Pixel Scroll 8/10/19 The Square Of The Pixel Is Equal To The Sum Of The Squares Of The File And The Scroll

(1) LISTEN UP. At the Horror Writers Association blog, Matthew W. Quinn cites many examples of “How Podcasting Can Help Writers Learn and Network”.

Firstly, podcasts provide great opportunities to work with other writers. Thanks to The Science Fiction and Fantasy Marketing Podcast, I learned hostess Lindsay Buroker had opened up her Fallen Empireuniverse to other writers through Amazon’s Kindle Worlds program. From this one podcast episode came my short novellas “Ten Davids, Two Goliaths” and “Discovery and Flight.” I also got the opportunity to help Ms. Buroker further organize the back-story, something that proved helpful for everybody involved in the Kindle Worlds project. Thanks to The Horror Show With Brian Keene, I was able to connect with authors Brian Keene and Wesley Southard, who both blurbed my forthcoming horror-comedy novella Little People, Big Guns. After buying ads on The Horror Show and the related podcast Cosmic Shenanigans, Project Entertainment Network owner Armand Rosamilia agreed to blurb The Atlanta Incursion, the forthcoming sequel to my Lovecraftian novel The Thing in the Woods. I also learned about Dan Wells’ “I Am Not A Serial Killer” series from Writing Excuses. Not only did I find books I enjoyed, but I also reviewed two of the three books in the first trilogy and the movie adaptation of the first novel and blogged about a DragonCon panel featuring Wells in which I got the chance to talk with him about the book and the film. Finally, thanks to regularly listening to the Bizzong podcast, I have an interview with host Frank Edler to promote LPBG slated for this fall.

(2) IN MEMORY YET GREEN. The Irish Times profiles a writer on his way to Dublin 2019: “George RR Martin: ‘Science fiction has conquered the world’”.

…Instead I ask why fantasy and sci-fi writers seem so much more intimately connected to their fans than writers of other genres do.

“Science fiction, for much of its history – and this goes back to before I was born – was not considered reputable,” says Martin. “It was seen as cheap gutter entertainment. I was a bright kid, but even I had teachers say to me, ‘Why do you read that science-fiction stuff? Why don’t you read real literature?’ You got that kind of snobbism.

“So the early science-fiction fans, in the 1930s and 1940s and early 1950s, felt that very much, and they gathered together, and it was sort of an ‘us against the world’ thing. ‘We know this is great stuff, and you on the outside might make fun of us, and mock us, but we’ll band together.’ And the writers started coming to the conventions, and many writers came out of fandom; they started out as fans.”

Where does he think that patronising attitude to genre fiction comes from? “You can go back to the literary quarrel between Henry James and Robert Louis Stevenson, ” he says, “and that’s really where you see a split between high literature and popular literature. Before that it was just literature.

…“But essentially, in the opinion of most university lecturers for 100 years, James won that argument, and literature had to be about something serious and real life, and if it was about pirates or space travel or dragons or monsters then it was something for children.” He laughs. “That’s all changed. Now science fiction, far from being this little persecuted genre that it was in the 1950s, has conquered the world.”

(3) TOLKIEN ESTATE SETS LIMITS. According to The Guardian, “Amazon’s new Lord of the Rings ‘cannot use much of Tolkien’s plot'”.

…Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey, who is supervising the show’s development, told German fansite Deutsche Tolkien that the estate has refused to allow the series to be set during any period other than the Second Age of Middle-earth. This means Amazon’s adaptation will not cross over at all with events from the Third Age, which were dramatised in Peter Jackson’s Oscar-winning trilogy and sees hobbit Frodo Baggins destroy the One Ring.

Spanning 3,441 years, the Second Age begins after the banishment of the dark lord Morgoth and ends with the first demise of Sauron, Morgoth’s servant and the primary villain in The Lord of the Rings, at the hands of an alliance of elves and men.

Shippey said that Amazon “has a relatively free hand” to add details since Tolkien did not flesh out every detail of the Second Age in his appendices or Unfinished Tales, a collection of stories published posthumously in 1980. But Shippey called it “a bit of a minefield – you have to tread very carefully”, saying that “the Tolkien estate will insist that the main shape of the Second Age is not altered. Sauron invades Eriador, is forced back by a Númenórean expedition, is returns to Númenor. There he corrupts the Númenóreans and seduces them to break the ban of the Valar. All this, the course of history, must remain the same…

(4) BENNETT’S VIGILANCE. NPR’s Jason Heller tells us that “‘Vigilance’ Imagines A Chillingly Familiar Future”

Robert Jackson Bennett has a wicked sense of humor. His 2013 novel American Elsewhere trained a satirical eye on small-town America even as it straddled the boundaries of science fiction and horror. Yet with his latest work, a novella called Vigilance, the Austin-based author and two-time winner of the Shirley Jackson Award tackles one of the most deadly serious — and sadly relevant — topics of all: mass shootings. As in American Elsewhere, there’s both science fiction and horror in Vigilance. There’s also that wicked Bennett sense of humor. He spares no disturbing absurdity or twinge of cognitive dissonance in his examination of gun mania and the new normal of everyday massacres in America.

Make no mistake: For all its satire of government, entertainment, society, and violence, Vigilance is a sobering read. It takes place just a few years in our future, in a United States that’s simultaneously unrecognizable and chillingly familiar. Texas is in flames. The governor of Iowa is an open white supremacist. Warfare has become almost entirely remote, done with robots and drones, so that the bloodlust and sense of martial duty fostered in people by American society — as well as the noble, heroic ideal of the valiant solder — has nowhere to be vented or expressed. And the younger, more liberal generation has almost entirely fled the United States for other nations with stricter gun control, leaving the older, more gun-favoring population behind.

What that population has done is blood-curdling. John McDean is a producer for a popular television show called Vigilance, in which mass shootings are broadcast for public consumption to those who wish “to witness violence and fear, but always from safe refuge.” His target demographic is the American pistol-owner. As McDean coldly, cruelly calculates, “Pistols are for killing people. Pistols are for urban environments. Pistols are for defense.” They are the perfect choice of what McDean calls his Ideal Person, “isolated within a huge suburban house, wary and suspicious of the outside world, listening to the beautiful woman on the television warn them of horrors and depravity in the lands beyond the borders, of corruption creeping into our cities.”

(5) KAIJU VACATION. Lorelei Marcus is back from Japan where she saw the latest (in 1964) Godzilla movie: “[Aug. 7, 1964] Rematch! (Mothra vs. Godzilla)”.

In June this year, 1964, my family and I took a three week vacation to the island nation of Japan. Though I have been many times before, this was the first time I felt changed as a person after coming home. Perhaps it was the fact that I was finally old enough to appreciate the world around me; or perhaps it was because we’d chosen to stay in a new place: Hiroshima was still under construction, but I could tell it was going to become a beautiful city, despite the air of tragedy. Regardless, I saw Japan in a new light, and it has brought me to see the world in a new light as well.

I also got to see Mothra vs Godzilla, and it was incredible…

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • August 10, 1960 Dinosaurus! premiered on this day.
  • August 10, 1962The Brain That Wouldn’t Die had its theatrical debut
  • August 10, 1984 — The Banzai Institute reminds us:

It was 35 years ago today that Dr. B. Banzai, while conducting a supersonic test of his remarkable Jet Car, breached the dimensional barrier with his experimental Oscillation Overthruster and made contact with the 8th dimension. Congratulations to Dr. Banzai, as well as to the filmmaking team that documented this extraordinary event. 

