Pixel Scroll 3/20/19 You Can Do Such A Lot With A Pixel. You Can Use Every Part Of It Too

(1) DON’T BLAB. Mary Robinette Kowal dispenses some wisdom in “Debut Author Lessons: So you’ve been nominated for an award…”

Over the years, I’ve learned a few things and so here’s the stuff that I’ve told new Nebula, Hugo, and Campbell finalists.

When they say confidential… What they mean is that they don’t want the news to get out into the wider world. There are two reasons for this.

  1. They want to get as much traction with the news as possible. If it trickles out into the world a little at a time, it’s less good for everyone, including you.
  2. People are notified at different times. Sometimes this is because of categories and sometimes it is because a nominee declines and they go to the next person on the list.

And that’s just the beginning….

(2) TRAILER TIME. Disney Pixar has put out a full trailer for Toy Story 4.

Netflix has released its trailer for the third season of Stranger Things.

(3) WHEN TO EREWHON. The Erewhon Literary Salon will feature Ilana C. Myer and Nicholas Kaufmann on April 11. The readings will take place in the offices of independent speculative fiction publisher Erewhon Books in the Flatiron/NoMad district of Manhattan. To RSVP click here.

ILANA C. MYER has worked as a journalist in Jerusalem and a cultural critic for various publications. As Ilana Teitelbaum she has written book reviews and critical essays for The Globe and Mail, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Salon, and the Huffington Post. Last Song Before Night was her first novel, followed by Fire Dance. She lives in New York.

NICHOLAS KAUFMANN is the Bram Stoker Award-nominated, Thriller Award-nominated, and Shirley Jackson Award-nominated author of six novels and two short story collections. His short fiction has appeared in Cemetery Dance, Black Static, Nightmare Magazine, Dark Discoveries, and others. In addition to his own original work, he has written for such properties as Zombies vs. Robots and The Rocketeer. He lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife and two ridiculous cats.

(4) REGISTER ON THE RICHTER SCALE. Their ambition isn’t to end with a bang, but with a big “Cha-ching!” “CBS Seeks Up to $1.5 Million for Ads in ‘The Big Bang Theory’ Series Finale”.

The average cost for a 30-second ad in “Big Bang” for the current season hovers around $258,500, according to estimates from four media buyers. At $1.5 million, the price for a 30-second spot in the series finale would represent a 480% premium over current-season ad costs.

Yet series finales often draw bigger crowds than a normal episode. The last episode of “Seinfeld” drew 76 million viewers, for example, when NBC showed it on May 14, 1998. And the final original broadcast of “M*A*S*H” lured a whopping 105.9 million viewers when CBS ran it in 1983 – and remains one of the most-watched TV events of all time.

The cost to advertise in each of those shows was eye-popping: NBC sought between $1.4 million and $1.8 million for a 30-second spot in the “Seinfeld” ending, while CBS pressed for $450,000 to run a spot in the last broadcast of “M*A*S*H.”

(5) WHEN YOU GIVE AWAY THE STORE. Neil Clarke says the low percentage of readers who subscribe to or financially support sff magazines that make their fiction available free online (obviously) has a big impact on how staff/authors/artists are paid. Discussion thread starts here.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born March 20, 1932 Jack Cady. He won the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the Bram Stoker Award, an impressive feat indeed. McDowell’s Ghost gives a fresh spin on the trope of seeing seeing a War Between The States ghost, and The Night We Buried Road Dog is another ghost story set in early Sixties Montana. Underland Press printed all of his superb short fiction into two volumes, Phantoms: Collected Writings, Volume 1 and Fathoms: Collected Writings, Volume 2. (Died 2004.)
  • Born March 20, 1948 John de Lancie, 71. Best known for his role as Q in the Trek multiverse. He also was Jack O’Neill’s enemy Frank Simmons in Stargate SG-1. He has an impressive number of one-offs on genre shows including The Six Million Dollar ManBattlestar Galactica (1978 version), The New Twilight ZoneMacGyverMission: Impossible (Australian edition), Get Smart, Again!Batman: The Animated Series, Legend (if you’ve not seen it, go now and watch it) and I’m going to stop there. 
  • Born March 20, 1948 Pamela Sargent, 71. She has three exemplary series of which I think the Seed trilogy ilogy, a unique take on intergenerational colony ships. The other two series, the Venus trilogy about a women determined to terraform that world at all costs, and the Watchstar trilogy which I know nothing about. Nor have I read any of her one-off novels. 
  • Born March 20, 1950 William Hurt, 69. He made his first film appearance as a troubled scientist in Ken Russell’s Altered States, a career-making film indeed. He’s next up as Doug Tate in Alice, a Woody Allen film. Breaking his run of weird roles, he shows it’s that not bad really Lost in Space as Professor John Robinson. Dark City and the phenomenal role of Inspector Frank Bumstead follows for him. He was in A.I. Artificial Intelligence as Professor Allen Hobby and performed the character of William Marshal in Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood. Up next was horror film Hellgate and his role as Warren Mills, a lot more watchable than The Host, and Jebediah’s character from Winter’s Tale as adapted from the Mark Helprin novel was interesting as wax the entire film. His final, to date that is, is in Avengers: Infinity War as Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross. Two series roles of note, the first being in the SyFy Frank Herbert’s Dune as Duke Leto I Atreides. Confession: the digitized blue eyes bugged me so much that I couldn’t watch it. The other role worth noting is him as Hrothgar in Beowulf: Return to the Shieldlands
  • Born March 20, 1955 Nina Kiriki Hoffman, 64. Her first novel, The Thread That Binds the Bones, won the Bram Stoker Award for first novel. In addition, her short story “Trophy Wives” won a Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Other novels include The Silent Strength of Stones (a sequel to Thread), A Fistful of Sky, and A Stir of Bones. All are excellent. Most of her work has a strong sense of regionalism being set In California or the Pacific Northwest. 
  • Born March 20, 1958 Holly Hunter, 61. Voiced Helen Parr / Elastigirl In The Incredibles and The Incredibles 2. Also was in  Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as Senator Finch. Her very first film role was as Sophie in The Burning, a slasher film. 
  • Born March 20, 1963 David Thewlis, 56. His best-known roles to date have been that of Remus Lupin in the Harry Potter film franchise and Sir Patrick Morgan/Ares in Wonder Woman. He also voiced the Earthworm in the animated adaptation of Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach as envision by Tim Burton. Earthworms, werewolves, and war gods — great trifecta! 
  • Born March 20, 1974 Andrzej Pilipiuk, 45. Polish writer with two genre series currently, the most long running being the one involving Jakub W?drowycz, an alcoholic exorcist. The other is his Ksi??niczka series with three women: a more than thousand-year-old apparently teenage vampire, a three hundred or so year old alchemist-szlachcianka, and her relative, a former Polish secret agent from the CB?. 
  • Born March 20, 1979 Freema Agyeman, 40. Best known for playing Martha Jones in Doctor Who, companion to the Tenth Doctor. She reprised thot role briefly in Torchwood. She voiced her character on The Infinite Quest, an animated Doctor Who serial. Currently she’s on Sense8 as Amanita Caplan. And some seventeen years ago, she was involved in a live production of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld’s Lords and Ladies held in Rollright Stone Circle Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire. It was presented out of doors in the centre of two stone circles. 

(7) PEEPS STEM. Let Vox tell you “How crafters are using Peeps to explain science”.


“The Anatomy Lesson by Rembrandt Van Peep”

What don’t I love about this Peep science contest? A Museum of Natural Peepstory with a mastodon made of Peeps? No, I love it. A diorama of Peepola Tesla which was, according to its description, made by “two teens” with “no input or assistance” from any adults? No, I love it. A replica of the Apollo 11 lunar module surrounded by Peep astronauts, created by “Ben (age 7)” and the entry is captioned, “All peeps and marshmallow material were safely retired into Ben and his little sister’s stomach”? No, I love it!

…For the first annual Peep science contest, Mika McKinnon, a geophysicist and disaster researcher, submitted a cross-section of a landslide that took place in the town of Frank, Alberta, in 1903. “At 4:10 AM on April 29, 1903 on the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains, 30 million cubic meters of rock slammed down Turtle Mountain,” reads the horrifying description of the deadly event that, when acted out by Peeps, looks charming and delicious. “The 17 nightshift coal miners buried beneath the slide couldn’t reopen the sealed shaft, but instead dug along a coal seam. Just three withstood the increasingly toxic air to break free into the rubble, dragging the others to safety despite their shock over the altered land.” And true, there are 17 Peeps, all heroes.

“The problem with working with disasters is that it doesn’t always fit in light-hearted ideas,” McKinnon tells me. “If you’re going to do death and doom and destruction and Peeps, you have to find a way to do it that’s respectful to the situation and to history.” She chose the Frank landslide because it happened more than 100 years ago, and because in the midst of all the death and destruction, 17 night-shift coal miners managed to pull each other out of the dirt.

(8) BEAR NECESSITIES From 2015: “You can buy 8ft tall teddy bears and no one can handle it”.

They used to do a 53? bear but 4.5 feet of soft teddy loving just wasn’t enough. Hugbear is only suitable for those aged years three and above. Presumably because it would crush a small child. It costs £199.99 and, amazingly, delivery’s included.

(9) SKATING UP THE THAMES. BBC heralds news that “Frozen musical heads from Broadway to London’s West End” but Chip Hitchcock adds, “Just in case people across the pond care — Time Out‘s reaction to the NYC production amounts to ‘meh’.”

The stage adaptation of Frozen, which opened on Broadway early last year, is coming to London’s West End.

It will reopen the Drury Lane Theatre in Autumn 2020 after the theatre’s refurbishment, producers confirmed.

The musical is based on the 2013 Disney movie of the same name – the most successful animated film ever, with box office takings of more than £1.25bn,

The storyline of the musical is broadly the same as in the movie, but extra songs have been written for the stage.

Actors currently starring in the Broadway production will stay in New York, while a new British cast will appear in the West End.

(10) THE DEAL IS SEALED. “Disney Officially Owns 21st Century Fox” – got to love this lede:

Homer Simpson probably won’t become the newest member of the Avengers, but anything’s possible now that Disney owns 21st Century Fox.

One year after Disney announced the $71.3 billion merger, it’s finally official. The deal, which closed Wednesday at 12:02 a.m. eastern time, reshapes the media landscape and makes Disney an even greater entertainment behemoth. In bolstering its trove of characters and stories, the acquisition also puts Disney in a stronger position to take on Netflix and other streaming companies, when it launches its own service, Disney+, later this year.

Disney, which already owns the Pixar, Marvel and the Star Wars brands, will now also get Deadpool and the Fox-owned Marvel characters such as the X-Men and Fantastic Four, allowing for the full Marvel family to be united. Disney also now owns former Fox television networks such as FX Networks and National Geographic Partners. Disney will also get Fox’s 30 percent ownership of Hulu, giving Disney a controlling share of 60 percent.

(11) IF ONLY. This was mentioned in comments, but here’s the NPR story: “Economic Report Of The President … And Some Superhero Friends”.

With great power, comes great responsibility.

Or the chance to pull a practical joke.

Pranksters included some whimsical credits buried in the fine print of an annual White House economic report, making it seem that Peter Parker and Aunt May had joined the staff of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Spider-Man’s alter ego and his aunt are listed among the interns who contributed to the 705-page report, which is nearly a year in the making. Other high-profile interns listed include John Cleese of Monty Python fame, Star Trek character Kathryn Janeway and the uncaped Batman, Bruce Wayne — suggesting the CEA plays no favorites between the Marvel and DC Comics universes.

(12) PEBBLES IN THE SKY. “Hayabusa-2: Asteroid mission exploring a ‘rubble pile'”. “Brother Guy talked at Boskone about about remote findings that small asteroids aren’t solid,” remembers Chip Hitchcock. “Here’s a locally-confirmed example.”

The asteroid being explored by the Japanese mission Hayabusa-2 is a “rubble pile” formed when rocks were blasted off a bigger asteroid and came back together again.

The discovery means that asteroid Ryugu has a parent body out there somewhere, and scientists already have two candidates.

They have also found a chemical signature across the asteroid that can indicate the presence of water, but this needs confirmation.

Ryugu’s unusual shape is also a sign that it must have been spinning much faster in the past.

Scientists from the Japanese Space Agency (Jaxa) mission and from Nasa’s Osiris-Rex spacecraft, which is exploring a different asteroid called Bennu, have been presenting their latest findings at the 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) in The Woodlands, Texas.

(13) EXPLAINING THAT PANCAKE MAKEUP. “New Horizons: Ultima Thule ‘a time machine’ to early Solar System” – BBC has the story.

Scientists are getting closer to understanding how the distant object known as Ultima Thule came to be.

Nasa’s New Horizons spacecraft flew by the 35km-long world on 1 January at a distance of 3,500km.

It’s made up of two distinct pieces that once orbited each other before colliding at a gentle speed, team members told a major US conference.

The scientists may also be close to understanding why it’s flattened like a pancake, rather than spherical.

(14) WROUGHTEN TO THE CORE. Readers of old SF may recall Heinlein’s rolling Stones sifting through asteroids trying to find core: “Psyche: Metal world mission targets ‘iron volcanoes'”.

Up until now, the worlds we’ve visited with robotic spacecraft have been composed largely of rock, ice and gas.

But a Nasa mission due to launch in 2022 will visit an object thought to be made largely of metal.

…A widely held idea is that 16 Psyche is the exposed core of an extinct world, perhaps as large as Mars. This proto-planet must have been pounded by other objects, removing the rocky outer layers and leaving just the iron-nickel innards prone to the vacuum of space.

So, while we can’t directly study the Earth’s core, 16 Psyche provides an opportunity to study one in outer space.

(15) OLYMPIC ROBOTS. Maybe not in the events themselves, but everywhere else: “Tokyo 2020: Robots to feature at Olympic and Paralympic Games”.

Sporting events rely on having an army of volunteers to help them run smoothly but Tokyo 2020 will be a little different – robots will be helping out.

The Tokyo 2020 Robot Project will assist wheelchair users at the Olympic Stadium with robots carrying food and drink and providing event information.

Power assisted suits will also be used at venues and athlete villages.

The suits are designed to ease human workload and will be used to move heavy objects and for waste disposal.

“This project will not simply be about exhibiting robots but showcasing their practical real-life deployment helping people,” Hirohisa Hirukawa, leader of the project said.

“So there will be not only sports at the Tokyo 2020 Games, but some cool robots at work to look forward to as well.

(16) VIRAL VIDEO. Yesterday’s news that dormant viruses reactivate during spaceflight inspired this sketch on Late Night with Stephen Colbert.

The original Star Trek cast suffers a new and very visible indignity…

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

Pixel Scroll 2/7/19 “What Are You In For?” “Littering.” And They All Moved Away From Me. “And Making A Nuisance.”

