Pixel Scroll 11/18/19 Timeo Filers Et Dona Pixeles

(1) OUT OF THE BAG. Spies in Disguise just had a “super-secret” drop.

Super spy Lance Sterling (Will Smith) and scientist Walter Beckett (Tom Holland) are almost exact opposites. Lance is smooth, suave and debonair. Walter is … not. But when events take an unexpected turn, this unlikely duo are forced to team up for the ultimate mission that will require an almost impossible disguise – transforming Lance into the brave, fierce, majestic… pigeon. Walter and Lance suddenly have to work as a team, or the whole world is in peril. “Spies in Disguise” flies into theaters this Christmas.

(2) BOOMER DOOM. John Scalzi speaks sooth in “Reader Request Week 2019 #2: The War Between the Generations”.

…The special sauce of this particular moment of generational conflict is that it involves the Baby Boomers for the first time being the antagonists of the generational story, rather than either the protagonists or the somewhat neutral mainstream. The Boomers are now the older generation and are having a moment being seen as the ossified and inflexible group whose opinion is not worth considering, and they don’t appear to like it at all. There is the (some would say delicious) irony of the generation that famously professed it would never trust anyone over 30 having become the generation that those under 30 allegedly doesn’t trust. I’m pretty sure the Boomers don’t appreciate that irony at all.

(3) ON THE BLOCK. Time Out discusses auctions of collectibles from the Happiest Place on Earth in “A History of Disneyland & Walt Disney World”.

Since first being approached by one man and his collection of Disneyland materials about five years ago, gallery co-founder Mike Van Eaton has become a go-to figure for these auctions. He estimates that he sells about 98% of the stock each auction, so it’s no surprise that prolific collectors and former parks employees keep approaching him to offer relics on consignment. Those relationships are part of how he verifies the pieces’ provenance; he’ll consult with Disney Imagineers to separate the fan-made items from the park-used ones, and he’ll use the plausibility of their backstories to suss out how one It’s a Small World doll is from the Florida version of the ride, while another is clearly from a promotional storefront activation in New York (the use of electric parts instead of pneumatic was the tip-off). Others are more directly verifiable, like when a former county assessor dropped off official plans he’d overseen for the railroad that Walt Disney built in his Holmby Hills backyard.

(4) I’M BAAACK! Hollywood Collectibles will let you have this sweetheart for only $1,599. Easy payment plan available!

This stunning life-size wall display pays homage to the terrifying Alien Queen’s iconic battle with Ripley, in the climatic scenes of Aliens.

(5) ETCHISON MEMORIAL. Dennis Etchison’s memorial marker, “paid for by a long-term friend of his who wishes to remain anonymous,” is now in place at Pierce Brothers, Westwood Village. It’s marker #127 on the ‘Cenotaph’ wall, (quite near the graves of Ray and Maggie Bradbury).

(6) LE GUIN ON UK SCREENS. Another chance to see the BBC4 TV documentary “The Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin” which also has contributions from Margret Atwood and Neil Gaiman. The link only works in the UK – which will be fine for some of you.

(7) TIMING IS EVERYTHING. ScienceAlert says “NASA Has Detected Weird Orbital Movement From Two of Neptune’s Moons”.

The two moons in question are Naiad and Thalassa, both around 100 kilometres or 62 miles wide, which race around their planet in what NASA researchers are calling a “dance of avoidance”.

Compared with Thalassa, Naiad’s orbit is tilted by about five degrees – it spends half of its time above Thalassa and half of it below, in a linked orbit that’s unlike anything else on record.

“We refer to this repeating pattern as a resonance,” says physicist Marina Brozovic, from the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “There are many different types of dances that planets, moons and asteroids can follow, but this one has never been seen before.”

The two small moons’ orbits are only around 1,850 kilometres (1,150 miles) apart, but they are perfectly timed and choreographed to keep avoiding each other. Naiad takes seven hours to circle Neptune, while Thalassa takes seven and a half on the outside track.

(8) INFLUENCER RULES. Pirated Thoughts provides a reader update: “Explaining the FTC’s New Social Media Influencer Sponsorship Disclosure Rules”.

When to Disclose

Influencers must disclose when they have any financial, employment, personal, or family relationship with a brand.  If given free or discounted products, an Influencer is required to disclose this information even if they were not asked to mention that product.  The FTC reminds Influencers that even wearing tags or pins that show favorability towards a company can be considered endorsements of said company.  However, if you simply enjoy a product and want to talk about the product, you are not required to declare that you don’t have a relationship with that brand.  Lastly, even if these posts are made from abroad, U.S. law will still apply if it is reasonably foreseeable that the post will affect U.S. consumers.

(9) BIG TROUBLE. Galactic Journey’s Jessica Holmes is tuned in for the latest (55 years ago) doctoral thesis: [November 17, 1964] A Continuing Adventure In Space And Time (Doctor Who: Planet Of Giants).

PLANET OF GIANTS

AWOOOGA, AWOOOGA. We’re barely a minute in and already things are going wrong aboard the good ship TARDIS. As the Doctor brings her in to land, the doors start opening by themselves. Fortunately, the companions manage to get them closed and they land safely. Or do they? The Doctor is very agitated about the doors opening, but doesn’t do a good job of explaining what it is that’s bothering him. Something strange is afoot, that’s for sure.

(10) WHO CLUES. Mirror UK is in tune with the series’ more current events: “Doctor Who series 12 release date, cast, episodes, plot for Jodie Whittaker return”. Lots of hints, like this one:

Doctor Who series 12 release date

Doctor Who series 12 is due to air in very early 2020.

However, fans should keep an eye out for something on November 23 2019 , according to a recent BBC teaser.

There have been rumours of a surprise Christmas Special for December 25, 2019, but this will likely air in 2020 instead.

(11) DEEP THOUGHTS ABOUT STAR WARS. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Film blogger Darren Mooney has offered some pretty awesome analysis of Star Wars on Twitter. Thread starts here. Some highlights:

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 18, 1928 Steamboat Willie, was released featuring Mickey Mouse.
  • November 18, 1959  — The Incredible Petrified World enjoyed its very first theatrical screening for residents of Burlington, North Carolina.
  • November 18, 1992 Killer Tomatoes Eat France! premiered  in the U.S. home video marketplace.  Written and directed by John De Bello, it starredJohn Astin,  Marc Price and Angela Visser. It rates a surprisingly high 41% over at Rotten Tomatoes. 
  • November 18, 1994 Star Trek Generations premiered. Starring Patrick Stewart and William Shatner, the film did very well but had a decidedly mixed critical reception and the film holds a 47% rating on Rotten Tomatoes currently. 

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born November 18, 1939 Margaret Atwood, 80. Well there’s that work called The Handmaid’s Tale that garnering a lot of discussion now. There’s the excellent MaddAddam Trilogy which I recommend, and I’ve good things about The Penelopiad.
  • Born November 18, 1946 Alan Dean Foster, 73. There’s fifteen Pip and Flinx novels?!? Well the first five or so were superb. Spellsinger series is tasty too. Can’t say anything about his SW work as I ever got into reading what amounted to authorized fanfic. 
  • Born November 18, 1950 Michael Swanwick, 69. I will single out The Iron Dragon’s Daughter and Jack Faust as the novels I remember liking the best. His short fiction superb and I see both Apple Books and Kindle have the most excellent Tales of Old Earth collection with this lovely cover.
  • Born November 18, 1950 Eric Pierpoint, 69. I’d say that he’s best-known for his role as George Francisco on the Alien Nation franchise. He has also appeared on each of the first four Trek spin-offs. And he’s got a very impressive number of genre one-offs which I’m sure y’all will tell me about. 
  • Born November 18, 1952 Doug Fratz. Long-time fan and prolific reviewer for the  New York Review of Science Fiction and Science Fiction Age who also published a number of zines including the superbly titled Alienated Critic. He was nominated for Best Fanzine Hugo four times. Mike has a remembrance of him here. (Died 2016.)
  • Born November 18, 1953 Alan Moore, 66. His best book is Voice of the Fire. Though the first volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen very close. Pity about the film. His worse work? The Lost Girls. Shudder. 
  • Born November 18, 1961 Steven Moffat, 58. Showrunner, writer and executive producer of Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes. His first Doctor Who script was for Doctor Who: The Curse of Fatal Death, a charity production that you can find on YouTube and I suggest you go watch now.   He also co-wrote The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, a most excellent animated film. He has deservedly won four Hugo Awards. 

(14) COMICS SECTION.

  • Garfield depends on a rare astronomy lesson for a joke.
  • Even one of the character’s is surprised by Garfield’s Asimov reference. 

(15) EFFECTED OR AFFECTED? [Item by Olav Rokne.] On his personal blog, former Guardian SF book reviewer Damien Walter (@damiengwalter) admits that he didn’t read a single novel in 2019 — “I stopped reading novels last year. I think you did too.”

In an essay that gets a bit finger-pointy, he decries the state of novel writing, casts aspersions at NaNoRiMo books, and asks for something new that will “inspire” him. Warning: if you’re anything like me, you might find the piece a bit aggravating. 

If anything killed the magic of the novel, it’s seeing the novel utterly degraded and disrespected by the fevered egos who crank out junk and self publish it on the Kindle. I really wish this didn’t effect how I see the novel, but inevitably, it does.

And mainstream publishing isn’t all that much better. They don’t seem to invest anywhere near enough into developing talented new writers. New writers are published too early, then disappear before they have a chance to develop, which rarely happens before half a dozen lesser novels have been published.

Curious about what the Filers have to say about Walter’s opinion.  

(16) NO CAMERA TRICKS. BBC outlines “How Mary Poppins has changed for the stage”. The scene with the carpetbag is cited as an example of bad camera fakery; now they’re doing it live.

The stage adaptation of Mary Poppins is not the kind of show where the actors can afford to let their concentration lapse.

There are several precise and tricky cues for the cast to hit across the three-hour West End production.

Props have to appear from (or disappear into) thin air. There are magic tricks. Characters dance upside down on the ceiling. There are scenes that involve complex choreography, kite flying and statues coming to life.

It’s a testament to how tightly rehearsed the show is that nothing went wrong at the show’s opening night on Wednesday.

“It does sometimes!” laughs Zizi Strallen, who plays the legendary leading role. “But there are contingency plans, that’s the beauty of live theatre, and it’s my job to cover it up as well if it does go wrong.”

The most complicated part of the show, she says, is a scene which will be familiar to fans of the original 1964 film starring Julie Andrews, where Poppins is seen somehow pulling huge items out of a relatively small handbag.

“Not only am I singing and being Mary Poppins, I’m then essentially doing magic tricks,” Strallen explains, crediting the magic specialist who was hired to teach her. “There’s a magic teapot, bringing a plant out of the bag, a hat stand, a mirror, putting them all on the wall so they don’t fall off.

“There’s a lot of pressure in that number, a lot of things to think about. So my brain is going 100 miles per hour. And then when that number’s done I think ‘right, now I can just have fun’.”

(17) LAWFUL NEUTRAL. FastCompany says local governments are finding ways to keep this from being a purely rhetorical question, despite the FCC: “Should the internet be a public utility? Hundreds of cities are saying yes”.

Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon are free to slow down, block, or prioritize internet traffic as they wish, without interference by the federal government. That’s the effect of an October ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, upholding a 2017 ruling by the Federal Communications Commission that reversed rules requiring what is called “net neutrality“—treating all internet traffic equally, regardless of where it’s from or what kind of data it is.

Giving corporate telecom giants this power is wildly unpopular among the American people, who know that these companies have overcharged customers and interfered with users’ internet access in the past.

However, people who advocate for an open internet, free of corporate roadblocks, might find solace in another aspect of the court’s ruling: States and local governments may be able to mandate their own net neutrality rules.

The effort is underway

Governors in six states—Hawaii, Montana, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont—have already signed executive orders enforcing net neutrality by prohibiting state agencies from doing business with internet service providers that limit customers’ online access. Four states have passed their own laws requiring internet companies to treat all online content equally: California, Oregon, Washington, and Vermont. A New Hampshire bill is in the works.

More than 100 mayors representing both large urban centers such as San Francisco and small cities such as Edmond, Oklahoma, have pledged not to sign contracts with internet service providers that violate net neutrality.

(18) AVENUE 5. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Three words: Hugh Laurie. HBO. Space cruise. Comedy.

OK, that’s six words.

Gizmodo believes “The Space Cruise Comedy From the Creator of Veep May Become Our New Obsession”.

(19) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Sunspring, a Sci-Fi Short Film Starring Thomas Middleditch” on YouTube is a fim from Ars Technica based on a screenplay written by an AI who had digested hundreds of script for sf films and tv shows.

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

Pixel Scroll 1/17/19 While I Just Sit At Home And Pixelate

(1) RECONCILIATION AT ARISIA. When Arisia, the controversy-plagued Boston convention, takes place this weekend they plan to face up to their troubles with a Reconciliation track of 15 program items —

Arisia 2019 will offer a special Programming track called “Reconciliation”. These sessions will provide attendees opportunities to communicate about recent events involving the Arisia community, the convention itself, and Arisia, Inc. (our parent corporation).

Sessions use several approaches, allowing space for our community’s diversity. These methods range from silent work an attendee can do with trained facilitators, to town-hall discussions allowing community members to share their feelings, reactions and desire for change. We will also have a set of “chill out” programming for people who want to decompress after this kind of emotional labor as well as training and workshops for people who want to contribute to making change happen and being part of rebuilding our community.

Arisia will be collecting all feedback given by attendees at the sessions listed below, and will attempt to address salient items at the State of Arisia Community Update on Monday. Arisia Leadership from both the Convention and Corporation will be in Feedback sessions to provide our community the opportunity to talk directly with them.

You can learn about the backstory by reading File 770’s posts tagged “Arisia”.  

(2) RSR’S POLL INFO RESOURCE. Rocket Stack Rank’s Eric Wong has created a central place to find ballots for SF/F awards that are open to all or open to members (of associations or conventions). It has links to ballots, shows due dates, links to RSR resources to help with voting such as longlists with story blurbs and scores and covers. http://www.rocketstackrank.com/p/2018-best-sff.html

Here are the ones currently open for voting.

Open to All

Coming soon are Clarkesworld, Apex, and the Locus Awards.

Open to Members

The info will be updated as ballots for some awards close and others open.

Also of interest to fans is the Best SF/F section (below the SF/F Ballots), which if you expand it, shows the progress of the various award finalists + winners, year’s best anthologies, and reviewers recommendations that contribute to the score of each story. Currently, the scores are 32% complete, based on 0/26 awards announced, 1/7 year’s best anthologies TOCs shared, and 14/14 reviewers posted. The table shows expected dates for each award and year’s best, and the story scores will be updated with each release. Clicking on a completed award/year’s best/reviewer link will highlight the stories whose score was increased by that award/year’s best/reviewer.

(3) A SWING AND A MISS. NPR’s Glen Weldon finds that “‘Glass’ Is Leaden”.

Again and again, in M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass — the sequel to 2016’s Split, which was itself a stealth sequel to 2000’s Unbreakable — there are moments that should, by any reasonable measure, work. In the language of superhero films, they’re now-familiar turns of phrase that can be depended upon — and often have been depended upon — to elicit a jolt of adrenaline in the eager viewer.

Take the moment, late in the film, when a character heralds his return to super-form by finding a singular component of his old costume. Everything about the shot is set up to punch our buttons: The figure stands in stark silhouette. It’s filmed from a low, Spielbergian angle. The costume component in question unfurls with a dramatic snap and rustle painstakingly engineered by some hardworking Foley artist somewhere in Burbank, probably. The music swells to an insistent crescendo.

And yet … nothing.

Or the scene where another character dramatically intones his comic-book codename, then employs a [SOMETHING] to [ACT UPON] someone; and then — in case we missed it (we didn’t), we cut back to that previous shot of said character pronouncing his comic-book codename, which … oh, ha ha ha … we now realize, cheekily references the [SOMETHING]. (No spoilers.)

In any other film, that moment would provide the proceedings with a sardonic punch. Here, it’s just flat seltzer.

(4) YOLEN WINS AWARD. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators today announced the 2019 Golden Kite and Sid Fleischman Awards, and sff author Jane Yolen was one of the winners. [Via Locus Online.]

Young Adult Fiction:

Jane Yolen – MAPPING THE BONES (Philomel)

Influenced by Dr. Mengele’s sadistic experimentations, this story follows twins as they travel from the Lodz ghetto, to the partisans in the forest, to a horrific concentration camp where they lose everything but each other.

(5) MOVIE ABOUT JRR COMING TO THEATERS. From SYFY Wire we learn “Tolkien getting summer release”:

Tolkien, the biopic about The Lord of the Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien starring Nicholas Hoult and Lily Collins, has had everything lined up as fans continue to buzz about the upcoming Amazon series based on his Lord of the Rings series. Now fans can mark on their calendars that director Dome Karukoski’s biopic will hit screens this summer on May 10.

(6) GARCIA PODCAST. Chris Garcia’s film journal “Klaus at Gunpoint” has a new podcast out — “Fantasy Film 101 – Willow”.

(7) IT’S A JOLLY HOLIDAY WITH MARY. This is too effing much – Mary Poppins: Post-Brexit from The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

A spoonful of sugar helps the withdrawal from the European Union go down.

(8) ABANDONED. James Davis Nicoll discusses “SF Stories Featuring Abandoned Earths” at Tor.com.

Space colonization stories are a subgenre of SF. Space colonization stories in which the Earth has become a backwater world, cut off from thriving colony planets, are a thriving sub-subgenre.

At first glance, this seems odd. Earth is rich in resources and offers humans a shirt-sleeve environment . Why wouldn’t it continue to be the leader of the pack?

Sometimes it’s because we have trashed the Earth, rendering it uninhabitable….

(9) BARRETT OBIT. New Zealand fan Mervyn Barrett died January 16 in Wellington. At various times Barrett was active in the Melbourne MSFC, London, and New Zealand fandoms. He’s credited with organizing the first New Zealand sf convention. He was 86. One of his claims to fame was this article  about the night the Melbourne club almost burned down (from the 1975 Aussiecon program book).

…Anyhow, it was because of the activities of the film group that the Melbourne Science Fiction Club almost burnt down. I’d started the group and used to run it: hustling films and running the little Ampro 16mm projector. When I left, Paul Stevens took over the group and did all sorts of enterprising things like renting proper cinemas so that 35 mm films could be shown and stuff like that. Then, some time later, when an enthusiast who happened to own a couple of 35 mm film projectors joined the club, they installed these in the clubroom and started showing classic old movies – some of them on nitrate film. Mervyn Binns had complete confidence in the projectionist and the equipment. “This guy really knew what he was doing.” He told me, but the introduction of nitrate film into the clubroom was just too much for one of the members, who had the clubroom inspected by the Health Department and closed down as a fire hazard. Admittedly nitrate film has one or two unfortunate characteristics like becoming unstable with age and being just plain highly inflammable and becoming downright explosive. But even when this is coupled with the fact that the clubroom was on the top floor of a 90-year-old brick building with wooden floors, roof, ceilings and staircases, that it had no fire escape and that its only entrance was through a narrow wooden staircase (which McGill’s grudgingly allowed to be used when the lift was finally taken out of commission when the Melbourne Water Board decided it was no longer an economical proposition to go to the trouble of supplying compressed water for it) one still has difficulty seeing the reason for his excessive nervousness….