  • August 10, 2004 — Donald Duck received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 10, 1896 John Gloag. His first SF novel, Tomorrow’s Yesterday, depicts a race of cat people from the distant future observing human society. It was one of five SF novels and a double handful of short stories he wrote in the Thirties and Forties. Only A Short Dictionary of Furniture, one of his non-fiction efforts, is available digitally. (Died 1981.)
  • Born August 10, 1902 Curt Siodmak. He is known for his work in  genre films for The Wolf Man and Donovan’s Brain, the latter from his own novel. ISFDB notes the latter was part of his Dr. Patrick Cory series, and he wrote quite a few other genre novels as well. Donovan’s Brain and a very few other works are available in digital form.  (Died 2000.)
  • Born August 10, 1903 Ward Moore. Author of Bring the Jubilee which everyone knows and several novels more that I’m fairly sure almost no one knows. More interestingly to me was that he was a keen writer of recipes as ISFDB documents four of his appeared in Anne McCaffrey’s Cooking Out of This World. Kidneys anyone? Or tripe anyone?  (Died 1978.)
  • Born August 10, 1931 Alexis A. Gilliland, 88. He won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1982, edging out Brin and Swanwick for the honor. Gilliland also won four Hugo Awards for Best Fan Artist in the early Eighties and won the Tucker Award for Excellence in Partying in the late Eighties. What the Hell is that?  He’s got two series, Rosinante and Wizenbeak, neither of which I’ve read.
  • Born August 10, 1939 Kate O’Mara. Her films included two Hammer Horror films, The Vampire Lovers and The Horror of Frankenstein. She also appeared on Doctor Who as The Rani during the Era of The Seventh Doctor in a recurring role. She reposted that role in the charity special, Doctor Who: Dimensions in Time. (Died 2014.)
  • Born August 10, 1952 David C. Smith, 67. He is best known for his fantasy novels, particularly those co-authored with Richard L. Tierney, featuring characters created by Robert E. Howard, most notably the six novels which involved Red Sonja. Those novels are available on iBooks but not on Kindle. 
  • Born August 10, 1955 Eddie Campbell, 64. Best known as the illustrator and publisher of From Hell (written by Alan Moore), and Bacchus, a series about the few Greek gods who have made to our time. Though not genre, I highly recommend The Black Diamond Detective Agency which he did. It’s adaptation of an as-yet unmade screenplay by C. Gaby Mitchell. 
  • Born August 10, 1965 Claudia Christian, 54. Best known role is Commander Susan Ivanova on Babylon 5, but she has done other genre roles such as being Brenda Lee Van Buren in The Hidden, Katherine Shelley in Lancelot: Guardian of Time, Quinn in Arena, Lucy in The Haunting of Hell House and Kate Dematti in Meteor Apocalypse. She’s had one-offs on Space Rangers, Highlander, Quantum Leap, Relic Hunter and Grimm. She’s Captain Belinda Blowhard on StarHyke, a six episode SF comic series shot in ‘05 you can see on Amazon Prime. 

(8) HELP PICK THE EXPANSE TOYS. Bonnie McDaniel alerts Filers to Amazon’s page where you can vote on toys and dolls to be included with their upcoming box set of The Expanse. “Needless to say, I voted for the swearing Avasarala doll.” 😀

Some of you wanted a statue of Madam Secretary; others wanted this to be much more “playful.” We’re going to start with the idea of a highly decorated doll. We’ll dress her in her red tunic and include all the proper accessories. We’ll put her in a whimsical toy box for display. And, most importantly, she’ll come with attitude. Press her back and hear her favorite adult-rated sayings. Approx. 12” high.

(9) TUNE INTO SFF. BBC Radio 4’s Stillicide is a futuristic mini-series. Each episode is only 15 minutes and will be on i-player for a month.

Stillicide

Episode 1 of 12

Cynan Jones’ electrifying series set in the very near future – a future a little, but not quite like our own.

Water is commodified and the Water Train that feeds the city is increasingly at risk of sabotage. And now icebergs are set to be towed to a huge ice dock outside the capital city – a huge megalopolis that is draining the country of its resources.

Against this, a lone marksman stands out in the field. His job is to protect the Water Train…

From one of the most celebrated writers of his generation, Stillicide is a moving story of love and loss and the will to survive, and a powerful glimpse of the tangible future.

Available now — “Episode 1: The Water Train”

(10) SHOOTING THE MOON. Let’s also mention Gideon Marcus’ profile of the latest Moon exploration efforts of 55 years ago. This job is not that bleepin’ easy! “[August 1, 1964] On Target (The Successful Flight of Ranger 7)”.

…Never mind them.  Rangers 3-5 were the real lunar probes, even including giant balsawood pimples on the end, which housed seismometers that could survive impact with the Moon.  It was more important than ever that we know what the lunar surface was like now that President Kennedy had announced that we would, as a nation, put a man on the Moon and bring him safely back to Earth before the decade was out.

Easier said than done.  Ranger 3, launched in January 1962, missed the Moon.  Moreover, it sailed past while facing the wrong way.  The probe took no useful pictures, and a failure of the onboard computer prevented the acquisition of sky science data….

(11) THE WATCHERS. On the National Public Radio website, Annalisa Quinn reviews a new novel, The Turn of the Key (Ruth Ware), that updates Henry James’s The Turn of the Screw for the current digital and surveillance age. (“We’re All Haunted In ‘The Turn Of The Key'”)

     In Henry James’s ambiguous, paranoid novella The Turn of the Screw (1898), a governess is left in charge of two children in an isolated Essex country house. Over time, she becomes convinced the children are communing with the ghosts of former servants, who appear to them, at first at a distance and then ever closer, threatening to lead them to damnation. By the end, a child is dead, but we still don’t know: Were the ghosts real, or were they in the governess’s head?

     With The Turn of the Key, Ruth Ware (The Woman in Cabin 10) offers a clever and elegant update to James’s story, one with less ambiguity but its own eerie potency. Rowan Caine accepts a nannying job at a gorgeous house in the Scottish Highlands, wired with a smart home app called, horribly, “Happy,” that lets its owners surveil every room in the house from afar, control the lights, heat, and locks — and even talk through speakers in the walls.

(12) EVERYBODY WAVE AT LARRY. Larry Correia tells people he never reads this blog, yet it’s important to him to know what’s being said about him here and to respond to it because he has the thinnest-skin and the biggest ears of anyone in the field. “House of Assassins Is A Finalist For The Dragon Award For Best Fantasy” [Internet Archive link].

(13) GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. In July, Greg Bear blogged about his experiences “Meeting Epstein”. He met him at a conference in 2011 to which he was invited at the behest of AI researcher Marvin Minsky. Bloomberg’s article says Virginia Giuffre has named Minsky as someone Jeffrey Epstein sent her to when she was 17, according to an unsealed deposition in Federal court.

…On a couple of occasions, we had face time with Epstein, who seemed, to me, an eccentric and possibly brilliant financier with weird ideas about economics–but hell, he was paying all the bills, so we were polite. One of our observations about his entourage was they consisted mostly of attractive young women in their twenties or early thirties, at most, brought over from his private island near St. John, where it seemed they staffed his house. We had been dangled the possibility of being taken out to that island to see the sights, but most of us did not get that opportunity.

The women, by my instincts, were of a uniform and somewhat inaccessible temper, and I got the impression that Epstein was their lord and master, and they did not range far in their daily lives. But they were all adults.

At one point during the conference, with Epstein in the room, some imp of perverse in me made an analogy (I cannot remember my exact point, or the reason for the analogy) to Dracula coming down out of his castle to ravage the young women of the village. That put an end — though not abruptly — to our face time with Epstein, and the conference ended on schedule. We had a great time with Marvin and his wife, Gloria, loved the islands and towns, and never heard from Epstein or his people again. No further conferences were arranged, at least with me involved….

(14) ON THE CHEAP. Getting up-to-date images is easy when the satellites are cheap enough that you can put up a lot of them: “Iceye satellites return super-sharp radar images”.

Finnish space start-up Iceye has once again given an impressive demonstration of its novel technology’s capabilities.

The company’s radar satellites are now returning sub-1m resolution images of the Earth’s surface.

