Pixel Scroll 6/23/21 Second Stage Lesnerizer

(1) STARTING A STORY. This compelling thread starts here.

(2) BUTLER BIO ON THE WAY. Yesterday’s Oprah Daily acknowledged the author’s birthday with an excerpt from a new biography: “Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler: Excerpt”.

…But the Nebula and Hugo Award-winning author who explored themes of gender fluidity, climate change, authoritarianism, and the rise of Big Pharma is perhaps more widely read now than ever, and that phenomenon is destined to grow with the publication Star Child: A Biographical Constellation of Octavia Estelle Butler by Ibi Zoboi, due out in January of 2022.

Zoboi, who was a National Book Award finalist for her young adult novel American Street, is not just a Butler devotee, but was mentored by the writer. Now, she has written an ode to her told in poems and prose. Here, Oprah Daily shares an exclusive sneak peak of the forthcoming volume, just in time to say: Happy Birthday Octavia Butler.

(3) THE PLAY’S THE THING. (Except she’s talking about a different play than Hamlet.) Connie Willis shared “Some Midsummer Night’s Dreams for Midsummer Night” on Facebook.

…The first night of our film festival, we watched GET OVER IT, the teen movie with Ben Foster, Kristen Dunst, and Martin Short. Berke, played by Ben Foster, has been dumped by Allison for another guy, so he tries out for the school musical DeFores-Oates (Martin Short) is directing, to try to get her back. He’s helped by Kelly (Kirsten Dunst) who really likes him, but he doesn’t even see her because he’s completely obsessed with getting Hermia back. Sound familiar?

The movie doesn’t do the whole play–there’s no Pyramus and Thisbe and Bottom’s just a walk-on, but there are fairies (including the rapper Sisqo), and a stoned stage crew who double as Puck, and the movie’s surprisingly faithful to the play, except for the ending, when Berke takes things into his own hands. GET OVER IT captures even better than Shakespeare the agony you go through when you’re in love with someone who doesn’t even know you exist.

The second night we watched the 1999 A MIDSUMMER’S NIGHT DREAM (or as I call it, the Ally McBeal version,) starring Calista Flockhart and Christian Bale, with Kevin Kline as Bottom and Stanley Tucci as Puck. It’s a good movie overall and lots of stuff I loved–the lovers flee to the woods on bicycles, Puck is very funny and as much of an annoyance to his boss Oberon, Michelle Pfeiffer makes a sexy and funny Titania, and Max Wright is beyond wonderful as the reluctant actor dragged into the play at the last minute to be the Man in the Moon, with a cigarette dangling from his lip and a dog getting into the act.

But there are three moments of true genius in the play…

(4) GOODBYE TO AMAZON. Amanda S. Greene continues her step-by-step explanation of everything involved in shifting her books away from the Amazon platform in “Moving Forward or Onward or Whatever” at Mad Genius Club. There are a lot of issues that require thoughtful decisions.

 …I knew when I started it more would be involved than just uploading my books to the various storefronts or 3rd party aggregator. I hadn’t anticipated having to retrain myself to think in ways I haven’t since going exclusively with Amazon. 

Without going into too much detail, I had to look at how to get my books into the various storefronts, which storefronts I wanted to go with, etc. Initially, I decided to upload direct to BN, Kobo and Apple. I’d use Draft2Digital for the rest. I’ve changed my mind. The time saved alone by using D2D for everything is worth the few pennies per sale I pay to D2D to handle things for me. All I have to do is upload a generic ePub of the book, fill in the blanks and they do the rest. 

There is an added benefit of allowing them to handle it. Draft2Digital has a “sister” site called Books2Read. I’ve mentioned the site before but I am really starting to appreciate how powerful of a tool it can be for a writer. For example, here’s the landing page for Witchfire Burning. It shows the cover, gives the description and below lists other books (showing covers) I’ve written. It’s a much more attractive landing page than the product page at Amazon. If you click on the “get it now” button, it will take you to a new page where you can choose which storefront you want to visit (and I need to update it to pull in the Amazon link). 

The great thing about something like this is you can use it as your landing page for the book on your website…. 

(5) WE INTERRUPT THIS KERFUFFLE. Michael Swanwick offered “A Few Quiet Words of Thanks for the People Putting on Discon III” at Flogging Babel.

Yesterday, I reserved my hotel room for Discon III. And that put me in mind of the first and only time I was on a con committee.

This was in the 1970s, before I made my first sale. I’d only been to a few science fiction conventions but I knew the guy in charge of putting on a con whose name I conveniently forget and, doubtless for reasons of fannish politics, he filled the committee with his friends, despite the fact we none of us had any experience at the tasks we were assigned.

Long story, short. I did a terrible job. And I’ve never volunteered to serve again. Because even if everything goes perfectly, your reward for putting on a convention is not getting to experience it.

So I’d like to express my gratitude to the Discon III staff, both present and past. That includes everybody who quit for reasons of principle and everybody who decided to tough it out, also for reasons of principle.

This has been a star-crossed year for the Worldcon. I won’t bother to list all the problems: Acts of God, acts of Man, acts of Fans. We all know them. It must have been maddening to be at the white-hot center of them all.

Which makes this a good time to say: Thank you.

(6) FINE DISTINCTION. And one of John Scalzi’s comments:

(7) VISIT FROM THE DOCTOR. Jo Martin will be a guest at Gallifrey One: Thirty Second to Midnight, to be held in LA in February 2022.

It’s with great pleasure that we can now announce that JO MARTIN will be joining us next February as a confirmed guest, for her very first Doctor Who convention appearance in North America!

Jo Martin became an immediately beloved part of Doctor Who mythology when she appeared as Ruth Clayton in series 12’s “Fugitive of the Judoon” opposite Jodie Whittaker… a woman who was, in fact, a previously unknown earlier incarnation of the Doctor herself!  As the landmark first Doctor of color to be shown in the long-running series, she also appeared in the season finale “The Timeless Children.”…

(8) ONLINE PROMETHEUS AWARDS TO INCLUDE LFS-REASON PANEL. The Libertarian Futurist Society couch plans for their online award ceremony in these terms:

In 2021, LFS members will have a rare opportunity to watch and enjoy the annual Prometheus Awards ceremony and an interesting related panel discussion for free online – without having to register for a Worldcon.

Reason magazine will be the media sponsor of the hour-plus panel discussion, which will immediately follow the online half-hour Prometheus Awards ceremony for Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame). Reason editor Katherine Mangu-Ward and Reason’s book editor Jesse Walker will join LFS leaders, including board president William H. Stoddard, on the hour-plus panel discussion along with, we hope, the 2021 Prometheus Award-winning novelist (tba).

(9) VETERAN COMICS READER. James Bacon was interviewed by Football Comics Podcast Champ/We are United, as hosts Rab and Gull take a little break from all the footie and have a look at War Comics, covering classic titles like Battle, Commando, Victor, Warlord, and many more. “Champ/We Are United Episode 13: War Comics”.

(10) COSPLAY DATING. Yahoo! says “Singles Dress Up as Creatures for Blind Dates” is the premise of Sexy Beasts.

Given the popularity of The Masked Singer, we can ascertain that viewers enjoy watching people dressed up in strange costumes. And given the general state of reality television over the past two decades, we can also conclude that people enjoy watching people go on bizarre dates. Netflix has endeavored to combine these two irrefutable tenets in one convenient package. Thus, we have Sexy Beasts, in which elaborate-prosthetic-laden singles meet for a night of “nonjudgmental” romance. At least that’s how they’re touting it. Take a look at the trailer, which features dolphins, demons, canids, scarecrows, insects, bovines, and a handful of uncategorizables….

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • June 23, 1976 — On this date in 1976, Logan’s Run premiered. It was directed by Michael Anderson and produced by Saud David. The screenplay by David Zelag Goodman is based on the 1967 Logan’s Run novel by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. It starred Michael York, Jenny Agutter, Richard Jordan, Roscoe Lee Browne, Farrah Fawcett, and Peter Ustinov. Though critical reception was at best mixed, it was a box success and is considered to have MGM from financial ruin. It was nominated at SunCon, a year in which no film was awarded a Hugo. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an excellent sixty-seven percent rating. 

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 23, 1945 — Eileen Gunn, 76. Her story “Coming to Terms” based on her friendship with Avram Davidson won the Nebula Award for Best Short Story. Her stories are in Stable Strategies and OthersSteampunk Quartet and Questionable Practices. With L. Timmel Duchamp, she penned The WisCon Chronicles, Vol. 2: Provocative Essays on Feminism, Race, Revolution, and the Future. She’s well stocked at the usual digital suspects. 
  • Born June 23, 1951 — Greg Bear, 70. Blood Music which won both a Nebula Award and a Hugo Award is an amazing read. I’m also very fond of the Songs of Earth and Power duology, The Infinity Concerto and The Serpent Mage, and found his Queen of Angels a fascinating mystery. He’s deeply stocked at the usual suspects. 
  • Born June 23, 1953 — Russell Mulcahy, 68. You’ll likely remember him as directing Highlander, but he was responsible also for Highlander II: The Quickening, but disowned it after the completion-bond company really messed with production. He would later released this film in Highlander II: The Renegade Version. He also directed episodes of The HungerOn The BeachPerversions of Science and Tales from The Crypt
  • Born June 23, 1957 — Frances McDormand, 64. She’s God. Well at least The Voice of God in Good Omens. Which in on Amazon y’all. Her first genre role was in the “Need to Know” episode of Twilight Zone followed shortly thereafter by being Julie Hastings in Sam Raimi’s excellent Dark Man. She’s The Handler in Æon Flux and that’s pretty much everything genre worth noting. 
  • Born June 23, 1963 — Cixin Liu, 58. He’s a winner of a Hugo Award  for The Three-Body Problem and a Locus Award for Death’s End. He also a nine-time recipient of the Galaxy Award, the Chinese State sponsored SFF Awards. Anyone got a clue what’s going on with the alleged Amazon production of The Three-Body Problem as a film? Is it still on? 
  • Born June 23, 1964 — Joss Whedon, 57. I think I first encounter him with the Buffy tv series. And I hold that Angel was far better told. Firefly was a lovely series that ended far too soon. And don’t get me started on the Avengers: Age of Ultron
  • Born June 23, 1972 — Selma Blair, 49. Liz Sherman in Hellboy, and Hellboy II: The Golden Army. She voiced the character also in the animated Hellboy: Sword of Storms and Hellboy: Blood and Iron as well. She’s Stevie Wayne in The Fog, a slasher film a few years later and was Cyane on the “Lifeblood” episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. Later on, she’d be Jessica Harris in the “Infestation” episode of Lost in Space. 
  • Born June 23, 2000 — Caitlin Blackwood, 21. She was the young Amelia Pond in these Doctor Who episodes; “The Eleventh Hour”, “The Big Bang”, “Let’s Kill Hitler”, and “The God Complex”, and had a cameo in “The Angels Take Manhattan”.  She’s the cousin of Karen Gillan who plays the adult Pond. No idea how she was cast in the role but it was brilliantly inspired casting!

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Tom Gauld’s cartoon for New Scientist.

(14) WELCOME TO THE NEW WORLD. CrimeReads excerpts a new history of comic books by Paul S. Hirsch: “The Early, Wild, Exploited, and Sometimes Radical Days of the Comic Book Industry in America”.

The American comic book is inseparable from foreign policy, the great twentieth-century battles between capitalism and totalitarianism, and the political goals of the world’s preeminent military and cultural power. The history of the American comic book is a story of visual culture, commerce, race, and policy. These four fields are analogous to the four colors used to print comic books: cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. They lie atop one another, smearing, blending, and bleeding to create a complete image. To separate them is to disassemble a coherent whole and to shatter a picture that in its entirety shows us how culture and diplomacy were entangled during the mid-twentieth century.

THE EARLY YEARS, 1935–1945

The period from 1935 to 1945 was defined by images of darkness and light. The comic industry itself—populated by otherwise unemployable immigrants, racial minorities, and political radicals—emerged from the shadows of the New York publishing world….

(15) BOOK RESURRECTION. “’Most of Australia’s literary heritage is out of print’: the fight to rescue a nation’s lost books” in The Guardian.

…This is the unfortunate fate of most books, even literary prize-winners. In fact, of the 62 books that won Australia’s Miles Franklin Award between 1957 and 2019, 23 are currently not available as ebooks, 40 are not available as audiobooks, and 10 are not available anywhere, in any format whatsoever. They’re officially out of print. This is something that Untapped: The Australian Literary Heritage Project is trying to rectify.

“Untapped is a collaboration between authors, libraries and researchers, and it came about because most of Australia’s literary heritage is out of print. You can’t find it anywhere,” says project lead, Associate Professor Rebecca Giblin from Melbourne Law School at the University of Melbourne. “Think about it. If so many Miles Franklin winners are out of print, you can imagine how bad availability must be for memoir, and histories, and other local stories.”

Untapped’s mission is to digitise 200 of Australia’s most important lost books, preserving them for future generations and making them available through a national network of libraries. They include books such as Anita Heiss’s I’m Not Racist, But … (2007) and Frank Hardy’s The Unlucky Australians (1968). “One exciting thing is that all these books will now be part of the National E-deposit scheme,” Giblin says, referring to the legal requirement for all publishers to provide copies of published works to libraries – a framework only recently extended to electronic publishing. “This means they’ll be preserved forever. These books will now be around as long as we have libraries.”

(16) WEIR Q&A. Suspense Radio, a thriller podcast, interviews Andy Weir: “LaunchpadOne: Interview with Andy Weir”.

