Pixel Scroll 7/3/20 The Filing Sorcerers

(1) ONE THING AFTER ANOTHER. Minneapolis’ DreamHaven Books, boarded up after being vandalized, was  told by the city to get rid of the grafitti on the building. Wendy Comeau told followers:

Well, I just received a letter from the City of Minneapolis Graffiti Enforcement department. They’re DEMANDING I remove the graffiti from my building by July 6 or face fines and fees for removal. Want to see the graffiti?

I am so angry I had to go down the basement to spit and rage for a bit. This is what the City of Minneapolis has to worry about right now – boarded up businesses with supportive sayings painted on their storefronts. (btw – the boards have already been removed but that doesn’t make me less angry).

On the store’s website, Wendy Comeau posted their open hours and other updates.

We have re-opened since the break-in and are keeping the hours Monday – Saturday, Noon – 6pm. Except, of course, this coming Saturday will be the Fourth of July, and we will not be open. Here’s hoping we all have an excellent holiday weekend.

(2) FREEDOM RINGS ON JULY 4. Tomorrow, July 4, Somtow Sucharitkul will be giving away three of his sff novels, written as S.P.Somtow. You can download these free Kindle Edition Science Fiction books for 48 hours on July 4th and 5th (Pacific Standard Time):

(3) BOMBS AWAY. Is this also the right season for the wrong kind of fireworks? Yahoo! reminds reads about “The Biggest Box Office Bombs of the Past Decade”. Plenty of genre here, unfortunately. Right at the top of the list, in fact –

  • Biggest total loss: “Mars Needs Moms” (2011) is the biggest box office failure on this list, with a net loss of $111,007,242.

(4) MURDERBOT IN THE PIPELINE. Martha Wells’ next Murderbot novella is coming in April 2021. I don’t think I need to worry about spoiling somebody else’s cover reveal anymore, so here it is.

No, I didn’t kill the dead human. If I had, I wouldn’t dump the body in the station mall.

When Murderbot discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, it knows it is going to have to assist station security to determine who the body is (was), how they were killed (that should be relatively straightforward, at least), and why (because apparently that matters to a lot of people—who knew?)

Yes, the unthinkable is about to happen: Murderbot must voluntarily speak to humans!

Again!

(5) SANS SUPERHEROES. [Item by Chip Hitchcock.] New York Times critic A. O. Scott discusses “A Summer Without Superheroes”. (Probably paywalled, but this early in the month people may still have article access.) IIRC, Abigail Nussbaum’s discussion of this was Pixeled some years ago; this version is not necessarily surprising but very focused.

It’s hardly news that we live in an age of polarization. For at least the past dozen years, the public has been pressed to choose between obedience to a smug, privilege-hoarding neoliberal elite or allegiance to a belligerent ideology rooted in negation, self-pity, resentment and revenge. You can worship the avatars of an imperial status quo that regards you as a data point or bow down to idols of grievance.

Do you embrace winners or root for underdogs? Do you fantasize about world government or vigilante justice? Or do you find yourself drifting from one pole to another, hoping to find something to satisfy longings — for safety, for danger, for solidarity, for fun — that are themselves often unstable and contradictory? Satisfaction is intermittent and fleeting. Disappointment is the norm. Couldn’t there be a real alternative, an escape from the grip of Marvel/Disney and DC/Warner Bros.?

What did you think I was talking about? I know the analogy is imperfect, but maybe it isn’t really an analogy at all. Popular culture and politics exist on the same wavelength and work together to shape our shared consciousness. The fantasies we buy into with our attention and money condition our sense of what it is possible or permissible to imagine. And the imagination of Hollywood in the franchise era — the age of I.P.-driven creativity and expanded-universe cinema — has been authoritarian, anti-democratic, cynical and pseudo-populist. That much of the politics of the past decade can be described with the same words is hardly an accident.

Don’t @ me. I’m not trying to insult fans of “Suicide Squad” or “Ant-Man.” I’ve done enough of that already, and anyway, the quickness of so many partisans to take offense counts as evidence in support of my argument. Fandom can be a form of benign, nurturing tribalism, a mode of participation beyond mere consumption. But it has devolved recently into sullen passivity, which occasionally erupts into toxic rage.

(6) OCTAVIA BUTLER. Open Culture invites readers to “Behold Octavia Butler’s Motivational Notes to Self”

…Identifying as a writer helped her move beyond her crippling shyness and dyslexia. As she wrote in an autobiographical essay, “Positive Obsession”:

“I believed I was ugly and stupid, clumsy, and socially hopeless. I also thought that everyone would notice these faults if I drew attention to myself. I wanted to disappear. Instead, I grew to be six feet tall. Boys in particular seemed to assume that I had done this growing deliberately and that I should be ridiculed for it as often as possible.

“I hid out in a big pink notebook—one that would hold a whole ream of paper. I made myself a universe in it. There I could be a magic horse, a Martian, a telepath….There I could be anywhere but here, any time but now, with any people but these.

She developed a lifelong habit of cheering herself on with motivational notes, writing them in her journals, on lined notebook paper, in day planners and on repurposed pages of an old wall calendar.

(7) CHUCK TINGLE JR.? Nate Hoffelder challenged readers of Camestros Felpaton to “Guess who has two thumbs, and noticed that Cirsova never registered a DotCom domain?” Cirsova publisher P. Alexander recently tried to brand SFWA as a terrorist group for its support of Black Lives Matter. So while you’re guessing, try and guess where the newly-registered http://www.Cirsova.com domain takes you?

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAYS.

  • July 3, 1985 Back to the Future premiered. It was directed by Robert Zemeckis from a screenplay by Zemeckis and Bob Gale. Bob Gale and Neil Canton were the producers. It of course starred Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover. It would win the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation at ConFederation besting LadyhawkeCocoonBrazil and Enemy Mine. Critics loved it with Ebert comparing it to Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life. It was a box office success being the top grossing film of the year. And the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a 94% rating. 

(9) OTHER TOP TIME-TRAVEL MOVIES.

These are Rolling Stone’s nominees for “The 20 Best Time-Travel Movies”. In the middle of the list is:

8. ‘Run Lola Run’ (1998)

The crimson-haired Lola (Franka Potente) gets a phone call from her boyfriend: He’s lost a bag with 100,000 deutschemarks, and if he doesn’t find it or replace it in the next 20 minutes, his criminal boss will kill him. So Lola runs through Berlin, dodging bicyclists, causing car accidents, provoking flash-forward sequences of the destiny of various pedestrians, trying to find a way out. Each time she fails, the 20-minute time loop starts again — it seems to be powered by love and the absence of cash.

(10) BERNSTEIN OBIT. “Byron ‘Reckful’ Bernstein, Popular Twitch Streamer, Dies at 31” reports Variety. Bernstein died by suicide.

Bernstein went by the name Reckful on Twitch, where he was best known for his “World of Warcraft” streams and had over 936,000 followers. Most recently, Bernstein had been working as a developer on his own video game, “Everland,” which was set to release later this year.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • July 3, 1991 Terminator 2: Judgment Day premiered. It was produced and directed by James Cameron, who co-wrote the script with William Wisher. It came out seven years after Terminator was released. It starred  Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick, and Edward Furlong.  It was a critical success upon its release, with lavish praise going towards the cast, the story, and its visual effects. It made the studio a really incredible amount of money, and the audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes give it a stellar 93% rating. 
  • July 3, 1996 Independence Day premiered. It was directed and co-written by Roland Emmerich. It was produced by Dean Devlin who also wrote it with Emmerich.  The film had a very large cast that included Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum, Mary McDonnell, Judd Hirsch, Margaret Colin, Randy Quaid, Robert Loggia, James Rebhorn, Harvey Fierstein, Vivica A. Fox and Harry Connick Jr.  Critics Inside the USA generally loved it whereas critics outside condemned its hyper-patriotism. The box office here and overseas was such that only Jurassic Park has earned more money. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it a solid 75% rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born July 3, 1860 – Charlotte Perkins Gilman.  I’m a fan of her book Herland myself; about it and With Her in Ourland and CPG’s newsletter The Forerunner see my note here (commenters helped); at Loscon 44 we discussed Herland (I said “it’s a sermon; but it’s neat, imaginative, warm-hearted”) and at Westercon 71 too.  William Dean Howells said CPG had the best brains of any woman in America.  (Died 1935) [JH]
  • Born July 3, 1883 – Franz Kafka.  At his death Amerika and The Trial and The Castle were all unfinished and he said they should be destroyed.  Hmm.  Alas for my memory, it was Wilson, not Nabokov, who wrote “With a rumble-de-bum and a pifka-pafka / Came the fife-and-drum corps parading for Kafka”.  However, don’t miss N’s discussion of K’s “Metamorphosis”; this book is worth your while; the Kafka Project has put N’s lecture here.  A hundred shorter stories.  Translated into Croatian, Dutch, Finnish, French, Italian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish.  (Died 1924) [JH]
  • Born July 3, 1898 E. Hoffmann Price. He’s most readily remembered as being a Weird Tales writer, one of a group that included Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, and Clark Ashton Smith. He did a few collaborations, one of which was with H. P. Lovecraft, “Through the Gates of the Silver Key”. Another work, “The Infidel’s Daughter”, a satire on the Ku Klux Klan, also angered many Southern readers. (Died 1988.) (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1926 William Rotsler. An artist, cartoonist, pornographer and SF author. Well that is his bio. Rotsler was a four-time Hugo Award winner for Best Fan Artist and one-time Nebula Award nominee. He also won a Retro Hugo for Best Fan Artist in 1946 and was runner-up for 1951. He responsible for giving Uhura her first name, and created “Rotsler’s Rules for Costuming”. (Died 1997.) (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1927 Ken Russell. Film director whose Altered States, based off of Paddy Chayefsky’s screenplay, is certainly his best-remembered film. Though let’s not overlook The Lair of the White Worm he did off Bram Stoker’s novel, or The Devils, based at least in part on The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley. (Died 2011.) (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1937 Tom Stoppard, 83. Playwright of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. He co-wrote the screenplays for Brazil (with Terry Gilliam) and Shakespeare in Love (with Marc Norman). He’s uncredited but openly acknowledged by Spielberg for his work on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1938 – Jerry Podwil, 82.  Six dozen covers.  Here is Babel-17.  Here is The Sky Is Filled With Ships.  Here is The “Fantastic Universe” Omnibus.  Here  is The Demolished Man.  [JH]
  • Born July 3, 1939 – Bart Forbes, 81.  Here is The Weapon Shops of Isher.  Here is The Worlds of A.E. Van Vogt.  Here is The Wind Whales of Ishmael.  Outside our field, postage stamps (here is Sarah Vaughan), The Ladies’ Home Journal, sports (baseball, golf, Kentucky Derby; official artist for the 1988 Summer Olympics; The Sports Art of Bart Forbes), landscapes (here is First Light).  Society of Illustrators Hall of Fame.  [JH]
  • Born July 3, 1947 – Mel Gilden, 73.  A score of novels, including one each for Star Trek Original Series, Next Generation, Deep Space Nine; a dozen shorter stories; Fifth Grade Monsters; translated into Dutch, German, Italian, Portuguese; reviews in Locus; five years co-host of Hour 25.  Thirty more books outside our field.  [JH]
  • Born July 3, 1962 Tom Cruise, 58. I’m reasonably sure his first genre role was as Jack in Legend. Next up was Lestat de Lioncourt in Interview with the Vampire followed by being Ethan Hunt in the first of many excellent Mission Impossible films. Then he was John Anderton in the abysmal Minority Report followed by Ray Ferrier in the even far more abysmal War of The Worlds. I’ve not seen him as Maj. William Cage in Edge of Tomorrow so I’ve no idea how good he or the film is. Alas he was Nick Morton in, oh god, The Mummy. (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1964 Joanne Harris, 56. Though her novel Chocolat which was adapted the following year into the film Chocolat is what she’s best known for, she has a most excellent YA series in which the Norse gods are still with us in Runemarks and Runelight. She’s also written a Third Doctor novella, “The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Time Traveller“.  (CE)
  • Born July 3, 1970 – Kate Messner, 50.  A dozen chapter books in her series Ranger in Time; four novels; more outside our field (e.g. 59 Reasons to Write for teachers: “Only by engaging in the real work of writing can teachers become part of the writing community they dream of creating for their students”).  She says she is “passionately curious and writes books that encourage kids to wonder”.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Is this Herman cartoon about astrology, astronomy, or perhaps both?

(14) JEAN-LUC PICCOLO. Variety profiles the sff theme music up for awards: “Yodas, Witchers and Trekkies, Oh My! Sci-Fi and Fantasy Contenders Eye Emmys Music Gold”.

Baby Yoda. Jean-Luc Picard. A medieval witcher. A world where fairies have sex with humans. Steve Carrell aiming for the moon. A science-fiction anthology. The fantasy and sci-fi realms prospered on TV during the past season, particularly with the help of several gifted composers….

… Emmy winner Jeff Russo (“Fargo”) has assumed the mantle of “Star Trek” composer, first with his music for “Discovery” and now the “Picard” series, which returns Patrick Stewart to the role of Enterprise captain Jean-Luc Picard. His theme may be the most gentle and intimate of all the “Trek” themes to date, with prominent solos for piccolo and cello.

(15) CAT DOWN UNDER. Atlas Obscura has photos of a statue that honors an adventurous seafaring cat.

OUTSIDE SYDNEY’S MITCHELL LIBRARY stands a statue of Matthew Flinders, the celebrated English navigator and cartographer who helped map Australia, declared it a continent, and was influential in giving it its current name. On a window ledge behind the statue stands a bronze figurine of Flinders’s faithful cat, Trim, who accompanied the seafarer on many of his adventures.    

The story of Trim begins in 1799, when he was born aboard the ship HMS Reliance as it sailed from the Cape of Good Hope to Botany Bay. There were a handful of cats on board to keep pests at bay, but Trim soon became a favorite of the crew and the ship’s 25-year-old lieutenant, Flinders….

(16) GOLLUM READS THE HOBBIT. GameSpot teed up this piece of Tolkien-related news: “Andy Serkis Records New Audiobook For The Hobbit, And It Sounds Fantastic”.

Book company Harper Collins is making a new audiobook for The Hobbit that is read by none other than Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in the movies.

The announcement of this new version comes after Serkis did a marathon reading of The Hobbit for charity back in May. For this new audiobook, Serkis is donating his payment to the Disasters Emergency Committee, and Harper Collins UK is matching it.

You can listen to a snippet from the recording below. It’s a delight, which really should be no surprise given that Serkis has such a phenomenal voice.

(17) TOLKIEN IN HIS OWN VOICE. “:J.R.R. Tolkien Discussing The Lord Of The Rings (1960s Interview)” is an 11-minute excerpt from an interview Tolkien gave sometime in the 1960s.

(18) GENRETHON 2020. Otherworld Theatre, Chicago’s premier Science Fiction and Fantasy theatre, presents GenreThon 2020 an Online Celebration of Nerdom In Comedy from Friday, July 10 through Sunday, July 12 on their YouTube digital platform! Access is FREE and can be subscribed to here

This geek and genre-centric comedy celebration features headliners: Improvised Jane Austen, voted the Best Improv Troupe in the Chicago Reader’s “Best of Chicago 2019”. Also headlining are Improvised Star Trek,  BATSU!– An Improvised Japanese Game Show, and The Dandies Present: Holodeck Follies. Dungeons and Dragons enthusiasts take note, the festival also features Otherworld mainstay Out On A Whim’s Improvised D&D and headliner The Queens of Adventure.  Additionally,  Otherworld fan favorite Dork Court returns as an all digital experience, “Animal Crossing vs. Sims”.  Also featured are a staged reading of a new Stupid Shakespeare play by Phillip Zimmerman, “Two Gentlemen of Bikini Bottom” and from the Push Theatre in Virginia, “Venetian Blinds”.  Fan favorites from GENRETHON 2019 also making their return are Improvised Riverdale, Geekspeare, Geektastic and Mass Street Production’s classic murder mystery “Care For A Corpse”, and so much more. 

(19) GUYS AND DOLLS. James Davis Nicoll says Tor.com turned down his “Husbands of Science Fiction” – even though it has the requisite five subjects. Is that not enough? Consider the first husband on the list:

…The oldest example of what I am thinking of is Mary Shelly. She is revered for having arguably created the science fiction field with her classic Frankenstein. Her husband, failed swimmer Percy, was also an author, apparently. By all accounts as easy on the eyes as he was unable to master certain animal urges, Percy reportedly dabbled in poetry of one sort of another. Perhaps best known is Percy’s Ozymandias, about an old damaged statue that someone has failed properly maintain. Men like simple household tasks like spackling and carpentry; one can see why poetry about statue maintenance would appeal.

(20) LEAKY CAULDRON AND MUGGLENET. “Harry Potter fan sites reject author’s trans comments”:BBC has the story.

Two leading Harry Potter fan sites have publicly distanced themselves from author JK Rowling over her recent comments about transgender people.

The Leaky Cauldron and Mugglenet sites said they would no longer use photos of Rowling or link to her own website.

Speaking jointly, they said her views on “marginalised people [were] out of step with the message of acceptance and empowerment we find in her books”.

The stars of the Potter films have also spoken out against Rowling’s remarks.

…In their statement, the Leaky Cauldron and Mugglenet sites said it was “difficult to speak out against someone whose work we have so long admired”.

