Pixel Scroll 3/30/20 The Master And Margaritas

(1) THE DC COMICS SALE TO END ALL. Comicbook.com says “Sotheby’s Selling Most Complete DC Comics Collection Ever Featuring Rare Batman and Superman Comics”.

Today Sotheby announced that is will auction DC Complete: The Ian Levine Collection, a comic book collection that includes every comic book published by DC Comics from 1935 through 2016, including complete runs of SupermanBatmanAction Comics, and Detective Comics. The collection includes more than 40,000 comics that also feature Wonder Woman, The Flash, Green Lantern, Aquaman, and the Justice League. The collection is available to view now on the Sotheby’s website. Sotheby’s chose today to start the private sale as it marks the 81st anniversary of the release of Detective Comics #27, which included the first appearance of Batman.

It’s a private sale, which means there is no public auction, just negotiations between Sotheby’s specialists and one or more private buyers.* Bids are being taken starting today – here’s the Sotheby’s link. Download the catalog here [PDF file]. A quote about how the collection was assembled, from the auction house’s article —

For a decade, Levine purchased a new copy of every DC issue he could find, while trying to fill in earlier issues. However, in pre-internet 1987, Levine despaired of finding many Golden Age comics he lacked, and decided to sell many of his best issues in order to fund his collection of Northern Soul records and Doctor Who film prints. However, reviewing his stacks of comic books with the purchaser reawakened his passion for this pop art form, and Levine bought his comics back from the dealer he had sold them to—at a 50% premium. Amassing about half of the comics DC had ever published, Levine determined to form a complete collection. Sacrificing his incomparable collection of Northern Soul records and Doctor Who prints, along with the assistance of the nascent internet and dealer, advisor, and author of The Comic Book Paul Sassienie, he achieved this ambition, which would essentially be impossible to replicate. In 2010, Levine’s paramount, unique collection was utilized to supply the illustrations for Taschen’s monumental publication 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking by Paul Levitz, the former president and publisher of DC.

(2) ASK THE EXPERTS. The Boston Globe asks futurists and SF writers to look ahead: “It actually may be the end of the world as we know it”. Beware paywall.

…ANNALEE NEWITZ, science-fiction and nonfiction author, podcaster

I have a couple of scenarios I’ve been batting around in my head, which both feel equally plausible at this point.

Scenario One: As more people hunker down at home, more of our most vital and personal activities will have to go online. Lots of people are learning how to have serious meetings remotely, and how to work as teams in group chat.

Then there’s the arguably more psychologically vital stuff: I’ve been playing Dungeons & Dragons with my gamer group using videoconferencing, and watching TV with a housebound, high-risk loved one by hitting play at the same time on a TV episode and videochatting with him at the same time.

I’m not alone. A lot of us are cut off from our loved ones right now, and online connection is all we have. Suddenly “online” doesn’t feel like a fantasy realm. It’s our social fabric. The online world is going to become a fully robust public space, and we won’t want to see garbage and detritus everywhere. We will finally start to see social media companies taking responsibility for what’s on their platforms — information will need to be accurate, or people will die.

…Scenario Two: The pandemic rips through the population, aided in part by contradictory messages from state and federal governments, as well as misinformation online. As social groups and families are torn apart by disease and unemployment, people look increasingly to social media for radical solutions: violent uprisings, internment camps for immigrants and other “suspicious” groups, and off-the-grid cults that promise sanctuary from death.

(3) HAS THE JURY REACHED A VERDICT? James Davis Nicoll’s Young People Read Old SFF panel considers “Rediscovery: Of All Possible Worlds, Rosel George Brown”.

This is the second Brown featured in Rediscovery. As mentioned last month, Brown was a promising author whose career was cut short by her death in 1967. I don’t have much to add to that, except to wonder if my Young People will enjoy this story more than they did the previous one.

(4) WHO WAS THAT MASKED FAN? John King Tarpinian has already ordered “Classic Monster Aloha Safety Mask”. Get yours for a mere $9.95. More styles here. And they sell matching shirts for some of them — Daniel Dern says “I’ve got the first two in that were shown in this post.”

Introducing Aloha Safety Face masks!! Hawaiian Printed Masks that are fashionable , fun, and made in the USA!!

And just like that, my shirt factory has shifted production, retooled, and is making much needed face masks for hospitals and clinics. We are all proud to be part of the effort to in the corona-virus fight and provide protective gear to Doctors, Nurses, and hospital staff, who in my eyes are the front line soldiers in this global pandemic.Due to the unprecedented demand for masks, healthcare system completely lacks the needed supplies and we are on a mission to outfit them. 

While they are our priority so is  the safety of my friends, neighbors, and countrymen. Many people with elderly parents, respiratory illnesses, diabetes, are at high risk, or want to protect their families have reached out. I know it’s hard to find masks of any kind anywhere.

(5) NEW ZEALAND. This year’s Worldcon, CoNZealand, has already announced they’re going virtual. The need for the decision can only be reinforced by the Prime Minister’s statement today: “Coronavirus: Jacinda Ardern warns border restrictions will exist for some time”.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has warned New Zealanders should get used to border restrictions in New Zealand and overseas, saying they’re likely to be in place “for some time”.

She said border restrictions overseas would likely persist until a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, believed to be one year to eighteen months away at the earliest – some vaccines take a decade to develop. 

“We will be having to manage covid-19 for months, until of course there is a vaccine and that will be many months,” she said.

Ardern told RNZ: “I’m anticipating border restrictions for some time.”

(6) WRITING THEIR WAY OUT. Melinda Snodgrass, Robert Vardeman, and Walter Jon Williams answered the Albuquerque Journal’s questions in “Science fact & fiction: Three New Mexico authors see parallels between the genre they write and the current world situation”.

Life as it is now – with most of us confined to home, getting out only for a walk in the sunshine or a quick trip to pick up mail, prescriptions, another bottle of water, an extra loaf of bread – is something we might have read about in a science fiction novel, seen on TV or at the movies but never before experienced personally to the extent we are dealing with now.

“I feel like I’m in what (science fiction author) Brian Aldiss called a cozy catastrophe,” said Walter Jon Williams, a writer of science fiction and fantasy who lives in Belen. “We have clothing, shelter, enough food in the fridge to last a month, and everything works. But everyone is gone. We just don’t see people. I went for a walk to the park today and saw one person.”

(7) SWIPER, NO SWIPING. Publishers Weekly boosts the signal as “Authors Guild, AAP Outraged by IA’s ‘National Emergency Library'”.  

The outcry from publisher and author groups has been swift and furious after the Internet Archive announced last week the launch of it’s National Emergency Library, which has removed access restrictions for some 1.4 million scans of mostly 20th century books in the IA’s Open Library initiative, making the scans available for unlimited borrowing during the Covid-19 Outbreak.

“We are stunned by the Internet Archive’s aggressive, unlawful, and opportunistic attack on the rights of authors and publishers in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic,” reads a March 27 statement from Association of American Publishers president and CEO Maria Pallante, adding that publishers are already “working tirelessly to support the public with numerous, innovative, and socially-aware programs that address every side of the crisis: providing free global access to research and medical journals that pertain to the virus; complementary digital education materials to schools and parents; and expanding powerful storytelling platforms for readers of all ages.”

The Authors Guild said it too was “appalled” by the program. “[The Internet Archive] is using a global crisis to advance a copyright ideology that violates current federal law and hurts most authors,” reads a March 27 statement. “It has misrepresented the nature and legality of the project through a deceptive publicity campaign. Despite giving off the impression that it is expanding access to older and public domain books, a large proportion of the books on Open Library are in fact recent in-copyright books that publishers and authors rely on for critical revenue. Acting as a piracy site—of which there already are too many—the Internet Archive tramples on authors’ rights by giving away their books to the world.”

In a statement on March 24, Edward Hasbrouck, co-chair of the National Writers’ Union ‘s book division also accused the IA of “using the coronavirus pandemic as an excuse” to redistribute copyrighted works without permission or payment.

“So much for authors’ incomes in a time of crisis. Do librarians and archivists really want to kick authors while our incomes are down?” Hasbrouck writes. “The argument is that students need e-books while they are staying home. But that’s an argument for spending public funds to purchase or license those resources for public use — not putting the burden of providing educational materials for free on writers, illustrators, and photographers. Authors also need to eat and pay rent during this crisis.”

The Internet Archive announced the National Emergency Library project on March 24, in response to the closures of libraries during the Covid-19 crisis, building upon the Internet Archive’s “Controlled Digital Lending” program. …

(8) MANDEL OBIT. Playwright and screenwriter Loring Mandel died March 24. His 1959 script ”Project Immortality” for Playhouse 90 got him his first Emmy nomination: “Key defense scientist Doner has cancer. Schramm is assigned to code Doner’s thinking into a computer. He gets to know him as a friend, a husband and father. The project is successful, but he now knows identity is not programmable.”

He was the screenwriter for Countdown, released in 1967, the year before the first Moon landing: “Desperate to reach the moon first, N.A.S.A. sends a man and shelter separately, one-way. He must find it to survive. He can’t return until Apollo is ready.” The movie starred James Caan and Robert Duvall.

However, as The Hollywood Reporter tribute notes, he was more famous for non-genre work: “Loring Mandel, Screenwriter and ‘Advise and Consent’ Playwright, Dies at 91”. “Mandel earned five Emmy nominations during his career, winning twice: in 1968 for his work on an installment of CBS Playhouse and in 2001 for penning the BBC-HBO telefilm Conspiracy.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 30, 2013 Orphan Black premiered on BBC America in the USA and Space in Canada. Starring Tatiana Maslany as the clones, it run for five seasons and fifty episodes. It would win a Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form Hugo at Sasquan for “By Means Which Have Never Yet Been Tried”.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 30, 1904 Herbert van Thal. Editor of the Pan Book of Horror Stories series that ran twenty-four volumes from 1959 to 1983. Back From the Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories is a look at the series and it contains Lest You Should Suffer Nightmares, the first biography of him written by Pan Book of Horror Stories expert Johnny Mains. (Died 1983.)
  • Born March 30, 1927 Greta Thyssen. Labeled Queen of the B-Movies she appeared in a number of genre films such as The Beast of Budapest,  Creature from Blood Island andJourney to the Seventh Planet. (Died 2018.)
  • Born March 30, 1928 Chad Oliver. Writer of both Westerns and SF, a not uncommon occupation at that time. He considered himself an anthropological science fiction writer whose training as an academic informed his fiction, an early Le Guin if you will. Not a terribly prolific writer with just nine novels and two collections to his name over a forty-year span. Mists of Dawn, his first novel, is a YA novel which I’d recommend as it reads a lot a similar Heinlein would. (Died 1993.)
  • Born March 30, 1933 Anna Ruud. Dr. ingrid Naarveg in the Three Stooges film Have Rocket — Will Travel. Hey, it is genre of a sorts. On a more serious note, she was Doctor Sigrid Bomark in 12 to the Moon. She had one-offs in Voyage to the Bottom of The SeaThe Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.  (Died 2018.)
  • Born March 30, 1943 Dennis Etchison. As editor, he received two World Fantasy Awards for Best Anthology, MetaHorror and The Museum of Horrors. As a writer, he’s best remembered as a short story writer of quite tasty horror. Talking in the Dark Is his personally selected collection of his stories. (Died 2019.)
  • Born March 30, 1948 Jeanne Robinson. She co-wrote the Stardance Saga with her husband Spider Robinson. To my knowledge, her only other piece of writing was ‘Serendipity: Do, Some Thoughts About Collaborative Writing ‘ which was published in the MagiCon Program. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 30, 1958 Maurice LaMarche, 62. Voice actor primarily for such roles as Pinky and The Brain (both of which Stross makes use of) with Pinky modelled off Orson Welles, the entire cast as near as I can tell of Futurama, the villain Sylar on Heroes, the voice of Orson Welles in Ed Wood, a less serious Pepé Le Pew in Space Jam, and, though maybe not genre, he’s voiced  Kellogg’s Froot Loops spokesbird Toucan Sam and  the animated Willy Wonka character in Nestlé’s Willy Wonka Candy Company commercials. 
  • Born March 30, 1990 Cassie Scerbo, 30. Nova Clarke in the Sharknado film series alongside Ian Ziering and Tara Reid (2013–2018). And one site listed her as being a member of the cast of Star Trek: Progeny, yet another of those video Trek fanfics.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) FROM COMIC BOOKS TO HISTORY BOOKS. “Overlooked No More: Kate Worley, a Pioneer Writer of Erotic Comics”. The New York Times says “Worley, who wrote Omaha the Cat Dancer, about a feline stripper, ‘injected a woman’s point of view’ that helped the comic stand out from others in the 1980s.”

…At the heart of the series was the writer Kate Worley, who gave the comic its distinctive voice and helped cultivate its wide-ranging fan base.

The character Omaha, created by the writer and artist Reed Waller, made her debut in 1978 as part of a fanzine. She eventually found her way into her own comic book, beginning in 1984. But then Waller got writer’s block.

“He wasn’t sure he wanted to continue,” Worley wrote in an introduction to a 1989 collected edition of Omaha. So she offered some suggestions. “I chattered for some time about possible plot directions, new characters,” she said.

When she was finished, Waller asked, “Would you like a job?” Worley took over as the writer, while Waller continued to draw the comic.

(13) A CLASSIC AGES GRACEFULLY. Tor.com’s prolific James Davis Nicoll goes monster hunting: “Another One of Them New Worlds: Revisiting Forbidden Planet”.

…United Planets cruiser C-57D, under the command of Commander John J. Adams (Leslie Nielsen), was dispatched to Altair IV to find out what had happened to an expedition that had been sent out twenty years earlier. As soon as the starship arrives in orbit, C-57D receives a transmission from the surface. There is at least one survivor of the earlier mission. To Adams’ surprise, the survivor, scientist Dr. Edward Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) doesn’t want to be rescued. Indeed, he warns the craft to go away if it wants to save its crew.

(14) HAULING THE FREIGHT. SpaceX has been selected as a contractor to deliver supplies to NASA’s Lunar Gateway station. “NASA Awards Artemis Contract for Gateway Logistics Services”.

NASA has selected SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, as the first U.S. commercial provider under the Gateway Logistics Services contract to deliver cargo, experiments and other supplies to the agency’s Gateway in lunar orbit. The award is a significant step forward for NASA’s Artemis program that will land the first woman and next man on the Moon by 2024 and build a sustainable human lunar presence.

At the Moon, NASA and its partners will gain the experience necessary to mount a historic human mission to Mars.

SpaceX will deliver critical pressurized and unpressurized cargo, science experiments and supplies to the Gateway, such as sample collection materials and other items the crew may need on the Gateway and during their expeditions on the lunar surface. 

(15) HE AM IRON MAN. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Should the Marvel Cinematic Universe ever decide to reboot, we may have found our new Iron Man…

(16) BEWARE THOSE DARNED SPOILERS. The Guardian’s Stephen Kelly doesn’t sound like a fan of the show: “Star Trek: Picard is the dark reboot that boldly goes where nobody wanted it to”. And did I mention, this article HAS SPOILERS?

It is the year 2364, and Jean-Luc Picard – the revered captain of the USS Enterprise – has just come face to face with three humans who have been frozen in time since the late 20th century. By this point in the story – the 1988 finale of the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation – he has met Klingons, Romulans, a pool of black goo, but nothing is as alien as these greedy, selfish relics.

This is Star Trek, after all: the pop-culture behemoth built on the idealistic future envisioned in the 60s by its creator Gene Roddenberry. “A lot has changed in the past 300 years,” Picard tells them. “People are no longer obsessed with the accumulation of things. We’ve eliminated hunger, want, the need for possessions. We’ve grown out of our infancy.”

Or have we? Revisiting the character 30 years later in Star Trek: Picard, Patrick Stewart’s grand return to the role at the age of 79, it seems the world has not progressed as much as we were led to believe. Set during a time in which the Federation – a union of planets with shared democratic values and interests – has turned isolationist in response to a terror attack, it has proved to be a divisively dark, gritty and morally bleak take on the Star Trek universe….

(17) TAKE IT IN STAGES. Harvard’s School of Public Health concludes that “On-again, off-again looks to be best social-distancing option”.

With global coronavirus cases heading toward half a million, Harvard infectious disease experts said recent modeling shows that — absent the development of a vaccine or other intervention — a staggered pattern of social distancing would save more lives than a one-and-done strategy and avoid overwhelming hospitals while allowing immunity to build in the population.

