Pixel Scroll 6/22/19 He Came Scrolling Across The Pixels With His Files And His Churls

(1) MÜNCHHAUSEN DEBATE. Some regard Retro-Hugo nominee Münchhausen to be the best thing on the ballot, while others are considering refusing to rank it at all because the movie was made in Germany during the Third Reich. Cora Buhlert and Evelyn C. Leeper are two fans who are on opposite sides of the argument.

Buhlert analyzes a lot of the ethical questions in “Why you should not dismiss “Münchhausen” out of hand”.

… This post grew out of a comment on Steve J. Wright’s blog (whose Hugo and Retro Hugo reviews you should really read), where Steve expressed that he was unsure whether he should vote for Münchhausen due to its provenance. His is not the only comment along those lines I have seen, so here is a post explaining why you should not dismiss Münchhausen out of hand.

… However, quite a few Hugo voters have issues with Münchhausen, because it was made in Germany during the Third Reich and they don’t want to vote for “a Nazi film”. This is wrong, because – unlike some of the pretty crass propaganda stuff found elsewhere on the Retro Hugo ballot, particularly in the dramatic presentation and graphic story categories – Münchhausen is not a propaganda film, merely a film that happened to be made during the Third Reich. For while the Nazi propaganda movies are infamous – even though hardly anybody has seen them, because they still cannot be publicly displayed in Germany except for educational purposes* – these propaganda movies (about forty) only make up a small percentage of the total film output of the Nazi era. In fact, it’s a lot more likely to find propaganda in a random Hollywood movie made during WWII than in a random German movie. For the vast majority of the German movies made during the Third Reich were apolitical entertainment: musicals, melodramas, comedies, romances and the like.

…It’s also notable that most of the Münchhausen cast and crew, including director Josef von Baky, had careers that continued unimpeded in postwar Germany. And considering that both the Allies and the postwar West and East German authorities came down harder on artists who were involved with questionable movies than on Nazi doctors, judges, civil servants, military officers, etc… who were actually responsible for the deaths of many people (cause the latter were deemed important for building up the postwar state, while the former were not), this means that most of the people involved with Münchhausen were not Nazis….

Evelyn C. Leeper takes the other side in “Evelyn C. Leeper’s Retro Dramatic Presentation, Long Form Reviews” at MT VOID.

MUNCHHAUSEN was an attempt to provide the German audience with the lush Technicolor films they were not getting from Hollywood in 1943. And the film is beautiful, with some scenes reminiscent of Brueghel paintings, and the scenes on the moon quite fantastical. As a Hugo finalist, though, it has two flaws. One is that long stretches are fairly boring–I just don’t find Munchhausen’s intrigues with Catherine the Great very interesting. The second is that if people balk at giving an award to a film directed by someone accused of sexual misconduct and possible rape, what should one think of awarding a Hugo to a film made by the Nazis as a propaganda film (of the “Volksfilm” style)? It’s a fine line, I agree, but while I think the film worth watching (it’s available free on YouTube, and if you get it on DVD, whoever is getting the royalties, it’s not the Nazi party), I cannot vote to give it a Hugo.

(2) SCALING MT. TSUNDOKU. [Item by rcade.] Wajahat Ali, a New York Times opinion writer and CNN contributor, asked for advice on Twitter about meeting his goal of reading 3 books a month:

In the replies, someone recommends the essay “How to read a lot of books” by David Evans, an economist who read 104 books in 2018:

The favorite suggestion among Twitter users is to get off social media. 

(3) GOING FOUR IT. The New Yorker’s Anthony Lane is there when “’Toy Story 4’ Plays It Again”.

…“Toy Story 4” is directed by Josh Cooley, and it must be said that, for a while, the tale doesn’t seem like the freshest that Pixar has ever told. Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks, as ever), Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), and their bunch of pals are forced to adjust when young Bonnie (Madeleine McGraw), in whose bedroom they reside, departs for orientation day at kindergarten and returns with a toy—or a thingamajig—that she has made. His name is Forky (Tony Hale), he was put together from cutlery, pipe cleaners, and goggly eyes, and he clings to a fervent belief that he is trash. Time and again, despite not having read Dostoyevsky, he has to be stopped from throwing himself away. Parents with children of Bonnie’s age may find these scenes difficult to explain….

(4) CARRYING A TUNE IN A BIG DIPPER. James Davis Nicoll was inspired by File 770 comments to consider the definition of space opera: “Single Star System Space Opera; or, Those Pesky Belters, Revisited” at Tor.com.

One world is not enough (probably). There are space operas that center on one world—novels such as Dune or The Snow Queen come to mind—but their plots require interactions between that planet and the rest of the narrative universe. The story may take place on one world, but this world is only one of many.

Space travel is a therefore a necessary feature of space opera. Travel can delightfully complicate the plot: trade, migration, proselytization, and the chance that the local equivalent of the Yekhe Khagan might pop by with ten thousand of his closest friends to discuss taxation and governance.

(5) PREFERRED SFF. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Tyler Cowen interviewed Google’s chief economist, Hal Varian, in his podcast “Conversations With Tyler.” (“Hal Varian on Taking the Academic Approach to Business”).  In minute 38 of the interview, Varian recommended some sf.  He liked Frederik Pohl’s “The Midas Plague” in which robots produce so much stuff that the rich live lives of bucolic simplicity while the poor have to consume until they keel over.  Varian also liked L. Sprague de Camp’s Lest Darkness Fall, and said that if he could live at any time in history, it would be in the Rome of the fifth century described in de Camp’s classic novel.

(6) EXPERIENCE TOR AUTHORS. Available free from Macmillan for various digital formats: “Tor.com Publishing 2019 Debut Sampler: Some of the Most Exciting New Voices in Science Fiction and Fantasy”.

Read free sample chapters from the most exciting new voices in science fiction and fantasy today, including C. S. E. Cooney, Katharine Duckett, Jennifer Giesbrecht, Kerstin Hall, Vylar Kaftan, Scotto Moore, Tamsyn Muir, Lina Rather, Priya Sharma, and Emily Tes.

(7) ALL FOR SCIENCE. Via the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off’s FB group, Mark Lawrence has asked for self-published authors to provide titles for the purpose of looking at how Goodreads ratings might correlate with sales.  

In the past I have looked at the relationship between “number of Goodreads ratings” and “sales” for recent traditionally published fantasy books.

“What do Goodreads ratings say about sales?” (from 2015.)

Data from self-published authors has shown a much greater variability.

If you want to help out (note your name and your book name will not be used) then message me the following information for each fantasy book you want to tell me about. It will become a point on a graph. I will not share your figures with anyone (except as an anonymous point on a graph). Note – please only submit info for books with more than 200 Goodreads ratings:

  1. Year the book was published
  2. number of Goodreads ratings for the book
  3. number of copies sold via Kindle Unlimited
  4. number of copies sold in all other formats
  5. estimate the % of all non KU sales (i.e number listed in 4) that were free / £0.00

(8) FIELDS OBIT. Star Trek writer Peter Alan Fields died June 19. StarTrek.com paid tribute: 

For Trek, Fields wrote or co-wrote a total of 13 episodes, most notably the TNG hours “Half a Life,” “Cost of Living” and “The Inner Light,” as well as the DS9 installments, “Dax,” “Duet,” “Blood Oath,” “In the Pale Moonlight” and “The Dogs of War,” among others. In short, he had a hand in several of both shows’ finest moments. He also served DS9 as a co-producer and later producer from 1993 to 1994, spanning seasons one and two.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 22, 1925 The Lost World enjoyed its original theatrical premiere.  The feature starred Wallace Beery and Bessie Love. And yes, Arthur Conan Doyle was said to have approved of this version. Indeed in 1922, Conan Doyle showed O’Brien’s test reel to a meeting of the Society of American Magicians, which included Harry Houdini. He refused to say if it was actual footage or not. 
  • June 22, 1979 Alien debuted.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 22, 1856 H. Rider Haggard. Writer of pulp fiction, often in the the Lost World subgenre. King Solomon’s Mines was the first of his novels with Allan Quatermain as the lead and it, like its sequels, was successful. These novels are in print to this day. Haggard by the way decided to take ten percent royalties instead of a flat fee for writing, a wise choice indeed.  And let’s not forget his other success, She: A History of Adventure, which has never print out of print either. (Died 1925.)
  • Born June 22, 1936 Kris Kristofferson, 83. He first shows up in a genre film, The Last Horror Film, as himself. As an actor, his first role is as Bill Smith in Millennium which is followed by Gabriel in Knights, a sequel to Cyborg. (A lack of name creativity there.) Now comes his role as Abraham Whistler in Blade and Blade II, a meaty undertaking indeed! Lastly, he voiced Karubi in Planet of the Apes. 
  • Born June 22, 1947 Octavia E. Butler. As you know, I do research before I decide who gets a Birthday write-up. I kept running across her detractors who grumbled that she was one of those dread SJWs. Well let’s note that she’s a multiple recipient of both the Hugo and Nebula awards, and she became in 1995 the first genre writer to receive a MacArthur Fellowship. As regards her fiction, I’d suggest the Xenogenesis series shows her at her very best but anything by her is both good and challenging. I’m pleased to note that iBooks and Kindle have everything of hers available. (Died 2006.)
  • Born June 22, 1949 Meryl Streep, 70. She’d make the Birthday list just for being Madeline Ashton in Death Becomes Her and her epic battle there with Goldie Hawn. She’s the voice of Blue Ameche in A.I. Artificial Intelligence, and a very real Aunt Josephine in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. She’s the voice of Felicity Fox in Fantastic Mr. Fox, based off the on Dahl’s 1970 children’s novel. She voices Jennie in a short that bring Maurice Sendak’s dog to life, Higglety Pigglety Pop! or There Must Be More to Life. She’s The Witch in Into The Woods. I think that it.
  • Born June 22, 1953 Cyndi Lauper, 66. Ok I’m officially old as I’m thinking of her as always young. Genre-wise, she played a psychic, Avalon Harmonia, on the Bones series. She also has one-offs in series as diverse as The Super Mario Bros. Super Show!Shelley Duvall’s Mother Goose Rock ‘n’ Rhyme and Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child. Oddly enough she has one serious acting credit, Jenny (Ginny Jenny/Low-Dive Jenny) in Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera
  • Born June 22, 1958 Bruce Campbell, 61. Where to start? Well let’s note that Kage loved him so I’ve linked to her review of Jack of All Trades. I personally like just as much The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. and think it’s well worth checking out. I think his work as Ash Williams in the Evil Dead franchise can be both brilliant and godawful, often in the same film. The series spawned off of it is rather good. Oh and for popcorn reading, check out If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor, his autobiography. 
  • Born June 22, 1971 Laila Rouass, 48. She was Sarah Page, an Egyptologist on Primeval, a series I highly recommend if you’ve not seen it. She played Colonel Tia Karim, a traitorous UNIT officer in the two part “Death of The Doctor” on The Sarah Jane Adventures. This story was the last to feature Sarah Jane Smith and the Doctor, The Eleventh here, together onscreen. Jo Grant would also show up. 
  • Born June 22, 1973 Ian Tregillis, 46. He is the author of the Milkweed Triptych trilogy which is frelling brilliant. He’s contributed three stories to Max Gladstone’s The Witch Who Came in From the Cold, a rather good serial fiction anthology (if that’s the proper term) and he’s got another series, The Alchemy Wars, I need to check out. 