Andy Weir built a two-decade career as a software engineer until the success of his first published novel, The Martian, allowed him to live out his dream of writing full-time. He is a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of such subjects as relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. He also mixes a mean cocktail. He lives in California.

(17) ROY HOWARD GOH SPEECH. [Item by Cora Buhlert.] The Cromcast has a recording of Roy Thomas’ guest of honor speech at the 2021 Robert E. Howard Days in Cross Plains. Lots of interesting stuff about working at Marvel in the 1960s and 1970s, not just Conan related, though there is a lot of that, too. “Howard Days 2021 – When Conan Went Public!”

(18) BUILDING UP THEIR INVENTORY. James Davis Nicoll knows where the cargo in their holds came from — “Risky Business: Five Books About Interplanetary Trade” at Tor.com.

Humans have, starting in prehistoric times (with obsidian, red ochre, etc.), established vast trade networks that cross mountains, deserts, and oceans. Presumably, this will be true in the future as well, even as humanity expands out into SPAAACE. While there are reasons why larger concerns will tend to dominate, the little guys will often provide more engaging narratives. Thus, these five heartwarming tales of working traders enthusiastically engaging in commerce among the stars…

The Trouble Twisters by Poul Anderson (1966)

Hyperdrive gave humans the stars…also vast fortunes to Polesotechnic League merchant princes like Nicolas van Rijn. Great men cannot be everywhere, however, which is why this collection of short pieces focuses not on van Rijn but his employee, David Falkayn (don’t worry! David eventually gets into management by marrying the boss’s beautiful daughter). Whether upending religious prohibitions, obtaining state secrets, or intervening in bitter ethnic strife, Falkayn and his co-workers always find the solution that delivers profit.

Long after the events in this book, Falkayn would become disenchanted with the League’s conscience-blind focus on immediate profits. This would have regrettable implications for Falkayn’s relationship with van Rijn, but without actually saving the League or humanity from the consequences of the League’s short-sighted policies. But at least they generated lots of profit for the shareholders before the League-armed space barbarians descended from the skies….

(19) SPIDER-MAN BEYOND. A Marvel press release tells me – “Stay tuned tomorrow for information on this exciting new Amazing Spider-Man era from Kelly Thompson, Saladin Ahmed, Cody Ziglar, Patrick Gleason, and Zeb Wells!”

(20) MARVEL MARKETING. Did that previous item come from this guy? This video from Screen Rant, which dropped today, features Ryan George as master marketer Normantula McMan, who says, “I get butts in seats.  I influence butts in ways you can’t imagine.”  And McMan knows butts, because his grandpa came up with the idea that four out of five doctors recommended a particular smoke!

(21) ASTRONAUTS TO EXPERIENCE TIDE EFEFCT. Yep, here’s the science entry in today’s Scroll courtesy of the AP: “Dirty laundry in space? NASA, Tide tackle cleaning challenge”. It turns out there’s a simple reason why the International Space Station smells like an old gym sock.

How do astronauts do laundry in space? They don’t.

They wear their underwear, gym clothes and everything else until they can’t take the filth and stink anymore, then junk them.

NASA wants to change that — if not at the International Space Station, then the moon and Mars — and stop throwing away tons of dirty clothes every year, stuffing them in the trash to burn up in the atmosphere aboard discarded cargo ships. So it’s teamed up with Procter & Gamble Co. to figure out how best to clean astronauts’ clothes in space so they can be reused for months or even years, just like on Earth.

The Cincinnati company announced Tuesday that it will send a pair of Tide detergent and stain removal experiments to the space station later this year and next, all part of the galactic battle against soiled and sweaty clothes….

(22) RETURN TO SENDER. Yahoo! draws our attention to a remarkable working model: “Fan-Made Captain America Shield Actually Bounces Back”.

…We have to give big props to the YouTuber here. Unlike other “make your own Cap shield” videos, he didn’t go the drone route. Which is kind of cheating. The MCU shield bounces after all, it doesn’t fly. According to their own description, the shield they made was created with carbon fiber with a fiberglass ring, to provide bounce while keeping maximum strength. The shield also magnetically connects to the user’s wrist, and can be thrown overhand just like Cap. We think the final results are pretty darn impressive….

[Thanks to Cat Eldridge, Mike Kennedy, Andrew Porter, Hampus Eckerman, Cora Buhlert, James Davis Nicoll, Olav Rokne, Martin Morse Wooster, JJ, Michael Toman, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit belongs to contributing editor of the day Daniel Dern.]

Swanwick Wins Aelita Award

Aelita Award

Michael Swanwick is the first U.S. writer to win the Aelita Award.

Swanwick explained the award’s history to old readers of his blog:

The Aelita was named after the 1923 science fiction novel Aelita by Alexei Tolstoy and is presented at Aelita, (also named after the novel), Russia’s oldest science fiction convention. The award was created in 1981 to honor a lifetime contribution to Soviet science fiction. Later, this became Russian science fiction and last year it was decided to expand the remit to cover SF globally.

I am gobsmacked, as our British cousins say, to be the first American  ever to receive this award. For reasons that are all too familiar to everyone, the Aelita conference was virtual this year so I didn’t get to return to Ekaterinburg, a city I am very fond of, But that didn’t make the honor any less sweet.

For more information, see the Wikipedia entry about the Aelita Award.

City of Gardner: NYRSF Readings Series Features Michael Swanwick in Collaboration with Gardner Dozois

Jim Freund (L), Michael Swanwick (R)

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Tuesday, September 8, 2020 (Star Trek Day), the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series opened its 30th Season virtually (and perhaps virtuously) with a reading by Michael Swanwick from his extraordinary collaboration with the late Gardner Dozois, The City Under the Stars. The event was hosted by Series producer and executive curator Jim Freund, host of the long-running sf/fantasy radio program Hour of the Wolf on WBAI-FM, and was live on Facebook and posted to the Series’ page for later viewing. (Tech was handled by Barbara Krasnoff, and Amy Goldschlager was the virtual audience’s “Question Wrangler.”)

Michael Swanwick, a longtime reader at the Series, is the author of ten novels, including Vacuum FlowersStations of the TideThe Iron Dragon’s Daughter, Jack Faust, Bones of the Earth, The Dragons of Babel, Dancing With Bears, Chasing the Phoenix, and The Iron Dragon’s Mother; and roughly 150 stories. Notable among his non-fiction is Being Gardner Dozois, a book-length interview. He has been honored with the Nebula, Theodore Sturgeon, the World Fantasy Award, and the Hugo Award.  (He has frequently noted that he has “the pleasant distinction of having lost more major awards than any other science fiction writer.”)

Gardner Dozois was, of course, the editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine for almost 20 years, winning the Hugo Award as the year’s Best Editor 15 times. He was also honored with the Locus Award, the Nebula Award and the Sidewise Award, inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, and the Skylark Award for Lifetime Achievement in Science Fiction. He was the author or editor of more than a hundred books.

The evening opened with a discussion between Swanwick and Freund (who proudly displayed his very own Darger and Surplus pen). The book that became The City Under the Stars was long in the making, said Swanwick. Dozois began the story in 1972, but hit a snag. He handed a cardboard box with his unfinished manuscript to Swanwick and asked if he could turn it into a novella. Swanwick said he saw a way – “I lied” – but later did see a plotline. “The City of God” (now the first half of this novel) was published in Omni and Asimov’s. The novella was “bleak,” “dark,” and “a little more downbeat than the Book of Job, without the happy ending.”

Its ending seemed to preclude any sequels, but, over the decades, he and Dozois “talked over what might come next” and how a longer, complete story would end; Dozois had “an uplifting idea” for how to give it “a surprisingly happy ending.” They planned to write two more novellas, “The City of Angels” and “The City of Men,” however, midway through the second novella, Gardner Dozois died.

Subsequently, Swanwick returned to the project – now a memorial to Dozois – because “I wanted the world to see this genuinely happy ending.” Aiming to “keep Gardner’s vision,” he revised and combined both novellas, and changed the direction of the work in progress. As he wrote on Tor.com, Swanwick “made of them a novel I think Gardner would have been pleased with. The ending is exactly what Gardner envisioned all those decades ago. A happy one. For everyone. When I wrote the last words of it, I cried.”

Swanwick’s reading selection was from the very beginning of Chapter 1, opening in Orange, NY. The protagonist, Hanson, is part of a crew digging in a pit for and shoveling coal to feed the machines. From there, though, he can see the City of God, “perfect and inviolate.” It’s an “astonishingly depressing story.” After that “bleak” passage, “things get even worse and worse.” He later enters the City of God, but that’s not yet “the happy ending” by any means.

Hanson, Swanwick surmised, was based on Dozois himself, “a blue-collar kid who grew up in the factory town of Salem, Massachusetts. … His sympathy was with the downtrodden.” Despite his image of being “large and jolly,” Dozois was “shy and private.” He knew that by becoming editor of Asimov’s, he was effectively ending his writing career, and his output did decrease.

Answering Freund about his own path, Swanwick said that he decided to become a writer after reading The Lord of the Rings; he wanted to make an impact like that. Another influence or impetus was his father’s early onset Alzheimer’s. This segued into a Q&A, with questions from Carol Gyzander, Ian Randal Strock and Gregory Frost, among others.

Swanwick reminisced about a collaboration of his with Dozois and Jack Dann, “An Afternoon at Schraft’s,” which was eventually published in a themed anthology with one title. His personal favorite Dozois story is “A Special Kind of Morning,” a war story. In his collaborations with Dozois, “Gardner was always the alpha male,” with say on the final draft. He reminisced about hosting the Milford-style workshop “Philford.” He met Dozois shortly after he (Swanwick) came to Philadelphia, through a friend of a friend. Eventually, Dozois shrugged and offered to make suggestions on “your sucky stories.” Swanwick is currently working on short stories for Tor.com. Final words: “Don’t let your babies grow up to be writers.” (It’s a funny business, he observed. On the same day, he received checks for $9 and $1,400.)

The next reading, announced Freund, is Tuesday, October 6th, with C.L. Polk and will be guest-hosted by Amy Goldschlager. As a postscript, he noted that the software being used was “not free” and suggested that donations be made via PayPal (details are on the Series’ Facebook page). Finally, he noted again that this was the first reading of the Series’ 30th Season, also Series founder Gordon Van Gelder’s birthday – and Star Trek Day.

Pixel Scroll 9/1/20 Senpai
Noticed Me!

(1) GAME OF THRONGS. Netflix has ordered a series covering all three books in Liu Cixin’s trilogy — The Three-Body Problem, The Dark Forest, and Death’s End — reports Variety: “‘Three-Body Problem’ Series From David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, Alexander Woo Set at Netflix”.

There seem to be a lot of cooks hovering over the broth:

Benioff and Weiss executive produce under their Bighead Littlehead banner along with the company’s newly installed president, Bernadette Caulfield. [Rian] Johnson, Ram Bergman, and Nena Rodrigue executive produce via T Street Productions. [Brad] Pitt executive produces with along with Dede Gardner and Jeremy Kleiner for Plan B Entertainment. [Rosamund] Pike and Robie Uniacke executive produce for Primitive Streak. Lin Qi, chairman of Yoozoo Group and The Three-Body Universe, and Zhao Jilong, vice president of The Three-Body Universe, also executive produce.

…Author Liu Cixin and accomplished sci-fi writer Ken Liu, who translated the English versions of the first and third books, serve as consulting producers.

The article quotes Liu Cixin:

“I have the greatest respect for and faith in the creative team adapting ‘The Three-Body Problem’ for television audiences,” said Cixin. “I set out to tell a story that transcends time and the confines of nations, cultures and races; one that compels us to consider the fate of humankind as a whole. It is a great honor as an author to see this unique sci-fi concept travel and gain fandom across the globe and I am excited for new and existing fans all over the world to discover the story on Netflix.”

(2) INTERNET ARCHIVE SUIT TRIAL SCHEDULED. Publishers Weekly is a fly on the courtroom wall when “Judge Sets Tentative Schedule for Internet Archive Copyright Case”. All the benchmark dates are at the link.

…The parties, barring a motion that would moot the schedule, are to be ready for trial on 48 hours notice on or after November 12, 2021.

…The copyright infringement lawsuit against the Internet Archive’s scanning and lending program was first filed on June 1 in the Southern District of New York by Hachette, HarperCollins, John Wiley & Sons, and Penguin Random House, and is being coordinated by the Association of American Publishers.

(3) VOTERS BY THE YARD. “Biden campaign launches official Animal Crossing: New Horizons yard signs” reports The Verge.

…Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in the US earlier this year, campaigns like Biden’s have been forced to entirely rethink how they organize voters. Instead of in-person rallies, Biden’s team has opted for live-streamed events and fundraisers along with socially distanced productions and interviews. The entire Democratic National Convention was held virtually earlier this month, with most guests streaming in over video software like Zoom to deliver speeches.

The Biden-Harris campaign released four sign designs for players to download, featuring the official Biden-Harris logo, Team Joe logo, the “Joe” Pride logo, and an image of aviator sunglasses shaded in red, white, and blue. Players will be able to access the designs in-game by scanning the design QR codes through the Nintendo Switch Online app.

Millions of people have picked up Animal Crossing: New Horizons since its initial release in March, and the Biden campaign is hoping to engage that large base with their new merch. “Animal Crossing is a dynamic, diverse, and powerful platform that brings communities together from across the world. It is an exciting new opportunity for our campaign to engage and connect Biden-Harris supporters as they build and decorate their islands,” Christian Tom, director of digital partnerships for the Biden campaign, said in a statement to The Verge. “As we enter the final campaign stretch towards November, this is one way we are finding new creative and innovative ways to meet voters where they are and bring our supporters together.”

