Pixel Scroll 8/24/20 The Word For Scroll Is Pixel

(1) CULTURE CANCEL. Andrew Liptak tells Tor.com readers “Amazon’s Culture TV Series No Longer in the Works”. He also reports, “Ringworld doesn’t seem to be moving forward.” His source is Den of Geek, which has it from Utopia creator Dennis Kelly who said:

“In the end, I just think the estate didn’t want to go through with it. It wasn’t the material. They hadn’t seen anything [he had written], it was just because I think they weren’t ready to do it, for whatever reason. I’m a little mystified myself, to be honest.”

(2) ANOTHER NASFIC GOODY. The Columbus 2020 NASFiC published a Coloring Book of illustrations by some of their art show participants, including Artist Guest of Honor Stephanie Law. Download from Google Drive here.

(3) LEVYING A TAXONOMY. James Wallace Harris asks “When Did E. M. Forster’s ‘The Machine Stops’ Become Science Fiction?” at Classics of Science Fiction.

In 1909 E. M. Forster’s story “The Machine Stops” was published in the November issue of The Oxford and Cambridge Review. It is a dystopian tale about a future society run by a machine. Forster was replying to H. G. Wells novel, A Modern Utopia serialized in the Fortnightly Review in 1904 and 1905. Neither writer thought they were writing science fiction because, first, the term did not yet exist, and second, because Wells was promoting scientific socialism and Forster was protesting it. However, both stories had all the trappings of science fiction.

A Modern Utopia is seldom remembered by science fiction fans, but “The Machine Stops” is considered one of the classics of the genre, and often reprinted in retrospective anthologies of science fiction short stories.

(4) MERCURY RISING. The Right Stuff, a new scripted original series begins airing October 9 on Disney+.

Tor.com’s Andrew Liptak, in “The First Trailer for Disney+’s The Right Stuff Shows Off a Familiar Story of Heroics”, takes this approach:

…What many of these stories boil down to is that a group of white men worked really hard to reach the Moon, and did.

To be sure, it’s an incredible achievement. But it’s not the full story, and a new body of works like Hidden Figures, Apple’s For All Mankind, Mercury 13, and Mary Robinette Kowal’s Lady Astronaut novels have begun to reinterpret and puncture the mythos that’s surrounded Apollo for decades, highlighting the role that marginalized mathematicians, engineers, designers, and astronaut candidates played in that epic story.

(5) ANOTHER STAY-AT-HOME RECOMMENDATION. From the Time to Eat the Dogs podcast, “The Argument Against Human Colonies in Space”, via LitHub.

Time to Eat the Dogs is a podcast about science, history, and exploration. Each week, Michael Robinson interviews scientists, journalists, and adventurers about life at the extreme.

In today’s episode, Daniel Deudney makes the argument against the human colonization of space. He suggests that Space Expansionism is a dangerous project, a utopian ideal that masks important risks to human civilization. His latest book is Dark Skies: Space Expansionism, Planetary Geopolitics, and the Ends of Humanity….

Michael Robinson: You make the point in your book that futurists are people who are kind of connected to this idea of technological futurism, especially in space. Futurists are also usually space expansionists. I was thinking about that. I’m like, why would that have to be? Because there are all kinds of, let’s say, technologies of space that don’t require expansionism. You have all kinds of remote rovers, for example, and telescopes. So what’s the connection between space, futurism, and people who want to expand or colonize space?

Daniel Deudney: Well, there’s lots of different ideas in space expansionism. And certainly one of the most basic is exploration to acquire knowledge. Think about geographic exploration as a type of scientific activity where one goes to different places and makes, you know, empirical observations about those places. That’s what exploration is. So geography is a science in an important way. And that activity, as you intimated, doesn’t really require humans nearly as much as it will get in the past. This is one of the unique features of space exploration to date in comparison, say, to the exploration of the ocean or the Arctic or the atmosphere. We have robotic vehicles that have gone to Mars. Many of the bodies in the solar system have been visited by probes of increasing capability. And humans have only been briefly—50 years ago—to the moon. And so there is a sense in which a kind of prostatic or a robotic exploration has been occurring.

And the reason for this is kind of obvious, which is that the cost of putting a human into space and keeping a human alive is about the same as it was 50 years ago. Very high, very difficult. And the cost of sending a probe has been getting successively cheaper. This is, of course, because the generic technologies people say, oh, space technology has been advancing. Well, the technologies that have been advancing that are most important have not really been unique to space. They’ve been the same technologies rooted in revolutions and solid-state physics that underlay the Internet censors, obviously computing capability, communications. Think about the amount of bandwidth that we now etch into tiny parts of the electromagnetic spectrum, say, compared to what the electric telegraph could do. Bandwidth has been the big story.

