Pixel Scroll 3/19/20 Using The Robotic Arm To Push The Mole

(1) JEMISIN EVENT CONVERTED TO LIVESTREAM. N.K. Jemisin’s in-person appearance at the Arthur C. Clarke Center for Human Imagination has been converted to a virtual event, due to steps being taken to protect the health of the UC San Diego community and slow the spread of COVID-19. Use the Eventbrite link to secure access.

N.K. Jemisin’s in-person event for The City We Became has, unfortunately, had to be canceled, but we are pleased to be able to offer you access to an exclusive virtual event streamed live. You’ll get a chance to hear about The City We Became and ask Jemisin questions. Only ticket-holders will have access-plus, you will still receive a copy of the book, with an option to sign up for a signed bookplate from Orbit during the event.

The virtual event will take place at the same time as the original event, 7pm on Friday, April 3rd. Tickets are still available through Eventbrite. If you have already purchased a ticket and would like to request a refund, you may do so through Eventbrite. However we hope you choose to join us in celebrating The City We Became! All ticket purchases help support the author, Mysterious Galaxy bookstore, the publisher, and this thing we call human imagination.

And you have to buy the magazine to see this next Jemisin-related item. Kevin Hogan reports: “I was surprised but pleased to see a one-page The Making of the Book segment in Entertainment Weekly (April 2020, issue # 1586, page 90) on N.K. Jemisin and her upcoming novel, The City We Became. It’s always nice to see genre covered in ‘popular media’-type publications.”

(2) BALTICON NEWS. Dale S. Arnold, the Balticon 54 Hotel Liaison, asks for understanding about how reservation cancellations were sent by the hotel before the con could notify its members.

We sent a letter to the Balticon hotel asking for their opinion as to if they would be able to host Balticon this year and if they could not do so we would need to cancel the event.

The hotel management determined that it was very unlikely they would be able to host Balticon 54 and at a staff meeting on the morning of 03/18/2020 the general manager told his staff to send us an email explaining that it was unlikely they would be able to host Balticon and to cancel reservations once we confirmed we had told our people. Apparently, the head of reservations did not hear the part about waiting for us to send out notice and took immediate action by using an automated cancellation program.

Cancellations from the reservations department went out several hours before the email to us from the general manager letting us know they could not host Balticon 54 and would not attempt to collect cancellation fees and that they hope to see us next year was sent. A follow up email with apology for sending the cancellations before we told the hotel we had announced the cancellation of Balticon has already been received from the hotel. Given the stress many people are under during this pandemic I hope we can all forgive the hotel reservations department jumping the gun by a day or so.

A message concerning membership refunds (and roll-overs if you want to Balticon 55) and dealers tables refunds  etc. with the process to let us know what you want to do will be sent out soon.

(3) THE MAN WHO LEARNS BETTER. “Heinlein’s Juveniles, Pt. 1” is a fine article by Sourdough Jackson in the latest DASFAx clubzine. Click here – then scroll down to the March (202003) issue. Starts on page 2.

…When discussing the juveniles, I’ll be taking them two books per column. The first pair are Rocket Ship Galileo(1947) and Space Cadet (1948), both products of a troubled time in the author’s life—a typhoon was blowing his marriage toward the rocks, and the prospects for his writing career weren’t much better. Among his attempts to claw off that marital and literary lee shore was a projected series of books for boys: The Young Atomic Engineers. He thought to begin with a blockbuster—a trip to the Moon.

(4) MONSTROUS DISCOVERIES. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In the March 16 Financial Times, Simon Ings reviews “Monsters of The Deep,” a show about giant aquatic creatures that will be at Britain’s National Maritime Museum through January.

Back in 1893, the biologist Thomas Henry Huxley wrote in The Times:  ‘There is not an a priori reason that I know of why snake-bodied reptiles, from fifty feet long and upwards, should not disport themselves to our seas as they did those of the cretaceous epoch, which, geologically speaking, is a mere yesterday.’

Palaentologist Darren Naish, who is lead curator of the Falmouth exhibition,, is willing to entertain Huxley’s theory.  “His was the right attitude at the time, because the life of the deep oceans was only just being discovered. (Monsters of the Deep makes much of the ground-breaking research led by HMS Challenger, which between 1872 and 1876 discovered 4,700 species of marine life.) Large fossil dinosaurs and early whales, and amazing gigantic living animals, had been discovered only relatively recently,’ Naish pints out.’The whale shark, the world’s biggest fish, was a mid 19th century discovery.

(5) AGAINST THE LAW. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] In “Six Great Novels About Crime That Aren’t Quite Crime Novels” on CrimeReads, Mat Osman looks at six novels, two of which, China Mieville’s The City & The City and Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policemen’s Union, are Hugo winners.  He also writes about Michel Faber’s Under The Skin, noting the novel is a “very different beast” than the filmed version.

The joy of The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is the way it lures you in with the most comforting of literary tropes. It’s a hard-bitten detective story about a boozy, lovelorn policeman with a seemingly unsolvable case. There are hard-drinking cops. There are underworld kingpins. There are unspoken codes of honor. So far, so Raymond Chandler. But under the surface another kind of book is flexing its muscles. It’s a what-if novel in which the post-WWII Jewish homeland is Alaska rather than Israel and the Messiah may (or may not) be on his way. It’s a setting that lets Chabon riff on his favored themes. Tall tales are told, language is toyed with (the Alaskan Jews call themselves The Frozen Chosen) and it builds to a denouement as vast as it is unexpected.

(6) BABY YODA ON THE COVER. That made me 1000% more interested. On sale May 26 from Titan Comics, Star Wars: The Mandalorian The Art & Imagery–Collector’s Edition Vol.1.

This deluxe edition collects the stunning artwork from the first four chapters of the Disney+ smash hit, highlighting the characters, creatures, allies, enemies and environments of this all-new Star Wars story.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 19, 1990 Repo Men premiered. It was directed by Miguel Sapochnik. It starred Jude Law, Forest Whitaker, Liev Schreiber and Alice Braga. It was based on Eric Garcia’s The Repossession Mambo who co-wrote the screenplay with Garrett Lerner. It wasn’t well-received by critics at the time, nor does the audience over at Rotten Tomatoes care for it giving it a 21% rating.
  • March 19, 1999 Farscape premiered on Syfy. The series was conceived by Rockne S. O’Bannon and produced by The Jim Henson Company and Hallmark Entertainment.  The Jim Henson Company was responsible for the various alien make-up and prosthetics, and two regular characters, Rygel and Pilot were completely Creature Shop creations. Filmed in Australia, it would would last for four seasons ending in The Peacekeeper Wars.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 19, 1821 Sir Richard Francis Burton KCMG FRGS. He was a geographer, translator, writer, soldier, orientalist when that term wasn’t a curse word, cartographer, ethnologist, spy, linguist, poet, fencer and diplomat. And the translator of an unexpurgated translation of One Thousand and One Nights. Along with Vikram and the Vampire or Tales of Hindu Devilry. Mind you, he was also the publisher of both Kama Sutra and The Perfume Garden. (Died 1890.)
  • Born March 19, 1919 Patricia Laffan. She was the alien Nyah in Devil Girl from Mars, a Fifties pulp film which you can see here. (Died 2014.)
  • Born March 19, 1926 Joe L. Hensley. He was a First Fandom Dinosaur which is to say he was  active in fandom prior to July 4, 1939 and he received the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award. He is also a published genre author with ”And Not Quite Human” in the September 1953 issue of Beyond Fantasy Fiction being his first published work, and The Black Roads being his only genre novel. It does not appear that his genre works are available in digital editions. (Died 2007.)
  • Born March 19, 1928 Patrick McGoohan. Creator, along with George Markstein, of The Prisoner series with him playing the main role of Number Six. I’ve watched it at least several times down the years. It never gets any clearer but it’s always interesting and always weird.  Other genre credits do not include Danger Man but does comprise a short list of The Phantom where he played The Phantom’s father, Treasure Planet where he voiced Billy Bones and Journey into Darkness where he was The Host. (Died 2009.)
  • Born March 19, 1936 Ursula Andress, 84. I’msure I’ve seen all of the original Bond films though I’ll be damned I remember where or when I saw them. Which is my way of leading up to saying that I don’t remember her in her roles as either as Honey Ryder in the very first Bond film, Dr. No, or as as Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. Bond girls aren’t that memorable to me it seems. Hmmm… let’s see if she’s done any other genre work… well her first was The Tenth Victim based on Sheckley’s 1953 short story “Seventh Victim”. She also appeared in L’Infermiera, oops wrong genre, The Mountain of the Cannibal GodThe Fifth MusketeerClash of the Titans where she played of course Aphrodite, on the Manimal series, The Love Boat series and the two Fantaghirò films. 
  • Born March 19, 1945 Jim Turner. Turner was editor for Arkham House after the death of August Derleth, founder of that press. After leaving Arkham House for reasons that are not at all clear, he founded Golden Gryphon Press which published really lovely books until it went out of existence. Too bad their original website doesn’t exist anymore, but you can still view captures at the Wayback Machine. (Died 1999.)
  • Born March 19, 1955 Bruce Willis, 65. So do any of the Die Hard franchise count as genre? So even setting them aside, he has a very long  genre list, to wit Death Becomes Her (bit of macabre fun), 12 Monkeys (weird shit), The Fifth Element (damn great), Armageddon (eight tentacles down),  Looper (most excellent), The Sixth Sense (not at all bad), Sin City (typical Miller overkill) and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (yet more Miller overkill). 
  • Born March 19, 1964 Marjorie Monaghan, 56. JoJo on all six episodes of Space Rangers. My brain keeps insisting it lasted much, much longer. She also was on Babylon 5 as the Mars Resistance leader during the Earth Alliance Civil War, where she was known as Number One. She’s also appeared on Quantum Leap, in the cyberpunk Nemesis film, in The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy film, on Andromeda series, and on The Great War of Magellan film. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) CORONAVIRUS IMPACT ON COMICS MARKETING. “Image Comics Publisher Asks for Retailer Relief Amid Coronavirus Pandemic”. The Hollywood Reporter explains the new returns strategy adopted by the publisher of Saga, The Walking Dead, Monstress and many other famous titles.

As the comics industry reacts to the social isolation response to the coronavirus, Image Comics publisher and CEO Eric Stephenson has released an open letter about what his company — the third-largest publisher in the U.S. market — is doing to lessen pressure on retailers struggling with reduced traffic to stores and enforced closures. He is also asking other publishers to follow suit.

In normal times, comic book stores must estimate how many issues of each comic they will sell, and pay upfront for inventory from publishers. However, as the coronavirus has dramatically shifted how many customers are coming into shops, Stephenson said Image will allow comic book stores to return orders for the next 60 days. 

(11) THE WAY THROUGH. Elizabeth Bear, in her latest newsletter, looks for the tunnel that has the light at the end of it: “Adapt, improvise, overcome. And some strategies for coping with that cabinet full of shelf-stable STUFF.”

One of the precepts of emergency response is the title of this email: Adapt, improvise, overcome. It’s a phrase that gets mentioned several times in Machine, and I found myself thinking of it last night as I chatted with friends in various corners of the internet about the economic repercussions of the current xombie apocalypse. I see a lot of fear, and a lot of people saying “If we have to do this quarantine bullshit for 18 months the economy will never recover.”

A problem here is that we’ve been taught (by entertainment) to think of massive catastrophes as The End Of The World because that makes a better story. And I don’t want to minimize the grief and suffering that we endure in a catastrophe, be it a hurricane or an earthquake or a war or a pandemic. That is real.

But it’s also true that we adapt….

(12) AS CHAYKIN SEES IT. “Graphic Content: At The Intersection Of Comics And Crime With Howard Chaykin” is a fascinating profile by CrimeReads’ Alex Segura.

….Like the best crime fiction, Chaykin’s work is well versed in the morally ambiguous protagonist, as opposed to the steel-jawed, superheroic superman.

“My work more often than not betrays that hero with a wound thing, with a protagonist who is far from morally sound—and informs my interest in telling stories without a hero who does the right thing, that right thing as defined by an audience trained to love this romantic vision of the world,” Chaykin said. “And don’t get me started with the “rich guy who had a bad day when he was eight and turns to wage war on crime” model, either.”

(13) COME TIME TRAVEL WITH ME. Galactic Journey’s Gideon Marcus will be doing a “Come Time Travel with Me” show on March 27. Sign up online.

It’s been a pretty difficult set of weeks lately.  In addition to normal life grinding to a halt, conventions and gatherings have been canceled.  Galactic Journey was scheduled to present at a number of venues over the next several months.  That’s all fallen by the wayside.

But!

Thanks to the miracle of TELSTAR, SYNCOM, and RELAY, Galactic Journey can still perform for you, coming to you Live, Coast to Coast, in the comfort of your own living rooms!

That’s right — we are reviving Galactic Journey’s “Come Time Travel with Me” show, an hour-long (more or less) trip back in time exactly 55 years.

We’ll be covering science fiction, the Space Race, the recent civil rights march in Alabama, fashion, politics — you name it.  And we mean YOU.  After our introduction, it’ll be your questions that guide the course of the program.  And the best questions will win a prize!

So come join us, March 27, 1965 (2020) at 6PM PDT.  All you need is a screen and an hour.  We’ll provide the rest.

See you there!

(14) IT FEELS SO GOOD WHEN I STOP. “At long last, NASA’s probe finally digs in on Mars” – the PopSci version.

NASA unsticks its Martian digging probe by whacking it with a shovel.

Every day, the InSight lander’s suite of instruments sends back data proving that the Red Planet isn’t really dead. Marsquakes rumble the seismometer. Swirling vortices register on onboard pressure sensor. And temperature sensors help track the weather and changing of the seasons.

Despite the lander’s successes, however, one gauge has met with resistance from the Martian environment while trying to carry out its mission. Something has stopped InSight’s 15-inch digging probe, dubbed “the mole” for its burrowing prowess. Instead of diving deep into the Martian sand where it could take the planet’s temperature, it’s been stuck half-buried. An intercontinental team of MacGyvers has spent a year devising successively daring plans to get the mole digging again, but still it flounders on the surface. Now their final gambit—directly pushing the mole into the soil—has shown tentative signs of success, NASA announced Friday on Twitter.

The goal of the mole, which is the measurement probe of InSight’s Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (or HP3), is to track the temperature variations of Mars itself. This heat comes from Mars’s core, which, like Earth’s core, remains warm from the planet’s birth. By measuring it, researchers hope to learn about Mars’s formation—but from the rod-shaped mole’s current position they can get readings only of the surface temperature. Mission planners hope to ideally reach 15 feet underground to escape the warming and cooling from the Martian seasons that would interfere with reading the planet’s true temperature.

“I always thought, ‘let’s ask Mark Watney [the fictional protagonist of the book The Martian] to just go over there and just push a little bit on the mole,’” said Tilman Spohn, the HP3’s principle investigator.

But without any Martian explorers to lend a hand, Spohn and his colleagues on the “anomaly response team” have had to improvise with the only tool available—a small shovel-like “scoop” on the end of InSight’s robotic arm. Over the last year they’ve tried to punch down the walls of the hole around the mole, to fill in the hole with nearby sand, and to give the mole more purchase by pinning it against the side of the hole with the scoop. But to no avail.

(15) UNDER DEADLINE. Nature reports “How China is planning to go to Mars amid the coronavirus outbreak”.

China’s first journey to Mars is one of the most anticipated space missions of the year. But with parts of the country in some form of lockdown because of the coronavirus, the mission teams have had to find creative ways to continue their work. Researchers involved in the mission remain tight-lipped about its key aspects, but several reports from Chinese state media say that the outbreak will not affect the July launch — the only window for another two years…

(16) BEHIND THE SCENES. “We Spent 24 Hours Searching for the Elusive ‘Butthole Cut’ of Cats”. You probably don’t really need the Vanity Fair article – you intuited the whole story immediately.

You can blame—or thank—Seth Rogen.

On Tuesday, the actor and writer partook in the ancient theatrical tradition that is trying to understand the baffling, inscrutable movie-musical Cats (recently available on digital). Rogen wrote a long Twitter thread about the experience, marveling at the impossibly small cat shoes worn by several characters and wondering what the hell a “Jellicle” is, anyway. (For the record, that made-up word is a play on how posh Brits pronounce “dear little” cats).

