Pixel Scroll 1/11/20 The Yellow Brick Road Must Roll

(1) PROZINE REJOINS THE LIVING Compelling Science Fiction has been saved from the scrapheap of history. Editor Joe Stech explains how it happened:

We’re back in business and will be open to submissions once again on Monday, January 13th!

After I announced in September that Compelling Science Fiction would be shutting down for good, Nick Wells of Flame Tree reached out to me and suggested we work together to keep the magazine publishing our unique brand of science fiction stories. Over the last month we came to an agreement that will allow Compelling Science Fiction to continue publishing — you may recall that my issue was one of time, and Flame Tree will take over many of the most time-consuming aspects of the magazine. My role will transition to that of editor-in-chief, and Nick will take over the publishing role. I’m very excited to work with Nick and Flame Tree, and continue to support this genre of fiction that I love.

We’ll be transitioning to a quarterly schedule, and will also be accepting submissions much more often. Authors, we need your wonderful stories, so please send them our way! And readers, thanks for entrusting us with your time. I will always treat it with respect, and do my best to provide the types of stories you come here for.

(2) MORE SFF ON JEOPARDY! David Goldfarb says “The third episode of the ‘Greatest of All Time’ Jeopardy! tourney had a number of SFF-related questions.”

Here was the $800 answer in “Prequels and Sequels”:

Edited by the author’s son Christopher & published in 1977, it’s a history of Middle-Earth before “Lord of the Rings”.

Ken Jennings readily questioned, “What is Silmarillion?”

And the $400 answer:

Set for release in 2020 is Suzanne Collins’ “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes”, a prequel to this series.

James Holzhauer asked, “What is The Hunger Games?”

In the “TV Green Thumb” category:

$1200: On “The Handmaid’s Tale”, this wife of Commander Waterford has some pivotal scenes in her greenhouse.

Two wrong guesses, but nobody got, “Who is Serena?”

$1600: Played by Carolyn Jones in the ’60s, she loved to cut the heads off her roses, & rejoiced when her thorns came in sharp.

Crickets. “Who is Morticia Addams?”

And the $2000 featured a picture of Jean-Luc Picard and Boothby the groundskeeper: Jean-Luc Picard once helped Boothby, played by this one-time TV Martian, to replant some flowers at Star Fleet Academy.

Ken Jennings got it: “Who is Ray Walston?”

Goldfarb concludes, “The game in the second half (each day’s game is two regular games put together) had questions about Cocteau’s ‘La Belle et Le Bête’ and Grieg’s ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’, but I’m going to call those only genre-adjacent and not quote them.”

Then, Andrew Porter saw this go down —

Category: Book Marks

Answer: In this novel, Mark Watney says, “I didn’t die on Sol 6. Certainly the rest of the crew thought I did.”

Wrong question: What is “The Sun Also Rises?”

Right question: What is “The Martian.”

(3) DIAGNOSING SUCCESS. The Hollywood Reporter’s Patrick Shanley probes “The Key Difference Between Video Game and Film Remakes”.

…Video game remakes work because, in many ways, they are the antithesis of film remakes. They honor the original vision by elevating it to what it was hoping to be but unable to achieve due to the limits of technology. The best remakes (in any medium) maintain the heart and soul of their source material while simultaneously modernizing them. In that regard, games have outshone film, delivering on the promise of the original while also updating them in a way that appeals to the nostalgia of longtime fans and the discerning eye of newcomers.

(4) STREAMING SEVENTIES SFF. [Item by Rob Thornton.] Criterion Channel, a streaming service that focuses on art films and is based on the home video distributor The Criterion Collection, will be featuring a wide range of science fiction films from the 1970s for most of January 2020. The service’s sci-fi offerings for the month are:

  • No Blade of Grass (Cornel Wilde, 1970)
  • A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971) [based on the Anthony Burgess novel of the same name]
  • The Omega Man (Boris Sagal, 1971) [based on Richard Matheson’s novel I Am Legend]
  • THX 1138 (George Lucas, 1971)
  • Z.P.G. (Michael Campus, 1972)**
  • Westworld (Michael Crichton, 1973)
    Soylent Green (Richard Fleischer, 1973) [based on Harry Harrison’s Make Room, Make Room!]
  • Dark Star (John Carpenter, 1974)
  • The Terminal Man (Mike Hodges, 1974)
  • Rollerball (Norman Jewison, 1975),
  • A Boy and His Dog (L. Q. Jones, 1975) [based on the Harlan Ellison story of the same name]
  • Death Race 2000 (Paul Bartel, 1975)
  • Shivers (David Cronenberg, 1975)
  • The Ultimate Warrior (Robert Clouse, 1975)
  • Logan’s Run (Michael Anderson, 1976)
  • God Told Me To (Larry Cohen, 1976)
  • Demon Seed (Donald Cammell, 1977)
  • Mad Max (George Miller, 1979)

Other genre-related SF films from the decade may already be available on the service (Tarkovsky’s Stalker and Solaris are definitely there) .

(5) JAMES DAVIS NICOLL. The proprietor tells us that today’s review — of An Illusion of Thieves by Cate Glass — is review 1500 on James Nicoll Reviews. His career total is “something like 6600 reviews.”

(6) CROWDFUNDING WISDOM. Cat Rambo tweeted the highlights from “Crowdfunding and Kickstartering with M.C.A. Hogarth.” Thread starts here.

(7) GETTING THE ROCKETS READY. CoNZealand has posted a “Hugo Awards Video” hosted by Tammy Coxen, this year’s awards administrator.

If you’d like to know more about the Hugo Awards, check out this new video from the CoNZealand team, talking about the history of the awards and why they’re so important.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 11, 1997 — in Japan, Barb Wire got released. Starring Pamela Anderson and a very brief outfit, it was based on a Dark Horse comic (written by John Arcudi and illustrated by a rotating group of artists), the film was made on a shoehorn budget (about the size of her outfit) of nine million but was still a box office bomb bringing in only four million. Excepting Ebert, most critics didn’t like it and the reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes are especially harsh, giving it just a 14% rating. And there’s a lot of them that don’t like it — 47, 276 so far! 
  • January 11, 2013 Survival Code (Borealis was its original name and it was called that in Canada), and it starred Ty Olsson, Patrick Gallagher and Michelle Harrison. It was directed by David Frazee. It won three Canadian Screen Awards at the Second Canadian Screen Awards for Best Dramatic Miniseries or Television Movie, Best Writing in a Dramatic Program or Miniseries, and Best Original Score for a Television Program. The film was created to be a series pilot for Space, but the series never happened for reasons we can’t find but Space, its distributor, aired it instead as a television film. Yes it scored well at the Canadian Screen Awards, but the reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes were less forgiving as it get just 33% there. 

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 11, 1906 John Myers Myers. Ahhh, Silverlock. I read the NESFA Edition which has the Silverlock Companion in it which is very useful as you know the novel’s very meta indeed. If you don’t have this, it was reprinted separately later. Thirty years after Silverlock was published, The Moon’s Fire-Eating Daughter novella came out. Myers claims it’s a sequel to Silverlock. (Died 1988.)
  • Born January 11, 1923 Jerome Bixby. His “It’s a Good Life” story became the basis for an episode of the original Twilight Zone episode under the same name, and which was included in Twilight Zone: The Movie. He also wrote four episodes for the original Star Trek series: “Mirror, Mirror”, “Day of the Dove”, “Requiem for Methuselah”, and “By Any Other Name”. With Otto Klement, he co-wrote the story upon which Fantastic Voyage series is based, and the Isaac Asimov novel was based. Bixby’s final produced or published work so far was the screenplay for The Man from Earth film.  (Died 1998.)
  • Born January 11, 1923 Wright King. He’s had roles in the SFF realm starting with Captain Video and His Video Rangers and including Johnny Jupiter, Twilight Zone, Out ThereThe Invaders, Planet Of The Apes , Invasion of the Bee Girls, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Logan’s Run. (Died 2018.)
  • Born January 11, 1930 Rod Taylor. First SFF role would be as Israel Hands in Long John Silver. He would follow that up with World Without End (which you probably heard of), The Time MachineColossus and the Amazon Queen (Taylor claims to have rewritten the script), The Birds (I really don’t like it), Gulliver’s Travels and last, and certainly least, The Warlord: Battle for the Galaxy. (Died 2015.)
  • Born January 11, 1937 Felix Silla, 83. He played Cousin Itt (sic) on The Addams Family in a role invented for the show. The voice was not done by him but rather provided by sound engineer Tony Magro in post-production. He was also responsible for the physical performance of Twiki on Buck Rogers in the 25th Century though the voice was supplied by Mel Blanc or Bob Elyea. And he played an unnamed Ewok on Return of the Jedi
  • Born January 11, 1961 Jasper Fforde, 59. I read and thoroughly enjoyed every one of his Thursday Next novels with their delightfully twisted wordplay as I did his Nursery Crimes series. I thought last year when I wrote Birthday note up that I had not read his Shades of Grey books and I was right — I now know that I read the first few chapters of the first one and wasn’t impressed enough to finish it. I do know I’ve not read the Dragonslayer series though I’ve heard Good Things about them. 
  • Born January 11, 1963 Jason Connery, 57. Son of Sir Sean Connery. He’s best known for appearing in the third series of Robin of Sherwood, a series I loved dearly including the music which was done by Clannad which I’ve got live boots of. He also played Jondar in the “Vengeance on Varos”story on Doctor Who during the Sixth Doctor era (my least favorite Doctor). He was Ian Fleming in Spymaker: The Secret Life of Ian Fleming. And he was a young Merlin in Merlin: The Quest Begins
  • Born January 11, 1971 Tom Ward, 49. He’s Captain Latimer in the Eleventh Doctor’s Christmas Special, “The Snowmen”. And he’s Edward Goodwin in Harry Price: Ghost Hunter. His latest genre role was as Sir Robert Peel in The Frankenstein Chronicles.
  • Born January 11, 1972 Amanda Peet, 48. Not a long SFF précis but an interesting one none-the-less.  She first shows up voicing Maria Montez in Battle for Terra. She was then Harlee in Martian Child which is at genre adjacent. She was ASAC Dakota Whitney in The X-Files: I Want to Believe. Say did you know that Quantum Quest: A Cassini Space Odyssey was paid for in part by NASA? Way cool. She voiced Ranger in it. 

(10) BRITISH INTERPLANETARY SOCIETY REMEMBERED. The London Review of Books has linked to “Operation Backfire” by Francis Spufford first published in 1999.  This history of the British space program mentions Arthur C. Clarke twice:  first in describing the British Interplanetary Society in 1944 and second a theological debate Clarke had with Lewis and Tolkien in 1958.

In November 1944 a group of men met in a London pub. In this fifth year of the war, the capital was dingy, dog-eared, clapped-out, frankly grimy. Though Britain had not shaken off its usual inefficiencies at mass production, it had converted its economy to the needs of the war more completely than any other combatant nation. For five years there had been no new prams, trams, lawnmowers, streetlamps, paint or wallpaper, and it showed. All over the city things leaked, flapped, wobbled and smelt of cabbage. It was the metropole that Orwell would project forward in time as the London of 1984.

These drinkers were not the kind of people to let an unpromising present determine the shape of things to come. They were the inner circle of the British Interplanetary Society, and in 1938 they had published a plan for reaching the Moon using two modules, one to orbit, one to descend to the lunar surface. The cost of the rocket – as much as a million pounds – was far more than they could raise, but they did have enough money to make a couple of instruments for it. ‘We were in the position of someone who could not afford a car, but had enough for the speedometer and the rear-view mirror,’ Arthur C. Clarke would remember. They constructed a ‘coelostat’, a device to stabilise the image of a spinning star-field. It was made from four mirrors and the motor of Clarke’s gramophone; it worked, and was proudly displayed in the Science Museum.

(11) “FUN” IS OVER. For awhile Jon Del Arroz branded his videos Diversity in Comics – but no more! “Why I’m Changing the Channel Name Back to Jon Del Arroz”.  Here’s the transcript of his explanation. (And remember, YouTube talking head videos really do tend to be one endless run-on sentence):

…But for here I’ve used the name Diversity in Comics over the last I guess two three months helped grow the channel quite a bit so thank you everybody came by because you saw the name and thought it was funny and all that but there comes a time where jokes have to end and we had a funny joke for a bit there and it was great and at this point I’m seeing that there’s a couple things that are an issue with this which is one that yeah it is needlessly antagonizing some people who get really worked up about this and and while I I do enjoy triggering people who get triggered for no reason and all that there there comes a time where joke a stand and it’s it’s just not funny and it’s not funny even watching somebody lose their minds over something like this anymore so definitely don’t want that happening anymore don’t want to insult anybody who might be a comic book reader who might check out the books and things like that I definitely want that to be something uh you know to where we can have are buying comic books and and we’re coming back and changing it back to just my name and the reason we’ll go with my name instead of something fancy….

(12) GIBSON INTERVIEW. William Gibson tells a Guardian writer, “‘I was losing a sense of how weird the real world was'”.

… As a Canadian writer who initially marked his territory in a future Japan, what attracted him to setting his post-Jackpot world in London? He doesn’t see it as so much of a jump. “On my first three or four visits to Japan I immediately thought that Tokyo had more in common with London than with any other city,” he says. “These disproportionately large sites of former empires, huge concentrated populations, recent wartime trauma, lots of fatalities. They’re capitals of island nations. But also cultural things: the fanatical attention paid to specific individual classes of objects. In London you could probably find a speciality shop for almost anything. And you certainly could in Tokyo. All these parallels. I’m curious that I’ve almost never seen it mentioned anywhere.”

(13) STRANGE DIRECTION. BBC reports “Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson exits over ‘creative differences'”.

Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson has left the sequel over “creative differences” with Marvel.

Derrickson made the original 2016 film starring Benedict Cumberbatch and had been due to deliver Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness in 2021.

There’s speculation that Derrickson and Marvel boss Kevin Feige disagreed about how scary the follow-up should be.

The director, whose credits include The Exorcism of Emily Rose and Sinister, had pledged “the first scary MCU film”.

He made the comments at San Diego Comic Con in July, where Feige swiftly clarified that it would still be suitable for teenage viewers. “It’s gonna be PG-13 and you’re going to like it!” he added.

Feige has since said it would not be a horror film, and that any scary sequences would be like those made by Steven Spielberg in films like Indiana Jones and Gremlins.

(14) MOMENT OF BOOM. “Popocatépetl: Mexican volcano’s spectacular eruption caught on camera” — someone caught the start of the eruption on a short video.

Mexico’s Popocatépetl volcano erupted on Thursday with a dramatic show of lava and a cloud of ash and rocks that reached 3,000m (9,800ft) into the sky.

No-one was hurt. Popocatépetl is an active stratovolcano, 70km (43 miles) south-east of the capital, Mexico City.

Its name means “smokey mountain” in the indigenous Náhuatl language.

(15) OPPOSITE OF SWATTING. Or so you might call it: “Teenager having seizure saved by online gamer – 5,000 miles away in Texas”.

The parents of a teenager who suffered a seizure while chatting online have thanked his friend who called emergency services from 5,000 miles away.

Aidan Jackson, 17, was talking to an American gamer from his bedroom in Widnes on 2 January when he had a fit.

His friend, 20-year-old Dia Lathora, from Texas, alerted police in the UK.

The first Aidan’s parents knew of the emergency was when police and an ambulance appeared at their front door, the Liverpool Echo reported.

Caroline and Steve Jackson then rushed upstairs to find their son “extremely disorientated”.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. They intend to live happily ever after:

Lee Loechler recently proposed to his girlfriend, Sthuthi David, by taking her to a packed theater to see her favorite movie, Sleeping Beauty. Little did she know that Loechler had spent six months altering the animation of the film’s most iconic scene, changing the characters to look like the couple themselves and altering the storyline to set up his Big Question. And that’s only the beginning.

Watching David’s face during the scene change is sheer delight, as her confused look proves that she has no clue what is about to happen. The set-up is great, but the magical moment when Loechler’s illustrated self tosses the engagement ring to his real-life self? That’s when we all toss up our hands and say, “OKAY, man. You win at proposing. Everyone else must bow before you now.”

The whole proposal—the re-illustrations, the heart jokes (David is a cardiologist), and the bride-to-be’s surprise when she finds surrounded by her friends and family—it’s all perfection. Just watch:

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

Pixel Scroll 1/2/20 Pixellate In Glorious Scrollovision

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But I digress. To answer your question…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spooky, huh?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

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

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

JOE HELLER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pixel Scroll 12/3/19 The Three Things Fans Collected Most, The Pixel, File And Holy Scroll

(1) NAVIGATING THE MAZES. Clarkesworld’s Arley Sorg interviews Juliette Wade — “Caste in Blood”.

The Mazes of Power copy calls it “sociological science fiction.” What does this mean exactly, and how does this term apply to Mazes? What are a few of your favorite sociological science fiction novels and how are they similar or different from Mazes?

Sociological science fiction, sometimes also called social science fiction, is science fiction that sets its major focus on society and its impact rather than on other elements like gadgets, technologies, or frontiers. This is not to say that those other things are not involved! The term definitely applies to Mazes of Power, which features a complex caste system with seven different levels, each of which has its own vocation, ideals, manners, and culture. Members of the castes struggle to cope with the expectations of their caste identities just as people in our world struggle with the identities that are placed on them. My favorite past work of sociological science fiction is Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness, which was one of the works that inspired me to explore characters’ culturally grounded judgments and flout readers’ underlying expectations. (The other major work that had the same effect was not science fiction, but the diary of Sei Shonagon, The Pillow Book.) I also consider Ann Leckie’s Imperial Radch series an example of sociological science fiction, though it’s more typically categorized as space opera. I love how Leckie keeps her focus tight and examines characters’ social and cultural expectations even as she works with the larger politics of the Radchaai Empire.

(2) UNCOMMON SENSES. Ad Age made me want to see it – perhaps you will too: “This adorable Star Wars-themed ad has an ending we didn’t see coming”.

The spot, created by Wunderman Thompson Philippines, depicts a pair of kids working on a mysterious building project. We see them going around town collecting items such as a tire, cardboard, plastic toys and tinsel, as well as a whole bunch of mobile phones, but it isn’t clear exactly what they are doing. (One thing is for sure — these kids are more creative and enterprising than the pair in the Apple holiday ad and their parents, rather than trying to keep them quiet with an iPad, are quite happy for them to wander on railway lines by themselves.) 

Finally, they invite a friend into their home to watch “Star Wars” in the special 4D viewing experience they’ve rigged up — and there’s an even more heartwarming twist that we definitely weren’t expecting. The final reveal is that the friend is actually deaf and they’ve created the whole thing just for her to be able to experience the movie without sound.

(3) GETTING SQUEEZED. In a guest post for According to Hoyt, Leigh Kimmel says dealer’s think it doesn’t look that good from ground level — “The Economy Seen from the Dealers’ Room Floor by Leigh Kimmel”.

…Overall, the figures show a troubling picture that squares with reports I’m hearing from a number of other convention dealers. Some of the decline in sales and profitability can be ascribed to a saturation of the convention market as more and more promoters, especially for-profit companies who have the financial reach to rent large venues and sign large numbers of high-ticket media guests, move into the business. Whereas a decade ago there might be only one or two conventions each year in a region, now there are often a dozen or more. Furthermore, very few of these conventions are old-school fan-run science fiction conventions where the membership can hang out with the guests of honor at the con suite. Instead, more and more of them are focused primarily on media celebrities and formal encounters with them, to the point that attendees (a significant difference in terminology) spend as much or more time and money on getting autographs and photo-ops with the celebrities as they do on buying things from the dealers and artists in the vendor hall.