(4) ZOOM IN BLOOM. Cora Buhlert wrote a NASFiC conreport and an overview of the growing phenomenon of virtual sff events: “Cora’s Adventures at the Virtual 2020 NASFiC and More Thoughts on Virtual Conventions”.

…The first panel I watched was “Fantasy for YA vs. Adults”, featuring Alma Alexander, Farah Mendlesohn, Sherwood Smith and Kathryn Sullivan. I picked this panel over the horror panel going on at the same time, because I knew and liked the panelists. There was some concern in the chat that the panelists were all white. And indeed, more diversity would have been nice, especially considering what a diverse field fantasy in general and YA in particular is.

Talking of the chat, unlike other recent virtual conventions, NASFiC opted not to use the Zoom chat, but have the Discord chat side by side with the panel. From the POV of an audience member, this was a lot better than having to switch between Discord and Zoom in different tabs/windows. Though I’m not sure how it was from the POV of a panelist, since panelists and moderators can more easily see questions, when they are asked in the Zoom chat…

(5) MASTERING DUALITY. Sarah Gailey’s Personal Canons series continues with “Abhorsen”.

…When I first read the Abhorsen books, I was very young, and I was just starting to grapple with questions of identity, duality, and choice. Bound up in those questions was a larger, overarching question of worth. I felt certain that if I didn’t answer those questions about myself correctly, I’d lose some degree of goodness. Bit by bit, parts of me would tarnish; I’d become Bad, and there would be no place in the world for me. That feeling was too much. I couldn’t face it.

But in Garth Nix’s books, I saw that perhaps the answers could be more complicated than I realized. In Sabriel, I saw that feeling afraid and unprepared didn’t have to mean surrender, so long as I could be resourceful and stubborn. In Lirael, I saw that it’s possible to survive the crushing feeling that life is unsurvivable.

(6) NYRSF 30TH SEASON. The New York Review of SF Readings Series, hosted by Jim Freund, kicks off its new season virtually on September 8 with a reading by Michael Swanwick. More info at the link: “NYRSF Readings: Swanwick/Dozois ‘The City Under the Stars’”

This reading marks the beginning of our 30th Season! Sadly, we cannot all join together for a fete, but over the course of time, we’ll figure something out. We wish to experiment with simulcasting the reading on our traditional home here on Facebook, but also try simulcasting it on YouTube. We’ll be testing this through the week so be sure to check back here to find out where to log in.

On Tor.com, Michael Swanwick wrote:
“Almost a quarter century ago, Gardner Dozois and I published “The City of God,” now the first half of this novel. It ended with a slam, seemingly precluding any sequels. But over the decades Gardner and I talked over what might come next. We planned to write two more novellas, “The City of Angels” and “The City of Men,” which would tell one long, complete story. One with a happy ending.

Don’t laugh.

Yes, Gardner could be a bleak writer. Yes, the novella was dark even for him. But he had an uplifting idea for how the book would end. We discussed it often. We were midway through the second novella and aiming at that happy ending when, without warning, Gardner died.

I knew I would never write that third novella without his input, his genius. Nevertheless I wanted the world to see this genuinely happy ending. So I changed the direction of the work in progress, combined both novellas, divided them into chapters, and made of them a novel I think Gardner would have been pleased with.

The ending is exactly what Gardner envisioned all those decades ago. A happy one. For everyone.

When I wrote the last words of it, I cried.”

(7) NOT TOO LATE TO TUNE IN. [Item by Martin Morse Wooster.]“Arthur Charles Clarke discusses science fiction” at the Studs Terkel Radio Archive is a 1959 interview Studs Terkel conducted with Clarke where Clarke discusses his novels Childhood’s End and Earthlight, explains why he thought sf was not escapist, and said that “I’m a moral vegetarian, although I hate vegetables.”

(8) OKAY BOOMER. “Can You Recognize These Guest Stars On Star Trek: The Original Series?” John King Tarpinian got 9 of 11. I got 10. It helps if you’ve watched too much Sixties television.

We gathered some of our favorite guest stars from Star Trek: The Original Series. They are famous faces from classic television. See if you can match them to their popular roles. Good luck!

(9) DINO MITES. “‘Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous’ Trailer: Netflix Unleashes Look At New Dreamworks Animation Series, Launches Interactive Site”Yahoo! Entertainment has the story.

…The series trailer (watch it above) sets up the premise of Camp Cretaceous: A group of six teenagers are trapped at a new adventure camp on the opposite side of Isla Nublar. When the events of the film unfold and dinosaurs are unleashed across the island, each kid realizes their very survival rests on the shoulders of themselves and their fellow campers. Unable to reach the outside world, the six teens will go from strangers to friends to family as they band together to survive the dinosaurs and uncover hidden secrets so deep they threaten the world itself.

Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous premieres September 18 on Netflix.

The new interactive site, live now, invites users to experience a behind the gates look at Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous. At CampCretaceous.com, users can tour the campgrounds, get up close with dinosaurs, check out tree top cabins and a zipline, among other adventures.

(10) GOSPEL OR BLASPHEMY? Chris Mooney, in “You Don’t Have To Be A Genre Writer To Explore Genre” on CrimeReads, says his desire to put sf elements in a suspense novel led him to explore other works that combine sf and suspense, including novels by Colson Whitehead, Margaret Atwood, and Sir Kazuo Ichiguro.

…Sometimes when you mix things together, the results are amazing, even spectacular. As I was writing Blood World, I realized that almost of my all-time favorite books—the ones that had the greatest impact on me—were from authors who successfully incorporated elements from more than one genre. And now, it’s mid-August, the height of vacation season, and if, like me, you find yourself stuck in your backyard on a “staycation,” or lucky enough to live near a beach, you can do no better than these definitive, intelligent, page-turning, genre-bending classics.

(11) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

  • September 1, 1950Dimension X’s “The Roads Must Roll.” Based on the Robert Heinlein story that first was published in Astounding Science Fiction in the June 1940 issue, it would first be broadcast on this date on NBC  in 1950. It would win the Retro Hugo for Best Novella at MidAmericon II, the same year that OGH won another Hugo for Best Fan Writer. Jason Bolander, Norman Rose and Karl Weber were the cast. You can listen to it here. (CE)

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born September 1, 1875 Edgar Rice Burroughs. Bradbury declared him “the most influential writer in the entire history of the world.” Now I’d not necessarily disagree or agree with that statement but I would note that he has largely fallen out of public notice once again. So what’s your favorite works by him? The Barsoom stories are mine. (Died 1950.) (CE)
  • Born September 1, 1928 – Shelby Vick.  Edited Planetary Stories 2005-2017.  Edited a new (i.e. 2013, centuries after the original) volume of Sindbad stories (with E. Erdelac & E. Roberts; unable to resist the spelling “Sinbad”), writing one.  A score of short stories around then.  Leading fan since the 1940s.  Introduced Lee Hoffman (to some of us, after this incident, “Hoffwoman”), to Bob Tucker.  Started WAW with the Crew in ’52 bringing W.A. Willis to Chicon II the 10th Worldcon.  Organized, if that word may be used, Corflu 16 (fanziners’ con; corflu = mimeograph correction fluid, once indispensable); brought as a guest to Corflu 29.  Rebel Award.  (Died 2018) [JH]
  • Born September 1, 1942 C. J. Cherryh, 78. I certainly think the Hugo Award-winning Downbelow Station and Cyteen are amazing works but I think my favorite works by her are the Merchanter novels such as Rimrunners. Anyone familiar with “Cassandra“,  the short story she won a Hugo for at Seacon ‘79? What’s it part of? (CE) 
  • Born September 1, 1943 – Filthy Pierre, 77.  So unassumingly and widely helpful for so long he was at length given the Big Heart (our highest service award) and more locally made a Fellow of NESFA (New England SF Ass’n; its service award).  With Marilyn Wisowaty (as she then was; also F.N.) compiled The Blackdex and Bluedex indexing SF prozines.  FP being a filker is often at hand during an SF con and, when waiting is, inspires song, accompanying us on the current version of the Filth-O-Phone.  Made the well-named Microfilk, an early filk index.  Filk Hall of Fame.  Invented the Voodoo Message Board.  Fan Guest of Honor at Albacon 2010, Baltcon 52.  Under a transparent pseudonym has conducted the SF Conventional Calendar for Asimov’s since 1977.  [JH]
  • Born September 1, 1951 Donald G. Keller, 69. Editor and critic. Co-edited Phantasmicom with Jeff Smith (1969-1974). A contributor to The New York Review of Science Fiction in the early Nineties which is where his “The Manner of Fantasy” essay appeared. He also edited The Horns of Elfland anthology with Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman. Inactive genre wise for a decade now other than being a member of the editorial board of Slayage, the online Encyclopedia of Buffy Studies. (CE) 
  • Born September 1, 1952 – Brad Linaweaver.  Productive pro writer found lovable by many because of or despite proclaimed libertarian opinions.  A dozen novels, five dozen shorter stories, some with co-authors.  Artbook anthology Worlds of Tomorrowwith Forrest J Ackerman.  Interviewed William Tenn for Riverside Quarterly.  Two Prometheus Awards.  Phoenix. Heinlein’s brass cannon bequeathed to him.  (Died 2019)
  • Born September 1, 1954 – Larisa Mikhaylova, Ph.D., 66.  Editor, critic; translator including Cadigan and Le Guin.  Editor-in-chief, Supernova.  Organizer of conferences on Ivan Yefremov, co-ordinator of preparing his Complete Works.  Biography of HE in J. Francaville ed., Harlan Ellison.  “Shore Leave Russia” on Star Trek fandom in Russia, Eaton Journal of Archival Research in SF.  Academic Secretary, Russian Soc. Amer. Cultural Studies.  [JH]
  • Born September 1, 1961 – Jacinta Escudos, 59.  Mario Monteforte Toledo Central American Prize for Fiction.  Collection, The Devil Knows My Name (in Spanish, i.e. El diablo sabe mi nombre).  Anthologized in And We Sold the RainLovers and ComradesYou Can’t Drown the Fire.  Widely known outside our field.  Blog here (in Spanish).  [JH]
  • Born September 1, 1964 Martha Wells, 56. She’s has won a Nebula Award, a Locus Award, and two Hugo Awards, one for the “All Systems Red” novella at WorldCon ‘76, and the other for her “Artificial Condition“ novella at Dublin 2019.  Impressive. And she was toastmaster of the World Fantasy Convention in 2017 where she delivered a speech called “Unbury the Future”. Need I note the Muderbot Diaries are a truly amazing reading? (CE)
  • Born September 1, 1967 Steve Pemberton, 53. He’s on the Birthday List for being Strackman Lux in the most excellent Eleventh Doctor stories of “Silence in the Library” and “Forest of the Dead” but he has other genre credits including being Drumknott in Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal, Professor Mule in the Gormenghast series and Harmony in the Good Omens series as well. (CE) 
  • Born September 1, 1974 Burn Gorman, 46. Best known for his roles as Owen Harper in Torchwood , Karl Tanner in the Game of Thrones, Philip Stryker in The Dark Knight Rises and also as Hermann Gottlieb in Pacific Rim and the sequel Pacific Rim: Uprising. Like so many of his fellow Torchwood performers, he’s been active at Big Finish where he’s been in nine Torchwood stories to date. (CE) 
  • Born September 1, 1978 — Yoav Blum, 42.  Software developer and author.  First novel translated (from Hebrew), The Coincidence Makers.  Ranks Guards! Guards! about the same as Winnie-the-Pooh.  [JH]

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • Ziggy listens to an outburst about an unfair evolutionary advantage.
  • Off the Mark comes up with one of those times when you shouldn’t count on Superman to save your life.
  • The Far Side asks Doctor who?
  • The Far Side illustrates a science fictional parenting problem.

(14) LIPTAK’S SEPTEMBER GUIDE. Andrew Liptak teases “22 science fiction and fantasy books to check out this September” on the Readling List.

….I’ve been in a bit of a reading rut in recent weeks, but one book that I’ve been enjoying is The Human Cosmos: Civilization and the Stars by Jo Marchant. It’s out today, and Marchant takes a slightly different tack on the history of astronomy: she looks at not how humanity discovered the stars and planets, but how it impacted our development as a civilization. It’s an excellent example of multidisciplinary history, looking at archeology, science, mathematics, and of course, astronomy. I highly recommend it.

If you’re looking for other books coming out this month, here are 22 science fiction and fantasy ones hitting stores that you should check out.

(15) THE STICKS HAVE BEEN HEARD FROM. SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, who has been without the internet most of the time during the pandemic, broke out of isolation to update “Concatenation Science Communication News”.

CoVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2 Lockdown — Please Note  Both Science Com and SF² Concatenation are in digital lockdown, but much is continuing as usual.  So stakeholders and those who liaise with either should note the following carefully.

Prior to CoVID-19 / SARS-CoV-2, neither abode being connected to the internet was not a problem (not even required) as regular internet access was available at college, volunteer work offices as well as learned society Fellows rooms’ and public libraries’ cybercafes (plus even hotels when travelling).  However, with SARS-CoV-2, access to these has ceased.  This means no e-mail communication since 20th March 2020 and this will not resume until we get a vaccine and restrictions are lifted. So if you have e-mailed, now you know why you have not had a response.

All other (non-e-mail) communications are working fine…

More news at the link.

