit became ensnared in a sand trap and stopped communicating in March 2010, unable to survive the Martian winter.

Opportunity continued trundling across the Martian landscape for more than 28 miles. Instead of just 90 Martian days, Opportunity lasted 5,111, if the days are counted up until it sent its last transmission. (A Martin day is about 40 minutes longer than an Earth day.)

This time, the dust may have been too thick to be blown away or something else broke on the rover. John L. Callas, the project manager, conceded that hopes were fading. “We’re now in January getting close to the end of the historic dust cleaning season,” he said.

(4) AFROFUTURISM IN DC. The Folger Library in Washington, DC will host a reading with Tananarive Due, N.K. Jemisin, & Airea D. Matthews on February 12 at 7:30 p.m. — “What Was, What Is, and What Will Be: A Cross-Genre Look at Afrofuturism”. Tickets available at the link.

Due, Jemisin and Matthews

Cultural critic Mark Dery coined the term “Afrofuturism” in his essay “Black to the Future,”and its meaning has expanded to encompass alternative visions of the future influenced by astral jazz, African-American sci-fi, psychedelic hip-hop, rock, rhythm and blues, and more. This reading is co-sponsored with PEN/Faulkner Foundation as part of its Literary Conversations series and The Library of Congress’s Center for the Book and Poetry and Literature Center. 

The reading at the Folger will be preceded by a moderated conversation with all three writers at the Library of Congress. This event is free and will take place at 4 p.m. Register here.

(5) FANTASTIC WOMEN. As part of the celebration of Women’s History Month, the PEN/Faulkner Foundation and the National Museum of Women in the Arts will present “Fantastic Women” on March 10 in Washington, DC.

Arimah, Link and Machado

Join us in celebrating the work of Lesley Nneka ArimahKelly Link, and Carmen Maria Machado, women writers who all use elements of the fantastic in their work, often in ways that allow them to explore crucial themes (power, sexuality, identity, the body) without the constraints imposed by strict realism. These authors play with the boundaries of time and space through short stories and novels, and use their writing to push back against the traditional boundaries of women’s fiction.

(6) KLOOS’ AFTERSHOCKS. The Verge’s Andrew Liptak interviewed Marko Kloos and revealed the cover of his new book series which begins with the novel Aftershocks“Sci-fi author Marko Kloos on what it takes to build a brand new solar system”.

…An eye-opening moment for Kloos came when he attended another science fiction workshop: the Launch Pad Astronomy Workshop, held each year at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. (Disclaimer — I was an attendee in 2014). The week-long boot camp is engineered to impart science fiction writers with a baseline of astronomy and physics knowledge, with the idea that more scientifically accurate works will in turn help provide readers with better science. “That gave me a lot of ideas that I wanted to put into this series,” he says, “and basically created the solar system from scratch.”

The workshop “taught me all the things I did wrong with Frontlines, which was luckily not a whole lot,” Kloos says, “but there are some whoppers in there, like a colony around a star that does not support a habitable zone.”

(7) BLEAK ENOUGH FOR YOU? Behind a paywall at the Financial Times, John Lanchester argues that Brave New Worlds did a better job than 1984 in predicting the future.

One particular area of Huxley’s prescience concerned the importance of data.  He saw the information revolution coming–in the form of gigantic card-indexes, but he got the gist.  It is amusing to see how many features of Facebook, in particular, are anticipated by Brave New World.  Facebook’s mission statement ‘to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together’ sounds a lot like the new world’s motto ‘Community, Identity, Stability.’ The world in which we ‘haven’t any use for old things’ dovetails with Mark Zuckerberg’s view that ‘young people are just smarter.’  The meeting room whose name is Only Good News–can you guess whether that belongs to Huxley’s world controller, or Sheryl Sandberg?  The complete ban on the sight of breast feeding is common to the novel and to the website. The public nature of relationship status, the idea that everything should be shared, and the idea that ‘everyone belongs to everyone else’ are also common themes of the novel and the company–and above all, the idea, perfectly put by Zuckerberg and perfectly exemplifying Huxley’s main theme, that ‘privacy is an outdated norm.’

(8) HAMIT. Francis Hamit, a longtime contributor here, has a new Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/francishamit. He says, “There is s lot of free stuff in the Public area.  Some of it is even science fiction.  Feedback is welcome and the minimum sign-up is $2.25 a month for those who want to support my efforts.”

(9) TERMINATOR REBOOT. Variety has behind-the-scenes video (in English with Hungarian subtitles) from the next Terminator movie (“Arnold Schwarzenegger and the late Andy Vajna Appear in Video From ‘Terminator’ Set”). The movie, currently called just Untitled Terminator Reboot, is said to be coming out 1 November 2019.

Arnold Schwarzenegger and Andy Vajna, the Hollywood producer who died earlier this week, have appeared in a just-released video from the set of the latest movie in the “Terminator” franchise, which shot in Hungary last year.

The behind-the-scenes promotional video, posted online by the Hungarian National Film Fund, sees Schwarzenegger and the movie’s director, Tim Miller (“Deadpool”), sing the praises of Budapest as a location, and Vajna complimenting the “Terminator” franchise. It ends with Schwarzenegger saying, “I’ll be back.”

