Pixel Scroll 10/8/18 And We Are Her Sisters, And Her Cousins, And Her Ancillaries

(1) RECESS IS OVER. File 770 was down for approximately 7 hours today, for reasons never fully explained by customer support, except they were “actively working” on a server problem. Well, to quote Sam Gamgee, “I’m back.”

(2) WHO WATCHED. The Guardian has the numbers: “Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor Who debut is most watched launch for 10 years”.

Jodie Whittaker’s take on the Time Lord drew Doctor Who’s biggest series launch audience in more than a decade on Sunday night.

An average of 8.2m viewers watched Whittaker’s first outing as the Doctor, beating the ratings for political thriller sensation Bodyguard, which attracted 6.7m viewers when it debuted in August. With an audience share of 40.1%, Whittaker’s performance was the most-watched episode of the science fiction drama since the 2008 series.

The first female doctor bettered Matt Smith and David Tennant’s debut viewing figures of 7.7m and 8m respectively. While she drew a smaller audience than Christopher Eccleston’s first appearance, which was watched by 9.9m, he had the advantage of appearing in the show’s comeback episode in 2005.

(3) WHO LISTENED. But some claim the Doctor Who theme music has been defaced. “Yes,” says SF Concatenation’s Jonathan Cowie, “thought impossible but some consider true.”

The brand new theme for Doctor Who Series 11, composed by Segun Akinola, which premiered tonight during the closing credits of ‘The Woman Who Fell to Earth’

 

(4) IT’S ALREADY BEEN DONE! Alastair Reynolds apparently blazed the trail for Banksy“Artist shreds unique work of art”.

Alastair Reynolds destroys last english copy of his short-story “Pandora’s Box” at Finncon’09

 

(5) A VOLUNTEER FOR PICARD’S CREW. Wil Wheaton told a Baltimore Comic Con audience he’d say yes — “Star Trek: Wil Wheaton Wants to Return in New Picard Series” at Comicbook.

Of course, fans also want to know if he could appear as Wesley Crusher could appear in the new show. Wheaton says he thinks its unlikely he’ll be asked, but he’d definitely be up for it if asked.

“I think it is very unlikely they will ask me to participate in it,” Wheaton said. “I mean, I think it is just extraordinarily unlikely that will happen. If they did, I would say ‘yes,’ of course. I think all of us would say ‘yes.’ I think all of us if we were given the opportunity to put on the spacesuits again and go work together and bring those characters back, as they would be thirty years later, we would all say ‘yes.’ And I don’t think it’s because we want the work. I don’t think it’s because we need the money. I don’t think it’s because we don’t have other things to do. It’s because we love each other so much and an opportunity, even for a day, to return emotionally to some of the best times of our lives, I think that we would jump at that opportunity.”

(6) LONG LIST ANTHOLOGY. David Steffen’s Long List Anthology Volume 4 Kickstarter has fully funded, included the stretch goal — 204 backers pledged $4,754.

(7) BITE CLUB. Ron Charles in the Washington Post discusses how Fangoria, which died last year, has been revived “as a new quarterly journal with photos so high-gloss that the blood looks wet.”  But Charles notes many book reviews amid all the gory photos, as well as a short story by Chuck Pahlaniuk — “Fangoria, the fabled horror magazine, has risen from the dead”.

…There’s also a piece for die-hard fanatics about continuity problems among the various “Halloween” sequels and a true story about a young man in North Carolina who built a replica of the Myers house. “I have to carefully pick what I’m going to invest my time in,” he says without any apparent irony.

Handy advice abounds in these pages. Makeup artist Tate Steinsiek explains “how to slit your own throat,” and director Corin Hardy walks us through hideous visuals in his new movie “The Nun.” “Malignant Growths,” a piece about homemade horror films, should come with its own barf bag….

(8) RAH RAH RAH (RAH RAH).  In a piece for Tor.com, James Davis Nicoll says there are “Five Books That Improve Upon Heinlein’s Juveniles”. (How can that be possible?)

Nothing fills me with dread quite like a middle-aged male writer announcing that he plans to write a YA novel just like the ones Robert Heinlein used to write . I could explain why this is such a harbinger of disappointment…but Charles Stross has already beat me to it. Instead, allow me to offer some non-Heinlein novels that succeed in scratching some of the same itches that the RAH juvies once scratched. For me, that requires the intended audience to include teens, that the genre be science fiction in the narrow sense, that the protagonist be a young adult, and that they get to do something that actually matters in the course of the book .

(9) NYCC COSPLAY. Huffington Post’s photo gallery promises “Here Are The Best Costumes From 2018’s New York Comic Con”.

But aside from stars to see, artists to discover, and unique merchandise to buy, people go to Comic Con to see (and be seen in) costumes. There were probably as many people in costume as not this year, and as always it was a wonderful distraction when walking from one part of the convention center to another.

(10) NYCC PROGRAM VIDEOS. On the Penguin Random House YouTube channel you’ll find links to 12 full panels recorded at New York Comic Con. These include a Patrick Rothfuss panel, Pierce Brown’s Red Rising Panel, A Night with Author Andy Weir (The Martian), “How Writers Build Authenticity Into Diverse Worlds Panel,” Patrick Rothfuss and R.A. Salvatore Discuss Epic Fantasy, “Disney-Lucasfilm Publishing: Stories from a Galaxy Far, Far Away,” The World of Lore with Aaron Mahnke Panel, “Disney-Lucasfilm Presents: A Celebration of Female Writers in a Galaxy Far, Far Away.”

 

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS.

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge and JJ.]

  • Born October 8, 1916 – George Turner, Writer and Critic from Australia, who was a successful mainstream novelist but turned to writing SF fiction and criticism in his sixties. His novel Drowning Towers (also published as The Sea and Summer) was a near-future story about global warming and economic collapse, which won the Clarke Award and was a finalist for the Nebula, Campbell, and Ditmar Awards. His book In the Heart or In the Head: An Essay in Time Travel, a memoir in which he chronicles his chaotic growing-up in a family for whom fact and fantasy were equally acceptable and often indistinguishable, won the William J. Atheling Jr. Award and was a finalist for the Hugo for Best Nonfiction Book. He wrote a lot on the history of the genre, including John W. Campbell: Writer, Editor, Legend for an Australian symposium on Campbell in 1971. He was given an A. Bertram Chandler Award – Australia SFF fandom’s highest honor – and his other works, both SF and genre nonfiction, received many nominations and wins for Ditmar and Atheling Awards, all earned between the age of 60 and his death at age 80. He was to be Author Guest of Honor at Aussiecon 3, the 1999 Worldcon, but died prior to the convention. The interview “Judith Buckrich in Conversation with George Turner” can be found in SF Commentary #76.
  • Born October 8, 1920 – Frank Herbert, Writer well-known for his Dune series – the first of which won Hugo, Nebula, Seiun, and Locus Awards – which has been translated into more than a dozen languages and adapted to movies and videogames, including the Hugo-nominated version by David Lynch. Songs of Muad’Dib: Poems and Songs from Frank Herbert’s Dune was published posthumously, edited by his son Brian Herbert. Other work includes the ConSentiency universe novels, Under Pressure and Hellstrom’s Hive (which was awarded the Prix Apollo), and works in his Pandora and Jorj McKie universes. He was nominated for the 1956 Most Promising New Author Hugo, and was Author Guest of Honor at a number of conventions.
  • Born October 8, 1941 – Penny Frierson, 77, Writer, Editor, Conrunner, and Fan who chaired or co-chaired several conventions and Worldcon bids, and co-chaired the 1986 Worldcon. She was one of the founders of the Birmingham Science Fiction Club. She collaborated with her husband Meade in her fan writing; they were big H.P. Lovecraft fans, and their fanzines included Science Fiction on Radio, HPL, The HPL Tribute, The HPL Supplement, and the fannish play, Shattered Like a Clockwork Orange. She was a member of the APAs Myriad, RAPS, and SFPA, Guest of Honor at Coastcon in 1978, and in 1987 Southern Fandom recognized her with the Rebel Award.
  • Born October 8, 1943 – David Dvorkin, 75, Writer from England who emigrated to the U.S., and has written more than a dozen of his own speculative fiction novels, but is perhaps best known for three of the earliest novels written in the Star Trek Original Series and Next Generation universes for Pocket Books.
  • Born October 8, 1943 – R.L. Stine, 75, Writer, Editor, and Producer. Author of more than 300 novels, mostly young adult horror, most famously the Goosebumps series, which, along with some of his other works, has been made in TV series and videogames. He has written novelisations of the genre films Ghostbusters II and Spaceballs. He was recognized with a Stoker Award for Lifetime Achievement in 2013.
  • Born October 8, 1949 – Sigourney Weaver, 69, Oscar-nominated Screen and Stage Actor and Producer. Her most famous genre roles are in Hugo-winning movies the Alien series and the Star Trek homage Galaxy Quest, in addition to parts in both Hugo-nominated versions of Ghostbusters, Dave (an uncredited version of Robert Heinlein’s Double Star), the Hugo finalist Avatar and its upcoming sequels, The Village, Vamps, and Chappie. She has also provided voices for animated films including the Hugo-winning WALL-E, Happily N’Ever After, The Tale of Despereaux, and Finding Dory.
  • Born October 8, 1949 – Richard Hescox, 69, Artist and Illustrator who, between the years of 1976 and 1993, illustrated over 135 covers for genre books, but now works mostly in the games industry and for private commissions. He is also notable for producing advertising art for such movies as Escape from New York, Time Bandits, Swamp Thing, The Dark Crystal, The Neverending Story, and Conan the Barbarian. Some of his work has been gathered into two collections, The Fantasy Art of Richard Hescox and The Deceiving Eye: The Art of Richard Hescox, with text by Randy Dannenfelser. He has been nominated for a Chesley a half a dozen times, winning in 2003, named Artist Guest of Honor at numerous conventions, and received The Jack Gaughan Award for Best Emerging Artist in 1991.
  • Born October 8, 1956 – Stephanie Zimbalist, 62, Writer and Actor of Stage and Screen. While she is best known for the lead in the TV series Remington Steele, she has appeared in more than 60 stage plays and as many TV series, with her most notable genre appearances being the films Jericho Fever and a Saturn Award-nominated role in The Awakening, the film version of Bram Stoker’s The Jewel of Seven Stars. She appeared in the 2006 documentary Christa McAuliffe: Reach for the Stars, and also portrayed McAuliffe in the play Defying Gravity.
  • Born October 8, 1970 – Matt Damon, 48, Oscar-winning Writer, Actor, and Producer. His most famous genre roles involve having to be rescued in both the Hugo-winner The Martian and the Hugo finalist Interstellar. After starting his career with a role as an uncredited extra on the Hugo-nominated Field of Dreams, he later had parts in genre films The Adjustment Bureau (based on a Philip K. Dick story), The Brothers Grimm, Contagion, Elysium, The Zero Theorem, Downsizing, and he reprised his Dogma role playing Loki in a cameo in the Hugo-nominated Thor: Ragnarok.
  • Born October 8, 1979 – Kristanna Loken, 39, Actor and Producer, known to genre fans as the cyborg Terminatrix from Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Her other genre appearances include the films Bloodrayne and In the Name of the King, and the TV series Mortal Kombat: Conquest and Painkiller Jane.

(12) HERBERT DAY. Steven H Silver finds a story to celebrate in a 1971 Analog – “Birthday Reviews: Frank Herbert’s ‘By the Book’” at Black Gate.

Originally published by John W. Campbell, Jr. in the October 1966 issue of Analog Science Fiction Science Fact, “By the Book” was reprinted in 1971 in The Worlds of Frank Herbert and again in The Best of Frank Herbert. It was also included in the Herbert collections Eye and The Collected Stories of Frank Herbert. The story was translated into Croatian in 1978 for inclusion in the Yugoslavian magazine Sirius and into French in 1987 for the Hebert collection Champ Mental.

(13) COMICS SECTION.

(14) LOCAL TALENT. In LA on October 11 — “Dana Gould – A reading of Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space”. Here’s some names you don’t see all the time anymore.

Dana Gould presents A Live, Stage Reading of EdWood’s… Plan 9 from Outer Space

w/ Bobcat Goldthwait, David Koechner, Janet Varney , Laraine Newman, Kevin MacDonald, Dana Gould, Matt Braunger, Rob Zabrecky, Ron Lynch, Nate Mooney, DeborahBaker, Jr., Ken Daly, G CharlesWright, w/ Eban Schletter and other surprises!

(15) DADDY DATA? Variety reports — “TNT Orders Ridley Scott-Produced Sci-Fi Drama ‘Raised by Wolves’”.

TNT has given a straight-to-series order to a sci-fi drama project that hails from executive producer Ridley Scott.

Titled “Raised by Wolves,” the series centers on two androids tasked with raising human children on a mysterious virgin planet. As the burgeoning colony of humans threatens to be torn apart by religious differences, the androids learn that controlling the beliefs of humans is a treacherous and difficult task….

(16) SECOND NOVEL. Adri Joy has been looking forward to the continuation of this series – see “Microreview [Book]: The Phoenix Empress by K. Arsenault Rivera” at Nerds of a Feather.

…The Phoenix Empress pick up almost exactly where its predecessor leaves off, and while the “present” takes up more of the narrative in this volume, there’s still a substantial story-within-a-story as Shizuka fills Shefali in on the events that led to her becoming empress, not to mention developing an alcohol addiction and a severe phobia of water. Shefali has returned from her own travels even more changed, following events in that have led to her being contaminated by black blood but not succumbing to the usual progress of the illness, and now expects to die on her next birthday in four months’ time. A great deal of the book is therefore based on learning each others’ secrets and renewing their relationship, as well as working out what the wider implications of Shefali’s return are for the future of Hokkaro and the black- blood plague.

I suspect that the unusual structure of these novels is playing an important trope-subverting role as well as being a narrative choice….

(17) AGE BEFORE BEAUTY. Apparently D.B. Jackson couldn’t resist the challenge – at Whatever, “The Big Idea: D.B. Jackson”.

Anyone who has written a time travel novel knows that they can send an author ‘round the bend. Time travel is a plotting nightmare. It creates narrative holes big enough to accommodate a truck. It acts as a virtual eraser, a do-over generator, a distributor of endless mulligans. Even the most sound, well-considered plot point can be undermined by the simple question, “Well, why can’t one of our characters go back and prevent this?” Hermione Granger’s ill-advised flirtation with Time-Turners is just the tip of the iceberg. Time travel will make an author’s brain explode.

So, naturally, I have just published the first novel in a new time travel/epic fantasy series.

(18) PALACE INTRIGUE. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Various sources are reporting that the China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO) has announced an intent to deorbit their Tiangong-2 (Celestial Palace 2) space laboratory during or after July 2019. You may recall that Tiangong-1 deorbited in an uncontrolled manner (though the Chinese claim otherwise) earlier this year. Fortunately,  the bits of Tiangong-1 that didn’t burn up on reentry happened to hit an unoccupied part of the Pacific Ocean. The plan for Tiangong-2 is to deliberately aim for such a spot.

Neither of the Celestial Palaces were intended to be permanent space stations, though China is planning a modular space station of a more permanent nature. Mooted dates for launching the various parts of that are currently 2020–2023.

(19) GOTHAM’S FIFTH. The trailer for the last season of Fox’s Gotham was played at the New York Comic Con.

(20) THE LAST GYRO. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] NASA has confirmed, via Twitter, that the Hubble Space Telescope has been put into “safe mode” following the failure of one of its gyroscopes (Space.com: “Hubble Space Telescope in ‘Safe Mode’ After Gyroscope Failure”). This leaves the iconic telescope with only two gyros operating, not enough to “ensure optimal efficiency” per the Hubble website. All six gyroscopes were last replaced during Servicing Mission 4 when Shuttle Atlantis visited in 2009 during mission STS-125. With the Shuttle fleet long retired now, further servicing is not an option.

Dr. Rachel Osten, Hubble Deputy Mission Head, has tweeted that the “[f]irst step is try to bring back the last gyro, which had been off, and is being problematic.” If that fails, there was quick speculation that a change in operational mode may emerge, Dr. Grant Tremblay, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, tweeted:

*IF* the third [gyroscope] doesn’t spin back up, I wouldn’t be surprised if they drop to 1 gyro mode, keeping the second as reserve. @rachelosten might know, but I imagine it’s a stressful, difficult decision. Let’s just hope the brilliant people at @STScI can recover the third. Stress.

That plan was confirmed shortly after, when Dr Osten replied:

It’s not a difficult decision, @astrogrant: the plan has always been to drop to 1-gyro mode when two remain. There isn’t much difference between 2- and 1, and it buys lots of extra observing time. Which the Astro community wants desperately.

In fact, the gyroscope that just failed lasted “about six months longer” than had been anticipated. This failure is one more confirmation that the Hubble is nearing the end of it’s life, though it is clearly still doing good science.

(21) RED HAT. Mlex says he’d wear one –

(22) STYLE POINTS IF YOU STICK THE LANDING. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] There’s video of the first Vandenberg landing of a SpaceX Falcon 9 on The Verge (“SpaceX successfully landed its Falcon 9 rocket on the California coast for the first time”). The video includes launch, side-by-side views of the second stage burn and the first stage return to Vandenberg, and more. If you want to skip ahead to the final landing  burn, that starts just after the 29 minute mark of the video when the stage is still over 4 km in altitude. This is a night landing, so the burns are spectacular, but overall visibility is limited. The split screen for the last few moments of the landing has video from the side of the stage (looking down) and from a ground camera viewing from a safe distance.

(23) EPISODE RECAP. Martin Morse Wooster says, “My local public television station is showing the New Zealand series The Brokenwood Mysteries.  Last night they showed an episode which appeared in the show’s third season and was broadcast in New Zealand in 2016.” —

The premise is that a sleazy tour operator is offering “Lord of the Ringz” tours to the Brokenwood forest for Chinese tourists.  They’re shown a crappy matte painting of mountains.  Guys with pointy ears do some swordplay. The climax of the tour is when a giant plush toy spider descends on a woman wrapped up in spider webbing–but the unplanned but is that the woman is dead, and the detectives then find out who killed her.

A German guy complains that he isn’t seeing anything from The Lord of the Rings, and is told, “Oh, in New Zealand we spell things creatively.”  In another scene, a lawyer explains that as long as the customers aren’t told they’re seeing things from The Lord of the Rings–and every sign, for some reason, isn’t spelled correctly!–then it’s legal.  “We could be showing scenes from some direct-to DVD film,” he said.

