The White Snake: A Review

By Martin Morse Wooster: Theaters in Washington have their specialties, but Washington’s Constellation Theatre Company is at its best when it does productions of plays by Mary Zimmerman based on fables.  I’ve seen all sorts of productions from Constellation, including one of The Skin of Our Teeth I previously reviewed here and a production of Sarah Ruhl’s Melancholy Play which was the worst six hours I spent in the theatre in 2018 (well, it felt like six hours—the play was 100 minutes long).[1]

But the best work I’ve seen from Constellation is when they perform works by Mary Zimmerman.  Zimmerman teaches at Northwestern and won a MacArthur Fellowship.  She’s written about 20 plays and has at least one Metropolitan Opera commission.  She also did an adaptation of Disney’s Jungle Book for the theatre that I’d really like to see.  I don’t know if all of Zimmerman’s plays are fantasy, but the two I’ve seen are.

The White Snake was originally premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2012 and has had productions in Chicago, New York, and Baltimore before coming to Washington.  The program told me that the story is considered one of China’s “Four Great Folktales” and that the version familiar to us was written by Fang Menglong in 1624, based on stories that were probably composed around 300. Looking at “Legend of the White Snake” in Wikipedia, I learned that the story has been turned into about a dozen Chinese movies and TV shows and was once the subject of a novella by E. Hoffman Price.

The story begins with the White Snake, a mythical creature (I don’t know if she is a god in Chinese mythology) who has obtained enlightenment after 1,500 years of studying the Tao.  But she wants to experience the human world, so with her sidekick the Green Snake, they assume human form, with the Green Snake becoming “Greenie,” the White Snake’s sidekick.  The White Snake falls in love, and we see her and her boyfriend and future husband enjoying the dragon races before marrying and settling down to raise a family.

But the Abbot, who has a lot of mystical power, wants to complicate things.  The abbot isn’t a villain—he just thinks having humanoid snakes running around his town is a bad idea.  So he persuades the White Snake’s husband to come to the monastery in a subterfuge.  The White Snake and the abbot then have a cosmic battle that will determine whether she will live in our world or have to go back to hers.

At one point Zimmerman pulls back the curtain and gives us a sense of how this drama would have been performed in China.  The Green Snake is ready to help her friend, and makes her hand into a fist.  But a pedant comes out with a scroll and explains that the green snake’s fist is a special fist, one with the pinky finger and forefinger slightly raised.  This makes the fist a particularly powerful one, with hands in a position that is normally restricted to men.  So my guess is that if I saw The White Snake in China, I’d see the same story but much more stylized.

The leads—Eunice Bae as the White Snake, Momo Nakamura as the Green Snake, and Ryan Sellers as the Abbot—were all good, and Alison Arkell Stockman competently directed the production.

 But what made the production memorable is the music.  Constellation long ago made a deal with Tom Teasley, a really talented percussionist, to provide the scores for some of their productions.  Teasley is a one-man band who is very good at what he does.  For this production, he worked with Chao Tian, who plays the Chinese dulcimer; the two of them together perform as Dong Xi or “East West.”  Teasley told me that their score was not improvised at the beginning and end of the show because of light cues but much of what I heard was improvisation.  While The White Snake was good, Teasley and Tian’s score made the show memorable.

I hope more of Mary Zimmernan’s work makes its way to Washington.  She is someone whose plays fantasy lovers would enjoy.


[1] Note to “BigelowT”:  you guessed correctly!

Corflu FIAWOL Report

Corflu 36 FIAWOL (Rockville, Maryland, May 1-4, 2019)

“They toiled over their crude mimeographs, turning out their magazines.  These magazines have long since crumbled into dust, but who amongst us can ever forget the names?  Grue and Hyphen; Amazing and Astounding; Galaxy and Quandry and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science FictionStartling, Confidential, Infinity, Dimensions—these names will never die!”

                                                                     Robert Bloch, “A Way of Life” (1956)

By Martin Morse Wooster: One of the advantages of living in Washington is that eventually all the branches of fandom you’re interested in will come to you.  I’ve been to three previous Corflus—two held in the Washington suburbs in 1986 and 1994, and the one held in Annapolis, Maryland in 2002.  I always am happy to go to conventions I can get to on the bus, so when I heard Corflu was coming to the Maryland suburbs, I signed up.  I had a good time.

Michael Dobson, with Curt Phillips as second-in-command, organized Corflu 36.  Phillips, among other things, ran a very well stocked con suite, including three kinds of orange marmalade for breakfast.

Members got quite a lot of stuff.  Dobson edited a 163-page fanthology of members’ writings, which is also available on Efanzines.  Some mossbacks grumbled that Dobson used CreateSpace as his publisher, but I thought the book was well done.  Also included in the members’ packet was Thy Life’s A Miracle:  Selected Writings of Randy Byers, a 135-page anthology edited by Luke McGuff.

But that wasn’t all!  We also got a framed print by Dan Steffan, in a limited edition of 90, which showed a nude Japanese woman with creatures on her back that resembled those of British artist Arthur Thomson.  It was a very handsome piece of art, and I will put it on my shelf next to the Star Wars thingie I got at Nationals Park.

The attendance was around 55, with half a dozen fans from the United Kingdom, Murray and Mary-Ellen Moore from Canada, and 10-12 fans from the West Coast.  You could spot the Californians because they were most of the attendees at the wine tasting organized by Spike.

Younger fans allergic to grey hair would not have enjoyed themselves.  Four of the fans attending—Greg Benford, Jim Benford, Steve Stiles, and Ted White—began their fan activity before 1960.  Most attendees began to be fans in the 1970s and 1980s.  No one surveyed became a fan after 1990.

I spent much of the time in the con suite listening to stories about 20th century fan legends.  I heard about the Scottish fan who, after losing a feud with everyone else in his club, dropped out only to appear in the pages of a tabloid completely nude except for a hand coyly placed over his manhood.  The headline of the piece about the fan was ‘IT’S ORGYTASTIC.”

“Do you mean this guy discovered orgy fandom?” I asked.

“No, it was more like orgy con-dom,” said my source, who added that the fan liked showing up at the orgies he organized in a gorilla suit, because women liked sitting on his lap and stroking his fur.

But the story too good to check was whether two Arab sheiks offered to buy Baltimore fan Lee Smoire at Discon II in 1974 for two camels.  This claim would be absurd and ridiculous about any other fan than Lee Smoire, who stories cluster around like gaudy barnacles.  I cite it to add to Lee Smoire’s legend[1].

The first day of Corflu had the opening ceremony, where a sacred box is unearthed that included a crusty bottle of correction fluid or “corflu.”  The convention chooses a guest of honor by pulling a name from the box, but you can opt out of the honor with a $20 donation.  The winner was Jim Benford, who got all the donation money, which he reportedly spent at the fanzine auction on Saturday.  His other prize was a pillow, designed by Alison Scott, which says “Dave Kyle Says You Can’t Sit Here” and has the badge of the Science Fiction League of the 1930s.

Saturday’s program included three panels and I went to two.  A panel on archives featured Non-Stop Press publisher Luis Ortiz, who has just published an anthology of fanzine writings from 1930-1960, Michael Dobson, University of Maryland (Baltimore County) archivist Susan Graham, and Joe Siclari, head of fanac.org.

Susan Graham said that her library bought the fanzine collection of Walter Coslet in 1973 and subsequently acquired the fanzines of Peggy Rae Sapienza, who was graduated from the school.  These fanzines included many of Sapienza’s first husband, Bob Pavlat, a famed collector.  They’ve also gotten some Frank Kelly Freas art and some papers, including manuscripts by Isaac Asimov, Roger Zelazny, and Lawrence Watt-Evans.  They’re still organizing their zines, but their website https://lib.guides.umbc.edu/fanzines has a finding aid and essays on feminist fanzines of the 1970s, fanzines’ role in society, and the Atlanta Science-Fiction Organization fanzine Cosmag.

Fanac.org scanned 2,000 pages of fanzines at Corflu.  Siclari said that he had gotten research requests from unexpected places.  They helped out the recent documentary on Ursula K. Le Guin, for example.  And when the family of fan H.F. Koenig asked for copies of Koenig’s fanzines, they donated a copy of the family genealogy to Fanac.org.

There are also reports of what happened to Harry Warner, Jr.’s fanzine collection.  It is apparently in one piece and is being stored at Heritage Auctions in Dallas.  No one knows what Heritage plans to do with Warner’s collection.

The second panel was on Void, which included the zine’s editors, Greg Benford, Jim Benford, and Ted White, and Luis Ortiz, who is working on an anthology of pieces from the zine.  Void began in 1955, with teenage fans Greg and Jim Benford as editors.  When the Benford brothers moved from Germany to Dallas, Tom Reamy became an editor.

The Benfords put out 13 issues of Void between 1955-58.  But Jim Benford decided to give up fanac for college.  Another catalyst for change was when Kent Moomaw, a columnist for the zine, killed himself on his 18th birthday rather than be drafted.  In 1958 America was at peace, so there was about a 20 percent chance he would be drafted.

Void then moved its headquarters to New York City, and continued with editors including Greg Benford, Ted White, Pete Graham, and Terry Carr.  It lasted another 14 issues through 1962 with a final issue published in 1967.

Both Greg Benford and Ted White said that writing for Void inspired their professional careers.  Greg Benford said that his fan writing prepared him to win a contest sponsored by Fantasy and Science Fiction that launched his career as a novelist.

“All of our fanac was fun because of the challenges we met,” White said.  “I thought Terry (Carr) was a better writer than me, and it was a daily challenge to write to his level.”

Void even had a song, with the music being whatever you’d like.  Here is the first verse.

“We are the Void boys
We make a lot of noise!
We sing songs of fandom
Hitting out at random
Because we are all co-editors of Void.”

Saturday night had two panels.  “Just a Minac,” organized by Sandra Bond, was the fannish version of the British game show “Just a Minute.”  The idea is that the contestants—John D. Berry, Rich Coad, Rob Jackson, and Nigel Rowe—would give one-minute speeches, delivered “without hesitation, repetition, or deviation”—on topics such as “The Nine Billion Names of God” or “My Favorite Beer.”  This was not as easy as its sounds, and I thought it was agreeably silly.  Nigel Rowe seemed the most creative contestant to me, but Rich Coad was the winner.

“The Time Chunnel” was a play by Andy Hooper that described two worlds, one where sf dominated and one where fandom ruled.  In the fannish world, mimeos were much better but leaf blowers didn’t work.  It had plenty of in jokes about fanzines, but also weird popular culture references; if you are excited by references to comedian Durward Kirby, best known as a host of Candid Camera in the early 1960s, “The Time Chunnel” is a play for you.  I didn’t think it worked.  

Since the FAAN Awards have already been covered, I’ll skip them, but I should write about Jim Benford’s guest of honor speech, which was very good.

If Greg Benford’s day job was as a physicist at the University of California (Irvine), his brother worked in technology.  He said that fanzine writing prepared him to write proposals.  “I had the best proposals,” Benford said, saying that fan writing ensured his proposals were better organized than other physicists with less writing experience.

Jim Benford has spent most of his career developing particle beams and other energy weapons.  But three years ago he was given a ten-year contract by billionaire Yuri Milner to design starships.  He now works on solar sails that could guide a future mission to Proxima Centauri.

The problem with solar sails, Jim Benford said, was “The Fearless Fosdick problem.”  Li’l Abner fans will recall that Fearless Fosdick valiantly fought the bad guys until they blasted him full of holes.  How do you create a solar sail that wouldn’t tear apart?  Benford showed how a spherical shape would produce the best outcome.

He said that if someone in 1959 told him that 60 years in the future “I’d be talking to a bunch of fans about starships, I’d be a very happy man.”

Next year’s Corflu will be run by John Purcell in College Station, Texas, in a date to be determined.



[1] The best story I know about Lee Smoire is that, after John Lennon was assassinated in 1980, Yoko Ono asked for a moment of silence to honor him.  Smoire was escorting people around the Baltimore Convention Center and when the designated minute occurred spent the time shouting, “DON’T YOU KNOW YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE QUIET?”

After Smoire left Baltimore for Perth, Australia, packed panels at the next two Disclaves told stories about her.

Ellen Vartanoff (1951-2019)

By Martin Morse Wooster: Ellen Vartanoff, long-time fan, art teacher, and contributor to DC and Marvel Comics, died on March 17.  She had ovarian cancer for several years.

Ellen was a long-time member of four area clubs in the Washington, DC area:  the Potomac River Science Fiction Society, the Silver Spring Science Fiction Society, Knossos, the Washington branch of the Mythopoeic Society, and the Panthans, the Washington branch of the Burroughs Bibliophiles.

Her first fannish activity came in high school, when in the late 1960s she founded a science fiction club at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Maryland.  The Future Mad Scientists of America no longer exist, but I believe they lasted until the 1980s.  At her memorial service, one Mad Scientist reminded us that actors may make millions today playing nerds on The Big Bang Theory, but in the 1960s it was a proud and lonely thing to be a fan, and the club was a “safe space” for teenagers who were smart, introverted, and interested in science fiction and comics.

Ellen was interested in many things, but at her core she was a comics fan.  Her sister, Irene Vartanoff, and her brother-in-law, Scott Edelman, went from being letterhacks in the comics to professional careers as writers and editors.  Ellen did have some work as a colorist for Marvel Comics and DC Comics.  Her Marvel work includes being a colorist on issues of Captain Marvel written by Scott Edelman.  I don’t know her extent of her DC work, because Marvel Comics are thoroughly indexed and DC Comics aren’t.