In the process, Rogen also tweet-quoted a post from screenwriter Jack Waz, who claimed to know a visual effects artist who had been tapped to work on Cats back in November. That VFX person’s job? “To remove CGI buttholes that had been inserted a few months before,” Waz wrote. “Which means that, somewhere out there, there exists a butthole cut of Cats.”

(17) AREA 51. “Rise of Skywalker Has An Awesome John Williams Easter Egg You Missed”ScreenRant points the way.

…With The Rise of Skywalker concluding the iconic Skywalker saga and wrapping up Williams’ time in a galaxy far, far away, J.J. Abrams made sure to put Williams in front of the camera in the film. Williams has a minor Rise of Skywalker cameo, appearing in a seedy establishment on Kijimi as the Resistance heroes make their way to meet Babu Frik. Getting the opportunity to see Williams onscreen was thrilling enough for fans, but the scene also includes several nods to his unparalleled career.

The making-of documentary in the Rise of Skywalker home media release has a segment focused on Williams. In it, Abrams reveals each of the props surrounding Williams represents the 51 Oscar nominations Williams received up to that point. Examples include Indiana Jones’ whip from Raiders of the Lost Ark, the barrels from Jaws, and the iron from Home Alone….

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

Pixel Scroll 3/18/20 How Many Files To Babylon? Fifth Score Files And Ten

(1) BELATED RECOGNITION. BBC explores “Why Octavia E. Butler’s novels are so relevant today”.

The visionary sci-fi author envisaged an alternate future that foresaw many aspects of life today, from big pharma to Trumpism. Now she has a cult following, writes Hephzibah Anderson.

It’s campaign season in the US, and a charismatic dark horse is running with the slogan ‘make America great again’. According to his opponent, he’s a demagogue; a rabble-rouser; a hypocrite. When his supporters form mobs and burn people to death, he condemns their violence “in such mild language that his people are free to hear what they want to hear”. He accuses, without grounds, whole groups of people of being rapists and drug dealers. How much of this rhetoric he actually believes and how much he spouts “just because he knows the value of dividing in order to conquer and to rule” is at once debatable, and increasingly beside the point, as he strives to return the country to a “simpler” bygone era that never actually existed.

You might think he sounds familiar – but the character in question is Texas Senator Andrew Steele Jarret, the fictional presidential candidate who storms to victory in a dystopian science-fiction novel titled Parable of the Talents. Written by Octavia E Butler, it was published in 1998, two decades before the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States.

…Fourteen years after her early death, Butler’s reputation is soaring. Her predictions about the direction that US politics would take, and the slogan that would help speed it there, are certainly uncanny. But that wasn’t all she foresaw. She challenged traditional gender identity, telling a story about a pregnant man in Bloodchild and envisaging shape-shifting, sex-changing characters in Wild Seed. Her interest in hybridity and the adaptation of the human race, which she explored in her Xenogenesis trilogy, anticipated non-fiction works by the likes of Yuval Noah Harari. Concerns about topics including climate change and the pharmaceutical industry resonate even more powerfully now than when she wove them into her work.

And of course, by virtue of her gender and ethnicity, she was striving to smash genre assumptions about writers – and readers – so ingrained that in 1987, her publisher still insisted on putting two white women on the jacket of her novel Dawn, whose main character is black. She also helped reshape fantasy and sci-fi, bringing to them naturalism as well as characters like herself. And when she won the prestigious MacArthur ‘genius’ grant in 1995, it was a first for any science-fiction writer.

(2) HOT WORDS ABOUT A COLD CLASSIC. The report in yesterday’s Scroll about Cora Buhlert’s takeoff on a classic, “The Cold Crowdfunding Campaign”, prompted Filers to remember Richard Harter’s epic analysis “The Cold Equations – A Critical Study” (thanks to Andrew for finding the Usenet link.)

… Science fiction has been described as a literature of ideas, a literary arena in which the idea is hero. This may well be true. Too often, however, it is a flawed literature of ideas, marked by shoddy treatments received with uncritical enthusiasm. The Cold Equations has been cited an instance of the “literature of ideas” at its best.

In the original article I argued that the story is no such thing but rather that it is an example of systemic blindness to morally obtuse assumptions. This argument is considered in detail below. Given that, one asks: Why is the story so ardently defended – and attacked? Why has the story made such an impression?…

(3) HITLER BACK ON SALE. Amazon admits it simply makes criticism-driven decisions – “Amazon Bans, Then Reinstates, Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf’” – the New York Times has the story.

Amazon quietly banned Adolf Hitler’s manifesto “Mein Kampf” late last week, part of its accelerating efforts to remove Nazi and other hate-filled material from its bookstore, before quickly reversing itself.

The retailer, which controls the majority of the book market in the United States, is caught between two demands that cannot be reconciled. Amazon is under pressure to keep hate literature off its vast platform at a moment when extremist impulses seem on the rise. But the company does not want to be seen as the arbiter of what people are allowed to read, which is traditionally the hallmark of repressive regimes.

Booksellers that sell on Amazon say the retailer has no coherent philosophy about what it decides to prohibit, and seems largely guided by public complaints.

Over the last 18 months, it has dropped books by Nazis, the Nation of Islam and the American neo-Nazis David Duke and George Lincoln Rockwell. But it has also allowed many equally offensive books to continue to be sold.

(4) IN LIKE FINN. Camestros Felapton calls it “Perhaps the most significant story from a former Sad Puppy ever” – Declan Finn’s account of touring Italy with his wife when the coronavirus outbreak shut down the country. Camestros ends his I-read-it-so-you-don’t-have-to summary:

The short version therefore of how right wing blogs are reacting plays out in a personal level in Declan’s story. Initial scepticism and eagerness to carry on as if it is all a fuss over nothing which then collides with an escalating reality and blaming the government.

Not that you really ought to deny yourselves – Finn fits quite an epic in between requests for money and Dragon Award nominations.

…We went to the Al Italia counter and the moderately long line. It was processed quickly. We came to the counter.

“Americans?”

I showed her the passports. 

“No,” she said.

No? What do you mean no? Are you going to cancel our flight again? Am I going to have to leap across your sad, pathetic Corona rope line and throttle you into giving us a boarding pass out of this Hell hole? How much more ransom do we have to pay to get us out of here!

She took an abnormally long breath, thought about what she had to say next, and continued, “Other check in, around the corner.”

Whew. No manslaughter charges for me today…. 

While trying to get to their flight they stepped through the wrong door at the airport, ended up on the tarmac, and were corralled by security. Talk about the cold equations — for that violation Italian authorities slapped them with a 4000 euro fine, which is 4497.00 in US dollars. A friend has started a GoFundMe to try and help them recoup some of the money.

(5) WORKING AT HOME, LIKE USUAL. George R.R. Martin began his post “Strange Days” telling about how his theater and other ventures in Santa Fe are closed by the coronavirus outbreak, then gave his personal status:

For those of you who may be concerned for me personally… yes, I am aware that I am very much in the most vulnerable population, given my age and physical condition.   But I feel fine at the moment, and we are taking all sensible precautions.  I am off by myself in a remote isolated location, attended by one of my staff, and I’m not going in to town or seeing anyone.   Truth be told, I am spending more time in Westeros than in the real world, writing every day.   Things are pretty grim in the Seven Kingdoms… but maybe not as grim as they may become here.

Inverse took this to mean “Winds of Winter release finally back on track for one unexpected reason”.

 For now, we’re just excited to hear that George is back at work on The Winds of Winter (of course, it’s possible he’s referencing the script for the upcoming HBO prequel House of the Dragon, but that seems unlikely given the phrasing here).

Winds of Winter was originally scheduled for release in November 2018, but the book got delayed so Martin could focus on Fire & Blood, a “historical” account of House Targaryen that serves as the basis for House of the Dragon. Back in May 2019, he joked in a blog post that if he hadn’t finished the book by 2020 Worldcon New Zealand, he should be locked up on New Zealand’s White Island until he finished it.

In other words, Martin really wants to be done with Winds of Winter by the end of July when the annual conference takes place.

(6) HYPERFEASANCE. The Balticon committee was surprised when the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel started sending out room cancellation notices before they could make an announcement.  On March 12, the Governor of Maryland established a ban, of indeterminate duration, on all gatherings of more than 250 people in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The con had been scheduled for May 22-24. The committee told Facebook readers:

After we shut down online registration over the weekend pending a conversation with the hotel, continuing developments with COVID-19 and discussions with the convention committee had convinced the Baltimore Science Fiction Society Board of Directors we likely needed to cancel the convention. However, we had not yet identified a process for doing that with minimal confusion, nor had we had a conversation with the hotel discussing the process. Today we learned that the hotel had started canceling registrations. We were as surprised as everyone else to hear about the canceled reservations and see that our reservations were getting canceled.

(7) NO ÅCON. Finland’s Acon 11 has been postponed:

…We could have waited, made the decision closer the convention, but honestly, having spent some weeks following the evolving situation, listening to epidemiologists and public officials in both Finland and Sweden, our conclusion is that the chances of the situation having stabilised in May seem very slim indeed. It’s not just a question of whether we would be legally permitted to hold the con in May, but whether we could do it in a responsible manner.

We need to spare everyone involved the unnecessary work and costs. Adlon, our hotel, will take a financial hit. We need to let them know and plan. We want to avoid our members paying for non-refundable travel at a time when the committee don’t believe it will be possible to arrange a convention.

Fortunately, we have few costs we can’t recoup. …

The con was to have been held May 21-24 in Mariehamn.

(8) A DREAMER ROLE. Trans actress Nicole Maines, who plays Nia Nal, aka Dreamer, on Supergirl, was interviewed by SYFY Wire. “Supergirl’s Nicole Maines tells us why Dreamer is more than just a trans character”.

Supergirl is not known for its subtlety. Aliens in the show are a thinly veiled metaphor for immigrants, LGBTQ people, and “others.” The current story arc is coming to a head with the Agent Liberty storyline, in which a TV personality rises through the ranks of government thanks to his anti-alien rhetoric — which sounds familiar, even his real-world equivalent doesn’t have Lex Luthor providing him with fancy gear.

That said, the show is remarkably subtle about a milestone it reached last year: Supergirl features TV’s first openly transgender superhero, Dreamer. Rather than make Nia/Dreamer’s trans-ness a huge deal, after she came out as transgender, the other characters matter-of-factly accepted her, and it never became an issue….

(9) WORDEN OBIT. Astronaut Al Worden died March 17 at the age of 88 reports Florida Today.

“We remember this pioneer whose work expanded our horizons,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.

Worden was one of only 24 people to have flown to the moon. He was also the first astronaut to conduct a deep-space extravehicular activity, or EVA, during Apollo 15’s return to Earth in 1971.

During the mission, he orbited the moon dozens of times while astronauts David Scott and James Irwin explored the surface.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 18, 1981 The Greatest American Hero premiered on ABC. Created by producer Stephen J. Cannell, the series features William Katt, Robert Culp and Connie Sellecca.  It had  to fight off lawsuits from the owners of the Superman copyright who thought the concept and look of the suit was too close to their product.  After that, a real Mr. Hinckley tried on March 30th of that year to assassinate President Reagan, so scripts involving protagonist Ralph Hinkley had to be rewritten to be named Ralph Hanley (or sometimes just “Mr.H”).  You can see the pilot here. And yes, it’s up legally courtesy of the copyright holders.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 18, 1888 Alexander Leydenfrost. As an illustrator, he briefly worked for Planet Stories before being signed by Life magazine where the money was better. But his quite brief tenure at Planet Stories is credited with the creation of the enduring cliché Bug Eyed Monster as that’s what his illustrations showed. (Died 1961.)
  • Born March 18, 1926 Peter Graves. Star of Mission Impossible and the short lived Australian-based Mission Impossible which if you not seen it, you should as it’s damn good. I’m reasonably certain his first genre role was on Red Planet Mars playing Chris Cronyn. Later roles included Gavin Lewis on The Invaders, Major Noah Cooper on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Doug Paul Martin in Killers from Space and Paul Nelson on It Conquered the World. It’s worth noting that a number of his films are featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000 series. (Died 2010.)
  • Born March 18, 1932 John Updike. It might surprise you to learn that there are two Eastwick novels, The Witches of Eastwick and The Widows of Eastwick, the latter set some three decades after the first novel ended. He wrote a number of other genre friendly novels including The CentaurBrazil and Toward the End of Time. (Died 2009.)
  • Born March 18, 1950 J. G. Hertzler, 70. He’s best known for his role on Deep Space Nine as the Klingon General (and later Chancellor) Martok. He co-authored with Jeff Lang, Left Hand of Destiny, Book 1, and Left Hand of Destiny, Book 2, which chronicle the life of his character. His very TV first role was a genre one, to wit on Quantum Leap as Weathers Farrington in the “Sea Bride – June 3, 1954” episode. Setting aside DS9, he’s been in ZorroHighlanderThe Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanCharmedRoswell and Enterprise series;  for film genre work, I see The Redeemer: Son of SatanTreasure Island: The Adventure Begins and Prelude to Axanar (yet another piece of fanfic). In addition, he’s done a lot of video game voice acting, the obvious Trek work but such franchises as BioShock 2The Golden Compass and Injustice: Gods Among Us. 
  • Born March 18, 1959 Luc Besson, 61. Oh, The Fifth Element, one of my favorite genre films. There’s nothing about it that I don’t like. I’ve not seen Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets and reviews leave me disinclined to do so. The Transporter is not genre but I recommend it as a great film none the less. 
  • Born March 18, 1960 Richard Biggs. He appeared as Dr. Stephen Franklin on Babylon 5, reprising the role in the final aired episode of Crusade, “Each Night I Dream of Home”. Other genre roles included playing Roger Garrett on Tremors, Hawkes In The Alien Within, An Unnamed Reporter on Beauty and the Beast,  Dr. Thomson on an episode of The Twilight Zone and a Process Server in an episode of The Magical World of Disney. (Died 2004.)
  • Born March 18, 1961 James Davis Nicoll, 59. A freelance game and genre reviewer. A first reader for SFBC as well. Currently he’s a blogger on Dreamwidth and Facebook, and an occasional columnist on Tor.com. In 2014, he started his website, jamesdavisnicoll.com, which is dedicated to his book reviews of works old and new; and which later added the highly entertaining Young People Read Old SFF, where that group read prior to Eighties SF and fantasy, and Nicoll and his collaborators comment on the their reactions.
  • Born March 18, 1973 Max Barry, 37. He’s written a number of novels of which I’ve read his superb dystopian Jennifer Government and Machine Man when it was online serial. His newest is Providence which sounds fascinating though his book tour in the US got canceled he notes on his blog. 

(12) CRUSADING FOR A CAPE. The Guardian’s “80 years of Robin: the forgotten history of the most iconic sidekick” is really a call for the character to be written as a woman again – and reminds fans that it wouldn’t be the first time.

….Why we’ve not had more female Robins – or better served ones – is a symptom of a much wider problem. Of the 11 writers announced as contributing to DC’s anniversary issue for Robin, only two are women: Devin Grayson and Amy Wolfram. Between January and March last year, women accounted for 16% of the credits on comics released by DC; of writers, only 13% were women. The studio celebrated 80 years of Batman last year, but in that time not a single woman has been at the helm of Batman or Detective Comics. Aside from Grayson’s work on Nightwing and Gotham Knights, no female writer has ever written a Batman series. Given how many women are working on Batgirl, Catwoman and Batwoman, it would seem they are restricted to writing female heroes.

(13) A VERY SERIOUS QUESTION. This will make some folks cranky. Tom Morton asks “Avenue 5: Why Is Sci-Fi Comedy So Unfunny?” at Frieze.

