Pixel Scroll 11/6/18 Scroll it, Jake. It’s Pixeltown.

(1) KAIJU INSTANT CLASSIC. Adam Roberts spent the morning on a retelling of the story of Godzilla in the style of Pope’s Homer: The Godziliad.

It beginneth thus:

Book 1
Godzilla’s wrath, to Earth the direful spring
Of woes unnumber’d, heavenly goddess, sing!
What grudge could light the fierce atomic breath
That burnt so many citizens to death?
What move four mighty limbs to crush and tear
Whole city blocks and scatter them to air?

(2) STORYBOARDING PARTY. If you’d been at last weekend’s World Fantasy Convention you’d have seen a selection of original art from GoH Scott Edelman’s comics writing. He says, “I gave a docent tour for one hour during the con, and then talked endlessly about the pieces during the Art Reception.”

(3) DEADPOOL SAYS “FUDGE CANCER.” Why so restrained? Because charity will benefit from a cleaned-up re-release of Deadpool 2 — “‘Once Upon A Deadpool’: Ryan Reynolds (and Fred Savage) On Franchise’s PG-13 Plunge”.

All Fox wants for Christmas are 12 more days of Deadpool — that’s certainly one valid interpretation of the studio’s plan to revamp, rename and re-release the year’s biggest R-rated hit, Deadpool 2, as a PG-13 film called Once Upon A Deadpool. There’s more to it than that, however. Deadline has all the details about the studio’s unconventional plan — a plan that may have intriguing relevance when viewed through the prism of the Disney-Fox merger and the future of the red-hot Deadpool franchise.

First some of those details: Once Upon a Deadpool will have a limited-engagement that begins Dec. 12 and concludes on Christmas Eve, positioning it as a box-office play aimed at young teens on holiday break from school. The lion’s share of Once Upon Deadpool  is footage from Deadpool 2 that has been edited to meet PG-13 thresholds of violence and language. There’s also new footage in the form of a framing sequence that was conceived by Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds and writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. Working with a small film crew, Reynolds and his cohorts filmed all the framing scenes in a single hectic day of guerrilla-style filmmaking.

There’s a major charity component to the limited-engagement release, too, as Reynolds explained to Deadline that for every ticket sold $1 will go to the audaciously named F-ck Cancer campaign, which will be temporarily renamed “Fudge Cancer” for the purpose of tie-in fundraising effort….

(4) VOYNICH SPECULATIONS. Monica Valentinelli has a theory: “Why I Believe the Voynich Manuscript was Created by a Woman”.

I have a facsimile of the folios, and after reviewing all the theories I’ve realized the Voynich Manuscript may have been written by a woman.

For background, the vellum has been carbon-dated to the early 1400s, and illustrations potentially place its author in Northern Italy. Okay, so what was happening in Northern Italy at that time? The Italian Renaissance was flourishing despite the long shadow of the Holy Roman Empire and the established patriarchy. While it’s true that belief in witches during this time period was present, primarily among peasants and commoners, keep in mind the hysteria not peak until much later following the publication of the international best-seller Malleus Maleficarum in 1486.

Why write an untranslatable book about women’s health during the Italian Renaissance? One that has no overtly Christian or Catholic-specific symbols in it, either? On the one hand, you have an age of discovery and a period of enlightenment. On the other, you have the establishment of the Church and its political might. In between, however, you also have the birth of an Italian feminist movement that began in the late 14th century. Several Italian women of privilege were not only literate, they also taught at university, published books, and participated in the Italian Renaissance as thinkers of their age. Dorotea Bucca was a professor of health and medicine in Bologna, for example, for forty years from 1390-1430. As another example, Christine di Pizan challenged the idea that women were inferior to men by publishing the City of Ladies in 1404.

This, dear reader, points to my “who”. Who would be interested in writing a book that emphasized women’s health?…

(5) SKEIN POWER. Mary Robinette Kowal exercises hypnotic powers in this tweet –

(6) LLAMA LLAMA DUCK. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Did you get your flu shot yet this year? If not, stop reading this and go get it… but even when you do, each year’s shot is tailored to provide protection from a few strains of the influenza virus that scientific consensus says are probably going to be the ones going around. And sometimes they are wrong. Ars Technica has a story about antibodies that don’t have to be tailored to specific influenza strains and they depend on, of all things, llamas (“Llama ‘nanobodies’ might grant universal flu protection”).

Llama antibodies are different from ours. Our antibodies are a mix of two pairs of proteins, heavy and light, wrapped around each other. Llamas, camels, and sharks all use only a pair of heavy chains. Because they are smaller, they can wedge into molecular crevices that our larger antibodies can’t access. Perhaps that’s why scientists based at The Scripps Institute decided to use them as a basis for flu protection.

[…] Current flu vaccines generate antibodies to the head of the hemagglutinin protein [on the flue virus], which is highly variable. This is why we need to get a new shot every year: it ensures we make antibodies that bind to and counteract the strain in circulation that year. Broadly neutralizing antibodies that recognize all forms of hemagglutinin have been made and tested, but they don’t combat [some types of] influenza [at all], and they don’t last for very long in our upper airways.

[…] Each [of four llama] antibod[ies] neutralized a group of flu viruses, not just one; but the groups of viruses did not overlap. So the scientists made a composite antibody by fusing parts of different llama antibodies with a human antibody base (the parts are termed “nanobodies” and targeted two different regions on the hemagglutinin stem). In a test tube, the resulting fusion antibodies could neutralize flu strains that neither of their single constituents could alone. When given to mice intravenously a day before the mice were infected with flu, the fusion antibodies were protective against a panel of 60 different flu viruses. And when administered to the mice intranasally a month before infection, they were also able to confer protection.

(7) DESK SET. In “In Disney’s Golden Age, a Modernist Pioneer Designed the Perfect Animator’s Desk” by Ben Marks in Collectors Weekly, Marks looks at the animator’s desks designed by Kem Weber in 1939 and how they enabled Disney animators to do good work for nearly 50 years.

As a filmmaker, Disney always had big plans. As a builder, though, Walt Disney may have been even more ambitious, spending much of 1938 and ’39 consulting with his new studio’s architect, Kem Weber. Together, they created a work environment that was designed expressly for animators. Weber’s low-rise buildings, which quickly filled with the company’s roughly 800 employees, were sited to maximize northern exposure, ensuring optimal natural light for Disney’s small army of animators. Even the birch plywood desks these animators sat at were customized for their tasks, whether they were sketching storyboards, executing the entry-level grunt work of the “inbetweener,” or painting backgrounds.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • November 6, 1981 Time Bandits was released

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • November 6, 1907 – Catherine Crook de Camp, Writer, Editor, Teacher, and Member of First Fandom. Most of her fiction, nonfiction, and anthology editing work was done in collaboration with her husband of 60 years, L. Sprague de Camp, but she was also a member of SFWA and an author in her own right, producing a number of genre short stories and poems, and editing the anthology Creatures of the Cosmos. She attended dozens of SF conventions, and in later years was Guest of Honor at a significant number of them. One of the people to whom Heinlein dedicated his novel Friday, she was nominated for a World Fantasy Special Award for Professional Achievement, and honored with the Raymond Z. Gallun Award for outstanding contributions to the genre of science fiction.
  • November 6, 1910 – Sarban (John William Wall), Diplomat and Writer from England whose writing career was early and brief, but he is notable for his 1952 novel The Sound of His Horn, one of the earliest alt-history stories describing a world where the Nazis won World War II, 10 years before Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle.
  • November 6, 1947 – Carolyn Seymour, 71, Actor from England who is likely to be best known to genre fans for her roles as Romulans in episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation; she also played a member of an alien race in another TNG episode, and a holodeck character in Voyager. Other genre roles in TV series include a main role in the BBC’s Survivors, a recurring role on Quantum Leap, and guest appearances on Babylon 5, The Greatest American Hero, Otherworld, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, The (new) Twilight Zone, Tales from the Darkside, and Blue Thunder, parts in the films The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, and numerous voice roles in animated series and videogames, including Star Wars, Mass Effect, and Gears of War.
  • November 6, 1948 – Michael Dirda, 70, Pulitzer Prize-winning Writer, Journalist, and Critic, currently reviewing books for The Washington Post. He has numerous connections to genre, including providing the Introduction to the omnibus of Asimov’s Foundation series, an essay on Gene Wolfe in the Nebula Awards Showcase 2014 anthology, an Appreciation of Elizabeth Hand in the Readercon 20 Souvenir Book, and a ghost story in All Hallows magazine. On Conan Doyle; or, The Whole Art of Storytelling, won an Edgar Award for Best Critical / Biographical Works. Also worth bringing to your attention is Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting, and Living with Books, which y’all should naturally be interested in reading.
  • November 6, 1955 – Dr. Catherine Asaro, 63, Physicist, Mathematcian, Writer, Poet, Dancer, Singer, and Fan who started out with her own fanzine in the early 90s  After having one short work published in 1993, she burst onto the SFF scene in 1995 with Primary Inversion, a Compton Crook finalist and the first of at least 16 novels and many shorter works in what was to become the acclaimed Skolian War Saga. Her works have accumulated numerous Hugo and Nebula nominations, and she has taken two of those lucite trophies home. She is popular with fans, and has been Guest of Honor at nearly two dozen conventions (and JJ caught her working enthusiastically at the New Zealand in 2020 promotional table at Worldcon 76).
  • November 6, 1961 – Kim Huett, 57, Writer, Editor, and Fan from Australia who has been editor of, and contributor to, numerous fanzines and apazines, as well as occasional posts for File 770. Although he has mostly gafiated from fandom, he blogs at Doctor Strangemind about forgotten stories of fantastic literature and those who have written it.
  • November 6, 1966 – Peter DeLuise, 52, Actor, Writer, Director, and Producer. After early genre appearances in Solarbabies, Children of the Night, and Bloodsuckers, and guest roles on TV series Supernatural, Highlander, Andromeda, SeaQuest DSV, Third Rock from the Sun, The New Outer Limits, and Stargate SG-1, he began working as producer, writer, director, and creative consultant for SG-1, and went on to do the same for Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe. Among his numerous other directing credits are the series jPod and the fantasy film Beyond Sherwood Forest.
  • November 6, 1970 – Ethan Hawke, 48, Oscar-nominated Actor, Writer, and Director who is best known to genre fans for lead roles in the Hugo- and Saturn-nominated Gattaca and Predestination, the adaptation of Heinlein’s “All You Zombies –”, as well as The Woman in the Fifth, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Explorers, and Sinister (his scenes in the Total Recall remake ended up on the cutting room floor).
  • November 6, 1971 – P. Djèlí Clark, 47, Historian, Critic and Afro-Caribbean-American Writer of speculative fiction who has produced numerous works of short fiction in the last seven years, including the particularly acclaimed novella The Black God’s Drums and the novelette “A Dead Djinn in Cairo”. His work has been published in Strange Horizons, FIYAH, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Tor.com, and various anthologies.
  • November 6, 1972 – Rebecca Romijn, 46, Actor who played Mystique in the X-Men films, but my favorite role for her is as Eve Baird, The Guardian of the Library that crosses all realities in The Librarians series. She also was a regular on Eastwick, yet another riff the John Updike novel about modern-day witches, she voiced Lois Lane in the animated The Death of Superman, and appeared in the Rollerball remake and S1m0ne. She has been cast as Number One in the second season of Star Trek: Discovery.
  • November 6, 1972 – Thandie Newton, 46, Actor and Producer who has been playing a main role in the Saturn-winning TV series Westworld, for which she also received a Saturn nomination. She has also appeared in genre films Solo: A Star Wars Story, Mission: Impossible 2, The Chronicles of Riddick, the Hugo finalist Interview with the Vampire, Beloved, Vanishing on 7th Street, and 2012: We Were Warned.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Half Full concocts a holiday nightmare from leftover pumpkins.

(11) ANOTHER GHOST OF HALLOWEEN PAST. Here’s a relic. The episode of Route 66 aired October 26, 1962 featured guest stars Boris Karloff, Peter Lorre, and Lon Chaney, Jr.

As first broadcast on October 26th, 1962, here’s the famous Halloween episode of ROUTE 66, complete with original network commercials, just as it was seen a half-century ago.

 

(12) WET AND WILD. Apparently, it takes two to tango; if you tango in a swamp (Deadline:‘Swamp Thing’ Finds Its Swamp Thing, Sets Derek Mears & Andy Bean For Roles”). The “DC Universe” streaming service is casting two actors to play the titular character in Swamp Thing—one wearing the suit and one not.

DC Universe’s upcoming Swamp Thing series is continuing to cast up, setting Power‘s Andy Bean to play biologist Alec Holland, who in the DC mythology as created by Len Wein and Bernie Wrightson transforms into the titular creature. Derek Mears, who played another horror icon Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th reboot, will play the bog monster.

The streaming series, which hails from James Wan’s Atomic Monster in association with Warner Bros Television, is set to premiere in 2019 on the DC Universe digital subscription service.

(13) MARTIAN CHRONICLE. Did you know that Google has now mapped Mars? And more than that, Google Mars performs an assortment of special searches – like the one that pinpoints where all the spacecraft on the planet’s surface currently are.

(14) DOG TREK. “Live Long And Paws-Per”  came out in 2016 but it’s news to me!

(15) FASHION STATEMENT. This could be the perfect gift for someone you know: Star Trek Airlock t-shirt.

(16) WORM RUNNERS. NPR inquires: “These Flatworms Can Regrow A Body From A Fragment. How Do They Do It And Could We?” Chip Hitchcock comments, “Older fans may remember The Worm Runners Digest, a mix of oddball humor and serious articles about the possibility that memory could be transmitted by consuming RNA — since disproved, but the basis of Niven’s ‘The Fourth Profession.’ Now flatworms might show us something usable.”

Other animals like starfish, salamanders and crabs can regrow a tail or a leg. Some planarians, on the other hand, can regrow their entire bodies — even their heads, which only a few animals can do.

Key to planarians’ regenerative ability are powerful cells called pluripotent stem cells, which make up one-fifth of their bodies and can grow into every new body part. Humans only have pluripotent stem cells during the embryonic stage, before birth. After that, we mostly lose our ability to sprout new organs.

(17) POWERING UP. Beyond “slow glass”: “How the humble lamp-post could help power our cities”. A new material can be both structural and photoelectric; another doesn’t require the processing that silicon does.

New materials certainly show promise. Cement mixtures made from power station waste could turn buildings in to batteries, for example.

These potassium-geopolymetric (KGP) composites are cheaper than ordinary cement and can store electricity. A six-metre tall lamp-post made from KGP and equipped with a small solar panel could hold enough energy to power itself throughout the evening, researchers say.

(18) DAM NUISANCES. Researchers say “Large hydropower dams ‘not sustainable’ in the developing world”; based on a paper here).

A new study says that many large-scale hydropower projects in Europe and the US have been disastrous for the environment.

Dozens of these dams are being removed every year, with many considered dangerous and uneconomic.

But the authors fear that the unsustainable nature of these projects has not been recognised in the developing world.

Thousands of new dams are now being planned for rivers in Africa and Asia….

The problem, say the authors of this new paper, is that governments were blindsided by the prospect of cheap electricity without taking into account the full environmental and social costs of these installations.

More than 90% of dams built since the 1930s were more expensive than anticipated. They have damaged river ecology, displaced millions of people and have contributed to climate change by releasing greenhouse gases from the decomposition of flooded lands and forests.

…”Large hydropower doesn’t have a future, that is our blunt conclusion,” said Prof Moran.”

(19) MR. DATA, WOULD IT BE POSSIBLE? More foaming at the mouth about this drive-by asteroid: “Scientists say mysterious ‘Oumuamua’ object could be an alien spacecraft”.

Now a pair of Harvard researchers are raising the possibility that Oumuamua is an alien spacecraft. As they say in a paper to be published Nov. 12 in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, the object “may be a fully operational probe sent intentionally to Earth vicinity by an alien civilization.”

The researchers aren’t claiming outright that aliens sent Oumuamua. But after a careful mathematical analysis of the way the interstellar object sped up as it shot past the sun, they say Oumuamua could be a spacecraft pushed through space by light falling on its surface — or, as they put it in the paper, a “lightsail of artificial origin.”

Who would have sent such a spacecraft our way — and why?

“It is impossible to guess the purpose behind Oumuamua without more data,” Avi Loeb, chairman of Harvard’s astronomy department and a co-author of the paper, told NBC News MACH in an email. If Oumuamua is a lightsail, he added, one possibility is that it was floating in interstellar space when our solar system ran into it, “like a ship bumping into a buoy on the surface of the ocean.”

…But Loeb called the conjecture “purely scientific and evidence-based,” adding, “I follow the maxim of Sherlock Holmes: When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

(20) DINOCHROME. BBC discusses “Dinosaur world ‘more colourful than we thought'”.

…”We think that camouflage is one of the main drivers.”

Researchers detected the same two pigments that are present in colourful birds eggs in a group of dinosaurs called eumaniraptorans.

Comparisons with the eggs of modern birds suggest the clawed predator Deinonychus laid a blue egg with brown blotches.