Ellen was a walking Wikipedia of information about DC and Marvel characters.  Every time I saw her at a club meeting, she’d have a sketchbook, and would sketch and listen in the way many other fans knit and listen. She’d organize expeditions to every new Marvel and DC film.

Her fellow Burroughs Bibliophiles recalled that she’d regularly contribute art based on Burroughs characters to the Panthan club newsletter.  She also contributed art to two Edgar Rice Burroughs books:  Edgar Rice Burroughs in the Second Century, published by the Panthans in 2010, and The Mucker/Return of the Mucker, published by the Chicago chapter of the Burroughs Bibliophiles.

Her love of comics wasn’t limited to English.  She had a good reading knowledge of French, and when the awful Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets came out two years ago, she brought out copies of her albums of the original Valerian strips and explained how they were so much better than the movie.

A friend recalled at the memorial service taking Ellen to a chemo session in 2011.  The friend had an album of The Airtight Garage, drawn by the great French artist Moebius. Ellen began reading it and showing the friend the characteristic traits of Moebius’s style.

A nurse came in and asked if Ellen was all right.  The friend said, “If she’s translating French, she’s all right.”

Ellen made her living as an art teacher, specializing in teaching traditional art and comics to children. Among the places she taught were he Smithsonian, the Montgomery County Jewish Community Center, and a summer school run by the Holton Arms School.

Her comics classes were quite popular, and people in their twenties who took their classes told me that Ellen was a very good teacher.

Visit an art gallery in Washington, and you’d often see Ellen and her students.  One friend recalled spending time at the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery, and running into Ellen introducing her students to Japanese art.

Here’s an exercise Ellen gave:  She’d bring out an image where the left half was Lois Lane and the right half was Minnie Mouse.  She’d ask students what was similar about the images—and what was different.

She was very influential in the lives of many teenagers.  One man in his late fifties recalled that forty years ago he volunteered at Adventure Theatre, a children’s theatre at Glen Echo Park in Maryland where Ellen was involved in creating sets.  Ellen showed the man how easy it was to make a wooden sword, and how much fun it was to bop other kids with it.

The man recalled that at the time he was an English major, and didn’t realize he had any ability to make things.  He then ended up creating a construction company, which he said he wouldn’t have done if Ellen hadn’t showed him he had skills he didn’t know he had.  He said he was on the verge of retirement, and was looking forward to resuming studying the arts Ellen had introduced him to 40 years before.

If I had to sum up Ellen in one word, it was that she was enthusiastic about life.  She always wanted to know more, and when she’d show up at a club meeting, usually with Lindt chocolates and Kedem sparkling peach and raspberry juices, she was eager to learn about the latest books, movies, and plays that other club members had seen and read.

“Ellen always had time for you,” one friend recalled. “She didn’t realize the rest of us were in a hurry.”

She was also a very happy person.  I knew her for nearly 40 years, and I never heard her snarl or be angry.  Her laugh was unforgettable.

Her interests were very wide.  One friend recalls having a half-hour discussion with her about the differences between Turkic and Finnish. But I’ll limit her passions here to two.

She was really interested in archeology, and regularly went to public lectures where archeologists would give the results of discoveries they made in the field.  But her greatest passion was ancient Egypt, and one of the peaks of her life was going to Egypt in the late 1990s with a papermaking group.  At the service, guests were given a card with Ellen’s photo on one side—and a cartouche of Ellen’s name on the other.

Finally, she loved classical music.  She’d regularly go to broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera at a local movie theatre.

I once went with her to a double bill of Cavalleria Rusticana and I Pagliacci at the University of Maryland.  I Pagliacci has a children’s chorus, and the sister of one of Ellen’s students was in it.  The girl and Ellen had a good conversation, and I think Ellen reminded her why classical music was worthwhile.

Her sister, Irene Vartanoff; her brother, David Vartanoff, her brother-in-law, Scott Edelman, and her nephew, Trevor Vartanoff, survive Ellen.  Her mother, Margaret Vartanoff, died in 2010, and I wrote a tribute to her at File 770 here.  


Irene Vartanoff (left), Scott Edelman (center), Ellen Vartanoff (right), New Year’s Day, 2012.  Photo by Risa Stewart.

Pixel Scroll 3/19/19 The Society For Putting Broken Pixel Scrolls In Ponds

(1) A FAMILY AT WAR. Kameron Hurley backgrounds her new novel The Light Brigade in “The Big Idea” at Whatever.

…I have stories like these and so many others to share. I’ve used first-person accounts from soldiers – my friends, my family, and those I’ve collected through my research –to create the intimate, beautiful and horrifying world of The Light Brigade. In truth this book is less about predicting the future because so many aspects of this future are already here. Instead, it challenges us to rethink our present, and everything that comes after it.

(2) FROM CGI TO OMG. Camestros Felapton has finished watching the rest of the episodes and provides “Love, Death + Robots: A viewing guide” for prospective viewers.

I can’t recommend this series as a whole, there are just too many episodes that manage to be dull, ugly and offensive in one go. However, there are some gems and there are some episodes that are diverting if not great. Also, everybody’s taste in this stuff is very variable, so while I expect nobody is going to universally love every episode, the particular bad v good will be different per person.

The following is a list of my impressions and some aspects that you might want to know in advance if you want to just watch some episodes rather than the whole bunch….

(3) MARCH OF TIME. Through the catacombs and sewers — “A Three-Day Expedition To Walk Across Paris Entirely Underground”. Fascinating article.

The first person to photograph the underground of Paris was a gallant and theatrical man with a blaze of red hair, known as Nadar. Once described by Charles Baudelaire as “the most amazing example of vitality,” Nadar was among the most visible and electric personalities in mid-nineteenth-century Paris. He was a showman, a dandy, a ringleader of the bohemian art world, but he was known especially as the city’s preeminent photographer. Working out of a palatial studio in the center of the city, Nadar was a pioneer of the medium, as well as a great innovator. In 1861, Nadar invented a battery-operated light, one of the first artificial lights in the history of photography. To show off the power of his “magic lantern,” as he called it, he set out to take photographs in the darkest and most obscure spaces he could find: the sewers and catacombs beneath the city….

A century and a half after Nadar, I arrived in Paris, along with Steve Duncan and a small crew of urban explorers, with an aim to investigate the city’s relationship to its underground in a way no one had before. We planned a traverse — a walk from one edge of the city to the other, traveling exclusively by subterranean infrastructure. It was a trip Steve had dreamed up back in New York: we’d spent months planning, studying old maps of the city, consulting Parisian explorers, and tracing potential routes. The expedition, in theory, was tidy. We would descend into the catacombs just outside the southern frontier of the city, near Porte d’Orléans; if all went according to plan, we’d emerge from the sewers near Place de Clichy, beyond the northern border. As the crow flies, the route was about six miles, a stroll you could make between breakfast and lunch. But the subterranean route — as the worm inches, let’s say — would be winding and messy and roundabout, with lots of zigzagging and backtracking. We had prepared for a two- or three-day trek, with nights camping underground….

(4) MUSIC TO THEIR EARS. The Hollywood Reporter hears the cash register ringing: “Box Office: Charting ‘Captain Marvel’s’ Meteoric Rise Among Superhero Pics”.

The Marvel Studios and Disney tentpole finished Sunday — its 12th day in release — with $760.2 million in global ticket sales, besting the entire lifetime runs of numerous comic book adaptations, including Man of Steel, as well as passing up Wonder Woman overseas.

And its already become one of the most successful female-fronted properties in history at the worldwide box office, eclipsing all of the Twilight films and three of the four installments in The Hunger Games series.

(5) KEEP THOSE CONSPIRACY THEORIES COMING. The Wrap is only asking a question, y’know? “Is Danai Gurira on the ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Poster Because Okoye Is the New Black Panther?”

Her inclusion on the poster is particularly interesting because she is the only character on it who hasn’t been seen at some point in one of the two trailers or the Super Bowl commercial. So why in the world would she be on the poster if she isn’t a key character in the film? The answer, we can’t help but think, is that she actually is a key character….

(6) DIGITIZING TOLKIEN FANZINES. Gary Hunnewell’s collection of Tolkein fanzines, now housed at Marquette University, is being scanned and transcribed. In January, William Fliss explained the legal policy guiding the digital publication of these fanzines: “The FellowsHub Journey Continues: An Adventure in Copyright”.

Navigating copyright for such a large and diverse print collection as the Tolkien fanzines is an adventure. The Hunnewell Collection at Marquette includes over 250 fanzine titles from 27 countries, ranging in time from the late 1950s to the turn of the century. The FellowsHub team consulted Marquette’s Office of the General Counsel (OGC) in developing a copyright strategy. Copyright law will prevent FellowsHub from publishing every fanzine in the collection. Deciding if FellowsHub can digitally publish a specific fanzine depends upon the publication’s age, country of origin, and the presence of a copyright notice somewhere on the document. To simplify matters, the team decided to begin by focusing only on fanzines published in the United States. Careful analysis with OGC of the complicated rules governing U.S. copyright led to the following plan of action:

· FellowsHub will proceed with publishing any fanzines from 1959–1989 that lack a copyright notice.

· Fanzines from 1959–1963 that bear a copyright notice will be researched to determine if the copyright was ever renewed. FellowsHub will publish any fanzines where copyright was never renewed. For those fanzines where copyright was renewed, the team will attempt to contact the copyright holders and seek permission to publish.

· For fanzines from 1964–1989 that bear a copyright notice, the team will attempt to contact the copyright holders and seek permission to publish.

· For any fanzines published after 1989, the team will attempt to contact the copyright holders and seek permission to publish.

Got all that? If not, the accompanying flow chart helps the FellowsHub team determine how it will handle a specific fanzine issue….

Zach B. tells about doing the handwork for the project in “Digitizing Fanzines on J.R.R. Tolkien”.

The last semester, I’ve worked side by side with the library staff to not only help to understand these fan-made products, but to preserve such so that they are not lost to the tides of time. Using Adobe Acrobat, their PDF reader and scanner, I have the ability to convert a whole page of one of these fanzines using the “Recognize Text” function and export it into a text file, allowing the page to be looked into further with clarity. Seeing as how these pages are 30–40 years old or older, many of them are either faded or handwritten, meaning Acrobat is unable to OCR everything, but since it automatically opens whatever it scans into a word document, I’m able to change any errors in translation and scanning.

(7) POINTY THINGS. Speaking of helpful flowcharts – Camestros Felapton is the first to explain Britain’s political crisis in terms I can follow: “Today’s Infographic: Brexit – next steps”.

With only days to go before the UK topples out of the EU onto the hard pavement outside the pub and wallows in its own vomit drunk on the heady liquor of confused nationalism, here is a helpful flowchart to show how the next events may progress….

(8) THE MOTION IS TABLED. The Guardian says it exists, however, it doesn’t sound like we’ll be reading it anytime soon: “Francis Spufford pens unauthorised Narnia novel”

“It’s not exactly my Narnia,” he said, “though there are bits of me in it. It’s my best guess as [to] what a conjectural CS Lewis might have written, if he had written another Narnia novel.”

The Stone Table follows Polly Plummer and Digory Kirke, who watch Aslan sing Narnia into being in The Magician’s Nephew, as they return to Narnia. Spufford said he was cautious in giving clues as to what happens in the adventure, but the novel “explains why there are four empty thrones in the castle of Cair Paravel, and where the Stone Table came from”.

Spufford said he was acutely conscious of his responsibilities towards Lewis’s creation.

“If you’re going to play with someone else’s toys, then you need to be very clear that they are someone else’s toys. You need to be clear that you’re not profiting by it, that it’s a homage that doesn’t tread on the toes of the real books.”

(9) MORE ON ELLEN VARTANOFF. Scott Edelman says the memorial is scheduled:

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • March 19, 1999 Farscape premiered on Syfy

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 19, 1926 Joe L. Hensley. Long-time fan and writer who was a First Fandom “Dinosaur” (which meant he had been active in fandom prior to July 4, 1939), and received the First Fandom Hall of Fame Award in 2006. Very impressive! His first genre fiction sale was the short story “And Not Quite Human,” published in the September 1953 issue of Beyond Fantasy Fiction. His co-authors included Alexei Panshin and Harlan Ellison. Though he wrote nearly fifty pieces of short fiction, and much of that is not genre, he wrote just one genre novel, The Black Roads. (Died 2007.)
  • Born March 19, 1928 Patrick  McGoohan. Creator along with George Markstein of The Prisoner series in which he played the main role of Number Six. I’ve watched it at least several times down the years. It never gets any clearer but it’s always interesting and always weird.  Other genre credits do not include Danger Man but comprise a short list of The Phantom where he played The Phantom’s father, Treasure Planet where he voiced Billy Bones and Journey into Darkness where he was The Host of. (Died 2009.)
  • Born March 19, 1936 Ursula Andress, 83. I’msure I’ve seen all of the original Bond films though I’ll be damned I remember where or when I saw them. Which is my way of leading up to saying thot I don’t remember her in her roles as either as Honey Ryder in the very first Bond film, Dr. No, or as as Vesper Lynd in Casino Royale. Bond girls aren’t that memorable to me it seems. Hmmm… let’s see if she’s done any other genre work… well her first was The Tenth Victim based on Sheckley’s 1953 short story “Seventh Victim”. She also appeared in L’Infermiera, oops wrong genre, The Mountain of the Cannibal GodThe Fifth MusketeerClash of the Titans where she played of course Aphrodite, on the Manimal series, The Love Boat series and the two Fantaghirò films. 
  • Born March 19, 1945 Jim Turner. Turner was editor for Arkham House after the death of August Derleth, founder of that press. After leaving Arkham House for reasons that are not clear, he founded Golden Gryphon Press. (Died 1999.)
  • Born March 19, 1947 Glenn Close, 72. I had not a clue that she’d done genre-friendly acting. Indeed she has, with two of the most recent being Nova Prime in Guardians of The Galaxy, Topsy in Mary Poppins Returns and voicing Felicity Fox in the animated film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. Before those roles, she was Aunt Josephine in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, Blue Mecha in A.I. Artificial Intelligence and Madeline Ashton in Death Becomes Her
  • Born March 19, 1955 Bruce Willis, 64. So do any of the Die Hard franchise count as genre? Even setting them aside, he has a very long  genre list, to wit Death Becomes Her (bit of macabre fun), 12 Monkeys (weird shit), The Fifth Element (damn great), Armageddon, (eight tentacles down), The Sixth Sense (not at all bad), Sin City morning (typical Miller overkill) and Sin City: A Dame to Kill For (yet more Miller overkill). 
  • Born March 19, 1963 Neil LaBute, 56. He’s the writer/director of the Wicker Man remake and the creator of just renewed for a fourth season on Syfy Van Helsing series. He’s one of the Executive Producers of The I-Land series starting soon on Netflix.
  • Born March 19, 1964 Marjorie Monaghan, 55. JoJo on all six episodes of Space Rangers. My brain keeps insisting it lasted longer. She also was on Babylon 5 as the Mars Resistance leader during the Earth Alliance Civil War, where she was known as Number One. She’s also appeared on Quantum Leap, in the cyberpunk Nemesis film, in The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy film, on Andromeda series and on The Great War of Magellan film. 
  • Born March 19, 1976 Nicholas Stoller, 43. He is known for co-writing (with Jason Segel) The Muppets and Muppets Most Wanted (with James Bobin). 