(1) TWO CIXIN LIU MOVIES BATTLE FOR TOP BOX OFFICE. A pair of films based on the work of Cixin Liu recorded the top box office grosses in mainland China over the Chinese New Year.

Popular Chinese director Ning Hao has seen his comedy fantasy film “Crazy Alien” gross more than $100 million at the mainland China box office after just two days on release during the Chinese New Year holiday period. It’s the highest two-day total for any film in the Middle Kingdom so far this year.

The milestone was passed at around 8 p.m. on Wednesday. By 10 p.m., the film’s accumulated gross had advanced to $101 million (RMB680 million), according to website China Box Office.

The film is about a zookeeper who finds an unusual animal and takes it home. There he discovers that the creature is in fact an extraterrestrial, but getting rid of it may be problematic.

China’s first homegrown sci-fi epic, The Wandering Earth, is continuing its upwards trajectory. After opening at No. 4 on Tuesday, the start of the Chinese New Year, it gained traction on Wednesday to move into the No. 2 spot, and today, it led the daily Middle Kingdom box office.

With an estimated additional RMB 342M ($50.7M) on Thursday, the increase from yesterday was about 33% for a local cume of RMB 800M ($118.6M). That still lags about $20M behind Crazy Alien‘s cume, though it should quickly make up the difference after Crazy Alien had led the first two days of the Lunar New Year period. The Wandering Earth‘s performance is testament to the positive buzz being generated by the $50M pic, which stars Wolf Warrior 2’s Wu Jing in a race against time to save the planet’s population.

(2) RETCON. Maybe you think you’ve painted yourself into a corner but Robert Woods knows lots of tricks to get out of these situations – “‘Retcon’: How To Rewrite Details In An Ongoing Series” at Standout Books.

Secrets, lies and errors in judgement

The easiest way to add or remove details from a story is to undermine those elements that contradict the new canon. In Stars Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope¸ Obi-Wan Kenobi tells Luke Skywalker that his father was a skilled pilot betrayed and killed by the evil Darth Vader. Later in the series, it’s revealed that Vader is Luke’s father and that Obi-Wan knew all along.

Creator George Lucas has claimed that he always knew Vader was Luke’s father, but fans point to a host of evidence that this wasn’t the case when the scene was written. If they’re right, Lucas had no problem retconning his decision later, since the information that stood in his way came from a single source. When it’s time to reveal that Vader is Luke’s father, Obi-Wan admits he lied, hiding the truth to try to influence Luke’s reaction.

This is the easiest way to retcon information out of a story – someone lied, omitted key details, implied something that wasn’t true, or thought they were telling the truth but were wrong. Sometimes, this means adding additional information to give characters a reason to have lied, but since all this takes place in the realm of character motivations and interactions, it can even serve to enliven a story, and it might inspire new directions, as in the Star Wars prequel films….

(3) KOREAN SF. Neil Clarke announced Clarkesworld’s opportunity to expand its program of sf in translation: “Clarkesworld Receives Grant to Publishing Korean Science Fiction”.

In May 2015, Clarkesworld published “An Evolutionary Myth” by Bo-Young Kim, translated from Korean by Gord Sellar and Jihyun Park. I am pleased to announce that Clarkesworld Magazine has now received a grant from the Literature Translation Institute of Korea (LTI Korea) to translate and publish nine more Korean science fiction stories in 2019.

The process for selection and translation of stories will be similar to the model developed for Clarkesworld‘s Chinese translation project, which has recently celebrated its fourth anniversary. In that model, a group of people serve as a recommendation team that will provide story notes and details to Neil Clarke for evaluation and selection. Stories will then be confirmed for English language availability, contracted, and assigned to one of several translators.

(4) HOLD THE CAKE! In theory a new edition of The Best of R.A. Lafferty was released by Gollancz today. Except it wasn’t.

(5) READ THIS, NOT THAT. But yesterday Tor.com published Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut story “Articulated Restraint”.

He took a slow breath. “No one is dead. A ship returning from the moon had a retrorocket misfire while docking with Lunetta yesterday evening.”

“Oh God.” Scores of people worked on the Lunetta orbiting platform. People she knew. And Eugene Lindholm, her partner for today’s run—his wife would have been on the lunar rocket. Ruby played bridge with Myrtle and Eugene. She turned, looking for the tall black man among the people working by the pool. He was at the stainless steel bench, running through his checklist with tight, controlled motions. No one was dead, but if the Meteor had taught the world anything, death wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to someone. “How bad?”

(6) FANHISTORY RESOURCE. Peter Balestrieri, Curator, Science Fiction and Popular Culture Collections at University of Iowa Libraries has announced —

The Daniel McPhail Correspondence Collection is now processed and ready for research http://aspace.lib.uiowa.edu/repositories/2/resources/2836. This includes around 500 letters and post cards sent by the biggest names in fandom and the pros, starting around 1930. It’s not digitized but digitized copies of individual letters are available on request http://aspace.lib.uiowa.edu/repositories/2/resources/2836.

McPhail was one of the earliest sf fans (1929). He co-edited a magazine called The Original Idea with Jim Speer (Jack’s older brother). In 1936 he founded the Oklahoma Scientifiction Association. An early member of the Fantasy Amateur Press Association (FAPA), McPhail introduced the Mailing Comment –which, if you’ve ever belonged to an apa, you know that’s what everyone hopes their contribution will inspire. File 770 published McPhail’s obituary in 1984.

(7) JOSHI FELLOWSHIP. There’s a name I don’t associate with fellowship, nevertheless — The John Hay Library at Brown University invites applications for its 2019-2020 The S. T. Joshi Endowed Research Fellowship for research relating to H.P. Lovecraft, his associates, and literary heirs. The application deadline is March 15, 2019.

The Hay Library is home to the largest collection of H. P. Lovecraft materials in the world, and also holds the archives of Clark Ashton Smith, Karl Edward Wagner, Manly Wade Wellman, Analog Magazine, Caitlín Kiernan, and others.

The Joshi Fellowship, established by The Aeroflex Foundation and Hippocampus Press, is intended to promote scholarly research using the world-renowned resources on H. P. Lovecraft, science fiction, and horror at the John Hay Library. The Fellowship provides a monthly stipend of $1,500 for up to two months of research at the library between July 2019 and June 2020. The fellowship is open to individuals engaged in pre- and post-doctoral, or independent research.

(8) HOW TO AFFORD AN EDITOR. Authors who want their manuscripts worked on by a professional an editor know they have to come up with the bucks to pay them. There have been a couple of threads recently filled with more-or-less serious advice about ways “broke” writers can foot the bill. C.L. Polk’s begins here.

Fred Coppersmith’s less serious thread begins here.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

February 7, 1940 — Walt Disney’s movie Pinocchio debuted. Guillermo del Toro’s version might be slightly darker.

(10) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born February 7, 1812 Charles Dickens. Author of more genre fiction according to ISFDB than I knew. There’s A Christmas Carol that I’ve seen performed lived myriad times but they also list The Chimes: A Goblin Story of Some Bells That Rang an Old Year Out and a New Year InThe Cricket on the Hearth: A Fairy Tale of HomeThe Battle of Life, The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain and The Christmas Books. Somewhere there being overly broad in defining genre perhaps? (Died 1870.)
  • Born February 7, 1908 Buster Crabbe. He also played the title role in the Tarzan the Fearless, Flash Gordon, and Buck Rogers series in the Thirties, the only person to do though other actors played some of those roles.  He would show up in the Seventies series Buck Rogers in the 25th Century as a retired fighter pilot named Brigadier Gordon. (Died 1983.)
  • Born February 7, 1913 Henry Hasse. Best known for being the co-author of Ray Bradbury’s first published story, “Pendulum”, which appeared in November 1941 in Super Science Stories. ISFDB lists a single novel by him, The Stars Will Wait, and some fifty short stories if I’m counting correctly. (Died 1977.)
  • Born February 7, 1929Alejandro Jodorowsky, 90. The Universe has many weird things in it such as this film, Jodorowsky’s Dune. It looks at his unsuccessful attempt to film Dune in the mid-1970s. He’s also has created a sprawling SF fictional universe, beginning with the Incal, illustrated by the cartoonist Jean Giraud which is rooted in their work for the Dune project which is released as comics.
  • Born February 7, 1941 Kevin Crossley-Holland, 78. Best known for his Arthur trilogy consisting of The Seeing Stone, At the Crossing-Places, and King of the Middle March. I really liked their perspective of showing a medieval boy’s development from a page to a squire and finally to a knight. Highly recommended. 
  • Born February 7, 1949 Alan Grant, 70. He’s best known for writing Judge Dredd in 2000 AD as well as various Batman titles from the late 1980s to the early 2000s.  If you can find it, there’s a great Batman / Judge Dredd crossover “Judgement on Gotham” that he worked on. His recent work has largely been for small independents including his own company. 
  • Born February 7, 1950 Karen Joy Fowler, 69. Her first work was “Recalling Cinderella” in L Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future, Vol I. Her later genre works are Sarah Canary, the Black Glass collection and  the novel The Jane Austen Book Club, is not SF though SF plays a intrinsic role in it, and two short works of hers, “Always” and ““The Pelican Bar” won significant Awards. Her latest genre novel, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, is being adored far and wide. 
  • Born February 7, 1950 Margaret Wander Bonanno, 69. She written seven Star Trek novels, several science fiction novels set in her own worlds, including The Others, a novel with Nichelle Nichols. In putting together this Birthday, several sources noted that she had disavowed writing her Trek novels because of excessive editorial meddling by the publisher. She self-published Music of the Spheres, her unapproved version of Probe, the official publication. According to her, Probe has less than ten per cent of the content of her version.
  • Born February 7, 1960James Spader, 59. Most recently he did the voice and motion-capture for Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron. No I did not enjoy that film. Before that, he played Stewart Swinton in Wolf, a Jack Nicholson endeavour. Then of course he was Daniel Jackson in Stargate,  a film I still enjoy though I think the series did get it better. He then plays Nick Vanzant in Supernova andJulian Rome in Alien Hunter. 
  • Born February 7, 1985 Deborah Ann Woll, 34. She is known for her roles as the vampire Jessica Hamby in True Blood, and Karen Page in Daredevil, The Defenders, and The Punisher.she also played Molly in the horror film Little Murder and Amanda Harper in Escape Room, another horror film. 

(11) COMICS SECTION.

  • Basic Instructions explains the structure of ST:TNG episodes.
  • Tom Gauld has ideas for future weather forecasts.

(12) QUARTERS, WITH MORE OR LESS BITS. Writing for The Mary Sue—and using floor plans that were on Angie’s List—Kaila Hale-Stern takes a look at six different Captain’s quarters from the various Star Trek series (“Let’s Judge These Star Trek Captains’ Quarters”). Welcome to Kirk’s, Picard’s, Sisko’s, Janeway’s, Archer’s, and Lorca’s abodes.

We’ve had several beloved Starfleet Captains, but how are they sleeping at night? Journey with me into the final frontier of Star Trek Captains’ quarters, and let’s see who had the sweetest floor plan.

Courtesy of a post by home services site Angie’s List, we now have detailed layouts to pore over. They created floor plans of our Captains’ quarters, starting with Kirk’s in The Original Series to Archer’s on EnterpriseDiscovery is a bit trickier Captain-wise, since we only have the late unlamented Lorca’s rooms for reference—but maybe Pike will show us where he lays his head in the future.

(13) DON’T SHUSH THEM. Let us go then, you and I, / When the evening is spread out against the sky / Like a patient etherized upon a table… “Brian Blessed among stars brightening up library speaker system”.

Library closing time is ringing out to the sound of Brian Blessed after a host of celebrities recorded their voices for the building’s loudspeaker system.

Manchester Central Library has recruited the Flash Gordon actor and other stars to bring a showbiz feel to its public information announcements.

Former Coronation Street actress Julie Hesmondhalgh and ex-England footballer Gary Neville are also onboard.

The quirky bespoke broadcasts will run for two weeks, the city council said.

(14) PTERRY WOULD BE PROUD. BBC tells why — “Climate change: ‘Future proofing’ forests to protect orangutans”.

A study has identified key tree species that are resilient to climate change and support critically endangered apes.

Planting them could help future proof rainforests, which are a key habitat for orangutans, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature – IUCN.

Researchers surveyed 250 plants in Indonesia’s Kutai National Park.

Over 1,000 orangutans are thought to inhabit the park, as well as other rare animals such as the Malayan sun bear.

“Selecting which species to plant is a significant contribution to restoring the health of this ecosystem,” said study co-author Douglas Sheil.

“Of course, the reasons why forest cover was lost in the first place must also be addressed for reforestation efforts to succeed.”

(15) NAMING A ROVER. They didn’t pick “Blood” — “Rosalind Franklin: Mars rover named after DNA pioneer”.

The UK-assembled rover that will be sent to Mars in 2020 will bear the name of DNA pioneer Rosalind Franklin.

The honour follows a public call for suggestions that drew nearly 36,000 responses from right across Europe.

Astronaut Tim Peake unveiled the name at the Airbus factory in Stevenage where the robot is being put together.

The six-wheeled vehicle will be equipped with instruments and a drill to search for evidence of past or present life on the Red Planet.

Giving the rover a name associated with a molecule fundamental to biology seems therefore to be wholly appropriate

(16) A PERSONAL CATASTROPHE. While trying to “upgrade their toilet facility” there was a water leak on the International Space Station (“ISS Suffers Toilet Malfunction, Leaks Water Everywhere”). Earthbound DIY plumbers can probably sympathize.

The toilet onboard the ISS was installed in 2008, during one of the last space shuttle missions. It’s based on a design that’s about as old as the ISS itself, so it was in need of some improvement. The ISS astronauts were trying to install that improvement when something went wrong. 

According to a NASA blog, the ISS crew were trying to install the new Universal Waste Management System, a next-gen toilet system that’s supposed to be smaller, lighter, cleaner, and more efficient than what they have now.  […]

The aforementioned 1 February 2019 NASA blog explains:

Universal Waste Management System (UWMS):

The crew successfully installed a new double stall enclosure within Node 3 today. During the activity, the crew experienced a water leak while de-mating a Quick Disconnect (QD) for the potable water bus. Approximately 9.5 liters leaked before the bus was isolated by MCC-H flight controllers. The crew worked quickly to re-mate the leaky QD and soak up the water with towels. An alternate QD was then de-mated in order to continue with the installation. The new concept, referred to as the Universal Waste Management System (UWMS), includes favorable features from previous designs while improving on other areas from Space Shuttle and the existing ISS Waste Collection System (WCS) hardware. This double stall enclosure provides privacy for both the Toilet System and the Hygiene Compartment. The starboard side will provide access to the existing toilet and the port side will be used for hygiene until new replacement Toilet System arrives in early 2020.