This level of performance is expected from traditional spacecraft that weigh a tonne or more and cost in excess of one hundred million euros.

But Iceye’s breakthrough satellites are the size of a suitcase and cost only a couple of million to build.

The Helsinki-based outfit is leading a group of “New Space” companies that aim to fly constellations of such radar imagers.

This is something that would have seemed technically very challenging and prohibitively expensive just a few years ago.

(15) STANDING UP. ComicBook.com sees the pursuit of truth and justice: “Superman Joins Twitter, Dives Into Immigration Debate”.

Few things are as debated at the moment in America as Immigration, and while there are a myriad of opinions about how we should handle it, I don’t think anyone expected Superman to jump into the fray. That’s exactly what DC did though when Superman got a Twitter account, and the hero didn’t waste any time establishing who he is and what he’s always been about. DC shared a video featuring a classic Superman PSA from 1960 titled Lend A Friendly Hand, which put a spotlight on two children looking down on another child because he is a refugee, and Superman breaks down what’s wrong with their thinking.

(16) VIDEO OF THE DAY. “Meow Wolf–Awakening Creativity for the Masses” on Vimeo is an interview with Meow Wolf CEO Vince Kadlubek where he talks about Meow Wolf’s nethods of creating art and how they can inspire creativity ine everyone who experiences a Meow Wolf production.

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Chip Hitchcock, JJ, Cliff Ramshaw, Martin Morse Wooster, John King Tarpinian, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, James Bacon, James Davis Nicoll, Bonnie McDaniel, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Ingvar.]

Pixel Scroll 6/3/19 This Is My Pixel And This Is My Scroll! One Is For Filing, The Other I LOL!

(1) RED MOON RISING. “Apple Publishes “For All Mankind” Apple TV+ Trailer” at MacStories.

What if the space race had never ended? Watch an official first look at For All Mankind, an Apple Original drama series coming this Fall to Apple TV+. Get notified when Apple TV+ premieres on the Apple TV app: http://apple.co/_AppleTVPlus For All Mankind is created by Emmy® Award winner Ronald D. Moore (Outlander, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica), Matt Wolpert and Ben Nedivi. Told through the lives of NASA astronauts, engineers and their families, For All Mankind presents an aspirational world where NASA and the space program remained a priority and a focal point of our hopes and dreams.

(2) TRACING THE MCU. In “+” at the Los Angeles Review of Books, University of Southern California cinema professor J.D. Connor has an exhaustive and highly quotable analysis of the MCU.

…Still, Feige has been utterly judicious about when and how to push. Over the years, fans (and others) have pushed for a less white, less male MCU, and Feige (and others) have managed to create an underdiscourse, in which the limits of the MCU’s representational efforts stem not from his convictions but rather from constraints placed on his own fandom by longtime Marvel head Ike Perlmutter and conservative forces on what was called the “Marvel Creative Committee.” Feige was able to get Perlmutter and the committee out of his way in 2015, and the next four films out of the pipeline would be developed, written, shot, and edited without their input. It’s no surprise that those four films happen to be the “boldest Marvel has ever made”: Guardians 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok, and Black Panther.

Here the crucial installment is Black Panther, which seemed to prove that the whole machine could just as easily work based on African diaspora superheroes, with departments largely headed by women of color. Black Panther offers a vision of merit deferred. In place of lamentations about the empty pipeline, here was a movie that suggested, convincingly, that the representational revolution was at hand and only required Hollywood certification. The industry was clearly ready to endorse that vision of incremental revolution, giving Oscars to both Ruth E. Carter (Costume) and Hannah Beachler (Production Design). Those two, along with an award for Black Panther’s score, were the MCU’s first wins.

This story — from foundation and expansion to confidence and representation — has been emerging within the MCU. At the end of Endgame, Tony Stark is dead, Steve Rogers is old, and Thor has a new home among the more ridiculous and sentimental Guardians of the Galaxy. Replacing the foundational three white dudes are Captain Marvel, a new Captain America, and Black Panther….

(3) IRON MANTLE. The Spider-Man: Far From Home Chinese Trailer inspires a SYFY Wire writer to theorize about the MCU’s future —

…The world is definitely asking “who is going to be the next Iron Man?” Captain America has promoted Falcon. Who’s taking up Iron Man’s robotic mantle? With Spidey debuting multiple new suits in the film (and in the trailer, where fans can see the black stealth suit swing), this could be Peter Parker’s time to shine as the MCU moves into a new Phase.

(4) MONSTROSITY. Leonard Maltin really unloads on “Godzilla: King of the Monsters”.

Two hours wasted: that’s how I feel after watching Godzilla: King of the Monsters. This bloated production starts out as an enjoyably tacky monster movie but doesn’t know when to quit. Every pseudo-scientific explanation (and there are plenty) has a counter-explanation in order to keep the story going…and every apparent climax leads to another climax. There’s even a post-credits scene, as if we needed one. We don’t….

(5) THAT CAT KNOWS WHAT HE’S ABOUT. So perhaps it’s just as well that Camestros Felapton was duped into seeing the Elton John biopic instead — Rocketcat.

[Timothy the Talking Cat] You see? You see? I totally tricked you.
[Camestros Felapton] Hmmm
[Tim] You thought we were going to go and see Godzilla but we actually went to see Rocketman.
[CF] That’s OK. I enjoyed the film.
[Tim] But admit that I totally tricked you….

(6) RETRO SPECIAL EFFECTS. Lots of sff GIFs here, beginning with a load of flying saucer movie clips, at Raiders of the Lost Tumblr.

(7) MORE AURORA AWARDS NEWS. Voting for the Aurora Awards will begin on August 3, 2019. Click here to visit the public ballot page.

The Aurora Voters Package will be available for CSFFA members to download later this month.

Both the voters package and the ballot close at 11:59 pm EDT on September 14, 2018.

(8) NEW TITLE FOR GRRM. ComicsBeat has learned “George R.R. Martin Has a New World to Explore in Meow Wolf”.

Looks like George R. R. Martin is taking his epic world-building skills to Meow Wolf, the Santa Fe-based arts and entertainment collective behind the House of Eternal Return and other next-gen immersive and interactive exhibitions. The Game of Thrones creator has been named new Chief World Builder and will bring his “unparalleled storytelling skills to the multiverse” of Meow Wolf by working with key members of the collective to “advise on building narrative and mind-bending ideas” that will yield “ambitious immersive installations.”

This isn’t Martin’s first time working with Meow Wolf. The Santa Fe resident helped secure the local bowling alley that is now the House of Eternal Return attraction and entertainment complex. The attraction displays a multidimensional mystery house of secret passages and surreal tableaus featuring Meow Wolf’s artists, architects, and designers, as well as a learning center, cafe, music venue, bar, and outdoor dining scene.

(9) COME HOME. Disney dropped a new trailer for The Lion King that features Beyonce.

(10) DARROW OBIT. BBC reports “Blake’s 7 actor Paul Darrow dies at 78”.

British actor Paul Darrow, best known for his role as Kerr Avon in sci-fi BBC TV series Blake’s 7, has died at the age of 78 following a short illness.

Most recently, Darrow voiced soundbites for independent radio stations Jack FM and Union Jack, where he was known as the “Voice of Jack”.

The character of Avon was second-in-command on Blake’s 7, which ran for four series between 1978 and 1981.

Darrow shared a flat with John Hurt and Ian McShane while studying at Rada.

While best-known for his Blake’s 7 role, he appeared in more than 200 television shows, including Doctor Who, The Saint, Z Cars, Emmerdale, Hollyoaks and Little Britain.