(12) RIVETING ADVENTURE. “HBO challenges Game of Thrones fans to find 6 iron thrones hidden across the globe”, SYFY Wire reports on the contest but doesn’t seem to know what you get when you find one.

For the Throne! As the epic series Game of Thrones nears its conclusion, HBO is offering fans the chance to play. And the good news is, you don’t die if you don’t win. 

As part of its #ForTheThrone campaign, HBO has launched a treasure hunt whereby fans seek out six iron thrones that have been hidden across the globe, and its up to astute and observant fans to figure out where they were based on carefully-hidden clues. HBO posted a picture of an Iron Throne replica on its Instagram page along with a message suggesting fans “Seek the Weirwood in this Kingdom on Earth.” 

(13) INNER SPACE. A Phys.org article reveals “Dormant viruses activate during spaceflight”.

Herpes viruses reactivate in more than half of crew aboard Space Shuttle and International Space Station missions, according to NASA research published in Frontiers in Microbiology. While only a small proportion develop symptoms, virus reactivation rates increase with spaceflight duration and could present a significant health risk on missions to Mars and beyond.

NASA’s rapid viral detection systems and ongoing treatment research are beginning to safeguard astronauts—and immunocompromised patients on Earth, too.

“NASA astronauts endure weeks or even months exposed to microgravity and cosmic radiation—not to mention the extreme G forces of take-off and re-entry,” says senior author Dr. Satish K. Mehta of KBR Wyle at the Johnson Space Center. “This physical challenge is compounded by more familiar stressors like social separation, confinement and an altered sleep-wake cycle.”

(14) DONTINVITEMS. Australia told Milo Yiannopolous to stay home after provocative comments on Facebook: “Milo Yiannopoulos banned from entering Australia for tour after massacre comments”.

Conservative commentator Milo Yiannopoulos will no longer be allowed to travel to Australia for a tour later this year following comments he made on the mass shooting in New Zealand. Australia’s minister for immigration, citizenship and multicultural affairs has banned him from entering the country for the tour. 

“Yiannopoulos’ comments on social media regarding the Christchurch terror attack are appalling and foment hatred and division,” David Coleman said in a statement Saturday. 

“The terrorist attack in Christchurch was carried out on Muslims peacefully practicing their religion,” Coleman said. “It was an act of pure evil. Australia stands with New Zealand and with Muslim communities the world over in condemning this inhuman act.”

Coleman didn’t specifically state which of Yiannopoulos’ comments he was referring to. But the former Breitbart journalist posted on Facebook Friday that attacks like the one in Christchurch happen “because the establishment panders to and mollycoddles extremist leftism and barbaric alien religious cultures.” 

Yiannopoulos defended his comments. “I explicitly denounced violence,” he later said in another post. “And I criticized the establishment for pandering to Islamic fundamentalism. So Australia banned me again.” 

(15) SERIES GETS HIGH MARX. Martin Morse Wooster, our Designated Financial Times Reader, reports from behind the paywall –

In the March 15 Financial Times, Tom Hancock discusses “The Leader,” an animated series about Karl Marx currently airing in China.

“For the past month, a cartoon spectre has been haunting me.  With brown flowing hair, impossibly large eyes and a heroic V-shaped chin, the hero of “The Leader” would fit into any animated series.  But rather than romance or adventure, this hero pursues another goal: the liberation of the proletariat. The hero’s name:  Karl Marx.

The series (episodes, which have been viewed 5M times online) is part of a state-backed initiative to promote Marx to young people in China…

…”The Leader,” however, does put the class struggle front and centre, portraying the young Marx clashing with government censors over newspaper articles about labour rights, praising a workers’ uprising in Silesia, and calling for the abolition of private property. The ironies have not been lost on viewers, who can write comments to scroll over the cartoon as it plays. When Marx’s university threatens him over his activism in one episode, a user comment scrolls by — ‘Peking University Marxism Society’–referring to the group at the centre of the recent real-life crackdown.”

(16) GOODER VIBRATIONS. “Massive U.S. Machines That Hunt For Ripples In Space-Time Just Got An Upgrade”NPR has the story.

Scientists are about to restart the two giant facilities in the United States that register gravitational waves, the ripples in the very fabric of the universe that were predicted by Albert Einstein more than a century ago.

Einstein realized that when massive objects such as black holes collide, the impact sends shock waves through space-time that are like the ripples in water created by tossing a pebble in a pond.

In 2015, researchers made history by detecting gravitational waves from colliding black holes for the first time — and this was such a milestone that three U.S. physicists almost immediately won the Nobel Prize for their work on the project.

Since then, physicists have detected gravitational waves from other exotic smashups. The grand total is 10 pairs of black holes colliding and a pair of neutron stars crashing together.

Now they’re getting ready to discover more of these cosmic events. On April 1, the twin facilities in Louisiana and Washington state that make up the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory will start doing science again after being shut down for more than a year so that workers could install hardware upgrades.

(17) KEYBOARD WARRIOR. This one really is — “Hated and hunted: The perilous life of the computer virus cracker making powerful enemies online”.

Fabian is world renowned for destroying ransomware – the viruses sent out by criminal gangs to extort money.

Because of this, he lives a reclusive existence, always having to be one step ahead of the cyber criminals.

He has moved to an unknown location since this interview was carried out.

…All of the victims mentioned above were hit with some form of ransomware. But the Hong Kong businessman didn’t lose his job and the photographer and head teacher were able to recover their work.

None had to pay any money, and once they’d got their lives back in order, all sent emails of thanks to the same person.

He’s a man who has devoted himself, at huge personal cost, to helping victims of ransomware around the world. A man who guards his privacy dearly to protect himself, because for every message of gratitude he receives, almost as many messages of abuse come at him from the cyber criminals who hate him.

In fact, they hate him so much that they leave him angry threats buried deep inside the code of their own viruses.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Andrew Porter, Scott Edelman, Mlex, Chip Hitchcock, StephenfromOttawa, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, JJ, Brian Z., and Carl Slaughter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day, that fan of papier mache ULTRAGOTHA.]

Pixel Scroll 3/7/19 By Thy Long Grey Pixel And Glittering Scroll

(1) ANOTHER ESCAPEE FROM LAST DANGEROUS VISIONS. Haffner Press will release as a chapbook Manly Wade Wellman’s unpublished story “Not All a Dream,” originally commissioned for Harlan Ellison’s never released anthology The Last Dangerous Visions,

“Not All a Dream” opens with poet/politician Lord Byron (1788-1824) musing over the status of his literary canon in years to come. Admiring the lasting legacy of John Milton, Byron accepts an offer to learn the truce place of his works in centuries hence—a nightmare vision gained by traveling into a dangerous future . . .

How can you get a copy of this story? By preordering Haffner Press’ two-volume omnibus of Manly Wade Wellman’s The Complete John the Balladeer between now and its release on October 31, 2019 at the World Fantasy Convention in Los Angeles. Those who do will receive the exclusive 32-page chapbook of “Not All a Dream” at no additional charge. See details here.

(2) WAR GOATS? Ursula Vernon, writing as T. Kingfisher, has a four book deal with Tor.

(3) BIOPIC. A second trailer for Tolkien is out. The movie arrives in theaters May 10.

TOLKIEN explores the formative years of the orphaned author as he finds friendship, love and artistic inspiration among a group of fellow outcasts at school. This takes him into the outbreak of World War I, which threatens to tear the “fellowship” apart. All of these experiences would inspire Tolkien to write his famous Middle-Earth novels.

(4) CARDS REQUESTED. Martin Morse Wooster writes, “Long-time fan Ellen Vartanoff is receiving hospice care at home and would welcome humorous cards.  Her address is 4418 Renn Street, Rockville, Maryland 20853.”

(5) ZENO’S THEOREM. Sometimes the arrow doesn’t go all the way — “‘Arrow’ to End With Abbreviated Season 8 on The CW”.

Arrow, the first of the network’s current roster of DC Comics dramas, will end with its previously announced eighth season. The final season of the Stephen Amell-led drama from executive producer Greg Berlanti and Warner Bros. TV will consist of a reduced order of 10 episodes and air in the fall. The final season will air during the 2019-2020 broadcast calendar.

The decision to wrap the series arrives as CW president Mark Pedowitz was open about needing to make way for a possible second phase of DC Comics-inspired series on the network. “Things will age and we want to get the next generation of shows to keep The CW DC universe going for as long as possible,” the executive told reporters in January at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour.

What Culture thinks they know the reason why:

(6) REASONS TO VOTE. Find out what Abigail Nussbaum is putting on her Hugo ballot in the media categories. Not just a list, but a substantial discussion about each choice. For example, under Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form:

Sorry to Bother You (review) – The most original, boundary-pushing SF film of 2018 by far, not only because of its gonzo third act twist, but because of its focus on matters like labor rights and organization.  One of the things I’ve noticed in writing A Political History of the Future is that we’re seeing more and more SF addressing the future of work, from the issue of automation to the question of how labor organizing might work in space.  Sorry to Bother You fits perfectly in that tradition, as a movie in which unionizing is an important, necessary step towards building a better world.  As important as it is for the Hugos to recognize works like Black Panther, I think it’s equally vital for them to acknowledge Sorry to Bother You as a major work of science fiction film.

(7) LA FESTIVAL OF BOOKS. Hundreds of authors will participate in the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books from April 13-14 on the University of Southern California campus. Here are some of the names that jumped out at me from the announcement —

(8) PORK CHOP. “Cern cuts ties with ‘sexist’ scientist Alessandro Strumia” – BBC has the story.

The European particle physics research centre Cern has cut ties with the scientist who said that women were less able at physics than men.

Cern has decided not to extend Professor Alessandro Strumia’s status of guest professor.

The decision follows an investigation into comments, first reported by BBC News, made by Prof Strumia at a Cern workshop on gender equality.

(9) ALIEN AT 40. Martin Morse Wooster, our designated reader of the Financial Times, reports from behind the paywall:

In the February 25 Financial Times Nigel Andrews, the newspaper’s film critic, has a piece on the 40th anniversary of Alien.  Andrews, collaborating with Harlan Kennedy, reported on the production of the film for American Film magazine and reprints what people involved in the film told him about the production in 1978,

Ridley Scott in 1978 said, “The story is Conradian, in the sense that you can compare the situation in Nostromo (the novel) with the situation of any group of human beings trapped in an enclosed world.  The way the same environment and events affect different people.  As for the horror, the reason I got interested in the script was that it was so simple, so linear.  It took me 40 minutes to read it.  I usually take about four days, but here it was just bang, whoomph, straight through.”

H.R. Giger in 1978 said, “They asked me to design something which could not have been made by human beings.  I tried to build it up with organic-looking parts–tubes, pipes, bones.  Everything I created in the film used the idea of bones.  I mixed up technical and organic things.  I made the alien landscape with real bones and put it together with Plasticine, pipes, and little pieces of motor.”

(10) BATMAN AT 80. The Hollywood Reporter shares “Batman 80th Anniversary Plans Unveiled by DC and Warner Bros.”

With Bruce Wayne’s alter ego celebrating his 80th year of crime-fighting this month, Warner Bros. and DC have unveiled a slate of celebratory events and publications for the Bat-versary, including live events, convention plans and the publication of the landmark 1000th issue of Detective Comics.

The celebration of Batman’s 80th, which will be marked online with the hashtag #LongLiveTheBat, will launch at SXSW in Austin, Texas, with the release of new exclusive merchandise, photo opportunities and the unveiling of a mural by a local artist. The festival will also feature a special event on March 15, when more than 1.5 million bats will fly over the city’s Congress Bridge.

Immediately following, DC will release two special anniversary comic books: the hardcover Detective Comics: 80 Years of Batman — The Deluxe Edition on March 19, and the extra-length Detective Comics No. 1000, on March 27. Three days after the latter, Anaheim’s WonderCon will play host to a “Happy Birthday, Batman!” panel….