… Given the impregnable humourlessness of most sci-fi – from the rigorously logical ‘hard sf’ of the novelist Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy (1951–53) to the dreamy vision of Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Solaris (1972) – the genre’s tropes should be an open goal for the comic imagination. Why, then, do so many sci-fi themed comedies fail to raise a smile? Partly, it’s that parody, as a form, is hard to sustain – witness Seth Macfarlane’s television series The Orville (2017–20), a directionless send-up of Star Trek (1966–69), or Mel Brooks’s movie Spaceballs (1987), a staggering unfunny Star Wars (1977) take-off. Comparatively better were the first two seasons of British sitcom Red Dwarf (1988–2017). Drawing on the aesthetic of John Carpenter’s slackers-in-space movie, Dark Star (1974), the show centred initially on a classic odd-couple relationship between the last human in existence, a warm-hearted scouse wastrel, and his foil, an uptight, socially ambitious hologram. However, when Red Dwarf’s popularity and budget increased, it fell into two traps familiar to makers of ‘straight’ on-screen sci-fi: an overreliance on special effects and (fatally) a fan-servicing emphasis on the lore of its own fictional universe, which destroyed any tension that once existed between the show’s ‘situation’ and its ‘comedy’.

(14) CAN YOU DIG IT? Gizmodo says things are looking up for a NASA Mars probe: “And Now for Some Good News: The Mars InSight Heat Flow Probe Is Digging Again”.

…But the probe faced trouble on deployment. Impeded by an unexpectedly crusty soil texture that didn’t generate enough friction for the probe to dig, it only made it down to around a foot and a half. 

(15) JEOPARDY! Some of tonight’s Jeopardy! contestants didn’t get these sff references. (Honestly, I’d have missed all three myself.)

Category: Places in Fantasy

Answer: The name of this 2-word ancestral dwelling in Tolkien is a play on the translation of the French “cul-de-sac”.

Wrong question: “What is Middle Earth?”

Correct question: “What is Bag End?”


Answer: Much of the action in the “files” of this guy, the city’s resident practicing professional Wizard, takes place in Chicago.

No one could ask, “Who is Harry Dresden?”


Answer: In Bill Willingham’s graphic novels, Bigby, this foe of Rising Hood, is the sheriff of Fabletown.

Wrong question: “What is Nottingham?”

Correct question: “What is The Big Bad Wolf?”

(16) FUN WITH YOUR NEW HEAD. Will you be The One? An interview with the CEO of Valve: “Gabe Newell: ‘We’re way closer to The Matrix than people realize'”.

“The area that I’m spending a lot of time on has been growing out of a bunch of research that occurred a while ago on brain-computer interfaces,” Newell said. “I think that that’s kind of long lead stuff, so that’s kind of the background thread that I get pulled back into when other things aren’t demanding my attention.”

Human brains can already communicate with computers directly, though in very limited ways compared to the sci-fi systems of The Matrix or William Gibson’s Neuromancer, where physical reality can be totally replaced with a simulated, virtual one. But Newell doesn’t think that kind of sci-fi tech is as far off as it might seem.

“We’re way closer to The Matrix than people realize,” Newell said. “It’s not going to be The Matrix—The Matrix is a movie and it misses all the interesting technical subtleties and just how weird the post-brain-computer interface world is going to be. But it’s going to have a huge impact on the kinds of experiences we can create for people.”

(17) I CAN GET A WITNESS. A participant remembers “Launching the Hubble Space Telescope: ‘Our window into the Universe'” – video.

In 1990 the Hubble Space Telescope was launched, putting into orbit one of the most remarkable scientific instruments that has ever existed.

But initially the mission ran into problems, including a flawed mirror that meant the first images from Hubble were blurry.

Nasa astronaut Kathryn Sullivan was one of the five crew members who launched the Hubble.

(18) IT’S A BIRD. Free range dino — “Fossil ‘wonderchicken’ could be earliest known fowl”.

A newly discovered fossil bird could be the earliest known ancestor of every chicken on the planet.

Living just before the asteroid strike that wiped out giant dinosaurs, the unique fossil, from about 67 million years ago, gives a glimpse into the dawn of modern birds.

Birds are descended from dinosaurs, but precisely when they evolved into birds like the ones alive today has been difficult to answer.

This is due to a lack of fossil data.

The newly discovered – and well-preserved – fossil skull should help fill in some of the gaps.

“This is a unique specimen: we’ve been calling it the ‘wonderchicken’,” said Dr Daniel Field of the University of Cambridge.

“It’s the only nearly complete skull of a modern bird that we have, so far, from the age of dinosaurs and it’s able to tell us quite a lot about the early evolutionary history of birds.”

(19) TUB THUMPING. Don’t miss the Special “Social Distancing” Edition of The Late Show.

If you’re watching this from home right now, you’re doing the right thing. If you’re watching it from your bathtub bunker like our host, please remember to save some hot water for the rest of us. Either way, we’re glad you’re with us. So stay hunkered down and please enjoy this episode of The Lather Show with Scrubbin’ Colbath!

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

Pixel Scroll 3/6/20 Heavy Water, Holy Water, And Flit

(1) AMAZING STORIES BUS STOP AD. Seen in New York City. Photo courtesy of von DImpleheimer.

(2) ON THE AIR. And the show is now with us. Steve Davidson’s post “Amazing Stories TV Show Debuts” (BEWARE SPOILERS) delivers this assessment:

…All in all – production values are what you would expect, the story is in line with the target the show has always sought (families watching and sharing together) and the theme is marginally SFnal, (though time travel afficianados will have plenty to talk about) and my overall conclusions are: time was not wasted watching this episode and we ought to stick with the show to see how it develops.

(3) IAFA SAYS IT MUST MEET TO SURVIVE. International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts 41 will be held March 18-21, however, the organizers are making some new options available: “ICFA 41: COVID-19, Cancellations, and Credits/Refunds”.

As a result of the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the news about COVID-19, the IAFA board would like to take this opportunity to issue an update on ICFA 41.

The conference will meet.

We have to meet certain guaranteed minimums for room occupancy, food and beverage expenditures, etc., specified in our contract with the hotel, or pay out of pocket. It is not an exaggeration to say that cancellation would jeopardize the very existence of the IAFA.

The first concern of the board members is members’ safety and well-being. We urge IAFA members to proactively research COVID-19 and consult status reports through reputable sources such as the World Health Organization (https://www.who.int/), the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (https://www.cdc.gov/), and the Florida department of health (http://www.floridahealth.gov/), whose websites are continually updated. We would also advise checking for updates with your travel provider and travel insurer.

…Because of the extraordinary circumstances, we are crediting registration for those who cancel as a result of the outbreak. This credit must be used within 2 years. We will provide refunds to people from countries under travel restrictions. Because we are required to have final numbers for rooms and meals to the hotel a week before the conference, we will provide credits or refunds only to people who cancel by 5p EST on March 9, 2020.

…The board is discussing a number of ways to make it possible for people not able to attend physically but who wish to have their work included in some way to do so. We will make an official announcement before the March 9 deadline.

More details at the link.

(4) FRANK HERBERT ON CORONAVIRUS. Or so the people tweeting it around have captioned this rewritten chart —

(5) PIXAR’S LATEST. Leonard Maltin applauds a new release: “Pixar Scores With Heartfelt ‘Onward’”.

Like the best Pixar and Disney animated films, this one supplies rooting interest in its heroes from the very start. We want them to succeed because we care about them and their quest. Who wouldn’t want to be reunited with a loved one, especially when his absence has left a void in their lives?

(6) SLOW START. NPR’s Glen Weldon reviews “‘Onward’: Timid Teen On A Mythic Quest For Elf-Assurance”.

In the opening minutes of Disney/Pixar’s Onward, we are met with various manifestations of loss.

There’s the film’s setting, a world where magic once flourished, and with it, pixies, unicorns, pegasi, elves, ogres, centaurs, mermaids — your standard-issue high-fantasy mythofaunic biome. But even here, in a gimmick the film leans into juuuuust enough, the Industrial Revolution arrived. As automation increased, magic faded. Elves still live in giant toadstools, but said toadstools are now rigidly apportioned into vast, Spielberg-suburban subdivisions and cul-de-sacs. Once-splendid unicorns have gone feral, raiding raid trash cans and hissing at passers-by like peculiarly horsey raccoons. If Middle-Earth had more strip-malls, it’d look something like this.

There’s also the loss experienced by the elf-family at the film’s center: mom Laurel (voiced by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and her two sons — the younger, anxious Ian (voiced by Tom Holland) and his older, buff, RPG-obsessed brother Barley (Chris Pratt, squarely back in Andy Dwyer mode). It’s Ian’s 16th birthday, and he’s given a gift left to him by his late father, who passed away when Ian was too young to remember him: A wizard’s staff.

Finally, in these opening minutes, there’s still another feeling of loss that manifests in the viewer — that of lost opportunity.

The jokes are glib and smarmy, the family dynamics achingly familiar, and as we follow Ian to high school, his every encounter and interaction feels less Disney/Pixar and more Disney Channel — which is to say, too sweet, too cornball, too affected, too faux-contemporary. The average very young child in the audience won’t notice; the average parent will start checking the theater’s exits.

But!

On or about the 20-minute mark — not coincidentally, upon the arrival of a manticore called Corey, voiced by Octavia Spencer — the film seems to discover what it is: A testament to the remarkable degree of emotional expressiveness that Pixar’s character-animators can imbue into a story….

NPR hosts a 4-way discussion (audio, no transcript yet) here.

(7) PERSEVERANCE PLANS. BBC reports “Nasa 2020 robot rover to target Jezero ‘lake’ crater”.

The American space agency (Nasa) says it will send its 2020 Mars rover to a location known as Jezero Crater.

Nasa believes the rocks in this nearly 50km-wide bowl could conceivably hold a record of ancient life on the planet.

Satellite images of Jezero point to river water having once cut through its rim and flowed via a delta system into a big lake.

It is the kind of environment that might just have supported microbes some 3.5-3.9 billion years ago.

This was a period when Mars was much warmer and wetter than it is today.

What is so special about Jezero?

Evidence for the past presence of a lake is obviously a draw, but Ken Farley, the Nasa project scientist on the mission, said the delta traces were also a major attraction.

“A delta is extremely good at preserving bio-signatures – any evidence of life that might have existed in the lake water, or at the interface of the sediment and the lake water, or possibly things that lived in the headwaters region that were swept in by the river and deposited in the delta,” he told reporters.

Jezero’s multiple rock types, including clays and carbonates, have high potential to preserve the organic molecules that would hint at life’s bygone existence.

Narrated flythrough of planned route here.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • March 6, 1936 — The “Income from Immigrants” episode of the Green Hornet radio show originated from WXYZ in Detroit. (It is also called “Ligget’s Citizenship Racket”.) The show was created by Fran Striker & George W. Trendle, and starred Al Hodge as the Green Hornet at this point, and Tokutaro Hayashi who had renamed Raymond Toyo by initial series director James Jewell. You can download the episode here.
  • March 6, 1938 — RKO first aired “The Bride of Death” with Orson Welles as  The Shadow. Welles prior to his War of The Worlds broadcast would play the role for thirty three episodes in 1937 and 1938 with Blue Coal being the sponsor. You can download it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 6, 1918 Marjii Ellers. Longtime L.A. fan active in the LASFS. Her offices in the LASFS included Registrar and Scribe. She is known as well for her costumes at cons. Indeed, she received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990 from the International Costumers Guild. An avid fanzine publisher and writer, some of the fanzines she edited were Masqueraders’ Guide, More Lives Than One, Nexterday, One Equal Temper, Thousands of Thursdays, and Judges’ Guide. (Died 1999.)
  • Born March 6, 1928 William F. Nolan, 92. Author of the long running Logan’s Run series (only the first was written with George Clayton Johnson). He started out in fandom in the Fifties publishing several zines including one dedicated to Bradbury. In May 2014, Nolan was presented with another Bram Stoker Award, for Superior Achievement in Nonfiction; this was for his collection about his late friend Ray Bradbury, called Nolan on Bradbury: Sixty Years of Writing about the Master of Science Fiction. He’s done far too much writing-wise for me to sum it him up. 
  • Born March 6, 1930 Allison Hayes. She was Nancy Fowler Archer, the lead role, in The Attack of The 50 Foot Woman. Her first SF role was the year as Grace Thomas in The Unearthly. She’d be Donna in The Crawling Hand shortly thereafter. She died at age forty-seven from the result of injuries sustained from early on Foxfire, a mid Fifties Western that’s she’s actually in. That she made three SF films while in severe pain is amazing. (Died 1977.)
  • Born March 6, 1937 Edward L. Ferman, 83. Editor and publisher who’s best known as the editor of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction from 1966 to 1991.  He also edited a zine I’ve not heard of, Venture Science Fiction Magazine, for two years 1969 – 1970). And, of course, he’s edited myriad anthologies that were assembled from F&SF
  • Born March 6, 1942 Dorothy Hoobler, 78. Author with her husband, Thomas Hoobler, of the Samurai Detective series which is at least genre adjacent. More interestingly, they wrote a biography of Mary Shelley and her family called The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein which sounds absolutely fascinating. Note to ISFDB: no, it’s not a novel. Kindle has everything by them, alas Apple Books has only the biography.
  • Born March 6, 1957 Ann VanderMeer, 63. Publisher and editor, and the second female editor of Weird Tales. As Fiction Editor of Weird Tales, she won a Hugo Award. In 2009 Weird Tales, edited by her and Stephen H. Segal, won a Hugo Award for Best Semiprozine. She is also the founder of The Silver Web magazine, a periodical devoted to experimental and avant-garde fantasy literature.
  • Born March 6, 1972 K. J. Bishop, 48. Her first book, The Etched City, was nominated for a World Fantasy Award for Best Novel. It won the Ditmar Award.  She is a recipient of the Aurealis Award for best collection, That Book Your Mad Ancestor Wrote. Both works are available from the usual digital sources. 
  • Born March 6, 1979 Rufus Hound, 41, Ok, I’ll admit it was his name that got him here. He also on the good fortune to appear as Sam Swift in “The Woman Who Lived”, easily one of the best Twelfth Doctor stories. He’s also played Toad in the world premiere of the musical, The Wind In The Willows in Plymouth, Salford and Southampton, as written by Julian Fellowes. 

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) BIERYOGA. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] If Worldcon, SMOFcon, etc. are looking for a new way to encourage fans to exercise at the con… well, it seems like a good fit for much of fandom. That said, notice the source of the article. — Funny or Die claims “‘Beer Yoga’ Is A Real Thing That Exists, Namaste”.

Although it’s impossible to predict exactly what the future holds, there are a couple things that are pretty much guaranteed to happen with each new year. First, we’re all going to make resolutions. Second, we’re all going to abandon those resolutions.

One of the most common goals we make for ourselves when January rolls around is hitting the gym more often, and that’s also one of the toughest things to stick with for more than a few months. Life gets in the way, gyms are far or expensive, and let’s be honest — working out sucks. Yeah, yeah, you get a rush of endorphins and you feel good afterward, but actually dragging your butt there and the entire process of exercising leave much to be desired. However, this year might be the year things change.

If you’re like everyone else on earth and struggle to hold fast to your New-Year-New-Me resolutions, look no further than Bieryoga….

(12) THE BINDING THAT TIES. NPR praises a documentary: “‘The Booksellers’ Speaks Volumes About Old Books And Those Who Love Them”.

As we hurtle closer to a time when little kids will look up from their tablets to inquire, “What was a book, Mommy?” much as they now ask, “What’s a record player?,” it may cheer you to learn, from a charming new documentary about bookselling, that while the middle-aged tend to play on Kindles these days, millennials are to be seen in droves reading print books on the New York subway. They’re probably also the ones ordering “vintage” turntables, and they may be driving the encouraging current renaissance of independent bookstores serving cappuccino on the side, to lure us back from Amazon.

The books being bought, sold and read there, though, are unlikely to be the kind found at the New York Book Fair in a gorgeous old building on the city’s Upper East Side: ancient tomes, some with curled and peeling pages, others gorgeously illuminated. The handlers of those books are the subject of D.W. Young’s beguiling film, The Booksellers, about the world of New York antiquarian book dealers. They’re a vanishing breed who, with some exceptions, regard their work more as consuming passion than as career.

(13) CREDENTIAL CAPTURE. Here’s a bizarre GIF – “Cat UFO Abduction”.

(14) FROZEN TWO. “Destination Uranus! Rare chance to reach ice giants excites scientists”. Tagline: A planetary alignment provides a window to visit Uranus and Neptune — but time is tight.