The birdlike feathered Oviraptor had eggs that were a dark blue-green, like an emu.

(21) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Dr. Evil Runs for Congress” on YouTube, Dr. Evil showed up on Fallon and says he is running for Congress on the Eviltarian Party to “Make America Evil Again.”

[Thanks to Bruce Arthurs, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Olav Rokne, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Brian Z.. and Andrew Porter as the Beaver for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rick Moen.]

Pixel Scroll 10/21/18 These Pixel Scrolls May Contain Apocalyptic Stories About The End Of Days

(1) CONGRATULATIONS MAYOR RODEN. World Fantasy Award winner Barbara Roden (1997, 2005) is the newly-elected mayor of Ashcroft, British Columbia – the first woman elected to the office. The population of Ashcroft is around 1,500.

(2) AWARD FOR SJW CREDENTIALS IN LITERATURE. The Stephen Memorial Book Award for books with distinctive cats is a literary award that will be of interest to many Filers.

The 2018 winner is a memoir:

The Three Kitties That Saved My Life by Michael Meyer

Cat: Sable, Coco and Pom Pom
Story: The Three Kitties that saved my life.

A biography of troubles and the rescued cats (& Kitty) that pulled him through it. Touching, raw and heart-warming.

The three runners up are all SFF books and are listed here:

Cat: Dascha
Story: Familiar Trials by Taki Drake and T S Paul

Learning to be a familiar is something Dascha was not expecting, but when she does begin, she shows bravery both in and out of the classroom, while learning what it means to be a familiar.

Awarded to Dascha, for bravery and determination in the face of dangerous trials. Stephen Memorial Award 2018

Cat: Purrcasso
Story: The Creatures of Chichester by Christopher Joyce

The cat from the art galley. Wrangling both teenagers and ghosts that came to the Sloe Festival in Chichester. Despite floods and fears, standing firm and proud as only a cat can.

Awarded to Purrcasso, for his assistance in the saving of several ghosts Stephen Memorial Award 2018

Cat: Sir Kipling
Story: Love, Lies, and Hocus Pocus: Cat Magic by Lydia Sherrer

A magical cat who can talk to his wizard. While she is away, he decides that he should, of course, be keeping an eye on anything magical. Of course, when someone evil does try something, Sir Kipling is on hand to ensure that such plans go awry.

Awarded to Sir Kipling, for showing that it takes a good feline to be in charge. Stephen Memorial Award 2018

The award also has a charitable component – this year they partnered with CatChat.org, the cat rehoming charity, and donated £1 for each book entered. Bookangel reports the award raised enough to rehome twenty cats.

(3) KGB READINGS. Ellen Datlow posted her photos from the October Fantastic Fiction at KGB readings where the guests were Tim Pratt and Lawrence M. Schoen.

Lawrence Schoen and Tim Pratt

(4) GAME OF THROWNS. Channel your inner orc at “LA’s premiere ax-throwing facility” — LA AX.

Axe Throwing is a unique and exciting activity that was brought into existence just over a decade ago in the backwoods of Ontario, Canada. Since then, it has exploded into a sport that is making waves on the international stage. Yes, you read that correctly, Axe Throwing is an international sport! How does one become a professional Axe Thrower? Well there are few ways to break into this sport!  Whether you just want to be a casual thrower, a serious professional, or you have a group of friends looking for a fun night out; our LA AX coaches will give you the knowledge you need to become a professional in your own right!

(5) HONEST TRAILERS: SOLO. “The coolest new Star Wars character is… Never mind.” Got that right!

(6) IN THE VACUUM OF THEATER SPACE. According to Looper, First Man failed to gain an audience.

By all accounts, First Man is an excellent film, filled with great performances from stars like Ryan Gosling and Claire Foy. So why isn’t anyone going to see it? Here’s a look at why First Man has bombed at the box office so far…

 

(7) WHAT IF? The Hugo Award Book Club launches its review of Mary Robinett Kowal’s The Calculating Stars with this wee bit of snark —

While we quite enjoyed Seveneves, many readers described it as a bit dry.

A comparison between the two books is apt. Seveneves and The Calculating Stars are books that explore many similar ideas, but they do so in very different ways that will appeal to different people.

(8) WTF? Umm….

(9) FORWARDING ADDRESS. James Davis Nicoll explores “(Semi-)Plausible Strategies for Moving a Whole Damn Planet” at Tor.com. It’s a lot easier if you have the help of supremely intelligent aliens.

Has this ever happened to you? You’re living on a perfectly good planet in orbit around a perfectly acceptable star—and then suddenly, the neighbourhood goes to crap and you have to move. For a lot of people, this means marching onto space arks.

Recapitulating Noah on a cosmic scale is such a pain, though. All that packing. All that choosing who to take and who to leave behind. And no matter how carefully you plan things, it always seems to come down to a race between launch day and doomsday.

Why not, therefore, just take the whole darned planet with you?

(10) BRADBURYIANA. On display at the Ray Bradbury Center in Indianapolis —

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 21, 1904 – Edmond Hamilton, Writer and Member of First Fandom who was one of Weird Tales’ most prolific early contributors, providing nearly 80 stories from the late 20s to the late 40s. Sources say that in the late 1920s and early 1930s he had stories in all of the SF pulp magazines then in publication. His 1933 story “The Island of Unreason” won the first Jules Verne Prize as the best SF story of the year; this was the very first SF prize awarded by the votes of fans, and one source holds it to be a precursor of the Hugo Awards. From 1940 to 1951, he wrote at least 25 Captain Future stories (a universe recently revisited by Allen Steele). From the early 40s to the late 60s, he did work for DC, in stories about Superman and Batman, and he created the Space Ranger character with Gardner Fox and Bob Brown. He was Guest of Honor at several conventions, including the 1964 Worldcon. He was married to fellow science fiction author, screenwriter, and fan Leigh Brackett for more than 30 years, until his death at age 72.
  • Born October 21, 1929 – Ursula K. Le Guin, Writer, Editor, Poet, and Translator. She called herself a “Narrative American”. And she most emphatically did not consider herself to be a genre writer – instead preferring to be known as an “American novelist”. Oh, she wrote genre fiction with quite some brillance, be it it the Earthsea sequence, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed, or Always Coming Home; her upbringing as the daughter of two academics, one who was an anthropologist and the other who had a graduate degree in psychology, with a home library full of SF, showed in her writing. She wrote reviews and forewards for others’ books, gave academic talks, and did translations as well. Without counting reader’s choice awards, her works received more than 100 nominations for pretty much every genre award in existence, winning most of them at least once; she is one of a very small group of people who have won both Hugo and Nebula Awards in all four fiction length categories. She was Guest of Honor at several conventions, including the 1975 Worldcon; was the second of only six women to be named SFWA Grand Master thus far; was given a World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement; and was awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. In later years, she took up internet blogging with great delight, writing essays and poems, and posting pictures and stories of her cat Pard; these were compiled into a non-fiction collection, No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters, which won a posthumous Hugo for Best Related Work.

  • Born October 21, 1952 – Don Davis, 66, Artist and Illustrator known for his portrayals of space-related subjects. In addition to providing covers for several SFF magazines in the 70s, he worked for the U. S. Geological Survey’s branch of Astrogeologic Studies during the Apollo Lunar expeditions, and has since painted many images for NASA and provided texture maps for JPL’s Voyager computer simulations. He was part of the team of space artists who provided the visual effects for Carl Sagan’s TV series Cosmos – for which he received an Emmy – and he painted the cover of Sagan’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Dragons of Eden, as well as contributing artwork to Sagan’s Comet and Pale Blue Dot. He received the Klumpke-Roberts Award for outstanding contributions to the public understanding and appreciation of astronomy. The asteroid 13330 Dondavis is named after him, and in 2000 he was elected a Fellow in the International Association of Astronomical Artists.
  • Born October 21, 1956 – Carrie Fisher, Saturn-winning Actor, Writer, and Comedian who is best known to genre fans for playing Leia Organa in the Hugo- and Saturn-winning Star Wars films, a role she started at the age of 19. With her quick mind and sharp wit, she was well-known in Hollywood as the go-to script doctor for films with scripts in trouble. She became an outspoken advocate for the de-stigmatization of mental illness, having struggled her entire adult life with bipolar disorder and the substance abuse it engendered. One of her autobiographies, The Princess Diarist, was a finalist for a Best Related Work Hugo, and she won a Grammy for her audiobook narration of it. She died suddenly and far too soon in December 2016 at the age of 60.
  • Born October 21, 1958 – Julie Bell, 60, Artist and Illustrator who has provided covers for more than 100 science fiction and fantasy books, as well as covers for videogames and Marvel and DC trading cards. She sometimes collaborates on art with her husband, Boris Vallejo; they have done many paintings for worldwide advertising campaigns, and together they put out a Fantasy Art Calendar every year. She has been nominated for the Chesley Award four times, winning three of them. She is also (I did not know this!) the mother, with first husband SF scholar Donald Palumbo, of SFF artists David Palumbo and Anthony Palumbo.
  • Born October 21, 1967 – Jean Pierre Targete, 51, Artist and Illustrator whose early work was cover art for many Avon paperback editions, including Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber, the Second Foundation Trilogy, and Harry Harrison’s Stainless Steel Rat stories. More recently, he has produced a lot of artwork for RPG books and materials, including for publishers Wizards of the Coast and Paizo. His works have garnered ten Chesley Award nominations, winning once. Some of his work has been collected in the book Illumina: The Art of J. P. Targete.
  • Born October 21, 1971 – Hal Duncan, 47, Computer Programmer and Writer from Scotland whose first novel, Vellum: The Book of All Hours, won a Spectrum Award and received nominations for World Fantasy, British Fantasy, Kurd Laßwitz, Prix Imaginaire, and Locus Best First Novel Awards, as well as winning a Tahtivaeltaja Award for best science fiction novel published in Finnish. His collection Scruffians! and his non-fiction work Rhapsody: Notes on Strange Fictions were also both finalists for British Fantasy Awards. An outspoken advocate and blogger for LGBTQ rights, he was a contributor to Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project.
  • Born October 21, 1974 – Christopher J Garcia, 44, Writer, Editor, Filmmaker, Historian, Conrunner, and Fan who was the TAFF delegate to the UK Natcon in 2008. He has been editor and co-editor of several fanzines, and has been a finalist for the Fanzine and Fan Writer Hugos several times, including for The Drink Tank with James Bacon, which won a Hugo in 2011; his shall-we-say-effusive acceptance speech was nominated for Dramatic Presentatation Short Form Hugo the following year. He is a past president of the National Fantasy Fan Federation, and is known for running the fan lounges at cons. He has been Fan Guest of Honor at several conventions, including a Westercon.

(12) REASON TO READ. The Chicago Tribune advises, “Worried about the international panel report on global warming? Go read Octavia Butler’s ‘Earthseed’ books”.

…“Parable of the Sower,” published in 1993 when it was still possible to heed its warning, tells the story of a world collapsed due to climate change, economic inequality and unchecked corporate power. Resources are scarce, and only gated communities are safe.

Set near what used to be Los Angeles, the novel focuses on teenager Lauren Oya Olamina, who has “hyperempathy,” both a gift and an affliction that allows her to feel the pain she witnesses others experiencing. Spurred by her worldview, Lauren develops a new belief system called “Earthseed,” which posits that humans’ time on Earth is a kind of childhood and that they will emerge as adults once they travel to other planets.

It is a story of two diasporas, first as Lauren and other refugees are forced out of Los Angeles, and then as they look toward finding an extraterrestrial home.

(13) LOOK ALIVE. Rolling Stone asks just how far AR startup Magic Leap has gotten toward crossing the Uncanny Valley (“Is This Creepy New AI Assistant Too Lifelike?”).

Some people already talk to Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa like she’s a real person, setting her up for jokes, and having conversations that go way beyond the basic commands like “Alexa, play ‘Hurt’ by Nine Inch Nails.” And that’s how people are treating a disembodied voice. But what if you could see her — and what if she looked disturbingly human?

Magic Leap, an augmented-reality startup, introduced the next evolution of the virtual assistant at their conference earlier this month. Mica performs many of the same functions as Alexa or Apple’s Siri, but when users wear Magic Leap’s augmented reality glasses, they can also see her incredibly life-like avatar. Mica smiles, makes eye contact and even yawns, making the interactions even more convincing. “Our focus was to see how far we could push systems to create digital human representations,” John Monos, Magic Leap’s vice president of human-centered AI, said at the conference. “Above all else, her facial movements are what connect you to her.”

(14) PAUL ALLEN AT THE BEGINNING AND THE END. In the Washington Post, Christian Davenport has an article about the Stratolaunch, a gigantic airplane funded by Paul Allen — “Paul Allen spent years building the world’s biggest airplane. He’ll never see it fly.”.  This passage explains why Allen was one of us:

Allen grew up knowing all the names of the Mercury 7 astronauts as if they were his favorite baseball players, he wrote in his memoir, “Idea Man.” And like many kids of his generation, he grew up wanting to become an astronaut. But then in the sixth grade he couldn’t see the blackboard at school, he told me in his office, and he knew that meant “my dreams of being an astronaut were over.”

His father was the associate director of the University of Washington Library, a second home of sorts for Allen. “My Dad was just letting me loose in the stacks,” he recalled. “I loved it.”

He devoured not just science fiction, but books about Wernher von Braun, the German-born architect of NASA’s might Saturn V rocket, which sent men to the moon. Once, Allen tried to build a homemade rocket of his own using the arm of an aluminum chair packed with powdered zinc and sulfur and firing it from a coffee pot. It didn’t work.

(15) FOUND AGAIN. There were huge losses in the museum fire, but at least the oldest human fossil found in Latin America was mostly recovered — “Brazil museum fire: Prized ‘Luzia’ fossil skull recovered”.

Most of the skull from a prized 12,000-year-old fossil nicknamed Luzia has been recovered from the wreckage of a fire in Brazil’s National Museum.

The 200-year-old building in Rio de Janeiro burned down in September, destroying almost all of its artefacts.

But on Friday the museum’s director announced that 80% of Luzia’s skull fragments had been identified.

The human remains – the oldest ever found in Latin America – were viewed as the jewel of the museum’s collection.

The museum staff said they were confident they could recover the rest of Luzia’s skull and attempt reassembly.

(16) A CAUTIONARY TALE. With many overseas fans contemplating a trip to Dublin for the 2019 Worldcon, this report from Forbes (“How To Handle Getting Ripped Off On Auto Insurance When Traveling Overseas”) could be of interest. Such a situation can happen anywhere, but this particular situation—where a Hertz clerk insisted wrongly on bundling an overpriced insurance product as a condition of renting a car—happened to be in Dublin.

[Rick] Kahler: As soon as we got back to the U.S., I filed a dispute with my credit card company on both the initial $424 car rental cost and the $584 insurance charge. My grounds were that Hertz violated their contract, which only required me to accept full financial responsibility or to have verified that I had insurance that would cover a loss. They violated the contact by demanding that I prove having coverage in excess of the value of the car and by refusing to accept that proof when I produced it. I eventually got my money back after I complained. But that doesn’t make up for the time and stress they caused me.

(17) ANOTHER SWORD FINDER. Unlike the girl Saga, this one is fictional…. The Kid Who Would Be King is coming to theaters January 25, 2019.

Old school magic meets the modern world in the epic adventure THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING. Alex (Ashbourne Serkis) thinks he’s just another nobody, until he stumbles upon the mythical Sword in the Stone, Excalibur. Now, he must unite his friends and enemies into a band of knights and, together with the legendary wizard Merlin (Stewart), take on the wicked enchantress Morgana (Ferguson). With the future at stake, Alex must become the great leader he never dreamed he could be.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 10/3/18 I’ve Got Pixels To Scroll, And Pixels To LOL, And Pixels To Stir Up Yet More Strife

(1) CORDWAINER GENESIS. Ashley Stimpson and Jeffrey Irtenkauf trace the career of the man behind Cordwainer Smith in “Throngs of himself” for Johns Hopkins Magazine. “Paul Linebarger wrote science fiction as Cordwainer Smith. His multiple selves did not stop there.”

The notebook belonged to Paul Linebarger, who under his own name played many roles: U.S. Army colonel, CIA operative, psychological warfare expert, scholar of Asia, teacher, adviser to an American president. He was a husband twice and a father twice. His godfather was the first president of modern China, Sun Yat-sen. He may have been the central unhinged character in a famous psychiatric case study. But it was his science fiction—published as Cordwainer Smith—that gilds his legacy today.

Smith published about 30 short stories, all of which take place over a 14,000-year future history that Linebarger labored over in a lifetime of notebooks. Smith’s work is startling and violent, remembered for its originality and its weighty subject matter. In a letter to his agent, Linebarger explained that his stories “intended to lay bare the human mind, to throw torches over the underground lakes of the human soul, to show the chambers wherein the ageless dramas of self-respect, God, courage, sex, love, hope, envy, decency, and power go on forever.” Pulpy tales of little green men these were not.