(6) INFORMED TERROR. Spacefaring Kitten is “Paying a visit to Lovecraft Country” at Nerds of a Feather.

…When the bulby-eyed Lovecraft statue was finally retired in 2015, his most ardent admirers were so unhappy that they even returned the trophies they had previously won. As much Lovecraftiana is published as before, but the most memorable new works explicitly take aim at the racial attitudes of Lovecraft and his works. Victor LaValle’s “Ballad of Black Tom” rewrote the “The Horror at Red Hook” from the viewpoint of a black protagonist, and other such works are making it hard to even think about Lovecraft without considering his politics.

In Lovecraft Country, all the Lovecraftian monstrosities are there to make a very specific political point. Indeed, Shoggoths are roaming the night and there are things with way too many eyes and tentacles (and consonants in their names), but evil-wise they are nothing compared to the darkness of Jim Crow. It’s a good premise, even though it reduces the Lovecraftian to a gallery of slimy monsters, missing all the bleak lonely horror that I would actually consider Lovecraft’s claim to fame. Beings from alien dimensions and the fact that there used to be towns where non-whites are killed if they don’t leave before the sun sets are both terrifying.

(7) TODAY’S DAY.

August 24 – Pluto Demoted Day

PLUTO’S STATUS [NASA]:

Pluto’s classification as a planet has had a history of changes. Since 2006, per the International Astronomical Union’s planetary criteria, Pluto isn’t considered a planet because it hasn’t cleared the neighborhood around its orbit of other objects. However, it does meet IAU’s criteria for what constitutes a dwarf planet.

Pluto Demoted Day now takes place every year to mark that very occasion. 

(8) MEDIA BIRTHDAY.

August 24, 1966  — Fantastic Voyage premiered. It would lose out at NYCon 3 to Star Trek’s “The Menagerie” for Best Dramatic Presentation. It was directed by Richard Fleischer and produced by Saul David. The screenplay by Harry Kleiner from a story by Jerome Bixby and Otto Clement. The cast was Stephen Boyd, Raquel Welch, Edmond O’Brien, Donald Pleasence, and Arthur Kennedy. Asimov wrote the novelization which came out six months before the film leading to the belief that it’s based on that novel. Critics generally liked it with one saying saying it was the best SF film since Destination Moon. It however didn’t catch on with public and was a box office failure. Audience reviewers at Rotten Tomatoes currently give it an incredible 91% rating.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and John Hertz.]