Momentum is building among planetary scientists to send a major mission to Uranus or Neptune — the most distant and least explored planets in the Solar System. Huge gaps remain in scientists’ knowledge of the blueish planets, known as the ice giants, which have been visited only once by a space probe. But the pressure is on to organize a mission in the next decade, because scientists want to take advantage of an approaching planetary alignment that would cut travel time.

(15) DON’T PANIC, I’LL BE BACK. Science Alert “Japan Is Sending a Lander to a Martian Moon, And It’ll Be Back by 2030”.

Sending a mission to moons of Mars has been on the wish list for mission planners and space enthusiasts for quite some time. For the past few years, however, a team of Japanese Space Agency (JAXA) engineers and scientists have been working on putting such a mission together.

Now, JAXA announced this week that the Martian Moon eXploration (MMX) mission has been greenlighted to move forward, with the goal of launching an orbiter, lander — and possibly a rover — with sample return capability in 2024.

For the past three years, MMX has been in what JAXA calls a Pre-Project phase, which focuses on research and analysis for potential missions, such as simulating landings to improve spacecraft design. Now that the mission has been moved to the development phase, the focus will be on moving ahead with the development of mission hardware and software.

(16) TRAILER TIME. Dreamworks Animation dropped a trailer for Trolls World Tour. In theaters April 2020.

Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake return in an all-star sequel to DreamWorks Animation’s 2016 musical hit: Trolls World Tour. In an adventure that will take them well beyond what they’ve known before, Poppy (Kendrick) and Branch (Timberlake) discover that they are but one of six different Troll tribes scattered over six different lands and devoted to six different kinds of music: Funk, Country, Techno, Classical, Pop and Rock. Their world is about to get a lot bigger and a whole lot louder.

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

Pixel Scroll 2/25/20 I Don’t Know, Batman. Why *Is* A Pixel Like A Writing Desk?

(1) HWA SERIES. The Horror Writers Association Blog continues its Women in Horror Month series of interviews with “Females of Fright: Linda Addison”.

3) Who were/are your biggest influences?
That is a long list of people. The first person that influenced me to write is my mother. She was a fantastic storyteller and would entertain the nine of us with fables she made up. This made it feel very natural to create stories for me. Also, two strong female characters from the Star Trek television series were huge influences: Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) as the first Black female officer in a SF series and Christine Chapel (Majel Barrett) whose character said more with a look than words.

When I was in high school, I loved Maya Angelou, Ralph Ellison, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, James Baldwin, Eudora Welty, and Langston Hughes because of the music in their writing. In college, I discovered genre writers Isaac Asimov, Anne McCaffrey, Robert Heinlein, Octavia Butler, Nancy Kress, and Connie Willis. In horror, some of my female influences were Anne Rice, L. A. Banks, Elizabeth Massie, Marge Simon, and Charlee Jacob. Looking back, I see that I read more male SF and horror writers than female because the field didn’t have as many in print as they do now and even fewer Black female writers.

When my story was published in Sheree R. Thomas’ Dark Matter anthology in 2000, it gave me so much exposure and made a huge difference in my career. Others lifted me up with their belief in my writing early on: Jack Ketchum, Terry Bisson, Nancy Kress, Straub, L. A. Banks, Douglas Clegg, and so many more…

(2) CHANGING OF TH GUARD AT DISNEY. “Bob Iger steps down at Disney, Bob Chapek named new CEO” – the LA Times has details:

In a stunning move that marks the end of an era for one of the entertainment industry’s great corporate success stories, Bob Iger on Tuesday stepped down as chief executive of Walt Disney Co. after 15 years in the job.

Bob Chapek, a 27-year Disney veteran who most recently led the company’s massively important parks and consumer products business, was named Iger’s successor, effective immediately.

Iger, 69, has assumed the role of executive chairman, the company said. In that role, he will direct the Burbank entertainment giant’s creative endeavors and help guide the company’s board through the leadership transition until the end of his contract on Dec. 31, 2021, Disney said in statement.

Disney’s CEO succession plan was the subject of speculation for years as Iger delayed plans to leave the company. Disney’s board last extended Iger’s contract was in December 2017, when Disney announced that it was buying much of 21st Century Fox from Rupert Murdoch. As part of those negotiations, Murdoch requested that Iger stay on to run the company rather than leave when he’d planned….

(3) RETRO DRAMA. Mark Leeper has finished his complete overview of all feature-length dramatic presentations eligible for the Retro Hugo. Originally done in three installments, the full article now is available here — “Comments on the 1945 Retro Hugo Nominations in the Dramatic Presentation Category”.

Members of the 2020 World Science Fiction Convention will be given an opportunity to vote retroactively for Hugo Awards for 1945, for works from 1944. I am not actually old enough to have been around in 1944. The year 1944 was roughly a flowering when fantastic media was seen by much of the public. I am not sure when I started seeing fantastic media from the year 1944 until about 1960, but I do remember the early general public availability of some of the films nominated for a 1944 Retroactive Hugo. They had science fiction and fantasy for which the fiction was absurdly bad (but fun) and the “science” contained no science at all. It can still be fun to be misinformed by science from someone who knows less science than you do and by fiction that is just written. There is a certain charm to science fiction written by someone with no obvious understanding of science trying their best to make it sound credible

Many true fans of science fiction and fantasy still retain an interest in the fantasy fiction from 80 years earlier. Reading it creates an atmosphere from a writing style of decades ago. Few fans delude themselves into believing that this prose eight decades old is true artistry.

Personally I see only one or two titles among the nominees that say to me “classic.” By the time I finish this article you will probably have very little doubt which two are the ones that I consider the true classics. In the meantime I will hint for the reader think about which would the real classic be. Evelyn and I will both be viewing the choice of nominees and independently recording our opinions.

Enjoy your sojourn to the fun films of 1944. I know I will.

(4) SEES RIGHT THROUGH IT. “‘The Invisible Man’: Film Review” in The Hollywood Reporter.

This is not your father’s or, for that matter, grandfather’s The Invisible Man, even though it marks the launch of Universal’s revived attempt to seriously refresh and refashion its 1930s/’40s horror lineup for the modern age. Rather, enterprising writer-director Leigh Whannell (writer of Saw and Insidious and director of Insidious: Chapter 3) has imaginatively gone in a different direction by meeting the requirements of the title both literally and figuratively. At the same time, the movie stakes a claim for new mystery-horror territory worthy of a talent like Elisabeth Moss, who amplifies the qualities of the script with a top-shelf woman-in-severe-jeopardy performance…. 

(5) DON’T OPEN THE BOX! Last night on PBS’ Antiques Roadshow:

Caution: this appraisal may melt your face off! Watch as James Supp appraises a prototype Ark of the Covenant from the 1981 Indiana Jones film “Raiders of the Lost Ark” at Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, CA.

(6) A STEP ON THE WAY TO MARS. The LA Times reports “SpaceX gets approval to build its Mars spaceship at Port of L.A.”

The Los Angeles City Council approved a permit Tuesday that allows the Elon Musk-led company to use a site on Terminal Island at the port to build aerospace parts.

With the vote, SpaceX is now cleared to start work at the site; last week, the L.A. Board of Harbor Commissioners green-lighted the permit.

SpaceX representatives told L.A. City Councilman Joe Buscaino’s office that the company was interested in the port site because it needed additional manufacturing capacity for its Starship spaceship and rocket booster. A SpaceX representative at last week’s harbor commissioners meeting did not mention Starship by name during his presentation of the project, but he said the company would use the port site to further its goal of creating an interplanetary society that includes Mars.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 25, 1999 Escape from Mars premiered on UPN. It was directed by Neill Fearnley and produced  by Peter Lhotka. It was written by im Henshaw, Peter Mohan. It starred Lia Poirier, Allison Hossack , Peter Outerbridge, Allison Hossack and Michael Shanks. There are no critical reviews of it but the reviews at IMDB and Amazon make it clear that this is a horrible film.  And the audience numbers at Rotten Tomatoes are simpatico withose opinions at 27%. You can see it here.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 25, 1906 Mary Chase. Journalist, playwright and children’s novelist. She’s best remembered for the Broadway playwright who penned Harvey which was later adapted for the film that starred James Stewart. Her only other genre work was the children’s story, “The Wicked, Wicked Ladies In the Haunted House”. The latter is available at the usual digital publishers but Harvey isn’t. You can get Harvey as an audiobook. (Died 1981.)
  • Born February 25, 1909 Edgar Pangborn. For the first twenty years of his career, he wrote myriad stories for the pulp magazines, but always under pseudonyms. It wasn’t until the Fifties that he published in his own name in Galaxy Science Fiction and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. His Tales of a Darkening World work is certainly well-crafted and entertaining. He’s deeply stocked at reasonable prices at the usual digital publishers. (Died 1976.)
  • Born February 25, 1913 Gert Fröbe. Goldfinger in the Bond film of that name. He also the Baron Bomburst in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Professor Van Bulow in Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon and Colonel Manfred von Holstein in Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, a film that’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 1988.)
  • Born February 25, 1917 Anthony Burgess. I know I’ve seen and read A Clockwork Orange many, many years ago. I think I even took a University class on it as well. Scary book, weird film.  I’ll admit that I’m not familiar with the Enderby series having not encountered them before now. Opinions please. (Died 1993.)
  • Born February 25, 1922 Robert Bonfils. Illustrator, known for his covers for pulp paperback covers, many of an erotic nature. I’ve not heard of him but ISFDB lists quite a few genre works that are, errr, graced by his work. Sex is certainly his dominant theme as can be seen in the covers of Go-Go SADISTO, Orgy of the Dead and Roburta the Conqueress. I’ve included the cover of From Rapture with Love, an obvious rip-off a Bond film, as an example of his work. (Died 2018.)
  • Born February 25, 1938 Diane Baker, 82. She starred in Journey to the Center of the Earth with James Mason,  and shortly thereafter, she’s Princess Yasmin in The Wizard of Baghdad.  She’s Kathy Adams in the “Beachhead” episode of The Invaders, and Fran Woods in the “Saturday’s Child” episode of the original Fantasy Island. I think her last genre role was as Dolores Petersen in the “Water, Water Everywhere” episode of Mann and Machine.
  • Born February 25, 1938 Malcolm Tierney. He’s Lt. Shann Childsen, the Imperial Prison Officer who questions Skywalker and Solo on what they are doing with Chewbacca in Star Wars, he’s in the Sixth Doctor story, “The Trial of a Time Lord” as Doland. (Died 2014.)
  • Born February 25, 1944 Mary Hughes. Solely here because she was a bikini-clad robot in Dr. Goldfoot and the Bikini Machine, a too obvious Bond ripoff made entertaining by Vincent Price in the lead role. Her career spanned but three years. Another film she was in was The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini where she played, errr, a bikini clad Mary, and Boris Karloff played The Corpse.
  • Born February 25, 1968 A. M. Dellamonica, 52. A Canadian writer who has published over forty rather brilliant short works since the Eighties. Her first novel, Indigo Springs, came out just a decade ago but she now has five novels published with her latest being The Nature of a Pirate. Her story, “Cooking Creole” can be heard here at Pod Castle 562. It was in  Mojo: Conjure Stories, edited by Nalo Hopkinson.
  • Born February 25, 1971 Sean Astin, 49. His genre roles include Samwise Gamgee in the Rings trilogy, Mikey Walsh in The Goonies, and Bob Newby in the second season of Stranger Things. He also shows up in Justice League: War and in Justice League: Throne of Atlantis filmsvoicing both aspects of Shazam, a difficult role to pull off. He reprises that role on the Justice League Action series. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio finds one size does not fit all when it comes to being abducted by aliens.

(10) SQUOOBS AND COMPANY. When Mysterious Galaxy bookstore reopened in San Diego this month, representatives of the Mandalorian Mercs and Imperial Sands Garrison were on hand: “Mercs ‘Haran’galaar – Mysterious Galaxy Grand Opening’ Event Report”.

Event location: San Diego, CA
Date: February 08, 2020
Clan(s) Involved: Haran’galaar Clan
Mission Objective: Photo ops
Event Report: Mysterious Galaxy book store opened its doors again and Haran’galaar member Squoobs Jaro was there to show support. Guests were treated to photo ops with Squoobs along with members of the Imperial Sands Garrison.

(11) LAW LAW LAND. In “Useful Laws of the Land” on the Collaborative Fund website, Morgan Heusel discusses “Benford’s law of controversye:  “Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available,” which Gregory Benford promulgated in Timescape.

8. Benford’s law of controversy: “Passion is inversely proportional to the amount of real information available.”

The line appeared in science fiction author Gregory Benford’s book Timescape.

Data has a way of keeping excitement in check, whereas if you have to take a leap of faith on something you’re likely to leap as far as your mind allows.

The median income of the people of another state: data I can confirm and everyone can agree on.

The feelings and political beliefs of the people of another state: no way for me to easily tell. But I can guess and draw conclusions, some of which are wrong and missing content, and might anger me, which angers them, and so on.

Former Netscape CEO Jim Barksdale once said, “If we have data, let’s look at data. If all we have are opinions, let’s go with mine.”

He wasn’t serious, but it seriously explains a lot of things.

(12) IT’S A BABY! In the Washington Post, David Betancourt, reporting from the Toy Fair New York, says the market is about to be flooded with Baby Yoda merchandise, including a doll that makes baby noises if you hold his left hand and the theme from “The Mandalorian” if you hold the right.  He interviews “Mandalorian” producer Dave Piloni, who says that one reason why Baby Yoda merchandise is becoming available now is that they wanted to surprise people with the character and couldn’t start production of Baby Yoda stuff until after the show was launched: “Baby Yoda toys are finally arriving. Sure, they missed the holidays — but at least that prevented spoilers.”

And on Thursday at the Dream Hotel in Manhattan, the Child was everywhere. Legos, action figures, costumes, backpacks, hats, shirts, wallets and socks were all on display. An image of the now-classic moment in “The Mandalorian” when a young Baby Yoda reaches out of a capsule and extends the cutest finger in the universe for the first time? Framed and ready for your wall. The capsule itself? Also available, and featuring an animatronic Baby Yoda that blinks, coos and will melt your heart, for $60.

(13) YOU’RE INVITED TO GO APE. Fathom Events is selling tickets to a theatrical screening of King Kong on March 15.

In the classic adventure that made her a star, Fay Wray plays the beautiful woman who conquers the savage heart of a giant ape.

(14) FROM DA VINCI TO DA CAPO. Dan Brown’s next project is for young children. Wild Symphony, a hybrid picture book and album, featuring a mouse conductor who recruits other animals to join his orchestra.

Before he became a best-selling writer, Dan Brown was an aspiring musician. In 1989, he self-produced an album of children’s music he arranged on synthesizers, titled “Musica Animalia.” It sold around 500 copies, and Brown soon forgot about it.

He had better luck as a novelist, with page-turners like “The Da Vinci Code,” “The Lost Symbol” and other thrillers that collectively have more than 220 million copies in print.

Now, three decades later, Brown is reviving his musical career with a hybrid children’s album and picture book that grew out of the music and poems he wrote for “Musica Animalia.”

(15) STEALING COMEDY GOLD. James Davis Nicoll acquaints Tor.com readers with a Donald Westlake series in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Heist”.

…Just as Parker was the perfect lead for noir crime novels, hapless, likeable Dortmunder was the perfect lead for a comic heist series. There’s always stuff that needs stealing in New York; there are no end of unanticipated complications that can transform what was on paper a simple plan into a hilariously inconvenient maze of stumbling blocks for Dortmunder and his crew. It’s no surprise, therefore, that Westlake wrote fourteen novels and eleven or so short stories about John Dortmunder, Kelp, Murch, Tiny, and the rest of the crew before the author’s death put an end to the series.

(16) TEAMING WITH A ROBOT. “What do we look for in a ‘good’ robot colleague?” BBC devotes a long article to answering the question, with field observations as well as speculation.

How can we make our robot colleagues feel more at home? Teams of psychologists, roboticists and managers are trying to find out.

With a tank-like continuous track and an angular arm reminiscent of the Pixar lamp, the lightweight PackBot robot was designed to seek out, defuse and dispose of the improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, that killed and injured thousands of coalition soldiers during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bomb disposal was and is highly dangerous work, but the robot could take on the riskiest parts while its human team controlled it remotely from a safer distance.

