Pixel Scroll 2/23/20 Old Possum’s Scroll Of Practically Universal Robotic Cats

(1) DITMAR NOMINATIONS OPEN. Nominations for the 2020 Australian SF (“Ditmar”) awards are open until one minute before midnight Perth time on Sunday, March 1, 2020 (ie. 11.59 p.m., GMT+8). The current rules, including Award categories can be found at: here.

You must include your name with any nomination. Nominations will be accepted only from natural persons active in fandom, or from full or supporting members of Swancon 2020, the 2020 Australian National SF Convention.

A partial and unofficial eligibility list, to which everyone is encouraged to add, can be found here.

(2) NAACP IMAGE AWARDS. Genre triumphed: “Jordan Peele and Lupita Nyong’o Win Big for Us at NAACP Image Awards”ComicBook.com has the story.

After many thought Lupita Nyongo’o and Jordan Peele were snubbed from Oscar nominations this year for their work on Us, the duo ended up winning big at the NAACP Image Awards. By the time the annual gala was over Saturday night, Peele had won Outstanding Writing In A Motion Picture while Nyong’o won Outstanding Actress In A Motion Picture.

…Despite receiving zero nominations at the 92nd Academy Awards, the Peele-directed horror flick also managed to win big elsewhere this awards season. Peele won Best Director at this summer’s Saturn Awards while Nyong’o won Best Actress with the Hollywood Critics Association and more. As a whole, the movie’s biggest award came during the Critics’ Choice Awards, where it won Best Sci-fi/Horror movie.

(3) ORIGINAL COMICS ART ON THE BLOCK. Heritage Auctions is in the internet bidding phase of its 2020 March 5 – 8 Comics & Comic Art Signature Auction – Dallas #7224. This Spider-Man cover has already been bid up to $135,000.

John Romita Sr. Amazing Spider-Man #51 Cover Kingpin Original Art (Marvel, 1967). One of the finest Amazing Spider-Man covers we have ever had! It was the Kingpin’s very first cover appearance, and it set the image of the character in many fan’s heads for decades to come….

(4) SEND THE TARDIS TO DUBLIN. Nicholas Whyte wishes Doctor Who spent more time in Ireland – like any at all. He has written a rundown on the Irishness of the TV show, book adaptations, audio dramas, and comics. You might say there is more green in Tom Baker’s trademark scarf than the rest of the show combined.

It is a sad fact that up to the present day (choosing my words *very* carefully here), not a single second of TV screen time on the show, or any of its spinoffs, has been set in Ireland. Indeed, hitherto the Doctor spent more televised time in Hungary than on the Emerald Isle (special prize if you know what story I am referring to). A couple of confused characters do wonder if Gallifrey, the home planet of the Time Lords, may be in Ireland, but that’s as close as we get.

However, the real life relationship between Doctor Who and Ireland is much stronger. Tenth Doctor David Tennant’s grandmother was from Northern Ireland – his grandfather was a professional footballer, whose record of 57 goals for Derry City in a single season still stands. Lalla Ward, who played the second incarnation of Romana and was briefly married to Fourth Doctor Tom Baker, is the daughter of the 7th Viscount Bangor; their family home was Castle Ward in County Down, better known to Game of Thrones fans as Winterfell.

And lucky kids in Belfast and Derry were thrilled one day in 1978 when the Fourth Doctor himself turned up at their school…

(5) CHEWHACKA. ComicBook.com points readers to a video that teaches how “Disneyland Guests Unlock Secret ‘Chewbacca Mode’ on Millenium Falcon Ride, and You Can Too”.

…The hack has to be done like an old video game cheat code. You need to make certain inputs by a certain time in order to bring “Chewie mode” online. Here is a video and written instruction from the FreshBaked YouTube Channel, which specializes in Disneyland tips and tricks:

(6) TRIBBLES BY THE NUMBERS. Although now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall, that wasn’t enough. Ars Technica learned that scientists wanted the answer to yet another question: “Physics undergrads crunched numbers for Star Trek’s tribble problem”.

Chalk this one up to fun scientific papers we inexplicably missed last year. A group of undergraduates at the University of Leicester in the UK calculated the growth rate of the fictional Star Trek critters known as tribbles. They published their results in a short paper in the university’s undergraduate-centric Journal of Physics Special Topics, estimating just how long it would take for there to be enough tribbles to fill up the USS Enterprise….

(7) VENUSIAN ROVER DESIGN CHALLENGE. NASA is summoning the public to help create new technology for a mission to a “hellish” planet: “Exploring Hell: Avoiding Obstacles on a Clockwork Rover”.

…Imagine a world hot enough to turn lead into a puddle, where the atmospheric pressure can crush a nuclear-powered submarine. Now imagine sending a rover to explore that world. 