(11) UPDATE. Jim C. Hines tells fans why he needs to start a “Writing Hiatus and Other Changes”:

There’s no real news on the cancer front. If all goes well, Amy will get the next dose of chemo on Monday and Tuesday. But we have to wait a bit longer to see if and how well this is working. We’re also waiting on insurance approval for the CAR T-cell procedure she needs. In the meantime, she’s still pretty weak, but her pain is better managed, which helps a lot.

This last round – discovering the masses in her abdomen after six months of chemo and treatment – flipped a switch in my brain. Before, I’d been struggling to make time to write, squeezing in anywhere from 200-500 words a few times a week. But with this setback, I just stopped.

I’m not quitting forever. Terminal Peace is still under contract, and I’ve got an idea for a contemporary fantasy I want to do next. But…priorities, you know? I need to spend time with my wife. I need to be there for the kids. And I need to stop pushing myself to do ALL THE THINGS, and to stop beating myself up for not being able to do everything.

My editor has been incredibly understanding. So much love for Sheila and DAW! The longer gap between books two and three of this trilogy is going to suck, but c’est la vie. I just can’t worry about that right this minute….

(12) TROTTING THE GLOBE. Rich Lynch has posted the 22nd issue of his zine My Back Pages online at eFanzines.com.

Because of the temporal nearness of the upcoming Irish Worldcon, Issue #22 has a travel-oriented theme and has essays involving Native American culture and Indian food, tall mountains and ocean vistas, ancient computers and modern cell phones, completed walks and works-in-progress, rental cars and water buses, famous writers and somewhat obscure composers, small spittoons and large ash heaps, opened time capsules and preserved brains, strange stories and familiar melodies, glass artifacts and wooden bells, sunny afternoons and inky-dark skies, colorful theories and black & white comics, intense business meetings and serene beach life, fine cheese and a traffic jam, labyrinthine passageways and an expansive convention center, old friends and “old school”…and 15 minutes of media fame – in Estonia!

(13) LOOKING TO REDECORATE? Popular Mechanics displays the latest fashions from Star Wars.

(14) BITE YOUR TONGUE. The Warp Zone’s sketch shows scenes from Steve Rogers’ domestic life with Peggy Carter in “Captain America’s Life After Endgame.”

(15) COLLECTOR’S ITEM. Sorry, wrong number.

(16) BIG TICKET ITEM. Comicbook.com astonishes with the news that “Disneyland Has Already Sold Three of the $25k R2-D2 Droids at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge”.

If you had a spare $25,000 lying around, what would you spend it on? Believe it or not, a total of three people have already spent that amount of money on a very specific purchase at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, the latest Disneyland attraction that immerses fans in the galaxy far, far away. According to The OCR, the park is selling a “$25,000 life-size custom astromech unit” which is sold at Driod Depot and “looks just like the 3-and-half-foot-tall R2-D2.”

(17) LOCKED AND LIDDED. Alasdair Stuart says, “This week’s The Full Lid  takes us from the mutable dimensions of grief and horror to how much fun dying slowly in orbit can be.”

In the first instance, I take a look at Starfish, AT White’s fiercely inventive and intensely personal exploration of grief and inter-dimensional invasion. It’s a great, determined and uniquely voiced movie and one you should definitely seek out.

Elsewhere, Matt Miner’s eco-noir direct action specialists return and get WAY more than they bargained for in Lab Raider issue 1. I’ve enjoyed the way Matt’s explored this world through the two previous standalone mini-series, Liberator and Critical Hit and this new series looks to be just as good.

Finally, I take a look at Adr1ft, the under-rated EVA/Survival game released a couple of years ago. It has interesting things to say about the pressures of modern spaceflight, looks absolutely beautiful and is frequently terrifying. An overlooked gem, albeit one leaving a trail of empty oxygen cylinders in its wake.


Adr1ft

I’ve spent a good chunk of this week slowly dying in space. it’s been fun! Adr1ft, by Three One Zero and published by 505 Games is a pared down, minimalist game that demands attention and cheerily punishes you for not giving it. I found a lot to enjoy in there, not the least of which is the killer opening. You wake up in a damaged space suit, in a decaying orbit, surrounded by the shattered remains of a vast space station that has very recently exploded. Player and character enter the game in identicla states of confusion and the plot unfolds at the same pace you follow the debris trail around the shattered station. You are Commander Alex Oshima, head of the HAN-IV project. You are the lone survivor of a catastrophic accident. The accident was your fault.

Now what?

The game perfectly embodies the brutal math of orbital survival without ever getting over-excited about how unforgiving it is….

(18) ELECTRICITY BY THE BALE. Nature reports on “Sunlight harvested by nanotubes”.

The efficiency of junction-based solar cells has almost reached its theoretical limit, and it is therefore imperative to explore methods for converting sunlight into electricity that do not require semiconductor junctions. Writing in Nature, Zhang et al. report a key advance in this direction. They demonstrate a junction-free solar cell that is produced by curling an atom-thick semiconductor layer into a nanoscale tube.

(19) IN TONGUES WITHOUT FLAME. “Cambridge language conference marks Game of Thrones lingo”.

The brains behind some of science fiction’s most popular invented languages are gathering for a conference to showcase their skills.

The San Diego-based Language Creation Society has brought together “conlangers” – or people who “construct” languages – in Cambridge.

Among the languges represented is Dothraki, as used in Game of Thrones.

UK organiser Dr Bettina Beinhoff said the convention would enhance the network of language creators worldwide.

(20) WASP. Like the Eric Frank Russell novel, a tiny cause had a large effect: “Rogue slug blamed for Japanese railway chaos”

A power cut that disrupted rail traffic on a Japanese island last month was caused by a slug, officials say.

More than 12,000 people’s journeys were affected when nearly 30 trains on Kyushu shuddered to a halt because of the slimy intruder’s actions.

Its electrocuted remains were found lodged inside equipment next to the tracks, Japan Railways says.

The incident in Japan has echoes of a shutdown caused by a weasel at Europe’s Large Hadron Collider in 2016.

(21) CRUSH IT LIKE QUINT. The Narragansett brewery claims it’s not only music that soothes the breast of the savage beast:

(22) FOR NEVER IS HERD. What’s that smell? “Curiosity rover finds gas levels on Mars hinting at possibility of life”.

It’s easy to get jaded about potential signs of life on Mars, but a recent discovery might raise eyebrows. The New York Times has learned that NASA’s Curiosity rover has detected “startlingly high” levels of methane — the gas typically produced by life as we know it. The quantities are still tiny at 21 parts per billion, but that’s three times the amount Curiosity spotted during a surge in 2013. The rover’s operators were reportedly surprised enough to pause regularly scheduled studies to obtain follow-up data, with the additional findings slated to arrive on June 24th.

(23) BOT DYNASTY. You think their football team is good? Well… University of Alabama News: “UA Robotics Team Wins NASA’s Grand Prize for Fifth Consecutive Year”.

For the fifth consecutive year, the student robotics team from The University of Alabama won NASA’s grand prize in its Robotics Mining Competition.

[…] Made up of 60 students, primarily from UA’s College of Engineering, Alabama Astrobotics won the Joe Kosmo Award for Excellence, the grand prize, in NASA’s 2019 robotic mining competition, NASA announced. UA’s teams previously placed first in 2012 and from 2015-2018.

[…] In a separate event hosted at The University of Alabama, UA’s team bested 27 other robotics teams from across the nation to win first in mining, first in the Caterpillar Autonomy Awards and the SSERVI Regolith Mechanics Award.

In the Robotic Mining Challenge held at UA, teams demonstrated how a robot they built over the past year could autonomously navigate and excavate simulated lunar and Martian soil, known as regolith.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/21/19 No, My Toupee Isn’t Slipping, That’s My Emotional Support Tribble

(1) BE THE FIRST ON THE MOON. Apollo 11 in Real Time is a very impressive site that collates all kinds of archival mission material to simulate a real-time journey through the first landing on the Moon. You can watch the launch, you can follow what I’ll describe as a media reenactment of the entire mission.

Included real-time elements:

  • All mission control film footage
  • All TV transmissions and onboard film footage
  • 2,000 photographs
  • 11,000 hours of Mission Control audio
  • 240 hours of space-to-ground audio
  • All onboard recorder audio
  • 15,000 searchable utterances
  • Post-mission commentary
  • Astromaterials sample data

(2) TOP ART. Mark Lawrence has started a page for the 2019 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off cover contest – only three covers as of today, more to be added when the participating blogs make their picks.

Each year I run a cover contest for the SPFBO entrants. Each blog choses its 3 favourite covers from their pool of 30 entrants. The 30 favourites collected from the 10 blogs are then voted on in separate ballots by the bloggers and by the public.

The public vote is of course a bit of fun and subject to all the issues of brigading and cheating that online polls often are – though our anti-cheat software is more effective than the raw poll results might lead you to believe.

(3) CHASTE CHUCK. Here’s a position you won’t find in the Kama Sutra:

(4) IT COULD HAPPEN. Also, there’s reason to believe that Chuck will be at CONvergence 2019 in Minneapolis over July 4th weekend.