  • Born August 24, 1872 – Sir Henry Maximilian Beerbohm.  Signed caricatures and was generally known as “Max”; when Bernard Shaw, whom he succeeded as drama critic for the (British) Saturday Review, wrote “The younger generation is knocking at the door; and as I open it there steps spritely in the incomparable Max”, that too stuck.  MB, then 26, celebrated since his Oxford days, was and remained deft and immaculate, treating himself as he did others, e.g. “I was a modest, good-natured boy.  It was Oxford that made me insufferable.”  Unfortunately for satire a blade seems just a strip of metal if we don’t see it cut.  Love of MB, or Jane Austen, or Lady Murasaki, calls for knowing their world.  MB is ours by virtue of Zuleika (rhymes with bleak-ahDobson, one further novel, six shorter stories, fictional memoirs in Seven Men and Two Others (expanded 1950 from Seven Men); he did much more.  Here is a caricature of himself.  (Died 1956) [JH]
  • Born August 24, 1896 – Stanton Coblentz.  A score of novels, six dozen shorter stories, fifty poems; more in history, criticism, other nonfiction.  Clute and Langford complain “never a smooth stylist, nor an imaginative plotter”, but “he had a strong gift for the description of ingeniously conceived alien environments, and was often regarded as … best capable of conveying the sense of wonder”.  Memoir Adventures of a Freelancer.  (Died 1982) [JH]
  • Born August 24, 1899 Jorge Luis Borges. I’m reasonably sure my first encounter with him was at University with the assignment of The Library of Babel. I’m not deeply read in him but I also loved The Book of Imaginary Beings, and though not genre, recommend The Last Interview and Other Conversations for an excellent look at him as a writer. (Died 1985.) (CE) 
  • Born August 24, 1915 Alice Sheldon. Alice Sheldon who wrote as James Tiptree Jr. was one of our most brilliant short story writers ever. She only wrote two novels, Up the Walls of the World and Brightness Falls from the Air but they too are worth reading even if critics weren’t pleased by them. And who here knows why Up the Walls of the World waswithdrawn from the Hugo nominations at Seacon ‘79?  (Died 1987.) (CE)
  • Born August 24, 1926 – Bea Mahaffey.  Edited MysticScience Stories and Other Worlds Science StoriesUniverse with Ray Palmer (sometimes jointly as “George Bell”).  Member of the Cincinnati Fantasy Group.  Spoke at Hydracon.  Visiting the United Kingdom she was celebrated in Northern Ireland with BEACon.  Here she is pulling strings at NYcon II (14th Worldcon; left, Lee Hoffman; center, Dave Kyle).  First Fandom Hall of Fame.  (Died 1987) [JH]
  • Born August 24, 1932 William Morgan Sheppard. Best remembered I think as Blank Reg in Max Headroom: 20 Minutes into the Future. Genre wise I’d add him being the Klingon Prison Warden In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Merrit in The Prestige, the rather scary Soul Hunter on Babylon 5 and a Vulcan Science Minister in Star Trek. (Died 2019.) (CE) 
  • Born August 24, 1936 A. S. Byatt, 84. Author of three genre novels, two of which I’m familiar with, Possession: A Romance which became a rather decent film, and the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature-winning The Djinn in the Nightingale’s Eye, and one I’ve never heard of, Ragnarok: The End of the Gods,  but I’m actually much, much more fond of her short fiction. I’d start with the Little Black Book of Stories and Angels & Insects collections. (CE) 
  • Born August 24, 1951 Tony Amendola, 69. Prolly best known for being the Jaffa master Bra’tac on Stargate SG-1. He’s also had recurring roles as Edouard Kagame of Liber8 on Continuum and on Once Upon a Time as Pinocchio’s creator, Geppetto. His list of one-off genre appearances is extensive and includes AngelCharmed,  Lois & Clark, Space: Above and Beyond, the Crusade spin-off of Babylon 5X FilesVoyagerDirk Gently’s Holistic Detective AgencyTerminator: The Sarah Connor ChroniclesAliasShe-Wolf of London and Kindred: The Embraced. He’s also been a voice actor in gaming with roles in such games as World of Warcraft: Warlords of DraenorWorld of Warcraft: Legion and World of Final Fantasy. (CE)
  • Born August 24, 1951 – Orson Scott Card, 69.  Five dozen novels, a hundred shorter stories, a score of poems; video games, comics, film; nonfiction.  “Books to Look For” in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction May 87 – Dec 93.  InterGalactic Medicine Show 2005-2019.  Letters, essays, reviews in DestiniesGalaxies (France), The Green PagesSF Magazine (Japan), SF ReviewStarship.  Interviewed in «Alien Contact» JahrbuchFiction (France), The Leading EdgeLightspeedLocus, NY Rev of SFPhénixSF Eye.  Campbell Award for Best New Writer (as it then was); first author to win both Hugo and Nebula in consecutive years; three more Hugos; Mythopoeic Award; Phoenix; Skylark; Ditmar; two Geffens; Grand Prix de l’ImaginaireKurd Laßwitz PreisSeiun.  Website here.  [JH]
  • Born August 24, 1957 Stephen Fry, 62. He’s Gordon Deitrich in V for Vendetta, and he’s the Master of Laketown in The Hobbit franchise. His best role is as Mycroft Holmes in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows though he made an interesting narrator in the film version of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and not to be overlooked is that he’s the narrator  for all seven of the Potter novels for the UK audiobook recordings. (CE)
  • Born August 24, 1961 – H.R.H. Sophie Audouin-Mamikonian, 59.  A score of novels for us, many young-adult fantasy.  Medals of the Legion d’Honneur and of Art et Lettres.  An heiress to the ancient throne of Armenia (thus entitled “Her Royal Highness”).  [JH]
  • Born August 24, 1983 – Jessica Wick, 37.  Short stories; poems in Aoife’s Kiss, Chi*ZineIdeomancerMythic DeliriumStar*LineStrange HorizonsUncanny; 2008 Rhysling anthology.  Can be found now in Shimmerzine.  [JH]

(10) COMICS SECTION.

Editor’s Note: These links worked earlier today but now I can’t get the images to load at that site.

  • Half Full raises 2020 to mythical heights.
  • Bliss thinks there are some songs spacemen should let alone.

(11) RACE IN ASTERIX. Brigid Alverson and  Calvin Reid, in the Publishers Weekly story: “Race and Representation: Relaunching Asterix in America”, say that Papercutz is reprinting the Asterix comics in America, but is worried about what to do about the “blatant white supremacy” of Asterix scenes with Black characters.