US Army explosive ordinance disposal technician Phillip Herndon was assigned a PackBot during his first tour in Iraq. Herndon’s team named their robot Duncan, after a mission when the robot glitched and began spinning in circles, or doughnuts (doughnuts led to Dunkin Donuts, hence Duncan). His fellow bomb disposal techs named theirs too, and snapped photos of themselves next to robots holding Xbox controllers, dressed in improvised costumes or posing with a drink in their claws.

A PackBot was a piece of lifesaving kit, but it also felt like a comrade. No other equipment evoked the same kind of emotional pull, said Herndon, who retired from the army in 2016 as a first sergeant. Duncan’s final mission came one night when an enemy combatant fired on the robot as it worked to defuse a bomb. The strike disabled the IED, potentially saving lives, but destroyed the robot. “It was actually kind of a sad day for all of us,” says Herndon. “You do wind up in this situation where you have this robot for a tremendous amount of your operations, and all of a sudden you’re without a robot… There’s this emotional and operational missing link.”

Herndon was hardly alone in his attachment. Bomb-disposal robots have proven to be highly effective both at clearing explosives and at eliciting affection from their human handlers, some of whom have held robot funerals and award ceremonies for favoured bots.

These relationships offer illuminating insights into the experience of working with a robotic teammate, something an increasing number of workers in fields from healthcare to retail will be called on to do.

…‘Helping, not taking jobs’

“You need to think from the beginning of how you’re going to put these teams together, and give the robot [or] AI the job that the robot or AI does best and that the human doesn’t want to do, or that’s too boring or dangerous for the human,” says Nancy Cooke, a professor of cognitive science and director of Arizona State University’s Center for Human, Artificial Intelligence, and Robot Teaming.

(17) WHERE DID THE VIRUS COME FROM. “Coronavirus: The race to find the source in wildlife” – BBC has the story.

…Somewhere in China, a bat flits across the sky, leaving a trace of coronavirus in its droppings, which fall to the forest floor. A wild animal, possibly a pangolin snuffling for insects among the leaves, picks up the infection from the excrement.

The novel virus circulates in wildlife. Eventually an infected animal is captured, and a person somehow catches the disease, then passes it on to workers at a wildlife market. A global outbreak is born.

Scientists are attempting to prove the truth of this scenario as they work to find wild animals harbouring the virus. Finding the sequence of events is “a bit of a detective story”, says Prof Andrew Cunningham of Zoological Society London (ZSL). A range of wild animal species could be the host, he says, in particular bats, which harbour a large number of different coronaviruses.

So how much do we know about the “spillover event”, as it’s known in the trade? When scientists cracked the code of the new virus, taken from the body of a patient, bats in China were implicated.

The mammals gather in large colonies, fly long distances and are present on every continent. They rarely get sick themselves, but have the opportunity to spread pathogens far and wide. According to Prof Kate Jones of University College London, there is some evidence bats have adapted to the energetic demands of flight and are better at repairing DNA damage. “This might enable them to cope with a higher burden of viruses before getting sick – but this is just an idea at present.”

…The second part of the puzzle, then, is the identity of the mystery animal that incubated the virus in its body and possibly ended up in the market at Wuhan. One suspect for the smoking gun is the pangolin.

(18) COMPUTERIZED INCOMPETENCE. BBC reports “Pets ‘go hungry’ after smart feeder goes offline”.

Owners of a device designed to release food for pets say their animals were left hungry during a week-long system failure.

Petnet allows owners to schedule and control feeding via a smartphone app.

When the BBC contacted Petnet on its advertised email address, the email bounced back with a delivery failure notice.

One pet owner tweeted: “My cat starved for over a week”, while others complained about other hardware issues.

“My three Gen2 feeders constantly jam and won’t dispense food,” wrote another.

[Thanks to Chip Hitchcock, Evelyn Leeper, Cat Eldridge, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Michael Toman, James Davis Nicoll, and Mike Kennedy for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Acoustic Rob.]

Pixel Scroll 2/24/20 You Make Me Vote Like A Natural Person…

(1) WORLDCON AMBITIONS. Tammy Coxen wants to remedy the problem of groups bidding for Worldcons without having any knowledge of the norms and customs of the convention they want to run. With input from many others, she has created an introduction — “So You Want to Bid for a Worldcon”.

Have you ever thought about running a Worldcon? Because Worldcon has been going on for so long (over 80 years!) there are a lot of expectations, traditions, norms and customes about how to do that, and if you don’t know about them, it’s really hard to win your bid! We haven’t necessarily done a great job of communicating that to people, so (with a lot of help from friends) I put together this intro guide. This is not a how-to document with details – this is more big picture. I think it’s useful to all bidders, but it should be especially useful to people who are new(er) to Worldcons. Please feel free to share.

(2) AURORA AWARDS NEWS. The Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association reminded people today that the Aurora Awards Eligibility lists close February 29, 2020. And the announcement comes with a warning —

This means that if there are any works you wish to nominate for an award which are not found on the public eligibility lists you will need to submit them before 11:59PM EST February 29, 2020.

Nominations will open March 1, 2020.  

Unlike in previous years, works that are not on the Eligibility lists prior to the opening of Nominations will NOT be able to be added.  

(3) BENFORD Q&A. At Buzzy Mag, Jean Marie Ward conducts the “Gregory Benford Interview – The future is all we have left”.

Jean: We’re so glad to have you. Your most recent published books are both alternate history. “The Berlin Project” looks at the world that might have been if the U.S. had the A bomb before D-day. “Rewrite” offers a sequel to your classic timescape with a Groundhog Day twist. What occasioned this desire to remake recent history?

Gregory: Because it’s so tempting. There are so many pivot points, particularly in World War II and I as a physicist was very close to the issue of, how do you get the Uranium-235 to make bombs? You have to separate it out from the heavier 238 isotope. And the decision of how to do that, I had two choices and General Groves was forced to make the choice because the scientists were divided and he chose the wrong one and it cost us a year in the Second World War. It’s generally agreed by historians that had we suggested or made happen centrifically a separation, spinning cylinders, we would have chopped a year off the gaseous diffusion that Oak Ridge used and spent $1 billion doing. So, how would that change the war? You would have the bomb at D-day, well, how would you use it? And I use this title, “The Berlin Project” because that’s what the scientists in the project called it the first few years because the target was Berlin. Groves said that was too obvious.

So he called it the Manhattan Project and opened an office in Manhattan to give the excuse of, well, of course it was near Columbia University where all his work was done, but still they were always focused on Berlin. So, that was just too tempting because I was a postdoc for Edward Teller at Livermore for two years and then a staff member. He offered me a staff position which I took before I went to UC Irvine. And Teller told me all these delicious stories about the Manhattan Project. And I knew so many of them. The woman who helped me to do physics at UC San Diego, Maria Kepert Mayor, when I was working on problems with her and did a bunch of nuclear physics, again for my thesis, she won the Nobel Prize. And she told me all kinds of delicious stories about the Manhattan Project….

(4) GIBSON BAFFLED. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Behind a paywall in the February 15 Financial Times, John Thornhill interviews William Gibson.

Gibson knew the late (John Perry) Barlow well, but he says he is ‘absolutely baffled by the naive utopianism of the early Internet pioneers, who enthused about disruption.  Barlow professed to love Neuromancer — according to Gibson — but appeared to have missed the central idea that cyberspace also had its downsides.  Even today Gibson says he is puzzled by older readers who approach him at book signings to thank him for inspiring them to pursue a career in tech.

“They’d read a book in which there didn’t appear to be any middle class left and in which no characters had employment.  They were all criminal freelancers of one sort or another. So, it was always quite mysterious to me.”

(5) BRINGING DIVERSITY TO SPACE. “Black in Space: Breaking the Color Barrier” is airing this week on the Smithsonian Channel. It also can be viewed on YouTube.

America’s experiences during the Civil Rights Movement and the Space Race are well documented. However, few know about the moment these two worlds collided, when the White House and NASA scrambled to put the first black astronaut into orbit. This is the untold story of the decades-long battle between the U.S. and the Soviet Union to be the first superpower to bring diversity to the skies, told by the black astronauts and their families, who were part of this little known chapter of the Cold War.

…On Aug. 30, 1983, the astronaut Guion Bluford embarked as a crew member of the Space Shuttle Challenger, making him the first African-American in space. This documentary features him alongside Edward Dwight, an Air Force pilot edged out of a position with NASA, and Frederick Gregory, the first African-American to command a NASA mission, to examine the complications of sending a black man into space during the Cold War. 

Also included are Arnaldo Tamayo Méndez, the first Cuban astronaut sent into space by the Soviet Union, and Ronald McNair, an African-American pilot who died in the Challenger disaster in 1986.

(6) JOHNSON OBIT. Fame came late in Katherine Johnson’s life for her contributions to the early space program. “Smithsonian Curators Remember Katherine Johnson, NASA Mathematician Highlighted in ‘Hidden Figures,’ Who Died at 101”.

…Striking out during “a time when computers wore skirts,” she once said, Johnson quickly proved her incomparable worth. So trusted were her calculations that astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth, considered them an integral part of his preflight checklist—even after the equations had been transferred over to modern electronic machines. “When he got ready to go,” Johnson said of Glenn, “he said, ‘Call her. And if she says the computer is right, I’ll take it.”

Her work fueled innumerable feats of aeronautics, several of which were outlined in the 26 research papers Johnson published over her decades-long career. The earliest of these publications made Johnson one of the first women at NASA to become a named author or co-author on an agency report, according to Margalit Fox at the New York Times.

…Though Johnson’s landmark contributions went mostly unheralded by mainstream media throughout her tenure at Langley, the 2010s finally brought her name into the public eye. In 2015, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Barack Obama, who described Johnson as “a pioneer who broke the barriers of race and gender, showing generations of young people that everyone can excel in math and science, and reach for the stars,” reports Russell Lewis for NPR. The next year, Margot Lee Shetterly’s book Hidden Figures, as well as a movie adaptation by the same name, highlighted the accomplishments of Johnson and her colleagues.

The film was nominated for three Oscars. When Johnson took the stage at the 2017 Academy Awards ceremony, the mathematician—then 98 years old and the only one of the movie’s central characters still alive at the time of its release—received a thunderous standing ovation. That fall, NASA dedicated a new Langley building in her honor, the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility….

The Washington Post obituary also includes many details of her personal life and early career at NACA and its successor, NASA.

…Mrs. Johnson had a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and spent her early career studying data from plane crashes, helping devise air safety standards at a time when the agency’s central concern was aviation….

Chris Garcia wrote her bio when the Bay Area’s Computer History Museum made her a Fellow last year:

… NACA was renamed National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA) in 1958, and Johnson became an aerospace technologist within NASA’s Spacecraft Controls branch. In 1960 she coauthored Determination of Azimuth Angle at Burnout for Placing a Satellite Over a Selected Earth Position, an important report that laid out the equations for determining landing position for orbital spaceflight. In 1961 she calculated the trajectory for Alan Shepard’s Freedom 7 Earth orbital mission….

(7) MORE ABOUT BARBARA REMINGTON, In “Blast from ye past”, DB follows this intro with some intriguing comments and insights about the late artist:

Barbara Remington has died, at 90. Really old-time Tolkienists will remember her name as that of the artist who created the covers for the first issue of the Ballantine paperbacks of The Lord of the Rings, which may be seen pictured in her obituary here. (Note they’re all actually one painting split into three parts, which was also issued as a single poster without overprinting.)

Ballantine’s goal was to get the books in the shops quickly, to compete with the unauthorized Ace paperbacks, so they gave Remington very little time to work….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • February 24, 1952Aladdin And His Lamp premiered. It was directed by Lew Landers, and starred Johnny Sands and Patricia Medina. Filming was finished in less than a week. It was originally produced for a television audience, then Allied Artists picked up the film and added additional footage for a theatrical release. You can see this short film here.
  • February 24, 1960 The Amazing Transparent Man premiered. It was directed by Edgar G. Ulmer, and starred Marguerite Chapman and Douglas Kennedy. It and Beyond the Time Barrier were film in Dallas in two weeks. Critics in general liked it, but the audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes is a lousy 16%. You can see the film here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 24, 1909 August Derleth. He’s best known as the first book publisher of H. P. Lovecraft, and for his own fictional contributions to the Cthulhu Mythos (a term that S. T. Joshi does not like). Let not to overlook him being the founder of Arkham House which alas is now defunct. I’m rather fond of his detective fiction with Solar Pons of Praed Street being a rather inspired riff off the Great Detective. (Died 1971.)
  • Born February 24, 1933 Verlyn Flieger, 87. Well-known Tolkien specialist. Her best-known books are Splintered Light: Logos and Language in Tolkien’s WorldA Question of Time: J. R. R. Tolkien’s Road to Faerie, which won a Mythopoeic Award, Tolkien’s Legendarium: Essays on The History of Middle-earth (her second Mythopoeic Award) and Green Suns and Faërie: Essays on J.R.R. Tolkien (her third Mythopoeic Award). She has written a YA fantasy, Pig Tale, and some short stories.
  • Born February 24, 1945 Barry Bostwick, 75. Best remembered for being Brad Majors in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. His first genre undertaking was the English language narration of Fantastic Planet. He voices the Mayor in The Incredibles 2
  • Born February 24, 1947 Edward James Olmos, 73. Reasonably sure the first thing I saw him in was as Detective Gaff in Blade Runner, but I see he was Eddie Holt in Wolfen a year earlier which was his genre debut. Though I didn’t realize it as I skipped watching the entire film, he was in The Green Hornet as Michael Axford. (I did try watching it, I gave up after maybe fifteen minutes. Shudder.) He has a cameo as Gaff in the new Blade Runner film. And he’s William Adama on the rebooted  Battlestar Galactica. He made appearances on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Eureka
  • Born February 24, 1951 Helen Shaver, 69. Her SFF debut was as Betsy Duncan in Starship Invasions aka Project Genocide in the U.K. though you’ve likely not heard of her there, you might have seen her as Carolyn in The Amityville Horror.  She’s Littlefoot’s mother in The Land Before Time, and Kate ‘White’ Reilly in the second Tremors film. She’s got one-offs in The Outer Limits, Amazing Stories, Ray Bradbury Theater and Outer Limits to name but a few. And she was Dr. Rachel Corrigan in Poltergeist: The Legacy, a super series indeed.
  • Born February 24, 1966 Billy Zane, 54. His genre roles include Match in Back to the Future and Back to the Future Part II, Hughie Warriner in Dead Calm, John Justice Wheeler in Twin Peaks, The Collector in Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight and the title role in The Phantom.
  • Born February 24, 1966 Ben Miller, 54. He first shows up in our corner of things on The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones in the “Daredevils of the Desert” episode as an unnamed French Officer. His main genre role was on Primeval, a series I highly recommend as a lot of fun, as James Lester.  He later shows up as the Sheriff of Nottingham in a Twelfth Doctor episode entitled “Robot of Sherwood”. 
  • Born February 24, 1968 Martin Day, 52. I don’t usually deal with writers of licensed works but he’s a good reminder that shows such as Doctor Who spawn vast secondary fiction universes. He’s been writing such novels first for Virgin Books and now for BBC Books for over twenty years. The Hollow Men, a Seven Doctor novel he co-wrote wrote with Keith Topping, is quite excellent. In addition, he’s doing Doctor Who audiobooks for Big Finish Productions and other companies as well. He’s also written several unofficial books to television series such as the X Files, the Next Generation and the Avengers

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Today’s Bizarro is a look-twice.
  • The Argyle Sweater has a silly twist on a common parents-with-a-teenager line.
  • And the brilliant Tom Gauld again –

(11) MARTIAN HOPS. “Hunting for ‘marsquakes,’ NASA lander finds a surprisingly active red planet” reports the LA Times.

…The lander, which touched down on the red planet 15 months ago, has detected plenty of seismic activity, an unexpectedly strong local magnetic field and around 10,000 whirlwinds passing over the Martian surface.

The findings, published Monday in a suite of six papers in the journals Nature Geoscience and Nature Communications, will help scientists unlock the secrets of Mars’ interior and understand why it looks so different from Earth.