Because these extremely celebrity-focused shows (often referred to as “autograph mills”) draw such large crowds, they can sound like great possibilities to a dealer accustomed to lower-key shows. However, they often prove to be a double whammy to the unsuspecting dealer’s bottom line: not only are the large crowds not spending on the dealers’ wares, but the large crowds are also used to justify much higher booth costs to vendors, leaving the vendor with a much higher break-even point….

(4) GOING TO THE WELLS AGAIN. Steve J. Wright reviews The War of the Worlds, the three-part TV adaptation recently shown on the BBC in “Martians Go Home”.

…Harness takes that time to create and expand on the characters, who are mostly just names in the novel – in fact, the narrator and his wife aren’t even named.  The domestic situation of George (Rafe Spall) and Amy (Eleanor Tomlinson) is drawn from H.G. Wells’s own turbulent personal life; the adaptation also codes astronomer Ogilvy (barely more than a name in the book) as gay, which attracted some criticism from the usual suspects…. One twerp apparently complained that the story was being made “too political”, which, since the book was written as a massive up-yours to colonial imperialism by one of the twentieth century’s foremost socialist pundits, makes me wonder what he was expecting.  (Again, because contemporary Victorian-Edwardian political references aren’t necessarily accessible to the modern audience, the adaptation takes the time to make the anti-colonial message explicit.)

(5) MCU LIVES ON. Marvel dropped the Black Widow teaser trailer yesterday.

(6) IN MEDIA RES. The BBC says origins are just short flashbacks in “Black Widow: Seven talking points from the new trailer”.

The character first appeared in 2010’s Iron Man 2, and has since then been a significant figure in the Marvel cinematic universe.

The new film, starring Scarlett Johansson, isn’t an origin story, but it does come before the events of the last two Avengers movies, Infinity War and Endgame.

It may not be out until May, but while we wait here’s seven talking points from Tuesday’s new trailer.

1) Just like Budapest!

The opening shot of the Hungarian capital Budapest teases that we’ll finally uncover more about an event briefly mentioned in the first Avengers movie back in 2012.

In that film, during the intensity of the battle of New York, Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow – firing off gun shots – casually says to Hawkeye: “Just like Budapest, all over again.”

Hawkeye responds: “You and I remember Budapest very differently!”

It’s a reference that has intrigued and excited fans ever since. But there is a complicating factor. This movie is set after, not before The Avengers. It actually follows the events of Captain America: Civil War. So is Budapest here a flashback, or is Black Widow revisiting it after traumatic events in the past?

(6) DEVISING LANGUAGE. Juliette Wade’s Dive into Worldbuilding recently featured “S. Qiouyi Lu and As Dark as Hunger”. View the video or read the synopsis – or both! Toward the end they also discuss whether there should be a Hugo award for translations.

… In “As Dark as Hunger,” the main character lives a simple humble life fishing, but then her former lover comes to the village. Her lover wants to hunt mermaids, because people pay handsomely for them, but to find a humane way of doing it that won’t kill them. S. told us that part of this conflict came from the conflicted feelings they have about shark fin soup. It’s a celebratory dish, but cruel because it kills sharks.

S. told us that they struggle with xenophobia in the US, where there is an anti-China climate. They want to be able to defend their personhood without feeling obligated to defend Chinese politics they don’t approve of.

In the story, there is a contrast between the village and the city. The village is downstream from the city, which pollutes its water. Talented people seek opportunity in the city, and children and the elderly are left behind. The city drains away the village’s people. The main character has an ethical objection to hunting mermaids, but she does want a better life than the stinking river.

One of the major themes of the story is diaspora, of being removed from the motherland. While, in this story world, foxes can shapeshift back and forth many times, mermaids can only shapeshift from tail to legs once, and then can’t change back. Their children are human. This is a metaphor for immigration and assimilation. One of the main character’s ancestors made this change in order to keep her descendants from being hunted, but in so doing, closed a door that could not be re-opened.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 3, 2000Frank Herbert’s Dune three-part series premiered on the SciFi Channel. Directed by John Harrison, its cast starred Alec Newman as Paul Atreides, William Hurt as Duke Leto, and Saskia Reeves as Jessica. The first Dune miniseries and this sequel are two of the three highest-rated programs ever to be broadcast on the Sci Fi Channel. Weirdly, it has no viewer rating at Rotten Tomatoes, but has a very healthy 71% rating among critics there. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 3, 1918 Polly Freas. Fan and wife of SFF artist Frank Kelly Freas with whom she had 3 children. She was much loved in fandom. She and Kelly co-edited Wonderworks: Science Fiction and Fantasy Art by Michael Whalen, which was a Hugo finalist for Best Nonfiction Book. She was Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, and was given a Special Award by Southern Fandom. (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 3, 1922 Donald Tuck. Australian fan and writer of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy through 1968 which he revised twice. SFE in the form of a lure says “among the most extensive produced since the pioneering work of Everett F. Bleiler.” It earned him A Special Hugo at Chicon III. Back in time, he found other fans in Hobart where he lived and they produced the first Tasmanian fanzine, Profan which had just three issues between April and September 1941. Bertram Chandler who visited the couple frequently honored Hobart by naming one of the spaceship bases in his novels after it. (Died 2010.)
  • Born December 3, 1937 Morgan Llewelyn, 82. Ok, so what have I read by her… The Horse Goddess is wonderful as is Grania: She-King of the Irish Seas and Lion of Ireland which I read a long time ago because the now closed Brian Born Pub had just opened here and I was interested in his story. I later booked uilleann piper Paddy Keenan there…
  • Born December 3, 1948 Ozzy Osbourne, 71. Yes, he has a history in SFF films — most of it is in voicing characters though he did show up as himself in the recent Ghostbusters film. His first appearance in our genre was as himself (“Famous Rock Star“) along with Simmons in Trick or Treat (also known as Ragman and Death at 33 RPM. He’s the voice of The Vicar in Robbie the Reindeer in Close Encounters Of The Herd Kind, and Fawn in Gnomeo & Juliet and Sherlock Gnomes
  • Born December 3, 1958 Terri Windling, 61. Author of The Wood Wife, winner of the Mythopoeic Award for Novel of the Year, she has deservedly won has won nine World Fantasy Awards, the Bram Stoker Award, and The Armless Maiden collection was on the short-list for the then named James Tiptree, Jr. Award. Along with Ellen Datlow, Windling edited sixteen volumes of the Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror  from 1986–2003. (Yes, the first volume is actually called Year’s Best Fantasy. I do have a full set here so I know that.) She is one of the core creative forces behind the mythic fiction emergence that began in the early Eighties through her work as an  editor for the Ace and Tor Books fantasy lines, and they also edited a number of anthologies such as the superb Snow White, Blood Red series which collected the very best in contemporary fantasy. I’m very fond of her work with Illustrator Wendy Froud, wife of Brian Froud, on the Old Oak Wood series about faeries living in the Old Oak Wood.  She interviewed one of them, Sneezlewort Rootmuster Rowanberry Boggs the Seventh, for Green Man here.
  • Born December 3, 1960 Daryl Hannah, 59. She made her genre debut in Brian De Palma’s The Fury, though she’s better known as Pris in Blade Runner. And she was the mermaid Madison in Splash. In a decidedly unfashionable role, she was Ayala in The Clan of The Cave Bear which by being Mary Plunkett Brogan in High Spirits where she was nominated  for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress. Was she that bad in it? Last latest genre role I think was in the Sense8 series as Angelica Turing. 
  • Born December 3, 1968 Brendan Fraser, 51. The Mummy and The Mummy Returns are enough to get him Birthday Honors. Though he’s been in Monkeybone based on Kaja Blackley’s graphic novel Dark TownSinbad: Beyond the Veil of MistsLooney Tunes: Back in ActionJourney to the Center of the EarthG.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and being Robotman on the Doom Patrol  series that that airs on DC Universe.
  • Born December 3, 1969 John Kenneth Muir, 50. I really adore niche non-fiction writers with genre focus. He did write a novel, Space: 1999: The Forsaken, but horror is his passion as he’s written Horror Films of the 1970s, Horror Films of the 1980s and Horror Films of the 1990s, all on Macfarland. He’s also authored A Critical History of Doctor Who on Television which covers the classic Who and yet more horror in Horror Films of the 1990s.
  • Born December 3, 1980 Jenna Lee Dewan, 39. She portrayed Freya Beauchamp on the Witches of East End and played Lucy Lane in The CW version of Supergirl. She’s Tamara, complete with bloody axe, in the horror film Tamara. She’s Sophia Loomis in the unsold Dark Shadows pilot. It was commissioned by The WB and produced in 2004, but not picked up for a series. You can see that pilot here.
  • Born December 3, 1985 Amanda Seyfried, 34. She plays Zoe, the lead Megan’s best friend in Solstice, a horror film. Another horror film, Jennifer’s Body, shortly thereafter, finds here playing Anita “Needy” Lesnicki. Red Riding Hood, yes, another horror film, had her cast has as Valerie. She plays Sylvia Weis in In Time in a dystopian SF film next and voices Mary Katherine, Professor Bomba’s 17-year-old daughter in Epic which is at genre adjacent. She’s living Mary in an animated Pan, a prequel to Peter Pan which sounds delightful. Lastly, she has a recurring role as Becky Burnett on Twin Peaks. And did we decide Veronica Mars was at least genre adjacent? If so, she has a recurring role as Mary on it. 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

  • xkcd helps you figure out if it’s Christmas yet.

(10) MORE BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS. NPR’s Book Concierge filters the year’s titles into many categories, such as the Best Geek Books of the Year and Best Genre Books of the Year. Chip Hitchcock tried out the links and forwarded them with a note on his experience: “Thanks to recommendations from Filers and others, I’ve read 13/63 of the genre books, including 1 I’d disrecommend and 2 I’d recommend only with serious caveats. I’ve read only 1 of the 15 geek books not on the genre list — I know I should read more nonfiction….”

(11) CHINESE SF. Alexandra Alter tells New York Times Magazine readers “Why Is Chinese Sci-Fi Everywhere Now? Ken Liu Knows”. The profile extensively covers Liu’s work as a translator and curator as well as his own fiction, and repeatedly probes the constraints on Chinese sff at home.

…“The political climate inside China has shifted drastically from when I first started doing this,” Liu says. “It’s gotten much harder for me to talk about the work of Chinese authors without putting them in an awkward position or causing them trouble.” Liu usually travels to China at least once a year to network and meet new writers, and has attended the Chinese Nebula and Galaxy Awards, the country’s most well known science-fiction prizes. But this year he was denied a long-term visa, without explanation, prompting him to cancel his planned trip.

In another alarming setback, when his American publisher tried to send copies of his recent translations to writers in China, the shipments failed to arrive. It was unclear whether the books were seized or simply disappeared into a bureaucratic black hole. Liu finally managed to get copies distributed through visiting Chinese friends, each of whom carried a few copies back in their suitcases. In April, when I met Liu at the Museum of Chinese in America, he seemed irritated by the cumbersome workaround, which he called “preposterous.”

But later, when I asked if he felt he was being blacklisted by the Chinese government because of his translation work, Liu deflected and declined to speculate. “I don’t want to magnify the problem,” Liu told me, as we sat in a cafe a few blocks from the museum. “If the authors want to say something daring, then I will honor that, but I’m not going to impose my own politics on them. There’s a lot of room to say what you want to say if you leave things ambiguous.”

 (12) HELP THE PKD AWARD. Gordon Van Gelder says to raise money for the award there is an annual Philip K. Dick Award auction at World Fantasy Convention. This year, they had too many books to put all of them up for bids at the con, so the’re holding a score of auctions on eBay. Many signed books.

(13) UNKISSED TOADS ASSEMBLE. Amanda S. Green, who also writes under the name Sam Schall, says her friend Sarah A. Hoyt used her larger platform to recommend one of Schall’s works – an imprimatur which still didn’t deter some negative comments left by people who hadn’t even read the book: “A Cyber-Monday Promo and a Few Thoughts”.

…No matter how hard you try to write the best book possible, find the best cover you can and present your work in the best shape, someone is always going to hate. I learned long ago from a dear friend the dangers of reading reviews on Amazon, etc. All too often the person writing it never read the book or only read far enough to be offended. I was reminded of that this morning.

That same friend shared a link to the book. I made the mistake of checking the comments. Let’s say my first response was to beat my head against the desk. One person said not to read it because it was a book about a woman written by a male. Yep. I suddenly have a penis. You see, this person never bothered to look beyond the cover. They didn’t follow the link to Amazon and see not only the pen name listed but my real name as well. But, because they read the blurb on the page where the link was listed and saw “Sam Schall”, they just knew it had to be bad — and probably written by a white male deep into the patriarchy (okay, they didn’t quite say that last part but it was pretty clear).

Others hated the cover. That’s fine. That’s their right. The thing is, it does cue the genre and that is the important thing.

Then there was the one (or maybe two) who had a few words to say about how it is basically stupid to think there will be women in the military in fighting roles. Yep, they went there.

And here’s the thing. Each and every one of them were condemning the book without reading it. They were making judgments based solely on what they saw in the blurb and on the cover. Again, that’s their right. But it is also my right to point and laugh (or beat my head against the table).

(14) GENRE AND GENDER FLUID. The Lily’s Lena Felton says we should not be surprised: “A ‘Star Wars’ actor came out as ‘gender fluid.’ Women have been using sci-fi to explore gender and sexuality for centuries.”

Lisa Yaszek, a professor of science fiction studies at Georgia Tech, describes the feminist appeal of science fiction like this: “We can imagine spaces that radically break from our own world and from what we know or at least believe to be scientifically or socially true about sex and gender.”

The conversation around science fiction and gender recently broke out on the national stage, when Esquire published an interview with 82-year-old Billy Dee Williams, who’s best known for his role as Lando Calrissian in “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” (1980). He’ll be reprising the role for the first time since 1983 in “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” which comes out Dec. 20.

In his Esquire interview, Williams said he uses both “him” and “her” pronouns. “I say ‘himself’ and ‘herself,’ because I also see myself as feminine as well as masculine,” he said. “I’m a very soft person. I’m not afraid to show that side of myself.”

The moment was seized on by fans, with many applauding Williams’s “gender fluid” approach. But the discussion of gender in the context of “Star Wars” isn’t new; last year, Donald Glover, who played the same character in 2018’s “Solo: A Star Wars Story,” said he had a non-binary approach to his Lando, too.

(15) PICKING UP THE PIECES. Pixel-sized pieces at that — “Chandrayaan-2: Indian helps Nasa find Moon probe debris”.

Nasa says one of its satellites has found the debris of India’s Moon rover which crashed on the lunar surface in September.

The space agency released a picture showing the site of the rover’s impact and the “associated debris field”.

Nasa has credited an Indian engineer, Shanmuga Subramanian, with helping locate the site of the debris.

Mr Subramanian examined a Nasa picture and located the first debris about 750m north-west of the crash site.

…”We had the images from Nasa [of] the lander’s last location. We knew approximately where it crashed. So I searched pixel-by-pixel around that impact area,” the 33-year-old Chennai-based engineer told BBC Tamil.

Mr Subramanian said he had always “been interested in space” and had watched the July launch of the rocket.

(16) CRAWL OF THE WILD. “Raiders Of The Lost Crops: Scientists Race Against Time To Save Genetic Diversity”NPR has the story.

Call it a tale of science and derring-do. An international team of researchers has spent six years fanning across the globe, gathering thousands of samples of wild relatives of crops. Their goal: to preserve genetic diversity that could help key crops survive in the face of climate change. At times, the work put these scientists in some pretty extreme situations.

Just ask Hannes Dempewolf. Two years ago, the plant geneticist found himself in a rainforest in Nepal, at the foot of the Himalayas. He was riding on the back of an elephant to avoid snakes on the ground — and to scare away any tigers that might be lurking about. Then all of a sudden came an attack from above.

“There were leeches dropping on us from all directions,” Dempewolf recalls — “bloodsucking leeches.”

Now, this is far from where he thought he’d be when he got his Ph.D. But as a senior scientist and head of global initiatives at the Crop Trust, Dempewolf has been overseeing an ambitious international collaboration. More than 100 scientists in 25 countries have been venturing out to collect wild relatives of domesticated crops — like lentils, potatoes, chickpeas and rice — that people rely on around the world. The Crop Trust has just released a report detailing the results of this massive effort, which secured more than 4,600 seed samples of 371 wild relatives of key domesticated crops that the world relies on.

(17) THE TOK ISN’T CLICKING. More trouble for the PRC-based service: “TikTok suppressed disabled users’ videos”.

Videos made by disabled users were deliberately prevented from going viral on TikTok by the firm’s moderators, the app has acknowledged.

The social network said the policy was introduced to reduce the amount of cyber-bullying on its platform, but added that it now recognised the approach had been flawed.

The measure was exposed by the German digital rights news site Netzpolitik.

Disability rights campaigners said the strategy had been “bizarre”.

And the BBC adds: “TikTok sent US user data to China, lawsuit claims”.

Video-sharing app TikTok has been hit with a class action lawsuit in the US that claims it transferred “vast quantities” of user data to China.

The lawsuit accuses the company of “surreptitiously” taking content without user consent.

Owned by Beijing-based ByteDance, TikTok has built up a keen US fan base.

TikTok, which is thought to have about half a billion active users worldwide, has previously said it does not store US data on Chinese servers.

However, the platform is facing mounting pressure in North America over data collection and censorship concerns.

(18) TUNING IN. DJ Baby Yoda?

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

Pixel Scroll 10/26/19 A Møøse Once Bit My Pixel

(1) MORE MCU DEFENDERS, ER, AVENGERS SPEAK OUT. On The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, “The Avengers Respond To Marvel Movie Critics.”

You’re right, Hulk. The “Godfather” films do glorify violence.

(2) HELP IS ON THE WAY. S.L. Huang’s Ask an Author post “Cancelling Contracts and Norms in Publishing” does a full-spectrum post about contract cancellation – its infrequency, significance, how it can be handled badly, how a publisher ought to handle it, and what an author can do.

What makes cancellations worse:

There are two interrelated problems when a publisher has to suddenly cancel multiple contracts. The first is biting off more than they could chew as a press, which obviously isn’t ideal and can be a worrying comment on the state of their business, but it can happen without ill intent. But the second is how the publisher handles it.

Here are some things that can escalate a cancellation from unfortunate to disturbingly unprofessional: …

What a publisher should do in a situation like this:

Clarity. Communication. Transparency. Exploring any possible avenues before taking a route so extreme. If there are no other options, then: Apology, honest dialogue, taking responsibility, an immediate reversion of rights, an admission of the disservice they’ve done to the authors.

Ideally, a kill fee would be offered.

S&%t happens in publishing. How we treat people when it does is important. And yes, this is a business — but businesses have ethics, and norms, and professionalism. Contracts should be treated as if they mean something.

(3) TRICK OR TRICK. Former Horror Writers Association President Lisa Morton clues in the Washington Post about “The frightening history of Halloween haunted houses”.