It was Vajna’s last set visit to one of the international productions filming in Hungary, where he served as the government commissioner for the film industry. With partner Mario Kassar, Vajna founded the indie powerhouse Carolco, which produced blockbusters including “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” the first three “Rambo” films and “Basic Instinct.” He died Sunday in Budapest after a long illness. He was 74.

(10) AN ANCIENT EASTERCON. Rob Hansen has added a section about “Bullcon – the 1963 Eastercon” to his British fanhistory website THEN “featuring the usual cornucopia of old photos:”

BULLCON the 1963 UK National Science Fiction Convention – the fifth to be run under the aupices of the B.S.F.A. – took place over the weekend of 12th April – 15th April, 1963. It was held at the Bull Hotel in Peterborough (see it today here), as it would also be the following year. Guest of Honour was Bruce Montgomery aka Edmund Crispin. In SKYRACK, Ron Bennett reported that: “this was the best attended British Convention to date, with over 130 avid fans gathering to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the British Science Fiction Association.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 26, 1928 Roger Vadim. Director of Barbarella which was based on the comic series of the same name by Jean-Claude Forest. Need I note that it starred Jane Fonda in the title role? (Died 2000.)
  • Born January 26, 1928 Philip Jose Farmer.  I know I’ve read at least the first three Riverworld novels (To Your Scattered Bodies GoThe Fabulous Riverboat and The Dark Design) but I’ll be damned if I recognize the latter ones. Great novels those are. And I’ll admit that I’m not familiar at all with the World of Tiers or Dayworld series. Anyone read them? I know, silly question. I do remember his Doc Savage novel Escape from Loki as being a highly entertaining read, and I see he’s done a number of Tarzan novels as well. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 26, 1943 Judy-Lynn Del Rey. Editor at Ballantine Books after first starting at Galaxy Magazine. Dick and Asimov were two of her clients who considered her the best editor they’d worked with. Wife of Lester del Rey. She suffered a brain hemorrhage in October 1985 and died several months later. Though she was awarded a Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor after her death, her widower turned it down on the grounds that it only been awarded because of her death. (Died 1986.)
  • Born January 26, 1949 Jonathan Carroll, 70. I think his best work by far is The Crane’s View Trilogy consisting of Kissing the Beehive, The Marriage of Sticks and The Wooden Sea. I know de Lint liked these novels though mainstream critics were less than thrilled. White Apples I thought was a well crafted novel and The Crow’s Dinner is his wide ranging look at life in general, not genre at all but fascinating.
  • Born January 26, 1979 Yoon Ha Lee, 40. Best known for his Machineries of Empire space opera novels and his short fiction. Ninefox Gambit, his first novel, received the 2017 Locus Award for Best First Novel. His newest novel, Dragon Pearl, riffs off the fox spirit mythology. 

(12) THOUSAND WORLD SPACE FORCES. Stephanie at Holed Up In A Book connected with Yoon Ha Lee — “Weekly Author Fridays featuring Yoon Ha Lee – Author Interview”.

Do you have a writing routine? 
More or less. I get up, walk my cat (or more accurately, she walks me), maybe work on one of the languages I’m trying to learn (French, German, Welsh, Korean, and Japanese), brew myself a cup of tea, then set up in my study. For a long project like a novel, I usually write in Scrivener, although for a shorter project or to mix things up I sometimes write longhand with fountain pen. When I’m working in Scrivener, it gives me a running wordcount. So every 100 words that I write, I go to my bullet journal and write out the phrase, “100 words down, 1,900 words to f***ing go!” “200 words down, 1,800 words to f***ing go!” It’s kind of aggro but it keeps me going? I generally aim for 2,000 words in a writing day. More than that and my brain seizes up. 

(13) ST:D RECAP. Let Camestros Felapton fill you in on the latest episode of Star Trek: Discovery: “Discovery: New Eden”.

Discovery decides to play it safe with an episode that’s so The Next Generation that it needs Commander Riker to direct it.

The mystery of the red signals leads Discovery to the Beta quadrant via a quick use of the spore drive. There they discover a colony of humans from pre-warp Earth. Meanwhile in orbit, the collapse of a planetary ring of radioactive rocks (just go along with it) imperils not just the lost colony of humans but the away team (Pike, Michael and crew member of the week).

It’s nice enough. There’s a theme of faith versus science with Pike sort of taking one side and Michael the other.

(14) ATWOOD. Shelf Awareness reports on “Wi14: Margaret Atwood in Conversation” at a New Mexico conference.

Erin Morgenstern and Margaret Atwood

“I think this is very uplifting. We’re all still in this room. There’s still books, people are still reading them,” said Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, The Blind Assassin and much more, during the breakfast keynote on the second day of Winter Institute 14 in Albuquerque, N.Mex.

“Part of the uptick of books is that’s one of the places people go when they feel under both political and psychological pressure,” Atwood continued. “It is actually quite helpful to know that other people have been through similar things before, and have come out of them.”

Atwood was in conversation with Erin Morgenstern, author of The Night Circus and the upcoming The Starless Sea, and during a wide-ranging, illuminating and often funny discussion, topics ranged from forthcoming novels to blurring genre lines, early book-signing experiences, and past and present reactions to The Handmaid’s Tale.

On the subject of her new novel, The Testaments—the sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale coming from Nan Talese/Doubleday on September 10—Atwood joked that her publisher would kill her if she said too much, but she did say that it is set 16 years after the events of the previous book and features three narrators. Beyond that, her publisher “would be very cross” with her.