(11) THERE’S NO I IN COSPLAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] No matter how many times the story uses the “i” word, these cosplayers are not really achieving the impossible… but they do achieve a very high difficulty factor (ScreenRant.com: “18 Impossible Star Trek Cosplays That Fans Somehow Pulled Off”). There seem to be several criteria in ranking the selections, you can judge for yourself if they’re in the “proper” order.

Star Trek has been a massive cultural institution since the first episode aired back in the late-1960s. Since that time, the series expanded beyond the Original Series into an animated continuation, multiple spinoff series, prequels, comics, graphic novels, books, and more than a dozen movies. Ever since the series first began, people were quick to create costumes honoring their favorite characters. In the beginning, the costumes weren’t incredibly elaborate due to the limited budget on the series, but as things progressed with Star Trek: The Next Generation and additional feature films, the aliens got more impressive and difficult to emulate. While there are thousands of cosplayers and fans who have thrown on a Starfleet uniform or two over the years, it takes a lot of work and time to manage a cosplay of some of the more detailed and impressive aliens.

Cosplayers who put in the time, money, and creativity to emulate their favorite characters deserve recognition for their efforts. To honor their work, we thought it would be fun to dig around the Internet and find some of our favorite cosplayers’ creations devoted to all things Star Trek. You won’t find a simple recreation of Captain Kirk on this list, but those costumes that pay homage to specific moments in Trek history or manage an approximation of an alien that requires a great deal of makeup and prosthetics will likely have made the cut. Here are our all-time favorite Star Trek cosplayers and their various creations in this list of [18] impossible Star Trek cosplays that fans somehow pulled off

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 7, 1934 Gray Morrow. He was an illustrator of comics and paperback books. He is co-creator of the Marvel Comics’s Man-Thing with writers Roy Thomas and Gerry Conway, and co-creator of DC Comics’ El Diablo with writer Robert Kanigher. If you can find a copy, The Illustrated Roger Zelazny he did in collaboration with Zelazny is most excellent. ISFDB notes that he and James Lawrence did a novel called Buck Rogers in the 25th Century.  No idea if it was tied into the series which came out the next year. (Died 2001.)
  • Born March 7, 1942 Paul Preuss, 77. I know I’ve read all of the Venus Prime series written by him off the Clarke stories. I am fairly sure I read all of them when I was in Sri Lanka where they were popular.  I don’t think I’ve read anything else by him. 
  • Born March 7, 1944 Stanley Schmidt, 75. Between 1978 and 2012 he served as editor of Analog Science Fiction and Fact magazine, an amazing fear by any standard! He was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Professional Editor every year from 1980 through 2006 (its final year), and for the Hugo Award for Best Editor Short Form every year from 2007 (its first year) through 2013 with him winning in 2013.  He’s also an accomplished author with more than a dozen to his name. I know I’ve read him but I can’t recall which novels in specific right now. 
  • Born March 7, 1955 Michael Jan Friedman, 64. Author of nearly sixty books of genre fiction, mostly media tie-ins. He’s written nearly forty Trek novels alone covering DS9Starfleet AcademyNext GenOriginal Series and Enterprise. He’s also done work with Star Wars, Aliens, PredatorsLois & Clark: The New Adventures of SupermanBatman and Robin and many others. He’s also done quite a bit of writing for DC, mostly media-ins but not all as I see SupermanFlash and Justice League among his credits.
  • Born March 7, 1959 Nick Searcy, 60. He was Nathan Ramsey in Seven Days which I personally think is the best damn time travel series ever done. And he was in 11.22.63 as Deke Simmons, based off the Stephen King novel. He was in Intelligence, a show I never knew existed, for one episode as General Greg Carter, and in The Shape of Water film, he played yet another General, this one named Frank Hoyt. And finally, I’d be remiss to overlook his run in horror as he was in American Gothic as Deputy Ben Healy. 
  • Born March 7, 1961 Ari Berk, 58. Folklorist, artist, writer and scholar of literature and comparative myth. Damn great person as well. I doubt you’ve heard of The Runes of Elfland he did with Brian Froud so I’ve linked to the Green Man review of it here. He also had a review column in the now defunct Realms of Fantasy that had such articles as “Back Over the Wall – Charles Vess Revisits the World of Stardust”.
  • Born March 7, 1970 Rachel Weisz, 49. Though better known for The Mummy films, her first genre film was Death Machine is a British-Japanese cyberpunk horror film. I’ve also got her in Chain Reaction and The Lobster
  • Born March 7, 1971 Matthew Vaughn, 48. Film producer, director, and screenwriter who is best known for Stardust, Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, X-Men: First ClassX-Men: Days of Future PastFantastic FourKingsman: The Secret Service, and its sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle.
  • Born March 7, 1974 Tobias Menzies, 45. He was on the Game of Thrones where he played Edmure Tully. He is probably best known for his dual role as Frank Randall and Jonathan “Black Jack” Randall in Outlander” Randall in Outlander. Am I the person who has never seen either series? He was in Finding Neverland as a Theatre Patron, in Casino Royale as Villierse who was M’s assistant, showed up in The Genius of Christopher Marlowe as the demon Mephistophilis, voiced Captain English in the all puppet Jackboots on Whitehall film and played Marius in Underworld: Blood Wars

(13) STAND BY FOR ADS! I received a press release which evidently is calling on me to publicize a forthcoming publicity campaign. Maybe we’ll get to the books later! Their headline is amusing –

GREAT POWER. NO RESPONSIBILITY.

Tom Doherty Associates is proudly launching the Magic x Mayhem campaign, on the heels of the 2018 Fearless Women campaign. 2018 was a year for breaking though barriers of gender and sex—but 2019 is the year for breaking all the rules. Gone are the days of simple good-versus-evil narratives; these are complicated times that call for complicated characters. From Game of Thrones to The Haunting of Hill House, pop culture has clearly shifted its attention to the messy, the morally ambiguous, and the weird. In short, fans want magic, and they want mayhem. The Magic x Mayhem campaign features an eclectic mix of daring new speculative fiction by fan favorite authors and new voices from the Tor Books and Tor.com Publishing imprints.

Magic and mayhem don’t just live on the pages of books; they’re doled out in fantasy realms and the real world alike by this impressive array of writers. Featured authors include Seanan McGuire (Middlegame), Cate Glass (An Illusion of Thieves), Sarah Gailey (Magic for Liars), Duncan M. Hamilton (Dragonslayer), Tamsyn Muir (Gideon the Ninth), Brian Naslund (Blood of an Exile), Saad Z. Hossain (The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday), JY Yang (The Ascent to Godhood) and more. This illustrious group of wordslingers includes bestsellers, award-winners, scholars, and influencers. Through this campaign, the authors will have a combined organic reach of 400,000, and they’re truly a rebel force to be reckoned with.

The campaign will include extensive outreach to social media influencers, a robust marketing and advertising campaign with outlets like Den of Geek and The Mary Sue, exclusive content from select participating authors, Magic x Mayhem branded events at BookExpo, BookCon, New York Comic Con and more. Follow the chaos with #magicXmayhem.

(14) THEY ALL FALL DOWN. “Penn and Teller and Mischief Theatre to produce Magic Goes Wrong” According to Chip Hitchcock, “The Play That Goes Wrong (on tour in the US) was even funnier to a former theater techie like me — my first reaction was that I wanted to have worked on all of those gimmicks. Now I’m hoping this show will also travel.”

If you went to see a show at the theatre where actors forgot their lines, props went missing or scenery collapsed, you’d probably ask for a refund.

But plays going wrong has proved to be a recipe for huge West End and Broadway success for British company Mischief Theatre.

Their current crop of shows – including The Play That Goes Wrong and The Comedy About A Bank Robbery – are set the be joined by a new production later this year.

Magic Goes Wrong has been created by Mischief together with US magicians Penn and Teller – whose fame in the magical world is perhaps second only to Harry Potter’s.

(15) FAST FOOD. Here’s a place “Where you must catch your meal with chopsticks”.

In nagashi somen, one of Japan’s most delightful summertime food rites, noodles are sent down a bamboo chute ‘waterslide’ and you must catch your meal with your chopsticks.

It’s a sunny July day on a mountainside restaurant terrace on the island of Kyushu, Japan. A polo-shirted, 40-something Japanese businessman, a long-time friend of mine, is holding a clump of somen – thin, white wheat noodles – aloft in one hand, and beaming at me and his two foodie colleagues, who have joined us for this feast.

“Ii desu ka?” Are you ready?

“Ichi, ni, san – iku yo!”One, two, three – here they come!

He releases the noodles into a stream of water that is flowing down a 1.5m-long bamboo chute. We three are seated at the opposite end, and, as the noodles slide swiftly toward us, we plunge our chopsticks into the stream, trying to grab the slippery threads.

“Hayaku, hayaku!” – Quickly, quickly! – prim, pearl-necklaced Kimiko-san on my right exhorts herself. “Ahhh, dame da!” – Oh, missed it! – black-suited Eishi-san across from me groans. As more clumps of noodles flow toward us, we gradually lose all reserve, stabbing and laughing as we chase the elusive strands. Eventually we all raise our chopsticks, triumphantly displaying our glistening catch.

(16) WINDOW OF OPPORTUNITY. BBC poses the question: “Would you want to stay in a space hotel?” “You” defined as someone with a lot of money…

Aurora Station plans to become the first hotel in space. But how likely is it we’ll be able to holiday in orbit around the Earth?

It was intended to set the travel world on fire: Aurora Station, the world’s first in-orbit hotel. The official announcement took place last April during the Space 2.0 Conference in San Jose, California. Housed aboard a structure about the size of a large private jet, guests would soar 200 miles above the Earth’s surface, enjoying epic views of the planet and the northern and southern lights.

A jaunt won’t be cheap: the 12-day-journey aboard Aurora Station, scheduled to be in orbit by 2022, starts at a cool $9.5m (£7.3m) per person. Nevertheless, the company says the waiting list is booked nearly seven months ahead.

“Part of our experience is to give people the taste of the life of a professional astronaut,” says Frank Bunger, founder and chief executive officer of Orion Span, the firm which is behind Aurora Station. “But we expect most guests will be looking out the window, calling everyone they know, and should guests get bored, we have what we call the ‘holodeck,’ a virtual reality experience. In it you can do anything you want; you can float in space, you can walk on the Moon, you can play golf.”

(17) NOT MAINLY IN THE PLAIN. “Climate change: Rain melting Greenland ice sheet ‘even in winter'”.

Rain is becoming more frequent in Greenland and accelerating the melting of its ice, a new study has found.

Scientists say they’re “surprised” to discover rain falling even during the long Arctic winter.

The massive Greenland ice-sheet is being watched closely because it holds a huge store of frozen water.

And if all of that ice melted, the sea level would rise by seven metres, threatening coastal population centres around the world.

The scientists studied satellite pictures of the ice-sheet which reveal the areas where melting is taking place.

And they combined those images with data gathered from 20 automated weather stations that recorded when rainfall occurred.

The findings, published in the journal The Cryosphere, show that while there were about two spells of winter rain every year in the early phase of the study period, that had risen to 12 spells by 2012.

(18) A PREVIOUS DELANY. At Fansided, Sarah Crocker details “20 legendary black science-fiction authors you need to know”.

…Even though some of the biggest sci-fi properties recognized today are all too often racially tone-deaf, black sci-fi authors have been producing work for well over a century. And, with the rise of more and more creators of color in sci-fi and beyond, there’s hope that the situation will get better.

What is “black science fiction”? Broadly, it’s sci-fi produced by black creators. Once you get more specific, though, it’s clear that there as many ways to write about science fiction as there are individual authors. Black sci-fi isn’t monolithic by any means. Some of the authors included here draw on American experiences, Caribbean folklore, Islamic history, modern international politics, and much, much more.

Please note that science fiction is a huge genre with many, many different subgenres, from cyberpunk, to space opera, to galactic westerns. Your own personal definition sci-fi may or may not line up totally with the one used here, but rest assured that, even if you want to quibble over particulars, these are all great works of fiction that you should read no matter what.

So, in honor of Black History Month, here are 20 incredible black science fiction authors who you should add to your reading list as soon as possible. Though this month is a good occasion to bring attention to black sci-fi and speculative fiction, don’t think this is a one-time thing. There are enough authors here to keep you reading for the rest of the year at least.

First on the list is Martin Delany:

…So, where does the science fiction come in? Starting in 1859, Delany published serialized portions of Blake, or the Huts of America, a utopian separatist novel (it wouldn’t be published in one volume until 1970). It follows Henry Blake, a revolutionary escaped slave who travels throughout the U.S. and Cuba in an attempt to organize a large-scale rebellion. The depiction of an active, intelligent, and driven black man was in strong contrast to more docile characters of the time.

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

Review: Finding Neverland

Photo: Jeremy Daniel

By Martin Morse Wooster: Over the years, I’ve probably seen more versions of Peter Pan than are good for me.  There were the movies, of course, and the live version of the original musical that aired on television a few years ago.  But I’ve seen a fair share of theatrical projects with the characters from Peter Pan.

A few years ago I saw Peter and the Starcatcher, a play by Broadway veteran Rick Elice based on the novel by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson.  This is an entertaining prequel to Peter Pan, once you accept the premise that the character who became Captain Hook thinks in this play that he is Groucho Marx.  It’s not a musical, but a play with a few songs in it.