Venus, ancient sister of Earth with a planetary environment just this side of hellish, has been visited by a handful of probes since the early days of space flight.  Of the many missions to our celestial neighbor, only about a dozen have made contact with the surface of the planet. The longest-lived landers only managed to function for a couple of hours before succumbing to the relentlessly oppressive heat and pressure.

… Current, state-of-the-art, military-grade electronics fail at approximately 125°C, so mission scientists at JPL have taken their design cues from a different source: automatons and clockwork operations. Powered by wind, the AREE mission concept is intended to spend months, not minutes, exploring the landscape of our sister world. Built of advanced alloys, AREE will be able to collect valuable long-term longitudinal scientific data utilizing both indirect and direct sensors.

As the rover explores the surface of Venus, collecting and relaying data to an orbiter overhead, it must also detect obstacles in its path like rocks, crevices, and steep terrain. To assist AREE on its groundbreaking mission concept, JPL needs an equally groundbreaking obstacle avoidance sensor, one that does not rely on vulnerable electronic systems. For that reason, JPL is turning to the global community of innovators and inventors to design this novel avoidance sensor for AREE. JPL is interested in all approaches, regardless of technical maturity.

This sensor will be the primary mechanism by which the potential rover would detect and navigates through dangerous situations during its operational life. By sensing obstacles such as rocks, crevices, and inclines, the rover would then navigate around the obstruction, enabling the rover to continue to explore the surface of Venus and collect more observational data.

CNN assures everyone:

Don’t have an engineering degree? Doesn’t matter. Never seen a spacecraft in real life? No problem.

“JPL is interested in all approaches, regardless of technical maturity,” NASA said.

The 1st-place winner of the design contest will get up to $15,000, the 2nd-place winner will get up to $10,000, and the 3rd-place winner will get $5,000.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 23, 1935 The Phantom Empire premiered.  It was a Western serial film with elements of SF and musical theater as well. It was directed by Otto Brower and B. Reeves Eason. It starred the singing cowboy himself Gene Autry along with Frankie Darro and Betsy King Ross. In 1940, a feature film edited from the serial was released as either Radio Ranch or Men with Steel Faces. It was a box office success earning back its seventy-five thousand dollar budget.  The very few audience members who gave it a rating at Rotten Tomatoes didn’t like it hence the 27% rating there. You can see the first chapter here.
  • February 23, 1954 Rocky Jones, Space Ranger premiered. This was the first science fiction television show to be entirely pre-filmed (instead of being televised live as was the case with Captain Video, Buck Rogers and Tom Corbett.) It was also the first to use sets of unusual good quality, live location shoots, and rather decent special effects. Rocky Jones was played by Richard Crane. It was created by Roland D. Reed and written by Warren Wilson, Arthur Hoerl and Marianne Mosner, with Hollingsworth Morse being the director. It lasted but two seasons as it never really caught on with the public. Story wise, it actually had a great deal of continuity built into it, unlike almost all of the other series at the time. Its thirty-nine episodes, each twenty-five minutes in length, aired originally between February 23rd and November 16th, 1954. You can see the first episode here.
  • February 23, 1978 Quark was slotted in on NBC as a mid-season replacement series. Yes, the pilot aired on May 7, 1977, so technically that it’s birthday but let’s skip past that please. It was created by Buck Henry, co-creator of Get Smart. The series starred Richard Benjamin, Tim Thomerson, Richard Kelton, Tricia Barnstable and Cyb Barnstable. It specialized in satirizing popular SF series and films — the Wiki article states that three episodes were based upon actualTrek episodes, though that can’t be confirmed. It lasted but eight episodes beating Space Rangers by two episodes in longevity. You can see the first episode here. here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 23, 1564 Christopher Marlowe. Author of Doctor Faustus (or The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus.  Elizabeth Bear made him a character in her Stratford Man series which is Ink and Steel and Hell and Earth novels which I highly recommend. If you’ve not read them, the Green Man review is here. (Died 1593.)
  • Born February 23, 1915 Jon Hall. Frank Raymond in Invisible Agent and The Invisible Man’s Revenge. He was also the creator and star of the Ramar of the Jungle series. And he directed and starred in The Beach Girls and the Monster and The Navy vs. the Night Monsters. (Died 1979.)
  • Born February 23, 1930 Gerry Davis. Mid-Sixties story editor on Doctor Who where he created companion Jamie McCrimmon and co-created the Cybermen along with unofficial scientific adviser Dr. Kit Pedler. They would create the Doomwatch series that ran in the Sixties on BBC. Davis briefly returned to writing for the series, penning the first script for Revenge of the Cybermen, though his script was largely abandoned by editor Robert Holmes. In 1989 he and Terry Nation, who created the Daleks, made a failed bid to take over production of the series and reformat it for the American market. (Died 1991.)
  • Born February 23, 1932 Majel Barrett. No doubt best remembered for being  Nurse Christine Chapel and Lwaxana Troi as well as for being the voice of most of the ship computer interfaces throughout the series. I’ll note that she was originally cast as Number One in the unused Pilot but the male studio heads hated the idea of a female in that role. Early Puppies obviously. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 23, 1965 Jacob Weisman, 55. Founder, Tachyon Publications, which you really should go look at as they’ve published every great author I’d care to read. Seriously Tidhar, Beagle and Yolen are among their newest releases! He also edited (with Beagle) The New Voices of Fantasy which I highly recommend as most excellent reading.
  • Born February 23, 1983 Emily Blunt, 37. Her most direct connection to the genre is as Elise Sellas in the Adjustment Bureau film based off Dick’s “Adjustment Team” story. Mind, she’s been in quite a number of other genre films including The WolfmanGulliver’s Travels, Gnomeo & Juliet, The Muppets, Looper, Edge of Tomorrow, Into the Woods, The Huntsman: Winter’s WarThe Strange Case of Sherlock Holmes & Arthur Conan Doyle, and Mary Poppins Returns.
  • Born February 23, 2002 Emilia Jones, 18. I’m reasonably sure this is the youngest Birthday individual that I’ve done.  She shows up on Doctor Who as Merry Gejelh, The Queen of Years, in the “The Rings of Akhaten”, an Eleventh Doctor story. At nine years of age, she’s made her acting debut in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides as an unnamed English Girl. She’s Young Beth in the horror film Ghostland. She’s currently in Residue, an SF horror series you can find on Netflix. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • And let’s catch up with Tom Gauld –