It is unclear why exactly the pranks got so bad. Irish immigrants had carried over the Halloween tradition of pranking to the United States, but they had been pretty innocent. One of the most popular was to disassemble a neighbor’s front gate and reassemble it on top of a building. That one was so common that some people called Halloween “Gate Night.”But by the 1920s and ?30s, teenage boys had co-opted the pranking tradition, and they were on a Halloween warpath. They broke streetlights. They started fires. They tied wires across sidewalks to trip people….

“They were costing cities millions of dollars even in the early ’30s,” said Lisa Morton, author of “Trick or Treat: A History of Halloween,” in an interview with The Post. “There were a lot of cities that were really considering banning the holiday at that point. It was really, really intense.”

Parents and civil groups needed a solution. A distraction. Or a bribe.

And from this cauldron of parental panic, they pulled out an idea that, to this day, is part of what defines American Halloween.

They thought to throw the kids a party, but “because this was the Great Depression, a lot of people didn’t have the money … so one of the first things they did was called ‘house-to-house parties.’”

And the Guardian’s PD Smith devotes an article to Morton’s book in “Trick or Treat by Lisa Morton review – a history of Halloween”.  

(4) ALL OF HISTORY AND MORE Rudy Rucker’s book review “Two Dimensional Time and Annalee Newitz’s 2nd Novel” incorporates a detailed study of the genre’s different approaches to time travel – a virtual candy store of ideas.

The Newitz Option: Two Dimensional Time

Newitz takes an approach to the time paradoxes that’s kind of strange. She allows time travel and timeline editing. But she insists that there’s only one timeline. No parallel timelines, no branching timelines. Just our one timeline: “Our only timeline, whose natural stability emerged from perpetual revision.”

So, somehow, when you travel back in time, you alter the timeline..for everyone. But you yourself remember how it was before the change. This might be viewed as hopping to a different timestream, but Newitz doesn’t want that. She wants to have just one timestream. But the timestream is changing.

(5) FUTURE TENSE. Slate’s latest Future Tense story is Cory Doctorow’s “Affordances”, about how technical restrictions start with powerless people before coming for us all.

…Ninety-Two’s work in Building 34 was as an exceptions—catcher for a Re-Cog facial recognition product. All around the world, millions of people stepped in front of cameras and made a neutral face and waited: for their office door to unlock, for the lift to be summoned, for the gates at the airport to swing open. When the camera couldn’t figure out their face, it asked them to try again, and again, and again. Then it threw an exception, and 92, or someone else in Building 34, got a live view of the feed and tapped an icon: NO-FACE (for anything that wasn’t a face, like a picture of a face, or a balloon, or, one time, a pigeon); BAD SCENE (poor lighting, dirt on the lens); CRIME (once, a decapitated man’s head; once, an unconscious woman; once, a woman in terror, a hand in her hair); and OTHER (for suspected malfunctions).

Nettrice Gaskins, an artist-educator who collaborates with A.I., wrote the response essay “Not Just a Number”.

In “Affordances,” we see various forms of intelligence agents erase people’s names and identities, particularly those who are held back by and are fighting societal barriers. These people are reduced to numbers, to maps of their faces, to their risk scores. Facial recognition software identifies protesters and otherwise serves as a technological gatekeeper. Online filters flag or block video footage of migrants, and racially biased algorithms determine whether alleged perpetrators are taken into custody or released. In our world, the power of Facebook, Google, and other technology companies is so immense that it can feel futile to push back against them, especially for marginalized groups. But that sense of helplessness can also enable a dangerous complacency. It is exactly because these companies are so powerful that we need people to interrogate their work and challenge it….

(6) A BIG SQUEEZE FOR MAKING LEMONADE. James Davis Nicoll shows Tor.com readers “Five Ways To Benefit If Planet 9 Turns Out To Be a Black Hole”.

Finding a five-Earth-mass, ten-centimetre-diameter, 0.004 Kelvin object somewhere in the outer boroughs of the Solar System should be easy—I’m sure that some grad student or professor angling for tenure is hard at work right now! But what would be the use to the rest of us of a five-Earth-mass, ten-centimetre-diameter, 0.004 Kelvin primordial black hole (PBH) orbiting somewhere in the outer boroughs of the Solar System?

OK, sure: if it’s there, it offers us the chance to do some wonderful science; we’d be able to run experiments in regions of intense gravity. But people in general don’t seem to care all that much about pure science. So, what applied applications are there?

(7) TRIVIAL TRIVIA.

Ray Bradbury did not like the ending of It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown! because the Great Pumpkin did not appear.  Chuck Jones was a friend of Ray’s and he did not like the ending either.  Together they wrote a script about Halloween.  They could not sell it to any studio.  So, Ray turned the script into his book, The Halloween Tree.  The book was successful enough, it has never gone out of print, and it was finally sold as a half-hour animation special, which won an Emmy in 1994.  The lead character was voiced by Leonard Nimoy. [Source: John King Tarpinian.]

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 26, 1984 — Gale Anne Hurd and James Cameron’s The Terminator premiered. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton, it was received well by reviewers and audience alike with the notable exception of Ellison who noted successfully that the screenplay was based on a short story and the “Soldier” episode of The Outer Limits he had written. 
  • October 26, 1984  — V finally premiered as a regular weekly series  with “Liberation Day”. There were two previous miniseries.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 26, 1942 Bob Hoskins. I’ll insist his role as Eddie Valiant in Who Framed Roger Rabbit? is his finest genre role though I suppose Mario Mario in Super Mario Bros. could be said… Just kidding! He’s the Director of The Raggedy Rawney which he also had a role, a strange might be genre film, and he’s Smee in Hook as well. (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 26, 1945 Jane Chance, 74.Scholar specializing in medieval English literature, gender studies, and J. R. R. Tolkien with a very, very impressive publication list for the latter such as Tolkien’s Art: A “Mythology for EnglandTolkien the MedievalistThe Lord of the Rings: The Mythology of Power and Tolkien, Self and Other: “This Queer Creature”
  • Born October 26, 1954 Jennifer Roberson, 65. Writer of of fantasy and historical romances. The Chronicles of the Cheysuli is her fantasy series about shapeshifters and their society, and the Sword-Dancer Saga is the desert based adventure series of sort, but the series I’ve enjoyed her Sherwood duo-logy that consists of Lady of the Forest and Lady of Sherwood which tells that tale from the perspective of Marian. Her hobby, which consumes much of her time, is breeding and showing Cardigan Welsh Corgis.
  • Born October 26, 1960 Patrick Breen, 59. He’s Redgick, a Squid, a minor character that appeared in Men in Black. In beloved Galaxy Quest, he’s Quellek, a Thermian who forms a bond with Alexander Dane. it’s a wonderful role. 
  • Born October 26, 1962 Cary Elwes, 57. He’s in The Princess Bride as as Westley/Dread Pirate Roberts/The Man in Black. He also shows up in Dr. Lawrence Gordon in the Saw film franchise, and was cast as Larry Kline, Mayor of Hawkins, for the third season of Stranger Things.
  • Born October 26, 1963 Keith Topping, 56. Some of the best Who stories aren’t televised but written. The Hollow Men, his Seventh Doctor novel, is damn good and riffs off a Fifth Doctor story. He’s also written guides to that show plus The Avengers, Trek, Buffy and the X-Files.
  • Born October 26, 1971 Jim Butcher, 48. I really don’t know how far I got in the the Dresden Files, at least though Proven Guilty, and I will go back to it eventually. Who here has read his Cinder Spires series which sounds intriguing? 
  • Born October 26, 1971 Anthony Rapp, 48. Lieutenant Commander Paul Stamets on Discovery. His first role ever was Wes Hansen in Sky High, showed up early in his career as Jeff Glaser in the “Detour” episode of X-Files. He was Seymour Krelbourn in a national tour of Little Shop of Horrors.
  • Born October 26, 1973 Seth MacFarlane, 46. Ok, I confess that I tried watching the Orville which he created and is in and it just didn’t appeal to me. For those of you who are fans, why do you like it? Having it described as trying to be a better Trek I admit ain’t helping.

(10) GO AWAY OR I SHALL TAUNT YOU SOME MORE. Myke Cole and Sam Sykes got into it again.  Thread starts here (I hope).

And on the sidelines…

(11) THE FULL LID. Alasdair Stuart previews The Full Lid 25th October 2019.

Here’s the opening paragraph from the entry about Clipping.

Clipping are one of the most interesting musical acts on the planet right now. Jonathan Snipes, William Hutson and Daveed Diggs don’t so much embody modern hiphop as surround it. Diggs, best known of course as everybody’s favorite fighting Frenchman, is the crispest MC on Earth, No syllable escapes his sight, no word or metaphor gets free from the specific gravity of his boundless, graceful flow. This is a man who dances with the words, building structures and meaning, narrative and plot out of them and demolishing it just as easily. Snipes and Hutson in the meantime, excel at building audio landscapes for Diggs to bound across and occasionally be pursued through.Vast walls of noise, found audio, field recordings, structural jokes and aural wit. It’s all here and all at the control of these three flat out musical geniuses. And, in There Existed An Addiction to Blood, they’ve produced another genre adjacent work which is both completely in line with their previous work and sees them evolve once again.

(12) GREAT LEAP FORWARD. According to Forbes, “The UK’s First Moon Rover Will Be A Tiny Jumping Spider In 2021”.

Spacebit, a U.K.-based startup, has announced details of its planned lunar mission in 2021 – revealing a spider-shaped rover that will scuttle across the lunar surface.

As we first revealed last month, Spacebit has a contract with U.S. firm Astrobotic to hitch a ride on their Peregrine lunar lander. Originally part of the canceled Google Lunar XPRIZE, this private endeavor will now attempt to reach the Moon after launching on a Vulcan rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida in late 2021.

(13) WORTHY OF A MUSEUM. Behind a paywall In the October 21 Financial Times, Tom Faber profiles Jenova Chen, whose moody and artistic games have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Chen studied computer programming before moving to California to enrol at the University of Southern California.  It was there that he made Cloud, a game inspired by periods he spent hospitalised as an asthmatic child. Players are cast as a boy who daydreams about flying out of his hospital window and manoeuvering clouds to combat pollution.  For Chen it was wish-fulfillment.  In Shanghai there’s a lot of pollution, but during my childhood everyone said it was mist,’ he says.  ‘I think making the game I was subconsciously trying to clean the city and the air.’

It was an unusual game, with no scores, violence or competition. Still, it went viral, crashing the university servers with more than 600,000 downloads.  Chen received messages from fans all over the world.  ‘They told me they cried while playing, I think because of the deep desire to feel free.  People need to know gaming is not just about guns, soccer, and competition,’ he says.  ‘It can be something healing and positive.’

(14) VARIATIONS ON A THEME. The South China Morning Post tells readers “What cosplay is like in China, where home-grown heroes thrive, ‘play’ is emphasised and it’s not all about copying”

…Having characters that look Chinese matters, especially when the cosplay industry is obsessed with exactly replicating fictional characters, but the irony of cosplay in China is that it is less about copying and more about interpretation. According to Wang Kanzhi’s research for a master’s programme in East Asian Studies at Lund University in Sweden, cosplay in China is more open to interpretation because the “Great Firewall” has isolated the community from not only other cosers but also original source materials.

“Due to the different understanding of the original pieces, local cosplayers tend to add their own ideas and points of view into the activity, which obviously changes the original characters,” Wang says. “In other words, the local cosplayers do not only duplicate fictional characters, but add their own creative points to the original form and content.”

(15) LIGHTEN UP. NPR’s Mark Jenkins reports that “‘The Current War: Director’s Cut’ Shines At Low But Steady Wattage”.

Electricity’s domestication is a triumph of American ingenuity. But The Current War, despite depicting the likes of Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, doesn’t feel very American at all. That’s probably one of the reasons the movie was received with so little enthusiasm when it debuted at the 2017 Toronto Film Festival. (Another problem is that the film was then a product of the Weinstein Co., which collapsed soon after.)

As its subtitle announces, The Current War: Director’s Cut is the not the same movie that nearly succumbed to critical disdain more than two years ago. For those of us who didn’t see the original, ascertaining any improvement is impossible. But the latest version is not bad at all. It’s just sort of odd.

Of the three central characters, only Westinghouse is played by an American, Michael Shannon. As Edison, Benedict Cumberbatch employs an accent that is, well, not British. Nicholas Hoult’s Nikola Tesla speaks in an indeterminate Eastern European mode that can be heard, symbolically at least, as true to his Austro-Serbian-Croatian origins.

The movie doesn’t mention that Tesla had worked for an Edison-affiliated company in Paris before was he encouraged to move to the U.S. In this telling, he’s hired on a whim by the Wizard of Menlo Park, who’s eager to light American cities with his newly perfected bulbs, powered by direct current.

Edison’s nemesis is Westinghouse, who promotes alternating current — cheaper and more versatile but potentially deadly. The two men are competing for the same prize: a contract to illuminate Chicago’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, a full 13 years after the film’s event-packed story begins. Edison wants to win so badly that he’s prepared to electrocute large animals to demonstrate AC’s dangers.

(16) GAMER STRIKES BACK. Not exactly man bites dog: “Gamer buys Fallout 76 add-on domain to criticise Bethesda”.

What would you do if a company did something you didn’t like?

Some people would take to social media to voice their frustrations. Others might consider writing a letter to the business.

But when game developer Bethesda introduced a new subscription to their online game Fallout 76, David Chapman felt he had to do something with more impact.

He made a website.

And not just any website – he pinched the domain from right under the developer’s nose, so anyone looking for information about the subscription would instead be greeted with his critique.

“My motivation stems from a frustration with Bethesda,” he told the BBC. “And in general the current trend of the gaming industry.”

He added: “They said players had been asking for this – players never asked to pay a subscription for features hidden behind a pay wall.

“That was the straw that broke the camel’s back and made me make this website.”

Wait, what did Bethesda do?

Bethesda Softworks developed and published post-apocalyptic game Fallout 76.

It is an online-only game, meaning that gamers must be connected to the internet to play, and will see other people they don’t know while they’re playing.

There is no monthly cost to play online, but in a sense this is about to change.

Now players will be offered additional features which affect the gameplay, such as the ability to play without strangers or store as many items as they like, for the annual price of £99.99.

The new service, called Fallout 1st, has angered gamers who point out Bethesda promised not to charge for additional features in the past.

(17) THE ADLER SANCTION. “Migrating Russian eagles run up huge data roaming charges”.

Russian scientists tracking migrating eagles ran out of money after some of the birds flew to Iran and Pakistan and their SMS transmitters drew huge data roaming charges.

After learning of the team’s dilemma, Russian mobile phone operator Megafon offered to cancel the debt and put the project on a special, cheaper tariff.

The team had started crowdfunding on social media to pay off the bills.

The birds left from southern Russia and Kazakhstan.

The journey of one steppe eagle, called Min, was particularly expensive, as it flew to Iran from Kazakhstan.

Min accumulated SMS messages to send during the summer in Kazakhstan, but it was out of range of the mobile network. Unexpectedly the eagle flew straight to Iran, where it sent the huge backlog of messages.

The price per SMS in Kazakhstan was about 15 roubles (18p; 30 US cents), but each SMS from Iran cost 49 roubles. Min used up the entire tracking budget meant for all the eagles.

…The SMS messages deliver the birds’ coordinates as they migrate, and the team then use satellite photos to see if the birds have reached safe locations. Power lines are a particular threat for the steppe eagles, which are endangered in Russia and Central Asia.

(18) TASTES LIKE CHICKEN. All That’s Interesting invites you to “Be One Of The First In History To Witness A Supermassive Black Hole Destroy A Star”.

Have you ever wondered what a star looks like as it’s ripped apart by a supermassive black hole? Probably not. But thanks to the diligent eyes at NASA and Ohio State University, you don’t have to wonder, you can see it for yourself.

According to local Ohio radio station WOSU, a NASA satellite and a network of robotic telescopes known as the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae — or ASAS-SN for short — located at the university captured the cosmic battle for the first time on film.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/22/19 All I Said To My Wife Was That That Pixel Scroll Was Good Enough For Jehovah

(1) EARLY RETURNS ON STAR WARS FINAL TRAILER. Jeff VanderMeer is a tough audience:

I’m crying over the new Star Wars trailer. I’m bawling and overcome. I’m shaking like a performative baby over this trailer.

Finally. Finally it will be over and I will never have to encounter this mediocre piece of crap franchise again…until the next time.

While Chuck Tingle tries to exert a calming influence:

(2) FLEET OF REFERENCES. Io9 is hyping “The First Big Cameo of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Has Been Revealed”. Here’s what they spotted —

…Now, that’s almost certainly the Ghost. Not a Force Ghost, THE Ghost. What’s the Ghost?

It’s the customized VCX-100 light freighter flown by Captain Hera Syndulla, which was kind of the Millennium Falcon of Star Wars Rebels. Later, it appeared in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and, thanks to the epilogue of Rebels, we knew it survived until the timeline of the sequel trilogy. Now, it seems the Ghost, and probably even Hera herself, are standing with the Falcon in what we can only assume is the Resistance’s final stand against the First Order.

And they saw even more ships in that brief scene that you’ll probably need to look up in the Wookieepedia.

(3) BETTER CAPERS. Galactic Journey’s Jason Sacks says a well-known comic has turned the corner – in 1964 – thanks to the editorial direction of Julius Schwartz: “[October 22, 1964] Introducing a “New Look” for Batman”.  

I have some good news for those of you who haven’t been paying close attention to comic books: Batman comics are finally readable!

That’s a major change from the puerile adventures which editor Jack Schiff has been presenting in the pages of Batman and Detective Comics. For all too many years, Schiff and his team of seemingly subpar creators have delivered a never-ending stream of absurdly juvenile tales of the Caped Crusader and his steadfast sidekick. He gave us ridiculous and dumb tales in which Batman gallivanted in outer space, Robin was romantically pursued by the pre-teen Bat-Girl, and the absurdly awful Bat-Mite showed up at random times to add chaos to Batman’s life. Even adventures which featured classic Batman villains (such as last fall’s Batman #159, “the Great Clayface-Joker Feud,”) fell far short of even the most basic standards of quality. Great they were not.

(4) FILER Q&A. Today Speculative Fiction Showcase’s Jessica Rydill interviewed “Heather Rose Jones, author of Floodtide, a novel of Alpennia”.

Have there been any particular books or writers who influenced you, whether in or outside the genre? [I’m a Jane Austen fan and live in Bath, which has featured in many dramatizations of her work]

As I mentioned previously, one of the inspirations for Daughter of Mystery was wanting to write a Georgette Heyer novel with lesbians. But the other major inspiration–if maddening frustration can be a form of inspiration–was Ellen Kushner’s novel The Privilege of the Sword. That book came so close to being the perfect novel of my heart…and then turned out to be a different novel. A perfectly wonderful novel, but not the book I desperately wanted. So that was another influence, not so much in writing style, but in the “feel” of the story–a story about brave and clever girls who love and rescue each other.