Mopping up 2.5 gallons of water is hard enough with gravity to collect it all on the floor for you,

(17) GET MY BETTER SIDE. NASA has taken a candid snapshot of the neighbors (NASA: “First Look: Chang’e Lunar Landing Site”). The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter has spotted the landing site of China’s Chang’e 4 lander on the back side of the Moon. The LRO wasn’t close enough to picture the whole Chang’e 4 “family”—the tiny rover is just too small for the camera to pick up.

On Jan. 3, 2019, the Chinese spacecraft Chang’e 4 safely landed on the floor of the Moon’s Von Kármán crater (186 kilometer diameter, 116 miles). Four weeks later (Jan. 30, 2019), as NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter approached the crater from the east, it rolled 70 degrees to the west to snap this spectacular view looking across the floor toward the west wall. Because LRO was 330 kilometers (205 miles) to the east of the landing site, the Chang’e 4 lander is only about two pixels across (bright spot between the two arrows), and the small rover is not detectable. The massive mountain range in the background is the west wall of Von Kármán crater, rising more than 3,000 meters (9,850 feet) above the floor.

(18) FUTURE OF ENTERTAINMENT. The future of musical concerts—is it to be folded inside games? Blockbuster shoot-em-up game Fortnite recently called a cease fire and staged a concert (The Verge: “Fortnite’s Marshmello concert was a bizarre and exciting glimpse of the future”).

Even if you’re not a huge fan of electronic music or have never heard of the EDM producer Marshmello, Fortnite’s live in-game concert was still a shockingly stunning sight to behold — it was also an unprecedented moment in gaming. It truly felt like a glimpse into the future of interactive entertainment, where the worlds of gaming, music, and celebrity combined to create a virtual experience we’ve never quite seen before. 

At 2PM ET [2 February], every one of the likely tens of millions of players of Epic Games’ battle royale title were transported to a virtual stage. There, Christopher Comstock — who goes by the DJ name Marshmello and is known best for his signature food-shaped helmet — began a 10-minute mini-set, all while while up to 60 players across thousands of individual matches were able to watch live. Epic, having learned from past one-time live events like its iconic rocket launch and its most recent freezing over of the entire game map, smartly launched a special game mode specifically for the show. 

Based on its team rumble mode, it allowed players to respawn if they were taken out by an especially rude enemy trying to spoil the fun. Going even further, however, Epic disabled the ability to use weapons for the entirety of the 10-minute event, which ensured that everyone could have a front-row seat to the spectacle. 

(19) DON’T TELL ME. Matthew Johnson’s song parody is a mite long for a Scroll title, so I’ll salute it here:

Counting pixels on the scroll, that don’t bother me at all
Playing D&D ’til dawn, with my twenty-sideds gone
Eating soylent green and watching Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Now don’t tell me I can’t go back in time

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

Pixel Scroll 1/31/19 No Screaming While The Scroll Is In Motion!

(1) MARVEL AT MOPOP. Ellie Farrell had a photo taken with a friend during her visit to MoPop’s Marvel exhibit in Seattle. Opened last Spring, the exhibit continues through March 3.

(2) SFF DOES WORK TOO. Charlie Jane Anders, in a Washington Post opinion piece “Kamala Harris is wrong about science fiction”, takes issue with Sen. Kamala Harris’s claim that “we need facts, not science fiction” to deal with climate change, saying that “science fiction creators have been doing some soul-searching that includes looking for ways we can do more to restore people’s faith in the future” in dealing with climate change, “the global crisis of democracy,” and “attacks on LGBTQ people’s right to exist.”

Sen. Kamala D. Harris was half right in her speech launching her 2020 presidential campaign when she said we need to address climate change based on “science fact, not science fiction.” The truth is, we need both. Science fiction has an important role to play in rescuing the future from the huge challenges we’re facing — and the responses to Harris’s statement illustrate this perfectly.

When the California Democrat’s statement about climate change went out on social media, a number of people pointed out the truth: Science fiction has been helping us to prepare for a world of potentially disastrous climate upheaval for years. But an equal number of loud voices took issue with Harris’s warnings about climate change, because in our post-truth era, the scientific consensus about what humans are doing to our planet is still somehow a matter of opinion.

And that’s why science fiction is more important than Harris gives it credit for. No amount of scientific evidence will convince deniers — or the vast number of people who merely live in a state of denial. We live in an era in which facts and fiction are blurring into an indistinguishable mess and power belongs to whoever can tell the best story, true or not. No one can even tell what’s real anymore, and what matters is just how something makes us feel — which is why we need better stories, that, in the words of author Neil Gaiman, “lie in order to tell the truth.”

(3) SATIRE CONSIDERED. Anita Sarkeesian’s Feminist Frequency podcast for January 30 takes a look back at the original Starship Troopers movie:

You’re going to love this week’s phenomenal conversation about Starship Troopers (1997) with special guests Mary Robinette Kowal and Max Temkin! Tune in for a thought-provoking discussion (and very amicable disagreement) about how successfully the film executes its satire of fascist military fantasies. Just what are the possibilities and limits of satire? What can director Paul Verhoeven’s career tell us about this “pointed critique of American imperialism”? And exactly how long will it take Anita to remember the name of the game Spec Ops without Carolyn to help?

(4) YA UPROAR CONTINUES. On Facebook, Nick Mamatas delved into the questions surrounding Amélie Wen Zhao’s decision to pull Blood Heir (reported in yesterday’s Scroll). His post is quoted with permission:

A YA novel called BLOOD HEIR, which sounds entirely awful, has been pulled from publication by its author Amélie Wen Zhao after complaints of plagiarism, poor “Russian rep” as it was put, and anti-blackness from YA twitter aficionadi:

1. Definitely messed up Russian naming conventions—though I am happy to point out that many of the same people complaining about this book are thrilled to go see the next Avengers film, and even agitated in the past for more action figures of the Black Widow in her sexy bodysuit (you know, for young girls!), called wrongly Natasha Romanoff in the films. So there is definitely a power relationship here; this is at least partially a game of “let’s flex on the new girl” while queueing up to consume a billion dollars worth of slop from the Disney hog trough.

2. Haven’t seen any screencaps actually demonstrating plagiarism except for a single sentence (“Don’t go where I can’t follow.”) In cases like this, often people casually use the term to mean “cliché” or even “genre trope.” Frankly if people don’t like clichés and genre tropes, they shouldn’t be reading children’s literature. That said, I may have just messed the presentation of textual evidence. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a ton of plagiarism.

3. The author claims that her interest was exploring indenture as it is currently practiced in China and Asia; her critics complain that a major scene involves a black-coded girl with ocean-light eyes being auctioned off, and then dying while the main character sings her a lullaby. Sounds entirely awful. I think this is also a bit of what people mean by plagiarism—this character has been identified as smacking of Rue from HUNGER GAMES. The critics definitely seem to have a point.

4. As is common, moralism abounds. I’ve certainly seen more than one note fretting aloud that CHILDREN and the YOUTH will read this book and thus be exposed to its anti-blackness. Of course, all the right-wingers rallying against the “SJW mobs” and promising the author that *they* would read the book, ya know, to triggerown the shitlibs or whatever, are lying and performing their own version of “virtue signaling” as they call it. None of those kobolds would ever read a thing that doesn’t feature a photo of the author on a red-white-and-blue background.

I think the issue of Blood Heir was that it was trafficking in racist cliches and daring to do so with only a mere publishing company and not a giant media complex behind it. I’ll always feel a thrill when an author is punished for laziness and top-of-mind decision-making, but let’s be clear: moralism itself is a cliché as well, even when it’s left-moralism. YA twitter is absolutely a Pretty Person Club and Zhao was this year’s scapegoat. But Zhao’s crime of auctorial laziness is just one more datum point showing how sadly inadequate the acquisition and editorial process in big publishing is.

And Arthur Cover has written a public letter to Zhao which says in part –

I just wrote this letter to a young author named Amelie Zhao, who withdrew her YA fantasy novel from publication because of negative comments on line…. Obviously I feel very strongly about this….

A novel cannot be all things to all people. At least one comment on your novel that I read was from a person who felt it insufficiently validated his/her ideas about slavery and villains using a cane. Often when a character uses a cane it is symbolic of something and is not a commentary on people who use a cane in real life. Readers who can’t tell the difference aren’t your concern.

Decades ago I was in a conversation with Samuel R. Delany and when he learned that a writing class was divided equally on the merits of one of his stories, he was quite pleased. He knew he’d accomplished something because of the class’s reaction.

Do not stop. Please reconsider your decision regarding your novel. These critics (and I’ve been a nasty one) are throwing spitballs at a battleship….

(5) AUDIO PALS. In the Washington Post, Karen Heller has a piece about authors and their audiobook readers, “‘I can write the words. He supplies the melody’: The harmonious bond between authors and audiobook narrators”. Two of the authors Heller interviews are genre writers:  five-time Bram Stoker Award nominee Jonathan Maberry, who says he now hears the voice of his audiobook reader, Ray Porter, in his head when he’s writing, and Canadian urban fantasy writer Kevin Hearne, who liked narrator Luke Daniels so much they’ve worked together on independent projects.

Jonathan Maberry, a fiercely prolific author of often frightening novels, hears voices rattling in his head. Specifically, one voice, that of actor Ray Porter, who narrates his audiobooks. A five-time Bram Stoker Award winner, Maberry would “imagine how Ray would inflect certain things, and I started to write toward his performance.” Be it horror, thrillers, science fiction, young adult and middle grade fiction, almost three dozen novels since 2006 — this is not a typo, and excludes anthologies, short stories and comics — Porter, without contributing a word, has helped Maberry accomplish the goal of most writers: selling more books. Says Maberry, “We’re very much a team.”

(6) NEW FAN FUND IDEA. Marcin Klak has written a proposal for creating a European Fan Fund to allow people from different countries to attend Eurocon. His draft of the rules and the winner’s responsibilities begins —

Purpose: The purpose of the Fan Fund is to create and strengthen bonds between European fans and fandoms. Currently in almost every country there is a fandom that quite often has small or no connection to the broader European fandom. Most fans do concentrate on the “here and now” and are not looking for friends in other countries.

The idea: A delegate would be elected by fans across Europe to travel to Eurocon. The delegate must offer to have a talk about fandom in their country. The delegate should also offer their participation as a guest in the Eurocon Awards ceremony, Opening ceremony and Closing ceremony. Any other help from the delegate should be encouraged. It will be for the Eurocon organizers to accept that help to the extent that suits them.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 31, 1923 Norman Mailer. I never knew he wrote in the genre but he did. Ancient Evenings certainly has the elements of fantasy and The Castle in the Forest is interesting retelling of Adolf Hitler and his last days. (Died 2007.)
  • Born January 31, 1937 Philip Glass, 82. 1000 Airplanes on the Roof: A Science Fiction Music-DramaEinstein on the BeachThe Making of the Representative for Planet 8 (with a libretto by Doris Lessing based on her novel of the same name), The marriages between zones three, four, and five (1997, libretto by Doris Lessing, after her second novel from Canopus in Argos), The Witches of Venice and The Juniper Tree would be a fragmentary listing of his works that have a genre bias.   
  • Born January 31, 1960 Grant Morrison, 59. If you can find it, his early stuff on such U.K. publishers as Galaxy Media and Harrier Comics is worth searching out. Not your hero in tights materials at all. For his work in that venue, I’d recommend his run on The Resurrection of Ra’s al Ghul, all of his Doom Patrol work (and the DC Universe series this fall is based on his work), Seven Soldiers and his weird The Multiversity
  • Born January 31, 1977 Kerry Washington, 42. Alicia Masters in Fantastic Four and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Also played Medical Officer Marissa Brau in  30,000 Leagues Under the Sea. She voices Natalie Certain in Care 3. She also voices Princess Shuri in a short run Black Panther series. 

(8) MR. & MRS. Bill writes, “The 1/29 scroll item about Tiptree got me to looking things up, and I found the attached” – a bit of social news from the Chicago Tribune for January 24, 1946. Definitely still news to me.

(9) WRONG ON JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter spotted another bad guess on tonight’s episode of Jeopardy!

Category: Scribbling Siblings

Answer: Aviation writer Robert Serling helped little bro Rod with “The Odyssey of Flight 33” episode of this series.

Wrong answer: What is “Star Trek”?

(10) GALAPAGOS AIR FORCE. BBC tells how “Drones help Galapagos tackle rat infestation”.

Drones are helping conservationists rid one Galapagos island of an infestation of rats threatening indigenous birds.

The drones have dropped poison on more than half of North Seymour Island in a bid to kill off the invasive species.

The island’s rare birds nest on the ground and their numbers are being depleted by the rodent invasion.

The drones work much faster and more cheaply than helicopters which have been used in similar rat eradication projects elsewhere.

(11) TRACING CLIMATE HISTORY. Researchers think “America colonisation ‘cooled Earth’s climate’”.

Colonisation of the Americas at the end of the 15th Century killed so many people, it disturbed Earth’s climate.

That’s the conclusion of scientists from University College London, UK.

The team says the disruption that followed European settlement led to a huge swathe of abandoned agricultural land being reclaimed by fast-growing trees and other vegetation.

This pulled down enough carbon dioxide (CO?) from the atmosphere to eventually chill the planet.

It’s a cooling period often referred to in the history books as the “Little Ice Age” – a time when winters in Europe would see the Thames in London regularly freeze over.

“The Great Dying of the Indigenous Peoples of
the Americas led to the abandonment of enough cleared land that the resulting terrestrial carbon uptake had a detectable impact on both atmospheric CO? and global surface air temperatures,” Alexander Koch and colleagues write in their paper published in Quaternary Science Reviews.

(12) THE ELEPHANT (SEAL) IN THE ROOM. Look what happens when those pesky humans aren’t around — “Seals take over California beach closed in US shutdown”.

A large herd of elephant seals has taken over a beach in California that was forced to close during the government shutdown.

The seals took advantage of the 35-day shutdown to make themselves at home on Drakes Beach, and in its car park.

So far they have been spotted lying on their stomachs, taking naps and occasionally snuggling their pups.

The beach will remain closed until the seals decide to move on – although it’s not clear when that will be.

(13) HELP WANTED. There’s a job vacancy in Gotham: “Ben Affleck signals Batman departure”.

Holy recasting, Batman! The search is on for a new Dark Knight following Ben Affleck’s apparent confirmation that he is hanging up his Bat cape.

The actor effectively said as much by retweeting a story saying Matt Reeves’ The Batman would be made without him.

“Excited for #TheBatman in Summer 2021 and to see @MattReevesLA vision come to life,” Affleck wrote.