Yet they said it be “wrong” not to distance themselves from Rowling’s “harmful and disproven beliefs about what it means to be a transgender person”.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. A swift completes its appointed rounds…. Gizmodo notes how “Artificial Feathers Let This Robotic Bird Fly With Incredible Agility”.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Michael Toman, JJ, John Hertz, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Nate, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to Daniel Dern.]

AudioFile Magazine’s Best New
Sci-Fi & Fantasy Audiobooks Summer 2020

From AudioFile Magazine, a sampler of new and classic sff audiobooks for fans to listen to over the summer.

NETWORK EFFECT

  • by Martha Wells | Read by Kevin R. Free
  • [Recorded Books | 12.75 hrs.]

Kevin R. Free narrates the first full-length Murderbot novel, after four previous novellas. Once again, Murderbot has to rescue its humans from the idiotic mess they have gotten themselves into when it would really rather be left alone to watch its media in peace. Narrator Free perfectly captures the acerbic, exasperated tone of Murderbot that makes it so relatable.

Video with Kevin R. Free about Wells’s All Systems Red, (previous Murderbot title)

BONDS OF BRASS

  • by Emily Skrutskie | Read by James Fouhey
  • [Random House Audio | 10.25 hrs.] AudioFile Earphones Award

James Fouhey’s outstanding narration heightens every nuance of the complicated characters and lush world-building in this queer space adventure. Orphaned by war, Ettian has built a life for himself as a military pilot when he learns that his best friend is heir to the empire that destroyed his homeworld. Then, an attempted assassination causes the boys to flee on a cross-galaxy quest for safety.

THE BOOK OF KOLI

  • by M.R. Carey| Read by Theo Solomon
  • [Hachette Audio | 14.25 hrs.] AudioFile Earphones Award

Theo Solomon’s narration is astounding in this story of a ruined future in which humanity is slowly dying and technology is viewed as magic from the past. While the audiobook is outstanding in its examination of humanity’s struggle in an evolving world, it’s the authenticity of Solomon’s voice that makes it so emotionally compelling and deeply personal.

THE LAST SMILE IN SUNDER CITY

  • by Luke Arnold | Read by Luke Arnold
  • [Hachette Audio | 8 hrs.] AudioFile Earphones Award

Australian actor Luke Arnold narrates his debut fantasy novel in which a magical city shudders at the sudden loss of its magic. Fetch Philips takes odd jobs as a detective in Sunder City; his latest task is finding a missing teacher, a vampire whose body is slowly turning to dust without magic. Arnold portrays Fetch with pathos and differentiates the other characters, giving the production the feel of a full-cast production.

THE LEGENDS OF THE FIRST EMPIRE 4

  • by Michael J. Sullivan | Read by Terence Aselford and a Full Cast
  • [GraphicAudio | 6 hrs.] AudioFile Earphones Award

Narrator Terence Aselford and a full cast lead a GraphicAudio production of a sweeping fantasy epic kicked off by the death of a god. The balance of power and trust between the gods and humans is forever shifted, prompting a few to stand and defend humanity. A large cast of voice actors brings the characters to life with comic and heartrending deliveries.

THE SISTERS GRIMM

  • by Menna van Praag | Read by Adjoa Andoh
  • [Harper Audio | 15.5 hrs.] AudioFile Earphones Award

Adjoa Andoh narrates a fantastical adventure in which four half-sisters connect in a dreamworld and learn of their unusual shared fate. The sisters have wild adventures in the supernatural realm known as Everwhere until they’re cut off on their 13th birthday. Upon turning 18, the four must fight to the death against inhuman monsters—to the delight of their demonic father.


“Best New Sci-Fi & Fantasy Audiobooks Summer 2020” was curated by AudioFile.  AudioFile is an independent source of audiobook reviews and recommendations with a clear focus on the performance and listening experience.

Pixel Scroll 6/12/20 The Scrolling
Of Pixel 123

(1) THE CITY WITH TWO NAMES TWICE. N. K. Jemisin will join W. Kamau Bell, host of CNN series United Shades of America (and her cousin) on June 16 for a discussion of sci-fi, Afrofuturism, and her most recent novel The City We Became. The event is hosted by the New York Public Library. Hyperallergic has the story: “A POC-Centered Vision of NYC From NK Jemisin, Celebrated Sci-Fi Author”.

…Next Tuesday (June 16), Jemisin will join comedian W. Kamau Bell for a discussion of sci-fi, Afrofuturism, and her most recent novel, The City We Became, presented by the New York Public Library. The novel, which brings her unique brand of speculative fiction a little closer to earth, is set in a version of New York City where the future is threatened by an ancient evil that seeks to divide and destroy its community by capitalizing on its differences (sound familiar?). The City We Became imagines cities as living, sentient organisms that take shape as individual human avatars. New York and its five boroughs are embodied as mainly Black and brown folks (Staten Island and the nefarious Enemy that threatens the city are not insignificantly imagined as white women).

At a moment when New York City is slowly beginning to reopen amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, while simultaneously considering numerous pieces of legislation that could combat pervasive police brutality against Black people, Jemisin’s POC-centered speculations about the future of this city feel especially timely.

Where: Online, via NYPL
When: June 16, 8–9pm EDT

See the NYPL event page for more information.

(2) FREE READS. John Joseph Adams has made three of Lightspeed’s People Of Colo(U)R Destroy Special Issues available as free downloads.

(3) THE HEART OF YOUR WEEKEND. Essence of Wonder with Gadi Evron will host several of the “Hugo Finalists for Best Novella and Best Novelette 2020” on its June 13 program, including Seanan McGuire, Sarah Gailey, Sarah Pinsker, Siobhan Carroll, and Amal El-Mohtar. Facilitating the discussions will be Vincent Docherty and Karen Castelletti. 

The episode will also feature a Sara Felix Tiara Giveaway and “Tammy Coxen’s Mixology Show Corner.”

(4) STOKERCON UK: STRIKE TWO. StokerCon UK has postponed again, having decided its new August dates are no longer tenable. New dates forthcoming.

As per previous communications, like all of you we have been closely monitoring the NHS and UK Government guidelines as they have evolved over the past weeks and months, and the situation with regard to COVID-19 is still extremely changeable.

We have done everything we can to try to continue with StokerCon UK in August but, unfortunately, this is still a fast-changing situation and, with the worldwide situation and the current government guidelines as they stand now, we are left with no choice but to postpone the convention once again as we feel it would be irresponsible to push ahead and put anyone’s health at risk, apart from the obvious issues with social distancing, travel etc. Safety has to be the paramount concern for all involved.

We will advise new dates in the next week, as we’re currently finalising details of this with the hotels and will advise plans moving forward for everyone who has already signed-up to attend. We understand how disappointing this will be to many of you, and share that disappointment, but we want to make sure our members are safe, and postponing will be the best way to try and achieve that.

(5) THE SUN GIVES ABUSER PAGE ONE. Right after J.K. Rowling published an essay defending her views on gender and sex, in which she revealed she is the survivor of domestic abuse in her first marriage, UK tabloid The Sun tracked down her former husband for a front-page interview. The Guardian covered the response: “JK Rowling: UK domestic abuse adviser writes to Sun editor”.

The government’s lead adviser on domestic abuse has written to the editor of the Sun to condemn the newspaper’s decision to publish a front page interview with JK Rowling’s first husband, under the headline: “I slapped JK and I’m not sorry.”

In the letter seen by the Guardian, Nicole Jacobs, the independent domestic abuse commissioner, said it was “unacceptable that the Sun has chosen to repeat and magnify the voice of someone who openly admits to violence against a partner”.

Jacobs joined a chorus of voices speaking out against the newspaper, which described the remarks by Rowling’s ex as a “sick taunt” against the Harry Potter creator.

“The media can play a vital role in shining a light on this issue and bringing it out of the shadows, but articles such as this one instead feed the shame that so many survivors will feel every day, minimising their experiences and allowing perpetrators to continue to abuse without fear of consequence,” Jacobs wrote to Victoria Newton, who was appointed the Sun’s editor in February.

(6) WRITERS OFFERED INSURANCE PROGRAM. The Book Industry Health Insurance Partnership, a coalition of 10 organizations that includes SFWA, has partnered with Lighthouse Insurance Group Solutions to “provide its members with a choice of health insurance options, including ACA-compliant major medical, Medicare/supplements, short-term policies, vision, dental, critical care, supplemental coverage, as well as small group/Health Reimbursement Arrangements.”

The Authors Guild noted in a recent press release that the coalition also includes the American Booksellers Association, American Society for Indexing, Book Industry Study Group, Graphic Artists Guild, Independent Book Publishers Association, Novelists Inc., and Western Writers of America.

(7) ANIMATED, BUT NOT REANIMATED. NPR’s Glen Weldon finds light in an apocalypse: “‘Kipo And The Age Of Wonderbeasts’ Returns, Weirder And Warmer Than Ever”.

No, I hear you: Now doesn’t seem the ideal moment to Netflix-and-chill with an animated series about the last vestiges of humanity struggling to survive.

I mean, imagine the pitch meeting:

“The future.

“Cities lie in ruin.

“The surface of the earth is overgrown with plant life — and with overgrown animals: mutated beasts, 300 feet tall, that stomp across the land hunting for prey.

“Which is to say: for humans, who, now firmly at the bottom of the food chain, have retreated to vast underground burrows to protect themselves.”

It all sounds … pretty bleak, I get that. Depressing, even. Like if you mashed up The Walking Dead with the popular anime series Attack on Titan, in which gruesome giants gobble up humanity’s last survivors like so many chocolate-covered cherries.

And I haven’t even mentioned the violent gangs of mutant, human-sized animals who’ve staked out their own territories, making the Earth’s surface a deadly place for the few humans who still live there.

And yet?

Netflix’s Kipo and the Age of the Wonderbeasts, which returns for a second season Friday, June 12, manages to be anything but bleak and depressing. It’s bright and sunny, colorful and funny, and … then, there are those tunes.

(8) O’NEIL OBIT. Comic book writer Denny O’Neil died June 11 at the age of 81. Games Radar’s tribute is  here.

…O’Neil was best known for his work on Batman, which included writing Batman, Detective Comics, and Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, as well as editing DC’s Batman titles from 1986 to 2000. He, editor Julius Schwartz, and artist Neal Adams are credited for guiding the Dark Knight back to his darker roots after a period of campiness brought on by the success of the 1960s Batman TV series….

(9) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 12, 1956 X Minus One’s “If You Was A Moklin” was aired for the first time. Written by Murray Leinster (published in Galaxy, September 1951) who would win a number of Hugos in his career (L.A. Con III awarded him a Retro Hugo Novelette for “First Contact”, published in Astounding May 1945; NY Con II would give him Best Novelette for “Exploration Team”, published in Astounding March 1956; and he’s up this year for a Retro Hugo Novella  for “Trog”, published in Astounding Science Fiction, June 1944.) This story is about a planet that has a strange imitative trait it shows in producing its offspring.  Or so it seems.  Adapted as usual by Ernest Kinoy.  The cast was Joe Julian, Patricia Weil, Karl Weber and Ralph Camargo.   You can listen to hear it here.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 12, 1856 – Georges Le Faure.  Among a dozen popular swashbuckling novels, War Under Water against Germany; The Extraordinary Adventures of a Russian Scientist (with Henry de Graffigny, 4 vols.; tr. in 2 vols. 2009) with an explosive that could destroy the world, a Space-ship faster than light, visits to other planets, aliens.  Verne was first but not alone.  (Died 1953) [JH]
  • Born June 12, 1914 – Frank Kelly.  Two novels, half a dozen shorter stories, from this pioneer.  “Light Bender” was in the June 1931 Wonder Stories – he was 15!  Later a speechwriter for Harry Truman; vice-president, Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions.  “My Interplanetary Teens” in the June 1947 Atlantic.  Fiction outside our field in The New Yorker and Esquire.  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born June 12, 1914 William Lundigan. Col. Edward McCauley in the Fifties serial Men into Space which lasted for thirty-eight episodes. He really didn’t do any other SF acting other than showIng up once on Science Fiction Theater. (Died 1975.) (CE)
  • Born June 12, 1927 Henry Slesar. He had but one genre novel,Twenty Million Miles to Earth, but starting in the Fifties and for nearly a half century, he would write one hundred sixty short stories of a genre nature, with his first short story, “The Brat” being published in Imaginative Tales in September 1955. He also wrote scripts for television — CBS Radio Mystery Theater (which, yes, did SF), Tales Of The Unexpected, the revival version of the Twilight ZoneBatmanThe Man from U.N.C.L.E., and genre adjacent, lots of scripts for Alfred Hitchcock Presents. (Died 2002.) (CE) 
  • Born June 12, 1940 Mary A. Turzillo, 80. She won the Nebula Award for Best Novelette for her “Mars is No Place for Children” story, published in Science Fiction Age. Her first novel, An Old Fashioned Martian Girl was serialized in Analog, and a revised version, Mars Girls was released. Her first collection to polish her SWJ creds is named Your cat & other space aliens. Mars Girls which I highly recommend is available from the usual digital suspects. (CE)
  • Born June 12, 1945 James Stevens-Arce, 75. Encyclopedia of Science Fiction says that “James Stevens-Arce, is perhaps the first Puerto Rican to publish sf, and the most prolific.“  He has but one novel, Soulsaver which won thePremio UPC de Ciencia Ficción, and a double handful of short stories which do appear to have made to the digital realm.(CE)
  • Born June 12, 1946 – Sue Anderson.  Fannish musicals with Mark Keller, performed at 1970s Boskones: RivetsRivets ReduxMik Ado about Nothing (note Gilbert & Sullivan allusion), The Decomposers.  George Flynn, Anne McCaffrey, Elliot Shorter are gone, but Chip Hitchcock was in some or all and I’m counting on him to explain what really happened.  Three short stories (one posthumously in Dark Horizons 50), and this cover with Stevan Arnold for Vertex.  (Died 2004) [JH]
  • Born June 12, 1948 – Etienne Sándorfi.  Hungarian hyperrealist painter.  It was said that he painted like an assassin; also that, working at night, he went to bed each day later than the day before, puzzling his daughters.  Ten interiors for Omni.  The Wayback Machine has this interview; see some of his paintings here (Madeleine), here (nature morte organes).  (Died 2007) [JH]
  • Born June 12, 1948 Len Wein. Writer and editor best known for co-creating (with Bernie Wrightson) Swamp Thing and co-creating Wolverine (with Roy Thomas and John Romita Sr.) and for helping revive the the X-Men. He edited Watchmen which must have been interesting. He’s a member of the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame. (Died 2017.) (CE)
  • Born June 12, 1955 Stephen Pagel, 65. Editor with Nicola Griffith of the genre anthologies, Bending the Landscape: Science FictionBending the Landscape: Fantasy, and Bending the Landscape: Horror. (CE)
  • Born June 12, 1963 – Franz Miklis.  Austrian artist active for decades in fanart (see here and here) and otherwise (see here and here).  His Website is here. [JH]
  • Born June 12, 1970 – Claudia Gray.  A score of novels, some in the Star Wars universe; a few shorter stories; translated into Dutch, French, German, Portuguese.  Her Website is here (“Bianca, Tess, Nadia, Skye, Marguerite, and Noemi aren’t that much like me.  For example, they all have better hair”; also “Read as much as you can….  Read the stuff you love.  Read the stuff you never thought you’d love”).  [JH]

(11) LEND ME YOUR EARS. This item went under the hammer today at Heritage Auctions: “The Mouse Factory ‘The Mystery of Mickey’s Ears Revealed’”. It was bid up to $800 when I looked.

The Mouse Factory “The Mystery of Mickey’s Ears Revealed” Illustration by Ward Kimball Original Art (Walt Disney, c. 1970s). Walt Disney like to say, “I only hope that we don’t lose sight of one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.” Mickey’s trademark ears have been a source of conversation since the famous mouse was born in 1928. Created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, Mickey is characterized as a cheerful and mischievous “little guy” with ears that move strangely. In the early 1970s, Disney Legend Inductee and one of “Walt’s Nine Old Men”, Ward Kimball (1914 – 2002) attempted to clear up the matter and explain the mystery of Mickey’s ears on the television show, The Mouse Factory. In this lot is a rare illustration by Kimball showing Mickey in front and side views with an explanation on how his ears move independently as he moves his head.

(12) BE SEATED. In “Episode 29: Omphalistic Hugosity” of Two Chairs Talking (no relation to Arthur “Two Sheds” Jackson), former Aussiecon chairs David Grigg and Perry Middlemiss talk about the shorter fiction nominees for the 2020 Hugo Awards, and then take the Hugo Time Machine back to 1962, when Stranger in a Strange Land won Best Novel.

(13) PIED-À-TERRE. If people don’t feel so much like squeeing over Harry Potter this week, who can blame them? This is still a remarkable place, as the photos show: “You can stay in a massive ‘Harry Potter’-themed Airbnb with 8 bedrooms that’ll transport you right to Hogwarts”.

Loma Homes translated the magic of “Harry Potter” into an epic new rental just 30 minutes away from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando.

The Wizard’s Way villa has eight themed bedrooms with 10 beds, five bathrooms, and dozens of book and movie Easter eggs that fans of the franchise will love.

(14) AVATAR. [Item by Cliff.] This video demonstrates a digital avatar created by the company founded by an ex-colleague of mine.