(2) DISNEY’S STREAMING STAR WARS SERIES. When Disney’s new streaming service launches, here’s what one of its offerings will be: “Jon Favreau’s streaming ‘Star Wars’ series is ‘The Mandalorian'” at Engadget.

We still don’t know the name of Disney’s subscription streaming service, but we do have some details for a live-action Star Wars show that will appear on it. Jon Favreau announced on Instagram that The Mandalorian is set “after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order,” with a “lone gunfighter” emerging in the tradition of Jango and Boba Fett on the outer reaches of the galaxy.

 

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#starwars #TheMandalorian

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(3) SAVING GRACES. James Davis Nicoll admires “Women Who Save Themselves (and Everyone Else)” for reasons explained in his post for Tor.com.

… Having accepted the burden of her late father’s Letter of Marque, Bodacious Space Pirates’ Marika Kato balances the demands of school work with the challenges of commanding a privateer starship. Although years of peacetime has reduced privateering to a tourist attraction, from time to time Kato’s Bentenmaru finds itself in action, including the time Kato and friends set out to rescue Jenny Doolittle from an arranged marriage.

The single flaw in their plan was assuming that Jenny would wait to be rescued, rather than taking matters into her own hands….

(4) ARTIFICIAL CHICKEN INTELLIGENCE. In what the ad writers must think is a hilarious (non-) deception, Burger King’s latest commercials are written by Artificial Intelligence. Well, actually not (The Verge: “Burger King’s ‘AI-written’ ads show we’re still very confused about artificial intelligence”).

Each of Burger King’s new ads starts with an anachronistic burst of noise from a dial-up modem and a solemn warning: “This ad was created by artificial intelligence.” Then, over shots of glistening burgers and balletic fries, a robotic-sounding narrator deploys exactly the sort of clunky grammar and conceptual malapropisms we expect from a dumb AI.

…They’re good ads! And, of course, they’re lies. In a press release, Burger King claims the videos are the work of a “new deep learning algorithm,” but an article from AdAge makes it clear that humans — not machines — are responsible for the funnies. “Artificial intelligence is not a substitute for a great creative idea coming from a real person,” Burger King’s global head of brand marketing, Marcelo Pascoa, told the publication.

Here’s an example –

(5) PARTY CRASHERS. Olga Polomoshnova studies the consequences of “Feasts Interrupted” at Middle-Earth Reflections.

…Tolkien used socially important intrusions into realms, and thus their societies, in The Silmarillion, but his approach was different from Beowulf’s poet’s with an important detail: the most meaningful intrusions were one-time rather than continuous actions, and they took place during prominent feasts, thus increasing their social impact and significance manifold….

(6) CLARION 2019 FACULTY. The Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop faculty for 2019 will be — Carmen Maria Machado, Maurice Broaddus, Karen Lord, Andy Duncan, Ann VanderMeer, Jeff VanderMeer, and Shelley Streeby (Faculty Director).

Applications for the 2019 Workshop reopens December 1.

The Workshop runs June 23, 2019 – August 3, 2019.

(7) OVER THE MOON. Astronomers at Columbia University think they have evidence of the first moon orbiting an exoplanet (The Verge: “Astronomers may have discovered the first moon ever found outside our Solar System”).

A pair of astronomers believes they’ve found a moon orbiting a planet outside our Solar System — something that has never before been confirmed to exist. Though they aren’t totally certain of their discovery yet, the find opens up the possibility that more distant moons are out there. And that could change our understanding of how the Universe is structured.

The astronomy team from Columbia University found this distant satellite, known as an exomoon, using two of NASA’s space telescopes. They first spotted a signal from the object in data collected by the planet-hunting telescope Kepler, and then they followed up with the Hubble Space Telescope, which is in orbit around Earth. Thanks to the observations from these two spacecraft, the team suspect this moon orbits around a Jupiter-sized planet located about 4,000 light-years from Earth. And this planet, dubbed Kepler-1625b, orbits around a star similar to our Sun.

(8) SLOWING DOWN. Mary Robinette Kowal discusses her health and a reduction in her schedule: “On why I’m cancelling some events…”

…I’ve been on the road more than I’ve been home. I was in the middle of twenty days of travel and hand been home for a single day before that, with only three days at home at the end. I was leading a workshop of 150 students.

He stopped me and said, “You have to slow down.”

So, I am. We’re canceling some events and nothing else goes on my calendar for next year. Because the show doesn’t actually have to go on.

And to reassure you, we caught the shingles early so it stayed pretty mild. I got the anti-virals. Yes, I’ll do the vaccine when this is cleared up to stave off a recurrence. If you see me, please don’t hug me. I’m in the super-sensitive skin phase right now, which means contact with my back feels somewhere between a sunburn and a cheesegrater….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 3, 1889 – William Elliott Dold, Jr., Artist. In the early years of SF right through the 70s, he did cover art for such magazines as Miracle Science and Fantasy Stories and Cosmic Stories. Between 1923 and 1975, he also contributed hundreds of interior art pieces to magazines and books, ranging from Harold Hersey’s poetry collection Night to work for the weekly British comic magazine 2000 A.D. I don’t see that his art has been collected yet.
  • Born October 3, 1927 – Donald R. Bensen, Writer and Editor. He is credited with a genre novel, And Having Writ…, which received an Honorable Mention for the Campbell Award, and created a couple of The Unknown anthologies for Pyramid Books, but his work as a consulting editor for Dell Books and The Dial Press from 1976 until 1981, where works by Spider and Jeanne Robinson, Gregory Benford, Joan Vinge and John Varley were published, is I think his true contribution to the genre. He also contributed editorially to Dell’s paperback science fiction and fantasy publications during those years.
  • Born October 3, 1931 – Ray Nelson, 87, Writer, Cartoonist, and Member of First Fandom who did many cartoons and articles for fanzines but is perhaps most known for his 1963 short story “Eight O’Clock in the Morning” which was used by John Carpenter as the basis for the 1988 film They Live. He also co-authored The Ganymede Takeover with Philip K. Dick. Blake’s Progress, in which the poet William Blake is a time traveler, is claimed by Clute to be his best work. His novel The Prometheus Man received a Philip K. Dick Special Citation, and he was a finalist for the 1951 Retro Hugo for Best Fan Artist in 2001, and the winner of the Rotsler Award in 2003. He is credited with the invention of the infamous SF fan propeller beanie.
  • Born October 3, 1944 – Katharine Kerr, 74, Writer best known for the 15 novels in her Deverry Cycle, and recipient of World Fantasy and BSFA Award nominations. Author of many series including Westlands, Dragon Mage and the Silver Wyrm. I’d be remiss not to note her Urban Fantasy series entitled Nola O’Grady which is a great deal of fun and which leads off with, I kid you not, License to Ensorcell. She’s done a number of essays, including one with the intriguing title of “The Hedgehog’s Lair”.
  • Born October 3, 1950 – Pamela Hensley, 68, Actor who played Princess Ardala in the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century movie and TV series, starred in the original Rollerball movie, and had guest roles in several episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man.
  • Born October 3, 1964 – Clive Owen, Actor from England who starred in the Oscar- and Hugo-nominated Children of Men, the not-so-acclaimed Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Sin City, and the upcoming time travel movie Gemini Man.
  • Born October 3, 1967 – Denis Villeneuve, 51, French-Canadian Writer and Director who turned Ted Chiang’s short “The Story of Your Life” into the Oscar- and Hugo-winning film Arrival, garnered more Oscar wins and a Hugo nomination with the sequel Blade Runner 2049, and is currently working on a remake of Frank Herbert’s Dune.
  • Born October 3, 1973 – Lena Headey, 45, British Actor and Producer who is well-known to genre fans as Cersei Lannister in the Hugo-winning series Game of Thrones. She also played the titular character in the Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series, and had roles in The Brothers Grimm, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the 300 movies, The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, The Adventurer: The Curse of the Midas Box, and one of JJ’s favorite so-bad-it’s-good horror films about subterranean scuba diving, The Cave.
  • Born October 3, 1975 – Jason Erik Lundberg, 43, Writer and Editor. He’s published several collections of his own short stories, edited several anthologies, and has edited Lontar: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction for the last 5 years. Writer of such critical essays as “The Old Switcheroo: A Study in Neil Gaiman’s Use of Character Reversal” and “Embedded Narrative in the Fiction of Kelly Link”; he also wrote the nonfiction work Embracing the Strange: The Transformative Impact of Speculative Fiction.
  • Born October 3, 1978 – Shannyn Sossamon, 40, Actor in the TV series Sleepy Hollow, Wayward Pines, Moonlight, and genre films One Missed Call, Catacombs, and Ghost Light.
  • Born October 3, 1983 – Tessa Thompson, 35, Actor, Singer, and Producer. She had an early guest role in 3 episodes of Heroes, and has played main roles in Thor: Ragnarok, Annihilation, and the TV series Westworld. She co-starred in Janelle Monáe’s 49-minute genre musical film Dirty Computer.
  • Born October 3, 1986 – Joonas Suotamo, 32, Actor from Finland who has played Chewbacca in the newest Star Wars trilogy and associated videogames.
  • Born October 3, 1988 – Alicia Vikander, 30, Swedish Actor and Producer who starred in Ex Machina, Seventh Son, and the newly-rebooted The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Tomb Raider films, as well as providing a character voice for Moomins and the Winter Wonderland.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Yoda’s SJW credential makes a confession: Half Full.

(11) EXOMOON. Yahoo! News reports “In a surprise, first alien moon discovered is big and gaseous”. (Wait a minute, didn’t I already report this item?)

Astronomers have pinpointed what appears to be the first moon detected outside our solar system, a large gaseous world the size of Neptune that is unlike any other known moon and orbits a gas planet much more massive than Jupiter.

The discovery, detailed by researchers on Wednesday, was a surprise, and not because it showed that moons exist elsewhere – they felt it was only a matter of time for one to be found in another star system. They were amazed instead by how different this moon was from the roughly 180 known in our solar system.

“It’s big and weird by solar system standards,” Columbia University astronomy professor David Kipping said of the moon, known as an exomoon because it is outside our solar system.

(12) ARPANET. Slate dubs it “The Very First Social Network”. And I think it’s entirely likely someone reading this blog is acquainted with whoever started this….

That is, until 1979.
That fall, [Vint] Cerf logged on to his workstation to find an unopened message from the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory. It had been sent over the network using the recently developed “electronic mail” system. Because more than one person was using each computer on the network, the scientists had conceived of “e-mail” (now commonly styled email) so they could share information directly from one person to another, rather than just between computers. As with regular mail, they realized they needed a system of addresses to send and receive the messages. Thus the @ symbol was born: It served to separate the mailbox identifier from the serving host, and the single character saved typing time and scarce computer memory, an early version of what one might think of as a “hack.”
But the message sent to Cerf’s email wasn’t a technical request. And it hadn’t been sent just to him. Instead, an email with the subject line “SF-LOVERS” had been sent to Cerf and his colleagues scattered across the United States. The message asked all of them to respond with a list of their favorite science fiction authors. Because the message had gone out to the entire network, everybody’s answers could then be seen and responded to by everybody else. Users could also choose to send their replies to just one person or a subgroup, generating scores of smaller discussions that eventually fed back into the whole.
About 40 years later, Cerf still recalls this as the moment he realized that the internet would be something more than every other communications technology before it. “It was clear we had a social medium on our hands,” he said.

(13) IN ACTION. “Nobel Prize In Chemistry Honors Work That Demonstrates ‘The Power Of Evolution'” – “If I read the tables in Wikipedia correctly,” says Chip Hitchcock, “this is the first year that women have gotten even a piece of two of the three tech Nobels.”

American Frances H. Arnold has won half of the 2018 Nobel Prize in chemistry for her work in changing how chemists produce new enzymes, sharing the prize with another American, George Smith, and Sir Gregory Winter of the U.K. for research that has led to new pharmaceuticals and cancer treatments.

“This year’s prize is about harnessing the power of evolution,” the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said in announcing the winners. This year’s laureates have “re-created the process in their test tubes … and make evolution many times faster.”

Arnold is only the fifth woman to win the prize in its 117-year history. She conducted the first directed evolution of enzymes, which are proteins that catalyze chemical reactions. Enzymes produced through “directed evolution” in laboratory settings are used to manufacture everything from renewable fuels to pharmaceuticals.

(14) ACROBOTIC. “Hayabusa 2: German-led lander drops to asteroid’s surface” — this one flips instead of bouncing like the Japanese-built rovers.

Japan’s space agency (Jaxa) has put another lander on the surface of asteroid 162173, or Ryugu.

The Hayabusa-2 probe ejected the German-French Mascot “rover” on Wednesday for its 20-minute journey down to the space rock.

Contact was confirmed in the early hours, Central European Summer Time.

Mascot is designed to move across the surface of Ryugu and analyse its surface properties, including its mineral composition and magnetic field.

… Mascot has a swing arm inside to generate a torque that will throw the lander to a new location.

(15) TAGGERS REJOICE. Another thing sff failed to predict — “Disney ‘graffiti drone’ tags walls”.

Disney is known for its clean and tidy theme parks so it may come as a surprise to see it has developed a graffiti-spraying drone.

Its research and development division has been working on a drone equipped with a spray-paint gun that can tag walls and even paint 3D objects.

The researchers hope the idea will result in drones that can paint walls quickly and accurately.

(16) CHOOSE-YOUR-OWN BLACK MIRROR. “Netflix Is Planning a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure ‘Black Mirror’”. Bloomberg has the story.

Netflix Inc. is about to let you decide how your favorite show will end.

The streaming service is developing a slate of specials that will let viewers choose the next storyline in a TV episode or movie, according to people familiar with the matter. The company expects to release the first of these projects before the end of this year, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the plans are still private.

Viewers will get to choose their own storylines in one episode of the upcoming season of “Black Mirror,” the Emmy-winning science-fiction anthology series. The show is famous for exploring the social implications of technology, including an episode where humans jockey to receive higher ratings from their peers. The fifth season of the show is expected to be released in December.

(17) PLANET NINE FROM OUTER SPACE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A newly discovered minor planet—nicknamed the Goblin—is one of only three known minor planets in certain extremely distant, highly elliptical orbits… and in some ways it’s the most extreme of the bunch (Smithsonian: “New Discovery Stirs Up Signs of the Elusive Planet 9”).

The new object, officially called 2015 TG387, orbits with a special class of celestial bodies known as Inner Oort Cloud objects, or extreme trans-Neptunian objects (ETNOs). The body of rock and ice, nicknamed “the Goblin” by the discovery team, is currently about 80 astronomical units (AU) from the sun, or about twice as far as Pluto’s average distance. However, the Goblin travels on a highly elongated orbit that takes it to the extreme outermost reaches of our solar system, looping out as far as 2,300 AU during its 40,000-year journey around the sun.

Like the other two objects in the class (Sedna and 2012 VP113), it does not come close enough to the outer planets to really be influenced by Jupiter and its lesser kin. But, if the mooted Planet 9 (aka Planet X) exists and is as massive as some astronomers believe, it could be an influence.

When considered together, these three objects start to produce a tantalizing picture of their distant realm. They are decoupled from the rest of the solar system, immune to its influence, and yet they all appear in the same part of the sky.

Scott Sheppard of the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, who was on the team that discovered the Goblin, believes in Planet 9. Mostly. Others are more convinced.

How likely the existence of an undiscovered massive planet is, slowly circling the sun every tens of thousands of years at extreme distances, depends on who you ask. For his part, Sheppard, who has discovered dozens of minor planets, comets and moons, would place the odds of Planet 9 existing at about 80 or 85 percent—and he’s not even the most optimistic.

“My confidence is about 99.84 percent,” says Konstantin Batygin, a planetary astrophysicist and assistant professor at the California Institute of Technology. Batygin creates theoretical models of the outer solar system to search for hints of Planet 9, crunching the numbers on numerous minor planets that cluster into various groups and the influences of dozens of orbital factors. His 2016 paper with Caltech colleague Michael Brown laid out perhaps the strongest case for Planet 9 yet, concluding that there was only a fraction of one percent probability that the groupings of these objects occurred randomly.

Not everyone is convinced, of course, even those on the Goblin team/

“[…] There are conflicting lines of evidence,” says David Tholen, an astronomer at the University of Hawaii who was part of the team that discovered the Goblin. He points to the Cassini spacecraft, which orbited Saturn for more than 13 years, measuring the dynamics and forces of the outer solar system. “That serves as a very sensitive detector of other things out there, and the analysis of that data suggests that we don’t see any evidence for [Planet 9].”

Are there more objects like Goblin (and Sedna and 2012 VP113) out there? Well, if they aren’t near their closest approach to the Sun we probably couldn’t find them.

The only reason we have been able to find smaller distant objects like the Goblin is because they are near their closest approach, visible for just an instant of stellar time before they sling back out into the shadows.

“Ninety-nine percent of their orbit, we would not find them,” Sheppard says. “So, we just find the tip of the iceberg.”

And, if Planet 9 exists it may well be too far out and too dim for us to see.