Jane Austen is something of an underlayer, if only in providing examples of the world of women in early 19th century Europe. One of the historical realities that modern readers aren’t always aware of is how strictly gender-segregated 19th century life was. Women–especially unmarried women–spent most of their lives socializing with other women and living with them in intimate proximity. It makes setting up same-sex relationships much easier! It’s been very important to me to center the series on women and their connections and community with each other. Too many historical stories allow women only as isolated characters, always interacting with men. In reality, if a woman had a problem or a puzzle or a project, the first people she’d turn to would be other women. I wanted the series to reflect that.

(5) MORE ON DALLAS TORNADO. Fanartist Brad Foster and his wife Cindy also escaped injury, however, they were almost right in the tornado’s path and their home suffered roof damage, while in the yard trees and fences took a hit.

(6) HEARING FROM OKORAFOR. AudioFile’s article “Author Nnedi Okorafor on Personal Experiences & Fantastic Worlds” hears from the author of Akata Witch and many other fantasy titles about narrating the audiobook of her autobiography Broken Places & Outer Spaces.  

Narrating her memoir was more difficult than revisiting her words in the editing process. “There’s something to the art of reading it out loud, and it being an oral telling as opposed to written, that brings [those experiences] even more to the forefront. Reading it out loud in the booth, it was just even more intense. I was reliving it that much more.” The memoir details how she became a writer, showing “the idea that those things we think will break us can actually be the things that make us. All of these experiences that we have are useful, even the terrible ones. It’s just a matter of how you choose to use them. Because they are going to be there regardless. Do you want to just let them fester there, or do you want to make something out of them?”

(7) ROYALTY STATEMENT. James Davis Nicoll provides Tor.com readers with introductions to “Science Fictional Rulers, from Undying Emperors to Starlike Sovereigns”

Science Fiction is famous for the bewildering variety of worlds it imagines. This is particularly true for its political systems. A newcomer to SF might well be astounded by the diverse range of governmental arrangements on display. Let me provide some examples…

(8) HARI PLOTTER. Io9 promises“Apple’s Long-Anticipated Adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Casts Some Familiar Faces”.

It’s been a long road from page to screen for Isaac Asimov’s iconic Foundation series, with the first real foothold coming last year when Apple announced it had snagged the rights for the streaming service now known as Apple TV+. Today, more news: Jared Harris (Chernobyl) and Lee Pace (Captain Marvel) have joined the cast.

And even better, we know who they’ll be playing, per Deadline: “Pace plays Brother Day, the current Emperor of the Galaxy. Harris plays Hari Seldon, a mathematical genius who predicts the demise of the Empire.”

(9) MORE MARVEL PRO AND CON. Rosy Cordero, in “Here’s What Marvel Directors And Stars Are Saying About Martin Scorsese’s MCU Criticism,” in Entertainment Weekly, rounds up comments, including ones from Robert Downey Jr., Joss Whedon, and Jon Favreau.

Avengers and Age of Ultron director Joss Whedon singled out [James] Gunn’s work when responding to Scorsese earlier this month. He tweeted, “I first think of @JamesGunn, how his heart & guts are packed into GOTG. I revere Marty, & I do see his point, but… Well there’s a reason why ‘I’m always angry’” (the latter quote being a Hulk reference).

Meanwhile, a British director joins the dogpile — “Ken Loach Says Marvel Films Are ‘Made as Commodities Like Hamburgers’” at The Hollywood Reporter.

Speaking to Sky News, the two-time Palme d’Or-winning Brit described Marvel’s output as “boring” and cynically produced.

“They’re made as commodities like hamburgers, and it’s not about communicating, and it’s not about sharing our imagination,” he said. “It’s about making a commodity which will make a profit for a big corporation – they’re a cynical exercise. They’re a market exercise, and it has nothing to do with the art of cinema. William Blake said, ‘When money is discussed, art is impossible.'”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 22, 1936 — According to the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, today is the day, “Fandom gathering at Milton A. Rothman’s home in Philadelphia, 1936, declares itself to be the first sf Convention. Some fans accept this; others consider the following year’s Leeds UK event a more significant landmark since it was organized in advance as a convention and used public meeting facilities.”
  • October 22, 2006Torchwood, a companion to Doctor Who, premiered on BBC Three.  Starring John Barrowman and Eve Myles, it ran for forty one episodes over five years. And Big Finish Productions has produced some thirty audio-stories so far.  
  • October 22, 2016  — On this day in the U.K. and Canada, Class, a spin-off series of Doctor Who, premiered. Starring Greg Austin, Fady Elsayed and Sophie Hopkins, the series would last just a single season of eight episodes due to really poor ratings though Big Finish Audio continued the series as an audiowork. 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 22, 1919 Doris Lessing. The five novels collectively known as Canopus in Argos: Archives certainly established her genre creds. I personally would add her Cat Tales, three volumes of stories and nonfiction (Particularly Cats, Rufus the Survivor and The Old Age of El Magnifico) to your reading list. (Died 2013.)
  • Born October 22, 1922 Lee Jacobs. LA fan in the last years of his life. I’m mentioning him here because he’s credited with the word filk which was his entirely unintentional creation. He typoed folk in a contribution to the Spectator Amateur Press Society in the 1950s: “The Influence of Science Fiction on Modern American Filk Music.” Yes I know that its first documented intentional use was by Karen Anderson in Die Zeitschrift für vollständigen Unsinn (The Journal for Utter Nonsense) #774 (June 1953), for a song written by her husband Poul. (Died 1968.)
  • Born October 22, 1938 Christopher Lloyd, 81. He has starred as Commander Kruge in The Search for Spock, Emmett “Doc” Brown in the Back to the Future trilogy, Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Uncle Fester in The Addams Family and the Addams Family Values. (Huh. I didn’t spot him in those.) Let’s not forget that he was in The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension as John Bigbooté, and he played Dr. Cletus Poffenberger in a recurring role on Tremors.
  • Born October 22, 1938 Derek Jacobi, 81. He played a rather nicely nasty Master in “Utopia”, a Tenth Doctor story. He’s currently Metatron on Good Omens. And he was Magisterial Emissary in The Golden Compass.
  • Born October 22, 1939 Suzy McKee Charnas, 80. I’d say The Holdfast Chronicles are her best work to date. Certainly they’re the most honored, winning Gaylactic Spectrum, James Tiptree Jr. and Lambda Literary Awards. Any of you read her Sorcery Hall series?
  • Born October 22, 1943 Jim Baen. Editor of Galaxy and If. Considered to be the first profitable Ebooks publisher. Founder of Baen Books. (Died 2006.)
  • Born October 22, 1952 Jeff Goldblum, 67. The Wiki page gushes over him for being in Jurassic Park and Independence Day (as well as their sequels, The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) and Independence Day: Resurgence, but neglects my favorite film with him in it, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, not to mention the Invasion of the Body Snatchers remake he was in. 
  • Born October 22, 1954 Graham Joyce. Selecting his best novel is a futile exercise as everything is fantastically good but I’ll single out Some Kind of Fairy Tale and The Tooth Fairy as the ones I found the most interesting reads. (Died 2014.)
  • Born October 22, 1956 Gretchen Roper, 63. Long-time member of fandom, filker and con-runner. She co-founded Dodeka Records with her husband, Bill Roper. She received with her husband the Pegasus Award for Best Original Humorous Song, “My Husband The Filker”, and was inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame in 2008. She runs The Secret Empire, a business selling filk and other things at cons.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • XKCD has a Narnia joke. (And remember, these cartoons have a second joke in a rollover– rest your cursor on the pictures and you see more text.)
  • Tom Gauld tries to help out New Scientist’s AI readers.

(13) THE CON GAME. S.M. Carrière offers sound advice in “How I Survive Conventions” at Black Gate.

6. Engage. It can be a scary thing to approach folks at conventions. There isn’t really any way around it, but practice does make it easier. Start, if you like, by asking questions at panels that permit it. You can then use that to speak to any of the panelists afterwards, asking for clarification or even pointers. Also, try the dealer’s room if the convention has one. It’s a great place to practice conversational skills, and most of the vendors are quite happy to chat. I know I am.

(14) ENCOUNTERING PANGBORN. Cora Buhlert’s review of Davy is part of this review column at Galactic Journey (scroll down): “[October 18, 1964] Out in Space and Down to Earth (October’s Galactoscope #1)”.

Edgar Pangborn has been writing science fiction under his own name for thirteen years at this point and was apparently writing under other names before that. However, none of his stories have been translated into German and the availability of English language science fiction magazines is spotty at best. Therefore, I had never encountered Pangborn’s work before, when I came across his latest novel Davy in my local import bookstore.

(15) WATCH THIS. Entertainment Weekly shares a video clip: Black Lightning gives Jefferson a suit upgrade in sneak peek: ‘Well, damn'”

…We’ve known for a while now that Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) is getting a new suit this season, but now we finally know how he receives it. In this exclusive clip from tonight’s episode, Agent Odell (Bill Duke) gives the imprisoned superhero a gift: a watch. Jefferson is initially skeptical because it looks like a normal timepiece and he’s probably suspicious of anything the shady ASA spook gives him. But Odell continues to gently push Jefferson until he actually tests it out and discovers the watch’s real purpose: It’s basically a morpher that contains Black Lightning’s sleek new super-suit.

“This is the reason we have you have here, why we’re testing you, why we’re putting you through so much pain and struggle,” says Odell as the suit begins to cover a Jefferson’s body. “It’s so we can create tech that will help all metas to live better. The Markovians are planning on killing or capturing all of the metas in Freeland. I cannot stop them without your help.”

“Well, damn,” Jefferson simply says as he checks out his new threads. (This is essentially the equivalent of Kara’s “Pants!” exclamation from the Supergirl season 5 premiere when she tried out her new panted super-suit for the first time.)

(16) CRISPER THAN CRISPR? BBC sees promise: “Prime editing: DNA tool could correct 89% of genetic defects”.

A new way of editing the code of life could correct 89% of the errors in DNA that cause disease, say US scientists.

The technology, called prime editing, has been described as a “genetic word processor” able to accurately re-write the genetic code.

It has been used to correct damaging mutations in the lab, including those that cause sickle cell anaemia

The team at the Broad Institute say it is “very versatile and precise”, but stress the research is only starting.

…Much of the excitement has centred on a technology called Crispr-Cas9, which was developed just seven years ago.

It scans DNA for the right spot and then, like a microscopic pair of scissors, cuts it in two.

This creates the opportunity to edit the DNA.

However, the edits are not always perfect and the cuts can end up in the wrong place. Both issues are a problem for using the technology in medicine.

The promise of prime editing is precision.

(17) NO DUMMY. They knew the importance of sticking to it — “Neanderthal ‘glue’ points to complex thinking”.

Traces of ancient “glue” on a stone tool from 50,000 years ago points to complex thinking by Neanderthals, experts say.

The glue was made from birch tar in a process that required forward planning and involved several different steps.

It adds to mounting evidence that we have underestimated the capabilities of our evolutionary cousins.

Only a handful of Neanderthal tools bear signs of adhesive, but experts say the process could have been widespread.

The tool, found in the Netherlands, has spent the last 50,000 years under the North Sea. This may have helped preserve the tar adhesive.

Co-author Marcel Niekus, from the Stichting STONE/Foundation for Stone Age Research in Groningen, said the simple stone flake was probably used either for cutting plant fibres or for scraping animal skins.

While birch tar may have been used by Neanderthals to attach stone tools to wooden handles in some cases, this particular tool probably had a grip made only of tar. Dr Niekus said there was no imprint from a wood or bone shaft in the tar.

It would have enabled the user to apply more pressure to the stone flake without cutting their hands – turning the edge into a precision cutting tool.

(18) GALILEO PROBE GETS A MOVIE. The “‘Saving Galileo’ Documentary Screens This Weekend” at Caltech’s Beckman Auditorium in Pasadena, CA on Saturday, Oct. 26, at 7 p.m. PDT. Free admission; first come, first served.

…Produced by JPL Fellow and national Emmy Award-winner Blaine Baggett, the hour-long film tells the story of how the mission stayed alive despite a multitude of technical challenges, including a years-long launch delay and the devastating failure of its main antenna to open properly in space. It is also the story of a team of scientists and engineers transformed through adversity into what many came to regard as a tight-knit family.

“Saving Galileo” picks up from Baggett’s previous documentary “To the Rescue,” which focuses on the mission’s tortuous path to the launch pad. Together the films capture how, despite its many challenges and limitations, Galileo proved a resounding success, leading to profound scientific insights that continue to draw NASA and JPL back to Jupiter for new adventures.

(19) PLACEBO. NPR contends: “The Placebo Effect Works And You Can Catch It From Your Doctor”.

If there’s one thing you do want to catch from a trip to your doctor, it’s her optimism.

A new study, published Monday in the journal Nature Human Behavior, finds that patients can pick up on subtle facial cues from doctors that reveal the doctor’s belief in how effective a treatment will be. And that can have a real impact on the patient’s treatment outcome.

Scientists have known since at least the 1930s that a doctor’s expectations and personal characteristics can significantly influence a patient’s symptom relief. Within research contexts, avoiding these placebo effects is one reason for double blind studies — to keep experimenters from accidentally biasing their results by telegraphing to test subjects what they expect the results of a study to be.

The new study both demonstrates that the placebo effect is transmitted from doctor to patient, and shows how it might work.

(20) OWN LE GUIN DOCUMENTARY. The latest Kickstarter backer update for the documentary Worlds of Ursula Le Guin contains information on how to view a digital copy and buy a DVD:

We know many of you haven’t yet had a chance to watch the film – we’re trying to bring it to you as quickly as we can. Online streaming, DVD, and broadcast opportunities vary by country, and continue to evolve, but here’s our latest update:

  • In the United States and English-speaking Canada, the film is now available to rent and buy via iTunes. For residents whose reward package didn’t include a DVD, you can also pre-order the DVD through our US distributor Grasshopper Films.
  • In the United Kingdom and Ireland, the film will be available to stream on BBC iPlayer after our broadcast date, expected to be announced soon. DVDs will be available in September 2021. 
  • If you live in Israel, streaming and DVDs will be available in March 2020.
  • For everyone else, you can pre-order the DVD internationally through Grasshopper Films. We’re also planning a worldwide Video-on-Demand (VOD) release in December for participating countries (excluding those listed above, and some others). 

Note that our DVD release date has shifted – we now expect to have DVDs ready to send out by mid-November. All DVDs will include closed captions in English for the hearing impaired, subtitles in several languages, and special extras we rescued from the cutting room floor. DVDs won’t be region-specific, so viewers around the world should be able to watch them.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. in “Bicycle” on Vimeo, Cool 3D World shows what happens when five green men decide to ride a bicycle.

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

Pixel Scroll 10/21/19 Oh, This Is The Scroll, It’s A Beautiful Scroll, And We Call It Pixela Scrollte

(1) DALLAS TORNADO. Fanartist David Thayer and his wife Diana had a close call last night but are unscathed themselves:

A tornado with winds of 165 m.p.h. cut a swath through Dallas just a mile south of our house yesterday evening after dark. A powerful gust snapped the trunk of our 70 ft mesquite halfway up and sent it crashing down into our front yard. The only property damage we sustained was to our yard light. Seeing all the destruction in the news this morning, we are thankful we came through relatively unscathed.

(2) AVENGERS ASSEMBLE. Just in case the Marvel Cinematic Universe needs any defense against the negative opinions of Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola, a couple of well-known figures connected with the MCU have spoken up.

James Gunn:

Many of our grandfathers thought all gangster movies were the same, often calling them “despicable”. Some of our great grandfathers thought the same of westerns, and believed the films of John Ford, Sam Peckinpah, and Sergio Leone were all exactly the same. I remember a great uncle to whom I was raving about Star Wars. He responded by saying, “I saw that when it was called 2001, and, boy, was it boring!” Superheroes are simply today’s gangsters/cowboys/outer space adventurers. Some superhero films are awful, some are beautiful….

Natalie Portman:

I think there’s room for all types of cinema,” she told The Hollywood Reporter at the 6th annual Los Angeles Dance Project Gala on Saturday at downtown Los Angeles’ Hauser & Wirth. “There’s not one way to make art.”

“I think that Marvel films are so popular because they’re really entertaining and people desire entertainment when they have their special time after work, after dealing with their hardships in real life.”

(3) HOW EAGER ARE YOU? ESPN will be airing the final trailer for Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker tonight during Monday Night Football.

(4) NAVIGATING THE ROCKETS SAFELY HOME. In “What happened to the 1944 Retro Hugos?”, Nicholas Whyte asks fans to consider the burden of producing a whole run of trophies when it’s this hard to find homes for them after the ceremony. Of course, the job would have been a little easier if the nominees with accepters had won:

…I’m glad to say that we did have a few designated acceptors in the room on the night. Apart from those noted below, Betsy Wollheim was on hand in case her father Donald won (unfortunately he lost in all three categories where he was nominated); June and Naomi Rosenblum were there for their father-in-law/grandfather J. Michael Rosenblum; Stephanie Breijo was there for her great-grandfather Oscar J. Friend; and Harper Collins sent a rep for C.S. Lewis. So, for 66 finalists, we had acceptors on hand for 10. Future Worldcons might like to bear that in mind when planning whether or not to run Retro Hugo Awards.

This is what happened with the trophies, in increasing order of the difficulty we had in dealing with them….

(5) HOUSE CALL. Can it be that we are about to have a visit from the Doctor and his companion? (No, not that one.)

(6) TARDIGRADES LITIGATION RESUMES. Plagiarism Today’s Jonathan Bailey urges against a court appeal in “An Open Letter to Anas Abdin”

Three weeks ago, it seemed as if the Tardigrades lawsuit was over. Anas Abdin’s lawsuit was tossed decisively and at an early stage, Abdin himself said, “I respect the ruling and I expect everyone to do so,” and there seemed to be little interest in any kind of an appeal.

However, that respect for the decision did not last long. On Friday, Abdin announced that he was appealing the verdict and was launching a GoFundMe to finance the campaign. As of this writing, that campaign has raised more than $17,500 from more than 470 donors and is inching closer to its $20,000 goal….

(7) CONFACTS. Kees Van Toorn announced that all issues of ConFacts, the daily newsletter of ConFiction, the 1990 Worldcon, have been uploaded on their archival website in flipbook format.

(8) KGB. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present David Mack and Max Gladstone on November 20,  2019.

David Mack is a New York Times bestselling author of over thirty novels of science fiction, fantasy, and adventure. His most recent works are The Midnight Front and The Iron Codex, parts one and two of his Dark Arts trilogy from Tor Books. He currently works as a creative consultant on two upcoming Star Trek television series.

Max Gladstone is the author of Empress of Forever, the Hugo finalist Craft Sequence, and, with Amal El-Mohtar, This is How You Lose the Time War, in addition to his work with short and serial fiction, games, screenwriting, and comics. He has been a finalist for the Hugo, John W Campbell /Astounding, XYZZY, and Lambda Awards, and was once thrown from a horse in Mongolia.

The event starts at 7 p.m. in the KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs.) in New York, NY.

(9) FANFICTION. Sff writer Sara L. Uckelman, Assistant Professor of logic and philosophy of language at Durham University, issued an invitation: “Anyone interested in the paper behind the talk, my paper ‘Fanfiction, Canon, and Possible Worlds’ can be downloaded here.”