This demo showcases a cutting edge end-to-end virtual assistant prototy[e developed by Pinscreen. The entire Avatar runs on the cloud and is streamed directly onto a web browser. This demo highlights a real-time facial AI-synthesis technology based on paGAN II, cutting edge NLP, voice recognition, and speech synthesis. None of the conversation is scripted.

(15) MURDER(BOT) SHE WROTE. Camestros Felapton has many kind (but non-spoilery) words to say about Martha Wells’ new novel: “Murderbot: Network Effect”.

I sort of gave up reviewing Murderbot a few novellas ago. There is a sense that actually the plot really doesn’t matter and the simplest explanation of an instalment is that its a Murderbot story and the reader either knows the formula or doesn’t and if they don’t then see earlier reviews. However, that belies how much I enjoy each and every one of Martha Wells’s brilliant episodes of Murderbot’s continuing adventures.

The essence of the formula is the juxtaposition of this incredibly vulnerable highly competent killing machine. Murderbot has been shot and blasted and zapped but the struggles with their own sense of self and connections with other people pulls you in….

(16) BOSE-EINSTEIN CONDENSATE, THE NEW CHILL SMOOTHIE. Slashdot reports “Scientists Have Made Bose-Einstein Condensates in Space for the First Time”. And what the heck is that, you ask…

On board the International Space Station since May 2018 is a mini-fridge-size facility called the Cold Atom Lab (CAL), capable of chilling atoms in a vacuum down to temperatures one ten billionth of a degree above absolute zero. It is, for all intents and purposes, one of the coldest spots in the known universe. And according to a new study published in Nature, scientists have just used it to create a rare state of matter for the first time ever in space. From a report:

Bose-Einstein condensates, sometimes called the fifth state of matter, are gaseous clouds of atoms that stop behaving like individual atoms and start to behave like a collective. BECs, as they’re often called, were first predicted by Albert Einstein and Satyendra Nath Bose over 95 years ago, but they were first observed in the lab by scientists just 25 years ago. The general idea when making a BEC is to inject atoms (in the case of CAL, rubidium and potassium) into an ultra-cold chamber to slow them down. A magnetic trap is then created in the chamber with an electrified coil, which is used along with lasers and other tools to move the atoms into a dense cloud. At this point the atoms “kind of blur into one another,” says David Aveline, a physicist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the lead author of the new study.

(17) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Creative Writing Advice From Neil Gaiman” on YouTube is a 2015 compiilation by Nicola Monaghan of excerpts from speeches Gaiman has given on writing.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/7/20 It’s Just An Old Fashioned Pixel Scroll, One I’m Sure They Wrote For You And Me

(1) GETTING PAID. On Twitter today, under the #PublishingPaidMe hashtag, writers disclosed the amounts of their book advances in order to generate data that will show if there are systematic biases against writers of color and other marginalized groups.

N. K. Jemisin responded — complete thread here. Comments include:

Jemisin also took questions:

Alyssa Cole, whose comments on RWA have been quoted here before, said it this way:

  • Martha Wells was one of several other sff authors who participated. Her tweets, which weren’t threaded, are here, here and here.
  • John Scalzi gave figures and analyzed the context in which they were paid for a post at Whatever.
  • Irene Gallo, Associate Publisher of Tor.com and Creative Director of Tor Books, linked the discussion to artists, as well.

(2) RWA STATEMENT ON SYSTEMIC RACISM. “A Statement and Action Plan from Romance Writers of America” parallels the strategy SFWA announced earlier this week:

…As an organization that just went through a massive crisis for many of the same reasons that underscore these protests for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and so many more —injustice, racism, and unfairness—we acknowledge that we have turned aside from confronting difficult truths for far too long. That our authors from marginalized communities, especially our Black authors, have been treated as somehow less deserving of a seat at the table of publishing. We must admit and learn from this shameful past, while standing up for our goal and commitment to make the future better. We stand together in the fight against systemic racism….

RWA is taking the following steps in addition to our continuing work on diversity issues and continuing efforts to make our organization a safe place for Black writers:

  • We invite all Black authors in RWA to attend our first online conference, to be held August 28-30, at no charge. This admission will include the recordings of the conference 
  • We will make 100 scholarships to our online conference available to non-member Black writers
  • We are making it a priority to find new resources to add to our Diversity and Inclusion Resources page on our website
  • We will direct our Academic Grants Committee to seek out Black academics studying romance to consider for RWA grants
  • This is a time when so many of us are terrified, alone, and feeling helpless. We offer the following links, for those who wish to learn more or find a way to contribute. 

(3) UNCLE HUGO’S UPDATE: If you’re someone who wants to contribute by sending a check or money order (rather than donate online through the “Official Help Save Uncle Hugo’s Fund” GoFundMe), Don Blyly gave me an address for that purpose. Contact me at mikeglyer@cs.com.

The GoFundMe has raised $113,269 as of today.

(4) RECOVERING. David Dyer-Bennett’s photo gallery, “Signs Over Windows”, documents the messages and art on the boarding over vandalized windows in downtown Minneapolis. Also includes images of the scorched bits of books in the rubble around Uncle Hugo’s.

In the aftermath of the Minneapolis Police killing George Floyd, Minneapolis has experienced much distress. We’re being forced to confront issues we’ve let slide for too long (or that our work has not usefully improved). There is a huge amount of anger of course, both immediate and accumulated over decades and centuries. There is despair. There are even some tendrils of hope.

I’m not a suitable person to deal with the big issues here. I’ll keep listening, and I’ll keep voting and pressuring my representatives to do what seems right, but I’m not a leader in any of this.

But the visual changes to the city around me have been striking. In some areas, most businesses have put plywood (or OSB) over all their windows and other glass. That by itself is a big change, but not visually very interesting. However, much of the plywood has been painted with slogans and war cries, straight-forwardly or artistically, or even graphic art. Both the text, and the appearance, have been catching my attention, so I started photographing these decorated sheets of plywood….

(5) TECH IMAGINED. “Ken Liu: ‘We get to define the stories we want to be told about us.’” Mary Wang interviews the author for Guernica. Tagline: “Using photos of his text editors, mapmaking software, and 3D-printed prototypes, the writer talks about technology, myth, and telling stories during a pandemic.”

Wang: If you were a different type of writer, I might ask you how you conceive of characters and build plot. But since you talk about engineering as a language, it would make more sense for me to ask how you conceive of technologies. How do they come about, how do you then refine them, and finally, how do you incorporate them into the story?

Liu: I love talking about this stuff. My other former careers consisted of being a litigation consultant and a corporate lawyer, so I did a lot of research into the history of patents and the history of technology. That turns out to be a great way to find inspiration for fictional machines. If you go into patent databases, you’ll see tons and tons of interesting inventions that never went anywhere. But that doesn’t mean that, in an alternate universe, they couldn’t have become successful and become the progenitor of new lineages of machines. 

I also get a lot of inspiration from reading about archaeological discoveries of ancient machinery. The Chinese had invented these amazing compound looms that could be programmed to create complex textile patterns, and we didn’t know how they worked because they didn’t survive. But the latest archaeological discoveries actually found some of these looms, or models of them made out of ceramic as grave goods, so archaeologists have been able to recreate them and figure them out. They were amazing, like mechanical computers that could be programmed to weave specific patterns. Similarly, archaeologists realized that Heron of Alexandria, a great Greek inventor of antiquity, had devised all sorts of machines for temple magic as part of religious rituals. That turned out to anticipate many of our modern ideas about cybernetics and autonomous control.

These lines of technology didn’t go very far, but in the fictional world I was creating, I could take it as far as I wanted to. …

(6) HIS NEXT RODEO. Congratulations to Ziv Wities (Standback) for making the grade at Podcastle.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 7, 1997 Perversions of Science premiered on HBO. It was a spin-off of HBO’s Tales from the Crypt. Its episodes were based off of work from EC Comics’s Incredible Science FictionWeird Fantasy and Weird Science titles. It would last but for one season of ten episodes. Writers adapting those stories included David S. Goyer (the Blade trilogy screenplays), David Schow (The Crow with John Shirley) and Andrew Kevin Walker (Sleepy Hollow screenplay).

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born June 7, 1844 – Robert Milne.  Rediscovered by Sam Moskowitz, who helped collect RM’s stories for Into the Sun.  Eleven there; fifty more not yet reprinted, e.g. “The Great Electric Diaphragm”, “A Dip into the Doings of the Four-Dimensional World”, “What the Great Instrument in the Lick Observatory Observed”.  Even I found the Into the Sun stories and four more here.  (Died 1899) [JH]
  • Born June 7, 1915 Graham J. Ingels. Illustrator best remembered for his work in EC Comics during the Fifties, most notably on The Haunt of Fear, Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror. He illustrated one genre magazine, Planet Stories cover as you can see here. Thought didn’t do any other covers, he was a regular interior artist for both Planet Stories and Planet Comics. (Died 1991.)(CE)
  • Born June 7, 1924 Jon Ewban White. Writer who was the script doctor for The Day of the Triffids. He was the writer for Witch Hunt, a dark fantasy series that ran BBC for six episodes. He even wrote an Avengers episode, “Propellent 23”.  His one film screenplay was “Crack in the World” which was straight SF Sixties style story about of the end brought on by the follies of man. You can watch it here. (Died 2013.) (CE) 
  • Born June 7, 1932 – Kit Reed.  Sixteen novels in our field; a hundred forty shorter stories, three dozen in The Story Until Now; fourteen more novels.  First published in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction under Boucher.  Translated into Croatian, Dutch, French, German, Italian.  Guggenheim Fellow.  Called herself a trans-genred writer.  (Died 2017) [JH]
  • Born June 7, 1946 – Jon White.  Fanziner and bookseller.  Revived Inside in 1962, brought in Leland Sapiro who renamed it Riverside Quarterly (after a famous dwelling in New York).  Here is the front cover by Arthur Thomson (“Atom”) for vol. 1 no. 2.  (Died 2004) [JH]
  • Born June 7, 1949 – Real Musgrave.  Graphic artist who has maintained a fannish connection.  Artist Guest of Honor at Westercon XLI (here is the cover of its Program Book); exhibited at Magicon, the 50th Worldcon.  Here is a cover for Fantasy Review.  Pocket Dragons, done as drawings, figurines, animated television series.  Brother of astronaut Story Musgrave.  [JH]
  • Born June 7, 1954 – Louise Erdrich.  In the first class of women admitted to Dartmouth (A.B., English; later, honorary Litt. D. and Commencement speaker).  Member of Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians; her grandfather was tribal chief.  National Book Award for Fiction, Lib. Cong. Prize for Amer. Fiction, Amer. Acad. Poets Prize, Pushcart Prize.  Love Medicine, only début novel to win the Nat’l Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.  Children’s books; Scott O’Dell Award for The Game of Silence.  World Fantasy Award for The Antelope Wife; three more novels in our field.  Interview in December 2017 Lightspeed.  [JH]
  • Born June 7, 1967 Dayton Ward, 53. Writer best known for his Trek fiction which began with publication in the Strange New Worlds anthology series. To say he’s written a lot of that media tie-in fiction is an understatement as he’s written forty novels so far with the Mirror Universe and the Starfleet Corps of Engineers being but two of the subjects he tackles. He already written one novel for one of the latest series, Star Trek: Discovery: Drastic Measures. (CE)
  • Born June 7, 1968 Sarah Parish, 52. In “The Runaway Bride“, a Tenth Doctor story, she got to play, with the assistance of extensive CGI, one of the nastiest Who villains to date, The Empress of the Racnoss, an oversized vicious spider with a human face. Great episode. It’s our introduction to Donna Noble, his Companion for quite some time to come. In a much lighter role, she played Pasiphaë on BBC’s Atlantis series. (CE)
  • Born June 7, 1974 David Filoni, 46. Creator and an executive producer on Star Wars Rebels, a most awesome series, for all four seasons, and was supervising director and a writer on another excellent series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. (I like the animated series far better than the live action films.) He makes his live acting debut in The Mandalorian playing Trapper Wolf, an X-Wing pilot, in “The Prisoner” episode. It’s also worth noting that he his first job was directing episodes during the first season of animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender (CE) 
  • Born June 7, 1978 – Jesse Ball.  Novelist and poet; spare, surrealistic, and strange.  Went to Vassar, which would have saddened my grandmother who never wanted it to go co-ed.  Guggenheim Fellowship; Illinois Author of the Year, 2015; Berlin Prize; Plimpton Prize.  Gordon Burn Prize for Census; two more novels and a book of shorter stories in our field; five more novels, drawings, non-fiction.  Faculty, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he got Wikipedia to believe he teaches lying, ambiguity, dreaming, walking; and maybe he does.  [JH]

(9) OUT OF SORTS. Meanwhile, back at the Tingleverse:

(10) SHOWING THE WAY. “Ronald McNair’s Civil Disobedience: The Illustrated Story of How a Little Boy Who Grew Up to Be a Trailblazing Astronaut Fought Segregation at the Public Library” by Maria Popova at Brain Pickings.

“Knowledge sets us free… A great library is freedom,” Ursula K. Le Guin wrote in contemplating the sacredness of public libraries. “Freedom is not something that anybody can be given; freedom is something people take and people are as free as they want to be,” her contemporary James Baldwin — who had read his way from the Harlem public library to the literary pantheon — insisted in his courageous and countercultural perspective on freedom.

Ronald McNair (October 21, 1950–January 28, 1986) was nine when he took his freedom into his own small hands.

Unlike Maya Angelou, who credited a library with saving her life, McNair’s triumphant and tragic life could not have been saved even by a library — he was the age I am now when he perished aboard the Space Shuttle Challenger before the eyes of a disbelieving nation. But his life was largely made by a library — a life equal parts inspiring and improbable against the cultural constrictions of his time and place; a life of determination that rendered him the second black person to launch into space, a decade and a half after a visionary children’s book first dared imagine the possibility….

(11) PLATFORM MATURES. “TikTok Pivots From Dance Moves To A Racial Justice Movement”NPR has the story.

When Raisha Doumbia, a 20-year-old swimming instructor in Roswell, Ga., first downloaded the video-sharing app TikTok, she made lighthearted posts, like her lip-syncing and dancing to a song by the British girl group Little Mix.

But Doumbia paused the playful routines after George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis. Now she is using her TikTok feed to urge followers to march for racial justice.

…All of a sudden, TikTok has become the go-to forum for burgeoning youth activism.

“Anger, dismay, disgust and unhappiness are all feelings that can be easily transmitted on a video on Tik Tok,” Aho Williamson said.

Black creators accuse TikTok of suppression

Activism arrived on TikTok just as scrutiny of its parent company, the Chinese-owned ByteDance, intensified.

As protests began to sweep the nation, black creators noticed that videos tagged #GeorgeFloyd or #BlackLivesMatter were hard to find, or looked as though no one had watched them despite a torrent of views.

To some users, it was a suspicious development, considering that ByteDance has censored videos of anti-Beijing protests in Hong Kong, in addition to having been exposed for previously suppressing posts from users deemed too unattractive or undesirable for the platform.

TikTok insists that is not what happened in posts related to Black Lives Matter. In an about-face, the company apologized and blamed the problem on a “technical glitch.”

“Nevertheless, we understand that many assumed this bug to be an intentional act to suppress the experiences and invalidate the emotions felt by the black community. And we know we have work to do to regain and repair that trust,” said Vanessa Pappas, TikTok’s general manager for the U.S.

(12) TROMPE L’OEIL. Those who got to L.A.con III may remember the debut of Omar Rayyan with some stunning fool-the-eye work. Now somebody’s doing it in public: “David Zinn: Street art that washes away in the rain” – video.

David Zinn is a professional chalk artist who’s on a mission to show that you don’t need fancy equipment to draw.

His work has appeared on subway platforms in Manhattan, village squares in Sweden and street corners in Taiwan.

(13) HIGH PRAISE.“A Master of Hidden Things” is John Banville’s tribute to a fine writer in The New York Review of Books.

…Revisiting Elizabeth Bowen’s Collected Stories, one realizes that there are certain literary works that, once read, make one burn with envy of those readers who have still to come to them for the first time.* There is not a story in this substantial volume, from the first to the last, that is not brought off beautifully. While it is no doubt foolhardy and certainly vulgar to choose favorites, one must mention instances in which Bowen outdid herself. These include the elusive but vividly immediate “Summer Night”; the haunting “Mysterious Kôr” and the haunted “The Demon Lover”; the trance-like wartime set pieces “Ivy Gripped the Steps” and “The Happy Autumn Fields”; the forlorn “Joining Charles”; and the merely—merely!—marvelous early tales “Daffodils” and “The Parrot.” In these and many other of the stories, Bowen reached, as Glendinning puts it, “a perfection and a unity that the sustained narrative and shifting emphases of a novel do not attempt.”

(14) WORK WITH WHAT YOU’VE GOT. “How map hacks and buttocks helped Taiwan fight Covid-19”.

With direct flights to Wuhan and a population of 24 million people living in densely packed cities, Taiwan’s coronavirus outlook seemed grave.

But, to date, the disease has claimed just seven lives on the island, and it never went into full lockdown.

Its leaders credit masks as playing a key role, but not for the reasons you might suppose.

“Masks are something that, first, reminds you to wash your hands properly and, second, protects you from touching your mouth – that is the main benefit to the person who wears it,” explains Audrey Tang, Taiwan’s digital minister.