If the minor planets are in a gravitational dance with Planet 9, however, it could mean that the big planet is far, far away—near the aphelion of its orbit roughly 1,000 AU from the sun. We have only a rough idea of Planet 9’s size—between two and four times that of Earth, if it exists—and no way to determine its how much light it reflects, which makes it incredibly difficult to search for.

(18) GIRL IN A LAKE DISTRIBUTING SWORDS. Courtesy of Hampus Eckerman, translated from the Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan, October 2. Headline: “Eight-year-old took a bath – found iron age sword.”

An eight-year-old girl made an unexpected find when she bathed this summer. A bit out into the water, she trampled on what proved to be an unusually well-preserved iron age sword.

“I thought, ok, so a sword, it could be anything, but then I got the pictures and then I got goose bumps,” says Archeologist Annie Rosén to TT [Newspapers Telegram Service].

The girl’s family contacted Annie Rosén at Jönköping County Museum. She found that the sword was surprisingly well-preserved with, among other things, a sheath in wood and leather. That so much organic material is preserved is very rare.

– It’s 1,000 years, maybe up to 1,500 years old. At the same place we found a dress ornament dating back to the 300’s or 400’s, says Annie Rosén.

The girl, aptly named Saga, found the sword at a half-meter depth at the bathing area in Lake Vidöstern, south of Värnamo, which SVT News Jönköping was the first to report.

…The sword is still at the conservator and they have as yet not been able to make a proper age determination. How it got into the lake is unknown to the archaeologists. It could be graves that eroded into the lake, sacrifices in water or that someone simply lost it. There are no known settlements nearby, but archaeologists are now looking for more objects in the lake.

“It would be cool to find something more that’s from the 4th century,” says Annie Rosén.”

(19) USE THE DELOREAN LUKE. Movieweb spots an “Amazing Empire Strikes Back to the Future Mashup Shared by Mark Hamill”.

The worlds of Star Wars and Back to the Future collide in a new mashup photo that Mark Hamill posted on social media, which he calls The Empire Strikes Back to the Future. Hamill uses social media often to engage with fans, and he’s pretty good at it. The Luke Skywalker actor often takes time out of his day to share things that he deems important or humorous, and even answers the burning questions of hardcore Star Wars fans pretty often.

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#EmpireStrikesBackToTheFuture (#RetroRerun)

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[Thanks to JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Michael J. Walsh, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Carl Slaughter, Susan de Guardiola, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anna Nimmhaus.]

Pixel Scroll 9/22/18 I’ll Scroll You Nine-O, Bright Glow The Pixels, Oh

(1) KBOARDS RIGHTS GRAB. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] KBoards is a forum for e-reader owners which eventually developed a vibrant self-publishing subforum. The owner died approximately a year ago, and now his widow has sold the forum to a company called VerticalScope, which first plastered the forum with problematic ads and then tried to sneak in a Terms of Service with a massive rights grab. The self-published authors are up in arms, an employee of VerticalScope made things worse and now the forum is imploding.

There is a post about the issue at the publishing blog The Passive Voice: “Dumpster Fire at Kboards?” It quotes from the new Terms of Service –

…PG hasn’t had a chance to comb through this document in detail, but a quick scan revealed the following interesting (at least to PG) provisions. VerticalScope doesn’t include paragraph numbers, so if you want to see any of this in context, you’ll need to do a word search. Other than the section headings, emphasis is PG’s:

…You agree to grant to KBOARDS.COM a non exclusive, royalty free, worldwide, irrevocable, perpetual license to reproduce, distribute, transmit, sublicense, create derivative works of, publicly display, publish and perform any materials and other information you submit to any public areas, chat rooms, bulletin boards, newsgroups or forums of KBOARDS.COM or which you provide by email or any other means to KBOARDS.COM and in any media now known or hereafter developed. Further, you grant to KBOARDS.COM the right to use your name and or user name in connection with the submitted materials and other information as well as in connection with all advertising, marketing and promotional material related thereto, together with use on any other VerticalScope Inc. web sites. You agree that you shall have no recourse against VerticalScope Inc. for any alleged or actual infringement or misappropriation of any proprietary right in your communications to KBOARDS.COM….

Here is a post from Julie Ann Dawson, horror writer and editor of Bards and Sages Quarterly: “VerticalScope’s Overreaching TOS”

For over nine years, I have been a member of a site called Kboards.com. Many of you, in fact, may recall me directing folks to the site, particularly the Writer’s Café, for support and guidance on all things indie publishing. Over the years, the site has attracted some of the smartest, most successful indie authors in the industry. And I have always been happy to be a part of it.

Until now. In August, the site was sold to a company called VerticalScope. It was recently discovered that the new owners made significant changes to the site’s terms of service without notifying members….

Here is more from Julie Ann Dawson: “Selling Forum Users: What the VerticalScope TOS Allows”

… My first instinct was that really wasn’t my concern, and I started explaining to him my concerns regarding the use of my name and such.

“Julie, stop thinking like a writer and start thinking like a black hatter.”

He then told me about an incident on a graphic designer forum he used to frequent. The site was sold (he didn’t remember to who and I’m not saying it was VerticalScope), but with the exception of more ads nothing really changed. It wasn’t until one day he was Googling a topic that had been discussed on the forum that he came across a post of his on a different forum. At first, he thought maybe someone had quoted him and that the topic was being discussed on this other forum, but when he read the link he found several posts that were verbatim from topics on the graphic designer forum. Apparently, a bot had lifted the comments from the forum he frequented and other forums and reposted them on a new forum under a new username.

See, apparently you can buy forum posters, just like you can buy Twitter or Facebook followers….

Here is a post from paranormal romance author Marilyn Vix: “The Death of Kboards.Com: My Indie Publishing Home Implodes”

… IT IS A SCARY SITUATION for CREATIVES! I have never seen anything like this. There are many people that have visited the board, including top Indie authors, like Hugh Howey and Jasinda Wilder, that have made Kboards.com home in the past. So, the legal repercussions are astounding. Plus, many EU citizens on the board are already exerting their GDPR rights, but many Canadian, US and Australian citizens are left trying to figure how to sort through this downward spiral of our online home.

I cannot even put into words how I am feeling–almost. Because there is one word coming to mind awfully clearly–betrayed. More comes to mind like trying to say the sale date of the board was in May, but the announcement was made in August this year. The new owners and their scathing disregard for the intelligence and knowledge of the Kboard users, and the utter jumping of ship of many of my good friends I’ve known for years is the reality of what has happened. The shock is disappearing, and the dust is settling. Writers are leaving Kboards and the Writer’s I in troves. And this makes me ultimately sad….

(2) NEBULA READING LIST. SFWA members have added a large number of titles to the “Nebula Reading List”.

The Nebula Awards Suggested Reading List is produced through the collaborative effort of SFWA’s 1800+ members, with new listings appearing as members make recommendations. For this reason, works are occasionally introduced in error and may later be corrected or removed from the list if deemed ineligible by the Nebula Awards Commissioner. The list is provided to the public as a service in finding the year’s most noteworthy fantasy and science fiction works.

Please note this list is not the preliminary ballot or nomination tally and does not affect the Nebula Award nominations or final results in any way.

(3) HELP FOR WRITERS. SFWA’s Information Center is open to all. Sixteen linked articles on the main post alone!

(4) ANOTHER TRADEMARK NOPE. The Cockybot is on the job…

(5) TITLE SEARCH. Ursula Vernon received helpful suggestions in response to this tweet, whether she really wanted them or not….

(6) WRITING EXCUSES BY LAND AND SEA. Amal El-Mohtar and her mother planned to fly together to attend the Writing Excuses cruise until TSA created a problem. Thread starts here.

The Writing Excuses crew had a workaround ready. Thread starts here.

(7) GETTING READY FOR SPACE. In “The Next Great Leap” in the Financial Times, Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees suggests that humans preparing to explore space will have to have substantial genetic and biological modifications if they are going to survive. (No link because it’s behind a paywall.)

The space environment is inherently hostile for humans.  So because they will be ill-adapted to their new habitat, the pioneer explorers will have a more compelling inventive than those of us on Earth to redesign themselves.  They’ll have to harness the super-powerful genetic and cyborg technologies that will be developed in coming decades.  Those techniques will, one hopes, be heavily regulated on Earth, on prudential and ethical grounds, but ‘settlers’ on Mars will be far beyond the clutches of the regulators.  We should wish them good luck in modifying their progeny to adapt to alien environments.  This might be the first step for divergence into a new species.  Genetic modification would be supplemented by cyborg technology–indeed there may be a transition to fully inorganic intelligences.  So it is these spacefaring adventurers, not those of us comfortably adapted to life on Earth, who will spearhead the post-human era.

(8) CRUISE NIGHT. In this clip from Colbert’s show, Stephen and Neil deGrasse Tyson take NASA’s Mars Rover for a ride around Midtown Manhattan.

(9) TODAY’S DAY.

  • September 22  — Hobbit Day, sponsored by the American Tolkien Society.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 22, 1973 – The Harlan Ellison conceived, Canadian-produced, sci-fi series The Starlost aired its first episode.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born September 22, 1971 – Elizabeth Bear, 47, Writer. Her first series was a superb trilogy, which might be considered cyberpunk, centered on a character named Jenny Casey. She’s a very prolific writer;  I’m fond of her Promethean Age, New Amsterdam and Karen Memory series.  She won a John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, a Hugo Award for Best Short Story for “Tideline”, and a Hugo Award for Best Novelette for “Shoggoths in Bloom”. One of only five writers to win multiple Hugo Awards for fiction after winning the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer! Very impressive indeed! It is worth noting that she was one of the regular panelists on now sadly defunct podcast SF Squeecast, which won the 2012 and 2013 Hugo Awards for “Best Fancast”.
  • Born September 22, 1946 – John Woo, 72, Director. His genre films include Mission Impossible II, Face/Off, and the Philip K. Dick-written Paycheck (which JJ loved, even if no one else did).
  • Born September 22, 1952 – Paul Kincaid, 66, Writer, Editor, and Critic. He was the chair of the Arthur C. Clarke Award for 20 years, helping to transform it into a respected genre award. In addition to being a former editor of Vector, the critical journal of the British Science Fiction Association, his critical work has appeared in numerous scholarly, genre, and mainstream publications. He won the 2018 BSFA for Best Non-Fiction book for Modern Masters of Science Fiction: Iain M. Banks, which was also a Hugo and Locus finalist.
  • Born September 22, 1982 – Billie Piper, 36, Actor. Known to Doctor Who fans as the Companion of the Ninth and Tenth Doctors, she also played Lily Frankenstein in the TV series Penny Dreadful, and the titular character in the Sally Lockhart mystery series based on the novel quadrilogy written by His Dark Materials author Philip Pullman.
  • Born September 22, 1985 – Tatiana Maslany, 33, Actor. Best known for her superb versatility in playing more than a dozen different clones in the TV series Orphan Black, for which she received a Best Actress Emmy and more than two dozen other nominations and awards.
  • Born September 22, 1987 – Tom Felton, 31, Actor. Played Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter movies, followed by a role in the TV series The Flash.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • You have to know Wonder Woman to get the joke in this installment of Half Full – fortunately, you probably do!
  • The kids in Baby Blues explain why they just can’t believe the ending of The Wizard of Oz.

(13) THE BELLS ARE ALIVE WITH THE SOUND OF MUSIC. SYFY Wire is on top of the story: “William Shatner tweets Jingle Bells track from his new album ‘Shatner Claus’”. The tweet contains a link to the song on SoundCloud.

(14) THE FAMILY BUSINESS. The Guardian reports “Liam McIlvanney wins Scottish crime fiction award named after his father”:

…Two years after the award for the best Scottish crime novel was renamed in honour of the “godfather of tartan noir” William McIlvanney, his son and fellow crime writer Liam McIlvanney has landed the prize.

William McIlvanney, who died in 2015, was the author of the acclaimed DI Jack Laidlaw series, set in Glasgow. In 2016, the Bloody Scotland international crime writing festival renamed its prize, citing McIlvanney as “the man who, more than anyone, established the tradition of Scottish detective fiction”.

Liam, an academic at a New Zealand university as well as an author, won ahead of shortlisted writers including former winners Chris Brookmyre and Charles Cumming, and Lin Anderson, one of the festival’s co-founders.

Liam took the £1,000 McIlvanney award for The Quaker….

(15) SUPERHERO. Adri Joy concludes this book is “enjoyable, but the flaws are hard to ignore” – “Microreview [Book]: Zero Sum Game by S.L. Huang” at Nerds of a Feather.

Though it’s new to print this year, Zero Sum Game was already on my radar in its previous, ebook only self-published incarnation, although it never made the leap from the ever-growing collection of Kindle Samples I keep around to inform potential purchases onto my actual TBR. This new version, published by Tor, has been revisited and polished up, and is now being released much more widely as part of the publisher’s #Fearlesswomen initiative, bringing this unconventional superhero thriller to a bigger audience, and also to me.

(16) GAME DEVELOPERS SUDDENLY OUT OF WORK. According to The Verge, these employees were told to start walking, too – “The Walking Dead developer Telltale hit with devastating layoffs as part of a ‘majority studio closure’”.

Telltale Games, creators of episodic adventure games like The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, and Batman: The Enemy Within, laid off approximately 250 employees today as part of what the company is calling a “majority studio closure.” According to multiple sources The Verge spoke with, employees were let go with no severance.

“Today Telltale Games made the difficult decision to begin a majority studio closure following a year marked by insurmountable challenges,” the company said in a statement. “A majority of the company’s employees were dismissed earlier this morning.” The company will retain a small team of 25. These remaining employees will stay on “to fulfill the company’s obligations to its board and partners,” according to Telltale.

The final season of Telltale’s award-winning series, The Walking Dead, kicked off last month. The second episode is slated to launch next week. Staff were informed of the layoffs today and were given roughly 30 minutes to leave the building, according to one source.

(17) ON THE MOVE. BBC reports “Japan’s rovers send pictures from asteroid”.

The two small “rovers”, which were despatched from the Hayabusa-2 spacecraft on Friday, will move around the 1km-wide space rock known as Ryugu.

The asteroid’s low gravity means they can hop across it, capturing temperatures and images of the surface.

“Both rovers are in good condition,” the agency confirmed on Saturday.

(18) BABY NAMES. In England and Wales “Game of Thrones baby names still proving popular” – though interestingly, 76 girls called Khaleesi and only 3 called Daenerys….

But if baby-naming is a reliable indicator, Game of Thrones’ most popular character appears to be Arya, with 343 newborns given the same name as Maisie Williams’ sword-wielding Stark.

That’s a big increase on 302, the number of Aryas named in 2016.

Eleven baby boys, the same number as in 2016, ended up being called Tyrion, almost certainly in tribute to Peter Dinklage’s Tyrion Lannister – perhaps the show’s most intelligent character.

(19) PACIFICON 1946. [Item by David Doering.] More choice quotes from the Pacificon 1 (1946 Worldcon) progress report.

BADGES–NONE GENUINE WITHOUT AN OFFICIAL NAME-PLATE

These Badges will be cellophane with a safety pin attachment so they can easily be worn at all times.

They have a place in which can be inserted your name and home city, and the name of your local club if you belong to one.

Interesting that we still use such badges (name plates??) at smaller events! (I kind of like the “club name” space, if only to describe which branch(es) of fandom you are keen on. Current badges don’t give you a clue.)

The con was held at the Park View Manor, an event space at 2200 W 7th Street. According to the LA Building Permits records, it looks like the same building remains there, although as offices. The con thought this an ideal location:

Nothing small about the Pacificon Hall — It will hold up to 750 persons!

I think the Pacificon was in fact somewhat smaller than this.

There are double rooms available at $3.00 and $3.85 each, per day, which would be but $1.50-1.93 per day for each occupant,

Oh, to find anything at a con hotel today–even soda–for under $2! Amazingly enough, the two con hotels, the Mayfair and the Commodore, are still extant! The Mayfair in fact remains a hotel (you might book a room now where a famous fan stayed even!) while the Commodore is condos.

We will do our level best to help you find a room if your reservation reaches us after the 20th of June – but we cannot promise you anything definite. However, we do have some nice parks here in LA, with the most comfortable benches in the country – one of them is right across the street from the official Convention Hall.

Given that the Denvention progress report provided instructions on how to “ride the rails” to get to Denver, I can’t be sure they were kidding about using these “comfortable benches” in the park across the street.

(20) ANIME VIBE. Io9’s James Whitbrook, in Star Wars: A New Hope, But as a Classic ‘80s Anime”, praises this short video to the skies –

… this delightful fan trailer by YouTuber Dmitry Grozov takes Star Wars as we know it—in the form of A New Hope—and transforms it into an old-school anime style cartoon, evoking the likes of Macross or Mobile Suit Gundam, complete with Japanese voice acting.

Alan Baumler comments, “I liked how they made Obi-wan sound like Toshiro Mifune.”

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

Pixel Scroll 9/18/18 When Lessa Told Me To Do It, I Succumbed To Weyr Pressure

(1) BIGFOOT’S POLITICAL OPINIONS. Registration is required to read Adweek’s article “Bigfoot Tries to Get Footage of an Elusive Congressman in This Enjoyably Odd Political Ad”. Fortunately, the commercial itself is available at YouTube.