(11) LEAP BEER. On February 29 Ology Brewing Company in Tallahassee, Florida will combine the debut of their Tropical Habitat beer – “inspired by the Southern Reach trilogy” – with a book signing by Jeff VanderMeer.

To honor our friendship with Jeff VanderMeer, Tallahassee resident and author of the Southern Reach Trilogy, we are releasing Tropical Habitat, a tropical, otherworldly Hazy Double IPA at a special Book Signing and Meet & Greet event alongside the release of three other beers (Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout, Barrel-Aged American Sour, and Fruit Beer).

A portion of Tropical Habitat sales (both cans and tap pours) will benefit the Friends of St. Marks Wildlife Refuge (The Salamander Project) and honor the setting of the trilogy book series and one of our team’s favorite places – the North Florida Coast.

(12) BEHIND THE VEIL. Cora Buhlert put up another evaluation of a Retro-eligible work: “Retro Review: ‘The Veil of Astellar’ by Leigh Brackett”. BEWARE SPOILERS.

Uncommon for Leigh Brackett, “The Veil of Astellar” begins with a framing story about a manuscript found inside a message rocket sent to the Interworld Space Authority headquarters on Mars. This manuscript offers an explanation of the space phenomenon called “the Veil” which comes out of nowhere and swallows spaceships in the asteroid belt. The space police officers are initially sceptical about the account, but eventually manage to determine that it is authentic. Furthermore, the much feared Veil has vanished and the message inside the rocket explains why….

(13) HEARTFIELD CLASS. Cat Rambo shared “Highlights from Writing Interactive Fiction,” taught online by Kate Heartfield.  Thread starts here.

(14) QUINN AGAIN, BEGIN AGAIN. A.V.Club: “DC Universe’s Harley Quinn is coming back for another season in April”.

We’re going through a Harley Quinnaissance at the moment, even if Birds Of Preydidn’t light up the box office, and it looks like DC Universe is eager to keep it going. As announced on Twitter, the streaming service (which still exists and has yet to be swallowed up by HBO Max!) will already be getting a new season of the Harley Quinn animated series in April. The first season just premiered at the end of 2019, so this will be a surprisingly short wait for a chance to hear more DC comic book characters say “fuck” and get beat up in surprisingly violent ways. Also, maybe this time Harley and Poison Ivy will end up together? Or maybe they won’t and that’s okay too? Either way, DC Universe has to hold onto something that fans want to see, or else HBO Max will just quietly roll up and take over. Then Harley Quinn’s going to have to hang out with the Friendsinstead of Poison Ivy, and nobody wants that.

(15) IF YOU DON’T SLING THE LINGO. BBC asks: “Dubs or subs? Parasite renews debate on how to watch foreign films”.

The South Korean dark comedy film Parasite had a historic awards season sweep – and in the process, reignited the debate over whether subtitles or dubbing is the best way to watch a movie that isn’t in your native language.