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 3, 1905 Norman A. Daniels. Writer working initially in pulp magazines, later on radio and television. He created the Black Bat pulp hero and wrote for such series as The Avengers, The Phantom Detective and The Shadow. He has three non-series novels, The Lady Is a Witch, Spy Slave and Voodoo Lady. To my surprise, iBooks and Kindle has a Black Bat Omnibus available! In addition, iBooks has the radio show. (Died 1995.)
  • Born June 3, 1931 John Norman. 86. Gor, need I say more? I could say both extremely sexist and badly written but that goes without saying. They are to this day both extremely popular being akin to earlier pulp novels, though argue the earlier pulp novels by and large were more intelligent than these are. Not content to have one such series, he wrote the Telnarian Histories which also has female slaves. No, not one of my favourite authors. 
  • Born June 3, 1946 Penelope Wilton, 73. She played the recurring role of Harriet Jones in Doctor Who, an unusual thing for the show as they developed a story for the character. She was also played Homily in The Borrowers, Barbara in Shaun of the Dead, The Queen in Roald Dahl’s The BFG, Beatrix Potter in The Tale of Beatrix Potter, The White Queen in Through the Looking-Glass and Gertrude in in Hamlet at the Menier Chocolate Factory. 
  • Born June 3, 1950 Melissa Mathison. Screenwriter who worked with Spielberg on  E.T. the Extra-TerrestrialTwilight Zone: The Movie and BFG, the latter being the last script she did before dying of cancer. She also did The Indian in the Cupboard which wasdirected by Frank Oz. (Died 2015.)
  • Born June 3, 1958 Suzie Plakson, 61. She played four characters on Trek series: a Vulcan, Doctor Selar, in “The Schizoid Man” (Next Gen); the half-Klingon/half-human Ambassador K’Ehleyr in “The Emissary” and “Reunion” (Next Gen); the Lady Q in “The Q and the Grey” (Voyager); and an Andorian, Tarah, in “Cease Fire” (Enterprise).  She also voiced Amazonia in the “Amazon Women in the Mood” episode of Futurama. Really. Truly.
  • Born June 3, 1964 James Purefoy, 55. His most recent genre performance was as Laurens Bancroft in Altered Carbon. His most impressive was as Solomon Kane in the film of that name. He was also in A Knight’s Tale as Edward, the Black Prince of Wales/Sir Thomas Colville. He dropped out of being V in V for Vendetta some six weeks into shooting but some early scenes of the masked V are of him.
  • Born June 3, 1973 Patrick Rothfuss, 46. He is best known for the Kingkiller Chronicle series, which won him several awards, including the 2007 Quill Award for his first novel, The Name of the Wind. Before The Name of the Wind was released, an excerpt from the novel was released as a short story titled “The Road to Levinshir” and it won the Writers of the Future contest in 2002.

(12) THE FUNGI THEY HAD. [Item by Daniel Dern.] Over the weekend, RadioLab rebroadcast a fascinating September 2016 podcast, From Tree To Shining Tree, discussing the various ways that trees intercommunicate, along with the discovery of an intense fungi-based underground network (hence my item title).

Related recommended reading (I don’t know if they mentioned it in the show, we tuned in after it was underway, but I’d happened upon it in my public library’s New Books, when it came out, and borrowed’n’read it then), The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate?Discoveries From A Secret World by Peter Wohlleben

(Perhaps Greg Bear could be inspired by these, and do Sap Music as a sequel to Blood Music?

(13) KEEPING THE SHIP IN STARSHIP. James Davis Nicoll rigs up a post about “Light Sails in Science and Fiction” at Tor.com.

…Possibly the reason that light sails took a while to become popular tropes is that the scientifically-clued-in authors who would have been aware of the light sail possibility would also have known just how minuscule light sail accelerations would be. They might also have realized that it would be computationally challenging to predict light sail trajectories and arrival times. One-g-forever rockets may be implausible, but at least working how long it takes them to get from Planet A to Planet B is straightforward. Doing the same for a vehicle dependent on small variable forces over a long, long time would be challenging.

Still, sailing ships in space are fun, so it’s not surprising that some authors have featured them in their fiction. Here are some of my favourites…

(14) IRONMAN ONE. The Space Review salutes the 50th anniversary of Marooned, the movie adaptation of Martin Caidin’s book, in “Saving Colonel Pruett”.

In this 50th anniversary year of the first Apollo lunar landing missions, we can reflect not only on those missions but also on movies, including the reality-based, technically-oriented space movies of that era, that can educate as well as entertain and inspire. One of those is Marooned, the story of three NASA astronauts stranded in low Earth orbit aboard their Apollo spacecraft, call-sign Ironman One—all letters, no numbers, and painted right on the command module (CM), a practice NASA had abandoned by 1965. They were the first crew of Ironman, the world’s first space station, the renovated upper stage of a Saturn rocket as planned for the Apollo Applications Program, predecessor of Skylab….

(15) GHIBLI PARK. “Studio Ghibli Park Set to Open in Japan in 2022”The Hollywood Reporter has the story.

Japanese anime hit factory Studio Ghibli is to open a theme park in 2022 in cooperation with the local Aichi Prefecture government and the Chunichi Shimbun newspaper company.

Plans for the “Ghibli Park,” which will occupy 494 acres (200 hectares) in Nagakute City, Aichi, were first announced around this time in 2017, when the local government said it was looking for other commercial partners.

…According to the three companies, three areas — Youth Hill, partly based on Howl’s Moving Castle; Dondoko Forest, based on My Neighbor Totoro; and a Great Ghibli Warehouse — are set to open in fall 2022. A Mononoke Village, based on Princess Mononoke, and a Valley of the Witch area, themed on both Kiki’s Delivery Service and Howl’s Moving Castle, are set to open a year later

(16) ANOTHER YANK OF THE CHAIN. Fast Company finds that once again “The P in IHOP doesn’t stand for what you think it stands for”. (Really, at moments like this I think it’s a darned shame I don’t monetize this site.)

…The IHOB campaign got the brand more than 42 billion media impressions worldwide, and immediately quadrupled the company’s burger sales. Now a year later, with burger sales still humming along at double their pre-IHOB numbers, the brand is trying to once again to catch advertising lightning in a (butter pecan) bottle.

Last week, the diner chain announced that it would have an announcement today, relating to its name, aiming once again for the same social-media chatter that debated its burgers last time around. A lot of those people last year scolded IHOP for venturing beyond pancakes. Now the brand is having a bit of fun with that idea–and the definition of a pancake.

“This year we listened to the internet and are sticking to what we do best, which is pancakes,” says IHOP CMO Brad Haley. “We’re just now calling our steak burgers pancakes. We contacted some of the people who told us to stick to pancakes last year for this year’s campaign, so the trolls have teed up the new campaign quite nicely.”

(17) DO CHEATERS EVER PROSPER? NPR’s Caitlyn Paxson says“Cheating Death Will Cost You In ‘The Wise And The Wicked'”.

In this tale of a family with dark secrets and divinatory gifts, Lambda Literary Award winner Rebecca Podos ponders the inevitable question: If you can read the future that lies ahead, do you also have the power to change it?

When Ruby Chernyavsky hit her teen years, she had a premonition — a vision of the moments leading up to her death. Knowing her “Time” was something she always expected, since all of the women in her family forsee their own, but what none of them know is that Ruby’s days are numbered. Her Time is her 18th birthday, so in a little over a year, she’ll be dead….

(18) PLAYING FOR KEEPS. This is what happens when you trimble your kipple: “Long-lost Lewis Chessman found in Edinburgh family’s drawer”.

A medieval chess piece that was missing for almost 200 years had been unknowingly kept in a drawer by an Edinburgh family.

They had no idea that the object was one of the long-lost Lewis Chessmen – which could now fetch £1m at auction.

The chessmen were found on the Isle of Lewis in 1831 but the whereabouts of five pieces have remained a mystery.

The Edinburgh family’s grandfather, an antiques dealer, had bought the chess piece for £5 in 1964.

He had no idea of the significance of the 8.8cm piece (3.5in), made from walrus ivory, which he passed down to his family.