Congressional hopeful Dean Phillips, a Democrat running in Minnesota, says Republican incumbent Erik Paulsen is so detached from his home district, he’s practically impossible to find.

 

(2) STORMY WEATHER. Mur Lafferty’s Hugo win (with Matt Wallace) for Ditch Diggers was not completely washed out by Hurricane Florence, but the news did get bumped to fifth place in her latest post at The Murverse Mothership (where you can also see a photo of her wearing a chicken hat at the Hugo Losers Party).

Florence: We are fine. Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina and South Carolina last weekend, and wandered slowly through the state, dumping lots and lots of rain. The flooding was catastrophic. Oddly enough, when we thought our area would get hit with the eye, the storm turned and moved south of us, then turned north. We got wind, rain, Fiona’s school lost a big tree, but our area is largely unscathed. We did have some excitement yesterday when the last tail end of the storm whipped around and smacked us, letting Durham get a taste of the flooding and tornadoes that the rest of the state has suffered, but that didn’t last too long. If you can give to hurricane relief to help the eastern part of the state, please do.

(3) OBSERVATIONS ABOUT SF IN FRENCH. Matthew Rettino reports on “Congrès Boréal 2018: Differences between Anglophone and Francophone SF” at Archaeologies of the Weird, including the panel “L’imaginaire a-t-il une langue? Différence culturelle dans l’imaginaire anglophone et francophone” (“Does the imagination have a language? Cultural differences in the anglophone and francophone imaginary.”)

…One interesting idea that arose: language does not inherently carry the values of a society. Rather, culture does. The different traumas and schisms that define a society do have a much greater influence on national literature. For example, Cixin Liu’s Three Body Problem, remarked one of the panelists, is marked by the impact of the Cultural Revolution in China. This echoes how French SF is marked by the policy of laïcité (state secularism), the origins of which go back to the French Revolution. There did seem to be truth to this observation, given how French-language SF is in a sense more “secular” in its embrace of violent and sexual themes that would religious people shiver. On the other hand, anglophone SF retains a more “puritanical” attitude in the literature it produces and censors, particularly in the United States.

This being said, certain attitudes to the French language itself do influence French SF. Patrick Senecal pointed out later in the discussion that French-language editors have a tendency to homogenize the different registers of the language, leading to less linguistic diversity. When editing dialogue, French publishers often edit out regional dialect in favour of “le Français internationale.” The result is a banal, grammatically correct French, where all characters sound the same. These editing decisions do not accommodate the regional French spoken in certain regions of Québec, for example, which leads to a more monovocal (as opposed to polyvocal) body of literature. This is not just unappealing; it’s unrealistic and unrepresentative of how French is actually spoken. As Senecal quipped, “Il n’y a personne qui parle comme Radio Canada!”

(4) BELGIAN INFLUENCE ON SPACE PROGRAM. “Elon Musk Says SpaceX’s BFR Design Is Inspired by Tintin Comics”Inverse has the story.

Elon Musk unveiled a new design for SpaceX’s BFR rocket on Thursday, and he’s taking inspiration from a famous series of Belgian comics. The CEO confirmed on Twitter that the new design “intentionally” bears resemblance to the vehicles depicted in The Adventures of Tintin, the whimsical series that depicts Tintin and his friends embarking on far-flung trips to find new stories.

…The redesign shared with the moon announcement bears similarities to rockets as featured in Hergé’s comic series. The 1950 comic Destination Moon shows a red-and-yellow checkered rocket with three giant fins on the base, elevating the rocket above the ground, which Tintin and his friends use to visit the moon and explore a secret government project.

(5) THE ACADEMY. At Quills, Fretful Porpentine’s new discourse is: “On the performativity of ‘What have you been reading lately?’” Here’s the kind of thing college professors are supposed to say when asked what they have been reading:

– If you are a humanities professor, you say something that is clearly pleasure-reading, but at least vaguely cerebral. Witty mysteries about British academics are good, or the sort of science fiction that doesn’t have aliens on the cover.

– If you work in tech support, you are allowed to read the kind of books with aliens on the cover.

(6) YOU ARE HERE. A new version of a reference frame for the universe is being released (Gizmodo: “Where Are We in Space? Astronomers Update Their Celestial Frame of Reference”). The third International Celestial Reference Frame is based with (0,0,0) at the center of mass of the Solar System, with the axes fixed in relation to a number of distant quasars.

“Nitty-gritty stuff like this is super important when you’re sitting on an Earth moving 70,000 mph around a star that is moving 450,000 mph around a galaxy center,” Grant Tremblay, astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told Gizmodo.

…The ICRF-3 […] places the center of the reference frame at the Solar System’s center of mass, and is oriented based on the position of distant bright radio sources called quasars. Those measurements were made using Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI), essentially a method of using the entire Earth as a telescope, collecting data from multiple radio telescopes and combining them to get the highest-resolution image possible.

This most recent frame derives from measurements of 4,536 quasars, all between 100 million and 10 billion light-years away. […] The most recent edition also takes the motion of our own Milky Way galaxy into account for the first time, according to a press release from the Helmholtz Centre Potsdam.

(7) MEXICANX INITIATIVE. The second installment of Hector Gonzalez’ report — “My Road to Worldcon 76. Part 2: Who the hell is John Picacio?”

I even remember the first conversation I had with my dad about being a Mexicanx recipient. He was initially wary, doubting a stranger on the internet would give away something like that. I explained the situation and mentioned John’s name. “¡Si! ¡John es un monstruo de la ciencia ficción!” Translation note: If I tried to literally translate what my dad meant to say, it would sound as if John was a monster. My dad meant it more as “He is HUGE in the science fiction world.” Bottom line, he knew more about John than me.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 18, 1964 The Addams Family premiered on television.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 18 – Lynn Abbey, 70. Author best known for her Thieves World fiction though her first works for was for TSR games including stories set in the Forgotten Realms and the Dark Sun games. Daughter of the Bright Moon was edited by Gordon R. Dickson and I’ll let someone here tell that  story.
  • Born September 18 – Caitlin Kittredge, 34. Author of the Black London urban fantasy series featuring Jack Winter and Pete Caldecott which I think is one is the finest such series ever done. Also wrote the Iron Codex, Nocturne City and Hellhound Chronicle series.  Currently writer on Witchblade series.

(10) W76 PANEL RESOURCES. Bogi Takács has released notes prepared for use when appearing on two panels at Worldcon 76.

I promised the writeups of my notes for Worldcon 2018 panels! The first one is for Queer Joy. I am honestly not sure which of these works I actually mentioned on the panel, these were my advance notes and I just tidied them up and hyperlinked them.

[At the post are lists of works under each of these categories — ]

  • Presents oppression / discrimination and/or suffering, but also joy:
  • Recent-ish anthologies with related material (not all stories might be related):
  • More grim SFF which is still queer-inclusive and queer people are not persecuted in-universe:

Queer Families

These are my advance notes, but I also mentioned on the panel how queer families seem to be non-multigenerational in SFF, and we had a fairly lengthy discussion about that. So I tried to add which of the works buckle that trend.

Contemporary work…

(11) IN A HOLE IN THE GROUND THERE LIVED A WRITER. The latest Brandon Sanderson newsletter talks about constructing his office – which is epic, just like his books. (See photos at the link.)

I always like to include something about my life in these newsletters—something unrelated to the books. So today, I thought I’d post some updates on my office, which we’re building in the empty lot beside my house.

I’m building it underground, because…well, what else would you expect from a fantasy novelist? It’s been an interesting process, since the city really has no idea what to do with someone like me. I call it my Underground Supervillain Lair, something that the suburbs in Utah really aren’t that equipped to deal with. But, after some work, we’ve gotten permissions. Peter has been taking pictures of it.

First, we dug out a huge pit. I don’t go halfway on underground lairs—so we’re doing 20-foot ceilings. The kids had a wonderful time digging in this hole, and I’m convinced they’d have loved it if we never put anything in it.

(12) PUNCH-CARD-PUNK. Mary Robinette Kowal is writing two new lady astronaut novels. Andrew Liptak interviews the author for The Verge“Return to an alternate history space race with two new Lady Astronaut novels”

After signing a six-figure deal with Tor Books, author Mary Robinette Kowal will expand to her Lady Astronaut series over the next several years with two new novels, The Relentless Moon and The Derivative Base, as well as a standalone sci-fi murder mystery novel, The Spare Man. The new Lady Astronaut titles will join this summer’s fantastic The Calculating Stars and The Fated Sky, which followed pilot and mathematician Elma York through an alternate history 1950s space race aimed at sending humanity to off-world colonies after an extinction-level asteroid strike on Earth. The Relentless Moon is expected to drop in 2020, with The Spare Man to follow in 2021, and The Derivative Base in 2022.

Both novels are set in the “punch-card-punk” world that Kowal established in her 2013 novelette, “The Lady Astronaut of Mars.” The Calculating Stars begins in 1953, as the asteroid lands off of Washington, DC, devastating the US East Coast. York and her colleagues quickly realize that the incident has started a chain reaction that will change the climate of the Earth in decades, making it inhospitable to human life. In response, a coalition of nations forms the International Aerospace Coalition (IAC), which works to first reach space, and then figure out how to live there.

(13) WHEN PERFECTION ISN’T ALL IT’S CRACKED UP TO BE. James Davis Nicoll discusses “Six Stories That Find the Drama in Utopian Settings” at Tor.com.

Tanith Lee’s classic duology Don’t Bite the Sun and Drinking Sapphire Wine is set on a desert world hostile to unprotected life. Not that this matters, because all of its human inhabitants live in one of three domed cities: Four BEE, Four BAA, and Four BOO. Within those cities, virtually every need and desire is met. Even death is only a momentary inconvenience before one is incarnated in a new designer body.

The nameless protagonist, offered material paradise, commits the unforgivable sin of realizing that while the options offered are pleasant, none of them are meaningful. That realization is the border between life in paradise and life in a cossetted hell. Unfortunately for our hero, the Powers That Be in the three cities are determined to maintain the status quo of their cozy societies, keeping them just as they are…which means crushing (by any means necessary) any pesky aspirations for personal fulfillment.

(14) YOUNG VETERAN ACTOR. Sandie Angulo Chen in the Washington Post interviews seventh-grader Owen Vaccaro, star of The House With a Clock in Its Walls, about how he became an actor and what it was like to work on the film: “Sports didn’t interest Owen Vaccaro, but a theater class sparked a passion for acting”

Soon, the theater classes led to his first auditions, which eventually landed him his first film gig, “A Product of Me,” at age 7. In the years since, Owen has been in eight more movies, most notably acting opposite A-list stars Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg in the comedies “Daddy’s Home” and “Daddy’s Home 2.”

(15) BACK LOOKING FOR SUNSPOTS. In a September 16 press release (“AURA Statement about the Status of the Sunspot Solar Observatory at Sacramento Peak, New Mexico”), the sponsoring organizations (Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy and the National Science Foundation) have released some information on the mysterious closure of the Sunspot Solar Observatory.

On September 6th, the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) made the decision to temporarily vacate the Sunspot Solar Observatory at Sacramento Peak, New Mexico as a precautionary measure while addressing a security issue. The facility closed down in an orderly fashion and is now re-opening. The residents that vacated their homes will be returning to the site, and all employees will return to work this week.

AURA has been cooperating with an on-going law enforcement investigation of criminal activity that occurred at Sacramento Peak. During this time, we became concerned that a suspect in the investigation potentially posed a threat to the safety of local staff and residents. For this reason, AURA temporarily vacated the facility and ceased science activities at this location.

The decision to vacate was based on the logistical challenges associated with protecting personnel at such a remote location, and the need for expeditious response to the potential threat. AURA determined that moving the small number of on-site staff and residents off the mountain was the most prudent and effective action to ensure their safety.

In light of recent developments in the investigation, we have determined there is no risk to staff, and Sunspot Solar Observatory is transitioning back to regular operations as of September 17th. Given the significant amount of publicity the temporary closure has generated, and the consequent expectation of an unusual number of visitors to the site, we are temporarily engaging a security service while the facility returns to a normal working environment.

We recognize that the lack of communications while the facility was vacated was concerning and frustrating for some. However, our desire to provide additional information had to be balanced against the risk that, if spread at the time, the news would alert the suspect and impede the law enforcement investigation. That was a risk we could not take.

(16) CAN’T SAY THAT. Ryan George discovers “Being a Motivational Speaker in the MCU Sucks.”

[Thanks to JJ, David K.M. Klaus, Mike Kennedy, Cat Eldridge, John King Tarpinian, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, Michael J. Walsh, Alan Baumler, Andrew Liptak, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 9/1/18 Knives, Pixels, Files, Scrolls Of Energy Raved Against The Screens Of The Dentless

(1) SPIDER STORY. Worldcon 76 GoH Spider Robinson’s hometown paper profiled him before the convention: see “Spider Robinson’s star shines in Worldcon’s sci-fi universe” in the Bowne Island Undercurrent.

In the waning charge cycles of a 12-year-old MacBook Pro, Spider Robinson is typing out his autobiography.

“I’m writing the serious, logical case that I’m the luckiest [person] who’s ever lived,” he said.

“My luck ran out, but all luck does.”

It’s extraordinary that a man who lost both his wife and daughter prematurely can still count himself as lucky.

But Robinson concentrates on the joy that his family and career brought to his life.

The well-known science fiction writer, winner of three Hugo awards and a Nebula award, has lived on Bowen Island since 2001.

This week, Robinson is one of the guests of honour at Worldcon, the 76th World Science Fiction Convention, this year held in San Jose.

(2) CANON FIRE. Foz Meadows’ “Trash and Treasure” column for The Book Smugglers does a recap on Worldcon 76, including thoughts inspired by the Author vs Fan Ownership panel there wasn’t enough time to unpack:

 …Afterwards, multiple audience members asked for my thoughts about the recent trend in claims by some fandom extremists that fans literally own the stories they love, whatever those stories might be, just by straight-up virtue of passion.

To give an example of two of the more toxic examples of this sense of fannish entitlement, taken from both ends of the fan-political spectrum, consider both the MRA Star Wars fans who tried to crowdsource funding for a new, lady-free version of The Last Jedi, and the lone Voltron: Legendary Defender fan who tried to blackmail Studio Mir into making their gay ship canon. In both cases, there’s a belief that wanting a personal, idealised, specific version of the narrative to exist in canon should not only trump the plans of the creators, but effectively constitute a shouted BECAUSE REASONS! override of their actual, legal ownership….

(3) MAINTAINING TWEET SILENCE. Is Wil Wheaton coming back to Twitter? Eh, no. He turned it off one day in August, for reasons he explains in “The world is a terrible place right now, and that’s largely because it is what we make it.” Then he thought he found another social media home, but the administrators wearied of the flood of complaints (see post for explanation) and he left there too.

As most of you know, I deactivated my Twitter account earlier this month. It had been a long time coming, for a whole host of reasons, but Twitter’s decision to be the only social network that gives Alex Jones a platform to spew hate, hurt innocent people, and incite violence was the final straw for me. But I haven’t regretted leaving for even one second. Having that endless stream of hate and anger and negativity in my pocket wasn’t good for me (and I don’t think it’s good for anyone, to be honest).

I was on Twitter from just about the very beginning. I think I’m in the first couple thousand accounts. I remember when it was a smallish group of people who wanted to have fun, make jokes, share information and tips on stuff that was interesting, and oh so many pictures of our pets. It was awesome.

It started to get toxic slowly at first, then all at once, starting with the misogynist dipshits who were behing the gate-which-shall-not-be-named. That was clearly a turning point for Twitter, and it never really recovered from it. I watched, in real time, as the site I loved turned into a right wing talk radio shouting match that made YouTube comments and CSPAN call-ins seem scholarly. We tried for a couple of years to fight back, to encourage Twitter to take a stand against bad actors (HA HA LIKE ME BECAUSE I AM A BAD ACTOR RIGHT YOU GOT ME HA HA HA). Twitter doesn’t care about how its users are affected by themselves, though. Twitter cares about growth and staying on the good side of President Shitler’s tantrums….

(4) LIGHT IS THE BEST DISINFECTANT. An event called KekCon set out to publicize itself at Dragon Con and drew criticism on social media. Lura Groen’s thread starts here.

Groen, who received at least one threat after tweeting her thread, reports the KekCon reps left Dragon Con.

(5) PRESCRIPTION FOR ENTERTAINMENT. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie thinks Filers may enjoy The Third Pill, which BBC Radio 4 has just put on iPlayer.

The Third Pill by James O’Neill

Greg works in children’s publishing but feels middle aged and out of touch. Then something pops up on his computer that will transform his life. A comedy about finding that elusive elixir of youth.

Surely it is a scam, or is it?  And if it works, what are the consequences….

(6) A STROLL DOWN MEMORY ROAD. “A graphic tale: the visual effects of Mad Max: Fury Road” is a nuts-and-bolts of how many of the shots were built over bits of reality. From 2015 – but may be news to you!