I hope this lawyer never deals with the Tolkien estate…

(24) SHADOW OF VADER. Chuck Wendig will write a five-issue miniseries for Marvel Star Wars:

Chuck Wendig on Darth Vader and his newly-announced series, Shadow of Vader: “Vader is a character with a long shadow, literally and figuratively. His legacy is deep and unpleasant.” The world will not be bereft of Darth Vader in their comics for long, as Wendig announced that he will be writing a miniseries called Shadow of Vader, beginning in November. Each issue will feature a different set of characters: Issue #1 is a Friday the 13th homage, with Vader hunting down kids at summer camp; issue #2 stars the one-and-only Willrow Hood; issue #3 centers on a morgue attendant on the Death Star; issue #4 diverges to focus on the Acolytes of the Beyond; issue #5 follows a New Republic pilot — whose parents were killed by Vader — who joins the Resistance only to learn that Leia’s father is the Sith Lord.

(25) AMERICAN GODS TRAILER. The second season of American Gods is on the way.

A storm is coming. American Gods returns to STARZ in 2019. Starring Ricky Whittle, Ian McShane, Yetide Badaki, Orlando Jones, Omid Abtahi, Mousa Kraish, and more.

 

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

Pixel Scroll 9/21/18 E.S. Means ‘Exemplia Scrolli’ And P.E. Means ‘Pixelus Est,’ Simple?

(1) BARGE INTO LUNCH. Scott Edelman invites listeners to binge on sushi with award-winning author Pat Cadigan in episode 77 of Eating the Fantastic.

The first of five meals recorded for my Eating the Fantastic podcast was a lunch with Pat Cadigan at Mizu Sushi Bar & Grill, which was a no-brainer when deciding where to host a writer who won the 2013 Hugo Award, as well as the Seiun Award, for her novelette “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi.”

She also won the Arthur C. Clarke Award twice—for her novels Synners (in 1992) and Fools (in 1995). She’s a major fan of professional wrestling, and I’m pleased that when I was editing Rampage magazine during the ’90s, she wrote many articles for me on that subject … when her duties as the reigning Queen of Cyperpunk didn’t interfere. She’s also written tie-in novels for Friday the 13th and Lost in Space, and forthcoming, the official movie novelization of Alita: Battle Angel. She also won a World Fantasy Award in 1981 for editing the magazine Shayol.

We discussed what it was like being Robert A. Heinlein’s liaison at the 1976 Kansas City Worldcon, why John Brunner hated her when they first met and what she did to eventually win him over, her secret childhood life as a member of The Beatles, what she and Isaac Asimov had in common when it came to convincing parents to accept science fiction, her original plan to grow up and script Legion of Super-Heroes comics, what she learned about writing from her 10 years at Hallmark Cards, how editor Shawna McCarthy helped birth her first novel, what effect being dubbed the Queen of Cyberpunk had on her career, who’s Thelma and who’s Louise in her Thelma and Louise relationship with editor Ellen Datlow, our joint friendships with Gardner Dozois, how she came up with her stories in the Wild Cards universe, and much more.

(2) TICKETS TO A FROGGY EVENING. Kermit the Frog has been cast in a local production of Lythgoe Family Panto’s The Wonderful Winter of Oz along with Marissa Jaret Winokur as Glinda. Winokur is known for her Tony-winning performance as Tracy Turnblad in the Broadway musical Hairspray.

(3) NINE WORLDS. Escape Artists’ Amy Brennan begins her “Convention Write Up: Nine Worlds 2018” by discussing accessibility issues, then does extensive coverage of the program:

…After this I was off the hook as it were and could fully relax – which was great because next on the p was Knightmare Live – a role playing game with improv actors and audience participation based on a kids show I grew up with.  It was hilarious and I could never do it justice (though I’m still going to try).

This was followed by Dr Magnet Hands run by the superb (and as described by Ian a Mad Genius when it comes to role playing games) Grant Howitt – plus panel including Helen Gould of the Rusty Quill Gaming podcast (It’s one of the best podcasted roleplaying games out there.  I highly, highly recommended it, not least because the party’s acronym is LOLOMG ) Dr Magnet Hands has a plan that the panel of heroes has to defeat.  The twist – they and their powers (and the villains they face on the way) are decided by little slips of paper the audience have filled in with random things.  Which is how one of the heroes was Grant Howitt and another was Grant Howitt’s arms, and one was the empire snake building.  It was fun, and silly, and just slightly alcohol fuelled.

(4) QUICK SIPS. Charles Payseur starts with a warning in “Quick Sips – Nightmare #72”

The September horror from Nightmare Magazine certainly lives up to the name, bringing two pieces that definitely lean toward the bloody and gruesome side of things, though in very different ways. The first takes splatter horror and runs with it, featuring hungry houses and the people who feed them. The second outweighs the first in terms of atrocities committed, though, if not perhaps on the grisly details. For it, though, the horror is more about how this kind of thing is normalized and even used as entertainment. And together they make for a rather unsettling, rather shocking, but very interesting issue of speculative horror. To the reviews!

(5) THE UNASSISTED WORD. Phil Plait tells the genesis of his “Science Speed Dating” program at SDCC in an article at SYFY Wire.

So I had the burgeoning field of exoplanetary science on my mind when I got a second invitation to SDCC: This time by my lgood friends at the Science and Entertainment Exchange, a group (a program of the National Academy of Sciences!) to work with the entertainment industry to get a better portrayal of science and scientists in venues like TV shows, movies, and games.

They were setting up an event called “Science Speed Dating”, which (despite its name) is a panel where a few scientists talk about something exciting going on in their field… but the kicker is they only have 5 minutes to do it, and they can’t use any visuals. So no graphics, nothing but their own voice and enthusiasm.

That sounded like a lot of fun, and I love the Exchange, so I agreed immediately. It turned out to be a good choice. I had a blast.

The event was live-streamed by Skybound Entertainment, and the folks involved were me, my pal and fellow astronomer Clifford V. Johnson, biochemist Jaime Marach, Google software engineer Anthony D. Mays, and economist Alison Sanchez, agricultural researcher Bobby Williams, with the whole thing moderated by Eric Heisserer, who wrote the screenplay for the wonderful movie Arrival….

 

(6) WOULD YOU LIKE TO OWN A FAMOUS BOOKSTORE? Terry Gilman and Maryelizabeth Yturralde of Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore told fans on their mailing list they are looking for new ownership for the San Diego store.

The key ingredients that will contribute to the success of a new owner are all in place: a loyal customer base, a dedicated, hard-working staff, the technological tools to remain current and relevant, and a beautiful environment that appeals to customers of all ages. We are also here to provide the new owner with the necessary resources to ensure a smooth transition.

We are looking for someone who is passionate about Mysterious Galaxy, who genuinely loves our community, and who understands what it takes to operate a retail business. The conversation begins with you. We know how much you care about Mysterious Galaxy, and perhaps you or someone you know – even a family member ready for a change of pace – would enjoy being the owner of our genre fiction stalwart.

…If you would like to learn more about the opportunity to become Mysterious Galaxy San Diego’s new owner, please contact Terry Gilman at terry@mystgalaxy.com.

(7) A HALF CENTURY OF DOONESBURY. The Washington Post’s Michael Cavna interviewed Garry Trudeau for a piece on the 50th anniversary of Doonesbury“‘Big Satire is the least of Trump’s problems’: Garry Trudeau weighs in on how humor has taken on the president”.  Trudeau, who still does new strips on Sundays, explains his cartooning philosophy and discusses why he thinks Trump is much worse than Nixon.

One satiric tactic that Trudeau is finding particularly fruitful is the mimicry of President Trump’s tweets. Right-leaning “Doonesbury” correspondent Roland B. Hedley Jr. has his own Twitter account, and his Fox News-like takes on this administration become comic-strip fodder for the left-leaning Trudeau.

“Writing for Roland must be what it was like creating material for Colbert on his old show,” Trudeau says. “Every day is Opposite Day.”

“I like the challenge of trying to think like the White House,” he adds, “of finding a positive spin for words and actions that are basically indefensible — and doing it with only 280 characters is a kind of comedy haiku.”

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 21, 1937 — J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit was published.

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 21, 1866 – H.G. Wells. Writer with The Time Machine, a novella in 1895, being his first genre work. Way, way too many genre works to list here so I’ll single out The War of The WorldsThe Island of Doctor Moreau and The Invisible Man as works by him that influenced the genre in a very noticeable manner. He also wrote an impressive amount of short fiction and non-fiction as well.
  • Born September 21 – Stephen King, 71. On the grounds, y’all know more about him than I can recount here, I’ll tell some encounters regarding him. The first was in the early 80s outside his favorite breakfast spot which was opposite the Bangor Public Library. He was dressed in very worn jeans and an old t-shirt leaning up against the wall near the doorway, possibly waiting for Tabitha, with his face deep in a paperback book. No, I didn’t get close enough to see what the book was.My other memorable encounter was not with him but with the props for Pet Sematary which were shot at in part a location near Bangor, Maine. I knew the on-site EMTs and they got permission for me to tour the props area. What a chill that was as what is now digital was in the early 80s very much physical. And a dead cat mocked up is appallingly horrid!
  • Born September 21. Cassandra Rose Clarke, 35. Her contributions to The Witch Who Came in from the Cold, a serial fiction piece coauthored with Max Gladstone, Lindsay Smith, Ian Tregillis, and Michael Swanwick, are  superb. The Mad Scientist’s Daughter was nominated for the Philip K. Dick Award, and her YA novel, The Assassin’s Curse, was nominated for Young Adult Library Services Association’s Best Fiction for Young Adults.

(10) DESIGNING DISNEYLAND. Jessica Leigh Hester’s Atlas Obscura article “Creating Disneyland Was Like Building a Brand New City” is filled with diagrams – especially of the version of the park Disney originally proposed to build near his studio in Burbank. (News to me!)

The Disney theme parks are chock full of amusements, rides, and restaurants, but they’re also small cities that must contend with deliveries, trash, and a steady stream of both employees and visitors. No kingdom, however magic, is exempt from all sorts of pesky needs and demands. People need to be able to move from one place to another, they have to refuel, and, every so often, they’ll need to relieve themselves. Ideally, they’ll accomplish all of this efficiently, and without getting frustrated or dizzyingly lost.

To cater to these less-than-wondrous requirements, the parks are, in reality, self-contained marvels of metropolis-building. Disneyland Park in California has a reliable transit system—the first monorail in the Western Hemisphere, which debuted just as many cities were expressing their love of cars and traffic by laying down ribbons of highway. Walt Disney World Resort, in Florida, innovated with trash: Cans are spaced precisely 30 feet apart, and all of them empty via underground tubes so that family vacations aren’t interrupted by vehicles hauling sun-baked garbage juice.

None of this happened by accident. Long before the parks were magic, they were conceived as two-dimensional representations, or as miniatures. Like many city planners, Disney’s chief urban brainstormers and engineers first imagined the parks’ shapes, structures, and logistics, on a small scale….

(11) FANTASIA RELIC. A Walt Disney Signed Copy of ”Ave Maria” From ”Fantasia” is up for bidding at Nate Sanders Auctions until September 27.

Walt Disney signed copy of ”Ave Maria”, the ”interpretation from Walt Disney’s ‘Fantasia”’. Disney signs in blue crayon on the front free endpaper, ”To Mrs Geo Williams with my best wishes – Walt Disney”. Printed by Random House, with a 1940 copyright by Walt Disney Productions, book is a beautiful presentation of ”Ave Maria”, with gilt accents throughout, paired with iridescent color pictures from ”Fantasia”. Sheet music appears in back, along with pictorial endpapers.

(12) JDA’S WORLDCON SUIT. Jon Del Arroz’ lawsuit against Worldcon 76 has at last been successfully transferred to the Santa Clara Superior Court. The new venue shows a case record for “Jonathan Del Arroz vs. San Francisco Conventions, Inc. et al.”, Case Number: 18CV334547 dated September 14.

Del Arroz originally filed the suit in San Joaquin County in April, and the parties agreed to transfer it to Santa Clara in June, but that ran into problems which have only recently been worked out.

Santa Clara’s case record shows 18 co-defendants – however, other court records give reason to believe only one defendant – the corporation – was timely served.

Here is Rick Moen’s breakdown of the latest online entries in the case:

The Events and Hearing section (of chronological case events) begins on Sept. 11, 2018 with the court formally accepting transfer from San Joaquin County, then it notes bulk scan of case documents from the period April 16 – July 3rd, doubtless from San Joaquin County. Then it says a/o Sept. 14th ‘Notice of Transfer’ (the date the new case record got opened). Last, the only real news: The new case management conference is shown as scheduled for Tuesday, December 18th, at 3:45 pm.

‘Judicial Officer’ is listed as ‘Strickland, Elizabeth’. Ms. Strickland shows in public records as the court civil division’s Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Officer, which is of course a primary focus of a case management conference, e.g., seeing if the parties are amenable to mediation, arbitration, or a settlement conference.

(13) GALACTIC JOURNEY. Rosemary Benton’s enthusiasm for The Haunting makes it sound well-worth a visit to 1963: “[September 21, 1963] Old Horror and Modern Women (Robert Wise’s The Haunting)”.

…When I read that there was to be a film adaptation of Shirley Jackson’s 1959 novel The Haunting of Hill House I was over the moon. In this time of character driven thrillers blasting onto the silver screen thanks to Alfred Hitchcock and Orson Welles, I was excited yet apprehensive to have one of my favorite author’s books translated into a film script. Upon learning that the talent of Robert Wise, director of The Day the Earth Stood Still and West Side Story, was going to be attached to the project I felt I could rest easy. Now that I have seen the end result I confidently predict that this movie will be remembered for the horror genre treasure that it is! Simply put, Robert Wise’s The Haunting pays homage to its predecessors of gothic horror, yet breaks new ground in what has been an increasingly campy genre….

(14) SHORT WAVERS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] OK, so if you’re not a football fan you may not be familiar with holding up pictographic play cards on the sideline as a way to communicate play calls to your team without giving them away to the opposing team. Just trust me, it’s a thing.

In the Temple University (Owls) football game against the University of Tulsa (Golden Hurricane) on Thursday 20 September, Temple introduced a new wrinkle to this. Stormtroopers. (Yahoo Sports: “Temple used Stormtroopers to hold up play cards on sideline”)

Or, at least it looked like that’s what they were doing. Whatever they were doing, it must have worked. The Owls survived the Golden Hurricane to take a 31-17 win versus a pre-game betting spread of about 7 points.

(15) ROVER ISSUES. NASA’s solar powered Opportunity rover is still out of contact with Earth after the recent global Mars dust storm. Now the nuclear powered Curiosity rover is having a less serious issue. Stored data is not being sent, though live data is coming through (NASA blog: “NASA Mars Rover Curiosity: Mission Updates – Sols 2175-2176: Tell Us More, We Want to Help!”).

Over the past few days, engineers here at JPL have been working to address an issue on Curiosity that is preventing it from sending much of the science and engineering data stored in its memory. The rover remains in its normal mode and is otherwise healthy and responsive.

The issue first appeared Saturday night while Curiosity was running through the weekend plan. Besides transmitting data recorded in its memory, the rover can transmit “real-time” data when it links to a relay orbiter or Deep Space Network antenna. These real-time data are transmitting normally, and include various details about the rover’s status. Engineers are expanding the details the rover transmits in these real-time data to better diagnose the issue. Because the amount of data coming down is limited, it might take some time for the engineering team to diagnose the problem.

On Monday and Tuesday, engineers discussed which real-time details would be the most useful to have. They also commanded the rover to turn off science instruments that were still on, since their data are not being stored. They’re also preparing to use the rover’s backup computer in case they need to use it to diagnose the primary computer. That backup computer was the rover’s primary one until Sol 200, when it experienced both a hardware failure and software issue that have since been addressed.

While the engineers work to understand the problem, Curiosity’s science team is using the time to pore over data gathered on Vera Rubin Ridge and come up with the best location for another drilling attempt. We’re looking at any clues that tell us the rocks are weaker and better for drilling. As the JPL-based project scientist, I really enjoy watching our scientists from all over the world take on these challenges. And, I also get to witness the brainpower that JPL brings to bear when the rover has a technical issue. We’re rooting for the engineering team 100%!

This blog may be less frequent until science operations resume

(16) SAD SCIENCE. NPR reports on the reason behind the recent closure of the Sunspot Solar Observatory (“Shutdown Of New Mexico Observatory Was Part Of Investigation Into Child Pornography”).

Officials have explained the mysterious closure of a New Mexico observatory earlier this month, saying they were investigating one of the facility’s janitors for possession and distribution of child pornography.

The Sunspot Solar Observatory at Sacramento Peak was shut for 11 days for “a security issue,” and its closure drew cheeky speculation that authorities were investigating the presence of UFOs.

According to unsealed federal court documents, the FBI was examining the observatory – but not for the presence of aliens. In an affidavit, an FBI agent wrote that she was looking at the “activities of an individual who was utilizing the wireless internet service of the National Solar Observatory in Sunspot, New Mexico, to download and distribute child pornography.”

(17) TOO WOUND UP. Scott Tobias concludes “‘The House With A Clock In Its Walls’ Is An Eyesore” in an NPR review.

…The new film adaptation, written by Supernatural creator Eric Kripke and directed by Eli Roth, the horror-provocateur responsible for Cabin Fever and Hostel, doesn’t have the patience for such grace notes. They’ve retrofitted Bellairs’ book for the age of Harry Potter and Goosebumps, turning the house on High Street into a Hogwarts satellite where magic infuses every object and floorboard, and the CGI pops like the spring-loaded spooks at a carnival funhouse. Roth’s instinct for horror maximalism is precisely the wrong approach to the material, which doesn’t accommodate that much visual noise….

(The Boston Globe was more generous, giving 2.5/4 stars.)

(18) TIMELORD ANTICIPATION. Watch Mojo has screened the trailers and picked these as the Top 10 Things To Look Forward To In Doctor Who Series 11

(19) TRAILER PARK. At First Light will be in theaters and available on demand on September 28.

Sean (Théodore Pellerin) and Alex (Stefanie Scott, Insidious: The Last Key) go on the run after Alex has a close encounter with mysterious orbs of light that leave her with extraordinary powers. As they flee from their families, the police and a covert government agency, Alex and Sean find themselves at the center of an unprecedented event in human history. First contact. As her powers grow stronger and more dangerous, Sean must decide whether staying with Alex and discovering the truth behind her transformation is worth dying for. Directed by Jason Stone (The Calling), the film also stars, Kate Burton (“Scandal”), Saïd Taghmaoui (Wonder Woman), and Percy Hynes White.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/13/18 A Pixel Without A Scroll Is Like Leslie Fish Without A Bicycle Card

(1) COMING DISTRACTIONS. Space.com presents a gallery of photos of Hurricane Florence taken from space.

