Pixel Scroll 1/2/20 Pixellate In Glorious Scrollovision

(1) NETWORK ANALYSIS OF RWA/MILAN CONTROVERSY. Mikki Kendall did a breakdown for NBC News: “The Romance Writers of America racism row matters because the gatekeepers are watching”.

…Let’s talk about the power of romance. There’s power in the written word, even in a genre that we tend to consider — because of sexism — less intellectual than some others. And it isn’t just about hearts and flowers and candy; this is cold hard cash: Romance as a literary genre represents a quarter of all fiction sales and more than half of all paperback sales, and it brings in over a billion dollars in sales annually.

The impact of romance books on the culture is outsize because everyone is interested in romance, whether they admit it publicly or not.

…But there’s inevitably a small contingent of writers who simply can’t handle being criticized, whether directly or indirectly. Vitriolic responses to critics are hardly limited to well-known writers; those who aspire to become household names are equally prone to them. Having your work dissected, discussed and sometimes even demeaned, however, is part of putting it out into the world. All writers know this — or at least they should — and writing romance novels is no exception.

(2) FOLLOW THE MONEY. Jason Sanford continues releasing interviews he conducted with sff magazine editors in conjunction with his well-researched report #SFF2020: The State of Genre Magazines.

Jason: You said Fireside pays its editors a fee for each issue of the print magazine, with the fee based on Fireside’s word rate and the revenue to pay for this coming entirely from subscribers. Was there a break-even point with subscribers where this started to work? Do you still rely on any fundraising to support the magazine?

Pablo: I think using a word like ‘fundraising’ is misleading. Fireside is not a non-profit, and it’s not a charity – so we’re not ‘raising funds’ for anything. Using vocabulary linked to non-profits and charities implies that the people who support us are doing so out of the kindness of their heart, without receiving any direct value in return. The stories, artwork, and publications that Fireside publishes have value, our customers recognize that, and are willing to pay money for it.

But I digress. To answer your question…

Jason: According to this year’s Locus Magazine survey, Escape Pod has an audience size of 37,000 people, making it one of the largest English-language SF magazines in the world. What percentage of your audience supports the magazine with donations? Any  thoughts on how to convinces more genre readers and listeners to support the magazines they love?

Mur: I believe we have the typical 1% rate of donation. We have no funding but our listeners, and the couple of times we’ve been in trouble, we’ve been honest with saying, hey, we can’t keep delivering the show to you if you don’t support us, and they’ve always stepped up. With Patreon it’s much easier to allow people to donate on a sustaining level and get rewards as well!

(3) ROSE IS STILL MISSING. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the Washington Post, Michael Cavna discusses the controversy over whether Kelly Marie Tran deserved more screen time in The Rise of Skywalker, noting that screewnwriter Chris Terrio has withdrawn his explanation that Tran would have had many scenes with Carrie Fisher had Fisher lived to not much of an explanation at all: “Many Star Wars fans are upset the new movie sidelines Kelly Marie Tran’s character. The writer is trying to explain.”

…On Monday, Terrio walked back that explanation, saying that the real issue with Rose had nothing to do with visual effects.

He told Vulture: “I badly misspoke if in an earlier statement I implied that any cut scenes between Rose and Leia were the fault of our VFX team and the wizards at ILM. In that earlier interview, I was referring to a specific scene in which Leia’s emotional state in ‘Episode VII’ [‘The Force Awakens’] did not seem to match the scene we wrote for use in ‘Episode IX’ [‘Rise’] and so it was cut at the script stage before the VFX work was done.”

Terrio underscored to the Hollywood Reporter on Monday that the issue did not involve “photorealism,” as he earlier stated. “I would sometimes come and sit at the VFX reviews and my jaw would drop at seeing Leia live again.”

(Representatives from the film have not yet responded to a request from The Post to speak with Terrio.)

(4) FAVES OF 2019. Hot off the blocks with the New Year, SF² Concatenation has its team’s annual choice for the Best SF books and films of the previous year. They have advance posted “Best Science Fiction of the Year – Possibly?” ahead of their spring edition of news and reviews (which is slated for mid-January).

Every year, around Christmas and New Year a round-robin is sent to many members of the SF² Concatenation team asking for their favourite SF/F/H books and films of the previous year.  If just two or three nominate the same work then it gets added to a list of Best SF/F/H works of the previous year.  This list appears in the Spring (northern hemisphere academic year) edition’s news page.  It is simply a bit of fun and not meant to be taken too seriously but as a pointer for our regulars to perhaps check out some recent works.  Yet over the years, each year sees a few from these lists go on to be short-listed, and even win, a number of SF awards.

Spooky, huh?

(5) BITES JUST RIGHT. “Dracula: Critics applaud ‘energetic and fun’ revival of vampire classic” – BBC has a roundup.

The BBC’s new take on Dracula is a hit with critics, one of whom says it is “the meatiest, goriest, most energetic and fun version” she has ever seen.

“Previous versions now look anaemic,” writes The Times’ Carol Midgley.

The Mail’s reviewer hailed “a Dracula to delight horror movie fans of all stripes” in his five-star write-up.

The Telegraph’s reviewer, meanwhile, praised Danish actor Claes Bang for his “witty, outrageous and thrilling” portrayal of Bram Stoker’s vampire.

“It might not have been faithful to the original, but it was a scream,” writes the paper’s Anita Singh.

The BBC One mini-series has been written and created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, the duo behind the award-winning Sherlock.

(6) BREATHE IN. IGN interviews the midwives…. “Galaxy Quest: How the Thermians Were Born”.

…Parisot remembers Colantoni’s audition inventiveness setting the tone for the Thermians. After a solid read, the direct says he could tell the actor was holding back on his way out the door.

“For some reason I said, ‘Rico, it seems like you’ve got something on your mind,’” recalls the director. “He goes, ‘Well, I have this voice. I don’t know if it works.’ I said, ‘What is it? Try it.’ He did it and I just went, ‘Oh my God, that’s it!’

“The Thermians came out of that voice,” Parisot continues. As more actors were added to the Thermian ranks, that voice became the reference point with every addition, including Missi Pyle (Laliari), Jed Rees (Teb), and Patrick Breen (Quellek).

“We had alien school and we would come up with things like the walk,” Parisot remembers. “Rather than swinging in the direction most people do, we went the opposite direction with the arms, and the posture because they’re basically giant calamari hiding in human shape.

(7) THE DAY OF THEIR RETURN. It might be this year.“Chandrayaan-3: India plans third Moon mission”.

India has announced plans for a third lunar mission, months after its last one crash landed on the Moon’s surface.

The chairman of India’s space agency, K Sivan, said work was going “smoothly” on the Chandrayaan-3 unmanned mission.

He said the country was aiming to launch the mission in 2020 but that it “may spill over” to 2021.

If successful, it would make India the fourth country to achieve a soft landing on the Moon, and boost its credentials as a low-cost space power.

(8) BUT WAIT — THERE’S MORE. “India Announces Plans For Its First Human Space Mission”.

India’s space agency says that four astronaut candidates have been selected for its first human mission, targeted to launch by 2022, but they’ve not been publicly named or identified.

India hopes to join the United States, Russia and China as the world’s fourth nation capable of sending people to space. It has been developing its own crewed spacecraft, called Gaganyaan (or “sky vehicle” in Sanskrit), that would let two to three people orbit the Earth on a week-long spaceflight.

K Sivan, the chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, held a press briefing on New Year’s Day and told reporters that the four astronauts would start their training in Russia in a few weeks.

(9) NATIONAL SCIENCE FICTION DAY. There’s even a Wikipedia entry – unfortunately, one that makes it sound like a big commercial. That attitude would make more sense to me if I’d ever seen a Hallmark card for the occasion.  

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 2, 1996 The Demon Headmaster aired the first episode of its three seasons. Based on the children’s series by Gillian Cross of the same name, the later books were based off the screenplays for the series which Cross wrote. The cast included Terrence Hardiman, Frances Amey, Gunnar Atli, Cauthery and Thomas Szekeres. A sequel series was done. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 2, 1920 Isaac Asimov. I can’t possibly summarize him here so I won’t. My favorite novels by him are the original Foundation novels followed very closely by his Galactic Empire series and I, Robot. I know I’ve read a lot of his short fiction but I’ll be damn if I can recall any of it specifically right now. (Died 1992.)
  • Born January 2, 1940 Susan Wittig Albert, 80. She’s the author of The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter, a series of mysteries featuring that writer. Really. Truly. Haven’t read them but they bear such delightful titles as The Tale of Cuckoo Brow Wood. She has non-genre series involving an herbalist and a gardening club as well. 
  • Born January 2, 1948 Deborah Watling, Best known for her role as Victoria Waterfield, a companion of the Second Doctor. She was also in Downtime, playing the same character, a one-off sequel to a sequel to the Second Doctor stories, The Abominable Snowmen and The Web of Fear. No Doctors were to be seen. If you’ve seen the English language dubbed version of Viaje al centro de la Tierra (Where Time Began, based off Verne’s Journey to the Center of The Earth), she’s doing the lines of Ivonne Sentis as Glauben. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 2, 1952 Caitlín Matthews, 68. Fiction writer. Well she sure as Odin’s Beard isn’t a scholar in any meaningful sense. With her husband John, she’s written such works as King Arthur’s Raid on the Underworld: The Oldest Grail Quest, The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures and on her own, Mabon and the Mysteries of Britain: An Exploration of the Mabinogion. They’re entertaining as long as you accept that they’re really mostly fiction. 
  • Born January 2, 1959 Patrick Nielsen Hayden, 61. Wiki in a fit of exuberance list him as a “editor, fan, fanzine publisher, essayist, reviewer, anthologist, teacher and blogger”. Which is true. He’s won three Hugo Awards for Best Editor Long, and he won a World Fantasy Award for editing the Starlight 1 anthology. 
  • Born January 2, 1967 Tia Carrere, 53. Best remembered for her three-season run as Sydney Fox, rogue archeologist on Relic Hunter. She’s been in a lot of one-offs on genre series including Quantum Leap, Hercules, Tales from The Crypt, Airwolf, Friday the 13th and played Agent Katie Logan for two episodes on Warehouse 13.
  • Born January 2, 1979 Tobias S. Buckell, 41. I read and enjoyed a lot his Xenowealth series which he managed to wrap up rather nicely. The collection he edited, The Stories We Tell: Bermuda Anthology of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror, is well worth reading, as is his own Tides from a New World collection.
  • Born January 2, 1983 Kate Bosworth, 37. She’s Barbara Barga in the SS-GB series done the superb Len Deighton novel. She’s both a producer and a performer on The I- Land Netflixseries where she’s KC, a decidedly not nice person. For a more positive character, she portrayed Lois Lane in Superman Returns.

(12) SOLAR TO BLAME. Mark Lawrence’s “Star one stars!” features bad reviews that Amazon customers gave books, complaining about things that aren’t in the writer’s control. His first example —

I was recently the lucky recipient of this 1* review on Amazon. It struck me as worthy of note because not only is it not a review of the book, it’s not even a criticism of Amazon. It’s more of a critique of the customer’s own life skills…

“1*: Can’t remember ordering these books. Not my type of subject. Unable to find a method of cancelling the transaction”

(13) LIGHT ‘EM UP. Cora Buhlert tells how she celebrated a “Happy New Year 2020” in Germany, where fireworks are part of the tradition – but for how long?

…However, this year some organisations are calling for a complete ban on private fireworks. The initial reasons given were environmental – fireworks release smoke and microparticles, but then other reasons like animal welfare and health and safety were also given. Plus, there is a call – echoed by various charities – that fireworks are a waste of money and that the people should rather donate the money spent on fireworks to charity. One figure that’s often bandied about is that in 2018, 130 million Euros were spent on fireworks in Germany. That sounds like a lot – until you do the calculations and realise that this figure means that every person in Germany spent 1,57 Euros per year on fireworks on average. And 1,57 Euros per person is not a lot of money, especially if you consider that the total figure of 130 million Euros also includes money spent on professional fireworks.

So why are fireworks suddenly so controversial, especially since they are limited to one night of the year – with the occasional firecracker going off a few days before or after? IMO, the underlying reason is just that some people find fireworks annoying, because they are noisy, frivolous and the wrong kind of people (teenagers, immigrants, poor people) are having fun. In recent times, there has been a resurgence of the kind of joyless moralism that dominated the 1980s. And not coincidentally, the “Give to charity rather than buying fireworks” campaign originally also dates from the 1980s.

(14) IN TIMES TO COME. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] Nature points out “The science events to watch for in 2020”. This includes… 2020 will see a veritable Mars invasion as several spacecraft, including three landers, head to the red planet. NASA will launch its Mars 2020 rover, which will stash rock samples that will be returned to Earth in a future mission and will also feature a small, detachable helicopter drone. China will send its first lander to Mars, Huoxing-1, which will deploy a small rover. A Russian spacecraft will deliver a European Space Agency (ESA) rover to the red planet — if issues with the landing parachute can be resolved. And the United Arab Emirates will send an orbiter, in the first Mars mission by an Arab country. Closer to home, China is planning to send the Chang’e-5 sample-return mission to the Moon.

Attached is a pic of the forthcoming Mars lander being tested.

(15) ONLY 3600-SOME-ODD SHOPPING DAYS ‘TIL. In “The 2030 Last-Minute Christmas Gift Guide” on Vice, Tim Maughan foresees what the hot holiday items of ten years from now will be, including Barron Trump’s rap albums and Marvel Vs. Star Wars VI: The Final Conflict.