But the intense Namibian shoot, and further filming in Sydney, was only half the story in the creation of Fury Road’s insane stunt action and post-apocalyptic landscapes. Hundreds of visual effects artists, led by overall visual effects supervisor Andrew Jackson, would spend considerable time crafting more than 2000 visual effects shots and helping to transform the exquisite photography into the final film that at times feels almost like a single car chase. Even more plate manipulation would also be carried out by colorist Eric Whipp, weaving in a distinctive graphic style for the film with detailed sky replacements and unique day for nights.

(7) A STACK OF REVIEWS, AND A STACK OF WAX. Links to the reviews below at Patti Abbott’s blog: “Friday’s Forgotten Books, August 31, 2018”.

  • Mark Baker. LOST LEGACY, Annette Dashofy
  • Yvette Banek, MURDER MAKES MISTAKES, George Bellairs
  • Les Blatt, AND DANGEROUS TO KNOW, Elizabeth Daily
  • Bill Crider, EPITAPH FOR A TRAMP, David Markson
  • Kate Jackson at CrossExaminingCrime, TILL DEATH DO US PART, John Dickson Carr
  • Martin Edwards, THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER, Minette Marrin
  • Curtis Evans, THE MAN WITH TWO WIVES, “Patrick Quentin”
  • Rich Horton, THE FOUR FEATHERS, A. E. W. Mason
  • Jerry House, ELECTION DAY 2084, ed. Isaac Asimov and Martin H. Greenberg
  • George Kelley, THE BEST SCIENCE FICTION STORIES AND NOVELS, 9th SERIES, T.E. Dikty and Earl Kemp
  • Margot Kinberg, FACES OF THE GONE, Brad Parks
  • Rob Kitchin, THE SHINING GIRLS, Lauren Beukes
  • Kate Laity, SWITZERLAND, Joanna Murray-Smith
  • Evan Lewis, WATERFRONT FISTS, Robert E. Howard
  • Steve Lewis, SEEING IS BELIEVING, Carter Dickson
  • Todd Mason, 1960s audio recordings: THE ZOO STORY, Edward Albee; NO EXIT, Jean-Paul Sartre (translated by Paul Bowles); LUV, Murray Schisgal; JUST SO STORIES, Rudyard Kipling
  • Matt Paust, LAST BUS TO WOODSTOCK, Colin Dexter
  • James Reasoner, THE WATER BEND FEUD, William MacLeod Raine
  • Richard Robinson, A FALL OF MOONDUST, Arthur C. Clarke
  • Kevin Tipple, BAD LITTLE FALLS, Paul Doiron
  • Tomcat, FLASHPOINT, John Russell Fearn
  • TracyK, DARK PASSAGE, David Goodis

Links to online archives of some of the recordings under discussion at Todd Mason’s post: “THE ZOO STORY, Edward Albee; NO EXIT, Jean-Paul Sartre (translated by Paul Bowles); LUV, Murray Schisgal; JUST SO STORIES, Rudyard Kipling”

(8) EC COMICS REMEMBERED. The Society of Illustrators in New York City will exhibit “Tales from the Crypt: The Revolutionary Art of MAD and EC Comics” from September 5 to October 27, 2018.

For the first time in NYC, an exhibition of the EC comic book art that struck fear in the hearts of arbiters of good taste will see the light of day. Featured are more than 70 large original comic book art pages by comic art masters. On display September 5 through October 27 in the Hall of Fame Gallery….

A big business in the fifties, as many as 100 million comic books were sold monthly. Although the superhero and funny animal titles were popular in the forties the appetite had turned to subjects that reflected current trends and interests.

Perhaps the most prominent comic book publisher at the time was Entertaining Comics (EC), led by William M. Gaines. An aspiring high school teacher, Gaines found himself the 25 year old head of a struggling publishing company when his father died in a boating accident. Gaines knew little about the industry but hired young, creative editor/artists Al Feldstein and Harvey Kurtzman to test new formats and launched a broad slate of revolutionary titles covering science fiction, horror, crime, war, suspense and humor.

The EC team would later be called among the most talented assembly of comic book artists and writers the industry had ever seen. While quickly copied because of their unprecedented success, EC stories were markedly different from the competition. They were expertly illustrated, written for an intelligent audience and offered an unexpected twist ending. Critics would point to the violence depicted in the crime and horror titles or the mature nature of the story subjects. Gaines had assumed an intelligent audience comprised of young adults and older readers and not children who would otherwise find little meaning in the work.

Titles presented in the exhibit include Aces HighCrime Suspenstories, Crypt of Terror, Extra!, Haunt of Fear, Frontline Combat, Impact, Piracy, MAD, Two-Fisted Tales, Tales From the Crypt, The Vault of Horror, Weird Fantasy, Weird Science, Weird Science Fantasy, MAD 3-D art and more. Artists featured include Johnny Craig, Reed Crandall, Jack Davis, Will Elder, George Evans, Al Feldstein, Frank Frazetta, Graham Ingels, B. Krigstein, Harvey Kurtzman, Joe Orlando, John Severin, Marie Severin, Angelo Torres, Al Williamson and Wally Wood.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 1, 1902A Trip to the Moon (Le Voyage dans la Lune) is directed by Georges Méliès is released.
  • September 1, 1954Tobor the Great premiered.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 1, 1885 – Edgar Rice Burroughs. Pulp writer (and no I’m not being disparaging with my use of that term) of many series of which I’ll single out the BarsoomPellucidar, Tarzan and Venus series.  Both Rudyard Kipling and Ray Bradbury considered him to be an influential and entertaining writer. Edgar Hamilton in an interview said once that “We sort of grew up on Edgar Rice Burroughs.”
  • Born September 1 — Diana Pleasance Case Gillon, 103. Only one novel, The Unsleep, but noted here for one hundred and three years old! Or at least that’s what three sources think.
  • Born September 1 – C.J. Cherryh, 76. Author of several major series set in different settings including the Alliance-Union universe, the Foreigner universe, the Russian stories, Heroes in Hell, the Fortress universe and Ealdwood. I think my favorites are the Russian stories, particularly Rusalka which was a Locus Fantasy Award nominee. Downbelow Station and Cyteen both won Hugo Awards as did her short story titled “Cassandra.”
  • Born September 1 – Timothy Zahn, 66. I’ll admit that I’ve not read anything by him on and only know of him by his work in the Star Wars Universe. His other work appears largely to be milsf and largely on Baen Books.
  • Born September 1 – Brad Linaweaver. His Moon of Ice novella was a Nebula Award finalist and the novel length version won a Prometheus Award

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Frank and Ernest decide it’s better to go with their second favorite name for a new invention.

(12) A COOKIE WITH MORE BITE TO IT. Oreo has introduced two new cookie flavors — wasabi and hot chicken wing. For now, they are only available in China.

(13) A LITTLE LIST. Kendall has read the comments here before and introduced this as “Another list for people to slam!”

Unbound Worlds, who posted a ‘100 Best Fantasy Novels of All Time’ list a while back, now has a 100 Best Sci-Fi Books of All Time list. As before, they’re clear they just asked staffers for top sci-fi recs…

Hey, there are a bunch of books on this list I like, and if I’ve read 41 of them, your count probably will be even higher.

(14) IT’S NOT EPIC BUT IT IS FANTASY. Camestros Felapton reviews Matt Groening’s new series for Netflix, Disenchantment.

A new series from Matt Groening of Simpsons and Futurama fame was bound to generate some excitement. Using an epic fantasy/fairytale faux-medieval setting sounds like a fun premise for the kind of genre subverting humour that worked for Futurama. I’m up to the last two episodes and well, it isn’t great. It isn’t terrible but it isn’t great.

There are two issues:

  • Quite a lot of Futurama wasn’t that great either but your brain edits in the best bits.
  • Disenchantment leans too much on standard jokes and tropes used in its predecessors, making the show feel less fresh and novel.

It gets better, mainly because the characters start working on you and sometimes because of basic plot development.

(15) DOCTORDONNA IS IN. Sometimes the unexpected happens at Dragon Con. Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia Stacey Abrams encountered actress Catherine Tate.

(16) SIDEBAR. Cat Rambo found comic relief at the SFWA business meeting during Dragon Con.

(17) RUGRATS. Airboy notes, “There was a ‘weird news’ story on the front page of August 31’s Wall Street Journal on the odd carpet design of the Marriott Hotel in downtown Atlanta that is one of the DragonCon Hotels.  It had an odd carpet that was eventually removed due to age.  Some fans obsessed over it creating dresses, camo outfits, and eventually a group of them marched together in the annual DragonCon parade in downtown Atlanta.”

The article is online behind a paywall at the Wall Street Journal, “‘We’re Spending Our Hard-Earned Money to Dress Up Like Carpet.’ The Tight-Knit World of Rug Fans”.

These are the people who are obsessed with carpet and rug patterns in hotels, airports and office buildings; Dragon Con at the Marriott

Here’s a lot more material (free!) at the Dragon Con Eternal Members site: “Marriott Carpet Pattern”, including the famous photo of two prone cosplayers whose camo military uniforms blend almost perfectly with the rug.

(18) IN CASE YOU’RE CURIOUS. I’d never seen a photo of Dragon Con CEO Pat Henry before (not that they aren’t available). Writers of the Future’s John Goodwin posted a photo of them together.

He also posted a photo of the Writers of the Future panel with Contest judges Kevin J. Anderson, Robert J. Sawyer, Mike Resnick and Jody Lynn Nye.

(19) MORE CON HEALTH ADVICE. In advance of this weekend’s PAX West convention, the Seattle’s Public Health Insider warned con crud is a thing: “Gaming, Cosplay, and Con Crud, Oh My!”

PAX West opens on Friday and will bring tens of thousands of people to downtown Seattle. Be prepared for legions of cosplayers and badge wearers in downtown, even if you aren’t attending.

So… what is “con crud”?

“Con crud” is an artificial term that refers to the common cold, mild flu, or other non-threatening illness that may strike towards the end of a convention, or soon after leaving. You might have also heard it called PAX pox, festival plague, or even nerd flu.

The balance of the post advises ways to avoid getting it. [Via Ron Oakes.]

(20) AIR APPARENT. Fixing a flat: “Astronauts tackle air leak on International Space Station”.

Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) are having to deal with an air leak from a possible collision.

It has been traced to a small hole in a capsule that was used to deliver a new crew to the laboratory 400km (250 miles) above the Earth in June.

It is thought the damage was caused by the impact of a high-speed rocky fragment flying through space.

(21) BACK ON THE RAILS. BBC tells “How the Hogwarts Express was saved from a Welsh scrapyard”.

Emerging from the clouds of steam engulfing platform nine and three-quarters, the gleaming Hogwarts Express commands a special place in the hearts of Harry Potter fans.

Yet there was a time when the only place this engine could call home, was a south Wales scrapyard where it lay rotting among the hulks of a bygone era.

That is because the locomotive that entranced millions of Potter viewers and now sits proudly in Warner Brothers Studios, was once earmarked to be dismantled for the furnace.

Written off, abandoned and forgotten for 17 years, this lowly engine’s final destiny was originally far from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

(22) MORE THAN JUST ONLINE. “Telepresence: ‘My robot makes me feel like I haven’t been forgotten'”. – about helping shut-ins keep up with school.

Internet-connected robots that can stream audio and video are increasingly helping housebound sick children and elderly people keep in touch with teachers, family and friends, combating the scourge of isolation and loneliness.

Zoe Johnson, 16, hasn’t been to school since she was 12.

She went to the doctor in 2014 “with a bit of a sore throat”, and “somehow that became A&E [accident and emergency],” says her mother, Rachel Johnson.

(23) CASTING CONTROVERSIES. ScreenRant analyzes “10 Superhero Castings That Caused Fan Backlash.”

(24) ALMOST TIME. The House with a Clock in Its Walls – in theaters September 21.

In the tradition of Amblin classics where fantastical events occur in the most unexpected places, Jack Black and two-time Academy Award® winner Cate Blanchett star in The House with a Clock in Its Walls, from Amblin Entertainment. The magical adventure tells the spine-tingling tale of 10-year-old Lewis (Owen Vaccaro) who goes to live with his uncle in a creaky old house with a mysterious tick-tocking heart. But his new town’s sleepy façade jolts to life with a secret world of warlocks and witches when Lewis accidentally awakens the dead. Based on the beloved children’s classic written by John Bellairs and illustrated by Edward Gorey, The House with a Clock in Its Walls is directed by master frightener Eli Roth and written by Eric Kripke (creator of TV’s Supernatural). Co-starring Kyle MacLachlan, Colleen Camp, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Vanessa Anne Williams and Sunny Suljic, it is produced by Mythology Entertainment’s Brad Fischer (Shutter Island) and James Vanderbilt (Zodiac), as well as Kripke.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Chip Hitchcock, Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, Todd Mason, Mike Kennedy, Martin Morse Wooster, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. And belated thanks to Joanna Rivers for an item the other day. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Jack Lint.]

Pixel Scroll 8/16/18 Ralph12FifthC41+

(1) MUNDANE COVERAGE. The San Jose Mercury-News tells how “WorldCon brings science fiction’s best to San Jose”.

Thousands of fans and creators will celebrate science fiction and fantasy at the “World’s Fair of fandom,” which includes presentation of the prestigious Hugo Awards.

(2) WORLDCON 76 FASHION NOTES. I like these hats.

(3) MEXICANX INITIATIVE. Photo from W76 Opening Ceremonies:

(4) BIG HEART AWARD. Here’s Mike Glyer finding out from Greg Hullender that he won the Big Heart Award – at the File 770 meetup at the Forager. Photo by Eric Wong.

Greg Hullender and Mike Glyer

(5) IT’S ALIVE! Electric Lit features “Jeff VanderMeer and Nick Mamatas on the Death and Rebirth of the Short Story”. The occasion is the release of Nick Mamatas’ latest book, the story collection The People’s Republic of Everything.

Jeff VanderMeer: Short fiction was dead. Then it wasn’t. Let’s assume it’s alive. Why is it alive, if so?

Nick Mamatas: It’s alive for a couple of reasons. One is that just over a decade or so ago, bookstores finally understood that they could sell anthologies of short fiction by treating them as though they were non-fiction. People really do wander into bookstores and say things such as “I love The Walking Dead. Got any books about zombies?” or “I’ve been hearing a lot about steampunk?—?got anything that’ll explain it to me?” and a big anthology with reprints by prominent authors and new or at least obscure material by less well-known authors is basically a textbook designed to answer those questions. Phonebook-sized anthologies by you and Ann VanderMeer, or by John Joseph Adams, really grew a generation of readers.

(6) MARVEL, ESPN TEAM UP. These are pretty good. From CBSSports.com, “Look: ESPN, Marvel create College Football Playoff comic covers”. The headline is misleading. Not playoffs… opening weekend.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

Some cat humor (or is it?) at Maximumble.

(8) POUL ANDERSON ESTATE SALE. Karen Anderson passed away earlier this year, and all of Poul’s and her household items, books, pictures, etc., are on sale this weekend. Public notice on Facebook. Tons of pictures of items on sale here.

ESTATE SALE OF POUL ANDERSON

HUGO & NEBULA AWARD WINNING SCI-FI/FANTASY AUTHOR

SAT. & SUN. AUG 18 & 19

8:00am – 2:00pm

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

SATURDAY AUGUST 18TH

SUNDAY AUGUST 19TH

8:00AM – 2:00PM

(SUNDAY 1/2 OFF EVERYTHING)

SUNDAY AT 2:00PM I WILL BE TAKING OFFERS FOR THE REST OF THE UNSOLD ITEMS (BUT MUST BE REMOVED BY 3:00PM MONDAY 20TH)

7129 SAMOA PLACE
TUJUNGA CA 91042

(9) TODAY IN THEOLOGY. The Guardian — among other sources — has noted that the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is not recognized as, well, as a church in the Netherlands (“Spaghetti injunction: Pastafarianism is not a religion, Dutch court rules”).

The Dutch council of state has ruled that Pastafarianism is not a religion, denying a follower of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster the right to wear a colander on her head in her passport and driving licence photo.

Mienke de Wilde is now considering taking her case to the European court of human rights.

The Netherlands’ highest court said de Wilde, a law student from Nijmegen, could not be exempted on religious grounds from a ban on headwear in official identity photographs, because Pastfarianism was essentially a satire and not a serious faith.

…De Wilde said the church was humorous but that did not mean it was not “very serious in what it stands for”. She was disappointed by the decision, which backed Nijmegen authorities’ rejection of her ID photos.

“I can imagine that it all looks very odd if you don’t believe,” she told the Algemeen Dagblad newspaper. “But that’s the case with many faiths if you don’t believe in them – people who walk on water or divide themselves in two, for example. I find other religions unbelievable.”

(10) MYSTERY AUTHOR. Wait, we’re not talking to JDA here?