With Hurricane Florence dominating this view from the International Space Station, Alexander Gerst warns the East Coast to get ready, “this is a no-kidding nightmare coming for you.” Click through this gallery to see the latest images of Hurricane Florence.

(2) SF CONCATENATION. The new issue of SF Concatenation is up “Science Fiction News & Recent Science Review for the Autumn 2018”. Jonathan Cowie outlines what’s in store for readers —

Most recently added (mid-September) is our autumnal edition of news and reviews.  As usual its news page has sections on film, books and publishing, TV, as well as the season’s forthcoming books listing of new titles (also fantasy and non-fiction) from the major SF/F imprints in the British Isles, many of which will soon be available elsewhere in the world.  (A great way to see what will be coming out and ideas for your Christmas shopping.)  And then there is the news page’s science consisting of short paragraphs on the season’s key, primary research papers that are cited so our scientist regulars can Google Scholar the papers for themseleves (and our non-scientist regulars can see that we don’t do fake news).  Plus there’s the news page’s science-and-SF-interface section where yesterday’s SF is becoming today’s fact.

Other content includes articles and convention reports. Here there is another in our series by scientists are also SF authors as to their science heroes born in the 20th century.

The issue delivers over 40,000 words of selected news. That selection includes not reporting most of the Hugo winners:

…We continue (from last year) to define the Hugo ‘principal categories’ as those that had over a thousand nominating in that category (down from two thousand as our definition in 2016 as the numbers involved in Hugo nominating have declined since 2016).  The 1,813 number nominating was down on last year’s number (2,464) (the second year of decline).  The 2,828, voting on the final shortlist was down on the 3,319 voting in 2017 which in turn was marginally up on the number voting in 2016 (3,130).
So not surprisingly, the principal Hugo categories (those categories with over one thousand nominating) were markedly fewer than last year. Indeed, for the first time in many years we are not counting the ‘Best Dramatic Presentation Short Form’ as principal category (it only saw 819 nominating ballots and just a paltry 87 nominating the programme that went on to win). The principal category Hugo wins this year therefore were:-

Best Novel: The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin (fantasy) which back in January (2018) we cited as one of the ‘best books’ of 2017. This is the third consecutive win for ‘best novel’ for Jemisin something that has never happened before in this category.
Best Novella: All Systems Red by Martha Wells
Best Dramatic Presentation – Long Form: Wonder Woman (Trailer here) which back in January (2018) we cited as one of the best SF/F/H films of 2017.

(3) THE MILITARY USES OF VENTRILOQUISM. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Bluetooth earpieces have made people apparently talking to themselves normal—at least sort of. But at least one can spot the earpieces if you look carefully. A product in development for military use could change that, moving the mic and speaker inside the mouth (Smithsonian: “Military Invests in ‘Molar Mic’ That Can Route Calls Through Your Teeth”).

Communications devices have taken over our pockets and our wrists, but soon the gadgets may go even deeper. Patrick Tucker at Defense One reports that the Air Force has signed a $10 million deal with a California company to continue development of a communication device that is fitted to a users’ teeth.

Dubbed the “Molar Mic,” the gadget is being designed by San Mateo-based Sonitus Technologies  Officially called the ATAC system, the two-way communication system consists of a small microphone that clips to a users back teeth. This enables them to hear communications through their cranial bones which transmit the sound to the auditory nerve. Users also wear a low-profile transmitter loop around their neck that connects to the Molar Mic via near-field magnetic induction, a system similar to Bluetooth that can be encrypted and also passes through water. The loop then connects with with a phone, walkie-talkie or other communications device.

The device has seen field testing—albeit not in combat—with good results reported according to the contractor:

Tucker reports that airmen in Afghanistan tried it for 14 months while deployed, though not in active missions. Pararescuemen from the Air National Guard’s 131st Rescue Squadron based at Moffett Field in Mountain View, California, also tested the device in Houston last year during Hurricane Harvey. The team faced high water, noisy helicopters and other external noises that make traditional communication difficult.

“This guy is standing in neck-deep water, trying to hoist a civilian up into a helicopter above. He says, ’There is no way I would be able to communicate with the crew chief and the pilot if I was not wearing your product,” [Sonitus CEO Peter] Hadrovic tells Tucker.

Might you ever see a civilian walking around with a “molar mic”? Gizmodo weighs in on that question (“Weird Tooth Phone Wins Millions in Pentagon Funding”):

A spokesperson for Sonitus told Gizmodo the company won’t speculate about when the technology will be available for commercial, industrial, or consumer markets—and the company won’t scale beyond military use until it completes the contract the Department of Defense just awarded them.

So, we probably have at least a few years before civilians start lodging phones into their throats.

(4) FRESH COMPETITION. Deadline is determined not to be left behind: “Former Hero Complex Columnist Geoff Boucher Joins Deadline As Genre Editor”.

Veteran journalist Geoff Boucher, best known for launching the Hero Complex column in the Los Angeles Times that built a vast following, has joined Deadline in the newly created post of Genre Editor. He will be based in Los Angeles and specialize in breaking news, features and analysis of “Comic-Con culture.” His stomping ground will encompass superhero fare, science fiction, fantasy, horror, and animation, the hottest film and television sectors in today’s Hollywood.

(5) CONSPIRASKI. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A conspiracy theory promoted by Russian media have it that a NASA astronaut deliberately damaged the docked Soyuz that was leaking air from the International Space Station. A joint NASA/Roscosmos statement reported in The Verge (“NASA is trying to squash conspiracy theories about the space station leak”) tries to quash that rumor… this despite earlier media reports that Roscosmos personnel are feeding those rumors through back channels.

Wild theories of sabotage still persist two weeks after a mysterious pressure leak occurred on the International Space Station, and the gossip has gotten so nonsensical that both NASA and Russia’s state space corporation, Roscosmos, are now trying to quell the rumors.

In a joint statement released today, NASA and Roscosmos claim that the US space agency is working closely with Russia to figure out the cause of the leak. The statement also notes that no information will be released until the Russian-led investigation is over, despite rampant speculation in the Russian press that the leak was possibly caused by one of NASA’s astronauts in space.

…the gossip over the leak seems to have only grown in the last couple of weeks. As first reported by Ars Technica, a story published in Russia’s Kommersant cited anonymous sources from Roscosmos, who claimed that investigators were looking into the possibility that the hole was caused by a NASA astronaut. The theory was that one of the three American crew members had gotten sick, so one of the astronauts caused the leak in order to force a quick evacuation to Earth.

(6) TODAY IN HISTORY

Setting aside his technical first appearance in 1981’s Donkey Kong, today is a fun anniversary to take note of for fans of the Super Mario video game franchise. The fat plumber who sports the iconic overalls and red cap debuted as a titular video game hero 33 years ago today, in Super Mario Bros. which was released in Japan on Sept. 13, 1985.

Not that anyone needs to be reminded, but when the game made its way over to North America and started selling here, it became one of the best-selling video games of all time. With some 40 million copies sold for the original NES.

(7) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 13, 1894 – J.B. Priestley. Who apparently wrote SF but I’ll admit that even after reading his page at the Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction that I’ll be buggered if I can figure out precisely what that means. One of y’all will need to explain what sort of genre fiction he did.
  • Born September 13, 1916 – Roald Dahl. Writer, though how much of his work I’d consider genre is a good question, Witches certainly as well as Gremlins, James and the Giant Peach and Fantastic Mr Fox but what else are genre to your thinking? He would win the 1983 World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, so I may be being overly fussy tonight.
  • Born September 13 — Bernard Pearson, 72. Discworld specialist. Would I could kid you? He wrote the Compleat Discworld Atlas with Ian Mitchell and Isobel Pearson and Terry Pratchett and Bernard Pearson and Reb Voyce; Also such works (and for sake of brevity I’m skipping co-authors though you can assume Pratchett was listed as being involved though how involved he was is a good question) as the Discworld Almanak: The Year of the PrawnDiscworld Diary: A Practical Manual for the Modern Witch and Miss Felicity Beedle’s The World of Poo.
  • Born September 13 – Bob Eggleton, 58. He has won the Hugo for Best Professional Artist an amazing eight times, he also won the Hugo for Best Related Book for his art book Greetings From Earth. He has also won the Chesley Award for Artistic Achievement. He was the guest of honor at Chicon  in 2000.
  • Born September 13 – Tom Holt, 57. Humorous fantasy such as Expecting Someone Taller and Who’s Afraid of Beowulf?  One of his latest works, The Good, the Bad and the Smug is roughly a take on Rumplestiltskin based economies where Evil goes for modern, hopefully appealing appearance.

(8) COMICS SECTION.

  • This Over the Hedge strip is not what Kirk had in mind when he asked for more power:

(9) DRIVERLESS MOTORCYCLE ON THE WAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Don’t worry, this is probably not going to develop into the first Terminator. BMW has taken the wraps off a research project — said to be more than two years old — and has published video of a self-driving motorcycle (Mashable: “BMW’s riderless motorcycle can handle curves, obstacles”). In the video, the cycle is shown driving both with and without a rider along. What appears to be an early version has wide outrider wheels, but the current prototype looks pretty much lke a regular motorcycle with extra metal boxes attached that presumably contain the electronics.

This week BMW Motorrad — the motorcycle division of the German car company — showed a prototype driverless bike on a test track accelerating, navigating curves, and braking all on its own. In Munich, safety researchers have been using the autonomous motorcycle to test out features for its real motorcycles to handle dangerous situations.

(10) MEANWHILE, BACK AT THE UNCANNY SLUSHPILE. You can’t say they don’t know what they missed.

(11) ESCAPE POD OPENING FOR SUBMISSIONS. On September 16.

(12) ST. KOONTZ. Benedictine College English professor Stephen Mirarchi, reviewing Dean Koontz’s new novel The Forbidden Door, says that Koontz is an orthodox Catholic who is “a wildly successful writer who has infused his art with God’s grandeur.” National Review Online has the story: “The Transcendent Dean Koontz”.

… To take a wider view, Koontz is presenting in the series a large-scale defense of the ability to choose meaning and virtue. One of his recurring characters is an anxiety-prone latter-day Puritan, while another is an intellectually and physically domineering hulk straight out of a Max Weber tract. Koontz fairly and logically shows the necessary consequences of these characters’ thoughts and actions by creating storylines of such accessibility that the general reader can see how their ideologies contradict any coherent notion of the good life. The modern Puritan, for instance, moves nervously from scene to scene, constantly seeking perfection and never finding it, unjustly critiquing others while placating his own ego. The ideologies Koontz critiques inevitably lead to disaster — not just for the characters, but for the societies built on such chimeras.

Hawk, on the other hand, embraces the natural religion to which Koontz’s wide fan base responds with awe. She finds solace in the wonder of creation while calling out evil for its supernatural maliciousness, ever uniting reason with hope against secular hedonism. Koontz does “diversity” the right way, too: He features an autistic character in this series who is a compelling hero because he faces down his particular suffering by accepting grace. And as Flannery O’Connor and Léon Bloy before her have shockingly reminded us, the reception of grace usually hurts — badly.Speaking of the reception of grace, I am going to prognosticate: There is one mesmerizing scene in The Forbidden Door, an explicitly Catholic one, that many readers may wildly misinterpret….

(13) THOSE MISTY WATERCOLOR MEMORIES. Jason Heller intended to write an evocative, nostalgic tribute to the world of Piers Anthony – until he reread A Spell for Chameleon: “Revisiting the sad, misogynistic fantasy of Xanth” at AV Club.

I know other people who have read Anthony’s Xanth books. All of them did so in their youth—and like me, they drifted away from them long before graduating high school. There’s something inherently juvenile about the Xanth series, even though it wasn’t marketed as young adult, a distinction that didn’t exist as such back then. Even worse, as the series progressed it became increasingly reliant on really bad puns. That was more of a turnoff than any perceived lady hating, at least when I was a teenager and less attuned to such things. I do wonder how much of the books’ warped view of women trickled into my sensibility back then. Or other readers’ sensibility.

I grew up to be involved deeply in science fiction and fantasy, but it doesn’t take an insider to know that those genres have trouble with gender issues—both on the page and in real life, where sexual harassment at sci-fi conventions is an ongoing problem. Anthony’s books were huge in their day, and their influence runs deep; dozens of similarly humorous series, from Robert Lynn Asprin’s Myth Adventures to Alan Dean Foster’s Spellsinger, popped up in Xanth’s wake. I read and loved them, too, when I was a kid. But they don’t evoke an icky feeling the way Xanth does—a creepiness that retroactively corrodes any lingering nostalgia.

(14) LUNCH WAS SERVED. Can you guess “Who killed the largest birds that ever lived?” Bones show that humans lived beside “elephant birds” on Madagascar for millennia before wiping them out for food.

Prehistoric humans are under suspicion of wiping out the largest birds that ever lived after fossilised bones were discovered with telltale cut marks.

According to scientists, it’s evidence that the elephant birds of Madagascar were hunted and butchered for food.

The remains have been dated to about 10,000 years ago.

Until now, the first settlers were thought to have arrived on the island about 2,500 to 4,000 years ago.

“This does push back the date of human arrival by 6,000 years, at least,” says Dr James Hansford, a scientist at Zoological Society London, UK.

(15) WALLACE WINS. “Smarty pants: Robot trousers could keep the elderly mobile” — linings of legs fitted to act as supplementary muscles.

Johnathan Rossiter proudly displays his new trousers. Brightly coloured and fit for the running track, but packing more than just Lycra. They’ll be robotic.

“We are all going to get older and our mobility is going to reduce,” he says. “What we want to do is give people that extra bit of boost, to maintain their independence as long as possible.”

A team of British researchers thinks the future lies in wearable soft robotics. They’ve developed robotic muscles; air-filled bubbles of plastic that can raise a leg from a seated to a standing position.

(16) FLY ME TO THE MOON. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] SpaceX is up to something… the Moon. Or, at least they want to be. They’ve announced (via a tweet) that they have signed their first customer to take a trip around the Moon (The Verge: “SpaceX says it will send someone around the Moon on its future monster rocket”):

SpaceX has signed its first customer to fly on the company’s huge new rocket, the BFR, the company says. The passenger will fly on the monster ship around the Moon, though there are no details yet regarding when the trip will happen. SpaceX says it will announce who is flying — and why — on Monday, September 17th.

The BFR, or the Big Falcon Rocket, is the giant rocket that SpaceX is currently developing to send humans to the Moon and Mars. The BFR design, [presented] by CEO Elon Musk last year, consists of a combined rocket and spaceship, called the BFS for Big Falcon Spaceship. The main rocket will have 31 main Raptor engines and be capable of sending up 150 tons to low Earth orbit, according to that presentation.

(Yeah, yeah, BFR stands for “Big Falcon Rocket.” Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Say no more, say no more.)

SpaceX had already announced (in early 2017) plans for two people to take such a trip; it’s not immediately not clear if this new announcement is one of those or yet a third person. The tweet does say that the name of the person as well as the reason for the trip will be announced Monday 17 September.

(17) MESSAGE FROM A CRYPTIC KRYPTONIAN. Erin Donnelly, in the Yahoo! Entertainment story “Henry Cavill Posts Complex Superman Vibe as Reports Claim He’s Leaving Superhero Role” says that Henry Cavill posted a video on Instagram wearing a “Krypton Lifting Team” and waving a Superman action figure around, leaving his 6.4 million followers wondering what this means.

View this post on Instagram

Today was exciting #Superman

A post shared by Henry Cavill (@henrycavill) on

(18) DAREDEVIL. Nextflix release the Daredevil Season 3 teaser trailer.

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

Pixel Scroll 9/10/18 I Get Scrolled Down, I Pixel Up Again, You’re Never Gonna Click Me Down

(1) MESSAGE FROM THE RESISTANCE. Sometimes you need an inter-dimensional perspective to put things into their proper focus, like what Andrew Paul provides in “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside Nyarlathotep’s Death Cult” at McSweeney’s.

Nyarlathotep is now facing one of the greatest threats in Its presidency so far. I should know, I clock in to kneel at Its feet upon the Altar of Despair every day.

In the year-and-a-half since the Black Pharaoh replaced the Oval Office with a literal blood fountain throne, I’ve watched as the hits keep on coming. The executive cabinet is wracked with scandal, ordinary citizens who signed the cultist oath are making good on their grave pacts, and, of course, the entirety of the country’s water supply is now teeming with pulsating eggs from some kind of inter-dimensional parasite. It’s easy to look at these kinds of headlines, to read these sorts of leaked stories from the desiccated Capitol Hill, and see an unsustainable administration. Rumors of reversal incantations are beginning to make the rounds, and if our Commander-in-Chief is not careful, It could find Itself cast back among the stars beyond the universe. The past few weeks, in particular, have seen our President certainly live up to our campaign slogan “I See All, and It Shall Burn.”…

(2) FOR THE RECORD. On the second night of the 2018 Creative Arts Awards no Emmys were given for works of genre interest, which made it hard to do a post about them….

(3) TREK ON EMMYS. On the Academy’s website you can watch a 12-minute video of Saturday’s “2018 Creative Arts Emmys: Tribute To Star Trek”, introduced by Bill Nye.

Eighty cast and crew members came together as William Shatner accepted the 2018 Governors Award for the Star Trek franchise.

(4) DUBLIN 2019 PROGRAM. Don’t be shy!

(5) DARRELL AWARDS. Nominations are open for the 2019 Darrell Awards in the following categories:

  • Best Midsouth SF/F/H Novel, Novella, or Short Story on a one year basis (works published between November 1, 2017, and October 31, 2018);
  • Best Midsouth SF/F/H Other Media on a two year basis (works that were published or first shown to the public between November 1, 2016, and October 31, 2018); and
  • The Coger Memorial Hall of Fame on an ongoing basis (for works that were not considered during their year of eligibility and were qualified at the time they were published).

Works must be published by October 31st (Halloween) of this year (2018) in order to qualify.  Please see the Rules for the other qualifications.

(6) RECOMMENDATIONS. Bryan Cebulski poses the question “How Do We Establish Speculative Fiction’s LGBTQ+ Canon?” at Tor.com.