…The study of fanfiction from a philosophical point of view raises a number of questions: What is fanfiction?  What distinguishes it from ordinary fiction? How can we make sense of what is going on when people create and interact with fanfiction?  In this paper, I consider two competing accounts of fanfiction—the derivative or dependent account and the constitutive account—and argue that these competing views parallel two competing ways in which a possible worlds account of fiction can be fleshed out, namely, Lewis’s modal realist account and Kripke’s stipulative view. I further argue that this parallel is not a mere parallel, but provides us with a test of adequacy for the possible worlds accounts: It is worthless to provide a philosophical account of the theoretical foundations of fiction if such an account doesn’t coordinate with the actual practice and production of fiction. 

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 21, 1977Damnation Alley premiered. Based somewhat on Zelazny’s novel, it starred George Peppard as Major Eugene “Sam” Denton and Jan-Michael Vincent as 1st Lt. Jake Tanner. It bombed and was pulled quickly. Its Rotten Tomatoes score is 34%.  For now at least, it’s on YouTube here.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 21, 1904 Edmond Hamilton. One of the prolific writers for Weird Tales from the late 20s to the late 40s, writing nearly eighty stories. (Lovecraft and Howard were the other key writers.) Sources say that through the late 1920s and early 1930s Hamilton wrote for all of the SF pulp magazines then publishing. His story “The Island of Unreason” (Wonder Stories, May 1933) won the first Jules Verne Prize as the best SF story of the year. This was the very first SF prize awarded by a vote of fans, which one source holds to be a precursor of the Hugo Awards. From the early 40s to the late 60s, he work for DC, in stories about Superman and Batman. He created the Space Ranger character with Gardner Fox and Bob Brown. On December 31, 1946, Hamilton married fellow science fiction author and screenwriter Leigh Brackett. Now there is another story as well. (Died 1977.)
  • Born October 21, 1914 Martin Gardner. He was one of leading authorities on Lewis Carroll. The Annotated Alice, which incorporated the text of Carroll’s two Alice books, is still a bestseller. He was considered the doyen (your word to learn today) of American puzzlers. And, to make him even more impressive, in 1999 Magic magazine named Gardner one of the “100 Most Influential Magicians of the Twentieth Century”.  Cool! (Died 2010.)
  • Born October 21, 1929 Ursula Le Guin. She called herself a “Narrative American”. And she most emphatically did not consider herself to be a genre writer instead preferring be known as an “American novelist”. Oh, she wrote genre fiction with quite some brilliance, be it the Earthsea sequence,  The Left Hand of DarknessThe Dispossessed, or Always Coming Home. Her upbringing as the daughter of two academics, one who was an anthropologist and the other who had a graduate degree in psychology, showed in her writing. And the home library of the family had a lot of SF in it. If you’re interested in the awards she won in her career, she garnered  the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Locus Award, and World Fantasy Award. At last she was also awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters It won’t surprise you that she was made a SFWA Grandmaster, one of the few women writers so honored. (Died 2018.)
  • Born October 21, 1933 Georgia Brown. She’s the actress who portrayed Helena Rozhenko, foster mother of Worf, in the Next Gen’s “Family” and “New Ground” episodes. She was Frau Freud in The Seven-Percent Solution, and was Rachel in “The Musgrave Ritual” episode of the Nigel Stock fronted Sherlock Holmes series. (Died 1992.)
  • Born October 21, 1945 Everett McGill, 74. Stilgar in the first Dune film. Earlier in his career, he was a Noah in Quest for Fire. Later on, he’s Ed Killifer in License to Kill, and in Twin Peaks, he’s Big Ed Hurley. He was also Rev. Lowe in Stephen King’s Silver Bullet, a werewolf flick that actually has a decent rating of 55% at Rotten Tomatoes! 
  • Born October 21, 1956 Carrie Fisher. In addition to the original Star Wars trilogy, Star Wars Holiday SpecialThe Force Awakens, Star Wars: The Last Jedi and the forthcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, she was in Amazon Women on the Moon, The Time Guardian, Hook, Scream 3, and A Midsummer Night’s Rave. (Died 2016.)
  • Born October 21, 1973 Sasha Roiz, 45. I know him only as Captain Sean Renard on Grimm but he’s also been Sam Adama on Caprica as well. And he’s also been on Warehouse 13 in the recurring role of Marcus Diamond. He even showed up once on Lucifer as U.S. Marshal Luke Reynolds.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frazz makes a nifty dinosaur pun.

(13) UNLIKELY BONANZA. Joseph Hurtgen studies the illustration of an economic system in a Hugo-winning novel: “Gateway – Frederik Pohl: A Critique of Capitalism”.

…Consider the name of the alien space station for which Pohl’s book gets its name: Gateway. In the same way that taking highly random and highly dangerous alien space flights is the gateway to potential wealth, the capitalist system is also the gateway to the extreme fortune of the limited few that have, through luck or pluck, benefited most from the system. But no billionaire earns their riches without exploiting populations. Behind every fortune are the underpaid, the underfed, the forgotten, and the have nothings. The capitalist system, most simply defined, is a system of using the work of others and the work of wealth itself, to gain more wealth. It doesn’t take too much mental work to see that people are a form of capital in the capitalist system. Indeed, within capitalism everything is a form of capital. The best capitalist is the individual that figures out how to make more out of what they have….

(14) MYLNE’S GENRE ART. Artist James Mylne has been in the news lately (see, for instance ITV: “Boris Johnson turns into The Joker in new artwork”) for a political commentary that leans heavily on a genre reference. Filers might, therefore, be interested to know that his work has sometimes borrowed from other genre sources also. Example below.

(15) SOLARIS ON STAGE. Those passing through London between now and November 2 can see the play Solaris (nearest tube/metro/underground is Hammersmith).

On a space station orbiting Solaris, three scientists have made contact with a new planet.

Sent from earth to investigate reports of abnormal activity on-board, Kris Kelvin arrives to find one crew member dead and two who are seeing things that cannot be explained.

When her dead lover appears to her, it seems she too has fallen victim to the mystery of this strange planet. Should she return to reality, or is this her chance to turn back time?

Have the crew been studying Solaris – or has it been studying them?

This psychological thriller asks who we are when we’re forced to confront our deepest fears.

(16) ATWOOD PROFILE. Behind a paywall in the October 12 Financial Times, Horatia Harrod has a lengthy interview with Margaret Atwood.

In Oryx and Crake, Atwood wrote about a world decimated by environmental catastrophe; her understanding of the fragility of the Earth and the rapaciousness of its human inhabitants came early.  “My father was already talking about this over the dinner table in 1955,” says Atwood, who has been committed to raising awareness of the climate crisis for decades (she promised her 2000 Booker Prize winnings to charities dedicated to endangered animals.  “There is so much data and evidence.  But people would rather adhere to a belief system that favours them. So, what view of the climate is going to make more money for me?”

Atwood’s mother, meanwhile, was a tomboy, whose favored pastimes were speedskating, horseback riding, canoeing, fishing, not doing housework.  “I can’t think of much she was afraid of. This is a mother who chased a bear away with a broom, saying the following word:  ‘Scat!’” There were other tough female role models:”Inuit women, who have done some pretty spectacular things.  My aunt Ada, who I named a character in The Testaments after, was a hunting and fishing guide, and a crack shot with a .22.”

(17) PLANETARY ANTHOLOGIES MIGRATE. Superversive Press has dropped the Planetary Anthologies line says Declan Finn, whose contribution, Luna, is awaiting publication. (Indeed, a search on Amazon showed Superversive Press books as a whole are now only available from third-party vendors.) However, Finn says another publisher is stepping up.

The Planetary Anthology series is being discontinued.

In fact, even the five anthologies that have been published already have been discontinued. They will no longer be available for sale online from the publisher.

Which is odd for me. Especially after a year where the Area 51 anthology I was in this year was conceived of, edited, and released in 3 months from call for stories to publication.

So, yeah, the original publisher isn’t doing them anymore.

Finn says “the anthologies have all been picked up again by Tuscany Bay Books,” the imprint of Richard Paolinelli whose own unpublished Planetary Anthology, Pluto, will be next to appear. Contributors to these anthologies have included Jody Lyn Nye, Dawn Witzke, Lou Antonelli, Paolinelli, L Jagi Lamplighter, Hans G. Schantz, John C. Wright, Joshua M. Young and many others.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Lego In Real Life TRILOGY” on YouTube, Brick Bros. Productions looks at what happens when common household objects turn into Legos.

[Thanks to Camestros Felapton, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew (please roll him a meatball).]

Pixel Scroll 10/20/19 Recommended To All To Whom This Sounds Like A Recommendation

(1) NOW IT’S AN APOCALYPSE. The row started by Martin Scorsese’s remarks isn’t likely to subside anytime soon now that Francis Ford Coppola has been even more extreme in his supporting comments: “Coppola backs Scorsese in row over Marvel films”.

Francis Ford Coppola jumped into a controversy over the Marvel superhero movies Saturday, not just backing fellow director Martin Scorsese’s critique of the films but denouncing them as “despicable”…

“When Martin Scorsese says that the Marvel pictures are not cinema, he’s right because we expect to learn something from cinema, we expect to gain something, some enlightenment, some knowledge, some inspiration.

“I don’t know that anyone gets anything out of seeing the same movie over and over again,” the 80-year-old filmmaker said.

“Martin was kind when he said it’s not cinema. He didn’t say it’s despicable, which I just say it is.”

(2) CINEMA AND THE MCU. David Gerrold challenges those two notable filmmakers’ opinion:

I disagree with Scorsese. I disagree with Coppola. They are wrong to dismiss the Marvel Cinematic Universe as “not cinema.”

The final battle in Avengers Endgame was a masterpiece of cinema, ranking with the final battle in Seven Samurai.

Why do I say this?

Because we got to see people we had fallen in love with rise to the most courageous moments of their lives — and when that whole group of women warriors showed up, that was one of the most emotional moments I’ve ever seen in a movie. I cheered.

See, the thing about movies — yes, they’re art. There is true artistry in The Godfather and Apocalypse Now. Goodfellas is riveting, so is Casino.

But … I did not cheer any moment in any of those pictures. Was I emotionally involved? Yes. When the door closes on Kate’s realization that Michael has lied to her, that’s a powerful cinematic moment that resonates forever.

But do I come out of Scorsese and Coppola’s movies feeling cheered? No. Enlightened? Maybe a little. But never cheered.

And I think that’s part of their resistance to the Marvel films. A Marvel film is a good time. You experience a challenge, a triumph, a few laughs, and you end up feeling emotionally gratified, even exhilarated…

(3) KGB. Ellen Datlow has posted her pictures of the reading: “Fantastic fiction at KGB October 16 photos”.

A nice crowd showed up to hear Barbara Krasnoff and Nicole Kornher-Stace read from their new novels, despite a lot of rain.

Nicole Kornher-Stace and Barbara Krasnoff

(4) UNWONTED PERFECTION. You don’t remember typing that word? You thought you wrote another one? In fact, you’re sure of it? Granola Rolla, a Facebook friend, takes that sort of thing in stride:

Autocorrect is a poet, effortlessly, without pretense, never feeling like it should explain itself. I envy the confidence with which it edits poetry into my day. Also, I have disreputable gloves on my shopping list. I doubt they’ll be as useful for the housework as the disposable gloves I’d thought I wanted, but such a fun thing to ponder.

(5) IT’S TAKING A KIP. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The Phone Call Isn’t Dead, It’s Evolving”.

Talking was the most popular way to communicate via cellphone in the fall of 2012, with 94% of survey respondents having done so in the prior week, according to consumer-research firm MRI-Simmons. By the spring of 2019, talking had fallen to least popular, behind texting, emailing, posting to social media and using chat apps, with just 45% reporting doing it in the prior week. In other words, less than half had used their phone for an actual phone call.

Multiple people I interviewed said when the phone rings unexpectedly, they assume someone has died….

(6) CUT TO THE CHASE. Carlye Wisel, in “Disney Finally Released Details on Rise of the Resistance — and It’s Going to Be the Best Star Wars Ride Yet” in Travel and Leisure, says that Disney’s new Star Wars ride, which will open on December 5 at Disney World, will last 15 minutes, includes trackless technology, and promises to have humor in the grim battle between the Resistance and the First Order. (Article warns where the spoilers begin.)

With multiple ride systems — four to be exact — that guests will experience while traveling on this intergalactic journey, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance will be one of the longest Disney rides in existence, as guests find themselves being chased by Kylo Ren for 15 minutes.

The latest Star Wars ride will also function like all your favorite Disney attractions combined into one, channeling The Haunted Mansion, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and famed overseas attractions like Mystic Manor for a thematic experience likely to exceed expectations, even for those who have already tried out other Star Wars rides. Paired with its special effects, projections, and blaster gunfire, Rise of the Resistance is shaping up to be a cinematic attraction so over the top, you won’t even be able to imagine what will come next.

(7) ESCAPING OBSCURITY. Slashfilm says tickets are available: “‘Roundtable’ Live Read: Brian K. Vaughan’s Unproduced Script to Be Read Aloud in Hollywood”. The show is November 2.

In the summer of 2008, Eisner and Harvey Award-winning comic writer Brian K. Vaughan (Lost, Y: The Last Man) sold a high-concept screenplay to DreamWorks called Roundtable. The movie never went into production, the script sat on a shelf collecting dust, and Vaughan went on to become the showrunner of the CBS TV series Under the Dome and continue his career in comics by writing things like the sci-fi/fantasy epic Saga. But now, eleven years later, Vaughan’s Roundtable script will finally see the light of day.

Sort of.

The Black List, the organization that publishes an annual list of the best unproduced screenplays in the industry, is sponsoring a live reading of the script for one night only in Los Angeles, and this sounds like a cool opportunity to experience a story that may otherwise languish in obscurity forever. Read on for the synopsis of Roundtable, and to find out how to get tickets to the show.

(8) CAN’T GET OUT. CBS Sunday Morning devoted a segment today to “Playing an escape room” (video).

Correspondents David Pogue, Martha Teichner and Nancy Giles, along with “Sunday Morning” intern Cory Peeler, face a difficult challenge: Find their way out of a room before a bomb goes off! It’s just one of many examples of the big business in escape rooms – immersive adventures in which people must solve puzzles in order to extricate themselves. Air Date: Oct 20, 2019

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • October 20, 1965 Village Of The Giants premiered.  It starred Tommy Kirk and Beau Bridges, and is very loosely based on Wells’s book The Food of the Gods and How It Came to Earth. It scores 20% at Rotten Tomatoes.
  • October 20, 1987 The Hidden premiered. Starring Kyle McLachlan with Claudia Christian in an interesting cameo as well, reviewers (76%) and audience.(72%) alike loved it at Rotten Tomatoes. 

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born October 20, 1882 Bela Lugosi. He’s best remembered for portraying Count Dracula in the 1931 film franchise Drácula. Now tell me what’s your favorite film character that he played? (Died 1956.)
  • Born October 20, 1905 Frederic Dannay. Creator and writer, along with Manfred Bennington Lee, of Ellery Queen. Now I wasn’t going to say was he was genre but ESF does say he was because such genre authors such as Sturgeon penned Queen novels such as The Player on the Other Side. (Died 1982.)
  • Born October 20, 1916 Anton Diffring. A long career with many genre roles which I’ll note but a few of here. He was Fabian in Fahrenheit 451, Graf Udo Von Felseck of Purbridge Manor in The Masks of Deaths (a rather well-crafted Holmes film) and he played De Flores, a neo-Nazi in “Silver Nemesis”, a most excellent Seventh Doctor story. (Died 1989.)
  • Born October 20, 1934 Michael Dunn. He’s best known for his recurring role on the Wild Wild West as Dr. Miguelito Loveless, attempting to defeat our heroes over and over, but he has had another appearances in genre television. He would be Alexander, a court jester, in the Trek “Plato’s Stepchildren” episode and a killer clown in the Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea “The Wax Men” episode. (Died 1973.)
  • Born October 20, 1943 Peter Weston. He made uncountable contributions  in fan writing and editing, conrunning and in local clubs. He was nominated for a number of Hugo Awards but never won, including one nomination for his autobiography, Stars in My Eyes: My Adventures in British Fandom. Beginning in 1984 and for many years after, those Awards were cast by the car-parts factory which Weston owned and managed until he retired. (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 20, 1935 Leg Mailer, 85. He showed up in Trek twice first playing Bilar in “The Return of the Archons” and then being an Ekosian SS lieutenant in the “Patterns of Force” episode. And he Imperial Guard Number One in The Star Wars Holiday Special.  He had one-offs on The Greatest American Hero and the original Mission:Impossible, and he did voice work for An American Tail: Fievel Goes West. Note: until 1970, he used his birth name of Ralph Medina. 
  • Born October 20, 1937 Emma Tennant. To the Manor born and a lifelong supporter of Labour, ISFDB lists nine of her novels as being as SFF. As the Literary Encyclopedia  says “Her work is feminist, magical and wicked, and uses the fantastic and the Gothic to interpret and explore everyday women’s roles.“ I’ve not read her, so do tell me about her pleased if you’ve read her! (Died 2017.)
  • Born October 20, 1941 Anneke Wills, 78. In 1966, she took the role of Polly, a companion to both the First and Second Doctors. She was herself in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot. She was also in Doctor Who: Devious, a fan film in development since 1991. You can see the first part here. 
  • Born October 20, 1946 Thomas Wylde, 73. He’s here because he’s got two stories in the Alien Speedway franchise, Roger Zelazny’s Alien Speedway #2: Pitfall and Roger Zelazny’s Alien Speedway #3: The Web. I’ve never heard of these. Anyone read them?  He’s also got two stories in L. Sprague de Camp’s Doctor Bones series as well. 
  • Born October 20, 1958 Lynn Flewelling, 61. The lead characters of her Nightrunner series are both bisexual, and she has stated this is so was because of “the near-absence of LGBT characters in the genre and marginalization of existing ones.” (Strange Horizon, September 2001) The Tamír Triad series is her companion series to this affair

(11) COMICS SECTION.

(12) UP ALL NIGHT. In the Washington Post Magazine, Mikaela Lefrak profiles Andrew Aydin, whose day job is working for Rep. John Lewis and whose night-time job was helping Rep. Lewis write the Eisner Award-winning March. “He’s a Hill staffer for Rep. John Lewis by day — and an award-winning graphic novelist by night”.

…While they were writing “March,” they would spend hours on the phone combing through Lewis’s memories of sit-ins at whites-only lunch counters and the Bloody Sunday attacks during the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery march. Occasionally they’d even fall asleep while still on the phone. “It reminded me of when sometimes Martin Luther King Jr. would call me late at night and he would fall asleep, and then I would fall asleep,” Lewis told me. “We’d talk and talk.”

Both men drew inspiration for the project from the 1957 “Montgomery Story” comic book that Lewis read as a teen. (It sold for 10 cents a copy.) They also looked to successful graphic memoirs like Alison Bechdel’s “Fun Home” and Art Spiegelman’s “Maus.”

(13) WATCHMEN. The New York Times James Poniewozik says Lindelof’s TV adaptation delivers “a mystifying world you want to spend time in.” — “Review: ‘Watchmen’ Is an Audacious Rorschach Test”.

Damon Lindelof’s entertaining comic-book rethink takes on the Big Bad of white supremacy, explosively and sometimes unsteadily.

Many a superhero origin story involves exposure to a volatile substance — something dangerous, radioactive, caustic — that can be powerful if mastered, ruinous if uncontrolled.