The work, conducted by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and led by Yonatan Grad, the Melvin J. and Geraldine L. Glimcher Assistant Professor of Immunology and Infectious Diseases, and Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology, also shows that if strict social distancing such as that imposed in China — which cuts transmission by 60 percent — is relaxed, it results in epidemic peaks in the fall and winter similar in size and with similar impacts on the health care system as those in an uncontrolled epidemic.

“We looked at how it would affect the thing that matters most — overwhelming the critical-care unit,” Grad said.

The problem, the researchers said, is that while strict social distancing may appear to be the most effective strategy, little population-level immunity is developed to a virus that is very likely to come around again.

(18) PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENTS. A lot of genre figures are getting in on the act – we learned about these three from Comicbook.com:

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Stay safe out there.

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

Pixel Scroll 3/4/20 Bring Me My Book Of Divine Stalk: Bring Me My Feline On A Pile: Bring Me My Fifth: O Readers Talk! Bring Me My Pixel Scrolls Of File!

(1) SF IN TRANSLATION. An overview of the year’s output at Locus Online: “SF in Translation in 2019 by Rachel S. Cordasco”.

In general, speculative fiction in translation (SFT) accounts for a very small fraction of the fiction published in English each year. This past year was no exception: 50 books (novels, collections, and anthologies) and 80 short (standalone) works of SFT made their way to Anglophone readers. While this may not sound like much, it does signify a slow but steady increase in non-Anglophone speculative fiction since the turn of the century. Not since the 1960s and ’70s have we seen such an increase, and while I can’t point to any one factor as an explanation, I imagine that the unprecedented worldwide connectivity brought about by the internet at the end of the last century, coupled with the increase in small and micro-presses and magazines that regularly publish speculative fiction, may offer a partial answer. Perhaps another factor is the growing interest of speculative fiction fans in stories that are written from a non-Anglophone perspective…

(2) LONDON’S OFF THE HOOK. Yesterday, the London Book Fair planned to carry on, even in the face of businesses dropping out because of coronavirus fears. Today, The Guardian reports it’s been cancelled.

One of the world’s biggest international literary events, the London book fair, has been cancelled over coronavirus fears, amid growing anger that the delay in calling it off was putting people’s health at risk and an unfair financial strain on publishers.

Organiser Reed Exhibitions announced on Wednesday that the escalation of the illness meant the fair, scheduled to run from 10 to 12 March, would be called off. Around 25,000 publishers, authors and agents from around the world had been due to attend the event, where deals for the hottest new books are struck.

But the event was already set to be a ghost town when it opened its doors, after publishers and rights agencies began withdrawing en masse over the last week. Some of the world’s biggest, including Penguin Random House, HarperCollins and Hachette had already pulled out, as had Amazon and a host of literary agencies including Curtis Brown.

(3) NO TIME TO DEBUT. Another British institution, Agent 007, has also been affected by fears of the spread of the COVID-19 flu: No Time to Die’s Release Is Delayed Seven Months Because of Coronavirus”. The 25th James Bond movie was supposed to premiere in April, but GQ reports it now will open in November. The date has been pushed back so the film can make money in Asian countries whose movie theatres are currently in trouble because of the coronavirus.

(4) ANOTHER DELAY. Even Baby Yoda is feeling the effects — “Coronavirus Has Now Affected Baby Yoda’s Impending Arrival in the U.S.”.

Now there are reports that the spread of the illness—and subsequent quarantines and travel restrictions in China—will likely impact the arrival of Baby Yoda toys.

Hasbro, which has the license for several Star Wars toys, including some dolls and figures of The Mandalorian’s breakout star, is very concerned about the potential for the coronavirus to disrupt its toy-making supply chains. CNN Business spoke to toy-industry expert Jim Silver, who said that the first batch of Baby Yoda toys, which are supposed to arrive later this month, are mostly in the clear so far. However, if things don’t return to normal by the start of the summer, Silver predicts “shortages on a litany of toys.”

In a filing released on Thursday, Hasbro admitted that it was experiencing coronavirus-related production difficulties in China, where more than 80,000 people have been infected. The company added that the flu “could have a significant negative impact on our revenues, profitability, and business.”

(5) NEXT YEAR IN HORROR. The StokerCon 2021 website has gone live. Next year’s Horror Writers Association gathering will take place in Denver, CO from May 20-23. Memberships go on sale April 20 for $150 (Early Bird Special). The next rate hike is June 30, 2020.

(6) TURNOVER ON THE MASTHEAD. Sean Wallace, Publisher of The Dark Magazine, told followers about some recent and upcoming personnel changes.

Just before the start of the new year, our reprint editor Michael Kelly stepped back from his duties to put more time and energy in his small press company, Undertow Publications, and we wish him all the best in his endeavours. And then in other somewhat-related sad news, Silvia Moreno-Garcia is also soon leaving The Dark Magazine to focus on her writing career, which is really taking off, and rightfully so. As such, her last month will be with the July 2020 issue, which we are putting together the original lineup as we type this out.

Beyond that, we have no immediate plans to hire a new co-editor, at least for the remainder of 2020, but I will be sending out a further update on this closer to the end of the year.

(7) PARSONS OBIT. Aly Parsons (1952-2020) died February 9, reports Locus Online. With her husband Paul Parsons (d. 2008), she hosted the Potomac River Science Fiction Society for 12 years, and worked on Unicons and the 2003 World Fantasy Convention. She cofounded a Washington DC writers’ group that met for decades. Her pro sales included a short story published in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Darkover anthology Sword of Chaos (1982).

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 4, 1956 The Atomic Man premiered. If you saw it in the U.K., it was Tinmeslip. It was directed by Ken Hughes, and produced by Alec C. Snowden from The Isotope Man by Charles Eric Maine, who also wrote the screenplay. It starred Gene Nelson and Faith Domergue. You’ll need to watch it for yourself here to see how it is as there’s no Rotten Tomatoes ratings for it. 
  • March 4, 1958 Cosmic Monsters  (The Strange World of Planet X in the U.K.) premiered. It was produced by George Maynard and John Bash, directed by Gilbert Gunn. It starred  Forrest Tucker and Gaby André. It was a double bill with The Crawling Eye. It bombed at the Box Office, critics at the time hated it and it currently has a 6% rating among the audience at Rotten Tomatoes. You can see it here.
  • March 4, 1977 Man From Atlantis premiered. Created by Mayo Simon and Herbert Solow, the pilot was written by Leo Katzin. It starred Patrick Duffy, Belinda Montgomery, Alan Fudge and Victor Bruno. It ran for thirteen episodes that followed four films. It was not renewed for a full season. We cannot offer you  a look at it as it’s behind a paywall at YouTube. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 4, 1905 Frank Utpatel. Artist who may have done some interior illustrations for Weird Tales, he’s remembered for his Arkham House book covers that began with Lovecraft’s The Shadow over Innsmouth novel in 1936. He would do covers for Ashton, Howard, Derleth, and Lovecraft. (Died 1980.)
  • Born March 4, 1923 Sir Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore CBE HonFRS FRAS. Astronomer who liked Trek and Who early on but said later that he stopped watching when “they went PC – making women commanders, that kind of thing of thing.” Despite that, he’s here because, he shows up in the debut Eleventh Doctor story, “The Eleventh Hour.“ And he was in the radio version of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy as well. (Died 2012.)
  • Born March 4, 1933 Bernie Zuber. A fan artist who was the original vice president of the Mythopoeic Society. He was also a long-time member of LASFS who joined in the Fifties. He served as one of the first editors of Mythlore, but leftafter a falling out with the Mythopoeic Society, and became the founder and president of the Tolkien Fellowships. He published Butterbur’s Woodshed, Germinal and The Westmarch Chronicle. (Died 2005.)
  • Born March 4, 1938 Paula Prentiss, 82. One of the wives of the original Stepford Wives, she also appears as Sonia Dracula in the second Mr. and Mrs. Dracula pilot in 1981 after the first pilot was deemed not workable by the network. That pilot was also not brought to series either. 
  • Born March 4, 1958 James Ellroy, 72. Ok Filers. ISFDB lists two novels by him as being genre, Blood Moon and American Tabloid. I’ve read neither but nothing that I can find on the web suggests that either is even remotely genre adjacent. Who’s read them? 
  • Born March 4, 1965 Paul W. S. Anderson, 55. If there be modern pulp films, he’s the director of them. He’s responsible for the Resident Evil franchise plus Event Horizon, Alien V. Predator, Pandorum and even the forthcoming Monster Hunter which no, isn’t based off the work of a certain Sad Puppy. 
  • Born March 4, 1966 Daniela Amavia, 54. She appeared as Alia Atreides in the Children of Dune series.usually I wouldn’t include a performer fir just one genre credit, but she made a most perfect Alia that I will make an exception and do so in her case. 

(10) MAGICIANS SERIES WINDING UP. “‘The Magicians’ to End With Season 5 on Syfy”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

The show’s April 1 season finale will now serve as a series ender.

Syfy will say goodbye to one of its signature shows in the spring, bringing The Magicians to a close after five seasons.

The series from Universal Content Productions, based on Lev Grossman’s novel of the same name, will air its final episode on April 1. The decision comes with five episodes remaining in the season.

(11) NAILING THAT GALLIFREYAN JELLO TO THE WALL. The finale of Doctor Who’s twelfth season prompts Paste Magazine to consider “Doctor Who and the Difficulty of Rewriting Your Own History”. BEWARE SPOILERS.  

…But sometimes, Doctor Who’s willingness to play fast and loose with things we previously knew to be true just makes its stories unnecessarily complicated without adding anything of value to them. (See also: Clara’s status as the Impossible Girl, Melody Pond growing up to be River Song or the Hybrid mystery.) It certainly feels like that’s the case in the Season 12 finale, an episode which gives the Doctor an entirely new origin story, destroys her race (again!) and creates what feels like an almost limitless number of incarnations of the character that we, as viewers, will likely never meet.

Because the question at the end of all this is: So what?

After promising a game-changing finale that would upend everything we, as viewers, understood about the show, “The Timeless Children” didn’t really live up to that promise. It actually changes very little. By the time the closing credits roll, the entire series’ universe is supposed to be different. The problem is, it’s not. Not really. There are new pieces to the story, sure. But largely those pieces exist in the same places the old ones did. So, it’s hard to tell precisely why this story matters….

Because you can’t have it both ways: Either existing Doctor Who lore is important enough that shaking it up and turning it inside out and fighting strangers on the internet about it matters, or it doesn’t. If we change the rules, those changes need to mean something, and the story that comes out of those has to be worth rewriting the things that have come before. (And you have to respect that there were rules that existed in the first place.) It’s not clear that this episode does that, regardless of whether we’re talking about the Master’s characterization, the Doctor’s past, or the apparent erasure of Rassilon from existence. If nothing is truly different in the aftermath of stories that supposedly change everything, then what’s the point of telling them? Sure, “The Timeless Children” dropped the bombshell that the Doctor is functionally immortal, but we all sort of knew that already, since she was given a new set of regenerations back when she was Eleven.

(12) FRAUD, HE SAYS. While Paste Magazine is dubious, John C. Wright is absolutely outraged (as one might expect) and calls the season-ending episode “The Death of Doctor Who”. Again, BEWARE SPOILERS.

…So the Doctor turns out to be, not an eccentric Time Lord who stole a broken TARDIS to flee into time and space for madcap adventures helping the helpless, nay.

He is in fact a foundling, a poor little black girl, who is the sole source of the regenerative ability of the Time Lords, hence the true founder of their society, not Rassilon.

…The point of message fiction is twofold.

The first, like Aesop, attempts to convey a moral maxim or lesson in a palatable fashion to influence young minds.

This can be done well or poorly, depending on whether the story rules the message, or the message rules the story.

The message itself, like any sermon, can also be well written or poorly written.

But if the message derails the story, that is fraud. The author who promises an entertainment, but delivers a lecture instead, is just as much a cheat as a bartender who charges for a mug of beer but puts a glass of buttermilk before you. Buttermilk may be better for your health, but, honestly, the bartender is not your mother, and he is not doing the job you paid him for.

Wright proceeds to condemn all of this in the strongest terms. I can only imagine how upset he might have been if he had actually watched the show, but he assures his readers —

I have not seen the episode, nor, indeed, the season, nor ever will I.

Okayyy….

(13) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter watched tonight’s Jeopardy! contestants strike out on this one:

Category: America’s Richest Self-Made Women

Answer: Part of this author’s nearly $400 million fortune came from books she wrote under the J.D. Robb pseudonym.

Wrong question: Who is J.K. Rowling?

Right question: Who is Nora Roberts?

(14) FANTASTIC VOYAGE. NPR reports, “In A 1st, Scientists Use Revolutionary Gene-Editing Tool To Edit Inside A Patient”.

For the first time, scientists have used the gene-editing technique CRISPR to try to edit a gene while the DNA is still inside a person’s body.

The groundbreaking procedure involved injecting the microscopic gene-editing tool into the eye of a patient blinded by a rare genetic disorder, in hopes of enabling the volunteer to see. They hope to know within weeks whether the approach is working and, if so, to know within two or three months how much vision will be restored.

“We’re really excited about this,” Dr. Eric Pierce, a professor of ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School, who is leading a study that the procedure launched, tells NPR.

“We’re helping open, potentially, an era of gene-editing for therapeutic use that could have impact in many aspects of medicine,” Pierce says.

The CRISPR gene-editing technique has been revolutionizing scientific research by making it much easier to rewrite the genetic code. It’s also raising high hopes of curing many diseases.

Before this step, doctors had only used CRISPR to try to treat a small number of patients who have cancer, or the rare blood disorders sickle cell anemia or beta-thalassemia. While some of the initial results have been promising, it’s still too soon to know whether the strategy is working.

In those other cases, doctors removed cells from patients’ bodies, edited genes in the cells with CRISPR in the lab and then infused the modified cells back into the volunteers’ bodies to either attack their cancer or produce a protein their bodies are missing.

(15) THE DOOR INTO BUMMER. Did you know? “Amazon’s Ring logs every doorbell press and app action”.

Amazon keeps records of every motion detected by its Ring doorbells, as well as the exact time they are logged down to the millisecond.

The details were revealed via a data request submitted by the BBC.

It also disclosed that every interaction with Ring’s app is also stored, including the model of phone or tablet and mobile network used.

One expert said it gave Amazon the potential for even broader insight into its customers’ lives.

“What’s most interesting is not just the data itself, but all the patterns and insights that can be learned from it,” commented independent privacy expert Frederike Kaltheuner.

“Knowing when someone rings your door, how often, and for how long, can indicate when someone is at home.

“If nobody ever rang your door, that would probably say something about your social life as well.”

She added that it remained unclear how much further “anonymised” data was also being collected.

“This isn’t just about privacy, but about the power and monetary value that is attached to this data.”

Amazon says it uses the information to evaluate, manage and improve its products and services.

(16) CLUMSY FILTER. BBC looks at it from his point of view: “Luton filmmaker warns over over TikTok and Facebook extremism rules”.

A filmmaker says social media rules to prevent extremist material going online are thwarting his attempts to tackle hatred and extremism.

Rizwan Wadan said algorithms used by Facebook and TikTok were making it hard to promote his films.

Mr Wadan, 38, of Luton, said automatic filtering of words such as “jihad” and “terror,” forced users underground to learn about and discuss the issues.

Facebook said his trailer broke its ban on “sensational content” in adverts.

Mr Wadan, based at Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire, developed camera stabilisation systems and has worked on films including Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

He set up a £1.2m project called The Error in Terror to “give Muslims a voice,” and made films intended to deter acts of terrorism and challenge people to rethink their views.

But he said trailers for his work have been “restricted” on Facebook and said TikTok removed the content because it was deemed to break its guidelines.

“If we have algorithms that pick up words like ‘terrorism’ and ‘jihad,’ if we’re not allowed to discuss these things on social media platforms, then people who need to learn about this get pushed underground,” he said.

“They might start to learn about these things from people abroad where jihad is applied very differently and it could encourage individuals to get into revenge and retaliation, and this is very dangerous for us.

“It’s the responsibility of social media platforms to allow this kind of discussion to take place.”

(17) COOL STORY. “Star Wars fan gets bionic R2-D2 arm, meets Luke Skywalker [via Skype]”CNN has video.   

11-year-old Star Wars fan Isabella Tadlock was born with a nub on the end of her left arm and no fingers on her right hand. Actor Mark Hamill saw her story on Twitter and helped her get a R2-D2 bionic arm.

(18) BOOKSHOPPING LEADS TO BOOKHOPPING. Powell’s Books Blog presents “Portrait of a Bookseller: Dana P.”, who recommends V.E. Schwab and Neil Gaiman, and confesses a habit that will probably sound familiar to some of you.