The 46-year-old first appeared as the comic book superhero in 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

(14) DEATH RIDES A BOBBLEHEAD. Matt Monaghan, in “The Dia de Los Dodgers Skull Bobblehead is Amazing”  on Cut4 has one of the all-time greatest fantasy bobbleheads EVER.

Bobblehead nights happen all the time at baseball games. Already this year, there’s been one for a nun, one for Pitbull and one for a bald eagle that flew into a pitcher’s face. But during Wednesday’s Rockies-Dodgers game, we may have found the coolest bobblehead ever: The Dia de Los Dodgers sugar skull bobblehead.

(15) STAN LEE GIVEN POSTHUMOUS KEY TO THE CITY. Hey, it’s LA. L. Ron Hubbard put out books here for years after he died. Who’s to say Stan won’t get some use from it? That was just part of what happened at the celebrity-studded tribute to Stan Lee on Wednesday night: “Stan Lee’s Friends and Fans Pay Tearful, Funny Tribute to Their ‘Generalissimo’” in The Hollywood Reporter.

…Hosting the show was Lee’s long-time friend and fan, filmmaker Kevin Smith, who was sure to note that Lee was “one of the best humans to ever walk the Earth” before inviting everyone to enter the theater. The theater itself was transformed into a monument to the man, with some of his most beloved comics on display, from the first appearance of Spider-Man and Black Panther to some of the most iconic adventures of the Fantastic Four. Costumes from the Sony-led Spider-Man films were displayed inside glass cases, but it was the energy in the room that truly punctuated the evening.

Smith put it best at the beginning of the tribute: “This is not a funeral, though he’s gone. This is a celebration! That’s how religions start. We all agree that we saw him tonight and that he’s no longer gone. Stan’s spirit is here with us.” With all the outpourings of love in the room, it’d be hard to argue otherwise. Copious footage of Lee played throughout the evening, including a touching clip of him singing “Cocktails for Two”, with all the energy of someone in their twenties, as his embarrassed assistants set up his microphone.

Smith kicked off the evening with the story of how he met Stan for his movie Mallrats and the grand efforts it took to convince the then less-recognizable legend to appear in his film after Lee read the script and remarked “I would never say this.” Smith admitted that Lee himself was never quite accepting or aware of his successes, despite his put on braggadocio. “This was a guy who spent his life dreaming of writing the great American novel, and he didn’t realize that he had been successful and fulfilled his dreams one-thousand times over,” Smith said. Smith himself admitted that “it was hard to understand that we were friends” before eventually coming to realize just how much Lee loved him.

…Perhaps the biggest moment of the night came with the appearance of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who detailed Lee’s love affair with L.A. before running through a detailed catalogue of his own nerdiness, including a proclamation that no one could offer him enough money to let go of his complete collection of original copies of the Wolverine comic series. Garcetti made it clear, “Stan Lee was a mensch who always fought for the underdog”, before presenting Stan’s former company Stan Lee’s POW! Entertainment with Garcetti’s third ever “Key to the City”, carved from a fallen tree and engraved with Stan’s image and catchphrase “Excelsior!”

(16) IN THE SPIRIT OF IAIN M. BANKS. A funny thread about pet names for weaponry – begins here.

(17) DEALING WITH A FOOD EVANGELIST. “Dear Mother Goose”, an advice column for children’s book characters, by Slate’s Emma Span. Here’s the problem, click to read Mother’s answer:

Dear Mother Goose,

I am being aggressively pursued by someone (I’ll call him S.I.A.) who is bizarrely obsessed with getting me to eat “green eggs and ham.” He has offered no explanation of where the ham and eggs came from, why they are green, or why he cares if I eat them. I have calmly and clearly turned him down, but he is following me everywhere, carrying a plate of food, which by now is cold, dirty, and wet as well as green. Nevertheless, S.I.A. thinks I might like the food. He has brought a mouse, a fox, and a goat to me, as if that would change my mind. We were even involved in a boating accident because of his behavior….

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

Pixel Scroll 1/18/19 Learn To Scroll The Pixelphone, I File Just What I Feel, Drink Straight Tully All Night Long, And Filk Behind The Wheel

(1) AMAZON SAYS THEY’RE NOT TO BLAME. “Amazon hits back at claims it is to blame for falling author earnings”The Guardian has the story.

Amazon has called the conclusions of a recent report into US author earnings flawed, after the Authors Guild suggested that the retail giant’s dominance could be partly responsible for the “a crisis of epic proportions” affecting writers in the US.

The report from the writers’ body, published last week, highlighted the statistic that median income from writing-related work fell to $6,080 (£4,730) in 2017, down 42% from 2009, with literary authors particularly affected. Raising “serious concerns about the future of American literature”, the writers’ body singled out the growing dominance of Amazon for particular blame. “Amazon (which now controls 72% of the online book market in the US) puts pressure on [publishers] to keep costs down and takes a large percentage, plus marketing fees, forcing publishers to pass on their losses to authors,” said the report.

But on Wednesday, Amazon took issue with the report’s conclusions. “The Authors Guild has acknowledged that there are significant differences between the data it compared in its recent survey and years prior, noting that ‘the data does not line up’,” said an Amazon statement. “As a result, many of the survey’s conclusions are flawed or contradictory. For instance, the survey also shows that earnings increased almost 17% for traditionally published authors and 89% for independent [self-published] authors, and that full-time authors saw their median income rise 13% since 2013.”

(2) OVERSAUCED. Cora Buhlert wrote an emphatic dissent from Lee Konstantinou’s Slate article “Something Is Broken in Our Science Fiction” (linked in the Scroll a few days ago). Buhlert’s post is titled “Science Fiction Is Dying Again – The Hopepunk Edition”

…And now science fiction is dying again. Or rather, it already died in the 1980s and has been shambling along like a mirroshaded cyberpunk zombie ever since. For inspired by the hopepunk debate that broke out in late December (chronicled here), Lee Konstantinou weighs in on cyberpunk, hopepunk, solarpunk and the state of science fiction in general as part of Slate‘s future tense project (found via File 770). And this is one case where I wish I could use the German phrase “seinen Senf dazugeben” (literally “add their mustard”) instead of the more neutral English “weigh in”. Because Lee Konstantinou absolutely adds his* mustard, regardless whether anybody actually wants mustard or whether mustard even fits the dish….

(3) THE NEXT SFWA PRESIDENT. He’s not a SFWA member but he believes that could change — Jon Del Arroz declares “My Endorsement Of Mary Robinette Kowal For SFWA President” [Internet Archive link]

…Outreach to underserved and underrepresented writers in the SFF community

Again, the most important aspect of this, as the most underserved and underrepresented writers in the SF/F community are conservatives and Christians. These groups feel like they’re not welcome anywhere within the sphere of publishing, and it needs to change.

I’m confident Ms. Kowal will enact change here, which is the primary reason for my endorsement. I also volunteer to act as an ambassador to the conservative/Christian writing communities on her behalf, as many writers feel they can safely speak with me in confidence, when their concerns might get them ostracized or their businesses hurt if they voice their issues elsewhere. With me in such a role, we can repair the bridge in fandom so we can make it about books again, and selling for authors, and not about petty political squabbles.

Ms. Kowal has demonstrated to me personally that she is sincere in this effort by attempting to assist me with Worldcon 2018 when they horribly discriminated against me last year because of my outspoken beliefs, and because I was under threat of physical harm being done to me at their convention by extreme left-wing agitators.  The cycle of victim blaming must stop, and Kowal has assured me SFWA will not be an organization that will treat conservative authors as 2nd class citizens. This is a human rights issue and very big for me!

But Kowal also puts her money where her mouth is. When I was coming up and needed promotion as a writer, Kowal featured me on her blog not just once—but twice, and the second after I’d already become a prominent outspoken conservative within the community. She cares about books FIRST – and this is what sets her apart from others.

I’m excited for her tenure so I can finally join the professional guild (as is my due) without being shut down and held to standards others within SFWA are not.

(4) SPOCK BACKSTORY. Showrunner Alex Kurtzman discusses the launch of Star Trek: Discovery season 2 with The Hollywood Reporter: “‘Star Trek’ Showrunner: ‘Discovery’ Season 2 Is About Spock’s ‘Unwritten Chapter’”.

Discovery season one seemed like a declarative end of a chapter with the Federation-Klingon war coming to its conclusion. Why did you choose to start the second chapter by bringing in the Enterprise, considering its notoriety?

We discover in season one that Michael has a relationship with Spock. The mystery of why Spock, who we’ve known for over 50 years, has never mentioned his sister, is huge. It felt like there was no way we were going to be able to answer that question in one or two episodes. It was easily going to be the substance of a whole season. This season is a deep-dive into that relationship and what went wrong, their history and where they’re headed. That excited me. It’s the unwritten chapter of how Spock became the character that we meet in the original series. We’ll come to understand that were it not for his relationship with Michael, many of the things we know and love about Spock may not have flowered in the way that they did.

(5) LOOKING GOOD. Camestros Felapton reviews the premiere in “Star Trek Discovery: Brother (S2E1)”.

…Launching into this first episode reminded me that I do actually like these characters. I felt happy to see Michael, Tilly, Saru and Stamets again. Also, Discovery remains visually impressive, it’s easily the best looking Star Trek. The promised story arc appears to be a mysterious simultaneous signal from five points across the galaxy — a signal that Spock knows something about and which (apparently coincidentally) Captain Pike has been tasked with investigating….

(6) COSTA BOOK AWARDS. The 2018 Costa Book Awards, a general literary prize in the UK, have a winner of genre interest — Stuart Turton won the First Novel award for The Seven (or 7 1/2) Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.

At a party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed – again.  She’s been murdered hundreds of times, and each day Aidan Bishop is too late to save her.  The only way to break this cycle is to identify Evelyn’s killer.  But every time the day begins again, Aidan wakes in the body of a different guest.  And someone is desperate to stop him ever escaping Blackheath……   

Stuart Turton is a freelance travel journalist who’s previously worked in Shanghai and Dubai.  He’s the winner of the Brighton and Hove Short Story Prize and was longlisted for the BBC Radio 4 Opening Lines competition.  TV rights for The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle have been optioned by House Productions.  He lives in West London with his wife and daughter.     

Judges: ‘Impossibly clever, genre-busting murder mystery that feels like a mash-up of Cluedo, Sherlock and Groundhog Day.’

(7) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “WCFF-Dream” on Vimeo is an animated version of “I Dreamed a Dream” with many cute animals that was shown at the World Conservation Film Festival in October.

(8) PEARLMAN OBIT. Alan R. Pearlman (1925-2019) has died at the age of 93. The New York Times notes he was —

Founder of ARP Instruments and designer of its early synthesizers, which were used in Star Wars: A New Hope (R2-D2’s beeps), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (that infamous 5-note sequence, shown being played on an ARP 2500), and the 1980’s version of the Dr. Who theme.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 18, 1882 A.A. Milne. Oh Pooh has to count as genre, doesn’t he? Certainly that an exhibition entitled “Winnie-the-Pooh: Exploring a Classic” appeared at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London shows his place in our culture. There’s also Once on a Time, a rather charming fairy tale by him. And though it isn’t remotely genre, i wholeheartedly recommend The Red House Mystery, a Country House Mystery that’s most excellent! (Died 1956.)
  • Born January 18, 1933 John Boorman, 86. I will admit that he does not at all have a lengthy genre resume though it’s quirky one nonetheless as it manages to encompass one howlingly horrible film being Zardoz featuring Sean Connery in diapers and Excalibur giving us a bare breasted Helen Mirren as Morgana. Did you know by the way that Robert Holdstock wrote the novelisation of The Emerald Forest which he directed? He also directed Exorcist II: The Heretic which frankly the less said about, the better.
  • Born January 18, 1937 Dick Durock. He was best known for playing Swamp Thing in Swamp Thing and The Return of Swamp Thing and the following television series. His only other genre appearances were in The Nude Bomb (also known as The Return of Maxwell Smart) and  “The First” of The Incredible Hulk. (Died 2009)
  • Born January 18, 1953 Pamela Dean, 66. Her best novel is I think Tam Lin though one could make an argument for Juniper, Gentian, and Rosemary which Windling claims is her favorite fantasy novel. Her Secret Country trilogy is a great deal of fun reading. Much of her short stories are set in the Liavek shared universe created by Emma Bull and Will Shetterly. Alll of these are now available on all major digital platforms. According to the files sitting in my Dropbox folder, there’s eight volumes to the series. They’re wonderful reading. End of plug.
  • Born January 18, 1955 Kevin Costner, 64. Some of his films are his genre films are really atrocious, to wit Robin Hood: Prince of ThievesWaterworldThe Postman and the recent Dragonfly but I really like  his Field of Dreams and his acting in it as Ray Kinsella is quite excellent. Not quite as superb as he was as  “Crash” Davis in Bull Durham but damned good. I forgot until just reminded that he was Jonathan Kent in both Man of Steel and  Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I know that’s two more horrid films he’s been in. 
  • Born January 18, 1960 Mark Rylance, 59. Prospero’s Books, an adaption of The Tempest which I really want to see, The BFG and Ready Player One are the films he’s been in. An active thespian, he’s been in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Royal Opera House, Hamlet at American Repertory Theater and Macbeth at Greenwich Theatre to show but a few of his appearances.
  • Born January 18, 1968David Ayer, 51. Film director, producer and screenwriter. Recent genre film from him were Suicide Squad and Bright, both of which have Will Smith in them and both of which, errr, were utter crap. He’ll be directing Gotham City Sirens which will not presumably have Will Smith in it. Yes I’m being snarky. 

(10) SIGNS OF SPRING. Jonathan Cowie announced that the Spring edition of SF2 Concatenation is now online, with its rich mix of con reports, articles, seasonal giant news page and loads of book reviews.

(11) BRICKS OF MONEY. Bloomberg says “The Hot New Asset Class Is Lego Sets”.

In a paper titled “Lego — The Toy of Smart Investors,” Dobrynskaya analyzed 2,300 sets sold from 1987 to 2015 to measure their price-return over time. She found that collections used for Hogwarts Castles and Jedi star fighters beat U.S. large-cap stocks and bonds, yielding 11 percent a year. Smaller kits rose more than medium-sized ones, similar to the size effect in the Fama-French model (though the relation isn’t exact).

Lego sets that focus on superheroes, Batman and Indiana Jones are among the ones that do best over time. The Simpsons is the only Lego theme that has lost value, falling by 3.5 percent on average.

(12) DANISH CRIME FICTION AWARDS. The winners of the 2018 Danish Criminal Academy Awards for the best Danish crime fiction have been announced.

The Harald Mogensen Prisen for the best thriller went to Jesper Stein for his novel Solo.

The Danish Criminal Academy’s debut award was won by Søren Sveistrup for the thriller novel “Kastanjemanden” (The Chestnut Man).