Like many SF/F fans across the intersections of LGBTQ+ identities, I’m constantly on the lookout for good fiction that reflects something of my own experience. In seeking lists that recommend or simply catalogue such works, I’ve found many that, while well-intended, tend to mash an enormous body of work together without considering how authors actually deal with the content. This means that quite often, bigoted portrayals are set right next to works that feature positive representation, or else work that is as gay as possible will be set next to work with only the briefest passing mention of “non-normative” sexuality.

This raises some potentially thorny questions: How should we approach the idea of canon, in this particular set of circumstances? What should we look for when we compile lists of LGBTQ+ speculative fiction? What are we compiling for? Do we consider any mention at all? Focus mainly on positive representation? What about historical context and works by authors who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community?

(7) WRITING CLASS HIGHLIGHTS. Connect with Cat Rambo’s livetweeted highlights from last weekend’s classes at the Rambo Academy for Wayward Writers:

  • Rachel Swirsky talking about Breaking the Rules: thread starts here.
  • Rachel Swirsky’s Ideas Are Everywhere class: thread starts here.
  • Fran Wilde’s Fantastic Worldbuilding class: thread starts here.

(8) DAVID R. BUNCH. AV Club’s Alex McLevy cheers that “An obscure but enduring science fiction author finally gets his due” in a collection with an introduction by Jeff VanderMeer.

If you’ve read David R. Bunch, there’s a good chance it’s because of Harlan Ellison. The famed author (and renowned grouch of popular culture) selected not one, but two short stories by the little-known writer for his landmark 1967 New Wave sci-fi collection, Dangerous Visions—the only contributor to have more than one piece included. As a result, “Incident In Moderan” and “The Escaping” are where most people’s awareness of Bunch begins—and ends. He published hundreds of short stories in his life, but mostly in small digests, obscure literary magazines, and even fanzines. No definitive bibliography exists; his last published work (a book of poetry) was from 18 years ago, and neither of his two collections of fiction have been in print for decades.

That changes with the publication of Moderan, the latest entry in NYRB Classics’ series, and a fascinating testament to Bunch’s strange talent….

(9) TODAY’S TRIVIA

Andre Delambre, The Fly, 1958 —

“Take television.  What happens?  A string of electrons  –  sound and picture impulses  –  are transmitted through wires into the air.  The TV camera is the disintegrater.  Your set [the reintegrater] unscrambles or integrates the electrons back into pictures and sound…the disintegrator/will completely change life as we know it.  Think what it’ll mean.  Food.  Anything.  Even humans will go through one of these devices.  No need for cars or railways or airplanes, even spaceships. We’ll just set up matter transcieving devices throughout the world, and later the universe.  They will never be a need or famine.  Surpluses can be sent instantaneously at almost no cost anywhere.   Humanity need never fear or want again.”

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 10, 1993The X-Files premiered

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 10 – Thelma J. Shinn, 76. Author of Worlds Within Women, Myth and Mythmaking in Fantastic Literature by Women and Women Shapeshifters: Transforming the Contemporary Novel.
  • Born September 10 — Nancy A. Collins, 59. Ok, I consider her Sonja Blue punk vampire series which ran I think to nearly a baker’s dozen works starting in the early 90s to be one of the best of that genre, easily the equal of the Blade comic series. She also did more than a smattering of short fiction, essays and reviews as well.
  • Born September 10 – Victoria Strauss, 63. An author of nine fantasy novels largely in the Stone and the Way of Arata series. Has written myriad reviews for both print and website venues.
  • Born September 10 – Pat Cadigan, 65. Writer whose work has been described as cyberpunkish. Won a Hugo for “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi” in the Novelette category. Garnered the Arthur C. Clarke Award for her novels Synners and Fools.  Tea from an Empty Cup is my favorite work by her.

Pat Cadigan herself celebrated with this post: “The Second Birthday I Wasn’t Supposed To See”.

I wanted to write something profound and wise about life, the universe, all the fish, and everything else. However, when I woke up this morning, the party in my head was already in full swing.

I’m alive! I’m alive! I’m alive! Everybody conga!

Steven H Silver joined in saluting the day at Black Gate with “Birthday Reviews: Pat Cadigan’s ‘New Life for Old’”.

Cadigan won a Hugo Award for Best Novelette in 2013 for “The Girl-Thing Who Went Out for Sushi.,” which has also won a Seiun Award. She had previously won a World Fantasy Award in the Non-Professional category for co-editing the fanzine Shayol with Arnie Fenner. She won two Arthur C. Clarke Awards for her novels Synners and Fools. In 1979, her story “Death from Exposure” won the coveted Balrog Award. In 2006, Cadigan received the third (and most recent) Richard Evans Memorial Prize, given to genre authors who were considered insufficiently recognized for their excellence. Cadigan served as the Toastmaster for MidAmericon II, the 2016 Worldcon in Kansas City.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

(13) HATERS LOSE. Marketing analysts report “Nike sales defy Kaepernick ad campaign backlash”.

Nike sales appear to have increased in the wake of its controversial advertising campaign, using Colin Kaepernick as the face of the brand.

Online sales grew by 31% in the bank holiday weekend after the ad launched, according to researcher Edison Trends.

The rise will confound critics, who encouraged people to destroy Nike goods in protest at the use of Mr Kaepernick.

(14) HOT TIME IN THE OLD TOWN. These farms look like moon bases: “Are hot springs the future of farming?”

In the centre of the small downtown, on the banks of the San Juan River, sit three conspicuous, geodesic greenhouses, each 42ft (13m) in diameter. They stand in stark contrast to the old-timey buildings on the road above. All will house gardens, but each has a different mission.

(15) AM. Ryan Hollinger puts an intriguing Cold War frame around his video commentary “The Bleakest Sci-Fi World Ever Created: ‘I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream'”.

(16) GET READY TO CLICK. Kevin Canfield, in “The FBI’s Spying On Writers Was Literary Criticism at Its Worst”, in The Daily Beast, is a review of Writers Under Surveillance: The FBI Files.  It only has one paragraph on Ray Bradbury’s FBI file but that paragraph is a doozy!

(17) POWER OF THE MIND. Defense One’s story “It’s Now Possible To Telepathically Communicate with a Drone Swarm” tells how a communication interface directly connected to a human brain can control up to three drones. The serious implications extend well beyond the defense industry to potential help for the locationally challenged as well as those with artificial limbs.

Dann appreciated that the above link was followed in his RSS feed by a Dilbert comic that suggests there are some folks who might be beyond help.

(18) PAYING ATTENTION, In “The stunning artworks made of light”, the BBC reports on an interactive digital museum where each display of chandelieresque lights etc. changes according to the people in the room.

“The museum itself is one artwork,” Takashi Kudo of teamLab tells BBC Culture. The Mori Building Digital Art Museum: teamLab Borderless is a 10,000 sq m (107,639 sq ft) digital art space in Tokyo, Japan, where everything is controlled by computers, right down to the electronic tickets. The museum is made up of 60 individual artworks, but as the name, Borderless, suggests, the place is meant to be experienced as a whole, rather than as a series of individual pieces.

Made up of 520 computers and 470 projectors, the museum is inspired by the concept of interactivity and the art responds to movement as visitors walk through the space. In this piece, Forest of Lamps, the lights react to a person’s presence. If there is more than one person in the room, the lights will change based on both of their movements, and the process continues the more people you add. Kudo explains that having multiple people experiencing an artwork at one time, and becoming a part of it, means the experience is enhanced for all.

(19) DOES ANYBODY REALLY KNOW WHAT TIME IT IS? [Item by Mike Kennedy.] In a new scientific paper in Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences (“Universal method for robust detection of circadian state from gene expression”) Dr Rosemary Braun, et al., claim to have developed a new and simpler method to measure a person’s circadian rhythm. The paper is broken down in simpler terms in Popular Science (“This new blood test can figure out what time it is inside your cells”). The existing method requires numerous blood draws so that melatonin in the blood can be measured over time. The new method requires only two blood draws—a number of different markers are measured to determine the level of expression of different genes. Popular Science author Kat Eschner writes:

…To create this test, researchers trained [an] algorithm to look for chemical evidence of about 40 specific genes in the blood samples. They picked those 40 by analyzing a much larger dataset and finding the ones that express at specific times.

According to the research, the algorithm works regardless of whether the patient is sick or well. That’s significant because gene expression—the way your genes activate, prompting the production of chemicals and helping your body to function—is changed by things as simple as how much sleep you get.

…The researchers found something unexpected—the genes that are the best predictors of body clock aren’t all “what we could call the core clock genes,” Braun says. “A lot of them are genes that are related to other biological processes, but they’re regulated by the clock. They’re regulated so tightly by the clock that observing them becomes a good marker for the clock itself.”

(20) BATTLE BOTS. Well, what would you make a battle robot look like? CNET reports that “Kalashnikov battle robot concept looks like a Star Wars AT-ST”. (Maybe they’ll go for the full AT-AT experience next time.)

Kalashnikov Concern, a Russian manufacturer known for the AK-47 assault rifle, is thinking pretty big these days when it comes to new defense machines. The company unveiled a concept for a bipedal battle robot this week and all I can think about are the two-legged AT-STs from Star Wars.

The Kalashnikov creation seems to be solidly in the concept realm right now. It looks like its main job is to just stand there and look cool.

It has a couple of grabby arms and hands reminiscent of the Power Loader suit from Aliens and a large cabin at the top where presumably a human driver would sit to control the machine. It looks a bit top-heavy and not quite as lithe as an AT-ST.

(21) NPR HORROR POLL. “Click If You Dare: 100 Favorite Horror Stories” carries the results of a poll of NPR followers. 7000 responses — over 1000 for King, but many others.

…And this year, we’re celebrating the 200th birthday of one of the most famous scary stories of all time: Frankenstein — so a few months ago, we asked you to nominate your favorite horror novels and stories, and then we assembled an expert panel of judges to take your 7000 nominations and turn them into a final, curated list of 100 spine-tingling favorites for all kinds of readers. Want to scar your children for life? We can help. Want to dig into the dark, slimy roots of horror? We’ve got you covered.

As with our other reader polls, this isn’t meant to be a ranked or comprehensive list — there are a few books you won’t see on it despite their popularity — some didn’t stand the test of time, some just didn’t catch our readers’ interest, and in some cases our judges would prefer you see the movie instead. (So no Jaws, sorry.) And there are a few titles that aren’t strictly horror, but at least have a toe in the dark water, or are commenting about horrific things, so our judges felt they deserved a place on the list.

One thing you won’t see on the list is any work from this year’s judges, Stephen Graham Jones, Ruthanna Emrys, Tananarive Due and Grady Hendrix….

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

Pixel Scroll 9/7/18 Pixel Yourself On A Spinning Space Station, With Alien Porters With Arthropod Eyes

(1) HAPPENS TO THE BEST OF US. Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes about battling website and ISP) problems in “Business Musings: Website Issues”. The post begins —

It’s tough to write my blog when my website is down…for the second time in two weeks. Both times had nothing to do with me and everything to do with the website hosting service, which is so monumentally incompetent that I’m speechless.

I learned a lesson during this incident. A big important lesson.

And it ends —

…And as I (and the kind folks at WMG) rebuild, we will be doing so with an eye to a 2018 website, not a 2010 website. We’ll make information easy to find. The weekly features will remain as well.

It’s going to take a bit of time, but it was something I needed to do. Bluehost forced me into it.

They also taught me a valuable lesson. Every few years, I need to re-evaluate every service that I hire to help with my business, not just to see if the service is doing well, but also to make sure the service itself is the same company that I hired a few years before.

Things change quickly in this modern world, and I really need to incorporate that awareness of change into my own business planning…

In between, Rusch explains how she learned the lesson the hard way.

(2) ABOUT GRIMDARK. Paul Weimer analyzes “The Fugue of Fantasy and the Grimdark Interregnum” at Nerds of a Feather.

…In the history of epic fantasy, following this analogy and paradigm, there has always been a voice in a minor key, a strain of fantasy with antiheroes, shades of dark grey and darkness, worlds where hope and optimism are not valued or are even punished. Violence is the name of the game, dystopic amorality the norm and the worlds are often the successor states or the  ruins of another, brighter time. The classical Western European model of the first few centuries after Rome fell is the historical ur-model, and indeed, many novels use thinly disguised or even explicitly set in that time period. The latest iteration of this minor-key fantasy, which had in recent years become a dominant theme in epic fantasy, is what we call Grimdark….

(3) EATING THE FANTASTIC. Scott Edelman invites you to share a steak dinner with legendary comics creator Don McGregor in episode 76 of the Eating the Fantastic podcast.

I reached out to Dauntless Don — we all had nicknames back them; he was Dauntless, I was Sparkling — and said, hey, how about if when I’m on the way back to the airport at the end of Readercon, I swoop down, take you out for dinner, and we chew over the old times. And that’s exactly what we did, at the Safehouse in East Greenwich, Rhode Island, along with Dauntless Don’s wife, the Marvelous Marsha, whose voice you’ll occasionally hear in the background of this episode.

Don started out his career in comics by writing some of the best horror stories to appear in the pages of Creepy and Eerie — and I remember well reading the first of them in the early ’70s. When he moved on to Marvel Comics, he did groundbreaking work with such characters as Black Panther, Killraven, and Luke Cage. In fact, his two-year “Panther’s Rage” arc was ranked as the third most important Marvel Comics storyline of the ’70s by Comics Bulletin. In 2015, he was awarded the Bill Finger Award for Excellence in Comic Book Writing at San Diego Comic-Con International.

We discussed how meeting Jim Steranko led to him selling his first comics story, why when he was 13 years old, he wanted to be Efrem Zimbalist Jr., what he learned from Naked City creator Stirling Silliphant, how his first meeting with future Black Panther artist Billy Graham could have been disastrous, why the comics he wrote in the ’70s wouldn’t have been able to exist two years later, the reasons Archie Goodwin was such a great editor, how he convinced Stan Lee to allow the first interracial kiss in mainstream comics, what life lessons he took from Westerns in general and Hopalong Cassidy in particular, why he almost stopped writing Lady Rawhide, and much more.

(4) ALIEN ENCOUNTER NUMBER CRUNCHING. James Davis Nicoll discourages the idea that we’ll be meeting aliens in reality: “Doing the Math: Aliens and Advanced Tech in Science Fiction”. After reading Liu Cixin’s Three-Body Problem, maybe that’s a relief?

Everyone loves them some aliens. But …if the encounter is to work out to the satisfaction of all concerned, it is best if the aliens not be too advanced (because they could brush us aside like ants) or too primitive (we might brush them aside like ants). No, there’s a Goldilocks zone for aliens, in which they are close to the same tech level as humans … and can interact peaceably with us.

Which leads me to wonder: just how likely is it that two unconnected civilizations could reach the same technological level (roughly) at the same time?

Time for some large, round numbers….

(5) EXCEEDING THE READ LIMIT. Walter Mosley declares, “Enough with the Victors Writing History”, at LitHub.

I have studied the great powers that vie to control what they want us to believe about the past; but I don’t identify with them. I identify with the librarians who, when asked by GW Bush to report on their visitors’ reading habits, held up a hand and said, “First Amendment.” I identify with outsider artists and labor organizers and autodidacts who either refuse to or are unable to believe in the lies foisted upon us by the conquerors. I identify with the belief that there exists a history out there just beyond the reach of our powers of cognition. And I believe that a lie is a lie; that if you coexist with a population that helped to build your house, your culture, your music, a population that helped to raise your children and fine-tune your language, and you deny that culture’s impact on who you are… then your knowledge of history will fail you and the past will devour you and your children.

If you deny your past your future will be a detour around your fondest hopes and dreams…

Daniel Dern sent the link with a note, “While best known for his detective fiction, Mosley has written a handful of sf… and is a big sf fan… I’ve got a photo from Millennial PhilCon (Worldcon 2001) of him and Orson Scott Card, just after they met and near-simultaneously said to the other ‘I’m a huge fan.’”

(6) WOMBAT TO RETURN TO ALBUQUERQUE. Kevin Sonney boosts the signal –

(7) A MARTIAN ODYSSEY. Chabeli Herrera in the Orlando Sentinel reports that the Kennedy Space Center has opened up the Astronaut Training Experience, which simulates a trip to Mars by having visitors “strap onto a microgravity simulator: and then carry out a repair on the space station.  There’s also a simulation of Mars Base 1, where visitors can “work together to solve various technical problems” including “programming a team of robots to clean dust off the base’s solar panels.” — “Like real astronaut training, Kennedy Space Center’s new simulators let you work in zero gravity, drive Mars rover”.

Like a scene from “The Martian,” the botany lab in Mars Base 1 at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex grows vegetables under the glow of fluorescent purple lights.

But it’s not all potatoes like in the 2015 film. This room can grow anything from cress to tomatoes, and all of the crops are planted and harvested by guests playing astronaut for the day.

The botany room is one of several new features at Kennedy Space Center’s Astronaut Training Experience Center, a two-year project designed to simulate astronaut training and work on Mars. The attraction opened in February, but officials gathered Thursday to officially kick off the opening of the ATX with representatives from its sponsor, aerospace company Lockheed Martin.

(8) SPEAK MEMORY. Hear the Harlan Ellison Memorial Panel at Worldcon 76:

(9) SHELLEY OBIT. Actress Carole Shelley (1939-2018), who appeared on stage in The Odd Couple and Wicked, and voiced characters in the Disney animated movies The Aristocats (1970) and Robin Hood (1973), died August 31 reports the New York Times:

A new generation of theatergoers knew Ms. Shelley for originating a less sympathetic character in the musical “Wicked,” a prequel of sorts to L. Frank Baum’s novel “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”

The show opened in 2003 with Kristin Chenoweth as Glinda, the putatively good witch, and Idina Menzel as Elphaba, who becomes the Wicked Witch of the West. (“Wicked” was still running on Broadway, with a different cast, when Ms. Shelley died.)

Ms. Shelley played Madame Morrible, a college official who pairs Glinda and Elphaba as roommates. She later helps arrange a series of events that push Elphaba toward wickedness.

(10) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • September 7, 1958  — Queen of Outer Space premiered.
  • September 7, 2017 – Jerry Pournelle died. Cat Eldridge notes: “Author, The Mote in God’s Eye with Larry Niven, numerous other works including the Janissary series, and superb tech commentary writer as well. His Byte column was something I very much looked forward to reading every month.”

(11) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge.]

  • Born September 7 – Karen Frenkel, 63. Author, Robots: Machines in Man’s Image (1985) with Isaac Asimov. Available on her website.