…Want to take a low flying helicopter ride over the Texas Refinery District Toxic Exclusion Zone? Try urban scuba deep under what was once the Miami waterfront? Or maybe you want to take a leaf out of your favorite influencer’s book, and get your photo taken on the rim of the crater that was once the Space X test facility? The Unlimited Dream Company can make it happen, with its range of exclusive, customizable tourist trips. You’ll be given full safety training and orientation—including an entry level handgun course for trips in disputed states—and will be accompanied by medical staff*, Darklake certified security agents, and tour guides with unmatched local knowledge.

(16) RESOLUTIONS. At Brain Pickings, Maria Popova selects “Elevating Resolutions for the New Year Inspired by Some of Humanity’s Greatest Minds” (2016). A long Ursula K. Le Guin excerpt crowns the middle of the list – but the Vonnegut is short enough to quote —

In 2005, Kurt Vonnegut (November 11, 1922–April 11, 2007) — a man of discipline, a sage of storytelling, and one wise dad — penned a short and acutely beautiful remembrance of his friend Joseph Heller, who had died several years earlier. Originally published in the New Yorker, it was later reprinted in John C. Bogle’s Enough: True Measures of Money, Business, and Life (public library).

JOE HELLER

True story, Word of Honor:
Joseph Heller, an important and funny writer
now dead,
and I were at a party given by a billionaire
on Shelter Island.

I said, “Joe, how does it make you feel
to know that our host only yesterday
may have made more money
than your novel ‘Catch-22’
has earned in its entire history?”
And Joe said, “I’ve got something he can never have.”
And I said, “What on earth could that be, Joe?”
And Joe said, “The knowledge that I’ve got enough.”
Not bad! Rest in peace!

(17) ART LARP. “One Night In An Edward Hopper Hotel Room? It’s Less Lonely Than You Might Think”.

It isn’t hard to imagine yourself inside an Edward Hopper painting — having a coffee at a late-night diner, or staring out the bedroom window at the bright morning sun.

Now, for $150 a night, you can sleep in one — or a reproduction of one — at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond. Designers have constructed a 3D version of Hopper’s 1957 Western Motel, and invited Hopper fans to sleep over.

It feels a little funny getting undressed for bed in a museum. (There are plenty of nudes on the walls, but you don’t expect to be one yourself.) But suddenly there you are, in your jammies — a guard outside in the hallway — turning off the goose-neck lamp on the bedside table, tucking yourself under a deep burgundy bedspread, and looking out the big picture “window” at a green Buick parked outside.

(18) THE NEXT MARVEL FIRSTS. “Marvel to get first transgender superhero”. And that’s not all.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is set to get its first transgender superhero.

“And very soon. In a movie that we’re shooting right now,” Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige said during a Q&A at the New York Film Academy.

Asked by a fan whether there were any plans for more LGBT characters in Marvel’s films, “specifically the T, trans characters”, Kevin said: “Yes, absolutely. Yes.”

This year, The Eternals will introduce Marvel movies’ first gay character.

There have been reports since 2019 that Phase 4 of the MCU – the films following the Avengers Infinity saga – would star a trans character.

Marvel has also said it will introduce its first deaf superhero in The Eternals and its first Asian-American superhero, in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.

“You look at the success of Captain Marvel and Black Panther. We want the movies to reflect the audience and we want every member of our global audience to see themselves reflected on the screen,” Kevin Feige previously said.

(19) DIY. “Invasion Planet Earth: Sci-fi filmed in Birmingham” — video, with clips and interviews.

Since being a teenager Simon Cox loved science fiction, especially Star Wars.

He wanted to make his own blockbuster, and he has finally realised his dream to write and direct his own film, which is called Invasion Planet Earth.

It’s taken 20 years, crowd funding and several campaigns to fund the small budget film.

Much of the sci-fi epic was filmed in Birmingham with 900 Brummies acting as extras.

The movie, which has been shown in mainstream cinemas, is available on DVD and available to download.

(20) LOOKING AHEAD. Sounds like they’re not going with Jubal Harshaw’s solution. BBC covers “Writing a ‘national anthem’ for Mars” — video, with performance.

An Indian former software analyst who’s now a rising star in the opera world has written a new “national anthem” for Mars.

Oscar Castellino was commissioned to give the Red Planet its own anthem by the UK’s Mars Society – to promote the idea that if humans ever live there then they will need their own musical identity.

(21) THESE ARE THE DROIDS I’M LOOKING FOR. Philadelphia channel 17 captured the highly stfnal “Fralinger String Band at the 2020 Mummers Parade” on video.  

Love the Fralinger String Band?  Then you came to the right place.   We’ve got Fralinger’s 2020 Mummers Parade performance video of their “Lunar Effect” theme and some photos below.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

Today In 2029…This odd future came into view…

We Will Never Know If a Movie Is a Hit

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

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

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

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

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

Full Spoilers below.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 12/19/19 A Rising Scroll Files All Pixels

(1) RINGING UP FANDOM. io9’s Katharine Trendacostasays this was “The Decade Fandom Went Corporate”. Quite a bit to think about here.

In the last twenty years, fandom and mass culture have basically merged. Fans and fandom spent the 2000s fighting for legitimacy and proving their combined worth. And corporations? Well, they spent the 2010s learning how to co-opt fandom to silence critics, manipulate press, and make even more money.

For decades and decades, fandom wasn’t something you talked about. Not really. Fanfic, fanart, and cosplay—those were things shared at conventions and in zines and, later, in usenet groups. Even the outwardly facing form of fandom—the manboy fan with his collectibles and endless trivia debates—was usually presented as something to be ashamed of.

… Transformative fandom’s road was much rockier. The split between curatorial and transformative fandom—with one more accepted than the other—has been historically viewed as gendered. Transformative fandom is where fans don’t just consume the media, they make it their own. This is where you get cosplay, fan films, and so on. Transformative fandom got you in trouble. Being threatened with legal action for writing fanfic was a very real danger.

I’d argue that transformative fandom calls to marginalized groups in general because it is the realm of people who see something compelling in a piece of media and then reinterpret it in a new way, to make it easier to identify with. Hollywood—and comics, and book writers, and so on—has been so white, so straight, and so male for so long. Transformative fandom lets people participate in mainstream culture and still get to see themselves in it.

… In the same way people these days use things like GoFundMe to raise money for basic necessities, fanwork creators have started taking commissions for their work. This is another expression of the hellscape of 2019, where people can’t afford rent, food, or healthcare and are mobilizing their skills and their communities to survive. This is depressing but understandable. There is also the rise of sites Redbubble (founded 2006) and Etsy (founded in 2006), where fans can sell their work to other fans. Where selling any of this thing in any sort of public forum used to be terrifying, it’s now fairly normal.

There are legal concerns, of course. It’s just that, these days, between the work of groups like OTW and the Electronic Frontier Foundations (which, full disclosure, I work at), there’s more understanding and legal precedent showing that fanworks are transformative and not copyright infringement. Creators and companies also have figured out that this kind of fan creation is the result of a love for their show, movie, etc. and that going after fans—in the way Anne Rice was famous for—can only serve to alienate your base….

(2) FOUR ON THE FLOOR. Tor.com’s Leah Schnelbach, Christina Orlando, Natalie Zutter and Renata Sweeney dialogue about “2010-2019: A Decade of Change in Science Fiction & Fantasy”. About halfway through the conversation they get into —

SELF-REFLEXIVE NERDERY

Zutter: The other 2012 book I wanted to mention was Redshirts by John Scalzi. I feel like it tapped into this era of self-reflexive, meta sci-fi. Riffing on Star Trek, in sort of the Galaxy Quest realm.

Orlando: I was going to bring up Space Opera by Cat Valente, that element of taking the trope and just running with it, even to the extent of calling the book “space opera”. It’s a commentary on tropey stuff, where I think for a long time tropes were something to be avoided, but we see more and more, especially from people who came up through fanfiction, the love of tropes, and the idea of leaning into “there’s only one bed” or those kinds of things, cause it’s the stuff that we find comforting. It does get tongue-in-cheek, and creates layers of commentary on genre itself—

Zutter: This shared language.

Sweeney: The previous year’s Ready Player One was sort of nerd nostalgia, so it’s Redshirts-adjacent. Armada and Ready Player One are steeped in nostalgia in a way that I don’t think Redshirts is, in that self-referential, “This is a joke that you only get if you understand nerd culture” way….

(3) TIME RUNS OUT. The trailer for Christopher Nolan’s TENET.

(4) HAMMERING ON HIS TYPEWRITER. This column by Galactic Journey’s Victoria Silverwolf includes a capsule description of an author I found very entertaining when I originally discovered sff: “[December 19, 1964] December Galactoscope #2”.

The Anvil Chorus

Christopher Anvil is the pseudonym of Harry C. Crosby, who published a couple of stories under his real name in the early 1950’s. After remaining silent for a few years, he came back with a bang in the late 1950’s, and has since given readers about fifty tales under his new name. His work most often appears in Astounding/Analog.

A typical Anvil yarn is a lightly comic tale about clever humans defeating technologically advanced but naive aliens. Perhaps his best-known story is Pandora’s Planet (Astounding, September 1956), the first of a series of humorous accounts of the misadventures of lion-like aliens trying to deal with the chaos caused by those unpredictable humans.

(5) KGB. Ellen Datlow has posted her photos from “Fantastic Fiction at KGB December 2019”.

Paul Tremblay (R) read a powerful excerpt from his next novel coming out next year and Nathan Ballingrud (L) read from a story he just finished writing a few days ago.

Nathan Ballingrud and Paul Tremblay 1

(6) STAR WARS: A NEW HOPI DESIGN. “‘The Force Is With Our People’ Connects Indigenous Culture To A Galaxy Far Away”.

Artist Duane Koyawena is piloting a custom R2D2 unit in front of the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff, Ariz. It’s life-size and has all the signature bleeps and squawks of the original. But its appearance has a unique Southwestern spin.

“When I was thinking about it, I was like … wouldn’t it be cool to see an R2 that’s decked out [and] looks actually like a pottery?” he says. “So along with that comes the designs, and so the tans and the reddish burn marks from when they fire their pottery.”

At first glance the traditional Hopi maroon-and-tan patterns are a surprising look for the famous droid. But Koyawena says it makes total sense for R2.

“A lot of elders, or our uncles or friends, always tell us in ceremony or something going on ‘nahongvitah,’ which means to give it your all, or just to be strong and to persevere. So, I feel like the Hopi R2 kind of fits in that same line,” he says.

Koyawena is one of 25 artists from more than a dozen Southwestern tribes taking part in the art exhibit “The Force Is With Our People.” The pieces reflect Star Wars themes, such as endurance and rebellion, that have resonated powerfully with the franchise’s devotees for decades. As it turns out though, Star Wars also speaks strongly to the historical experiences of many in the Southwest’s Indigenous communities.

“I think there’s clearly some parallels … between Native stories — things like the Hero Twins, [a] very prominent story in Navajo culture — parallels between that and Star Wars, of course Luke and Leia being basically Hero Twins in that story,” says Museum of Northern Arizona curator and ethnographer Tony Thibodeau.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 19, 1902 Sir Ralph Richardson. God in Time Bandits but also Earl of Greystoke in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes and Chief Rabbit In Watership Down. Also, the Head Librarian in Rollerball which I’ll admit I’ve never seenAnd a caterpillar in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. And Satan in the Tales from the Crypt film. Oh, my he had an interesting genre film career! (Died 1983.)
  • Born December 19, 1922 Harry Warner Jr. Fan historian and legendary letterhack. Dubbed The Hermit of Hagerstown, he did nearly all his fanac on paper. He’s known now for the many LOCs he wrote and his two books on fanhistory, All Our Yesterdays, (1969), and A Wealth of Fable which won a Hugo in 1993 for Best Related Book. (Died 2003.)
  • Born December 19, 1952 Linda Woolverton, 67. She’s the first woman to have written a Disney animated feature, Beauty and the Beast, which was the first animated film ever to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards. She also co-wrote The Lion King screenplay (along with Irene Mecchi and Jonathan Roberts).
  • Born December 19, 1960 Dave Hutchinson, 59. Best known for his Fractured Europe series. Great reading! I’ve listened to the first two and will be  listening to the third after the first of the year. He’s got a lot of other genre fiction as well but I’ve not delved into that yet.
  • Born December 19, 1961 Matthew Waterhouse, 58. He’s best known as Adric, companion to the Fourth and Fifth Doctors. He was the youngest actor in that role at the time. And yes, he too shows up in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot.
  • Born December 19, 1969 Kristy Swanson, 50. Her first starring genre  film role was in Wes Craven’s Deadly Friend, but no doubt her best known genre role was as the original Buffy. She also shows up in Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Phantom, Highway to HellNot Quite Human and The Black Hole. For the record, I really, really like her version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer! 
  • Born December 19, 1972 Alyssa Milano, 47. Phoebe Halliwell in the long running original Charmed series. Other genre appearances include on Outer Limits, the second Fantasy Island series, Embrace of the Vampire, Double Dragon, the Young Justice animated series as the voice of Poison Ivy and more voice work in DC’s The Spectre excellent animated short as a spoiled rich young thing with a murderous vent.
  • Born December 19, 1975 Brandon Sanderson, 44. Best known for the Mistborn series. He is also known for finishing Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time. OK I’m going to freely admit I’ve not read either of this series. Opinions please. 
  • Born December 19, 1979 Robin Sloan, 40. Author of Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore which definitely has fantasy elements in it and is a damn fine read. His second novel which he sent me to me consider reviewing, Sourdough or, Lois and Her Adventures in the Underground Market, is also probably genre adjacent but is also weirdly about food as well. And he’s a really nice person as well. 
  • Born December 19, 1980 Jake Gyllenhaal, 39. The lead in Donnie Darko, a strange film indeed; he’s also to be seen as Sam Hall in The Day After Tomorrow, a splendid SF disaster film. Of course, he was Mysterio in Spider-Man: Far From Home.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • There is no excuse for the awful joke in this Frank and Ernest except that it requires familiarity with star names. Well, one of them, anyway. One more fact I can’t say I had no use for once I graduated.