They have looked after it for 55 years without realising its importance, before taking it to Sotheby’s auction house in London.

The Lewis Chessmen are among the biggest draws at the British Museum and the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

They are seen as an “important symbol of European civilisation” and have also seeped into popular culture, inspiring everything from children’s show Noggin The Nog to part of the plot in Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone.

(19) TOTALLY TONOPAH. Kevin Standlee promotes the Tonopah in 2021 Westercon bid in an interview about the proposed facility:

Tonopah in 2021 chair Kevin Standlee interviews Mizpah Hotel supervisor Rae Graham and her wife (and Mizpah Club staffer) Kayla Brosius about the Mizpah Hotel, what they think about how Tonopah would welcome a Westercon, and how they think the convention would fit with the hotel.

 The bid’s webpage also has a lot of new information about hotels and restaurants in Tonopah. Standlee says, “A new hotel just opened up adding another 60 rooms to the town, including more handicapped-accessible/roll-in-shower rooms, for example.”

Standlee and Lisa Hayes took a lot of photos while they were in Tonopah, now added to their Flickr album — including pictures of the unexpected late-May snow. Kevin admits:

I’d be very surprised by snow in July, but they schedule their big annual town-wide event for Memorial Day because it should neither be snowy or hot, and they instead got four inches of snow on their rodeo. Fortunately, it mostly all melted by the next morning.

Memorial Day Snow in Tonopah
Unhappy Bear
Kuma Bear is grumpy that he’s all covered in snow after Lisa and Kevin went out for a walk in Tonopah when it was snowing.

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

Pixel Scroll 11/25/18 The Oldest Established Permanent Floating (Pixel Scroll) In A City With Two Names Twice

(1) BOOKSHELF ART. An amazing idea – “Clever Wooden Bookends Mimic Tokyo’s Narrow Back Alleys Lit Up at Night” at My Modern Met.

Based in Tokyo, Japanese designer monde has created a new category of art and design—bookshelf dioramas. His wood inserts transform ordinary bookshelves into something magical and bring the feel of a Japanese back alley into your home. Monde’s “back alley bookshelves” first caused a stir when the designer debuted them at the arts and crafts event Design Festa.

…Inspired by Tokyo, his work carefully mirrors the dizzying feeling of wandering the city’s back alleys. Monde has been working on the project for two years, using different materials to create the look and feel of the city. He’s even added lights to some models, which give a soft glow that emanates from the bookshelf. This newer model is also sized perfectly to sit between paperback novels.

 

(2) KGB. Ellen Datlow has posted her photos from the Fantastic Fiction at KGB Readings for November 19:

Cat Rambo and Leanna Renee Hieber read from their recent or forthcoming novels to a surprisingly almost full house (surprisingly, because it was Thanksgiving Eve and we were worried no one would show up).

(3) DIVE INTO FANZINES. The Science Fiction Fanzine Reader: Focal Points 1930-1960 edited by Luis Ortiz includes more than fifty articles and many illustrations by most of the major fan writers of the period. It’s available from Nonstop Press. The Table of Contents is in the Fancyclopedia. I pre-ordered a copy today.

(4) BRACKETT. Cinephilia prefaces “Leigh Brackett: A Terrific Writer Ahead of Her Time just as She Was Ahead of Her Colleagues”, its repost of Starlog’s 1974 interview, with this introduction:

The name Leigh Brackett, already surely familiar to every true fan of the literary genre of science fiction, is a name that should be celebrated by every film lover as well. Born exactly 101 years ago and often referred to as The Queen of Space Opera, she started writing and publishing her stories in various science ficiton pulp magazines at the beginning of the 1940s and soon established herself as one of the leading representatives of the space opera subgenre, but continued to work in various different genres with equal skill and success. Her 1944 novel ‘No Good from a Corpse,’ a hard-boiled mystery novel in the style of Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett, not only introduced her to a wider audience, but steered her career towards the movie business, another field where she would become a prominent figure. Howard Hawks was so impressed by this novel that he asked his assistant to call “this guy Brackett.” In fact, this statement basically sums up the challenges and obstacles Brackett had to face on her way to becoming one of the most important writers of the century. She succeeded at distinguishing herself as a highly competent, original and strong voice in a field practically reserved for men, and in the early stages of her career she had to put up with a lot of skepticism and outright criticism for being a female writer of science fiction. Moreover, the nickname The Queen of Space Opera was mostly used as a degrading term, not a compliment: the subgenre she found most interesting and inspiring was then regarded as a lesser form of writing, some sort of an ugly child of science fiction and fantasy. But she stuck with it, defended it, becoming its champion and claiming science fiction should never be put into drawers and confined with labels.

(5) WFC GOHS. Jim C. Hines, in “World Fantasy Con Guest of Honor Policies”, presents data and analysis that show an inconsistent record when it comes to certain criteria that supposedly govern WFC GoH choices, criteria used to explain the lack of PoC among them.

There’s a lot to unpack in the full letter, but I wanted to focus on this particular idea, that guests of honor had to have decades of experience in the field. So I went through the list of WFC guests of honor and pulled together the year of the con and the year of the guest’s first published book. It’s not a perfect way to measure years in the field, but I think it works pretty well….

…The WFC Board said, “Convention committees select Special Guests and especially Guests of Honor in order to recognize and pay tribute to their body of work within the genre over a significant period of time, usually consisting of decades in the field.” I’ve seen others, people not necessarily affiliated with the con, argue that WFC author guests of honor should have at least 30 years in the field.

The latter is obviously untrue. Only a quarter of all guests have been active SF/F professionals for three decades or more.

(6) MY GOD, IT’S FULL OF FLOPPIES. The Verge reminds us what we probably should have already known had we thought about it, “The International Space Station is full of floppy disks”.

The International Space Station is apparently in need of a garage sale. European Space Agency astronaut Alexander Gerst, currently in residence up in, well, space, discovered a treasure trove of floppy disks tucked away in one of the lockers on-board.