(12) COMICS SECTION.

  • A Hollywood in-joke you’ll all get – Long Story Short.
  • Scene from a comic con by Nigel Auchterlounie —

(13) HIGH CONCEPT. This December in Infinity Wars: Fallen Guardian #1.

(14) CATS IN THE VICINITY OF SFF. David D. Levine made a fan —

(15) ONE RING TO RULE THEM ALL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Data from the Chandra X-ray telescope has been combined with optical data to image a distant galaxy that seems to be encircled by black holes and/or neutron stars (International Business Times: “Ring Made Of Black Holes? Massive Cosmic Structure Found Encircling Distant Galaxy”). Galaxy AM 0644-741 was involved in a recent (astronomically speaking) collision with another galaxy that boosted star formation. The most massive of those stars had a very short life and have since gone supernova, leaving behind black holes and neutron stars.

Out of the newborn baby stars, the most massive ones probably led a short life, spanning on the scale of millions of years. They lost their nuclear fuel with time and exploded as supernovae, where the majority of the stellar material is blown away, leaving black holes 5 to 20 times heavier than the sun or dense neutron stars carrying approximately same mass as the sun.

This indicates the ring is either made from stellar-mass black holes or neutron stars that are accompanied by close companion stars. The dense objects are drawing gas from their stellar counterparts, forming a super-hot spinning disk which acts as a detectable X-ray source for Chandra.

Though the researchers behind the discovery — a team from INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Brera, Italy — couldn’t confirm the identity of individual sources making up the ring, they believe this could either be a case of all black holes or all neutron stars, or a mix of both.

The NASA website (“Cosmic Collision Forges Galactic One Ring—in X-rays”) that AM 0644-741 is only one of several galaxies with such X-ray rings and adds a link to the pre-print article on the arXiv service.

The paper describing the study of AM 0644 and its sister ring galaxies appeared in the August 10, 2018 issue of the Astrophysical Journal and is available online. The co-authors of the paper are Antonella Fruscione from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., and Michela Mapelli from INAF-Osservatorio Astronomico di Padova in Padova, Italy.

(16) PULPFEST DATES IN 2019. The dates for PulpFest 2019 are the same weekend at the Dublin 2019 Worldcon but that may not represent an actual conflict for more than a few fans.

PulpFest 2019 will take place from Thursday, August 15, through Sunday, August 18. We’ll be returning to the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Pittsburgh – Cranberry, just north of Pennsylvania’s “Steel City.” PulpFest will be joined by FarmerCon. Hopefully, they’re not too hung over from this year’s Philip José Farmer centennial.

Start making your plans for the 48th convening of PulpFest and its celebration of mystery, adventure, science fiction, and more. Join us for “Children of the Pulps and Other Stories” at “Summer’s Great Pulp Con.” Please bring your friends!

(17) ALMOST. James Davis Nicoll credits John Varley for showing us “How to Make a Near-Utopia Interesting: John Varley’s Eight World Stories” at Tor.com.

Peace and prosperity sound like they’re good things, but perhaps not for authors. What kind of plots can be imagined if the standard plot drivers are off the table? How does one tell stories in a setting that, while not a utopia, can see utopia at a distance ? The premise seems unpromising, but thirteen stories and a novel argue that one can write absorbing narratives in just such a setting. So how did Varley square this particular circle?

(18) AN OSCAR ON HOLD. About that new “popular film” Oscar? Like the Magic Eight-Ball says – “Ask again later” — “Oscars postpone plans for new popular film category”.

…The award, which could have recognised films popular with audiences but not critics, was only announced last month.

In a statement, the Academy’s CEO said she had “recognised the need for further discussion” with its members about the proposal first.

…In previous years, films which have done well at the box office with audiences – including Mamma Mia, Avatar and the Mission Impossible franchise – have been snubbed by the Academy.

The Oscars’ organisers did not elaborate in their August announcement how eligibility for the new category would have been established.

Some Hollywood critics suggested the new category’s “popular” tag was confusing and could risk creating a two-tier system among films.

It was feared films praised by critics and audiences alike, such as Dunkirk and Get Out, would risk being relegated to the new category rather than standing a chance in the prestigious Best Film award category.

(19) MORE RUBY SLIPPER NEWS. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Smithsonian has a little more info, including how the recovered shoes were authenticated, as well as more info about the ownership of this pair and the others pairs still extant: “After 13-Year Chase, F.B.I. Nabs Pair of Dorothy’s Ruby Slippers”.

…The slippers, it turns out, were not actually owned by the Judy Garland Museum. Instead, they were property of a collector named Michael Shaw, who purchased them in 1970 for a mere $2,000, reports Jennifer Medina for The New York Times. Shaw, who also owns one of Dorothy’s dresses, a witch’s hat and a munchkin outfit from the 1939 movie, was in the habit of loaning out the slippers to museums around the country, donating his display fee to children’s charities. The slippers were on display as part of a 10-week traveling tour when they were stolen on the night of August 28. According to a press release from the Grand Rapids police, a thief or thieves broke into the museum’s back door and smashed open the plexiglass case. There were no cameras on the premises and the museum’s alarm failed to sound.

…After the shoes were apprehended, the F.B.I. brought them to the Smithsonian, which owns another pair of slippers used in the filming, to confirm their ruby slippers were the real deal. For the last two years, Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has been analyzing and conserving a different pair of slippers donated to the museum in the late 1970s as part of a Kickstarter campaign. The F.B.I. brought the purloined pair to objects conservator Dawn Wallace for a look.

“We were able to spend two days looking at them and doing close examination as well as some analysis,” Wallace tells Smithsonian.com. “Not only did we have a physical examination, but we were able to conduct some technical analysis of the material to confirm that they were in fact consistent.”

Wallace says two other details cinched the case: First, it’s difficult to fake 80 years of aging on a pair of shoes. Second, the pair in the Smithsonian’s collection is actually a mismatched pair of ruby slippers, with the left sized “5C” and the right sized “5BC.” The pair recovered by the F.B.I. turned out to be the mates of the museum’s shoes (which are set to go back on display in a climate-controlled case on October 19)….

Since Mr. Shaw had received an $800,000 insurance settlement quite some time ago, the shoes belong to the insurance company now.

(20) FOYLES SOLD:BBC reports “Waterstones buys Foyles to defend bookshops against Amazon” – the Foyles Charing Cross Road location hosted this year’s Clarke Award announcement.

Waterstones is buying the 115 year-old family-owned chain Foyles, saying the deal will help to “champion” real bookshops in the face of online rivals.

The sale includes Foyles’ well-known Charing Cross Road store in central London, which was relocated to larger premises in 2014.

Waterstones said the deal would help booksellers fight back against Amazon’s “siren call”.

The larger chain has 283 bookshops across the UK and northern Europe.

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

Pixel Scroll 8/26/18 Pixels Of Unusual Size? I Don’t Think They Exist

(1) ALL SYSTEMS WIN. Martha Wells posted a Worldcon 76 report including her experiences at the Hugo Awards ceremony —

Then we got to novella, and I was extremely nervous. I felt like I had a strong chance and was hopeful, but it was still awesome to win. I managed to get up the stairs to the stage, give my speech without crying (After the Nebula Awards I didn’t want to be the author who cries all the time.) (I saved it all up for Monday, when every time anyone said anything nice to me, I would start crying.) Managed to get down the Stairs of Doom backstage with the help of about four people, got stopped to get a photo outside the auditorium in the reception area, went back in the wrong door and could not get it open and had to thump on it until the backstage people heard me, and then got back to my seat in time to see Nnedi Okorafor win for Best YA novel and N.K. Jemisin win for Best Novel!

And she has some Worldcon photos on her Tumblr.

(2) DIGBY IN ONE PLACE. The Golds reminded readers today about the extended electronic edition of Tom Digby’s amazing fanwriting that’s available online, “Along Fantasy Way”. Originally produced for the 1993 Worldcon where Tom was a guest of honor, the collection was expanded in its 2014 digital version. What a treasure trove of wonderfully creative idea-tripping. Delightful poetry, too – for example:

…OR MINERAL(2/07/76)

Pet rocks are OK, but some people prefer more variety.
The guy upstairs from me
Has a 1947 Chevrolet engine block.
I think his apartment is too small for it,
But there it is.
And the family down the street
With the goldfish pond in the yard
Has an old ship’s anchor
To keep the fish company.

But of all the inorganic pets in the neighborhood,
The happiest is an old beer can
Belonging to a small boy.
It would never win a prize at a show:
Too many dents
And spots of rust
And paint flaking off.
And besides, it’s a brand of beer
Most people don’t like.
But that doesn’t really matter.
What matters is FUN
Like afternoons when they go for a walk:
The can leaps joyously ahead
CLATTERDY RATTLEDY CLANG BANG!
Then lies quietly waiting for its master to catch up
Before leaping ahead again.
I may get a beer can myself some day.

But I still don’t think it’s right
To keep a 1947 Chevrolet engine block
Cooped up in such a small apartment.

The collection is illustrated by Phil and Kaja Foglio.

(3) ALL BRADBURY ALL THE TIME. A very nice set of Bradbury quotes at Blackwing666: “Ray Bradbury – Born August 22, 1920”

(4) GUNNED DOWN. You could see this coming. The Hollywood Reporter says “‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3’ Production Put on Hold”. The studio still expects to make the movie later on.

Sources say that crewmembers, which is, at this stage, a small group that was prepping for preproduction, are being dismissed and are free to look for new work.

The Marvel project was originally to have been directed by James Gunn and was to have begun principal photography in the winter, either in January or February. The project was crewing up and was to have gone into full preproduction mode in the fall.

But Gunn was let go as the director in July when old tweets were resurfaced in response to his vocal political posts. While some held out hope that the director would be given a reprieve by Disney, a mid-August meeting with Disney chairman Alan Horn closed the door on that.

(5) LAST DAYS OF BANG ON EARTH. Big Bang Theory has started production of its final season.

Let What Culture tell you Why The Big Bang Theory Just Got Cancelled.

(6) HUGO STATISTIC. I don’t have time to check. Could be….

(7) HOW THEY STACK UP. Rocket Stack Rank’s Eric Wong writes:

With the recent release of the TOC for the Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy 2018 (BASFF), I’ve updated RSR’s 2017 Best SF/F Anthologies article with the 20 stories in that anthology plus their honorable mentions.

The grand total from five 2017 “year’s best” SF/F anthologies is 114 stories by 91 authors, from which we can make the following observations:

o   Magazines: Asimov’s (12), Clarkesworld (9), Lightspeed (9)

o   Anthologies: Visions, Ventures, Escape Velocities (3/7), Extrasolar(5/14), Infinity Wars (5/15)

o   Nancy Kress (3), Rich Larson (3), Robert Reed (3), Alastair Reynolds(3)

To see other outstanding stories that didn’t make it into the five “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, go to RSR’s 2017 Best SF/F article, which has also been updated with the BASFF stories for a total of 256 stories by 201 authors.

(8) TODAY IN HISTORY

  • August 26, 1953The War of the Worlds premiered. (“Welcome to California!”)

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

[Compiled by Cat Eldridge]

  • Born August 26 — Katherine Johnson, 100. NASA mathematician and physicist awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom by Obama in 2015. Her work made space travel possible. And yes she’s African-American as well! (Makers has a post celebrating her birthday.)
  • Born August 26 — Barbara Ehrenreich, 77. Social activist and author of one genre novel, Kipper’s Game which gets compared to the works of Connie Willis.
  • Born August 26 — Stephen Fry, 61. Narrator, all of the Harry Potter audiobook recordings, Col. K. In the animated Dangermouse series and any number of other delightfully interesting genre related undertakings.
  • Born August 26 — Wanda De Jesus, 60. Genre work includes Robocop 2, SeaQuest 2032, Tales from The DarksideBabylon 5, and Ghosts of Mars
  • Born August 26 — Melissa McCarthy, 48. Now starring in The Happytime Murders which apparently is the first film from the adult division of Jim Henson Productions. Also Ghostbusters: Answer the Call.
  • Born August 26 — Chris Pine, 38. James T. Kirk in the current Trek film franchise; also Steve Trevor in the Wonder Woman film franchise as well as A Wrinkle in Time and Rise Of The Guardians.

(10) COMICS SECTION.

  • Brevity shows some movie dinosaurs who keep comic back.

(11) SPACE ANNIVERSARY. JPL celebrates “15 Years in Space for NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope”, an instrument that has far outlasted its predicted useful life.

Launched into a solar orbit on Aug. 25, 2003, Spitzer was the final of NASA’s four Great Observatories to reach space. The space telescope has illuminated some of the oldest galaxies in the universe, revealed a new ring around Saturn, and peered through shrouds of dust to study newborn stars and black holes. Spitzer assisted in the discovery of planets beyond our solar system, including the detection of seven Earth-size planets orbiting the star TRAPPIST-1, among other accomplishments.

 

(12) OH NO, WHERE CAN THE MATTER BE. Gizmodo reports “Scientists Will Soon Drop Antimatter to See How It Behaves in Gravity”.

In a new study, physicists attempted to find differences between matter and antimatter—confusingly, also a kind of matter, but with the opposite charge and other differences. It’s like an evil twin. Confusingly, the universe has way more matter than antimatter, for no clear reason. Physicists haven’t found the specific differences they were looking for when studying the antimatter version of hydrogen, called antihydrogen, but they have demonstrated a way to study antimatter better than ever before.

Mike Kennedy forwarded the link with the note, “It’s a complicated story, and mostly about recent measurements of the Lyman-? emission lines of anti-hydrogen… in particular it being the same wavelength as for hydrogen <http://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-018-0435-1>. The bit about laser cooling anti-hydrogen and dropping it to observe how it reacts to gravity is IIUC speculative at this point.”

(13) MORE ON NEXT SHATNER RECORD. SYFY Wire brings us news that William Shatner is releasing a holiday album (“William Shatner teases Christmas cover record: Shatner Claus”):

Set phasers to jolly.

The legendary actor and musician William Shatner is giving us another reason to be excited about the holiday season. Shatner tweeted the Amazon link to pre-order his first upcoming record: Shatner Claus The Christmas Album. You can add the self-described godfather of dramatic musical interpretation’s album digital audio, CD, or vinyl in your letter to the North Pole. With vinyl record sales on the constant rise, it’s exciting to see if this will find Shatner Claus’ sleigh riding its way to the top of the Billboard charts.

(14) JURASSIC BLETCHLEY PARK. In “Dinosaur DNA clues unpicked by researchers at University of Kent”, scientists are theorizing-from-clues that dinosaur DNA, like birds’, had many chromosomes, making mix-and-match easier.

Researchers at the University of Kent say their work uncovers the genetic secret behind why dinosaurs came in such a variety of shapes and sizes.

This variation helped the creatures evolve quickly in response to a changing environment – helping them to dominate Earth for 180 million years.

But the researchers behind the DNA work say they have no plans to recreate dinosaurs, Jurassic Park style.

(15) FLAME OFF. BBC assures us, “Yes, Antarctica has a fire department”.

But fighting fires in freezing temperatures also calls for some specialist equipment.

Surprisingly, water is still an option. McMurdo’s fire engine has a pump, which cycles water constantly through the vehicle to prevent it from freezing.

Remembering to set the pump going is, says Branson, a lesson quickly learned.

“You do not want to be the person who freezes all the water in the fire engine. Then you’re stuck with a 500 gallon engine with an ice block in it… and nobody on base is going to like you.”

(16) BEARLY VISIBLE. BBC has video: “Bear roams ‘The Shining’ hotel in Colorado”. It’s a good thing Jack Nicholson didn’t try swinging an axe at this guest….

A bear was filmed going through the lobby of the hotel that inspired Stephen King’s classic horror novel in Colorado.

(17) YOUR MILEAGE MAY VARY. While excavating on YouTube, Carl Slaughter found Frankenstein Meets the Space Monster (1965): “Frankenstein, ie, Frank the android, does battle with a Martian beast to prevent a Martian princess from replenishing Mars with voluptuous and sometimes bikini-clad Earth women.  The Pentagon monitors the situation and tries to lend Frank a hand.  Turns out Frank wears an Air Force uniform and holds military rank  – like Data.  This is in the so bad it’s good category.”

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

Pixel Scroll 7/25/18 Pun For A Headline, Pixels Comment Underground

(1) DILLON KICKSTARTER. A Kickstarter to crowdfund “Daydreamer’s Journey, a new Art Book by Julie Dillon” was launched July 24. Dillon is one of the top artists in the field, a three-time Hugo Award winner (plus five Chesley Awards, three Locus Awards, and a British Fantasy Award).

I absolutely love to draw and paint, and art has been a vital part of my life for as long as I can remember.  Art can offer an escape as well as an invitation; a way to process one’s experience of the world, a way to offer a different perspective. It can illuminate and reveal the magic lurking just beneath the surface of the world, and that is what I’ve attempted to do throughout my career as an artist.

I’ve put together an art book that will let me share with you more of my art and ideas than I ever have before….

Daydreamer’s Journey will be a 200 page 8.5″ x 11″ hardcover book, on beautiful thick glossy paper. This book will contain personal work, freelance projects, sketches, studies, and illustration drafts, some of which either has never been posted online or that hasn’t been available online in over a decade. Also included will be my commentary and thoughts, as well as progress shots for most pieces so you can see part of my painting and brainstorming process.

With 29 days to go, Dillon so far has raised $12,653 of her $18,500 goal.

(2) #METOO AT COMIC-CON. SFGate evaluates the attention to antiharassment efforts at this year’s Comic-Con International in San Diego: “Comic-Con in the #MeToo Era: Progress Comes One Panel at a Time”.

…Officially, Comic-Con was silent about #MeToo. When SDCC programming director Eddie Ibrahim gave his traditional kick off speech in Hall H on Thursday morning, notably absent was any mention of the convention’s harassment policies. That continued for all four days of the convention.

…Comic-Con for its part has chosen not to update those anti-harassment policies, which state in part that “harassing or offensive behavior will not be tolerated,” and that “persons finding themselves in a situation where they feel their safety is at risk or who become aware of an attendee not in compliance with this policy” should seek out security or SDCC staff.

Whatever actions the organization is taking behind the scenes, it ultimately chose not to discuss them publicly. Comic-Con International did not immediately respond to a request for comment from TheWrap

Unofficially, fans and creators were frequently vocal in support of greater inclusion and representation, and in talking about harassment and abuse.