He also tweeted assurance that there will be an autumnal edition of SF2 Concatenation as contributors have been snail-mailing contributions in on memory sticks.

(16) C.S. LEWIS MOVIE TO COMMENCE FILMING. “Production Begins Next Month for New C.S. Lewis Motion Picture” reports Narniafans.

… The material that this movie is based upon is Max McLean’s one man stage play that chronicles the Narnia author’s journey from atheism to Christianity… Although a filmed from the stage version of this production is already available on DVD, the new movie version will be entirely different with a full cast shooting at historic locations from C.S. Lewis’s life.

“The difference about this play is it’s going to be on location all over Oxford. We have full access to Maudlin College, The Kilns, the church, [and] various other places that are mentioned in the play. Instead of it being a one person show, it’s going to be a multi-actor show. I’ll play the older Lewis, we’ll have a boy Lewis, a young Lewis in his 20’s, cast his mother, his father, Tolkien, Barfield, Kirk, among others, and that is going to begin shortly.”

 In March 2020 the entire world of Fellowship for Performing Arts came to a complete standstill. The New York based theatrical organization had been selling 2,000 tickets a week for their four productions, but that quickly dropped to 0 tickets a week and there is no expectation that live theater will resume until 2021. More than 30 FPA shows have been canceled because it is far too dangerous to hold any public gatherings in the United States.

“Since our plays have all shut down, we’ve moved up our feature film adaptation of C.S. Lewis’s conversion story. That was designed to be a 2021/2022 project, well we’ve moved it up to September and October of this year. I’ll be leaving tomorrow for the UK to begin shooting in mid-September (I have to quarantine for two weeks before we begin shooting).”-Max McLean

Norman Stone is the producer of this movie. This award-winning British director also directed Shadowlands (1985), C.S. Lewis: Beyond Narnia (2005), and The Narnia Code (2009).

(17) WILL CROWDFUNDING LET THEM MAKE THEIR TEASER TRAILER? The Kickstarter for “BAÏDIR – the animated series”, a space-opera animated series, looks to be far from funding, having raised only $29,266 of its $35,968 goal and the appeal ending September 6.

This is an epic, modern, ecological, and family fable…

It tells the initiatory path of a hero willing to do anything to locate his sister, and thus restore the family’s lost balance. It is also a story that echoes a much broader collective quest. At stake: restoring our planet’s lost environmental equilibrium.

Baïdir is a series designed to span three parts, each composed of 8 episodes of 26 minutes. The genre varies from adventure to science fiction with a good dash of fantasy.

Born from the imagination of Slimane Aniss, then enriched by the graphic universe spun by Charles Lefebvre and Thierry Rivière, Baïdir got its first teaser in 2009. Several years later, in 2012, the concept for the series was purchased by a first production studio. This resulted in a second teaser being hatched. Then several years after that, Andarta Pictures managed to acquire the rights to the work. At long last, work could begin on building the narration and the universe, thus allowing it to take shape for the television screen.

Baïdir is a project that has garnered quite a lot of interest during its various development phases. There is a massive amount of fan art on social networks. This crowdfunding campaign will allow us to breathe life into this whole universe and to tell the story of Baïdir and his friends at last.

(18) ALIEN LIFE. The American Museum of Natural History will present online the “2020 Isaac Asimov Debate: Alien Life” on Wednesday, September 9, 2020.

Join Neil deGrasse Tyson, the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium, and a panel of experts for a livestream debate and question-and-answer session to discuss how life may have formed on Earth and explore what alien life might look like elsewhere in the universe.

What criteria do we use to classify life as we know it? Should the criteria be revised as we look for life on other worlds? The debate will bring together scientists from different fields–Nathalie A. Cabrol of the SETI Institute, Vera Kolb of the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute, Carol Cleland of the University of Colorado, and Max Tegmark of MIT–to share their creative ideas for what forms life might take in an extraterrestrial environment and what these predictions can teach us about life on our own planet.

(19) HO, HO PHO. Archie McPhee has “Ketchup, Shiitake And Pho Candy Canes” ready for the holiday season – whatever holiday that may be. (“National Flash on Your Carpet Day”?) Wait – they seem to think it’s Christmas!

This year’s Archie McPhee candy canes are here! We’ve got three crazy flavors to make your Christmas more delicious than ever. Ketchup Candy Canes are fresh-from-the-bottle candy that tastes just like America’s favorite condiment. Shiitake Mushroom Candy Canes have a mushroom flavor that will make Christmas morning even more fungus than usual. And, finally, Pho Candy Canes are un-pho-gettable! 

I hope Santa leaves the antidote within reach!

(20) RU A ROBOT? Daniel Dern calls it “The best CAPTCHA I’ve seen to date”.  From FB’s Concellation group.

[Thanks to N., John King Tarpinian, Lise Andreasen, Contrarius, Michael Toman, JJ, Cat Eldridge, John Hertz, Martin Morse Wooster, SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, Mike Kennedy, Daniel Dern, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day O. Westin.]

Pixel Scroll 9/25/19 Oh But I Was So Much Scroller Then, I’m Pixel Than That Now

(1) DOZOIS FINALE. At Flogging Babel, Michael Swanwick reviews “Gardner Dozois’ Last Story”, “Homecoming” (Fantasy & Science Fiction, Sep/Oct 2019).

Chance plays such a major role in our lives! It was chance that killed Gardner Dozois. He died not of a lingering illness but from a fortuitous disease picked up in a hospital whose staff chanced not to be competent enough to take care of his original complaint in a reasonable lenth of time. So when he wrote “Homecoming,” he had no idea how close he was to death.

Nevertheless, it is hard to read this story as anything but his farewell….

(2) TIPTREE AWARD HOSTS COMMENT. The organizers of WisCon have made a “Statement of Support in Renaming the Tiptree Award”.

Since the creation of the Tiptree Award was first announced by Guest of Honor Pat Murphy at WisCon 15 in 1991, WisCon has been proud to host the award winners and to support the award by hosting fundraisers at-con. Making big changes can be difficult, but listening to the voices of our community members exemplifies the values that our con continues to strive towards. We fully support the Motherboard in their decision to rename the award, and we look forward to celebrating the award under its new name at WisCon 44 in 2020.

(3) REPLAY. From BBC we learn “Original Jurassic Park cast to return in next movie”.

The original stars of Jurassic Park are to reunite for the next instalment of the dinosaur film franchise.

Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum will reprise their roles in the upcoming Jurassic World 3.

The actors led the cast of the 1993 hit, directed by Steven Spielberg, and have appeared separately in subsequent instalments.

…It is believed the trio will appear alongside Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, the stars of 2015’s Jurassic World and 2018’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

The latter release saw Goldblum reprise his role as Dr Ian Malcolm, having previously done so in 1997’s The Lost World: Jurassic Park.

Neill and Dern reprised their roles as Dr Alan Grant and Dr Ellie Sattler in 2001 film Jurassic Park III.

(4) IN AND OUT OF FANDOM. Rob Hansen announces  some additions to his fanhistory site THEN:

  • Now that T. Bruce Yerke’s memoir of 1930s LA fandom is online I was able to expand my page on “The LASFS Clubroom” accordingly.

In the late 1930s the Los Angeles Science Fiction League – as they were then known – were meeting in Clifton’s Cafeteria, a downtown eatery located at 648 South Broadway after initially meeting at members’ homes and the like. T.Bruce Yerke recalled those LASFL days in his MEMOIRS OF A SUPERFLUOUS FAN (1943):

The great difference between the Chapter #4 of the SFL and the present LASFS is a subject of many ramifications, the product of an evolution of some years’ length, and a very interesting study. Perhaps it may be summed up in brief by the observation that the club in l937 had no social life to speak of. The chapter centered about meetings held roughly every other Thursday. Otherwise the members contented themselves with occasional Sunday gatherings of a highly informal and unofficial nature. Often groups of three or four attended shows together or went book hunting en masse, but that was virtually the sum of it. For the most part, members saw nothing of each other between alternate Thursdays, save the vicarious mediums of post and telephone….

Prominent among those dissidents were the trio – Vince Clarke, Joy Clarke, and Sandy Sanderson – known as ‘Inchmery’ after Inchmery Road in South London where they all shared a house together. Vince Clarke was not at all happy with fandom and was on the point of quitting it, as can be seen in this letter to him from George Locke dated 7 April 60…

(5) HUGO WANK. At Archive of Our Own, “Stanley Cup — What it Means” by Anonymous. Looks like this has been online for over a week, but it’s news to me!

…“What? No, the Oviraptors won fair and square. But the fans are saying they won.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Here, I’ll read you this tweet. Someone called PuckerUp wrote, “I can’t believe we won the Stanley Cup! I’m so excited you guys!” And there’s more like that. They really think they won it. So we want you to tell them that it was the Oviraptors team that won, not them. They can say they supported the actual winners.”

“Uh, are you sh—“ the spokesperson quickly changed course mid-sentence. “Are you sure someone saying “we won” instead of “my favorite team won” is a problem? I think everyone knows it was the athletes who actually won…”

“It dilutes what winning the Stanley Cup means, if just anyone can go around saying they won it. I mean, listen to this: HockeyLuvver63 tweeted, “Oviraptors won because I was the MVP and saved Darcy from rolling off the couch.” And then there’s a picture of this woman catching a Boston Terrier in a puck costume as it slides off a sofa. If people keep saying things like that, other people might start thinking the real winners and MVPs are just making it up too, and sneer at them for it.”…

(6) WILD IN THE STREETS. Although we covered this performance, I haven’t previously linked to The New Yorker story. In the magazine’s December 11, 2017 issue Alex Ross reviews War of the Worlds, an opera by Annie Gosfield based on the Orson Welles radio broadcast of 1938 and performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic collaborating with the experimental opera company The Industry. 

The main audience was seated at Disney Hall, where the orchestra was ostensibly performing a new suit, by Gosfield, modelled on Holst’s The Planets.  The actress Sigourney Weaver, who has a history with aliens, assumed the pose of an unctuous gala host.  Halfway through the “Mercury” movement, she broke in with the first of many news bulletins.  As the concert faltered–we never got past “Earth”–Weaver elicited live reports from three nearby parking lots, each of which had its own performers and audience.  The auxiliary sites were placed near antiquated air-raid sirens that still stand throughout the city; they hummed with extraterrestrial transmissions.  Scientists jabbered technicalities; a TV reporter interviewed eyewitnesses; a military honcho tried to impose order.  Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, had a cameo, appearing onstage at Disney with a reassuring message:  “Please don’t attempt to leave this building.  Just outside these walls is utter chaos.  A climactic ray-gun assault on Disney was repelled by the metal shield that Frank Gehry had presciently installed on the exterior.  Weaver exclaimed, ‘The power of music has redeemed humanity once again!’

(7) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • September 25, 1924 — Opened on this date in Moscow, Aelita: Queen of Mars. A silent film by Soviet filmmaker Yakov Protazanov. In the United States, Aelita was edited and titled by Benjamin De Casseres for release in 1929 as Aelita: Revolt of the Robots. The 2004 DVD has a musical score based on the music of Scriabin, Stravinsky, and Glazunov.
  • September 25, 1976 Holmes & Yoyo debuted. A heavy on the comedy police show where Detective Alexander Holmes keeps injuring his partners so he’s given an android partner which is John Schuck as Gregory “Yoyo” Yoyonovich in his first genre role. It lasted thirteen episodes. The reviews were not kind. Nor were the ratings.
  • September 25, 2006 — On NBC, Heroes aired its first episode, “Genesis”. It would last four seasons and remarkably would actually not be cancelled before it wraps up its story. 

(8) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 25, 1862 Henry McNeil. Though he wrote two Lost Race novels, he’s here because he was a member of the Kalem Club circle that centered around Lovecraft. He played an important role in the career of Lovecraft as he was the first to urge that writer to submit his fiction to Weird Tales in the early Twenties. (Died 1929.)
  • Born September 25, 1919 Betty Ballantine. With her husband Ian, she created Bantam Books in 1945 and established Ballantine Books seven years later. They won one special World Fantasy Award for professional work in 1975 and another one shared with Joy Chant et al for The High Kings which is indeed an amazing work. ISFDB list one novel for her, The Secret Oceans, which I’ve not read. Anyone here done so? (Died 2019.)
  • Born September 25, 1930 Shel Silverstein. Not sure how he is SFF but ISFDB lists him as such and I’m more than thrilled to list him under Birthday Honors. I’m fond of his poetry collection Where the Sidewalk Ends and also note here A Light in the Attic if only because it’s been on “oh my we must ban it now attempts” all too often. (Died 1999.)
  • Born September 25, 1951 Mark Hamill, 68. Ok, I’ll confess that my favorite role of his is when he voices The Joker in the DC Universe. He started doing this way back on Batman: The Animated Series and has even doing on other such series as well. Pure comic genius! Oh, and did you know he voices Chucky in the new Child’s Play film? Now that’s creepy.
  • Born September 25, 1952 Christopher Reeve. Superman in the Superman film franchise. He appeared in the Smallville series as Dr. Swann in the episodes “Rosetta” and “Legacy”. His Muppet Show appearance has him denying to Miss Piggy that he’s Superman though he displays those superpowers throughout that entire episode. (Died 2004.)
  • Born September 25, 1962 Beth Toussaint, 57. She was Ishara Yar in the “Legacy” episode of Next Gen and she’s been in a lot of genre series and films including BerserkerBabylon 5, the Monsters anthology series, Nightmare Cafe, Mann & MachineProject Shadowchaser II, Legend and Fortress 2: Re-Entry.
  • Born September 25, 1968 Will Smith, 51. Despite the vile stinkers that are Wild Wild West and Suicide Squad, he’s done some brilliant work — the first Men in Black film is quite superb as is Independence Day and Aladdin
  • Born September 25, 1969 Catherine Zeta-Jones, 50. Her first role ever was as in Scheherazade in French short 1001 Nights. Her next role was Sala in The Phantom. Does Zorro count as genre? If go, she appeared as Eléna Montero in The Mask of Zorro and Eléna De La Vega in The Legend of Zorro. She was Theodorain The Haunting, a riff off The Haunting of Hill House. And finally, she was in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles as Maya in “Palestine, October 1917”. 
  • Born September 25, 1980 Benedict Jacka, 39. Though I’ll admit I’ve fallen behind in my reading of his Alex Verusseries, what I’ve read of it has been quite excellent — superb protagonist, interesting story and a quirky setting. Good popcorn literature! 