The ISS recently celebrated its 20th anniversary on November 20th. As spotted by CNET,Gerst tweeted a picture of his ancient tech find, adding “I found a locker on the @Space_Station that probably hasn’t been opened for a while.” In addition to a Norton’s Utilities for Windows 95 / 98, the folder also includes a few disks labeled “Crew Personal Support Data Disk.” The most likely candidates for who they refer to are former astronauts William Shepherd and Sergei Krikalev, who were notable crew members in 2000 during the first manned ISS mission, Expedition 1.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • November 25, 1920 – Ricardo Montalban, Actor who became famous to genre fans for reprising his original Star Trek series role as the “genetically-superior” Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. But do you remember that he played the circus owner Armando, who saves Corneilius and Zira’s son Caesar, in the Escape and Conquest versions of Planet of the Apes? He also played two different characters in episodes of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., had a part in an episode of Mission: Impossible, and appeared in the pilot episode for Lynda Carter’s Wonder Woman series in 1974. His last roles included playing the grandfather in Spy Kids 2 and 3, and as character voices in animated series, among them the villain Vartkes on Buzz Lightyear of Star Command and as a cow on Family Guy. (Died 2009.)
  • November 25, 1926 – Poul Anderson, Writer whose first genre works were published in Astounding while he was at university. After getting a degree in physics – with honors – instead of pursuing that profession, he continued to write stories for the early magazines, and later standalone novels. My favorite ones by him? Orion Shall Rise, for the mix of personal scale story with his usual grand political themes, and all of the Flandry stories, though they can often be sexist, are quite fun. His works won numerous Hugo and Nebula Awards, he was Guest of Honor at the 1959 Worldcon, and he was named SFWA Grand Master and inducted into the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame. (Died 2001.)
  • November 25, 1926 – Jeffrey Hunter, Actor best known for his 1965 role as Captain Christopher Pike in the original pilot episode of Star Trek, which was later framed into the Hugo Award-winning two-part episode “The Menagerie”. Other genre work included Dimension 5, A Witch Without A Broom, Strange Portrait (never released, and no print exists), The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, Journey into Fear, and The Green Hornet. On the afternoon of May 26, 1969, he fell and suffered a skull fracture while at home and, despite surgical intervention, died the following morning at age 42.
  • November 25, 1930 – Jacqueline Simpson, 88, Writer and Research of folklore and legends. Consider that any reasonably-long fiction series creates its own history and folklore over the time that series unfolds. Now consider Jacqueline Simpson, a British folklorist who met Terry Pratchett at a book signing one day, and was able to answer at length his query about how many magpie rhymes she knew. This started a friendship which led to The Folklore of Discworld: Legends, Myths and Customs from the Discworld with Helpful Hints from Planet Earth. It lovingly details the folklore of the Discworld novels, and draws parallels with Earth’s folklore, particularly the British folklore Pratchett used. Nice!
  • November 25, 1951 – Charlaine Harris, 67, Writer of more than 30 novels in her interlinked metaverse, the most well-known probably being the massively-popular Sookie Stackhouse series, which was made into the TV series True Blood, and the Midnight, Texas trilogy, which is currently a TV series of the same name. She received a Compton Crook Award nomination for her debut novel, the first in the Stackhouse series, and the first volume of the Cemetery Girl graphic novel series, The Pretenders, earned her and co-author Christopher Golden a World Fantasy Award nomination.
  • November 25, 1953Michael J. “Orange Mike” Lowrey, 65, Bookseller, Civil Service Employee, Writer, Editor, Fan, and Filer, who is best known in fandom for always appearing in ensembles which are entirely in shades of orange. He has been a member of Nashville and Milwaukee fandom clubs and the Society for Creative Anachronism, as well as producing his own fanzine, Vojo de Vivo, and participating in APAs. He has attended every single Chattacon – 43 at last count! – and more than 40 Wiscons, and was Fan Guest of Honor at ICon 25. He was a TAFF candidate in 2003, and is a candidate again this year to travel to the Dublin Worldcon. He and fan C. Kay Hinchliffe were married at X-Con 5 in 1981, and their child Kelly is a fan writer and artist as well.
  • November 25, 1974 – Sarah Monette, 44, Writer who was a Campbell finalist two years in a row, based on the strength of the first two novels in her Doctrine of Labyrinths series, Mélusine and The Virtu, which are quite wonderful and feature a magician and a thief in magical realism setting. I’m hard to impress, but this impressed me: under the pen name of Katherine Addison, she published The Goblin Emperor, which garnered the Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel and was nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy Awards. Damn, that’s good! She won the Spectrum Award in 2003 for her short story “Three Letters from the Queen of Elfland”. I also highly recommend the Iskryne series, which she co-wrote with Elizabeth Bear. The Bone Key is a collection of all but the most recent short works in The Necromantic Mysteries of Kyle Murchison Booth, about a paranormal investigator.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) FIRST SCOTTISH SFF BOOK FESTIVAL. Happens in June, and The Herald says there hasn’t been one before — “Scotland’s first book festival dedicated to fantasy, science fiction and horror is launched”.

The Cymera festival is to launch next year in Edinburgh, and will run for three days in June.

Scotland already has successful book festivals that feature various genres, including the Edinburgh International Book Festival, Glasgow‘s Aye Write! and the Wigtown Book Festival, while Bloody Scotland, in Stirling, is firmly established as a leading crime writing festival.

Cymera, to be staged at the Pleasance venue in Edinburgh, hopes to do the same for the popular fantastical genres.

The full line up for the festival is to be announced in the new year, but so far writers inlcuding Samantha Shannon, author of the Bone Season series, Ken MacLeod, the noted Scottish sci-fi writer, Charles Stross, the prolific horror writer, and Claire McFall and Cassandra Khaw have been confirmed as attendees.

(10) BACK TO MEOW. George R.R. Martin wears his braces of death for the photo that adorns the print edition of his LA Times interview, unfortunately they didn’t use it in the online version — “Why ‘Game of Thrones’ scribe George R.R. Martin took a chance on Meow Wolf”.

What led famed “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin to invest millions of dollars in the Santa Fe-based art collective Meow Wolf was his intuition….

Investing in Meow Wolf was a generous gesture, but while money can be a great facilitator, it can also have a corrosive effect on art.

There’s a danger that you can lose your soul or you can lose the thing that inspired you to start. But Meow Wolf hasn’t done that. What’s it going to be 20 years from now? I don’t know. We’ll have to see. You can go online and you’ll read a lot of good press about Meow Wolf, but you will also come across certain sites or reviews that are basically, “Well, it’s OK. It’s fun, but it’s not art,” from people who have a very narrow view of what art is.

(11) THE BLACK SCREEN OF DEATH. At Galactic Journey, Cora Buhlert tells about the West German reaction to the Kennedy assassination in “[November 24, 1963] Mourning on two continents”.

Like most West Germans, news of the terrible events in Dallas reached me at home, just settling onto the sofa for an evening of TV. Like some ninety percent of West German television owners, I had my set tuned to the eight o’clock evening news tagesschau. But instead of the familiar tagesschau fanfare, the screen remained dark for a minute or two, something which has never happened before in the eleven years the program has been on the air. When the image finally returned, the visibly shaken news anchor Karl-Heinz Köpcke reported that John F. Kennedy had been shot in Dallas, Texas, and was rushed to hospital. By the end of the program, we knew that Kennedy had not survived….

(12) PROVENANCE. Somebody reading this would probably like to own an autographed copy of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 that used to belong to Hugh Hefner. Here’s your chance.

A signed and inscribed copy of the 40th Anniversary Edition of Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993). Together with an illustrated edition from 1982 in a slipcover case.

Larger, 11 by 7 1/4 inches

PROVENANCE From the Collection of Hugh M. Hefner

(13) THAT’S SOME JOHNSON. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] The DorkSideOfTheForce wonders, “Obi-Wan spin-off movie is apparently happening?” Well, according to a speech by British politician Boris Johnson to Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party, it is. In one snippet, he said:

We have more Nobel prizes from one Cambridge college than from Russia and china combined. By far the most dynamic creative culture and media industries. Which was the biggest grossing movie last year? Star Wars and where does George Lucas propose to make a follow up about Obi-Wan Kenobi? Northern Ireland.

But what is the name of the weapon wielded by Obi-Wan. The glowing throbbing rod with its enigmatic hum. A light sabre – and where did they make the first light sabre?

Apparently this is somehow part of his anti-Theresa May but pro-Brexit reasoning.

(14) WATER WORLD? A new paper in The Astrophysical Journal (“Evolved Climates and Observational Discriminants for the TRAPPIST-1 Planetary System”) strikes a more optimistic tone than several past articles about the chances for liquid water on at least one of the TRAPPIST-1 planets. As the popsci review at BGR.com (“One of the TRAPPIST-1 exoplanets might have an ocean, researchers now say”) puts it:

Ever since astronomers announced the discovery of seven exoplanets around the star called TRAPPIST-1, researchers have been diving into the data in an attempt to determine what the planets are like. Early on, the prospects for potentially habitable worlds seemed good, but subsequent models suggested that the star at the heart of the system may have burned off any atmosphere the planets once had.

Now, a new study claims to offer a slightly more optimistic scenario that gives at least one of the planets, TRAPPIST-1e, the chance at sustaining an ocean on its surface. The research was published in The Astrophysical Journal.

The TRAPPIST-1 system is incredibly special because it’s packed with seven planets, and three of them are near what we consider to be the habitable zone of the central star. However, scientists think the star had an extremely intense early phase that would likely have scorched the planets, stripping their atmosphere and moisture away long ago.

In studying each of the individual planets, the fourth most distant from the star caught the attention of scientists. Using advanced models to predict the fate of each world, the research team arrived at the conclusion that TRAPPIST-1e may have escaped the fate of its peers and could still support an ocean on its surface.