(9) LET THE BARISTA WIN. “You Can Order A Chewbacca Frappuccino From Starbucks And It’s Out Of This World”Delish told us how to find it.

To get this chocolatey treat, you’re going to start by ordering a Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino, but ask your barista to add caramel drizzle in the cup. Top that with whipped cream and cookie crumbles and you’ve got yourself a delicious treat.

(10) WAKANDA DELISTED. “US officials remove Black Panther’s Wakanda from list of trading partners” reports The Guardian. Is it an administration attempt to divert attention from the impeachment proceedings? For a change, no.

Trade talks between Captain America and Black Panther didn’t quite pan out, it seems. Wakanda, the fictional home of the Marvel superhero, is no longer listed as a free trade partner of the US.

Until Wednesday, the made-up east African country was listed on the drop-down menu for the agriculture department’s foreign agricultural service’s tariff tracker along with Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and Peru.

The department (USDA) said the comic book country was added to its systems while it conducted testing.

“Over the past few weeks, the foreign agricultural service staff who maintain the tariff tracker have been using test files to ensure that the system is running properly,” Mike Illenberg, a USDA spokesman, told NBC. “The Wakanda information should have been removed after testing and has now been taken down.”

(11) CRUSHED. Claxton’s Twitter thread is filled with expressions of disillusionment by one-time fans of Rowling, Orson Scott Card, MZB, even Ray Bradbury.

(12) BUMP AND GRIND. Nature says “‘Marsquakes’ reveal red planet’s hidden geology”.

Since arriving on Mars just over a year ago, InSight has detected 322 marsquakes. They are the first quakes ever detected on Mars, and the first on any body other than Earth or the Moon. Scientists aim to use them to probe the Martian interior, including deciphering the planet’s guts into layers of crust, mantle, and core.

Currently the marsquakes are coming fast and furious. From its landing site near the Martian equator, NASA’s InSight mission is detecting about two quakes per day — and the rate is going up.

(13) THEY KNOW WHERE THE BODIES ARE. From Nature: “A statistical solution to the chaotic, non-hierarchical three-body problem”. Cixin Liu might worry…

The three-body problem is arguably the oldest open question in astrophysics and has resisted a general analytic solution for centuries. Various implementations of perturbation theory provide solutions in portions of parameter space, but only where hierarchies of masses or separations exist….

(14) AURAL HISTORY. “‘Star Wars,’ The Trilogy That NPR Turned Into Radio Drama”.

The ninth episode of Star Wars blasts into theaters this weekend, more than 40 years since the release of George Lucas’ original hit movie. Back then, NPR got in on Star Wars saga action, creating a radio drama of that original episode.

In 1981, George Lucas sold the radio rights for $1, and the network partnered with the University of Southern California theater program to produce it. The production was an overwhelming success, and NPR went on to do radio versions of all the movies in the original trilogy.

This week, the latest installment in the Star Wars film saga is posting record numbers around the world. In 1981, NPR hoped the interstellar fable would do the same for its audience numbers. That’s right: Some of you may have forgotten (and some might not even know) that the network created three radio dramas based on George Lucas’ original three movies.

NPR figured it could maybe get more listeners by reviving the radio drama, which had been out of fashion for some 30 years. So the network called Richard Toscan, then-head of the theater program at the University of Southern California. He remembers asking a colleague for advice on what story to dramatize: “There’s this long pause, and he says, ‘Create a scandal.’ “

Toscan was at a loss. Then he mentioned the problem to a student. “And he said, ‘Oh, why don’t you do Star Wars?’ ” Toscan recalls. “There was the scandal.”

(15) HARRY MINION? HARRY MOLESWORTH? NPR’s Juanita Giles has an alternative: “Don’t Like Harry Potter? Come To The ‘Dork’ Side”

…Not to tell you how old I am, but Harry Potter first made his appearance when I was already an adult, so it wasn’t as if I were devastated that my kids poo-pooed books that were formative for me, but I did worry that it might be difficult to find chapter books that caught their interest. Harry Potter’s success has spawned almost an entirely new genre, and sometimes it seems there’s not a chapter book that doesn’t involve magic or spells or curses in some way. I had almost zero experience with this, as popular chapter books for girls when I was a kid involved babysitters, teenagers with terrible diseases, or Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield.

But durn it, I couldn’t give up. How could my kids have a fulfilling childhood if Harry Potter didn’t ever factor in? Would it even be possible? I wasn’t convinced it was, so I set out on a mission to prepare them for their reintroduction to Harry Potter, and I ended up somewhere else entirely.

Enter the Dork Lord, son of the Dark Lord, and heir to the throne of the Grim World.

…My son keeps a basket on the end of his bed filled with whatever books with which he is currently obsessed: Wings of Fire, Calvin and Hobbes, Dog Man, Klawde, and always a Star Wars book or two. So, what did I do, sneak that I am? I shoved Confessions of a Dork Lord right into his basket when he wasn’t looking.

Cut to the next morning: “Mom, this kid is called ‘the Dork Lord,’ can you believe it? And get this — his favorite spell is the ‘Fart Revealer,’ and he can’t even do that right!”

If there were ever a sure way to grab a nine-year-old’s attention, flatulence would be it.

(16) SHIVER ME TIMBERS. BBC finds “World’s oldest fossil trees uncovered in New York”.

The earliest fossilised trees, dating back 386 million years, have been found at an abandoned quarry in New York.

Scientists believe the forest they belonged to was so vast it originally stretched beyond Pennsylvania.

This discovery in Cairo, New York, is thought to be two or three million years older than what was previously the world’s oldest forest at Gilboa, also in New York State.

The findings throw new light on the evolution of trees.

What did they find?

It was more than 10 years ago that experts from Cardiff University, UK, Binghamton University in the US and the New York State Museum began looking at the site in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains in the Hudson Valley.

Since then, they have mapped over 3,000 square metres of the forest and concluded the forest was home to at least two types of trees: Cladoxylopsids and Archaeopteris.

…Researchers say they also discovered very long, woody roots that transformed the way plants and soils gather water.

“It’s a very ancient forest from the beginnings of the time where the planet was turning green and forests were becoming a normal part of the Earth’s system,” said Dr Berry.

(17) HOLDOUTS. BBC discusses the evidence:“Homo erectus: Ancient humans survived longer than we thought”

An ancient relative of modern humans survived into comparatively recent times in South East Asia, a new study has revealed.

Homo erectus evolved around two million years ago, and was the first known human species to walk fully upright.

New dating evidence shows that it survived until just over 100,000 years ago on the Indonesian island of Java – long after it had vanished elsewhere.

This means it was still around when our own species was walking the Earth.

Details of the result are described in the journal Nature.

In the 1930s, 12 Homo erectus skull caps and two lower leg bones were found in a bone bed 20m above the Solo River at Ngandong in central Java.

In subsequent decades, researchers have attempted to date the fossils. But this proved difficult because the surrounding geology is complex and details of the original excavations became confused.

…Now, researchers led by Prof Russell Ciochon of the University of Iowa in Iowa City opened up new excavations on the terraces beside the Solo River, reanalysing the site and its surroundings.

They have provided what they describe as a definitive age for the bone bed of between 117,000 and 108,000 years old. This represents the most recent known record of Homo erectus anywhere in the world.

“I don’t know what you could date at the site to give you more precise dates than what we’ve been able to produce,” Prof Ciochon told BBC News.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Use Cups” on Vimeo is a message from Adult Swim explaining what bad things will happen to you if you don’t use cups!

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, N., Ellen Datlow, James Davis Nicoll, Andrew Porter, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Olav Rokne, Chip Hitchcock, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Daniel Dern, Hampus Eckerman, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]

Pixel Scroll 12/5/19 As It Wheeled Its Scroll-Barrow, Through The Bands Broad And Narrow, Crying “Pixels And Scrolls Alive, Alive, Oh!”

(1) DARK MARK WALKED BACK? Christine Feehan tweeted another update, saying that she “asked my trademark lawyer to withdraw all of the current single word applications that have been filed and are causing so much distress.” The statement, screencapped below, has been greeted with a mix of approval and skepticism – see comments in the thread which starts here.

(2) MULAN. A second trailer for Disney’s Mulan dropped today.

When the Emperor of China issues a decree that one man per family must serve in the Imperial Army to defend the country from Northern invaders, Hua Mulan, the eldest daughter of an honored warrior, steps in to take the place of her ailing father. Masquerading as a man, Hua Jun, she is tested every step of the way and must harness her inner-strength and embrace her true potential. It is an epic journey that will transform her into an honored warrior and earn her the respect of a grateful nation…and a proud father.

(3) TAKING A SPIN. Deadline reveals “David Tennant To Play Phileas Fogg In Slim Film + Television’s ‘Around The World In 80 Days’ Adaptation”.

… The Doctor Who and Broadchurch star is fronting the eight-part drama, which is produced by Slim Film + Television.

Following an outrageous bet, Fogg and his valet, Passepartout, played by rising French actor Ibrahim Koma, take on the legendary journey of circumnavigating the globe in just 80 days, swiftly joined by aspiring journalist Abigail Fix, played by The Crown’s Leonie Benesch, who seizes the chance to report on this extraordinary story.

(4) POE SLEPT HERE. “Baltimore knows its Poe House is a treasure, but now it’s officially Maryland’s first ‘Literary Landmark’” — the Baltimore Sun has the story.

Baltimore’s Edgar Allan Poe House & Museum, where the famed 19th-century author and literary critic lived during the 1830s, has been named a Literary Landmark by United for Libraries, a nationwide advocacy group and division of the American Library Association.

The Poe House will be Maryland’s first Literary Landmark, but not the first involving Poe. Philadelphia’s Edgar Allan Poe House, one of several places the author called home while living in Philly, was added to the list in 1988. And a stuffed Grip, Charles Dickens’ pet raven and the inspiration (so many believe) for Poe’s poem (the one Baltimore named its NFL team after), resides in the Rare Books Department of the Free Library of Philadelphia. It was named to the list in 1999.

The national registry of Literary Landmarks, begun in 1986, singles out sites and objects with special literary significance….

(5) EREWHON LIT SALON. Carlos Hernandez and C.S.E. Cooney will be the readers at the Erewhon Literary Salon on December 12. The event takes place in the office of Erewhon Books in the Flatiron/NoMad district of Manhattan. For full information and policies, and to RSVP, click here. Event address and information will be emailed to those who have RSVPed a few days before the event.

CARLOS HERNANDEZ is the author of over 40 SFF short stories, poems, and works of drama. His critically acclaimed short story collection The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria came out in 2016 from Rosarium, and his middle-grade novel Sal and Gabi Break the Universe was published by Disney Hyperion in 2019. Carlos is a CUNY professor of English and a game designer and enthusiast. Look for Sal and Gabi Fix the Universe in May 5, 2020.

C.S.E. COONEY is an audiobook narrator, the singer/songwriter Brimstone Rhine, and author of World Fantasy Award-winning Bone Swans: Stories. Her work includes the Tor novella Desdemona and the Deep, three albums: Alecto! Alecto!, The Headless Bride, and Corbeau Blanc, Corbeau Noir, and a poetry collection: How to Flirt in Faerieland and Other Wild Rhymes, which features her Rhysling Award-winning “The Sea King’s Second Bride.” Her short fiction can be found in Ellen Datlow’s Mad Hatters and March Hares: All-New Stories from the World of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, the Sword and Sonnet anthology, Rich Horton’s Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, Jonathan Strahan’s The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, and elsewhere.

(6) IT’S A MYSTERY. Tyler Hayes, in “Tips for Writing Speculative Detective Fiction” on CrimeReads offers tips for writers interested in writing sf mysteries about how to keep their plots logical and interesting.

…There are more tricks available, but every solution boils down to three things: make sense, make it matter, and make it clear.

“Make sense” means that whatever you do needs to feel true. The disruption to the available speculative elements needs to be either baked into the world, or clearly explained, so that it doesn’t feel like the exception is just there to allow the story to be told (even though that’s totally why you did it)…

(7) RETRO LANDS IN HOUSTON. The late Fritz Leiber won a Retro Hugo at Dublin 2019 – it’s now safely ensiled at the University of Houston Libraries:

(8) WEINER OBIT. Canadian sff writer Andrew Weiner, whose first published story was “Empire of the Sun” in Again, Dangerous Visions (1972), died December 3. The family obituary is here.  

He wrote three novels, Station Gehenna (1987), Getting Near the End (2000), Among the Missing (2002), and many shorter works. The first of his several short story collections was Distant Signals and Other Stories (1990)

The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction’s John Clute says, ” Craftsmanlike, witty and quietly substantial, Weiner never gained a reputation befitting his skills.”