“What these results really are showing us is that Mars is an active planet today,” said Bruce Banerdt, the mission’s principal investigator, based at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Cañada-Flintridge, and a co-author of the new studies.

InSight is situated in a roughly 27-yard-wide impact crater in western Elysium Planitia, a volcanic plain whose surface material ranges in age from 3.7 billion to just 2.5 million years old. About 1,000 miles away lies Cerberus Fossae, a volcanic region full of faults, evidence of old lava flows and signs that liquid water once ran on the surface.

(12) HITCH YOUR WAGON TO A STAR. In the Washington Post, Homer Hickam argues that it’s time for a “moon rush” and “once electricians, plumbers, miners, and construction workers start going to the moon, and the middle class starts using products made with materials from Luna, the United States will turn into a true spacefaring nation.” “Let the moon rush begin”.

As these efforts get going, however, it’s important to avoid the thinking of a half-century ago and look at the moon in a different way. This is, after all, not your grandfather’s moon. After the Apollo moon-landing program of the 1960s and ’70s, a series of robotic missions discovered that Luna was a lot more interesting than many had previously thought. It has abundant water and oxygen, as well as helium, platinum, thorium, rare earth metals and other minerals that may well be worth digging up and transporting back for use in thousands of products. Last year, a gigantic blob of metal, as yet unidentified but significantly larger than the Big Island of Hawaii, was discovered beneath the lunar south pole. Whatever it is, it has value. The quiet far side of the moon could also provide a location for interstellar observatories, and tourists who would pay a lot to have a lunar vacation are inevitable. In other words, a real business case can be made for the moon, a case that could not only put dollars back into the pockets of taxpayers but also open up jobs for skilled workers on the lunar surface.

(13) FEEL THE HEAT. Own the “Darth Vader Helmet BBQ Grill” for a mere $724.97! Yahoo! Lifestyle adds:

In addition to the Darth Vader version, Burned by Design LTD makes a R2D2 fire pit, a Storm Trooper fire pit, a Death Star fire pit, and a Boba Fett fire pit. So find your favorite character and enjoy one of those long, outdoor summer nights.

(14) FEEL THE BEAT. “Earth Harp: The man behind the unique instruments ‘epic’ sound” – BBC video.

William Close is the inventor behind the Earth Harp – the world’s longest string instrument which uses architecture and landscapes to create a unique sound.

Mr Close, who has performed the giant harp all over the world, says the audiences are often left feeling like they are “inside the instrument” during his performances.

(15) SET AN EXAMPLE. “Marvel’s Black Panther film costumes to star in new Ipswich exhibition”.

Costumes from Marvel’s Black Panther film will feature in an exhibition designed to help “young black people shape their sense of identity”.

Three costumes from the big-screen hit will be on show at Unmasked: The Power of Stories in Ipswich.

Organisers were inspired by the film’s message about the capacity of storytelling to unite or divide people.

Contributor Phanuel Mutumburi said the exhibition would provide opportunities for people to join in.

Ipswich’s communities were “at the heart” of the exhibition, which would highlight important issues for different communities within the Suffolk town, said organisers.

(16) MAKING DEW. BBC traces “The ethereal art of fog-catching”.

In chronically dry regions around the world, communities are finding ways to live from the water suspended in the air – creating valuable drinking water from mist.

When Abel Cruz was just a boy, near the Peruvian region of Cusco, he had to walk for more than an hour every day to collect water from the nearest source and take it back home. Then he realised that, during the rainy season, drops accumulated in the banana leaves.

“When we saw that, my father and I built natural canals with the leaves to collect the water,” he says. “The first drops were a bit dirty and dusty, yet it was useful to wash dishes.”

The leaves, however, only lasted for around two weeks. “So we cut bamboo in half and we replaced the canal pipes with them, which lasted a lot longer,” explains Cruz. “That is how I got involved with collecting water.”

Today Cruz is collecting water in a very different way – he catches fog.

With large sheets of mesh strung up on hillsides, it is possible to harvest the thick mists that drift across the arid Peruvian landscape. Tiny droplets condense on the netting and dribble down into pipes that carry the water into containers where it can be used to irrigate crops or even as drinking water.

Each net can capture between 200-400 litres of fresh water every day, providing a new source of water for communities that have had no easy access to regular supplies. Cruz has helped to install more than 2,000 of these fog catching nets in eight rural communities across Peru as well as in Bolivia, Colombia and Mexico. The impact has been dramatic.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. Mitigation of Shock from Superflux on Vimeo is about an installation by Superflux displaying the gloomy world of 2050 after climate change and economic collapse.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/21/20 We Have Always Filed In The Pixel

(1) COOL RUNNING. Pat Cadigan shares the good news: “Yeah, You Just Keep Running, Cancer”.

The last checkup was a personal best. Today’s checkup was even better than that. The level of cancer has fallen by a substantial amount to an unprecedented low. After five years. Which is three more than I was supposed to get. And I’m in my late 60s—-not the time of life generally associated with healing, restoration, and/or improvement.

Which just goes to show you: old doesn’t mean it’s over. Cancer doesn’t mean it’s over. And being old and having cancer doesn’t mean you’re marking time till you keel over….

(2) LESSONS LEARNED, WOUNDS REOPENED. Dwayne A. Day, who was a civilian investigator for the Columbia Accident Investigation Board (CAIB), responds to Eric Choi’s alternate history story about the shuttle’s last mission in “All these moments will be lost…” at The Space Review.

…To me, the Columbia accident had been a shock, but it had not been personal. I barely knew the astronauts’ names before the event, and had stopped paying attention to the mission while Columbia was in orbit. But many of the NASA people we encountered during our investigation knew the astronauts personally, and some felt responsible, directly or indirectly, for their deaths. This report on what could have been done to save them if the hole in Columbia’s wing had been discovered in time was like pouring salt on an open wound—like telling people that not only had they allowed the accident to happen, they had done nothing to save their friends. The tension in that room among the NASA people was palpable.

Now, 17 years later, there’s a weird new development in that emotionally-charged issue. Eric Choi, a Canadian science fiction writer, has written an alternative history story about the Columbia mission for Analog magazine where NASA seeks to save the crew. In his story, NASA tries to launch the shuttle Atlantis on a rescue mission. When that mission is aborted, the Columbia astronauts engage in a high-risk backup plan to fill the hole in Columbia’s wing with metal and frozen water. The salvage plan is only partially successful and a few crewmembers successfully bail out of the stricken orbiter, but the remainder perish. Those rescue scenarios are based on the actual ones that I and other investigators heard in the summer of 2003, and which were included in the CAIB final report.

Choi’s story is titled “The Greatest Day,” and it features the Columbia astronauts and some NASA officials. (The story is accompanied by a non-fiction article by Choi explaining his sources about the rescue mission option.) But in a head-scratching bit of fiction, Choi has changed some names but kept others. For the Columbia’s crew, mission commander Rick Husband and Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon have different names in the story. For the ground personnel, Linda Ham, who chaired the Mission Management Team for the STS-107 mission involving Columbia, has a different name. The main character in Choi’s story is Wayne Hale, who during the actual mission had tried to obtain better imagery of the orbiter after launch photography indicated it had been hit by foam coming off the external tank during ascent. Hale’s effort was shut down by Linda Ham.

It is unclear why Choi changed some names and not others. Could he have feared legal action? The character who runs the Mission Management Team in his story is portrayed extremely negatively, but the mission commander and the Israeli astronaut say and do nothing in the story, so why change their names but not the rest of the crew? Why even use the name “Columbia” in the story? …

(3) TODAY’S 10,000. Hey, they’re catching up fast! Amazing Stories recorded its ”Ten Thousandth Post” today. Congratulations, Steve Davidson. I’ll soon be wavng as you fly past! (And tell me, how do I get this thing out of second gear?)

 My original instructions to would-be bloggers for the site was to “write about what you are passionate about, because Fandom is all about passion, and the author’s enthusiasm will transmit to the reader”.  I believe that most of our contributors achieved that goal.

(4) CHIANG COMING TO NOTRE DAME. The University of Notre Dame has announced that Ted Chiang will join the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study (NDIAS) as an Artist in Residence during the 2020-2021 academic year: “Science fiction writer Ted Chiang to join Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study”, [Via Locus Online.]

…Chiang will participate in a collaborative two-day workshop presented by the NDIAS and the Notre Dame Technology Ethics Center (ND-TEC). Throughout the event, he will discuss how technical researchers and artists can work together to develop morally significant options for engaging with technology. Additionally, as part of his residency, Chiang will engage with Notre Dame faculty on campus and participate in NDIAS weekly seminars. These seminars will give Chiang the opportunity to discuss his work in progress with NDIAS fellows, students, and invited guests. 

…Chiang will also interface with undergraduate students throughout his residency. Students will have an opportunity to engage with Chiang during a one-credit course about his and other science fiction writings taught by Sullivan and McKenna. First year students enrolled in Sullivan’s course God and the Good Life will read “Hell is the Absence of God” and Chiang will discuss the story with students in a question and answer session. 

(5) HENSON PUPPETS. What happens when Henson puppeteers are joined by some of the best comedians in the world in a battle of improv comedy? “Brian Henson presents Puppet Up. Shows in Hollywood next week.  

Created by award-winning director, producer, Brian Henson (“Muppet Christmas Carol”, “Muppet Treasure Island”), and actor, director, and improv expert Patrick Bristow (“Ellen,” “Seinfeld,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”), Puppet Up! – Uncensored promises to deliver a completely unique experience (it’s never the same show twice!), and expertly combines dynamic and spontaneous off-the-cuff comedy with the unmatched talent and creativity of Henson puppeteers.

Based on suggestions from the audience, the puppet anarchy is two shows in one: the improvised puppet action projected live on screens above the stage, and the puppeteers racing around below in full view of the audience to bring it all to life. The show also features recreations of classic pieces originally created by Jim Henson, Jane Henson, and Frank Oz that haven’t been seen by live audiences in decades.

The award-winning Puppet Up! – Uncensored is hosted on The Jim Henson Company’s historic lot in Hollywood. Built by Charlie Chaplin and a legendary part of movie history, the lot is a classic destination that is not to be missed.

(6) GRANTS. Setsu Uzumé acquaints writers with the basics in “Grant Applications 101: Finding, Troubleshooting, and Completing the Quest for Funding” at the SFWA Blog.

From Kickstarter to ko-fi to patreon, the search for funding can be a huge challenge. I recently attended a lecture provided by the St. Louis chapter of the Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts on the subject of applying for grants. Some of the most basic hurdles include finding grants that might be a good fit for your work, and how to prepare your materials in a way to make it easy for the folks reading your submission. The greatest learning curve when it comes to grant writing is how to think about looking for grants, and how to frame your work as a good fit. Here is a bit of grant application 101.

(7) BUSINESS IS NOT BOOMING. NPR’s Jason Sheehan reviews the new William Gibson novel — “In ‘Agency,’ William Gibson Builds A Bomb That Doesn’t Boom (And That’s OK)”.

William Gibson does not write novels, he makes bombs.

Careful, meticulous, clockwork explosives on long timers. Their first lines are their cores — dangerous, unstable reactant mass so packed with story specific detail that every word seems carved out of TNT. The lines that follow are loops of brittle wire wrapped around them.

Once, he made bombs that exploded. Upended genre and convention, exploded expectations. The early ones were messy and violent and lit such gorgeous fires. Now, though, he does something different. Somewhere a couple decades ago, he hit on a plot architecture that worked for him — this weird kind of thing that is all build-up and no boom — and he has stuck to it ever since. Now, William Gibson makes bombs that don’t explode. Bombs that are art objects. Not inert. Still goddamn dangerous. But contained.

You can hear them tick. You don’t even have to listen that close. His language (half Appalachian economy, half leather-jacket poet of neon and decay) is all about friction and the gray spaces where disparate ideas intersect. His game is living in those spaces, checking out the view, telling us about it.

Agency, that’s his newest. It’s a prequel/sequel (requel?) to his last book, The Peripheral, which dealt, concurrently, with a medium-future London after a slow-motion apocalypse called “The Jackpot,” and a near-future now where a bunch of American war veterans, grifters, video game playtesters and a friendly robot were trying to stop an even worse future from occurring. It was a time travel story, but done in a way that only Gibson could: Almost believably, in a way that hewed harshly to its own internal logic, and felt both hopeful and catastrophic at the same time….

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 21, 1991 Dead Space premiered. It was directed by Fred Gallo, produced by Mike Elliott and Roger Corman. The cast included Marc Singer, Laura Tate, Bryan Cranston  and Judith Chapman. The movie is a remake of the Corman-produced Mutant and while we will note that are minor differences, it still retains both story and characters from that film.  It does not fare well at Rotten Tomatoes with a rating of only 18% among reviewers there.
  • January 21, 2016DC’s Legends Of Tomorrow premiered.  It was developed by Greg Berlanti, Marc Guggenheim, Andrew Kreisberg, and Phil Klemmer, who are also executive producers along with Sarah Schechter and Chris Fedak; Klemmer and Fedak serve as showrunners. The cast is is sprawling but Rip Hunter (portrayed by Arthur Darvill of Doctor Who fame) was at the center for the first few seasons. The time travel, multiverse premise, and it’s now been renewed for a sixth season, allows for everything from Greek Mythology to Jonah Hex to show up.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 21, 1923 Judith Merril. Author of four novels, Shadow on the HearthGunner CadeOutpost Mars and The Tomorrow People of which the last three were with C. M. Kornbluth. She also wrote twenty-six stories which can be found in The Best of Judith Merril. She was an editor as well of both anthologies and magazines. Her magazine editorship was as Judy Zissman and was Science*Fiction in 1946 and Temper! In 1945 and 1947. May I comment that ISFDB notes Temper! has a header of The Magazine of Social Protest which given its date may make it the earliest SJW citation known in our genre? Oh, and between, 1965 and 1969, she was an exemplary reviewer for the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. She was also a much-lauded Books Editor there at the same time. (Died 1997.)
  • Born January 21, 1924 Dean Fredericks. He’s best remembered for being Steve Canyon in the series of the same name which aired from a year in the late Fifties on NBC. Is it genre? You decide. He did have genre credits as he played Captain Frank Chapman in The Phantom Planet. He also appeared in The Lone Ranger and the Lost City of Gold and The Disembodied. (Died 1991.)
  • Born January 21, 1925 Charles Aidman. He makes the Birthday Honors for having the recurring role of Jeremy Pike on The Wild Wild West, playing him four times. Other SFF appearances include Destination Space, The Invaders, Twilight Zone, Mission: Impossible and Kolchak the Night Stalker to name bunt a few of them. (Died 1993.)
  • Born January 21, 1934 Audrey Dalton, 76. I’ve first got her visiting the SFF genre in the Fifties monster flick The Monster That Challenged the World  where she was Gail MacKenzie. She’ll make three more SFF appearences in Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Wild Wild West and The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. before retiring from acting.  
  • Born January 21, 1940 Mike Reid. He’s a curious case as he’s been in a number of SFF roles, usually uncredited, starting with a First Doctor story, “ The War Machines” and including one-offs for The Saint, The Champions and Department S.  He is credited as playing Frank Butcher in Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time which you can watch here. (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 21, 1950 Ken Leung, 50. His SFF roles include Syatyoo-Sama in A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Miles Straume in Lost, Admiral Statura in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Kid Omega in X-Men: The Last Stand. He also played the Karnak, a member of the Inhumans, on that series which had poor rating and was canceled after eight episodes. 
  • Born January 21, 1954 Katey Sagal, 66. She voiced Leela on Futurama, the spaceship captain and head of all aviation services on board the Planet Express Ship. 
  • Born January 21, 1956 Geena Davis, 64. Her first genre appearance was as Veronica “Ronnie” Quaife In The Fly reboot followed by her widely remembered roles as Barbara Maitland in Beetlejuice and Valerie Gail In Earth Girls Are Easy. She also plays Morgan Adams in the box office bomb Cutthroat Island before getting the choice plum of Mrs. Eleanor Little in the Stuart Little franchise.  She has a lead role in Marjorie Prime, a film tackling memory loss in Alzheimer’s victims some fifty years by creating holographic projections of deceased family members that sounds really creepy. Who’s seen it? Her major series role to date is as Regan MacNeil on The Exorcist, a ten-episode FOX sequel to the film. 
  • Born January 21, 1962 Paul McCrane, 58. Emil Antonowsky in RoboCop whose death there is surely an homage to the Toxic Avenger.  A year later, he’d be Deputy Bill Briggs in the remake of The Blob, and he played Leonard Morris Betts in the “Leonard Betts” episode of the X-Files

(10) PAWSOME IDEA. Discover your Jellicle cat name:

(11) NOT JUST KID STUFF. When Doctor Who arrived in Australia – in 1965 – he ran afoul of the censors. Galactic Journey’s Kaye Dee tells how: “[January 20, 1965] The T.A.R.D.I.S. Lands Down Under and Japan Invades Australia (Doctor Who and The Samurai)”.