 The Palle Rosenkrantz Award for this year’s best foreign thriller novel has been awarded to Michael Connelly for Two Kinds of Truth. The award recognizes the best crime fiction novel published in Danish. It is named in honour of Palle Rosenkrantz (1867-1941), who is considered the first Danish crime fiction author; his novel Mordet i Vestermarie (Murder in Vestermarie) was published in 1902.

(13) J FOR JANUARY AND JOY. Cora Buhlert’s guest post “Space Opera and Me” is part of the Month of Joy project of the Skiffy and Fanty Show:  

At the time, a friend asked me why I always watched Star Trek, even though I’d seen much of it before and it was all the same anyway. “You watch soap operas, don’t you?” I asked her. She nodded and said, “Yes, to relax.” – “Well, Star Trek is my soap opera,” I told her.

I was on to something there, because there are similarities between space operas and soap operas beyond the fact that both started out as derogatory terms including the word “opera”. Both soap operas and space operas (and actual operas for that matter) offer larger-than-life drama with a huge cast of characters. Both offer the grand spectrum of emotion, love and hate, birth and death, weddings and funerals. However, space opera has aliens, ray guns, starships and space battles to go with the melodrama.

Another thing that unites space operas and soap operas is that no matter how fascinating the settings, how shocking the twists, how grand the melodrama, what makes us come back for more are the characters. The best space and soap operas feature people (in the loosest sense of the term) we want to spend time with, whether it’s in the mundane surroundings of Coronation Street or Lindenstraße or on the deck of a starship or the surface of an alien planet.

(14) FLOCKS OF HUGO RECOMMENDATIONS. Nerds of a Feather makes its collective picks in several Hugo categories at each post. Examples are included below.   

“2019 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 2: Visual Work Categories”

Graphic Story

  • Destroyer, Victor LaValle and Dietrich Smith
  • Gunnerkrigg Court: Volume 7: Synthesis, by Tom Sidell
  • Lumberjanes, Volume 8: Stone Cold, by Shannon Waters and Kat Leyh
  • Monstress: Volume 3: Haven, by Marjorie M. Liu and Sana Takeda
  • Saga: Volume 9, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
  • The Walking Dead, Volume 29: The Lines We Cross, by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard
  • White Sand: Volume 2, by Brandon Sanderon, Rik Hoskin, and Julius Gopez
  • X-Men: Grand Design, by Ed Piskor

“2019 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 3: Individual Categories”

Fan Writer

“2019 Nerds of a Feather Hugo Awards Longlist, Part 4: Institutional Categories”

Semiprozine

(15) HOW WE GOT HERE. An article in this week’s Nature reminds me of the old t-shirt design pointing out “You are here” — “The Once and Future Milky Way” [PDF file].

Data from the Gaia spacecraft are radically transforming how we see the evolution of our Galaxy.

There was a a smashup between the young Galaxy and a colossal companion . That beast once circled the Milky Way like a planet around a star, but some 8 billion to 11 billion years ago, the two collided, massively altering the Galactic disk and scattering stars far and wide. It is the last-known major crash the Galaxy experienced before it assumed the familiar spiral shape seen today. Although the signal of that ancient crash had been hiding in plain sight for billions of years, it was only through the Gaia space probe’s data set that astronomers were finally able to detect it.

(16) CITY CHESS. Maybe nothing to do with Brunner’s The Squares of the City, but designers can plot their moves with this — “Virtual cities: Designing the metropolises of the future”.

Simulation software that can create accurate “digital twins” of entire cities is enabling planners, designers and engineers to improve their designs and measure the effect changes will have on the lives of citizens.

Cities are hugely complex and dynamic creations. They live and breathe.

Think about all the parts: millions of people, schools, offices, shops, parks, utilities, hospitals, homes and transport systems.

Changing one aspect affects many others. Which is why planning is such a hard job.

So imagine having a tool at your disposal that could answer questions such as “What will happen to pedestrian and traffic flow if we put the new metro station here?” or “How can we persuade more people to leave their cars at home when they go to work?”

This is where 3D simulation software is coming into its own.

Architects, engineers, construction companies and city planners have long used computer-aided design and building information modelling software to help them create, plan and construct their projects.

But with the addition of internet of things (IoT) sensors, big data and cloud computing, they can now create “digital twins” of entire cities and simulate how things will look and behave in a wide range of scenarios.

(17) YOUNGER THAN RINGTIME. BBC says “Saturn’s spectacular rings are ‘very young'” — thought likely for a while, but now it’s locked down.

We’re looking at Saturn at a very special time in the history of the Solar System, according to scientists.

They’ve confirmed the planet’s iconic rings are very young – no more than 100 million years old, when dinosaurs still walked the Earth.

The insight comes from the final measurements acquired by the American Cassini probe.

The satellite sent back its last data just before diving to destruction in the giant world’s atmosphere in 2017.

“Previous estimates of the age of Saturn’s rings required a lot of modelling and were far more uncertain. But we now have direct measurements that allows us to constrain the age very well,” Luciano Iess from Sapienza University of Rome, Italy, told BBC News.

(18) BOX SCORE. The sff/horror drama Bird Box was very good for Netflix’s business:

Shows including Bird Box helped Netflix end 2018 with more than 139 million subscribers, adding 8.8 million members in the last three months of the year.

Bird Box was watched by 80 million households in its first four weeks after release

The firm reported quarterly revenue of $4.2bn (£3.2bn), up 27% from the same period in 2017.

(19) WALK THIS WAY. Cnet explains how “Scientists built a lizard-like robot based on a 280-million-year-old fossil”.

You can tell a lot about an animal from the way it moves, which is why scientists have been recreating the movements of an extinct crocodile-like creature called Orobates pabsti. Orobates lived well before the time of the dinosaurs and is what’s called a ‘stem amniote’ – an early offshoot of the lineage which led to birds, reptiles and mammals. Using 3D scans of an exquisitely preserved Orobates fossil – and an associated set of fossilised footprints – researchers were able to build a dynamic computer simulation of the creature’s movement. The simulation incorporates data from extant animals such as lizards and salamanders to create more realistic motion as it walks along. And the simulation didn’t just stay on a computer; the researchers tested the models in the real world using a Orobates robot, helping bring this ancient creature to life.

[Thanks to Cora Buhlert, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Chip Hitchcock, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Cat Eldridge, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Alan Baumler, Martin Morse Wooster, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to File 770 contributing editor of the day Patrick Morris Miller.]

Pixel Scroll 1/16/19 Right After I Graduate, I’m Gonna Cut The Scrolls Off My Shoes, Sit In A Blog, And Learn To Play The Pixelhorn

(1) GHOSTBUSTERS 3. Though few details seem to be available, it looks like there will be a fourth live-action Ghostbusters movie (Variety: “Jason Reitman to Direct Secret ‘Ghostbusters’ Movie”), with a new generation of Reitman taking over in the director’s chair.

Sony Pictures is getting the wheels in motion for the next installment in the “Ghostbusters” franchise, and it knows who it’s going to call to direct: Jason Reitman.

Sources tell Variety that Reitman, whose father, Ivan, directed the first two “Ghostbusters” movies, will direct the latest pic in the famous franchise.

Reitman has also co-written a screenplay with Gil Kenan and plans to shoot the film this summer, with Sony planning to release the latest sequel in summer 2020. Insiders say this film will be a continuation of the 1984 sequel and will not be connected to the 2016 film. Sources couldn’t say if that means that the original cast members will be back, as exact story details are still being kept under wraps but sources say Reitman has begun testing teenagers for four mystery roles.

ScienceFiction.com quotes Reitman:

 “I’ve always thought of myself as the first Ghostbusters fan when I was a 6-year-old visiting the set. I wanted to make a movie for all the other fans. This is the next chapter in the original franchise. It is not a reboot. What happened in the ‘80s happened in the ‘80s, and this is set in the present day.”

(2) KOWAL DECLARES SFWA CANDIDACY. Mary Robinette Kowal announced on her blog: “Dear SFWA members: I’m running for the position of President.”

…I believe that SFWA is an important organization and that volunteering for it is a way that we can each help to pay it forward by making the field stronger.  As a group, we can improve things within the industry in ways that individuals cannot, but we are dependent on our volunteers. We are dependent on you. I would very much like to help SFWA move forward so that it can continue to inform, support, promote, defend and advocate for our members.

Besides health care, what else am I interested in accomplishing?

  • New opportunities to help our members diversify their income streams
  • Strengthening the Nebula Conference as a professional development conference
  • Protecting our rights for free speech
  • Outreach to underserved and underrepresented writers in the SFF community
  • Taking full advantage of our 501c3 status to apply for grants that will allow SFWA to be a more active and useful organization for our members

John Scalzi threw his support behind her in a post today at Whatever: “Mary Robinette Kowal is Running for SFWA President and I Endorse Her Candidacy”.

…Some of you may recall that I was SFWA president once, from 2010 to 2013. Mary Robinette was my vice president for two of those years, 2010 through 2012, and was secretary of SFWA for two years before that. In my role as president, I got a chance to see her work for SFWA up close. She was, in a word, excellent. As my VP she gave me sound advice and counsel (up to and including telling me when I was wrong), she executed on policy and strategy in ways that were smart and effective, and she was my not-so-secret weapon in instances that required tact and delicacy. She was, in sum, the very best of vice-presidents….

(3) NEXT STAR WARS COMICS ON THE WAY. Marvel’s “celebration of Star Wars characters” continues in April, with epic one-shots of heroes and villains of the original film trilogy in Age of Rebellion. For more information, visit StarWars.com.

Following the legendary sagas of the Jedi, the Sith, and more from AGE OF THE REPUBLIC, join writer Greg Pak (The Incredible Hulk, Weapon H) and artist Chris Sprouse (Black Panther) for new tales about some of the most iconic Star Wars heroes and artist Marc Laming (Beckett, Star Wars Annual) for new stories about the galaxy’s most dangerous villains. With covers by Terry and Rachel Dodson, these are stories you don’t want to miss! 

Also in April, discover brand new sides of some of your favorite – and deadly – heroes and villains in AGE OF REBELLION SPECIAL #1, written by superstar team Marc Guggenheim (X-Men Gold), Jon Adams (The New Yorker, Love Romances), and Si Spurrier (Doctor Aphra), and drawn by Adams, Caspar Wijngaard (Doctor Aphra Annual), and Andrea Broccardo (Star Wars), with cover art by Giuseppe Camuncoli and Guru-eFX!

(4) SFWA READINGS. There are four SFWA readings coming up in the Seattle/Portland area:

Seattle

Seattle events are held at the Wilde Rover Irish Pub and Restaurant, 111 Central Way, Kirkland, WA 98033. Phone: (425) 822-8940. Readings start at 7pm and go until 8:30

  • January 29, 2019. KG Anderson, Joe Follansbee, Edd Vick
  • April 23, 2019. Rebecca Roanhorse, Kari Maaren, Sam J. Miller
  • September 10, 2019. Ted Chiang, Jack Skillingstead, Daryl Gregory
  • November 12, 2019. Jeff Grubb, Shanna Germain, Caroline M. Yoachim

Portland

Portland events are held at Lucky Lab on Hawthorne. 915 SE Hawthorne Blvd.  Portland, OR 97214. (503) 236-3555 Readings start at 7pm and go until 8:30

SFWA Link: https://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-readers/reading-series/sfwa-northwest-reading-series/

(5) OOPS. You could be forgiven for thinking that yesterday’sTor’s promotional message contains a premature prediction, although I think it was just intended to be a list of the author’s accomplishments. See if you can spot the issue. (Image comes from here.)

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 16, 1903 Harold A. Davis. Notable as another writer of the Doc Savage novels under the pseudonym Kenneth Robeson. He was the first ghostwriter to fill in for Lester Dent on Doc Savage.  Davis would create the character of  Ham’s pet ape Chemistry in Dust of Death. (Died 1955.)
  • Born January 16, 1927Anne R. Dick. Author of Search for Philip K. Dick, 1928-1982: A Memoir and Biography of the Science Fiction Writer. Her importance to Philip despite their short marriage can be appreciated in this New York Times obit for her. (Died 2017.)
  • Born January 16, 1946 Graham Masterton, 73. English horror writer with numerous titles to his credit. I want to to single out Rules of Duel, a short novel from the early 1970s that he wrote with William S. Burroughs. And The Manitou film based off his novel is a lot of bloody fun.
  • Born January 16, 1948 John Carpenter, 71. My favorite films by him? Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York.  His films include the Halloween franchise, The Thing, Starman (simply wonderful), The Philadelphia ExperimentGhosts of Mars and many other films. What do you consider him to do particularly well?
  • Born January 16, 1949 Caroline Munro, 70.Active in SF and horror films in the Fifties and Sixties. Amongst her many  films are Hammer Horror films such as Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter and Dracula A.D. 1972. Later films include Starcrash (Christopher Plummer is in it so it can’t be that bad, can it?) and At the Earth’s Core. She appeared also as Tammy, a nursing employee of a sinister health farm, in “The Angels of Death” of The New Avengers, a vastly underrated show in my opinion if only for the fact it had the young and quite sexy Joanna  Lumley on it .
  • Born January 16, 1980 Lin-Manuel Miranda, 39. Sometimes I find that the Birthday honorees have the oddest genre credits but this is the first singer and composer I’ve run across.  His first genre credit is voicing Shag Kava in Star Wars: The Force Awakens but he also gets credited as special featured composer. Next up is as composer and singer for the animated Moana film. His most recent, and I’ve no idea if he sings in it but I assume he does, is in Mary Poppins Returns 

(7) THEY’RE DEAD JIM (OR WHATEVER YOUR NAME IS). Easy come, easy go? Newsweek lets us know that, “China’s Moon Plants That Sprouted Are Already Dead.” The experiment kicked off just before the mission’s landing site on the back side of the Moon did its monthly thing and earned the otherwise misleading title Dark Side of the Moon, (No, not that Dark Side.)

Yesterday the Chinese National Space Administration (CNSA) announced that cotton seeds carried to the far side of the moon by its Chang’e 4 lander had sprouted, marking the first time that humans had successfully grown living material on the surface of another world.

But just a day later, it has emerged that the sprouting cotton buds died as night fell over the lunar far side, bringing the brief experiment to an end. The cotton seeds formed part of a “mini-biosphere” experiment aimed at understanding how plants and animals can grow and live on the moon.

The experiment involved a “mini-biosphere” consisting of a sealed metal canister filled with water, soil and air, which was designed to be its own self-sustaining ecosystem. To this mix, scientists added yeast, fruit fly eggs and the seeds of cotton, rapeseed, potato and rock cress—a flowering plant in the mustard family.

The biosphere was powered by natural light from the Sun, so the death of the sprouts as the canister entered the lunar night—where temperatures can dip to as low as -280 degrees Fahrenheit—was anticipated by mission planners.