Taiwan’s citizens have worn face masks for health and other reasons since the 1950s, but the spread of coronavirus prompted a spate of panic-buying.

To even out demand, the masks had to be rationed while production was ramped up, from two million to 20 million items a day.

Long queues snaked back from pharmacies and other outlets – which posed a risk of contagion in themselves. So, the government decided data about each location’s stock levels should be made publicly available.

To do so, Ms Tang’s ministry launched a platform which each vendor could keep updated with their stock numbers.

Then, Taiwan’s hacking community, with whom the government had been building a strong relationship for years, stepped in.

It began drawing on the data, which had been made public, to build a series of real-time ‘mask maps’.

…Earlier this week, Chien-Jen Chen – the island’s former vice-president and a renowned epidemiologist – told British MPs that a well-designed contact tracing system and the application of strict quarantine rules to inbound visitors had also played a major role

But he too said the nature of the island’s “hyper-democracy” – and the efforts its health chiefs had made to gain the public’s trust – were the key factors in it success.

Those in power aren’t just responsive to the voices of citizens, but also the memes and other messages they share.

It helped the government counter false claims that the material used to make masks was the same as that found in toilet paper. In response Taiwan’s Premier posted a self-mocking cartoon, which showed his bottom wiggling, alongside an explanation of the different sources that toilet paper and mask paper come from.

“It went absolutely viral” says Ms Tang, of the government strategy referred to as “humour over rumour”.

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

Pixel Scroll 5/16/20 The Diversity Of Pixels Prove That Scrolls Evolved From Files

(1) BEFORE GENESIS. Kim Huett begins a deep dive into Hugo history in “A Different View of the Early Hugo Awards (Part 1.)” at Doctor Strangemind.

…First of all the Eleventh World Science Fiction Convention committee called them the First Annual Science Fiction Achievement Awards and not the Hugo Awards. Officially they continued to be called the Annual Science Fiction Achievement Awards for many decades. It wasn’t until 1993 that they were officially renamed the Hugo Awards. Exactly when fans began giving the awards the nickname of Hugo I can’t be entirely sure. However, the earliest mention of the practise I’m aware of appeared in the 1955 Clevention’s Progress Report #4. In an article about the physical aspects of the award appears the following comment:

A great deal of hard work, money and time went into the project of making this “Hugo”, as some people have already dubbed the trophy.

Just who was using the term and how widespread the practise was by this point isn’t made clear in this article. It could be that committee members were aware of the nickname being used elsewhere but I suspect such usage was confined to the committee itself. After all, given that at this point the awards had only been given once and then were seemingly discontinued it seems a bit unlikely that fandom at large had decided to give something they couldn’t be certain would ever be seen again a nickname. Moreover, given that the awards are then continually referred as Hugos in the rest of the article I rather suspect some or all of the committee had not only adopted the term but also wanted to push the idea of calling it that as one way to put their stamp on the awards idea. All speculation of course but it does make for an interesting theory.

(2) BEFORE NUMBERS. And Galactic Journey’s Hugo headline deals with news that’s only a tad more recent — “The 1965 Hugo Ballot Is Out!” They also invite fans to join them for an online discussion on May 23.

… Since the Journey has covered virtually everything on the list, we’ve created a little crib sheet so you can vote in an educated fashion.

Also, we’ll be talking about this ballot on May 23rd at 1PM PDT on a special broadcast of KGJ Channel 9 — so please tune in and join us in the discussion!

(3) AN EPISODE RECAP – SPOILERS? I’M NOT SURE. [By Martin Morse Wooster.] In the May 10 episode of Supergirl, Kara Zor-El and her friends were trying to track down bad guys who called themselves Leviathan.  They went to the “United States Congressional Library” which eerily resembles a Canadian public library to talk to a librarian who was a “symbologist”–you know, like the guy in The Da Vinci Code.  The symbologist explained that he tried to search for “leviathan”–but all of searches were blocked!  Scary! 

So they decided to visit “special collections,” which of course was the vault in the basement where The Good Stuff is kept and can only be seen by people with the secret passcode,  But just as our hero punches the buttons, the bad guys start shooting at them.  How these guntoters managed to get past the security guards is not explained, possibly because the “United States Congressional Library” doesn’t have any security guards.

Any resemblance between the “United States Congressional Library” and the Library of Congress is nonexistent.

(4) YOU ARE NUMBER SIX. Den of Geek boasts the cover reveal for the next installment in Martha Wells’ series: “The Murderbot Diaries: Fugitive Telemetry Cover Reveal”.

…While Fugitive Telemetry may be the sixth installment in the series, it is something new for this world: a murder mystery. The novella follows Murderbot as it discovers a dead body on Preservation Station, and sets about assisting station security to determine who the body was and how they were killed. Fugitive Telemetry takes place after the events of novella Exit Strategy and before the events of novel Network Effect, and is slated for an April 2021 release.

(5) WHO SUPPORTS THEM. The Doctor Who Companion points fans to a fundraising video: “Peter Capaldi Reads Story By Frank Cottrell Boyce For National Brain Appeal’s Emergency Care Fund”.

Actor Peter Capaldi, shows his support for The National Brain Appeal’s Emergency Care Fund – set up in response to the Covid-19 crisis. We’re raising money for staff on the frontline at The National Hospital – and those patients who are most in need at this time. He reads from The Runaway Robot by Frank Cottrell Boyce.

(6) SOUND ADVICE. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] Katherine A. Powers, who reviews audiobooks in the Washington Post, has a piece about the problems of bad audiobooks. “Don’t let a bad reader ruin your audiobook experience. Here are recordings to savor — and to avoid.”  She writes:

Any devoted audiobook listener can attest:  Spending nine hours (or more) in the company of a terrible reader–a shrieker, mumber, droner, tooth whistler, or overzealous thespian–is an experience that can truly ruin a book.  A narrator’s voice is not merely a delivery system, an element extraneous to the text, but an integral one–fulfilling, enriching, injuring, or sinking a book.”

She explains this is particularly true with books in the public domain.  She notes that Thomas Hardy’s Far From The Madding Crowd comes in a dozen versions. including a superb one by John Lee and readings by Nathaniel Parker and Joe Jameson “are excellent if a little fast.” But “excruciating performers” of hardy’s novel include “a drawling old fogy; a governess on an elocution bender; a sprinter whose words tear along in a blur; and a man who seems to be recording inside a tin can.

This doesn’t have much to do with sf except that she says that Neil Gaiman is a very good reader of his own fiction (I agree).  But I thought she made some good points.

(7) PEOPLE WHO KNEW PKD. “The Penultimate Truth About Philip K. Dick” on YouTube is a 2007 Argentine documentary, directed by Emiliano Larre, that includes with Dick’s ex-wives Kleo Mini, Anne Dick, and Tessa Dick, his stepdaughter Tandie Ford, and authors K.W. Jeter, Ray Nelson, and Tim Powers.

(8) WILLARD OBIT. Comedic star Fred Willard, who appears in the forthcoming show Space Force, died May 15 at the age of 86. He gained fame in a long career that included roles in Best in Show, This Is Spinal Tap, Everybody Loves Raymond and Modern Family. More details at People.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born May 16, 1891 Mikhail Bulgakov. Russian writer whose fantasy novel The Master and Margarita, published posthumously, has been called one of the masterpieces of the 20th century. The novel also carries the recommendation of no less than Gary Kasparov. If you’ve not read it, a decent translation is available at the usual digital sources for less than a cup of coffee. (Died 1940.) (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1917 – Juan Rulfo.  Author, photographer.  In Pedro Páramo a man going to his recently deceased mother’s home town finds it is populated by ghosts; translated into 30 languages, sold a million copies in English.  A score of shorter stories; another dozen outside our field.  Here are some photographs and comment.  (Died 1986) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1918 – Colleen Browning.  Set designer, illustrator, lithographer, painter.  A Realist in the face of Abstract Realism and Abstract Expressionism, she later turned to magic realism blurring the real and imaginary. See here (Union Mixer, 1975), here (Mindscape, 1973), here (Computer Cosmology, 1980s), and here (The Dream, 1996).  (Died 2003) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1920 – Patricia Marriott.  Cover artist and illustrator, particularly for Joan Aiken (1924-2004); 21 covers, 18 interiors.  See here and here.  (Died 2002) [JH] 
  • Born May 16, 1925 – Pierre Barbet.  French SF author and (under his own name; PB is a pen name) pharmacist.  Towards a Lost FutureBabel 3805; space opera, heroic fantasy, alternative history.  In The Empire of Baphomet (translated into Czech, Dutch, English, Hungarian, Portuguese, Romanian, Spanish) an alien tries to manipulate the Knights Templar; in Stellar Crusade the knights go into Space after him; 72 novels, plus shorter stories, essays.  (Died 1995) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1928 – Burschi Gruder.  Romanian pioneer and prolific illustrator of children’s books, textbooks, comic books; cover artist; reprinted in East Germany, Moldova, Poland, U.S.S.R., Yugoslavia.  See here and here.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1937 Yvonne Craig. Batgirl on Batman, and that green skinned Orion slave girl Marta on “Whom Gods Destroy”. She also appeared in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.The Wild Wild WestVoyage to The Bottom of the SeaThe Ghost & Mrs. MuirLand of the GiantsFantasy Island and Holmes and Yo-Yo. (Died 2015.) (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1942 – Alf van der Poorten.  Number theorist (180 publications; founded Australian Mathematical Society Gazette; Georges Szekeres Medal, 2002) and active fan.  One of “Sydney’s terrible twins”.  Reviewer for SF Commentary.  (Died 2010) [JH]
  • Born May 16, 1944 Danny Trejo, 76. Trejo is perhaps most known as the character Machete, originally developed by Rodriguez for the Spy Kids films. He’s also been on The X-FilesFrom Dusk till DawnLe JaguarDoppelgangerThe Evil WithinFrom Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood MoneyMuppets Most Wanted and more horror films that I care to list here. Seriously, he’s really done a lot of low-budget horror films. In LA he’s even better known for donuts – i.e., he owns a shop with his name on it. (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1953 – Lee MacLeod.  Four dozen covers, plus interiors, among us.  Lee MacLeod SF Art Trading Cards.  BatmanHoward the DuckPocahontas (i.e. Disney’s).  Air Force Art Program.  Here are two covers for The Mote in God’s Eye from 1993 and 2000.  For his fine art e.g. plein air, see here.  
  • Born May 16, 1962 Ulrika O’Brien, 58. A Seattle-area fanzine fan, fanartist, con-running fan, and past TAFF winner. Her list of pubished fanzines according to Fancyclopedia 3 is quite amazing — FringeWidening Gyre and Demi-TAFF Americaine (TAFF Newsletter). Her APAzines include Mutatis Mutandis, and APAs include APA-LLASFAPAMyriad and Turbo-APA. (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1968 Stephen Mangan, 52. Dirk Gently in that series after the pilot episode which saw a major reset. He played Arthur Conan Doyle in the Houdini & Doyle series which I’ve heard good things about but haven’t seen. He did various voices for the 1999 Watership Down, and appeared in Hamlet as Laertes at the Norwich Theatre Royal. (CE)
  • Born May 16, 1969 David Boreanaz, 51. Am I the only one that thought Angel was for the most part a better series than Buffy? And the perfect episode was I think “Smile Time” when Angel gets turned into a puppet. It even spawned its own rather great toy line. (CE)

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) DISNEY’S NEXT PLANS FOR THE STAGE. The Washington Post’s Peter Marks not only reports the demise of Frozen on Broadway, but that Disney Theatrical Productions president Michael Schumacher announced several musicals in development, including The Princess Bride, Jungle Book, and Hercules. “Citing the pandemic, Disney puts Broadway’s ‘Frozen’ permanently on ice”.

Schumacher also used the letter to detail other projects in the works — notably, a stage musical version of the 1987 cult movie favorite “The Princess Bride,” with a book by Bob Martin and Rick Elice and a score by David Yazbek, and an expanded stage version of the “Hercules” that debuted last summer in Central Park. Book writer Robert Horn, a Tony winner for “Tootsie,” will be added to the songwriting team of Alan Menken and David Zippel.

(12) PRINCEJVSTN’S FINEST. Best Fan Writer Hugo finalist Paul Weimer’s “Hugo Packet 2020” is available from an unlocked post on his Patreon page. (I have the right URL here but can’t get it to open from the Scroll, which is why I am also including Paul’s tweet).

(13) WIGTOWN FLIPS. Hey, I read it right here — “Wigtown book festival makes online switch”.

Scotland’s national book town has decided to take its annual festival online.

The Wigtown event will still run from 25 September to 4 October with the themes of resilience and connection.

Creative director Adrian Turpin said a key aim would be to raise the town’s profile while looking forward to a time when the region could welcome visitors.

He said nobody had wanted the situation but it might help the event to reach new audiences.

A number of link-ups with other book towns around the world will feature as part of the festival.

As well as live online speaker events, the 2020 festival will feature its usual mix of art exhibitions, film events, music and performance.

The Magnusson lecture – in honour of Magnus Magnusson – will also go digital for the first time and be delivered by historian Rosemary Goring.

(14) VASCO II. BBC reports “Facebook to build internet cable ‘circumference of Earth'”.

Facebook is teaming up with telecoms companies to build a 37,000km (23,000-mile) undersea cable to supply faster internet to 16 countries in Africa.

Its length – almost equal to the circumference of the Earth – will make it one of the longest, it said.

It is part of a long-running bid by Facebook to take its social media platform to Africa’s young population.

Ready for use by 2024, it will deliver three times the capacity of all current undersea cables serving Africa.

“When completed, this new route will deliver much-needed internet capacity, redundancy, and reliability across Africa, supplement a rapidly increasing demand for capacity in the Middle East, and support further growth of 4G, 5G, and broadband access for hundreds of millions of people,” said Facebook in a blog.

Africa lags behind the rest of the world when it comes to internet access, with four in 10 people across the continent having access to the web, compared with a global average of six in 10.

(15) NEEDED ONE MORE GHOST. Yahoo! Movies UK quotes the actor from a TV interview: “Bill Murray missed Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis on ‘Ghostbusters: Afterlife'”.

Bill Murray really missed working alongside Harold Ramis and Rick Moranis while filming the upcoming Ghostbusters: Afterlife.

The legendary comedian admitted as much during his recent interview with Ellen DeGeneres, saying that the pair were “greatly missed for so many reasons,” adding, “They were so much a part of the creation of [Ghostbusters] and the fun of it.”

(16) TOASTS OF THE TOWN. At the #OrbitTavern on Instagram, Creative Director Lauren Panepinto interviews an author about their upcoming book Ann Leckie and Laura Lam in one session) —and teaches viewers how to make the perfect cocktail to pair it with! Replays of their live shows are also available on Orbit’s website.

For example, a couple of days ago they celebrated World Cocktail Day with Alix Harrow.

(17) NESFA PRESS SALE. NESFA Press has announced a 20% discount good through June 14, 2020  on all NESFA Press physical books — with some exceptions. This does not include E-Books, ISFiC books (including the Seanan McGuire Velveteen books), and the following limited-edition books: Stan’s Kitchen by Kim Stanley Robinson and A Lit Fuse: The Provocative Life of Harlan Ellison (limited, boxed edition).

To take advantage of this discount, go to the NESFA Press online store: http://nesfapress.org/, select the titles you wish to purchase, and during checkout enter “COVID-19” in the coupon text field. The 20% will be automatically deducted from the book price.

(18) LIFESIZED ORRERY. “What It Would Look Like If All The Planets Orbited Between The Earth And The Moon” – this video has been out for awhile but it was news to me – a very exotic view!

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

Pixel Scroll 5/8/20 A Logic
Named Mjølnir

(1) ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS. Newsweek is “Talking Murderbot With ‘Network Effect’ Author Martha Wells”.

The series is from Murderbot’s perspective, who doesn’t care much about the wider galaxy (outside of its favorite media), but I assume there’s a lot of worldbuilding you have to juggle. We learn a bit about regions of space like the Corporation Rim, but would you tell me a little more about the state of the larger galaxy?

The Corporation Rim does control a lot of territory, but there are a lot of independent worlds and places outside it and also a lot of unexplored space, basically. In my head, what I see is that there was a whole society—pre-Corporation Rim—that went out and explored and colonized and developed terraformed worlds and all these different places. The Corporation Rim then grew and took over a large section of that. There was a disruption when that happened and so a lot of the pre-Corporation Rim colonies were either destroyed or have been lost. There are a lot of unknown territories out there. I like to do that in my books, I don’t like to define rigidly what the world is, or what the boundaries of the world are. When I’m reading books where that’s done I feel like that limits the reader’s imagination.

I’m kind of a seat-of-the-pants writer, so I don’t plan out a lot ahead of time. I also like to explore the world along with the reader, so I don’t talk about how the world works in general, partly because I want to get the reader concentrated in the plot, but also because I don’t want to set up things so that, later, when I come up with a different idea for the next book, I have to contradict myself or come up with a way around it. I’m just exploring the world. I tend to develop a lot of stuff I need for each story in particular, and then for the next story I realize, “Oh, well, there’s places to go from there. I need to explore this idea.” So I’m kind of making it up as I go along, though I do have ideas about how the world came to be and what caused the society to develop this way, but I don’t usually get into those, because it’s not important for the story that’s being told in that moment (but it might be important later).