…Acclaimed cartoonist Ronald Wimberly is an Eisner Award nominee, a Glyph Award-winner, was resident comics artist at the Maison des Auteurs in Angoulême, home of the annual French comics festival, and is a media and cultural critic. He is also the editor/founder of the broadsheet pop culture and art critical journal LAAB: An Art Magazine, where he has written about depictions of Blackness in comics. He described the Asterix comics as “blatantly white supremacist.”

“It’s clear that Uderzo has the chops to draw a myriad of things,” said Wimberly, who saw some of the original Asterix art while living in France. “It’s true that he has a limited bag of tricks for characters, but he takes the time to differentiate by type and by importance. He has three traits to differentiate slaves from other characters: black skin, full lips, and ‘oriental’ clothing and accessories.”

Wimberly continued, “Even a child knows that the Romans kept all types of slaves and promoted ethnicities of all types to high position, so it’s easy to see that the purpose of making all of the slaves black is a modern, white supremacist device.”

…[Papercutz president and publisher Terry Nantier] says that the publisher did agree to a few subtle changes—the enormous red lips have been recolored and subdued, up to a point. Asked about adding, for example, an explanatory essay to each book that provides context about the history of race and representation, Nantier said he continues to negotiate with Hachette. “But this is a classic, and we have to keep that in mind,” he says.

“The series has caricatures of absolutely everyone, including the Gauls,” Nantier says in its defense. “Everyone is skewered, every nationality, and this was the way 50-60 years ago that Black people were caricatured. There are issues of stereotypical representation which by today’s standards are a problem. We weren’t able to get much changed, but there were some changes.”

(12) ELLER’S THIRD BRADBURY BOOK. The University of Illinois Press is running a “Ray Bradbury Birthday Bundle Sale” with prices good til August 28. (See prices at the link.)

Happy 100th birthday, Ray Bradbury! The Press is excited to announce that today, on the Bradbury Centennial, we are releasing the final addition to Jonathan Eller’s Ray Bradbury trilogy, Bradbury Beyond Apollo. Drawing on numerous interviews with Bradbury and privileged access to personal papers and private collections, Eller, the director of the Bradbury Center, uses this final installment to examine the often-overlooked second half of Bradbury’s working life.

(13) WHAT DOES YOUR EMPLOYER REALLY MEAN? “Five Pocket-Sized Paperbacks and the Art of Sneaky Reading” — James Davis Nicoll initiates his Tor.com audience in the way to improve each shining hour:

… Passing the long hours reading was officially forbidden.  But…they can’t have meant it. The security uniform boasted a breast pocket just the right size and shape to conceal a mass market paperback.  There’s a hint right there.

Which books made their way into that pocket? I am glad you asked. Here are my top five.

(14) LOOKNG OVER THE SHELVES. Paul Weimer leads a Q&A with the author of Annihilation Aria in “6 Books with Michael Underwood” at Nerds of a Feather.

5) What’s one book, which you read as a child or a young adult, that has had a lasting influence on your writing?

A series I’ve thought about recently that I think made a bigger impact on me than I’d realized is the Death’s Gate Cycle by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman (starts with Dragon Wing). The series presents a universe where the four elements each have their own world in a multiverse. I remember a strong travelogue/magical setting tourism angle in those books, and they made a big impression on me in terms of worldbuilding and the idea of several connected worlds, each with their own unique characteristics and cultures. I’ve riffed on that type of worldbuilding in Genrenauts as well as in different ways in some projects that haven’t yet reached publication.

(15) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “The Lord of the RIngs: The Return of the King Pitch Meeting” on ScreenRant, Ryan George warns us to be prepared for Frodo’s “armor that looks like a prom dress,” terrifying scenes of cherry tomato eating, and seven different climaxes a half hour after the film should have ended.

[Thanks to Martin Morse Wooster, Mike Kennedy John Hertz, John King Tarpinian, JJ, Cat Eldridge, Michael Toman, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Rev. Bob.]

Pixel Scroll 6/2/19 A Big Scroll Of Pixel-ly Poxel-ly, Filely Wiley Stuff

(1) WHAT’S NEW. Amal El-Mohtar reviews four sff books in her “Otherworldly” column for the New York Times: “Got Any Time-Travel Plans This Summer?”