When asked what led her to return to the world of The Handmaid’s Tale more than 30 years later, Atwood replied that there have “always been a lot of questions asked” about the book, like what happens next and what happens to the main character after the end of the novel. She said that she never answered those questions, because she didn’t know. Writing The Testaments, Atwood explained, was “an exploration of the answers” to those many questions

(15) LITIGATION. The New York Times reports “Jay Asher, Author of ‘Thirteen Reasons Why,’ Files Defamation Lawsuit”. In 2017 Asher was accused of sexual misconduct, and when that went public last year he agreed to stop attending Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators events.

More than a decade ago, Jay Asher’s young adult novel, “Thirteen Reasons Why,” a dark story about a bullied teenager who kills herself, became an unexpected best-seller. Teachers and librarians around the country embraced the novel as a timely and groundbreaking treatment of bullying and teenage suicide, and the novel went on to sell several million copies. A popular Netflix adaptation set off controversy over its depiction of the causes of suicide, but still drew hordes of new readers to the book, and has been renewed for a third season.

Then, last year, Mr. Asher’s career imploded when he was accused of sexual misconduct, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators announced that he had violated the professional organization’s anti-harassment policy. The repercussions were swift: His literary agency dropped him, speaking engagements and book signings evaporated, and some bookstores removed his novels from their shelves.

Now Mr. Asher, who denied the allegations, has filed a lawsuit against the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the group’s executive director, Lin Oliver, claiming that Ms. Oliver and the organization made false and defamatory statements about him that torpedoed his career, and caused financial harm and intentional emotional distress.

(16) ONE SMALL STEP. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Checkers? Long since mastered. Chess? Mere child’s play. Go? Can’t you make me work a little?

Now what? StarCraft? Humans down to defeat again. Wired has the story of another victory for robot-kind (partial paywall: “DeepMind Beats Pros at StarCraft in Another Triumph for Bots”).

In London last month, a team from Alphabet’s UK-based artificial intelligence research unit DeepMind quietly laid a new marker in the contest between humans and computers. On Thursday it revealed the achievement in a three-hour YouTube stream, in which aliens and robots fought to the death.

DeepMind’s broadcast showed its artificial intelligence bot, AlphaStar, defeating a professional player at the complex real-time strategy videogame StarCraft II. Humanity’s champion, 25-year-old Grzegorz Komincz of Poland, lost 5-0. The machine-learning-powered software appeared to have discovered strategies unknown to the pros who compete for millions of dollars in prizes offered each year in one of e-sports’ most lucrative games. “It was different from any StarCraft that I have played,” said Komincz, known professionally as MaNa.

[…] Mark Riedl, an associate professor at Georgia Tech, found Thursday’s news exciting but not jaw-dropping. “We were pretty much to a point where it was just a matter of time,” he says. “In a way, beating humans at games has gotten boring.”

(17) WHO NEEDS ROVER? “Rare angel sharks found living off Wales”.

Scientists have found evidence that one of the world’s rarest sharks is alive and well, living off the Welsh coast.

Sightings from fishing boats suggest the mysterious angel shark is present in Welsh waters, although no-one knows exactly where.

The shark’s only established stronghold is the Canary Islands, where the animals have been filmed on the seabed.

Wales could be a key habitat for the critically endangered shark, which is from an ancient and unique family.

(18) INCREASE YOUR WORD POWER. “Obscure words with delightful meanings” — animation: “12 words we don’t want to lose.”

Paul Anthony Jones collects terms that have fallen out of use and resurrects them. We have featured 12 of our favourites in an animation celebrating forgotten phrases. Animation by Darren McNaney.

(19) MARVEL CASTING. The Hollywood Reporter tells about another superhero series: “Marvel’s ‘Vision and Scarlet Witch’ Series Lands ‘Captain Marvel’ Writer”.

The Vision and Scarlet Witch, one of the first series that Marvel Studios will be making for Disney’s streaming service Disney+, has landed a writer and showrunner.

Jac Schaeffer, one of the scribes behind Marvel’s upcoming Captain Marvel movie, has been tapped to run point on the series that will focus on the two characters that are integral members of the Avengers. She will pen the pilot and executive produce, say sources.

Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen are expected to star in the series, reprising the roles they originated on the big screen.

(20) RETURN TO ROSWELL. Critic Darrell Fienberg covered the mid-January reappearance of this series: “‘Roswell, New Mexico’: TV Review”.

…As The CW’s Roswell, New Mexico is set to premiere, my guess is that audience response to the series’ fitfully immigration-heavy perspective will fall into two camps.

First: “Keep your politics out of my teen-friendly supernatural soaps!” This group of detractors will be frustrated that a series about aliens set in the American Southwest in 2019 would attempt to connect that extreme circumstance to what is actually happening at the border in 2019. Leaving aside that those people may not like or understand science fiction on a very fundamental level, they won’t like Roswell, New Mexico anyway.

Second: “If this is your skid, steer into it!” This’ll be from those who want Roswell, New Mexico to do more with the immigration metaphor or, rather, to approach it better. It’s the thing that makes Roswell, New Mexico relevant as a brand reinvention, so there’s very little purpose in soft-selling it.