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) REPRESENTATION ON TV. [Item by Olav Rokne.] In advance of The Good Place’s return this week, Kwame Opam of the New York Times profiles the show’s understated convention-breaking character Chidi Anagonye, and what the positive depiction of a character like him means for nerds of color: “The Good Place”. Opam writes:

Chidi is the sort of character who, in past generations, might have been the butt of the joke more often than not. Instead, he’s a romantic lead on one of television’s most beloved shows.

(11) JOKER FILM VIOLENCE PROTESTED. “Batman shooting victim’s family ‘horrified’ by Joker film’s violence” – BBC has the story.

Families of those killed while watching a Batman film in 2012 have written to Warner Bros with concerns about the new Joker film and urging the studio to join action against gun violence.

Twelve people died in a cinema showing The Dark Knight Rises in Colorado.

They included Jessica Ghawi, 24, whose mother Sandy Phillips told BBC News she was “horrified” by the Joker trailers.

Warner Bros said the film – which stars Joaquin Phoenix – was not an endorsement of real-world violence.

Phoenix walked out of a recent interview when asked about the issue.

Sandy Phillips and her husband, Lonnie, who run Survivors Empowered, an anti-gun violence group, wrote to Warner Bros along with three others whose relatives were killed, injured or caught up in the 2012 shooting.

Speaking to BBC News, Mrs Phillips said: “When I first saw the trailers of the movie, I was absolutely horrified.

“And then when I dug a little deeper and found out that it had such unnecessary violence in the movie, it just chilled me to my bones.

“It just makes me angry that a major motion picture company isn’t taking responsibility and doesn’t have the concern of the public at all.”

(12) PLAY AT WORK? [Item by Chip Htchcock.] Student tells reporter: “My degree is not just riding roller coasters”.

Staffordshire University might be one of the smallest in the UK, but it has some quirky degree courses.

One is theme park management. Undergraduates spend half of their time at Alton Towers whose owner Merlin Entertainments helped design the course.

Amusing genre note: Wikipedia says the teaching site’s new wooden roller coaster (first woodie in the UK in 20 years, and first ever to include fire) is called the Wicker Man.

(13) WITHOUT A NET. “Boston Dynamics Atlas robot twists and somersaults” – BBC video.

US robotics firm Boston Dynamics has developed new techniques to let its Atlas robot blend together the movements of gymnastic routines more smoothly.

(14) YOUR METAL PAL WHO’S FUN TO BE WITH. “Boston Dynamics robot dog Spot goes on sale”.

A robotics company whose creations have amassed millions of views on YouTube, is renting out one of its stars, Spot.

Anyone wishing to lease the quadruped dog-like robot could do so for “less than the price of a car,” Boston Dynamics told IEEE Spectrum.

It suggested Spot could be useful in construction, the oil and gas industry and for those working in public safety.

One expert said its appeal may be limited by its price, which will be determined by demand.

Noel Sharkey, robotics experts and professor of computer science at Sheffield University, said “Spot is possibly the world’s finest example of a quadruped robot and since the addition of a robot arm, it seems a little more practical – but will it be practical enough at that price?

(15) RANSOMWARE. BBC says the evidence shows they’re back: “Notorious GandCrab hacker group ‘returns from retirement’”.

An infamous hacker group that was thought to have disbanded appears to be behind a wave of new attacks being carried out across the world.

Researchers at cyber-security company Secureworks say they reached their conclusion after analysing a new strain of computer virus.

They claim the culprits are the GandCrab crew.

The gang is thought to be Russian and previously sold customised ransomware to other criminals.

Their code had scrambled data on victims’ computers and demanded blackmail payments to decrypt it. It is estimated to have affected more than 1.5 million machines, with hospitals among those affected.

In May, the group had surprised many in the security industry when it announced it was “retiring” after earning more than $2bn (£1.6bn) from the trade.

Someone claiming to be part of the group claimed it had “cashed out” its earnings and quit the business.

It had been active since about January 2018.

But Secureworks has linked the group to a new strain of ransomware called REvil or Sondinokibi.

The malware has caused major disruption to hundreds of dental practices in the US as well as 22 Texas municipalities.

Researchers say not only is the code similar to that of the earlier attacks but that it contains similar mistakes.

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

NYRSF Readings Open New Season with Gregory Feeley and Michael Swanwick

Michael Swanwick and Gregory Feeley

By Mark L. Blackman: On the evening of Tuesday, September 3, 2019, the New York Review of Science Fiction Readings Series opened its 29th Season with the stellar line-up of  Gregory Feeley and Michael Swanwick at its venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café in, of all places, Brooklyn.

The event opened, as ever, with producer and executive curator Jim Freund (and host of the long-running sf/fantasy radio program Hour of the Wolf) welcoming the audience back after the summer hiatus. For a while now, the Readings have streamed on Livestream, however, due to a difficulty, tonight’s wouldn’t be – we were on Facebook Live! (Livestream will be back in October.)  He reminded those who can to donate to the Series ($7 is the suggested donation, but no one is ever turned away), and reported that the home audience (to coin a phrase) may donate on its Patreon page. He concluded by announcing future readers:  on Monday, October 14th, guest host Michael J. DeLuca will present readers from Reckoning, including Emily Houk, Krista Hoeppner Leahy, Marissa Lingen and Brian Francis Slattery. On Tuesday, November 5th (Election Day and Guy Fawkes Day), the readers will be Gay Partington Terry and Robert V.S. Redick. December 3rd will be “party time,” an evening of Glitter Spec Fic, featuring A.C. Wise and others “reading stories and performing music to do with glitter.” (On the Series webpage, this notice was displayed in multiple colors.)

Gregory Feeley

Gregory Feeley, the evening’s first reader, describes himself as a writer of and about science fiction. His first novel, The Oxygen Barons, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick award and his short fiction has twice been nominated for the Nebula Award. His most recent novels are the historical novel Arabian Wine and Kentauros, “a fantasia on an obscure Greek myth.” He recently completed a long novel, Hamlet the Magician. (In addition, he is Thomas M. Disch’s literary executor for prose, and was part of the Series’ tribute to Disch last year.) He read the first half of “Cloudborn,” which also draws from Greek myth. (Despite my childhood reading of Greek mythology, not to mention watching Mighty Hercules cartoons – his sidekick, recall, was a centaur – I was unaware that “cloudborn” was an epithet for centaurs; as their genesis involved two separate instances by Itzion of cross-species copulation, this omission is understandable.) The story centers on children aboard a spaceship very slowly heading toward Neptune to terraform and settle it; there are, of course, secrets being kept from them. The girl Asia, it should be noted, is very into Greek mythology.

During the intermission, a raffle was held (for those who donated), with the prizes being copies of Kentauros and The Iron Dragon’s Daughter. I was asked to draw the tickets; no surprise, and despite the small number of raffle tickets, the winning numbers were one immediately before and one immediately after mine.

Michael Swanwick

Michael Swanwick, the evening’s final reader, is the author of ten novels, including Vacuum FlowersStations of the TideThe Iron Dragon’s Daughter, Jack Faust, Bones of the Earth, The Dragons of Babel, Dancing With Bears, Chasing the Phoenix and the recently published The Iron Dragon’s Mother; and roughly 150 stories, many of which have been reprinted in Best of the Year anthologies. Notable among his non-fiction is Being Gardner Dozois, a book-length interview. Since his first story was published in 1980, Swanwick has been honored with the Nebula, Theodore Sturgeon and World Fantasy Awards, and received a Hugo Award for fiction in an unprecedented five out of six years.  (He also has “the pleasant distinction of having lost more major awards than any other science fiction writer.”) The Iron Dragon’s Mother, from which he read, completes “a trilogy begun with The Iron Dragon’s Daughter twenty-five years ago. That’s far longer than it took Professor Tolkien to complete his trilogy.”

Caitlin, of House Sans Merci, a dragon pilot, after a hard landing, is immediately arrested when she returns to her base, and charged with corruption, a wide-ranging crime. It’s quickly evident that the trial is rigged (her virginity is denied), so she escapes on a Kawasaki and attempts to get answers from a dragon committing perjury against her. As Swanwick’s reading selection breaks off, she discovers that she has the mind of a dying old woman in her head.

The traditional Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered a small assortment of books. The audience of about 20 – we were mystified by the size of the turnout (but what there was, “was cherce”) – included Alan Beck, Amy Goldschlager, (House Manager) Barbara Krasnoff, John Kwok, Marianne Porter, Hildy Silverman and Henry Wessels. The Café closed early.

Pixel Scroll 8/26/19 We Didn’t Start The File, It Was Always Scrolling Since The Fans Been Squeeing

(1) STAMPEDE ZONE. Fran Wilde, in one of the New York Times’ op-eds from the future, implores “Please, Stop Printing Unicorns”. Tagline: “Bioprinters are not toys, and parents shouldn’t give them to children.”

… Making bioprinting more accessible to the public — especially to children — will be likely to lead to even worse disasters than last Friday’s blockade of the Chicago I-899 skyways off-ramp by a herd of miniature unicorns. Sure, the unicorns (whose origins are unknown) were the size of ducklings, but their appearance caused several accidents and a moral quandary.

These bioprinted unicorns were living creatures with consciousness — as defined by the A.I. Treaty of 2047 — trying to find their way in the world…..

(2) NYRSF STARTS SEASON 29. The New York Review of Books’ readings open their 29th season on September 3 with Gregory Feeley and Michael Swanwick.

Gregory Feeley writes novels and stories, most in some respect science-fictional. His first novel, The Oxygen Barons, was nominated for the Philip K. Dick award, and his short fiction has twice been nominated for the Nebula Award. His most recent novels are the historical novel Arabian Wine, and Kentauros, a fantasia on an obscure Greek myth. He recently completed a long novel, Hamlet the Magician.

Michael Swanwick writes fantasy and science fiction of all sorts, at lengths ranging from novels to flash fiction. Over the years, he’s picked up a Nebula Award, five Hugos and the World Fantasy Award–and has the pleasant distinction of having lost more of these awards than any other writer. Tor recently published The Iron Dragon’s Mother, completing a trilogy begun with The Iron Dragon’s Daughter twenty-five years ago. That’s far longer than it took Professor Tolkien to complete his trilogy.

The event is Tuesday, September 3 at The Brooklyn Commons Café, 388 Atlantic Avenue  (between Hoyt & Bond St.). Doors open at 6:30 p.m., event begins at 7:00 p.m.

(3) D&D FILES — THE TRUTH IS OUT THERE. Kotaku challenges the received wisdom: “Dungeons & Deceptions: The First D&D Players Push Back On The Legend Of Gary Gygax”.

Everybody calls Rob Kuntz last, he says. Those who want to know about the history of Dungeons & Dragons start with co-creator Gary Gygax’s kids, one of Gygax’s biographers, or D&D publisher Wizards of the Coast. As they’re wrapping things up, they might get around to dialing up Kuntz, a 63-year-old game designer. And once they call him, he tells them the same thing: Everything they know about the creation of the tabletop role-playing game is, in his opinion, sorely mistaken or flat-out wrong.

“There’s a myth that’s been propagated in the industry,” Kuntz told Kotaku during an interview in February of this year. “If you keep digging into this, you’re going to come up with a story that will enrage people and expose the truth.”

(4) MIND OF THESEUS. In the August 14 Financial Times (behind a paywall), Library of Congress fellow Susan Schneider critiques the arguments of Ray Kurzweil and Elon Musk that we should figure out how to download our brains into the clouds to prevent really smart AI machines from taking over our lives.

“Here is a new challenge, derived from a story by the Australian science fiction writer Greg Egan.  Imagine that an AI device called ‘a jewel’ is inserted into your brain at birth.  The jewel monitors your brain’s activity in order to learn how to mimic your thoughts and behaviours.  By th time you are an adult, it perfectly simulates your biological brain.

At some point, like other members of society, you grow confident that your brain is just redundant meatware.  So you become a ‘jewel head,’ having your brain surgically removed. The jewel is now in the driver’s seat.

Unlike in Mr Egan’s story, let us assume the jewel works perfectly, So which is you–your brain or your jewel?”

(5) CHAMBERS PRAISED. [Item by Olav Rokne.] The recent Worldcon in Dublin seems to be prompting some discussion of the literary merit of genre work. Writing in the Irish Times, John Connolly (“The future of sci-fi never looked so bright”) holds up the work of Hugo-winner Becky Chambers as an example of meritorious genre work, writing that:

In a world in which intolerance seems to be implacably on the rise, the fundamental decency at the heart of Chambers’s narratives, her depiction of a post-dystopian humanity attempting to construct a better version of itself while encountering new worlds and species, begins to seem quietly, gently radical.