“Life in the canister would not survive the lunar night,” Xie Gengxin, leader of the experiment from Chongqing University, told Xinhua, China’s state-run, English language news agency.

(8) DISSENTING OPINION. Don’t count Abigail Nussbaum among the fans of Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch: “The Illusion of Free Will: On ‘Bandersnatch’ and Interactive Fiction” at Asking the Wrong Question.

After seven years, four seasons, eighteen episodes and two specials, the conversation around Black Mirror seems to have settled itself into distinct camps. There are those who see it as a meaningful commentary on the growing role of technology in modern society and the pitfalls of our growing dependence on it. And there are those who decry it as a cynical, reflexively anti-tech exercise in nastiness. I tend to think of myself as falling between the two extremes—there are a lot of ideas in Black Mirror that I find interesting and unique, especially when it comes to the intersection of technology and capitalism; but I often feel as if many of them have happened largely by accident. The show’s latest foray, however, the interactive movie “Bandersnatch”, written by series creator Charlie Brooker and directed by David Slade, has shaken my indulgence. Not only does it revel in some of Black Mirror‘s worst excesses, it’s also an extremely bad example of interactive fiction, at a moment when the form is enjoying a creative flowering.

(9) TODAY IN HISTORY.

January 16, 1939 — The comic strip Superman appeared. Robert Kerr writes:

80 years ago today the first Superman daily strip appeared in the Houston Chronicle. This was the first place Superman had appeared outside of Action Comics. His own solo comic book was still a couple of months away. The daily strip was where Krypton was first mentioned by name and the first place Superman got a more detailed origin. This was full circle for Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. Before DC Comics bought Superman for Action Comics #1, Superman was rejected by every major newspaper syndicate in the country. Before Superman pretty much created the comic book industry, cartoonist wanted their strips to be in newspapers.

(10) IT’S NOT THE WESTERN. Digg has some graphs that show “How Movie Genres Have Changed In Popularity Since 1910, Visualized”. Guess which genre is the perkiest?

The graph reveals several interesting trends. Some genres, for instance, have evidently fallen out of favor, such as musicals and westerns. In the 1930s, 15% of the movies released were musicals, while in 2018, the figure has fallen far below 5%. And although westerns saw a resurgence in the ’70s after its decline in the ’60s, the genre has had scant representation in recent years.

(11) TREK TRIVIA. ScienceFiction.com invites you to show your mastery of Star Trek and “Match The First Officer To The Starship”. The quiz is at the link.  It was tougher than I expected – I scored only 3/10!

The ships of the United Federation of Planets have a long history of service, exploration, and combat in the Star Trek Universe.  While the Captains of these ships usually end up getting most of the glory, it takes many, many crew members to effectively maintain a starship’s operations, and while the Captain is usually busy calling the shots, much of the administrative and personnel work falls to the First Officer.

This quiz will test your knowledge of those brave souls assigned to ships as the XOs.  In some cases, these characters may have only served the First Officer role for a short while; in other cases, you may see names  of officers whose adventures have squarely shown them in the second-in-command role.  This will be no easy task, but hopefully you are up for the challenge.  Engage! 

(12) ST PHONE HOME. Do you want a better ST:TOS cosplay phone? Or do you miss your flip phone? Standing on the shoulder of the Wall Street Journal (whose story is behind their paywall), Mashable proclaims that, “A rebooted Razr with a foldable smartphone screen is coming in February, report says.”

Hellooo, 2004 is calling, and it is STOKED!

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Lenovo and Verizon are soon to reboot the iconic aughts Razr flip phone, with a 2019 twist — or should we say…. fold!!!

The report claims that Lenovo Group, Inc. has teamed up with Verizon as an exclusive partner to sell a new version of the Razr, based on the word of “people familiar with the matter.” 

The new Razr will be a smart phone, but it will be able to retain its flip phone form because the screen will be a foldable. It will reportedly become available as soon as February (!!!), and cost $1500. Which, ouch. But that’s maybe worth it for retro foldable screen glory?

(13) WILL THE U.S. RETURN TO SPACE THIS YEAR? The Verge: “How SpaceX’s first astronaut crew is preparing to take on a brand new spacecraft” — “If schedules hold, SpaceX could fly people this summer.”

2019 may finally be the year when American astronauts launch to orbit from American soil again, ending an eight-year drought that started when NASA’s Space Shuttle program shut down in 2011. The inaugural flights of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program are slated to take place in the coming months, and the launches will see privately owned vehicles carrying space agency astronauts for the very first time. If the current schedules hold, California-based SpaceX may be the first one to send its vehicle to space with two NASA astronauts on board.

For this Verge Science video, we visited SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California, to meet those astronauts and see what one possible future of American crewed spaceflight looks like.

(14) BUT THEN HE GETS GOOD REVIEWS.  A paper in Maine will not be ditching its book reviews after all: “Stephen King persuades newspaper not to scrap its book reviews”.

Author Stephen King – and his readers – have persuaded his local newspaper to reverse a decision to axe its book reviews.

The Portland Press Herald, based in his home state of Maine, had decided to stop running reviews of local books.

After King expressed dismay, the paper challenged him to get 100 followers to buy digital subscriptions.
His fans did not disappoint him, prompting the paper to pledge that “book reviews will return”.

(15) DISNEY MUSIC. “A Place Called Slaughter Race” from Ralph Breaks the Internet. Performed by Sarah Silverman, Gal Gadot, and Cast Music by Alan Menken, Lyrics by Phil Johnston, and Tom MacDougall

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

Pixel Scroll 1/1/19 We’re Going To Need A Bigger Scroll

You deserve a bigger one, but let’s pretend this Scroll came out on time!

(1) FANGRRLS INTERVIEWS KOWAL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] SYFY Wire’s Fangrrls column keeps dropping posts, in this case an interview with an author I had the honor of meeting at the late Con†Stellation in Huntsville AL (“Space the Nation: Mary Robinette Kowal on astronauts, social justice and needing glasses”). Being a geek, I was intrigued at the way she uses spreadsheets in her writing (though that was probably only the third or fourth most interesting thing in the interview).

Mary Robinette Kowal’s multi-award-winning “Lady Astronaut” series imagines what the 1950’s space race would have been like if women weren’t just behind-the-scenes “calculators” (like the heroines of “Hidden Figures”), but center-stage mission members. If you’ve grown up in an era where female astronauts are not that all remarkable, maybe this doesn’t seem like much of a twist. But consider what Kowal has to do to make such an alternate history plausible: She smashes an asteroid into the East Coast of the United States, an extinction-level event that both transforms the space race into an attempt to colonize Mars and radically reduces the number of men available to work on this ambitious project — meaning that female astronauts are needed for both their bodies and their brains.

[…]FANGRRLS: How explicitly are you thinking about modern-day politics when you’re putting these stories together?

KOWAL: Pretty explicitly. These two books were odd because I wrote them before Trump. So, writing a book in which I slam an asteroid into Washington, DC is very different before Trump than after Trump. I went on a book tour for the book before this, Ghost Talkers, and my first tour date was election day. And what I usually do is read a chapter out loud from the next book. So, election day. I read the first chapter…

FANGRRLS: The slamming asteroid chapter?

KOWAL: I read the slamming asteroid chapter. And it’s fine. Because at this point, the results are not in yet. The day after that, I read it again and the audience has a completely different reaction. It was just — it was so uncomfortable and different. And I just didn’t read it for the rest of the tour.

(2) WIRED’S PICKS FOR BEST COMICS OF LAST YEAR. Wired talks about what they consider “The Best Comics of 2018— From Sabrina to Crowded.”

Each year, more comics hit the shops than any one person could ever read. And while the splashy superhero titles are (somewhat) easier to keep up with, finding all of the great hidden gems each year is tough. We’re here to help. Below, just in time for you to spend the holiday break catching up, are some of the best books of 2018. We say some of the best because we’re not mentioning titles that have appeared in previous year-end wrap-ups—like, say, DC’s Mister Miracle, which would have appeared otherwise—nor are we including books that have only just launched, which explains the absence of Vertigo’s Goddess Mode. But enough about what didn’t make the cut—let’s look at the books that did. And the best part? Some are continuing titles, which means you’ve got more to look forward to in 2019.

The comics discussed in the rest of the article include:

  • Sabrina (Drawn & Quarterly)
  • Immortal Hulk (Marvel)
  • Woman World (Drawn & Quarterly)
  • Beneath the Dead Oak Tree(ShortBox)
  • Crowded (Image Comics)

(3) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born January 1, 1954 Midori Snyder, 65. I was most impressed with The Flight of Michael McBride, the Old West meet Irish myth story and hannah’s garden, a creepy tale of the fey and folk music. She’s seems to have been inactive for a decade now. Anyone know why?
  • Born January 1, 1957  — Christopher Moore, 62. One early novel by him, Coyote Blue, is my favorite, but anything by him is always a weirdly entertaining read. I’m hearing good things about Noir, his newest work. Has anyone read it? 
  • Born January 1, 1976Sean Wallace, 43. Anthologist, editor, and publisher known for his work on Prime Books and for co-editing three magazines, Clarkesworld Magazine which I love, The Dark, and Fantasy Magazine which is another fav of mine. He won an impressive three Hugo Awards and two World Fantasy Awards. His People of the Book: A Decade of Jewish Science Fiction and Fantasy with Rachel Swirsky is highly recommended.

(4) GET STARTED DECORATING THE SET IN LA.

(5) NEW SPACEPLANE. Another spacecraft manufacturer is looking to start cargo runs to the International Space Station in the near future (ScienceAlert: “NASA Just Cleared The “Dream Chaser” Space Cargo Plane For Full-Scale Production”). The Dream Chaser had originally been conceived as a crewed vehicle, but was repurposed after it lost out on the commercial crew program to Boeing and SpaceX. The winged craft is projected to have payload capacities of 5,500 kg up to the ISS and 1,850 kg down.

Watch out space, there’s a new commercial cargo carrier entering the race.

Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) has been given the go ahead from NASA to begin full-scale production of its “Dream Chaser” commercial space cargo plane.

Scheduled to make its first mission in 2020, the company announced on December 18 that it had cleared the last milestone in its Commercial Resupply Services 2 contract.

Now the company is able to move ahead with the full-scale production of the carrier which will be used to deliver cargo to the International Space Station (ISS).

BRAINS CONNECTED. Science Alert: “Brains of 3 People Have Been Successfully Connected, Enabling Them to Share Thoughts”

Neuroscientists have successfully hooked up a three-way brain connection to allow three people to share their thoughts – and in this case, play a Tetris-style game.

The team thinks this wild experiment could be scaled up to connect whole networks of people, and yes, it’s as weird as it sounds.

It works through a combination of electroencephalograms (EEGs), for recording the electrical impulses that indicate brain activity, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), where neurons are stimulated using magnetic fields.

The researchers behind the system have dubbed it BrainNet, and say it could eventually be used to connect many different minds together, even across the web.

But apart from opening up strange new methods of communication, BrainNet could actually teach us more about how the human brain functions on a deeper level.

Preprint of the paper: “BrainNet: A Multi-Person Brain-to-Brain Interface for Direct Collaboration Between Brains”.

[Thanks to Mike Kennedy and Cat Eldridge for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 12/11/18 For The World Is Hollow And I Have Scrolled The Pixel

(1) PICARD. Entertainment Weekly got the word from Alex Kurtzman: “Star Trek producer explains how Picard spin-off will be ‘extremely different'”.

“It’s an extremely different rhythm than Discovery,” [writer-director Alex] Kurtzman told EW exclusively. “Discovery is a bullet. Picard is a very contemplative show. It will find a balance between the speed of Discovery and the nature of what Next Gen was, but I believe it will have its own rhythm.”

Continued Kurtzman: “Without revealing too much about it, people have so many questions about Picard and what happened to him, and the idea we get to take time to answer those questions in the wake of the many, many things he’s had to deal with in Next Gen is really exciting. ‘More grounded’ is not the right way to put it, because season 2 of Discovery is also grounded. It will feel more…real-world? If that’s the right way to put it.”

(2) NO BUCKS, NO BUCK ROGERS. Also,Variety says the Picard series will be made in California to take advantage of state tax benefits: “New‘ Star Trek’ Series to Shoot in California, Selected for Tax Credit”.

CBS’s new “Star Trek” series, with Patrick Stewart reprising the role of Capt. Jean-Luc Picard, will shoot in California and receive a $15.6 million production tax credit.

The California Film Commission announced Monday that the untitled “Star Trek” series and eight other TV series have been selected for the latest tax credit allocations totaling $90 million under the state’s expanded Film & TV Tax Credit Program 2.0.

Six recurring series already in the tax credit program and picked up for another season of in-state production have also been set for allocations — Fox’s third season of “The Orville” with $15.8 million, CBS’s second season of “Strange Angel” with $10 million, Fox’s ninth season of “American Horror Story” ($8.9 million),  and the second seasons of “MayansMC” ($7.6 million), “Good Trouble” ($6.6 million) and “The Rookie” ($4.5million).

(3) LULZINE. John Coxon and España Sheriff have launched a new online fanzine called Lulzine, focused on comedy, and comedy in science fiction and fantasy. Check out Lulzine Issue 1. The editors are still looking for material that suits the first issue’s theme. (Adding stuff makes sense because Lulzine presents as a blog. But don’t tell anyone I said so.)

We’re hoping to add more articles to the first issue before we start the second issue just before Ytterbium (the next Eastercon). The theme of the first issue is comedy in television, so if anyone wants to pitch us articles, they can contact us at editors@lulzine.net.

(4) BREAKFAST WITH EINSTEIN. At Whatever, Chad Orzel explains “The Big Idea” behind his book Breakfast with Einstein: The Exotic Physics of Everyday Objects.

Quantum mechanics is one of the most amazing theories in all of science, full of stuff that captures the imagination: zombie cats, divine dice-rolling, spooky actions over vast distances. Maybe the single most amazing thing about it, though, is that we think it’s weird.

That probably seems a strange thing to say, because quantum physics is so weird, but that’s exactly the point. These are the fundamental principles governing the behavior of everything in the universe, and yet they run completely counter to our intuition about how the world works. If these are the basic rules underlying everything, shouldn’t they make sense? How can the entire universe behave according to strictly quantum laws, and yet we’re not intuitively aware of it?