(21) DISCONTINUITIES AND OTHER PROBLEMS. Seems it’s never too late to find something wrong with The Original Series: “30 Mistakes In The Original Star Trek Even Trekkies Completely Missed” at ScreenRant. There might even be a Filer who caught this gaffe when it originally aired —

27. SCRIPT SPELLING ERROR

It is always an awkward situation when a movie or TV show spells something wrong in the credits. This can be problematic if an actor’s name is spelled wrong, but as for Star Trek, the word “script” was spelled incorrectly for 13 episodes of season 1.

When giving the crew member George A. Rutter his title, the credits credit him as a “Scpipt” Supervisor. This mistake was eventually fixed on the show, but in the ‘60s, it likely would have cost a lot of money to redo the credits to fix one spelling error. 

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

Pixel Scroll 12/1/18 Too Many Pixels, Herr Scrollzart!

(1) WAITING FOR AGLOW. Robert J. Sawyer tells fans why his next book won’t be released until 2020.

After he lost his security clearance, J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, really did say: “There is a story behind my story. If a reporter digs deep enough he will find that it is a bigger story than my suspension.”

Well, I’m writing that story: an alternate-history novel about The Manhattan Project and the years following it to be called The Oppenheimer Alternative. Every character in the book is a real person, including many of the greatest scientists of the 20th century: Oppie himself, Albert Einstein, Edward Teller, Leo Szilard, Hans Bethe, Enrico Fermi, I.I. Rabi, Wernher von Braun, and more.

I know you’ve all been patiently waiting for a new book from me, and I’m afraid you’ll have to be patient a little longer. For this book to get the launch publicity it deserves, we’re going to publish it to coincide with the 75th-anniversary of the first atomic bomb explosion and the dropping of bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Look for The Oppenheimer Alternative in July 2020.

(2) STALKER AWARD. Europa SF announces Estonian fandom’s “2018 Stalker Awards”.

Stalker is Estonian Science Fiction Association (ESFA) award for the best original and translated speculative fiction (i.e SF, Fantasy and horror).

Stalker was created to acknowledge the best original and translated speculative fiction published in Estonian. First Stalker nominees were announced in 1998.

Stalkers for fiction are awarded based on the reader’s votes. (The guidelines of voting are described in the Stalker Statute.) This means everyone who’s interested in Estonian speculative fiction can vote!

The award is announced annually on Estcon – the annual convention of the local fandom. All the voters and fans and other interested parties are very welcome to witness the event!

(3) GQ ON JEMISIN. One more in a flurry of magazine profiles about the Hugo-winning author – Joshua Rivera’s “N.K. Jemisin Is Trying to Keep the World From Ending” at GQ.

I wanted to talk to Jemisin because she wrote a trilogy of books that largely took the world as it is now—buckling under the weight of systemic racism, income inequality, and environmental disaster—and portrayed it, through the lens of fiction, as what it truly is if left to momentum and entropy: the end of the world. It’s not a farfetched notion.There are cops outside the library, and they’re carrying assault rifles because a man whose fervent support of the nation’s president has moved him to terrorism.

“If the United States right now in this moment decided that it wanted to invest in educating every child to an equal degree, making sure everybody had actual equal opportunity, then we would become one of the most powerful countries on the planet,” Jemisin says. “We’d be able to reverse climate change. We would be able to do amazing things. Any country that genuinely harnesses its entire population and treats them all like people has nowhere to go but up.”

(4) THE TRAVELER VISITS LA. Galactic Journey’s Loscon presentation assumed the date was November 24, 1963 —

Not only did we get to put on a show (in which the [Kennedy] assassination, of course, featured prominently), but we also met Laura Freas, wife of Kelly Freas, the illustrator who painted Dr. Martha Dane.  As y’all know, Dr. Dane graced our masthead until very recently, and she remains the Journey’s avatar.

And for those of you who missed the performance, we got it on video-tape.

This is the first of three segments –

(5) FOR THOSE WHO DIDN’T GET IT THE FIRST TIME AROUND. Canadian satire site The Beaverton covers Atwood’s forthcoming book The Tempest: “Margaret Atwood confirms Handmaid’s Tale sequel is just original manuscript but with more exclamation points”.

“As you can see here,” explained editor Angela Harper, pointing to the paragraph where the Handmaids’ puritanical red outfits are first described. “She has added a note that says ‘For the love of God, STOP making sexy Halloween costumes of this, what is hell wrong with you people?’ I really think it will add a delightful personal touch, and remove any trace of subtlety, nuance, or potential for anyone to misinterpret the point of the novel.”

(6) WHO TUNES. There may be some debate about the latest version of the Doctor Who theme but Nature remembers the first female pioneers of electronic music who founded the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and brought us the original theme: “The Doctor Who theme and beyond: female pioneers of electronic music”.

The history of electronic music usually centres on the men (including Pierre Schaeffer, Olivier Messiaen, Pierre Boulez, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Edgard Varèse) who developed musique concrète from recorded everyday sounds in Paris in the mid-twentieth century. Yet in those decades, a group of sound engineers — many of them women — were making waves in an old London skating rink.

The BBC Radiophonic Workshop produced effects and theme tunes for the British broadcaster, including iconic sounds for the sci-fi television and radio programmes Doctor Who and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, using electronic oscillators and tape loops decades before synthesizers were common. That many of its engineers were women was, and still is, a rarity. Last week, two of them, Daphne Oram and Delia Derbyshire, were celebrated anew in Synth Remix, a concert series of live performances and DJ sets touring Britain.