(6) THE STORY OF A GENERATION. USA Today reports from D23 — “Disney unveils new ‘Rise of Skywalker’ footage, ‘Star Wars’ fans lose it over Rey’s double lightsaber”. The clips start with a walk down memory lane…  

Disney released a new poster depicting the battle, presenting it to all attendees.

Fans can now watch the pinnacle moment of the footage – a cloaked Rey pulls out what appeared to be a red, double lightsaber in battle, similar to the infamous weapon wielded by Darth Maul in “Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.”

The D23 crowd let out an immediate, overpowering cheer at the sight of the weapon’s return and proclaimed the sighting on Twitter.

It caused a disturbance in the Force which was felt well beyond the D23 walls.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born August 26, 1911 Otto Oscar Binder. He’s  best remembered as the co-creator with Al Plastino of Supergirl and for his many scripts for Captain Marvel Adventures and other stories involving the entire Marvel Family. He was extremely prolific in the comic book industry and is credited with writing over four thousand stories across a variety of publishers under his own name. He also wrote novels, one of which was The Avengers Battle the Earth Wrecker, one of the series created by writer-editor Stan Lee and artist and co-plotter Jack Kirby. (Died 1974.)
  • August 26, 1912 Ted Key. Of interest to us is his screenplay for The Cat from Outer Space about an apparent alien feline who has crash-landed here (starring Ken Berry, Sandy Duncan and Harry Morgan), which he followed up with a novelization. He also conceived and created Peabody’s Improbable History for producer Jay Ward’s The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. It would become the Sherman and Peabody Show. (Died 2008.)
  • Born August 26, 1912 Gerald Kersh. He wrote but one genre novel, The Secret Masters, and two genre stories in his Henry the Ghost series. So why’s he here, you ask? Because Ellison declared “you will find yourself in the presence of a talent so immense and compelling, that you will understand how grateful and humble I felt merely to have been permitted to associate myself with his name as editor.” You can read his full letters here. (Died 1968.)
  • Born August 26, 1938 Francine York. Her last genre performance was on Star Trek: Progeny. Never heard of It? Of course not, as it was yet another fan project. It’s amazing how many of these there are. Before that, she appeared in Mutiny in Outer SpaceSpace Probe Taurus and Astro Zombies: M3 – Cloned. (Died 2017.)
  • Born August 26, 1949 Sheila E Gilbert, 70. Co-editor-in-chief and publisher of DAW Books with Elizabeth R (Betsy) Wollheim. For her work there, she has also shared the Chesley Awards for best art director with Wollheim twice, and received a solo 2016 Hugo award as best professional editor (long form). 
  • Born August 26, 1950 Annette Badland, 69. She is best known for her role as Margaret Blaine on Doctor Who where she was taken over by Blon Fel-Fotch Pasameer-Day, a Slitheen. This happened during “Aliens of London” and “World War Three” during the Era of the Ninth Doctor. Her story would conclude in “Boom Town”. 
  • Born August 26, 1970 Melissa McCarthy, 49. Yes, I know she was in the rebooted Ghostbusters. Fanboys across the net are still wetting their pants about that film. I’m more interested in Super Intelligence in which she is playing a character that has an AI who has decided to take over her life. It reminds me somewhat of Kritzer’s “Cat Pictures Please” premise. It will be released on December 20 of this year.  (And we are not talking about her The Happytime Murders.)
  • Born August 26, 1980 Chris Pine, 39. James T. Kirk in the Star Trek reboot series. He also plays Steve Trevor in both Wonder Woman films and Dr. Alexander Murry in A Wrinkle in Time. He’s also Cinderella’s Prince in Into the Woods. Finally, he voices Peter Parker / Ultimate Spider-Man in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

(9) LOOKS LIKE DEATH (EXTREMELY) WARMED OVER. Delish says“Cheetos Is Rumored To Be Bringing Back Its ‘Bag Of Bones’ Snacks For Halloween” in Flamin’ Hot and White Cheddar flavors.

If you haven’t had a chance to try this snack yet, they’re basically Cheetos puffs that are shaped into various parts of a skeleton like the head, ribcage, hands, and bones. This means that besides being as delicious as a classic Cheeto, you can also build spooky skeletons with your food if you can resist scarfing down the whole bag for a while.

.(10) LAUNCHING FROM THE ANTIPODES. Ars Technica invites readers “Behind the scenes at Earth’s most beautiful rocket launch site” – lots of photos.

Not a blade of grass longer than the rest, a red “Remove Before Flight” tag unchecked, or a single Kiwi (be it bird or engineer) out of place: Rocket Lab’s Launch Complex-1 looks like an industry brochure come to life (better in fact). Located at the southern tip of the picturesque Mahia Peninsula on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, LC-1 is currently the only operational Rocket Lab launch site where the Electron vehicle—Rocket Lab’s low-cost small satellite launch vehicle—takes flight.

Rocket Lab just took advantage of the latest window at LC-1 on August 19. But back in December 2018, fellow rocket launch photographer Brady Kenniston had the exclusive opportunity to photograph Rocket Lab’s first NASA mission, ElaNa-19, from this private launch site. This launch was going to be Rocket Lab’s most important mission to date because, as the leader in the small satellite industry, they had an opportunity to show NASA (and the world) what they are made of. If successful, it could lead to future business from other small satellites in need of a ride to space—not to mention, the company would earn the endorsement of NASA Launch Services as an eligible vehicle to fly future NASA small-satellite science payloads.

(11) SO FAR, SO GOOD. Joe Sherry, Adri Joy, and Paul Weimer identify the high points of 2019 in “Blogtable: Best of the Year So Far” at Nerds of a Feather.

Joe: We’re a little more than seven months into what is shaping up to be an absolute stellar year for science fiction and fantasy fiction and I wanted to check in with the two of you to see what you’ve been reading and what has stood out in a year of excellence.

Adri: Indeed! well for starters I lost my heart in the time war…

Paul: I, too, lost my heart in the Time War. Among many other places, but having recently finished that, it is strongly on my mind. I am Team Blue, Adri, how about you?

(12) FEEDBACK. Heinlein is both an important influence on genre history and in the regard of author Chris Nuttall, who goes deep into Farah Mendlesohn’s book in “Review: The Pleasant Profession of Robert A. Heinlein”. Nuttall ends a substantial discussion by saying —

Heinlein was not fond of critics, not entirely without reason. Even in his day, a good critic could be a wonder – and a bad one a nightmare. But I think he might have liked this book – and, as Heinlein remains popular, we should ask ourselves why. You may not agree with everything in this book, but it will make you think. Mendlesohn treats Heinlein as what he was, a man. Not an angel, or a demon, but a man. An influential man, but a man nonetheless.

(13) SMILE! Guess what this scene made Kevin Standlee think of —  

(Now imagine, what if somebody used X-ray film?)

(14) CHALLENGES IN PRODUCING HEINLEIN BOOK. Shahid Mahmud of Arc Manor Publishers sent out an update about Phoenix Pick’s Heinlein novel The Pursuit of the Pankera.

…As many of you are aware from my previous emails, this is the parallel text to The Number of the Beast. 
 

It is, effectively, a parallel book about parallel universes.


We had originally attempted to release the book before Christmas, but some production issues have delayed the release to Sprint/Summer of 2020.

These include sorting out some fairly intricate details discussed in the book. For example (for those of you dying to see what it is that we publishers actually do), here are a few internal excerpts between editors working on various aspects of the book:

“The planet-numbering system may be off in certain parts of the story. At the beginning of the story (and in real life) we live on planet Earth. In the course of the story, there is time travel, and that’s where it gets confusing… the story refers to both Earth-One and Earth-Zero. There is a detailed explanation of the numbering system (see pg. 312) wherein “Earth-Zero is so designated because Dr. Jacob Burroughs was born on that planet…”

However, in other parts of the book, Earth-One is referred to as the characters’ home planet.”

OR

“After discussion with Patrick, I’ve settled on the following conventions: x-axis (hyphenated, lowercase, no italics) but axis x (no hyphen, lowercase, italic single letter). In the manuscript, of course, the italic letter would be underlined rather than set italic. The letters tau and teh remain in the Latin alphabet (rather than Greek or Cyrillic) and are lowercase but not set italic. When used with the word “axis” (tau-axis) they are hyphenated.”

These are the little details that keep us Publishers up at night 🙂

But alas, given a book of this magnitude and size (this is a BIG book, over 185,000 words) all this takes time.

Hence the delay.

Mahmud says the ebook will be priced at $9.99 at launch, but they will run a Kickstarter beginning September 4 to help pay for production, which will allow people to buy the ebook for just $7.00. And there will be other rewards available.

(15) THE NEXT BIG THING. Best Fanzine Hugo winner Lady Business tweeted a get-acquainted thread for new followers (starts here) which closes with this appeal –

OMG, what a great idea, nominating business meeting agenda items in Best Related Works! Chris Barkley will be so excited (Best Translated Novel Hugo Category Proposed)! Am I right or am I right?

(16) NOT A GOOD IDEA. Just because Trump doesn’t know this it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t: “Nuclear weapons and hurricanes don’t mix, NOAA advises”.

Using nuclear weapons to destroy hurricanes is not a good idea, a US scientific agency has said, following reports that President Donald Trump wanted to explore the option.

The Axios news website said Mr Trump had asked several national security officials about the possibility.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said the results would be “devastating”.

Mr Trump has denied making the suggestion.

Hurricanes typically affect the US east coast, often causing serious damage.

It’s not the first time the idea has been considered.

Following reports of Mr Trump’s suggestion, the hashtag #ThatsHowTheApocalyseStarted has been trending on Twitter.

What effect would nuking a hurricane have?

Mr Trump asked why the US couldn’t drop a bomb into the eye of the storm to stop it from making landfall, news site Axios said.

The NOAA says that using nuclear weapons on a hurricane “might not even alter the storm” and the “radioactive fallout would fairly quickly move with the tradewinds to affect land areas”.

(17) A VOLCANO SPEAKS. There was smoke on the water. Then this: “Vast ‘pumice raft’ found drifting through Pacific Ocean”. Opinions vary on whether it will reach Australia or break up, and on how likely it is to be helpful — “Giant Pumice Raft Floating Toward Australia Could Help Replenish Great Barrier Reef”:

A vast “raft” of volcanic rocks stretching over 150 sq km (93 sq miles) is drifting through the Pacific Ocean, scientists say.

The sea of pumice – the size of 20,000 football fields – was first reported by Australian sailors earlier this month.

Experts say the mass likely came from an underwater volcano near Tonga which erupted around 7 August according to satellite images.

Sailors have been warned to stay clear of the potential hazard.

Pumice is a lightweight, bubble-rich rock that can float in water. It is produced when magma is cooled rapidly.

(18) NOT COKE. “World of Warcraft Classic: Hit game goes back to basics” – BBC has the story.

The hit video game World of Warcraft (WoW) is going back to basics with the launch of WoW Classic this evening.

First released in 2004, the online multi-player game has evolved and changed dramatically over the years.

Many players had asked developer Blizzard Entertainment to revive the original version of the game, known as “classic” or “vanilla” WoW.

While not identical to the original, WoW Classic will replicate a majority of the features from the first game.

World of Warcraft is a fantasy game in which players roam the virtual world, fighting monsters and completing quests.

Blizzard said some players who had been given early access to the classic version – which is released at 23:00 BST on Monday – mistakenly thought some of the original features were errors.

(19) FASTER THAN A PET ROCK. A BBC video shows “Gloucestershire man walks tortoise to the pub every day”. Doesn’t move as slow as you might think…

A Gloucestershire man has started walking Nancy Drew the tortoise to the pub and around town.

Jason Smith says the African sulcata tortoise, which is actually male, needs to burn off energy, as in the wild he would ordinarily be looking for a mate at this time of year.

The creature has become famous around Tewkesbury, with people loving to stop and say hello.

(20) CRASH LANDING. “Natalie Portman rockets toward madness in mind-bending ‘Lucy in the Sky’ trailer” Yahoo! Entertainment cues it up.

Natalie Portman blasts off through the wildest reaches of the universe in the new trailer for Lucy in the Sky.

Legion creator Noah Hawley’s feature directorial debut stars the Oscar-winning actress as Lucy Cola, a loose adaptation of real-life astronaut Lisa Nowak, who, after returning to earth from a length mission to space, began an obsessive affair with a coworker….

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

Daniel Dern’s Thursday Dublin 2019 Photos

Let’s begin with Peter S. Beagle here and post the rest of Daniel Dern’s gallery after the jump —

Peter S. Beagle

Peter S. Beagle
Continue reading

Pixel Scroll 6/27/19 Never Scroll A Filer When Pixels Are On The Line!

(1) DISNEY’S STICKY FINGERS LAND. Brady Macdonald, in “Galaxy’s Edge smugglers make off with anything not nailed down in Disneyland’s new Star Wars land” in the Redlands Daily Facts, says that crooks have been helping themselves to maps of Galaxy’s Edge and menus at Oga’s Cantina and then unloading the swag on eBay, ensuring that Disney is cracking down.

The “free” collectibles in Disneyland’s new Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge that didn’t have a price tag and weren’t nailed down have found their way to cyberspace with many of the five-finger discount items showing up on the secondary market.

A simple search for “Galaxy’s Edge” on the eBay online shopping site reveals a slew of purloined items that probably should not have left the Black Spire Outpost village on the Star Wars planet of Batuu, the setting for the new 14-acre land at the Anaheim theme park.