(15) FREE READ. Motherboard.com has posted a short story (“In the Forests of Memory,” E. Lily Yu) free on their site. A note from the editor says:

Especially after a week given to celebrating a holiday of thanks and remembrance, perhaps it is worth thinking about who gets remembered and why. Here, the great E. Lily Yu imagines a future where cemeteries have been upgraded, but so many other things have not. Enjoy

(16) FOCUS ON THE WILD. BBC brings you the winners of “The Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards 2018”.

A shocked squirrel has scooped the overall prize in this year’s Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards.

Out of thousands of entries from around the world, Mary McGowan, from Tampa, Florida, won the overall prize with her photo titled Caught in the Act.

[Thanks to JJ, John King Tarpinian, Bill, Chip Hitchcock, Martin Morse Wooster, 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 Daniel Dern.]

Pixel Scroll 7/12/17 All The King’s Centaurs

(1) TOP COMICS. NPR asked followers the name their favorite comics and graphic novels. Here are the results: “Let’s Get Graphic: 100 Favorite Comics And Graphic Novels”.

We assembled an amazing team of critics and creators to help winnow down more than 7,000 nominations to this final list of 100 great comics for all ages and tastes, from early readers to adults-only.

This isn’t meant as a comprehensive list of the “best” or “most important” or “most influential” comics, of course. It’s a lot more personal and idiosyncratic than that, because we asked folks to name the comics they loved. That means you’ll find enormously popular mainstays like Maus and Fun Home jostling for space alongside newer work that’s awaiting a wider audience (Check Please, anyone?).

Lots of good stuff on this list. Here’s an absolutely chosen-at-random example:

Astro City

by Kurt Busiek and Brent Anderson

At once a sprawling adventure anthology and a witty metariff on the long, whimsical history of the superhero genre, Astro City offers a bracingly bright rejoinder to “grim-and-gritty” superhero storytelling. Writer Kurt Busiek and artist Brent Anderson — with Alex Ross supplying character designs and painted covers — don’t merely people their fictional metropolis with analogues of notable heroes, though there are plenty of those on hand. The universe they’ve created pays loving homage to familiar characters and storylines even as it digs deep to continually invent new stories and feature new perspectives. Astro City is a hopeful place that dares to believe in heroes, sincerely and unabashedly; reading it, you will too.

(2) LAST YEAR’S HARDEST SF SHORT FICTION. Rocket Stack Rank has a new post surveying “Hard SF in 2016”.

Greg Hullender explains, “We’d have done this earlier in the year, but we were experimenting with new features like place and time, and we ended up gradually going back through all 814 stories annotating them. Still, I think the result is of interest.

It has been eighteen months since we explored the Health of Hard Science Fiction in 2015 (Short Fiction), so we’re overdue to take a look at 2016. This report divides into three sections:

(3) TZ REBOOT. Can this writer bring The Twilight Zone back to life? “Christine Lavaf to Pen ‘The Twilight Zone’ Reboot”.

Screenwriter Christine Lavaf is working on a reboot of The Twilight Zone.

Warner Bros has been trying to develop the new movie version of the hit horror since 2009 and a number of directors were lined up to helm the production, but each left the project before shooting could begin.

However, Warner Bros has now announced Christine will be working on the script despite a director having not yet been found to oversee the production, according to Variety.

The original plan for the movie was for it to be inspired by the 1983 Twilight Zone: The Movie horror, which was produced by Steven Spielberg and John Landis and had four segments each with a different director. But the new movie will reportedly follow just one story, which will include elements of The Twilight Zone universe.

(4) DRAWING A BLANK. Australian artist Nick Stathopoulos told his Facebook readers “No Archibald joy this year.”

Last year his painting of Deng Adut was a runner-up for the Archibald Prize for portraits — awarded annually to the best portrait, “preferentially of some man or woman distinguished in art, letters, science or politics, painted by any artist resident in Australasia” – and the winner of the Archibald Prize People’s Choice award.

Stathopoulos is a long-time fan, 10-time winner of the Australian NatCon’s Ditmar Award, and a past Hugo and Chesley Award nominee. He is frequently in contention for the annual Archibald awards.

(5) ARTISTS AT WORK. The Meow Wolf “art collective” in Santa Fe got their start with a $3.5 million investment from George R.R. Martin, and many of their “immersive installations” are sf related. Natalie Eggert’s article “This 140-Person Art Collective Is Pursuing An Alternative Model For Artists to Make A Living” for Artsy talks about how Meow Wolf has created 140 jobs with income coming from people who pay $20 to look at their “immersive installations.”

Since the Santa Fe-based art collective Meow Wolf opened its permanent installation, the House of Eternal Return, in March 2016, the project has been an unmitigated success in terms of viewership and profits. Housed in a 20,000-square-foot former bowling alley, the sprawling interactive artwork welcomed 400,000 visitors in its first year—nearly four times as many as expected—and brought in $6 million in revenue for the collective’s more than 100 members.

One of the most popular attractions in Santa Fe, the House of Eternal Return invites visitors into an elaborate Victorian house that is experiencing rifts in space-time. Open up the refrigerator or a closet door and get swept away into a new environment, each one designed by different artists of the Meow Wolf collective. There is no set route to follow and you can climb on, crawl through, and touch everything in sight. Tickets to enter the fun-house-like installation cost $20 for adults (on par with admission to a New York museum), with discounted rates available for New Mexico residents, children, senior citizens, and the military.

The installation’s sci-fi narrative, lawless abandon, and production quality have captured the imaginations of viewers, while its success has caught the art world’s attention. Could this be a sustainable, alternative avenue for artists to collaborate and make a living outside of traditional art world models?

(6) SENDAK BOOK MS. REDISCOVERED. Atlas Obscura reports: “Found: An Unpublished Manuscript by Maurice Sendak”.

Since the beloved children’s author Maurice Sendak died in 2012, the foundation set up in his name has been working to collect and sort through his artwork and the records of his life. While working through some old files, Lynn Caponera, the president of the foundation, found the typewritten manuscript for a book. When she looked more closely at it, she realized it was story she didn’t remember, reports Publishers Weekly.

What she had found was the story for Presto and Zesto in Limboland, a work that Sendak and collaborator Arthur Yorinks had worked on in the 1990s and never published. “In all honesty, we just forgot it,” Yorinks told Publishers Weekly.

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • July 12, 2013  — Pacific Rim debuted.

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAY BOY

  • Born July 12, 1912 — Artist Joseph Mungaini, who illustrated the 1962 Oscar-nominated film Icarus Montgolfier Wright based on Ray Bradbury’s story.

(9) LUCY LIU. Rebecca Rubin in Variety says that Lucy Liu will direct the first episode of season 2 of Luke Cage coming in 2018.  She previously directed four episodes of Elementary.

(10) STAND BY FOR A NEW THEORY. NPR’s Glen Weldon says new Spider-Man wins because we see learning rather than origin: “Origin-al Sin: What Hollywood Must Learn From ‘Spider-Man: Homecoming'”.

Spider-Man: Homecoming dispenses with his origin story completely, which is, at this point, a wise move. Given Spidey’s status as Marvel’s flagship character and his concurrent cultural saturation, it’s perhaps even inevitable, because: We know.

We get it. Spider-bite, spider powers, great responsibility. We’ve, all of us, been there.

And yet! Even without seeing precisely how and why Peter Parker gets from the here of normal life to the there of fantastic, thwippy powers, Tom Holland is eminently, achingly relatable. His Peter is someone in whom we easily see ourselves at our most excited and anxious. Which is the whole secret.

(11) THIS SUCKS. Using ROVs to scoop up invasive species: “Can a robot help solve the Atlantic’s lionfish problem?”. There’s a video report at the link.