(11) NO, THIS IS WHERE WE’RE HEARING FROM JDA. If you want to see footage of JDA wandering around the San Jose Convention Center today until he found somebody to kick him out, he’s happy to oblige:

(12) GROENING’S NEW SHOW. NPR’s Glen Weldon says: “In Matt Groening’s Fantasy Series ‘Disenchantment,’ The Humor Is Elf-Referential”

Disenchantment, Matt Groening’s new animated series that hits Netflix on Friday, August 17th, does for our mythical past what Futurama did for our imagined future, but it does so in a manner so closely reminiscent of that other show’s wryly cynical sci-fi hi-jinks that it could have just as easily been called Pastarama, if that didn’t sound quite so much like a seasonal promotion at Olive Garden.

(13) ANCIENT MIXOLOGY. Take 2 tbsp. myrrh… “Ancient Egyptian mummification ‘recipe’ revealed”. Major finding: mummification in Egypt is much older than was thought.

Examination of a mummy has revealed the original ancient Egyptian embalming recipe – first used to preserve bodies.

A battery of forensic chemical tests carried out on a mummy that dated from 3,700-3,500 BC revealed the recipe and confirmed that it was developed far earlier and used more widely than previously thought.

The Egyptian Museum in Turin, Italy, is now home to the mummy in question.

The findings are published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Dr Stephen Buckley, an archaeologist from the University of York, told BBC News that this mummy “literally embodies the embalming that was at the heart of Egyptian mummification for 4,000 years”.

(14) WINGS OVER PANEGEA. “Winged reptiles thrived before dinosaurs”.

Palaeontologists have found a new species of pterosaur – the family of prehistoric flying reptiles that includes pterodactyl.

It is about 210 millions years old, pre-dating its known relatives by 65 million years.

Named Caelestiventus hanseni, the species’ delicate bones were preserved in the remains of a desert oasis.

The discovery suggests that these animals thrived around the world before the dinosaurs evolved.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Kennedy, Chip Hitchcock, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, Martin Morse Wooster, Kendall, and James Davis Nicoll for some of these stories. Lots more material, but I’m tired tonight! Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Andrew.]

Pixel Scroll 8/4/18 Your Pixeled Pal Who’s Fun To Scroll With!

(1) AMERICA HELD HOSTAGE, DAY FOUR. Crusading investigative fanwriter Camestros Felapton has been trying to find out why the Dragon Awards ballot wasn’t released August 1, the date posted on the site, and when it will come out. Here’s what he’s been told:

The latest report is this. I got an email saying that the finalists will be announced this upcoming Tuesday (presumably US time). Don’t all get too excited at once.

(2) COME BACK, JEAN-LUC. “Patrick Stewart to star in new Star Trek TV series”Entertainment Weekly has the story.

Stewart will reprise his iconic character, Jean-Luc Picard, for a CBS All Access series that “will tell the story of the next chapter of Picard’s life.”

Stewart himself just announced the news in a surprise appearance at the Las Vegas Star Trek Convention.

“I will always be very proud to have been a part of Star Trek: The Next Generation, but when we wrapped that final movie in the spring of 2002, I truly felt my time with Star Trek had run its natural course,” Stewart said. “It is, therefore, an unexpected but delightful surprise to find myself excited and invigorated to be returning to Jean-Luc Picard and to explore new dimensions within him. Seeking out new life for him, when I thought that life was over.”

And Michael Chabon will be one of the executive producers reports Variety.

The untitled series hails from Alex Kurtzman, James Duff, Akiva Goldsman, Michael Chabon, and Kirsten Beyer. Kurtzman, Duff, Goldsman, and Chabon will also serve as executive producers on the series along with Stewart, Trevor Roth, Heather Kadin, and Rod Roddenberry. CBS Television Studios will produce. The new series does not currently have a premiere date

(3) BOREANAZ ON BUFFY. Ethan Alter, in the Yahoo Entertainment story “David Boreanaz has no plans to be in controversial ‘Buffy’ reboot: ‘I just let it be and lend my support from afar'” says that Boreanaz is too busy with SEAL Team to worry about the forthcoming Buffy reboot (which is controversial because showrunner Monica Owusu-Breen might find a new actor to play Buffy) but he doesn’t have any objections to it.

 “I think it’s great,” says David Boreanaz, who played the ensouled vampire Angel on Buffy for three seasons before graduating to his own self-titled spin-off. “I’m sure they’ll find the right storylines and the right people to fill shoes of whatever characters they want to portray. It was great to be a part of it when it first started, and now to see it being revived is just another testimony to the hard work that we did. I congratulate that, and applaud that.”

(4) KRESS REQUEST. Nancy Kress announced on Facebook:

A few people have asked if I will autograph their books at Worldcn San Jose. However, I was disappointed that Programming Reboot has given me no panels, no autographing session, and no kaffeklatch. I do have one reading, at 4:30 on Sunday, which I cannot linger afterwards because of a Hugo dinner. So if anyone wants anything autographed, I will hang around the Hyatt lobby at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday.

(5) REACHING OUT TO HUGHART. Mike Berro, who runs the Barry Hughart Bibliography website is asking for help:

If anyone knows how to contact Barry Hughart, please let me know. I run a fan page, and would constantly get emails from people wanting to contact him, mostly about doing a movie or theatrical adaptation of Bridge of Birds. I would forward them to him, and he would always politely reply (with “no thanks”). I haven’t had a reply now for over a year, and just got an email from someone who reported that even his publishers cannot contact him. I fear something unfortunate has happened.

Berro says neither SFWA nor Subterranean Press have been able to offer any help.

Mike Berro’s contact email address is — hughart@collector.org

(6) PRO ADVICE. Not certain who Mary Robinette Kowal had in mind, although JDA was sure it was about him. (Of course, he thinks everything is.)

(7) CLOUDS OF WITNESSES. Crisis Magazine recalls “When C.S. Lewis Befriended a Living Catholic Saint”.

When Luigi Calabria, a shoemaker married to a housemaid, died in Verona, Italy in 1882, the youngest of his seven sons, Giovanni, nine years old, had to quit school and take a job as an apprentice. A local parish priest, Don Pietro Scapini, privately tutored him for the minor seminary, from which he took a leave to serve two years in the army. During that time, he established a remarkable reputation for edifying his fellow soldiers and converting some of them. Even before ordination, he established a charitable institution for the care of poor sick people and, as a parish priest, in 1907 he founded the Poor Servants of Divine Providence. The society grew, receiving diocesan approval in 1932. The women’s branch he started in 1910 would become a refuge for Jewish women during the Second World War. To his own surprise, since he was a rather private person, his order spread from Italy to Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, India, Kenya, Romania, and the Philippines.

With remarkable economy of time, he was a keen reader, and in 1947 he came across a book translated as Le lettere di Berlicche by a professor at the University of Milan, Alberto Castelli, who later became a titular archbishop as Vice President of the Pontifical Council of the Laity. Berlicche was Screwtape and “Malacode” served for Wormwood. The original, of course, had been published in 1943 as The Screwtape Letters and Calabria was so taken with it that he sent a letter of appreciation to the author in England. Lacking English, he wrote it in the Latin with which he had become proficient since his juvenile tutorials with Don Pietro.

… Lewis’s correspondence with Calabria went on for about seven years, and after the holy priest died, Lewis wrote at least seven letters to another member of Calabria’s religious community, Don Luigi Castelli, who died in 1986 at the age of 96. Learning of Calabria’s death, Lewis referred to him in a message to Castelli with what I suspect was a deliberate invocation of the phrase about “the dearly departed” that Horace used to console Virgil on the death of Quintilius Varo: tam carum caput. It appears as well in Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley Novels. It was an unfortunate habit of Lewis to throw out letters he received when he thought he might otherwise betray confidences. So what we have are only what he sent. The letters are a radiant model of philia friendship that he described in his 1958 radio talks:

(8) WHO’S THE HERO? John Dilillo claims “Amazon’s Proposed ‘Lord of the Rings’ Series Misses the Point of Middle-Earth” at Film School Rejects.

…Every conventionally heroic duty performed by Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings is performed in service of a greater act of heroism by Hobbits, characters who choose their own destiny instead of following the path their bloodline lays out for them. Without Hobbits, Middle-earth is just another cliched fantasy tapestry, painting with the same old tired strokes. What makes Aragorn special is not his heritage or his backstory; it is that he recognizes that he is not the hero of this story. Aragorn is the king who bows to the Hobbits. Stripped of that identity, he is indistinguishable from any other gruff sword-wielding badass.

On top of all this, we’ve already seen the type of story that results from a Tolkien adaptation that loses sight of true heroism in favor of grand tales of redeemed sons and doomed kings. The great failing of the Hobbit trilogy is that it abandons its titular character all too often in favor of the gloomy angst of Richard Armitage’s Thorin Oakenshield. Armitage does a fine job projecting gloomy wounded pride, and whoever assumes the lead role in Amazon’s series will doubtless give just as effective a performance. But all of that is ultimately wasted when the real appeal of a Middle-earth story comes from the Shire, not the Lonely Mountain. A Hobbit story that isn’t about Bilbo Baggins is a failure, and it’s a failure that should be learned from….

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born August 4 — Richard Belzer, 74. The Third Rock fromThe Sun series as himself, also the Species II film and an awful adaption of Heinlein’s The Puppet Masters, along with series work too in The X-Files, The Invaders, Human Target, and acrecurring role in the original Flash series to name a few of his genre roles.
  • Born August 4 — Daniel Dae Kim, 50. First genre role was in the NightMan series, other roles include the Brave New World tv film, the second Fantasy Island series, recurring roles on LostAngel and Crusade, the Babylon 5 spinoff series, Star Trek: Voyager, Charmed and voice work on Justice League Unlimited.
  • Born August 4 — Abigail Spencer, 37. First genre role was in the Campfire horror anthology series, other roles include Ghost Whisperer, Jekyll, a film that’s an sf riff off that meme, Cowboys & Aliens, the Oz the Great and Powerful film and Timeless, the sf series recently allowed a proper ending
  • Born August 4 — Meaghan Markle, 37. Yes, Her Royalness. Appeared in Fringe and the newer Knight Rider. Also the near future legal drama Century City.

(10) INSTAPOLL. Survey says –

(11) KEN LIU TO TV. Andrew Liptak says an animated show is on the way: “AMC is developing a sci-fi show based on Ken Liu’s short stories”.

Ken Liu is one of science fiction’s most celebrated writers working today. In addition to translating Cixin Liu’s acclaimed Three Body Problem and Death’s End, he’s also earned numerous awards, most significantly for his short story, “The Paper Menagerie”. Now, it looks as though his works could reach a new audience: AMC is developing series based on his works called Pantheon, according to Deadline.

If it’s produced, Pantheon will be an animated show “based on a series of short stories by [Liu] about uploaded intelligence,” reports Deadline. Craig Silverstein, who created and produced AMC’s American revolution drama Turn, will serve as showrunner, producer, and writer.

(12) SOLO. Lela E. Buis points out the casting problems: “Review of Solo: A Star Wars Story”.

…The worst problem with this film, of course, was Alden Ehrenreich trying to step into Harrison Ford’s shoes. Ehrenreich did a workmanlike job with the character, but workmanlike just isn’t Han Solo. Donald Glover as Calrissian got glowing reviews, but it was really the charismatic Woody Harrelson as Beckett who lights up the film—an understated, low key performance notwithstanding. Also prominent was Lando’s co-pilot L3-37, an animated character fighting against the slavery of droids.

This brings up another question. Why isn’t Disney investing in flashier talent for these movies?

(13) BAEN CHALLENGE COINS. Baen Books is taking orders for the first pressing of its new Challenge  Coins commemorating iconic names or events in the books of Ringo, Williamson, Kratman and probably whoever else you’d expect to fill out a list that starts with those three names.

Each coin is $15. Buy all 13 author coins, and the “I Read Baen’d Books” coin comes free. Shipping and handling is a flat rate of $15, $45 international, for up to 13 coins. Write to info@baen.com for rates on bulk orders.

These coins were designed by Jack Wylder with the active participation of the authors. Here’s an example —

Front: I Read Baen’d Books

Reverse: RIP Joe Buckley

All profits from this coin will go to support two charities founded, supported, and run by Baen readers: Operation Baen Bulk, which provides care packages for deployed service members, and Read Assist, a 501c3 company that serves our disabled readers. http://www.readassist.org/ Each coin is $15. Buy all 13 author coins, and the “I Read Baen’d Books” coin comes free. “I read Baened Books” was first used by Chris French. “Joe Buckley” used courtesy of Joe Buckley. Don’t forget to duck

(14) A CENTURY OF STURGEON. Scott Bradfield tries to jumpstart the party — “Celebrating Theodore Sturgeon’s centenary – so should we all” in the LA Times. (Unfortunately, the Times initially failed to get David Gerrold’s permission to run his photo of Sturgeon with the post…)

I’ve always been a bit confused by these various centenary and multi-centenary celebrations that punctuate our discussions of literature, such as Thoreau’s recent 200th birthday (2017), or the centenary of James Joyce’s “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” (first published in 1917), or even the fourth centenary of the death of Cervantes (d. 1616), etc. (By the way, celebrating the anniversary of someone’s death strikes me as pretty grisly.) But while some writers seem to continually receive such posthumous honors, others suffer unfairly in silence. No cake, no candles, no old friends leaping out of closets, no nothing. And this year, that seems to be the case for one of America’s greatest and most original short story writers, Theodore Sturgeon, who was born on Feb. 26, 1918. From what I can tell, nobody has yet to pitch in and even buy him a decent card.

…Take, for example, the opening of his brilliant (and often poorly imitated) 1941 novelette, “Microcosmic God”: “Here is a story about a man who had too much power, and a man who took too much, but don’t worry; I’m not going political on you. The man who had the power was named James Kidder, and the other was his banker.”

Or this, from the aforementioned “The Dreaming Jewels” (1950): “They caught the kid doing something disgusting under the bleachers at the high-school stadium, and he was sent home from the grammar school across the street.”

Or even this, from his haunting and beautiful story, “The Man Who Lost the Sea” (1959): “Say you’re a kid, and one dark night you’re running along the cold sand with this helicopter in your hand, saying very fast witchy-witchy-witchy.”

Every opening plops you down bang in the middle of a story that is already happening and in the life of a character it is already happening to. And while many of his stories were collected in “horror” or “suspense” anthologies, they are rarely shocking or violent or grotesque. Instead, they begin by introducing you to a slightly strange world and a slightly strange character who lives there; then, before the story is over, you both feel at home in the world and compassion for the character who now lives there with you.

The greatness of Sturgeon’s stories reside in their almost inflexible, relentless unfolding of strangely logical events and relationships; each sentence is as beautiful and convincing as the last; and the science-fictional inventions never rely on tricks or deus ex machinas to reach a satisfying resolution; instead, a Sturgeon story always resolves itself at the level of the all-too-human.

(15) ACCESS. At io9 Ace Ratcliff asks “Staircases in Space: Why Are Places in Science Fiction Not Wheelchair-Accessible?”

I never used to notice stairs. They were simply a way for me to get from one place to another. Occasionally they were tiresome, but they never actually stymied or stopped me entirely. Eventually, I managed to get where I needed to go.

Then I started using a wheelchair. Suddenly, stairs became a barrier that prevented me from getting from here to there. One step was often enough to stop me in my tracks. It turns out that when you start using a wheelchair, you quickly realize that there are a lot of staircases and steps in our world—and a lot of broken (or nonexistent) elevators and ramps….

Once you start realizing how many stairs there are stopping you in real life, it becomes impossible not to notice them existing in the sci-fi you adore. Turns out they’re everywhere, in all of our sci-fi. Whether it’s decades-old or shiny and brand-new, our sci-fi imitates a real-world reliance on steps and stairs in our architecture.

When we think of sci-fi that’s run the test of time, Doctor Who immediately springs to mind. The inside of the TARDIS is littered with steps—from Christopher Eccleston to Peter Capaldi, there’s no way a wheelchair using companion would be able to navigate that beautiful blue time machine. Prior to the 2005 reboot, previous embodiments of the spaceship were no less inaccessible. You’d think that a spaceship that is regularly re-decorated could easily manage ramps in at least one iteration, but no set designers seem bothered enough to make it happen. I was pleased to learn that a quick finger snap seems to occasionally unlock the TARDIS doors—a quirky replacement for the buttons that exist in real-life, usually installed near closed doors and pressed by disabled people to assist with automatically opening them—but trying to scootch through the narrow opening of that British police box with an accessibility device looks nigh impossible, even without the need for a key.

(16) KERMODE ON SF FILMS. On August 7, BBC 4 airs an episode of Mark Kermode’s Secrets of the Cinema about science fiction.

SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie says —

This is an excellent series for film aficionados but the August 7th edition will also appeal to SF fans as this episode will be on science fiction film.

Also the series is co-written by the genre critic Kim Newman whom,  some Worldcon fans will recall, with SF author Paul McAuley,  co-presented the last CalHab (formerly known as Glasgow) Worldcon Hugo Award ceremony (2005). So be assured this episode has a solid grounding.

Mark Kemode’s Secrets of the Cinema SF film episode should be available on BBC iPlayer for a few weeks after broadcast.