Oram (1925–2003) co-founded the Radiophonic Workshop.She gained experience in mixing electronics and music during the Second World War while working for the BBC on sound balance for radio broadcasts. During Germany’s bombings of London in the Blitz, she switched pre-recorded tracks of orchestral music into broadcasts of live music. That allowed the musicians to flee the city’s grand concert venue, the Albert Hall, without the radio audience knowing.

In the 1950s, Oram became intrigued by the potential of tape recording to transform music by exploding space and time. She was a fan of musique concrète, regularly staying up all night to mix her own tracks. In 1958, after years of badgering the BBC to modernize its music, Oram and her colleague Desmond Briscoe were given a room with some old equipment. Thus began the workshop.

 

Daphne Oram

(7) JDA ACTS OUT. Jon Del Arroz tried to slime Cat Rambo’s AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) session on Reddit yesterday. Jim C. Hines has the quotes and provides contextual analysis in “When Harassment Appears Harmless”.

There’s nothing friendly about repeatedly, deliberately violating someone’s boundaries. When someone has again and again told you to leave them the hell alone, and you keep following them around, popping up to leave comments or whatever? The words might be friendly, but the behavior is creepy/stalker/harassing.

It’s an attempted power move on the part of the creeper. “Ha ha, I don’t have to respect your boundaries, and there’s nothing you can do about it!” And if the victim complains, the harasser immediately blames them. “I was just trying to be friendly. Why does she have to be so hateful?”

(8) WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT? Author Barbara Ashford, an Odyssey Workshop instructor, advises — “Don’t Lose Sight of the Big Picture”.

When I began revising my first novel, I believed my story had good conflict, complex characters, and a world that was pretty cool. Okay, the plot was a bit of a scavenger hunt. And the novel was way too long. But trimming and refining was what revising was all about, right?

Well…that depends on your interpretation of “refining.” I ended up rewriting two-thirds of the novel and cutting 80,000 words from the final manuscript. But my biggest revelation occurred early in revisions: while my protagonist was blazing a trail through a magical forest, I realized that I had lost sight of the forest for the trees. What was this story about?

(9) NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON & #METOO. Neil deGrasse Tyson is responding to allegations of sexual misconduct. (Variety: “Neil deGrasse Tyson Sexual Misconduct Claims Being Investigated by Fox, ‘Cosmos’ Producers”).

Fox and the producers of the television series “Cosmos” have opened an investigation into multiple sexual misconduct claims against the show’s host, Neil deGrasse Tyson. The move follows a report on the website Patheos in which two women accused Tyson of inappropriate sexual behavior.

“The credo at the heart of ‘Cosmos’ is to follow the evidence wherever it leads,” the producers said in a joint statement. “The producers of ‘Cosmos’ can do no less in this situation.  We are committed to a thorough investigation of this matter and to act accordingly as soon as it is concluded.”

Fox Broadcasting also issued a statement, saying, “We have only just become aware of the recent allegations regarding Neil deGrasse Tyson. We take these matters very seriously and we are reviewing the recent reports.”

More recently, Tyson has posted answers to three allegations on Facebook (Vulture: “Neil deGrasse Tyson Addressed His Sexual Misconduct Accusations on Facebook”).

Neil deGrasse Tyson took to Facebook to address the multiple accusations of sexual misconduct his is now facing. Tyson said he had refrained from commenting previously “on the grounds that serious accusations should not be adjudicated in the press.” He then immediately launched into a defense of his actions, claiming that he “clearly” can no longer stay silent. Tyson is accused of misconduct by two women, and of drugging and raping a third. “In any claim, evidence matters. Evidence always matters,” wrote Tyson. “But what happens when it’s just one person’s word against another’s, and the stories don’t agree? That’s when people tend to pass judgment on who is more credible than whom.” Tyson then provided his accounts of what happened in each case.