The last few years have seen an uptick in pop culture stories featuring time travel, from the repetitions and revisions of “The Good Place” and “Russian Doll” to developments in “Game of Thrones,” “Star Trek: Discovery” and “Avengers: Endgame.” Sometimes the MacGuffin by which we get to play with anachronism, but often also rooted in questions of free will and determinism, time travel is a fascinating springboard for fiction: Are there many futures, or just one? Can you change the past without changing the future, or yourself? This column brings together books about time fractured and out of joint, time as an unbroken lineage resisting empire, and time travel glimpsed through the overlapping lenses of psychology, philosophy and physics….

(2) DISNEYLAND. The stars come out at night. “Luke Skywalker, Lando Calrissian and Han Solo stars open Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland” at Entertainment Weekly.

On a stage set up outside the life-sized Millennium Falcon that rests in the center of the rocky-mountain town of Black Spire Outpost, Luke, Han, Lando, and the man who brought them to life welcomed the first crowd of guests to the planet Batuu.

(3) JOHN WILLIAMS. “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Symphonic Suite” is five minutes of really good new John Williams music composed for the Galaxy’s Edge attraction at Disneyland. (Audio only.)

(4) INSOLVENCY’S EDGE. And don’t forget your souvenirs! Bloomberg has the story: “Go Ahead, Take Our Money: All the Star Wars Merch in Disney’s New Land”.

If you’ve ever wanted your wedding photos held inside a frame by C-3PO’s disembodied hand, you’re in luck for $85. Crave the half-melted face of a battered-down Luke cast in bronze? Dream big, young Padawan, because everything you never thought could be put into production is here.

Pick up a few chance cubes like Watto’s in “The Phantom Menace,” a busted wooden Stormtrooper doll similar to the one young Jyn Erso had in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” or decorate your desk with Hera Syndulla’s prized Kalikori as seen in “Star Wars Rebels.” There’s even a Resistance MRE toolbox filled with pretzels, crackers, and candies designed after the dinner Luke refuses to share with Yoda in “The Empire Strikes Back.”

(5) UNANIMATE OBJECTS. From Insider: “Disney has 20 live-action movies of its animated classics planned — here they all are”. If you’re thrilled, great. If not, you can start booing now.

Good news, Disney fans. If you loved Disney’s live-action “The Jungle Book” and “Beauty and the Beast,” the Mouse House is bringing even more animated classics back to life.

From fairy tales like “Snow White” to classics such as “Aladdin” and “The Lion King,” Disney’s live-action list continues to grow with more than a dozen in the works.

Some of the movies are complete remakes of their animated counterparts, while others are based on origin stories or sequels to existing live-action adaptations.

(6) HANDSELLING. Cat Rambo livetweeted highlights from Mike Underwood’s online class “The Writers Guide to Selling Books at Conventions.” There’s more than one thread –  get all the content by searching Twitter for #sellbooks.

(7) SINGLETON. TIME Magazine includes one sff novel in its list of “The 11 Best Fiction Books of 2019 So Far”.

Black Leopard, Red Wolf, Marlon James

When a child goes missing in the mythical world of Black Leopard, Red Wolf, a mercenary named Tracker is hired to find him. The novel, the first in a promised trilogy, follows Tracker’s adventures as he passes through ancient cities inspired by African history and mythology looking for the boy. Man Booker Prize winner Marlon James, who described his latest book as an “African Game of Thrones,” shows off his impressive skill at blending mystery, magic and history in this thought-provoking epic.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY.