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • January 17, 1982 — The Ray Bradbury-penned “The Electric Grandmother” premiered on television.
  • January 17, 1992Freejack premiered in theaters with Mick Jagger as the bad guy.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 17, 1899 Nevil Shute. Author of On the Beach. It originally appeared as a four-part series, The Last Days on Earth, in the London weekly Sunday Graphic in April 1957. It was twice a film. He has other SF novels including An Old Captivity which involves time travel and No Highway which gets a review by Pohl in Super Science Stories, April 1949. There’s In the Wet and Vinland the Good as well. (Died 1960.)
  • Born January 17, 1927 Eartha Kitt. Though you’ll have lots of folks remembering her as Catwoman from the original Batman, she appeared in but four episodes there. Genre wise, she was in such series as I-SpyMission: ImpossibleMatrix,  the animated Space Ghost Coast to Coast and the animated My Life as a Teenage Robot. Film wise, she played Freya in Erik the Viking, voiced Bagheera in The Jungle Book: Mowgli’s Story and was Madame Zeroni In Holes.(Died 2008.)
  • Born January 17, 1931 James Earl Jones, 88. His first SF appearance was in Dr. Strangelove as Lt. Lothar Zogg.  And I think I need not list all his appearances as Darth Vader here. Some genre appearances include Exorcist II: The HereticThe Flight of DragonsConan the Barbarian as Thulsa Doom and I actually remember him in the role, Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold, did you the the 1995 Judge Dredd had a Narrator? Well he’s listed as doing it, and Fantasia 2000
  • Born January 17, 1949 Donald Palumbo, 70. Well someone has to take us seriously. In this case, it’s this scholar. He’s done such studies as Chaos Theory, Asimov’s Foundations and Robots, and Herbert’s Dune: the Fractal Aesthetic of Epic Science FictionEros in the Mind’s Eye: Sexuality and the Fantastic in Art and Film and Worlds Apart?: Dualism and Transgression in Contemporary Female Dystopias. He has an interesting essay, “Reiterated Plots and Themes in the Robot Novels: Getting Away with Murder and Overcoming Programming”  in Foundation, #80 Autumn 2000.
  • Born January 17, 1962 Jim Carrey, 57. His first genre film is Once Bitten whose content is obvious from its name. The ‘dorable Earth Girls Are Easy was next followed up by Batman Forever in which he played a manic Riddler, then there’s the The Truman Show which has stretches genre boundaries I think, may we not talk about How the Grinch Stole Christmas?, and is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind genre?,  who’s seen Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events?, Horton Hears a Who!  (FUN!), A Christmas Carol  of which I know nothing, Mr. Popper’s Penguins (well it sounds cute) and, I’m not you, Sonic the Hedgehog. Busy, isn’t he?
  • Born January 17, 1970 Genndy Tartakovsky, 49. Russian-American animator, director, producer, screenwriter, storyboard artist, comic book writer and artist. Yeah he really is. Hell he created Star Wars: Clone Wars! And let me list some of the many other things he’s involved in: Batman: The Animated SeriesIron Man 2Hotel TransylvaniaDuck DodgersThe Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy, Luke Cage series as Cage! and the Dexter’s Laboratory series as well.
  • Born January 17, 1989 Kelly Marie Tran, 30. Rose Tico in Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Wars: Episode IX. She also voices the character in the Star Wars Forces of Destiny animated series. She was the first woman of color to be cast in a leading role in the Star Wars franchise, something she should be proud of.

(12) CHOOSE YOUR OWN BLACK HOLE ADVENTURE. Physics professor Gaurav Khanna advises Daily Beast readers: “Traveling to Another Dimension? Choose Your Black Hole Wisely.”

One of the most cherished science fiction scenarios is using a black hole as a portal to another dimension or time or universe. That fantasy may be closer to reality than previously imagined.

My team at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and a colleague at Georgia Gwinnett College have shown that all black holes are not created equal. If the black hole like Sagittarius A*, located at the center of our own galaxy, is large and rotating, then the outlook for a spacecraft changes dramatically. That’s because the singularity that a spacecraft would have to contend with is very gentle and could allow for a very peaceful passage.

(13) BREW TWO. What if the world can’t wake up in the morning? “World’s coffee under threat, say experts”.

The first full assessment of risks to the world’s coffee plants shows that 60% of 124 known species are on the edge of extinction.

More than 100 types of coffee tree grow naturally in forests, including two used for the coffee we drink.

Scientists say the figure is “worrying”, as wild coffee is critical for sustaining the global coffee crop.

About one in five of the world’s plants is threatened with extinction, and the 60% figure is an “extremely high” one.

“If it wasn’t for wild species we wouldn’t have as much coffee to drink in the world today,” said Dr Aaron Davis of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

“Because if you look at the history of coffee cultivation, we have used wild species to make the coffee crop sustainable.”

(14) ONE STEP AT A TIME. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The article title very much overstates the state of the art (Wired: “Bio-Printers Are Churning out Living Fixes to Broken Spines”; partial paywall), but it does appear that an incremental advance has been made toward that goal. In one experiment, partial mobility was restored to a rat’s paralyzed hindquarters after a multistep boiprinted device was inserted into a severed section of spinal cord.

For doctors and medical researchers repairing the human body, a 3D printer has become almost as valuable as an x-ray machine, microscope, or a sharp scalpel. Bioengineers are using 3D printers to make more durable hip and knee joints, prosthetic limbs and, recently, to produce living tissue attached to a scaffold of printed material.

Researchers say that bio-printed tissue can be used to test the effects of drug treatments, for example, with an eventual goal of printing entire organs that can be grown and then transplanted into a patient. The latest step toward 3D-printed replacements of failed human parts comes from a team at UC San Diego. It has bio-printed a section of spinal cord that can be custom-fit into a patient’s injury.

[…] Bio-printers use a computer-guided pipette to layer living cells, referred to as bio-ink, on top of one another to create artificial living tissue in a laboratory. Most bio-printers can only print down to 200 microns, but this group developed a method of producing tissue down to 1 micron, Chen says. This higher resolution meant they were able to more accurately reconstruct the mixture of gray and white matter that makes up the spinal cord.

(15) AS TIME GOES BY. At Factor Daily, Gautham Shenoy takes an overview of the history of sff in China in “Telling the China Story: The Rise and Rise of Chinese Science Fiction”

It wasn’t until the 1950s – after the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949 – that science fiction would see a resurgence, albeit for a brief period. And then too written primarily for children, or to popularise science, as a vehicle for propaganda, and with a lot of translations of Russian books and influenced heavily by science fiction from the Soviet Union before the relationship soured. Notable works of Chinese science fiction by Chinese authors from this period are A Tour of the Solar System  by Zhang Ren and the adventure tale of three Chinese children stealing a spaceship to go off on an adventure, From Earth to Mars as also the space-colonisation story,  Builders of Mars by Zheng Wenguang, an author who would fall out of favour with the establishment during the Cultural Revolution and exiled, much like the genre itself, with anything remotely suspected of bearing a similarity to ‘western culture’, not least capitalism, being regarded as harmful.

(16) ROBOTS CANNED. SYFY Wire can hardly believe it, but “Countless robots have been ‘fired’ by a Japanese hotel that is largely run by them”.

One might think that robots would have some measure of job security, especially when they work in a robot hotel. It would seem that this is not the case — even in a robot hotel, robots, replicants, and androids can be “retired.” 

According to The Verge, the Henn-na “Strange” Hotel in Japan has “laid off” half of the 243 robots that maintained the hotel because they created more problems than they ended up solving. In trying to substitute robots for human workers, the hotel ended up creating more work for humans. As advanced as the hotel’s robot velociraptors that worked the check-in desk were, they couldn’t figure out how to properly photocopy a passport. Nothing in the previous sentence was a joke. 

On the list for early retirement is Churi, a robot doll assistant that was placed in each room. Churi was meant to be a kind of Siri/Alexa hybrid, but proved incapable of answering any questions…

(17) THE MARTIAN OENOPHILES. [Item by Mike Kennedy.]Georgia—no, not the American state—is looking for grape varieties that might survive on Mars. Because, you know, colonists will want to relax with some wine (Smithsonian: “Why the Nation of Georgia Wants to Make Wine on Mars”). I mean, potatoes alone just aren’t going to cut it.

“Researchers there are looking for grape varieties that can grow in Martian soil and survive high radiation and carbon monoxide.”

When and if humanity establishes a colony on Mars, it’s likely someone will want to kick back after a hard day of terraforming with a nice glass of Chardonnay. Luckily, the nation of Georgia has them covered. Amie Ferris-Rotman at The Washington Post reports the nation is funding a research project to develop varieties of wine grapes that can survive on the Red Planet.

So why is a small country in the Caucasus spending its resources on space wine? The most recent archaeological evidence suggests that the oldest known wine making in the world took place in the region 8,000 years ago, pegging Georgia as the birthplace of vino. Logically so, Georgia wants to keep that title on other planets as well.

“If we’re going to live on Mars one day, Georgia needs to contribute,” Nikoloz Doborjginidze, founder of Georgia’s Space Research Agency, part of the wine project tells Ferris-Rotman. “Our ancestors brought wine to Earth, so we can do the same to Mars.”

(18) NEW SFF SATIRE. Space Force: Steve Carell will star in a new Netflix series from The Office’s Greg Daniels lampooning Donald Trump’s proposed Space Force. (Via io9.)

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

Pixel Scroll 12/20/18 Five Chaptered Twice Chaptered Filing Purple Pixel Scroller

(1) YEAR’S BEST FANTASY BOOKS. The popular culture website Paste calls these “The 15 Best Fantasy Novels of 2018”.

The following 15 books capture the range that makes fantasy fiction so great, from epic high fantasy to alternate reality to urban fantasy to literary fiction that just happens to star a Greek goddess. These books visit other magical worlds, sure, but also draw from West African, Chinese and Greek mythology, as well as the American Civil War, ’80s punk scenes, far-off planets and Edwardian England. Most of these are stand-alone novels, but there are also a few continuations of some of our favorite fantasy series.

4. Dread Nation by Justina Ireland

Named Paste’s best Young Adult novel of 2018, Dread Nation blends elements of fantasy, horror and alternate history to create something wholly unique and utterly memorable. Set in an alternate world in which the undead rose up at the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War, the novel picks up years later as the United States is spiraling into horror. Readers meet Jane, a teen studying to be an Attendant who is trained to fight zombies for the wealthy white class. But it isn’t the life she wants. A novel that discusses race, class and so much more, Dread Nation is one of 2018’s best reads. —Eric Smith

(2) QUEST, OR GUILT TRIP? However, Forbidden Futures’ Cody Goodfellow takes a skeptical view of epic fantasy: “Exiled from Middle-Earth: Why Fantasy Failed Us”.

…If Tolkien stirred our noblest aspirations, he also created a benign propaganda that mythologized cultural differences until nationalities became species, and denied basic humanity to its antagonists, rendering the defense of the divine right of kings into a Manichean conflict between absolute light and absolute darkness––arguably, in spite of his denials, an allegory for Europe’s agonizing crusade against Hitler. As noted contrarian David Brin observed in an essay coinciding with Jackson’s grandiose adaptation of Lord Of The Rings, the humans and their allies worship at the altar of absolute hereditary rule, and libel the one agent of merit, inclusion and technological progress in Middle Earth. Certainly, the notion that the land might incarnate itself in the form of a devoted ruler is a beautiful conceit, but it’s only the most richly embroidered defense of a myth that’s brought little but tribulation and tragedy, in the real world. If one were to ask the Saudi Crown Prince in a candid moment about the butchery of Jamal Khashoggi only this month, he would no doubt clothe his rationalization by noting that the Washington Post journalist dismembered with bone saws in the Saudi consulate in Turkey was just another orc threatening his divinely ordained kingdom….

(3) ELSEWORLDS CROSSOVER. A highlight from the CW event — “Black Suit Superman Speaks With Kara In Meta Jail — Elseworlds Crossover Supergirl.”

(4) DEEP FAN. NPR’s Glen Weldon discusses “Aquaman, From Super Friend To Surfer Dude: The Bro-Ification Of A Hero”.

Let’s get the bona fides out of the way up top.

This post is about some of the sweeping changes that the DC Comics superhero Aquaman (Swift and Powerful Monarch of the Ocean! King of the Seven Seas!) has undergone on his way to this weekend’s blockbuster movie Aquaman. Inevitably, it will elide many details important to ardent fans of the character, and open its author up to charges of not knowing whereof he speaks, of a willful ignorance of the character, of simply echoing stale observations hastily ransacked from the Aquaman Wikipedia page.

The defense humbly (okay, smugly) presents the following evidence.

Exhibit A: That photo atop this post? That’s the author’s collection of aqua-memorabilia. Kindly do not refer to it as a shrine, as it is simply the by-product of what happens when the author’s lifelong obsession with a fictional character intersects with his husband’s insistence that said obsession not take up more space in their tiny apartment than the top of one friggin’ dresser.

(5) COUNTERPOINT. Despite several quibbles, NPR’s Linda Holmes says “‘Mary Poppins Returns’ Is A Fine And Fresh Take On A Classic”.

The first rule of Mary Poppins is that you must never explain Mary Poppins.

Perhaps the smartest decision in the sequel Mary Poppins Returns is that it’s no more clear than it ever was how, exactly, this nanny floats in. We don’t know where Mary came from, how exactly she has relatives given that she seems to have simply materialized from the sky, or whether she was ever a child herself. Mary Poppins simply is.

It’s hard to bring to life a character with no past and no future except to visit more children, take them on more adventures, and then leave them again. Created in the P.L. Travers children’s books and indelibly committed to film by Julie Andrews in 1964, Mary is special in part because since she’s magic, she is nurture without need. She doesn’t need to be thanked; she doesn’t even need to be remembered. The helping is all.

(6) OUT, DARNED DOTS. Jeff VanderMeer says the problem is very simple:

If the semi-colon is ruining your writing, periods, colons, and commas probably are ruining it, too.

(7) HANG UP. Continuing today’s Abbreviated Wisdom for Authors section: “Michael Chabon’s Advice to Young Writers: Put Away Your Phone”.

…And it’s advice I give to myself, as much as to anyone, but especially to younger writers. Writers coming up now. Which is put your?—?put this [points to phone]?—?away. When you’re out in the world, when you’re walking down the street, when you’re on the subway, when you’re riding in the back of a car, when you’re doing all those everyday things that are so tedious, where this [phone] is such a godsend in so many ways. As in that David Foster Wallace graduation speech, when he talks about standing in line at the grocery store. When you’re in those moments where this [phone] is so seductive, and it works! It’s so brilliant at giving you something to do. I mean walking down the street looking at your phone?—?that’s pretty excessive. But in other circumstances where it feels natural, that’s when you need to put this [phone] away. Because using your eyes, to take in your immediate surroundings… Your visual and auditory experience of the world, eavesdropping on conversations, watching people interact, noticing weird shit out the window of a moving car, all those things are so deeply necessary to getting your work done every day. When I’m working on a regular work schedule, which is most of the time, and I’m really engaged in whatever it is I’m working on, there’s a part of my brain that is always alert to mining what can be mined from that immediate everyday experience. I don’t even know I’m doing it, but I’ll see something, like,“That name on that sign is the perfect last name for this character!” Or the thing I just overheard that woman saying, is exactly the line of dialog I need for whatever I’m doing. And if you’re like this [phone in your face], you miss it all.

(8) BILL CRIDER PRIZE FOR SHORT FICTION. Bouchercon 2019 will inaugurate the Bill Crider Prize for Short Fiction in the mystery genre.

Debuting at the 50th Anniversary of Bouchercon, Carol Puckett and the 2019 Bouchercon Dallas committee launched the Bill Crider Prize for Short Fiction to celebrate this treasured literary form, both the short story and the widely-admired mystery author and reviewer, Bill Crider. Designed to encourage writers from all over the world, these distinguished prizes award stories with fascinating characters and twisty plots, all in the mystery genre.

First Prize: $1000

Second Prize: $750

Third Prize: $500

Janet Hutchings, editor of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and Linda Landrigan, editor of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, will choose the winners from the shortlisted writers.

Once the final four writers have been chosen, all shortlisted authors will be notified on or near October 1.

Bouchercon Dallas Guest of Honor, Hank Phillippi Ryan, will recognize the shortlisted authors and award the top prizes during Bouchercon 2019 in Dallas, Texas. The convention takes place October 31-November 3, 2019.

The deadline for submissions is March 1, 2019. Full guidelines at the link.

(9) MORE ON NINE WORLDS. Robot Archie steered me to another exposition about the fate of Nine Worlds. Avery Delany’s Twitter thread begins here.  

(10) STRONG LANGUAGE, HARLAN? Fanac.org returns you to the thrilling days of yesteryear with an audio recording of Harlan Ellison at Pacificon II, the 1964) Worldcon, speaking about “Adaptation of Science Fiction to a Visual Media.” Visually annotated, illustrated with convention photos, and preceded with this little warning —

Pacificon II, the 22nd World Science Fiction Convention, was held in Oakland, CA in 1964. WARNING – 1) Harlan uses some strong language in this recording. 2)The first few minutes are missing. Harlan gives an engrossing talk (audio, enhanced with images) about writing for television and about how Hollywood works. The talk took place during the filming of the Outer Limits episode, “Demon With a Glass Hand”, and Harlan speaks very frankly (including complaints) about his experience as the writer on the episode. Includes Harlan’s reading of a scene as written, and as changed by management as well as discussion on the casting, the directing and the location. Embedded are photos of Harlan throughout his science fiction career. This audio material was provided by The Southern California Institute for Fan Interests (SCIFI), and Jerome Scott, Director of Projects for SCIFI in LA.

(11) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 20, 1933Son Of Kong premiered in theaters.
  • December 20, 1961 – The film version of Jules Verne’s drama Mysterious Island was released.
  • December 20, 1974 — Walt Disney’s The Island At The Top Of The World debuted.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 20, 1838 Edwin Abbott Abbott. Author of the Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, an 1884 novella that has come to be adopted as SF even though it’s really mathematical fiction. Go ahead, argue with me. (Died 1926.)
  • Born December 20, 1942  — Angel Tompkins, 76. Anyone remember Amazon Women on the Moon? Yeah she was in it. She later shows up in the Knight Rider series and, oh, that Starlost series which Cordwainer Bird swore off before the first episode. There’s an episode of Wild Wild West and Night Gallery as well but she stopped acting twenty years ago.
  • Born December 20, 1943 Jacqueline Pearce. Longest and definitely best known role would be as the evil Supreme Commander Servalan/ and Commissioner Sleer on Blake’s 7. She’d show several times in Doctor Who, one on screen in The Two Doctors (Yes, I saw it) and once as a voice only role in Death Comes to Time, a Seventh Doctor story.  She played a Mrs. Annabelle Levin in the “Paris, October 1916” episode of The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles as well, a series I really liked. She did a bit of time travel in Moondail as Miss Vole / Miss Raven and finally showed up in The Avengers as a character named Miaranne. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 20, 1952 Jenny Agutter, 66. Fist SF role was Jessica 6 in Logan’s Run. Later genre roles include Nurse Alex Price In An American Werewolf in London (great film), Carolyn Page in Dark Tower which is not  a Stephen King based film, an uncredited cameo as a burn doctor in one of my all time fav films which is Darkman and finally Councilwoman Hawley in The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
  • Born December 20, 1960 Nalo Hopkinson, 58. First novel I ever read by her was Brown Girl in The Ring, a truly amazing novel. Like all her work, it draws on Afro-Caribbean history and language, and its intertwined traditions of oral and written storytelling. I’d also single out  Mojo: Conjure Stories and Falling in Love With Hominids collections as they are both wonderful and challenging reading. Worth seeking out out out is her edited Whispers from the Cotton Tree Root: Caribbean Fabulist Fiction. She was a Guest of Honor at Wiscon thrice. Is that unusual?
  • Born December 20, 1970 Nicole de Boer, 48. I first saw her in a Canadian produced series called Beyond Reality where she played multiple roles. Very odd show. You’ll more likely know her as Ezri Dax on i or Sarah Bracknell Bannerman on The Dead Zone as those are her major genre series to date. She’s also shown up in Forever Knight, TekWar, Poltergeist, The Outer Limits, Stargate Atlantis, Haven, Five Days to Midnight, The Fearing Mind, Mission Genesis and Psi Factor. I believe all of these latter shows were filmed in Canada, some of them of Toronto if memory serves me right.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) DRUM ROLL, PLEASE. WhatCulture has designated these the 10 Best Comic Books of 2018.

(15) COMICS’ JEWISH INFLUENCERS. Career artist and fan Hugo winner Steve Stiles responded to the Baltimore Jewish Times’ farewell to Stan Lee in this recently-published letter of comment. Steve begins —  

As one who enjoyed a five-year stint as a freelance illustrator for Marvel’s British publications, I enjoyed reading Arie Kaplan’s article on Stan Lee (“Stan Lee Gave Comic Books Permission to Be More Jewish, JT online”). I was, however, surprised that one of Marvel’s leading Jewish characters, Ben Grimm, aka The Thing, the strong man of the Fantastic Four, was overlooked….

(16) KEEP COUNTING. Seems there’s still a lot to discover on this planet! Per the BBC: “The secret life of plants: Ten new species found this year”.

Plant collectors have searched for the hidden wonders of the plant world for centuries.