 More recently I saw a version of Peter Pan with this premise: “People like it when Peter Pan flies.  Why don’t we have a version where everyone flies!  You know, just like the Cirque de Soleil!”  They held it in a tent, in the area where the Cirque de Soleil performs in Washington, and the show was interrupted twice for performances by Chinese acrobats.

Finding Neverland is a different take on the story.  It’s not about Peter Pan, but about how J. M. Barrie came up with the ideas for Peter Pan.  It’s based on a 2004 film[1] that starred Johnny Depp as J. M. Barrie.  Freddie Highmore, currently starring on “The Good Doctor,” played one of the children.

How did a non-musical from 2004 get turned into a musical?  Cracking open the CD, we find, as the first sentence from the musical’s original director, Diane Paulus, “When Harvey Weinstein first approached me about creating a musical based on the Academy Award-winning film Finding Neverland…”

It turns out the Weinstein Company had a division devoted in turning films into plays.  From something I read in Playbill, I see that Weinstein Live Entertainment developed about 25 plays, of which Finding Neverland, which opened in Broadway in 2015, was their final project.  From Paulus’s comments, I gather that the Weinstein Company bought one draft of the musical and threw in more money to develop it.

I don’t know very much about the British people who created this musical.  James Graham, who wrote the book, is an experienced playwright.   I gather Gary Barlow & Eliot Kennedy, who wrote the score and the lyrics, come from rock and roll and this is their first musical.

Maybe it was because of its Weinstein origins, but the road show version of Finding Neverland is a non-Equity project that spent a little time in major cities and a lot of time in one-night stops in smaller places, including Orange Park, Florida and Orange, Texas.

The musical version of Finding Neverland begins in Kensington Gardens, where author J.M. Barrie is sitting in the park doing some writing.   Charles Frohman, the manager of the theater where Barrie’s plays are performed is after him because he’s blown his deadline and all his plays are becoming similar. 

 But Barrie sees kids playing pirates and becomes friends with them, their mother, and their adorable dog Porthos.  Frohman also provided inspiration.  “Tick tock,” Frohman says repeatedly, so Barrie thinks of clocks.  Then Frohman shakes his umbrella at him—and in the shadows, the umbrella looks just like a hook.

Finally, we learn that when Barrie was a little boy, his older brother David died ice-skating.  But Barrie was convinced that his brother ascended to a place called “Neverland,” where boys never grow old. So put it all together, the musical says, and you’ve got Peter Pan!

Well, no.  New Yorker staff writer Anthony Lane explains what really happened in this  2004 article on the release of the film Finding Neverland.  Barrie did indeed meet little boys—the Llewellyn Davies family—in Kensington Gardens in 1898. “Barrie talked with children, rather than at or down with them,” Lane writes, and he liked spending time with boys, not because he was a pedophile, but because he thought somehow that spending time with children would help him reach the child-like parts of his nature and push away all the stresses of adulthood.

“This plan of Barrie’s,” writes Lane, “may have been creepy and pathetic, but it was not a crime.”

So the first act of Finding Neverland is about a writer coming up with his ideas.  That doesn’t make for interesting drama, so the musical gives us lots of singing! And dancing! About following your dreams!  Because they’re your dreams!

Oh, and there’s a dog, who is named Porthos.  The dog, a golden doodle named Sammy, was more interesting and better behaved than most members of the cast.

The second half is about the staging of the first performance of Peter Pan, which gives the show a chance to recreate some of the famous scenes of the first part of Barrie’s play including scenes with a Peter Pan (Melody Rose) in a green outfit and strapped in a harness.  The best line was when one actor grumbles about getting into a dog suit.  “Why, I played Richard III in Drury Lane,” the actor huffs.

I wondered what he would think of the current version of Richard III in town, which promises twice as much blood as usual and a Swedish doom-rock score.

I thought Finding Neverland was slightly below average.  It wasn’t the worst musical I’ve seen[2] but it was uninspired and formulaic.  The cast was minimally competent; Jeff Sullivan as J.M. Barrie has a good voice, but he’s too nasal.  The other cast members showed why they haven’t gotten their Equity cards yet.

 I don’t think I’ll ever see Finding Neverland again, because I think this will be its only run.  But I’m sure someone else will come up with a line extension of the Peter Pan brand. If that play comes to Washington, I’m sure I’ll go see it.


[1] The film Finding Neverland was based in part on the play The Man Who Was Peter Pan by Allan Knee.

[2] My all-time loser musical is Jekyll and Hyde:  The Musical.  Don’t get me started on how awful that musical was!

Pixel Scroll 1/29/19 Dill Pixels

(1) TIPTREE ON TV? Jennifer Kent, who directed the exceptional horror film The Babadook, and is currently at Sundance screening her second film, the historical drama The Nightingale, is developing a project based on the life and stories of James Tiptree Jr. / Alice Sheldon: “Sundance 2019 Interview: Babadook Director Jennifer Kent on Her New Film, The Nightingale” at Rogerebert.com.

And Tiptree?

I don’t know where to start. There was this writer of short science fiction stories in ’60s and ’70s who was very feted, and of the level of Philip K. Dick, or Ursula Le Guin. He was really creating the most powerful stories of gender and of being an outsider. But they were so potent, very prescient; because it’s almost the world we’re living in now. So they were written 50 years ago. They’re incredibly relevant still, and then he was sort of well known. His stories were well known, but no one knew who he was for 10 years, and then eventually someone uncovered his identity to be a woman in her 60s, in I think Virginia. This woman’s story is unbelievable. Unbelievable. And she was a genius. So I want to tell her story.

So you’ll make something episodic at a network?

Yeah, but including her short stories within. It’s not a straight biopic; so aliens from her stories inhabit her true world, and then she will be in the world of her stories, and it’s so exciting to me. It’s science fiction, which I love. I came across that because I was being given a lot of science fiction scripts. And I thought, “Where are the female science fiction stories?” So I Googled “female science fiction”, and I came across her! It was so hard to get the rights. And then I got all the rights to these stories, so it’s just meant to be. I could sit for hours and tell you how we got these rights. I’m working with producer Brian Kavanaugh-Jones, who is wonderful. He’s engaged with a company called Imperative, and so that’s the deal at the moment. But Imperative has thrown some money at the development, but we want to keep control of it. So we didn’t want to go to HBO and have it sit on a shelf and not get made, for example. So, we want to come with a pilot and a bible, so I’m working on that at the moment.

(2) STOKERCON UK. In April 2020 the Horror Writers Association’s annual event, StokerCon, will be held in the UK, and A.K. Benedict will be the Mistress of Ceremonies.

Taking place in Scarborough, just down the coast from Whitby – the town that provided so much of the inspiration for Stoker’s iconic Dracula – this is an event not to be missed for writers and readers of horror fiction.

The event is delighted to confirm its Mistress of Ceremonies for the weekend will be author A.K. Benedict, who will be launching the weekend’s proceedings. A.K. Benedict was educated at Cambridge, University of Sussex and Clown School. Described by the Sunday Express as ‘one of the new stars of crime fiction with a supernatural twist’, AK Benedict’s debut novel, The Beauty of Murder, was shortlisted for an eDunnit award and is in development for TV by Company Pictures. Her second novel from Orion, The Evidence of Ghosts, is a love song to London and shows her obsession with all things haunted. Her radio drama includes Doctor Who and Torchwood plays for Big Finish and a modern adaptation of M.R. James’ Lost Hearts for Bafflegab/Audible.

(3) ODYSSEY WORKSHOP SCHOLARSHIPS. Here is an overview of “2019 Odyssey Writing Workshop Scholarship Opportunities”. The Odyssey Writing Workshop is an acclaimed, six-week program for writers of fantasy, science fiction, and horror held each summer in New Hampshire. Writers apply from all over the world; only fifteen are admitted.

  • George R.R. Martin sponsors the Miskatonic Scholarship, awarded each year to a promising writer of Lovecraftian cosmic horror, a type of fiction Martin loves and wants to encourage. The scholarship covers full tuition, textbook, and housing. Martin says, “It’s my hope that this new scholarship will offer an opportunity to a worthy applicant who might not otherwise have been able to afford the Odyssey experience.” Applicants must demonstrate financial need in a separate application. Full details at the link.
  • Bestselling author and Odyssey graduate Sara King is sponsoring the Parasite Publications Character Awards to provide financial assistance to three character-based writers wishing to attend this summer’s Odyssey. The Parasite Publications Character Awards, three scholarships in the amounts of $2,060 (full tuition), $500, and $300, will be awarded to the three members of the incoming class who are deemed extraordinarily strong character writers, creating powerful, emotional characters that grab the reader and don’t let go. No separate application is required.
  • The new Chris Kelworth Memorial Scholarship will be offered to a Canadian writer admitted to Odyssey. This scholarship, funded by alumni and friends of Chris, will cover $900 of tuition.
  • One work/study position is also available. The work/study student spends about six hours per week performing duties for Odyssey, such as photocopying, sending stories to guests, distributing mail to students, and preparing for guest visits. Odyssey reimburses $800 of the work/study student’s tuition.

(4) FREE READ. Arizona State University has published Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction, Volume II, an anthology featuring 10 short stories from ASU’s 2018 global climate fiction contest, plus a foreword by Kim Stanley Robinson, who also served as the lead judge for the contest.

The stories explore climate chaos, its aftermath, and possible ways forward through a variety of genres and styles, from science fiction and fantasy to literary fiction and prose poetry. It’s free to download in a variety of digital formats (HTML, EPUB, MOBI, and via Apple iBooks).

Table of Contents:

  • Kim Stanley Robinson, Foreword
  • Angie Dell and Joey Eschrich, Editors’ Introduction
  • Monarch Blue, by Barbara Litkowski
  • The Last Grand Tour of Albertine’s Watch, by Sandra K. Barnidge
  • Half-Eaten Cities, by Vajra Chandrasekera
  • Darkness Full of Light, by Tony Dietz
  • Luna, by David Samuel Hudson
  • Tuolumne River Days, by Rebecca Lawton
  • The Most Beautiful Voyage in the World, by Jean McNeil
  • Orphan Bird, by Leah Newsom
  • The Office of Climate Facts, by Mitch Sullivan
  • Losing What We Can’t Live Without, by Jean-Louis Trudel
  • About the Contributors
  • Honorable Mention: 2018 Contest Semifinalists

(5) HUGO VOTER ELIGIBILITY. Dublin 2019 is fixing this –

(6) MY KINGDOM FOR CANON. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Retcons are king. Or kinda want to be. The Daily Dot stares into the abyss at the changing look of Klingons over the various Star Trek series and movies—and especially the significant changes between the first two seasons of Star Trek: Discovery  (“Here’s Why the Klingons Look Different in ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ Season 2”).

In the grand tradition of sci-fi retcons, there’s a canon explanation for the Klingons’ new look. While the humanoid Original Series Klingons were retroactively explained as victims of a genetic diseaseDiscovery’s bald Klingons [in season 1] were apparently making a fashion statement.

According to actress Mary Chieffo (L’Rell), designer Glenn Hetrick decided that the Klingons weren’t “bald” in season one—they just shaved their heads. Speaking at New York Comic Con last year, Chieffo said Hetrick was inspired by the Next Generation episode “Rightful Heir.”

“There is a reference to when [legendary Klingon hero] Kahless is brought back as a clone. The way he proves himself is he tells the story of how he cut off a lock of his hair and dipped it into a volcano and made the first bat’leth, with which he killed Molor, the terrible tyrant who was running Qo’noS at the time. We took that one little beautiful seed… and kind of expanded on that, and we see that in a time of war the Klingons would shave their heads, and in a time of peace, we start to grow it back out. I really love the symbolism of that.”

Meanwhile, ScreenRant.com has a different take on the whole, um, different Klingon thing (“Star Trek Theory: Discovery Is Why The Original Series Klingons Look Different”).

Star Trek: Discovery could finally explain one of the franchise’s biggest discrepancies: why do the Klingons in The Original Series look human? The answer might be the former Starfleet Lieutenant Ash Tyler, who is the surgically altered Klingon named Voq.

[…] It’s possible Star Trek: Discovery season 1’s transformation of Voq into Ash Tyler is the forerunner to why the Klingons Captain Kirk faced in The Original Series didn’t have the ridged brows and wild hair of later Klingons. Voq was the former Torchbearer of T’Kuvma who underwent surgery to become human in a horrifically painful process that damaged his mind. His lover L’Rell oversaw the procedure to turn Voq into Ash Tyler, a Starfleet Lieutenant who was captured during the Battle at the Binary Stars. Voq ended up believing he really was Ash and fell in love with Michael Burnham but his inner Klingon kept fighting his way to the forefront.

[…] By the time Captain Kirk faced the Klingons for the first time in the Star Trek: The Original Series’ episode “Errand of Mercy”, the warrior race looked and behaved human, albeit with darker, exotic skin. Kor, the Klingon Commander, even told Kirk “our races aren’t so different”. He meant that both humans and Klingons are war-like species, but his words could also now have a deeper context: the Klingons have 24 Great Houses and it’s possible this group of Klingons underwent the same (perfected) procedure that turned Voq into Ash Tyler.

(7) CELEBRATORY YEAR. “150 years of the periodic table: Test your knowledge”. I scored 5 for 5 – how unusual!

You’ll find it on the wall of nearly every school chemistry laboratory in the land.

And generations of children have sung the words, “hydrogen and helium, lithium, beryllium…” in an attempt to memorise some of the 118 elements.

This year, the periodic table of chemical elements celebrates its 150th birthday.

…The United Nations has designated 2019 as the International Year of the Periodic Table to celebrate “one of the most significant achievements in science”.