(2) FOR THOSE BARD FROM THE CLASSROOM. UK’s Standard says help is on the way — “David Tennant, Patrick Stewart and Tamsin Greig to offer Shakespeare homework help to children during lockdown”.

Schoolchildren struggling to understand Shakespeare during the lockdown are to get tips and insights from leading actors to perform in his plays.

David Tennant, Sir Patrick Stewart and Tamsin Greig are among the big names joining the Homework Help initiative being run by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Students with questions can email them to homeworkhelp@rsc.org.uk or share them using the hashtag #RSCHomeworkHelp on Twitter or Instagram by Sunday.

The first round of answers will be released from Monday in the form of videos and recorded messages from actors.

(3) CLOSER LOOK NEEDED? Someone on Reddit posted this link today to a site that contains links to the text of most of the Hugo-Award-winning short stories — http://scifi-hugo.herokuapp.com/.

Greg Hullender of Rocket Stack Rank, who sent the item, says “I spot checked them, and at least some of them are unimpeachable—i.e. they link to the author’s own web site—but for others I’m unsure whether the sites hosting them really have permission from the copyright owners to do so. It might be a public service to call attention to the site so anyone who cares can track the links and authors.”

(4) THE TOP OF THE POP. Alasdair Stuart has posted The Full Lid for 8th May 2020:

This week on The Full Lid, I take a look at the state of the Star Wars universe and find it richer, more interesting and wider than it often seems to be. I also strap in for the magnificent pulpy roller coaster of Netflix’s Into the Night and review Carlos Hernandez’s fantastic Sal and Gabi Fix The Universe. This week’s interstitial pieces are isolation fight scenes, proving that every now and then these violent delights have hilarious ends.

The Full Lid publishes weekly at 5 p.m. GMT on Fridays. Signup is free and the last six months are archived here.

The Clone Wars finished and Rise of Skywalker arrived on Disney Plus this week with the exact combination of joy for the former and ‘oh… hi…’ for the latter you’d expect. Rise is far more the traditional Star Wars movie than Rian Johnson’s defiantly, flamboyantly good space noir predecessor. In some ways — nearly all of them in the last twenty minutes — that’s good. In other ways — in all of which Kelly Marie Tran is reduced to an extra — that borders on unforgivable. It’s Star Wars playing Hotel California and honestly it coasts on the charm of the conceit. Despite that, the emotional beats were solid – I laughed and cried in all the intended spots. It’s a good time, for most. But Star Wars, now more than ever, is bigger than the Skywalker Saga….

(5) IN THE BADLANDS. James Davis Nicoll tells Tor.com readers where they can find “Five Truly Inhospitable Fictional Planets”.

…I must admit that not every science fiction author adopts this buoyant stance. Some of them have taken a contrary point of view, in fact, positing that there are some circumstances that will defeat humans, no matter how smart and persevering they are. Circumstances like alien worlds that cannot be terraformed into human-friendly resort planets. Here are five worlds that steadfastly resist meddling…

(6) VIRTUALLY AMAZING. Steve Davidson’s “AmazingCon UpDates” adds details about his event to be hosted on Zoom from June 12 thru June 14, 2020. Registration required—free or make a donation as you choose. Details at the link.

Over forty authors will present readings from their current and up-coming works, including several soon-to-be-released novels. His current lineup of “Guest Stars” is —

Mike Alexander Anderson, Adam-Troy Castro, Marie Bilodeau, Ricky L Brown, James Cambias, Patty Carvacho, Noah Chinn, Jack Clemons, Carolyn Clink, David L Clink, Dave Creek, Jennifer Crow, Julie Czerneda, Steve Davidson, Vincent Di Fate, Steve Fahnestalk, Sally McBride, Jen Frankel, JM Frey, JF Garrard, David Gerrold, Sean Grigsby, Jerri Hardesty, Chip Houser, G. Scott Huggins, Elizabeth Hirst, Rebecca Inch-Partridge, MD Jackson, Paula Johanson, H Kauderer, Daniel M Kimmel, Kathy Kitts, Judy Mccrosky, Jack McDevitt, Ron Miller, Petrea Mitchell, MJ Moores, Will Murray, Ira Nayman, Wendy Nikel, Julie Novakova, Paul Levinson, Loyd Penney, Brad Preslar, Dan Ritter, David Ritter, Rhea Rose, Amber Royer, Russ Scarola, Veronica Scott, Alex Shvartsman, Steven H Silver, Dan Simon, Rosemary Claire Smith, Bud Sparhawk, Hugh Spencer, Richard Dean Starr, Allen Steele, SP Somtow, Kimberly Unger, Liz Westbrook-Trenholm, Leslie Wicke, Erin Wilcox, Matt Wolfendon, Kermit Woodall, Brianna Wu, Frank Wu

(7) HERD IMMUNITY. At McSweeney’s, an executive reassures us, “Sure, The Velociraptors Are Still On The Loose, But That’s No Reason Not To Reopen Jurassic Park” in Carlos Greaves satirical article.

Hello, Peter Ludlow here, CEO of InGen, the company behind the wildly successful dinosaur-themed amusement park, Jurassic Park. As you’re all aware, after an unprecedented storm hit the park, we lost power and the velociraptors escaped their enclosure and killed hundreds of park visitors, prompting a two-month shutdown of the park. Well, I’m pleased to announce that, even though the velociraptors are still on the loose, we will be opening Jurassic Park back up to the public!

(8) THE MOUSE HOUSE. Because it’s not like these guys aren’t thinking about it. In the Washington Post, Steven Zeitchik reports that while Walt Disney CEO Bob Chapek said the Shanghai DIsney Resort will reopen soon, he can not make a similar commitment for American parks, in part because it’s not clear that people would want to come to Disney World or Disneyland, even if attendance is limited to 25 percent of capacity, while the coronavirus rages. “Disney is about to reopen its Shanghai theme park. It could be a lot longer before that happens in the U.S.”

…Disney parks are so crucial to California’s economy that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) called Disney “a nation-state,” to some controversy, when he exempted it from closure requirements at the start of the pandemic.

Theme parks are also vital to Disney’s bottom line. The parks division (it also includes hotels and cruise ships) generated $6.76 billion in profit for Disney last year, three times what its film studio did.

All of this makes reopening a no-brainer.

If only….

(9) SOME LIKE IT BOT. ReedPop is exercising its option to take a couple of its major events to Facebook: “BookExpo and BookCon Go Virtual This Month”.

After initially postponing BookExpo and BookCon 2020 from their original May 27–31 dates to July 22–26, conference organizer Reedpop subsequently canceled both events. Today, Reedpop has announced the events will be replaced by new virtual events taking place this month: BookExpo Online, from May 26-29, and BookCon Online, May 30 and 31.

All programming for both BookExpo Online and BookConline 2020 will be presented on the BookExpo Facebook pages and BookCon Facebook page and, will be free and open to the public. Organizers said an additional day will be added in July, with programming focused on booksellers.

(10) PERSISTENCE OF VISION. Stokercon UK is soldiering on with plans for its new dates – Thursday through Sunday, August 6-9 (subject to further restrictions) in Scarborough, North Yorkshire. The Horror Writers Association’s annual conference, with luck being held for the first to be held outside of North America, has even added a Special Guest: author and screenwriter M.R. (Mike) Carey.

Mike Carey…initially worked mainly in the medium of comic books. After writing for several UK and American indie publishers, he got his big break when he was commissioned by DC Comics’ Vertigo division to write Lucifer. Spinning off from Neil Gaiman’s ground-breaking Sandman series, Lucifer told the story of the devil’s exploits after resigning from Hell to run a piano bar in Los Angeles: Mike wrote the book for the whole of its initial seven-year run, during which he was nominated for four Eisner awards and won the Ninth Art and UK National Comics awards. More recently he has written Barbarella, Highest House and The Dollhouse Family, which will be released in September of this year as a hardcover collection.

Mike’s first foray into prose fiction came with the Felix Castor novels, supernatural crime thrillers whose exorcist protagonist consorts with demons, zombies and ghosts in an alternate London. These were followed by two collaborations with his wife Linda and their daughter Louise, The City of Silk and Steel and The House of War and Witness. Subsequently, under the transparent pseudonym of M.R.Carey, he wrote The Girl With All the Gifts and its prequel The Boy On the Bridge. He also wrote the screenplay for the movie adaptation of The Girl With All the Gifts, for which – at the age of 59! – he received a British Screenwriting award for best newcomer.

The Book of Koli is the start of a new post-apocalyptic trilogy, with the remaining books to be published in September 2020 and April 2021.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 8, 1955 X Minus One’s “Mars is Heaven“ first aired on radio stations. It’s based on the Bradbury story of that name which was originally published in 1948 in Planet Stories. It later appears as the sixth chapter of The Martian Chronicles, retitled “The Third Expedition.”  The premise is that this expedition discovers on Mars a small town spookily akin to that which they left behind on Earth. The people in the town believe it is 1926. Crew members soon discover there are old friends and deceased relatives there. The cast includes Wendell Holmes, Peter Kapell, Bill Zuckert, Bill Lipton, Margaret Curlen, Bill Griffis, Ken Williams, Ethel Everett and Edwin Jerome. You can hear it here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 8, 1928 John Bennett. His very long involvement in genre fiction started with The Curse of the Werewolf in the early Sixties and ended forty years later with a role on the Minority Report series. Being a Brit, naturally he appeared on Doctor Who in the prime role of Li H’sen Chang as part of a Fourth Doctor story, “The Talons of Weng-Chiang”. He had roles in Blake’s 7, Watership DownTales of The UnexpectedThe Plague DogsDark MythSherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady (as Dr. Sigmund Freud!), Merlin of The Crystal Cave and The Infinite Worlds of H.G. Wells. (Died 2005.)
  • Born May 8, 1938 Jean Giraud. Better known to y’all as Moebius. He contributed storyboards and concept designs to myriad science fiction and fantasy films including AlienThe Fifth Element, The Abyss and the original Tron film. He also collaborated with avant-garde filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky for an unproduced adaptation of Dune. Oh, I would’ve loved to have seen that!  And no, I’m not forgetting his work on both Heavy Metal and Marvel Comics but I’ll let you detail those endeavors. And let’s not forget his Michael Moorcock comics. (Died 2012.)
  • Born May 8, 1940 Peter Benchley. He’s known for writing Jaws and he co-wrote the film script with Carl Gottlieb. His novel Beast is genre and was adapted into a film as was White Shark which has absolutely nothing to do with  sharks. Another novel, The Island, was also turned into a film and it’s at least genre adjacent. (Died 2006.)
  • Born May 8, 1947 Susan Casper. Editor and author, married to Gardner Dozois until her death. She published over thirty short stories and essays, including collaborations with Dozois and Jack M. Dann, starting off with “Spring-Fingered Jack”. Her fiction is first collected in Slow Dancing through Time which includes one collaboration with Dozois and one with Jack M Dann. Rainbow: The Complete Short Fiction of Susan Casper which was edited just after her death by her husband is as its title states a complete collection of her short fiction. She was co-editor with him of the Ripper! and Jack the Ripper anthologies She was a much-loved figure at cons. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 8, 1954 Stephen Furst. The saddest part of doing these Birthdays is discovering how many folks have died that I reasonably expected were still living. He died of complications from diabetes at a far too young age. You know him most likely as Centauri diplomatic attaché Vir Cotto on Babylon 5, a decent being way over his head in a job he was ill prepared for. He also directed three low-budget movies for the Sci Fi Channel: Dragon StormPath of Destruction, and Basilisk: The Serpent King; he additionally co-starred in the last two films. And he produced Atomic Shark which aired during Sharknado Week on Syfy. (Died 2017.)
  • Born May 8, 1955 Della Van Hise, 65. Author was a prolific Trek fanwriter who later published an official Trek novel, Killing Time which in its first printing implied a sexual relationship between Spock and Kirk. Later printings didn’t include this passage. It’s available on all the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born May 8, 1967 John Hicklenton. British illustrator also known as John Deadstock. He worked on 2000 AD characters like Judge Dredd (especially the Heavy Metal Dredd series) and Nemesis the Warlock during the Eighties and Nineties. He also dipped into the Warhammer universe with “Cycles of Chaos” (with writer Andy Jones) in Warhammer Monthly No. 9.
  • Born May 8, 1981 Stephen Amell, 39. He’s known for portraying Oliver Queen / Green Arrow In Arrowverse. Ok, I have a confession. I can either read or watch series like these. I did watch the first few season of the Arrow and Flash series. How the Hell does anybody keep up with these and set aside a reasonable amount of time to do any reading?  Seriously, the amount of genre on tv has exploded. I’m watching Midsomer MurdersDiscoveryYoung Justice and Doom Patrol which is quite enough thank you.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) GAULD CALLED. Shelf Awareness did a Q&A with the popular cartoonist: “Reading with… Tom Gauld”.

On your nightstand now:

I’ve just finished The Hydrogen Sonata by Iain M. Banks. With the world in such a difficult place right now, it’s been very nice to escape into a completely different universe of spaceships and new planets. I’ve also been reading Angela Carter’s book of fairy tales The Bloody Chamber, which is exquisitely dark and beautifully written.

(15) ROUTE MARCH. Apparently Adri Joy took the road less traveled by. Did that make all the difference? Find out in this game review at Nerds of a Feather — “Diverging Paths and Cinnamon Rolls: Adri plays Fire Emblem: Three Houses”.

My first playthrough of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, the latest edition in the long-running tactical JRPG saga, involved what,  it seems to be agreed, is the most boring route of this complicated branching story. I started off following my gut instincts in the game’s initial choices, and quickly realised I was on the most complicated moral pathway. Trying to keep myself as unspoiled as possible while also figuring out how to avoid locking myself into 40 hours of lawful evil misery, when faced with an (admittedly extremely signposted) choice to that effect, I took a deep breath and broke away from the character who asked me. When you do so, the game switches into a narrative that takes you away from the tried-and-tested Fire Emblem strategy of being the silent strategist to a protagonist Lord and into something else…. 

(16) HOW’S YOUR BIRD? Harvard’s Arnold Arboretum has had to cancel Lilac day, but it still has people taking care of nature; Gardener Brendan Keegan reports on “Life in the Landscape: Great Horned Owls”. Lots of photographs, with detailed explanations.

In November 2018, arborist Ben Kirby and I mounted a half dozen artificial nests throughout the Arboretum landscape. Made from old tree planting baskets and landscape fabric and filled with twigs and wood shavings, the nests were created with a goal to increase nest availability for great horned owls. Incapable of building their own nests, this species typically utilizes nests constructed by other large birds or relies on natural cavities in large trees.

After a season of vacancies, we were lucky when a mating pair of owls moved into one of our artificial nests in late January 2020. Due to the location, we were able to observe and collect data on the entire nesting process while remaining on the ground, a rare opportunity. Since the Arboretum is a Chapter of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s NestWatch program, our submitted data will help ornithologists better understand great horned owl breeding behavior and population trends.

The photos below chronicle this season’s nesting process, from egg laying in early February to fledging in late April. Since posting photos of active owl nests on social media typically results in increased human disturbance (which can endanger the female and her young), these photos were purposefully withheld until the young had already fledged. The photos were taken from over 150 feet away, with care to limit the time and frequency of each visit in order to minimize disruption.

(17) EGYPTIAN NEWS. In the Washington Post, Sudarsan Raghavan and Steve Hendrix say that the Egyptian show “El Nehaya” or “The End” is that nation’s first big-budget sf television show, but it has proven controversial because it foresees that in 2120 (when the drama set) the state of Israel is destroyed and Jews have fled the Middle East.“An Egyptian television drama depicts Israel’s destruction. Israel isn’t happy.”

“This goes back to a narrative from before the peace treaty and everything we’ve done with the Egyptians,” said Itzhak Levanon, Israel’s former ambassador to Egypt. “This sees that Israel will be annihilated. It is very disturbing.”

In a highly unusual statement, Israel’s Foreign Ministry decried the show as “unfortunate and unacceptable, especially between countries who have had a peace agreement for 41 years.”

It is notable that Synergy, the production company that made the show, has strong ties to the government of President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi and its general intelligence agency. “The End” airs on a network that is owned by a pro-government firm. 

(18) ANOTHER BARN DOOR. You know that place on the internet everybody’s moved to, where it’s hard to maintain your privacy?NPR reports “Zoom To Crack Down on Zoombombing, In Deal With NY Attorney General”.

Zoom has agreed to do more to prevent hackers from disrupting video conferencing sessions and to protect users’ data, according to a deal announced on Thursday by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

The coronavirus pandemic has unleashed incredible growth for Zoom. Daily use of the remote-meeting service ballooned to 300 million from about 10 million in a matter of months. As more people logged on, Zoom’s security and privacy flaws became evident.

Hackers began disrupting online school classes, government meetings, cocktail hours and other events in a trend that became known as Zoombombing.

Federal law enforcement and state investigators across the country started paying attention.

“Our lives have inexorably changed over the past two months, and while Zoom has provided an invaluable service, it unacceptably did so without critical security protections,” James said in a statement released by her office. “This agreement puts protections in place so that Zoom users have control over their privacy and security, and so that workplaces, schools, religious institutions, and consumers don’t have to worry while participating in a video call.”