Yet plants that are new to science are still being described, at a rate of about 2,000 a year.

Scientists at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, discovered and named more than 100 new plants in 2018.

Their list of the top new plants includes carnivorous pitcher plants, exotic orchids and climbers with untapped medicinal powers.

(17) LITTLE BROTHER IS LISTENING. Get ready to shake and bake: “Nasa’s InSight deploys ‘Marsquake’ instrument”.

The American space agency’s InSight mission to Mars has begun to deploy its instruments.

The lander’s robotic arm has just placed the bell-shaped seismometer package on the ground in front of it.

This suite of sensors, developed in France and the UK, will listen for “Marsquakes” in an effort to determine the internal structure of the Red Planet.

InSight touched down near the world’s equator in November.

(18) PIE A LA GIANT MODE. Speaking of baking, this has nothing to do with genre, but dang! In Australia, “Domino’s Is Selling Its Biggest Pizza Ever, And It Barely Can Fit Into Cars”.

It’s available in extremely limited quantities.

Only two are available per store, per day, so you have to order one online ahead of time if you want in. Domino’s requires a 24 hour heads-up, so plan your hang-outs accordingly.

It’s too big for delivery.

Do you really expect someone to carry this on their bike to you?! No, you gotta go in and pick it up. And since it’s a full 40 inches across (Domino’s had to make new boxes to stand up to the weight!) you might want to go in an SUV.

(19) MONSTERS FROM THE US. From Entertainment Weekly: Us first look: See photos from Jordan’s Peele’s Get Out follow-up”

Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out, not only delivered a bone-chilling psychological thriller, it dissected the underlying racial oppression running through the veins of America, spearheaded conversations of societal fractures, and earned four Oscar nominations. (It would go on to win Peele the Best Original Screenplay award.) So after Peele’s killer success, what does the filmmaker do next?

“For my second feature, I wanted to create a monster mythology,” Peele tells EW. “I wanted to do something that was more firmly in the horror genre but still held on to my love of movies that are twisted but fun.”

Details are very, very vague about Peele’s upcoming film Us. The story is set in the present day and follows Adelaide and Gabe Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke) as they take their kids to Adelaide’s old childhood beachside home in Northern California for the summer.

(20) GET STARTED BOOING NOW. No need to wait — you know this will end badly The Hollywood Reporter says “‘Harvey’ Remake in the Works at Netflix”. The idea does not sound either oh, so nice, or oh, so smart….

‘Shrek 2’ writers J. David Stem and David N. Weiss have been tapped to write.

One of film’s best-known rabbits is hopping his way back to Hollywood.

A Harvey remake is in the works at Netflix, with J. David Stem and David N. Weiss set to write the screenplay. Fabrica de Cine, which is working with the streamer on Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman, will produce.

(21) I DREAM OF GENIE. Footage from the forthcoming Aladdin live-action movie with Will Smith as the Genie.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/18/18 Just One Pixel Of Scrolls Is Better Than A Lifetime Alone

(1) NOT THE DOCTOR WHO CHRISTMAS SPECIAL. A nice placeholder, though. Io9 sets the frame: “Doctor Who Saves Christmas (Again) in This Adorable Holiday Short”:

Doctor Who’s Twitter account has shared a cute animated holiday short telling the story of how the Doctor (voiced by Whittaker) helped save Christmas once again this year. Narrated by Bradley Walsh (Graham), the Twas The Night Before Christmas-style tale is all about Santa getting stuck in a jam after his sleigh breaks down. Who can he possibly call to save the day? The Doctor, of course!

(2) HARD SF. James Davis Nicoll dares to tell us about “Five Works of Hard Science Fiction That Bypass the Gatekeepers” at Tor.com.

….Still, I think there’s a gap between hard SF defined so narrowly only Hal Clement could be said to have written it (if we ignore his FTL drives) and hard SF defined so broadly anything qualifies provided the author belongs to the right social circles … that this gap is large enough that examples do exist. Here are five examples of SF works  that are, to borrow Marissa Lingen’s definition:

playing with science.

and doing so with a verisimilitude that’s not just plot-enabling handwaving….

(3) MYTHCON 50. Introducing artist Sue Dawe’s logo for Mythcon 50, with the theme “Looking Back, Moving Forward.” The convention will take place August 2-5 in San Diego – register here

(4) TAFF NEWS. Avail yourself of the official Trans-Atlantic Fan Fund news – click to retrieve the PDF file: 

(5) CODE OF CONDUCT GUIDANCE. Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner have made available as a free download their book on Code of Conduct enforcement for those who put on conventions and conferences: “Free code of conduct enforcement book available now”.

You can now download a free book detailing how to enforce a code of conduct, “How to Respond to Code of Conduct Reports,” written by Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner and edited by Annalee Flower Horne. This comprehensive guide includes:

  • Basic code of conduct theory
  • How to prepare to enforce a code of conduct
  • Step-by-step instructions on how to respond to a report
  • In-depth discussion of relevant topics
  • Dozens of real-world examples of responding to reports

Valerie Aurora and Mary Gardiner were the lead authors of the Ada Initiative anti­-harassment policy, which is the basis of thousands of codes of conduct in use today. Valerie has more than 7 years of professional experience writing and implementing codes of conduct for software-related companies, venture capital firms, and non-profits.

(6) NOT GOING TO DUBLIN 2019? Then a clue as to what you’ll be missing from the Science GoH is contained in this 1/2 hour BBC interview with Jocelyn Bell Burnell. “Of course, if you are going to Dublin, then don’t listen to this,” warns SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, “as there are spoilers.”

Jim Al-Khalili talks to astronomer Jocelyn Bell Burnell. Jocelyn Bell Burnell forged her own path through the male-dominated world of science – in the days when it was unusual enough for women to work, let alone make a discovery in astrophysics that was worthy of a Nobel Prize. As a 24-year old PhD student, Jocelyn spotted an anomaly on a graph buried within 100 feet of printed data from a radio telescope. Her curiosity about such a tiny detail led to one of the most important discoveries in 20th century astronomy – the discovery of pulsars – those dense cores of collapsed stars. It’s a discovery which changed the way we see the universe, making the existence of black holes suddenly seem much more likely and providing further proof to Einstein’s theory of gravity.

(7) FILMS THAT BELONG ON YOUR LIST. Looper says these are “The Best Fantasy Movies Everyone Missed In 2018.”

With major blockbusters and huge franchises taking up most of our attention these days, it can be easy to lose track of all the great releases sneaking by under the radar but these 2018 fantasy movies are well worth seeking out…

(8) TV HISTORY. Echo Ishii revisits another sff TV classic, The Stone Tape:

The Stone Tape was a television play broadcast by the BBC in 1972.

The Stone Tape begins with a man named Peter who is head of a research team for an electronics company. Like many of the characters in Beasts, the protagonist is not a pleasant person. Peter Brock, though likely very skilled at his job, is arrogant, self-absorbed, sexist, and condescending. Whereas someof the sexism and the bigoted comments may be a representation of the realities of the the business world (and TV) at the time, you are clearly meant not to like Peter Brock as a person which only amps up the unease surrounding the main plot….

(9) HOW FAR IS IT? Far out. Like, literally Far Freekin’ Out. A newly announced minor planet is the most distant known object in the Solar System (Phys.org: “Outer solar system experts find ‘far out there’ dwarf planet”). The body’s official name is 2018 VG18, but it’s nicknamed “Farout” and it’s current orbital distance is about 120 AUs.

A team of astronomers has discovered the most-distant body ever observed in our Solar System. It is the first known Solar System object that has been detected at a distance that is more than 100 times farther than Earth is from the Sun.

The new object was announced on Monday, December 17, 2018, by the International Astronomical Union’s Minor Planet Center and has been given the provisional designation 2018 VG18. The discovery was made by Carnegie’s Scott S. Sheppard, the University of Hawaii’s David Tholen, and Northern Arizona University’s Chad Trujillo.

2018 VG18, nicknamed “Farout” by the discovery team for its extremely distant location, is at about 120 astronomical units (AU), where 1 AU is defined as the distance between the Earth and the Sun. The second-most-distant observed Solar System object is Eris, at about 96 AU. Pluto is currently at about 34 AU, making 2018 VG18 more than three-and-a-half times more distant than the Solar System’s most-famous dwarf planet.

(10) COMING YOUR WAY. The Raven Tower, Ann Leckie’s new fantasy novel, arrives February 26, 2019. “My library’s already let me reserve it,” says Daniel Dern.

(11) THE WISDOM OF P.L. TRAVERS. The Washington Post’s Jerry Griswold profiles Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers, whom he interviewed for the Paris Review, saying that Travers “was the wisest woman I’ve ever met,” a deep student of Zen, and the author of novels about Mary Poppins that are much darker than the movies. “Disney tried to erase ‘Mary Poppins’ creator P.L. Travers. She’s still more fascinating than fiction.”.

…Travers was the wisest woman I’ve ever met. She was the second Western woman to study Zen in Kyoto, part of the inner circle of the famous mystic G.I. Gurdjieff and did yoga daily (an exotic practice in the 1970s). One afternoon in her Manhattan apartment, we had a conversation that would later appear in Paris Review. She spoke about the meanings of Humpty Dumpty, how her book “Friend Monkey” had been inspired by the Hindu myth of Hanuman, the Zen expression “summoned not created,” the sacredness of names in aboriginal cultures and a spiritual understanding of the parable of the Prodigal Son. And as for linking “this store of wisdom and our modern life,” she lead me step by step through parallels between the kidnapping of Patty Hearst and the myth of Persephone. It was one of the richest afternoons of my life.

As she often did, Travers emphasized that she “never wrote for children” but remained “immensely grateful that children have included my books in their treasure trove.” She thought her books appealed to the young because she had never forgotten her own childhood: “I can, as it were, turn aside and consult it.”

(11) NASA POSTERS. Bored Panda is a bit skeptical — “Turns Out NASA Creates Posters For Every Space Mission And They’re Hilariously Awkward” – but Michael J. Walsh says, “Contrary to the headline, I think many of them are really good.”

…However, when astronauts got bored of the standard group photos they decided to spice things up a bit. And what’s a better way to do that other than throwing in some pop culture references? Fair warning the results are quite cringy, making it hard to believe that these images are actually real.

First on the list:

(12) DINJOS OBIT. Nigerian sff writer Emeka Walter Dinjos has died. Future Science Fiction Digest editor Alex Shvartsman paid tribute in “RIP Emeka Walter Dinjos”:

It is with a heavy heart that I must share the news that Emeka Walter Dinjos, a Nigerian writer of science fiction and fantasy whose novelette “SisiMumu” is featured in our first issue, passed away at the age of thirty-four on Wednesday, December 12.

Walter was admitted to the hospital a little over aweek ago, on the eve of his birthday. In his last Facebook post he shared a photo of himself in a hospital bed, writing “I once swore I would never find myself in a place like this.” He was quick to point out, “It’s just fatigue.Will probably be out in a few days.” But unfortunately he succumbed to complications related to unmanaged diabetes. Walter is survived by his siblings and extended family, to whom I extend deepest condolences on behalf of everyone at Future SF and his many friends in the SF/F community….

(13) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • December 18, 1839 — John William Draper took the first photo of theMoon. (Say “Cheese!”)
  • December 18, 1957The Monolith Monsters hit theatres.
  • December 18, 1968 — Ian Fleming’s Chitty Chitty Bang Bang flew into theaters.

(14) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 18, 1913 Alfred Bester. He is best remembered for perhaps for The Demolished Man, which won the very first Hugo Award. I remember experiencing it as an audiobook— a very spooky affair!  The Stars My Destination is equally impressive with Foyle both likeable and unlikable at the same time. Psychoshop which Zelazny finished is in my library but has escaped reading so far. I’ve run across references to Golem100 but I’ve never seen a copy anywhere. Has anyone read It? (Died 1987.)
  • Born December 18, 1939Michael Moorcock, 79. Summing up the career of Moorcock isn’t possible so I won’t. His Elric of Melniboné series is just plain awesome and I’m quite fond of the Dorian Hawkmoon series of novels as well. Particular books that I’d like to note as enjoyable for me include The Metatemporal Detective collection, Mother London and The English Assassin: A Romance of Entropy
  • Born December 18, 1946 Steven Spielberg, 72. Are we counting Jaws as genre? I believe we are per an earlier discussion here. If so, that’s his first such followed immediately by Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Between 1981 and 1984, he put out Raiders of the Lost ArkE.T. the Extra-TerrestrialTwilight Zone: The Movie and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Ok so the quality of the last film wasn’t great… He’d repeated that feat between ‘89 and ‘93 when he put out Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Hook which I both love followed by Jurassic Park which I don’t. The Lost World: Jurassic Park followed along a string of so-so films,  A.I. Artificial IntelligenceMinority Report, War of the Worlds and one decided stinker, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal SkullThe BFG is simply wonderful. Haven’t seen Ready Player One so I’ll leave that up to y’all to opine on. 
  • Born December 18, 1953 Jeff Kober,65. Actor who’s been in myriad genre series and films including V, The Twilight Zone, Alien Nation, the Poltergeist series,The X-Files series, Tank Girl as one of the kangaroos naturally, SupernaturalStar Trek: Voyager, Star Trek: Enterprise, Kindred: The Embraced and The Walking Dead. 
  • Born December 18, 1968 Casper Van Dien, 49. Yes, Johnny Rico in that Starship Troopers movie. Not learning his lesson, he’d go on to film Starship Troopers 3: Marauder and the animated Starship Troopers: Traitor of Mars. Do not go read the descriptions of these films! He’d also star as Tarzan in Tarzan and the Lost City, show up as Brom Van Brunt In Sleepy Hollow, be Captain Abraham Van Helsing in Dracula 3000, James K. Polkin, and — oh really Casper — the Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter Sequels short, Rumpelstiltskin in Avengers Grimm and Saber Raine In Star Raiders: The Adventures of Saber Raine. That’s a lot of really bad film. 

(15) GOOD PLACE/BAD PLACE. At Vice, D. Patrick Rodgers believes, “The Best Thing on TV This Year Was: ‘The Good Place’.”

The unseen presence of one character has haunted The Good Place from the beginning, lingering like one of Bad Janet’s legendary farts since the very first moments of the very first episode: Doug Forcett.

As we all know — at three seasons and 35 episodes in — the afterlife hinges on a cumulative point system, with good deeds adding to an individual’s point total and bad or selfish deeds subtracting. People with high enough point totals enter The Good Place, while those who don’t make the cut do the whole burn-for-eternity thing down in The Bad Place. Despite all the twists, developments, reveals, and red herrings of the uniquely sharp and wacky sitcom, one constant has remained: that only one mortal has figured out the system, and he did it while on a mushroom trip back in 1972.

“Don’t Let the Good Life Pass You By” opens with the song of the same name by the Mamas and the Papas’ “Mama” Cass Elliott, itself a 70s artifact that portends something darker than its sunny melody suggests —that life is short, and if we’re not careful, we’ll screw it up. We watch as some as-yet-unnamed character tends to a series of mundane tasks, his face hidden from view. But there’s something familiar about that grizzled-blond shock of hair we see only from behind. It belongs to someone we know. Turns out that’s doubly true, as the head we’re looking at is that of legendary comedic actor Michael McKean in character as the aforementioned Forcett, now several decades older and committed to obtaining the requisite number of Good Place points.

(16) MEMORIAL FOR A BOT. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Mashable brings us word that, “A delivery robot caught on fire at UC Berkeley, students then set up a vigil.” The KiwiBot was one of a fleet of over 100.

A KiwiBot, an automated food delivery robot which is present on UC Berkeley’s campus, caught fire on Friday afternoon.

In a post, the company explained the incident was due to a faulty battery which had been mistakenly installed instead of a functioning one. 

The errant battery started smoldering while the robot was idling, leading to smoke, then fire outside the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union.

“A member of the community acted swiftly toextinguish the flames using a nearby fire extinguisher. Within moments ofthe incident occurring, it had already been contained,” the post read.

“The Berkeley Fire Department arrived shortly thereafter to secure the scene, and doused the robot with foam ensuring there was no risk of re-ignition.”

Unsurprisingly, the fire was caught on both video and stills. Pics of the subsequent candlelight memorial also appeared online. Deliveries had been taking place by the bots since 2017 but were suspended following the fire. Since then, software has been updated to more closely monitor the battery state and the fleet is back in service.

(17) MOCKERY. This is the kind of promo I’d expect from JDA or Richard Paolinelli, except you’d have to take their books, too: “Popeyes is launching ‘Emotional Support Chicken’ for stressed travelers craving fried chicken”.

On Tuesday, the chicken chain announced that it is selling three-piece chicken-tenders meals packaged in “Emotional Support Chicken” carriers at Philadelphia International Airport. The special chicken will be available as supplies last starting Tuesday at the Popeyes location in Terminal C.

Emotional-support animals have been making headlines recently, as passengers have pushed for the ability to bring increasingly bizarre companions on flights.

The number of emotional-support animals traveling aboard commercial flights has jumped 74% from 481,000 in 2016 to 751,000 in 2017, according to trade group Airlines for America. In January, a woman tried to bring an emotional-support peacock on a United Airlines flight. And, in February, another woman said Spirit Airlines told her to flush her emotional-support hamster down the toilet.

(18) NICE TRY. Somehow the trash in the Pacific is moving faster than the catcher: “Creator Of Floating Garbage-Collector Struggling To Capture Plastic In Pacific”.

Slat’s system, a 10-foot skirt attached beneath an unmoored, 2000-foot-long plastic tube, takes advantage of the wind and waves to move through the Pacific Ocean. The system aims to collect plastic from the water’s surface, which would then be picked up every few months by a support vessel and transported back to land for recycling. The garbage trap uses solar-powered lights, cameras, sensors and satellite antennas to communicate its position to Slat’s team and passerby vessels.

(19) MAYBE TOMORROW. “SpaceX And Blue Origin Scrub Rocket Launches, Dashing Hopes Of A 4-Launch Day” – NPR has the story.

Weather and other delays marred what had been anticipated as a banner day for space launches Tuesday, as both SpaceX and Blue Origin were forced to postpone launches that had been scheduled to take place within minutes of each other. Both companies say they will look at moving their launches to Wednesday morning.

(20) BANNED ARTWORK. The New York Times reports some work by international artists has been banned from a forthcoming exhibit at the Guangdong Museum of Art: “Their Art Raised Questions About Technology. Chinese Censors Had Their Own Answer.”

Artificial intelligence bots. 3-D printed human organs. Genomic sequencing.

These might seem to be natural topics of interest in a country determined to be the world’s leader in science and technology. But in China, where censors are known to take a heavy hand, several artworks that look closely at these breakthroughs have been deemed taboo by local cultural officials.

The works, which raise questions about the social and ethical implications of artificial intelligence and biotechnology, were abruptly pulled last weekend from the coming Guangzhou Triennial on the orders of cultural authorities in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong.

The artists, from Europe, Australia and the United States, were not given an official reason why their works were rejected for the show, which opens on Dec. 21 at the Guangdong Museum of Art. The pieces did not touch on the Tiananmen democracy crackdown of 1989, independence for Taiwan or Tibet or the private wealth of Chinese Communist Party leaders —topics that are widely known to be off-limits for public discussion in China.

As a result, some of the show’s curators and the affected artists havebeen left guessing as to why the works were banned. Their conclusion? The works were perhaps too timely, too relevant and therefore too discomforting for Chinese officials.

…The other banned works include “The Modular Body,” an online science fiction story about using human cells and artificial organs to create a living organism. Created by a Dutch artist, Floris Kaayk, the work is intended to raise questions about the potential for 3-D printing of human organs, about extending life with the help of technology and about the desire to design life from scratch.

(21) OUT OF THE BOT BUSINESS. Engadget reports “Sphero is done making licensed Disney bots like BB-8 and R2-D2”:

Say goodbye to Sphero’s cute BB-8 robot. In fact, say goodbye to all the company’s licensed products, including R2-D2, BB-9E and Cars’ Lighting McQueen. According to The Verge, Sphero plans to sell its remaining inventory of licensed toys, but it will no longer manufacture more once it runs out. Indeed, the products’ listings on Sphero’s website says “This is a legacy product and no longer in production.” The company isn’t just discontinuing the models, though: It’s ending its licensing partnerships completely, because it’s no longer worth dedicating resources for their production.