In HBO’s “Watchmen,” beginning Sunday, that fissile storytelling material is history: specifically, America’s legacy of white supremacy. The first episode begins with the 1921 riot in Tulsa, Okla., in which white mobs rampaged in the prosperous “Black Wall Street,” massacring African-Americans in the street and strafing them from above with airplanes. A small boy’s parents pack him onto a car that’s fleeing the mayhem, like Kal-El being sent from Krypton. But there is no Superman flying to the rescue.

With that opening, Damon Lindelof (“Lost,” “The Leftovers”) reframes the universe that the writer Alan Moore and the artist Dave Gibbons created in the 1980s comics series. Where Moore wrote an alternative history of Cold War America — a pre-apocalyptic dystopia in which masked vigilantes have been outlawed — Lindelof reaches back and forward in time to root his caped-crusaders story in a brutal American tragedy.

The choice invests this breathtaking spectacle with urgency. “Watchmen” is a first-class entertainment out of the box, immediately creating a sad and wondrous retro-futuristic world. It takes longer, though, to get a handle on the complicated and all-too-real material it uses as its nuclear fuel….

(14) TOPIC OF CONVERSATION. Also in the Washington Post Magazine, in the Date Lab column, Neil Drumming explained what happened when the Post arranged for Piotr Gregowski and Claire Wilhelm to go on a blind date. “Date Lab: He worried that he sounded a little too excited about a fantasy novel”.

Things picked up when Claire mentioned that she’d been reading The Name of the Wind. a fantasy novel from The Kingfisher Chronicles series by Patrick Rothfuss.  Piotr is, as he puts it, ‘a huge fantasy nerd.’ ‘He was very excited to talk about that,’ said Claire.  He taught her how to pronounce the name of the novel’s main character, Kvothe.  (It’s Ka-Voth-ee.)  Piotr loosened up considerably on the topic of fantasy fiction. ‘Probably too much for a first date,’ he told me.  He needn’t have been concerned; a self-proclaimed fantasy nerd herself, Claire described him as ‘just the right amount of nerd.’  ‘We had a lot in common,’ she said.

However…

“Claire told me she didn’t feel much of an attraction, either, but ‘I would maybe have gone out with him if he had asked.’  In the end, she  considers the date a success because ‘I got to talk about books I like.’

But they didn’t go out again.

(15) AFTER A DNA TEST. Severance recommends, “If you want to comfort someone who’s had a DNA surprise, avoid making these 10 comments.”

Until recently, most people likely haven’t encountered someone who’s been knocked off balance by a DNA test result, so it’s understandable they might not appreciate the magnitude of the impact. But it’s just a matter of time. Mind-blowing DNA revelations are becoming so common that some DNA testing companies have trained their customer service staff representatives to respond empathetically. While those employees may know the right thing to say, here in the real world the people around us often haven’t got a clue how it feels — like a punch to the gut.

If you’ve become untethered from your genetic family, you might get a second surprise: some of your friends and loved ones may be remarkably unsympathetic, often infuriatingly judgmental, and sometimes even hostile. It’s clear that although DNA surprises have become ubiquitous, social attitudes haven’t kept pace, and a stigma remains….

3. Blood doesn’t make family.

This tries to mollify us and discount our feelings at the same time. Blood is exactly what makes family, consanguinity being the first definition of kinship. Certainly there are also families of affinity, but the familial love we feel for them doesn’t alter the fact that our blood relatives exist and they matter to us.

(16) SOCIABLE SLIME. “‘The Blob,’ A Smart Yet Brainless Organism Fit For Sci-Fi, Gets Its Own Exhibit”NPR has the story.

A brainless, bright-yellow organism that can solve mazes and heal itself is making its debut at a Paris zoo this weekend.

At least so far, “the blob” is more benevolent than the ravenous star of its 1950s sci-fi film classic namesake.

Time-lapsed videos of the blob show a slimy organism rapidly multiplying in size. How fast exactly? The blob can sprint about four centimeters per hour, according to the Paris Zoological Park

The blob is neither animal, nor plant. And although Physarum polycephalum — Latin for “many-headed slime” — is classified as a type of slime mold, scientists now consider the creature unrelated to fungi.

…The slime mold, which lacks a nervous system, is capable of advanced decision-making, learning and long-term memory storage, according to Audrey Dussutour, who studies unicellular organisms with the French National Center for Scientific Research.

“It can find its way through a maze, it can construct efficient transport networks, sometimes better than us, actually,” Dussutour said in an interview with NPR’s Weekend Edition.

(17) THE LONG HAUL. “Qantas completes test of longest non-stop passenger flight” — note change in approach to jet lag.

Australian carrier Qantas has completed a test of the longest non-stop commercial passenger flight as part of research on how the journey could affect pilots, crew and passengers.

The Boeing 787-9 with 49 people on board took 19 hours and 16 minutes to fly from New York to Sydney, a 16,200-km (10,066-mile) route.

Next month, the company plans to test a non-stop flight from London to Sydney.

Qantas expects to decide on whether to start the routes by the end of 2019.

If it goes ahead with them, the services would start operating in 2022 or 2023.

…Passengers set their watches to Sydney time after boarding and were kept awake until night fell in eastern Australia to reduce their jetlag.

Six hours later, they were served a high-carbohydrate meal and the lights were dimmed to encourage them to sleep.

On-board tests included monitoring pilot brain waves, melatonin levels and alertness as well as exercise classes for passengers and analysis of the impact of crossing so many time zones on people’s bodies.

(18) USEFUL SJWC? BBC has video of “Mr London Meow: The therapy cat visiting hospitals”. Much better company than The Blob.

Mr London Meow is a therapy cat who goes into some of London’s hospitals to offer therapeutic care to patients.

At the Royal London in Whitechapel he is loved not just by the patients, but by the staff as well.

(19) ANOTHER POTTERVERSE INSIGHT NOBODY ASKED FOR. Don’t read this Clickhole post if you’re sensitive to insults against Italians. “Big Step Backward: J.K. Rowling Has Revealed That Dementors Are The Wizarding World’s Version Of Italians”.

Buckle up, Harry Potter fans, because J.K. Rowling’s latest bombshell about the series definitely isn’t doing anything for inclusivity: The bestselling author has revealed that Dementors are the wizarding world’s version of Italians.

(20) FOR YOUR VIEWING TERROR. Vogue nominates “The 40 Best Spooky Movies to Watch for Halloween”. Three of them are —

Halloweentown

A Disney Channel original movie from the era before they were all about tweens becoming pop stars. (Stream it on Hulu and Amazon.)

Sabrina the Teenage Witch

If you’ve been into the sexy new Sabrina show, revisit the quirky original. You won’t be disappointed. (Stream it on Amazon.)

Practical Magic

You’ll want to become a witch after watching this ’90s cinematic staple. Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman star as witchy sisters navigating love, death, and magic. (Stream it on Amazon.)

[Thanks to Andrew Porter, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Olav Rokne, and Chip Hitchcock for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller with an assist from Anna NImmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 8/23/19 Pixels Of Lily Help Me Scroll At Night

(1) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites listeners to share subcontinental cuisine with Lucy A. Snyder in episode 103 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast.

Lucy A. Snyder

Lucy A. Snyder’s a seven-time Bram Stoker Award finalist and a five-time winner, including for her first novel Spellbent in 2009, and most recently for her collection While the Black Stars Burn in 2016. She has published more than 80 short stories in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Strange Horizons, Weird Tales, and more. Her nonfiction book Shooting Yourself in the Head for Fun and Profit: A Writer’s Survival Guide. was published in 2014. She was a Bram Stoker Award nominee at this year’s StokerCon for her collection Garden of Eldritch Delights.

We took off for lunch one afternoon to Punjab Cafe, which has been operating in Quincy since 2000, and is by all accounts the best Indian restaurant in the area. They had a tasty looking buffet option available, but we ordered a la carte instead, because a buffet is definitely not the way you want to go when you’re trying to maintain the flow of a conversation and are both wired to a recorder.

We discussed how Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time made her want to become a writer, the rare bad advice she got from one of her Clarion instructors, the way Hunter S. Thompson and Truman Capote taught her about consensual truth, how she learned to embrace her uneasy relationship with horror, the time Tim Powers said of one of her early stories that “this is an example of everything that’s wrong with modern science fiction,” why if you want to write flash fiction you should learn to write poetry, what you should consider if you’re starting a new writing workshop, how best to prepare for public readings of emotionally difficult stories, the way she used Kickstarter to continue her Jessie Shimmer series (plus everything you need to know to start your own campaign), what it was like writing in the Doctor Who and X-Files universes, and much, much more.

(2) CAT’S GOT HIS TONGUE. Another work of feline genius! “On Writing by Timothy the Talking Cat” at Camestros Felapton.

…Being a writer is a lot like being on a roller coaster. For a start, if you are a small child or a cat some spotty gatekeeper won’t let you be a writer. “You have to be this tall to be a writer!” they say. “Keep you arms inside the carriage while writing is in motion” they say. Ignore these self-appointed petty tyrants in the fairground of publishing! You only need TWO things to be a writer 1. the willpower 2. the determination and 3. a valid ticket from the ticket booth….

(3) KEEPS ON BURNIN’. Slate’s Evan Urquhart brings history up to date in “Gamergate Never Died”.

… Last but not least there’s Gamergate itself, which has survived not just as an influence on current events and a template for subsequent harassment campaigns, but in something close to its initial form: The Gamergate subreddit is still very active. Its participants still mob journalists who report critically on them and games. So “gamers” didn’t die, and neither did socially conscious games journalism, nor efforts to increase diversity in games. Even individual Gamergate targets like Quinn, Sarkeesian, and others continue to work in their respective fields. But neither, it seems, did Gamergate.

Recent topics on the Gamergate subreddit—in 2019!—include lists of video games and game development studios to avoid because they pander to “social justice warriors” and complaints about Kotaku’s coverage of diversity in games and the industry. There are posts in the past month continuing to detail, and criticize, everything Quinn does. The lesson for all of us is that reactionary ideas and movements and cults of personality—ones that oppose progress and equality—won’t simply disappear even if they “lose,” even with the passage of time. Reporters who write about Gamergate—or any of the topics it reacted against—can still expect a brigade of hundreds of negative replies on social media. It hasn’t died. It never ends….

(4) SF DISTINCTIVES. John Plotz interviews “Samuel Delany on Capitalism, Racism, and Science Fiction” at Public Books.

JP: This focus on the technical aspects of writing reminds me of what you’ve said before about the sentence: that the sentence is the most important unit of writing for you.

SD: For me, yes. I do go along with Gertrude Stein, in that the paragraph is the emotional unit of the English language. It’s also a point about the sentence instead of the word.

JP: Is that how you think of your own writing? Do you think of it as sentence-making?

SD: Basically, yes.

JP: And is that different for science fiction, versus fantasy and other kinds of genres?

SD: No, that’s not where the difference lies; I think all writing requires that. But I do think science fiction allows some unique combinations of words. It’s a genre that is distinguished, because certain things can happen in the language of science fiction that don’t happen anywhere else. Science fiction tends to take the literal meaning. If it has a choice between a figurative meaning and a literal meaning, the literal meaning is always available. Her world exploded. In science fiction, it’s not an emotionally fuzzy metaphor. Instead, it can literally mean a planet belonging to a woman blew up. As in, Princess Leia: Her world exploded.

(5) TREND INTERRUPTED. NPR’s Glen Weldon says that  “In The Brisk Horror-Comedy ‘Ready Or Not,’ Bluebloods Are Out For Blood”.

Call it The Film About Rich People Hunting Poor People … That Lived.

But that’s a mouthful. Maybe The Hunt Strikes Back; it’s pithier.

Just two weeks ago, Ready or Not seemed poised to represent a second data point in 2019’s “Murderous, Mansion-Dwelling One-Percenters In Film” trend graph, preceded by Craig Zobel’s “blue bloods vs. red staters” thriller The Hunt and followed in November by Rian Johnson’s latter-day Clue riff, Knives Out.

But with The Hunt withdrawn from release, Ready or Not assumes pride of place … albeit in the doggiest of days of the dead of August. And what should have blossomed into a delicate arc describing an emerging cinematic trend (and launching a thousand thinkpieces in the process) instead reverts to a flat line connecting two 2019 movies that both feature 1. rich jerks wielding bladed weapons in elegantly appointed rooms and 2. dumbwaiters, probably. One assumes.

(6) CUTTING THE WEB. The Hollywood Reporter chronicles “How ‘Spider-Man’ Divorce Shows Ugly Side of Fandom”.

…While both studios should be enjoying a victory lap after a successful summer, with Disney, hot off of their Marvel Studios Comic-Con announcements, set to make D23 this weekend’s event, and Sony releasing an extended cut of Far From Home over labor day weekend. Instead, Spider-Man has become victim of a messy custody battle that has dominated social media and shown just how ugly Disney fandom can get with #SaveSpiderMan and #BoycottSony hashtags trending this week.

Battle lines have been drawn on social media, and by way of willful ignorance on the parts of adults online behaving like children, Sony has been made the bad guy for refusing to give up its asset. While details surrounding Disney and Sony’s split have varied, The Hollywood Reporter reported that the breakup comes down to money. Disney, already possessing the merchandizing rights for Spider-Man and benefiting from the use of the character in the MCU, sought at least a 30 percent stake in future Spider-Man grosses. Others have reported figures as high as 50 percent. However you cut it, those numbers are a significant uptick from Disney’s previous 5 percent stake. It’s also worth noting that while Sony’s Spider-Man films may receive an uptick in box office grosses for their MCU connection, the studio doesn’t receive a share of the grosses for the Marvel Studios films in which Holland’s Spider-Man appears.

(7) ALL IN THE FAMILEE. TMZ, in “Stan Lee’s Daughter Sides W/Sony Over Disney in SPIDER-MAN/MCU SPLIT,” says that Stan Lee’s daughter, J.C. Lee, approves of Sony withdrawing Spider-Man because “Marvel and Disney seeking total control of my father’s creations must be checked and balanced by others.”

…She goes on … “Whether it’s Sony or someone else’s, the continued evolution of Stan’s characters and his legacy deserves multiple points of view.”“When my father died, no one from Marvel or Disney reached out to me. From day one, they have commoditized my father’s work and never shown him or his legacy any respect or decency.” JC’s parting words … “In the end, no one could have treated my father worse than Marvel and Disney’s executives.” Ouch!!!

(8) AVENGERSLAND. Cnet took notes: “Disneyland’s ‘Avengers Campus’ theme park unveiled at D23: Here’s everything we know” Tagline: “At least Spider-Man will definitely be involved with this one.” Disney’s Paris and Hong Kong parks also have MCU attractions on the way.

Disney finally unveiled new details about its new Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU)-themed area arriving at Disneyland at its D23 expo on Thursday. Disney had originally announced the new superhero areas coming to three Disney parks in March last year, dreamed up in partnership with Marvel Studios.

Here’s what we know so far.

Disneyland, California

“We’re building an immersive super hero-themed land at Disney California Adventure to enable our guests to join the Avengers to save the world,” Bob Chapek, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, said at D23 Expo, ComicBook reported.

The Avengers Campus will open in summer, 2020.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • August 23, 1965  — In the United Kingdom, Dr. Who And The Daleks was released which starred Peter Cushing as Doctor Who.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 23, 1869 Edgar Lee Masters. Author of the Spoon River Anthology which, since each poem is by someone who’s dead, should count as genre, shouldn’t it?  (Died 1950.)
  • Born August 23, 1927 Peter Wyngarde. Not a lead actor in any genre series but interesting none-the-less. For instance, he shows up in the two Sherlock Holmes series, one with Peter Cushing and one with Jeremy Brett. He’s one in a series of Doctor Who with the Fifth Doctor and he faces off against the classic Avenger pairing of Steed and Peel. He shows up as Number Two in The Prisoner as well. (Died 2018.)
  • Born August 23, 1929 Vera Miles, 90. Lila Crane in Psycho which she reprised in Psycho II. On a much more family friendly note, she’s Silly Hardy in Tarzan’s Hidden Jungle, the very last of the twelve Tarzan pictures released by RKO. She has done one-offs on Buck Rogers in Twentieth Century, Fantasy Island, The Twilight ZoneAlfred Hitchcock Presents, I Spy and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. 
  • Born August 23, 1939 Barbara Eden, 80. Jeannie on I Dream of Jeannie. Her first genre role however was on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea as Lt. Cathy Connors though she’d show up a few years later as Greta Heinrich on The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm. Some thirty-five years after I Dream of Jeannie went off the air, she had a recurring as Aunt Irma on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch
  • Born August 23, 1944 Karl Alexander, 75. Author of Time after Time, which was filmed directed and written by Nicholas Meyer. Cast includes Malcolm McDowell, Mary Steenburgen and David Warner. Sequel of Jaclyn the Ripper is not as well known. 
  • Born August 23, 1963 Ed Gale, 56. Ok I now introduce you to the man inside of Howard the Duck. (Sorry JJ.) Well someone has to play that crappy role. And did you know that it’s been retooled to be called by the studio, and I kid you not, Howard: A New Breed of Hero? Did you know Seth Green voices Howard the Duck in Guardians of The Galaxy?
  • Born August 23, 1965 Chris Bachalo, 54. Illustrator well known for his work on DC Comics’ Shade, the Changing Man and Gaiman’s two Death series, Death: The High Cost of Living and Death: The Time of Your Life
  • Born August 23, 1970 River Phoenix. The Young Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was his best known genre role. He was also Wolfgang Müller in Explorers, and he’s Talbot Roe in Silent Tongue, a horror film most likely you’ve never heard of. (Died 1993.)

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • John A Arkansawyer sent the link to Wondermark with a note, “I’m surprised this technology was never used during the glory days of the APA era.”

(12) WILSON LEAVES WW. ComicBook.com is there when “Wonder Woman Writer Announces She’s Leaving the Title”.

Today marks the end of an era for DC’s Wonder Woman, as G. Willow Wilson is set to exit the title in the coming months. On Thursday, Wilson took to Twitter to confirm the news, citing that the exit will be so she can schedule out time for a “bucket-list-dream-project”.

Wilson also confirmed that Steve Orlando will be taking over the title, something that had previously been hinted at in DC’s solicitations….

(13) SHIRLEY JACKSON. LitHub does a post of clippings of quotes from “11 Famous Writers on the Genius and Influence of Shirley Jackson”.

Victor LaValle:

I’ve probably reread The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson more than any other book. It’s not her greatest, that would be We Have Always Lived at the Castle, but I got to it when I was a teenager and so it entered my bloodstream early. I read it three or four times in high school alone.

There are lots of reasons why I love it, Jackson is an underrated literary stylist, and I love the way she loathes human beings. It’s cruel, but it’s almost always funny, too. Misanthropy always goes down better with a sense of humor. But maybe the reason I most love that book is for the house itself. Jackson does a wondrous job of animating Hill House without ever really answering the question of whether its truly haunted or merely haunted by the imagination of a lonely young woman.

(14) HISTORY. “Life of Brian: The most blasphemous film ever?” What are the other contenders?

Forty years after Life of Brian was first released, Nicholas Barber looks at why the Monty Python film was banned – and went on to become a box office hit.