Other resourceful Galaxy’s Edge visitors simply took more of the free Star Wars stuff than Disneyland might have anticipated or expected. As a result, many of the pilfered and hoarded souvenirs are no longer available in the new Star Wars land.

Gone are the Galaxy’s Edge maps and Docking Bay 7 sporks that are likely not to reappear in the park or the land. It’s always possible they were intended as grand opening swag. Or maybe new shipments of the popular keepsakes are bound for Batuu….

…What constitutes thievery? If a Disneyland employee hands you something without a price tag on it are you obligated to give it back? Most people would agree that keeping a theme park map as a souvenir is OK, but taking restaurant silverware is stealing. It appears plenty of Disneyland visitors are stepping over that grey line.

(2) BILL VS. BRIANNA. Bounding Into Comics’ slant on things is self-evident from the first paragraph, but they have rounded up enough tweets to let you navigate to the source material: “Brianna Wu Takes Aim At Star Trek Actor William Shatner, He Fires Back!”

Star Trek actor William Shatner, who played Captain Kirk in Star Trek: The Original Series, found himself in the middle of an internet argument about autism, and how society should accommodate those with the disorder. Congressional candidate Brianna Wu threw herself into the argument attempting to take a shot at Shatner. The actor quickly shot her down with a firm response about her own past.

One of Shatner’s threads begins here (and includes a couple of comments where Scott Edelman tries to contradict Shatner with a cocktail of Harlan Ellison and George Bernard Shaw quotes).

One of Brianna Wu’s threads starts here.

The mystery question is whether Shatner writes his own tweets or delegates that to someone else?

(3) VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE INTERNET. In the aftermath of Ulrika O’Brien’s BEAM #14 editorial, John Scalzi analyzes his role in the past decade of Hugo fanhistory: “On Being Denounced, Again (Again)”

6. So why, over the last decade plus change, have certain people focused on me as the agent of change (and not necessarily a good one) with regard to the Hugos? After all, this latest editorial is not the first jeremiad about me on the subject; people will recall I was a frequent example from the Puppy Camp of Everything That Was Wrong in Science Fiction and Proof the Hugos Were Corrupt, etc.

Here are some of the reasons:

a) professional/personal dislike and/or jealousy;
b)
unhappiness with inevitable change with fandom and the science fiction and fantasy community and genre generally and the need to find a single cause to blame it on;
c) ignorance (willful or otherwise) of the labor of other people (many of them not straight and/or white and/or male) to change the tenor of the SF/F community (and as a consequence, its awards);
d) a general lack of understanding that the SF/F community is a complex system and like most complex systems a single input or actor, in this case me, does not usually precipitate a wide system change on its own;
e)
my privileged position in the community makes me an easy and acceptable target/strawman/scapegoat — no one’s exactly punching down when they go for me.

(4) ABOUT THAT GATE. Darusha Wehm, Escape Pod associate editor and author, has also responded to Ulrika O’Brien’s BEAM 14 editorial. Thread starts here.

(5) HE WANTS GEEZERS TO GET OFF HIS LAWN, TOO. This was S.M. Stirling’s response to Scalzi’s post:

(6) DEVOURING BRADBURY. In “David Morrell: Preparing for Crisis and Finding Inspiration” on Crimereads, Mark Rubinstein interviews David Morrell about his new collection, Time Was.  Morell explains how he started off as a writer “devouring Ray Bradbury” and how his short stories “tend to be in the Serling/Bradbury mold.”  He also offers good advice about a writing career from his teacher, Phil Klass.

David Morrell: …Philip Klass, my writing instructor from years ago, insisted that writers who went the distance and enjoyed long careers, were those who had a definable viewpoint and a unique personality in their prose. That’s been my lifelong goal as a writer.

(7) LONDON CALLING. Britain’s North Heath SF Group has been in touch. Filers are invited!

It is a small group not even three years old and based at the Kent end of London (not far across the Thames from the Excel if ever they hold another Worldcon there).  

While the group is only 15 strong, they are getting a fair bit of social media interest and now have over 100 Facebook followers nearly all from SE London.

If any Filers are based in SE London (apparently the 89 and 229 busses to the Brook St stop is useful if any live on those routes), or have fan friends based in SE London then they’d be welcome at their next meet which is especially for new members. July 11 – see details on Facebook.

The group is a broad church SF group (member’s interests span books, films, TV) with some having specialist interests.

Last weekend a few gathered for a barbecue, and yes, the garden really is bigger on the outside….

NHSF-BBQ-2019

(8) FRIEND OBIT. “Robert J. Friend, Tuskegee Pilot Who Led U.F.O. Project, Is Dead at 99” – the New York Times has the story.

Robert J. Friend, one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen, who defied racism at home and enemy fire over Europe and who later oversaw the federal government’s investigation into U.F.O.s, died on Friday in Long Beach, Calif. He was 99.

… “Do I believe that we have been visited? No, I don’t believe that,” he said. “And the reason I don’t believe it is because I can’t conceive of any of the ways in which we could overcome some of these things: How much food would you have to take with you on a trip for 22 years through space? How much fuel would you need? How much oxygen or other things to sustain life do you have to have?”

But unlike many of his colleagues, he favored further research.

“I, for one, also believe that the probability of there being life elsewhere in this big cosmos is just absolutely out of this world — I think the probability is there,” he said.

(9) WRIGHT OBIT. An actor in theALF series died June 27. BBC has the story —

Actor Max Wright has died aged 75 after a long battle with cancer, his family has confirmed.

He was well known for playing Willie Tanner, the adoptive father of an alien, in the hit 1980s sitcom ALF.

(10) DRAGO OBIT. Actor Billy Drago, known for his work on Charmed, X-Files, and The Untouchables, died June 24. Details at SYFY Wire: “Effortlessly menacing character actor Billy Drago dies at 73”

…As far as his recurring roles, he played the eccentric Barbas, The Demon of Fear on the original Charmedas well as outlaw John Bly in the beloved The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr. He also had several one-off roles in series like The X-Files, Masters of Horror, and Supernatural

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 27, 1941 James P. Hogan. A true anti-authoritarian hard SF writer in the years when that was a respectable thing to be. I’m sure that I’ve read at lest a few of his novels, most likely Inherit the Stars and The Gentle Giants of Ganymede. A decent amount of his work is available digitally on what is just called Books and Kindle. (Died 2010.)
  • Born June 27, 1966 J. J. Abrams, 53. He of the Star Trek and Star Wars films that endlessly cause controversy. I can forgive him any digressions there for helping creating Fringe and Person of Interest, not to mention Alias at times. 
  • Born June 27, 1952 Mary Rosenblum. SF writer who won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel for The Drylands, her first novel. She later won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History Short Form for her story, “Sacrifice.” Water Rites and Horizons are the only ones available digitally. (Died 2018.)
  • Born June 27, 1959 Stephen Dedman, 60. Australian author who’s the author of The Art of Arrow-Cutting, a most excellent novel. I really should read Shadows Bite, the sequel to it.  He’s the story editor of Borderlands, the tri-annual Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror magazine published in Perth. Apple Books has nothing for him, Kindle has The Art of Arrow-Cutting and a few other titles. 
  • Born June 27, 1972 Christian Kane, 47. You’ll certainly recognize him as he’s been around genre video fiction for a while first playing Lindsey McDonald on Angel before become Jacob Stone on The Librarians. And though Leverage ain’t genre, his role as Eliot Spencer there is definitely worth seeing. 
  • Born June 27, 1975 Tobey Maguire, 44. Spider-man in the Sam Raimi trilogy of the Spidey films. His first genre appearance was actually in The Revenge of the Red Baron which is one serious weird film. Much more interesting is his role as David in Pleasantville, a film I love dearly. He produced The 5th Wave, a recent alien invasion film.
  • Born June 27, 1987 Ed Westwick, 32. British actor who has roles in the dystopian Children of MenS. Darko (a film I couldn’t begin to summarise), Freaks of Nature (a popcorn film if ever there was one), the  “Roadside Bouquets” episode of the British series Afterlife (which I want to see) and The Crash (which may or may not be SF). 

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) ALA DROPS MELVIL DEWEY NAME FROM AWARD. The decimals remain, but Dewey is gone. Read the resolution here. Publishers Weekly reports:

Citing a history of racism, anti-Semitism, and sexual harassment, the council of the American Library Association on June 23 voted to strip Melvil Dewey’s name from the association’s top professional honor, the Melvil Dewey Medal. The ALA Council approved the measure after a resolution was successfully advanced at the ALA membership meeting, during the 2019 ALA Annual Conference in Washington DC.

Best known by the public for creating the Dewey Decimal Classification System, Dewey was one of the founders of the American Library Association in 1876, and has long been revered as the “father of the modern library,” despite being ostracized from the ALA in 1906 because of his offensive personal behavior.

In an article last June in American Libraries, Anne Ford questioned why the ALA and the library profession still associates its highest honor with a man whose legacy does not align with the profession’s core values. This week, some 88 years after his death, Dewey’s #TimesUp moment appears to have finally come.

(14) HATCHING DRAGONS. Michael Swanwick explains how he wrote “My Accidental Trilogy” at Flogging Babel.

…When I began work on The Dragons of Babel, I had no idea whether it existed in the same universe as The Iron Dragon’s Daughter or not. The two books had no characters or locations in common. Even the names of the gods were different, though at the head of each pantheon was the Goddess. Only she and the dragons were the same. Ultimately, I decided that it did no harm for the books to be in the same world (though, presumably, on different continents) and would please those who had read The Iron Dragon’s Daughter. So I brought Jane back—not from our world but from an earlier period of her life, when she was behaving very badly—for a brief cameo appearance. Just as a small treat, an Easter egg, for those who had read the earlier novel.

To my surprise, The Iron Dragon’s Daughter had been characterized by reviewers as an “anti-fantasy” because it challenged many of the assumptions of genre fantasy. This had never been my intent. But, the idea having been placed into my head, in The Dragons of Babel I set out to upend the standard model of fantasy in as many ways as possible while still delivering its traditional pleasures….

(15) THE KING WILL ABDICATE FROM BROADWAY. The New York Times says no more monkey business after mid-August: “‘King Kong’ and ‘Cher Show’ Musicals Announce Closings”.

“King Kong,” the big-budget musical driven by its massive namesake puppet, will close Aug. 18 after less than a year on Broadway, the show’s producers announced on Tuesday.

… “King Kong” was capitalized for $30 million, according to the production. That sum — enormous by Broadway standards — has not been recouped.

The show eventually opened to stinging reviews, with most of the praise going to the towering title character himself, a colossal marionette clocking in at 20 feet tall and 2,000 pounds. For the week ending June 23, it grossed just shy of $783,000 at the box office, only 53 percent of its potential take.

(16) MARS RUNS OUT OF GAS. Nature updated the search for life on Mars. For one brief, shining moment, it was Camelot: “Record methane level found on Mars”.

NASA’s Curiosity rover last week measured the highest level of methane gas ever found in the atmosphere at Mars’s surface. The reading — 21 parts per billion (p.p.b.) — is three times greater than the previous record, which Curiosity detected back in 2013. Planetary scientists track methane on Mars because its presence could signal life; most of Earth’s methane is made by living things, although the gas can also come from geological sources…

… NASA ran a follow-up experiment last weekend and recorded a methane level less than 1 p.p.b., suggesting that the high reading last week came from a transient gas plume.

(17) GETTING UNSTUCK IN TIME. Camestros Felapton is happy to offer “Some advice for time travellers”. Pay attention — even if he starts with “Don’t Panic!” there’s a lot here you haven’t heard before.

4. Listen to that mysterious stranger you meet early on

Honestly, even if you aren’t currently planning to go time travelling, NOW is the time to carry a notebook. When the uncannily familiar stranger and/or your great aunt starts babbling to you about destiny, or how what has been written can (or cannot) be unwritten, get them to pause a moment and ask them to write it down in your handy notebook.

This encounter may be the point where you are told The Rules (we’ll get to The Rules in a moment). Having them written down will make your life so much easier and will also make it easier for you to explain them to your younger self when you meet them when you are disguised as an uncannily familiar stranger.

(18) SIT ON IT. The Warner Bros. Studio Tour is adding a Big Bang Theory exhibit: “BAZINGA! The Sets Are Coming to The Tour”.

Starting June 28th, take a seat in Sheldon’s spot and relive your favorite moments from apartment 4A.  Recreate Sheldon’s signature knock, stroll through the foyer to see the infamous broken elevator or visit the Caltech Physics Department Cafeteria featuring original costumes from Leonard, Sheldon, Penny, Howard, Raj, Bernadette and Amy.

(19) COLBERT ON MEDIA. Steven Colbert starts with the news that Kim Kardashian is offering a new line of makeup that doesn’t go on your face. The Good Omens cancellation petition is his second bit, starting at the 2:00 mark (in case you want to fast-forward past Kim Kardashian’s thighs).

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

Pixel Scroll 12/26/18 And The Fur Suit Of Happiness

(1) NEW BUJOLD NOVELLA ON THE WAY. Bujold announced it on Goodreads — a “new Lakerwalker novella impending”.

…I am pleased to report that I have finished the first draft of a new novella in the world of The Sharing Knife. Functionally a novella, anyway; its length, at the moment, is a tad over 49,000 words, so it’s technically a short novel. This falls in an odd limbo in categorization — the official cap for a novella is 40k or 45k words, but the minimum contractual length for a commercially published novel is usually 100k. (It was 80k back when I started, but word-count inflation has occurred since then.) Since it’s headed for original e-publication, I don’t have to care, so the main concern is to label it so readers won’t charge in expecting something twice as long.