Sphero chief Paul Berberian explained that while the toys sold well when their tie-in movies were released, fewer and fewer people purchased them as the years went by. “When you launch a toy, your first year’s your biggest. Your second year’s way smaller, and your third year gets really tiny,” he said….

(22) ALL YOU HAD TO DO IS ASK. Rocco the parrot apparently knows how to get what he wants (BGR Media: “An intelligent parrot used Alexa to play music and order food from Amazon”).

An African grey parrot has made headlines recently for inadvertently making orders via his owner’s Amazon Echo. Originally reported via The Times of London [paywall], the parrot — whose name is Rocco — would mindlessly activate Alexa and have the virtual assistant tell jokes and play music. Rocco even tried to order a few items from Amazon, but the owner wisely had set up controls to prevent unauthorized purchases.

What makes the somewhat lighthearted story even more amusing is that Rocco previously had a stint living at the UK’s National Animal Welfare Trust (NAWT) but was kicked out — yes, kicked out — because he was swearing too much. As the old adage says, truth is stranger than fiction. Rocco was subsequently placed under the care of a NAWT employee named Marion Wischnewski whereupon he quickly started activating Alexa.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/16/18 Cold-Hearted Scroll That Rules The File, Removes The Pixels From Our Pile

(1) ROLL ELEVEN. Nicholas Whyte reviews “Doctor Who, Series 11 (or 37), 2018”, beginning with an overview, followed by comments on individual episodes:

…Overall I have enjoyed it. I don’t agree with Darren Mooney that this has been the weakest series of New Who; I really think that Series 6 (2011), which started with The Impossible Astronaut and ended with The Wedding of River Song, made much greater demands onthe viewer for insufficient payoff. However I think I will agree that the highest points of this year’s stories were not as high as those of previous New Who seasons; even Series 6 had The Doctor’s Wife. On the other hand, none of the low points was quite as awful as the 2007 Daleks in New York two-parter or the 2014 Kill The Moon. I do agree with Darren Mooney that it looks in general much much better than any series of Doctor Who ever has before. The absence of continuity (no theme music in the first episode, no Tardis interior until episode two) was disruptive but also intriguing. The new music is a welcome change (not that I hated Murray Gold, but he’s been doing it since 2004)….

(2) SON’S MEMORIES OF LE GUIN. “Ursula K Le Guin remembered by her son Theo Downes-Le Guin” in The Guardian.

One of the last trips I took alone with Ursula was to New York, in 2014, when she received a lifetime commendation from the National Book Foundation. She wasn’t enthusiastic about the travel, but the award was contingent on her presence. She snarled about this requirement for a few weeks, then allowed me to book the flights. I spent a couple of days with her before the awards, visiting her beloved sister-in-law and viewing “old friends” the Metropolitan Museum and the Frick Collection. In the indifferent and harsh light of a big city, I could see for the first time how small and frail she had become. The vitality of her mind and spirit had concealed her physical state from me. I was shaken by the realisation.

Three days into our trip, I walked her to the stage on which she delivered a speech that was, even by her high standards, fearless. With limited time, in every sense, she had decided to speak plainly to the defence of freedom that courses through her work: freedom of artistic and intellectual expression, freedom from dualism, freedom from oppressors. I’d read a draft beforehand and knew that she was delivering the speech of a lifetime. The audience sensed this as well, and for a few moments after she finished, the room crackled with love, support, excitement and (for some, I’d like to think) shame.

(3) A WINNER. Seeing the movie prompted John Scalzi to have many “Thoughts on Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”.

2. It’s also a film where its chosen medium — animation — is exactly right for it. I think there’s a still a bit of aesthetic snobbery around animation, ironically particularly when it comes to superhero films. It’s still assumed to be a compliment if you say something along the lines of “that was good enough to have been live action.” In point of fact, this particular film wouldn’t have been better served as live action; live action and all its aesthetic requirements and expectations would have made it worse. The abstracting remove from reality that animation provides fits the film’s multiverse story and allows it to be a “comicbook film” in a way that most live-action superhero films can’t manage or look silly doing (see: Ang Lee’s Hulk).In live action, this film as it is would have come across as campy; in animation, it’s just doing its thing. This is of course more about our own expectations for live action and animation than it is about the mediums themselves. But you work with what you have.

(4) THE DRAGON CURE. After receiving an anonymous letter from a neighbor claiming that her three front-yard dragons violated the “true meaning of Christmas,” fantasy author Diana Rowland decided that the only proper response was … MORE DRAGONS!

(5) JUDGING SANTA CLAUS MOVIES. SYFY Wire’s “Ffangrrls” column examines “The best, worst and weirdest Santa Claus movies.” Good. Bad. Weird. Ffangrrls takes a look at four Santa Claus movies in each of these categories. It’s a pretty good bet that you won’t have even heard of one or more of these dozen, um, let’s say “classics.” Columnist Kayleigh Donaldson provides a trailer or clip and a fat paragraph on each:

GOOD: Miracle on 34th Street
BAD: The Santa Clause
WEIRD: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

GOOD: Rise of the Guardians
BAD: Silent Night, Deadly Night
WEIRD: The Polar Express

GOOD: The Nightmare Before Christmas
BAD: Santa’s Slay
WEIRD: Fred Claus

GOOD: The Spirit of Christmas
BAD: The Christmas Chronicles
WEIRD: Christmas Evil

(6) SPLATTERPUNK IN ITALY.At the Horror Writers Association blog: “Revelations on the New Horror Renaissance – an Interview with Italian Author/Editor/Translator/Poet Alessandro Manzetti”.

Q. As the first Italian to be awarded the Bram Stoker Award, and as a purveyor of hard-core horror and even splatter-punk how would you describe your reception amongst your Italian peers? What inroads do you hope to make in Italy with your publishing and writing?

A. Here in Italy Splatterpunk fiction represents a small market niche (same goes for poetry, and, unfortunately, also for traditional horror fiction, excluding a few big names), anyway I have a good audience, fans of the genre follow me with great passion; they’re very fond of some of my main characters, and many of them are women (even if I write hardcore/Splatterpunk horror). Somedays ago was released, from Cut Up Publishing, my first dark psycothriller novel, ‘The Keepers of Chernobyl’, something different from what I wrote so far, and I think that this kind of works could reach a larger audience. My goal is always the same: connect myself to the readers, be their accomplice.

(7) RAMBO ACADEMY. Sign up for Seanan McGuire’s workshop: “Crossing Over: Moving from Fanfic to Your Own Worlds”.

Join prolific, award-winning, and overall amazing writer Seanan McGuire for a workshop that will discuss what writing fanfic teaches you and how you can use that in fiction involving your own worlds and characters. Using lecture, discussion, and writing exercises, Sanan will provide you with inspiration as well as the tools with which to apply that inspiration to your work.

This is a single session workshop taught on Saturday, January 12, 2019 9:30-11:30 AM Pacific time.

Cost is 199 for new students; $79 for former Rambo Academy students and Patreon supporters.

Live classes are taught online via Google hangouts, are limited to 15 participants, and require reliable Internet connection, although in the past participants have logged on from coffee shops, cafes, and even an airplane. A webcam is strongly suggested but not required. If there is an on-demand version of the class, you will be provided with a free coupon for it, so you have access to those notes.

(8) THEY’REDEAD(POOL), JIM. Aw, Jeez, he’s at it again (HuffPost:Marvel’s ‘Avengers: Endgame’ Trailer Is Even Better When Everyone Is Deadpool”).

So much Deadpool. Truly a maximum effort.

And we thought the last “Avengers” trailer was better when every character was Deadpool.

Istanbul-based digital animator Saruhan Saral has outdone himself with a new take on the recently released “Avengers: Endgame” trailer. In Saral’s latest video, voice actor Mishka Thebaud brings to life the Merc with a Mouth. 

(9) WHALE TALE. ASLE-Brasil (Association of Literature and the Environment) interviewed Craig Russell about Fragment: “Craig Russell – Literature and Ecocriticism / Literatura e Ecocrítica”:

2. Z. Can you tell us about the specific characteristics of your narratives?

C. When writing, I find it’s important for me to find at least two interesting ideas that can play off of each other in the story. So in Fragment we have not only the catastrophic events that unfold when a huge part of the three-hundred-meter thick Ross Ice Shelf is thrust out into the ocean, but also the civilization changing interactions that come from humans and blue whales learning to communicate with each other. Then, I try to put my characters in a situation they can’t escape from. (Either because of physical limitations, like the three scientists who are held incommunicado aboard the submarine; or because of a sense of duty, like when Ring, the blue whale feels he has to stay near the Fragment, to warn other blue whale pods of the danger it poses to their survival. Once they’re locked into the situation I confront the characters with problems which I don’t know the solution to, and see how (and if) they can find a way to survive. 

Some authors describe this as chasing your characters up a tree, and then throwing rocks at them.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • December 16, 1917 Arthur C. Clarke. When I was resident in Sri Lanka courtesy of Uncle Sam in the early Eighties, nearly every American ex-pat I ran into was reading The Fountains of Paradise. I never saw him but he was well known among the small British community there. I’ll admit that I’ve not read that much by him — Childhood’s EndRendezvous with Rama  and that novel are the only long form works by him I’ve read. I’m certain I’ve read The Nine Billion Names of God collection as well. And I’ve seen 2001 myriad times but I’ve never seen the sequel. (Died 2008.)
  • December 16, 1927Randall Garrett. Ahhh Lord Darcy. When writing this up, I was gobsmacked to discover that he’d written only one such novel, Too Many Magicians, as I clearly remembered reading reading more than that number. Huh. That and two collections, Murder and Magic and Lord Darcy Investigates, is all there is of this brilliant series. Glen Cook’s Garrett P.I. is named in honor of Garrett. I’ll admit I’ve not read anything else by him, so what else have y’all read? (Died 1987.)
  • December 16, 1928 Philip K. Dick. OK, confession time. I’m not a fan of his work so the only acquaintance I’ve with him is the first Bladerunner film which I’ve watched in its various forms many times. (Died 1982.)
  • December 16, 1937 Peter Dickinson. Author who was married from 1991 to his death to Robin McKinley had a number of truly great works, both genre and not genre, including EvaThe Tears of the Salamander and The Flight of Dragons. His James Pibble upper class British mystery series are quite excellent as well. (Died 2015.)

(11) LINGUISTICS. Available as an on-demand class: Juliette Wade’s “The Power of Words”, “Everything Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers Need to Know about Linguistics at the World-building and Prose Level.”

In this class, we will discuss the study of linguistics and its relevance to genre writing. Author and linguist Juliette Wade shows how linguistics differs from the study of foreign languages, and gives a survey of eight different subfields of linguistics. She examines principles of language at levels of complexity from the most basic articulation of speech sounds to the way that language is used to participate in public forms of discourse. For each subfield, she looks at how it can be used to enhance a writer’s portrayal of characters and societies in a fictional world. After completing this examination of linguistics and its relevance to in-world languages, Wade moves to the meta-level to talk about using the principles of linguistics to hone point of view and the effectiveness of narrative language in storytelling.

(12) BUNNY TIME. Tim Goodman supplies “‘Watership Down’: TV Review” for The Hollywood Reporter.

In 1978, the film Watership Down became legendary for scaring the bejeezus out of children everywhere, drawn there by parents who either didn’t read the book or thought it would hide — not graphically triple down on — all the violence from the book. It’s funny now because so many people have harrowing stories of how that defined their early childhood.

On Christmas Day, Netflix, in a co-production with the BBC, will drop the eagerly awaited, star-studded latest version, a four-part effort that tones down the movie’s bloodshed and finds a good balance, letting Adams’ story unfold as it did in the book (with some tweaks) and suffering no loss of drama by curtailing those awful bunny screams.

Having seen the whole thing, the biggest obstacle the new version has to overcome is that the animation is decidedly flatter than what modern moviegoers are used to in the last chunk of years (decade?), and it’s often difficult to figure out which rabbit is talking or which rabbits are in peril as they fight other rabbits to survive. The saving grace to all of that, of course, is the magnificent voice cast that seems to be employing every available actor in Britain.

(13) CATCHING UP ON 2017. Lady Business delivers a blast from the past, asking contributors to recommend “Media released before 2018 that you didn’t get to until thisyear and loved.” First on the list —

Jenny

Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon. What a treasure. I have already yelled about that book in this space, but basically this is a gem of a middle-grade book that you’ll love if you love Eva Ibbotson. I have been responsible for at least five purchases of this book this calendar year, and three of those are me giving it as a gift for Christmas. I regret nothing.

(14) FREE READ. Vice’s Motherboard “imprint” has posted a free short story, “The Bonus,” by Liz Maier.

Two hundred extra hours of life per month, and only a few would have to be dedicated to the Company. Who would say no to not sleeping, to the bonus?

(15) APPROACHING GENRE. An NPR interview: “Lin-Manuel Miranda On ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ And Writing His Way Onstage”.

Audie Cornish: I was reading that your favorite song from the original Mary Poppins movie — maybe not favorite, maybe you have a mixed relationship with it — is “Feed the Birds.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda: [Laughing] “Openly hostile” is probably my relationship to it as a child.

I mean, that’s a little strong.

Yeah, no. I just found it so sad. The notion of this bird lady, who cares for these birds and sits on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, I couldn’t bear it as a child — it was too much for me. And so, I only saw the first two-thirds of the movie many times as a kid: As soon as “Feed the Birds” came on, I would turn it off. Such was VHS technology.

If it has an equivalent in this movie — not so much that I would turn off the movie — there’s a beautiful song in our film called “Where the Lost Things Go.” Mary Poppins is singing to these children — they’ve lost their mother the year before. And she sings about it in such a smart Scott Whitman lyric, because it’s about loss and it’s about grief, but it’s also in a way that a child can understand and is not condescending, it doesn’t talk down, doesn’t baby-talk. It’s just really beautiful. If I were a kid at the time, I probably would’ve fallen apart at it.

Your character offers a kind of path of joy and advice out of that mood. I’m thinking of a song like “Trip a Little Light Fantastic.”

That’s sort of Jack’s MO, is that he sees the light in any situation. He looks for the bright side, the hope, even in a dark time or in a dark place, and it’s a lovely sentiment. It’s also eight minutes of nonstop dancing. It was one of the last numbers we shot, and we basically spent the entire movie shoot rehearsing for it.

“Trip a Little Light Fantastic” (audio only) from Mary Poppins Returns.

(16) MYTH REFURBISHED. Paul Weimer’s latest contribution to Nerds of a Feather is “Microreview [book]: In the Vanisher’s Palace by Aliette de Bodard”.

The story of the Beauty and the Beast, bound relationship to a monster as a price for a service or favor, is a story that spans the globe, and strikes at the heart of a lot of myths and tropes about family relationships, gender politics, power dynamics, autonomy, freedom, choice and a whole lot more. Beauty and the Beast is far more than dancing animated clocks and the song “Be Our Guest”. In The Vanishers’ Palace, Aliette de Bodard takes the Beauty and the Beast story in new directions, giving a strong critique of some of the tropes, interrogating others, and providing a queer friendly narrative, amongst many other strands, in a densely packed novella.

(17) SHATNER ON PARADE. Parade magazine has made their recent interview with William Shatner available online (“William Shatner on His Christmas Album, Shatner Claus, & Why Star TrekIs Still So Popular”). In the usual style of Parade interviews, breadth is emphasized overdepth. It touches on Shatner family holiday traditions, his country album Why Not Me?, recent memoir Live Long And…: What I Learned Along the Way, non-Trek movies he’s involved in, and his longstanding Hollywood Charity Horse Show.

(18) SNL. The New York Times coverage of the most recent Saturday Night Live includes two skits of genre interest.  

Several celebrity guests turned out for the final new “Saturday Night Live” broadcast of 2018, including Alec Baldwin, Ben Stiller, Matt Damon and Robert De Niro.

In the show’s opening sketch, Baldwin returned to play President Trump in a sendup of the film “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

While it’s rare to see “Saturday Night Live” offer up topical comedy in the waning moments of an episode, the show did just that in a sketch that imagined Theresa May (McKinnon), Britain’s prime minister, struggling to host a Christmas-themed talk show after having survived a party confidence vote.

As McKinnon opened the show, she said, “What a dreadful week it’s been. My Brexit deal is falling apart. I almost got voted out and no one in the world likes me at all. But it’s still Christmas so let’s try to have some cheer tonight, shall we?”

She went on to introduce guests including her predecessor, David Cameron (Damon); Elton John (Bryant); and the Harry Potter villain Lord Voldemort (Mikey Day), whom she introduced as “the one person in Britain more reviled than me.” Day apologetically resisted McKinnon’s attempts to compare her to him: “If you could maybe not lump us together, I just can’t have that be the pull-quote from this interview,” he said.

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

Pixel Scroll 12/14/18 Good King Pixelslas Looked Out On The File Of Seven

(1) WRITING SPACE. In “Why I Write in Cafes”, Rachel Swirsky unpacks all of her reasons.

I’ve been writing a lot in cafes recently. Well, mostly one cafe, but I’ve dallied with others…

I always accomplish something, or prove I can’t.

Because I’m at the cafe with someone else, and we are there with a purpose, I always spend at least some time trying to write. Some days, nothing comes. More often, even if I feel creatively dry, I can scrape up something, whether it’s a bit of editing, a paragraph or two, or the beginning of a story (which I may never finish). On my own I can get depressed over those days when the writing doesn’twork, and it makes me avoidant for a while afterward. With a writing partner, there’s a set time to try again.

(2) BRING PLENTY OF NAPKINS. Scott Edelman will be at the microphone while you slurp down Thai Beef Noodle Soup with Stephen Kozeniewski in Episode 84 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

This time around you’ll sit in on my meal at Noodle Charm with horror writer Stephen Kozeniewski.

At least I think we ate at Noodle Charm. I’m not really sure. (Give a listen to the episode to find out the reason for my uncertainty.)

Kozeniewski is the author of such gonzo novels as Braineater Jones, Billy and the Cloneasaurus, and The Ghoul Archipelago. He’s also been part of the writers room for Silverwood: The Door, a 10-episode prose follow-up to Tony Valenzuela’s Black Box TV series Silverwood, which was released in weekly installments in both prose and audiobook formats.

We discussed how it took nearly 500 submissions before his first novel was finally accepted, why he has no interest in writing sequels, his advice for winning a Turkey Award for the worst possible opening to the worst possible science fiction or fantasy novel, why his output is split between horror and science fiction (but not mysteries), the reason Brian Keene was who he wanted to be when he grew up, why almost any story would be more interesting with zombies, when you should follow and when you should break the accepted rules of writing, where he falls on the fast vs. slow zombies debate, and much more.

(3) BROKE-DOWN ENGINE. NPR’s Mark Jenkins is frank: “‘Mortal Engines’ Internally Combusts”.

…That’s just a cursory account of Mortal Engines, which would have benefited from losing a few supporting characters, several flashbacks and at least one subplot. Yet the movie’s major weakness is not story, but characterization.

The only actor who holds the screen is Weaving, and even he suffers from a cardboard role and plywood dialogue. Hilmar, Natsworthy and Jihae are all as bland as their parts, lacking charm, swagger and humor. The disastrous absence of the last quality can partly be blamed on the script, which hazards a joke about every 45 minutes.

(4) CAUGHT UP INTHE WEB. Meanwhile, Chris Klimek writes at NPR that “‘Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse’ Is A Fun, Warm-Hearted Treat”.

It’s hard to fathom that the same Sony Pictures that, in 2012, decided the best way to expand the appeal of its live-action Spider-Man franchise was to start over with lesser movies, has now become smart enough to put its resources into a superb new — really new — Spider-Man cartoon. Maybe someone in a Culver City boardroom got bit by a radioactive MacArthur Fellow.

Whatever the reason, for a powerful corporation to relax its grip on an ancient specimen of blue-chip IP enough to let the creatives have some fun is a rare thing, and one that should not go unheralded. Marvel Comics weathered the ire of reactionary fandom back in 2011 when it introduced Miles Morales, a Spider-Man no less Amazing than that nerdy orphan Peter Parker, but for the fact he was the son of a Puerto Rican ER nurse and an African-American beat cop. Miles became the Spider-Man of the publisher’s “Ultimate” line, a spiral arm of the Marvel Universe that…

…you know what? Don’t worry about it. To cite the refrain of this graphically dazzling, generously imaginative, nakedly optimistic, mercilessly funny and inclusive-without-being-all-pious-about-it animated oydssey called Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, “Anyone can wear the mask.”