As director Bong Joon Ho accepted the first-ever best foreign language picture Golden Globe for a South Korean film, he said: “Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”

Fast forward a month, and he was making history again, accepting the best picture award once more at the Oscars. Parasite’s Oscar win introduced it to a broad US audience – but not everyone was in favour of watching the award winner in its original language.

Dubbing takes the stress out of enjoying a foreign film, some argued, and performances are meant to be heard, not read. The angered response from subtitle fans ranged from accusations of racism to pointing out the needs of deaf viewers.

How you watch a foreign film is a clearly personal matter, tangled in pet peeves and accessibility. But as foreign flicks are gaining more screen time before American audiences, here’s a deeper dive into how we got here, and where the industry is headed.

In the early days of film, on-screen text was far from a “one-inch barrier” – it was the only way to express dialogue. Title cards were the precursor to subtitles, and they, too, were controversial in a way that mirrors the modern debate.

Stage actors would try to hide their work in silent film as many felt the lack of sound diminished the quality of the performance, Professor Marsha McKeever, academic director of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, told the BBC.

(16) THE CALL OF THE UNWILD. Yours truly used to live a few blocks from where this happened: “Wild bear roams streets of California neighbourhood” (video). The bears didn’t come down to our block, but coyotes, skunks, and possums did.

A wild bear has been sedated and captured after it was seen roaming in a residential area in Monrovia, California.

The 28.3 stone (180kg) elderly female walked through residential areas close to Angeles National Forest.

A mild California winter could be a possible reason for the sighting, as warmer weather causes bears to leave their dens in search of food.

(17) HOMEMADE ASTRONAUT AND ROUND EARTH SKEPTIC DIES. The earth may not be flat, but now he is: “‘Mad’ Mike Hughes dies after crash-landing homemade rocket”.

A US daredevil pilot has been killed during an attempted launch of a homemade rocket in the Californian desert.

“Mad” Mike Hughes, 64, crash-landed his steam-powered rocket shortly after take-off near Barstow on Saturday.

A video on social media shows a rocket being fired into the sky before plummeting to the ground nearby.

Hughes was well-known for his belief that the Earth was flat. He hoped to prove his theory by going to space.

Video at TMZ.

(18) SEEKER. BrainPickings’ Maria Popova delves into Brian Greene’s book Until the End of Time: Mind, Matter, and Our Search for Meaning in an Evolving Universe: “Until the End of Time: Physicist Brian Greene on the Poetry of Existence and the Wellspring of Meaning in Our Ephemeral Lives Amid an Impartial Universe”.

…Although science is Greene’s raw material in this fathoming — its histories, its theories, its triumphs, its blind spots — he emerges, as one inevitably does in contemplating these colossal questions, a testament to Einstein’s conviction that “every true theorist is a kind of tamed metaphysicist.”

(19) TRANSFORMATIVE EXPERIENCE. Jeffrey Lyles succumbs to the Hasbro advertising — “Check out the incredible trailer for Transformers: War For Cybertron Trilogy: Siege” – at Lyles Movie Files.

I’ve been impressed with my ability to not get sucked into Hasbro’s Transformers’ Siege line. Those figures really look impressive, but I’m trying to keep my Transformers purchases to the Masterpiece line. But now with the release of Netflix’s Transformers: War for Cybertron Trilogy trailer, I’m thinking my resolve is about to crumble especially given how good this series looks.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/2/20 The Scroll is a Harsh Pixel

(1) ONE ‘BOOK KING WON’T WRITE. Stephen King has deleted his Facebook profile reports CNN.

(2) WITCHER THOUGHTS. Walter Jon Williams suspects if you cared you’ve already watched the series, thus the heading — “Reviews Too Late: Witcher”.

…Anyway, the Netflix series is based on a series of stories and novels by Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, who I believe I met twenty years ago and found quite genial.  I haven’t read any of his books, though I’ve played Witcher III: The Wild Hunt, which I recommend to any of you interested in action-oriented console RPGs.

The Witcher in The Witcher is Geralt of Rivia, who despite having long white hair, weird eyes, magical powers, “White Wolf” as a nickname, and a sword is not Elric of Melniboné, mainly because Geralt is actually useful in his world, and all Elric does is bring doom to everybody.

(3) HAPPY GROUNDHOG DAY. Bill Murray is stuck in the loop again.

So is one of his good pals –

(4) ANOTHER SUPER AD. This cracked me up, too. Amazon’s “What did we do before Alexa?”

(5) WORLDCON MEMBERSHIP RATE RISE. CoNZealand says –

If you haven’t purchased your membership of CoNZealand, now’s the time to do so.

On February 15th, the cost for an adult attending membership will rise to $450. All other membership tier prices remain the same.

View the list of membership tiers and prices, and register to attend CoNZealand here.