BBC 4’s intro reads —

Mark Kermode continues his fresh and very personal look at the art of cinema by examining the techniques and conventions behind classic film genres, uncovering the ingredients that keep audiences coming back for more.

This time Mark explores the most visionary of all genres – science fiction, and shows how film-makers have risen to the challenge of making the unbelievable believable. Always at the forefront of cinema technology, science fiction films have used cutting-edge visual effects to transport us to other worlds or into the far future. But as Mark shows, it’s not just about the effects. Films as diverse as 2001, the Back to the Future trilogy and Blade Runner have used product placement and commercial brand references to make their future worlds seem more credible. The recent hit Arrival proved that the art of film editing can play with our sense of past and future as well as any time machine. Meanwhile, films such as Silent Running and WALL-E have drawn on silent era acting techniques to help robot characters convey emotion. And District 9 reached back to Orson Welles by using news reporting techniques to render an alien visitation credible.

Mark argues that for all their spectacle, science fiction films ultimately derive their power from being about us. They take us to other worlds and eras, and introduce us to alien and artificial beings, in order to help us better understand our own humanity.

(17) GETTING BACK IN BUSINESS. “NASA Announces Crew For First Commercial Space Flights”NPR has the story.

NASA has announced the names of the astronauts who will be the first people in history to ride to orbit in private space taxis next year, if all goes as planned.

In 2019, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner are both scheduled to blast off on test flights with NASA astronauts on board. “For the first time since 2011, we are on the brink of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said Friday, standing in front of a giant American flag at Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Since NASA retired its space shuttles, the agency has had to buy seats on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get its crews to the International Space Station.

(18) MUNG DYNASTY. FastCompany predicts “Plant-based eggs are coming for your breakfast sandwiches”.

When you order a breakfast sandwich or a scramble at New Seasons Market, a local chain in Portland, Seattle, and Northern California, you’ll bite into a yellow, fluffy food that tastes just like an egg, but did not, in fact, come from an animal. Instead, what you’re eating is a mung bean, a legume that people have been eating for thousands of years that, when ground into a liquid, happens to scramble and gel just like an egg.

Mung beans are the key ingredient in Just Egg, the latest product from Just, Inc.–the company formerly known as Hampton Creek, which manufactures plant-based alternatives to products like mayonnaise, cookie dough, and salad dressing. Just Egg, a liquid that scrambles in a way that’s eerily similar to an egg when cooked in a pan, is derived from mung bean protein, and colored with turmeric to mimic the light yellow of an egg. It’s slowly rolling out in stores and restaurants across the U.S., and New Seasons Market has gone as far as to entirely replace its regular eggs with the mung bean mixture.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Mike Berro, Cat Eldridge, JJ, Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Andrew Porter, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, and David Langford for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day jayn.]

Pixel Scroll 7/29/18 Winter Comes To Pixels, As Well As To Scrolls.

(1) BRONYCON TO END. Next year’s BronyCon is the last, it was announced at this weekend’s event in Baltimore.

BronyCon is the world’s largest family-friendly convention for and by fans of the animated TV series My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

(2) HELP HUGO AND CAMPBELL FINALISTS ATTEND WORLDCON. Mary Robinette Kowal is running a GoFundMe appeal to help get more award finalists to Worldcon 76.

Kowal says, “We’ve managed to get six finalists to the Hugos who otherwise would not have been able to attend.”

At this writing, “Worldcon Finalist Assistance” has raised $2,335 of its $10,000 goal.

Earlier this year we raised money to bring one of our Campbell Nominees to the Hugos and were met with astounding support! Now, we want to offer that same opportunity to the other WorldCon Awards Finalists so that they can participate in the celebration of their work.

Much like the previous fundraiser, we want to raise money for:

    • Plane tickets
    • Hotel stays
    • WorldCon memberships
    • Per diem
    • Ceremony attire rental
  • Other potential costs, based on individual needs

Thankfully, we have a strong community that is dedicated to celebrating authors, their work, and these awards. We want to hear from the folks we’re voting for, and they should be able to attend their own party!

What happens if we raise more?

That money will go towards an ongoing  fund dedicated to defraying the costs for future WorldCon Finalists.

(3) RINGBEARERS. David Doering is ecstatic, because of the LTUE connection:

BIG, BIG News here for Utah–INCREDIBLE NEWS in fact! Our own LTUE alumnus JD Payne and his writing cohort Patrick McKay will pen Amazon’s new The Lord of the Rings series. WOW! Those who met him last year know he’s one of the most approachable people and an inspired writer.

Deadline has the story: “‘The Lord Of the Rings’ Hires Writers JD Payne & Patrick McKay As Amazon Series Moves To Next Development Phase – TCA”.

As Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke previously has suggested, creating the big-scope fantasy drama will involve a writers room. Payne and McKay were selected from a shortlist of scribes considered for the job, most of them from features, in the talent search, overseen by Amazon’s head of genre Sharon Tal Yguado.

Payne and McKay are rising feature writers who recently worked on Star Trek 4 for producer J.J. Abrams. I hear Abrams was one of a number of high-profile filmmakers and producers who  recommended the duo for the LOTR job.

With the search for lead writers completed, the development of the series is moving to the next stage with the set up of . writers room to collaborate on Payne and McKay’s vision. It is unclear yet — but possible — that any of the other writers who made it to the short list for the gig would be invited and that the project would bring in a showrunner.

(4) STEP RIGHT UP. Nicholas Whyte has “Two small Hugo reforms looking for co-sponsors”. Full text at the link.

A couple of minor amendments to the rules that I’d like to put to this year’s WSFS business meeting, but I need at least one co-sponsor. I won’t be there myself, but I think that these are technical and uncontroversial, and encode existing best practice in order to remove ambiguity. Please let me know, in comments here or by other channels, if you are a Worldcon 76 member willing to add your name to the list of sponsors. The deadline is 2 August.

(5) TOY STORY LAND. In the Washington Post, Steve Hendrix visits Toy Story Land at Disney World, which opened in late June, where  Baby Boomer favorites (Etch-a-Sketch, Yahtzee, Barrel of Monkeys) illustrate the rides and you can get snacks in a food station shaped as “Andy’s lunchbox propped open by Andy’s Thermos.” — “Larger-than-life charm at Walt Disney World’s Toy Story Land”.

You only have to go a few steps into Toy Story Land to sense that big thinkers have made huge efforts to make you feel small. The pieces used to assemble this toy-dimensional universe are agreeably supersize, from the Tinker Toy fences the size of satellite dishes and water mains to the life-size (because they’re alive) green army men marching to and fro in this 11-acre Pixarian play yard.

Specifically, it’s a backyard. In Walt Disney World’s newest major addition, which opened in late June at Disney’s Hollywood Studios park in the Florida resort, the Imagineers are trying to place you between the very blades (in this case, soaring shoots of bamboo) of a grassy lot filled with the daily detritus of a child at play.

(6) ABU DHABI DOO! John King Tarpinian says he wants to visit Bedrock — LAist reports “Warner Bros. Just Opened A Billion-Dollar Theme Park! And It’s Air-Conditioned! (But It’s In Abu Dhabi)”.

…It’s part of the United Arab Emirates’ efforts to become a world tourist destination. Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island (yaaaaas!) already features Ferrari World, which includes the world’s fastest rollercoaster, and Waterworld. (No, not that Waterworld.) You also have Dubai as a major travel center, with other local parks including Legoland, IMG Worlds of Adventure, and Motiongate.

Excited yet? Look, you can book a flight here! We’ve seen prices as low as $800 round-trip (though it’ll be around $2,500 if you want to leave, like, NOW).

You enter the park through Warner Bros. Plaza, which features old-school Hollywood style in an art deco setting. Like Disney’s Main Street U.S.A., it’s the portal to the rest of what this park offers. Then you can venture into the bright superhero world of Superman’s Metropolis or the darker realm of Batman’s Gotham City, as well as checking out the other cartoon-themed realms.

 

(7) PRESIDENTIAL MOMENT. Horror Writers Association President Lisa Morton is interviewed by The Witch Haunt.

WH: So many wonderful accomplishments so far! What other career would you have if not writing/publishing?

I actually have another career that I love: I’m a bookseller. I work for a used and rare bookstore, where I get to catalogue some truly magnificent rarities.

WH: How awesome that you get to go through daily life surrounded by stories. Which of your written works are you most proud of?

I think my novel Malediction, which was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award (but lost to Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep).

WH: Malediction, about curses, psychic powers, ghosts and such sounds like my perfect cup of horror. If you could have coffee with any horror author, gone or alive, who would it be?

He’s not primarily a horror author, but I have to say Philip K. Dick.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • Born July 29, 1958 — The U.S. Congress passes legislation establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

  • July 29, 2002 — M. Night Shyamalan premieres SIGNS

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) RIVER’S END. Paul Weimer at Nerds of a Feather: “Microreview [book]: The Black God’s Drums by P Djelli Clark”.

The real richness of the novella is it is delight in invention, with an eye for creating a world that is rich for the potential for story and adventure. From the palpable existence of very active orishas, to an alternate history with a Confederacy, Haiti as a Caribbean power, and, naturally, airships, the world that Clark has created is a fascinating one that we only get a small short-novella taste of, but I want to read more of. The vision of New Orleans as a freeport where the Union, the Confederacy, Haiti and other powers all meet and trade, complete with extensive airship facilities is a compelling and fascinating one. There are hints that the world beyond what we see is similarly not the one we know, either, but really, Clark could tell many stories just in the North America and Caribbean around New Orleans. There is just simply a lot of canvas here for the author to unleash her protagonist and other characters upon.

(11) MIXED BAG. Adri Joy finds good and bad in this Fforde outing: Microreview [Book]: Early Riser by Jasper Fforde at Nerds of a Feather.

…while Early Riser is another magnificent entry in Fforde’s bibliography, it didn’t wow me to the same extent as The Eyre Affair or Shades of Grey did; I’m quite happy that it’s intended to be a standalone, and don’t feel a great need to explore any more of this particular world beyond what this volume offers. Everything just feels more constrained than Fforde’s other work, and while part of this is just the claustrophobic hibernal setting, I suspect it’s also just built on a smaller scale. The weird details and tangents are just interesting enough to carry the story they are in, without leaving much additional food for thought. It’s highly obnoxious to judge a work based on the timelines of the author’s unfinished series, but I suspect for a lot of long-time fans, Early Riser might be a mixed experience: great fun, a promising sign of more to come, and yet not quite what we were waiting for. That said, being a standalone at least means it doesn’t end with more tension, wrapping up Charlie’s story and its world-changing implications in a swift but ultimately satisfying conclusion.

(12) WHEN BEST MEANS BEST. Joe Sherry is on his way to a flying finish – “Reading the Hugos: Series” at Nerds of a Feather.

It’s time for another installment of Reading the Hugos and it’s time to either go big or go home. Since I’m already sitting at home while I write this, I think I’m going to go big and cover the abundance of excellence up for Best Series.

There is so much goodness here that it isn’t even fair.

Best Series last year was a trial run, a special one time category (pending the ratification at the WSFS business meeting at last year’s Worldcon) – which makes this the first full year of the category. I’m probably the only person who is going to think of things like this.

If last year was a proof of concept and this year represents the very high bar we should expect from the Best Series quality, we’re looking at one of the strongest categories on the ballot year after year. The series I ranked lowest on my ballot is exceptional. The only challenge here is that there is a lot of reading to do to at least get a brief overview of each series, let alone do a deep dive.

(13) SIODMAK’S BRAIN. Eric Leif Davin’s interview with Curt Siodmak, a chapter in his book Pioneers of Wonder (1999) has been posted at SF Magazines: “From Print to the Screen: A Conversation with Curt Siodmak by Eric Leif Davin”.

Upon graduation from the University of Zurich, Curt joined his brother in Berlin. There, the vagaries of the financial situation made it impossible to pursue his engineering career. Instead, he drifted into his brother’s film circle and wrote scripts for several of Robert’s films. Both brothers fled the Nazis in the early thir­ties and eventually ended up in Hollywood. Curt was quickly given a job writing a sarong picture for Dorothy Lamour and a succession of such assignments followed for the next two decades. A number of his assignments for Universal Pictures— The Wolf Man, House of Frankenstein, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, Son of Dracula, and others—have since become horror classics. This, as he makes clear in the following conver­sation, was entirely accidental. He had no particular affection for or interest in either horror or science fiction—indeed, he never read the stuff. It was merely a job….

I see. Did you always think science fiction was gibberish?

Of course, it was always gibberish. You know, the human mind is so limited. We write about societies on other worlds, and they resemble us so much. You look at the paintings of Brueghel or Bosch10 and all those demons look like men with two eyes and two arms—hard to think of a new shape. The same with societies. You go into outer space and you find fascism or communism or the Roman Empire or feudal Europe. We don’t have much in our brains.
I wrote a few books about space, Skyport and City in the Sky.11 A friend took me to visit engineers at Lockheed because he thought talking with them would help give me ideas. They got their ideas from reading my books!
For instance, instead of launching rockets from the ground to reach orbit, why not have a huge elevator into space, miles high? Launch things from the top and they save so much on fuel!

Didn’t Arthur C. Clarke already write about that in The Fountains of Paradise?12

Who? I don’t know. I never read that.

(14) DRAGONS. Coming to the Worldcon 76 art show.

(15) FAMILY OKAYS CARRIE FISHER APPEARANCE. Members of Carrie Fisher’s family are expressing support for her appearance in the next main-line Star Wars movie (SYFY Wire: ”Carrie Fisher’s brother, Todd, couldn’t be happier for Leia’s return in Star Wars: Episode IX”). It had already been reported that Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd, approved the plan to recycle unused footage shot for Episode VII in Episode IX. Now Fisher’s brother, Todd Fisher, has given has given his blessing, also.

“I couldn’t be more personally thrilled and happy that our Carrie will reprise her role as Princess Leia in the new and final Star Wars Episode IX, using previously unreleased footage of her shot for Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” he said. “As we, her family, as well as her extended family of fans around the world so believe, Carrie’s Princess Leia is forever entrenched in the franchise and her indelible presence is fundamental to the film. J.J. Abrams understood Carrie’s iconic role, and he has masterfully re-crafted this final entry to include this unused and very last footage of Carrie ever taken, without resorting to CGI or animatronics. Our family and her fans will look forward with great anticipation for this one! Her force will forever be with us!”

(16) AN ORVILLE TO LOOK FORWARD TO. Two Star Trek: TNG stars will unite on an episode of The Orville, albeit with only one of them in front of the camera (ComicBook.com: “‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ Alum Marina Sirtis to Guest Star in ‘The Orville’ Season 2“).

It was previously announced that Jonathan Frakes, who played Commander William Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation and directed several episodes of Star Trek television and two movies, will direct an episode of The Orville Season Two. It seems Frakes is bringing his Imzadi with him, as Marina Sirtis, who played Counselor Deanna Troi on Star Trek: The Next Generation, recently shared a photo of herself with Frakes and [Seth] MacFarlane asking, “Where am I?”

Frakes seemingly confirmed that Sirtis is on The Orville set in the photo by responding to the tweet, saying “Cat’s out of the bag now…”

Trek Movie has since also confirmed that Sirtis will guest star in an episode of The Orville

(17) FALL TV SCHEDULES. Did you know you can find these on the Wikipedia? Grids for the larger networks in each country, except for PBS in the USA.

(18) PLAGUE PRACTICE. The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security created a simulation of a “moderately contagious and moderately lethal” emergent virus that could decimate the world population—in the literal sense of killing 10% of humans (Business Insider: “Pandemic virus simulation from Johns Hopkins shows our vulnerability”). The “Clade X” simulation concerned a bioengineered virus, but a novel emergent natural virus could have the same effect. The fictional situation is described as killing 150 million in 20 months of simulated time, expected to rise to 900 million eventually if no vaccine could be created. At that 20-month mark of simulated time, researches paused for a real-time day:

On May 15th, when the  “Clade X” simulation  was played out real-time, the people acting out the scenario were the sorts of individuals who’d be responding to this situation in real life. The  players included  former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, Indiana Representative Susan Brooks (R), former CDC Director Julie Gerberding, and others with extensive experience….

“I think we learned that even very knowledgeable, experienced, devoted senior public officials who have lived through many crises still have trouble dealing with something like this,” Dr. Eric Toner, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health Security and the designer of the Clade X simulation, told Business Insider. “And it’s not because they are not good or smart or dedicated, it’s because we don’t have the systems we need to enable the kind of response we’d want to see.”

(19) HEAVENLY ABODES. Business Insider has posted some 1970’s vintage NASA concept drawings for three variants of space habitats, designed to hold between 10,000 and 1,000,000 people each (“NASA once envisioned life after Earth in these fantastical floating cities”). They credit NASA Ames Research Center for the photos, making them public domain and fair game if you want an aspirational image for your computer or smart phone wallpaper. The ships range from a simple toroid to a massive cylinder.

In the 1970s, physicists from Princeton University, the NASA Ames Research Center, and Stanford University created fantastical illustrations of massive orbiting cities for life after Earth. The scientists imagined a worse-case scenario in which our planet would be destroyed, and humankind would move to space.

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