It may not be true that all publicity is good publicity, but in the case of Monty Python’s Life of Brian, which was released 40 years ago, some of the bad publicity was heaven-sent. The comedy team’s irreverent Biblical romp had been due to open on 200 screens across the US, but after various religious groups protested against it, the number of screens was tripled. “They actually made me rich,” said John Cleese of the protesters on one American talk show. “I feel we should send them a crate of champagne or something.”

The idea for Life of Brian came about when the team was promoting its previous film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Eric Idle joked that their next project would be called “Jesus Christ: Lust For Glory”, and his team-mates realised that no one had ever made a comedy about the Messiah. Initially, they planned to lampoon Jesus himself, but the more they read up on him, the less keen they were. “It was quite obvious that there was very little to ridicule in Jesus’s life, and therefore we were onto a loser,” said Michael Palin in 1979. “Jesus was a very straight, direct man making good sense, so we decided it would be a very shallow film if it was just about.”

They moved onto the character of Brian, a 13th disciple who never made it into the Bible because he always arrived five minutes late and missed the miracles. But they eventually settled on the premise that the hapless Brian (Graham Chapman) wouldn’t have any connection with Jesus at all; he would be someone who happened to live in Roman-occupied Judea at the same time, and who was mistaken for a Messiah by the fanatical masses.

The Pythons’ satire wouldn’t target Jesus or his teachings, instead caricaturing political militants, credulous crowds, the appeal of throwing stones at people, the complexities of Latin grammar, and the difficulties of being a tyrant when you’ve got a speech impediment. “I thought we’d been quite good,” said Idle in Robert Sellers’ behind-the-scenes book, Very Naughty Boys. “We’d avoided being specifically rude to specific groups.”

(15) PRESENT. “Hail Satan?: The Satanists battling for religious freedom” – BBC has the story.

Everything you know about Satanism is wrong.

At least that’s what a new documentary about the Satanic Temple could be about to prove.

Despite the similarity of the name, the Temple is different to The Church of Satan, established in 1966 by chat show circuit celebrity Anton LaVey in San Francisco, California.

Human sacrifice? Wrong. Blood drinking? Wrong. Black Mass? Well, sort of right.

The Temple was founded in 2013 with a mission statement “to encourage benevolence and empathy among all people, reject tyrannical authority, advocate practical common sense and justice, and be directed by the human conscience to undertake noble pursuits guided by the individual will”.

Hail Satan? directed by US film-maker Penny Lane, follows the Temple’s attempts to curtail what they see as the encroachment of Christianity on US life through its growing political influence….

(16) UNDERWORLDS. Alix Nathan looks beneath the surface in “The Art of Subterranean Fiction” at CrimeReads.

…Perhaps the most famous novel of the subterranean genre is Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, in which Verne’s hero, Professor Lidenbrock, and his nephew, Axel, believe that there are volcanic tubes leading to the earth’s centre. Verne is a great story-teller and the adventures of these two very different characters and their guide Hans, involve natural dangers like running out of water and deadly storms as well as encounters with creatures from a far distant past.

Although there’s no actual time travel, Verne’s underworld seems located in prehistory, where everything is gigantic, whether it be insects, mushrooms or petrified trees; where an Icthyosaurus wins a battle with a Plesioraurus. The travellers’ most terrifying experience is an encounter with an enormous prehistoric man, all of 12 feet tall, watching over a herd of huge mastodons….

(17) D23 NEWS. SYFY Wire shares some of the exhibits from D23: “Disney unveils first look at Monsters at Work, Forky shorts, and new Phineas & Ferb film at D23”.

…The monsters aren’t the only Pixar creations headed to Disney+ for new adventures. Toy Story 4‘s Forky, the fan-favorite piece of trash who became a toy, will return in a new series of short films called Forky Asks a Question, starring Tony Hale reprising his role from the film. Fans in attendance at the presentation got a sneak peek of the first short, which features Forky talking to Hamm the Piggy Bank about the concept of money. That clip hasn’t landed online yet, but we’ve got the poster for the shorts right here:

(18) MARVEL STUDIOS UNVEILINGS. The Hollywood Reporter also picked up some news at D23: “Marvel Unveils 3 New Disney+ Shows Including ‘She-Hulk’ and ‘Moon Knight'”.

Kevin Feige also revealed new details for ‘WandaVision’ and ‘Falcon & The Winter Soldier.’ Marvel Studios confirmed three new series in the works for Disney+ at D23: She Hulk, Moon Knight and Ms. Marvel.

She-Hulk — AKA attorney Jennifer Walters, cousin to Bruce Banner, whose blood transfusion was responsible for her powers — first appeared in 1980’s The Savage She-Hulk No. 1, and was the last major Marvel character co-created by Stan Lee. After her original series ended after two years, she became a member of both the Avengers and the Fantastic Four as the character developed more of a distinct personality from her male counterpart, gaining a stronger sense of humor and intelligence and deciding that she preferred being super-strong and green permanently — or, at least, as much as possible. (Unlike the male Hulk, She-Hulk traditionally maintains her smarts and personality when Hulked out.)

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

Pixel Scroll 7/21/19 But He Can’t Be A Fan Because He Don’t Scroll The Same Pixel As Me

(1) CROWDSOURCED SUCCESSES. The appeal to help send Tiptree Fellow Vida Cruz to Dublin 2019, “Help Vida attend the 77th WorldCon in Dublin!”, has raised $1,230 at this writing, slightly more than its target figure.

Con or Bust so generously sent me funds to pay for accommodations and airfare–two large chunks of expenses that make me hopeful that I will be able to attend. In fact, I have already booked the tickets and my AirBnB stay. I need only save up for food, transportation, and other smaller travel expenses.

However, I hit several snags recently. Sudden health issues required medicines and physical therapy. As a freelancer, my biggest contract was recently ended, and so I have been searching for part-time gigs and full-time jobs to not only help me fund this trip and pay GoGetFunding, but to help pay for my daily and medical needs. Your contribution will greatly help toward lessening the amount I need.

And when Brandon O’Brien was trying to round up the last $700 he needed to get to Dublin, look what happened! Jeff VanderMeer put up 7 of the Sub Press Borne signed special editions for $100 each to the first 7 takers. And just like that, he was funded.

(2) IN TIMES TO COME. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Everything Marvel Has Planned for Phase 4:  Natalie Portman Returns As A New Thor, Mahershala Ali Will Be Blade, Angelina Jolie Trains to Be An Eternal, More” has the lineup for the next two years of movies and TV shows Marvel unveiled at San Diego Comic-Con.

Here’s who you won’t see as Phase 4 unfolds between May 2020 and November 2021: Spider-Man, Star-Lord and a new Iron Man. But you will meet what’s easily the most diverse superhero line-up in comic book movie history, including a master of kung fu and a group of eternals. You’ll also welcome back a strange sorcerer, a sharpshooting archer and a sword-swinging Valkyrie. Based on the crowd reaction, the most anticipated reunions are with Natalie Portman’s Jane Foster, who will be returning as a thunder goddess, and that vampire hunter Blade, now played by two-time Oscar winner, Mahershala Ali.

(3) STAR DREAMING. Michael Benson’s New York Times opinion piece declares “Science Fiction Sent Man to the Moon”.

Most major achievements, be they personal or collective, arrive after rehearsals. Some unfold as flights of the imagination. The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing provides a great opportunity to examine how an entire branch of speculative fiction — novels, short stories and also feature films — lies behind the first human footprints on another world.

Works of fiction aren’t particularly known for having influenced historical events. Yet some foundational early rocket science, embedded deep within the developmental history of the Saturn 5 — the towering, five-stage rocket that took Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins to the moon 50 years ago this week — was paid for by the budget of the first science fiction film to envision just such a voyage in realistic terms.

Spaceflight as we know it today wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for three extraordinary figures: the borderline-crazy Russian spaceflight visionary Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, the hard-right nationalist German-Transylvanian rocketry pioneer Hermann Oberth and the idiosyncratic American rocketeer Robert Goddard. All devised their distinctive strains of rocket science in response to speculative novels, specifically the stories of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells — founders of a nascent genre later to be known as science fiction. Tsiolkovsky and Oberth also had important roles to play in early 20th century film projects depicting trips to the Moon.

… Of the three, only Tsiolkovsky actually wrote science fiction, which he used as a scratch pad for his revolutionary ideas. Living in near-poverty 100 miles southwest of Moscow, he also issued a stream of theoretical papers. In articles published in 1911-12, he came up with the great utopian credo of the space age: “Earth is the cradle of the mind, but humanity can’t live in its cradle forever.”

(4) THAT OTHER 50TH ANNIVERSARY. NPR profiled SDCC: “San Diego Comic-Con Is Turning 50: Here’s Its Origin Story”.

Fifty years ago, a bunch of comics fans in San Diego decided they wanted a way to meet other fans. They were mostly teenagers — okay, and two adults — but what they created became the pop culture phenomenon we know as San Diego Comic-Con.

Today, Roger Freedman is a physics professor, but in 1969 he was 17 years old — and he had no idea what he was about to get himself into. “I think it’s fair to say that if you had come to us and said how Comic-Con was going to evolve, we would have said A) what are you smoking, and B) where can we buy some?”

It all started with a guy named Shel Dorf — one of only two adults involved with that first convention. Dorf had some experience attending and planning conventions, and more importantly, he had connections. He knew Jack Kirby, the legendary co-creator of characters like the X-Men and the Fantastic Four. And Kirby was willing to talk to a bunch of kids.

“I think we thought comic creators lived on some comic book Mount Olympus and couldn’t be approached by normal mortals like us,” says Mike Towry, who was 14 when he got involved with the convention committee. “And then to find out that we could actually meet them and talk to them one on one, and then have a convention where they would come and we would get to hang out with them was just kind of mind-blowing.”

(5) THE POWER OF TRANSLATION. Nathaniel Isaacson authors “Dispatches from the Future of a New China” for the LA Review of Books.

…It’s not hyperbole to say that without Ken Liu and his Herculean efforts in translation, Chinese SF would not exist — or at least it would not exist in its current state. When Ken Liu’s 2014 translation of Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem (2008) won the Hugo Award in 2015, not only was it the first Chinese work awarded the honor, it was the first work in translation from any language to be lauded so. At some point in the past decade, Chinese SF went from “having a moment” to “enjoying its golden age,” and if 2015 wasn’t the exact moment that shift happened, it was certainly when the translation heard round the world was sounded. The Three-Body Problem’s award signaled the significance of Chinese SF to many Anglophone readers for the first time, but equally important was its reaffirmation of Chinese SF for local readers. Liu’s translation has in turn been the source for the novel’s translations into other languages, putting Liu at the vanguard of Chinese SF’s march toward the world. Within hours of the award announcement, domestic internet searches and sales of both the first book and of Liu Cixin’s whole 2008–2010 trilogy increased more than tenfold. Publishing houses and state institutions like the Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China redoubled their efforts using SF as a vehicle for promoting China’s “peaceful rise,” and have identified SF as a key aspect of their propaganda and publicity campaigns.

In the same issue, Virginia L. Conn discusses Ken Liu’s earlier work: “Wherever You Go, There You Are: Finding and Losing Oneself in ‘Invisible Planets’”.

Just as, when pressed, Calvino’s Marco Polo claims that “[e]very time I describe a city I am saying something about Venice,” every story in Invisible Planets is saying something about the author’s own position — but that may or may not be the China we know (or think we know). Invisible Planets is not only the spiritual successor to Calvino’s Invisible Cities: it evinces the same magic without following the same formula, creating a panoply of possible worlds that may or may not be our worlds, and which may or may not be true.

(6) BRAZILIAN INVITATION. Canadian sff author Craig Russell received multiple items of good news recently.

First, “an incredibly kind” review of his novel Fragment written by Brazilian literature professor, Dr. Zélia M. Bora and published in The Interdisciplinary Journal of Literature and Ecocritics.

Some of the comments, translated from Portuguese:

  • “Craig Russell’s clever and captivating novel captures the sensitive reader’s attention from the beginning to the end of the narrative, in a balanced way between the real and the imagined.”
  • Fragment is undoubtedly one of the most important ecocritical fiction works written in this millennium.”

Russell has also received an invitation to speak about the novel at the 2020 Association for the Study of Literature and Environment (Brazil) conference in the city of Curitiba, Brazil (pending travel grant funding approvals.)

(7) STALKER. BBC has more information about the tragedy — “Kyoto Animation fire: Suspect ‘spotted in area’ days before”.

The man suspected of carrying out a deadly arson attack on a Japanese animation studio may have visited the area before, local media reported.

Neighbours spotted a man resembling Shinji Aoba near the Kyoto Animation (KyoAni) office before Thursday’s fire.

Mr Aoba, 41, who suffered severe burns, is in police custody and has been transferred to a hospital in Osaka.

On Saturday, a man died in hospital from his injuries, bringing the death toll from the attack to 34.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born July 21, 1911 Marshall McLuhan. He coined the expressions the medium is the message and global village, and predicted the World Wide Web almost thirty years before it was invented. I read The Medium Is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects a long time ago. Somehow it seemed quaint. (Died 1980.)
  • Born July 21, 1921 James Cooke Brown. He’s the creator of Loglan. Oh, and he did write SF. The Troika Incident written in 1970 features a global data net. That, and two short pieces of fiction, are the sum total of his of genre writings. The Troika Incident is available from Kindle but not from iBooks. (Died 2000.)
  • Born July 21, 1933 John Gardner. Grendel, the retelling of Beowulf from the monster’s viewpoint, is likely the only work he’s remembered for. Gudgekin The Thistle Girl (and Other Tales) are genre fairy tales as are The King of the Hummingbirds (and Other Tales)A Child’s Bestiary is, well, guess what it says it is. Mickelsson’s Ghosts, his final novel written before his untimely death, is a ghost story. (Died 1982.)
  • Born July 21, 1939 John Woodvine, 80. First role in our realm is as Macbeth at Mermaid Theatre back in the early Sixties. Shortly thereafter, he’s Badger in Toad of Toad Hall at the Comedy Theatre before being The Marshal in the Fourth Doctor story, “The Armageddon Factor”.  He’s in An American Werewolf in London as Dr. J. S. Hirsch, and he had a recurring role in The Tripods as Master West. He did show up on The Avengers several times, each time as a different character, and he was Singri Rhamin for the episodes of Danger Man
  • Born July 21, 1948 G. B. Trudeau, 71. Not precisely genre or even genre adjacent, but he did an amazing series on the Apple Newton when it came out.
  • Born July 21, 1951 Robin Williams. Suicides depress me. I remember a bootleg tape of a performance of him and Carlin in their cocaine fueled days. Such manic energy. Genre wise, he was brilliant in most everything he did, be it Mork & Mindy, Hook, The Fisher King, Bicentennial Man or Jumanji. (Died 2014.)
  • Born July 21, 1960 Lance Guest, 59. An American film and television actor, best known for his lead role in The Last Starfighter. He also shows up in Jaws: The Revenge as Michael Brody, as Jimmy in Halloween II, as Kyle Lane in the “Fearful Symmetryepisode of The X-Files and as The Burning Zone in “The Critical Mass” episode.
  • Born July 21, 1976 Jaime Murray, 43. If you watch genre television, you’ve most likely seen her as she’s been Helena G. Wells in the Warehouse 13, Stahma Tarr in Defiance, Fiona/the Black Fairy In Once Upon a Time, Antoinette in The Originals, and Nyssa al Ghul in Gotham. Film wise, she was Livinia in The Devil’s Playground and Gerri Dandridge in Fright Night 2: New Blood

(9) DRIVE AROUND THE BLOCK AGAIN. Referring to the second tweet below — You never know who you’re going to wish you’d run into at Comic-Con.

(10) YEAR 6 IS IN THE BANK. The Uncanny Magazine Kickstarter is clicking along, too. Year 6 is funded, and they’re in hot pursuit of their second stretch goal already, with 24 days remaining.

(11) ON THE HORIZON. The “Strange Horizons 2020” Kickstarter has also passed its $13,000 goal with 9 days to go in the campaign.  

(12) EYE ON THE PRIZE. Bonnie McDaniel has posted her assessment of the Hugo Dramatic Presentation Long Form Finalists: “Hugo Reading (Viewing) 2019: Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form”. Coming in last place —

6) Avengers: Infinity War

This was the Big Superhero Showdown Marvel’s been aiming towards for ten years, but when I saw it, it felt a bit….underwhelming. With so many characters tossed into the mix and so much to do, there wasn’t time for any of them to make much of an impression, with the possible exception of Thor and Rocket. Also, if I’d been Chris Pratt, I would have been ticked off by the way my character was forced to wield the Starlord Stupid Stick, not once but twice. If Peter Quill had only killed Gamora in the beginning, like she asked him to do and he agreed, Thanos would never have found the Soul Stone. Of course, then we wouldn’t have had a $2 billion-plus grossing movie…..

(13) WIDENING GYRE OF HUGO COVERAGE. Steve J. Wright has completed his Campbell Best New Writer reviews + Pro Artist Hugo and Retro Hugo reviews.

(14) THE PRICE IS RIGHT. Gizmodo reveals the final selling price of those newsworthy tapes: “Former NASA Intern Scores $1.82 Million for Moon Landing Tapes He Bought at Auction”

Former NASA intern Gary George sold off three of the agency’s videotapes of the Apollo 11 moon landing for $1.82 million at auction house Sotheby’s on Saturday, the 50th anniversary of the event, CNN reported.

Sotheby’s claims the videos have not been enhanced, restored, or otherwise altered and are the “earliest, sharpest, and most accurate surviving video images of man’s first steps on the moon,” CNN wrote. George paid $217.77 in 1976 (approximately $980 in today’s dollars) for 1,150 reels of NASA magnetic tape at a government auction while he was a Lamar University student interning at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

(15) CREDENZAS FOR CREDENTIALS. The Washington Post says these are the cat’s meow: “Custom wood kennels and memory foam beds: Welcome to the wild world of modern pet furniture”. (With photos.)

…For discerning pet owners who treat their cats and dogs like family — in some cases better than family — designers are creating stylish, even glamorous, furniture. Witness the new $5,000 Crystal Clear Lotus Cat Tower by the Refined Feline, with three platforms for lounging and a hideaway cubby at the bottom lined in white faux fur. (You can see one at the trendy Los Angeles cat cafe Crumbs & Whiskers.) And now you and Buddy can catnap or watch DOGTV on matching tufted Chesterfield-style Wayfair Archie & Oscar sofas; his is a $399 miniaturized version of yours in faux-leather scaled with similar nailhead trim and turned legs.

(16) IT WAS ALL A DREAM. Or maybe Archer was just pining for the fjords for three seasons. Anyway: “FX’s Archer renewed for surprise season 11, reveals major changes”. Entertainment Weekly interviews the showrunners.

FX’s Archer has some huge changes coming for season 11. The first piece of news is that there is going to be a season 11 (creator Adam Reed has previously suggested the show might end after the current 10th season). The second revelation is — as Archer producers just revealed at Comic-Con in San Diego on Friday — that Sterling Archer is going to wake from his three-year coma in the upcoming finale as the show plans a return to its spy agency roots next season. But there’s a lot more to it than just that.

EW exclusively spoke to executive producers Matt Thompson and Casey Willis about their season 11 shakeup. We got the scoop on the show’s major story line for next season, how long Archer has been in a coma, the future involvement of Reed on the show, and more.