The panel for NBC’s “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” on Friday night was a particular stand out, with cast members, producers, and fans touching on a range of sensitive issues. Notably, one fan thanked Terry Crews, who accused William Morris Endeavor agent Adam Venit of groping him, “for your part in #MeToo,” adding, “I’m so sorry for all of us that are part of #MeToo that you have to be part of it.”

And at a panel called “The Future Is Female,” “Bumblebee” and “Birds of Prey” screenwriter Christina Hodson got huge cheers and lots of knowing muttering when she celebrated the successes of the #MeToo era but noted that much work remains.

“Nine months ago, no one gave a s—. Like, no one cares what happens. Now everything has shifted. So I think behavior on set, in writers’ rooms, that’s all going to shift. So I’m very happy about that,” she said.

(3) ELFQUEST PROFILED. Rob Beschizza explores “The Weird Of Wendy Pini” at BoingBoing. “Voices from another world spoke with sublime otherness, helping an indie cartoonist face down prudes, pain and the patriarchy.”

Elfquest began in 1978 and concluded this spring, forty years in the telling. Devised and written with her husband Richard, its story follows the Wolfrider clan and its chief, Cutter, burned from their ancient forest home by vengeful humans. Sweeping from a rough fantasy premise to epic science fiction, the Wolfriders find other elfin refugees, the derelict spaceship of their shape-shifting ancestors, and unsettling truths concerning their own nature. At its sales peak, the magazine-sized pamphlets were selling 100,000 copies at an intersection of fandom rarely seen in comic book stores: women, queer folk, people of color.

The American Library Association describes Elfquest as “one of the most important works in American fantasy”. Georgy Khoury and Alex Ross, in Comic Book Fever, call it one of the “first long-form sagas of the art form,” unique for its “confident and inspired storytelling.” Artist and historian Trina Robbins told me that Wendy’s strong women characters were responsible for getting countless young girls into comics. Elfquest was one of the books targeted as obscene material in the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund’s first case. Buzzfeed ranked it as the most life-changing graphic novel of all time.

(4) TODAY’S VISION. Rick Liebling recalibrates the historic look of sf in a post for Medium: “The Aesthetics of Science Fiction. What does SciFi Look Like After Cyberpunk?” (First in a two-part series.)

But now, some three decades-plus since we first “saw” Cyberpunk, what do we have now? Is there a unifying visual idea that we associate with modern (2000 and beyond) science fiction? I’ve noticed over the last decade or so that there are some recurring themes. Perhaps not exclusive to science fiction – in the same way that the Cyberpunk aesthetic wasn’t exclusive to science fiction (see: Black Rain) – but that I’ve seen recurring in genre work.

I call it Hard Concrete.

Like Cyberpunk and Atomic Age &Space Age design before it, Hard Concrete is linked to the realities of the times. If Cyberpunk was the visual embodiment of the corporation as mysterious behemoth, Hard Concrete parallels a world where corporations and governments have been exposed as brutal, uncaring and stripped of their shiny, mirror-glass facades. They may be no less controlling, violent or malevolent, they just no longer bother to hide it.

(5) ORDER ME ANOTHER SCREWDRIVER. The Thirteenth Doctor has a collectible out already: “Jodie Whittaker Reveals the New Sonic Screwdriver Fan Collectible at San Diego Comic-Con”.

Today in Hall H at San Diego Comic-Con, Jodie Whittaker revealed the new Sonic Screwdriver Fan Collectible, a replica of the one her character will use in the new series of Doctor Who, now available to pre-order.

Designer Arwel Wyn Jones talked through the new sonic; “It’s a privilege to have been asked to redesign the iconic Sonic Screwdriver for the Thirteenth Doctor and a new generation of audiences.  I can’t wait for people to see how the Doctor acquires it!”

(6) ORIGINAL WONDER. Al Abbazia’s superb Rockwell-inspired Saturday Evening Post magazine cover featuring Wonder Woman can be seen on Facebook. The artist said:

It’s beyond gratifying that the granddaughter of William Marston, creator of Wonder Woman, found me and took a special liking of my art piece, saying it honored her family. My daughter, Emily Claire Abbazia (who came up with the concept) and myself thank you Christie Marston 🙂

And thank you to the wonderful Shiree Collier for her excellent modeling and Gal Gadot for that pretty face.

(7) ‘WARTS AND ALL. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] Those cunning Danes are at it again, dreaming up ways to take your money. LEGO has announced a new Hogwarts set (io9: “Lego’s New 6,020-Piece Hogwarts Castle Set Is Huge and Pricey”) priced at a “mere” $399.99. It’s built on their “microscale” standard, to use microfigs rather than the more familiar minifigs—presumably to keep the both the overall size and the price in check.

Quoting the io9 article:

…Lego is also bundling 27 microfigures with the set, including Dumbledore, Harry, Ron, Hermione, Draco, Snape, McGonagall, Remus, Umbridge, and even Lord Voldemort, as well as Aragog the spider, the Basilisk, a Hungarian Horntail dragon, and five dementors.

There are minifigs involved, thogugh. The founders of the four houses of Hogwarts (Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Salazar Slytherin, and Rowena Ravenclaw) are included in minifig form. Writing for io9, Andrew Liszewski seems taken by the quality of the set:

Despite the smaller overall footprint of the set, Lego has still managed to stuff an incredible amount of detail into Hogwarts, including the castle’s Great Hall, the library, potions class, the Room of Requirement, the giant chess set, and the Chamber of Secrets, among other places for the microfigures to re-enact scenes from the books and movies.

(8) KGB READINIGS. Fantastic Fiction at KGB reading series hosts Ellen Datlow and Matthew Kressel present Michael Swanwick and Jeffrey Ford on Wednesday, August 15, 7 p.m. at the KGB Bar.

Michael Swanwick

Michael Swanwick has received the Nebula, Theodore Sturgeon, World Fantasy and Hugo Awards, and has the pleasant distinction of having been nominated for and lost more of these same awards than any other writer. He has written ten novels, over a hundred and fifty short stories, and countless works of flash fiction. His latest novel The Iron Dragon’s Mother, will be published by Tor Books in 2019

Jeffrey Ford

Jeffrey Ford is the author of the novels The PhysiognomyThe Girl in the GlassThe Portrait of Mrs. CharbuqueThe Shadow Year, and the four collections: The Empire of Ice CreamThe Drowned LifeCrackpot Palace, and A Natural History of Hell. His most recent novel is Ahab’s Return: Or The Last Voyage published by HarperCollins. He has been the recipient of the Nebula Award, the World Fantasy Award, and the Edgar Award. He lives in Ohio and teaches writing part time at Ohio Wesleyan University.

The KGB is at 85 East 4th Street (just off 2nd Ave, upstairs) New York, NY. Website: www.kgbfantasticfiction.org.

(9) COMICS SECTION.

(10) WORLDCON 76 BUSINESS MEETING AGENDA. More items have been added, so WSFS Secretary Linda Deneroff suggests you re-check the Business Meeting Agenda.

(11) ONE IS THE ONLIEST NUMBER. James Davis Nicoll asks “What’s With Sci-Fi’s Fixation on Single-Gendered Planets?” at Tor.com.

I recently reread three thematically similar books: Poul Anderson’s Virgin Planet, A. Bertram Chandler’s Spartan Planet, and Lois McMaster Bujold’s Ethan of Athos. All three imagine single-gender planets: worlds whose populations are either all men or all women. This particular selection of books to reread and review was mere chance, but it got me thinking…

There are actually quite a few speculative fiction books set on single-gender planets (in which gender is mainly imagined in terms of a binary model) 1. Most of them are what-if books. As one might expect, they come up with different extrapolations….

(12) REMEMBERING THE PAPERBACK REVOLUTION. Kim Huett of Doctor Strangemind, in “Doubling Down With Don Wollheim”, says “The Ace Double paperbacks have long been a favourite of science fiction collectors. So here are 15 amazing facts about the Ace Doubles, #6 will shock you to your very core (he claims tongue in cheek).”

…So how similar was the packaging? Well this is the cover of the very first Signet Double….

And this is the cover of the very first Ace Double….

Okay, so they don’t look that alike and the Ace artwork is decidedly pulpier in style. But then it would be, wouldn’t it? Don Wollheim wasn’t going to try and muscle in on Signet’s classier patch. No, Don Wollheim was going to do what he knew best and let’s not forget that Don’s editorial career had begun with Cosmic Stories and Stirring Science Stories, two of the pulpiest of the pulp magazines.

Covers not withstanding it’s pretty clear to me that the Ace books borrowed a lot of layout detail from Signet. If you have any doubt about that compare the spine of Signet’s Knock On Any Door with the spine of a 1958 Ace Double featuring Eric Frank Russell I just happen to have laying about.

Oh, Don Wollheim you clever scamp.

Now you might be thinking that this is all very well but really, what did the Ace Doubles do other than borrow some layout details from Signet? The core feature, the two different novels in one volume, well that’s clearly unique to Ace, isn’t it? Now if you’ve been thinking anything like that then you are so very wrong. Consider the examples pictured below and their publication dates; Two Complete Detective Books (Winter 1939), Two Daring Love Novels (January 1948); and Two Complete Science-Adventure Books (Winter 1950). Three magazine titles that predated Ace Doubles by years (and the first two even left Kurt Enoch and his Signet Doubles in their dust).

(13) THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD. At Tor.com, James Davis Nicoll complains that “Classic Sci-Fi Star Systems Keep Getting Ruined by Science”. Well, complains is probably overstating things….

There are a lot of SF novels, particularly ones of a certain vintage, that feature that particular set of stars. If one is of that vintage (as I am), Alpha Centauri, Epsilon Indi, Epsilon Eridani, Procyon, and Tau Ceti are old friends, familiar faces about whom one might comment favourably when it turns out, for example, that they are orbited by a pair of brown dwarfs or feature an unusually well-stocked Oort cloud. “What splendid asteroid belts Epsilon Eridani has,” one might observe loudly, in the confident tone of a person who never has any trouble finding a seat by themselves on the bus.

In fiction, Procyon is home to L. Sprague de Camp’s Osiris, Larry Niven’s We Made It, and Gordon R. Dickson’s Mara and Kultis, to name just a few planets. Regrettably, Procyon A should never ever have been tagged as “possesses potentially habitable worlds.” Two reasons: solar orbits and Procyon B’s DA classification.

(14) THE LATE MR. ELLISON. Mark Evanier tells “A Harlan Ellison Story” at News From Me.

Now with Harlan’s passing, the Internet is filled with remembrances and honors and cyber-mourning and tributes, and in lot of them you’ll see some version of the phrase, “He inspired me to become a writer.” Harlan did a lot of that. He inspired people in other ways, as well. He occasionally inspired someone to hate Harlan Ellison but we won’t go into that here. Here, I’m celebrating him for inspiring so many people in a good way. Like I said, he was a writer who made other writers proud to be writers.

So many of us learned good, valuable things from him but a few writers I can think of learned to yell and scream about every rewrite, every note, every alteration. I can’t guarantee the following but supposedly, someone once asked Ray Bradbury if it was a wise idea for a writer to fight about each bit of interference the way Harlan did. Bradbury reportedly replied — and this sure sounds like an answer he’d give — “I don’t know if that’s okay but if you try it, check first and make sure you have the talents of a Harlan Ellison.”

…But he was late with so much of what he wrote, and I suspect…well, I know there are writers who think, “If Harlan Ellison can be weeks/months/years late, so can I.” To quote Ray Bradbury again, assuming he even said it, “I don’t know if that’s okay but if you try it, check first and make sure you have the talents of a Harlan Ellison.”

One might argue that he was not late with the Batman story he promised in 1971 to write for Julie Schwartz since he never had a firm deadline. But it finally saw print in the October, 1986 issue of Detective Comics, fifteen years later…and eight years after Julie had stepped down as the editor of Detective Comics. Deadline or no deadline, that’s late…

And all that is just an introduction to the story Evanier promised in the title….

(15) MORE TO BE READ. Publishers Weekly lists books of interest to adult-age readers of children’s literature in the ambiguously-titled post “2018 Adult Books on Children’s Lit”:

From an analysis of the psychological impact of fairy tales to an illustrated biography of a well-known illustrator and a book about the landscape that inspired Anne of Green Gables, there’s plenty to inform and inspire adult readers of children’s books.

What are we talking about? Here are three of the titles on the list:

Astrid Lindgren: War Diaries 1939–1945

By Astrid Lindgren, translated from the Swedish by Sarah Death (Feb. 27, Yale, $20 paper, ISBN 978-0-300-23456-5).

Originally released in hardcover in 2016, the wartime diaries of the author of Pippi Longstocking are now in paperback.

Daemon Voices: On Stories and Storytelling

By Philip Pullman (Sept. 18, Knopf, $30 ISBN 978-0-525-52117-4).

The author of the His Dark Materials series shares the secrets behind how he writes his influential novels.

Meg, Jo, Beth, Amy: The Story of Little Women and Why It Still Matters

By Anne Boyd Rioux (Aug. 28, Norton, $27.95, ISBN 978-0-393-25473-0).

In time for the 150th anniversary of the story of four American sisters, Rioux, a professor of gender studies, explores the impact the novel has had through its depiction of female growth.

(16) CALL GOES OUT. Manifold Press is relaunching and Managing Editor Farah Mendlesohn wants to spread the word.

As from today, we are delighted to announce that after a period of reorganisation, Manifold Press will relaunch on the 1st January 2019.

Please note: we are revamping our web pages so none of the menu links work. That will change bit by bit over August.  We’ll announce on the blog and on twitter and fb etc as we create new pages.

At our AGM in July we bade a fond farewell to Julie Bozza who is heading back to Australia; Fiona stood down as Managing Editor after 9 years with the press.

The new Board consists of Farah Mendlesohn (Managing Editor), Sandra Lindsey, Fiona Pickles and Aleksandr Voinov. We are actively recruiting others.

We have opened a new call for submissions.

(17) DO YOU GROWL WHEN YOU’RE PLEASED? The BBC story “The complicated truth about a cat’s purr” notes that cat research lags behind the study of dogs because dogs are more willing subjects….

Part of the mystery around the purr is that we often only notice cats purring “when we tickle them in places that they like to be tickled”, says Debevere. Yet they also purr when we’re not around, and the extent of that purring varies between individuals. “All cats are different, some never purr and some will purr constantly,” she says. She draws the comparison between her cat Luigi – a stray who followed someone in to their office and was subsequently taken to a shelter – and Archie, who “moved in from next door” and became part of the family. Luigi purrs little, and Archie a lot.

“I’ve photographed more than 3,000 cats so far [at shelters] and no two are the same,” Debevere says. “I’ve witnessed a lot of cats purring when they’re dying, and when they’re being put to sleep. The vet will say something like ‘They were purring right up until the end’, and people assume they’re happy when they’re purring. That’s just not always the case.”

(18) UH-OH. Sarah Kaplan and Joel Achenbach in the Washington Post report that the James Webb Space Telescope, which has already cost $7,6 billion, will have its launch delayed until 2021 because of screws that fell off of the sun shield during a test, leaving critics to argue that the telescope could be “too big to fail and too complicated to work.” “NASA’s next great space telescope is stuck on Earth after screwy errors”.

The Webb’s problems have rattled many powerful constituencies. NASA is embarrassed and dismayed by the human errors that have snarled its biggest robotic science project, which was identified by the astronomy community back in 2000 as its top priority.

(19) NOT THE SAME SHAPE. Judge dismisses The Shape of Water copyright suit – the BBC has the story.

The plot of Oscar-winning fantasy film The Shape of Water was not copied from a 1969 play, a US judge has ruled.

Judge Percy Anderson has dismissed a legal action that claimed Guillermo del Toro’s film copied the story of Let Me Hear You Whisper by Paul Zindel.

The late playwright’s son sued del Toro, the Fox Searchlight studio and others in February, claiming the two works were “in many ways identical”.

In his ruling, however, the judge said they only shared “a basic premise”.

(20) THE STARS THEIR DESTINATION. Something people of the future will be running into: “Japanese firm to launch wedding plaques into space”.

According to the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, the Warpspace start-up in the city of Tsukuba is working with Kibo, Japan’s orbital science module, to launch wedding plaques from the International Space Station.

The company, which is largely staffed by faculty members from the University of Tsubuka, says that it will engrave couples’ names, messages, and other information on titanium plaques, measuring some 16 millimetres by eight millimetres.

The plaques will then be loaded onto miniature cubic satellites, which can hold several hundred plaques, and be released into orbit. They will join the tens of thousands of satellites, man-made objects and space junk already orbiting the Earth.

(21) BATMAN’S AMBITION. On the Conan O’Brien show, “Batman Wants To Join The Marvel Universe.”

Batman is sick of the perpetually rainy and depressing DC Universe; he’d rather have a seat at the Avengers’ table.

 

[Thanks to John King Tarpinian, JJ, Hampus Eckerman, Cat Eldridge, Martin Morse Wooster, Chip Hitchcock, Mike Kennedy, Carl Slaughter, Daniel Dern, James Davis Nicoll, Julie Dillon, and Andrew Porter for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Anthony.]

Pixel Scroll 7/24/18 Interpixellary Loan Material: Do Not Remove This Scroll

(1) ASIA SF ASSOCIATION FOUNDED. The Asia Science Fiction Association held its first meeting on July 17 and chose these officers:

  • President: Liu Cixin (author Three-Body Problem)
  • Secretary: YK Yoon (Vice Chair, Korea SF Association)
  • Deputy Secretary: Regina Kanyu Wang  (Co-founder of Applecore), Feng Zhang (FAA), Dr. Arvind Mishra (secretary, Indian Science Fiction Writers Association)
  • Members: representatives of China, Egypt, India, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam etc.)

The Goals of the Society are:

a) to find ways and means of establishing contacts between the Science Fiction (SF) professionals and fans;

b) to ensure better mutual knowledge of SF literature and arts and of fandom activity in the Asian countries;

c) to propose the cognition of Asian SF in the rest of the world.

The first Asiacon will be held in Chengdu in 2019. Date and venue TBC.

More information about ASFA can be found on their website and Facebook.

(2) FUTURE TENSE. Joey Eschrich, Editor and Program Manager, Center for Science and the Imagination, and Assistant Director, Future Tense, sent the link to the latest story in the Future Tense Fiction series: “The Starfish Girl” by Maureen McHugh.

… LIAM CHAN (VOICE-OVER)
In 2017, Jinky was 11 years old, one of the top-ranked junior gymnasts in the U.S. Her family was contemplating an offer to train at the Iowa facility owned by gold-medal gymnast and coach, Gabby Douglas, when tragedy struck. During a routine vault in practice, Jinky overrotated, landed wrong, and fractured her spine, at the C5 vertebra.