(5) AVOID CALENDRICAL HERESEY. Steve Davidson proclaims, “Well, we FINALLY did it, and by ‘we’, I mean Kermit Woodall, Amazing Stories’ Art Director and Electronic Media Maestro and by ‘it’ I mean Amazing Stories Events Calendar!”

  • It’s gorgeous.
  • It’s clean.
  • It’s easy to navigate.
  • It has well over 500 events listed (and more regularly added).
  • It covers events World Wide.
  • It covers events from Bronycons to Middle Eastern Gaming Cons and, if there were such things as cons located off the Earth, we’d have them in there too!
  • You can export it to other calendar programs.
  • You can display it on your screens in a variety of different ways.
  • You can search it by date and by keyword, including type of event, name of event, location of event.
  • You can not only read about an event on our website, but you can click through to the event’s website right from the calendar.
  • There’s pop-outs and roll-overs and clicking for more info!
  • AND – you can add your own events.

In short, we’re now providing fans with an indispensible tool for planning their cons, one with comprehensive information and an easy to use interface.

No longer will you have to say “These aren’t the events I was looking for.”

Mini-editorial: We’ve been working towards this pretty much from the launch of the website. We’ve long believed that a comprehensive, one-stop-shopping events calendar is a must for the Fan community. Many more conventions than most realize are held every month, most of them small, intimate affairs with little to no marketing or advertising outside of a very small local footprint.

Yes, there are a few websites out there, and Erwin ‘Filthy Pierre’ Straus continues to do yeoman’s work for a couple of the print magazines (and continues to put his events rack out at conventions), but these efforts are limited in scope for a variety of legitimate reasons.

We wanted to go beyond that and we think that we’ve succeeded.

***

Want your convention to be seen by over 45,000 convention-going fans? Go click that button that says “Submit Your Event”, right there on the events calendar. There’s an easy to use interface that will let you add an image, set your dates and locations, contact information, website, select multiple ‘types’ of con (there’s 23 different categories and we’ll add more as needed!); you can add your own description of the event, enter costs, venue and more.

  • Check out the sample page below or visit The Events Calendar here – here.
  • And if you visit those pages and come away saying “But my event isn’t in there” – ADD IT!

(6) WHERE THE BODIES ARE BURIED. Andrew Liptak told readers of The Verge that although the movie adaptation has never been released, there may be a Three-Body Problem TV series in the works:

China’s biggest science fiction novel, The Three-Body Problem, is being developed for a potential television series, according to CX Live. If it happens, it’ll come after the massive success of another big sci-fi adaptation from the country, The Wandering Earth.

Chinese entertainment company YooZoo Entertainment holds the rights to the series, and it’s apparently working on an adaptation of the book. CX Live discovered a publicity form submitted to the Chinese government that lists the production details of the proposed series, which will apparently run for 24 episodes and could begin shooting this September.

(7) LUCASARTS. The Digital Antiquarian remembers the game “Sam and Max Hit the Road”:

Day of the Tentacle wasn’t the only splendid adventure game which LucasArts released in 1993. Some five months after that classic, just in time for Christmas, they unveiled Sam & Max Hit the Road.

At first glance, the two games may seem disarmingly, even dismayingly similar; Sam and Max is yet another cartoon comedy in an oeuvre fairly bursting with the things. Look a little harder, though, and some pronounced differences in the two games’ personalities quickly start to emerge. Day of the Tentacle is clever and funny in a mildly subversive but family-friendly way, very much of a piece with the old Warner Bros. cartoons its aesthetic presentation so consciously emulates. Sam & Max, however, is something else entirely, more in tune with an early 1990s wave of boundary-pushing prime-time cartoons for an older audience — think The Simpsons and Beavis & Butt-Head — than the Saturday morning reels of yore. Certainly there are no life lessons to be derived herein; steeped in postmodern cynicism, this game has a moral foundation that is, as its principal creator once put, “built on quicksand.” Yet it has a saving grace: it’s really, really funny. If anything, it’s even funnier than Day of the Tentacle, which is quite a high bar to clear. This is a game with some real bite to it — and I’m not just talking about the prominent incisors on Max, the violently unhinged rabbit who so often steals the show.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 21, 1938 Ron Ely, 81. Doc Savage in Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze, a film I saw a long time ago and remember little about. He was also, fittingly enough, Tarzan in that NBC late Sixties series. Somewhere Philip Jose Farmer is linking the two characters…  other notable genre roles included being a retired Superman from an alternate reality in a two-part episode “The Road to Hell” of the Superboy series, and playing five different characters on the original Fantasy Island which may or may not be a record. 
  • Born June 21, 1932 Lalo Schifrin, 87. Argentina-American pianist and composer of the music for the original Mission: Impossible series along with The Four Musketeers (1974 version), The Amityville Horror, The Mask of Sheba, The Hellstrom ChronicleTHX 1138The Cat from Outer Space and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. to select some of his work.
  • Born June 21, 1947 Michael Gross, 72. Ok, I’ll admit that I’ve a fondness for the Tremors franchise in which he plays the extremely well-armed graboid hunter Burt Gummer. Other than the Tremors franchise, he hasn’t done a lot of genre work as I see just an episode of The Outer Limits              where he was Professor Stan Hurst in “Inconstant Moon” (wasn’t that a Niven story?) and voicing a  few Batman Beyond and Batman: The Animated Series characters. 
  • Born June 21, 1952 David J. Skal, 67. Vampires! He’s an academic expert on them and horror in general, so he’s got a number of with his first being Hollywood Gothic: The Tangled Web of Dracula from Novel to Stage to Screen. He followed that up with a more general work, The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror. And then he produced The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror which links horror films to what is going on in culture at that time, ie AIDS. His latest book was a biography of Bram Stoker, Something in the Blood.
  • Born June 21, 1957 Berkeley Breathed, 62. ISFDB on the basis of a chapbook called Mars Needs Moms is willing to include him as genre but I’d argue that Bloom County which includes a talking penguin is genre as they are fantastic creatures. 
  • Born June 21, 1964 David Morrissey, 55. His most well-known role is playing The Governor on The Walking Dead (which is a series that I’ve not seen and have no interest in seeing) but I saw his brilliant performance as Jackson Lake, the man who who believed he was The Doctor in “The Next Doctor”, a Tenth Doctor adventure which was an amazing story. He was also Theseus in The Storyteller: Greek Myths, and played Tyador Borlú in the BBC adaption of China Mieville’s The City & The City. I’ll admit that I’m very ambivalent about seeing it as I’ve heard the novel at least a half dozen times and have my own mental image of what it should be. He has also shows up in Good Omens as Captain Vincent. 
  • Born June 21, 1965 Steve Niles, 54. Writer best- known for works such as 30 Days of Night, Criminal Macabre, Simon Dark and Batman: Gotham County Line. I’ve read his Criminal Macabre: The Complete Cal McDonald Stories and the the graphic novel — great bit of horror! Sam Raimi adapted 30 Days of Night into a film.
  • Born June 21, 1969 Christa Faust, 50. It does not appear that she’s written any original fiction save one nove with Poppy Z. Brite called Triads but she’s certainly had a lot of media tie-in work including novels set in the Final Destination, Friday the Thirteenth, FringeGabriel HuntNightmare on Elm StreetSupernatural and Twilight Zone universes. Did you know there’s an entire ecology of novels, fan fiction, a game, comics, even an encyclopedia guide, September’s Notebook — The Bishop Paradox made around Fringe? I hadn’t until I was researching her. One of the perks of doing this. 
  • Born June 21, 1979 Chris Pratt, 40. Starlord in the MCU film franchise. His first genre role was voicing Jake in the “Attack of the Terrible Trio” episode of The Batman series. After that, he’s largely confined himself to the MCU with the exception of being Owen Grady in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Speed Bump shows a UFO abductee’s priorities.
  • And Bizarro shows that if it’s not easy being green, consider the alternatives.

(10) GUNN BEARING. Dark Matter Zine has posted another Ian Gunn illo: Hollywood Cliché No. 15. See it there!

Last week we began a series of movie cliche illustrations by Ian Gunn. This week we look at villains’ habits of climbing to the highest room in the tallest tower — then falling off. And here are some of New York’s finest, puffing and panting their way in pursuit of said villain… who is climbing to the highest room in the tallest tower.

(11) STOOGE SURPLUS. Nate D. Sanders Auctions is putting “The Personal Collection of Moe Howard” up for bid from June 24-28. Featured items include “Scarce Three Stooges Agreement With Columbia From 1946 Signed by FOUR Stooges, Moe, Curly, Larry & Shemp”.

 (12) ON THE MENU. Scott Edelman urges listeners to hash it out with Kathe Koja in Episode 98 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Kathe’s debut novel The Cipher, for which she won a Bram Stoker Award, had a tremendous impact on the horror field — as much of an impact on horror, in fact, as William Gibson’s first novel Neuromancer did on science fiction — a tremendously rare thing for a debut. She’s also written historical fiction, such as her Under the Poppy trilogy, as well as a number of young adult novels, starting with Straydog in 2002, and most recently Headlong. Her short stories have been published in Asimov’s, Weird Tales, Realms of Fantasy, F&SF, and many other magazines, plus anthologies such as Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells and Redshift: Extreme Visions of Speculative Fiction. She is the founder of nerve, a Detroit-based immersive theatre company.

We snuck away during StokerCon to San Chez Bistro. Not only is this tapas restaurant well-reviewed and highly rated, but they’re also amazingly sensitive to the needs of their guests, so much so they have multiple full specialized menus — not just a Vegan menu, but ones for soy allergies, tree nut allergies, citrus allergies, shellfish allergies and more. It’s one of the most accommodating restaurants I’ve ever visited when it comes to food preferences. My one regret from my trip to Grand Rapids is that time didn’t permit me to experience the full dinner menu.

We discussed her love of immersive theater (and dissected her previous night’s performance at StokerCon), why her groundbreaking debut novel The Cipher will always be The Funhole in her heart, what caused her to move into the YA world after her dark adult novels and why it’s harder to write for a younger audience, how she accidentally wrote her Under the Poppy trilogy, the allure of writing historical novels, how being in the presence of Kate Wilhelm at Clarion changed her life, what she got out of her many collaborations with Barry Malzberg and others, plus much, much more.