In March, it will be 150 years since the Russian scientist, Dmitri Mendeleev, took all of the known elements and arranged them into a table.

Most of his ideas have stood the test of time, despite being conceived long before we knew much about the stuff that makes up matter.

On Tuesday, the year will be officially launched in Paris. So, what’s so special about this iconic symbol of science?

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 29, 1923 Paddy Chayefsky. In our circles known as the writer of the Altered States novel that he also wrote the screenplay for. He is the only person to have won three solo Academy Awards for Best Screenplay. The other winners of three Awards shared theirs. He did not win for Altered States though he did win for Network which I adore. (Died 1981.)
  • Born January 29, 1940 Katharine Ross, 79. Yes, you know her as Elaine Robinson in The Graduate but that’s hardly genre, do shall we see what she done in our area of interest? Her first such work was as Joanna Eberhart in The Stepford Wives –scary film that. She shows up next as Helena in The Swarm and plays Margaret Walsh in The Legacy, both horror films. The Final Countdown sees her in the character of Laurel Scott.  And Dr. Lilian Thurman is her character in the cult favorite Donnie Darko. I’m fairly sure that the only genre series she’s done is on The Wild Wild West as Sheila Parnell in “The Night of the Double-Edged Knife” episode. I did debate if the I should could I count Alfred Hitchcock Presents aa genre or not as she did an episode there as well.
  • Born January 29, 1977 Justin Hartley, 42. Performer in the series as Green Arrow and Oliver Queen characters, season six on. Also director of the “Dominion” episode and the writer of the “Sacrifice” episode on that series. He’s also Arthur “A.C.” Curry in the unsold Aquaman television pilot. The latter is up on YouTube here. He’s also lead cast in a web series called Gemini Division.
  • Born January 29, 1978 Catrin Stewart, 31. Jenny Flint in five episodes of Doctor Who. She was friends with Madame Vastra and Strax (informally known as the Paternoster Gang) who appeared first during the Eleventh Doctor and last during the Twelfth Doctor. Big Finish has continued them in their audiobooks. She also played Stella in two episodes of the Misfits series, and was Julia in a performance of Nineteen Eighty-Four done at London Playhouse several years back. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest encounter a superhero with a not very pleasant power.
  • Not everybody gets off the ground at Hogwarts according to Berkeley Mews.
  • A super warning about the cold and flu season at Off the Mark.

(10) ELGIN AWARD NOMINATIONS OPEN. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association is taking nominations for the Elgin Award through May 15. Charles Christian will be the 2019 Elgin Awards Chair.

Only SFPA members may nominate; there is no limit to how many they can nominate, but they may not nominate their own work. Send title, author, and publisher of speculative poetry books and chapbooks published in 2017 and 2018 to elgin@sfpoetry.com by mail to the SFPA secretary: Renee Ya, P.O. Box 2074, San Mateo, CA 94401 USA. Books and chapbooks that placed 1st, 2nd, or 3rd, in last year’s Elgin Awards are not eligible.

(11) FOREVER YOUNG. A young Captain Picard steps up alongside a bunch of  Italian Renaissance turtles and other, um, beloved characters (SYFY Wire: “Exclusive: Young Captain Picard commands the U.S.S. Stargazer in Star Trek: IDW 20/20 one-shot”).

IDW Publishing’s big 20th anniversary celebration rolls on this month as the mini-major refreshes five of their major licensed titles with a time-traveling series of oversized one-shot releases. 

The January party sparkles with some of pop culture’s most treasured properties as GhostbustersJem and the Holograms, My Little Pony, Star Trek, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles uncover characters’ secrets and mysteries shot 20 years into the future or tugged back to the past.

(12) RUN, CAT, RUN! Camestros Felapton has the news — “Shock billionaire spoiler candidate enters presidential race”.

Timothy the Talking Cat, billionaire CEO of publishing multinational “Cattimothy House” entered the 2020 Presidential fray, with a shock announcement on Tuesday. At a book launch in Borstworth Library, the outspoken cat and business guru laid out his vision for a new kind of US President.

(13) NEW BENNETT NOVELLA DISCUSSED. Several star reviewers from Nerds of a Feather participate in “Review Roundtable: Vigilance by Robert Jackson Bennett”.

CONTENT WARNING: This review discusses gun violence throughout, and includes references to child death. Also, we’re discussing the whole novella, so BEWARE SPOILERS.

Vigilance, the new novella from Robert Jackson Bennett, is out today and it’s a searing look at gun violence in the US. In this near future dystopia, John McDean is tasked with running “Vigilance”, the nation’s favourite reality programme, which releases real shooters are released on unsuspecting locations with military-grade armaments, and the resulting carnage is broadcast as a “lesson” in how to protect oneself. McDean and his crew at ONT station think they have the variables of Vigilance down to a fine art, but in the novella’s ensuing escalation find themselves taken down by one of McDean’s own blindspots, to dramatic effect.

We’ve got a lot of Bennett fans on our team here at Nerds of a Feather and when this novella came to our attention, lots of us were interested in reading it to review. That’s why, instead of taking it on alone, today I, Adri, am joined by Paul Weimer, Brian, and Joe Sherry to unpack Bennett’s highly topical novella and our reactions to it.

(14) MARKET UPDATE. Coming over the air now —

(15) PREY WITHOUT CEASING. We linked to the trailer yesterday, now The Hollywood Reporter explains it all to you: “How ‘Birds of Prey’ Footage Builds on ‘Suicide Squad’ Look”.

Margot Robbie’s next take on Harley Quinn is steeped in ’80s music video sensibilities. Gotham City’s newest protectors have arrived. Tuesday morning, following an Instagram post by Margot Robbie teasing her return as Harley Quinn, Warner Bros. released the first official behind-the scenes look at Cathy Yan’s Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). The first look teases viewers with quick glimpses of the main characters, who, alongside Robbie’s Harley Quinn, are comprised of Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez), Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina), and Black Mask (Ewan McGregor). Birds of Prey follows the events of Suicide Squad and finds Gotham City in a very different place following an apparent disappearance of Batman, and Quinn’s separation from the Joker. Harley finds herself on a continued path of redemption when she seeks to help a young girl, Cassandra Cain, escape the wrath of Black Mask by recruiting a force of Gotham heroines.

(16) OUT OF TIME. Vicky Who Reads makes it sound irresistible: “Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen (DRC): An Amazing Adult Sci-Fi Novel with Strong Family Themes”. Her review begins….

Kin Stewart used to be a time-traveling secret agent from 2142.

Now, stranded in suburban San Francisco since the 1990s after a botched mission, Kin has kept his past hidden from everyone around him, despite the increasing blackouts and memory loss affecting his time-traveler’s brain. Until one afternoon, his “rescue” team arrives—eighteen years too late.

(17) FROG STUFFING. Jon Del Arroz’ Happy Frogs lists are callbacks to what JDA thinks were the good old days of the Sad and Rabid Puppies. How much pull does he actually have? We’ll know if any of these names from “The Happy Frogs Hugo Award list” [Internet Archive link] show up on the 2019 ballot. (Well, it wouldn’t be a complete shock if David Weber got a nod for Best Series on his own – but that still leaves the rest of them.)

(18) WHERE FEW HAVE GONE. After five decades it’s hard to believe, but newly uncovered (or rediscovered) wide-format footage and uncatalogued audio was available as the basis for a new Apollo 11 documentary. Rolling Stone has the story of the doc plus a trailer (“‘Apollo 11’ Trailer: See Never-Before-Seen Footage From NASA’s Moon Mission”).

New footage from the lead-up to NASA’s first manned trip to the moon (and the landing itself) features in the upcoming documentary Apollo 11, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

“Crafted from a newly discovered trove of 65mm footage, and more than 11,000 hours of uncatalogued audio recordings, Apollo 11 takes us straight to the heart of NASA’s most celebrated mission—the one that first put men on the moon, and forever made Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin into household names,” distribution company Neon said of the film.

“Immersed in the perspectives of the astronauts, the team in Mission Control, and the millions of spectators on the ground, we vividly experience those momentous days and hours in 1969 when humankind took a giant leap into the future.”

(19) LAST THOUGHTS ABOUT BROADWAYCON. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.] On “Three on The Aisle:  Broadway Cosplay” at Americantheatre.org, Elisabeth Vincentelli gives a BroadwayCon report, which begins at sixteen minutes into the podcast and ends at 34 minutes.  She did see some cosplayers, such as a woman from West Virginia who sat on a bus wearing her costume as the Angel from Angels in America, and she occasionally did see fans wanting to get too close to the stars (which in the theatre world is known as “stagedooring.”)  But she also appreciated the substantive panels, such as one on Oklahoma where cast members sang songs they didn’t sing on stage, and noted that BroadwayCon is important enough that stars like Kristen Chenoweth show up there unannounced. Wall Street Journal drama critic Terry Teachout said he wanted to go next year and that “A critic incapable of being a fan is a critic that needs therapy.”

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

Pixel Scroll 1/13/19 It’s A Long Scroll That Has No Turning

(1) STOKER DEADLINE. Horror Writers Association Member Recommendations for the Bram Stoker Awards close on January 15, 2019 11:59 p.m. PST. Administrators warn that no recommendations will be accepted after the dates and times listed.

(2) NAILING DOWN THE DATE. The Minneapolis convention Convergence is moving to the Fourth of July, for reasons explained in a press release.  

…As our community knows, the Convergence Events, Inc. Board of Directors has chosen to move CONvergence from the DoubleTree Bloomington to the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis starting with our twenty-first convention on July 4th – 7th, 2019.  

Due to conditions outside of the Board of Directors’ control, this decision had to be made quickly in order to secure the location for the next five years.  This has resulted in possible convention dates outside our normal convention dates. To do otherwise would have resulted in additional moves to other hotels, more extreme date changes, and/or limited convention space and events.

(3) JEMISIN HIGHLIGHT. The New York Times Magazine features “New Sentences: From N.K. Jemisin’s ‘The Ones Who Stay and Fight’”.

N.K. Jemisin’s story “The Ones Who Stay and Fight” takes place in a near-utopia in which everyone is equally valued. Some curious residents, however, cannot resist the urge to eavesdrop on a very different world — one in which inequality is rife and violence is widespread and justice does not prevail: our world. They listen to our radio and watch our TV and tap into our social media. In doing so, they glean information about our ways. This knowledge infects them like a virus. They know there will be severe consequences. And yet the information-gleaners, like info-gleaners everywhere, cannot bring themselves to stop.

(4) GAIMAN READING LE GUIN. Brain Pickings offers a feast of poetry: “Neil Gaiman Reads Ursula K. Le Guin’s Ode to Timelessness to His 100-Year-Old Cousin”.

When my good friend and fellow poetry lover Amanda Palmer asked me to send a poem for her husband, Neil Gaiman, to read to his 100-year-old cousin, Helen Fagin — the Holocaust survivor who composed that arresting letter to children about how books save lives — I chose a poem by one of Neil’s dear friends, Ursula K. Le Guin (October 21, 1929–January 22, 2018), found in her final poetry collection, So Far So Good (public library) — one of the loveliest books of 2018.

Amanda immortalized this sweet and rather profound moment in a short video, shared here with the kind permission of everyone involved:

(5) DIABETES RESEARCH AND EDUCATION FUNDRAISER. SFF writer Christopher Rowe is a Clarion West graduate, a SFWA member, and has been a finalist for the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, Theodore Sturgeon, and Seiun Awards. He emailed: “I was recently (on December 10th, 2018) diagnosed with what was described to me as a ‘dangerously out of control’ case of Type 2 Diabetes. I’ve had to make a lot of life adjustments because of this, as you might imagine. One thing I’m doing is training for the 62-mile leg of the Kentucky edition of this year’s Tour de Cure, an annual fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association.”

Rowe’s Tour de Cure page adds:   

I used to be an active road cyclist in and around Central Kentucky, riding from my home in downtown Lexington. But that was years ago, and my beautiful Lemond Tourmalet bicycle has been gathering dust in my workshop for too long to recount.

But I had already decided that 2019 would be the year I return to the road even before I received my diagnosis, and the commitment I have made to taking control of my condition, and to sustained, disciplined self-management through exercise, diet, and scrupulous attention to my healthcare team’s advice, including taking medications, dovetails perfectly with the Tour de Cure.

Please consider making a donation to the American Diabetes Association’s crucial research and educational efforts through this webpage.

I have a ways to go before I’m in the physical shape I’ll need to be in to complete the Tour. We have a ways to go before any of us can rest easy about diabetes. But we’ll get there.

Rowe is already getting strong support from the sff community, and could use lots more: “Quite a few sf/fantasy folks–mainly writers and editors–have donated so far. My colleagues in George RR Martin’s Wild Cards Consortium have been especially generous, and there are more people whose names File 770 readers would recognize if they hadn’t chosen to donate anonymously. I have set myself quite a task with a goal of raising $10,000 by June 1st, but I believe I can do it.”

(6) GAME OF THRONES TEASER. A glimpse of Season 8 of Game of Thrones in “Crypts of Winterfell.”

(7) LASH OBIT. Comics creator Batton Lash died January 12 of brain cancer. He was 65. His wife, Jackie Estrada, said “He died in our home accompanied by friends, family, and caregivers. We have no plans for services yet, but at some point we will have celebrations of life in both San Diego and New York.”