…I heard from a friend who works at the ABC that Australia has been one of the first countries to buy Doctor Who from the BBC. In fact, I was really excited when he told me in March last year that the ABC had purchased the show and intended to debut it last May, but then delays arose due to censorship issues. Yes, although Doctor Who is classed as a family show in Britain, the Australian censors (who view and classify every overseas television show that comes into the country) have deemed the first thirteen episodes to be not suitable for children and classified them as “Adult”! This means that the ABC must schedule these episodes for screening after 7pm and couldn’t show Doctor Who in the Sunday night 6.30pm timeslot it originally planned. But at last Doctor Who has found a home on Friday night at 7.30pm (at least in Sydney). I just hope the censors aren’t going to decide one day that some stories are too scary to be screened at all!

(12) SPIRIT OF DEATH. Accompanying The Criterion Collection’s  January selection of Seventies sff films, Ed Park analyzes the dual themes of  “The Labyrinth and the Plague”.

…The decade’s science-fiction legacy is partly obscured by the extraterrestrially inclined blockbusters appearing near its end: George Lucas’s Star Wars and Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979). But before that, filmmakers were using the genre to construct bleak, paranoid scenarios right here on earth: claustrophobic labyrinths and lethal plagues. Consciously or not, some films read like responses to the ongoing war in Vietnam, corruption in the shadow of Watergate, environmental degradation and urban decay, and the rise of a new machine age. Some of the films snap back at the excesses of the sixties, too: it can’t be coincidence that the slavering creeps whom Neville battles every night call themselves the Family, à la Charles Manson.

Even though humans reached the moon in ’69, most of these movies remain earthbound, as if the gravity of the world’s problems wouldn’t permit such easy, escapist fare—at least for a while. Indeed, the jarring prologue of George Lucas’s 1971 debut, THX 1138, is a snippet of an old Buck Rogers serial, pounding home the difference between a tale of derring-do and the imprisoning nature of man’s own inventions.

(13) ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN. Superversive Press has closed. It stopped selling its books on Amazon last fall, and turned over the balance of its unfinished Planetary Anthologies to another publisher. Today’s announcement said:

It is with great sadness that I bring you the announcement that the owner of Superversive Press has made the decision to shutter the press. His reasons are his own and personal, and I understand that running even a small company is a large amount of work. I would like to thank you, Jason, for all your hard work. It was a good run, and you brought a lot of us together.

Now, with that having been said, Superversive is a movement, not a company, and as authors, we will still be there, pressing forward with our goal of fiction that ennobles and inspires. If you were working with Superversive Press, check with your editors; most are looking at other presses we have worked with. (As we did with the Planetary Anthology.)

Camestros Felapton concisely explains Superversive’s publishing niche:

…Specialising in conservative orientated speculative fiction with an intent to ‘inspire from above’, the publisher was a part of a wave of attempts to revitalise right-leaning science-fiction in the mid 2010’s. From my perspective, given the world we do live in, experiments like Superversive Press were a far more positive outlet for some of the angst and frustrations among conservative SF/F fans than others. If we had to be in the midst of a culture war within science fiction, it was much, much better to be conducted with people exercising their creative energies creatively.

(14) ALL CATS GO TO DINNER. Karen Bruillard in the Washington Post reports that researchers at the “body farm” (formally known as the Forensic Investigation Research Station) at Colorado Mesa University found that cats will eat dead people, but because cats are finicky they may not eat your corpse if you’re dead.  The researchers found that one feral cat, given a choice of 40 bodies to consume, gnawed at one corpse for 35 consecutive days. “Compelling new evidence that your cat might eat your corpse”.

It is one of those pet-owner musings, a conversation topic so dark that it inspired a book by a mortician: Would Fluffy eat me if I dropped dead? The answer, according to small but growing body of scientific literature, is a fairly clear yes.

(15) BRICKS IN SPACE. TechCrunch tells us “Lego made an International Space Station kit, including Space Shuttle and robotic arm”. Photos at the link.

Lego is releasing an official International Space Station kit, which includes a scale model of the orbital platform, along with a miniature dockable Space Shuttle, a deployable satellite and two astronaut mini figurines. The kit is made up of 864 pieces, and celebrates the science station’s more than 20 years in operation. It was originally suggested through Lego’s Ideas platform, which crowdsources ideas from the Lego fan community.

(16) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter deduced these Jeopardy! contestants are not insatiable sff TV viewers.

Category: Spaced-Out Pop Culture.

Answer: Led by Captain Mercer, this sci-fi series on Fox sees its title ship & crew boldly going where no comedy has gone before.

No one got the question, “What is ‘The Orville'”.

There was a bit of a gaffe in the final round, too.

Final Jeopardy: Classic Movies.

Answer: This 1939 movie was loosely based on Senator Burton Wheeler, victim of a sham investigation for looking into the Justice Department.

Wrong question: What is “Gone with the Wind.”

Correct question: What is “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

(17) SMALL MERCY. Sort of like Barney Fife — “Robot tanks: On patrol but not allowed to shoot”.

In 1985 the US pulled the plug on a computer-controlled anti-aircraft tank after a series of debacles in which its electronic brain locked guns onto a stand packed with top generals reviewing the device. Mercifully it didn’t fire, but did subsequently attack a portable toilet instead of a target drone.

The M247 Sergeant York (pictured above) may have been an embarrassing failure, but digital technology and artificial intelligence (AI) have changed the game since then.

Today defence contractors around the world are competing to introduce small unmanned tracked vehicles into military service.

…Will this new generation of mini-tanks change the face of warfare? How much autonomy can they be trusted with?

Estonian soldiers currently serving in Mali are going out on patrol with an unmanned ground vehicle or UGV. The size of a sit-on lawn-mower with tracks, it carries heavy supplies such as water and ammunition. Trundling behind a conventional armoured personnel carrier it resembles an obedient younger sibling.

…Across the Atlantic US defence contractor FLIR has been buying up robotics firms in order to put together a UGV package with a group of technology and engineering firms, Team Ripsaw. This group has adapted the Ripsaw, a small tracked vehicle with sports car speeds popularised on TV and by Hollywood.

Originally marketed as a millionaire’s plaything and subsequently starring in Fast and Furious 8, the Ripsaw may be about to earn further recognition as an unmanned war machine.

(18) WHO CAN YOU TRUST? “DDoS: Man who sold website defences pleads guilty to attacks” – BBC has the story,.

A man in the US who co-founded a service to protect sites from cyber-attackers has pleaded guilty to launching distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

Tucker Preston is co-founder of BackConnect, a cyber-security firm that claimed to be “the new industry standard in DDoS mitigation”.

However, he was accused of arranging DDoS attacks targeting an unnamed firm.

A court document stated the attacks took place between 2015 and 2016.

News of the guilty plea was published online by Brian Krebs, a cyber-security expert and blogger.

(19) MARS LIVERS. “Learning how to live like a Mars colonist”: video — dippy intro gradually leads to substance.

Astroland is a project designed to see how humans would cope with the psychological demands of living on Mars and to test out potential technologies.

It is thought the first colonists on Mars will have to live in caves or lava tubes to protect them from interstellar radiation and for the purpose of the Astroland experiment, “Mars”, is set up in a remote cave in Arredondo, Spain.

(20) FROM THE FRINGE? “Future Forward: Thai opposition party cleared over Illuminati claims” reports the BBC.

A court in Thailand has acquitted one of the country’s largest opposition parties after it was accused of having links to a mythical secret society.

A sedition charge against Future Forward alleged that it was influenced by the Illuminati and was seeking to overthrow the monarchy.

The Constitutional Court dismissed the charge. A guilty verdict could have seen the party banned.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/18/20 The Previous Title Appears to Be Accurate

(1) THE FOREVER FRANCHISE. Dave Itzkoff wonders “Can ‘Star Trek’ Chart a Way Forward?” in New York Times Magazine.

Michael Chabon’s job used to consist of writing novels, earning literary acclaim and receiving the occasional prestigious award. But this past June he was racing around the soundstages here at “Star Trek: Picard,” where he was working as an executive producer.

Chabon, a 56-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner, strode through hallways decorated with timelines that chronicled the fictional histories of alien empires and stepped onto the set of a futuristic spacecraft. He giggled to himself as he toyed with some of the fake technology, occasionally exclaiming “Engage!,” and flashed a thumbs-up across the room to the “Picard” star Patrick Stewart as he rehearsed a scene.

These were all welcome perks in Chabon’s new line of work. But what drew him to “Star Trek” as a fan in his teens and kept him invested as a producer, he said, was an underlying message about humanity that was hopeful within reason.

“It’s not saying human beings are basically wonderful and if we just learn to agree, all our problems will go away,” he explained. “It takes work. It takes effort.”

…“If you feel that each piece is handcrafted with care, then I think people really appreciate it,” said Alex Kurtzman, an executive producer of the many new “Star Trek” series. “If you feel like a universe is being shoved down your throat for speed and dollars, there’s no faster way to lose an audience.”

(2) OPENING THE DOOR TO BOOK BANNING. PEN America protests that “Proposed Book Banning Bill in Missouri Could Imprison Librarians”.

 … The bill — the Parental Oversight of Public Libraries Act or House Bill 2044 — aims to add several provisions to the state’s funding law for public libraries. These new provisions establish “parental library review boards” that would evaluate whether any library materials constitute “age-inappropriate sexual material.” Members of these five-member boards, who would be elected at a town meeting by a simple majority of voters, are empowered to determine whether material is appropriate, including by evaluating its literary merit. Public librarians are explicitly barred by the statute from serving on such review boards, even if they are from the community.

“This is a shockingly transparent attempt to legalize book banning in the state of Missouri,” said James Tager, deputy director of Free Expression Research and Policy at PEN America. “This act is clearly aimed at empowering small groups of parents to appoint themselves as censors over their state’s public libraries. Books wrestling with sexual themes, books uplifting LGBTQIA+ characters, books addressing issues such as sexual assault—all of these books are potentially on the chopping block if this bill is passed.”

Under the act, the boards would hold public hearings to receive suggestions as to possible inappropriate books, and would have the authority to order the library to remove any such material from access by minors. Any public library who allows minors access to such “age-inappropriate materials” would have their funding stripped, and librarians who refuse to comply with the act can be fined and imprisoned for up to one year.

(3) KGB. Ellen Datlow posted her photos from the January 15 KGB readings where Richard Kadrey read from his new novel The Grand Dark and Cassandra Khaw read from her forthcoming novella Nothing But Blackened Teeth.

Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey 1
Cassandra Khaw and Richard Kadrey

(4) PANTSER. At Whatever, “The Big Idea: Simon Jimenez” begins with a confession:

I wrote no encyclopedia and I drew no map before I began writing The Vanished Birds. I laid the track as the train chugged forward and hoped I wouldn’t be outpaced and run over. Of course I was. I wince now as I think back on all the soft resets and double-backs and total rethinks and rewrites I had to do. I’d blame this all on the fact that it was my first book and I didn’t know what I was doing, but that wouldn’t be the truth. This is how I tend to go about all things. Without a plan and screaming in freefall.

(5) WITCHER APPECIATION SOCIETY. On YouTube, Paste’s Allison Keene and Josh Jackson celebrate the new fantasy series from Netflix.

(6) COP ON THE CORNER. “Nine years later, Detroit’s RoboCop statue is finally ready for installation”Curbed Detroit has the story.

It started with a successful Kickstarter campaign. A mere nine years later, the RoboCop statue is nearly done.

The campaign, launched by the community arts nonprofit Imagination Station in March 2011, received $67,436 in donations.

In an update from December 31, 2019, the team showcased photos to scores of eager backers of the enormous, bronze, nearly finished statue. “Here are a last few teaser pics of Robo in the positioning and welding process before his final form is unveiled later this winter, with installation details to follow,” wrote Brandon Walley of the Imagination Station.

The last touches include installing its head and adding a gray patina, now only visible on a breastplate. Once finished around March, the recreation of the original Peter Weller costume will stand 11 feet tall.

(7) RETRO RESEARCH. Cora Buhlert has posted two more reviews of 1945 Retro Hugo eligible works, namely “The Big and the Little” a.k.a. “The Merchant Princes” by Isaac Asimov, which is the second Foundation story of 1944, and “Guard in the Dark”, a horror story by Allison V. Harding.

She’s also posted a roundup of links to other reviews of eligible 1944 works, including several reviews by Steve J. Wright:  “Retro Review Links for January 15, 2020”.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 18, 1952 Tales of Tomorrow’s Frankenstein first aired on ABC. It would be the sixteenth episode of the first season of the series. It was directed by Don Medford. The episode starred Lon Chaney, Jr. in the role of Frankenstein’s monster and John Newland in the role of Victor Frankenstein. Lon Chaney, Jr. Is credited here as Lon Chaney as he was in all his later work. He’s no stranger to playing the Monster as he played the role of the monster in the Universal Pictures Ghost of Frankenstein a decade earlier. You can watch it here.
  • January 18, 1959 Cage of Doom premiered in the United Kingdom. (It would be called Terror from the Year 5000 in the States.) it’s credits were long, so have patience when we say that it was by produced by Robert J. Gurney Jr., Samuel Z. Arkoff, James H. Nicholson, and Gene Searchinger. It was directed by Robert J. Gurney Jr., and starred Ward Costello, Joyce Holden, John Stratton, Salome Jens, and Fred Herrick. The story was actually based on an actually SFF story that ran in in the April 1957 issue of Fantastic, Henry Slesar’s “Bottle Baby”. It is not credited as such however. It’s not a great film and hence it got featured in the eighth season of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are sure it’s not good giving it a Zero percent approval rating though we caution only a little over a hundred cared enough to express a view. You can watch it here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 18, 1882 A.A. Milne. Talking fat bears obsessed with honey. Bouncing tigers, err, tiggers. Morose, well, what is he? It’s certainly genre. And though it isn’t remotely genre, I wholeheartedly recommend Milne’s The Red House Mystery, a Country House Mystery that’s most excellent! (Died 1956.)
  • Born January 18, 1920 Constance Moore. She gets Birthday Honors for being in the 1939 movie serial Buck Rogers in which she was Wilma Deering, the only female character in the serial.  Were there ever other female main cast characters in Buck Rogers?(Died 2005.)
  • Born January 18, 1932 Robert Anton Wilson. Conspiracy nut or SF writer? Or both. I think I first encountered him in something Geis wrote about him in SFR in the Eighties. Schrödinger’s Cat Trilogy is just weird and might or might not be a sequel to The Illuminatus! Trilogy. But the absolutely weirdest thing he did I think is an interview titled Robert Anton Wilson On Finnegans Wake and Joseph Campbell. Yes, he frothed at the mouth on Campbell and Joyce! (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 18, 1933 John Boorman, 87. Director who’s responsible for one of the best SFF films ever done, Excalibur with Sean Connery, and one of the worst with that also starred Sean Connery, Zardoz. He also directed the rather nifty The Emerald Forest which Holdstock did a far better than merely good job of novelising.
  • Born January 18, 1937 Dick Durock. He was best known for playing Swamp Thing in Swamp Thing and The Return of Swamp Thing and the following television series which ran for three seasons. His only other genre appearances were in The Nude Bomb (also known as The Return of Maxwell Smart) and “The First” of The Incredible Hulk. He shows up in Die Hard with a Vengeance in a subway scene. No, it’s not genre, I just like that film. (Died 2009.)
  • Born January 18, 1943 Paul Freeman, 77. Best remembered I’d say for being the evil René Belloq in Raiders of the Lost Ark. He also played Professor Moriarty in Without a Clue which had Michael Caine as Holmes and Kingsley as Watson.
  • Born January 18, 1953 Pamela Dean Dyer-Bennett, 67. Her best novel is I think Tam Lin though one could make an argument for Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary which Windling claims is her favorite fantasy novel. Her Secret Country trilogy is also a great deal of fun to read. Much of her short stories are set in the Liavek shared universe created by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. Alll of the Liavek anthologies are now available on all major digital platforms. According to the files sitting in my Dropbox folder, there’s eight volumes to the series. They’re wonderful reading. End of plug. 
  • Born January 18, 1964 Jane Horrocks, 56. Her first SFF video role was Pattern in The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, scripted off the Joan Aiken novel. A year later, she showed up in The Witches, scripted off the Roald Dahl novel playing Miss Susan Irvine. She voices Black Widow / Mrs. Plum in Tim Burton’s The Corpse Bride, and voiced Hannah in the late Ninties Watership Down.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) JUGGLING THE BOOKS. “Majipoor – Les Objets Volants” took inspiration from a Robert Silverberg novel to create this stage act.