Do you have any odd reading habits?
I definitely have a bad habit of hoarding books and then starting too many of them at once. I love the feeling of just starting a book, when it holds so much potential, so I’ll often have about six books I’m in the middle of — but I’ll bounce back and forth between them so none of them feel neglected.

(19) THE INTERNET OF REBELLIOUS THINGS. Connected is about —

…an everyday family’s struggle to relate while technology rises up around the world! When nature-loving dad Rick… determines the whole family should drive Katie to school together and bond as a family one last time…. the Mitchells’ plans are interrupted by a tech uprising: all around the world, the electronic devices people love – from phones, to appliances, to an innovative new line of personal robots – decide it’s time to take over. With the help of two friendly malfunctioning robots, the Mitchells will have to get past their problems and work together to save each other and the world!

It arrives in theaters September 18.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/17/20 From Rishathra With Love

(1) NOT FAR FROM THE TREE. Apple TV+ has dropped the Amazing Stories — Official Trailer. The show debuts March 6 on the Apple TV app – if you have an Apple TV+ subscription: Amazing Stories.

From visionary executive producers Steven Spielberg and Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz, this reimagining of the classic anthology series transports everyday characters into worlds of wonder, possibility, and imagination

(2) IN THE AUDIENCE AT BOSKONE. Filer Mlex posted a report about the sessions he attended at this weekend’s “Boskone 2020”.

Fairy Tales from the Dark Side

Theodora Goss started off this session by noting that she spent some years of her childhood in Budapest and that she takes particular interest in the fairy tales of Hungary, with their typical strong heroines. She went on to say that fairies vary quite a lot, not only in different cultural traditions, but depending on the date and conditions where they were formed. Victorians had their small flower fairies, for example, and subtle messages could be presented in the form of fairy tales about feminism or other social and political movements. Think of the women brewing eels, bats, herbs, and potions. The fairy represents the human encounter with the magical other.

Isabel Yap noted that Fillipino fairies do not play by human rules. They are not so clearly anthropomorphized and might often turn into fish, or other creatures. These fairy tales might be quite violent, and the fairies are not on our side.

(3) LISTENING TO A CULTURE. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] There is something of a theme taking place in British culture this spring.

Second Sleep

First we had The Second Sleep by Robert Harris which then became BBC Radio 4’s book at bed time last month (and still downloadable in 15 minute episodes. Here the end of the world was IT related (not really a spoiler as it is hypothesized in first few chapters).

Then on the non-fiction front a vaguely respected Brit senior politician (i.e. pre-Boris /Trump) is to have a book published next month warning that our IT society has no fall-back back-up system in place. This book uses an SF novelette interspersed with factual comment and explanation to elucidate such things as Black Swan events among much else.

And finally, back at the BBC, Radio 4 has just launched another season of its SFnal Dangerous Visions the first episode of 4 is ‘Blackout’ and concerns what happens when the internet (hence power as the grid is web managed) crashes…

Be thankful you can still read this post….

Dangerous Visions

(4) VISUALIZING THE CULTURE. I don’t know how I missed this — The Culture: Notes and Drawings by Iain M. Banks and Ken MacLeod is set for a November 26 release date.

Iain M. Banks, the modern master of SF, created many original drawings detailing the universe of his bestselling Culture novels. Now these illustrations – many of them annotated – are being published for the very first time in a book that celebrates Banks’s grand vision, with additional notes and material by Banks’s longtime friend and fellow SF author Ken MacLeod. It is an essential addition to the collection of any Iain M. Banks fan.

(5) CROWDFUNDING. Apex Publications has launched a Kickstarter to raise $20,000 to publish Invisible Threads: Cutting the Binds That Hold Us edited by Jason Sizemore and Lesley Conner.

No matter who you are or where you come from, there are boundaries and barriers that dictate what you can do, where you can go, and who you can become. Invisible threads running through society, pulling you this way or that, tripping you when you try to better yourself, ensnaring and holding you back.  Invisible Threads is an anthology of dark sci-fi, fantasy, and horror stories that examine these barriers.

Confirmed authors include Alix Harrow, Andi Buchanan, Maurice Broaddus, Fran Wilde, Chesya Burke, Merc Fenn Wolfmoor, Stephanie Malia Morris, Jordan Kurella, K.T. Bryski, ZZ Claybourne, A.C. Buchanan, Damien Angelica Walters, Beth Dawkins, Geoffrey Girard, Sabrina Vourvoulias, A.C. Wise, and Michael Wehunt. We plan to hold an open submissions call should we fund.

(6) EVEN IF IT IS JOSHI. The John Hay Library at Brown University invites applications for its 2020-2021 S.T. Joshi Endowed Research Fellowship for research relating to H.P. Lovecraft, his associates, and literary heirs. The application deadline is March 13, 2020.

The Hay Library is home to the largest collection of H. P. Lovecraft materials in the world, and also holds the archives of Clark Ashton Smith, Karl Edward Wagner, Manly Wade Wellman, Analog magazine, Caitlín Kiernan, and others. The Joshi Fellowship, established by The Aeroflex Foundation and Hippocampus Press, is intended to promote scholarly research using the world-renowned resources on H. P. Lovecraft, science fiction, and horror at the John Hay Library (projects do not need to relate to Lovecraft directly). The Fellowship provides a monthly stipend of $2,500 for up to two months of research at the library between July 2020 and June 2021. The fellowship is open to students, faculty, librarians, artists, and independent scholars.

(7) DOOM IN BLOOM. In “The Pleasure (Reading) of Impending Doom” at CrimeReads, Tosca Lee recommends novels by Ben H. Winters, William Fortschen, A.G. Riddle if you want to read novels about global apocalypses.

As a lifelong lover of a good doomsday story, I’ve always considered the tenacity and resourcefulness of the human spirit to be the category’s major appeal—along with the it-could-really-happen scary plausibility and ingenious “prepping” specifics, of course. But it wasn’t until I started writing my apocalyptic thriller, The Line Between, that the real charm of the genre became apparent to me. 

I’d recently married a single father and become an insta-mom to four. Life was busy and crowded with details. But as I began to plot my literary cataclysm, the chaos of daily life—work, bills, school schedules, errands, house stuff, holidays, political noise, grocery lists, social media, bucket lists, and those ever-elusive last ten pounds—fell away in the face of a story with a single goal: survival. Suddenly, that looming list of to-dos doesn’t seem so insurmountable—or even important—compared to savoring time with those we love while we’re all here on earth together.

(8) NAKAHARA OBIT. Kellye Nakahara, best known for her work on M*A*S*H but who also had several genre roles, died February 17. Consequence of Sound paid tribute: “R.I.P. Kellye Nakahara, M*A*S*H Actress Dies at 72”.

…Nakahara portrayed Nurse Kellye Yamato for 167 episodes of the hit show (according to IMDb). It would go on to be her largest and most memorable role. She followed it up with bit parts in television series such as At Ease, Hunter, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and with film roles in Clue (the cook, Mrs. Ho), Black Day Blue Night (as Fat Mama), and Eddie Murphy’s version of Doctor Dolittle (credited as Beagle Woman).

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 17, 1959 The Cosmic Man premiered. It produced by Robert A. Terry and directed by Herbert S. Greene. The film stars John Carradine, Bruce Bennett and Angela Greene. The film was shot quickly, primarily on a hotel lobby set, and in Griffith Park in L.A., where the Griffith Observatory was used as stand-in for the Pacific Institute of Technology. At least in Los Angeles, it played on a double bill with House on Haunted Hill. With the notable exception of Variety who really didn’t like it, most critics at the time found it to be a pleasant, fun experience. The audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes does not reflect that — it has a 0% rating from the very few, only thirty four, who’ve given it a score. You can see it here.
  • February 17, 1966 — On this day in Dublin, The Projected Man premiered. It was directed by Ian Curteis from a script by Peter Bryan, John C. Cooper, and Frank Quattrocchi, and starred Bryant Haliday, Mary Peach, Norman Wooland, Ronald Allen, and Derek Farr. Universal Studios released it on a double bill with Terror Island. Critics noted the monster’s resemblance to that of one in The Fly but those involved here denied that film inspired the look of the creature in this movie. It was featured in a ninth season episode of  Mystery Science Theater 3000, and currently the audience over at Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 3% rating. You can see it here.

February 17, 1966 — In the United Kingdom, Episode Twenty-one of the first season of The Thunderbirds,  “The Duchess Assignment”, aired. Created by Gerry and Sylvia Anderson, and. filmed by their production company. The electronic marionette puppetry which they called Supermarionation  was combined with scale-model special effects sequences.  It was the fifth such project by their company. You can see this episode of the Thunderbirds here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 17, 1903 Kenne Duncan. He’s got a number of genre credits starting with the 1938 Flash Gordon’s Trip to Mars serial where he was the Airdrome Captain. He’d play Ram Singh, the butler to the Spider, in The Spider’s Web and The Spider Returns serials, and he’d be Lt. Lacy in the 1939 Buck Rogers serial. Several years later, he’d be Cheney Hencheman Barnett in The Adventures of Captain Marvel serial. You can see him in the first chapter of Spider’s Web serial here. (Died 1972.)
  • Born February 17, 1912 Andre  Norton. She penned well over a dozen series, but her major series was Witch World which began rather appropriately with Witch World in 1963. The first six novels in that series were Ace Books paperback originals published in the Sixties. I remember them with some fondness quite some decades after reading them. (Died 2005.)
  • Born February 17, 1920 Curt Swan. He’s the artist most associated with Superman during the Silver Age, and he produced hundreds of covers and stories from the Fifties through the Eighties. He would be let go in the DC reorganization of the Eighties with his last work as a regular artist on Superman being the 1986 story “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” that was written by Alan Moore. (Died 1996.)
  • Born February 17, 1930 Ruth Rendell. I’ve read and enjoyed some of her mysteries down the decade but am not familiar at all with the three listed as genre by ISFDB (The Killing Doll, The Tree of Hands and The Bridesmaid). Who of you is familiar with these? (Died 2015.)
  • Born February 17, 1931 Johnny Hart. The creator of B.C. and The Wizard of Id. (Brant Pant was the other creator of the latter strip.)  He certainly wasn’t without controversy as this strip attests. (Died 2007.)
  • Born February 17, 1954 Don Coscarelli, 66. A film director, producer, and screenwriter best known for horror films. His credits include the Phantasm series, The Beastmaster, and Bubba Ho-Tep, the latter based on a novella by Joe R. Lansdale whom I’ve met and who is a really nice person
  • Born February 17, 1971 Denise Richards, 49. Her first genre role was as Tammy in Tammy and the T-Rex (really don’t ask). Her next role was the one she’s known for as Carmen Ibañez in Starship Troopers. She’ll be a few years later Dr. Christmas Jones in The World Is Not Enough, the eighteenth Bond film. She’s been announced as playing Victoria Darw in the still to be scheduled Timecrafters: The Treasure of Pirate’s Cove.
  • Born February 17, 1974 Jerry O’Connell, 46. Quinn Mallory on Sliders, a series whose behind the broadcast politics is too tangled to detail here. His first SF role was on Mission to Mars as Phil Ohlmyer with the SF dark comedy Space Space Station 76 with him as Steve being his next role. He’s done a lot of of DCU voice work, Captain Marvel in Superman/Shazam!: The Return of Black Adam, Clark Kent / Superman in Justice League vs. Teen Titans and Justice League: Throne of AtlantisJustice League Dark, The Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen where he also plays Cyborg Superman to great, chilling effect. The latter film is kickass excellent. 

(11) SH-BOOM. High Seas Trading Co. has reason to brag about its “Outer Space” design:

The Hawaiian Shirt that the Astronauts wore on Aloha Friday on the International Space Station.This space themed Hawaiian shirt is out of this world.

(12) FRESH LID. Alasdair Stuart’s “The Full Lid for 14th February 2020” maps the abstractions of nautical horror with Underwater and The Lighthouse, take a look at the amazing Parasite and shows him learning to Hack the Panic!

Signal Boost this week is Mockery Manor ,Mike UnderwoodKevin Petker‘s Princess World is live on Kickstarter from next week. Be sure to check it outRosarium are currently crowdfunding ‘Hellraiser meets Black History Month’ graphic novel, Box of Bones.. Gordon B. White‘s splendidly titled anthology As Summer’s Mask Slips, and Other Disruptions just got a starred PW review!!

Finally Tracacy Barnett’s current project, This Thing We Started is crowdfunding now. They’ve also recommended Descent into Midnight, launching on Saturday and VERY much my sort of thing.

(13) SPATIAL DELIVERY. James Davis Nicoll found copies of “Five SF Stories About Teleportation Systems Gone Awry” at Tor.com. At least.

In Thomas Disch’s 1967 novel Echo Round His Bones, Nathan Hansard is transmitted to America’s Camp Jackson Mars via teleporter. This is a routine operation…or so it is believed. Wrongly. Hansard is surprised to discover himself somewhere other than Mars. Teleportation creates phantom duplicates on Earth, living ghosts dependent on the phantom duplicates of supplies sent to Mars. Food is in short supply, but no matter. Some of Hansard’s predecessors have solved the problem in a straightforward manner: by eating their fellow phantoms….

But if they eat The Phantom, who will remain to leave comments on Lela Buis’ blog?

(14) EASY DOES IT. So, more like smushing together mudpies? “New Horizons spacecraft ‘alters theory of planet formation'”.

Scientists say they have “decisively” overturned the prevailing theory for how planets in our Solar System formed.

The established view is that material violently crashed together to form ever larger clumps until they became worlds.

New results suggest the process was less catastrophic – with matter gently clumping together instead.

The study appears in Science journal and has been presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Seattle.

…The claim arises from detailed study of an object in the outer reaches of the Solar System. Named Arrokoth, the object is more than six billion km from the Sun in a region called the Kuiper belt. It is a pristine remnant of planet formation in action as the Solar System emerged 4.6 billion years ago, with two bodies combining to form a larger one.

Scientists obtained high-resolution pictures of Arrokoth when Nasa’s New Horizons spacecraft flew close to it just over a year ago. It gave scientists their first opportunity to test which of the two competing theories was correct: did the two components crash together or was there gentle contact?

The analysis by Dr Stern and his team could find no evidence of violent impact. The researchers found no stress fractures, nor was there any flattening, indicating that the objects were squashed together gently.

(15) HIGH FLIGHT. BBC is there: “Virgin Galactic: Unity rocket ship moves to operational base”.

Sir Richard Branson has moved his rocket plane from its development base in California to what will be its operational centre in New Mexico.

The transfer of the Unity vehicle and its mothership, Eve, to the Spaceport America complex signals the start of final testing.

Sir Richard’s Virgin Galactic company is now close to beginning commercial service.

More than 600 individuals have paid deposits to ride Unity to over 80km.

The trip will enable them to experience a few minutes of weightlessness around the top of the rocket ship’s climb.

Already almost 100 Virgin Galactic staff have moved to the southern New Mexico spaceport to prepare it – and themselves – for operations.

Unity will now perform a series of test flights above the desert.

Some of these will see it dropped from altitude to simply glide back to the runway. Others will involve firing its rocket motor to power skyward.

(16) WHAT A CAST. Does a show about Skeletor and He-Man deserve this array of talent? “Mark Hamill and Lena Heady Lead Expansive Voice Cast for Kevin Smith’s ‘Masters of the Universe’ Series”.

Netflix and Mattel TV announced an expansive voice cast for its upcoming “Masters of the Universe” series from Kevin Smith. The cast is led by Mark Hamill as Skeletor, Lena Headey as Evil-Lyn and Chris Wood as Prince Adam aka He-Man.

The new series, “Masters of the Universe: Revelations,” will focus on the unresolved storylines of the original 1982 TV series, picking up many of the characters’ journeys where they left off decades ago.

In addition to those three, the cast also includes Sarah Michelle Gellar (Teela), Liam Cunningham (Man-At-Arms), Stephen Root (Cringer), Diedrich Bader (King Randor/Trap Jaw), Griffin Newman (Orko), Tiffany Smith (Andra), Henry Rollins (Tri-Klops), Susan Eisenberg (Sorceress), Alicia Silverstone (Queen Marlena), Justin Long (Roboto), Jason Mewes (Stinkor), Phil LaMarr (He-Ro), Tony Todd (Scare Glow), Cree Summer (Priestess), Kevin Michael Richardson (Beast Man), Kevin Conroy (Mer-Man) and Harley Quinn Smith (Ileena).