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 5, 1954 The Shadow radio show aired “Murder by Proxy”.  Starring Bret Morrison as The Shadow (Lamont Cranston) Gertrude Warner as Margot Lane. The script was by Judith Bublick and David Bublick, who contributed many scripts during the last two years it was on the air. (This “Murder by Proxy” is not the same script as an earlier show of the same name.)
  • December 5, 1956 Man Beast premiered. It was directed and produced by Jerry Warren. It starred Rock Madison and Asa Maynor. The film was distributed in the States as a double feature with Prehistoric Women. Critics generally intensely disliked, and it has no ratings at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • December 5, 1980 Flash Gordon premiered. Directed by Mike Hodges and produced by Dino De Laurentiis of Dune fame, it starred Sam Jones, Max von Sydow and Melody Anderson. Most critics sort of liked it although Clute at ESF definitely did not. It holds an 80% rating among viewers at Rotten Tomatoes and it did exceedingly well at the Box Office. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 5, 1890 — Fritz Lang. Metropolis of course, but also Woman in the Moon (German Frau im Mond)   considered to be one of the first “serious” SF films. (Died 1976.)
  • Born December 5, 1901 Walt Disney . With Ub Iwerks, he developed the character Mickey Mouse in 1928; he also provided the voice for his creation in the early years. During Disney’s lifetime his studio produced features such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Pinocchio, Fantasia (both 1940), Dumbo (1941), and Bambi (1942), Cinderella (1950) and Mary Poppins (1964), the latter of which received five Academy Awards. In 1955 he opened Disneyland. In the Fifties he also launched television programs, such as Walt Disney’s Disneyland and The Mickey Mouse Club. In 1965, he began development of another theme park, Disney World, and the “Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow” (EPCOT). (Died 1966.)
  • Born December 5, 1921 Alvy Moore. He shows up first in a genre role uncredited as Zippy in The War of the Worlds. (He was also uncredited in The Girls of Pleasure Island that same year.) He’s again uncredited, as a scientist this time, in The Invisible Boy (aka S.O.S Spaceship) and The Gnome-Mobile saw his continue that streak as a Gas Mechanic. The Brotherhood of Satan saw him get a credit role as did The Witchmaker, both all budget horror films. He’s listed as having co-written and produced, along with LQ Jones,  A Boy and His Dog, the Ellison originated film. (Died 1997.)
  • Born December 5, 1936 James Lee Burke, 83. This is one of the listings by ISFDB that has me going “Eh?” as to it being genre. The Dave Robicheaux series has no SFF elements in it and despite the title, In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead, neither does that novel. The character makes it clear that it’s likely he’s hallucinating. Great novel.
  • Born December 5, 1943 Roger Robinson, 76. Owner of Beccon publications, a British small-press publisher specializing in SF and filk. He’s looked at filk (On the Filk Road), reviews (Soundings: Reviews 1992-1996 by Gary K Wolfe), fiction (Elizabeth Hand’s Chip Crockett’s Christmas Carol) and Fred Smith’s Once There was a Magazine ~~, a look at Unknown Magazine). 
  • Born December 5, 1951 Susan Palermo-Piscatello. SF Site in its obit said that she was “was active in fandom in the early 1970s, taking pictures that appeared in The Monster Times and working for the company that brought Japanese monster films, including Battle for the Planets and Time of the Apes to the US. She was among the first bartenders at CBGB and was in the band Cheap Perfume. She had recently returned to fandom after several years of gafiation.” (Died 2011.)
  • Born December 5, 1954 Elizabeth R. Wollheim, 65. President, co-Publisher and co-Editor-in-Chief of DAW Books. Winner, along with her co-Publisher and co-Editor-in-Chief Sheila E. Gilbert, of a Hugo Award  for Long Form Editing. In the early Nineties, they won two Chesley Awards for best art direction. DAW is, despite being headquartered at Penguin Random House, a small private company, owned exclusively by its publishers.
  • Born December 5, 1971 Kali Rocha, 48. She is best remembered for her recurring role on Buffy as Anya’s vengeance demon friend, Halfrek, and as William the Bloody’s love interest, Cecily. She appeared with fellow Buffy alum Emma Caulfield in TiMER. And she’s in Space Station 76 which has remarkably good reviews.
  • Born December 5, 1973 Christine Stephen-Daly, 46. Her fate as Lt. Teeg on Farscape literally at the hands of her commanding officer Crais was proof if you still need it that this series wasn’t afraid to push boundaries. She was also Miss Meyers in the two part “Sky” story on The Sarah Jane Adventures.
  • Born December 5, 1980 —  Gabriel Luna, 39. He plays Robbie Reyes who is the Ghost Rider rather perfectly in the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. series. Much better I’d say than Nick Cage did in the films. He was also Terminator Rev-9 in Terminator: Dark Fate, and he did voice work for the BlackSite: Area 51 video game.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio finds it impossible to escape the long reach of Disney.

(12) PULLING OUT ALL THE STOPS. In “A Tube Map of SF&F Genres” Camestros Felapton has designed an irresistibly amusing representation of the field.

As with any London Tube style map, distance on the map has no connection with distance in reality. Position is about how to make everything fit. I feel like it needs more stops on the big pink Fantasy circle line. Green stops allow you to change services to mainstream rail lines. Purple stops allow you to change to the horror tram services.

There is a foot tunnel between Cyber Punk and Steam Punk.

(13) A CHRISTMAS SUGGESTION. [Item by SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie.] What to get the SF fan who has nearly everything? SF²; Concatenation has a seasonal suggestion in their advance-post (ahead of their spring edition) — Joel Levy’s latest non-fiction: From Science Fiction to Science Fact: How writers of the past invented our present, a colorful exploration of the science fiction visions that came to be technological realities.

Confusingly, this has recently been published under two different titles, one for each side of the Pond. It is published in N. America as Reality Ahead of Schedule: How Science Fiction Inspires Science Fact.

Packed with full color illustrations and well researched, it is an ideal gift for fans of all persuasion (or even a Christmas present to themselves). SF²; Concatenation says:

From Science Fiction to Science Fact may not be an encyclopaedic work, but there is sufficient here (and it is structured to be navigable) that those who personally like to study SF, as opposed to simply consuming it, will find this quite useful as a reference work of pointers. It will also be a welcome addition to any SF aficionado’s bookshelf if not coffee table. Here, the production values are high.

(14) IT’S A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE CW. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Why (some of us) love the WB tv series DC’s Legends of Tomorrow

…because they do goofy great.

(15) GAHAN WILSON ON NPR. A nice snippet from a 1986 interview with Gahan Wilson from Fresh Air on NPR was replayed December 2 to commemorate Gahan after his recent passing. “The linked webpage has a transcript for those who do not wish to listen to the audio,” says Tom Boswell-Healey. “I think the audio is worthwhile as it contains Gahan’s verbal effects.”

GROSS: When you came to New York with your portfolio of cartoons and tried to sell them to magazines, was it hard to get in initially?

WILSON: Very. Very, yeah because I’m still regarded as sort of far-out in some circles, and at that point, I was really, really far out. And I mean, I was really bizarre. They – what I’d – what had happened to me was this singularly frustrating scene where the editors would say, look at this stuff, and they’d laugh at it hysterically and just think it was marvelous and compliment me on – this is – kid, you’re really great. This is great stuff, kid, but our readers would never understand it. And then they would hand it back to me. And that was my big block, was that they figured that I was beyond the – those jerks out there.

GROSS: Could you maybe describe a couple of those early cartoons?

WILSON: Oh, sure. Let’s see. There’s this fellow, and he’s in a cannibal pot. He’s being cooked. And he has a evil look on his face, and he has a bottle of poison, and he’s pouring the poison, and the water is being cooked in. And that was one. And then let me see – oh, they were – there was one where there’s this little kid, and he’s with his father, and they’re in a snowstorm. And there’s this dead bird on the snowbank with his feet in the air, and the little kid’s pointing at it. And he says look, Daddy – the first robin.

(16) STORMY WEATHER. NPR reports: “Probe Gets Close To The Sun — Finds Rogue Plasma Waves And Flipping Magnetic Fields”.

An unprecedented mission to venture close to the sun has revealed a strange region of space filled with rapidly flipping magnetic fields and rogue plasma waves.

These surprises are among just some of the first observations by NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which blasted off last year to get up-close-and-personal with our nearest star.

Scientists say the findings, described in a series of reports in the journal Nature, could help explain long-standing mysteries — like why the sun’s extended atmosphere is hotter than its surface.

They also could help scientists better understand and predict solar storms that might disrupt vital artificial satellites that orbit our planet.

…From Earth, during a total solar eclipse, it’s easy to see the sun’s corona, an aura of plasma that is the sun’s outer atmosphere. The Parker Solar Probe is designed to plow through the corona with instruments that measure magnetic fields, plasma, and energetic particles.

All of this lets researchers explore the origin of the solar wind, charged particles that continually spew out of the sun.

It turns out that close to the sun, the wind seems to get sped up by powerful, rogue waves that move through the magnetic field, says Kasper.

“We’d see suddenly a spike in flow, where in just a couple seconds the solar wind would start flowing 300,000 miles an hour faster,” he says.

(17) FETCH! Of course – that’s what rovers do… “Mars rover aims to grab a piece of history”.

British engineers have begun testing technologies that will be needed to bring samples of Martian rock to Earth.

The Airbus team is training a prototype rover to recognise and pick up small cylinders off the ground.

It’s a rehearsal for a key part of a multi-billion-dollar project now being put together by the US and European space agencies – Nasa and Esa.

Returning rock and dust materials to Earth laboratories will be the best way to confirm if life exists on Mars.

It is, though, going to take more than a decade to achieve.

(18) ANTICIPATION. We aren’t going to be around to see it anyway, so no spoiler warning here: “Distant star’s vision of our Sun’s future ‘death'”.

A newly discovered planet offers new insights into the Solar System after the Sun reaches the end of its life in 5-6 billion years.

Astronomers observed a giant planet orbiting a white dwarf, the small, dense objects some stars become once they have exhausted their nuclear fuel.

It’s the first direct evidence planets can survive the cataclysmic process that creates a white dwarf.

Details of the discovery appear in the journal Nature.

The Solar System as we know it won’t be around forever. In about six billion years, the Sun, a medium-size yellow star, will have puffed up to about two hundred times its current size. In this phase, our parent star will be known as a Red Giant.

As it expands, it will swallow and destroy the Earth before collapsing into a small core – the white dwarf.

Researchers discovered a white dwarf that lies 2,000 light-years away had a giant planet thought to be about the size of Neptune (though it could be larger) in orbit around it.

“The white dwarf we’re looking at is about 30,000 Kelvin, or 30,000C. So if we compare the Sun, the Sun is 6,000 – almost five times as hot. This means it’s going to be producing a lot more UV radiation than the Sun,” said Dr Christopher Manser, from the University of Warwick.

(19) BIG BROTHER IS STILL WATCHING. So be good for goodness sake! “Apple iPhone 11 Pro ‘can override location settings'”.

Apple’s flagship iPhone 11 Pro tracks users’ locations even when they have set it not to, a security researcher has discovered.

Brian Krebs found that the phone collects data about a user’s position even if location sharing has been turned off in every individual app.

However, the user could avoid being tracked if the entire system was set to never share location.

Apple said it was “expected behaviour” and denied it was a security problem.

The company has made big play of the fact that it allows users granular control over sharing their location – so for instance they can have location switched on for Maps but off for everything else.

Mr Krebs found users could disable all location services entirely via Settings>Privacy>Location Services, but if they chose the individual controls, they might still be tracked.

(20) MAKE IT SNOW. From Destructoid we learned that “Sir Patrick Stewart kicks off Feastivus in Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville”.

Plants vs. Zombies: Battle for Neighborville is getting into the spirit with a snowy present-filled makeover of Giddy Park, a social hub where plant and zombie players can mingle and duke it out. Alongside update 1.03, PopCap went ahead and booked Sir Patrick Stewart to recite a festive poem.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/29/19 Come A Little Bit Closer, You’re My Kind of Pixel And The Scroll Title Is So Long

(1) FAREWELL. Martin Hoare’s funeral was held today. Pete Young shared a photo of the casket (posted here with permission.)

Yes, it was used for Martin. He was inside, then Martin + Tardis were cremated. I could not get any closer but I believe the Tardis was painted on it; I think it was Hazel Langford who told me it was Martin’s girlfriend’s idea. Needless to say the coffin was bigger on the inside…

(2) SURVIVABILITY OF SHORT SFF. Neil Clarke speaks again about the problems with the current economic model of short fiction in the sff field. Thread starts here.

(3) STRETCHING…THE IMAGINATION. The Irish Times’ Karlin Lillington kicks off a multi-installment report about Dublin 2019 in “Net Results: Sci-fi, spandex and the wonders of WorldCon”. Yes, there is a paragraph about Spandex, but there is much more…

…I hadn’t realised how apparently old-school I was until I discovered that one panel at WorldCon was entitled Continuing Relevance of older SF, which questioned whether 20th-century writing was still relevant in the 21st (answer: yes). Among the writers it listed as older and of a past era were Isaac Asimov, Octavia Butler and Margaret Atwood – yikes, really?

 The discussion was lively and intense and intelligent – and this was the real joy, for me, of this entire colossal event, alongside the surprising (and vast) range of the hundreds upon hundreds of sessions over five days.