Robots in Service of the Environment has designed an underwater robot to combat a growing problem in the Atlantic Ocean: the invasive lionfish.

(12) MAJOR DEVELOPMENT. A league of their own? Overwatch starts city-based videogaming league: “Overwatch: Bigger than the Premier League?”

Its developer Activision Blizzard has just announced the first seven team owners for a forthcoming league. It believes, in time, the tournament could prove more lucrative than the UK’s Premier League – football’s highest-earning competition.

Several of the successful bidders have made their mark with traditional sports teams, and the buy-in price has not been cheap.

The BBC understands the rights cost $20m (£15.5m) per squad. For that, owners get the promise of a 50% revenue split with the Overwatch League itself for future earnings.

The fast-paced cartoon-like shooter was designed to appeal to both players and spectators. It’s low on gore and features a racial mix of male and female heroes, including a gay character – a relative rarity in gaming.

(13) THEY’RE PINK. Adweek covers a parody of female-targeted products: “‘Cards Against Humanity for Her’ Is the Same Game, but the Box Is Pink and It Costs $5 More”.

In a savage parody of women-targeted products like Bic for Her pens, and Cosmo and Seat’s car for women, Cards Against Humanity has released Cards Against Humanity for Her. It’s the exact same game as the original, but comes in a pink box and costs $5 more.

The press release is a gold mine of hilarity.

“We crunched the numbers, and to our surprise, we found that women buy more than 50 percent of games,” said Cards Against Humanity community director Jenn Bane. “We decided that hey, it’s 2017, it’s time for women to have a spot at the table, and nevertheless, she persisted. That’s why we made Cards Against Humanity for Her. It’s trendy, stylish, and easy to understand. And it’s pink.”

Bane added: “Women love the color pink.”

The game is available for $30 on CardsAgainstHumanityForHer.com, which has all sorts of ridiculous photos and GIFs. The limited-edition version “is expected to sell out,” the brand said.

From the FAQ (where it’s in pink text).

When I inevitably purchase this without reading carefully and then find out it’s the same cards as the original Cards Against Humanity, can I return it and get my money back? That color looks great on you! No.

(14) SHARKE REPELLENT. Mark-kitteh sent these links (and the headline) to the latest posts by the Shadow Clarke jury. He adds, “Only two of these, but the Becky Chambers roundtable is likely to provide enough rises in blood-pressure on its own.”

The inclusion of A Closed and Common Orbit on this year’s Clarke shortlist follows hard on the heels of Chambers’s 2016 shortlisting for her debut novel, The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet. In a very short time, Chambers’s books have proven extraordinarily popular and drawn an enthusiastic fan response. Unsurprisingly, ACACO has also been shortlisted for the 2017 Hugo. The novel has also drawn praise from reviewers, such as Adam Roberts in the Guardian. However, despite the shadow Clarke jury being split fifty-fifty between those who found ACACO to be a compulsive read and those who struggled to find any interest in it whatsoever, this is also the novel that has come closest to unifying what is often a more diverse body of opinion than it might appear from the outside. We are unanimous in thinking that ACACO is not one of the six best SF novels of the year and, in contrast to the other five works on the list, there is nobody among us who would make any kind of case for its inclusion on the Clarke shortlist.

I am possibly not the right audience for this novel. I have read a number of stories by Yoon Ha Lee before this without being particularly impressed by any of them. The novel, Ninefox Gambit crystallized some of those discontents. In no particular order:

1: Yoon Ha Lee has read too much Iain M. Banks. The influence is everywhere and inescapable: the grotesque deaths, the over-elaborate weapons (including one I couldn’t help identifying as the Lazy Gun from Against a Dark Background), and, of course, the central conceit in which the mind of an ancient general is implanted in a younger person on a suicide mission is a straight lift from Look to Windward. But Banks’s humanity is missing. With Banks you always knew where the author stood, ethically and emotionally; not so with Lee, this is a cold book.

(15) FROM PERKY TO UNBEATABLE. Lesley Goldberg of The Hollywood Reporter, in “Marvel’s New Warriors Sets Its Cast–Including Squirrel Girl”, says that the cast of this ten-episode series on Freeform has been set, and Milana Vayntrub, best known as the Perky Salesperson in 5,271,009 AT&T commercials, has been cast as Squirrel Girl.

Milana Vayntrub (This Is Us) has landed the breakout role of Squirrel Girl, while Baby Daddy grad Derek Theler will stay in business with Freeform after landing the role of Mister Immortal in Marvel’s first live-action scripted comedy.

The duo lead the ensemble cast in the 10-episode series about six young people learning to cope with their abilities in a world where bad guys can be as terrifying as bad dates. Joining Vayntrub and Theler are Jeremy Tardy as Night Thrasher, Calum Worthy as Speedball, Matthew Moy as Microbe and Kate Comer as Debrii.

(16) ETCHED IN STONE. It’s been awhile since I checked in on Declan Finn, and I found one of his posts on Superversive SF that could lead to lively discussion.

In “Pius Rules for Writers”, Declan Finn’s advice comes from his viewpoint as a reader.

I was recently asked what rules, as I reader, I wish writers would follow. I came up with a few.

Rule #1: Don’t preach at me. Tell the damn story…

I think this is self explanatory. Heck, even Star Trek IV, which is straight up “save the whales,” did a fairly good job of this. It was mostly a character driven comedy: let’s take all of our characters as fish and through them so far out of the water they’re in a different planet, and watch the fun start. Even the whales that must be saved for the sake of all of Earth are little more than MacGuffin devices, there for the story to happen.

But 2012? Or The Day After Tomorrow? Or Avatar? Kill me now.

Serious, I went out of my way to make A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller about the history of a Church, complete with philosophy, and it somehow still managed to be less preachy than any of these “climate change” films.

(17) NEWMAN’S NEXT. Joel Cunningham of the B&N Sci-FI & Fantasy Blog has great news for Planetfall fans (and a cover reveal) in “Return to Emma Newman’s Planetfall Universe in Before Mars.

I still remember the feeling of closing the cover on a early, bound manuscript copy of Emma Newman’s Planetfall in 2015, sure I had read one of the finest science fiction novels of the year—even though it was only April (I wasn’t wrong).

Considering it’s a complete work, I was surprised—and very pleased—at the arrival of After Atlas, a standalone companion novel set in the same world—another book that, incidentally, turned out to rank with the best of its year (but don’t just take our word for it).

I just can quit being fascinated by this setting—a near future in which 3D printing technology has made resources plentiful, but post-scarcity living has not been evenly distributed, where missions to the stars only expose the dark secrets within the human heart—and it seems Newman can’t quite break away from it either: she’s writing at least two more books in the Planetfall series, and today,we’re showing off the cover of the third, Before Mars, arriving in April 2018 from Ace Books….

(18) NOT YOUR TYPICAL POLICE SHOOTING. Consenting cosplayers suffered a tragic interruption: “Police Shoot People Dressed As The Joker And Harley Quinn”.

Australian police shot a man and a woman dressed as comic book characters while they performed a sexual act at a nightclub early Saturday morning, news.com.au reported. The man and the woman were dressed as the Joker and Harley Quinn.

Dale Ewins, 35, was shot in the stomach by police. Authorities said they shot him because he pointed his toy gun at them and they believed it was a real weapon. However, club security said Ewins did not aim the gun at them.

Zita Sukys, 37, was shot in the leg. Both were attending the Saints & Sinners Ball, described as a party “for Australian swingers and those who are just curious.” Promotions for the party also said it has “a well-earned reputation as Australia’s, if not the world’s, raunchiest party.”

(19) FAN FASHION. The Dublin in 2019 bidders think you would look great in their logo shirt. Half-off sale!

(20 TOON FASHION. Why Cartoon Characters Wear Gloves is a video from Vox which goes back to 1900 to answer this question.

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Greg Hullender, Chip Hitchcock, and Mark-kitteh for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]