(17) INSPECTOR SPOT-ET. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Spot may not be designed to follow the Three Laws (yet?), but it is starting to protect humans by taking over certain hazardous and/or mind-numbingly repetitive jobs. Of course, some people would argue that it’s also starting to threaten humans by taking over certain hazardous and/or mind-numbingly repetitive jobs. SYFY Wire: “Boston Dynamics’ robotic dog gets a job working an offshore oil rig”.

See Spot walk. See Spot sit. See Spot roll over. See Spot run onto a Norwegian oil rig to sniff out lethal gas leaks!

Boston Dynamics’ next-generation robotic device, affectionately nicknamed Spot, will soon be embarking on a new test mission aboard an offshore oil rig for petroleum product producer Aker BP and AI software company Cognite. The newly announced project will be rolled out to test a number of advanced robots and drones on Aker BP’s Skarv installation in the Norwegian Sea later this year.

[…] “Our vision is to digitalize all our operations from cradle to grave in order to increase productivity, enhance quality, and improve the safety of our employees,” Aker BP’s CEO Karl Johnny Hersvik said in a press release. “Exploring the potential of robotics offshore underpin our digital journey.”

(18) COLLECTIBLE ROBOT. Michael Crawford provides a review and photos of Wal-Mart’s “Robby the Robot Forbidden Planet action figure” at Captain Toy.

Sculpting – ****
The sculpt isn’t particularly detailed, but the original robot had a lot of smooth surfaces.

What sets this guy apart is all the individual pieces that went into making him, particularly inside and attached to the dome. Check out the levers and doo-dads which would spin and turn and clack along as he spoke and moved, demonstrating the very analog way we looked at robots back then. You could almost see the zeroes and ones flitting through his mechanical brain. Of course none of the interior dome pieces on this figure move, but the detail work is quite impressive for this price point.

The body recreates the original look quite well, although the proportions are a smidge off. Still, at a solid 14″ tall, he’s about the right height and scale to fit in great with other sixth scale figures, including the old Lost In Space characters.

(19) FRENCH VIDEO OF THE DAY. (A) Vous Regardez Un Film on Vimeo is a cartoon by Jon Boutin about the drudgery of going to the office.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/17/20 The Longer A Scroll Title, The More Likely It Is Antidisestablishmentarian

(1) DOWN THE TUBES. City A.M. shows off new signage created to advertise the forthcoming series: “PICARDilly Circus: TfL renames Tube station to celebrate Star Trek launch”. More photos at the link.

The move will see Star Trek branding and signage plastered on roundels in the ticket hall and platforms throughout the Grade II listed station

Commuters will also hear special public service announcements advising them to “take care when using stairs, escalators or transporters” while travelling through the station.

The two-day marketing campaign, created with TfL’s advertising partner Global, forms part of the transport body’s efforts to generate more revenue by offering brands station takeovers.

(2) AND DOWN THE HATCH. Joe Otterson, in the Variety story “‘Picard’ Stars Reveal Which ‘Star Trek’ Character They Would Get Drunk With”, finds executive producer Rod Roddenberry voting for his father Gene and Sir Patrick Stewart saying that there were so many interesting new characters in the show that having “a glass or two of something pleasant” with them “would be a treat.”

(3) COLLECTIVE THOUGHTS. Camestros Felapton identifies and analyzes many of what I (not necessarily Camestros) term the ethical issues surrounding the publication and response to Isabel Fall’s story: “Well I guess I’m writing about Clarkesworld again”.

…Again, that’s not Isabel Fall’s fault and it shouldn’t have been her problem because the source of the trust should have not rested with her but with Clarkesworld. The answer to the question “is this story intended to be in good-faith” should have been “yes, because Clarkesworld wouldn’t have published it otherwise”. Unfortunately, that wasn’t a sufficient answer for many people and I don’t think we can fault people for not seeing it as a sufficient answer. The key question Clarkesworld need to answer before publication is whether people in wider fandom (i.e. not just their regular readers) is whether they had sufficient trust both in fandom in general and among transgender fans in particular for Clarkesworld (not Isabel Fall) to attempt to away some of the power of a very hurtful meme. The answer would have been “no”. Clearly, the magazine doesn’t have that level of trust, as demonstrated but also, I think it was obvious before hand.

Am I being wise after the event in saying so? No, really I don’t think so. Multiple people, from varying backgrounds were asking me privately before I wrote a review whether I thought the story was some sort of hoax or other shenanigans. In the context it had then (which isn’t the context it had now) sensible, rational people genuinely couldn’t tell. My main reason for thinking that it wasn’t a hoax was that I don’t think any of the usual suspects are that smart or intellectually adept (or, lets be frank, capable of writing that well). That’s an editorial failure not a failure on the part of the author….

(4) BIG MANDALORIAN IRON. An instant Country/Western classic. Riding a Blurrg ain’t that bleepin’ easy!

From a planet they call Mandalore came a stranger one fine day…

(5) HI GRANDPA. Jon Favreau tweeted a photo of George Lucas holding Baby Yoda.

(6) EPIC FAIL. NPR’s Scott Tobias reports that “‘Dolittle’ Does A Lot, All Of It Terribly”

Dolittle is not a film. Dolittle is a crime scene in need of forensic analysis. Something happened here. Something terrible. Something inexplicable. Watching the film doesn’t tell the whole story, because it doesn’t behave like the usual errant vision, which might be chalked up to a poor conceit or some hiccups in execution. This one has been stabbed multiple times, and only a thorough behind-the-scenes examination could sort out whose fingerprints are on what hilt.

Some details have already emerged: The credited director of Dolittle is Stephen Gaghan, who won an Oscar for scripting Traffic and wrote and directed the oil thriller Syriana — an odd résumé for a children’s film to say the least. After poor test screenings, the film’s release date was pushed from spring of 2019 to January of 2020, and it underwent extensive reshoots under director Jonathan Liebesman (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles) and writer Chris McKay (The Lego Batman Movie), who reportedly punched up the script. During that same period, the name of the film changed from The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle, referencing the second book in Hugh Lofting’s series about an eccentric animal doctor, to simply Dolittle, stripped even of the honorarium.

Normally, such trips to the sausage factory are not necessary to understand why a film works or it doesn’t, but Dolittle is so incoherent that it can’t be unpacked on its own. Certain baseline elements of a professional Hollywood production — this one budgeted upwards of $175 million — are simply not present here: The filmmakers have been stymied by the technical challenge of having human actors interact with CGI animals, so eye-lines don’t meet and the editing within scenes lacks continuity. Robert Downey Jr. is off mumbling incoherently in one part of the frame, an all-star voice cast is making wisecracks as a polar bear or an ostrich or a squirrel in another, and only occasionally do they look like they’re on speaking terms…

(7) STARKWEATHER OBIT. Hey, I still own one of these. “Gary Starkweather, Inventor of the Laser Printer, Dies at 81” – the New York Times paid tribute:

…Mr. Starkweather was working as a junior engineer in the offices of the Xerox Corporation in Rochester, N.Y., in 1964 — several years after the company had introduced the photocopier to American office buildings — when he began working on a version that could transmit information between two distant copiers, so that a person could scan a document in one place and send a copy to someone else in another.

He decided that this could best be done with the precision of a laser, another recent invention, which can use amplified light to transfer images onto paper. But then he had a better idea: Rather than sending grainy images of paper documents from place to place, what if he used the precision of a laser to print more refined images straight from a computer?

“What you have to do is not just look at the marble,” he said in a talk at the University of South Florida in 2017. “You have to see the angel in the marble.”

Because his idea ventured away from the company’s core business, copiers, his boss hated it. At one point Mr. Starkweather was told that if he did not stop working on the project, his entire team would be laid off.

“If you have a good idea, you can bet someone else doesn’t think it’s good,” Mr. Starkweather would say in 1997 in a lecture for the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, Calif.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 17, 1982 The Electric Grandmother  premiered on NBC.  The film starred Maureen Stapleton, Paul Benedict and Edward Herrmann. It was penned by Ray Bradbury as “I Sing the Body Electric” in his 1969 collection of the same name. (It’s the title of a Walt Whitman poem.) School Library Journal said that fans of Bradbury would be fascinated by this film. This is the second dramatisation of his story as the first was presented on The Twilight Zone. It does doesn’t appeared to be out on DVD.
  • January 17, 1992 Freejack premiered. It starred Emilio Estevez, Mick Jagger, Rene Russo and Anthony Hopkins. The screenplay was written by Steven Pressfield, Ronald Shusett (who was also the producer) and Dan Gilroy. We consider it to be very loosely adapted from Robert Sheckley’s Immortality, Inc. (Great work. The serialised version as “Time Killer” in Galaxy was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Novel.) It was not at the time well-liked by either critics or reviewers. Currently it’s carrying a 25% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes and there’s a lot who have expressed an opinion — over fourteen thousand so far. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 17, 1899 Nevil Shute. Author of On the Beach. It originally appeared as a four-part series, The Last Days on Earth, in the London weekly Sunday Graphic in April 1957. It was twice a film. He has other SF novels including An Old Captivity which involves time travel and No Highway which gets a review by Pohl in Super Science Stories, April 1949. There’s In the Wet and Vinland the Good as well. (Died 1960.)
  • Born January 17, 1910 Carol Hughes. Genre fans will no doubt best recognize her as Dale Arden in Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe from sixty years ago. Other than The Red Dragon, a Charlie Chan film done in the Forties if I remember correctly, I’m not seeing anything that’s even genre adjacent for her though I’m assuming that the Fifties Ghost Buster short she was in should be a genre production. (Died 1995.)
  • Born January 17, 1922 Betty White, 98. She voiced Gretchen Claus in The Story of Santa Claus which is enough for Birthday Honors, and she was Mrs. Delores Bickerman in Lake Placid as well according to keen eyes of John King Tarpinian. She had a cameo as herself in (I’m not kidding) Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt. and I’ll finish off by that she’s still active at nearly a hundred, bless her!, by voicing Bitey White in Toy Story 4.
  • Born January 17, 1925 Patricia Owens. She was Hélène Delambre in The Fly. No offense to Cronenberg’s The Fly but this one is far more horrific. Her one of her last appearances was as Charlie in The Destructors which is sort of SFF. Ghost Ship where she was an uncredited party girl is definitely SFF, and her appearance on Alfred Hitchcock Presents falls under my rule that everything he did counts. (Died 2000.)
  • Born January 17, 1927 Eartha Kitt. Though you’ll have lots of folks remembering her as Catwoman from the original Batman, she appeared in but four episodes there. Genre wise, she was in such series as I-SpyMission: ImpossibleMatrix, the animated Space Ghost Coast to Coast and the animated My Life as a Teenage Robot. Film wise, she played Freya in Erik the Viking, voiced Bagheera in The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story and was Madame Zeroni In Holes. (Died 2008.)
  • Born January 17, 1931 James Earl Jones, 89. His first SF appearance was in Dr. Strangelove as Lt. Lothar Zogg.  And I think I need not list all his appearances as Darth Vader here. Some genre appearances include Exorcist II: The HereticThe Flight of DragonsConan the Barbarian as Thulsa Doom and I actually remember him in that role, Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold, did you know the 1995 Judge Dredd had a Narrator? Well he’s listed as doing it, and Fantasia 2000 as well.
  • Born January 17, 1935 Paul O. Williams. A poet won the Austonding Award for Best New Writer in 1983 for The Breaking of Northwall and The Ends of the Circle which are the first two novels of  his Pelbar Cycle. I’ve not read these, so be interested in your opinions, of course. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 17, 1962 Jim Carrey, 58. His first genre film is Once Bitten whose content is obvious from its name. The ‘dorable Earth Girls Are Easy was next followed up by Batman Forever in which he played a manic Riddler that I really liked, then there’s The Truman Show which was way cool. So may we not talk about How the Grinch Stole Christmas?  (SHUDDER!) We settled last year that we think that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is genre.  And I think I’ll stop there this time. 
  • Born January 17, 1970 Genndy Tartakovsky, 50. Like Romulnan Ale, animation style is a matter of taste. So while I like his work on Samurai Jack and Star Wars: Clone Wars, I can understand why many SW fans don’t as it’s definitely an acquired taste.  He also is responsible for directing the animated Hotel Transylvania franchise. 
  • Born January 17, 1989 Kelly Marie Tran, 31. Best known as Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. She voices the same character in the Star Wars Forces of Destiny animated series.

(10) CLOCKING IN. Flickering Myth shares “First images from the BBC’s Discworld series The Watch”.

The BBC has released five first look images from The Watch, the upcoming fantasy series inspired by Terry Pratchett’s bestselling Discworld novels featuring  Richard Dormer (Captain Sam Vimes),  Lara Rossi (Lady Sybil Ramkin), Adam Hugill (Constable Carrot), Jo Eaton-Kent (Constable Cheery), Sam Adewunmi (Carcer Dun), and Marama Corlett (Corporal Angua); check them out here…

(11) FOR THE RECORD. Classic fm reports “Mark Hamill reunited with missing Star Wars soundtrack signed by John Williams, 20 years later”.

…The incredible discovery came about after staff at an Arizona bookshop came into possession of the record and were keen to return the record to its rightful owner.

It was certainly a noble gesture; despite the Bookmans’ team knowing the album was worth large sums of money, its personalised autograph suggested it should only belong to the Return of the Jedi star.

Williams had gifted the record to Hamill ahead of the 1977 release of the first Star Wars movie, and had signed the sleeve with the inscription: ‘Dear Mark Hamill, May the Force always be with us.’

Amazingly, the 68-year-old actor wasn’t even aware the record was missing and believed it to still be in the basement of his California home, along with his other vinyl….

(12) TOURIST SPOT. Nice of them to fit it in between nearish Worldcons: “Glenfinnan’s Harry Potter viaduct focus of £1.7m upgrade”.

Improvements are being made to areas around a railway viaduct famed for its picturesque setting and appearances in the Harry Potter films.

Network Rail is investing £1.7m to remove loose vegetation, including “dangerous” trees, from slopes above the railway at the Glenfinnan Viaduct.

Parts of a fence put up to protect visitors on a tourist path at the site are also being renewed.

Thousands of Potter fans and railway enthusiasts visit the viaduct.

(13) LIVING FOSSILS SURVIVE. NPR has some good news — “Aussie Firefighters Save World’s Only Groves Of Prehistoric Wollemi Pines”.

It was a lifesaving mission as dramatic as any in the months-long battle against the wildfires that have torn through the Australian bush.

But instead of a race to save humans or animals, a specialized team of Australian firefighters was bent on saving invaluable plant life: hidden groves of the Wollemi pine, a prehistoric tree species that has outlived the dinosaurs.

Wollemia nobilis peaked in abundance 34 million to 65 million years ago, before a steady decline. Today, only 200 of the trees exist in their natural environment — all within the canyons of Wollemi National Park, just 100 miles west of Sydney.

The trees are so rare that they were thought to be extinct until 1994.

…when Australia’s wildfires started burning toward Wollemi National Park in recent weeks, firefighters from the parks and wildlife service and the New South Wales Rural Fire Service put a carefully planned operation into motion.

“This is a key asset, not only for the national parks, but for our entire country,” Matt Kean, New South Wales’ environment minister, said in an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

(14) IN CASE YOU WONDERED. As for the fossils that didn’t survive: “Dinosaur extinction: ‘Asteroid strike was real culprit'”. The latest “final verdict.”

Was it the asteroid or colossal volcanism that initiated the demise of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago?

This has been a bit of a “to and fro” argument of late, but now a group of scientists has weighed in with what they claim is the definitive answer.

“It was the asteroid ‘wot dun it’!” Prof Paul Wilson told the BBC.

His team’s analysis of ocean sediments shows that huge volcanoes that erupted in India did not change the climate enough to drive the extinction.

Volcanoes can spew enormous volumes of gases into the atmosphere that can both cool and warm the planet.

And the Deccan Traps, as the volcanic terrain in India is known, certainly had massive scale – hundreds of thousands of cubic km of molten rock were erupted onto the land surface over thousands of years.

But the new research from Southampton University’s Prof Wilson, and colleagues from elsewhere in Europe and the US, indicates there is a mismatch in both the effect and timing of the volcanism’s influence.

(15) REDUCTION IN FORCE. This probably wasn’t the cat’s personal New Year’s resolution, I realize… “35-pound cat named Bazooka begins epic weight loss journey”.

A 35-pound orange tabby cat – appropriately named Bazooka – has arrived with pomp and circumstance at a North Carolina shelter this week in preparation to begin his epic weight loss journey.

Bazooka, who was transferred from another shelter about two hours away in Davidson County, arrived at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Wake County earlier this week, requiring two people to carry him in his crate….

(16) PROHIBITION. Food historian Rick Foss, a longtime LASFS member, has an article on the website for BBC History Magazine: “Wet vs Dry: how prohibition fractured America”.