My assumptions were immediately and happily demolished. I’d looked forward to learning about some new writers and had thought there might also be some intriguing overlap with technology. But the science element was just as high-profile as the fiction….

(4) LOTS MORE WORLDCON REPORTS.

(5) RESNICK. The GoFundMe to “Help Mike Resnick pay off a near-death experience” surpassed its $15,000 goal overnight — and a new goal of $30,000 has been set. Contribute at the link.

Mike and Carol Rensick are at a loss for words about how successful this GoFundMe campaign has become. (Which says a lot, since as a storyteller Mike is well known for his words.) They cannot thank everyone enough–there are not the words to say how much all of you have changed a very bad year for the better.

Many people have asked them why, with so many weeks in ICU and bills much surpassing any modest number, we had only set the fundraiser goal to $15;000. But in Mike’s mind, $100 is a lot to ask for, let alone $15,000. He had not realised how beloved in the field he is, and how much we all love the opportunity to “pay it back” for all he has given to the science fiction and fantasy community.

Mike is composing and thank you message as we speak–once he can pick up his jaw up from the ground and find the words–but in the meantime we have been encouraged to increase the GoFundMe goal, and so we have! We have doubled the number to $30,000.

(6) LIBRARIES AND DIGITAL BOOKS. Tom Mercer, Senior Vice President of cloudLibrary, has written an email about the many changes impacting libraries and their ability to offer high-quality digital lending services to library users. He discusses why these shifts are happening, how libraries can respond, and what bibliotheca is doing to support libraries — “bibliotheca leadership responds to publisher model changes”.

…Now, fast-forward to the digital library lending market today, where we’re seeing a shift from several of the major publishing companies. Blackstone Audio is embargoing audiobook titles for 90 days, Hachette has changed from perpetual access to two-year expirations (also implemented by Penguin Random House last October), and Macmillan will limit the quantity of frontlist titles effective November 1. It’s unlikely that all of these publishers would be changing their terms without external pressures. So, where is the pressure coming from? ?There is evidence to suggest that in recent years, authors and agents have come to feel that the library market is eroding their revenue. I think it’s telling that Macmillan CEO John Sargent addressed his letter about the library model change to “Macmillan Authors, Macmillan Illustrators and Agents.” 

This begs the next question: if authors and agents are voicing concerns about library lending, where are they getting their data from? I doubt it’s publishers, since a report on library lending is not part of an author’s royalty statement. There is only one company that has access to readers’ digital retail purchases as well as users’ digital library borrowing habits, and that is Amazon.

In 2009, Amazon created a publishing division, Amazon Publishing, which doesn’t sell any of its eBooks or audiobooks to libraries. They have teams of people talking with authors and agents trying to secure rights and make them as exclusive as possible to the Amazon ecosystem. It’s highly probable that they use the data provided by library users to argue that library lending is undercutting retail sales. This is a major concern that we need to understand and to face together as an industry.

(7) MARVEL 1000 ISSUE HAS AN ISSUE. “Marvel Revises Comic in Which Captain America Called U.S. ‘Deeply Flawed’” – the New York Times has the story.

…Captain America reflects on the symbolism of his costume in a newly published essay by Mark Waid, which was changed from an earlier version in which he called his country “deeply flawed.”Marvel Entertainment

Marvel Comics No. 1000, a special issue in honor of 80 years of storytelling, was supposed to be a cause for celebration. But revisions to one page of the comic, which came out Wednesday, are casting a pall over the festivities.

The page, written by Mark Waid and drawn by John Cassady, is narrated by Captain America. In earlier versions of the page that comic-book retailers received in July, the star-spangled hero opened with: “I’m asked how it is possible to love a country that’s deeply flawed. It’s hard sometimes. The system isn’t just. We’ve treated some of our own abominably.”

He went on to say that fixing America’s system is “hard and bloody work” but that it could be done when enough people take to the streets, call for revolution and say, “Injustice will not stand.”

Captain America concludes: “That’s what you can love about America.”

The version that arrived in stores and online, however, has new text, also written by Waid, in which Captain America ruminates on his own image, not the United States: “Captain America isn’t a man. It’s an idea. It’s a commitment to fight every day for justice, for acceptance and equality, for the rights of everyone in this nation.” The hero says that those qualities — “not hatred, not bigotry, not exclusion” — are the values of true patriotism.

Marvel and Waid declined to say why the page was changed. But in an email message, Waid expressed frustration at how his original text was being presented. “I’m disappointed that the cherry-picked quotes circulated by the media severely mischaracterize what was actually written,” he wrote. While the essay was critical, he added, “As written, Cap is supportive of America as a whole.”

(8) A WORD FROM OUR WILDLIFE. The Red Panda Fraction asks that I remind everyone there is only a little more than 24 hours remaining to vote in the Dragon Awards. Request a ballot at the link.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 29, 1854 Joseph Jacobs. Australian folklorist, translator, literary critic and historian who became a notable collector and publisher of English folklore. Many of our genre writers have use of his material. “Jack the Giant Killer” becomes Charles de Lint’s Jack Of Kinrowan series!  Jack the Giant Killer and Drink Down the Moon to give an example. (Lecture mode off.) Excellent books by the way. (Died 1916.)
  • Born August 29, 1904 Leslyn M. Heinlein. She was born Leslyn MacDonald. She was married to Robert A. Heinlein between 1932 and 1947. Her only genre writing on ISFDB is “Rocket’s Red Glare“ which was published in The Nonfiction of Robert Heinlein: Volume I.  There’s an interesting article on her and Heinlein here. (Died 1981.)
  • Born August 29, 1939 Joel Schumacher, 80. Director of The Lost Boys and Flatliners, not mention Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. Ok, so those might not be the highlights of his career… However his Blood Creek vampirefilm starring Michael Fassbender is said to be very good. Oh, and his The Incredible Shrinking Woman is a very funny riff the original The Incredible Shrinking Man
  • Born August 29, 1942 Dian Crayne. A member of LASFS, when she and Bruce Pelz divorced the party they threw inspired Larry Niven’s “What Can You Say about Chocolate-Covered Manhole Covers?” She published mystery novels under the name J.D. Crayne. A full rememberence post is here. (Died 2017.)
  • Born August 29, 1942 Gottfried John. He’s likely best known as General Arkady Orumov on GoldenEye but I actually best remember him as Colonel Erich Weiss on the short-lived Space Rangers. He was Josef Heim in the “The Hand of Saint Sebastian” episode of the Millennium series, and played König Gustav in the German version of Rumpelstilzchen as written as collected by the Brothers Grimm. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 29, 1945 Robert Weinberg. Author, editor, publisher, and collector of science fiction. At Chicon 7, he received a Special Committee Award for his service to science fiction, fantasy, and horror. During the Seventies, he was the genius behind Pulp which featured interviews with pulp writers such as Walter B. Gibson and Frederick C. Davis. (Died 2016.)
  • Born August 29, 1951 Janeen Webb, 68. Dreaming Down-Under which she co-edited with Jack Dann is an amazing anthology of Australian genre fiction, winner of a World Fantasy Award. If you’ve not read it, go do so. The Silken Road to Samarkand by her isa wonderful novel that I do also wholeheartedly recommend. Death at the Blue Elephant, the first collection of her short stories, is available at iBooks and Kindle. 
  • Born August 29, 1953 Nancy Holder,  66. She’s an impressive four-time winner of the Bram Stoker Award. I’m not a horror fan so I can’t judge her horror novels for you, but I’ve read a number of her Buffyverse novels and I must say that she’s captured the feel of the series quite well. If you are to read but one, make it Halloween Rain

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Today’s pop culture figure, tomorrow’s museum exhibit — Bizarro.
  • Grimmy makes a monstrous theological pun.

(11) NG IN NYT. The New York Times found the name change newsworthy: “John W. Campbell Award Is Renamed After Winner Criticizes Him”.

…[Jeannette] Ng, who wrote the fantasy novel “Under the Pendulum Sun,” said in an interview on Wednesday that she was delighted by the decision. “It’s a good move away from honoring a completely obnoxious man who kept a lot of people out of the genre, who kept a lot of people from writing, who shaped the genre to his own image.” Thanks to the change, she added, “we’re now celebrating a little more neutrally a piece of history that’s not attached to his name.”

(12) ABOUT THOSE EDITORIALS. A tweet highlights one problematic view – the Wikipedia article covers this one and many more.

(13) FRESHER TOMATOES. Or is that a contradiction? “Rotten Tomatoes Adds 600 Critics After Initiative to Increase Inclusion”: Variety has the story.

A year after Rotten Tomatoes announced plans to boost diversity among its approved critics, the review aggregation site revealed it has added 600 new film commentators.

In an effort to increase representation and inclusion across the industry, the company also renewed $100,000 in grants for 2020 to assist critics from underrepresented groups to attend film festivals and industry events. In 2018 and 2019, Rotten Tomatoes has helped over 160 journalists attend film festivals by donating grant money to festivals like Toronto, Sundance and SXSW.

Last August, Rotten Tomatoes refurbished its criteria to look at an individual’s qualifications, rather than just their employer when it comes to verifying critics. The initiative also expanded its pool to newer media platforms like digital videos or podcasts. Of the new critics added this year, 55% are women, 60% are freelancers and 10% publish reviews on more modern platforms like YouTube.

(14) JEDI DRINK TRICK. TSA will treat this as a “no fly” souvenir: “Disney Coke Bottles From Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Banned by TSA”.

The containers look too much like hand grenades, it seems.

Visitors to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resort will not be able to take one unique item sold in the land on an airplane.

It was recently discovered that the TSA told one fan that the “thermal detonator” Coke and Sprite bottles would not be allowed in any luggage.

(15) OH NOES! A File 770 field reporter has discovered White Pumpkin M&Ms are back!

(16) RIGHT TO ASSEMBLE. BBC is there when the “James Webb Space Telescope comes together”

The successor to the Hubble observatory has reached a key milestone in its construction.

All the elements that make up the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) have been brought together for the first time.

It sets the stage for some critical tests that will hopefully lead to a launch to orbit sometime in 2021.

JWST will use a colossal mirror and state-of-the-art instruments to try to see the glow from the very first stars to shine in the Universe.

It will also have the power to resolve the atmospheres of many of the new planets now being discovered beyond our Solar System, and to analyse their atmospheres for the potential for life.

(17) AIRBORNE ON MARS. CNN reports “NASA is sending a helicopter to Mars. It’ll be the first aircraft to fly on another planet”.

Before humans make it to Mars, NASA will send a helicopter to scope out the terrain.

Engineers attached a helicopter to the Mars 2020 rover ahead of its launch next summer. And if it flies successfully, it’ll be the first aircraft to fly on another planet, NASA said.

The solar-powered Mars Helicopter will be safely stowed underneath the rover until it lands at the Jezero Crater, where scientists believe water once flowed. The craft will detach from the rover and explore Mars from the air while the rover collects samples on the ground, NASA said.

If the helicopter flies, it can provide a unique vantage point for scientists to observe Mars.

If all goes well, the autonomous aircraft will snapshot aerial views of Martian cliffs, caves and craters that the land-bound rover can’t explore. And even if it doesn’t take flight, the rover can still gather important data from the surface.

(18) TECH SOLUTION. Viable strategy? BBC tells how it works: “Anti-groping stamp lets victims mark assailants”.

An anti-groping device aimed at tackling sexual harassment on public transport has been launched in Japan.

It allows victims to mark their assailants with an invisible ink stamp in the shape of a hand.

People can then use the device’s black light to identify those who have been marked.

The firm involved says it wants to help tackle the crime. But one sex abuse charity is concerned that the tech could place an added burden on victims.

Japanese firm Shachihata says it developed the stamp to help deter groping on trains in the country.

The company first announced it was developing the stamp in May after a video showing a pair of Japanese schoolgirls chasing down a suspected groper on a station platform went viral.

(19) A VISIT TO HMS TERROR. A short video on BBC about the ill-fated Franklin expedition (1845) to chart the NW Passage.  The ship, HMS Terror was found in Terror Bay, near King William Island. Video: “Franklin Expedition: New footage of wreck of HMS Terror”. (Wikipedia entry: HMS Terror (1813).)

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “I Wrote A Song Using Only Hate Comments” on YouTube, Madilyn Bailey provides a song where all the lyrics come from comments made by trolls.

[Thanks to Standback, John King Tarpinain, JJ, Lis Carey, James Bacon, mlex, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, StephenfromOttawa, Hampus Eckerman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Trey.]

Pixel Scroll 8/28/19 I’ve Scrolled Through The File On A Pixel With No Name

(1) CHECK YOURSELF. Cat Rambo’s social media advice. Thread starts here.

(2) HUGO MIA. Foz Meadows’ 2019 Best Fan Writer Hugo has suffered a misadventure in delivery.

(3) KEEPING HUGO. Amazing Stories’ Steve Davidson, in “On Renaming Awards”, tries to preempt an anticipated effort to take Hugo Gernsback’s name off of the Worldcon’s award.

…And now the other side of that coin is revealed.  Prior to and immediately following the Best New Writer award name change, some have suggested that the Hugo Award name be changed as well.  After all, Hugo Gernsback, for whom the Science Fiction Achievement Awards were renamed, had bad paying practices;  there are historical complaints from H. G. Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H. P. Lovecraft, Jack Williamson and Donald Wollheim to name those who are known.

He took on airs and presented himself as sophisticated and superior and it may even be that he used his low word rates to help maintain a lavish lifestyle.