Tyson responds at length in his Facebook post.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 1, 1932 — H.G. Wells’ Island Of Lost Souls premiered in theaters.
  • December 1, 1942 House of Frankenstein is released.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born December 1, 1905 – Charles G. Finney, Writer and Editor. It’s rare that I pick writers whose main accomplishment is one work which has defined them, but his one such work is, well, phenomenal. His first novel and most famous work, The Circus of Dr. Lao, was a Hugo finalist and won one of the inaugural National Book Awards, the Most Original Book of 1935; it is most decidedly fantasy. Ray Bradbury liked the novel so much that he included it as the headline story in his anthology The Circus of Dr. Lao and Other Improbable Stories; it is said that the carnival in his Something Wicked This Way Comes is modelled upon The Circus of Dr. Lao. (Died 1984.)
  • Born December 1, 1928 – Malachi Throne, Actor of Stage and Screen who is likely recognizable to genre fans as Commodore Méndez from the Hugo-winning Star Trek double-episode “The Menagerie”, or as a Romulan senator in The Next Generation double-episode “Unification”; decades later, he played a Klingon in the fan series Star Trek: New Voyages. He was the Narrator for the one-season series Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light, and he was a popular character actor, appearing in many episodes of genre series, including Babylon 5, M.A.N.T.I.S., The Six Million Dollar Man, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Time Tunnel, Land of the Giants, Lost in Space, Mission: Impossible, Project U.F.O., Ark II, Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, and The Outer Limits. His guest role as False Face in the Adam West series of Batman likely got him started in voice roles, including in the series The New Batman Adventures, Batman Beyond, and Avatar: The Last Airbender. (Died 2013.)
  • Born December 1, 1936 – Melissa Jaffer, 82, Actor from Australia who played Utu-Noranti Pralatong in all four seasons of Farscape and its sequel miniseries The Peacekeeper Wars. In addition to appearing as “Keeper of the Seeds” in Mad Max: Fury Road, she had roles in The Nargun and the Stars, The Distant Home, On the Dead Side, Komodo, and Sally Marshall Is Not an Alien, and guest parts in episodes of The Lost World and Glitch.
  • Born December 1, 1942 – John Crowley, 76, Writer and Documentary Filmmaker. I’m tempted to say he’s a literary genius and stop there, but I won’t. The Mythopoeic and World Fantasy Award-winning Little, Big is brilliant – but if anything, his new crow-centric novel Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr (also a Mythopoeic winner) makes that novel look like child’s play in comparison. Did you know that he wrote a novella called The Girlhood of Shakespeare’s Heroines? Or Lord Byron’s Novel: The Evening Land, which contains an entire imaginary novel by the poet? His novella Great Work of Time won a World Fantasy Award and a Prix Imaginaire, and he was recognized with a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 2006.
  • Born December 1, 1956 – Bill Willingham, 62, Writer and Artist who is best known, I’d say for his long-running, four-time Hugo finalist Fables comic series – though personally I think his best work was Proposition Player, in which the souls of those lost in a card game become entangled in the politics of Heaven and Hell. He got his start in the late 1970s to early 1980s as a staff artist for TSR Games, where he was the cover artist for the AD&D Player Character Record Sheets and a lot of other games. I must mention his superb 1980s comic book series Elementals, and he later wrote the equally excellent Shadowpact for DC. I was always ambivalent about the Jack of Fables series which he spun off of Fables, but his House of Mystery was rather good as well. His work has been recognized with several Eisner Awards, and he was honored as a Special Guest at the 2011 Worldcon.
  • Born December 1, 1957 – Deep Roy, 61, Actor and Stunt Performer of Indian descent who was born in Kenya. Genre fans may know him as Keenser, Scotty’s diminutive assistant in the Hugo finalist Star Trek (2009) and its two sequels Into Darkness and Beyond, but he also has an amazingly-extensive genre resume, with roles in the films Flash Gordon, The Dark Crystal, Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Return of the Ewok, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, The NeverEnding Story, Starship, Return to Oz, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, a 6-episode role with Tom Baker in Doctor Who, a 4-episode stint on Blake’s 7, and a list of genre movies in which he’s performed stunts that is longer than this Pixel Scroll.
  • Born December 1, 1964 – Jo Walton, 54, Writer from Canada who was born in Wales. She won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2002 and the World Fantasy Award for her novel Tooth and Claw, in which dragons got positively and delightfully Victorian (even if they eat each other). Her Small Change trilogy may be the finest WWII novels I’ve read, bar none, and her Sulien series is an excellent retelling of the Arthurian myth. Her Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award-winning novel Among Others, she says, is about the “coming-of-age experience of having books instead of people for friends and solace”. I can relate to that, as I imagine many here can, too.
  • Born December 1, 1970 – Greg Ruth, 48, Artist and Illustrator who has provided covers and interior art for dozens of genre fiction works and comics, including the Lodestar Award-winning Akata Warrior, and the new hardcover and German editions of Nnedi Okorafor’s Hugo-winning Binti series. His art has earned four Chesley nominations, winning once, and has been selected for numerous editions of the industry year’s best art book, Spectrum; he was one of five artists selected for the Spectrum jury in 2015. His covers for the German editions of Okorafor’s Lagoon and Book of the Phoenix were nominated for the Kurd-Laßwitz-Preis, and Lagoon took home the trophy. Interestingly, he has created two music videos – for Prince and Rob Thomas (of Matchbox Twenty).
  • Born December 1, 1985 – Janelle Monáe, Writer, Actor, Composer, Singer and Producer who is known for her science-fictional song lyrics and videos. Her debut EP, Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase), is the first in a 7-part conceptual series inspired by Fritz Lang’s classic SF film; the single “Many Moons”, and her subsequent album, The ArchAndroid, garnered Grammy nominations, and her next album, The Electric Lady, was also acclaimed. This year she released the album Dirty Computer, with a companion 48-minute mini-movie which is very much a science fiction film. She played a lead role in the Hugo- and Oscar-nominated film Hidden Figures, and has also had guest appearances on Stargate Universe and Philip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams.

(13) PASSING PAPER. Book Riot warns that “Paper for Books Is Getting Harder To Come By: Why the Backbone of Publishing May Make Book Prices Rise”.