(6) SEVEN OF NINE AT 25. The short answer to “a Voyager reboot?” is “No.” But Ryan has an interest in some kind of reunion. “Star Trek: Jeri Ryan Talks Voyager Reunion Potential After Picard” at Comicbook.com.

Jeri Ryan’s history with the Star Trek franchise seems to be coming together in 2020. She’s reprising her role as Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager in the new streaming series Star Trek: Picard. She’s also helping Star Trek Online celebrate its 10th anniversary. At the same time, Star Trek: Voyager is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2020. With all of this happening at once, fans may wonder if Seven of Nine’s return in Star Trek: Picard could lead to a reunion with her former shipmates from Voyager, even if only for an episode of Star Trek: Short Treks. Ryan tells ComicBook.com that, while it would be fun to bump into some of her old Voyager colleagues again, she’s not looking for a full-blown revival.

“Would I love to reunite with some of those characters? Sure, I think that’d be great,” she says. “I don’t necessarily need to do a Voyager show again. I think that I’ve done that. But I’m not a writer. I can’t really tell you anything.

“I’m having a great time on Picard. It’s a very happy set. It’s a very relaxed set, which has been great. I didn’t have a phenomenal overall experience shooting Voyager. I don’t look back on that as a super fun four years for me, unfortunately, so to be revisiting this character in a more pleasant work experience is great.”

(7) HEAR A NOVEL OF THE YEAR. [Item by Jonathan Cowie.] BBC Radio 4 is broadcasting The Second Sleep as this week’s book of bedtime (though the rate they are going through the book it will last two weeks).

The Second Sleep by Robert Harris was cited by SF² Concatenation as one of their team’s choices for the best SF novels of 2019. 

It is set in what at first appears to be in post-Tudor times but soon (first couple of chapters) reveals itself to be in a future England centuries hence following the fall of mankind.

Father Fairfax, a newly ordained priest has been sent by the Bishop of Exeter to the village of Addicott St George to bury Father Lacy who has recently died. But a mysterious figure appears at the funeral casting doubt on the accidental nature of the priest’s death.Fairfax soon discovers that Lacy had an unhealthy (sacraligious) interest in artefacts from before the fall.  One of these was a communication device bearing the emblem of humanity’s sinful ways: an apple with a bite taken out of it…

Episodes so far:

Programme home page  “The Second Sleep”

(8) FILET MINIONS. But wait, there’s more! The full trailer for Minions: The Rise of Gru, will debut worldwide on February 5, 2020.

This summer, from the biggest animated franchise in history and global cultural phenomenon, comes the untold story of one 12-year-old’s dream to become the world’s greatest supervillain, in Minions: The Rise of Gru.

(9) TODAY’S DAY.

[Item by Daniel Dern.] Sunday, February 2, is “National Yorkshire Pudding Day 2020: When is it, origins of the side dish, and the best Yorkshire Pudding recipe”.

Also known as “British Yorkshire Pudding Day.” Note, the article includes a recipe.

Depending on who you ask, where you search, or how you feel about it, Yorkshire Pudding and popovers either are or aren’t the same thing, although they’re clearly related. Here’s some of those opinions (and more recipes):