Zoom has pledged to take more steps to block hackers from gaining access to chat sessions and user accounts. It must now run a “vulnerability management program” to identify and avert breaches into livestreaming conversations on the video platform, New York regulators wrote in the deal.

(19) READY FOR ITS CLOSEUP. “Scientists obtain ‘lucky’ image of Jupiter” – BBC story includes photo.

Astronomers have produced a remarkable new image of Jupiter, tracing the glowing regions of warmth that lurk beneath the gas giant’s cloud tops.

The picture was captured in infared by the Gemini North Telescope in Hawaii, and is one of the sharpest observations of the planet ever made from the ground.

To achieve the resolution, scientists used a technique called “lucky imaging” which scrubs out the blurring effect of looking through Earth’s turbulent atmosphere.

This method involves acquiring multiple exposures of the target and only keeping those segments of an image where that turbulence is at a minimum.

When all the “lucky shots” are put together in a mosaic, a clarity emerges that’s beyond just the single exposure.

(20) WE’RE PRACTICALLY CIRCLING THE DRAIN! “‘Nearest black hole to Earth discovered'”—BBC tells where.

Astronomers have a new candidate in their search for the nearest black hole to Earth.

It’s about 1,000 light-years away, or roughly 9.5 thousand, million, million km, in the Constellation Telescopium.

That might not sound very close, but on the scale of the Universe, it’s actually right next door.

Scientists discovered the black hole from the way it interacts with two stars – one that orbits the hole, and the other that orbits this inner pair.

Normally, black holes are discovered from the way they interact violently with an accreting disc of gas and dust. As they shred this material, copious X-rays are emitted. It’s this high-energy signal that telescopes detect, not the black hole itself.

So this is an unusual case, in that it’s the motions of the stars, together known as HR 6819, that have given the game away.

“This is what you might call a ‘dark black hole’; it’s truly black in that sense,” said Dietrich Baade, emeritus astronomer at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) organisation in Garching, Germany.

“We think this may be the first such case where a black hole has been found this way. And not only that – it’s also the most nearby of all black holes, including the accreting ones,” he told BBC News

(21) FRANK HERBERT RELIC. “Frank Herbert–NBC Interview” on YouTube is an interview done by NBC’s Bryant Gumbel in 1982, probably for the Today Show, where Herbert talks about David Lynch’s Dune movie being released in December 1983, a year before it actually appeared.

(22) LINE UP FOR THE MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR. Gizmodo’s Cheryl Eddy is ready to go: “10 Aliens That Can Just Go Ahead and Abduct Us Right Now”. Number four on her list —

4) Heptapods, Arrival

Traveling with Arrival’s time-fluid, squid-like creatures might be a little logistically complicated, but at least Amy Adams’ linguist character has already figured out the nuts and bolts of communicating with them. They are obviously very wise and highly evolved, and they travel around in their sleek ships encouraging the inhabitants of other planets to be better communicators. That is definitely a cause we’d be willing to ditch Earth to support.

(23) SPACE FARCE. SYFY Wire passes along “Real Space Force chief’s one piece of advice for Netflix’s Steve Carell: ‘Get a haircut'”.

Netflix’s out-of-this-world workplace comedy Space Force hasn’t even launched yet, but now the silly show that accidentally mirrored real developments in the government has already gotten something wrong from its real-life source material. Or, at least, that’s what the real head of the U.S. Space Force says. And “head” is the operative word here, because U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations Jay Raymond’s primary note for Steve Carell, who plays his doppelganger Mark R. Naird, is that he isn’t bald enough.

Raymond spoke during a Space Foundation webinar, according to Space.com, and addressed the comedic riff on his entire military branch by pointing out that while he is very bald, Carell is boasting a silvery head of hair.

“The one piece of advice I’d give to Steve Carell is to get a haircut,” Raymond said. “He’s looking a little too shaggy if he wants to play the Space Force chief.”…

(24) FOR THE STAY-AT-HOME CROWD. I never knew Tadao Tomomatsu did a Louis Armstrong impression. Here’s his rendition of “What a Wonderful World.”

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

Pixel Scroll 5/5/20 Have M95 Space Suit, Will Travel Anywhere It’s Helpful

(1) CELEBS READ POTTER. Daniel Radcliffe reads the first chapter of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone/Sorcerer’s Stone as WizardingWorld.com launches“Harry Potter At Home.” Eddie Redmayne and Stephen Fry are among the other celebrities involved.

Daniel will be the first of many exciting contributors to help us read through the first Harry Potter book, as he introduces the Dursleys, who don’t like anything mysterious. Enter a cat reading a map, owl-filled skies and whispers about the Potters. So, get comfy and enjoy! You can register with the Harry Potter Fan Club to get all the latest updates on further video readings too.

On the webpage there are also links to related activities, and discussion questions for students.

(2) MURDERBOT RETURNS. Martha Wells read from Network Effect at New York Review of SF’s online book launch party hosted by Amy Goldschlager on Facebook.

(3) LAUNCH PREPARATIONS. Netflix dropped a teaser trailer for Space Force.

A four-star general begrudgingly teams up with an eccentric scientist to get the U.S. military’s newest agency — Space Force — ready for lift-off.

Steve Carell, welcome to Space Force. From the crew that brought you The Office, Space Force is coming soon to Netflix.

(4) STEAMPUNK ACCIDENT. [Item by David Doering.] Yesterday morning there was a boiler explosion at the Little America Hotel in Salt Lake City–venue for this year’s World Fantasy Con. The hotel says no one was seriously injured and repairs will be done well before the con. So not a major deal, just curious because when was the last time you heard of a boiler explosion? KSL reports: “2 injured in boiler explosion at Salt Lake’s Little America hotel”  

…Both of them had to be rushed to the hospital. One had significant burns and respiratory problems because of the steam. Luckily, the building had already been cleared out and guests were moved out before the repairs had even started, so no one else was hurt.

“Due to their low occupancy, they were able to evacuate that whole building because they anticipated the outage from the service,” Stowe said.

Hazmat crews were also sent due to the explosion causing damage to a nearby natural gas line; some of that gas leaked.

(5) YOUNG PEOPLE. James Davis Nicoll introduces the Young People Read Old SFF panel to “Satisfaction Guaranteed by Joy Leache”.

This is where I should paint a glowing picture of the author but as the introduction points out, this is one of just three Joy Leache works that saw print. It is the first work by Leache I knowingly encountered. The theme?–?a talented woman propping up a talentless knucklehead?–?seems universal. But what will my Young People make of it? 

 (6) NOT YOUR AVERAGE FURRY. Giles Hattersley, in “The Judi Dench Interview: ‘Retirement? Wash Your Mouth Out’”, in the British edition of Vogue, gets Dame Judi to discuss Cats.  She said that the costume she was made to wear in the film was “like five foxes f**ing on my back” and that she was made to look like “a battered, mangy old cat.”

(7) KGB READING SERIES. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Leanna Renee Hieber and Ilana C. Myer in a YouTube livestream reading on Wednesday, May 20 at 7 p.m. The link is forthcoming – check back at the series’ website. (Listen to their free podcast of previous readings here.)

  • Leanna Renee Hieber

Leanna Renee Hieber is an actress, playwright and award-winning, bestselling author of Gothic, Gaslamp Fantasy novels for Tor and Kensington such as the Strangely Beautiful, Magic Most Foul, Eterna Files and Spectral City series. Her work has been included in numerous notable anthologies and translated into many languages. A ghost tour guide for Manhattan’s Boroughs of the Dead, she’s been featured in film and television on shows like Mysteries at the Museum. http://leannareneehieber.com

  • Ilana C. Myer

Ilana C. Myer has worked as a journalist in Jerusalem and a cultural critic for various publications. She has written book reviews and critical essays for The Globe and Mail, the Los Angeles Review of BooksSalon, and the Huffington PostLast Song Before Night was her first novel, followed by Fire Dance and The Poet King.

(8) LEVAR BURTON PROFILE. In the Washington Post, Caitlin Gibson has a profile of LeVar Burton, who has been calming frazzled parents who grew up listening to him read on “Reading Rainbow” by reading stories on Twitter three times a week for children, young readers, and adults,  He’s stopped readings for a while, but he read stories by Cat Rambo and Neil Gaiman while he was reading. “LeVar Burton still loves reading aloud. His storytelling might be what you need right now.”

Burton, 63,has always had a particular love for the simple act of reading aloud, he says, a form of human connection that he views as vital, especially in times like these. Confined as we are, unsettled as we feel — when has the sense of possibility, the transportive power of stories, felt more necessary?

On his first night of what would ultimately become a month of readings, Burton begins with “We Can Get Them for You Wholesale,” a dark work of speculative fiction by English author Neil Gaiman. Burton delivers the story with polish and precision, expressive but never distractingly so, careful to make the voices of characters feel distinctive, not over the top…

(9) SPLIT. Meantime, Gaiman fans are shocked by this item on Vulture: “Amanda Palmer’s Patreon Subscribers Found Out About Her Breakup Before Neil Gaiman Did”.

The fantasy author Neil Gaiman and Dresden Dolls lead singer Amanda Palmer have broken up. Palmer announced the split to the world — and, apparently, to Gaiman himself — in a post on her Patreon: “Since people are getting confused and asking and my phone and inbox is blowing up with ‘where‘s Neil?’ a few times a minute … I can only gather that he’s finally told the internet that he’s left New Zealand, and I thought I would come here with a short note.” The note does not specify the reason for the breakup, but Palmer says she is “heartbroken.” Gaiman now lives in the U.K., and Palmer is quarantining in New Zealand with the couple’s 4-year-old son.

(10) TODAY’S DAY.

May 5 — For some Star Wars fans its “Revenge of the Fifth.” The Southwest U.S. knows it’s Cinco de Mayo. It’s also National Astronaut Day. In honor of that, Newsweek has a list of astronauts who have established records in space: “National Astronaut Day: 10 Record-Breaking NASA Astronauts and Their Achievements”.

Today is the fifth National Astronauts Day—an event held every year on May 5 to mark the day Alan Shepard became the first American in space.

On May 5, 1961, Shepard was launched into space in a Mercury spacecraft called Freedom 7, flying 116 miles high. The entire journey lasted 15-and-a-half minutes and was deemed a success.

Over the last 50 years or so, hundreds more have followed in his footsteps and become astronauts—a word derived from the Greek for “space sailor.” In celebration, Newsweek has compiled a list of 10 record-breaking NASA astronauts and their out-of-this-world achievements.

1. First all-female spacewalk: Jessica Weir and Christina Koch (2019)

After months of anticipation, the first all-female spacewalk took place last year on October 18, when Jessica Weir and Christina Koch stepped outside the International Space Station (ISS) to replace a battery charge/discharge unit. The event had originally been scheduled for March 2019 but problems relating to space suits had put a dampener on the plans. It was a first for Meir, who became the 15th woman to perform a spacewalk….

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 5, 1946 The Shadow’s “The White Witchman of Lawaiki” first aired on Mutual as sponsored by D.L. & W. Coal Company  Blue Coal  and syndicated for the summer by Goodrich Tires. It was written by Joe Bale Smith.  The announcer was Don Hancock with the cast being Bret Morrison as Lamont Cranston and The Shadow, Lesley Woods as Margo Lane and additional cast of Luis Van Rooten, James Monks and Larry Haines.  An atypical episode as it takes place outside of NYC. Told through flashback, Lamont recounts the details of his search for J. MacDonald, an artist friend residing on an island paradise in the South Pacific. Lamont and Margot discover that Oly, a white man known as the White Witchman, has taken command of the natives in a fiendish plan to steal all the pearls they farm from the waters. You can listen to it here.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 5, 1822 Sir Harry Paget Flashman VC, KCB, KCIE. Harry Flashman appears in a series of 12 of George MacDonald Fraser’s books, collectively known as The Flashman Papers, (Died 1915.) 
  • Born May 5, 1856 William Denslow. Illustrator best remembered for his work in collaboration with Baum, especially his illustrations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. He was known for his editorial cartoons, many using Oz in a political bent. Denslow also illustrated and held joint copyright with Baum on By the Candelabra’s GlareFather Goose: His Book and Dot and Tot of Merryland. Finally, it’s worth noting he created the Billy Bounce comic strip which was as one of the earliest comic strips in which the protagonist has some manner of super powers. (Died 1915.)
  • Born May 5, 1890 Christopher Morley. English writer who’d be here solely for Where The Blue Begins with its New York City inhabited solely by canines, but who also wrote The Haunted Bookstore which is at least genre adjacent depending on how you view it, and lovingly  crafted Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: A Textbook of Friendship, his look at the writings of Arthur Conan Doyle. (Died 1957.)
  • Born May 5, 1908 Pat Frank. Author of Alas, Babylon whoalso wrote a 160-page non-fiction book, How To Survive the H Bomb And Why (1962). (Insert irony here if you want.) Forbidden Area, another novel, he wrote, was adapted by Rod Serling for the 1957 debut episode of Playhouse 90. (Died 1964.)
  • Born May 5, 1942 Lee Killough, 78. Author of two series, the Brill and Maxwell series which I read a very long time ago and remember enjoying, and the Bloodwalk series which doesn’t ring even a faint bell. I see she’s written a number of stand-alone novels as well – who’s read deeply of her? 
  • Born May 5, 1943 Michael Palin, 77. Monty Python of course. I’ll single him out for writing Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life and co-writing Time Bandits with Terry Gilliam. And it might be at least genre adjacent, so I’m going to single him out for being in A Fish Called Wanda for which he won the BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
  • Born May 5, 1944 John Rhys-Davies, 76. He’s known for his portrayal of Gimli and the voice of Treebeard in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, General Leonid Pushkin in The Living Daylights, King Richard I in Robin of Sherwood,  Professor Maximillian Arturo in Sliders, Hades in the animated Justice League Unlimited series, Hades in Justice League and Sallah in the Indiana Jones films. Oh, and voicing Macbeth in the exemplary Gargoyles animated series too.
  • Born May 5, 1957 Richard E. Grant, 63. He first shows up in our world as Giles Redferne in Warlock, begore going on to be Jack Seward in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. On a lighter note, he’s Frederick Sackville-Bagg in The Little Vampire, and the voice of Lord Barkis Bittern in Corpse Bride. He breaks into the MCU as Xander Rice in Logan, and the Star Wars universe by being Allegiant General Enric Pryde in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.
  • Born May 5, 1961 Janet Brennan Croft, 59. She’s  published any number of works on library science, but she is concentrated her research on Tolkien including the Mythopoeic Scholarship Award for Inkling Studies winning War and the works of J.R.R. TolkienTolkien on Film: Essays on Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the RingsTolkien and Shakespeare: Essays on Shared Themes and Language and Perilous and Fair: Women in the Works and Life of J. R. R. Tolkien. I’d also like to single her work, Baptism of Fire: The Birth of the Modern British Fantastic in World War I.
  • Born May 5, 1979 Catherynne M. Valente,  41. My favorite work by her? Oh, by far that’d be the two volumes of The Orphan’s Tales which I go back to fairly often — stunning writing. If you’ve not read them yet, here’s her telling “The Tea Maid And The Tailor” as excerpted from In the Night Garden which is from Green Man

(13) XTREME COSPLAY. Here’s a gallery you’ll get a kick out of – ScreenRant’s “15 Star Wars Cosplay That Are Nearly Impossible To Do (But Fans Pulled It Off)”.

Have you ever walked by an automatic door and pretended to use the Force to open it? Has an empty wrapping paper tube at Christmas ever suddenly become the weapon of a Tusken Raider? Have you ever pretended to be holding a lightsaber when you were really holding a flashlight? The Star Wars Saga has inspired fans to try to become one of its many characters for generations, and now with the power of cosplay, they’ve only gotten more advanced with their efforts.

Forget holding cinnamon buns to the side of your head and pretending to be Princess Leia – this is painstakingly recreating her mother’s wardrobe from The Phantom Menace down to the last hand-stitched bead. This is getting fellow fans to help you recreate the hulking silhouette of an Imperial Walker, or ingenious ways to transform yourself into General Grievous. All of these Star Wars cosplays should be next to impossible, but the force is with these 10 entries!

(14) FROM THE ISS. [Item by JJ.] John Krasinski (The Office, A Quiet Place, Jack Ryan) decided that everyone needed to be reminded that there is a lot of good in the world, so during lockdown he’s been producing a show from home called Some Good News, which features good news from around the world as a way of lifting spirits and lightening hearts during these difficult times.

In the 6 episodes thus far, he’s arranged to hold Prom and Graduation for the Class of 2020 with special Commencement speakers, as well as opening the baseball season at Fenway Park with frontline medical personnel and providing a personal command performance of Hamilton for a young woman whose birthday theater tickets were cancelled.

And yesterday’s episode begins with a bunch of crowdsourced corrections —  you’d think the Filers are working overtime!

(15) APEX PREDATOR. “Virologist Spends His Days ‘Hunting The Thing That Wants To Hunt Us'”

As the novel coronavirus continues its global rampage, scientists around the world are racing to stop its spread.

Dozens of projects have been launched under great pressure to deliver a vaccine as quickly as possible.

Among the virologists trying to unlock the pathogen’s secrets is Christopher Mores, the director of a new lab devoted to the research of highly infectious diseases. It’s part of George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health in Washington, D.C.

“I’ve always liked the idea of hunting the thing that wants to hunt us,” Mores says.