(5) GLOBAL VIEW. Here’s Mortal Engines’ fascinating “Explore London 360” video –

(6) STUDY IN THIS WORLD’S HOGWARTS. Buzzfeed displays photos of “16 Libraries That Look Like Hogwarts IRL”. One of them is —

2.The University of Washington Library in Seattle, Washington

(7) CREATING AN IMPRESSION. Dave Addey takes up book covers as part of his column’s “Typeset in the Future” sub theme at Tor.com: “Designing the Future: Deconstructing Five Sci-Fi Book Covers”. He doesn’t restrict the conversation to Tor publications, I just thought this one made a good excerpt for the Scroll —

“Loss of Signal” by S. B. Divya (A Tor.com Original,2018)

…The cover’s inverted planetary relationship evokes “Earthrise”, a famous NASA photograph taken onboard Apollo 8 by astronaut Bill Anders….

Like “Earthrise” and Loss of Signal, 2001’s intro shows our home planet far in the distance, small and insignificant when compared to the moon’s barren surface in the foreground. Both images require viewers to consider their place in the universe from an entirely alien vantage point, far from the comforts of home. It’s an entirely appropriate feeling for S. B. Divya’s story of the first human mind to circle the moon without a body in tow.

(8) UNSTINCTION. Shelf Awareness calls attention to Torill Kornfeldt’s “The Re-Origin of Species: A Second Chance for Extinct Animals”.

“There is no way in which a lost species can really be brought back to life,” writes Swedish science journalist Torill Kornfeldt in her fascinating debut, The Re-Origin of Species: A Second Chance for Extinct Animals. “The nearest thing we can manage is a substitute.” But as each chapter reveals, the “substitutes” that many scientists think are possible would be nearly identical to–and just as astonishing as–the originals.

Kornfeldt travels the world to meet scientists who are attempting “de-extinction,” the practice of bringing extinct animals back to life. In Siberia, she meets Sergey Zimov, a Russian scientist attempting to revive mammoths. And in California she speaks with Ben Novak, a young scientist trying to resurrect the passenger pigeon. Other scientists are working on the northern white rhino, a Spanish ibex called a bucardo and, yes, even a dinosaur. There are still advancements to be made in genetic research before any of these experiments could result in actual resurrected animals but, according to the scientists Kornfeldt interviews, breakthroughs are happening at an unprecedented pace. De-extinction is only a few years away from becoming reality.

(9) BUT THEN I TURNED ON THE TV, AND THAT’S ABOUT THE TIME SHE WALKED AWAY FROM ME. [Item by Olav Rokne.] Looks like Gerard Way’s The Umbrella Academy won’t be the only science fiction TV show based on a comic book by a famous Emo band member. Blink 182 guitarist Tom DeLonge’s sci-fi graphic novel Strange Times is being turned into a show for TBS. The show will follow all-American teen Charlie Wilkins who starts investigating when his dad is abducted by aliens. He’s helped by his skateboarding friends and the ghost of a girl. Of the show, DeLonge says: “My love for all things paranormal and skateboarding are sometimes only superseded by my love for offensive humor. This series combines them all into one.” “Blink 182’s Tom DeLonge is making his own sci-fi TV series”NME has the story:

…The show is in development at US network TBS and will follow “five dirty teenage skateboarders who solve paranormal mysteries while being chased by Deep State government agents.”

(10) WHEN IT ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY HAS TO BE THERE OVERNIGHT. “Mark Hamill reveals script for Star Wars IX will be flown to him and then immediately taken back amid intense plot leak fears”Daily Mail has the story.

If you can’t trust a Jedi Master, who can you trust? Mark Hamill has revealed the script for Star Wars Episode IX will be flown to him and he must immediately hand it back after reading it.

Security around the finale is so tight that the 67-year-old is no longer allowed to keep a copy. He has yet to shoot his scenes.

The actor, who plays Luke Skywalker in the sci-fi saga, is currently in Prague where he is shooting the History Channel’s Knightfall. 

(11) LIGHTSABER AUCTION CANCELLED. Profiles in History responded to the controversy reported in an earlier Scroll by withdrawing the item: “Star Wars lightsaber auction pulled over origin dispute”.

…However, the Original Prop Blog posted a series of videos raising doubts about the weapon, including alleged discrepancies between the lightsaber shown in that letter and the lightsaber in the auction catalogue.

There were also claims this might be a replica or prototype prop.

But Mr Roger Christian told the BBC it was one of five original lightsabers made for the film, saying: “It is real – I’ve got the Oscar to prove it.”

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 11, 1957 – William Joyce, 61. Author of the YA series Guardians of Childhood which is currently at twelve books and growing. Now I’ve no interest in reading them but Joyce and Guillermo del Toro turned them into in a rather splendid Rise of the Guardians film which I enjoyed quite a bit. The antagonist in it reminds me somewhat of a villain later on In Willingham’s Fables series called Mr. Dark. 
  • Born December 11, 1959  — M. Rickert, 59. Usually I don’t cotton with listing Awards but she’s rather unusual in she’s has won or been nominated for several major awards despite working largely in short fiction with I believe The Memory Garden being her only novel. “Journey into the Kingdom” was nominated for the 2006 Nebula Award for Best Novelette and an International Horror Guild Award, and won the 2007 World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction Her Map of Dreams won a World Fantasy Award for Best Collection and a Crawford Award, and the collection’s title story was nominated for the 2007 World Fantasy Award for Best Novella. 
  • Born December 11, 1962Ben Browder, 56. Actor of course best known for his roles as John Crichton in Farscape and Cameron Mitchell in Stargate SG-1.  One of my favorite roles by him was his voicing of  Bartholomew Aloysius “Bat” Lash in Justice League Unlimited “The Once and Future Thing, Part 1” episode. He’d have an appearance in Doctor Who in “A Town Called Mercy”,  a Weird Western of sorts. His most recent genre appearance was as a character named Ted Gaynor on Arrow
  • Born December 11, 1965 Sherrilyn Kenyon, 53. Best for her Dark Hunter series which runs to around thirty volumes now. I confess I’ve not read any, so I’m curious as to how they are. Opinions? (Of course you do. Silly me.)  She’s got The League series as well which appears to be paranormal romance, and a Lords of Avalon series too under the pen name of Kinley MacGregor. 

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • This is no job for the sommelier: Bizarro
  • Frosty the UFOman at Bizarro.
  • Why can’t Santa guest on Star Trek? Meme will explain.

(14) TONIGHT’S JEOPARDY! Andrew Porter has his eye on the tube. Tonight’s Jeopardy!, in the category “Posthumous Books,” gave the answer as: “After death, this horror author still talked about the Necronomicon in his novel, ‘The Case of Charles Dexter Ward.'”

Wrong question: “Who is Asimov?”

(15) SKY’S THE LIMIT. In his latest Nerds of a Feather contribution,“Microreview [Book]: The Fated Sky, by Mary Robinette Kowal”, Joe Sherry declares —

The Fated Sky stands well on its own but, when coupled with The Calculating Stars, is a masterpiece.

After reading The Calculating Stars (my review) earlier this year, I wrote about how Mary Robinette Kowal did more than achieve a sense of wonder, she brought the dream of spaceflight beyond the page and directly into readers hearts. The Calculating Stars was a masterful novel that will surely find a place on many Year’s Best lists and a number of awards ballots. It’s a lot to live up to, but the near perfection of The Calculating Stars only serves to whet the appetite for The Fated Sky.

The Fated Sky picks up a few years after the end of The Calculating Stars. There is a fledgling base and colony on the moon, regular round trip missions from the earth to the moon, and the IAC (International Aerospace Coalition) is planning for its first Mars mission. Each of the two books are tagged as “Lady Astronaut” novels and Mary Robinette Kowal won a Hugo Award for her story “The Lady Astronaut of Mars“. We know how the progression of Elma’s story, where she ends up. It isn’t about spoiling the ending, the beauty of The Fated Sky is in the journey. In this case, a journey to Mars.

(16) BATWOMAN IN CW CROSSOVER. The Hollywood Reporter tells“How Batwoman Fit Into The CW’s DC Comics World in ‘Elseworlds'”.

Batwoman has finally arrived on The CW. Ruby Rose’s iconic lesbian superhero officially made her debut during Monday’s Arrow, part two of The CW’s three-part superhero crossover “Elseworlds.” 

With Earth-1 impacted by a magical book that altered reality, Monday’s Arrow installment of The CW’s big “Elseworlds” superhero crossover found The Flash’s Barry (Grant Gustin), Arrow’s Oliver (Stephen Amell) and Supergirl’s Kara (Melissa Benoist) in Gotham to try and get to the bottom of things. Unfortunately for the heroes, a mugging (and their inability to stand down) landed the trio in jail, where they were bailed out by a mysterious figure — Kate Kane (Orange Is the New Blackgrad Rose), aka Batwoman.

(17) JUST DO IT. Mars Society president Robert Zubrin argues in the Washington Post that “We have the technology to build a colony on the moon. Let’s do it.” The author of The Case For Mars takes aim at current NASA plans to build a mini-space station that would orbit the moon, and instead suggests that the time has come to set up a permanent habitable structure on the lunar surface.

…As for landing people on the moon, NASA is vague about that, too. Apparently, if we wanted to build a lander sometime in the future, it would rendezvous with the Gateway for some reason and then attempt a landing.

This is all just plain weird. It’s like building a big, expensive aircraft carrier, positioning it off the European coast and requiring passengers going from New York to Paris to land there first and do something (although what isn’t known) until another airplane is built to pick them up to carry them to their destination. This, we suspect, is not the best way to get to France.

Rather than build this murky Gateway, which we frankly doubt the American people will understand or support, we believe the best expenditure of time and money is to simply make it a national goal to build a base on the lunar surface. Such a base would be similar to the U.S. South Pole Station and constructed for the same reasons: science, exploration, knowledge, national prestige, and economic and technological development for the benefit of the U.S. taxpayer.

…If we’re serious about going to the moon, let’s just go there. Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, reminding us of the sort of things we as a nation once accomplished. We should resolve now to do no less.

(18) STOP AND GO. First story isn’t good news: Himalayan glaciers are slowing because they’ve thinned enough that there’s less mass to move them downhill, and their outflows provide inland water. Second story also isn’t good news: Satellite images show Antarctic glaciers getting more lubrication on their way to the ocean, where they’ll melt and raise ocean levels.

The glaciers that flank the Himalayas and other high mountains in Asia are moving slower over time.

Scientists have analysed nearly 20 years of satellite images to come to this conclusion.

They show that the ice streams which have decelerated the mostare the ones that have also thinned the most.

The region has long been considered stable and unaffected by some of the more dramatic changes occurring elsewhere on the continent.

But satellites have now shown that ice streams running into the ocean along one-eighth of the eastern coastline have thinned and sped up.

If this trend continues, it has consequences for future sea levels.

There is enough ice in the drainage basins in this sector of Antarctica to raise the height of the global oceans by 28m – if it were all to melt out.

(19) GAME CENSORS. From BBC we learn that “China’s new games censors take tough stance”.

A panel of censors set up to vet mobile video games in China has signalled it will be hard to please.

State media reports that of the first 20 titles it assessed, nine were refused permission to go on sale.

The Xinhua news agency added that developers of the other 11 had been told they had to make adjustments to remove “controversial content”.

There has been a clampdown on new video game releases in the country since March.

The authorities have voiced concerns about the violent nature of some titles as well as worries about the activity being addictive.

President Xi Jinping has also called for more to be done to tackle a rise in near-sightedness among the young – something that the country’s ministry of education has linked to children playing video games at the cost of spending time on outdoor pastimes.

(20) FILMING IN NEW ZEALAND. The Hollywood Reporter shows how Peter Jackson’s pioneer efforts have paid off for New Zealand: “‘Avatar’ to ‘Mulan’: Hollywood Movies Are Keeping New Zealand Busier Than Ever”.

…In addition to recently hosting summer blockbusters like Tom Cruise’s Mission Impossible — Fallout and the giant shark thriller The Meg, the New Zealand production uptick is indeed evidenced by the volume of high-profile projects that are in varying stages of production right now.

James Cameron is gearing up for the monumental task of shooting all three of the Avatar sequels there simultaneously early in 2019. The films were brought to New Zealand via a government deal that requires 20thCentury Fox to spend no less than NZ $500 million (about $345 million)in-country and to hold at least one of the world premieres there.

Meanwhile, Disney is just wrapping production on its live-action adaptation of Mulan, with a budget north of $100 million and Kiwi director Niki Caro at the helm. The project shot on the new stages at Kumeu Film Studios in West Auckland as well as on locations across the country. Netflix, of course, also is active in New Zealand, having recently begun filming the family fantasy series The Letter for the King in Auckland; Amazon Studios, meanwhile, is shooting the YA series The Wilds in Auckland nearby. Also courtesy of Amazon, the franchise that made New Zealand synonymous with Middle Earth is tipped to be coming back to the island nation — for many in the local industry, it’s simply unthinkable that the streamer’s Lord of the Rings TV series, with a rumored budget of $500 million, won’t shoot there.

(21) BEST RESOURCE. Congratulations to Mark Kelly who has added contents of 15 best-of-year anthology series to his Science Fiction Awards Database site, with single-page composite tables of contents for each series, and all stories included on their authors’ individual pages. (He still has more such series yet to do, for example, the Datlow/Windling series.) See “Anthologies & Collections Directory”. The first 15 “bests” include–

1939 – 1963  • Asimov/Greenberg • The Great SF Stories (DAW, 1979 – 1992)

1948 – 1957  • Bleiler/Dikty • The Best Science-Fiction Stories and Novels (1949 – 1958)

1955 – 1967  • Judith Merril • Year’s Best S-F (1956 – 1967)

1964 – 1970  • Wollheim/Carr • World’s Best Science Fiction (Ace, 1965 – 1971)

1967 – 1975  • Harrison/Aldiss • Best SF (1968 – 1976)

1974 – 1975  • Lester del Rey • Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year (Dutton, 1972 – 1976)

1971 – 1989  • Donald A. Wollheim • Annual World’s Best SF (DAW, 1972 – 1990)

1971 – 1986  • Terry Carr • Best Science Fiction of the Year + Fantasy (1972 – 1987)

1976 – 1980  • Gardner Dozois • Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year (Dutton, 1977 – 1981)

1983 – 2017  • Gardner Dozois • Year’s Best Science Fiction (St. Martin’s, 1984 – 2018)

1995 – 2012  • Hartwell/Cramer • Year’s Best SF, Year’s Best Fantasy (1996 – 2013)

2001 – 2004  • Silverberg/Haber/Strahan • Science Fiction Best of, Fantasy Best of (ibooks: 2002 – 2005)

2003 – 2017  • Jonathan Strahan • The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of the Year (2004 – 2018)

2005 – 2017  • Rich Horton • The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy (Prime, 2006 – 2018)

2015 – 2017  • Neil Clarke • The Best Science Fiction of the Year (Night Shade, 2016 – 2018)

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

Pixel Scroll 11/26/18 Caution: Pixels In Scroll Are Closer Than They Appear

(1) POUNDING AWAY AT IT. Although I’ll never carry this much British cash, I’m interested in the story: “New £50 note scientist nominations released”.