She was paralyzed from the neck down. It seemed as if her gymnastics career, indeed, life as she knew it, was over.

CUT TO: Clip of J Mendoza in hospital bed, balloons.

LIAM CHAN (VOICE-OVER)
Then doctors proposed a radical new medical procedure. They would use starfish DNA to teach her body how to heal itself. The results were miraculous.

It was published along with a response essay by sports historian Victoria Jackson, “How Should Officials Decide When Cutting-Edge Medical Interventions for Athletes Cross the Line?”

Are elite athletes who undergo cutting-edge medical interventions after injuries benefiting from performance enhancement, and doing so to the degree that they should be barred from competition? What if the athlete suffered from an injury so traumatic that it made the medical intervention necessary? And anyway, if we expect these world-class athletes to strive to be the best—you know, whatever it takes—why should the organizations that govern competition have the power to force athletes out of certain treatments they deem to be on the bad side of “clean sports”?

(3) KHAN MAN. Theoden James, in “William Shatner explains why he refuses to watch ‘Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan’ again” in the Charlotte Observer, says that William Shatner will be in Charlotte this Sunday as part of a nationwide tour where people see Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan and then chat with Shat for an hour.  Shatner says that he’s still touring at 87 because “every time I wake up on a bad mattress, I know how heroic this is” and then plugs his two new albums, including his holiday album “Shatner Claus.”

What other projects have you got going on this year?

I’ve got two albums coming out, a country music album and a Christmas album. The country music album, called “Why Not Me?,” will be out in middle of the summer (Aug. 10), and then the Christmas album will be out in October. In between, there’s a book called “Live Long and …” We’re putting the final touches on it now, and I just keep thinking, “God, there’s something more I could have done there. I wish I’d done something here or something there.” There’s always this self-criticism, especially when you don’t have the ability to change anything anymore. And that’s frustrating. But you try and bring the lessons along for the next time.

And what’s the Christmas album called?

“Shatner Claus.”

That’s a great title. Did you come up with it?

No, I wish I had. I remember I was in a room somewhere with a few people, and somebody said, “What’ll we call it?” I said, “Gee, I don’t know.” Then somebody popped up with “Shatner Claus,” and we all laughed and said, “That’s it!” Just like you did. That settled it. There was no more discussion.

(4) QUACK AUDITION. Io9 has a rumor about DuckTales:

Don Cheadle—noted survivor of Thanos’ wrath—is the new voice of Donald Duck in a preview from Comic Con.

(5) THE YEAR OF THE EMERGENCY HOLOGRAPHIC TEXANS. Fanhistory resource Fanac.org has added videos of LoneStarCon 2’s 1997 Hugo Ceremony.

Part 1 (40 min.)

In this video, first Neal Barrett, Jr. delivers some comedic remarks. There are philosophy jokes, famous writer jokes, and even a National Republican Party Loyalty Test (which has nothing to do with politics). Next, there are presentations of several other awards, including the Seiun Awards and acceptance speech by Rob Sawyer, Forry Ackerman’s announcement of the Big Heart Award, and Stanley Schmidt’s presentation of the John Campbell award. Thanks to ALAMO (Alamo Literary Arts Maintenance Organization, Inc) for both these videos.

 

Part 2 (1:07 hr.)

In this video, the Hugos are awarded, interspersed with funny comments by Toastmaster Neal Barrett.

Presenters include Teddy Harvia, Pat Cadigan, Ellen Datlow, Guest of Honor Don Maitz, Robert Silverberg, Michael Moorcock and Algis Budrys.

Recipients include Martin Hoare, accepting for David Langford (with an unusual acceptance speech), Bob Eggleton (with much ado about hair), Gardner Dozois, Connie Willis and George R.R. Martin. George talks about his winning novella which is part of his novel, Game of Thrones. Stanley Kim Robinson won the Hugo for Best Novel at this event.

 

(6) RE-BUFFY. The Hollywood Reporter says “‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ Inclusive Reboot in the Works With Joss Whedon”

Buffy the Vampire Slayer is getting the reboot treatment.

20th Century Fox Television, who produced the original Joss Whedon drama, has offered a new take on the beloved Sarah Michelle Gellar drama in development. Writer Monica Owusu-Breen, who worked with Whedon on ABC’s Agents of SHIELD, has been hired to pen the adaptation and serve as showrunner on the reboot.

Whedon will be an executive producer on the series and has been working with Owusu-Breen on the script, which features a black actress stepping into the role of Buffy made famous by Gellar.

(7) UPC SCIENCE-FICTION AWARD. The Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya (UPC) has announced there’ll be a new award for SF and fantastic literature in Spain. (English translation, edited.)

The UPC [Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya en Barcelona] Science-Fiction Award will be given at the Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival

UPC, the Social Council of the University and the Sitges Foundation International Film Festival of Catalonia have signed, on July 20, an agreement through which the International Fantastic Film Festival of Sitges will host the award ceremony of the UPC Prize of Science-Fiction 2018, a prize that rewards unpublished stories in this literary genre.

The award ceremony of the UPC Science-Fiction Award will be held within the framework of the 51st International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia , which will take place in Sitges from October 4 to 14, 2018.

The awards ceremony will take place, In particular, during the Taboo’ks day , dedicated to fantastic literature and its connection to the audiovisual sector and whose goal is to be the seed of a future market for literary rights aimed at the audiovisual sector. Taboo’ks, which is supported by the Federation of Publishers’ Guild of Spain and the Saló Liber, will host the presentation of four works that can be adapted to the cinema and a project adapted to it.

The UPC Prize of Science-Fiction 2018 , organized by the Social Council of the Polytechnic University of Catalonia (UPC) since 1991, was convened in January of this year and the deadline for submission of candidatures ended the past June 15 The jury of the prize will meet next September to decide the winning works.

The agreement signed with the International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia Foundation also provides for the exploration of other avenues of collaboration with the UPC in future editions of the Festival, such as the organization of a hackató to design 3D models of characters Fantastic or a test competition to be overcome from a smartphone with geolocation.

(8) TRIVIAL TRIVIA

Nancy Lee Carlson won the Apollo 11 bag used by Neil Armstrong to collect moon dust for NASA in a lawsuit when the agency claimed it was their property. Carlson had purchased the bag for $995 at a government auction and sent it to NASA to be authenticated. The agency refused to return it so Carlson took them to court in Houston. Last year the judge awarded Carlson the bag, which she eventually sold for $1.8 million at Sotheby’s. [Source: Mental Floss]

(9) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 24 – Lynda Carter, 67. Wonder Woman series, of course, but genre roles include the Supergirl and Smallville series, and Slayer, a vampire film. Rumoured to have role in the forthcoming Wonder Woman film but that’s very much unconfirmed even at the just held SDCC.
  • Born July 24 – Doug Liman, 53. Producer, Knight Rider reboot, and the Nightflyers series where a crew of space explorers are on a mission to find and explore a mysterious alien ship. Gee I’m sure this has been done before…
  • Born July 24 – Patty Jenkins, 47. Wonder Woman and Wonder Woman 1984, appears in Robert Kirkman’s Secret History of Comics as herself in “The Truth About Wonder Woman” episode.
  • Born July 24 – Rose Byrne, 39. Roles in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones and several X-Men films; also in Peter Rabbit.
  • Born July 24 – Anna Paquin, 36. Sookie Stackhouse in the True Blood series,  and Rogue in the X-Men film franchise.
  • Born July 24 – Elisabeth Moss, 36. Roles in The Handmaid’s Tale, the animated Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, Ghost Whisperer, Medium, The Animaniacs and Batman: The Animated Series.
  • Born July 24 – Emily Bett Rickards, 27. Felicity Smoak in the Arrowverse, live and animated alike, also Paranormal Solutions Inc., a ghost hunters series, and Soldiers of the Apocalypse.

(10) WORLDCON 76 – NEW PROGRESS REPORT. Worldcon 76 Progress Report 4 can be downloaded by anyone.

Progress Report 4 is now available online. Over the next week, if you opted in to paper copies, you should see it in the mail. Check inside for information about Traincon, Tours, more places to visit while you’re in SJ (including wine country!), a shopping guide, and more memories from fans.

(11) WORLDCON 76 CHILD CARE.

(12) WTF? Yahoo! Entertainment is reporting “Marvel Provided Grief Counseling Sessions at Comic-Con for People Still Devastated by ‘Infinity War’ Ending”.

Marvel fans attending San Diego Comic-Con 2018 didn’t get the chance to see any footage from “Captain Marvel” or the upcoming fourth “Avengers” movie, but they did get a chance to grieve together over the “Infinity War” ending that left Spider-Man, Doctor Strange, Star Lord, Black Panther, and more superheroes dead. As reported by io9’s Germain Lussier, Marvel set up a booth near Petco Park in San Diego that offered grief counseling sessions for upset fans.

The booth featured posters with positive affirmation quotes like “We Are Groot” and “You are Stronger Than Vibranium.” Once inside, a group of 10-12 fans met with an actor posing as a counselor. The session included fans working their way through the following questions: What’s your first memory of the MCU? What was something it did that surprised you? What was it like when you saw the end of ‘Infinity War’? Who was the most shocking loss?

The final part of the process was the chance to take a group hug photo with a giant Hulk. While inside the booth, fans were treated to donuts and got the chance to watch a deleted scene from the movie. You can read more about the Marvel booth at io9.

(13) MAY WE PRAY. [Item by Mike Kennedy.] A rare authenticated Lunar Landed microfilm copy of the Bible—this one from Apollo 14—is going up for auction (LiveScience: “Rare ‘Lunar Bible’ That Visited the Moon Is Up for Auction”).

During the height of the race to the Moon, the Apollo Prayer League sponsored microfilmed copies of the King James Bible to sent on various Apollo missions. There were reportedly 512 copies on Apollo 14 alone, though only 100 of them were put in the Lunar Module to make the trip all the way to the Lunar surface.

Hundreds of these so-called lunar Bibles — 512, to be exact — were bundled in packets and carried by Apollo 14 to the moon. The lunar module held 100 copies, 200 copies were officially stowed in the command module and an additional 212 copies were secretly hidden aboard by NASA microbiologist and [Apollo Prayer League (APL)] board member Harold Hill prior to launch, according to APL.

Of those, 100 Bibles reached the moon’s surface with Mitchell. Only 11 copies of the Apollo 14 lunar Bibles bear official letters of authenticity signed by both [Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar Mitchell] and [APL director Rev. John M. Stout…]

The microfilm has been “mounted and framed in a gold-and-enamel setting” and the auction includes the Mitchell/Stout authenticity certification. Online bidding opens at $50,000 and runs through at least 5 PM PDT Thursday 26 July 2018. The auction is being handled by Nate D. Sanders Auctions.

(14) MORE POPULAR THAN JESUS? “Facebook angers Flanders with Rubens ban” – a classic painting is barred from FB due to underdressed corpse.

The Flanders Tourist Board has written an open letter protesting against Facebook’s “cultural censorship” of adverts showing paintings by Flemish painter Peter Paul Rubens.

The removed ad featured the artist’s The Descent from the Cross, which shows a bare-chested Jesus.

Following the ban, the authority made a satirical video with fake investigators ushering visitors out of a museum after they looked at similar paintings.

Facebook has not yet responded.

(15) PRESENT AT THE CREATION. In “China fossil tells new supercontinent story”, BBC reports on evidence that Pangaea lasted longer than previously thought.

A newly discovered dinosaur may be re-writing China’s geological history, according to recent findings.

The latest addition to the family of giant, long-necked dinosaurs known as sauropods, Lingwulong shenqi lived in the north of the country about 174 million years ago.

At this time, East Asia was thought to have split from the supercontinent Pangaea.

But Lingwulong may be evidence that that was not the case.

(16) NOT THAT YOU ASKED. Ron Charles in the Washington Post reports that a paper by four Dartmouth professors, led by anthropologist Nathaniel J. Dominy and English professor Donald J. Pease, conclude that the Lorax is based on patas monkeys Theodore Geisel saw during a trip to Kenya in 1970: “Is Dr. Seuss’s Lorax real? These professors may have solved a 47-year-old mystery”.

Now, almost a half-century after the Lorax first popped out of a stump, his real identity can be revealed. Four scholars, led by Dominy, explain their method like this: “We used eigenface decomposition methods to calculate facial similarities and we generated the plot with t-distributed stochastic neighbor embedding (t-SNE), an iterative algorithm that down-projects multidimensional information into two dimensions for visualization.”

About now, you may be thinking, “I would not read that on a boat, I would not read that with a goat,” but hang on. That’s just a fancy way of saying that the scientists fed photos of monkeys and illustrations of the Lorax into a computer to determine the closest match

(17) COMIC (HOPEFULLY) RELIEF. I’ll probably wind up being sorry I laughed at this.

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

Pixel Scroll 7/21/18 Number Five: Where Am I? Other Number Five: In The File.

(1) THE MAN WHO LOST THE MOON. Where do you hide something this big? “Giant moon artwork goes missing in post on way to Austria”.

A giant replica of the moon which is displayed all over the world has gone missing in the post.

The 7m (23ft) orb, covered in detailed imagery of the lunar surface, has been created by Bristol-based Luke Jerram and was en route to a festival in Austria.

Mr Jerram said the disappearance of the structure, titled Museum of the Moon, was “really annoying and upsetting.”

Courier firm TNT said it was looking into the issue.

Mr Jerram said the artwork has been booked for a series of public events across Europe over the summer.

 

(2) FUTURICON. Rijeka, Croatia is going to host Eurocon 2020, which will be called Futuricon. Their bid was accepted this week at Eurocon in Amiens. Their site has been home to Rikon for almost two decades.

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences in Rijeka
October 2-4, 2020

Rijeka, the coastal city in Croatia in which the annual convention Rikon has already been held nineteen times, has won the prestigious title of European Capital of Culture 2020. As part of the ECoC nomination, the SF society 3. zmaj, is announcing Futuricon, our bid for Eurocon 2020, for which we will combine the most important things the city of Rijeka has to offer – centuries of culture, diversity and tolerance, and a fresh glimpse into a positive future created by the people who live and breathe culture. With the support of the City and University of Rijeka, as well as other Croatian SF societies, we are confident that we can create a unique European experience for everyone.

(3) ALWAYS IN STYLE. Debra Doyle, novelist and editor, makes a statement “With Regard to the Recent Email to Nominees for the Hugo Awards”.

Science Fiction’s Hugos would not be what they are without accompanying periodic outbursts of controversy. This year’s topic is the email sent out to nominees for the award, “encouraging” them to dress professionally for the awards ceremony. The backlash from the sf/fantasy community was, shall we say, vociferous and overwhelmingly negative.†

As well it should be. To quote my elder daughter, on an occasion some time ago when I was fretting about the advisability of going out in public with my hair pulled back using a kid’s Snoopy-the-Flying-Ace hair tie:

“Don’t worry, Mamma. You’re a science fiction writer. You can wear anything.”

(4) THE MORE THINGS STAY THE SAME. You may not have thought the question of what Worldcons want people to wear to events was a new controversy. But would you have expected E.E. “Doc” Smith to be the person complaining about it? In 1962? Here’s a letter the author of the Lensman Series wrote to Chicon III chair Earl Kemp before the con.

(5) ONE BIG CHECK. That’s what you’ll be writing if you want any of his stuff — “One giant sale: Neil Armstrong’s collection goes to auction”. ABC News has the story.

Admirers of Neil Armstrong and space exploration have a chance to own artifacts and mementos that belonged to the modest man who became a global hero by becoming the first human to walk on the moon.

The personal collection of Armstrong, who died in his native Ohio in 2012, will be offered for sale in a series of auctions handled by Dallas-based Heritage Auctions, beginning Nov. 1-2 and continuing in May and November 2019.
The collection includes a variety of artifacts from Armstrong’s 1969 lunar landing and private mementos that include pieces of a wing and propeller from the 1903 Wright Brothers Flyer that the astronaut took with him to the moon.

The article names several other flown artifacts that will be in the auctions.

(6) ACCLAIMED SHORT FANTASY. Rocket Stack Rank lists 46 outstanding stories of high fantasy from 2016-2017 that were either finalists for major SF/F awards, included in “year’s best” SF/F anthologies, or recommended by prolific reviewers in short fiction (see Q&A). That’s 46 out of 166 high fantasy stories from those two years, and out of 470 outstanding SF/F stories from 2016 and 2017.

For our purposes, we define “high fantasy” as a fantasy story that takes place in a secondary world. That is, something like Lord of the Rings, where Middle Earth is clearly not in the past or future of our world.

(7) ADDRESSEE UNKNOWN. There was just one problem with choosing John Crowley as the winner: “Maine Literary Award withdrawn because of ineligibility; new winner named”….

The winner of a 2018 Maine Literary Award was found ineligible because he is not a resident of Maine, and the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance, which gives the awards annually, has named a new winner of its speculative fiction prize.

The award, which had gone to Massachusetts resident John Crowley for his book “Ka,” since has been given to Unity College writing instructor Paul Guernsey, who had come in second place for his book “American Ghost.”

“Ka” was nominated by the editorial director of Saga Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, whose marketing manager told the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance that Crowley owned a home in Maine and lived here part time. Crowley, who was born in Maine, was named the winner of the award in a June ceremony.

According Joshua Bodwell, executive director of the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance, Crowley notified the group that he did not live in Maine. While the award can go to seasonal or part-time residents, it is open only to people who live in Maine. Crowley reached out to say that he was unaware that his publisher had nominated him or that his publisher and his editor had said he met the eligibility requirements.

(8) STOPPING FOR ICE. Galactic Journey’s Ashley R. Pollard tells about the latest trend in fiction 55 years ago: “[July 21, 1963] Ice Cold Spies”.

I marvel at how quickly SF concepts have gone mainstream. With so many SF ideas transitioning into mainstream fiction, one of the current trends I see is the fascination with the Cold War and spies. Who as I’ve alluded to earlier, are it seems to be found everywhere.

The result is the creation of a new genre that blend SF with contemporary thriller to create what is being called a “techno-thriller.” A techno-thriller will use many of the ideas that were once purely science fictional, but set them within a conventional world that’s recognizable as our own.

A new novel by Allister MacLean called Ice Station Zebra has caught the public’s imagination. Whether this is as a result of all the stories of spies in the news I don’t know. MacLean is well known as a writer of action-adventure stories, but this new novel sees him move into a new genre.