  • June 2, 1950 Rocketship X-M premiered in theaters.
  • June 2, 2010 — Actor Patrick Stewart was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born June 2, 1915 Lester del Rey. I’m realizing that del Rey is one of those authors that I know that I’ve read but I can’t exactly remember what it is that I’ve read by him. Even after looking him up on ISFDB, my memory isn’t being jogged. The titles are sort of generic and nothing stands out. So did y’all find memorable by him? (Died 1993.)
  • Born June 2, 1921 Virginia Kidd. She was a writer, literary agent and editor. She established herself as the first female literary agent in the field. She represented the likes of Anne McCaffrey, Gene Wolfe, Judith Merril, R.A. Lafferty and Ursula K. Le Guin. Wolfe modeled Ann Schindler, a character in his 1990 novel Castleview, in large part on Kidd. (Died 2003.)
  • Born June 2, 1937 Sally Kellerman, 82. Dr. Elizabeth Dehner in “Where No Man Has Gone Before”, the second Trek pilot. Like many performers at this time, she appeared also on Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits as well. 
  • Born June 2, 1939 Norton Juster, 90. Author of the much beloved Phantom Tollbooth and its less known variant, The Annotated Phantom Tollbooth. Adapted in 1970 into a quirky film, now stuck in development hell being remade again. He also wrote The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics, a story he says was inspired by Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions.
  • Born June 2, 1941 Stacy Keach, 78. Though best known for playing hard-boiled Detective Mike Hammer, he’s got a long association with our genre starting with being The Mountain of the Cannibal God, an Italian horror film. Next up for him was Class of 1999 followed by voicing both Carl Beaumont / Voice of Phantasm in Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, a film I really, really likeMore horror, and a really silly title, await him in Children of the Corn 666: Isaac’s Return where The Hollow has a tasteful title which the Man with the Screaming Brain does not provide him. Storm War, also known as Weather Wars, is SF. And then there is Sin City: A Dame to Kill For which is a rather nice piece of film making. And yes, he’s been in a televised version of Macbeth playing Banquo. 
  • Born June 2, 1965 Sean Stewart, 54. Fantastic author whose Galveston novel that won the World Fantasy Award. I highly recommend as well as the Resurrection Man novels. I’ve not read his most set of novels, The Cathy’s Book series, but it’s take on augmented reality sounds intriguing.
  • Born June 2, 1974 Dominic Cooper, 45. Jesse Custer on Preacher. He’s the young Howard Stark in the MCU, including Captain America: The First Avenger and Agent Carter. Damn, I miss the latter, I thought it was a series that showed Marvel at its very best. He played a Constable in From Hell, and Henry Sturges in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.
  • Born June 2, 1977 Zachary Quinto, 42. He’s known for his roles as Sylar on Heroes, voice of Pascal Lee in Passage to Mars, Spock in the rebooted Star Trek film franchise as well as Dr. Oliver Thredson in American Horror Story: Asylum
  • Born June 2, 1979 Morena Baccarin, 40. Very long genre history starting with portraying Inara Serra in Firefly and  Serenity; Adria in the Stargate SG-1 series and the Stargate: The Ark of Truth; Anna in the 2009 version of the series V; Vanessa in Deadpool and Deadpool 2; and Dr. Leslie Thompkins in Gotham.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

(11) BATVAMP. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna looks at Warner Bros’s decision to name Robert Pattinson as the next Batman, noting that Pattinson has been in some well-received independent films in the past few years and and, like Michael Keaton,he has the ability to play a “dark, kinetic oddball.” “Why Robert Pattinson — yes, the former vampire — is a promising pick to play Batman”.

Robert Pattinson, the 33-year-old actor still best known for portraying an emo-teen vampire, is suddenly poised to play the world’s biggest bat. Warner Bros. has approved Pattinson to become the next title star of its multibillion-dollar Batman film franchise, Hollywood trade papers reported Friday. Directed by Matt Reeves (“Planet of the Apes”), “The Batman” — set for release in the summer of 2021 — is believed to center on the character’s formative years. And by choosing Pattinson, the studio spurred a long tradition of debate and complaint among fans.

True to form, the announcement immediately prompted some sharp social media responses, which ranged from “Wow, horrible!! DC comics swings and misses again” to “Have you seen him in anything not named Twilight? Because dude has real chops.”

(12) ONWARD. In theaters March 6, 2020.

Set in a suburban fantasy world, Disney and Pixar’s “Onward” introduces two teenage elf brothers who embark on an extraordinary quest to discover if there is still a little magic left out there. Pixar Animation Studios’ all-new original feature film is directed by Dan Scanlon and produced by Kori Rae—the team behind “Monsters University.”

(13) DEMAND BUT NO SUPPLY. Science Focus updates readers about “Six sci-fi inventions we’re still waiting for”. “Have you ever seen a science fiction blockbuster and thought: “I want one of those!”? Here’s what some of the UK’s top scientists have to say about our favourite sci-fi inventions.”

1. Learning by plugging in (The Matrix)

Author Malcolm Gladwell’s theory is that all successful people will have spent at least 10,000 hours practicing their skill, but who has time for that? What we want is to ‘plug in’ to the Matrix like Neo did, and become a martial arts expert overnight.

Dr Peter Földiák, School of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of St Andrews: “This is probably theoretically possible but there are huge scientific and technical problems that need to be solved before this can be done in practice. To ‘implant’ knowledge directly into the brain, we would need a much better understanding of how information is stored in the brain by neurons, as well as precise mechanisms tapping into those neurons with new information. So while a lot of progress is being made in understanding how the brain works, the actual process of ‘knowledge implantation’ is unfortunately a very distant dream.”

(14) THE FLIGHT OF OTHER DAYS. I wish I knew about this article when people were talking up a Space Force: “Starfleet was closer than you think” (2015) at The Space Review.