(17) NEW STONE AGE. NPR reports “Notre Dame Fire Revives Demand For Skilled Stone Carvers In France”

A little over three months after Paris’ Notre Dame caught fire, French officials say the cathedral is still in a precarious state and needs to be stabilized. Ultimately, they aim to restore the monument, a process that will take years.

When that work begins, there will be a new demand for experts who have the same skills required to build Notre Dame 900 years ago. In the workshops of the Hector Guimard high school, less than three miles from the cathedral, young stone carvers are training for that task.

In an airy and light-filled workshop in the north of Paris, a handful of students chip and chisel away at heavy slabs of stone. Each works on his or her own piece, but all are sculpting the same project: the base of a Corinthian column. The students are earning a professional degree to hew the stone pieces needed to maintain and restore France’s historical monuments.

…”In the beginning, it was my own parents who were surprised when I left my architecture studies to do this,” says Marjorie Lebegue. “But most everyone who finds out I’m studying to be a stone carver says, ‘Wow, what a beautiful profession.'”

Luc Leblond instructs the aspiring stone carvers.

“There’s no reason this should be a masculine profession,” he says. “Men have more physical force, but as a professor, I see the women have a sharpened sensitivity for the more detailed work. So it’s complementary.”

(18) GOOD PLACE BLOOPERS. Shown at Comic-Con –

(19) EVEN BIGGER BLOOPER. ComicBook.com covers the hottest cosplay at Comic-Con:

Los Angeles Times correspondent Benjamin Crutcher wound up going viral at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con by cosplaying as the infamous coffee cup that appeared during an episode of the final season of Game of Thrones.

(20) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Simpsons:  Russian Art Film Version” on YouTube is what the opening of “The Simpsons” would be like in a gloomy Soviet apartment complex.

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

Pixel Scroll 6/25/19 Cthulhu’s On First?

Editor’s Note: My ISP took the site down for several hours to do database maintenance. I was notified earlier today it would happen and put the info in a comment, however, I doubt many people saw it. We’re back now!

(1) HOW TO SUCCEED AS A PANELIST Delilah S. Dawson’s thread “So You’re On Your First Panel As A Writer” tells participants how to sharpen their skills. Thread starts here.

(2) RINGING THE REGISTER. “How Many Copies Did Famous Books Sell in the First Year?” LitHub says from two to two million. Here’s the number for the first genre work on their list –

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (1932): 13,000 copies (UK); 15,000 copies (US)

(3) STOP THAT TRAIN. The New York Times says the Justice Department lawsuit is supported by The Authors Guild and PEN America: “2 Big Book and Magazine Printers Face Suit to Block Their Merger”.

In a lawsuit filed last week in federal court in Chicago, the Justice Department asked for a halt to Quad/Graphics’s planned $1.4 billion purchase of LSC Communications. Lawyers in the department’s antitrust division argued that the merger would decrease competition and drive up prices.

Quad publishes every Condé Nast title, including The New Yorker and Vogue, most publications from Hearst Magazines, including O: The Oprah Magazine, and Scholastic books. LSC Communications publishes two magazines from AARP that claim to have the largest circulations in the world, Penguin Random House books and more.

…In its attempt to block the deal, the Justice Department had two allies from the community of writers: The Authors Guild and PEN America. “The lack of competition among book printers has already caused a bottleneck and increased publishing costs, and a merger between these two companies could exacerbate this situation by creating a monopoly,” the Authors Guild said in a statement in March.

That same month, the Authors Guild and PEN America joined the Open Markets Institute, an antitrust think tank based in Washington, in sending a letter to the Justice Department recommending that the merger be blocked.

It was imperative that the government act, the letter said, because magazines and books “are fundamental to the ability of citizens to freely express and share their thoughts, ideas, opinions and works of art.”

(4) ROCKET’S RED GLARE. ScienceFiction.com learned “Marvel Monsters REALLY Want Lady Gaga To Voice Rocket Raccoon’s Love Interest In ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy, Vol. 3’” and kicks off its coverage with a referential pun:

Are Marvel fans a “Shallow” lot?  They are lobbying hard for James Gunn to cast Lady Gaga as the voice of Lylla, a sentient otter from the comic books who winds up being the love interest of Rocket Raccoon, who is voiced by Bradley Cooper in the movies.  This is after Film Updates posted a tease on Twitter that Gaga was under consideration, and that Lylla was “set to make an appearance” in Gunn’s upcoming ‘Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3’.

(5) DESTROYING THE INTERNET. On reason.com, Mike Godwin of the R Street Institute, in “What If Widespread Disinformation Is the Solution to Fake News?” interviews Neal Stephenson about his idea, expressed in Fall, that the solution to fake news on the Internet is to hire people to perform “libel service,” flooding the Net with so many slanderous articles about a subject that no one could believe anything on the Net about a particular person.

I confess I haven’t yet finished Stephenson’s latest 800-plus-page tome, which so far might be characterized, although not necessarily captured, by the term “near-future dystopia.”  But when I came across Stephenson’s depiction of how automated disinformation could actually remedy the damage that internet-based “doxxing” and fake news inflict on an innocent private individual, I paused my reading and jumped down the rabbit hole of tracing this idea to its 1990s roots. 

…This whole chapter rang many bells for me, not least because it paralleled a discussion I had with a law professor at a conference last year when I pitched the idea of a “libel service.” Basically, you’d hire a “libel service” to randomly defame you on the internet, so that whenever anyone says something bad about you on Twitter or Facebook, or in the comments area of some newspaper, you could just say “that’s probably my libel service.” No one would know whether the defamatory statements were true or not, and people would be predisposed to doubt anything too terrible that’s said about you.

(6) MARVEL ONE-ACT PLAYS. Samuel French and Marvel Entertainment have launched Marvel Spotlight, a collection of one-act plays “telling the stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”

Developed specifically for teenagers, these one-act plays star the iconic Super Heroes Ms. Marvel, Thor, and Squirrel Girl. The scripts are now available for purchase as well as licensing within the educational theatre market at MarvelSpotlightPlays.com.

Here’s the abstract for Mirror of Most Value: A Ms. Marvel Play:

Kamala attempts to boost Ms. Marvel’s fledgling super hero profile by writing her own fan fiction. But when building a fandom becomes an obsession, Kamala’s schoolwork and relationships begin to suffer. To become the Jersey City hero of her dreams, Kamala must learn to accept herself just as she is – imperfections and all.

(7) ALL BRADBURY ALL THE TIME. Camestros Felapton points out the connections between Bradbury’s fiction and the Elton John biopic: “The Rocket Man versus Rocketman”.

Both the song and story feature a man who pilots an interplanetary rocket as a routine job that takes him away from his family for large stretches of time. However, the song places the perspective with the pilot (the titular rocket man) but the story focuses on the feelings and experiences of the pilot’s son.

Bradbury is such a powerful writer. Even though the sci-fi trappings of the story are of the gee-whiz 1950s style shiny technology, the story itself is focused on emotional connections and that signature Bradbury sense of the past and memory.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 25, 1953 Robot Monster debuted — the one where the guy in the gorilla suit wore a divers helmet with antennae.
  • June 25, 1965 Dr. Who And The Daleks was released in London. The film featured Peter Cushing as Dr. Who. Cushing would do one more film, Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150 A.D. a year later.  Cushing was the First Doctor, so Roberta Tovey was cast as his granddaughter. 
  • June 25, 1975 Rollerball premiered
  • June 25, 1982 Blade Runner arrived in theaters.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 25, 1903 George Orwell. Surprised to learn he only lived to be forty-seven years old. Author obviously of Animal Farm and 1984, both of which I read a long time ago. Best use of the 1984 image goes to Apple in their ad where a female runner smashes the image of Big Brother. (Died 1950.)
  • Born June 25, 1925 June Lockhart, 93. Maureen Robinson on Lost in Space which amazingly only ran for three seasons. She has a number of genre one-offs including Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Greatest American Hero and Babylon 5. She appeared in the Lost in Space film as Principal Cartwright. 
  • Born June 25, 1935 Charles Sheffield. He was the President of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and of the American Astronautical Society. He won both the Nebula and Hugo Awards for his novelette “Georgia on My Mind,” and a John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel for Brother to Dragons which is an amazing read. Much of his fiction is in his Heritage Universe series; the linked short stories of space traveller Arthur Morton McAndrew are a sheer comic delight. (Died 2002.)
  • Born June 25, 1956 Anthony Bourdain. That’s a death that hit me hard. Partly because he’s round my age, partly because, damn, he seemed so interested in everything that I couldn’t conceive him committing suicide. And yes, he was one of us with three works to his credit: Get Jiro!,  (with Joe Rose and Langdon Foss), Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi (with Joe Rose and Ale Garza) and Hungry Ghosts (with Joel Rose, Alberto Ponticelli, Irene Koh, Paul Pope). The first two are on DC, the latter‘s on Berger Books. (Died 2018.)
  • Born June 25, 1960 Ian McDonald, 59. Now here’s an author that I’ve read a lot of starting with his first novel, Desolation Road, and following through to his most recent, The Luna series. I do have favorites — Desolation Road and the other Mars novel, Ares Express, plus the Everness series are the ones I like the best. Chaga I think is the one I need to read again as I was annoyed by it the first time. 
  • Born June 25, 1981 Sheridan Smith, 38. She makes the Birthday list for being Lucie Miller, a companion to the Eight Doctor in his Big Finish audio adventures starting in 2006 and running through at least this year. Her only video genre work was being in The Huntsman: Winter’s War as Mrs Bromwyn.

(10) WHAT A KINDNESS. Actor Michael Sheen answered a request in character as Aziraphale:

(11) STAN LEE NOVEL COMING. Per Entertainment Weekly, “Stan Lee’s posthumous project A Trick of Light to be published as a book”.

Stan Lee’s posthumous creative project A Trick of Light, initially announced as the beginning of a new series for Audible, will be published as a hardcover finished book this fall, EW has learned exclusively. The book will be classified as Lee’s first-ever novel for adult readers, and marks the first foray into his new Alliances universe, which was created in partnership between Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment, Ryan Silbert’s Origin Story, and Luke Lieberman. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is set to publish A Trick of Light, with Kat Rosenfield serving as co-author.

A Trick of Light is a superhero origin story about the unlikely friendship between Cameron, a gifted young man struggling with newfound fame after a freak accident gives him the ability to manipulate technology with his mind, and Nia, a hacker and coding genius with a mysterious past. The two must combine their powers to fight the dangerous physical and online forces threatening to wipe out the human race. Audible’s original launches June 27; it’s narrated by Grown-ish star Yara Shahidi.

… The novel version publishes on Sept. 17, 2019, and is available for pre-order.

(12) THE FLEET. Ethan Mills is finally won over to Chambers’ series, as he explains in “Space Chillwave, Not Space Opera: Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers” at Examined Worlds.

The setting was really interesting and philosophically fruitful: a fleet of generation ships dating back to a time before contact with aliens who possess advanced technology that made generation ships useless.  Instead of traversing the inky depths of interstellar space, the Fleet orbits a planet.  Still, the people continue to live there.  Why? It’s complicated.  But it prompts the existential question: What are we, the readers, doing on a rock hurtling through space heading nowhere in particular, destined to die?  It starts off subtle but it all gets pretty deep (we’re talking meaning-of-life type stuff, some of it – damn it – coming from the angsty teen).  This really surprised me considering a lot of the novel feels pretty… light and fluffy.  You could totally read this as a light and fluffy space romp and enjoy it just fine, but there are depths if you’re willing to look into the subtleties.

(13) WILLITS TRIBUTE. Alan White’s Skyliner #7 is a wonderful collection, even if it is “a sad one, being dedicated to the late, great Malcolm Willits, Author, Fannish Mogul, Citizen Kane of Mickey Mouse, and one of the early fen who actually did something worthy of the fannish pantheon.” It includes long autobiographical pieces, such as “Gottfredson and Me” about Willits’ appreciation for the artist who produced Disney’s Mickey Mouse comics.

I have long loved Floyd Gottfredson, even though I did not know his name. But I knew him through his work, through his wonderful Mickey Mouse stories, and especially through his wonderful artwork. I knew it first through the Big Little Books, those miniature jewels that came out during the Depression and reprinted Mickey’s great adventures. I remember them from the ten cent store; whole counters full, all spine out and a dime apiece

A few years later all my Big Little Books disappeared, along with the comic books I had carefully protected from the wartime paper drives, thereby prolonging World War II a microsecond. My father was a YMCA Secretary, and he had given all of them to the children of Japanese-American families being relocated to internment camps. In vain was my protest that the 10¢ war stamp I purchased each week in the 2nd grade was sacrifice enough. Nor was my offer to substitute my school books even considered. I soon found myself in a staging area looking at sad-eyed Japanese-American children being held in wire cages. Dad informed me they were as American as I. It was then I began to suspect his grasp of world affairs. Didn’t he know who Captain America was fighting; had he slept through that Don Winslow serial we had seen a week or two before and neglected to notice who the villains were? But I acted properly contrite and was rewarded with some new comic books on the way home, so the world turned bright again. When my father turned 90, he was honored for his work with the Japanese-Americans during World War II. My contribution remains unheralded.

…Do artists such as Carl Barks and Floyd Gottfredson really need their friends? John W. Campbell, legendary editor of astounding science-fiction once said that if all the fans stop buying his magazine he would never know. He meant the fans that filled the letter columns, attended the conventions, published the fanzines, and badgered the authors. They probably compromise 1% of the readership, and 90% of the headaches. By being so vocal they could manage from orbit the general policies of the magazine that were keeping the rest of the readership contented. Yet where would Barks and Gottfredson be today if it were not for the godsend that two fans, Bruce Hamilton, and Russ Cochran, we’re born to collect and publish the works of these two artists? How difficult it would be to place a historical perspective on them without the pioneering works Tom Andrae, Donald Ault, Bill Blackbeard, Geoffrey Blum, Barbara Botner, Mark Evanier, Alan Dean Foster, Bob Foster, Frank & Dana Gabbard, Gottfreid Helnwein, Gary Kurtz, George Lucas, Leonard Maltin, John Nichols, Tor Odemark, Mark Saarinen, Horst Schroeder, David Smith, Kim Weston, myself, Mark Worden, and many others both here and abroad.

(14) THE HORROR OF IT ALL. Nick Mamatas’ affection for the Lovecraftian storytelling style is manifest in his review of Toy Story 4, a post made public to encourage readers to sign up for his Patreon.

…The uncanny and the unworthy populate the film. Woody, ignored by his new owner, feels valueless and thus assigns himself the task of attempting to keep Forky alive. The antagonists are antique store dolls–there a Chatty Cathylike figure whose voice box was damaged at her creation, so her pull-cord “I love you!” sounds like a twisted dream calling forth from the bottom of a tar pit. She commands a quartet of ventriloquist dummies who cannot speak and who do her bidding while flopping around on their twisted limbs. She desires Woody’s innards for her own….

(15) ASTRONAUT HEIRLOOM. All kinds of things are going under the hammer during The Armstrong Family Collection III Space Exploration Auction (July 16-18) – even “Neil Armstrong’s Childhood Toy Teddy Bear Directly From The Armstrong Family Collection”.

(16) TRANSPORTATION SENTENCES. Felicity McLean explores “Australian Gothic Literature” at CrimeReads.

Of course the Germans have a wonderful word for ‘Gothic novel’. Schauerroman. Literally: “shudder-novel”. A story that makes you shiver with fear. Because Gothic is the literature of the menacing and the macabre.

It’s the stuff of nightmares.

But how does such a dark art translate in sunny Australia? How do you cause your readers to shiver when the temperature sits stubbornly above 80 degrees?

Gothic influence has been loitering creepily in Australian literature ever since European settlement. In 1788, when the British began shipping their convicts to Australia, Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Ontranto had recently been published in England and so the British transported the Gothic mode along with their very worst criminals.

(17) DEADLY TROPE. Also at CrimeReads, Caroline Louise Walker analyzes “Why Doctors Make for the Most Terrifying Villains in Fiction”.

SIR WILLIAM GULL in From Hell, by Alan Moore (art by Eddie Campbell)

In Moore’s brilliant graphic novel, we’re asked to bend all we know about a serial killer we all know: Jack the Ripper. The details and research embedded in the conspiracy theory that unfolds are haunting, staggering, and so well done. If the infamously gruesome homicidal maniac was one and the same as a highly respected royal physician, then we must consider who we are trusting with our lives, and why.

(18) ON THE CLOCK. Details on the Falcon Heavy’s key payload: “Nasa puts up deep-space atomic clock”.

Nasa has put a miniaturised atomic clock in orbit that it believes can revolutionise deep-space navigation.

About the size of a toaster, the device is said to have 50 times the stability of existing space clocks, such as those flown in GPS satellites.

If the technology proves itself over the next year, Nasa will install the clock in future planetary probes.

The timepiece was one of 24 separate deployments from a Falcon Heavy rocket that launched from Florida on Tuesday.

The other passengers on the flight were largely also demonstrators. They included a small spacecraft to test a new type of “green” rocket fuel, and another platform that aims to propel itself via the pressure of sunlight caught in a large membrane; what’s often called a “lightsail”.

But it is the mercury-ion atomic clock, developed at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), which has had most attention.

(19) REMOTE LAB. “‘Jet in a box’ powers remote Halley Antarctic base” – article resonates with discussions about whether we should ever send crews rather than robot labs to other planets.

The UK has managed to get one of its major Antarctic bases operating in an automatic mode for the first time.

Halley base, on the Brunt Ice Shelf, is remotely running experiments that include the monitoring of the ozone layer and of “space weather”.

The station would normally be crewed year-round, even through the permanent darkness of winter.

But staff have had to be withdrawn because of uncertainty over the stability of nearby ice.

A giant berg the size of Greater London is about to break away from the Brunt, and officials from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) consider it prudent to keep people away from the area, at least until the light and warmth of summer returns.

That’s prompted the UK’s polar research agency to develop an innovative set-up that can continue the station’s priority science activities in what is now the third winter shutdown on the trot.

(20) TOOL FOR SF WRITERS? BBC unpacks “The simple rule that can help you predict the future”. Note Le Guin quote near end, and signup for Forecast Challenge at the top.

What will remain in 100 years’ time of the city or town where you were born: which landmarks or buildings? What about in 500 years? The controversial author Nassim Nicholas Taleb offers a counter-intuitive rule-of-thumb for answering questions like this. If you want to know how long something non-perishable will endure – that is, something not subject to the limits of a natural lifespan – then the first question you should ask is how long it has already existed. The older it is, the more likely it is to go on surviving.

…The logic of Taleb’s argument is simple. Because the only judge that matters when it comes to the future is time, our only genuinely reliable technique for looking ahead is to ask what has already proved enduring: what has shown fitness and resilience in the face of time itself, surviving its shocks and assaults across decades, centuries or millennia. The Tower of London may seem modest in comparison to the Shard skyscraper – which sits across the Thames at 11 times the height – but it has also proved its staying power across 94 times as many years. The Shard may be iconic and imposing, but its place in history is far from assured. When it comes to time, the older building looms larger.

(21) MUPPET HISTORY. DefunctTV: Jim Henson is a six-part series chronicling the life and works of the man behind the Muppet mayhem. Here’s the first of four installments.

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