(13) PLOT AND PLAN. Nina Shepardson gives a quick review to Odd Adventures with Your Other Father by Norman Prentiss” at Outside of a Dog.

I did have a couple of stylistic issues with the novel. The primary one is that some of the dialogue doesn’t feel realistic. Elmore Leonard once said, “If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it,” and some of the dialogue here definitely sounds like writing.

(14) PEACES OF EIGHT. Paul Weimer applauds the result in “Microreview [book]: Children of Ruin, by Adrian Tchaikovsky” at Nerds of a Feather.

Adrian Tchaikovsky’s Children of Ruin continues the Children of Time universe in a mostly standalone braid of stories of terraforming, Uplift and first contact.

…The novel follows two strands in the web of plot. In the “past” timeline, a human exploration ship before their fall into a dark age (and subsequent revival) has come into a likely solar system looking for a planet to terraform. What they find are two candidate planets, a marginal glaciated one, Damascus,  that might be melted into terraformability, and a second inner one, Nod, that, much to their disappointment is already full of indigenous life. That strange  alien life is worth study, but it means the planet is not really suited for future colonization. But within that life on Nod is a surprise. On Damascus, in the meantime, a crew member’s idea to use octpodes to help in the colonization will have unexpected consequences.

In the present day, a Human/Portiids (Spider) exploration ship with a clone of the AI from Children of Time, has arrived in that same solar system thousands of years later, to find, to their shock and surprise, what has happened in the interim to the two planets. The humans are gone, but on both planets, their legacy and inheritors are most definitely in evidence, and much more than the explorers anticipated…

(15) THE REASONS. Ian Sales tells what he thought about “The Hugos 2019, novellas” and why at It Doesn’t Have To Be Right. This is an excerpt from his take on Binti: the Night Masquerade.

…I’m no fan of exposition, and I disagree entirely with Kim Stanley Robinson’s statement “it’s just another form of narrative”, and “streamlining exposition into the narrative” is another piece of writing advice that gets my back up… Which is not to say there’s zero info-dumping in Binti: the Night Masquerade. There’s plenty. But it’s all about Binti and her culture, or that of her male companion. The rest of the world is so sketchy it might as well have been made-up on the spot by Binti herself. I really do not rate these novellas, and I’m mystified by the love shown to them.

(16) CANCEL CULTURE. Remember that petition signed by 20,000 calling on Netflix to cancel Good Omens? Well, they did. And Amazon Prime returned the favor.

(17) BY THE YARD. The New York Times points to another Amazon Prime offering, reruns of a Fifties show with Boris Karloff.

‘Colonel March of Scotland Yard’ 
When to watch: Now, on Amazon.

This is more specimen than gem, but there aren’t that many shows from the 1950s available to stream — and this one, starring Boris Karloff in an eye patch, has a fun spookiness. Karloff plays Colonel March, who works in the “department of queer complaints,” and thus solves mysteries of all sorts. How can he do it all? one character marvels. “Because I’m a student of the major obsessions of our time: food, finance, fashion and frenzied love,” he replies. Sounds fun.

(18) TALES OF SUPER SCIENCE. You can thank a black rocket scientist from Alabama for both the Super Soaker and the Nerf Blaster. Assuming, of course, that you weren’t traumatized as a child by being blasted by either one of those at an embarrassing time (or place). Smithsonian Magazine: “The Accidental Invention of the Super Soaker”. Tagline: “A leak in a heat pump gave rocket scientist Lonnie Johnson the idea for his powerful squirt gun”

You might think it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to invent a squirt gun like the Super Soaker. But Lonnie Johnson, the inventor who devised this hugely popular toy that can drench half the neighborhood with a single pull of the trigger, actually worked on the Galileo and Cassini satellite programs and at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he helped develop the B2 stealth bomber.

Johnson is a prodigious creator, holding more than 120 patents on a variety of products and processes, including designs for film lithium batteries, electrochemical conversion systems, heat pumps, therminonic generators and various items to enhance battery production, including a thin-film ceramic proton-conducting electrolyte. In addition to serious-science inventions, Johnson has also patented such versatile and amusing concepts as a hair drying curler apparatus, wet diaper detector, toy rocket launcher and Nerf Blasters. Yes, that rapid-fire system with foam darts that tempts the child in all of us to mount ambushes on unsuspecting relatives and pets.

“I’m a tinkerer,” Johnson says. “I love playing around with ideas and turning them into something useful or fun.”

(19) HERE COMES THE SUN. A day like any other day, only — “Stonehenge summer solstice: Thousands gather to cheer sunrise” (lots of pictures).

Thousands of people cheered sunrise at Stonehenge on summer solstice.

About 10,000 people gathered at the Neolithic monument to greet the start of the longest day of the year, according to Wiltshire Police.

Kate Logan, from English Heritage, said: “There was a lovely, friendly atmosphere, the sun shone and the dawn was greeted with loud cheers.”

The celebrations at Stonehenge came as people descended on sites across the UK to celebrate the first day of summer.

Glastonbury Tor in Somerset and the Avebury stone circle in Wiltshire also attracted crowds.

(20) LET THERE BE LIGHT AT NIGHT, TOO. BBC hails “The invention that saved a million ships”.

In the 1820s, Augustin Fresnel invented a new kind of lens and installed it in France’s Cordouan lighthouse. Suddenly, one lamp could light the way for sailors many miles out to sea.

Since antiquity, lighted beacons have guided ships to port. The earliest lighthouses were controlled fires on hilltops that warned vessels that they were approaching land. Over time, these signals were powered by burning coal or oil lamps backed by mirrors, which could reach navigators further out to sea. But lamp power was no match for a dark and stormy night; over centuries, broken hulls and wind-whipped sails ran aground as ships’ captains and crew perished within, unable to spot the coastline before it was too late.

All that changed in the early 1820s, when a French physicist invented a new kind of lens: a ring of crystalline prisms arranged in a faceted dome that could reflect refracted light. Augustin Fresnel installed his creation in the Phare de Cordouan, a towering lighthouse situated in France’s Gironde estuary, about 100km north of Bordeaux. Suddenly, one lamp could illuminate the way for sailors many nautical miles out to sea.

(21) BDPLF MEANS FINE TOBACCO. Steve J. Wright has completed his Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation (Long Form) finalist reviews.

Anyway.  Time for me to don my World’s Worst Film Critic hat and look at the films this year.  They’re all good, you see.  They get shown on a screen that’s bigger than my bedroom!  Nobody would do that if the films weren’t any good, right?

(22) PLAN F***. Rachel Bloom featured in a video that illustrated the host’s topical comments on state abortion laws on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

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

Fifth Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off Seeks Entries

Mark Lawrence has announced the 5th Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off will accept entries starting June 15. The rules and schedule for SPFBO 5 are at the link.

One book is allowed per author. No book that has previously been in the SPFBO can be re-entered. The book must be book 1 of a series or a stand-alone novel.

In Phase I, ten participating bloggers will review and score the 300 entries to decide which book each of them will advance to the finals. The bloggers are —

More information about the contest can be found on the Official SPFBO page.

[Thanks to Dann for the story.]

SPFBO 2018 Winner

By Dann: The 2018 Self Published Fantasy Blog-Off has concluded. After the dust settled, Orconomics: A Satire, by J. Zachary Pike, was proclaimed the SPFBO champion with an average score of 8.65. Four of the ten reviewers also gave it their highest rating.

Orconomics was first published in 2014. It is the first book in The Dark Profit Saga trilogy. The final entry in the series, Dragonfired, should be issued in 2019.

Retweeting this announcement from Mark Lawrence gets you in the running for a signed copy of the book.

SPFBO began with a 300-book longlist, and every finalist was the top pick out of 30 reviewed by the participating bloggers.

Past winners include:

This year’s SPFBO was particularly competitive as four of the finalists ended up with average ratings of 8.00 or better. In past years, only the winner achieved that mark.

Pixel Scroll 3/28/19 Old Rossum’s Book Of Pixelated SJW Credentials

(1) APOLLO REUNION. Forbes tells how the picture came to be: “Buzz Aldrin Dazzles In Photo Of Apollo Astronauts”. John A Arkansawyer, who sent the link, says, “But gosh, I love the suit Buzz Aldrin is wearing! It makes me want to go out and punch a goddam liar right in the face.”

The only man between here and the moon capable of pulling off a rocket ship patterned suit, four gold rings, American flag socks, and a double watch combo is Buzz Aldrin, 89. Aldrin was one of eight Apollo astronauts to attend the 115th Explorers Club Annual Dinner March 16. The dinner also celebrated the 50 year anniversary of the moon landing on July 20, 1969, by Aldrin and the late Neil Armstrong who died in 2012. Aldrin and his astronaut brethren were photographed in New York by Felix Kunze whose composite image rocketed to the top of Reddit Sunday evening.

(2) MY TYPE. That item in a recent Scroll about getting your cat its own keyboard? Kalimac sounds like his cat is overdue for one:

I came home from a quick visit to the library to find that a reply, fortunately unsent, had been opened to the e-mail that happened to have been sitting on my desktop at the time I left. The text read:

5v44444444444444444444444jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk kkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkkk kkkkkkkkkkumuuuuuuu

Just so you know.

(3) FUNEREAL POSTER. SYFY Wire makes an observation as “All those dusted heroes return(?!) in latest poster for Avengers: Endgame “.

Walt Disney Studios marketing president Asad Ayaz tweeted out the new Chinese poster for Endgame, and aside from giving us some new looks at the living heroes the post-Infinty War team will have to rely on, it also features 14 of the ones who are no longer with us. As with all the rest of Endgame’s intentionally mysterious marketing teases, though, there’s a catch to the way the two groups are presented:

(4) VISA CATASTROPHE ENDS MALAYSIAN CON. Eleven cosplayers from four Asian countries plus the con organizer were taken into custody: “A Dozen Cosplayers Arrested During Immigration Raid at Cosplay Convention”.  

Twelve people without proper work visas were arrested during an immigration raid at a cosplay convention in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on its first day over the weekend.

The event, Cosplay Festival 4, had a line-up of performances on March 23 when officers from the Immigration Department of Malaysia (Jabatan Imigresen Malaysia/JIM) stormed its venue at the Sunway Putra Hotel around 2 p.m. after receiving a tip.