With gift-giving season approaching, booksellers are gearing up for seeing more traffic through their doors and at the registers. But this year, more than any year in recent memory, booksellers are increasingly worried about whether there will be enough copies of the biggest titles. Some of the hottest picture books of the season, including We Don’t Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins, were missing from shelves in the otherwise rigorously stocked indie Mclean & Eakin Booksellers in Petoskey, Michigan. Inquiries were made about special ordering the title and the expected fulfillment date was a ways off—January. […]

“There’s basically four different types of paper that are out in the world right now, and it’s freesheet, coated groundwood, uncoated freesheet, and uncoated groundwood. Most trade fiction and nonfiction, books you’d find on the New York Times list or in a store, straightforward text are printed on, those are all on an uncoated groundwood. Almost all of that paper, right now, is coming from the U.S. and Canada, mainly Canada. Most printers are always stocking up on that,” says Doug Wolff, Director of Production at Workman. […]

“Right now, paper is a major problem domestically, for no other reason other than paper mills have been shutting down, paper mills have been consolidating, there’s not as much book paper being made, so for me today to say I want to do a book and I want to print it in two weeks, that could be impossible, just because I might not be able to get paper that quickly. We’re getting things where they’re saying it’s five to six to seven weeks to get paper, which has never been the case in all the years I’ve done production. We might have to choose a different type of paper,” says Wolff.

(14) GREEN BOOK. Two places where fanhistory was made in Los Angeles are among “LA’s last remaining Green Book locations” says LA Curbed.

In Jim Crow-era America, the open road was not open to all. For African Americans, Route 66, the iconic cross-country highway, was dangerous. It was dotted by racist signs and Sundown towns, cities like Glendale that warned blacks to “leave town by sundown.”

In 1936, a postal worker named Victor Green set out to create a guide that would help black travelers drive the “Road of Dreams” safely, and as he put it at the time, “without embarrassment.

What he published was the Negro Motorist Green Book. Up until the final year it was published in 1966, the guide listed thousands of safe havens that made up a nation-wide network for people of color, from barbershops to ballrooms.

Of the 224 original Green Book sites in Los Angeles, only about 8 percent still stand, mostly due to neglect and gentrification.

Number 4 on the list – the Hotel Alexandria, which hosted the 1958 Worldcon.

Alexandria Hotel

Hotel Alexandria has a turbulent history. One of the oldest Green Book sites, it was built in 1906 as the exemplification of luxury. Over a few decades, it went from hosting the likes of Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, to being shuttered during the Great Depression, to being reopened and re-styled in a faux-Victorian model, to hosting Cassius Clay and Aretha Franklin. From Coppertone beauty contests to Malcolm X rallies, Hotel Alexandria was a notable hub for international and community-based events.

But, in the late ’70s and early ’80s, it fell into decline again, becoming a single room occupancy hotel and drug-trafficking focal point. It wasn’t until the early 2000s that arts and entertainment kicked off its revitalization. Thanks to films such as Dreamgirls, Water for Elephants, and Spider-Man 3, which shot in its famous Palm Court, the Hotel Alexandria is now a functioning low-income housing apartment building. This year, it’s even welcoming a new bar geared to creatives called The Wolves downstairs. And, like many Green Book sites, it’s rumored to be haunted.

Clifton’ Brookdale, where LASFS once met, is on the list, too.

(15) DO YOU KNOW YOUR SFF? Steve Davidson says: stay tuned for Amazing Stories’ new trivia contest.

The Big News (saved for last) this week is, this coming Wednesday, December 5th, we’re going to start a weekly SF Trivia Contest.

There will be TWO winners for each contest:  one prize will be awarded to the first person who leaves the correct answer in the comments, and an additional prize will be awarded to a randomly selected contestant from among all of those who have provided the correct answer..

The prize will be a One Year Digital Subscription to Amazing Stories.  (If you are already a subscriber and win, your subscription will be extended.)

(16) WHO YA GONNA CALL? Despite long experience, when Camestros Felapton needed “Travel Advice” he asked Timothy the Talking Cat.

[Felapton Towers at a strange hour. A phone rings. Timothy the Talking Cat sitrs, weak and weary having spent the night pondering over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore. He answers the phone.]

Timothy: Ahoy. Felapton Towers. Timothy the Talking Cat speaking.

Camestros: Hullo, hullo. Timothy! I need a bit of help!

Timothy: Where are you? What is that echoing background noise?

Camestros: I’m in an airport Timothy. And I’ve forgotten something Timothy.

(17) PRIMATES MAKE BETTER PREDATORS. On io9/Gizmodo, Julie Muncy thinks that “The Predator Would Have Been Way Better With These Predator-Monkey Hybrids”. Art for an unused monkey/Predator hybrid concept has surfaced from September 2018’s The Predator—a reboot of the franchise. The story first surfaced on AVPGalazy (“Constantine Sekeris Shares The Predator Hybrid Creature Concept Art”). That latter story quotes Sekeris as saying (in part):

Today I’m sharing a Predator Hybrid Multi Limb Monkey creature. Production designer Martin Whist and Shane Black had notes exactly that of multi limb hybrid Predator monkey. Typically I spend some time exploring in sketch phase if I have the time with simple paper and pencil. For this creature I had to jump right into 3D and blast out something pretty quickly in a night or 2 after hours.

Early part of the script there were a lot of different hybrid creatures that Tully Summers and myself tackled. I’m not sure if 3D were in the ship in the pods or the Predator Scientists/Emmisaries were experimenting with different animals and mixing DNA. I think there were some initial quick ideas and wanted to see some quick options to explore if it was something to refine later. In the end all that was cut out of the final edit of the film. Regardless, was still fun tackling this as an exercise. Looking at it now with fresh eyes I would make the skin texture patterning a lot simpler and graphic.