Majipoor is a fantastic journey through juggling and object manipulation, an exploration of objects and bodies, individuals and community.

The show is freely inspired from Robert Silverberg’s 1980 novel «Lord Valentine’s Castle». This is the story of an identity winning back, a route surrounded by exotic landscapes on giant planet Majipoor, along with a juggling company of intelligent four-handed being called Skandars.

(12) WATER LOSS ON MARS GREATER THAN THOUGHT. Science reports that water is easily transported high into the atmosphere during storms and lost. This takes place even during the dusty season. “Stormy water on Mars: The distribution and saturation of atmospheric water during the dusty season”.

Mars once hosted abundant water on its surface but subsequently lost most of it to space. Small amounts of water vapor are still present in the atmosphere, which can escape if they reach sufficiently high altitudes. Fedorova et al. used data from the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter spacecraft to determine the distribution of water in Mars’ atmosphere and investigate how it varies over seasons. Water vapor is sometimes heavily saturated, and its distribution is affected by the planet’s large dust storms. Water can efficiently reach the upper atmosphere when Mars is in the warmest part of its orbit, and this behavior may have controlled the overall rate at which Mars lost its water.

(13) VERY OLD BIRDS OF A FEATHER. SYFY Wire also reports on the distant past: “This new dinosaur just called it: even feathered dinos were nothing like birds”.

Some dinosaurs looked like birds. Some prehistoric birds looked like dinosaurs, and some birds that are still around echo dinosaurs. That doesn’t mean feathers and wings always make a bird—or a dinosaur.

Wulong bohaiensis was a small feathered therapod that lived 120 million years ago in what is now China, going twice as far back as T. rex. The dinosaur species this creature is most closely related to is (another star of Jurassic Park) the Velociraptor. “Wulong” translates to “dancing dragon,” and the fantastic specimen, which is preserved so well that even some of its feathers are frozen in time, is not only dragon-like, but also birdlike. The thing is that the bones and feathers revealed this newly unearthed dino to be a juvenile who went through different growing pains than birds….

(14) TIS MANY A SLIP. Popsugar thinks “Disney’s New Space Mountain Mug Is Light Years Ahead of Everything Else in My Kitchen Cabinet”.

Official blog Oh My Disney recently announced the upcoming arrival of Space Mountain mugs at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World in honor of the high-speed roller coaster’s 45th anniversary.

(15) RELATIVELY WRONG. This week Andrew Porter saw another wrong question on Jeopardy! Can you believe it?

Final Jeopardy: Children’s Literature

Answer: Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and Max Planck’s Quantum Theory inspired this book that won a 1963 Newberry Medal.

Wrong question: “What is ‘The Fault in Our Stars’?”

Correct question: “What is ‘A Wrinkle in Time’?”

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Terry Pratchett: Back in Black” on Vimeo is a 2018 documentary about Sir Terry’s life from BBC Scotland. (Vimeo setting requires it be watched at their site.)

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

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 12/5/19 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 12/2/19 There’s A Long, Long Scroll A-Winding Into The Land Of My Pixels

(1) LISTEN UP. Here are works of genre interest picked for AudioFile’s Best Audiobooks of 2019 beyond the Best Science Fiction Fantasy & Horror category announced at File 770.

YOUNG ADULT

  • Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor
  • The Secret Commonwealth (Book of Dust volume 2) by Philip Pullman

FICTION, POETRY & DRAMA

  • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

BIOGRAPHY & HISTORY

  • American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race by Douglas Brinkley
  • Midnight in Chernobyl by Adam Higginbotham

(2) TUNE IN DOCTOR WHO. ScienceFiction.com knows the airtime, and also how to see the two-parter on the big screen via Fathom Events: “New ‘Doctor Who’ Trailer Delivers The Release Date/Time For Season 12”.

The January 1 episode is part one of a two-part story called “Spyfall,” with part two arriving on Sunday, January 5, presumably also at 8 pm.  That will be ‘Doctor Who’s regular time slot going forward.

If you’re a ‘Doctor Who’ superfan, BBC and BBC America are teaming up with Fathom Events for a one-time-only screening of both parts of “Spyfall” on the big screen, followed by a LIVE Q&A with Whittaker, Cole, and Gill from the Paley Center for Media in New York.  These showings will be held at 600 theaters in the US on January 5.  (Tickets go on sale on Friday at FathomEvents.com.)

(3) SMILE FOR THE CAMERA. Kevin Standlee promoted the Tonopah 2021 Westercon at this weekend’s Loscon.

Team Tonopah welcomed 19 new attending members while we were at Loscon 46 at the LAX Airport Marriott, and talked to many more people to tell them all about our plans for Westercon in Tonopah, Nevada.

(4) KGB READINGS. TheFantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Paul Tremblay and Nathan Ballingrud on Wednesday, December 18 at the KGB Bar. Event starts at 7 p.m. (KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, 2nd Floor, New York, NY.)

Paul Tremblay

Paul Tremblay has won the Bram Stoker, British Fantasy, and Massachusetts Book awards and is the author of The Cabin at the End of the WorldA Head Full of Ghosts, and most recently the short story collection Growing Things and Other Stories. His essays and short fiction have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Entertainment Weekly online, and numerous year’s-best anthologies. 

Nathan Ballingrud

Nathan Ballingrud is the author of North American Lake Monsters and Wounds: Six Stories from the Border of Hell. He’s twice won the Shirley Jackson Award, and has been shortlisted for the World Fantasy, British Fantasy, and Bram Stoker Awards. His stories have appeared in numerous Best of the Year anthologies. Wounds, a film based on his novella “The Visible Filth,” has recently been released. North American Lake Monsters is in development as an anthology series at Hulu.

(5) RIGOROUS ARTWORK. James Davis Nicoll compliments “Five ’70s SF Cover Artists Who Stay True to the Story” in a post for Tor.com.

The Doppelgänger Gambit by Leigh Killough, 1979, cover by Michael Herring

Herring’s cover captures two key elements of this gripping 21st-century police procedural. The first: the two police officers don’t get along. The second: clothing fashions in this future are somehow even more hideous than real-world 1970s fashions. The cover is true to the work. Detective Janna Brill thinks Maxwell takes unconscionable risks, and these are the clothes described in the novel. (Though I suspect the cops in the novel used holsters.)

(6) MARTIAN FURNITURE. FastCompany reports “Now that Ikea has colonized Earth, it’s going after Mars”.

Two years ago, Ikea sent designers to the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), which created a habitat in the Utah desert that mimics the conditions on the Red Planet. Ikea interior designer Christina Levenborn stayed in the habitat, ultimately creating an Ikea line for small spaces inspired by her stay. But more recently, she used her experience living in the habitat to help researchers outfit the space. She just returned from redecorating the habitat, which now looks brightly lit and neatly organized. In fact, it looks a lot like what you’d see in an Ikea catalog—which is impressive, because the space is exceptionally small and stark.

Sff writer David Levine did a cycle with the MDRS in 2010 and File 770 ran several posts based on his updates, including “Levine Reaches Mars”.

(7) MORE BLOWBACK. “Two Nobel literature prize committee members quit” – BBC tells how the membership continues to churn.

Two external members of the Nobel literature prize committee have quit after criticising the Swedish Academy.

Gun-Britt Sundstrom said the choice of Peter Handke as this year’s winner had been interpreted as if literature stood above politics and she did not agree.

The choice of Handke was criticised because of his vocal support for the Serbs during the 1990s Yugoslav war.

Kristoffer Leandoer said he’d left due to Academy reforms taking too long following a sexual assault scandal.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 2, 1979 Star Trek comics premiered in syndicated form in the U.S. From 1979 to 1983, the Los Angeles Times Mirror Syndicate produced a daily and Sunday comic strip based upon this series. Larry Niven was among the many writers who did scripts for it. IDW has reprinted them in two volumes, The Newspaper Comics, Volume 1 and The Newspaper Comics, Volume 2.
  • December 2, 2005 Aeon Flux premiered.  Produced by Gale Hurd, it stars Charlize Theron in the title role. It’s based on the animated Aeon Flux series of the same name created by Peter Chung. It bombed at the box office, was poorly received by critics, and currently has a 9% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • December 2, 2017 – First pizza party in space took place on the International Space Station.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 2, 1913 Jerry Sohl. Scriptwriter and genre writer who did work for The Twilight Zone (ghostwriting for Charles Beaumont who was seriously ill at the time), Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The Outer Limits and Star Trek. One of his three Trek scripts was the superb “Corbomite Maneuver” episode. (Died 2002.)
  • Born December 2, 1914 Ray Walston. Best known of course for playing the lead in My Favorite Martian from 1963 to 1966, alongside co-star Bill Bixby. His later genre appearances would include The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, Six Million Dollar Man, Galaxy of Terror, Amazing Stories,  Popeye, Friday the 13th: The Series and Addams Family Reunion.   He would appear in The Incredible Hulk (in which David Banner was played by Bill Bixby) as Jasper the Magician in an episode called “My Favorite Magician”. (Died 2001.)
  • Born December 2, 1937 Brian Lumley, 81. Horror writer who came to distinction in the Seventies writing in the Cthulhu Mythos and  by creating his own character Titus Crow. In the Eighties, he created the Necroscope series, which first centered on Speaker to the Dead Harry Keogh. He has received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers Association, and a World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
  • Born December 2, 1946 Josepha Sherman. Writer and folklorist who was a Compton Crook Award winner for The Shining Falcon, which was based on the Russian fairy tale “The Feather of Finist the Falcon”. She was a prolific writer both on her own and in collaboration authors such as Mecedes Lackey (A Cast of Corbies), and Laura Anne Gilman (two Buffyverse novels).  I knew her personally as a folklorist first and she was without peer writing such works as Rachel the Clever: And Other Jewish Folktales and Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood that she wrote with T K F Weisskopf.  Neat lady who died far too soon. Let me leave you with an essay she wrote on Winter for Green Man twenty years ago. (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 2, 1946 David Macaulay, 73. British-born American illustrator and writer. Genre adjacent I’d say. Creator of such cool works as Cathedral, The New Way Things Work which has he updated for the computer technology age, and his latest, Crossing on Time: Steam Engines, Fast Ships, and a Journey to the New World.
  • Born December 2, 1952 OR Melling, 67. One of her favorite authors is Alan Garner whose The Owl Service is a frequent read of hers she tells me. As for novels by her that I’d recommend, the Chronicles of Faerie series is quite excellent. For more adult fare, her People of the Great Journey is quite good.
  • Born December 2, 1968 Lucy Liu, 51. She was Joan Watson on Elementary in its impressive seven-year run. Her other genre role, and it’s been long running, has been voicing Tinkermist in the Disney Fairies animated franchise. I kid you not. She’s had a few genre one-offs on The X-Files, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and the Rise: Blood Hunter film, but not much overall.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Lio tells Santa what he wants.
  • At Existential Comics, leading philosophers brawl over the implications of “I am no man!”

The original intentions or ideas of the author aren’t necessarily more valid than those of any other interpreter.

Gasp!

(11) WRITER’S WRATH. “HG Wells builds time machine so he can punch whoever was responsible for that adaptation of War of the Worlds”NewsThump has the story,

Popular Edwardian novelist and inventor of the concept of Time Travel Herbert George Wells has appeared in central London this morning, intending to punch whoever made the BBC adaptation of War of the Worlds squarely on the nose.

Wells, who believed the chances of anyone making a boring adaptation of his masterpiece were a million to one, said ‘but still, it’s done’.

“There was a great disturbance in the… oh, I’m sure you’ll come up with a word for it”, said Wells. “As if millions of my fans voices cried out ‘what the heck’.”

(12) AS OTHERS SEE US. Liberty Island’s Tamara Willhite uncovers a rich vein of fantasy in “An Interview with Author Louis Antonelli”.

Tamara Wilhite: What are you currently working on?

Louis Antonelli: Well, kind of following up the previous question, since the Sad Puppies in 2015 there’s been a pretty ironclad blacklist in the major science fiction magazine and publishers against anyone who isn’t an intolerant doctrinaire left-wing asshole. Nobody denies it anymore, because such assertions only gets the horse laugh.

The only major book publisher that judges authors impartially is Baen; Analog is the one major magazine that seems to pick stories based on merit and not the author’s politics and lifestyle….

(13) POACHING SCIENCE. “Dinosaurs: Restoring Mongolia’s fossil heritage”.

Eighty million years ago, during the Cretaceous Period, Mongolia’s Gobi Desert was a dinosaur’s paradise of vast valleys, freshwater lakes and a humid climate.

Mammal-eating velociraptors, lizard-hipped sauropods and spike-armoured ankylosaurs could have been spotted roaming in what are now the Martian red sandstone spires of Bayanzag’s Flaming Cliffs.

These prehistorically favourable conditions make the Gobi Desert the largest dinosaur fossil reservoir in the world.

Over almost 100 years of palaeontological research in the Gobi, more than 80 genera have been found. But for many people living there, this scientific heritage remains unknown.

“Putting a fence up is not protection; protection is people’s knowledge,” Mongolian palaeontologist Bolortsetseg Minjin explains as we wind through the Flaming Cliffs in search of signs of fossil poaching.

(14) CAN’T DANCE TO IT. “Amazon’s AI musical keyboard ‘sounds terrible'”.

Amazon has unveiled a musical keyboard with a built-in artificial intelligence (AI) composer.

The AWS DeepComposer is a two-octave, 32-key keyboard that can connect to computers via a USB cable.

Users can play a short tune, or use a pre-recorded one, ask the keyboard to embellish it in one of four styles – jazz, classical, rock or pop – and then publish it on Soundcloud.

But one expert said the audio demo provided by Amazon was “terrible”.

(15) INCREDIBLE JOURNEY. BBC follows“India tiger on ‘longest walk ever’ for mate and prey”.

A tiger has undertaken the longest walk ever recorded in India, travelling some 1,300km (807 miles) in five months.

Experts believe the two-and-a-half-year-old male is possibly in search of prey, territory or a mate.

The tiger, which is fitted with a radio collar, left its home in a wildlife sanctuary in the western state of Maharashtra in June.

It was then tracked travelling back and forth over farms, water and highways, and into a neighbouring state.

So far, the tiger has come into conflict with humans only once, when it “accidentally injured” one person who was part of a group that entered a thicket under which it was resting.

(16) JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter watched tonight’s Jeopardy! with wrapped attention….

Category: Literary Works of the 1920s.

Answer: “Jane Webb Loudon wrote the 1st novel about one of these creatures, including the line, ‘Weak, feeble worm! Exclaimed Cheops.'”

Wrong question: “What is a Sphinx?”

Correct question: “What is a Mummy?”

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Mushroom Hunters” on YouTube is a poem by Neil Gaiman read by Amanda Palmer, with music by Jherek Bischoff.

[Thanks to Camestros Felapton (Felapton Towers, Bortsworth, Bortsworthshire), John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Olav Rokne, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, and Andrew Porter. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day StephenfromOttawa.]