…Mores’ work over the decades since has brought him up close to a lot of dangerous viruses: Eastern equine encephalitis. West Nile. Dengue. Chikungunya. Zika. Ebola.

Now, his attention is entirely focused on this latest microbe of mystery: the new coronavirus.

“The speed with which this thing wrapped itself around the world has just been remarkable to behold,” Mores says. “That was shocking for me, to see how fast it went.”

Mores’ lab opened up for research on March 24, when COVID-19 cases were spreading quickly throughout the U.S. The urgency of the epidemic made it clear that he and his team should scrap the chikungunya research they had originally planned. Now they devote all of their time to figuring out this new virus.

“There’s a tempo and a challenge there,” Mores says, “with stakes that you can sense, at least, if not see. It’s compelling and it’s cool to be in that fight.”

(16) ENCOMPASSING. BBC listens in as “Scientists explain magnetic pole’s wanderings”.

European scientists think they can now describe with confidence what’s driving the drift of the North Magnetic Pole.

It’s shifted in recent years away from Canada towards Siberia.

And this rapid movement has required more frequent updates to navigation systems, including those that operate the mapping functions in smartphones.

A team, led from Leeds University, says the behaviour is explained by the competition of two magnetic “blobs” on the edge of the Earth’s outer core.

Changes in the flow of molten material in the planet’s interior have altered the strength of the above regions of negative magnetic flux.

“This change in the pattern of flow has weakened the patch under Canada and ever so slightly increased the strength of the patch under Siberia,” explained Dr Phil Livermore.

“This is why the North Pole has left its historic position over the Canadian Arctic and crossed over the International Date Line. Northern Russia is winning the ‘tug of war’, if you like” he told BBC News.

(17) DEADLY HAT. The British version of Antiques Roadshow had an episode where people brought in James Bond related stuff, and someone brought in Oddjob’s hat from Goldfinger.  The hat was missing the metal band but was authentic and worth 25,000 pounds. Here’s the clip.

(18) HORROR, THE NEXT GENERATION. Ramsey Campbell, in “How Having Kids Can Change Your Life—And Your Horror Fiction” on CrimeReads, looks at how the novels of Stephen King, Robert Bloch, and Sir Kingsley Amis changed after they had children.

The Whisper Man is the first novel to be credited to Alex North, a name that hides the identity of a highly talented British crime writer. It’s as rich and complex (which is to say, very) as any of his previous novels, and founds its intricate narrative on a series of relationships between fathers and sons, one of which is not immediately revealed. Hiding at its centre is a killer of children who abducts the protagonist’s son. It’s an agonisingly suspenseful book, but also moving and ultimately redemptive. If you’re yearning for positive emotions to reward after you’ve been harrowed, The Whisper Man is a fine place to find them.

(19) AI DIAGNOSTIC TOOL. “The groundbreaking way to search lungs for signs of Covid-19”.

When Covid-19 was at its height in China, doctors in the city of Wuhan were able to use artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to scan the lungs of thousands of patients.

The algorithm in question, developed by Axial AI, analyses CT imagery in seconds. It declares, for example, whether a patient has a high risk of viral pneumonia from coronavirus or not.

A consortium of firms developed the AI in response to the coronavirus outbreak. They say it can show whether a patient’s lungs have improved or worsened over time, when more CT scans are done for comparison.

A hospital in Malaysia is now trialling the system and Axial AI has also offered to donate it to the NHS.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Future Shock Documentary (1972)” on YouTube is a documentary based on Alvin Toffler’s 1970 Future Shock, narrated by Orson Welles.  It’s a documentary where people are concerned about the pace of change but no one thinks it’s unusual that Orson Welles can walk through an airport smoking a cigar!

[Thanks to David Doering, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Michael Toman, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Michael J. Walsh, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 5/4/20 Sufficiently Advanced Scrolls Are Indistinguishable From Pixels

(1) MURDERBOT READING TOMORROW. The New York Review of Books will host online a “Martha Wells Book Launch Party” on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 at 8 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. EDT

On the eagerly awaited occasion of the publication of “Network Effect,” Martha Wells’ fifth “Murderbot” story and the first full-length novel in the series, Ms. Wells will read from her work and then be interviewed by guest host/curator Amy Goldschlager.

(2) SHUFFLE AND REDEAL. At the Wild Cards blog, Bradley Denton thinks it’s time for Howard Waldrop to tell the current generation all about how “Thirty Minutes Over Broadway” (which I think of as “Jetboy’s Last Adventure”) became the series’ origin story — “Fifty Minutes Over Manchaca (now Menchaca) Road!”

…HW:  Of course!  And another is – You’ll recall in “The Annotated Jetboy,” where I talk about Danny Deck writing the biography of Jetboy?  Danny Deck is the hero of Larry McMurtry’s novel All My Friends Are Going to Be Strangers.  And of course he writes Godot Is My Co-Pilot: A Life of Jetboy.

…Anyway, I was gonna do the Jetboy story about the A-bomb for Jessica Amanda Salmonson, and either Lew or Bud (sf authors Lewis Shiner and Walton “Bud” Simons, both Austin-based at the time, like Howard), I can’t remember which, said, “You should talk to George.  George and that bunch in New Mexico have been playing a superhero role-playing game, and they’ve spent so much time and money on it that they’re trying to find a way to turn it into a book.  You oughta tell him about this Jetboy thing, because it sounds like something that would fit in there.”  If it was Lew I was talkin’ to, he told me to call Bud, and if it was Bud I was talkin’ to, he told me to call Lew.  One or the other of ‘em knew more about it than the other one did, right?

See, I didn’t even know about this.  George hadn’t mentioned it to me in a letter or anything.  So I wrote to George, and I said, “I’ve got a story that might fit with whatever goddamn thing you’re doing.  You should tell me about it.”

So he sent me the prototype Cut and Shuffle, which was all about what was going on in the Wild Cards world before anyone else even knew what it was.  And I said, “Yeah, that sounds about right, I can work with that.  But your timeline is all wrong.”  See, they were gonna start it in the 1980s, with the world having gone on for thirty years.

BD:  Oh, so they weren’t initially going to do an origin story?  They were going to jump into the world of Wild Cards three decades on?

HW:  Right, exactly.  I said, “That’s all wrong!  You gotta tell how all this came about!”  So I got them to tell me all the stuff about Dr. Tachyon, and the virus, and the whole thing, y’know.  And I stuck it sideways into the Jetboy/A-bomb story, and sent it to George.

And of course George says, “When we send you stuff, you should read it!  You got all this stuff wrong!”  I said, “Ah, that’s your job!  You can fix that!”

(3) ANIMAL CROSSING BANK FRAUD. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] This is from a front-page article by Leo Lewis and Robin Wigglesworth in the April 29 Financial Times.

“Savers at Nintendo’s the Bank of Nook are being driven to speculate on turnips and tarantulas, as the most popular video game of the coronavirus era mimics central bankers by making steep cuts in interest rates…

The estimate 12m players of the Japanese gaming group’s cartoon fantasy ANIMAL CROSSING were informed last week about the move, in which the Bank of Nook slashed the interest on savings from 0.5 percent to just 0.05 percent: 1,9m bells, the in-game currency, can be bought online for about $1…

…It did not take long, however, for players to spot that they could defraud the game’s bank by depositing large sums in savings accounts and then ‘time travelling’ by tweaking the console’s internal clock.  The bank duly paid decades of interest, making rapid bell millionaires.  People familiar with the practice said the Bank of Nook rate cut was an effort to curb the practice.  Nintendo has made no official comment on the matter.”

(4) LATER THAN TWILIGHT. It’s official. When the countdown ended, this was the news, says the New York Times — “Stephenie Meyer to Publish a New ‘Twilight’ Book, ‘Midnight Sun’”.

Fans of Edward Cullen, the brooding vampire hero from Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling “Twilight” series, will have something fresh to bite into this summer.

Ms. Meyer announced on Monday that “Midnight Sun,” the new novel in her vampire romance series, will be published on Aug. 4, more than a decade after the original story concluded.

“I thought seriously about delaying this announcement until things were back to normal,” Ms. Meyer said in a statement. “However, that felt wrong, considering how long those who are eager for this book have already waited.”…

(5) WRITERS OF THE FUTURE. There is a new free online workshop with instructors Orson Scott Card, Tim Powers, and David Farland: “The Writers Of The Future Online Workshop”

This free intermediate level writing course includes essays, practicals, and 13 video presentations featuring Writers of the Future judges: David Farland, Tim Powers, and Orson Scott Card.

By the end of the workshop, you should have a short story completed. If you are qualified (see the rules here), you can enter your story in the Writers of the Future Contest. The twelve annual winners will be flown out to Hollywood for the week-long live workshop with a full roster of Contest judges and publishing professionals teaching as well as giving you their advice on how to make it as professional writers.

Enter your email address to start the course. You will also receive Writers of the Future newsletters with writing tips and special offers. You can unsubscribe at any time.

(6) 2020 PULITZER PRIZES. Columbia University today announced the 2020 Pulitzer Prizes, awarded on the recommendation of the Pulitzer Prize Board.

There was no genre work among the winners, although 2020 Fiction winner Colson Whitehead has won before for the sff novel Underground Railraod (2017). Indeed, Whitehead now is just the fourth author to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction twice. The others are Booth Tarkington, William Faulkner and John Updike. (The winners in journalism are at the link.)

LETTERS AND DRAMA

Fiction
“The Nickel Boys” by Colson Whitehead (Doubleday)

Drama
“A Strange Loop” by Michael R. Jackson

History
“Sweet Taste of Liberty: A True Story of Slavery and Restitution in America” by W. Caleb McDaniel (Oxford University Press)

Biography
“Sontag: Her Life and Work” by Benjamin Moser (Ecco/HarperCollins)

Poetry
“The Tradition” by Jericho Brown (Copper Canyon Press)

General Nonfiction
“The Undying: Pain, Vulnerability, Mortality, Medicine, Art, Time, Dreams, Data, Exhaustion, Cancer, and Care” by Anne Boyer (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

and

“The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America” by Greg Grandin (Metropolitan Books)

Music
“The Central Park Five” by Anthony Davis, premiered by Long Beach Opera on June 15, 2019

Special Citation
Ida B. Wells

(7) TODAY’S DAY.

“Star Trek Fan Says ‘Happy Holidays’ Instead of ‘May the Fourth Be With You’”. Grumpy Vulcan tells Hard Drive why.

While many people are observing May 4 as Star Wars Day by saying “may the fourth be with you,” local Star Trek fan Lisa Donnelly has opted to instead just say “happy holidays.”

“Star Wars doesn’t have a monopoly on holidays that take place on May 4, you know,” said Donnelly. “There’s National Bird Day, Latvian Independence Day, and one of the non-canonical dates for Star Trek’s Federation Day is right around the corner on May 8. Those days deserve just as much recognition as some manufactured holiday celebrating a science fantasy movie series for kids.”….

And how did it all begin? According to TimeAndDate.com

The origin of the phrase is thought to date back to May 4, 1979. On this day, Conservatives in the United Kingdom published a newspaper advertisement to congratulate their candidate, Margaret Thatcher, for taking the Prime Minister’s office. The advertisement said “May The Fourth Be With You, Maggie. Congratulations”.

(8) NEW STAR WARS MOVIE. Naturally, this is also the logical day for announcing the franchise’s new project. Lisa Richwine, in the Yahoo! News story “Taika Waititi to direct and co-write a new ‘Star Wars’ movie with ‘1917’ screenwriter” says that Disney announced a bunch of Star Wars-related projects on StarWars Day, most notably that Taika Waititi will direct a new Star Wars and co-write it with Krysty Wilson-Cairns, nominated for an Oscar for her work on 1917.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • May 4, 1962 — The Twilight Zone aired “The Dummy”. It was written by: Rod Serling from an unpublished story by Lee Polk. It was directed by Abner Biberman and produced by Buck Houghton. It starred Cliff Robertson, Frank Sutton and George Murdock.  An average ventriloquist finds he has a not-so-average and quite horrifying dummy. The plot here would later influence many other series including Batman: The Animated Series with their own terrifying animated apparent dummy. 

You’re watching a ventriloquist named Jerry Etherson, a voice-thrower par excellence. His alter ego, sitting atop his lap, is a brash stick of kindling with the sobriquet ‘Willie.’ In a moment, Mr. Etherson and his knotty-pine partner will be booked in one of the out-of-the-way bistros, that small, dark, intimate place known as the Twilight Zone.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born May 4, 1909 Ray Quigley. Here solely for the three covers that he did for Weird Tales in the Forties. He didn’t do a lot of pulp work that I can find but these three are amazing. He did the December 1938 cover with the Dracula-like figure, the September 1940 cover with the nightmarish skull faced Bombers and fInally the May 1942 cover with the really scary living ship. The latter issue had Henry Kuttner, Robert Bloch and Dorothy Quick listed on the cover! (Died 1998.)
  • Born May 4, 1913 John Broome. DC writer during the Golden Age. He’s responsible for the creation of an amazing number of characters including The Phantom Stranger, Per Degaton (with artist Irwin Hansen), Captain Comet and Elongated Man (with Carmine Infantino), Atomic Knight and one of my favorite characters, Detective Chimp. DCUniverse streaming app has his work on The Flash starting on issue #133 and the entire early Fifities run of Mystery in Space that he wrote as well. (Died 1999.)
  • Born May 4, 1920 Phyllis Miller. She co-wrote several children’s books with Andre Norton, House of Shadows and Seven Spells to SundayRide the Green Dragon, a mystery, is at best genre adjacent but it too was done with Norton. (Died 2001.)
  • Born May 4, 1942 CN Manlove, 78. His major work is Modern Fantasy: Five Studies which compares the work of Kingsley, MacDonald, Lewis, Tolkien and Peake. Other works include Science Fiction: Ten Explorations, The Impulse of Fantasy Literature and From Alice to Harry Potter: Children’s Fantasy in England.
  • Born May 4, 1943 Erwin Strauss, 77. I’m not sure I can do him justice. Uberfan, noted member of the MITSFS, and filk musician. He frequently is known by the nickname “Filthy Pierre” which I’m sure is a story in itself. Created the Voodoo message board system used at a number of early cons and published an APA, the Connection, that ran for at least thirty years. Tell me about him. 
  • Born May 4, 1956 Murray McArthur, 63. He first shows on Doctor Who in “The Girl Who Died”, a Twelfth Doctor story before being The Broken Man on The Game of Thrones. He also shows up as a stagehand in the historical drama Finding Neverland before playing Snug in A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • Born May 4, 1914 James Bacon. He was in all five films in the Planet of the Apes franchise, the only actor to do so. He portrayed an ape in each of the films with the exception of Escape from the Planet of the Apes, in which he played a human, General Faulkner. This was the only film of the ‘Ape’ series in which he was credited. He also showed in Roddenberry’s Planet Earth as Partha. (Died 2010.)
  • Born May 4, 1977 Gail Carriger, 43. Ahhhh such lovely mannerpunk she writes! I think I first noticed her with the start of the Finishing School series which she started off with Etiquette & Espionage some six years ago. Moirai Cook does a delightful job of the audiobooks so I recommend that you check them out. I also love the two novellas in her Supernatural Society series as well. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • The Argyle Sweater has a terrific gag for May the Fourth.
  • Heathcliff isn’t really that funny, however, it does use a gagline drawn from the same source as one of our File 770 mottos.
  • Pearls Before Swine considers the possibility that the lockdown results in people reading more, and better, books.

(12) RIVERS COMING TO A CHANNEL NEAR YOU. For the many Filers who are fans of the series — “Stolen Picture Options Television Rights To Ben Aaronovitch’s Rivers Of London”.

Nick Frost and Simon Pegg’s UK-based production company, Stolen Picture, has optioned the rights to Ben Aaronovitch’s best-selling novel series Rivers of London.

Aaronovitch is currently working on the adaption of the first novel, also named Rivers of London. He will also serve as an Executive Producer on the series alongside Nick Frost, Simon Pegg and Stolen Picture CEO, Miles Ketley. 

A Sunday Times best-seller, Rivers of London was first published in 2011, earning Aaronovitch a nomination in the New Writer of The Year category at the National Book Awards in 2011 and has spawned a popular graphic novel series. Each subsequent novel has also charted in the Sunday Times Top Ten Best-Seller list.

The crime/supernatural crossover follows the adventures of Peter Grant, a young mixed race police officer who, following an encounter with a ghost finds himself working for The Folly, a secret Scotland Yard department that deals with supernatural crime. The Times described Rivers of London as “an incredibly fast-moving magical joyride for grown-ups”.The Rivers of London franchise has been published in more than 15 languages and, to date, has sold over 2.5 million copies worldwide.

“Nick Frost and Simon Pegg asked me if I wanted to make Rivers of London with them – you think I was going to say no? Stolen Picture have a reputation for making creator led TV with the minimum of corporate bollocks and the maximum of fun. It’s an opportunity I would be bonkers to say no to” says Ben Aaronovitch.

(13) BITING THE SCENERY. Entertainment Weekly invites fans to “See first look at Mark Hamill embracing the dark side as vampire in What We Do in the Shadows”. Photo at the link.

[Mark] Hamill will portray an ancient vampire in Jemaine Clement‘s FX series What We Do in the Shadows and EW has your first look at the character — fangs and all. The episode titled “On the Run,” set to air May 13, will introduce a vengeful enemy from Laszlo’s (Matt Berry) past who appears without warning to settle a personal debt. This causes Laszlo to flee his home and go into hiding.