View this post on Instagram

Here is a predator hybrid multi limb monkey creature.Production Designer Martin Whist and Shane black had notes exactly that of a multi limb hybrid monkey predator creature…typically I spend some time exploring in sketch phase if I have the time with simple paper and pencil.for this creature I had to jump right into 3D and blast something pretty quickly in a night or 2 after hours….early part of the script there were allot of different hybrid creatures that Tully summers and myself tackled…..I'm not sure if they were in the ship in the pods or the predator scientist emmessaries we experimenting with different animals and mixing DNA .i there were some initial quick ideas and wanted to c option to explore if it was something to refine later.in the end all that was cut out of the final edit of the film…regardless …was still fun tackling this as an exercise….humbly thank u:) #thepredator #creaturedesign #characterdesign #conceptart

A post shared by Constantine Sekeris (@constantinesekeris) on

(18) GET THE MESSAGE? In other words, it’s going to be about as subtle as his other movies: “Marrakech: Guillermo del Toro Talks “Political” ‘Pinocchio,’ Confirms ‘Terrifed’ Remake”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Guillermo del Toro said his upcoming Pinocchio project for Netflix will be a political parable, and not the kid-friendly fare of the competing Disney remake.

“It’s not a Pinocchio for all the family,” he said of his story, set in 1930s Italy. So is it a political film? “Of course. Pinocchio during the rise of Mussolini, do the math. A puppet during the rise of fascism, yes, it is.”

(19) SPOTTING MORE MEASLES. From NPR: “Amid Spike In Measles Cases, Health Officials Warn Of ‘Losing Decades Of Progress'”.

Health officials believe they know the roots of the growth.

“Without urgent efforts to increase vaccination coverage and identify populations with unacceptable levels of under-, or unimmunized children, we risk losing decades of progress in protecting children and communities against this devastating, but entirely preventable disease,” Soumya Swaminathan, the WHO’s deputy director general for programs, said in a statement released Thursday.

…But medical experts say those global successes have depended on the vaccine. Regions that do not have a high rate of vaccine coverage, whether due to a lack of access or conscious rejection by parents, are susceptible to a rise in measles — even relapses in areas where the disease had been nearly or entirely eliminated.

(20) BUSTING A SLUMP. BBC expects the next mission will be free of the program’s recent problems: “All systems go as Russia’s Soyuz aims to erase space failures”.

Soyuz launch number 138 should be as routine as it gets for space flight. The next crew are due to lift off on Monday heading for the International Space Station (ISS) from the same launch pad Yury Gagarin used in 1961 on his historic first flight into orbit.

But two months ago an accident on the last Soyuz launch sent the Russian and American astronauts hurtling back to Earth.

Shortly before that, the crew on the ISS had discovered a mysterious hole – located after air pressure on the Station began to drop, and successfully plugged.

Both incidents have raised questions about the state of Russia’s space industry – once the great pride of a Superpower – and the future of cosmic co-operation with the US.

(21) SOMETIMES, IT CAUSES ME TO RUMBLE. Keep your ear to the ground, but keep your head out of the way — “Vibrations offer new way to track elephants”.

Researchers have come up with a new way of tracking elephants, via the vibrations that the animals make.

Scientists Dr Beth Mortimer and Prof Tarje Nissen-Meyer discovered that elephants generate vibrations through their normal movements and through vocalisations, known as “rumbles”.

These can be measured by techniques usually used for studying earthquakes.

(22) MORE AUTHENTIC FAKES. A post WWII sell-off from the Victoria & Albert Museum collection changed set decoration in Hollywood epics for the better: “How London’s Victoria & Albert Museum Boosted Hollywood’s Historical Cred” in The Hollywood Reporter.

In that V&A stash: the cast tin replica of a 100 A.D. silver cup from Pompei that Charlton Heston clutched in MGM’s 1959 monster hit Ben Hur. Considering that a single V&A electrotype can easily command $6,000-$7,000 or more on auction websites today, it was a smart move by the studio. “Even allowing for inflation, MGM got a bargain,” Patterson tells THR.

While the museum’s electrotypes were also sold off to third parties and were ultimately purchased in the secondary market by the likes of Warner Bros., the V&A’s hidden hand in Hollywood is far greater than even all this suggests. Henry Cole, the V&A’s first director, used his position in the mid 19th century to convince 15 European princes and various art and academic institutions to make copies publicly available of the treasures they held in their little-seen collections. That is how the copper and electrogilt copies of historic silver buried deep inside Cambridge and Oxford universities ultimately wound up in the Holy Grail cave of 1989’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

(23) CHANNEL 2001. The next generation of TV started airing today. Not that any of us can tune in: “Space Odyssey helps launch first 8K TV channel”.

Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey will help launch the world’s first super-high definition 8K television channel on Saturday.

Japanese broadcaster NHK said it had asked Warner Bros to scan the original film negatives in 8K for its new channel.

Super-high definition 8K pictures offer 16 times the resolution of HD TV.

However, few people currently have the necessary television or equipment to receive the broadcasts.

(24) SABRINA’S NO APRIL FOOL. She’ll wait ’til later in the week to arrive…. Nextflix’s Chilling Adventures of Sabrina resumes April 5.

Get ready, mortals. Our girl’s gone full witch. Join Sabrina as she navigates the Path of Night while holding on tight to her friends who walk the Path of Light.

 

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]