(5) STELLAR POPPINS.The BBC’s Nicholas Barber finds many defects compared to the original, but gives 4 stars to Mary Poppins Returns.

Sensibly, Blunt doesn’t impersonate Andrews. Less sensibly, she impersonates Maggie Smith: her haughty, upper-crust Mary would be right at home in Downtown Abbey. But otherwise, Mary Poppins Returns is so similar to its predecessor as to be almost identical. There are no revelations, no unexpected locations, no hints at what Mary gets up to when she isn’t looking after the Banks children – although we’ll probably get a prequel set in nanny-training college in a few years’ time. The only significant difference is that the story has been moved on from 1910 to the 1930s, so it’s Mary Poppins: The Next Generation.

(6) BORDER TOWN DROPPED. “DC Cancels Hit Comic Book Series ‘Border Town’ After Abuse Claims”says The Hollywood Reporter.

The publisher is immediately ending the critically acclaimed series, amid accusations of sexual abuse by writer and co-creator Eric M. Esquivel.

DC Entertainmentimprint DC Vertigo has canceled comic book series Border Town effective immediately, with all orders for the unreleased issues 5 and 6 being canceled, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed. Those issues will not be published, and all issues already released are also being made returnable, according to the publisher.

The publisher has not commented on the reasons for the title’s cancellation, but it coincides with the release of a statement by toy designer Cynthia Naugle in which she wrote about being “sexually, mentally, and emotionally abused” by an unnamed figure later identified on social media — and seemingly confirmed by Naugle via retweets — as Border Town writer and co-creator Eric M. Esquivel.

Since Naugle’s statement went live, both Border Town artist Ramon Villalobos and color artist Tamra Bonvillain released statements via Twitter on the subject, distancing themselves from the project.

(7) HUGO VOTING STRATEGY TRUE OR FALSE. Karl-Johan Norén warns, “The meme that one should not ‘dilute’ ones Hugo nomination power under EPH is going around again, and I wrote a quick refutation.”

…As a voter and nominator for the Hugos, it is in your best interest to nominate as many works as you find worthy as you can.

I will illustrate it using two cases. The first is that if every single nominator in a Hugo category nominates only a single work, EPH will default back to a simple first past the post selection with six finalists — exactly the system that we had before EPH, but with much less input! …

(8) THE POINTY THRONE. This cover for the March issue of Amazing Spider-Man resonates with a certain TV show you may have seen….

(9) BLACK SCI-FI DOCUMENTARY. Three excerpts from Terrence Francis’ 1992 documentary Black Sci-Fi, originally broadcast on BBC2 as part of the Birthrights series.

The documentary focuses on Black science fiction in literature, film and television and features interviews with Octavia Butler, Samuel R. Delany, Mike Sargent, Steven Barnes and Nichelle Nichols.

In this extract, Octavia Butler discusses how her interest in science fiction developed and the genre’s potential for exploring new ideas and ways of being.

In this section Samuel R. Delany, Mike Sargent and Steven Barnes discuss the stereotypical portrayal of black characters in science fiction literature and cinema, including the predictable fate of Paul Winfield in films like Damnation Alley, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and The Terminator.

In this section, Nichelle Nichols discusses the significance of her character, Uhura, in Star Trek; Steven Barnes and Mike Sargent consider how attitudes towards race and skin colour might develop in the (far) future.

(10) VAULT OF THE BEAST. Robert Weinberg interviewed A.E. Van Vogt in 1980 – now posted at Sevagram.

Weinberg: How did you first get interested in science fiction, and in particular, how did you come to write a science fiction story?

Van Vogt: I first read science fiction in the old British Chum annual when I was about 12 years old. Chum was a British boy’s weekly which, at the end of the year was bound into a single huge book; and the following Christmas parents bought it as Christmas presents for male children. The science fiction in these stories was simple. Somebody built a spaceship in his tool shop (in his backyard) and when he left earth he took along all the neighborhood twelve-year-olds without the parents seeming to object.

Later, at age 14, I saw the November 1926 Amazing and promptly purchased it, read it avidly until Hugo Gernsbach lost control and it got awful under the next editor, T. O’Connor Sloane. So I had my background when I picked up the July, 1938 issue of Astounding and read “Who Goes There?” It was one of the great SF stories; and it stimulated me to send Campbell, the editor, a one paragraph outline of what later became “Vault of the Beast. “If he hadn’t answered, that would probably have been the end of my SF career. But I learned later he answered all query letters either favorably or with helpful advice. The helpful advice he gave me was to suggest that I write with a lot of atmosphere. To me that meant a lot of imagery, and verbs other than “to be” or “to have.”

(11) ANDERSON OBIT. Author Paul Dale Anderson (1944-2018) has died, the president of the Horror Writers Association Is reporting. Biographical details from hiswebsite —

Paul Dale Anderson has written more than 27 novels and hundreds of short stories, mostly in the horror, fantasy, science fiction, and suspense-thriller genres. Paul has also written contemporary romances, mysteries, and westerns. Paul is an Active Member of SFWA and HWA, and he was elected a Vice President and Trustee of Horror Writers Association in 1987.  Paul is also a member of International Thriller Writers, the Authors Guild, and MWA.

His wife, Gretta, predeceased him in 2012.

(12) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • December 14, 1984 – John Carpenter’s Starman premiered on this day.
  • December 14, 1984 – For better or worse – Dune debuted in theaters.
  • December 14, 2007 – Will Smith’s I Am Legend opened.

(13) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 14, 1916 Shirley Jackson. First gained public attention for her short story “The Lottery, or, The Adventures of James Harris” but it was her The Haunting of Hill House novel which has been made her legendary as a horror novelist as it’s truly a chilling ghost story.  I see that’s she wrote quite a bit of genre short fiction —has anyone here read it? (Died 1965.)
  • Born December 14, 1920 Rosemary Sutcliff. English novelist whose best known for children’s books particularly her historical fiction which  involved retellings of myths and legends, Arthurian and otherwise. Digging into my memory, I remember reading The Chronicles of Robin Hood which was her first published novel and rather good; The Eagle of the Ninth is set in Roman Britain and was an equally fine read. (Died 1992.)
  • Born December 14, 1949 David A. Cherry, 69. Illustrator working mostly in the genre. Amazingly he has been nominated eleven times for Hugo Awards, and eighteen times for Chesley Awards with an astonishing eight wins! He is a past president of the Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists.
  • Oh and he’s is the brother of the science fiction writer C. J. Cherryh (“Cherry” is the original spelling of the last name of the family) so you won’t be surprised that he’s painted cover art for some of her books as well as books for Robert Asprin, Andre Norton, Diane Duane, Lynn Abbey and Piers Anthony to name but a few of his contracts.
  • Born December 14, 1966Sarah Zettel, 52. Her first novel, Reclamation, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award in 1996, and in 1997 tied for the Locus Award for the Best First Novel. Writing under the alias of C. L. Anderson, her novel Bitter Angels won the 2010 Philip K. Dick award for best paperback original novel. If you’ve not read her, I’d recommend her YA American Fairy Trilogy as a good place to start. 
  • Born December 14, 1968 Kelley Armstrong, 50. Canadian writer, primarily of fantasy novels since the early party of the century. She has published thirty-one fantasy novels to date, thirteen in her Women of the Otherworld series, another five in her Cainsville series. I’m wracking my brain to think what I’ve read of hers as I know I’ve read something. Ahhhh I’m reasonably sure I listened to the Cainsville series and would recommend it wholeheartedly.

(14) SAVE THE PICKLE! Has your deli warned of a shortage? Chip Hitchcock says, “Famous fan stop Rein’s, near Hartford, had a problem a few years ago.” From NPR : “Scientists Are Fighting For The Stricken Pickle Against This Tricky Disease”.

With failed harvests, fewer growers are taking a chance on cucumbers. According to USDA records, pickling cucumber acreage declined nearly 25 percent between 2004 and 2015. Globally, downy mildew threatens fields as far flung as India, Israel, Mexico and China.

“This is the number one threat to the pickle industry,” says vegetable pathologist Lina Quesada-Ocampo of North Carolina State University. The growers, she says, lose money on failed crops and pricey fungicides. “It is a really bad double whammy.”

Fortunately for pickle lovers, vegetable breeder Michael Mazourek of Cornell University is close to releasing varieties that resist downy mildew. “It’s been one of our proudest David and Goliath stories,” he says. But his success hinges on funding at a time when public support of agricultural research is declining.

(15) HEVELIN PHOTOS SOUGHT. Bruce Hevelin is looking for photos of his father, James “Rusty” Hevelin. If you have any scanned in or in digital form, please send them to him at: <bruce911@sonic.net>

(16) WOODEN FRIED CHICKEN. Forget about making this one of your last-minute gift purchases – The Takeout says “KFC fried chicken-scented firelog sold out in hours ¯\_(?)_/’”:

Update, December 14: Oh, you actually were interested in that chicken-scented log, eh? Sorry for those who didn’t snatch theirs up early, as the logs reportedly sold out within hours yesterday.

Original story, December 13:

“Back in my day,” your grandpa begins wheezily, “If we wanted fried chicken-smellin’ fires, we had to throw the chicken on the flames ourselves.”

He’s right, friends, but that hardship ends today, as KFC introduces a firelog that smells like the Colonel’s 11-herbs-and-spices fried chicken, made in partnership with Enviro-Log.

(17) NOT SOLD OUT.This is still available. No wonder! It will cost a heck of a lot more than a log! The Houdini Seance at LA’s Magic Castle.

The séance is held for a private group of ten to twelve guests in our historic Houdini Séance Chamber. Decorated in the High Victorian style, it is now the home of many priceless pieces of Houdini memorabilia, including the only set of cuffs Houdini was unable to open.

…You will experience remarkable things you might not fully understand. Don’t feel alone. It’s that way for all of us.

Your party begins its experience with a four-course gourmet meal at 6:30 p.m. with bottomless red and white house wine during the dining portion of your evening — all created by your own private chef and served by your own private butler.

A medium will then join you who will open the veil between this world and the next. Your medium will begin with fascinating experiments in the power of the unseen and then, forming a magic circle, will summon the spirits and allow them to demonstrate their awesome ability to manifest in our physical world.

(18) THE SECRET IS NOT TO BANG THE ROCKS TOGETHER. BBC asks “What chance has Nasa of finding life on Mars?”

It could be easier to detect the signs of ancient life on Mars than it is on Earth, say scientists connected with Nasa’s next rover mission.

The six-wheeled robot is due to touch down on the Red Planet in 2021 with the specific aim of trying to identify evidence of past biology.

It will be searching for clues in rocks that are perhaps 3.9 billion years old.

Confirming life on Earth at that age is tough enough, but Mars may have better preservation, say the researchers.

It comes down to the dynamic processes on our home world that constantly churn and recycle rocks – processes that can erase life’s traces but which shut down on the Red Planet early in its history.

“We don’t believe, for example, that Mars had plate tectonics in the way Earth has had for most of its history,” said Ken Williford from Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in California.

“Most of Earth’s rock record has been destroyed by subduction under the ocean crust. But even the rock left at the surface is heated and squeezed in ways it might not have been on Mars.”

(19) BEFORE THE STORY WAS TRAPPED IN AMBER. BBC tells about “The Jurassic Park film that was never made”.

The structure is so ancient that it feels almost prehistoric. Some people take a trip to a remote island, they see some dinosaurs, and then the dinosaurs try to have them for lunch. It’s what happened in Jurassic Park in 1993, and by the time the first sequel came out in 1997, the screenplay was already poking fun at how formulaic it was. “‘Ooh, aah’, that’s how it always starts,” says Jeff Goldblum’s Dr Ian Malcolm in The Lost World: Jurassic Park. “Then later there’s running and screaming.” How right he was. But this self-knowledge didn’t stop the makers of Jurassic Park III (2001) and Jurassic World (2015) sticking to the formula, and it wasn’t until the second half of this year’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom that the series found somewhere else to go.

How different things might have been. Back in 2004, John Sayles (the writer-director of Passion Fish and Lone Star) wrote a half-crazy half-brilliant screenplay for Jurassic Park 4 that took the story all over the planet, and which pioneered several radical ideas that are only just being incorporated into the franchise now. Steven Spielberg, the series’ producer and its original director was keen at first, and it’s easy to see why: Sayles’ rollicking script is sprinkled with quintessentially Spielberg-y moments. On the other hand, it’s also easy to see why Spielberg cooled off on the project. A movie about a globe-trotting A-Team of genetically modified, crime-busting Deinonychuses might have strayed just a little too far from the Jurassic Park films that audiences knew and loved.

(20) TITANS. The season-ending episode:

Titans 1×11 “Dick Grayson” Season 1 Episode 11 Promo (Season Finale) – Robin faces off against Batman when Dick takes a dark journey back to Gotham in the first season finale of Titans.

(21) YOU THOUGHT YOU HAD BAGGAGE PROBLEMS. “Southwest Airlines flight turns back after human heart discovery” – BBC has the story.

A US passenger plane travelling from Seattle to Dallas was forced to turn back hours into its flight because a human heart had been left on board.

Southwest Airlines says the organ was flown to Seattle from California, where it was to be processed at a hospital to have a valve recovered for future use.

But it was never unloaded and its absence was not noticed until the plane was almost half-way to Dallas.

The heart itself had not been intended for a specific patient.

(22) WHERE TO FIND YOUR DOOM, AND WHAT TO DRINK ON THE WAY. Another thing for Worldcon travelers to check out: “In Ireland, a taste of the underworld”

Oweynagat cave is a placeof both birth and death. An unimposing gash in the ancient misty hills of north-western Ireland, it is said to be the entrance to the underworld where fairies and demons lure mortals to their doom, and the sacred birthplace of a warrior queen. For thousands of years, the Irish have regarded Oweynagat as a site of awe-inspiring magic, weaving a rich tapestry of mythology around it.

…For millennia, Queen Medb has remained the most intoxicating thing to come out of the cave. However, just this year that changed with the creation of a beer made from wild yeast cultivated from the walls of Oweynagat. Called Underworld Savage Ale for the mythic place that it was conceived, this beer is the first of its kind, with a backstory strange enough to fit within the cave’s fantastic mythology

(23) FROM THE HISTORIC RECORDS. Rachel Swirsky discovered a reference to File 770 in a 1981 copy of Fandom Directory.  The zine was only three years old at the time.

(24) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “The Mother of All Demos Hosted by Douglas Englebart” on YouTube is a video (recorded by Stewart Brand) of the December 1968 demonstration where Douglas Englebart introduced the world to videoconferencing, hypertext, and the computer mouse.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Rachel Swirsky, and Andrew Porter for some oft hese stories, Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day John Winkleman.]

Pixel Scroll 12/12/18 I Can’t Compile ‘Cause I Owe My Scroll To The Company File!

(1) FREQUENT FLYER. For me, it’s either Field of Dreams or Patton.

(2) FIXING A HOLE WHERE THE SPACE GETS IN. “Cosmonauts Slice Spacecraft For Clues To Cause Of Mysterious Hole” — a Giphy clip of them at work accompanies the NPR post.

It was all part of an attempt Tuesday to solve the mystery of the leaking International Space Station.

“The cosmonauts spent hours using knives and what looked like garden shears to cut away at the insulation around the spacecraft’s orbital module, to peek at the damaged area,” NPR’s Geoff Brumfiel reported. “All along, mission control in Moscow pleaded with them to take it slow so they wouldn’t make the situation worse.”

(3) ABOUT THAT SPACE SUIT. What if the ISS damage is sabotage? Matthew Reardon explains “The Space Law of Sabotage on the ISS” to readers of the SFWA Blog. (Why would the law in space be any clearer than the law on earth?) 

…The first thing we can hope is that there haven’t been criminal acts, sabotage or other, committed on the ISS. Because the relevant space law is a bit of a mess currently, and without any precedent, it could turn into a muddle that would hinder our expansion into space for a long time.

The first thing to point out is that the ISS isn’t a single legal entity. Under the Intergovernmental Agreement signed by the fourteen countries participating in the ISS, each State’s laws remain applicable in the elements it registers. Therefore, in criminal matters, even though the Agreement clearly states that each State’s laws regulate the activities of its nationals on the ISS, each individual piece of the ISS is ruled by different penal law depending on the country that provided that piece.

Theoretically, U.S. criminal law is applicable inside the Destiny lab module (which still raises the question of which U.S. States’ criminal law, but at least that’s a question that can be resolved internally to the U.S.), Russian criminal law in the Zvezda module, Japanese law in the Kibomodule, and so on.

(4) THE KITE FLYERS. David Rooney finds plenty to praise — “‘Mary Poppins Returns’: Film Review” at The Hollywood Reporter.

Belated Hollywood sequels have sunk more often than soared in recent years, but Disney shrugs off those odds with Mary Poppins Returns, an enchanting movie musical that picks up the threads of the studio’s cherished original more than half a century after its 1964 release. Sticking close to the enduring classic’s template while injecting plenty of freshness to give the follow-up its own distinct repro vitality, this lovingly crafted production delivers both nostalgia and novelty. Ideally cast from top to toe, and graced by tuneful songs from Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman that genuflect to the invaluable contributions of the Sherman Brothers on Mary Poppins, this is a charmer only cynics could resist.

(5) ACROSS THE CON SPECTRUM. Michael Lee answers the question at TwinCities Geek: “Just What Is This Convention, Anyway? A Guide to Different Types of Cons”.

What follows is an explanation of some of the terms used among convention attendees and convention runners to describe the most common types of conventions. One of the goals I have in this article is to focus on terms that don’t also have value judgments. In my experience, there are good and bad examples of almost every type of convention, and everyone’s taste in conventions is slightly different. Hopefully, this will help you narrow down what types of conventions you might like to attend!

Here are the first couple entries in his catalog —

Anime Con

Anime conventions are centered around Japanese animation and related subjects. One of the big things to keep in mind with anime conventionsis that they come in a variety of sizes and shapes, and some are organized by nonprofits while others are for profit. In the Twin Cities, we have fan-run anime conventions like Anime Detour and Anime Fusion. There are a number of large ones around the country, like A Cen (Anime Central) and Anime Expo.

Bidded Convention

Less often seen in the Twin Cities, bidded conventions move around a region, country, or all over the world. Either a previous convention’s membership or a board of directors chooses the location and committee leadership of an upcoming con. The premier example of a bidded convention is the World Science Fiction Convention (Worldcon), but other examples include the World Fantasy Convention, the NASFIC (the North American Science Fiction Convention), Gaylaxicon, and Costume-Con.

(6) MILES MORALES SWINGSBA CK INTO FRAME. Marvel reintroduces the character:

Just as he is making his big-screen debut in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Miles Morales is swinging back into the pages of Marvel Comics in an all-new debut with MILES MORALES: SPIDER-MAN #1! Written by Eisner Award winner Saladin Ahmed (Exiles) with art by celebrated Marvel Young Gun Javier Garrón (Ant-Man & The Wasp) and a cover by Brian Stelfreeze (Black Panther), Miles’ latest adventure brings Miles back to Brooklyn basics… but things definitely aren’t simple when a simple robbery is complicated with a big Spidey-Villain and an even bigger mystery!

“It’s very much intended for folks who might not know the character or might not even have read a Spider-Man comic, and for them to be able to access what’s universal and what’s immediately appealing about this character and about the Marvel Universe,” said Ahmed.

(7) GERNSBACK VIDEO. A Twitter video clip of Sam Moskowitz and Hugo Gernsback from a 1965 BBC Horizon documentary about the relationship between SF and science. First time I’ve seen any video of Gernsback.

(8) CURIOSITY TO EXPLORE STRANGE NEW WORLDS. rcade calls this “Some of the best File 770 reader microtargeting I’ve ever seen.” — “2019 StarTrek TNG Cats Wall Calendar” — “…the Enterprise-D’s adventures (only with cats) …”

When there’s a Red Alert on this bridge, everybody lands on their feet. If you’re a fan of the Star Trek Cats series by Jenny Parks, you need this 2019 calendar. If you’re not, allow us to explain. Parks has created a hilarious new take on ST:TNG characters and scenes by illustrating the characters as cats. Star Trek plus cats. What could be better?

(9) FOR SOMEONE ON YOUR GIFT LIST. Just what message you’ll be sending is up to you! Here’s an alarming concept — “Fiji Mermaid Tiny Skeleton Deluxe Miniature Model Kit With Glass Display Dome and Assembly Tools Box Set – Paper Sculpture”.