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 2, 1882 James Joyce. I’m including him on the Birthday list as ISFDB has a handful of his short stories and an excerpt from Ulysses listed as genre: “The Sisters”, “Everlasting Fire“, “Hell Fire”, “May Goulding”, “The Hero of Michan”, (an excerpt from Ulysses), “What Is a Ghost” and “The Cat and the Devil”. So who’s read these? (Died 1941.)
  • Born February 2, 1905 Ayn Rand. Best known for The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged which is ISFDB lists as genre. Her works have made into films many times starting with The Night of January 16th based on a play by her in the early Forties to an animated series based off her Anthem novel. No, I really don’t care who John Galt is. (Died 1982.)
  • Born February 2, 1933 Tony Jay. Oh, I most remember him as Paracelcus in the superb Beauty and the Beast series even it turns out he was only in for a handful of episodes. Other genre endeavors include, and this is lest OGH strangle me only the Choice Bits, included voicing The Supreme Being In Time Bandits, an appearance on Star Trek: The Next Generation as Third Minister Campio In “Cost of Living”, being in The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. (and yes I loved the series) as Judge Silot Gato in ”Brisco for the Defense” (Died 2006.)
  • Born February 2, 1940 Thomas M. Disch. Camp Concentration, The Genocides, 334 and On Wings of Song are among the best New Wave novels ever done.  He was a superb poet as well though I don’t think any of it was germane to our community. He won the Nonfiction Hugo for The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of, a critical but loving look on the impact of SF on our culture. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 2, 1944 Geoffrey Hughes. He played Popplewick aka The Valeyard in the Sixth Doctor story, “The Trial of The Time Lord”. Intriguingly he was also was the voice of Paul McCartney in Yellow Submarine. (Died 2012.)
  • Born February 2, 1947 Farrah Fawcett. She has a reasonably good SFF resume and she‘s been in Logan’s Run as Holly 13, and Saturn 3 as Alex. (Does anyone like that film?) She was also Mary Ann Pringle in Myra Breckinridge which might I suppose be considered at least genre adjacent. Or not.  Series wise, she shows up on I Dream of Jeanie as Cindy Tina, has three different roles on The Six Million Man, and was Miss Preem Lila on two episodes of The Flying Nun. (Died 2009.)
  • Born February 2, 1949 Jack McGee, 71. Ok, so how many of us remember him as Doc Kreuger on the Space Rangers series? I’ve also got him as Bronto Crane Examiner in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, as a Deputy in Stardust, Mike Lutz in seaQuest, Doug Perren in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a Police Officer Person of Interest to name some of his genre roles.
  • Born February 2, 1949 Brent Spiner, 71. Data on more Trek shows and films than I’ll bother listing here. I’ll leave it up to all of you to list your favorite movements of him as Data as I may or may appear on Picard. He also played Dr. Brackish Okun in Independence Day, a role he reprised in Independence Day: Resurgence, a film I’ve not seen yet. He also played Dr. Arik Soong/Lt. Commander Data in four episodes of Enterprise.  Over the years, he’s had roles in Twilight Zone, Outer LimitsTales from the DarksideGargoylesYoung JusticeThe Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and Warehouse 13. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio turns Groundhog Day into a moment of terror. (In a totally different way than Bill Murray does it.)

(12) WIGGING OUT. [Item by Scott Edelman.] Today would have been Tom Disch’s 80th birthday. Perhaps you’d enjoy these photos of him trying on wigs for GQ in 1971.

(13) EATS SHOOTS AND LEAVES. BrainPickings’ Maria Popova delves into “A Curious Herbal: Gorgeous Illustrations from Elizabeth Blackwell’s 18th-Century Encyclopedia of Medicinal Botany”.  Tagline: “Time-travel to the dawn of modern medical science via the stunning art of a self-taught woman illustrator and botanist.”

A century before botany swung open the backdoor to science for Victorian women and ignited the craze for herbaria — none more enchanting than the adolescent Emily Dickinson’s forgotten herbarium — a Scottish woman by the name of Elizabeth Blackwell (1707–1758) published, against all cultural odds, an ambitious and scrumptiously illustrated guide to medicinal plants, titled A Curious Herbal: Containing Five Hundred Cuts of the Most Useful Plants Which Are Now Used in the Practice of Physick (public library).

(14) NOVEL APPROACH. The Collider says “‘The Thing’ Remake In the Works from Universal & Blumhouse Based on Recently-Unearthed Original Novel”.

John Carpenter‘s The Thing is, undoubtedly, a horror classic. If if you’ve never actually seen it—and shame on you if you haven’t, hypothetical person—you know at least one of the practical nightmares conjured up by the master. (The chest chomp? Come on.) But it turns out neither The Thing nor its 1951 predecessor The Thing From Another World were technically the full vision of author John W. Campbell Jr., who wrote the novella both films were based on, Who Goes There? That full vision would, in fact, be Frozen Hell, the novel-length version of Who Goes There? that was only unearthed in 2018, and Universal and Blumhoise reportedly plan to adapt into a feature film.

(15) DANCE, I SAID. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Writing for SYFY Wire, Andy Hunsaker wraps up genre films from Sundance — “Sundance Roundup: The record-setting “Palm Springs” and other genre highlights of the fest“ .

When you think of the Sundance Film Festival, it’s usually associated with indie dramedies, coming-of-age stories, or intense or quirky documentaries, but it’s also a showcase for insane horror madness and unique sci-fi. Here’s the slate of genre pictures from this year – keep an eye out for them sooner (or in some cases, later).

Films covered include:

  • PALM SPRINGS (Andy Samberg, Cristin Milioti, and J.K. Simmons)
  • NINE DAYS (Winston Duke, Zazie Beetz, Tony Hale, and Bill Skarsgård)
  • THE NIGHT HOUSE (Rebecca Hall) 
  • BAD HAIR (Justin Simien, director) 
  • HIS HOUSE (Remi Weekes, director)
  • SAVE YOURSELVES! (Sunita Mani and John Reynolds)
  • HORSE GIRL (Alison Brie) 
  • WENDY (Benh Zeitlin, director)
  • POSSESSOR (Brandon Cronenberg director) 
  • SCARE ME (Josh Ruben and Aya Cash) 
  • AMULET (Imelda Staunton and Carla Juri)
  • SPREE (Joe Keery) 
  • IMPETIGORE (Tara Basro and Joko Anwar, director) 
  • LEAP OF FAITH: WILLIAM FRIEDKIN ON THE EXORCIST (Alexandre O. Philippe interviews William Friedkin)
  • RELIC (Robyn Nevin, Emily Mortimer, and Bella Heathcoate)