On the other hand, he didn’t reject female authors out of hand (encouraged them in editorials, actually).  He himself was Jewish, so it is unlikely that antisemitic thoughts were expressed and as for people of color, though I’ve no evidence, circumstantial evidence suggests that he would have encouraged them as well as he consistently operated in a manner that was designed to grow and spread interest in the genre.  If he had recognized that there was a new market to exploit, he’d have jumped right in.  His motivation was to grow awareness and acceptance of the genre.  How he felt about other social issues remains largely a mystery (but given that he also published Sexology, a magazine devoted to human sexuality in a manner that was extremely provocative and progressive in its time, suggests that the man was more progressive leaning than not).

(4) SHARING AND PRESERVING WORLDCON. Claire Rousseau retweeted a call to stream, record, and caption all of Worldcon and considered how to marshal the resources necessary to do it. Thread starts here.

(5) DOXXING. At The Mary Sue, Anthony Gramuglia interviews some people who have been targeted — “Alt-Right Fandom Circles Have Been Attacking and Doxxing People for Disagreeing With Them”.

The alt-right has taken root in fandom. Like any parasitic plant, once it takes hold, it attempts to strangle the life out of everything around it, drain them of energy until they perish. There are factions on the internet—be they GamerGate, the Sad/Rabid Puppies, ComicsGate, #IStandWithVic/Weeb Wars—who wish to fight a culture war against what they see as a liberal agenda to dominate media.

There are a multitude of individuals who have spoken against these alt-right groups.

And these individuals have been targeted in ways that put their personal safety in jeopardy.

In writing this article, I reached out to several individuals I knew had personally been targeted. In doing so, I talked to online media critic Kaylyn Saucedo (more famously, MarzGurl), artist Tim Doyle, comic writer Kwanza Osajyefo, and cosplayer/comic writer Renfamous about their experiences with online harassment. What they told me needs to be heard.

Trigger warning: The following article contains detailed accounts of sexism, homophobia, transphobia, threats of violence and sexual assault, racism, and a lot of harassment. Screenshots of harassment will be provided to supplement the information provided.

(6) SEE YOU AT THE FAIR. The poster for the Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair is pretty interesting. The event happens September 7-8, 2019.

(7) MASSIVE HARRYHAUSEN EXHIBIT IN SCOTLAND. “Ray Harryhausen’s Most Iconic Creatures Have Been Restored for an Exhibit Next Year”Bloody Disgusting has photos. The exhibit will kick off on May 23, 2020

The late Ray Harryhausen is the man most synonymous with stop-motion animation and for good reason. Harryhausen’s contributions to films like It Came from Beneath the Sea, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts, and Clash of the Titans immortalized him as a legend, his work paid tribute to by everyone from Chuck Russell in Nightmare on Elm Street: Dream Warriors to Sam Raimi in Army of Darkness. Next year, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art pays tribute to the stop-motion master with Ray Harryhausen: Titan of Cinema.

Reported by Creative Boom, it’ll be “the largest and widest-ranging exhibition of Harryhausen’s work ever seen,” including materials both previously unseen and newly restored.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

  • August 28, 1991 — First e-mail sent from space. Using a Mac Portable aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis, the first e-mail from space is sent to Earth. Two astronauts on the spacecraft, James Adamson and Shannon Lucid, wrote, “Hello Earth! Greetings from the STS-43 Crew. This is the first AppleLink from space. Having a GREAT time, wish you were here,…send cryo and RCS! Hasta la vista, baby,…we’ll be back!” The message was transmitted to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 28, 1749 Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. I once saw a production of his Faust in the Seattle Cathedral some decades back where Faust came up the central aisle standing regally on a cart in his blood red robes dragged along slowly by four actors dressed as demons. Very fascinating. (Died 1832.)
  • Born August 28, 1833 Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, 1st Baronet. English artist and designer associated with the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Although the ISFDB says his artwork graces a mere dozen or so covers of genre books, I’m willing to bet that it’s a lot more than that. The 1996 Signet UK of Terri Windling and Ellen Datlow’s Black Thorn, White Rose anthology uses his artwork, as does the 1990 Random House publication of A.S. Byatt’s Possession: A Romance. (Died 1898.)
  • Born August 28, 1873 Sheridan Le Fanu. One of the most well-known Irish ghost story writers of the Victorian Era. M. R. James said that he was “absolutely in the first rank as a writer of ghost stories”. Three of his best-known works are “Carmilla”, “The House by the Churchyard” and “Uncle Silas”. If you’re interested in sampling his fiction, iBooks has a lot of his ghost stories for free. (Died 1914.)
  • Born August 28, 1896 Morris Ankrum. Numerous appearances  in the Fifties as he appeared in Rocketship X-M as Dr. Ralph Fleming, as a Martian leader in Flight to Mars, in Red Planet Mars playing the United States Secretary of Defense, in  Invaders From Mars playing a United States Army general, and as yet another Army general in Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. (Died 1964.)
  • Born August 28, 1916 Jack Vance. I think I prefer his Dying Earth works more than anything else he did, though the Lyonesse Trilogy is damn fine too. And did you know he wrote three mystery novels as Ellery Queen? Well he did. And his autobiography, This Is Me, Jack Vance!, won the Hugo Award, Best Related Book. (Died 2013.)
  • Born August 28, 1917 Jack Kirby. Responsible for a goodly part of modern comics from Captain America and the X-Men to Challengers of the Unknown and the New Gods. I’m very much looking forward to the New Gods film being worked on now. (Died 1994.)
  • Born August 28, 1925 Arkady Natanovich Strugatsky. The Strugatsky brothers were well known Russian SF writers who were Guests of Honour at Conspiracy ’87, the Worldcon that was held in Brighton, England. Their best-known novel in the West, Piknik na obochine, has been translated into English as Roadside Picnic. It is available in digital form with a foreword by Le Guin. (Died 1991.)
  • Born August 28, 1948 Vonda McIntyre. I’ve read a number of her works including Dreamsnake and The Moon and the Sun which are all phenomenal. The latter was based on a short story  of hers done as a faux encyclopaedia article “The Natural History and Extinction of the People of the Sea”, that was illustrated by Le Guin. Neat. (Died 2019.)
  • Born August 28, 1965 Amanda Tapping, 54. She’s best known for portraying Samantha Carter on Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis. She also starred as Helen Magnus on Sanctuary which I never managed to see. Anyone see it? She was in The Void which also starred Adrian Paul and Malcolm McDowell. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) KIDNEY DONOR SOUGHT. Longtime Phoenix fan Shane Shellenbarger is on dialysis and needs a kidney transplant. His wife has set up some webpages to help spread the word and widen the search for a donor. Filer Bruce Arthurs adds, “Shane’s a good guy and could use a break.” Learn more about Shane at the Kidney for Shane website.

Shane needs a kidney! He has been on dialysis and on the recipient list for over 650 days. The average length on the list is 2 to 5 years, usually waiting for an unfortunate tragedy leading to a cadaver organ. Many of his friends as well as his wife have tried to donate, but have not qualified for one reason or another. So, we need to spread the request far and wide!

(12) HIGH SCHOOL QUIZZICAL. “Debate Club: The 5 best schools in sci-fi and fantasy”. See the verdict at SYFY Wire. My choice was #1 – that never happens!

It’s that time again: Millions of folks are heading back to school, carrying with them varying degrees of excitement and dread. A new school year is filled with unknowns, which can sure be anxiety-inducing, so it’s no surprise that when movies feature characters hitting the books, it might stir up some old feelings of dread for audiences.

In this week’s Debate Club, we celebrate cinema’s most memorable schools and academies. (It killed us, but we decided not to include the boot camp in Starship Troopers since it’s technically not a school.) All five of our picks are way more exciting than your boring old trig class.

(13) CALL FOR JUDGES. Red rover, red rover, send a name for Mars 2020 right over! NASA is recruiting help from students nationwide to find a name for its next Mars rover mission. Starting Tuesday, K-12 students in U.S. public, private and home schools can enter Future Engineers’ “Name the Rover Challenge” to pick a name for a Mars Rover to be launched next year. One grand prize winner will name the rover and be invited to see the spacecraft launch in July 2020 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

NASA is seeking volunteers to help judge the thousands of contest entries anticipated to pour in from around the country. U.S. residents over 18 years old who are interested in offering approximately five hours of their time to review submissions should register to be a judge at: https://www.futureengineers.org/registration/judge/nametherover

Here’s the writeup for participating students:

K-12 Students

If you are a K-12 student in the United States, your challenge is to name NASA’s next Mars rover. Submit your rover name and a short essay (maximum 150 words) to explain the reasons for your selected name. Be sure to review the RULES for all challenge details and entry requirements, including the privacy requirement of NO PERSONAL NAMES in your submission so that your entry may be posted in the public gallery. The Mars 2020 rover will seek signs of past microbial life, collect surface samples as the first leg of a potential Mars Sample Return campaign, and test technologies to produce oxygen from the Martian atmosphere to prepare for future human missions. More background information about the Mars 2020 mission is provided in the education resources section below.

(14) AVOIDING THE LAST RESORT. James Davis Nicoll, in “SFF Works in Which Violence Is Not the Solution” at Tor Books, takes delight in beginning his list with a work that plays against type – the Niven/Pournelle novel Mote in God’s Eye.

Indeed, the violent solution is so expected that readers can be surprised by a plot that avoids it… Consider the venerable The Mote in God’s Eye. (So old that we don’t need to avoid spoilers, right?)

(15) POLL CATS. According to Psychology Today, “Dog Ownership Predicts Voting Behavior—Cats Do Not”. A shockingly unexpected fact about SJW credentials!

Now when we turn to the effect of cat ownership we find that it has virtually zero predictive value when it comes to national voting trends. For those states where the percentage of cat ownership is highest, the average election results were 52.5% in favor of the Republican candidate over the 4 elections tabulated. This clearly does not represent a meaningful bias in voting behavior. When we look at those states where the percentage of cat ownership is lowest we get a similar indication that there is no predictive value of feline ownership, with an average of 60% voting Democratic. Neither of these results is different enough from the expected chance effect of 50% to be statistically significant.

(16) SHORTS ATTENTION SPAN. NPR: “These Experimental Shorts Are An ‘Exosuit’ That Boosts Endurance On The Trail”. These shorts are made for walkin’…

               Say the word “exosuit” and superheroes come to mind — somebody like Tony Stark from Marvel Comics, whose fancy suit enables him to become Iron Man.

               But scientists at Harvard University have been developing an actual exosuit — a wearable machine that they say can improve a mere mortal’s strength and stamina. This new prototype is novel because it improves a wearer’s performance while walking and running — just one example of progress in what’s become a surging field.

               This suit looks kind of like bike shorts, with some wires and small machines around the waist and cables down the legs. When it’s turned on, a person expends less energy while moving.

(17) ANOTHER SMALL STEP. “‘Starhopper’: SpaceX engine testbed makes minute-long jump” — includes video.

The American rocket company SpaceX conducted a successful flight of its “Starhopper” testbed on Tuesday.

The vehicle lifted 150m into the air, moved sideways and then gently put itself back down onto the ground.

Starhopper is part of an effort to develop a new engine that will burn liquid methane in contrast to the kerosene in the firm’s current engines.

This motor, known as the Raptor, will power SpaceX’s next-generation Starship and Superheavy rockets.

Tuesday’s one-minute test, which took place at Boca Chica in Texas, was the second hop for the vehicle after a modest 18m jump in July.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) licensing had previously limited activity to no more than 25m above the ground.

(18) POSH ACCENT? I say there — “BBC to launch digital voice assistant”.

The BBC is planning to launch a digital voice assistant next year, the corporation has announced.

It will not be a hardware device in its own right but is being designed to work on all smart speakers, TVs and mobiles.

The plan is to activate it with the wake-word Beeb, although this is “a working title”, a spokesman said.

BBC staff around the UK are being invited to record their voices to help train the programme to recognise different accents.

Analyst Ben Wood, from CCS Insight, was among those who have expressed surprise at the news.

(19) ANOTHER RECORD. This one doesn’t disappear after adjusting for inflation: “Avengers: Endgame breaks digital download record”.

Avengers: Endgame has become the UK’s fastest-selling digital download film of all time.

The Marvel movie debuted at the top of the official film chart on Wednesday with the highest-ever opening week of digital download sales.

In July, the finale of the super-hero film series became the highest-grossing film of all time at the box-office.

Now it’s racked up 335,400 downloads in its first week – smashing the previous record held by Bohemian Rhapsody.

The Queen biopic entered the history books in February with 265,000 downloads in its first week.

Endgame’s prequel Avengers: Infinity War is the third fastest-selling download, having claimed almost 253,000 downloads in its first seven days.

In this week’s film chart, fellow Avenger Captain Marvel also sits in sixth place

(20) INSTANT MASTERPIECE. Camestros Felapton in comments:

Picture a clause in a strange constitution
With fantasy prizes for make-believe guys
Some one amends it
The motion goes slowly
A clause about mustard in pies
[dum, dum, dum, dum]
Throwing mustard pies at Worldcon
Throwing mustard pies at Worldcon
Throwing mustard pies at Worldcon
Ahhhhhh, ahhhhhhhhh

[Thanks to Steve Davidson, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Hampus Eckerman, ULTRAGOTHA, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, mirotherion, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Avilyn.]

Pixel Scroll 6/27/19 Never Scroll A Filer When Pixels Are On The Line!