The Fiji Mermaid Deluxe Kit includes everything you need to successfully assemble the tiny skeleton model for display. Each kit comes with the pre-cut Fiji Mermaid bones, 59mm borosilicate glass display dome, exhibit base, glue, tweezers, and a magnifier.

Tinysaur Kits assemble into tiny skeletons from a postage stamp sized laser cut pattern. Assembly generally takes 20-30 minutes and the completed Fiji Mermaid models stand roughly 1 inch tall.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 12, 1946Josepha Sherman. Writer and folklorist who was a Compton Crook Award winner for The Shining Falcon which was based on the Russian fairy tale The Feather of Finist the Falcon. She was a prolific writer both on her own and with other writers such as Mercedes Lackey with whom she wrote A Cast of Corbies, and two Buffyverse novels with Laura Anne Gilman. 
  • I knew her personally as a folklorist first and that is she was without peer writing such works as Rachel the Clever: And Other Jewish Folktales and Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts: The Subversive Folklore of Childhood  that she wrote with T K F Weisskopf.  Neat lady who died far too soon. Let me leave you with an essay she wrote on Winter for Green Man twenty years ago, “Josepha Sherman’s Winter Queen Speech” (Died 2012.)
  • Born December 12, 1949 Bill Nighy, 69. He’s got a very, very long genre association staring with being an unnamed ENT physician in Curse of the Pink Panther. He was Martin Barton in The Phantom of the Opera, Edward Gardner in Fairy Tale: A True Story, Viktor In Underworld and Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, Philip in Shaun of the Dead, an hilarious Slartibartfast in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a quite unrecognisable as him Davy Jones in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Rufus Scrimgeour In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1… I’m stopping right before this get really long. Fortunately his television genre credits may be limited to an uncredited appearance in the “Vincent and the Doctor” episode of Dr. Who as Dr. Black.
  • Born December 12, 1965 Toni Weisskopf, 53. Editor and the publisher of Baen Books In 2015, Weisskopf was nominated for a Hugo Award.
  • Born December 12, 1970Mädchen Amick, 48. TwinPeaks: Fire Walk with Me was not actually her first genre role as she played a Young Anya on Star Trek:The Next Generation a year or a so earlier. She’s shapeshifter on the rebooted Fantasy Island and yet another shapeshifter, a black cat this time, on Witches of East End. Typecasting I think. 
  • Born December 12, 1970Jennifer Connelly, 48. First genre was as Sarah Williams in Labyrinth. Later appearances in our community include as Jenny Blake in The Rocketeer a film I love, Emma Murdoch / Annan in  Dark City, Betsy Ross in the 2003 Hulk, Helen Benson in the 2008 remake of the 1951 The Day the Earth Stood Still and no, it’s not anywhere as good as the original, Roxane in Inkheart, Virginia Gamely in Winter’s Tales based on the novel of the same name that I never finished, and a voice-only appearance only as Karen in Spider-Man: Homecoming
  • Born December 12, 1975 Mayim Bialik, 43. Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler, PhD on the Big Bang Theory series which I’m not sure is genre but is certainly genre friendly. Appearance in other genre undertakings as the Pumpkinhead horror film, The Real Adventures of Jonny QuestStan Lee’s Mighty 7 and The Adventures of Hyperman
  • Born December 12, 1976 Tim Pratt, 42. I think his best work was his very first novel which was The Strange Adventures of Rangergirl but there’s no doubt that later work such as The Constantine AfflictionBone Shop and The Stormglass Protocol are equally superb. That’s not to overlook his short fiction which you’ve not tried it you should and I’d recommend Little Gods as a good place to start. 

(11) THE WHAT-DID-THEY-DO-TO-THAT-FOOD CHANNEL. I’d watch this. (Maybe I shouldn’t admit it.)

(12) 2001. On December 20, Chicago’s Adler Planetarium will be showing 2001: A Space Odyssey followed by a discussion of the film by astronomer Mark Hammergren and SF critic Gary Wolfe: “Adler After Dark: Space Odyssey”.

  • Join astronomer Mark Hammergren and sci-fi editor, critic, and biographer Gary Wolfe in a spirited discussion on the impact 2001 had on film-making and its role in “blowing our minds” during the Apollo era
  • Try your hand at stopping the devious HAL 9000 from taking over the event in a museum-wide scavenger hunt
  • Learn more about film-making techniques, ranging from sound design to stop-motion animation
  • Checkout rarely-seen items from the museum’s collection—like paintings from renowned space artist Chesley Bonestell—whose work directly influenced Kubrick’s vision of the Moon in 1968
  • And don’t miss a special improv show where we’ll explore the future as imagined inyour fav sci-fi films!

(13) EDUCATIONAL POP-UPS. “Before they were relegated to the domain of children, books with movable mechanisms explained anatomy, astronomy, and more to adults.” — “When Pop-Up Books Taught Popular Science” in The Atlantic.

One of the most successful popular astronomy books of the 16th century was Peter Apian’s Cosmographia, a work that went through almost 40 editions in Latin, Dutch, French, and Spanish. Apian included five different volvelles in the book. One of these volvelles demonstrates the relationship between the moon and the sun and the phases of the moon.

The volvelle consists of two paper wheels connected with a small piece of string to a printed circle. The topmost wheel has a circular hole, revealing the lower wheel beneath. Both wheels can be rotated freely in either direction. The top wheel of the volvelle has an indicator with the moon on it. Spinning this wheel represents the moon’s west-to-east monthly circuit around the Earth. The lower wheel has an indicator with the sun on it. Spinning this wheel represents the sun’s yearly west-to-east motion. When the reader moves the two wheels, the phases of the moon appear in the hole cut out of the top wheel.

(14) VISIT FROM THE CREATOR. William F. Nolan posed beside the poster for the Logan’s Run movie while visiting the Pasadena Museum’s sff exhibit earlier this year.

(15) CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD.Print’s Don Vaughan interviews storyboard artist Mark Bristol in “Storyboarding: Drawing from Script to Screen”.

“Every production is different,” Bristol says. “The process is usually the same, but how the storyboards are utilized depends on the director and their own process.” Chris McQuarrie, the director of Mission: Impossible–Fallout, tends to rely heavily on storyboards, Bristol notes, whereas Terrence Malick, with whom Bristol worked on The Thin Red Line and Tree of Life, is more of an “in the moment” director for whom storyboards are merely a suggestion.

(16) BEREZIN OBIT. “Word processor pioneer Evelyn Berezin dies aged 93” – BBC has the story.

The woman who created and sold what many recognise as the world’s first word processor has died aged 93.

Evelyn Berezin called the device the Data Secretary when, in 1971, her company Redactron launched the product.

She grew Redactron from nine employees to close to 500 and was named one of theUS’s top leaders by BusinessWeek magazine in the year she sold it, 1976.

(17) NAMING CONVENTIONS. Poul Anderson loved alien names with apostrophes stuck in the middle – and he may have used up the genre’s quota in the process. At least, I think that’s what Sarah A. Hoyt is warning against in “Words and the Lonely Writer, part 5 – Made Up Languages” at Mad Genius Club.

….Why do apostrophes make the baby Jesus cry? Because while perfectly acceptable as a marking they were a) overused by early sf/f writers so those of us who’ve read deeply into the field roll our eyes to the back of our heads when we see them.  b)because they’re not THAT common in English, particularly not mid-word.  So when I see R’neker’vir I pause for a couple of seconds.  This can be enough to break the spell.  Sure, your writing can overcome it, but why make it more difficult?  Do you have so many readers you need to cut down some?

Okay, so you aren’t a linguist, and you’re not as weird as the rest of us, and you’ve never made up a language.  BUT your new world absolutely needs it.

Start small. First, if you’re doing weird names, decide what the parts of the name mean and whether they bear on the society or the hierarchy or just on your species.

For instance, a species born from eggs (external, laid eggs, smarty pants) might have a lot of names with egg or shell or whatever.  One that’s incredibly hierarchical might build in things that mean “second son of the lowest sweeper.”

After that consider your society.  Is there some feature so weird, so outlandish you feel the need to emphasize it with a made up word?

(18) WHAT ABOUT THE REST OFTHE STORY? ScreenRant did not end the season a fully satisfied customer: “Elseworlds:7 Unanswered Questions After This Year’s Arrowverse Crossover”.

While Elseworlds ended in a suitably epic fashion, this final chapter did raise a number of issues. Along with some continuity problems and questions about the science involved in the final battle, there are a few Easter Eggs to consider along with some major questions of events to come in the Arrowverse. Here are six questions to consider in the wake of Elseworlds‘ conclusion….

(19) BENNU NEWS. This asteroid was rode hard and put away wet: “NASAmakes amazing discovery on asteroid Bennu”. It sometimes seems like every astronomical body we study closely ends up having more water than expected. Bennu is the latest to join that crowd: (“OSIRIS-REx Discovers Water on Asteroid Bennu”).

Scientists have made a fascinating discovery on asteroid Bennu thanks to NASA’s OSIRIS-REx spacecraft.

Recently analyzed data from the probe has identified water locked inside the asteroid’s clay, the space agency has announced. The spacecraft’s two spectrometers revealed the presence of “hydroxyls,” which are molecules containing oxygen and hydrogen atoms bonded together.

(20) CRISIS FOR SANTA’S SLEIGH? It’s looking bad: “Climate change: Arctic reindeer numbers crash by half”.

The population of wild reindeer, or caribou, in the Arctic has crashed by more than half in the last two decades.

A new report on the impact of climate change in the Arctic revealed that numbers fell from almost 5 million to around 2.1 million animals.

The report was released at the American Geophysical Research Union meeting.

It revealed how weather patterns and vegetation changes are making the Arctic tundra a much less hospitable place for reindeer.

(21) SOME LIKE IT HOT. On the other hand, chickens find the climate quite salubrious: “‘Planet of the chickens’: How the bird took over the world”.

A study of chicken bones dug up at London archaeological sites shows how the bird we know today has altered beyond recognition from its ancestors.

With around 23 billion chickens on the planet at any one time, the bird is a symbol of the way we are shaping the environment, say scientists.

Evolution usually takes place over a timescale of millions of years, but the chicken has changed much more rapidly.

The rise of the supermarket chicken mirrors the decline in wild birds.

“The sheer number of chickens is an order of magnitude higher than any other bird species that’s alive today,” said Dr Carys Bennett, a geologist at the University of Leicester, who led the study

“You could say we are living in the planet of the chickens.”

(22) FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE. You would have predicted this — “Why emojis mean different things in different cultures” — but some of the variations are surprising.

…Equally, in China, the angel emoji, which int he West can denote innocence or having performed a good deed, is used a sign for death, and may be perceived as threatening.

Similarly, the applause emojis are used in the West to show praise or offer congratulations. In China, however, this is a symbol for making love, perhaps due to its resemblance to the sounds “pah pah pah”…

(23) SIR-PRISE. Meanwhie, back at the patriarchy — “Films with female stars earn more at the box office”.

If you liked Wonder Woman and Moana in part because they were films led by strong female characters, then it looks like you weren’t alone.

Conventional wisdom in Hollywood is that male stars are a bigger box office draw, often the reason given for their higher salaries.

But that may have been a miscalculation according to new analysis, showing films with female leads earn more.

Researchers looked at the top 350 grossing films between 2014 and 2017.

The correlation was true irrespective of how big the production budget was: films where female stars had top billing, made more money than those with male stars.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Michael O’Donnell, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, John A Arkansawyer, Steven H Silver, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File770 contributing editor of the day Kip Williams.]

Pixel Scroll 12/2/18 One Of Our Pixels Is Scrolling

(1) CHOP SHOP. Derrick Boden shares the secret of  “The Revision Machete” on the Odyssey Workhops blog.

…It has become so helpful to me that I’ve permanently integrated it into my revision process, and every story I’ve written since has seen improvement as a result.

I like to call it the revision machete.

Here’s the scenario: you’ve squeezed every ounce of blood and grit and wit into producing a story packed with multidimensional characters, a gripping conflict, deeply extrapolated world-building, and heart-wrenching emotional resonance. You’ve tidied it up and sent it off to a critique group, only to discover that everyone has summarily missed the point. Rather than commenting on the story’s thematic impact, they seem to have overlooked the theme altogether. Instead of suggesting ways to make the ending more powerful, they wonder, aloud, What exactly are you trying to say? They tell you the story is too slow, too long. They tell you it didn’t win them over….

When a reader misses the point, it’s easy to write that reaction off as an impatient read. This is rarely the case. And when a reader says a story is too slow or too long, the tendency—for me, at least—is to think: I just need to cut some flab. Tighten it up. Break out the scalpel. Slice some adverbs, transplant some clauses, excise the slow parts.

The solution, sadly, is rarely this simple. Here’s why….

(2) STEP IN AND OUT OF TIME. Parade Magazine questions “Dick Van Dyke & Lin-Manuel Miranda on the Magic of Making Mary Poppins Returns”.

During a gray London afternoon last year, Lin-Manuel Miranda was in musical paradise: He was watching Dick Van Dyke, then 91, on the set of the new movie Mary Poppins Returns, singing and hoofing—on a desk!—with the energy of a man half his age.

“I was geeking out!” the Hamilton star says. As for Van Dyke? “Everyone on the set was surprised I could do it,” the iconic actor says. “And nobody was more surprised than I was!”

(3) TIRED AND EMOTIONAL. John Scalzi dries the tears of some writers who are sure their failure to make the NYT Bestseller list is unjustified: “Some Observations on Bestseller Lists, December 2018”.

* Another thing about the NYT lists these days is that in the last few years they’ve cut the number of slots on the list themselves; the lists used to go into the thirties (my first NYT bestseller ranking was #33 on the Mass Market Fiction list), and now they publish only the top fifteen in any category. There are fewer slots to go around, and thus it’s more difficult to hit the list at all. Again, that’s nothing about politics, and everything about the lists themselves becoming more selective.

* The NYT lists are targeted for complaint because they are the most famous bestseller lists, and also because, if you’re of a conservative bent, a bit of a bete noir, being that the NYT is all full of liberals and shit. But other publications track sales as well, and there does happen to be a correlation between the appearance of a book on the NYT list, and its appearance on other lists as well. It’s relatively rare for a book to show up on a Times list, especially these days in their shorter format, and not on another bestseller list somewhere else.

(4) SEXUAL VIOLENCE IN SFF DATABASE. On a Reddit thread someone was asking for Fantasy series low on violence toward women was pointed to a Google docs “Sexual violence in sff database” that has been set up. It has a Google page where people can submit information on books they’ve read — Submission form.

(5) ALIEN VISITORS TO THE FORMER SOVIET UNION. On This Day In Science Fiction History reviews a Russian movie — “’Attraction’ Might Make You Believe In Love … but Probably Not Aliens”.

Somehow, mankind always finds itself at odds with intelligent extraterrestrial life.  If you believe the movies, then we’re doomed to never get along socially with whatever we inevitably find ‘out there.’

George Pal’s adaptation of H.G. Wells’ The War Of The Worlds (1953) showed Earthlings on-the-run from these Martian aggressors who eventually succumb to the smallest threat previously known to man in the finale.  During the 1980’s, TV audiences were treated to a pair of miniseries and a spin-off series around V (aka Visitors), a Reptilian race intent upon seeing mankind used to fill the opening of their dietary requirements.  Then, in 1996, Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich re-invented the ‘alien invasion’ feature with their big screen Independence Day: aliens came to Earth and got their butts kicked in a rousing finale that brought all nations of the world together for the ultimate throwdown.

There have been other films – some big and some small – that have mined similar territory; but 2017’s Attraction has the unique advantage of exploring an alien encounter that doesn’t involve any other nation on Earth except the former Soviet Union.  That alone was enough to pique my interest … but, sadly, what I found was much more spectacle than it was substance.

(6) THE COLLECTOR’S FRIEND. Moshe Feder pointed to this Indiegogo appeal — “Aura: Speeds & Simplifies ALL Your Scanning Needs” – saying, “An interesting scanner for bound books and magazines. Has a built-feature to renormalize curved pages. Portable! Doubles as a lamp! Reasonable price. This should have some obvious uses with old zines, pulps, and books.”

(7) JOIN THE NZ POLICE. The latest NZ Police recruiting campaign includes a shout-out to Wellington Paranormal (40 seconds in).

(8) WHO REVIEW. Camestros Felapton reviews the latest episode: “Doctor Who: It Takes You Away”.

A weird spooky episode, with a bit of a Sapphire & Steel style spooky British TV sci-fi mixed with a bit of a Neil Gaiman vibe. This one is a bit hard to review without spoilers, so click for more if you’ve seen it.

The crew are in Norway for no specific reason and spot a remote house by a lake. The exterior of the house is boarded up but there’s movement inside and possibly something monstrous outside…

(9) BERRY OBIT. Actor Ken Berry, best known for F-Troop and Mayberry RFD, died December 1. Variety notes his genre connections as well:

He also appeared in comedy films “Herbie Rides Again” and “The Cat From Outer Space” and made frequent guest appearances on shows including “The Golden Girls,” “Love Boat,” “Fantasy Island” and “CHiPs.”

Born in Moline, Ill., Berry started out as a singer and dancer. He served in the U.S. Army special services under Sergeant Leonard Nimoy, entertaining the troops and winning a slot on the “Ed Sullivan Show.”

Nimoy helped introduce him to studios after he left the Army, and soon Berry was under contract to Universal to appear in movie musicals.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

December 2, 1979Star Trek became a comic strip, giving new meaning to “see you in the funny papers.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born December 2, 1914 – Ray Walston, Actor and Comedian who is best known, of course, for playing the lead in My Favorite Martian from 1963 to 1966, alongside co-star Bill Bixby; he was given a cameo role in the 1999 reboot movie, which starred Christopher Lloyd in the titular role. Younger fans may know him for his role as Boothby, the mysterious gardener at Starfleet Academy, in Star Trek: The Next Generation, a role which he reprised in Voyager. His many genre appearances included The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, The Six Million Dollar Man, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Galaxy of Terror, Amazing Stories, Popeye, Friday the 13th: The Series, and Addams Family Reunion. In a sly callback to their earlier collaboration, he appeared in The Incredible Hulk (in which David Banner was played by Bill Bixby) as Jasper the Magician, in an episode called “My Favorite Magician”. He was given a Saturn Award for Lifetime Achievement. (Died 2001).
  • Born December 2, 1937 – Brian Lumley, 81, Writer of Horror who came to distinction in the 1970s, both with his writing in the Cthulhu Mythos and by creating his own character Titus Crow. In the 1980s, he created the Necroscope series, which first centered on speaker-to-the-dead Harry Keogh. His short story “Necros” was adapted into an episode of the horror anthology series The Hunger. His works have received World Fantasy, British Fantasy, and Stoker Award nominations; the short story “Fruiting Bodies” won a British Fantasy Award. Both the Horror Writers Association – for which he was a past president – and the World Fantasy Convention have honored him with their Lifetime Achievement Awards.
  • Born December 2, 1952 – O.R. Melling (aka G.V. Whelan), 66, Writer from Ireland. One of her favorite authors is Alan Garner, whose The Owl Service is also a frequent read of mine. As for novels by her that I’d recommend, the Chronicles of Faerie series, consisting of The Hunter’s Moon, The Summer King, The Light-Bearer’s Daughter, and The Book of Dreams are quite excellent; the first won a Schwartz Award for Best YA-Middle Grade Book. For more adult fare, her People of the Great Journey: Would You Go if You Were Called? – featuring a fantasy writer who is invited to take part in a week-long retreat on a magical, remote Scottish island – I’d highly recommend.
  • Born December 2, 1971 – Frank Cho, 47, Artist and Illustrator from South Korea who is best known as creator of the Liberty Meadows series, as well as work on Hulk, Mighty Avengers, and Shanna the She-Devil for Marvel Comics, and Jungle Girl for Dynamite Entertainment. His works have received Ignatz, Haxtur, Charles M. Schulz , and National Cartoonists Society’s Awards, as well as Eisner, Harvey, and Chesley Award nominations, and his documentary Creating Frank Cho’s World won an Emmy Award.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • How stars get their names (and whether they like them), as explained by Over the Hedge.