(16) BELOW SEA LEVEL. Yahoo! frames the picture:  

In a recent remake of a 2008 NASA video, planetary scientist James O’Donoghue shows what it would look like if all that water drained away, revealing the hidden three-fifths of Earth’s surface 

And the YouTube introduction gives these details:

Three fifths of the Earth’s surface is under the ocean, and the ocean floor is as rich in detail as the land surface with which we are familiar. This animation simulates a drop in sea level that gradually reveals this detail. As the sea level drops, the continental shelves appear immediately. They are mostly visible by a depth of 140 meters, except for the Arctic and Antarctic regions, where the shelves are deeper. The mid-ocean ridges start to appear at a depth of 2000 to 3000 meters. By 6000 meters, most of the ocean is drained except for the deep ocean trenches, the deepest of which is the Marianas Trench at a depth of 10,911 meters.

(17) SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. First, there’s Frozen 2 with alleged deleted scenes:

Then, “Society Debut,” where Bigfoot shows up at a snooty British party in 1918.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/31/16 May the Pixels Be Ever in Your Scroll

richard-gaitet-avait-attaque-en-disant-vouloir-realiser-la-ceremonie-la-plus-courte-de-l-histoire-parce-que-tout-le-monde-a-envie-d-aller-boire-des-coups-et-da(1) A COMIC DISGRACE. A few weeks ago The International Festival of Comics (Angoulême) embarrassed itself by issuing a set of nominees for its awards with zero women among them. Several were added in response to a threatened boycott.

And at the awards ceremony on January 30, what the organization covered itself with was not glory. “Angouleme organizers criticized for presenting fake awards” reports Robot 6.

As if this year’s Angouleme International Comics Festival hadn’t been plagued by enough controversy, the organizers decided to play a practical joke at the closing ceremony that a lot of people didn’t find very funny.

The ceremony began with comedian Richard Gaitet, clad in a neon-blue suit and red bow tie, announcing, “This will be the shortest ceremony in history, because all we want to do is drink and dance.” He proceeded to present nine awards in rapid succession, including the award for best series to Saga, best comic for young people to Aaron Renier’s The Unsinkable Walker Bean, and the Fauve d’Or, the big prize, to Arsène Schrauwen, by Olivier Schrauwen. And then two women appeared and said, “Bravo Richard, for that joke about the false fauves [awards] and the size of the Grand Prix. We laughed a lot, but now we must go.” And then they presented the real awards because that first set? That was fake.

(2) SELF-DOUBT. That first item is just one more of the zillion reasons people identify with Aidan Doyle’s “The Science Fiction Writer’s Hierarchy of Doubt”. Here’s his introduction, and the first few entries on the scale.

Even if you’ve had a successful writing year, there’s always going to be another writer who achieved more. Sure, I had a few short stories published last year, but none of them ended up on recommended reading lists. No matter what level of writer you are, there’s always something to worry about. Take consolation in The Science Fiction Writer’s Hierarchy of Doubt.

Why don’t I have any ideas?

Why haven’t I written anything?

Why haven’t I written anything good?

Why won’t anyone publish my stories?

(3) NEW CAMPBELL REQUIREMENTS. On the other hand, last year’s Campbell Award winner Wesley Chu sounds pretty confident. He just announced the next new writer to win it will have to go through him.

(4) BEFORE DAWN. What if the Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice film was made in 1966 starring Adam West and George Reeves?

The makers also produced a video showing scene-by-scene how they parodied the official Batman v Superman Dawn of Justice trailer.

(5) TIP OF THE DAY. “Things Your Writing Teacher Never Told You: Pro-Tip From Carlos Hernandez” at Black Gate.

A Few Words on Structure, Point of View, and Discovery

I once told Delia Sherman that one of the great pleasures of reading her work is the same pleasure I would have purchasing an antique grandfather clock. Maybe I bought the clock because it is gorgeously carved and imbued with history, but then I am delighted to discover over a period of months that it keeps perfect time.

“Perfect time” in that conceit is structure, the mechanics of storytelling. It is, to my mind, the absolute hardest aspect of writing. I can write a funny line or a mordant or trenchant one, but how many of those may I keep and still preserve the pace and measure of the whole? It’s an impossible question to answer in advance of writing, and maybe just plain impossible.