After the publication of George Dyson’s book Project Orion, and a few specials, a lot of people know that in the early 1960s DARPA investigated the possibility of a nuclear-pulse-detonation (that is, powered by the explosion of nuclear bombs) spacecraft.

Preceding but also concurrently developed with Apollo, this extremely ambitious project had unbelievable payload capability. Where Apollo at 3,500 tons could only put two tons on the Moon, the smaller Orion (about the same total mass, 4,000 tons) could soft-land 1,200 tons (600 times as much) on the Moon, and the larger (only three times as heavy as Apollo, or 10,000 tons) could soft-land 5,700 tons (nearly 3,000 times as much) on the Moon, or take 1,300 tons of astronauts and consumables on a three-year round-trip to Saturn and back!1 The fission powered Orion could even achieve three to five percent the speed of light, though a more advanced design using fusion might achieve eight to ten percent the speed of light.

Most assume the program was cancelled for technical problems, but that is not the case. Few know how seriously the idea was taken by the top leadership of the US Air Force.

Because internal budget discussions and internal memoranda are not generally released and some only recently declassified, almost nobody knows how close Strategic Air Command (SAC) was to building the beginning of an interstellar-capable fleet. Had the personalities of the Air Force’s civilian leadership been different in 1962, humanity might have settled a good part of the inner solar system and might be launching probes to other stars today. We might also have had the tools to deflect large asteroids and comets….

(15) HOLE OTHER THING. According to Bright Side, “Mysterious Object Punched a Hole in the Milky Way, Scientists Are Confused.”

Space is full of mysteries that have remained unsolved for centuries. But recently, the cosmos has baffled the world with a new, scary abnormality. Apparently, something is tearing holes in the Milky Way, the galaxy that contains our Solar System! What if the hole in the Milky Way was torn by a supermassive black hole like the one that dwells in the center of our galaxy? If it was, it’d be a pretty scary scenario. If these two black holes got too close, they wouldn’t be able to escape each other’s gravity, and a collision might be inevitable. And it would be an extremely violent event. But the thing is that the telescopes failed to find the source of the damage. So what could this unseen bullet be? Scientists have several theories.

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

Michael Underwood’s Genrenauts and Geekomancers

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Michael Underwood

By Carl Slaughter: If you see Michael Underwood at a con, he might be there as a prolific author of comedy fantasy books or he might be there as North American Sales & Marketing Manager for Angry Robot Books. Underwood has a B.A. in creative mythology and East Asian studies and a M.A. in folklore studies. He is a Clarion graduate. He is part of the Hugo nominated Skiffy and Fanty Show.

The first novel in his Geekomancy series was published by Pocket Books. The first two episodes in his Genrenauts series, The Shootout Solution and The Absconded Ambassador, were published by Tor. The last episode, a two-parter, The Failed Fellowship, came out in October. The first season collection also came out in October.

Mary Robinette Kowal narrates the audio version of all of Michael Underwood’s stories.

THE SHOOTOUT SOLUTION

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Struggling stand-up comic Leah Tang is offered a once-in-a-lifetime chance to join the Genrenauts, a secret organization of dimensional travelers. Leah learns that our world is just one of many, and every other world is the home of a story genre — Science Fiction or Romance, Fantasy or Western — populated by archetypal characters and constantly playing out familiar stories.

The Genrenauts’ mission: find and fix broken stories. If they fail, the ripples from the story worlds will cause havoc and devastation on their home world.

Leah joins the team and dives head-first into the adventure. But the stories are breaking faster and worse than ever before. Will Leah rise to the occasion, or will she end up as just another broken story?

THE ABSCONDED AMBASSADOR

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Rookie genrenaut Leah Tang gets her first taste of space flight when the team scrambles to fix a story breach in Science Fiction World, the domain of star ships, weird aliens, and galactic intrigue.

On the space station Ahura-3, Ambassador Kaylin Reed is on the verge of securing a peace treaty to guarantee the end of hostilities between some of the galaxy’s most ferocious races. When Ambassador Reed is kidnapped the morning before the signing, it throws the station into chaos.

So now it’s up to Leah and her team to save the day and put the story to rights.

At any cost.

THE CUPID RECONCILIATION

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Wounded Genrenaut Mallery York returns to active duty just in time for the team to be deployed to the Rom-Com region of the Romance world. There, everyone is beautiful, office workers can afford palatial midtown apartments, and hearts are won and broken on every corner.

But before they can fix the broken love story, they have to find it. Mallery takes the lead, bringing her expertise to bear and leading Leah to wonder whether there’s a space for her on the team now that Mallery is back.