Lash’s Wikipedia entry notes:

He is best known for the series Wolff and Byrd, Counselors of the Macabre (aka Supernatural Law), a comedic series about law partners specializing in cases dealing with archetypes from the horror genre, which ran as a strip in The National Law Journal, and as a stand-alone series of comic books and graphic novels. He received several awards for his work, including an Inkpot Award, an Independent Book Publishers Association’s Benjamin Franklin Award, an Eisner Award, and nominations for two Harvey Awards.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 13, 1930 — Mickey Mouse comic strip debuted in newspapers.
  • January 13, 1957 — The Wham-O Company developed the first frisbee.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 13, 1933Ron Goulart, 86. First I must acknowledge that he is very prolific and uses many pseudonyms  to wit Kenneth Robeson, Con Steffanson, Chad Calhoun, R.T. Edwards, Ian R. Jamieson, Josephine Kains, Jillian Kearny, Howard Lee, Zeke Masters, Frank S. Shawn, and Joseph Silva. (Eeek!) you did the see Doc Savage one in there, didn’t you? I’m reasonably sure that the I’ve read a lot of his fiction including the Flash Gordon series, his Avenger series, maybe a bit of the Vampirella novels, the Incredible Hulk definitely, not the Groucho Marx series though it sounds fun, and, well, damn he’s prolific. So what have you have read by him that you like? 
  • Born January 13, 1943 Richard Moll, 76. Ahhh though I remember him best from Night Court that’s not genre, but I’ve found that he voiced Harvey Dent aka Two-Face on Batman: The Animated Series with other appearances on Buck Rogers in the 25th CenturyMork & MindyFantasy IslandJurassic: Stone AgeHeadless HorsemanScary Movie 2The Flintstones and Metalstorm: The Destruction of Jared-Syn
  • Born January 13, 1945 Joy Chant, 74. Chant is an odd case as she only wrote for a short period between 1970 and 1983 but she produced a brilliant fantasy trilogy, the House of Kendreth trilogy, consisting of  Red Moon and Black Mountain, The Grey Mane of Morning and When Voiha Wakes. Her other main work, and it is without doubt truly brilliant, is The High Kings, illustrated lavishly by George Sharp and  designed by David Larkin with editing by Ian and Betty Ballantine. It is intended as a reference work on the Arthurian legends and the Matter of Britain with her amazing retellings of the legends. I’ve got one reference to her writing Fantasy and Allegory in Literature for Young Readers but no cites for it elsewhere. 
  • Born January 13, 1947 Peter Elson. Illustrator whose life was far too short as he died of a heart attack. If you were reading SF between the early seventies and the late eighties, it’s likely that you saw his astonishing artwork. I found him doing covers for the Sphere edition of Asimov’s Pebble in the Sky, a Mayflower edition of Leiber’s Swords Against Death and a Methuen edition in Canada on Zelazny’s To Die in Italbar, but a few of the several hundred covers he did. There’s an excellent website for him here: http://www.peterelson.co.uk/ (Died 1998.)
  • Born January 13, 1952 Jonathan R. Eller, 67. Scholar, Ray Bradbury specialist in this case. Two full length works, Becoming Ray Bradbury and Ray Bradbury Unbound, plus some thirty shorter works including “Textual Commentary (The Collected Stories of Ray Bradbury: A Critical Edition: Volume I: 1938-1943)” and “Annotations (Match to Flame: The Fictional Path to Fahrenheit 451)”.  He interviewed Bradbury twice, once in Cemetery Dance #65, listed as being published in 2011. 
  • Born January 13, 1960 Mark Chadbourn, 59. I’ve read his Age of Misrule series in which the Celtic Old Gods are returning in modern times and they’re not very nice. It’s followed by the Dark Age series which is just as well crafted. His two Hellboy novels are actually worth reading as well.

(10) BROADWAY FANDOM’S ANNUAL GATHERING. BroadwayCon was held this weekend (January 11-13) in New York City. Martin Morse Wooster looked into it and learned, “It’s like a fan con, with parties, a dealer’s room, cosplay, and getting autographs but it’s for theater geeks in Manhattan!  So they have panels like ‘My Descent Into HAMILTON Fandom.’  I learned that fans of the musical Newsies are ‘Fansies.’  I think I would enjoy the ‘Shakespeare Lovers’ Meetup.’”

Wooster discovered this parallel fandom because Three on the Aisle,” a theater podcast he likes, did a live session there. He continues –

BroadwayCon is put on by Mischief Management and was co-founded by Melissa Anelli. She comes out of Harry Potter fandom and wrote Harry: A History, which I read and is an entertaining book if you want to read about really obsessed Harry Potter fans. Mischief Management’s other cons are Con of Thrones in Nashville for Game of Thrones fans and two LeakyCons for Harry Potter fans, which will be held this year in Dallas and Boston.

(11) WIN SOME, LOSE SOME. BBC says the end may be near: “Spektr-R: Russia’s only space telescope ‘not responding'”.

Russia’s only space radio telescope is no longer responding to commands from Earth, officials say.

Astro Space Centre chief Nikolai Kardashev said some of the Spektr-R satellite’s communication systems had stopped working.

But it was still transmitting scientific data, RIA Novosti news agency reports.

The telescope has been operational way beyond its expected five-year lifespan, Russia’s space agency Roskosmos says.

(12) STRUMMIN’ ON THE OLD BANJO. John Scalzi outlines his “Revenue Streams, 2018” for Whatever readers. Domestic and foreign sales, TV/movie options, speaking engagements, etc., and a little comic relief —

10. Download/Streaming payments on my music: Wait, what, now? Weirdly, it’s true! I have an album of music you can download or stream, and apparently people actually have or do, since the payments show up in my PayPal account. I made dozens of dollars with my music last year! Dozens!!!

(13) ON ANNIHLATION. Lessons from the Screenplay brings viewers “Annihilation — The Art of Self-Destruction.”

(14) SELF-PROPELLED MEALS ON WHEELS. Food & Wine enthuses about the “Fleets of Snack-Wielding Robots to Invade College Campuses”.

The days when hungry college students had to physically walk to the cafeteria (or the dorm room vending machine, or the corner convenience store) to get a snack are numbered. This week, PepsiCo unleashed a fleet of snack-wielding, self-driving robots across the University of the Pacific’s Stockton, California campus. If all goes well, college snack-bots could become a pretty common sight in the not-so-distant future. 

…The robots were made in collaboration with Bay Area-based Robby Technologies, who say of their creations: “the size and dimensions evoke feelings of a small pet walking down the street.” They’re not wrong! According to a press release, the kinda-cute delivery-bots can travel over 20 miles on a single charge, and are outfitted with cameras and headlights that allow them to navigate in full darkness or rain. They’re also equipped with all-wheel drive, which lets them climb steep hills and handle curbs without tipping over. 

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

Pixel Scroll 1/2/19 A Noble Pixel Embiggens The Smallest Scroll.

(1) A STRANGER FOURTH. A creepy New Year’s countdown heralds the third season of Stranger Things.

1985 will never be the same. Stranger Things returns for a third season July 4, 2019 on Netflix.

(2) WHO SPECIAL CHALKS UP FEWER UK VIEWERS. “Ratings Low for Time-Shifted ‘Doctor Who’ Festive Special” says The Hollywood Reporter.

But its overnight viewings in the U.K. were anything but stellar, with 5.15 million tuning in on the BBC, a 22.4 percent share, according to reports, half a million less than Idris Elba’s return as Luther the same evening. The figure — which is before consolidated views have been included — marks the lowest for any Doctor Who festive special since the series returned in its modern form in 2005, and also Whittaker’s second-worst episode this season. By contrast, David Tennant’s first special landed 9.4 million overnight views, Matt Smith’s 10.3 million and Peter Capaldi’s 6.3 million. However, these were all broadcast Christmas Day.

(3) AQUAMAN. He’s doing the backstroke to the bank: “Aquaman swims past Wonder Woman at global box office, could pass Batman v Superman next “.

James Wan’s Aquaman became one of the highest-grossing DCEU films this week when it surpassed $822 million at the global box office, reports Variety.

This figure placed the feature above Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, which lassoed a little over $821 million during its theatrical run in 2017. Domestically, Aquaman also broke the $200 million mark in North America, but it still needs $197 or so million to beat Wonder Woman‘s total American gross of $412 million.

(4) WU AND ARISIA. During Brianna Wu’s 2018 congressional race she focused on issues with wide appeal, and on attracting attention from major media. But the other day on Facebook she returned a fannish subject, the forthcoming Arisia convention:

If you attend Arisia, Inc. this year, I’m not going to say anything to you – but I will absolutely think less of you.

A convention that had multiple sexual predators at senior leadership levels and ignored the rape of a teenager is not a convention you should support. You cannot attend Arisia and also also support women.

I will not be buying your books. I will not support your art. I will never do you a favor.

You are the choices the [sic] make.

(5) BLACK MIRROR IN FINANCIAL TIMES. Martin Morse Wooster peeked behind the Financial Times paywall to report on their coverage of Black Mirror’s “Bandersnatch” episode.

In the December 29 Financial TImes, Shannon Bond interviews “Black Mirror” showrunners Charlie Brooker and Anabel Jones about the forthcoming episode of Black Mirror called “Bandersnatch” which will be interactive.  It’s about a choose your own adventure writer who gets trapped in “a branching set of storylines that descend down rabbit holes exploring free will and mind control.”

“‘We didn’t know what the story would be and we were like, ‘Wouldn’t that just be a gimmick?’ said Mr Brooker.

But once the pair hit upon a plot with the right themes, they were quick to embrace the opportunity, said Ms Jones,

‘It’s absolutely baked into the story this idea of freedom of choice and control and the illusion of control and the illusion of choice.  Once you’ve got that as the basic conceit and you have the protagonist and you can give them multiple endings but these endings only build to reinforce the whole, then that’s delicious,’ she said.”

They could call it “Choose Your Own Adventure–To Despair!” says Wooster. “Good times!”

(6) BEWARE THE BIRD BOX CHALLENGE. Ethan Alter, in “Netflix to Fans:  Don’t Be Like Bullock And Avoid BIRD BOX Challenge,” says that Netflix is telling fans to avoid a viral challene to do things while blindfolded just like Sandra Bullock does in BIRD BOX, saying they could hurt themselves and Bullock announced she bumped into the Steadicam several times while doing her blindfolded scenes.

(7) ROBERTS OBIT. BBC reports “Net’s founding father Dr Larry Roberts dies aged 81”

American scientist Larry Roberts who helped design and build the forerunner of the internet has died aged 81.

In the late 1960s, he ran the part of the US Advanced Research Projects Agency (Arpa) given the job of creating a computer network called Arpanet.

He also recruited engineers to build and test the hardware and software required to get the system running.

Arpanet pioneered technologies underpinning the internet that are still used today.

Dr Roberts is recognised as one of the four founding fathers of the internet along with Bob Kahn, Vint Cerf and Len Kleinrock.

The son of two chemists, Dr Roberts reportedly chose electronics as a field of study because it was more forward-looking.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 2, 1920 Isaac Asimov. I can’t possibly summarise him here so I won’t. My favourite novels by him are the original Foundation novels followed very closely by his Galactic Empire series and I, Robot. I also still like the Robot series a lot and I know I’ve read a lot of his short fiction. (Died 1992.)
  • Born January 2, 1929Charles Beaumont. He is best remembered as a writer of such Twilight Zone episodes such as “The Howling Man”, “Printer’s Devil”, and the “Number Twelve Looks Just Like You”, but he also penned the exemplary 7 Faces of Dr. Lao screenplay, and The Masque of the Red Death, a horror film with Vincent Price which is rather good. (Died 1967.)
  • Born January 2, 1978 Renée Elise Goldsberry, 41. Currently Quellcrist Falconer in the Altered Carbon series with her first SF role having been Crewman Kelly on the “Vox Sola” episode of Star Trek: Enterprise. I think her only other genre appearance is as Denise Watkins in the long titled “Things to Do in New York When You Think You’re Dead” episode of Life on Mars series. I’ve read the entire Altered Carbon series but not seen the series, so how is it? 
  • Born January 2, 1979 Tobias Buckell, 40. I read and enjoyed a lot his Xenowealth series which was both both original and managed to wrap nicely. Do note that “The Alchemist and The Executioness “ novella  he wrote with the latter and is which is part of the latter’s Tangled Lands Universe is definitely worth chasing down out for reading
  • Born January 2, 1983 Kate Bosworth, 36. Not a long resume in the genre I grant you but her Lois Lane in Superman Returns certainly was impressive and she’s was recently in a series that I’m looking forward to seeing no matter how depressing it probably is, an adaptation of Len Deighton’s SS-GB, and she’s got The I-Land, a web series which sounds more horror than SF forthcoming. 

(9) FINALLY THEY TRIED SCIENCE. The popular theory about learning-by-guess was always wrong: “Why Millions Of Kids Can’t Read, And What Better Teaching Can Do About It”.

Harper attended a professional-development day at one of the district’s lowest-performing elementary schools. The teachers were talking about how students should attack words in a story. When a child came to a word she didn’t know, the teacher would tell her to look at the picture and guess.

The most important thing was for the child to understand the meaning of the story, not the exact words on the page. So, if a kid came to the word “horse” and said “house,” the teacher would say, that’s wrong. But, Harper recalls, “if the kid said ‘pony,’ it’d be right because pony and horse mean the same thing.”

Harper was shocked. First of all, pony and horse don’t mean the same thing. And what does a kid do when there aren’t any pictures?

This advice to a beginning reader is based on an influential theory about reading that basically says people use things like context and visual clues to read words. The theory assumes learning to read is a natural process and that with enough exposure to text, kids will figure out how words work.

Yet scientists from around the world have done thousands of studies on how people learn to read and have concluded that theory is wrong….