 …When Europeans first settled in America in the 17th century and into the 18th, alcohol was regarded as not merely a beverage, but a medicine. Many of the country’s founding fathers were enthusiastic consumers of beer and rum: George Washington owned a distillery; Thomas Jefferson was a wine enthusiast; and in their era, anyone who didn’t drink alcohol would have been regarded as peculiar. Late into the 19th century beer and cider were the everyday drink of most Americans, and wine production was gaining in quality and quantity. How, then, did the prohibition movement, which was politically insignificant as late as the 1860s, grow to be so powerful?

(17) X-MEN RATED. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Have you ever wondered what kind of underwear Wolverine wears? Apparently JP “Pat” Huddlestuff has… and he has the answer for you if you’re willing to venture into the bathroom with him. Creative Bloq: “Illustration series depicts superheroes’ bathroom habits – and it’s genius”.

Superhero fan art is no new thing. From Spiderman and Wolverine to the Hulk and DeadPool, these popular characters have been reimagined by artists in all manner of ways over the years. But just when we think we’ve seen it all, a project like Bathroom Heroes comes along. 

The brainchild of artist JP “Pat” Huddleston, this series of illustrations depicts how superheroes might look while using the bathroom; and, more importantly, how they might manage their superpowers. 

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

Pixel Scroll 1/14/20 Who Is Pixel Scroll? You Are File 770

(1) I’M WALKIN’ HERE. “Facebook: Star Wars’ Mark Hamill deletes account over political ads” – BBC has the story.

Star Wars actor Mark Hamill has deleted his Facebook account, lambasting the company’s political ads policy.

In a tweet, the celebrity accused the firm’s chief Mark Zuckerberg of having valued profit over truthfulness.

It followed its decision to let politicians run adverts that contain lies on the social network.

The firm has said that it does not believe decisions about which political ads run should be left to private companies.

(2) MEAT SUIT. It’s only the second week in January and Nerd & Tie’s Trae Dorn has already written the headline of the year: “Meat Loaf Suing Horror Convention Texas Frightmare Weekend”. Oh, I suppose you want the story, too….

Michael Lee Aday, better known by his stage name “Meat Loaf,” is currently suing horror convention Texas Frightmare Weekend and its venue the Hyatt Regency DFW in Tarrant County, Texas. According to NBC 10:

(3) READ ALL ABOUT IT. SF2 Concatenation’s spring edition is now up. Principal contents include:

Interesting to compare this last with this season’s news page’s SF publishing news.

Plus there are many standalone SF/FH book and non-fiction SF & science book reviews.

Full details at SF2 Concatenation’s What’s New page.

(4) YOU GO, JOHN. A Whatever pop quiz: “Hey, Guess Who Will Be Going to Dragon Con This Year?”

Answer:

Next quiz question: What Dragon Awards category will he be presenting?

(5) TWEETS OF FLAME. “Stephen King slammed for ‘ignorant’ tweet about not considering ‘diversity’ when voting for the Oscars”Yahoo! Entertainment has a roundup of King’s tweet and the reactions.

Famed writer Stephen King has stirred up controversy after admitting he “would never consider diversity in matters of art,” a remark made in reference to his status as a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) voting on Oscar contenders. His remarks come a day after the 2020 Oscar nominations were announced, prompting complaints that women and people of color were largely overlooked. Many critics bemoaned the exclusion of women like Greta Gerwig from the Best Director category, while Harriet’s Cynthia Erivo spoke out about being the only person of color to be nominated across four acting categories.

(6) SIX-PACK. Nerds of a Feather’s Paul Weimer discusses “6 Books with Gareth Hanrahan”.

4. How about a book you’ve changed your mind about – either positively or negatively?

Jeff Vandermeer’s Shriek: An Afterword. I loved the first Ambergris book, City of Saints and Madmen. I picked up Shriek next, and found it utterly incomprehensible and dull. Years later, I got the third book in the sequence, Finch, and loved it. I then gave Shriek another try, and it felt like a completely different book. I was astounded at myself for hating it the first time, and I’ve no idea why I bounced off it so hard. 

(7) CAROL SERLING OBIT. Carol Serling, widow of Twilight Zone’s Rod Serling and mother of author Anne Serling died January 9 reports the Binghamton (NY) Press & Sun-Bulletin.

After the death of her husband, due to complications after heart surgery, Carol worked to keep Rod’s legacy alive.

In 1981, she launched the monthly “The Twilight Zone Magazine” and served as the publication’s editor from 1981 through 1989. She held the legal rights to Serling’s name and likeness. CBS owns the rights to the television series.

In 1994, two new episodes of the sci-fi television series were aired on CBS based on material found by Carol after Rod’s death and then sold to CBS. They aired in a two-hour special titled “Twilight Zone: Rod Serling’s Lost Classics.”

That same year, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror theme park ride opened at Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios (then MGM Studio Theme Park) in Orlando, Florida, and Binghamton High School dedicated its arts program as the Rod Serling School of Fine Arts.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 14, 1954 Riders To The Stars premiered. It was directed by Richard Carlson (who also stars) and Herbert L. Strock (who is uncredited for unknown reasons) and has the additional cast of  William Lundigan, Martha Hyer, and Herbert Marshall. Riders to the Stars is the second film in Ivan Tors’ Office of Scientific Investigation trilogy, which was preceded by The Magnetic Monster and followed by Gog. All in all, reviewers considered it a quite unremarkable film. It has no rating at Rotten Tomatoes though Amazon reviewers were kind to it. Fortunately you can judge for yourself as the film is here to watch.
  • January 14, 1959 Journey to the Center of the Earth premiered.
  • January 14, 1976 The Bionic Woman aired its first episode. A spin-off from The Six Million Dollar Man, it starred Lindsay Wagner, Richard Anderson and Martin E. Brooks. It run just three seasons, half of what the parent show ran. It on ABC, NBC and finally on CBS. 
  • January 14, 1981 Scanners premiered. Directed by David Cronenberg and produced by Claude Héroux, it starred Jennifer O’Neill, Stephen Lack, Patrick McGoohan, Lawrence Dane and Michael Ironside. Reviewers, with the exception of Ebert, generally liked it, and reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a healthy 64% rating.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 14, 1924 Guy Williams. Most remembered as Professor John Robinson on Lost in Space though some of you may remember him as Don Diego de la Vega and his masked alter ego Zorro in the earlier Zorro series.  (Is it genre? You decide.) He filmed two European genre films, Il tiranno di Siracusa (Damon and Pythias) and Captain Sinbad as well. (Died 1989.)
  • Born January 14, 1943 Beverly Zuk. Ardent fan of Trek: TOS who wrote three Trek fanfics, two of them on specific characters: The Honorable Sacrifice (McCoy) and The Third Verdict (Scotty). Let’s just say that based on her artwork that I found I’d not say these are anything less than R rated in places. She was a founding member of the Trek Mafia though I’m not sure what that was. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 14, 1948 Carl Weathers, 72. Most likely best remembered among genre fans as Al Dillon in Predator, but he has some other SFF creds as well. He was a MP officer in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, General Skyler in Alien Siege, Dr. Artimus Snodgrass in the very silly comedy The Sasquatch Gang and he voiced Combat Carl in Toy Story 4. And no, I’m not forgetting he’s currently playing Greef Karga on The Mandalorian series. I still think his best role ever was Adam Beaudreaux on Street Justice but that’s very not SFF.
  • Born January 14, 1949 Lawrence Kasdan, 71. Director, screenwriter, and producer. He’s best known early on as co-writer of The Empire Strikes Back, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Return of the Jedi. He also wrote The Art of Return of the Jedi with George Lucas. He’s also one of the writers lately of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Solo: A Star Wars Story
  • Born January 14, 1957 Suzanne Danielle, 63. A Whovian as she showed up as Agella in “The Destiny if The Daleks,“ a Fourth Doctor story. She was on the Hammer House of Horror series in the Carpathian Eagle” episode, and she’s also in Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Unexpected multiple times in different roles. To my knowledge, her only other SFF appearance was on the Eighties Flash Gordon film.
  • Born January 14, 1962 Jemma Redgrave, 58. Her first genre role was as Violette Charbonneau in the “A Time to Die” episode of Tales of the Unexpected which was also her first acting role. Later genre roles are scant but include a memorable turn as Kate Lethbridge-Stewart, daughter of Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart on Doctor Who. 
  • Born January 14, 1963 Steven Soderbergh,  57. Though largely not a SFF person, he’s ventured into our ‘verse on occasion by directing such films as Solaris (which he also wrote), Nightwatch which he was the writer of,  Contagion which he directed and The Hunger Games for which he was Second Unit Director. I’m tempted to call Kafka for which he was Director at least genre adjacent…
  • Born January 14, 1964 Mark Addy, 56. He got a long history in genre films showing up first as Mac MacArthur in Jack Frost  followed by by the lead in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (why did anyone make this?), Roland in A Knight’s Tale (now that’s a film), Friar Tuck In Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood (has anyone seen this?) and voicing Clyde the Horse in the just released Mary Poppins Returns. Television work includes Robert Baratheon on Games of Thornes, Paltraki on a episode on Doctor Who, “The Battle of Ranskoor Av Kolos”, and he was Hercules on a UK series called Atlantis. 
  • Born January 14, 1990 Grant Gustin, 30. The actor, known as Barry Allen aka the Flash in the Arrowverse. I’ve got him as a boyfriend on an episode on A Haunting, one of those ghost hunter shows early in his career. Later on, well the Arrowverse has kept him rather busy.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Bliss knows what makes zombies laugh.
  • These folks at Close to Home sound like true introverts to me.

(11) RARE BOOK THIEVES PLEAD. “Men plead guilty in thefts of rare books from Carnegie Library” reports Pittsburgh’s TribLIVE.

The two men accused of stealing and reselling more than $500,000 worth of rare books, maps and other artifacts from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh reached a plea deal Monday with prosecutors who agreed to drop most of the charges they faced.

…Gregory Priore, 63, of Pittsburgh’s Shadyside neighborhood, was the archivist and manager of the library’s William R. Oliver Special Collections Room from 1992 until April 2017.

The room held a collection of rare books, maps and other items worth millions. Priore was accused of stealing the items from the library and selling them to John Schulman, 56, of Squirrel Hill, who owns the Caliban Bookshop in Oakland.

Among the items that were stolen was a 400-year-old Bible printed in London. It was recovered in April 2019 in the Netherlands as part of the criminal investigation.

(12) ATTENTION, FLORIDA MAN. Destiny is calling.

(13) ALIEN DISCOVERY CENTER. [Item by Cliff Ramshaw.] This is giving me a bad case of the VanderMeers…. “Scientists use stem cells from frogs to build first living robots” in The Guardian.

Researchers in the US have created the first living machines by assembling cells from African clawed frogs into tiny robots that move around under their own steam.

One of the most successful creations has two stumpy legs that propel it along on its “chest”. Another has a hole in the middle that researchers turned into a pouch so it could shimmy around with miniature payloads.

“These are entirely new lifeforms. They have never before existed on Earth,” said Michael Levin, the director of the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. “They are living, programmable organisms.”

(14) ELECTION RESULTS. Cosplayer Lai Pin-yu has been elected to the Legislative Yuan of Taiwan. “Taiwanese cosplay candidate, Sunflower Movement activist wins legislative seat”.

When Lai was certain of her win on Saturday, she took to Facebook at 8 p.m. to write: ” Hello friends, I am Lai Pinyu, lawmaker of New Taipei City’s 12th District. Please give me your feedback over the next four years.” In her post, Lai included a photo of herself dressed as Sailor Mars from the “Sailor Moon” Japanese manga series, gaining her 30,000 likes, 2,800 comments, and 2,200 shares within 12 hours.

(15) BACKSTORY. If you think you’ve heard of this book before, there’s a reason why. But now it’s in print and Adri Joy reviews it for Nerds of a Feather: “Microreview [Book]: Blood Heir by Amélie Wen Zhao”.

I don’t want to talk about Blood Heir without acknowledging the route this book took to publication. Originally scheduled for release the beginning of 2019, the book was delayed after numerous ARC readers identified significant sensitivity issues with an aspect of the plot and characters. Blood Heir deals in some depth with the concept of indenture, with marginalised characters in the place where the book is set at high risk of being forced to sign work contracts which leave them effectively in slavery. In original ARCs, the story’s depictions of race provoked strong concerns about how the story came across in the context of historic Black slavery in the USA. In response, author Amélie Wen Zhao delayed the book, revisited in the context of her original intent – to explore concepts of indenture with real-world parallels in Asian countries – and has now released the book, as of late November, satisfied that it did so. Having never read the original ARC, I don’t know how much changed before publication, and I should be clear that I’m white and, as a non-American, less likely to pick up cues that would read “chattel slavery” to US audiences – so I’m not going make claims about whether Blood Heir is now “fixed”, other than to note I didn’t pick up anything other than the author’s intended parallels in my own reading. However, from where I stand it feels like Blood Heir’s delayed, revised publication is an example of sensitivity reading going right, albeit late in the process and therefore more loudly and messily than might have occurred if concerns had been raised earlier. People were right to raise concerns. Zhao was right to listen and use those concerns to revisit her intended, ownvoices, message. I hope and suspect the book is stronger for it.

(16) YOUTH MOVEMENT. Victoria Silverwolf shares a discovery with Galactic Journey readers: “[January 14, 1965] The Big Picture (March 1965 Worlds of Tomorrow]”.

Science fiction writers often have to deal with things on a very large scale. Whether they take readers across vast reaches of space, or into unimaginably far futures, they frequently look at time and the universe through giant telescopes of imagination, enhancing their vision beyond ordinary concerns of here and now.

(This is not to say anything against more intimate kinds of imaginative fiction, in which the everyday world reveals something extraordinary. A microscope can be a useful tool for examining dreams as well.)

A fine example of the kind of tale that paints a portrait of an enormous universe, with a chronology reaching back for eons, appears in the latest issue of Worlds of Tomorrow, from the pen of a new, young writer.

Can you remember when Larry Niven was a “new, young writer”?

(17) OVER THE COUNTER. “The New York Public Library Has Calculated Its Most Checked-Out Books Of All Time” – there are assorted genre items on the list.

The New York Public Library has been loaning books for a long time — the institution turns 125 this year.

To celebrate, the library dug into its records and calculated a list of the 10 books that have been checked out the most in its history.

The most-wanted book? The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats.

The Caldecott Medal-winning tale of a young boy’s encounter with snow has been checked out 485,583 times from the NYPL since it was published in 1962.

It shares qualities with many of the other most-borrowed titles: The beautifully illustrated book has been around a long time, it’s well-known and well-loved, and it’s available in numerous languages.

(18) HELLO BOOMER. BBC says “Oldest material on Earth discovered”.

Scientists analysing a meteorite have discovered the oldest material known to exist on Earth.

They found dust grains within the space rock – which fell to Earth in the 1960s – that are as much as 7.5 billion years old.

The oldest of the dust grains were formed in stars that roared to life long before our Solar System was born.

A team of researchers has described the result in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

When stars die, particles formed within them are flung out into space. These “pre-solar grains” then get incorporated into new stars, planets, moons and meteorites.

“They’re solid samples of stars, real stardust,” said lead author Philipp Heck, a curator at Chicago’s Field Museum and associate professor at the University of Chicago.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “I Have A Secret:  Another Bite” on Vimeo, Michael Sime introduces us to a guy who DOES have room for dessert in a restaurant.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/29/19 Who Sawed Courtney Milan’s Boat?

(1) STABBY VOTING. Reddit’s r/Fantasy forum hasopened voting for the Stabby Awards. They’ve suffered voting shenanigans in the past, too, and here’s what they’ve done to stop them —

It’s now time to vote for the /r/Fantasy Best of 2019 Stabby Awards. Due to the sub’s growth over the past year (from the time that the nomination thread went live to now, we’ve grown by over 8,000 subscribers!) and to issues we experienced with vote gaming last year, voting will be taking place off Reddit.

We’re using a Google Form (same as we’ve used for our demographic census for years) and in order to vote you’ll need to include a link to your own user profile. Profiles will need to be at least 1 month old for their votes to count – we chose this cutoff to ensure that folks who created accounts solely to nominate and thus aren’t really part of our community aren’t going to affect the results.

Voting will end January 4, 2019 at 9 p.m. PST. Results should be live by January 6, 2019 by 1 p.m. PST.

(2) SPARKS TOO MUCH JOY? In The Guardian‘s “It’s ‘Day of the Triffids’ for today’s Britain, but with antidepressants as the monster”, critic Vanessa Thorpe analyzes the filmmaker’s challenge:

…An award-winning science-fiction thriller billed by critics as a modern Day of the Triffids takes a provocative approach to Britain’s growing dependence on mood-lifting chemicals and antidepressants.