(5) AMAZON DEVELOPING BUTLER BOOK FOR TV. “‘Wild Seed’: Viola Davis Developing Adaptation Of Octavia Butler Novel At Amazon, Scripted By Nnedi Okorafor And Wanuri Kahiu”: Shadow and Act has the story.

“We love Octavia Butler and her work and have for decades. But Wild Seed is our favorite. It’s expansive, disturbing, and unique. Wild Seed stays with you. It’s a love/hate story of African immortals that connects people on the African continent to the Diaspora. It merges the mystical and the scientific seamlessly. You’re going to see shape-shifting, body jumping, telepaths, people born with the ability to defy the laws of physics, all in the context of our past, present and future world,” said Kahiu and Okorafor.

(6) THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM. Leonard Maltin says “‘Dumbo’ Begs the Question: Why?”

Disney’s new live-action Dumbo isn’t awful….but it isn’t very good, either. Why waste so much money and talent on a film that is foredoomed to take second place to a classic? I know it’s all about making money, yet surely there are new ideas to pursue instead of constantly reproducing past successes. In this case the bar is set impossibly high. Dumbo is my favorite animated Disney feature. It’s got heart, humor, and originality. What’s more, it tells its story in just over an hour’s time. It’s a perfect movie.

Why Tim Burton would devote himself to a mediocre remake with a bloated script I can’t imagine….

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 28, 1918 Robert J. Serling . Brother of that Serling. Author of several associational works including Something’s Alive on the Titanic. He wrote “Ghost Writer” published in Twilight Zone: 19 Original Stories on the 50th Anniversary. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 28, 1922 A. Bertram Chandler. Did you ever hear of popcorn literature? Well the Australian tinged space opera that was the universe that of the Rim World and John Grimes was such. A very good starting place is the Baen Books omnibus To The Galactic Rim which contains three novels and seven stories. If there’s a counterpart to him, it’d be I think Dominic Flandry who appeared in Anderson’s Technic History series. Oh, and I’ve revisited both to see if the Suck Fairy had dropped by. She hadn’t.  (Died 1984.)
  • Born March 28, 1942 Mike Newell, 77. Director whose genre work Includes The AwakeningPhotographing Fairies (amazing story, stellar film), Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (popcorn film — less filling, mostly tasty), Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and two episodes of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, to wit “Masks of Evil” and “The Perils of Cupid”.
  • Born March 28, 1981 Gareth David-Lloyd, 48. Best known for playing as Ianto Jones on Doctor Who and Torchwood. John Watson in (what is referred to as a steampunk version by Wiki) of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, also known simply as Sherlock Holmes. I also see him in Dark Signal, a supernatural thriller.
  • Born March 28, 1983 Natalie Lander, 36. I adore the amount of characterization that a performer brings to an animated character in the voice work they do. So it is with her work as Stargirl in the Justice League Action series of short animated works done recently. She created a smart and stubborn character who wasn’t going to be second to anyone. 

(8) REDDIT REELING AFTER MCDONALD SMEAR. A moderator of Reddit’s r/Fantasy group was one of the individuals engaged in the character assassination of Ed McDonald. The other moderators, trying to find a way forward, have posted a timeline of what they knew when, plus an apology. Here are excerpts.

WEDNESDAY

All hell broke loose within r/Fantasy. Up became down.

The r/Fantasy mods received information from multiple sources that there appeared to be a smear campaign against Ed McDonald. Retractions were posted from those who had put things out there involving Ed.

Later on Wednesday, we received information that one of the two individuals involved was a longstanding r/Fantasy moderator. WTF.

The r/Fantasy mod team shifted communications to remove that moderator from conversations and, during that process, that mod appears to have deleted his account. No information or other from that former mod.

TODAY – THURSDAY MORNING

We took time to try and sort things out. Again – looking to people across the industry and reputable sources. At this time there are retractions related to Ed McDonald across the internet from those who posted and information building that indicates mis-information was put out there against Ed McDonald. It also appears that one of those individuals was (a former) moderator of r/Fantasy.

The remaining r/Fantasy mods are reeling a bit with this crazy information.

NEXT STEPS

We would like to issue a formal apology to Ed McDonald for what has transpired. Go buy his books and give him a virtual hug. The information out there is incomplete but, at the very least, Ed is owed an apology for the call to ban him for 2019. Of course, he has been reinstated as an active r/Fantasy member.

Ed McDonald

No ill will should be borne towards those that were brought to be a part of something unwittingly. The level and scale of deception used to influence and coerce those that were used against me was extraordinary. And when I say that, unless you have seen the evidence, what you’re imagining by ‘extraordinary’ probably does not even begin to cover it. I’m going to go on stating this because even describing it that way does not begin to explain the lengths, depths and time investment that were put into this. The people who were coerced have been abused and they are also survivors of online stalking. Some of them have posted publicly to say that the perpetrator has groomed them for an entire year.

It is not right to be angry towards those whose trust has been abused. Those that have come forward and publicly apologised must not be blamed or attacked. Not in my name. Not because of this incident.

While I was the target, and the consequences of that targeting would have been life altering and devastating for me if not for the actions of those who believed in me and brought the truth to light, I am not the only survivor of online abuse. The people now discovering that they have spent months, or years, talking to and confiding in someone they believed to be a friend, only to discover that they have been played, are survivors as well.

Secondly, this has nothing to do with gender. I was not targeted because I was male. Due to the nature of the campaign, and because I have never met or spoken to the perpetrator, I do not know whether the person responsible is male or female. Please do not make this a platform for unrelated issues. The issue is entirely one of online harassment and falsification, which could happen to anybody irrespective of who they are.

Be kind to one another. If there’s at least one lesson we can all agree on, it’s surely that.

Author Mark Lawrence, creator of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, shared his own experience with being attacked.

[–]MarkLawrenceStabby Winner, AMA Author Mark Lawrence 136 points 2 hours ago 

It’s remarkably easy to raise a reddit lynch mob.

It happened to me (on a vastly smaller scale) in one thread. Half a dozen accounts – all started that day and all sharing the same word in their title – started calling me a cancer and accusing me of unspecified crimes against new authors.

Most people looking at the thread just saw lots of names saying I was the bad guy and me not lying down and taking my lumps. The one guy with many accounts got lots of upvotes and I was down in negative double digits.

Mods removed my replies.

It was unfortunate but not malicious on anyone’s part but the instigator. Modding a group is hard and there is often a lot going on at once.

The developments of the past few days have actually helped some people discover the author’s work for the first time, while others are trying to counter the toxicity with positive attention, such as Mark Timmony’s review of McDonald’s Blackwing.

(9) SJWC CRISIS. Not all cats live up to their reputation as companions in the quest for social justice…. BBC asks: “Should cats be culled to stop extinctions?”

Scientists are calling for a widespread cull of feral cats and dogs, pigs, goats, and rats and mice to save the endangered species they prey upon.

Their eradication on more than 100 islands could save some of the rarest animals on Earth, says an international team.

Islands have seen 75% of known bird, mammal, amphibian and reptile extinctions over the past 500 years.

Many of the losses are caused by animals introduced by humans.

Not naturally present on islands, they can threaten native wildlife.

“Eradicating invasive mammals from islands is a powerful way to remove a key threat to island species and prevent extinctions and conserve biodiversity,” said Dr Nick Holmes, from the group Island Conservation.

(10) SPACESUITS AREN’T THE ONLY PROBLEM. BBC finds way too much science gear is available only in large sizes: “One small step for man, but women still have to leap”.

Nasa has cancelled plans for its first all-female spacewalk this Friday, citing a lack of available spacesuits in the right size.

There are not enough suits configured on the International Space Station for both Christina Koch and Anne McClain to go out at the same time, so male astronaut Nick Hague will replace Lt Col McClain.

Last week, Lt Col McClain went on a spacewalk with Col Hague and learned that a medium-sized spacesuit fitted her best.

However, Nasa said in a statement: “Because only one medium-size torso can be made ready by Friday 29 March, Koch will wear it.”

For many women working in science, a choice between using equipment designed for men or missing out altogether is all too familiar.

(11) BITS BECOME BITERS. Or something like that: “Britain’s ‘bullied’ chatbots fight back”.

UK chatbot companies are programming their creations to deal with messages containing swearing, rudeness and sexism, BBC News has learned.

Chatbots have received thousands of antisocial messages over the past year.

One financial chatbot has been asked out on a date nearly 2,000 times and to “send nude [picture]s” more than 1,000, according to its makers, Cleo AI.

The chatbot now responds to the request by sending an image of a circuit board.

(12) MORE INTERNET TOXICITY. Apparently it far exceeds the ratio predicted by Sturgeon’s Law: “‘The biggest, strangest problem I could find to study'”.

Businesses are under siege every second of every day, bombarded by a “grey noise” of potentially harmful web traffic seeking access to their networks. But IT staff often can’t tell the malicious traffic from the benign. Why?

If your office building were visited thousands of times a day by criminals peering through the windows seeking a way in, you’d be understandably nervous about hanging around.

Yet any organisation with an online presence gets exactly this type of unwelcome attention all the time.

Security researcher Andrew Morris calls this constant barrage “grey noise” and has started a company of the same name with a mission of logging, analysing and understanding it.

…In 2018, Mr Morris’s network was hit by up to four million attacks a day. His honey-pot computers process between 750 and 2,000 connection requests per second – the exact rate depends on how busy the bad guys are at any given moment.

His analysis shows that only a small percentage of the traffic is benign.

That fraction comes from search engines indexing websites or organisations such as the Internet Archive scraping sites. Some comes from security companies and other researchers.

The rest of the internet’s background noise – about 95% – is malicious.

(13) MAKING A SPECTRE OF HERSELF. TIME Magazine dutifully published the official disclaimer. But the truth is out there! “‘As Far As We Know All Our Stores Are Ghost-Free.’ Supermarket Responds to Frozen Aisle Haunting Post”.

The employee, Christiana Bush, who works in the store’s bakery department, posted about the ghost sighting in a local, private Facebook group. ”This is going to sound really strange….but has anyone seen a ghost in the Wilmington market basket?” she wrote according to the Boston Globe. Adding that after she saw the woman, she looked to see if anyone else was catching a glimpse of the apparition and when she looked back she was gone.