(13) THE JDA VERSION. Yesterday’s Scroll linked to Jim C. Hines’ post about Jon Del Arroz’ comments being taken down from a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” with Cat Rambo. Today JDA blogged his version of events — “Banned by r/fantasy” [Internet Archive link].

r/fantasy is censoring your favorite humble Hispanic author (me).  This group, supposedly about books and fiction in the genre I write, is removing comments when I make them. I’ve violated no rules, I simply posted the following to this thread…

(14) FLYING SAUCER INVENTOR PROFILED. In “The Forgotten Legend of Silicon Valley’s Flying Saucer Man” on Bloomberg, Ashlee Vance profiles outsider artist Alexander Weygers, who created designs that looked like flying saucers during the 1920s and also in 1930 painted visions of San Francisco in 1985.

…Things got bad enough that Larry Fischer, the owner of a sculpture foundry, decided to auction off pieces he’d held on to for years to help make ends meet. Ahead of the auction, he invited Hunter to come see if there was anything he liked. He guided his friend through the gritty warehouse toward a collection of bronze sculptures he thought might be of particular interest.

He chose well. The first sculpture Hunter saw, Up With Life, was a foot tall and depicted an adult’s face morphing vertically into a hand cradling an infant. Fischer explained that the sculpture, made by an unknown artist named Alexander Weygers after World War II, represented humanity rising up to find hope in the darkest of times. Its beauty overwhelmed Hunter, leaving him giddy and a little dazed. “I freaking started crying,” he later said. As he surveyed the room and saw one magnificent work after another, Hunter knew he had to have them. “I bought the whole collection of 30 Weygers statues.”

The sculptures came with an incredible story. Weygers spent close to half a century as the valley’s hidden da Vinci, crafting his home over the years from reclaimed wood and junkyard scrap metal, using tools he made on the premises. In separate workshops he produced sculptures, highly stylized photos, wood carvings, and home finishings. He also wrote books on blacksmithing and toolmaking and shared his talents firsthand with youngsters willing to camp on the property. He taught them to make their own tools, sculpt, and embrace his minimalist, recycling-centric philosophy. And amazingly, Weygers was a world-class engineer who in the late 1920s designed a flying saucer, a machine he called the Discopter.

(15) THERE’S GOLD, OR SOMETHING, IN THEM THAR HILLS. While InSight’s been getting all the ink, Curiosity has been prospecting for something that might be valuable – to science, anyway: “Curiosity Rover Just Spotted This Super-Shiny Object on Mars” at Gizmodo.

Immediate suspicions are that the rock, dubbed Little Colonsay, is a meteorite, but NASA scientists won’t know for sure until Curiosity performs a chemical analysis. The rover’s ChemCam instrument, which consists of a camera, spectrograph, and laser, offers an on-the-spot chemistry lab.

That Curiosity may have stumbled upon a meteorite isn’t shocking. The rover has sniffed out several such objects over the course of its travels, including a huge metal meteorite in 2015 and a shiny nickel-iron meteorite the following year.

(16) NIGHTFLYERS. Vice reports Vice: “George R.R. Martin’s ‘Nightflyers’ Is an Imaginative, Brutal Gorefest”. Subhead: “‘Game of Thrones’ fans will feel right at home in Syfy’s bloody psychological horror show.”

Martin compared the dark, 10-episode first contact series to Alien in the New York Times. As in Thrones, the balance of power is practically a character in Nightflyers. Instead of a loose coalition of warring nation-states, the factions are a ragtag group of scientists and the residents of a colony ship called the Nightflyer enlisted to investigate a mysterious alien entity called “The Volcryn.” Earth is dying, and rugged researcher Dr. Karl D’Branin (Eoin Macken) thinks tapping into its powerful energy will save the planet.

Andrew Liptak interviewed the showrunner for The Verge: “Nightflyers’ showrunner explains why George R.R. Martin’s massive worlds are ideal for TV “.

Series showrunner Jeff Buhler explains that to bring the show to Syfy, the creative team had to make some changes to the original story. “One of the big changes from the novella that we tackled in making the TV series was to roll back the timeline that existed in the Thousand World universe.” Martin’s story is set centuries far in the future, after humanity has colonized the galaxy. Along the way, humanity made contact with numerous other aliens, and wound up nestled between two hostile alien factions. For the show, Buhler explained that they wanted to go back to the point where humanity first made contact with aliens.

(17) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman offers listeners the chance to join Jo Walton for a seafood lunch in Episode 83 of his Eating the Fantastic podcast:

Jo Walton

I don’t know what you were doing last week on Black Friday, but as for me, I was taking this year’s Chessiecon Guest of Honor Jo Walton out to lunch at the nearby Bluestone Restaurant. And, of course, recording the conversation so you’d be able to join us at the table!

Jo Walton won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2002 and the World Fantasy award for her novel Tooth and Claw in 2004. Her novel Among Others won both the 2011 Nebula Award and the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Novel, and (according to those who keep track of such things) is one of only seven novels to have been nominated for the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, and World Fantasy Award.

Her novel Ha’penny was a co-winner of the 2008 Prometheus Award. Her novel Lifelode won the 2010 Mythopoeic Award. Her incisive nonfiction is collected in What Makes This Book So Great and An Informal History of the Hugos. She’s the founder of International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant Day, something which we never quite got around to talking about, so if you want to know more about that holiday, well, Google is your friend. Her next book, Lent, a fantasy novel about Savonarola, will be published by Tor Books in May 2019.

We discussed how Harlan Ellison’s fandom-slamming essay “Xenogenesis” caused her to miss three conventions she would otherwise have attended, why Robert Silverberg’s Dying Inside is really a book about menopause, the reason she wishes George Eliot had written science fiction, the ways in which during her younger days she was trying to write like Poul Anderson, her technique for getting unstuck when she’s lost in the middle of writing a novel, why she loathes the plotter vs. pantser dichotomy, how she developed her superstition that printing out manuscripts is bad luck, the complicated legacy of the John W. Campbell Award (which she won in 2002), how she managed to write her upcoming 116,000-word novel Lent in only 42 days, and much, much more.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/29/18 It Is By Tickboxes Alone I Set My Scroll In Pixels.

(1) NO ESCAPE. Lila Shapiro interview N.K. Jemisin for Vulture: “For Reigning Fantasy Queen N.K. Jemisin, There’s No Escape From Reality”. The cut line adds: “I’m writing about dragons as a black woman, and it’s fucking political.”

Jemisin was a dreamy kid, but she was practical, too. She didn’t think it was possible for a black woman to have a career as a fantasy writer. So when it came time for her to choose a profession, she followed the example of her mother, a psychologist who administered IQ tests. Jemisin studied psychology at Tulane and the University of Maryland and got a job as a career counselor specializing in what she describes as “at risk” populations — marginalized groups, first-generation students, older people having midlife crises. When she turned 30, she had her own crisis. Swimming in student debt, she decided to try to make a little side money from her lifelong hobby. “I thought, well I have this talent, I haven’t monetized it,” Jemisin recalls. “I don’t know if I can because I don’t think that the publishing marketplace is really interested in what I write, but if I can at least develop it to get a few hundred dollars a month, that will make a difference.”

Her first short story was published two years later, in 2004. The next year, an agent picked the manuscript of Jemisin’s first novel out of the slush pile. The agent, Lucienne Diver, was struck by the setting, a fantastical realm inspired by ancient Egypt, and by the characters, who were nearly all black. “I’ve been reading fantasy all my life, and so much sounds the same,” Diver tells me. “Nora’s book was not like anything else I’d ever read.”

(2) BRITISH ANIMATION. BBC’s snips from a program to be available later — “From propaganda to Plasticine: Six secrets of British animation”. First snip — Aardman Studios’ first output, “Morpho”, has been a UK TV hit for 4 decades but isn’t profitable.

Morph didn’t make any money

Morph, the funny figure made of brown clay who lived in a microscope box, was the original star of Aardman Animations, who went on to create Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep and Timmy Time. “Made from a simple bit of clay, he’s practically a mascot for animation,” says the documentary.

Created by David Sproxton and Peter Lord, Morph has been on the go for four decades: from children’s TV with Tony Hart in the 70s to CBBC’s SMart in the 90s and his current YouTube channel full of claymation antics.

However, despite being synonymous with British animation, he isn’t profitable. Peter Lord says: He wasn’t a financial success really at all, which surprises everyone I think because he’s been a popular success, a cultural success but not economic.” Co-creator David Sproxton adds: “We’ve never made any money out of Morph and we still don’t, we just love doing him.”

(3) BLURB KARMA. Jeff VanderMeer has not forgotten!

And this just goes on gets funnier…

(4) ANOTHER NEW STROKE FOR ADULT SWIM. The Hollywood Reporter reveals “‘Blade Runner’ Anime Series Coming to Adult Swim”.

The Blade Runner universe is expanding again with an anime series that will air on Adult Swim in the U.S.

The cable channel has partnered with Alcon Television Group and anime streaming outlet Crunchyroll to produce Blade Runner — Black Lotus, a 13-episode series inspired by 2017’s Blade Runner 2049, the sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic.

(5) 2019 NZ NATCON. GeyserCon 2019 is New Zealand’s 40th National Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention, to be held in Rotorua from May 31-June 3, 2019. They have posted their preliminary program schedule.

(6) UNUSUAL READING EXPERIENCE. John A Arkansawyer sends the link to The Cliff Nest with the recommendation, “I haven’t had a chance to give it the full read, but it’s an interesting idea and readable so far.”

The Cliff Nest is a book published as a serial of posts. The top main page will always show the latest published issue in the serial.

In order to start reading from the beginning, go to the story mode, which will sort the posts from the very first onward so you can read it like a book.

The book will include multiple cybersecurity and/or technical challenges which will invite the readers to look around the internet. Some are part of the story, while others will ask the readers to propose a solution with a character name that will tell the solution in the story.

The best proposed solution and character name (with minor adjustments to align with the story) will become part of the story.

(7) DAREDEVIL CHOPPED. Ars Technica invites fans to the funeral: “The bloodbath continues: Netflix cancels Daredevil after three seasons”.

Clearly Netflix is cleaning house, since this follows surprise cancellations in October of Iron Fist and Luke Cage. That just leaves Jessica Jones and The Punisher on Netflex’s roster of Defenders. Both have new seasons in the pipeline that are currently slated to air on Netflix as planned, according to Deadline’s sources. But they will, in all likelihood, be on the chopping block eventually as well.

All this further fuels speculation that Disney/Marvel may resurrect all the cancelled series when it launches its new streaming service. Indeed, the Netflix statement hints as much.

(8) MORE ABOUT SPONGEBOB. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna reminds readers “‘SpongeBob’ creator Stephen Hillenburg raised our spirits — and ocean awareness”.

It took a fair amount of imagination for Hillenburg even to envision a career in animation. Born in Oklahoma to a teacher and a draftsman, he headed to Northern California’s Humboldt State University to study marine resources, before becoming a marine biology teacher at what is now the Ocean Institute in California. Yet his interest in drawing still beckoned like a call to the sea.

“Honestly, I hadn’t looked into the logistics and income. I just knew that’s what I wanted to do,” Hillenburg told me. “I thought, at least, I could get a job cleaning up somebody’s drawings. .?.?. Then there was ‘The Simpsons’ and ‘Ren & Stimpy’ — everyone was excited about the rebirth of the form” in the ’90s.

(9) KATZ OBIT. Gloria Katz (1942-2018): American screenwriter and producer, died November 25, aged 78. Genre credits include Messiah of Evil (1973; she and husband William Huyck were the uncredited directors), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Howard the Duck (1986).

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 29, 1959The Atomic Submarine premiered at your local drive-in
  • November 29, 1972 — Pong, a coin-operated video game, debuted.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • November 29, 1898 – C.S. Lewis, Writer from Ireland. There are, no doubt, folks here here who are far more literate on him than me. I’ve read The Screwtape Letters for a college course decades ago, and throughly enjoyed The Chronicles of Narnia also many years back, but that’s it for my personal acquaintance with him. I know individuals who have loved The Space Trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength) and I’ve known ones who loathed it. Of the Inklings, I suspect I need not say anything, as all of you are fully aware of that group which has frankly become legend and in turn is fast becoming myth. There have been novels about them ranging from almost true to them to quite fantastical. Currently, there is a movie called The Inklings in production, though available details about it are scant. (Died 1963.)
  • November 29, 1918 – Madeleine L’Engle, Writer whose genre work included the splendid YA sequence starting off with A Wrinkle in Time, which won the Newbery Medal and a host of other awards, and has been made into a 2003 television film and this year’s film directed by Ava DuVernay. She produced numerous loosely-linked sequels, including A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, Many Waters, and An Acceptable Time. In addition to her fiction, she wrote poetry and nonfiction, much of which related to her universalist form of Christian faith. She was honored with a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 1997. In 2013, Crater L’Engle on Mercury was named for her. (Died 2007.)
  • November 29, 1925 – Leigh Couch, Science Teacher and Member of First Fandom. Active in fandom, along with her husband and children, during the 1960s and 70s, she was a member of the Ozark Science Fiction Association and one of the editors of its fanzine Sirruish. She was on the committee for the bid to host Worldcon in Hawaii in 1981. She was honored for her contributions as Fan Guest of Honor at the first Archon, the long-running regional convention which grew out of that early St. Louis-area fandom. (Died 1998.)
  • November 29, 1942 – Maggie Thompson, 76, Librarian, Editor, and Fan who, with her husband Don, edited from the 1960s to the 90s the fanzines Harbinger, Comic Art, Rainy Days, and Newfangles, and wrote a column for The Buyer’s Guide for Comic Fandom. When this became the professional publication Comic Buyer’s Guide in 1983, because of their extensive knowledge of comics, she and her husband were hired as editors; after he died in 1994, she continued as editor until it ceased publication in 2013. Under their editorial auspices, it won two Eisner Awards and the Jack Kirby Award. Together they were honored with the Inkpot Award, and twice with the Comic Fan Art Award for Favorite Fan Writers.
  • November 29, 1950 – Kevin O’Donnell Jr., Writer who produced a number of genre novels and more than 70 short fiction works. He was chair of the Nebula Award Committee for nearly a decade, and business manager for the SFWA Bulletin for several years; he also chaired for 7 years SFWA’s Grievance Committee, which advocates for authors who experience difficulties in dealing with editors, publishers, agents, and other entities. He received the Service to SFWA Award in 2005, and after his death, the award was renamed in his honor. (Died 2012.)
  • November 29, 1964 – Don Cheadle, 54, Oscar-nominated Actor and Producer with a surprisingly-deep genre resume, especially for playing James “Rhodey” Rhodes War Machine in Iron Man 2 and 3, Captain America: Civil War, and the Avengers films Age of Ultron, Infinity War, and the as-yet-untitled #4. Other genre roles include Mission to Mars, The Meteor Man, and Volcano, and the televised-live black-and-white Cold War drama Fail Safe.
  • November 29, 1971 – Naoko Mori, 47, Actor from Japan who lives in the UK. Her first genre appearance was in Hackers, with the then-unknown Angelina Jolie and Jonny Lee Miller. Her performance as the character of Doctor Sato in the “Aliens of London” episode” of Doctor Who so impressed Russell T Davies that he brought her back as a regular character on the first two seasons of Torchwood. Other TV series appearances include episodes of Humans, Bugs, the British-American comedy-drama genre miniseries You, Me and the Apocalypse, and an SF series pilot called Three Inches, and the films Life and Maneater. She has also done voice characters for animated series and videogames, including Big Hero 6, Genji, Final Fantasy, and Dragon Quest.
  • November 29, 1976 – Anna Faris, 42, Actor, Writer, Producer, and Podcaster. Ahhh, I love franchise horror. She’s had a regular gig as Cindy Campbell in the first four Scary Movie films, and appeared in the horror films Lovers Lane and May. She had main roles in the odd superhero movie My Super Ex-Girlfriend, the ode to fanboy geekdom Mama’s Boy, and the SF comedy Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel – and does a recurring character voice in the Alvin and the Chipmunks franchise count as genre? Her campy credentials no doubt were the inspiration for Air New Zealand to cast her in this quirky aircraft safety video.
  • November 29, 1977 – Chadwick Boseman, 41, Actor, Writer, and Producer who is principally known for playing Black Panther in in the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther (for both of which he received Saturn nominations), Avengers: Infinity War, and the upcoming untitled Avengers 4. He had a main role on Persons Unknown, a one-season series which was sort of an ensemble version of The Prisoner. He played the bird god Thoth in the Gods of Egypt film, and had a guest role in an episode of Fringe.
  • November 29, 1980 – Janina Gavankar, 38, Actor and Singer with an impressive span of genre roles, including main roles as shapeshifter Luna Garza on True Blood and supernatural creature Leigh Turner on The Gates, recurring roles on The Vampire Dairies, Arrow, and Sleepy Hollow, and guest parts in episodes of Stargate Atlantis and Dollhouse. She voiced canon Star Wars character Iden Versio in the audiobook for Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad and its companion videogame, and provided additional character voices for Star Wars: The Last Jedi. She received a Behind The Voice Award nomination for her role in the videogame Far Cry 4, and appeared in an ad campaign for Microsoft as Ms. Dewey, the avatar of a Microsoft search engine who commented on the user’s searches.
  • November 29, 1982 – Gemma Chan, 36, Actor of Stage and Screen from  England whose first genre appearances were the horror movie When Evil Calls and her portrayal of Mia Bennett on Doctor Who’s “The Waters of Mars”. She has had a lead role on the series Humans for the last three years, was a regular on Bedlam, and had a guest part in an episode of Sherlock. Genre film roles include Madam Ya Zhou in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Quintessa in Transformers: The Last Knight; she’ll be Doctor Minerva in the forthcoming Captain Marvel film. Voice roles include the Watership Down miniseries as Dewdrop and the Revolting Rhymes movie as Snow White.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • From Publishers Weekly, a new installment of Tales from the Slush Pile. As always, hilarious but true. This week: what you hear at Thanksgiving from your relatives.

(13) PURE POISON. SYFY Wire tells us that—wearing her producer hat—”Margot Robbie “trying” to explore Harley Quinn’s relationship with Poison Ivy in the DCEU”.

There’s no question that Margot Robbie, who launched her successful production company LuckyChap Entertainment in 2014, is a force to be reckoned with in the movie business… and that could be very good news for the DC Extended Universe.

For example, when asked by PrideSource if she was being mindful of Quinn’s sexuality in her upcoming Birds of Prey film, the actress/producer revealed that she’s been “trying” to bring the relationship between her character Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy to the big screen.

“If you read the comics you know that Poison Ivy and Harley have an intimate relationship. In some comics they convey it as a friendship; in other comics you can see that they’re actually sexually involved as a couple. I’ve been trying to – I would love to have Poison Ivy thrown into the universe,” Robbie told the site. “Because the Harley and Poison Ivy relationship is one of my favorite aspects of the comics, so I’m looking to explore that on screen.”

(14) GETTING WARMER. It’s almost not news anymore — “Climate change: Last four years are ‘world’s hottest'”.

The year 2018 is on course to be the fourth warmest on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

It says that the global average temperature for the first 10 months of the year was nearly 1C above the levels between 1850-1900.

The State of the Climate report says that the 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years, with the 2015-2018 making up the top four.

(15) DO IT FOR SCIENCE. From The Onion:

(16) TO THE MOON, ALICE B. TOKLAS. Firefly may head to the Moon. No, not that Firefly. NASA has signed up nine companies that will be allowed to bid on delivery of small payloads to the Moon. (Ars Technica: “NASA takes a tangible step back toward the Moon with commercial program”)

NASA announced Thursday that it has partnered with nine companies to enable the delivery of small scientific payloads to the lunar surface. No money was exchanged up front, but the space agency said these companies would now be eligible to “bid” for contracts to deliver select experiments to the Moon.

[…] The nine companies that earned the right to bid on what are called Commercial Lunar Payload Services contracts are:

  • Astrobotic Technology Inc.: Pittsburgh
  • Deep Space Systems: Littleton, Colorado
  • Draper: Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • Firefly Aerospace Inc.: Cedar Park, Texas
  • Intuitive Machines LLC: Houston
  • Lockheed Martin Space: Littleton, Colorado
  • Masten Space Systems Inc.: Mojave, California
  • Moon Express: Cape Canaveral, Florida
  • Orbit Beyond: Edison, New Jersey

[…] NASA said payload delivery could begin as early as 2019. These contracts do not have a time or quantity limit, and they have a combined maximum contract value of $2.6 billion during the next 10 years. The agency said it would look at a number of factors when comparing the bids, such as “technical feasibility, price, and schedule.”