(10) OLD TECH MADE NEW. NPR “Climate Change Is Bad For Peru’s Pastures … But There’s A 1,200-Year-Old Fix”

Climate change, vanishing ice and erratic rain patterns are causing the wetlands in two Andean communities to shrink — and that’s a big problem for the communities of Miraflores and Canchayllo. The villagers depend on the puna, a set of alpine ecosystems above 13,000 feet that include grasslands and wetlands to graze sheep, cows, alpacas, llamas and vicunas — animals that provide them with their livelihoods.

Instead of looking for modern solutions to improve access to water, the villagers turned to an old one: centuries-old hydraulic systems that dot the Nor Yauyos Cocha Landscape Reserve, a state-protected natural area seven hours east of Lima. These ancient systems have been used to help irrigate the reserve’s pastures and provide nutrient-rich soil for hundreds of years.

So in 2013, the communities teamed up with scientists from U.S. nonprofit The Mountain Institute (TMI) and reserve authorities to devise plans to revive their historic waterways, including canals, lakes and reservoirs. In addition to providing water, the project would also help mitigate the effects of climate change on the landscape, which has been degraded by grazing, melting glaciers and erratic rainfall.

(11) THE SPEED OF DARK. The real world moves past Moon’s novel: “The firm whose staff are all autistic”.

Peter, Evan and Brian work at a small technology firm based by the beach in Santa Monica, testing software and fixing bugs.

On first inspection it seems like any other Los Angeles-based company, with tasteful art on the white walls and calm-inducing diffusers dotted about.

Peter describes the working atmosphere as “quiet, but fun”, and especially likes the fact that there is no pressure to socialise, while Evan says of his employers that they are “very accommodating and understanding”. Brian describes his office as “unique”.

Auticon is one of only a handful of companies that cater exclusively for employees who are on the autistic spectrum.

Formerly known as MindSpark before being acquired by German-based Auticon, the firm was founded by Gray Benoist who, as the father of two autistic sons, saw few options in the workplace that could cater for their needs.

(12) BETTER FUZZY PIXELS. “New Horizons: Nasa probe survives flyby of Ultima Thule” – BBC has the story.

The US space agency’s New Horizons probe has made contact with Earth to confirm its successful flyby of the icy world known as Ultima Thule.

The encounter occurred some 6.5bn km (4bn miles) away, making it the most distant ever exploration of an object in our Solar System.

New Horizons acquired gigabytes of photos and other observations during the pass.

It will now send these home over the coming months.

The radio message from the robotic craft was picked up by one of Nasa’s big antennas, in Madrid, Spain.

(13) THE FAR SIDE. Follow-up to a previous Scroll item: “China mission primed for landing on Moon’s far side”

China is preparing to make the first attempt at landing robotic spacecraft on the Moon’s far side.

A static lander and rover are expected to be deployed to the surface in the next day, state media reports.

The vehicles are carrying a suite of instruments designed to characterise the region’s geology, as well as a biological experiment.

In recent days, the Chang’e-4 spacecraft had lowered its orbit in preparation for landing.

At the weekend, Chinese state media said the probe had entered an elliptical path around the Moon, bringing the vehicles to within 15km (9 miles) of the lunar surface at its closest point.

Authorities have not specified the exact time of the attempt to touch down in the Von Kármán crater. But a report in the state-run China Daily newspaper suggests Chang’e-4 could begin descending on its thrusters sometime from 2-3 January.

(14) ORBITAL OBSTETRICS. The Atlantic reports a proposed experiment: “Imagine Giving Birth in Space”.

“SpaceLife Origin, based in the Netherlands, wants to send a pregnant woman, accompanied by a “trained, world-class medical team,” in a capsule to the space above Earth. The mission would last 24 to 36 hours. Once the woman delivered the child, the capsule would return to the ground. “A carefully prepared and monitored process will reduce all possible risks, similar to Western standards as they exist on Earth for both mother and child,” SpaceLife Origin’s website states. The company has set the year 2024 as the target date for the trip.

“The concept raises a host of questions—we’ll get to those later—but perhaps the most immediate may be this: Why?

(15) JEOPARDY! Direct from Andrew Porter’s living room, tonight’s sff reference on Jeopardy!

In Final Jeopardy, in “British Memoirs,” the answer was, “Before his death in 1996, this famous son wrote the memoirs “The Enchanted Places” & “The Hollow on the Hill”.

Wrong questions: “Who is Churchill?”, “Who is Christopher Tolkien?”

Correct question: “Who is Milne?” — Christopher Robin Milne

(16) HERTZ PENS COOLEST VERSE. John Hertz cheered me up after reading my complaint about a cold house —

We all of us knew you were cool,

But now it seems too you are cold.

We’ll hope that you had a good Yule

And were safe while Old/New Year change rolled.

But we still don’t see a new header,

And your scrolling voice has been scant.

Are you merely under the weather?

Or does some worse thing mean you can’t?

I join my small voice to the others

Who wish you both good and the best.

You know that if we had our druthers

You’d not go through any such test.

(17) THE VOLCANIC KIMCHI CURE. But if I need it, LAist touts “Kimchi Jjigae, The Volcanic Korean Stew That Can Kill Colds”.

When the winter sun sets before 5 p.m. and you’re nursing a nasty case of the sniffles, there’s a piping-hot Korean stew that provides the perfect antidote to illness and hunger. Huge, hearty and volcanic red, kimchi jjigae can blaze the mucus out of your body better than a Neti pot.

The Korean dish is believed by some to have originated in the mid-Joseon era, during or shortly after the Imjin Wars of 1592 to 1598, when Japan invaded Korea and brought Portuguese traders’ chili peppers with them. Others argue that the chili has been farmed in Korea for 1,500 years, after it was brought to the region millions of years ago by birds. Still others believe the chili came from China, thanks to Indian and Arab traders peddling the seeds along the Silk Road.

Whatever kimchi jjigae’s origins, it lets thrifty Korean cooks use super-ripe kimchi that’s not ideal to eat on its own. With the kimchi’s intensity mellowed by pork, tofu, gochugaru (chile pepper flakes), garlic, ginger, scallions and broth, the spicy stew has become a year-round favorite. During long, harsh winters, like the kind we have here in Los Angeles, jjigae with pork has a reputation as an almost magical antidote to winter colds….

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

Report on the 2018 World Fantasy Convention

By Michael Whelan

By Martin Morse Wooster:

World Fantasy Convention (Baltimore, November 1-4, 2018)

 If you want to know how a World Fantasy Convention differs from your typical convention, here is what happened when I checked in on Thursday.

I was running late, and after getting to the con, getting to my hotel, and getting to the Renaissance Hotel where the con was held, it was 8 PM.  Registration closed at 7.  I felt very tired and frustrated.  I was going to miss the opening ceremonies.

Then a member of the Washington Science Fiction Association who I didn’t think particularly liked me said, “Why don’t you walk right in?”

What?  No security?  No badge checks?  No cops?

Welcome to the World Fantasy Convention, where everyone is civil.

Here’s another example.  I was taking a nap Friday afternoon in a chair in the central area of the convention, and woke up, and who was sitting next to me but Michael Whelan (Michael Whelan!) signing some paperbacks.

“I’ve admired your work for 30 years,” I said.  He thanked me.

I’ve been to six World Fantasy Conventions, and I think their purpose has changed.  They were founded in 1975 to do two things:  make sure that fantasy was as respectable as sf, and be a place where writers, editors, and publishers could congenially conduct business.

Their first goal, of course, was achieved decades ago and fantasy is more popular than sf.  As for the convention, there were as many writers as ever, including blue chips such as John Crowley and Joe Haldeman.  But there weren’t as many editors, even though Baltimore is a two-hour train ride from New York.  Ellen Datlow, Sheila Williams, and Gordon Van Gelder were there, as were Irene Gallo and Tom Doherty of Tor.  I don’t think there were many other major book editors there; Patrick Nielsen Hayden in particular was conspicuous by his absence.

All the lavish parties thrown by big publishers have disappeared with one exception.  For the past 35 years, super-agent Howard Morhaim has held a black-tie dinner at the World Fantasy Convention.  He held one this year.  If you’re successful enough that you regularly attend black-tie dinners, you got an invitation.

The World Fantasy Convention is known for three things:  its con suite, its art show, and its dealer’s room.

First off, the con suite was outstanding.  You pay a lot for a World Fantasy Convention membership, but part of the deal is that the con suite has real food.  I had four meals there, and everyone who worked that room gets a big thumbs up from me, and whoever made the barbecue on Saturday night gets two thumbs up.

I was disappointed in the dealers’ room.  Part of what makes a World Fantasy Convention special is that the dealers have rarities you don’t see every day.  But most of the dealers had more normal books.  However, Greg Ketter of Minneapolis’s DreamHaven Books had some finds.  He had a copy of The Outsider and Others that you could pick up and flip through—but very carefully, since the book sells for $5,000.  In a case he had a copy of the first edition of Again, Dangerous Visions in a dust jacket signed by 14 contributors for $600.

But Ketter’s prize was a first edition of a cheesy 1967 paperback called Pleasure Planet (“the whole world was obsessed by the pleasures of sex”), the first novel by Robert E. Vardeman.  Vardeman signed his novel with an inscription so tasteless, so depraved that I dare not repeat it in a family blog.  But you can find out what Vardeman wrote for $75!

Here’s a book I couldn’t find.  Ursula K. Le Guin was interviewed in the last year of her life about writing; the interviews have been published this summer by Tin House Books as Ursula K. Le Guin:  Conversations on Writing.  No dealer had this book.  Don’t they think customers would be interested in Le Guin?

I didn’t spend as much time in the art show as I should have, but it was large and filled with art by Guest of Honor Tom Kidd as well as Donato Giancola.  Another theme was about women in sf and fantasy and featured paintings featured as covers on books and magazines, many from the collections of Edie Stern and Joe Siclari.  I am told there was an original Margaret Brundage painting there, but I didn’t see it.

As for panels, I didn’t see as many as I should have because I was having too much fun chatting with fans.  I learned everything from why Latter-Day Saints don’t have any crosses in their churches to what it was like to film monster movies in Hamilton, Ontario.  (The director, Catherine Whitlock, was wearing a t-shirt promoting her film Vampire Dentists—you know, they drill by day and suck at night.)

I also heard this story about Dragon Con.  Early in the convention’s history, Dragon Con shared a hotel with the Salvation Army.  The Sally Anns made prune faces at the cosplayers, but the Sallies had a parade.  Dragon Con organizers thought a parade was a splendid idea, and the parade is a highlight of Dragon Con.

I also learned lots of new words.  A “chapterbook” is a book for beginning readers who have graduated from picture books.  It isn’t very long, but it has chapters, just like the ones older readers devour.  A “plot bunny” is a plot thread that diverts people writing their novels in November for National Write Your Novel Month from plowing forward to get their 50,000 words done.  Plot bunnies need to be crushed.

Finally, two winners of World Fantasy Awards thanked their “beta readers.”  I don’t know why this term is better than “friends in my writer’s group.”

As for panels, I saw the part of the opening ceremonies where toastmaster Linda Addison provided fun facts about the guests of honor.  Aliette de Bodard lived in a tiny apartment in Paris with a toddler, a husband, and “Lovecraftian plants.”  Tom Kidd has a lifetime passion project called “Gnemo,” which I gather is neither about Captain Nemo or Winsor McCay’s Nemo.  Scott Edelman was a Stoker finalist seven times…

“Eight!” Edelman said.

I was impressed by the way moderator Lee Modesitt steered a discussion about politics in fantasy to avoid all minefields, particularly when an audience member mentioned a novel by John Ringo and Tom Kratman whose premise seemed particularly dopey. Modesitt ended the Baen Books discussion very quickly.  Modesitt, who served in the Reagan Administration, noted that when he puts politics in his sf he gets plenty of comments, but no one notices the politics in his fantasies.

The high point, however, was Russian émigré Anatoly Beilkovsky, who, when asked if Animal Farm was a political fantasy, said, “I consider it nonfiction.”  Beilkovsky noted that Russians have a hearty appetite for trashy alternative history, such as a series where a submarine travels from today to 1942 solely to kill Admiral Hyman Rickover.  Beilkovsky added that there were commanders on both sides of the conflict in Ukraine who, before the war, wrote military sf novels.  They may be fighting today, but before the war these novelists “used to party together at conventions.”

At the panel on audiobooks, Simon Vance, a British narrator now living in San Francisco who has won a ton of audiobook awards, impressed me.  Vance carefully prepared for every project.  He was the reader for Alan Moore’s Jerusalem, and asked Neil Gaiman for advice. Gaiman said that Moore’s giant novel was set in Northhampton, and Vance needed to talk to Moore and see some of the landscape Moore used for his novel.  So four days before he started, he got on an airplane, went to England, interviewed Moore and saw some of the landscape that Moore used. Then he flew back to San Francisco and began recording Moore’s book, which takes 60 hours to listen to.

The World Fantasy Awards were a dour affair.  One of the themes of the convention was “safe havens,” and Linda Addison explained how she found the world of science fiction and fantasy a safe haven from the fools and trolls who routinely harass her.  At least three winners—including Canadian Charles de Lint—urged members to vote on Tuesday, with Betsy Wollheim saying that she was an editor, “so please pick up your editorial pens and vote.”

Someone needed to tell at least one joke to break up the gloom.  So when Gordon Van Gelder announced that there would be a panel where the World Fantasy Awards judges explained their decisions, I shouted, “Omigod!”

“Yes,” Van Gelder said, “it’s always interesting to see how the sausage was made.”

Then I got my luggage and went home.