“She looked kind of like melancholy and a little angry. So it was kind of a creepy kind of sense, but it was something,” Bush said Monday, according to the local NBC affiliate. She believes the woman was a ghost and asked the Facebook group whether anyone else had a paranormal experience in her store. The modern day ghost story has since gone viral with people across the country weighing in on the likelihood of a Victorian era ghost choosing to haunt a Market Basket.

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

Ed McDonald Called Victim of False #MeToo Charges

Last weekend’s SPFBO FB group announcement that a reviewer accused of harassing behavior had been dropped attracted comments raising a similar issue about Ed McDonald (not mentioned in the File 770 story). Today several bloggers issued public statements saying they now are convinced the charges against McDonald were fabricated — including two who did much to publicize them.

The Fantasy Book Critic blog today defended McDonald: “Recent Me Too Allegations & Ed McDonald”.

Fantasy Book Critic has now seen irrefutable evidence that the allegations against Ed McDonald have been falsified. 

We are now aware that Ed McDonald has been targeted for online harassment and abuse, and there is also irrefutable evidence of this. The evidence proves beyond all doubt that one or two individuals have utilized multiple social accounts with the express purpose of spreading malicious rhetoric against Ed McDonald, and making it appear that ‘reports’ are coming from numerous sources, where in fact they all come from a single source. This source has never met Ed McDonald….

At The Fantasy Inn a blogger known as Book Wol apologized for spreading the allegations, and also claims to have participated in uncovering their falsity: “BookWol: Regarding Ed McDonald Allegations”.

I am writing to publicly retract any allegations that I have been party to against Ed McDonald, and to offer my apologies to him for any distress this has caused him.
Myself and another member of the community were sent allegations against Ed McDonald by a number of social media accounts. These allegations made their way onto the internet and social media.I have been provided with hard evidence that proves beyond doubt that the allegations were falsified. 

…With this knowledge, for the purpose of the investigation, I was expressly instructed to behave as normal, continue to show public and if necessary, private support for the individual being investigated. I was to allow public conversations about Ed McDonald to continue and to allow and encourage the individual behind the allegations to feel emboldened by public support for them as evidence was gathered….

…Ed McDonald also provided me with this statement that I may share with you:

“The hurt that was done to me, and the attempt to attack my career and persona has been incredibly hard to bear, but I am glad that the truth has finally come to light. Where people have been deceived and lied to, I ask that they be treated with sympathy, and it be acknowledged that given the extreme nature of the levels of deceit, falsehood and misrepresentation that have been plotted carefully over the period of a year on a scale that nobody could possibly have imagined until the evidence came to light, I bear no ill will to those that were deceived in this way. Please be kind to one another and continue to promote a message of positivity.”

Esme at The Weatherwax Report, who had solicited #MeToo stories from readers, explains in ”About Ed McDonald” why she was deceived:

I was led to believe over a long period of time that Ed McDonald had repeatedly preyed on women he perceived as vulnerable, then discarded them and defamed them afterward. I believed this in its entirety because I was told this over, and over, and over again from seemingly different accounts from totally separate people. They had family histories. They had different profile pics. They had different personas and webpages dedicated to them. They were active accounts that truly appeared to be different entities. I was contacted by a third party investigator several days ago and after listening to what they had to say, I decided to cooperate and hand over evidence I had of these allegations. I no longer believe I was contacted by multiple women, and the feeling it gives me is horror.

The person who’s done this has made a mockery of real victims. One of the HARDEST parts about getting justice for those who have been victimized is just how emotionally straining it is for those who have been hurt to come forward and name someone. When BookWol and myself sent out that tweet asking for your stories, we weren’t inundated with dozens of names with just one or two accusers each. We had two names. With many, many people behind each name. It looked so genuine. One was real. The other was not. This does such terrible, terrible damage to the image of people coming forward. The fact that it was so elaborate and over such a long period of time is nothing short of mind-blowing….

Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off founder Mark Lawrence, gave the news a signal boost on Reddit, but also cautioned —

It’s also important not to let the fact that this was a hoax make us deaf to others who speak up about such things in the future.

Esme added there that she will be shuttering her blog for awhile in anticipation of being doxxed, and concerns about her personal safety.

I’ve actually just made my public statement that I’ll be closing down for at least a few months, possibly permanently.

From what I understand Ed’s involvement with this person was only 3 weeks of online talk… and they took years out of their lives building this web of lies around him. I can only imagine wtf they will try and do to Wol and myself for exposing it all.

I’ve made the statement on my blog about having the financial means to take them to court if they try anything – and I will also pay for Wols legal fees if she needs any assistance. It would be very unwise if they tried anything but I’ve been told that someone is sniffing around for our real names. We are both preparing for a doxxing event. I’ve been advised it would be wise to lay low for a while, and so I shall. In a few months, maybe after the summer passes, I’ll decide if it’s “safe” for me to pop back up.

[Thanks to Dann for the story.]

SPFBO 2018 Finalists

Mark Lawrence has posted the ten Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2018 finalists. SPFBO began with a 300-book longlist, and every finalist was the top pick out of 30 reviewed by the bloggers named in parentheses.

Here’s are the finlaists in alphabetical order by author’s name. To see the current scores, click the link above.

  • Ruthless Magic (Conspiracy of Magic Book 1) by Megan Crewe
  • Sowing (The Purification Era Book 1) by Angie Grigaliunas
  • The Gods of Men by Barbara Kloss
  • Out of Nowhere (The Immortal Vagabond Healer Book 1) by Patrick LeClerc
  • We Ride the Storm (The Reborn Empire Book 1) by Devin Madson
  • Symphony of the Wind (The Raincatcher’s Ballad Book 1) by Steven McKinnon
  • Orconomics: A Satire (The Dark Profit Saga Book 1) by J. Zachary Pike
  • Sworn to the Night (The Wisdom’s Grave Trilogy Book 1) by Craig Schaefer
  • Aching God (Iconoclasts Book 1) by Mike Shel
  • The Anointed by Keith Ward

They’re now in phase 2 of the contest, where the participating bloggers are allowed up to 6 months to read and score the other 9 finalists, review their favorite, and lastly, review the winner.

Mark Lawrence started the SPFBO self-published fantasy book contest four years ago.

The SPFBO exists to shine a light on self-published fantasy. It exists to find excellent books that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. It exists to help readers select, from the enormous range of options, books that have a better chance of entertaining them than a random choice, thereby increasing reader faith in finding a quality self-published read.

The bloggers are —

[Thanks to Dann for the story.]

Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off 2018 Finals Begin

Yesterday Mark Lawrence unveiled the page where he’ll track the 2018 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off Finals. Keep in mind this is not a sprint but a marathon.

Phase I began in June and runs through December. Ten participating bloggers have been chewing through the 300 entries to decide which book each of them will advance to the finals. The bloggers are —

The list of entries is here.

Lawrence explains how the first phase works —

This does not mean they have to read all the books. My own agent would go through that number in a day. But hopefully they will read part of all of them and all of some.

Then they have to post a review of their chosen title.

As of today, bloggers have eliminated 136 of the 300 entries. Follow their progress at this post.

In Phase 2, which also lasts five months, the bloggers —

  1. Read and score all 9 finalists from the other blogs.
  2. Review their favorite.
  3. Review the winner.

The final result will be revealed early in summer 2019.

Filers will be interested to know there are links to a large number of book reviews at the post for the first phase of the Blog-Off.

Pixel Scroll 9/27/18 Where Never Scroll, Or Even Pixels Flew

(1) DOES SFF LACK IMAGINATION? Charles Stross, in “Do my Homework”, asks questions that speculative fiction writers aren’t speculating about, including futures without capitalism or the patriarchy and near-future novels about what the world will be like in 50 or 75 years. Stross’ second example is –

The social systems based on late-stage currently-existing capitalism are hideously broken, but almost all the SF I see takes some variation on the current system as a given: in the future, apparently people will have these things called “jobs” whereby an “employer” (typically a Very Slow AI controlled by a privileged caste of “executives”) acquires an exclusive right to their labour in return for vouchers which may be exchanged for food, clothing, and shinies (these vouchers are apparently called “money”). Seriously folks, can’t we imagine something better?

(2) RAMPING UP TO ST:D SEASON TWO. Starting next week — October 4 — on CBS All Access, Star Trek: Short Treks. Here’s the trailer for the first one, “Runaway”

STAR TREK: SHORT TREKS, four stand-alone short stories, will begin rolling out on Thursday, October 4, in anticipation of the early 2019 return of STAR TREK: DISCOVERY. The first STAR TREK: SHORT TREKS is titled “Runaway” and stars Mary Wiseman as “Tilly.” Each short will run approximately 10-15 minutes and will be an opportunity for fans to dive deeper into key themes and characters that fit into the STAR TREK: DISCOVERY and expanding “Star Trek” universe. Each of STAR TREK: SHORT TREKS four stories will center on a key character, including familiar faces from STAR TREK: DISCOVERY: Mary Wiseman (Tilly), Doug Jones (Saru) and Rainn Wilson (Harry Mudd), in a short he will also direct, as well as a new character unfamiliar to fans, Craft, played by Aldis Hodge.

 

(3) PRO 101. Mark Lawrence, in “Advances”, wrote an overview of author advances/signing bonuses/etc.

…So, what is an advance exactly?

Well, it’s kinda a cash bonus, and kinda not. For authors an advance is a de-risking device, and for publishers it’s a risk. For both of them it signals a commitment to the success of the book.

The advance is, in some senses, a gift. It cannot be taken away as long as the author delivers the book/s and they are accepted. If my next trilogy only sells three copies I will still keep the advance.

In another very real sense the advance is not a gift. If my next trilogy sells a hundred thousand copies I won’t see a penny as all of the income from royalties that would otherwise by paid to me will instead go to the publisher to pay back the advance. That process continues until the publisher is paid back. At that point the book is said to have “earned out”. After that point the royalties (typically ~5 to 15% of the cover price, depending on the format) will come to me.

So whether I have to sell 1 copy or 1 million copies before I see any more money depends on the size of the advance. With no advance I will earn from the first sale. With a million dollar advance I would have to sell many hundreds of thousands of books, maybe millions if most are cheap ebooks….

Lawrence’s post set off a lot of interesting discussion on Reddit.