(17) STREEP IN POPPINS. Marc Sneitiker, in “Here’s what Meryl Streep and Emily Blunt said about reuniting (again!) for Mary Poppins Returns” on Entertainment Weekly, said that Streep and Blunt are working together for the first time since Into the Woods four years ago and both actors really respect each other’s work.

Emily Blunt and Meryl Streep have now made three big-budget studio films together: 2006’s The Devil Wears Prada, playing a toiling assistant and her monstrous boss; 2014’s Into the Woods, as a peasant baker and the witch who cursed her womb; and now 2018’s Mary Poppins Returns, playing the enigmatic nanny and her gravity-challenged cousin Topsy, who’s perhaps the only person ever to disagree with Mary Poppins.

“It is a bit hilarious that we always play people who are contentious with one another,” Blunt laughs, looking back on her relationship with Streep that’s now into its second decade. “From Prada to the Witch and the Baker’s Wife and now to cousins who drive each other insane, I did finally ask her, ‘When are we gonna play lovers or something?!’” Blunt laughs again. “She said, ‘Dream on.’”

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

Pixel Scroll 10/23/2018 If You’re Filing To ScrollFrancisco, Be Sure To Wear Some Pixels In Your Hair

(1) DOZOIS REMEMBERED AT NYRSF. Via David Langford comes news that New York Review of Science Fiction #349, a Special Gardner Dozois Memorial Issue, is available as a free download.

Memories, anecdotes, appreciations, confessions, and clickbait, from:

Michael Bishop • F. Brett Cox • Jack Dann Samuel R. Delany • Andy Duncan Greg Frost • Eileen Gunn • Joe Haldeman John Kessel • Nancy Kress • George R.R. Martin • Mike Resnick Darrell Schweitzer • Nisi Shawl Allen M. Steele • Michael Swanwick Lynne M. & Michael Damian Thomas Gordon Van Gelder • Howard Waldrop Patty Wells • Henry Wessells Fran Wilde • Sheila Williams

Michael Swanwick’s contribution leads off the issue:

Daredevil: Gardner appeared as a character in a Daredevil comic book. I am not kidding you. It was a minor role. His friend George Alec Effinger, aka “Piglet,” played a larger part in the plot, much to Gardner’s pretended chagrin. “I don’t know why I couldn’t get to beat up crooks,” he would say. “Piglet did!”

Eccentrics: Susan Casper loved to relate how she had once overheard two writers bemoaning the fact that, with the deaths of some of the founding fathers of science fiction, there were no longer any great eccentrics in the genre. Those two writers were Gardner and Howard Waldrop.

(2) INVALUABLE MAPS. The Guardian has three excerpts from The Writer’s Map, An Atlas of Imaginary Lands, ed. Hew Lewis-Jones.  In the excerpts, called “Wizards, Moomins and pirates: the magic and mystery of literary maps”,  Frances Hardinge discusses the map she made of Tove Jansson’s Moominland, Miraphora Mina writes about the Marauder’s Map featured in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Robert Macfarlane writes about his map of Treasure Island.

I remember poring over the Moominland map at the front of Tove Jansson’s Finn Family Moomintroll. The map is homely, crowded and jubilantly out of scale, yet also haunting. Like the books themselves, the map always touched me with a gentle and inexplicable sadness. I imagined the Lonely Mountains isolated by their own vastness and strangeness, their slow, cold hearts filled with a drear and incurable loneliness.

But even then I noticed that one feature of the little map was not accurate, except in the sense that a stopped clock is right twice a day. Near a bridge is drawn a small tent, and beside it sits a little figure in a tapering hat. This is clearly meant to show the campsite of the green-clad, harmonica-playing Snufkin. But Snufkin cannot be pinned to a location so easily. He is an inveterate nomad, vanishing from the Moominvalley for long months at a time, then returning without warning or explanation. He was probably packing up his tent before the ink on the map had dried.

(3) NARCOTIC POWERS. Lev Grossman also endorses the cartographic impulse at Literary Hub: “Lev Grossman: Why We’ve Always Needed Fantastic Maps”.

I mention this as one example of the strange narcotic power that maps have, especially fictional ones, even when they’re present only in trace quantities. Of course I also had the usual transports over maps of Middle-earth, and Narnia, and the archipelagos of Earthsea, and the Hundred Acre Wood, and The Lands Beyond, where The Phantom Tollbooth took place. But I could get a contact high just from the cartographical border of the Uncle Wiggily board game. All maps are fascinating, but there’s something extra-mesmerizing about maps of places that don’t exist. Maps are part of the apparatus of reality, and the navigation thereof. There’s a subversive, electric pleasure in seeing them miswired up to someplace fictional. In most cases, the closest you can get to actually visiting the land in a fictional map is by reading about it. But in my youth I got a little closer. I did this by playing Dungeons & Dragons.

(4) DEMOLITION AND SALVAGE. Aliette de Bodard has a guest post on Chuck Wendig’s blog about “Cannibalizing A Draft (Or: The Art Of Rewriting)”.

…I looked at my field of ashes draft and thought I might as well toss it in the bin: usually I manage to salvage scenes but this felt like no single scene was working properly.

I moped for a couple of weeks (a totally writer thing to do! Well, at least this writer!) And then I sat down, turned to a fresh page in my brainstorming notebook, and wrote, very deliberately, “list of current scenes in the draft”, and “list of scenes I would like in new draft” (ok, it might have been a teensy bit more cryptic since they were notes to myself). I also took another notebook and did pages of brain dumps that were essentially me talking to myself about what I needed to fix. Writing it down without judgement was actually super helpful to unlock the issues and possible fixes: since it was longhand and not on a computer, I didn’t feel like it was a final story or even graven in stone. It forced me to keep thinking, to keep track of what I was doing, but not in a way that paralyzed me….

(5) HE CONTROLS THE VERTICAL. While it’s cliché to ask an sf writer “Where do you get your ideas?”, Alastair Reynolds is happy to tell you where he got one of his — “Oh, Atlanta”.

I haven’t been back to Atlanta since 1992, but the hotel did have one lingering influence on my work which that article prompts me to mention. Those swooping interior elevators left a big mark on me, and when I came to write Revelation Space – which I started later that year – they became the model for the elevators in the Nostalgia for Infinity, especially the part where Ilia Volyova’s elevator plunges through the vast interior of the cache chamber. When, in Chapter Two, Ilia’s elevator announces its arrival at the “atrium” and “concierge” levels, that’s all down to the Marriot Marquis. I’d never been in an elevator that spoke before.

(6) TOUGH DAY FOR WOMBATS. My goodness!

(7) LOVECRAFT CONTINUES. Paul St.John Mackintosh considers the writers who are “Revising Lovecraft: The Mutant Mythos” in the LA Review of Books.

You can’t understand Lovecraft’s conflation of personal miscegenation and hereditary flaws with outside threats, social decay, and vast panoramas of evolution across Deep Time without first understanding the turn-of-the-century traditions within mainstream experimental literature and polemical pseudo-scientific writing that influenced him. Lovecraft may have been a bizarre, original outlier in the context of 1920s horror or science fiction, but he was completely comprehensible (and even representative) within these older and larger traditions. Many other far-right literary figures on both sides of World War I share much of Lovecraft’s grab-bag of Symbolist, Decadent, Spenglerian, and world-weary fin-de-siècle values and tropes. Period clichés of Yellow Book dandyism and racial doomsaying abound in this context. D’Annunzio, Hamsun, and Jean Lorrain would all have recognized a kindred spirit in Lovecraft, and period readers of Max Nordau’s Degeneration and sponsors of the Race Betterment Foundation would recognize familiar ideas, thinly recast, in Lovecraft’s oeuvre.

(8) RESISTANCE. Eneasz Brodski at Death Is Bad comes out “Against ‘Networking’”.

…So I hate it when people refer to going to these sorts of events as “networking.” I dislike the whole concept of networking. It makes people feel like tools. Networking implies business. It’s about profit and career. I never approach a friend with “Hey, you wanna network on Saturday?” I never ask a partner “Hey, I miss you, haven’t networked with you in a bit, got plans this weekend?” So why the hell am I “networking” at a convention about one of my passions in life?

I blame capitalism. Apparently one can’t even have fun without feeling guilty, unless it’s about advancing oneself in life. >:( I just like meeting people and talking and making acquaintances. I don’t expect anything from any of these evenings except a fun evening.…

(9) STILL GOLDEN. The Scientific American blog presents a profile of sff writer James Gunn, “Can Science Fiction Save the World?”

There was once a time when robots roamed the surface of Mercury, when a shape-shifting alien emerged from the ice of Antarctica, and when a galactic empire of 25 million planets spanned the Milky Way. It was called the “Golden Age” of science fiction, the period from the late 1930s to the late 1940s, when pioneering authors such as Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein wrote their first mind-bending stories. And though newer literary movements have mutated sci-fi’s DNA since then, the last surviving storyteller of the Golden Age—95-year-old James Gunn—is still writing.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 23, 1918 – James Daly, Actor known best to genre fans as Flint in the Star Trek original series episode “Requiem for Methuselah”. He also played the simian prosecutor in Planet of the Apes, and had the role of the sinister pioneering doctor in what was possibly the first movie about providing organ transplants from the body parts of clones, The Resurrection of Zachary Wheeler. In addition to roles on The Invaders, Mission: Impossible, The Twilight Zone, and The Evil Touch, he appeared in the Wernher von Braun docudrama I Aim at the Stars.
  • Born October 23, 1919 – Roy Lavender, Aerospace Engineer, Writer, Conrunner, and Member of First Fandom. He was one of the early members of the Cincinnati Fantasy Group (the third-oldest continuously running SF fan club), a member of the National Fantasy Fan Federation, and a co-founder of Midwestcon. He sent out an annual newsletter in which he discussed both scientific and science-fictional subjects. He and his wife, DeeDee (who was also a member of First Fandom) played instrumental roles in the planning and running of Cinvention, the 7th Worldcon, in 1949. He later moved from Ohio to California, where he was part of John and Bjo Trimbles’ sercon (serious and constructive) fan group The Petards, formed to actually discuss SF books (out of disgust with those feckless socializers in LASFS). He was Fan Guest of Honor at Kubla Khatch in 1994.
  • Born October 23, 1942 – Michael Crichton, Physician (non-practicing), Writer, Director, and Producer who became disillusioned with medicine after graduating from Harvard Medical School. He went on to write many genre novels which were made into movies (or vice-versa), including the Hugo-nominated Westworld and The Andromeda Strain (which won a Seiun Award), The Terminal Man, Sphere, the Hugo-winning Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Eaters of the Dead (filmed as The 13th Warrior), and Timeline. He wrote and directed Looker, which is notable for being the first commercial film to attempt to make a realistic computer-generated character, and was also the first film to create 3D shading with a computer, months before the release of the better-known Tron. (JJ is sorry to report that The Suck Fairy has had a go at many of these films – sometimes before they even got to the theaters! – but at least Timeline had the virtue of featuring Billy Connolly, Gerard Butler and Marton Csokas.)
  • Born October 23, 1950 – Wolf Muser, 68, Actor originally from Germany who has had recurring roles on Alias, Grimm, and The Man in the High Castle, guest roles in episodes of Carnivale, Timecop, and Misfits of Science, and appearances in the films Kiss Me Goodbye, Pandora’s Clock, and Final Equinox. He played a major role in The Beast Within: A Gabriel Knight Mystery, an interactive movie point-and-click adventure game released by Sierra On-Line in 1995 which was produced entirely in full motion video, was noted by a reviewer for being “one of the few computer games to actually involve personal, meaningful growth in a player-character”, and was named Game of the Year by Computer Gaming World.
  • Born October 23, 1953 – Ira Steven Behr, 65, Television producer and screenwriter, most known for his work first on Star Trek: The Next Generation, but especially on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, for which he served as showrunner and executive producer, and for which he wrote 53 episodes. He also had a hand in such genre series as Dark Angel, The 4400, The (new) Twilight Zone, Alphas, and Outlander, for which he is Executive Producer. He is credited with the DS9 novel The Ferengi Rules of Acquisition, and he has been the driving force, as producer, behind the DS9 documentary What We Left Behind, which is now premiering in selected theaters.
  • Born October 23, 1959 – Sam Raimi, 59, Writer, Director, and Producer known for his frequently over-the-top genre works, including Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Young Hercules, Xena: Warrior Princess, the cult horror Evil Dead series, the original, Hugo-nominated Spider-Man trilogy, Darkman, and Oz the Great and Powerful. Okay, he produces lots of popcorn video. Let’s now give this writeup a true genre connection: Kage Baker, who was a dyed-in-the-wool Bruce Campbell fan, reviewed not only The Adventures of Brisco County Jr. for us over at Green Man Review, but she did a very nice look at Jack of All Trades, which Raimi produced and of which Campbell is the star. For your reading pleasure, here’s the review: Jack of All Trades: The DVD Set.
  • Born October 23, 1969 – Trudi Canavan, 49, Graphic Artist, Writer and Fan from Australia who started her own graphic design business and became editor of the Australian fantasy and science fiction magazine Aurealis, where she was responsible for the cover art and design, reading manuscripts, and maintaining the website. During this time, she took up writing, and went on to win Ditmar and Aurealis Awards, first for her short fiction, and then for her novels. She has done covers and many interior illustrations for books and magazines, and received two Ditmar nominations for Best Artwork. She has been a Guest of Honour at numerous conventions, including the Australian and New Zealand National Conventions, and Denmark’s Fantasy Festival.
  • Born October 23, 1970 – Grant Imahara, 48, Engineer, Roboticist, TV Host, and Actor who is probably best known for his work building robots and providing engineering and computer support on the Mythbusters TV series, which, using scientific methodology, engages in spectacular tests of myths and fictional book and movie scenes. He started his career at Lucasfilm’s THX and ILM divisions, working on special effects for many blockbusters including the Star Wars, Terminator, Matrix, and Jurassic Park films. He has made appearances on Battlebots with his robot Deadblow, and had cameo appearances in episodes of Eureka and The Guild. He also portrayed Mr. Sulu in the Star Trek Continues webseries, and had a role in the fan film Star Trek: Renegades.
  • Born October 23, 1976 – Ryan Reynolds, 42, Actor and Producer from Canada who had early roles in Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Boltneck, Blade: Trinity, The Amityville Horror remake, and The Nines, before being tapped to play Wade Wilson, aka Deadpool, in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. He has since appeared as that wisecracking character in two, now going on three, Deadpool movies and associated shorts and cameos in related films, including in the Celine Dion video for the music from Deadpool 2. No, there was no such thing as a Green Lantern movie, that was just a figment of your imagination.
  • Born October 23, 1986 – Emilia Clarke, 32, Actor from England who has become famous for playing Khaleesi Daenerys Targaryen in the Hugo-winning series Game of Thrones – a role for which she has received Emmy and Saturn nominations. She also played major roles in Terminator Genisys (as Sarah Connor) and Solo: A Star Wars Story (sans dragons). She auctioned a chance to watch an episode of Game of Thrones with her, which raised more than $120,000 for a Haitian Disaster Relief Organization.

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • This Close To Home joke won’t be too obscure after all the time spent on the Ark in recent comments.
  • Faceblindness is inevitable in this case — Off the Mark.

(12) GRAHAM JOYCE. A 1998 interview with speculative fiction writer Graham Joyce, recipient of numerous awards, including the O. Henry Award and the World Fantasy Award, has just been uploaded — “Graham Joyce BBC Radio Leicester Interview 1998”.

(13) GOING CONCERN. This could be bad news — “Microplastics Are Turning Up Everywhere, Even In Human Excrement” – and it could be worse news if they aren’t leaving the body.

Microplastics have been found in human stool samples from countries in many parts of the world, according to a small pilot study being presented this week at the 26th annual United European Gastroenterology conference in Vienna.

The study, conducted by researchers from the Medical University of Vienna and the Environment Agency Austria, looked at stool samples from eight individuals in eight different countries: Finland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, the U.K. and Austria. Every stool sample tested positive for up to nine different plastic types, with an average of 20 particles of plastic per 10 grams of stool.

“Personally, I did not expect that each sample would … [test] … positive,” says lead researcher Dr. Philipp Schwabl of the Medical University of Vienna. He and his colleagues found that all eight stool samples contained polypropylene and polyethylene-terephthalate particles, which are major components of plastic bottle caps and plastic bottles. “Is it harmful to human health? That’s a very important question and we are planning further investigations.”

(14) CODE THREE. BBC says “Shipwreck found in Black Sea is ‘world’s oldest intact'”. It matches a portrayal of Odysseus and the Sirens.

A Greek merchant ship dating back more than 2,400 years has been found lying on its side off the Bulgarian coast.

The 23m (75ft) wreck, found in the Black Sea by an Anglo-Bulgarian team, is being hailed as officially the world’s oldest known intact shipwreck.

The researchers were stunned to find the merchant vessel closely resembled in design a ship that decorated ancient Greek wine vases.

The rudder, rowing benches and even the contents of its hold remain intact.

… The vessel is similar in style to that depicted by the so-called Siren Painter on the Siren Vase in the British Museum. Dating back to around 480 BC, the vase shows Odysseus strapped to the mast as his ship sails past three mythical sea nymphs whose tune was thought to drive sailors to their deaths.

(15) MORE BOMB THEORIES. Steven Zetichik in the Washington Post looks at the box-office failure of First Man (Peter Rabbit did better!) and says two reasons are that the film opened as a wide release, whereas director Damian Chazelle’s other two films, Whiplash and La La Land, opened in limited releases and built momentum.  Also, the film didn’t do as well in space-friendly Houston and Los Angeles because Astros and Dodgers fans were too deeply involved in the playoffs to think about movies — “The Neil Armstrong movie appears to be flopping because of Marco Rubio. The truth is more complicated.”.

Some Hollywood pundits certainly thought so. In a post on the trade site Deadline, Michael Cieply asked, “What Do Words Cost? For ‘First Man,’ Perhaps, Quite A Lot,” and broke down the box-office underperformance by the word count in Gosling’s interview. Meanwhile, the Hollywood Reporter columnist Scott Feinberg advanced the theory even more directly.

“FIRST MAN got Swiftboated,” he posted on Twitter, referring to the politically motivated set of attacks during the 2004 presidential election about John Kerry’s Vietnam War record. “I genuinely believe its box-office performance was undercut by the BS about the planting of the American flag.”

He makes a potent case, given the decibel level of the controversy and the fact that “First Man” contains subject matter that might be expected to play strongly in red states.

But this political question, attention-grabbing as it is, ignores more nuts-and-bolts movie issues that were just as likely to have a significant impact, relating as much to how and when the film was released as to what a politician was tweeting about it.

(16) VINTAGE HOODIE. Don’t let the reception for First Man dissuade you from ordering the “3D Neil Armstrong space suite Tshirt – Zip Hoodie”!

(17) I THE JURY. Fantasy Literature’s Sandy Ferber finally has a chance to render a verdict: From Hell It Came: Kimo therapy”.

Back in the 1960s, when I was just a young lad and when there were only three major television stations to contend with, The New York Times used to make pithy commentaries, in their TV section, regarding films that were to be aired that day. I have never forgotten the terse words that the paper issued for the 1957 cult item From Hell It Came. In one of the most succinct pans ever written, the editors simply wrote: “Back send it.” Well, I have waited years to find out if this hilarious put-down was justified or not, and now that I have finally succeeded in catching up with this one-of-a-kind cult item, have to say that I feel the Times people may have been a bit too harsh in their assessment….

(18) FILLED WITH PORPOISE. From SciFiNow we learn “Mary Poppins Returns first look video previews a new song”:

Mary Poppins Returns will be set in Depression-era London and follow now-grown up versions of Jane and Michael Banks, as well as Michael’s three children who are visited by Poppins following a personal loss….

 

(19) WHO DARES WINS. John Hertz, who once met Grace Slick, dares to conceive further attention to a parody (first offered in comments by Bonnie McDaniel) —

[Based on “White Rabbit”, G. Slick 1967]

When the pixels
From the day’s scroll
Get up and tell you where to go,
And you’ve just had some kind of comment
And your cursor’s moving, oh —
Go ask Glyer.
I think he’ll know.

When logic and proportion
Won’t even keep credentials fed,
And Camestros is hoaxing Hampus,
And Anna Nimmhaus’ titles are dead,
Remember
What the Filers said:
Get books read.

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