(1) DISNEY’S STICKY FINGERS LAND. Brady Macdonald, in “Galaxy’s Edge smugglers make off with anything not nailed down in Disneyland’s new Star Wars land” in the Redlands Daily Facts, says that crooks have been helping themselves to maps of Galaxy’s Edge and menus at Oga’s Cantina and then unloading the swag on eBay, ensuring that Disney is cracking down.

The “free” collectibles in Disneyland’s new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge that didn’t have a price tag and weren’t nailed down have found their way to cyberspace with many of the five-finger discount items showing up on the secondary market.

A simple search for “Galaxy’s Edge” on the eBay online shopping site reveals a slew of purloined items that probably should not have left the Black Spire Outpost village on the Star Wars planet of Batuu, the setting for the new 14-acre land at the Anaheim theme park.

Other resourceful Galaxy’s Edge visitors simply took more of the free Star Wars stuff than Disneyland might have anticipated or expected. As a result, many of the pilfered and hoarded souvenirs are no longer available in the new Star Wars land.

Gone are the Galaxy’s Edge maps and Docking Bay 7 sporks that are likely not to reappear in the park or the land. It’s always possible they were intended as grand opening swag. Or maybe new shipments of the popular keepsakes are bound for Batuu….

…What constitutes thievery? If a Disneyland employee hands you something without a price tag on it are you obligated to give it back? Most people would agree that keeping a theme park map as a souvenir is OK, but taking restaurant silverware is stealing. It appears plenty of Disneyland visitors are stepping over that grey line.

(2) BILL VS. BRIANNA. Bounding Into Comics’ slant on things is self-evident from the first paragraph, but they have rounded up enough tweets to let you navigate to the source material: “Brianna Wu Takes Aim At Star Trek Actor William Shatner, He Fires Back!”

Star Trek actor William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk in Star Trek: The Original Series, found himself in the middle of an internet argument about autism, and how society should accommodate those with the disorder. Congressional candidate Brianna Wu threw herself into the argument attempting to take a shot at Shatner. The actor quickly shot her down with a firm response about her own past.

One of Shatner’s threads begins here (and includes a couple of comments where Scott Edelman tries to contradict Shatner with a cocktail of Harlan Ellison and George Bernard Shaw quotes).

One of Brianna Wu’s threads starts here.

The mystery question is whether Shatner writes his own tweets or delegates that to someone else?

(3) VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE INTERNET. In the aftermath of Ulrika O’Brien’s BEAM #14 editorial, John Scalzi analyzes his role in the past decade of Hugo fanhistory: “On Being Denounced, Again (Again)”

6. So why, over the last decade plus change, have certain people focused on me as the agent of change (and not necessarily a good one) with regard to the Hugos? After all, this latest editorial is not the first jeremiad about me on the subject; people will recall I was a frequent example from the Puppy Camp of Everything That Was Wrong in Science Fiction and Proof the Hugos Were Corrupt, etc.

Here are some of the reasons:

a) professional/personal dislike and/or jealousy;
b)
unhappiness with inevitable change with fandom and the science fiction and fantasy community and genre generally and the need to find a single cause to blame it on;
c) ignorance (willful or otherwise) of the labor of other people (many of them not straight and/or white and/or male) to change the tenor of the SF/F community (and as a consequence, its awards);
d) a general lack of understanding that the SF/F community is a complex system and like most complex systems a single input or actor, in this case me, does not usually precipitate a wide system change on its own;
e)
my privileged position in the community makes me an easy and acceptable target/strawman/scapegoat — no one’s exactly punching down when they go for me.

(4) ABOUT THAT GATE. Darusha Wehm, Escape Pod associate editor and author, has also responded to Ulrika O’Brien’s BEAM 14 editorial. Thread starts here.

(5) HE WANTS GEEZERS TO GET OFF HIS LAWN, TOO. This was S.M. Stirling’s response to Scalzi’s post:

(6) DEVOURING BRADBURY. In “David Morrell: Preparing for Crisis and Finding Inspiration” on Crimereads, Mark Rubinstein interviews David Morrell about his new collection, Time Was.  Morell explains how he started off as a writer “devouring Ray Bradbury” and how his short stories “tend to be in the Serling/Bradbury mold.”  He also offers good advice about a writing career from his teacher, Phil Klass.

David Morrell: …Philip Klass, my writing instructor from years ago, insisted that writers who went the distance and enjoyed long careers, were those who had a definable viewpoint and a unique personality in their prose. That’s been my lifelong goal as a writer.

(7) LONDON CALLING. Britain’s North Heath SF Group has been in touch. Filers are invited!

It is a small group not even three years old and based at the Kent end of London (not far across the Thames from the Excel if ever they hold another Worldcon there).  

While the group is only 15 strong, they are getting a fair bit of social media interest and now have over 100 Facebook followers nearly all from SE London.

If any Filers are based in SE London (apparently the 89 and 229 busses to the Brook St stop is useful if any live on those routes), or have fan friends based in SE London then they’d be welcome at their next meet which is especially for new members. July 11 – see details on Facebook.

The group is a broad church SF group (member’s interests span books, films, TV) with some having specialist interests.

Last weekend a few gathered for a barbecue, and yes, the garden really is bigger on the outside….

NHSF-BBQ-2019

(8) FRIEND OBIT. “Robert J. Friend, Tuskegee Pilot Who Led U.F.O. Project, Is Dead at 99” – the New York Times has the story.

Robert J. Friend, one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen, who defied racism at home and enemy fire over Europe and who later oversaw the federal government’s investigation into U.F.O.s, died on Friday in Long Beach, Calif. He was 99.

… “Do I believe that we have been visited? No, I don’t believe that,” he said. “And the reason I don’t believe it is because I can’t conceive of any of the ways in which we could overcome some of these things: How much food would you have to take with you on a trip for 22 years through space? How much fuel would you need? How much oxygen or other things to sustain life do you have to have?”

But unlike many of his colleagues, he favored further research.

“I, for one, also believe that the probability of there being life elsewhere in this big cosmos is just absolutely out of this world — I think the probability is there,” he said.

(9) WRIGHT OBIT. An actor in theALF series died June 27. BBC has the story —

Actor Max Wright has died aged 75 after a long battle with cancer, his family has confirmed.

He was well known for playing Willie Tanner, the adoptive father of an alien, in the hit 1980s sitcom ALF.

(10) DRAGO OBIT. Actor Billy Drago, known for his work on Charmed, X-Files, and The Untouchables, died June 24. Details at SYFY Wire: “Effortlessly menacing character actor Billy Drago dies at 73”

…As far as his recurring roles, he played the eccentric Barbas, The Demon of Fear on the original Charmedas well as outlaw John Bly in the beloved The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. He also had several one-off roles in series like The X-Files, Masters of Horror, and Supernatural

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 27, 1941 James P. Hogan. A true anti-authoritarian hard SF writer in the years when that was a respectable thing to be. I’m sure that I’ve read at lest a few of his novels, most likely Inherit the Stars and The Gentle Giants of Ganymede. A decent amount of his work is available digitally on what is just called Books and Kindle. (Died 2010.)
  • Born June 27, 1966 J. J. Abrams, 53. He of the Star Trek and Star Wars films that endlessly cause controversy. I can forgive him any digressions there for helping creating Fringe and Person of Interest, not to mention Alias at times. 
  • Born June 27, 1952 Mary Rosenblum. SF writer who won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel for The Drylands, her first novel. She later won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History Short Form for her story, “Sacrifice.” Water Rites and Horizons are the only ones available digitally. (Died 2018.)
  • Born June 27, 1959 Stephen Dedman, 60. Australian author who’s the author of The Art of Arrow-Cutting, a most excellent novel. I really should read Shadows Bite, the sequel to it.  He’s the story editor of Borderlands, the tri-annual Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror magazine published in Perth. Apple Books has nothing for him, Kindle has The Art of Arrow-Cutting and a few other titles. 
  • Born June 27, 1972 Christian Kane, 47. You’ll certainly recognize him as he’s been around genre video fiction for a while first playing Lindsey McDonald on Angel before become Jacob Stone on The Librarians. And though Leverage ain’t genre, his role as Eliot Spencer there is definitely worth seeing. 
  • Born June 27, 1975 Tobey Maguire, 44. Spider-man in the Sam Raimi trilogy of the Spidey films. His first genre appearance was actually in The Revenge of the Red Baron which is one serious weird film. Much more interesting is his role as David in Pleasantville, a film I love dearly. He produced The 5th Wave, a recent alien invasion film.
  • Born June 27, 1987 Ed Westwick, 32. British actor who has roles in the dystopian Children of MenS. Darko (a film I couldn’t begin to summarise), Freaks of Nature (a popcorn film if ever there was one), the  “Roadside Bouquets” episode of the British series Afterlife (which I want to see) and The Crash (which may or may not be SF). 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) ALA DROPS MELVIL DEWEY NAME FROM AWARD. The decimals remain, but Dewey is gone. Read the resolution here. Publishers Weekly reports:

Citing a history of racism, anti-Semitism, and sexual harassment, the council of the American Library Association on June 23 voted to strip Melvil Dewey’s name from the association’s top professional honor, the Melvil Dewey Medal. The ALA Council approved the measure after a resolution was successfully advanced at the ALA membership meeting, during the 2019 ALA Annual Conference in Washington DC.

Best known by the public for creating the Dewey Decimal Classification System, Dewey was one of the founders of the American Library Association in 1876, and has long been revered as the “father of the modern library,” despite being ostracized from the ALA in 1906 because of his offensive personal behavior.

In an article last June in American Libraries, Anne Ford questioned why the ALA and the library profession still associates its highest honor with a man whose legacy does not align with the profession’s core values. This week, some 88 years after his death, Dewey’s #TimesUp moment appears to have finally come.

(14) HATCHING DRAGONS. Michael Swanwick explains how he wrote “My Accidental Trilogy” at Flogging Babel.

…When I began work on The Dragons of Babel, I had no idea whether it existed in the same universe as The Iron Dragon’s Daughter or not. The two books had no characters or locations in common. Even the names of the gods were different, though at the head of each pantheon was the Goddess. Only she and the dragons were the same. Ultimately, I decided that it did no harm for the books to be in the same world (though, presumably, on different continents) and would please those who had read The Iron Dragon’s Daughter. So I brought Jane back—not from our world but from an earlier period of her life, when she was behaving very badly—for a brief cameo appearance. Just as a small treat, an Easter egg, for those who had read the earlier novel.

To my surprise, The Iron Dragon’s Daughter had been characterized by reviewers as an “anti-fantasy” because it challenged many of the assumptions of genre fantasy. This had never been my intent. But, the idea having been placed into my head, in The Dragons of Babel I set out to upend the standard model of fantasy in as many ways as possible while still delivering its traditional pleasures….

(15) THE KING WILL ABDICATE FROM BROADWAY. The New York Times says no more monkey business after mid-August: “‘King Kong’ and ‘Cher Show’ Musicals Announce Closings”.

“King Kong,” the big-budget musical driven by its massive namesake puppet, will close Aug. 18 after less than a year on Broadway, the show’s producers announced on Tuesday.

… “King Kong” was capitalized for $30 million, according to the production. That sum — enormous by Broadway standards — has not been recouped.

The show eventually opened to stinging reviews, with most of the praise going to the towering title character himself, a colossal marionette clocking in at 20 feet tall and 2,000 pounds. For the week ending June 23, it grossed just shy of $783,000 at the box office, only 53 percent of its potential take.

(16) MARS RUNS OUT OF GAS. Nature updated the search for life on Mars. For one brief, shining moment, it was Camelot: “Record methane level found on Mars”.

NASA’s Curiosity rover last week measured the highest level of methane gas ever found in the atmosphere at Mars’s surface. The reading — 21 parts per billion (p.p.b.) — is three times greater than the previous record, which Curiosity detected back in 2013. Planetary scientists track methane on Mars because its presence could signal life; most of Earth’s methane is made by living things, although the gas can also come from geological sources…

… NASA ran a follow-up experiment last weekend and recorded a methane level less than 1 p.p.b., suggesting that the high reading last week came from a transient gas plume.

(17) GETTING UNSTUCK IN TIME. Camestros Felapton is happy to offer “Some advice for time travellers”. Pay attention — even if he starts with “Don’t Panic!” there’s a lot here you haven’t heard before.

4. Listen to that mysterious stranger you meet early on

Honestly, even if you aren’t currently planning to go time travelling, NOW is the time to carry a notebook. When the uncannily familiar stranger and/or your great aunt starts babbling to you about destiny, or how what has been written can (or cannot) be unwritten, get them to pause a moment and ask them to write it down in your handy notebook.

This encounter may be the point where you are told The Rules (we’ll get to The Rules in a moment). Having them written down will make your life so much easier and will also make it easier for you to explain them to your younger self when you meet them when you are disguised as an uncannily familiar stranger.

(18) SIT ON IT. The Warner Bros. Studio Tour is adding a Big Bang Theory exhibit: “BAZINGA! The Sets Are Coming to The Tour”.

Starting June 28th, take a seat in Sheldon’s spot and relive your favorite moments from apartment 4A.  Recreate Sheldon’s signature knock, stroll through the foyer to see the infamous broken elevator or visit the Caltech Physics Department Cafeteria featuring original costumes from Leonard, Sheldon, Penny, Howard, Raj, Bernadette and Amy.