(4) CHRIS GARCIA. There’s a new Drink Tank out, issue 404: “Heavy Metal & Horror!” Chris Garcia is excited —

It’s the first issue working with Doug Berry as co-editor! There’s writing from me, Doug, Kirsten Berry, Kyle Harding, Jean Martin, and a great cover by Espana Sheriff!

It’s up at eFanzines – Drink Tank 404 [PDF file].

Chris adds, “We’ve got our big Musicals issue deadline coming up to on October 8th!”

(5) SHRINK RAP. Today at Book View Café Laura Anne Gilman went off: “A Meerkat Rants: Eff you, I’m not neurotic”.

But it’s out there now, this “Oh, creative people, always needing validation” meme, as though the need for validation is somehow a special snowflake thing reserved for us.  Like we spend every day of our lives whimpering because we din’t get enough love and attention when we were seven, or something.

Fuck you and the Freud you rode in on.

Here’s the thing, okay?  And listen up, because next time I say it it’s going to be with sharp pointy knives….

(6) GOING UP. A Japanese mission will test a space elevator concept. BGR’s Mike Wehner explains: “Japan is about to launch a mini space elevator that could be a sign of things to come”.

We’re obviously not there yet, but Japan’s small-scale test is still vitally important. The test will be conducted using a small prototype that will travel between two small satellites. The satellites will be connected via a cable, and the satellites will provide the tension needed to keep the cable straight. The tiny elevator will then move back and forth along the cable, testing the feasibility of “elevator movement” in space conditions.

(7) KNIGHTCASTING. Yahoo! Entertainment finds Mark Hamill’s new role has some similarities to his Star Wars role: “From Jedi Master to Knight Templar: First Look at Mark Hamill in ‘Knightfall’ Season 2”.

Mark Hamill laid down his lightsaber last year and is now picking up a sword, as he joins Season 2 of History’s drama series “Knightfall.” And the first look image of Hamill in character reveals that he does, in fact, get to rock a beard for this project, too. And this one is even more badass than Luke Skywalker’s facial hair.

Hamill will play Talus, a battle-hardened Knight Templar veteran of the Crusades, who survived captivity for 10 years in the Holy Land and is tasked with training the new initiates to the Order.

“Knightfall” goes inside the medieval politics and warfare of the Knights Templar, the most powerful, wealthy and mysterious military order of the Middle Ages who were entrusted with protecting Christianity’s most precious relics.

(8) ALL POINTS BULLETIN. Don’t be taken in.

(9) BREYFOGLE OBIT. Batman artist Norm Breyfogle has passed away at the age of 58.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born September 27, 1933 – Roger C. Carmel, Actor who played the infamous Harry Mudd in two classic Star Trek episodes, as well as voicing characters in the Transformers movies, TV series, and videogames.
  • Born September 27, 1934 – Greg Morris, Actor, known for a main role in the 1960s TV series Mission: Impossible, which he later reprised in the 1980s series remake, and for guest appearances in numerous episodes of genre shows such as The Six Million Dollar Man, Wonder Woman, and The Twilight Zone.
  • Born September 27, 1934 – Wilford Brimley, 84, Actor who has appeared in The Thing (the film adaptation of John W. Campbell, Jr.’s novella “Who Goes There?”), Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo finalist Cocoon, Cocoon: The Return, and the science fiction “classics” Ewoks: The Battle for Endor and Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.
  • Born September 27, 1947 – Michael Lee Aday, better known as Meat Loaf, 71, Actor and Musician who has had frequent cameo roles in horror TV episodes and movies, including the unusual distinction of appearing on the menu in both the cult film The Rocky Horror Picture Show and an episode of the HBO series Tales from the Crypt. He’s currently appearing in the series Ghost Wars.
  • Born September 27, 1947 – Denis Lawson, 71, Actor and Director from Scotland, best known to genre fans for playing rebel pilot Wedge Antilles in the original Star Wars trilogy and for being the uncle of young Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ewan McGregor.
  • Born September 27, 1950 – Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, 68, Actor and Producer, a well-known character actor who has played roles in many genre series including The Man in the High Castle, Lost in Space, Star Wars: Rebels, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Space Rangers, and Mortal Kombat, as well as voicing characters in numerous videogames.
  • Born September 27, 1956 – Sheila Williams, 62, Editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine for the past thirteen years, following twelve years before that working under Isaac Asimov and Gardner Dozois at the magazine, which is a remarkable achievement. Editor, with Gardner Dozois, of the 17 “Isaac Asimov:” subject anthologies – think everything from werewolves to robots – collected from the magazine. Williams has been a finalist or winner of the Best Editor Hugo in numerous years, and this year was given the Kate Wilhem Solstice Award for significant impact on speculative fiction by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA).
  • Born September 27, 1970 – Tamara Taylor, 48, Actor who appeared in the opening scene of the Firefly movie Serenity, currently has a role in the Altered Carbon series adapted from Richard K. Morgan’s books, and has played the voice of Wonder Woman in animated Justice League TV series and videogames.
  • Born September 27, 1973 – Indira Varma, 45, Actor and Producer from England who played Ellaria Sand in Game of Thrones and was Captain Jack’s second in the TV series Torchwood, in addition to doing numerous voice acting roles for videogames including World of Warcraft, Mass Effect, and Dragon Age.

Payment in thanks for not inflicting the trailer for Ewoks: The Battle for Endor on you today can be sent to JJ’s P.O. Box in Schenectady, NY.

(11) ANCIENT WORD BALLOONS. A Smithsonian post “Ancient Comics Line This Roman-Era Tomb in Jordan” shows that speech bubbles (more or less) are not a modern invention.

When people talk about old comics, strips like Little Orphan Annie or Nancy probably come to mind. But archaeologists in Jordan recently uncovered a truly old incarnation of the form. Painted on the walls inside a 2,000-year-old Roman-era tomb, Ariel David at Haaretz reports that there are nearly 260 figures featured in narrative scenes, with many speaking via comic-style speech bubbles.

The tomb was discovered during road construction in 2016 near the town of Bayt Ras, north of Irbid, Jordan….

(12) REVIEWING THE NEW DOCTOR. BBC collated the reviews: “Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor Who: What do the critics think?”

Jodie Whittaker’s first episode of Doctor Who has received broadly positive reviews from critics.

Her performance, those of her co-stars, and the production values of The Woman Who Fell To Earth came in for particular praise.

But some critics felt there was still room for improvement.

In his four-star review for The Sun, Rod McPhee said Whittaker “may be the breath of fresh air needed to revive a flagging franchise”.

“She doesn’t always strike the right balance between quirky geek and masterful Time Lord. And at times she comes across as irritatingly childlike.

“But the highest praise is that you quickly forget you’re watching a female Doctor and just accept you’re watching THE Doctor.”

(13) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Lost, stolen, or strayed? “Philip Pullman loses His Dark Materials ballpoint pen”.

The Oxford-based writer has turned to Twitter in the hope that his pen case, a Montblanc ballpoint pen and a pencil can be tracked down.

“I’m particularly attached to the pen, because I wrote His Dark Materials with it,” he tweeted.

The author does not remember when he last had his lost materials.

(14) DARK PHOENIX TRAILER. The next X-Men movie, in theaters February 14, 2019.

In DARK PHOENIX, the X-MEN face their most formidable and powerful foe: one of their own, Jean Grey. During a rescue mission in space, Jean is nearly killed when she is hit by a mysterious cosmic force. Once she returns home, this force not only makes her infinitely more powerful, but far more unstable. Wrestling with this entity inside her, Jean unleashes her powers in ways she can neither comprehend nor contain. With Jean spiraling out of control, and hurting the ones she loves most, she begins to unravel the very fabric that holds the X-Men together. Now, with this family falling apart, they must find a way to unite — not only to save Jean’s soul, but to save our very planet from aliens who wish to weaponize this force and rule the galaxy.

 

(15) MEXICANX SAGA CONTINUES. Hector Gonzalez reaches the deadline – for the food he’s serving: “My Road to Worldcon 76. Part 6: My Love Language is Tacos”.

… John had planned something during the opening ceremony. All the Mexicanx recipients in attendance would be present for it. That caused some issues with my timing, specifically getting the food ready for the reception. “A couple of degrees more in the oven will be needed,” I mused….

(16) DEAD MEN DO TELL TALES. Doctor Strangemind’s Kim Huett is people’s go-to consultant for more issues than you’d guess.

On a more supernatural note somebody who would prefer to remain anonymous asked me my opinion on the topic of vampiric tumescence. Surprisingly they didn’t seem to regret reading what I had to say. Hopefully none of you do either.

His answer appears in: “The Case of the Vampire Erect”.

…The initial question when framed as basically as possible is as follows. Are all vampires, some vampires, or indeed any vampires capable of achieving tumescence?…

(17) BLACK PANTHER’S QUEST. Thanks to SYFY Wire we know — “Marvel’s Avengers: Black Panther’s Quest – You can now watch the first episode online”.

A rogue splinter cell of Atlanteans attempt to take over the surface world in the first episode of Marvel’s Avengers: Black Panther’s Quest on Disney XD — and you can watch the entire episode now online.

 

(18) OUTRO. Kim Huett remembers: “Years ago SBS, an Australian TV channel used fr a while a very charming set of SF themed bumpers. I recently found a set of them on YouTube” —

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

Pixel Scroll 6/21/18 It’s A World Of Fiction, A World Of Smiles, It’s A World Of Pixels In Daily Files

(1) THE FRUITS OF VICTORY. Mark Lawrence posted a photo of the award being sent to the winner of the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off: “Where Loyalties Lie wins the PRESTIGIOUS SPFBO Selfie Stick!”

Yes, that time has come again. Following Where Loyalties Lies’ defeat of 299 other fantasy books in SPFBO 2017, it remained only for me to commission the fabled craftspeople of somewhere with low labour costs to fashion the third SPFBO Selfie Stick award.

This exquisite award, carved by hand from finest polymer resin has no association whatsoever with any wizarding school. So shut up.

(2) MORE SPFBO FUN. David H. introduced Filers to the “SPFBO title generator” in a comment:

My favorite titles generated were “The Legacy Shadow of the Legacy Shipwreck” and “The Brutal Raven of the Last Faces.” Someone got “The Foolish Oath of the Necromancer,” which sounds great, too.