(14) A HEEP OF TROUBLE. Did Paul Weimer have great expectations for this novel? “Microreview [Book]: The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep by H.G. Parry” at Nerds of a Feather.

…I should be clear and up front about something: I may be a somewhat biased reviewer in a regard, but not in the way that you might think. You see, good reader, I am a relation but not a direct descendant of Charles Dickens, so that a novel where his literary creation escapes into the real world was and is always one I would be extremely interested in. I’ve read and been interested in Dickens’ work from a young age. His work has always been part of my life.

I can happily report that this novel is extremely literate and considerate with the work of Dickens, what it means and where it comes from. The novel feels like the author’s own coming to terms with Dickens’ work in a real and palpable way, as well as Victoriana and Edwardiana in a real and palpable way.

(15) GEEKS IN ACADEME. “Top 10 Fictional Schools– Geek Culture Countdown Podcast!” – a list from 2019. These are all drawn from sff works, even though “Pop Culture” covers more territory than that.

Susan and Kitty are schooling you on the Top 10 Fictional Schools in pop culture. From prestigious prep academies to borderline lethal boarding schools, which esteemed educational institutions will make the grade?

For example —

2. Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters

Located at 1407 Graymalkin Lane in Westchester County, New York, this school for mutants has gone by many names- Xavier’s Academy for Gifted Youngsters, the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning, X-Haven, and most currently the Xavier Institute for Mutant Education and Outreach.

This school provides a safe place for young mutants to receive education both in traditional schooling and also the control and understanding of their powers. Kitty Pryde is currently the headmistress. The school motto is “Mutatis Mutandis” meaning “once the necessary changes have been made”.

(16) WHY PROTECTING MOSQUITOS IS A GOOD IDEA. BBC has the answer — “Malaria ‘completely stopped’ by microbe”.

Scientists have discovered a microbe that completely protects mosquitoes from being infected with malaria.

The team in Kenya and the UK say the finding has “enormous potential” to control the disease.

Malaria is spread by the bite of infected mosquitoes, so protecting them could in turn protect people.

The researchers are now investigating whether they can release infected mosquitoes into the wild, or use spores to suppress the disease.

…”The data we have so far suggest it is 100% blockage, it’s a very severe blockage of malaria,” Dr Jeremy Herren, from the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) in Kenya told the BBC.

He added: “It will come as a quite a surprise. I think people will find that a real big breakthrough.”

(17) USE THE FORK, LUKE. Or the blowtorch. Do something to save us.  “General Mills Is Releasing A ‘Star Wars’ Cereal With Baby Yoda-Shaped Marshmallows” – the Best Products blog has the story.

…General Mills took to Instagram to reveal its newest creation. As described on the packaging, the cereal consists of sweetened corn puffs with marshmallows. All of the green marshmallows are in the shape of The Child’s head, which is reason enough to give this bite a shot, if you ask us.

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

Pixel Scroll 4/24/20 Fillie And The Poor Gods Are Stalkin’, Bring A Pixel, Scroll Your Feet

(1) MURDERBOT SPEAKS. Tor.com readies us for the May 5 release of Martha Wells’ next Murderbot book by hosting a dialog between two important characters: “Feelings REDACTED: What Happens When Murderbot and ART Talk to Instagram”.

The pair talked love, hate, fanfiction, feelings, quarantine tips, lemon cake, human flesh, dogs, robot babies, and, of course, Sanctuary Moon….

What really happened on episode 231 of Sanctuary Moon?
MB: It was clearly a dream.
ART: You’re wrong.
MB: So when the Mech Pilot was attacked by his evil duplicate who tried to hit him with a giant hammer and then disappeared, you think that was supposed to be real?
ART: It was an artistic choice.

(2) TRAVIS MCCREA APOLOGIZES. In the aftermath of John Van Stry’s court victory over book pirate Travis McCrea, McCrea has tweeted an apology. Take it for what it’s worth. Thread starts here.

(3) FANFICTION ETIQUETTE. The Mary Sue built a good story around the author’s recent Twitter thread: “N.K. Jemisin Reminds Us of the First Rule of Fanfiction”.

No, the first rule of fanfiction is not “we don’t talk about fanfiction.” Many writers happily discuss reading and writing fic—as evidenced by N.K. Jemisin, the three-time Hugo Award-winning novelist, describing how she still writes and reads it herself. The first rule of fanfiction is “you do not try and get the original creator to read your fanfiction.” How quickly we forget our Internet history.

… In explaining how these things are, Jemisin is not discouraging fans from making their own fanworks centered around her creations. She just cannot be personally involved, and it’s a serious breach of fandom etiquette to ask.

(4) BRUCE PELZ WOULD HAVE LOVED THIS. Bob Byrne is passing the time with this inventive tribute to Rex Stout’s famous sleuth: “Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay at Home – Days 5, 6, and 7”. Which means seeing everything from Archie Goodwin’s viewpoint. For example —

DAY SIX – 2020 Stay at Home (SaH)

It was a pleasant spring morning, so I took my delayed walk today. It was good to stretch the legs and breathe the freshest air I’ve inhaled since moving here many years ago. I was out for two hours, enjoying open space – and the absence of Nero Wolfe. I saw other people walking and jogging, mostly keeping the required distance. It’s going to take some time for me to get used to the lack of noise. The buzz of conversation and the traffic ruckus just aren’t there. It’s not bad – just different.

I wasn’t in the office when Wolfe got down from the plant rooms at 11, but he didn’t seem to mind. He was at his desk, reading a thick book about Huey P. Long. He acknowledged my arrival and resumed reading. That was fine with me. I let him know I would be in the basement for a while and departed.

We keep a small file cabinet down there, which contains files related to unsolved cases. I’ve never written one up, but yes, there were occasions when the great Nero Wolfe didn’t get the bad guy. Or at least, couldn’t prove the issue. I’ll admit, his batting average was much better than Ty Cobb’s, but still, it did happen. And it rankled me at least as much as it did him. I’m the one who gathers the clues. I can’t help thinking, on some of them, that if I’d gotten one more piece of something, it might have made all the difference….

(Heading explained: It was from Bruce Pelz I first heard of Nero Wolfe.)

(5) WHO WAS THAT MASKED FAN? The New Yorker chronicles “The Superfans Springing Into Mask-Making Action”.

In the pandemic economy, face masks are like bars of gold. Hoarders are hoarding them. Governors are bartering for them. Hospital workers desperately need them. New Yorkers, ordered by Governor Cuomo last week to cover their faces in public, are repurposing bandannas and boxer shorts. In Rosie the Riveter fashion, Americans with crafting skills—among them quilters, Broadway seamstresses, sportswear manufacturers, origami artists, and grandmothers—have sprung into action. But one group has special mask-making powers: cosplayers, the superfans who specialize in making and wearing costumes. Never has the ability to whip up a Spider-Man mask or a Stormtrooper helmet been so useful.

“Cosplayers have big hearts,” Monica Paprocki, a thirty-five-year-old accountant in Chicago, said. Paprocki, who runs the fandom site Geeks A Gogo, started cosplaying in 2014 and taught herself how to sew by watching YouTube videos. She dressed as Princess Jasmine at Wizard World Chicago in 2019, the year after her Phoenix Monster costume, from the board game Rising Sun, won the Golden Needle Award at a gaming convention in Indianapolis. “It had articulated wings that I controlled with a remote control,” she said. This June, she was going to dress as Buzz Lightyear at the Origins Game Fair, in Ohio, but it had been postponed until October. When she saw a Facebook group requesting homemade medical supplies, she recruited fellow-cosplayers. “Before everything closed down, I had a stash of cotton fabric and materials here in my house,” she said. “I work my regular nine-to-five job in accounting. Right after that, I start sewing.”

(6) BESTSELLERS TALK AMONG THEMSELVES. Via Shelf Awareness comes word that Stephen King and John Grisham will hold a free online conversation discussing their new books on Wednesday, April 29 at 7:00 PM Eastern.

“In lieu of admission, the authors hope attendees will consider donating to the Bookseller Industry Charitable Foundation. You can register at grishamking.eventbrite.com or watch on Stephen King’s YouTube channel. Questions for the authors can go use #AskKingandGrisham

(7) VALUE ADDED. “The Stockbrokers Of Magic: The Gathering Play for Keeps”WIRED tells how.

…A whimsical experiment in bartering kickstarted that evolution in 2010: A few years after the viral “one red paperclip” experiment—a Craigslister traded a single red paperclip for a series of increasingly valuable items until he managed to trade up for a house—a Magic player named Jonathan Medina embarked on a similar quest. Medina would trade from one random $4 pack of booster cards and keep trading up until he acquired one of the game’s legendary Power Nine cards— phenomenally rare cards widely considered very, very good. A pavement-pounding card trader, Medina blogged his experience in a widely read series of articles called “Pack to Power.” He would spend no money and, using just his wits, research, and networking skills, maneuver his $4 pack of cards into Magic wealth.

After opening his pack, Medina, in his words, began “hitting the streets to flip my cardboard.” By the time he’d traded with fellow players at gaming conventions and stores a total of 98 times, he had assembled an impressive binder stacked with valuable cards. It was at Gen Con, on a Saturday four months later, when Medina, groggy from playing Magic until five in the morning the previous night, handed over his binder in exchange for the $359.99 Mox Pearl card—a Power Nine.

“At the time, people were still trading based on nonmonetary metrics,” Medina says. “So when people read the small stories of the trades and looked at the math, they realized that they could be getting more out of their cards. This collective rise in awareness led to an interest in the financial side of the game. 

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • April 24, 1955 — The X Minus One radio program aired on NBC for the first time. Written by Ray Bradbury, “And The Moon Be Still As Bright” is the tale of Mars expedition which finds the Martians extinct due to chickenpox brought to them by previous expeditions. The crew save one decide to destroy all Martian artefacts. Ernest Kinoy wrote the script from the story by Bradbury, and the cast included John Larkin and Nelson Olmstead.  The show would run from now until January 8, 1958 with many of coming from well-known SF authors including Anderson, Pohl, Asimov, Blish, Leiber, Heinlein and Simak to name just a few. You can hear this episode here.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born April 24, 1930 Richard Donner, 90. He’s credited in directing Superman which Is considered by many to be the first modern superhero film. H’h. Well I’m instead going to celebrate him for ScroogedThe Goonies and Ladyhawke. Not to mention the horror he did — Tales from the Crypt presents Demon Knight and Bordello of Blood. Oh, and the first X-Men film which was superb. 
  • Born April 24, 1936 Jill Ireland. For her short life, she chalked up in an amazing number of genre show roles. She was on Star Trek romancing Spock as Leila Kalomi In “This Side of Paradise” episode. She had five appearances on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. as well as being on Night Gallery,  My Favorite MartianVoyage to the Bottom of the SeaThe Voodoo Factor and the SF film The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything based on the 1962 novel of the same name by John D. MacDonald. (Died 1990.)
  • Born April 24, 1946 Donald D’Ammassa, 74. Considered to be one of the best and fairest long-form reviewers ever. His Encyclopedia of Science Fiction covered some five hundred writers and as can two newer volumes, Encyclopedia of Fantasy and Horror Fiction and Encyclopedia of Adventure Fiction are equally exhaustive. I can’t comment on his fiction as I’ve only ever encountered him as a reviewer.
  • Born April 24, 1947 Michael Butterworth, 73. Author of, with Michael Moorcock naturally, two Time of the Hawklords novels, Time of the Hawklords and Queens of Deliria. He also wrote a number of Space 1999 Year 2 novels, too numerous to list here. He also edited Corridor magazine from 1971 to 1974. He also wrote a number of short fiction pieces including one whose title amuses me for reasons I’m not sure, “Circularisation of Condensed Conventional Straight-Line Word-Image Structures“. 
  • Born April 24, 1950 Michael Patrick Hearn, 70. Academic who has some of the best annotated works I’ve had the pleasure to encounter. I wholeheartedly recommend both The Annotated Wizard of Oz and The Annotated Christmas Carol, not to overlook Victorian Fairy Tales which is simply the best collection of those tales.
  • Born April 24, 1953 Gregory Luce, 67. Editor and publisher of both the Science Fiction Gems and the Horror Gems anthology series, plus such other anthologies as Citadel of the Star Lords / Voyage to Eternity and Old Spacemen Never Die! / Return to Earth. For a delightful look at him and these works, go here. Warning: really cute canine involved! 
  • Born April 24, 1955 Wendy S. Delmater, 65. She was nominated at Sasquan for a Best Semiprozine Hugo for editing the exemplary Abyss & Apex webzine. It’s particularly strong in the areas of speculative poetry and small press genre reviews. She herself has written a lot of genre centered essays, plus a handful of genre stories and poems. 
  • Born April 24, 1983 Madeline Ashby, 37. California-born Canadian resident writer whose Company Town novel created an entire city in an oil rig. Interestingly In 2013, she was a finalist for the Astounding Award for Best New Writer but recused herself on the grounds that her pro  career started with her ‘09 publication of a short story in Nature, so  her eligibility period had expired in ‘11. And her Machine Dynasties series is simply brilliant, and resonates with the later Murderbot series.

(10) HAPPY BIRTHDAY HUBBLE. “Hubble telescope delivers stunning 30th birthday picture”

It’s 30 years ago to the day that the Hubble telescope was launched – and to celebrate its birthday, the veteran observatory has produced another astonishing image of the cosmos.

This one is of a star-forming region close to our Milky Way Galaxy, about 163,000 light-years from Earth.

The larger object is the nebula NGC 2014; its companion is called NGC 2020.

But astronomers have nicknamed the scene the “Cosmic Reef” because it resembles an undersea world.

(11) AND IN MOTION. Hubble’s 30th anniversary image has been turned into a 3D “spaceflight” experience.

Experts created this visualisation showing the Giant Red Nebula and its smaller blue neighbour, which lie in a satellite-galaxy of the Milky Way.

(12) IN ONE SITTING. “The chairs of Blake’s 7” is a vast collage of furniture and show highlights assembled by the author of the Watching Blake’s 7 blog:

…So, here is a compilation all the identifiable seating seen in Blake’s 7.  In addition, I have thrown in a handful of tables, desks, lamps and other things that showcase how bloomin’ stylish Blake’s 7 was, and how the BBC props store contained a wealth of magnificent design artefacts.

First on the list —

Folding chair
Fred Scott, for Hille International
1960’s
Seen in ‘Animals’

Let’s start with one of the most beautiful moments in Blake’s 7, and a reminder of the sheer effort to get the series broadcast on time and on budget.  Sure, Avon slips at the end of this shot, and there’s no time for a retake, but let’s not forget the attitude in which he knocks the chair over.   I’m delighted to report that Fred Scott designed something robust enough to withstand the dirtiest ‘Dirty Harry’ kicking seen on screen up to that point.  Chair vandalism, or quality control?  You decide.

(13) SACRILEGE! The Chewie Millennial System: “Library books rearranged in size order by cleaner”.

A well-meaning cleaner who took the opportunity to give a locked-down library a thorough clean re-shelved all of its books – in size order.

Staff at Newmarket Library, Suffolk, discovered the sloping tomes after the building underwent a deep clean.

James Powell, of Suffolk Libraries, said staff “saw the funny side” but it would take a “bit of time” to correct.

“It looks like libraries will be closed for a while so we’ll have plenty of time to sort the books out”, he said.

“The cleaner is lovely and does a great job in the library. It was an honest mistake and just one of those things so we would never want her to feel bad about it,” he added.

(14) RIGHTFUL PREY. Let Atlas Obscura show you the elusive “Fremont Troll”.

AN 18-FT. tall troll made of cement clutches an old VW car underneath an overpass in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. The car is an actual Volkswagen Beetle encased in concrete, which used to be red and bear a California license plate.

The Troll was constructed in 1990 after winning a Fremont Arts Council competition for designs to improve the freeway underpass, which then was a dumping ground….

(15) A MOBY FILE. “Oregon Park Rangers Decided to Bury a Perfectly Dead Whale Instead of Blowing It Up” grumps the Willamette Week. Tagline: “Do we really want to live in a state that won’t explode giant animal carcasses when given the chance?”

… On Saturday, the carcass of a 40-foot grey whale washed up on the shore of the Sand Lake Recreation Area north of Pacific City. For longtime Oregonians, news of a dead whale appearing on a local beach should ring a few alarm bells…

… In case you don’t know the story, in November 1970, a sperm whale of roughly the same size washed up on the beach in Florence, Ore. Local officials considered several methods of disposing the body, like dragging it out to sea. Ultimately, they went with the most exciting option available—blowin’ it up real good.

It was a bit of a disaster. The dynamite blew chunks of whale flesh 800 feet in the air, raining viscera down on bystanders and destroying a car in the adjacent parking lot. 

Which gives everyone on the internet an excuse to repost one of the most viral videos of all time:

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “No Maps For These Territories:  A William Gibson Docufilm” on YouTube is a 2000 documentary, directed by Mark Neale, of conversations held with Gibson during his book tour for All Tomorrow’s Parties.  It includes interviews with Bruce Sterling and Jack Womack and Gibson remembering that when he read “Burning Chrome,” one of the first cyberpunk stories, at Denvention II in 1981, he had an audience of four.

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