(6) SHATNER COVERS ALL THE BASES. William Shatner does his usual first-rate narrating job on the Major League Baseball Network’s new documentary, The Colorful Montreal Expos, about the National League team that existed from 1969 to 2004 (before moving to Washington D.C., and becoming The Nationals.) Shatner, of course, was born in Canada….

It debuted this week, and should be repeated frequently. Here’s the trailer.

(7) SOURCES OF LOVECRAFTIAN LANGUAGE. Jeffro Johnson has an exposition on “Lovecraft on Lord Dunsany and the King James Bible” at Castalia House blog whose theme is —

So… Lovecraft doesn’t merely encourage writers to study the King James Bible for its “rich and forceful English.” He points out that that Lord Dunsany was among the best (if not the best) because of assimilation of its style– and that lesser writers suffered from not being familiar with it! Given how his politics and beliefs tend to be portrayed, this is liable to be a surprise.

(8) MORE LOVECRAFT ADVICE. Maria Popova’s “H.P. Lovecraft’s Advice to Aspiring Writers: Timeless Counsel from 1920” was Johnson’s inspiration. There are several more interesting quotes in her post.

Much like Jennifer Egan did nearly a century later, Lovecraft stresses the vital osmosis between reading and writing:

No aspiring author should content himself with a mere acquisition of technical rules. … All attempts at gaining literary polish must begin with judicious reading, and the learner must never cease to hold this phase uppermost. In many cases, the usage of good authors will be found a more effective guide than any amount of precept. A page of Addison or of Irving will teach more of style than a whole manual of rules, whilst a story of Poe’s will impress upon the mind a more vivid notion of powerful and correct description and narration than will ten dry chapters of a bulky textbook.

(9) FINLAY OBIT. SF Site News reports actor Frank Finlay (1926-2016) died January 31.

One of his earliest roles was in the six-episode sf series Target Luna (1960). (He did not appear in the three sequels.)

Fans probably know him best as Porthos in Richard Lester’s The Three Musketeers, The Four Musketeers, and The Return of the Musketeers.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • January 31, 1936The Green Hornet made its radio debut.
  • January 31, 1961 — NASA launched a rocket carrying Ham the Chimp into space.

(11) ARCHIE ON TV. Jackson McHenry of Vulture spins the announcement of Greg Berlant’s new Riverdale series this way — “The CW Orders an Archie Pilot That Will Finally Answer the Question: What If Everyone in Riverdale Were Really Hot?”

According to Variety, Riverdale will offer a “surprising and subversive take on Archie, Betty, Veronica and their friends, exploring the surrealism of small town life — the darkness and weirdness bubbling beneath Riverdale’s wholesome façade.” Substitute “Riverdale” for “Lumberton” and this is also the plot of David Lynch’s Blue Velvet.

(12) A FOURTH HELPING OF DOGS. Jim C. Hines returns to a subject he has studied closely in “Puppies, Redux”, but I’m compelled to ask — if a Middle-Earth blogger wrote, “So far the new ringbearer has been doing a better job,” would you feel reassured?

Predictions:

I don’t know for certain what’s going to happen this year. My personal opinion, for whatever it’s worth, is that there’s been so much hatred and nastiness surrounding Sad Puppies that it’s all but impossible to run a “clean” recommendations list under that brand. That said, SP4 seems to be genuinely trying for openness and to escape last year’s nastiness. Props to the organizers for that, and I hope it continues.

Given everything that went down in 2015, I don’t expect the Sad and Rapid Puppy groups to have as much influence on the final ballot. I imagine they’ll get some nominees from their lists onto the ballot, but it won’t be the same kind of shutout we saw in 2015.

(13) YEP, THAT’S MY PUBLISHER. G. Willow Wilson, the writer of Ms Marvel, talks about the whole Marvel CEO-donating-to-Trump thing that was on yesterday’s scroll.

In an ordinary election cycle, I’d say that when the CEO of an entertainment company supports a conservative candidate while also fostering diverse creative talent within his company, it is a sign of a healthy democracy. Being a Republican is not a crime. However, this is not an ordinary election cycle, and Trump is not an ordinary Republican. The irony that Ms Marvel was launched on Perlmutter’s watch–while Donald Trump would like to prevent Muslims from even entering the United States–was not lost on the mainstream media, nor on me.

(14) NEWS IN THE REAR VIEW MIRROR. Let me be the last to report that William Shatner played the role of Mark Twain in an episode of Murdoch Mysteries aired in October 2015 on Canadian television. Here’s the behind-the-scenes preview.

When Twain’s life is threatened after a controversial speaking engagement at the Empire Club of Canada in 1903 Toronto, Detective Murdoch (Yannick Bisson) and his colleagues must protect the esteemed writer.

 

[Thanks to Soon Lee, lurkertype, snowcrash, John King Tarpinian, and James H. Burns for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kurt Busiek.]