I gave it a whirl and got The Spinning Kingdom of the Rise

(3) SFF IN TURKEY. The Economist explores “Why Turkish students are turning to speculative fiction”.

…In this difficult climate, speculative fiction has thrived as students turn to magical worlds to understand the grimness of the real one. A hundred books in the genre are being published in the country each year. Fantasy Fiction clubs continue to grow as students gather together to wage good against evil in unfettered realms. Istanbul University Science Fiction and Fantasy Club (BKFK), resurrected in the autumn of 2016, now claims more than 150 members. Fantasy has so far avoided the censors’ displeasure, though two men were indicted for “publicly denigrating” president Recep Tayyip Erdogan by likening him to Gollum, a character in “The Lord of the Rings” (one has since been acquitted).

“Despite what the name suggests, this genre is very interconnected with life,” writes Asli, the editor of Siginak, a fantasy-fiction magazine run by students (throughout this piece we refer to students only by their first names in the interests of their safety). In her story, titled “R-09 and Pluto”, two artificially intelligent robots contemplate the limits of their brains. Humans, the bots agree, are afraid of their creation’s potential power, so rules are designed to limit the use of their full intellect and to keep them from questioning authority. What could happen, one bot suggests, if they broke those rules and freed their minds?

(4) DANGEROUS VISIONS. Jonathan Cowie draws attention to BBC Radio 4’s new season of Dangerous Visions SF dramas: “Dangerous Visions: back… with a difference!” They include –

  • A 5-part drama (45 minute episodes) called First World Problems in which Britain fractures into civil war and a family with a Down’s syndrome teenager has to make some tough decisions.
  • A one-off 45 minute play called Freedom.

Marian has always told her son, Jamie, that it is fine to be gay, fine to be who you really are and that, in years to come, of course it will be possible for him to marry another man or adopt children.

All this changes when a newly elected coalition government decides political correctness has got out of hand and passes a Freedom Law that licenses both the freedom to say whatever you like, however hateful, and the right not to be offended. Now Jamie has to decide how to be true to himself in a society where intolerance has become acceptable, and Marian confronts what she might need to do to keep him safe.

An absorbing play about the political becoming personal and how an apparently liberal society can threaten those who don’t conform.

  • A one-off 45 minute play called Speak.

Lucian has a vocabulary that is limited to a core 1500 words, but Clara wants to teach him those that are forbidden. A dystopian love story about the power of words, set in a near future where the language spoken is Globish – a reduced version of English.

The OED lists 171,476 English words in current use. The average adult native English speaker has an active vocabulary of about 35,000 – 50,000 words. But studies suggest our vocabularies are shrinking.

Globish is a real international business language, developed in 2004, made up of the most common 1500 English words. It is designed to promote international communication in the global economy. ‘Speak’ imagines a future in which Globish has become the official language.

A gripping two-hander about the power of words; how words – and even more, the absence of words – can control, confine, leach emotion and trap minds.

(5) INKLINGS BEGINS. Brenton Dickieson recounts a bit of literary history with the help of a Lewis biographer: “The First Meeting of the Inklings, with George Sayer”.

For years no regular event delighted Jack more than the Thursday evening meetings of the little group of friends called the Inklings. His was the second group to use this name. Its predecessor was founded in about 1930 by a University College undergraduate named Tangye Lean. Members met in each other’s rooms to read aloud their poems and other work. There would be discussion, criticism, encouragement, and frivolity, all washed down with wine or beer. Lean’s group consisted mainly of students, but a few sympathetic dons were invited to join, including Tolkien and Jack, who may have been Lean’s tutor. Lean graduated in June 1933, and that autumn Jack first used the name the Inklings to describe the group that had already begun to meet in his rooms.

It was always utterly informal. There were no rules, no officers, and certainly no agenda. To become a member, one had to be invited, usually by Jack. Nearly all members were his friends.

(6) BABY’S BIRTHDAY. BBC recalls “The ‘Baby’ that ushered in modern computer age”.

A machine that took up an entire room at a laboratory in Manchester University ran its first programme at 11am on 21 June 1948.

The prototype completed the task in 52 minutes, having run through 3.5 million calculations.

The Manchester Baby, known formally as the Small-Scale Experimental Machine, was the world’s first stored-program computer.

(7) GOLDEN AGE. Steven H Silver celebrates an author’s natal day in “Birthday Reviews: Cleve Cartmill’s ‘Huge Beast’” at Black Gate.

Cleve Cartmill was born on June 21, 1908 and died on February 11, 1964. Cartmill also used the name Michael Corbin when he had two stories appearing in the same issue of Unknown Worlds in 1943.

He is perhaps best known for his story “Deadline,” which appeared in the March 1944 issue of Astounding Science Fiction. The story was discussed at Los Alamos, where Edward Teller noted that Cartmill had described aspects of their research in detail. The discussion led to an FBI investigation into Cartmill, Campbell, and some other science fiction authors. Cartmill is said to have had a low opinion of the story, himself.

(8) OCTAVIA BUTLER GOOGLE DOODLE. Google is honoring Octavia Butler’s birthday, June 22, with this artwork:

(9) IN THE BACK YARD. Jeff VanderMeer is not a gardener’s typical customer:

(10) OUT OF THE TOOLBOX. Nancy Kress shared these humorous highlights from the Taos Toolbox critiques:

At Taos Toolbox, Carrie Vaughn gave a great talk on goal setting and handling a long series. We also had two lectures, Walter’s and mine, and critiqued four manuscripts — a long day. Memorable quote from the critiques:

“I love when she stuffs the alien pterodactyl shell down her bra.”

“Space seems to have been colonized only by Germans.”

“You can’t really hide a pulsar.”

“It needs to be clearer that the starfish and the librarians are different species.”

“I love that she gave away Mars.”

“WTF did I just read — in a good way!”

“It’s Guardians of the Galaxy meets House of Usher.”

“There are too few bicycles in fantasy. Gandalf would have ridden a Cannondale.”

“You might want to put some people on the planet who aren’t dumb as stumps.”

(11) THE SKY’S NOT THE ONLY LIMIT. Multiple record-holding astronaut Peggy Whitson is retiring from NASA, in large part because she’s been in space so long (over several missions) that she’s hit her lifetime radiation limit. Among other things, Whitson, holds the U.S. record for the most cumulative time in space. She’s been the oldest female astronaut in space (57), the oldest female spacewalker, and has the record for the most spacewalks by a woman (10). She was also the first female chief of the Astronaut Office—she stepped down from that in 2012 so she could fly more missions.

SYFY Wire says “Everyone should know Peggy Whitson’s name”.

This doesn’t come as a huge shock; there’s actually a very good, practical reason that Whitson stepped down. Anyone that is outside the protection of the Earth’s atmosphere is exposed to higher levels of radiation. There are yearly exposure limits, as well as lifetime limits, established by NASA. Whitson is so well-traveled that this has become a problem. “I have hit my radiation limit,” she told Business Insider. As a result, she can no longer fly in space through NASA

A BBC News video story about what she had to overcome — “100 Women: Astronaut Peggy Whitson on being told she’d never go to space”.

Quoting the NASA press release, “Record-Setting NASA Astronaut Peggy Whitson Retires”:

“Peggy Whitson is a testament to the American spirit,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine. “Her determination, strength of mind, character, and dedication to science, exploration, and discovery are an inspiration to NASA and America. We owe her a great debt for her service and she will be missed. We thank her for her service to our agency and country.”

Whitson, a native of Beaconsfield, Iowa, first came to NASA in 1986 as a National Research Council Resident Research Associate at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. She served in a number of scientific roles, including project scientist for the Shuttle-Mir Program and co-chair of the U.S.-Russian Mission Science Working Group, before her selection to the astronaut corps in 1996.

“It has been the utmost honor to have Peggy Whitson represent our entire NASA Flight Operations team,” said Brian Kelly, director of Flight Operations at Johnson. “She set the highest standards for human spaceflight operations, as well as being an outstanding role model for women and men in America and across the globe. Godspeed, Peg.”

As an astronaut, Whitson completed three long-duration missions to the International Space Station, setting records on each. She made her first trip in 2002 as part of Expedition 5, during which she took part in 21 science investigations and became NASA’s first space station science officer. In 2008, Whitson returned on Expedition 16 and became the first female commander of the space station.

During her most recent mission, spanning Expeditions 50, 51 and 52 from November 2016 to September 2017, Whitson became the first woman to command the space station twice (Expedition 51). She also claimed the title for most spacewalks by a woman – 10 spacewalks totaling 60 hours and 21 minutes – and set the record for most time spent in space by a U.S. astronaut at 665 days.

(12) RETURN OF SARAH CONNOR. Any dedicated Terminator fans in the house? You guys have your own website!

TheTerminatorFans.com has pictures from the set of the upcoming Terminator movie showing Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor: “Exclusive First Look at Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in Terminator (2019)”.

(13) MASS DEFECT. Today’s issue of Nature reports some (just some) of the universe’s missing mass seems to have been found.

(14) SEA LEVEL. Another Nature comment paper (open access) assesses whether “Sea-level rise could overwhelm coral reefs” [PDF file]. Research paper abstract here, also behind a paywall if you’re not a Nature subscriber.

(15) LAST JEDI REMAKERS. ULTRAGOTHA asks: “Have you seen this? Some, er, I can’t actually call them fans, are evidently attempting to raise money to re-make a DISNEY property. Presumably to get rid of POC and Girl Cooties. Or maybe they’re not raising money and some ‘Producers’ have pledged to pay for this?  What producer in his right mind would think he could get away with meddling with a Disney property, or that Disney would agree to this?”

Chuck Wendig has some questions for them in this Twitter thread.

Travis Clark, in “‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ director Rian Johnson taunted a campaign to remake the movie” on Business Insider, says somebody on Twitter using the account Remake The Last Jedi claims to have enough money to remake Star Wars: The Last Jedi, a claim mocked by many, including Rian Johnson:

(16) GENRE BLENDING. “Hong Kong sci-fi film mixes robots and Chinese opera” (video).

Featuring flying warrior robots and guitar-toting opera singers, Hong Kong animation Dragon’s Delusion aims to break stereotypes of Chinese culture.

Its producers are now making a feature-length film after a successful crowdfunding exercise.

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