Little Joe, released in UK cinemas in February, and starring Ben Whishaw, Emily Beecham and Kerry Fox, has divided reviewers with its odd, disturbing story of a newly bred plant designed to spread joy.

On set in a vast greenhouse laboratory, the acclaimed Austrian director Jessica Hausner first told her actors to forget about finding “the truth” of their characters.

Little Joe looks at the question of how do you perceive whether someone has changed or not,” Hausner told the Observer. “That was the big issue when I talked to the actors. And so even when we were shooting, we were shooting different versions of each scene.”

(3) ENDANGERED BY IDEAS. Maria Popova tells “How Kepler Invented Science Fiction and Defended His Mother in a Witchcraft Trial While Revolutionizing Our Understanding of the Universe” at Brain Pickings.

…In the anxious winter of 1617, unfigurative wheels are turning beneath Johannes Kepler as he hastens to his mother’s witchcraft trial. For this long journey by horse and carriage, Kepler has packed a battered copy of Dialogue on Ancient and Modern Music by Vincenzo Galilei, his sometime friend Galileo’s father — one of the era’s most influential treatises on music, a subject that always enchanted Kepler as much as mathematics, perhaps because he never saw the two as separate. Three years later, he would draw on it in composing his own groundbreaking book The Harmony of the World, in which he would formulate his third and final law of planetary motion, known as the harmonic law — his exquisite discovery, twenty-two years in the making, of the proportional link between a planet’s orbital period and the length of the axis of its orbit. It would help compute, for the first time, the distance of the planets from the sun — the measure of the heavens in an era when the Solar System was thought to be all there was.

As Kepler is galloping through the German countryside to prevent his mother’s execution, the Inquisition in Rome is about to declare the claim of Earth’s motion heretical — a heresy punishable by death….

(4) NOT MUSED. “And it occurs to me that this is disrespectful to the Nine” at It’s Always More Complicated, (a post inspired by Anne Bilson’s piece for The Guardian, “Anna Karina, Catherine Deneuve: how movies malign women by calling them muses”.)

…But is this view of the Muse, who is after all a goddess, a being at whose feet the artist is supposed to lay the offering of the art created in order that she may judge it worthy, not very disrespectful? In assuming that the muse is just some empty thing to fill up with M. L’Artiste’s (and it is M., is it not) geeenyus?

François Truffaut once said of Catherine Deneuve: “I wouldn’t compare her to a flower or a bouquet, since there is a certain neutrality in her that leads me to compare her to the vase in which all the flowers are placed.” He meant that her reserve and air of mystery enabled spectators to “fill the vase” themselves; but the history of male film directors and their female muses is also a history of vase-filling: men translating their erotic fantasies into cinematic terms while failing to get to grips with the women themselves, who are invariably depicted as quixotic and inscrutable, even dangerous.

Not that I am sure which of the Nine would be the muse of movies – or would it vary by specific genre?

(5) BLUE GENES. Cora Buhlert presents “The 2019 Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Horrible Fictional Parents”.

… Let’s have a bit of background: I have been informally awarding the Darth Vader Parenthood Award since sometime in the 1980s with the earliest awards being retroactive. Over the years, the list of winners migrated from a handwritten page via various computer file formats, updated every year. Last year, I finally decided to make the winners public on the Internet, because what’s an award without some publicity and a ceremony? The list of previous winners (in PDF format) up to 2017 may be found here, BTW, and the 2018 winner was announced here.

In 2017 and 2018, a clear frontrunner emerged early on. 2019 was different, because there were several likely and unlikely candidates.

Warning: Spoilers for several of things including The Rise of Skywalker behind the cut…

(6) THE MOST OF BABY YODA. You wouldn’t want to miss this! (Well, some of you would, but your loss!)

BABY YODA from The Mandalorian season 1. Best of Baby Yoda taken from episodes 1 to 8 of The Mandalorian….

(7) GRAY OBIT. Scots author Alasdair Gray died December 29 at the age of 85. His publisher, Canongate, posted this retrospective:

A renowned polymath, Alasdair Gray was beloved equally for his writing and art. His debut, Lanark, which Canongate published in 1981, is widely regarded as being one of the masterpieces of twentieth century fiction. It was followed by more than thirty further books, all of which he designed and illustrated, ranging from novels, short story collections, plays, volumes of poetry, works of non-fiction and translations – most recently, his interpretation of Dante’s Divine Trilogy.

The Guardian’s tribute said he “blazed a trail for contemporary Scottish fiction with his experimental novels.”

In 1954, Gray began writing the novel that would occupy him on and off throughout the 1960s and 70s. Lanark divides the story of a life into four books, alternating between Glasgow and a shadowy version of the city called Unthank. The novel opens with book three, in which a young man finds himself in a dark metropolis filled with strange diseases, and then jumps back to fill in the story of Duncan Thaw, who grows up in Glasgow just before the second world war. The Guardian called it “fluent, imaginative”, a novel “of undeniable quality, but rare, and not for all tastes, like an oyster, or a truffle”.

He made an indelible impression on both the literary and fannish worlds. Alasdair Gray and Russell Hoban were the guests of honor at the first Mexicon (1984) in the UK. As David Langford recalls, he made ink sketches of various fans there, and his “[John] Brosnan drawing is inscribed: ‘The Author of Slimer, a seminal work which has influenced everything I have ever written.”

(8) WOLLEN OBIT. Peter Wollen (1938-2019), author of the influential film theory book Signs and Meaning in the Cinema, who also directed films and wrote screenplays, died December 17. The New York Times appreciation notes:  

Mr. Wollen didn’t just talk and write about cinema; in the 1970s and ’80s he was actively involved in making it. Perhaps his best-known film, which he both wrote and directed, was “Friendship’s Death” (1987), an unusual science-fiction film about an extraterrestrial robot who is on a peace mission but takes a wrong turn and winds up in Amman, Jordan, in 1970, a time of conflict there.

Tilda Swinton, in one of her first film roles, played the robot. In a tribute to Mr. Wollen published by the film website IndieWire, she said “Signs and Meaning” was “the first seminal book I read about film that actually made sense while bopping you to bits with its braininess and taking the engine of cinema completely apart in front of you while making you even more excited to jump in and go racing about in it just as soon as you possibly could.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 29, 1967 — “The Trouble with Tribbles” first aired. Written by David Gerrold and directed by Joseph Pevney, with some of the guest cast being Stanley Adams as Cyrano Jones, Whit Bissell as Station Manager and Michael Pataki as Korax. Memory Alpha says ”Wah Chang designed the original tribbles. Hundreds were sewn together during production, using pieces of extra-long rolls of carpet. Some of them had mechanical toys placed in them so they could walk around.” It would come in second in the Hugo balloting to “The City on the Edge of Forever” written by Harlan Ellison. All five final Hugo nominees at Baycon (1968) were Trek episodes.
  • December 29, 2009 Princess of Mars premiered. This film from Asylum had Traci Lords as Dejah Thoris and Antonio Sabàto Jr. as John Carter. Rather loosely based on A Princess of Mars by Burroughs, the film was released in Europe as The Martian Colony Wars. Currently this film has a 10% rating among reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 29, 1901 William H Ritt. US cartoonist and author, whose best known strip, Brick Bradford, was SF. Two of the early Thirties strips, Brick Bradford and the City Beneath the Sea and Brick Bradford with Brocco the Mountain Buccaneer, became Big Little books. in 1947, Brick Bradford, a 15-chapter serial film starring Kane Richmond, was produced by Columbia Pictures. (Died 1972.)
  • Born December 29, 1912 Ward Hawkins. Alternative universes! Lizard men as sidekicks! He wrote the Borg and Guss series (Red Flaming BurningSword of Fire, Blaze of Wrath and Torch of Fear) which as it features these I really would like to hear as audiobooks. Not that it’s likely as I see he’s not made it even to the digital book realm yet. (Died 1990.)
  • Born December 29, 1928 Bernard Cribbins, 91. He has the odd distinction of first showing up on Doctor Who in the non-canon Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. film (with Peter Cushing movie as The Doctor.) He would make it into canon when he appeared as Wilfred Mott in the Tenth Doctor story, “Voyage of the Damned”, and he‘s a Tenth Doctor companion himself in “The End of Time”, the two-part 2009–10 Christmas and New Year special.
  • Born December 29, 1949 Ian Livingstone, 70. Co-founder of Game Workshop whose flagship products are are Warhammer Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40,000. (Have I mentioned that Game Workshop has local shops where fans can buy their unpainted miniatures and other goodies?) He was the first Editor of White Dwarf whichyes, I read a long time ago. 
  • Born December 29, 1963 Dave McKean, 56. If you read nothing else involving him, do read the work done by him and Gaiman called The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr Punch: A Romance. Brilliant, violent, horrifying. Well, and Signal to Noise by them is worth chasing down as well. 
  • Born December 29, 1966 Alexandra Kamp, 53. Did you know Sax Rohmer’s novels were made into a film? I didn’t. Well, she was the lead in Sax Rohmer’s Sumuru which Michael Shanks also shows up in. She’d also be in 2001: A Space Travesty with Leslie Neilsen, and Dracula 3000 with Caspar van Dien. Neither will be mistaken for quality films. 
  • Born December 29, 1972 Jude Law, 47. I think his first SF role was as Jerome Eugene Morrow In Gattaca followed by playing Gigolo Joe in A.I., with my fav role for him being the title role in Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. He was Lemony Snicket In Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Tony in The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Dr. John Watson in Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Remy In Repo Man and he voiced Pitch Black in one of my favorite animated films, Rise of the Guardians

(11) FIRST IMPRESSIONS. ComicBook.com invites us to “Star Wars: Watch Mark Hamill’s Perfect Harrison Ford Impression”, rendered during an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers.

(12) TEN YEARS FROM NOW. New York Magazine did a future-themed issue in November included a batch of predictions about 2029 based on the newsmaking events of 2019: “The Weirdness Is Coming A glimpse of the near future as seen through the recent past.”.

Today In 2029…This odd future came into view…

We Will Never Know If a Movie Is a Hit

All of the entertainment we used to consume in more independently quantifiable ways — via TV ratings, box office, album sales — has moved to streaming, where we just have to trust Netflix or Spotify or Apple to tell us how popular it is, and they will almost certainly lie. Netflix occasionally releases random stats about how many people watched something, and they usually strain credibility. In June, it claimed 30.9 million watched a new Adam Sandler movie in its first three days, which would have made it one of the biggest openings in history if it had been released in theaters. And we never know how successful any movie is when it’s released on for-pay VOD (via iTunes, Amazon, or your cable box) because nobody shares any numbers at all, which is strange because streaming is how plenty of non-superhero movies make most of their money now. Obviously, they will know — the producers and stars who benefit. But the public will be living entirely in the dark, never knowing if something is actually a hit or just totally Astroturfed. This will be really disorienting; today, at least, the popularity of an artist accounts for like half of the way we feel about them. And hard audience figures were, for a generation of barroom debaters about pop culture, the closest thing anyone actually ever got to a “fact.” —Lane Brown

(13) OBAMA’S 2019 PICKS. “Barack Obama Lists His Favorite Films And Television Shows For 2019”Deadline has the story.

Former President Barack Obama is making a list, and checking it twice. A day after he released the list of his favorite books of 2019, he’s issued a film/TV faves ledger, including one of his own creations….

(14) NOT BEWITCHED. Eneasz Brodski pans a new show in “The Witcher, Episode 1: A Festivus Airing of Greivances” at Death Is Bad.

I saw the first episode of The Witcher on Festivus, and boy did that unintentionally fit the holiday theme. tldr is that the writers are just phoning this in, and hoping the strength of the fight choreography will keep people watching.

Full Spoilers below.

(15) ROVER COME OVER. LAist reveals, “We Got A Sneak Peek At JPL’s Mars 2020 Rover Before It Heads To Its Launch Site, And It’s Rad”. Photos at the link.

… On Friday, JPL gave a rare media tour to show off the interplanetary robotic vehicle to reporters inside a meticulous dust, hair and oil-free “clean room.” It’s the last time it will be viewed before it’s shipped off to Florida for its July liftoff.

That meant this reporter had to don a full body “bunny” suit and take an air bath with jets to blow away any wayward dust or hair left on the suit.

It took a lot of time and trouble, but NASA’s Dave Gruel said it’s crucial to keep the rover from getting contaminated.

“It’ll be a real bad day for us in the future if those samples come back from Mars and guess what? They’ve got my whisker in that sample,” Gruel said. “That’ll be bad.”

(16) WITH GREAT POWER COMES MINOR LEAGUE HOCKEY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] ComicBook.com: “Minor League Hockey Team Suits Up in Spider-Man Uniforms on Stan Lee’s Birthday”.

Today, Saturday December 28, would have been the legendary Stan Lee‘s 97th birthday. To mark the occasion fans all around the world are taking a moment to reflect on and honor the prolific and influential comics figure who was responsible for helping to create many of the most iconic characters in comics history — The X-Men, The Avengers, the Fantastic Four, Dr. Doom, Spider-Man, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and more. It’s one of those characters that a minor league hockey team is using to help honor Lee on his birthday with special Spider-Man uniforms.

On Twitter on Saturday, the Indy Fuel hockey team shared a photo of their uniforms for the evening’s game against the Kansas City Mavericks. The special jerseys are part of the Fuel’s Marvel Super Hero Night event, which just so happens to land on Lee’s birthday. The team also posted thanking the creator for “creating a pretty awesome universe.” You can check out both posts below.

(17) BIZARRE TOY. Nerdbot wants us to know “Monty Python Black Knight Figure Talks & Has Removable Arms”. If they also make one like this for Gandalf, imagine posing them opposite one another yelling, ”None shall pass, none shall pass!”

 [Thanks to Cat Eldridge, JJ, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, Michael Toman, Andrew Porter, Dann, Martin Morse Wooster, David Langford, John Hertz, and Rich Lynch for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Dennis Howard – classic faanish reference explained here.]

Barkley — So Glad You (Didn’t) Ask: A Column of Unsolicited Opinions #49

**BEWARE SPOILERS**

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – A Review 

By Chris M. Barkley:

Star Wars – Episode Nine: The Rise of Skywalker (2019, 142 minutes, ****) with Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Mark Hamill, Anthony Daniels, Kelly Marie Tran, Domhnall Gleeson, Naomi Ackie, Richard E. Grant, Billy Dee Williams, Keri Russell, Ian McDermid AND Carrie Fisher. Screenplay by Chris Terrio and J. J. Abrams, Story by Derek Connelly, Colin Trevorrow, Directed by J. J. Abrams.

“NEVER underestimate a droid.”
General Leia Organa

Last month, I had the privilege of meeting actor Anthony Daniels when his book tour in support of his memoir, I Am C-3PO, stopped at my old place of employment, Joseph Beth Booksellers in Cincinnati, Ohio.

As Mr. Daniels personalized my book, I gave him a brief re-telling of my first viewing Star Wars in May of 1977:

While attending Disclave in Washington D.C., I fairly stumbled into discovering that a new movie, Star Wars, was showing at the Uptown Theater on Connecticut Avenue, just a half a mile from the Sheraton Park Hotel. On that Saturday evening, it was one of only 30 places in the entire United States showing the movie. (It rolled out to several hundred more after that weekend.) 

I was lucky enough to get a ticket to Saturday’s midnight showing. And when I emerged, dazed and deliriously happy two hours and a minute later, I ran into one of my new fannish friends, future Worldcon chair Michael Walsh. When we spotted each other, we simultaneously and spontaneously started dancing on the sidewalk outside the theater making a spectacle of ourselves.

When I finished my story, Mr. Daniels had a look of utter surprise on his face. After reading the first chapter of his book (which I HIGHLY recommend, by the way), he has stated that he is always surprised and amazed by how many people have been touched in some way by this series of films.

When I first saw what eventually became Episode IV: A New Hope, I was almost twenty-one years old. And amazingly, here I am now, forty-two years later, writing a review of the final film in what is now known as the Skywalker Saga. And what a wild ride it has been over nine feature films, spin off films, several television series and hundreds of novels and comics.

There has been been an immense wave of backlash from detractors of J.J. Abrams and haters of the previous two Star Wars films in advance of the premiere of The Rise of Skywalker. As for myself, I try to stay away from both the hype and the churn of internet spite, least anything disrupt or bias my enjoyment of this film. 