 On the list are computing pioneers Alan Turing and Ada Lovelace, telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell and astronomer Patrick Moore.

The Bank received 174,112 nominations, of which 114,000 met the eligibility criteria.

To be on the list, the individual must be real, deceased and have contributed to the field of science in the UK.

The list, which includes more than 600 men and almost 200 women, includes black holes expert Stephen Hawking, penicillin discoverer Alexander Fleming, father of modern epidemiology John Snow, naturalist and zookeeper Gerald Durrell, fossil pioneer Mary Anning, British-Jamaican business woman and nursing pioneer Mary Seacole and Margaret Thatcher, who was a scientist before becoming prime minister.

Here’s the Bank of England’s eligibility list [PDF file]. Fred Hoyle is on it. (Don’t you think he looks darling in the mockup below?) Keep looking, probably lots more sf writer/scientists. And I see other unexpected names – like Jethro Tull….

The BBC story notes that there are a lot of women and minorities on the list, but not whether the bank intends to pick someone ignored rather than someone obviously famous. Hawking is the favorite of bookmakers, but women are #2, #3 (tied) and #6 on that list.

(2) EARLY START ON NEBULA WEEKEND PROGRAM. I’m hungry already.

(3) INSIGHT REACHES THE SURFACE OF MARS. CNN follows the headline with a full retrospective of the mission: “NASA’s InSight lander has touched down on Mars”.

After seven months of traveling through space, the NASA InSight mission has landed on Mars. A few minutes after landing, InSight sent the official “beep” to NASA to signal that it was alive and well, including a photo of the Martian surface where it landed.

Mission Control at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory exploded into celebratory applause and cheers after the touchdown was confirmed. The landing was watched around the world and even broadcast live on the Nasdaq Stock Market tower in New York City’s Times Square.

(4) OUTASIGHT. Satirical Canadian news site The Beaverton suggests that the lander must be glad to be away from humans: “Mars probe glad to leave doomed Earth behind”.

“After the atmospheric entry procedure, InSight reported that it was ‘functioning normally, unlike your ill-fated Earth-bound governments,’” said NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in a press release…

(5) SLOSHING ON THE RED CARPET. Elle’s R. Eric Thomas wasn’t a big fan of the stars’ red carpet outfits: “I Don’t Really Understand the ‘Aquaman’ Premiere’s Dress Code”.

Look, I don’t want to rain on the parade here. I’m not trying to dampen anyone’s spirits. I don’t want to be a wet blanket. I’m not trying to be a drip. But, what was the dress code for this event?

Amber Heard is going very literal with an Esther Williams realness water ballet lewk, complete with an embroidered cap. Loves it. She is giving me 1970s country club loungewear vibes. She just got a perm and she’s just trying to get some sun and maybe stick her feet in the pool. That all tracks.

But what is is Jason Momoa doing in this scenario? This look says less Son of Atlanna and more Son of Anarchy. Whereas Amber is giving us Busby Berkley balletics, Jason is serving Rizzo from Grease.

(6) LAST GEEKWIRE. Frank Catalano reports, “I’ve decided to end my GeekWire podcast series on science fiction, pop culture, and the arts. Or at least take a long pause that, hopefully, refreshes –”

After 18 stories and 14 episodes over about a year and a half, the “popcast” I hosted has run the gamut for now. GeekWire generally is rethinking its podcast strategy, so the timing is right. The episodes were great fun, and not only were the podcasts distributed through Google Play and Apple Podcasts, but they also aired in Seattle on KIRO-FM on the weekends.

Among the science fiction episodes were interviews with Greg Bear, Cat Rambo and Ramez Naam, a look at the history of Clarion West, how Seattle’s Museum of Pop Culture looks for and preserves science fiction and fantasy artifacts, and how the SF and science fact site Scout uses science fiction as a business planning tool.

All episodes were recorded in real time and not heavily produced, on purpose, to make the guests and topics the star, not the production. However, the audio quality was always excellent.

I will continue to cover science fiction for GeekWire, but just not necessarily in audio form. (Unless Brian Herbert finally gives me that interview I’ve been pestering him about for 18 months, if he ever makes it into Seattle proper.)

All the episodes and stories can be found at this link: https://www.geekwire.com/tag/popcast

(7) JAY OBIT. Magician and actor Ricky Jay died November 24 reports Variety. BravoLimaPoppa3 notes: “For genre related works, he was in The Prestige, Mystery Men and an episode of the X-Files. Plus he could pull off stunts that made magic look real – as close to a real life wizard as you could get. He will be missed.”

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • November 26, 1986Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home had a whale of a time

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born November 26, 1919 – Frederik Pohl, Writer, Editor, and Member of First Fandom, who was active for more seventy-five years from his first published work, the 1937 poem “Elegy to a Dead Satellite: Luna” to his final novel All the Lives He Led. He edited Astounding Stories, Galaxy Science Fiction and Galaxy Science Fiction UK, If, Star Science Fiction Magazine (which I’ve never heard of), Super Science Stories which were a companion to Astounding Stories, and the list goes on. As a writer, he was amazing. My favorite was the Heechee series, though I confess some novels were far better than others; Gateway won Hugo Nebula, Campbell, Prix Apollo, and Locus Awards for Best Novel. Man Plus, I think, is phenomenal, the sequel less so. Your opinion, of course, will no doubt vary. The Space Merchants, co-written with Cyril M. Kornbluth in 1952, is damn fun. He wrote a lot of short fiction, some I think brilliant and some not – but that was true of most SF writers of the time. That he was great, and that he was honoured for being great, is beyond doubt — he won seven Hugo Awards (three as editor, three as author, and one as fan writer!) and two Nebula Awards; and for his 1979 novel Jem, he won a U.S. National Book Award in the special one-off category Science Fiction. SWFA made him its 12th recipient of their Grand Master Award in 1993, and he was inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame in 1998. (Died 2013.)
  • Born November 26, 1936 – Shusei Nagaoka, Artist and Illustrator from Japan who is best known for his music album cover art in the 1970s and 1980s. He designed covers for many of Earth, Wind and Fire’s albums, and many of his covers were very distinctively SFFnal; especially notable are Out of the Blue, by Electric Light Orchestra and When We Rock, We Rock, and When We Roll, We Roll by Deep Purple. His art also graced numerous genre books, including Tepper’s After Long Silence, Attanasio’s The Last Legends of Earth, and Reed’s Down the Bright Way. He helped to design the 1970 Osaka World’s Fair Expo, and had one of the first artworks which was launched into outer space and attained orbit, via the Russian Mir Space Station, in 1991. He won a Seiun Award for Best Artist in 1982. (Died 2015.)
  • Born November 26, 1939 – Tina Turner, 79, Grammy-winning Actor, Composer, Singer, and Dancer. She rates being mentioned just for being the oh-so-over-the-top Aunty Entity in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, but let’s not forget her as The Acid Queen in the musical Tommy, and a cameo as The Mayor in The Last Action Hero.
  • Born November 26, 1940 – Paul J. Nahin, 78, Engineer and Writer of numerous non-fiction works, some of genre interest, and at least 20 SF short fiction works. Time travel is certainly one of the intrinsic tropes of SF, so certainly there should be at least one academic that specializes in studying it. Oh, there is: I present this Professor Emeritus of electrical engineering at the University of New Hampshire who has written not one, but three, works on the subject, to wit: Time Machines: Time Travel in Physics, Metaphysics, and Science Fiction, Time Travel: A Writer’s Guide to the Real Science of Plausible Time Travel, and Time Machine Tales: The Science Fiction Adventures and Philosophical Puzzles of Time Travel. No mere dry academic is he, as he’s also had stories published in genre venues which include Analog, Omni, and Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone Magazine.
  • Born November 26, 1949 – Victoria Poyser-Lisi, 69, Artist, Illustrator, Teacher, and Fan who was inspired at the 1979 World Fantasy Convention to become a genre artist. She did more than a hundred covers and interior illustrations for fanzines, magazines, and books, and won two of her three Hugo Award nominations for Best Fan Artist. She now works in collaborative children’s book illustration and instructional painting books, and teaches drawing and painting courses in Colorado.
  • Born November 26, 1961 – Steve MacDonald, 57, Musician, Writer, Singer, Filker, and Fan. He served for several years as the Evangelista for the Pegasus Awards (the Filkers’ most prestigious awards, given out by the Ohio Valley Filk Fest), and was responsible for many changes in the award process that led to greater participation among the voting base. In 2001, he attended ten filk conventions around the world and recorded filkers singing “Many Hearts, One Voice”, a song he had composed; the tracks were merged electronically for the WorlDream project to celebrate the new millennium. He has won six Pegasus Awards, for Best Performer, Writer/Composer, Filk Song, Adapted Song, Dorsai Song, and Myth Song. He has been Filk Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, and was inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame in 2006, after which he emigrated to Germany to marry fellow filker Katy Droge, whom he had met eight years before at OVFF.
  • Born November 26, 1966 – Garcelle Beauvais, 52, Actor and Producer born in Haiti, whose first role was in Manhunter, the original adaptation of Thomas Harris’ Red Dragon featuring Hannibal Lector. She has also appeared in Spider-Man: Homecoming, I Know Who Killed Me, and the steampunk Wild Wild West film, had a main role in the cybertech TV series Eyes, and played recurring roles in Grimm and The Magicians.
  • Born November 26, 1973 – Peter Facinelli, 45, Actor, Director, and Producer whose genre appearances include a main role in all of the Twilight movies, the first season of Supergirl, parts in The Scorpion King, The Damned, Angela, and Hollow Man 2, and as the oh-so-creepy villain in Supernova.

(10) TRUMP TREK. Reason’s Jonathan Rauch wastes no subtlety on “How Star Trek Explains Donald Trump”

Sociopaths have haunted fiction since fiction began, and no wonder. Sociopathy is civilization’s greatest challenge. Richard III and Iago; Raskolnikov, Kurtz, Willie Stark, and Humbert Humbert; J.R. Ewing, Frank Underwood, and even HAL 9000. How do we understand the narcissist, the demagogue, the liar, the manipulator, the person without scruples or conscience? The creative imagination can probe dark places that psychology and medicine can’t reach. So I am not being cute when I say that Star Trek is a source of insight into the universe of President Donald Trump.

….In “Mirror, Mirror,” the normal Kirk, realizing he has entered a barbaric parallel world, is able to impersonate a barbarian long enough to save himself and his shipmates. In our own universe, meanwhile, Kirk’s corrupt counterpart cannot fake values like empathy, trust, and fair play, and quickly finds himself locked in the brig. The sociopath may be charismatic, wily, and manipulative, but he lacks the moral depth and imagination to fool people who do not wish to be fooled….

This did not go over well with Reason readers, however, you need to register to read the comments. If you’re not willing, just think of a lot of comments that sound like Tank Marmot wrote them…

(11) FACE THE MUSIC. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Apropos item (6) (“Negative Feedback”) from the Pixel Scroll of this past Saturday (11/24), Gizmodo brings us news that “Facial Recognition Flags Woman on Bus Ad for ‘Jaywalking’ in China”. A businesswoman whose visage appeared in ads on busses was publicly shamed for jaywalking, before the authorities had to pull an Emily Litella.

China’s surveillance system is becoming increasingly omnipresent, with an estimated 200 million cameras and counting. While this state of existence alone is unsettling, it’s even more troubling that the machines are fucking up even the simplest task.

Last week, the face of Dong Mingzhu—the chairwoman of a leading air conditioner manufacturer in China—was displayed on a giant Billboard-sized screen in Ningbo, a major port city in east China’s Zhejiang province, to publicly shame her for breaking a traffic law. Zhejiang is one of the provinces that last year deployed facial recognition technology that humiliates citizens who jaywalk by putting their photos on massive LED screens. But the cameras didn’t catch Mingzhu jaywalking—they identified a photo of her in a bus ad, South China Morning Post reported.

The error was caught, acknowledged, and corrected and the police were even thanked by Dong Mingzhu’s company (Gree Electric Appliances) “for their hard work” in a blog post. One may be forgiven for wondering if the error would have been caught, acknowledged, or corrected had the citizen offended been of a less lofty station.

(12) CYBER MONDAY. Via KinjaDeals, “ThinkGeek’s Cyber Monday Sale Is a Bonkers 50% Off Sitewide”.

for Cyber Monday, ThinkGeek is taking 50% off sitewide via coupon code DOTCOM. Combined with the lowered free shipping threshold (today you have to spend only $35 pre-discount, rather than the usual $75)

Daniel Dern suggests: “If nothing else, grab a ’Bag of Holding – Con-Survival Edition’here’s an image — It quickly became my favorite day bag, not just for cons but also trade shows and general carrying of stuff during a day.”

(13) ROAR OF SKY. Jana Nyman praises Beth Cato’s trilogy-ending book in “Roar of Sky: A solid conclusion to this magical alternate-history trilogy” at Fantasy Literature. (Beware spoilers.)

…However, I do love everything about the magic system, and Cato’s exploration of geomancy and its potential uses for good and ill is thoughtful and feels sturdy, like it could actually exist. Madam Pele is literally awesome. The sylphs are fun without becoming twee….

(14) MALKA OLDER’S SERIES. Abigail Nussbaum looks over “A Political History of the Future: State Tectonics by Malka Older” for Lawyers, Guns & Money.

The point of the Centennal Cycle books, as I see it, is not to offer a plausible alternative to our current democratic system, but to encourage us to ask questions about how that system is organized, and whether we could make different choices that could lead to better outcomes. The idea of a non-contiguous political entity, for example, one that is united by shared policy preferences rather than ethnic or national identity, is an intriguing one. So is the notion of expanding the concept of political parties past national lines (though on a darker note, it also has its echoes in discussions we’ve had on this site about the trans-national nature of many far-right, supremacist movements). It’s not so much that you’d want to pursue any of these ideas in the real world, as that they provide an interesting thought experiment with which to expand your understanding of what government is and can be.

(15) REFINER’S FIRE. This is a hell of a story from the LA Times coverage of the Northern California fires: “As deadly flames approached, a mother called her daughters to say goodbye”. (Definitely skip the comments on this one.)

This is how I die.

She is standing in the driveway of a sand-colored house — she doesn’t know whose — and the air is choked with smoke.

The sky is a nuclear orange. Wind is hurling embers against her body and into her blond wavy hair.

She has just seen an ambulance melt. Transformers are blowing up around her. Homes are caving in and trees are bowing. Fleeing cars have jammed the roads, and flames dance on both sides of the asphalt….

[Thanks to Alan Baumler, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, John King Tarpinian, Cat Eldridge, Carl Slaughter, Olav Rokne, BravoLimaPoppa3, Mike Kennedy, Frank Catalano, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Kip W.]

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.]