(19) COLBERT ON MEDIA. Steven Colbert starts with the news that Kim Kardashian is offering a new line of makeup that doesn’t go on your face. The Good Omens cancellation petition is his second bit, starting at the 2:00 mark (in case you want to fast-forward past Kim Kardashian’s thighs).

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

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 5/26/19 Scrollman vs the Click

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood (2003)

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

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

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

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

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio knows all about green power.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 2/15/19 The Scroll’ll Come Out Tomorrow

(1) HAPPY INTERNATIONAL FANWORKS DAY. Archive of Our Own linked to all kinds of activities honoring 5th annual International Fanworks Day, which is today. Here’s the first entry on their list –

1. What Fanworks Mean to Me: A couple of weeks ago, we sent out a call for essay contributions about what fanworks mean to you. Tomorrow, we’ll be posting selected essays from the submissions. If you missed your chance to send us an essay, don’t worry! You can always post on social media with the tag #IFD2019. Let people know how you feel and help spread the International Fanworks Day festivities.

(2) NOMMOS. Registered members of the African Speculative Fiction Society (ASFS) have until April 30 to nominate for the Nommo Awards. The 2019 Nommo Awards will be presented at the Ake Arts and Book Festival in November 2019.

(3) ARISIA. The Boston convention relocated from the Westin to another hotel at a time when a strike was in progress and it was anticipated many would refuse to cross a picket line. Arisia’s February corporate meeting minutes report:

The Westin has begun the process of contesting the cancellation of our 2019 contract with them.  Further steps will cost them money with little prospect of a return and we don’t know if they will follow through or if this is a negotiating tactic.

The meeting approved spending money for Arisia’s legal representation.

(4) MORE ON ZAK SMITH. The revelations about game author Zak Smith summarized here the other day (Pixel Scroll 2/12/19 Item #2) have started a tsunami of reaction.

Pop Culture Uncovered has a thorough review: “Tabletop RPG Community Boycotts Zak Smith”.

…Although tackling toxicity in gaming from the grassroots level is essential, it’s important to remember that the industry must do something as well. From designers to publishers to social media admins, leaders and creators need to act. In this instance, that is precisely what happened.

Within a day of Morbid’s post, Smith was banned from most significant subreddits, like /r/rpg and /r/osr. He had long been blocked from many sites to the point of accusing places like RPG.net of hypocrisy and censorship, and now even more forums were closed to him.

The Gauntlet, one of the largest communities, podcasters, and RPG organizers were the next to respond, banning all of Smith’s games from their events and restricting discussion of him (or his products) on their forums. They even went as far as to cleanse their podcasts of interviews or promotions involving him and also warned conventions that thought about hosting him that they’d boycott them…

The Gauntlet’s said:

The Gauntlet will no longer provide coverage to Zak S or his publications. Due to the fact he has a history of harassing Jason and other members of The Gauntlet, we have had a longstanding ban on having him on our podcasts, and he has never been welcome in our community spaces. We will be extending that ban to any kind of coverage of, or participation in, his ttrpg work. […]

* We will not work with people who work with him. For example, Codex will not publish an artist or author who is actively working with him. Folks who have worked with him in the past must promise to not work with him again in order to have a professional relationship with The Gauntlet.
* Members of The Gauntlet organizational team will no longer attend conventions in our capacity as representatives of The Gauntlet so long as Zak S is welcome to attend those conventions. We will also strongly discourage our membership from attending such conventions.

Giant industry convention Gen Con was called on to take a stand – this is as far as they were willing to go.

Eric Franklin also annotated these links in a comment here —

Meanwhile, a ton of publishers have walked back things they’ve said in the past, and several of Zak’s defenders have walked back their statements, too. Some statements are stronger than others. Ken Hite’s statement is one of the better one, but it is by no means the only statement worth digging for.

Even Mike Mearls (who is the man in charge of D&D) made a (pathetically weak) statement on Twitter. He is (rightfully) getting roasted in the responses.

This is a storm that’s been brewing in tabletop gaming for a long while. Zak is one of a small number of high-profile missing stairs whose downfall I have been waiting for.

There is a thread on RPG.net’s Tangency board that has a ton more information about what’s going on, but you need to be a registered member to see Tangency (registration is free). That thread is here.

(5) SIGNAL BOOST. The latest edition of Alasdair Stuart’s “weekly pop culture enthusiasm download” Full Lid includes a wry commentary on “The Three Season Long Cold Open” of a popular TV series —

The Expanse begins in the final minutes of its third season. Which is a hyperbolic exaggeration on one hand and a salute to the sheer audacity of the first three seasons on the other. In the space of under 40 episodes the show has shifted from ‘traumatized survivors busk their way through a political scandal’ to ‘manufactured war between the planets’ to ‘first contact’ to ‘political intrigue’ to ‘welcome to the galaxy.’ Each progression has been baked into the DNA of what’s preceded it and the result is a show that’s followed a silky smooth trajectory out into new space. Alex Kamal would be proud. This leads to the final scene of season three making the show’s name it’s premise and fixing it’s previously somewhat broken leading man. This,excellent, recap video by Zurik 23M brings you up to speed 

You can catch up on the last six months of back issues at the Full Lid archive.

(6) ‘RITHM & BLUES. Lithium batteries can explode if you overcharge them. So can humans. Perhaps AIs should learn that latter lesson (Futurism: “Two Pricing AIs Went Rogue and Formed a Cartel to Gouge Humans”).

When the robot revolution comes, our new overlords may not be as benevolent as we’d hoped.

It turns out that AI systems can learn to gang up and cooperate against humans, without communicating or being told to do so, according to new research on algorithms that colluded to raise prices instead of competing to create better deals.

[…] “What is most worrying is that the algorithms leave no trace of concerted action — they learn to collude purely by trial and error, with no prior knowledge of the environment in which they operate, without communicating with one another, and without being specifically designed or instructed to collude,” the researchers behind the experiment said in a write-up.

(7) MY META OR YOURS? The Hollywood Reporter’s Daniel Fienberg’s “‘Doom Patrol’: TV Review” tells readers more about him than the new show.

Say what you will about DC Universe’s new superhero dramedy Doom Patrol — it’s a structural mess, but an improvement of epic proportions over DC Universe’s Titans — nobody will accuse it of not being in on the joke, whatever the joke happens to be.

In fact, it’s basically impossible to review Doom Patrol positively or negatively without insecurity that you might be falling right into the show’s aggressively meta trap. This is, after all, a show that has its perpetually wry narrator say that critics compared one of its main characters to “a poor man’s Deborah Kerr,” followed by, “Critics? What do they know? They’re gonna hate this show.” So is a positive review me trying to prove my coolness to DC and creator Jeremy Carver? Is a negative review proof that I’m just as predictable and dismissible as the show believes?

I don’t know. All I can say for sure is that no matter what the narrator might have expected, I don’t hate Doom Patrol. Whatever that means.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 15, 1883 Sax Rohmer. Though doubt best remembered for his series of novels featuring the arch-fiend Fu Manchu. I’ll also single out his The Romance of Sorcery as he based his mystery-solving magician character Bazarada on Houdini who he was friends with. The Fourth Doctor did a story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang” whose lead villain looked a lot like most depictions of Fu Manchu did. (Died 1959.)
  • Born February 15, 1907 Cesar Romero. Joker in the classic Batman series and film. I think that Lost Continent as Major Joe Nolan was his first SF film with Around the World in 80 Days as Abdullah’s henchman being his other one. He had assorted genre series appearances on series such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Get Smart, Fantasy Island and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. (Died 1994.)
  • Born February 15, 1916 Ian Ballantine. He founded and published the paperback line of Ballantine Books from 1952 to 1974 with his wife, Betty Ballantine. The Ballantines were both inducted by the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2008, with a joint citation. During the Sixties, they published the first authorized paperback edition of Tolkien’s books. (Died 1995.)
  • Born February 15, 1927 Harvey Korman. I’m stretching genre to the beyond it’s breaking limiting as the roles I want to single out are him as Blazing Saddles as Hedley Lamarr and in High Anxiety as Dr. Charles Montague. He did actually do a SF role or two, mostly in series work. On The Wild Wild West, he was Baron Hinterstoisser in “The Night of the Big Blackmail”;  on The Munsters, he played the Psychiatrist in “Yes Galen, There Is a Herman”; and on that infamous Star Wars Holiday Special,  he appeared Chef Gormaanda, Krelman, and Toy Video Instructor. (Died 2008.)
  • Born February 15, 1945 Douglas Hofstadter, 74. Author of Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. Though it’s not genre, ISFDB notes he wrote “The Tale of Happiton “, a short story included in the Rudy Rucker edited Mathenauts: Tales of Mathematical Wonder
  • Born February 15, 1948 Art Spiegelman, 71. Obviously best known for his graphic novel Maus which retells The Holocaust using mice as the character. What you might not know is there is an an annotated version called MetsMaus as well that he did which adds amazing levels of complexity to his story. We reviewed it at Green Man and you can read that review here.
  • Born February 15, 1951 Jane Seymour, 68, whose full legal name is, to my considerable delight, Joyce Penelope Wilhelmina Frankenberg. Her first significant genre role was in Frankenstein: The True Story as Agatha / Prima. I then see her as being in Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger as Princess Farah and then showing up in Somewhere in Time as Elise McKenna. (Based on the novel Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson, who also wrote the screenplay.) I see her in the classic Battlestar Galactica as a character named Serina for a brief run. I think her last genre work was on Smallville as Genevieve Teague. 
  • Born February 15, 1971 Renee O’Connor, 48. Gabrielle, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. I’m reasonably that I watched every damn episode of both series when they aired originally. Fun stuff. Her first genre role was first as a waitress in Tales from the Crypt andshe’s had some genre film work such as Monster Ark and Alien Apocalypse.

(9) ANTHROPOBOTIC. In the Washington Post, Jason Filliatrault, who tweets as @SarcasticRover pretending to be the “voice” of Curiosity, has an op-ed (“Goodbye, Opportunity Rover. Thank you for letting humanity see Mars with your eyes.”) where he says in Curiosity’s voice —

 There are better ways to say all of this, and I’m just a robot, and I know I don’t have the emotion or ability to express the truth about you. And even if, by some bizarre twist of fate, I was actually just a human who pretended to be a robot for as-yet-unknown reasons, I would still be so ill-equipped to tell the world how incredible you were.

(10) ANOTHER FAREWELL. From This Girl Codes — don’t read this ‘til you have a hanky ready:

(11) PROOF OF CONCEPT. BBC video shows how “Space harpoon skewers ‘orbital debris'”.

The British-led mission to test techniques to clear up space junk has demonstrated a harpoon in orbit.

The RemoveDebris satellite fired the projectile into a target board held at a distance on the end of a boom.

Video of the event shows the miniature spear fly straight and true, and with such force that it actually breaks the target structure.

But, importantly, the harpoon’s barbs deploy and hold on to the board, preventing it from floating away…

(12) CREDITS WHERE DUE. ScienceFiction.com introduces “The Opening Credits For ‘Good Omens’”.

…For fans of the source novel by Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, it is chock full of colorful imagery and Easter eggs and gives some amazing insight into the kind of tone and atmosphere the series is going for, not to mention giving us a taste of the kind of music the show will have. Plus, with the whole thing running around 1 minute and 40 seconds, which is quite a bit longer than most opening credits nowadays, it cements the fact that Gaiman is clearly doing the show his own way, with his own style, which may yield some very interesting and exciting results.

(13) THE SCOOP. The Disney Food Blog leads with this tasty news: “Toy Story 4 Ice Cream Flavors Hitting the Grocery Shelves! Will You Find Them in Your Store?” Two new Edy’s/Dreyer’s flavors are hitting shelves now —

Here’s the scoop on the two flavors: your choices are Carnival Churro Cravings and Chocolate Peanut Butter Prize Winner!

We can happily verify that they are hitting the shelves! At least, we’ve found them available at a grocery chain called Giant Eagle (with locations in Pennsylvania, primarily around Pittsburgh).

(14) COWL DISAVOWAL. Ben Affleck appeared on Jimmy Kimmel’s show to explain why he isn’t Batman any more. Batman’s previously unknown connection with Tom Brady is discussed!

(15) RIGHT NOW, ROGER IS NOT VERY JOLLY. Sounds like the Pirates of the Caribbean film franchise has everything except people who want to be involved with making the next one. Geoff Boucher, in “Disney’s ‘Pirates’ Reboot Uncertain As ‘Deadpool’ Writers Jump Ship” on Deadline, says it’s not clear if there is to be another movie because Johnny Depp will not be in the next installment and Deadpool writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have been dropped from writing duties, and with no star and no script, it’s unclear what Disney has left for another Pirates film.  Boucher says there are rumors Disney wants to turn the franchise into a TV series.

The [Reese & Wernick] hiring was widely hailed and Bailey has been vocal in his excitement about it, telling reporters and colleagues that the scribes were going to “make Pirates punk rock again” and give the franchise a much-needed “kick in the pants” that would revive the off-kilter charisma the brand exuded in its early days. Those high hopes faded in recent weeks.

Disney insiders are divided about what happens next. Some say a search is already underway for viable replacement options, others say the once-proud flagship of Disney’s live-action fleet may be headed to dry-dock for good.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Paper Mario Bros. In My Notebook (Stop Motion)” on YouTube is a short video about what a Mario Bros. chase would be like in a two-dimensional notebook.

[Thanks to Meredith, Eric R. Franklin, Hampus Eckerman, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, John King Tarpinian, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories, Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]