Does anyone out there remember the good old days, when personal beefs and flame wars were either settled within the confines of printed, mimeographed fanzines or in person at sf conventions on panels (or, in some cases, the hallways or the consuite)? Nowadays, all it takes is just a smartphone and two minutes of idle brain farts.   

But alas, I have digressed a bit too much. On with the show… 

[The main review follows the jump]

Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 8/9/19 Jonathan Scrollaston Pixel

(1) ON THEIR WATCH. In The Guardian, Amal El-Mohtar answers the question “Why are there so many new books about time-travelling lesbians?” Tagline: At a time when historical amnesia is making itself widely felt, these stories show how readily the past can be rewritten.

…Mascarenhas has said of her novel that time travel “[makes] you constantly think of what stories people leave behind”. Every time we recover a female author, scientist, doctor, activist, every time we affirm that black people lived in medieval Europe, that queer people have always existed and often led happy lives, we change history – not the past, crucially, but history, our story about the past, our narratives and paradigms. And as we change history, we change the future. I’d worried that our book wouldn’t be relevant – it turns out all of us were right on time.

(2) WORLDCON DINING. Now is when this massive project pays off – Dublin 2019 Eats – compiled by Guest of Honour Diane Duane and Peter Morwood.

…For a lot of years now, SFF conventions have often had local restaurant guides to help their attendees find out what the local food options were. With this concept in mind, and as a way of assisting our thousands of convention visitors in finding their way around the Dublin food scene, in 2018 we came up with the concept of this casual online guide to food that’s either in the immediate area of the Dublin Convention Centre, the Worldcon’s main venue, or accessible from that area via public transport. Your two site managers — locally-based science fiction and fantasy novelists and screenwriters Peter Morwood and Diane Duane — have between them some seventy years of experience at the fine art of tracking down and enjoying great Dublin food.

For the purposes of this guide, our attention is focused mostly on food located near the city’s fabulous Luas tram system — mainly the Red Line that serves the DCC, but also the Luas Green Line that connects to it.

We have a focus on affordable food — because we, like a lot of our Worldcon guests, have often had to spend enough just getting to the venue to make the cost of eating an issue.

(3) INTERESTING TIMES. Abigail Nussbaum returns to the Lawyers, Guns & Money blog with a commentary on Russell T. Davies’s recent miniseries about the times to come: “A Political History of the Future: Years and Years”.

…The result is a show suffused with anxiety. When discussing Years and Years, I’ve found that people tend to reference its big dramatic moments, such as the ending of episode 1, in which an air raid siren alerts the gathered family to the fact that the US has dropped an atomic bomb on a Chinese military base (Davies doesn’t try too hard to ground his predictions in carefully-reasoned reality, but his speculation that Donald Trump would do something like this on his final day in office is scarily plausible). Or that of episode 4, in which Daniel and Viktor board an overloaded inflatable raft in a desperate attempt to cross the handful of miles separating Calais from England. But I think the scene that will hit a lot of viewers where they live is actually the end of episode 2, in which Stephen and Celeste race to their bank to try to retrieve even some of their money, and find themselves in a crowd of people hoping to do the same, all equally doomed. The first two are things that you can imagine happening, but maybe not to you. The second feels like exactly the sort of calamity that the comfortably middle class people the show has been aimed at are most likely to experience in the coming decades….

(4) SENDAK FOR THE STAGE. A major exhibit of Maurice Sendak’s work runs until October 6 at The Morgan Library in New York City: “Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Opera and Ballet”.

Renowned for his beloved and acclaimed children’s books, Maurice Sendak (1928–2012) was also an avid music and opera lover. In the late 1970s, he embarked on a successful second career as a designer of sets and costumes for the stage. Drawing the Curtain: Maurice Sendak’s Designs for Opera and Ballet will be the first museum exhibition dedicated to this aspect of his career. It will include storyboards, preparatory sketches, costume studies, luminous watercolors, and meticulous dioramas from Mozart’s Magic Flute, Janá?ek’s Cunning Little Vixen, Prokofiev’s Love for Three Oranges, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, and an opera based on Sendak’s picture book Where the Wild Things Are.

The exhibition will include nearly 150 objects drawn primarily from the artist’s bequest to the Morgan of over 900 drawings. Sendak borrowed gleefully from a personal pantheon of artists, some of whom he encountered firsthand at the Morgan. Several such works, by William Blake, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Domenico and Giambattista Tiepolo, will be displayed alongside his designs. Although less well known than his book illustrations, Sendak’s drawings for the stage embody his singular hand, fantastical mode of storytelling, keen—sometimes bawdy—sense of humor, and profound love of music and art history.

(5) “VERTIGINOUS TASK.” Jordy Rosenberg writes “In Praise of Samuel R. Delany” for the New York Times.

…The emotional dynamism of Delany’s sentences has been perhaps less acknowledged than his world-building, or the sweep of his vision. But when asked to speak about writing as a practice, Delany himself often turns to the art of sentences, and of how to imbue words with such “ekphrastic force” that they summon the material presence of an imagined world. When Korga and Marq return to themselves they are awe-struck, struggling to narrate the intensity of their own transformative experience. It is impossible not to hear in that a metatextual echo of the obsession of Delany’s practice: that of creating the most immersive possible aesthetic experience for us, his readers and devoted enthusiasts….

(6) COMMON SCENTS. James P. Blaylock shares “My Life in Books: A Meditation on the Writer’s Library” at Poets & Writers.

…Not long ago I was reading a collection of essays by Hilaire Belloc titled One Thing and Another, and, as is sometimes the case when I read other people’s essays, I got the idea of writing this one. The “idea,” such as it was, had nothing to do with the subject matter of any of the forty essays contained in Belloc’s book; what struck me was that the pages smelled as if they had been soaked in gasoline. I remembered abruptly that it had smelled that way when I’d bought it, and although it has sat on the shelf in my study for twenty years, waiting to be read, the odor hasn’t diminished. It could be fatal to light a match anywhere near it.

This olfactory discovery sent me off in a nostalgic search for my copy of Philip K. Dick’s Dr. Bloodmoney, which Phil gave to me in 1975. My wife, Viki, and I took off on a road trip a few days later in our old Volkswagen Bug, and I brought the book along. It mysteriously disappeared early one rainy morning in central Canada, and I didn’t find it again until a year later, after the car’s battery died. The VW’s battery was under the back seat, and when I pulled out the seat to get at the battery, there was Dr. Bloodmoney, its cover partly eaten by battery acid. I was monumentally happy to find it. The book is inscribed to “Jim Blaylock, a hell of a neat dude,” the only existing written evidence of that allegation….

(7) IN THE SPIRIT. The Tonopah Westercon committee (2021) hurried to tell Facebook followers that “Our headquarters hotel for Westercon 74 is in the running for ‘Best Haunted Hotel’” as part of USA Today’s 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards.

Built in 1907, the Mizpah Hotel in haunted Tonopah has many spirits supposedly roaming its halls, including Rose, a prostitute murdered by a jealous gambler. Guests report items that mysteriously move and an old elevator whose doors randomly open and close.

(8) EVEN WHEN YOU KNOW WHAT’S COMING. GQ’s Tom Philip argues that “Horror Movies Can Be Great, Even When They’re Not ‘Scary’”.

…Also, I’ve only ever seen one scene from the entire movie, when a hooded figure wielding a hook stabs a dude in the stomach and blood starts coming out of that man’s mouth. I have watched hundreds of horror films since, but stop me in the street and ask me: What’s the scariest movie you’ve ever seen? and I will unwaveringly answer “I Know What You Did Last Summer, because I was a seven-year-old wuss who had never seen a grown man run through with a sheep hook in a gas station lot before.”

What I’m saying is, “scary” is a silly metric by which to measure a horror movie’s quality, especially if it’s the only one you use. Not to get all “I own a thesaurus” on you, but there are distinct differences between something that’s scary, spooky, threatening, shocking, dreadful, et cetera. The new big horror release, Scary Stories To Tell In the Dark, for example, writes a check the movie needs to cash. It’s right there in the title…

(9) TODAY’S DAY. [Item by Hampus Eckerman.] Moomin Day today:

But not everyone is happy. Here are demonstrators from last weeks manifestation against the placement of a new Moomin theme park in the Swedish city of Karlstad. Anti-Moonin feelings are running high. The picture says it all: “Flera hinder för Mumin”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • August 9, 1930 — Betty Boop debuted in the animated film Dizzy Dishes.
  • August 9, 1989 — James Cameron’s The Abyss premiered on this day.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 9, 1899 P.L. Travers. Yes, she’s genre. A flying nanny is certainly fantasy. Did you know there are total of eight books? I’m sure I’ve seen the film but it’s been so long that I remember ‘nought about it. Anyone here seen the new film? (Died 1996.)
  • Born August 9, 1920 Jack Speer. He is without doubt was one of the founders of fandom and perhaps the first true fan historian having Up to Now: A History of Science Fiction Fandom covering up to 1939 as well as the first Fancyclopedia in 1944. Fannish song-writing (before the term “filk” was coined) and costume parties are also widely credited to him as well.  Mike has a proper remembrance here. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 9, 1927 Daniel Keyes. Flowers for Algernon was a novel that I read in my teens. Two of the teachers decided that SF was to be the assigned texts for that school year and that was one of them. I don’t now remember if I liked it or not (A Clockwork Orange was another text they assigned and that I remember) nor have I ever seen Charly. I see he has three other genre novels, none that I’ve heard of. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 9, 1944 Sam Elliott, 75. Weirdly the source for this Birthday thought he’d only been in one genre role, General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross in the 2003 Hulk film, but he’s got many other roles as well. His first was Duke in Westworld followed by being Luke Peck in Time Bandits,  Flik Whistler in The Thing and Lock in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. He’s the Phantom Rider in Ghost Rider and Lee Scoresby in The Golden Compass. His latest genre is as the lead in The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot as The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then the Bigfoot
  • Born August 9, 1947 John Varley, 72. One of those authors that I’ve been meaning to read more of. I read both The Ophiuchi Hotline and Titan, the first novels respectively in his Eight Worlds and the Gaea Trilogy series, but didn’t go further. (See books, too many to read.) If you’ve read beyond the first novels, how are they as series? Worth pursuing now? 
  • Born August 9, 1949 Jonathan Kellerman, 70. Author of two novels in the Jacob Lev series (co-authored with Jesse Kellerman), The Golem of Hollywood and The Golem of Paris. I’ve read the first — it was quite excellent with superb characters and an original premise. Not for the squeamish mind you. 
  • Born August 9, 1968 Gillian Anderson, 51. The ever-skeptical, well most of the time, Special Agent Dana Scully on X-Files. Currently playing Media on American Gods. And she played Kate Flynn in Robot Overlords. Did you know she’s co-authored a X-File-ish trilogy, The EarthEnd Saga, with Jeff Rovin? 

(12) A DIFFERENT KIND OF COMIC. “Clevelander Joe Shuster’s Story Takes Flight in Graphic Novel” at IdeaStream — I missed this when it came out last year.

Without two Cleveland kids from Glenville High School, Superman never would’ve taken flight. 

Those two kids, Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster, fought for decades to get the recognition they deserved for creating the Man of Steel, which became a huge moneymaker for DC Comics- but not for them. 

Now their story of financial hardship is the subject of a graphic novel, told specifically from the point of view of the artist in “The Joe Shuster Story” by writer Julian Voloj and illustrator Thomas Campi…. 

(13) POSSIBLE SAINT. Paul Weimer tells how the fight against tyranny is progressing in “Microreview [book]: The Queen of Crows, by Myke Cole” at Nerds of a Feather.

…In Queen of Crows, author Myke Cole explores the burning question: Now what? A blow for freedom has been struck, yes, but the Sacred Throne, and in particular, the Inquisition-like Order is not going to take this lying down. Heloise may well be a saintly figure, possibly even a holy  Palatinate, but her actions are not an unalloyed good. The Empire will, indeed, Strike Back, and it is only a question of time before overwhelming force is brought to bear on Heloise and the people she has sworn to protect. This leads to Heloise and her people going on the road, meeting others who have not done well under the Empire’s tyranny, and asking hard questions about oppression, revolt, tyranny, resistance, prejudice, and at the same time providing solid medieval fantastic action….

(14) SILENCE OF THE TWEETS. Jon Del Arroz is in Twitter jail again.

JDA’s version: “Suspended On Twitter For Defending A Woman From Harassment” [Internet Archive link].

(15) AT GEN CON. Brian’s “Pop Up Gen Con!” report for Nerds of a Feather begins with an intriguing summary of “We’re Doomed, a game where the world is ending and the governments of the world (each government is a player) need to jointly construct a rocket ship.”

(16) CHOW QUEST. In “Military Logistics for Fantasy Writers” at the SFWA Blog, Mollie M. Madden, holder of a Ph.D. in medieval history, challenges authors to explain how the big armies of their imaginations avoid starving to death.

We all know ‘an army marches on its stomach,’ but it’s not like Napoleon discovered something new. Vegetius (De re militari) and Sun Tzu (The Art of War) were well aware of this concept, as was Alexander the Great (Engels, Alexander the Great and the Logistics of the Macedonian Army, 1980). And it wasn’t news to them, either. Pre-modern military commanders knew this; they planned for this. They paid attention to logistics.

Fantasy writers should, too.

(17) FACE THE MUSIC. NPR reports “Users Can Sue Facebook Over Facial Recognition Software, Court Rules”. The ruling was handed down by a three-judge panel, and Facebook plans to contest the result by asking for an en banc hearing by the full court.

A U.S. court has ruled that Facebook users in Illinois can sue the company over face recognition technology, meaning a class action can move forward.

The 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals issued its ruling on Thursday. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, it’s the first decision by a U.S. appellate court to directly address privacy concerns posed by facial recognition technology.

“This decision is a strong recognition of the dangers of unfettered use of face surveillance technology,” Nathan Freed Wessler, an attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, said in a statement. “The capability to instantaneously identify and track people based on their faces raises chilling potential for privacy violations at an unprecedented scale.”

Facebook told NPR that the company plans to ask the full circuit court to review the decision of the three-judge panel. “We have always disclosed our use of face recognition technology and that people can turn it on or off at any time,” said Joe Osborne, a Facebook spokesman. Information about its facial recognition technology is available in the company policy online.

The case concerns Facebook users in Illinois who accused the social media giant of violating the state’s Biometric Information Privacy Act.

Facebook argued that the users had experienced no concrete harm. But the 9th Circuit panel noted that intangible injuries can still be concrete, and it noted the Supreme Court has said advances in technology can lead to more personal privacy intrusions.

The appeals panel decided that Facebook’s technology “invades an individual’s private affairs and concrete interests.”

(18) THE NEW ZARDOZ? “Mark Hamill: Darth Vader balloon makes Luke Skywalker’s week” – BBC has the story

Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill has hailed the uplifting impact of a Darth Vader hot air balloon.

Hamill, who plays Vader’s son in Star Wars, posted on social media after spotting a video from the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta.

He said the giant balloon of Vader’s mask had “raised his spirits” after a “horrible, no good, terrible week”, adding “thanks dad”.

(19) SWEATSHOP. “Amazon Echo devices made by Chinese teens ‘working through night’ – reports” – at BBC.

Amazon has pledged to investigate allegations that hundreds of teenagers are working illegal hours at a Chinese factory producing its Echo devices.

A new report by China Labor Watch claims more than 1,500 “interns” were manufacturing the smart assistants at a factory run by supplier Foxconn.

The teenagers, aged between 16 and 18, were reportedly pressured into work 60 hours a week and night shifts.

Foxconn has blamed local managers and vowed to improve monitoring of staff.

The company, which makes products for a number of technology giants, has allegedly fired two senior staff members at the site in Hengyang, Bloomberg reports.

It is the latest in a string of controversies surrounding working conditions at the manufacturer, which is headquartered in Taiwan.

(20) RADICAL COMFORT FICTION. At Nerds of a Feather, Adri Joy finds something lacking in the latest Becky Chambers novel: “Microreview [book]: To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers”.

…On one level, this constant release of tension from individual incidents is quite nice – no need to worry about Chekov’s gun on the mantlepiece, in this universe it’s going to stay right where it is. However, it also means that the link between individual incidents and the emotional arc of the novella – as the characters grapple with their place in the universe, without a link to Earth calling them back – is either subtle or non-existent, depending on how generous one feels….

(21) WALK INTO LEGEND. “Controversial and late, Tintagel footbridge in Cornwall to open”: The Guardian says, “After 650 years – and four months – visitors can follow in Uther Pendragon’s footsteps.”

A £5m footbridge to a dramatic, wind-battered headland that is at the heart of Arthurian legend will this weekend finally open to the public.