The working title was “Barr & Lily”, which is also its subject matter, being a sort of slice-of-Lakewalker-life character study. However, that won’t do for the final, since it sounds a bit too much like the name of a tea company. The current front-runner is “Knife Children”, but I’m not sure yet if that is going to stick.

It takes place about a dozen years after the events of the tetralogy, but should be perfectly readable as a stand-alone. (Old readers will gratify me if they can refrain from fending off potential new readers by telling them they have to read four other books first.)…

(2) 9W HIATUS. On December 22, London’s Nine Worlds convention governance committee made a response to some recent critical tweets, and acknowledged there will be no 9W in 2019. Thread starts here.

(3) WHATEVER’S NUMBERS. While John Scalzi’s annual statistical roundup shows it’s getting very hard to measure anyone’s social media reach, I still read these breakdowns in rapt fascination: “Top Whatever Posts and Social Media Stats, 2018”.

 Every year I post stats on traffic for Whatever, and every year it gets harder to see how it accurately reflects my actual readership, because of the way people read things I post here. Bluntly, relatively few people visit the site directly at this point in time — As of this moment, for 2018, Whatever has had 2.82 million direct visits in 2018, down from last year’s 4.1 million, and substantially down from the 2012 high of 8.16 million. At the same time, Whatever has 30k+ followers through WordPress and email, another 10k+ on Feedly and other RSS aggregators, a few thousand though social media feeds, and there an unknown number of people reading the site’s content on mobile, through AMP versions of the site. None of those impressions/reads get tracked through the WordPress stats suite.

(4) SANS SERIF FACTOR THREE, MR. SULU. Hyperallergenic contends that “Many Stories Are Told Through the Typography in Science Fiction Films”.

In film, there is a shorthand for the future, the typeface Eurostile Bold Extended. It appears on the interface screens of the time-traveling Delorean in Back to the Future (1985), and in the logo of Lunar Industries at the lonely lunar station in Moon (2009). It adorns the exterior of the USS Enterprise starship in the Star Trek franchise, and the Federal Colonies intergalactic megacorporation branding in Total Recall (1990). It gives both the Battlestar Galactica series title and the credits of District 9 (2009) an ultramodern tone.

As blogger and designer Dave Addey explains in his new book Typeset in the Future, out now from Abrams, he first noticed the ubiquity of the typeface in 2013. 

(5) THE YEAR IN SCIENCE. BBC picked its “Ten big science stories of 2018”. Second on the list —  

The earliest animals

The one-million-plus animal species alive today are staggeringly diverse, from the giant oceanic blue whale to the wriggly earthworms beneath our feet. But their early evolution from single-celled ancestors remains shrouded in mystery.

In the hunt for the earliest animal life, much attention has been focused on a group of enigmatic life forms – known as the “Ediacaran biota” – from more than 500 million years ago. These were some of the first complex organisms to appear on Earth.

But their position on the tree of life is difficult decipher. These curious creatures have been variously categorised as lichens, fungi, and even as a halfway house between plants and animals.

In September, scientists were able to extract molecules of cholesterol from a fossilised Ediacaran life form called Dickinsonia, which resembled a flat jellyfish. Cholesterol is one of the molecular hallmarks of animal life, clearly demonstrating that the Ediacaran biota were animals.

(6) THE SIGN OF THE ZERO. A.V. Club is impressed, in a negative sort of way: Holmes & Watson crack the case of the 0 percent Rotten Tomatoes score”.

Entering into a robust fraternity of cinematic triumphs that includes such highlights as Gotti and Bucky Larson: Born To Be A Star, Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly’s new comedy Holmes & Watson has joined the storied pantheon of movies rocking a 0 percent “rotten” score on film review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. For those unfamiliar with the site’s system, that means that not a single one of the 15 critics currently being polled for the film’s merits have said it’s even marginally worth the 89 minutes of your life it would take to watch, making this a real anti-Paddington 2 situation.

(7) DOA ON BAKER STREET. Here’s The Hollywood Reporter’s contribution to the funeral cortege: “‘Holmes & Watson’: Film Review”.

You can feel the flop sweat emanating from the third onscreen pairing of Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. Making their previous vehicles Step Brothers and Talladega Nights seem the height of comic sophistication by comparison, Holmes & Watson features the duo parodying Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous characters to devastatingly unfunny effect. Numerous talented British thespians are wasted in supporting roles in this Christmas turkey that, not surprisingly, wasn’t screened in advance for critics. Although making them troop out to theaters Christmas morning is something of which even Ebenezer Scrooge wouldn’t have approved.

(8) EISENBERG OBIT. Scientist and sff author Larry Eisenberg achieved his greatest fame writing limericks in comments to the online New York Times over the past decade: “Larry Eisenberg, 99, Dead; His Limericks Were Very Well Read”. Eisenberg died December 25 from complications of acute myeloid leukemia.

Dr. Eisenberg joined Rockefeller University in 1958 and later became a director of its electronics laboratory. Early in his tenure at Rockefeller, he helped develop a transistorized, battery-operated cardiac pacemaker, which was considered a vast improvement over the wire-laden earlier models. He taught at the university until 2000.

As a science-fiction writer, Dr. Eisenberg was best known for his short story “What Happened to Auguste Clarot?” The comic tale of a disappearing Parisian scientist, it was published in “Dangerous Visions” (1967), the noted anthology edited by Harlan Ellison.

He was also known for his stories featuring Prof. Emmett Duckworth, an amiably hapless Nobel Prize-winning scientist. (Duckworth’s inventions include an intensely addictive aphrodisiac containing 150,000 calories per ounce.)

…In a 2011 feature, Dr. Eisenberg was asked by The 6th Floor, a Times Magazine blog, to supply a brief biographical summary for readers. He replied — a mere 20 minutes later — in the form he knew best:

A nonagenarian, I,
A sometime writer of sci-fi,
Biomed engineer,
Gen’rally of good cheer,
With lim’ricks in ready supply.

(9) ISAACS OBIT. Boston area conrunning fan Fred Isaacs died December 26 after a long battle with COPD. Just a few items from his extensive resume — he chaired Boskone 9 (1972), and was co-inventor of the concourse format of organizing exhibits and fan tables for the 1989 Worldcon, which was frequently emulated by later Worldcons.  

(10) GRAU OBIT. Jorge Grau (1930-2018): Spanish screenwriter and director, reportedly died today, aged 88. Best known for the horror film The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue (1974, aka Let Sleeping Corpses Lie). Also directed The Legend of Blood Castle (1973, aka The Female Butcher) and Violent Blood Bath (1974).

(11) MOSIMAN OBIT. Billie Sue Mosiman (1947-2018) has died. She had her first fiction published in the 1980s, and went on to become an Edgar nominee for her novel Night Cruise and a Stoker nominee for Widow. She authored eight suspense novels and more than 150 short stories, and coedited six anthologies.

(12) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born December 26, 1911Milton Luros. Illustrator during the Golden Age of pulp magazines from 1942 to 1954 (yes I’ve expansive on what I consider to be to the Golden Age). His work graced Science Fiction Quarterly, Astounding Stories,  Future Combined with Science Fiction StoriesFuture Science Fiction StoriesDynamic Science Fiction and  Science Fiction Quarterly. He had an amazing ability to illustrate women in outfits in hostile environments that simply were impractical such as one for Science Fiction Quarterly (UK), October 1952 cover had a cut out in her spacesuit so her décolletage was bare. (Died 1999.)
  • Born December 26, 1930Donald Moffat. Yes he just passed on several days ago but his Birthday is today so he gets written up. Yes The Thing indeed was first SF undertaking followed by License to KillThe Terminal Man, Exo-Man, Monster in the Closet and Earthquake films, plus The Twilight Zone and Six Million Dollar Man series. (Died 2018.)
  • Born December 26, 1961 Tahnee Welch, 57. Daughter of Raquel Welch, she has  shows up in Cocoon and Cocoon: The Return; also in Sleeping Beauty, Johnny 2.0 and Black Light. She also appears in a SF video game called Ripper that took place in 2040 NYC and uses Jack as the basis for the plot there.
  • Born December 26, 1974Danielle Cormack, 44. Performer of New Zealander status so you can guess what that means — Ephiny on  Xena: Warrior Princess, a one shot as Lady Marie DeValle on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Ephiny on the same series, Katherine on Jack of All Trades (which I’ve mentioned before was one of Kage Baker’s fav shows), Raina on Cleopatra 2525 and Shota on the Legend of the Seeker. Genre television has been very, very good for the New Zealand economy! 
  • Born December 26, 1986Kit Harington, 32. Jon Snow on Game of Thornes of course but also voiced the Eret character in the How to Train Your Dragon films, a considerably lighter affair I’d say. Also played Bill Bradley in Seventh Son and is voicing Sir Gadabout In Zog, yet another dragon-centred film, I gather. 
  • Born December 26, 1960Temuera Morrison, 58. New Zealand performer known for being Jango Fett in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (and Commander Cody in Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith. He also voiced the clone troopers in both films. He is also voiced Chief Tui, the father of the title character in Disney’s Moana, and for playing Arthur Curry’s father in Aquaman.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

  • XKCD on feathered dinosaurs.

(14) SOMEDAY MY PRINTS WILL COME. Io9 has a cool décor suggestion: “Hang Iconic Doctor Who Moments on Your Wall With These Fantastic Framed Prints”.

Over the past few months, Classic Stills has been capturing high-res moments from genre faves like Jurassic Park and the Marvel Cinematic Universe as artsy prints you can frame on your wall. Now, it’s turning its hand to TV, in the form of another genre icon: 55 years of Doctor Who’s adventures in time and space….

(15) DO YOU PREFER LEINSTER OR JENKINS? Now’s your chance to find out. Murray Leinster’s daughter recently put together a short collection of mainstream short stories published under his real name of Will F. Jenkins which was, as Bruce D. Arthurs notes, was “Apparently the actual majority, and bread-and-butter, of his writing career.” Intro by Michael Swanwick. Available on Amazon. Link to Swanwick’s blog post: “The Mainstream Murray Leinster”.

…In a career that began in 1913 and ended with his death in 1975, Jenkins published some 1,800 stories in more than 150 periodicals, as well as 74 novels and collections. Only a small part of his output was science fiction — and that was written over the horrified objections of his agent. (SF didn’t pay as well as the slicks, which were his usual markets.) But Jenkins loved science and wrote science fiction for the fun of it, utilizing the Leinster pen name to protect his other fiction….

(16) SUCCESSFUL DEMONSTRATION. NPR asks “What’s Next For Tiny Satellites?” but doesn’t really have much of an answer yet.

On Nov. 26, as the probe known as InSight plummeted through the Martian atmosphere on its way to the planet’s surface, two miniature spacecraft — known collectively as MarCO — relayed telemetry from InSight to Earth, assuring all those watching that the landing of the probe was proceeding successfully and was soft.

In the past, spacecraft were only able to transmit back to Earth simple tones during a landing. Those tones would change for major milestones, such as parachute deployment, the firing of landing rockets or touchdown.

This time, as InSight team member Christine Szalai called out altitudes from the control room in the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, she was reading off actual data from InSight’s onboard radar. It was live play-by-play, bearing in mind that the radio signal from Mars took approximately eight minutes to reach Earth.

… After its relay mission was over, the MarCOs sailed past Mars; they’ll go into orbit around the sun. Marinan says the research team on Earth will check in on the cubesats from time to time, just to see how long they last.

(17) I’VE SEEN THAT FACE BEFORE. A crossover comic brings together two characters played by actor Bruce Campbell: “Interview: Scott Duvall on How Ash Meets Bubba Ho-Tep in Dynamite’s New Army of Darkness Crossover”.

Worlds collide this February when Ash meets Elvis and a foul-mouthed mummy in Dynamite’s latest crossover Army of Darkness vs. Bubba Ho-Tep. The four-issue mini-series not only brings together two beloved cult classics, it also pits Bruce Campbell’s infamous character against another of his best personas (the actor played Ash in the Evil Dead series as well as Elvis Presley in Bubba Ho-Tep in 2002).

Written by Scott Duvall (They Called Us Enemy, Heavy Metal) and with art by Vincenzo Federici (Grimm Fairy Tales), the story follows Ash on a road trip through Texas in search of Elvis, who is rumored to be alive and taking down evil mummies. With a time-traveling Elvis jumpsuit and a new evil Book of the Dead, Ash must then come face to face with Bubba Ho-Tep, the soul-sucking mummy.

(18) THIS SCEPTRED ISLE. For those of us beyond the range of Her Majesty’s broadcast, Camestros Felapton helpfully supplies a transcript: “And now a message from the Queen to her commonwealth”.

When the creatures of the void break through the veil of cosmogyny and come to rend your essence from your bones and then marke sport with your skeleton while your howling soul looks on, to whom would you turn? Your milquetoast post-modernist professors? Your “Jeremiah Corbills”? Your “republicans” and constitutional reformers?

Or instead will you turn to a family that are the heirs to Boudicca, King Arthur, William the Conqueror, or my namesake Glorianna herself Elizabeth the First?

(19) TRANSFORMATIVE MURDERBOTS. Meredith advised:

For those who may not be aware: Transformative works fandom has a yearly secret santa gift exchange called Yuletide where people write small-fandom fanfiction for each other, and book fandoms usually make quite a good showing. This year’s collection can be found here.

(It’s also one of several fannish endeavours founded by Astolat, who also writes some really excellent and Hugo-nominated books when she’s not writing fanfic.)

Then JJ discovered –

There are 8 Murderbot fics!

And one of them features Timothy!

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