Maclean is not the first author to do so. Fellow Scottish writer Ian Stuart wrote a similar techno-thriller, which came out last year called, The Satan Bug….

(9) A PAIR TO DRAW TO. SYFY Wire’s SDCC story “Guillermo del Toro confirmed to guest on The Simpsons in season 30” that confirms the celeb writer/producer/director Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water, The Hobbit trilogy, the Hellboy movies and games, and many more) will guest star on The Simpsons this coming season. He joins Gal Gadot (the Wonder Woman movies and others in the DC Cinematic Universe) in the “confirmed” column. There was apparently no indication the two would be on the same episode. The season’s first episode of their 30th season will will air September 30.

(10) FRONT ROW TO A SHARKNADO. Syfy Wire reports from SDCC: “Sharknado will return next year… with a live stage show!” Mike Kennedy says, “The article title pretty much says it all. I expect next we’ll have <engage echo effect> Sharks [arks… arks… arks] On [on… on… on] Ice [ice… ice… ice] !!!! <disengage echo effect>.”

You can’t keep a good Sharknado down. On Friday, at San Diego Comic-Con, the cast and crew held a panel on The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time. Yes, as you might imagine, this is the sixth and final in the Sharknado film franchise. But Sharknado will live on…

… with a live stage show.

Indeed, there is going to be a live stage version of Sharknado. No details were offered at the panel, other than it is expected to premiere at a resort/casino in 2019, and will be a sensory overload, if you will. An official announcement is expected later this year.

(11) HELL WARMED OVER. You may recall that Lucifer, canceled by Fox at the end of this past season, was picked up by Netflix for a 10-episode 4th season. At SDCC, star Tom Ellis dropped a few hints about what might be coming up after the major season 3 cliffhanger. SYFY Wire wraps up stories from other sources in “Lucifer’s Tom Ellis Teases Season 4 on Netflix”.

“We get straight back into it,” Ellis told TV Line of the start of Season 4, and teases that Lucifer was unaware that he had the devil face on at the time, so Chloe’s likely shock will come as a surprise. The pair are “apparently” still working together, but Ellis added that “The weird thing this year about coming to Comic-Con is that I can’t talk about the show and what’s going to happen so much, because I don’t know.” The scripts haven’t been written yet, and production begins August 13. Netflix has yet to announce a premiere date….

And he’s in no hurry to have Lucifer and Chloe embrace a romantic relationship. “I think it’s the heartbeat of the show, Chloe and Lucifer’s relationship,” he told [Entertainment Weekly]. “It wouldn’t be very wise to get these two characters together now… When you get the characters together, ultimately that’s kind of resolution. And you don’t want resolution till the very, very end.” But if/when that finally happens, “I am all for it.”

There were hints that Ellis could drop trou on Netflix, something that would have been Right Out on Fox.

(12) SHAZAM! Let’s catch up on our comic history before watching the trailer:  “DC’s ‘Shazam!’ Makes a ‘Big’ First Impression in Comic-Con Trailer”.

And for those of you asking, yes, he really is the first hero called Captain Marvel, debuting 20 years before Marvel Comics existed as a brand. Fawcett Comics was sued by DC in the early 1950s over claims that “Captain Marvel” ripped off “Superman,” and went temporarily out of business after it agreed never to publish the character’s comics again. However, in 1972 DC licensed “Captain Marvel” from Fawcett and brought the character into the DC universe.

But during the intervening decades, Marvel realized the trademark on the name “Captain Marvel” had lapsed, and introduced its own character of the same name. Which is why, to avoid legal problems, DC called its re-launched comic book “Shazam” and eventually changed the character’s name outright.

 

(13) SDCC TRAILERS. Here are several more trailers that got released this weekend.

(14) GRAND BOOK THEFT. These weren’t books he checked out. Now he may be checking into the pokey: “Men accused of stealing $8M in rare books, items from Pittsburgh library”.

Two men are facing charges of stealing or damaging more than $8 million in rare books and materials from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh over more than two decades.

Investigators on Friday charged Greg Priore and John Schulman with the crimes, alleging the two men worked together to remove the items from the Oliver Room.

According to the criminal complaint, Priore worked as the manager and sole archivist of the library’s Oliver Room, which houses rare books and items, for 25 years before being fired in June 2017. Schulman is the co-owner of Caliban Book Shop in Oakland, which specializes in rare books.

The Oliver Room closed more than a year ago once authorities discovered the thefts.

Priore first contacted Schulman about the scheme in the late 1990s, according to the criminal complaint. Priore allegedly told police he made between $500 and $3,000 for items he stole and gave to Schulman to sell.

(15) BE ON THE LOOKOUT. Lou Antonelli, who was slated onto the Hugo ballot in 2015, mourns his “Lost Rockets” [Internet Archive link].

…I decided I’d start wearing my pins this year, and I took them with me when I went to SoonerCon in Oklahoma City June 22. After I checked in and got my badge, I took them out and I was going to stick them on.

I took the first one out, and as I tried to stick it on, I fumbled it. I never saw it land. It disappeared. I never saw it again. I put the second one back in its bag. The next day, I realized I’d lost it also.

After I told this story to one colleague at Libertycon, he said, “Well, you can always ask WorldCon for a replacement.”

I laughed. “You’ve got to be kidding! They didn’t want us to have them in the first place! Do you think they would ever give me a replacement!”

(16) JANELLE MONAÉ. Rolling Stone lets you “Watch Janelle Monae Perform ‘Americans,’ Talk Science Fiction on ‘Colbert’”. Video at the link.

Twice during Monáe’s Late Show appearance, the singer danced atop Colbert’s desk: Once to close out the interview portion – where she and the host talked about first meeting at Barack Obama’s 55th birthday party at the White House – and again to kickstart “Americans.”

During the 10-minute interview, Colbert and Monae also discussed their shared love of science fiction, which heavily influenced the singer’s new LP Dirty Computer.

“I loved being able to see these different worlds that were different from mine, that allowed me to kind of escape from where I was,” Monáe said of the genre. “It just stayed with me. I started to write science fiction as a teenager… It stayed with me throughout my work.”

(17) ONCE MORE WITH FEELING. I ran this link yesterday before seeing Mike Kennedy’s take, which I think Filers will enjoy seeing just the same.

[Item by Mike Kennedy.] Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. — George Santayana

In 2016. the British Antarctic Survey asked the public to pick the name for their new survey vessel. They picked Boaty McBoatface. Well, the BAS was not particularly happy with that, and named the craft the RRS Sir David Attenborough, though they did relent and name an autonomous underwater vehicle Boaty McBoatface (the lead vehicle of its class).

Jump to the present.

The European Space Agency and the UK Space Agency are asking the public for help naming an upcoming Mars rover to be launched in 2020 (and land in 2021).

You get three guesses what the public wants so far (and the first two don’t count). Yep, Time Magazine notes that Rovy McRoverface is already trending on Twitter. Gizmodo throws in Marsy McMarsface and Spacey McSpaceface as their suggestions.

But apparently ESA and UKSA did learn at least a little from the Boaty McBoatface incident, since they say that they’ll be using a panel that they appoint to make the final choice. Or, at least they do if you dig deep enough into their 5-page PDF of Terms and Conditions. With no mention of this on the page where you make your recommendation, it would be easy enough for someone to misunderstand and think this was a straightforward popular vote.

(18) VIDEO OF THE DAY. In “Fired on Mars” on Vimeo, Nick and Nate ask, “What happens if you’re a corporate drone who gets fired–except your bosses are on earth and you’re on Mars?”

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

Pixel Scroll 7/19/18 And Then There Were 770

(1) DRAGON AWARDS. July 20 is the deadline to nominate for Dragon Con’s Dragon Awards. If you’re ever going to do it now would be a good time…. If you’re not, no hurry!

(2) “JUST WEAR CLOTHES, HONEY.” That’s the advice I got the time I called Arthur Bryant’s ribs place to ask if they had a dress code. I follow the same advice when I go to the Hugos.

(3) TOR TAKES LIBRARIANS BY SURPRISE. And not in a good way: “Tor Scales Back Library E-book Lending as Part of Test”Publishers Weekly has the story.

After years of relatively little change in the library e-book market, there has finally been some movement—unfortunately, librarians say, it is movement in the wrong direction. Leading Sci-Fi publisher Tor Books, a division of Macmillan, has announced that, beginning with July 2018 titles, newly released e-books, will be no longer be available to libraries for lending until four months after their retail on sale date.

In a statement to libraries through their vendors, Macmillan officials said the new embargo was part of “a test program” (although an “open ended” test, the release states) to assess the impact of library e-book lending on retail sales. But the statement goes on to say that the publisher’s “current analysis on eLending indicates that it is having a direct and adverse impact on retail eBook sales,” and that Tor will work with library vendors to “develop ongoing terms that will best support Tor’s authors, their agents, and Tor’s channel partners.”

…On July 19, American Library Association president Loida Garcia-Febo issued the following statement:

“The American Library Association and our members have worked diligently to increase access to and exposure for the widest range of e-books and authors. Over years, ALA made great strides in working with publishers and distributors to better serve readers with increasingly robust digital collections. We remain committed to a vibrant and accessible reading ecosystem for all.

I am dismayed now to see Tor bring forward a tired and unproven claim of library lending adversely affecting sales. This move undermines our shared commitment to readers and writers—particularly with no advance notice or discussion with libraries. In fact, Macmillan references its involvement with the Panorama Project, which is a large-scale, data-driven research project focused on understanding the impact of library holdings on book discovery, author brand development, and sales. For this reason, this change by Tor—literally on the heels of Panorama’s launch—is particularly unexpected and unwelcome.

“The ALA calls for Macmillan to move just as quickly to reverse its course and immediately lift the embargo while the Panorama Project does its work.”

(4) BIG REBOOTS TO FILL. Somebody thought this would be a good idea: “‘In Search Of’: Zachary Quinto Follows in Leonard Nimoy’s Footsteps… Again”.

We’re all very used to revivals and reboots these days but with the return of iconic sci-fi/mystery series In Search Of , one big reason to celebrate (besides its launch on the History Channel) is that actor Zachary Quinto is a part of this project.

Quinto, who first became known to TV fans for his role as the villainous Sylar on the original run of NBC’s Heroes, leapt to greater heights of fame in 2009 when he took over the role of the most famous Vulcan in the galaxy, Spock, in the updated Star Trek big-screen franchise. Of course, Spock was first played by Leonard Nimoy in the 1960s television series and, yes, Nimoy later hosted In Search Of.

 

(5) DROPPED IN POTTER’S FIELD. There’s an open question about why this happened: “London erects 25-foot Jeff Goldblum statue to commemorate ‘Jurassic Park’s 25th anniversary”.

They were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should build a 25-foot replica of Jeff Goldblum.

Londoners and tourists alike were puzzled Wednesday morning to find a statue of Goldblum, his shirt unbuttoned in a recreation of his famous “Jurassic Park” pose, staring seductively at them from the banks of the River Thames near Tower Bridge.

(6) TODAY’S BIRTHDAYS

  • Born July 19 – Benedict Cumberbatch, 42. Some of his sort-of genre and definitely genre roles include Stephen Hawking in HawkingThe Hobbit films as a certain cranky dragon, Star Trek into DarknessDoctor Strange, Sherlock, and possibly my fav role potentially by him as the voice of the title character in the forthcoming animated The Grinch film.
  • Born July 19 – Jared Padalecki, 36. Best known for his role as Sam Winchester on Supernatural, and not surprisingly, Supernatural: The Animation.

(7) COMICS SECTION.

(8) OKAY. Mad Genius Club columnist Kate Paulk makes everything as clear as she usually does in “Eschew Claytons Diversity”.

…Take the Mad Geniuses. We’re Odds. We don’t fit in. But every last one of us fails to fit in in a different way than every other one of us….

(9) UNDER NEWTON’S TREE. At Galactic Journey, The Traveler is getting to dislike F&SF’s 1963 incarnation almost as much as he loathes Analog“[July 18, 1963] Several bad apples (August Fantasy and Science Fiction)”.  

I’ve discussed recently how this appears to be a revival period for science fiction what with two new magazines having been launched and the paperback industry on the rise.  I’ve also noted that, with the advent of Avram Davidson at the helm of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, the editorial course of that digest has…changed.  That venerable outlet has definitely doubled down on its commitment to the esoteric and the literary.

Has Davidson determined that success relies on making his magazine as distinct from all the others as possible?  Or do I have things backwards?  Perhaps the profusion of new magazines is a reaction to F&SF’s new tack, sticking more closely to the mainstream of our genre.

All I can tell you is that the latest edition ain’t that great, though, to be fair, a lot of that is due to the absolutely awful Heinlein dross that fills half of the August 1963 Fantasy and Science Fiction.  See for yourself…

“Heinlein dross” turns out to be code for an installment of the novel Glory Road.

(10) SPACE SAILS. [Item by Mike Kennedy] An exploratory project at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville AL is examining metamaterials as the basis for a solar sail for CubeSat propulsion. The Near-Earth Asteroid Scout (NEA Scout) is being developed by Marshall and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as a candidate secondary payload to launch with EM-1 the first uncrewed test flight of the Space Launch System.

NEA Scout would be a robotic mission to fly by an NEA and return data “from an asteroid representative of NEAs that may one day be human destinations.” The asteroid chosen will depend on the launch date; the current target is  1991 VG. Though this is still only a candidate mission (and thus may never happen), NASA explains the mission like this:

Catching a ride on EM-1, NEA Scout will deploy from SLS after the Orion spacecraft is separated from the upper stage. Once it reaches the lunar vicinity, it will perform imaging for instrument calibration. Cold gas will provide the initial propulsive maneuvers, but the NEA Scout’s hallmark solar sail will leverage the CubeSat’s continual solar exposure for efficient transit to the target asteroid during an approximate two-year cruise.

Once it reaches its destination, NEA Scout will capture a series of low (50 cm/pixels) and high resolution (10 cm/pixels) images to determine global shape, spin rate, pole position, regional morphology, regolith properties, spectral class, and for local environment characterization.

Popular Science article looks a little closer at the use of metamaterials for the sail, talking with Dr. Grover Swartzlander (Rochester Institute of Technology) who is the lead for the project.

The metamaterial Swartzlander is proposing would have several advantages over the reflective materials of the past. Swartzlander’s sails would have lower heat absorption rates due to their diffractive nature which would scatter solar rays, and the ability to re-use what Swartzlander told NASA was “the abundant untapped momentum of solar photons” to fly through the cosmos.

Swartzlander is leading an exploratory study through NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program. With nine months and $125,000, his research team will work on a NASA satellite called the Near-Earth Asteroid Scout, or NEA Scout for short. A robotic reconnaissance mission, NEA Scout is a CubeSat meant to explore asteroids. NEA Scout would be NASA’s first craft to be powered by sails.

(11) THEY SWORE A MIGHTY OATH. No “Second Variety”? “AI Innovators Take Pledge Against Autonomous Killer Weapons”.

The Terminator‘s killer robots may seem like a thing of science fiction. But leading scientists and tech innovators have signaled that such autonomous killers could materialize in the real world in frighteningly real ways.

During the annual International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Stockholm on Wednesday, some of the world’s top scientific minds came together to sign a pledge that calls for “laws against lethal autonomous weapons.”

“… we the undersigned agree that the decision to take a human life should never be delegated to a machine,” the pledge says. It goes on to say, “… we will neither participate in nor support the development, manufacture, trade, or use of lethal autonomous weapons.”

The moniker “autonomous weapons” doesn’t draw the same fear or wonder as a killer robot, but weapons that can function without human oversight are a real concern.

(12) NOT THE SIZE OF A PLANET. No one will ever be wondering this about sff fans. Gizmodo’s article “Did Neanderthals Go Extinct Because of the Size of Their Brains?” follows up a paper in Scientific Reports and a theory that Homo neanderthalensis may have gone extinct because their brains — though larger than that of Homo sapiens — had a cerebellum that was proportionately underdeveloped relative to H. sapiens.

Indeed, though scientists have many Neanderthal skulls to work with, none of them contain actual brains, making it difficult to know what the inside of their heads actually looked like. The next best option, therefore, is to look at their fossilized skulls and try to figure out the shape, size, and orientation of the Neanderthal brain.

To do this, Ogihara’s team created virtual three-dimensional “casts” of brains using data derived from the skulls of four Neanderthals and four early modern humans (the skulls used in the study dated from between 135,000 and 32,000 years ago). This allowed the researchers to reconstruct and visualize the 3D structure of the brain’s grey and white matter regions, along with the cerebrospinal fluid regions. Then, using a large dataset from the Human Connectome Project, specifically MRI brain scans taken of more than 1,180 individuals, the researchers modeled the “average” human brain to provide a kind of baseline for the study and allow for the comparative analysis.

Using this method, the researchers uncovered “significant” differences in brain morphology. Even though Neanderthals had larger skulls, and thus larger brain volume overall, H. sapiens had a proportionately larger cerebellum, the part of brain involved in higher levels of thinking and action. Modern humans also featured a smaller occipital region in the cerebrum, which is tied to vision. Looking at these differences, the researchers inferred such abilities as cognitive flexibility (i.e. learning, adaptability, and out-of-the-box thinking), attention, language processing, and short-term and long-term memory. Homo sapiens, the researchers concluded, had better cognitive and social abilities than Neanderthals, and a greater capacity for long-term memory and language processing.

(13) FORTNITE. Brian Feldman, in “The Most Important Video Game on the Planet” in New York Magazine, looks at how Fortnite. since its introduction in July 2017, “has risen to become the most important video game currently in existence…obsessed over by rappers and athletes, hotly debated in high school cafeterias, and played by 125 million people.”

Since it launched in July of last year, Fortnite has risen to become the most important video game currently in existence. The 100-player, last-man-standing video-game shooter is obsessed over by rappers and athletes, hotly debated in high-school cafeterias, and played by 125 million people. All this, not because of a major technical or graphical breakthrough, or for a groundbreaking work of narrative depth, but for, essentially, a simple, endlessly playable cartoon. On a colorful island peppered with abandoned houses, towns, soccer fields, food trucks, and missile silos, players don colorful costumes, drop out of a floating school bus, and begin constructing ramshackle forts that look like they’ve popped straight out of a storybook, before blowing each other to smithereens.

(14) TITANS. Official trailer —

TITANS follows young heroes from across the DC Universe as they come of age and find belonging in a gritty take on the classic Teen Titans franchise.

 

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