The team scours dating sites, cocktail bars, and jogging paths looking for the right pair of lovers to reconnect before time runs out and the ripples from the story breach lay waste to romance back on Earth.

THE SUBSTITUTE SLEUTH

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It was supposed to be a simple training mission in the Police Procedural region of Crime World. But there’s always a twist – when the precinct’s favorite wacky private eye is shot, Leah and King must fill the shoes of Odd Couple Detectives to investigate a pair of nested mysteries.

Leah and King work against the clock to fix the breach before falling too deep into their respective roles and losing themselves to the story. And there’s more going on here than a simple crime of passion…

THE FAILED FELLOWSHIP

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The team travels to Traditional Fantasy-land where the prophesied hero has died just before his moment of triumph. The Genrenauts take on the roles of Wizard, Paladin, Fighter, Bard, and more to stop the Night-Lord before his arcane power brings about an eternal night of terror.

THERE WILL ALWAYS BE A MAX

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Team lead Angstrom King gears up to ride the beaten roads of the Post-Apocalyptic region of Action world and finds a group of survivors bereft of their hero. King steps in to the role of “The Max” in order to guide the survivors safely home to their enclave with much-needed supplies.  A short story in the Genrenauts universe.

GEEKOMANCY

 

 

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Ree Reyes’s life was easier when all she had to worry about was scraping together tips from her gig as a barista and comic shop slave to pursue her ambitions as a screenwriter.

When a scruffy-looking guy storms into the shop looking for a comic like his life depends on it, Ree writes it off as just another day in the land of the geeks. Until a gigantic “BOOM!” echoes from the alley a minute later, and Ree follows the rabbit hole down into her town’s magical flip-side. Here, astral cowboy hackers fight trolls, rubber-suited werewolves, and elegant Gothic Lolita witches while wielding nostalgia-powered props.

Ree joins Eastwood (aka Scruffy Guy), investigating a mysterious string of teen suicides as she tries to recover from her own drag-your-heart-through-jagged-glass breakup. But as she digs deeper, Ree discovers Eastwood may not be the knight-in-cardboard armor she thought. Will Ree be able to stop the suicides, save Eastwood from himself, and somehow keep her job?

CELEBROMANCY

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Fame has a magic all its own in the no-gossip-barred follow-up to Geekomancy. Ree Reyes gets her big screenwriting break, only to discover just how broken Hollywood actually is.

Things are looking up for urban fantasista Ree Reyes. She’s using her love of pop culture to fight monsters and protect her hometown as a Geekomancer, and now a real-live production company is shooting her television pilot script.

But nothing is easy in show business. When an invisible figure attacks the leading lady of the show, former child-star-turned-current-hot-mess Jane Konrad, Ree begins a school-of-hard-knocks education in the power of Celebromancy.

Attempting to help Jane Geekomancy-style with Jedi mind tricks and X-Men infiltration techniques, Ree learns more about movie magic than she ever intended. She also learns that real life has the craziest plots: not only must she lift a Hollywood-strength curse, but she needs to save her pilot, negotiate a bizarre love rhombus, and fight monsters straight out of the silver screen. All this without anyone getting killed or, worse, banished to the D-List.

ATTACH THE GEEK

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Ree Reyes, urban fantasista and Geekomancer extraordinaire, is working her regular drink-slinger shift at Grognard’s bar-and-gaming salon when everything goes wrong. The assorted magic wielders of the city’s underground have come to test their battle skills via RPGs like D&D, V:TES, White Wolf, and the like. All the usuals are there: her ex-mentor Eastwood, Drake (the man-out-of-time adventurer), and, of course, Grognard himself (her boss and a brewer of beer that act as magic potions). However, it’s the presence of these and other “usuals” that makes all the trouble.

A nemesis from Eastwood and Ree’s past decides to finally take her revenge not just on those two, but on every self-styled “hero” in the city who happens to have crossed her at one point or another. When wave after wave of monsters besiege Grogrnard’s store, if Ree & Co. are going to survive, they’re going to have to work together. And avoid the minotaur. That’s always a good rule of thumb.

HEXOMANCY

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When Ree’s long time nemesis Lucretia is finally brought to trial and found guilty for the deadly attack on Grognard’s, the Geekomancer community breathes a collective sigh of relief. But Ree and her crew soon discover that Lucretia has three very angry, very dangerous sisters who won’t rest until Eastwood—a fellow Geekomancer—is killed.

What follows is an adventure packed with epic battles, a bit of romance, and enough geeky  moments to fill your monthly quota of adventure and fun.