The bridge, one of the most ambitious, complicated and at times controversial heritage projects seen in the UK in recent years, will, says English Heritage, restore the lost crossing of Tintagel Castle in north Cornwall.

(22) LE GUIN NEWS. Paul Di Filippo asks whether he’s found a unique item: “ISFDB does not record the existence of this Le Guin essay from TV Guide, making me think it’s never been reprinted.” Read it at the Internet Archive: “’The Lathe of Heaven’ When facts look crazyyou’re your imagination shivers, — that’s science fiction at its best” (Jan. 5, 1980). 

(23) THE EATIN’ OF THE GREEN. Delish experienced a sugar rush just thinking about it: “FunkO Is Making Oogie Boogie Cereal Just In Time For Halloween”.

Sugary cereal, toys inside the box, Disney characters—does it get any more nostalgic than this? FunkO has announced the latest additions to its cereal portfolio, and my inner child is pumped.

Disney fanatics will want to get their hands on the Ursula (from The Little Mermaid) cereal, a purple version of the FunkO multigrain O’s. Tim Burton devotees and former mall goths will obviously need to try the Oogie Boogie—of The Nightmare Before Christmas fame—version, a green take on the breakfast treat. Insider reports that both cereals will come with Pocket Pop! versions of the characters’ figurines. Considering that FunkO’s Pop! figures are established as cool collectibles, these cute minis are a pretty great prize to get in your cereal box.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/8/19 Damnit, Captain, I Am A Doctor, Not A Pixel-Scroller

(1) CODE OF CONDUCT INCIDENT. The Armadillocon 41 committee has posted an “ArmadilloCon Incident Report” about an event that happened August 3. The person removed from the con was not identified, nor have I found any statement of their own.

There was an incident at ArmadilloCon on Saturday night. A program participant who had gone significantly off-topic on a panel subsequently laid hands on another attendee. Several other attendees intervened and separated the two. 

The convention was notified of the incident and proceeded to suspend the program participant from programming pending the outcome of the investigation.  After speaking to several witnesses of this public incident and the program participant, the convention committee concluded that the program participant had violated the ArmadilloCon Code of Conduct.

The program participant was removed permanently from the programming schedule, their membership was revoked, and they left the convention without incident. 

ArmadilloCon cannot and will not tolerate violations of our Code of Conduct at the convention. Respect toward fellow attendees is paramount. 

(2) JMS. Yesterday’s Reddit “Ask Me Anything” with the Babylon 5 creator is available to read: “I’m J. Michael Straczynski, AKA JMS and we’re having an AMA to commemorate the release of my autobiography Becoming Superman we’re here to have a freewheeling back-and-forth on the TV series movies and comic books I’ve worked on.” Here’s his answer to “How fast can you write?”

I generally try to avoid writing something until it’s all right there in my head, and I have to get it all down before it disappears, so I end up writing in white heat, but only after a prolonged period of just thinking about it really hard. I’ve written hour-long TV scripts in 48 hours or less when there was an urgent need to do so, and I once rewrote an outside movie script in 72 hours when there was, again, a crisis situation and someone needed my help.

(3) BRADBURY CENTENNIAL. Symphony Space, a performing arts center on the Upper West Side of Manhattan presenting hundreds of music, literary, family, film, theatre, and dance events each year, will offer “Selected Shorts: Ray Bradbury Centennial Celebration” on May 20, 2020.

Selected Shorts salutes science fiction icon Ray Bradbury, credited as “the writer most responsible for bringing modern science fiction into the literary mainstream” by The New York Times. Host Neil Gaiman (Good Omens) takes the stage with Bradbury admirers who pay tribute to the legendary author’s unearthly short fiction and its enduring influence.

(4) MELVILLE BICENTENNIAL. The Argonaut’s Bliss Bowen describes Ray Bradbury’s contribution to the whale tale: “A celebration of “Moby Dick” recalls the sci-fi icon’s Venice-inspired take on Melville’s classic”.

“It’s not often in the life of a writer lightning truly strikes. And I mean, there he is on the steeple, begging for creative annihilation, and the heavens save up spit and let him have it. In one great hot flash, the lightning strikes. And you have an unbelievable tale delivered in one beauteous blow and are never so blessed again.”

That’s how Ray Bradbury described creative inspiration in his 1992 book “Green Shadows, White Whale.” It’s a lightly fictionalized account of six months he spent adapting Herman Melville’s 1851 novel “Moby Dick” into a screenplay for mercurial director John Huston’s 1956 film, when tensions between them were bristling because literary lightning bolts were not striking. Bradbury had by then published “The Martian Chronicles” (1950) and “Fahrenheit 451” (1953) but was not yet the science fiction master he became before his death in 2012…

(5) WE’LL JUST KEEP THIS OUR LITTLE SECRET. Seanan McGuire has an unusual way of avoiding publicity. Thread starts here.

(6) THE COLD-BLOODED EQUATION. As part of his dinosaur-themed series of posts, Camestros Felapton reacts to the ethical conflicts in an award-winning novelette: “Hugosauriad 3.7: Think Like a Dinosaur by James Patrick Kelly”.

…The idea that a teleport is actually a machine that kills you and makes a living copy of yourself somewhere else has been explored in fiction including by Stanislaw Lem. The most famous philosophical example though is in Derek Parfit’s 1984 book Reasons and Persons*. In Chapter 10 “What we believe ourselves to be” Parfitt opens with a sci-fi vignette…

(7) FIELD OF DREAMS. Surprisingly enough, if you build it they will come. “MLB Sets 2020 Game at ‘Field of Dreams’ Location”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

…The Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees will play a regular season game Aug. 13, 2020 in Dyersville, Iowa, at the site of the beloved baseball flick. What’s more, the league will begin construction on a temporary 8,000-seat ballpark on the Dyersville site that neighbors the iconic movie location. A pathway through a cornfield will take fans to the ballpark, which will overlook the famed site. The right field wall will include windows to show the cornfields beyond the ballpark. Aspects of the ballpark’s design will pay homage to Chicago’s Comiskey Park, home of the White Sox from 1910 to 1990, including the shape of the outfield and bull pens beyond the center field fence.

The game, which will be broadcast by Fox and begin at 7 p.m. ET, marks the first-ever MLB game ever held at the location as well as in the state of Iowa. That the White Sox are participating is fitting, given that the 1919 squad featuring Shoeless Joe Jackson and dubbed the Black Sox for throwing the World Series (against the Reds) were featured in Field of Dreams. The game is being staged with the participation of Field of Dreams producers Universal Studios.

(8) THIRTEENTH DOCTOR. Titan Comics will have a new issue of Doctor Who on sale August 28.

DOCTOR WHO: THE THIRTEENTH DOCTOR VOL. 2 TP – This second collection of the new Doctor’s adventures sends her to medieval Europe, where bloodsucking aliens are making a dent in the tourist trade…

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 8, 1919 Dino De Laurentiis. Maker of Dune obviously but less obviously also a lot of other genre including Conan the Barbarian, Flash GordonKing KongHalloween II and Halloween III, Dead Zone and The Last Legion. (Died 2010.)
  • Born August 8, 1930 Terry Nation. Best known as scriptwriter for Doctor Who and creator of the Daleks. He later created Blake’s 7. He would also write scripts for The Avengers, The Champions andMacGyver. (Died 1997.)
  • Born August 8, 1935 Donald P. Bellisario, 84. Genre shows include Tales of the Gold MonkeyAirwolf and of course that truly amazing show Quantum Leap. OK, is Tales of the Gold Monkey genre? Well if not SF or fantasy, it’s certainly pulp in the best sense of that term. 
  • Born August 8, 1937 Dustin Hoffman, 82. Ahhh, Captian Hook, the man who got swallowed by the vast crocodile in Hook. Yeah, I like that film a lot. By no means his only genre appearance as he was Mumbles, Caprice’s fast-talking henchman in Dick Tracy (not a film I love), Mr. Edward Magorium in Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium and the voice of Master Shifu in Kung Fu Panda
  • Born August 8, 1950 John D. Berry, 69. Editor of myriad fanzines, notable as one of featured a column in the Eighties written by his longtime friend, William Gibson. “The Clubhouse”which he wrote from July 1969 to September 1972 for Amazing Stories reviewed fanzines. His last published piece was “Susan Wood: About and By”, an appreciation of the late author. Partner of Eileen Gunn.
  • Born August 8, 1961 Timothy P. Szczesuil, 58. Boston based con-running fan who chaired chaired Boskone 33 and Boskone 53. He’s also edited or co-edited several books for NESFA, Strange Days: Fabulous Journeys with Gardner Dozois and His Share of Glory: The Complete Short Science Fiction of C. M. Kornbluth.
  • Born August 8, 1974 Dominic Harman, 45. Wandering through the Birthday sources, I found this UK illustrator active for some twenty years. He’s won three BSFA Awards, two for Interzone covers and one for the cover for 2011 Solaris edition of Ian Whates’ The Noise Revealed. My favourite cover by him? Naomi Novik’s His Majesty’s Dragon cover, the 2006 Del Rey / Ballantine edition, is an outstanding look at his work.
  • Born August 8, 1987 Katie Leung, 32. She played Cho Chang, the first love interest for Harry in the Potter film series. Her only other genre appearance to date is as Dou Ti  in Snow in Midsummer at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon. Dou E Yuan, often also translated as The Injustice to Dou E,  is a Chinese play written by Guan Hanqing (c. 1241–1320) during the Yuan dynasty with serious bloody magic realism in it. End of your history lesson. 
  • Born August 8, 1993 Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs, 26. She’s an Kahnawake Mohawk. Why I mention that will be apparent in a moment. Her most recent role is recurring one as Sam Black Crow on American Gods but she has a very long genre history starting being Monique on the Stephen King’s Dead Zone series. From there, she was Claudia Auditore in Assassin’s Creed: Lineage, a series of three short films based on the Assassin’s Creed II video game before showing up as Ali’s in Rhymes for Young Ghouls which is notable for its handling of First Nations issues. She’s Daisy in Another WolfCop (oh guess which monster), an unnamed bar waitress in Being Human, Nourhan in Exploding Sun and Sam in the The Walking Dead: Michonne video game. Out soon is Blood Quantum about a zombie uprising on a First Nations homeland.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Garfield plays a variation on a familiar sci-fi movie theme.
  • Life on Mars? Well, sure, if you can call this life: Close To Home.

(11) RADIO 4. Two more episodes of Stranger Than Sci-Fi are available for listening on BBC Radio 4 for the next few weeks. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie says, “Last week’s episode included a fair bit on Sue Burke’s Semiosis about the science (compared with the SF) of plant intelligence, communication etc.  Apparently, they (plants) can hear bees buzzing! (By the way, we – in our SF2 Concatenaton team annual round robin – cited Semiosis as one of the ‘Best SF Novels of 2018’ – though this is a bit of annual fun for us, we do seem to get a few that go one to be shortlisted and/or win awards. See our past year’s performance here ‘Best Science Fiction of the Year’).”

In this episode, Jen and Alice investigate the science behind Sue Burke’s book, Semiosis, about a mysterious breed of intelligent plants. They talk to Sue about how watching her houseplants formed the inspiration for the book. Then they ask the linguist Dr Hannah Little if we could ever learn the language of something that has a completely different understanding of what communication means. Finally, Professor Lilach Hadany explains how a radical new study might show plants are listening to each other – and maybe even to us.

Jen and Alice explore one of the oldest questions in science and science fiction – why should we travel into space? At a time when Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are promising space colonies in the next fifty years, is it time to rethink our relationship with space? They talk to the astro-biologist Dr. Louisa Preston about whether there is life out there on other planets. Then they find out how we might already be endangering that potential life. The space archeologist Dr Alice Gorman explains how we are polluting our solar system, why we should worry about space junk and what a manifesto for sustainable space travel might look like.

(12) SFF ON STAGE. Prize-winning play Machine Learning got a live reading – “Neukom Institute Literary Arts Awards: VoxFest 2019”.

The Neukom Institute for Computational Science awarded the second annual Neukom Literary Arts Award for Playwriting to Francisco Mendoza. Mendoza was presented with a $5,000 honorarium and his award at this summer’s VoxFest, a week-long festival hosted at Dartmouth College and co-produced by Dartmouth’s department of theater and Vox Theate…

Daniel Rockmore, director of the Neukom Institute for Computational Science, left, congratulates Francisco Mendoza. “When we first read Francisco’s play we were taken by its thoughtful and moving treatment of the possible effects of our relationships with machines and each other. It was clear from the performance that great strides were made with just one week’s worth of development and we very much look forward to see how Francisco’s continued work with VoxFest will strengthen an already strong and imaginative vision. I was thrilled with the reading and am excited by this continued collaboration between the Neukom Institute, Dartmouth’s Department of Theater, and Northern Stage,” said Rockmore.

(13) WHAT ARMADILLOCON IS ABOUT. Marshall Ryan Maresca’s “ArmadilloCon 41 Toastmaster Speech” was so good it got a shout-out from Martha Wells (“Toastmaster Marshall Ryan Maresca did a wonderful opening ceremonies speech about acknowledging the problematic past of fandom and SF/F and moving into the future, and how ArmadilloCon and the writers workshop give us the chance to pay forward to the next generations:”)

…Because—and this is so important—this isn’t just a place that celebrates what’s happening now in all the tremendously geeky and fannish things we love. Nor is it a place that just looks to the fascinating and problematic past of those things.  It is a place that fosters the people who will make those things tomorrow.  We do that with our writers workshop, with the multiple panels on craft and business.  We do that by filling the room with people who want to share, who want to pay it forward, who want to hold out a hand to the person behind them and say, “Hey, let’s go.”

If you are a person who ever whispered to yourself, “Maybe I could do that.  Maybe I could write that.  Maybe I could make that.  Maybe I could be that.” 

This is a place that opens its doors to you.

You are seen.

You are heard.

You are believed in.

(14) BEING A REAL WRITER. Tobias Buckell exhorts writers to remember that a successful writing career doesn’t look only one way. His terrific thread starts here.

(15) IT’S THE POLICE FORCE, LUKE. The Hollywood Reporter noticed the suspect has familiar name – so did the actor who plays the character: “Mark Hamill Responds to Warrant Being Issued for Luke Sky Walker”.

Mark Hamill is again having some fun after a man named Luke Sky Walker seems to still be getting in hot water.

It was reported on Wednesday that the 22-year-old Walker had a warrant issued for his arrest in Carter County, Tennessee, concerning a charge of property theft over $1,000, according to the sheriff’s office. 

Just as he did last year when Walker was arrested for violating probation after a felony theft charge, the Luke Skywalker actor took notice and had some quips.

(16) WOULD YOU DRINK IT FOR A QUARTER? BBC explains why it’s rare — “Chernobyl vodka: First consumer product made in exclusion zone”.

“It’s the only bottle in existence – I tremble when I pick it up,” says Prof Jim Smith, gingerly lifting a bottle of Atomik grain spirit.

The “artisan vodka”, made with grain and water from the Chernobyl exclusion zone, is the first consumer product to come from the abandoned area around the damaged nuclear power plant.

The team started the vodka project by growing crops on a farm in the zone.

“Our idea then was [to use that rye grain] to make a spirit,” they say.

As well as Prof Smith, who is based at the University of Portsmouth, UK, the team behind the spirit is made up of researchers who have worked in the exclusion zone for many years – studying how the land has recovered since the catastrophic nuclear accident in 1986.

They hope to use profits from selling it to help communities in Ukraine still affected by the economic impact of the disaster.

(17) EYES ON THE PRIZE. “Staring at seagulls helps protect food, say scientists”. (Or you could always just eat it.)

The secret to protecting your seaside chips from scavenging seagulls is to stare at them, scientists have said.

The birds are more likely to steal food when they can avoid the gaze of their victims, according to a new study.

Researchers at the University of Exeter put a bag of chips on the ground and timed how long herring gulls took to approach when they were being watched.

They compared this to how long it took for the gulls to strike when the person looked away.

(18) FERAL BARD.  A mashup of Shakespeare and D&D — thread starts here.

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

Mark Hamill Wins Icon Award

Actor Mark Hamill received Comic-Con International’s Icon Award in Hall H on July 19. The award is given to “individuals or organizations who have been instrumental in bringing comics and/or the popular arts to a wider audience.”

The two most recent winners prior to Hamill were artist Sergio Aragones (2016) and Ray Bradbury (2010).

Mark Hamill celebrated the award as one item in a busy day at Comic-Con.

The Team Coco event video is on YouTube, “Mark Hamill, aka Luke F***ing Skywalker, administers Conan’s Comic-Con® Citizenship Test.”

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge for the story.]